"Let's try this one," Charming directed as he moved ahead of Killian and opened a door to his right.
He and Regina had accompanied the pirate upstairs in order to help him secure a place for Emma to rest. Robin had elected to stay behind and keep a watchful eye on the guards that were dutifully filing out of the castle. The fact that it was to avoid being in Regina's company didn't escape anyone's notice, least of the former queen herself, but Killian paid little mind to that. He was more concerned with Emma.
The pirate gave the prince a curt nod of gratitude as he walked past him and into the large bedchamber beyond. After a cursory glance around he headed over to a huge four-poster bed that sat against the far wall.
He carefully lay Emma down on the soft mattress, concern furrowing his brow when he noticed that the she looked almost as pale as the white silken sheets that she rested upon. He sat down on the edge of the bed and took a moment to gently brush some hair back off her brow then turned to look at the prince.
"I'm going to stay with her until she awakens," he told him, his tone brooking no argument.
To his credit, Charming merely nodded as though he'd expected nothing less.
"I'll go back down and give Robin a hand," the prince decided then glanced over at Regina and asked, "Are you staying here?"
"What do you think?" she snapped caustically.
Charming wisely didn't comment and with one last nod at Killian, he left the room then headed downstairs.
Once in the entrance hall, the prince walked over to Robin who was standing off to one side watching the last of Gisbourne's men file silently out of the castle.
"Everything okay?" he asked.
"Yes," the archer replied swiftly, "They have been remarkably co-operative."
"The threat of being turned into beetles can do that," the prince commented wryly, glancing around.
"Indeed," Robin responded, his mouth settling into a grim line.
The unspoken acknowledgement that Regina had been the one to make such a warning to the departing men hung uncomfortably in the air between them. Neither wished to discuss the queen and it was with part relief, part trepidation that the men's attention was suddenly seized by a swirl of dark blue smoke unexpectedly materialising a few feet in front of them.
Charming immediately drew his sword and took a couple of paces nearer only to relax his stance seconds later when the mist dissipated to reveal a friend and not a foe as he'd feared.
"Martha, what are you doing here?" he asked in surprise as he sheathed his weapon once more, "I thought Killian told you to wait back at the camp."
The witch gave him an oddly tight smile and nodded.
"He did, but when I got my magic back I knew you must have defeated Gisbourne and it would be safe for me to come and see him," she lied smoothly.
In truth she'd been stood undetected at the door the whole time. She knew that Emma hadn't remembered what had happened to her and then borne witness to the blonde destroying the staff and all that had unfolded thereafter. To say she was furious at what the other woman in particular had done was an understatement. She'd had her own plans for that gem and to see them thwarted in such an absolute way had made it difficult not to deal out retribution there and then. She valued her life, however, and knew that it would surely end should she attempt anything so openly. While they were still ignorant of her betrayal it was safe to have this one last act of vengeance before she disappeared for good. She was going to enjoy it too and if she was very fortunate, she just might get the pirate after all. A broken man could be so easily manipulated after all.
"He's with Emma at the moment," the prince explained, feeling a little awkward as he glanced at the stairs, "She's resting."
She noted his obvious unease with some irritation and had to forcibly restrain herself from blasting him clear across the hall.
"Please, I know that any...hopes I had in regards to Killian are for naught," she assured him in a suitably disappointed tone, "I'm well aware of where his feelings lie but I should very much like to see him one last time in order to say goodbye before I leave. Surely you would not deny me that?"
"No. Of course not," he replied after a moment then gestured towards the steps and added, "Turn left at the top then third door on the right."
The witch gave him a smile of thanks and quickly walked off. Charming stared after her a moment then turned back just as the captain of Gisbourne's old guard approached.
"Sire, might I speak with you with the utmost urgency?" he requested quietly.
The prince's eyes narrowed at the other man's secretive tone and nodded.
"What is it?"
The captain's gaze darted to where Martha had gone then back to Charming before he revealed, "That woman...do not trust her. She is not a friend to you...or anyone."
"What are you talking about?" the prince asked in confusion.
"She is...was not only my Lord Gisbourne's sorceress but also his mistress. She is the one that found Myrddin's staff through nefarious means and there is nothing but deceit and betrayal running through her veins," he declared with heat.
"Why should I believe you?" Charming challenged dubiously.
"Why would I lie? It serves me no purpose and I do not owe her loyalty," the captain countered bitterly, "I just know that there is no good reason for her to still be here and if she has gone to see the lady who was used to bait you then I fear the young maiden will not survive long after her visit. It was Martha's idea to use her to lure you all here. It was also she that knocked the lady out so that we might capture her."
Charming stared at him in growing horror as the enormity of the other man's words began to sink in. Suddenly, he turned away and called over at Robin to follow him. The archer complied as he took the stairs two at a time, hoping against hope that he wasn't to late to stop whatever Martha had planned.
Upstairs in the bed chamber, silence reigned for a few moments after Charming had left the room to go and see Robin. Killian turned back to Emma, quite happy to ignore the disgruntled woman that stood across from him. Regina, however, had other ideas and stalked across the flagstone floor, the clacking of her heels echoing sharply off the walls in her haste.
Going around to the opposite side of the bed, she leaned over the motionless blonde and began to rifle through the pockets of the red jacket she wore.
"What are you doing?" Killian asked, standing up with a glare of aggravation.
"What does it look like?" she retorted starkly, "Your little friend said that Emma still had my bag of ingredients. I don't know about you but opening up that portal sooner rather than later seems like a verygood idea to me."
The pirate's jaw ticked in barely contained annoyance and he was about to object further when she let out an irritated huff of vexation and took a step back.
"It's not here," she muttered in frustration, "Gisbourne must have taken it."
Killian shook his head when the queen suddenly spun on her heel and headed out the room without a backward glance. The brunette's manner was abrasive at the best of times and he knew now that she and Robin were at odds that those times were obviously over. Whether it would be permanently was another thing altogether.
With a soft sigh, he quickly dismissed the other couple's trouble from his mind and turned back to Emma. To his relief he saw that the colour had begun to return to her cheeks and sat himself down at her side once more. Reaching out, he took one of her hands in his and clasped it gently as he waited patiently for her to wake.
Scarcely a moment or two later the door to the bed chamber suddenly flew open and hit the wall with a resounding crack. Shocked, Killian immediately got to his feet and drew his sword in one fluid movement, ready for an attack.
His eyes widened momentarily then narrowed in trepidation when he saw Martha stride purposefully into the room. Upon her lips was the same evil little smile that she'd graced him with when he'd rejected her offer to accompany him to the castle. The sight of it sent a shiver of apprehension careering down his spine, even more so when she then levelled her chilling gaze directly at him.
The distant sound of running footsteps and Charming shouting out the witch's name had her tear her gaze from his and glance over her shoulder in annoyance. With barely a movement of her wrist the door slammed shut again and a silvery glow surrounded the handle, locking it in place.
"I see you have your magic back," Killian commented mildly, covering up the fact that his heart was racing as he took in the situation with an ever growing sense of dread.
"I never lost it," she informed him archly, "It was all a ruse to get you to take me with you."
Stunned, the pirate could only stare back at her for a moment, a heavy weight settling in his chest at her words.
"You've been working for Gisbourne all along," the pirate remarked with a dawning realisation just as a loud pounding started up on the door.
Both of them darted looks at the wooden structure and he, for one, welcomed the distraction of hearing the muffled voices of Charming and Robin calling his name as they tried to break it down. Even though the spell Martha had placed upon the lock could not be breached, the disturbance gave him time to gather his scattered wits once more.
"Not for him, with him," Martha finally responded disparagingly when there was a lull in the noise. She slowly walked towards him and continued, "He and I had a deal. He promised me the staff once he'd had his revenge and I promised myself...you." She paused but when his only reaction was a mere lift of an eyebrow she glanced at the still sleeping saviour and added in a venomous sneer, "I don't take kindly to being thwarted in my desires...and it's all down to her."
"Leave Emma out of this," he immediately cautioned, his grip tightening around the hilt of his weapon as he raised it level with her heart.
"Where's the fun in that?" the witch queried with sardonic laugh, "She's already took one thing from me, I'll not let her take the other."
"I'm not yours to take," Killian retorted grimly.
"True, but I never was much bothered by trifling details such as that," she replied with a tilt of her head. She keenly eyed him up and down before continuing with a hint of disappointment colouring her tone, "Although it would have been much easier if you'd just taken the potion I gave you."
Killian's mouth turned up into a mirthless smile and he shook his head.
"Even if I had foolishly yielded in a moment of weakness and drunk your poison to forget Emma completely, we would still find ourselves in the exact same situation," he taunted derisively, "One look and I would have fallen for her all over again."
"Which is why the elixir I gave you was not for that purpose but to make you more...compliant to my wishes instead," she revealed with another quick glance over his body, "I needed a way to reach the Evil Queen and once I found out that the infamous Captain Hook was back, I knew you would be the one to help me, even if I had to force you."
The pirate grimaced and tilted his head back defiantly under her unwelcome perusal. Her admittance sickened him and he was even more grateful that he'd not succumbed to what he'd thought was an easy fix to his then broken heart.
"You are..." he began with a snarl of disgust only to be cut off by the sound of splintering wood as the door suddenly exploded inwards.
Martha immediately turned in surprise, her face twisting into a vile mask of loathing when Regina marched in closely followed by a frantic looking Charming and Robin.
"I thought it was strange that my locator spell indicated that the unicorn horn was in this room but when they told me you were in here it all made sense," the former queen growled menacingly as she kicked aside pieces of wood that were still burning a low flame from what was obviously an impressive fireball, "Now, give me that bag or I swear I'll turn you into the deceitful snake that you are."
"That is a name more suited to you than I," Martha retorted then flung out her arms and sent out a surge of magic strong enough to blast not only Regina, but Robin and Charming back against the wall as well.
They hit the unyielding stone with such a force that it winded them for a moment, the weapons slipping from the men's hands with a loud clatter. Slowly, they all sunk to the floor with pained groans and lay there trying to regain their breath.
Endeavouring to take advantage of her distraction Killian swiftly stepped forward and lunged at Martha but she wasn't to be caught out and turned at the last moment. He felt his sword being ripped from his hand and stared in dismay as it flew across the room way out of reach.
"How very unwise of you," the witch intoned angrily, then raised her hands ready to hit him with the same powerful force that had incapacitated his friends.
"Hook! Get back!" Charming suddenly yelled causing both the pirate and the witch to look over at him.
The bean that Anton had given the prince had fallen out of his pocket when he'd slumped to the floor. Ignoring his protesting body he'd reached out and grabbed it then forced himself to stand as an idea struck. Bean clutched in his hand he called out a warning then threw the magical talisman at Martha before sinking back down to his knees in pain.
The bean sailed over the witch's head then fell to the ground and the air shifted around them as a portal the colour of obsidian rapidly widened behind her.
Killian's eyes widened in alarm. The prince had opened up a gateway to the Underworld. The pirate had only ever seen the like once before and it hadn't ended well for a few of his crew. Triggering a portal to that damnable place was unpredictable at best and he knew very well that he should get away as quick as he could.
A mass of inky smoke appeared from its centre, writhing and twisting as if alive and before Martha could even think about moving, long tendrils of pitch black snaked outwards and wrapped themselves tightly around her legs. She let out a shriek of horror as it pulled her feet from under her and tried to use her magic but to no avail. Flailing wildly, she toppled forward and tried to grab onto to something that would stop her from being dragged into the portal.
When he saw what was happening Killian turned, his long coat flying out behind him just as Martha fell. Her reaching hands found his leather and held on tightly jerking him back with a painful wrench. He staggered for a moment trying to keep upright and looked over his shoulder to see the witch clinging onto his coat for dear life. He tried to move but as the blackness swiftly pulled Martha closer to its unwelcoming embrace, it dragged him with it until he lost his balance and fell heavily on the ground.
Scrambling for purchase he slammed his hook down on the stone floor but the metal merely carved a deep groove in the unrelenting rock and did nothing to slow the inexorable pull of the portal.
He felt Martha grab his leg, increasing her hold on him and he kicked out frantically trying to get her to let go. Whether it was by sheer adrenaline alone or something more magical, her grasp held firm and it was then that he started to panic. He glanced down and saw that she was halfway in the portal now. He was aware that Charming and the others were staggering to their feet as quickly as they could but he knew that everything was happening too fast for them to reach him in time.
He struggled against her again, his heart pounding as he vainly tried to find a lip in the stone, a crack, anything for his hook to catch onto but it was useless. He heard Charming call his name then suddenly he saw a flash of red leather and blonde hair. He barely had time to comprehend what was happening when Martha let out a startled cry as Emma's boot connected surely with the witch's face, knocking her out cold.
Her grip on his legs loosened instantly and he quickly scrambled away. Panting hard from his near miss, he sat and watched as Martha's unconscious body became enshrouded with even more of the insidious mist then was pulled abruptly into the portal.
There followed a sudden rush of wind as the vortex sped up then the next moment it was gone.
Killian looked up as Emma rushed to his side and grabbed his arm in order to help him as he pushed himself to stand, her gaze running avidly over him.
"Are you okay?" she asked worriedly, reaching out to gently cup his face.
He gave her a faint smile and nodded.
"Aye, love. And you?" he queried noting her still slightly pale features with some concern.
"Better now she's gone" she assured him with a grimace, "I'm pretty sure she's the one that knocked me out."
"It seems likely given what I now know about her treachery," Killian replied grimly, "I should have realised sooner."
"There was no way you could've known," Emma told him firmly, "I'm just glad it's all over."
She wrapped her arms around his waist and he automatically pulled her tighter into his embrace. She buried her face into his neck and he rested his head against hers, allowing himself a moment to breathe her in and relish the comfort she offered.
Emma might be willing to overlook his failure again but Killian wasn't about to do the same. First his cursed lips had cost her her magic, now he brought a witch into their midst that had almost cost her her life.
He knew what everyone else in the room must be thinking...that this was all his fault.
He kept making dire mistakes and Emma deserved better than that. She needed a man worthy of her love standing by her side. A hero just as she was and for the first time since they'd met he realised that no matter what how hard he tried, it was never going to be him.