“What has to be done has a price. A price I am finally willing to pay.”
Belle found the book long before she knew it was important. Four months after their return to the Enchanted Forest, not long after their retreat from Snow White’s kingdom, she found the old and worn book underneath a pile of debris and rubbish, and being Belle, she picked it up and began reading. The title on well-worn spine was hard to decipher, and the title page had been ripped out centuries before, but had Belle been able to find it, the title would have been An Abridged Historie of the Formation of Magic by Lucius Apuleius Madaurensis.
The book was a surprisingly thin tome for one with such an imposing title, and drier than dirt, but she came back to it time and again over the next few weeks. Doing so made for good distraction. The Dark Castle bustled with activity these days, but it was no longer home. Home was the quiet creaking of the spinning wheel, was Rumplestiltskin’s experiments gone wrong and his sudden appearances, all giggles and lonely smiles after making a deal. Or, home was an obnoxiously pink three story house in a town where no one understood, the thump of a cane on polished hardwood floors, and a genuine smile that was only for her.
Regina’s reversal of the curse had brought both spinning wheels back, though everyone avoided the one in the Great Hall and no one but her went up to the tower that Rumplestiltskin had once used for his work room. The Wicked Witch’s armies had forced their forces to retreat so many times that the Dark Castle had become their last refuge, a fortress from which to attack the forces of evil and hopefully to someday take back their lands. Their own allies were a motley crew, to be certain, from Robin Hood’s men (already in residence when Belle and her companions arrived) to the Evil Queen and various other royals, not to mention their followers. There were thousands of them there, now, with more refugees pouring in by the day, and Belle was usually too busy to grieve properly.
Whenever she dropped out of the day to day whirl of trying to manage everything and keep everyone alive, she retreated to Rumplestiltskin’s tower to read.
Technically, the castle belonged to Baelfire—who no longer bothered to call himself Neal Cassidy, not in this world—but he’d made it adamantly clear that the Dark Castle was as much Belle’s as his. Together they’d come to a sort of unspoken agreement, in which she wasn’t quite his stepmother but was most assuredly the woman his father had loved, and that was enough. It was certainly enough to make him bring down his considerable temper upon anyone who even thought about disturbing Belle when she needed time away from them all, no matter how dire their need. So, that day she flipped the old book open to a new chapter.
In the beginning, there were merely elemental powers, called “demons” by later generations. These powers were beyond conscious control, although later magic users would learn to harness, target, and slay them. Various cultures have referred to them as shadows, spirits, ghost, angels, or the incubus, but they are beings of pure elemental power. Each embodies that which they are, and consume the opposite. However, that which they consume can also poison them in surfeit.
Six different types of elemental “demons” existed at the beginning, one for each of the six magical elements: fire, earth, water, wind, light, and dark.
Fairies sprang into existence next, by which means is now lost to history. Like the elemental demons, they were originally divided. As beings of pure magic, their classification was simple: light and dark, or, more appropriately, right and wrong. Of these there were two original powers, the Blue Fairy (Reul Ghorm) and the Black Fae (real name unknown). For a time the two original fairies lived in harmony, providing balance to their order and to their world, each opposite reflections of the same power. But as differences developed between the two, other fairies began to choose a side in the conflict between Reul Ghorm and the Black Fae. In time, the darker fairies came to call themselves “the Fae” for their leader.
As this conflict began, humans gained magic, but humans are infinitely more complicated than fairies. They could not so easily be defined as light/dark, good/evil, or even right/wrong. So there were four original powers amongst them, magical beings who were each able to work good or evil magics with incredible power. These four were both old and wise, and some say that they were born of unions between humans and the incubus, but their origins have also been lost to history.
Humans being humans, however, they wanted more. And so the War began. By the end, only one of the human elemental powers remained, the one who had allied himself with both Original Fairies in hopes of keeping the War from devastating all life within every realm. He was called the Merlin, and was accounted as a great hero by humans and fairies alike. Of his three onetime companions, two were slain in the War, both by power hungry humans who shared their great powers amongst them, creating the first of the lesser sorcerers and the first human magic users outside of the original four powers. The last was slain by Reul Ghorm herself when Circe attempted to establish ascendancy over all of the realms.
Legend says that the Black Fae was there to save her sister from certain death after the battle, in which Circe—whose power was near equal to that of Reul Ghorm and her cunning humanely fierce—nearly drove the Kris Dagger into the heart of the Blue Fairy, but no accounts of the battle survived, and Reul Ghorm never spoke of it again. The alliance between the Fairies and the Fae persisted for some time after the final battle, however, which lends credence to this rumor.
Circe’s power was broken with her death, left to be absorbed by magical beings and human magical users. The original elemental “demons” however, also absorbed some of that power, as such power always comes at a price. And so the demons multiplied, leaving four of each element. Over the intervening years, fairies, fae, the Merlin, sorcerers, and magical users hunted, trapped, and killed as many as they could find lest the others lay waste to the Enchanted Forest. In the end, only a handful remained, though there would always be discrepancies between the number of demons whose slayings could be confirmed and those who remained alive.
By the dawn of the final Fae/Fairy split, only one wind, three fire, two water, and three dark elemental demons remained. The one slain Dark Elemental Demon was supposedly eliminated by the Black Fae, and although there were no witnesses, only three have been identified in the centuries since that supposed battle.
The War, however, also created the Secondary Powers: the Greater Dragon, the King of the Ogres, the Twice Minotaur, Pegasus, Genies, and Ursula along with other assorted “gods”. The widespread use—and reckless distribution, in the killing of the two original human powers, inadvertently created numerous magical objects. Others were created for use during the war by the original powers themselves. These objects included the Janus Stone, the Yellow Star, Circe’s Dagger, the Staff of Time, the Equal Glass, and others. Legends indicate that the giants were first able to plant magic beans following the conflict, as their seeds had been enhanced by the massive release of magic.
These objects were scattered amongst magic beings and magic users, although legend persists that some of them are powerful enough to slay one of the original powers.
Four centuries after the War, the final split between the Fairies and Fae occurred. Although the Black Fae (commonly known as the Black Fairy by this date) had once acted as a counterbalance to the Blue Fairy, maintaining an equilibrium in both magic and in the nature of the world itself, she struck away from their shared order. Seeking power for herself and weary of creating happy endings for others, the Black Fairy decided to make her own way and ensure her power, and that of her followers, remained intact.
She tricked and trapped the Merlin, though he had once been her friend. Isolating him from the world, she bound him to darkness and exposed his soul, forcing it to intertwine with the dark elemental demon which she had trapped centuries earlier. That done, she bound his soul, the demon, and his magic to Circe’s Dagger. Using the dagger, the Black Fairy was able to command obedience from the remaining original human power, but still she was not satisfied.
Holding the Merlin captive for countless years, she warped him and changed him. In darkness she tortured him, and in darkness he endured, until nothing of his humanity remained. When her work was complete, the Fairy loosed her new creature on the world, a being of rage, pain, and fury who would stop at nothing to make others suffer. Yet, knowing the soul of the man who she had trapped, she created one last safeguard. This new creature would be unable to take his own life, and when he found someone so dark and desperate as he to do the deed, the powers and the curse would pass to this new creature, providing the Black Fairy with a new servant.
The curse, of course, was not unbreakable. No curse is. But the Black Fairy knew her work. In the unlikely event that such an evil, shredded, and tormented soul would ever find True Love, she built the curse to resist the pull of even…
“That’s horrible,” Belle whispered to herself, turning the page and finding that the rest of the section was missing. Moments later, however, her disappointment was forgotten when Regina’s voice echoed throughout the castle, and another attack began.
Elsewhere, whilst her creatures attacked the Dark Castle, the Wicked Witch of the West stood face to face with a taller woman. The castle she occupied had once belonged to Queen Regina, as had the gorgeous gown of black silk and lace she wore. Both were a conscious choice, meant to infuriate the Evil Queen, although the Witch intended to do far worse by the time she was done. Her companion, however, was wreathed in shadows, her face and form hidden from view, but the Witch watched her warily, clearly trying to conceal nerves behind a smile.
“My patience has limits,” the Witch said cautiously.
A pale white hand waved lightly, black and silver cloth of a sleeve sweeping gracefully. “All in good time. You will have the revenge you seek, Zelena.”
“I would prefer to do things my way,” the green-skinned woman grated out, glaring.
“No. Magic is different in the town they call Storybrooke, despite my servant having brought power to the Land Without Magic. It would not serve my purposes.”
“You have said—”
“Earthly power is of no concern to me. You shall have what you wish,” the other cut her off, the ethereal voice hardening enough to make the Witch flinch slightly. “In good time. Now play your games and enjoy your war. I will do the rest.”
She did not need to voice a threat. Zelena was no fool, and would not press. Instead, the Witch swept into a graceful curtsey, signifying her submission to a power far greater than herself. By the time she rose, the other woman had vanished.