Bittersweet Destiny

Chapter 20

When a peasant died, the vigil usually lasted until the next day; come dawn, the deceased person was taken to the closest graveyard and buried. However, when a royal died, the vigils took longer; somewhere between a week and a month, their bodies preserved by magic provided by a fairy, to allow royals coming from other kingdoms to say their farewell to the blue blood. It was announced that Regina's vigil would last two weeks. And Tinkerbell had pretended to place the spell after Snow White had pointed her as Regina's fairy godmother.

There was nothing to do during the vigil: they couldn't wake Regina up before the funeral. It meant that Robin had to patiently wait for the Queen's vigil to end.

The waiting was driving Robin insane. He had assisted the vigil every day, disguised as an old beggar. The Outlaw wanted nothing but to grab the woman by the hand and whisper loving words into her ear. But the knights wouldn't allow it: only the Royals were allowed to get close to the deceased Queen. He had to settle for being able to watch Regina from afar, from a dark corner, where no one would be able to recognise the face below the worn out hood he had acquired just for the occasion.

The vigil, however, had given the Merry Men enough time to plan Regina's awakening. Or at least to express some ideas regarding the (second) rescue mission.

"We need to find a body to place on the Queen's coffin," Arthur pointed out.

"Why? It's not like they'll open the coffin," Tinkerbell asked

"Not the royals, but thieves? For sure!" Arthur replied, "And a missing Queen won't go unnoticed,"

"True," Will reasoned, they were no strangers to stealing from the dead - it was not like corpses needed jewellery anyway and desperate times call for desperate measures. "I heard one of the ladies that used to beg on the dirt road died few days and no one has buried her,"

His idea was received with disgust by the other two merry men, who jumped at the same time "Will!"

"What?" the alluded man shrugged "The beggar needs a place to rest, and Regina won't need her coffin after you kiss her," Will threw kisses to the air.

No one had admitted that Will's idea had been brilliant, but they all thought about it. At the end, they decided to go along with it and Tinkerbell had agreed on performing a glamour spell to make the beggar look like a dead Regina.

The Queen's funeral took place on a cold and rainy day, it was a mirror image of how lonely and depressing her life had been. Royals from all kingdoms came to say goodbye to the fairest of them all. She was buried on the dress that young Snow White had chosen for her: an elegant black gown, that covered from above her breasts and as far as her toes; the Queen's clavicles and arms were enveloped by an ostentatious, yet beautiful, black lace.

That day, the King locked himself with three whores, and several dozens of wine bottles, in his chambers; he was the only royal who had not appeared on his late wife's funeral. His actions had been condemned in silence by everyone; they all thought that, king or not, Leopold had to pay his respects to Regina.

Little Snow White had been left to the care of her nanny, to mourn alone the death of the second woman who had been her mother. The royals and peasants who had gathered for the funeral witnessed a change that day, while the princesse said goodbye to her step-mother's coffin. They saw how the Princess became an adult that day; how she raised from tragedy, like a phoenix from the ashes, and became their new true leader.

The bad weather worked on the Merry Men's favour: the funeral ceremony had ended quickly since, no matter how much respect they held for the Queen, no one wanted to catch a cold.

Rain was pouring like a waterfall by the time the three Merry Men and the Fairy reached the King's graveyard. Luckily, there were no soldiers guarding the entrance to the cemetery. Hoping for the best but ready for the worst, they slowly made their way on a cart pulled by Regina's horse, the beggar's corpse safely hidden under a rug. It had not been hard to identify the Queen's mausoleum, the greek-resembling temple was the only one with recently polished marble and decorated with flower bouquets.

"Alright, we better hurry up," Will pressured them as soon as they climbed off the cart.

"Thank you for stating the obvious," Arthur rolled his eyes while they approached the ornate bronze gates, "Alright, Scarlet, show us what you've got,"

"Always a pleasure," the thief said, cracking his neck and getting down to business.

After his third unsuccessful try, Tinkerbell lost her patience and opened the door by magic. The three men protested, asking why she hadn't done that from the beginning. The Fairy shrugged and walked into the mausoleum, the men following her close behind.

On the inside, the Mausoleum was not as ostentatious as it was on the outside. The hallway had half a dozen roman columns lined up and at the end of the hall a tomb could be seen. The walls were hardly decorated, and the only thing that gave it a personal touch was a miniature apple tree that Snow White had left during the burial next to Regina's resting place.

The coffin, placed in the middle of the room and surrounded by few candles and flowers, was made of silver and decorated with purple sapphires. Over the tomb there was a skylight mosaic, the little glass pieces formed patterns of a classical motif. Through it, the moon's light shone, illuminating Regina's coffin.

Carefully, Robin approached to the tomb and slid the upper lid open. Inside, Regina laid with her hands placed over her chest.

"She looks so peaceful," Robin commented, caressing Regina's cheek, "Just like she is sleeping."

"She is sleeping," Tinkerbell said, placing a hand on his shoulder, "We'll give you some privacy," the fairy added, motioning the other two Merry Men to follow her outside and help her carry the beggar's body that they had left on the cart.

Robin watched them leave: Will complaining about having to touch a week old corpse and Arthur reminding him that it had been his plan. When he was alone in the Mausoleum he turned his sight to Regina's sleeping body.

"My beautiful Regina," he whispered, "The moment I thought I lost you, was the moment I realised that I couldn't live without you," Robin caressed the Queen's cheeks with his thumbs, "And as the vigil days passed, I grew more and more anxious. I didn't want to wait any longer, I wanted to wake you up. But my recklessness has always brought us so much pain, so I decided to listen to your plan and to wait," he let a laugh out, "The Gods know I should have done that a long time ago,"

He smiled down at Regina, studying every inch of the Queen's beautiful face. Robin had never believed in magic before he met Regina and here he was, putting all his faith on True Love's kiss, she had brought that into his life, she had give his life a new meaning.

"I've lived a dishonest life, but there's one thing I did right: kidnapping you," Robin confessed, "And I swear, on our love, that if you come back to me, I'll become the man you deserve," he leaned over Regina's body, "I love you," the Thief added, before closing the distance between Regina's mouth and his.

They say that when you kiss your soulmate, the time slows and you the world brightens. They say that when you kiss your true love, you hear bells and you feel invincible. And now Robin believed what they said. Because as he pressed his lips against Regina's all those things happened. His blood warmed up; his heart was complete again and he felt like he could finally breath, he felt like he could challenge any man alive and walk away as victor.

The Thief slowly backed off, coming back to reality. His eyes still closed, unsure of whether he wanted to find out what happened. And then he heard her voice and it brought him back to reality - but he didn't care about the rush anymore, because it was her voice, and it was beautiful.

"Robin," his eyes opened, and then he saw her in all her glory. Regina was sitting, with a smile on her face, in front of him. She was alive and she looked at peace. She was even more ravishing and perfect than the last time he had seen her.

"Regina!" Robin cupped her cheeks and kissed her. Three times.

The Queen covered his hands with hers, accepting all the adoration and care Robin was giving her. Rejoicing in the happiness she was finally able to enjoy without any consequences - she was, once and for all, free to love and to be loved.

"Why don't we take this to another place?" they were interrupted by Will, "For example: anywhere but this bloody kingdom,"

Regina giggled, allowing herself to be happy. For the first time in her life she was unchained, for the first time in her life she could do what her heart really desired.

After Regina's place in the coffin was replaced by the beggar's corpse and Tinkerbell had performed the glamour spell, the fugitives made their way towards the forest. Leaving the graveyard, the castle and everything that had happened in the past weeks behind them.

Already inside the woods, and sheltered by the trees, they said their farewells and parted on different ways. Will Scarlet returned to his love, Anastasia, claiming his days as thief were over (he would keep his word for a month before going back to his old ways). Arthur returned to the Merry Camp, as the new leader, and promised to continue Robin Hood's noble cause. Tinkerbell had to go back to Pixie Hollow to deal with whatever consequences her actions had had, she had promised to keep an eye on Regina and to visit them every now and then - wherever they might be.

Robin and Regina watched them all take their paths, thanking them for their help and wishing them the best of luck in the lives they had chosen.

"Where to, my love?" Robin asked, as he helped Regina climbing the only thing they owned: Regina's horse. "I don't have a house to offer, nor money to buy food," he explained. He had given up his wealth when he became an outlaw, and everything he earn as a thief belong to the people, not to him.

"Wherever Rocinante might take us," she replied with a genuine smile, "As long as I am with you, I don't need anything else."

"Ready for our next adventure, then?" the Merry Man jumped and sat on the horse, behind Regina. She leaned backwards, not getting enough of being with Robin, of having him with her. No one standing in the way of their happiness, now.

"Always."

And with that, they rode away.

They rode as the sunlight broke the dark sky into a new day; and their lives into a new chapter, and new beginning.


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