AN: So. I watched Rise of the Guardians. And with The Hobbit so close, and re-reading Tolkien and all... Well, Maglor is apparently a really insistent muse? He basically popped up and demanded to speak to Jack. Has spoilers for RotG, but nothing too serious, I think. Inspired mostly by what happens to Sandy and also by Maglor finding it hilarious that they look to the Moon, Rána the Wayward, of all people, for guidance. Unbeta-d, so have at.

Title: They Cannot Conquer Forever
Author: me
Rating: G
Warnings: ~*~SPOILERS~*~
Disclaimer: not mine!
Summary: There is, the old stories say, a Singer by the Sea…

"What are you doing here, Winter's child?"

"You said you wanted to be alone?" Pitch mocks "So BE alone!" As he breaks his staff Jack feels something inside him break and tear, driving him to his knees. He cannot even raise the slightest defence when Pitch blasts him into the mountain, unconsciousness following blessedly after.

There is a man, or something like one, crouched next to Jack as he struggles to open his eyes. Gentle calloused hands help him sit up and check him quickly for serious injuries.

"Who…?"

The smile is shadowed but kind, and the grey eyes remind Jack of the sea and the stars (they are old, so terribly old, those eyes, full of sorrow and wonder and grief. They are piercing, stripping away his defences, and Jack cannot hold their gaze).

"Just a concerned stranger, Winter's child."

There is, the old stories say, a Singer down by the seashore. He's fay, some say, just some old madman wandering the shore. A ghost, say others, one who seeks for something he cannot have. (Both these stories are true) If you can find him, they say, he will read your deepest secrets from your eyes and tell you your future (your fate). When his voice is heard, they murmur, the very wind and waves mourn, but the children who go down to play by the sea will all come home again safely. He's never seen, only heard, a voice that laments over the water, always yearning towards the West. But whoever said the Singer was always by the Shore?

"Baby Tooth!"

She chirrs worriedly at Jack as the stranger hands her over and sneezes. Flinching Jack pulls back a little, apologising for his natural chill, although she only shakes her head at him and snuggles closer.

"You haven't answered my question yet, Frost child." The stranger chides gently. "What are you doing down here, so far from those who need you?"

"The others? Easter! Pitch! I… I messed up… I…Pitch is right, I make a mess of everything..."

Jack shakes, cradling Baby Tooth close as she chirrs at him worriedly.

"It's all my fault…"

"There was a prince once, who took a terrible oath, for love of his father and brothers. It led him down a dark road stained with the blood of his own people, and left him alone, without even the treasure he was seeking. The things that he did, you see, were so horrible, that the very treasure he had committed those acts for rejected him, in the end. The prince, it is said, can never return home, until he has been forgiven...or perhaps until he has forgiven himself."

The stranger turns his hands palms-up, and Jack sees the pale crisscrossing scars of what must have been terrible burns, a long, long time ago, as if the stranger had grasped a flame in his right hand.

"I still cannot straighten the fingers on that hand. Nor can I forgive myself."

"You?"

"I. But listen, Winter's child, for all the pain that I caused, still, I would not change my past. Despite that my hands are stained with blood, still, I walk forwards. Do you know why? Because I have seen it, lived it, learnt this truth – even from the darkest of shadows can be born the brightest of lights. If not for the actions of my brothers and I, the Mariner would not have been able to breach the barriers of the world, would never have brought Hope back to this earth. The One, they say, draws straight with crooked lines. 'Even the wisest cannot see all ends' – who knows what might have been if you had done this, or that? Irregardless, you cannot change it, now - the only thing that you can change, Jack, is the present - what you do now. The only (the greatest) mistake you can make, Winter's child, is giving up."

"Look up, Winter's child, can you see? The stars still shine. 'They cannot conquer forever!', so said one who learnt well the lessons of wisdom's oft harsh school. The darkness has come to cover the earth, but only for this hour. Day will come again, aurë entuluva! Have faith, child of Ice. Hope still shines, and you will find that which you need. You are not alone."

And Jack looks up and sees, piercing bright and clear through the roiling clouds that cover the moon, a gleam of starlight, stark and beautiful, and feels hope spark in his heart.

They cannot conquer forever

Baby Tooth chirps and tugs at his memory box. Looking down, Jack sees the golden glow, a promise of a warmth he has forgotten.

"Learn your truth." The stranger says gently. "And you will find your courage. And never forget, Winter's child, that Hope endures."

Standing, the stranger tousles Jack's hair and walks away. He leaves no footprint on the snow and ice, and Jack quickly loses sight of him in the gloom. Looking back at Baby Tooth and seeing her nod, Jack takes a breath and sets a hand to his box.

There is, the old stories say, a Singer by the Shore. He is an Exile, the last of his people, a Kinslayer and a poet. He is waiting, the truest stories say, for the Ship to take him home, for his sins to be forgiven (for him to forgive himself). There is, the stories say, one of the sons of Fëanor still wandering this earth seeking redemption, and he still comes to the aid of the lost - Jack Frost knows that this is true, because he met him, once.

AN2: Yeah, I filch liberally from Tolkien. "They cannot conquer forever" is what Frodo tells Sam, when they find the defaced statue of some long dead king in Ithilien. "Aure entuluva" is Hurin's battle cry in the Nirnaeth Arnoediad, as he fought a rearguard action to safeguard Turgon's escape. "Even the wisest cannot see all ends" is obviously a Gandalf quote, from The Fellowship of the Rings. Jack looking up to see the starlight mirrors one of my favourite passages from Return of the King "There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tower high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach." And Maglor, of course, uses capitals for Hope, because he's referring to Gil-Estel, the Star of High Hope.