Knocking Down Barriers
Bunny took in a deep breath, the cool night providing him comfort as he wandered aimlessly through the trees. After some time, he stumbled across a patch of moon flowers, their white petals opening up to reveal their glowing insides, shimmering like the moon itself. Bunny blinked, crouching down to admire them. Flora was something he enjoyed, a common source of life in his Warren. As he was gazing upon them, he failed to notice someone panning silently behind him before speaking.
"They are beautiful, are they not?" Emily asked, making Bunny jump a bit in surprise as she bent down beside him. "They thrive in the night... under the glow of the moon. They conceal their precious light inside them. Protected... from those who wish them harm."
Bunny sighed, glancing over at her. "Look, Em... I'm sorry about yelling at you earlier... but I have a job to do, and I can't just stand by when a child is hurt, or frightened."
"I understand. We both have our tasks we must fulfill. I have been quite harsh... but all of these individuals in my sanctuary is a bit much for me to handle all at once." Emily replied.
Bunny glanced up, exhaling slowly. "You've got to get out more, Sheila. Sounds like a pretty dumb statement, but I mean... you-"
"I cannot do that." Emily said, floating up to a tree to touch it, ivy gently weaving down the tree from her hand in a beautiful array. "The only one I trust is Sandy... I trust no others in this world. I look upon the world outside of my forest, and I see only foes."
Bunny walked up to the base of the tree, biting his lip. "I was the same way for a long time, Em... I kept myself pretty cooped up in my Warren for a few centuries... but you can't just keep yourself locked up here forever. It's not good for you."
"I shall determine what is good for me and what isn't. At least in solitude I'm not being harmed." Emily replied.
"But you're not experiencing anything, either. I can say from experience, I've learned more in these last few months than I have in the last few centuries." Bunny said.
"My mind is set in its ways, I shall not change it." Emily shot a look at him. "Go and rest. I would like some peace and quiet."
Bunny rolled his eyes. "So moody..." He muttered, shuffling back to his shelter where he laid down, finally feeling tired enough to go to sleep. He reflected on his conversation for a few minutes before exhaustion took him, but he wondered exactly when Emily became a shadow of her former self. He knew little of her, but from what he did know, she certainly had changed over the centuries, and not necessarily for the better. She somehow reminded him of someone, but he was too sleepy to make an effort to think too deeply into it.
The Queen raised a brow when she heard commotion, turning to head back into the center of the mountain. She growled a bit when she saw pandemonium ensuing, several cybugs flying about and making a mess of things.
"Will someone care to explain why these creatures are seeking to deter our progress?!" The Queen snapped.
"Your highness, they're durable and extremely adaptive!" Hans shouted, conjuring fire in his hand to blast at them.
The Queen raised a brow at this, several thoughts forming as she grinned. Turbo went up to her then, gasping for air.
"Those cybugs... must have hitchhiked with me on the way here... they grow... really, REALLY fast..." Turbo strained.
"Tedniig alj, ta nar munkhag!" Maharaja shouted to his minions, slicing a cybug clean in half as it flew at him.
The Queen produced several heart shaped tarts then, glancing at them as one flew at her to attack. As it neared, she reared her hand back, shoving the tarts in its mouth and shoving it off of her. She handed one to Turbo, appearing slightly different. "Eat this."
Turbo raised a brow, glancing from the pastry to her. "Look, that's really sweet that you admire me and all, there's no reason not to, but I'm not really into sweets and-"
"DO IT!" The Queen shrieked.
"Woah, okay, jeez... you've got some pipes on you, Queenie." Turbo replied, eating the tart. He blinked, feeling something in his mind. The other cybugs stopped what they were doing, looking towards the one who had consumed the other tarts. It twitched for a few moments before skittering over to Turbo, clicking and whirring a bit before crouching down in a submissive manner. The Queen tossed out more tarts with a wave of her hand, the cybugs ignorantly catching them in their mouths like dogs would a treat. As they consumed them, Turbo felt his mind expanding more and more, an odd sensation as he felt like his range of control was increasing. "Uh... did those things happen to have some of that trippy sugar in it or something-"
"All of you, listen closely to me." The Queen announced, the others focusing their attention on her now that the sudden threat from the cybugs seemed to be averted. "Do you see the destruction these creatures are capable of? They shall be a great benefit to us. The tarts I have provided them have forced them into a single hive mind, and I have granted Turbo here to be the leader of that hive mind. He, and only he, can control them." She turned to Hans. "You seem to be improving with your powers... you may use some of these... 'cybugs...' as target practice."
Hans blinked, amazed by how the Queen turned this situation around so quickly. "Yes, your highness."
Turbo blinked, glancing down as the other cybugs approached him, looking up at him as their leader. "So... I can make them do whatever I want?"
"That is the premise of a hive mind, is it not? The brain, which is yourself, controlling all flesh and bone connected to it." The Queen replied.
Turbo nodded slowly, taking this in as a grin slowly grew in his features. "Hm... I could make them tear that glitch to shreds... and then that giant oaf, Ralph..."
As Turbo continued to mumble to himself, Hans approached the Queen. "Your highness, I know we still have a lot of preparations to complete, but if I may, I don't think we should wait too much longer to launch an attack..." He suggested.
"Indeed, you are correct. I assure you, the opportune time to strike shall present itself. It seems that my former enemy that I had presumed dead is quite the opposite in this current moment... she has joined forces with Elsa and they are all within the security of the forest. We are at a disadvantage, a stalemate, because we cannot access them, so the only way we will be able to engage them is if they come to us. We need a reason to draw them out... something I shall be implementing a plan for soon enough." The Queen answered.
"Yes, your majesty. Is there anything I can do?" Hans asked.
"There is. Continue to perfect your powers. You will need them against the opposing forces of Elsa and Jack Frost." The Queen replied. "Go to Turbo and tell him that I want you to use the cybugs as practice; it will be symbiotic in that you shall sharpen your skills and he shall become accustomed to using his hive mind abilities." The Queen replied.
When Hans was dismissed, the Queen smirked lightly as she glanced back, looking upon the armies building themselves up and strengthening. Maharaja paced around his minions as they trained in unison with their weapons, emitting battle cries. Turbo and Hans helped each other to train, and the Phoenix helped a small group of minions forge more weaponry. She grinned wickedly, reveling in how her forces were coming together. She conjured several card guards, each kneeling before her before standing to attention. "Stand at the base of the mountain, report anything that approaches." She commanded as they each gave a firm nod before doing as she requested.
The next morning, Sandy was sleeping peacefully when suddenly, he was jostled awake by getting his face covered in freezing cold water. He gasped for air as he flew into a sitting position, Jack crossing his arms as he stood over him.
"Rise and shine, Sandy..." Jack smirked. "... maybe next time, someone won't kill someone else's romantic mood, huh?"
Sandy gritted his teeth, rolling his sleeves up as he marched towards the ice guardian in midair. He was about to sucker punch Jack when Alice quickly stepped between them.
"Now gentlemen, play nice..." Alice said as she held her hands out. "Remember, we need everyone intact if we're going to have to properly fight. Besides, I need a moment with Jack- NOT what you're thinking, Sandy- I need to speak with him about something." Without another word, Alice took Jack's hand, leading him to the other side of the small shelter.
"You know I love you, right?" Jack smiled, kissing Alice's cheek.
"Alright, may you stay out of trouble for a moment? I have something serious to discuss with you." Alice replied.
"Okay, okay... what is it?" Jack asked.
"I think it's time one of us reaches out to the remaining guardians at the North Pole. Being they were not in Arendelle to attend my harsh but necessary meeting before our departure, I think it's about time that someone relay what's happening to them." Alice suggested.
Jack's expression became a bit serious then; Alice had a point. "Yeah... I hadn't even thought of that."
"Well, something else has been clouding your judgment." Alice said, knocking on his forehead a bit as Jack chuckled, waving her hands away playfully.
"I can't help that I love being around you so much..." Jack said, Alice rolling her eyes as she smirked.
"Alright, Romeo... we have some snow globes stored in the small wicker basket just there, take one and go to the North Pole." She said.
"Okay. I'll be back soon." Jack said, giving Alice a quick kiss on her cheek before doing as she asked.
As Jack left, Sandy floated up to Alice, holding his hands out in a frustrated manner. He telepathically communicated with her, Alice seeing his words appear in midair as she raised a brow.
"Well, here I thought you were implying Jack and I needed some separation, I was simply heeding your advice." Alice smirked.
Sandy crossed his arms, tapping his foot as a sand picture of a tooth formed above his head, pointing to it and then frowning, putting a hand over his heart. Alice's expression softened, sighing lightly.
"I did forget that you're both a couple... my apologies. I'll have to send you as the messenger next time." Alice said.
Sandy rolled his eyes playfully, smirking a bit as he made more words appear in front of Alice. Bunny walked into the room to see Alice squint at what he saw was nothing, before bursting out into laughter. Sandy wiggled his brows as Alice held her chest with one hand. "Oh, only in your dreams, Sandy!" She exclaimed as she laughed.
Bunny raised a brow, tilting his head. "Bloody hell, what's so funny?" When Sandy waved his hands towards him, he groaned. "Oh, I see how it is, get everyone in on your inside jokes but the rabbit." He huffed.
Meanwhile, Elsa hummed to herself as she picked some apples, cutting them with an ice shard and mashing them to make apple sauce. Vanellope emerged, yawning as she rubbed her eyes. She stopped when she saw Ralph standing perfectly still, looking from him to Elsa and rolling her eyes. The wrecker was snapped out of his stupor when the child tossed a pebble at his head.
"Hey, wake up!" Vanellope shouted. "Earth to stinkbrain, did the love cybug bite you in the butt?" She snickered.
Ralph stumbled over his words for a few moments, shushing Vanellope. "Will you keep it down?! Look, I don't know what's coming over me, it's just that, after thirty years of seeing the same 8-bit ladies all the time... man, now I know why Felix fell head over heels the first time he saw a high definition lady... she sings really nice too..." Ralph said as he sighed blissfully.
Vanellope stared at him flatly, pondering a bit before smirking. "Well, why don't you just say that to her then?"
"Are you crazy?! I can't just say something like that to someone after knowing them for five seconds!" Ralph exclaimed.
"Well you sure don't have a problem blabbing about it to me!" She skipped over to Elsa, giggling as she did so.
Ralph's eyes widened in a panic. "Wait, what are you- Vanellope, if you so much as say one word I'll-"
"Hey Elsa! What'cha got cooking there?" Vanellope asked, making Ralph breathe a sigh of relief.
Elsa blinked before smiling gently. "I'm making some apple sauce for Pitch... I'm not all that experienced with cooking."
"Well lucky for you, I come from a place where it's made entirely of candies and pastries! So if you need someone's help in the culinary arts, I'm your girl!" Vanellope said, pointing a thumb at herself.
"Thank you, I appreciate the offer." Elsa nodded lightly.
"So where's your boyfriend? He IS your boyfriend, right?" Vanellope asked.
Elsa chuckled lightly, blushing a bit. "I suppose you could say that."
"Say, you're pretty nice... how can you stand being with someone so grumpy all the time? I guess I should ask myself that, Ralph can be grumpy too." Vanellope said.
"Hey, I'm standing right over here!" Ralph exclaimed, making Elsa glance back and couldn't help but giggle lightly.
"Now Vanellope, that's not nice to say." Elsa said.
"It's true, though... you know what else is true?" Vanellope snickered. "Ralph thinks you're pretty!"
"VANELLOPE!" Ralph groaned in the background, running a hand down his face. Elsa blushed a bit deeper, giggling a bit nervously.
"Well, tell him that I thank him for his compliment. Hm... I think this should be good enough, I'm going to wake Pitch and give him his breakfast. It was nice talking to you, Vanellope." Elsa smiled lightly, getting up and going into her shelter. Vanellope rolled around laughing after Elsa left, holding her stomach.
"You are in SO much trouble! Now she's going to think I'm some kind of creep!" Ralph crossed his arms angrily.
"Hey, I was just being honest!" Vanellope answered, hopping up and squeaking when Ralph started to chase her around the trees.
Jack arrived just outside of North's workshop, floating towards one of the entrances, smirking when one of the Yetis guarding the way raised a brow at him. "Hey, Phil. Is North in there?"
Inside, Wick bit his lip in concentration. "Almost... almost..." His scythe lit up as flames burst outwards, the Halloween guardian fumbling a bit as he tried to simmer it down. When he did, the s'more he was holding was burnt to a crisp, groaning as he let his head fall forward. "I'm never going to make a perfect s'more..."
"Hey, how's it going there, Wick?" Jack asked as he approached.
Wick perked up, smiling lightly. "Jack! Oh..." He frowned then. "I still can't get it right..."
"Don't worry, keep practicing and you'll get it." Jack smiled. "Is North around?"
"Yeah, he and Tooth are in his little office." Wick replied.
Jack gave him a nod, patting his shoulder lightly as he walked over to North's office door. He knocked, waiting for an answer.
"Finally, you learn how to knock first!" Jack heard North shout from inside, rolling his eyes playfully as the door opened. "Jack! What a surprise!" He laughed heartily.
"Hey, Jack!" Tooth beamed, flying over to give Jack a hug. She had been in the middle of flossing an elf's teeth, the elf making a run for it once Tooth had stopped. "How are you? Is everything alright?"
"I'm okay, thanks... and everything is... well, a little crazy... that's actually why I came here, there's a lot I need to catch you guys on. Have you seen anything?" Jack replied.
"No, but... what's going on, Jack?" Tooth asked, frowning lightly.
"Come come, let us sit at the table, we can discuss everything there." North said, patting Jack's shoulder as they headed out of his office.
After getting Wick to join them, the four guardians sat at one end of the long table to talk things over.
"So how is everything in Arendelle?"Tooth asked.
"Well... that's the thing. I didn't come here from Arendelle." Jack replied. Tooth blinked, she and North exchanging a glance. "A couple nights ago, Alice called a meeting after she and Pitch did some investigating."
"Alice and Pitch?" North asked, raising a wary brow. "What did they find?"
Jack exhaled slowly. "A lot... and it wasn't good."
"Did they find the Queen? She's definitely alive?" Wick asked.
"Yes... the Queen is very much alive... and she's put together an army." Jack said.
"Rimsky-Korsikov!" North exclaimed. "Right under our noses!"
"Jack... how big is this army, exactly? Were there a lot of those... card guard things I heard about...?" Tooth asked.
"Not only that, Tooth." Jack replied. "She seems to have found everyone's enemies and convinced them to join her. Hans, the guy who betrayed Anna and tried to kill Elsa before Pitch came into the picture, was there... also, she's got this... big bug guy, we met up with a couple of people from another time period named-"
"We must go straight to where they are and take down this army right now!" North exclaimed, unsheathing his swords.
"Wait, North, not a good idea..." Jack warned.
"Why? Why should we wait one moment? The three of us can fight, even Tooth can help!" North replied.
"That's why you all need to stay here, BECAUSE of Tooth!" Jack exclaimed.
"What do you mean...?" Tooth placed a hand on Jack's shoulder. "Jack, what is it?"
"She... she brought someone back who wants to kill you." Jack said.
"Well if anyone wants to get her, they'll have to get through me first!" Wick narrowed his eyes.
Jack bit his lip for a moment. "The Monkey King and his army of minions... Alice said she and Pitch saw them there."
Tooth's whole expression changed, her breath hitching as she fluttered backwards before sinking into a chair.
"That is impossible!" North exclaimed. "He died many centuries ago!"
"Well, the Queen found a way to bring him back, apparently." Jack sighed. "And we're pretty sure Tooth will be his main target."
Tooth was completely silent, her eyes widened in shock at this news. "Jack... I... I can't stay here. I have to go back to my palace-"
"Are you crazy?! That's the first place they'll go when they come looking for you!" Jack exclaimed.
"Exactly! I can't allow you all to be put in danger because of me. I can't leave my palace unprotected, my fairies..." Tooth frowned. "I have to go back and brace for what they have in store for me alone."
"Absolutely out of the question." North started. "We are all guardians, we not only protect the children, we protect each other. I will leave Yetis in charge here, Wick and I will go to Punjam Hy Loo to stand watch. With the Monkey King alive once again, we cannot allow him to get to Tooth or destroy her home. We will use the snow globes to get back and forth to each other quickly if we run into trouble."
"Jack, can't you stay with us?" Wick frowned.
"I can't... I have to go back to Alice, she needs me there. Look, I don't know what the Queen is planning, who or where they'll attack first... but I'll try when I can to come back and let you guys know if anything's going on." Jack replied.
"Be careful out there, Jack..." Tooth fluttered over to give him a hug, sighing worriedly. "Tell Sandy and Bunny to be careful too, and everyone else with you."
"Should I throw in an extra 'I love you' to Sandy?" Jack smirked lightly.
Tooth rolled her eyes playfully, waving her hand. "Okay..."
"Come now, Wick, we must prepare for our departure!" North exclaimed as he got his fur coat on.
"Do I get to go in the sleigh again? Awesome!" Wick beamed as he followed North.
Jack rolled his eyes, chuckling as he cast down a snow globe to head back. However, there was a pang of worry in his expression, as there was in Tooth's as she watched him leave with great concern in her heart.
Alice had been sitting in a circle with Sandy, Bunny, Elsa, Pitch, Ralph and Vanellope, Emily pacing by silently in the background. She glanced around, exhaling slowly.
"Now that we all know a bit about each other... we can decide as a group how to approach this menacing collective." Alice said.
"We should just let Ralph run in there and go bananas! If he can crush a jawbreaker, he can crush anything." Vanellope piped up.
"It's not that simple, Vanellope." Elsa stated. "These creatures are very dangerous. They'll do anything to harm us."
Everyone turned around when Jack arrived then, blinking a bit as he rubbed the back of his neck.
"This isn't some kind of intervention, is it?" Jack asked.
Alice rolled her eyes, pointing next to her to signal to him to take a seat. "Jack, we've all taken some time to become familiar with one another as well as start planning our first attack upon the Queen and her forces."
Jack blinked, looking around at all of them. "We're already planning an attack?! We've been here for barely two days!" He exclaimed.
Alice sighed. "How long do you expect us to wait? Would you rather wait until the week is out and they've completely destroyed everything?"
"You need not fret while you remain here, Jack Frost." Emily spoke, everyone looking to her as she approached the ice guardian. "Any foes who attempt to enter here will be destroyed, it is impossible for them to pass the forest borders. Only those I allow, or any connected to them, may pass unharmed."
"That's all fine and well Emily, but that doesn't include the places not under your protection." Jack replied.
"Those places do not concern me. If the Phoenix were not one of those who swore loyalty to Alice's enemy, I would have not one concern to begin with." Emily said.
"Listen Em, this affects you whether you like it or not. They're right at your doorstep; they may not have intended it, but it's a fact either way." Bunny added.
"You think I am ignorant to peril?" Emily asked. "I am the one who subdued the Phoenix in the first place, only I alone could do it. It cost me a great deal of power. Was it not I who saved North in the battle between yourselves and my father over an age ago? The Monkey King is no threat to me."
"I wouldn't have too much confidence, though that may be true, you have no idea how cunning the Queen is. She will find your weakness, and she will take advantage of it, even if your physical strength surpasses hers." Alice warned.
"I can see why my father once fought alongside her." Emily said, shooting Pitch a wary glance. "Proceed with your planning, Alice. I shall over your and your allies refuge here, but I shall not engage in combat so as long as the Phoenix does not give me reason to."
"Emily..." Pitch finally spoke. "If you refuse to fight, your domain, even your life, will be at stake."
As she looked upon him, she raised her head a bit more. "I appreciate your concern, father, but I assure you, it is not necessary." She then looked around at the others. "I take my leave. Do what you have to do." She said before floating away, resolving to tend to her forest and produce new growth.
Jack watched Emily as she went along her way, glancing at Alice as she spoke to the others. He then followed her, looking around at the beautiful array of blossom trees. He turned when he heard her touch down behind him, raising a brow before approaching him.
"You choose to have me as your company rather than your friends?" She asked.
"Well... I mean, I just... wanted to let you know you can stay with us if you want... don't feel left out." Jack said.
"You need not tell me this; you forget, you are in MY domain." Emily smirked a bit.
Jack rolled his eyes. "So... not into the whole... fighting thing, are you?"
"Do you think I cannot fend for myself?" Emily asked, waving her hand for a moment to produce a small burst of snow flurries, covering the ground before melting into water. "You see? I can control winter elements as well. I have more power than you or the mortal queen."
Jack made a face. "Emily... I may not be the most powerful out there... but I don't have to, to make a difference, to protect my friends." He looked up at her. "So even if you do have all these powers, all you do is keep yourself cooped up here. What good are they?"
Emily blinked a bit, turning away from him for a moment to wave her hand, a vine emerging from the ground and sprouting flowers. "You know... I was like you once, Jack. I was... wild, carefree... resisted authority... and elders." She shot him a look. "Yes, though I may not look it, I am far older than you are."
"So, what happened? What's stopping you now?" Jack asked.
"I lost everything. My mother was killed, and my father... my eyes were opened to who he truly was." Emily replied.
"Emily, what happened to Pitch- your dad... it wasn't his fault... he was-"
"You need not tell me what I already know." Emily said. "Do you know why I resent him so?" Emily asked, and Jack shook his head. "When mother was killed... she held a doll in her arms resembling me to prevent the dream pirates from pursuing me. When father found her... he thought I too, had perished. I realized that my father had so little faith in me..."
"But... how could he expect you to survive, you were a kid." Jack said, and Emily shook her head.
"If he had taken but a moment to grieve... to weep over my beautiful mother's body... he would have seen the doll and known I was still alive. He would have known everything. The fact that he did not even make that final connection with her... he was dark before the dream pirates overtook him. I realized that the man who I thought had a heart of gold, who had been the inspiration for my hopes and dreams... it was a farce. His heart is weak." She looked over at Jack. "And his mortal queen shall also suffer, as do all others whose lives are touched by him."
Jack exhaled slowly, surprising Emily when he placed a gentle hand on her shoulder. "It may not seem like a long time to you... but for three hundred years, I wandered around wondering who I was and why I was here. It was until the guardians gave me the opportunity that I finally found happiness. If you have as much power as you say... then you have the power to change what brings you down." He gave her a nod before turning to head back to the rest of the group. His words, to Emily's shock, held substance and reason for self-reflection.
"You are indeed bold, Jack Frost..." Emily whispered to herself.
As Alice and Sandy were drawing out plans in the ground with a stick, Vanellope had a thought.
"Hey! Can't we just make another beacon and burn Turbo to a crisp?" She asked.
"Knowing the Queen, she probably already knows Turbo's greatest weaknesses and has found solutions to prevent his downfall. Otherwise, she wouldn't still have him among her ranks." Alice replied.
"Ralph here can beat anybody." Vanellope smiled. "He went against a whole swarm of cybugs!"
"I appreciate that, kid, but those guys back there were a little different than cybugs…" Ralph said.
"Believe me, Ralph's strength will come in handy… but that doesn't mean that they still won't give us a hard time." Alice said.
Vanellope sighed, laying back so she could stare up at the treetops. "You think that we won't be hobos one day, Ralph?"
"I- wha- we are not hobos!" Ralph exclaimed.
"We're all hobos right now, Ralph… but you and I have always been." Vanellope replied.
Ralph cleared his throat, coughing into his hand as he quickly glanced over at Elsa. "N- Now excuse me, young lady, Elsa happens to be a queen! A- And that is no way to talk about her that way!"
Pitch rolled his eyes, pinching the bridge of his nose as Elsa chuckled lightly. "Vanellope, why don't you and I take a walk?" Elsa suggested. "I can see how boring this can be for a child."
Vanellope sat up, smiling. "Finally, someone with some smarts around here!" She hopped off the rock she was resting on, following Elsa as she rose to her feet. Vanellope glanced back as Ralph watched them, snickering a bit.
Pitch watched Ralph stare after Elsa, narrowing his eyes as he wielded his scythe to rear it back. Upon hearing Bunny clear his throat, he shot the Easter guardian a look as he shook his head. Pitch groaned, glancing back at Ralph, resolving to simply poke Ralph's head with the weapon.
"Ow! Hey, what gives?" Ralph exclaimed as he rubbed his head.
"Eyes over here." Pitch said as the weapon disappeared.
Ralph blinked, rolling his eyes. "You know, I do have giant fists that can punch through buildings, right pal?"
Pitch leaned in, raising a brow. "Try me."
"Both of you cease your bickering otherwise you will both be at my mercy." Alice glared at both of them before resuming her plans with Sandy.
Ralph raised his brows at this. "She's… kidding, right?"
"Believe me from experiences, Ralph…" Pitch started. "… you do not want to be the source of her anger."