Okay everyone, here is Chapter 12. This update took a little longer than I had originally planned.
I started back to work and the weather was too nice to not take advantage of it, but here is Chapter 12 and thanks again to everyone that sticks around to read this story. Things are picking up now.
Reviews are welcomed and encouraged.
"Send him in."
Large oak doors creaked open and an array of people stepped back, clearing a path that led up to the throne. Eyes bright as the day lay on his face as he limped up the aisle, hungry stares lingering and drifting down to his neck where they stayed focused.
"You do not look as though you are from this world." Rumple picked his head up slightly, enough to see the figure sitting casually on the throne in front of him as he collapsed on to his knees.
The man had shoulder length dark brown hair and piercing hazel eyes that glowed with an animalistic quality.
"I am not." Rumple croaked out.
He had no idea how long he had been wandering after he was sent through the hat and landed in this world. It was strange.
A haze seemed to linger over the land and he had been dodging beasts and monsters until he felt he couldn't any longer, crumpling to the ground and lying there until two men found him and brought him here.
"So tell me." The man began, a small smile playing on his lips, "What world are you from?"
"I assume you know about magic and other world travel if you are specifying 'what world'." Rumple commented with a bit of sass, receiving a chuckle from the man.
"Indeed, I know of this travel. However, I myself am unable to do so." The man drifted off thoughtfully, "Tell me your name."
"Rumplestiltskin. That's quite an unusual name, no matter Rumplestiltskin, tell me how you got here."
"Through a portal. A hat to be exact. I was cast out and sent away to a land devoid of magic."
"Well whoever cast you out didn't do a very good job. You are in a land with magic, however." The man drifted off once more and signaled the men to tilt Rumple's chin up some more, "The magic that lingers in this land is dark. Very very dark, and dangerous. It's even darker than you Rumplestiltskin, and judging by your appearance that must mean something."
"Where I am originally from, I am called The Dark One, cursed to look like this as a price for the amount of dark magic I use and possess." Rumple breathed out, his eyes lingering on the man and then looking to the others circling him like vultures.
"The Dark One." The man muttered thoughtfully, his eyes wide and hopeful as he abruptly stood. "It appears Dark One, that I am in need of your services. Perhaps we can work out some sort of deal?"
Rumple's eyes twinkled at the prospect and he gathered his strength to finally stand.
"A deal you say? Well dearie, deals happen to be my specialty."
"Have you located him?" Regina asked upon entrance to the war room, causing Cora, Charming, and Emma to all look up at her in surprise.
"We have." Cora answered, gesturing for her daughter to come over to the globe and look.
"Is he in Neverland with Rumple?"
"No. He's here." Emma replied, staring at the map. "I have no idea where this even is."
Regina let out a laugh as she took in the location, her eyes meeting with Cora.
"He's in the Dark Forest. Near the end of it." Regina informed, "It's an excellent area to hide because no one enters it."
"Wait, like the Dark Forest just a bit down the ways from here?" Emma asked, her brow furrowing with confusion.
"The one and the same, if you remember I created the Dark Forest as a means to stop Snow White, now I have no use for it but it still remains."
"We need to go and get him then." Emma said with determination, her father nodding.
"I'm going with you." Regina stated firmly, making Emma's eyes widen and her head shake back and forth rapidly.
"No no, you are not going in there."
"Emma I can protect you from whatever lurks in there. I know that I may not be as dark as I once was but the fact remains that I have enough in me that the creatures and beings that live there will not attack me, and by association, you." Regina replied hastily.
"Emma I'm not in favor of it either but Regina has a point." Cora interrupted sadly.
Emma turned around and rubbed her temples, a small groan escaping her lips.
"Emma I don't understand why you won't let Regina help. I know that she was in danger before but with all of us there, she isn't in danger." Charming supplied, hoping to ease his daughter's fears.
Regina gave Emma a pointed stare when she turned around, silently asking if she was to tell Charming or leave that to her fiancée. Emma nodded and faced her father, taking a deep breath before speaking.
"The reason I am so worried about Regina is because she's pregnant."
Silence encased the room as Charming's eyes widened and he looked to Regina and then back to Emma.
"True Love." Regina spoke up, a small smile playing on her face, "And some help from both of our magic."
Charming sat down and look between the two women once more before a bright smile broke out on his face and he stood up again, quickly making his way to Regina and embracing her, a shocked expression on her face.
"So I'm going to be a grandfather to another one?" Charming asked the brunette, still smiling.
"Indeed Charming." Came the soft reply, Regina still being shocked by the man's accepting nature.
Charming left Regina's side and walked to his daughter, embracing her as well and whispering his congratulations to her.
"Thanks Dad." Emma muttered softly, feeling tears cling in her eyes as Charming pulled away slightly to look at both women.
"Three months." Regina replied.
"You knew?" Charming asked, facing Cora this time.
"They just told me last night." Cora replied with a smile, "Looks like in 6 months there will be a new addition to this family."
"Boy or Girl?"
"Dad it's still early." Emma said with a chuckle, earning a sarcastic eye roll from Regina since that was one of the first questions Emma had asked her just a month ago.
"Well congratulations to you both. I mean it. The real question is when are you telling Snow? And does Henry know?"
"No Henry does not, but since they are the only two unaware, we might as well tell them tonight after dinner." Regina offered, receiving a nod of confirmation from her fiancée.
"We need to keep it quiet though as long as possible." Emma stated, implying the safety of the child and mother as a priority.
"Of course. I assume that the wedding is going to be soon then?" Charming asked the two women, both nodding.
"Within the month hopefully. If your daughter would be more available to help with the planning that is." Regina said with a smirk, making Emma grumble about it some.
"We can discuss the wedding later." Cora interrupted with a smile, "We need to go and collect the pirate."
"We should leave now while it is still light out." Regina confirmed, walking to her fiancée and taking her hand. "You do not leave my side, understand?"
Emma nodded slowly, not at all liking the idea of Regina going but accepting it nonetheless. Charming approached Cora and accepted the extended hand as mother and daughter gave a nod to each other before their respective clouds of smoke encased them, transporting them just outside of the forest.
"So where is he at again?" Emma asked as she looked at the familiar expanse of trees.
"In the deep woods." Regina replied as she tightened her hold on Emma's hand and entered the forest, Cora and Charming following behind.
The second they entered, father and daughter pulled out their swords, keeping them at the ready just in case as they walked, the only sunlight coming from the direction they entered while the rest was dark and grey with fog surrounding the ground.
They walked for ten minutes before a sharp sound was heard to their right, causing the party to spin and stand guard.
A black wolf entered their line of vision, red eyes glowing menacingly in the darkness of the forest.
"Ajax." Regina greeted, her eyes firm on the wolf in front of her. The wolf's ears twitched in recognition as it slowly approached and stopped in front of the two women.
It's large head dipped in greeting before the red eyes met brown, as if asking for the reason of the visit in the woods.
"We are looking for a man that has been hiding here in the forest." Regina spoke softly, not wanting to be overheard by any of the other creatures.
The wolf's ears perked at the information and swiftly turned and began leading the group in a different direction, apparently Hook had moved since their arrival.
They followed quietly behind Ajax as he sniffed the ground occasionally, confirming his destination before halting and lowering his head, his eyes staring up ahead.
"There?" Regina whispered to the wolf, kneeling down slightly in order to be eye level with the animal and look in his general direction.
Ajax's head bobbed slightly as confirmation and Regina rested her hand on the wolf's head, lightly patting it before scratching it behind the ears.
"Bring him to us would you?" Regina asked softly, smirking when Ajax took off quickly, disappearing into the dark thicket.
"How on earth do you know that wolf?" Emma whispered quickly, kneeling next to her fiancée as Charming and Cora knelt behind them.
"I rescued him as a pup from an unfortunate creature in the woods. Ajax was never comfortable being outside of this forest and so I would visit him and nurture him until he could fend for himself. It has been awhile since I have seen him." Regina replied before the group fell silent once more, waiting for a noise.
A large snap came from the direction Ajax disappeared and a sharp scream was heard as the sound of cracking branches and dragging echoed in the forest.
Ajax came into view, his catch wriggling and writhing to escape the clutches of the wolf's teeth before being dropped in front of Regina's feet.
She quickly waved her hand, encasing a magical barrier around the man and keeping his hands pinned to his sides.
"Regina?" Hook asked with surprised eyes before they flickered to Emma and then the others.
"Thank you Ajax, you did well." Regina praised, rubbing the wolf's head as she looked to Hook.
"We have some questions for you Hook." Emma spoke up, "But first we are getting out of this forest."
"Ajax can you lead us out, and make sure the pirate doesn't try to run." Regina instructed, smiling as the wolf's teeth barred at the man before nudging him to get him moving in the direction that led to sunlight.
"You have to let me go back to the forest." Hook pleaded to the group, causing all sets of eyes to stare at him curiously.
"And here I thought you'd prefer the sea." Regina drawled out.
"Please. Rumplestiltskin is looking for me, I don't want to be found." Hook pleaded again, making the groups confusion grow.
"You? Afraid of the Crocodile?" Regina asked with a chuckle, "Oh that is rich."
"Regina, Rumplestiltskin and I allied for a brief amount of time and well…" Hook trailed off, gesturing as much as he could within his magical binds.
"You betrayed him. Naturally." Regina finished with an eye roll.
"Why would you ally with Rumple, Hook?" Emma asked.
"He wanted to find his son and well… I wanted to help him." Hook trailed off.
"Why?" Charming demanded.
"Because I saved the lad when I was in Neverland… He found out I planned to kill his father and was taken by Peter Pan's men, I wanted to raise Rumple's son like my own." Hook answered honestly as Regina and Cora watched his features very closely.
"He's telling the truth." Cora spoke up.
"When did this all happen?" Regina asked with scrunched eyebrows.
"Just before the curse broke I would assume. Rumple was sent through that hat and I took off in my ship to Neverland, there I met up with Rumple about a few months later. Saw him wandering the beach and decided to see what he was doing in Neverland when he went through the hat to a non-magical realm." Hook explained.
"So Rumple escaped wherever he was originally, prior to you meeting him in Neverland." Cora muttered, receiving a shrug and a nod from Hook.
"Do you know who helped him escape?" Emma asked.
"He never said. He just said that he was going to find his son and then had some 'unfinished business with a certain Evil Queen'." Hook replied with a scoff.
Regina winced at the memory and felt a warm hand on her shoulder, turning her head to meet the green eyes of her fiancée, a look of determination and fierce protectiveness in her eyes.
"Why did you betray him?" Charming asked, breaking the women out of their staring.
"Because I couldn't resist having him that close without taking a swing. The end result was I hopping over board of my ship because I couldn't match him and swimming to land. He is very different than he ever was before… mad, almost."
"We're well aware." Regina chimed in before sighing. "So you betrayed Rumple and hopped overboard and swam to land and hid out in my forest in order to keep from being followed by him?"
"Indeed love." Hook replied.
Cora let out a sigh as she looked at the man, "Where is the Jolly now?"
"Gone I would assume. He probably would have taken it…" Hook muttered, eyes cast downward in sheer anger.
"What else did he leave with Hook?" Regina demanded, leaning over to become eye level with the pirate.
Hook let out a sigh before he slowly met dark brown eyes, a frown on his lips.
"My magic beans."
A/N: Well, what did everyone think? The plot thickens as we continue.
Who is Rumple working with? And what does the stranger want from him that only Rumple would be able to help with?
Don't forget to review.