Chapter 19 The Nightmare King's Desire
Oh it was so worth it to see those look on their faces! It would’ve been worth hiring an artist to paint for. Their horror, devastation, anger, and frustration was worth all that patience. It took me months to prepare the nightmares and years to regain enough energy to summon them. I didn’t think my nightmares would have been enough to manipulate the pumpkin boy so easily, but he was now my pawn and I could make him move however it pleased me. My struggle for power has become a game of chess where I had all the right pieces. My powers had finally returned and I was able to free myself from this underground confinement.
And all this happened thanks to my new right-hand man.
“You did a splendid job, Cinder,” I complimented the boy. “If it wasn’t for you, I probably wouldn’t have come this far.” I placed my hand on the boy’s shoulder and noticed that he barely flinched at my touch like he would have before. Good, there was improvement.
“Those guardians are no match for us. Especially that Jackass Frost was nothing. I was hoping for a better opponent, but what a disappointment,” Cinder criticized with a smirk on his face and a smug tone in his voice. The boy was lying on his lantern pole while hovering in the air. He was just chilling around like a surfer on his board during a calm wave.
I couldn’t help but chuckle at the boy’s comment. “Of course he would be weaker. He’s a guardian after all,” I reminded him. “And a guardians’ power relies on the belief of children. That’s what makes them so weak.” I waved towards the globe of tiny speck of lights.
Then Cinder hung himself up side down, using his legs to hold himself from the lantern pole like some kind of monkey bar. His hooded cape and wavy black hair hung down towards the floor. The boy stared at the globe with an uninterested gaze. It never seem to surprise me that even though spirits weren’t completely affected by the gravitation of the planet, they still have things like their clothes or hair that still follow the law of gravity. Such a mysterious thought, but why question such stuff in a world full of magic.
“That sucks. Good thing we’re not guardians,” thought Cinder. “All we do is bring fear and terror. Heck! We sometimes don’t even need to lift a finger and already people will be afraid of something they can’t explain.” He said in an uncaring tone as he stroked his staff with one hand unconsciously.
“And that’s why the guardians can’t get rid of us so easily. There will always be fear in the hearts of humans,” I agreed. “How about I let you have a go with the other guardians. Maybe that would satisfy your thirst for a good fight?”
“That would be nice,” Cinder replied with a wide grin.. “I can’t wait to burn that easter bunny’s tail and see him run around like a freaked out rabbit! That would be hilarious to see.”
“I knew you would like that idea,” I chuckled at the boy’s excitement and eagerness. I rubbed the boy’s hair in fondness, even though he was upside down at the moment. Oh, this was such a happy moment. I was no longer alone and friendless. Now that the boy was on the same wavelength as me, we can finally destroy those guardians once and for all. Then I’ll rule this world with the boy by my side. I couldn’t be anymore happier than this.
“Are you alright, Jack?” Asked Tooth, worriedly.
“I’m fine. Just got my butt whooped again,” I replied irritatedly.
I was sitting on a bed while a yeti was attending to my arm. He was bandaging it the best he could while not using too much force. White cloth covered my arms and my lower chest. The blood on my forehead had dried and harden. Guardians were fast healers, but even that wasn’t enough to cover the more severe injuries. Yetis did have quite a lot of strength, so they had to be super careful and gentle when they make the toys and stuff.
When he was done, he mumbled and uttered gibberish, but I can tell by his hand movement and tone in his voice, he was asking if there were anymore injuries. He already gave me five bandages and a bandage around my head and chest, so I think I’m good. Anymore then I’ll official turn into a mummy. I never saw Lantern fight so seriously before, so the burns I got was surprising to say the least. I was lucky that the burns weren’t as bad as I thought. If it burned enough to see my own flesh, it would definitely scare the kids.
“I think you already got all of them, Phil,” I replied.
“Are you sure, mate? It looked like Lantern got you real good,” asked Bunny, also looking at me with worry. He eyed the burn placed near my eyebrow. It was already forming a scar.
“Yeah, I don’t have anything broken, so I’m okay.” Except my pride, I thought to myself. Can’t believe I got beaten again, but this time, it wasn’t by Lantern. Pitch turned Lantern into some dark and evil spirit. That damn boogeyman seemed to have a talent in manipulating people with emotion and fear. The anger rose inside of me and I didn’t notice my hands shaking from clutching on the blanket so hard.
Then I felt something touching my hand and when I turned to look, it was Sandy. He looked at me with concern and gazed at me like he understood what I was feeling. I know the little man of dreams wanted me to feel better, but after what happened in London and saw Lantern become some evil henchman, now called Cinder, was overwhelming my emotions. How could he become...evil so quickly? How was he so easily convinced?
Knock! Knock! Knock!
With the sound of knocking from the door, we all turned to look and saw North standing at the door frame. The look on his face pretty much says that he wasn’t in the jolliest of mood. The dark grim expression made the room tensed up and the atmosphere became heavy.
“How you doing, Jack?” Asked North.
“Yes. Yes, I’m fine. I don’t have any broken bones or serious injury. Only minor burns and bruises. Now can you guys get off my back?” I snapped at him. I’m starting to get real tired of having to repeat myself again and again.
“Zhat’s not vhat I meant,” said North. “I meant how vere you feeling here?” He pointed to his chest to show what he meant.
I understood right away what he was trying to get at. I didn’t reply right away. I just stared at my hands, feeling my chest squeezing inside of me. I knew what this feeling meant. I failed again and again to save Lantern. Now he was completely on Pitch’s side and I wasn’t even sure if I could bring him back. Tooth told me what happened between them and Pitch when I was busy with Lantern, or now I should call him Cinder.
“Is there a way to bring Lantern back?” I asked desperately.
“I don’t know...” That was all North replied, looking tired himself.
My chest squeezed painfully as my hope shrunk. Was there no way to bring him back? Will he be like that forever? Will I have to be enemies with my own friend? The thought of those questions swirled in me like a whirlpool. Was there no hope at all?
“But nothing is impossible.” My head jolted up and I stared at North when he said those words. He smiled at me as if he tried to assure me, but even I can see he wasn’t a hundred percent sure himself. “Get some rest, Jack. Zhe rest of you also go rest up. In zhe morning, ve’ll have var meeting tomorrow to deal vith Pitch. You can use any rooms to stay tonight.”
So the other guardians left the room to get some rest. I can tell that everyone was pretty tense, but they were all prepared to fight. After what Pitch did today, we weren’t going to let him off that easily.
The next morning, we were all gathered at the hall room in front of the globe since North was going to make an announcement.
I was almost completely healed after a good night’s rest. Since I wasn’t really human, my body was able to heal itself faster than how normal people would. Well, I wasn’t normal anyways. The burns and bruises were gone, but I still have some aches here and there, but they weren’t too serious. I was able to get out of bed, so that meant I was good to go.
There was some tension in the room from what we found out about what’s been going on around the world. The large globe showed that the lights were flickering out fast. There were barely a few hundreds left. Since the time Pitch appeared in London, there was an outbreak of Nightmares and Smog creatures all over the world. The children were having nightmares and depression. This wasn’t looking good at all.
But what really bothered me the most was still how Pitch turned Lantern into some kind of evil spirit. Every time I remembered what happened yesterday, my anger would rise and my determination to take down Pitch increase even more.
“As ve all know, ve are all gazhered here for very important meeting. Now vith Nightmares and Smogs, as ve vill now call zhose smog creatures, spread across zhe globe and harming zhe children, ve must fight back and protect zhe children,” North declared while using his sword to point at the globe.
“So what’s the plan then?” Bunny asked, curious what the Guardian of Wonders had in mind.
“I vas getting to zhat,” North suddenly pointed his sword at Bunny, who leaned back in time to not get slice, and gave the large rabbit a do-not-disturb-my-speech look.
“Oy! Watch where you point that thing!” Cried Bunny, pushing the blade away from his face.
“So back to vhat I vas saying. Since zhey are so many of zhem across zhe globe, ve vill be splitting up to deal vith zhe situation. I’ve also been observing zhe globe and notice zhat zhe children in Asia are being harmed zhe most, so ve shall start hunting down the creatures zhere. Bunny, are your Sentinels ready?” North asked Bunny.
“They’ve been ready for ages,” replied the Guardian of Hope with his arms crossed.
“Good. You vill bring zhem to East Asia and exterminate zhe dark creatures zhere,” told North.
Then finally it was my and Sandy’s turn. I was eager to know where I was supposed to hunt down those Nightmares. I even hoped a little that by some chance, I would be able to encounter Lantern. Before, I saw Lantern as a fellow ally in pranks and even a rival. Now, thinking of meeting up with him again gave me a mixed feeling of want and dread. He was only a spirit for such a short period and his power has already increased by a fold. I have never had a reason to train to strengthen myself since Pitch’s appearance. Lantern’s sudden growth spirt was alarming.
“You two vill go togezher to Southeast Asia since none of you have helpers,” he pointed his sword at us, nearly cutting my nose. Unfortunately, some of Sandy’s hair got sliced off by this. Geez! Why did he have to bring his sword to the meeting?! “Jack, since you’re still recovering, I had to have you team up vith Sandy, so he can help you fight. You two vill have to vork as two men army. Of course, Sandy can use his sand to make his own army.”
“Alright,” I agreed to the plan. “But can you not swing your sword around like that? It really makes me uncomfortable.” Sandy also nodded that he agreed since he already lost some of his hair.
“Fine,” mumbled North, putting his sword away while complaining under his breath about trying to make the meeting more dramatic.
Then it was finally Tooth’s turn and this time, no more sword pointing.
“For Tooth, well... No offense Tooth, but your tiny fairies vere not meant for combat, but zhey are very fast and small. Zhey can be zhe eyes and ears to find any sneaky dark creatures zhat tries to hide. If zhey find any signs of Pitch or Cinder, zhey must report to zhe nearest Guardian, got it?” Ordered North.
“I’ll have the fairies at the Tooth Palace notified and send them out immediately,” told Tooth.
“Also, Tooth, you’ll go vith Bunny, since you can still fight. You’ll be able to help fight in zhe air vhile Bunny takes zhe ground.”
“Got it!” Both Tooth and Bunny replied.
“For me, I’ll be in Russia vith zhe Yetis and Elves. Everyone understand zhe plan?” North asked to make sure.
Everyone nodded and replied that they understood. We were all prepared to fight Pitch to protect the children. That was what we were meant to do as Guardians. At the same time, I added to myself that I’ll save Lantern no matter what since that’s what friends were for.
We all went to our appointed destination immediately after the meeting was over. The hunt for Nightmares and Smogs had started and the time to save Lantern from Pitch’s mind control was on.
“There’s one over there!” I called out as I went after a smog creature. It was like some kind of large serpent, slithering away through the alley. “Oh no you don’t! You’re not getting away that easily!”
It didn’t take me long to catch up to it due to my speed. The skeletal serpent slithered back towards me and tried to strike me with its sharp long fangs, but I quickly dodged away as the serpent missed me. I even cried out as I swung my sword down and sliced it in half, turning to smoke and disappearing into the air.
I can almost feel all my energy and emotion that was put into that swing. The anger and frustration of seeing Pitch using Lantern’s teeth to control him and make him do things like this made me really upset, so I’ve been releasing all my stress and anger into getting rid of these Smogs and Nightmares. I hated Pitch so much right now that I wanted to give him a punch strong enough to knock all his teeth out. Of course, he wasn’t going to get any coins from me.
Once I was done with that slithering skeletal creature, I flew back to where Bunny was. When I came back to where I left Bunny, I stared in shock at the scene.
“Bunny!” I called out in shock upon seeing Bunny surrounded by five Nightmares.
“Don’t worry those little feathers of yours, mate. I got these ponies under control,” assured Bunny.
Two Nightmares charged at him from both sides, but Bunny dodged it by jumping up into the air and threw an egg-bomb at them.
Once the first two Nightmares were taken cared of, another Nightmare came charging after him as well. Bunny pulled out his two boomerangs and held them tightly in his paws. He jumped and kicked the Nightmare in the face before swinging his boomerang down like a sword. Then it went ‘Poof!’ and dispersed into a puff of sand like the others.
Then he quickly threw his two boomerangs at the last remaining two Nightmares that were about to charge at him as well. The boomerangs spun through the air, flew behind the two beasts, and swiped them before they even realized it.
“See?” Smirked Bunny.
“This isn’t time for playing around! We have to get rid of these dark creatures as soon as possible before Pitch comes up with something crazy!” I snapped at him, angrily.
“Woah, cool down, mate. What got your feathers fuzzed up?” Bunny tried to calm me down.
Realizing what I just did, I felt slightly guilty for snapping at him like that. “Oh god, I’m so sorry, Bunny,” I quickly apologized. “I was just a little...”
“Stressed out?” Bunny finished my reply. “Seeing what Pitch did with Lantern’s teeth, I’m not surprise. But you’re not alone, mate.”
“Yeah, I know, but...” I was about to say something, but I was cut off by Bunny.
“Don’t worry, we’ll find Pitch,” he assured me. “And when we do, we’ll teach him not to mess with us. Especially, mind controlling our friends.” Then he punched his palm to express how serious he was.
“Thanks, Bunny,” I smiled. He was really trying to be considerate, but that didn’t stop my feelings from being heartbroken for the teeth that was stolen. I can’t believe that the teeth that I was supposed to look after and keep safe were stolen twice! And in a short period of time at that! I was really failing as the Guardian of Memories. Now Lantern had to suffer for my own oversight. “Do you think we’ll be able to save Lantern and bring back his memories?” I asked out of desperation for hope from the Guardian of Hope himself.
“Well, I can’t say I’m confident what will happen in the future, but what I’m sure is that friends never leave friends behind,” Bunny said with a confident look in his eyes. Then he looked around while using his superb hearing to listen for any more Nightmares and Smogs. “Sounds like there’s some more in the East. Let’s go.” Then Bunny dashed away towards the east where he heard the cries of the dark creatures.
I immediately flew after him. Bunny word’s really helped lift my spirit up. He was right. Feeling down about it won’t change anything. I have to do something now to make a difference. I vowed to myself that I’ll definitely save Lantern and defeat Pitch, because I am a Guardian of Memories. Anyone who dares tamper with a memory will meet my wrath.
“So they’re having an Around the World Extermination mission, I see.” A Nightmare reported to me on the Guardians’ movements. Hearing this, I wasn’t that surprise. I can say that I was expecting this. “Those Guardians were always quite predictable. Let’s see how long they can hold before they exhaust themselves out.”
While I was enjoying myself by imagining the Guardians slowly losing their energy as they continue to fight an endless struggle, three Nightmares came up to me nervously. I can feel their nervousness, so I became somewhat confused.
“What is it?” I demanded while staring at the dark beasts, annoyed that they disturbed my daydream.
But what the black horses reported to me made me not only shocked, but extremely furious.
“WHAT!?!” I shouted in outrage at the black horses, who shrunk back in fear. “THE GIRL IS GONE?!! HOW DID YOU IMBECILES LOOSE A LITTLE GIRL! SHE WAS LOCKED UP IN A CAGE THAT WAS HUNG SEVERAL FEET IN THE AIR FOR GOODNESS SAKES! HOW CAN SHE DISAPPEAR WITHOUT A TRACE!?! WHAT WERE YOU FOOLS DOING?!!”
The Nightmares didn’t say anything as they stared at me with their heads low and ears drooped down in shame. I couldn’t believe they could lose a little girl that was locked away securely in a place that she can’t easily escape! She must’ve had help, but from who?
“Yo Pitch, what the hell was the scream for?! You almost knocked me right out of the air!” Cinder complained, hanging from his lantern pole. He probably almost fell off from my outburst. “And what’s this thing about a girl? I didn’t know you kidnapped a girl.”
“Jack!” I figured out almost immediately of who it was that could’ve done it.
“Frostie? Here? You serious?” Cinder stared at me in surprise.
“No, not that Jack,” I corrected him.
“Then which Jack?” He stared at me, confused. “I don’t know any other Jack then the snowball maker.”
Oh...Right. The boy didn’t remember. His memories were replaced with new memories I created for him, so he had no memories of ever being Jack O’Lantern nor ever hanging around with the guardians. I even change all his memories, so that he only remembered that he joined me because he loved bringing as much fear as I do and hated the guardians to the gut. Especially that Jack Frost.
“Don’t worry. It’s not a Jack that you would know,” I quickly came up with a lie. “Besides, I already got rid of him, so he won’t be causing us anymore trouble. It just seems that he managed to pull something behind my back right before I erased him.”
“Okay... so whatcha gonna do about that girl you mentioned?” asked Cinder, curious. “Do you want me to hunt her down? I have nothing better to do and I’m bored as hell.”
“No. No need. I’ll have the Nightmares search for her since they were the ones that lost her in the first place,” I glared at the Nightmares as I said that.
The Nightmares lowered their heads in shame. Then they quickly disappeared into the shadows, no doubt, looking for the girl.
“You know what? I’m outta here,” Cinder announced as he was about to fly off.
“What?” I demanded in surprise, turning to look at Cinder.
“I already told ya. I’m bored,” explained Cinder, making a bored face. “I’m gonna go find myself some fun. Maybe some kids to scare the hell out of.”
So that was what he meant. He scared me for a moment there. I thought he was about to abandon me out of the blue.
“Oh, I see. Well, you can go and have as much fun as you want. Just be careful if you encounter the Guardians,” I warned him just in case. I don’t want anything to happen to my favorite henchman after all. Well, the only one in fact.
“Yeah yeah, dad. If I find any stupid guardians while I’m out, I’ll just run them over with a truck. Happy?” he said with his hands on his waist and mischievous sneer on his face.
For some reason, when he said ‘dad,’ I thought my heart skipped. Dad? That sounded... nice. He probably said that as a joke, but I kinda like that title. I forcefully pushed the thought aside before looking at the boy again. Such emotions were trash and were pointless. Emotions was why it was so easy to control humanity with the gift of fear.
“Alright, tiger,” I smirked back at him. “But after your training, then you can go.”
“Aw man! Fine! Where’s those damn horse I have to fry? I want to make this quick!” Cinder was about to go off to find his preys when I stopped him.
“Oh no. You won’t be fighting the Nightmares today,” I told him. “I’ll be your opponent.” Then I conjured up a large scythe from my black sand and held them tightly in my grasp while I sneered at the boy.
Cinder was a little shock by this, but then an excited grin ran across his face. “Fine by me. Don’t go crying when I kick your ass after this.”
I chuckled and said, “Say that after we’re done, then we’ll see who will be crying afterwards.”
Then Cinder came at me and I swung my scythe at him. His training had now begun.
“You awight?” Abby asked the wisp in her arms as she was walking.
Several minutes ago, the wisp was in so much pain and barely stayed lit. It was thanks to the mysterious fire breathing stallion, who gave some of its flame for the wisp to stay alive. Now the poor wisp was exhausted and resting in Abby’s arms.
The wisp blabbered that Abby felt that it was saying that it was fine, though she can feel the exhaustion in its tone. Abby hugged the wisp tighter, hoping it would make it feel better, which the wisp did give her a warm smile in appreciation.
“Where we goin’?” Abby asked the black stallion in exhaustion. “I’m tired.”
The black stallion didn’t seem to bother to reply to the child’s exhausted cry. The stallion had been walking and walking for who knew how long. Abby didn’t know where it was leading them or why it was helping them. She just felt safe being with this horse.
“My feet hurt,” she whined. Not surprising since they’ve been walking for so long and the child was reaching her limit.
The stallion stopped in its track and its white blank eyes stared at the little girl. It seemed to have paused as if it was thinking of something.
Abby also stared back at it, hoping the large horse would let her little aching feet rest. She even tried making a pleading puppy face at it. Does puppy-face work on horses?
But then suddenly, the stallion’s head shot up and both its ears were facing forward. It looked like something alerted the stallion and it wasn’t something good. The stallion immediately used its teeth to grab Abby’s collar from behind and threw her onto its back.
“Huh? Whoa!” Abby was caught off guard from this, but she was able to land onto the saddle perfectly.
The wisp was very much surprised by this and shot out of Abby’s arms. It started to blabber like crazy in anger at the stallion, but the horse itself didn’t seem bothered by the small fireball.
Even though Abby was still in shock from being lifted up and thrown onto the back, she was able to grab onto the handle on the saddle in time before the stallion dashed through the forest.
Abby wanted to scream at first, but her teeth were biting onto each other so hard that she wasn’t able to make any noise. The wind was rushing through her face and the sound of the hooves pounding onto the ground could be felt. Every step the stallion made was like riding through a bumpy road.
She rode ponies at the fair before, but it was never this fast and there was always a strap to keep her from falling off. But now, not only was the horse running at a ridiculous speed, she had no strap to keep her from being thrown off! She can only hold onto the saddle for dear life and hoped she didn’t fall off.
The wisp was flying beside them, trying to keep up with the stallion’s speed. It tried to yell at the stallion to slow down, but the stallion just ignored it. It was like it was trying to concentrate on running as fast as possible. Of course, the wisp didn’t understand why the horse was in such a rush.
Then it heard the sound of other hooves galloping in the distance.
That cry! The wisp immediately recognized that cry. The Nightmares were on their trail and heading this way! No wonder the stallion was in such a rush. It was trying to get away from those black dark horses.
Abby also heard the cries too, because she looked back when she heard them. She can’t see anything in the darkness, but she can hear the sound of several hooves pounding on the ground in the distance. After awhile, Abby was able to make out figures running through the trees.
“Dhey comin’,” she told the stallion.
The Nightmares were catching up from behind them. Their speed and strength were more powerful now with Pitch’s power rising, so it didn’t take them long to find Abby.
As the small herd of dark horses were getting closer, the stallion slowed down and turned around to face them. The stallion decided that if it can’t run away from their pursuers, then it will have to stand and fight. It stomped its front hooves onto the ground with a loud pound as if creating intimidation for the dark horses.
It seemed to have worked for awhile since the dark horses wouldn’t come near them. They were standing about ten feet away. There were a total of five Nightmares and they had the stallion surrounded. It didn’t look like they would be able to get away, but the stallion didn’t look nervous at all.
Abby, on the other hand, looked slightly afraid. She looked around her, not sure how they would get out of this. The wisp was also staring nervously at the dark horses.
“Horsey...” Abby called to the stallion, hoping that it knew what to do.
The stallion stood firm on its ground. It glared at the Nightmares like they were nothing but pests to it.
The Nightmares can sense that the stallion wasn’t afraid of them at all and this made them slightly confused. They had the numbers, but why did they feel like they were at a disadvantage? But remembering their mission, they decided to get closer to the stallion.
Abby could see the Nightmares slowly closing in on them. She was starting to lose hope of getting away and started to shake in fear.
When the Nightmares were getting closer, the stallion lift its front legs high into the air, neighing loudly at the dark horses. Abby didn’t expect this and almost fell off, but luckily she was holding onto the handle of the saddle tightly. Then the stallion’s eyes burst into flames again, but this time it wasn’t just the eyes that caught fire. Both the mane and the tail also burst into flames, dancing wildly and brightly at anyone who laid eyes on it.
Abby was shocked to find fire burning right in front of her, but the heat didn’t harm her at all. It was warm and bright that Abby couldn’t stop looking at it with awe. She was so tempted to touch the flames, but she was holding onto the saddle with both hands to keep her from being thrown off.
The Nightmares were shock by this and froze in their tracks, feeling the intimidating power bursting from the stallion. Their eyes were wide in fear and some were starting to step back.
But the stallion noticed their movement and decided that none of them will escape. It sent its hooves smashing onto ground, sending a wave of flames in all directions. The wave of fire washed over all the Nightmares, making them disperse into tiny black sand and wiping them out in mere seconds.
Abby and the wisp stared in awe at the destruction in front of them. The Nightmares were gone, but there were still small traces of fire on the ground.
The stallion snorted like what happened earlier was nothing to it. Then the fire from its mane, tail, and eyes disappeared and went back to its normal state. Seeing that there won’t be anymore pursuers for a while, it turned around and continued to walk away from the scene and into the dark forest.