Rise of the Guardians
Jamie Bennet, Jack Frost, Pitch Black
James Bennet is a knight who believes in fairies, Jack Frost is an ice fairy who's been frozen for a very long time, and Pitch Black tries to make them miserable.
Notes: written for this prompt on the rotg kinkmeme
Once, a long time ago, a fairy prince fought a desperate evil for the future of his kingdom. The prince was skilled and clever and full of heart, but evil is tricksy and patient and cruel.
The prince had a staff, a simple thing of wood, curled on one end like a shepherd's crook. This staff was the root of the prince's magic, but few others knew it was also the prince's anchor to life. The evil learned this, and determined that to break the staff was to kill the prince. It captured the prince's only friend, and bargained her life for the staff. The prince could not countenance leaving his friend in the grasp of so evil a thing, and so, despite her frantic pleading, he gave up the source of his power and his life. But evil betrayed its bargain, as evil is wont to do, and struck her down. When the prince went to her side, the evil sought to sunder the staff in two.
But weapons of magic are not so easily broken, and anchors of life not so carelessly discarded. The evil could do no more than crack the staff.
It was enough.
The prince faltered and fell.
Enraged at its failure, the evil pierced the prince's heart with his own staff and watched as ice, the special province of the prince's magic, enveloped him. The evil left him there, encased in an ice coffin, on the edge of death. It left him, but it watched, and it waited for the one to come and wake him.
And so history passed to story, story to legend, legend to myth, until it was nearly forgotten.
Jamie had dreamed of him for as long as he could remember. Jamie knew he was a fairy by the wings on his back—shimmering, iridescent concoctions of frost and ice, oblong like a dragonfly’s but with ridges and points—though in some dreams they disappeared. He only wore tight breeches in a deep blue which tied at the ankles; his torso was bare, though swirling designs of dark blue marked the pale flesh of his arms from wrist to shoulder. And he held a frost-limned staff, curved on one end like a shepherd’s crook.
As Jamie grew older, the dreams became more involved. There were battles and friendships and magic. There was a girl fairy, radiant in blues and greens with touches of yellow and violet. And there was a shadow in the shape of a man with sharp teeth and yellow eyes.
Jamie listened with delight to his mother, and to the old woman everyone called Mam who watched the children, as they told stories. Stories about the gods who brought rain, the heroes who defeated monsters, the spirits who looked after children. Jamie’s favorites were the fairy stories (and he didn’t care if that made him a ‘girl’; Jamie knew a lot of girls and they were scary) about the fairies who made flowers bloom and leaves turn colors and especially the fairy who painted frost ferns onto windows and grew icicles off eves. The Ice Prince whose winter magic made winters fun.
But that wasn’t the only Ice Prince myth he found. As he grew (and learned to read, and traveled), the Ice Prince popped up everywhere that had snow or frost or ice. He was sometimes benevolent, like the character from Jamie’s childhood, but he was also the one who brought the deadly winter storms, the one who took the last breaths of those who died in winter. And in one story, he was the hero that fought an ancient, formless evil to a standstill.
The day before his Knighthood ceremony, Jamie had a dream about the Ice Prince. The Prince looked at him, silently pleading, and then faded away.
Jamie woke up and made a decision.
Sir James Bennett, known as Jamie around the practice salle, sighed and rubbed his gauntleted hand lightly over his eyes. Underneath him, his gray warhorse Abby shifted into a more comfortable position. The two forks of the road hadn't changed when Jamie looked at them again.
"James Bennett, what have you gotten yourself into this time?" he asked himself rhetorically. "Chasing fables…" Chasing the Ice Prince.
Nobody at Court had been in the least surprised when their newly-promoted knight announced he would find the Ice Prince and free him. James Bennett was known as excitable, and all through his service as squire, he had sworn that mythical creatures existed. And no one could miss his obsession with the story of the Ice Prince.
Though the story of the Ice Prince always started, "Once long ago," Jamie was the only one who believed the events actually happened. He hunted up old records of the tale in the Palace library, tracked down obscure versions which gave more or different or conflicting details, and now here he was, on the road in the middle of autumn, looking at the forking path. One would lead him north and into an early winter, and the other would lead him south and into a long autumn.
Jamie tapped his fingers against the saddlehorn, thinking. All the stories agreed on one point: the unnamed prince was uncommonly good with ice magic. One had outright stated he preferred the colder weather. Mind made up, Jamie took his reins and urged Abbey forward on the northern road.
To an early winter it was.
It was a long journey, and bitterly cold. Along the way, he heard stories at inns. They were the things you tell to children at night to give them a scare, or to adults on inhospitable nights around a warm fire. They confirmed his research, spurred him onward.
There is a castle all of ice, it’s said, up in the far North where no living soul dwells. There, the sun neither rises nor sets, and it never stops snowing.
Jamie traveled farther and farther north, until he gave up his horse for a hardy mountain pony, and then for a team of dogs and a sled.
In the castle there is a prince, skin white as new-fallen snow, lips blue and dead. He sleeps in a casket made of flawless clear ice, kept that way by the magic of his staff turned against him.
He had never worn so many clothes in such warm fabrics—the warmest they made—and still he was cold.
Many have sought him, and of the few who survive the attempt, none have found him. And so he sleeps onwards, calling the cold wind and the snow with his dreams, forever battling his nightmare foe.
Jamie thought that some of it was true: there must have been others who looked for the Ice Prince, if for no other reason than every prince must have gold. But Jamie read a lot of fairy tales and the most important thing in all of them was belief.
So Jamie believed with all his heart that he would find the castle with his prince.
It was made all of ice, that much was true. It could be called a castle, though it looked like no castle Jamie had seen. There were no towers or crenellations, no slit windows and no portcullis. The structure looked like nothing so much as a giant stalagmite growing up out of the ground. Facing Jamie was a gaping maw of an entrance, completely open and mostly arch-shaped, but for the top, which was jagged with icicles like teeth.
Jamie crept inside and out of the wind it was surprisingly warm. He left his sled and dogs just inside the entrance, and freed his sword. It was quiet aside from the faint howl of the wind outside, the kind of quiet of snowdrifts and thick walls. The hard soles of his boots clicked on the icy floor, but instead of magnifying the sound as Jamie expected, the ice-walls muffled it, until he swore he was the only one alive.
Maybe he was.
Maybe this was the fool’s quest all his peers had called it. Maybe there was no Ice Prince, no ancient evil and no literal battle. Maybe it was all metaphor and simile; maybe it was only an explanation for the deadly winters that plagued the far north. Maybe his dreams of an ice-winged fairy were just that: dreams.
There was a tinkle of sound, a barely perceptible tremor in the ice, and an icicle crashed into splinters at his feet.
No, Jamie decided, shoring up his faith. The Ice Prince was real, and he was waiting to be found.
As if reacting to his thoughts, Jamie found a door not five feet later. It was a normal sort of door, aside from being made of ice and lacking a doorknob. There was a swirling, fern-like, frost-like motif edging the door, spiraling inwards to become a perfectly symmetrical snowflake in the middle. Awed at the workmanship—so detailed, so precise—Jamie trailed one gloved fingertip over one of the snowflake’s arms.
The door glowed blue and fell away like dust—or snow. Jamie stepped through.
The room was ginormous, tall ice walls echoing up and up and up like a cathedral, coming to a conical point in the exact center. Beneath it was a monolithic pillar of ice which seemed to grow out of the floor itself. Jagged sides, full of spikes and rough edges, spiraled into a sharp point, as if it had been in the center of a tornado at its formation. The ice was completely clear, marred only by an oblong shape of blue in the center and a line of brown.
Jamie crept closer, hand on the pommel of his sword. The line of brown resolved into a wooden staff, curled on one end, which pierced right through the heart of the blue figure entombed in the ice.
Dark blue pants tied at the calves enclosed thin muscular legs. Matching blue marks frosted over equally muscular arms from wrist to shoulder, tendrils snaking out over bare shoulderblades and pectorals. Pale skin, white hair. Closed eyes, but Jamie knew the shade of blue beneath the lids: it was his dream fairy, his Ice Prince.
He was real.
With a sigh edging into a joyous, wondering sob, Jamie ran closer, resting his palms against the ice. It was cold even through his gloves, colder than anything Jamie had felt before. Frost bloomed on his gloves. In that moment, Jamie knew, despite the tales always referring to the ice structure as a ‘tomb’ or ‘coffin’, that the fairy trapped inside was not dead. The Ice Prince was real, and he was alive.
“You’re real,” Jamie whispered to the still figure in the ice. “You’re alive. And I’m going to get you out of there.”
And he knew just how, as well.
The crooked end of the staff protruded out of the ice. Jamie grabbed the wood in a sure grip, and with half-giddy thoughts of King Arthur and Excalibur, set one boot against the ice for leverage and pulled.
The staff slid out with nary a sound.
Jamie stared at the wooden staff, so light in his hands, almost disbelieving. He’d done it. A sudden crack attracted his attention to the ice tomb before him: from the staff’s point of entry, white fissures began spreading, spiderwebbing outwards and around until Jamie could no longer see the fairy for the cocoon of cracks around him. With barely a thought, Jamie touched the edge of the staff to the initial fracture.
The whole thing came down like an avalanche.
Jamie cried out, half in startlement, half in fear for the Prince. Once the ice dust settled, and the reverberations of the crash finally faded away, Jamie looked over the resulting pile of ice. There was no sign of the Ice Prince.
“Oh no.” He scrambled over the edges of the pile, using the sturdy staff as both leverage and balance. “Ice Prince! Ice Prince, can you hear me? Ice Prince!” He reached what he approximated as the center and began to dig, flinging the smaller stones away with his hands and using the staff to lever the bigger boulders until they tumbled down the pile and crashed into the floor. All the while, he kept calling the fairy’s name.
“Ice Pr—” He cut himself off with a shriek as a white hand suddenly erupted out of the ice and grabbed onto his. Hope began to burn behind his heart. He clutched the hand in both of his and dragged the Prince to the surface.
The Ice Prince sat there, gasping and covered in ice dust which glimmered in the low light. One hand pressed against his chest where his staff had pierced it—smooth and the same pale white as the rest of him, with no visible injury—and the other threaded through Jamie’s, knuckles bloodless and standing out even against the Prince’s already pale skin. The pressure was almost enough to bruise, even through Jamie’s thick gloves.
After a moment to let the Prince get his breath back, Jamie asked tentatively, “Prince? Are you alright?”
“W-what?” the Prince stuttered out, blinking blue eyes at Jamie. He had a surprisingly deep voice for his young, slim appearance. Jamie liked it. “Who--? Where--?”
“All good questions,” Jamie couldn’t help but quip. The Prince looked a little offended, and cleared his throat. The death grip the Prince had on Jamie’s hand loosened.
“Who are you?”
“I’m Sir James Bennet of Burgess,” Jamie said. “But you can call me Jamie. I’m here to rescue you.”
“Rescue—I don’t rem—Baby Tooth!” The Prince looked around frantically. He started to stand up and wobbled; Jaime caught his elbow. Upon seeing how empty the room was, the Prince stared at Jaime with big, pleading eyes. “What happened to Baby Tooth?”
“She’s a tooth fairy, bright green and yellow plumage, you can’t miss her! Pitch hit her right before—right before he stabbed me,” the Prince said, his voice starting high and worried, then ending in a whisper as memory assaulted him.
“I don’t know,” Jamie finished. “I didn’t even know your friend’s name was Baby Tooth. But it’s been so long…the tales never say what happened to your friend, only that she was ‘struck down.’” Jamie had always believed that the evil had killed the Ice Prince’s friend, but now he hoped that Baby Tooth was alive.
“How long?” the Prince asked softly. He spotted his staff next to Jamie and picked it up. Like his skin, it showed no indication that it had been stabbed straight through a heart. When the Prince touched it, frost spread into the rough wood grain, and his pale skin started regaining some color. The frost only highlighted a crack that ran nearly the whole circumference of the wood, dead in the center of the staff, and the Prince rubbed his thumb against it. He absently tapped the shifting mass beneath them and it froze solid.
“I don’t know,” Jamie repeated. “Long enough for you to become a story to frighten children with, Ice Prince. Long enough that people don’t believe in fairies any more.”
The Prince stared at Jamie—stared through Jamie. “That long.”
“I’m sorry,” Jamie murmured. He’d been looking for the Prince for as long as he could remember, but not once had he considered how the Prince would feel to wake to a world so changed. Not once had he considered the Prince’s feelings. But he couldn’t have left the Prince in the ice, not and live with himself after.
“Jack,” the Prince said abruptly.
“My name. Jack Frost. Not Ice Prince,” the Prince—Jack, his name was Jack—said with a grimace. “I hate that title. It sounds so pretentious.”
Jamie made a little ‘huh’ sound. He’d never heard of a prince who didn’t like being called a prince before. “Alright…Jack.”
A small smile flirted with Jack’s lips, and he regained a little more color, looking less like a corpse.
“Well, well, well…what have we here?” An accented voice broke the quiet, heavy with contempt. The question bounced around the room, and Jamie couldn’t tell from where it originated. Without his noticing, the ambient light in the room had dimmed, and there were shadows gathered in the edges of the room, in the hollows between ice stones. Jamie saw Jack tense, both hands gripping the staff close to his body. Jamie discarded his gloves and drew his sword, ready to protect his Ice Prince from whatever this was.
“That little toothpick won’t help you, James Bennet,” the voice taunted.
“Who are you? Come out, you coward!” Jamie shouted. He edged closer to Jack, but he couldn’t look everywhere at once.
“Who am I?” the voice sneered. Jamie turned, trying to find its owner, but the sound seemed to come from every shadow. Behind him, he could feel Jack doing the same, elbows, shoulderblades and the butt of the staff occasionally bumping into Jamie. “I am the monster under the bed and in the wardrobe. I am the hungry wolf in the forest and the greedy brigand on the lonely path. I am the whisper that starts the mob; I am the executioner’s axe and the hangman’s rope. I am the shadow cast by the candle and the dark space between the stars. I am the fear that hides in the very darkest corners of your soul—and the shadow that stretches from your feet.”
A sudden shove from behind sent him tumbling down the icy mound, and he had to let go his sword to protect his head. He heard Jack call out Jamie! but he had to concentrate on keeping himself in once piece. He almost succeeded. He felt a wrench in his shoulder and heard a crack right before he came to a stop on the floor. He lay there, clutching his shoulder. It felt dislocated, rather than broken. Good.
Jamie looked up and met Jack’s eyes, wide and blue and…frightened.
The voice finished, low and menacing, “I am the Nightmare King. I am Pitch Black.”
Too late, Jamie saw the Prince’s shadow rise up and grab one end of the staff. “Jack, behind—”
The shadow formed itself into the suggestion of a man, clothed in a black robe, skin ash-pale to Jack’s snow. Jamie could see his diseased yellow eyes even from his distance. The shadow leaned in, his whisper in Jack’s ear full of mocking softness, “Hello, Jack.”
Then he wrenched the staff from Jack’s white-knuckled grip and threw him away. The Ice Prince landed in a heap beside Jamie. Jamie scrambled over, trying to keep his dislocated shoulder still (the pain informed him that he wasn’t succeeding very well with that. “Jack! Are you alright?”
“Peachy,” the Ice Prince grated out. He took Jamie’s hand and together they managed to stand. Jack was pale as new snow again, all the subtle color he’d gained drained away.
“Oh, Jack, how long you’ve slept,” Pitch crooned, fingers caressing the rough grain of the wood like one would a lover. “How weak you’ve grown. Look at you, you can barely stand. I had hoped for a good fight to get the blood pumping before I killed you, but, well…”
Shored up by Jamie on one side, Jack tipped his chin back defiantly. “You don’t have blood.”
“Oh, I will enjoy beating you again,” Pitch sneered. He seemed to flow down the side of the ice pile, the hem of his robe oozing from one shadow to the next.
“You didn’t beat me the first time,” Jack snarled. “You cheated.”
“Hello, evil,” Pitch sing-songed. “We don’t play by rules.”
The Nightmare King stopped across from Jack and Jamie, the ice mound behind him, squarely between Jamie and his sword—not that it would have done much good against the manifestation of fear, but Jamie would have felt better with cold steel in his hand. Pitch Black was just out of sword range, anyway.
Jack straightened, taking most of his weight off Jamie. “Yeah? Neither do I.”
Jack launched himself into the air, using Jamie’s body as a springboard. Jamie stumbled back a few steps from the force, the motion jarring his shoulder. Black spots danced in his eyes, and he couldn’t see clearly what happened next.
As Jack hurtled through the air, he shrunk from a human-sized young man to a four-inch winged fairy. Ice shimmered in the air around him.
Pitch looked surprised for an instant, but just as Jack got close enough to do anything, a tendril of shadow whipped out from the ice and batted him away. Where the shadow tendril had hit Jack, it frosted over and froze, then shattered. Jamie thought Pitch flinched.
Jack landed and slid a few feet before he stopped. Jamie was moving before he even landed, picking up the small body and cradling him in his good palm. The Prince’s frosted wings were pinpricks of cold against his skin. Jack shakily rose onto his hands and knees and looked up at Jamie.
“What was that?” Jamie whispered.
“Easier to control my magic when I’m small if I don’t have my staff,” Jack said, voice quite a bit higher at four inches tall. “Put me down, I’m gonna grow.”
Jamie did so, then stood back. In a moment, the Prince was human-sized again.
“Oh, Ja~ack,” Pitch called, catching their attention. Jack sucked in a shocked breath; Pitch had the staff in a two-handed grip, horizontal to the ground. “Didn’t I tell you? You’re weak. People don’t believe in magic anymore. They don’t believe in fairies.”
Jack clenched his jaw, hands fisting at his sides.
Pitch’s lips stretched into the parody of a smile, all teeth with nothing of joy about it, only malice. It revealed crooked, sharp teeth. “I don’t believe in Jack Frost.”
Jack flinched, curling in on himself. In that instant, Pitch brought the staff down over one knee. With a sound like the cracking of glaciers, the staff broke in two.
“No—“ Jack choked out, falling to the floor. He seemed almost opaque. Jamie went to one knee beside him, steadying him. Under his hands, the Prince seemed no more substantial than a delicate frost flower.
The Nightmare King cackled. “But they do believe in fear. I’ve grown stronger, Jack Frost, strong enough to finally, finally destroy you.”
It hit Jamie like a snowball to the face: this, all of this, it was all about belief. Jamie had believed the Ice Prince was real: he was. He believed he could find the Ice Prince and free him, and he had. Without belief, Jack had fallen.
Well, if there was one thing Sir James Bennet possessed, it was belief.
He stood and faced Pitch Black. The Nightmare King glanced at him curiously, obviously not threatened by a weaponless, magicless mortal knight. Jamie said, his voice strong and determined, “I do believe in magic, and in fairies. I believe in Jack Frost.”
Jack looked up at Jamie, awed.
Pitch’s face twisted into ugly fury. “And do you believe in fear?”
“I do,” Jamie admitted. “But I also believe in good, and that it will always triumph over evil.” He started walking forward. With a snarl, Pitch gestured and shadow tendrils shot at Jamie. Jamie believed with all his heart that they couldn’t hurt him—they were only shadows, they had no substance. The tendrils passed right through him without harm. “I believe in you, Pitch Black. I believe I can beat you.”
“I am fear itself! You can never be rid of me, not forever!”
Jamie shook his head, and stopped an arm’s length away from the Nightmare King. “No, I can’t. But I don’t need to. I just need to believe that you’ll never win, and you won’t.” Jamie reached out. “You’re only a shadow, after all. All I need is a bit of light.”
Jamie touched Pitch’s chest and light shone out. Pitch shrank down and down and down until he disappeared, a dark smear of shadow on the floor, and then not even that. The room brightened to mid-day illumination, eliminating all but the deepest of shadows.
It was enough.
“Jamie, are you alright?” Jack’s deep voice came from behind him. Jamie turned and gave him a big smile.
“We just beat the Nightmare King,” Jamie said, giddy.
“You just beat the Nightmare King,” Jack said with a rusty laugh. “That was amazing.”
Jamie noticed he still looked milk-white, though solid. “What’s wrong? You still don’t look…”
“My staff,” Jack said, pointing at the object in question, still in two pieces. He tipped himself over onto his backside, leaning on his elbows and legs akimbo. The position emphasized his lean torso, his muscular biceps, and his long legs. Jamie couldn’t help the glance at the fairy’s crotch, but looked away as a blush warmed his cheeks and the tips of his ears.
As he bent down to pick up the pieces of the staff, his shoulder reminded him—loudly—that it was dislocated. Jamie clenched his jaw. It was almost impossible to reset a dislocated shoulder by yourself, but maybe Jack would help.
He brought the staff over to Jack. It was a fairly clean break for wood, following the line of the earlier crack. Jack looked at the pieces with something like despair.
“Can you fix it?” Jamie asked, setting aside his injury for the moment. He really would have to either reset it or immobilize his arm soon.
“I don’t…” Jack trailed off. “It was given to me as a focus for my magic, and it ended up becoming a bit more than that. But I didn’t have anything to do with either—it kind of just happened.”
“Well, then it can happen again,” Jamie said pragmatically. “Try.”
Jack spared a doubtful glance for Jamie, then fit the broken ends together. He closed his eyes and pressed—and the two sides slipped against each other, just as broken as before. Jack clenched his jaw and opened his eyes. “I can’t. I don’t know how it works.”
Jamie grinned. “It’s magic, right? You don’t have to know.” He lay his hands over Jack’s and repositioned the broken ends, wincing at the motion. Jack startled and froze like a deer. “Try again.” He looked into Jack’s wide eyes. “I know you can do it.”
“You believe in me,” Jack murmured, as if to himself. Jamie nodded.
Jack closed his eyes again, a furrow of concentration between his eyebrows. The staff began to glow a bright blue along the break, flashed with light, and when Jamie blinked the spots from his eyes, the staff was whole and frosted over.
Jack beamed, and Jamie couldn’t help but smile back. Jamie stood and offered Jack a hand up, which Jack accepted, clutching his staff in his other hand. After a moment, Jack said, “What’s wrong with your arm?”
Jamie grimaced. “Dislocated my shoulder when Pitch threw me down.”
Jack blinked, stared at Jamie’s injured shoulder, then at his whole staff. Confusion gave way to exasperation. “Strip.”
Jamie would never, ever admit that he squeaked. “Pardon?”
“I need to reset your shoulder, so strip so I can get at it,” the fairy said, tone bland. Jamie’s blush probably reached his collarbones, but aside from the embarrassment at being told so prosaically to strip, he had a lot of layers on. Difficult to remove without damaging his arm or his clothes. Jack watched Jamie fiddle with the ties on his cloak and shook his head. “Right. One arm makes that sort of thing hard. Let me help.”
With Jack’s help, a violently flushed Jamie managed to remove enough of his clothes for Jack to get at his shoulder. Not even the ambient temperature was enough to cool his blush. It was the work of a moment for the fairy to pop his shoulder into place. Jamie clenched his teeth on a pained shout, then let out a relieved sigh when it was over.
The pain had brought his skin to a more natural tone, but as Jamie was putting all his layers back on he noticed Jack was staring at him. It was a slightly predatory look. Jamie had seen it on a few women at Court, but he wasn’t all that interested in women. This was the first time someone male-shaped had looked at him with appreciation, and he couldn’t help his renewed blush.
“I don’t think humans are supposed to be that color,” Jack said, appreciation giving way to concern again. Jamie turned his face away and fidgeted with the ties on his forearms. Jack said slowly, “Or is it a, um, blush? Is that the right word? You do it when you’re embarrassed.”
Jamie grumbled and didn’t answer. Jack’s gleeful chuckle made any sort of verbal confirmation moot, anyhow. When Jamie glanced up, the fairy was grinning fit to burst. The emotion warmed Jamie, who smiled back.
A moment later the joy faded. Jack asked softly, “What now? The world must be so different…what do I do?”
Jamie considered the question, straightening to his full height and squaring his shoulders as he thought. He was almost a full head taller than Jack. “You could stay here, I guess. It’s kind of the middle of nowhere, but it’s cold so it’d be comfortable for you.”
“But alone,” Jack murmured.
“Yeah,” Jamie admitted. “Or…you could come with me. I don’t know if other people could see you, but I can’t be the only one who still believes in fairies. And tooth fairies.”
Jack’s expression brightened with hope. “Baby Tooth.”
“We can look for her,” Jamie offered. “I mean, the stories don’t say she died.”
“You’d really help me look for her?” Jack asked, gripping his staff a bit tighter.
For the fairy prince who had haunted his dreams for his whole life, Jamie would do anything. “Yeah. If she’s alive, we’ll find her.”
Jack gave him a smile so warm, so happy, Jamie’s insides seemed to melt. “Yeah. Yeah, we will.”