First there was wrath.
The green witch is not the only enemy hidden in these lands, she is the most flamboyant by far, but not the most dangerous,
These lands, even, are an enemy, Robin feels it heavy in the wind sometimes, more and more every day. The air blowing through the trees is menacing in a way he cannot explain, it shivers his spine the way the wind shrieks, he sends wary looks over his shoulder when between the giants of the forest. The castle is more a safe haven for Robin and his men then the newly returned inhabitants know.
This land, it is not the rolling hills and protected roads it was before the curse struck. Robin feels more and more the stranger in the woods that were his home for so long. Roland does not feel safe in the woods, as Robin had when he was young, Roland does not like to be alone with the trees.
The child has more sense than David, Robin thinks, David who does not know the forest for what it is now, and David does not know these men as he supposes he does either.
These men, standing in a loose semi-circle before Robin, John, David, and the Queen, these men, enemies each and every one, wild men for a wild forest, menacing men that call the cruel woods home, David does not know how dangerous they are.
"We can compromise," David entreats, smiling, with his hand raised, palm towards the sky, a friendly gesture. "Surely, we can come to-"
The dark haired man that stands before David lets out a breath of air, the wild man, seems to be the leader, pale eyes and dark hair, mocking, turning his head to look at his closest compatriots. His fingers clench around the hilt of his blade, a grip that creaks his knuckles. He has crooked teeth, yellowing and uncared for, when he smiles, his smile is on the Queen, lecherous and gross, his tongue licks at dry lips.
"What would you offer us?" the man says, "Would you give us the woman, if we asked? Is that a compromise we can all agree too?"
Another man laughs, humps violently at empty air, hands raised as if to grip a phantom woman about the hips. The wild men laugh.
Robin's hands turns to fists, he feels his pulse beating wildly in his neck with every forceful beat of his heart, thundering in his ears, louder and louder the longer he watches the man carry on. Robin breaths in, harsh through his nose, and takes his glare off the man to look at Regina, to look at her as she stares dispassionately into pale eyes and yellow teeth, but her jaw is clenched tightly.
David's smile dims, and then it is gone, but he steadfastly refuses to share any sort of glance with the woman standing by his side, the Queen, she stands still seemingly unruffled as the humping man adds grunts to his act, disgusting things. A battle, a skirmish, she'd foretold it, there is no compromise with men like these, she'd said to David and to Snow when these wild men had wormed out of the darkness of the forest, and the both of them had not listened to her.
Robin eases his weight from one foot to the other, ready for the fight; John next to him does the same.
"Surely-" David starts, but then the men attack.
"There is no compromise with men like these!" she had said, nearly yelling, bright eyes nearly pleading as she leaned over the heavy wooden table, hands flat upon its carved surface. Her dress was silk, Robin followed the folds of it with his eyes as he listened to her rich voice, dark purple silk draped over every lovely curve, over soft swells, an artist, a sculpture of the highest caliber, must have helped in her creation, he thought, for she was a work of art, the most beautiful Robin had ever seen. "They are dangerous to us," the Queen went on, and she was right, "we are nowhere near full strength, if they -"
Snow White tsked her tongue, smiling, and Robin could see how that smile enraged Regina, could see how it burned away the pleading and left only the anger in her dark eyes. "Regina," Snow said, eyebrows drawing together, she reached out a hand, as if to touch her once step-mother, only to have Regina flinch back from that almost contact as if burned. "Winter is just around the bend," Snow went on after a moment too long saying nothing, her hand hanging in the air before returning to rest over her ever growing middle, "these men are desperate, they have no stores and no shelter, we can work this out with them. Please don't worry."
It was Robin that could not contain himself then, the absurdity of Snow and David's naivety too much to take, and nor could he look another moment upon the frustrated frown overtaking Regina's face without trying to alleviate some of her worries, "These are not good men," he said to Snow.
His quiet voice stilled the room.
Robin had never had trouble getting other men, royals and peasant alike, to listen to him, to hear him, his voice had those in the council chambers looking towards him then. Regina gazed at him for a moment, just a moment, eyes sharp and dark and penetrating, locked on his, before she licked her lips, full lips, before she turned away, walking slowly, the patter of her shoes shuffling against the stone. "These are not desperate men that kill to survive, Your Majesty," Robin said to Snow, half his attention on the sultry line of the Queen's spine as she came to a stop before a window, gazing through the glass, her back to him, to the council, half her back was bare, smooth skin free to Robin's scrutiny. She shivered as she stood so close to the window.
(How he wished to chase the chill away, wrap arms around her and warm her, the urge to touch was getting stronger every day, the urge to touch her, to feel the softness of her body, the softness she did not hide, no, the softness she showcased in her velvet gowns, in her silk dresses, the softness she used against Robin like a weapon, and it was indeed a most devastating one.)
It was David that bid him to continue, "What do you mean?" the King, was he truly King, Robin did not know, did not ask, the Queen was still Regina, and David could not be King if Snow was not Queen.
Robin leaned forward, let his eyes leave the woman he so often was caught gazing at, clasped his hands together to keep the urge to touch her at bay, "These are men that kill because they can, because they are strong and others are weak, they do not need your shelter, I assure you, nor your stores. The Queen speaks truly; there is no compromise with men the likes of these."
But Snow shook her head with a smile.
There is no compromise with these men.
Fifteen men, men that stink of body odor, men with old dried blood on their blades, blades uncared for, chipped and twisted like their teeth, with greasy hair, wild and flying, they attack all at once, one entity together, and even as Robin jumps back, draws his bow up, he is impressed with their unity, with their speed, as they rush forward.
Robin lets loose an arrow, does not pause to see it impale itself in the neck of the man it was aimed for, already he is drawing another, aiming for another man. John has felled two already with his own bow; David is fighting three with his blade, and Regina-
Robin nearly loses the air in his lungs, watching her from the side of his eye as he kills another man, efficiently diminishing the enemies number, for all her softness she is still frightening to behold-
Regina dances, her hair behind her, streaming and dark, her legs, encased in leather, they are quick, her feet nimble on rocks and grass. Fire at her fingertips, fire, hot and deadly, it casts her face in lights and shadow, she spins away from sharp steel, she parries, one man screams and screams from a burn on his face before he is shoved back by an unnatural force, it rips him back and smashes him against a tree. She is fighting five, four now that the man with the burned face does not rise from where he sprawled upon the ground.
Robin tears his focus from her.
Robin shoots a third arrow, flies it into the gut of a man that is charging Robin, Robin springs back another step, notches another arrow and this goes into the charging man's thigh, that makes him stumble, fall to a knee in the dirt, it is the man that had groaned and grunted and pretended to fuck the Queen. The next arrow goes through his left eye.
The next man to come at Robin is laughing, unhinged in the most dangerous of ways, mad men are animals, and a slither of fear crawls up the back of Robin's neck where before there had been none, the arrow he shoots is thwacked out of its path by the unhinged man's sword. Robin stands for a moment too long in shock, too long questioning how the madman did it, his moment too long nearly costs him his life. He flings himself to the side with a grunt, escaping a swinging blow by a mere hair's breadth.
"Run little rabbit," the man cackles, he does not blink, his eyes wide and bloodshot as he goes for a thrust, a clean through and through, steps in close to Robin. Robin cannot escape him long enough to draw back his bowstring as he is forced to evade and jump.
Robin drops his bow, careful even in this extreme to be careful of his favored weapon, instead Robin pulls his dagger free of his waist, his teeth snarling as he meets the madman, but a dagger is no match for a sword, and Robin cries out as his shoulder is sliced open, his leathers and his tunic cut as easily as his skin underneath.
He falls to his knee in the dirt, switches his dagger from his right hand, which is already numbing and heavy, to his left. Robin pants out a breath, and stands to fight. He gets his feet in time to see the madman's head suddenly turn with a sickening sound, frighteningly fast, turn completely around to face the wrong way, his neck snaps, the sound is unlike any other gruesome thing Robin has heard in his life. The man drops to the ground, dead, heavy weight, his sword clattering free from his slackened grip.
Robin lunges for the dropped sword, breathing heavily, bleeding from his wound; he looks into the blank eyes of the madman as he takes the sword, and can think of nothing besides how grateful he is to be alive. The Queen had saved him, Robin knows, and rises with his newly acquired sword intent on finding her in the increasingly desperate fight.
Only six remain of the enemy.
He is searching for her, for only half a second, before he hears her first, the noise she makes when she is struck, a sort of strangled gasp, wet sounding and surprised, high pitched, he hears it over the shouting of David, over the clatter of booted feet, over the shinking of blades still ringing in the air.
"I got the witch!" the leader of the wild men thunders, and his voice drowns out the other noises, he yells as Robin finds her, finds her so easily, she is always so easy for him to find, as if his eyes were made for looking at her.
He is already running, running to her. David too has abandoned whoever he'd been fighting, though Robin does not have eyes for David, his sole focus entirely on Regina, on the way she looks up and their eyes meet, so far away, her dark eyes on him, sharp eyes, her mouth parted softly.
Regina is clutching at her middle with both hands, bloodied hands, fresh blood, red, so much red from so little a time, red, so terribly red on her hands that look suddenly pale, she stumbles forward, and the man that had yelled laughs, he laughs, takes a step and smacks her across her beautiful face, dares put his dirty hands upon her. She falls, topples sideways, striking the ground solidly, and staying there, a smaller sound of pain, akin to a whimper, forms on her mouth, Robin imagines he can hear it, the desperate little whoosh of sound that escapes her.
His scream is wordless, he was never particularly good with a sword, nor as trained as he could have been, but he imagines now taking the man's life with the blade in his hand, staining the blade further. Robin's rage, already an inferno, only grows as the man stomps his booted foot down on the Queen's ribs, another stomp, and another, each impact drives another scream from her. And still the man laughs.
Before the man can drive down his heel again though, his leg catches fire, from toes to knee, white hot flame that boils the skin, and must blacken bone, Robin can hear it bubbling and crisping, the man screams and screams, shrill and undulating, batting at his leg. Regina is left alone, left alone to bleed and curl up on the ground, she had the strength to set him aflame, but not the strength to rise, and then Robin is before him, blow after furious blow delivered, over and over, but even still aflame the man is a better swordsmen then Robin, he drives Robin back, snarling and still on fire, saying things Robin cannot hear, cannot understand, he can barely see for the rage.
Robin needs to kill him, never before in his life has he felt this need, dire and urgent, he needs this man's life, it is simple in his thoughts.
Robin is screaming too, but what he is saying he doesn't register at all, he feels spit flying from his mouth with every unintelligible word, escapes with his wordless screams, his rage has him blinded to danger, heedless of injury, over and over in his eyes is that booted foot stomping on Regina, each sound in his ears is the sound of her pain, and the man still aflame steps back now, his burning leg will not hold his weight.
Blurred. Robin's sight.
Buried. Robin is buried under rage, suffocating with the scent of burning flesh trapped in his nose.
Fast and swamping, the need to kill, overpowers him, a river overflowing its banks.
That sound of pain from her lips is all he can hear in his ears, over and over.
Robin is buried under rage.
Blood red rage. Her bloodied hands on a loop in his mind.
Rage the likes he's never known.
A blur, he forgets where he is, knows only the sword, the weapon in his hands, his right hand clumsy and heavy, from far away he can feel the wound on his shoulder, but he does not feel the ache in his arms, nor does the newest injury adorning his thigh make any decipherable feeling, Robin feels nothing but rage.
His name, his name, repeating,
Robin jerks, breath heavy out of aching lungs, David's hand gripping Robin's uninjured shoulder, trying to pull him back. It is David calling Robin's name-
Robin cannot stop the hacking motion of his arms, the motion he'd started before he'd come back to himself, and the sword, stained red, falls down into the pulpy mess that Robin does not recognize as anything remotely human until another second has passed, the pulpy mass, it is what the wild man has become.
Robin stumbles back and falls on his ass, David releases his shoulder at the same moment Robin releases the sword, wide eyed and panting Robin looks at the spilled organs before him and shakes his head, horror growing on his features as he looks what he has done. He has killed men before, but this looks- Robin shakes his head, fighting a throbbing pain forming behind his eyes, this looks- it is a mess.
None of the enemy remains alive.
Wind shrieks through the trees encasing the clearing where an accord was meant to be reached, cold and twisting branches shiver against the growing dark, Robin feels the weight of the tree's regard heavily, the darkness oppressive all around as the sun is a fading strip of orange and purple far off in the distance.
"The Queen," Robin begs, turning to David, he gasps it out, desperately, her hands coated in blood still in his mind; he clambers to his feet with David's help, "Regina," he says, and sees her still curled upon the ground where she fell, her back to him.
John has a head wound that he's holding the tattered remains of his cloak to, the homespun cloth already soaked through in blood. He seems a bit dazed as he watches the sun dip lower and lower, "We're losing the light," he tells them.
Robin hears him, but he's stumbling to the Queen, panting and afraid.
Robin lands hard on his knees on the blood soaked dirt beside her, the back of her coat, the opulent navy blue of it, is staining darker and darker, an exit wound out her back that has Robin near hyperventilating in panic, such an injury bleeds out quickly. David reaches forward once he's crouched down on the balls of his feet next to her curled form, he turns her from her side onto her bleeding back, an abrupt action that is unwise and unnecessary, she screams like she'd been stabbed all over again, one high pitched cry that she ceases almost as soon as it began, and as her scream rips through the cold air David is pushed back by an invisible hand, falling on his ass, skidding until he's more than five strides away, unharmed but puffing out a shout of protest.
"We're losing the light," John says again, stumbling towards the rest of the group.
(futilely trying to escape the darkness and what hides its face there, the sun has set, dark purple far in the west, and even that is quickly fading. There is no moon in the sky. Clouds cover the stars. He trips over the leg of a corpse, a still warm corpse, he falls to the ground, face to face with blank eyes, unseeing and pale and accusatory, John feels another set, so similar but so vastly and horribly different staring at him from the darkness, he shakes his head as he attempts once, twice, a third and final, successful, time to rise once more.)
"Milady," Robin questions when he looks to her, voice quiet, Robin pets bloodied and dirtied hair off her forehead, a gesture that is far too intimate for her it would seem, she turns her face away with an almost snarl contorting her mouth, but Robin is not rebuffed as David had been.
Robin ignores the affronted look on David's face as David stands and swipes dirt off himself, but David at least does not look angry at being thrown, and seems to realize how much he's made her suffer by his rashness and his ignorance as her abdomen jumps up and down with each fraught breath, as she tries to stifle sobs that are already well underway. She does herself more damage with the way she fights for control.
"The spirits linger," John says loudly, he swipes blood away from his eyes before grasping at David's sleeve, "we must be away from this place," John hisses.
David shakes his head, still not listening, "Sit, Jesus, John you're bleeding like a stuck pig," he helps John sit. David is looking down at Regina, he breathes a heavy breath, a wince decorating his features before he smooths the expression down into a frown.
"Regina," David asks, bending over her and Robin, "hey, talk to me," he says unhelpfully.
Regina's bloodied hands grope just under her ribs, where blood pools, pale hands clumsy, Robin has to help them on their way. Robin holds one of his hands over her own, her blood is warm, and so awful, awful red, "milady," Robin begs, free hand cupping her face, fingers sliding into dark hair to point her gaze at him when her neck goes limp. She starts to shake, tremors running through every inch of her, small things, but she shakes and shakes.
"he-" she says, strangled and broken, opening her eyes to look at Robin, dark eyes welling with tears, they leak out the corner of her eyes, trail a clean swath through the grit on her temple, her tears slide into her dark hair, but through her pain she is obviously angry,"-poins-d," her words jump, nearly unintelligible, "poisoned," she repeats, "his blade."
Robin bends closer to her, a huff of breath leaving him, blowing hot hair straight from his lungs into her face, "no," he says, "no," he begs, he refuses to think of how alarmingly pale she has gotten, refuses to think of the blood that is no doubt draining out her back, and poison she says, the word spat out with disdain. "Regina!" he shakes her softly when her eyes close, it takes a second too long for them to open, but they do with a glare, a glare not nearly as cutting as it should be.
"hea-l," she murmurs, "I'll," and the rest of her words are impossible for Robin to decipher.
Robin latches onto that word, heal, heal she'd said, he begs her to do it if she can, voice too loud in the night, the cold night, the darkness grows and grows but Robin can see nothing past her. Desperately he pulls her closer, hand going to the back of her neck, fingers weaved through dark tresses that slip loose from her plait. He curves her torso up, shimmying his legs under her, until she lies in his lap. She's beyond pain now, or maybe she isn't, but at the move no new sound of agony comes from her, but her body still shakes and shakes.
She'll heal it with her magic.
Does Robin imagine the way she sinks against him with a sigh?
And then she stops.
"NOOO!" Robin screams, panic in him deep, imbedded in his skin like the claws of grindylow around his ankle, his panic is a vile creature trying to drown him. He shakes her, when did her eyes close, they are closed, and they do not open to glare at him, "no," he repeats, and shakes her again, shaking her too hard, David must think so, David is dragging Robin's hands off of her. Robin wrenches himself from David's restraining hands, and Regina, without Robin's arms holding her to him, she falls limply to the side, sliding off his lap and into the dirt.
"Stop!" David orders, "Robin, stop!"
"No, she," Robin has a hand clutching David's collar-
"She's breathing!" David shouts over him, and it is he who is shaking Robin now, shaking him by twin grips on each shoulder, "Stop, let me see! ROBIN! Stop!"
John sits beside the scuffle, frightened eyes at the trees, at the darkness between the trunks. (eyes, cruel and pale, peering at them between the branches, he can see them) "Do you see him?! They linger," he whispers gruffly, once more clinging to David's sleeve, but David shakes him off, reaches for Regina, checks her pulse, one of his hands still on Robin's shoulder.
"She's alive," David says, he straightens her on the dirt, letting Robin free of his grip, Robin sways dumbly, and in the back of his thoughts he realizes she is not the only one losing too much blood too quickly, the wound on his thigh has drenched blood down his whole trouser leg. David places her on her back again; he's tugging at her coat, unbuttoning it, revealing smooth flesh stained in tacking red, Robin growls from deep in his throat, a noise he did not decide to make, yet it escapes him just the same at the sight of David undressing the Queen.
David's hands still, he lets out a breath, looks from Robin back to the half undone coat, "I think she healed it, we have to see," he says, waiting for Robin to acquiesce, though it's not his place, she is her own woman, a free woman, but David waits for Robin to give him his agreement, and once Robin does so, a stiff nod of his head, David tips his chin towards a corpse not far from arm's length, "Grab the canteen," he asks of Robin.
Robin does so, nearly falling on his face when the arm he uses to brace his leaning grab is not actually strong enough to hold him up. It's as he's handing the canteen to David, the water, what is hopefully water, sloshing in the thing, that Robin feels the terrible burning agony slicing up and down his leg, upwards towards his hip, it is the wound on his thigh. Poisoned, Robin remembers her saying, poisoned blade. Robin fumbles at his trouser leg, finding the sliced material and gripping it tightly, one of his hands is heavy, will not listen to him well, but it grasps well enough, he rips the material in one powerful tug. The wound on his leg is unnatural green and black, the poison she spoke of already in his veins, the black travels in spider webs of death under his sweating skin.
Robin curses softly, heavy brows drawing together, he swallows and looks away from his leg, back to her, always to her. David has poured some water on her bare belly, washed away the blood ineffectually, no open wound greets the air, she had healed the hole in her gut, but the same black spider webs are there on her smooth skin, beautiful skin, sweating skin, her breasts, restrained in some strange and lacey bit of undergarment, they heave with each breath, breath that becomes more labored after each wheezed exhale.
"Her back," Robin says, his voice strange, far away as if through cotton, "check her back," he bids David, and David does so grimly, turning her onto her side, her beautiful face, her lips parted, her hair spilling over her eyes, turned to face Robin.
David pours from the canteen after he maneuvers her coat off one of her arms, leaving her half naked in the cold air, half naked in front of Robin, but Robin shakes his head and only looks to her face, gaze never sweeping past her collarbone. David frowns even more deeply, "She's still bleeding," he says so quietly, licking his lips before he eases her back down, eases her arm back through her sleeve and buttons her with care. David stands, the motion fast and hurried after the gentleness of redressing her, fright in his eyes now, is he afraid for her life?
"Can you two walk?" he looks from Robin to John, frowning even more deeply at what he must see.
But Robin heaves himself up, his wounded leg nearly gives out under him, but he strengthens, he stands as straight as he can, "Of course," he answers.
"In the trees," John is saying, trying to stand, doing a poor job of it too, that head wound oozing thick blood, "god help us, they're in the trees,"
Robin reaches for John, helps him up as best he can, "We can walk," Robin says. He regards David with a grim straight line for a mouth, "You can carry her? Are you injured?"
David shakes his head, "I'm not hurt," he reaches down, arranges her body, working an arm under her knees, around her back, he stands with a grunt, she looks awkward in grasp, until he shuffles her a bit, gets her more comfortable against him, and then he nods, "We have to hurry."