Three days later Emma stood on the dais of the throne room again, but in front of a blessedly smaller crowd. The crown on her head weighed heavily. She really did hate when she had to wear this thing, she much preferred the tiaras she wore to less formal occasions. They didn’t weigh a ton and have to be pinned in place because they were slightly too big. But of course for the most formal of occasions the crown of the heir to the throne was what she had to wear. It had been around almost as long as the kingdom had. Emma severely wished that somewhere along the line it had gotten lost, but of course not.
She looked up as the doors opened. Regina was there, standing regally in her rather elaborate coronation gown. They had been able to fight for simple things for their wedding, but coronations had set in stone standards. The dress had enough diamonds and gold thread sewn through it to feed the kingdom for three months, sweeping up from the floor and covering almost every inch of Regina. The brunette stepped forward, servants following her carrying the long train of her dress. She looked magnificent in her dress of white and gold. The colors of the kingdom rather suited her, Emma thought.
She couldn’t help but thinking as Regina walked up the aisle under the eyes of the nobility that she was glad that her own coronation had been when she was a few weeks old. She couldn’t imagine going through it now, everyone watching and waiting for a slip up to invalidate your claim on the kingdom. Emma had triple checked that everything her parents were telling Regina at the few practice sessions that they had had was right. She hadn’t put it past her mother to do something quite so underhanded after inviting Cora to the wedding. But everything had been the same, so she had relaxed, if only slightly.
While she would have been nervous, Regina looked calm and self-assured, even as she climbed the stairs, looking dead into Emma’s eyes. Her political mask was flawless, but her eyes always told Emma the truth, and even here in front of so many people she was somehow collected. Emma envied that. Regina could only teach her so much and she wasn’t sure being so calm in front of a crowd was one of them.
Regina stopped in front of Emma and sunk to the ground, head bowed. Emma felt her mother come up beside her, skirts rustling softly. She resisted the urge to look over and observe the woman. In the few days since the wedding she hadn’t seen her mother for much more than the council meetings and practice sessions. She was still torn between whether she wanted to apologize or hold her ground on everything she had said, but the time apart had at least given her a chance to cool down now that everything wasn’t so life and death with the wedding and the investigation of Regina, which had officially ended with their vows a few days prior. Snow was being a rather royal pain in the ass, but she was still her mother.
Her mother cleared her throat and addressed Regina. “Regina, formerly of House Mills, now of House White why do you appear before us?”
“To take my rightful place as a princess of the kingdom beside my beloved spouse Emma of House White,” Regina told the ground, never looking up.
Emma saw her mother nod just slightly out of the corner of her eye. “And you find yourself worthy of such position?”
“Only if the kingdom sees fit, your majesty.”
The Queen turned towards the crowd. “And does the kingdom see fit?”
There was a slight pause before a low grumble of assent made its way through the room. No one objected though, and that was the most important part. Still, Emma logged a few faces who had said nothing at all and kept the information for later use.
“Then as Queen I give my blessing for you to take your place as princess among my court.” Snow handed Regina the scepter of the original king.
“I am eternally grateful, your majesty.” Regina looked up just enough to take the scepter and looked back down again quickly.
Snow White stepped back towards her throne.
Emma cleared her throat this time. It was her turn to speak. “Regina of House White, do you intend to help me, your honorable wife, rule the kingdom to the best of your ability?”
“I do, your highness.”
“And you will not use the powers given to you against me?”
“Never, your highness.”
Emma felt herself relaxing just slightly. Only one more line to go. “Then as crown Princess of the kingdom I give my blessing for you to take your place as princess at my side.” She stepped forward and looped the Star of the Kingdom over Regina’s head. The large jewel settled itself against Regina’s breasts, sparkling wildly. Emma stepped towards her own throne, a step down from her mother and father’s.
The kingdom’s high priest stepped forward, standing in front of Regina now. “Regina of the House White, do you promise to guide the people of this kingdom, never leading them astray?”
“I do, your holiness.”
“And you shall serve the gods just the same?”
“I will, your holiness.”
“Then rise, my child, and take your throne.”
Regina stood gracefully and walked to the new throne on the right of Emma’s. The girls who had been carrying her train scurried over and helped her adjust her skirts so she could sit down. Once she was settled the priest walked over, a less ornate crown in his hands. Regina looked over the crowd with bright eyes as the man made it to her side.
“Then as high priest of this kingdom I give my blessing and that of the gods for you to take your rightful place as a princess of this kingdom.” He gently settled the crown on top of her head and stepped back.
The crier stepped forward now. “All rise!”
Everyone in the room stood as one. Emma glanced over at Regina, a small smile breaking through her regal façade. Regina looked a lot better than she did in a crown. She was so glad that she was her wife in more than one way.
“Kneel for your new Princess, Regina of House White.”
Everyone in the room knelt, head bowed as Regina had earlier, save for Emma and her parents who bowed and curtsied low enough to convey respect for someone of a slightly lower station.
Regina stood and took a step forward, pausing for only a moment before speaking. “You may rise.”
Again the room stood as one.
Emma stepped forward and took Regina’s arm. Regina looked over at her and smiled and Emma returned the gesture before looking out at the crowd again with a straight face. Regina squeezed her arm once and Emma leaned into the other woman. The strength the other woman lent her was a gods send.
“Presenting the Princesses of the White Kingdom, Princess Emma and her wife Princess Regina!” The crier called again.
The room bowed and curtsied before filing out slowly, ceremony over. There would be another feast soon within the hour, but for now everything was finished. Emma sighed as the last person left and smiled freely at Regina now. She hip checked the other woman, but wasn’t sure she felt it through all of the padding her dress provided.
“Princess Regina,” Emma teased.
“Yes, Princess Emma.”
Emma heard the eye roll in the tone. “Nothing, just sounds nice.”
They both fell silent as her mother walked up to the both of them. The Queen’s eyes roved over them, detached and cool. Emma felt equal parts ire and fear well up within her at the look. It was so utterly wrong to have her mother look at her in such a way.
“Emma, Regina.” Snow nodded to both of them.
“Your majesty.” Regina curtsied shallowly.
“Mother.” Emma braced herself for whatever was about to happen. She couldn’t think that it would be anything good, not with the way her mother was looking at the both of them.
Her mother’s gaze fixed squarely on Regina. “Regina, now that you are a princess of the kingdom I rather think there are traditions you should uphold.”
“I have upheld all those to do with the wedding and coronation. I do not see what other traditions there are to uphold.”
Emma’s stomach bottomed out. What in the world was her mother getting at?
“Yes, that you have, but there are quite a few others, mostly dealing with propriety and how a princess must act. As a former princess of the Dark Kingdom you must understand.”
“I do, but as I have been a princess for less than half an hour I do not see how I could have acted in any way that is not befitting a princess. Even before today I conducted myself with the utmost care. What could possibly be your complaint?”
Snow’s eyes flicked to the guards that were dotted at regular intervals around the room. She looked back at Regina after a long second.
Emma saw the very second Regina understood what was happening. Her eyes widened just a fraction and her face paled a few shades. Emma herself was a few seconds behind, fury rising when she understood as well.
“Surely you understand.” Snow smiled fakely at the both of them.
“No, I rather think I don’t,” Regina said, hands clenching at her sides.
“It just won’t do for a princess of the White Kingdom to also be a knight. It’s just not proper.”
“And yet if she were a man there would be absolutely no debate. If I was a man I would be required to be a knight, but since I am a woman I was denied the right. The tournament was held so I could find someone who could protect me, and Regina being a knight does just that.”
“But now she’s a princess and that comes first and foremost.”
“First and foremost to the protection of the heir of the kingdom? In what world does that even make sense, mother?” Emma felt herself flushing with anger and cursed her fair complexion. She could control her facial expression all she wanted in the moment, but her pale skin would give her anger away.
“The world in which we are trying to make certain that other kingdoms think we are a force to be reckoned with, and with that comes perfectly traditional princesses.”
“That doesn’t make any sense either. We are a force to be reckoned with because of who we are now, the princess and her knight. We could be the head of state and the head of the army, knowing completely what each one takes to run and is capable of. Regina is capable of being the perfect princess when the time calls for it, but also a warrior.” Emma looked at her mother with hard eyes.
“Those are not mutually exclusive, as you’ve well seen. Did I look anything like a knight today playing through the script for the coronation? Did I stumble once? Did I even look like anything other than the picture perfect princess? No. I did not, you and I are both aware of it.” Regina’s color had come back in full force, her eyes shining brightly now that she was fighting back. She loved her job as a knight. She didn’t want to lose it.
“Perhaps not today, but if this continues you will slip up somewhere along the line and then the kingdom will look like a weak little country that can’t even control its princesses. Where will we be then?” Snow took a step back, triumph in her eyes.
“We won’t ever be there. I grew up in a kingdom where a slip up had more consequences than you will ever realize. I do not slip up. Ever. That is why I am one of your best knights and have been since I arrived.”
Emma reached out and grabbed Regina’s wrist. The other woman calmed just a little at the touch, but both of them were a little too far gone for the contact to do much.
“That is of no matter to me now.”
Emma took a step forward, still staying connected to Regina. “Mother, you’re being unreasonable.”
“No, both of you are the unreasonable ones.” The Queen turned to Regina. “As of now you are stripped of your title as knight and your position on the guard. Your armor has already been collected under my instruction. I allowed you to keep your sword out of the graciousness of my heart, remember that in the future.”
With that she turned and walked from the room, leaving the two of them looking after for a long moment.
Regina turned to her, shaking now that no one was there to witness it. Emma turned to her and drew the other woman into her arms loosely. Unsteady hands gripped her dress and labored breathing filled her ear. Emma took deep breaths, trying to calm herself so she could be Regina’s rock right then. There was absolutely no way now that she would ever take back what she had said to her mother, or ever apologize. The woman had hurt Regina twice now. There was no coming back from that. Once may have been coincidence, but twice was a pattern. This was pure retaliation for what she had said before the wedding. Fury burned white hot within her, but she pushed it down for another time.
“We’ll find some way to get you back onto the guard. We won’t take this laying down.” Emma’s hands stroked up and down Regina’s back in what she hoped was a comforting manner. “Until then she didn’t forbid you from practicing, only from your position on the guard.”
Regina drew her in a little bit tighter and nodded into her hair. “Yes, there is that.”
“Your sword though…I’d hide it. It means too much to you to have my mother take it away in a fit of rage.”
Regina nodded again. “I’ll take care of it later tonight.”
“We’ll slip out of the feast early. Everyone still expects it since we were married less than a week ago. We’re in no state for prolonged exposure to such idiocy.”
Regina had stopped shaking so hard now, only slight tremors wracking her body. Emma drew back just slightly to look at the other woman. Regina’s eyes met hers, full of onyx fire. She leaned forward and placed a gentle kiss on Regina’s forehead, standing on her tip toes. A smile crossed Regina’s face for a second, before fading back into the fury.
“Now come, let us go feast with fools and get this over with.”
Regina nodded, stepping back and leading her from the room.
Emma startled up out of bed as the door to her bedroom flew open. Her hand immediately found its way to the dagger that she kept under her pillow, but she stopped short of pulling it out. Regina was scrabbling around in her things muttering under her breath. The replacement sword she had acquired after hiding her original sword went flying across the room in its scabbard. Emma entertained the idea of getting up and trying to comfort the obviously distressed woman, but then Regina was throwing off her shirt and Emma stayed put, averting her eyes.
When the rustle of cloth stopped Emma snuck a quick glance to make sure it was safe once more. Regina had already thrown on another outfit and was digging through her chest of various possessions. She pulled a dart board from the chest along with a handful of darts. A flick of her wrist and the board was floating across the room, affixing itself to the wall. Regina followed behind it, positioning herself a decent distance away and then letting the darts in her hand fly one by one with deadly accuracy and force.
Emma now slipped from the bed, walking over to the other woman. She laid a gentle hand on the shoulder of the arm Regina wasn’t using for throwing. The knight stilled for a second before going back to flinging darts. The last dart hit the board with a thunk and then Regina turned to Emma.
“What’s wrong?” Emma asked. She watched Regina’s fist clench hard. To break the other woman’s calm façade something big had to have happened. If she was right her mother was probably at the bottom of it.
“What’s wrong? What’s wrong? What isn’t wrong at this juncture?” Regina spat.
Emma knew it wasn’t her that she was truly mad at, but the words stung nonetheless.
At the hurt look on Emma’s face, Regina softened a little. “Sorry, I didn’t mean it like that, it’s just…your mother is an absolute snake. Keeping the urge to throttle her in check is taking every ounce of willpower right now.”
She sighed heavily. Of course she was right and her mother was at the heart of the problem. The pattern continued it seemed. “What has she done now?”
“She didn’t just order for the stripping of my title as a knight and a member of the guard, no of course not, that would be much too nice apparently.” Regina ran a hand through her hair, pulling rather ruthlessly at the tangles. “She also ordered the other guards not to practice with me or else they would be let go. Not only did she take my job from me, but she took any real practice away from me so I can’t keep up my skills.” Regina let out a huff. “My mother was a tyrannical dictator of a Queen, but at least she allowed me sword lessons.” She summoned the darts back to her hand and started throwing them harder, never missing.
“What? How can she even do that? That’s completely idiotic. You’re one of her best fighters, letting your skills get rusty in a time such as this is suicide. Stripping your title and position is one childish thing, this is quite another.” Emma felt the fury rise within her. No wonder Regina was so angry.
“Emma, she’s gone too far. I’m not sure she’s going to stop until you capitulate to her will. You must talk to your father and see if he can get her under control.” Her next dart landed dead center in the bulls eye. “Because at this rate I will kill her, high treason or not. That is if she doesn’t get us killed somehow first.”
“I’ll talk to him, but Regina I’m not going to take back what I said to her. The way she’s been acting I can’t.”
“Nor do I expect you to, but something has to change or your mother will run us all into the ground for her own petty squabbles. She’s ruined enough about this kingdom. She need not ruin more.”
“But how will anything change if I don’t offer something. Right now I’m going to her with a literal cease and desist order, but she’s the Queen and doesn’t have to listen.”
Regina heaved a sigh, the dart leaving her hand with less force. “I know. I’m just—”
“I know, trust me, I really do get it.” Emma squeezed Regina’s shoulder comfortingly. “In the meantime while I talk to my father do you think some of the peasants and merchants in the surrounding villages would train with you?”
Regina looked thoughtful for a long moment. “Perhaps. There are a few villages and towns surrounding the palace that are within teleporting distance. Any men there won’t nearly be skilled enough to present a real challenge, but it’s something.”
Emma nodded. “Yeah. You always could challenge a few of the nobles, mother hasn’t forbidden them to fight against you and they would be more skilled than a peasant would.”
“That is also a possibility, but nobles tend to want to bet something on spars and I have nothing, or at least nothing that I would want to part with.” Regina threw the last dart again and turned to face Emma fully once more. “If your mother wasn’t acting as some petty teenage school girl then this wouldn’t be a problem.”
Emma snorted. “Believe me, I’ve thought something along the same lines a lot recently.” She stretched now that the crisis was over and Regina was at least a little calmer. She definitely hadn’t been ready to get up just yet. The sun was just starting to come up now. She yawned. “If you’re not training, come back to bed. There’s still a couple hours before we have to be up.”
Emma shivered as she felt Regina’s eyes rake over her, still in her nightgown. She’d been getting more and more of those hungry looks from the other woman since their wedding and she wasn’t quite opposed. She also wasn’t opposed when Regina stepped forward and drew her into a kiss. She sighed into it, wrapping herself around Regina. Kissing the other woman had become one of her favorite things to do.
“I suppose that can be arranged. I can start out to the villages tomorrow and find a few sparring partners. To keep up appearances though I should at least try to be seen every now and again doing solo drills in the yard.” Regina smiled down at Emma.
“Good, then it’s solved for now at least.” She pulled the other woman back towards the bed.
Regina slipped off her boots and crawled into bed beside Emma. Emma was pleased to find that the covers were still warm. She curled up, yawning again. Within a few seconds Regina was wrapped around her from behind. Emma smiled and started to drift off almost immediately.
Emma stared at the door of her father’s den. She wasn’t sure at all how she was going to be received. She didn’t have to worry about her mother being there at least. Snow White never graced her father’s den, disgusted at the amount of stuffed animals hung around the room from her father’s various hunts. But her mother not physically being there didn’t mean that she couldn’t influence the course the conversation would take. If he father believed the lies her mother was spreading about Regina and magic this might not go well.
Still, she stepped up to the door and knocked, this conversation needed to happen before anything got worse. She would die if her mother somehow found a way to ban her from riding or exiting the palace grounds. She needed what little freedom she could get to be able to put up with the idiots of the council and all the other annoyances of court life. She knew Regina was of the same mind.
“Come in,” her father’s voice came, muffled through the wood of the door.
Emma stepped inside and smiled hesitantly at her father. He returned the smile, bright and warm. He stood from his chair and crossed the room to Emma.
“Emma, I haven’t seen you outside of dinner and council meetings in what seems like forever.” He hugged her close.
Emma buried her face in his jacket and inhaled. He smelled like smoke and the woods and it always reminded her of her childhood. “Yeah, it’s been a little busy lately, sorry.”
“It’s ok, little bird.” He gestured for her to sit.
Emma walked over to her favorite chair and flopped down. She glanced around, feeling the dead eyes of the animals staring at her. Truth be told she wasn’t really fond of this room either. The taxidermied animals freaked her out just as much as decorative dolls, something about the eyes just gave her the creeps. But this room had always been the only place that she could get some alone time with her father without her mother or anyone else, so she tolerated it.
Her father sat down in his own seat after stoking the fire just a little. “And your mother hasn’t been making it easy on you either.”
Emma sighed and slumped further down in her seat. Her father always did have a way of knowing what she was truly there to talk about. She found it slightly unnerving, if good to get the conversation going.
“Easy for me? No, she hasn’t been making easy for Regina is really the problem. That’s where everything between her and I started.” Emma rolled her eyes to the ceiling. “Or at least that’s where it came to a head. I’m starting to believe that this may have been a while in the making.”
“What do you mean?”
“Just, it’s been a long time since I felt she really wholly approved of me and how I act. I think even without Regina as the catalyst, as soon as I started taking being a princess seriously mother and I would’ve butted heads because how I want to do things is so different from what she wants.”
Her father nodded his head. “That’s true. A great deal of both of our philosophies found their way into you and then combined into something wholly new, something I think has a good chance of succeeding. Your mother, well, she’s stubborn as a mule though and always thinks she’s right.”
Emma snorted. “Tell me something I don’t know.”
“I think she’ll come around sooner rather than later, little bird.”
“I don’t know, father, I’ve said some things in the past few weeks that I’m not exactly sure we can come back from so easily and vice versa. The longer this goes on the farther she digs herself into a hole with me. Father, these attacks on Regina have to stop. She stripped her of her title as a knight and of her position on the guard. There was no call for it! There was no call for the investigation into Regina either or inviting her mother to the wedding. She has to be stopped before it goes farther. I don’t want to be trapped within the palace because my own mother wants to make my wife and I prisoners in a gilded cage.”
“She won’t do that, Emma. She knows how much you love the outdoors.”
“That’s the thing, though, she’s taking everything we love. Regina loved her job. She loved practicing with the other men. Mother’s taken both of those things from her.”
Her father scowled. “She had a reason. She discussed it with me.”
“The reasons she gave was total idiocy. If Regina was a man she would almost have to be knight and no one would be questioning her right to practice with the other guards. Regina won my hand in marriage because of how good she is physically. Such parameters were set because my significant other had to know how to protect the kingdom and now mother is interfering with her ability to do so.”
Her father’s head titled to the side. “I see what you’re saying, little bird, I do. What you’re mother has told me of everything I haven’t wholly agreed with, but you know her, she won’t take no for an answer. But if it’s truly making you unhappy I’ll try to talk to her about it. I make no guarantees.”
“Thank you, father.” Emma sighed and leaned back in her chair again, almost horizontal in the seat now. She shot up after a second though. “Wait, what do you mean, haven’t wholly agreed with everything mother has said?”
Her father shrugged. “I think she’s going a bit overboard, but she has a point, especially with the investigation into Regina.”
Emma glared over to her father. “Not you too,” she huffed.
He held his hands up, palms out. “Don’t get me wrong, Regina seems like a very good match for you, but you never can be too careful. She does have magic after all, it’s better to check if you’re under the influence of a spell early on, you know?”
Emma scowled. “Fine, maybe there was a little bit of a point to that, but that only came after I angered mother. Her intentions weren’t wholly pure.”
“Maybe not, little bird, but it still would’ve been done probably.”
Emma sighed. “Yeah, ok fine. Everything else though.”
Her father crossed his arms. “Everything else was a little much, yes.”
Emma smiled slightly, triumphant. At least her father seemed to be partly on her side, more like directly in the middle, but she would take was she could get.
“I’m glad you agree.”
Her father smiled at her. “Remember, I probably don’t find it quite as offensive as you do, little bird.”
Emma rolled her eyes. “Yes, but still, an agreement means something.”
“Fair enough, like I said, I’ll talk to her, ask her to not do anything else to the two of you and perhaps plant the seed of apology in her mind, but if she follows what I ask that is up to her. I’m not about to take away her choice in the matter, then both of us would be facing a rather large war and I don’t think that would be good for anyone involved.”
“That’s all I could ask for.” Emma smiled at her father. “And no, mother being mad at both of us would lead to a rather interesting atmosphere around the palace that no one would like.”
Her father nodded. “Understatement.”
Emma sat up again, situating herself in the chair normally. “Just as long as she doesn’t try to contact Regina’s mother again. Regina was genuinely fearful at the prospect that she would show up. She’s still worried that she’ll appear out of the blue sometime soon even if her mother didn’t attend the wedding. I don’t want her worrying like that. I want to be able to protect her in at least one way since she’s already protecting me in all the other ways.”
Her father’s mouth twitched up at the corners. “Protecting your spouse at all costs is an important task.” He reached out and squeezed the hand resting on the arm of the chair nearest to him.
“She’s worried that she won’t be able to protect me because of the ban my mother has put on her on practicing with the men. She’s afraid she’ll get rusty.” Regina had actually found a rather good sparring partner in one of the villages around the palace, but she wasn’t about to tell her father that when she could be getting Regina’s job back just by sitting there talking. Her father had always been rather good about sensing what she truly needed from what she asked. Hopefully that would translate into now as well.
“She’s very skilled. I’m confident she’ll figure something out.” Her father looked at her with a knowing twinkle in his eyes, but said nothing.
“I do hope.”
“Don’t worry, little bird, I have a feeling with the two of you working as a team there won’t be much that you can’t get past.”
“Except for mother.” Emma snorted.
“Well, everyone has their limits. I’ve been married to your mother for twenty-three years and still if she wants to do something or act some way there’s nothing I can really do once she makes up her mind.” He looked at Emma. “A lot like another woman I know.”
“Father,” she whined. “Not exactly what I want to hear at the moment.”
He ruffled her hair. “I know, but it doesn’t hurt you to hear it. You are your mother’s daughter no matter if you two are fighting or not.”
Emma furiously straightened her hair. “You never know, it could.”
“Uh huh.” Her father shot her a skeptical look. “So, are we on for our usual monthly hunt on Saturday?”
Emma lit up. “Of course.”
They started into a conversation about what sort of hunt they would have and Emma dropped the topic of her mother easily. She had gotten what she truly at come for, a confirmation that her father was at least going to try to do something. There was no real use beating a dead horse to her father. Such things could be used later if really necessary. When their conversation about hunting ended Emma left, saying her goodbyes and heading back to Regina and their latest princess duties.