I'm back, and so is everyone else! I'd like to thank all of you supporting this sequel by reading and reviewing, love you all 3
The shadows were still there. So was the darkness. But something had changed within the dark prison, eminating from the walls, causing a strangely...cautious motion from the shadows. Everything seemed to be pausing, waiting, pulsating slowly. Where once the shadows and nightmares darted about, they now stood still, like soldiers about to go to war. They were tame. They were under control.
They had never been more dangerous. From a dark, cavernous opening, a being swooped into the room, the shadows receeding back quickly as if burned by light, clinging to the walls as the nightmares half-dissapeared, everything keeping a distance from the man who quickly made his way to the center of the room. The only noise to be heard once he stopped was the subtle swoosh of his robe as an arm reached out, long, bony, grey fingers brushing over the centerpiece in the small, black cave.
The rock looked both ordinary and extraordinairy, jutting up from the ground jaggedly, ending in a massive, glittering point, as the bottom of the cave had been stabbed from below and the kife still stood there, the lumpy, curved edges of the stone shining as if never touched by natures elements, smooth and shining like the moon.
The blackness of the rock reminded the man with dark grey skin and pure black hair of two things: Shadows. And Black. His eyes trained on the marvel as if reading a hidden text, scanning it as if waiting for something to pop out. His eyes darted to and froe, breathing quickening as he placed his other hand on the stone, leaning into it as he slowly, slowly placed the side of his face to it, listening...listening...
He had spent 8 months. 8 long months, preparing for this day. The idea had hit him hard after being uncerimoniously thrown into this room by his fears, splayed below the stone that he now stood so eagerly near. He could remember it clearly, as if it were yesterday: Falling, the nightmares and fears suddenly springing back as if cut, as if...afraid. Of this stone, yes. Afraid of it, but why?
And then he had looked closer, and upon further inspection, had found two names carved into the very top of the stone. Pitch. Black. His eyes had widened as he felt a power surge within him upon first touching the stone, the blood in his veins growing white-hot but not painful, not painful at all...no, in fact it quite excited him, enthralled him as he stumbled back from it, looking at his palms and seeing nothing new, but feeling, feeling powerful.
The nightmares that had once haunted him now feared him, quivering in his gaze and directly following any and all commands. He was powerful. He could feel it. The fears he raised were like nothing he'd ever made before, pure evil, nothing even showing a thread of joy, happiness, hope. Pure, unadulterated fear.
An an idea twisted into his mind, wrapping itself slowly around and whispering details into his mind's ear until it screamed loud and strong. His revenge, laid out in front of him. Revenge on not just the world for forgetting him. On the Guardians...and, by consequence, on her. Because he knew, deep in his blackened heart, that no matter how strong he was, he could never defeat the Guardians with her power rivalling his.
That power that had nearly destroyed him. That had taken control of his entire army. No matter how powerful he was, he did not have the special control that she held, he did not have the shadows at his whim by anything other than the intimidation of power. This power, he felt, was a stored energy, like a knitted-up ball of electricity. But, in order to use this power, in order to fully release it, he needed an outlet. A weapon to channel this amazing power into.
He needed her control. To extract it from her being. The plan took months of non-stop details, planning, and constant visits to the stone, seeping all of the power it would give him until he felt he had reached his peak, his ultimate, unstoppable form. Today, something was different. Today, it was all massed into what he felt...knew, was the prime time to strike.
The Nightmare King moved back, and slowly carved a nail down the edge of the stone, creating an enlongated crescent-moon shape. At first, it was just a dull scraping sound, like dragging a nail over smooth wood. Then, the line he had traced shone quickly, a slight, thread-thin dash of silver, and like a tree being cut down, tipped from where it had originally been homed. It slowly fell, clattering with a muted, glass-like sound right before the man they called Boogeyman swooped down, picking it up in his hands and cradelling it like Excaliber. Because that's what it was to him.
He had pulled it from the stone. Now, to become king.
-At a Lake- Black's p.o.v***
"Get over here, ya blightly little frostbite!"An irate, Australian accent shouted as I laughed, standing on top of a snow-covered, frozen lake, watching as the Easter Bunny chased Jack Frost, the remains of a stray snowball clinging to the fur on his back. Jack soared just out of his reach, feet balanced on his staff and a light in his eyes as he prodded Bunny below with jokes.
"Getting a bit slow there, Hops, losing your touch?"Jack teased, and I sighed, smiling as Bunnymund gave Jack a glare meant to be intimidating, but was greatly lessened as he lunged for the winter sprite, only to slip on the slick surface and fall flat on his face, whiping off the glare. Though I was nearly in pain from keeping back a snort of laughter, I quickly shot a shadow forward and knocked Jack lightly from his staff, sending the boy to the ice with a dull 'thud'.
"Hey!"He protested, as I walked over to Bunny and helped him up, brushing the snow from him.
"No."I scolded, hand firmly on the large rabbit's arm. He looked from Jack to me in protest, but I shook my head and said lightly, "C'mon boys, Jack has to go help North prepare for Christmas, and we have to go decorate a few eggs before joining him."
At this, Bunny gave me a desperate look and moaned,
"We promised! And seeing as how he made sure none of the other spirits learned about your...well...adorable little incident after Easter was ruined last year, I think you owe him one."I interrupted, and he huffed, shoulders slumping as he stomped across the lake to the shore, where a tunnel would open up and take us back to the Warren.
Before I followed, I turned to Jack and smiled as he shook snow from his already-snow-white hair. He beamed back like only Jack Frost could, and walked up to me.
"So, made any progress yet?"He asked in a hushed whisper. I quickly looked back to make sure Bunny wasn't looking, finding him searching around for the tunnel hidden beneath the snow, and then looked back with a small frown.
"Not yet. It's surprisingly difficult, considering he's painting all the time, but they're always different! How am I supposed to make it if I don't know what color to fill it with?"I asked, feeling a bit on-edge. Christmas was only a bit over a week away, and I was rendered unable to make Bunny's present despite his constant winings over how 'Easter was ten times betta' than Christmas, anyways'.
Jack gave me a sympathetic smile and winked.
"Don't, we'll think of something. Discuss it back at North's in a few hours?"He offered. I had to admit, at first I didn't know about this kid. Maybe I was used to the serious work ethic of Guardians, and his much looser way of doing things was foreign. But it was inevitable that the kid would grow on me. He was the Guardian of Fun, I was the Guardian-In-Training of Happiness, the two went hand-in-hand. I even went and helped him a few times.
But I preferred the Warren to the cold climate of Jack's specialty, and was itching to get back to the comforting warmth and paint-fumes mixed with nature. I nodded and whispered,
"You got it, Snowflake!" With that, we gave a laugh and he flew away, me spinning around, the cloak brushing snow from me as I walked quickly to Bunny, who seemed to have something slightly off about him.
He had on a frown that was more somber than his usual one, almost like a moody teenager. He had his hands on his hips and was watching as Jack flew away, barely registering that I was there until I gently prodded his side, his face snapping down to mine in mild surprise.
"Everything alright in Bunny-land?"I teased, and he shrugged, turning back to the tunnel. I raised an eyebrow, a feeling of concern washing over me at his unusual mood. That is, until that concern was replaced with shock, as we immediatly plunged below ground throught the hole that he oh-so-kindly warned me about.
For five minuets we tumbled through the Earth. Had this been almost nine months earlier, I would have tumbled ungracefully about the entire time. But I had re-adjusted myself to this mode of transportation and, after the initial surprise, placed my feet together and crossed my arms over my chest, descending down so that I was right next to Bunny, who had his arms in a likewise fasion with a sour look on his face.
"Sorry, am I interrupting your brooding time?"I mocked, and he shrugged. Sometimes, more often lately, he would get into these moods. I had no idea why, nor did I want to press the matter. I knew that if you left Bunny alone long enough, he'd eventually open up. The only thing that was wrong was the nagging concern I had for him, his upset mood upsetting my own, for reasons I'd still to figure out.
Despite this, I'd found the one and only way to break Bunny of his funk. It either ended in an all-out brawl, or with us both on our asses and laughing until we cried.
"That's it,"I said, un-crossing my arms, "You brought this on yourself, Bunnymund!" I pushed myself over and rolled on top of him, ignoring his cry of protest as I immediatly began to wiggle my fingers quickly over his light-blue fur on his stomach, the only place that made Bunny immediatly break out into uncontrollable laughter.
He was ticklish, and I swore that I would be the only one to know that.
"St-stop it!"He shouted, but I could already hear the stifled snorts as he tried to pry me from him. I held fast, us tumbling ungracefully down the tunnel as his paws latched onto my sides, my hand not stopping as I finally heard the noise I'd been waiting for.
Bunnymund's laugh wasn't like normal laughs. It wasn't controlled nor was it obnoxiously loud or wheezy. It was heart-felt and quick, a volume just above that of normal-talking, coming from his chest and deep, making me laugh in return. It was one of those laughs that made you laugh, no matter the situation. It also did something else, but why I wasn't quite sure. Before, when I was able to make him laugh once in a blue moon, before the whole 'Pitch' buisiness, I'd just laughed with him.
Now, though, something felt...off. In my chest. Yes, off was a good way to describe it. Far too happy and tight.
"I-I'll getcha back fer th-this!"He shouted between laughs, but was cut off as bright sunlight suddenly assaulted us, tumbling awkwardly out of the tunnel and rolling four times onto soft, beautiful green grass, eggs hopping out of our way all around us.
Finally, we stopped, me rolling off of Bunny and sitting in front of him, our laughter dying down into chuckles, but Bunny's sour mood immediatly lifted, easing the concern in my chest.
"Gotcha."I said, breathing heavily from all of the air-constricting laughter. He shoved my face with a paw as he stood up, immediatly repenting as he held the same black paw down, helping me to my feet.
"Why'd I agree ta let ya be my trainee?"He asked in a light tone, and I smiled up at him, into his emerald eyes that were lighter now that he was giving a small, trademark smirk.
"'Cuz I'm such good company."I teased, and he rolled his eyes before ruffling my hair with a paw, knowing I hated it, and pointed over to where the purple lake was, over a few hills a ways away.
"Yeah yeah, go help the little ones ya anklebiter."He mused, and I walked past him, giving him a slap on the back of the head(needing to jump, reminding me of how very small I was compared to him), before teasing,
"Call me anklebiter one more time and I might just let Jack in on your little 'tummy problem'." Before he could protest, I'd cloaked myself in shadow and was running over the hills, jumping over the trail of smaller eggs on my way to the purple lake, shimmering in the brilliant daylight.
I crouched in a small area on the shore, with a small hill just feet behind me and trees creating a small, 2-yard-deep, semi-path that the smaller eggs followed. I un-hid myself, a few of the eggs jumping back in surprise before I quietly smiled at them, 'shh'ing them softly.
"C'mon little guys, let's show Bunny I'm ready to actually decorate already."I said playfully, all of them immediatly jumping up and down excitedly. A warm feeling filled my chest, and I remembered how much I had missed being able to spread Happiness to things.
Gradually, the hour came and went, the systematic jumping of little eggs, a small plop-sound before I fished them out with my shadows, the little guys too small to hop out on their own. After an hour and a half of calmly doing my work, the line ended with todays production of eggs for the smaller children.
"Go on little guys, show that big grouch how pretty you are."I winked at the last few who got a nice, shining coat of light purple, the little darlings running off through the forest as I stood, knees painfully stiff, and streached.
"And now I get to decorate for Christmas for another four hours."I grumbled to myself, "I really need to talk to North about over-"I stopped dead-sentence. Every hair on the back of my neck stood up and my spine tingled in a painful way that I knew meant only one horrible, impossible thing. My breath stopped as a cold, dripping voice mused darkly above my head,
"Merry Christmas, little sister."
When I spun around, something sharp sunk into my chest. What followed was the most blinding agony I'd ever felt in my entire life...
-Somewhere Close By in the Warren- Bunnymund's p.o.v***
I quietly cursed under my breath, messing up a thin, light blue line across a dark blue egg. It was the third time, and the little fella was getting irritated, waggling his legs in frustration.
"Oh, calm down ya blightly little thing!"I shouted, huffing and working to fix the line, only to have the same thought that caused the disruption to come popping back in my head.
To be honest, I didn't know why I gave a kangaroo's ass. I shouldn't. None of the others seemed to, but I...I bloody didn't know! Something inside me got all frustrated and flustered with how Frostbite and Black seemed to be spending a lot more time together, talking in these whispers. What did those anklebiters have to whisper about, anyways!
That thought almost made my line turn into a zig-zag pattern. No, it was true the two were around the same age if they were humans. To be honest, Black was older than most of us, just a few centuries younger than Pitch, who was barely younger than Manny. But they both seemed to maintain a certain child-like wonder about them, both laughing and smiling at the stupidest things, and taking delight in making me miserable.
Yes, Black might be a bit less unbearable and slightly more brooding and maybe even mature than Jack, alongside a major anger-issue, if a poor soul managed to actually get her to the point of rage, but other than that they were almost exactly alike. The Guardian of Fun and the Guardian In Training of Happiness. How cute.
"Bloody Hell!"I cursed, the line smudging as I got lost again. This is what happens when I let those two occupy my mind. I have to start all over again! I honestly didn't know why I cared this much. Maybe it was because, agreeably, I might be slightly and minisculey protective of Black. Not noticable to any degree, I just didn't want the kid getting too influenced by the winter spirit. That's what I told myself.
I sighed and cradled the little thing in my hands.
"Let's getcha back to Black, little bugga'. She'll never let me hear the end of-"
"AHHHHH!" All of my fur stood up and I shot to my feet, dropping the egg softly onto the cusion of grass as the worst shriek I'd ever heard pierced through the quiet of the Warren. This wasn't just a scream. This was a shriek, one of absolute agony. The kind that, once you hear it, it will never leave your mind. This scream would haunt me forever, for two reasons: It sounded like an animal being horribly injured to the point of blinding agony.
And it was Black.
Before I could take a breath, I was sprinting, no, rocketing through the Warren at a speed I didn't even think possible until now. But before I hadn't had the utter determination and fear to run this hard, my muscles aching and breath stinging in my throat as I stomped in massive, lightning-fast strides, heart pounding and constricting.
"Black!"I shouted, following a panicked line of baby eggs, colored a light purple that I would have complimented, had I not been able to focus on anything but getting to Black, protecting her against whatever made her scream like that.
That's what unnerved me the most. Black could get angry, she could laugh until she cried, but she never once screamed. I'd never heard it, and settled on the fact that she might just be incapable of getting afraid, which made sense after living with Pitch, or feeling and/or expressing massive amounts of pain. I'd thought she was just one hell of a trooper.
So this, whatever this was, meant buisiness. And I was gonna give it hell for hurting her.
I finally broke through a crooked path of trees, boomerang in hand and ready to attach anything that caused that horrible shriek, but the second I broke into the small little clearing, I was momentarily frozen. My mind had to catch up, numbed with shock and an inkling of fear at what was before me. A man I never, ever wanted to see again. A man who had almost destroyed everything I cared about.
Pitch. But that wasn't what caused a majority of my shock. What was happening, that was what made me make my pause. His hand was thrust forward, some black object in his hand sunk halfway into Black's chest but no blood emitting from the wound. No, not blood. Shadows. They emitted from her chest in streaks, like snakes or arches of blackness, swarming slowly, sometimes quickly, from where she was punctured.
Black wasn't moving, just standing with her chest forward, looking like she was in some kind of a sick trance, her golden eyes wide with either pain or fear, I couldn't tell, her jaw hanging open in a silent scream, body stiff. By the time I shook myself together, realizing what the hell was happening, the last of the shadows sunk down into Pitch's arm, wrapping around him. Something made my fur stand on end by the way that the swarmed him, sinking in and becoming part of his cloak, flaming out like they did when Black got angry, like a sea of fire that snapped at you like snakes.
"PITCH!"I shouted, throwing both boomerangs at him with all my fource. Normally, this would have knocked him clean out. But not this time. This time something was wrong...horribly wrong. Pitch didn't even flinch, raising his hand as a whip of shadows slapped into the first boomerang, sending it shooting back so fast that it nicked my ear, a massive cracking sound breaking through the air as the second one was split into complete shards.
That did it. I lunged, not caring for this new and unnerving power that Pitch had, but before I could get close he threw his head back, a horrible, deep cackle echoing in the Warren before he quickly spun around, the shadows spinning like a tornado and then, in a blink, dissapearing like a ghost. I landed on all fours, head shooting over as a dull thud sounded.
My heart dropped to my stomach as Black lay there, shaking and trying to fource her way up. I wasn't lying when I said she was a trooper. I quickly shot to her side, wrapping both arms around her weak waist as I softly pulled her across the grass and to the beginning of the hill near us, setting her down as gingerly as I could, her muscles weak and shaking beneath me.
"Sheila, hey, you a'right? Talk to me, kid."I said, voice wavering more than I wanted it to. I looked down at her and... "Oh..."...Something was wrong. Whatever Pitch had done, and I had a guess that I could make out the basic premise...it was truley horrible.
I could feel myself shaking, a massive amount of effort needed to just push myself up into a sitting position. My breath seemed to be blocked, my airway feeling constricted and body so painfully weak, a massive throbbing where whatever that object was had sunk into my chest and, yet, there was no wetness of blood, nor gaping of a wound.
"B-bunny..."I said, voice too weak for my liking, so I tried again, and this time it came out crisper, "Bunnmymund...it was Pitch-"
"I know, I know, just...settle down now. Take a breath."He said, but by the tone of his voice, something was off. He was...nervoise. Bunny never got nervoise. Not even when we played hide-and-seek and I'd hidden above ground for three hours. Even then, way back when, he had only gotten flustered and irate.
I looked up at him, a confused look on my face as his eyes went wide in shock.
"What?"I demanded, and he jumped a bit, blinking fast. "What's wrong, Bunny? What did Pitch do? I remember turning around, and something in my chest, then...nothing. What's that look for?"I demanded, and he cleared his throat, running a paw over his ears, flattening them before finally finding his shakey voice.
"Um...now...I'll show ya...but ya have ta promise you wont...freak out."He said hesitantly. Now I was getting worried. I gave him a steady glare and snapped,
"Bunny!" He jumped and darted away, in the direction of the only lake that had actual, clear, regular water. I looked around at the scene and my eyes fell upon two things. The first was the last inch of Bunny's boomerang lodged in a tree, the rest planted firmly in the wood. The second made my heart break.
One of his boomerangs lay in hundreds of shattered pieces. Bunny spent literally months working to perfect his boomerangs, taking intricate detail to the shape, sharpness, and designs. Sometimes it would take him over a year to make one, which explained why he would never let me forget that debt of lost and/or broken boomerangs I owed him.
But this sight...it made me sad. It must have crushed him.
"Okay, now...before ya look..."Bunny cautioned, hopping out of the trees with a stone bowl of water. I cut him off by taking it and looking down into my crystal-clear reflection...
"Bunny."I said, every fiber of my being straining to remain calm. Bunny could sense the tension within me and, quietly and tenderly, said,
"Now, I know it doesn't look...right..."
"I'm pink."I said, shaking as rage built up within me.
"Um, well now...it's not that bad-"
"I AM PINK BUNNYMUND!"I screamed, shaking the trees, and glaring daggers at him as he fell backwards, clearly frazzled. Now, I might have been exaggerating a bit. I wasn't actually pink, persay. I was more of a...flesh-color. Actually, my skin tone probably didn't differ from that of a pale human child, more of a very light peach-color.
But that wasn't the point. I was supposed to be light grey. Now, most people would think 'hey, I'm not grey, I'm good', but that was my skin tone, the one I'd lived with my entire life.
And now I was pink. Not only that, but my golden-yellow eyes were now some shade of deep blue, the silver-lighting in my hair gone, leaving it a solid black color. Dread and fury blinded me, knowing exactly what Pitch did. The second I saw myself in this bowl, I was all-too aware of what he had done, if not confused as to how he had done it.
But that didn't matter. I was effing pink.
"You promised you wouldn't-"
"North Pole. Now!"I snapped, and Bunny was more than happy to oblige, immediatly pulling me to my feet. Unfortunatly, the effects of what Pitch had done had taken a toll on my body, and the second I tried to use my legs, they buckled.
I fell to my hands and knees, shaking and panting from what seemed to be a normal task, now seemingly impossible.
"Woah now!"Bunny exclaimed, and I felt two, furry, tender arms turn me and lift me up, cradling me like a child. I would have normally protested against this, but at the moment I was struggling just to keep my head up, breath still coming in ragged pants. Bunny's voice was softer now, if not urgent, sensing danger like only he could.
"Calm down now, sheila. Just relax, I'll take us to North's and...hopefully he'll know what ta do."Bunny hushed, and I did just as he said. I had to save my strength, because I felt another bout of anger rising up in me, and I wanted to be at 100% for that. As I rested my head on Bunny's chest, the wind whipping past me as we travelled fast through the Warren, a horrible feeling sunk into my stomach.
Bunny might not know what Pitch had done, but I did.
And things were about to get a whole lot worse.