Pure molten fury flowed through Killian's veins as he saw Arthur holding the Dark One dagger. There wasn't time to react before purple mist surrounded him.
When it dissipated, he stood on the deck of the Jolly Roger with Taio, Henry, and Regina.
"No, not here!" Killian shouted at Regina. "It's not safe here!"
"What are you talking about pirate? Emma cast a spell on this ship," Regina said. "I saw her do it."
"The bloody dagger was hidden here!" he yelled back. "Didn't stop that bloody bastard from finding it, did it?!"
Regina held out her hands and a thick black cloud covered the ship, and as it went, red glimmers appeared here and there, forming a kind of shroud that surrounded the Jolly. She squinted at it for a few moments before she pointed to an area with no red.
"There," Regina said.
She clenched her hands into fists, and the shroud and the cloud intertwined, purpling and filling the gap she discovered.
"What the bloody hell did you just do to my ship?"
"I thought you'd be happy," Regina replied. "You were right. They managed to punch a hole through the protection enchantment."
"They?" Taio asked. "Who are they?"
"At least two powerful sorcerers," Regina replied. "And, if you can believe it, we might have an even bigger problem. I'll be right back."
"Where the bloody hell are you going?" Killian asked.
"I'm going to check the brig," Regina replied sharply. "Unless you all have forgotten that we had prisoners before someone broke through that barrier."
Regina disappeared below deck, and Taio followed her.
Killian paced back and forth, attempting to quell his anger and think of a miraculous solution at the same time. But his brain wouldn't work because his anger was quickly elevating to rage.
What bloody right did Arthur have to come on his ship without his permission again? What on earth could be so important that it was worth risking the wrath of the Dark One and Captain Hook? Did the idiot king take make his Swan a slave because of his quest for the dagger as Excalibur's sister of the forge?
Henry interrupted his train of thought.
"It can't be true," the lad said. "My mom isn't the Dark One, she's the Savior. And you said that you killed the Dark One. You did, not her. So why isn't it you?"
"Your mother is the Savior, Henry," he replied. "She cast a spell that drew out the darkness from the Crocodile so he would be mortal again. I took his life, not your mother, but then the darkness came back. It was supposed to take me, lad, but your mother pushed me out of the way. She saved me."
"But she can't be the Dark One and the Savior!"
"She can and she is," Killian replied. "She revived nine giants that the Crocodile had turned to stone. She reversed a powerful curse cast over an entire castle full of servants that turned them into talking candlesticks and walking footstools. She defied Pan. Twice. And defeated him. Twice."
"But she's the Dark One!" Henry said. "It doesn't matter who she is!"
"That's not true, Henry," Killian replied. "Who she is matters a very great deal. Being the Dark One didn't stop her before, and it won't stop her now."
"Except for the fact that Arthur holds the dagger," Regina said as she returned to the deck with Taio. "The Lost Boys are gone. I knew I recognized the work of one of the sorcerers: Peter Pan."
"You need to get Emma's parents," Killian said.
"You think they haven't been locked in a dungeon yet?" Regina asked.
"I think it's bloody well worth a try!"
Regina rolled her eyes, but she disappeared in a swirl of purple-and-black mist.
"Do you think she could rescue Victor?" Taio asked.
"Seeing as how Arthur is in league with that witch Cruella, I doubt it," Killian replied. "Any insight as to why she wanted him?"
"They knew each other," Henry replied. "He recognized her."
"The boy's correct," Taio added. "Before Victor met me, he lived in another realm. His work was... well, he doesn't like to talk about it. But he needed something he couldn't get in his land: a good, strong, resilient heart. So he traded for one. When he sought a second, the price was much higher. He got drawn into an elaborate ruse in a Land without Time, and by the end of it, he was lucky to escape with his life. He wasn't given the second heart he needed, so he stole something from Cruella. Something that allowed him to travel to other realms. He went home and tried to make things right, but without the second heart, he couldn't continue his research. He lost everything, and then he was taken here, to our realm for a trial."
"A trial?" Henry asked. "You mean like, a legal trial?"
"Yes, he was called as a witness," Taio replied. "The people being tried were named Isaac Heller and Cruella de Vil. He was here for many days, and I was asked to host him and to protect him. That's how we met."
"So the witch seeks vengeance on Victor for his part in her imprisonment," Killian said.
"Imprisonment? No, no," Taio said. "His testimony proved Cruella innocent. She was returned to her own realm. Isaac Heller was the guilty party."
"So why would Cruella want Doctor Whale?" Henry asked.
"I don't know," Taio replied. "Unless he knows something she doesn't."
Three swirls of purple mist erupted on the deck, and Regina appeared with Snow White and King Charming.
"Hey, Henry, is everything all right?" Charming said as he pulled his grandson into a hug.
"Captain, get us the hell out of here!" Regina said loudly. "Zelena isn't far behind us."
"This is my ship, I'm the one who gives the orders," Killian replied. "Henry, will you join me at the helm?"
Henry nodded, and Killian brought him to the wheel of the ship.
"Regina, raise the anchor!" he shouted. "King Charming, Queen Snow, Duke Taio, hold fast. We're setting full-sail for Arendelle."
"What is going on? Why are we on this ship?" Snow asked. "And why Arendelle?"
"To speak with a former Knight of the Round Table," Killian replied. "We're getting Emma back."
"Emma, talk to me," Whale said for the hundredth time. "How did we get in here? Why am I in here? Where's Cruella?"
"Dude, give it a rest," Lily replied. "She hasn't said anything in hours."
She was ordered not to communicate with anyone, so while she couldn't answer, she listened to Whale and Lily debate their situation. They wasted a lot of time bickering, but she had gleaned some important facts from them in the past few hours.
Cruella had ruined Whale's life, so when he saw an opportunity to double-cross her, he took it, stealing a charm that allowed the user to travel between realms. He paid handsomely for his revenge, however, as the Dark One captured him in the Enchanted Forest and turned him and Taio to stone for over thirty years. They were revived to test the power of a mirror that sent people to a Land without Magic. They arrived about two weeks before her son and parents.
Lily insisted she was only here as leverage against her mother, Maleficent, who had been dragged out of the dungeons hours before Emma arrived. Before Lily was born, Maleficent owed a debt to a man who served a powerful sorcerer, and in repayment of this debt, she acted as a jailor on his behalf. She didn't know who the prisoner had been or why her mother agreed to lock him up, but it was clear that someone wanted him freed.
It was incredibly frustrating to get so many tiny pieces of the puzzle. Her two companions failed to understand that whatever was happening, these events were connected. They were all in this dungeon because Arthur was helping Cruella, so she must have leverage.
But they were too busy sniping to figure it out themselves, and she was forced to remain silent.
The sound of footsteps caught their attention, and Whale and Lily both came up the bars for a better look.
Two guards dragged a body between them, and a third opened the far cell door to let them enter. They tossed her unceremoniously onto her bed and then locked the door behind them.
"What did you do to my mom?" Lily shouted.
They walked away in haughty silence.
Lily began talking to her mom, trying to get her to speak, but Emma couldn't properly here a word.
"I summon you, Dark One. Leave your prison and come to me immediately."
The dagger called her, and she had to answer it. Black smoke curled around her, and she teleported to the Council Chamber, where Arthur stood waiting for her.
She felt his hand grip her dagger. Hatred erupted inside her. She would destroy this man if it was the last thing she ever did.
"You will answer my questions without hesitation and no lies," Arthur said, clutching the dagger. "You will not hold your tongue. You will not say anything else. Do you understand?"
"Good," Arthur replied with a smug smile. "It appears your friends and your parents have escaped with that boy, and as much as I don't like it, we require him. So, where is Henry of the Scribes?"
"I don't know," Emma replied.
"Where would they take him to hide?" Arthur asked.
"I don't know."
Arthur appeared frustrated for a moment, but then it disappeared and his face bore sympathy and charm.
He said, "You have my word, Miss Swan, that your parents will not be harmed. I will even spare the pirate and that witch Regina, but only if you help me. You're clever. Whatever commands I give you, you can find a semantic loophole or similar escape, I'm sure. I suspect you think I am a villain, taking control of you, but this is for the greater good. I have no ill will toward you or your family. But I do require the boy. So stop playing games and tell me what I need to know: where is Henry of the Scribes?"
"I don't know."
"Where can I find him?"
"I don't know."
"Tell me, Dark One, why won't you help me? If you are Savior of the Realm, shouldn't you be working for the greater good?"
"The Dark One is incapable of doing anything for the greater good," she replied. "That is why I hid it, so no one would ever go looking for favors from the Dark One ever again. Anything you ask of the Dark One comes at the darkest of prices."
"I have your dagger!" he shouted, deranged. "YOU MUST OBEY ME, DARK ONE!"
"Yes, I must obey you."
"Then tell me where the boy is!"
"I don't know."
Arthur made a frustrated noise and began pacing and muttering to himself. After a few minutes, he turned to her with a look of revulsion.
"You disgust me," Arthur said. "I was at your Naming Ceremony. Did you know that? I stood and watched as your parents proudly announced their heir to the throne, Princess Emma, the product of True Love, born with a great destiny. You were the apple of their eye, the most precious thing in the world to them. And all that nonsense about being born of True Love? Well, I suppose when there was only one of you, it seemed important, but then your brother and sister came along, and people started realizing that True Love really is just a legend. You were no more special than any other Prince or Princess, certainly not more special than your own siblings. And look at you now, Emma Swan, the Princess who renounced her crown, who came of age and spat in her parent's legacy. You cavort with thieves, openly protect the likes of the Evil Queen, and fornicate with a pirate guilty of such heinous crimes that he should've been executed on sight. Who better to fit the mantle of the Dark One than you, Emma Swan? Tell me, how does someone born with every privilege, who was raised with love and honor, who was destined to be the Savior of the Realm, become a such a pitiful, vile creature as yourself?"
"What?" he said, his fury slipping away into confusion. "Explain."
The words left her mouth without any conscious thought to form them, as if the truth had stated itself with her lips. Every single word left behind a rigid bitterness and not just on her tongue.
She said, "I destroyed a monster who terrorized every realm that knew him, and when the man who helped me faced a terrible price for it, I sacrificed myself to save him."
Arthur's entire demeanor shifted, his disgust mutating into concern and his anger into curiosity. He wasn't quite remorseful, but when he spoke again, his voice changed. He stepped closer and spoke in a whisper.
"Perhaps we can make a deal," he said. "Come to an arrangement, just you and me. All I need is to restore Excalibur to its full power. Tell me how to restore it, and I need not rely on nor aid these villains. You are still a good person, Miss Swan. I can see that now. So help me fulfill my destiny. How do we restore Excalibur?"
"I don't know."
"Liar!" he shouted as he stepped away. "Tell me how to restore my sword, or I swear to you, Dark One, I will plunge this dagger into your heart! Tell me what you know!"
"I don't know," she replied. "I know nothing about your sword or how it relates to the Dark One dagger."
Then she saw them slink in from the shadows. Cruella and Zelena flanked either side of Arthur with matching smug smiles on their faces.
"I told you, darling, the Dark One is useless," Cruella said.
"I wouldn't say useless," Zelena added. "More like clueless."
"Seems as if you're stuck with us villains for now," Cruella said.
"What's to stop me from ordering the Dark One from tearing that information out of you two witches?" Arthur asked.
"Nothing at all, darling. Nothing at all," Cruella replied. "Just our bargain and your honor."
"We didn't come here to trade words with a dim-witted tyrant," Zelena interrupted. "We need your dog here to go fetch."
"And when she says 'we', she means all three of us, darling," Cruella added. "There are only two people in all the realms who know about your funny little pig-poker, the Sorcerer who created it, who's nowhere to be found these days, and the Author."
"So the man who holds the key to your lover's cell also happens to be the only person who can tell me what I need to fix my sword?" Arthur asked. "Do you take me for a fool? Tell me, how does this pitiful pen-pusher know about the most powerful weapon in all the realms?"
"Because the Author receives his power and authority from the Sorcerer," Emma replied, the words leaving her lips before she could even think about it.
"I take it back," Zelena said. "She's not clueless."
"So it's true?" Arthur asked Emma. "The Author knows how to remedy the sword?"
Emma replied, "I don't know if the Author knows, but he possesses the ability to find out."
"Practically an endorsement from the only person in this room who can't lie to you," Cruella said. "Now, can we move this business along. Do we know where boy is?"
"She doesn't know," Arthur replied harshly.
"What about the pirate?" Zelena suggested.
"What about him?" Arthur retorted.
"As her this," Zelena said. Then she made a show of leaning over and whispering in his ear.
"Where would your pirate go after our encounter?" Arthur asked.
"To his ship, the Jolly Roger," Emma replied.
"And where would he sail?" Arthur asked. "Who would he go to for help in saving you?"
Emma gritted her teeth together, but it was no use. She replied, "Arendelle. King Lancelot."
"The boy will be under his protection," Zelena said. "He cares too much for Emma to trust anyone else with it. Come, Cruella, with any luck, Arthur's pet will have our Author before we return."
With that, they walked away, leaving Emma alone with the man she hated even more than the Crocodile, who was pacing through the empty chamber.
She watched him closely, trying to discern what madness drove him to work with Zelena, who had openly betrayed him, and Cruella, a woman who had no qualms about her villainy. He hadn't asked about a hostage or anything like that, so their leverage over him was nothing more than the promise of information.
He seemed certain that there was a way to restore Excalibur and that he'd be able to do whatever was necessary to achieve his goal. Usually her mother would call that faith, but Emma doubted that even Snow would see this man's recklessness as anything other than obsession.
"If you had only cooperated with me, then perhaps we could've spared the boy and the Author," Arthur said. "Instead, we'll be freeing a criminal from his prison, and that boy, well, I don't want to know. Whatever game you're playing, Miss Swan, I hope you're better at it than you appear."
She wanted to scream that he was a coward. She wanted to ask him how a so-called good man could put a child in unknown, possibly mortal, danger. She wanted to tell him he was a fool for trusting in villains like Zelena and Cruella who will probably double-cross him rather than help him. She wanted to cry out that her son wasn't some bargaining chip to be handed off like he was nothing. She wanted to tell him that he had fallen too far to be saved.
But he had ordered her to say nothing more than what was required to answer his questions. So she held her tongue.
"I command you, Dark One, to discover the identity of the Author, and if he be living, bring him to me," Arthur said as he clutched her dagger. "While you do this, you are not to speak of me or Camelot nor anyone else I'm in league with. If someone asks why you seek the Author, lie. Tell them... tell them that you want to meet him, that you have questions for him. You will not speak or communicate with anyone unless it serves to find the Author. Go, now!"
With that, she left in a mist of blackness and shadow, terrified of what would happen to Killian and Henry.