The fight didn’t last very long. Half of the men had fled to the cliff where ropes helped them escape into the valley. The royal guards couldn’t follow as archers opened fire on them as they tried.
Regina was still unconscious and Emma was at a loss as to what she could do for her. She couldn’t detect a bump on Regina’s head, there was no bruising around her neck, her heart was beating but she just wouldn’t wake up.
Mulan and one of the soldiers brought the man who had attacked Regina.
Emma jumped up from the floor, running at him. “What did you do to her?” She called out, then grabbed him at his shirt and pulled him to her. He was smaller than her, her anger almost lifting him off his feet. But he didn’t answer her, he just looked at her bemusedly.
“What happened?” Robin asked as he and Little John came closer, breathless from their own fights. Robin saw Regina lying lifeless and Emma could see how his instincts made his muscles twitch. He wanted to hurt somebody badly. But he’d have to get in line for that because this little thug was hers. She shook the man by his shirt.
“What did you do to her?” she asked again.
He merely shook his head, his eyes mocking her.
“All right.” Emma pushed him back onto his feet. “Hold him,” she told Mulan and the soldier. She looked at Regina for a moment, setting her jaw in a determined line. Then she turned back to the man who’d hurt the woman she loved.
“You were one of the evil queen’s guards, yes?” she asked him and now he nodded. “Then you know what she liked to do with people’s hearts.” It was a statement, not a question. He didn’t answer her, he merely looked up at her suspiciously.
“Well, Regina isn’t the only one who’s able to pull hearts from people’s bodies, you know. I can do it,” she informed him. It wasn’t a lie but it wasn’t necessarily true either because she had never done it before. She knew how, though. Having someone try and take your heart out of your chest quickly taught you the essentials.
Emma put her hand to the man’s chest, lying it where his heart beat strongly. “I will pull your heart from you and then I will crush it to dust – and you’ll be watching,” she told him.
He didn’t seem to believe her just yet.
Emma had hoped that the threat would be enough, that she didn’t have to do this but he left her no choice. She couldn’t help Regina if she didn’t know what he’d done and she would do what it took to get that information. And nobody even tried to stop her.
Emma made a claw of the hand that had lain on the man’s chest and she pushed slightly. She felt the flesh give way under her fingertips and saw the man flinch in pain.
“I’m gonna do it slowly,” she informed him while she felt her stomach churn. “I want you to feel the pain.”
And he did. It made her sick to her stomach but she pushed her hand further into the heat of his chest. She felt life around her hand, the mechanisms of his body, his emotions, his anger, his fear. But what she mostly felt was the strong beating of his heart that led her hand forward. He cried out in pain as her knuckles disappeared in his chest.
“Noooo!!! No, I will tell, please!” he cried out.
Emma pulled her hand back quickly. She felt the urge to be sick, to collapse from the disgust she felt at herself, but she fought it down.
Regina’s attacker was already babbling.
She didn’t quite get what he was saying so she grabbed him by his shirt again. “What did you do?”
“It was poison. All our daggers were coated with it and I cut her, on her arm,” he said quickly.
Emma turned to see Robin kneel next to Regina and check for the wound. There was a deep cut on her left forearm, right through her jacket and shirt. The wound gaped angrily at Emma.
“What kind of poison?” she growled at the man.
“I don’t know.”
“Don’t make me rip your heart out, man! Tell me what poison!” Emma shook him some more, adrenaline rushing through her, making her angry, making her stronger than she had any right to be.
“I really don’t know. Marcus gave it to us. He’s got an antidote, too, but he didn’t tell us what it was. She’s got twelve hours.”
“She’s got twelve hours. She’ll be asleep but if she doesn’t get the antidote, she’s not gonna wake again.”
As fast as it had come, all strength went out of Emma’s limbs and she let go of the man. Her anger dissipated just as quickly. For a moment, she felt nothing and she collapsed next to Regina’s unconscious body. She lay her hands on it, warm but still sort of lifeless.
“I’m going to get that antidote,” Robin said.
“In twelve hours? My dad’s reinforcement haven’t even arrived yet, have they?” Emma asked, desperately.
Robin set his jaw. “We can do it. We found a way down to the valley from up here. We don’t have to take the way around.”
“They’ll be waiting for you.”
“We outnumber them,” Robin argued.
“Not even 2 to 1,” she argued back. “And they have the home advantage.”
“What else can we do?” He hissed at her.
“I’m going to get her to the castle, to Henry,” she said.
“Henry? What can he do? He doesn’t happen to be a powerful wizard, does he?”
“No, but he’s her true love. He’s gonna kiss her and she’s going to wake up,” Emma said, her confidence in her plan growing. She turned and looked at Little John. “I need that second wagon ready and a few guards, four.” Then she turned to Mulan. “I need you to drive the wagon while I take care of Regina. Will you do it?”
“I will,” Mulan said earnestly.
“We have to hurry,” Emma said, talking to all of them.
“You can’t be serious. True love’s kiss, that’s a myth. You can’t risk her life like that,” Robin argued.
“I’ve seen it work. It worked for my parents and it worked for Henry when he fell under a sleeping curse,” she told him.
“You saw it work?”
“I made it work,” she said and they looked at each other.
There was a battle going on at that moment, between blue and green eyes, between Robin and Emma, a battle of wills.
And then Robin said something that surprised them all, “If you think it’ll work, let me try it.”
“I want to try to wake her with a kiss,” he said.
“You’re not her true love,” she told him, her hand reaching out to grab his shirt to keep him from trying anything. She pushed at him, her other hand on Regina. She would not let him kiss her.
“How do you know?”
“It’s Henry, she told me,” Emma argued.
“But what if it’s not anymore. What if she has feelings for me and I could save her right here, right now? Would you rather drive all the way to the castle, possibly arriving too late and thus risk her life when the solution, the cure could be right here?”
Emma started shaking. She wanted to push Robin away but her strength once again left her in the face of this possibility. Regina had said she liked Robin. What if she hadn’t let herself feel more because she knew that it was impossible? What if Robin was right? He certainly felt it, Emma could see it in his eyes.
Her own filled with tears and she lowered her head, at the same time losing the grip on his shirt.
“Do it,” she said but as he leaned down over Regina, she had to look away.
Robin put his lips to Regina’s and nothing happened. She didn’t wake, she didn’t even stir.
Emma didn’t know whether to feel relieved or devastated. She didn’t want Regina to love Robin, but she did want her to regain consciousness.
Robin looked up at her then away in embarrassment.
“All right, let’s move,” Emma said. “We need to get her to the wagon ASAP.”
“What is ASAP?” one of the soldiers asked.
“As soon as possible, make that as fast as possible. Little John?” She called to him.
He nodded and stepped closer. He knelled next to Regina, in the spot Robin had left vacant when he stood up, and lifted her into his arms.
“How can we get out of here quickest?” Emma asked Mulan.
“We came down here from the north, there is a way that goes all the way from the top of that hill to the valley. But it’s a long trek, we’ll lose time. There should be a way to get out of here if we go further south,” Mulan said with confidence.
“You don’t know that,” Robin said. “We could waste precious time searching for a way when we already know a way out of here.”
Emma looked at him. She knew he only wanted to help but Regina’s welfare wasn’t his responsibility, it was hers.
“We try south, but just in case we need assistance I need some of those soldiers to ride the north route and alert the men on the hill. They should be able to pull us out with ropes, if all else fails,” she said.
“I’ll go,” Robin said and jumped onto his horse. “You two with me. The rest of you make sure everybody gets out safe,” he commanded and then spurred his horse to ride north, two of the soldiers following him.
“Let’s go,” Emma said and the rest of them set out south.
It only took them about half an hour to reach a place where they could actually climb up and reach the narrow road that led up the hill. It wasn’t effortlessly but with the horses they had and Little John giving everyone a lift, they managed. They made it back to the crossroads where most of their trek still waited in just over an hour. It was now before half past seven, about one and a half hours since Regina had been wounded.
Little John ordered the second supply wagon to be emptied but it all went too slowly for Emma. She ordered some of the soldiers to help.
One of them had the nerve to mumble under his breath, “I don’t know why we bother. She’s the evil queen.”
Emma grabbed him by his armor, pushing his helmet from his head. He was a young man, only a few years older than Henry. “You don’t know, that’s right. You don’t know that that woman saved your king and queen’s lives, together with mine and our son’s You don’t know that this woman regrets, that she’s still waking from nightmares over what she’s done. And you don’t know that she’s her worst enemy and that she would rather die than ever be responsible for a single death, a single wound inflicted in her name. She just... she could die because she’s not that person anymore. She hates the person she’s been,” she yelled at him, tears in her eyes.
“I hate her too,” the soldier said.
She let go of him. “Well, she cares for you,” she told him and pushed another soldier out of the way as she started pulling boxes out of the wagon. The soldier she had reprimanded picked up his helmet, but then gave it to one of his fellow soldiers to help Emma lift a big box of apples out of the wagon. Everybody seemed a little bit more motivated after that and soon the wagon was ready. Four guards mounted their horses and two more horses were tied to the back of the wagon after Little John had put Regina inside.
Robin still wasn’t back, but Emma didn’t want to wait for him. She didn’t have the time. They only had about ten hours to get to the castle and that would cut it very short. If there were any delays, they might not make it.
“You might wanna take everyone up the hill, John. Robin probably wants to attack as soon as possible,” she said to him as she climbed into the wagon.
“Yeah, I figure as much, though we’ll need those reinforcements badly.”
“My father will have sent them as soon as he’s gotten the message, I’m sure of it,” she said. “They’ll be on their way, we’ll probably meet them.”
He nodded. “Well, good luck, Emma. I hope Regina makes it, she’s a lovely lady,” he said and grabbed Emma’s arm in a goodbye.
“We’ll make it, we’ll have to,” she gave back and then she called to Mulan on the driver’s seat. “Let’s go, Mulan!”
The wagon jerked into movement and Emma sat down next to Regina’s sleeping body. She took her hand in her own, feeling the steady beating of her pulse.