Initiating the Instigation
Pitch opened his eyes to find himself in a dreamscape… it was not often he had dreams, he often dismissed them as nothing more than such and planned to do the same tonight. He was standing in a bedroom, it seemed like a little girl's bedroom, a pink and white color scheme, an assortment of stuffed animals sitting on the bed, a bookshelf filled with fairy tales to help the imagination run wild. He then heard a voice. He turned to see Elsa looking around worriedly, and it was then he noticed the sound of bells screaming outside, her eyes wide with fear as she hugged a pillow tightly to her chest. He narrowed his eyes, taking a step closer.
"What are you doing in my-" Pitch had started to ask.
She whirled around, looking straight at him, it seemed. He heard the swelling sign of approaching doom, the sound of quiet shrieks and ear piercing whispers, it was a familiar sound, turning to look at the closed door. When he heard the shuffling of footsteps in the room, he turned back to notice Elsa was now standing just by the window, hugging the pillow closer to her chest. Pitch was beyond bewildered, and as the door burst open, shadows filling the room at rapid speed, she emitted a phrase. To Pitch's surprise, the words she has spoken were muffled, and before the shadows overwhelmed his vision, he thought he heard the sound of glass breaking.
Pitch's eyes opened slowly, glancing around as he awoke from his dream. He sat up, clearing his throat as he tried to pretend that the dream meant nothing, it was just another passing fancy with the recesses of his mind… but there was something off about it. Not just because he had seen Elsa, there was something familiar about it; familiarity breeds contempt, and when it came to his own brilliant mind, he wanted no distractions. He decided to take a stroll within the grand dwelling he and his comrades were currently residing in, assuming all were resting… except for one. When he caught sight of Bumby in one of the lower levels, he approached him to a point, Bumby's back turned to him.
"Well, someone's been awfully quiet as of late." Pitch started.
A low chuckle. "Concentration requires it, Pitch… you being the master of shadows should know that." Bumby replied.
Pitch chuckled once, taking a step closer now that his presence had been acknowledged. "And what exactly are you concentrating on, if I may ask?"
"Of course you may ask, it is the answer which you may or may not have…" Bumby replied, his glowing form glancing back at him a moment before turning fully, revealing a little girl lying unconscious on the ground. She wore a white dress, her auburn hair hung around her face.
"Where did she come from?" Pitch inquired, craning his head to look.
"Wandering the streets after bedtime with no mommy or daddy to protect her. It's a cruel world we live in… all of these children abandoned to their own devices, little chance to survive. They are the lost ones, the ones that dwell in the places the eye does not see. But they need not fret any longer… for I shall be the one to lead them astray from their lives of insignificance and repurpose them for our cause. Why have a soul or a mind when the world deprives them of a single chance to use them?"
Bumby waved his hand over the girl. Her eyes opened slowly, revealing black voids as she gasped, sitting up as her skin began to turn pale, colorless, cracks appearing in her skin like broken porcelain. Her limbs began to elongate and became thinner, her small fingers grew and twisted into bony claws. Her mouth, like her eyes, became a black void, the opening jagged and rough. Black, sinewy material twisted and danced from her arms and legs upwards to form strings, until they all attached to a metal, x-shaped bar which floated several feet above her head. Pitch watched with awe, never seeing any craft as dark as this; far darker than even his own.
"How did you do this?" Pitch asked, looking from Bumby to the former child.
"I took her soul unto myself, leaving only a husk behind. I have made her my puppet, and she, as well as the lost ones, are to be guided to their fate. I intend to feed upon their souls, and in turn, they will always know their way, for they shall be led to whatever end they encounter." Bumby answered.
Pitch glanced from Bumby to the newly created minion, undeniably quite impressed. A part of him however, did not condone this method inflicted upon the child. Sure, he was the King of Nightmares, he wished to gain control of the children through fear and intimidation, but he even knew better to keep their souls intact. He chose not to question it, deciding that what had to be done, had to be done. He turned as he noticed the Queen approaching them, observing Bumby's minion as her eyes scanned the creature, before smirking lightly, and nodding in approval.
"Well, it seems we've made some considerable progress." She stated.
"Indeed. Now that I have perfected this ability over the course of the last day or so, I shall prove to be quite a functional part of this… unit." Bumby replied. "Now, we must decide where to first use it."
"Wherever we choose to, of course…" The Queen responded, glancing at her nails, extending her hand to stare at her fingers, wiggling them before lowering her hand, her eyes flickering to Pitch. "Unless either of you have any locations in particular you would like to share."
Pitch cleared his throat; the way the Queen would look at him, a certain hunger in her eyes at times, made him quite uncomfortable. "Well… let's think of it this way…" He began to pace a bit, trying to ignore the fact that the Queen's eyes were now following him. "We observed how we fared last time we decided to go to our enemies to fight them. In their territory, we are at a disadvantage. We must find a way to lure them here… but they aren't fools, I will say that much. They are thinking the same thing we are, each side waiting for the other to emerge first. We need to do something to entice them out of their little hiding spot in the tundra."
"All very good points." Bumby nodded. "However, how can we… as you say, 'entice' them?"
Pitch rubbed his chin, narrowing his eyes in thought for a few moments. "Well… was that Alice not residing at a… she had that place of hers that was more or less a collective of children?"
Bumby let the suggestion set in a few moments, a sinister grin spreading across his face. "Yes, I do recall that now…" He chuckled lightly. "I can just imagine how steamed Alice would be if I destroyed all her hard work… her pitiful attempt to restore all the beautiful damage I did to their precious little minds... very well. We shall go there tonight and confiscate the children. If Alice wants them back, she'll have to come fetch them herself…"
Pitch gave a nod of agreement, the Queen grinning as she looked between them. "I'll go fetch Elsa and Wick, then." He turned to do so, but Bumby stopped him.
"Let's allow our little pets to slumber in peace, shall we? They are so much like children themselves, they don't need to meddle in all of our affairs… am I correct?" Bumby said.
Pitch turned his head a bit, glancing at him warily. "How do you mean, exactly?"
"Come now, Pitch, you don't think Elsa the enchantress would react well to our works?" Bumby asked.
"You mean your work… this craft is entirely your own making." Pitch responded.
"Ah, but you've witnessed it, and you are working to allow its continuation. You are a part of this Pitch, all three of us are. Remember what you said to me in the beginning, when we met? That there are none in the world who neither understand nor respect our motives? Now then, surely you haven't changed your mind?"
"Of course not." Pitch replied, a bit too quickly, regaining composure by forcing a smirk. "It was merely a misunderstanding."
"Alright then. Just remember… our pets do our dirty work, nothing more. They are like hounds tethered to chains, they obey our commands and then sit quietly in their corners until we next require them. Let's head off." Bumby said, and the Queen licked her lips as she followed suit.
Pitch forced his spine to straighten, following them as for the first time, he felt that he was no longer in a leadership position in this group. Indeed, he was not among fools, but several very intelligent, very dangerous individuals that each had their own agendas to fill as he did. Some of those items listed matched his own, but some varied, and he was beginning to learn a very harsh but important lesson, the first in the many centuries of his existence.
He was not the biggest and meanest one out there anymore.
Alice opened her eyes slowly, inhaling deeply as she sat up, her feet delicately touching the floor as she travelled silently along the floor. She slowed to a stop when she passed the doorway of Jack's area, glancing up to just barely see him in his loft, sleeping soundly. She smiled sadly, sighing softly before continuing along, ascending as her hair floated in midair. She glanced around, taking out a snow globe, casting it down and closing her eyes, bracing the impact of the trip to her destination. When her hair fell down to her upper back and she regained her footing, she opened her eyes, looking around and sighing with relief. She was back home; well, as much of a home as she was going to get, that is. Her sanctuary for the destitute and damaged children from Houndsditch were all surprisingly asleep, locked into whatever dreams their deranged minds could produce…
… or so it seemed.
As Alice did every couple nights or so, she silently checked around the place, making sure nothing out of the ordinary was going on, and that everything was as much in order as it could be. She tiptoed up the stairs, small streaks of light cast on the floor and the walls from the gaps in the window's drapes helping to guide her way; a subtle but great help. When she reached the top, she checked each room one by one, smiling lightly at each sleeping child; some she tucked in a bit tighter, or placed a stuffed animal under an arm, wiped a stream of drool with a handkerchief. She finally reached the last room, the room Eliza was in, checking on her and one other child before turning, looking at the small drawer in the room. She cautiously reached into her dress pocket, removing a key and glancing over at it. She approached the drawer, placing the key inside and turning it, pausing at the click. She slowly opened the drawer, closing her eyes and exhaling deeply. Her eyes popped open when she heard shifting, whipping her head around to look behind her. When she noticed Eliza was beginning to sit up, she relaxed, placing the key to the open drawer on it, walking over to sit on the edge of her bed.
"Eliza." She whispered, leaning in a bit. "You shouldn't be awake this time of night."
The girl looked over at Alice, swallowing thickly. "But Alice… I had another nightmare…" She whispered.
"I told you dear, the lake monster can't harm you here." Alice reassured.
"It wasn't the lake monster this time…" Eliza whispered. "It was a different monster. Only you understand, Alice."
Alice sighed sadly, gently patting her hand. "Alright. You may tell me what happened, and then it's back to sleep for you."
Eliza looked around her, leaning in a bit closer towards Alice. "I saw the doctor… the one who told us about the man in the moon, the train with stars and magic dust… but he was a scary monster… I heard him talking, but not to me. He was just… talking. He whispered words, he said he wants all the children to follow him… I saw the place he wants us to go, Alice… I don't want to go there. It's dark… it's scary, Alice. I don't know what it means… but I don't want to see the doctor again."
Alice's expression fell, disturbed by what Eliza was telling her. When she realized that it had to be some kind of vision Eliza had seen, she reached over to hug the girl to her. "I don't want to see the doctor again either…" She glanced out the window, looking out into the night. When the moon slowly became obscured by dark clouds moving in, she knew this all could not be a coincidence.
Something was coming.
"Alice? What's wrong?" Eliza whispered.
The elder of the two turned, barely able to see each other in the growing darkness.
"We're gathering your things. Do not speak to anyone or wake the others. Stay quiet, do you understand?" Alice said as calmly as possible, feeling for the small drawer through the lessening light, feeling it and groping inside it, grabbing the file clumsily to stuff in her petticoat. She felt for the closet, helping the confused girl to pack her things before reaching for her hand, casting down a snow globe. In an instant, the two girls vanished; their destination back at the workshop awaiting them just as the remainder of the children unknowingly awaited possible doom in their vulnerability.
"Jack! Jack, no! You said you wouldn't play any tricks! Jack, come back up! Jack? JACK!"
Jack opened his eyes, approaching the sound of his sister. He could see her bent over the huge hole in the icy lake that sealed his fate as a guardian centuries ago. She was frantic, the small girl crying for help and for him as she began to sob.
"Jack, I'm sorry… I'm so sorry Jack…" She whispered, her back turned to him.
As she stood, Jack several feet behind her, he extended a hand, about to call out to her when the environment began to change. He looked around him, the ground changing as he glanced behind him. Tree roots of the forest shot up from the ground, forming beams, shingles, windows and doors, until no trees were left in the area and Jack stared in horror as the Victorian styled home before him burst into flames. He shook his head, taking a step back until a small voice spoke behind him.
"I'm sorry… I'm so sorry…"
Jack turned, no longer seeing his sister, but a similar looking little girl, trembling and frightened in the snow as she clung to a small rabbit doll. Jack glanced back from the house to the small girl, and then he realized who it was.
It was Alice.
Jack reached out a hand, but noticed that voices were approaching from behind him, police officers and doctors all aiming to get to the singed Alice. Her eyes widened in fear, running into the other direction into the dark, hazy, cold night.
"Alice!" Jack shouted, running after her into the night fog, unable to see a thing. "Alice, wait!" Jack shouted, covering his eyes for a moment when the fog cleared to reveal Houndsditch, the gate creaking as it opened slowly. He blinked when he saw the little Alice glance back at him a moment, soundlessly whispering his name before entering the building, just as she had when he first met her. Jack panted as he ran up to the door, flying it open. When he glanced inside, he saw not Alice, but the back of his sister's head. To his horror, he was not inside the Houndsditch building, but in the hellish dollhouse landscape of the toymaker's domain. The rusty creaking of wailing and groaning children moving along hooks hung about his head, the dollmaker plucking one by one to make them into his freakish dolls. Jack shook his head, furrowing his brows as nothing seemed to tear his gaze away from this nightmarish landscape.
Nothing, except for when his sister finally spoke.
"The unstable are more than merely mad… they have other parts… the dollmaker will deprive them of what remains of their deranged souls… they need care."
Jack tilted his head in confusion; something was off about her as she seemed to stare up at the monstrous creature in the background, as if in a trance, being able to tell just by staring at the back of her head. "Emma… I know you're trying to tell me something… I… I didn't want to leave you, I didn't mean to hurt you… I'm sorry for the pain you felt, I can see that now… but I, I don't understand…" Jack's voice trailed off, sighing as he bent down on one knee, placing a hand on her shoulder. "You can tell me what's wrong, Emma. We can still… be there for each other." He smiled sadly.
"It's too late, Jack… for I'm them…" She whispered.
"Them? What do you-" Before Jack could finish his question, Emma turned, Jack's breath caught in his throat as she revealed her face, grotesque with thick stitches which weren't cauterized, her eyelids pinned so they were stretched open, and her mouth fixed and pinned into a permanent, disturbing smile. Thick scars stretched down from her forehead to her chin, tilting her head as her eyes seemed to stare right into his soul. Jack screamed, gripping at his hair as fear overtook him, darkness swirling around him as the disturbing image seemed to etch itself into his mind.
Alice sighed lightly as she sat at the edge of Jack's bed, inhaling sharply when he burst awake.
"EMMA!" He screamed on the top of his lungs, gasping for air as he groped the bed sheets and hugged them to his chest, tears streaming down his face as he ran a hand through his hair. After a few moments, he became aware of Alice's presence, staring up at her as he grit his teeth, trying to hold back a sob. "I keep seeing her… something is wrong with her, Alice… something happened to my sister…"
A few moment's pause, Alice sat in thought. "It isn't that simple." She replied. "The last time you saw her was long ago…"
"I know that Alice, but… the nightmares are getting worse. She's trying to tell me something." Jack replied.
"Shh…" Alice cooed, taking his hand into hers and patting it. "I know how painful the nightmares are. I still have them from time to time. You miss her. You feel guilt for not being there for her after you fell into the lake. Just as I wasn't there to help mine." She sighed. "It is a damnable understanding we share… but… it comforts me to at least know that for the first time, someone understands it."
Jack nodded, and to her surprise, Alice glanced around as Jack leaned forward to hug her. He shut his eyes tight, exhaling sharply. Her arms slowly hugged him back, gently patting his shoulder. She was not accustomed to caring gestures such as this; most people were cold and distant towards her at best.
Bunnymund entered the room then, clearing his throat. "Oi, where am I putting the ankle biter's things?"
Jack sat up a bit, wiping his eyes and glancing from him to Alice. "What is he talking about?"
"I… I had gone to check on the sanctuary…" Alice replied. "… everything seemed fine, but when Eliza awoke and told me of her nightmare… Jack, I think she had some kind of vision-"
"Wait, you… you went to London, by yourself?" Jack sat up a bit straighter. "Alice, with Pitch and your enemies out there, you could have gotten into serious trouble! None of us would have been able to help you if something had happened!" He exclaimed, his expression filling with concern.
"Told 'er the same thing mate, if I'd known she was running off every night, I would have gone along with her." Bunny commented.
"W- Wait, you've been doing this… every night?!" Jack exclaimed.
"Jack, I had to check up on them…" Alice sighed. "I can't just abandon them like I have in the past."
"We're here to help each other, Alice. You don't have to go off running by yourself, we're a team, remember?" Jack replied. "No more sneaking off and keeping secrets, okay?"
Alice cleared her throat, hugging her petticoat a bit tighter around her. "Alright… I'm sorry, Jack." She looked at him apologetically. "I'm used to doing things on my own."
"I know." Jack placed a hand on her shoulder. "You have all of us now."
"Hey, I finished fixing up the room." Hiccup said as he popped in the doorway. "Merida tried to help but she kinda made the girl uncomfortable."
Alice gave a nod. "I'll handle the rest, thank you both." She turned back to look at Jack. "Will you be alright for the remainder of the night?"
"Yeah… I think I'll be okay. Thanks for understanding, Alice." He smiled lightly.
Alice smiled in return, getting up to head out of the room and go to where Eliza was staying. She shut the door behind her, ushering the preteen to bed and tucking her in, gently kissing her forehead. "Don't be afraid of anyone here." She advised. "Everyone here means to help and protect you. You're safe."
"Okay, Alice." Eliza whispered, yawning as she closed her eyes.
Alice glanced around then, still hugging her petticoat tightly around her before going over to a drawer in the girl's new room. She opened it, seeing only a key inside. She took it, trying it out to see if it was the key to lock it. When the match was confirmed, Alice slowly opened her petticoat, exhaling deeply as she took out the file she had grabbed from Houndsditch. She shoved it into the drawer, closing and locking it before reaching under the collar of her dress. She took out a chain with a key hanging from it; the key to her sister Lizzie's bedroom. She took off the necklace to add the small drawer key onto it, placing it back on her and tucking both keys under her collar.
Meanwhile, Hiccup was on his way back to bed as well, the night marching on when he heard quiet sobbing. He glanced into the doorway where the source of the sound came from, frowning lightly when he saw Merida's glowing form hovering in the air, her back to him as he saw her wiping at her eyes.
"Hey…" He started, approaching her with caution. "What's wrong?"
Merida turned, her hair hanging a bit in her face as she did. "What's wrong? Look at me!" She exclaimed. "I'm a Banshee, Hiccup! I'm a feared creature! M' family will never see me again, and even if they did, they'd be afraid of me! I want my mom, m' da, my brothers! I don't want everyone looking at me like I'm a monster!"
"You're not a monster Merida… it isn't your fault you're like… this." He gestured his hands towards her. "But that's why we're here, right? We're here to bring down the ones who did this to you, Toothless, the others." He smiled lightly. "Hey, come on… you don't look that scary to me. And… I've actually becoming a better warrior because of you."
Merida smiled a bit through her tears. "Well… you're learning from the best after all, lad." She wiped her eyes once more. "I'm sorry… I just miss home is all."
"I miss Berk too… man, Astrid must be worried sick about me… I miss her, that's for sure."
"Astrid?" Merida tilted her head. "She your sister?"
Hiccup chuckled. "No, she's my girlfriend."
Merida grimaced. "Ugh… my mom tried to have me betrothed to one of the elder sons of the other clans… I do NOT want to be confined to the bonds of marriage."
Hiccup blinked. "Well, we're not married, yet… we're dating."
"But that's sooo gross! All that lovey dovey stuff, you've got time for nothin' else, do ye?" Merida asked.
"It's not just all about being mushy, I mean… sometimes it is, but we enjoy doing other stuff together too, like hunting, flying our dragons, taking long walks…" Hiccup said. "You can still do the things you like to do, but it's even better when you have someone to do it with, you know? Someone who enjoys the same things you do."
Merida tilted her head with interest, never having viewed a potential mate to be that way. "I suppose you should get some shut eye then… it's already past moonrise."
Hiccup nodded in agreement. "Yeah… feeling okay now?"
"Much better, thanks…" She smiled lightly. "Thank ye, Hiccup."
"No problem. Night, Merida." He said before heading out; it seemed that helping Merida to ease her tensions had helped to ease his own as well.
Pitch, Bumby and the Queen stood side by side on the cobblestone street of London, the moonlight obscured by dark clouds. They each stared at the building that was Alice's sanctuary for children, knowing the key to truly beginning this war slumbered just inside.
"Well, let's get this over with." The Queen said, breaking the silence. "We need to be back to our domain before sunrise."
Bumby was the first to step forward, trying the knob and growling when it was locked. "This place is like a fortress."
"Every fortress has a breaking point, dear." The Queen commented, one of her tentacles slithering out to wrap around the doorknob, squeezing until she broke it off, nudging the door open. "I'm the lady, so I shall proceed first."
Pitch groaned, pinching the bridge of his nose as he followed her and Bumby inside. Upon them entering, he snapped to attention when he heard a sound, a ball rolling towards them and stopping just feet from them. When they looked in the direction of where it had come from, a child stood on the other side of the front room. The child's eyes widened as a glass of water slipped from the boy's hands, staring at them in fear.
"Well, this is perfect…" Pitch muttered. "Can't very well induce nightmares upon them if they aren't ASLEEP."
The boy gasped lightly, opening his mouth to scream when the Queen slowly descended from the ceiling, a tentacle wrapping around his mouth as she grinned, her pupils shrinking as she placed a large finger to her lips. "Good children always remain silent until they are asked to speak."
Bumby approached then, the child staring up at him fearfully as their screams were muffled. As the child's soul was consumed, Pitch heard a sound, wielding his scythe.
Nan Sharpe had been awoken by the sound of the glass breaking, being a light sleeper. "Oi… Richard, don't drink too much… if I have to clean up yer piss again I'll-"
Pitch was not going to take the time to see who was approaching; he shot out a burst of black sand, narrowing his eyes when he heard the sound of it colliding with its victim, followed by a subsequent thud. Bumby and the Queen glanced over at the sound as Pitch went into the kitchen to inspect the scene, finding Nan unconscious on the floor, slumped up against the wall. Pitch grit his teeth a bit, before whipping his head up to glance at the ceiling at the sound of shuffling upstairs.
"So much for being discreet." Bumby said. "I will proceed upstairs to claim the rest of the children, search around to make sure no others are lurking on this level."
The Queen nodded, her eyes a sickly green as they glowed in the low light. She whipped her head when she heard the floor creak, her form disappearing into the shadows as a child, a little girl, hugged a teddy bear to her chest, her hair hung about her face as she glanced around fearfully. Her eyes set on Pitch, tilting her head with fearful curiosity.
"Mister Boogeyman…?" She squeaked as her voice cracked. "Did you kill my friend Richard?"
Before Pitch could even react, tentacles shot out from the darkness, dragging the shrieking girl back into the shadows, the Queen emerging as she was about to devour the child whole.
"We're supposed to be harvesting them, not consuming them… your highness." Pitch spat.
"Oh, can't I have one as a snack?" She pouted.
"Let me at least silence the squealing thing!" Pitch snapped, shooting a burst of dark sand at the screaming girl, her eyes rolling up as she fell into an unrestful sleep.
Upstairs, screaming and crying erupted as the remainder of the children Bumby hadn't already turned ran about with no sense of direction; they were soon silenced as Bumby descended the stairs, floating puppet children silently following him as he adjusted his tie and his hat.
"Ah, nice catch, your highness." He commented as he strode over to the small girl, whimpering in her sleep as she experienced a nightmare, opening his mouth wide as he devoured her soul, sucking it out of her. The Queen's tentacle retreated back under her dress as the girl soon joined the other puppet children, forming a neat line behind Bumby.
"I think our work is done here." The Queen straightened herself as she sashayed over to them. "I would like to get a bit to chew on before we return home… this has worked up my appetite."
"Very well, just don't make a scene." Pitch responded, and the Queen grinned in response, one of her tentacles smacking into the door so it was knocked off its hinges, cackling as she went along her way. "Shouldn't we make sure no others are lurking here before her royal highness destroys anything else?"
"Do what you wish, just be quick about it. We haven't got much time left. I have faith that there were no others remaining." Bumby responded.
Pitch nodded, moving silently up the stairs and floated through the rooms. His eyes darted everywhere, watching, his ears listening intently for any sign of any children in hiding. He eventually decided to conclude his search after checking the final room; as he was about to leave, something caught his eye, doing a double take. He tilted his head, crouching down to take something into his hands near a toppled over side table drawer. He narrowed his eyes as he observed what seemed to be a small photograph of a girl, presumably one of the children that had been residing there. Upon taking a closer look however, there was something familiar about the girl… where had he seen her before? He could not put his finger on it now, but he knew there was some connection he had with her. He descended the stairs, joining the others in returning to their underground cavern dwelling. As he walked through the door, Nan remained unconsciously slumped against the wall, a bit of blood dripping down the back of her head through her hair.
When Bumby had finished organizing and concealing his puppet children, Pitch found an opportunity to speak with him alone.
"Doctor… might I have a moment of your time?" Pitch asked.
"Why of course… what seems to be on your mind, Pitch?" Bumby replied.
Pitch glanced around, producing the photo and handing it to Bumby. "This girl… can you identify her?"
Bumby adjusted his glasses, concentrating and stroking his chin for a moment. "Ah… this photo must be at least five years old, now. Emma Bennett. A photo of each child was taken upon entrance to Houndsditch when I ran it, she was between five and seven when she came under my care. Was brought all the way from the states, as I recall. Suffered from severe delusions of some lake monster swallowing up her brother…" Bumby chuckled. "Each night she would call his name; 'Jack, no more tricks, Jack, please come back and-'"
Pitch's head whipped up then, his eyes widened when Bumby's words struck him with realization. "Wait a moment. Jack? Did you say her brother's name was Jack?"
"Indeed… funny, I don't believe I saw Emma among the children that I changed back at the sanctuary…" Bumby commented.
A grin stretched along Pitch's face as he cackled. "Yes, I knew it! I knew that the girl was familiar somehow… this has to be her, the very same girl that Jack lost his life protecting to become a guardian!"
"I'm sorry, I'm not quite following you." Bumby said.
"My greatest enemy, Jack Frost…" Pitch held up the picture. "This is the key to bringing him down. We find her… we use her as bait, and then we have leverage against them."
Bumby raised a curious brow. "Are you absolutely sure that she is his sister? If she is… then that would be very good for us. That is… if we can locate her."
"If you did not see her when we were there, then she must have gone somewhere else… I did notice that the one portion of the room was cleared out." Pitch mentioned.
"Which means she was already gone before we arrived…" Bumby said. "Undoubtedly the work of our wonderful friend, Alice." He said through gritted teeth. "When she joins her band of freaks in confronting us for our acts committed tonight, perhaps we will find out more about Emma's whereabouts."
The following morning, Alice, Jack, Bunnymund, Merida and Hiccup made their way to London to check on things at the sanctuary. After telling the others of Eliza's vision, they all agreed with Alice that they should at least make sure everything was alright; they had no idea what they were in store for as they went along on their trip; Bunnymund and Hiccup sat on Toothless as he transported them, Bunny holding onto Hiccup for dear life, as Alice, Merida and Jack soared airborne themselves.
"You know, I didn't wake up this morning imagining an oversized rabbit squeezing the life out of me, so do you mind at least easing your death grip on me a bit?" Hiccup shouted, Toothless groaning below as he rolled his eyes.
"Mate… I didn't wake up this morning imagining traveling by an oversized lizard thousands of feet in the air. I don't like flying in North's sled, and I don't like flying on a dragon, because I don't. Like. HEIGHTS." Bunny replied.
Jack, Alice and Merida all glanced at the two and then each other, the three of them unable to hold in their snickering. Eventually, Jack burst out in laughter, Alice and Merida following suit. Bunny shot them all a look, but it didn't stop them from sharing in their amusement. The clouds soon cleared as they arrived over London, concealing themselves as soon as possible as they set foot not far from the sanctuary.
"Alright. We won't be long; just help me make sure everything is in order, and then perhaps we can discuss a long term plan for this place." Alice said.
"Stay here and keep hidden, okay bud?" Hiccup asked, and the dragon gave a nod, retreating into the shadows.
They were all walking down the cobblestone street, Jack and Bunny teasing each other about the trip there when Bunny walked right into Alice, wiggling his nose as he took a step back.
"Oi, you jus' gonna stand there Sheila, or are you gonna…" His voice trailed off, his nose catching scent of something off. Jack walked on the other side of her, glancing at the building as Alice stood dead in her tracks.
The door was torn from its hinges. Windows were broken. The front gate hung open.
Jack looked from the scene to Alice's face, her expression horrified. "Alice… let's just go about this carefully- Alice!"
Without any further hesitation, she ran towards the building, bursting in through the doorway, vorpal blade in hand as her eyes darted about for any sign of movement. "Nan? Nan!" She called out, her heart pounding in her chest when she received no reply, fearing the worst.
Jack soon joined her side, Merida floating in as her eyes narrowed.
"I sense someone's life waning…" Merida said, floating forward, gravitating towards the kitchen area.
Bunnymund stepped inside, boomerangs in hand as he sniffed the air. "Look at this place… someone already got to this place before us. Where are all those little ankle biters…?"
"Alice!" Merida called from the kitchen, turning when Alice appeared in the doorway and backing up to look from a woman slumped against the wall back at her. Alice's eyes widened, dropping her blade as it clattered to the floor, falling to her knees once she reached the woman.
"Nan. Nan, look at me, wake up." Her voice was serious, but shaky, patting the woman's face. "Nanny, you have to tell me what happened, wake up!"
Hiccup entered the kitchen then, crouching down and turning her head a bit. Alice gasped when she saw blood, whipping her head to the side to look at him.
"She isn't dead yet, but she's well on her way, lass." Merida answered the question Alice meant to ask.
"We can't leave her here. We have to get her to proper help." Alice said, about to try to lift her, but Hiccup volunteered, Jack stepping forward to help him.
"Help me get her to Toothless, he'll be able to get her back." Hiccup said, the two carrying the woman out of the building.
Alice slowly stood to her feet, turning when Bunnymund entered the kitchen, shaking his head. "I don't see one." He said forlornly. "Not one of them little ones are here. Every one of them is gone."
Merida furrowed her brows sadly as Alice inhaled shakily, staggering a bit at the news. She shut her eyes tightly for a moment, her grieved expression beginning to harden into something else. When she reopened them, she stared ahead darkly, bending down to take her blade into her hand, glancing up at Bunnymund.
"I don't care what it takes." She started. "You and I both know who is responsible for this. I'm going to get them back. I'm not going to wait around any longer. They've trifled with me."
Jack jogged back in through the gaping doorway then, appearing into the kitchen just in time to hear Alice's last statement. "Alice…" He said as she glanced at him. "You have to know that this is what they want. They want you to just go in after them and they could have an ambush waiting-"
"I don't care about that, Jack!" Alice snapped, her brows furrowing deeply. "Those children are depending on us now, every child in the world is depending on us now!" She exclaimed. "You are their guardians… well, I am also!"
Hiccup exhaled deeply, looking between Jack and Alice. He remembered when he battled his father's greatest enemy to save the dragons from turmoil on his island; this had become much greater than that, and he knew that he could no longer just stand idly. He knew nothing of this place, or the people there, but he knew that as long as innocent lives were at stake, he had to do something.
"I'll help you." Hiccup said, standing beside Alice. "We'll go and get them back together."
Merida thought of her brothers, and how fiercely she would defend them if something had happened to them. She floated to hover beside Hiccup, nodding to her. "I'll help ye too." She said.
Alice looked at Jack and Bunnymund, her spine straightening. "So, will the guardians aid us in protecting their children?"
Jack and Bunnymund glanced at each other; this wasn't how they did things, they always had an organized plan, they would regroup and figure things out together when something went wrong, they weren't ones to just run into something unprepared. In that moment however, they realized that these enemies Pitch had allied himself with were an entirely new animal of evil; there was no time to just sit back and plan anymore… they had to go and fight, for they no longer had the upper hand. Jack stepped forward, gripping his staff upright.
"We will." He replied, his smile filled with determination.
"Let's go bring those little buggers back home." Bunnymund added, and the five of them set off to do what they needed to do; first, they had to bring Nan to the nearest hospital so she could recover. Then, they were going to seek out the foes that had done this and confront them head on.
"Do we have to see those creepy troll things again?" Olaf asked, waddling alongside Anna and Kristoff. "I mean, they're talking rocks for crying out loud!"
Kristoff shot Olaf a look, about to say something but Anna placed a hand on his shoulder, shaking her head as they continued their way to where the trolls dwelled.
"Olaf, we've searched the whole kingdom for my sister." Anna answered him sadly. "I was unfrozen because I saved her from that jerk Hans, I could see how devastated she was… I know that she still cares about me. Something must have happened to her, and I won't stop searching until I find her."
When they reached their destination, Kristoff called out to his family. Pabbie was the first to emerge, greeting them warmly.
"Anna, I sense you are deeply troubled. I see your heart has thawed, but I am surprised to see you still require my aid." Pabbie said.
"My sister… something happened to her. We can't find her anywhere. Everything has melted and the summer is back, but… she isn't." Anna furrowed her brows deeply. "I just want to find her and be a family again. Please… we need your help to find where she is."
Pabbie hummed in thought. "Do you have any idea if she has remained lost on her own accord, or if she was taken?"
"Taken…?" Anna breathed. "Who would do such a thing as take my sister away from her own kingdom?"
"Pabbie, we found this when Queen Elsa disappeared." Kristoff said, taking out a small satchel and handing it to him. "It was some kind of… weird dust."
The moment Pabbie took the satchel into his hands, he shuttered, dropping it so its contents spilled out, and the other trolls gasped in horror. One scooped up the baby troll, covering his little eyes.
"Wh- What's wrong?" Anna asked, glancing around at all of the trolls before setting her gaze on Pabbie.
"Anna, the origin of this black powder stems from dark magic; very, very dark." Pabbie began. "It does not originate from here, but it is a force that feeds off of the fear of others." He turned around, lights appearing in the sky to form images similar to how he had done the night Elsa learned of her powers as a little girl. Blue lights came together to form an image of Elsa moving about gracefully. "Elsa has grown to fear her powers, just as I had feared myself." He said, her image changing as she curled up, the blue light fading to a deep red as a darker light emerged sinisterly behind her form. "This force was attracted to her fear, and may plan to use her powers not for good, but for evil… to turn Elsa into a weapon to use her powers of light for dark purposes."
Anna gasped, clinging lightly to Kristoff as they all looked on in shock as the dark form lifted Elsa's form, the red glow producing shockwaves of red light that pulsed through the sky until the vision disappeared with a hiss. Anna's breath was caught in her throat as she shook her head, glancing at Pabbie.
"My sister wouldn't hurt anyone. That's not who she is." Anna said seriously.
"No, it is not. But if this dark force continues to influence her… your sister will fall into the darkness with it, and all light in her heart will be extinguished." Pabbie replied.
"You have to tell me where she went." Anna pleaded. "Whatever I have to do to stop this, I'll do it!"
"Anna, this is too dangerous. We know nothing about this… this whatever that has your sister. It may try to do something to YOU." Kristoff frowned.
"Kristoff…" Anna shook her head. "I am not going to just let this happen to her. I'm going to find her and bring her home, where she belongs!" She exclaimed before looking back at Pabbie. "Is there any way to get to where she is?"
"I could use this dark essence to make a portal that would lead you to its origin, but I warn you, Anna. Where you end up may be very dangerous, and I don't have a method to bring you back if you lose your way." Pabbie replied.
Anna glanced back at Kristoff. "If you want to stay… I understand. You've already helped me more than I could ever ask you to, and-"
"Are you kidding? I am not letting you go to some unknown place by yourself, Anna! Of course we're coming with you, right guys?" Kristoff turned, staring daggers when he caught Sven and Olaf trying to sneak off, the two stopping dead in their tracks and smiling sheepishly. "You two better get back over here, right now." He rolled his eyes, turning back to look at Pabbie. "Where she goes, I go. And… if we can somehow save Elsa… then I'll do what I can to help Anna."
Pabbie nodded, Bulba frowning worriedly as he took a stone bowl, pouring in some of the dark sand, mixing some other ingredients and waving a hand over it, the mixture glowing before pouring it onto the ground. "I added some essence of fig to help your chances of arriving in a safer area. Nonetheless, you shall find what you seek where you arrive. I wish you both the best and I hope you are able to make a safe return. All our thoughts are with you."
Anna nodded in thanks, Bulba waddling over to hug Kristoff's leg. "Be careful." She said, sniffling a bit as she returned to the rest of the group. Anna and Kristoff exchanged a glance before they stepped into the glowing circle on the ground, Olaf and Sven joining them as in just a few moments, the glow of the portal, as well as the four of them, vanished without a trace.
The group of heroes stood outside of Houndsditch, Alice's eyes narrowed as her hair blew lightly in the breeze. "So… all this time they've been lurking right beneath our feet…" She shook her head.
Bunnymund popped out of one of his rabbit holes, rubbing his shoulders. "Blimey, it's freezing down there! Come on, this'll be the easiest way in."
"Uh, you may want to make it a bit bigger, Toothless needs to be able to fit." Hiccup commented.
"Not a problem, mate." Bunny smirked, tapping his foot to make the hole a bit bigger. "Let's take a dive, shall we?"
Without hesitation, they all made their way, Alice's face serious as she slid. Jack and Merida soared through the tunnel, while Hiccup and Toothless scrambled quite a bit, Toothless crying out as his nails dug into the hole's walls. They finally exited; everyone making it out alright except for Hiccup, who groaned when he fell flat on his face.
"I'm… okay…" He said, his voice muffled as he held a hand up. Alice rolled her eyes, yanking him up by his collar as he shook his head to get back into focus.
"Honestly, you are the clumsiest boy I have ever encountered." Alice snapped, huffing.
Jack observed their surroundings, noticing the shimmering pillars supporting the cavern's "ceiling" and the seemingly crystal stairways connecting the multiple levels. He thought that these touches seemed a bit out of place for a dark and dank dwelling such as this, but he wasn't here to question that; they had a job to do.
"Alright." Jack gripped his staff as he turned to face the others. "We move together. They'll want us to split up, but we aren't going to do that. One of them will have to show themselves eventually, and then we make our move, okay?"
Toothless growled then, eyeing something. He crouched down, his pupils shrinking to slits as he bore his teeth.
"Toothless? What is it?" Hiccup asked, squinting his eyes to look into the darkness.
Merida slowly took out an arrow, her hair swaying a bit as she knocked it, her eyes darting, searching for any sign of movement. Alice wielded her vorpal blade, the group keeping on guard.
Behind them, the Queen slithered soundlessly down the cavern walls, eyeing the group as she would prey. The wall sloped downwards towards them, her eyes losing their eerie glow as she emerged into the light, though still undetected. She licked her lips hungrily, sharp teeth bared. She was just barely inches from Hiccup now, her long, pointed tongue dripping with saliva. As she was about to have a taste of Hiccup, Bunnymund's nose twitched as he caught her scent, whipping around to toss an egg bomb. The Queen hissed and screeched, her hands swatting at her face as he made a direct hit. This alerted the rest of the group, all whirling around to prepare to attack. As they did so, black sand materialized behind them, Pitch panning horizontally without making a sound; that is, until he spoke.
"Now, that wasn't very nice…" He said, Jack and Alice whirling to face him, the heroes standing almost back to back as they found themselves right in the middle of two of their enemies.
"Alice…" Bumby said in a sing song voice as he descended the stairs to their right, adjusting his glasses. "I'm disappointed, I thought I taught you better manners than that."
Alice grit her teeth, her eyes shifting between all three of their enemies that had presented themselves. "I'm not here to play your games!" She shouted. "You foul gits know exactly why we're here and I will not stand for the tampering of those children!"
Bumby smirked as Pitch emitted a cackle. He decided that since Pitch relished in being in the spotlight, he would let him have it; he was going to remain poised until it was time to actually fight.
"They aren't your property, Alice… they don't have your name on them, so they aren't yours. If you want them back, you'll have to do a lot more than whine with your little empty threats at me." Pitch mocked, waving his hands about.
Alice scowled darkly, her fists clenching. "So be it… Pitch."
A clockwork bomb materialized into her hands then, and she growled as she began to toss one after another at Pitch. He was quick though, dodging them. The Queen slithered around them from behind, stopping when she was on the same side of the platform as Pitch, poised for an attack when necessary. After tossing a few more bombs, Alice whipped out her pepper grinder, gritting her teeth as shots lit up the walls. Pitch eluded most of them, but cried out when one managed to sting his side. He fell to one knee, and Alice gripped her blade once more, jumping up to soar through the air at him.
"Alice, wait!" Jack shouted, extending his hand.
Ignoring his cry, Alice did not stop for a moment, landing before Pitch to duel with him one on one. Despite Pitch's power, he was denying less and less that Alice was not to be so underestimated. He dodged most of her swipes, still holding his side when he had a chance to. He materialized quickly behind her, trying to wrestle the knife from her as his arms wrapped around her to grab her wrists.
"NO! Leave her alone!" Jack shouted, shooting an ice burst at Pitch's back to stun him.
Alice then took this opportunity to elbow his chest, bursting into butterflies to reappear behind him, thrusting her foot against his back to knock him down. She stared intensely at him, breathing deeply as she pointed her blade at him. As she stood over him, Pitch felt the cavern wall against his back as he glanced from the blade to her. When Alice raised the blade to point at his face, Pitch slowly held his hands up.
"Alright Alice, let's not be so hasty-"
"Give… me… the children." She spoke through clenched teeth, jabbing the tip of her blade at his chest once, threateningly. When Pitch didn't respond quickly enough for her, she raised it into the air, about to bring it down upon him.
The Queen decided she was no longer going to be a bystander, hissing as one of her tentacles shot through the air towards Alice. Merida gasped, knocking and loosing an arrow, cutting through the air and embedding itself in the Queen's tentacle. She screeched in pain, whipping her head towards Merida to hiss at her angrily.
"You will pay for your insolence!" The Queen screeched, about to attack when Pitch stopped her, telling her to hold back just a bit longer.
"Okay, okay, just… listen, I am a man who likes nice things, who doesn't?" Pitch started, keeping his hands up in a defensive manner as he stood slowly. Alice did not even blink as she stared at him with a stone hard expression. "I've had tendencies in the past to take things that aren't mine, and… I'm going to do the same thing now as I have done in the past. But first… I'd like to introduce you to our other friends… it's only the polite thing to do when we have guests."
The group of heroes looked towards a sudden burst of light, Bunny's eyes widening when he looked upon Wick. "That's…" He shook his head in disbelief as Wick gripped his scythe, narrowing his hollow eyes at them as he readied himself for an attack.
Pitch turned, calling out to a farther area of the cavern. "Elsa, dear… no need to hide any longer, you may come out, now."
Jack furrowed a brow in confusion, but gasped when the ice Queen emerged, descending the stairs gracefully, but cautiously. As she joined the group, she inhaled sharply as her eyes gravitated to Jack, resting on him.
"Do any of you know who she is?" Jack whispered, and he received shrugs and shaking heads in response from all except Alice as she kept her eyes set on Pitch.
"Lad, I'm one to ask questions later." Merida replied, knocking an arrow. "If she's one of them, then she's goin' down." She shot an arrow that soared through the air right at Elsa, and she gasped as she quickly held her hands up, the arrow stopped by a thick sheet of ice that materialized before her. Merida stared in surprise, and Jack's eyes widened in shock.
"She… did she just… she-" Jack muttered.
"As you can see, Jack… you're not so unique anymore, are you?" Pitch let his head fall back as he cackled. "I found someone who needed my help as much as I need hers… someone who understands what being cast into the shadows, being labeled as a monster is like!" He shouted, straightening up. "Now… as I was saying… before we begin this little game… I'm going to do the same thing I did the last time I took something dear from someone…" He looked into Alice's eyes darkly. "… I'm going to give them back."
Alice narrowed her eyes warily at Pitch, turning when Bumby called to the former children to emerge from the shadows. "Don't fret, they won't be played with today… they're going to just watch… they have much to learn, after all, if they are to be useful."
Jack and Bunnymund joined Alice in looking on in horror, the frightening puppet children floating out from the shadows silently as they stared, the empty space in their eyes hollow and emotionless. Toothless whined lightly as Hiccup gulped nervously.
"Uh… are these the same kids we're supposed to be saving? If it is, you can… you can take them back." He said, glancing around tensely.
Alice's eyes brimmed with angry tears, clenching her teeth once more as she started to storm towards Bumby. "You… you sick BASTARD!" She shrieked, emitting a battle scream as she raised her vorpal blade to attack him. Before she could reach him however, she felt something wrap tightly around her waist, the Queen grabbing her and dragging her back.
"No! Alice!" Jack cried out, soaring to get to her when he was stopped short by Pitch materializing before him.
"Not so fast, FROST!" Pitch growled as he wielded his own dark scythe, sending it cutting through the air as Jack was forced to dash through the air to avoid it.
"I'll handle this one, lads!" Merida took out her sword to fly towards Alice, narrowing her eyes in deep focus. She was about halfway to where the Queen was now dangling Alice in the air when something smacked hard into her side, Merida grunting in pain as she was flown back a few dozen yards in the underground chasm. Bumby grinned to himself, conjuring another of his molten balls. He chuckled lightly, threatening to strike her again as he flew towards her.
"Oi, Merida!" Bunnymund hopped into action, barely dodging one of the Queen's other tentacles to get to her.
"I'm fine, go help Alice!" Merida shouted back, her gaze setting on Bumby from across the cavern as she glared at him. "I've got a score t'settle."
Bunny gave a nod, dashing quickly towards the Queen as she threatened to squeeze the life from Alice.
"My dear… I will thoroughly enjoy slurping up the jelly that oozes out of every orifice once I watch the life drip from your eyes!" The Queen hissed, chortling chaotically. Without warning, Bunny hopped onto the Queen's back, grabbing onto her face and yanking her back. The Queen screeched, her sharp teeth snapping at Bunny's paws as her hands groped the air to try to flip him off of her back.
"Crikey, this is worse than wrestling a great white!" Bunny grimaced, but this distraction caused the Queen to loosen her death grip around Alice. She managed to free one of her arms before slicing at the tentacle, the Queen screeching in pain. Bunnymund's eyes widened when he felt something burning, glancing behind him to see that his tail was on fire. "Bloody hell!" He gasped when Wick flew at him then, wrestling him off of the Queen as he roared angrily.
Alice was able to escape, now in a better position to fight off against the Queen. As the Queen shot her tentacles through the air to try to grab Alice once again, Alice burst into butterflies to dodge them each time, rematerializing with her blade to keep them at bay and further protect herself from attacks. The Queen grinned wickedly then, clenching one of her fists as she summoned several card guards to rise around Alice, encircling her. Alice stood firm, glancing out of the corners of her eyes as she awaited their first move.
"You shall die on this day, Alice!" The Queen hissed.
Toothless growled lightly, nudging Hiccup as he glanced around the platform unsurely. "You're right bud, we can't just keep standing here; but where do we even start?" He exclaimed, and Toothless rolled his eyes, charging past Hiccup and roaring as he made his way towards the Queen's card minions. As they were about to overwhelm Alice, he bowled through them, snarling ferociously. "Toothless, wait!" Hiccup cried, scrambling towards his companion.
Alice watched with a small bit of awe as Toothless whipped his tail, knocking card guards over, taking one in his mouth and flinging it across the cavern. The Queen grit her teeth angrily, screeching loudly as she charged, colliding right into Toothless as the two wrestled. Alice ran forward, skidding to a stop as she wielded her pepper grinder, shooting some at the Queen to blind her temporarily as she yelped in pain. Toothless bit her hand then, allowing him to untangle himself from her tentacles before she could try to strangle him. The Queen regained her stance aster staggering back quite a bit, once more summoning minions, this time her armored guards.
"Slaughter them!" She screamed.
Hiccup reached them, standing by Alice as she and Toothless began to fight them off. Hiccup gasped as one threatened to behead Alice from behind her, intercepting and blocking the attack with his sword. Alice gasped, whirling around as she saw the guard forcing Hiccup down, its spear coming down upon his sword as Hiccup tried with all his strength to maintain his block. She soared over them, landing behind the guard as her blade swiped through the air. She stood up straight as the armored guard stopped all movement, Hiccup staring into its empty eyes as its head rolled off its shoulders, his shocked gaze meeting Alice's serious one. A smirk slowly appeared across her face, emitting a chuckle.
"Well, clumsy boy, I suppose I owe you one." She stated.
Hiccup chuckled nervously, giving her a nod as they resumed fighting with Toothless against the Queen's forces.
Meanwhile, Jack cried out as he sent out more ice sparks through the air, darting after Pitch as he did so. Pitch dodged most of his attacks, but when Jack managed to corner him, he stared at him angrily.
"Give it up, Pitch. Just change those kids back and we'll leave you alone!" Jack exclaimed.
Before Pitch could reply, Jack hissed when something struck his back, and he had to quickly regain his balance before he threatened to hit the ground, stabilizing his hover in midair. He whirled around to see Elsa, who was staring at him with pure concentration, her hand extended as she threatened to attack again. Pitch laughed, rearing his scythe back and hitting Jack with it while his back was turned, sending him down. Jack landed onto the cold, hard ground harshly. Jack grunted as he got up as fast as he could. He barely had a chance to regain composure and Elsa strode towards him, waving her hands as spikes and waves of ice began to pop out of the ground, threatening to impale Jack as he was forced to move back rapidly on his toes.
"Elsa, stop!" Jack shouted to her, one spike just grazing his foot to make him trip, falling back. "Listen to me, whatever Pitch is promising you, whatever reason he has given you to fight against us, you can't trust him!"
"No!" Elsa cried out. "He warned me you would try to do this; I'm not listening to you!"
"You don't know anything about me, can't you just hear me out?!" Jack shouted.
"Stop!" Elsa pleaded, her hand extended as she furrowed her brows deeply. "I'm sorry, but I have to do this!"
"No you don't, Elsa! If Pitch is threatening something against you, we can help!" Jack exclaimed.
"I'm not threatening her with anything, Jack… but I will threaten you if you continue to talk like that." Pitch shot a burst of dark sand at him, Jack deflecting it. Just as quickly as he dodged it however, Elsa shot a burst of ice at him, making Jack stumble back a foot or two.
"Now who's the one who should give it up, Jack?" Pitch mocked. "Face it, she's more powerful than you!"
Merida kept her eye on Bumby as he circled around her teasingly, his smile disturbing as he remained perfectly calm.
"You know, Merida… it's no wonder you constantly sought to find solace in the woods… I'm sure all the men of your clan wanted a piece of you. You may be headstrong, but I do love the ones that have a bit of fight in them… they keep things interesting for me." Bumby taunted.
Merida growled lowly, flying at him with her sword, but missed. Bumby's laugh echoed as she tried to strike him with her sword and shoot arrows that only went through him while he remained in his dephased form.
"Stop being a cowardly troll and fight me!" Merida screamed on the top of her lungs.
"What are you now, Merida… fifteen, sixteen? Ah, how ripe you are for picking already. I want you to keep looking at me like that, Merida… the rage in your eyes is breathtaking." Bumby continued with his perverse comments. "That rage creates a beautiful and deadly fire of passion… and I am more than willing to be set ablaze by it." He switched to his ooze form, forming a molten ball in his hand to fire at Merida. She gasped, ducking quickly out of its path to avoid being hit again. He extended his hand then, smirking as jets of fire spewed from his palm towards her. Merida whined anxiously as she soared around as quickly as she could to avoid it, eventually tucking herself into a small space to try to hide from Bumby. She breathed heavily, sniffling as she realized she was running out of options; if she couldn't even land one blow on him, how could she fight? How could she survive?
Bunnymund took in a deep breath, wincing as he ran for his life to duck behind a large rock, plastering his back against it. Flames erupted past him from either side of the rock, it being the only thing protecting him from being burnt to a crisp as the winds from the flame's force blew through his fur. Wick's roar echoed through the cavern as the flame from his scythe ceased momentarily, giving Bunny opportunity to jump back out into the open. He took a few egg bombs into his paws, tossing them at the illuminated creature. Flames engulfed Wick like a candle as he roared, speedily moving towards Bunny as he reared his scythe back to attempt to impale him. Bunny quickly dodged, Wick chasing him through the cavern as he emitted a frightening laugh.
"Will you get off my tail, you buzzard?" Bunny shouted, whipping one of his boomerangs out. The boomerang smacked right into Wick's face, causing him to cry out as he crash landed into the ground, whimpering lightly as his flames died down a bit. Bunny shook his head, regaining himself a bit. "About bloody time…" His ear flickered then when he heard a whine from across the cavern, turning to see Bumby cornering Merida.
She was upright now, facing Bumby head on as she mustered all of her inner strength to maintain her bravery. She knocked an arrow, pulling back on it to hold her position. Her face shuddered a bit as she stared at him intensely, her brows creased deeply. Her lip trembled, her eyes widening as he approached ever closer.
"Merida…" Bumby called to her in a sing song voice. "There's no need to be this way… believe me, what I took from you was precious… but I've caused many to lose something far more precious than what you lost… it is my obligation as an adult to fit every young person to their calling… just accept that sacrificing your soul to me was your purpose." He chuckled darkly.
"Hey, face ache!" Bunnymund hopped up behind Bumby then, boomerangs wielded. "Leave her alone."
Bumby turned, laughing at Bunnymund as he held a hand to his chest. "My, I pity you for even thinking I could take you seriously! You are no less ridiculous than one of Alice's pointless fantasies; and thus I will treat you as such. Be gone, I have other matters to attend to."
Bunnymund was not one to tolerate being brushed off or ignored. He hopped up, landing in between Bumby and Merida as he stared down the doctor with a serious expression. "Your ears ain't as big as mine, mate, but I know you heard me."
Bumby shrugged nonchalantly, Bunny smirking as the doctor materialized into his ooze form. "If it's a duel you want, so be it." Bunny gripped his boomerangs tightly, anticipating his next attack.
As Alice sliced through another card guard, she could hear commotion from across the cavern, glancing behind her to see Jack being double teamed by Pitch and Elsa. She glanced over at Hiccup, who was impressed with himself when he sliced through a card guard.
"Wow, I'm getting better at this!" Hiccup smiled.
"Hiccup!" Alice called to him. "Jack needs my help, I need you to be able to handle this, do you understand?"
The Viking's eyes widened, shaking his head. "Nonononono, I cannot fight all these guys and that big squid thing by myself!"
"You have your dragon; I can't let Jack fend for himself!" Alice glanced back anxiously as Elsa and Pitch overwhelmed the ice guardian. "Please Hiccup, I know you can do this, I have to go to him!"
Hiccup glanced past Alice to see Jack struggling to fend off Elsa and Pitch, exhaling sharply as he gave Alice a nod. "Okay, Toothless and I have got this."
Without wasting another moment, Alice soared over towards Jack as quickly as she could. Meanwhile, Elsa and Pitch stood side by side, Jack grunting as he tried to dodge attacks from both of them; he was weakening however, breathing heavily as he mustered all the strength he could to fight against them.
"Very good, Elsa… now, finish him off." Pitch grinned, turning to look darkly at Jack. "Say goodnight, Frost."
Elsa focused, thrusting her hand out to send an ice spike spiraling through the air, aimed right for Jack's chest. Just when it was feet from hitting its target, Alice jumped in front of him in just the right moment, opening up her umbrella to deflect it. Pitch gasped lightly, bursting into black sand to avoid being hit by the spike as it rebounded, instead soaring past him to embed itself into one of Elsa's ice pillars. This created a large crack in the pillar, and like a tree falling, it creaked as it began to loom over them. As the large structure began to fall, Elsa whirled around, gasping before gathering her dress to run as quickly as she could to avoid being crushed. Though she missed this fatality, the pillar broke into a million pieces, shards scattering and shooting everywhere. Pitch hovered in the air, covering his face with his arm as he looked down at the wreckage. As Elsa ran, one shard shot through the air, embedding itself into her leg. She cried out in pain as she tripped and fell, her head hitting a rock sticking out of the ground. She landed harshly, instantly knocked out. Alice took this opportunity to grab Jack, hoisting him onto her back as she soared away from the wreckage with him. Pitch's teeth clenched, crying out angrily as he realized he had just missed his chance to completely destroy Jack.
"Merida, get out of here!" Bunny cried out as he dodged Bumby's molten balls, tossing his egg bombs to counter them.
As Bunny faced off with Bumby, she glanced down to see Toothless and Hiccup fighting off the Queen and her card forces. While Hiccup was barely managing to keep up, Toothless had no problem with the card guards, but it was the Queen who was giving him a bit of trouble. Having had enough, the Queen pounced on Toothless' back during an opportune moment, her large hands hanging onto him tightly as her tentacles wrapped around the dragon. She grinned wickedly, her eyes crazed as she squeezed, going in for the kill. Hiccup heard the sickening sounds of his dragon struggling to breathe, his eyes widening as his heart lurched in his chest.
"TOOTHLESS!" Hiccup screamed, trying to shove his way past the card guards.
Merida's eyes widened, glancing at Bunny for a moment before her eyes narrowed with determination. She soared towards them, taking out her sword. She emitted a battle cry as she began to slice one tentacle after another, her teeth clenched. Despite the Queen's howling shrieks hurting her ears, she did not stop. She infuriated the Queen enough for her to toss Toothless aside like a rag doll, the dragon whining as he landed onto the ground roughly, gasping for air.
Merida floated above the Queen, slicing at her tentacles as she tried to evade them. The Queen inhaled deeply, and one moment later, she began to spew igneous fire from her mouth as it opened unnaturally wide. Despite having tentacles, the Queen moved quite quickly, crawling up the walls as close to Merida as she could. When she timed it just right, she threw herself off the wall, grabbing onto Merida in midair as one of her arrows embedded into her shoulder. They landed onto the ground, the Queen pinning Merida down as her sharp teeth snapped at her, drool dripping down her chin. Merida grunted as she was barely able to avoid being bitten, squeezing her eyes shut as she screamed for help. Just as the Queen was about to sink her teeth into Merida, she felt herself being yanked back, the Queen biting air where Merida had just been. Hiccup pulled Merida to her feet, his eyes widening as the Queen whipped her head up to continue to pursue them. The two scrambled back as she crawled after them like a predator hungrily hunting its prey until they hit a wall, their backs pressed against it.
"Well…" The Queen hissed, her voice more distorted than usual. "Tonight I shall have far more bones to feast upon than what I am accustomed to!"
As she was about to seal their demise, she was intercepted by Toothless when he hopped in between them, growling ferociously as he roared loudly, bearing his teeth. Tentacles shot through the air towards him, but Toothless was prepared this time. He hopped up, dodging them and whipping them away with his tail, snarling as he stood his ground. As one came straight for him, he opened his mouth wide, catching it in his teeth and yanking with all his strength, ripping the tentacle right out. The Queen gasped deeply, screeching on the top of her lungs as she fell, her other tentacles curling as she trembled with pain. Hiccup grabbed Merida's hand, jumping onto Toothless' back as they got away while the Queen was down.
"Hiccup!" Alice shouted, Jack still on her back. "Jack is hurt, we have to get him out of here!"
Toothless landed near them, Hiccup's eyes widening as he saw Jack's worn state. "Here, I'll help him on Toothless…"
"Where is Bunnymund?" Alice demanded, her eyes scanning the cavern before she caught sight of him fighting one on one with Bumby, gritting her teeth.
"Alice…" Jack groaned, sitting up a bit. "We can't leave without destroying them…" He pointed to the puppet children lurking in the shadows, watching everything.
"No, Jack." Alice shook her head. "We can't do that. We're getting out of here."
Jack shook his head. "You're the one who wanted to dive into this head first, Alice! And now you want to-"
"I don't know how that will affect them, Jack! The children! Killing the monsters they've become may kill them! If that were to happen I would never forgive myself!" Alice exclaimed.
Jack sighed lightly; what she said was true, they knew nothing of exactly how they were turned into the puppet children, and until they knew exactly what to do, they couldn't risk the chance of killing what they were trying to save. "Alright…" He said in defeat.
Alice gave him a nod, looking to Hiccup. "Take Jack and Merida. I will go help Bunny get out of here."
Jack's eyes widened. "Alice, you can't just stay here without-"
"Will you be alright without us here?" Hiccup asked.
"I'll be fine, stop wasting time and get Jack to recovery!" Alice replied, soaring across the cavern towards Bunny.
"No, Alice wait! ALICE!" Jack cried as Toothless took off, he joining Hiccup and Merida as they made their escape.
Bunnymund quickly dodged being struck down by Bumby's attacks, but when Wick suddenly blocked his path, he had to skid to a stop, finding himself trapped between them.
"It seems that poor little Peter Cottontail has found himself stuck in Mr. McGreggor's garden…" Bumby chuckled as he slowly approached Bunny. "And you're the one on the sticking end!"
Wick grinned darkly, igniting in his flames like a candle, gripping his scythe as he was about to release powerful stream of fire at Bunny. He was moments away when out of nowhere, he was knocked several feet to the side by something that had been hurled at him. Bunny whipped his head towards the source of the trajectory item, emitting a laugh when he saw Alice there. She narrowed her eyes as she pivoted on her feet, her teapot cannon steaming and whistling as she prepared to fire at Bumby. Alice figured that with Wick down, the doctor had to choose fight or flight; either way, it would give a chance for Bunny to get out of the bind he had been in. She released another shot of boiling hot tea, Bumby reverting to his ghost form as he disappeared into a wall. Alice ran over to Bunny, grabbing his paw without a word.
"Hey, aren't we going to try to get those little ankle biters back to their-"
"Jack is hurt, Bunny, we'll have to resume this arduous task another day!" Alice said, cutting him off. "Now use those feet to hop onto my back!"
"Oi, how in the hell is that supposed to help us get out of here-"
"NOW!" Alice screamed, tugging him so he collided into her back, scrambling to grab a hold of her.
As they made their escape, Alice soaring through the air, Pitch was suddenly on their tail; he was still quite miffed from Alice's interruption of sealing Jack's demise just prior, pursuing them as he shot waves of black sand at them. Alice bit her lip as she tried to dodge them, and Bunny wasted no time grabbing an egg bomb, tossing them back to give something for Pitch to dodge. When one finally smacked right into Pitch's face, making him fall back, Bunny pumped one of his fists in the air. He swayed a bit however, quickly grabbing onto Alice to steady himself so he wouldn't fall as they flew out of the underground dwelling.
"Hey Alice, tell me again how you're able to fly with a six foot one rabbit on your back again?" He asked, and Alice rolled her eyes in response as they soared through the air to get back to North's workshop.