Chapter 9, if we do run into dragons, I'd like to be served up with a nice merlot.
Your enthusiastic reviews are keeping me going, bless you all for putting up with my lack of proper writing skills. And now for my pre-chapter rant. So I was just reading the gossip pages and saw that Ginnifer and Josh are hooking up. Dude if you are shacking up with her, do the world a favor and convince the pretty lady to grow out her hair and stop wearing nasty jumpsuits. Pixie cuts go with everything? Only if you're a pixie my dear. They were a bad idea in the 80's they are a bad idea now and you will end up on fashion police being rightfully skewered by Joan Rivers. I cannot wait until I'm back in NYC to see if this is truly a new fashion trend or if she found my closet from middle school in a 2nd hand store in Queens. I guess I better check and find out which Hotels Gwenie says I need to stay at this time. Later Peeps.
Considering the abrupt way in which Gepetto learned he had a grandson; the old man took it very well. Far better than Jiminy whose jaw was gaping open at the very thought August and the savior had conceived this child. In his head he was ticking off the number of mores that the two had broken. Seeing Jiminy, August was trying to not laugh as he knew he should be utterly ashamed, but as Jiminy had been the town counselor for 28 years it was clear that he was now at a complete loss for words and resembled a cod fish. But his father Gepetto just chuckled, "Well then, let me have a look at you." And he took a long critical look at the boy in front of him and then broke out a broad smile. "There is no doubt you are my grandson, and a fine young man."
And Henry practically exploded with joy, in one day he had his mother, father and all of his grandparents back.
"Father… I can explain," August started to try and have what would probably be a very difficult and confusing conversation with Gepetto.
But the old man just smiled and raised a hand to stop him, "Now there will be time for that son, and" he said looking down at Henry, "probably away from such young ears," he said squeezing Henry's shoulders teasingly.
Snow joined them after directing a group of refugees into the castle. "Jiminy, you are still human?" She said in a rather confused and concerned voice.
"Well," he began stammering, "I'm not really sure how or why."
Snow quirked an eyebrow and remarked, "Well then, If we are lucky maybe the queen turned into a rotted out pumpkin." If Jiminy were human, all manner of chaos may have been unleased in the kingdom. They were just scratching the surface here.
A team of horses came galloping into the courtyard, "Your Highness, My Lord! Rumpelstiltskin arrives." Jiminy looked even more pained at Pinocchio being addressed as a lord, but thought better than to say anything. Snow and August exchanged a worried look and Snow turned back to Henry.
"Gepetto, take Henry into the castle to the King's chamber. Make sure he doesn't leave." Snow said this pointedly to Henry.
"But, I can help," Henry said determinedly, it still wasn't fair to just get back your entire family and now be separated from them only hours later. Rumpelstiltskin was truly their only hope and he knew no one would trust the man entirely.
"No buts go with your grandfather," August answered.
Henry was angry but mostly he was just scared he'd lose the father he had just gained and ran to August hugging him around his waist. August lifted him up, and said into his hair. "I love you kid, I promise I'm coming back."
"You better," Henry said fiercely and August laughed sadly and set him back on the ground.
"Now go," he said to Henry and the boy started to leave with his beloved father.
But Henry stopped abrubtly and turned around yelling "Wait," after August and Snow who were starting back towards the gates... "Please trust him, he can save us all." August gave his son an unsure look but nodded and ran off to greet the Imp. To the nearest rider August ordered, "Prince James is in the armory, please inform him."
"Yes my lord," the soldier said with a curt nod and ran off towards the castle.
August helped Belle down from where she sat behind Rumpelstiltskin who soon joined her; Belle gave a slight curtsey to the Princess. A boy a bit older than Henry came up beside him. Unlike Jiminy Rumpelstiltskin had returned to his original form and was all gold and greenish, but without his normal undertone of malice. Even so, Snow was slightly disgusted at the thought of trusting this man.
"My lord indeed," Rumpelstiltskin said haughtily to August and turning to Snow. "Your highness, I present my son Baelfire."
Baelfire shook his head and tugged at his father's robes, "Father, please this is a horrible idea, we can find another way."
Rumpelstiltskin placed a hand on his shoulder and sighed. "I am sorry my son, but there is no other way." Looking across the courtyard he could see Henry and Gepetto starting to enter the castle. "Henry!" he called out. Henry had been stalling and trying to watch as he was being herded, started running back. Breathless he galloped up followed by Gepetto and Jiminy.
"There is someone I believe you should meet," Rumpelstilstkin said. Gepetto was alarmed that the man who caused so much pain was allowed in the castle gates so willingly and he looked to August who nodded in reassurance to his father. "Baelfire, I would like you to meet Prince Henry."
"Hello." Henry replied looking at Baelfire who was grasping at his father's cloak.
"Papa, I want to go with you," Baelfire pleaded.
"I know son, but this is something I have to do on my own. Go with young Henry I have no doubt he will be well protected." He ran a shimmery green hand down the boy's face. "Know that I love you, son."
Baelfire, held back his tears as he nodded at his father.
Whether he was a demon or not, if there was one thing that Gepetto understood, it was the love of a son and he pitied the pathetic man before him.
"He will be protected as one of our own, you have my word," he said to Rumpelstiltskin and he patted the boy on the shoulder and Henry took Baelfire's arm.
"We're going to the King's chambers," Henry said conspiratorially to Baelfire, "but I'd rather fight also."
"I want you to go with him." Rumpel said to Belle placing steady hands on her forearms and feeling the soft cotton of her dress beneath his fingertips.
"No…absolutely not. I am not a princess you get to lock in the tower," she said in her pretty accent, and stomping a foot and she turned with a huff to August, "Get me a sword, I will be fighting also. My father took great care to ensure I was well trained and I will not be a burden."
"I guess it's a good thing we brought two." Emma and James had been standing behind them and tossed the swords to Belle and August who caught them handily.
"Miss Swan, I must protest," Rumpelstiltskin began.
"That's Princess Emma to you," She said with a glare. Last thing she needed was to be bossed around by Mr. Gold.
"You didn't make this deal with me." Belle said, "and I choose to fight. Now where do I get something other than this dress to fight in?" She asked Snow and Emma.
"I'm pretty sure Snow White has something furry to match what I get to wear," Emma responded with a smirk. If she was going to look like road kill at least someone would have the pleasure of joining her.
"That I do, and it's time for me to get out of this dress," Snow said twirling for emphasis and receiving a salacious look from her husband.
All three women left without a word to the men, leaving James, August and Rumpelstiltskin gaping after them. "Women," James finally said and clapped August on the back, earning a wince as James seemed to be freakishly strong.
Noticing how warily August was holding his new sword James asked, "Do you have any idea how to use that thing?"
August stared at the jeweled sword turning it over in his hands. "Not a clue, but I assume this will be a trial by fire."
"Pointy end goes anywhere in the bad guy. If we do encounter dragons it goes straight through the heart and if there are trolls hit them in the legs, "James responded quite seriously.
"Helpful," August drolly said to James, "If we are fighting dragons, I think I'd prefer armor."
"Surprisingly it doesn't help all that much," James replied and he turned to Rumpelstiltskin who was following Belle with a careful eye as she ascended the stairs into the main part of the castle. "Snow will stay with her. Whether they like it or not it is Snow's duty to protect the women and children in the castle." At least that's what James was hoping, having already lost his family and his daughter for twenty-eight years.
Rumpelstiltskin cackled with mirth, "Young prince, I have no doubt your wife and daughter will tell you exactly what they will be doing."
The women followed Gepetto, Henry and Jiminy through the castle to the King's chambers; soon they found themselves before the grand doors. Snow stood with her hands on Henry's shoulders with a sad look on her face. She nodded her head slightly to Jiminy and Gepetto who pushed them open to reveal an enormous sitting room full of furniture covered in white linens.
She thoughtfully gazed around the open sitting rooms that lay before them, "I haven't been in here in a very long time. These were my parent's rooms," she quietly explained. "There are several sleeping rooms; one was for my father's valet, the Queens rooms, and the sitting rooms. They are accessible by this door and one other. They are the most defensible rooms in the castle."
"So this was Regina's bedroom?" Emma asked slightly grossed out at the thought.
"Technically it still is. They were my parents before that, and my father's parents before that. Ever since the castle was built these rooms have belonged to the King and Queen. James and I chose to keep to the smaller rooms on the other side of the castle. "Snow answered.
"So when do you become Queen?" Henry asked.
"When Regina dies or gives up her right to the throne," Snow replied.
For a brief moment Emma saw that Henry looked rather pained. While Henry had little sympathy for Regina, she had raised him from an infant. She placed a hand on his shoulder and looked at him with concern. He just shrugged, "I know it's the only outcome,' he said shaking his head slightly.
Emma grimaced but decided to change the subject, after all Henry was right, there were very few options to her mother she asked, "You said there was another door."
"Yes, this way." Snow led them into the King's bedroom; all the furniture in here was also covered in sheets. She wrenched one away from the bookcase as years of dust billowed up. Coughing and waving her hand in front of her face she searched the bookshelf and pulled out a small book. The book case began to creak and slowly swung open to reveal a passage way. "If the castle is attacked, this passage will lead out to the forest, only the Royal family and our closest advisors know of its existence. Belle and Baelfire you are now family and this secret cannot leave this room."
"Wouldn't the Queen have been told?" Belle asked skeptically.
"More than likely. However, the exit on the outside is cloaked by a spell and she would never be able to enter that way," Snow replied. "Either way," She said to the two women before her, "If the castle is attacked it is the best way to get the boys out safely."
Gepetto was staring out the high windows to the village down below watching James trying to teach his son the basics of sword fighting. All this he had done to protect his child, but still he would have to fight. His hands gripped the cold stone around the window and he shut his eyes trying to remember the little boy that had been such a gift to him. A soft hand laid on top of one of his withered ones and Snow White gently said, "I know the choices you made were because of your love for your son, now I have to ask you to do the same for Henry," She swallowed and glanced and Emma and Belle before she began again, "If the battle goes ill and the castle falls, we need you and Jiminy to take them to Thomas and Ella."
"No!" Both boys yelled. Henry's eyes were full of hurt and anger. "If the castle falls it means she took my family again," Henry yelled, "I'm not leaving you."
"We have a right to fight too," Baelfire continued trying to convince the princess.
Snow White kneeled down in front of Henry, and placed a hand on his cheek and then grasped his hands in hers, her voice carried a heavy weight as she spoke to him, "Henry, you have to understand, if the castle falls and we are taken you are all that remains of the Royal Family. As the only great grandchild of King Leopold you are the heir to the throne. It is your duty to stay alive to fight another day. The people who have taken refuge here and those who have chosen to stay and fight on their lands will need a leader one day and that is you." Henry was crestfallen and numbly acknowledged with a slight nod of his head. His obligation seemed to be a lifetime away, not sitting at the end of a battle today.
Snow turned and took one of Baelfire's hands, "Has your father explained to you what is going to happen."
"Yes," he said quietly.
"Then you also understand what your future role is to be?"
"Yes your highness," He said and glanced at Henry. Two future kings, but still only children. It was a hell of a burden to bear when your parents were facing death.
Snow looked up at Emma who clearly had not had time to process that her eleven year old son might be left an orphan after today. She had been so certain that given her premonition they would get their happily ever after's that the possibility of defeat had never even crossed her mind.
"No, we are going to win today Henry," Emma said with determination in her voice.
"Of course we will, but we still have to be prepared for every possibility, no matter how remote," Snow calmly replied. "It is our station and our duty to ensure that this land has its future leaders. I know we will win, but to do that we also need to ensure that Henry and Baelfire have no chance of being taken."
"You said the other Kingdom's are sending reinforcements," Emma responded.
"Yes, as soon as they can, but if they encountered the same chaos we did it may be days before the first arrive. And we may not be able to hold off Regina for that long, even with Rumpelstiltskin." Crossing the room to her daughter she continued, "If all four of us are taken the boys are to be sent to Thomas and Ella who will hold Regency until Henry comes of age, and if the castle falls that is where we are all to go."
"Rumpelstiltskin won't let that happen, he has foreseen the future." Belle said convinced that would affect the ultimate outcome.
"But," Emma began realizing the truth, "He also said the future is always changing. He sees one future, one possibility that is always moving."
"Then," Henry began looking at his mother and grandmother, "you have to trust Rumpelstiltskin to choose the right path because I will not be an orphan."
After they had found something for both Belle and Snow White to wear, and Emma was grateful they looked as furry as she did they bade their goodbyes to Henry and Baelfire. Snow kissed both boys on the forehead and hugged Henry tightly.
Emma, sat down on edge of the bed as Henry wrapped his hands around her neck. He giggled a little. "The fur tickles my nose." She laughed through her tears and leaned her forehead against his. "I love you Henry, never forget that." He smiled and kissed her cheek. "I love you too."