The Kingdoms of Fallen Stars

Love Stirring Trouble

Meanwhile, Eliza shoved through anyone who was in her way, finally reaching the castle as she flew through the door. She ran inside, bounding up the stairs and nearly tripping over herself. As she made her way to her bedroom, she flung herself onto her mattress, clawing at her bed sheets until she grabbed her pillow, hugging it to her as she sobbed heavily. After a few minutes of being undisturbed, she heard someone approaching, not acknowledging them until they called her name.

"Eliza? Why are you crying?"

The young girl turned, wiping her eyes upon seeing Olaf. He approached her bedside, grunting a bit as he struggled for a moment to pull himself up.

"What does it matter?" Eliza asked. "You never see me anymore anyhow."

Olaf frowned. "I'm sorry… I've really missed you, Eliza. I've been pretty busy…"

Just then, she heard sounds from down the hallway, Merida shouting in her deep accent as Hiccup appeared in the doorway with her, who had dragged Gustav with her. Anna and Rapunzel had been too busy hosting the festival to come with them. The young Viking howled with pain as she pinched his arm.

"You're going to apologize for whatever you did, laddie, before I feed ye to your dragon head first!" Merida shouted.

Gustav hissed, rubbing his arm as Eliza hopped off her bed, Olaf following her lead. "L- Look Eliza, you know I didn't mean what I said back there… I really like you, and-"

Everyone gasped in shock when Eliza stormed up to him, her expression darkening as she shoved him away from her. "Get out of my bedroom! All of you!"

Hiccup held up his hands. "A- Alright, hang on now Eliza, whatever he did, he's just here to apologize-"

"No! Everything had been fine between us… everything had been alright until you told Gustav to try to make friends in town!" She shouted, pointing at Hiccup. "Now I mean nothing!"

"E- Eliza, that's ridiculous! If I had any idea that they were pushing him around like that, I would have put all of this to an end sooner! And speaking of which, the two of you are going to be sticking just around the castle because I know about your little trips with Fanghook! Don't you realize how dangerous that is, how you could have gotten hurt?!" Hiccup shouted.

Eliza's eyes widened, slowly looking at Gustav. "You told him…? Our secret…?" She asked barely above a whisper.

"I'm sorry… Eliza, I didn't have a choice-" Gustav tried to apologize.

Eliza's breathing became shaky, her expression darkening considerably. "Which one of you did it?"

"Alright lass… you've had a rough night, let's just get you to bed so you can sleep it off." Merida said, about to go over to her when Eliza stormed over to her wardrobe, taking out the red clover scepter, holding it out towards Merida. "Lass, you'd better calm down right now-"

"Which one of you did it?! Which one of you turned my friends against me?!" Eliza screamed.

"But Eliza, I'm still your friend…" Olaf interjected.

"No you aren't! They keep you away from me on purpose!" She screamed, her breathing quickening. "She was right! Alice has influence over you all!"

Hiccup took a step closer, ushering Olaf behind him. "Eliza, what are you- please just put the stick down and talk to us-"

"No! NO! You're driving me insane, just like she wants, so you can send me away again! She knows I have potential for great power, so she is trying to subdue me, just like she said!" Eliza shrieked.

"For the love of blarney, she's gone mad!" Merida shouted.

"Eliza, who is this 'she' you keep referring to? Who have you been talking to? Alice loves you, we all love you!" Hiccup cried.

"Stop lying to me! I didn't want to believe it, I never would have believed it, but everything she said is true, I see it now!" Eliza shouted, shoving past all of them to storm down the hallway.

"Hiccup, Eliza isn't acting like herself…" Olaf said worriedly.

"That's for sure… come on Merida, we have to get her back here. We're getting to the bottom of this." Hiccup said.

"No… this is all my fault." Gustav said, starting to jog after her.

"Gustav, wait!" Hiccup shouted after him.

The young Viking didn't listen, catching up to Eliza to grab her hand. As she struggled against him, he turned her to face him. "Eliza, I know you don't believe me, but I really didn't mean what I said! I've never had a friend like you, I like spending time with you, I lo-"

Eliza gritted her teeth, rearing her other hand back to slap the boy hard across his face. He gasped lightly, staggering back as she looked upon him with loathing. She took in deep breaths, bending down to pick up her scepter.

"… I hate you." She said with such venom, turning on her heel to walk down to the room at the end of the hall. She slammed the door behind her, locking it before going up to the drawer where the snow globes were kept.

When she saw there were none left upon opening it, she gasped, furrowing her brows in a panic.

She searched frantically through each drawer, gulping as each turned up empty. She heard Hiccup and Merida on the other side of the door, ignoring them as they shouted for her to open it. Eliza then caught the glimpse of something in a corner, gasping as she fell to her knees to move a few stray things aside to retrieve it. She dusted the snow globe off, nodding to herself as she gave the door one last glance.

"Eliza, please open the door! We hate to see you like this, lass!" Merida pleaded.

The young girl would not answer her plea, however, turning back slowly to look upon the snow globe as she held it up.

"Take me to the Queen."

It was late morning, Elsa and Vanellope returning to their respective shelters from their sleepover, having enjoyed each other's company. As Elsa approached, she stopped when she noticed Pitch standing perfectly still, his fists clenched. She blinked, her eyes following his when she saw they came to rest on Jack. Raising a quizzical brow, she glanced up at him.

"Pitch? Did you and Jack have a fight?" Elsa asked.

"No… but we very well may soon enough." Pitch replied through his teeth, clenching his fists tighter when Emily approached the ice guardian, moving from behind to sit down beside him. Pitch saw Jack regard her politely, before Emily engaged him in conversation. When Jack laughed at something she said, Emily chuckling lightly, Pitch's eye twitched angrily.

"Pitch… she's just trying to open up to everyone… this is the first time she's actually making friends, just let her socialize." Elsa smiled.

"No, my dear, you don't understand." Pitch finally broke his gaze to look over at her. "She admitted to me, just last night, that she has feelings of infatuation towards him."

Elsa blinked at this. "Infatuation? But… Jack and Alice are…"

"Trust me, Elsa… when my daughter has something… or in this case, someone, in her sights… nothing will stop her from getting it." Pitch said. "In this case, I may have to make an exception."

Pitch was not the only one observing the two closely. Some distance behind where Jack and Emily were sitting, Alice had stopped dead in her tracks, narrowing her eyes warily. When she noticed Emily was being a bit too friendly for her comfort, placing a hand on Jack's shoulder and giving it a gentle squeeze, she finally began to understand how on Earth it didn't bother him more when he learned she had kissed Bunny. When Emily finally rose to her feet, giving Jack one last fascinated glance before going on her way. Alice's eyes followed her, and not long after, her feet did as well.

As soon as Jack was left to himself, despite Elsa's protesting, Pitch marched over to the ice guardian. Jack, totally not expecting this, cried out in surprise when he was suddenly hoisted up by the Nightmare King, his back colliding against the nearest tree as he was pinned. He grunted, glancing up at Pitch's eyes burned angrily into his.

"Pitch, are you out of your mind?!" Jack shouted. "What the hell is your problem?!"

"Oh, wouldn't you like to know… thought you could get back at me, did you? Thought you could make me pay for all of the turmoil I caused you in the past, nearly kidnapping your sister, all of the lies… thought you could pay me back for attempting to seduce my daughter with those pretty boy eyes, did you not?!" Pitch hissed.

"W- Wait, WHAT?! Okay, you have…" Jack began to laugh, despite the situation he was in. "… you have officially gone insane, Pitch."

"Have I? That's why Emily has been behaving the way she has around you, am I correct?" Pitch spat.

"What- you mean when we were talking just NOW?" Jack snickered. "Pitch, we were just having a conversation! If you think that's all it takes to lead to some 'romantic scandal,' then anyone looking at us right now must think we're going to be smooching for our lives in about three seconds."

Pitch growled, tightening his grip on Jack's collar. "Make another crack like that and you will surely regret it, Frost." He said through clenched teeth. "Mark my words… tread carefully about my daughter… for if you make the wrong move concerning her, you shall suffer me." He finally released his grip, straightening himself up as he turned to walk away briskly.

Jack blinked in confusion, shaking his head as he glanced over at Elsa, both wearing the same bewildered expression.

Meanwhile, Alice was standing a short distance behind Emily, who was bent down to tend to her flora. The forest nymph's ears flickered, smirking lightly to herself as she silently acknowledged Alice's presence.

"If you have something you wish to discuss with me, then by all means, do not hesitate." Emily said finally.

Alice inhaled sharply, standing a bit straighter. "Very well." She responded, taking a step closer. "I'll be blunt. What do you think you are doing?"

Emily chuckled to herself, rising to her feet and turning to look at Alice from a sideways stance. "I haven't the slightest idea what you mean, Alice."

"Don't play dumb, Emily… it isn't becoming of you." Alice responded, crossing her arms. "You know well enough to know that whatever game you're playing, that Jack is no participant."

"Oh?" Emily raised a brow, floating closer to Alice. "And you think you have any right to tell me this in my domain?"

"I do. This may be your domain, but Jack is my partner. I appreciate if you remember that." Alice said.

"Ah… you are quite the keen-sighted one, Alice. However… you must have forgotten whom exactly you are talking to." Emily said.

"No, I haven't. Unlike the others, however, I am simply not intimidated by you." Alice said confidently.

"That is very fearless of you… or very foolish. You believe you are wise beyond your years? Tell me, what do you possess to support your sentiment?" Emily asked.

"I possess a vast number of weaponry for one, and I'm a surgeon with each of them. Secondly, I was chosen to be a guardian, and before that, I possessed greater mental capabilities than the average Englishman." Alice replied.

"So tell me then, what makes you a guardian?" Emily asked.

"Insight. I have the ability to see manifestations of the aspects of people's minds, or the manifestation of someone's true character." Alice said.

"That is all very well... but could the children you assist do the same?" Emily asked.

Alice blinked. "Well, of course not."

Emily burst into laughter then. "You believe you have right to judge and advise others when you are blind even to yourself!"

"What is that supposed to mean?" Alice hissed.

"North was chosen to be a guardian because of his wonder; and so he evokes that quality in children. The same goes for the others; for Toothiana, it is memory recollection, for Sandy, to dream, for Bunnuymund it is hope and for Jack it is fun. For you, you do not have the ability to translate the quality you claim upon children, so you still do not even know what it takes to be a guardian!" Emily mocked, smirking when Alice's expression fell. "I am not even a guardian myself, and I know this simple fact. I shall do as I please without your opinion voiced. If I so choose to pursue Jack Frost, then neither you nor anyone else shall-"

Emily stopped when she heard rustling nearby then, glancing over and stiffening when she saw Bunny rummaging lightly through some of her low lying plants. She was reduced to silence, her eyes wide as she stood perfectly still. Alice became alert, looking from her to Bunny. About to prove her claim of her mastery of insight true, something suddenly clicked in her mind, briefly recalling past observations as it was now her turn to smirk.

"I understand everything now..." Alice said. "... you haven't the slightest interest in Jack, do you? You're planting a red herring."

Emily shot Alice a look, furrowing her brows. "You know nothing of my heart, Alice Liddell!"

"Will you calm down? You think I cannot piece together this picture? I can see now that you feel strongly for him. You could have told me this sooner, or else I may have not been so cross with you." Alice said.

"If I must fool one, I must fool all." Emily said, mentally cursing Alice's sharp mind.

"That one wouldn't happen to be your father, would it?" Emily's lack of response confirmed her suspicion. "Look... I know the animosity between those two. I understand that this is a cause for concern if in fact you have grown to love Bunny-"

"I will speak no more of this, for none offer me trust enough to confide in them." Emily said, aboit to turn away when Alice stopped her.

"If anyone knows about wariness of others it is I. After trusting my life with a man who turned out to be responsible for my family's demise, one's sense of trust cannot be any more crippled than by that conclusion. I will not speak a word of this to anyone... but Emily, remember that you are free to love whom you wish. Pitch may be smug at his best of times, but his reaction should not hinder you from what your heart desires." Alice said.

Emily's expression softened then, seeing the genuineness in Alice's words. "I do not yet know if what I feel for him is love... but I cannot deny that a seed has been planted. Its growth has already begun. My father intends to shrivel up this seed of feeling before it comes to that point." She sighed. "I apologize for my deception. You are truly noble for your cause, Alice... but as I said, I must try to fool all."

Alice nodded, accepting the apology. "Unfortunately for you, I am no fool." She smirked. "Besides, as much as I care for Bunny, it's been nice with you keeping him off my back lately."

"He still retains deep feelings for you." Emily replied.

"And he knows well enough that some of them, I simply cannot reciprocate." Alice said.

"Jack Frost possesses a noble heart. He shall always remain faithful to you. I truly hope the love between you never changes." Emily said, nodding lightly before turning to take her leave. Alice raised a brow, smirking lightly as she shook her head, thinking upon what had just transpired.

Bunny bit his lip, rustling through some of Emily's bushes and other low lying plants. He then stood up, smiling proudly as he dusted off his hands. "Well, Bunny, she is going to your little googies."

"I beg your pardon?"

Bunny whirled around in surprise, holding a hand over his heart. "Jeez, I didn't even hear you! Sneaking up on me..."

"Said by the one acting suspiciously." Emily raised a brow. She glanced behind her for a moment, her eyes scanning the ground when she noticed something. She knelt down, moving aside some of her bush branches to take an egg into her hands, rising to hold it out, raising a questioning brow.

"Heh heh... they were supposed to be surprises... you know..." Bunny rubbed the back of his neck.

Emily regarded the object, smirking amusingly. She glanced at Bunny, waving her hand so that the egg turned into a beautiful dove. She gently kissed its head, Bunny smiling as she raised her hand up, the beautiful creature taking to flight into the trees.

"I appreciate the... little gifts." Emily said.

"You uh... want to take a walk?" Bunny asked.

Emily cleared her throat, exhaling sharply. She got an idea then, nodding. "Yes... I want to show you something. Come." She turned, Bunny following her deeper into the forest.

Back at camp, Elsa sighed as Pitch went off on his own to let off some steam. She turned when she heard someone approaching, biting her lip a bit when she saw it was Ralph.

"Morning, Elsa. Say, I had an idea last night after our little talk... remember when I accidentally broke your little ice fortress? I was thinking I could get some good fighting practice in if you made some super tough ice targets! Also, um... the last time I knocked down a tree, I thought Emily was going to give me a 'game over...' man, she's pretty scary when she's angry." Ralph said.

Elsa blinked, actually liking this idea. "I would be more than happy to help you, Ralph. As a matter of fact, it will help me to keep sharp as well."

They went to an area where there was a bit of a clearing, Elsa concentrating as she made a vertical sheet of ice. After taking a step back, she motioned for Ralph to give it a try. He nodded, cracking his knuckles before sending his fist forward. The entire sheet broke, Elsa holding her hands up to shield herself from debris.

"Level one: Complete." Ralph said, chuckling lightly as he wiped some ice fragments on his overalls.

Elsa chuckled lightly, extending her hands to make a sturdier, thicker ice wall. "You're certainly not someone I would want to take on, that's for sure…" She remarked.

"Nah… I would never hurt you, Elsa." He smiled. "Stand back…" He reared his fist back, grunting as he sent his fist into the ice wall. He did so a second time, completely demolishing it. "Level two: Complete." Ralph said proudly as he cracked his knuckles. As he watched Elsa making a third wall, he coughed lightly into his hand. "So, um… last night… before Vanellope came, you were about to say something to me. What was it?" He asked.

Elsa hesitated for a moment, dread coming over her in a wave as that moment resurfaced in her mind. She dared to glance up, instantly regretting it when she saw Ralph wearing a shy, sweet expression.

In the last several weeks, they had all- perhaps with the exception of Pitch and Emily- come to know Ralph as the very opposite of his stereotyped label back in the arcade. Could he be destructive? Absolutely; but he tried to use his strength to help others, not to harm. The truth was, he had a heart as big as his fists, having become a quick friend to the group. Like Elsa, he had spent most of his days in isolation, and was learning to experience the life of the world as she was. Never before had he had the chance to do something on this large a scale; never had he explored the world outside of his own.

Never before had he known what love was.

He had started to in his friendship with Vanellope; the bond they shared was built on understanding, empathy, and lightheartedness. Elsa realized that Ralph was beginning to discover another form of love, a love he felt for her in the pursuit for his other half. Her heart sunk… as much as she wanted to provide him this other half, as much as she wanted him to be happy, she knew deep down that she had promised herself to another.

Ralph and Pitch were very different, there was no doubting that. Each had their own faults and their own strengths, and Elsa felt that she had come to make a very deep connection with the Nightmare King; one she had no regrets for and was not willing to simply throw away. She felt it was wrong to allow Ralph to continue to hope for something she simply could not provide… she finally understood what Alice had been enduring in her similar dilemma.

She finally finished the third wall, going around it to stand on the same side as Ralph. Elsa exhaled slowly, gently placing her hands on his large one. Ralph's heart skipped a beat, cracking a nervous smile.

"Ralph… I was about to tell you how I feel towards you when Vanellope stepped in." Elsa stated.

"R- Really? Man, of course she would do that, right at the moment of suspense, huh?" Ralph chuckled nervously.

"I think that you are incredibly kind despite your toils… and how others have treated you… you're certainly warmer than I." Elsa said.

"Well, no pun intended, right?" Ralph snickered a bit.

Elsa giggled lightly, clearing her throat as seriousness returned to her. "You possess many amiable qualities… you're noble, humble, considerate and… you have a good heart." She exhaled slowly then, glancing to the side. "I hope that we can always remain close friends, even after this perilous journey ends."

"Y- Yeah, me too…" Ralph rubbed the back of his neck. "… but Elsa… I was thinking, um… you know, I think you're really great too… you're um… you know, with the proper royal stuff, and- ugh, I'm so bad at this…"

"Ralph." Elsa spoke calmly, patting his hand lightly as she looked up into his eyes. "I'm sorry… I cannot give you what you seek."

Ralph blinked, a bit confused by her sudden statement as he tilted his head. "Huh?"

"I know… from what you told me, that you've come to develop very deep feelings for me. And… as much as I appreciate them… it's something I cannot give back in return." Elsa frowned, closing her eyes as she hugged her arms a bit.

Ralph finally understood what Elsa was saying then, frowning as well. He could feel his heart sinking. "It's because of Pitch, isn't it?"

Elsa sighed lightly. "Ralph… you deserve all the happiness in the world, and… I do hope that you find someone who is willing to gladly provide it to you. You will someday understand that… when you love someone in this manner… that no one else can change that; otherwise, it isn't truly there between you."

Ralph pursed his lips, trying to process her words. "I guess I can understand that… kind of like when Mario and Luigi are both trying to save Princess Peach, and once one of them gets to her first, that's it, better luck next time for the one who gets there second."

Elsa blinked, smiling nervously as she attempted to understand what in the heck Ralph was referring to, but also glad he seemed to get what she was telling him. "Yes, like… like that." She nodded.

Ralph heaved a sigh, smiling sadly when he noticed the regret in Elsa's features. "Hey…" He nudged her gently. "… don't worry about me. I'm a tough guy, I can take anything you throw at me." He opened his arms, Elsa giggling lightly as she approached him for a hug. She wasn't sure where to quite place her arms being he was far wider compared to her, but they equally appreciated the gesture nonetheless. When they parted, Ralph cracked his fingers once more. "Speaking of throwing things at me, let's see how many fist poundings it takes to totally destroy this wall!"

Elsa sighed lightly as she watched him, admiring his spirit and his positivity. Though she loved Pitch, it was one thing of Ralph that she wished he had.

Jack scoffed to himself, shaking his head a bit as he was still trying to wrap his mind around what had just happened with Pitch. He felt someone tap his arm then, glancing over to see Sandy tilt his head quizzically, motioning towards where Pitch had gone and holding his hands out to him.

"Your guess is as good as mine, Sandy." Jack said. "Something about being careful around Emily, and thinking I'm like… seducing her or… I don't know…"

Sandy blinked for a moment before inaudibly snickering, bursting into a fit of silent laughter.

"My thoughts exactly. I think Pitch has been in the woods for too long…" Jack said, turning when Alice approached them. She stopped for a moment, having heard the tail end of their short conversation.

"Sandy… any luck with trying to pry into the Queen's mind?" Alice asked.

The dream guardian huffed inaudibly, shaking his head regretfully.

Alice hissed, shutting her eyes tightly. "We cannot just wait around here any longer… she's going to do something catastrophic, I know it."

"But Alice, if we just go in there like we did last time without a plan, we'll end up with half of us in a body cast like last time!" Jack frowned.

"We did not know the full extent of her forces last time, we do now! We've spent far too much time here; ever heard of the phrase 'familiarity breeds contempt?' Look at us! Bickering over petty drama instead of focusing on what's truly important! While we are all here idling, the Queen is gaining momentum, power! Her sins must be put to en end; she must face her due justice!" Alice cried.

Jack sighed, placing a hand on Alice's shoulder. "I want that too. But… it's going to be tough with this bunch, Alice. It's not… it's not as much of a united front as it was with Merida and Hiccup last time."

Alice nodded. "That is no lie." She looked up at Jack and Sandy. "I think I need to whip everyone back into shape."

"Well, we know you're good at that." Jack chuckled, making Alice smirk lightly.

"We cannot hide in these trees forever. With or without Emily's assistance, we must press forward. If she still feels indifference, than that isn't our problem." Alice said.

"Sandy, you and Emily are best friends. Why can't you convince her to help us?" Jack asked.

The dream guardian bit his lip, exhaling lightly. He instead glanced over at Alice, telecommunicating with her.

Alice nodded slowly. "He says… that he asked her once to help him in the past… and it was in that time that all her past animosity with Pitch surfaced… and for that, she almost harmed… who is Catherine?" She raised a brow.

"She's the storyteller. Not exactly a guardian… but a magical being like they are. Some call her Mother Goose." Jack replied.

Alice nodded in understanding, returning her focus to Sandy. "He said he regretted allowing this to happen. He says… Emily is more fragile than she seems. He fears for her safety."

"Well, we're kind of in a bind here, Sandy… give us a break, huh?" Jack replied.

Sandy shot Jack a look, before furrowing his brows lightly. The winter guardian had a point, they couldn't just dismiss possible options to help their cause, despite whether he thought Emily's safety was at risk or not. He glanced up, nodding to Alice then.

"He said he will speak to her this evening. Hopefully this will work, or else we will just have to fend for ourselves." Alice said. "I'm going to speak to the others. Three days more and we shall return to the mountain to battle again."

As Alice walked past them, Jack raised a brow at Sandy. "So… what does your voice sound like in Alice's head?" Sandy replied by waving his hand and rolling his eyes at him, getting the idea past that Jack would not understand the mechanics of their communication.

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