Belle coughed. “I said, from their friends,” slightly louder.
Granny wheeled out a very large object, which swiftly ended any and all conversation in the room.
“Ooh, I definitely want one of that,” Ruby said. “What is it?”
“Emma had something like that,” Henry said. “Only hers had fewer torches on it.”
“It’s a birthday cake,” Belle said. “Happy birthday, Rumplestiltskin.”
“Thank you. Its lovely,” Mr. Gold said.
Hearing this, Belle’s heart both soared and sank like a stone. Victory was soured by one memory she knew couldn’t be false: a dream which had her walking the length of an endless corridor in a darkness lit only by the objects in the two display cases - one on each wall, running for the entire length of the walls.
The objects had been considered divinities in their own right, Belle had known long before then, as her adolescent readings including ancient heroes and heroines and their bygone cultures.
The objects were daggers.
“Belle,” said an unseen Rumplestiltskin.
Every wall cradled at least dozens of daggers, each with a name engraved on it. No two names were ever the same.
“I tell you what. I’ll make you a deal,” Rumplestiltskin said, still out of her eyes’ sight.
“Another deal?” Belle asked.
“With I. Not he, dearie. Tis his heart you hold, not mine.”
“If you’re not…”
“For you, I make an exception. You can have Rumplestiltskin without me and alive.”
“There’s a catch,” Belle knew. “What is it?”
“Clever girl. The catch is that he whose name is on my dagger, must hand you my dagger.”
Here, now, with everything that had happened now under her belt, Belle knew, I have to solve this.