Chapter 1: Dear Fellow Traveler
Pleasantly warm wind of spring swirled lazily back and forth in the Warren, washing over the grass and stumbling eggs, tipping a few over with a type of childish grace, earning a sharp glare to be thrown at the lounging frost spirit a feet away. Jack watched on with mock boredom as Bunnymund went back to work, the rabbit murmuring from subject to subject, desperately trying to keep his to do list under control. Jack laid in the emerald grass, having no place to be in the summer, except to “pester” and “annoy” his fellow Guardians, as Bunny liked to put it. But what else was Jack supposed to do? Fly to the tip of Mount Everest again or give Mexico a flash snow storm in the middle of July? Jack shuddered as he remembered the last time he had tried such a stunt, and he didn’t believe Xiuhcoatl would be so forgiving if he tried it again.
But, no matter how many naps Jack took, it was still mid-July, and winter was a current far off dream for most humans as the summer spirits ruled in the burning sun and flora and fauna sprawled and grew, while sirens lured men and women alike towards their eternal home for skeletal company.
The Warren was calm this time of year, Easter far off in the distance, less night hours making it hard for kids to fear the dark while the bigger kids and parents stayed up well into the night, and Christmas well on its way without a hitch. Tooth of course was busier than usual, with more children playing outside, more accidents happened and more little ones lost their baby teeth, and with the happy days of no school, Sandy was constantly working, for afternoon naps and late night slumbers. For Jack, work had almost stopped; sure there were the special cold breezes he would send to Jamie to help him keep cool, and small snow flurries to the very top of the north, but other than the usual routine, all Jack could do was wait out his time, bored and tired from the endless heat, while his skin itched for something, anything, to keep him occupied for the next ninety-seven days, fifteen hours, forty-three minutes, and eight seconds until Jack could have some fun without North lecturing him about how the seasons needed “balance”. And yes, Jack was counting down his time.
Jack rolled his head over to look at Bunny; green eyes completely immersed in his work as he delicately painted an egg like his life depended on it. Azure blue eyes sparkled, “Hey, Bunny?”
“What in bloody blue blazes do ye’ want now?” Bunny huffed, otherwise not even twitching to the sound of Jack’s voice.
Jack frowned and sat up and crossed his legs lazily, not at all miffed by the overgrown rabbit’s tone, seeing as Jack had been in the Warren for almost two weeks already. “Want to play a gam-”
Red light flared upon the walls, the air humming in warning as Aster stood, dropping the egg without the second thought, his paintbrush falling without a care. Ears swiveled and haunches rose as Jack joined to stand slowly, the wind coiling around him tightly, a protective blanket of invisible thread. In the dimming and brightening light, like clockwork on a scale, Jack kicked up his staff into his waiting palms.
“What th-” Jack tried as Bunnymund cut him off, the Easter sprite moving into action, his words tense.
“Somethin’ wrong at th’ pole,” Aster launched, whirling forward, thumping a hole into the ground with a mighty foot far enough from the eggs, “Ye comin’?”
Jack spun on his heels to keep up, his mind sprinting to keep up with the fast talking Aussie, his free arm flailing “Wait, the pole?”
Bunny rolled his eyes, “Are ye comin’ with me or not mate? We don’t got time for this!”
Shaking his head numbly, Jack declined, “I’ll meet you there, Cottontail.”
Jack shot out of the caverns of the underground, the fresh clean air of the outside world assaulted Jack’s lungs, his mind reeling as blooming lights danced overhead, streams of greens and yellows and pinks clashing together in a symphony of crashing waves as the Northern Lights shone with desperate pride. The wind curled and coiled around Jack as the innocent breeze stretched her limbs in the open air, free of the confinement of the Warren. Murmuring the location of North’s workshop, the wind spread her wings and set forth, spiraling Jack in her grasp as the frost spirit laughed, the harsh air slapping his cheeks as he flew past the clouds.
Warm wind pushed at Jack’s sides as he passed over the equator, sounds of laughter and joy fueled him onward, his jacket lifting slightly as he slowed for his descent at the sight of the North Pole, warm gleaming lights splayed on the pearly snow as a light frost dusted the sills and doorways, made by yours truly.
Jack landed silently on sill of the Globe Room, frost growing on the glass in hushed beauty, as Jack pried open the window, freezing in his movements as the sight below made him chuckle, a mix of disbelief and horror and pure adrenaline, ice blue eyes widening as a furious North stomped about, flailing his raised arms like a lunatic while Sandy slept in the corner at his usual spot at the table. Dozens of fairies swarmed around Tooth as she danced crazily in an odd dance in the middle of the air, waving her arms and legs while her wings sent her in every direction possible. Bunny, meanwhile, was nowhere in sight.
The whole fiasco would have had Jack laughing and joining them in the seemingly horrific fun to be had, for if it was not for the hundreds of owls which swarmed the room. They flew over the globe like a school of fish, all moving in a singular motion, seamless and fluid, while birds of prey had taken to the habit of slamming beak first into the frosted glass, while others had simply enjoyed the idea of simply staying perched in one spot, almost in a patient manor.
While a large seemingly disgruntled crowd of owls attacked North with whatever they were all holding, Jack slipped down onto the tiled floor, holding his staff in one hand gently as he stepped toward the table, across from where Sandy floated in slumber. Sending one last glance to the angry Russian and the dodging fairy, Jack approached a very ruffled, and in his opinion, very ugly, Great Grey. The owl looked up with its singular eye, obviously diseased and seen better days.
Prying the parchment from the old bird’s talons, Jack examined the paper. It was a letter, stained and dirty, what has obviously been soaked and then dried and then dropped in the mud and dried again. Opening the red wax seal of the envelope, Jack pulled out a clean piece of paper, messy ink sprawl what Jack assumed to be cursive. Trudging through the decorative script, Jack started to make headway.
Presumably to the Guardians of Wonder, Hope, Dreams, and Memories,
Hopefully these letters will reach you all in good time, that is, if the books of your kind’s nature are true. We at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry dearly wish to meet you for an agreement between the two parties. Our representatives would like to meet on behalf of the current growing threat to our students, as men and women with dark intent wish to harm our children and their way of life. We understand completely, if these letters do not reach you, as the texts from centuries ago are quite old, and our translators had a tad of trouble about reading through the scrolls of the Guardians myths and legends. We hope to hear a reply soon, and hope these letters find you well.
Thank you for your valuable time,
Thomas Corona, Headmaster of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft, Order of Merlin, Graduate of Mufflepop Organization of Snizles
Folding the letter closed once more, Jack set his eyes upon the workshop, shoving the letter into his hoodie pocket, stepping forward to help North with the growing nest of owls consuming his beard, tangled talons and wings trapped in the grey hairs like a Chinese finger trap. A squawk erupted from the owl next to him, its lone eye bulging and jittering about as it did so, ending in a sickly coughing fit which Jack almost expected the bird to keel over on the spot.
Jack froze as the owl continued to glare, at a loss for words as he stuttered out, “Um...Thank you?”
The owl flapped its large wings, letting out an earsplitting screech, Jack covering his ears with haste as the swarm of poultry took to the sky, leaving their former positions to take to the chimney, the open windows and doorways, the masses plowing through Jack like a hurricane, an unstoppable force adorned with feathers and snapping talons, as they shoved through him towards the window he had open only minutes before.
Jack fell to the ground with a soft thud, the wind softening his fall as the birds cleared out of the room. Jack cracked his bright blue eyes open to the light, the room brighter and lighter without the pressure of beating wings and heavy heartbeats. The frost spirit stood, brushing feathers from his hair as he took in the damage of the workshop. Well, damage wasn’t exactly how Jack would have put it, but rather, well, an unfortunate accident which Jack had no part of. This time.
Letters littered the floor in heaps, stuck between the nooks of the globe where the countries and oceans met, and in the crannies of toy parts and gears. Piles as high as Jack’s knees rose up around him, as other stacks maybe reached to the height of his big toe.
Surprisingly, Sandy was still asleep, dozing happily in the corner with a slight smile on his cheeks, a single feather resting on his head in perfect balance. On the other side of the room, Tooth was brushing herself off, her feathers ruffled and out of place, her fairies swaying dizzily in the air as plumage drifted down upon them like a soft snow. North had begun on his rampage once more as he stomped through the letters, cursing under his breath as he swung his meaty hands this way and that, heading over in Jack’s direction, his eyes blazing as the old man fumed.
“Oh sure! Come in my home and throw party! Leave trash! Then leave like ingrates! Ha! Screw all those damn birds!” North huffed, cheeks red as he collapsed in his oak chair, slouching in exhaustion as he rubbed his tired eyes.
Jack stood his staff on the ground, and leapt atop of the crook in a crouch with mindless grace, silent as snow fell in the middle of the night, quiet and unnoticeable in his act, watching casually as grey ears peaked out from under the table, twitching and rigid, as Bunnymund hopped from under the sturdy wood, haunches tense and boomerangs at the ready, paws tight.
“Welcome to the party, Cottontail,” Jack smiled, “Just get here or were you having a party of your own under the table?”
“Oi! I’ll have ye’ know tha’ owls eat rabbits for supper, ye’ bastard.” Bunny scoffed, standing up a tad taller, trying to get the edge on Jack.
Before Jack could retort, Tooth flew over to the group, an armful of letters adorning her chest as her fairies went about unearthing the elves which were happily munching on cookies underneath the parchment.
Placing them on the mahogany with a kind of grace, Tooth started to search for the return address, “I’m still confused on why they would leave these, of course, it could be becau- Ah!”
Tooth lurched back, recoiling as the old owl hummed and vibrated and tremored, its singular eye staring at her in a strained gaze, its lone eye staring her down.
“Wha’ the hell is that bloody damn thing still doin’ ‘ere!” Bunny yelled reaching for his exploding eggs, as the owl’s gaze switched to him.
Jack chuckled at the statement, but didn’t say anything else, as much as making fun of the overgrown kangaroo was his personal, and favorite if he might add, hobby. North rubbed his temples while Bunnymund and Tooth conversed about the practically dead owl on North’s table, the older gentleman looking tired and far too human to Jack’s liking, as the time of centuries pulled at his face, the man’s wondrous eyes becoming pale and grey, as wrinkles and pores became more prominent and defined. Jumping from his perch, Jack stepped to the Guardian, putting a lithe hand on a strong muscled shoulder. Wiping a calloused hand over his weathered face, North looked up, meeting the spirit’s eyes for only a moment before sighing. Hauling himself to his feet, North clapped his giant hands, the vigor returning to the spirit’s body as the room hushed, Sandy snapping awake as he flailed about, the feather on his head dipping to the ground.
“I do not care why damned bird his here, but, Tooth if you’d please,” North spoke, his booming voice echoing across the walls, his eyes purposefully not meeting the wheezing owl’s eye. North pointed at the pile of letters now at Tooth’s feet, the fairy scrambling to get to the closest one, before Jack pulled out his already opened letter in his pocket.
The room stilled, Tooth straightening as Bunny waited, the winter sprite unfolding the paper with clumsy fingers. As he read aloud the letter, it was quiet, even the jingling of elves and the movement of cleaning yetis stopped in order not to hinder Jack’s words, as the Guardians stood at attention until the letter fell from Jack’s hands and onto the table.
It was unnerving the quiet which followed as the room held its breath, waiting for the words on the parchment to change. North sighed, the jolly man placing his hands on his hips, staring the letter down as Tooth spoke, her wavering words piercing the room.
“Our...kind? Are we really so strange?”
It was like a dam had been broken, words tumbling out into the wind without any caution, questions and worries turning into statements and anxieties.
“We were all once human,” North grumbled, snatching the paper off the offending surface, blue eyes scanning the letter with haste.
Tooth hovered over his shoulder, her fairies dashing this way and that, humming in the air, “Witchcraft?”
“Didn’t those humans already go over this?” Bunnymund pointed out, starting to pace as Sandy started to sign, confusion painted over his features with gardened fear.
“No, Bunny, those were the witch trials, which did little to nothing.”
“What a Snizle?” North wondered, peering over to his companions.
“Never mind tha’, what the bloody ‘ell is a Mufflepop?”
Jack glanced back over to the owl, the bird seemingly satisfied with the chaos and had since gone to sleep, a small halo of dream sand flying about as its head stayed tucked under its wing. Jack pondered as he glanced back over to North and Bunnymund, the two men fighting over the definition of some of the titles while Tooth took the liberty to introduce the problem to Sandy with great patience.
Picking up another letter from the floor, Jack peeled the parchment open, reading the same words again. To Jack, it didn’t sit quite right with him, like a house covered in snow, icicles hanging from the gutters, ice on the small winding path, but no frost on the windowpanes. The situation made his skin crawl, his bright blue eyes bouncing across the globe, trying to find a singular place he hadn’t been. Jack took great pride in his travels, delivering snow storms and morning frost across the world. He’d explored every island, every volcano, and every cliff within his lifetime, and yet, he had never heard even the whisper of the word Hogwarts, let alone seen the establishment.
Jack sat upon the mahogany, bringing North out of his bluster with Aster, the jolly man smoothing out the front of his shirt before he explained his concern, only to have North laugh.
“Jack, perhaps you missed it,” North grinned, a tint of pity drawing on his features, “being a Guardian is a hard job, after all.”
Jack scoffed, his mood turning sour, “No North, I had three hundred years of solitude; I don’t think I could have missed such a place.”
North clapped his hand on the boy’s shoulder, smiling none the less, looking up to look his other companions in the eye, “As Guardians of Childhood, I propose that we send word back to them, they are children, no? It’s our job to help,” North paused, waiting for anything against his claim. Grinning broadly, North continued, “Good, now, where is my pen?”
Chapter 2: Under the Moon
Jack feels? Jack feels.
Grimsey Island was a small island just to the north of Iceland, straddling the Arctic Circle, a flat plateau of green. It was unbearably small, rather desolate except for its ninety or so native populace, over ruled by tourists and avid whale watchers, spiced with the few scientists hell bent on studying the local puffins. It was a boring land, dotted with houses with tall bland grass, with sharp rocks reaching for the sky along the shore’s edge. The meeting place was in the center of the island, far from the drowsy town on the coast line while still in walking distance, the flat land letting the mortal eye see all.
Despite the landscape, the weather was mild, a summer wind bustling in from the east, dry and forlorn. Sparse clouds littered the sky in freckles of white, a light mist coming from the north of the island, while puffins scaled the boulders in the summer sun.
Jack was sitting alone, the wind holding him up in her grasp, trustful and kind, as bright blue eyes scanned the ground below, the wavering grass and the scattered lonely town along the cliffs, sound and quiet with the lapping waves. It seemed so peaceful, so out of place to Jack, so unassuming for the meeting about to adjourn.
It was still five minutes until the meeting time, the glint of North’s sleigh piercing one of the clouds above, as not a single human disturbed the large grass field below. It was quiet for the time being, Jack enjoying the rush of wind swirling about him, as brisk cold winds rippled throughout the small town far below him. It wasn’t until about twenty minutes after the agreed time did three hunched figures enter the main road from an empty alley behind a ransacked pub on the edge of town, the mortals below seemingly appearing from nowhere. Jack dropped from his perch, landing on a boulder on the edge of the trail leading to the agreed place, waiting for figures to approach.
They were strange to say the least, or rather, in the strangest fashion he had seen a long time, only to be beat by codpieces and chopines. They were dressed in robes of velvet with neat satin trim, golden cords and polished gold buttons hanging around their necks. They were in triangle formation, the leading man gliding through the grass with a certain aura which seemed to unnerve Jack, a sense of authority which made the winter spirit’s skin crawl. The man was like North in a sense, no white beard or infamous fur coat, no tattoos or twinkling pale blue eyes, but rather an air of importance, the stiff back of one who followed the rules, a warrior. But unlike North, there were no sloped shoulders from slouching over his work for days on end to go with his rigid back, or the Book of Guardians in North’s steady hands.
But while Jack thought about it, the man was nothing like North at all. He was like the Man in the Moon. Silent and foreboding, the will of the law behind him, a weight pulling at his shoulders. A man made of regulations and tight boundaries. A man who didn’t speak to those whom he deemed insignificant.
He was tall, a good five inches on Jack, while his broad shoulders fought against the brisk wind without resistance. Of what Jack could see, the man was in his forties perhaps, maybe fifties, wrinkles of frown lines clearly visible despite the velvet hood covering most of his features, but slight laugh lines were sought after a tad more searching.
Behind him, on the leader’s right, was a small man, tiny really, Jack laughed. Jack flew from his perch, letting the wind carry him in front of the group, their eyes unseeing as he kept ahead. The small man was strange as well, but definitely stranger than the man before him. He was small, to say the least, a good seven inches shorter than Jack himself, the man falling at about 5’ 2”, maybe even shorter, Jack thought with a chuckle. The small man wore a construction belt on his hips; his cloak behind his shoulders rather than on them, and his hood had been tugged down the moment the trio had left the town. A blue button up dressed his chest, with a golden hammer at his hip, the shining metal catching Jack’s eye more than once as blue eyes flickered to the third and final member.
On the short man’s left was the lone woman of the group, perhaps in her mid-thirties, but Jack wouldn’t say distinguishing ages was his forte. She was beautiful, and Jack had no shame in saying so, tall and lithe but strong and proud, a woman of contradictions. Her hood had also been pushed back in the hike through the tall grass, her face warm and loving, a round face with sharp cheek bones, a small smile tilted on her lips as brown eyes scanned the scenery about her, embracing the wind with wide eyes and easy steps, tied to the ground by gravity and her own beating heart.
The group reached the meeting point with steady stride, silent and seemingly carefree about the time. Jack landed before them in quiet steps, his audience unknown to the grass which frosted under his toes. The winter spirit watched in silence, laughing under his breath every once in awhile when one of the newcomers would ask for the time before being hushed by the man in front. Standing a bit straighter, Jack looked up to the clouds above, awash in tones of beautiful golds and whites in the afternoon sun, commanding and beautiful, the wind winding about him, strength seeping into his very bones in her powerful and mighty grip. A flash of color flashed above, Tooth buzzing about, waiting for Jack’s signal, obviously worried for the wait, her glittering eyes flickering to where North’s sleigh was stationed, to only flicker back to the teen frozen in time. Jack grinned at the sight of his fellow Guardian, waving her down to join him.
She disappeared in flash, flying full tilt to where North, Sandy, and Aster most likely were impatiently waiting. Azure eyes settled back on the Guardian’s company, the short man rocking back and forth, heel to toe, a large eager grin on his face, practically vibrating like a cellphone. The woman was calm, like a steady fire in the middle of the dry grassland, wild and free. The leader hadn’t moved much in his wait, his face sober and solemn. An eerie quiet, a statue that you swore moved in the corner of your eye.
Without much adieu, North made his appearance, exploding a snow globe in his wake as his sleigh tunneled through the air, bells jingling as the old wood creaked and groaned, held together by magic as North preformed an array of tricks, Jack smiling loving at the sound of Bunnymund's shouts of terror. A shuffle behind him brought Jack from the gleeful scene above him to see the trio shuffling about. At the arrival of Guardians, the three unlocked the clasps on their robes, letting their expensive overcoats fall to the ground like useless trinkets, while only the small man picked his up and neatly folded the cloth, somehow fitting the thick robe into one of the larger pockets of his construction work belt.
Without the robes, Jack was surprised to see what lie underneath the heavy fabric: the woman of the group seemed to wear a long deep red dress, skirting the edge of the ground. It was neither form fitting or loose, but it simply hung off her hips nicely, while the sleeves looked to flare out, while another sleeve, cuffed in white, clung tightly to her arms. On top of her dress, was a pure starch white apron, her long brown hair flowing over her back. The leader was, well, boring compared to the woman, wearing another pair of robes underneath, a deep blue, with delicate stitches and careful embroidery, with that looked like a sort of tunic and standard brown pants underneath those. He too had brown hair, with a neat goatee, trimmed and perfect, regal even.
With a heavy pound against the earth, the jolly man’s transport hit the ground, its jingling reindeer stomping at the solid ground, trampling down the dry stocks with powerful hooves, while Bunnymund thrashed about in his seat, trying to pry off the wretched seat belt to free himself from the “flying death machine that only the Americans would have invented”, while Sandy slept peacefully next to him, not minding the crash landing in the slightest.
North laughed heartily, jumping off his seat with vigor, his familiar swords at his hips, a bright gleam of wonder in his eyes as he approached the unknown trio, towering over them in his 7’ 2” of Russian glory.
The leading man’s eyes widened, taken aback by the Guardian’s close proximity, offering a hand to the spirit of Christmas, “Hello, Saint Nicholas, my name is Thomas Corona, Headmaster of Hogwarts, along with two of our school’s finest representatives.” Corona paused, looking about, as if he was waiting for another screaming sleigh to appear from the sky, “Though my people and I both thought that there would be more than three Guardians in our presence.”
North gave a bellowing laugh, “No, no my friend, there is five of us. Can you not see us?” North sobered, a wise glint in his eye that Jack knew all too well, “You, my friend, just cannot believe in them.”
Corona seemed to disbelieve North’s words, a cold core brewing in the man’s green eyes, but politely smiles, “Saint Nicholas, may you tell us who else is in our company?”
“Well, who do you see?” North asked, Corona’s eyes narrowing in annoyance, but politely answering, a flick of his hand the only show of his annoyance.
“I don’t speak for my friends, but I see you, of course, Saint Nicholas; a woman in feathers, as well as a strange large kangaroo. Am I correct?” Corona tried, looking at North, Tooth, and Bunnymund respectively.
Finally free of the leather cage the sleigh had to offer, Bunnymund bristled at his description, his ears flattening as he barred his teeth, approaching in seething steps, “Oi! For your information, I’m a bunny! The Easter Bunny.”
North grunts, pushing the Pooka away, shoving him towards Jack, the frost spirit helping Tooth in waking Sandy by the time his introduction would come about, “Well,” North begun, Bunnymund grabbing the sleeping Guardian by shoulders and shaking violently, grey eyes wide as his gaze flickered about, “there is my good friend Sandy, or rather Sanderson Mansnoozie, or the Sand Man.”
At the sound of his name, Sandy woke up, eyes wide and fully awake, turning to the shocked humans standing over him, wavering joyfully as he shot off into speech, or, well, sand signs, even North unable to keep up as the Sandman begun talking about what seemed to be his Guardianship. Or whales. Jack never was very good at figuring out what the stout man was saying.
Hauling himself to his feet, Jack stood, brushing off the front of his sweatshirt with his right hand, while his left never left his staff, practically glued to his palm. North nodded to the boy, Jack still brushing at his shirt while his introduction commenced, “And, our newest Guardian, Jack Frost. The Guardian of Fun.”
Jack straightened, giving the crowd a crooked grin as a gasp escaped Corona’s lips, Jack raising an amused eyebrow at the sudden show of emotion. The man schooled his features, flattening the front of his tunic before speaking, “I’m sorry, but I was not aware Guardians could be so young. I must apologize.”
Jack’s lips pulled back into a toothy grin, before he took a bow, his forehead nearly touching the frosted ground, his theatrics earning several muffled giggles, “Thank you!,” Jack announced, bowing several times, “I’ll be here all week. Thank you! Please, please hold your applause.”
Bunnymund snuffs out a bubbling laugh as Jack stood, leaning heavily on his staff as North roared, the old Guardian’s head tilted back in gales of laughter, even the small man behind Corona seemed to be giggling under his gloved hands, while the woman bit her lip with a warm motherly smile.
Corona shuffled in place, coughing into his hand to hide his awkward stature. Apparently joking about being killed at the age of seventeen and being resurrected and turned into an immortal spirit to forever walk the earth was not Corona’s type of humor.
As the joyful atmosphere died down to low buzz of contented sighs, Corona coughed once more into his hand, commanding to be heard as he moved onto business. His shoulders became impossibly straighter, his posture almost looking to the point of painful, but the man didn’t seem to mind. He started to announce the reason of their meeting, beside of what he had told in his thousands of letters still littered about in the Globe room. He spoke about how his place at Hogwarts worked; how he ran the school’s employment, funding, sports and recreational clubs as well as managed all of the students and tried his best uphold the rules of Hogwarts as the founders would have wanted. All in all, Jack found it boring. Like a speech practiced far too much, that the life and the inspiration it surely was supposed to hold had faded and become dull.
Corona continued on, nearing the end of his speech, “...And to protect the next generation of future witches and wizards, we would like for one of your Guardians to attend Hogwarts. We already have several glamour spells ready to have anyone of you to look like any other British student.”
North nodded in understanding, “And for how long do you want one of us at this Hog’s Wart?”
“Preferably throughout the school year, for we at Hogwarts have a reason to believe a group of dark wizards are on the rise once more, and their next target may be the school itself.”
Tooth flew forward, her fragile wings beating though the air with graceful ease, “I understand your caution, but why aren’t mortals enough? Why us?”
“The Ministry of Magic intends to bring in Aurors to protect the school, and while they are good at their job, they have yet to catch even one of the dark wizards conspiring against Hogwarts and the Ministry. We at Hogwarts fear that the school and its students need more protection than what the Ministry can provide.” Corona spoke, no emotion in his features, a stone statue in the center of the grassland, “So, we sought out the Guardians, for help in our troubled time, and you will not go unrewarded.”
“But why the Guardians?” Jack blurted, he himself surprised he had spoken up from his reprieve at the edge of the group.
Corona hesitated, as if he even wanted to talk to spirit, rather than North, before conceding and speaking to Jack head on, “You’re right, boy. We did in fact search through many options, such as muggle enforcement, dementors, dragons, and centaurs. We even searched through regular spirits. But, in that research of lore of spirits, we found several entries on the Guardians, that your place in this world is to protect the children.”
“Mate, I ‘ate to break it to ‘ya, but we don’t protect children, we protect childhood, th’ innocence. Their belief. These ankle biters ‘ya want us to protect? They haven’t believed in us for ages.” Bunnymund pointed out, a somber look in his eyes.
"You will be heavily rewarded in your services, I assure you. Name your price, and we will follow through." Corona stated.
A hushed quiet settled along the trio, lost for words as Corona seemed unwavered, a boulder in the center of a storm, determined and grounded. North nods to himself for several moments, thinking loudly, muttering under his breath as his dark eyebrows furrowed, wrinkles creasing in his aging face, as the familiar wonder in his eyes was slowly ebbing away, replaced by mounting stress and cruel possibilities.
With a heavy sigh, North ran a calloused palm over his face, squeezing lightly at his temples as he went, torn between heart and mind, “We are Guardians, Sir. We need nothing.”
The two men started to speak, their voices conflicting and grating, urgent yet sauntering through the air, like the two groups had the next hundred years to speak together in an island of grass, surrounded by puffins and whales. But for Jack, it was cold. The only cold he had felt since he had fallen through the ice, his sister screaming his name while pleading to God for help, tears making small ripples in the giant lake of freezing depths. That lake had been his grave and his womb, but his sister was gone, forgotten in time. He had never gotten the chance to scare off the first boy she had brought home, and had never been there to hold her after her first heartbreak. He hadn’t been there to protect her from the wolves that stalked the forest around the town, or had the chance to see her be married to the man she loved. He never had the chance to take his father’s place and to walk her down the aisle. He never saw the beautiful children she must have had with the man of her dreams. He never saw her become a woman.
He never had the chance to say goodbye.
Jack stepped forward, pressing an open palm to North’s arm, stopping both men in their avid conversation, both looking down in surprise at the winter sprite, bright azure eyes locking into icy pools of wonder as North nodded in understanding, standing down from the mortal in front of them, Jack taking the stage as he turned to Corona.
“I want you to find a grave.”
Corona answered, a bemused twinkle in his eyes, “A grave?”
“Yes, my sister’s grave.” Jack spoke, “Can you do that?”
Corona scoffs, “Of course, is that all?”
North steps forward, placing a large hand on Jack’s shoulder, the cold radiating from the spirit biting into the man’s fingers, “Jack, don’t jump into something you cannot see the bottom of.”
“North,” Jack shivered, his voice wavering for the first time in many years, “She’s my sister, and not once did I ever see her grow into a woman. The least I can do for her is to find her resting place.”
North squeezes his shoulder, but states nothing to against Jack’s words, a heavy atmosphere pressing down upon their shoulders as Corona brings the agreement to light. “Then you agree to attend Hogwarts, boy, in trade for the location of your sister’s grave.” It wasn’t a question, for the man already had his answer, but Corona went through the formalities with a blinding grace.
Pale blue eyes flickered back over to Jack, the young spirit standing tall with hope, eager and determined, soft white hair wafting through the wind picked up, a gleeful wind overtaking the island as the pair of men shook hands, a large grin exploding upon Jack’s cheeks.
With word of an owl soon to arrive with further word, Corona with the other witch and wizard at his side, gathered up their robes and trailed back down to town, disappearing behind the pub once more, leaving no trace of their presence except for the hope burning in Jack’s chest, that he might be able to finally see his sister once more.
Chapter 3: I Saw You Standing in the Shandows
Update (8/2/17): Completely rewritten and edited!
It was said, in the dark crevices of unforgiving nights and shallow times, in whispered words that there was always one circumstance that a spirit could never grow accustomed to. A part of humanity which left a hole in their soul, the void too foreign to register, despite centuries of trial and tribulation. For Guardians, they were no different, moving through an endless life with something missing.
For North, it was the unnecessary need for food, the way his body could continue for years without nourishment, never decreasing in energy or weight, but simply consistent without fail. For Tooth, it was hue of her blood, the crimson fading from her veins the night of her death, replaced with pale fuchsia, a thick sludge which would escape onto the battlefield in clumps of pink paint.
Bunnymund fought with his inability to stand frigid weathers, spending his time holed underground against his wishes, only able to breach onto the surface during two of the four seasons, cursing each time the northern lights would chime, forced to race through the bitter snow every time.
Sanderson was no different, coping with the loss of his voice, or rather, how many other spirits lacked the talent to keep up with his “voice”, the stout man struggling to carry the simplest of conversations, despite both parties’ best efforts.
For Jack, it was the evasion of sleep which haunted him. For many would believe it would be because of the stark contrast of mortals and spirits, a glaringly obvious sign of lost humanity, or perhaps due to the boredom which drilled into his head as everything around him slumbered.
But no, Jack was vastly accustomed to boredom, having to spend three of the four seasons entertaining himself.
It was the solitude, the break in routine, the time where despite being unheard and unseen, it made him silent, like stepping in on something sacred. It was the change in energy from day to night, where suddenly everything was hushed, deserted, a ghost town only to be awakened once more by the dawn. It was like someone had pressed pause on a seemingly lively town, watched only by the large eye in the sky of the Man in the Moon.
If it hadn’t been for Corona’s mention of word coming their way, Jack would have left more than a week ago, to go wander the never dying streets of New York or China, to watch as climbers would try to take on Mount Everest. To perhaps try to learn a new language or the watch underwater volcanoes slowly bring about a new island out in the Pacific.
It had been five days since their meeting on Grimsey Island, and Jack was starting to grow tired of North’s workshop. He had had enough of hearing the never ceasing bells and the constant yelling from the yetis, enough of North telling him to “have patience, young Jack”.
It was early morning when Jack felt the Wind pull at his sleeves, tugging him closer to a rarely used corridor, dust and frost mingling together across the floorboards caught by the waning moonlight. The landscape across the window pane was one well known by Jack, his own creation staring back at him as the snow glowed in the the starlight, twinkling back at him in the shape of snow drifts and steep hills and startling cliff faces to the south, as flat planes sprawled to the east. The snowfall was light, flakes dancing from the clouds above with sparse partners, quiet in their performance, only to be interrupted by the low resounding snores echoing up from the caves far beneath.
It was a somewhat comforting feeling, the noise of it all, the winter scenescape given a constant buzz of action and life despite the darkness; the sound of gears and clogs working together in time as the continual sound of tinkering filled the Workshop’s very lungs. Muffles of North’s frustrated shouts and groans spiced the air intermittently, filling the gap the yetis left behind each night. Few elves roamed the halls as the stars lulled them to sleep, the bells thankfully silent for the time being as Jack gazed through the frosted pane, watching closely for anything the Wind to be so excited about.
It was a sense more than anything which kept Jack glued to the window, shades of grey his only sight as he stared, avid blue eyes straining as frost spilled forth, crawling up the walls in delicate feathers, pale hands tightening on his crooked staff. It was a tug in his chest, that something was out there, painful and exciting, a break in boredom, a promise being fulfilled.
It started as a speck, hardly seen and barely a wisp of life, swooping and diving sharply, the movement in the rather still wind outside drawing the spirit’s attention. As it grew closer, so did the object; the shape of beating wings taking form in Jack’s vision, the Wind curling around the flailing bird, guiding it towards the large window. Giddy fascination crossed Jack’s cheeks, a bright grin spreading deeply as the owl gained closer by the moment. The old familiar bird dived and righted every so often, shaking wings barely keeping the old bird in air as it neared dangerously close without sign of slowing.
Blue nails scratched feebly at the sealed window, glued shut by centuries worth of repainting and varnishing. Picking quickly at the cracks and holes, Jack glanced back outside, eyes quickly fixating onto the shape of the owl gaining speed, descending quickly, tucking in it's wings as it's lone eye bulged and quivered, never leaving Jack’s gaze as it plummeted.
A sharp gust gripped Jack and thrust his down and away from the window, glass exploding into the hall, Jack tumbling out of the way just in time as a sharp thud landed onto the ground where he had once stood. Whiskers of pain danced across his cheeks as he coughed, clouds of dust rising from the floor as snow wafted in, the flurry of winter bustling inside, melting on the warm wooden flooring as glass glistened.
Jack unfolded, ice spreading from his toes as he rose to a crouch, shards of glass falling from his jacket, scratches and other shallow cuts pulling as his skin as he stared, eyes wide as carnage lay before him. Feathers and snow lingered at the corners of the hall, moonlight catching the surface of the previous window, the walls and ceiling bursting in speckled light as the starlight streamed through the open window. In the center of the haphazard waste, the decrepit bird simply stood, eye wide and all seeing, watching Jack in speculation as the spirit kneeled forward, keeping himself low as nimble fingers pulled at the small parcel around the owl’s leg; said bird hobbling away, a wretched bloody cough shaking it's frame, nearly bringing the fowl to the ground before walking around again like nothing had happened in the slightest.
Shaking his head with a minute smile on his lips, Jack unrolled the parchment in his palms, reading through the awfully delicate and confusing cursive with a troubled glare as the writings went on about the location and time of the next meeting.
The winter spirit found it ridiculous how a man could fill about two feet of paper with the simple thought of date, time, and location. But, then again, the headmaster had taken the time to place down the coordinates, sun position, the given time they would meet based in every time region across the globe, star alignment, temperature in degrees and celsius, street directions via car, train, taxi, and bus, as well as flying via plane with arrival and departure times.
Apparently the man believed Jack to be a punctual type of person.
Jack scoffed, his eyes rolling back into his skull as he made sense of the fancy dribble drabble of the man’s words, a message which Jack could easily summarize into an extremely short paragraph, at most.
Rereading the script a second and third time just to be sure, Jack stuffed the letter into the front pouch of his hoodie, lazily following the path of fallen feathers trailing along the halls, listening to the eerie clack of talons upon old wood echoing across the empty workshop, haunting dolls with empty eye sockets staring down from high shelves and forgotten projects peered behind darkened corners, watching as Jack sauntered into the globe room, leaning heavily onto the railing overlooking the quiet bliss of the dead workshop.
It was dark, to say the least, no flashing lights or power tools running, no flashlights or electronics. But rather candles instead, lining a few carefully chosen shelves, light the way down a warm hall to North’s private work space; the sounds of tinkering and grunts as the Wind shifted sharply, the owl flailing onto the rail next to Jack, their eyes meeting as it gave him a raspy hoot in question, eyeing the bulge of paper in Jack’s pocket, flapping it's wings in anticipation.
“Ready to go already?” Jack murmured, the owl flapping it's wings once more, giving an excite cough.
Jack figured North wouldn’t mind if he left without notice, not with Christmas only a few months away and wish lists already pouring in from eager kids wanting to get a head start. Besides, Jack justified, it wasn’t an unusual occurrence when the winter spirit would leave unexpectedly or simply disappearing for a few days.
Pushing aside the feeling of guilt, Jack let the Wind sweep him into her grasp, the tell-tale spike of adrenaline coursing through his veins as a bubbling laugh escaped his lips, blue eyes blazing as the skylight above burst open, snow drifting in as the elements met the warmth with a shudder.
Lifting higher, Jack grasped the sill, looking back at the empty hall, the candles hushed by frigid wind as plumes of smoke drifted through the air, wavering snakes seeking new heights, as Jack climbed out into the dawn as the sound of rustling yetis were torn from his ears. The warmth of home left him as the smell of winter filled his lungs, a living thing taking homage in his bones, sharp and endless and feral which brought power to his fingers and life to his eyes.
The Wind howled, Jack soaring forth, staff in hand as he flew south, the painful sting of talons sinking into his skin as the old owl gripped onto shoulder, a heavy weight burying itself into Jack’s hood as the sprite hurdled forward, skimming over vast valleys and rivers, shipwrecks and fallen planes, penguins and signs of humanity growing with every mile as Jack rocketed through, a storm on his heels as he broke off from the frozen wasteland.
Slowing to a halt, Jack settled, frozen toes touching down on a floating chunk of ice, tall and thick, bobbing along to the current’s tune as it drifted south. The feeling in his gut settled, a sense of calm washing over Jack as he sat, prying black talons from his skin as he shifted the owl fully into his hood, pulling the drawstrings closed as ice blue eyes stared across the sea, the sun crawling up from the sea, spears of pinks and oranges coloring the sparse clouds, light dancing along the ice as shadows circled the depths below.
Pulling the crumpled letter out once more, Jack read through the letter once more, rereading the directions in memorized boredom, a soft hoot-cough coming from his hood, the flea ridden bird poking it's head out of the pocket to nibble on his eat with fascination.
“So, what do you think?” Jack asked, a smile playing on his lips, “Do we fly south-southeast to London, with time to spare?”
Jack shoved the paper back in his pocket, raising his arms to arrange both thumbs and forefingers into a rectangle, peering through it like a camera lens.
“Or” Jack continued, fixing his sight more to the left, “simply head southeast to India, and pop in and say hello to Tooth, and see how much carnage we can cause there?”
Jack dropped his arms, turning his head to look at the old owl, who was pecking at the back of Jack’s white shirt underneath his sweater, before looking up, pupils blown wide, staring fearfully at Jack before giving an ear splitting squawk; screaming in the spirit’s ear with ferocity, before ceasing and curling back into the hood, leaving Jack somewhat alone with the rising sun.
“Alright then,” Jack scoffed, looking up towards the sky, eyes wide, “how ‘bout you, Wind? Which way does our compass point today?”
A grin spread across his features, wide and showing a few too many teeth to be considered normal as the Wind tugged, a warm breeze flowing from the east.