Chapter 14 Flames of Betrayal
For a whole week, I’ve been searching for Lantern all over the West Coast, especially Virginia. I circled all over that state more than ten times! But there was no sign of the flaming red head anywhere.
When I first got called by North a week ago, he told me Lantern was missing. I thought Lantern was probably at his old home where his family was, so I went to check it out. But when I arrived there, not only was Lantern not there, I also found out that Abby was also missing long before Lantern returned to Blacksburg.
I got worried and had been looking for him since. The other guardians were also worried as well and tried their best to help find him. North would fly on his sleigh every night after work and travel to several places, looking for him. Tooth also told her tiny fairies to keep an eye out when they were out on the field. Even Bunny had been using his tunnels to travel to many locations searching for him. For Sandy, he had been gone for the whole week when he found out Lantern went missing and hadn’t contacted me or the other guardians since then.
Where could Lantern be? Where was Abby? Did something happened? I had no doubt that Lantern’s disappearance must be related to Abby’s as well. I had this horrible feeling that something really bad must’ve happened to them.
After hours of searching in Florida, I decided to go visit North, hoping that he had some clues to where Lantern could be. The wind knew I was in a hurry so it was especially strong tonight, so I flew all the way to the North pole within a few hours. When I arrived at North’s workshop, I found the old red man staring at the giant globe.
“North, what’s the matter? Did something happen to the lights?” I asked worriedly as I flew to his side.
“Zhe lights flickering,” he said as he pointed to a spot on the globe. It was Africa. Like what he said, the lights were flickering in and out around the south of that continent. “Somezhing has happened to children zhere.”
“The lights hasn’t flickered this bad since Pitch...,” when that name slipped out of my mouth, I felt chills going down my neck and it wasn’t from my powers. “Do you think Pitch might be back?” I asked North, worried.
“Not sure, but ve must gazher zhe ozher guardians quick and head zhere.” After he said that, he activated the signal to the other guardians that took the form of a beautiful aurora. The aurora spread through the skies rapidly and within minutes, the other guardians arrived.
The first guardian to arrive was Bunny. Then came Tooth with Baby Tooth by her side. Then last came Sandy not long after.
“So what was the emergency, mate?” Wondered Bunny. “Is it about Lantern?”
“We came as soon as we saw the signal,” said Tooth. Baby Tooth flew beside her and was also making sharp and high pitch squeaks.
Over his head, Sandy had his sands formed a question mark and a figure of Lantern’s head as if asking about Lantern’s whereabouts.
“Somezhing is vrong vith zhe lights. Zhe children are in trouble once again,” North answered while staring at the globe. Some of the lights that were flickering were already going out one by one.
“The lights! They’re going out!” Tooth gasped in panic. Baby Tooth also made a worried squeak.
“Crikey! Then what are we waiting for?” Exclaimed Bunny. “We have to get a move on!”
“Bunny’s right,” North agreed. “To zhe sleigh!”
“Oh crikey...” Bunny said as his ears drooped down. If he didn’t have fur to cover his face, he would probably look pale white right now.
The sleigh flew through the portal and sent us to Africa in a second. The sky was dark right now since it was still night time here. The moonlight shone brightly over the African plain.
North was the one controlling the large powerful reindeers while the rest of us were sitting in the back seat. Baby Tooth was perched on my shoulder like she always does when we’re together. Both Sandy and Tooth could fly if they wanted to, but prefer the sleigh ride instead. Bunny on the other hand, was practically clawing on his seat to keep himself from falling off the flying vehicle.
“You’ve already ridden the sleigh so many times. Shouldn’t you be used to this by now?” I teased.
“Very funny, Frostbite,” Bunny snapped back. “For your information, bunnies were not made to fly.”
“Come on, Bunny, flying is a lot of fun if you give a try,” Tooth tried to assure the Guardian of Hope.
“Ha ha no! I like my feet on the ground, thank you,” refused Bunny in an annoyed tone. “Besides, whoever heard of a flying Easter Bunny?”
“There’s always a first,” I replied jokingly. On my shoulder, Baby Tooth was already squeaking in laughter.
Sandy seemed to like the idea, because there was a tiny sand figure of Bunny with jetpacks flying over his head. The little man also nodded and gave a thumbs up.
“There’s no way I’m gonna...!” Before Bunny could finish his argument, North suddenly cut in.
“I hate to spoil zhe fun, but you should see zhis,” he told us.
We all looked up ahead to see what he meant. Further ahead beyond the plain, we saw a large black cloud rising into the night air and an orange glow on the ground where the source of black cloud was coming from.
“Is that smoke?” I wondered out loud.
“Crikey! It’s a wildfire!” Bunny cried out in shock.
“Sandy! Tooth! Go on ahead and see if zhere’s anyone zhat might need help,” ordered North.
“I’m on it!” Tooth replied. Then both Tooth and Sandy shot into the air and flew ahead of us.
“I’m going too!” I told North before flying off after Tooth and Sandy with Baby Tooth tucked in my hood of my sweater.
When the four of us got there, we discovered there was a large fire burning through the plains. With the dry grass and trees, the fire quickly spread and moved through the grassy plains. Even from where we were hovering, we can feel the burning heat hitting our faces. The flames roared like a monster, devouring everything in its path.
While Tooth and I stared at the large burning flames spreading through the plains in shock, Sandy had to use his sand to catch our attention. He made an arrow with his sand appear in front of us and pointed in a certain direction.
We both looked at Sandy and then at the direction his arrow was pointing at. The spot where he wanted us to see was a small town and it was also starting to catch fire.
“There’s a town over there and it’s going to get burned down!” Yelled Tooth, horrified.
We immediately flew towards the village and spotted people running away from the burning houses. There were screams, panic, and cries of fear as they ran for their lives. Many were carrying their belongs that they could grab. Parents were grabbing their children to get to safety. The animals were all running and flying away from the monstrous flames.
“We need to put out the fire! Quick!” Shouted Tooth.
“I’m on it!” I told her. Then I shot several blue sparks of light from my staff, putting out the fire with my ice powers.
Sandy was also using his sand to put out the flames like how people would throw dirt at burning campfire.
Tooth didn’t have any powers to put the flames out, so she quickly grabbed a bucket from the ground and scooped water from nearby stone basins and large water jars to extinguish as much flames as possible.
After five minutes, we were able to keep the fire under control and got rid of most of the fire in the village. While I was freezing more houses from the flames, I had this weird feeling that this wildfire didn’t seem right. How can such a large fire started in the middle of the night and spread so fast?
Then Baby Tooth started to squeak really loudly and tugged on my hood to grab my attention.
“What’s wrong?” I asked. Wondering what was wrong with her, I turned around out of instinct and I did just in time to quickly dodge something that flew at me. It looked like a bird, but...
It was on fire!
“What the...?” I exclaimed, surprise.
When I looked carefully at the blazing bird, I noticed that the large wing creature was really on fire, but the flames were not harming it. As a matter of fact, the bird was made of fire!
This can’t be right! The only person who can make animals from fire was Lantern!
Before I could figure out what was going on. More large flame birds came out of nowhere and surrounded me. I swear there were about a hundred of them swarming the sky. They swooped down from the skies with their talons spread out, ready to claw me.
“Stay hidden!” I told Baby Tooth, which she complied.
I had to dodge and send ice blasts at them to defend myself and Baby Tooth, who was hiding in my hood. The birds were really fast and there were too many of them. It was hard trying to protect myself and not get burn in the process.
“Jack! Watch out!”
I suddenly heard someone yell out from nearby and something exploded behind me. When I turned around, I saw Tooth with two long swords in her hands. She had her back towards me. It looks like she just took out a fire bird in my blind spot.
“Where’d did these guys come from? They don’t look like they belong to Pitch,” wondered Tooth.
I didn’t say anything. I had this hunch that I might knew who, but I didn’t want to admit it.
Tooth slashed at another fire bird that came at her and it screeched loudly before it faded away into thin air.
“Where’re the others?” I shouted to her while blasting a fire bird and dodging another.
“There’s more of them on the ground and Sandy’s dealing with them. They ambushed us out of nowhere!” Told Tooth.
Suddenly, I heard something flying through the air and it hit two of the fire birds, putting them out. The object that took out the birds came flying back in an arc path in the same direction it came from. When I turned around, I saw the object flying into Bunny’s hand. It was his boomerang.
Bunny was standing on the sleigh in his attack position, his fear for flying gone. North was holding the reins with one hand while swinging his own sword around.
“Zhe cavalry has arrived!” North yelled out as he swung his sword at a fire bird, extinguishing it.
“Bunny! North!” I cried out, glad to see them. They came just in time.
“Sandy needs help on the ground! There’s more of them there than in the air!” Tooth quickly told them.
North immediately flew the sleigh down towards the ground with Bunny to go help the Sandman.
“We need to get rid of these guys quick, so we can go help them too,” I told Tooth. Then a thought struck in my head. “I have an idea. Tooth, cover me for a few seconds. When I give the signal, fly as far away as possible.”
Tooth nodded that she understood. She gripped her swords tightly and went on a sword-slashing frenzy on the birds. She was darting all over the place, slashing and stabbing as many fire birds as possible to give me time.
I concentrated on my powers to accumulate inside of me as much as possible. It wasn’t easy, but I could feel the energy gathering and increasing. I’ve been trying to do the same explosion that happened when my powers exploded from my anger when Pitch took out Sandy. After many trainings with the guardians, I didn’t need to be angry to create the same explosion again, but I still needed a lot of concentration
Once I felt I had reached my limit, I shouted to Tooth, “Now!”
Tooth immediately stopped attacking and flew off as fast and far away as possible.
Once Tooth was out of the danger range, I released the large amount of energy inside of me and my ice powers blasted in every direction. It was like a cold blizzard blew through the sky in an explosion, freezing everything within range. All the large flaming birds were completely wiped out.
I, on the other hand, lost so much energy, I blacked out for a few seconds. Luckily, Tooth caught me in time when I did, so I didn’t find myself waking up to see myself hitting the ground.
“I got you,” said Tooth when she grabbed hold of my hand, so I was dangling in the air.
“Thanks,” I thanked her.
Baby Tooth came out from the hood and squeaked at me in worry.
“I’m alright, Baby Tooth. Just a bit worn out,” I assured her.
Baby Tooth didn’t look convince, but she didn’t make anymore squeaks.
Tooth quickly flew to the ground and gently put me down. I landed safely on my feet, but I still felt weak so I used my staff as my support.
“Tooth, you go help the others first. I’ll catch up behind you,” I quickly told her.
“Alright, but be careful,” she said before she flew off.
I looked around at the almost burnt down village. The buildings were either burnt away or covered in ashes. Some of the houses were already collapsing from the support being damaged.
While I tried to rest to regain some of my energy again, I heard growls coming from behind me. I turned around and found what looked like two flaming lions, slowly walking towards me.
Baby Tooth shrilled in panic upon seeing the intimidating beasts and tried to pull me up.
“Oh come on! Can’t I even get a break?” I cried out in frustration.
The fire lions bare their teeth at me and growled threateningly. Their mane was flowing wildly like the fire they were. Their large claws unsheathed, ready to attack.
I pointed my staff at the them, ready to send another ice bolt in their direction. I just hope I had enough energy to do so.
Before I could send a bolt of ice at the two beasts, an explosion of fire came bursting out of nowhere behind the two flame creatures. The flames rose about ten feet in the air and then slowly died down. As the fire slowly disappeared, a figure appeared from within the flames. I stared in shock and confusion. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw who was standing there. Those glowing red hair that danced like flames and that creepy lantern pole in his hand, there was no doubt that it was him.
“Lantern?” His names left my lips unconsciously. Why was he here? Where did he disappeared to all this time? Was this large scale wildfire his doing? So many questions were running through my minds. I stared at the fire lions standing between Lantern and I as if they were guarding their master. So they were his.
From inside my hood, I could hear Baby Tooth chirping in surprise. I could tell from her tone that she was as shock and confused as I was.
“Lantern! Did you do this? Did you created this fire?” I demanded. “Wh...why are you doing this? Where did you go all this time? You disappeared for a whole week!”
Lantern didn’t say anything. He just stared at me with a blank look in his eyes. Now that I took a good look at him, he didn’t look like his usual self. His face looked pale and tired and there were dark shadows under his eyes. His clothes looked tattered and worn out. Even his flaming red hair and yellow eyes didn’t look bright like it used to. It was as if the glow was slowly dying away.
“Lantern, what happened to you?” I asked worriedly.
Lantern stayed silent, but the fire lions dashed towards me, roaring loudly.
The flames were quickly spreading from one house to the other. Sandy was trying his best to put them out with his sand as fast as possible, but it wasn’t easy doing that while trying to fend off flame creatures that were attacking him.
A pack of fire hyenas and cheetahs surrounded him like a trap prey. They growled menacingly at him as they slowly walked closer and closer to the Guardian of Dreams.
Sandy looked around him to see how many of the creatures there were and where each of them stood. When he got the information he needed, he quickly created a herd of elephants from his sand.
The elephants stampeded towards the flame beasts, stomping their foot loudly. The flame beasts tried to pounce onto the golden elephants, but the elephants rammed into them and whipped their trunks around, smacking their opponents. The fire hyenas tried to bite and claw at the elephants in groups while the cheetahs were jumping onto their backs. The elephants stomped onto a nearby flame hyenas and swung its trunk on any fire cheetahs that tried to jump on them. It was like a battle of survival from a wildlife channel, but the creatures were either made of glowing gold sand or blazing orange flames.
When Sandy thought he had the flame creatures distracted, a fire cheetah came from behind and was about to pounce on him when something came flying from behind. It flew right through the cheetah’s flame body and the creature dispersed into thin air. Then the flying object flew back from whence it came from in an arc.
Sandy immediately turned around when he felt the creature blew up from behind him and discovered that help had arrived.
“Oy! Need some help?” Called Bunny, catching his boomerang. Then he slashed at oncoming fire hyenas with his two boomerangs like dual blades. He jumped high into the air, dodging four fire hyenas that tried to pounce on him at the same time but ended up hitting each other instead. While still in the air, Bunny threw his boomerangs towards the ground and swiped all four hyenas in one fell swoop.
Then North appeared right after and slashed at a fire cheetah that came at him. “Ha! Just like old times again!” Laughed North.
Now with three guardians together, they had the advantage. Sandy whipped at every fire beasts that came his way with his sand whip while hovering in the air for height advantage. Bunny used his agility and speed to dodge and slash the creatures with his boomerangs. With his fast sword skills, North was wiping out even more of the enemies’ numbers within minutes. The fire beasts were rapidly decreasing.
North was about to slash down on a fire hyena when a boomerang came out of nowhere and extinguish it first.
“Hey!” North cried out angrily at Bunny. “Zhat vas mine!”
“Not my fault you’re being a slow poke,” replied Bunny.
“I see vhere zhis is going,” growled North. “Who ever gets zhe most fire demons vins and loser vill listen to vinner for veek!”
“Your on, you bloke!” Bunny gladly accepted the challenge.
Sandy shook his head at the two guardians for being so immature at a time like this. Then a fire hyena jumped at him, he whipped his sand and took it out in one blow.
So now the battle became more dynamic when two of the three guardians were having a race of who can take out more fire creatures. Even stealing each others’ target became frequent.
“What the! Oy!” Bunny cried out when North took out his targets.
“Not my fault you being slow poke,” North threw back at him.
Bunny could only glare at him angrily.
Now, only a few of the fire creatures were left, two hyenas and a cheetah. North and Bunny went after them while Sandy just watched the two competitive competitors go for their targets like hunters going for their prey.
But before the two guardians could reach the creatures, something blue and green came zooming out of nowhere and quickly took out the creatures in one sweep with her two long blades.
North and Bunny froze in their tracks in surprise.
“Aw! Tooth! Zhey vere mine!” Whined North.
“Not my fault you two were being a bunch of slowpokes,” smirked Tooth, putting her fists on her hips playfully.
Both North and Bunny gave her a glare while Sandy was laughing behind them silently.
“Vait minute... Vhere’s Jack Frost?” Wondered North, noticing that the Guardian of Fun was not present.
“He’s just used a lot of his energy to wipe out a whole flock of fire birds, so he’s taking a short break to recharge himself. He’ll catch up to us soon,” explained Tooth.
“He better not be slacking off or I’ll knock him senseless with these,” Bunny said when he raised one of his boomerang to show what he meant.
Somewhere in the distance, they could hear a loud explosion.
“Blimey! What was that!?!” Exclaimed Bunny, his ears shot into the air in surprise.
“Oh no! That’s coming from where Jack is!” Tooth cried out in worry. She immediately zoomed towards the direction where the explosion came from. North and the others quickly followed behind her.
Lantern sent another large fireball in my direction, but I managed to dodge it just at the right time and caused the fireball to hit the building behind me instead.
“Lantern! Why are you doing this!?” I yelled. I couldn’t believe that he would attack me. What was wrong with him?
Lantern didn’t say anything. He just stared at me silently.
Then I blasted one of the two fire lions and tried to blast the other one, but the other fire lion just dodged away from the ice bolt. While I was busy trying to get the last lion, Lantern conjured up another one.
I didn’t notice it as first until the last minute, because it appeared right behind me. The fire lion pounced on me, catching me off guard and knocking me to the ground.
“Argh!” I cried out in pain.
The lion pinned me to the ground, but I was still able to move my staff and point it at the lion on top of me.
When that lion dispersed into air, I quickly aimed at the other lion and blasted it as well.
Then Baby Tooth came flying out of my hood once the lions were gone and flew over to my face, shrilling in panic and worry. She looked terrified and worried.
“Baby Tooth! What’re you doing? Go hide!” I quickly told her, since I didn’t want to expose her to danger. Then I noticed Lantern sending several fireballs towards Baby Tooth and I, so I quickly grab Baby Tooth out of the air and held her to my chest.
Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom! Boom!
The fireballs blasted on impact, but none of them hit us.
Did Lantern missed... on purpose?
Baby Tooth squeaked in terror and she quickly flew out of my hand and hid inside a nearby rusty pot on the ground for safety. At least now I can concentrate on defending myself without having to worry about Baby Tooth.
Lantern quickly sent more fireballs my way, but I dodged some while blasting the rest. When I found an opening, I quickly sent a blast of an ice bolt towards Lantern. Suddenly, a fire wall appeared from the ground around the fire spirit in protection. So when my ice bolt hit it, it created an explosion, blowing both Lantern and I in different directions.
I flew right into the wall of a burnt house, crashing into furnitures and objects inside. I felt dizzy and my body ached from the crash, but I ignored the pain and quickly got up. I flew right out of the house and it was just in time too, because the building collapsed right after.
Lantern also crashed into a building, so he came flying out of the hole that he created from crashing through it.
We both shot at each other with our elemental blasts at the same time. Fire and ice collided once again and exploded between us. The haze, created from our powers colliding, spread everywhere, covering our vision. As the air started to clear up, I was already breathing really hard from exhaustion. I used up too much energy and I was also injured as well.
Lantern also didn’t look any different from me. He was holding onto his lantern pole for support and he was also breathing really hard. He already looked worn out earlier, now he looked completely drained.
We both stared at each other while trying to catch our breath. We were completely worn out and looked terrible.
Baby Tooth’s sharp cries could also be heard from nearby. She couldn’t do anything, but watch us fight. That was a good thing because she won’t be in harms way.
“Frost!” Someone called out from close by. I recognized that Australian accent right away.
It was Bunny. That meant the other Guardians were coming.
I could hear their foot steps and flutters of wings getting closer. When they appeared from a corner, I could see their shock expression on their faces when they saw my appearance.
“Jack, are you alright?” Asked Tooth, worriedly.
Then North noticed the other person on the battlefield and stared in shock.
“Lantern?” North called out, in disbelief.
They were all staring at the state of Lantern and I in bewilderment.
“What happened?” Demanded Bunny. “And why is Lantern here?”
“Wait a minute! The fire!” Tooth realized something. “Lantern, did you do this? Did you caused all this fire?”
Lantern kept silent, but I thought I saw this pain look in his eyes.
“Lantern why?” North asked. I could hear confusion and disappointment in his voice.
Lantern turned away as if he didn’t want to look at us. It was like he looked ashamed and guilty.
Then I noticed another fire wall engulfing the fire spirit. “Lantern! Wait!” I cried out towards Lantern when I realized what he was doing, but it was too late. Lantern was already gone with the flames.
Sandy also flew towards him and tried to reach out to him when he noticed the fire wall as well, but he wasn’t able to get there in time. Sandy stood there, staring at the spot where Lantern was moments ago, looking heartbroken.
Baby Tooth quickly flew towards Tooth in a frenzy cry, which Tooth immediately held out her hands.
“Oh Baby Tooth, are you okay?” Tooth asked worriedly, holding Baby Tooth close to her chest in protection.
“Frost, what the bloody hell is going!?” Demanded Bunny, looking really angry. “Why would Lantern do this!?”
“I don’t know!” I snapped back at him. “I’m as clueless as you are!”
“Something must be vrong vith Lantern,” stated North.
“Is it because of your belly again?” Retorted Bunny.
“No, I don’t need me belly to tell me zhat somezhing vas vrong vith him. It vas zhe look on his face.”
“His face? What do you mean?” I asked, confused.
“Zhat vas face of someone zhat vas forced to do somezhing he didn’t vant to do,” answer North.
“Are you saying that someone is forcing him to do this?” Demanded Bunny.
“Perhaps,” answered North. “And I zhink I know who it is.”
Then a name slipped through my lips in a whisper,