Jack woke up with a splitting headache. There was a ringing in his ears and his vision was blurry. He groaned and blinked several times, trying to focus, but a weird stripey pattern was superimposed over everything.
It took him a minute to realize that the pattern of stripes wasn't a trick by his messed up vision. It was actually there. He'd been stuffed inside an old chicken coop.
Groaning, he rolled onto his side and reached out weakly with one hand, trying to find a door or a latch. He'd never been so glad in his immortal life that he was little more than skin and bones. Otherwise, he wouldn't have been able to move at all.
"Hello, Jack," said an unfamiliar voice.
Jack stopped searching for a door and turned his face toward it. "Who . . . ?"
"I don't believe we've met," a shadowy figure said, moving toward him from the fuzzy blur outside of the cage.
"Huh?" Jack was feeling a little slow. His confusion did not lessen any when a huge furry goat came into view.
"I'm the Yule Goat, an old friend of your father," the goat told him.
"My father?" echoed Jack.
"Yes, good old North. I heard about how you and he finally reconciled, after several hundred years of misunderstandings," Yule Goat told him.
"Huh?" Jack repeated. His ears were still ringing, so he wasn't positive he'd heard right.
"I know all about holding a grudge against North, don't get me wrong. In fact, just last year, you and I might have been able to work together against your old man. Unfortunately, I didn't know you were his son last year, and now you've gone and made up with him, and even joined his secret club, so any chance of an alliance with you against Santa is out," sighed Yule Goat.
"North's . . . North's not my father," protested Jack weakly.
"Don't bother trying to deny it, boy. He so obviously is your father. I don't know how I didn't see it sooner."
"He's not my father. That's just a rumor Loki's been spreading to troll me," Jack said, still gathering his bearings.
"Then why is it that you look exactly like him, hmmm? And don't say you don't. I've known North a very long time. I remember what he looks like, even if I haven't seen him in a couple hundred years," said Yule Goat.
"We don't look alike. North is huge."
"And you're a shrimp, yes. I suppose you take after your mother, whoever she was, where size is concerned. Everything else is all North's. Your eyes. Your hair. Your way with the ladies."
Jack could only stare at the goat dumbfounded for several very long moments. Finally, he had to ask, "What are you talking about?"
"I take it you don't know about your father's rakish ways. Actually, that's probably for the best. It would only give you nightmares."
"Nightmares? You're working with Pitch?" asked Jack, grasping at the one thing Yule Goat said that made any sense.
"The Boogeyman? Heck no! I work alone!" shouted the Yule Goat.
"Okay . . ."
"I used to work with your father. Every year we'd deliver presents to children all over the world! North would ride on my back and I'd take him from house to house! Then populations started increasing and I realized that trying to keep it up was a folly! I suggested we retire! North said no! Then he replaced me with a sleigh and a team of eight reindeer! Nine when that upstart Rudolph showed up with his very shiny nose!"
"What does this have to do with me?" demanded Jack.
"It has everything to do with you!" shouted the Yule Goat.
"I don't see how," confessed Jack. His vision was a good deal clearer now and he could see that they were in an old barn. The chicken coop that he was in was locked shut. And snatches of memories were starting to return to him.
He'd been flying to answer North's summons. There'd been that aurora. He'd flown up into it, because piggybacking off of its magic seemed like the easiest, fastest way to fly from the South Pole to the North Pole. Then something had happened. The aurora had trapped him somehow. It had electrocuted him or something. He had a vague memory of falling from the sky . . . then nothing. Until he woke up here. In a chicken coop.
"Don't you see? You're the perfect leverage to use against North!" declared Yule Goat.
"No I'm not! I'm not his son!" Jack protested.
"Denying it is futile! I know the truth! North has always put the welfare of children above all else. Now, with his own child's life in danger, he'll have no choice but to meet my demands! I have already used one of my scape goats to send him the ransom note! He will come here on Christmas Eve . . . and then he shall set me on fire!"
Jack stared at Yule Goat, trying to make sense of what he'd just said. Finally, he gave up. "You want North to set you on fire?"
". . ." Jack didn't even know what to say to that.
"My mythology has changed since North replaced me! Once I was his faithful steed! I drew power and belief from the tales told about me carrying him on my back to deliver presents! But now I've been all but forgotten! People still make images of me around the holidays, yes, but then they set them on fire! And the bigger they are, the more likely they are to get burned!"
"And you're happy about this?"
"No! But the burning of these effigies now give me power! And if I myself am set on fire, that should give me even more power!" crowed the Yule Goat.
"Then why drag me into it? Why not just set yourself on fire? I don't imagine it's too hard. All you need are matches and some gasoline," said Jack.
"If all I wanted was to be set on fire, that's all I would need! But to have North, my old friend, my current enemy, set me on fire, that would allow me to steal power from him! And his power has never been greater! Even a fraction of it will make me stronger than I have ever been before!" the Yule Goat shouted.
Jack stared at him, trying to figure out what to say to this. A very large part of him was baffled. Wouldn't getting set on fire hurt the Goat? Even possibly kill it? What good was power when you were dead? But an equally large part of Jack was seriously ticked off. This was what he'd been kidnapped and shoved into a chicken coop for? Some demented goat's foolish ramblings? Not to mention, the goat was doing this to try and mess with North! That was seriously not cool in Jack's book. No one messed with North! Not while Jack Frost was around!
"It's not going to work," he told the Yule Goat.
"Oh, but it will. You're the one person in the world North will do absolutely anything for. His dear, beloved son," Yule Goat insisted.
"I'm not, but that aside, when taking me prisoner, you forgot one very important thing," said Jack, a smirk spreading across his face as he took in details about his prison that he had previously been too out of it to see. Details, like how old the wooden bars were, and how flimsy the ancient cage actually was.
"What's that?" asked the Yule Goat.
"I'm Jack Frost! I make a mess wherever I go! Why the heck did you think it would be a good idea to knock me out and drag me right to your headquarters?" asked Jack as he rolled over and repositioned himself so that he was in a better position to kick sideways.
"Who says this is my headquarters? I never said this was my headquarters!"
"The whole place smells like goat. It's a bit of a giveaway, but it doesn't matter anymore. Know why?"
"Because . . . Up yours!" shouted Jack and kicked at the wooden bars of the chicken coop. They gave way beneath the force of his kick and broke to pieces. Jack rolled out of the cage and landed gracefully on his feet.
"What?!" screamed the Yule Goat.
"I said I'm going to mess up this plan of yours!" Without his staff Jack's powers were greatly diminished, but he was not helpless. He lashed out at the Yule Goat with a wild punch that frosted its face, then darted around the goat, casting his gaze around the barn for his staff. He spied it on the far side of the barn and tried to run toward it, but the Yule Goat recovered from his punch and rammed Jack in the side. He screamed in pain and fell to the ground.
"I told North he'd get you back alive. I never said what shape you'd be in when he got you back," Yule Goat said, and stomped its hoof down on Jack's hand.
Jack screamed and tried to pull his hand away. The Yule Goat let him, but only so it could charge forward and rear up on its hind legs, trying to stomp Jack's chest or face.
"MREOUWWWW!" came an angry cat's cry.
Then the Yule Goat was screaming in pain as a nekomata landed on its head, sinking its claws into his ugly goat eyes.
Jack scooted backwards on all fours, but couldn't hold in a laugh as he watched Crazy Cat tear into Yule Goat. "Best. Cat. Ever!"
Then he heard the barn door fly open and made a mad dash for his staff without even checking to see who it was. He reached his staff and spun around, ready to take out the Yule Goat's reinforcements . . . then saw that they were actually his own reinforcements.
North, Bunny, Tooth, and Sandy had all charged in, ready for a fight, but then just stopped and stared at the sight of Yule Goat getting clawed to bits by a crazy fork-tailed cat demon.
"Move, Crazy Cat!" shouted Jack, and as soon as the cat obeyed, he sent a blast of ice right at the Yule Goat, encasing it completely.
He let out a tired, breathless laugh, then leaned heavily on his staff, taking a moment to admire his work. Yule Goat looked like it had been crystallized in the ice, which had to be the exact opposite of getting set on fire. Or maybe that was drowning in a lake. But whichever it was, Yule Goat had messed with the wrong spirit if he wanted anything to do with fire.
Jack laughed again despite his exhaustion then turned to his friends. He had the feeling it was time for some explanations.
an: The Yule Goat is an old, mostly forgotten part of the Santa myths. According to Wikipedia, the legend used to be that Santa road on the back of a goat to deliver presents. Nowadays, that's mostly forgotten, but people in the Nordic countries have a tradition of making huge goat statues around the holidays, and arsonists have a tradition of trying to burn them to the ground before Christmas.
So in this fic, Yule Goat's just kind of a psycho has-been who holds a grudge against North and thinks that if North sets him on fire it will let him steal North's power. Unfortunately for him, he picked the wrong kid to use as leverage against North.