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The Art of Compromise

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The water in the loch was as still as could be, letting Merida have a good view of the skies just by looking down. If her aim was true, she'd have her prize this fine day. Her mother had said she knew the skill of making feathers attach to a cloak. Such a thing would be both warm and distinctive for the future queen. They were unusual, but not unheard of, and that suited Merida entirely too well.

She preferred to be that little bit of unusual in her family's lives, though the triplets were trying to vie with her for troublesome quirks!

The winter always meant more time indoors, but for once, Merida didn't think it would be so horrible. There would be time for learning, at her own pace, the skills her mother found necessary. In truth, Merida expected to be bored, but if she managed this hunt, she'd at least have the tale to share as a lead-in to her father's hunting stories.

The waters below remained still, and Merida waited, using them to have a reflected view to guide her shot. Looking into the sky on a bright day like this one was wearying on the eyes. Yet…


She remembered to reverse the position guiding her turn, bow coming up and drawing in one smooth motion. It was a clean shot, all of her strength and the strength of the bow to take it to the skies and her prey. Nor did the falcon have time to react, as Nature herself put the wind behind the arrow.

Merida was thankful; a clean kill like this was much easier to conscience than the wounding and long tracking saga that some of her father's men spoke of with stag hunting. She shouldered her bow and skipped as freely as a mountain goat down to where her low-flying falcon had crashed.

"Thank you for this," she called to the wind, one finger resting on the falcon's sharp beak. She was certain this was the old one she'd seen earlier in the season, so she looked for the crimped wing… yes. The bird had been injured, possibly in a fight with a hunting animal over prey. But there were more than enough feathers to adorn the cloak she wished.

She took care of the practical necessities of fresh prey, and then into her sack the bird went. She added the feathers that had come loose as well, pleased that she would be able to share the under-feathers with her mother.

They really did need a common project to cement the lessons of the Bear.

Elinor saw her daughter down outside of the kitchen, carrying on with one of the men as Merida steadily plucked feathers. It was good to watch the girl help with the domestic work… wait, that was not a chicken in Merida's hands.

"Och, daughter, what have you gone and done?"

She supposed she could go down and check for herself, but she had learned not to tread too strongly on her eldest's hobbies. They'd done well for themselves since the enchantment. Merida had all the clear days to be a wild and free spirit, while Elinor had the days that were overcast, blustery, or merely too cold for the lessons of being a queen.

"She'll tell me in her own time," Elinor reminded herself, but she looked one more time to see if her eyes had deceived her. No, she was positive those were the markings of a falcon, the bird's body a foot and half if it were an inch, with a wingspan at least three feet wide. That was easier to estimate when Merida showed off the half-plucked bird as she told her tale to those gathering around.

"Never a quiet moment, but never in quite the same way… twice?"

Elinor recalled the conversation with her husband about Merida's handmade gifts over the years. Could it be that she wished to attempt the cloak again? With a smile for her daughter's stubborn will, Elinor traversed from her chambers to the storerooms, seeking through the bolts of woven cloth for ones that might suit her daughter.

Two, one dyed a deep green, and the other in the brighter blue, stood out to her mind as being perfect for Merida. With care and help from two of Fergus's men at arms, she got both bolts to her spinning room, covering them with a throw for now. If she were wrong, Elinor had no wish to make Merida uncomfortable for having made the assumption.

Elinor's curiosity was not sated that night, for Merida was helping to manage the boys. They had been into the honey Fergus had been saving for a proper brew, and were just as giggly and wild as if the honey had been fermented already.

Merida checked on the feather trap, making certain she had the large ones carefully spaced to dry from where she'd cleaned them of midges and such. The smaller ones were spread as evenly as she could between two racks made of fine, porous cloth set in wooden frames. They did not need to be dry by morning so far as Merida was concerned.

Knowing the feathers were safe, the princess returned to her room, sleeping lightly. As if her own mood dictated the weather, the day dawned as darkly as the previous one had been bright, and Merida woke with a smile of delight.

Merida hurried down to acquire the feathers and a filched breakfast to share with her mother. She knocked politely, then pushed on in, having already heard her father booming out orders for the day to his men.

"In here, Merida," Elinor called warmly from her spinning room. She stopped the needlework she had been working on to see her daughter juggling a fluffy bag and a tray. "Oh." She rose smoothly to acquire the tray. "How kind of you."

"I didn't want to have to go back down, Mother." Merida smiled brightly, opening the neck of the bag she had scooped her feathers into. "I left the fluffy ones below to dry more, but the pinions and their ilk seem dry. I want to make a cloak, Mother. You said you knew the secret!"

Elinor nodded, and did not rebuke Merida's enthusiasm. "I'll be glad to share it with you. It so happens, I'd brought two bolts in to make a winter project; maybe one would suit?" she asked innocently, pointing to the covered bolts as she settled the food from the tray onto her small table.

Merida went and looked under the cover. Both colors were so perfect to her, and yet… "Mother, did you know?"

"I did see you," Elinor answered. "But had I been wrong, your brothers would have gotten new tunics."

Merida lit up even brighter. "Show me how to make the cloak, and I will help you make them tunics to match!"

Compromise, always their gift between them, prevailed yet again, and the pair settled into the women's work Merida so often detested.

Elinor knew that the cloak was for her daughter's forays into the wild, but in helping craft it, Merida was accepting the lady's skills too.

That, she decided, was why her daughter would excel over all, men and women alike. She refused to be hemmed in.