She doesn’t want to let him go and she clings to him with all her might, but the adrenaline is fading and her arms are starting to protest the iron grip, so she eases it and runs her hand back to his neck, letting it rest over the spot she’d healed and concentrating on the pulse she can feel pounding beneath it.
His lips glance her temple, soft and reverent and she draws a slow breath.
He’s alive and he’s holding her. He’s breathing and warm and he’s going to stay that way.
She can hear the others murmuring behind her, the hushed whispers from her father and the rest as they all try to come to terms with the fact that she’s just destroyed their best chance at defeating Regina. She can see the broken sword over Killian’s shoulder, the hilt on the ground and the edge of the other half peeking out from the top of the stone. Her eyes then move to the copper case where the Spark of Prometheus resided for so many years – the only spark known to man capable of producing a flame strong enough to forge the sword. It’s empty, of course, a worthless relic lying on the edge of the round table.
What has she done?
Guilt flashes through her for an instant before she’s clinging to Killian again, the force of her grip drawing a surprised grunt from him.
She did what she had to. And she knows it was the right thing. Even the sword had agreed with her. She’d felt the weapon humming while she’d yanked at the handle, an encouraging resonance that had settled somewhere in her chest just before a rush of strength came from nowhere and the blade snapped.
They’ll find another way. There must be another way to defeat the Evil Queen. And with Killian at her side, she knows that together, they’ll find it.
Slowly, the words being murmured a few feet away start to filter through the haze of her thoughts. They’re talking about mobilizing Katherine’s army, sending for she and Frederick, and Elsa and Anna, and the rest of their allies. They need to band together now. They need to have every weapon and power available at their disposal when Regina makes her move. And it won’t be long until she does. By now, she’ll know that Merlin has no magic. She’ll think both he and Killian are dead. There will never be a better time for her to attack than this moment.
The thought no sooner enters her mind before the doors burst off their hinges and a great gust of wind blows through the room. Turning, she sees both the Evil Queen and King Arthur on the threshold, the pair flanked by a garrison of black knights.
“Sorry, I’m late,” Regina purrs as she strides into the room. “My invitation was only just now delivered. And by King Arthur himself.”
Killian vaults to his feet, pulling Emma up with him even as the hiss of swords being drawn fills the air. Without hesitation, he steps to the middle of the room, raising his weapon in front of him.
The Evil Queen stops dead in her tracks when she sees him, her expression turning from triumphant to confused to furious in rapid succession. Swinging on Arthur, she shouts, “You said he and the wizard were dead! You LIED to me!
“They were – they should be,” the king stutters. “I cut them both with Excalibur… I – ” his eyes dart around the room. “Look! The sword is broken again!”
Regina follows his gaze, shock registering on her features just before they slide into triumphant. She turns to Emma. “You destroyed the only weapon capable of defeating me to save your pirate? You foolish child!”
Regina produces a fire ball and goes to throw it but before she can Emma extends her arm and shoots a stream of magic that whizzes across the room and collides with the Evil Queen’s middle. It sends her soaring back where she crashes into her knights, knocking several to the floor along with her. When she raises her head, he can see the surprise at how powerful Emma’s magic has become.
“Perhaps I don’t need a weapon,” Emma replies.
The taunt makes the queen’s eyes darken before she turns to her men.
“Well, what are you waiting for!” she shouts while struggling to stand. “Get them!”
The knights immediately snap to attention and charge, dozens of them rushing into the room and fanning out in every direction.
They’re outnumbered by a factor of ten and Killian hears Lance’s shout for reinforcements but Regina motions the doors shut, adding a barrier to them before any of the men make it through. Bracing himself, Killian raises his sword to take on the first line just as Emma steps up next to him and waves her arm at the throng, blowing most of the closest group back into the men behind them. She immediately pivots and does the same to the knights on their right, then pivots again to send the next bunch sailing. It helps but there are too many for her to fend off all of them and Killian lunges for the first one who gets through. He blocks the knight’s swing with his hook and plunges his sword into his neck.
A flash of purple magic shoots past him as the man slips from the end of his sword to the ground, but he doesn’t have time to look before the next knight is on him. He aims low, slashing at the legs of his attacker, then immediately ducks as another leaps over his fallen comrade. He straightens just in time to block a blade that swings perilously close to his throat. Before he can return the attack, his opponent is on him, his momentum sending both of them to the floor. They land in heap of limbs and weapons, one of which slices against his right arm. He ignores the pain, wrenching his left arm from where it’s caught beneath his rival’s side and twisting his wrist to make sure his hook slices through flesh as he frees it. A grunt and a shove and the man is off him, putting enough space between them to finish him off with his sword. Not wasting another glance, he springs to his feet, whipping around in an effort to locate Emma.
He catches one glimpse of her thrusting her hand forward to send a white streak of power across the room before his view is blocked, a near wall of armor coming right for him. There are at least a dozen of them and he swipes his sword in a quick, desperate arc that he only prays will catch one or two. And it does – but with the number descending, it doesn’t help much. Still, he plants his feet in a wide stance, meeting the first sword with venom, the second with determination and the third with rage.
He’s surprised when one falls without his aid, even more so when the man’s eyes glow purple the instant before they dull, but he just keeps fighting.
Emma sees the knight step into the path of Regina’s magic and nearly cries with relief. The Evil Queen seems more determined to hurt Killian than herself and nearly all of Emma’s energy so far has been in an effort to protect him and the rest of their friends rather than make attacks of her own.
But she’s determined to keep everyone alive. Regina will not claim one more innocent life in this war. So Emma bides her time, using her magic to decrease the black knight threat and deflect Regina’s magic rather than go on the offensive with the Evil Queen.
With a wave of her arm, she throws one of the knights sailing. With a flick of her wrist, she disarms another. Then she spins on the spot and tosses a shield into the path of Regina’s magic.
Her eyes meet Regina’s from across the room and, with a deliberate twist of her wrist, she angles the shield to bounce the magic directly back along its path. It’s a satisfying sight to see the Evil Queen dive to the ground to keep from getting hit.
Taking advantage of Regina’s momentary distraction, Emma pushes a burst of power at the doors, trying to allow the reinforcements entry but the spell Regina cast must be very powerful and her magic has no effect.
“She must have used blood magic to seal the doors,” Merlin shouts. “They won’t open as long as blood runs through her veins.”
Dammit! Emma thinks. Looks like they’re on their own.
Rather than lament over that fact, though, she waves away the knight currently engaged with Ruby and turns her attention back to the Evil Queen.
Regina has regained her feet, a fireball forming in her hand that she immediately throws once again in Killian’s direction. Emma deflects it easily with a flick of her fingers, redirecting it into a black knight nearby.
They continue like that for a time, Emma redirecting and diverting Regina’s attacks and using them to dwindle the number of black knights. In the meantime, Emma makes mental notes of where all her friends are in the room, trying to help them when they become too outnumbered.
Lancelot and Arthur are locked in a vicious battle, seemingly oblivious to the rest of the chaos and it appears that no one else is approaching them. Emma can only assume it’s because Arthur had made it known that he wanted the legendary knight to himself. Jeff and Patricia are lined up back to back, swiping their swords with expertise and Ruby and Merlin are doing the same. Killian is fighting alone and so is her father but Emma sees her dad maneuvering closer. She doesn’t see Dopey or Grace, so she assumes Dopey has the child hidden away somewhere and is acting as a guard. But, no, that’s not it because from the corner of her eye, she sees Dopey stealthily weaving through some fallen chairs, using his lack of height to sneak up on a trio of knights who are pursuing her father.
It’s just then that the shrill scream of a child rents the air and Emma twists on the spot to see several knights yanking chairs from the round table, one knight peering under it where Grace had apparently been hiding. In a frozen moment of clarity, Emma realizes no one is close enough to protect the child. Without regret, she turns her back completely on the Evil Queen and throws a whip of magic in their direction, then fists her hand and yanks the one closest to Grace away.
With the little girl as safe as she can make her for the moment, she pivots back to Regina just in time to see a stream of purple light soar past, heading right for Killian.
Killian’s heart is pounding in his chest, instinct and adrenaline guiding his sword. He’s not sure how he manages to hold them off. He can’t find openings to do mortal damage but he’s able to block the worst of the swings, picking and choosing which sword will either incapacitate or kill him.
A shout of rage rings out and then he feels a presence behind him – not another enemy, but the solid feeling of an ally covering his back. It’s a relief to say the least because with one side guarded, he can now fight back rather than just deflect and he does so immediately, cutting up through two blades and stepping forward to plunge his sword into the gap on the side of one of his enemy’s breastplates. Without hesitation, he turns to another, taking out his leg and twisting the man’s sword away with his hook.
A knight falls to the floor on his left, a fatal gash spurting blood from his neck that his partner must have landed, then another falls to his right, his armor clashing loudly into one of the men Killian had previously defeated.
The volume in the room is deafening, shouts of exertion and screams of pain ricocheting off the vaulted ceiling and echoing forcefully in his ears. He tries once again to find Emma but doesn’t get enough time to locate her before another sword appears in his vision. Reflexively, he raises his hook to deflect it, using the momentum to direct it toward another knight approaching from his left. When it pierces flesh, Killian spins on the spot, kicking out and landing a hard blow to its owner’s gut. The man stumbles back while the other collapses and Killian slices his blade up, tearing through the arm wielding the weapon.
He hears Grace’s scream and he frantically surveys the room. Just as he locates her, one of the knights trying to reach under the table is yanked away as though by an invisible hand. The next thing he knows, Emma’s heart-wrenching cry fills the air and he turns his head just in time to see the stream of purple magic coming right at him. It’s already too close for him to dodge it, but his partner – King David – must have seen it sooner and he’s already moving in front of him to take the hit. The king is quick, but not quick enough and the magic smacks into them both, its force enough to lift and fling them hard into the stone wall several yards away. Killian’s head hits first, a sharp pain that would have been bad enough without getting sandwiched between the wall and David’s full weight, but the combination has him seeing stars, the awful thud of skull meeting stone the last thing he registers before everything goes black.
Emma emits a bellow of rage when she sees Killian slump against the wall, spinning back to the smirking queen and letting loose a blast of magic so powerful that it nearly burns her palms as it releases.
Regina stumbles when the magic collides with her own but she manages to deflect it, sending it sailing into the rafters. With eyes gleaming in victory, she smiles from across the room. “So you’ve learned a thing or two,” she taunts, “But while I’m sure Merlin is a capable teacher, he’s got nothing on Rumpelstiltskin.”
Keep her talking, keep her distracted, Emma thinks to herself as the two of them begin circling one another, both with their hands raised and at the ready.
“And just what did you learn from Rumpelstiltskin that is so valuable?”
The first chance she gets, her eyes flick to Killian. He’s alive. She knows that much. His heartbeat is still filling her senses, the steady beat thrumming in her veins. He may not be moving, but he’s alive and their magic hasn’t so much as wavered in its strength.
“A great many things,” the Evil Queen replies, shooting a quick stream of magic into Emma’s path.
Emma feints away to avoid being hit and then resumes circling.
“Would you like to know the most important lesson he taught me, princess?” Regina asks with false amiability.
“How to cover your gray hair?”
Regina chuckles. “No, although that has come in handy.”
Another glance to Killian shows him beginning to rouse.
“What then?” Emma asks.
Regina stops moving, tilting her head in Killian’s direction and Emma sees her intent. “Love is weakness.”
With a lightening fast fling of her arm, Regina sends a ball of power toward Killian in the same instant Emma throws a shield. Regina’s magic hits it but rather than deflecting back at Regina as Emma had intended, it bounces off in a completely different direction, striking against the stone where the blade of Excalibur is still sheathed.
The stone shatters behind Regina, the blade landing next to the hilt and Emma sees the red jewel in the handle begin to glow brightly. Regina doesn’t notice, but Emma does and something blossoms in her chest.
A shout of frustration draws her attention back to Regina just as she turns the full force of her magic on Emma. Emma raises her hands as the stream of purple light approaches, shooting her own magic out to meet it halfway. The result is a straight stream of magic between them, half purple and half white.
A roar of sound and heavy winds fill the room, whirling around the walls like a hurricane. Emma tries to keep her concentration on pushing Regina’s magic back. She tries to gain ground but there’s something… something prickling at her senses. She ignores it at first, too determined to increase her advantage in the light battle to think of anything else.
But it’s… persistent. And it’s growing. A hum that vibrates in her blood. And with a quick flash of recognition, it hits her. It’s the same hum she felt when she and Killian reunited the blades. That mixture of serenity and violence, the whip of power that swamped over her.
And, suddenly it’s clear.
And now she knows what needs to be done.
Killian groans and rolls over, his head spinning so badly that he nearly passes back out from just that small movement. Violent winds howl around him, forcing him to squint his eyes when he finally manages to open them. The first thing he sees is David lying next to him, his face planted into the floor and blood dripping from his mouth. He gives him a quick shake and is relieved to hear David groan in response.
Lifting his head, he searches for Emma. He finds her and Regina in the center of the room, their magic forming a violently pulsing line between them. It mesmerizes him for a moment, the epic battle that had been foretold so long ago now filling his vision. Regina is darkness in its most terrifying form, her black dress flapping in the heavy winds while a sinister, purple light shoots from her hands. Emma though… Emma is pure light, and she’s… beautiful. It’s an awe-inspiring sight, her golden hair appearing almost white in the glow of magic surrounding her. It’s nearly blinding. She’s nearly blinding. But the most beautiful thing about her is her strength. She’s powerful and stunning, facing off against pure evil and holding it at bay.
A movement to his right has him snapping to attention, turning to find David gaining his feet to square off against a group of black knights who are heading their way. Killian rises to help him, the clash of swords nearly drowned out by the howling wind.
He and David fight side by side now, swords hissing and grunts rumbling. They may have depleted the black knight threat, but those remaining are skilled and taking them down is getting more and more difficult.
From the corner of his eye, he can see the light battle at the center of the room, neither Emma nor Regina gaining ground. Desperation guides his sword, an all-consuming need to rush to Emma’s side and add his strength to hers overpowering the fatigue weighing on his muscles. His blood is racing, and his head is spinning but these last few knights are putting up quite a battle and he can’t leave David alone.
“She’s not gaining ground,” David shouts over the whistling wind, echoing his thoughts, just as one of the knights slips off his sword.
Killian can do no more than grunt in acknowledgement, too concentrated on the sword currently crossed with his while his muscles strain against the brute strength of his opponent. The man has fifty pounds on him at least and he’s taking advantage of his size to angle the blade toward Killian’s throat. He tries to reposition into a better stance but there’s no room with how close David is standing so his only choice is to continue the contest of strength – a contest where he is outweighed, literally.
Killian has experienced danger before. He’s been in many tight spots where the only things he had were his wits and his sword. And there’s a certain quality about them that always amazes him later when he has time to reflect. Each and every time, there’s a moment of clarity, a moment when your mind sees in an instant what would usually take hours for it to process. Call it adrenaline, call it self-preservation, call it whatever you will, but that moment could mean the life or death of everyone around you.
And this moment, while he can do nothing but strain against the sword crossing his is one of those moments.
Flashes of memories, snippets of conversations – things that seemed insignificant at the time but now weave together to create a staggering understanding that blossoms more quickly than the ding of the Jolly’s bell. It crashes down on him, his eyes widening with the realization.
It was always right there, staring them in the face.
And no one saw it.
But now he does.
And, now, he knows what needs to be done.
Across the room, he can see the hilt of Excalibur lying on the floor next to the now shattered stone, the blade of it close by. The jewel imbedded into the handle is glowing, almost like it’s eager to fulfill its destiny. With renewed determination, his eyes go back to his opponent, a guttural growl releasing as he feints just enough to throw the man off balance so that his size works in Killian’s favor. That provides the opening he needs and he rips his hook into the back of the knight’s neck.
The behemoth falls with a loud crash, landing on the dead body of another knight just as Jeff and Patricia appear.
Killian keeps his eye on the glowing jewel as he battles through more of the knights, impatience eating at him. It’s frustrating to say the least that he can’t barrel past them all and head straight for the sword but the urgency to finish this makes his reflexes hyper-sensitive and he makes short work of those standing in his way. With one last mad swipe, his path is clear and he leaps over the fallen knights to run full speed across the room.
When he reaches the stone, he drops his own sword and tucks Excalibur’s severed blade into his belt, then he bends to retrieve the hilt. The jewel glows brighter the instant he closes his fingers around the handle and a hum fills his veins. He looks up to find Emma’s eyes on him even as the stream of light connecting her and the Evil Queen pulses wildly.
She gives him a small nod.
She knows what needs to be done, too.
The black knights are all but defeated now, the few stragglers all engaged with the others, leaving no one to block his path. Emma takes a step closer to the Evil Queen, then another, until they are mere feet away from each other, the light battle between them condensing into a sphere of purple and white light.
Regina grunts in exertion but holds her ground, her face a mask of concentration, giving Killian the opportunity to line up behind her without her noticing. Once he’s in position, Emma takes the final step, angling her hands to push the sphere up to the ceiling where it breaks against the mosaic. Then, before Regina has time to react, Emma’s fist pounds hard into her face, stunning the Evil Queen long enough for Emma to catch the hilt of the sword Killian tosses to her and plunge it into her chest even as he pulls the blade from his belt and sinks it into her back.
The Evil Queen stumbles away in surprise, gulping in breaths as she stares at the handle sticking out from her chest. Killian can see the moment of realization cross her features and then she raises her head with a wicked gleam in her eye.
“Did you really think this would work?” she spits, “it’s useless now. Nothing but a broken relic!”
“Not for long,” Emma replies.
Regina’s eyes narrow. “The spark of Prometheus is gone! And only the strongest of sparks can reunite –“
“Exactly,” Killian interrupts and Regina rounds on him. “Have you forgotten the prophecy, Regina?”
He steps around her to stand at Emma’s side. “‘Together they will light the dark,’” he quotes, “’She’ll be the flame. He’ll be the spark.’”
Regina’s eyes widen in understanding and she gropes for the hilt, trying to pull it out just as Killian clasps Emma’s hand.
It starts as a red glow in the Evil Queen’s chest, like her blood itself is filled with light. Then, it spreads, luminescent rays shooting from her eyes, her mouth, the tips of her fingers. Her skin turns translucent and her head falls back, light magic pouring out in every direction. It brightens like the sun, the strength of it filling the entire room until nothing but white light is visible. It pulses once, twice and then bursts in warm gust that washes over him like a wave.
When the light dissipates, the Evil Queen is gone and Excalibur, reunited and glowing, is laying on the floor directly in front of them.
“We did it,” Emma breathes. “Killian, we did it!”
She throws herself into his arms and hugs him close and he chuckles. “Aye, we did, love.”