HAPPY TURKEY DAY! I just wanted to say how thankful I am for all my followers, new and old, and all the love and support I got for my work, you guys are seriously the best!
Ask and you shall receive! Thanks to popular demand, I wrote a follow up to my original work, Heart’s Desire. Don’t ask about the title, I liked the rhyme scheme. But yes, here is a sequel, and shout out to fangirl–of-everything once again for being the best beta I could ask for.
Word Count- ~5000
Summary- After the proposal of King Antonio, Macintosh confronts his feelings for Merida and Merida makes an important decision regarding the future of her kingdom and her life.
Dinner was tense that night. Normally, when the four clans gathered, every night was a feast, full of music, celebrating, and most importantly, fighting. But tonight, all the men somberly ate their food and drank their ale; no one inclined to incite anything. Elinor noticed this from her place at the high table immediately. Harris, Hubert, and Hamish seemed to be the only ones comfortable. Although aware of the situation, their faith in their sister was complete enough they did not worry. The clan lords, who also sat at the table, said nothing. Macintosh especially made every motion as if he were holding back his rage.
Elinor quit dinner early and went to look for Merida. After checking the stables, the throne room, and the archery ranges, Elinor finally found her in her chambers.
“Merida?” she said quietly. Merida snapped to attention, tense and ready, but when she realized it was her mother she relaxed.
“Mum,” she said as she turned back to her sword, which she’d been sharpening. “What’re ye doin’ here?”
“You have to eat, Merida.” Elinor said.
“I’ll have Maudie send something up later.” was Merida’s response.
“You have to rest.”
“I’ve been resting, if I rest anymore I’ll die of boredom.”
“You can talk about it with me.” her mother urged. Merida snapped up again.
“Talk about what?” she asked. Years of her daughter sneaking around behind her left Elinor well equipped to detect the guilt in her voice. She gave her daughter a look.
“King Antonio’s proposal?”
“Oh.” Merida exhaled, seemingly less alert. “That’s just, that’s…”
Elinor waited, but Merida couldn’t string together the words to continue.
“Not what’s on your mind, is it?” Elinor finished for her. Merida looked at her hands sheepishly. “Merida….” Elinor urged.
“I, um, well I, kind of… ” Merida avoided looking at her mother, but eventually squared her shoulders, met her mother’s gaze, stood and said quickly, “I kissed Lord Macintosh.”
Elinor’s jaw actually fell.
“You, kissed, Macinotsh?” Elinor repeated, trying to wrap her head around it.
“Well, technically he kissed me, but then I kissed him back, and I liked it, but then I pushed him away then he started to say something but I ran away.” Merida explained.
“Oh.” Was Elinor’s response.
“Yeah.” Merida said. She put down her sword and whetstone and paced the length of her room.
“You say he kissed ye first?” Elinor asked.
“Aye, we were talking about the King’s proposal, well arguing is more like it, but you know we always argue. And I was getting upset and he just kissed me and gods help me I enjoyed it.”
“Then why did ye stop?”
Merida looked at her in surprise. “Because I’m the Queen! I can’t just go around kissing people, or they’ll get the wrong impression of me.”
“But you weren’t kissing people. You were kissing one man. That’s not a fault Merida.”
“I was kissing Macintosh. The same man who tried to steal my crown. What would it look like if I married him?” Merida exclaimed. Elinor raised an eyebrow, and just a small corner of her mouth.
“Now who said anything about marriage?” She asked. Merida, realizing what she had said, groaned. “I thought you wanted to marry for love?”
“I do.” Merida said quietly. She had moved to the window, leaning against the wall as she stared out of it.
“And you’ve thought of marrying Macintosh?”
“Have you fallen in love with him?”
Merida looked as if her head weighed too much for her shoulders, the way she rested it against the stone wall. “Maybe.”
“When I look at him, it’s like forgetting my troubles for a wee second. Whenever he says or does anything, I wanna smile. I like how he’s not afraid t’argue with me, how he always looks out for the good o’ the kingdom. And I’ve wanted to kiss him so many times.”
“That sounds an awful lot like love, Merida.” Elinor prodded.
“I know.” Merida said, pushing away from the wall and to her bed, and flopped on her back in a very unqueenly manner. “But whenever I think about marryin’ him, all I can see is him throwing a tantrum after missing his shot in the tourney for my hand.”
“Well his aim has improved.”
“Aye that it has.” Merida conceded. “But I also think about him abducting the boys and convincing the clans to rebel against me, exiling you!”
“And you don’t think he’s changed at all since then?” Elinor implored gently. Merida rolled over to her stomach.
“Of course I think he has. I’m not sure I’d have made it through all these years without his support.” Merida suddenly pushed herself up, bringing her knees in so she kneeled to face her mother. “But what if he just wants my crown? What if I’m reading into feelings that aren’t really there?“
Elinor made a small noise of sympathy, reaching out to stroke her daughter’s hair. “Oh my sweet child. How is it you can be so very brave on the battlefield, but so scared when it comes to your own heart?”
When she realized her mother had no definitive answer to her questions, Merida collapsed again, content to be sprawled on her back and staring at the dark wood of the ceiling.
"I always figured I’d find a man to fancy someday, I just never realized it’d be … this messy.” She never realized it’d be him.
“Love is never simple, my dear.” Her mother sat gracefully next to her.
“Not for a Queen anyway.” Merida said. She looked at her mother. “If I were to marry him, I’d look weak in front of the clans. I’d concede to needing a man to rule my kingdom.”
“No, Merida, no. Everyone in the clans respects you, and believes in you as the Queen. The men you lead would gladly follow you to the Underworld. They will not deny you the same love everyone deserves.“
The news spread throughout the castle Dunbroch like bees bringing pollen to flowers. By breakfast, every lord, soldier, and servant had heard that Queen Merida had called for a meeting between herself and King Antonio to be held at the halfway point between their locations. Servants had already been dispatched to set up tents and what seemed to be a celebration feast. The servants, especially those in the kitchen, had become busy with preparations. Guards from both sides were to be stationed there, and they seemed to regard the others warily, but as white flags still flew above the Illyrian army’s encampment and castle Dunbroch, they made no moves of aggression. Almost everyone in castle Dunbroch had plans to attend and watch the proceedings of the meeting.
Macintosh was steaming, albeit quietly. If it hadn’t been bad enough already, rumors were streaming in about what kind of man Antonio was. Liar, murderer, and womanizer were just some of them. Unable to listen any longer, he’d gone to the training ground at hacked at the straw dummy until he’d knocked it, and the post holding it to the ground. His own men skirted around him. While none of them knew what had happened between him and the Queen, they’d have to have been blind to not notice Macintosh’s feelings for her. Over the course of the years, he’d been spending more time in Dunbroch as her advisor, returning less and less frequently to his own holdings. While whispers of an affair had occasionally surfaced, no one had even gossiped about the possibility of marriage. It just seemed unrealistic.
The meeting was to take place early in the afternoon. Most the castle was to ride out after lunch and meet King Antonio’s party. Merida would be with them to await the arrival of King Antonio. Macintosh was ambivalent as to whether to go or not; on one hand, he hated the idea of Merida with Antonio and out of his sight; on the other, he certainly didn’t want to be there as the two solidified their engagement.
“Have ye heard the news Macintosh?” Dingwall appeared once he’d moved onto archery. The arrow flew, hitting the center circle, but not the middle. Macintosh turned to glare at Dingwall.
“Aye, I’ve heard about the Queens meeting,” he said roughly, hoping Dingwall would get the message.
“Nay, not that. About Queen Elinor and the princes not attending the meeting.” The next arrow hit a little farther from the center, probably because Macintosh had turned to Dingwall again mid-shoot.
“What do ye mean they aren’t to attend?”
“Just that.” Wee Dingwall said with a shrug. “None of them are to come. Queen’s orders.”
“Why wouldn’t Mer—the Queen want them there?” Macintosh asked, more to himself than anybody.
“Maybe she doesn’t expect the meeting to go so well?” Dingwall suggested. Macintosh raised an eyebrow at that, so Dingwall continued. “After all, if she means to refuse him, he may turn violent.”
“Ye think she means to refuse the offer?”
“Well aye, I… didn’t ye talk to her yesterday?” Dingwall asked, confused. Macintosh realized his meaning. “Convince her otherwise?”
“Nay, I mean, I did speak to her, but I don’t think I much did convince her of anything.”
“Well what did you say to her?”
“I… well…” Memories of the kissed flash through his mind. The way she tasted, the way her body felt against his, the way her hands in his hair felt better than anything he’d ever felt before—
“Ye did tell her how you feel about her, didn’t ya?” Dingwall asked like it was obvious. Macintosh’s eyes narrowed.
“What do you mean by that?”
“We’d have to be blind not to see ye care about her Mac.” Dingwall said, for once un-intimidated by the larger man. “Not a fault, just a fact.” He added hastily when he saw the larger man’s glare.
Macintosh, who meant to lash out, gave up at the last second. His shoulders slouched as he turned around to notch another arrow. “I didn’t tell her in so many words. But it wouldn’t have mattered to her if I had.” he said.
“Are ye sure about that? Because if Queen Merida does mean to refuse him, she has to have a reason.” Dingwall said matter-of-factly.
“Her reason is she doesn’t want to be married to a man she doesn’t love.”
“Perhaps. Or perhaps her reason is she’s already in love. It’s certainly what most of us think.” Macintosh’s arrow flew straighter this time, landing an inch away from the center. He didn’t turn around this time, only looked at Dingwall over his shoulder, uncertainty clear on his face. Dingwall shrugged again, nonchalant as normal. “We all have eyes, mate. It’s just you that can’t see it.”
“Even if she did feel that way about me—” Macintosh began.
“Even if she doesn’t, she deserves the truth. Ye need to tell her how you feel, preferably before she makes a decision regarding her entire future.” Just as Dingwall said that, the royal crier’s bagpipes sounds flooded the ground, announcing the departure of Queen Merida’s party. Macintosh swore and headed for the stables.
Merida had a hidden reason for arriving at the meeting spot an hour before King Antonio was to arrive. She knew his scouts would watch her depart from her castle to the meeting site, so she had her armor sent ahead in a trunk, which she could put on upon arriving. Though Antonio would still see it upon his own arrival, she wanted him coming to this meeting as agreeable as possible. And besides, no king would appear to such a meeting without some protection, surely no one would fault her for her light armor. But even as she dismounted Angus and was lead to the tent where she could put it on, she was unsure. She had called for the meeting because she knew Antonio had to be dealt with quickly, but in truth she did not yet have her answer. She could only hope this meeting would give her some insight to his character, and thus an answer to her dilemma.
Silently she cursed Macintosh. This would have been quite a bit easier if the damn neap hadn’t gone and kissed her. Though she was still unsure as to what to make of his actions, she couldn’t stop that kiss from replaying in her mind. She hated herself for enjoying it as much as she had, and with some resigned annoyance, felt no desire to wonder if Antonio, or any man for that matter, kissed as well as Macintosh.
As if her thoughts had summoned the man himself, she heard the entrance of her tent open and fall back into place with a swoosh. She pivoted around, shocked to see Macintosh entering.
“You need to leave.” She ordered. Macintosh held up his hands and stepped back, but did not go.
“Before you throw me out, there’s something I need to tell you.”
“You’ve said more than enough.” Merida declared. She turned and stalked to the other end of the tent where her armor sat on the table, intent on ignoring him into leaving. But, unswayed, Macintosh followed. She heard his steps, heavier than hers, fall on the ground and bit her lip angrily, determined to give him a more thorough tongue-lashing. But the moment she whipped around to face him, he fell to his knee, right before her.
“I know you’re angry at me, milady, but I’ll not go until you’ve heard what I have to say.” Despite his bowing, he looked up at her, with no anger or ferocity in his eyes, just determination. Merida let go of the breath she had gathered in a huff.
“Fine then, say it and be done with it.”
Macintosh didn’t take any time to steel himself. He didn’t need to gather his courage, or find his words. Macintosh had come into this tent as he had any battle- confident, and refusing to entertain the possibility of loss.
“What I did on the battlements was wrong. I shouldna have touched you like that, but I do not regret it. I kissed you because I am in love with you, Merida.”
Merida’s eyes grew to the size of plates. She opened her mouth to respond, but he held up a hand.
“Please m’lady, before ye reprimand me, let me finish.” Merida closed her mouth, gratefully, as she was at a lost for words.
“I was jealous of King Antonio. He had the power to give you what you desired, whereas I could do nothing but watch. And worse yet, you were willing to consider him. I know what you do is for the good of the kingdom, and instead of supporting you I acted selfishly. I took what I wanted from you. If that did ye harm, or caused ye to doubt my loyalty, I am deeply sorry. But I am not sorry for what I told you about King Antonio. I am begging you, my queen, do not marry him. Not for my sake, but for yours, and your kingdom’s. I may not be able to tell you what you want, but I do know you will never be happy with him. If ye marry him, you will resign yourself to an unfaithful, greedy, pig of a husband, and Dunbroch will have a bully for a king that muscled his way to the crown.” Macintosh spit the last part, as if the words were too disgusting to hold in his mouth. He took a breath as his manner changed and softened. “But if you do marry him, I will not try to stop you. You are my Queen and I will remain loyal to you. I will fight by your side, and for your cause. My sword and clan will forever be your guards and warriors. I swear, on my honor as a Macintosh, now and forever, to protect you from anything or anyone that tries to do you harm, be it dissenters, bears… or your husband.”
Macintosh’s mouth remained a straight line, but a spark of passion burned behind his hazel eyes. Despite the doubts Merida had, and reserved, one look in his eyes and she knew he was telling the truth with every word.
Merida wasn’t like Macintosh. She needed a moment to put together her words properly. But as she did, her face began to glow as a smile pushed its way across. It reminded Macintosh of the smile she’d given him after retrieving the magical helm. In the end, she didn’t say much.
But it was enough. Though Macintosh wasn’t quite sure what she was thanking him for, he understood her as she’d understood him. Macintosh smiled back at her, and his smile, not so different from his normal smug grin, showed all the emotions he’d managed, by some magic, to put into words, and even a few he hadn’t.
Trumpets blared to announce the arrival of King Antonio. He and his men rode into the circle that had been set up, triumphant as conquerors. It was clear to see Antonio believed he’d already won.
As soon as the king had dismounted, bagpipes began to play to announce Queen Merida. She came with much less pomp and circumstance, exiting her tent in her blue dress and leather armor. Still, she held herself with a dignity her father would have admired, and greeted the king with a curtsy her mother would have been proud of. The spectators gave them a wide berth, standing in a ring some twenty feet away. Those feet felt like miles to Merida, who felt quite alone standing with the king. They felt even longer to Macintosh, who stood next to Dingwall and Macduffin in the very front of the crowd, as he watched King Antonio bow low and kiss Merida’s hand, giving her a grin that said plenty.
“King Antonio.” Merida greeted.
“Queen Merida.” he answered. “I dare say you are even more beautiful up close.”
“Your Majesty is too kind.”
“Never, when in the presence of such of a treasure.”
“Treasure, am I?” Merida asked with a flirty smile. Macintosh gripped his sword tighter. “And just how much would you say I am worth as a treasure?“
“Even more than the 500,000 pieces I’ve offered I’d say. I’d say you are worth being the greatest prize a man could win. You have beauty and courage. A king could not find a better match.”
Because Macintosh was keeping his eyes closely on Merida’s face, he may have been the only one to notice her smile turn tight.
“Yes, as I remember you mentioning. That poem of yours, it was quite beautiful-“
“I do have a gift with words.” Antonio preened.
“So true. But I feel the need to tell you, I do not to intend to fight these battles forever. One day, of course, I will have children, and need to care for them.” A few mutterings rose the crowd, but they were quickly shushed and unnoticed by the Illyrians. Dingwall and Macduffin shared a look of utter confusion, but Macintosh continued to stare intensely, already puzzling out what Merida was playing at.
“But of course, once we are married you will have no need to go into battle. A woman may follow her path, but ultimately it will always lead back her home where she belongs.”
“And if the need arises, I could always rejoin the fight.”
“Perhaps, but when Your Majesty thinks about it, if the situation was so dire, wouldn’t it be best for you to remain at home? After all, surely what Dunbroch needs is a King to strike fear into the hearts of any attackers, and ward off any who dare threaten her.”
“Ah” Merida said, nodding. “King Antonio, are you aware I have three little brothers?”
Antonio scrunched his forehead, confused at the sudden shift in topic. “I am.”
“And did you know there was once a tourney to win my hand in marriage, some years ago?”
“I was not.”
“Yes, horrible thing it was, all my mother’s idea. You see, the leaders of the clans, my mother included, all believed I would need a man by my side to successfully rule my own kingdom. Thankfully, I nulled the results of that tourney by winning my own hand, long story, not important. It was then decided that myself, and my three suitors, would be free to pursue our hearts and marry for love.”
“Forgive me Queen Merida, but I’m not sure what this has to do with us?”
“I assure you I have a point. After my dad died in battle, those same suitors changed their mind, and demanded I relinquish my crown or else marry, and they kidnapped my brothers for leverage. Being threatened into a marriage didn’t particularly appeal to me though, so do you know what I did?”
The king’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “What?”
“I tracked them down, saved my brothers from three different arrows with a single shot, and threatened to kill every dissenter who crossed me.“
King Antonio, seeming to finally realize he was not at the advantage he thought he was, rose to his full height. “What exactly are you implying, Your Majesty?”
“Allow me to be direct. Our few moments here have told me all I need know. I do not love you, King Antonio. Having met you, I’m sure I could not ever love you. When I was a girl I took a risk in choosing love over marriage. Now, I will have to do it again. I will work for an alliance with Illyria. But I will not marry you.”
King Antonio’s face, originally cool and pleasant, grew angry and threatening. Still, Merida did not back down. Macintosh found his hand once again tightening on the pommel of his sword.
“You would really risk war by refusing me?” he growled. All around their circle, soldiers began reaching for weapons, and those without weapons began to edge back, ready to flee.
“Aye, I would risk war to keep a bullying invader like yourself from nabbing my kingdom, especially if he doesn’t even have the gall to be upfront about it. Keeping myself and my body from you is just a personal extra.”
Antonio sneered and opened his mouth to retort, but Merida did not let him. “Unlike you, Antonio, I didn’t come to this meeting not knowing my opponent. And also unlike you, I considered every possible scenario to whatever answer I could give, rather than assume it would all work out one way. I know the Illyrians are a proud people, putting much emphasis on personal honor. And so rather than a battle, I propose single-combat. If I win, you sign a peace treat and take your army back to Illyria.”
Antonio’s eyes raised, mostly surprised but somewhat impressed the feisty young queen had known about such traditions. “Fine,” he said. “But if I win, you marry me and surrender your kingdom.”
Merida looked to the clan lords. It was one thing to agree to a marriage, but such a proposal risked the whole of the clans. All three however, nodded their consent without hesitation.
“I accept.” she agreed. She made to draw her sword. She stopped when the king laughed. “What’s so funny?” she snapped.
“My dear queen, I’m afraid you don’t know the rules of the duel as well as you think.”
“What do you mean by that?”
“In Illyria, females are forbidden from participating in duels.”
Merida did not even roll her eyes. Her expression of disgust was plain enough. After all this time, she’d grown tired of the same ancient argument.
“We’re in Dunbroch.”
“Nevertheless, I agreed to your terms for a true Illyrian duel. If you are to be my defeater, it does not count.”
“It’s like arguing with children.” Merida muttered to no one.
“I’m afraid you will have to select a champion.”
“I’m my own champion, thank you very much.” she said snarkily.
“Well then, pretty,” he said leaning towards her as if to whisper in her ear. He found his path abruptly blocked when a sword appeared at his throat. Merida, who was still in the process of pulling her blade, was also surprised.
Macintosh pushed his sword forward to force Antonio back, until he was the sword’s length away. “Your Majesty,” Macintosh addressed the Queen while looking at the King. “As the leader of clan Macintosh and your loyal vassal, I beg the honor of sending this numpty back to where he came from, in yer name.”
Merida didn’t know how to respond for a moment. Though Macintosh didn’t face her, she saw the genuine loathing in his eye as he glared at Antonio. In turn Antonio looked back with slight amusement. While he was larger in height, Macintosh was more muscular and stronger in body. Both exuded the confidence of Achilles.
“I grant it.” She said. Then, to Antonio, and loudly, “As Queen of Dunbroch, I appoint Lord Macintosh as my champion in this duel.”
Antonio assessed the situation and smiled. He took a large step back, gallantly. “Well then, it seems we have our duel. Tomas, my sword.” the messenger boy ran out onto the field, carrying the King’s broadsword. He unsheathed it.
“Back up, milady.” Macintosh warned her. Eyeing the combatants warily, Merida stepped around Macintosh and back to wear the others stood. She knew just about everybody wanted her to step behind Dingwall and Macduffin, but she refused to go any further. In the circle, the two began to circle each other, swords raised.
“We begin on her Majesty’s word.” Antonio explained. “To the death then?”
“Aye, whatever lets me run you through.” Macintosh agreed.
“How do I know your country will honor your word if you die?” Merida called. Antonio glanced at her and shrugged, uncaring.
“Not to the death then, just until the other is unable to continue.” Merida commanded. Neither man looked happy about it but neither argued.
Merida took a deep breath. Her eyes didn’t leave Macintosh’s face. “Well then. Begin.”
Macintosh struck first with a swing. Antonio blocked and parried. So began their ferocious dance. As Antonio pressed his advance, he spoke quietly so only Macintosh could hear. “You know, a man like you could come in handy. Of course you can’t forfeit the fight, but if you were too help me make it look like you lose, I could make the benefits worth your while.”
In response Macintosh aimed for Antonio’s neck. The king just barely dodged it.
“Ye may be a worthless dog, but I’m not. I’ll die before I betray my queen.” He spat.
“Such loyalty.” Antonio said around a few more strokes. “I daresay my lord, I think you may be a bit sweet on my bride to be.” He lunged, this time scratching Macintosh in the side. The Highlander cursed and risked a glance at Merida. She met his gaze immediately. For all her faith she looked scared for him. The lords behind her looked ready to hold her back if need be. Macintosh just tossed out his normal smirk, and Merida seemed a bit less tense.
Antonio had dropped his guard in his gloating, so he was unprepared for the blunt force of being hit by the flat of a blade. Macintosh had always had a good arm. As the king stumbled back, Macintosh took his turn to advance.
“As long as I have a say in it, she’ll never be yer bride.” He warned. Antonio struggled to regain his footing, but Macintosh never gave him the chance. “You’re not worthy of licking her boot, never mind her hand in marriage. And if ye try to disrespect her again,” Macintosh swung at Antonio’s left, causing him to step right, where Macintosh’s other hand was waiting. The stronger man grabbed the king by the neck, swatting away his sword. He brought his own to the king’s throat. The entire crowd seemed to hold its breath. “I will slay you where ye stand.”
For a moment it looked like King Antonio was calculating his chances. When it dawned on him any chance to escape would result with a sword in his neck, the smugness slipped from his face. He raised his hands in disgust.
Deafening roars came from the crowd. Macintosh dropped King Antonio, who scowled, but backed away towards his own men. Macintosh turned towards Merida, and it was like looking at the sun. He didn’t notice how exhausted he was.
When he strode forward, she wondered if he would kiss her. She wanted him to kiss her. She’s known since his confession she would refuse the King. No matter what kind of man he had been, Merida couldn’t have married him, because it was horribly clear to her she was in love already. She still wasn’t sure about anything else regarding there relationship, but she believed he loved her and for now that was enough.
He reached her and dropped to his knee, like he had in the tent. “Your Majesty.” he said. He grinned at her. Merida beamed in return, took Macintosh’s hand and pulled him to his feet. And then in front of everyone, invading king included, she leaned up on her toes and kissed him hard on the mouth.