Chapter 23- Darkest Hour
This isn’t going to work Pippa thought. Her eyes were fixed on the giant wave of darkness that was engulfing the town. Last time, as soon as it touched Jamie’s hand, it had returned to dreamsand. But Pitch had warned them that belief wouldn’t save them this time round. She wanted to look over at Jaz, to be given a feeling of comfort or a look of reassurance that everything would be fine; but she couldn’t bear to move her gaze. She could feel Jaz’s warm presence though. And that was more than enough to give her the strength she needed. Everyone else was there too. Her friends, the guardians; all ready for the fight to come. Jamie was there too. Every moment he held her hand filled her with hope and a courage she never knew she had.
Jaz was surprised when Jack took hold of her hand but refused to pull away. It was unlike any other time he had touched her. It was still cold and unfamiliar but not uncomfortable. A strange emotion warmed her heart. She couldn’t let herself become distracted by it though. They were still trapped by the nightmare torrent. What did Pitch mean by belief alone won’t save you this time.
Jaz felt her mind become absent from the dark situation they were in, being drawn into yet another memory.
“Get to safety!” she told him. Ryan shook his head.
“I can’t leave you!” he protested. The heat was starting to burn the longer they kept their arms in between the branches. Jaz didn’t have time to argue with him. She knew her fate already but wasn’t going to let Ryan know that.
“I’ll be fine” she lied. “Just go!”
“I’m scared” he whimpered. Jaz clutched his hand tightly.
“I know.” Even through the smoke and flames, she could see the dim light that came from their village.
“Follow the light” she ordered him. “It’ll lead you home.”
“Oh 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.”
She 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 its shine on each of her streaks. Her silver hair returned to its original flame colour and her eyes lightened. A discharge of darkness was released from her body, ascending into the air and disintegrating. She tilted her head up and watched as it fell.
Jaz glared at Pitch, unsheathing her dagger.
“Maybe not but I sure can fight it!”
The memories faded, returning her to the reality she and the others were ensnared in.
“To fight darkness” she said under her breath, figuring out what all of this meant in her head. “We just need a little…light.” She quickly turned her attention to Pippa in front of her.
“Be brave, Pippa” she whispered to her. Pippa didn’t look back but nodded her head. Jaz’s eyes flickered down to where she and Jamie’s hands were clasped together.
“Believe. Follow the light” She closed her eyes, focusing her energy on their hands. They started to glow as she transferred her power into them.
The wave erupted towards the group. Jamie held up the hand that he held Pippa’s with. The energy Jaz had given them made it glow with a luminous light. The darkness shunned away from it. It tried to retreat but the light had already touched its surface. A loud screech came from the sand as though it were alive. The children shielded their eyes as the darkness swelled together, a bright fire shinning through from its centre. The rays of light exploded out of it, reforming the darkness into golden dreamsand now burning brightly with flames.
“No!” Pitch howled as he watched his nightmares transform. Sandy glided up into the air; the dreamsand around him returning his strength. His hands became like fountains, dreamsand becoming swift currents from his palms. Streams of the sand spread out in all directions, flowing into houses and retrieving the dreams of the children. The strength he regained had been taken from the now weakened nightmares.
His sand formed into the shapes of the guardians, returning hope to the sleeping kids. The belief was already starting to take affect.
North stood up straight, his strength returning to him. He took out his snow globes, realizing they worked again, and smashed them on the ground. Yetis, elves and toys flew through, equipped for the fight ahead.
Tooth’s wings started to beat fast and wild. She focused her mind, making telepathic contact with her mini fairies. Able to fly again, they started their search for the teeth without a minute to waste.
Bunny felt his own power starting to return. He tapped his foot on the ground twice, jumping down into a tunnel. He reappeared on top of a low hanging building nearby. He removed his boomerangs from their scabbards, tossing them through the air at the fearling he had sensed down on the ground. It cut through it with ease, returning to his paw in a matter of seconds.
Jack flipped using the wind, landing on his perfectly balanced staff. Snow started to fall around him, giving him energy and strength.
The children cheered as they saw the guardians grow strong again.
Pitch watched in utter horror as they returned to their original states of power. How could this have happened?! His nightmares were too powerful for any of them. His eyes caught sight of Jaz, narrowing viciously. She was supposed to be dead! How could she possibly still be alive? He had drawn out every last drop of energy she had. Her fire should have extinguished when he had left her in Antarctica. And what of Jack? How did he manage to heal his staff when it was fire that severed it? He shook all the questions from his head. That didn’t matter anymore. None of it did. With the guardians now strong, he stood less of a chance at defeating them. But there was one among them who was different. He would get his revenge. Even if it was only on her.
He summoned a cloud of nightmare sand; his lustful eyes pinned on his target.
Jaz stood by Pippa and the other children, watching in amazement of the dreamsand around them. Pippa and Jamie had done it, with a little assistance of her light. The guardians were being believed in again. They were strong, enough so to take on Pitch. She gazed around at them, feeling an overwhelming happiness seeing them like this.
A cold chill suddenly blew past her. But it wasn’t Jack’s. This wind had something unusual about it, something dark.
She stood defensively in front of Pippa with her arm extended to shield her from the oncoming danger she could sense. She spun around, only to be knocked off her feet by Pitch’s nightmares as they lunged for her.
“Jaz!” Pippa screamed. She stretched her arm out but Jaz was much too high for her to reach. Bunny heard her cry, noticing what was happening.
“North!” North turned to see Jaz being dragged into the air by Pitch. He ran to where Bunny was.
“Hang on mate, we gotcha” Bunny called after her. He jumped as high as he could, throwing his boomerang at the nightmares. The dark horse he had aimed it at snapped its jaws at the weapon and flicked it off course. Several more separated from the mass holding her up, streaking down towards the two of them. North leapt forward, slicing through them with his scimitars. Tooth and Jack flew to Jaz’s aid but were cut off by more nightmares.
Jaz stared down at the guardians trying to help her. She felt the familiar and distressing feeling as the black sand coiled around her limbs. She stretched her head back but all she saw was darkness. She had no idea how high up she was, though she had a pretty bad feeling about it. A small area of the sand cleared and her body was pushed up through it. Pitch waited on the other side to greet her. He smiled evilly at her. His eyes were eternally cold. She wanted to break free of the nightmare’s grip on her but she knew it was the only thing keeping her up in the air. Without her dagger, she could only glide small distances. If she were to fall now, she wouldn’t be able to save herself. Still, she lashed out at Pitch with one arm. He dodged her easily, coming up behind her. He snatched her up by the shoulders. His nails dug through her shirt and into her skin. She cringed in pain, her clenched teeth stopping her from giving him the raw pleasure of hearing her scream out.
“Jaz Flame” he spat, a voice of venom and hatred. “How is it you survived?” She struggled, not responding. Pitch pulled out something from behind his back, holding it to her throat. She already knew it was her dagger. With his other hand, he wiped some of the nightmare sand away so that they were in view of everyone below but were still airborne.
“No matter. Without your dagger” he snarled mockingly. “You’re nothing.” She looked down at Pippa who was staring up into the sky, fearing for her. Jaz felt worthless. He was right; without her dagger, there was nothing she could do to help herself.
“Look at her.” Pitch had spotted Pippa. “How sweet. Your first believer. A child so full of hope, now so full of fear. Let’s let her watch you die, shall we?” Jaz shut her eyes, preparing for the knife to split her throat open. The pain never came. The sand around her evaporated and she fell from the sky. She clawed at the air, trying to grab the dagger from Pitch’s grip but gravity had taken its toll on her too quickly. She gained speed as she plummeted through the air.
“Jaz!” Pippa and the other children shouted as one.
“No!” Jack yelled, seeing her fall. He hastily defeated the nightmare that was on him and flew after her. A pair of nightmares was still on his tail. He swung his staff back, trying to shake them off. They avoided his attacks. Jack boosted himself faster, desperate to reach her before it was too late.
Jaz fell, Pitch’s words echoing through her head. Your first believer. A child so full of hope, now so full of fear. Let’s let her watch you die, shall we?
Rage flooded her body and mind. She could feel every bit of hate and anger that she had ever suffered return to her. It made her strong; it gave her power. Her eyes flashed open. Her pupils had vanished completely beneath the amber depths of her eyes, forming the same glassy and clouded look they had had in North’s workshop. Her body came to a halt. Intense light swarmed her, with fire engulfing her entire frame. Clouds clustered above and around her, a bolt of lightning splitting the sky. Violent winds raged through the atmosphere. Her hair flailed wildly, fusing with the flames around her. The black shone with a silver outline, her streaks glowing almost white.
Jack had finally taken out the nightmares trailing him, skidding to a forceful stop at the sight of Jaz. Never before had he seen such power. How was she doing that? And without her dagger?
Jaz glared up at Pitch with her pure amber eyes. With a screech of anger, she released her full power. An eruption of fire shot up at him. The flames easily ate away at the nightmares he used to defend himself from her attack, burning through the sand he stood upon. His fell, catching himself with more black sand. Every time he did Jaz’s fire would reduce it to ashes. He landed harshly on the ground but pulled himself to his knees almost immediately. Jaz flew over to where he was. Pitch gazed up at her, his eyes wide. The flames around her quenched as she landed. She stormed over to him, her fists glowing with fire. Pitch raised his arm to form a weapon from nightmare sand. Jaz kicked her recently extinguished foot, striking his chest. He stumbled back. Jaz reached over, her eyes and hair having returned to normal, and seized her dagger back from him. The shadows vanished from its surface. Energy flowed into her.
“This is mine” she growled at him. She gazed over as the other guardians joined her. Seeing she was distracted for a moment, Pitch took the chance to get to his feet.
“It’s not over” he warned. He formed a nightmare scythe in his hands. Jaz exchanged a glance with each of the guardians.
Pitch swung his weapon at Jaz. She used the wind to quickly backflip over North, who took her place. He crossed swords with Pitch. The unexpectedness of having to fight him gave North the advantage. Tooth then took over. She twisted herself like a tornado, slicing through his scythe with her wings. She kicked him back, giving Bunny a chance for his own attack. Bunny threw both boomerangs into the air and tripped Pitch over. As he clambered to his feet, the boomerangs came back and struck him. While he was off balance, Jack dealt a few blows of his own. Ice shot from his staff, weakening him. Jaz joined him. She used his dagger to cut him off as he tried to resummon his scythe. The scalding blade made contact with his shoulder, the flames tearing through his skin with ease. His expression changed from the resentment of fighting the guardians to nothing more than agony. His hands clasped his shoulder tightly in an attempt to ease off the burning sensation that continued to eat away at his flesh. The heat transferred into his hands and the rest of his body; drawing out almost all the energy he had remaining.
Jaz touched her finger to the stone on her dagger, summoning Blaze’s flames. The tiger’s strapping body moulded from the fire. He slammed his huge paw down on the ground, heating the area Pitch stood upon. Preoccupied with the sudden heat, Jack struck a blow with his staff. He ducked as Pitch lashed his arm towards him. A golden whip wrapped itself around his hand as he missed Jack, dragging him across the ground. Sandy shook his head in embarrassment for Pitch before punching him into the air. He dissolved the whip and let him free fall back to Earth.
Jaz gazed up at his falling body. She whistled and Blaze came running.
“You know what to do” she murmured to him. Blaze snorted, crouching down. His muscles rippled beneath his pelt as he readied himself. Sparks went flying from his paws when he took off. He launched himself at him, swiping Pitch from the air before he landed. He rolled across the ground.
The guardians ran over to where he was. Blaze came up behind Jaz, shoving his head beneath her hand until her palm rested on his neck. Pitch tried to scramble away from them.
“When you mess with me, you mess with him” Jaz clarified with him. Pitch looked at Blaze in disgust, who snarled in return. Jack stepped up beside Jaz, with Blaze still between them.
“Now you deal with all of us.”
Pitch tried to produce nightmare sand to fight with but there was no effect. He glanced down at his blistered and scarred hands with fear of accepting what had happened to his powers. Realizing he was outnumbered again, Pitch ran. He tripped over his own feet. He looked back over his shoulder every few moments as he stumbled away into the shadows of the forest. Blaze tensed. Jaz stroked the fur on his neck until it lay flat again. He looked up at her, tilting his head. She kept her eyes firm, communicating her reasons with him through her expression. The tiger sneezed, shaking his coat. The guardians stared after where Pitch had gone.
“Should we go after him?” she asked.
North shook his head. “No point. He doesn’t have much power left.” The way he spoke was almost a chuckle. Jaz didn’t quite understand.
“He only has power as long as people fear” Tooth explained to her further.
“But fear can’t be destroyed” Jaz pointed out, nervous that they had only fanned the flames of Pitch’s revenge rather than extinguishing it.
“True,” Bunny said. “But it can be defeated. And thanks to you Sparky, there’s a lot less of it now.” Sandy nodded, giving her a thumbs up.
“Those burns you gave him were a right nasty piece of work” Bunny went on, draping his arm around her shoulders. “Without your power to heal them, he won’t be turning dreams for a long time.”
North gazed around the streets. “You destroyed most of the nightmares too” he commented on what she had achieved with her fire outbreak. He smiled at her with pride. “I don’t think Pitch will be back anytime soon.”