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The Invader and The Yellow Rose

Chapter Text

Chaos. War was always chaos.

Thoughts were lost, decision-making was rash, brutality, bloodshed, and the feeling of hopelessness always soon followed. For a knight's life is all darkness and death was a gift. To die in battle was the greatest gift of them all. It was the screams though, the men's last dying words were screams that would keep her up at night. Cowards. No brave man should scream when they're about to die. But the wails of the knights receiving their final gifts turned her stomach. Belle tried her best to tune them out. She began to hum a sweet ballad in her head that her mother would sing to her when she was younger. Her humming caused the fighting to stop and the knights were dancing. Belle was dancing too, while slashing through the knights, stepping over the entrails of her fresh kills. Her armor dripped with the blood of her fallen enemies. A knight foolishly came charging at her. She twirled gracefully dodging the attack before bringing her sword up and slashing through the man from shoulder to waist, nearly cutting him in half. Another came rushing to her with a sword, swinging his blade through the air to crash and parry the blow of Belle's steel. Belle and the knight fought it out until her blade was knocked out from her hand. She fell to the ground ready to accept her gift as the knight loomed over her with a brazen chuckle. Then suddenly an arrow protruded through the man's breastplate, sending him toppling over to the ground, killing him. She looked to the trees and smiled at Mulan for saving her life before returning to the battle. Belle and her force of 2,000 knights bred hard in sword and shield continued to break down the rank of his knights until no one was left. The Knights of Avonlea cheered their victory for they would live to see another day. Belle did not cheer. She didn't view this day as any sort of victory. He eluded her once again. Life was not a victory for her, only death. His death.

xox0xox

Still. No movement.

His eyes told no tales or intentions. He could have planned to kill her right then and there, and she wouldn't have guessed it. His eyes were still, no movement was behind them as he focused on her. Through his focus, she felt like she and him were the only two people at the Line of Treaty. The winds were high and rippled the banners. On his side, a criss dagger with a black hilt and a single ruby at its end splayed his flag. Belle's banner was a single yellow rose, overgrown thorns running down its green stem. The horse she sat upon shift it's weight on the muddy grassy dale. Though it didn't break her will, her eyes remained on him, just as his eyes remained on her. Belle knew he was waiting for her to make the first move, so she could play right into his trap. Belle was wise. Despite being only 19 years old, she had the wisdom of a true queen, making it impossible to trick her.

"I looked for you on the battlefield," Belle said simply.

"I wasn't there."

"Very fortunate for you then."

He smirked. "Pray tell, Yellow Rose. If I had been on the battlefield, would your blade have been in my belly?"

"Aye, and your chest too."

He giggles. "And there are the thorns." He said sitting upon his black steed. "What's stopping you Yellow Rose? This may be the Line of Treaty, but both of us have our swords." He places his hand on the hilt of his steel. "Would you care to dance?"

"You think I'm a fool Rumplestiltskin. I know you're the greatest swordsman in all of the kingdoms."

"My reputation precedes me." He mocked.

"That it does, however your leadership skills do not." Belle saw the change in his expression. "A true shame, it was so easy to cut down the ranks of the greatest swordsman whom ever lived."

He did not laugh nor smirk this time.

"Sweet Belle, A rose indeed. So beautiful and alluring, but a hidden unsuspecting danger lurks beneath her beauty." He said wearing a coy smile. "Aye, you have won battles Yellow Rose, but the war is yet to be over. Bend the knee and pledge your fealty to me and no more bloodshed will ensue."

"My knees do not bend quite as easily as you think Rumplestiltskin."

"Then I will drench your kingdom in its own blood. So says the rightful King." He turns his black steed around and gallops off along with two of his knights.

Belle was able to exhale. She watches him leave until he fades into the distance. Belle then commanded her convoy back to Avonlea.

xox0xox

Rumplestiltskin.

The man was as powerful as he was a mystery. He was an invader from another land called the Enchanted Forest. He and his army of 20,000 soldiers had been raiding multiple kingdoms until the audacious Kings lost all and had no choice but to relinquish their crowns to Rumplestiltskin. Now he was after the kingdom of Avonlea and Belle wouldn't let that stand. The Queen was young, but resilient. She wouldn't let her land be taken from her without a fight. She didn't like war, but she did agree with it. Especially when it came to fighting for what was right.

After a battle, Belle would always call upon her handmaiden to prepare her a bath. Ruby was a slave. Born only to make Belle's life easier. She was taught in the art of performing only to please the needs of Belle.

"My Queen, how was your meeting with the invader?" She said pouring warm water from a basin down Belle's auburn hair, scrubbing the dirt and grime from it.

"It did not fare well. He wants me to bend the knee. He wants to take my kingdom from me Ruby." She said with her head tilted back on the lip of her bath tub.

"You can't let that happen My Queen," Ruby said stopping her motion to give Belle clarity.

Belle smiled before closing her eyes. "I shan't. If Rumplestiltskin wants a war. Then thats what he'll get. I won't pledge fealty to an invader."

"But he's powerful." The slave warned.

"And what of my power Ruby?" Belle asked sitting up to turn and look at the girl questionably.

"I meant no disrespect my Queen." She said with her head bowed. "It's just that I don't want to lose you."

"You won't lose me My Lady." Belle subsides, shifting back down into the tub. "Don't I always come back to you?"

"You always return, though bruised and bloodied, but you always come back," Ruby said kissing the brow line of her queen.

"Wash me," Belle commanded and Ruby happily complied. She knew that phrase meant more than what was commanded.

"As you wish My Queen."

Ruby picked up the towel and began washing her body with the warm water and scented oils. Paying close attention to Belle's supple breasts, gently washing them before trailing down under the water.

"Nothing like a woman's touch after a battle," Belle whispers to no one in particular.

Ruby smiles at her queen and keeps rubbing Belle's clit under the bath water. Belle closes her eyes and begins to relax from Ruby's soft touch. In her tranquility, her mind couldn't help but wander to the man who loves to call her Yellow Rose. She hated the man, but it was something about him she admired, his passion. She admired how driven he was in his pursuit to conquer all the kingdoms, but he couldn't have hers.

"Call me Yellow Rose just as he does." Belle moaned.

"My Queen?"

"Just do it Ruby."

Ruby's fingers found their way into Belle's entrance, The queen moaned her excitement as the slave continued to seek every spot inside of her. "You're so tight Yellow Rose."

"Oh fuck, call me it again!" Belle cries out while gripping the edge of the tub as she reaches her peak.

"Yellow Rose." The deep voice whispered that was not of Ruby's. Belle's eyes opened and she quickly sat up in the shock of the new, but familiar voice. Rumplestiltskin was holding Ruby flushed against him with a dagger at her neck. "Shhhhh now Yellow Rose. No screaming, lest you want me to nick the neck of your little toy."

"What do you want? Why have you broken into my castle?" She said bringing her knees to her chest to hide her modesty from the invader's eyes.

"I want to simply finish our discussion." He said with a mocking tone.

"You ended the discussion at the Treaty Line when you rode off. Did my words wound you?"

"Aye, they did. I may be a soldier but I have feelings too Yellow Rose."

"So you've come to kill me in my tub without any honor?"

"I have no wish to end your life. I just want to finish our treaty alone." He said brazenly.

"A fool's errand. I will not bend the knee!"

"You've proven that much Yellow Rose, but a deal needs to be struck, or the violence will not stop. I've conquered almost all of the kingdoms, but you remain irrepressible."

Belle stood from her bath naked, giving the intruder a menacing look. "I will always be strong for my kingdom you fiend!"

Rumplestiltskin looked over her naked form and licks his lips. "I can see that. That's why I want you to keep your kingdom and marry me. I can make you the queen of not one kingdom, but all of them."

"Why would I make a deal to chain myself to an evil invader?"

"I know I may not be husband material, but you will get to keep your kingdom and your life." He said while pushing the dagger deeper into the top layer of Ruby's skin, causing her to whimper and close her eyes from fright.

"Release my handmaiden, it's me you want."

"As you wish My Lady." Rumplestiltskin smiled before letting go of Ruby and causing her to fall down to the ground limp and scared. "See, I'm not all bad." He steps over Ruby, sheathing his dagger before walking to the Queen. His eyes roam over Belle's naked form once again, looking as if he was weighing his options. He sighs deeply before picking up a towel and wrapping it around her. "Surely you can muster being married to me to save your kingdom."

"Do I have a chance to think about it?" Belle asked.

"I'll give you no more than a month Yellow Rose." He said.

"In this month, do you promise not to raid my outside villages?"

"You have my word." He said with a mocking bow.

"Then you have mine."

"Deal." He said with an excited giggle. "Think long and hard about it Yellow Rose. The fate of your kingdom now lies with you." He added just before jumping out the window from once he entered.

The invader was a mystery to her and his intentions remained unclear to Belle. What good could come from being married to a conqueror? But she could at least consider it, her people were important to her and Rumplestiltskin promised no more bloodshed would continue if she accepted the proposal. Belle was far from naive and knew there had to be another purpose of asking for her hand in marriage.

Chapter Text

Yellow Rose.

Unbent and unafraid. Most queens would scream, whimper, or faint when faced with an evil conqueror. Queen Belle did not. She remained true and fierce for her kingdom, but it wasn't enough to stop him. Nothing was. Rumpelstiltskin had one simple goal. To rule all the kingdoms and proclaim himself the one true king. He was doing a fantastic job so far. Kings and Lords alike all bent the knee when his horde approached their kingdom. Those who were foolish to deny him their thrones felt his steel. Rumpelstiltskin always rode into battle upon his black steed, wearing the bloody crowns of the vanquished Kings strung on frayed rope and hung from around his shoulder to incite fear from the ones who tried to oppose him.

"Your Grace, how was your visit to Avonlea? Is the kingdom yours?" Jefferson asked through heavy breathing while bringing his sword through the air.

"I'll know in a month's time," Rumpelstiltskin said effortlessly dodging the thrusts of Jefferson's sparring blade. "Yellow Rose has promised to consider my offer."

Rumpelstiltskin lifts his sword and begins parrying each of the blows from Jefferson's blade, their steel crashing together, ringing their contact until they reached an impasse, forming an X in their faces. Jefferson lunges back from the pressure of Rumpelstiltskin's mighty sword.

"I don't understand your Grace. When have you ever made deals with the kingdoms you wish to conquer?" Jefferson asked before taking his ready stance and charging at the other man.

"Never," Rumpelstiltskin said dodging the man's attack before causing Jefferson to lose his footing and fall to the ground. Rumpelstiltskin loomed over him before hitting the hilt of the man sword and disarming him of his weapon.

"I yield, I yield!" Jefferson cries out holding up his hands in defeat. Rumpelstiltskin smiles before helping his friend from the ground.

"You're getting better Jefferson. Maybe one day you'll actually be able to keep the sword in your hand." Rumpelstiltskin said handing back the man's sparring blade.

"Aye, your Grace. But why offer the queen a deal? You said it yourself, she was very rude to you at the treaty."

"Questioning the intentions of your King is treason my dear Jefferson," Rumpelstiltskin said using a towel to wipe the sweat from his brow before picking up a flagon and drenching his face in the cool water. "But lucky for you, I call you my friend." He added flinging the wet locks from his face.

"Very lucky I would say. I would hate to be on the receiving end of your blade that isn't used for sparring."

"Aye, many did." They shared a laugh. Rumpelstiltskin sheath his practice blade in the armory before returning back to Jefferson. "Fetch my squire and tell him to gather 500 strong men."

"Yes your Grace."

xox0xox

The next day, Rumpelstiltskin marched his 500 men to a recently raided village in the kingdom of Avonlea. He had a plan to show Queen Belle he was not the man she thought he was. He may be a conqueror, but he wasn't a monster. Rumpelstiltskin ordered his men to rebuild the village and add a grand citadel used for learning and teaching. He was overseeing the renovations when he heard the thunder of hooves storming down the dirt road. Belle rode upon a chestnut steed, leading her vanguard of 2,000 knights. She wore her battle armor. Long boots that ended at her knee, chainmail hung from around her neck, shoulders and hips, and on her chest a polish steel breastplate with her sigil placed upon it. She halts her company at the edge of the village and calls for him.

"You promised me you would leave my villages alone. But yet here the invader stands." She spoke bravely.

"Your words wound me Yellow Rose. I am a man of my word."

"Then why are you here?" She demanded, placing her hand on the hilt of her sword, revealing some of the blade as a threat.

"To rebuild your villages."

"Aye, the ones you destroyed."

"I suppose I did." He said with a crafty giggle. "And if you don't accept my offer I will destroy them again."

"You're not a very smart invader are you?" Belle asked giving him a perplexed look.

"Perhaps not, but the fact is I can't very well rule your kingdom if half of its burnt down." He said with his hands out like he had nothing to hide from her. He then points to the large semi-constructed tower in the distance. "I'm even building you a citadel for your stronghold."

Belle did not so much as glance at the tower. She was far from amused by his silly tricks. "I see what you're doing. You're trying to blind me with false deeds so I can't see the monster you truly are." She said holding tightly to the reins of her beast. "I'm not daft Rumpelstiltskin. I said I would consider it and you rebuilding my villages won't coax me into a marriage with you."

"Yellow Rose maybe you did not hear me. This is not for you, this is for me. This will soon be my kingdom if you accept my proposal or not, and I won't have the place looking in bad shape. Now may I continue?" He asked before turning to leave.

"Don't you dare walk away from me invader." She shouted, but he ignores her. Belle angrily dismounts her steed and approaches him. "You lack respect." She said drawing her blade from its sheath pointing its tip at him. Two of Rumpelstiltskin's men steps up beside him ready to defend their king, with their hands at the ready on their blade's hilt. Rumpelstiltskin held a hand up, commanding them to stand down.

"The only one lacking in respect is you Yellow Rose. Is this how Avonlea treats its guest?"

"You're no guest here. And if you so much as set a foot near any more of my villages or my castle's walls. I won't need an army to bring me your head. I'll do it myself."

"See you in a month My Lady."

Belle watched from her castle's battlements, leaning over the parapet to get a better view as Rumpelstiltskin and his men raise the walls of the village. She watched as books and tapestries were being shipped in through her harbor. They were use to fill the libraries of her newly erected citadel. He kept his promise. He didn't leave the small village. He didn't break into her bath chambers again, but the Queen still kept two guards outside her window just in case. By the time either of them knew it a month had passed.

xox0xox

There was a rider in the night. He delivers Rumpelstiltskin a parchment stamp with a rose on yellow wax. He smells the letter and became intoxicated by its aroma. She sent for him. He quickly gathers his black steed and gallops at full speed to her castle.

Her castle guards escorts him to the Queen's bed chamber before leaving. Rumpelstiltskin takes a deep breath and exhales, then knocks on her bed chamber's door.

"Good evening sir," Ruby said with a bow before going to fetch her mistress.

When Belle walked into the moon-lit room Rumpelstiltskin was captivated by her. She was wearing a white satin evening gown that hugs her frame to pool the floor and train as she walked. Her hair brought up into curls with a tiara to hold it in place and tassels hung to frame her face. He assumed nothing was better than seeing her unclothed. But the Yellow Rose who stood before him was bewitching. He didn't speak, only dropping a knee to kneel before her.

"Your Majesty." He said with a bowed head.

"Rise invader. You've shown me no honor before."

"Because now I stand before a Queen." He said rising to his feet.

"Was I not a Queen at the Line of Treaty a month ago? Or when you snuck into my bath chambers?"

"I saw no Queen at the Treaty Line, only an insolent girl. And in your bath chambers, not a Queen, but a slave holder."

"Ruby is more than a slave to me. She's a friend."

"Is that why you keep a collar around her neck, because she's your friend?"

"Look I didn't call for you to talk about slaves."

"I know. You brought me here to give me my answer. Now tell me Yellow Rose, will I be your husband or your murderer?"

Belle thinks to herself for a moment before noticing there was no sword at his hip. "First, answer one question. Why? Why are you trying to conquer the kingdoms?"

He smirked. "I'll answer your question with a few of my own." He said stepping closer to her. "Have you been to the other kingdoms?"

"Of course I have."

"And when you visit, do you sleep in the lavish castles of the Kings and Queens or the tavern and inns of the common people?" He said flourishing his hands as he spoke, adding a theatrical feel.

"I'm a Queen, what do you think."

"Well if you did stay in the common inns or even just walk the street of your villages and towns you would see what I see."

"What is it that you see?"

"Chaos, slavery, prostitution, crime, poverty, flaying as a method of torture. Shall I go on?" Belle shook her head no. "Even here in Avonlea, you keep slaves. You still keep the old ways. But I'm here to tell you the old ways are dead. And I am the bringer of the new way, the better way. Where there is no slavery, no fighting pits, where a mother doesn't have to live in fear that her daughter would be sold into prostitution. I want to conquer the kingdoms because I want to end the suffering. I want to bring the kingdoms together as one, strong, unified kingdom.

"But what about the citizens? You're destroying the same lives you want to save."

"Aye, the citizen now won't agree. But their children will, and their children's children, for generations to come. I won't be seen as a conqueror anymore, but as a liberator."

"I do agree with what you're saying, but not of your methods. There is no honor in killing Kings."

"Tell me Yellow Rose, what kind of King can sleep at night knowing their citizens are dying on the streets? An honorable one?"

Belle shook her head again.

"These so-called Kings are just steps on a ladder. This one's on top, next that one's on top, and on and on it climbs, leaving the suffering and the weak on the ground below. I'm not going to climb the ladder. I'm going to destroy it." He takes another step closer to her, closing the gap between them. Belle could practically feel his breath on her as he gleams down at her.

"You're quite the visionary." She said nervously at his invasion of her personal space.

"Now it's time for you to answer my question. How bad do you truly want to save your kingdom Yellow Rose?" Rumpelstiltskin took her by the hand before pulling a ring from his tunic and their eyes met. "Will you be selfless enough to marry me?"

It was all too much for Belle, she did agree with what he was saying, but he was still an invader. She always hoped she would marry for love and not for a treaty. But this was for her kingdom, not for herself.

"Yes." She whispered looking at the ring as the tears gathered in her eyes. He slid the golden ring on her finger and kisses the metal band. Belle pulls her hand from his and darts away from Rumpelstiltskin with tears that glisten in the moonlight rolling down her cheek. Rumpelstiltskin thought it best not to follow her. To Belle, what the ring symbolized was that she wasn't a Queen anymore, but a wife bound to a murderous invader.

Chapter Text

Belle accepted the proposal as she was not only wise, but selfless as well. The wedding was set for the end of the week. Belle wasn't happy with how soon that was. She thought at least she had time on her side. Maybe even enough time to form a plan and escape the arrangement she had with the evil invader. But Rumplestiltskin made sure she wouldn't be getting the opportunity by setting the date so soon. After all Rumplestiltskin had no time to waste, conquering kingdoms was a long endeavor all by itself, precious time couldn't be spent on courting. Not to mention falling in love was the last thing on his mind.

"She's very pretty," Jefferson said to his friend.

"Aye she is." Rumplestiltskin said with a small hint of a smile on his lips "but it's her kingdom I want, not her looks."

Between the ramparts of a guest tower, Rumplestiltskin and Jefferson were looking down at her from above. Rumplestiltskin watched as Belle walked to the prayer grounds of her stronghold. She gracefully strolled through her castle's grounds as her people bowed with respect of being in the presence of their Queen. Two of her guardsman followed closely behind her for protection. Rumplestiltskin saw how happy the people looked as she spoke to each one of the citizens, even the ones with collars. She was mesmerizing to him, both beautiful inside and out.

"But she's very small. Like a child." Jefferson added bringing Rumplestiltskin back from his trance.

"Well she's 19, but she's a warrior," Rumplestiltskin confessed.

"Women aren't warriors."

"This one is."

Jefferson only sighed in response and shook his head in disagreement. Rumplestiltskin knew he only did that when he was trying to hold his tongue.

"Speak freely Jefferson." He commanded.

"Your Grace, are you sure we can't just imprison the Queen, take her kingdom and be done with Avonlea? You have other kingdoms to think about not a wedding."

"I don't imprison women unjustly and a marriage is the same thing as conquering it."

"Do you like this girl Your Grace?"

Rumplestiltskin pretended like he didn't hear his friend speaking.

"Your Grace?"

"Of course not. The woman is a slave holder." He takes one more look at Belle before she disappears into the prayer grounds. "Now stop badgering me about her." He added before returning into his guest chambers.

Belle was in her castle's sacred grounds, kneeling before the tree her mother and father were buried under. She wanted to talk to them, to apologize for being weak and giving control over Avonlea to an evil conqueror. She also prayed to the Gods for guidance and strength. Belle knew there was no way out of the union, but perhaps there was a way to show Rumplestiltskin that Avonlea was unlike the other kingdoms.

"I don't wish to disturb you Yellow Rose, but you've been in the prayer grounds for most of the day. Maybe you would like to talk about the wedding?"

"Go away invader, I have no wish to talk to you about anything."

"My Lady I know I'm not your favorite person right now, but if we are to be husband and wife we must at least be able to stand one another." She ignored him. Rumplestiltskin sighed deeply before walking to sit beside her under the tree. He said a prayer to the Gods too, he prayed for insight. He wanted to know how she was feeling. "You're afraid that your mother won't agree with your decision?"

"My mother and my father would be proud that I've saved the lives of my kingdom. They taught me how to be selfless and put the needs of my people first." Belle stood up from her parent's memorial and dusted off her dress. "Which is what I've done. Take a walk with me invader, so I can show you the true Avonlea."

The Gods granted her strength.

xox0xox

Their first stop was to the market, where vendors filled and lined the road selling their fabric, and tapestries, and embroidered stitches. The smell of fresh bread filled the warm summer breeze. Beautiful music was being played from harps and citterns and the sound of laughter brought a smile to Rumple's face. As they walked down the street, Belle's people bowed, showing their respect for their beloved Queen.

"Where is this chaos you speak of? Or the poverty? The brothels kept in Avonlea are protected, where is the prostitution?"

"You've proven me wrong Yellow Rose. Avonlea doesn't share the same chaos as the other kingdoms. But I still see slaves. I cannot overlook the collars around their necks."

Belle smirked and shook her head. "Follow me Rumplestiltskin."

He followed her to a small orphanage at the end of the plaza. Small children were running around playing happily. They saw their Queen enter and they all ran to Belle and hugged her.

"My Queen, we missed you." One of the young boys said.

"I know, I've been very busy." She said picking up one of the little boys in her arms. "You see little ones I'm getting married."

The children all groaned at the disappointing news. This brought more warmth to Rumplestiltskin's heart. While Belle was greeting the children Rumplestiltskin took the time to notice some details. The children looked well fed and happy. Nothing like the orphanages he visited in the kingdom of The Underworld ruled by King Hades, where the children were starving and wearing thinning rags. King Hades was an evil man and when Rumplestiltskin opened the neck of the King, it felt like justice to him.

Suddenly a woman with graying hair rushed from a back room. "My Queen Belle," She gave Belle a loving hug. "Don't you look lovely. I'm so happy you visited. Is this him? The man you're supposed to marry?"

"Yes this is Rumplestiltskin."

"My Lady, " he said with a bow as was his custom. "It's a pleasure to be here, but it saddens me to see the collars around both you and the children's necks."

"This old thing." She said rubbing the iron metal around her neck. "Ay, my family and I were slaves before we moved here from the kingdom of Misthaven. Queen Cora mistreated us, she gave the slave owners too much power and they used it to their advantage. We used to work from sun up to sun down without any food or water. The masters would rape the young girls until they were unfit to produce any children and then they were killed and thrown into the sea. Noble bastards born to slave women had it the worst. I'll never forget their screams. I left as soon as my daughter was old enough to walk and we fled to Avonlea. Where we were treated with respect no matter how low-born we were. Queen Colette, Gods rest her soul, provided a haven for me and the other slaves. We wear these collars as a proud reminder of where we came from so we may continue to be productive citizens in our new home."

"So you never once felt like a slave here?"

"Never. My granddaughter is even a handmaiden for her majesty."

"Your story has moved me a great deal. Please come to me if there is anything I can do for your orphanage."

"Thank you Sir."

Belle and Rumplestiltskin left the orphanage and went back to her castle. Belle hoped that their journey into town would show Rumplestiltskin that Avonlea was a kingdom uncorrupted. They stood inside her throne room in front of her ancestral seat.

"Perhaps I was too hasty in judging Avonlea," Rumplestiltskin said.

"So do you mean you'll call off the arrangement?"

"Of course not." He scoffed. "I'm still conquering all the kingdoms. All includes Avonlea." He begins to pace around her.

She exhaled out of disbelief. After all that he'd just seen, why wasn't it enough? "Then why don't you just kill me like you've done to the others?"

"If there was a King in Avonlea, I would have." He said with a shrug, still pacing around her.

"I just don't understand. It-it's not fair."

"Yellow Rose, do you think that badly of me?" He asked, stopping his pace around her to wait for her answer.

She spun around to face him, giving him a fearsome look."Yes you're a murderer, a king killer."

"I am, but why would that deter you? As my wife, I'm promising you a Queenship of all of the kingdoms. That involves slaying Kings."

"I don't want all the kingdoms, you do."

"I do. I want all of the kingdoms and I want you."

"Me?"

"Only a Queen such as yourself is worthy to rule by my side. I've never met a woman as selfless as you. Be my Queen, stand beside me and we can liberate the kingdoms together. Wouldn't your mother want that?"

"Don't use my mother to gain sympathy from me. You don't know my mother or me."

"I believe she would want you to. She opened up her kingdom to refugee slaves. Yellow Rose, we can rid the kingdoms of chaos and bring balance to the world. Show your kingdom that your mother's dream didn't die along with her."

xox0xox

The late afternoon sunlight shone through the stain glass windows of Belle's throne room and hit the marble floor placing the large room in an ethereal glow. A band was playing her house song. The pews where filled with her dainty, refined citizens on one side. On the other side were his indecorous people, the women were bawdy and the men were not chivalrous. But the whole room fell silent when Belle entered the hall. They all stood up together as the queen began her descent to the alter where he waited for her. Her dress was a crisp white, the bustier hugged her slender frame and the skirt flowed with the trim and lace scattered among the small yellow roses to match the bouquet in her hand of the same flower. Upon her auburn hair, she wore a golden rose tiara. The room was quiet, but Belle still felt like she could hear their voices.

"Why is she doing this?"

"A conqueror for a King?"

"Her mother would be so disappointed in her."

She exhaled and looked down the aisle to her betrothed who was staring at her like she was the only person that mattered. It was then the voices in her head stopped, and she heard her mother's ballad instead. When she finally made it to the altar, Rumple smiled and took her by the hands.

"I, Rumplestiltskin, in good health and a sound mind pledge my life, my honor, my sword to Queen Belle of Avonlea. I promise to do no service that may bring dishonor to her house or her name. I stand before the eyes of Gods and men and claim this woman as mine."

"I, Queen Belle of Avonlea, in good health and a sound mind pledge my life, my honor, and my virtue to the conqueror Rumplestiltskin. I promise to ask for no service that may bring him dishonor to his name. I stand before the eyes of Gods and men and claim this man as my husband."

It was time for the part she feared. He wrapped his heavy crimson cloak around her and took her into his arms. Their lips locked and she actually felt a sense of security. But she winced back, giving him a questionable look when she felt his tongue dip into her mouth.

And their people stood and cheered. "Long may they reign, Long may they reign!"

xox0xox

After the wedding, it was time for the feast. Loud music and talking filled the large dining hall. Brothel women were brought in, some half naked. Her eyes watched Rumplestiltskin from across the room who was bent over laughing at one of his friends slapping the backside of the whores. Thankfully the night was coming to an end because Belle just about had enough of it all. She excused herself from the feast and fled to her bedchambers.

Once there her handmaiden, Ruby begins to undress Belle from her wedding attire. Belle noticed she was very quiet this evening, unlike any other time they'd been together. That was the last thing Belle needed, what she needed was someone to talk to.

"Say something Ruby," Belle commanded sick of her silence.

"You looked beautiful today My Queen," Ruby said with sadness in her tone. "You're going to make him very happy."

"Is that what upsets you? Rumplestiltskin?"

"You won't need me anymore my Queen."

"Ruby I'll always need you," Belle said stepping out of her wedding gown naked. "And I'll always love you."

Belle pulled Ruby flush against her warm body. Ruby didn't hesitate and merged with Belle's lips in a passionate kiss, her tongue gaining access into the Queen's mouth. Belle's hands fondled the slave's breasts before pulling the straps of her garment down to reveal her tantalizing naked form. Ruby tossed Belle on the bed before climbing on top of her Queen, licking a trail from navel to between Belle's thighs.

"Oh Fuck Ruby, don't stop." Belle moaned while balling her hands into the sheets of her bed.

Ruby didn't stop and continued to outline Belle's essence with her mouth. She began to moan into Belle's mound sending vibrations throughout the Queen's entire body until she was trembling from her arousal. Ruby slipped two fingers in and out of Belle causing her to cry out her name into the openness of the dimly lit room.

"Ahem." A voice clears his throat bringing Belle back down to earth. Belle gasped out in shock as she noticed Rumplestiltskin was watching her and Ruby from the foot of her bed. She couldn't believe the nerve he had to sneak into a private moment and disturb them for the second time.

"What the hell are you doing invader?" Belle asked while covering herself and Ruby with the blanket. "Your bed chamber is in the other tower."

"Have you forgotten already Yellow Rose?" Rumplestiltskin asked wearing a fiendish smirk from the foot of her bed. "We're husband and wife now, this is my bed as much as it is yours."

"You've lost your mind."

Rumplestiltskin began to undress in the low- lit room, dropping his belt and sheath to clatter on the floor next to him. He brought his tunic over his head and dropped it beside him revealing his lean chest and stomach to Belle.

"What in Gods name do you think you're doing?" She asked just as he was about to unbutton his trousers.

"Consummating our marriage." He said before turning to address the other woman in the bed. "Run along Ruby, I can take it from here."

"Yes your Grace," Ruby said, quickly jumping out of the bed and grabbing her clothes before leaving the bed chamber.

"W-wait I'm not having sex with you, I don't love you."

"You don't have to love me. But a wedding needs a bedding." He giggled. "Besides we're not technically married if we don't do this."

"Good, because I don't want to be married to you. I won't have sex with a man I don't love and barely know. How is this any different than rape?"

Rumplestiltskin thought to himself for a moment, she was right. He wasn't the type of man to do anything against a woman's wishes. Especially Yellow Rose.

"Fine, but I will sleep in your bed. I won't have my men finding out about this."

"There's a chaise lounge that's comfortable over there," Belle said pointing in the distance of her chamber before throwing a pillow at him.

Rumplestiltskin only chuckled and made himself comfortable on the chaise. He watched her as she drifted off to sleep, the shimmering moonlight kissing her pale skin causing it to glow. He smiled when he heard her soft snoring, the soothing sounds brought him contentment and he fell asleep to the sleeping sounds of his Yellow Rose.

Chapter Text

When the sun shone through her bed chamber's window, Belle's eyes began to flutter open. She stretched and yawned as she did every morning, but she quickly knew something was different when her handmaiden didn't wake her up. Belle looks down at the heavy golden band on her finger and the feeling of dread washed over her. That's when it all came rushing back to her. She was a married woman now, to an invader no less. She looks to the chaise lounge and saw that Rumplestiltskin was no longer there.

"Ruby!" She shouts for her handmaiden and Ruby quickly appears.

"Yes my Queen." She said with a bow.

"Why didn't you wake me?" Belle said tossing the covers from around her and got up from her bed.

"If it so pleases you, I thought you might want to sleep in. I was sure you had a long night… my Queen."

Belle couldn't believe what her handmaiden just presumed. "You have no right to make assumptions about my honor," Belle said making Ruby bow her head lower with the feeling that she just disrespected her Queen. Belle only sighed wearily before continuing. "Ruby I didn't sleep with him, what kind of lady do you take me for?"

Ruby let out a sigh of relief. "I'm sorry my Queen."

"Well you should be. Where is Rumplestiltskin?"

"The King has awoken some time ago. He sits in the war room with your army's generals."

"Why has the invader called my generals?" Belle asked with a worried look on her face.

"I'm not sure My Queen."

"Fetch my clothing," Belle commanded and Ruby ran to her closet and began to help Belle get dressed.

Rumplestiltskin woke well before his Yellow Rose. He walked to her bedside, his footsteps were quiet and graceful, he acquired the technique from his training to be a great swordsman. She was absolutely stunning to him. Belle might not have wanted to be with him, but he certainly could consider falling in love with her. She was his by right and law. The Gods wouldn't judge him for just placing a kiss on her lips as she slept, but Belle would. She made soft cooing hums and rolled over as he stood looking over her. Her peaceful slumber only made him smile. He left their bed chamber and he called on his squire, he told him to fetch his captain and the lieutenant of his army and to find the Queen's generals too. They all met in Avonlea's war room and began to discuss the next move for the liberation of the kingdoms.

"What are my wife's numbers?" The King asked, but his question fell on deaf ears. Belle generals didn't respond, only giving Rumplestiltskin an ornery look. "Well!" He shouted wanting his question answered.

"The knights of Avonlea will not be controlled by an evil conqueror, we are loyal to our Queen." One of the generals finally said.

"By law I am your King, therefore Avonlea will fight and be loyal to me as well."

"We will not!" The general bangs his hands on the table sick of being controlled by an evil conqueror. "The Queen's knights will not step a foot out of Avonlea unless the Queen wishes it."

"And they will not be used for your selfish mission of murdering innocents!" The second general added.

Rumplestiltskin unsheathed his criss dagger before slamming it into the table right in front the generals. "It's treason to disobey the orders of your King. Perhaps Yellow Rose's army doesn't need any generals at all."

The two generals look at each other and in fear of losing their title, or worst their lives give out the information."Forgive us your grace. 2,000 knights and 1,000 squires still in training." The general of Avonlea reveals.

"Is it enough for a seize on the Black Palace?" Rumplestiltskin asked.

"We're not powerful enough yet to attack Mist Haven Your Grace." Jefferson chimed in, not only was he the best friend of the conqueror he was also the captain of Rumplestiltskin's army. He was a skilled fighter but not as skilled as Rumplestiltskin, no one was.

"There was a rider in the night. He brings news from our scouts that are placed in Mist Haven. The Queen has over 40,000 men at her disposal, her numbers double ours." Arthur added. Arthur was a lieutenant and a very violent man. He was always a kill first, ask questions later type of man.

"Then we need to make a new strategy," Rumplestiltskin said before contemplating to himself while looking over the war map on the table.

"What are your suggestions your Grace?"

"Here." Rumplestiltskin places a finger on a picture of a stronghold close to Avonlea. "The kingdom of Arrendale. There we will find men to strengthen my army."

"Are you planning an attack?" Jefferson asked with a hint of a smile on his face. All of his men were always in favor of fighting.

"No!" The Queen's voice booms from the background and they all lift their heads up at once in surprise to find their queen in the war room. "No attacks," Belle added.

"My Queen." All of the men in the room bowed as was custom to their queen, all except Rumplestiltskin.

"Yellow Rose is there something I can help you with?"

"I would like to know why you're taking my troops out of Avonlea and I wish to sit in on all war councils." She said walking to take her seat at the war table.

"You are within your rights. You are the Queen." Rumplestiltskin said simply. 

"No." Arthur stood and said objectively. "Women aren't allowed among the talks of fighting."

The blow that Rumplestiltskin delivered to Arthur's face was hard and left his nose bloodied. He fell to the ground groaning in agony. "If you ever talk to my wife like that again, it will be more than just a broken nose. If I'm your King, Yellow Rose is your Queen, and she will be respected as such." He said stepping on the neck of his lieutenant before addressing the rest of the men in the room. "Get out, all of you!"

All of the men scrambled out of the large war room, opting not to see any more of Rumplestiltskin's rage.

"Forgive my men for their disrespect, they have not seen me with a woman. I think they may be jealous of you."

"It's forgiven, trust me invader there's nothing your men should be envious of," Belle quips causing Rumplestiltskin to chuckle. "But why are you considering an attack on Arrendale. They are nice people."

"We need more soldiers to take on Mist Haven." The King admitted.

"Mist Haven?" the name sent chills through her body. Mist Haven was a place that brought Belle a lot of sadness in her life.

"Yes I had hoped that after I conquer your kingdom I would have enough to seize the Queen's castle but scouts in Mist Haven brought word that The Queens Army outnumber ours two to one."

"Okay, so we need more numbers, but I don't want any more senseless killing."

"Killing Kings isn't senseless, it's a necessity."

"No it's not. I'm friends with the King and Queen of Arrendale, maybe an arrangement can be made." Belle explained. "Not everything needs to be solved with brutality."

"You surprise me more and more Yellow Rose, but where's the fun without the violence and bloodshed?"

"Fun? Do you think you're playing some sort of game?" Belle lets out a frustrated sigh before continuing. "Your conquest shouldn't be about bloodshed, it should be about freedom. If you want to be this great liberator as you've talked about, then you need people on your side, and there won't be any if you're killing them all."

"Perhaps you're right." Rumplestiltskin considered. "I'll take your advice Yellow Rose. I'll send a rider tonight with our terms, but if the King and Queen are unbent. My fury will continue."

On the parchment was written.

The liberation of your kingdom is inevitable. Yield your stronghold to the King and Queen of Avonlea and avoid the destruction of your kingdom. So says the conqueror and future ruler of all the realms.

Rumplestiltskin, King of Avonlea.

xox0xox

It had been two days since the letter had been sent off with the rider. In those days nothing had changed between them. They barely spoke to one another, ate in separate chambers, and when it came time for sleep Rumplestiltskin was still only permitted to the chaise lounge. The chair was not comfortable at all like Belle mentioned, but he slept there anyway and followed her wishes. In those days, he was in constant torment, he craved to be out of the isolation of the castle and back into the thrall of fighting and combat. He spent most of his days on the training grounds fine-tuning his art. Even Avonlea's most skilled fighter couldn't best him in a sparring match.

The next evening at sundown Belle was eating alone in the small dining room. Ruby stood beside her as she ate in case her beverage needed refilling. The cook prepared Belle's favorite dish, quilt egg stew, and she was on to her second serving. Suddenly the dining room doors flew open and in stomped Rumplestiltskin wearing an angry expression.

"You see where kindness gets you?" Rumplestiltskin said tossing the parchment on the dining room table as Belle ate. "That was received from a rider from Arrendale."

Belle wiped her mouth before rolling her eyes at Rumplestiltskin for disturbing her dinner. She picks up the letter and reads from it out loud. "We are a proud house, we will never surrender to a foreign conqueror." She balls up the paper. "What was the agreement?"

"Yield or die."

"That wasn't a deal, you threatened them. Of course they won't yield their castle to you."

"Why not? I asked nicely."

"Do you not remember what happened when you threatened me, I started a war to stop you. Threats will get you nowhere, you need to offer something of equal worth." She then called for her handmaiden. "Bring me a quill Ruby."

Ruby brings out a clean piece parchment and quill for her Queen.

"What will you write them?" Rumplestiltskin queried.

"I'm requesting a meeting."

"They could ambush us if they know we're coming, Yellow Rose this is not a good idea." The King implored.

"I know them, King Kristoff and Queen Anna are nice people they will listen to me and we will propose them a new deal. One where you will get your troops and the royals will still live."

Rumplestiltskin sighed. This was the second time he chose to listen to her and he had a feeling it wouldn't be his last. Even after being married to the woman she would not falter, never giving in. He admired that about her. Yellow Rose might not know it but they shared the same passion. Both driven and stuck in their ways.

xox0xox

The letter rode off and another returned accepting the request for a meeting at the palace of Arrendale. Rumplestiltskin had to hand it to her, she was an excellent strategist and perhaps she would come in handy in the wars to come. The next morning, Rumplestiltskin rallied his troops to begin the 2 day trek to the kingdom of Arrendale. The citizens of Avonlea had never seen their kingdom so busy before. Men were scrambling around loading wheel houses with supplies and weapons. Servants and squires were brushing the manes and tails of the knight's horses and mounting their saddles. Bread, mead, and different kinds of fruit and vegetables along with spices, were all being stored in several wheelhouses to feed their armies. Rumplestiltskin was overseeing the preparations when he saw one of his men, Arthur, yelling at a servant girl.

"Why is this wheel house filled with books?" He asked the young female who looked so frightened by the man who was yelling at her. "It should be used as a means to store more weapons."

"The Queen asked this wheelhouse be used for her books," Rumplestiltskin said tapping his hand on the wooden caravan giving the servant a chance to flee. "Perhaps she would like to read on our journey."

"Your grace, you're not really letting the Queen join us, are you?"

"I'm okay with it, she's a warrior. When are you going to see this is a whole new era I'm trying to bring about? Women are our equals. You should treat them as such."

"Equals? And when it comes time for me to fuck these so called equals, would they fuck me as well?"

Rumplestiltskin laughs. "Aye Lieutenant, you might even enjoy it."

Jefferson, the captain of the Kings army's approaches before bowing down to his king. "Your grace, the Calvary is assembled and we await your orders to move out."

"Very well, I'll tell my wife we're ready to march."

Rumplestiltskin leaves his men and heads inside the castle to retrieve Belle. He knocks before entering, but no one opens the door so he goes in anyway. Their room was in shambles, chamber maids were running around packing different dresses, garments, and armor in the traveling chest. Belle had a check list in her hand, going over all the things she needed and instructing the maids what to pack.

"Belle, what is the meaning of this?" He asked using her real name.

"It's called packing, I've trust you heard of it."

"I have but I've never seen it to this extent. Yellow Rose, I've seen battlefields less gruesome than this."

"Very funny invader, what is it that you need?"

"The company is ready to move out, how much longer do you require?"

"Actually I'm done." Belle turns around and claps her hand to get the attention of the whole room and inform the maids it's time to load the caravan with her things.

The banners were raised high and proud rippling in the breeze. The battalions that were making the march to Arrendale were filled with different sorts of people. Belle's 2000 soldiers marched, including Rumplestiltskin's who brought another 8000 of his own men, and left the other 12,000 to guard Avonlea. Other people included 6 Bakers and 6 cooks, 2 seamstress, 10 healers, 3 clergymen and 40 willing and welled-paid whores to keep the soldiers happy. Rumplestiltskin led the vanguard in the forefront, riding on his black steed with the reigns in one hand. At his hip, his sword swung alongside of him as his horse trudged along on the dirt road. This was what he loved, to be out of the dank and dreary castle and into the open fields so he could feel the world around him. But what he didn't think he would enjoy the most was his Yellow Rose riding alongside of him on her steed. He expected her to be in the wheelhouse among comforts, not leading their company to conquer kingdoms right by his side.

"I'm sure we make for a most intimidating sight." He said to engage her in small talk.

"What are you talking about?"

"King and Queen, side by side, leading a mass army, anyone would be fearful."

"They should have nothing to fear, we're not here for war."

"Aye my Lady you say that now, but once we meet an opponent that wants to challenge us instead of treating, will you use your words then or that sword at your hip you decided to bring?"

Belle hated when he patronized her. She wasn't the invader, he was. "There's always a way around fighting, nobody wants to die."

He smirked and nodded. Belle was noble, Rumplestiltskin considered himself unworthy of her. What Belle deserved was a man befitting to up hold her prestigious honor, not a conqueror with an unquenchable thirst for bloodshed and warfare.

Chapter Text

 

It was close to dusk when the convoy halted on the edge of the Northern Kingdom of Arrendale. They set up camp near its outside villages using the tall trees of the forest as protection. There was an inn with a modest whorehouse and a tavern filled with ale, a commodity Rumplestiltskin's knights so desperately needed. The two-day supply they brought on the journey only lasted a day at most and his men were sober and ornery.

Once they had time to rest from their voyage, it was time to meet with the king and queen of Arrendale. Rumplestiltskin saddled her brown steed and helped Belle on to the beast before mounting his own.They left their armies campsite and rode the rest of the way to the castle alone.

At the gates, they were escorted the rest of the way by castle guardsmen to the throne room. Hung on the walls were banners with their sigil placed upon it, a single white snowflake resting on a black background. Their kingdom was far north and they seen many brutal winters, so it was a given that Arrendale's banners reflected that.

"The King and Queen Of Avonlea." The royal speaker announced them. Belle did as was custom and bowed before them. However Rumplestiltskin stood tall. To him, he was the one true King, and a king doesn't bow to others, that was until she pulled him by the hand.

"Kneel," Belle whispered looking up at him angrily and Rumplestiltskin reluctantly did as his queen asked.

"You are a guest in our home, there is no need to bow," Anna said as she and Kristoff walked down from their thrones to give one of her dearest friends a hug. "Belle it's so good to see you."

"Likewise, let me introduce-"

Anna cuts her off by speaking. "Who is this man you brought with you?"

And so it began. Belle was never able to get a word in edgewise with Anna. Anna was nice enough but trying to explain things to her was a difficult chore." Anna this is-"

Anna gasps. "Is this your husband? Why wasn't I invited to your wedding?"

"Well we-"

"Wait your married to the invader? I knew you had a bit of a wild side, the whole liking girls and all, but I didn't take you for the bad boy type." She said with a cheeky grin.

"Anna! There will be enough time to explain everything I promise but first, we need to talk about the treaty arrangements I sent you."

"Why do you wish to treaty? We are at no war with Avonlea." Kristoff said while Rumplestiltskin sized him up. He hated kings and wished he could just kill them both. Takes care of the king and his annoying Queen.

"There is a greater war at stake," Rumplestiltskin spoke bravely looking Kristoff straight in the eyes. "Mist Haven has become too powerful and they continue to abuse their people. We must put a stop to it or risk the Queen destroying all of the citizens."

Kristoff wasn't impressed. He believed that the invader was just the lesser of two evils. "Isn't that what you've been doing? Conquering the kingdoms to become more powerful, why should we trust you?"

If Belle wasn't there to prevent him from unsheathing his blade with her hand, the king wouldn't have his head to judge Rumplestiltskin with.

"Because my husband has a vision for the kingdoms. Instead of a bunch of small weak kingdoms we can combine them into one powerful kingdom, free the slaves and bring peace to our land once and for all." She steps aside from her husband. "He's already freed the slaves from King Hades."

Anna whispered something in Kristoff's ear and he nodded his head in agreement. "We will help you however we can," Anna said.

"But what's in it for us?" Kristoff finished still weary of the invader and his tactics.

"When all is said and done and the Queen is defeated, I will proclaim your kingdom as guardians of the north." Rumplestiltskin promised in an uninspiring tone. "You will keep your stronghold and reign as the Lord and Lady of Arrendale and you will always have my protection." His lackluster tone made it sound as though he was reading from a script, or the words Belle told him to recite.

"What do you need from us?" Anna asked.

"Whatever troops you can lend us," Belle told her, in order to defeat the Queen's army they needed more men.

"We are a small kingdom, there's not much we can give," Kristoff admitted.

"Whatever you can spare is plenty," Belle said. She was so thankful for anything they could offer.

"Will 500 foot soldiers and 100 archers suffice?" Queen Anna asked.

"We'll take it." Belle said quickly. She was expecting more, but it wasn't just the troops they were getting, they were getting the kingdom of Arrendale as an ally.

"Yellow Rose-" Her husband pulled her to the side, away from the royals. "It's not enough."

"Rumple its all they can lend us."

"Then we come back and take the rest." He suggested placing a hand on the hilt of his sword.

"No, you promised no more bloodshed."

"600 is not enough, the Queen has over 40,000, how do you propose we stop her with our numbers?" He snarled softly. This wasn't what he was used to. He wasn't a person to ask for anything.

"We get more troops by offering the same deal to other kingdoms."

"This was what you had planned all along. To parade me around the kingdoms as your trained lap dog, to show them how weak you've made me?" Rumplestiltskin still didn't understand. He grew up with warriors and compromising wasn't something he knew how to do.

"Listen to me." She said placing a hand on his. "All I want is for you to rule the kingdoms with honor. If we take soldiers and murder those who oppose us we're no different from Regina. We don't need enemies, we need allies."

He couldn't help but give in to her wishes. Especially when she was touching him. Belle did make him weak, but not in his sword, in his heart. "Yellow Rose I gave you my word as your husband to always honor you. I'll do as you ask."

She smiled and they returned to the royals. "We will take the knights and the archers."

"Excellent we'll prepare a feast to celebrate." Anna said excitedly.

xox0xox

A few hours later, the feast was as any other, a loud band playing music on harps and drums. The wine flow nonstop and the king and his men were drunk and talking loudly while they reminisced on past battles and wars. Rumplestiltskin even became very popular amongst the people of Arrendale. He told them tales of his battles and conquests and even King Kristoff found a new respect for him. He wasn't the feared mystical invader everyone assumed he was. He was just a man who wanted everyone to be treated the same. The king respected that since he ruled his kingdom the same way. Just because someone was high born, didn't mean their needs outweighed the needs of a peasant's.

Belle and Anna were sitting together conversing over their husbands' displays. Just a few hours ago the two men were almost at each other's necks, now they were laughing and drinking together. Belle liked that about Rumple, he knew how to have a good time.

"They call themselves men, but look at them, nothing but boys," Anna said remarking their husbands' playful antics.

"Aye the wine does that to them." She said watching their husbands pretend to sword fight, but something else was bothering her ever since she made it to Arrendale. Anna had a sister, Elsa, the true queen of Arrendale. There was a shipping accident and Anna lost her family, but her sister remained missing. "There's been something I've been meaning to ask you-"

"No."Anna said sadly. She already knew what Belle was about to ask her. "We haven't found her yet."

"And there's been no word?" Belle was concerned for her friend, she lost her family too and for Anna to live knowing that her sister was out there somewhere lost to her, made her feel bad for her friend.

"Some, though we fear the worse. A few men were able to return home, barely alive and smelt of seawater. On their dying breath they said that the ship was ambushed by a fleet from Mist Haven." Anna was on the verge of tears trying to explain. "Oh Belle, they murdered my parents and taken Elsa back to the Queen."

That was the last straw. Belle knew Mist Haven had to be stopped. "Anna I'm going to find Elsa, we'll take down Mist Haven and bring her back to you."

"You will?"

"Yes of course." She didn't know for sure at the moment how, but she was going to try. " Regina must be stopped, but what I don't understand is why would she take your sister?"

Anna sniffed. "Regina is doing something very strange. Dark Magic. I've heard she's been collecting it."

"Your sister, she has ice powers, what the hell is Regina up to?"

"I'm not sure, but Belle please, when you go to Mist Haven, be careful." She said before giving her friend a hug.

xox0xox

Rumplestiltskin was stumbling into the room noisily waking Belle up from her already restless slumber. She sat up and lit her bed-side candle watching him basically drag himself into their room.

"Looks like you had a good time," Belle said with her arms crossed. "You can thank me later for convincing you not to burn the place to the ground."

"Or I can thank you now." He said stepping on the heel of his boots to pull them off. Stumbling doing so." We have yet to consummate our union."

"Invader, you don't even look up to the task." She said. "How about you get some rest?"

"If I were Ruby, I doubt you would look the other way." He admitted. He didn't really mind that she admired women, but he felt as her husband he had some right to her as well. "How long are you going to make me wait?"

"Make you wait? I'm not making you wait. You're my husband in the eyes of others so I could save my people. To me, you're nothing more then an invader." She was in an arrange marriage, she didn't love him, so why would she give her virtue to him.

That shook him, he faltered a moment and even thought about leaving the room, but he didn't. He gather whatever senses he had left that wasn't dulled by wine and spoke calmly to her. "When I said my vows I meant it Belle, I stood in the sight of the Gods and cloaked you under my protection. When I did that at first, it was for your kingdom, but when I saw you walking down the aisle bravely, I wanted to be more for you."

"Is that why you didn't kill Kristoff, because you thought there was a chance for us to become more?" She asked.

He nodded.

Belle let out a sigh, since she saw him trying to make an effort, she figured she could as well. "Fine perhaps we can get to know one another." He half stumbled, half crawled into the bed with her. "No, not like that." She cried out, pulling the covers up to her chest to shield her modest nightgown.

Rumple didn't even make it to the pillow at the head of her bed. His motor functions halted him midway in the bed next to her. "Let me lay here, its as you said, I'm not even capable of the task right now." He reminded her before passing out. Belle let out a groan when his snoring began, she placed a pillow under his head and blew out her candle.

xox0xox

Once again Rumplestiltskin woke before her, he got dressed in his boiled leather tunic and strapped his mighty sword around his waist, it hung low and the hilt was even almost under his arm. It was only a little before dawn and the kingdom of Arrendale was still dark and it citizens were asleep. He went to the stable and fetched his black steed and rode off into the lands just outside of the kingdom. There he found a river and felt it would be a good spot to do some training alone.

He stayed there well into the morning and the rising sun created slippery dew on the grass. It made a perfect obstacle for him to practice his art on. His footing was precise, he calculated everything, including the wind. He never stumbled or lost his footing, he knew two feet must be planted firmly on the ground before swinging your blade, or risk falling to the ground and meeting your demise. He heard a twig break, and knew someone was approaching. He turned quickly with his sword in hand ready to face whoever dared him.

"Whoa," Belle said using her book as a shield. "It's just me."

He dropped his sword to the ground, cursing himself for pointing it at her. "Yellow Rose."

"Did I frighten you invader?" She asked with an alluring smile.

"No of course not." He said picking up his steel and sheathing it. "What are you doing out here?"

"I've been to Arrendale many times, and the kingdom is beautiful, though there aren't many quiet places to read. This is the spot I come to." She said hugging her book close to her chest.

"I see," He cleared his throat at a loss for words. "Well I'll leave you to your reading my lady." He said before turning to leave.

"Rumplestiltskin Wait." He turns back without the slightest clue as to what she wanted. "Would you like to take a walk with me?"

"Uh-" he wasn't expecting her to ask him that. "Yes I would like that very much."

They walked along the bank of the river far into the open lands. She did most of the talking, regaling him the history of her kingdom and how she became the queen at the young age of 13.

"After my mother took in the refugee slaves from Mist Haven and heard of their mistreatment, my parents made a journey there to ask Queen Cora to free the rest of the slaves so they could live in Avonlea. But when they got there, the queen was anything but pleased when my parents asked her to free her slaves. She murdered them and burned their bodies until there was nothing left but bones. My generals returned with the bones of my parents and I buried them in our sacred grounds. The next day I was being crowned as the new queen. I didn't even have a chance to learn everything, I didn't even have a chance to tell them goodbye." Her parents meant the world to her and it felt good to talk about them again.

"You have my word as your husband, I won't stop until Mist Haven is nothing but rubble, but how did you learn how to fight?" He asked, he wanted to know everything about her.

"My queens-guard, Mulan taught me. I figured if I wasn't a good queen I could at least be a good warrior to defend my people." She explained.

"But you are a good queen," he said truthfully. "You saved your people and you're on your way to saving all the kingdoms. You're finishing what your mother started."

That made her smile and puts a warm feeling in her heart. They kept walking until they saw a bush in the distant that almost looked as if it was glowing. Once they reached the bush, it wasn't glowing, but it was filled with yellow roses. Rumplestiltskin reached out to pick one for her.

"Rumple wait-"

"Fuck." he groaned out in pain when the rose's throne pricked him, he quickly put his finger in his mouth to stop the bleeding. "I'm sorry my lady I was just trying to be chivalrous."

That made Belle laugh. "You seem to be forgetful of the rose's thorns. Here let me see it." He gave her his hand and she wrapped his finger with a torn piece of cloths from her dress and kissed it to make it feel better. "How's that?"

"Much better." He said, but he couldn't get over how caring she was. She didn't have to make him feel better, but she wanted to.

"Here let me show you," she gently ran her small fingers along the petals of the flower. "A rose is delicate, its petals are soft and easily damaged. So it must protect itself." She moves the green leaves on the stem aside to reveal the dark green thorns. "But if you really want a rose, it has a weak spot here." she takes her index and thumb and puts it right under the rose's bulb and picks the flower from the bush effortlessly. "Here, it's yours."

"No, I was trying to give it to you." He said refusing the gift that was meant for her.

"I know, but I want you to have it." She said, handing him the flower.

He looks at the yellow rose in her hand before taking it and looking back up at her. Blue pools glimmering at him with blushing cheeks and full pink lips. He wanted to kiss those lips, to know what they felt like again. She was so young and beautiful, and a true queen. Right in that moment, he made another vow to himself, that he never wanted to see those blue eyes filled with tears, and if they did, the world would know a wrath none had ever witnessed. Their moment became more awkward afterwards since neither one was talking, just staring into the other's eyes, making the seconds seem like hours. She was just about to speak when they heard the toll of the bells.

"I think they're looking for us." She said pulling them out of their trance-like moment.

"Ah, the war meeting it must have slipped my mind." He said, but he wasn't ready to part with her. "Will you be joining us my lady, it is your right as a queen."

"No, I think you can handle this one on your own." Belle said. She had a feeling that he could make the right decisions for their next move without her. He'd proven he was trying to do things the honorable way instead of being ruthless.

The war meeting was held in the Arrendale's war council room. The first order of business was reading the letter from the scouts placed in Mist Haven. The letter read that Regina secured more men from her sister's kingdom of Oz and it added another 10,000 soldiers to her ranks. Rumplestiltskin showed his men no apprehension, but in his mind he felt like he was taking one step forward and 100 paces backward. He also told his men about the knights he was able to secure from Arrendale.

"500 soldiers and 100 archers?" his lieutenant Arthur asked. "That's it."

"Yes its all they could spare." Rumplestiltskin said. He knew Arthur was a bloodthirsty man, it was one of the reasons he chose him as his lieutenant, but he was trying to be a less violent man for his wife.

"And why are were you asking for them Your Grace. We have an army waiting to fight, we can take the soldiers and move out." Arthur tried to explain to his King.

"No that's not the right way to do it." He said, Rumple was getting more and more frustrated with his men, and Arthur was wearing his patience thin.

"Right way? You're even starting to sound like her." Arthur shook his head in disbelief at the man he thought was his King. "Who gives a fuck about the right way. We've been raiding villages and kingdoms to free the slaves since the beginning, taking what we needed, including solders. And since we've been in Avonlea and you married the Queen, you've changed. You're becoming weak."

"You have forgotten yourself Arthur," He asked with furrowed brows before placing his hand on the hilt of his sword and revealing some of the blade as a threat. "Or have you forgotten who your king is? Maybe would you care to find out how weak I am?"

Arthur wasn't stupid. He'd seen what Rumplestiltskin could do to a man. How he could sever a man from his bottom half without even blinking. He was the greatest swordsman who ever lived. Of course he wasn't stupid enough to fight him.

He took his hand off his sword before sighing and continuing to explain. "Look I know we're not doing things the way we have been, but we need allies, not enemies." He said repeating the words Belle told him.

"So what are your plans Your Grace?" Jefferson the captain of his armies asked.

Rumple looked down at the map of the kingdoms placed on the table. He trailed his eyes along different routes and roads until he finds what he's looking for. "We go to Camelot, perhaps there we can find more soldiers."

"Should we prepare our troops for a seize Your Grace?" His captain asked.

Rumplestiltskin looks between the face's of his men, they were all strong and even willing to die for him. He took a deep breath before sighing because he couldn't believe what he was about to say. "No."

 

Chapter Text

Her evening gown was beautiful. An off the shoulder bodice that remained somewhat modest at the collar. Much of the same couldn't be said about the bottom. The gown had a slit that traveled from the hem and didn't stop until it reached mid-thigh. It was the type of dress a woman would wear on the night of her wedding or during her bedding ceremony, so she had been told. But Belle had another use for this dress. Alternatively, it would serve the same purpose, but with a much different outcome.

She waited for him, lounging in their bed on her side, perched on one elbow. Her legs overlaid each other and crossed at the ankle. Slender, bare legs, glancing every so often through the slit of her gown. She knew all about the desires of men and that their minds resided in their pants when in the midst of young and beautiful maidens. And this time that's where she needed her husband's mind to be.

Since her wedding day, Belle had learned a lot about her new husband. He believed any matter could be solved with steel, rather than talking it out. But he was also very patient, and observant. He knew that he was playing a long game, and he didn't seem concerned with how long it would take to play it. Constantly thinking two steps ahead of his foe, and the word yield wasn't in his vocabulary. If she were going to get her suggestion through to him, she would need a sure advantage. That's what the dress was for. She wouldn't call it coaxing, as some would see it, Belle thought of it as a simple nudge in the right direction.

Their time spent at Arendelle went well. Better then she had imagined. She half expected to leave Arendelle a smoldering pit of ruins. Instead, they retained soldiers, and much needed food and supplies for their next journey. It didn't make sense to her. Why waste another day recruiting men, tearing them away from their homes and families, when there were easier ways to win wars.

That's the reason she summoned him to their bed chamber's, and by the sounds of the scuffling on the other side of her door, Belle presumed he'd arrived. Mulan was probably giving him a hard time. Belle's people still didn't trust the Invader, and their guards were always up when he was anywhere close to their Queen. The scuffle got louder and more disgruntled. A male's voice could be heard shouting before her husband walked in and slammed the door behind him.

"We must talk about your queen's guard, Yellow Rose," he began without getting a chance to look at her. "Mulan is – is-,"

That's when he saw her. Laying there, stunningly, on their feather bed, glowing in the candlelight of their room. He could smell the floral scented oil on her skin. Hibiscus and other winter flowers found typically in the snowy north. The auburn locks he became so fond of, fell neatly on her pale white shoulders, save a few tassels that framed her face. She was beautiful and not even the most brutal swordplay gave him more pleasure than seeing her lying there.

He cleared his throat, trying to jog his memory back in place. He was sure he was about to say something before he became mesmerized. Was it something about Camelot? No, that wasn't it. Damn it all anyways. It was no longer of importance after seeing his Yellow Rose. He was more focused on why she had summoned him, and after seeing her like this, he knew the answer.

"What's wrong with my queen's guard, Rumplestiltskin?" She asked, spreading a liberal helping of sugar over her words. "Are they not doing a good job of protecting me?"

"N-no, n-not at all," Rumplestiltskin said, trying to mask his true feelings under false admiration for Belle's troublesome guards. "In fact, I think they deserve some sort of reward for all the hard work they do, wouldn't you say?"

She had him. It was a lot easier than she'd thought. Under all the armor, weapons, and titles, Rumplestiltskin was still a man.

"I'm glad you are in an agreeing mood." she smiled, "Because there is something we need to talk about."

"Indeed there is." He smirked while reaching down to his belt buckle. "Talking, screaming, whispers, will all be heard tonight. I assumed it would be months before you would give me your yes," he said, pulling his belt through its loop and letting his heavy leather belt and steel drop and clatter on the floor.

"And many months after that before I even think about giving you a yes." She sighed wearily, rolling her eyes. Perhaps she'd laid it on him a little too thick. "That's isn't what I wanted to talk about."

The King took a step toward the bed, stepping over his fallen sword, and leans down closer, planting both his hands on either side of her. "Let me remind you, Belle, you are my wife, and there are certain duties as a wife you have to perform."

"Duties that remain strictly political." She reminded him. "You married me to take my Kingdom, not for love."

He licked his lips and leaned in closer. "And what about an heir?" He whispered. "I can give you sons and daughters that could continue your legacy."

Belle was utterly unmoved by his attempts to seduce her. "War is no place for a child."

"Then why am I here?" He asked, glancing over her and the romantically lit room, baffled.

"I've asked you here to talk about this war you're trying to bring about," she said. Rumple glared at her and stood up. She knew he wasn't going to be swayed, but she had hoped, with the help of the dress, that he would at least hear her out. "There has to be another way to free the slaves from the Queen other than war and death."

"We've already discussed this Yellow Rose. I won't stray from my path until the Queen is defeated." He said, shrewdly. "If you wanted to discuss strategy, you should have come to the council."

"And be mock for my presence by your vulgar lieutenant, Arthur? I rather not." Belle sat up, trying to cover her legs with her dress, but the slit was making it impossible. "So what was mentioned at this war council?"

Rumplestiltskin walked away for a moment and came back with a chair. As he took his seat, Belle noticed that it looked like he was carrying the weight of all the kingdoms on his shoulders. "We leave for Camelot in a few days."

"Wonderful." She said, sarcastically, throwing her hands in the air. "More pillaging and fighting with a kingdom that has done us no harm."

"If the King and Queen of Camelot give us the men we need, I'll leave peacefully." He promised, placing a hand on his chest.

"And if they refuse?" Belle asked. There was always a worst case scenario when it came to her husband.

"Then Camelot will be a forgotten ruin. Songs will be written of how I, the rightful king, was denied what was mine by right and they paid for it. A lesson for all the other kingdoms who thought it was wise to defy me." He said, theatrically; ever the showman.

Belle could only shake her head. "You are King, yes, but you're not their king. And destroying their home won't make them believe that you are."

"Where do you think belief comes from Yellow Rose. Fear."

"No, it doesn't," Belle said quickly. "Freedom inspires belief. Freedom from fear. The slaves live in fear every day because of the Queen. We should stop wasting time and head for Mist Haven and free the slaves."

"The queen has over 50,000 men at her disposal. I would be sending my men to slaughter." His knights were good, but not good enough to beat a 3 to 1 odds.

"Not if they don't come."

"Go alone? Yellow Rose, do you wish me dead?"

"Of course not. But hear me out. She already knows what we are doing. She knows we are starting a war. What she won't expect is a treaty."

"A treaty means both parties settle on terms to get what they desire. I want the slaves freed, and I highly doubt that's what Regina wants."

"We don't know what Regina wants," Belle said.

Leaning back in his chair, he sighed long and worn out. "So what are you proposing?"

"You and I, along with a non-threatening amount of knights, make haste to Mist Haven and speak with the Queen. Offer her the same arrangement that you have given to Anna and Kristoff. Free the slaves and award her with a lordship over Mist Haven and the surrounding kingdoms."

Rumplestiltskin snorted. "Award her with a lordship? So is that what I stand for now? Awarding slaveholders."

Belle scooted closer to the edge of the bed. "She was born into the position, just as I was. The slaves were Cora's idea, not Regina's. We can't blame daughters for the sins of their mothers." Belle explained. It was also Cora who killed her parents. She couldn't blame and seek revenge on a woman who did her no harm. But she could see to it that her parents didn't die in vain by finishing what they couldn't.

What Belle talked about was mercy, something Rumplestiltskin never had a palate for. "And what if her mother's sins are too deeply embedded into Regina and she refuses?"

"I have faith she won't, as I have faith in you to do the right thing."

Rumplestiltskin turned away from her and sighed, "I know love will never be in the cards for us, but how about trust?"

Belle placed her hand on top of his, an unspoken sign of her trust.

A chill ran through him. He didn't like the idea of going to see the Queen without an army behind him, but he was determined to show Belle he wasn't a monster as she and others saw him. "I'll send a rider tonight."

xox0xox

At Dusk, Rumplestiltskin kept his word and sent a rider with a message to the Queen, supplying him with enough food to last until he reached Mist Haven. Unfortunately for Belle and Rumple, that meant they would have to stay longer in the frozen wasteland of Arrendale.

He hated the cold, hated how everything looked pale and gray, like death. The cold made him stiff, and no matter how much his blood pumped while training in the wintery conditions, he always remained cold. Belle hated the food in the North. Stag and elk wasn't her favorite dish. The meat was too sweet and gamey, but Arrendale couldn't keep a flock of chickens or cattle this far North without them freezing to death. She kept mostly to berries and bread, but even then, the berries were bitter, and the bread was hard as ice.

"Left." The king said, and Jefferson successfully parried Rumple's steel.

"High," Rumplestiltskin said, bringing his sword down from the air to clash with a loud clang onto Jefferson's blade. With the edges of their blades high and parrying each other, the young captain noticed that Rumplestiltskin left his torso opened and unguarded. It was too good to be true. The greatest swordsman would never let his guard down, even for a split second. But it was a chance he was willing to take. Jefferson thrust his sparring sword towards Rumplestiltskin, and to his surprise, the king shifted, and the captain's blade grazed his arm instead of impaling him through the chest. If they were training with real swords, Rumplestiltskin would have a very nasty cut on his upper arm. Rumple took a step back on his pivot foot and brought his sword down, hitting Jefferson with the pommel of his sword and knocking him to the ground.

Rumplestiltskin loomed over him with his sword pointed at the apple of his neck.

"I yield," Jefferson shouted, throwing his sword away. Rumplestiltskin helped his friend up and gave him a good try pat on the back. Jefferson rubbed the small bump on the top of his head where the stone pommel landed its blow. There would be an enormous knot there tomorrow for sure.

"You make this too easy for him, Jefferson," Arthur said, finishing an apple, and throwing the core on the ground.

"I seem to remember you on your back, yielding too." Jefferson tried to explain, gasping for breath.

Rumplestiltskin chuckled. "Don't take it too hard, Jefferson. Everyone who has faced me ended on their backs."

"Aye, all but one," Arthur remarked subtly with a nod toward Belle's bedchambers tower, but not subtle enough that Rumple couldn't overhear him. He supposed it wasn't a secret anymore that he hadn't bedded Belle yet. Surely she would be carrying a child by now if he had, but before he had a chance to respond to Arthur's rudeness, his squire rushed into the training yard.

"Your Grace," the lad bowed and handed him a scroll stamped with red wax. He broke the seal and unrolled the parchment.

"What does it say?" Jefferson asked.

"Mist Haven's Queen accepts our meeting, and we are to come at once," Rumplestiltskin said, handing the scroll back to his squire.

"I thought we were going to Camelot," Jefferson asked.

"I've changed my mind," Rumplestiltskin said, sheathing his sparring blade.

Arthur scoffed. "You mean the Queen has changed your mind."

"We both agreed there are better ways to free the slaves," Rumplestiltskin replied.

Arthur chuckled. "Yes many ways indeed, all of which are cowardly ways if they don't involve fighting."

"I'm not a coward. If the Queen refuses the terms, the war continues. I'm giving her a chance to take the cowardly way out."

"So another treaty? With sweet, beautiful promises of lordship and protection?"Arthur batted his eyes, mockingly.

"I would change my tone if I were you, Arthur."

"'A beast doesn't concern himself with the mercy of sheeps.' That's what you said when King Hades wanted to surrender. Instead, you opened his throat from ear to ear."

"Perhaps I'm tired of being a beast." Rumplestiltskin shrugged. "I should go tell my wife to dress warmly, if you'll excuse me." He said before walking off in the direction of the castle, leaving his friends behind.

xox0xox

Rumplestiltskin decided that Arthur wasn't the best person to take with him to Mist Haven. Instead, he chose Jefferson and twenty of his best knights. Along with Belle, they saddled their horses and made the trek to Mist Haven.

After a week on the road, he knew they were getting closer to their destination. There was a reason it was called Mist Haven. A drizzle began to form, and tiny droplets of rain fell on him and his black steed. Unperturbed by the sudden water, he carded his fingers through his hair, pushing back the damp locks from his face, and continued through the smoky forest. The fog cloud around the Mist Haven was thick, too dense to make out the distance between their convoy and the black palace.

Belle heard stories about the fog of Mist Haven. Tales of how people would become trapped in the forest and left to wander aimlessly through its fog until they died of starvation. Or worst, captured by a hideous witch who would take them apart piece by piece, leaving their eyes for last so that they could watch the dissection of their own body. It brought chills to Belle just thinking about it. They were only fables and bedtime stories, but Belle still felt it necessary to steer her horse closer to Rumplestiltskin, just in case.

They continued down the long twisting road. The dirt path had some many curves that it made feel like they were going in circles. Finally, after a few more paces, the fog began to thin, and they were able to make out the shape of a castle. The Black Palace dwarfed any fortress she has ever seen by at least a hundred feet. Massive black towers outstretched and licked at the dark rain clouds above, nuzzled tighter then arrows in a quiver, with tips as sharp as knives. The palace was all glass, tinted black, and gray granite stone. Now that they were out of the fog, Belle could see that the castle was situated on a peninsula. Water was on all sides except the piece of land which they traveled on, making it the only entrance and escape. If anyone wanted to lay siege to the Black Palace, not only would they need a land army, but they would need a navy as well, a good one, one that could withstand a barrage of catapults from three sides.

Once they passed through the marble gate column, they were approached by two knights, garbed in all black armor and a silver whole helm with a horizontal slit for vision.

"Queen Belle. Rumplestiltskin." One of the knights said without properly addressing the King and Rumple instantly knew this visit wasn't going to go as smooth as Belle had hoped it would.

"Aye. And it's King Rumplestiltskin." Belle corrected.

"As you say, my lady." The knight said with a small bow. "Allow us to escort you safely to the Queen."

Belle nodded and grabbed the reins of her horse. Rumplestiltskin did the same and signaled his men to follow.

To get to the castle, the knights led them through a small village. The people of the town were slaves. Although she didn't show it, it broke Belle's heart to see them walking in the mud without any shoes. No cloaks around their slumping shoulders to protect them from the cold and rain. She couldn't imagine that her citizens, the former slaves, in Avonlea were forced to live like this. Ruby's grandmother never mentioned to her how bad it was here. The metal around their necks was different from the slaves that lived outside of Mist Haven. The collars looked like they were made out of lead, rather than the tin ones Belle was used to seeing on the common streets of Avonlea. The heavy, bulky metal was disfiguring them, making them hunch forward and their backs protrude into a hump.

"It's so they won't run," Rumplestiltskin told her.

"It's deforming them." Belle managed to say after witnessing the horrors. Regina's mother must have added more weight to the collars after Belle's parents helped so many to escape. "Gods, Rumple. We have to help them."

"We will." He said, hoping it would bring her spirits up, but it didn't make any difference. To her, we will sounded about as vague as someday, and someday was just a pretty way to cover up its real meaning, never.

Finally, they made it to the rough cut stone steps of the black palace. The knights escorted them directly into the large throne room where Regina sat on her throne. Behind her was a large hearth, burning bright red as embers floated above her head before turning to ash and falling back down like light snow. On the walls were Mist Haven's banners, a red fireball on a black field.

"My Lord, My lady." A royal speaker stepped forward and bowed. "You have the high honor to address Queen Regina of Mist Haven."

Belle dropped into a curtsy. "Your Grace, it's a pleasure to be in your presence."

Rumplestiltskin bowed languidly without saying a word. His fingertips drummed the leather grip of his sword. Keeping his eyes open for any looming threats. The Queen's guards all wore helmets that covered their faces, making it difficult to know their true deceitful intentions. Instead, he focused on Regina, and even then it was technically impossible to tell if they were in any danger.

The stern look on Regina's face softened into a smile. "I am honor by your presence as well. I trust you didn't find any trouble on your journey."

"Nothing we couldn't handle, your Grace," Belle said, addressing the Queen properly, even though she didn't give her and Rumple the same courtesy.

"Resilient, I like that." She said, making Belle show a small hint of a smile. "Or should I fear it? After all, your husband is a king killer. I'm curious to hear his policy on Queens."

"He doesn't kill Queens Your Grace, nor Kings for that matter, not anymore," Belle said cautiously.

"By my count, he's destroyed..." Regina paused and counted in her head. "Four, or was it five kingdoms, including yours."

A log in the hearth snapped under the pressure of the fire, sending hundreds of tiny red embers floating into the air behind the Queen, making it look like Regina was wearing a fiery crown. Rumplestiltskin's hand moved to the hilt of his sword, tightened his grip around the leather until his knuckles became white.

"Avonlea is not destroyed. We were at war, and we agreed to a treaty, and the fighting stopped," Belle said quickly.

"And what were the terms of this treaty?" Regina asked. Belle mumbled her answer incoherently. "Speak up girl. This is a large throne room, and voices do not carry as they should."

"Marriage," Belle said, less passive this time. She married Rumplestiltskin to save her kingdom and her people. There was no shame in that.

"Oh yes, indeed a marriage," Regina mocked, snickering, and Belle could hear the low chuckles of the other bystanders in the throne room.

Rumplestiltskin flexed his fingers around his blade's hilt. Ten guards and 14 paces. Only ten guards to take out and 14 steps forward and he could cut the Queen down and save hundreds, if not thousands.

But he didn't make a move. Something was holding him back.

"It- it's not what you assume-" Belle tried to explain before getting cut off.

"Oh, it isn't? Does not the King and Queen of Avonlea stand before me?" Regina asked rhetorically.

"Yes, but-"

"No need to explain, My lady. I understand completely." She said playfully. Regina scooted to the edge of her throne and leaned forward eagerly. "Do you know what we call a girl who has fallen in love with her captor and rapist?"

Belle didn't respond, even the crowd over watching the exchange were silent. All that was heard were the snapping and popping of dried wood in the fireplace.

"No?" Regina solicited. She took another pause and grinned wickedly. "A yellow rose," A roar of laughter came from the crowd and the Queen.

"Fitting isn't it? My fool came up with it when he heard the news of what happened in Avonlea," Regina said, wiping laughing tears from her eyes. "Okay, enough japes. What is it you wish to talk about?"

Belle composed herself. "A treaty, your Grace," Belle said, happy to get back on topic.

"A treaty? Are we at war?" Regina asked, amused.

"Not yet, but if you continue to hold slaves, we will be." Rumplestiltskin finally spoke up.

Regina glared at him. "Sooner than you think if you throw threats at me."

"It's not a threat, Your Grace," Belle said, stepping in front of Rumple and trying to defuse any confrontation. "My husband and I can not let you continue to abuse and misuse people, people who are no different than me and you."

"And so what would you have me do with the slaves once they are free?" Regina asked. "Let them run amok and destroy my kingdom, placing my people in poverty-?"

"Give them the lands they've sowed," Belle said unabashedly, putting all her strength behind her words. "Give them equal rights as your other citizens. Allow them to be productive members of your kingdom. Give them back their dignity. And in return, we will give you a lordship over your kingdom and name you, and your future heirs, protector over this region. "

Regina leaned back in her throne and turned her attention back to Rumplestiltskin. "What about you? Nothing to add to your wife's plea?"

"Take the deal." He gritted through his tightly closed lips.

The throne room went silent again. Everyone, including Regina's citizens, was waiting on her answer. Finally, she smiled. "When I was a child, maybe 8 or 9, I was sitting with my mother in her throne room, this very room, when a man and woman entered."

Belle and Rumplestiltskin looked at each other warily for a moment. They were expecting an answer from the Queen, not a story.

"I remember thinking that the woman was beautiful and the man was handsome and gallant, even hoping that I would find a husband as handsome as he," Regina said. A glint was in her eyes, and it almost looked like she had regressed back to that young age.

"They began talking. Back and forth. Back and forth. A respectable dispute, I heard my mother call it once. Every time the woman spoke, my mother spoke back in disagreement. I suppose the woman said something my mother really didn't like because what happened next, I would never forget." Regina said, and Belle noticed the shimmer in her eyes turned to a spark of fear.

"My mother raised her voice, the only time I've ever heard her shout, other than when she was yelling at my sister or me. Seize them she said. Her men surrounded them and bound their hands and feet. " Belle's heart began to race, even though Regina hadn't said the names of the man and woman, she had a guess who they were.

"Your Grace, this isn't what we wanted to discuss when we sent you a message," Belle said in an uncomfortable tremble.

"Oh, but it's exactly what I want to discuss." The Queen said.

It always meant danger to disobey a ruler in their castle. It was especially dangerous for Belle and Rumplestiltskin because they hadn't been given guest rights or privileges. If they were to disrespect the Queen, in any way, Regina could kill them just like any other person, and say it was for the protection of her people and her stronghold, and no one would question it. A castle wasn't just a home. It was also a battleground.

"Now, where was I." She cleared her throat and continued."Her next command was to the archers. I watched them dipped their arrow tips in pitch and set them ablaze. After that, I closed my eyes. I was terrified. But I do remember their screams. It wasn't until days later I found out that the man and woman were the Queen and King of Avonlea, and their 4-year-old daughter was the new Queen." Regina finished. Belle was in shock. Regina had opened old wounds that hadn't healed all the way, and rubbed gravel into them.

Regina giggled mischievously. "And now the King and Queen of Avonlea have returned, standing in the exact spot where her mother's ashes once laid, asking the very same thing of me. Free the slaves. It cost your parents their lives, what will it cost you?"

Belle was too overcome with emotions to speak. Lost somewhere between anger and sadness. She wanted everyone to pay for not stopping the murder of two innocents. More than anything, she wanted the destruction of Mist Haven and their Queen.

"Then we can take your answer for a no?" Rumpelstiltskin asked.

Regina stood up from her throne. "No, and never. I will never free my slaves. Now, get out of my kingdom, before I behead you both."

The sound of 10 blades all unsheathing at once echoed throughout the throne room. Rumplestiltskin's knights drew their swords as well and encased their King and Queen inside a human circle. Rumplestiltskin pulled out his blade too and stepped in front of Belle.

"Let them go," Regina said, and her knights lowered their swords, only slightly. "Go raise your army. If you think that you can."

"Aye, Yellow Rose was right. I don't kill Queens." Rumplestiltskin thundered, throwing his voice down the length of the throne room. "But there is only one Queen I see in this room, and she stands by my side."

Regina's lip twitched with rage, and her eyes were full of flames, like she had consumed every drop of fire in the hearth behind her.

Rumplestiltskin and his soldiers backed out of the throne room slowly until the large mahogany doors sealed closed. Belle stormed off without saying a word, her husband and his knights trailing behind her. She didn't stop until she reached the stable that held their horses.

Rumplestiltskin was concerned for her. He'd never seen his wife this shook up before. But they had to get out of Mist Haven, fast, before Regina changed her mind about sparing them. He lifted her by the waist onto her horse and looked up at her, trying to force out honeyed words, anything to make her talk.

"Belle, I-"

She grabbed the reins from his hand and steered her horse out of its stall. "Promise me something, Invader."

"Anything." He said, placing a hand on her thigh.

"Save the Queen for me." She said coldly, before galloping off.

Chapter Text

Belle remained silent as her copper mare carried her along the dirt road, trudging behind a handful of knights. Her hands were sore and blistered from the reins, and her legs ached something awful from the uncomfortable saddle. All this discomfort and pain, and what did she have to show for it? Absolutely nothing. Regina is still the Queen of Mist Haven, the slaves remain in captivity and are probably succumbing to worse conditions now that Regina knows that there is a force trying to take her crown.

All that bravery she mustered up had been shot down with a single, no. She thought everyone could be reasoned with, even the hardest of men, like her husband, who still had the innate ability to see right from wrong. But not her, not Regina. It was like she was keeping the slaves out of spite, out of the pure delight of seeing those around her suffer.

Every few paces, Rumple made it a task to glance over at her, just to make sure she was doing okay. He couldn't tell if she was upset or disappointed, tired or if she just wanted to be left alone. He's never seen Belle this quiet. Even on their journey to Mist Haven, all Belle talked happily of were preparations and getting the newly freed slaves accustomed to being emancipated. But it was like Regina sucked all the optimism from his wife and the woman riding beside him, was a husk.

"How about some entertainment, Yellow Rose? Care to regale me with a story from one of your books?" Rumple asked, engaging her in small talk. Belle rolled her eyes, tightening her grip on the reins to steer her horse steady on the path, but she winced when she felt a sharp burning pain shoot through her sore hands, making Belle loosen her grip on the reins. "Not in the storytelling mood, I see. Have I ever told you about the time I was a shepherd?"

"And the sheep were sheared... The End," Belle said, without making the slightest eye contact with him. No, she wasn't in the mood to tell a story, let alone, hear one about Rumpelstiltskin tending to sheep. Belle was supposed to marry someone of nobility, someone with royal blood coursing through their veins. Not to some sheepherder turned conqueror. And listening to a story about it was the last thing she needed to hear to cheer her up.

"Oh come now, Yellow Rose," Rumple coaxed her. "It's a fascinating story. It may even pass the time."

"Fine."

"In a Kingdom not too far from here, there was a young boy named David; Prince and heir to the crown."

"Let me guess you made sure that the crown didn't pass to him."

Rumplestiltskin glared at her. "You gave up your chance to tell a story if I do recall."

Rumple was 12 at the time, almost a man grown. The maple grove was his favorite place to relax and escape from his duties. It got him five lashes from his father, but it was worth it to watch the orange sunset dip behind the trees and their colorful leaves.

Rumple and his father owned a flock of sheep and were weavers. Their sheep produce the softest wool, and they only spun for the very rich and royal. They were very fortunate, sometimes even getting the opportunity to sell their threads and yarns to the garment makers of Kings, but their pockets weren't lined with the gold coins that they earned thanks to the 20% taxation their King declared. But that didn't stop Rumple from enjoying the free pleasures in life, like watching the light show in the sky, when the sun miraculously made the clouds go from white to gold to orange to red, and on some occasions when a storm was brewing, the clouds were even purple.

The sounds of a child sobbing woke him up from a daydream. The boy was maybe a year or two younger than Rumple. He tried to hide from the child by leaning up against the tree, and ducking around it if the child came near. If anyone where to catch him in the royal grove then it would be his head on a spike.

"Wilby!" the boy cried out through his sobs, tears streaming down his reddened cheeks. He looked familiar, and that alone made Rumplestiltskin even more wary of being seen. "Wilby come back, come home!"

From the looks of it, the boy had no intentions of ending his search for whoever Wilby was and was bound to stumble onto Rumpelstiltskin, who was only using a tree trunk to shield his visibility.

"Haven't seen any Wilby, kid," Rumple said. "You best get out of here before a guardsman finds you."

The boy sniffed. "I live here. It's my family's grove."

His family? He knew the lad looked familiar. He's the prince and heir of King George. Rumple had no choice but to play it cool and keep the boy calm. His life depended on that. "I heard you lost your puppy, so I came to offer my services."

Rumple picked up his shepherd stick and whistled. Two sheep came leaping over to the maple tree. He slapped both on the backside with the stick and sent them fleeing into the maple thicket.

"How is this gonna help find Wilby?"

"Just wait."

The boys waited together all afternoon and talked about everything. He told Rumple that the puppy wasn't just his and that it belonged to his twin brother too, whom he shared everything with. David confessed that he hated it, because his brother, James, wasn't the best sharer, and didn't know how to play nicely and was always mean to Wilby. David even confided with Rumple some of his scariest secrets. That one day, when he and James came of age, their father would have to make a decision. Which son would he pass his crown to. In most kingdoms, it was always the eldest male child, but in David and James's cases, they were twins, and therefore born at the same time. Unfortunately for David, their father was more keen to James and considered David was too soft-hearted and weak.

The sun had set, and dusk was rolling across the skies when two sheep leaped out the dense trees and on their tails, was a small brown puppy, trying desperately to keep up the chase with the two fluffy animals.

"Wilby!" The lad cried. The puppy's ears twitched when it heard the sound of its master's voice. Wilby ran over and hopped into David's arms.

"Looks like you've got yourself a fine sheepdog," Rumple said, scratching the puppy behind the ear.

"Thank you so much. I have to tell my father what you've done for me. He can reward you." David said, pulling Rumple in the direction of his father's castle.

"No, I want you to reward me," Rumple said.

"I don't have anything to give you."

"Then you'll owe me a favor. And then when you become King, you may grant my request."

"But what if James becomes the King?"

"It's simple. We just got to make sure your father picks the right son," Rumple said. David gazed at the older boy in a confused daze, comprehending only the broad strokes of what he was saying. For a boy only a couple of years older than him, Rumple was very wise. Rumple placed his hands on the shoulders of his new friend and looked him straight in the eyes. "The world is full of people like your brother, selfish and cruel. David, you have to be the tide and show them, the people like your brother and father, that good still has a fighting chance."

"So did David become King?" Belle asked eagerly, trying to pry more of the story out of him.

"Aye, he did."

"And did you get your favor?"

Rumple shrugged. "Haven't asked him yet."

To Belle, it felt like that there was a huge chunk of the story Rumple was omitting, but it felt good hearing Rumple speak of aiding people instead of maiming them. Even if this Prince still owed him a favor. And for a moment, Queen Regina's words lost their effect on Belle.

xox0xox

The small convoy continued to march back to Arrendale, stopping only to water their horses and to roast the foul they caught while traveling through the forest. When dawn began to peek over the horizon, Belle excused herself to the carriage for a quick nap before arriving at Arrendale.

The twenty soldiers didn't miss a step and kept riding until they reached a crossroad. Rumple directed his men to take the right road, instead of the left one which would lead them north to Arrendale. Mulan reared her horse and galloped to the head of the small convoy and blocked the path of the traveling knights.

"This isn't the way to Arrendale, Invader." She said upon her grey horse. The mare's silver tail whipped and snapped about anxiously as her hooves dug rough divots into the dirt.

"Stand aside Mulan," Rumplestiltskin said, unamused by Yellow Rose's knight. Mulan was always the most troublesome out of all her guards. Even now, she refused to listen to her king and continued to block their path. "Move. Your king commands it."

Mulan's mare neighed and rocked her head, shaking her silver mane as Mulan forcibly grabbed the hilt of the sheath blade dangling at her hip. "You do not command me. I serve the Queen and her alone. "

"You can serve Yellow Rose, by doing what I say and moving out of the way and letting us pass," Rumplestiltskin said, flatly. He was fed up with people thinking he had ulterior motives when it came to Yellow Rose. And most importantly, he was sick of being disobeyed.

Mulan leaped from her horse and yanked her sword from its sheath, pointing the tip of her longsword directly at the King. Rumplestiltskin's guards did the same. Seventeen sharpened blades aimed at the treacherous woman, they were fully garbed in gold-plated armor and weren't going to let any harm come to their king.

Jefferson stepped forward, both of his hands attached tightly around the leather grip of his sword. "Lower your weapon, treasonous whore."

"No need for names, Jefferson," Rumple said, watching the action from atop his lofty stallion.

Mulan smacked Jefferson's sword aside, surprising both him and the rest of the knights. "I have no quarrels with you lesser knights."

"Oh, is it me you want?" Rumplestiltskin asked, playing coy with the angered knight. He jumped down from his black steed and looked Mulan from head to toe, chuckling to himself as her blade followed his every movement. It had been months since he'd last cleaned blood from his sword, and he was more than obliged to spilled more. But Mulan was a knight of Avonlea, and from the way Belle talked of her, Rumple was sure that she considered Mulan her friend. Nevertheless, a lesson needed to be learned, and Rumple was more than happy to teach it to Yellow Rose's Knight. He unsheathed his great sword that doubled in size compared to Mulan's longsword and handed the reins of his horse to another knight before assuming a fighting stance. "You do me an honor, I've been eager for some combat."

Mulan backed up slowly, making the distance between her and Rumplestiltskin larger. "I'm only trying to protect my Queen."

"She doesn't need you anymore, Dearie," Rumple said, taking a quick lunge at her, but it was a front, and Rumplestiltskin smirked at the way his little scare tactic made Mulan flinch nervously. "I'm her protection. You are but some lowly knight who's seen more sword fights than she has lovers. My captain can remedy that-"

"I rather fall on my blade before I even consider giving myself to any of your savage knights," Mulan said, cutting Rumple off.

"Such a shame." He said, with a fake pout, making the rest of this knights laugh. "Is it a woman you want then?"

Sick of the way his words mocked her, Mulan charged at the King, but to her surprise, she parried his blade. Rumplestiltskin pivoted and thrust the butt of his sword into Mulan's stomach. Then brings up his elbow and hits her on the lip, causing it to split open and the metallic taste of blood seeped into her mouth. Mulan staggered backwards, but luckily, she didn't lose her footing.

"Fine, I'll get you a princess," Rumplestiltskin jeered, continuing to get a rise out of his soldiers.

Mulan glared at Rumplestilskin and spat out the mixture of blood and saliva onto the ground. Strong minded was a trait that Rumplestiltskin had not consider resided in Mulan. He was sure that after splitting her lip she'd back down crying as any woman would, but she didn't.

She made the first attack again, her sword slicing through the air, clinging and clacking with Rumplestiltskin's blade in a series of onslaughts. High. High Left. Mid Right. High. Low Sweep. High. Each time, steel on steel rang throughout the forest.

She was fast. Rumplestiltskin had to give it to her, but not quite fast enough. In the midst of Mulan's constant barrage of attacks, Rumplestiltskin noticed she repeatedly left her ribcage exposed. And since he wasn't trying to kill her, Rumple kicked her in the torso, lifting her off her feet and sending her toppling flat on her back as her sword skidded across the ground.

Rumplestiltskin sauntered over casually to where the she-knight laid in agony, clenching her chest in pain from the blow. He loomed over her ferociously, trailing his sword from sternum to neck, only inches from nicking her skin. "Had enough?"

"Stop," A voice said. "Stop this right now."

Belle pulled Rumple off her friend and pushed him aside so she could help Mulan up. Belle grimaced when she saw Mulan's mouth full of blood. She pulled out a cloth and began to dab the cut at her lip. "Are you okay Mulan?"

Mulan grabbed Belle by the wrists. "I have to get you away from the invader, My Queen. Let me return you to Avonlea."

"You know I can't, Mulan. He's my husband, and I've sworn myself to him." Belle said.

"My lady, he'll doom us all. Regina wants him dead, not you." Mulan said, pulling Belle towards her horse. "I can protect you in Avonlea, and you can come out again when it's safer."

Belle snatched her wrist from Mulan. "I will not run and hide in Avonlea while thousands of innocents remain enslaved. Look, I know you don't trust the invader, but trust me Mulan. There are things way bigger and scarier then Rumplestiltskin. So how about instead of fighting each other, we fight the real threat."

Ever the faithful servant of her Queen, Mulan took a knee and bowed before her. "As you wish, My lady."

Belle smiled at Mulan and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder before turning her attention to her husband. "Apologize."

Rumple scoffed. "I will not. Your guard start-"

"Apologize, now!"

"As you wish, my lady." He said, which was more of another jab at Mulan. Belle scowled at him, making Rumple change his attitude. "Mulan, please accept my sincerest apologies for winning a fight you began."

Belle rubbed the bridge of her nose and groaned. "Why can't you ever be serious?"

Belle's audible agitation didn't stop Rumple from slinging more insults. "Is there anything I can do to ease your pain? How about a whore or two to take your mind off the bruises?"

Belle took a step closer and stood directly in front of him. "Rumplestiltskin, hear this and know it to be true, because I'm only going to say this once, and once only. If you hurt any of my knights again, you won't be warring with just one Queen."

"You have my word, Yellow Rose," He said with a small bow. "Besides, all our attention should be on gathering more men for our armies."

"You speak as if you know a place to retain more men."

"As a matter of fact, I do. This path, the one Mulan tried to lead us from, goes directly to a kingdom that will provide us with capable soldiers."

"And you trust this King to give you the men we need without an army with us?" Belle asked.

Rumple grinned. "I do. He owes me a favor."

xox0xox

Belle and Rumple entered the throne room with two of their knights in front of them while the rest followed from behind. On the wall of the throne room were the Charming's banners, a tall apple tree on a green fertile field. They were a harvest kingdom, as represented by their sigil. Guards, servants, and spectators lined the throne room walls, watching the newcomers with suspicious and fearful eyes. Believing that the Invader had finally come to kill their benevolent king and uproot their family and destroy their homes.

The King stood up while his lady wife stayed seated on her throne. The man was wearing a hard, almost grim expression before he spoke. "The Foreign Conqueror, Rumplestiltskin."

"The Twin Prince, King David," Rumple said, smirking. "How is your brother?"

"Still dead, last time I checked." The King said, still holding the same formidable look. "I haven't seen you since we were boys. I thought you would have at least gotten taller by now."

The King stepped down from his throne and stood in front of Rumple, menacingly. "You old fool." The two men couldn't keep the ruse going any longer. David smiled and hugged Rumple in a huge embrace. "I've missed you old friend."

"And I you," Rumple replied.

David looked around his throne room at the observing servants who were standing around doing nothing. "Where are the meat and meed?" The King demanded, sending the servants scrambling. "This man has full guest privileges anytime he's in my kingdom."

"So is this the man my husband's been telling me about our whole marriage?" The woman asked, walking from her throne to take a closer look at her husband's friend. "He doesn't look like some dreadful conqueror to me. My name is Snow." She said, giving Rumple her hand.

Rumple returned the courtesy and kissed Snow gently on her knuckles. "A lovely name and a pleasure to finally meet you. David has told me much about you through our letters."

"Really? And what does my husband mention about me?" Snow asked, playfully tussling with the fringe of her hair.

"Just that you are the fairest in all the land," Rumple said, making Snow smile and blush profusely.

"Or so I presumed," David said. He looked over Rumple's shoulder and held out his hand to Belle. "And who is this young enchantress?"

Rumple stepped aside to allow her to come forward and take David's hand. "This is my wife, Belle."

"Your Grace, it's a pleasure," Belle said in a curtsy.

"My Lady, you have not spoken a single word since you've stepped foot into my castle, but I fear I've been mesmerized by your beauty," David said, kissing Belle softly on the hand.

"Thank you, your Grace." After weeks traveling to and from Mist Haven, Belle was less than presentable, let alone queenly. "I hope you can forgive my attire."

"There's nothing to forgive, dear." Snow said, casually. "You are simply perfect. A tad dirty, but perfect nonetheless."

"How did you end up with this brute?" David asked.

But before she could answer the King, his Queen spoke. "Belle? Why does that name sound so familiar David?"

"Hmmm. Isn't it Belle of Avonlea?" David asked.

Belle nodded. "Yes."

"Gracious me, My Queen. This is unacceptable. You need servants." Snow said before clapping to get the attention of her handmaidens. "This is the Queen of Avonlea. Draw her a bath and see to it that she gets a new dress."

The handmaidens whisked Belle away while Snow trailed behind them still barking out orders, leaving the two kings to talk amongst themselves.

"Does she know you're here?" David asked. Jokes aside and friend or not, he needed to know if his kingdom was in any danger.

"Regina thinks we are headed back to Arrendale," Rumple answered.

"A good thing then," David said, patting his old friend on the arm. "So what is it that you need from me?"

"Mounted soldiers and siege weapons."

David smiled. "Is that all?"

"And your loyalty."

"You're questioning my loyalty?" David asked before shaking his head incredulously. "I was on the ship before you even hung the sails. How many men do you need?"

He knew he could always trust David. "All of them, except your household guards. And if you do this for me, not only will I give you a lordship over your dominion, but I'll name you the protector of all the western lands."

"Aye, but Mist Haven is of the west."

"Regina won't be needing it anymore. I want to gift the kingdom to someone who actually deserves it." Rumple said, pacing in a circle around David. "Your kingdom has been living in the shadows of Mist Haven for too long. It's time for that to change."

"I agree. The knights are yours, but there's one more thing I must ask of you." David said. "Snow and I have conceived a second child, a boy. I need to find an heir to marry off my eldest daughter too. When will your son be born?"

"I hate to disappoint you, but I don't have an heir."

"Belle isn't pregnant yet?"

Rumple shook his head. "She hasn't come to think of me in that way, and I fear she never will." He sucked in a breath and let the words roll out of his mouth. "How does it work? I mean, with you and Snow. How did you get her to fall in love with you? "

"Are you asking me for courting advice?" David said, folding his arms across his chest.

"Of course not, no." Rumple denied, looking away. "It's just that, you had an arranged marriage too, and Snow seems... happy." David contemplated before nodding his head agreeingly. "How do I make Belle fall in love with me?"

David sighed. "You've got much to learn old friend. I'm glad you came when you did. The first thing you need to know is, honesty. Show her the man behind the beast."