Ellarose knew that all magic came with a price but it was her only hope. After her mother and father were killed by the Queen's men for nothing more than to scare people into subjugation, she knew she needed to learn how to protect herself. Rumplestiltskin noticed the poor damsel in distress look in her brilliant blue eyes when he was on his rounds and after she begged at his feet, he had agreed to help her master the simple spells that could potentially safe her life. He only gave her one rule...to do exactly what he told her to.
"Right, dearie, first things first," Rumplestiltskin chimed, his impish voice echoing through the wood. She cringes a little when he grins at her, showing his blackened teeth. But she shakes off the feeling of spiders crawling up her back, the feeling she gets whenever she is in such a close proximity to the Dark One. "To save a life-" He disappears into the trees. Ellarose stays put on the dry ground but cranes her neck to try and find him. He returns with a horse, its black fur shines in the moonlight. It stands patiently beside Rumplestiltskin and blinks at her, turning it's ears in her direction. "You must first learn how to take one."
Ellarose's heart stammers. Rumplestiltskin's bronze eyes shimmer at her expectantly. "Listening, dearie?"
"I-I don't want to use Dark Magic..." she stutters, wanting to back away but fighting the urge.
"You want to be able to defend yourself, don't you?" the Dark One asks, edging closer like a viper. His glistening, golden skin twinkles like the stars above them.
"Y-yes, but I don't want to kill anyone."
"Well, there may come a time in your life where you have no say in the matter," he edges closer still, grinning and tapping his fingertips together greedily. "In this world, it's kill or be killed, dearie."
She gulps then freezes with terror as he leaps up giddily, clapping his hands together. "It's easy! I'll show you how."
She smiles queasily as he gapes at her. "Don't fear, dearie." He turns to the stallion. "First, use the immobile spell I taught you." He flips his palms to the horse, encasing it in a purple fog. The horses black eyes twitch but it doesn't move. It can't move. "Simple, yes?" Rumplestiltskin turns to Ellarose, flashing her a satisfied smile and twitching his eyebrows.
She nods with a gulp.
"See." He cackles. "Now for the fun part." He steps around the horse so he is at its side. "To take a heart," he starts, sizing up the chest of the animal. "All you have to do is-" He plunges his slender hand into the stallion's ribcage. The horses flesh ripples llike disturbed water. "Find the heart..." His voice is strained as he routes through the horses innards. He grins, "And pull it out." Just as easily as his arm went in, he pulls it out again.
Ellarose's chest constricts as she looks upon the pulsating heart in the Dark Ones hands. The pink glow from the organ illuminates his face, enhancing the absurdity of this being. Is he human? Yes, yes he is. He is a human burdened with great power. "See..." he whispers softly, admiring his possession. "It's as simple as that."
He swipes his hand and the purple mist around the horse disappears. It shakes its head and trots closer to Rumplestiltskin. He turns and strokes it lovingly on the head. "Now, I control him." He smiles into the dark eyes of the stallion. "Maybe you may not have to kill after all." He turns to Ellarose. "Having a heart for safe keeping is just as fun as destroying it." He grins. "Well," he spins round and shoves the heart back into the horse, making it neigh and rear up, kicking the air. "Enough show and tell." He pulls out his arm and wipes his hand as if to clean off the blood that is not there. "Your turn. And I suggest you immobile him quickly before he makes a run for it."
As if on queue, the now raging horse kicks furiously and makes a bee-line through the trees. With her heart in the throat, Ellarose quickly flings her palms into the air, relaying the spell in her mind and capturing the fleeing horse in a web of purple mist.
"Bravo." The Dark One claps. "Now, onto the second step."
Ellarose gulps, looking upon what she has done to the poor animal. Thinking about what Rumplestiltskin did next makes her stomach churn. "I can't."
"Yes you can. Just as easily as you did that." He points to the stallion. "You can do it, Ellarose. What was the one rule I gave you?"
"To do exactly what you say," she mumbles to the ground.
"Exactly." He steps closer. She looks up. His usual spine-tingling cheery smile has been replaced with eyes as sharp as dagger. "Now, do what I say," he seethes.
Fearing he might revoke their spoken contract and kill her on the spot, she rushes to the horse side and eyes up the ridges of its ribcage. She gulps. She's in way over her head. She can't rip out a defenceless animal's heart. She's seen the Queen do it so many times to humans. To her parents. She can't turn into her.
"Can I learn something else?" She turns to the Dark One hopefully.
He smiles pitifully and pretends to ponder over his answer. "Er...no."
Her stomach twists and she looks to the horse again. She lifts her hand and reaches out so it is consumed by the purple mist. Her fingers wiggle nervously just before the animal's chest. She shakes her head and pulls it back.
"I can't do it."
Suddenly, Rumplestiltskin is behind her, cupping her chin in his tight grip. His lips are at her ear. She sucks in a scream.
"Don't waste my time, dearie," he chimes maliciously. "I have places to be."
"I'm sorry...I can't..." she splutters. Tears swell in her eyes as his grip on her chin tightens. His long, dirty fingernails bite into her skin.
"Are you telling me that you're a coward?" he hisses.
"I just can't..."
He jolts his hand so her head snaps to the side. Her eyes widen as she looks into his.
He sneers at her. "I said...are you a coward?"
"Y-yes. Yes I am a coward."
He growls viciously and releases her. She almost collapses to the floor but she picks herself up and tries to settle her shaking legs. She pushes her long, dark hair from her face and looks up at the Dark One who is circling her like a predator ready to devour its prey.
"I knew a coward once," he starts, his eyes flicking to hers. Her breath catches in her throat. "And do you know what happened to him?" he asks, tilting his head a little. She shakes her head, fighting back tears. His top lip curls with distain. "He lost everything."
Little did Ellarose know, the coward he was talking about was himself. Who he was before he became the Dark One.
"That man taught me something though." He jumps closer to her. She flinches back. His bronze eyes glow at her. "Would you like to know what I learnt?"
She just gulps in response. He giggles and edges closer to her.
"Courage lies in the heart," he explains. "And if someone lacks courage, their heart is nothing but an empty sack." He glances down at her chest then back to her eyes. "Now, you tell me you are a coward?" He grins maliciously. "Then I guess you won't be needing this-"
Ellarose's breath catches in her throat as Rumplestiltskin's hand delves into her chest and clutches her pounding heart. He sneers at her, inspecting her face as he yanks it out. She gasps and buckles forwards. The Dark One lifts the beating heart to his eye level, watching it pulse with fear.
"I could crush it right now, right before your eyes," he says with a dazed smile.
"No, don't, please!" Ellarose goes to snatch it from his hand but he lifts it into the air.
"Even if you got it off me, dearie, you cannot replace it. Without your heart, you have no magic and without magic, you cannot take or replace a heart."
"Please, Rumplestiltskin, I'll do anything you ask of me just don't...don't kill me." Tears now flow down her face as she pleads for her life.
The Dark One ponders, tapping a slender finger to his pointed chin. "I have invested far too much time with you to let it go to waste," he says. The heart in his hand thuds as Ellarose's eyes widen hopefully. "You could be a great sorceress, Ellarose, you just need to find courage."
She nods affirmatively, her eyes stuck to her beating heart. He squeezes it a little and watches her jaw hang open and her body crumple with pain. He giggles and loosens his grip, stopping her suffering. "I'm going to send you on a journey, dearie."
"A journey where?"
He giggles and launches her heart into the trees. She watches as the pink glow fades from sight.
"To your heart, dearie."
She shakes her head, confused and fear stricken. "You just..."
"Yes I did, dearie," he smiles, showing is blackening teeth. "You'd better go after it before a bear beats you to it."
"H-how will I know where to look?"
"Oh...you'll know, dearie." He winks then clicks his fingers and disappears into a cloud of purple dust. The mist around the horse disperses and with a raging kick, it charges off into the darkness of the wood.
She's now alone and scared in the belly of the wood. Everything looks the same but she can feel something inside her pulling her in the direction her heart was thrown. Instinctively, she follows that feeling.
Glynn, the farmer's son, opens his front door and basks in the morning sun. He stretches his arms above his head and starts making his way to the fields to check his sheep. There has been news that there have been some wolves nearby and as he heads to the fence, he has a sickly feeling in his stomach that he might look upon a mess of blood and guts.
He sighs with relief when that is not the case. He opens the gate and steps into the field. The sheep give him a wide berth as he fills up their water troughs. He gets ready to head towards the cows but something catches his eye on the ground under a drinking sheep. He steps closer and the sheep backs up. His stomach flips and he reaches down and picks up the heart that pulsates brilliant pink.
Glynn may only be a farmer's son but he knows magic when he sees it. It had claimed his grandmother. She was drawn to Dark Magic and he had found many of these beating sacks in her house when he had come to visit. His father told him to never ask questions but he knew the answers already. He was able to piece things together. His grandmother had many servants. That alone aroused suspicion. She worked on a market stall, how could she afford servants? She couldn't. Instead, she took their hearts and controlled them.
But all magic comes with a price, and her price was her life. The Queen didn't like how powerful she had gotten and publicly executed her. Glynn was there. He had seen the whole thing.
Well aware of the fragility of what he holds, he makes his way out of the field to find somewhere safe to keep the heart. But as he shuts the gate behind him, an image clouds his vision. He blinks hard and sways unsteadily on his feet as the picture swirls into focus. His heart pounds. It's an image of a young girl in the woods. Her long, dark hair is stuck to her forehead with sweat and dirt is splashed up her dress. Her bright blue eyes scan the floor around her. She parts bushes and lifts rocks, attempting to find something. His heart swells when she looks ahead and he is able to capture a look at her face. She is beautiful. The most beautiful thing he has ever seen.
Her skin is pale but she has a smudge of dusty dirt across her chin. Her eyes are wet with tears and there is a helpless, pained look in them which makes the backs of his eyes burn. With every fibre of his being, he wants to find this girl and help her. Whoever she is. Wherever she is.
Suddenly, the image washes away and he is left looking at his thatched house. His heart is crashing against his ribs. Who was that girl? Why did that image come to him?
He rakes his fingers through his short, blonde hair and strides towards his house, attempting to make sense of things.
He freezes. The soft, delicate voice sends tingles up his back. He spins around and almost gets knocked off his feet by the feeling that consumes every inch of his body. His cheeks flush. His palms become moist. He clears his throat and blinks hard. This is another one of those strange images, he reasons but when he opens his eyes, she's still there. The girl from the woods. The beautiful girl with the smudge of dirt across her chin.
He clears his throat and tries to speak but no words come out.
She smiles weakly, furrowing her brows and nods down to his hand.
"You have my heart," she says.
His stomach flips and he looks down at the pulsing organ in his hand. It's beating as fast as his.
The girl laughs nervously and blushes at the sight of her thumping heart. He is making her heart thump.
His emerald eyes widen and he scratches his head.
"I...erh...found it in my field."
"Thank you for finding it for me." She smiles and steps closer. "I've been looking for it all night."
That was why he had seen the image. He was holding a piece of her. It was guiding him to the rest.
"May I ask why it was in my field?" he says after clearing his throat again. Their close proximity is making his whole body blossom.
She sighs. "Rumplestiltskin took it from me."
They both jump at the whirl of purple mist beside them. The Dark One appears by her side.
"You called?" He grins at her cheerily.
Glynn bristles. He knows of Rumplestiltskin. Everyone does. He knows he is to be feared.
"I've found it, now put it back," she orders.
The Dark One laughs a little at her attempt at being commanding. "First, you do something for me."
She grits her teeth. "What?"
"You promise that when I replace your heart, you come back with me and you finish our little sessions."
"Why do you even want to finish them?"
"Like I said before-" He steps closer to her. She resists the urge to step back. His pointed nose is inches away from hers. "I see potential in you."
"You are going to teach me Dark Magic, aren't you?" The girl asks cautiously. Glynn tenses. He doesn't like the sound of this. He doesn't want this fair, perfect woman before him to become corrupted like his grandmother.
Rumplestiltskin grins. "I will teach you all kinds of magic."
"Don't do it," rushes Glynn.
They both turn to him.
Rumplestiltskin looks him up and down. "And who is this?"
"He helped me find my heart," says the girl.
The Dark One notices the pulsating light in his hand. His lips curve into a smile and he looks into his eyes. "Handsome one, isn't he?" he muses. The girl blushes. The heart in Glynn's hand starts to beat rapidly. Rumplestiltskin giggles. "Well, that's embarrassing." He looks to the girl who lowers her head.
"Anyway," Rumplestiltskin claps his hands. "Back to my offer."
"I won't let you do it," says Glynn. Her eyes widen and she looks up at him. He sighs. "I know I've only just met you but...I can't let you do this. I've seen what Dark Magic does to people. I don't want it to happen to you."
Her heart starts to thump even harder but she doesn't seem to care that it's there for everyone to see. She looks deep into his eyes. They glisten back at her.
The Dark One's jaw clenches. "If you don't agree, I will crush your heart," he urges and clicks his fingers. Just like that, the heart disappears from Glynn's hard and reappears in his. "Your choice, dearie."
She gulps and turns helplessly to Glynn. His eyes are wet with tears.
His grandmother had taught him magic when he was a child behind his parents' backs and once she had died, he had sworn to never use it again. But when he looks into this girl's eyes, he knows she is worth the risk.
"Fine," she says. Rumplestiltskin grins.
"No!" Glynn grabs the hand quickly from the Dark One and plunges it back into the girl's chest. Tears run down his face as her mouth opens and she lets out a strangled yelp. He slots the heart back into place and recoils.
The Dark One's eyes are wide as he takes it what has just unfolded in front of him.
"The farmer's son knows magic? Fascinating."
The girl gasps for breath. The beating in her chest has returned.
"Y-you just..." she splutters.
"Nothing good can come from magic, do not make this deal with him," warns Glynn.
"Actually," Rumplestiltskin chimes in his impish voice, "Good things can come from magic." He turns to the girl. "You asked for my help so you could protect yourself, didn't you?" She nods. "Well then, if you still want to learn, the offer still stands."
She chews her lip. He has a point. She was the one who found him. She was the one who asked for his help. She didn't want to be killed like her parents. She wanted to be strong.
Glynn notices her pondering over her decision. "Don't do it..."
She looks to Rumplestiltskin. "I will no longer be requiring your services. Thank you for everything you have done." She turns to the farmer's boy. He smiles into her eyes.
The Dark One takes a step back and looks between them. His heart swells with jealously. She had chosen love over power. If only he was presented with the same choice. If he had, he wouldn't be the Dark One. He would still have his wife, his son...he would be happy.
"Very well..." says Rumplestiltskin and disappears with a click of his fingers.
As his purple mist begins to fade, Ellarose wonders why he hadn't took her heart once more and crushed it for wasting his time like he had threatened before. But little did she know, he only threatened her to keep her close. He only scared her so she wouldn't leave. He only agreed to help her so he wouldn't be alone.
"Would you like some warm milk?" asks Glynn. "You seem to have gone through quite a lot this morning."
She smiles up at him. "I would love that."
He nods and gestures her to follow him into his house.
Glynn was the man who found her heart, he was the one who returned her heart and he was the one who had won her heart.