Raided: Chapter 15: The Wedding
The door shut behind Hiccup and the room went dark. He heard the bar slide into place, and his heart began to race again.
Elinor had told him that all he had to do was retrieve Merida from the dungeon during a mock raid. The idea seemed a bit odd, but it made a weird kind of sense, most of the interactions between the Viking and the Highlands had been raids and they were acknowledging that.
Hiccup was hoping that there wouldn't be too many injuries. Elinor had confided in him that she was hoping this would also tire everyone so the new couple could have a quiet night together.
Elinor had just locked him into this dark room. Merida was in here somewhere, but how to find her. He waited as his eyes tried to adjust to the darkness. The slave chain on his belt clanked gently.
He started as he heard some rocks start rolling nearby. There was a thump and a window opened. There in the beam of sunlight was a white cocoon topped with wild red hair.
"Merida?" Hiccup whispered.
"Merida!" He shouted and the cocoon wiggled.
Another rock thudded and more light entered the room. The room was filled with a huge array of troughs, ropes, pulleys and his eyes widened at all the ballistas pointed at his bride. Their arms beginning to cock.
Hiccup turned and beat on the door, "Beard of Thor, what have you done!"
"Save her if you love her. I know you can," came the reply. Hiccup looked around panicked. There were too many rolling rocks spreading through the room to stop them. His small knife wouldn't be enough to cut many of the ropes, but cutting them might be wrong. It was like a huge version of one of Gobber's tavern puzzles.
Hiccup pushed at some of the machinery but it was too solidly built and too heavy for him to move. He grabbed a counterweight and that stopped one of them, but he couldn't reach all the others. He grabbed at the arrows but he couldn't reach. He spun in place under Merida, looking for a solution. He looked down, then up and down again.
"Flames!" He hoped the obvious solution was the correct one.
There were ropes suspending Merida above the floor, but they were lost in the darkness as he searched for the ends to lower her.
He found boards left on the floor. He looked back to Merida and the machinery around her. Heavy rock balls falling to the ground counting down to the time of her death. He grabbed them up and placed them on the machinery and climbed in front of her, it placed him between her and some of the arrows but he could reach the ropes suspending her.
"I'm here, Merida. I am going to get you free." Hiccup said holding her and the white cocoon wiggled a little. He started sawing through the ropes. As each one came free she dropped a little, but it was taking so much time as the machinery was tightening and rocks dropping.
He was down to the last rope, if he got it cut she would drop to the ground and be safe, that's all that mattered. He wouldn't have time to get out of the way. One ballista he could see easily was almost fully cocked and it would cut him in half.
"Merida. I love you." He said quietly as the knife finally sawed through the final rope. Merida dropped free, the rope was under tension and quickly slithered into the ceiling Hiccup tried to jump after her but a heavy bump threw him onto the plank he was standing on. He could see all the ballista fully cock. Another heavy bump and he rolled as the ballista all fired into the space he and Merida had been occupying. The heavy arrows shattered against the far wall. Hiccup landed on Merida. Quickly he unwrapped her face.
"Merida, are you okay?" he asked as she spit out the gag.
"Yes. Oh yes. You did it. Thank you. I love you too."
And they kissed with all their hearts.
# # #
Maudie blew a horn to signal the end of the melee. Banners flapped and drooped in the occasional gusty winds.
Queen Elinor pulled open the doors to the castle.
The clans and the tribes were almost done fighting. She found Fergus and Stoic still going at it. Not with swords and shields but with their fists, trading blow for blow on their bloodied faces. Surrounded in awe by the brutal forces they were trading.
"You know, I'm exhausted," said Fergus as he heard the gates open.
"Yeah. Me too," replied Stoic and they fell into each other's arms and hugged.
They then supported each other to the dais set up on the other end of the field, forging a path between the two tired armies. They sat on their thrones.
Queen Elinor of Scotland walked the path in a stately elegant manner. Her face calm, she was as regal and majestic as she ever was and every one respected the power she was. It was a challenge to maintain that, knowing how her daughter would come behind her.
"Are you ready?" asked Hiccup, not looking at his new bride, deeply uncomfortable about the whole situation, she said she would explain later.
"I'm trying, but we are out of time." Merida was taking deep breathes trying not to pant.
"I'm sorry. This wasn't what I expected or anything."
"I know. It's okay. I'll be fine. It was my idea. I didn't think it would be quite that intense, though. I know how they feel now, and I never want anyone to feel this again." She had had to convince him to lock the slave chains around her. The iron was slowly warming from her skin. She wanted to scratch her nose but she couldn't, the shackles on her wrists kept them near her waist.
"Me neither, on either side. You are so brave."
"Thank you. Let's free them."
"Okay." Hiccup stepped into the light holding the leash that went to the iron collar around Merida's neck. He took short slow steps so the shackles around her ankles wouldn't trip her.
Merida was trying to maintain the calmness and serenity that she had used to stop the war between the clans that had nearly broken out in the throne room.
Merida wore the slave chain as the finest jewelry and her hair like royal robes. She had taken into herself all the serenity she could, though it wavered around the edges so much. Part of her was screaming for all she was worth. The Scots on one side, her people had fought and ceremonially lost and she could see that it didn't sit well with some of them.
On the other side were the Viking tribes they had cheered and hooted as she was led out, but they were beginning to quiet as Hiccup glared at them to quell them and she maintained her majesty. She had stopped a war between the clans with a serene walk and mostly quiet words.
Soon the other Viking teens were there surrounding them. The boys ahead and the girls behind. Young MacGuffin and even MacIntosh soon joined them.
Her heart softened a bit for Wee who was being restrained by Hunk Dingwall and his father, with Hunk's wife, her nurse maid Maudie trying to calm him.
Merida stopped and that forced Hiccup to stop as the chain came to the end. She turned and knelt before Wee, which gave her enough slack to reach out to her former suitor with her chained hands. Wee was fighting being held down by Hunk and his father.
"It's okay, I do this for all of us."
Wee struggled with all his might one last time, lifting the two men, straining with all his might, but they were too heavy and he collapsed.
"Please, stop fighting. It's okay. I'll be fine." Merida pleaded, worried he would hurt himself. She looked into Wee's eyes. He whined like a hurt dog as she stroked his brow. Wee dropped his head into the dirt and wept.
"My good wee lamb," said Merida as she stood and continued on.
Merida and Hiccup mounted the stairs to the dais before the people. They stood before her father the king, Stoic and the other clan lords and tribal chieftains. Merida did not meet anyone's eyes but turned before the crowd. Silence reigned.
Hiccup and Merida moved to the anvil that had been placed on the dais.
Merida knelt and placed the lock on the anvil.
Hiccup lifted a hammer and chisel.
"Merida Dunbruch and all Scotland! Be free!" Hiccup shouted and with a mighty blow from his hammer, shattered the lock to held the chains on his bride. The chains fell away and Merida was freed. Hiccup helped her to her feet.
Queen Elinor came up beside her with her new tartan, one that represented the new alliance.
Hiccup wrapped the tartan around her hips and across her chest and over her shoulder. Merida was Scotland for this ceremony. He then slung her quiver across her waist and handed her her bow.
"I am Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III. Son of Stoic of the Hairy Hooligans. I am chief of chiefs of the Viking tribes. " Hiccup announced as had been arranged.
"I am Merida. Firstborn of Clan DunBroch. I am a princess" She flung out her hands and looked up, closing her eyes. Just then a blast of wind hit her raising her hair and tartan, but she held her pose. She heard whispers of Freya and Morrigan, Norse and Scottish goddesses of both war and love. She left warm sunlight on her skin and face.
She opened her eyes.
Merida alone was hit with a thin blazing beam of sunlight. Her flowing hair glowed like a bonfire, her pale skin dazzled them all, her tartan streaming around her. She was like a goddess embodied.
The gust of wind had pushed the crowd and the momentum of it ran through the tightly packed assemblage forcing everyone to take a step the wave built until it forced the ones in the front ranks to their knees. The ones behind seeing them bend the knee thought it was part of the ceremony and bowed the knee as well the wave flowed backwards thru the crowd.
Everyone was kneeling to her. Hundreds of dragons took flight and circled the field, many of them emitting flares of flame.
Hiccup lifted the slave chains over his head.
"No more raids, no more slaves." said Hiccup. "I will forge this last chain into something new. Not a sword, not a shield, but a plate that we may shared our food like brothers."
The words flowed over the crowd. Scot and Viking looked at each other and then cheered.
Their families came up next to them. Fergus and Stoic handed their children swords which they placed on each other's hips. Elinor and Ingrid handed rings to their children which they place on each other's hands. The witch bound their hands together, and they jumped over the broom together, the witch giving Merida wink as she did.
With the wedding complete, the feast began!
# # #
It was the biggest wedding feast ever, but Struan didn't care. The food would be ashes on his tongue. He was looking through the massive crowd hoping to find his sister or the girl he cared about.
Struan was walking down the line of slaves. He had had to work his way across the huge field filled with people to reach the line. King Hiccup had called for the slaves to line up so he could release them from their chains.
Struan had many bruises but he had defeated several Vikings in the melee.
Struan had started at the end and was working his way to the front looking for his sister and the girl he loved. He could see some of the slaves were pregnant and other carried children. Some were dressed well and others not so much.
He had seen a few slaves reunited with their families, but he had not found his own. He could hear Hiccup breaking the locks and Merida welcoming the slaves.
He came up to some that looked to have been dressed in discarded turnip sacks near the front of the line. A starved looking girl carrying a baby on her hip turned, idly looked around.
"Struan. Struan!" She waved.
He could not believe it. It was Aideen.
"Aideen." He stumbled over to his sister and took her gently into his arms. He could hardly recognize her. Her hair was so short, and she was so thin. The heavy bronze collar around he neck made his heart burn with anger still. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I tried to do something."
"It's okay. It's okay. You found me. We are together again."
They wept together for several minutes as the line slowly moved. The baby began to cry because her mum was crying.
"Struan, this is Helga. She's my baby."
"Oh," said Struan, his heart breaking some more. "Hi, Helga. I'm your Uncle Struan."
Aideen looked around, bit her her lip and asked, "Mum? Da?"
Struan just shook his head, and the line moved forward a little more.
"Yes, she's here." Aideen said, her face lit up because it was something that was good, but the look faded. "I'm sorry, but they hurt her, they broke her. They broke all of us through her. She isn't the same." Aideen warned.
"I don't care. I need to see her."
"Come. She's at the front of us, we want her to be freed first. I was at the end to make sure none were forgotten." Aideen lead her to her front of the former slave brides of the Skivvy Scrounger tribe, where a thin girl was being supported by two others.
"Aibhlinn, look who found us. My brother Struan."
Struan's heart broke; Aibhlinn was almost skeletally thin and covered with scars. The heavy bronze collar fit so loosely around her neck, but it looked to be weighing so heavily on her. Then she lifted her head and looked at him and Struan's heart broke all over again, her eyes seemed so empty.
Struan felt to his knees in front of her. "I'm so sorry. I went to King Fergus and begged his help. I didn't know what else to do. I'm sorry I didn't do more. I'm sorry I couldn't protect you."
"It's okay." Aibhlinn whispered.
"No, it isn't."
"No, you're not, but I'll help you be okay again." He said cupping her face making her look at him.
"Y-you care?" she stammered.
"Yes, I care. Aibhlinn, I love you."
"You can't. I'm bad. I'm ugly. I'm broken."
"Yes. I can. I love you no matter what."
"No buts. I love you. I was going to ask to walk out with you on your birthday."
"Really?" light began to return to those brown eyes.
"Really. Actually, I asked your father for your hand, he asked me to wait for your birthday and a proper walking out period."
"Dada?" Aibhlinn asked, looking around.
"I'm sorry." He shook his head.
"I knew. I saw Dada be speared and Mum fall into the fire."
"Oh. I buried them properly for you." He said trying to console her.
Then it was their turn before King Hiccup.
"Struan! Did you find her?" Hiccup asked. Merida was looking hopeful.
"Yes," Struan smiled. "This is Aibhlinn, my beloved."
"Oh, that's so sweet." said Merida, but her eyes were filled with compassion toward the thin girl.
"So this is the girl who started all this." said Hiccup gesturing to the field.
"What?" asked Aibhlinn, her sunken, bloodshot eyes coming up.
"Struan came to us, asking for help to rescue you." explained Merida.
"When they captured me they told me of your plight." said Hiccup.
"We came up with this solution to save you and everyone." said Merida.
"All this...For me?" asked Aibhlinn in a tiny voice.
"Yes, for you." assured Hiccup.
Aibhlinn began sobbing uncontrollably. Merida, Aideen, Hiccup and Struan hugged her tight as she wept herself out.
"How? What? Why can you love me?"
"Because he loved you and came to us to help you." said Hiccup gesturing to Struan. "Here, let me get this collar off you."
Merida placed the bronze lock on the anvil, Hiccup placed a steel chisel on the hasp.
"Aibhlinn, be free!"
Hiccup struck with a heavy hammer, and shattering the lock. He put down his tools and took the collar from the girl's throat.
Merida lifted her up, hugged her and said, "Welcome home. Aibhlinn."
Aibhlinn was sobbing, hardly believing she was free.
"Aibhlinn," said Hiccup considering the collar in his hand. "I will make this a part of my crown so we will always remember you."
"Please, remember that she was brave. She was so brave." said Aideen and the rest nodded too.
"And you are...?" asked Hiccup.
"This is Aideen, my sister." said Struan.
"Please, we are all sisters now after what we have done for each other." Aibhlinn said gesturing to the women in their tattered sackcloths. Light and fire had returned to her eyes.
"Princess, I would consider you my sister too, for what you did to free us." Aibhlinn said shyly.
"I am most honored. I always wanted a sister." smiled Merida.
"I guess we are going to have to hear your story, somehow I am not surprised that it is bigger then I thought. You are our special guests now." said Hiccup.
"Maudie!" Merida called. "Please, these women are our special guests and they need to be well taken of."
"Yes, mum." Maudie said.
"But first let us free them." Hiccup gestured to Aideen to take her place by the anvil.
"Aideen, be free!" The lock was broken.
"Welcome home, Aideen."
"King Hiccup, would you merry us please? We've been through so much and we would like to be together now. I don't want to lose him again." asked Aibhlinn as she took hold of Struan.
"Ah, sure. Um, you look, hm...okay I guess..." began King Hiccup awkwardly, looking at the bruised and disheveled Struan and rag-covered Aibhlinn. Repeating the words of the ceremony that had been burned into his brain forever.
"They look beautiful," corrected Queen Merida, giving her husband a nudge.
# # #
"So, now what?" asked Hiccup of Merida as they looked out over the remains of the party from atop the tower roof. The sun was setting and the stars were coming out. They had left because they were tired and things had been too much for Hiccup, he had needed some space and some quiet.
"Oh, they'll be partying for days, drinking, telling outrageous stories, showing off and singing." Said Merida, "I think I'll scream if I hear another chorus of "The Song of Mor'du" though."
Hiccup chuckled a bit, it was a song that was stuck in his head. "Fishlegs seems like he loves caber tossing. No, I mean, what about us? We're married now and I don't really know what to do about it or anything."
"Oh. Well, I guess I could take you to my room and show you, but I think we can do that some other time. We should spend a bit more time getting to know each other, for real."
"Good. I like you, and it's good being with you." Hiccup said awkwardly.
"Same here." said Merida, taking his hand; a companionable silence enveloped them. They lay down on the roof to look at the stars.
"What was with that crazy deathtrap thing you were in?" Hiccup asked as they relaxed at the end of a very long day. They were finally together and alone and enjoying each other's presence and that was more important then anything else.
"I needed to show you something." Merida said.
"What do you think?"
Hiccup thought for a moment "You trusted me to rescue you. You expected me to succeed. You believed in me."
"Yes, and other things, too."
Hiccup thought, but was rather tired. "I'm sorry, what other things?"
"To love as strongly as you do. I became a slave for a short time to know what they felt, and I don't want anyone to feel that."
"That I can do hard things for your sake and the kingdom's sake. I faced my biggest fears: helplessness, dependency, death, and lack of freedom. Being so completely helpless and dependent on someone else was very scary. Even believing that you would rescue me. I didn't know if I was strong enough or brave enough for all this."
"You just gestured to all of me."
"Yes, I did," and she snuggled close to him.
"You are incredibly brave."
Hiccup had no idea how to be a king, and the Vikings had no idea what to do with a king. Merida knew how to be a good queen and ruler. It took some effort for Merida and Hiccup to get the point across to the Viking chiefs that she was a force to be reckoned with, and that she would protect Hiccup from their pettiness. It took a couple of years before Merida could go to a meeting without her bow, but the Viking tribes eventually got the idea that she was a force to be reckoned with.
Hiccup learned quickly, though he still took time to be with Toothless so he would have time to think, and occasionally would hammer something out in the smithy, when it didn't feel like negotiations was getting them anywhere. One of Hiccup's major duties was to continue finding and training new dragons and new dragonriders, finding good reliable people was the biggest issue. Hiccup and Merida had to fight to retain control of the dragons from time to time.
Some nations paid tribute, others prepared to fight, though invasion never came. Others attacked to forestall invasions they felt were coming or for the desire for their own dragons. Hiccup and Merida often fought for peace and justice and in time the world calmed and became a good place to live and their children ruled well, because they lived in a hard land.
The story of Aibhlinn of Helmsdale and her sisters was heard, and hearts were touched. Hiccup and Merida made crowns that incorporated the collars of Aibhlinn and Aideen. Their stories were written in the records of the kingdom and epics made and told so none would forget.
Struan took Aibhlinn and Aideen and many of the others to a new home far from the sea, and they founded a village and they were happy again. It took a long time to work through the pain they had in their lives but they focused on the love. They made it a good place, that was filled with kindness and understanding and love.
Fishlegs and Lifa got married and everyone on Berk loved the bread they baked. Snotlout had some trouble with all the girls vying for his attention, he did have a cool dragon, but he settled down in Berk with a woman that his parents decided who was good for him. The twins moved to Scotland to stay together after she took a liking to young MacIntosh. Hiccup and Merida gave Astrid their blessings once she fell for Kevin MacGuffin. Young Dingwall had impressed many women with his devotion to Merida and a wife was found for him.
Once Merida trained her own dragon it became easy for her to visit her family. More then once Merida and Elinor would talk about the power of their crowns. Merida had a special place to put hers so she could spend time with her children and the dragons.
Berk was a land as untamed as the Highlands, summers were short and winters long, but it was a good land, because the King and Queen loved each other.