Rumplestiltskin strode purposefully towards the woman letting her hear himand hiding his natural appearance. He wanted—needed—her willing cooperation. He kept his visage clean and masculine, adding inches to his image to further step away from his normal look.
“Miss,” he said his voice gravelly. “What can be so wrong to cause ye to cry like this?” He hoped he wasn’t overdoing it. It had been a long time since he worried about making conversation with a human. The language felt foreign on his tongue and he wanted to rinse his mouth out at speaking their foul language.
The woman started. She jumped up and backed away from him. She ran her hands across her face, wiping her tears. She unconsciously ran her hands down her thighs in an attempt to dry her them.
“Who-who are ye?” Her lips quivered, but she spoke clearly. “I’ve never seen ye around here before.”
“I was walking in the woods and I heard ye crying. I had to see who it was
that radiated such sadness.”
“What were ye doing there at night?” she asked incredulously, taking a step back.
He gave her a sheepish grin. “Truth of it? I was lost.” As if, he thought. It was impossible for his kind to be lost in their own woods. They would smell their way back if they had to. He had to hand it to
her, although distraught, she wasn’t taking his half answers at face value.
She obviously didn’t believe him. He cleared his throat. He looked down at his shoes while speaking. “Lost. I, uh, fell and hit me head. When I awoke it was dark and nothing looked the same.” He peeked up at her face to see if she believed him. She didn’t totally believe him, but he could see she wasn’t as afraid as she’d been.
Good. He needed her badly. “So what has a lady like yourself crying so?” Ye gods, he hated their foul language.
“It’s me Da. He’s, he’s—” she couldn’t finish before another sob tore at her throat.
He saw her swallow and the pressure to swallow her sadness whole in one big gulp was nearing a crescendo. He had to tamp down his urges. He didn’t want to be poisoned. “Your Da is making ye cry
like this?” He could barely speak as the need to feed surged through his body.
“Aye, something is terribly wrong. I’m sorry, I don’t know ye and I’m dumping me problems on ye.” She sniffed trying to hold back the torrent, for which he was grateful. She was dumping more than she knew on him.
“I’m something of an apothecary back home. Did ye want me to look at him?” He almost snickered. His way of dealing with the sick was kill them. He smiled as pleasantly as he could instead.
“Oh, would ye?” relief flooded her, tamping down the sadness. He blew out a breath. It would be easy enough to bring her sadness back when he was ready. For now, this bought him time to trick her into
willingly give him her magical essence.
“I would feel remiss if I didn’t help a-a bonny lass like yourself.” Now she’d know he was a fake for sure. He’d tripped over bonny lass. He thought she was ugly with her smooth skin and small chin. Although her eyes were interesting. It was rare to see such a dark blue in these parts.
She smiled prettily at him and turned toward the small cottage in the clearing. She walked away a few steps before looking back. “Are ye coming?” She smiled, but the sadness was back in her face.
Good. He couldn’t let her lose it completely. He nodded his head and took a step as if to follow her to reassure her that he was coming. He put his hands in his coat to hide them as they walked. He didn’t want her to see the way he had them clenched. It was the only way to release some of the tension that being next to her caused.
A short time later, she hesitantly opened the door to her cottage. She paused with it opened only a few inches, and turned to him. “I-I.” she cleared her throat. “I feel as if I need to prepare ye for the sight you are about to see. He’s become gruesome. I don’t know what happened. One day me Da was fine, the next like this.”
He felt her sorrow well up anew and felt the pinpoints of his nails prick his skin. In truth, this woman was strong in magic. Yet, he sensed she knew nothing about it. How was he going to get her to willingly give up her magic if she didn’t even know she had it? He felt a low growl start in his throat and quickly covered it up with a cough.
“Excuse me, lass. I’m afraid I’m not as young as I used to be.”
She nodded and stepped into the house. She still held the door relatively closed. He watched her take in a deep breath. In. Out. Oh how his head reeled with each outpouring of despair and hopelessness. He put a shoulder on the doorjamb as if he was relaxed when he was anything but. He felt as drunk as if he’d drunk their secret recipe honey mead.
Trying to clear the dizziness from his head, he looked around her to the main room. There was a bed set up next to the fire and a large body filled it. Her dad looked larger than life from this angle. He breathed in to help him think clearer. If she’s magic, then she had to have gotten it from somewhere. Could her Da be magic as well?
He stepped into the room, walking closer to the bed with its invalid looking patient on it. He strode around so he could see the face and knew that it was a good thing the lass expected a different sort of reaction than normal. Otherwise, she’d know something was hugely wrong.
A harsh gasp escaped him as he looked down on the visage of one of the elders from his tribe. One thought to be lost over twenty years previous. He felt prickly, as if someone were watching him. He looked up quickly. It was her. She was afraid that he’d leave in a screaming fit. Her fear rocked him.
He allowed a small gasp to escape. Her father was a boggart. Somehow, he must have hidden his true self from her all these years since she was so utterly distraught now. She was looking upon him anxiously.
“Can ye help him?” He looked at her hands wringing and felt the drool pooling
under his tongue.
“Aye. But it will cost ye.” He finally rasped out.
“I’ll pay anything. Just help him.”
“Ye say that quick before knowing what it is that I may ask of ye.”
“I do na have much to give ye. If it is too much, I will na be able to pay. If I have it, I will give it. It is a simple thing really. I love me Da and I want him better.”
He smiled. He knew it was a predator’s smile, but he let it loose anyway. “I want the magic ye carry within. Give it to me freely. I will make your Da look as good as he was.”
She scoffed. “Me Magic? I have na any magic to give ye. I am a simple woman.”
“Then what have ye to lose, lass?” He said mildly, even though he could feel his
heart beat in his hands. Thump. Thump.
“I do na want to cheat one gracious enough to help a stranger such as me.” She looked at him with fear and sadness.
“Ye would na be cheating me when it is what I ask of ye. Do we have an accord?” He stretched out his hand in the human fashion. She looked at it. Her sadness and fear making her heart run rampant. He felt every beat along his spine.
With obvious reluctance she placed her hand in his.
“Aye, we have an accord.” Her hand clasped in his, he immediately began to feed from her, ripping her magic as fast as he could. He felt ill. She began to fear him and struggled for release. Her fear only made him stronger. He put his other hand on her arm.
She pulled all of her weight against him, but it was to no avail. He had her. Abright green light began to form in miniature lightning shapes from her arm to his hands. The hunger that had pulsated at him since first smelling her sadness began to take as well.
She was crying in pain, fear and sadness. Her hopelessness nearly dropped him to his knees with the
pleasure of it. To be able to push those feelings deeper while feeding off them was a high like no other. He let go of her and went over to her father. The father had slept through it all. Rumplestiltskin laughed.
He waved a hand over the father’s face and it went back to the form that was cleaner and more human. He had to fix it or her magic would cause him to implode. Reneging on your word where magic was concerned wasn’t a healthy practice.
His body swelled up as the power flowed through him. She was rich and she still had more to give him. She was part boggart if her claim of kinship was true. Her power would sustain him for years to come. Maybe he should tell her of her heritage.
No, it was better this way. She might find out one day, but in the meantime, he had a veritable feast in her. One he could feed off daily. He met her tear filled eyes and let his true form show. “I am not as I seem. Ye have given me your magic and I’m even more powerful than I was before. Now, I will feast from your sadness. Ye will be mine to feed from. Mine alone. When your dad wakes, he may know what has happened, but he will be unable to reverse it.”
He laughed again.
He sucked in a deep breath. Yes. Her scent was growing sweeter as sadness filled her being. Even though her Da’s visage had changed back, she now knew the truth—he was a creature of the night.
“Aye,” he breathed. “Give me more. I want to suck your energy.” Every pore felt alive. He knew he had enough to last him days, just as he knew he’d be back tomorrow. And every day.
But he wasn’t finished. The control he’d exerted in waiting for the permission he needed to take her magic had infuriated him and he intended to draw every ounce of despair and hopelessness out of her before he left this night.
He closed his eyes and breathed. The taste, so sweet. The high he felt was new. He didn’t stop until he felt her energy dwindling. He didn’t want her to die. He slowly stopped the energy exchange and opened his eyes. Eyes he scarcely believed. No longer was there a young human lass before him, but a pale imitation. He’d sucked her human life dry, but she was part boggart. Therefore, she lived.
She finally realized that the horrible pain had stopped and stood up to look at him. Her lips shook as she spoke. “What are ye? What is me Da? Ye look like he did before
ye—” she couldn’t finish.
He let his pointy teeth show when he grinned. “We are boggart. The boogieman from ye childhood.” He knew she was no longer as human as when he’d come upon her, but he didn’t care. He fed off the misery of boggarts as easily as the humans. He turned away, shrugging until she spoke.
“Ye will na feed from me again. If ye try, I will kill ye.” She turned and fled out the door, raising the hood on her long cloak as she left. Even though he was right behind her, he couldn’t distinguish her in the night.
“I will find ye again, lass,” he whispered. “I will find ye.”