I do not own the rights to Rise of the Guardians.
The Lucky Penny Hotel and Casino was an oddity.
From the outside, it was just another casino in a long list that called the city of Las Vegas home. It certainly wasn't the most famous or most impressive of casinos in town. Hell, it wasn't even on the Strip or Freemont Street. Instead, it was off the beaten path. Those who ended up there usually were previous patrons, or were invited by one of the regulars as a guest. There was the occasional visitor who would stumble upon the place without really meaning to, only to find themselves becoming a regular as time went by.
And that was just how the employees and patrons at the Lucky Penny liked it. No flashy billboards advertising the casino, no gimmicks to attract attention, no drunk and belligerent tourists, just the regular crowd and the newcomers who trickled in every once in a while.
It was a quiet, hole-in-the-wall casino that had a small, but extremely loyal—and perhaps more importantly, extremely wealthy—group of patrons that appreciated the unique atmosphere the Lucky Penny had to offer. Many had tried to describe it over the years, and failed. The closest they got was the unofficial motto of the hotel and casino, spoken by both employees and the regulars, 'When you win, everybody wins. And when you lose, you really don't mind, because you never leave as a loser'.
Which was an odd saying since a casino's motto usually was 'The House always wins'. And while that did hold true for the Lucky Penny as well, if you lost there, you always left with just enough to get you by. There was the occasional case where one would lose absolutely everything, but they were typically the drunk and belligerent guest the casino tried to avoid, who and been invited by another patron (who apologized profusely for their guest's rude behavior), and who everybody around them could agree, 'had it coming'.
The Lucky Penny truly was an oddity. From the location the patrons, the unofficial motto, to the bright green and copper exterior (a color scheme that wouldn't have worked for any other building other than the Lucky Penny) that most people seemed to miss, to the owner herself—Felicia Wheeler.
The Lucky Penny had been in her family for generations. Rumor had it that it was the true first casino built in town in the 1900's thanks to her great-great-grandmother, and would most likely be the last building standing in town centuries down the road when all else was long gone.
If it just so happened she shared an extremely uncanny likeness to her great-great-grandmother—same emerald green eyes, same long black curls, same heart-shape face with the same playful grin—nobody commented on it. Or the fact that while she rarely seen on a day to day basis, she was still somehow very involved in her casino, preferring to work behind the scenes, and showing up whenever the casino needed her.
Like the time one of the patrons got a bit too attached to a dealer and tried to follow her home after work. The security video was still being passed around by the employees, all impressed by the highly unlikely chain of events that ended with the patron being chased by a pack of miniature poodles while covered in whipped cream (with a cherry on top), turning himself into an off-duty cop who just so happened to be passing by.
All the while, Felicia Wheeler could be seen watching in the background with an amused look on her face.
Nobody questioned the oddity of Felicia Wheeler or the Lucky Penny Hotel and Casino. Just like nobody questioned the appearance of one pale and deathly-ill looking man dressed completely in black, who showed up in the lobby one night, looking the worse for the wear, and asking to see one Miss Wheeler.
The staff member at the concierge desk didn't even bat an eye at his appearance or the odd air he carried about him— similar to that of her boss— or the small dark tendrils that surrounded his bpdy. She simple gave him a key card to the top floor where the offices were, pointed him in the direction of the elevators, and went back to her Sudoku puzzle.
Just another day at work at the Lucky Penny Hotel and Casino.
"I'm assuming things didn't go according to plan?"
Pitch Black silently accepted the glass of wine from the oddity known as Felicia Wheeler. She had been in the process of pouring two drinks when he walked in her office doors, not the least bit surprised at his sudden appearance. He had yet to catch her off guard, if such a thing was possible. She was Lady Luck after all.
"You bloody well know they didn't," he scowled. "Whatever happened to fortune favors the bold?"
Her green eyes managed to sparkle, rather annoyingly, in the dimly lit room—specifically lit for him no doubt. No matter when he showed up, the lighting was always sparse despite the numerous light fixtures in the room. It was a gesture that he appreciated immensely, being a creature of darkness and all.
Except the darkness seemed to make her blasted green eyes stand out that much more.
She sighed. "You weren't bold Pitch, you were greedy—and you know how I feel about greed."
Oh yes, he knew. One of her favorite past times was manipulating the stock market. It was her part in the Crash of 1929 that peaked his interest in meeting her—so much fear generated from a single event.
"You could have least kept out of it after turning me down," he replied. When she opened her mouth to no doubt protest, he beat her to it. "Please, don't tell me you didn't lend the Guardians a bit of luck. All of the winter spirit's achievements practically reek of dumb luck. They wouldn't have won if it wasn't for him."
"Well, you know me, never could resist an underdog," she shrugged, dismissing his concern as if he was nothing more than a child throwing a tantrum over not getting an extra cookie.
He slammed his glass on the nearby table, not caring that the wine sloshed at the top, threatening to spill over the edges and onto the sleek cherry table and white rug beneath. Of course it didn't though, miraculously—or one might say luckily—stayed within the glass.
"And what about me? Am I not an underdog also? The Guardians dismiss me, seeing me nothing as more than a leftover from a bygone era that should have disappeared with the invention of electricity. Just like they dismiss you too, I might add. If anything, we should be on the side!"
She took a sip from her glass, not the least bit intimidated by his outburst or withering look he sent her way. A look that would even have the Guardians quaking in fear.
"I'm well aware of how the Guardians view us. Do you know how many times I've had North show up, ranting about some of the letters he receives from kids about how their families seem to have a streak of rotten luck and couldn't I just send some their way, for the good of the children? Or the Bunny showing up and telling me if I had any sense of decency I'd be using my powers for the good of all mankind rather than using them for profit?
"They both completely overlook the fact that if it wasn't for bad luck, nobody would appreciate the good luck I throw their way. And yes, sometimes that means people get hurt and potentially children, but that's life. If everybody was lucky all of the time, the Wheel would be thrown out of whack and everybody would suffer. Idiots, the lot of them."
Pitch was pleased to see she hadn't gotten completely soft on him, but that still didn't explain why she choose to favor them and the winter spirit over him. "And me?" he asked, this time in a much softer tone.
"An idiot as well." Pitch raised an eyebrow at that comment and felt his previously subdued anger rise back up. "Like them, you're stuck in the past. Pitch Black, the Boogeyman, Protector of Children and Guardian of Fear. You're the one who kept them from venturing out into the unknown in the days of old away from the safety of their family and village, when wild animals were liable to hunt them down for a midnight snack or some other danger could befall them—like falling into a frozen pond."
He smirked at the line, no doubt her intention, while she continued.
"You're the reason humans have stuck around this long and the Guardians even have children to protect. Something the Guardians seem to have forgotten over the years."
She put her glass down next to his, and walked over to her desk, beckoning him to join her with a crook of her finger. "But that was the past and things have changed greatly since then. Like I told you when you first showed up requesting my help, you were focusing on the wrong thing. Instead of scaring children, you should be focused on scaring adults."
A large stack of papers was thrust in his direction, and on closer inspection he could see that they were blueprints. At the top was the line, 'The Nightmare Palace', and flipping through the pages revealed a floor plan for a building with multiple rooms, along with pages for electricity, plumbing, heating and air, and other mundane details that went into designing a building up to code.
"What is this?"
"You like? You can change the name if you want, and make changes to the floor plan. One of my neighbors just went through a messy divorce and needs to make some quick money. I gave him a rather nice offer, and barring any unfortunate issues," she said with a slight smirk, "it should be opened by Halloween."
"That still doesn't explain what it is," frowned Pitch, thumbing through the plans once more. Yes, she had mentioned having a plan of her own for him earlier, but he had quickly dismissed it because it was unrelated to his own and didn't involve getting revenge on the Guardians and therefore wasn't worth his time.
"Pitch, it's the twenty-first century, get with the times. Do you have any idea how many people willingly pay money to visit haunted houses that pop-up every fall or go on ghost tours to get scared? Imagine how much they'll pay for a year round attraction that's guaranteed to scare them or their money back. Or better yet, how much they'll pay for an experience that's tailored made for them specifically. Don't you see? No more hiding under the beds of children. People will come here willingly and pay you to scare them and give them nightmares."
His fingers found a folder hidden underneath the blueprints. A brief scan of the contents revealed an identity already made up and ready to go in the event he said yes. She really had thought of everything.
It was an intriguing idea. So much of his existence had involved being unwanted, unloved, and unappreciated. By children, by their parents, by those blasted Guardians. Maybe Lady Luck had a point, he had been too absorbed in living in the past and reliving his golden days. Here she was a spirit just like him and the others, but actually able to live among humans, not subject to the waxing and waning beliefs of children.
Her people may not have believed in Lady Luck, but they did believe in Felicia Wheeler and the Lucky Penny Hotel and Casino, including any and all oddities found inside. That was why he could walk in the front door and actually be seen by the human employees. Sure, he could have simply used his network of shadows to appear in her dimly lit office, but that was a bit rude on his part, and after losing so many believers after the events in Burgess it was nice to be acknowledged—even if it was by adults.
Now she was offering him a chance to do the same—to come out of the shadows and live among humans as well. A chance for his talents to revered and beloved. Why have children fear you when you could have adults love you? All children grew up eventually, that was a sad fact the Guardians knew well. But adults kept growing and growing, especially in this day and age. Their childhood was a fraction of their total lifespan. And he could have all of that compared to the brief time the Guardians got with them.
Even better, the Guardians couldn't stop him. He'd be going legit, being paid to scare people. He couldn't wait to see the look on their faces when they discovered what he was up to and the fact there was nothing they could do to stop him. No evil plan to thwart, no children in danger to save. Nothing more than Pitch Black providing a service that humans actually wanted, and as long as he never crossed the line and physically hurt the humans, he wasn't doing anything wrong.
And to top it off, he'd have Lady Luck in his corner, rooting him on. As much as they might have disliked her, even they weren't willing to risk her wrath. Her powers could result in a significant loss of belief—something they couldn't afford to lose.
Not like him, apparently. He had lost belief, but he somehow still existed. Maybe not as powerful, but thanks to her plan, that could change soon.
He looked up at her, her green eyes still sparkling in that annoying way, just waiting for his reaction. "I thought you didn't want any tourist traps attached to your casino."
"While I may be an investor, The Nightmare Palace won't have any affiliation with the Lucky Penny other than being a neighbor. There will be an increase in foot traffic from tourists, but it's nothing I can't handle. Is that a yes then?"
For the first time since he'd been licking his wounds from his encounter with the Guardians, a smile crossed his face. Not one full of malice, a grin or a smirk, but a true, honest to goodness genuine smile full of hope and happiness.
Oh, if the Guardians could only see him now.
"It is a must definite yes. Now, where's a pen so I can start signing what I must assume to be mountain of paperwork in order to make this official?"
"Here you go," she said, and handed him a jet-black pan that looked rather pricey. The words 'The Nightmare Palace' were printed on the side in silver cursive text. It was quite stunning, he'd have to see about getting a box and some matching business cards to send to the Guardians when the Palace was open. "It's actually more of hill than a mountain anyway. I tried to keep the paperwork as concise as possible."
Of course she did.
While he began to work through the hill, signing and reading the fine print he asked, "How did you know I'd even be coming? It must have been quite the undertaking to prepare all this."
Despite being hunched over with his eyes on paperwork, he still caught a glimpse of her rolling her eyes at him. "I've preparing them for a while, since before you came up with your latest scheme against the Guardians. As for how I knew about tonight, I used my brain. Tonight was the first new moon since you lost to them, and when you visit, it's always on new moons."
Ah, that actually did make a bit of sense. The last thing he wanted was to give Manny more information than he had to about his movements. Especially in regards to visiting Lady Luck.
"But how did you know that I'd even come? That I wasn't defeated for good?"
She took the pen out of his hand and casually tossed it aside. Sitting on the corner of the desk closest to him allowed her to get up close and personal—something the Boogeyman wasn't used to. "Because I know you. You're not the type to lose one hand and walk away from the table. You're the type that would keep on playing even if you had no more chips to gamble. And I'm the only spirit who'd be willing to offer you a few more chips to keep you going, no matter how high the odds are stacked against you."
Well, wasn't that just sickeningly sweet, right in line with the mush the Guardians were always spouting. Yet, why did it touch him so? Lady Luck was one of the few spirits who had ever given him the time of day—well, more like night—and had no qualms about associating with him, even when he was merely trying to convince or trick her into favoring him and his plans, just this one time. He certainly wouldn't say he'd go out of his way to help her if the situations were reversed, unless it somehow benefited him.
The astonishment on his face at her words must have shown, because she started to laugh. "Pitch, I have no illusions that you wouldn't do the same for me. But remember what I said earlier, about not appreciating the good luck if you didn't have some bad? Congrats, it's time for some good luck to head your way for a change."
Well about damn time. He didn't dare to say a word aloud, lest she rescind her offer. He hadn't felt this positive about an endeavor for years, and he wasn't going to let his mouth ruin it.
She tilted her head to the side, her black hair tumbling down her shoulder, watching as he picked up the pen once more to finish the paperwork. "Besides, you know how I feel about an underdog—screw favoring the bold. And Pitch Black, you are most definitely an underdog."
Underdog, eh? Well, he'd been called much worse.
With the final signature done, he placed the pen down on the desk freeing his hand to accept the glass of wine he had set down in a fit of anger earlier. This time he planned on drinking it.
"To The Nightmare Palace and the Guardians of Adulthood," she said, raising her glass as he took a second letting her words sink in.
Guardians of Adulthood? There was an idea. What a pair they were, the Guardian of Luck and the Guardian of Fear. Who else could they get to join their motley crew and what would the Guardians think? Actually was she even being serious or had he noted a hint of sarcasm in her tone?
No matter. He clinked his glass against hers. "To The Nightmare Palace, and the Guardians of Adulthood."
Serious or not, the mention of being a Guardian again—any guardian—had sparked something inside of him that he didn't know was there.
The Guardians could keep their children and Man in the Moon. He was now Pitch Black, Underdog and Guardian of Adulthood, with Lady Luck herself on his side.
As he took a drink of wine from his glass he noticed that her green eyes were sparkling brightly once more in the dark room.
For once, he didn't mind at all.
This has been an idea that's been floating in my head for a while. Given Pitch's talent talent and delight in scaring I always kind of wondered why he didn't focus his efforts on teenagers and adults that enjoy being scared. I came up with the idea he was so focused in the past and on scaring children and fighting the Guardians, it never occurred to him to see what was going on in the present, and how his powers would be appreciated by an older audience. Enter Lady Luck, an OC that popped into my head a while ago.
As explained, she's a bit different than the Guardians. Her existence isn't dependent on children believing in her. Adults can see her because they believe in her human identity as Felicia Wheeler, owner of the Lucky Penny, not as Lady Luck- though a few patrons might consider her a good luck charm when she joins them on the floor. Her employees may realize on some level there's something odd about her, but don't comment about it. Because they believe in her while realizing there's something odd, they're more open to the idea of Pitch and believing in him as well. Hope that makes as much sense as it does in my head.
Also, while there is no Lucky Penny Hotel and Casino in Vegas, there is a Lady Luck Casino.
Thanks for reading, and if possible please leave a review.