AN: I'd like to thank my beta, LillieGrey (thanks mum!) and La Famille, oneresilientheart, Lolymoon, HuddyJibbsAddict, and Tbuddah for their input and never-ending support and for putting up with my mis-sent messages and weird-ass questions. Narcolepticbadger, remember the fic that I promised you (84 years ago) 5-6 months ago? Well, here it is! I hope you like it! (And please don't disown me). Trigger warnings are posted on my profile page. Please be advised. Standard disclaimers apply.
Fate can be quite a fickle thing. A farmer can find himself covered in dirt one day then be drowning in gold the the next. A priest can be repudiated and at the same day a heretic can find faith. One morning can be filled with soft beds and silken sheets, lace dresses and teacups with golden filigree, orchards of apples and gilded coaches, and a manor not as big as the castles in fables but big enough to have windows as tall as the ceiling. The next day can present itself with worn clothes, ratty blankets, a pile of hay for a bed, with nothing but the sole warmth of another body to keep the chills at bay.
It has always been the two of them, her sister and her, for as long as she can remember, and for a girl of barely five winters, Regina Mills couldn't ask for anything more than to see her older sister's fiery head in her every waking moment.
She was an awfully perceptive child, bold and tenacious as any fledgeling, but as all children grow, and their phases come and go, curiosity was always ingrained to her; to ask 'why' seemed to be her favorite past time.
'Sister, why is the sky blue?'
'Why is there water falling from the sky?'
'Why can't the baker's son understand what I'm saying?'
'Why did you stop bleeding when I touched you?'
'Why is my hand glowing, sister?'
But as time went by, the more questions she asked, the less answers her elder sister gave. It came in short responses, snappy and trying. It wasn't until after she asked why meat made her sick and saw her sister burst into tears that she finally stopped asking.
The little girl wondered. And she probably always will, as questions upon questions piled up in her mind, the answers were not coming. Why don't they have parents? Why don't they look alike? Why don't they bathe together like they used to? Why did her sister yell at her when she grabbed the back of her dress? Why does her sister have bruises on her neck every time she places food on their table? Why does her sister cry every night after she sings her lullabies?
"Why are we here?" She whined. She was cold, she was hungry, and she was tired. Her feet hurt from the long trek into the forest to this strange house that looked like a moss-covered tree and she wanted to go home. Now.
"Be quiet, Regina," her sister admonished.
She didn't like being called that. It felt strange, unnatural. She was left trailing behind, pouting as she did so, while her sister jogged the remaining paces forward. Her sister raised her hand, but hesitated to knock.
The wooden doors opened before her sister could even knock properly. In front of them was an old woman, stout and graying, dark skin wrinkling and sagging, her thin lips curled to a severe frown. She glared down at them, eyes white and unseeing, yet strangely focused.
Regina grabbed her sister's skirt and hid behind her.
"My name is Zelena Mills, and this is my sister, Regina," her sister said.
"Are we courting?" The woman asked sharply. "I don't want your names."
The sisters stood, petrified, the older was trying her best to stand her ground but the younger one shook, knuckles turning white from her grip.
"How long?" the woman asked, her voice was severe and cutting.
"I… I don't know," Zelena replied quietly.
The woman stared at them speculatively, her blank eyes cold and calculating. "Get in," she said. "The little one stays outside."
Zelena turned to her sister and crouched to her level. "I need you to be a good girl and stay here, alright?" she said, attempting to tuck a wayward lock behind her sister's ear.
"Laica, no!" she protested, looking at her with those wide, brown eyes, brimming with unshed tears. She tugged harder at her sister's clothes, pleading, begging her not to go.
So pure, so innocent.
Her sister just smiled, prettily as always, and replied, "It will only be for a minute,Táriel."
Let go, Regina. It's going to be alright.
Little by little, her small hands released their grip.
So trusting. So naïve.
The first time she thought she heard her sister's muffled screams, she tried to break through the door, but as much as she pushed and shoved, the door stood, it didn't budge, not even so much as rattled. The next time she heard it, she knew it was her sister. A cold shiver ran down her spine, her hands felt cold and clammy and she felt sick, like the times when they had to pass by the butcher's. She wanted to see her sister, but try as she might, the door still won't open.
She cried for her, 'Laica! Laica!', as she pounded the door with her small fists, tears and snot dribbling down, but it was still locked from the inside.
When she finally exhausted herself, she sat herself on the dirt, back resting against the door. She pressed her palms hard against her ears, trying to muffle the sounds of her sister's screams and whimpers, but it was all in vain.
She did not know how long she was sitting on the ground, pulling out the weeds that she could reach. It was past noon when they arrived there, but as the day gave way to the wisps of blues and purples and pinks of the resting sun, and the teasing peeks of stars came, the moon soon awakened.
She scrambled to her feet when she heard the door open. Her eyes widened in fear when she saw the old woman, with her sleeves pushed to her elbows, wiping her bloody shrivelled hands with an equally bloody rag, her skirts drenched in blood. Her blind eyes seemed to know exactly where she was.
"You," she barked. "Get in."
The little girl stood, frozen in fear. Where was her sister?
The woman seemed to understand her fear, and added, "She is resting."
She found her sister sitting on a rickety old chair by the fireplace. She was pale and sweaty, her mouth contorted into a grimace. She was wearing a different dress from the one she wore earlier. It was big and grey and kept falling off one shoulder. It didn't fit her. And neither did the blank look in her eyes. A look that wasn't replaced by that pretty smile of hers when she saw her.
"I want everything as it was. I'm blind, so you don't want me to grab powdered root of asphodel instead of flour now, do you?" She didn't wait for an answer, "you will have your own chores and you will sleep in the loft."
Regina looked at her sister in confusion.
"This is our new home," came her sister's only reply.
"And for fuck's sake, teach your sister the common tongue!"
Laica - is 'green' in Quenya, roughly tanslated
Táriel - is 'queen' in Quenya, roughly translated