LEGEND OF THE BIG FOUR: THE RETURN OF PITCH BLACK
CHAPTER 2: One Who with a Bow is Agile
“Come on, Mum!” cried Merida.
“Ah’m tryin’, dear, Ah really am!” replied the mother of the nineteen-year-old princess, Queen Elinor of the Scots. The Queen and her daughter were practicing archery, like they had been doing for the past year. Well, Merida was practicing. Elinor was still having trouble stretching the bowstring back far enough to actually shoot an arrow.
Merida rode her beloved black horse, Angus, and the Queen was riding her own royal steed, a white bay called Brigitte, even though Merida had told Elinor numerous times that Brigitte wasn’t the type of horse to use for tramping through the forest. The poor mare was tripping over roots, logs, and the occasional fallen tree branch, unable to stop in time to avoid them. As a result, Elinor’s aim at the various targets in the woods was worse than if they had been practicing in the courtyard, and her aim there was already pretty bad.
But Scots in those times were stubborn, and Elinor refused to give up. Her daughter had shown her how important it was to lead your own life, and the least she could do in return was to spend some quality time doing what her daughter liked to do. Which, of course, involved something the Queen had hardly ever touched, let alone used.
Elinor stopped Brigitte and aimed an arrow at a target hanging from a tree limb. She pulled back as far as she could—not very far—and let it fly, only to have it land between Brigitte’s ears, causing the horse to snort at the sudden weight on her head. Merida stifled a laugh as her mother sighed.
“Here, Mum, ye’ve got tae pull the string back farther. Ye’ve got tae use more strength than ye have been. Like this.” Merida’s arrow hit the bull’s-eye of the target.
“Oh Merida, ye know Ah’m tryin’, but Ah havenae got the strength tae do that. Ah truly wish Ah could do the things ye do, but Ah just can’t!”
Merida sighed. She had known from the start that her mother probably couldn’t do anything Merida could do, but she had thought, why not give it a try? That try had turned into arrows through glass windows, injured townsfolk, and even an encounter with some nasty-tempered hunters who hadn’t recognized the Queen and her daughter because they were so scratched up and muddy.
“Speaking of the things we do, Ah believe it’s time for your history lessons,” Elinor continued. Merida sighed even louder; her mother still insisted on giving her lessons two hours a day, claiming that “if yore goin’ tae run around shootin’ arrows ye might as well be educated so ye know wot tae shoot them at.”
Back in the castle, Merida and Elinor brought up biscuits and tea to Merida’s room to have a snack while they talked.
“Alright, let’s review yesterday’s lesson,” Elinor began. “Wot are the nine Vikin’ tribes in the Barbaric Archipelago?”
“The Visithugs, the Uglithugs, the Meatheads, the Hysterics, the Bashem-Oiks, the Bog-Burglars, the Berserkers, the Outcasts, and the Hairy Hooligans,” Merida answered in a bored tone.
“On which islands in the Archipelago do these tribes live?”
“The Visithugs live in the Visithug Territory. The Uglithugs live on the Isle of Villainy. The Meatheads live on Meathead Island. The Hysterics live on the Island of Hysteria. The Bashem-Oiks live on Bashem Island. The Bog-Burglars live scattered among the Bog-Burglar Islands. The Berserkers live on the Isle of Berserk. The Outcasts live on Outcast Island, and the Hairy Hooligans live on the Isle of Berk.”
“Excellent. Now, wot are the names of the Chiefs of each of these tribes?”
Merida would have to give a little more thought to this one. “Umm, the Chief of the Meatheads is Mogadon the…somethin’, Ah forget. The Chief of the Bog-Burglars is Big-Boobied Bertha. The Chief of the Berserkers is Oswald the Agreeable…no it ain’t, it’s his son, Dagur the Deranged. The Chief of the Hooligans is Stoick the Vast. The Chief of the Outcasts is Alvin the Treacherous.”
“Yes, dear, keep goin’.”
“Mum, Ah have a question,” Merida said suddenly.
Elinor rubbed her temples and sat down wearily. “When don’t ye have a question, Merida?”
Merida squirmed uncomfortably. “Sorry, Mum, but Ah was just thinkin’. Ye said that Vikin’s don’t have any morals, an’ that’s why we’re enemies. Right?”
“Well, then how come they’ve got Outcasts? Ah mean, they’ve got tae have at least a small sense of morality if they banish people from the islands.”
“Ah’m not sure why they have Outcasts. Maybe those Vikin’s were too weak tae stay with the rest. Now, please continue with the names of the Chiefs.”
“But that doesnae make any sense, if he was too weak, why is Alvin named Alvin the Treacherous?”
“Merida, Ah said tae continue with the Chiefs’ names!”
Merida was about to sheepishly explain that she couldn’t remember any more when her father, Fergus, burst into the room.
“Elinor, Ah’ve got some good news!” he exclaimed. Then he noticed Elinor holding a book and Merida sitting across from her. “Oh, yore in the middle of teaching. It can wait.”
“No, Dad, that’s all right. Wot is it?” Merida interjected quickly. Elinor glanced at her sternly, knowing she was trying to get out of sitting and listening for the next two hours. She was just about to chide Merida when Fergus said:
“Well, coom down tae dinner an’ Ah’ll tell you about it. Dinner’s the only time when those three rogues of mine will actually stay in one place for more than a minute.”
“Is it that time already?” Elinor asked, surprised. “If Ah’da knoon that, Ah wouldn’ta let Merida eat all those biscuits.”
While enjoying the roast venison and haggis, Fergus told all of them the news.
“So, Elinor, ye know me old friend Randulf of Corona? Well, Ah hadna heard from him for years till just his mornin’. Turns out, his lost daughter returned ‘bout a year ago, a wee bonny lass named Rapunzel, and now she’s gettin’ married! And wot’s better is, he wants us to attend it! The weddin’ Ah mean! Can ye believe it? Us! After such a long time with no communication, he an’ his wife want us to come to see his liddle girl get married.”
“Yes, dear, that is good news! When will the trip be?”
“We’ll be arrivin’ the second of August. We’ll have tae leave twelve days hence if’n we want tae get there on time.”
“Well then, we’ll certainly have tae start the preparations as soon as possible.”
“Dad, d’ye know wot this Rapunzel is like?” asked Merida.
“Well, from wot Randulf says, she’s got brown hair, shortest of any princess ever known—”
Ooh, a rebel, Merida thought. Ah should probably like her then.
“—and she seems to really like the color purple.”
That dashed Merida’s hopes of liking Rapunzel. Merida hated the color purple, mainly because it represented royalty, which she had never really wanted to be. It also just seemed like a sissy color to her.
She either is proud of being royalty and wants everyone to know it, or she’s a sissy who likes clothes and jewelry and who’s afraid of everything. Or, she thought with a shudder, both.
The dinner no longer seemed delicious to her. The prospect of such a long trip (almost six days!) only to see a bratty princess get married (her poor husband) was very unappetizing.