Chapter 24- Becoming a Guardian
Sandy’s dreamsand creations flooded the streets of Burgess and the rest of the world. Pitch had been defeated, and peace was restored. Jaz loved seeing things having finally returned to normal. She smiled as a dreamsand wolf ran circles around her. A flash of golden streaked past her. A sudden weight landed on her shoulders.
“Blaze!” she exclaimed. The tiger had both his paws on her shoulders, forcing her into a leaning position. It was hard enough to keep standing with him on her the way he was. The guardians noticed his unusual actions. They walked over for a closer look at what it was he was doing. Blaze gripped the collar of her shirt in his teeth, dragging it down past her shoulders. The letters Pitch had engraved were still there. A deep rumble came from within Blaze’s throat. He rasped his tongue over blemished skin. A noise similar to that of a crackling fire sounded from her back. The wound started to heal itself over with every lick. Once it was completely gone, Blaze used his nose to push her shirt back over her shoulders and jumped back down on all fours. He gazed up at her with his golden eyes. Jack paced over to her side, careful not to intrude on Blaze’s space.
“The words” he told her. “They’re gone.” Jaz looked wide-eyed at him. She strained her neck as best she could to see for her self. She pulled her hair out of the way, seeing that the black scars were in fact gone. There wasn’t even the slightest sign of them ever having been there. Her eyes flickered to Jack, then to Blaze. She wrapped her arms around the tiger’s neck hugging him tight.
“Thank you” she whispered, her voice muffled by his fur. He rubbed his head against her cheek, purring and licking her gently. Jack leant on his staff, smiling at the two of them.
“Looks like you’re not the only one with healing powers.” Both Jaz and Blaze looked up. Jaz exchanged a look with him, before smirking at Jack. Blaze leapt at him, bowling him over. He smothered him with licks. She and the guardians laughed.
The children ran over to where they were.
“Jaz!” Pippa’s voice sounded from behind her. The young girl raced over, greeting the fire spirit with a hug. She practically launched herself at her. Jaz was momentarily stunned. She was used to children and people going through her. She quickly shook those old thoughts off and hugged her back. That was all over now. Jack got to his feet, greeting Jamie a similar way.
“You did it!” Jamie exclaimed, glancing at all the guardians.
“We couldn’t have done it without your help” Jack replied, looking up at Jaz briefly. He smiled at her. He had witnessed her giving them the light they needed to defeat the nightmare torrent. It was a gamble, considering how weak she already was. But she had taken the chance anyway. It was clear she was no longer the short-tempered spirit she had once been, the one full of anger and self-loathing. She had returned to the way she used to be. The girl she in her old life. The girl of passion and light. The real Jaz.
Pippa looked up at her. “You helped us” she said, recalling what had happened.
“You gave us that light, didn’t you?”
Jaz smiled. “That was already inside of you” she explained. “I merely helped it break through to the surface.” Pippa was amazed, wondering whether it was true or not. An idea came to Jaz.
“There’s someone I want you to meet.”
Pippa looked excited. “Who?” Jaz took out her dagger. Pippa’s eyes glowed with fascination as she examined it.
“A special friend of mine.” She touched the stone. Pippa jumped back as fire flowed from the blade. Blaze’s body formed purely from the flames released. She blinked her wide eyes in surprise at the massive tiger before her. She swallowed nervously, her mouth left ajar. Jaz stroked the side of his pelt.
“He won’t hurt you” she assured Pippa. She timidly reached out her hand. Blaze obediently bowed, allowing her to touch his forehead. As soon as she felt his soft warm fur running through her fingers, she became more confident. She smiled joyfully, stroking him with more enthusiastically.
“He’s beautiful” she breathed. Jaz smiled down at her as she and the tiger bonded.
“His name’s Blaze” she told her.
“Blaze” Pippa repeated. She gazed up at Jaz, her hand rubbing Blaze’s coat. “He’s made out of fire?”
Jaz nodded. “That’s right.”
“Isn’t he dangerous?” Jaz chuckled.
“Why don’t I show you?” Pippa took a step back from the feline. Jaz stood in front of Blaze, her hand just above his head. As she lowered it, so did he do the same. He lay down, his head resting on his paws. His tail wrapped neatly around his back paws. Jaz turned back to Pippa, gesturing for her to come over.
“You ready?” Pippa tipped her head to the side.
“For what?” Jaz picked her up, placing her on Blaze’s back. Pippa was frozen in shock.
“Hold on” Jaz cautioned. She held onto a clump of his fur, pressing her body closer to his. Blaze rose to his paws, making Pippa shake a little. It didn’t take her long for her to adjust to him. She beamed at Jaz, moving forward atop Blaze. Her friends all crowded around her as she rode the fire tiger. Showing off, Blaze reared up on his hind legs. Fire sparked around his back paws. The children gasped in shock, loving the display he was doing for them.
Bunny had made his way over to Jaz’s side.
“Gotta hand it to you, Sparky,” he commented, tousling her hair. “You did good.” Jaz smiled up at him, punching him playfully in the shoulder.
“Thanks Bunny” she murmured. She pulled him in for a hug.
“For everything.” He was a little surprised but didn’t pull back. He wrapped his arms around her, accepting her warmth. They broke away from each other, still smiling. Bunny headed away from her, over to North. Jaz was pretty sure she knew what he wanted to discuss with him.
Jaz spun around in a fast and sudden movement, catching a snowball with her hand just before it hit her. It melted in her hands.
“Nice try but you’ll have to do better than that” she called out. Something swiped at her feet, tripping her over. She landed on her back. She opened her eyes, seeing Jack leaning over her with his staff in hand.
“How was that?” Jack asked with a smug grin. He extended his hand, helping her to her feet.
“I suppose I’ll never outwit the Guardian of Fun” she joked.
Jack chuckled. “And what about you? Still think your centre is destruction?” Jaz sniggered, shaking her head. Jack looked pryingly at her in expectation.
“I’m Light” she stated, happy that she had finally figured out her purpose. Optimism, happiness, passion, fascination; all the things that light brought with it. That was what she put into the world. It was what she protected. She finally understood why she never knew her reason for existing. All the hatred she had built up, all the anger had consumed the joy and optimism that she as a human had been full of. She had lost her centre.
She gazed up at the moon for a brief moment. It seemed much more welcoming now. Smiling sweetly, she gave a small nod of fulfilment. She turned back to him.
“Turns out all I needed was a little help realizing it.” She looked deeply into his eyes, looking somewhat awkward.
“Thank you,” she remarked. “For always being there for me.” Jack thought back to everything she might have been referring to. The truce he had formed between them; coming looking for her twice, despite her attempts on his life. He recalled the memories they shared together in their past life. He had been there for her too, as she had with him. There was still something troubling his mind. They had never gotten the chance to reflect their friendship, if that’s what you could actually call it.
The two of them stood very close. He gazed into her eyes, noticing something different about her. Has she always been this…pretty? He wondered to himself. And if so, how come he’d never noticed?
“Close your eyes” Jack said to her. She slowly started to close them, their lips drawing close.
A crash nearby stole the moment away from them. They looked up to see North’s reindeer returning. They had somehow gotten back into their harnesses, and were pulling the sleigh down to them.
Jaz and Jack exchanged an awkward glance. Sandy took hold of Jaz’s hand, guiding her away from him and over to where North, Bunny and Tooth were waiting. Jack followed them, his shoulders hunched over in disappointment. North had a book in his possession. Tooth flew over to her.
“Are you ready?” she asked gently.
“A little nervous” Jaz admitted. Tooth casted her an assuring glance.
“You’ll be fine.” She nodded, grateful for her words of comfort. Tooth took her place by the other guardians while Jaz stepped up to face North.
“Is time you take oath” he said to her, opening the book. Jaz stood confidently before him.
“Will you, Jaz Flame...vow to watch over the children of the world?”
The children walked over from where they were, watching for the second time a new guardian being made. Pippa was still on Blaze’s back. She jumped off, keeping her hand on the tiger’s pelt.
North continued, “To guard them with your life - their hopes, their wishes, and their dreams? For they are all that we have, all that we are and all that we will ever be.” Jaz briefly glanced over her shoulder at Pippa, and then looked back to North. She took a deep breath.
North smiled in pride. “Then congratulations, Jaz Flame - for you are now and forevermore...a Guardian.”
The children and guardians started to cheer for the new guardian. The yetis and elves joined in. A small group of mini fairies that had been in the area paused from their tooth collecting duties to join in the celebration.
“Yeah!” the children cried out.
The guardians surrounded her, each congratulating her. Sandy gave her two thumbs up, a bright smile on his face. Tooth hugged her friend tight, almost squeezing the life out of her. As soon as she put her down, she was lifted up again by North. His hug was as firm as Tooth’s had been, and just as welcoming.
“That’s my girl” Bunny exclaimed. His hug drew the breath out of her.
Blaze roared, running over to her. He shoved the guardians out of the way. He reared up, covering her face with affectionate licks. She eventually broke free of all of them. Even though she was gasping for air, she couldn’t hold back laughing. Jack appeared next to her, making her jump. She held her hands out defensively.
“You’re not going to hug me too are you?” she questioned him in a light-hearted tone.
Jack smirked. “Nah. No way am I getting burnt again.” He placed his hand on her shoulder as an alternative form of praise.
“Oh and just so you know,” he said, moving in slightly closer to her. “Cupid, Hallows, even April Fool couldn’t have done what you did.” Jaz was taken aback by his comment. How did he know about that? Hadn’t she been talking to Bunny when she mentioned them? Questions filled her mind, until she released she actually didn’t care how he knew. She smiled up at him, being drawn to him once more.
She avoided eye contact with him at first.
“Where were we?” she asked somewhat seductively. Jack looked deep into her amber eyes. She closed them slowly. He leant in close to her but stopped when a realization occurred in his mind.
“Hang on” he whispered. He held the side of her head with one hand.
Jaz opened her eyes just as Jack blew onto her lips. A cold sensation shot through her body when his breath touched her mouth. A thin layer of frost froze over her lips. Before she could question him, he pressed his own lips to hers. Jaz couldn’t move. Her body was cold, yet it was hot. She was shocked but at the same time totally expectant of it. She shut her eyes, enjoying the moment while it lasted. Her hand found its way to his chest. She gripped the fabric of his sweater and pulled him in closer. Jack was startled by her actions but quickly became used to it. He placed his hands on her waist. Their lips separated slightly for a quick breath of air. As Jaz inhaled, her lips returned to normal. When Jack went to kiss her again, he got burnt. He yelped in pain, pulling away from her. Jaz jumped, looking concerned at what she had done.
“Sorry!” she apologized profoundly. Jack rubbed his mouth, looking back up at her. Thankfully the damage could only be seen up close. Jaz was more than relieved to see he was ok.
“Well, it was worth a try” Jack joked. Jaz couldn’t help but smile. At least he was positive about the incident.
They walked back over to where the others were. North came up behind them, placing a hand on each of their shoulders.
“Time to go.” Those words were familiar to Jack. Jaz however, was not so keen about them. North indicated for Jack to go on ahead of them. He didn’t argue. North took her aside.
“You should be proud of yourself” he said to her. Jaz bowed her head, accepting his praise with modesty. He took something from the pocket of his jacket. He gave it to her. She looked down in her hand. A snow globe rested in her palm. The top and bottom of it was deep red, outlined with a black strip. Engraved in the red was a fire pattern. Jaz looked up at North with an expression of confusion and surprise. It was the same snow globe she had stolen; only its appearance had been modified to that of one she had never seen before.
“Is yours now. You’ve earned it” he murmured to her. She struggled to find the right words to say.
“T-Thank you” she managed to choke out. She smiled brightly; North returned it.
They started to walk over to the sleigh.
“Jaz, wait” She looked back over her shoulder. Pippa was walking beside Blaze over to her. She looked worried. Her head lowered. Blaze noticed her sadness, nudging her arm up with his head. She smiled half-heartedly, patting him. Jaz hated seeing her upset like this. She knelt down to her level.
“Hey, what is it?” she asked softly.
Pippa sighed. “You’re leaving now” she replied, her voice a whisper. Jaz looked at her in surprise.
“I’m not leaving forever” she reminded her, hoping to lift her spirits. But Pippa didn’t seem any less heartbroken.
“But I don’t know when you’ll be back” she mumbled. “I don’t want to forget you. I can’t not see you…I can’t.” Jaz placed a hand on her shoulder.
“Easy there fretful. I’ll be back soon, I promise.” She lifted her head up to look at her.
“What about Pitch?”
“You don’t need to worry about him” Jaz interrupted. “Pitch won’t be back any time soon. And even when he does,” She paused, gazing over at her fellow guardians, “We’ll always be here to protect you.” She tapped Pippa’s nose, making her smile. She turned to Blaze.
“Come on you, we gotta go” she said, standing up straight. Blaze cowered, seeking refuge behind Pippa. Jaz smirked. She had never seen him grow this attached to anyone before. Pippa laughed as he tried to hide behind her. He butted his head against her back, as if trying to get her to stop him from leaving.
“I don’t think he wants to go” Pippa laughed. Jaz folded her arms, keeping her voice a playful tone.
“Well he doesn’t have a choice. We have a job to do, remember?” Her sentence broke off, suddenly realizing she had forgotten all about it.
“Midnight” she whispered under her breath. She looked up at the sky. Blaze heard her, walking out from behind Pippa. She turned to explain to the other guardians but they already seemed to know what she was up to. Bunny gave her a brisk nod. She looked back at Blaze. She was nervous. This was her first year doing this as a guardian, and the first time mortals would know it was her doing it.
“Alright Blaze, you know what to do.” The tiger nodded, lowering his head towards her hand. Jaz held it out above his forehead. Her flame lit up in her hand. She flipped her hand over, driving the fire down into his head. Pippa watched in silence at what she was doing. Once the flame had been transferred, Blaze shook his coat as though it were wet. He was ready.
He was doing his part, now it was time to do hers. She unsheathed her dagger and pointed it to the sky. She closed her eyes. The blade started to glow and several sparks were released from its tip. The flames shot into the sky, exploding and creating a display of beautifully coloured fireworks. The children watched in astonishment as the night sky became alit with colourful flames. Blaze lifted his head, releasing a roar. The fire she had given him shot up into the sky, setting off a chain reaction of fireworks. The kids cheered, observing every minute of it in wonder and admiration.
“Happy New Year!” they shouted in realization of what night it was.
Blaze followed Jaz as she walked over to the sleigh. Bunny and North nodded in satisfaction. Both Tooth and Sandy smiled at her, enjoying the array of lights she had filled the sky with. Jack looked surprised.
“Looks like you have a busy night ahead of you” he said. Jaz rubbed the back of her head, thinking of how to explain. It was her self-appointed job, and it had been for many years, to bring fireworks every New Year at midnight. She had used the snow globe she stole to reach the different areas of the world all in the blink of an eye.
“I’m late” she muttered, ashamed that she had let herself forget. The guardians didn’t give her a chance to explain.
“You’re a guardian now. We help each other” Tooth reminded her.
Bunny nodded. “Don’t worry mate, we’ll help you get it done on time.” Sandy formed a miniature display of fireworks above his head in dreamsand. North sat by the reins, waiting for her to get inside so they could get to work. Jaz smiled, hardly believing they were actually offering to help her. With a touch of the dagger stone, Blaze returned in an instant. She took hold of the sleigh’s railing, about to hop in. She turned back, seeing Pippa staring at her. When she saw that Jaz hadn’t left yet, she ran over and hugged her again.
“The best part of last year was hearing about you” she whispered into Jaz’s ear. “And the best part of this year, was finding out you exist.” Jaz stared at her in confusion.
“But the year’s only just begun” she said, baffled. Pippa smiled, and Jaz understood. She hugged her tight.
“I’ll be back before you know it,” she assured the young believer. Jaz stood up and climbed onto the wing of the sleigh. As much as she didn’t want to, she had to go. The people of the world were waiting for her fireworks to celebrate the end of one year and the start of the next. The sleigh took off.
Jaz gazed down at Pippa, Jamie and the other children in the clearing. She would see them again. It was her job to protect them, as well as all other children. After all, she was a guardian now. The Guardian of Light.
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