After being held as a prisoner in her own castle for almost a year, only having her shadow as company, Queen Regina had been invited by her husband, King Leopold, to join him and his daughter at their Summer Palace. Regina had been thrilled when she heard the news; not because she was eager to see her husband and stepdaughter, but because she finally had permission to leave the stone walls that surrounded her and were driving her crazy.
She had always loved the nature, the forest, the smell of the rain; but all those things had become luxuries as soon as she married King Leopold. Now, her riding lessons had been cancelled, she couldn't expose her skin to the sun because royals didn't have tanned skin and she was forbidden to leave the castle. Regina wanted to believe that Leopold meant well, and that he was actually worried about her well-being. She had even made herself not to hate the king when he forced himself into her, repeating that it was his right as husband. But the more time she spent locked and alone, the harder it was for her to believe that Leopold even cared about her and the harder she found on her heart to forgive him and his daughter. How different would have her life been if Snow White had kept quiet? She would be with Daniel, with someone that loved her. But now she only had bitterness in her life.
The trip from the Royal Castle to the Summer Palace was a day long, she was not excited to get to the palace, but she would enjoy the ride as much as she could. Regina closed her eyes and cleared her mind, only thinking on the sound made by the horse's gallop. And secretly, she wished that she'd never reach the Summer Palace, she wished she could stay in the woods and live happily around the nature that was she so fond of.
A sudden halt made the Queen open her eyes. They couldn't have reached the palace so fast. She looked around and a wave of happiness washed her body: they were still in the woods. But as soon as the wave had appeared, it disappeared. Why had they stopped in the middle of the woods? It was dangerous, the place was filled with outlaws that couldn't live following King Leopold's orders and had decided to hide in the forest.
She was about to open her mouth to ask Faoro, the coach driver, why had they stopped when she heard men talking, they were being robbed. Silently, she got down from the carriage and started studying her situation, Faoro had been knocked out and tied to a tree, the two guards that had been assigned to protect her had suffered a similar fate. The bandits, who were too busy going through her baggage, failed to notice the presence of the Queen, so without making a sound Regina untied a horse, climbed onto the animal and started riding as fast as her dress let her, thanking the Gods that she didn't wear a tight dress that day.
She didn't look back, she didn't have to to know that someone was following her. She heard the bandit's horse approaching to her, with the sound of the gallop she knew he was closer to her by every minute that passed, cutting the distance between them. Then, Regina looked to one side, only to notice that a man was riding next to her. Panic took over her. What would she do now? Her horse couldn't outrun this man's animal.
But her thoughts were shaken by a tackle. The man that was riding next to her had jumped towards her horse and pushed her, together with him, down the horse. The bandit didn't let the woman's body hit the ground. He swung their bodies so that she would land over him as his strong arms embraced her, fixing her against his chest. He moaned when they both hit the ground, but Regina didn't feel bad about it, he deserved the pain. Pushing a Queen off her horse! Did this thief know who was he had just tackled? He could get his hand chopped, or worse, for this. The Queen quickly got off him and stood up, trying to think her escape options, the horse was no longer an option.
"Your majesty," the bandit that pushed her down said standing up and offering her a hand "Are you alright?"
"Do you think I'm alright?" the Queen snapped at him "You knocked my driver and my guards out, and then you knocked me down a horse! Of course I'm not alright." she replied to his idiotic question as she cleaned the dust out of her baby-blue gown.
"I'm sorry, your majesty, but we couldn't let you run away."
"I am the Queen, as you well know," Regina asked, "I order you to let me go."
"We are holding you for ransom." the bandit explained.
"Is this what this is about?" She chuckled. "A ticket out of your miserable life?"
"The King will pay a great deal for you, you are his wife." the bandit tried to reason with her.
"I'm his second wife, I can assure you he doesn't love me," she said in a tone that sounded more sad than she had wanted it to sound, but the bandit didn't seem to notice; and if he did, he didn't comment on it. "You should have tried kidnapping his precious daughter."
"I would never harm a little girl."
"Who knew a thief had honour?"
"I'm not a thief,"
"Really?" Regina asked arching an eyebrow.
"I just take from the rich to give it to the poor," he stated with a shrug, "It's a noble thing to do."
"That's an interesting way of describing your hobby," she said, her voice painted with disdain "What's your name, thief?"
"Robin, Robin of Locksley, your majesty." he replied in the same tone that she had used against him.
Robin of Locksley, she had heard about him. He was a legend; the hero of all the peasants' stories, stories that were whispered from parents to their children, stories that travelled, carrying a message of hope, through the castle walls and straight to King Leopold's council. But Regina was not a peasant, and this bandit had been stealing from her husband for a long time now. She was not here to befriend him, she was here against her free will, and she shouldn't forget that.
The Queen studied the man who stood in front of her. If he would be part of the King's court he would have a lot of conquests among the noble women, no doubt. He didn't have a clean shave, which made him look a little bit wild and extremely handsome. His legs were well toned, from what she could see through his tight pants; she deduced that his arms and chest's muscles were equally fit, after all, when he had held her as they fell from the horse, she had felt secure in his strong arms. His hair was perfectly combed, as if he didn't live in the forest. And he smelled like forest, that smell that she loved so very much. She shook her head to shake her thoughts away, returning to the conversation that they were having before she was lost in her own mind.
"Well, Robin of Locksley," she said and almost tapped his shoulder, to show him that she really felt bad about this whole situation "I am sorry to disappoint you, but the King couldn't care less about my wellbeing."
"We will see about that, your majesty," Robin smiled, he was so sure that the King would give him a great amount of money for Regina. She didn't know whether let herself be intoxicated by his optimism or laugh at his stupidity. "Please, follow me." the voice of the bandit brought her back to reality.
And without saying anything else, the Queen followed the thief further into the woods.