Scenes From the Life and Death of Jackson Overland Frost
Part 14: TimeKeeper
by K. Stonham
first released 10th July, 2013
It had been six years since Jamie had stood in the middle of a battle of immortals, and he was realizing now what he'd been too young to fully realize then: he was mortal and could die here so, so easily.
But he couldn't let that stop him. The spirit of winter was his brother, and Jamie didn't know who the old guy in the dusty brown robes was, but he was yelling about putting the seasons in their proper place.
There was no world in which Jamie could take that as a good sign.
A year and a half of parkour training helped Jamie dodge and duck along with Jack and Bunny, but he didn't have any boomerangs, couldn't fire off any ice blasts, had nothing to throw except for the contents of his bookbag, and he doubted that pens and paper would be of much use here.
He was useless, except for being a third target to draw off some of the old spirit's shots. And every one that Jamie could duck was one less aimed at Jack or Bunny, one more opportunity for them to get the drop on the guy...
And as Jack spun to bat off/freeze a tendril of dingy gray sand, the old guy pulled something from inside his robes and threw it hard, unerringly at Jack's back.
Whatever it was, Jamie knew, it was bad news. And Jack didn't see it. And Bunny didn't see it.
But Jamie did.
He threw himself in the way, guarding his brother's back, and managed to snatch the object out of the air.
The world went white.
Jamie landed with a crump in a heap of snow.
Shaking his head, he scrambled upright, only to pause and stare warily around himself.
He was in the middle of a forest. No Jack. No Bunny. No spirit psycho in brown robes. It was, in fact, eerily quiet.
Jamie did a full 360, examining his surroundings. He was nowhere he recognized, and if there were any signs of civilization, they were beyond his sight or hearing.
There were also no tracks in the snow, which was significantly deeper than it had been at home, and it was cold.
Don't panic, he thought. Jack had taken him winter camping often enough that he was pretty sure he could survive being in the middle of nowhere in the snow for a while. Even if all he had on him was his bookbag, with its half roll of wintergreen Lifesavers his only food. First, warmth. Jamie zipped up his jacket and snapped the placket closed. He fished his gloves out of the bag's outer pocket, and his scarf too, wrapping it around his throat. Fortunately, his hat had come with him, wherever he was. Jack will finish dealing with the psycho, and then he'll come looking for you. And if you're panicking, he's going to laugh.
Jamie looked down at the snow, to judge its depth and how hard it was going to be to plow a path, and paused. Something gleamed by his feet. He knelt down, picked it up, dusted it off.
It was the object the guy had thrown at Jack.
It was an hourglass.
Jamie swallowed, his heart sinking as the implications sank into his brain. "That guy better not have been Father Time," he whispered, trying not to think of the gray sand whips that had looked nothing like the Sandman's. Trying not to think about what the implications of having caught one of Time's hourglasses would be.
He closed his eyes, sucked in a deep breath. He'd faced down the Boogeyman. This? This was nothing. "Jack will find me," Jamie told himself firmly. "I just have to keep it together until then. First, shelter." He tucked the little hourglass into a pocket and looked up at the sky. It was totally overcast; he couldn't tell if it was morning, midday, or afternoon. "I'll pretend this is south," he said, and picked a direction at random, breaking his way through the snow.
Half an hour later, or maybe more (when he got back home, Jamie was going to glue his watch to his wrist and never take it off again), he'd reached thinner snow under thicker trees, and was making better time, when he suddenly came face-to-face with a man bearing a musket.
Jamie froze. "Ahh..." he said warily, staring at the man who, to his credit, seemed as startled as Jamie himself.
The man blinked at him, then shouldered the weapon. He broke out in a broad grin. "Well met, young sir! I had thought myself alone in the woods this day. Pray tell, do you come from Brewster's Town?"
"Um." Jamie blinked, mind flickering rapidly. No one carried muskets anymore. The man's clothes, worn and humble, looked like they were something out of an old painting. And his speech was odd, old-fashioned.
One of the main streets in Burgess was Brewsterton Way.
Jamie wasn't liking the conclusion his brain was giving him. I think the hourglass sent me to the past...
"I'm from B...oston," Jamie said, naming a city far enough away that it was likely a colonial might not've been there. (A colonial? When was he? Was Jack born yet? Or reborn? Oh fuck, how was Jamie going to screw up the timeline by talking to this guy?) He swallowed. "Can you tell me where I am, sir?"
The man looked taken aback. "Pennsylvania, young sir. Not far from the village of Burgess. Travelling, are you?" He looked around. "Alone, in this weather?" His face took on an expression Jamie couldn't quite parse - incredulous, maybe.
"Um, not exactly." Jamie looked around, hoping for inspiration. None came. He bit his lip, looked back at the man. "I was... going to visit my uncle," he fibbed rapidly. "I fell asleep in the, um, in the carriage. Next thing I know, I woke up in the woods." It was a pale excuse for a lie, and his mother would have seen through it instantly.
The man, however, took it in, seemed to accept it as truth, given the way his eyes widened slightly and how he nodded. "Brigands," he said grimly. "We've had trouble with their sort the last year. Nothing but a lot of ruffians, and I'd see them all hanged before they kill another child." His expression was grim now, and he checked Jamie over carefully. "Well met indeed, young sir." He stuck his hand out. "Thomas Frost. I've a ways yet to go on my rounds, but I think it'd be best if you came with me."
Jamie bit his lip, then nodded. "Jamie... well, James Bennett," he introduced himself, taking and shaking the offered hand. "I'd be honored, sir. I was worried I'd be lost in the woods forever."
Thomas nodded, and laughed, then walked on, gesturing for Jamie to follow him, which Jamie did. "Not a woodsman, then, James?"
"No, sir. My brother's tried to teach me some of his skills, but I think I'm better suited for city life."
Thomas stepped lightly through the snow and bracken. He hardly made a sound as he walked, reminding Jamie of another person named Frost. He tried to emulate the lightness of the man's steps. "How old are you, James?"
A nod. "I thought as much. I have a boy at home your age." Thomas' shoulders hunched. "Truth told, he'd usually be accompanying me today. He's a dab hand with traps."
"My brother's taught me some traps," Jamie offered. "Maybe I can try."
Brown eyes glanced back, met his. "I wouldn't say no."
It was hours later, approaching sunset, when Jamie followed Thomas back to Burgess... or what would become Burgess. It currently wasn't too impressive to Jamie's eyes, a mere dozen or so cabins arranged around a central area. But it held promise, and he knew what it would one day become.
They'd had good luck, with nearly half the traps holding dead squirrels and one white-coated rabbit. Better luck in that the traps were all types Jamie knew, and could reset.
"I'm afraid I can't ask you to stay with my family," Thomas said apologetically as they approached the cluster of buildings. "My son's sick - the measles, we think - and he's gone from bad to worse. Phillipa didn't get it nearly so hard, and healed up first, praise God. But even she's staying with the Tanners until we know one way or another how it will go." The worry which had now and again flared up on his face was writ there large now. "He's always been so strong, we weren't expecting this."
"I've... had the measles," Jamie said, which was a lie, he hadn't, but he'd got all the standard immunizations, including MMR, years ago. "I shouldn't be able to get them again. I don't know if I'd be any help, but I could certainly try."
Part of the worry evaporated from Thomas' face, and Jamie realized the man had been trying to figure out which of his neighbors to burden with an unexpected guest. "If you're sure..."
"I am." Jamie nodded.
"Well, then, you're welcome to stay with us." They had reached the cabin door, and Thomas opened it even as he stamped his feet on the packed ground outside. "Mary!" he called within. "I've brought us a guest."
Following suit, Jamie stomped the snow and debris off his boots before entering, closing the door behind himself. He nodded courteously at the woman standing by the fire, assuming her to be Thomas' wife. "Ma'am."
Her expression morphed from surprise to shock. "Thomas, how dare you bring -"
A cough from the corner of the room caught Jamie's attention even as the woman reproved her husband for bringing a guest into a sickhouse.
The woman's words fell away from Jamie's hearing as he saw the boy laying on the bed. He felt his expression mirror hers, going from surprise to shock.
Burgess, he thought, feeling like an idiot for not putting the pieces together before. Frost.
The boy in the bed was far rosier than the face he was used to seeing, and the damp hair was brown instead of snow-white, but...
"Jack Frost," Jamie breathed, even as the boy who would become his brother gave in to a wracking coughing fit.