It’s dark, and it smells of smoke.
The only light is that of a flame, slowly moving, moving, moving closer to where he knows there is a stake, holding a body.
He can hear the wood cracking, popping as the fire consumes it, casting shadows on unknown objects as it barely lights up the space.
He knows what is happening. It’s a witch burning. There is a woman (-devil spawn, darkness daughter, impure-) on that stake, as she will be burned. He can’t turn away as the fuel is lit, can’t block out her all-to-familiar screams as she is burned alive. It’s the only way to kill a witch, after all, besides drowning (the lake is frozen, as it should be, it is the season of death).
All he can smell is ash, all he can hear is screams, but it is all forgotten.
It’s all forgotten when the fire keeps moving, keeps burning, keeps providing light. It reveals the smiling face of his sister, tied to the stake and burning before his eyes.
He wakes up gasping, frantically looking around the room, looking for her, before he realizes where he is. He relaxes slowly, waiting for his heartbeat to stop pounding in his ear before he trusted himself to speak.
His voice is still shaking when he speaks, irrational fear curling in his gut. “Did it w-work?”
Pitch’s voice come back to him, velvety as always. “No. Unfortunately, all that served to do was give me a dosage a fear.”
Jack groans and flops backwards on the bed, frost spreading out on the sheets around him. “So, we’re back we started.”
He groans again, covering his face with his hands and yawning.
Pitch frowns, noticing the barely covered up yawn and the dark circles under Jack’s eyes. “Have you had any sleep?”
“No, of course not. I barely sleep as it is, and we need every opportunity to get more information.”
“C’mon! There’s no other option. We know nothing about them! And it’s not just going to be the three! They’re going to bring the others back, and then what will we do? Three we could’ve maybe handled, but there would still be to many casualties!”
“Frost!” Pitch is getting tired of the rambling, on and on and on. He’s noticed it’s a habit that Jack has made, no prior knowledge of social interactions slowing him down.
“Belief will drop again! A mere mention of any magic will be taboo! We’ll all fade! And-”
“Frost!” Pitch shakes him, making him stop with shock as he feels the hands on his shoulders. “I admit the circumstances aren’t ideal. However, starving yourself of proper sleep will only make it worse. You’ll eventually get too tired to dream, your subconscious trying to focus on resting and recuperating. It will not do you any good.”
Jack shrugs the hands off his shoulders. “What are we going to do?”
“I suggest going to Sanderson. Get proper sleep and rest. I will work on getting enough power for a dose of nightmare-sand, and then you will come back. Once you have rested, we will hopefully be able to get more information.”
It’s not enough. They’re running out of time. Jack glances up at Pitch. “What else do you suggest we do? This is the only thing within our power.”
“Then we need more power.”
“Not this again. There is no way I’m going through with that.” Jack is insistent. Its to dangerous, to risky. A last resort should everything else go to hell.
“Fine.” Pitch sighs, summoning a nightmare. “She’ll take you to Sanderson’s general location, and report back to me if you do not sleep. You will not like the consequences if that happens, trust me. Get going. We don’t have time to waste.”
Jack gets up, grabbing his staff and climbing on the nightmare. “See you soon.”
“Let’s hope so. Otherwise…”
The warning of things to come hung in the air, even as Jack is greeted by the wind and autumn leaves.