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“I can’t believe you’d come to me with such a foolish matter!”

“But you’re the Queen, now, lass—er, m’lady, your grace,” Lord Macintosh fumbles, near seventy years old and seeming nowhere near ready to pass the crown onto his son, retire with grace like Merida’s parents did over a year ago now. Especially not with everything that’s going on, though Merida really doesn’t see what the fuss is about.

“Look, did our forefathers not think marriage between our clans was a good idea?” she says, not so much a question as a flat reminder of the adventure he and his son had shared a fair part in. “And in keeping with the peaceful unity and such like? Because I seem to remember you being pretty gung-ho about marriage between firstborns.”

“But that was—that was different,” ex-Lord MacGuffin butts in, stomping his foot like the right ol’ codger he is. His son, Lord Young MacGuffin—though he must have a first name, Merida can’t recall ever hearing it; all she knows is his gentle spirit and his big heart—stands very still, large hands resting on a shield of his clan, blond hair longer now and knotted at the back of his neck, fanning across his broad shoulders. His eyes are cast down, lips thinned; he hasn’t spoken a word since he announced his intentions to the court.

Merida’s short temper snaps at the sight of her friend brought to such low spirits. “It was different because I’m a woman?
And can therefore be bred like a horse?”

A flurry of “No”s fly from the mouths of the assembled; at this moment, she doesn’t believe a one of them.

“Lord Macintosh,” she says, enunciating, projecting, hands folded with the grace her mother taught her, voice edged with the commanding presence of her father. “You will allow your son to marry whomsoever he pleases, as per the agreement struck between our clans in this very room. And if someone goes and fetches him from where you’ve banished him outside the damn hall, I’ll not only bless the marriage I’ll officiate it as well!”

While people scramble to obey Merida considers the embroidered hem of her dress and how long it would take to rip free, before a large hand grasping hers in gratitude distracts her and Young MacGuffin says, “Dinnae herm yer dress, ee broucht a band.”

He holds up a finely woven ribbon decorated with running hounds, each so carefully wrought it could only have been made by one truly in love. Merida smiles, feeling tears building in her eyes. “This will serve a handfasting beautifully,” she manages to say.

And then Young Macintosh appears, still half-naked and half-blue as he’d been all those years ago, now all-wild from the uncertainty of this moment, eyes scanning the room for a fight before they find his beloved.

“Calm yourself, Young Macintosh,” Merida says, even though he seems to be much calmer now, in the arms of Young MacGuffin. “Your fathers have seen the error in their ways, and furthermore they’ve agreed to split the cost of your wedding feast equally between them, as is the custom.”

“Thank you, Merida,” Young Macintosh says just loud enough for her ears above the cheers of the crowd—nothing like a party to ease any lingering reservations.

She clasps their entwined hands in both of hers, smiling at them each in turn. “I see between you a love that reminds me of my own parents, and of the love I hope to find one day. I will do everything in my power to make sure no one interferes with your happiness.”

Young MacGuffin sweeps them both into an embrace that knocks the wind out of Merida in the best way. Being Queen has its definite perks.