Even though she didn’t have actual skill when it came to tapestries, Merida would love to look at her mother’s. As a child, she would goad her mother into making tapestries that told her favorite myths and legends, and Elinor would acquiesce because it meant that her daughter showed interest in something “ladylike”.
As the years (or months, depending on how small the actual tapestries were) went by, her mother’s tapestry room became crowded with different textiles that held the lessons of fate and truth within them; as Merida’s interest in tapestries waned and her lessons increased, the queen placed the remaining tapestries in an alcove where different stories and documented events (that did not decorate the great hall) collected dust.
Among the tapestries that were hidden in this alcove, one was safe from the plague of time. This tapestry had became a bit worn and faded; however, it held a vibrant story that made the threads seem to shimmer. It told the story of a small - but proud - viking boy holding hands with a brave, red-headed lass. It was a symbol of peace, and it was almost forgotten.
Merida was the living embodiment of a burning ember that wasn’t afraid to burst out into flames. Her wild hair that seemed to have a life of its own was bound in a braid, and it was further restrained by white ribbons. To the princess’s satisfaction, a few curls escaped their imprisonment, and they were content to just frame Merida’s face. As if waxing poetry would make the situation better. A bitter voice murmured. Even if it is waxing poetry, that doesn’t mean that you can disguise wildness as duty and propriety. Another voice chimed. Which is exactly what this hairstyle is representing.
She so desperately wanted to rub her temple. Merida was not used to having her hair pulled back in such a tight braid, but the constant inner monologue did not help her at all. If she were her sixteen-year-old self, she would stand from her throne and yell to her subjects and the vikings alike: Fuck duty, fuck propriety, and fuck being a bride to a man whose lands are far away from my home! Then the sixteen year old would rip out her ribbons and actually become a wild flame.
Merida could not commit to that action. She had learned from her mistakes before, and she would not make them again. Even though she would not be the heir apparent to the throne of Dunbroch anymore, she was still a Dunbroch and must keep the respect of her clan alive (as long as she lives). That is why the eighteen-year-old Merida must sit in silence as the new chief of Burk tries to “woo” her with logic.
Sadly, the chief was not wrong, and both her mother and father had listened to him with a look of utter resignation in their eyes. They do not want to give their only daughter up, but they had to.
According to Chief Hiccup Haddock III, a band of rouge vikings were galavanting around the world, spreading chaos and bloodshed wherever they go. They had stolen livestock and crops, along with linens and medicines. That did not compare to the lives they had stolen from innocent families, and they displayed their murdered victims as apart of their conquests. The threat of them was made worse by the dragons that they had under their arsenals.
Dunbroch had never seen an actual dragon in centuries, so it came as a shock when both children and elders alike both looked to see an envoy of two large dragons. Even the elegant and tactful Queen Elinor had to curb her curiosity at the sight of the creatures when they finally landed outside of the castle.
When the mysterious dragon riders tried to announce themselves to a servant, King Fergus was already outside, bouncing with anxiousness and child-like curiosity. The king wanted desperately to see a full, able bodied beast that the the tales described.
As the two large dragons descended, all of Fergus’s redness paled when he saw the dragons in all their glory. His loud voice could barely make a hoarse whisper as he looked upon the two dragons.
Later, Fergus would describe them as ancient beasts that somehow held humanness within in them. “Oh Elinor, you would’ve stopped breathin’ when those eyes looked at you. They’re intelligence was somethin’ else, and I’m not goin’ ta lie ta ya darlin’, it sent shivers up my spine.”
With her father’s description in mind, her blue eyes seemed to examine the young viking who would whisk her away from Dunbroch and her family. He was intelligent alright. Intelligent and cunning.
Looking into Hiccup Haddock’s green eyes, she realized that there was a vulnerability in them. The position of chief was a new mantle for him (she guessed) and she could see the fear in his eyes. She recognized that look in her eyes whenever she looked into her own mirror. What if I let my people down?
It seemed that her examination of the viking was not unnoticed because - for a split second - their eyes met, and it seemed that they were saying “ Truce?”
She stiffened to attention but tilted her chin in assent. “ Truce.”
It was many hours later, and the viking envoys and the whole kingdom of Dunbroch dined together, but something was different. It wasn’t a boisterous affair like the feasts she knew as a child. No lord was deep into their cups, there was no play fighting, or loud stories eaten over twelve cups of mead; it was sobering , and it made Merida’s throat more chapped.
Even poor Hiccup tried to lighten the mood by retelling(what was supposed to be) a funny story, awkwardly. The poor lad was awarded a few meek laughs from the nobleman. Even her lively father seemed a shadow from himself as he sipped from his own goblet.
She made eye contact with her mother and raised a brow, but her mother gave her a weak smile in return. The queen shifted her hand to hold her husband’s hands and he grazed his thumb upon it lovingly. Merida knew enough from her childhood that her mother was giving comfort to her father.
Merida looked upon her parents’ interlocked hands and wondered if she would have a companion like that. Would Hiccup give her comfort in subtle ways just like her mother? Would he gallantly serenade her while drunk and press a sloppy kiss to her cheek like her father would with her mother? And for one moment, in the back of her mind, she asked herself if Hiccup and her would grow to love one another like a true husband and wife. Like her mother and father loved each other. Or would Hiccup and her make unspoken truces for the rest of her life.
She felt lightheaded when she stopped looking at her parents’ show of affection, and decided to analyze her soon-to-be husband. As soon as she saw Hiccup Haddock, he was looking back at with her a sense of anxiousness and(what appeared to be) guilt.
Maybe he asked himself the same questions that she was thinking of a second ago, and her mouth dried at the thought and she took a large unladylike gulp from her goblet.
“How does it feel to fly on a dragon?” She rasped.
Hiccup quirked an eyebrow, and blushed at the blunt question she was offering him.
Merida tried to stifle a smirk after another sip of her mead. “Are you alright, wee lamb?”
God, she hoped that he got the hint that she was teasing him.
It seemed to fluster Hiccup more. “W-wee lamb-b?” At this point, the somber mood of the table lightened as a few chuckles were heard across the dining hall. Even the unusually calm Queen Elinor gave hardy guffaw.
“Stop teasing the dear, Merida.” She gave her daughter a mock glare, and turned to her soon-to-be-son-in-law. “Forgive my daughter, Chief Haddock. She was teasn’ you.” She patted Hiccup’s hand.
Hiccup gave a tiny, wheezy laugh as he rubbed his neck sheepishly. It was an enigma to Merida that a powerful and brilliant man with military prowess was self-effacing in front of two noble women who were a little bit too deep in their cups. It instantly made Merida respect - and dare she say it - like him more.
After he regained his composure, Hiccup met Merida’s smirk with a softer smile that she had seen. Yep, she was liking him more. Maybe it was the wine.
“Do you still want to learn about dragons?”
It was her turn to choke on her wine - but unlike the viking sitting across from her - she quickly picked up the gauntlet that was thrown at her.
“I think I asked you about how flying on a dragon feels like.”
This earned a small smirk from Hiccup himself and a girl-like giggle coming from Fergus. It seemed that Hiccup was conceding, but she felt like the viking chief wouldn’t give up so easily.
“It feels like-”
Suddenly, the table awoke from its metaphorical slumber because Macintosh, Dingwall, and Macguffin all automatically decided that they would talk in loud, huge bursts. Merida, with a look of resignation, finally put together that all the three lords
“Fergus, aye dragin’?”
“It seems ta’ spitfire gets ta’ wed to a country of spitfires. “
Lord Macguffin slapped Hiccup who was sitting right beside him. “I remember when he was just a pole of lad.” Hiccup almost spat out the wine that he was drinking.
Dingwall chimed in, “Aye, I could’ve thrown him across a field.”
To be honest, Merida was young when Hiccup and his father came to Dunbroch. She didn’t remember much of it, except for green eyes, and chaol stained hands that matched with the mud stains on the hems of her dresses. As soon as the Horrendous Haddocks were gone, her memories of them were gone.
Now, Merida was across from the grown “pole of a lad” and she was relearning him for the first time. It was her turn to become silent and reserved, as the boistures events of the night slowly dwindled into the night.
Then, it hit her. She was getting married tomorrow, to a boy - man - that she didn’t know well. Her stomach was now tied in knots and suddenly she felt lightheaded. This was not an archery contest that she could get out of, there were no magic spells to change her fate, and she couldn’t just say “no.” In order to do right to her people, and by extension Hiccup’s people, she had to go through with it. This was her reality, and she must deal with the path her life was taking.
She loved her and mother and father, and she was grateful to see an equal partnership between them. However, that was not the reality for most of the women around her, especially for the more highborn women. Aunt Marguerite of Orkney had the same education as her mother, but when she was sent to marry a lord from Wales, she was only seen as the “head of the household” and not much else. Her husband did not care for her quick wit or her long and extensive knowledge of history and the arts or of her prowess in governing a kingdom. She was only cherished for being a broodmare.
Aunt Marguerite was never happy , Merida thought, she was restless and was only seen as a possession. She looked back to the smiling and content look in her mother’s eyes. She wouldn’t have wanted me as unhappy as Marguerite, especially if her daughter was a spitfire. She has betrothed me to a man whose customs would treat a woman with equal respect, and he is not much older than I. She has listened to me. There were tears now spilling out of the corners of her eyes as she realized how lucky she was to have a mother like her, and how did she repay her? By turning her mother into a bear.
Even though both Merida and her mother have learned from the bear incident and have forgiven each other, there was still some lingering guilt on her side.
On impulse, she pushed her way out of the bench and walked swiftly towards her mother, and placed a kiss onto her mother’s temple. “Thank you, Mum.”
Elinor straightened up instantly, and grasped her child’s hand, “What is wrong, my lamb?”
No more wee lamb. That made her want to cry more, and she felt like the child that used to hide under her mother’s blankets in a thunderstorm. She raised her mother’s hand and kissed her knuckles. “I love you.”
“I love you too, my love.” Elinor kissed her daughter’s temple. “Now go eat your feast, my dearest.”
And with an uncharastic blush, Merida went back to her seat.
Across from her, Hiccup drew his attention from his talking companions to her. She knew that she looked different from the tempestuous she-bear that she was at the beginning of the feast. I look like a child. She thought. Suddenly thinking of the consequences of the business transaction that befell her.
“Are you alright?” He asked.
“I think it was too much wine.” She muttered.
Hiccup shifted uneasily in his seat, opening his mouth and closing it again. It was endearing to see a man so smart and powerful become so bashful around her.
From the interactions that she had with him, she knew that he was a humble man(possibly a good one). He never openly bragged about his conquests, or tried to make himself seem more superior to her just because he was a man.
Everyone at the banquet spent the rest of the time in high spirits, drinking mulled wine and beer while singing old soldier songs. Even her mother knew the words and taught Hiccup the words (this both made the viking and Merida blush).
All good things come to an end, however, most of the lords and vassals were beginning to drouse, and everyone could feel the vibrations of Fergus’s snoring through the table(no matter how far back they were).
Queen Elinor stood and clapped her hands loudly to get the sleeping lords to wake, including her husband to send them off to their chambers.
As the lords departed to their respective chambers, Hiccup, in all his awkwardness(bless the lamb), kissed the back of her hand, “Have a goodnight, m’lady.”
“It’s Merida, Horrendous Haddock.” She smirked. “Goodnight.”
“Goodnight, Merida.” He whispered.
Merida was conflicted. On one hand, Hiccup was a good man and he would not mistreat her. The vikings were known for giving women more freedom than the ones in her homeland. She could still practice swordsmanship and archery without being reprimanded. She might even learn how to train and a ride her very own dragon. This knowledge, however didn't help the crushing homesickness she would feel when would eventually leave her homeland. She would never hear her mother's voice again, laugh with her father, or help her siblings with their hijinks.
The wisdom imparted to her was as much apart of her identity as being a princess of Dunbroch, and she didn't know who she would be without her parents.
As she undressed, she wondered if she would get any sleep. When she unfolded her covers, she heard a knock on her door.
"Yes?" She asked
"It's your mother, Merida."
She raced to the door and as soon as she opened it, she engulfed her mother into a hug. "I don't know if I can do this, Mum."
She felt her mother lace her fingers through her unruly hair. "Oh my love, you can. You are the bravest person I have ever met, and you are great leader as well. Your fortitude is your strength my dear. You'll be a great ruler."
"But not a great wife." She muttered into her mother's chest.
An unqueenly scoff graced her mother's lips, "That boy was tripping over you, my darling. I'm sure he'll treat you well. Know what is this about-?"
Suddenly Merida whispered, "Do you still forgive me for turning you into a bear?"
"Oh my dear, I don't regret it. Our bond grew stronger because of that, remember that. We both learned something from it, have we not?" Elinor replied.
"I don't know how I'll live without ya', Mum." She whispered.
"Oh my brave lamb, you'll survive. I know it's scary but your are one of the most capable women I have ever met. You'll find your place there." She felt her mother stroking her back. "It's another thunderstorm that will give you a beautiful rainbow in the end. I'll miss you so very much, my darling girl.
Merida tried to reign in her tears as she listened to her mother. She knew she was too old to ask her mother this, but she felt like a helpless six year old again. "Can you stay with me until I fall asleep?"
"Of course. That's why I knocked on your door." Both women clutched each others hands even as they climbed under the covers.
"Can I ask you something else? Think of it as an early wedding present." Merida asked.
"Yes, my love. What is it?"
"Can you teach me how to make tapestries, so that I can have a piece of you with me?" She clutched her mother's hand tightly.
The queen laughed lowly. "I should've threatened to wed you sooner if this would make you learn how to weave."
Merida kicked her mother's foot in jest. "You wouldn't dare."
"Oh girl, your feet are ice cold. Of course I will, my love." She kissed her daughter's temple.
As Merida drifted off to sleep she heard her mother softly humming a lullaby that made her think of her childhood. A breeze rustled her hair as she heard her mother whisper like a wisp. "You'll always have a piece of me with you."
Merida fell into the land of sleep, dreaming of noble maidens riding dragons.