Title: Another path to Childhaving.
written for the Rumpel_Belle exchange, for Mirime_vy.
Chapter One: The road less taken in a woods.
Summary: Belle and Ruby meet - but then the angry villagers catch up to them.
Chapter Two: In the Dungeon.
Summary: Belle and Ruby explore the dungeon of Dark Ones' collections. And Rumplestiltskin has company over, to discuss an upcoming war.
Chapter Three: Split.
Summary: Red makes her deal. And, in what I think is the end, we meet Ruby.
Author’s Note: For the most part, I’ve tended to assume (as backstory) that the baby-deal with Ella was made so Belle wouldn’t be alone…but then I read a different fable with Rumplestiltskin, which sparked this. (and so did my thought of "Belle and Ruby are friends now - could they have become friends sooner, had things gone differently?")
I gave him an out, didn’t I? Belle mused. I used my solitary stay here, as a tool to enquire about him. And now I’m not going to be the only woman here. I walked right into it.
Belle poured from the thing – she wasn’t sure of the name for this thing, only that it looked like two drinking horns fused together – into the flagons of Rumplestiltskin’s guests. Two of them this time.
Two individuals who Belle and Red had to feed and pour drinks for - to the best of my knowledge, normally, Rumplestiltskin only has one guest at a time, to ask him for something, Belle thought.
“Flagon, young lady,” said one guest. Belle looked at her and saw that this guest – a young woman by the name of Saroté – was blind. Belle placed the flagon in her hand, only to be told, “Don’t be afraid.”
A quiet chuckle from the other guest – Boojum.
“I’m not,” Belle said.
“A lie is unbecoming,” Saroté said. “Though the word may have a differing meaning here.”
“And we can smell dishonesty,” Boojum said.
“You’re dismissed, Belle. Go, rest,” Rumplestiltskin said. When Belle was gone, off to chat with Red, Rumplestiltskin said to Saroté and Boojum, “And now the news.”
“The component armies of my own world cycle in their times of readiness and rest,” Saroté said. “Presently, the residents of the Labrynth and the devotees of Dracula are prepared to storm into a world,” and Saroté looked at the Boojum, daring her to be any less ready and prepared.
“The armies of the Red Queen are now at full readiness,” spoke the Boojum.
“And your own?” Saroté asked.
“I have none. My lord’s army is likewise set for mobilization.”
“You are part of that army, Boojum, spy.” In most worlds, the two words were synonyms.
“Lets not quibble over anatomy,” Rumplestiltskin said.
“Speaking of, may I notice your housekeeping staff has increased?” Saroté asked him.
“Yes it has, to two,” Rumplestiltskin said. “I started with one, and she made a decision; protected a stranger.”
“You always find the noble ones.”
“Are they still strangers?” Boojum asked.
“They cooperate,” Rumplestiltskin said. “They talk.”
“God,” Saroté Moreau said, trumping them both. “And what will you do with them?”
“That depends,” Rumplestiltskin said. “Are you ever going to do anything with Jiminy?”
As the conversation continued, the Dark One could feel his employees scurrying about, this way and that, and coming to a cellar door.
“Speaking of which…Big place,” Red commented.
“Very,” Belle agreed. “I’ve been here a few months,” I think. Pretty sure. There aren’t exactly calendars around here. “Still a lot I haven’t explored yet.”
“Feel up for it?”
“I suppose… okay.”
“We don’t need to ask permission, do we?” Red asked. “You know, let him know where we’ll be.”
“He hasn’t objected yet,” Belle said. “Though we shouldn’t touch anything, just to be sure.”
Red nodded. Don’t want to end up a part of the collection.
“…can do anything anything anything under the sun,” Belle said, feeling the conversation was getting a little silly. But then again, when venturing from a stone staircase to an endless-looking corridor, some humor comes in handy.
“And in the darkness,” Red added, then switched to more observation than anything else - “Okay, this definitely qualifies as a dark and stormy basement,” Red commented on the feel of the estate’s underbelly.
Belle nodded as they walked into the first room after setting off down the long unmarked hallway. “Cages?”
“Yeah. Metal, wood, strings, jewels.”
There were all manner of things on display. From a pea seed laying alongside a tower of mattresses, to the head or tail of some monstrous sea beast. And –
“A baby,” Belle said, seeing what was propped up on one of the stone platforms.
“Careful there,” Rumplestiltskin said.
Placing her hand over her heart, Belle said, “Rumplestiltskin, you almost scared me to death.”
“Nah,” he said.
“How did you…?” Red asked.
“Would you prefer to hear that I’ve been walking behind you both all this time, or that I have alerts around all my inheritance?”
“Inh- You inherited all this?” Belle breathed. That implies a line of succession.
“Indeed I did. Everything in this room was acquired by the Dark One Zoso. He even labeled them,” snapped his fingers, and spidery block letters appeared on the stones and other containers. “Ah, you found the BreyerBaby.”
“I heard that name,” Red said. “I always thought it was a nickname. How’d *this* catch BreyerFox?”
“Hence the ‘No Touching’ part of the sign,” Rumplestiltskin said. But he couldn’t help seeing the look in Belle’s eyes as the looked at the BreyerBaby. To wait until little Ella is ready and set to deliver, or to find another source ?
And then he had an idea to determine a course of action. “Follow me,” Rumplestiltskin said, leading them back out of the room, and to another chamber. Thousands of birds nested in here, forever caught in mid-song. And in the center of the collection –
“Another baby. An…an Arimaspean?” Belle asked, having seen a face like that in only one place: her books of ancient heroism.
“Yep. One of the cyclopean warriors, in the flesh,” Rumplestiltskin said.
“I *knew* they weren’t myths!” Red crowed.
“No. Now they’re extinct.”
“The occupants of this chamber were gathered by the Dark One Joringel. Normally he turned his captives to birds. But his greatest foe, he youthened to a babe in swaddlecloth.”
“How long…?” Red asked while Belle stared.
“Oh I have no idea. An archaeologist would, and could count the years. I only know there were five Dark Ones between Joringel and Zoso.” Rumplestiltskin paused. “Would you like the baby?”
As expected, they were taken aback at this. “What?” Belle asked. And “Aren’t you worried he’ll grow up when he’s let out of there?”
“No, she won’t. And don’t worry yourselves about cost - I am the Dark One after all.” I take the infant out, I pay the cost.
“That doesn’t make sense. Aren’t you a slave to making deals?” Red asked.
“To finding them, dearie. But as Belle pointed out the other day, she might never know another soul after you leave, Red.”
“So the child is what?” Belle asked. “Some idea of payment ^ ?”
“Company. And you could always defer the child to your new friend.”
“Uh, I don’t think I should be having a kid,” Red said. Though Granny and my mom obviously got it to work.
“I’ll have to refuse as well, Rumplestiltskin,” Belle said. “Thank you , though. But I don’t think it would be fair to wake her up, knowing she’s the last of her people.”
Odds are good that her people will come back when the transfer-travel spell gets activated.) “Of course. Then dinner perhaps - the goose is cooked, after all.”
Red’s stomach groaned.
To be continued.
In Chapter 3: the deal.