Chapter 5: The Hunt
He watched from his spot outside the window silently waiting for his friend to wake up. Annabeth was currently confined to her bed once more only this time it was better, her chest rose and fell steadily a sign that she was breathing.
The door creaked open as Annabeth's mother walked in her golden brown hair tangled into a knotted mess half still pulled back by a simple ribbon it looked about ready to fall out. Jack had watched as the mother would come and go she wasn't handling her daughter's comatose state very well it was clear from her puffy red eyes of how broken she was, but Jack had yet to see her complain.
The fragile woman sat in the chair by her daughter's bed before holding the limp girls hand in her own, "Please Anna wake up." She pleaded as her head slowly fell onto the bed.
Hours had passed before the door creaked open again revealing the girl's father, he sighed at the sight before placing a blanket he had brought with him over his wife. He was about to leave when something caught his eye, turning he spotted a white haired teen outside his daughter's window.
A pain hit his heart as he looked at the boy that looked so much like his dead son Jackson Overland Frost, but he wasn't if the white hair and blue eyes weren't enough to separate the two their personalities were. His son was adventurous, mischievous but he was also kind, loyal and most of all protective of his little sister.
No this impostor wasn't his son, he wasn't adventurous after all he always saw him near his daughter and she didn't venture far. He didn't know if the teen was mischievous or not and tried not to dwell as it often brought unwanted thoughts, the teen looked kind looked being the keyword, he didn't know the child's true nature after all. And finally there was the matter of Annabeth's safety had it really been his son he wouldn't have just been standing there, he would have done something to help her or at least tried to wake her up. It was settled then he had to get rid of this boy before he became a nuisance.
Jack watched as the father left the room having just glared at him through the window, was it possible for him to be seen by adults as well as children, true not everyone saw him but some did. He felt awful for not being able to help Annabeth but when only a few people can hear you your choices are severally limited.
Just watching as Annabeth slowly recovered hurt him he didn't even want to think about what he had done to the others children's families, he was betting they were as distraught as Annabeth's was if not more so.
His hand subconsciously tightened on the branch as he realised he had only himself to blame for the death's of the five teens and Annabeth's friend. He looked at the branch in hand a thought passing though his mind, wasn't it the branch to blame? After all had he not slammed it to the ground perhaps there wouldn't have been as much damage? Surely his powers still worked without the thing.
Wanting to test this theory Jack dropped the branch onto the ground before spinning around and briskly walking in the direction of the forest behind him, stopping at the first few trees Jack raised his hand to the trunk watching as it weakly coated over in a thin layer of frost, the pattern barely visible the frost itself barely moving away from the hand print Jack caused upon the tree. So that's how it works, Jack thought as he looked at the tree, the branch amplified his current power. Taking a deep breath Jack summoned up as much power as he could his mind comparing the power level to when he held the stick, it was by far weaker. Reaching out he touched a different tree, the safe effect occurred immediately but Jack didn't pull away. Instead he kept his hand on the tree willing as much power behind the simple task as possible; slowly the frost became thicker and more visible, before slowly it began to spread out across the bark.
Jack's hand feel away as his mind became foggy; one thing was clear without the branch his powers were weaker thus making even the simplest of tasks harder for the immortal.
As he stepped back to compare the two trees he stumbled alerting himself to just how drained he was. "It's official without that branch I'm as weak as a snowflake." he muttered.
The sound of snow crunching caught his attention, turning Jack saw Annabeth's father standing between him and the house. What Jack noticed most of all was the bow and arrow the man was holding, the immortal teen subconsciously took a step back as the man before him readied the arrow, he watched as the arrow was released the thin projectile shooting towards him with deadly accuracy.
Thankfully the wind was on Jack's side for a strong breeze suddenly blew the arrow off course causing it to impact into one of the trees Jack had currently frozen. Jack looked to the arrow amazed by his look before remembering the danger turning he saw the man ready another arrow only this one was on fire.
"This is for my daughter, Winter Demon!" The man yelled releasing the arrow, Jack panicked before quickly moving, and his actions weren't enough as the burning missile struck his shoulder. The flames dying upon contact with his cold skin, Jack ripped the arrow from his shoulder with a painful grunt before turning his attention back to Annabeth's father. The man was already preparing another fire arrow.
Jack wasted no time, turning quickly he bolted into the forest regretting that he had left the branch behind. A small thought flickered in his mind as he ran Annabeth's father chasing after him, the branch wasn't just some branch that helped amplify his powers, it helped with combat after all the ice and frost encasing it ensured that it would brake easily. So with that in mind Jack decided that it was no longer just a branch but instead a staff his staff, one that he had idiotically left behind.
Jack dodged trees left, right and centre his mind wondering back to when he flew through the forest, true he often crashed in the end but at that moment he preferred it from being chased like a wild animal.
Annabeth's father watched as the winter spirit ran through the forest he wanted to make sure that the teen wouldn't hurt his daughter anymore, a thought clicked into place; it was probably the spirit's fault for his son's death, after all there were tales of winter demons that cracked the ice on frozen ponds to catch their prey.
Anger boiled though his veins, he no longer felt the chill in the air as he ran, and he had spent his whole life hunting in this forest. He had grown up hearing many stories about monsters that lurked in it especially during winter and he wasn't about to stop now that he was so close to fulfilling his task.
Quicker than the eye could see Annabeth's father was firing fire arrows at Jack some close to hitting their target but luck seemed to favour the young teen.
Jack's breath came in heavy pants his chest was aching as his lungs begged for more air his heart beat fiercely against his ribs. Something has to give. Jack thought pushing himself faster, if he had ever been given survival lessons about the forest he sure didn't remember them, he needed a way out of this but nothing was working and his legs were beginning to tire, he wouldn't last much longer.
Another arrow impacted a nearby tree it was close, closer than all the others so far, Annabeth's father was adapting his shots less frequent and more precise. A log blocked Jack's path and it was too risky changing directions now with the hunter so close.
With as push force as he could spare Jack jumped over the log his hands helping gain the leverage needed as it was about waist high on the boy. Upon contact with the ground his feet ached and his legs threatened to give out, but he still pushed himself.
As he ran he could feel his legs slowing despite how hard he tried to push himself, Jack began to wonder if he would ever find safety. That thought was cut short as an arrow pierced his leg sending him to the floor just as a hill leading down came before him. Jack fell to the ground with a cry of pain before his tired body fell down the hill gravity against him.
Once at the bottom of the hill Jack tried to climb to his feet despite the intense pain in his leg, he pushed through a cluster of trees to learn that he was at the edge of a lake this one far larger than the one he had woken up on as he could see that the middle had yet to freeze over.
The snapping of twigs alerted Jack into motivation, unable to go anywhere else he ran out onto the lake, the ice groaning slightly beneath his feet. Annabeth's father stopped at the lake edge knowing well that it wouldn't support his weight, he watched as Jack ran. A smile graced his face as he realised that there was nothing to stop the arrow from hitting its target, the ice was flat meaning that a hit to the chest was absolute.
With his weapon aimed and ready the fire before him eagerly waiting to be sent to its target. He released the arrow; the small wooden projectile flew straight through the air to its target.
Annabeth woke up gasping it was as though she had just surfaced from almost drowning her mother was sat upright next to her, her daughter's gasps and movement startling her into the conscious world.
"Shh." Annabeth's mother cooed as she held her daughter close, "Everything will be alright." She soothed. Much to the mother's confusion Annabeth fought her way out of her mother's grip before pushing herself out of bed stumbling slightly.
"Something's wrong." Annabeth muttered pacing back and forth in her room. Annabeth's mother watched in worry as her daughter paced back and forth, every time she was about to speak Annabeth would mumble something causing her mother to ask what was wrong every time.
Annabeth seemed oblivious to her mother's worried questions her head resting in her hand while her eyes scanned the floor like they held the answer, her pacing never slowed until her head snapped up like someone had called her name.
She was at the window in seconds her mother watching as her worry became fear, Annabeth looked about for something or mostly someone but he wasn't anywhere to be seen. Annabeth's heart fell slightly until she noticed something on the ground, a long branch that was hooked at the end while covered in frost.
"His staff." She whispered her mother walking over, "But what's it doing outside?" Annabeth asked herself. "Did he drop it?" She asked to no one in particular.
"Who dear?" Annabeth's mother asked, the daughter in question finally seemed to acknowledge her mother's presence.
"Jack." She replied holding the staff out to her mother, when her mother gave her a confused look she explained, "The boy I told you about before." Her mother still looked confused. "The boy you couldn't see." Annabeth's mother suddenly seemed to remember as her face lit up in recognition before a frown formed on her face, clearly she didn't like where this was headed.
Just before the mother could say anything Annabeth spoke, "This was his staff mother." She held it out to the woman, who looked at it curiously, in her opinion it did look lovely, the designs were so complex they also appeared to be made entirely out of frost and ice.
The mother sighed in defeat, her daughter was clearly still suffering from the loss of her brother and was now making up wild stories she decided that for Annabeth's sake to go along with them. Smiling she waited for her daughter to continue a nod of her head to act as encouragement.
Annabeth smiled at her mother's reaction, "I can't wait for you to meet him. He doesn't say much, but that's probably because I'm the only one who can see him. Besides Sue that is."
This seemed to catch her mother's attention, how could Sue see this mysterious Jack? Or was she also playing along, but that didn't seem right somehow it wasn't like Sue to lie, in fact the twelve year old have never told a single lie and now that she thought about it neither had Sue's sister Terra or Annabeth for that matter. That and there was the fact that Annabeth wasn't one for imaginary friends. Something wasn't right but the only conclusion that came was the thought of her son Jackson.
She wondered was it Jackson's ghost that Annabeth was talking about. If it was it didn't explain the branch.
While her mother was lost in thought Annabeth too found herself asking questions silently, if she was holding Jack's staff, what happened to Jack? Before the females could get too lost in thought the staff began to glow softly startling the pair.
Fearing the wood Annabeth's mother ripped it from her daughter's hands before throwing it to the opposite end of the room where it clattered to the ground. Annabeth wasn't scared instead she was worried, something wasn't sitting right with her and she had to figure it out.
Despite her mother's protests Annabeth approached the softly glowing wood, picking it up she gasped upon learning that the frost encasing the staff was starting to melt in her warm hands. Something was seriously wrong with Jack.