He was asleep again. Deeply asleep. She'd never seen him sleep before but if it was anything like the way she slept then she really shouldn't when she whispered his name and he didn't stir a bit. She had a tendency to sleep like the dead as well. It wasn't until she began to fiddle with him that she realized it wasn't right . If he was awake and his fever was breaking he'd want to sleep with a blanket, so somehow, she still wasn't sure how, she managed to wrangle the blanket out from under him, lay him down properly, and spread the quilt out over him. Sure, he might have been a heavy sleeper in the past…but should he still have been?
She used to be a heavy sleeper as well. Sleeping in until she felt rested enough to wake but being here had changed that in her. She rose with the sun now to do her chores. Now it was normal but originally she'd done it out of fear when she heard Rumpelstiltskin unlock her cell in the morning. She'd been afraid if she didn't rise he would punish her. And Samuel…he'd been missing for a long time! If he'd been held captive at an ogre camp, should he still sleep this deeply? This peacefully? Shouldn't he be fearful? Shouldn't his body have been trained to wake at the slightest thing out of self-preservation?! And she supposed she could take it as a compliment, that he felt safe that she was around but…she'd seen his face when she'd told him where he was. Rumpelstiltskin's Castle. Should he still be able to sleep through even that?!
She'd changed from her dramatic experience, he should have changed from his traumatic one. Trauma. It left an impression, didn't it? So if trauma left an impression how could his memories of it be foggy? He should either have blocked them out completely or remember them perfectly or...or...
She sighed and let herself fall into the chair next to his bed. She just couldn't remember. Or maybe she was remembering wrong. There had been so much information she'd read in the last twenty-four hours. And she hadn't slept, not one wink since yesterday morning, surely that wasn't helping things! The sight of Samuel right now, curled under the covers with his eyes closed…she was envious. Maybe it wouldn't hurt. Maybe if she just stayed by his side and closed her own eyes for a bit she could just…
Her head popped up and she took a deep breath. Movement, she needed to move just like last night, sitting in a chair doing nothing wasn't helping Samuel. She had to keep working, she had to try and figure out what had injured his leg! The sooner she did that the sooner she could sleep. Though that was another terrible thought. Only hours ago she'd wanted to help Samuel because it was the right thing to do, now it almost seemed selfish. But her motivations for wanting to help didn't matter if she was at a dead end.
Nothing. Each book she picked up told her the exact same thing about the cut on his leg. Nothing! It didn't match any of the specialized weapons she found in the book on magical metallurgy. She couldn't locate any kind of magical signature or scar that set it apart from the others and they were all too common a tool for her to truly narrow it down. He could have been injured by an axe, a sword, or a knife. Part of her wished it didn't matter, but according to the books, even if the chances of a cure working were slim, if she couldn't locate the exact weapon that had cursed him then she needed to melt a weapon of similar size, shape, and metal down. She couldn't just guess.
She glanced at Samuel again, at his content sleeping form and began to second guess her idea of just letting him sleep until he was ready to talk. He hadn't said he didn't remember just that it was foggy. Fog could be cleared. Maybe if he talked about it more would come back to him. Painful as it was she had to know what his life had been like to help him. Or did she…
She'd barely taken note of the knapsack hanging from the back of her chair. Rumple had put it up here when he delivered Samuel at the time she'd ignored it because it wasn't important but now…if the stuff inside the bag was Samuel's, then there had to be a reason he'd hung on to it all these years. Maybe there was something inside of it that might help her figure out what had happened to him. Maybe something would give her an idea of what had happened to him to make him look at her with guilty eyes or try to hide something from her. Or at the very least it might help her use something to make his foggy memories clear again. That was always possible.
She didn't really feel guilty as she reached for the bag. This was Samuel after all. They'd gone through one another's stuff all the time when they were little as children often do. There was very little that could surprise her about his personal life. Besides, this was to help him, not for the express reason of snooping through his things and the snoring helped assure her that he wouldn't wake up and catch her. So she pulled the sack onto her lap and opened the flap.
There was nothing that she recognized from her time with him at her father's castle. But then again she hadn't really expected there to be, not after his ordeal. In fact there was very little inside the bag to find at all. A small canteen of water, probably given to him by the men that had found or rescued him after the camp. A compass, a small knife, a couple of biscuits, all things that she expected to find when a person traveled with military frankly. There was a small glass vial there though too, filled with a pink liquid she couldn't identify. A single whiff of it and she turned her nose away before she slammed the cap over it. That was terrible. She had no idea what it was supposed to be used for or why he was carrying it. Something a soldier had slipped in his bag perhaps? She moved it aside and continued onto the last items at the bottom of the bags. A small grey cube with a red dot on it and-
Her heart skipped a beat because she knew this item, though not from before the war. A book, small and lightweight, sloppy binding with a ribbon to mark the place. It wasn't just any book though. It was a blank book, like the journal that she'd kept for a few years as a girl. This could be the key! Had Samuel kept a record of his imprisonment all this time?! It could be exactly what she was looking for but…
When she opened it up she found that the writing wasn't Samuels. Well…not all of it was Samuels. There were scribbles on it everywhere and she wouldn't exactly call the passages she encountered "entries" so much as…details. Items. On nearly every page an item of some kind had been drawn. A locket. An urn. A set of silverware. Some of the items, like the jeweled necklace and a tiara were expensive, but the braid of hair, the blanket…well they hardly seemed to make sense next to the diamond encrusted sword. Until she read the details scribbled next to them.
Written in different handwriting were facts about each item. Someone, for example, had noted that the diamonds on the sword were expensive but not nearly as expensive as the rubies and the sword could be worth more if the jewels were pried off and sold individually. Another had noted where the sword was last seen, who it belonged to…the power it supposedly held. Then there, in the corner in a little box with an arrow pointing to it a different kind of notation. "Gregor's skills are perfect to retrieve the sword with the assistance of Jacob. Following the artifacts retrieval Morgan will take it to his contact to be broken down and the jewels sold for…" her mouth dropped open. No. Surely this didn't mean what she thought it meant? Did it?
She paged ahead, looked at entry after entry, item after item. Some things this…group, she supposed, planned on selling for extraordinary prices, others keeping; "Pieces" they called them to "The Key". It wasn't until the Lost Diadem that she found mention of Samuel. "The crown of a kidnapped Princess from an ancient Kingdom" one man had written. "Last seen in Agrabah, rumored to be moved to Cave of Wonders for safe keeping" Samuel had written. "Worth thousands if retrieved but so called 'cave' is unknown. Samuel will continue to research possible locations and access points. No magical ability. Find buyer."
No magical ability. A buyer. That was the connection. They sold the items that had no magical ability and kept the items that did for "The Key". They were collecting money and power. Mercenaries. But…why would Samuel do this?! How could he have gotten involved in something like this?! His father had power, wealth. After the ogre war he could have returned home and-
Her heart stopped as she turned the page and saw something familiar…too familiar. She hadn't known about it for long, she didn't even know it well enough from the one sketch of it she'd seen to know for sure but the name of the item scrawled atop the page told her that she was right. "Rumpelstiltskin's Dagger." She lost her breath as she read over the entries. "Blade suspected to be made of steel", "name of 'Rumpelstiltskin' should be engraved on the side", "not seen in centuries, best guess is that it resides with the Dark One in his castle. Search and retrieve as soon as possible."
The Dark One's Castle. The image on the opposite page, it wasn't an item, it was a map. A map to the mountain, the town she'd met Rumple on, a map of the castle, with bits and pieces of writing that identified problems infiltrating, magical and not magical, as well as little pieces of stray information about the inside, some of it right some of it wrong. She felt tears well in her eyes as she found her name scrawled in one of the passages next to it as a possible "asset" and her eyes found the important passage on the opposite side blocked out.
"Samuel has history with the Dark One's slave. He will infiltrate, trap the Dark One within the vessel, liberate the woman to do with her as he pleases, find, and take possession of the dagger to be used when all the pieces are in place."
"Oh Samuel," she whispered blinking away tears, "how could you?" Their meeting wasn't by chance, he'd planned it. It was all right here, this time in his own handwriting. Scribbles detailing when she went to the market, the route she took, the stops she made, even what she'd worn. All this time she'd believed he'd been dead...and he'd been spying on her. He'd played on how well he knew her, gained her sympathy and she'd brought him back here. And afterwards she would have been a possession again, no better than when she'd lived in her fathers palace. It was right there in the plan! He would free her and do with her as he pleased. She wasn't high on his priorities here. She was a thing, a perk for getting the dagger. That was all he wanted, another "piece" to the "key".
The Key…what was it?! It was the only thing she hadn't figured out yet, she had to know what it was, why he'd lied to her and deceived her, what this terrible thing was all worth?! She paged through the book hungrily, not caring about the items just looking for…the last page.
"The Key," was written across the top of the page and below, in more foreign writing were words that made her blood run cold. The Key wasn't an item, it was a declaration.
"For too long those who work the hardest for the smallest bit of fortune have been left powerless. The rich and the royals sit in their towers with false truths and irrelevant preconceptions while the poor and beggars live in the world they have forced us to make our way in. We resist this notion that this is the way the world will work and vow to put a stop to it. We will take what is rightfully ours. We will gather our resources so the rich cannot touch us, we will collect magic so the powerful cannot harm us, and we will conquer the land with the Dark One's Dagger in hand so that even fate will not stand in our way. We will overthrow the Kings and Queens of this realm, return their wealth to those they have imprisoned and force those who have never worked into labor of their own. We will use the Dark One to find more power, to end wars, to bring about peace, and right the wrongs in society. This we solemnly promise as Bringers of the New Order."
She snapped the book shut, forced it inside its pouch, and pushed it away from herself. That was…horrible. Disgusting even. What they were talking about wasn't living in fairness it was taking a small percentage and enslaving them just because they'd been leaders. The world wasn't perfect, she knew that but this "new order" they intended on creating wouldn't fix problems only create more when there wasn't enough for everyone. It was poor planning. Though their immediate goals, to capture magic and money were not exactly poorly thought out. And the dagger…
That one book was the only place she'd ever read about it, besides this she'd never heard about it! She honestly didn't know if it was even real! No one had seen it in centuries, it could just be a fairy tale circulated by Rumple himself! But if it was real…Samuel couldn't have it. She couldn't let him enslave Rumpelstiltskin, she couldn't let him even begin to try and accomplish these plans! She had to-
Suddenly there was a sharp knock on the door and she jumped letting out a loud gasp before she heard the familiar holler of "Belle!" come from the other side of the door. Rumpelstiltskin. Here. Now! And Samuel…he couldn't know. He couldn't find out what he was really here to do she just had to…had to…
She had to take a deep breath and see what he wanted. She had to act normal until she could figure out what to do with Samuel. So she checked on her…she didn't even know if "friend" was the right word anymore, but he was still asleep. She stood up, straightened her dress and went quickly to the door.
"I'm glad you aren't too busy with your guest to at least show your face when I call for you," he muttered when she answered the door. "Although I must confess," he sighed leaning up against the wall, "I wouldn't have extended him my hospitality if I'd known how long it would take him to die."
"Samuel's not going to die," she spat back. At least if she had anything to say about it he wasn't going to die. She didn't know what he'd gotten into since the last time she'd seen him but he wasn't going to die! He didn't deserve death at Rumple's hands or anyone's. And Rumpelstiltskin didn't deserve to be enslaved by a magical dagger if it really existed. She was walking on thin ice. "In fact," she went on hoping that he wouldn't mind thinking that she was going to get him to leave soon, "his fever broke."
"Thanks to your expert touch, no doubt," he sighed almost confidently, like he'd expected that to happen all along. Did he really think that highly of her? Of her touch? "Although fevers have been known to return. Hopefully this little drama will soon be played out. In the meantime the castle is yours, Belle. I have some business to attend to tonight and shan't be back until first light."
Her jaw nearly dropped at the news. That was…perfect! Wonderful really! She could heal Samuel and have him well on his way before Rumple got back. He'd never have to know about what Samuel and his…friends, were really planning for him. And Samuel…he wouldn't get what he was after, if it truly existed. She'd never encountered it here in the castle which meant that if it was real it wouldn't be easy to find. But she'd make sure that Samuel didn't get the chance to look. She had to.
"Then I suppose we'll see you in the morning," she nodded at him before turning back to Samuel. "Good luck, doing whatever it is you do," she muttered at the last minute, remembering that she was trying to act casual. Casual for them meant a certain amount of teasing and that certainly counted as teasing after his "go read a book" comment. But it was useless. When she turned back Rumple was gone and as she headed back in the room she found Samuel just as she'd left him despite the conversation they'd just had. "Oh, good," she sighed, "we didn't wake you." She regretted not waking him in a way.
She only had until morning to figure out how to get him on his feet and out of the castle.
Alright so let's talk about the other part of this little comic story that was also contradictory. The box Belle found in Samuel's knapsack, it's actually Pandora's box and for those of you who haven't read the comic (spoiler alert) it plays a very important roll in all of this. But...how could it you may ask! When Belle sees it in Rumple's shop in season three I would say she is genuinely stunned and has never seen it before. I asked myself the very same question and wondered how I was going to write around it for weeks until I came to another conclusion, one I used way back to fix the problem with Bae's shawl. I focused more on what isn't said. The box is fairly plain looking, Belle knew what she was looking for and that wasn't it so she set it aside and hardly paid any attention to it, throughout the rest of this arc Samuel holds the box in his hands and never actually names what it is (that's why I simply refer to it as "the vessel" in this chapter), the idea is that she doesn't even really focus on what she's seeing so that later in the shop she's free to have her big "Aha!" moment and everything is left intact. I ya'll think this is a decent way to approach it. I did try my best with it!
Thanks for your review of the latest chapters Kagi-chan2! I'm glad that someone is liking them! Yay! I'm always so worried adding things like this into Moments. I'm glad they are appreciated! Peace and Happy Reading!