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Rated: ASR · Short Story · Fanfiction · #2313279
It's been peaceful since the Highland Games. Until the famine. Merida must save the clans.
"There's hardly anything to eat," Hamish said. It was true, Merida could not remember a time when their father's table hadn't been so bare.

Queen Elinor wrung her sleeves. "I never thought we'd have to give the other lords such a poor welcome," she said. "I hope they won't be offended there's no wild boar."

Fergus groaned and shifted in his seat at the head of the high table. "That's why we're all gathering here," he said. "This famine isn't natural. We've even invited that wood carving crone here to consult. She has a canniness about strange things that we need here."

"Aye," Merida said. "Let's hope her solution is better than turning us all into bears or some mad jape like that." Having said her piece the princess skewered an apple with an arrow.

Before the Queen could reprimand her daughter, the announcement was made. "Lords Dingwall, MacGuffin and Macintosh," the herald shouted. Then after a quiet, hem-hem, "the wi--wood carver from the, er, forest."

All the guests took a seat. All the Lords seemed eager to keep at least one seat between themselves and the crone. It was uncertain whether they were frightened of being cursed or the large raven on her shoulder.

"Right, Fergus, we've all seen it," Macintosh said. "Crops failing, animals dying, we're gonna figure out something. Aren't we?"

Fergus pulled at his beard. "Well, um, I," he said. "I, er, invited an expert on strange goings on. We'll, uh, let her speak."

The elderly woman stood up. Not satisfied with the view of the table edge, she climbed up on her chair. "Watch it!" Her raven said as he flapped his wings.

"Oh hush, you're fine," she said. "Thank you, King Fergus. I've been consulting the old legends. I've found only one thing that causes this kind of devastation; a Stoorworm."

Merida snorted, "so some wee little animal that eats dirt?" She asked. "That's what's behind all this? I could stomp it with my boots and have done with it."

"Aw, bless," the wood carver said. "I'm afraid it's not that simple, princess, Stoorworms are big, hungry sea serpents. Your best bet is to sacrifice seven girls to the beast once a week."

At first there was only stunned silence. Then a loud roar of overlapping arguments. Finally, Queen Elinor gave her husband a look. He winced but gathered himself quickly.

"Shut it!" Fergus roared. The hall fell so still you could hear Fergus' hunting dogs whimper under the table. "Now," he continued. "This is a hard choice but--"

"But nothing dad," Merida said. "I'm all for saving our lands, but I don't think we should go feeding anyone to a sea serpent! There'll be hardly anybody left if we give in and go along with this plan. I say we fight!"

It wasn't long till all the Lords were nodding in agreement. The old lady was giving Merida a sly grin. "She's got some guts, that one does," the raven said.

"Well in that case," the wood carver said. "I can only give you this final advice. The strongest foe, by force alone will not topple. Through the power of all will the Stoorworm fall. Good luck, I'm off. Got to see a druid about his stone circle."

She finished this thought and nimbly hopped off her seat and ambled out the doors. Just as if she hadn't said anything dire or strange.

"So sea serpent," Lord MacGuffin said. "Any of you lot got a plan?"

"We stand and fight!" Macintosh said. "What more plan do we need?"

"Now hang on," King Fergus said. "What we need is a wee bit of strategy. This Stoorworm creature, it lives in the water, we'll need boats and archers. Some rope might be needed."

Merida stood up and excitedly. "I volunteer to lead the Archers," she said. "You all have seen what I can do with a bow!"

There was some conversation among the Lords. "Merida," Elinor said. "You know clan Dunbroch needs you as a princess. I know you'll follow your heart, I only ask you to be safe while doing so."

"Mum!" Merida said. "Do you really need to embarrass me? I'll come home to you in one piece."

The assembled clan leaders sat and discussed their plans. "Here's what we have," Fergus said. "We sail along the coast till we catch sight of the beast. Dingwall, you'll see if you can get some ropes around the monster. Merida and the other archers will rain arrows on the creature till it dies.

The next morning found the sea heaving beneath their war boats. White caps broke on the stony shore. Suddenly the Stoorworm surfaced yawing wide to swallow the fleet.

"Aim for the roof of its mouth," Merida said. "We need to act fast!"

She and the other marksmen sent arrows flying into the serpent's giant maw. It hissed and writhed in pain.

Dingwall and Macintosh threw great coils of rope around its long form. Arrows from other archers bounced off the Stoorworm's scaly hide.

"Ach!" Merida complained. "You lot are wasting your time." A crumbly arch was directly over the creature's head. With a few well aimed shots, the rocks came crashing down on the Stoorworm's head.

Spumes of water splashed and the boats rocked. When the mists cleared, the Stoorworm lay dead beneath the rocks.

That night they all sang and celebrated their victory. They drank toasts. "Here's to my daughter, Princess Merida of Dunbroch," King Fergus shouted. "And to the breaking of the curse!"
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