Long time, no see, huh guys?
Whoops... it's been over a month. Heh. *scratches neck awkwardly* Well, ya know, writers block and exams and... laziness?
So, so sorry. Well, now I have the whole thing planned out, so that's good! I have everything planned, all I have to do is write it!
Thank you to everyone who continued to support the story even though the little break it went through. Don't worry, it's back now!
Thanks to Stormgirl415 for her idea - I really enjoyed talking with you; you gave me so many good ideas!
Special thanks to Sushi, as always, for being with me the whole way! ^_^
Love you guys, and new chapter should be up soon! I know there are a lot of new characters, but there are only *counts* FOUR LEFT! I think... yeah, three or four! And I think you'll like them!
Hope you guys like, and don't forget to leave a review!
This time he can see – it's early afternoon when the battle starts. In some ways, this is good. He can see opponents, can tell friend from foe, and can defend himself.
On the other hand, it means he can see the fallen around him. Can see the blood staining the grass. Can see the men he'd befriended on the ground, their lives sucked from them.
He hears the man before he sees him, and thrusts his sword up to catch the blade about to descend on his head. Twist, turn, lock, pull down hard. He follows these movements mechanically, the blade of the enemy falling to the ground and his own blade sinking into the man's body, killing him before he can do any more damage.
It's a process he's been through more times than he can count.
There's another man on his right – this ones a bit harder. The man knows how to use a sword, and uses it well.
But he's better.
The man isn't a very pretty sight once he's finished.
"Do they know?"
Pitch's voice drowns out the sounds of battle.
He freezes, and lunges towards the voice.
Instead all he finds is darkness. His sword is swallowed by it, and his hand is coated in black sand. He yanks his hand away – the sword is consumed by the sand.
He steps backwards, and hits a wall.
"Do they know?" Pitch asks again, this time harsher.
"Do they?" It's louder.
"Do they?" Louder.
"Do they?" Almost a yell.
He covers his ears with his hands, crouching down in an attempt to make it go away.
"DO THEY?" It's practically deafening. He opens his mouth, and screams.
"Whoa there, a simple 'would you please be quiet' would have done just nicely."
Green eyes shoot open to see a beamed ceiling. Sunlight is pouring in through the window. Cool sheets under his hands, a pillow beneath his head.
No darkness. No battle. No voices.
Callen sits up, wincing at the headache he has. It throbs from the Friends he's received while asleep, and he holds a hand to his forehead in an attempt to dull the pain. It helps a bit, even though there are bears and monkeys and other creatures poking at his mind. "What?" His voice is tired and groggy. How long had he slept?
"Wanted to know if you wanted to come down for breakfast."
He looks up to see Rhas in the doorway, leaning against the wood. The elf's in the same clothes from last night, but his hair's down and he's regarding Callen with a raised eyebrow.
"Huh? Oh, yeah, thanks." He mutters, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. He sorts through the Friends, and sends them on their way. The creatures appear before him, before curling into the same green light and shooting off to their kids. Eventually the headache ebbs away, and he sighs in relief as the pain dissipates. It'll return eventually, he knows, but for now he's free.
Rhas watches his hand flick back and forth, creating the Friends. "Impressive." He mutters as a small pony gallops out the window to one lonely little girl in the States.
Callen smiles softly. "Thanks." He replies as he puts his hand down, and looks at the elf expectantly. Just how long had he been standing in that doorway, watching him through the nightmare?
"Gonna tell me what that nightmare was about?" Rhas asks, shifting his weight onto his other foot.
Apparently he'd been there long enough.
"No." Callen says, voice final.
To his surprise, Rhas nods. "Expected as much," the elf explains, before jerking a thumb towards the hallway leading to the other rooms of the tavern. "There's coffee downstairs – North and Sandy are already up." The elf leaves, his footsteps echoing down the wooden steps.
Callen stands, wincing as his joints crack. His feet are sore from the dancing last night, and his throat feels scratched from the cheering he'd done to the beat. And there's a stinging, needle-like pain across his chest. He lifts his t-shirt to look at where he'd been hit last night.
He frowns at what he sees. A red slash, clean and already healing. Like he'd been whipped by something.
He moves to touch the mark, and the needle feeling intensifies, acting against the magic he had as a Guardian. Huh, so the wound was done by magic, if he takes a guess. Not Pitch, considering the Nightmare King had spoken to someone else. A sorcerer, possibly.
If Pitch had a sorcerer, than even with the elves and Unseelie Court they're unmatched. And it depends on what kind of sorcerer he'd picked. The old ones would've taken some convincing to fight for his cause, but a young and wild one looking for a cause... It would've been too easy.
Callen runs a hand through his brown hair. More work needed to be done, pronto. More allies gathered, unfortunately. They may be several allies strong, but he isn't sure of Pitch. His warning last night had hinted he had many more on his side.
His feet take him out into the cramped hallway, where he can see the room that North had been in is open with the bed made. The stairs are old and worn, but sturdy. Still, he grips the carved railing tightly as he walks down.
He ends up in the main area of the tavern, brighter now that it's day time. The chairs are being pulled down from where they had been stacked on the tables, the floors cleaned up and the tables wiped down by some of the elves he'd seen last night.
A group of mortal tourists are stumbling out the door, still singing rowdily about a wedding and someone named Marie. Callen snorts at the song, hearing them mix up the verses and the words. They got the chorus right, and he commends them for that. He walks towards the bar where North and Sandy are sitting, each with a mug in his hand.
Sandy sees him and chimes a greeting before taking a sip of his large mug of coffee.
North turns. "Ah, Callen! Rough night, eh?" He chuckles a bit. His hat and coat are on the bar stool next to him. "I do not remember most."
Callen gives a small smile. "It was definitely interestin'." He replies, sitting down and drinking his own cup of coffee. He sighs as it warms his insides and takes the edge off of his tiredness. It tastes a bit off, but he knows from past experiences that it's the elves' hangover potion that they give to the mortals the day after. With great booze comes great hangovers.
North chuckles again before dumping another spoon full of sugar into his drink. "Tooth, Jack and Bunny are not yet up. We should expect them soon."
Callen nods, and almost spills his coffee as he hears a loud thunk from the stairwell.
"Ow, bloody hell!"
"Bunny's up." Callen announces.
North stands, chuckling as Bunny wobbles over, clutching his head. "Ah, Aster! How was your night?"
"Aside from feeling like I got hit ova the head with a hammer and not remembering anything?" Bunny snaps, collapsing into the seat next to Callen. The barkeep slides him coffee.
"Yes, aside from that." North responds, face jovial.
The Pooka glares at him. "Well I don't know, maybe I'll tell ya when I remember!" Bunny hisses, gulping the drink down.
"Ya 'ad several pints, danced with a few very pretty elfin girls and then danced the night away with Ol' Saint Nick over 'ere." Callen says flatly, jerking a thumb towards North.
Bunny and North look at each other with identical faces of pure horror. Callen snorts a bit, spitting coffee back into the mug at the action.
"Uh, we didn't-" Bunny asks.
"We did not do more-" North adds.
"Did we, mate?"
Callen looks at them, one eyebrow raised to lead them on. "I don't know, ask Sandy. He's the one who was watchin'."
The two older Guardians look at the little golden man expectantly.
Sandy seems to take great joy in finishing his coffee, a painstakingly long process, before looking at Bunny and North and shaking his head no.
They both sigh in relief, and Callen smirks into his coffee mug.
"That was not proper Tooth Fairy behavior." Tooth declares as she flutters down tiredly, Baby Tooth chittering at her shoulder.
"Mornin', Tooth." Callen greets, gesturing to the seat next to him. Rhas comes out from the back room with a steaming cup of golden liquid, and a new sugar bowl given North had dumped it all into his coffee.
Tooth gives him a tired smile and takes the tea that Rhas offers her. "Good morning!" She looks at Baby Tooth. "120 Axis Lane, North Carolina, canine!"
Baby Tooth chirps before flying off, a minifairy on a mission for her mistress.
Tooth spins in a circle as she sips the tea, her energy coming back quickly. "Oh, last night was fantastic! Can we come back again?"
Rhas grins at her. "Come back any time you like, little lady." He picks up one of the tankards from last night and starts to wash it.
Callen looks at Rhas. "Thanks. We'll be leavin' soon as Frostbite gets up."
There's a crash upstairs, causing all of them to look up simultaneously.
Callen looks up at the ceiling. "And 'e's up."
Jack walks down the stairs, misses the last step and stumbles forward, clutching his head. His staff is dangling by his fingertips. "What happened last night?"
Rhas slides him a mug of coffee. "Here." He suggests as Jack sits down, resting his elbow on the bar and putting his head in his hand.
Jack looks at it warily. "That doesn't have any booze in it, does it?"
"Nothing aside from coffee and a hangover elixir."
Jack takes a sip, winces at the taste but continues to sip.
Callen stares at him, eyes analyzing the frost spirit's every action. Given how drunk he was last night, there's a big possibility that he doesn't remember his little drunken kiss. But there's a slim chance that he will remember. "What do ya remember?"
Jack frowns. "Honestly? Not much." He shakes his head. "Having a sip, having multiple sips, and that's pretty much it."
Callen sighs a bit in relief. So he didn't remember the dancing, or the flirting, or the kiss. That was….good, he guesses, if a little disappointing. But it also means that he can pretend the whole thing never happened, if he wanted to. "Okay."
"Should I be remembering something?" Jack asks, raising an eyebrow as he looks at Callen.
Callen shakes his head. "Nah, just checkin'." His face turns solemn as he looks at North. "Pitch was 'ere."
Bunny immediately puts his coffee down, the brown liquid splashing onto the bar with the force. "What?" He demands, ears twitching irritably.
North looks at Callen. "When?"
"What did the bastard say?" Bunny snaps, grip on the coffee mug making the clay crack.
"It was a warnin'." Callen explains, running a hand through his hair nervously. "That 'e's more powerful than we think. 'e's got a sorcerer now, too."
"Bloody hell." Bunny mutters, glaring into his mug. "North, can ya get some more spirits on board?"
"I will try to gather forces."
Callen rests his elbow on the counter, and rests his forehead on his hand. "Pitch doesn' know that we've got the Unseelie Court, but that doesn' mean that 'e won't try other creatures."
"Oh, there're more?" Bunny throws his paws up. "Between the elves an' the faeries an' sorcerers, 'ow many more are there?"
"Says the Pooka." Callen deadpans. "An' I'm just sayin' we should put as many eggs in different baskets as we can."
"I'm gettin' sick of bein' dragged around!"
"Then why don't'cha go recruit other spirits then?" Callen glares at him. "I'm sure the groundhog would be 'appy t' 'elp."
Bunny shudders. "Ya know what, nevermind. Faeries are fine."
Callen massages his temple. "There's someone we can get, but I'm not sure 'e'll be willin' t' 'elp us."
"Then what the point of goin' to him?" Bunny demands.
"Because if we get 'im, then we've got a valuable ally."
"We're burnin' time, mate."
"So is Pitch."
"But any moment he might-"
"Aster." North puts a hand on Bunnymund's shoulder. "Do not worry. He did not attack last night. Is good sign."
Bunny grumbles, but nods. "Where do we find this mysterious person?"
Callen looks up at Rhas. "Got any to-go cups?"
"Should be around 'ere somewhere."
"You've been sayin' that for the past half hour, mate." Bunny snarls as he hops over a rotten log. North just steps ON it, flattening the bark to the ground.
"It's a wee bit hard t' find." Callen explains as he pushes branches aside, holding them for Tooth and Jack as they come through. Sandy's short enough that he just walks beneath all of them. North decides to slice through the branches.
There's a small clearing, and they step out into it. The grass is damp from the rain that northern New York had just had, and Jack freezes a few of the dew drops, making them sparkle in the sun.
There's a couple large rocks to the side, but other than that it looks like a regular clearing.
Callen looks around. This clearing's familiar, and has a sense of magic. A sense he recognizes easily. "This is it."
Jack frowns, flying forward. "This is what?" He demands, looking around. "All I see is an empty clearing, there's nothing h-"
He runs smack dab into something invisible. "Ow!" He pulls back, rubbing his nose. He frowns, putting his staff out. The wood hits something hard with a dull clack, and he aims a bit higher. The same sound. Frost curls around something invisible before dissolving.
Callen beams. "Ah ha!"
Jack pulls back. "Uh, what?"
Callen walks next to him, and puts his hand out. It hits a rocky surface, bumpy and cool. He curls his fingers to fit around the rock. "It's here."
"What's here?" Tooth asks, flying up to them.
Callen opens his mouth to answer when a booming voice echoes through the clearing.
"WHO DARES TO CROSS MY TOWER?"
The voice knocks Bunny back on his tail, and makes North wobble on his feet a bit from the sheer volume of it. Callen clings to the surface in front of him to prevent from falling over.
He grins a bit. "Nice doorbell."
"It isn't a doorbell!" The voice is quieter now, but a bit more annoyed. There's a slight New York-er accent to it.
"Long time no see, mate." Callen tells the invisible wall.
"And I'd prefer to keep it that way, thank you." The voice replies.
"Aw, come on! We're in a spot o' trouble, Ri. Need yer help."
"That what you said last time."
"Last time wasn't that bad."
"I call being caught on fire very very very bad."
"That was yer own fault."
Callen rolls his eyes, making Jack snort and Tooth giggle. "Come on, Ri. Open up."
"What's the magic word?"
"Nope, changed it."
"Riley." Callen says sternly.
"Gotta say it, Call."
"Please open up. I've got company."
"And that makes a difference?"
Callen huffs, before kicking in front of him. His boot hits something hard.
"Hey, no kicking my tower!"
"Then open the damn door!"
"Fine, fine. Someone's in a mood."
What was once empty air shimmers, revealing an old stone tower with a turreted roof and vines climbing up the gray stone. There's a creaking sound, and a door next to Tooth opens.
"Wipe your feet!" The voice calls, this time from inside.
Callen gestures to Tooth. "Lasses first."
She flies in, but stops in awe.
Jack flies after her. "What are you – whoa."
A staircase winding the whole height of the tower stands before them, wrapping around the inner walls in a spiral. It looks like it goes on for ages, up until it hits the roof.
Callen pushes past them and kicks the bottom stair. Immediately the staircase starts moving upwards, like an escalator. He hops on, North and Bunny close behind. Tooth, Jack and Sandy follow them up through the air.
As they head closer to the top, the scent of wood and leather and ink is almost overwhelming. There's the sound of pages rattling, and fire crackling and things bubbling above them.
Callen steps off first as the others look around.
The top room of the tower is circular, and humongous. They step onto warm wooden floors, covered by either a carpet or piles of books. Tapestries line the walls, telling stories of times past. A fire roars on one side of the room, pots and pans and cauldrons and things brewing in the heat. The other walls are covered in books. Books in every language imaginable, every color binding and on every subject ever thought of. It's even more extensive than North's library. Ladders span the shelves, allowing someone to climb up and grab the books.
Callen looks around for the owner of the books. He searches for a brunet head attached to a lanky body, and frowns when he doesn't see it. "RILEY!" He calls.
There's a huge crash of books falling to the floor, and they all wince at the loud noise followed by a high-pitched yelp. Dust flies up as books fall to the floor in a pile.
Tooth flutters over to the pile of books. "Are you all right?" She asks, spying a pair of legs coming out from beneath the pile.
"I will be as soon as I get these books off." The person says flatly, and an arm emerges from the pile of books. "Little help?"
Callen walks over, and takes the hand, tugging the person out of the pile.
The arm belongs to a lanky brunet with glasses and brown eyes, dressed in a gray vintage t-shirt and ripped jeans. He steps up out of the books, shaking one off of his leg as he stumbles out of the pile. He adjusts the spectacles on his nose. "I told you not to yell when I'm on the ladder!" He snaps at the Irishman.
Callen smiles sheepishly. "Sorry, Ri." He looks at the Guardians. "This is Riley. Riley, the Guardians."
Riley blinks. "THE Guardians?"
"THE Guardians." Callen explains. "Meet Bunnymund, Nicholas Saint North, Queen Toothiana, the Sandman, and Jack Frost."
Riley gives a short, awkward bow. "Pleasure."
"And you're a sorcerer?" Bunny asks skeptically, looking the brunette up and down.
Riley shrugs. "Yeah, what were you expecting?"
Sandy produces images of pointed hats, robes, wands, and several other items associated with sorcerers and wizards.
Riley snorts. "You try working near a fire for seven hours a day in heavy robes and you tell me how you feel." He gestures towards the fire where the pots are bubbling. "That's where I spend most of my time."
Bunny huffs indigenously. "I was expectin' ya ta be older." He looks the brunet up and down - he couldn't have been more than 25, maybe 26.
"Not all sorcerers have beards and pointy hats and wrinkles." Riley snips defensively. "And I do have a wand, don't use it very often, but I use it. It's just…." Riley blinks, looking around at the mounds of stuff surrounding him. "Um…." He lifts a book up.
"Here." Callen plucks the wooden stick from Riley's back pocket and offers it to him exasperatedly.
"Oh, yeah!" Riley exclaims, taking it from him with a grin.
Jack snorts while Callen rolls his eyes. "I swear ya lose yer wand more often than ya try t' find yer glasses when they're on yer head." The Irishman says.
"It was only a few times. And I don't think you're here to insult me, are you?"
Callen shakes his head, looking to the other Guardians to explain.
"Pitch has returned." North says.
"Pitch?" Riley asks, tilting his head to the side. His brow furrows in confusion.
"Boogeyman." Callen explains, flicking through a book a few feet away.
"… what's that?"
"He gives nightmares." Callen looks up at Riley.
"Still don't get it."
"Bad guy who wants t' kill all o' us an' cover the world in darkness."
Callen snorts before turning back to the group. "Riley's the only sorcerer I know of who'd be willin' t' 'elp us."
"Hey, who said I'd be helping you?" Riley demands, glaring at the Irishman.
"I did." Callen puts his hands in his pockets. "Please?"
"NOW you say it. And what exactly am I helping you with?"
"Fighting Pitch." Tooth explains, hovering near Riley. "We're gathering as many allies as we can in order to defeat him."
"And you need a sorcerer?" He asks.
"Pitch has one already." Jack adds, tapping his staff on the ground and freezing a bowl of questionable liquid before pushing it under a table.
Riley looks at Callen. "He does?"
"Considerin' 'e shot me in the chest with some sorta lightnin' bolt thingy, I'd say yeah." Callen explains.
Riley facepalms. "You idio- ok, let me see."
"He hit you with lightning. That is not by any definition fine."
"C'mon, let me see."
"No." It comes out harsh and snapped, and the sorcerer recoils.
Callen winces. "Sorry. It's just a scratch, really."
Riley stares at him, but nods. "Yeah, sure, fine, I'll help."
Tooth gives a small cheer, and hugs him. "Yay, thank you!" Then she pries his mouth open. "Oh, you have beautiful teeth!"
Riley looks sideways at Callen. "Um, Call? Why is she looking at my mouth?"
"Tooth." North chastises. "Fingers out of mouth."
"Sorry!" Tooth exclaims, letting go of Riley's mouth and backing away.
Callen looks at Riley. "We've got the Unseelie Court, Rhas, and you as allies."
Riley shudders. "I don't like the Court. They're dark and skinny and creepy and give me the shivers something awful. And why'd you pick the booze boys? Would've had better luck with the Staypuff Marshmallow Man."
"Because they've got numbers." Callen explains, laughing slightly as the other Guardians look at each other, not getting the reference.
"Got any other suggestions?"
Riley scratches the back of his neck, thinking. "Not any specifics, no. But the Fair might be a good place to look."
"Fair?" Tooth perks up, hovering a bit higher. "What's that?"
"A gathering with food and games and vendors." Jack explains. "Burgess has one every year."
Callen pales. "The Fair? Really?"
Riley shrugs. "Biggest gathering of magical creatures there is. Could get weapons too." He tilts his head towards Tooth. "And she seems to like the idea."
"When is it?"
"Tomorrow, if I can remember." Riley turns and flips books off of a desk until he gets to a small piece of parchment, with scribbles of dates and moon sketches. "Wait, no, today."
"Thanks." Callen looks at the other Guardians. "We're goin' t' the Fair."
"Hold up, hold up." Bunny says, hopping forward. "What the bloody hell is the Fair?"
"Scarborough Fair." Callen explains. "Used to be a mortal thing, but magical creatures took it over. Now it's a gathering place for creatures of all sorts." He doesn't tell them some of the more unorthodox actions, like the fights that come with the Fair and the dangers that come with the fun.
Bunny grumbles at the idea of more creatures. North chuckles and pats him on the back reassuringly.
Callen looks to Riley. "We'll call when we need ya."
"Can you send me a dragon?" The sorcerer asks.
"How 'bout a carrier pigeon?"
Callen snorts, and looks at North. "Snow globe?"
"I'll take a tunnel." Bunny says, tapping his foot. "Uh, where are we goin'?"
"Could've guessed that, mate." Bunny hops through the tunnel.
Callen looks at the others. "Shall we?"
"I've never been to a Fair before!" Tooth spins excitedly.
"Well, I can guarantee ya 'aven't been t' one like this before." Callen says dryly as he drops the snow globe.
They jump through and tumble out in a tent. Callen runs smack dab into a display of shields. North knocks a few from the wall, and Sandy, Jack and Tooth just wait while the Irishman and the Russian stand up.
"Hey, watch it!" The vendor exclaims, glaring at them. He points to the shields that fell from the wall, and North quickly hangs them back up on the wall.
"Our apologies." Callen mutters as they exit the tent.
His eyes widen as he sees the ocean of people and creatures before them.
"How're we going to find Bunny in this?" Jack asks, hovering a bit above the crowd. He remembers a similar crowd when he delivered snow on New Years Eve to New York. It looks like Times Square
"That's a very good question." Callen replies. "And I have no fuckin' clue."
There are several creatures with ears, almost long enough to be Bunny's. He can already feel himself panicking.
Bunny, in a sea of magical creatures with his boomerangs and short temper.
"Well, this is gonna be fun."
Hope you liked, and don't forget to leave a review! Don't worry, I won't leave you hanging for long ^_^