Anna had never been more relieved or horrified to see her sister, but her mind was at war with itself, struggling to come up with a straight thought as Merida's cutter moved a bit closer to her throat. She felt dizzy again, feeling like her feet were starting to drift off the ground as she became engulfed by the sickness that comes when one is fully awake during a nightmare. Would Elsa come to her rescue? Should she try to make some sort of gesture to signal for her help? A wrong move right now could mean curtains for her. Panic was buzzing around her like hornets around a nest, but she was too petrified to so much as swallow, much less speak. Merida's grin was crass, unnatural, yet strangely jovial. She was looking into Anna's eyes, glued to them with an earnest concentration, as though even a blink from them would send chills down her evil spine.
"You see, this is what I was talking about," she said, her voice giving no indication of any spite towards Anna, which made her actions even more confusing. "You look like ya might pass out any moment now if I keep this up, and I'm loving every second of it. There ain't just terror in yer eyes. There's also dread, and there is a difference between the two. Yer afraid the crime that got you in here is so terrible, so unthinkable, that yer skin will be barbecued be wee little devils for all eternity. But at the same time, if our tables were turned, and it was you with me neck a mere cut away from death, I know you'd be every bit as happy as I am right now."
Though her brain felt like it was flooding, Anna tried to mull over her options. Perhaps she could keep Merida talking (which she really seemed to enjoy doing), she wouldn't notice that Elsa was in the yard until it was too late. She wasn't sure if she even wanted for her to become involved, but for the time being, anything was preferable to gurgling until she perished as blood gushed out of her throat, and she assumed that even Merida wouldn't kill an inmate in front of the warden. Then again, what if Elsa didn't see what was happening? Anna had once seen a nature documentary about zebras on television which explained that they traveled in herds because their stripes made it hard for predators to pick them out individually. Currently surrounded by a sea of black and white, Anna figured that Elsa might have a similar problem trying to spot a specific prisoner, even one as familiar as her sister.
"Wh...what do you want?" She spoke each word extremely gradually, worried that the movement of her vocal cords might be enough to cause her throat to penetrate the blade.
"What do I want? The question is what I don't want. And what I don't want is secrets. Everyone in this prison knows what I'm in here fer. I hide nothing from no one! All I ask is that me fellow lifers show me the same level of courtesy."
"What's so special about lifers?" She was gambling with herself as she internally screamed, trying to shift her eyes to see what Elsa was up to without Merida catching her doing so. But Elsa appeared to be perfectly stoic, her hands behind her back in a precise manner, watching over the convicts like they were merely sheep in her farm, apparently not giving special attention to any of them.
"What's so special about us?" There was a ghastly spit emerging from Merida's lips as she spoke now, her breath smelling downright toxic. "Yer new here, so I'll humor ya. I'm sure yer cellie has a ton of scratches on the wall on her side of the cell, yes? They be a countdown to her release date. It may be twenty years from now, it may be forty, but she still has her freedom to look forward to, even if it's thousands and thousands of days from now. You and I are kindred spirits. We won't wear our fingernails out trying to leave any marks, because we have no need to. Others look up at that wall up there and see hope. We look up at it and know we'll never, ever see over it."
She had moved her blade back about an inch or so away from Anna's neck during her monologue, giving her the chance to finally dare to take a deep breath. She almost felt inclined to tell Merida that Elsa was in the yard with them, thinking that might get her to stop, but it was a bet too risky to make. Still, there was something about her words which got to her. The forlorn feeling of having a life sentence began to rear its ugly head on her once again, and as she discreetly tilted her head to glance at Elsa, she saw that she remained in the same position as before. Maybe this really was what she wanted, for the most brutal criminal in the entire kingdom to dispose of her sister neatly so she wouldn't be an issue for anyone anymore. Then she could live happily ever after as all of her prisoners lived miserably ever after.
"Look, I'll tell you what you want, but move the freaking plastic away from me first, okay?"
Anna's internal screams became much louder now. Had she really just snapped at Merida? Had she really agreed to tell her why she was in prison?
In any case, to her simultaneous relief and dismay, Merida moved the fork/knife away, silently agreeing to her request.
"Very well," she said, rubbing her fingers against the blunt end of her homemade weapon. "All I want fer now is the answer to one simple question. What are ye in fer?"
Anna could feel her joints quivering. Her eyes returned to the chain gang, the women on it still toiling away endlessly with their undesirable work, unaffected by what had just happened between her and Merida, unaware that the woman who kept them where they were was now watching them live out their agonizing existence (sure enough, she could see that Elsa was currently looking straight at them).
She sighed. There was no way out of answering Merida's question now. And if Elsa was even aware of her current predicament, she wasn't doing anything to stop it.
"I'm here for murder."
Saying the words out loud gutted her like an unlucky trout. Merida, by contrast, appeared delighted to the point of exasperation, her eyes glinting as she gave Anna an ironically motherly pat on the knee.
"See, that wasn't so hard, was it? Who did you kill?"
Anna swallowed, feeling herself quietly die a little inside her stomach.
"Two people? Well, color me impressed! Yer even more like me than I thought. But I didn't ask for a number. I asked fer who you killed."
"That's not important right now."
She was on the brink of tears, tears which she didn't wish to taunt Merida with. She was certain that Merida would be furious with her for not saying more, but she merely shrugged, opening the palm of Anna's hand and snugly placing her knife inside it.
"Call it a gift," she said cheerfully. "But do engage me curiosity just one more time. Did the people you took out deserve what happened to them?"
Anna looked down at the "present" Merida had given her, confused as to what to think of it, but deciding it would be foolish to not take it.
"No. They didn't."
Merida gave a small, twisted yelp, like a giddy schoolgirl who happened to be proudly homicidal.
"I had a feeling you'd be me type." She gave Anna a punch on the shoulder. "Keep that away from the guards, by the way."
Then she got to her feet, dragging her ball behind her but leaving behind a most morbid stench, yet the smell wasn't nearly as bad as the stink of Anna's guilt. Now that Merida knew what Anna had done, she would no doubt tell everyone she knew, and soon everyone within Frozen Heart would look to her as a young woman who had ended two lives. She shifted around to see if anyone was staring at her before prudently placing the knife in her pocket, the only place she could think of hiding it (or at least the only place she would want to, not wanting to consider "alternative spots" to keep it). She was startled by how short of breath she was, but was just as shocked by the fact that she had managed to survive her first encounter with "Bloody Mary." She waved her hand to shoo a fly that was buzzing near her mouth away, feeling bewildered but also a little impressed with herself. Maybe her gut feeling was wrong, but it if Anna hadn't known any better, it had almost seemed like Merida was interested in becoming friends with her...even though she had done so by threatening her with a knife which used to be a fork. She chuckled to herself as she swatted another insect away.
"With friends like her, who would need enemies?"
"I couldn't agree more."
Anna nearly choked on her own saliva from confusion and shock as she felt the humid air around her suddenly grow colder. She had gotten so lost in the maze that was her mind that she hadn't even realized that Elsa had vanished from where she had been. When she turned her head to look up, she saw the face of her warden, smiling sternly as she looked down at her property.