Into the open Air

Merida

‘For the last time, get out of my way!’ I said to the man. ‘I’m in a hurry, can’t you see?’ He chuckled evilly. God, he sounded like some sort of goose. ‘You don’t have to be in a hurry, fair maiden,’ he said with a nasty smirk on his face.

‘Get out of my way, please! Go bother someone else!’ ‘You’ve got quite a temper, lady. I like that.’ ‘Pervert,’ I whispered. I had my bow in my satchel, but he was too close. And maybe I could attack him with an arrow, but I suspected that he had a weapon too. He told his horse to come closer to me. Angus took a step back, but the man was too fast and grabbed my wrist.

‘Don’t touch me!’ I said. ‘Oops, already have,’ he giggled. ‘You’re insane! Now let me go!’ I screamed. I tried to release my hand from his grip, but he answered every try by making his grip stronger.

‘You’re hurting me, you bastard! Let me go!’ I said. I was getting desperate. I knew I was quite strong, but I couldn’t possibly win from an adult man. He laughed again. ‘No milady, you’re coming with me.’

Why did I leave Camelot? Why did I need to quarrel with the goddamn King? Why couldn’t I just shut my face from time to time? The filthy man pulled my arm. ‘Let me go!’ I screamed for the hundredth time. He grabbed my other wrist and looked at me in a way that gave me the creeps. I had never seen eyes filled with so much hate. Mordu’s eyes seemed cute compared to these.

‘You are going with me. There is no choice. You should be glad that I’ve come here to save you,’ he said. ‘Be glad? You’re really stupid, aren’t you?’ I said. He released one of my wrists and hit me right in my face. The next thing I felt was the damp earth against my face.

‘Stop that right now!’ I heard a strong voice say behind me. Gawain! He had followed me! I tried to get up, but it required too much power. ‘You want her?’ the creepy man said. ‘Come get her then!’ ‘I will,’ Gawain said. The next thing I heard were stamping hooves and a muffled smack.

‘Merida! Are you all right?’ he asked and then he helped me up. The man was lying on the ground, with a huge head wound. ‘He can’t hurt you anymore,’ Gawain said softly. ‘Gawain, I-’ I turned around. ‘I’m sorry,’ and I burst into tears. ‘I’m so, so sorry!’

He walked towards me and took me in his arms. ‘There, there,’ he whispered while gently stroking my hair. ‘You’re safe now.’ ‘I shouldn’t have come here,’ I sobbed. ‘I only bring misery. I should just go!’ ‘That’s not true, Merida, you know that.’

He grabbed my shoulders and looked at me. ‘Let’s head back to Camelot.’ Camelot? I started crying again and he took me in his arms again. I felt ashamed for crying like a baby, but I just couldn’t stop. ‘I can’t show up at Camelot! I mean, I made a fool out of me and the king probably hates me.’

‘King Arthur doesn’t hate. If you’ll apologise, he won’t be able to be mad at you anymore. Trust me,’ he said. ‘But I, I don’t think I dare,’ I whispered. He laughed. ‘Aren’t you the brave princess of DunBroch? Merlin said so, didn’t he?’ I laughed too. ‘There you go,’ he said with a smile, and he wiped the tears of my face. ‘Ready?’ he asked. I nodded. ‘Gawain?’ I said. ‘Hmm?’ he said. ‘Thank you,’ I said. He grinned. ‘No problem.’

I knocked the big door that lead to the library. ‘Come in.’ I carefully opened the door. ‘King Arthur?’ I said softly. He was sitting in front of a beautiful chessboard, decorated with all sorts of diamonds. I bowed.

‘I wanted to apologise for everything that has happened yesterday. I didn’t have the right to talk to you like that. And if you want me to leave, I completely understand.’ ‘You can stay. But you see, war’s just not a woman’s thing,’ he said. I took a deep breath, because I almost wanted to correct him again. ‘Thank you very much,’ I said and I bowed again. He nodded and I left the library.

Gawain was sitting in front of the fireplace. I quietly joined him. ‘And?’ he asked. ‘I can stay,’ I said with a smile. But I still didn’t feel that happy. ‘Merida, there’s something I’ve wanted to ask you. Why did you leave your family?’

‘I don’t want to talk about that now,’ I said. I turned away my head and looked at my ring. I had forgotten about it, but this morning, when I left, I found it again. It was a birthday present from my parents. It was a simple ring, but I found it beautiful. It was just some iron braided in a Celtic pattern, but I liked it.

‘Are you married?’ Gawain asked? ‘What? Oh, eh, no,’ I said. ‘You?’ He sighed. ‘Almost,’ he said. ‘It’s a long story.’ ‘Tell me,’ I said. ‘Some years ago, a floating chessboard landed in the dining room, and when King Arthur wanted to grab it, it floated away. He asked us who wanted to go fetch it, and when nobody answered, I volunteered. I followed the chessboard, and arrived at King Marvel’s castle. He promised to give me the chessboard, if I brought him the two-ringed-sword. It was a sword that made you invincible, but if you weren’t honest, it would cut you in half. So I went to Amoraen, the king who had the sword. He gave me the sword, but I had to do something for him as well. He had fallen in love with an image from a princess from a faraway kingdom, and he wanted me to go fetch her. But the kingdom was in Endi, and that’s a long way. She lived in the castle with the twelve gates, and every gate was guarded by eighty knights. I had to slay them all. But at the last gate, her father captured me. But together we escaped, and we fell in love. But I still had to bring her to Amoraen, and tell her that she would have to marry him. It was hard, and she was quite mad when she found out. But when we arrived at Amoraen’s castle, we found out he had passed away. We gave the sword to King Marvel and headed back to Camelot. But the princess, Ysabele, was always kept inside the castle by her father, and she was used to Endi’s warm climate, and she was sick constantly, and every time we wanted to marry, she got sick. And eventually it got so bad that she died, so we’ve never really married.’

‘I...I’m so sorry,’ I said. ‘It’s okay,’ he said softly. ‘I’m okay.’ I sighed. There was no use in hiding myself anymore. He’s seen me at my worst and now that he’d opened up I felt like I had to too.

‘When my mother thought I was ready to marry, she invited our three allied clans. While my mom was talking to the lords, I heard that she told them that only the firstborns could compete for my hand. And I was the firstborn, so when they competed for my hand in a contest of archery, I grabbed my bow and shot three bull’s-eyes. My mom wasn’t happy with it, to say the least. So I ran away, and stumbled across a little house. In it was a witch, and I asked her for a spell to change my faith. She gave me a little cake and told me to give it to my mother, so I did. But instead of changing her mind about my betrothal, she turned into a bear. We went back to the witch but she was gone, and she had only left a weird message and told us that after three days, the spell would be permanent. Luckily, I understood the message and did what I needed to do, and mom became human again. After that our bond was great, but after a few months, she started talking about marriage again, and because I understood that I would never be the perfect daughter she wanted me to be, I left. And that’s how I ended up here. And the worst part is that this story isn’t a lie.’

‘I’m sorry,’ he said. ‘It’s okay,’ I grinned. ‘I’m okay.’ He laughed too. I’m glad he didn’t seem to think I was a complete lunatic, but maybe he was just good in hiding his thoughts. Behind us the front door swung open.

‘We’re back!’ someone shouted. I turned around and saw three men who were all fair-haired and tall like Gawain. ‘Welcome back,’ Gawain said. Two of them sat down next to us, but the third one kept distance. ‘Merida,’ Gawain said, ‘may I introduce you to my three brothers, Agravain, Gaheris and Gareth.’ ‘Good afternoon,’ I said laughing.

‘So you have three brothers?’ I said to Gawain. ‘I do to. But they’re not really brothers. Three wee devils they are. They look exactly alike, I am the only one who can tell them apart,’ I said.

‘Well, we actually have another brother,’ Gawain said. He said something, but I didn’t completely hear it. However the sound startled me horribly. ‘Did you say his name was Mor’du?’ I asked. ‘No, Mor-dred. Why?’ I laughed, and everyone looked at me as if I was completely insane. ‘I misheard you,’ I said laughing. ‘I thought you said Mor’du!’ They still didn’t seem to get it. ‘Mor’du? You know? The bear?’ ‘Ah,’ Gawain said and he started laughing too. Gawain’s brothers exchanged glances, because they still didn’t get us.

‘Boys,’ he said with a smile, ‘what I haven’t told you yet is that our lovely guest Merida is the daughter of the Bear King.’ The boys who had joined us in front of the fireplace, Gaheris and Gareth, looked at me with their eyes wide-opened. ‘No way,’ Gaheris said. ‘You’re joking!’ said Gareth. ‘I’m not,’ I said smiling. ‘King Fergus is my father.’

Gaheris and Gareth hadn’t lost their Scottish accent, like their older brother had. ‘But what was so funny about Mordred’s name?’Gaheris asked. ‘Well, I thought your brother said Mor’du, and Mor’du was the bear that attacked my dad and took his leg.’

The boys started laughing too. I thought for a moment. ‘How did your father end the story?’ I asked. With a mysterious voice, Gaheris said: ‘Mor’du has never been seen since, and is roaming the wild, waiting his chance of revenge!’ and he started growling. I laughed.

‘Exactly like my father,’ I said. ‘But it’s wrong. Mor’du has been seen since.’ ‘Tell us,’ Gareth said, trying to hide his enthusiasm. Even Gawain, who wasn’t childish at all, seemed curious. I cleared my throat.

‘Ten years had passed, and an evil witch’s spell had turned my mother into a bear! She had to leave the castle without being seen by Fergus, because the Bear King would instantly kill the bear. So I took her outside and we went to the witch’s cottage. She wasn’t there, but she had left a message, in which she said that the curse would be permanent after the third sunrise. And she also said this: ‘Faith be changed, look inside! Mend the bond, torn by pride.’ At first, I had no idea what she meant with it. But we were helped by the will-o’-the-wisps, mystic blue lights that are said to lead you to your faith. They brought us to an old ruin. I entered a throne room, which was completely devastated. I found a carved stone which showed four people, but the stone was split, and one of the men was divided from the other three. And it that exact moment, I understood everything. My mom always told me a story about a king who divided his kingdom among his four sons. But the eldest son wanted everything, and the kingdom fell to war, and chaos, and ruin. And at that moment, I realised that the fourth son had asked the witch for a spell which would give him the strength of ten men, and he turned into a bear too. And that bear was Mor’du. And to transform mom back into a human, I had to repair a tapestry she had ripped when she turned into a bear-,’ I stopped for a second to wink at Gawain quickly, ‘-and that tapestry was in her room in our castle, so we had to head back. But when I wanted to leave the ancient throne room, I heard something behind me. I turned around, and looked into the evil eyes of Mor’du! I ran as fast as I could, and me and my bear mum could escape in the nick of time. We went back to the castle to get the tapestry, but my dad, the bear king, discovered us! He locked me up in my room to make sure I was safe and chased my mum, who had been able to flee from the castle. With the help of my three brothers, I escaped and followed my mother with the tapestry. I arrived at an open place in the woods, where my dad and his friends were fighting mom. I told them to stop, but they wouldn’t listen. And to make it all worse, Mor’du appeared. My mom and Mor’du started fighting, and after a dreadful fight, Mor’du was crushed by a stone. The ghost of the man he used to be appeared and he turned into a wisp right in front of us. Mor’du was gone, my mum became human, and all was well again.’


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