Title: Shot Through the Heart
Disclaimer: Elsa, Merida, Anna, and any other characters from either Frozen or Brave are the property of Walt Disney Animation Studios. The title of the story is drawn from a Bon Jovi song, and I presume he owns that. Either that, or a songwriter he paid well enough for usage rights owns it. At any rate? Not mine, don't sue, and so forth and so on.
Summary: Fierce, independent, and a consummate lover of nature, Merida finds herself needing to answer one pressing question: how much does she enjoy the cold?
Joe's Note: I'm not even going to lie, I totally wrote this because my wife wanted to do some princess-on-princess fan art for her DeviantArt gallery, and told me that writing an accompanying story would allow me to exercise some degree of creative control over said art. Cue Queen Elsa visiting DunBroch.
Dedications & Thanks: To Nicholas, Alexander, Thomas, Koby, Wil, Tracy, Christopher, Mitch, and Jess for sponsoring me on , and making it easier for me to spend more of my time writing.
"Now, I know this is a big responsibility, but just know that we have faith in you and-"
"You're repeating yourself, Elinor. Again. I'm pretty sure she knows that it's a very important task. It's an entire kingdom, of course running it is a big responsibility. Stop telling her that over and over and over again before she panics and won't let us leave."
"What? I don't know what you're planning on doing for the next year, but we're coming into prime hunting season. I want to get to the lodge and settle in."
Princess Merida NicFhearhgais of DunBroch sighed and shook her head as her parents continued to bicker back and forth. The fact that they were even willing to consider taking a year or so off and leaving the throne in her hands showed how far she'd come. Well, her father would have agreed to it years ago. Her mother probably still didn't think she was ready. But that she was ready enough in her mother's eye that her father could talk her into it… that was progress. "He's right, Mum. I can handle this. The kingdom has been calm ever since Mor'du was killed. The worst thing you've had to deal with was a pair of farmers arguing over who got the foals when one's stallion laid with the other's mare. So go. Relax. You've earned it. I promise not to go to war, start a feud with a neighboring clan, or burn the castle down while you're gone. Or let the boys burn the castle down."
Taking a deep breath, Elinor slowly exhaled before nodding. "You're right. It's just… hard to admit that your children are growing up, I suppose. The next thing I know, the triplets will be ready to go out into the world and make names for themselves too." Darting forward, she pulled Merida into a tight hug before pulling back a bit and holding her at arm's length. "Just… promise not to be too hard on the delegation from Arendelle when they arrive. Your father may have overstepped his bounds a bit, but they're not to blame for that."
"…Fergus, darling." Releasing Merida, Elinor turned her head and narrowed her eyes as her husband began to shift from side to side, doing his best to look anywhere but her. "You promised me that you would tell her."
"I promised you that I'd tell her when the time was right."
"And when was that going to be, then?"
"Now, of course. So I can make my escape right afterward." Chuckling nervously, Fergus reached up to rub at the back of his neck. "We… may have agreed to another kingdom's proposal to send a delegation to negotiate an alliance with DunBroch." He glanced over at Elinor, who continued to glare at him. "…and their monarch might happen to be as single as you are, so that might have been mentioned in our reply to them." The glare continued. "And most of the messages we exchanged after that."
Merida groaned and buried her face in her hands. Suddenly, her mother's insistence that 'a lady doesn't bring weapons to formal events' made a lot more sense. It wasn't about appearances during the handoff of power and her parents' departure; after all, the entire kingdom knew what she was really like. No, Elinor had been worried that Merida might put an arrow - or three - into her father as they rode off. She was right to worry, too. "So you're trying to sell me off again, is that it? Like with Dingwall, Macintosh, and MacGuffin?"
That earned her a shake of her father's head, then a nod, and then a shake again. "Trust me, lass, this is nothing like that mess. Nothing at all." Fergus paused for a moment and chuckled before shaking his head one last time. "Just keep an open mind, okay? Officially, they're looking for new friends after cutting ties with a long-time ally over… I'm not sure why. Probably should have asked, eh? Anyway, that's the reason they're coming and what you need to focus on; just because DunBroch is at peace now doesn't mean it always will be, and they could be powerful allies. You taking a liking to their monarch would make that all the easier, but if it doesn't happen? I won't be upset."
"When… no, if I marry? It will be for love, Father. We've been over this." Merida's eyes bounced from Fergus to Elinor and back, and then she raised an eyebrow. "Or do I need to find a way to turn you into a bear too?"
Fergus held his hands up in surrender. "Och! I meant it! I agree, follow your heart. And if your heart doesn't take you in that direction, that's fine. At least try and make friends, though. This is someone you might be working with for years to come, after all." Turning away, he began making his way over to where the servants had a pair of horses waiting for Fergus and Elinor. Just as Merida made to return to the castle, her father's last words reached her ears. "Eh, I tried. If she doesn't like the queen, though, I hear their princess is just as pretty."
This was getting to be a bit too common for her tastes, but… what?
Queen Elsa Agdardóttir of Arendelle found herself standing at the prow of the Ormrinn Langi as the ship carefully navigated the bay, slowly but surely growing closer to Castle DunBroch. The design was… interesting, she decided in the interest of politeness, but these were a people far more accustomed to war than her own. Function would matter to them more than form. That being said, she had no desire to stay in it any longer than strictly necessary. If King Fergus's heir was indeed as wonderful as he was made out to be, perhaps Elsa could find a nice little spot nearby on which to create a replica of her castle on the North Mountain. Or hopefully bring him back to Arendelle with her.
It felt so very strange to be pondering love, Elsa mused, or rather pondering marriage; there didn't necessarily need to be love for that, although she would greatly prefer it. Growing up in near-complete solitude, things like that had become mere fantasies to her. She couldn't even see her sister face-to-face; how could she possibly meet someone with whom she'd spend the rest of her life? By the time her coronation rolled around, she had resigned herself to a life of loneliness… and yet a mere year later, here she stood in completely different circumstances. She could control her powers. She could be around her sister without fear. The castle was alive again. She could finally live again.
Which had led to Elsa's current situation. With their flighty young princess unable to settle upon a suitor - which Elsa was fine with, to be honest, having been only slightly more fond of Kristoff than she was of Hans - the people of Arendelle were clamoring for their queen to settle down and start a family like all the kings and queens before her. It wasn't an entirely unreasonable request, she had to admit, when hers was the seat through which all power flowed in Arendelle. Failing to produce an heir would lead to needless complications upon her death, especially if Anna likewise failed to start a family. And… well, she wasn't entirely opposed to the idea of having children. Not for a few years to come, of course, but someday.
So here she was, personally leading the delegation to DunBroch instead of allowing Anna - or even Kai - to handle the matter in her stead. Turning to the captain of the longship, Elsa nodded in the direction of the approaching docks before raising one hand and letting her magic swirl around it. "Would you mind terribly if I went on ahead of you?" The man chuckled softly before shaking his head, and Elsa found herself smiling. Contrary to what her father had thought, the people had adjusted rather quickly to the idea of a queen with strange powers, and these days Elsa found herself missing the sense of awe that her powers had once inspired. Oh, she still got the wide-eyed looks from children when she showed off, but it wasn't the same. And so if life was going to hand her the perfect chance to show off… well, she was just going to have to take it. "In that case, Captain, I'll see you soon."
Deftly hopping up onto the edge of the hull, Elsa flexed her legs and launched herself out over the water. Thrusting her hands downward, the blonde unleashed her powers and created a round disc of ice to land on, smiling as it bobbed lightly under her weight before stabilizing. Looking back over her shoulder, she found her sister leaning over the side of the ship, mouth working as she shouted something that was drowned out by the captain barking orders and the men responding. Offering Anna a cheerful wave, Elsa turned and strode off toward the shore, a bridge of ice appearing in front of her as she walked.
Much to Elsa's disappointment, her display didn't seem to affect the small envoy awaiting her on the shore. Even creating an ornate set of stairs to bring herself up from water level to the end of the dock failed to make them so much as bat an eyelash. In a last, desperate measure to elicit a response, the blonde made a show out of shifting from the more casual dress she'd worn on the ship to a replica of her coronation gown that was done entirely in blue tones… complete with icy tiara. Nothing. But while she was admittedly disappointed, Elsa also found herself curious… what had these people seen in their lives that she didn't even merit a raised eyebrow? Forcing a smile, she drew herself up as one of the men stepped forward to greet her. "Welcome to the Kingdom of DunBroch, Queen Elsa of Arendelle. If you'd be so kind as to accompany us to the games field, Princess Merida regrets that she cannot be here to meet you in person but did not wish to miss her daily workout with the Bana-Ghaisgeach."
"And I would hate to take… her… from such an important activity." Not wanting to immediately confront the huge, glaring issue that was facing her, Elsa opted to deflect with a question geared toward answering a question almost as important to her. "Just out of curiosity, I noticed that nobody reacted to my… abilities."
The corner of the man's mouth ticked upward at that. "With all due respect, milady, our queen was turned into a bear several years ago. So were the wee princes. Before being returned to normal, Queen Elinor fought the dreaded Mor'du to the death and the specter of a long-dead prince emerged from his corpse. You are strange, yes, but being able to create ice at will is by no means the strangest thing that we have seen here in DunBroch."
Elsa's eyebrows shot up to her hairline at the reply, and she let out a disbelieving chuckle. "I… I see. I'll keep that in mind. In that case, lead the way, kind sir. We mustn't keep the princess waiting." The man bowed before gesturing for her to follow him, his companions falling into formation around Elsa as they made their way up a winding path that was clearly designed to gain elevation as quickly as possible at the expense of comfort or the view. For a moment, she debated the wisdom of leaving without Anna before deciding that her sister could find her own way. Knowing Anna, she'd even manage to have some sort of fantastic adventure along the way. Probably meet a new suitor as well.
Behind her mask of pleasantness, though, Elsa's thoughts were racing as she struggled to address the reindeer in the ballroom. Namely that the prince she'd been entertaining thoughts of allowing to court her evidently didn't exist. She found herself mentally reexamining each and every piece of correspondence to come out of DunBroch, but King Fergus had been quite canny: every single reference had been to 'my heir' or 'the heir'. A technically genderless term even if 'heiress' was the preferred way to refer to a woman next in the line of succession, clearly meant to hide the fact that he was blessed with an eldest daughter instead of an eldest son, who presumably preferred the company of maidens. Which in turn left Elsa grappling with one last question.
If she really was willing to accept the prospect of a loveless, politically-motivated marriage for the good of Arendelle, Elsa mused, did the gender of DunBroch's heir really matter? The more the blonde thought about it, a princess turned fellow queen might be more useful than a prince turned king when it came to ruling at her side. Between her father's decision to seal the castle to hide her parents and her parents' untimely death, neither Elsa nor Anna knew much about traditional 'queenly' duties. And while she tried her best, Elsa knew she still wasn't as in touch with her subjects as she could be. This… Merida… could help her with both of those things, and likely many others that she wasn't even thinking of at the moment. And she would likely be far less disgusting to share the royal suite with than a man, Elsa thought with a wrinkle of her nose, especially if Kristoff was anything to go by.
Reaching a plateau, Elsa followed obediently behind her guide as she was led across a large grassy field toward a series of round archery targets. Even from this distance, she could make out the 'draw and fire' motions of a traditional longbow, and Elsa promptly added another item to the list of ways that her people could benefit from an alliance with DunBroch. Unlike some of their neighbors, Arendelle lacked an archery tradition and so their only option for ranged combat was to buy crossbows from one of their allies, shove them into the hands of those willing to volunteer, and hope for the best. Then they grew close enough to pick out details on the individual archers, and Elsa's breath caught in her throat.
Even without the crown of her station, Princess Merida of DunBroch would have been unmistakeable and she was - in a word - magnificent. There was just something about the way she carried herself; that supreme self-confidence as she walked up and down the line formed by her students, barking out a mixture of orders, critiques, and compliments. It was intoxicating. Now that her eye was drawn, though, Elsa found herself unable to look away because… well, Merida was quite easy on the eyes. Her long and untamed mane of fiery red curls was unlike anything Elsa had ever seen before, setting off her pale skin and bright blue eyes. Even her unconventional choice of attire seemed attractive to the young queen, even if no woman in Arendelle - not even Anna - would dare wear a poet's blouse and leather trousers out in public. Then again, no woman in Arendelle could lead an archery class while simultaneously fending off random attacks from her guards with a sword that seemed to blink in and out of existence on demand.
As her guide stepped forward, presumably to get Merida's attention, Elsa raised her hand to forestall him and then shook her head. Forcibly imposing herself upon the princess's routine would do nothing to win Merida over, but would instead create a terrible first impression on someone that Elsa hoped to make an ally of at the very least. A traitorous little part of her mind whispered that an alliance was indeed 'the very least' in this case, and that her interest in DunBroch's heir was quickly veering into purely personal territory. But while she was able to ignore the murmurings of a part of her mind that had long lay dormant, Elsa was unable to ignore Merida herself and so she simply stood there watching the princess in silence… or at least in silence until they were finally joined by other members of Elsa's delegation. An arm curled around her left bicep and Elsa reluctantly tore her gaze away from Merida, finding Anna standing at her side and smiling as she looked back and forth between her sister and the redhead. "For the first time in forever, there'll be magic, there'll be fun. For the first time in forever, I could be noticed by someone…"
"And I know it is totally crazy, to dream I'd find romance… but for the first time in forever, at least I've got a chance!" Anna's grin widened as she leaned to one side and then the other, dodging little puffs of icy magic that Elsa shot her way with her free hand. After settling down, she leaned in and rested her head on her sister's shoulder as she eyed Merida. "Actually, on second thought? I'm not sure how I feel about that idea. She's even more capable of killing you than the last redhead that came near us."
"I seem to recall Hans being your terrible decision, Anna. I forbid you to marry him, remember?"
"Oh. Right. So… she's really something, isn't she?"
"On that, at least, we can agree." Even without having exchanged a word with the redhead, Elsa already knew that Merida was unlike anyone she'd ever met before… and she kind of liked that. She suddenly found herself eager to get to know the young woman, to find out what made her tick, to see if they were compatible or if this was just lust at first sight. And even if they were compatible, how would they handle jointly ruling two kingdoms so far apart? Compared to that, her sudden attraction to another member of the fairer sex seemed trivial. After all, this was technically the first time that she'd been attracted to anyone. Maybe she'd always been like Merida and just never known it? As her eyes drifted back to the redhead, a memory from her childhood drifted to the forefront of her mind and Elsa elbowed Anna gently in the ribs. "They say a princess is full of charm and grace, they say she always knows her place. They say a princess wears pink and frilly clothes, they say she never laughs and snorts milk out her nose. They say she's calm, they say she's kind, they say she never speaks her mind or freezes nanny's big behind. But you and me… we, we know better."