Fandom: Once upon a time.
Characters: Archie Hopper, Ruby, Henry, Belle; Rumpelstiltskin, Milah, Baelfire, Hordor, the Dark One.
Categories: Time travel, changing history, what if, light character study. (action? Adventure?)
Story summary: Belle's fondest wish is granted, and everyones' problems will be over -- if she can stop Rumplestiltskin from ever becoming the Dark One. What's the worst that could happen?
Chapter 1: The wish. At LJ: Chapter 1.
Chapter 2: Introductions afresh. At LJ: Chapter 2.
…Chapter summary: The day after that encounter in the bar, Rumpelstiltskin and Milah meet our heroes. And the Dark One has plans.
Chapter 3: Perhaps a change of scenery. At LJ: Chapter 3.
…Chapter summary: The problem with leaving for new lands isn't the destination - entirely.
Sometimes, its in us
Chapter 4: I put the choice to you. At LJ: Chapter 4.
…Chapter summary: Why the Dark One hates the Time Traveler... And what the Duke does to friends.
Chapter 5: Call me Ahab. At LJ: Chapter 5.
...Chapter summary: The Terminator said it best: "Come with me if you want to live."
Chapter 6: The Gathering. At LJ: Chapter 6.
...Chapter Summary: Everyone is in the same building. But who will fall on the sword, and who will save the day, now that Archie is a beast and Belle has been lost?
Chapter 7: In my end is The Beginning. At LJ: Chapter 7/7.
...Chapter Summary: The birth of a new era was not easy, but it happens.
Disclaimer: I own none of the canon characters, locations, or spells.
Feedback is always welcome.
"Very good indeed," the Dark One said. But he was not looking or aiming towards the prisoners any more.
"You are mine to command!" the Duke shouted.
But the Dark One tilted his cowled head a bit, and said, "A silent wish. It has been a while..." and raised one hand, magical energies glowing around it.
The throne arms wrapped around the Duke's arms, throne legs doing the same to his legs. "Release me this instant!" he ordered the Dark One.
To no avail. "There is no more purpose to your speech," and the Dark One made the Duke mute.
Even when Hordor and additional troops arrived, everyone held their positions until the Dark One at last turned, minutes later, to face one of the room's corridor entrances. In came Ruby, Captain Jones, and Milah.
"Time to kick butt and take names," Ruby said. "Or at least finish this Hail Mary pass."
"What are you?" Captain Jones asked.
Ruby opened her mouth to answer, but dropped to all fours, her tail swishing to and fro.
"But that's not supposed to happen," Henry said. "It's supposed to be that -"
"Each thought qualifies as instruction," the Dark One said. "They need not be spoken aloud." And the Dagger-holder's thought agreed with Jones' question.
"Is that so?" Milah asked.
"It is," the Dark One said, kneeling before her.
"Then you know what I want."
Rumpelstiltskin looked down to see if he was suddenly limpless or otherwise able to charge into battle. Nope.
"Say it," Milah said.
Says the Dark One, "You expect me to protect your family, escorting you to a suitably far-away place where his cowardice is unknown."
"Surely if you are enthralled to obey in all particulars," Rumpelstiltskin said, "then it's rather more than just expecting."
"That's true," Jones said.
"Think it through, Captain," the Dark One said. "If I am only tasked with the safety of their family, what will become of your ship when they are done with it?"
"Nothing will happen," Milah said.
"You sound confident, my new master. But I remind you that so too was my old master. You hold the power. But can you control me, you small creature?" the Dark One asked her, looming over her. "Small and weak thing that you are, how long can you hold on?"
That's not a good idea, Rumpelstiltskin thought.
"Will you set me free? I tend to revenge upon the families of those who hold me in thrall."
Archie paused. Never smelled a lie before.
"Quiet!" Milah barked at him.
A slow nod, and the Dark One held out one hand, a vague sphere of power rotating above his palm. Eminating out from it were thoughts from various points in the day:
Rumpelstiltskin: Maybe this will be enough. I may be afraid to be a coward in new places, and my fears kept Milah and Bae from being honored -- but they will both be honored and respected now, no matter what happens to me.
Baelfire: "Nobody would tease me any more than they would tease the children of the king or the Duke."
Belle: "Rumpelstiltskin lost his wife and son. Even if we can't do anything else, we can stop the centuries of torment."
Henry: "For all the hardships they've gone through, I'd still trade places with Baelfire if I could - he's got a real family, the sort I would've loved to have when I was growing up."
Prompted by this, Milah ran to Bae and Rumpelstiltskin, who ran to meet her. What ensued was a verbal melee of "I'm sorry"s and "No no, I am"s and "Shh, it's okay"s and "I love you"s.
If nothing else, that's a good first step, Archie thought. The heat of the moment can be a good forge to improve relations and feelings for al ong time afterwards.
"What are your orders?" the Dark One inquired.
"Go away," Milah told him.
And the Dark One obeyed, leaving in a small cloud that dissipated rapidly.
Seconds later, he re-appeared, right behind the family.
Milah pushed Baelfire and Rumpelstiltskin away from her just enough so she could swing around, stabbing the Dagger through her overshirt and deep into the Dark One, using the momentum to knock him to the ground. "Get away!" she growled.
The Dark One began to chuckle, to laugh.
"What's so funny?" Milah wanted to know.
"You're as much a desperate soul as your husband. I know how to recognize my own kind," as the Dark One fled Zoso's face, leaving him to die a mortal.
Wordlessly, Rumpelstiltskin and Bae came over to wrap their arms around Milah, to offer what support they could.
Milah hissed at what felt almost like contact burns on her hands, and pulled a greening-and-greying hand away from Zoso's corpse...the Dagger coming with her hand.
Before the killing stroke, the blade had read ZOSO.
Now the blade read MILAH.
She stood and turned to face the Duke. "This is how you did it?" Milah asked him.
The Duke said nothing.
"The Dark One - the other Dark One," his mistress offered, "made him mute."
"Then speak, you silent one," Milah said, letting this be a test of her newfound power.
"It is," the Duke said. "If anyone attempted to prevent their family members from being drafted to fight the ogres, the Dark One had orders to restrain them until they stopped trying."
"His ace in the hole," Red the Wolf said, and then blinked in surprise. Wow, when she says 'speak' it's pretty all-encompassing. Cool beyond words - wait, with an inward smile.
"Your future has strange proverbs," Milah said.
"That we do."
"Momma?" Baelfire asked.
"I'm here, Bae," Milah said, holding out her arm for him to join her at her side; Rumpelstiltskin stood a step behind Bae, in the hope she would motion for him next. "Now, your Dukeness, I say to you - go - fight - ogres - yourself," and the throne released him, and the Duke vanished from the room.
To the Duke's wife and the Duke's mistress, Milah said, "Your thoughts, majesties?"
"We have no claim to you or over you," the Duke's wife said.
"None," the Duke's mistress agreed.
"We would be happy to abdicate so you might rule the people."
Milah felt something she suspected may be a close kin of the terror Rumpelstiltskin had felt when facing the oncoming ogre forces. I can't rule. I never could. Our household ran best when my husband was doing the wifely things like accounting and records. "No. The two of you rule. As caretakers or regents or however you fancy calling yourselves."
Now that she was the Dark One, an idea crossed Milah's mind. "May I?"
Despite having little to no idea what was being requested, the two women behind the throne nodded. "If there is anything we can offer you, Dark One, name it and it is yours."
That said, Milah gave a slow nod and, with a graceful turn (even more graceful in Rumpelstiltskin's and Killian's gazes), Milah took her time walking towards Hordor. "You once told me I would be very impressed by your tattoo. Now lets take a look at it," holding one semi-scaled hand out before her, palm facing forwards.
This should be interesting, Killian thought. Fortunately, I never mentioned having tattoos. Spent what little time I knew her, telling her about other lands.
Hordor shook his head rapidly and opened his mouth to say 'nonononono!' --
...but what happened was that his sword clattered to the ground, because flamingoes cannot hold things.
"Well that's disappointing," Milah said. "But I didn't know I could do that much," thought my transformational power would begin small, like removing whatever article of clothing covered his tattoo. "So..."
Nothing happened, aside from a film of purple mist appearing momentarily around Archie and Ruby. "Nothing?" Milah asked, and had a thought: "If I can't break down the front door of your curse, then maybe the wall..." and tried again.
Wasn't that in a Hallmark Channel movie? Ruby thought, but found herself rising to stand - fully clothed - on two legs once more. As was Archie, fully-clothed and all. "Thanks," Ruby said to Milah.
"You're welcome," Milah said, "Though I'm not entirely sure how I did that, or..."
Or what the cost was to us? Archie guessed. "We're not complaining. Thank you."
She smiled and nodded acceptance.
"One thing more..." Milah said, and Belle appeared in the room. She looked around at who was here, and saw who the Dark One was now.
"I have some questions for you," Milah said.
"Okay," Belle said, and let herself be walked out of the room.
Rumpelstiltskin and Archie and Killian gathered around the fallen body of Zoso. "Wonder how long he was planning this," Rumpelstiltskin said.
"Some men begin planning their escape the moment they're captured," Killian said. "Others may not try to escape, but they pass the time by looking at opportunities and thinking how to seize them."
"In any event, it's over," Archie said. Ruby and Henry each came over and wrapped an arm around him. Bae did likewise with his dad.