A.N: I know, I suck so bad. Writer's block is a bitch. Rest assured though that I will never give up on this story, cause I love it.
Regina is a little... harsh in this chapter, but I urge you to remember that she is a Queen as well as a woman.
Snow tucked her arm into her husband's elbow and followed just behind Emma, Regina, and Henry as the little Prince tried to pry details about his new pony from his mother. Regina, to her credit, remained firm.
"Henry, you will see your pony in less than a candle mark, surely a good boy such as yourself can wait just a little longer?" Regina said this without looking at her son, who stared up at her with a frown.
Finally the little boy replied, "I can wait Mama." He clamped his mouth shut and placed his little hands behind his back as he moved back from his mother and Emma to toddle next to James.
James smiled at the boy, "Shall I carry you Henry?"
The boy looked tempted but then shot a glance back at the three Princes that were following them, as well as Queen Jasmine, Princess Alexandra, Queen Aurora, and King Philip and then shook his head, "I can walk James, I'm not a baby."
Snow wanted to frown but James nodded gravely next to her, "Of course not Henry."
Together the large party of royals made their way to the stables and would have been perfectly content except for the sight they encountered as they came up to the corral.
Snow watched as Regina's face purpled with rage as she took in the spectacle before them.
Noblemen and a couple of royal men were all stumbling and chasing after a pure white horse that was clearly terrified as it bucked and ran from one end of the corral to the other in an effort to get away from the men who were brandishing bridles and reins.
To the surprise of her party Regina snarled to her guard, "Arrest them!"
Graham moved forward immediately with his men on his heels, loyally carrying out Regina's order. An order that even Snow had to admit was an overreaction.
Emma sucked in a breath, "Regina…"
The Queen turned to look at her wife before softening just a little and holding up a hand, "Enough!"
The men in the corral froze as they turned to look at the Queen whose voice had risen powerfully over their own yelling and shouting.
Regina strode forward and hissed, "Get away from my horse or I will have you trampled beneath her hooves!"
The noblemen and royals in the corral rushed to obey, realizing that they'd erred in trying to go after their host's own horse. Regina approached the corral slowly and it was then that Snow realized the other Queen had tears gathering in her eyes.
Jasmine sucked in a breath from behind them as the horse turned in the corral and they caught sight of the different coloring on her chest.
Quietly the Agrabahn spoke, "She's an Agrabahn mare…"
James clasped Henry's hand in his and asked, "And?"
Jasmine's face colored with sorrow as she whispered, "And that's why Regina is so angry. An Agrabahn mare must be handled with extreme care because they are not broken but destroyed if treated harshly."
The horse pranced away from Regina who had slowly climbed into the corral.
Jasmine took a step forward before turning back and crouching in front of Henry, "You must be a very brave boy Henry, for your Mama?"
Henry bit his lip and then nodded, "Is… Is the mare afraid?"
Jasmine reached out a hand and cupped his cheek, "She is Henry."
Snow watched as her grandson's lip trembled before he turned and held his arms out, "James…?"
James swooped down to pick up the boy who wasted no time burying his face in James' neck. Jasmine strode away from them and then she was climbing into the corral as well. The group watched as Regina and Jasmine spoke quietly for a moment before Regina held out her hands and began to slowly approach the mare while Jasmine left the corral and headed into the stables only to return a moment later with what looked like a canvas bag full of something.
The foreign Queen climbed back into the corral and approached Regina as slowly as the other Queen herself had begun approaching the horse. Once they were standing near each other Jasmine handed Regina something bright red and then backed away again.
Regina resumed her approach and would still every time the horse snorted and stamped its feet. The horse for her part was watching the woman approaching her with suspicious eyes but was staying relatively still as Regina came closer and closer.
Finally Regina was near enough to extend her arm which she did, holding out a whole apple to the horse. Emma wasn't sure what would happen to the horse or Regina if the mare did not take the apple so she quietly willed the horse to eat the apple. In what seemed like an eternity the horse let out a great snort before it nosed the apple and then took it from Regina's hand, standing placidly as Regina stepped even closer and wrapped her arms around the horse's neck and buried her face into its mane.
Jasmine's face lit up brilliantly as she stepped forward towards Regina and the mare slowly. She came up to them and together with Regina she smoothed her hands over the horse's coat, murmuring quietly.
Emma cocked her head as she considered the two women who were smiling at each other now with bright eyes. She was actually a little surprised that the squeeze Jasmine gave Regina's hand didn't incite a flare of jealousy in her, instead she felt at peace watching as her wife all but sagged in relief. The group watched as Regina and Jasmine quietly led the horse from the corral and back into the stables before emerging some time later.
Regina turned to Graham and ordered harshly, "Post men at the stable entrances, I don't want this happening again."
Graham nodded and then stepped away with some of his men to discuss who would have the admittedly ignoble task of guarding a stable full of horses rather than actual people.
One of the men who had been in the corral terrorizing the horse spoke in a harsh whisper, "Leave it to a woman to over react to a little horse baiting."
Snow tensed as Regina and Jasmine stilled before shooting each other a dark look and stepping forward as one.
Regina spoke lowly, "Go and get your horse sir…"
The man faltered before he sniffed, "Majesty?"
Regina's hands clenched into fists as she ordered again, "Your horse? Retrieve it."
The man turned to Aurora and Philip who glared in return, Philip for his part spoke, "You heard our host my lord, fetch your horse." As the man slowly turned Philip growled out, "Quickly now."
The man hurried away from the now large group and in to the stable and returned a very short time later leading a cream colored horse by its bridle.
As the man came closer Regina spoke clearly, "Your knife Graham."
Her Captain pulled his knife from his sheathe and handed it hilt first to Regina who watched through narrowed eyes as the man brought his horse to rest before the group.
Placidly Regina asked, "This horse, does he have a name?"
The man nodded, "Brego your Majesty."
Regina hummed before she reached out a hand to stroke the horse's nose, "Hello Brego. Henry…"
The little boy piped up from James' arms, "Mama?"
She turned to smile at him, "Isn't Brego a handsome horse?" He nodded before he glared at the horse's owner, "And what would have happened to Mama's horse if she had been broken by fear Henry? Do you know?"
Henry scowled, "I do."
Regina turned her suddenly dangerous smile on the man, "And would that have made Mama sad Henry? Having to kill her own horse?"
Henry's scowl was even more powerful as he snapped out, "Yes. You love horses."
Regina fingered the knife in her hand, "What should Mama do to teach these naughty men a lesson Henry?"
He was quiet for a long moment before he surprised the whole group, "You should make them kill their horses… fair is fair."
Regina handed the man the dagger, "You heard my son sir, kill your horse."
The man gaped at her as the group shifted uncomfortably, "Your Majesty…?" He turned to Aurora and Philip again, "My King… My Queen… please?"
Aurora looked away from him and Philip shook his head, "You made the choice to terrorize our host's horse, it is not my place to contradict her."
Emma had no such qualms, "Regina… my love I…"
Regina turned slightly wet eyes towards Emma, "An Agrabahn mare is a gentle creature, they aren't broken like normal horses, instead they must trust, love. A mare that has learned fear will die Emma. They will starve because they do not trust the hands that feed them. They will not sleep because they cannot trust in their safety as they do. They wither, slowly they die as they starve until one day they lay down, suffering, and die. The only mercy one can show a destroyed mare is to kill it, to end its suffering."
Emma's widened, "So if she hadn't taken the apple?"
Regina flinched, "I would have killed her. I have been working with the horse for weeks Emma, and if she had reject food from my hand, there would have been no hope Emma." She turned back to the man, "We're waiting."
The man looked horrified as he shifted the knife in his hand before he bent and whispered gently to the horse. Tears leaked out of his eyes as he placed the knife at Brego's neck and got ready to push.
Regina's voice stopped him, "Wait…" She turned back to her son, "Henry?" The boy nodded, "Why won't we make this man kill his horse?"
Henry replied quietly, "Because only tyrants punish the innocent with the guilty."
Regina softened, "Meaning?"
The boy replied in a stronger voice, "The horse didn't do anything wrong Mama. Just the man."
Regina snatched the knife from the man and growled at him, "Be glad I seek to teach my son mercy and justice rather than vengeance sir." She turned on the group and hissed at the still gathered men who'd gone after her horse, "Get out of my sight." The men scattered as Regina handed the knife back to Graham and then her smile lit her face, "Do you still want your pony my Prince?"
Henry was suddenly himself again as he wiggled in James' arms, "I do Mama!"
Regina grinned at him as she extended a hand for him to take and then pulled Emma towards her, "Come with us my love?"
Emma nodded silently, and Snow had to wonder at what was going through her head, having just witnessed the sort of lessons Henry was being taught at his mother's feet.
As the small family entered stables Snow turned to James, "Husband… She… he told her they should kill their horses."
James shook his head, "He knows his mother Snow, he knew she'd never let innocent horses be slaughtered just to punish someone. You heard him Snow, only tyrants punish the innocent with the guilty. That was the lesson Snow. It is a lesson most Kings would do well to learn at such an early age."
Philip spoke up, "This court is more vicious than most Snow, and he needs to learn at an early age how to be a good king while Regina can be the one to teach him. Whatever else may be said about her, she is a fair ruler, but she isn't weak."
Emma followed Regina and Henry as the little boy dragged his mother along behind him, "Henry my love, you don't even know which stall is for your pony."
The little boy turned to scowl up at his mother, "He's next to your horse Mama, so that they can protect each other."
Regina cocked an eyebrow, "My clever boy. Come on then." She picked up her pace and then turned to smile at Emma who offered her a small smile in return as she followed her wife and their son.
They came up to one of the stalls and Henry made to scrambled up and over the wooden door only to be caught around the waist by his mother, "Henry, I don't want you falling."
The boy slumped even as he demanded, "Open it Mama!"
Regina let out a laugh as she opened the door and let Henry back down, "Approach your pony slowly Henry. Let him get used to you alright?"
The little boy nodded as he slowly crept towards his pony which was… purple?
Emma turned to gape at Regina who shrugged, "It is a simple spell and it doesn't hurt the pony."
Emma rolled her eyes as Henry said in a whisper shout, "He's purple Mama!" He turned to beam at Regina and Emma before he returned his attention to the horse and finally came to a halt in front of him. Even though the pony was small, it still dwarfed the small boy who reached up a hand and stroked the pony's nose. The pony huffed out a breath, ruffling Henry's hair and causing the little boy to giggle.
Regina stepped into the stall with their son and went to one of the walls, "Shall we put his saddle on Henry?"
Henry nodded eagerly, "Yes Mama." He watched Regina like a hawk as she quickly and efficiently got his pony ready for him to ride. Emma had to wonder at just how much money had gone into the saddle that Henry was very likely to outgrow within a year, two at most, as she took in the fine piece as Regina settled Henry on his seat and led him from the stable with Emma on one side and Regina on the other.
Emma could readily admit that Henry sat a fine seat as he clutched at the reins and remained straight and upright in the saddle. He even refrained from bouncing which Emma knew must be difficult seeing as he was still very excited.
As soon as they came out of the stable a light round of applause met them as Henry waved at the gathered group of adults and crowed, "He's purple!"
Emma smiled as she pressed a kiss to Henry's forehead and received a grin in return as the sound of laughter met them as they brought Henry up to his grandparents. James took the reins from Regina with a grin of his own and for the first time Emma readily saw her own father in her son as they grinned at each other.
James called out over his shoulder, "Someone saddle my horse while I walk with Henry around the corral?"
Regina held up a hand, "I'll do it James." She rolled her eyes as she watched James and Henry babble at each other as the King led Henry's pony around the corral before letting go and letting the little boy direct the pony's movements which he did with great skill for his age.
She turned back towards the stable and Emma moved to her side as Snow did the same on the other side, "Regina?"
Her wife turned to her mother, "Snow?"
The older woman hesitated a moment before she continued, "Is it… is it wise to be teaching Henry such harsh lessons at such a young age?"
Regina stiffened before replying almost coldly, "And what lessons would you have him learn Snow? Weakness is not something that will be forgiven, not in the Summerlands. Perhaps at the White court, a prince has time to grow but here Henry must be strong and wise or he will be a target. The only thing that protects us is the belief that we are not weak. The nobles must believe that Henry would act if he were threatened, they must know in their hearts that I would kill to protect him and that he would kill to avenge me. They must know that he is strong, that his has it in him to be ruthless."
Snow faltered, "But Regina, he is just a little boy…"
Regina let out a deep sigh, "I know that Snow, but he is more safe now then he was this morning, because that little boy came up with the idea to have a man kill his own horse because he made his Mama upset. That thinking will do more to protect him than a hundred tirades from me ever could. He isn't a weakling, and now the nobles will have even more evidence to that fact."
Emma leaned her head against Regina's shoulder, "And Henry knew Regina would never let that horse be harmed Snow. He knew that, and he understands that killing the horse would have been wrong."
Snow scowled even as Regina sighed, "I… I am not just a mother Snow. I am a Queen and Henry is my heir. My job as Queen is to teach Henry how to succeed me, to show him how to meet out justice and when to show mercy. I must give him the strength to defend his people and destroy his enemies. He cannot ever simply be a little boy to me Snow; I must at all times remember that he is also a Prince. He must learn to be strong, brave, and at times, he will have to be ruthless. As a Queen, I must give him those tools Snow. But…" She offered a small smile, "As a mother, I must help give him the wisdom to use those tools well. I do not want to raise a tyrant Snow. I want to help him become a great King, and a great man." She was quiet for a long moment before she finished, "I learned how to be ruthless from my mother Snow, and I learned how not to be from my father, I must help Henry learn both."
She pulled away from the two women and strode into the stables.
Emma turned to her mother and sighed, "Years ago you were forced to be a Queen first and a mother second, and Regina gained a son because of it, Henry gained a better mother than I because of it. Do not judge her for being both Queen and mother when it was you who made the decision that gave her Henry. We… She has raised him well this far hasn't she? I trust her, I trust that she loves him more than anything in this world, even me, and so must you."
She dipped her head and followed her wife into the stables, intent on a moment alone.