Cleave a Soul Pure
(1/?) AU. Born on a night of magic and death, Killian and Emma find themselves intertwined in a tale of love, loss, vengeance, and destiny. 3137 (this chapter)
Born of darkness
Born of light
The two are twined
The story starts as most do: on a dark and stormy night. The servants have swarmed the large manor, shutting tight the windows, barring against rain and wind and the thunder from above and the crashing waves from below the cliff upon which the house stands. It’s a night of danger, of death, and no one takes it as a good sign that the lady of this land has gone into labor.
There are whispers, well away from the lord of the manor who walks the corridor outside his lady wife’s rooms, awaiting the birth of what he hopes to be his long awaited son. He can feel time’s hands curling around his heart. His wife has been in labor for more than a day now. He doesn’t know what this means for her. For their child.
The thunder covers her cries. He’s already been removed from her rooms twice by the good doctor and was sternly told that he was more detrimental to her than help at this point. His fists clench. He wants a son, but not at the expense of her life.
A loud banging echoes through the halls, loud enough to bring David’s head up. His butler comes into view, eyes wide. “There’s a man in the hall, with a girl. A very pregnant girl. He says she’s in labor and is asking for help.”
For one moment, he wanted to reject these people, to not get caught up in others’ problems when he had one that threatened his own existence just on the other side of the door. But Snow wouldn’t do that, and really, he wouldn’t either.
“Bring them in.”
The girl is barely of age while the man who brought her is far older, rough-looking, smelling of the sea, and manners that spoke of authority honed on the savage side of life. His grin is manic and his eyes—dark and avaricious. David would rather have taken his words back, but for the cry of pain from the girl in the man’s arms.
There was nothing to it but to have the two women in the same room, the doctor’s attention divided between the both of them. The worn face had turned to David upon entrance, taking in the younger girl and his still-laboring lady and reluctantly worded a request he’d been hoping to avoid.
“We’re going to need Cora.”
Snow is almost senseless. She’d heard stories about the trial of labor, thinking that perhaps the local women and her mother had been making it up. However, the reality seemed to pale in comparison. She’d been in between a waking and sleeping state when she startles.
Another woman’s voice has joined her own. She turns her head and sees her, a girl really, also in labor. Her face is white, not like Snow’s naturally is,but more from the pain etched across her features. Her hair is as dark as Snow’s, matted and wet from the rain Snow can he ar pounding on the roof. A streak of lightning combines with the keening sound from the girl’s mouth.
“Snow,” her husband’s voice cuts through the sound and her attention turns to him on her right. “They asked for help, I’m sorry, I wouldn’t have had them here otherwise, but for the storm—“
She cuts him off with a tired hand across his lips. His eyes are worried, for her, for their child. She knows he wishes he could take some of the pain and for this she manages a smile. “It’s alright.”
A noise from the door takes his attention away from her. She sees his lips form the name “Cora” before another ripple tenses her body and her teeth clench around her scream.
Though regarded as a witch, Cora is respected as a healer in the old arts, before these more modern medicinal practices began to creep into the land, relegating the power of healing and the spiritual plane only to men. She knows that the situation is dire, for the doctor to request her presence. And she sees that this is so upon entering the room, taking in at a glance the two women on the large bed, side by side, so different in status yet brought to the same level by their biological needs.
The two men, husband and lover, stand on opposite sides – one fair and kingly, the other dark and common. Lord David’s eyes are only on his wife, while the other’s barely focus on the girl in the bed, his gaze instead taking in the rich bed draping and curtains, the gleaming candelabra and frames.
Cora claps her hands, startling all present in the room to silence. “Regina,” she calls for her daughter who is holding her satchel, “place the candles
before each window and light them.” Her daughter moves forward to obey. The woman is just a little older than the lady on the bed.
“What is this? I won’t have witchcraft conducted around her!” The outburst comes from the other man, a man who’d only given the name John.
Lord David cuts him off with a look. “Do you want your child to be born or not?”
The man doesn’t look like he’s used to being countermanded, but he also doesn’t look like a simpleton, understanding that he’s not the one with power here. His mouth sets into a tight line and he gives a short nod.
Cora watches, barely able to keep her amusement in at his superstition. She can feel that something is happening within this room. That this man and this girl came on this night to this house is not a coincidence. There is power, not just in the wealth of Lord David, but in what is about to take place. Her fingers curl in anticipation.
Regina has followed all her mother’s instructions. While Cora has attempted to teach Regina the arts, she has refused to follow in her footsteps. Her mother may do good in the healing she does, but it seems there’s always a price, and Regina hasn’t yet found it in herself to pay it.
The night has grown longer, the storm has raged stronger, and yet these women have yet to give birth.
She stands to the side, near one of the windows and watches her mother place her hands on the women in turn. Each time she does so, the woman seems to calm, whether it is the one of noble blood or the unknown. The words she whispers are unheard by her daughter and, she suspects, by even the men who hover at her shoulder.
Cora moves to stand at the end of the bed and a sharp gesture brings the doctor back to her side and everyone else’s attention back to her.
Three things happen at once.
Lightning rips across the sky, so close that it lights all within in startling clarity.
The women scream, their voices intertwining in a plea to the heavens, a note that the ear cannot stand but which the heart hears.
The doctor and the witch bend at the feet of each woman, hands reaching out to guide the babes into the world.
Cora is undisturbed by any of this as she pulls the child from the unknown girl, her name not given up by John. The babe gives a healthy wail that brings an unintended smile to Regina. “A son,” Cora announces, turning to the doctor on her left, hands going through the routine motions of cleaning and dressing the child.
There is only silence from Lady Snow’s side of the bed. Regina’s throat tight, she looks to the doctor, holding the lady’s silent babe in his hands, a look of despair on his face as he meets Cora’s impassive gaze.
“What—what’s happening?” Lady Snow asks from her position. She claps a hand on her husband’s arm. “David! Why can’t I hear our baby?” She struggles to get up while her husband gaze takes in the child.
Cora holds her hand out to the doctor who gives the baby over to her. Holding the two newborns in each arm, the boy having fallen strangely silent, Cora whispers over them. John seems transfixed where he is at the other end while Lord David and Lady Snow clutch each other, desperate hope etched on their faces.
No one notices the dark-haired girl, still lying prone on the bed, until she reaches out and grabs Lady Snow’s hand. Startled, the lady turns to her. Regina can see that the girl’s grip is firm as she pulls the woman to her. Her voice, the only time she’s spoken since coming to the manor, carries in the silence, the rain itself seeming to have abated for this moment in time.
“My life for hers. His life is hers. My boy…is yours.”
Having used the last of her strength, the girl falls back against the bed, dark hair fanned out beneath her, eyes closed in death.
John shakes her. “What did you just say? What—“
He’s thrown back by Lord David who’s reached across the bed. “Cease this! She’s gone. This young girl died bringing your son into the world and now—“
Lord David is interrupted by a new cry, one that they hadn’t heard before. All heads turn to Cora, a dim yellow glow fading from sight, as the stillborn baby was now turning a healthy pink before their eyes, her mouth open in a lusty wail. The boy’s cries soon joined hers.
No one except Regina saw the magic performed by her mother, the strength the girl had given for Lady Snow’s daughter being the price that had been paid. Regina stood in shock and in wondering at the sacrifice. She had died so these two babies could live.
While the yellow glow had dimmed for all else present, Regina can still the delicate threads winding between the two babes, binding them in intangible ways.
Cora turns to the two nobles. “You have a daughter.” Snow’s hand comes up to cover her mouth as tears fall freely while her husband holds out his arms for his daughter. When the girl is removed from Cora’s embrace, the boy lets out a loud cry, his arms and legs kicking out in protest. Even the old witch is surprised, barely managing to keep ahold of him.
A throat clears. “Give ‘im here,” says that rough man, arms held out awkwardly.
Cora gives him a scathing look before turning to Lord David. “No. It seems that the children will have to be together for now,” she states as she hands the squirming babe to David where he immediately quiets, large eyes blinking across to the girl. The lord stares down at the children in his arms, before carefully laying them in Snow’s arms.
She gazes at the two babes, noting the dark hair of the boy and the fairer tufts of the girl. Her eyes wander to the still girl beside her, not knowing what to say, not believing she would even be heard, but just knowing she is thankful for this, for the life of her child.
“Emma,” she whispers to the sleeping girl. David’s hand comes into view, to stroke the soft head of their child.
“Thank you, milord. I’ll be taking my boy now.” The gravelly voice cuts through the moment of peace in this night of birth and destruction. The two look up from their awed contemplation of the children to find John on their side of the bed now, eyes expectant on the boy in her arms. Snow’s mouth opens to protest, but David’s voice overrides hers.
“I don’t think that will be possible, John. He’s just come into this world, he has no mother to take care of him, and it seems that your son and my daughter cannot be separated for the moment.”
The man blusters and David straightens to a more regal pose as Cora’s low but clear voice cuts in. “Those children must stay together. The sacrifice your girl made, what she made possible for this girl-child to live, has bound the two inextricably. I know not what may happen, but I do know that for their lives to begin and grow, they must remain so.”
John looks as if he wants to come back at her, but he’s a man who apparently knows how to pick his battles. He glares hard at the healer, who stands unflinching, before nodding. David signals a servant and asks him to set up a room for their unexpected guest.
As the seaman leaves, the doctor moves in to care for the girl’s body, carefully moving her with a sheet and a help of another servant.
The room is finally clear of all but the newborns, the lord and lady, Cora and her own daughter.
Cora gives a slight genuflect to the two nobles before speaking. “Milady, milord, it would be best if Lady Snow would rest now, her strength needs to be recovered. I will take the children to their nursery and make sure that they are settled in.”
Somehow, Cora manages to give what amounts as an order without offending those of higher rank. Snow nods and hands the children over. Cora’s arms hold each carefully and she exits the room, leaving the husband to care for the wife, Regina following quietly behind.
It isn’t until she’s watching Cora lay the two in the large crib meant for one, does Regina understand what her mother means to do.
Cora’s face, lined yet still striking, has a look that Regina knows and that she fears. This is why she will not follow her mother into the arts, despite her innate aptitude. The look is one of hunger. And it’s directed at the sleeping babes, who even in sleep are turned towards the other.
She senses just as her mother must the power that courses between the children, that thread having dimmed in the reality of those who have no predilection
towards magic, but having grown stronger for those who do. For someone who could harness that power, well, that was enough to tempt even the ones who didn’t understand it.
Cora could understand, and would know how to use it. One hand sweeps over the babies, fingertips barely skimming first the boy’s dark hair and then the girl’s, Emma’s, lighter ones. The golden threads move toward and away from Cora’s hand, as if they’re shifting in a slight breeze. She’s testing it, this unknown magic.
Regina sees what will happen. Cora will wait until the rest of the manor is asleep and then she will slip into this room and steal the babies from the people who will love and care for them, not treat them as a stepping stone to a better life. She knows her mother, she knows that she has never wanted to be relegated to the country life.
She can’t have that happen. So when Cora turns away from the children, Regina schools her features to block out her fear and her concern and nods to whatever she says, following her mother out of the room, but making a silent promise to those small newborns that she will be back and she will save them.
As beginnings go, this may seem long. However, before this story can move on to tell the life of Emma and the boy, yet unnamed, a moment must be taken to describe how they were saved from a witch by a woman determined not to become like her.
Regina makes it to the nursery before her mother and hides the babes in a basket lined with blankets. The children wake only for a moment, but seem to sense that they are in good hands as they remain quiet. Regina feels that she should think this strange, but given what she has already witnessed that night, there is no comparison.
In all honesty, Regina doesn’t know where she will take them. She won’t be able to stay with them, because her mother will not stop until she finds Regina, if only to punish her, nor stop trying to find the children, not with the power they would give her. She will need to find a way to deter her mother.
With a silent plea that someone will find this before it causes too much damage, Regina sets fire to the nursery, and slips out into the dark.
She doesn’t see when the whole house awakens and rushes to the nursery. She’s not there for the frantic attempts at putting out the fire that had burned through the room and into the next one. She’s not witness to the despair on Lord David’s face or the hidden rage on her mother’s. She doesn’t hear the heartbreak in Lady Snow’s cries as she collapses at the news. She misses when John blames the nobles for losing him his son, throws a punch at David, and is subsequently escorted off the estate, vowing revenge.
No, she is entirely focused on getting them as far away as she can go, where they will be able to live their lives as their own, not as pawns. Is it fate that just a day on the road, when even these children’s good humor seems to fade and she fears she’s made the biggest mistake, that she runs into a kind woman, widowed and childless, who takes one look at the dark-haired young woman and the babes in her basket and makes room in her cart for them all? Is it destiny that when Regina haltingly tells her she cannot go with them for their own protection, that after a long measured look, the woman agrees to take the two as her own? One cannot say, for fate and destiny are spoken of often, but without ever truly knowing.
Regina stands on the road, looking after the cart, the two children and their new caretaker whispering words of protection she’s learned from her mother’s books and some that she makes up for herself until they disappear around the bend. She turns in a helpless circle before deciding to head west, hoping to make it on her own before her mother finds her. If she meets a man once noble, now turned outlaw—well, that’s getting into a different tale.
Author’s Note: Posting this because I need to know if I sound crazy. This started as a sort of prompt fill and has now run away with me. Any feedback is appreciated!
I do not own OUAT nor the book Remembrance by Jude Deveraux which also inspired this story.