The blinding morning sunlight stirred the Scottish princess from her enlightened slumber, a mop of red curls hiding her face as Queen Elinor cheerily announced her daughter's wake-up call. Merida groaned at the coming of morning, the sun just peaking over the horizon, as she rolled away from the window and pulled her rough beige sheets up over her curly-haired head.
"Come now, dear! We've got lots of preparations to attend to! The ball is in three days time!", Her Majesty announced with utmost joy. Merida just moaned and wedged her head beneath her pillows. For months now the maiden had heard of nothing but this social event in which she was being forced into. Merida had the invitation memorized, every dip and curl of it's gold print ingrained in her memory, the message reading of a grand masquerade for all the members of the Disney Princess Royal Court. Disgust tingled in Merida's fingertips at the thought of it all: the sparkly dress, the millions of people, the meticulous choreography. Everything was fine lines caked with glitter and makeup. Merida was the speck of dirt that would cloud it's glossy perfection.
"Merida, all of the princesses are to attend. You are courageous and headstrong-- a great role model for any young girl. You'll be fine! Maybe you'll even meet a fine young lad fit for betrothal!", Queen Elinor attempted to explain to her daughter as the two sped down the stony staircase for breakfast, their jade and teal gowns swishing in contrast.
"But I'm not princess material! All of those peppy lasses are covered in diadems and pearls, with their overflowing breasts and anorexic waists! I'm a free spirit, not a trophy!", Merida counteracted. Every fiber of her being was prepared to fight in opposition. Her mother sighed as she reached the bottom of the steps, opening her mouth to speak until dizziness interrupted. Merida steadied her mother who, in the past few weeks, was steadily growing ill from unknown sources, terror radiating from the princess's crystal irises. "Y-you know what, Mum", she stuttered. "I-I actually think I'll be fine. I'll make do."
Queen Elinor nodded tiredly at her daughter's compromise as she trudged to the kitchen table, gratefully taking refuge in her seat with an exhausted sigh. Merida studied her mother's altering features as she got comfortable beside her. The queen's once perfectly composed face was now suddenly growing pale and weary, spidery creases jutting from the corners of her eyes and her cheek bones much more apparent. Her primly straight hair which once gleamed a healthy chestnut was now burdened with tangles and fading into a mousy brown, fashioned into one long, thin braid down the queen's back. Her bony fingers trembled slightly as they shuffled through the day's mail.
As Merida concentrated on her mother's every movement, her father's booming voice echoed in her ears as he scolded her adolescent brothers, pastries flying across the room and leaving jelly stains on the wall. Despite all the chaos, Merida seemed to notice none of it. She was completely transfixed on the queen. Had her dresses always been so baggy on her suddenly thin frame? Had her skin always had such a dull, pale luster? Merida knew the answer to all of those questions was a stable no. And Elinor knew her daughter noticed, yet the queen contained too much self-pride to admit she needed medical attention. She shoved her steadily decreasing health aside. Everything now centered on Merida.
"I contacted Eudora about a new dress and sent her your measurements so you should have your gown in the next few days. I made sure to give her your preferences", Elinor explained with fair exhaustion, gripping the edge of the table. Merida nodded and thanked her mother halfheartedly, her eyes focused on her mother's weak hands before shifting to her face as the queen stammered with wide eyes, "F-Fergus...". Before Elinor could finish her sentence, she gently collapsed onto the floor with a light thud.
Watery eyes focused on every crevice within the stone walls through blurry sight as Merida sat curled up on the cold floor, her ear firmly pressed against the thick door of her parents bedroom. Nothing. Breathing in gasps, the princess pulled her knees up to her chest and stared at the ceiling, her hair cushioning her head against the wall. Maudie's hefty frame was visible through the doorway of the other room, solemnly chaperoning Hamish, Hubert, and Harris as they quietly discussed their mischievous topics.
Silence finally lifted as the medic, whose face was painted with remorse, emerged from the room. He shook his head. "It doesn't look good. It seems as though the queen is suffering from a great illness for which there is no known cure as of yet. It'd be smart to discuss your alternate monarchy arrangements and soon". Merida's heart rate quickened at the elderly man's words which pierced her chest like a rusted dagger.
"Y-you mean she's...", Merida stammered through the lump in her throat. She couldn't breathe. The medic just nodded solemnly. "No...no...", Merida muttered as tears streamed further down her face. She had lost her mother once, she wasn't ready to lose her again. All eyes turned on the princess as she shrieked in misery, collapsing on the floor with her hands covering her face, tears spilling into her palms. King Fergus, whose face was sullen yet composed, gently laid a hand on his daughter's shoulder only for her to quickly shake it off. "I just want to be left alone", she muttered fiercely before forcing herself up off the ground and darting down the hallway, swallowing back her sobs. The slam of her bedroom door echoed down the hallway as the princess dove onto the bench by her window, it's thin cushion doing little to break her fall. Curling up into a ball, she pressed her hands together tight and prayed that somehow, some way, her mother would be spared. Merida wasn't usually the praying type so she had high hopes that God would somehow hear her rare pleas and take them seriously.
Burying her face in the thick fabric of her sleeves, Merida let the wool of her dress absorb her tears until her depression was suddenly interrupted by a quick cloak of darkness and a villainous chuckle. The maiden struggled against the dark burlap of her prison as she felt two muscular hands lift her up out of her room and pass her down to the ground, slinging the sack she resided in over their shoulder and carrying on into the woods.
"Wait until Stoick hears how great this plan of ours worked", the unfamiliar voice of a tough female spoke as Merida struggled to escape her confinement, kicking at her captor and screaming Scottish cuss words.
"She's feisty, isn't she?", another voice asked.
"Sh-she's not gonna hurt is, is she?", yet another questioned, this one sounding as if originating from a weak teeange boy just entering puberty.
"Oh, buck up Fishlegs! We're Vikings! This little pansy of a princess is no match for us. Plus, I like 'em feisty", Merida's captor reassured the group, speaking his last sentence in a suggestive tone. Merida kneed the boy as hard as she could in response, gasping at the word "viking". Her father had warned Merida plenty of times of the Vikings of Berk, ranting of how heartless and evil they were. Frankly, at the moment, Merida couldn't agree more. Fears of becoming a sex slave to the masked hellion who had snatched her away began creeping into her mind. The princess would've taken that glittery dance over this kidnapping any day and she cursed at herself under her breath for not having her bow.
Just as she began giving up with her squirming, she felt her captor drop her confinement with a generous thud, the bite of the harsh earth beneath her ringing through her body.
"Snotlout! What did you do this time?!", a droning voice questioned. Merida couldn't help but think how annoying it sounded.
"Didn't your dad tell you? The first part of our plan of attack is kidnapping the princess!", Merida's captor, Snotlout, explained as she heard him bend down and wedge open the sack. As soon as Merida's eyes caught daylight, she busted from her prison and elbowed the boy in the face, stealing his dull-bladed sword from about his waist in the process and holding out fiercely in defense. Quickly scanning the group about her, she instantly recognized them as Vikings indeed but one particular one caught her eye. He seemed only a few inches taller than she, armed with nothing but a shield and flanked on either side by a great black dragon and a tough blonde. His brunette hair was fairly messy, a tiny braid tangled within the locks, and his jade eyes radiated a kindness unlike anything expressed by the others. He held out his hands in gentle surrender, studying her every feature. Her snout-nosed captor chortled at their brief amazement with one another, feeding Merida the fuel she needed to strike back.
Within seconds, Merida swung the blade of the unclean sword about towards the boy, the other Viking teens lunging at her as she artfully wielded her weapon, dirt and blood caking her dress and raw skin as she fought her way out of the pile. As soon as she could breathe, she ran.
The steady pounding of her feet carried her to the first safe place she could think of: Corona. Rapunzel would no doubt be willing to help her. A warm trickle slid steadily down Merida's cheek as she weaved through the trees, the muddy and torn bottom of her dress sending a draft up her bare legs. Gasping for air, she finally collasped just on the outskirts of the palace's backyard, the soft murmur of a sad song reaching her ears: Rapunzel. Mustering up what little energy she had left, Merida darted to the stony gates into the castle's quiet garden, whispering the sun princess's name as she thunked her on the shoulder. Rapunzel whipped around, quickly wiping away her own tears, and sprinted to help her friend.
"Merida!" Rapunzel gasped, brushing a fiery curl from her friend's face. "Wh-what happened to you?!"
As Merida gasped for air, she breathed the only word that could possibly explain anything: "Kidnapped".
Rapunzel's face widened in fear as she began drilling Merida with questions. "Who did this to you? What do they want? Why?"
"Rapunzel, slow down!", Merida commanded, instantly quieting her friend as she stared curiously at the Scottish maiden's appearance. Taking a few more deep breaths, Merida explained everything that had happened that morning, shedding heavy tears as a lump rose in her throat. Wrapping her arms around her, Rapunzel comforted the curly-haired girl with promises full of hope, too attentive to explain her own problems. Her focus was all on Merida now.
"Shouldn't you go back home? With your mother? And warn your father of--?" Rapunzel began but Merida interrupted her with a quick shake of the head, her flaming ringlets bouncing with the movement.
"My father's main concern is my mum. Warning him of this would only stress him further", Merida explained in a cracking voice, running a hand over her eyes. Rapunzel nodded in understanding, apologizing for the adversity. "I just don't get it", Merida continued. "Why would the Vikings attack now...if they've been angry with us for almost 12 years?". She shook her head yet again, her thoughts racing. But no matter how much fair contemplation she explored, Merida couldn't help but keep thinking back to that one kind Viking, his jade eyes expressing a gentleness she had never imagined could exist in a Viking. She hadn't caught his name, but something seemed so unexplainably familiar about him. The viking beside a dragon...