Sometime in the last fortnight the weather had changed from summer to autumn. Treading carefully, listening to the crunch of the leaves beneath his boot heels, he made his way to the clearing where he knew that she would be waiting. Once, long ago, she told him things. Things about his life that he was perhaps better off not knowing. Things that had altered the course of his life and left him here. He had great power, the ability to do almost anything his mind wished, but he was alone. His son, the only person in the entire world who had ever loved him was gone. Vanished without a trace to another world that the fairy had sent him to. It wasn't supposed to happen that way. He had cheated fate, maimed himself on the battlefield to make sure his son wasn't left fatherless as she had said he would be. And now, some fourteen years later, fate had finally caught up to him. It was the price he had to pay, apparently, for the magic he had taken on to protect his child. All magic comes with a price. That was what he said, the Dark One before him. He had taken that phrase on with the absolute fervor of one who didn't truly understand what it meant.
He understood it now.
"You can come out, dearie." She was here…somewhere. She had answered his call, one magical being to another. She would not leave him waiting, would not leave him wanting. She would come, answer his questions. And if she so much as led him astray even by an inch he would end her. He had the ability to. The first time they met he was just a poor spinner but she had led him down this path and she would pay, maybe even with her life.
"Rumplestiltskin." The voice came from the distance, from behind a tree and then she appeared. She was older than before and somehow that struck him as surprising. He had changed so little over the years, having gained immortality that would keep him at this age for all eternity. She was just a child when he had been asked to watch over her. Mysterious and strange, she was supposed to turn the tide of the war. But she hadn't. She had disappeared after leaving him with her strange prophetic words and no tide had been turned. The war had raged on until he, the new Dark One, had walked out into the fields and simply stopped it, sending the ogres back to their crowded little island and sending the children home to their weeping parents. For just a moment, he had been heralded as a hero. He had walked off the battlefield to cheering. The children had followed at his heels, his Baelfire proudly walking at his side. He had been something. For the first time in his life he had mattered to people. And then, little by little, that had been eroded.
He approached quickly, hand reaching out, intending to grasp her around the neck. He couldn't quite do it though. "You lied to me, demon." The words came out on a hiss.
She held up her hands, palms toward him. The eyes that were in her palms, not where they should be on any human, blinked open and were as startling as they were so many years ago, when he knew nothing of such magical creatures. He took a slight step back and watched a smile ghost across her patchwork face. "All I told you was truth." Her voice echoed through the clearing, the wind moving in sympathy with the words.
He raised a hand, such a simple gesture for one who was not steeped in dark magic. The demon woman gasped, raising a hand to her neck, but not being able to touch it. The power of his mind was greater than she was. He squeezed his hand together just slightly. Let her know the power he wielded, the power she forced him to take to protect his own.
"My son is gone." He growled the words out. It had been only a scant few days since his son had disappeared into a swirling green vortex, a portal to another world of which he knew nothing. The fairy had played his son well, trying to send them both to a place where his magic would hold no sway.
She gasped her next words out, fighting to speak through the feel of his phantom hand at her neck. "He has been left fatherless. This I told you would come to pass."
He snarled at her and the magic let her go, his anger too great to keep his will in check. He still had little control over it, allowing it to sometimes fly completely out and away from him. The magic had killed, sometimes even when he did not intend it to. The magic now left him when the rage took hold and so he leapt forward, grasping her about the throat with his bare hand and applying the same pressure. "You left out a few details along the way." His voice was harsh and unyielding.
"My gift…" She could say little else.
"Yes yes I know. Your gift. Apparently your gift is anything but. Why did you do this to me? Do you see what I've become?" He released her and walked away, saw her sink to her knees out of the corner of his eye. Did she see? Everything that had come to pass was because of that one fateful meeting. Sometimes he wasn't sure if he would rather have died on that battlefield. Baelfire would have grown up without him, but would that have been worse than having him there? The coward? The lame spinner? The Dark One who everyone ran from in fright? Oh yes, Baelfire would have been better off without him. Maybe his mother would have stayed with him if she had been a war widow instead of the woman who was scorned because she was lashed to the town coward. Oh how she had loved to tell him that, call him that, ridicule him. Baelfire had seen it all of course and had Milah not disappeared when he was still a young child, she no doubt would have turned the boy against him. He had not had the good sense to be embarrassed by his father until the very end, until he had taken on these powers, powers that were still yet beyond his total control.
He turned back to her. She looked so small kneeling on the ground where he had left her. Small enough to crush into oblivion with just one nearly insignificant motion of his hand. He raised that hand, so full of power he barely understood and pointed at her.
She warded him off with her own hands, standing and raising them high and allowing the eyes to open, those eyes that could see at least some portion of the future. He reeled back slightly. The blue changed to red and then back to blue, flickering a few times before she drew the hands back to herself.
"You will find your son." The winds picked up slightly as she spoke. She was a part of nature and yet not, this strange magical demon. She had been born of the wind and rain, pulled together from elements of the very earth itself and yet something was pulled into her from somewhere else, another realm. Here she could see bits of the future, here she could command only some of the elements of the world. Where she came from, a place where her powers were at their height, she could see all, command all. She was weak here, far weaker than he was now.
She held her hands out again, the eyes opening briefly. "You will find him. A young woman will lead you to him." He started to scoff, though there was some sort of hope deep inside his heart. His son still lived. He would find him. Somehow, some way…
"Who is she?"
The woman threw her hands out in front of her. The eyes blinked once, twice, then closed. "I do not know," she whispered, the winds dying down with her quiet voice.
"Tell me!" he shouted, hand coming back out to grasp her about the neck. "You will tell me what I want to know! I will not be tricked again!"
"No tricks, Rumplestiltskin." He loosened his hold slightly, but kept his hand on her. She brought up no hands to stop him, simply stood loosely in his grasp, her eyeless face turned toward him so closely that he was almost sure she could see him despite the lack of eyes. "She will reunite you with your son. But beware, Rumplestiltskin. She is far more than she seems."
She pulled away from him, turned to walk away. "Oh no, that's not all you're giving me this time, you little demon." He rushed forward and grabbed her by one arm, hauled her back. "More…I need more. How is she more than she seems? Who is she?"
"I do not know." The seer shook her head, red hair flying out about her as the wind picked up. "I see only pieces."
"You see much more!"
"Here," she said, holding out her hands to him, palms up. The unsettling eyes stared at him, unblinking in their madness. "Take my gift from me, use it yourself to see all. When you do, you will know."
He hesitated for a moment. He could barely keep control of his own so-called "gift." Could he take this, her ability to see into the future, and put it to use? "Gladly." He joined his hands to hers.
The pain was almost immediate and overwhelming. It started as a burning sensation in the palms of his hands and radiated upward through his arms, racing down his torso and legs. The wind around them rose up into a swirling vortex, the demon's hair flying out about them in a sea of red. Behind his eyes swirled images he could make nothing of, faces he didn't recognize, a flash of dark brown hair, of blue eyes, a castle, darkness sweeping across the mountains. They moved quickly, a show of pictures that were nothing but a jumbled mess and made no sense. "I can't see anything."
"Now you know." He felt more than heard the words.
And then everything went dark.