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Jack had to admit, it probably wasn't his brightest idea.
Pinned to the wall by a shapeless mass of shadow, all he could to was gaze around Pitch's underground lair in dismay.
How could the sly old fart even know he was there?
It’d been two months since the battle resulting in Pitch’s downfall, surely the King of Nightmares would be too weak to even control the shadows? Jack had figured it would be fun to taunt the Boogeyman, maybe get some revenge for breaking his staff. Jack did have questions, too, he was planning to ask Pitch, regardless.
He wasn’t expecting Pitch to trap him before he even got to the main cavern, nor for the ancient spirit to drag him all the way into said cavern and toss him into the shadows so they could restrain him.
Jack rolled his eyes and wriggled in his tight bonds, wondering if Pitch was going to bore him to death doing MiM-knows-what.
Honestly, the lithe shadow of a man was fussing around a stone table for snow's sake! Long ashen fingers lightly smoothing wrinkles out of a white lace tablecloth before shifting a vase of freshly picked flowers that had been placed in the middle of it.
Jack struggled against his bonds again, hissing lowly at his own stubborn curiosity. It was so of him!
"No, it wasn't very intelligent of you at all, Frost." Pitch drawled, as if reading Jack's mind.
Jack focused on the Boogeyman, interlocking stares with Pitch.
"Let me go, Pitch!" His voice echoed in the cavern, and the King of Nightmares grinned at him creepily.
"Oh Jack, don't you realise what a day it is today? I have a powerful guest coming soon. If you behave, I'll let you go. If you don't..." Pitch trailed off from his sing-song taunt, only to draw a long finger across his throat in the universal sign of 'you're going to die'.
Jack only grinned at the Boogeyman, biting his lip as to prevent himself from laughing at the sight. The demented old fool literally danced to the dark kitchenette in the corner of his cavern.
"Are you going to keep me guessing, or can I go ahead and fill this place with snow?" The winter spirit began freezing the shadows he was trapped by and Pitch sobered immediately, face showing a brief flash of anger before he stoically straightened and composed himself.
"She will kill you."
"Best. Behaviour. Jack. " Pitch reminded harshly, organising an impeccable set of plates and cups on the table top like a waiter would at a fancy--
"Are you having a tea party?!" Jack suddenly exclaimed with a grin, laughter bubbling forth when Pitch scowled and twirled around with an angry flare of his shadow robe.
"It is a ! It is a very important meeting. Hopefully my guest might eliminate you… permanently... should you interrupt us.” Pitch clenched his fists and the shadows around Jack tightened enough to push all the air from his lungs.
Jack wheezed, struggling against the shadows and sending out a burst of magic to frost up the shadows. He was dropped to the floor before he scrambled to snatch up his staff with a painful gasp.
Pitch laughed, gliding across the room just as a loud, shrill horse’s whinny filled the air.
The winter spirit stiffened in confusion and fear, blue eyes sweeping the cavern for the source.
Galloping hooves clattering against the cobblestones of Pitch’s lair, snapping Jack’s attention to the left as a huge black, tan, and white horse appearing from the shadows. Jack winced, Pitch’s guest was here.
The horse bounded off the suspended bridge it had appeared on, snow-white mane and tail flying like flags in the wind, entirely white-blue eyes starkly contrasting against its black head and neck as it fell. It seemed to generate a trail of wisp as it moved, an immortal horse, he guessed.
It was also at that moment Jack realised the horse had a rider, a spirit he had hoped to never, EVER, meet face to face.
Robed in black and hooded, it was easy to identify the Grim Reaper, riding astride the great multi-coloured horse that had made such a magnificent entrance. The scythe in the Reaper’s hand was expertly held at an angle away from the immortal beast making its descent, a good 30 ft drop at least in which both horse and rider landed quite easily.
Jack was terrified, unable to move as the spirit horse- still trailing great lengths of ghostly wisps- touched down from its great leap, easily collecting itself and sliding to a stop beside the table and Pitch. It reared in excitement with another horsey-call, all of Pitch’s remaining nightmares echoing the call and briefly appearing out of the shadows excitedly. The new horse was a stallion, Jack identified. No wonder the nightmares were so loud.
“Easy there, Death. I know! I know! Go play, you silly old thing.” The voice that emanated from the depths of the Grim’s robes was not what he was expecting. Jack’s grip tightened on his staff as he watched the Grim Reaper, his fear escalating some more along with the dire need to escape ASAP.
The voice of the Grim was young… bubbly and feminine, almost the exact opposite of what Jack imagined it to be. Maybe it was a trick, to lure him into dropping his guard before she reaped his soul.
The Grim easily bounced off the horse – Death – and ran her free black-gloved hand over his back as the big horse quickly galloped off and merged with the shadows. Pitch’s Nightmares screamed with horse-joy as the Stallion joined them before they all began to playfully chase each through the shadows in the caverns and tunnels.
The Reaper laughed cheerfully and swung her scythe onto her shoulder with practised ease. It reminded Jack all too shockingly of himself. She was short too, probably the same height, if not shorter than him.
“Pitch. Long time, no see.” The Grim turned to Pitch and kicked out her robes with pizazz as she sauntered over to the Nightmare king, pulling off her black gloves and stowing them in her robes. Long, thin white finger daintily caressed the scythe before Pitch bowed and kissed her extended hand politely.
“200 years is hardly a long time, Reach.” Pitch drawled, straightening and gliding along behind the robed Grim, plucking at the seams of her sweeping robes to indicate she should take them off.
The Grim – Reach – pulled back her hood and stepped out of her huge robes gracefully, letting Pitch take and store them in the shadows somewhere while she brushed down her spotlessly clean white and light blue clothing.
Jack gasped in surprise at the sight of her; she was definitely not what he expected.
Thin, like him, but not lanky or clumsy, she was graceful and radiant, thigh-length white curls spilling down her back and lightly bouncing against her legs as she moved around and stretched with a happy groan.
She looked about the same age as him, only a teenager… but she was more than likely a few thousand years older though, being the Grim Reaper and all.
Her clothes were weird, looking more futuristic than like her ancient black robes. Her snugly fitting white, long sleeve top appeared seamless, studded with tiny light blue sapphires amongst intricate light blue embroidery around the low-cut neck and along the sleeves and hem.
Her pants where shades of white and light blue, striped in hundreds of individual seams and made out of a very light, floaty, material. Jack thought it was a skirt, until she strolled across the cavern soundlessly and the skirt turned out to be, in fact, pants. (albeit shapeless ones).
He noted she was barefoot too, and as she walked, beautiful patterns of frost grew in her wake.
Pitch didn’t seem surprised or annoyed she was doing so, only pulling out a chair for her and seating her like a true gentleman should.
I’m seeing things… I swear…
As if she could hear his thoughts, Reach’s rich cerulean blue eyes snapped to his, and she smiled. Her skin lacked any colour, yet she glowed like the moon on a cloudless night.
“I see you have another visitor, Pitch.” She hummed in a sing-song voice, making Pitch scowl and glare at Jack.
“Ignore him and he’ll leave soon enough, unless you would do us all a favour and reap his soul now.” Pitch suggested bitterly, glaring harder at the oblivious sprite.
Reach’s smile widened some more, and she slipped out of her seat to pad across the cavern calmly. She jumped up onto the ledge he was slouched on, just as easily as he would float up himself. She crouched before him, scythe propping her up.
“Cake or Death?” Reach asked sweetly, snapping him out of his trance.
“Wha…?” He said stupidly, a jumble of words rushing through his head all at once.
“Cake or Death, Jack?” She asked again, holding a plate with a piece of cake in one hand, and thumping the floor with her scythe in the other.
“C-cake! Cake… please?” He jumped, staring wide-eyed at the gleaming blade of the scythe.
“See, that wasn’t so hard, was it?” Reach tilted her head to the side, fine, doll like face innocent of any malice. She gently placed the slice of cake down and created an engraved fork out of ice before stabbing it into the cake and bounding off with a laugh.
He gaped at the cake, and then at the other winter spirit. Watching her easily somersault into her chair and pour herself a cup of steaming hot tea.
“Eat up Jack! Or I’ll kill you!” She trilled happily, a serious undernote evident in her voice—one that had Pitch grinning and Jack quickly starting on the huge piece of cake she had given him.
“Despite that last run in with the guardians, you’re looking pretty good, Pitch.” Reach started conversationally, cutting herself a piece of cake and daintily eating it while sipping tea.
“You’ve been feeding well, too, I see.” Pitch noted dryly, a small smirk forming on his lips as he indicated to her glowing skin.
“Well, a lot of people have been dying—oh, is this for me? How sweet of you.” Reach scooped up the vase of flowers and gently prodded them, grinning as they turned grey and shrivelled up, quickly turning to dust in her hands while she glowed brighter.
“Mmm, that hits the spot…” She sunk down in her chair and Pitch shook his head with a smirk.
“You haven’t changed at all, Reach.”
The two shadow-travellers began to converse openly in an ancient language Jack couldn’t understand, he stuck around though, even as it was evident he was no longer a captive.
He sat quietly against the wall, Reach’s gift of cake had long since been consumed and it was enjoyably warm in his belly. He played with the frost fork while he watched said creator of the fork, she was clearly a good friend of Pitch’s, the King of Nightmares laughing with her tales while delicately working through the consumables he had prepared.
Guardian of Fun or not, Jack was still a loner. The sight of another winter spirit made his hope soar, even if she was the harbinger of death. He couldn’t force himself to leave her, not without knowing more about her. Plus he had questions for Pitch, if the Boogeyman was going to be in a good mood, Jack could use the most to it—he just needed to be patient.
Jack knew he was jealous. But he just felt… too lazy to do anything about it… and despite the fact he couldn’t understand what either older spirits were saying, he liked their voices… liked listening to Pitch’s deeper voice contrasting against Reach’s sweeter one… her laugh was unique too…
He craved the social activity the two darker spirits participated in, but for now, he was content being a wall flower, he would wait for his chance to speak up later on. Jack didn’t even realise he was falling asleep until he closed his eyes and rested against the wall, letting the voices and laughter lull him to a deep slumber.
Jack didn’t stir even as Pitch prodded him with a tentacle of shadow.
“Did you drug him or something? He’s not even dreaming.” Pitch glanced from Reach to Jack a few times, having the Grim chew her lip out of habit. She was thinking, a million possible answers flashing before her eyes as she searched through the wisdom and knowledge of life.
“No I didn’t… Oh! I got it! He’s in a food coma.” She perked up with a little bounce that had her white ringlets bounce around her thin frame like a cape in the breeze.
“How do you figure that?” Pitch asked, surprised at her answer.
“He rarely eats. This is the first time he’s eaten a lot of food in a while. Food coma.” Reach explained, shadow-travelling to Jack’s side and breathing a mist of frost onto his face.
“Now I drugged him. Where are we dumping the body?” Reach sarcastically joked, turning to Pitch with a crazed grin on her face.
Pitch rolled his eyes, feeling legitimately exhausted for the first time in 2 months.
“I don’t care. He’s not the only one going into a food coma, sheesh it’s been a while.” Pitch yawned and Reach rose with a fond smile.
“Get some rest Boogeyman. If you want to chat again, you know how to reach me.” She patted his arm and Pitch snorted with a smirk.
“Tea party’s over is it? Fine. Be that way. You room is just the way you left it if you want to stay.” Pitch strolled off into the shadows and she was left alone with Jack and her thoughts.
“Well little sprite. Time to get you to North's.” She hummed gently, calling Death from the shadows to help her.
End of Chapter 1
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~ Will O' the Wisps ~