Rough and mostly unedited, but finished. I'm sorry I wasn't able to get it finished earlier, there was a huge blackout in my area that knocked out power for days. Anyways, Im glad this is done now. I struggled a bit with this chapter, which may show in the writing (I think it does, in my opinion) but I hope you enjoy anyways.
Merry Christmas Eve (or Christmas, depending on where you are) to all of you. Have a happy and safe holiday season.
Chapter Three: The Archer
"Anna, are you sure that this is where we were supposed to meet her?" Elsa asked hesitantly, turning her head and looking around herself.
"Well…" Anna glanced down at her phone, using her thumb to scroll through the messages. "She said that this is the place, but..."
Both sisters fell silent as they looked upwards. Looming over them was the University's Athletics Centre. Made of concrete and glass, the building was impressively large, and had huge glass windows that were tinted dark to provide privacy.
For both Anna and Elsa, it was their first time visiting the centre. Although Elsa had been at the school for four years, she had never once stepped foot inside. As for Anna, it seemed that no matter how much the younger woman ate, she was able to keep her figure slim and trim; a useful trait, considering her fondness for stuffing exceeding amounts of chocolate into her mouth.
Nervously, Elsa turned to look at her sister. "Are you sure you're not looking at the wrong text?"
"No, I'm positive." Anna frowned, double-checking the message. "She said for me to tell you to meet her here, and not anywhere else. Look Anna, I know you're a little nervous, but trust me; she's a perfectly nice woman."
"…Plus, she's not jailbait. I checked, just to make sure."
Rolling her eyes and crossing her arms over her chest, Elsa turned away from her sister to inspect the building once again. As she looked, unease set into the pit of her stomach- though whether that was due to the imposing building or the woman she was to meet inside, she did not know.
"What did you say her name was again? Maribelle?"
"Merida." An accented voice spoke into Elsa's ear, startling the young woman and causing her to spin on the spot.
The young woman who had crept up upon the two sisters began to laugh boisterously as she caught sight of Elsa's astonished face. Like Ariel, Merida was a redhead – but unlike Ariel, her hair was wild and nearly untamed, like that of a lion's mane. The duffle bag that she carried on her shoulder nearly fell from her grasp as she shook with laughter, struggling to control herself.
"Don't do that, Merida!" Anna gasped in surprise, clutching at her chest.
"Sorry lass," Merida apologized, her contrite lessened by the giggles that interrupted her speech. "I couldn't help myself. Besides, if you think that joke was bad, you should see my brothers. They're nasty triplets, the lot of them, and I guess I should enjoy my time away while I can…"
"I'm guessing that you're not from around here?" Elsa asked, amused.
"Now what gave you that idea?" Merida asked, cocking her head as she stood straight and placed her hands on her shoulders.
"Your vocabulary." Elsa said airily, smiling. "Though the Scottish brogue might have had something to do with that, too."
Merida flashed a roguish grin at Elsa as she walked over to Anna. Clapping the still wheezing girl firmly on the shoulder, Merida nudged her with a hip.
"You really didn't do her justice when you told me about her." She told Anna, giving Elsa a wink in the process.
Rolling her eyes yet again, Elsa couldn't help but chuckle despite herself. Already, she could see that Merida was four things: bold, brash, outspoken, and just like Elsa's own sister.
Finally catching her breath, Anna managed to right herself and stand back up. Looking between Merida and her sister, she clasped her hands together and smiled.
"Well I can see that you two are getting along well." She grinned, swaying on the balls of her feet. "I think I'll just take my leave now, give you two some time to get to know each other more. Alone."
"Much appreciated." Merida said brightly. "Don't you worry, I'll take good care of your sister. You'll get her back in one piece… more or less."
With that, Merida began to stride towards the entrance of the centre, Elsa (rather confusedly) in tow. Waving goodbye to her sister once, Elsa followed the redhead through the doors and into the lobby.
As she entered the building, Elsa was struck by how immense the centre was. She was no stranger to large buildings – her and Anna were rather well off – but even though the centre appeared large on the outside, it was somehow even bigger within.
As Merida turned a corner and led Elsa down a hallway, the older woman rubbed at her arm. While Merida was nice so far, Elsa wasn't exactly a fan of the unexpected.
"So… Merida." Elsa said slowly. "Anna told me you had something interesting planned for today?"
Without once breaking her stride, Merida turned to face Elsa. Continuing to walk, but backwards, Merida spread her arms wide.
"Tell me, Elsa." She said. "What do you do to get your blood pumping?"
Elsa blinked. "Uh… do you mean exercise?"
Merida nodded, continuing to stare intently at Elsa as she walked down the hall.
"Well…" Elsa spoke hesitantly, slightly uncomfortable under Merida's stare. "I'm, uh, actually a fan of, um running. Winter sports too, actually. Especially skating."
Though she nodded in approval, Elsa couldn't help but notice the way that Merida's mouth tightened in – was that distaste?- before she turned back around.
"All good things," She said cheerily, despite the emotion that had passed over her face.
"However," She said with an air of condescension, "None of that really compares to what we do at home in DunBroch."
Though Elsa was less than pleased with Merida's dismissal of some of her favourite activities, she kept a cool head. "What is it that you do, then?"
Coming in front of a set of double doors, Merida looked over her shoulder and smiled.
Opening the doors, she ushered Elsa inside.
Breathing in the scent of wood that permeated the room, Elsa couldn't help but look around in awe. Set all the way across the room was a series of large targets. There were six set out, with three set further back against the wall and the other three on low-set stands.
In another corner of the immense room, a miniature forest was set up. There were several wooden figures, shaped and painted to look like trees. In between these were figures of animals, ranging from moose to hares, with targets painted onto them.
All around, people stood with bows and arrows in their hands. Some were trying their best to shoot the smaller targets within the forest. Others were rhythmically shooting at the targets set on the other side of the room. However, when Merida came in, everyone turned to look – and a din arose around the room as people began to call her name in greeting.
Laughing at the warm response, Merida nodded to the faces she knew, beckoning at Elsa to follow her.
As the redhead moved, Elsa couldn't help but notice how the eyes started to turn from Merida to Elsa herself. The reactions varied from looks of shock, to knowing smiles, to murmurs – and Elsa couldn't help but be somewhat put off by it all.
"You seem popular." She commented, leaving it there. By nature, Elsa wasn't one to speak to strangers – but it was the little things about Merida so far that made Elsa even more unsure.
"A few of the people that come here are from DunBroch as well." Merida explained as she walked over to a free target. "We've pretty much claimed the range as our own; though whether that's a good or a bad thing, we're not sure."
Setting down her bag, Merida unzipped it and reached inside. With a slight smile on her face, she pulled out a wooden bow and a quiver full of arrows. Slinging the quiver onto her hip, Merida handed the bow to Elsa to hold.
"Today Elsa," Merida grinned, eyes and red hair wild, "You'll learn what it means to try out a true sport."
Half an hour later, Elsa pulled an arrow from her quiver. She lifted the bow to her shoulder and drew back the string and arrow both.
"Concentrate." Merida said quietly, watching from the side intently. "Slow your breathing down. Focus only on where you want the arrow to land."
"Easier said than done." Elsa muttered in response.
"Shush." Merida said, though her voice lacked any real heat. "Hold still and do as I said. It won't be so bad."
Holding her tongue, Elsa steadied herself. Though her arms and shoulders burned with fatigue, the blonde focused instead on the target in front of her. Ignoring the arrows that littered the floor around the target – her previous, unsuccessful attempts – Elsa focused solely on the centre, and the sound of her own breathing.
Breathing in through her nose and exhaling through the mouth one last time, Elsa let the arrow fly...
…And watched, as it sank into the outer ring of the target.
Mouth falling open in surprise, Elsa's shock quickly turned into delight. Turning to Merida, the woman motioned to the target with flailing hands and incoherent squeaks, too overcome to say anything.
"Good job, lass!" Merida cried, clapping her hands together once in delight. "It took me ages to properly hit something the first time I used a bow. You're a natural! All you need is a little-"
Merida was interrupted as her phone began to ring. Digging into her pocket and pulling it out, Elsa watched as that same look from earlier passed over her face once more. Excusing herself, Merida stepped away to take the call, and Elsa was left alone.
Taking a moment to gently put the bow down, Elsa let out a groan as she finally relaxed her arms. Taking a seat on a nearby bench, Elsa rolled her shoulders, hoping to alleviate the pain. Closing her eyes and focusing on her senses, it was then that Elsa realized that she was absolutely parched.
Standing up from her seat, Elsa looked around herself. Finding neither drinking fountain nor vending machine, she turned to the doors that she had entered into before and began to walk towards them, aiming to find her drink elsewhere.
Before she could reach the doors however, she was stopped as a man stepped into her path, blocking the doors. Bumping into him, Elsa excused herself and went to move past him… only to be blocked once again. As she looked upwards at him, Elsa was taken aback to realize he was staring directly at her.
The man's green eyes were narrowed and focused upon Elsa as he looked at her from down the bridge of his prominent nose. With burly arms crossed over his chest, Elsa could see the bright blue swirls of a tattoo crawling down his arm from underneath the sleeve of his tight muscle shirt.
Brushing his thick and wavy hair out of his eyes, the man peered at Elsa suspiciously.
"So tell me," He said, speaking with an accent similar to Merida's, "How did you do it?"
"I-I'm sorry?" Elsa asked, taking a step back from the man.
"Merida." He clarified. "How did you get Merida to go on a date with you? I've been trying everything, and she hasn't given me so much as a second glance! How did you get her to say yes to you, and so fast?"
Elsa shifted nervously. "Look, I don't know what I can-"
The two were interrupted as another man lumbered over, seemingly out of nowhere. As he approached, Elsa was struck by just how incredibly huge this man was. Already, MacIntosh stood well over Elsa – but this man loomed over the both of them.
Blonde hair topped a rounded face, with wide and astonished blue eyes. A thin, nearly clear layer of stubble coated his jaw. He was not only tall, but also wide – and though he moved awkwardly, Elsa could see the power within his steps.
Coming to a halt in front of Elsa and MacIntosh, the man opened his mouth to speak. When he did, however, Elsa was immediately confused. Whereas Merida and Macintosh's accents were fairly easy to understand, his was something else – with the rapidity of his speech alone, not to mention the pronunciation, Elsa had no idea what he was saying.
Apparently, neither did Macintosh, as the brunette simply rolled his eyes. "MacGuffin, I told you, I have no idea what you're saying. Now leave me alone, can't you see I'm trying to ask this girl some important questions?"
MacGuffin made a face. Saying something again in his foreign dialect, he motioned to someone else to come over – someone that made Macintosh groan, and slap a hand to his face.
Stumbling over came one last man. Although he was shorter than the other two, it seemed that his hair made up for it as it stood straight up in a white-blonde shock atop his head. He seemed to lack the strength the other two had (as he was noticeably less built) but even more than that, he seemed much less aware than the other as well. His mouth hung open, while his pale blue eyes stared vacantly at the wall by Elsa's head.
"Of course!" Macintosh snarled at Macguffin. "Of course you had to bring wee Dingwall over here! It wasn't enough that you think it's okay to start bothering this girl while I'm talking to her about Merida, was it?"
MacGuffin's face soured. Speaking once again, MacIntosh cut him off, waving a hand in his face.
"Listen lad, I'm only going to guess what you just said to me, since you clearly can't speak English. Back off. I'm the one that will win Merida, as soon as I figure it out what she likes from… whatever this girl's name is. So you can take your little pet nitwit-"
Suddenly, Macintosh was interrupted by a hiss. Dingwall, hearing the insult, bared his elongated teeth at the tattooed man, causing MacIntosh's eyes to flash with fear. Putting on a brave face, he swallowed thickly and tried to continue on, though he kept a wary eye on Dingwall as he spoke.
"-You can take wee Dingwall here and shove off, because right now, it's my turn."
Ignoring MacIntosh, MacGuffin easily pushed the muscular man back. Bending over so that he was closer to Elsa, he began to speak rapidly in his dialect once more.
Next to him, MacIntosh began to shout, screaming about his family and his status and the sheer offense he had undergone from MacGuffin laying a hand on him. Meanwhile, Dingwall remained silent – but he was suddenly fixated by Elsa's hair, and came over to gently start to touch it, still staring absently and open-mouthed.
With so much noise and sudden stimulation, Elsa felt her head begin to swim. Breathing rate increasing, Elsa backed away further from the three men. The moment that she did, however, they took a step closer to her – and so this continued, until Elsa was surrounded and backed against a wall.
Wrapping her arms around herself protectively, Elsa's eyes flicked between the three men rapidly as she searched for a way out. Finding a window, Elsa ignored the cries of protest as she ducked underneath MacIntosh's arm and squeezed out behind MacGuffin.
Immediately, Elsa took off running. The bewildered looks she received from other people using the range made Elsa even more self-conscious than she already was, causing her to run faster. Aiming for the doors, Elsa managed to get out without fail.
Taking a moment to breathe in, the blonde was startled as she heard the doors slam open. With wide eyes, she turned around – only to see Dingwall, MacIntosh, and MacGuffin trapped within the frame of the door.
"Get off of me you wide oaf!" MacIntosh growled, doing his best to push MacGuffin aside. The man only gibbered angrily, motioning a hand to Dingwall, who was pinning MacIntosh to the side.
As the three men fought over who would go through the door first, Elsa took her chance and fled. Turning down a hallway, Elsa continued to run. Left, right, centre, backwards – Elsa took so many turns that by the time that she slowed down, her head was spinning.
Yet still, she heard the sounds of the three men close by. It seemed that it hadn't taken long at all to detangle them, and so now whenever Elsa took a turn, she heard them, too – until finally, she was caught at the end of a long hallway with nowhere else to go.
"Listen lass," MacIntosh panted, "We just want to-"
Elsa heard no more from his mouth. Near to having a full-blown panic attack, she clutched at herself desperately, eyes darting around hopelessly for another escape plan. Yet no matter where she looked, she could find nothing- and that terrified Elsa more than anything else.
It was only when the men were nearly surrounding Elsa again, that Elsa heard a familiar voice ring out.
"What are you guys doing over there?"
Elsa could hardly believe it.
"Anna?" She called out.
Elsa watched as Anna came barrelling through the wall that the three men made before her. Ignoring their discontent (and MacIntosh's rather unmanly shrieks), Anna immediately approached her sister, looking at her with worried eyes.
"Elsa, are you okay?" She asked, reaching out and laying her hands on Elsa's tense shoulders.
Immediately, Elsa relaxed into her touch. Unable to say much more, she nodded.
Anna spun around, and fixated the three astonished men with her best glare. "What is wrong with all of you? Look at her! Cornering a woman and shouting at her, do you have any idea how terrified she must be? You guys are a bunch of-"
Anna's tirade was interrupted as her name was called this time. Looking over her younger sister's shoulder and through a gap between the men, Elsa saw a flash of fiery red hair and surprised green eyes.
Merida stood at the end of the hallway. Phone dangling from her fingertips, she focused her gaze on the trio of males before her. Jaw tightening visibly, Merida clenched a fist.
"Just what," She said quietly, her voice filling with rage, "Are you lads doing?"
Before the men could answer, Merida descended upon them in a furious rage. Accent thickening as her anger increased, Anna and Elsa could only watch as the archer started tossing out obscenities that could make a sailor blush.
As Elsa stared, she could have sworn she heard MacIntosh start to cry.
"…So that's when I decided to take a tour of the facilities, you know, to get my bearings. Unfortunately, I got lost after using the bathroom, and sort of ended up wandering around for a while."
Anna paused to take a sip of tea from her cup, before passing it on to Elsa. Elsa received the cup gratefully and took a sip herself, enjoying not only the taste of the tea, but the presence of her sister.
The three women had left the centre quickly after the incident occurred. Other than being badly shaken, Elsa was all right; and so the three decided to go to a nearby coffee shop for a drink and a bite to eat.
"I'm such an idiot." Merida growled, smacking her palm against her face. "What was I thinking, leaving you there, when I knew those boys were around? They're taking things way too far."
"Who were those men?" Elsa asked. "They kept trying to get me to tell them how I managed to get a date with you."
"That's why they wouldn't leave you alone?" Anna asked incredulously, turning to look at her sister. "Because they wanted to ask you for dating advice?"
As Elsa nodded, Merida groaned and smacked herself in the face once again. Taking her drink into her free hand, the Scottish woman lifted her head and took a long draught. When she was finished, she finally started to speak.
"Y'see, my family is centuries old. So old that even the area where we live is named after the clan we descend from – Clan DunBroch. We're fairly well-to-do, and my mother is fixated on this idea of keeping the line strong.
"I thought when I came to study here, I'd be able to get out from underneath her thumb. She didn't tell me that while she'd let me study here, she'd be sending those three alongside me. Since then, they spend every day trying to get my attention. My mother is upset that I won't choose – but its my life, not hers. It's why I do my best to ignore them, and why-"
Realizing she had said too much, Merida's face went almost as red as her hair. Shutting her mouth instantly, she rose her cup to her lips and tried to drink it all at once, averting her gaze from the two sisters before her.
" 'And Why' what, Merida?" Anna said suspiciously.
Squinting her eyes, Anna stood and leaned forward. Grasping the bottom of Merida's coffee cup, she pulled it away from the woman's lips forcefully. As the redhead struggled to swallow her mouthful of coffee, Anna continued to lean in and stare at her.
"Nothing!" Merida said nervously, still averting her eyes. "Absolutely nothing!"
"Oh don't give me that-" Anna started to say. She was interrupted as Elsa reached out, and gently laid a hand on the strawberry blonde's shoulder.
Looking back at Elsa, Anna's eyes flashed with concern. Elsa merely gazed evenly back at her. Though no words were shared, none were needed; Anna understood Elsa's message, loud and clear. Sitting back, Anna took her own cup into her hand once again, staring at Merida over the rim.
"Merida." Elsa said quietly, immediately drawing said woman's attention. "What were you going to say?"
Merida was silent, though she squirmed in her seat.
"Merida." Elsa repeated, though her voice softened.
As Elsa turned her ice blue gaze onto Merida, the redhead found her resolve melt away. Though she longed to close her mouth and remain quiet, she sighed, accepting her defeat.
"It's why I do my best to ignore them…" She said, picking up where she had left off. "…And why I asked Anna to set me up with you in the first place."
Elsa's mouth twitched in displeasure as she felt her heart sink. Though Elsa herself said nothing, Anna angrily vocalized everything that Elsa was thinking: "You were using her, just to make your mother upset?"
"No, no!" Merida cried out, waving her arms. "Not like that. Not… entirely, at least."
"I always liked hearing about you, Elsa, from Anna, and I wanted to meet you. I thought when I got this date with you that it'd be fun – and making my mother even more upset would be an added bonus. Now that I know you, you're even better than I'd thought. It's not that I don't fancy the ladies m'self, I really do – but it was too much to pass up, and I'm sorry I didn't tell you."
Elsa watched as Merida sat back. Gazing down into her cup, the redhead looked both incredibly ashamed and incredibly angry with herself as her plans came to light.
Perhaps it was that look. Perhaps it was the fact that, despite being a bit of a brat, Merida was a lot of fun. Perhaps it was how similar Merida was to her sister. Whatever it was, something melted Elsa's heart, if only a fraction – she found that she could not stay mad at the girl before her.
Putting her hand on Anna's shoulder once again (for Anna had started to stand at the table, preparing to yell at Merida), Elsa settled her sister back down. Fixating her blue eyes on Merida, Elsa called the younger woman's name, causing her to look up. When she had Merida's attention, Elsa began to speak.
"I can't say that what you did was right." Elsa said firmly to the woman before her. "It wasn't mature. In fact, it was downright selfish."
"But," She continued, stressing the word to keep Merida's attention, "You actually have the courage to tell me this, to my face. I can appreciate that, at least. While I don't think I'll be going on another date with you, anytime soon… I wouldn't mind being your friend."
A bright smile spread across Merida's face.
"You're a saint, Elsa." The redhead sighed in relief. She reached out across the table to touch Elsa's arm gratefully. "An absolute saint, I swear."
"Well I'm not." Anna interjected, annoyed as she shooed Merida's hands away. "And I don't forgive you for what you did."
Merida pouted. "C'mon, Anna. If your sister can forgive me, don't you think you can too? You should take a page from her book. Let it go."
"Let it go?" Anna repeated incredulously. "Oh, I'll tell you who should 'let it go'!"
As the two women started to squabble in front of her (though Merida did so with a smile on her face), Elsa could only shake her head and sigh.
Reaching out and taking the cup that Anna had abandoned, Elsa quickly drained it. Relishing on the taste of peppermint tea on her tongue, the blonde propped her head up on her hand and watched the argument continue between the two friends.
As she did so, a thought passed over her mind.
'I wonder how much archery lessons cost?'