Cool winds whipped around the town of Burgess, cutting through the layers of winter clothes the townspeople bundled up in like icy, barbed knives. The adults thought nothing of it, calling it a freak storm; Global Warming affecting the temperatures. But, the children knew otherwise. It was mid-December, and they began to grow uneasy.
"Why hasn't he come?" asked Cupcake, now less blocky at age thirteen, but still holding an unwavering belief in the Guardians of Childhood. "Jack has never been this late before, Jamie." Jamie Bennett looked into the advancing dark storm clouds, the children of the town meeting in his basement. Sophie, only eight, looked up from her picture book.
"He's usually come to play by now." She said. "Maybe it's secret Guardian business."
"Then why bring the storms?" whispered Sam, adjusting his glasses. "The ice on the roads happen, but enough to cover entire highways in inches of the stuff? Something isn't right."
"I know." Said Jamie. "He's not at the pond either. I went looking during the calm spell yesterday, and found something." Jamie brought out a towel, gently unwrapping it. Inside was a thick black claw, rusty brown coated on the shape.
"A claw." Said Sam. "Looks like a wolf claw, but big enough for a bear! Is that…the brown stuff…?" Jamie poured a bit of water on it, and red ran from the tip.
"I think something happened to Jack." Said Jamie. "If I knew whether or not what THIS came from was still around or not, I'd look further, but it's just not safe. Jack wouldn't want us to risk our lives for this."
"But we have to do something!" said Cupcake.
"I know." Said Jamie. "But what?"
"Bunny!" said Sophie.
"We don't know how to contact him, and Easter is too far away." Said Jamie. "Good thought, though."
"What about Tooth or Sandy?" asked Cupcake.
"Sandy, maybe, but we can't reach him." Said Jamie. "Tooth won't be much help. None of us have lost any teeth, and none of Sophie's are loose. North won't come for a few weeks…"
"Then we go to them!" All eyes turned to Sophie.
"Sophie, we don't even know where Tooth Palace or the Warren is, or how to get there!" said Sam. "Sandy I don't even know if he HAS a home, and North is all the way in the North pole! Besides, Santoff Claussen isn't on a map and we have no way of getting there!" Jamie snapped his fingers.
"Yes!" he said, jumping up the stairs. "Wait here! Sophie, come with me!" The little girl followed her older brother up to their rooms, where upon seeing the carved box her brother lifted from his shelf she caught on immediately to his plan and retrieved her own.
"A box?" asked Sam, looking at the boxes.
"Jack gave us these a while ago!" said Jamie. "Said he pinched them from North in case of an emergency." Inside both boxes were two snow globes, swirling colors and shimmering lights swimming through each.
"What are THOSE?" asked Cupcake, holding one.
"Portable portals." Said Jamie. "Remember the big blackout two years ago, and we were all scared Pitch was behind it? He gave them to me and Sophie in case we needed to get to a Guardian fast. All we have to do is tell them where we want to go, and throw them."
"Then what are we waiting for?" said Cupcake. "Everyone grab your coats, a granola bar and a flashlight and lets go!"
"We have no time to waste." Said Jamie, wrapping up the claw and placing it gently in his backpack. Sophie filled the bag with granola bars and water bottles while Jamie and the older kids got matches, coats and whatever else they thought would be useful, then re-grouped in the basement, dressed for action. Jamie took one orb and placed the boxes in the back pack, then threw it over his shoulder.
"Ready?" asked Jamie.
"Yay!" said Sophie, jumping up and down. "We get to see Bunny again!"
"Lets go." Said Sam. Cupcake nodded, adjusting her bright pink coat.
"Santoff Claussen!" The image of a warm sitting room, elves running about filled the orb and Jamie smashed it against the wall, opening up the swirling portal. With whoop the kids disappeared into the light, and the portal vanished as quickly as it appeared.
With a yell, the kids landed on the stone floor in front of a roaring fire place. A shimmering globe rotated slowly in the center of the room, a stone mural in the floor depicting the five guardians. A red stone with a green garland pattern ran through a black N, a rainbow piece covered in shimmering opal teeth with a black T on the red square's left. Next was a sand stone slab with a black S, followed by a gray stone with spring eggs and flowers with a black B. Finally, a blue stone with silver snow-flakes, much newer than the rest, lay with a black J on the stone. In the center was the moon. Cupcake yelled, a giant yeti dashing towards them, grunting unintelligibly, but it was clear he was about to toss hem out.
"Wait!" Sophie stood up, facing the yeti ad, fearing it would crush the small girl, it stopped, spewing out garbled nonsense that was probably a question. Sophie looked up at the yeti and gulped."We gotta see Mr. North! It's about Jack Frost!" The yeti made more noises and picked up the girl by the back of her jacket. More yeti's came, curious about the commotion. The yeti handed her a prototype butterfly, making er giggle as it flew off. The elves were running around the other children, climbing up their clothes and over-all acting like the disorganized little nuisances they were.
"What all commotion about?" yelled a voice. "Christmas in two weeks! Much work to be done!" The kids turned to see North looking rather unimpressed the stations were deserted. At once he zeroed in on the children, and both joy and confusion took over the old spirit.
"Ah, comrades!" he said. "How you get here? Jack break in again? I tell him he can use front door!"
"No." said Jamie, running to North. "We think something might have happened to Jack." North led them to his study, the children marveling at the Guardian of Wonder's work shop.
"Phil, no!" he said, stopping. "No like. Ponies green with mint cutie mark. Repaint!" Phil the yeti looked at the piles of neon orange ponies and groaned, face planting into the table. Finally they made it to his private work place, ice sculptures of magnificent toys all about, some even flying in the air. With a snap of his fingers all activity stopped, the sculptures putting themselves away and the elves coming in with a plate full of cookies and mugs of hot cocoa.
"So, what make you think Jack in trouble?" asked North, taking a bite of a gingerbread man.
"This." Jamie showed North the claw, and North dropped the cookie.
"Sweet Man in the Moon!" he gasped. "You find this where?"
"By Jack's pond." Said Jamie. North had a grave expression, one rivalling the look they saw as they headed into battle against pitch, them and the others being the only remaining believers in the world and all but Jack weak and barely standing.
"You must stay here." Said North. "You now in grave, grave danger. Jack made good choice giving you portals. Must make note to take pinching portals off his record."
"Jack's on the naughty list?!" North chuckled.
"He hold all time record." He huffed. "Come. Must summon others."
"Wait, when you said we must stay-" bean Cupcake.
"I cannot let you go home." Said North. "Not until this is dealt with. It probably knows you friends of Jack, and when it find out you come to me…We protect you. Guardians will not send you home to die."
"Die?!" said Sam. "Our parents-"
"Be fine." Said North. The children sighed in relief. "Like they cannot see us, they cannot be hurt by them. This claw only make shallow wound. Jack can take care of Shadow beasts. Beast not work alone. Must be a whole pack, but still Jack can fly away. Only option, Pitch must have gotten control of a Shadow pack. He's up to no good again. Must call the Guardians."
"How can Pitch come back?" said Jamie. "You-you beat him! He's gone, banished under the bed! Besides, what would he want with Jack?" North patted his shoulder.
"Thirteen to young to really understand." Said North. "But Jack is much like Pitch. He knows what it's like not to be believed in, and knows Pitch's pain. Pitch is drawn to Jack for connection and power. Jack say Pitch want him to join him. He say 'what go better than cold and dark?'."
"But, he'd never join him!" said Cupcake.
"Not willingly." Said North. "But there are ways Pitch can infect the mind. He do it before. Hitler, Stalin, Bin Laden and more, all his doing. Now, drink cocoa and eat. We need your help." North pulled a lever, and the aurora borealis leapt through the roof, reaching to the far corners of the Earth.
"Hold on Jack." Said Jamie, looking out into the snow. "We're coming."
Meanwhile, Pitch stroked tufts of silvery white hair.
"Soon." He purred, the shadow tendrils locking around the unconscious spirit. "Soon, the world will be ours, my Ice Queen."