The Kingdoms of Fallen Stars

Newfound Pawn Emerging

Bunny finished off another few eggs, tapping his foot and placing the basket into the hold that formed before it closed up, the Easter guardian dusting his hands off. He glanced over when he noticed Ralph blinking at him.

"How did you do that?" The wrecker asked. "I know a guy that would love to have that power up in his games..." He added.

Bunny shrugged. "Comes with the job, mate. Got to get into and out of the Warren somehow, right?" He chuckled.

"Wish someone appreciated what I do..." Ralph sighed, sitting down next to him. "I would love being one of you... guardian guys. Everyone just thinks I'm a typical bad guy."

"You don't seem like a bad guy... I mean, you take pretty good care of that little ankle biter with you. Victoria?" Bunny scratched behind his ear.

"It's Vanellope." Ralph corrected.

"Right, sorry." Bunny cleared his throat.

"I can't believe it..." Ralph shook his head. "... all this time... the one making that kid miserable was Turbo. All because he wanted some kind of glory. Putting her through that... I didn't think the guy could get any worse."

"That Pitch guy, over there..." Bunny nodded his head. "We've been enemies for centuries. All he cared about was giving kids nightmares for some sick thrill. He whined about wanting to be 'believed in...' I still can't believe that he's here with us..." Bunny groaned.

"That guy? The guy that's with..." Ralph's sentence faded. "Yeah, I don't think he likes me."

"The only one he likes is Elsa... she's as cold as he is." Bunny said.

"W- Well, I mean... she did make friends with Vanellope... she can't be THAT bad." Ralph said.

Bunny raised a brow, smirking then. "You like her, don't you mate?"

"I- wha- I think that she just needs some friends... like, like me, you know? Someone who's not going to just throw you in the mud or not invite you to milestone anniversary parties or leave you in the dump!" Ralph said.

"So, what are you waiting for, you bloke?" Bunny lightly punched Ralph's arm. Ah, yes, how he would revel in Pitch's anger if Ralph were to come between him and his precious Elsa.

How dare he be happy, Bunny thought. How dare Pitch have a nice family and someone to love him and he didn't? This was the perfect opportunity, and he was going to egg Ralph on as much as possible; no pun intended.

Ralph nodded to himself. "You're right, Bunny, I think I am going to talk to her." He got up, walking across the small encampment towards the ice queen, who was sitting and talking with Vanellope.

Vanellope glanced up, waving as Ralph approached. "Heya, Ralph! Come sit with us!" Vanellope pat the spot next to her. "I was just telling Elsa here how you saved everyone in Hero's Duty from the cybug attack!"

"Wait, when did I-" When he got a look from Vanellope, he cleared his throat. "- y- yeah, that was... it was pretty scary, those things are pretty dangerous... you've got to leave it to a real professional."

"What exactly are these... cybugs...?" Elsa asked. "I'm having a little bit of trouble understanding where you both come from."

Vanellope snickered as she let Ralph scoot over to sit next to Elsa. "Well, cybugs are these huge robot things, they eat anything they can get their claws on."

Elsa raised her brows. "That's terrible... were you able to stop them?"

"Oh yeah..." Ralph leaned down a little bit. "See, the trick is to make a beacon... this big light that attracts them and lures them into it so they burn to a crisp. When Vanellope here couldn't make it out of Sugar Rush, I had to smash all the mentos into the pits of Diet Cola mountain... Turbo almost stopped me, but he was no match."

Vanellope rolled her eyes playfully from behind, shaking her head as she smirked.

"That was very brave of you." Elsa smiled lightly. "Vanellope is very lucky."

"Yeah... she's a good kid. Annoying at times, but we're best pals. Right Vanellope?" He glanced back, giving her a thumbs up and a thankful nod. She rolled her eyes again, giggling as she waved her hand at him. She then cupped her mouth, soundlessly telling him to talk to Elsa about herself. He cleared his throat, straightening up a bit. "So, Elsa, um..." Ralph scrambled to come up with something to say. "... I couldn't help but notice that your dress matches your eyes!"

Vanellope's expression went flat, groaning as she smacked her own forehead. "What a lummox..." She said to herself.

Elsa blinked, chuckling nervously. "Well, thank you. I've broken away from traditional garments and made my own style."

Ralph nodded, clearing his throat awkwardly. "So, you're a queen, right? Must be nice being popular and all..."

Elsa raised her brows a bit. "Well... being a queen isn't just about being popular, Ralph. And... unfortunately, I was actually hated in the beginning."

"People HATED you?! I mean, people hate me because I'm a bad guy, how could anyone hate you?" Ralph exclaimed.

"Because I'm different. I was born with powers they did not understand, that people feared... I even feared them myself." She extended her hand forward, Ralph watching with awe as she created a small burst of snow flurries just as she had shown Vanellope earlier. She then made a small patch of ice in front of them, Ralph's eyes widening with interest.

"... ohhh what the guys at the arcade would give to have powers like that! That's amazing!" Ralph held his hands out.

Elsa chuckled. "Thank you." Her smile faded a bit then. "But it wasn't always nice. I hurt people... I hurt my sister. I was seen as a dangerous person... a monster. I tried for so long to conceal my powers, but I couldn't. It was only when I realized that I could use my powers to do good things... to accept myself for who I am, that others began to accept me too." Her smile returned a bit then.

Ralph's expression softened, entranced by the way she moved her hands, forming snowflakes that seemed to dance on the air. "Yeah... I kind of have the same deal. I'm just a bad guy, that's all people think. I mean, I can't help that the game made me this way, but I'm the guy who wrecks the building, that's my job. I can't fix anything, believe me, I tried."

"I don't think you're bad at all, Ralph." Elsa said, looking up at him.

"Really?" He smiled. "Thanks..." He scratched the back of his head.

Vanellope smiled at their interaction, blinking when she noticed a shadow looming over her from behind. She turned around, jumping a bit in surprise when Pitch bent down to grimace at her.

"Move, little girl." Pitch said.

"Maybe I don't wanna." Vanellope smirked, crossing her arms. "That's no way to talk to a lady."

"Funny... I only see a spoiled little brat here." Pitch narrowed his eyes. "And don't even try to make those crocodile tears again, or I'll really give you something to cry about." He hissed, shoving Vanellope aside.

As she got to her feet, Vanellope glared at him. "No wonder everyone hates you, you're nothing but a big meanie!"

"Oh... my feelings are so hurt." Pitch rolled his eyes, approaching Ralph and Elsa from behind, trying with all his might to keep his anger in check. He cleared his throat, getting their attention as they turned to look at him. "Jack and Alice have returned, they are requesting everyone to meet them at the center of camp."

Elsa got to her feet. "Oh, I hope they're alright..." She said, quickly hurrying back.

As she did, Ralph cleared his throat as Pitch shot a glare at him. "Perhaps you did not understand my warning, earlier..." He said.

Ralph sighed, holding his hands up. "Look, come one man, we were just talking-"

"Well, you can 'just talk' to someone else! Not my future wife!" Pitch snapped.

"Hey! Elsa can talk to whoever she wants, bub!" Vanellope piped up. "Maybe she'd figure out what a big jerk you are!"

Pitch gritted his teeth. "If you do not shut that mouth of yours, I'll-"

"Hey." Ralph's expression became serious then, pushing Pitch back a bit. "You can say or do whatever you want to me, I can take it. But you even think about hurting that kid there, you'll be on the bad end of one of these." Ralph held up a fist. Pitch narrowed his eyes, deciding to back off this time, even when Vanellope blew a raspberry at him.

Some lingering tension between them, the three headed back where everyone was gathered.

"Well, about time you showed up..." Alice said, raising a brow.

"Ralph, welcome back, mate!" Bunny said, patting the wrecker's back as he sat down.

"It's actually good you're here, Ralph... we met your best friend, Turbo." Jack said.

"Wait, what?!" Ralph exclaimed, snapping to attention.

"Yes, quite a competitive cod, and a sore loser at that." Alice commented. "A perfect ally for the Queen."

"Oh man..." Ralph groaned.

"We will need your input to understand and plan the best way to combat him... as well as figure out how to confront the others." Alice said, turning to where Emily was standing a bit away from them. "You may desire to remain neutral, but you're the only one who knows anything about this... Phoenix you've spoken about. If you can at least assist us in this matter, it would be most appreciated."

Emily raised a brow, pursing her lips in thought. She glanced over at Bunny for a moment before her gaze gravitated towards Jack. His words came to her again, compelling her to fulfill Alice's request. "Very well. I shall offer you any information you require."

"Thank you." Alice said before turning to the others. "One disadvantage that we have is we are going up against great numbers."

"That would be correct." Pitch added. "Between the card army and Maharaja's minions, it's a great amount to fight through. Even if my Nightmares assist me, it's still not enough."

"I could always make another Marshmallow..." Elsa said, more to herself.

"Woah! You can make CANDY too?" Vanellope asked.

"No..." Elsa chuckled. "It's the name my sister gave my snow golem."

"It's quite a fearsome thing, mates. Can say that first hand." Bunny said, raising a hand.

Elsa cleared her throat. "Sorry about that."

"No hard feelings, Shelia." Bunny nodded to her.

"We need to map out their weaknesses... anything you can think of that we can use to our advantage." Alice said, taking a stick into her hand. "Once we do that, we set up to make our way to the mountain."

"Wait, who's going to watch Vanellope?" Ralph asked.

"Hey! I'm not a baby!" Vanellope pouted.

"I beg to differ..." Pitch muttered, Elsa nudging his arm lightly.

"Ralph is right, Vanellope, this is no place for someone of your age. I have a younger sister at home and I would regard you in the same manner." Alice said.

"Well, Emily won't be coming with us, she can stay with her." Jack said.

"It is not for you to assign the child to my care." Emily replied.

"Yeah, I don't wanna be here alone with some psycho lady anyway!" Vanellope pouted.

Pitch slowly turned in Vanellope's direction then, beginning to seethe. Elsa tried to calm him, but it was to no avail as he approached the child, Ralph glaring at him as he remained close to her. "What did you call my daughter?"

"Oh blimey..." Bunny rested his head in his hands.

"Did I stutter, pal?" Vanellope said, standing up to meet his glare as he bared his teeth. "I said, she's a-"

"Father." Emily spoke, floating forward towards them. "Allow me to speak to the child."

As Emily approached, Bunny glanced up at her, sitting up a bit straighter. "Em, come on..." He said quietly, but was surprised that her expression did not seem to retain any anger in it, only a level of seriousness. Pitch backed away at her request, allowing her to stand before Vanellope.

"Do not fear me child. Sit." Emily said.

"Okay..." Vanellope replied, glancing at Ralph for a moment before doing as Emily asked.

Emily tilted her head a bit as she observed Vanellope for a moment. "You are bold... outspoken for your age." Emily spoke in a soft tone. "I had your spirit and vitality once. When I was even younger like yourself, I would often disobey my mother and go sailing." She smiled sadly. Pitch, standing behind her, softened his expression as well as memories came flooding back to him. "That was taken away from me. My family, my freedom and privilege to be a child. I had grown up far before my time, for I too had no mother." Vanellope listened to her, taken aback by her story, as everyone was. "I was unkind to you, I made you feel unwelcome. You have every reason to feel uncomfortable here. However, I have very little trust for outsiders. I cannot expect you to trust me if I do not trust you. So I shall say this. So as long as you do not harm myself or anything within my domain, I shall not cause any harm to you. I think that is a fair deal."

Vanellope was silent for a few moments, she just as surprised as the rest of the group by how Emily had handled this. She nodded slowly, smiling a bit as she extended her hand.

"Okay." She replied. "How about we shake on it?"

Emily raised a brow, glancing to the side. Jack smiled, giving her a nod. Emily then extended her hand, trying to imitate Vanellope as they awkwardly shook hands.

"Very well, then. That is settled." Emily said, floating backwards to where she had been standing originally.

Alice shook her head a bit, forcing herself to refocus. "Alright, let's resume discussing our positions…"

Eliza exhaled sharply as she entered the Phoenix's mountain, moving as quickly as she could into a small corner to hide in. When she did so, she peeked out, trying to take in her surroundings. There was an eerie red glow filling the inside of the mountain, and she heard a great deal of noise in the nearby distance. She heard the sound of things clanging, the sound of minions emitting short, rhythmic battle cries as they practiced with their weapons, the sound of the Phoenix screeching as he and Hans trained together at the Queen's command. Eliza reached into her satchel, taking the dagger out as she emerged from the small space. She tip toed forth, her eyes darting everywhere for any sign of movement.

She failed to realize that just behind her, a cybug had caught sight of her, skittering silently towards her as she walked.

Eliza stopped when she saw a different form of light in front of her, seeing her shape made out in it. She realized then that something was behind her, slowing to a stop as her eyes widened. Her eyes glanced to the side, slowly turning around as her spine tensed. Her breathing quickened when she came face to face with the cybug, her hands shaking as she held out the dagger. The cybug chirped, clicking its teeth before it opened its mouth wide. Just as it was about to attempt to devour her, a voice echoed from some distance behind the cybug, unseen.

"Hey!" Turbo shouted. "I only see… ugh I can't keep count but I know one of you are missing!"

Eliza's breathing remained quick and shallow as the cybug glanced back, yellow lights illuminating on it as it looked between Eliza and the direction of Turbo's voice. It whirred with frustration, abandoning its found meal to retreat at Turbo's call. Eliza allowed herself to exhale deeply, wiping her brow as relief washed over her. She turned to resume her slow trek into the center of the mountain, but gasped when she saw a monkey minion turn a corner. She bit her lip, going to the side to hide behind a jagged rock sticking out of the ground. The minion growled when it thought it saw unfamiliar movement, narrowing its eyes as it sniffed the air. Eliza crouched down, staying low as she held the handle of the dagger tightly. She watched silently as the minion seemed to walk by, passing where she was. She sighed lightly, waiting it out a minute or two before slowly standing back up, emerging from her hiding place to once again try to make it to the center of the mountain and find the Queen undetected.

What she did not realize, until it was too late, however, is that the monkey minion, being a hunter, had waited out its prey.

Eliza had taken barely two steps before a screech was emitted behind her, the girl gasping as she was grabbed. She cried out, struggling as the minion grabbed hold of her arm, dragging her in the direction she had originally intended to go. It cried out, calling to its comrades as a couple more minions appeared, grimacing as they seized the intruder. Eliza cried out, begging them to let her free. They would not oblige her, instead taking her straight to Maharaja. The Monkey King growled lowly as he approached the human girl, grabbing her chin to force her head up, taking a closer look at her.

"Ter khaana baidag yum bol?" He asked his minions.

"Zügeer l ergej ch süüdert baina. Ter nuukh gej oroldson bolovch bi tüüniig makh ünertej." The minion replied, pointing to where the first had found Eliza.

"I'm here to see the Queen!" Eliza shouted. "Show me where she is and let me speak to her!"

Maharaja threw his head back to laugh. "Kharin munkhag okhin, chi ene shönö ükhekh bolno!" He shouted, slowly running a finger across his neck. "Tsergüüd! Tüünii züil avakh!"

"No, don't hurt me!" Eliza cried as one pried the dagger from her hands, dropping it to the ground and wrestling her satchel from her. They chattered to each other as they turned it upside down, emptying its contents and inspecting the items inside. As they did this, Maharaja grabbed Eliza's arm, the girl shutting her eyes tightly as she tried with no avail to escape his grip. He took his sword, raising it into the air. As he was about to bring it down upon her, a voice called out.

"Maharaja! Wait just a moment…"

Eliza's eyes opened slowly when she realized she was not about to die- yet- and rubbed her arm when she was let go. The minions parted as someone approached, and Eliza gasped lightly when she saw the source of the voice.

"You… you're the Queen…" Eliza breathed.

The Queen's eyes widened for a moment upon seeing who had come into their midst, feeling a mixture of shock and intrigue. She motioned for Maharaja to step back, stopping several feet from Eliza.

"You know me, child?" She replied.

Eliza glanced around her for a moment, taking in a deep breath as she stood up straight. "You're the one who keeps hurting Alice… and Jack… and my friends."

"Yes… you are the sister of Jack Frost… I am… quite curious to know why you are here…" The Queen asked warily.

"I came to ask you… no, to tell you that you had better not hurt them anymore! If you stop, then they can come home, we can all be a family again! All of our nightmares will stop… we can all be happy!" Eliza shouted.

When Maharaja and his minions laughed, the Queen hissed, holding up her hand to stop them. Hans approached from behind silently to watch the scene, craning his head.

"How sweet…" The Queen grinned. "… how lucky Jack Frost and Alice must be… to have someone willing to walk among us… risking her precious life in order to save them from eventual death…" She chuckled lowly. "However… ceasing my efforts… that is simply not an option. I have placed far too much work into this. I have done far too much… things you could not understand. My wish is not for peace, as you request so confidently of me… but for Alice's destruction." She bent down a bit, leaning forward. "None, not even a cherubic child such as yourself, can save her from me."

Eliza felt her blood boiling, angered by the way the Queen was speaking of Alice. Her breathing quickened once more, her heart beating faster as she glanced towards her fallen dagger a mere couple of feet from her. In one quick move, she darted for the weapon, minions crying out in surprise as they attempted to subdue her, but failed. In a manner of seconds, she took the weapon into her hand, rearing her hand back to leave a thin cut on the Queen's cheek, before doing the same to the other. Her eyes were full of anger as the Queen stared at her with shock, looking down at the blade to see a drop of blood lingering upon it. She felt a small amount of blood on her cheeks, holding a hand up to stop her allies from retaliating against Eliza.

When the cuts slowly disappeared, Eliza's eyes widened. "How did you do that?" She whispered.

"My body can regenerate at a faster rate than a human's..." The Queen replied, grinning. "Astounding..." She breathed, chuckling lowly as she straightened up. "Such a magnificent child! All of you look upon this child who has the courage to stand up to us..." The Queen placed a hand on her chest to gesture to herself. "... when we all... warriors, skilled killers, unmerciful murderers and fiends in our own right... could tear her to bits in mere moments!" The Queen approached Eliza again as she looked around, intimidated by all the eyes watching her. "Tell me your name, dear girl."

"I- It's Eliza..." She replied, gulping a bit.

"Eliza..." The Queen nodded to herself. "I shall tell you this... there are few things in this world that truly move me... I assure you, your bravery and valiance has saved you on this day. And not only that... I shall offer you a deal." The Queen leaned back a bit, tilting her head and pursing her lip as she lightly tapped her chin. Her eyes slowly panned about the room as she recalculated her plans, her movements, her next course of action. Her eyes diverted to her blood still remaining on the dagger Eliza was holding, smirking lightly as she hatched an idea. "Listen carefully, Eliza. The outcome of this war now rests on your shoulders... for you have proven to us all... that you can bear its burden. You shall come to me each night. And on each night you shall write six things on parchment... three reasons you strive to protect Alice... and three reasons you strive to protect Jack Frost... and for each day you do so... I shall withhold my forces from attacking them." She paused, observing Eliza's expression as she smirked lightly. "So... do we have a deal?"

Eliza glanced down, thinking deeply on the Queen's words. "You promise you won't hurt them... if I just write why I care about them?"

"Precisely. Easy, is it not?" The Queen asked.

"... okay... if you promise, I'll do it." Eliza said, glancing around as chatter began to swell.

"Let us shake hands to seal this compromise." The Queen said, extending one of her large hands.

Eliza furrowed her brows, biting her lip as she looked from the Queen to her hand. She slowly extended hers, shaking her hand warily. The Queen grinned widely, hissing to silence the others as the chatter began to swell more. "Very good... now that everything's in order, we shall send you along your way." She snapped her fingers. "Maharaja, would you kindly collect the child's things and return them to her?"

The Monkey King growled warily, but did as the Queen asked. When he shoved Eliza's satchel at her with all her things inside, she hugged it to her chest. "I have no way to get back... I used my one snow globe."

"Do not fret, Eliza..." The Queen opened her hand, offering a new snow globe to her.

"So... you're not going to hurt me? I'm not in trouble?" Eliza asked.

"Of course not, dear girl! You must go home now and rest, safe and sound, so you may return tomorrow with a fresh and open mind." The Queen smiled darkly as Eliza cautiously took the snow globe, looking around her. When she figured it was safe, she whispered to it as quietly as possible, casting it down before entering the portal, disappearing. As soon as she did, the chattering swelled up again, monkey minions beating the ground angrily with their weapons.

"Ter ni khaldagch baisan yum! A tagnuulyn! Ta tüüniig chölöötei yavuul bolokh ve?" Maharaja shouted.

"I allowed her to go free... because she may very well become a great asset to us. In what manner exactly, I am not yet sure. You must realize, that for that child, Alice and Jack Frost would do anything- even if it results in their own death- to keep her from harm." The Queen announced to all, glancing at all of her allies. "A door has been opened, and a great opportunity has been presented to us."

"Your highness... if she turns, and reports what happened here... then we are all at risk." Hans said.

"Let her tell them, then. Let her tell them that I allowed her to return home without one scratch on her precious little head..." The Queen replied, Hans blinking a bit as he thought on the notion a bit deeper. She smirked lightly, raising her hands. "That child is the key to crippling their forces! If Jack Frost and Alice are unwilling to strike for her sake, their allies shall follow! We shall hold them in a stalemate and advance! Allow me time to gain the child's trust... and then I shall decide what action to take."

Maharaja let this plan sink in, nodding to himself as his army quieted. The Queen dismissed herself, leaving them all to their thoughts as her confidence that they would not question her methods again increased tenfold.

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