Disturbing Bitter Solitude
Alice, Jack, Bunny, Sandy, Elsa and Pitch arrived not far outside the forest, having used a snow globe to travel by. Sandy glanced back at Pitch uneasily before proceeding to the front of the small group. Pitch leaned towards Alice as they began to travel the rest of the way by foot.
"Is there a specific reason Sandy is acting suspiciously around me?" Pitch whispered.
"I'm not sure of the explicit details... I'm sure it will come to reveal itself in time." Alice replied.
Bunny walked on the other side of Jack, leaning in to whisper to him. "I'm with Sandy, mate. I don't completely trust those two." He motioned his head towards Elsa and Pitch. "I don't think she's evil per se, but she's gonna do whatever that bloke tells her to do. He's had history with that monstrosity of a woman... if you can call the bloody Queen that."
After some time, they arrived at the edge of the forest; from what they could see, there was a dark, ominous force emanating from within the trees. All was still, silent- too silent. Sandy held up a hand, narrowing his eyes a bit as he proceeded forward.
"I hope he knows what he's doing... Alice and I were assaulted when we came by here before." Pitch said.
"Huh... guess whoever lives here doesn't like visitors." Jack said.
Sandy slowed to a stop when the vines returned, sprouting from the ground and forming a barrier. Sandy formed his ropes, whipping them out to separate the vines. As he did this, more and more grew to replace them, thorns threatening to puncture anyone who came near. After some time passed, the vines finally gave way.
"Seems like his persistence paid off." Elsa remarked.
Sandy was about to float forward when suddenly, a great wind picked up as a small whirlwind sent leaves and twigs spinning. The whirlwind dissipated when a being appeared before him; a woman with hair as black as night, her eyes aglow like stars with large pupils like black holes baring into the dream guardian's. Her translucent green dress rippled like waves in the high winds, holding herself proudly as she floated several inches off the ground to confront Sandy.
"You dare to enter into my domain without my consent?!" She shouted, her voice deep like thunder rumbling in the sky. "None may enter here, save those that I allow; this is my domain and mine alone!"
Sandy narrowed his eyes, conjuring two more sand ropes and holding them firmly. The others stood in the background, having a hard time seeing what was happening.
"What is he doing?!" Bunny shouted above the winds.
"I have no idea, but he seems to not be too worried!" Jack shouted back.
Just when it seemed that all hell was going to break loose, the winds died down, the female being continuing to stare intensely at Sandy. Surprisingly, Sandy slowly smirked a bit, retracting his ropes before bursting out in silent laughter. The woman's expression softened, she too beginning to laugh. As the others approached, Bunny's eyes widened before looking to Pitch.
"Oh, you can't be serious..." Bunny muttered.
"My dear Sandy... how dare you come here after not seeing me for so long! You know that I would welcome none but you with open arms." Her form changed as the atmosphere calmed, her dark hair melting into a light green, her eyes becoming a bright yellow hue. She bent down to hold Sandy to her, the two sharing a warm hug.
Jack stared on in utter confusion, he and Alice exchanging bewildered glances. After some time, Sandy realized he had some explaining to do, breaking the hug gently to silently clear his throat. He communicated with the being, biting his lip and exhaling deeply. The being narrowed her eyes a bit, her expression wary as she looked behind him, seeing the others.
"You've brought the King of Nightmares here... as an ally?" She asked, Sandy nodding in response. "Very well. Bring them forth. Any friends of yours are welcome... any enemies of yours shall suffer me."
Elsa noticed Pitch had not moved a muscle in the last few moments, holding his hand. "Pitch? Is everything alright?"
"Bunny, what's going on? Do you know her? How does Sandy know her? Who is that?" Jack interrogated the Easter guardian.
"Emily...?" Pitch breathed barely above a whisper, everyone quieting down a bit as he took a step forward slowly. "My... Emily Jane...?"
The being looked to Pitch upon him uttering the name, narrowing her eyes as she floated forth a bit. "It's been a long time... father."
Jack gasped lightly, looking at Alice with widened eyes. "Alice, that's her..." He whispered. "... she's Pitch's daughter..."
"It would seem so." Alice replied, glancing between the two.
"Well, isn't this lovely, the world is in peril and here we are having another awkward family reunion!" Bunny threw his hands up.
"Lovely to see you're just as uptight as I last recall, Bunnymund." Emily said in response, exhaling slowly. "We are all too exposed out here, we shall discuss more when we're inside."
Everyone followed her and Sandy into the forest, all of them noticing that as they ventured deeper, the dark and ominous aura from earlier began to melt into something more pleasant and bright. Having been silent through all of this, Elsa looked around in awe at the magnificence this forest contained within it. They finally reached a tree larger than the others; at its base, the roots formed a basin at the foot of a throne made of thick vines and branches adorned with beautiful flowers. Emily stepped into the basin, her feet remaining inside the shallow pool as she sat upon her throne.
"Quite obviously, I know who you are already." Emily started, waving her hand towards Pitch, Sandy and Bunny. "However, I am not so familiar with you three. Step forth and identify yourselves; as well as your place in this gathering."
Jack cleared his throat, stepping forward first. "My name is Jack Frost…" He started.
"Ah… yes, I remember now… you are the reason behind many of my delayed springs." Emily grimaced lightly. "That was one thing I did relate to with Bunnymund…"
"Thanks, Em." Bunny rolled his eyes.
Jack chuckled nervously, shrugging a bit. "Sorry…"
Emily sighed lightly, waving her hand. "Very well, continue."
Jack shifted the weight on his feet a bit. "Okay, um… so the reason I'm here is because I'm going to be helping my fellow guardians defend ourselves and our friends against-"
"Hold on a moment…" Emily raised a brow. "You, Jack Frost… are a guardian?"
"Uh… yeah… yeah, I am…" Jack replied.
"Hm… an intriguing decision the moon made in choosing you to stand among the guardians." Emily remarked, before looking over at Alice. "You may speak now."
Jack blinked. "Okay, I guess I'm done then-"
"If it pleases you m'am, my name is Alice Liddell. I too have been recently chosen to be a guardian… it is my nemesis who is raising an army against us, and it is she who I seek to destroy." Alice answered.
"My, have I been in isolation for so long that I have missed so much? The moon must be in dire need for some new blood to join his league. Sandy shall have to provide me with explicit details about you both." Emily said before glancing over at Elsa. "And who might you be? Dare I say you also are a newly chosen guardian?"
Elsa inhaled sharply, standing up straight. She definitely saw a resemblance to Pitch in her personality, how she held herself to a high standard. She also could see that like Pitch, was very powerful; if she dared to think, possibly even more powerful than he.
"No, I'm not a guardian..." Elsa started.
"Intriguing. State your name and why you think you should be among them, then? What are your talents?" Emily asked.
"My name is Elsa... I am queen of the kingdom of Arendelle, a land far from here." Elsa replied.
Emily narrowed her eyes. "A human... I'm interested to know why you feel that you, a mortal, think you deserve to have a place among us, we who have far more power and greatness than you."
Elsa began to feel uneasy, Jack about to interject when Pitch held out an arm to stop him, shaking his head. "Well... you see... I have been accepted among the guardians as an acquaintance... a- and I'm also-"
"What strategic advantage do you offer with your presence here? What reason do they have for you to come?" Emily interrupted.
"She has ice powers like I do." Jack spoke up, not caring that Pitch was hissing at him to quiet down. Emily shot a glare at Jack.
"You shall not speak out of turn! I question the mortal, not you." Emily spat, looking back at Elsa. "Speak now." She commanded. "You may be the highest authority of your land, Elsa... but here, you are not so. If you have a talent, as Jack has just now claimed, display it for my eyes to judge."
Elsa took a deep breath, nodding as she took a few steps back. Emily tilted her head as Elsa whirled her hand, forming mild snow flurries and conjuring ice spikes to slowly rise from the ground. The forest sprite tapped her chin, raising a brow.
"Well... this certainly is different. A mortal queen with elemental powers... I am still confused with one thing, however." Emily rose, descending from her throne. "How did you come to know the guardians in the first place, I wonder?"
"I didn't... really know them at first, exactly... I met Pitch first..." Elsa answered, finding it difficult to keep eye contact with Emily.
"Is that so? So my father came to you, first? I'm still curious to know why all of a sudden that my father, the guardians' greatest enemy, now stands with them as an ally. Is that your doing?" Emily asked.
"Yes, and no... we all share a common set of enemies... ones we are trying to deal with now. It's why we came here." Elsa replied.
Emily extending a hand, taking Elsa by surprise as she lifted her face, examining her features. Her eyes slowly rested on Pitch, standing off to the side. "Tell me, father... is there a reason she is so devoted to you? Upon entering my domain I observed her remaining quite close to your side, and you to hers. Explain this to me."
"Oh boy..." Bunny groaned lightly, rubbing his forehead.
"What in the heck is happening right now?" Jack asked him quietly.
"Let's just say that Em's got some serious 'daddy' issues..." Bunny whispered back.
Pitch cleared his throat, stepping forward. "Emily... Elsa has helped me to remember my true past. She and I... have sworn ourselves to one another."
Emily smiled warmly then, but if one looked closely, they could see it was forced, a degree of sarcasm to it. "Really? Isn't that wonderful?" She chuckled lightly. "So you think that you can simply replace my beautiful mother... whose divinity could not even fathom to be reached by any in the universe, with this lowly mortal?!" Everyone jumped when a sudden crack of lightening shot through the sky, lighting up the whole area for a moment.
Pitch stiffened his spine, furrowing his brows. "Emily... I grieved when I remembered you and your mother... I will always love her, but she wants nothing more than for both of us to be happy-"
"Do not speak of what she wants!" Emily snapped. "You needed the help of an underling to remember your precious love, your one daughter deprived of the parental love she so deserved?! You dare bring such a creature here?!"
Pitch exhaled sharply, grasping at the air for anything to say to try to ease his daughter. "Emily please, I-"
"The only reason I do not destroy her now is because I made a promise to welcome any who Sandy shall welcome. You nor she shall not remain in my company, you may settle in the dark province of the forest where I shall not have the displeasure of seeing either of you!" She screamed, whirling around to return to her throne. "I have spoken my wants, go now and obey my word!"
Sandy tugged on his collar nervously, waving his hand at the others to give Emily some space; for both hers as well as their sakes. Elsa's feet were planted to the ground in shock until Pitch drew an arm around her, gently and quietly leading her away as he himself tried to maintain his composure. The dream guardian floated over to Emily, sitting near her throne as she shut her eyes tightly.
"Man... I've never seen anyone make Pitch run off with his tail between his legs like that." Jack said to Bunny as the two of them and Alice went off to their own space to settle in.
"That's Em for you... as I've told others before, she's not always a benevolent soul, and she's very unpredictable. After her mom died and Pitch was turned... I mean, I didn't know her then of course... but from what I heard she was a pretty happy kid before all that happened." Bunny said.
"Perhaps she could have used a guardian then..." Alice remarked, sighing lightly as she rested her back against a tree. "This just made things more complicated than they already had to be."
"Let's just get situated here and then we can figure out what we're going to do in the morning. It's getting late." Jack said.
Meanwhile, Elsa watched Pitch as he made a small shelter for them easily; going inside once he was finished and sitting quietly. She hugged her knees, glancing up at him when he took a seat beside her. Pitch took her hand in his, kissing it lightly.
"I apologize for her hostility." He started. "She has resented me for many years. I don't know why I thought she would act differently... I was stupid to hope for any other outcome."
Elsa rested her head against his shoulder, Pitch hugging her shoulders with his left arm. "No you weren't... it's just... I know what it's like to feel like... no one understands. You want everyone to stay away but at the same time, deep down, you wish it could be different. Besides... it's my fault she acted that way. I should have never come here."
"Elsa, I'm not going to leave you vulnerable just because Emily does not approve of you. I will always care for Emily. But you... you made me remember what love feels like. I'm not going to leave you alone." Pitch said.
Elsa smiled softly, sighing lightly as she closed her eyes. Pitch held her close, the darkness enveloping them both as she drifted off to sleep.
After having caught their breath, Ralph gently scooped up Vanellope to place on his shoulder; they both looked around, the ominous atmosphere of the forest seeming to loom over them like the countless number of trees standing tall.
"I don't like these woods..." Vanellope said quietly. "It's not like the Candy Cane forest back in Sugar Rush..."
Ralph sighed then. "I hope everyone is okay back there... who knows if we can even go back." He took a step forward. "I wonder if there's anyone even here..."
"Or any THING... the last thing we need is to run into more monsters..." Vanellope added.
"Come on, you're saying that with a guy who has these?" He held his large fists up, smirking. "I'm probably the scariest thing in this fores- AHH!" A flock of birds took to flight suddenly when he stepped on a twig, all of them having startled him as they ascended into the tree tops. They perched above, seeming to stare at the two arcade characters below.
"You were saying?" Vanellope asked flatly.
"Oh, st- I was not scared! They just surprised me is all... at least I'm not like Felix, he's scared to 'game over' of ducks!" Ralph exclaimed.
Vanellope giggled lightly, patting his shoulder lightly. "Ralph, I'm glad I'm not alone. I don't care what anyone says, a bad guy wouldn't have done all that to try to protect me."
Ralph smiled lightly at her, sighing a bit. The moment was broken when suddenly, Ralph cried out in surprise when he felt something wrapping around his feet. He tried to break free, but the sudden vines emerging from the ground wrapped tightly around him, keeping him in place. Vanellope gasped, vines extending from the trees to grab hold of her, pinning her to the nearest tree branch.
"Vanellope!" Ralph exclaimed. "O- Okay, just... just stay calm, I'm gonna get you out of there!"
"Ralph, it's getting too tight!" Vanellope strained, furrowing her brows as she wheezed.
The wrecker gritted his teeth, reaching down to try and rip the vines out of the ground. As he did so, they began to wrap around his hands, making it more difficult for him to move. He glanced up at Vanellope, mustering all his strength as he knew time was running short.
Meanwhile, Sandy was still sitting near Emily, her head bowed lightly. "Why did you bring this pain upon me, Sandy? I buried the old soil long ago and replaced it with new Earth... must you dig up the clay again? Am I not a friend?"
Sandy sighed inaudibly, forming sand pictures to show that despite their history, Pitch needed to be here as well as Elsa.
"You must enlighten me of these foes that everyone is fussing about. They must pose a great threat if it would drive you and my father, once complete opposing forces, to work in unison." Emily said.
Sandy nodded, floating over to the pool of water Emily's toes were dipped in. He waved his hand over it, the water taking on a golden hue as he moved his hands in a circular motion, drawing some to separate from the tree's basin to form it into a floating sphere, almost like a crystal ball. He then rested his hands on his sides, still floating as Emily leaned forward, looking into the floating sphere to see visions concerning their enemies. Sandy showed her all that had occurred during the battles in London, how Pitch had joined their side in the end with Elsa, before looking deeper into the Queen's past and her connection to Alice. The sphere began to take on a red hue, flames erupting from it as the Queen's echoing voice began a chaotic chorus of screaming, hissing and growling. Emily's eyes widened, Sandy biting his lip tensely as the visions branched out, showing quick flashes of Hans, the Monkey King, and Turbo. When the Phoenix suddenly appeared within the sphere, its cry echoing and making the water ripple like flames, Emily gasped, jumping to her feet as she waved her hand. The sphere became ordinary water again, falling into the pool below with a small splash. The pool steamed with heated vapor as the original golden glow from Sandy diminished. Emily sat back down upon her throne slowly, her eyes widened as she breathed a bit deeply.
"I had sensed a stirring within the mountain but had dismissed it as nothing to fear... this enemy of yours, this... Queen... has awakened it from dormancy. I trapped it in the mountain long ago upon claiming this land..." Emily breathed.
Sandy floated over to Emily, placing a gentle hand on her arm as he looked into her eyes regrettably.
"It would seem that their uprising affects all of us." Emily closed her eyes tightly. "Very well... I shall submit this once; this one time I shall break my vow of neutrality in order to assist you. Only for you, my dear Sandy, and for the sake of maintaining my sanctuary. You have conveyed enough of your enemies for me to know them decently. I shall keep them in my mind until their potency is gone. I need time now to reflect upon what you have showed me."
Sandy gave her a nod, about to float over to the others when he thought he heard a sound in the distance. He turned, narrowing his eyes.
Alice couldn't hold back a small fit of giggles, playfully pushing Jack's forehead back with a finger.
"Jack Frost, if you don't stop that I will be very cross with you!" Alice exclaimed.
"Come on, after everything we've been through, we could use a little fun. You know how I love to tickle you like this." Jack leaned in again despite Alice's protests, hugging her from the side as traced his lips along her jawline. She jumped, the cold sensations making goose bumps rise on her skin.
"Oh for goodness sakes, Jack!" Alice exclaimed, muffling her laughter as she covered her mouth with her hand.
Bunny rolled his eyes as he leaned up against a tree, rolling his eyes. "Oi, we didn't build this shack here for nothing! Get a room already!"
Alice shrugged out of Jack's embrace at that point, rolling her eyes. "Bunny is right Jack, this is a vulgar display of affection."
"Vulgar? Alice, the time I came from, I would play pranks on teenagers making out in the middle of the street by freezing their feet to the ground. I wouldn't call some innocent tickling vulgar." Jack chuckled. Before anyone could say anything else, Sandy approached the group then, getting their attention. "Sandy, what's the matter?" Jack asked.
Sandy glanced at Alice, the two staring at each other for a few moments as they communicated telepathically. She saw the words again, nodding as they disappeared from her view. "Jack, Bunny, Sandy thinks he heard something unusual deeper in the forest. Let's go inspect what it is."
Jack looked between the two of them in absolute confusion. "Woah woah woah, how did you get that from- am I missing something here?"
"Come Jack, no dawdling!" Alice called, following behind Sandy.
"What's the matter, Jack?" Bunny smirked, elbowing him. "Afraid they might be exchanging mental love poems?"
Jack stared at him flatly, reaching back to yank out one of Bunny's tail hairs. The large rabbit howled, hissing as he held his backside. "Come on, it's just starting to grow back, you bloody dingo!" He shouted as he and Jack moved forward to catch up to the other two.
As Sandy kept his ears open, Alice unsheathing her vorpal blade beside him, the sounds of an apparent struggle became louder. He then gasped lightly as he saw something in the nearer distance, his eyes widening as he floated faster over to where the activity was originating from.
"Vanellope! Stay away from her!" Ralph shouted, the child having passed out from suffocation as a Venus flytrap like creature emerged in the tree she was pinned up against, opening its mouth as it neared her. Ralph cried out in anguish, trying to reach out a hand, but the vines coiled tightly around him preventing him from even mustering to do that.
Just when Ralph thought it was game over for the two of them, he gasped when golden sand ropes whipped at the vines from behind him, either tearing them out or making them retreat back into the trees and the ground. Jack waved his staff to freeze other vines, Bunny then breaking them upon sending out his boomerangs. Alice ran up to Ralph, who widened his eyes as she cut him loose with her blade.
"Are you alright?" She asked quickly.
"Y- Yeah, but Vanellope, my friend-!" Ralph pointed up into the tree, Alice glancing up before ascending into the air to get to her. Ralph watched in awe as she slashed at the vines, collecting Vanellope with one arm before touching back down to the ground. "Kid! Oh no... come on, wake up!" Ralph cried.
When the Venus fly trap creature finally retreated, the forest still once more, the others joined Alice, Ralph and Vanellope as the wrecker tried what he could to awaken the child. He held her to him, trying to pat her back as gently as possible until finally, she gasped for air. Ralph sighed with relief as Vanellope came to, her eyes darting around as she took in her surroundings.
"R- Ralph, what the heck happened?!" She exclaimed.
"I don't know, kid, but these guys helped us... and girl." Ralph cleared his throat, standing to his feet as he looked around at the small group.
"Well, I think introductions are in order, especially after that ordeal." Alice said. "My name is Alice Liddell, and these are my fellow friends and guardians, Jack Frost, Bunnymund, and Sandy."
Sandy smiled and waved, forming a small hat on his head that he tipped at them. Bunny smiled and gave a nod, and Jack gave a small wave.
"Man... this is a really weird game we're in..." Vanellope commented.
"Hey, uh, nice to meet you guys, thanks for um... saving our lives and everything. I'm Ralph, just... Ralph... and this is Vanellope. We're from the arcade, my game is Fix-it-Felix, her game is Sugar Rush... not sure what game this is but it is HUGE and SCARY." Ralph commented.
"I'm sorry, I'm not quite following you... we're not out here playing a game, Ralph... we're in danger, very grave danger... perhaps it's best you found us." Alice crossed her arms.
"Woah, hang on a second." Bunny held up a hand. "I thought you guys looked familiar... you're from that one arcade right down the street from a park they have an Easter egg hunt every year, all the little ankle biters would go there afterwards with all the quarters they got... man, I lost count of how many would brag about using quarters they got from Tooth to play those things..."
"Okay..." Jack said, shaking his head. "So you're telling me, that these two-" He pointed to Ralph and Vanellope. "- are from some VIDEO GAME?!"
"I'm sorry, could you both please explain what on Earth you're talking about?" Alice asked.
"This is way after your time, Alice... I'll explain later." Jack replied. "So what are you both doing here, in the real world, in the 1800s?" Jack asked them.
"Look pal, we have no idea where we are. We should be the one asking you all the questions!" Vanellope protested.
"How did you even get here in the first place?" Bunny asked.
"I'm not really sure how to explain it. See, we were fighting off some cybugs and Turbo- King Candy- some guy who became a REALLY big cybug after one ate him-... our friends Calhoun and Felix were helping us when suddenly this OTHER monster thing came out of nowhere and attacked Calhoun! She was like something out of one of those really creepy horror games!" Ralph exclaimed. "She had these huge hands and sharp teeth, and the wore this big poofy red dress and had all these weird tentacles that were-"
"Wait just a moment!" Alice exclaimed, her eyes widening. "Did this creature have short, dark hair? Red and green eyes? Did she don a floating crown?"
Ralph thought for a moment, nodding. "Yeah... she talked really weird too, like two people talking at once, almost..."
Alice exhaled sharply, glancing over at the others uneasily. "Well Bunny, I think that just answered your question..."
"Do you know what that thing was?" Vanellope asked. "She still has my kart, if she messes it up I will NOT be happy."
Alice cleared her throat, turning back to Ralph and Vanellope. "You both need to come with us, now. We all have some catching up to do with each other."
"Just as long as there's nothing else in this place that's gonna try to kill us..." Ralph said.
"Oh, there's plenty of that, mate. Difference is, we've got your back now." Bunny said as he pat Ralph's shoulder. "We'll take care of you and that little ankle-biter."
"Hey, I don't bite ankles!" Vanellope pouted.
"Hey, don't be sour, it's just an expression." Bunny laughed.
"Oh... I guess it's better than being called a glitch all the time..." Vanellope replied.
Emily exhaled slowly, opening her eyes when she allowed the visions Sandy had shown her to flow freely through her mind like a swift river. She heard the approaching voices of the group, one of her leaf- like ears flickering when she heard a couple of unfamiliar voices. She hissed lightly, speedily rising from her throne and taking to the air.
"Hang on... so this... Queen of Hearts lady... is raising an army, with Turbo included, to try to give you guys a 'game over?'" Ralph asked.
"What a nutty bar!" Vanellope piped.
"I'm still reeling over the fact that King Candy has been Turbo in disguise for over a decade, now you expect me to take in the face that he's a part of some huge final boss group or something?" Ralph groaned.
"None of us are happy about it, trust me... from what you told us about him, he sounds just as much of a horror as the Queen." Jack commented.
"Birds of a feather flock together..." Alice commented, sighing as they approached their setup.
They were a few yards away when Emily appeared before them, touching down as her hair and eyes became darkened once more. She extended a hand towards Ralph and Vanellope, vines emerging from the ground to seize them.
"Oh come on, not this again!" Ralph groaned.
"Emily, stop!" Jack shouted. "They're not here to hurt anyone!"
"You do not command me, Jack Frost!" Emily shouted in dual voices as a thunder crack burst in the sky, illuminating the entire area for a moment. Winds picked up as her anger did. "How dare you enter my domain without my consent?! You shall perish for your folly!"
Sandy panicked, flying to Emily and taking her hand, trying to calm her. He bit his lip, bracing for retaliation from her of some form- alas, none came, the winds dying down instead. He opened his eyes to see her calming, sighing with relief. He floated in front of her, holding up his hands as he explained to her that they were Turbo's victims.
"Sandy, consider yourself lucky that I hold you dear to your heart... my patience is wearing thin. I do not appreciate all these strangers in my midst." Emily said. "I shall determine their true position."