“What do you know of snarks?” Snark asked Belle.
“They’re people drawn from the wilds and taught to be judges and spies,” Belle said.
“Concise.” Instinctive in us is sure and certain knowledge of how to kill and dispose of bodies. That is the baseline for we snarks. A line you seem to exist nowhere near, Belle.
“Snarks can only fight things which think. Soldiers, magicians, demons, anything able to form a thought or a strategy,” Belle said.
“Read that in a book, did you?”
“Not that.” Most anything else, yes, Belle thought.
“Then I shall tell you this : Snarks are unscathable,” the snark informed Belle. “Magic flows off us without effect.”
‘You’re strange,” Snark said. “Then again, so was your father at your age.”
“If you’re really my mother…” Belle said, her voice so full of curiosity.
“You want to know why I gave you to your father, and your father gave you to his brother-in-law.”
“Very well. This should make a good test of your nerves et al.
“You and your sister were barely a month old when I underwent the change, which can be a dangerous time for anyone nearby. I exiled myself, leaving you in Midas’ care. To bolster the ties with the natives, and thereby cut the recurring rebellions at the knees, Midas entrusted his brother-in-law the Duke Mo to raise you. He kept your sister for himself and his wife. The Duke’s wife raised you as a daughter. Then came Rumplestiltskin.”
“Thank you,” Belle said, processing all that. I have a sister? Is she Abigail? She has to be, right?
“And now, my turn.”
The beatings were strikes across Belle’s arms and back, blows from the Snark’s fists, but it felt to Belle like she was being swiped at and whipped by a sapling.
"Stop," Belle asked her.
"Why?" the Snark asked. "What reasoning are you hoping will motivate me?"
"You’re my mother."
"Nature, then? Are you a snark or are you in love with Rumplestiltskin?"
Just how strange are you? Or is this from what the duchess taught you? "Can’t. Not possible," she said.
"Why not?" Belle asked, only to be dropped to the ground.
"You really don’t understand how magic works," the Snark said.
"All magic has a price," Belle said. "I know that."
"If two humans come to an agreement, one of them may renege; for this, they have seconds and witnesses, to avenge them should the perceived need arise. Magic exacts a cost, entirely proportional to what is shaped into doing. To those who will try to avoid payment, the world handles them without proportionality." And with how magic works with normal snarks…
"But true love -"
She interrupted Belle. "Rumplestiltskin’s power is itself an exchange. Kill your predecessor, and take his power. And become cursed."
That‘s what the River Demon said. "I -"
"The spell does not care what you were defeating -- the curse and the man are bound, one and the same. Look at your arms."
Belle looked at them, and the swirling lines and blotches. No marks of any sort from the Snark’s strikes.
"Now, what do you understand happened?"
Oh my… Belle thought. "I kissed Rumplestiltskin. Our love began to vanquish his curse…I didn’t know that some of the curse was transferring to me because of that."
The Snark nodded. "Yes." We snarks have always had fingers that grab and hands that snatch. In you, I suppose it‘s unconscious.
"I didn’t know." He pulled away - he didn’t want me to be burdened with his curse.
"Now you do. Tell me, Belle, are you a snark, or do you love Rumplestiltskin? Which suite of powers will you have for the rest of your life?”
“Why do I have to pick?” Belle asked.
Snark looked at her. “You want to be a snark with the love of Rumplestiltskin?”
“Do you want him powerless?”
“I want him happy,” Belle said.
“Then you would have to love him without taking the power of the Evil One from him. And while we snarks are mighty, we aren’t that powerful.”
“Can we become that powerful?”
“By a boon, by a gift,” the Snark said. “A bargain with or a favor from a higher form of life.”
“Like a holy man?” Belle asked.
“If you mean clerics, they worked for us. If you mean holy, better to go to the horse‘s teat - the highest Powers.”
“The Empress?” Belle asked.
“Once, she was All. Now, there are lesser things to which men bow their heads. The Nixie, the Noble Dragons, the curse-layers of the ocean expanses, the demons, and some magicians,” remembering a certain Queen.
“Would they help me?” Belle asked.
“Voluntarily? That’s a bargain,” the Snark said.
Belle knew two interpretations of that statement. “Who do you suggest I ask?”
“You and I,” for all your strangeness, “our kind bend our knees to only one person. Follow me,” and she led down a vale and around a barren lake and up a hill missing its far side. As they ascended, "You *have* tasted of desire. No doubt you found it nice. But do you think the world will end in fire, or in ice?"
“Why do things have to end?” Belle asked.
“All things end, even Imperial Reigns, even love. That’s why it’s a mercy our snarkish kind were spared that horror.”
They reached the summit, Snark standing with ease atop jagged jumbled stones, Belle keeping her shod feet safely on the grass.
"Here we are," stopping at the edge of the woodland. Below them, waves crashed against vertical rocks. “Observe,” and handed Belle a telescope from - Belle had no idea where it had been a moment ago. “There,” she said to Belle. “Do you see that cliff, so like this one, but facing us?”
"This is the Imperial Palace?" Belle asked, looking through the telescope at the one-rook rickety shack on the other shore.
"Home of the Royal Family of the Empire?" The Sheherazad Dynasty.
"Where the Sheherazads would issue commandments?" Belle asked.
"Did no one tell you about Queen Alice?"
Of how she tried to bring the Empire back from its deathbed…and in the process went insane? "Yes, they did."
"And now you see with your own eyes what happens when one of the great Power goes mad."
"I’m seeing," Belle said, incredulous. "How has this gone untended?"
"Nobody comes out here but me. And you now, this once at least."
"But the kings. Surely they -"
"Are too concerned with their plots of land, to bother trying for a prize such as this."
"How do we get inside?" Belle asked.
"The doors need one Sheherazad, or a dozen ogres."
"What about magic?"
"Proofed against all magics except for that of ogres and of Sheherazads." Because the ogres remained loyal, unlike those who declared themselves to be kings.
“If I went to the Sheherazads, would they help?”
“You would have to get there first,” the snark said.
“I will.” I’m heading in that direction already.
Mary Margaret opened her door, and saw - "Mr. Gold. What a surprise.” Gold was standing beside the fallen - dead? - body of Mr. Hinterman, the man who was practically Gold’s shadow. “Is there something I can help you with?"
"On the contrary, literally," Mr. Gold said. "It’s a little something you asked me once to help you with."
"I’m sorry, I’m afraid I don’t remember anything like that."
Oh, no! Henry thought at the same time that Mr. Gold said, "That’s precisely what you asked for, as it happens."
"Uh, I should be getting home," Henry said, hoping to leave.
Mr. Gold said to him, "By all means, have a seat. Please."
Henry sat down on the couch.
Mr. Gold smiled. "That’s the fun thing about curses. They spread."
"One night I was a butterfly," May Noapte recited, "fluttering happily around. Then I awoke, and found I am a man. But what am I in truth? A man who dreams he is a butterfly, or a butterfly who dreams he is a man?"
Belle opened the hospital room door, closing it behind her, and then stepping halfway to May’s bed. Belle’s hands turned the color of quality gold, and she then peeled those gloves off and set them down.
"I know why you are here," May said. "I simply thought to let it end with poetry."
"You will end," Belle agreed. "I wasn’t strong enough to open the door to our world - but this will be sufficient."
"That’s why I’m here," the Nixie said through May. "But when you tell my story, omit this part."
"Very well," Belle said and brandished the knife.
Agent Um and Mr. Kaiser strolled hand in hand along the edge of the construction site slated to be Storybrooke’s new playground. “Looks good,” Sara said.
“Yes you do,” Tom said.
“I meant your crew does good work.”
“I wouldn’t employ them if they didn’t.”
“Quality over speed.”
“It’s not like the play tower would have been built in a day anyway. And have you given any thought to what I asked you?”
Sara laughed. “That’s a fast topic shift.”
“And yes, I have. Ye-” and they both paused for two seconds. “Huh,” flexing her fingers.
"I… That was odd," Kaiser said, most of his old memory restored. But not the vital piece. "Remembered fighting some warlord named Alexander. Kicked his butt."
Sara nodded. "I saw you do that." Then I told King Midas all about it. "I…"
"There’s something else," she told him, and held out her arms.
He held her hands, and she pulled him close. "We can get through this, too." We got through everything else."
Not this. Never this, Romulus. She held him close and whispered in his ear.
"Boo…?" was his dying word. He never saw the knife that did him in.
She was gone before his body was cold.