A/N: I'm so sorry I haven't updated in so long. Life got in the way. I literally had the craziest of weeks. But I can say it was worth the trouble, since I am now OFFICIALLY a teacher! My thesis has been validated by the jury and I'm now truly in the place! So, a lot of work, worth it in the end!
Anyway, to make amends, this chapter is waaaaay longer than others, and you get to meet the real baddie of this story. And you will not have seen her coming! ;)
Don't forget to keep asking questions plot-wise!
28. Eighty-second dawn
The following morning, Regina woke up from a dream that left her restless. Her eyes opened in the dim light of dawn, her hand instinctively going to her small baby bump.
She had dreamt that night of a world where Robin would have been hers, where Marian had never come back. She had dreamt of his hands on her belly, of words talked to their unborn child, of kisses in the living-room while Henry and Roland discussed the movie to watch for the evening.
It had been such a good dream.
Launching her legs over the edge of the bed, Regina sighed deeply, her hands covering her face for a moment, eyes closing and thoughts going back to the events of the previous night.
A part of her still revelled in Robin's jealousy towards Jefferson. It meant he still cared for her, still loved her somehow.
But his other words sent pain through her. He would not, could not leave Marian. It would hurt Roland too much. He was too young, too innocent to understand the meaning of loveless marriage. At least on one part.
Regina was certain that Marian was still in love with her husband, and knowing the woman like she had grown to lately, it almost made her feel guilty for having started this in the first place.
If she hadn't listened to Snow that day, if she hadn't felt the need to let go and just feel...then none of this would have happened. She would not have her heart broken in tiny shards unwilling to piece back together...
But then again, neither would she be pregnant, and somehow, that thought alone managed to make her think that this whole ordeal had been a good thing. In a way.
"Mom? Are you up?"
Regina snapped off her thoughts and smiled softly to herself, chuckling a bit. "If I wasn't already, I'd be now!"
Henry opened the door slightly and peaked inside, and upon seeing his mother sat on her bed, entered the room. He walked to her and kissed her on the cheek, his fingers going to her belly almost without thought in a silent greeting to his little sister.
"What is it, darling? You seem troubled."
Henry sighed and sat next to her. "Jefferson and Grace told me something yesterday night." He paused, grey eyes locking with chocolate brown. "Is it true that there is another group of people willing to kill us around?"
Regina sighed and shook her head, fingers closing around her son's. "No, it's not. There is indeed a group of people that arrived we don't know how a few months back. Atlanteans, as you well know since you and Snow tried to find out who they were."
"But Jefferson told me they hurt you... Why didn't you tell me?"
"I didn't want you to worry. I wasn't hurt. They abducted me for an unknown reason. Their leader tried, I think to explain to me what they were doing here, but she spoke in a foreign language I didn't understand."
"And the wall of water, then? Is it dangerous?"
"We don't know, honey..."
"He also said Elsa was missing."
Regina's brow furrowed. "Jefferson really needs to keep his mouth shut." She sighed again. "We haven't seen Elsa in little more than a week. I intend to go and look out for her. I have something of hers that can be used for a tracking spell."
Henry nodded, then his slender arms wrapped around her and his head was tucked on her shoulder. "Be careful."
"I will be. And anyway, I have my own escort now." She chuckled. "I doubt your grand-mother would let anything happen to me."
"That's true." She could almost feel the smile he gave her.
The gang gathered in the Mayor's office as usual. This time, Rumpelstiltskin was added to the group, and the smirk he sent Regina's way when his reptile-like eyes fell on her stomach made her blood chill.
As she had told Henry before he left for school, she had something of Elsa's to use in a tracking spell – an ice hair pin she had offered her what seemed like eras prior.
Snow was at her side, worry painted all over her face. "I can't believe we didn't notice her absence sooner..."
David's arm wrapped around his wife's figure, soothing her. "We couldn't know. She spends most of her time with Regina, Tink or Jefferson..."
The Hatter cleared his throat. "I beg to differ... She seems to prefer to avoid me."
Regina rolled her eyes. "And whose fault is that?" She shook her head before focussing back on her ingredients.
The Dark One paced slowly towards the desk, his fingers hovering over the supplies there, before he grabbed a small bottle filled with what seemed to be thick ink. He tutted. "And what is that, dearie? Wished to curse someone again?"
Snow let out a small squeak, her eyes going to Regina at once. "Regina!"
The Queen gritted her teeth, snatching the bottle out of Rumpel's hand. "It was long ago. And it's none of your business."
"Oh but it is. Who was it you wished to curse? Zelena, perhaps?"
Regina didn't answer, until a soft voice erupted from across the room, one she soon wanted to curse for good. "She wanted to curse herself."
All eyes went to Robin's face, and he had the indecency to fiddle with his bow string, not meeting anyone's eyes.
Snow opened her mouth as if to speak, but Regina bet her to it, her voice as cold and as sharp as ice. "It was back when I thought I could not ever be happy. When we were in the Enchanted Forest and I had lost Henry. Now, let's go back to the matter at hand."
Tinkerbell helped with the spell, her wand glowing green over the hair pin.
She smirked, satisfied of her work as the piece of eternal ice glowed green. "That way, if we lose visual, we can still see which way it went."
Regina nodded her contentment, then poured her freshly finished potion on the item.
It soon started hovering over the desk, before slowly making its way towards the door. Robin opened it, and the whole group soon followed.
The hair pin grew in speed as it reached the edge of the woods, and as it was swallowed by the trees, Robin soon seemed uneasy.
"Robin? What is it?" Emma had her gun held high, prepared to all eventuality.
The archer turned to her. "It's going towards the wishing well."
There was a gasp within those who possessed magic. All three knew that the wishing well held powerful magic. It could open portals, and curse the entire land. Who knew what Elsa's abductors had done to her...and to Storybrooke?
The closer they got to the well, the colder it became, to the point where a thick layer of ice covered the ground, and the group had to be careful not to slip.
As they had not really dressed for such a chill, many a companion started shivering in cold, Regina being one of them.
Rumpelstiltskin approached her, like a snake ready to strike its prey. She eyed him uneasily as he stopped in front of her. "It's not safe being this cold in your condition, Regina..." Her eyes immediately darted to Robin, not far, but he was too focussed on the path ahead to pay attention to the wizard's slip-up. "Let me." He outstretched a hand over her shoulder, not quite touching her as if she still had the choice to stop him.
She nodded quietly, and soon, a purple glow erupted from Rumpel's fingertips, and a warm feeling washed over her. It was no longer unbearably cold, but warm as in the first days of spring. She thanked him silently before he moved to the fairy shivering next to her.
Jefferson, at her side, looked at her quizzically. "Couldn't you do that yourself?"
She looked at him through her eyelashes, not certain she could tell him what the Dark One knew and she hadn't acknowledged yet. "I have troubles with my magic... It doesn't answer the way it used to."
He nodded, his voice going low to make sure no one else heard. "Do you think it's the baby?"
She shrugged. "Maybe. Or it is the Atlanteans. They already managed to suck my magic out of me once..."
He nodded again, this time face grave. "Then you remain close to me. God knows you are helpless with a weapon." He had the nerve to smirk before pulling her slightly forward so they resumed their advance in the forest.
They reached the well in little less than an hour. In the dim light of the woods, shadows of the trees hiding the winter sunlight – in summer – Regina could make the figure of a woman slumped against the stone, her head fallen on her shoulder as if she was sleeping. Except she was not. Her wrists had been bound to a chain rounding the well, and it was covered in ice as if she had tried to free herself.
Her first instinct was to run to her friend, a sudden and unexpected worry washing over her at Elsa's frail figure. She had surely been underfed, and could not sleep for days, if the dark circles under her eyes were any clue.
Jefferson's fingers closed around her wrist before she could make a move. "Don't. It seems too much like a trap for me."
David nodded, unsheathing his sword. "I agree with Jefferson. We should circle the place. In case." He nodded to Killian and Emma, who moved to the right of the group, soon followed by Rumpel and Tink, while he and his wife moved to the left.
Robin remained, his bow held high, an arrow notched.
His eyes met Regina's, and in a crazy second, flashes of their kiss the previous night invaded her thoughts. "You go ahead. I cover you."
She nodded. She trusted him. With her life, and that of their unborn daughter, even if he ignored her existence.
Jefferson pulled out a gun from his breast pocket, and upon seeing Regina's surprise, he smirked. "No, I do not fight with a pair of scissors."
She smirked despite the gravity of the situation. "She told you."
"That she did." He paused, eyes going back to Elsa's form. "Now let's go save her."
The air was thick in the clearing surrounding the well, as if something, or someone, had cast a spell rendering the whole place...mystical.
If Regina didn't feel a difference while stepping on the cracking grass, Tinkerbell, on her right, soon gasped loud enough for all to hear. Rumpel, behind her, sighed loudly and remained back. "This place is deleting any magic. We can't do much here."
"No, you can't."
The voice, as airy is almost sounded like a ghost voice, erupted from seemingly nowhere before a mist formed in the air in front of Regina and Jefferson, who raised his gun in defence. In the mist soon formed a body, womanly at first sight, that appeared more defined as the fog disappeared.
Regina let out a startled gasp when she caught on the woman's face. Deep blue hair framed a round face with full red lips and...white eyes. The form was slender, almost too much so, making the stranger look like a being from another dimension.
Her voice, that had seemed fleeting before, deepened, and the tremors of it ran through Regina like an arrow piercing her soul.
"You are trying to free the witch here."
No one dared speaking for a moment, before Regina caught the sight of Emma on her right, gun still aloft, who cleared her throat and spoke up. "We do. What have you done to her?"
"This is no concern of yours."
"It is, because she is our friend!"
"Friend or foe, kin or stranger, this does not matter. I need her to rebuild my land."
There was a silence, thick and grave, until Robin stepped out of the shadows, his bow down as he probably knew the figure would be able to disarm him in the blink of an eye. When he came to stand by Regina, she felt lighter, almost safe. "And who are you?"
The figure whirled around to face him, and Regina again swallowed uneasily at the sight of her white eyes. "My name is Thea. I am the daughter of Poseidon."
"Poseidon?" All could hear the snicker in Emma's voice. "He is a myth."
"Myth, legends and children stories are often real, mortal. So am I."
Snow and David got out of the shadows too. "Have you come here with the Atlanteans?"
The figure – Thea – whirled around quickly, almost floating on air. "Do not speak to me about this scum! They banished me from my city, my realm, and tracked me here."
At Regina's side, Jefferson had imperceptibly started advancing in the clearing towards the well. She quickly understood that Snow and David's speech was also a way to distract Thea from her prisoner.
"They thought me too dangerous, too wild. The powers I wield are far grander than anything else, than anyone else's. Perhaps even my father's."
Snow cleared her throat. "I'm sorry, but...you said you wanted to rebuild your land. Are you the one that produced that wall of water, then?"
"This wall will soon be a bubble encircling your petty town. And when it has drowned, I will build a new Atlantis on its ruins."
David seemed to understand more, as did the others, Regina's blood freezing in her veins, her fingers instinctively wrapping around Robin's at her side. "And Elsa can help by freezing the water so it can't move."
"She refuses to help me, despite the place at my side I offered her. She is no mortal, she could do great things. But her attachment to you mortals makes her weak."
"What have you done to her?"
Emma and Hook, who had circled the well to face the goddess – or so she appeared to them – stepped up, determined and maybe a little bit angry too. "There is just one catch in your plan, ma'am. We can't let you drown everyone in this town."
Thea's empty eyes fell on the Saviour. "You may wield magic, little one, but it is no match for mine. You will not succeed in stopping me." She raised a hand, probably to strike Emma, but a series of war cries erupted around the clearing, and Thea stopped her hand.
Robin's hand left Regina in a second, and he had an arrow notched, his body protecting hers while she raised her useless hands as if trying to conjure something.
All around the clearing, the Atlanteans appeared from the trees, their figures tall and focussed on Thea rather than them.
Soon, Jefferson had managed to hurry at Elsa's side and to free her from her chains – as easy to break as glass, as frozen as they were – and to bring her back to Regina's side, still unconscious.
A figure then broke from the trees behind them, and after it removed its mask, Regina recognized Kida's face.
She nodded to her. "Have you come to help?"
To her surprise, Kida nodded. "We have, Regina Mills. Stay close to me."
Regina's eyes widened. "You have learnt English."
"And many other things." She walked forward and took a defensive pose before Regina, her spear held high as she addressed Thea before her. "Thea, αφήστε τους να είναι. Έχεις ήδη πάρα πολλές ζωές." Thea, afiste tous na inai. Echis idi para polles zoes.
Thea's eyes fell on her, and if her eyes were white, they could have darkned with the rage that suddenly bubbled inside of her, making her beautiful features become almost monstrous, like a siren showing her true self. "Μπορείτε. Λες στον εαυτό σας μια πριγκίπισσα, αλλά δεν είναι τίποτα. Το όπλο που ασκούν, μπορεί να είναι αρκετά ισχυρό για να με βλάψει, αλλά δεν είναι." Mporite. Les ston eauto sas mia prigkipissa, alla den inai tipota. To oplo pou askoun, mporei na inai afketa ischupo gia na me blapsei, alla den inai.
She advanced on Kida, but an arrow shot from nowhere, or most certainly from an Atlantean's hand, and she hissed in pain, whirling around, her eyes almost shooting flames.
Her gaze fell on Kida again, then on Regina, who felt all colour leave her face as their opponent looked up and down her form. "I will come back."
And with the same use of mist as she had come with, Thea disappeared, and with her the power she held on the clearing.
The groups gathered, Atlanteans on one side, gang on the other.
Jefferson held Elsa's form as if she had been made out of glass, and when Rumpel walked up to him, he met the other man's gaze with his pleading one. "Is she alright?"
Rumpel placed a hand on Elsa's forehead, his brow furrowing. "Her magic has been altered. We will have to wait until she wakes to see to which extent though."
Jefferson nodded, satisfied.
Regina, still flanked by Robin, walked to Kida, who had been waiting with her people. "We have a lot to talk about."
"We do, Regina Mills. Though not here, and not now."
Kida smiled softly, something strange since she had always looked at the Queen with cold eyes. "Tomorrow. When your friend has awaken." She nodded, then her people started retreating in the woods once more.
"Wait!" Kida stopped and looked back at her. "Where shall we meet?"
"The place you call Town Hall shall do. Until then, Regina Mills."
And she disappeared in the shadows.
Robin, beside her, let out a deep breath. "I have no idea what the hell happened here..."