Prologue: Lost in Fear
Shadows flickered and danced in the light of the fire dancing in the middle of the square, strange shapes seemed to loom out of the darkness. But upon a closer look there was nothing there. Only darkness.
Something moved, shifting in the night. The eerie cry of an owl rent the still night the sound ripping through a slightly open window causing a tiny little girl to start violently before curling up further in her bed, her breathing erratic and her eyes darting around her bedroom that had quickly changed from her sanctuary to a torture chamber.
Shadows shifted at the foot of her bed and something darker then black loomed over her, tall and thin and terrifying. Poisonous yellow eyes stared down at her from of face made of bone and a sharp smile curled a thin lipped mouth into a grotesque shape.
The child whimpered and the figure let out a low rumbling chuckle that shook the bed the little girl was cowering on.
Gathering up what little courage the child could find the girl cried out,“J-Jack!” The figure's smile melted into a sneer and he leaned over the bed, his hands braced on either side of her legs, tendrils of black smoke curled around her form causing her fear to spike into terror.
Before Pitch could truly savor the flavor of her absolute horror the door crashed open and another figure entered the room.
Pitch snarled and turned on the boy, who didn't pay him any mind. The boy, was short for his age and unusually thin from the harsh winter. Messy brown hair topped a thin impish face. “Penelope? Pip, are you alright? What's wrong?” The boy asked, moving to sit at the edge of the bed.
The shadows that had previously been shifting around the room slid back into their original places and Pitch growled at them in irritation.
“There was a shadow.” The little girl explained shakily, sliding onto her brother's lap and curling up in the safety of his arms. “I was scared.”
“Ah, well I'm here now and no shadow can get you while I'm protecting you.” The boy informed her seriously, a hand absently rubbing up and down her back. “Why don't you try to go back to sleep, we've got a big day tomorrow.”
“I-...stay?” She pleaded, looking up at him with big watery eyes.
Jack melted, “Always.”
Pitch watched the siblings, his face twisted in anger and disbelief. How could this....slip of a boy dispel this girl's fear so quickly and completely. Pitch had sown his seeds deep in the girl's heart, she should still be a quivering mess, fear clinging to the back of her mind.
But she wasn't. There was no fear left in the child.
Pitch narrowed his eyes and scanned the boy thoughtfully. He'd have to keep an eye on this one, he decided and slipped into the shadows to go terrify some other child. Even so he couldn't quite shake the experience from his thoughts and Jack lurked in the recesses of Pitches mind, a boogeyman for the boogeyman.
Like any good businessman Pitch kept to a schedule. Sure, people got scared all the time, even during the day, but the best time for fear was at night when the darkness seeped over the land and coated the world in superstitious dread.
The shadows of night were the perfect time for Pitch to sow his seeds and nurture them into the crippling fear he desired. Daytime was his time to plot and scheme, working on his next big stunt to overthrow those pesky Guardians.
So it was with great surprise that a spike of delicious terror struck him causing him to stop everything he was doing and simply savor it. Then a second spike of terror made itself known and Pitch's eyebrows disappeared into his hair. Now, what was this? Pitch had never felt this fear before, how could that even be possible?
Wicked curiosity curled in his gut and he just had to go investigate; see for himself who this new fear belonged to.
Pitch cringed as he stepped out into the sun, the light burning his eyes and prickling his skin. This was why he liked to stay inside during the day, it was downright uncomfortable to work in these conditions. He was tempted to retreat to his den and not worry about finding the source of the fear, but..
No, he needed to find out because that fear, it was so new and so strong and he just had to know. He had to know so he could cultivate more of it.
The fear was so strong that it permeated the air and Pitch was able to follow it back to where it stemmed from.
Snow crunched under his feet and icicles spiked down from tree branches, the deadly cold of winter was strong this year as was proven by the two figures on the lake. Pitch walked closer, eyeing the two with unparalleled interest.
It was with a hint of surprise that Pitch recognized the children. Why, he'd been at their house just a few nights prior, harvesting the fear in little Penelope when her annoying brother had shown up and banished any trace of it from the girl. In fact he had had to replant the seed in the girl, since even that was gone.
Penelope's fear was familiar and the presence of it made Pitch smile cruelly, but it was Jack's fear that truly interested him. Why had he never felt this boy's fear before, and what had caused it to show up now?
A loud cracking sound caught his attention and suddenly he knew. Oh. Oh, this was good. He couldn't have done a better job himself. Winter was always a bit fickle, and it seemed that little Miss Penelope had found herself a patch of thin ice.
“we're going to play hopscotch,” The boy's voice cut through Pitch's thoughts and he watched as Jack tried to calm his sister, “like we do everyday.” pitch watched gleefully as the boy, fear curling in his heart for his sister, slowly crept across the frozen water. Warning crackles sounded from under the boy's feet causing him to wince. Then he saw his sister's face and pretended to fall, the girl laughed and some of her fear melted away.
Pitch frowned, even when she was in grave danger Jack was able to chase away her fears. It was frustrating, but Jack's fear was only growing with each moment that passed.
More ominous cracks rose from under the slip of a girl's feet as she skittered forward hesitantly. “That's it,” Her brother coaxed, his voice low and soothing belying the fear Pitch could practically taste rolling off him in waves.
Then, quick as a snake, Jack lurched forward, swinging his wooden staff towards the little girl, hooking her around the waist. With a great heaving thrust he spun them around, tossing his beloved sister to safety; but the momentum of his swing propelled him backward to take her place on the unstable sheet of ice.
“Jack!” The girl squealed happily, and Jack lifted his head to grin at his sister.
Pitch frowned as for a split second all fear left both children and they shared a moment of sheer joy, before the ice gave a terrifying shriek. Jack's eyes widened and a terror so deep and profound punched him in the gut as the ice under him gave way. His sister screamed his name, but it was too late.
Jack was gone, sinking under the ice, his world going black.
Pitch stared at the spot Jackson disappeared from for a while. The boy's cloying fear was still thick and strong, and it was growing stronger still.
This particular strain of fear Pitch knew all too well as it was the most common form among adults. One rarely felt in the young. Fear of death. Jack was dying.
No surprise there, he had slipped into a frozen lake. Pitch fixed his eyes on the hysterically screaming little girl. He almost couldn't feel her fear now, Jacks was so overwhelmingly strong it blocked everything out.
It wasn't long before the fear started to fade and disappear altogether. And that was Pitch’s cue to leave. There was nothing left for him here and it was still high noon, so he really would prefer to be safely ensconced in his lair.
It wasn't until early Spring that Pitch realized something was up. He was out paying a visit to his current favorite victim, young miss Penelope, when he materialized from the shadows of her yard he was nearly blinded by the moon.
Crying out in shock and dismay he quickly retreated to the sanctuary of the shadows where he recovered his dignity. “What foul trick are you up to this time?” He growled at the moon, who simply winked smugly back at him.
Snarling in agitation Pitch stalked away from his prey, he had more important things to do, like thwarting whatever plot the Man in the Moon had thought up.