Jack flew across the surface of the snow. It felt great to be out of the Pole for a while. The other Guardians had been overly protective of him ever since that horrid sickness. But today he was happy to skim the surface of the snow covered cliffs and glaciers, barely 12 inches from the ground.
"Hold up Frostbite! Not everyone can fly; some of us have to use these things called legs." Bunnymund shouted from somewhere far behind him. Jack pulled up and hovered above the snow, gripping his staff he looked back and saw the small figures that were the Guardians. North trudged through the snow, creating a large path in his wake which quickly caved in behind him. Tooth and Sandy flew above the snow, both wrapped in thick winter coats. Bunnymund was attempting to spring through the snow, but was making very slow progress as he didn't like snow very much and kept having to shake himself. The Guardianshad decided to join Jack on a "mission of exploration" as the winter spirit had dubbed it, of the land surrounding the North Pole. Jack found it very amusing that Bunnymund had only agreed to join them after getting glares from both Tooth and North.
It hadn't been easy getting to where they were. Jack, Sandy and Tooth had been able to fly, but North had used the sleigh since there was a rather large chasm between where they were now and the Pole, the sleigh had been left closer to the Pole while North continued on foot. Bunnymund had refused to go anywhere near the sleigh so he had taken his tunnels.
Everything was perfect as far as Jack was concerned. It was cold, snow covered everything, freedom was his! Jack waited impatiently while the others caught up.
"Why are we doing this again?" Bunnymund asked as he shook the snow off his fur.
"You didn't have to come Kangaroo, you had a choice you know."
"Others said differently." The Easter Bunny scowled at North and Tooth.
"It is a family outing, everyone had to come," North stated in defence. Jack laughed.
"Come on Kangaroo, it's not that bad. Everything's perfect!" The last part came out as a shout as young spirit shot into the sky. He closed his eyes and let the feel of the freezing wind through his hair fill his body. He soared through the clouds, the shouts of the Guardians having disappeared long ago. Nothing could ruin this moment, nothing at all.
But then that moment ended.
"Having fun are we Jack"
Jack's eyes flew open and he stopped so fast he almost did a front-flip. 'No, it can't be. I thought we were finished with him' Jack thought as he spun to face the offending speaker. His face blanched as he now stood face to face with Pitch Black, the Nightmare King.
The clouds around him were slowly turning black as Pitch's nightmare-sand leeched into them.
"What do you want Pitch?" Jack spat with a surprising amount of confidence.
"Now, now Jack. Is that any way to greet me after so long?" Pitch was striding forward, supported by his cloud of black sand. Jack scowled. Pitch sighed.
"Very well Jack, I'll get to the point then. I have come here to make you an offer." Jack's reply was instantaneous.
"I don't want it."
"Don't be so hasty Jack; you don't even know what I'm going to give you yet."
"I don't care what it is; I don't want anything you have to offer."
Pitch advanced further. Jack tried to back off, only to find his way barred by a wall of darkness.
"Let me go."
"Not yet Jack, listen to me first. I am offering you the chance to join me. With you by my side we could conquer the world."
"Forget it Pitch, it's never happening." Jack scowled harder, trying to kill Pitch with looks alone.
"I see you're still loyal to the Guardians, the very Guardians that rejected you. The ones who never paid attention to you. The ones who left you on your own for three hundred years. Who didn't try to find you until you became useful to them." Jack's body stiffened as he listened to Pitch. What he was saying was true, so true. He desperately tried to force the doubt from his mind.
"No. They haven't left me, North asked me to stay at the Pole. They cared for me when I was sick."
"But how do you know that they won't leave you? How do you know that they're not just letting you stay because they might need you again? They're using you Jack. If you come with me you'll be able to get them back for all the pain you've suffered. You see, we are very much alike. Parents are always telling their children that I don't exist and hardly anyone believes in you. We are both alone, rejected by children and Guardians alike." Pitch slowly circled Jack, coming closer with each round, closing in for the kill. He came from behind, leaning in and whispering right in Jack's ear.
"Join me; we will make them pay…"
The ferocity in Pitch's voice as he spat out the final words snapped Jack from his trance, he lashed out. Twisting around he wacked Pitch as hard as he could with his staff, sending the Nightmare King reeling backwards while ice rapidly climbed his body until his whole right side was frozen solid. Jack stood in shock, not understanding what had just happened. Pitch had sucked him in, twisting lies and truth into one and feeding the resulting nightmare into his mind.
"I see you've made your choice, very well," Pitch hissed as he tried to move his frozen half. "Fearlings! Kill him!"
"Where do you think Jack is?" Tooth asked, it had been almost seven minutes since Jack had shot into the clouds and disappeared and the Guardians were starting to worry.
"Little bugger's probably forgotten about us. He's completely at home up there; he could be up there for hours. Since he's probably not coming down soon, can we go?" Bunnymund looked at the others, shaking slightly as he did so.
"No Bunny, we have to stay. What would Jack think if he came back and no one was here?" Tooth crossed here arms as she spoke. "That wouldn't be nice at all, is it just me or are those clouds turning black?"
The sudden change of subject caught the others off guard for a moment before they whirled around and saw that the clouds above a large hill to the south were indeed turning black, as though ink was being poured over them.
"This can't be good," Bunnymund stated before launching himself in the direction of the growing black cloud.
Jack turned and fled. He put everything he had into a vertical dive that had him streaking out of the clouds and rocketing towards the ground. He could hear the sounds of the fearlings behind him, feel tendrils of nightmare-sand clawing at his legs and could sense the terror in the air. Pitch was trying to pull his mind into a nightmare.
He did a quick search of the ground while he could. Nothing, nothing, there! The Guardians were closing in.
"North!" Jack yelled at the top of his lungs. Dodging a whip of darkness he turned sharply and made straight for the Guardians. North took the full force of Jack's terror as the frightened spirit slammed head on into him, knocking him backwards. Hauling himself to his feet North took one look at Jack, wide-eyed and skittish, and vowed that Pitch would pay.
The Guardians stood together near the summit as a wall of fearlings raced towards them. Battle stances were taken, weapons drawn; Jack had even managed to overcome some of his fear now that the Guardians were near and he gripped his staff and floated over North's right shoulder. But the fearlings didn't attack; instead they stopped and parted to reveal Pitch Black, half his body still frozen.
"Leave Pitch. You've done enough damage as it is," North called as Pitch landed further up the hill.
"My fight is no longer with you old man, hand me Jack Frost!" At this Jack fidgeted and clung to his staff.
"You must be off your rocker if you think we'll just hand him over to you, you loony git!" Bunnymund cried with his boomerangs poised, ready to be released at a moment's notice. Pitch's face darkened further and he seemed to be sucking the darkness towards himself.
"Then you will find that my powers go beyond that of just nightmares. I know everybody's weaknesses. But I also know how to make people weak, physically and mentally. If Jack wants to be forever a child, then so be it!"
With that he flung his arm out and shot a beam of midnight black power at Jack. None of the Guardians were able to react in time, the blast hit Jack square in the chest and sent him flying backwards to smack into the ground 50 metres away.
"You bastard!" Bunnymund roared, sending both his boomerangs straight at Pitch, but the Nightmare King disappeared into dust before they made contact.
"Jack!" Tooth cried, speeding towards her fallen friend. But she pulled up just before she got to him and pulled her hands to her mouth in an obvious look of shock. The others followed as fast as they could, but a noise reached them before they got there.
"Owwwww…" That voice was far too young to be Jack. Stunned, the remaining Guardians moved forward to see what Tooth had already seen. What they saw stunned them. Sitting in the snow staring back at them was a small child, no older than six, with bright blue eyes and snow white hair.
Before them sat Jack Frost.