The Kingdoms of Fallen Stars

Beginning Swift Recoveries

Vanellope glanced up, hopping to her feet when she saw Jack, Bunny, Alice and Sandy returning; Alice holding her side where she had been cut. A part of her became worried when she didn't see the rest of the group, running up to them.

"Jack!" Vanellope cried. "Are you okay-" Her eyes widened when she saw Bunny's condition, stopping short and glancing up at the ice guardian.

"Don't worry, he's going to be okay." Jack replied, forcing a smile as he helped Bunny to their shelter to lay down. Vanellope followed the two worriedly, peeking in and twiddling her fingers.

Sandy heaved an inaudible sigh, doing a double take and covering his mouth when he noticed the left side of Alice's dress was starting to stain from the blood dripping from her wound. He was about to get her attention, when he dove forward to catch Alice as she passed out. He gently rested her on the ground, about to call for help when Emily appeared behind him.

"She's lost much blood. She needs healing and nourishment." Emily said, whisking her hand as special leaves began to emerge from the ground on a growing stalk. Emily plucked them as well as a few other herbs and berries, waving her hand to form a bowl out of weaved roots. She took a short, thick piece of branch to mash the mixture into a paste, handing it to Sandy to apply to Alice's wound before tearing off a piece of her dress. It seemed to regenerate, seeming to merge with her skin as Pitch's attire did with his body. It flowed like silk in the breeze, Sandy quickly wrapping it around Alice's waist.

"Emily! Bunny was burned really bad and needs-" Jack stopped, widening his eyes when he saw Alice was lying on the ground. "Alice?" He ran over to her, falling to his knees. "What happened?"

"She's lost much blood, she will heal after some rest." Emily answered.

Jack swore under his breath. "I told her to take care of that sooner..." Jack sighed as he bit his lip. "I'm going to take her inside; Emily, Bunny is burned pretty badly and needs your help."

Sandy glanced up when Emily's expression changed to one of slight shock. "Bunnymund..." She glanced towards the shelter, moving at a quicker pace inside. She knelt down beside him, her expression becoming serious once more as she inspected him.

"I will gather what I need to help reduce the pain..." Emily said, bending down to place her palms on the ground, her form beginning to glow.

Bunny watched as his eyelids began to droop, exhaustion overwhelming him as he passed out. Emily continued to collect ingredients to make a natural salve to help heal Bunny's burns, stopping when she noticed he had fallen asleep. She observed him for a moment, tilting her head lightly before resuming her activities.

Jack and Sandy brought Alice into the shelter, laying her on the opposite end from Bunny. Jack sat beside her, taking her hand in his as he pet it lightly with his thumb. He closed his eyes for a moment, glancing over at the others.

"Look at this… one fight and we're already a mess…" Jack sighed. "Good thing Alice is a guardian… but she's not strong enough yet. Not enough people believe in her…" He reached over, brushing some hair out of her face. "She's so hell bent on bringing the Queen down, she's willing to bring herself down too. I'm not going to lose her again."

Sandy gently pat Jack's shoulder, snapping to alertness when he heard a sound. He heard Vanellope running towards it soon after, stopping to see Pitch dismounting his Nightmare, no one else returning with him.

"Hey… where's Ralph? And Elsa?" Vanellope asked.

Pitch glanced over at her, petting the Nightmare for a moment before moving forward. "They're on their way." He replied, looking around. "Where is Alice?"

"She's in her little house thing… she got hurt real bad…" Vanellope answered. "Bunny did too…"

"Fantastic…" Pitch sighed, sitting on a rock and holding his head in his hands. Before Vanellope could ask any other questions, She heard footsteps approaching in the distance, beaming.

"Ralph!" Vanellope exclaimed, glitching to them and hugging the wrecker's leg. "You're both okay!"

Ralph chuckled, scooping Vanellope up and hugging her gently. "Didn't I tell you that, you nutty bar?"

"Hey, I taught you that name, copy cat!" Vanellope laughed, looking over at Elsa before glitching out of Ralph's hands, surprising Elsa when she appeared in front of her. Forcing a smile, Elsa bent down so that the two could hug. "I'm glad you're back." Vanellope smiled.

"Thank you… so am I." Elsa stood up after a few moments, hugging her arms as she sighed lightly. "I need to take some time to rest. I'll talk to you later, Vanellope." She turned to Ralph, smiling sadly. "Ralph… thank you." She turned, heading towards the main encampment.

Pitch rose to his feet as Elsa made her way towards his direction, exhaling sharply when she walked past him without uttering a word. Tightening his lips for a moment, he followed her until she turned sharply.

"I need some time to think. Alone." Elsa said, turning back to go along her way.

"Elsa, can you please allow me to at least offer you an explanation as to what happened?" Pitch asked, becoming frustrated when he received no answer, Elsa tensing up as he continued to follow her.

"Oh boy, he's in the devil dog house…" Vanellope shook her head as she and Ralph reached camp. Jack emerged from the shelter, hearing Elsa and Pitch having a disagreement.

"What's going on?" Jack asked, looking between Vanellope and the others.

Pitch sighed, trying to convince Elsa to give him a minute of her time. "Will you stop acting like a child for one moment and discuss this like an adult? Ignoring me is going to accomplish nothing-"

At this, Elsa stopped short, Pitch suddenly blindsided when she whirled around. Foregoing her powers and deciding to be a bit old fashioned, Pitch's eyes widened from the impact of Elsa slapping him across the face. It was sudden, and it was hard. When he willed himself to look at her, his shock only increased when every fiber of her expression was filled with contempt. Her eyes were filled with anger and hurt, her spine rigid as she clenched her fists.

"Is that what you think of me, Pitch? I am just some child, some little play thing for you to entertain yourself with and give you something to occupy your time? A little girl who is so naïve that you need to scold her, shield her, keep her away from those you aren't fond of while you mingle with the very monstrosity who will stop at nothing to destroy us all?!" Elsa screamed, beginning to tremble as angry tears filled her eyes.

"Elsa…" Pitch shook his head, his voice soft now. "You know that isn't the truth."

"My eyes must be lying to me then. You are still so vulnerable to her. You feel something for her." Elsa spat.

"I feel nothing but loathing for her." Pitch tried to extend his hands, hesitating when Elsa stepped back.

"Why do you love me, Pitch? Do you think I'm beautiful? Vulnerable to fear, so I am easily manipulated? My entire life, I have been controlled by something, I will not allow it any longer!" She shouted. "So why, Pitch? Why do you love me?"

"I- I… your strength, your… grace…" Pitch breathed. "… you are so much like her…" He said barely above a whisper. "… like my Lady…"

"But I am not her." Elsa replied, glancing away. "Perhaps that is why you stray… because deep down, you know I will never replace the one you lost." She shook her head, heading into the small shelter she and Pitch shared. When he tried to enter after her, she made a thick wall of ice to prevent him from coming inside, Pitch hanging his head sadly as he slowly turned to reluctantly leave Elsa to herself. Inside, Elsa hugged her knees, closing her eyes tightly as she sobbed quietly.

Deciding it was best to stay out of it, Jack retreated back into his own shelter to watch over Alice. Ralph frowned, sighing as he headed to his own little hut to rest a bit himself.

As clouds obscured the light peeking through the treetops, seeming to leave the area devoid of color, Pitch seated himself on a flat rock, holding his head in hands as he stared at the ground. He glanced up when he heard someone approaching him, exhaling sharply. "I am in no condition to bear your antics now, child. Let me be."

Vanellope stopped, making a face. "Hey, come on, King of Boogers! I may not particularly like you, but you don't kick a devil dog when he's down." She hopped up, seating herself next to him. "Wanna talk about it?"

"No I don't want to talk about it, you mangy little swine!" Pitch screamed, shoving Vanellope away with his hand.

The girl looked up at him, her brows twisting as her lips tightened. "Fine!" She shouted. "All I ever do is try to be nice! And what do I get for it? I always get pushed around and get told that I'm just some mistake! Maybe everyone would be happier if my code had never been programmed!" Vanellope stormed over to a tree, kicking at the dirt until she fell down, hiccupping lightly as she began to cry. Pitch glanced up at her, tilting his head. This wasn't fake crying as she had pulled in the past, this was real. She has been such a smart talker, Pitch thought, that he had forgotten one very important fact:

Vanellope was still a child.

A child from a virtual universe... but a child nonetheless. A child without parents, a child without guidance, friends, anyone to rely on, until Ralph had come along... all that time before then, she had been completely on her own, and she was criticized- no, she was hated, for being different. She had no one in the world to turn to.

In the low light, as Vanellope tore out her hair tie and threw it aside, allowing her hair to fall loosely... Pitch blinked as a memory came to him.

Kozmotis furrowed a brow at the sound of quiet sobbing. He tilted his head, frowning deeply when he came upon Emily Jane, his precious jewel, hugging her knees and wiping tears from her face. He bent down, lifting her face to look upon it.

"My dear Emily Jane... why do you weep?" Kozmotis asked, holding the child's hands.

The girl inhaled sharply, her bright, shimmering eyes looking into his. "Father, I had a nightmare."

"Shh... nothing shall harm you." Kozmotis smiled, gently hugging the girl to him.

"But father... I was all alone. You and mother were gone."

Pitch sighed, rising to his feet to approach Vanellope. He bent down, taking the hair tie into his hand before bending down in front of her, extending it to her. Vanellope looked at it a moment before looking up at him, snatching it out of his hand.

"You don't have to be angry, I won't litter your daughter's woods anymore." She was about to messily tie her hair up when Pitch stopped her gently. "Hey, what are you-" Pitch said nothing, his hands slowly making a braid out of her raven colored hair, tying the end as he allowed it to rest on her shoulder. Vanellope blinked, looking down at it. "Hey... this is like Elsa's."

Pitch smiled sadly. "Believe it or not... I knew how to be nice once. But then I lost all the reasons I had to be. I became what you see now... as you term it, the 'Boogerman.'" He sighed, getting to his feet to walk away.

Vanellope blinked, jumping to her feet. "Hey! Wait a minute!" Vanellope glitched in front of him, stopping him in his tracks. "If you were nice before, why can't you be nice again? You'd be doing ME a big favor..." She said, crossing her arms.

"It's not that simple." Pitch said, walking around her. Vanellope had a thought then, glitching back in front of him.

"Hey, you know what you need? You need a good bonding activity." Vanellope said.

"Bonding activity?" Pitch raised a brow. "Very well, I'll bite. I can't seem to be rid of you anyhow."

"Ralph and I became real good pals when we made my very own kart together! Being you still owe me one, and I am an expert racer... why not make one together? If you're nice, I'll take you for a spin afterwards!" Vanellope grinned. "Come on, big guy... you know you want to!"

Pitch ran a hand down his face. "If it will get you off my back, I'll do it." He heaved a sigh. "What do I have to do?"

"Well first, we have to get parts, silly!" Vanellope piped.

"You expect me to find parts to build a motor vehicle in the middle of a forest, how?" Pitch asked.

"I dunno, ask your horse guys to find something!" Vanellope replied.

Pitch rolled his eyes, whisking his hand to conjure several Nightmares. "Save me from an early grave and fetch whatever the girl needs."

The Nightmares looked at each other quizzically before heading off in all different directions. Pitch glanced over as Vanellope drew pictures with a stick in the dirt, sighing lightly as everything seemed to churn in his mind like a sloshy mixture.

The Queen strode forward quickly, the mountain no longer filled with magma as Maharaja and his army carried all of their things back to where they were originally set up. The Queen waved her hand, her other having been bandaged by Hans. "I want this place to be cleaned up and ready for when she arrives!" She shouted.

"Tany Erkhem mini, tsereg olon tulaldaand sharkhadsan baiv; bi tedniig ta nar deer ankhaarlaa khanduulj baigaa khüükhded ilüü davuu ezemshdeg gej bodoj baina." Maharaja said, waving a hand towards his minions.

"Concentrate on your army and assist them in their recuperation. I alone shall be responsible for the child. If you request my aid, I shall command my card guards to fulfill any tasks that are needed to bring your minions back to full capacity. Fear not, Maharaja, any losses in this battle were not done so in vain." The Queen said, glancing around and noticing Hans approaching, listening in, the Phoenix in deep meditation, and Turbo still snoring away, some of his cybugs nestled with him. "The opposition is weakening, I can already see it."

"How so, your highness?" Hans asked, the Queen glancing over at him.

"Did you not see it yourself?" The Queen replied.

"They are very formidable... they each have great strength and abilities... it will be difficult to defeat them." Hans said from his observations. "However, whatever it takes, I will do what I can to overwhelm Jack Frost."

The Queen chuckled lowly, taking a step forward before turning to the both of them. "Indeed, you are correct, Hans... individually, they may have their own gifts and talents to offer. But alone, they are weak against us. The bonds between them are deteriorating quickly. These bonds are not as strongly forged as they were when I encountered them last time. We must further wear upon those bonds and destroy them, one by one. That is how we break them down, that is how we make them submit! And once they do so, we shall advance upon those hidden away in their fortresses."

"Toothiana bidend nuugdsan baina; yaaj bid ch gesen ter nuugdaj baigaa bol sain medekhgüi bol tüüniig olokhyn tuld khüleej yostoi ve?" Maharaja asked.

"In time, the child shall give us what we need to know. When Toothiana is located, she shall be yours for the taking. The wait now shall be rewarded with ultimate satisfaction later on..." The Queen answered.

A moment later, a card guard approached, the Queen turning as it hissed a whisper into her ear. She straightened up, turning and waving her hands.

"Find yourself useful employment, the child has arrived!" She hissed, the card guard leading the Queen to a quieter area of the mountain. There, two card guards stood on either side of Eliza, who was hugging her satchel to her chest. The Queen smiled, stopping a few feet from her. "Ah... young Eliza, what a pleasure it is to see you again. You need not fear me, child, I shall do no harm to you. Come, come, you are a welcomed guest here."

Eliza gulped, glancing at the card guards warily as she cautiously followed the Queen. She peeked around a corner, seeing a heart shaped chair and a small table, parchment, pen and red ink placed upon it. "Is this where I'll do my writing?" She asked.

"Yes, dear girl... how clever you are. Sit, make yourself comfortable." The Queen said, walking behind the chair to the other side, a second chair present where she seated herself. Eliza held onto her satchel, glancing around uncomfortably.

"I just have to write three reasons each for Alice and Jack that I care for them... right?" Eliza asked quietly.

"That's right... nice and simple." The Queen nodded, leaning back in her chair a bit.

Eliza nodded, one of her hands reaching out to take the white quill in her hand. She dipped it into the red ink, beginning to write upon the parchment. The Queen watched her closely, Eliza biting her lip as her hand wrote quickly. When she finished, she placed the pen down, resuming to hug the satchel to her. "I used the other snow globe you gave me to come here... I need one to return home."

"Of course, dear... but wouldn't you like to stay here a while longer? It's not often I have company." The Queen grinned darkly.

"I- I'm sorry... I need to get home, the others will be missing me." Eliza said, having a hard time looking at the Queen.

"Very well... before you leave, I have a small gift for you." The Queen reached behind her, producing a red staff that she handed to Eliza. "This is the staff of clubs. You have earned it with your determination and bravery. May it guide you on your endeavors." The Queen leaned back in her chair once more, smirking a bit as she watched Eliza observing it.

"If this is valuable to you... why are you giving it to me?" Eliza asked. "I am Alice's sister... how can you trust me?"

"Such a smart girl you are..." The Queen answered. "The same could be asked of me, couldn't it? Here I am, Alice's greatest foe, sitting here across from you. Why, I could take your life in an instant... but if we are to trust each other, and build rapport... it could be beneficial for both of us, and to Alice and Jack frost... would it not?"

Eliza looked down for a moment, slowly nodding. "I suppose..." She said quietly.

"Very good. Now..." The Queen took out a snow globe, handing it to Eliza. "... you may go home and return tomorrow evening. I shall have everything waiting for you here."

Eliza gave her a nod, slowly getting up and glancing back warily as she whispered to the snow globe. She cast it down then, hurrying into the portal. The Queen watched her, Hans approaching after she left.

"She's still very fearful of you." He said to her, the Queen glancing at him.

"Don't worry... she will come around soon enough." She rose from her seat, strolling towards the main part of the mountain. "Now to take care of other business..." She said, curling her lip as she strode towards where Turbo was still slumbering.

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