Chapter 20 'Running of the Boars'
If there was a sun in Neverland it would have risen and set by now. It was a new day and the group's sense of defeat and fear lingered in their hearts. Tigerlily woke up, scrunched underneath a leafy plant and Charming's blade in her hand (she was lucky to have not impaled herself by accident). Hook gently kicked her from her slumber, he had taken over sentinel duty for the last few hours.
"Rise and shine, lass,"
"What, no morning bell?" she drawled drowsily.
Hook helped her up, "Can't do that without the Roger. I'm afraid you're going to have to settle with a quick shake and some breakfast." He offered her a leg of Neverbird Mary Margaret had caught and Regina had fried. Damn, that woman sure loved to set objects aflame.
Tigerlily accepted the food eagerly, digging her face into the tender meat without a second thought. Being in Neverland again brought about some of her old dining habits, back when utensils had been a strange concept. She scoped out the camp to find that everyone was chowing down as well, "If you had done that to the crew, they would suspect you of getting soft," she remarked, though her mouth was partially occupied with Neverbird.
"You're the only exception,"
That earned an eyebrow raise. Tigerlily jerked her head subtly at a certain blonde Savior by the firepit, "Might want to rethink of the definition of 'only'. I know you gave her breakfast too, no shame in being chivalrous, Captain."
Hook shook his head but was grinning, now opened to the teasing banter. It was refreshing and he had to admit that some part of him reckoned he and Tigerlily would be a good team, if their energy hadn't been wasted on a petty feud. Things for them weren't completely smoothed out, but it was heading in the right direction.
"Yeah yeah, eat up," He pushed the Neverbird leg into her open mouth, shutting her up. Tigerlily spat out the piece of meat and chuckled, amusing Hook further.
From the other side of the camp, Regina watched the two Neverlanders interact with each other with interest. There they were, laughing it up- these so called sworn enemies. She sat beside Emma near the fire. The Un-Charmings had retreated to their tent to pack it up, so she was free to talk to the blonde without anyone butting in.
"Now look over there. Those two," she gestured to Hook and Tigerlily, "Those two are up to something."
Here we go again, Emma rolled her eyes. Lately, the queen was trying to weasel her way into her counsel, often trying to steer her in the 'right' direction whenever a big decision came up, "Regina, how can you possibly get that from two people who are just talking. Seriously, you think everyone talking behind your back is transpiring against you."
"Well when you're queen, you can't help but feel a bit paranoid. But I have good reason. She shows up, claiming to have a solution to this dilemma right when we have nothing to go on,"
"I gotta admit, it was just in a nick of time," She get that Regina was trying to help but suspecting other people in the group would destroy trust, and that was what they need. The history between her parents, Regina, Hook, and Gold was bubbled to the surface after the storm they had brewed on the Neversea. The last thing they needed was another reason to be wary of one another.
"In the afternoon, or whatever it is here, she'll tell us what we need to do. She's my deputy and I trust her. Besides, you remember the beatdown we had yesterday? She's our guide,"
"How trusting can she be? Given her history as my sword for hire..." Regina rose, stretching her arms out. She gave another dirty glance at the Neverlanders, "You only see her as that meek Lily, but if you knew her, if you really did, you would have every reason not to trust her,"
"Like with you, I don't care what she's done in the past. I care about the now, and now you guys are helping me find Henry. So you better keep any more suspicions to yourself because its what the island is doing. It's driving all of us insane, making us distrustful of each other," Her words burned with authority and leadership. Regina stepped back, surprised by Emma's tone, "Understand?"
Regina nodded begrudgingly, "You'll see soon enough."
Tigerlily jaunted back to camp, leaving Hook to take station beside Emma. Figures. She went to the now dismantled tent where Mary Margaret and David were. She aided them in packing their supplies up, now readied to be Cached.
Cache was a way sorcerers used to store items large enough to carry on long journeys or to keep their valuables hidden. Tigerlily had once heard from the fairies that there are infinite spaces between the realms that only sorcerers can access. And in these barriers are where Cached items are kept. You could store an entire population or a whole forest in these spaces.
Regina came over, waved her hands over the supplies, and uttered a spell incoherent to Tigerlily's ears. Then, she picked up a bundle and tossed it in the direction of David. The prince didn't ready his hands. He didn't have for the bundle never reached him, it dissolved into this invisible wall. If you squinted hard at it, you swear you could see the jungle background rippling as it was being Cached.
In minutes, most of the things were Cached. Mary Margaret carried a basin of freshwater, the last of their things. Her reflection smiled back at her as she hobbled to the Cache area. It wasn't light, the princess found her arms shaking from the weight, she could see the water pulsing as she moved. Sighing, she set it down to regain strength before picking it up again.
"Honey, do you need help?"
"No. I got it," she assured her husband. Her muscles were in check now and she would dread if any drop of water was wasted by spilling onto the ground. Eyes meaning for a quick gander inside the basin slowly morphed into a lingering stare. The ripples in the water remained and it seemed to have originated from the center and spreading outward.
Was it raining? No. Clear skies.
That was when she realized her arms weren't the ones shaking. In fact, her whole body was. David and Tigerlily approached her, concerned. They felt it too.
The ground shook, the vibrations inescapable. Hook was focused on the horizon, where the Nevermountain towered. He was able to pinpoint the source, "They're coming in from the north!"
"I knew we couldn't have killed them all," was all Tigerlily had to say before the tusks came into view.
Grybria had a reputation for being enormous. It was a giant town with giant people going about their life in, ironically, a small way. They were people of the land, living off of it and giving back to it as much as they could. They were peaceful, kind of the people you would invite for a pint to drink and attend weddings with. But they had a misfortune that prevented them from coexisting with other people. Some say a Grybrian body was so large, that it takes relatively longer for messages from the brain to be sent to other parts of the body, making them slow in their actions. It didn't help that they were clumsy as well. They would knock down neighboring towns and lacked in the ability to comprehend just what the townspeople meant to do about a giant 'terrorizing the town'.
They were wiped out, this Tigerlily would learn from Regina later. Fighting them and murdering this gentle race had men toiling for years, so when they were done they had not the strength to kill anymore. It had been a cursory massacre. They had forgotten about the livestock, who was just as giant as the people who had bred them.
The Grybrian boars, like the Native American tribes, had been magically pulled from their home and placed on the island. They normally occupied close to plateau-like areas, it was rare for them to be crawling around the jungles where trees and plants were closely packed.
Tigerlily wanted to dismiss the idea of the boars closing in on them, but when she saw them, in a herd racing down the slope at great speed, racing towards them…Her body reacted before her mind did, she shepherded the team, first grabbing Hook and to the fire where Emma sat. The Savior's eyes nearly popped out of her head at the sight of the boars. Her mouth didn't get the chance to utter her signature 'What the hell?'.
David got Mary Margaret and Regina out of the camp already. The remaining three tried to catch up but the earth shook underneath their feet, causing them to stumble before clearing the camp.
The rumbling was like a low growl, following them wherever they went.
They were fast, but the boars were faster. It wouldn't take long for them to reach the retreating people. This vaguely reminded Tigerlily of the hunt for the jaguars. She wondered if they could escape the same way in this situation, but there weren't any unused nets laying around the jungle.
"Split up!" Hook managed to say amidst the running, "This is new territory to them. They won't last."
The plan was experimental, there was no guaranteed survival. But what Hook said was true. The boars were used to even ground. She risked looking back and saw some of them stumbling from the uneven surface. Their hooves couldn't take it.
"Over here!" exclaimed a shape in the distance, presumed to be David. Mary Margaret and Regina were present as well, goading the lagging three to push further. In a final stride, Emma stumbled into her mother, both fell onto the jungle floor. The boars were only a few feet away. David reached for his loved ones, but Hook grabbed him by the shirt collar and guided him to the left just as the herd was made to crash. Regina did the same to Tigerlily, but going right.
A stream of mud brown fur was in place of where Emma and Mary Margaret were. David's cries echoed in the background. They couldn't have survived. Mother and daughter. Trampled. Tigerlily was anchored down, panic and disbelief taking over her body, watching.
"We need to go!" Regina shouted, forcefully grabbing Tigerlily so they could flee. There were going to be more, the boars who had passed must have realized their flesh had moved were beginning to turn , the princess and the queen ran.
Tigerlily followed Regina blindly into the dense patches of jungle. No matter what realm the queen harbored the need to be in charge, even though this was Tigerlily's island and she could better navigate it. But as of right now, with the surrounding scenery coming off as a blur as she raced past, she couldn't recognize which part of Neverland they were in.
Regina had been right to drag her away from Emma and Mary Margaret. The sight nearly obstructed her faith in those women. They had made it. They just had to. Pounding hooves were grew faint with the distance. The two were sure they had lost them. For now.
They kept running until they found light. Leaping from the shade of the canopy, they were bathed in moonlight. At this they halted. Tigerlily swiveled, making sure the boars' sense of smell wasn't strong enough to detect them. Meanwhile, the queen surveyed the area. It wasn't a clearing, not large enough to be considered one. It was a patch of soil, rock and branches, and in the very center was a large oak tree.
"Okay, we're in the clear for now, " Tigerlily retraced her steps, "Regina-?" Her voice broke, breath hitched.
The queen was far from her mind. Right now, her focus was on this place they ended up in. She turned round and round, taking in the area until it was too true. The oak tree- it was too unique. For one to be this gigantic and in an area with only tropical plants. The thick branches stretched to leave a cloud of shade for any wanderer to find refuge in.
'May the tree serve as a refuge to those who were lost.'
The compound. The very first one.
"Ty-Ty!" Tiny fingers curled around hers and dragged her along the compound. For being a boy of 4 years old, Tootles could only say a few words, one being an attempt to say her name. It had not been long since Tigerlily and Peter had settled with the number of boys they had and decided to put their venturing on hold. She had couldn't suppress her disappointment Peter broke the news. It would be time to bid farewell to their adventures in other realms. Agrabah, Wonderland, Narnia... No more escapes, near-death experiences, and (don't forget) the souvenirs. They would keep tokens of their endeavors in an unorganized pile in a cave somewhere.
They had argued for days, neither one of them coming to a resolution...
Suddenly feeling lightheaded from a certain memory swimming in her head, Tigerlily began to sway. Then she noticed that Regina was nowhere to be found. She carefully stabilized herself and frayed away from the old compound site and into the path leading behind the oak tree, thinking she might know where the woman could be. Subconsciously, she followed the same path Tootles had showed her that day.
"What is this?"
"If you value your life Tootles, keep that trapper shut!" Devin said, with no intentions of carrying the threat. The rest of the boys gathered behind her, preventing her from leaving.
"I do not enjoy surprises, boys!" she scolded. Then hands covered her eyes, adding suspense and mystery. She was too tired to reprimand them and had to wonder what this was about.
Her hunch was proven correct. Tigerlily found Regina at the base of a tree, her hands on a ladder rung leading to the old treehouse, "Boars can't climb, now can they?" She mounted herself onto the rope and began scaling it.
All Tigerlily could do was look on. The thought of going to that wretched place once more immobilized her. Every trace of the Lost Boys having settled in this area was erased...it was just the the compound was quite an episode, she couldn't imagine what it would be like for her to clamber up that ladder, to see exactly what had been left behind. She knew of the mementos that lay, collecting dust in cobwebs.
"Okay, right put her right here!" Wind played with her hair, alerting her of a sudden presence. The hands obstructing her vision switched and she could feel the familiar calloused and slightly dirty hands.
"Trust me. You're going to come to your senses soon and apologize to me," So this was his doing? That would have explained his constant disappearances and faulty excuses over the past weeks since the fight. She had simply put it off as time to reflect what he did.
"What makes you think I'm apologizing to you!" Tigerlily tried to leave but Peter angled his body block her path, her eyes still covered. He had made the decision to stop venturing without her say. They were team, both equal in power and strength. It was just at times Peter would try to rein in more leadership.
"Because the hard work I had put into this little surprise would go to waste if you don't,"
Ah. It made sense now, at least to Tigerlily. She gave a knowing smirk, "Something tells me this surprise is a way of you trying to apologize to me."
Peter made a sound to rebute that statement, but he was anxious to show her.
"Yeah yeah..." he shuffled her forward, "Prepared to be baffled, impressed, speechless-"
The hands lifted, and Tigerlily opened her eyes. She gasped. There, nestled among the branches of the tree, was a beautifully constructed treehouse. It was fairly high, built 50 feet above the ground. Ivy and flowers were woven around the pillars and luminescent lanterns hung from the roof. It was small and lacked a fourth wall, only a makeshift balcony. Overall, it was brilliantly constructed, by a professional it seemed. She was struck silent. Peter had made this for turned to face Peter but a flash of green filled her sight as the boy shot to the skies. He appeared seconds later on the balcony, waving and hollering for her to explore more of the treehouse. She climbed up the rope ladder Peter tossed over. The moment she set foot inside, she knew how special it was.
"Welcome to your new home!"
"Get up here!" Regina commanded, now reached the hatch and was ready to magic it open.
Shaking, Tigerlily had no choice but to get inside. They were safe for now, but it didn't mean they were exempt from the other dangers Neverland offered. With as much mental strength she could muster for the sake of survival, she grabbed a ladder rung. Then another, and another and soon, she reached the hatch.
She wiggled through the tiny square opening and crashed onto the creaky wooden planks that was supposed to be a floor. Taking a look around, not much had changed, apart from it being dust ladened. The main room was spacious, adorned with a bed in the center and a chimney embedded into the left wall. On the right wall was a writing desk, though Tigerlily doubt it had ever been used properly. She didn't have to venture far to know there was a second room behind a fancy painting of some royal figure (managed to swipe that from Camelot), acting as their storage.
Theirs. It had been their place.
"Finally, at least there is some sort of civilization here," She could hear Regina's remarks from the other side of the room, followed by a bounce and a creak in the floorboards. Must have found the bed.
She wandered about the place, her fingers skimming through shelves and drawers. On top of the writing desk lay a few Lost Things, items that had been washed ashore from other realms. The boys kept quite a stock of them, but nobody loved lost things more than Tinkerbell and Peter. Oh how their eyes lit up when the recover something new, something grand and they had no idea what it remotely did. The memory tickled within her, causing her to smile. She had thought she would receive nothing but remorse upon entering her old dwelling, yet she managed to find the good times in this dark, barren treehouse.
Her feet took her to the balcony and allowed her smile to grow. The balcony was her favorite place to reflect and to enjoy the view.
"Now, this you have to see."
The view could be the most spectacular scene she had every laid eyes on. From their height off the ground, the treehouse rose above most of the treetops of the jungle. In the horizon was the peak of the Nevermountain, in its imperial glory. The sun was beginning to disappear behind it in the midst of a brilliant arrangement of orange and purple. The beauty rendered her speechless. She wanted to look at it forever. She sat a foot away from the edge and continued marveling the sunset.
Peter plopped down beside her. He draped his arm around her shoulders, waiting for her to say something remotely close to 'thank you', "Well?"
She sighed. The effort was well received and he had done it all for her. Tigerlily shook her head, "I'll give you this one, Pan."
The Nevermountain was still there but the sun, for now, was gone. Tigerlily forced herself to leave the ledge and return inside. It was dark, but she found the bed and Regina with no problem. The Evil Queen was sprawled on the mattress, resting for a while. If they were to regroup, the Charmings were sure to get the bed when they claim this treehouse as their shelter. She was enjoying this while it lasted. Tigerlily sat on the edge in silence, anticipating for boars, anyone from the group, and even the Lost Boys to come along.
Time passed and no threat was detected. Regina rose from the bed, now eyeing the treehouse for herself, "Hook must have been here."
Tigerlily's eyebrows knitted. What here gave any kind of indication that said the pirate was here? He had never set foot in this place, it was well hidden. It was then Tigerlily remembered. Her head turned so fast that it produced a strain on her neck, facing the bedside table. Two empty bottles, gleaming under the moon, squatted on the surface.
"How would you know?", Regina challenged.
"Please, if it were his place there would be more of those bottle hanging around," she hastily conjured up an excuse. No must know where those bottles came from, especially Regina.
"Well, someone must live here,"
"Not in a long while, though,"
Regina shook her head, not convinced. You couldn't be too cautious. She got to her feet abruptly, and after putting the bed under deep scrutiny she held two ends of the blanket and lifted them. It created a small wave, with Tigerlily's halting its motion, "Catch that?" Tigerlily looked at her expectantly.
"What?" She didn't know what the woman was getting at.
"No dust. Have you noticed that some things remained untouched while others looked like they've been used recently? The hatch handle was warm when I used it, and this painting's frame- pristine. You can't tell me otherwise, someone has been here before we came,"
Tigerlily left the sleeping area and moved around the treehouse with extra cautiousness. Not saying she believed Regina, she was only making sure if the theory checked out. Gliding on the squeaking floorboards, she rushed to the writing desk, pulled out a stool and crawled onto it. Above the desk was a shelf that held the more household like items. Her hands cupped the old fashioned kettle Peter had procured in the Enchanted Forest, meant to heat water for tea and medicinal purposes. No second later, she let it drop and it clattered on the floor, steaming water streaming from its spout.
"Freshly heated," she rasped, waving her hands in an effort to relieve the burning, "Whoever they are, they must have dashed once they heard us,"
"Or...they're still here,"
Tigerlily's eyes darted to the painting. She tip toed towards it, and swung it open. Regina followed. Well she seems to know her way around this place, the queen decided to keep that in mind for later. They crept into the secret room together.
Regina conjured fire in her hands to light the way so Tigerlily was able to see the discarded swords and old tokens from conquests. Wow, she thought, we had a definite hoarding problem. There was barely any walking room and every second her foot came into contact with something. After the fourth or fifth time of this happening, Tigerlily ended up kicking whatever was touching her foot out of annoyance.
She didn't expect a reply.
Suddenly, she and queen fell into fighting positions. Tigerlily grabbed a mace that hung on the wall closest to her and held it menacingly at the figure concealed in the shadows.
"Go away!" The voice whimpered. It sounded frightened but carried enough courage to try and shoo them off.
Tigerlily lowered her weapon and asked Regina to distinguish the flame just a tad. They were safe. If this stranger meant to attack them then they would have done it already. Her hand reached out as she inched towards the dark corner, "We mean no harm,"
"Liar!" The stranger bit back harshly. Tigerlily reeled, startled. He or she went on, "I told you of your potential and you refuse. Yet you refuse to help us," A woman emerged from the shadow. Faint wrinkles circling her eyes suggested she was mid 40's, but her cerulean eyes casted a more youthful glow. She moved slowly, given that her right foot was lagging behind her left, injured Tigerlily took it. Her clothing, once magnificent, blackened. Some parts frayed and torn and only to be patched up by vines and leaves. Ash and dirt scarred her rosy cheeks, red due to minor burns. This woman looked like she had been to hell and came crawling back, her scars better left to tell the story than the words she couldn't bring herself to say.
Why? I've been mulling over why for 30 years,"
"Tinkerbell?" breathed Regina in disbelief.
Tigerlily had to rub her eyes to make sure this wasn't an illusion. First Pan, now Tink? Can anyone truly die in Neverland? Relief and happiness swelled within her, but her fairy friend wasn't returning such warm feelings. She looked her over once more and had trouble concealing her wince when she did, "What's happened to you?"
"You happened," Tink stormed, glowering at them spitefully, "Both of you."
A/N: This was kind of rushed. Good thing this was a filler.
Bear with me, please!
We'll get a glimpse of what happened in Neverland since Tigerlily left through the eyes of Tinkerbell.