A.N: So... update! You have Polaricecat to thank for this update. As the 1000th reviewer (Yay!) Polaricecat gave up the chance to toss prompts at me until my muse took to one and instead asked that I work on this, so I did. Thank you all for reading and I hope you enjoy.
Emma watched Regina as they sat in state at the banquet that was meant to close the tournament. The celebration of her victory was a somber affair as Regina's mood and the mood of the royals and nobles alike caused a great pall over the event. Instead of toasting her love as Regina had planned, she was watching the nobles of her court and the nobles of the other kingdoms with blatant distrust. It might have passed largely unnoticed if Regina wasn't also pointedly using the services of a food taster, as were Emma, Snow, David, and Henry at Regina's insistence. The other royals were following Regina's example leading to a tense and not at all joyful atmosphere.
Henry was not his usual bubbly self, his usual chatter absent as he plastered himself to Regina's side. Emma's heart clenched when she realized halfway through the meal that Regina was taking the extra step of tasting Henry's food herself before placing any of the food on his plate. Before Regina could taste the pudding she hated for Henry's sake, Emma took a spoonful before waiting a moment and then nodding to Regina. Her wife shot her a grateful look before serving Henry herself.
Emma tore her eyes away from her wife and son for a moment and swept the hall with her eyes. She landed on Edware who was seated next to Isabel Smythe. He was smiling and drinking with the young nobles around him and not for the first time during the day Emma wondered at his lack of concern for Henry. Surely he had to care more than he seemed to, Henry was his blood after all. Even if he was not his son Henry would have still been his sister's son, his nephew, and yet he was in a better mood than the majority of the Summerland nobles in the hall. Even Regina's most vocal detractors looked sullen and were casting anxious glances at their Queen and Prince. Emma had no doubt some of them were worried about being implicated in the crime but most looked worried and even affronted that their prince had been the target of an assassin's blade.
Addly was noticeably absent and Emma scowled as she thought of the man. If the suspicion Regina held proved false Emma would apologize for her thoughts later but now she wanted very much to tear the man's throat out, not only for possibly setting an assassin on Henry but breaking Regina's heart with his involvement. If it turned out that Regina's most trusted councilor was behind the plot Regina would be devastated and Emma would never again feel comfortable trusting that her wife was safe in her own court.
Edware let out a laugh that echoed in the subdued hall and Emma scowled as she glanced at Regina. Regina who was staring her brother with thinly veiled hurt. After a moment of silence from the Queen she stood suddenly, causing the rest of the court and its' guests to stand as well in a flurry of movement.
Regina stepped from the dais and held up a hand as Emma and Henry moved to follow, "Wait here my loves, or in my chambers. There is something I must do."
Emma pulled Henry to her side as Regina moved through the hall before coming to stand in front of Edware, "Sir Edware... I would speak with you."
Edware gave a bow with more arrogance than he should have as Regina's mouth tightened and she snapped, "Now sir!"
Edware's eyes narrowed, "Of course my Queen." He offered his arm and to the surprise of everyone present Regina sneered at Edware and snubbed the offer as she swept from the hall. Edware glared after her but rushed to follow.
Emma stared after her wife as Henry snuggled into her side with a heavy sigh.
Regina sat heavily on the raised chair in her presence chamber and stared into space as Ned entered. The room was oppressively silent as protocol dictated that Regina would speak first and until she did Ned was required to remain silent.
Regina shifted as her eyes narrowed into slits and she hissed out, "You did not come to check on Henry Sir..."
Under her harsh glare Ned winced before a stubborn glint entered his brown eyes, "The boy obviously has all the attention he needs."
Regina's teeth bit down before she snapped out, "You do not care at all that he might have died?"
Ned's chin lifted defiantly as he spat out, "It is not as if you would lack for an heir if he was killed, even if you are set in your course to take that woman to wife!"
Regina shot to her feet as she bellowed, "He is your son!"
Ned snarled back, "He is not my son!" Regina reared back as he continued, "And your betrothed is a liar!"
Regina stared at him for a long moment before she breathed out, "Explain yourself brother."
Ned let out a heavy sigh as he sat without invitation and spoke flatly, "I grew curious after you announced your betrothal so I went to a gypsy and asked for a paternity potion."
Regina cut him off, "Those potions are often fake Ned, you cannot believe that-"
Ned shook his head, "I tested it first on you. It was simple Regina, idiot proof really. The name of the child and potential parent. I used it on you and King Henry, and on myself to be sure. There plain as day was the blue line from him to both of us." He clenched his fists as he spat, "And then I tested it on the boy, and there was no line Regina! That boy is no more your blood than he is mine!"
Regina stood and loomed over Ned dangerously, "Be careful sir! That boy you speak of is my son! My heir and the son of my true love!"
Ned's face turned red, "Your true love is a liar sister! Open your eyes, she's tricked us both! Me into taking the boy, into believing he was mine to start and you into believing that this is fate's will at play! She is a whore and he is nothing but a bastard!"
The crack that echoed in the room was deafening as Regina brought her hand down slowly from where she'd struck her brother across the face, "You will leave my sight sir, and you are barred from my presence upon pain of death, and if you speak this... this foul, hurtful lie to anyone I will rip the tongue from your mouth myself!"
Ned's mouth opened and closed before he spat, "You choose her then, her over me? We could still be rid of them, none would fault you for your act of kindness to the boy you thought your brother's. You could name me heir and banish the lying wench and her brat from this kingdom! Regina see reason!"
Regina straightened her spine as she hissed, "That wench you speak of is my wife, and your Queen. Her son, your blood or not is the boy I have raised, the boy I nursed from my breast. That wench is my true love and if she has slept with a hundred men or two, or ten, she is my love and I love her still. I trust that her heart is true, and I trust that she had her reasons for keeping quiet. I trust her."
He made to interrupt, "Regina-"
She snapped out, "Be silent Edware. You are to leave my presence now and keep these lies to yourself. Stay away from Emma and Henry. Since he is no kin to you it should be no hardship. My loves are happy as they can be in these... treasonous times Edware and I will not have you marring that."
Edware lifted his chin and squared his shoulders before spinning on heel and marching from the room without so much as a bow. Regina watched him with narrowed eyes until the door was shut behind him and then she sank down on her chair with an angry sob.
Her hands trembled with the suppressed rage that wanted to explode in a riot of magic and spite as she stared at the now closed door. She wanted to call her brother back and arrest him for daring to utter a single word against Emma and Henry, for what she was now sure was his part in the attempt on her son's life, and for daring to rob her of the title of mother simply because he had not fathered Henry. As if she cared who had fathered her perfect son. He was her son, and no man was going to tell her different. It was the will of fate that had led him into her arms as a babe and she had no doubt that if Emma had named Edware as the father she had truly believed him to be Henry's sire. Her love may have had a wild youth but she was no liar and her honor would not have allowed her to force a man into taking responsibility for a child that was not his unless she believed him to be the father.
Regina stood and smoothed her hands over her gown before yanking the rope and waiting for the doors to open and a page to scurry in. The boy bowed low and Regina noted that he was new and one of the few she had not hand picked.
"Rise boy..." She cocked her head, "What is your name child?"
The boy started before replying softly, "Daniel my Queen."
Regina's heart clenched painfully at the reminder of her friend before she offered him what she hoped was a reassuring smile as she ordered, "I wish for you to fetch Lord Oren of Rosewren and Master Thomas. As quickly as you can see that they are sent to me, do you understand boy? Use other pages if need be."
Little Daniel nodded and bowed before scampering from the room with a wave of her hand.
Regina flexed her hand as she glared out at nothing.
It was Master Thomas who arrived first with a quiet bow and an open face.
He replied quietly, "Majesty?"
Regina stood and ordered promptly, "The preparations being made for Sir Edware's ennoblement are to be canceled, I have decided he is undeserving of such a favor. He is banished from my sight and though I have yet to banish him from court I may do so soon. See to it that the council knows that he has lost my favor and my love, and all that he speaks are lies meant to hurt my beloved son and my dear betrothed."
Thomas nodded, his face betraying no surprise, no pleasure or dismay at Edware's sudden fall from grace, only placid acceptance, "As my Queen commands. Is there anything else my lady?"
Regina waved him from the room with a tired smile, "You have my leave to go Thomas. Thank you."
He dipped his head before bending at the waist and turning from the room, leaving as quietly as he had come.
A few moments passed before the door opened again, this time admitting Lord Oren, "Come Oren."
The young man hurried forward and dropped to one knee, "What do you wish of me my Queen?"
Regina lifted him to his feet and asked flatly, "Have you discovered anything my lord? I know it has not been so long but I..."
Oren opened his mouth as she trailed off, hesitating for a moment before his jaw clenched and he answered, "Upon first examination of the evidence all signs point to Lord Annis and Lord Smythe but I have had my agents speak to the friends of the assassin and they had seen him quite recently in the company of... of Sir Edware and Lady Isabel. According to the squire's friends he was her lover, he and Sir Edware were sharing her attentions. I believe she may have been the one to prevail upon him to attack the Prince."
Regina sat down slowly, "Why would she? What does she stand to gain?"
Again Oren hesitated, "I was of course discreet when I questioned the lady myself my Queen... she appears to be very much in love with Sir Edware but I can not for the life of me understand what he would stand to gain from the Prince's death."
Regina replied quietly, "He is my father's bastard son. He has a claim to the throne, a weak one, but a claim none the less and with Henry dead his claim would be strengthened."
Oren blinked at her as his face paled, "I... his own nephew Majesty? What might he plan to do to you? His involvement would be discovered eventually and I cannot believe that being your brother would save him if he had a hand in killing your son."
Regina stated curtly, "It would not save him. I can only guess that he..." She shook her head, there was only so much she could tell Oren, "It must be assumed that my life would be forfeit as well."
Oren's whole body stiffened, "What is to be done my Queen? I have always thought Lord Addly and Sir Edware your most loyal servants but if Edware plots you death then we can and must assume that Addly is involved... mustn't we?"
Regina nodded miserably, "His eagerness to seize upon Smythe and Annis as suspects leads me to believe he has had a hand in his son's plotting if he is not the master mind. No doubt the two men will be arrested shortly and killed in the struggle before they can be questioned, closing the matter as their refusal to submit will be seen as proof of the their guilt."
Oren scowled, "What are your orders my Queen?"
Regina moved to her desk and picked up two royal documents that had both been sealed with magic and her royal crest and handed them to Oren, "You are to ride first to Smythe and then to Annis, and order that they must present themselves before me for a private audience. They must make all haste and when they arrive they are to be brought straight to me." She waited until Oren had stowed the two larger scrolls before handing over a smaller one, "This is to be given to Captain Graham, it states that any and all arrests made in the matter of my son's attack must be approved by me and me alone. I will not have Addly using my men to betray me."
Oren clutched and the scroll and knelt once again, "I will see it done your Majesty."
Regina moved impulsively as she removed a elaborate ring from her finger and held it out to him, "A token of our gratitude Oren, and be sure that more will follow, give that to your wife with assurances of my love and trust."
Oren blinked back tears as he whispered, "I... I pray that I may always prove worthy of your trust my Queen..."
Regina stared down at the young man, whose father had been one of the few loyal lords to stand by her, the young man who she had known in her youth before he had been sent off to Jubalin Val Indera during the rebellion, "It may well be you are my only true friend here Oren..."
Oren looked pained at the statement, "The people love you my Queen, whether the nobles continue to prove stupid and unchangeable, the people will continue to love you."
Regina offered him a small smile before nodding at the door, "Thank you Oren... now go and serve me well."
Oren sank to his knee before standing and backing out of the room, as if determined to show he respected her place as Queen. The door shut behind him and Regina sank back into her chair with a strangled sob.
The twilight hours had passed without further incident, Addly was strangely absent and it confirmed Regina's belief that Edware would run straight to his 'father' and tell him of his fall from her grace. Hopefully Addly and Edware would believe that Regina had taken umbrage only to Edware's insult to Emma but she couldn't be sure if they suspected her suspicion of them. She hoped for her son and Emma's sake that they did not.
She glanced down at Emma's slumbering form and smiled at the sight of Henry tucked into the blonde's hold. Both mother and son were snoring quietly, their faces wrinkled in identical pouts as they dreamed. Regina reached out and smoothed a hand over Emma's face, brushing the curls behind her ear before she leaned down to press a kiss first to Henry's cheek and then Emma's forehead. She slid from the bed silently and shrugged on her robe as she slipped into her study.
She shut the door and leaned her head against the dark wood of the door. After a long moment she pulled the vial from her robe pocket out and moved to her desk to the parchment paper she'd abandoned earlier in the evening when Emma and Henry had thundered into her chambers demanding a story. She frowned as she fingered the stopper on the vial, wondering not for the first time since she'd acquired the potion if by using if she was betraying Emma. She thought perhaps she should ask Emma if there was even the slightest chance that Henry had been fathered by someone else but she could shake the feeling that Emma had not been lying when she'd named Edware as the father. If that was true and Edware himself had lied to shake her confidence in her wife then Emma would only be hurt and offended that Regina had even questioned her honesty. She first had to see if Edware had been telling the truth.
She plucked up her quill and dipped it into the ink so that she could scratch out her father's name, followed swiftly by Edware's and then her own. She pulled the small cork from the vial and dropped a single drop on the page and watched as a vivid blue line shot from her name to her father's and then the same from Edware's name followed.
She took a deep breath before scratching out her Henry's name out, adding his middle name, Daniel, to differentiate between grandfather and grandson.
With a shaking hand she let the second drop fall and watched with bated breath as a blue line appeared swiftly.
She blinked as she stared at the page, unable to comprehend what she was seeing. There was indeed a royal blue line linking her Henry to a child of Henry the ninth, but instead of her brother's name the thick blue line linked her own scrawled signature.
She blinked again.
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