Raided: Chapter 15: One Last Time
Merida tottered out of the meeting that she and her mother had had with Astrid. Mum was arranging a room for the girl and a place for her dragon.
Merida had a hand on the stone wall guiding her, because she wasn’t sure how she was feeling. Hiccup had sent Astrid, the girl she thought Hiccup liked, to ask Merida to marry him. It would be a political marriage, the way to stop the raids on Scotland.
Merida stumbled down the stairs, grabbing the handrail. Her eyes didn’t seem to want to focus, her ears couldn’t hear. Part of her was raging, she didn’t want to give up her freedom. The freedom she had fought so hard for and hurt her mum over. Another part of her liked Hiccup, and held out the hope that maybe she could love him like Mum loved Da. The princess part of her knew what had to be done for the sake of her people.
Her feet carried her out of the castle and into the woods. There was a comforting presence next to her, Kevin MacGuffin. He had been invited to come after the MacIntoshs had been dealt with. They had spent quite some time together. He was so much more confident now and she was comfortable around him. She felt safe with him nearby.
Merida sat at the base of a large twisted tree, that looked like how her heart felt just then. Kevin sat next to her. She took his hand and hugged it. “I’m sorry.”
“Hiccup just asked me to marry him.”
“Oh.” After a while he asked, “and...?”
“He became a king. King of the Vikings, just so he could stop the raids on Scotland. He needs to marry me, the Princess of the Scots, to make an alliance.”
There was a long silence.
“Why did he do/ that? How/ could he do that?” Merida raged now. “What is/ it with him?”
Merida was quiet again.
Then tears began to run down her face. “I have to. I have to marry him to protect my people. Because he loves my people enough to become a king of his own people to protect us.”
“Do you think it will work?” asked Kevin.
“Oh yes. I am sure it will work, because what he does works.” said Merida wiping her eyes, she twiddled her hair with her free hand trying to decide.
She looked into Kevin’s eyes “Kevin. I want you to know that of the three original suitors. I liked you best. I thought you would also make the best king. You will make a great lord.”
“Thank you.” Kevin said as he ran his hand through her hair one last time. “You will make a great queen.”
“So now what?”
“I get ready for the wedding and then...I don’t know. I don’t have the slightest idea where I will end up living.”
Merida put her head on Kevin’s substantial chest and tried to come to terms with what was happening as he put his arm around her.
They sat together until the sun was went down and they had to return to the castle.
# # #
“Mum, we need to talk.” said Merida.
“What’s wrong?” asked Elinor. She was in the tapestry room working on the Princess and the Bear tapestry, she was putting some highlights in her daughter’s hair today. She had duties but the wedding was coming up and she needed to do something calming, because she was going to lose her baby soon. Ships full of people from the clans and the Viking tribes were coming soon. Hiccup and the dragonriders would be here any time too.
Merida came over and touched the bear part of the tapestry. “I love you. You’ve taught me so much. All those years of princess lessons, but I don’t know how to be what I know I need to be.”
“I’ve taught you all I know and you will make a good queen.”
“Yes, I think I will. You taught me well.” Merida said her head bowed.
Elinor took her daughter into her arms, “And you will be a good wife. I had reservations about marrying your father. I was so worried I was being given to a brute, he is a great warrior and leader, I can see those things in Hiccup, but I believe that he will make you a good husband. Just remember to talk to him often so you don’t drift apart.”
Merida shook her head, “Hiccup has such a big heart, he loves so much that he became king just so he could end the raids against us.”
“I don’t know if I can love like he can.”
“Of course you can.” Elinor said enveloping her daughter in her arms. “You used love to break the spell on me.”
“Yes, I know, but I loved you, my own mother. It’s loving strangers, even terrible monsters, like he can, I am not sure of.”
“I’m sure you can.”
“I need to know/ Mum. I need to do something that shows them and me that I am worthy of being Hiccup’s queen.” Merida looked at her mother intently.
“You have something in mind, don’t you?”
Merida nodded, but she bit her lip. “We... better sit down.”
# # #
Merida, Elinor and Maudie entered the chamber Hiccup would be guided to, to find Merida. Maudie put the basket of flower pedals on the table next to the white fabric they would be putting on Merida and Elinor put her bow and quiver by the door.
Merida’s stomach had been filled with butterflies as they had dressed her in Elinor’s wedding dress, now they were replaced by dragons.
“Merida, are you sure about this?” asked Queen Elinor. One last chance to do something else. She was so worried for Merida, though she knew this would mean so much to Merida.
Merida licked her lips. Looking around the room, the one that the wisps had lead her to she now remembered, she could see all the equipment she had had installed really well from where she was standing at the center. Merida swallowed, then shakily nodded.
“Maudie, if you would start with her arms.” said Elinor.
“Yes, mum.” said Maudie as she went to the table for the fabric. Merida put her arms together behind her and Maudie began to wrap Merida’s arms with the white fabric from the table.
“I’ll do your hair, dear.” said Elinor as she gathered up Merida’s hair. They had spent a good part of yesterday combing it out, today the curls were still soft and they almost reacher her knees. Elinor gathered it up and looped it through a bight of rope that hung from the ceiling. Then she bound it with a white ribbon back upon itself.
Merida’s breathing began to quicken. She’d always been able to hide in her hair. Her flame-colored curls always caressed her head, neck and chest, but now her hair was up and she felt so vulnerable. Having all those arrows pointed at her scared her too.
Maudie and Elinor brought her legs together and wrapped more of the white fabric and rope around her and her body was forced to stillness.
“Mum. Mummy. Please. I-I can’t. I can’t do this. I can’t. Please.” Merida began to beg as she struggled, but the ropes held her upright. Tears welled up in her eyes as she needed to escape, to run away to freedom. Elinor and Maudie held her close so she wouldn’t fall.
Elinor hugged her close. “Merida. It’s okay.” Elinor could feel her daughter shaking under her hands and tears dripping onto her neck from her daughters face.
“Mummy, I’m scared.” Merida whispered.
She took Merida’s face in her hands and made her daughter look her in the eyes. “You remember why you are doing this?”
Merida nodded, but she began to sob.
“Why? Tell me why?”
“For my people. For Hiccup’s people. For the slaves.” Merida panted as a stray curl fell in front of her eyes.
“Why are they important?”
“Because they need to be free.” Merida said, she focused on the memory of Aibhlinn’s clothes, that stray curl of hair, and those reasons. Slowly, she was able to get a grip on herself again.
“Yes. That’s right. They have waited a long time for freedom, and who is the only one able to give it too them?”
“I am.” Merida whispered as she breathing slowed.
“That’s right. You can do this for them.”
“Better?” asked the mother as she felt her daughter calm.
“Yes. Yes, keep going.” said Merida, and Maudie and Elinor quickly wrapped the rest of her body.
“Thank you Maudie, Mum. I love you.” said Merida as they were almost finished.
“I love you too, princess.” said Maudie.
“I love you too, my dearest perfect daughter.” said Elinor as she kissed her daughter one last time before gagging her daughter and wrapping Merida’s head, then she loosed Merida’s hair and arranged it nicely, then with a nod, signaled Maudie to activate the hidden mechanism that raised Merida into place and darkened the room.
Maudie came next to Elinor, nervously twiddling her hands in front of her, looking back and forth to the princess and the queen.
“Merida, are you okay?” called Elinor.
There was a muffled affirmative from the princess.
“Good, he should be here shortly. I love you and I am hoping you’ll be hearing those words again very soon.” said Elinor as she slung her bow and quiver around her as she and Maudie left the dark room.
King Hiccup was standing across the field from the castle and was keeping an eye on the combined might of the Scotland. At his back was the might of the Vikings. The dragons were sunning themselves on the walls of the castle, they would be sitting out this fight. The sun was shaded by a thick cloud just then, there were large fluffy white clouds moving ponderously in the sky.
Hiccup was a little annoyed with this spectacle, he had just wanted a simple little wedding, like his Dad. But no, this was a state marriage with ceremony and tradition, though what tradition there could be for the wedding of the first Viking king and Scottish Princess eluded him. The Scots had set everything up including their tradition of betrothal games and it was now a grand melee with the objective of him finding his bride in the castle. The actual marriage ceremony was going to be a mix of Viking and Scottish traditions.
After talking with the Skivvy Scroungers, he found they were a rag-tag bunch that BigEars had assembled over the last couple of years. BugEars had made lots of promises he was in no position to keep anymore. Now most of them wanted to return to their tribes, so Hiccup and the lawspeaker had dissolved the tribe and taken the slaves into his own tribe to be returned to their own homes. He had their chains cut but their collars would be removed after the wedding as a gesture of reconciliation. He looked and saw them coming off the last longboats, and moving to the wedding field.
Hiccup saw Maudie wave the signal banner flag above the battlements of Castle DunBroch. “Okay. Remember everyone; keep to the rules of engagement, and get me into the castle. Let’s go.” He hefted his heavy shield and wooden sword and charged across the field.
His dad, Gobber, Astrid and the rest of the gang were near him, as they approached the Scottish line he could see Fergus, Lord MacGuffin and the other clan-lords. He could see Stoic and Fergus eyeing each other as they trotted across the field.
There were rules in effect to simulate combat while hopefully keeping the injuries to a minimum. This was supposed to be a wedding, not an actual raid. The chains on his belt banging into his thigh annoyed him though. Why Elinor had insisted on those was a mystery to him. Enslaving his future wife was not why he had done all this. But Elinor said there was a reason for that which will be shown later.
They were getting close, the Scots charged forward. Hiccup had his shield up.
Then everyone, but him, put on a burst of speed and ran into the opposing lines and the melee began.
Hiccup found himself in the middle of a whirling chaos. Astrid was beating the snot out of some skinny guy with blue tattoos and black hair. Fishlegs and Kevin were dancing around each other. Snotlout was having a hard time of it as a kid with a shock of white hair was chewing on his arm. Hiccup could tell the kid had gone berserk, that could be a problem, but he saw Hunk and the twins coming to help.
Hiccup bashed a few warriors as he looked for a way to the gates. A hole opened up and he reached the castle gates. He looked back and he could see his dad and Fergus slugging away at each other. That might take a while to resolve.
# # #
Hiccup entered the dragon covered castle. There was a path of red flower pedals on the floor. Hiccup knew that was out of place enough to follow. As he stalked down into the bowels of the quiet castle, it reminded him of following a blood trail. The thought that he was following the blood trail of his future wife made him shiver.
It was nuts to do this but his dad told him some powerful people are traditionalists and they liked the idea. It would make the end of the raids go down easier. He came around a corner and found Elinor armed with a bow. He stopped, the slave chains on his belt clanked in the quiet, her eyes flicked to them and hardened. Hiccup hefted his heavy wooden shield and wooden sword, but knew it wouldn’t stop one of her arrows.
“Who goes there!”
“Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III.”
“Why are you here?”
“To claim my bride and to bring peace between our peoples.” He said the words that had been specified in the treaty.
“What have you done to prove your worth?”
“I have trained the dragons, killed the Red and Green Deaths and joined the tribes of my people into one.” Another prepared question and answer.
“Do you love Merida?”
“I... Wait, what?” That wasn’t one of the questions. He was supposed to say I would join our peoples too, to explain what he was doing here.
“Do you love Merida?” The question was urgent as Elinor fully drew her bow, he saw the calmness in her eyes. If he answered this wrong he would die. There was no defense against her.
Hiccup dropped his sword and shield. “I don’t know. You and she showed me the paths into my heart. I don’t think I’ve found my way yet. I would like to try.”
Elinor held the bow steady for a very long time considering. Hiccup was amazed at how long she could hold it without shaking. Then she lowered her bow.
“Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III, you may try to claim your bride.” Elinor opened the heavy wooden door.
“Um, Thanks.” But then he wondered about how she said that. What did she mean ...try?
The door thudded close behind him and the darkness had him as the sound of a heavy bar slid home behind him.