Chapter 3: On the Edge of the Forest
"Dinner?” Emma gazed at him, confused. “How is that going to help?”
Killian smiled. Again, his stare was so intense that it was difficult to hold.
“Dinner has nothing to do with helping you find your way home,” said the lieutenant. “But you travelled so far, I simply assumed that, perhaps, you were hungry.”
He raised an inquiring eyebrow. He convinced her and they ordered the dish of the day before sitting at a table by the window. The room was so dark that even with the candles they were still in semi-darkness.
“You were saying you found a way?” asked Emma.
“Not exactly: I said I may have found a way. When you left, I went to Liam. He asked me about you, and I told him about the prophecy. We talked about ways to travel from one realm to another, and he reminded me of something which might help: have you ever heard of magic beans?”
“Magic beans, like in ‘Jack and the beanstalk’?” Emma’s voice had the same tone of disbelief than with the Apprentice.
“Oh, so you’ve heard of Jack?”
“Are you saying Jack is real?”
“Of course she’s real.”
“She? It’s just… in my world, ‘Jack and the beanstalk’ is a tale for children, it is supposed to be a legend.”
Leaning over the table, Killian looked fascinated by what she was saying. “Your realm seems much different than this one. Here, most of the legends happen to rely on real stories.”
“Magic exists and legends are real, all right, I can say this is a day full a surprises.” Exhausted, a sigh escaped her; she would be glad when she would be in her bed. “Magic beans, you wanted to say something about them?”
“Aye. The legend says magic beans can open portals between the realms.”
“And you believe they can?” Emma had heard so much during the day, she seemed to consider the possibility some bean may show her the way home.
“I do. Thanks,” he said to the bartender who brought them two meat pies. He took one bite before going on. “I also happen to know where we could find one, even if this remains hypothetic.”
As a new plan was taking shape, Emma pretended she believed and forgot about sleeping, ready to go back outside if it was to find a magic bean which would take her back to Boston.
“Where do I need to go?”
Killian’s lips stretched into a lopsided smile and he raised an eyebrow. “We need to cross the forest. Once there, we may have some climbing. At the top, there should be some magic beans.”
“We?” Emma was too busy staring at him to think of eating anything.
The lieutenant scratched his eyebrow. “Do you really think I would let you venture on your own?”
The blonde was taken aback by this question. Holding his gaze, she answered in a voice which was more like a whisper. “Yes.”
This was what almost everyone in her life had ever done, and the few ones who had not left her alone had ended up letting her down later, after giving her hope that she had found someone who cared; a false hope, worse than anything.
Killian shook his head. “You won’t go there alone. It is too late now to go today, we will go tomorrow. This way, you can get some rest before we go there.”
Tomorrow. Emma quirked an eyebrow, confused. “Aren’t you supposed to be on your ship, tomorrow? You were supposed to be sailing already.”
Killian flashed her a smile. “Indeed. We were supposed to leave in the afternoon. That is until you found us. Liam and I decided to postpone our departure.”
“You’re going to a fair amount of trouble just to help me. Why?”
The man slightly leant over the table. “I am not willing to let you go so easily, especially if a prophecy says I am destined to help you.”
"I..." But Emma did not know what to say. She stared at the lieutenant, trying to guess what his motivations could be.
"Aye? Something to say?" He waited, staring back with a smile.
"Nothing." She used her plate which was still untouched as a pretext to look down and ate in silence, her thoughts much too busy to care about the taste of her pie. From time to time, she glanced up, and looked down immediately as he didn't seem to take his eyes off of her.
When they went to the counter, Killian was about to pay. "There is no reason why you should pay for me. I'm paying my part."
"I remember I asked you the permission to offer you dinner. But as you wish." He was smiling as if he had got what he wanted and stepped aside to let her face the barman.
"How much is it?" she asked.
"Doubloons?" Emma asked, startled, and Killian's smile widened. But she had a problem other than the money which was used in this realm: her hand stopped on the spot of the pocket where she normally put her credit card; she had no pocket in these sweatpants.
"May I?" The lieutenant asked, showing her a small leather pouch.
With a sigh, Emma nodded and Killian gave the barman some coins. For the first time since she had arrived in this new realm, she realized she had nothing and wondered how she would do without even a credit card; another reason to go back to Boston as soon as possible.
"Now," Killian said, his hand on her shoulder while leading her towards the stairs, where he had found her before offering her dinner. "You look exhausted. Get a good night of sleep and tomorrow morning I'll come back. We'll try to find this magic bean and take you home."
It didn't take Emma long to fall asleep. When she woke up in the morning, she remembered a dream she had, a very strange dream about a book, an Apprentice, a prophecy, and a man who had talked about a magic bean. But then she opened her eyes: this was not Boston. "Oh no..."
She got up and walked to the window. Inhabitants wearing these unusual outfits were already out in the street, walking down the dirt road. Emma tried to think of what Killian Jones had told her. He wanted to help her find a magic bean, he had said he would come back in the morning. But was he trustworthy? Would he really come back? She checked her reflection in the mirror and decided a shower would be nothing but good. Not having anything was truly annoying; she would have to explain this to the barman, trying to make him understand she could not pay. But when she went down and started to tell him she did not have any money, the man smiled.
"Your room has already been paid. The man who offered you dinner also paid your night."
"He paid my night?" Emma repeated, startled.
She shook her head and went back to her room, wondering if Killian would come back, and wondering what she would do if he did not. Going back to the Apprentice, probably, but the other option seemed better; she surprised herself hoping he would come back. But it didn’t seem plausible: why would he come back? He had his brother, his ship which was supposed to leave soon. Had she even understood him well, had he truly said he would come back? Lost in her thoughts, Emma was looking through the window without really seeing what was outside. She jumped when there was a knock on the door, and she went to open.
"Emma!" He said as a greeting, a bright smile on his lips.
"You came back."
"Does that surprise you?" Emma looked down and, slowly, he placed his fingers under her chin and made her look up at him, an understanding look in his eyes. "You can trust me."
"How can I be sure I can?" She asked, looking into his eyes and trying to stay calm despite his fingers under her chin.
Killian let go of her but didn’t take his eyes away. His voice was still very soft. "That is a choice you will have to make." He paused, glancing around the room. "Are you ready to go?" Emma nodded and followed him out of the tavern. "We need to cross the forest. We can walk but it would probably be almost night when we come back. There is another way: have you ever ridden a horse?"
Emma shook her head. "In my world, we don't travel by horse. I've never had the chance to ride one. The only horses I've ever seen were on TV."
"On TV. In movies or shows." Seeing his incredulous look, Emma smiled; her first genuine smile since she had arrived in this realm. She ignored why, but she found adorable his lack of knowledge of her world. "Forget about this. Point is that I've never been on a horse."
Her smile was reflected on Killian's features. "All right. Then, the choice is up to you. We can walk, or ride."
"Let's try the horse. The faster I'm back in Boston, the better."
Killian led her to the stable she had walked past the day before. A man was waiting there and, after embarrassing Emma by looking her up and down, glanced at the lieutenant.
"We'll take the horses," said Killian
Soon, a bay horse and a white one were ready.
"Come here," Killian called Emma, standing next to the white horse he had just finished preparing. "It is quite simple. You sit there, you put your feet here. You hold this, or the reins." He explained, showing her each part of the saddle.
He held out his hand and, hesitantly, she softly placed hers in his, letting him pull her closer to the horse. "Place your hands here, and put your foot in the stirrup, here. Once your foot is in the stirrup, you can use it to sit on the saddle. Is it clear?"
Emma nodded, glad he had taken the time to explain her all of this, since she had never got the occasion to come so close to a horse. The saddle looked high but, with Killian standing next to her to assure her security, she managed to climb there more easily than she had expected.
"Are you alright?" he asked. Emma nodded again, looking at her horse, her fingers brushing the white mane.
Soon, she was imitating Killian and following his indications, her horse walking alongside with Killian's, out of the village and into the forest. It was easier than she had thought, and also more enjoyable than she had imagined.
"How do I stop him if I feel like he's going too fast?"
"Just simply pull on the reins. Speaking of going fast, you seem at ease on your horse, do you feel like going faster?"
The path ahead of them was quite large and going straight through the trees. Emma flashed Killian a smile. With her heels, she kicked the flanks of her horse and the animal sped up. It felt even better like this. For one moment, she forgot that she was lost in a land so far from Boston, and focused only on the hooves hitting the ground, the mane under her fingers, her hair floating in the wind, and Killian keeping up with her. She sped up again and, with Killian still by her side, let her horse gallop through the forest, until the path narrowed; pulling on the reins, she slowed down.
"And you're saying you've never ridden a horse?" Killian asked, slowing down as well.
Emma shook her head. "Never."
"Then, it looks like you're a natural."
These words brought Emma a smile, and instantly Killian smiled warmly. His words also got her lost in her thoughts; a natural? Could her parents she never had the chance to know be skilled riders? Unwilling to think of her own story, Emma changed the subject.
"How do you know how to ride? Aren't sailors only supposed to sail?"
Killian chuckled lightly. "Besides the fact that, in this realm, everyone knows how to sail, there are times when we're on land. Horses can then be quite convenient."
Now that the subject was launched, Emma's curiosity was tickled. "What do you do exactly as a sailor? Are you leaving on expeditions, looking for something, as we can read in books?"
"You read books about sailing?" Killian asked, lightly tilting his head, looking pleased.
"Not really about sailing, and it was a long time ago. Books of adventure can be a nice escape." She didn't want to say more about this and he seemed to notice, as he came back to her question.
"There can be many reasons to go sailing. Most of the time, sailors leave with an objective, even though some of them randomly sail the seas. Liam and I, with our crew, are on official business for the Queen. She often needs all sorts of rare objects, and she sends Liam and I to find them."
"For the Queen? That must be important. Are you sure leaving one day later because of me won't be a problem?"
"Liam and I are the ones deciding when to leave. You don't have to worry, everything is all right."
The fact he looked away, pretending to focus on the path ahead of them, made Emma doubt about it but she didn't reply anything. Soon, the forest became less thick, there was more and more sunlight passing through the trees. Finally, they reached the edge of the forest and paused there. The path was going down the hill. Below, the countryside was stretching to the horizon. Emma was staring at something, something which didn't look like a tree and which was disappearing up in the clouds. This couldn't be...
"A beanstalk," said Killian as if he was reading her thoughts. "If there is a magic bean somewhere, it will be up there."
"Are you kidding?" She searched on his features any hint, but found none. "We need to climb that thing?"
They needed some time to cross the countryside. When they reached the foot of the beanstalk, they stopped the horses and Killian held her hand to help her get down. While he tied both horses to the bushes nearby, Emma looked up at the beanstalk.
"Killian, I don't think I can do it."
"Without this, you couldn't," he said, coming back to her and taking her hand to put some sort of black bracelet around her wrist. She noticed he was wearing the same one.
“What is that for?”
"Giants have enchanted the beanstalk so that no human can climb it. This," he said indicating the bracelet, "thwarts the effects of this enchantment." Killian took another step towards her and looked her in the eyes, his voice soft when he talked again. "Emma, you can do it. If I can climb the beanstalk, there is no reason why you couldn't. You told me you liked reading books of adventure, now it's time to live your own."