She Promised Me Love

2

Emma reentered her parent’s castle through the massive front doors. She had been walking around the grounds for some time. It had been impressive and she had let the impression divert her thoughts away from her conversation with Regina deliberately. Because, really, there was nothing to think about there. Regina was in one of her moods, she had made what Emma felt was an insensitive remark; it wasn’t that uncommon.

Emma stopped in her tracks when she noticed someone standing in the wide arch of the entrance hall.

“Mulan?” she exclaimed, surprised. Emma started walking toward her. Mulan turned, a small smile on her face.

“Emma,” she said, her voice already conveying the respect she had for her.

Emma simply hugged her to convey her own emotions, she was smiling at Mulan.

“What are you doing here? Mom told me you were working for Aurora and Phillip, some kind of bodyguard?”

“I am the chief of the king and queen’s personal guard, yes,” Mulan answered proudly.

“That’s great. I mean that you and Aurora and Phillip are still kind of hanging out. Aurora must be glad to have such a fierce protector and friend, of course.”

Mulan merely nodded quietly.

“So, why are you here? Did you come to see Snow?”

“I came with Robin Hood, on official business for King Phillip. Robin has found out about a group of marauders. We don’t know what they’re up to yet, but Robin tries to get the surrounding kingdoms to put together a small army to arrest or possibly fight these people. They seem dangerous, very sneaky, too. Phillip sent me and twenty men to help, he hopes your father will do the same.”

Emma nodded to this. “I met Hood earlier, he seems... capable.”

“He is a great warrior.”

Emma knew that this was about the highest compliment Mulan could give and felt that Robin Hood was a force to be reckoned with - not that she didn’t already know that from the original tale. Of course, tale and the human being who inspired it weren’t always necessarily the same thing. Regina wasn’t anymore.

“He mentioned that he’s a widower. Do you know how his wife died?” Emma couldn’t help asking. While Regina didn’t remember killing the woman, Marian might have been among her victims without her knowing it. They had both been aware of that possibility. Emma hoped that this wasn’t the case, that there wasn’t a blood trail that would follow Regina everywhere in the Enchanted Forest.

“He mentioned Marian? He rarely does that. She died in childbirth, about six years ago.”

“The child?”

“Oh, Roland is doing well. He’s very much one of the Merry Men.” Mulan smiled

Emma answered it in kind. She was relieved, in truth, more than she would have admitted to. She went back to their earlier conversation. “Does Hood know where those thugs hide out?”

“Well, you know how dense the woods are around here, but Robin believes they’re hiding out in several camps in at least four kingdoms. One’s Phillip’s, one’s your parents’, the third one is reigned by Eric, and the fourth... it was the Evil Queen’s,” Mulan said with a meaningful look.

“Shouldn’t that be part of this kingdom now? I mean, it was Leopold’s, right, my grandfather’s?”

Mulan nodded. “Yes, but... well, after the curse broke there was fighting everywhere and the abandoned kingdoms were raided. But the kingdom of the Evil Queen, people pretty much burned it to the ground, salted the earth. They knew that it was all her doing, that it was her curse that brought unrest and anarchy to the kingdoms. There’s not much left of it, and nothing to do with it.”

“I never knew,” Emma said thoughtfully.

“It has become a ghostly kingdom, nothing grows, only very few people live there and certainly no honorable ones.”

“And my parents do nothing about it, that doesn’t sound like them,” Emma argued.

“They tried at first but they met with resistance from their own people. They believe that the land has absorbed the queen’s evil. They don’t want anything to do with it, they don’t want their king and queen to have anything to do with it. Somehow the people have made their own curse. I hear, trolls live there, some ogres and now this gang of thugs, Robin heard about. Their camps are very difficult to detect. We could use your skills to find them, Emma.”

“Well, I’m here for my brother’s birthday. I don’t think my parents would be too thrilled if I went searching for some marauders in the wilderness.”

“It’s almost a week until the prince’s ball. Maybe you can help for a couple of days. Robin would appreciate it and so would I. We haven’t seen each other for awhile, I would like to catch up.”

“I’ll think about it,” Emma promised. “Are you staying for dinner? I would like for you to meet Henry.”

“I think we will and I would be honored to meet your son. I’ve heard a rumor that... that the Evil Queen...”

“Regina, Mulan, her name is Regina, and she’s not evil anymore,” Emma interrupted.

“So it’s true, she’s here?”

“Yes, she is. You’re gonna meet her if you stay for dinner.”

Mulan frowned.

“I know, but believe me, she’s nothing like her mother. Not anymore.”

“Cora almost killed Aurora,” Mulan said darkly.

“I know and I’m not saying that the Evil Queen wouldn’t have. She certainly killed enough people, but she’s different now. She changed.”

“I’m not sure that I believe in redemption such as this, Emma. She was never punished for what she’s done here. She just gets to live far away with you and your son--”

“We’re not living together,” Emma interrupted quickly.

Mulan looked at her questioningly. “You don’t live in the same kingdom? Snow told me that you did.”

“Well, we live in the same town but... well, we share custody of Henry and we see each other pretty much every day. But we’re not living together.”

“It seems an awfully mild form of exile if one gets to keep one’s family.”

“That was the deal Regina made with my parents.”

“And she gets to visit here, too,” Mulan argued further.

Emma wasn’t sure what to say to this. In a way, she understood Mulan’s argument, but she knew more about Regina’s story. She knew about the things Regina had lost, the things and people who had made her into who everybody ultimately called ‘the Evil Queen.’

“She’s not evil anymore. She deserves to live her life, with Henry and... well, she deserves it, believe me.”

Mulan nodded thoughtfully. “I take your word for it.”

“Let’s see if we can find Snow and the kids. They should be around here somewhere. You can meet Henry,” Emma changed the subject and led Mulan away into the recesses of the castle.

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