Chapter 12- Fighting Shadows
Jaz moved through Pitch’s lair in silence. Her body was still adjusting to the darkness that was now inside of her. It would take time but it seemed like the longer it was a part of her, the harder it became to control herself. She wasn’t a fool; she knew that the fear was taking over. There remained a portion of her mind that was untouched by darkness, though it grew smaller with every hour that passed.
She flew over to where Pitch was waiting for her by the Globe. She bowed down before him. He hardly seemed to notice her being there. She rose to her feet.
“What is the plan?” she asked, drawing his attention from his thoughts. He gestured to the lights.
“Look at them” he instructed her. She did as told. Golden lights dappled the cold surface, each representing a child who believed.
Pitch had turned away, his hands behind his back. “Are they going out?”
Pitch gazed up at the prisons in which the yetis and elves had once been held captive in. “What about the cells? Are they occupied?”
“And why is that?” Jaz didn’t reply this time.
Pitch spun around, furious.
“I’ll tell you why. Because you let the guardians escape you!” Jaz shielded herself from his scowling. He suddenly stopped halfway through his tirade, replacing his words with a deep sigh. His walked away from her a few paces.
“That beast of yours” he spoke in a much calmer voice now. Jaz realized he was referring to Blaze.
“He is,” he paused, before continuing, “an irritation.” Jaz’s eyes widened at his words.
“Blaze” she whispered.
“Extinguish him” Pitch ordered. Her head shot up.
“What?” He looked over his shoulder at her insecure state.
Pitch chuckled. “We don’t want him creating a mess now, do we?” When Jaz didn’t answer, he added, “Kill him, now.”
Jaz could barely breathe.
“Do as I say” Pitch was starting to become impatient, his tone growing darker.
“But Blaze is my friend” she argued.
“He’s an insufficient pest! Now get rid of him.” Jaz lifted her head, staring up at him with a steady gaze.
Pitch was lost for words. She had just denied him, despite being under his control. His own insecurity started to break the surface. He sniggered to cover it.
“Very well” he said, his eyes scaling her body to where her dagger hung from her belt.
“I’ll do it myself.” He advanced towards her. He stretched his hand out towards her expectantly.
“Give me the dagger.” Jaz grasped the handle in her hand but didn’t draw it. She took a few steps back from him.
“But…it’s mine” Her mumbled words were unclear and hesitant. He moved closer to her.
“Think of it as a sign of loyalty to me.”
Her mind was a mess. Half of her was urging to pull it out and hand it to him, the other half screaming at her to keep it away from him at all costs. She was torn, and running out of time to decide.
“How cute” Pitch’s mocking voice made her recoil. “You’re trying to resist me. I already warned you, Jaz. You can’t escape fear.”
Jaz couldn’t let him win. She knew she had to keep resisting the darkness, even if it destroyed her.
She finally managed to break through. A glowing light came from her body, magnifying their shine on each of her streaks. Her silver hair returned to its original flame red colour and her eyes lightened. A discharge of darkness was released from her body, ascending into the air and disintegrating. She tilted her head and watched as it fell.
She glared at Pitch, unsheathing her dagger.
“Maybe not but I sure can fight it!”
She swiped her dagger through the air, sending a torrent of fire straight at him. Pitch ducked as it skimmed past him. His teeth gritted when he saw her run. He threw his arms up into the air, striking his own attack. Black sand gushed towards her in the form of a massive wave. Jaz twisted her head, glimpsing a flash of its exterior before the surge submerged her. Her dagger was ripped from her grasp, leaving her defenceless. Her entire body was engulfed by the darkness. She could still hear Pitch’s voice from beyond the shadows but he merely left her there to drown.
Pain surrounded every area of her body. Her eyelids were heavy and stung when she tried to open them. Barely able to keep herself awake, Jaz weakly looked at her surroundings. Everything was dark and brought an unfriendly coldness in which drew the energy from her. She couldn’t remember anything. Not where she was or how long she had been there.
Her arms were stretched up above her head. Shackles made from nightmare sand were bound tightly around her wrists. Every time she moved, they grew tighter. Blood dripped down her arms, dry and fresh. She struggled to lift her head, gasping for a breath of air. Arid air filled her lungs. Her head fell limp, her chin digging into her chest. She looked at the rest of her body. The lower part of her jacket had been torn off, leaving her midriff exposed to the cold air. Her skin was even paler than usual and covered in a combination of cuts, grazes and gashes. Her legs dangled from the floor, not touching the black tile beneath her bare feet. Her belt was looking even more tattered than usual. The vessel that held her dagger was once again empty. Her hair hung in strings, covering her face. She felt weak; more so than she’d ever been before.
The sound of footsteps against tile made her aware of her abrupt company. Her eyes peered through the strands of her hair, making out the shadowy figure of Pitch.
“Sleep well?” he greeted her. Jaz’s chest heaved. It hurt but the anger she felt distracted her from most of the pain.
“You traitor!” she rasped. Even her voice hurt. Pitch looked at her in surprise but laughed.
“Oh I’m the traitor now am I?” he questioned. “You’re precious guardians seem to think otherwise.”
The realization hit Jaz hard.
“It was you” a whisper was all her voice could support. “The workshop, the nightmares, the burnt toys…it was all you. You set me up!” She had much more she wanted to say but her heavy breathing forced her to stop. Pitch smirked.
“Look who finally figured it out” he said scornfully.
“Why?” she pleaded for an answer.
“Because I needed you’re energy. After my last defeat, I was weak. I was forced to remain in the shadows, sending one nightmare out at a time to collect fear. Eventually after two slow years of recovering I had grown strong enough, but it’s you I owe most thanks to.”
“Yes. You see, your anger and hatred is what kept me sustained all throughout those years. The pain you felt of not being seen, the fear you had of finding out why.” Pitch started to pace in front of her.
“Once enough of my power had been restored, I was able to see for myself the extent of your power. It was remarkable. Unlike anything I’d ever seen before. I just had to have it for myself.”
“So you set me up” Jaz spat.
“I knew once the guardians got a hold of you, they’d do everything they could to convince you to be one of them. I wasn’t about to just stand by and watch them waste such power. I knew I had to find a way to prove to you that they didn’t trust you. So I sent my nightmares to North’s workshop. Add a little fire and done. One Jaz Flame inspired wreckage.” Jaz’s eyes burned with anger at his insults.
“You were easier than I expected to take control over” he admitted. “Well all but one little thing. It seemed you had a sufficient amount of freewill; more than I had originally anticipated, but that just needed a little…” He pulled out her dagger from behind his back. Jaz almost didn’t recognize it. The blade was completely black, as was the handle and even the gemstone.
“…persuasion.” Jaz watched wide-eyed as he inspected the blade, admiring its new shadow form.
He walked closer to her, his golden eyes staring almost right through her. He reached his free hand out towards her face. Jaz tried to pull away but her restraints held her back. Pitch grabbed hold of her by the jaw. His sharp nails dug into the skin of her cheeks, drawing blood when she continued to struggle. He forced her to look at him. Tears and dirt stained her face.
“Such a pretty face” he said to her. Jaz held back further tears from falling. “What a shame.”
Jaz tried whatever she could to shake him off. She twisted her head and snapped at his hand with her teeth. She just missed him. Pitch released her from his grasp, slapping her hard across the cheek. Her head fell limp from his blow.
He motioned with his hands and immediately the bindings around her wrists fell away. She dropped to the floor. Her body lay in a heap, shivering. She didn’t even try to get away from him in the state she was in.
Pitch bent over, tying new chords of black sand around her limbs. Tethers were formed around her wrists, holding them together and close to her chest. He knelt down and picked her trembling body up in his arms, carrying her through to the next room. He placed her face down on cold stone table. He secured her restraints tightly across the table so she couldn’t move.
“Relax my little flame. We’re almost done. I just need to make you more presentable for your oh-so-precious guardians.” Pitch’s hands reached for her shoulders. He dragged the jacket down, revealing a small patch of unscathed skin. He took out her dagger.
“Hold still” he whispered into her ear. Jaz’s weeping turned to violent screams as he drove the dagger down into her body. Her limbs flailed as much as they could under the restraints. Old wounds that had closed over reopened while new ones formed. No matter how hard she screamed, there was no escape from the agonizing pain.
Pitch longed for her screaming. It fed him power. He kept focused on what he was doing, however paused numerous times, the dagger still wedged in her back, to enjoy the moment.
He eventually finished.
“Now you’re ready.”
As soon as he left the room, the sand vanished. Jaz lay motionless. She didn’t need to see what he had carved across her shoulder blades. She had felt every inch of every letter he had engraved into her skin. He had used her dagger to brand her as his own.
Blood dripped from her newly created wound. A wound crusted with shadows, spelling out the words, ’Pitch Black’.