The Clockmakers Daughter

Turning Tides

Nightmare stood on the shore of the island that shared his name. The black water was turbulent, crashing upon the white shore, welcoming its master once again at full power. It was now time to strengthen his hold on his domain once more. White should not have been able to approach, much less take the spirits from the sanctuary made for them. The harrowing bellows and howls rung across the land as he walked the edge of the beach, laying power points upon the ground, ten in all.

He entered the forest, feeling the presence of the most solid creatures, the Bandersnatch mate pair, following behind him. Five more points he laid. As he walked, the two became more solid. The black mist fell away, slowly revealing white fur and glowing orange and blue eyes. Fangs large enough to pierce through a man gleamed in the dim twilight as the large horse sized cat creatures roared, the sound echoing throughout the island and the waters beyond.

With the fifth lay point done, he turned to them. “For your fortitude against the white joker, I grant you form. You are now the protectors of this island. Let no one in who does not bare my mark.” The large beasts bowed down before him. He walked to them and lay his hands on their massive foreheads, letting his power brand them. When he lifted away, a black scythe remained, its blade shinning with a sliver edge.

He turned, heading toward the center, intending to finish the barrier and close off access to the island to all but him and those he sent. A disturbance ran through him, like the sharp jab of a knife to his side. White, or one of his minions had returned. The grin that spread across his face was nothing less than sinister. He hoped that it was White, wanting to spill his blood for all the suffering he had caused.

White appeared in the center of the island. For some reason, he could not touch the outside ring where he usually came before working his way into the interior. Several of his newly created monsters fanned out behind him, a few twitching oddly since touching the ground of their true home. Today he brought three jars with him, each smaller than the last, three specific items in mind. It was time to take the fools strength and gut him with it. He smiled pleasantly at the thought.

“I am so glad to see you here, brother.” Nightmare strolled out of the forest, black vines bending out of his way, their blooms lighting up from being near him. Black vapor began to cling to him until he reached the center near the arch, becoming a living robe that moved and churned around him making his movements hard to focus on. “It is far passed the time you pay for your violations.”

White sneered. “What violations? Technically, I have broken no rules of the game.” His white suit stood out in the dim atmosphere. “Besides,” he said, casually uncorking his smallest bottle. If he could get ahold of one creature he would be satisfied. He doubted his brother would be able to stop him, but just to be sure, he set the bottle on the ground, the lure already in place inside. “What have I to fear when the game master will not punish me?” His red eyes gleamed, his lips twisted into a smug grin.

Nightmare looked at him, black slowly bleeding out the white in his eye, until the molten silver resembled its mate. “In case it has escaped your notice, there is a new game maker on the rise. Soon the rules will change and she will not spare you.”

“Ah, yes.” He held his hand out, long metal whip forming, its edges gleaming like razor wire. “How is my bride to be, did she enjoy my gift?” He laughed darkly.

Nightmare chuckled, “Probably far more than you intended for her to. Black doesn’t seem to be complaining much about it neither.” A bolt of black lightning came to his open hand, leaving a long, black bladed scythe in its place. It felt great to take this form once more, his aura stretching like muscles stiffened from disuse.

“He lived.” White stated, anger burning in his chest. How dare he live after he had gone through all the trouble to keep him permanently dead. “I guess I’ll have to do a better job of killing him next time. Betrayal is an ugly thing and must be punished.” He took in Nightmares new appearance. “Been playing in the mortals dreams, brother?” The whip lashed out, barely disturbing the dark mist of the cloak he wore.

“Where do you suppose they came up with such an image to begin with?” Nightmare did not blink as the weapon struck out twice more, one strike nearly cutting his face. “Is that why you envy me so?” He asked casually step siding an attack from one of the clawed fingers, their Janus masks grinning eerily at him. The male Bandersnatch barreled out of the trees, catching the form, shaking it before its false body broke in two. It dissolved into dust as the spirit returned to the forest.

“Envy you?” White scoffed. “Such a weak, pathetic thing, depending on your assassin to protect you for so long.” He quit trying to play with the other man, attacking directly aiming to take his head.

Nightmare moved in a blur, seeming to dissolve in black haze, reforming in front of the joker, scythe swinging upward. Blood poured from White's chest as he blinked away, trying to come behind the dream keeper. He did not come close. Nightmare fading out once more to bring his weapon across his back, white fabric shredding, red seeping into it. The five remaining creatures bore down on the incubus as White retreated to where he had left the vials. He was not healing, the tears in his flesh bleeding freely taking his strength with the flow. Nightmare drew his scythe once more, swing it through the circle of attackers, cutting through them like light through shadows. They exploded before him, dust raining down as the spirits were freed from the shells they had been forced into.

White drug himself over to the glass, black swirling inside of it. He grinned replacing the cork. He had his prize. Clutching it to him, he faced his brother who calmly approached.

“Do you wish to rest, White?” Nightmare spoke charmingly. “Nightmare Island is equally connected between wonderland and the mortal world. You probably would eventually heal if you died here, but it would take a long while, giving you time to reflect.” He raised his weapon once more.

“I think I will decline.” He said, quickly fading away, returning to his sanctuary underground where none could touch him. Even if the incubus did manage to block him from the island, he now had the only spirit he needed to bring the down fall of the role holders and regain his queen, ruling a land of horrors and darkness like the modern human world had yet to see. What was, would be again.

Nightmare allowed the cloak and scythe to diminish, returning to his normal state. Walking to the arch, he placed a hand upon it, lighting the structure up with a black light, connecting the lay points until the whole island glowed darkly for a moment, before fading away. It left a clear barrier behind, none but Nightmare and maybe Aliya strong enough to pass through. Even the mother no longer held the power to do so without Nightmares permission.

He walked to the two remaining glass vails that White had left, smashing them under his heel. Slowly, he let his senses wonder the isle, taking stock of what was still in place and what was still missing. Being creatures of spirit, it was nearly impossible to permanently kill them. What he found worried him. There were not many left gone, ten at the most of the smaller creatures, but there was one, one that he only used to plague the minds of serial killers and Alice’s aunt.

The two great cats came behind him, head butting him slightly. He absently stroked their heads, his mind wondering over old ground. How could he retrieve it? By now White was holed up in his prison, rapidly healing where they could not go. The exceptions being Julius, Ace, and Black, but Aliya would not allow them to go alone and Nightmare himself would have to be there to control the beast. After one last affectionate pat on the white fur, he left the island to its new protectors.
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