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.
The second chapter. Short and from Sandy's POV. I think. Thanks.
The second chapter of this. I have the third halfway done, but I ran into a bit of writers block. It'll be up as soon as I get the chance.
Sandy is noticing a trend.
Just when things were settling into a normal routine, Jack started acting off. No one else seemed to notice, of course. Jack was good at lying, for someone who had no one to lie to for a long time.
Besides himself, that is.
Sandy tries to shake the thought off. It was better now. Jack had people to talk to now, people to trust and confide in. It was better. They were making up for their past mistakes, slowly as it may be.
And it was working. They were better than when they started off. Masks are coming off, and falsehoods are giving way to truth. But if the lies came back, would they notice?
He’s afraid, just a bit. He owes it to Jack to not allow things to go back to the way they were. He would make sure. Keep his unspoken promise.
So when he sees the winter spirit out, he waves and beacons him over. They are making an effort to include him, to not go back to their solitary ways (that they had accidentally fallen into). He smiles at Jack as he softly sits down on the cloud, expanding the sand so they can both sit comfortably.
The hood over Jack’s head deters him. Not enough to stop him, but enough to make him worry and question. He gestures at it, and Jack acts surprised, quickly pushing it down and looking down.
It’s suspicious behavior, which only worries Sandy more. He grabs Jack’s attention, and only then does he see the dark bags under his eyes, a sure sign of too little sleep. His sand flares up, signing out questions rapidly. Sleep is very important, after all, and Jack needs it more than the others do.
Jack still acts surprised. “Oh? Yea… I’ve been busy. I haven’t found the time to take a nap yet…”
There is silence for the moment it takes Sandy to make a question mark.
“Umm… I’ve been busy….with umm… Starting autumn.”
The lie is obvious, but Sandy doesn’t call him out for it. Pushing didn’t help from his experience with Jack. He instead offers a picture of a dolphin and a question mark.
“Uh… yea, that would be great. I kinda came here for a nap… I hope that’s okay?” The tension in the question is thick, almost greater than the uncertainty. Jack didn’t like asking the others for favors. Sandy reassures him with a nod and a smile, making the cloud bigger once again so Jack could lay down. He sends his sand over, and Jack offers him a grateful smile before he slumps down and falls asleep.
He wonders why Jack’s dreams have changed from snow and dolphins to a smiling girl skating safely on ice, her silent laughter drowning out the other elements of the dream.
Jack wakes up from a dream to an unpleasant surprise, in the form of a sweet melody.
I finally got this chapter done, sorry about the wait. I should have more chapters up soon, since it is (finally) spring break (thank the gods). Thanks for reading!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
He wakes up well-rested, and curses himself for it. He’s still on the cloud of dreamsand, Sandy at his side, but they’re in a different city now. How long did he sleep for? Shit. He had only meant for a nap, maybe two hours at the most.
“How long did I sleep for?” he asks Sandy, startling him. “Sorry.”
Sandy smiles and waves a hand, making a picture of a clock and moving the hand around in an almost full circle.
“That long?” He tries to keep the horror out of his voice. “Where are we now? Across the-”
Jack trails of as he hears something in the distance. Singing. It’s just a melody right now, no words, but he can still faintly hear it.
He’s drawn to it, almost. It’s beautiful, melodious, calming. It promises safety, and peace. No troubles, no strife, no pain, no hardships. It promised everything and nothing at the same time, offering the world and taking it away. There was something intoxicating about it, dragging him forward. He needed to hear more, needed to hear the words to the sweet melody. He started drifting of the cloud, relying on the wind to catch him as he drops of the cloud of sand. The wind pushes against him, trying to get him back on the sand, but he ignores it and keeps going. He can hear himself laughing-
She laughs as she skips through the field, a woman with cloak covering guiding her away.
He breaks out of it, hands flying up to his ears to block out the sound. He lets the wind push him back onto the cloud, knocking him into Sandy.
“No,” he whispers in horror. “It’s to early. They weren’t supposed to come yet. It’s not Hallow’s Eve yet!”
Fuck he’s panicking. Ok, ok. He needs to calm down. Panick, and it will be easier for them.
“Sandy,” he says, giving a silent order to the wind, “Can you call the others? And whatever you do, do NOT let me wander, ok?”
Sandy does as he asks, even as he flashes question marks over his head. Dreamsand strands burst into golden light, disappearing in the blink of an eye.
Jack gives his staff to Sandy, not wanting to have any power to get away should he hear any sliver of the song again. He reluctantly takes one hand and quickly looks for the vial in his pocket. The song floods him like a tidal wave, still as sweet and inviting as before. He almost starts to walk of the cloud, but a rope of sand wraps around his waist and tugs him down, keeping him in a sitting position. He hurriedly finds the vial, smashing it on his leg, the black sand spilling over his pants and onto the cloud. Pitch is coming, he would know what to do.
He hadn’t realized his other hand had drifted down until he’s trying to escape the confines of the rope, struggling to get closer to the sound promising freedom. More ropes latch onto him, dragging his arms down and keeping his legs from kicking. He can’t hear anything but the song, the sweet singing filling his ears. He hates being trapped, so he struggles against the gold sand, the friction slightly burning him. Ice crawls up the strands, trying to break them and get away. Wasn’t the sand a good thing? He can barely remember flashes of the same gold sand comforting, a time ago. It doesn’t matter now though, because it is keeping him from the song.
He needs the song to survive, needs to get closer to it. It’s calling him, asking for him to go to it. Go towards it. He needed to hear more, needed to hear the completion of the melody. The song spoke of everything he had ever wanted, ever needed, ever wished for. If he got closer, he would be seen, and heard, and he would be free, and he would be wanted. All he needed to do was escape these bonds!
He knows he’s screaming, feels tears on his face, imagines the words he cannot hear, begging to be released. His arms burn, his wrists rubbing constantly against sand as he struggles. The wind pushes him down, so he’s kept pinned down, and he calls it a traitor, keeping him from what he needs.
He sees faint globs of color, green and grey and red and gold and black. They’re all looking at him, yelling in at the black glob. He doesn’t know what’s going on, but their screaming is blocking a small part of the song that he needs to hear!
He screams at them, begging them to move, to help him. He thinks that he laughs a bit to, but it’s not a good laugh.
One of the blobs is moving, coming towards him. The blob gets closer, hands focusing and moving towards his head. He understands it’s intentions in just enough time to push his head back, struggle away from the hands. Ice spikes form, sharp daggers aimed to wound.
It’s not enough, and hands close over his ears, impossibly warm and sound cancelling. He whines as the song fades out, reduced to nothing in a matter of moments. More tears leaves his eyes and freeze even as his limbs stop moving, as his body collapses in exhaustion, as the one thing he thinks he needs is taken away. Slowly, he is lifted from the thought muddying cloud it was in, lifted and saved from drowning. The shapes that were blurred out focus and sharpen into the faces of the Guardians, and he recognizes Pitch covering his ears as he sees them screaming at each other. His senses slowly come back, first his sense of balance and gravity, then his sense of taste, then he feels the sand beneath him and the hands over his ears. He can’t hear anything, thank the gods. Something grainy fills his ears, effectively blocking out everything more efficiently. The hands pull away, retreating.
It takes a while to understand what happened. Honestly, he didn’t even know that the song would affect him at all. He wasn’t a child, was he? He’s three hundred years old, and he definitely does not have the mentality of a child.
“Oh gods,” He says, voice feeling hoarse even if he can’t hear it, “the children?”
They probably respond, probably try to tell him something, but he can’t hear them. Of course he can’t, he can’t allow himself to hear anything, can’t allow himself the risk, not with their song creeping everywhere, trying to get in his mind, trying to call him.
(He could hear it then too, but her laughter, the laughter that was to loopy, to distracted, to happy, drowns it out. It doesn’t matter, right then, the song doesn’t matter except for the fact that it matters to her.)
His vision is blurry, fading out of to-sharp focus to vague blurs.
He still sees them, mouths moving and yelling. Tooth has her hands curled in fists, Bunny has both of his weapons out, and North has his hand on the hilt of his sword. He sees dreamsand wrapping around Pitch’s wrists, ankles, floating a centimeter away from Pitch’s actual skin, still trapping him. Jack recalls faintly how Pitch once told him how dreamsand burns him, and feels strangely thankful to someone.
Why does his head hurt so badly?
Focus. He needs to focus. He needs to stop the others, make sure the children are safe. Save them.
He’s almost there, so close to saving her. He just needs a bit more-
It hurts to talk. “Don’t attack each other! We need- we need to get everyone inside!” Lip-reading is hard, especially when it’s Bunny yelling protests at him. “Just.. Ugh! Trust me! Trust him!”
He sees their hesitance, but he also sees the sand fall away from Pitch’s wrists. Thank the gods for Sandy.
He’s panicking, isn’t he? He can’t think straight. Did the song really mess with him that much? At least Pitch is here.
Through the growing headache, he can see his surroundings in blurs. At least they’re slowly getter better, slowly focusing.
Until the song filters through the sand, muffled and distorted but still as persuasive, as beautiful, as calming. He knows he’s screaming, screaming from pain, screaming to be let go, because he has to go towards it!
Are his powers working with or against him? They’re definitely hitting some of the others. His ice looks nice against the dark of Pitch’s robes, sparkling in the gold of dreamsand. Glittering of fur and feathers. Decorating a blood-red coat. He can’t remember why he’s fighting, really. The song is so faint, but it’s addictive, and he needs more of it.
He doesn’t see the sand hit his face, doesn’t realize it’s hit him until he’s falling asleep.
Fall asleep, follow us, through your peaceful dreamland. Don’t worry, you don’t have to wake.
(Just fall asleep, and it’ll be okay.)
Hope you like it! Kudos and comments are always welcome and appreciated! I would love to hear what ideas you might have, or what you want/expect to happen!