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Chapter Thirty-One: Centre of the Labyrinth

"This is hopeless."

Killian looked at Emma in surprise. She wasn't one to give up hope. She usually was the one to cling onto hope with every fibre in her being. She was the one who had fought tooth and nail to get her son back from Pan, she worked through all her issues with her parents and the discovery of what her powers could really do, she had sacrificed herself to save a friend, and had given up the powers of the Dark One to save him. She was his beacon of hope and if she had lost that spirit, then Killian wasn't sure what to do.

"Don't say that luv. We just have to keep searching for an exit."

"We have been searching. We've been searching for ages."

"Maybe time doesn't work the same in this labyrinth as it does outside it. Maybe no time at all has passed in Storybrooke."

"If I were Hades, I would make sure to sideline the one thing that could stop me." Emma leaned against the wall and lifted her head to the sky. It was still that mottled red and brown, with grey and black clouds obscuring what little light was filtering through. "I didn't think that it would end this way."

Killian walked over to her and took her hand. "This isn't our end."

"It is though," Emma said. "It has to be. How can it not?"

"Luv…"

"All stories have to end one day. Henry told me so himself. It's something the Author knows. That someday, somewhere, the story will just end…"

"Stories end," Killian agreed. "But life continues. Our life will continue."

"Killian,"

"No luv," he countered. "I will not let you give up. Not now. Not when we're so close. We have a plan. You have the Promethean Fire, you are going to use it against Hades. And then you're going to get Regina to split your heart and anchor my soul to my body again. We are going to get our own place and then…"

"And then what?" Emma saw the look that passed over his face. It was the same look that he had earlier, when they had discovered that they really were one another's true love. She had let it go then, but she wasn't going to let it go again. "Killian?"

He shook his head. "Now isn't the time."

"Now may be the only time," she countered. "So tell me what is on your mind."

Killian looked bashful, and uncomfortable. Emma had never seen him look so out of sorts. Her heart thudded in her chest as he took a step closer to her. A part of her wondered if he was going to ask what she thought he was going to ask… what a part of her hoped he would ask… but then their whole world shook and the moment passed.

"What was that?" She held her sword out in front of her and looked up and down the hall of the labyrinth. "Was it Hades?"

"No luv," Killian said in a stage whisper. "I think it was that."

Emma turned to see the giant minotaur standing just feet from them. Both she and Killian began to walk backwards, slowly and carefully so as to not startle the monster. But, Emma tripped over a piece of rubble that was lying on the ground. The Minotaur grunted and turned in their direction.

"Killian," Emma said as she brought up her sword. "Run."

"Not without you," he countered.

Killian sheathed his own sword, took Emma by the hand, and dragged her off down the labyrinthine path. They could hear the course and heavy breathing of the Minotaur behind them, but never once did they stop to look over their shoulders. They sprinted as fast as they could, eventually letting go of their hands so that they could run faster.

Emma skidded around a corner and nearly bowled into Killian as they encountered a dead end. Her stomach plummeted, but her instincts tightened. She whirled around, raised her sword, and prepared to fight the Minotaur.

Killian on the other hand, had other ideas. He had spied some handholds in the wall, and even though it was difficult going with his hook, he was able to hoist himself over.

"Emma!" He called out. She looked up at him, and then quickly reached for his outstretched hook. Her hands connected with the cold metal, and using every bit of strength she had, she hoisted herself up so that she was sitting atop the wall with Killian.

The Minotaur shot forward and rammed into the wall as soon as Emma was out of its path. Its horns sunk into the soft earth of the labyrinth and it began to struggle.

"Serves it right," Killian muttered as he dropped down to the ground on the other side of the wall.

Emma looked sadly at the Minotaur. This was one myth that she did know. The Minotaur was a product of an unwanted pregnancy forced upon a mortal girl by the Gods. It wasn't his fault that he was a monster. Maybe he wouldn't have become one if he had experienced love when he had been young.

Using her magic she freed the Minotaur from the wall. It looked up at her, and Emma was almost sure that she could see a thankful look in its eye before it turned and ambled away.

She dropped down on the other side of the wall to find that Killian was holding his sword against the throat of a bare chested man. His skin was tan, and he wore a leather kilt around his waist and hips. Leather sandals were on his feet and a ball of glowing twine was in one of his hands.

"Theseus," she said, startling Killian.

"What's that luv?"

"Theseus," she repeated. "As in Theseus and the Minotaur. This is the Greek Hero who slew the creature at the centre of the labyrinth."

"Did that creature look dead to you?"

"The Minotaur is dead," Theseus said in a scratchy whisper, clearly unable to speak louder due to the sword at his throat. "And so am I."

Emma placed her hand on Killian's arm and had him lower down the sword. "Why are you here?"

"To give you this." Theseus held out the ball of twine. "It will lead you through the labyrinth."

"And why are you doing this?" Killian inquired.

"Because the Gods do not want to see Hades enact his evil plan."

"So why don't they do something?"

"They would love to," Theseus explained. "But their power has been waning in the past three thousand years since they were truly believed in. Their influence doesn't stretch out into the realms the way that it used to."

"Hades seems to be doing quite well."

"Hades had help." Theseus paused and looked at Emma who cast her gaze to the ground. "And besides, all souls end up in the Underworld, thus always giving Hades new minions to draw power from."

"Is that what he used to do?" Emma asked. "Draw his power from the Souls of the Dead?"

Theseus nodded. "And now, thanks to the Elemental Key he plans on destroying all the realms and remaking them in his own image."

"What does that mean?" Killian asked.

"It means that everything and everyone will cease to exist," Theseus answered.

Emma swallowed and tried to compress her growing fear into a small ball inside her chest. "So what do we do?"

Theseus put the ball of twine in her hand. "Get out of here. And stop him."

With that said, Theseus winked out of existence, almost as though he had never been standing there. Emma was left staring at the spot where he had just been, but Killian was staring at the ball of twine in her hand.

"How is that thing supposed to help us get out of here?" he asked.

Almost as though it had heard him, the ball of twine leapt from Emma's hand and began rolling away on its own, leaving a trail of twine for them to follow.

"I guess like that," Emma said resolutely, before following where the twine lead them.