The haze of sleep rests thickly on David Nolan’s shoulders, but still he pushes to his feet in search of the same something that’s continued to elude him for days, weeks, months and years (if he really thinks about it). Clad in no more than a pair of loose trousers and a sleeping shirt, he leaves the main building and sets out.
He is looking.
There will be a troll bridge in the distance and if he arrives there, he’ll be able to find Snow. Or, perhaps, he’s searching to stop her. In sleep, without the blocks that waking provides, he finds that everything joins together to cause chaos in his mind. It’s as if a storybook has fallen apart at the spine, sending its pages scattering on the floor – and everything is happening at once. He finds himself overwhelmed by prerogatives…
Stop the curse before she can take their baby away…
He must stop Snow from killing the Queen and becoming as wicked…
“It seemed like the honourable…”
“I will always find you.”
The urgency of these memories pressing against his mind all at once drives him forward swifter than ever. There is a danger beyond the realm of his knowledge and while he isn’t aware of what it is, he sets his mind to solving it. It is a task that he refuses to fail by, especially when love is on the line and a kingdom need be saved. He follows winding paths until he realizes that he won’t find a hiding being in the open. No, he must go into the woods.
Entering the forests unarmed seems an erroneous task. Still in the throes of a sleep-mussed state, he finds his way off the path and finds a weapon, gleaming and stuck in the ground. The minute that his hand slides over the hilt of this golden sword, something comes back to him. It strikes him as if an enemy blow, leaving him staggering to find his footing once more.
“Prince James,” he murmurs, and while it doesn’t sound wholly right, it’s better than Nolan. “James…”
Charming, he hears, whispered as if in a woman’s voice that he knows. He turns, looking for friend or foe joining him on this journey, but finds none. Every moment that passes is another moment that brings further confusion into his midst, but the story begins to arrange itself in his mind. The gaps are large, but narrowing. The sword rests heavy in his hand, the metal cold against his skin. It’s a familiar feeling, though he feels a certain sense of scorn at the gold.
Midas, speaks his memory. King Midas gifted that sword to your brother.
But that’s ridiculous, because he doesn’t have a brother. He’s never known a brother, though it would have been handy when the farm needed the extra hands. He pushes through the foliage like a man determined, focused on finding the end to this strange story. He is still thick with sleep, the world’s focus narrowed to a practical pin-prick, but it is enough.
It is enough to see the looming danger ahead. It is certainly enough to see the dragon’s fire-laden breath, smoke tingeing the edges as it puffs out from beyond the caves. Panicked, frightened, confused, he presses his back to the nearest surface (cold and made of stone) and he composes himself as another barrage of memories hits him like a well-aimed catapult.
He remembers being held back. He remembers the golden sword in a sheath while guards around him die and still they won’t let him help.
Prince James needs to stay alive.
“But I’m not him.”
You are, now.
“I’m not,” he insists sharply, gripping the hilt of the heavy sword with both hands. He’s breathing harder than before, but it’s starting to come back to him. He has to do the honorable thing and if he doesn’t, he never sets himself on the path that brings him to…
“Snow,” he says aloud, awareness starting to creep back in.
It propels him into motion. He pushes away from the cave wall, charging around the corner as he angles the sword, a piercing cry loosed as loud as he can. He swings the sword, brings down the dragon, the head falling off and fumbling to the ground. His breath is caught in his chest and he staggers backwards, dropping the sword to the ground as he falls to his knees and takes this moment to let it all catch up to him.
And then, as if brought out of a cursed spell…
Prince Charming wakes up.
He remembers. Overwhelmed, he tries to put it all in order as if flicking through the pages of a storybook, but they’re no longer blank. There is a beginning and an ending, though he’s still missing parts of the middle, but that doesn’t matter because he remembers. He remembers his name. He remembers why he’s wielding a gold sword and he knows about the dragon’s head lying half-covered in tropical leaves before him.
James’ first instinct is to get to Snow. She’s here, but the Queen’s curse must be stronger than he’d thought possible. While he’s been struggling to earn back every memory, she seems to be unable to pierce through the fog. It begs the question: is he truly free of the curse or has the Queen worked some of her magic and simply changed the setting.
When he was lying on the palace floor, he must have been transported to the new world in that half-dead state. He remembers Snow kissing him, pleading with him, and he remembers…
“Oh, god,” he lets loose a panicked sob, falling further to the ground as grief wrenches through him and grabs hold of him tightly. “Emma. Emma, Emma,” he whispers, as if repeating her name again and again will somehow undo all the wrongs that have been done to her – his perfect, precious, wonderful baby girl.
She’s here with them. It almost seems too pert and perfect to be without order.
If this is the Queen’s plan, then James can’t tip his hand. There’s work to be done. If he starts with Snow and seeks a solution to her stricken memories, perhaps he can find more clues as to why she hasn’t remembered and if this is a continued cruel trick of her rotten majesty. James rises to his feet, steadying himself carefully and brushing away the tears from off his cheeks. He has to remember this: He is David Nolan to the rest of the island. If the Queen has her spies here, then David Nolan he will remain.
Answers will be found, but first he tends to the practical.
What’s a man to do with a decapitated dragon?