A/N: Astrology and how planets and stars work is not the strong suit of this mostly fantastical tale, which claims light comes from the moon. Shh.
This is the last chapter! It all got wrapped up fast but I think if I had tried to make it longer, the poor story would never be finished. I overextended myself by having 6 multi-chapters going consecutively. Never again, man, never again.
He wished Jack had never brought his memories to him. It would be better, never knowing. His life had not been a happy one – he'd much rather continue on in the dark, unknowing of the tragedy that shaped his current state.
But now that he knew, now that he remembered, he could not simply let it be.
"So, how can we get rid of them?" Jack said, casual as can be, sitting up on a rock and swinging his leg lazily.
"Thousands of years ago, I crashed my galleon upon earth. There is a… weapon that fell with me. A sword fashioned of pure light that was used to defeat Fearlings during the war. I believe that obtaining that sword will purge the shadows from me."
"That's all we have to do? Get a sword?"
"Yes," Pitch lied.
"Well, what are we waiting for?" Jack sprang up. "If that's as easy as it is, we can do before the night even falls. Where's the sword?"
"I will show you."
A tendril of darkness snaked out and wrapped around Jack's wrist – in another blink of a second, both individuals were yanked down into the shadows and re-emerged in another location entirely.
"Agh! Give me a little warning next time!" Jack staggered. Then, "Whoa. Where are we?"
"Where my galleon crashed all those years ago," Pitch answered simply. It was a desolate, ruined place. The soil had long ago degraded, becoming little more than grey stale dust. Nothing lived here; the trees and plants had all died, their trunks and leaves corroding and blowing away with the chilly dead wind. No animal life to be seen.
"Creepy," Jack said, shivering.
"Look." Pitch pointed to the horizon, where a huge black mass hunkered down beneath the sinking sun.
Jack squinted. "What is that?"
"My galleon." The word felt treacherous in his mouth, drawing up alien memories. Sailing across the endless, existential expanse of space. Standing at the helm, sword drawn, a legion of soldiers at his command. Battling with the Nightmare Men and Fearlings.
Pitch's throat closed up; he bowed his head and tried not to gag on the memories. Such a righteous sense of duty. Such certainty. Where was that man in him now?
Pitch could not comprehend it. Kozmotis Pitchiner, proud General of the Golden Armies, seemed so far removed from Pitch, the Nightmare King. Like a different persona entirely, whose memories had been planted in the wrong body.
But he remembered his daughter. That pain cannot be anyone's but his own.
Collecting himself, Pitch drifted towards the crashed ship.
"At first I believe I could not make it here through the shadows," Pitch confessed, "and now that we are here, I do not believe we could make it by any way other than the supernatural."
"What do you mean?"
Pitch wrapped his arms about his form. "You're already familiar with the Tooth Palace, the Warren, the North Pole, and my lair…. These areas do not exist in a specific location on earth and cannot be accessed by normal means. I suspect that this crash site is comparable."
"Spirits have a way of preserving things that are important to them, intentionally or not. Sadly, the galleon itself will not fly any longer. If it did, I would not have remained on the earth. I suspect the Fearlings would have taken the ship to plague the universe with fear."
Jack kicked at a pile of ash. "So no interstellar victory flights, huh?"
"We, all of us, are confined here to earth." Which greatly begged the question about why the world would need the General of the Golden Armies when he could not even leave. At least a Nightmare King had some purpose on earth.
"Too bad. I would have liked to talk the Man on the Moon, at least."
Pitch hummed disinterestedly. The ship grew larger and larger on the horizon as they neared, concealing the sun behind its mass.
What use am I without my shadows? What purpose will I have? The battles I fought - they must all have been won, or lost. Perhaps neither side survives.
His mind drifted to the family that he had once known; his wife, and his daughter Emily. They had lived thousands of years ago.
All of his life before the shadows was now ancient history, perhaps written in old untouched books and forgotten entirely. Perhaps Kozmotis Pitchiner himself was little but a legend.
The galaxies as he had known them in his youth must be entirely different. They would have become unrecognizable to him – the names of planets changed, languages morphed, cultures altered…
Pitch tilted his chin up. Perhaps it was better he could not return to the stars. They would not be as he remembered him – they would be a new world entirely. During all the years as Nightmare King, he had not ached for the stars. Nor should he let himself now that he remembered his past.
At last the ship reared high above their heads, enormous and blackened over the years.
Now it was dead. It lay on its side, hull punctured with holes, the sails half-buried in ashy dirt.
All its splendor had been ruined with the corruption of its owner. Pitch stepped close and placed a single hand against its hull. Something inside him hurt.
Jack soared up to walk along the lopsided mast. He whistled appreciatively, "this is incredible, Pitch. This whole thing was yours?"
"It was finer in its day," Pitch answered, and hoped that Jack didn't notice the longing ache in his voice. It truly had been breathtaking, all dark rich mahogany with inlaid gold patterning. The ship had borne him through countless battles, defeated its share of Fearlings. Even now, beneath all the soot and filth, Pitch glimpsed little glimmers of gold; hints at what the ship once was.
"So, where's this sword? I'm not much of a weapons person, but a sword forged from pure light sounds pretty interesting."
Pitch hummed. "The sword was kept in my quarters. I expect it has not moved." With this said, he teleported through the shadows until he stood just inside, standing on the wall since the floor was vertical.
"Now that's cheating," Jack jumped in after him, using his staff to hook on the edge of a hole and swing in.
"The sword ought to be easy to find. It was forged by Tsar Lunar's father, and th-"
Pitch cast him a wry glance. "You call him the Man in the Moon."
"His – his father forged it? I had no idea! That uh, he even had a father."
"Yes." Pitch's expression darkened as more memories were dragged to the surface. Kneeling at Tsar Lunar XI's feet as the sword was bequeathed to him. Serving under him to bring light to the stars.
And then returning, possessed by the shadows, to kill him.
Pitch shuddered. "At any rate," he tacked on hastily, "it is made of pure moonlight. The blade will be unmistakable. As soon as you glimpse it, you will know it is the correct weapon."
"Got it, special glowing sword. So, what was all that about the Man in the Moon?"
Pitch shook his head. "Now isn't story-time."
"You can't just shatter everything I thought I knew about the Man in the Moon and then not talk about it!"
"Go search," Pitch said coldly, wrapped up in his own thoughts.
Jack scowled. "Fine, fine." With a gust of freezing wind, he vanished into another corridor.
Pitch proceeded deeper on his own, the darkness and quiet welcome.
Dust and ash had long since clogged the corners of the rooms, and layered the wooden structure so that every room and every hall looked alike. Even so, and in spite of the fact the ship was turned on its side, Pitch's feet automatically led him to where he knew he needed to go.
To where he presumed the sword must be, as he had always kept it there when it was not adorning his hip.
At last he reached it – his own room on board the ship. He stilled at the threshold, hand touching the doorway.
Countless hours he'd spent in this place, poring over maps and discussing strategies for the war.
Pitch shook his head. How can this have been me? No – no fear, no darkness, no cruelty.
These memories made no sense with the memories he'd had the past few thousand years. They met like oil and water, and Pitch did not see how they once could have been one.
The shadows have only ever been loyal to me. Perhaps I should leave now, forget all of this. You do have Jack alone now, far from where any of the Guardians could save him – perhaps you could devour his nightmares.
"Did you find it?" Jack's voice cut in harshly.
"Careful," Pitch snapped, oddly defensive of the cracked things scattered haphazardly in his old room.
"Hold on." Jack soared past him and picked up a dull, oblong item from the ash. "Is this it?"
Pitch faltered. I've only come to dispel of the shadows… not feed them.
Are you sure?
"Pitch?" Jack neared. "This is the sword, isn't it?" He held it up, and the sheath was a deep black with ornate golden designs twirling up its length.
"Yes," Pitch managed to bite out, despite the heady craving for fear rising in his chest.
You need it to be strong, after all.
Jack began to look concerned; he held the weapon closer to his chest. "Well, then what do we do with it? We found it – are the shadows gone now?"
"I confess that I was not entirely upfront with you, Frost," Pitch said softly, becoming hungry for even just a slight taste of terror.
He had to force the words from his constricted throat – "Merely having the sword in my possession will not be sufficient to dispel the shadows." Pitch closed his eyes. Think of how powerful you feel in the darkness. Do you really want to be rid of that power?
Light pierced through his lids, and his eyes opened. Jack had unsheathed the blade.
Its glow bathed his face in golden light; for the first time, Jack realized Pitch's eyes were gold, not the silver he had so often seen. It seemed to chase away the dark that not only wreathed his body, but also haunted his mind.
Emily Jane. The voice of his daughter had never sounded clearer to him, and if but for just a moment, he could recall his devotion to all of the good in the world. No longer was the title Kozmotis Pitchiner one belonging to another individual – no, he saw himself now in the name.
A small breath escaped his lips.
I remember… everything. His chest swelled, for a glorious few seconds he recalled what it was like to be free of shadow, to live in the light, to have family… How uplifting, how confident he felt, that this darkness was a weight he didn't need to carry, that he could cast it off like a cloak and be free.
Pitch smiled, and there was nothing sinister in it. It was true, albeit a little sad, and longing.
"Now I am certain," he said. "I want to be rid of them."
Jack grinned back. "So, what do we need to do?"
Pitch took the blade from his hands and skimmed his hands lovingly over its polished surface.
"You need not watch, if you are faint of heart," Pitch smirked.
"You see, I believe I must plunge this sword into my heart."
Pitch glanced wryly at him. "Assuming there is more to me than merely shadows and fear, as a spirit, I ought to survive the procedure."
Jack looked increasingly uneasy, and Pitch had to admit he relished the expression. Viciously, sinister hunger surged again. Ditch this pretense; why not forget all about what he showed you? How much easier it would be to merely attack him now, vulnerable as he is…
"There's no other way?" Jack asked, unaware of Pitch's thoughts.
"None that I know." Pitch raised a hand to his forehead, nauseated by the chronic ache to inspire terror. Had he not just resolved to rid himself of these demons? Why then would he…. Ah.
Of course. The spirits inhabiting his body would know that their end was coming – it was in their interest to pull his strings however possible in order to avoid their potential fate.
"Frost, my body may attempt to resist this. In such a case, I expect you to help me complete the task."
"Whoa whoa whoa," Jack's unease multiplied, "I can't – I don't know if I can do that. Isn't there another way?"
"Regretfully, no," Pitch replied, and eyed the golden blade. "Due to the potential of resistance, it would be best to get this done as quickly as possible. Yes…. Right away." Pitch closed his eyes, raised the sword, holding it at arm's length so that the blade was leveled right over his heart.
His body went rigid. The blade hovered a mere centimeter from his chest. But it did not go in.
Jack took a careful step closer. "Pitch…?"
He felt the shadows crawl up his spine, and then abruptly they were using his voice – the spoke through him, as him, because perhaps after thousands of years, even the Fearlings had begun to forget what they originally were, "you assume I want to dispose of this darkness? Dear, naïve Frost… the only thing I have ever desired is terror."
The sword began to turn as a wicked grin scrawled over his face. "And now, I will k-
Jack didn't give him time to finish, but wrapped his hands around Pitch's over the handle of the blade. Together, they turned into onto himself, and rammed it straight through his chest.
Jack winced and stumbled over his feet to back away, wiping his hands on his hoodie despite the lack of any blood to be seen.
For a single suspended moment, Pitch gazed down in disbelief at the weapon, hands slack.
Then he screamed – but it wasn't him, not exactly – it was not one voice, but hundreds, hundreds, shrieking in an ominous symphony that shook the very skeleton of the ship.
"Agh!" Jack clapped his hands over his ears.
The Fearlings in Pitch ripped from his body and, howling, fled – but the light could not be so easily escaped. Jack had to screw his eyes shut tight as the golden light flared up from the blade's hilt and shot in pursuit of every single last wisp of darkness: they roared and screeched as the light exploded to illuminate the entire room, corroding every shadow.
At last, there was silence.
The light dimmed, dwindled, went out.
Jack dared to open his eyes.
Pitch still stood in the center of the room, sword out of his chest and held listlessly at his side, eyes closed.
The black clothes he wore transformed before Jack's eyes, flowing into a magnificent obsidian cloak. The trimmings were lush red, and neatly stitched scarlet patterns wove over the sleeves and shoulders. Pitch seemed to grow taller, or more stately in nature, the angles of his face becoming at once sharper and kinder. His narrow frame filled out to a broad chest and almost kingly manner.
He breathed. His eyes opened.
Gold. That was the color of his irises; a deep bronzish gold, clean and stern.
Fearful and handsome, yet just and benevolent. He would have seemed perfect to a fault, like a charismatic hero stepping right off the page off a story book, if not for the aura about him – the aura of one infinitely tired, frightened, haunted.
His eye sockets were dark, as if he'd not slept in a hundred years.
He met Jack's gaze steadily.
"At a loss for meaningful words?" Pitch murmured tauntingly, but there was a gentle quirk at the side of his mouth.
"Oh, shush. This is… this is what you looked like before…?"
"You aren't the Nightmare King anymore?"
"No." Pitch held out his hand and traced his new form with his eyes. "Then again, I am not sure I am General Pitchiner, either. Not anymore."
"How does it feel?"
"Lost," Pitch said musingly. His fist clenched and unclenched. "But… Found, too." He raised his eyes. "Thank you, Jack Frost."
Jack raised an eyebrow. "Jack Frost now? Ohoo, you're getting more formal. You're not gonna be a big stick in the mud like this, are you?" Jack strutted about the room and stuck out his lips in a pretentious pout, "That's General Lord High Pitchiner to you, young man! Hmm, yes sir, indeed, I commanded all the fleets of the galaxies, indeed!"
Pitch blurted out a short laugh and then instantly looked surprised at himself.
"Ooo, you actually think I'm funny, too!"
"I always thought you were funny," Pitch retorted, "if by funny, you mean ridiculous."
"Ow." Jack held a hand dramatically over his heart.
Pitch shook his head, and his smile dwindled to something sad. "Truthfully, I don't know what I am." He waved at the ship around them. "Once, I would have traveled the stars and fought the Fearlings. Now I am grounded here on earth, and I do not even know who I am."
"Hm." Jack sat cross-legged in air. "Well, you can come with me and meet the Guardians."
"No." Pitch lifted his hand and studied his palm. "I wish to be alone."
"Oh. You're sure?"
"I need to learn anew what it is like to live without my… without the shadows." Pitch smoothed his hands down his new cloak. "Perhaps I will begin by fixing up this galleon. And… Jack?"
"Truly, thank you." Pitch met his eyes. "Without you, I never would have known."
He did not know where he was going, nor even who he was.
But whatever he did, he believed now he could become someone his daughter would have been proud of.