Neverlander: Wondrous Terrible
Disclaimer: I don't own Once Upon a Time, or Rufio from Hook either.
A/N: Begins immediately after the epilogue of Wraith and Love three.
The Human Wall
Rumpelstiltskin watched Bae and Morraine walk out through the main hall to the front door, catching snippets of conversation about a baron and his brother who had been conning the people for months and thus had to be stopped. He didn't catch a location, but it didn't much matter. It appeared that the situation was well under control.
He leaned back in his chair and smiled to himself as the door closed behind the two youths.
Belle leaned against the chair, one arm supporting her and her free hand on her hip. She was following Rumpelstiltskin's gaze with a smirk. "Everything seems to be going well," she said.
"Indeed it does," he repiled.
It had been almost three months since Peter Pan had been reported missing. The pirates had split themselves between Pallorwall and the forest, moving to and fro as the harbor filled or emptied. Several had become good friends of some of the Merry Men.
And Tinker Bell had exausted lead after lead after lead trying to find Peter Pan.
She sank onto the bed on her back with a groan, some part in pain but most of it in exasperation. "I'd ask if you're alright, but the answer is quite obvious, in my opinion," Hook said from the table. "Would you like to talk about it?"
She propped herself up with her arms. "The kid disappeared off the face of the frickin' earth." Again, she fell onto her back.
"I've a feeling you should stop doing that."
"Don't make me punch you." Hook chuckled softly. "I'm serious."
"So don't make a joke out of it."
He walked over to her and sat next to her. "I take the liberty because I know I'm not the root of your troubles. Rather, the problem is not anger, but fear. You're afraid Peter Pan is going to go on another killing spree."
"See that? You know I'm right."
"Double damn you."
Hook chuckled again, and Tinker Bell sat up and gave him a slap on the back side of his head. "Alright, alright, let's call it a draw."
"I'll take it." She lay down for a third time, more gently than either of two previous attempts combined. "Now, we have to change course when we look for Peter. Where do we start?"
"With the Lost Boys."
Rufio led the Lost Boys deeper inland, but as far as he or anyone else could see, there was simply no way around the impenetrable defense at the border. The daylight was fading. "We go back to camp to regroup," he called. Almost as one, the Lost Boys turned around to retrace their steps.
As they walked, he mused. He had long since dubbed the defense erected in the forest the Human Wall, for it was comprised entirely of soldiers armed to the teeth with the deadliest of weapons, some even he didn't recognize. He had gone down it to the shore and up by degrees to a point several miles inland where the forest began to fall away. The wall turned a sharp corner and continued on first perpedicular and then parallel to its original path. It stretched on seemingly into eternity.
And the soldiers' costumes were as strange as the defense they formed. They wore red-and-black painted armor, decorated exactly once, on the left breast, with the symbol of a given suit of playing cards and a designation ranging from ace to ten. Rufio had surmised that these were infantrymen, and the designation indicated the division to which each man belonged. If he ever saw any officers, he guessed they would be marked Jack and Knight and designated with the symbol of the division they led.
King and Queen, that was self-explanatory. The land on the other side of the Human Wall was divided into four united kingdoms, headed by Kings of Spades, Clubs, Diamonds, and Hearts. So many soldiers indicated a warlike or formerly warlike state, and it was therefore likely the four courts were comprised of distinguished military leaders.
Rufio called the group to halt before he could register why. He stepped to the front of the group and kept a hand in front of them. His gaze was fixed on the couple standing in their camp. "What're you doing here?" he asked Captain Hook and Tinker Bell, though the latter was bigger than he remembered.
"Rufio," Tinker Bell said. "We were looking for you."
He stepped forward and put his hand on the hilt of his dagger. "'Kay, so, whaddaya want?"
"We're looking for Peter Pan," Hook said.
"Join the club, if you can."
"No news?" Tink asked.
"Come with me. The rest of you, stay here." Tinker Bell and the captain followed Rufio through the forest. "So," Rufio asked after a moment, "how do you to come by working together?"
"Long story short, I was his spy," Tinker Bell replied. "Now we're dating."
"So I shouldn't be asking you why I should trust him."
"Actually, I'm not asking you to trust him. I have no right or reason to. We're just working together and it just so happens that the two of us," she gestured to herself and Rufio, "happen to have common interests."
"So long as you don't expect me to actually like your boyfriend, guess I can be cool with it."
"'Kay, good enough for me."
Rufio stopped them and pulled them behind a tree, pressing a finger to his lips. "They don't take kindly to people walking around. We've been getting a lot of death glares lately."
"Then they're not allowed to break rank," Hook replied. Rufio nodded and peered around the tree.
"Alright, a few feet more, but be quiet." They inched forward before Rufio again called them to stop. He gave a grand, sweeping gesture to the wall of soldiers before them but out of earshot. "I give you, the Human Wall."
"So you haven't found a way to get past it?"
Rufio dropped his hand and stared blankly at his two visitors. "Excuse me?"
"You haven't worked out a way to get beyond the wall?"
"What about from the sea?"
"Tried that. It goes on forever there, too."
"It can't go on forever," Tinker Bell said. "Wonderland does and should, as a free and sovereign state, have clearly defined and finite borders."
"That's what they're guarding, based on the uniforms. Those are strictly from Wonderland. Nowhere else in the world dares to dress their soldiers like that."
"I can see why."
"Is there a line behind them?" Tink asked.
"Can't tell exactly," Rufio replied, studying the Wall with narrow eyes, "but I've been up and down it several times and haven't seen a second line."
"So most of their soldiers go to border control? Damn."
Hook turned Rufio's head toward him. "What does this have to do with finding Peter Pan?"
"Oh, it's story time now. I thought you'd never ask." Hook slowly released the boy's face. "Peter flew into the forest. I watched him and tried to follow, but I lost him. Nobody in Pallorwall had anything to say, so I figured he'd managed to find his way to Witzend, but the trouble is, between us and Witzend is," he pointed to the Wall, "that."
Hook stepped back and peered at the Wall. "He flew, then."
"That leaves us with a couple of options: we send a search and extraction team that can fly, as well, or we amass as many troops as possible and tear this wall down."
"Pirate has a point. Wow."
"But it'll be a bad idea if we send him, or me, now that I think about it," Tink said. "You'll probably have to lead it."
"What will you do?"
"If we need to, looking for backup, most likely."
"'Kay." He looked at the sun, now barely above the horizon. "Time to go back. Got a big day tomorrow." Tinker Bell and Captain Hook silently agreed.