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The enchanted compass is a powerful magical item that, should one enter an unstable portal, allows you to pick and choose what land you end up in.
After the Curse
Emma, Snow, Mulan and Aurora tie Hook to a tree and the blonde whistles for the ogres. As they leave, Aurora wonders if he's telling the truth but Emma insists that they're not. Hook finally admits that they've bested him and introduces himself as Hook. They find his hook in his satchel and Hook explains that Cora wanted him to learn everything about Storybrooke from them. He tells them that Cora has the ashes from the wardrobe and asks them to cut him loose. Mulan doesn't want to considering all of the lives that he took and Emma agrees, but Hook says that they want the same thing: to get back to their own lands. He offers them his help if they take him along. When Mary Margaret wonders how he can help them, Hook says that Cora needs an enchanted compass and he'll help them get it first. Emma seizes on the opportunity but Mary Margaret isn't convinced. As the ogres close in, Emma asks why Hook wants to go to Storybrooke and he says that he wants revenge on Rumplestiltskin. Later, Hook takes the women through the woods, saying the compass is just over the next ridge. Emma and Mary Margaret figures that it's a trap but that they can handle it as long as they know it's a trap. Over the next ridge, they find a giant beanstalk leading up into the clouds. Hook warns them that they need to worry about the giant at the top and they proceed onward. ("The Doctor")
The four ladies are stunned at the sight of the giant beanstalk leading all the way to the clouds. Killian explains to them that once they have the compass, they can steal the ashes from Cora and make their way to Storybrooke. He then tells them that the beanstalk is enchanted to repel intruders, and he has two bracelets that counter the spell. The women are therefore forced to decide which one of them goes up with Killian, and Emma is ultimately chosen. She tells Mulan before she goes, however, that if she isn't back in ten hours, she can cut down the beanstalk. Mulan gives Emma a powder to put the giant to sleep, and then creates a sun clock, and she and the two remaining ladies take turns sleeping while Emma goes to the giant's castle. On the climb up, Killian takes the opportunity to psycho-analyze Emma, realizing that she's always keeping a barrier up to protect herself. Once they reach the castle, they are able to draw the giant out of the castle, and Emma uses the powder to put him to sleep. Inside, amidst the many treasures, they look for the compass, but the giant awakens suddenly and grabs Emma. He tries to squeeze her to death, but she bites down on his finger and he drops her. Emma is able to lure him to one of his own traps, and she then learns from the giant that his kind was slayed by the humans, which is why he despises them. Emma tells him not all humans are the same, and therefore spares his life, claiming that she only wants the compass in order to get home to her son. The giant sets himself free, however, but rather than getting back at her, he allows her to escape with the compass... and keeps Hook there so that she can get a head start. Back on the ground, Mulan starts chopping down the beanstalk, which horrifies Snow, but Emma gets down safe and sound and they are able to resume their adventure. ("Tallahassee")
When Hook finally makes his way down the beanstalk, Cora is there to receive him, annoyed at his betrayal. She demands to be given the compass, and Hook tells her that Emma bested him and took it. Cora tells him there are consequences to him having chosen Emma instead of her, and adds that now she will leave him in that land without ever quenching his thirst for revenge. She then sets off to make matters into her own hands and uses her magic to breathe life back into the hearts of the people she killed in the haven, and make them rise and find the quartet of heroines. Aurora is eventually taken by the undead, and Cora plans on using her as an exchange coin, trading her for the compass she seeks. Aurora doesn't think Emma and Snow will oblige, but Cora states that they can't help saving the innocent, regardless of the personal cost. Cora also wonders why Aurora wants to help, and realizes that the princess is hoping to go to Storybrooke as well; the evil witch then tells her she could help her bring Phillip's soul back, but Aurora refuses to play along. Cora knocks her out, and sends a message to Snow that she will kill the princess if they don't bring her the compass by sundown. However, Hook makes it to the haven and frees Aurora, making it clear that he's on Emma's side. Meanwhile, Snow speaks with Charming in the netherworld, and learns of Gold's advice to stun Cora. After Mary Margaret wakes up, horrified to have learnt that David put himself under a sleeping curse as well, Emma is forced to comfort her and get her to calm down... until they realize that Mulan's run off with the compass. They intercept her and Snow fights Mulan for it, much to Emma's surprise, until Aurora shows up and stops the violence, telling them that Hook set her free because he likes Emma. Cora is enraged when she learns of what Hook did, and plans on killing him, until he stops her by claiming to have a gift... which is none other than Aurora's heart, taken by him, which Cora can use to control the princess and get a leg up in her plan to retrieve the compass and head to Storybrooke. ("Into the Deep")
Emma, Mary Margaret, Mulan and Aurora make it to the cell that once contained Rumplestiltskin, and search for the squid ink they need. However, Aurora, under Cora's thrall, manages to detain all four of them, locking them inside the cell, just as the powerful witch and Hook show up to retrieve the compass. Cora and Hook make it to the dry area that once contained Lake Nostos, the lake whose waters are said to possess the power to bring things back that once were lost. Cora therefore plans to use the lake's waters to make the magic of the wardrobe dust work again, and with a few swirls of her fingers, she cracks through the ground with magic and a fountain of water springs from under it. Snow White is able to use Rumple's squid ink to break through the cell's spikes, and they make it to the site of Lake Nostos, just in the nick of time to stop the two villains from jumping through the portal: Mary Margaret shoots the compass out of their hands. While Snow fights Cora, Emma battles Hook: the pirate pins the blonde to the ground and prepares to kill her, admitting she left him no choice. Emma realizes that she's fallen on the compass, says that she's winning, and punches him in the face. When Cora tries to rip Snow's heart, as a gift for her daughter, Emma pushes her mother away and stands in her place. Cora lunges her hand inside her chest, telling her that love is weakness, but is utterly unable to remove her heart. Emma tells her that love is strength, and a force of magic emanates from her and protects her from Cora. Then, Emma and Snow take the compass, leap into the portal and arrive safely in Storybrooke. ("Queen of Hearts")