"They should be back by now," bit out Killian testily as he stared at the spot he'd last seen Emma, hoping that she might suddenly appear.
"I know," Charming agreed scanning the forest with a worried frown, "Maybe Martha can't remember exactly where she left the bag."
"I knew I should have bloody well gone with them," the pirate muttered unhappily.
"We'll give it a few more minutes then go after them," the prince decided.
Killian shot him a frustrated glance. He didn't want to wait a second longer than necessary, especially now that Charming had told him of Regina's suspicions about Gisbourne having control of Myrddin's staff.
If Emma were to be captured and had that torturous device used on her...
He swallowed hard at the thought, then jerked around to gaze at the trees surrounding them when he suddenly heard the sound of someone crashing through the undergrowth towards the camp. Seconds later Martha burst out of the forest in an obviously distressed state.
"Killian! The guards...Emma," she cried running straight at him and Charming, tears streaming down her face.
Alerted by her cries, Robin and Regina hurried over to find out what was wrong as well.
"What about her? Where is she?" Killian demanded urgently as the young woman reached them and flung her arms around him in a tight embrace. He grabbed hold of her arm and extricated himself from her hold none to gently then bent down slightly to stare her right in the eyes as he repeated tersely, "Where's Emma?"
"Some of Gisbourne's guards surprised us," she replied, dashing away her crocodile tears, "Emma told me to run and that she'd take care of them and come straight after me...but she didn't. I think they have her."
Killian drew in a sharp breath and muttered a colourful curse as he felt his stomach twist into all kinds of knots. Abruptly, he let go of Martha then began striding off towards the forest with Charming close on his heels.
Robin glanced at Regina and off her nod he turned to his men and ordered Much and Wat to stay behind then told the others to go with them.
"I'm coming too," Martha chimed in as she followed behind.
"It would be safer if you stayed," Robin urged.
"I know but Emma wouldn't have been put in harm's way if not for me," Martha replied, injecting just the right amount of self recrimination into her tone even though she told the truth, "I want to help."
"Fine," said Regina curtly, not wanting to waste anymore time, "just keep up and don't get in the way if we run into trouble."
Martha nodded and they headed after Killian and Charming, the former having let the prince take the lead when he'd realised that he didn't even know where the hell he was going.
Biting back the urge to tell the other man to speed up his already fast pace, the pirate concentrated on trying to hold down his rising fear. He hardly registered the fact that everyone else had decided to go with them. All he focussed on was getting to his love.
Eventually they reached the small clearing where Martha had led Robin and Charming to his aid the evening before and the pirate immediately yelled out for Emma in the hopes that she was nearby and just making sure the coast was clear before heading back. When silence greeted his call he tried again then shot a concerned glance at Charming before prowling around the area looking for any clues.
"So she retrieved the bag before the guards appeared?" he asked when he saw the small hole by the fallen tree. He knelt down on one knee and ran his fingers over the disturbed dirt and dead leaves as though it'd provide some kind of idea as to what happened to her after that.
"Yes, they came from over there," Martha told him pointing towards some trees.
The prince immediately went into investigate the area she'd indicated then hurried back moments later and went straight over to Killian.
"It looks like they were on horseback," Charming announced grimly, "I found some hoof prints heading off towards the castle. One set looks deeper than the others so they must have taken her with them."
"Bloody hell," the pirate cursed as he stood up then continued urgently, "We have to go after her."
He could feel the panic begin to rise within him as he thought of what would happen to her once she reached the castle. The memory of Martha's pain at the mercy of the Staff was still fresh in his mind and his feet were moving before he even realised what he was doing.
"Wait!" called Charming as he grabbed the pirate's arm to stop him, "Think about this, Hook, it's broad daylight. We'll be seen before we get within a few hundred feet of the castle."
"I'll take my chances, I'm not leaving her there," Killian retorted, squaring up to the other man angrily as he jerked his arm roughly from his grasp.
"And neither am I but getting ourselves killed before we even get into the castle isn't going to help her either," the prince countered irately.
"So what are you suggesting we do? Wait until the sun goes down?" the pirate shot back in indignant disbelief, "You know as well as I do that he'd have taken her magic by then and who knows what the bloody hell will happen to her after that."
"I'm just saying that we can't go rushing over there without any kind of plan," Charming reiterated tersely.
"Fine, mate, you stay here and think up a plan. I'll go and get Emma back," Killian rejoined flippantly as he turned then walked away.
Charming stared after him for a moment and let out a soft sigh. The distress and fear had been clear on the pirate's face despite his anger and he'd have be blind not to see the love shining there as well. Suddenly, any lingering doubts he might have had that the other man's feelings for his daughter were anything less than true were effectively laid to rest and he found himself moving after him.
The prince grabbed his arm again when he drew level but this time when Killian went to pull away he gripped him harder and told him quietly, "I love her too, you know."
The pirate stilled, unsure if he'd just heard him correctly. That the prince had just openly acknowledged that he knew Killian loved Emma. That the feelings the pirate had for the Charming's daughter were, in fact, very real. It was such a difference from the way he'd dismissed his pain in Storybrooke that he thought his ears must be playing tricks on him. Turning his head he was shocked to see the sincerity in the prince's face and felt his animosity slip away.
Swallowing hard he nodded and offered the prince a slight smile then said, "I know you do."
Charming smiled back and let go of his arm.
"We'll get her. We just have to think of a different way," he told him firmly.
"Are you two going to hug now or can I tell you what that way will be?" Regina suddenly drawled from across the clearing.
Both men bristled at her sardonic tone and looked over at her with narrowed eyes.
"Does it involve another curse?" Killian queried dryly before looking at Robin and adding glibly, "Because if it does I'd watch yourself, mate."
"No," the Queen snapped, shooting him a glare, "We simply use the tunnel that leads to the dungeons."
"The tunnel. Of course," Charming murmured in realisation. He began to smile as he continued, "Chances are Gisbourne doesn't know about it. It's not easy to find."
"Especially since I placed a concealment spell on it before we enacted the curse," the Queen stated smugly.
"So how do we get there?" Killian cut in impatiently, his eagerness to act now that there seemed to be a viable solution evident as he added, "They're on horseback and already have a good head start on us as it is. We need to get moving."
Regina gave him a contemplative look then turned to Robin's men standing behind her and asked, "Do you have any traps nearby?" Off their nods she continued, "Bring anything you find there back to me alive. And be quick about it."
Gilbert darted a glance a Robin who nodded his assent and the men hurried off to do her bidding.
"What the hell are you doing now?" the pirate demanded to know, his frustration clear.
"I'm hopefully going to help you get to Miss. Swan before Gisbourne takes her magic," the brunette told him curtly.
Before the pirate could say anything further, Gilbert returned carrying two rabbits by their ears.
"Good, that's a start. Put them down and stand back," she ordered brusquely.
The outlaw did as he was told and as soon as the animals touched the ground, Regina held out her hands and closed her eyes in concentration. Gilbert stepped out of the way just as white magic began to swirl around the unsuspecting bunnies. The cloud grew bigger and bigger until it suddenly dissipated to reveal two horses standing there complete with saddles and reins.
Killian's eyes widened and he suddenly grinned. If they pushed their mounts hard enough he estimated that they wouldn't be too far behind the guards by the time they reached the tunnel.
Moments later Arthur and Gamble also returned but they only had one more rabbit between them. Regina frowned unhappily but worked her magic and soon there was another horse beside the other two.
"Good work, men," Robin praised despite the Queen's obvious disapproval, "You'd best get back to camp and get ready to clear out. If we fail, once Gisbourne sees me he'll come looking for you. Head over to the next kingdom for safety and I can find you upon my return should all go well."
His men murmured their agreement to his plan then he turned to Regina and gestured towards the nearest horse.
"Looks as though you're riding with me," he stated with a slight smirk gracing his features.
Regina agreed, albeit after a token, feeble objection that had both the pirate and the prince rolling their eyes as they each took one of the other remaining steeds and got on.
Killian had just settled in the saddle when he felt a hand touch his knee and looked down to see Martha smiling up at him. He felt a momentary pang of guilt that he hadn't even realised she had come with them then her hand began to move slowly up his leather clad thigh and his compunction was quickly replaced with irritation.
"Can I come with you?" she asked a little coyly.
The pirate gave her a tight lipped smile then shook his head as he grasped her hand and removed it from his leg.
"I think you should go with the others," he replied, releasing her, "We'll return soon enough with Emma and then I'll make sure you get back to your home."
Annoyance flashed briefly in her eyes and he thought she might object but then, to his relief, she stepped away.
"We'll see," she commented archly before turning away with a small, quite malevolent smile on her face that sent an unexpected shiver of alarm down his spine.
He was about to ask her just what the hell she meant when Charming suddenly called out to him, "You ready?"
Killian jumped slightly then looked over at him and nodded. With one last frowning glance at Martha's retreating form he then urged his horse into a run and galloped after the others.
It took them just over an hour to reach the entrance of where Regina said the tunnel should be. Her concealment spell obviously worked very well because Killian couldn't see hide nor hair of it no matter how hard he looked.
Robin got off his horse then helped Regina down and she moved away to some trees nearby. With a wave of her hand the air shimmered then part of the forest faded away to reveal the opening to what appeared to be a large cave.
"We'd better hurry. Now that I've lifted the spell they'll be able to see it at the other end too," she informed them before walking into the tunnel closely followed by Robin.
Killian and Charming quickly dismounted then headed inside just as Regina shot a fireball at one of the dormant torches that hung on the wall. It burst into flame lighting the area in a soft glow. Rock surrounded them from the walls to arched ceiling and a dirt covered trail disappeared into the inky blackness beyond. The archer went over and picked up the torch then lit another one and handed it to Charming who held it aloft in order to see which way to go.
They walked swiftly along the path avoiding the sometimes sharp edges of stone that protruded from the walls and doing their best to ignore the damp smell that permeated the air.
A short time later, Regina suddenly stopped and turned to the men.
"Around the corner is where it joins the main tunnel that leads to the dungeons," she told them in a low voice, "You might want to be prepared in case there are any guards."
Killian nodded and unsheathed his sword. Charming followed suit while Robin took his crossbow from his shoulder in readiness of any danger.
They continued on, slightly more cautiously than before and soon they saw the main tunnel a short way in front of them. Killian held up his arm for the others the stop then stealthily inched forward to check for any imminent danger. A guard stood nearby but before Killian could pull back, he saw him.
"Halt!" the sentry ordered.
With a grimace the pirate rapidly closed the gap between them and swung his arm around knocking the guard out cold with his hook before he even had a chance to draw his weapon. The man slumped to the ground, his sword and helmet clattering loudly against the rock causing Killian to still and hold his breath as he waited to see if the noise drew the attention of any other guards. When no one appeared after a few seconds, he began to breathe again then Charming and the others joined him by the unconscious man.
"We need to hurry in case he wakes up," he told them as he bent yanked the guard's sword out of its sheath with his hook.
Charming took it off him then turned to Regina and offered the hilt to her.
"You'd better take this just in case," he said. She took it from him with a nod then he turned back to the pirate and added, "Okay, let's check the cells first, they're not far."
They continued along the tunnel then it opened up into the large cavern that housed the dungeon. To Killian's dismay and worst fear, Emma wasn't there.
"Gisbourne must have her in the castle," he commented worriedly.
"Then we'll find her before he does anything," Charming reassured him.
The pirate gave him a quick nod then they all hurried back the way they came. The guard was still unconscious when the passed him and soon after they reached the stone staircase that led up into the castle.
Robin and Charming dropped their torches and quickly kicked some dirt over the lghts to extinguish the flames.
In single file they made their way up the steps until they reached the top. They were at the rear of the large entrance hall and Killian scanned the area before spying the room he'd found Martha in previously.
"There," he indicated quietly, pointing at the closed door on the other side of the vast hall.
"Go; we've got your back," the prince told him.
The pirate stealthily made his way across the hall with the other three following close behind.
In hindsight Killian should have realised that the absence of any guards was a clue that something wasn't right. However the strong desire to find Emma overruled any kind of common sense and he doubted he would have paid heed to any trepidation he'd have normally felt anyway.
They made it safely to the door then he opened it cautiously and peered inside.
"Emma!" he exclaimed, spying her immediately. She was laying on her side in the middle of the floor.
Heart pounding at the thought that he might already be too late, the pirate pushed the door open wide then sheathed his weapon as he rushed over to her and dropped to his knees by her side. He was dimly aware of the others coming to stand around them as he reached out and laid a hand on her shoulder then rolled her onto her back. Tenderly, he brushed her hair off of her face then ran gentle fingers down her cheek.
"Emma?" he coaxed in a low voice, "Emma, can you hear me?"
There was no response for a moment then her brow creased slightly and she let out a soft moan as her eyes flickered open.
"Hey," she greeted faintly as she focussed on his face and gave him a shaky smile.
Killian let out an unsteady sigh then smiled back at her as he gently cupped her face.
"Are you alright? Gisbourne...he hasn't harmed you, has he?" he asked gazing down at her intently, fearing her answer.
"No, I haven't even seen him," she replied, grimacing slightly as she attempted to sit up, "Last thing I remember is going to get the bag with Martha."
The pirate quickly wrapped his arm around her shoulders and helped her move, letting her lean on him for support. Once she was nestled comfortably against his chest, he closed his eyes briefly as relief flooded through him. Not only was she awake but apparently she was still in possession of her powers as well.
"She said that Gisbourne's guards surprised you," Charming commented as he crouched down and ran an assessing gaze over her, "Where are you hurt?"
"My head," she replied as pain registered upon her features once more.
The prince frowned and ran his hand carefully through her hair searching for any signs of trauma.
"I should have gone with you," Killian murmured, the guilt he felt making his gut churn unpleasantly as she flinched again when her father touched a tender spot at the back of her head, "I'm sorry."
"This isn't your fault," she assured him, reaching out to lay her hand on his arm and giving it a light squeeze.
Not at all appeased, he merely gave her a half smile back then looked at Charming.
"We need to go," he said urgently, "The longer we're here the more likely we are to be discovered."
"It's too late," remarked Robin grimly as the sudden sound of footsteps drew their attention.
Acting quickly, Charming helped Killian get Emma to her feet but before they could move any further castle guards started pouring into the room, swords drawn.
Killian's breath caught then he glanced over at Charming who gave him a troubled look in return.
He knew as well as the pirate did that they were all now well and truly trapped.