Chapter 22 'Magic, Magic, Magic'
Fingers clinging to the bamboo bars, Grace pressed her face between the gap and listened for anything. Pounding, like drums, raged in her ears and she yearned to turn it off. Breaths left her mouth in short intervals. She did not give her body permission to react this way, but it did what it had to do to keep her suspense was slowly killing her. She was never a patient one to begin with.
Though she waited.
Waiting. What a pretentious word. Though the concept of having to pause and sit idly in anticipation never dawned onto her until now. Waiting. The water from the rock teeth of the caves, dripped and dropped in intervals. Almost like seconds. Was it possible to wait in a place where time stands still?
Waiting required to be patient until a particular time. But there was no such thing as passing time in Neverland. Was she truly waiting? Was there a word to describe this?
'I sound so much like papa' she thought to herself.
She missed her papa. She wanted him right now to hold her and talk in that soft voice only she would ever get to hear. He had promised they were never to be separated again. She hoped he would come along with Tigerlily to rescue her.
Like how she hoped he would come back in the Enchanted Forest. Memories of days spent in a house that was not her own, dining with parents that weren't hers, and just days spent without her father. She had used to sit by the window of the Tailors' cottage in the Enchanted Forest, overlooking her and Jefferson's home.
He was coming for her, she had incessantly reminded herself then. Like how Tigerlily was coming for her. She refused to believe that Pan would do such a thing. Even when the cave rumbled, when the boars were no doubt charging down the adjacent mountain range, she knew she survived. 'Yes, good. That's good Grace'. Unwavering faith would help her survive. For 2 days, she had survived with faith as her asset, her solace.
Then there was Neal, Henry's father, who looked as though he harbored anything but faith.
"Mr. Cassidy," her words rang through the dreary cave, her airy voice finding solidity in what she means to tell the broken man.
He lifted his head, and untangled from his brooding state. He peered at her through the bars with a defeated dullness in his demeanor. But he acted alert, "Yeah?"
"Please, don't lose hope," she almost pleaded, "I can see it. You don't think we'll get out of here. You don't think they had survived the boar attack," She had sworn she heard his stifled cries when the boars were released. He had been utterly terrified. Adults were supposed to be brave, weren't they? Or at least pretend to in the presence of children.
Neal shook his head and a mirthless laugh followed, "Well, I know Pan," he trembled. It sounded like there were a few tears in store for him, "He would have slaughtered them," he broke off, remembering the boy's crimes, "Like what he did with the fairies, the mermaids- all of them. Dead... or worse."
"They're not dead,"
"How do you know?" Neal's volume rose slightly. He shifted into a crouch, "You've never tussled with him before. Pan's a ruthless punk that only holds the highest regards for himself. His magic's been modified into something... cruel."
"They have magic too,"
"Even the powers of the Savior, Evil Queen, and the Dark One aren't enough,"
"You don't believe in them? Not even Emma?" she asked, incredulous.
Neal sighed, trying to get his point across, "You can believe in someone as much as you want, as much as you can possibly allow. That ain't gonna make them invincible to everything. I have faith that their bravery and skills will get them far in any other realm, just not here,"
The lack of faith was appalling. Grace knew well in her heart that the people you care about would pull through eventually. Yeah it had been 28 years but she was reunited with her papa. "You may know Pan, but I know Tigerlily. She won't let a few boars stop her from getting me. We're family,"
"Family is not going to save us,"
"Right now family is the only thing trying to save us because you won't. I have faith in my family. Why don't you?"
"My uncle holds me captive while my father is doing who knows what. I heard from Pan that he's not even with the rest of them. Not even sure he's rescuing Henry or knows I'm here,"
"They'll come through. Always,"She stretched her hand out, "Please. Just think of that and you'll be okay."
Peter chose this moment to storm in with Ombra at his heels. There was a pressing issue at hand, "There's a disturbance in the levels of magic," the Shadow lord informed.
"The island detects magic being extracted by hands that are not my own," Peter held his palms outward, closing his eyes, sensing the spells being casted on the island, "Two of them are minor. Hardly any damage. The other one, however, is a psyche walk… That'd be the Evil Queen," he snickered. He lowered his hands and turned to Ombra, "Shall I call the Shadows?"
"No use in doing so. That kind of spell drains. The queen would not be able to sustain it," And unceremoniously, Ombra fled leaving the mortals to do about what they will.
Peter finally spoke to the prisoners, as if just noticing their presence, "So they survived."
Grace couldn't resist sticking her tongue out at him.
"Look at the girl in the cage here, trying to act so smug," Peter retorted. He meandered towards the Hatter's daughter and stooped to eye level, "Don't forget where you are. You're stuck in a cave with me,"
"Yeah, and Neal," the said man grumbled dryly from his cage.
Peter masked his irritation and instead eyed Grace with an intention to quiet her. He could see the girl wasn't completely senseless. Trying different tactics to get him to share. If there was one thing he duly noted about the lady Hatter was that her curiosity outweighed all. Distinguishing this as either a harmless fascination or a clever way of garnering information would have to be done. For right now, a nice shutting up would do nicely.
"Are you hungry? Maybe you adopt quite a loquacious nature whenever you're peckish,"
Grace donned a polite smile, "Some food would be love-ly," she underscored the last syllable with a song-like sound, "Do you have tea?"
Peter detected the attempt to get under his skin. Surely this Grace knew how to initiate a game. He decided to indulge her. Using minimum magic, he conjured porcelain cups inside both cages and even one for himself, "Does this call for a toast?"
"To Peter Pan," Grace raised her teacup, pinkie poised, "The boy who'll lose." she toasted before sipping.
"The only thing I'll lose is my temper,"
Neal took his tea silently, contemplating about what Grace said earlier about family coming through. Well, looking at Pan now, he saw the same monster of a guy he knew as a kid. Though was he always like that? When Neal had been fairly new to the island, his choice to run off on his own was not the wisest and was definitely not the safest. Peter would take much precaution into making sure his nephew wouldn't die out in the jungles, whether it was herding a wounded jaguar his way or casually dropping supplies in front of his cave. Even with the knowledge of Neal's repugnance towards him, he gave discreet aid.
'I could have not done anything that night' he began to think of when this whole mess really began, back when Peter had opened the chest, 'I could have not said anything to Tink or make a Shadow trap for Tigerlily'. But he came through for Peter. He had saved him. 30 years since then, and the words he had said to Tigerlily were clear in his memory.
"Despite everything… he is still family,"
'He's family. So what?' the other part of his brain argued, the one he had been listening to during his recent years, ' Your father was your family too. Until he threw that all the way to become the Dark Lord'. Again, he was reminded of how 'family' got him in Neverland. Rumple never came to get him, no matter how many excuses he tried to make for his stalled rescue. What was the difference now? He was probably on some quest for power here.
'But he thinks I'm dead,' There was that.
All this activity whirring through one man's head as he drank tea. He wallowed in the taste. Camomile? He was a coffee kind of guy. And as much as he would like to have a tea party with his uncle and his son's girlfriend, he prefers to be out of here before dessert. After dumping the rest of the tea, Neal kept the cup at close range not wanting to lose sight of it.
"As much as I'm enjoying this little affair…" Peter tossed his tea cup carelessly over his shoulder and made his leave, "I have a great nephew I need to talk to and 7 nuisances to deal with," He cocked his head as if he caught wind of something, "Make that 8. The fairy is now active."
Neal's ears perked at the mention of the fairy. And by how Peter said it, there could only be one fairy who he was referring to, "Tink's still alive?"
The immortal boy didn't respond, his attention elsewhere. Head tilted upwards, he drank in the sight of the rock ceiling. He blinked rapidly to stabilize his vision, but it couldn't stop the colors from appearing.
Peter's vision had very much changed since he forged a deep connection with the island centuries ago. Swirls and streaks of vivacious colors contrasting the bleakness of the dark- traces of magic. Just by following one streak could lead him a sorcerer or other sources of magic. Right now, he could see faint yellow veins within the cave's surface. Magic was the blood pumping through the island, giving it life and thanks to the accumulating efforts of the Savior and the Evil Queen, the yellow was receding.
Something had to be done about those prowling sorcerers before they guzzle down all of his power. He needed enough, just enough to kickstart his and Ombra's ingenious plan. After that, he would have to worry about any shortages. Infinite power would be at his disposal, and he will be content.
And there was one obstacle, one person, that could jeopardize all of this.
'Good thing, she doesn't know'. His fingers rubbed against the boar figurine as he tinkered with it as that amusing, and almost reassuring, thought came to mind. He gave Neal a sideways glance and did not answer his question. He made his leave, chuckling as his figure melted into the darkness of the cave tunnel.
David could not stop sweating. From the strain of holding onto both the vine and the drunk pirate, he was beginning to slip not long after toppling over the cliff side. Grounding his teeth, he made sure Hook didn't hear any sounds of struggle. An ounce of doubt could mean their pirate could be heard grunting below him. He was straining to reach his legs from his upside down position and was failing. With the blood rushing to his head and his arms thrashing about, he wished to be upright again.
The prince broke out of his silence to yell at him to stop jerking around so much. Hook's movements were doing less for David's own attempts to stay on the vine.
"At least I'm trying!" argued the one-handed captain.
"You don't think I'm-?" David's breathing became haggard as his strength waned. They slid down a couple inches, this time Hook noticed the change.
David couldn't scoot up, not without letting go of Hook. The thought of severing their alliance had crossed his mind, but after what he did for him and his Dreamshade wound he figured the pirate had some nobility. He kept a tighter grip on Hook's boot and tried to think of a way out.
"Oh look who it is," The men's heads shot up. Rumpelstiltskin stood leering at them from the top, "Having trouble down there?"
Hook donned an irritated demeanor. Was the Crocodile was amused by this? A deep chuckle answered his question.
"Can you help us up?" David pleaded.
"Now why would I do that?"
"I have information," Hook spoke up, surprising David, "on the island that would be of service to you."
The Dark One wasn't moved, "I have all the information I need," his voice grew quieter as he ambled away.
"No, you don't! I know your foresight has its limits, especially for something as monumental as this!"
"What are you talking about?" David demanded. With a shudder, they lost more inches of vine. The prince was literally at the ends of their lifeline.
"You know it will happen, but you need to know when! Don't you, Crocodil-?"
Rumple twisted his hand with a flourish, saving the pirate's breath and his life. David and Hook landed on the rock bed next to him with a thud. He dug his fingers into Hook's skull and wrenched him up, their noses menacingly touching.
The pirate didn't flinch when his adversary spit his words, and merely laughed, "Did I hear a please?" Rumple pressed harder into his skull, eliciting a hiss of pain, "Aye, aye- I understand your haste. After all, we only have less than a week before we all perish."
"What?" David leapt to his feet and approached the two, "What do you mean by that?"
Rumple paid no mind to the prince, "Be more specific, pirate!"
"3 days at most," was the answer, "I'm sure. Centuries marooned here and you don't think I'm well acquainted with the geography? Every pond, ravine, and valley are seared in my memory. And if my memory serves me right, there should have been a ravine right here," He directed beyond the cliff, "Acres and acres of land but no."
"There could have been an earthquake, or some natural disaster that could have contributed to the missing land,"
"That might be the case, if it weren't for the distressing amount of magic running the island," Hook freed himself from Rumple's hold and knelt. Pressing his hand to the ground with little to no strength, he made an indent in the rock, "The island is weakening underneath our feet. Pretty soon a mere step would cause a ripple in the earth."
"What is causing this?"
"Pan," Rumple answered, his aged face crinkling in worry, "He needed the power so he stripped the island of its magic,"
"What does he need it for?"
That was where his useful information stopped. Hook knew no more. The same could not be said for Rumpelstiltskin, who was struck silent. The evil intent mirrored the Dark One's own ambitions, but he could his brother's success would mean the end to everything- including his life but more importantly his power. He could not reveal Pan's plan. The time was not ripe.
Mary Margaret grounded the soil between her fingers, "These tracks are fresh. This plant isn't dead, it had been recently crushed. The distance between prints suggests they've been running... towards there," Turning to Emma, she asked, "Regina and Tigerlily. Their shoes?"
"Regina- boots. Tigerlily's were Nike's I think,"
Upon closer inspection, one set of prints had a design specifically for sneakers.
"That's them. They went this way," They hurried along, Emma's sword at the ready and Mary Margaret's hand over her quiver. In case there had been a struggle with the Lost Boys or Shadows, they were prepared.
Their excursion had lasted for hours before coming across these tracks. (That was what they get for teleporting to the other side of the mountain). Fatigue aside, the mother-daughter found some resurgence after finding Regina and Tigerlily's tracks. They picked up pace, swatting away plants faster and scoping the area for danger.
The trail went cold for a while but Mary Margaret managed to guide them to the abandoned Lost Boys clearing. It was secluded from wildlife, so the path to the tree house wasn't evident until Emma sensed it. Magic.
"Whoa," she interjected, the buzz pricking her cheeks like a soft blush.
"What is it, Emma?"
"You don't feel that?"
Must have been a magician/sorcerer deal then. To test it, Emma retreated into the jungle. Corroborating her hunch, she felt less of the buzz. She circled the perimeter of the clearing, ignoring Mary Margaret's questions. Right when she neared the oak tree the clearing was based by, she discovered a trail of her own. Feeling accomplished, Emma scurried down the path hidden behind the tree.
"Over here!" Emma motioned for her mother to follow.
Mary Margaret tagged along. Once out of the clearing they were once again prey to the darkness. The raven haired mother had no idea where they were heading or how Emma got their lead, her confusion did nothing but add to her fear. Everything she passed seemed as if they were dead. The tree branches seemed to curl inwards, cringing from these humans storming their domain. It was possible they had discovered a new shade of black while venturing here. Emma's hair contrasted the macabre environment. Like always, her daughter was the light she followed no matter what.
They arrived at the treehouse. Emma, now stony faced, squinted at the building in the branches. Shimmering green light leaked through the windows and crevices. They wasted no time clambering up the ladder and busting open the hatch.
A/N: Sorry for the large gap in between updates, but season 4 is really not my season. I'm trying to draw some inspiration from it yet it is proving to be futile. If only there was a new Neverland/Peter Pan-centric episode I could focus on.
Though today, I felt a resurgence of inspiration thanks to the teaser trailer for the upcoming movie 'Pan'. A bit peeved Tiger Lily is played by Rooney Mara, but I hope she will add more depth to the underrated character. Go watch the trailer! It looks promising. I could see blends of Syfy's 'Neverland' in the plot and the vivacious setting from 'Hook'.
Holding on until the bitter end, this is Bluefire510