Approaching First Aftermath
Anna hugged her shoulders, looking around as bitter cold winds blew through her braids.
"It feels like we just got AWAY from the cold, not to go to where it's MORE cold!" She exclaimed, her teeth chattering. She glanced up at Kristoff when he placed an arm around her, smiling a bit when he cleared his throat nervously when she looked at him.
"Uh… body heat… don't want you to get frost bite." He said, and Sven smirked a bit as he nudged Kristoff's arm playfully. "Knock it off, Sven…" Kristoff shot a look at the reindeer as Sven stuck his tongue out at him. "Come on, we need to get somewhere warm."
Olaf smiled; he wondered where this floating cloud over his head had come from after all the snow had melted back in Arendelle. "So pretty…" He smiled to himself as he waddled onward.
After trudging through the snow for some time, Kristoff squinted his eyes as he saw something through the raging flurries. "Hey, I see something!"
"It looks like some sort of inn… maybe we can stay there until we find what we're looking for!" Anna smiled, blowing out a breath as she tried to warm herself.
"Come on, Sven can get us there quicker than if we stay on foot."
Kristoff helped Anna and Olaf onto Sven before climbing on himself, Sven trudging easily through the snow being it was something he was accustomed to. It took them some time, but they finally reached the outside of the building, Anna looking around it.
"Wow, this is a really big inn!" She exclaimed, when suddenly, she gasped lightly, closing her eyes and smiling. "Do you smell that? It smells like… pastries!"
"Yeah, that does smell nice…" Kristoff said in response. "Is there like, a front entrance or something? How do we get in?"
Olaf was humming to himself, waddling around aimlessly near the group when he turned around, stopping to look up when he was face to face with a Yeti. He tilted his head, smiling at it. "Hi, I'm Olaf, and I like warm hugs! What's your name?"
The Yeti stared at Olaf flatly. Several seconds later, he joined Anna, Kristoff, and Sven- well, all except his back legs as they did not fit- in a large satchel as they struggled, being dragged by several other Yetis into the building.
"Hey- what- let us out of here!" Kristoff exclaimed as they were dragged in the large satchel.
A few minutes later, they were all shoved out of the bag as one of the Yetis dumped them out, Anna crying out in surprise as she fell. She blinked, shaking her head and looking down to see she had fallen onto Kristoff, clearing her throat and giggling nervously. "Oh, uh… sorry…"
Kristoff chuckled nervously as well despite the situation, sitting up before hopping to his feet, helping Anna to hers. Sven snorted, nudging Kristoff's shoulder before nodding his head forward. Kristoff and Anna turned to see three individuals standing- well, two of them hovered- before them.
"Who are you, and why were you trying to come in here?" North looked upon the four intruders warily, crossing his arms.
"We're trying to find our friend Elsa!" Olaf smiled, waddling forward to approach North. Taking this as a threat, North wielded one of his swords, jabbing it at Olaf.
"Do not come any closer!" North cried.
Olaf blinked, looking down at the sword and back up at North before bursting into giggles. "That tickles!"
Anna exhaled audibly then, taking a step forward. When she did, Sandy floated over to her, making an invisible line with his finger before pounding his fist into his other hand, a serious expression on his face. Anna blinked in reaction, not sure what to even make of… well, whatever this was floating in her face.
"Look, I think this is all just a misunderstanding…" Anna started. "See, Kristoff- that's him by the way." She nodded her head towards him. "We're all searching for my sister, her name is Elsa… we thought that this was some sort of large inn, but I'm beginning to think we were wrong…" She jumped a bit when Tooth floated closer to them.
"Where do you all come from?" Tooth asked.
"I- we, come from Arendelle… the kingdom of Arendelle… I'm a princess there, Kristoff is… my assistant." Anna replied.
"Gee, thanks." Kristoff rolled his eyes.
"That's his reindeer, Sven, and this…" She pointed at Olaf. "Well, my sister sort of… made him. See, she sort of has these ice powers… I had no idea she had them until I got into a small argument with her at her coronation and I took her glove and she got upset and…" Anna shook her head quickly. "Sorry, I'm rambling…"
"I'm sorry, but this is a heavily guarded area. We cannot have any trespassers here." North replied.
"North…" Tooth frowned. "I don't think they mean any harm to us, maybe we can at least let them-"
"The last time we had unwelcome visitors, they nearly destroyed us, Tooth… what if this is some kind of trick?" North responded.
Sandy was listening to their conversation intently when something caught his eye, perking up when he noticed Toothless flying in the distance towards the workshop, carrying Hiccup, Bunnymund and a worn Jack. Alice and Merida flew alongside him. Sandy gently tugged at North's sleeve, pointing to the windows to show him.
"Well… we'll let Jack and Bunny decide what to do with you then." North said, still keeping his sword handy as the others landed and made their way to where the other guardians were.
Upon seeing Toothless, Sven cried out with fright, his hooves scrambling as he cowered behind Kristoff, daring to peek from behind him as he trembled.
"Some help you are, Sven…" Kristoff said, exasperated. Regardless, he had never seen ANYTHING like Toothless before, and his heart began to beat a bit quicker as he stared at the dragon anxiously.
Alice approached, nodding her head towards the newcomers. "North, who are they?"
"I don't know, and I don't know if we should find out…" He replied, Alice and the others wary of Anna and her small group's presence.
"Please…" Anna furrowed her brows as the group of odd individuals began to intimidate her. "If… if you don't want us here, we'll leave… but can you at least tell me if you've seen my sister, even heard of her?" She frowned. "I've been searching for her; I just want her to come home… I sought help from some very close friends and they told me that she could be found in this realm."
Alice's expression softened at the talk of sisters. She exhaled audibly, glancing at North for a moment before looking back at Anna. "Who is she? Your sister?"
"Her name is Elsa… she's my older sister, the… the Queen of our home, Arendelle." Anna replied.
For the first time, despite his state, Jack sat up a bit, raising his brows. "Wait… did you say… Elsa?"
Anna gasped lightly, looking in Jack's direction. "Do you… have you seen her?" She asked hopefully.
"Does she happen to have ice powers?" Jack asked.
At this, Anna's breath hitched as a smile worked its way into her features, her eyes nearly tearing up. "She- yes! Yes, she does! She has… she has blonde hair in- in a braid, it goes like… over her shoulder, like this, and a blue dress-"
"Wait a minute…" Alice held her hand up. "You aren't speaking of the very same woman who allied herself with Pitch, are you?"
Jack blinked. "Well, yeah, it seems like we're both talking about the same person…"
Alice raised her head, slowly looking at Anna out of the corner of her eyes. Without warning, Alice whipped out her vorpal blade, shoving Anna against the nearest wall, the blade just barely and inch from her neck.
"Uh, what just happened?!" Hiccup exclaimed.
"Alice, wait!" Jack cried.
"What did she send you here to do?" Alice asked through gritted teeth.
"Hey, let go of her!" Kristoff shouted, running towards Alice. She shot a glare at him in response.
"You come any closer and I'll stain the floor with her blood." Alice threatened, returning her gaze to a trembling, whimpering Anna.
"P- Please, don't kill me…" Anna pleaded.
"What did she send you here for? If you think for a moment you're going to play your little sob story with me, you've got another thing coming." Alice spat.
"I- I'm not a spy, I'm just trying to find Elsa… please, please just don't…" Anna began to cry, shutting her eyes tightly.
"Alice, come on, this is overkill!" Jack sat up a bit more.
"Jack, Elsa has allied herself with our enemies. Any who associate with her are not to be trusted!" Alice replied.
"She's telling the truth, just let her be!" Kristoff exclaimed.
Olaf was no longer smiling, frightened now by everything that was happening.
"How do I know you're not all lying through your teeth?" Alice screamed, putting a small amount of pressure from the blade against Anna's neck. "Lizzie… they must know about her… they must know about my sister…"
Sven had a burst of courage then, snorting threateningly as he galloped across the floor, charging right at Alice and sending her flying several yards back. Alice grunted as she fell hard, gasping as she scrambled to get to her feet. In a matter of moments, Merida knocked an arrow aimed for Sven, and Kristoff took out his hunting knife, pointing it at her.
"Do one thing to my friend and see what happens." He threatened her.
"Will everyone just stop putting someone's life in danger for two seconds?" Hiccup shouted, the whole room falling silent as everyone stared at him. "Since all of this…" He made a waving gesture with his hands. "… started, I've had barely a minute to even think!" He continued to shout. "My dragon and I have been thrown around, beaten, strangled, almost EATEN, and all we've been doing is fighting, and preparing to fight, and talking about fighting, and dreaming about fighting, and we haven't spent even one second trying to talk things out!" He breathed heavily from his rant, glancing at everyone as they stared at him in surprise, not having expected the Viking boy to reach his breaking point like this. "Alice… we don't even know who these people are, how can you just think that they're evil?"
"Because I don't trust anyone who associates with my enemies… and anyone who fights with that heartless doctor is my enemy!" Alice exclaimed.
"Well, if they were really trying something, I think they'd plan something a bit more… extreme, don't you think?" Hiccup threw his hands up.
Alice narrowed her eyes. "You may not care about potential risks, but I do, Hiccup. I already allowed all of those children to slip through my fingers, I will not tolerate some crowd of hooligans coming in here and-"
"Hey, who are you calling a hooligan, you crazy witch?" Kristoff shouted.
"How is it a risk to just help someone who needs it, Alice? If anything, you should know what this is like; wouldn't you have done the same for your sister if she was still alive-" Hiccup tried to argue.
"Don't you speak of my Lizzie!" Alice shrieked, squeezing her eyes shut as she inhaled sharply. "Fine. Do what you wish, but don't expect my participation!" Anna gasped in shock as Alice stabbed her vorpal blade into the wall, a mere inch from where Anna was standing. Alice stormed off, leaving a thick silence in the room that lasted for nearly a minute.
Bunny sighed, the first to break the silence. "I'm gonna get Jack to his bed. Pitch roughed him up pretty badly back there." He helped Jack off of Toothless, walking him to his loft.
Tooth looked to North then. "North, please… can't we just let them stay? I really think they're telling the truth… I can check their teeth if you need me to…"
"Alright, alright… goodness Christmas, the way we keep having more and more stay here, we may as well turn my workshop into an inn!" North threw his hands up, muttering to himself as he walked away.
Bunny returned from helping Jack into bed, approaching Anna and Kristoff. "Sorry about Alice… she's been through a lot, mates. Come on, let's grab you a seat to calm your nerves, hm?"
Despite the fact that they were being guided by a giant talking rabbit, after what had happened, Anna and Kristoff weren't going to question it. Hiccup stared in the direction that Alice went, sighing lightly as he gathered himself up to go to her. When he stopped outside her door, he knocked lightly on it with one knuckle.
"Alice?" He called lightly, and he could hear her sobbing inside.
"Leave me alone!" She screamed, making Hiccup wince.
"Look, I… I didn't mean to… snap at you down there, I… I just think you uh… overreacted, is all…" Hiccup scratched the back of his neck. He was about to say something else when Alice flung the door open, staring daggers.
"You think I… what now?" She asked angrily, her face stained with tears. "So you just think I go out of my way to make a fool of myself, is that it then?"
"N- No, I didn't-… Alice, come on, I'm trying to just work this out!" Hiccup whined.
"No one asked you to!" Alice snapped. "You think that after being betrayed and violated by every person who seemed decent enough, having everything taken from me like pulling a carpet from under your feet, is just all an overreaction?"
"Look, I… I know that you've lost your family and everything, that doctor guy did it, which is why you hate him… so you should understand what that girl is going through, and-"
"I don't have to understand anything! The only thing I understand is that I have a task to do, I failed a second time to keep those children safe, I failed to save my family, I failed to save my companions, my wonderland, my sanity, everything dear to me has been ripped from me and left to disintegrate like rotting flesh!" Alice's voice strained, her breathing uneven as more tears rolled down her cheeks. "You have no idea what it's like to watch someone you love die right before your eyes…"
Hiccup frowned then. "But, I do… Alice." He replied quietly. "My father died because I wasn't able to protect him. And it wasn't my enemy that killed him; it wasn't some evil being or weapon…" He looked into Alice's eyes. "It was my best friend." He glanced to the side as Toothless appeared then, his ears pinned back as he whined lowly, looking up at Hiccup sadly as he gently nudged his arm. Hiccup gave him a reassuring pat before looking at Alice. "Hiccup was under my enemy's control… and my dad died because of it. There was nothing I could do." Alice's expression softened, glancing between the two of them as she quieted. "I may not understand everything you've gone through, but I know that feeling of helplessness… watching everything you've loved, everything you worked so hard for be turned against you and crumble… but my dad always told me that life always grows from ashes left behind."
Alice stared at Hiccup for a few moments, rubbing her arm a bit. "I'm sorry. For your loss."
"Back at Berk, I had a whole group behind me ready to help me. But… you've always been alone, Alice. Think of all of us as your… as your tribe, you know?" Hiccup smiled lightly.
Alice couldn't help but chuckle lightly at that. "I suppose that's an interesting way to think of it." She smiled sadly at him. "I suppose I was a bit rude to our guest, wasn't I?"
"Eh, you could say that… I guess reintroductions are in order, then?" Hiccup asked.
"Very well… if they're willing to remain in the same room as I." Alice groaned.
"Ladies first." Hiccup stepped back, Toothless following suit as he chirped lightly. Alice smiled lightly, nodding to him in silent thanks as she proceeded back down the stairs, hoping there was a chance to try and make amends.
Elsa groaned lightly as she stirred, inhaling deeply as she opened her eyes slowly. She glanced around, carefully sitting up as she rubbed her head for a moment. When she was more alert, she gasped lightly, pulling at her dress a bit to inspect her leg, where she had been hurt by the ice shard. She tilted her head curiously, her hand grazing over the smooth skin, as if she'd never been hurt. Before she could even question how this came to be, Pitch panned behind her silently. Elsa sensed someone behind her, turning her head to glance behind her, but saw nothing. When she went to look back at her leg, she gasped in surprise, Pitch suddenly standing in front of her.
"Don't bother thanking me for that… apparently pumpkin boy had a hidden talent we were all ignorant to." Pitch started, pacing around Elsa. "Good for you, because I would have let you bleed after you disappointing performance. You'll only have him to depend on from here on in if you don't start shaping up."
Elsa carefully got to her feet, standing as she frowned. "Pitch, I'm sorry… I… that girl, she came out of nowhere, and-"
"Excuses, excuses, is that all you have to offer, Elsa?" Pitch cut her off. "All that power, wasted on someone who doesn't have the drive to utilize it properly!"
"I'm trying!" Elsa exhaled sharply, closing her eyes. "I will do better next time."
"Next time?" Pitch asked, circling around her so he stood behind her. "Maybe, I'll decide there won't be a next time… you failed to deliver for me when I needed you, so why should I deliver for you when you need me?"
Elsa whirled around, shaking her head as her eyes widened. "No… please, I'll… I'll try harder, I need to save my sister!"
"You will never save your sister!" Pitch snapped. "She will always be trapped in ice because you are trapped by your fear! Look at you, you reek of it!"
"You have no idea… for ten years I was confined to my room, from everyone, trying to protect her, my family; I tried so hard to control it!" Elsa exclaimed. "This isn't easy for me!"
"Of course it isn't, you stupid girl!" Pitch shouted, sneering at her. "Ten years? I've dwelled in the shadows, groveling, merely surviving, for centuries… your measly decade means nothing to me."
"Pitch… I need your help. You're the only hope I have left to save Anna." Elsa pleaded.
"Well, I'm not really confident that you are able to meet my standard, Elsa. Not after you ruined our chance to bring down Jack Frost." He narrowed his eyes at her. "You're going to have to prove your worth if you want any further assistance from me."
Elsa shut her eyes tightly. "I am not going back home without a solution for my sister."
"You don't tell me what to do." Pitch replied. "You may be a queen, but you do not reign here… as a matter of fact, you don't even rein your own kingdom. You were ousted by your own subjects!" He spat. "You are so weak; you will always allow others to walk all over you!"
"Stop…" Elsa said shakily, exhaling sharply.
"You've got a death order on your head; all of your enemies are going to trample you down into dust!"
"I said stop it, I don't want to hear this!" Elsa cried.
"Poor little Elsa, so frightened and helpless, how can you expect anyone to believe in you when you don't even believe in yourself?"
"STOP IT!" Elsa shrieked, whirling around as she shoved Pitch away from her.
Pitch was honestly quite shocked by the move, but not in a positive way. He growled lowly, rearing his hands back to shoot a burst of black sand at Elsa. She was barely able to react in time, her own hands weaving through the air to deflect his attacks. Her hand thrust forward, an ice shard shooting forward. Pitch hissed when it grazed his face, touching his cheek and looking at his fingers to see black blood on his fingertips. He slowly looked up at her, Elsa trembling as she held her hands up. Her breath was shaky, her eyes staring right into Pitch's. Several of his nightmares materialized on either side of him, and he glanced at them briefly before looking back to her, raising a brow.
"You want to play this game? Very well… but don't be disappointed when you lose." Pitch said lowly.
Elsa's eyes darted, watching, waiting, anxiously for the first move to be made. Pitch stood exactly where he was, smirking lightly as the nightmares slowly advanced closer. Elsa continued to back up until she was against the cavern wall, her eyes widening as the nightmares lunged. She whimpered, her hands moving as fast as possible to blast them away from her. She froze every one, grunting as she shot her hand forward, the frozen nightmares bursting into thousands of ice shards. Elsa gasped for air, Pitch's black sand essence spotted all through the ice as she observed what she had accomplished. This was short lived; for when she looked up at Pitch, he thrust his hand forward, sending more attacks flying at her.
"Please, stop!" Elsa cried, struggling to keep up with him as she found herself scrambling to deflect his attacks.
"Not until I no longer smell the scent of fear coursing through your veins!" Pitch shouted, unleashing more attacks against her.
When she managed to maintain herself, Pitch decided to push the limit, smirking ominously. He shot two bursts of black sand at her in quick succession, knowing she would not be able to handle it. She saw it coming, waving her hands so a sheet of ice appeared in front of her. The first burst of black sand deflected, leaving a large crack in the ice. The second burst through and sent chunks of ice in all directions, hitting Elsa. She gasped, clutching her head as she slid down against the wall, chills tingling her spine as her most haunting memories resurfaced. Her screams filled the space, and Pitch smirked, chuckling lowly. When Elsa heard this, she grit her teeth, thrusting her hand forward to send an ice burst at Pitch. He deflected it, her ice riddled with black sand plastering itself on the cavern wall to Pitch's left. Elsa's eyes darted from the spot and around the room, sending several bursts of ice towards spots all around Pitch. When he laughed as what he saw was a pathetic attempt to attack him, Elsa provoked him, waiting for him to attack once more. When he shot another burst of black sand at her, she conjured another sheet of ice to block it, angling it just right. The black sand deflected itself off of all the spots Elsa had frozen like a pinball. By the time Pitch realized it, it bounced off of the spot on the wall to his left, and he gasped as his own attack made a direct hit, making him fall back several feet. When he sat up, he groaned lightly, holding his head. He gasped when a sudden vision appeared in his mind, his brows furrowing as he shook his head.
Glass shards rained from the sky. A muffled, blood curdling shriek was drowned in the thick air. A hand reaching. Bloodied hair obscuring her face. One word was spoken, but it was inaudible. As soon as she hit the ground, a chorus of hissing filled his ears. As soon as it came, it was gone, and Pitch gasped for air as he scrambled back against the wall, shaking a bit. He whipped his head towards Elsa as she stood slowly, staggering a bit as her eyes glared into his.
"Bitter, isn't it? The taste of your own medicine." She said to him.
This was all it took for Pitch to regain himself. No, this fragile creature would not make a fool of the King of Nightmares. He stormed over to her, and any confidence she had built up faded as she was back against the wall again, Pitch quickly pinning her hands to the wall to keep her from conjuring any more ice against him.
"I could end your life right here… right now…" His face was inches from hers as she turned her head to the side, her eyes shut tightly as she clenched her teeth. "And I may just do that if you pull a stunt like that again."
"So why don't you get it over with then?" Elsa asked, cracking her eyes open to glance at him.
Pitch chuckled lowly. "Because you still have a reason to be here, don't you?"
"What difference does it make…? Whether you decide to kill me or abandon to help me save my sister… the result is the same." Elsa responded.
Pitch saw something then; a flicker of a memory in her eyes. He saw what she experienced the night of her coronation. Oh how they all feared her, called her a monster, some even wanted her dead... she was running, always running away, hiding. No one accepted her... no one but Anna, the one she still fought for. All she ever wanted was what he wanted; a family... but her fear prevented that, just as his manipulation of fear did for him. The thought of hurting her sister again... it crippled her. Suddenly, Elsa's fear seemed to just vanish into thin air, as if it had never existed, and this shocked Pitch.
She was accepting death, welcoming it.
Despite this, he would not allow himself to be caught off guard. No, he began to see that Elsa was perhaps more complex than he initially perceived her to be. He knew what buttons to press however, how to place her back into the palm of his hand so he could bend her to his will.
"You speak the truth about that, Elsa…" Pitch started, smirking lightly. "However… if you anger me enough… maybe I will decide that I won't want to stop when I'm through with you."
"What do you mean?" Elsa asked.
"You do remember that your sister is still possibly stuck at home, defenseless against any who may mean her harm… I could take a nice little vacation to Arendelle, drop by, say hello… but, uh oh… clumsy me, I might just bump into her by accident… one little slip, and she'll break into a million pieces!" He growled.
Elsa's eyes shot open fully then, turning her head so she looked at him straight on, her breath caught in her throat as she shook her head. "No… no, you wouldn't-" She cried, biting her lip as Pitch tightened his grip on her hands.
"I already informed you once; you don't tell me what to do." Pitch hissed. "I will give you one final chance to assist me in destroying Jack Frost… if you fail me again; I guarantee that what I spoke of will become a reality." Pitch shoved himself away from her, Elsa falling to the ground in a heap as she watched him walk away from her.
After a few moments of silence, Elsa rested her elbows on her knees, her face resting in her hands as her eyes welled up with tears. She sobbed quietly; she didn't belong here… she belonged at home, with her sister-
No. She didn't quite belong there either, did she…? Where did she belong? Perhaps there was nowhere she could truly belong.
She lifted her head when she heard shuffling, looking around to identify the source of the sound. The tension left her body when Wick emerged, approaching her. He stopped a few inches from her, kneeling slowly as he tilted his head sadly.
"The Queen yelled at me too." He whispered, extending his hand as a single chocolate appeared.
Elsa smiled lightly through her tears, gently reaching out to close his hand. "Perhaps another day." She said quietly.
Wick looked from his closed hand to her, biting his lip before pulling her into a hug. Elsa was a bit taken aback by this, but soon gave in as her eyes shut tightly, hugging him back. She knew by now that- towards her at least- Wick was a harmless and gentle soul. She had seen a glimpse of what he was capable of during their battling, and that he was certainly not one to be messed with. The rim of his hat rested against her hair.
"Elsa?" Wick spoke after some time.
"Yes, Wick?" She replied.
"Can you sing to me again? It always helps when I'm sad."
Elsa sighed lightly, wiping her face as she smiled gently. "Alright."
"Can I sing with you?" He asked as they sat against the wall.
"Yes, you may." Elsa replied before closing her eyes, singing quietly.
Wick hummed along, staring at Elsa as she sang. Everything about her was simple and beautiful to him, but he knew there was a great sadness inside of her that reflected in his own experiences. They both spent their lives enduring a great burden, the risk of being locked away again, never to see the light of day. It was an odd sort of friendship that had begun to develop between them, but Elsa knew in her heart that they needed each other to get through this; not just for their powers, but for their source of morale, comfort and understanding. Eventually, Elsa's energy wore out as exhaustion overtook her, falling asleep. Wick blinked, leaning in to scoop her into his arms. He floated over to her resting area, placing her down as gently as possible. He sat beside her, watching over her until he too fell into the inviting arms of slumber.
Anna shook her head in disbelief, her eyes wide. "No…" She breathed. "This is exactly what Pabbie warned us about, Kristoff!" She turned to look back at Bunnymund. "We have to go after her!"
"Isn't that easy, Sheila." Bunny sighed. "We aren't just dealing with Pitch here; his other friends are even nastier than he is."
"Oh, um it's… my name is Anna, not… Sheila…" Anna replied, staring at Alice warily when she shifted in her seat.
"Don't take it personally. He calls every female he encounters that." Alice said. "But he is right. If we were to bring you to their newest domain, who's to say they won't use you against us? You'd have 'fresh bait' written all over you."
"But I can't just stay here and do nothing while my sister is in danger!" Anna cried.
"Obviously if they wanted to do somethin' with her, they would've already, lass." Merida commented as she floated a bit. "Think about it… Jack can make ice, and so can she… they're using her as a weapon."
"Isn't there anything we can do to at least help?" Kristoff asked. "How did Pitch even find her?"
"Pitch can sense and use the power of fear, against others." North said as he walked into the room, overhearing Kristoff's question.
"Pabbie told me that Elsa's biggest problem was her fear… maybe he threatened to hurt her… oh, poor Elsa!" Anna held her head in her hands, Kristoff rubbing her back gently.
"I don't know about that."
Everyone turned to look at Jack as he stood in the doorway, breathing in deeply. Alice jumped up, gently guiding him over to the chair she had been sitting in.
"Jack, you should be resting." Alice said.
"I'll be fine." He smiled reassuringly at Alice before turning his attention to Anna. "When your sister was fighting against me, I tried to talk it out with her. She's not… evil, like them… I could sense that from the get go. Pitch is already playing his mind tricks on her, and for whatever reason she's fighting for them, the more she sticks around with them, the further she's going to be sucked into their black hole."
"So you're going to bring her back, right?" Anna asked, staring at Jack anxiously.
"It won't be easy… but I'll try." Jack smiled lightly.
"Pitch is very devious and calculating." North added. "If Elsa does not place her trust and faith in them and devote herself entirely, they will control her by intimidation; if they are not doing that already."
"The only way we're getting her back here is if we end those foul beasts once and for all…" Merida said, scowling at the thought of them.
"I love Elsa more than anything… whatever I can do, I'll do it." Anna said.
"And we'll help too, right guys?" Kristoff turned, groaning when he caught Sven and Olaf trying to sneak off again. "Will you two cut that out?"
A small voice caught the attention of the group, Alice turning and going over to its source; Eliza.
"Eliza, why aren't you in bed? Do you need Sandy to help you get to sleep?" Alice asked.
"I heard new voices…" Eliza craned her head to look. "Who are those people?"
"They're some friends who need our help. We're speaking of adult things right now, so let me help you upstairs…" Alice turned to look at Jack. "And you need to rest too."
Jack smiled lightly, getting up to approach Eliza. "Hey… maybe we can walk each other up to rest, hm?"
Eliza's expression changed when Jack came near her; she knew of his abilities, and she hid behind Alice, peeking out from her dress. Alice sighed, knowing it upset Jack that she was frightened of him. She cleared her throat, petting Eliza's hair. "It's alright, Jack. I'll take her." She escorted Eliza to her bed, tucking her in. The preteen had been slowly getting to know everyone, the guardians having been watching over her during her stay. "Eliza…" Alice tucked a strand of the girl's hair behind her ear. "You know… Jack is very upset that you don't want to be his friend."
Eliza furrowed her brows. "But Alice, I'm afraid of him." She whispered. "Just like the snow outside. It's why I like it in here, no windows to see it." She whispered. Jack approached the doorway, standing just outside, out of sight.
"There is nothing to fear of Jack." Alice reassured, taking Eliza's hand. "Jack has been very kind to us. He… he will take care of us, and watch over us, and love…" Alice paused, bowing her head for a moment. "And loves to make new friends."
"But he makes the ice, Alice… what if he makes the ice monster that's in my nightmares?" Eliza asked.
"Jack would never do that. He isn't a monster. Can you promise me that you'll give him a chance?" Alice asked. "It would make him so happy. That would make me very happy too."
Eliza bit her lip, glancing around for a few moments. "Okay, Alice. I trust you."
Alice exhaled sharply, swallowing thickly as she forced a smile. "I love you very much, Eliza."
"I love you too, Alice." The girl hugged Alice, who began to tear up as she returned the girl's embrace.
Jack sighed sadly outside the door, shuffling back to his loft to climb into his cot, closing his eyes as he tried to allow sleep to overtake him.
As Tooth and Sandy were helping their new guests get settled in, Merida floated up a level, passing by Hiccup's doorway. She slowed to a stop, back tracking to peer in, noticing Hiccup adjusting his prosthetic leg. She tilted her head, not able to help her curiosity. She floated forward, glancing over his shoulder.
"What is that?" She asked.
"Ahh!" Hiccup exclaimed, shocked by her sudden appearance as he whirled around, nearly falling off his bed. Merida's hand shot out, grabbing his hand before he could fall back. Her gaze met his as she helped him up, clearing her throat.
"Sorry, lad… didn't mean to startle ye." She said. "For someone who trains dragons for a living, you're a pretty skittish one, y'are."
Hiccup exhaled audibly, straightening himself out. "Yeah, I'm not the roughest, toughest Viking out there, I know…" He sighed. "All of this…" He waved his hands about. "… is making my head spin. I need to get me and my dragon home…"
"At least you have a home to go back to." Merida frowned. "M' family can't even see me. I'm dead."
"Well, that's a bit… unsettling…" Hiccup grimaced.
Merida began to well up with emotion then, her lip trembling as she began to cry. Hiccup felt terrible then, mentally kicking himself from turning a simple conversation into a tear session.
"Merida, come on, I-… I didn't mean to make you cry… you're a heck of a lot tougher than me, so if you start crying than I should be a sobbing mess… look, I… we both miss our families. I miss my friends, my home, and… that's why we're here, right? We're going to get there."
"Didn't you hear what I said?" Merida gestured to herself then. "Look at me! Even if my parents could see me they'd be afraid of me!"
"Hey, well… I'm not afraid of you… I mean, if I'm not afraid of a dragon, you're… not saying you're scary or anything, but…" Hiccup shook his head from his rambling. "You know, when my dad first found out I'd made friends with Toothless, he was mad… super mad. He was pretty thick headed." He chuckled a bit. "We had our differences, my dad and I… but we always loved each other in the end…" He smiled sadly. "I think your parents would just be happy to see you again… ghostly or not."
Merida wiped her face, glancing up at Hiccup. "My mom and I had our differences too… I even turned her into a bear because of it… but we'll always love each other too."
"You see? I promise, they will see you again, and they won't be afraid of you." Hiccup said.
"How could you know that?" Merida asked, hugging herself.
"Well, if it doesn't work out, I can bring in Toothless so you won't look as bad." He chuckled lightly, and his expression brightened a bit more when Merida smiled slowly at that. "We'll both get back to our families, Merida. We'll get there together."
Her tears dried, her eyes gravitating to his prosthetic leg once more. "What happened?" She asked, her initial curiosity returning to her.
Hiccup looked down for a moment, bending down to fiddle with his leg a bit. "Had this for a while… just about five years." He started. "Toothless and I were trying to bring down this very dangerous dragon, known as Red Death."
Merida's eyes widened, looking from the leg to him. "Did it do that? Eat your leg, did it?"
Hiccup chuckled lightly. "Not exactly. Toothless had struck the final blow to it when we were engulfed in its flames… Toothless is fireproof, good thing otherwise my whole body would have been burnt to a crisp. He'd shielded me from the flames as quickly as he could, but… my left leg below my knee was completely charred. Couldn't save it."
Merida frowned lightly, looking down at his leg once again. "M' da lost his left leg too."
Hiccup raised his brows. "Really? How?"
"When I was a wee lass, it was my birthday, and he'd just given me my very first bow and arrows." She smiled. "I don't remember much, but all of a sudden, I looked over m' mom's shoulder and he was there…"
"He? Who was… he?" Hiccup asked.
"Mor'du… the most feared and vicious creature of our village. A bear greater in size and bloodlust than any in the land. M' da yelled to my mother to run, and I watched him fight against the beast as m' mom held me close on horseback…" Merida said.
"So… what happened to your dad? Did he survive?" Hiccup asked.
"Almost all of him did… Mor'du took m' da's left leg for his troubles." Merida chuckled lightly.
"Seems like our legs are the most appealing to our predators." Hiccup laughed, Merida with him.
"Seems like we've got a lot in common, too." Merida smiled. "Y'know, you still have to teach me how to ride a dragon, lad."
"Yeah… maybe we can do that tomorrow… I think my sword fighting skills have improved." Hiccup smiled.
"Well, I'll be the judge of that." She smirked. "And you've got to learn how to lose an arrow too."
"Don't you think that's asking a bit much?" Hiccup laughed.
"No underestimating me now, Hiccup! If anyone can teach you, it's me! Wouldn't it be something for you to go back home and show your family and friends?" She asked.
"Well, Astrid would certainly be impressed…" He smiled to himself. "Alright, deal."
He and Merida shook on it, and she yawned soon after. "I'm going to get some shuteye. G'night, Hiccup."
"Night, Merida. Um… thanks." He smiled.
"You too." She smiled before floating out of the room.
Sven yawned, about to rest his head down when he felt a burst of air against the side of his face, his eyes popping open and looking to his left, inhaling sharply when Toothless was there, sniffing him curiously. Sven popped up, crying out as his hooves scrambled on the floor to back away, trembling as he stared at Toothless with utter fright. Toothless tilted his head quizzically, plopping himself down in an upright position as he rolled his eyes. He chirped at Sven, making the reindeer stop trembling for a moment, listening intently. Sven grunted back curiously, looking up at his antlers before blowing a raspberry, nodding his head back at Toothless. The dragon looked at his wings as he stretched them out momentarily, then his tail, almost shrugging as he chirped back. Sven took a cautious step forward, emitting a questioning grunt. Toothless responded by giving a firm nod, holding out a paw. Sven glanced from the dragon to his paw, carefully approaching him to gently nudge it with his hoof. Toothless flashed his signature grin, wiggling a bit as he grunted happily. Sven smiled too, plopping down as he yawned, giving Toothless a sleepy nod before closing his eyes to sleep.
The next morning, Alice was heading down a level when she heard Bunnymund groaning, rubbing his shoulder. She approached him, raising a brow.
"Well, someone seems out of shape… you should engage in combat more often." She commented.
"Oi… I'm not out of shape, I just… slept on it wrong… probably." Bunny replied.
Alice rolled her eyes playfully, glancing around. "Have you had a spot to eat yet?"
"Yeah, why?" Bunny asked.
"Come." Alice took his paw into her hand, leading him back up the stairs.
"Can't I at least get some ice for this first?" Bunny asked as she led him back to his room. "Alice, what are you-"
"Sit." Alice commanded, pointing to the edge of his bed.
Bunny blinked, he was about a head taller than Alice- not including his ears of course- and he scoffed. "Look, Sheila, I may be a bunny, but I ain't your pet. You can't just go around telling me to-" Alice said nothing, getting on his bed behind him and before he could turn around, she gently pulled him back by his shoulders. "Owowowowow! Don't touch it, it really-"
"Will you just stay silent for a moment and listen to me?" She cut him off, Bunny sighing with frustration and rolling his eyes as he plopped down on the edge of his bed.
"I'm an expert in Tai Chi, you know…" Bunny muttered.
"That really helped you the first time we met, didn't it?" Alice chuckled lightly as Bunny grit his teeth. He was about to throw a smart remark at her, but he stopped when Alice's hands began to gently knead at his shoulders as she knelt behind him.
"What… what are you doing?" He asked.
"Your muscles are so tense. The tension is exhausting them, which is why you're feeling pain. You need to relax, Bunnymund." Alice said as her hands gently massaged his shoulders. "We may have started off on the wrong foot, but I suppose if we're going to be working together, we should at least be civil."
Indeed, Bunny did begin to relax, closing his eyes as Alice soothed him. "You really are full of surprises, aren't you?" He asked, a bit calmer.
Alice chuckled lightly. "I remember… when father came home from a long day at University, he would sit at the edge of the bed like this, and mother would seat herself just behind him and rub his shoulders to relieve the soreness. It was sweet, really. One of the nicer memories from my childhood that I cherish." Alice smiled to herself. "Thank you for giving me opportunity to think upon it."
"Well, I guess I should have sore shoulders more often then." Bunny snickered, Alice's smile brightening a bit as she giggled with him. He glanced over his shoulder; seeing her like this, it was something he had seldom seen in the relatively short time he knew her. He had become so accustomed to seeing her expression constantly serious or hard as stone, to see her in this way made the bitterness he had garnered for her vanish into thin air. "Y'know, you should smile more often."
Alice tilted her head at that. "That would be nice… unfortunately reasons to do so elude me most times. Why do you say that?" She asked.
"Well, uh…" Bunnymund cleared his throat. "You're a lot better to be around when you aren't so grim all the time."
Alice couldn't help but laugh at that. "Well then… I think you would be a lot better to be around if you weren't so condescending all the time." She smirked playfully.
Bunny raised a brow, nodding thoughtfully. "Glad we got that out of our systems."
"As am I." She leaned back, and Bunny blinked, not realizing how close her face had been to his until she did this. He turned to face her a bit more. "Feeling better?"
Bunny nodded. "A ton."
"I suppose that made up for the beating I had dealt to you upon our introduction." She chuckled, her hand reaching out to ruffle the fur on top of his head, making him snicker and wave his paws at her.
"Oi, cut that out!" He laughed as Alice hopped to her feet, whirling around as she whisked herself out of his room. He shook his head a bit, staring after her as she descended the stairs.
Olaf was giggling downstairs, waddling quickly as he extended his stick arms, chasing after some of Toothiana's fairies. Baby Tooth emitted a soft, high pitched giggle as they soared and swirled around him. Anna and Kristoff watched on as they has some breakfast, laughing themselves at times.
"Well, at least someone is enjoying themselves…" Kristoff smiled.
Anna smiled sadly, Elsa still one of the primary thoughts in her mind. She blinked when Merida passed by; she was still becoming accustomed to all the odd and different individuals in this new environment, the Scottish teenager taking an apple and biting into it.
"Top o' the mornin' to ye, your highness." Merida smiled. "Y' know, I'm a princess too!" She beamed for a moment, but it faded when she bowed her head. "Well, at least I was… before this happened to me…"
Anna looked up at her. "I see… I'm sure you'd still make a very good Queen when the time comes." She said, trying to think of something comforting to say.
"Thanks." Merida smiled lightly, wiping her mouth on her sleeve.
Upstairs, Jack sat up slowly, rubbing his head for a moment before floating down from his loft to plant his feet on the ground, about to make his way downstairs. He passed a few rooms, but stopped when he heard a soft gasp behind him. He turned his head, looking behind him to see someone duck back into a room. He tilted his head, walking up to the doorway to peer inside, frowning lightly when Eliza jumped back and held her hands to her chest.
"Hey… Eliza?" Jack gently called to her, trying to smile. "Are you going to come down too? We can head down together if you want." He took a step forward extending his hand. His smile faded once more when she stared at him fearfully, trembling as she cowered. His hand fell to his side, hanging his head for a moment. "Sorry… I… I won't bother you." Jack's heart sunk; scaring kids was Pitch's job, not his. He turned to walk away, just passing the doorway.
"Wait…" Eliza squeaked out.
Jack stopped, turning to look at her with a bit of hope. He stayed where he was, not wanting to push it. "Hm?"
Eliza opened her mouth to speak, no words coming out at first as she glanced around. "I…" She bit her lip, looking up at Jack hesitantly. "I promised… promised Alice to… try not to be scared of you."
Jack raised his brows, the corner of his lips poking into a smile. "Well… that's a good promise to keep." He crouched down a bit, thinking this would help for her to feel a bit less intimidated. "Maybe if you tell me WHY I scare you so much, we can try to be friends, hm?"
Eliza gulped. "The ice… I'm afraid of ice and snow. It turned the lake into a monster with a big hole for a mouth, and it ate everything."
Jack tilted his head in thought for a moment. "Did it try to eat you? The lake monster?"
"Yes… it's teeth crunched and cracked, I could see it under my feet. It wanted to eat me, but it didn't… it…" Eliza held her head for a moment. "I can't remember anymore…"
"It's okay, it's okay… don't hurt your head now. You know, ice and snow can be fun, too. There are no ice lake monsters around here." Jack smiled.
Eliza shook her head. "No, don't make any ice in here, please! It'll try to get me again!" She cried.
Jack frowned, trying to think of something, anything to console her. "How about this… you promised Alice to give me a chance, right?"
"Uh huh…" Eliza replied.
"I'll make a deal with you. If I can show you that I can be nice, we can be friends, okay? And… if you don't like it, I'll make sure you never see another shard of ice again. Guardian's honor." Jack proposed.
Eliza's eyes shifted nervously, exhaling audibly as she nodded. "O- Okay…"
Jack nodded. "Do you like bunnies, Eliza?"
Eliza's expression perked up a bit, smiling nervously as she nodded. "Alice and I love bunny rabbits. She sees her friends the White Rabbit and the March Hare in her Wonderland. She told me about it."
Jack gently placed his hand on the ground. "Alright… I want you to try your best not to be scared, okay? There won't be any monsters."
Eliza's breathing quickened, her eyes widening as Ice began to form around Jack's hand on the floor. "You're not going to trick me, are you?" She asked fearfully.
Jack felt a pang in his heart then; he remembered how Emma had asked him something similar moments before he fell into a lake himself; did Eliza experience something similar to what he had? Has she too fallen into the clutches of arctic cold waters, destroying her psychologically? "I promise." Jack smiled softly. "No tricks."
He lifted his hand, whirling it at bit to make the frost collect into a shape of a bunny. Like straight out of a picture book, the frost bunny burst to life, hopping around the air. Eliza watched with shock, gasping lightly as her eyes followed it. It hopped up to her, its little nose wiggling. Jack held his breath as Eliza stared at it, one of her hands hesitantly reaching out, pulling back a couple times. When her fingertip[s lightly grazed it, she gasped in surprise, and then a miracle happened.
"It's… it's almost like a real bunny!" Eliza exclaimed.
Jack laughed, beaming. "Yeah, it is!" He waved his hand, making another wispy ice formation of a butterfly before it fluttered around the room with the bunny. It landed on her nose, tickling it as Eliza scrunched her eyes closed, laughing a bit. She began to come out of her shell, jumping up a bit to try to catch it. She skipped around the room, giggling as she tried to catch the ice shapes. She became so distracted that she ran right into Jack, shaking her head and her smile diminished just a bit as she looked up at him. She looked at the floor for a moment before looking back at him, smiling lightly. "See? No monsters."
Eliza smiled a bit. "No monsters." She repeated, rubbing her arm.
"So… can we try to be friends?" Jack asked hopefully, reaching a hand out to her, but she jumped back a bit, a bit nervous again. She still maintained a bit of a smile, a bit of hair hanging into her face.
"I'll try…" She said quietly, glancing back up at him.
"Can you shake on it?" Jack held out his hand. Eliza looked down at it, hugging herself and shaking her head. He sighed lightly; he didn't want to push her too much. "Okay, maybe another day."
Eliza looked up then as Alice appeared in the doorway. She ran over to her, clinging to the hem of her dress. Alice bent down, moving the hair out of the girl's face.
"Are you being nice to Jack?" Alice asked. Eliza nodded. "You should have something to eat Jack. Need to get your strength back up." She said, smiling lightly at him.
"Yeah…" Jack breathed, standing upright and looking back at her. "Alice… thanks."
The young woman exhaled audibly, closing her eyes for a moment before reopening them. "That time will come, Jack. If anyone can heal this damage, you can."
After everyone finished breakfast, North got everyone's attention as he sat at the head of the table. They had to add a couple of extensions to it because so many were staying there, but they had more than enough room to accommodate everyone. Alice escorted Eliza back upstairs so they could all speak of their next course of action. Also, Olaf had frightened the little girl; a walking, talking snowman was way out of her comfort zone.
"The problem we have…" Alice spoke up after they had been speaking for some time. "Is that we don't know exactly HOW those children were turned. I have a strong feeling that this is the work of Bumby… unless this is something you know is more akin to Pitch's abilities."
The guardians shook their head. "There was a time that he could turn children into creatures called fearlings, but he was far more powerful then." North replied.
"As I thought." Alice sighed, looking down at her hands into deep thought. "In my Wonderland, he manifested as the Doll Maker. He turned all the manifestations of the children residing with me at Houndsditch into his doll minions, reflecting the fact that he was twisting them into forgetfulness in reality… he essentially took their minds from them."
"So… do you think he's doing the same thing now?" Jack asked, tilting his head. "You destroyed them in Wonderland, but you're afraid to destroy them now."
"We aren't in Wonderland though, are we, Jack?" Alice said, glancing over at him. "The game has changed. Whatever method he's utilized to turn these children against us, we have yet to decipher."
Merida furrowed her brows in thought then, pursing her lip. "What if he didn't take their minds, this time?"
Everyone looked to Merida when she posed her question. "What else would they take?" Bunnymund asked. "Their eyeballs?"
Alice shot a look at Bunny as Merida continued. She glanced up at them, thinking hard. "I can't really describe it… I could still sense a strange energy coming from that man… it was foreign, like it doesn't belong to him." She sighed. "I couldn't really concentrate because he wouldn't give me a chance."
"Let's say that is true…" Hiccup interjected. "Then wouldn't that mean that the only way to turn them back is to get their souls back from this guy, then?"
"Sounds plausible. Either way, I will not allow Bumby to live so long as I'm breathing; if killing him will restore those children, then consider my bloodlust all the more potent." Alice scowled, stabbing her vorpal blade into the table, making Anna jump and hold her chest.
"Uh… I don't think you need any help with that…" Kristoff said, wrapping his arm a bit tighter around Anna as they glanced at Alice uncomfortably.
"That's all good and well, we know we have to bring him down… but in the meantime, if they attack us, will destroying them in that form destroy them completely? Alice mentioned something about that." Hiccup asked.
"I have no idea." Jack sighed. "There's no way of telling unless we try it out."
"I am not risking the lives of those children. We're supposed to salvage them, not ensure their demise." Alice said.
"We could just try to dodge them and see how that plays out." Bunnymund suggested.
"What if they all decide to attack one of us at the same time, though?" Merida asked.
"Asking all these questions no one has the answer to is going to get us nowhere… we need to go back there and get the answers ourselves!" Alice cried.
"And save my sister…" Anna added, frowning.
"Trust me, I don't want her hanging around Pitch either… but as long as he's in her ear, she's going to resist. I'll still try to reach out to her, but… Pitch is going to use her to fight me, so he isn't going to loosen his grip anytime soon." Jack said to Anna.
Alice sighed. "Well, if we're going to just stay here, we may as well work on our training. We maintained, but we're going to have to do better than that if we're to confront them again."
Hiccup sat up a bit then. "That reminds me… Merida, I have to teach you how to ride Toothless." He smiled. "I mean, you can fly yourself, but… a promise is a promise."
Merida beamed. "I'll be waitin' by him, then!" She grabbed her weapons, equipping them to her person as she floated swiftly over to where Toothless was.
"Don't be gone too long, you two! You'll catch a cold!" Tooth called out.
Hiccup chuckled a bit, getting out of his chair. "Don't worry, I'm used to it." He followed Merida, the three of them heading outside into the snow. Hiccup got suited up and Toothless saddled before hopping on. "Here, you can sit in front."
Merida smiled widely, Hiccup scooting her back to allow her to sit where he normally would. "Okay Toothless, ride!" She called out, patting his side as she would Angus.
Hiccup laughed, shaking his head as he calmed Toothless. "Now hang on, Merida! Okay, you're holding onto the reins just fine, but now… Toothless needs help controlling his tail. See that flap back there? You control its angle by this petal here." Hiccup briefly ran through all the different angles with the petal, Merida observing closely and nodding, absorbing as much as possible. "Now when Toothless and I really get things going, I can latch this on here so he can glide solo. But that will be for another day, just try to get the basics down."
"Alright then, if you're ready than I'm ready!" She exclaimed, giving Toothless a pat before grabbing onto the reins. She slipped her foot into the petal, taking in a breath as Hiccup strapped himself in with a spare rope.
"Okay Toothless, this is the first time she's trying this so just take it easy." Hiccup said, and the dragon gave a firm nod before taking to flight.
Toothless handled himself well despite the arctic winds, but he wasn't the one Hiccup was concerned for. As the minutes passed however, he found that he need not be concerned at all. Everything that he had instructed Merida to do, she was learning fairly quickly. There were times that she would miss and angle or two and Hiccup helped to get them stabilized, but he was impressed by how well she was doing as they glided over the snowy tundra.
Merida laughed, never feeling so exhilarated in her life. "This is amazing!" She cried out, glancing back at Hiccup before looking forward. Without even guiding her, Merida and Toothless began to do twirls, corkscrews and spins in the air. The more time they flew, the better she became at helping Toothless with his tail, as if she'd known how to do it her whole life. After some time, they returned to the workshop, Toothless landing and Hiccup took off his mask, ruffling his hair a bit to fix it. "So…" Merida started. "How'd I do…?"
Hiccup raised a brow, giving her a stern look. "Well… I suppose you weren't bad, for a first timer…" Merida frowned a bit at that, Toothless looking up at Hiccup flatly. The boy's serious demeanor melted into laughter then, holding his hands out. "Are you kidding? You were fantastic!"
"Was I really?" Merida's whole face brightened.
"Yeah!" Hiccup exclaimed, and Toothless chirped enthusiastically, prancing around them. "I've seen folks around Berk learn how to ride other dragons that quickly at times, but Toothless… no one has been able to understand my mechanics that fast! You're… I dare say it… almost as good as me." He chuckled.
"Almost?" Merida smirked, putting a hand on her hip.
"You may be the best at combat, but I'm the best when it comes to dragon riding." Hiccup said, petting Toothless' back.
"Alright, fair enough." Merida replied. "And speaking of combat, you lad, are going to get a bow and arrow lesson now."
"That sounds like fun…" Hiccup groaned. "Let's see how much I screw this up."
"Come on, Alice wants us to train anyhow, doesn't she? You'll be making all the lasses happy." Merida said, ushering Hiccup inside. Once there, Merida called back to Hiccup. "Meet you by the targets, and make haste!"
Jack had been sipping on some hot cocoa, glancing over at Hiccup as he took off his riding suit, his normal attire still on underneath.
"That seemed like a successful adventure." Jack said, taking another sip.
"Yeah, she's a natural… I can't believe it!" Hiccup threw a hand up towards the direction she had gone. "I seem to be a better teacher than a student, I guess…"
Jack glanced over at Merida as she was waving Hiccup over, snickering to himself lightly. Hiccup raised a brow, tilting his head as he smirked. "What's so funny?"
"Guess someone's hot for teacher then." Jack whispered loud enough for Hiccup to hear before bursting into laughter.
Hiccup stared in utter confusion, his brows furrowed as he glanced from Jack to Merida. When Merida blew one of her curls out of her face, smiling at Hiccup from across the room, Hiccup gasped, whirling back to Jack and holding up a finger.
"Oh nonononono." He waved his hands. "I have a girlfriend at home."
"Well she either doesn't know, or doesn't care." Jack shrugged, leaning back in his chair.
Hiccup opened his mouth to say something, stopping when his eyes darted between Jack and Merida. He groaned after thinking on it for a moment, holding his face. "Oh, man… no, no this can't… Jack, I… we're all happy buddy friends, okay? But I have a dragon I need to get back to himself, I can't have a flameless dragon, and my village can't have a… 'chiefless…' you know what I mean!"
"So just talk it out with her then, Hiccup. Figure out what she's feeling. The worst thing you can do is lead someone on and then break their heart." Jack said.
"Since when are you a love expert…?" Hiccup chuckled nervously. "I mean, uh… have you… experienced this dilemma before?"
"No, but it just makes sense." Jack shrugged once again.
"Well, news flash, love is… never that simple, and it almost always never makes sense. You may learn that someday, so you'd better watch out, mister frost." Hiccup said, the two goofing around a bit as Jack's laughter lightened the situation a bit.
"Come on, you scallywag!" Merida called to Hiccup. "Time's a wastin'!"
Jack nudged Hiccup's arm. "Go on, smooth operator." He laughed.
"Uh… smooth… wait, what?" Hiccup raised a brow.
"Never mind, after your time." Jack snickered as Hiccup walked off with a confused expression on his face. He finished his hot chocolate, wiping his mouth before strolling around the workshop. He stopped when he heard an exasperated sigh, his eyes resting on Anna as she sat, Kristoff gently rubbing her back before saying something to her. Anna nodded, wiping at her face as Kristoff walked off. Jack frowned lightly, approaching the distressed princess. "Hey… Anna, right?" Jack asked as he pulled up a chair to sit next to her.
Anna glanced over, quickly wiping at her face a bit more. "O- Oh… hello, um… sorry, I forgot your name…"
"Jack." He smiled. "I know, there's a group of us here, I'm sure most of our names aren't really common to your, uh… culture." He replied. "Look… I know that nothing we do is going to help you until you get her back. Elsa."
Anna nodded, swallowing thickly as more tears welled up in her eyes. "I… I just want her to come home… I just… want us to be close again… I want her to love me…"
"I know the feeling." Jack frowned. "That's how I became a guardian in the first place… saving my sister."
Anna glanced up at him upon hearing that, straightening up. "You weren't born with your ice powers like Elsa?"
"Nope." He smiled lightly. "I was just a regular human once. But when my sister ran into some trouble, I got her out of it; at the cost of my life. I have no idea what happened to her after that, centuries had passed, I was unseen for a long time."
"So… you never saw her again?" Anna frowned. "I don't even want to think about never seeing Elsa again… that's what I'm afraid of."
"And that's why I'm going to do whatever I can to try to get you two reunited." Jack replied, gently placing a hand on Anna's shoulder. "I want you two to have the happy future my sister and I never got a chance to have."
Anna smiled lightly. "Thank you, Jack. I appreciate what you… all of you, are doing for Elsa and I."
Jack knew that he had a job to do. He no longer had his sister, and he felt obligated to do whatever he could to get Elsa back to Anna. He exhaled sharply, frowning to himself when he remembered how closely Pitch kept the young woman to him, like keeping a pet on a leash. He wouldn't let Pitch get away with this; it was bad enough that he afflicted the dreams of children in the darkness of night, but it was another thing to separate a family like this for his own personal gain. How low could he possibly get?