Excellent way to start, because they all do start that way. Vague and nonspecific and a little wistful, like it might have been yesterday, but probably wasn’t. Maybe only so long ago that a dear old granny would remember it if she strained hard enough.
then again, the strain might be too much and dear old granny’s brain might explode out of her ear.
These things happen.
...That was not the point. Let’s start again.
Onceuponatime the Daughter of Rumplestiltskin was born (mind the capitalization, because that’s the only way to refer to her--the only real identifier, though it’s not a name, more an epithet. Pardon its usage, can’t be helped).
She was born to...someone. Some glorious king and queen (they all run together) of a fantastical kingdom.
Probably. They might have been horrible people. Pick your own adventure: the end is the same and the details don’t matter.
She was their second child but first daughter, and, naturally, cursed. Well, cursed by the queen’s brother which was a twist, you didn’t see that very often. Not that men weren’t as vindictive, they just seemed to be more likely to stab babies in cradles rather than invest in a long con. Something about the way they were socialized. Onceuponatime was big on gender roles. Maybe to do with how tight helmets were worn.
Her name at birth was something like Vivianne or Glorianna or Hobnob. Horrendous. Poor thing bawled as soon as she heard it. Clever even then, his darling, afraid of a name.
Rumpelstiltskin came to the Christening. They’d learned, you see, after Maleficent--to always invite everyone to a Christening. Half the time people just didn’t show, but at least no-one came away offended and wielding an overreaction aimed at taking the heir to the throne out.
He was late, because time is a trick little bugger, so he missed most of the threats (didn’t need to see them to know what was happening, he’d had a headache about it all week). He looked at the Queen, who was sobbing, and the King, who was red and angry, and then at the baby girl and said, grinning, sharp edges of his teeth sliding along his lips, “Well, this is quite. A. Pickle!”
It was. Quite. Drenched in bitterness and crisply and refreshing. Delicious.
It wasn’t often he got to play the hero, but he felt he should have had a white horse and ridden towards the sunset (stupid, his home was in the east, maybe easier to change the direction the sun sets in--moving was such a hassle).
He was the only one who could protect her, you see. Obvious, really. The only one. Perfectly rational, and they all saw sense, and apparently it was kind of a thing one did, onceuponatime. Gave your children up to strangers on a whim.
So he picked her up and she blinked her olive-green eyes at him and he fell in love, the kind that rips and claws and hurts. He wanted to cry, or hold too tight, teeth gritting and this, this this. His.
Then he took her to the cave he’d been living in.
“Hm,” he said, peering around with a father’s eye at the decor and the...mold. “This is not baby-friendly.”
He went to an estate that was relatively familiar. Possible he’d been before, difficult to say, time got all jumbled if he looked at it too long, but the courtyard had fairy corpse dust sprinkled along the cobblestones, so he’d probably been at one point or another.
The woman was living with her two daughters--ugly, hideous, but one was good with money (and fucked like a champion-- he wouldn’t mention except that she had worked so hard to achieve her level of prowess that it seemed unkind and impolite to overlook such skill), and the other was going to give birth to someone who might be important.
The mother gave him the house and her happiest memory to get her daughters married.
People were so stupid--the merchant who married the accountant would have found her anyway, taken her to bed and died just the same, fully erect while she bounced atop him. He would have had that heart attack and left her everything without Rumpelstiltskin. The second would have gotten knocked up regardless, desperate as she saved a man out of time, gave birth to the savior of a far-off kingdom who would somehow manage to send his own father back to bed his mother...it was all rather complicate, but now he had the credit. But, well, that was the way of it.
People were stupid, and didn’t trust fate or their own abilities, and he was only too happy to bump along timelines, take the credit and payment. In any event, he gave the happy memory to the baby to play with. Her name, she told him, was MmmmmeeahAAHHHHHHH.
He imagined they’d get more traditional as she grew older.
At two she decided her name was Lodi. He had no idea where it came from, but it was as good a name as any.
“I am also a princess,” she informed him, and he tried to remember if that was true--she was his, his, and if she was a princess he would be the one to put her on that throne.
“As you are, my love,” he said, and she spent the year adorned in the finest gowns and jewels, her sceptre never far (she had a fondness for meting out judicious whacks with it when things didn’t go her way).
She was his own darling girl.
When she was four her name was Brook, and she certainly babbled like one. Chattered about everything, hands waving expressively, cadence dipping and rising just like his, buoyed by laughter even when she was the only one in on the joke.
Brook had declared war on pants, though.
Dresses he couldn’t get her into, not for jewels or horses or a shiny sword or a happy memory. He had been having success with pants.
He sat her down and explained to her, at length, about common decency. The irony was not lost on him, but he had never been an underhanded bastard while undressed, thank you.
“Daddy,” she said very seriously after he had concluded his soliloquy on The Importance of Clothing, A History with a particularly grand flourish. “I will put on pants.”
“Thank you, my love,” he said, and thought no more on it until she came downstairs wearing one pair of pants on her head as a particularly interesting hat, with two more as sleeves.
The rest of her was very naked.
He laughed and laughed, delighted, and they sat and ate fish eyes and buttercream frosting while he explained to her about the day the sun would swallow the planet.
She liked the bits where things burst into flames.
He spent the rest of that year having to keep her inside the house and putting out fires.
At five she made a deal with Thomas and Ella’s twins that she would take their broccoli if they gave her one of the keys their mother gave them. She reasoned that they didn’t really need two, and broccoli was disgusting.
The broccoli wound up in a pigsty and the key was presented to him with aplomb, Kevin sweeping a deep bow as she placed it in Rumpelstiltskin’s hand.
He gave her the grandest sapphire from the family jewels as a reward for her cleverness, and she decided that that was her name.
She must have liked it--she stayed Sapphire an entire week.
Age six she was Natalie, Byron, Rumpelstiltskin (he tried to reason with her, but she said that there was power in numbers), Constantina, Charlotte, Ermingarde, Guinevere, Maisey, Marguerite, Anne, Dawn, Wrath, Mary Kate, Ashley, Christopher, Rupert, Vwindemier, Vlandamier, Carl, Alexander, François, Reginald, Lancelot, Herman, and Tree.
She was then Snow White, tall and slender and graceful, and James, with his strong chin and big hands, strutting about with such a sense of entitlement. She was the Queen, too, crushing in her own misery.
Rumpelstiltskin watched her shed their skins so easily, laughing as she mimicked them all, falling back into her own and looking to him for approval, to see if he liked her newest trick.
“You are my favorite thing,” he told her, and meant it.
He had power over so many of the things in the world around them, his pick of the finest jewels and kingdoms, but this girl. His daughter.
He could have nothing else and still be happy.
When she was eight she watched a boy in a busy square with a kind of singular focus that made Rumpelstiltskin’s heart clench (too soon, far too soon).
The boy had dark hair, a mischievous smile, and clear blue eyes. He stood in front of her, hands clasped behind his back and asked her what her name was.
“Erik,” she said, and the boy made a face, tilting his head with a quizzical smile.
“That’s my name, too,” he said after a moment.
“No. Way,” she replied, and Rumpelstiltskin watched her smile in satisfaction.
“She is more like you every day,” Maleficent observed, appearing in the way evil sorceresses did--just to remind people they exist. “Did you tell her or did she know?”
“She knew,” he said, because he had never had to tell his darling girl about the power of a name--she had always known that to be able to name a thing was to be able to control it, to define it.
“May I kiss you?” Erik asked Erik, and she tilted her head.
“What will you give me for it?” she asked.
“I don’t have anything,” he said, and Maleficent laughed before moving on.
“Poor doomed boy,” she murmured as she went, and Rumpelstiltskin agreed as Erik said,
“You can owe me. I let you kiss me now, and then I get to ask you for something and you’ll do it.”
Clumsy, perhaps, and the boy frowned, thinking it over.
“Do you live around here?” he asked finally, and oh, look, a clever one.
“No,” Erik replied, and her smile was dazzling, the way it always had been.
“Okay,” he agreed, and leaned up and kissed her.
“This kissing business is for the birds,” was Erasibeth’s verdict as they headed home.
“What will you ask him for?” Rumpelstiltskin asked her.
“I don’t know yet,” Erasibeth replied. “I’ll wait until he’s married the King’s daughter, though.”
She turned nine and was taken from him.
They broke into the house and snatched her from her bed while he slept, cloaked in the blue fairy’s magic.
“Daddy!” she screamed, and the wind bore the sound to him, jarring him from bed as the palace burned around him.
As he stood everything stilled--the fire went out and everything was as it was, waiting for her to come home.
He thought, very carefully, of all the debts owed to him, all the things he knew, saw, the way everyone was so very terrified at the mere mention of his name. He could bring all of these kingdoms to their knees in a matter of moments, he knew, and for a moment he was tempted to do it, to pay the price himself rather than trick someone else into paying it for him.
Daddy, I’m okay, she said on the wind, and then, minutes later, They’re all very stupid.
Tut tut, careful my love, he cautioned, sending the breeze skipping back along to her, and he didn’t have to strain to hear her laugh.
Winkin, Blinkin and Nod, she said, and he thought he knew of them--great sorcerers who had fallen into legend until now, when they decided to take what was his. Daddy, I’m coming.
He sat down and watched the drive, the long stretch of perfectly manicured path and trees, with wild roses growing rampant. Beyond the palace grounds it was snowing, a deadly blizzard, and when she came through it was like he was seeing her emerge from a dream.
She skipped down the lane, trailing a scythe behind her, making a terrible noise as it rattled the gravel, her steps matched by the great wizard’s staff that should have been too much for her to carry.
“I have their lives,” she said to him, smiling so sweetly, and he brushed his hand down the curve of her cheek and kissed her smooth brow. She laid down the staff and forgot the scythe, and reached into her shirt to hold out a small orb, glowing maliciously with the lives of three evil warlocks.
That kind of hate could easily destroy any enemy.
“Oh, my love,” he whispered, and folded her into his arms, held her close.
The world knew then, that Rumpelstiltskin had a daughter. That she was wicked as he was, and somewhere a boy named Erik’s heart clenched, thinking of a pretty girl in a market.
They knew, then, to tread with even more care.
This is the way they tell the story--the way they will, onceuponatime:
Once upon a time, there was a wicked imp named Rumpelstiltskin. He coveted whatever you coveted, but for a price he could make your dreams come true, stop an enemy in its tracks, save a kingdom.
But he was lonely, and wanted desperately for a child, but to his despair he could have none, and could not trick anyone into bequeathing unto him their own child. Until one day, a Great King and Queen summoned him to their palace and begged the sprite to take their only daughter, for she had been cursed terribly, and none could save her but the power of Rumpelstiltskin.
He gathered the babe into his arms and vowed no harm would come to her and raised her as his own, teaching her his ways.
Never did a father dote so on a daughter, and never did a daughter love a father so.
But, though this tale ends happily for the imp and the child, it does not end so for those who catch their eye.
Beware the daughter of Rumpelstiltskin, for she wears many faces and has many names, and while her father may be caught if one knows how to wield the power of a name, the maiden has none.
This is the legend of the Daughter of Rumpelstiltskin: she wants for nothing, but she will take all you have.