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Only Curious

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It was just like any day, princess Emma walked through the royal gardens plucking tiger lilies, her favorite flowers, for her newest flower crown. It was early in the afternoon, and she was trying to stay out of her parents' way. Although the princess was never alone, she frequently found herself feeling lonely.

With each passing year, unable to destroy Snow White, and only hearing of her happiness, the Evil Queen would fall into a darker state of mind. Her heart was black now, with no hope left of ever having her own happy ending. The most she had was Maleficent's very occasional company and werewolves with mixed feelings between the two halves of the kingdom. Snow had managed to win most of it back through war. A slight few who feared the Evil Queen too much remained under her rule, but the majority had immediately deserted. She brooded about her throne room, pacing, each step causing her heels to ring through the empty space. She stopped and glanced out the window, frown on her red lips. This was a miserable day.

Emma hummed quietly to herself as she set her newly created flower crown upon her head. She smiled to herself as she entered through the side doors of the castle and moved toward the grand staircase. The princess knew of the meeting occurring in the conference room, yet another, endless discussion of the Evil Queen who held power in their old palace. She leaned her ear against the door, listening intently to the muffled voices. She heard the horror stories of what the Queen had done in the past and the curse she cast. But, in Emma's opinion, the Queen hadn't done anything terribly evil in quite some time. She stuck to her side of the kingdom since the last war ended. And her parents always talked about hope and redemption, so how come no one believed the Queen could be included? Startled, Emma jumped back when the doorknob began to turn, and she silently slipped away. Reaching her bedchamber in haste, she shut the door and gracefully fell upon her bed. She had been kept up all week and desired to flee the castle, if only for a few hours. She requested the presence of August, better known as Pinocchio, to take her out for the afternoon. August, an older brother figure in the princess's life, was one of the few she trusted. When the man, not much older than the princess, arrived, she greeted him politely. "Good day, August, I wish to venture away from the castle. May you take me on a ride?"

"Ah, why yes, my lady, whatever you wish." He responded. The two stifled their laughter. The formalities were for those who listened in. The two learned early in their life that there were eyes and ears throughout the castle. August guided the princess out of her bedchamber and to the west wing.

"Mother, father, I'm going for a ride with August this afternoon. I shall return for supper". She told them in a voice they knew could not be persuaded. And with a simple granting of their permission, the two wandered off to the stables.

The Queen couldn't spend another moment locked in this castle, she needed some fresh air. Right now, a walk just wouldn't do. She strutted down to the stable, which was where she spent a good deal of her time, and picked out a tall grey stallion. "Why don't we go for a ride today, Dancer?" She said in a low voice, grabbing a bit and reins, as she hated saddles. He accepted them, and she stepped onto the stool to hop on, letting him trot out of his stall. As soon as they were outside, he took off, jumping the gate. She allowed him to run free, wherever that may be. When she felt warm air, Regina was pulled from her thoughts. Her part of the kingdom was cursed in an eternal, constant winter. It didn't necessarily snow consistently, but it was always cold, and the sun rarely showed itself. Now, she was blinking away its rays. She pulled back on the reins, shaking her head. "Damnit... No, we can't be here!" She tried to get her stallion to turn around, but he seemed to refuse. He wanted the warm weather, not the freezing temperatures just ten feet behind them. Regina glanced around after her eyes adjusted. It really was beautiful, but the consequences were not worth this. She managed to get her horse to back up, so they were just at the edge, and it began to flurry. He snorted, and she tipped her wide-brimmed hat over her face as not to get it on her eyelashes, still staring at the beauty of summer.

A glowing smile planted upon the princess's face as she sat upon her steed, one leg crossed over the other. August guided him by the reins as he skillfully managed to ride his own horse. The ride was leisurely, and Emma soaked up the warmth and free open air. Such high contrast to being held up in the castle all day, even out in her garden still managed to make the blonde feel stuffy. She began to sing again, her melodic voice filtering through the air as they ventured onward.

Regina startled when she heard a soft voice, entranced by its beauty but unaware of the owner. She remained where she was, looking around when she spotted two horses over the green hills in Snow's kingdom. Her steed snorted, stamping his foot as if to race, but Regina held tightly. She emanated power, just by the way she looked, the way she sat. Her dress was a deep red, long skirt and long sleeves, cut low on her chest. It had black lace and gemstones to decorate it, and her hat matched. Her mouth seemed to be a permanent scowl, though her heavily made-up eyes were full of childish curiosity. She held her chin high in a display of power.

"Whoa there." August's voice came suddenly, pulling the princess out of her trance. The melody stopped when the blonde realized they were no longer moving. She glanced up toward her friend, eyebrows furrowed in a silent question. That was until she followed his line of sight. Just past the field, a dark shadow loomed over, and in the distance, Emma saw it. The part of the forest she was forbidden to enter, at least that's what her parents had always told her. But in the distance, Emma saw her. The all too famous Queen, sat upon her steed, just at the edge of her side of the kingdom. Curiosity tugged at the blonde, and she found herself motioning for August to continue onward. Though, no matter how much the princess requested, they didn't move.

"It's getting close to supper time, we should be getting you back home, Emma." He told her. Ignoring the princess's deep frown, August turned the two of them around and led them back the way they had just come. Emma's eyes, however, never left the mysterious women until her silhouette disappeared the further they went.

Regina had never seen the princess and had no reason to believe that who she'd seen was the woman destined to break her curse. All she knew was that she was on Snow White's side and didn't seem afraid of her... Which was rare. When she could no longer see them, she turned around, sending her horse cantering back to the place she lived, not that it could ever be called a home. Dinner was awaiting her, and she ate alone as usual. She wanted, no... She needed something to brighten her heart some.

After dinner, the princess told her parents she was retiring to her bedchamber for the night, and bid them goodnight. Laying in her bed, the blonde's mind wandered to mysterious women she had faintly seen today. Curiosity gnawed at Emma, so much so, when the princess was certain that all were asleep but the night guards, she decided she sneak out of the castle. Emma had a secret passage out of the castle that she and August found when they were mere children, and she knew no one would notice her. She snuck her way back to the stable and slipped on her riding boots, the princess had enough lessons that she knew how to ride. And soon enough, she was racing off into the night.

Regina hardly slept well. She tended to catnap, but that was the extent of her rest. Due to this, she left again, this time on foot. It would take her a few hours to get there... But she just had to feel a warm night. She hadn't felt warmth, other than from a fire or a lover, in so long... And it seemed almost addictive. She tied on a pair of shoes, put on a warm cloak, and left.

Emma's steed raced and raced until he came to an abrupt stop, neighing and snorting as he planted his hooves firmly on the ground.  "Stubborn boy," Emma grumbled to herself and found a nearby tree to tie up her steed, and then approached the invisible line once more. She reached her hand across, and a chill ran down her spine.

Regina was nearing the line that marked the border of their kingdoms, just crunching the snow under her feet. When she heard a voice, she halted, then hid behind a tree to observe without being seen. It was dark, and the Queen could hardly see, but could tell the stature was small, so they were clearly female. She recalled what happened earlier, and wondered if the strange woman had returned for some reason or another.

"When they said there was a chilly frost, I thought that was just an expression," the princess murmured to herself. She looked at her steed once more, "I've never felt such weather." She chuckled quietly, "Oh goodness, here I go." She crossed the invisible line, momentarily shivering before she broke out in a quiet, but warm melodic laughter.

Regina heard the voice, the laugh, and she recognized it as the same singing voice she'd heard during the day. Why had the woman returned? Regina could hardly hear her, but the laugh was enough to know she was no threat. Still, she wondered. She waited, though, to see how far she'd dare to venture.

Emma gnawed on her bottom lip and glanced back to her side of the kingdom before facing forward. She stood up tall, with the poise and composure she'd always been taught, she held her head high, eyebrows furrowed in determination. She looked around to see if there was anyone near, but for all the princess knew, she was alone. Emma quickly bent down, placing her hand on the ground, where it glowed momentarily, and then stood back up and began to venture off, a faint white trail left behind so that she'd know her way back.

When the woman was nearing her hiding spot, Regina stepped out. Now, despite her heels, she happened to be a couple inches shorter than this blonde, so it wasn't like she could tower over her. Still, she was quite intimidating. She could hardly be seen, save for the fact that her eyes glowed a deep violet with dark magic. "You've made a grave mistake, Little One." She said, voice royal and demanding, yet not threatening.

Emma stopped, gulping slightly. Although her heart was pounding wildly in her chest, Emma remained composed entirely. Confident as ever, she stepped forward slightly, just so she could make out the Queen's features. Green eyes widen in a mixture of awe and nervousness. The princess opened her mouth to speak, yet no words came out.

It was no hidden truth that the Queen was beautiful on the outside; however, her inside were corrupted. She could hardly even see something for its true beauty. To her, all beauty was superficial, and this woman was no different. She lowered the hood from her cloak and stepped forward. "You seem to be lost on my side of the woods, no place for a lady to be, now is it?" She chuckled deeply, maybe not from amusement.

Emma looked the Queen over as if sizing her up, and she blinked but didn't back down. "Not lost," she said finally. "Just curious." She never thought she'd ever come this close to the Queen in her lifetime.

Regina lifted her hand, running her finger down her jawline before gently, yet firmly, taking the woman's chin between her thumb and index finger. "Curiosity killed the cat, are you certain you want to test that... Kitten?" She purred, voice like silk and poison. It was clear she didn't know who the blonde really was.

Emma quickly came to the same realization, and she didn't know how much worse her identity would make the situation. "Curiosity may have killed the cat, but comparison killed the human." She retorted. "And I am no kitten." It was then, Emma felt like she had the upper hand, and so she decided to test the women. "Now, may you direct me in the way of the palace. I wish to see the Queen".

Regina snarled at that, baring her teeth. "The Queen? You ignorant fool." She didn't let go, but her face then softened into a smirk. This one had spirit. She wasn't going to run away with her figurative tail between her legs. "Haven't you ever heard? No one sees the Evil Queen and lives. She crushes hearts into dust." Her other hand made a crushing motion, magic flaring up in her eyes again.

Emma watched her hands move precisely like how it was explained in stories that she'd heard. But the blonde just smiled, "looks like I'll be the first." She looked back into the Queen's eyes, "Now, which direction to the Queen?" She asked, voice tauntingly sweet.

"You're not worth her time." The Queen replied, letting go. Her smirk was replaced with a frown. Oh, she was having fun playing with this young woman. She'd have much more fun with her at her castle, in her bedchambers... "But, I'll take you to the castle anyways if that is your true wish."

"Oh?" Emma asked, smirking inwardly. If she wasn't worth her time, then how come she was taking her bait. "If you think she will turn me away, perhaps I should just be on my way." Emma turned back, facing toward her side of the kingdom. She knew this is where she had to end it, a little at a time. She looked over her shoulder at the Queen before crossing the line and going to untie her steed. "Oh, and if you see the Queen. Tell her, Princess Emma says hello". She grins before hopping on her horse and racing off through the night.

Regina's eyes widened at the revelation. The princess?! Princess Emma, Snow White and Prince Charming's little brat... The one who would somehow destroy her curse? She growled and threw a fireball in her direction as she escaped, but only managed to hit a tree, which didn't burn for long. Part of her wanted to chase her, and she likely would've if she had a horse. But it was useless on foot, so she resigned herself to leaving. She wasn't so interested in the heat and fireflies anymore. She needed to learn more about that princess.