Attracting New Allies
Pitch scoffed as he surveyed the now fallen Executioner, he and Bumby taking some time to defeat him, but it was done. Now, the way to the Queen was clear, heading inside the actual castle. Pitch grimaced as the entrance into the castle was through a large, gaping mouth with giant, protruding teeth and one huge eyeball, watching them as they entered. The sloshy sounds made as a result of Pitch walking onto the fleshy surface made him stick his tongue out in disgust, preferring to float rather than continue to hear the sound. They went through many disheveled hallways and menacing chasms, through a maze weaved with wilting plants and thickets.
"Clearly this Alice is quite… delusional. If this is what she considers normal, I wonder what she would consider a nightmare?" Pitch wondered aloud.
The further they ventured, the more flesh covered the walls and ceilings became… even the floor seemed to move and writhe, like the twitching of intestines or the squeezing of ones esophagus… the sound of hearts beating pounded in Pitch's ears, the pulsing was almost too much to bear. He wondered how much longer it would be until they finally reached the Queen… at this point, part of him no longer even wanted to. They soon entered a long path through a hallway that opened up into a great space, and when Pitch saw Bumby set his eyes on a floating chunk of flesh in the center, Pitch's eyes followed his, finally making out what he was set on. It was difficult to fathom the creature's form… he saw what seemed to be a young woman; at least, from the neck up. She wore a red and black dress, short black hair cut into a sharp bob as red, fleshy skin covered her large hands, and what protruded from under her dress… what Pitch could make out, was simply raw flesh that seemed to connect her to the floating island… or perhaps she WAS the island… or was she this whole space…? Pitch hadn't time to comprehend as the Queen leaned forward, glaring at them with annoyance as her crown floated above her head.
"Ah… an unpleasantly familiar face… I've no desire to speak with you." She waved her hand at Bumby. "Be gone! My kingdom isn't open for guests!"
She had a British accent as Alice did, but her voice fluctuated in duality and pitch, sometimes it seemed that one voice seemed to whisper or grunt illegible words as she spoke; there was an echo to her voice… or was it a result of the wide space they were in…? Pitch's head began to spin.
"Obviously dignity, pride and a sense of decency are not considered welcomed guests, I suspect?" Bumby replied, raising a brow. "Look at this place… a shadow of its former glory! Now it's a crumbling, unruly wreck."
The Queen clenched her fists on the arm rests of her throne. "No thanks to the infernal train that Alice had fashioned from the foulness dripping from your words…" Her eyes darted at Pitch then, pointing her small scepter at him. "What might this be? A new breed of minion to further deteriorate the impregnability of my fortress?"
"I won't be blamed for that deterioration… that would be Alice's doing, and you know it." Bumby responded. "As for whom you are referring, he is a member of a partnership we hope to form into a further alliance with you."
The Queen scowled at Bumby. "You…? Form an alliance with me? Of what cause? Of what purpose, what initiation? Unless it is at least symbiotic for my part I shall hear of no such proposal and shall resume dismissing you, henceforth!"
"Your highness, allow me a few moments. We have both failed to see the error in our thinking while executing both of our plans to cause a certain someone's downfall… in that we meant harm to the very same individual! We both harbor a great resentment for one such Alice Liddell… am I correct?" Bumby stated.
The Queen's expression softened into something along the lines of intrigue as she sat back in her throne a little. "Go on…"
Bumby smirked, Pitch observing quietly. The reel had been cast. "Now Alice seems to have begun offering her assistance to a nemesis to my newest partner here, and-"
"Who has not yet introduced himself to me… very unbecoming for a subject to disrespect their Queen… I could have your head, you know." She grinned darkly. "A handsome one too…"
Pitch gagged inwardly, clearing his throat to save face. "I apologize… I recognize your… importance, your grace." He decided to play along, appease her for the sake of their efforts as he made a small bow. "I simply did not want to interrupt."
"Ah… there's the politeness I've been awaiting." She smirked.
"I go by many names, but you may call me Pitch." He said.
Bumby cleared his throat, motioning to resume his thought. "Anyhow, Alice has formed her own alliance with Pitch's foe, so when I was sought out, I quickly saw the opportunity for a… as you call it, symbiotic effort… upon our agreement we immediately set off to seek your aid… after all, who better knows Alice than you?"
"Indeed… and my hatred for her grows as my castle powders to dust around me." The Queen replied. "So, what did you have in mind?"
"One thing… destroy Alice, and anyone she allies herself with." Bumby said simply.
"And what do I receive for my part?" The Queen asked.
"Other than the ultimate satisfaction? Why, you get Wonderland of course! All yours to stretch your tentacles and relax in your damp and slimy paradise." Bumby replied.
"Hm…" The Queen pondered. "Wonderland is quite a vast landscape… very well. So long as I see Alice suffer, I believe this will be quite worth the effort." She grinned. "Although, you will probably need me to be a bit more mobile… allow me a moment to detach myself; the rest of my form will resume its normal functions here, while I embark on the journey you both have in store. Forgive me for any indecency I cause during this short process."
The Queen bit her lip as she gripped the arm rests of her throne, the sound of the slithering and churning of tentacles disgusting Pitch almost to the point of illness. The island that was her began to shrink, the floating mass of flesh seeming to go back into herself. Soon, the floating island was only big enough to barely fit her throne, and tentacles stretched out from under her dress, extending towards the floating island that Pitch and Bumby were on. Once a pair of fleshy feet in delicate shoes, red and raw like her hands, set on the ground, her tentacles recoiled back into her dress. She smirked lightly as she glanced from Bumby to Pitch.
"So pleased to have you join us, your highness. After you." Bumby tipped his hat, allowing the Queen to go before him.
She gave a small nod, but not before turning to Pitch, holding out her arm. "Be a dear, Pitch… ? I'm a bit stiff after such a long period of inactivity… I'd like to learn more about your part in this union as well."
Coming within a five yard radius of the creature with a deceivingly human face was not something Pitch was enthusiastic about, let alone having any sort of physical contact. He cleared his throat, remaining composed. "Certainly." He replied, hooking his arm around hers, regretfully.
They began their way out of her dank cavern, planning on at least getting to one of the corridors before traveling out of Wonderland. "So, Pitch, tell me a bit about yourself."
Pitch decided that if he at least focused on speaking on a subject, he may forget a bit of how repulsed he currently was. "Well… I am known from my time as the Boogeyman… I triumphed over the hearts of children during the dark ages… all until the guardians came to rid the world of me. But as long as fear exists, so shall I. If we can destroy Alice and the guardians, we'll all be better off."
"Indeed… but first, tell me more of these guardians… I'm feeling generously receptive today." She said as she glanced over at Pitch.
"Aren't I the lucky one?" Pitch said, forcing a smile. "Well, there are five in total, but let me start from the beginning…"
Alice rubbed her arms a bit as they stood in the arctic tundra, having been chatting with Jack along the way and learning a bit about the other guardians, their homes, and some of the things they did together.
"You'll see Alice… you'll see that they can bring hope back to these kids once you meet them… well, you've already met Bunnymund." Jack said.
"Must I be reminded of that exhilarating experience?" Alice rolled her eyes playfully.
"Right back at you! Bloody wombat…" Bunnymund muttered the last part to himself. As they approached the workshop, from a shorter distance, Jack sensed something was off. Bunnymund seemed to as well, straightening up a bit and sniffing the cold air. "Somethin' ain't right, mate."
Jack gave a nod. "Come on. Alice, we can go faster by Bunny's holes if you want."
Alice chuckled. "Please, I think I've fallen down a rabbit hole far too many times to count…" She closed her eyes, levitating in the air. Jack and Bunny both stared in awe at her ability. "Well, are you two coming or not?"
Jack blinked. "Y- Yeah…" He replied, the three making their way towards the workshop.
When they approached the building, Jack noticed that the place had fallen into ruins, decrepit and dark.
"What in the bloody hell happened here?" Bunny exclaimed.
"We've got to get inside and find the others!" Jack exclaimed.
Alice became a bit concerned for Jack, following him inside. When they entered, Jack and Bunny's eyes widened. The place was silent as a ghost, the place wrecked, coated with dust and ill aging. There was not a single yeti or elf to be seen, and when he turned, the large globe used to pinpoint all the children of the world was demolished. His and Bunny's expressions became more horrified by the second.
"North? Sandy?" Jack called out, jumping at the sharp echo the space spat back at him.
"Tooth? Oi, somebody!" Bunny called out.
Jack walked around a bit until he reached some of the bookshelves, furrowing a brow when he noticed the dust spread about in particular seemed a bit different. He bent down, and upon feeling its texture, his eyes widened. "Bunnymund! This is… it's sand!"
Bunny hopped over swiftly, his ears twitching a bit as he sniffed it. "What the… no, no Sandy!" He cried. The sand seemed ordinary, dull, no glow or sheen, as if it had been left there for a great age. Bunny noticed something then, hopping over to crouch down, his paws gracing what looked like dried, curled up feathers on the ground. "Tooth… these were… these were her feathers…"
Jack fell to his knees, shaking his head. "This… this can't be real!" He exclaimed.
"Jack!" Alice cried from a level below. He quickly made his way over to her, gasping upon her discovery. "Who is this poor thing?" She asked.
"… North…?" Jack's breath was stuck in his throat, crouching down beside him. Bunny soon joined, wearing the same shocked expression. North looked so weak, old and gnarled, the glow having left his eyes so long ago and the color in his cheeks faded as they had sunk.
"Who did this, North? Tell me who did this…?" Jack whispered, barely able to speak as a lump formed in his throat.
North looked up at Jack weakly. "Who… who are you…?" He asked.
"It's Jack, North, don't you know?" Bunny asked.
For a moment, North's eyes widened. "Bunny… you… you've come back…?"
"'Course, mate! I've only been gone a couple hours!"
"No… impossible… you… you fell… with… Sandy, and…" North cried weakly, shaking his head. "I must be… dreaming…"
"North, focus! You have to tell us what happened, we can help!" Jack exclaimed.
North looked up at Jack a bit more, his gaze meeting his. He saw something within Jack's eyes, a spark of light, followed by everything Jack had experienced. The same light sparked in North's eyes then, making him gasp. "Another… time… fragmented…"
"What? What are you saying?" Jack asked.
"I saw… everything… you come from… another timeline… the true timeline." North spoke weakly. "Something you did… in the past… caused this to happen."
Jack frowned deeply, shaking his head. "No. No, that can't-"
"You must… go back… and prevent this from happening… the children of this world… their minds… hearts… have all become a part of the void…"
"Go back in time and do what? Who did this, North? North? North!" Jack shook his head as his friend crumbled into dust, breathing shakily.
Suddenly, Bunnymund groaned as he held his head, clenching his teeth. "I'm… I'm seeing something!"
"What? Bunny, what are you seeing?" Jack asked.
Alice wandered over to where the moonlight cast a dull glow through a large hole in the roof. She bent down, her fingers sifting through a bit of debris to take a small object in her thumb and index finger; a little wing.
"Mate… I didn't make it either… I'm… I'm seeing everything that happened…" Bunny swallowed thickly. "You never came into the picture, Jack. This place has been destroyed for almost two hundred years…"
"How is that possible? We were just here this-"
"Because YOU went and messed something up in the past, you face ache!" Bunny's voice cracked. "Look at what you've done! All our friends are dead! Nothing will ever be the same!"
"No." Alice said, getting to her feet and approaching them. "You can, and will, save them. And I'm going to help."
"Why? You don't know anything! This is your fault too!" Bunny shouted.
"I do know what it's like to watch my paradise fall straight into hell and all my companions with it!" She shouted back, exhaling sharply. "I may have had several malevolent forces destroy my Wonderland, but I will not stop until yours is restored." She said, taking a snow globe into her hand. "We have to figure out what the conception of this destruction is and prevent it."
As traumatized as Jack and Bunnymund were from all this, they both knew Alice was right. There was still time to stop this from being a future they would all have to face.
"We've got to go back. I'm not going to let my friends suffer like this." Jack said.
"Right!" Bunny replied, heading back up a level. As Alice followed them. She stopped a moment, seeing something. She tilted her head, looking at Bunny before glancing one more time behind her, joining them through the snow globe.
On the floor where Alice had looked was a pair of worn boomerangs amidst clumps of dusty, dull remnants of fur.
Back in the past, Pitch, along with his new allies, Bumby and the Queen, were already ahead of the game as they stared at the workshop, unharmed at this point, in the distance.
"There's a bit more information that I received from Jack's little fairy friend… a tome hidden within that contains all the guardian's secrets… with that, we could destroy them, and take over this world." Pitch stated.
"Well, we haven't time to waste, let's get on with it." Bumby said as they made their way forward.
Up in the watch tower, when one of the yetis spotted the three malicious forces approaching, he attempted to sound an alarm, but was quickly stopped when a tentacle shot through the air, wrapping around his arm and dragging him out, face to face with the Queen. She lifted her head, grinning darkly as she opened her mouth abnormally wide, the yeti frightened and confused as she was about to devour him.
"Your highness, now is not the time for feasting on snacks." Bumby commented.
The Queen scoffed, tossing the yeti aside as they proceeded on. Inside the workshop, all the guardians were baking cookies for North to celebrate yet another successful Christmas.
"Each year they somehow smell better than the last!" North exclaimed, laughing heartily.
"That's because the girls and I get better at cooking them every year!" Toothiana giggled, her little fairies sticking chocolate chunks into the dough before Sandy would take the tray, floating over to pop it into the oven.
"Crikey!" Bunnymund from the past exclaimed, sucking on one of his paws. He was wearing a large apron.
"Bunny, I told you to wear oven mitts!" Toothiana frowned.
"I can't do a thing in those! Oi, singed my fur…" He muttered.
Toothiana frowned when some of her fairies heard something on the roof, sensing something was amiss. She floated up to the ceiling, thinking she heard something… slithering. When the sound stopped, she looked at the ceiling's surface, then back down at the other guardians.
"What is it, Tooth?" North asked.
"Just… I thought I heard something… something funny…" She answered.
Before any of the guardians could respond, something crashed through the roof, chunks barely missing Toothiana as she flew swiftly to the others. None of them were prepared for this sudden attack, so they each scrambled to gather together in an effort to size up just what it was breaking into the workshop. Bunny grabbed his boomerangs and egg bombs, keeping them handy as they all watched a large mass of tentacles drop in through the now gigantic hole in the roof, scattering splinters and debris everywhere. Accompanying the horrid creature was a ghost; and an unpleasantly familiar foe.
"Pitch!" North's eyes widened with disbelief. "What is the meaning of this?! Who are these-… these accomplices?" He exclaimed.
"North… aren't I allowed to drop in, catch up with old friends?" Pitch laughed at his own pun. "I've made some new ones quite recently, you'll be getting acquainted with them shortly. The more you cooperate… the less contempt you will receive… for if you do cooperate, you won't have to be so familiar with them."
"Cooperate with the tail on my behind, you snake!" Bunnymund shouted. "If you and your friends leave now you may not have sore rear ends! Well… for those who HAVE a rear end…" He made a face at the Queen.
"Now is that any way to treat a guest?" The Queen asked. "Allow me to teach you all some manners!"
The battle began, Sandy swooping in to use his sand ropes against the Queen's tentacles. Bumby's hands phased into his ooze form, a molten fireball forming and levitating as he began to cast them at the other guardians. North deflected them best as he could with his sword, one going right through Bumby's dephased area.
"Impressive… but allow me to impress you more!" He shouted, his eyes set on Toothiana as he hurled a molten fireball at her. She went to dodge, but part of her wing was hit, the sickening crunching sound of it breaking filling the air before she cascaded down, crying out in pain.
"Tooth!" Bunnymund shouted as he faced off with Pitch. Pitch wielded his dark scythe, swinging it high and low. Bunny hopped and ducked to avoid his attacks, tossing one of his egg bombs only for Pitch to materialize into black sand and dodge it. He used this opportunity to run over to Tooth, badly injured from Bumby's attack.
The Queen shrieked in pain as Sandy used one of his sand ropes to tear one of her tentacles away, infuriating her. She opened her mouth wide, a light from within growing, her rage churning the fire inside of her. At the same time, one of Bumby's molten fireballs knocking the sword from North's hand, and he hissed as his hand was scalded in the process. It seemed like their enemies had overwhelmed the guardian's forces, and the worst was about to ensue, when one of the entrances burst open from below. Pitch whipped his head towards the sound, gritting his teeth.
"I will obtain when we came here for, I won't be long!" Pitch shouted to Bumby and the Queen, fleeing towards the bookshelves where he became black sand, disappearing into them.
"North!" A voice shouted from below, and suddenly, Jack appeared, accompanied by Alice and…
Bunnymund widened his eyes. "Hey, that's me over there! Oi, go help the other guardians fight, mate!"
Alice's eyes widened in horror upon not only seeing her arch nemesis the Queen, but the one who had created all of the pain and suffering in her life…
"Well, well, well… if it isn't little psychotic Alice… come to display your madness for all to see?" Bumby grinned, throwing his head back in laughter.
"Now I am not confined to tormenting you in just your Wonderland, Alice! Your head shall be mounted to display my victory!" The Queen shouted, hissing with her sharp teeth.
"You just don't get along with anyone, do you?" Bunnymund asked.
Alice grit her teeth, her eyes narrowing as something materialized into her hand then. "If you know what's good for you, you will both leave this place now!"
The Queen's blood boiled at that. "You do not command me! I am your Queen!" Her voice deepened as tentacles shot through the air. Jack watched in awe as Alice jumped into action, slicing at the tentacles with excellent precision.
Jack took to action then, moving forward to help North. Bumby moved to finish him, but Jack used bursts of ice to deflect his fireballs. Present Bunnymund speedily made his way to the fallen Tooth at the same time as the past one did. As they saw each other, they tried to skid to a stop, but they knocked heads as they crashed into each other; a sudden glow enveloped them, and Tooth sat up, widening her eyes.
"Bunny? Bunnymund!" She exclaimed.
The glow diminished, and only one remained, holding his head. "Blimey… that was… that was trippy!"
Meanwhile, Pitch darted down the secret corridor behind the book shelf, finally reaching the circular room at the end and rematerializing there. He grinned, approaching the stand holding the book placed upon it, taking it into his hands. He tucked it into his robes before quickly making his way back, reappearing in the main part of the workshop. He surveyed the scene, growling lowly as he saw that they no longer had such an upper hand with Jack and Alice present. If they were going to overpower them, they would need more allies, and quickly. For the time being, Pitch decided that it would be best to take what they had come for and battle another day.
"Well, it's about time you've returned!" The Queen snapped when she glanced at Pitch.
"I've got what we've come for, I think we've more than overstayed our welcome; for now!" Pitch replied to her.
Jack narrowed his eyes at Pitch, crying out as he moved in to attack him, but Pitch smirked as he dodged him easily.
"Fight me! You're going to come here with your band of freaks and hurt my friends? Fight me!" Jack shouted as black sand rematerialized a bit farther away.
"Oh, that will be a pleasure… but I think we have some work to do. The doctor wasn't kidding when he said that Alice was quite a resilient foe…" Pitch said.
Alice glared at Pitch. "I shall have pleasure in ending your existence along with him and that foul beast who calls herself a Queen, then!"
"Time will tell, won't it?" Pitch chuckled, the three making their escape.
Jack moved to take chase after them, but he felt a gentle hand on his shoulder. "Jack. We have to repair what damage they've done first. Believe me… I want to also." Alice said, Jack turning to face her.
Bunnymund approached them, Toothiana in his arms as he gently set her down. "Her right wing is broken."
North stood to his feet, dusting himself off before inspecting Tooth. "We will mend it… it will take some time, but it will heal." He then looked at Jack, blinking. "You are Jack Frost, am I correct? You helped us. We are grateful… and this young lady… who are you?"
"Alice Liddell is my name, sir." She smiled a bit, shaking his hand.
"Bunny… what happened… there were two of you earlier, and then you…" Toothiana tilted her head as she tried to process the scene in her head.
"Wait… where exactly did you come from?" North asked upon hearing this.
"Well, more like when…" Alice replied. "I am from this time, but Jack and the oversized rabbit are not… at least, the one in our company when we arrived. They are from a future time."
North's eyes widened. "How is this possible…?"
Jack took out one of the upgraded snow globes, handing it to North. "You made this… to take me into the past to teach me how to be a better guardian…" Jack sighed. "But… everything-"
"Wait… you are a guardian?" North blinked.
Jack chuckled; it was odd that none of his friends knew him yet. "Yeah… we had a rough start, all of you guys and I… but we're the best of friends… so when I came back to the future, and saw all of you had…" Jack's voice faded, shutting his eyes tight for a moment to push the memory out of his head. "I'm going to do what I have to, to make things right."
North smiled, placing a hand on his shoulder. "You have a good heart, Jack. You seem to still have much to learn, but you've already done us all good."
"Done you good? I made this problem!" Jack exclaimed.
"A problem is not simply a result of one triggered variable, but several added together. The fault is not yours, Jack, but you can be part of the solution." North said. He looked around, furrowing a brow. "Wait, where is Sandy?"
Not a moment later, Sandy appeared, floating out of the book shelf, and he seemed distraught. He signaled something to North, and Toothiana gasped.
"Oh no! Our book! Pitch must have taken it during all the fighting!" Toothiana gasped.
The other guardians widened their eyes in horror, North plopping down in a chair.
"With that book, Pitch could really do a number on us, mate…" Bunnymund breathed with shock.
Jack shook his head. "Wait, what book? The one in the secret book shelf place?"
"Yes, that book, Jack…" Tooth replied. "It holds all of our secrets, spells, things essential to us."
"Well, that's lovely…" Alice said, glancing around. "We're going to have to get it back then, I presume?"
"Hm, you think, Sheila?" Bunnymund said, the two shooting a glare at each other.
"Listen to me closely, Jack. Sandy and I will tend to Tooth, and the elves will repair the damage here. You, Bunnymund and Alice must pursue Pitch and those who fight alongside him, and stop them from what they intend to do." North said.
"But… I need to stay here and protect you guys from-"
"You have already done what you needed to do. You have put off the possibility of a dreary future for us, but it won't last long. Not until you bring them down for good!" North exhaled sharply. "I will make more of these snow globes for you to use if necessary… if I was ingenious enough to make them, I will figure it out. Our faith rests in you, Jack Frost."
Jack gave a firm nod, surprising North when he hugged him before he joined Alice and Bunnymund in trying to figure out not just where their foes had gone, but what they planned to do next.
Back in London, Bumby, the Queen and Pitch met at Houndsditch, the shutdown orphanage just the perfect place for them to take refuge for the time being; and to plot their next move.
"So, if this book is so crucial, why don't we break it open and see what it has to offer us?" Bumby asked.
"My thoughts exactly." Pitch replied, taking out the book and opening it. "We need to find a way to use its contents against them… there must be some kind of secret weapon, or something…"
The Queen's gaze wandered from boredom, her eyes sensing movement. She found its source; a rat that had made its home in the abandoned building. She set her focus on it, grinning hungrily.
"Hm… well, isn't this interesting…" Pitch said to himself. "A guardian for the day of Hallows; marking the end of the days of harvest where the fruits of labor are reaped…" He was distracted by noise coming from where the Queen was, rolling his eyes. "Could you please try not to make such a racket?"
The Queen quickly spun around, a bit of blood on one tentacle and around her mouth, looking around. The rat's tail stuck out from her lips, and with a single slurp, it disappeared into her mouth. She chuckled lightly, smiling bashfully. "Please excuse me… it's been a while since I consumed anything… I was quite famished." She took out a handkerchief, dabbing the fresh blood around her mouth.
Pitch's eye twitched a moment as he used all of his willpower not to gag aloud. He cleared his throat, shaking his head as he resumed reading the book; he secretly wondered how Bumby tolerated her less than decent mannerisms with a perfectly straight face. "As I was saying… the method to create such a guardian is explained on the next page…"
"So you are suggesting to create this… guardian?" Bumby asked. "Aren't we trying to destroy them?" He raised a brow.
"Well, the ones you encountered earlier, yes… but creating this guardian, we can use it against the others!" Pitch exclaimed.
Bumby nodded. "Indeed… however, that one… the young lad, what was his name? He seems to have already become quite attached to Alice's hip. He will pose a great challenge to us. We need to find a being of at least equal, if not greater, power to his."
"Very well… but first, let's see what we must do to produce this guardian." Pitch replied, turning the page, where the directions were presented in poetic form.
Creating the master of Hallow's Day requires these elements three
So that like a candle burst to life he will come to be.
First, like candle's wax, a Jack o' Lantern
To place the next two items inside like an urn.
Next, like a wick, a fierce soul fragment that never dies,
So that for all time he shall never come to his demise.
Finally, a great light from a powerful flame eternal,
Then he shall rise, and become your guardian nocturnal!
Pitch pondered upon the words for some time, Bumby and the Queen taking time to think on them as well. "Well… the first ingredient seems pretty simple… obtaining an ordinary pumpkin or gourd… as for the second and third ingredients, we won't have much trouble obtaining them… with these." Pitch held up the snow globes, handing a few to Bumby and to the Queen.
"So, how shall we go about this, then? We each get an ingredient? Making me hungry again…" The Queen said, licking her lips.
"I will heed doctor Bumby's advice, and seek out a being with the power to match Jack in battle." Pitch replied.
"And we shall collect the three ingredients… seems simple enough. Let's hope the results are worth the work." Bumby replied.
Each of the three took one of their snow globes, and in an instant, they were gone, leaving the guardian's book in the dust; apparently, Pitch thought he had gotten all he needed from it.
Jack, Alice and Bunnymund appeared back in London after using their own snow globes to get there, looking around.
"Do you mind if I check in on the children's sanctuary while we're here? I want to make sure they're doing well." Alice asked.
"We find Pitch first and deal with him, THEN we go back to your sanctuary… if you want to call it that." Bunnymund replied.
"What is THAT supposed to mean?!" Alice exclaimed.
"Will you two knock it off already?! This is no time to be arguing!" Jack exclaimed.
Alice huffed, glaring at Bunnymund. "Fine. We'll listen to mister hairy britches here. At least one of us is willing to cooperate." She shoved past him, approaching the gate to Houndsditch; they had appeared just outside of the premises. She miraculously still had the key to the gate, opening it and heading up to the front door, unlocking that as well before heading inside. Once in the doorway, her vorpal blade materialized into her hand, her eyes shifting vigilantly for any sign of their foes. Jack and Bunnymund followed her inside, keeping on their toes as well. They took their time, thoroughly searching the place. It was then that Jack discovered something.
"Bunny! I found the book! It's here!" Jack cried.
"Are you joking?" Bunny sped to Jack's location, sprinting into the room to inspect it; indeed, it was the guardian's book. "But why would he just… leave this here…?"
"It may be a trap… stand guard!" Alice called before entering the room.
"No… it was a cover. We were looking for the book, so wherever they went, they left this here so the snow globes would just take us to the book…" Jack said, getting up and beating a fist against the wall in frustration, leaning his right side against it afterwards. "They're trying to buy as much time as they can."
Alice got to her feet, sighing. "Look… maybe… if we look around, there may be another clue they could have left. There must be something."
"Fine. Couldn't hurt, I guess." Jack said with a nod, heading into the rooms.
Alice followed him, looking around. "This place haunts me… to think that this was the place that I almost completely lost the remainder of who I was…" She sighed.
"Don't worry. That won't happen to you again. You've got us to help you." Jack smiled lightly, looking through some cabinets.
"Thank you." Alice replied. "So Jack… I remember you mentioned you had a family once… what were they like?"
Jack smiled sadly. "They were great. From what I can remember, I loved them… especially Emma, my sister." He sighed lightly. "I miss her the most. Protecting her is what made me a guardian."
Alice smiled lightly, before the memory of the night of the fire made her close her eyes painfully. "And failing to protect mine is what made me damned."
Jack frowned lightly, closing the cabinets. "I think if she saw you now, she'd be proud of everything you've fought through."
"I appreciate the sentiment." Alice nodded as she went over to a drawer. She opened it, finding old, dusty files on some of the children who had resided there. She flipped through them aimlessly until she found one in particular that sparked her interest. She tilted her head, taking it out as Jack looked through the closet on the other side of the room. She looked at the picture, realizing it was a picture of Eliza; of course, she knew it wasn't her name, but as she read through the file, she glanced around unsurely.
"Hey… find anything good?" Jack asked as he dug through the closet.
Alice quickly hid the file inside her petticoat, shutting the drawer. "No… nothing."
Bunnymund came in the room then. "I don't think they left anything else, mate."
"Yeah… come on, let's go back to Alice's place, we need to clear our heads and then keep up the search." Jack said.
Alice got to her feet, joining the other two in heading out; she was glad to leave that place, never wishing to go inside it again.
Pitch arrived in a rather cold location; he wasn't sure of the time period, but he figured it couldn't have been too much farther in the past then from where he came from. When he turned around, that's when he saw it… his eyes widened for a moment when he gazed upon a magnificent structure; its architecture was impeccable, a fortress of solitude. But that wasn't what brought a satisfied grin to Pitch's face.
The entire structure was made completely out of solid ice.
The sound of voices distracted him then, glancing towards the base of the ice castle. He squinted his eyes, hiding behind a tree as he listened closely.
"Anna, your hair, it's… turning white!" A man shouted.
"Oh… wait, does it look bad?" The girl, presumably Anna, asked.
"… no…" The man replied.
"You hesitated there." A small snowman commented, before they headed off, a reindeer also with them. They continued to talk on their way, Pitch watching them curiously.
"Interesting…" Pitch said to himself. It was then that he smelled it… ah, there was a strong scent of fear in the area, and he knew the scent all too well. He followed the scent right up to the glistening castle, raising a brow as he remained cautious. He kept himself hidden as much as he could, slipping in through the doors as black sand, floating along the ascending stairs until he materialized behind a pillar, sneaking a glance at the source of the fear. A young woman paced around, her hair white as snow woven into a braid, wearing a dress of blue silk. Ah… so she was the one who had made such a massive creation of ice.
"Get it together… control it… don't feel, don't feel… don't feel, don't feel!" She held her hands to her head as she muttered to herself.
Pitch closed his eyes, allowing himself to concentrate upon looking into the young woman's mind, to look into her deepest fears. He saw all of her memories, her experiences through life, and he chuckled quietly to himself once he had the full picture. Sharp icicles began to protrude from the wall, her fear thickening in the air. Now was the time. He stepped out from the shadows, her back turned to him as she stood, hugging herself.
"Now why would you want to 'control' something like this?" Pitch asked.
Startled, the young woman gasped, turning to shoot an ice blast upon instinct at the direction of his voice, and Pitch barely dodged it in surprise, his laughter echoing through the castle.
"Who are you? What are you doing here, show yourself immediately!" The young woman shouted.
"Yes… you don't know who I am, but I know all about you…" Pitch's black sand swirled in front of her as she held up her hands, materializing back to himself. "… Queen Elsa, of Arendelle."
Elsa furrowed her brow deeply, shaking her head. "H- How do you… know my name…?"
"I know many things about you, Elsa… I know you are deeply troubled, that your heart is plagued by your fear. I know everything about fear… I can sense it, use it, manipulate it… but fret not, I am not here to inflict you with it, but rather to help you to eliminate it." Pitch said, Elsa watching him warily out of the corner of her eyes as he walked around her, slowly, like a lion surrounding its prey.
"Why… what do you… are you even human…?" Elsa whimpered, her mind spinning as to how this was even happening.
"I know you have many questions, Elsa, and I shall answer all. I may have been human once… but humanity has not graced my form for a very long time." Pitch answered. "I will first tell you a bit more about myself. I go by many names… but you may call me Pitch. As for why I am here… a young woman claiming to be your sister desperately sought me out, begging to get through to you; something she has seemed to fail to do. What was her name… Anna?"
Elsa turned to face him upon hearing the name, her eyes widening. "Anna…? Anna… came to you?"
"Oh, yes… she told me she worries greatly for her dearest sister… that she would give, do anything so you could go back home again, to mend your broken family once and for all…" Pitch said, doing his best to use Elsa's emotions against her.
"I… I don't know what I need to do to make her understand… I'm dangerous… I- I hurt her once, I won't do it again! I'm sorry, but I can't go back!" Elsa cried.
"That's your fear talking, Elsa. I know in your heart of hearts that you want to be with her again. I can help you to do that… to liberate you of the fear that chains you here. You believe you are free, but as long as you allow your fear to control you, you will always be its prisoner." Pitch replied.
"Don't you see…? This is the only way I can protect her! Look at this winter I have created… I can't stop it, I've tried…" Elsa closed her eyes.
"Very well… but my offer still stands, Elsa. There will come a time where you cannot hide away any longer… and when that happens, I will be there." Pitch disappeared into the shadows, but simply remained hidden… he would take some time to stick around, knowing eventually Elsa would have to see things his way.
Elsa exhaled shakily, trying to take in what just happened. Of course she wanted to see Anna again, but what if this didn't work? What if she got her hopes up only for them to come crashing down again? She couldn't risk that; no… that wasn't an option. "Don't feel… don't feel…" She whispered to herself.
The Queen dabbed her lips, having exited a dark alleyway and feasting on the number of rodents that resided there. "Well, that was quite delectable…" She spotted something then, narrowing her eyes. She smiled lightly, seeing a wagon heading down the street, the cart in rear filled with an assortment of gourds. "Ah, how convenient…" She pressed her back against the brick wall of the alley as it passed, one of her tentacles sneaking out to snatch a large pumpkin, quickly retreating it and dropping it into her hands. "Perfect… now we'll just wait for the good doctor to come back, and then I will ignite this flame and see what this spell will bring us." She slithered back down the alleyway, making her way back to Houndsditch.
Jack, Alice and Bunnymund walked by the same alleyway then, soon reaching her place as she unlocked the door. They entered, and Jack was met with the same poor children as he saw earlier; this time however, Bunnymund noticed their condition for the first time.
"What's with these ankle-biters? They have something against Easter or something?" He asked.
"No, they don't even see you. Or Jack. They are mentally incapacitated." Alice responded.
"Incap… pack… what now?" Bunny shook his head.
"That doctor we fought earlier…" Jack started. "He… he did something to them, messed up their heads. They don't know who we are, because it ruined their-"
"Their mind's eye's been blinded." Bunny said, horrified. "How could he do such a thing?"
"Because he's a sadistic monster, that's why." Alice turned to him. "He would have done the same to me if I hadn't overcome him."
For the first time, Bunny actually felt sympathy for Alice, his dislike for her wavering. "I'm sorry Shei-… Alice." He said sincerely.
Alice said nothing to him, going upstairs to go to Eliza's bedroom. "I'll be back down shortly."
After she closed the door upstairs, Bunny looked at Jack. "What'd I say?"
"Well, you have been treating her like garbage since you met her, Bunnymund. She's been through a lot, I've been trying to tell you to cut her some slack."
Upstairs, Alice glanced around, taking out the file out of her coat and going over to a small drawer. She opened it, placed the file of Eliza inside and closed it, locking it and placing the key in her pocket, keeping it hidden and safe. She went over to Eliza, sleeping soundly as she tucked her in a bit better, moving a strand of hair out of her face. The door opened behind her, Jack entering. Alice turned to glance at him for a moment before looking back at Eliza. "We mustn't disturb her… it's rare for her to get quality rest… she's so plagued by nightmares."
"You know… maybe there's some way I can communicate with them, something they can all see." Jack said.
"I wouldn't use any power of yours to communicate with her. I don't mean it as in insult… she is scared to death of ice, and snow. It's a crippling fear she has." Alice replied.
Jack frowned at that, his heart sinking. "Why…?"
"I don't know, Jack. Apparently it stems from some traumatic event from her early childhood." She replied.
Bunnymund walked in then. "We haven't got much time… we need to catch up to Pitch. Your, uh… your nan is resting it off a bit."
"Poor nan… she must be working so hard. When we finish all this I need to resume helping her." Alice replied, standing.
Jack glanced back at Eliza one more time, looking up at the window. He waved his hand, a bit of frost growing on it. When the sun shined through, reflecting through the thin band of frost on the window, it made a small rainbow that fell upon the sleeping girl, making her smile ever so slightly in her slumber. Jack chuckled lightly at this before turning to catch up to Alice and Bunnymund.
Elsa opened her eyes, having been in deep thought when she thought she heard something in the distance. She descended the long, winding stairway of her ice castle, cautiously approaching the door to peek through it. She gasped lightly as she witnessed her snow golem outside, trying to guard her domain from approaching guards; led by Hans, the prince who her sister wanted to marry. She shut the doors, retreating inside towards the base of the stairs.
"How could they have found this place… it's so deep in the mountain pass…" She whispered to herself, hearing the roar of her snow golem outside along with men shouting.
Pitch focused his attention on the current situation, still hiding away. "Well, this could be exciting…" He said to himself.
About a minute later, when Elsa saw two guards running to her castle door, she gathered part of her dress, fearfully beginning to run up the stairs. The two guards burst in, spotting her up the ascending stairway.
"Up there! Come on!" One guard shouted to the other as they pursued her.
"Always running, silly girl… why doesn't she stand her ground and fight…?" Pitch rolled his eyes as he asked himself.
When Elsa reached the second level, having nowhere to run, she turned, backing away slowly.
"We've got her!" One of the guards shouted.
"No, please…" Elsa whimpered, holding her hands out.
One guard held up his crossbow, firing an arrow. Pitch shut his eyes, thinking this was the end of Elsa. He dared to open them again, chuckling in surprise to himself as she gasped, the arrow inches from her face, stopped by a thick sheet of ice.
"That's more like it… now, let's see what you're really capable of…" Pitch whispered.
"Stay away!" Elsa shouted, sending a wave of ice at the guards. They tried to fire at her with their crossbows again, but her bursts of ice kept them on their toes. Pitch noticed that she seemed so scared and confused, some regret in her features.
"Come now, surely she doesn't think protecting herself isn't worth sacrificing a few worthless lives…" Pitch said to himself.
She looked between them, remaining vigilant as they closed in. She was becoming angry now; what had she done for them to storm into her castle in the mountains and try to kill her? They were persistent, but she was not going to die today. When one raised his crossbow, she sent sharp icicles to pin him to the wall, some mere inches from his neck. When the other raised his crossbow, she used a burst of ice to knock the weapon out of his hands, then another to form a sheet of ice to push against him, breaking through the doorway to the balcony and nearly threatening to send him over the edge. Pitch grinned widely in the shadows… he liked what he was seeing; this was just a taste of the power that she could use to fight against Jack. The moment of triumph was interrupted when Hans ran in with the remaining group of guards, holding his arms out to stop them in their tracks while he quickly surveyed the area.
"Queen Elsa!" Hans shouted, but Elsa ignored him. "Don't be the monster they fear you are!"
This struck a nerve in her, turning to glance at Hans. Her powers wavered with her anger, ceasing her attack as she furrowed her brows, her expression softening.
Pitch hissed in the shadows. "Just when things were getting good…"
The guard pinned against the wall weakly raised his crossbow, aiming it at Elsa. She didn't notice but Hans did, quickly running over to move the guard's arm, the arrow shooting straight up instead of at Elsa. Severing the delicate piece connecting her large ice chandelier to the ceiling, Elsa glanced up in horror, gasping as she scrambled to get out of harm's way as it came crashing down, the ice shattering like a trillion pieces of glass, tripping and falling to the ground harshly. Pitch stared at the scene in awe before glancing over at Hans and the other guards collecting an unconscious Elsa, taking her away.
"Well, Elsa… it seems you do have some potential after all… I will be following you closely… I can assure you that." Pitch whispered as he became black sand, remaining concealed as he followed the group back to the kingdom of Arendelle in the land below.
Bumby surveyed the area, taking note of the beauty of the nature around him. The grass was lush and green, the trees were tall and mighty, and the sun glowed amongst the fluffy white clouds dotting the bright, blue sky. He took a few moments to listen, trying to detect anyone who may be in the area. He heard something in the distance then, moving to hide behind a large boulder covered in moss as something sped by. Peeking around, he saw a horse galloping, and he had a hard time making out any notable features of the rider, except for one thing;
A headful of hair that was the color of fire.
He flew down the path, observing all the wooden targets along the way with multiple arrows sticking out of them. He hid behind a tree once he saw where the rider took refuge; upon closer inspection, he was surprised to find that the valiant rider was a woman. A young woman at that. He took this time to plan out how he would execute this; she was alone in the woods, and that was a start, but he did not know this area or time period well, far before his own. Before he could ponder any further, the rider noticed that her horse was looking around, alert, seeming to sense something that caused reason for concern. When the horse looked in his direction, getting to his feet and neighing, standing on his hind legs, the rider attempted to calm him unsuccessfully.
"Angus, what on bloody Earth is wrong?" The girl shouted in a deep Scottish accent, groping the air to try to grasp at his reigns.
Bumby raised a brow at that, chuckling to himself. "Well, isn't that an intriguing coincidence… and isn't she a lovely one…? She is indeed a fierce soul… wild and free… all the more satisfying to tame under my control."
"Angus?! Angus, come back!" The girl shouted as the horse ran off, seemingly in fear. She glanced around, knocking an arrow to her bow, keeping watch. It wasn't just some little thing that scared him off, she knew that for sure; whatever it was, she wanted to be prepared… or so she thought she could be. "Alright, who's out there? Show yourself!" She shouted, her eyes darted for any sign of movement. When she saw someone emerge from behind a tree, she whirled around to face the individual, raising her arrow.
"Now, now, let's not be hasty…" Bumby started.
The young woman's eyes widened, shaking her head in disbelief. "You're… you're dead! You're a spirit!"
"Clever girl… you know what you see." Bumby replied.
"You're an odd looking ghost if I ever saw one…" The girl said.
"Yes, my attire may surprise you… it is because I am from a time far ahead of yours. Don't pay any mind to it." Bumby replied. "I've come here to collect something very important… and you can help me to do that. But manners first; my name is Angus Bumby… like your horse. And you are?"
The girl furrowed a brow, still keeping the arrow up. "I am Merida… princess of Clan Dun' Broch."
"Ah… a princess and a warrior… well Merida, you seem to be a very highly recognized person. I was too, in my lifetime… an outstanding citizen, I was named. I did a great service to my community, but a very unstable young woman sent me into my untimely death. I need your help to fulfill something for a ally… and if you do help me… I will make sure you receive your just reward."
Merida tilted her head, a gentle breeze blowing her thick, curly hair. "You want me to help you? What is it you need help with?"
"I need help in creating a weapon that will stop the girl who killed me, from destroying me for good…" Bumby replied, his voice soft and calm as he looked at her mournfully.
Merida was suspicious of this ghost, despite the emotion in his voice, something was off about the whole thing. Despite this, she chose to hear more, lowering her arrow slightly. "So what do ye need me to do, then?"
"Do not be alarmed… but I need a very, very small fragment of your soul." Bumby replied.
Merida instantly regretted her decision, raising the arrow once more as her eyes widened. "A part of my... what is this? Do ye take me for a fool?"
"Now Merida, remember, I would compensate you for your generous-"
"Ye can't have my soul! This is some kind of trick!" Merida shouted, shooting an arrow. It shot right through where Bumby's heart would be, embedding itself into the tree behind him. Her eyes widened in horror as he looked at the arrow, chuckling darkly as he turned to look back at her.
"Oh, poor dear... you made the wrong choice." Bumby said after a few moments, his entire demeanor changing.
He then phased into his ooze form, running at her, and before she could knock another arrow, he shoved her to the ground. He wrestled with her a bit until she punched his face, neglecting to revert to his spirit form. He growled as Merida scrambled to get away, calling out for help. Bumby pursued her, forming a fireball in his hand. He sent them flying at her, but she was quite agile, moving in a zig zag motion to avoid them. Bumby quickly became impatient, but his anger boiled when Merida turned, loosing several arrows, all embedding into his ooze form. He grunted, looking down at himself. He then looked back up at Merida, her confidence of gaining the upper hand wavering as he yanked the arrows out of him. Ooze dripped onto the ground as he moved forward, Merida still aiming an arrow at him, but he took the sharp edge into his hand, tearing the arrow and her bow away from her after some struggle, throwing it aside. One of his hands reverted to spirit form, further approaching Merida as she found, to her horror, that a stone wall prevented her from backing up any further.
"Please, stop this!" She screamed, taking out her sword and swinging at him to no avail; the sword went right through his ghostly form when he reverted.
"You missed your chance, young lady... now you will not even leave with your life intact..." Bumby said lowly.
One of his hands phased, grabbing at the sword, and she grunted as he tried to take it for himself. When she wouldn't let up, he let it go, causing her to fall back. It was then he noticed a dagger on her belt, taking it before she scrambled to start climbing up the wall. He laughed at her pitiful attempt, in his eyes, to get away, extending his ghostly arm through her back, grabbing onto something. Merida gasped as he did this, extracting a small, glowing fragment. She screamed, gasping as she fell to a heap on the ground, crawling around and breathing heavily.
"What… what did you do to me?!" She asked, panic in her voice as it shook.
"I took what I came here for… if you had made a better effort to cooperate, I would have rewarded you… but now the only reward you will receive is the hope that this small part of your soul won't be tainted when I'm through with you…" Bumby absorbed the soul fragment into himself, phasing into his ooze form as he loomed over her. He crouched down, and Merida smacked his hands away as he tried to come near her. "You feisty ones are always the most fun!" He laughed as a vile grin spread across his features, but it faded quickly when he heard voices in the distance. He growled lowly, looking behind him before he glanced back at Merida as she tried to crawl towards her bow and arrow. Bumby took her dagger that he had snatched off of her, pinning her down with one foot before stabbing it into her back. Merida screamed in pain as she felt the sting of her blade once, twice, a dozen times. Bumby glared at her before tossing the dagger to the side, taking a snow globe into his hand and disappearing from the scene.
Merida cried softly, groaning as her hand shakily grasped her bow and arrow, blood trickling into the lush green grass. She heard voices in the distance, but as her vision became spotty, it was her mother and father calling for her, Angus neighing, that was the last to enter her ears when everything went dark. She had not seen that a wisp was gravitating towards her, the blue hue disappearing into her back.
Several moments later, Merida awoke with the start, feeling a prickling on her skin. Wait… she couldn't be awake, could she? She was hurt so badly… she then gasped as she looked at herself, he skin beginning to have a sickly glow. She tried to wipe away at her arms, but the glow grew brighter, she could feel it traveling to her entire body. Her clothes became worn, tattered, and she felt cold, so cold. It was then that she saw her mother and father approaching, led by Angus.
"Merida!" Her mother called. "Merida, answer me, darling!"
"Mom! Mom, someone tried to attack me! You and da' have to get out-" Her breath hitched when her mother walked right through her, turning slowly to see that neither her, nor her father, had seen her.
She shook her head in disbelief, screaming for them. She gasped lightly when she noticed Angus was staring at her, slowly approaching him. When she went to touch him, he jumped on his high legs, neighing frantically. His mother and father tried to console the poor horse, not seeing what he was seeing, what had become of Merida. She cried out for them as they made for home, continuing their search. Tears brimmed her eyes, falling to her knees as she sobbed. She was so confused, how could they not see her? She heard the sound of water then, crawling over to a small river bank and looking into it. When she saw her eyes, black where the whites should be filled with glowing orbs, she began to scream. It was a howling cry that seemed to expand from inside, unceasing as she realized she was something no longer human. Wailing at the presence or looming death, her own, she had become one of the most feared creatures ever told in the fables of her land...
She had become a Banshee, a seer of death.
Merida jumped to her feet, gasping as she discovered she was able to float, though it was not a happy discovery. She swayed as she wept, unable to allow this all to sink in. She then noticed a twinkling light in the grass, stopping to inspect it. She blinked when she saw it was some kind of transparent orb she had never seen before; she had not seen Bumby use it of course, but she figured that whatever it was, he must have dropped it during their fighting. Her hand reached out to touch it, and before she could react, the snow globe burst, taking her to a land and time she never would have had a chance to know before.