The demon soars in the shadows of the charcoal sky. Her crimson eyes dart back and forth, striving not to lose the Fearling in the sinister midnight. Bloodstained wings effortlessly slit the brisk fog, stealing November's final breath. The pursuit continues beneath the vigilant moonlight as the frigid breeze fortifies. Suddenly, the Fearling swiftly dives into the woods below. She abruptly descends, emerging herself into the forest of silhouettes. She maneuvers through the trees as if she had done it a hundred times, though the territory is alien to her.
Left. Right. Right. Up. Left. Right. Down. Left. Mind numb from routine flight, she trifles with her luck and bolts closer to the shadow. Her wings flutter rapidly, tolerating a few inferior nicks and cuts from twigs and leaves. She follows the creature for a few more minutes until it approaches a desolate vicinity imprisoned by towering timbers. The Fearling slips into a dark hole in the ground. The demon's wings come to a halt, receding into her slender spine, and the silky roots of her dress brush against the frozen soil. She strides towards the abyss, noticing the abandoned wooden boards on the soil consuming themselves in their own decay like a long-forgotten dream withering away into nothing. Strands of hazy fog slither through the forest and ring around her like a constrictor. Her undaunted breath clamors in the ominous silence. Remembering the task at hand, she swiftly enters the cryptic void.
She lands on the cold, stiff ground with a dull thud. Darkness subdues the pit and murders any sense of direction. She raises her gaunt hand, expecting it to materialize in her vision, but there is only obscured blackness. The air is musty and damp. Low, morbid whispers echo around her. She reaches down to the hem of her sleek skirt and cautiously draws her fatal blade, carefully moving in a watchful circle. Without warning, an icy chill roams down her spine, making the hairs on her neck stand on edge. She impulsively turns to make an attack but finds nothing but the lonesome dimness. Mystified, she succumbs to the black nothing.
"Hello, Leila," a deep, velvety voice hisses into her ear.
Her body tenses and she remains immobile. Slowly, she gravely grins to herself and conceals her dagger as she realizes who is lurking behind her. " 'Ello, Peetch. Eet's been a while."
Pitch glides to the side and transforms from a ghostly shadow to the Nightmare King. "Yes," he says, staring into nowhere. "Almost 2,000 years, I believe, near the end of the Dark Ages." He fondly cups his hands behind his back and his gold and silver eyes find themselves gazing at Leila's ashen ruby orbs. She holds a fearless posture, though his eyes penetrate her soul with an alluring trance and a forlorn heartache.
"Zuch a long time, 2,000 years." The words barely falter out of her mouth.
He hesitates, attempting to determine the right phrase to replace the years of anguish. "I'm sure you've heard stories of my whereabouts. What have you been doing all this time?"
"Nozing much; making enemies, travelling een darkness." Leila dismally looks away. "You avoided me for zo long. Why contact me now?" A solitary tear drips down her pale cheek, praying not to be detected.
A leaden sigh escapes Pitch's lips. "Because I need you."
Her attention is back on him. "You need me? I zought you vere, 'ow you say, too powehrful and deed not need anyone."
"Well, I was wrong," he confesses ruefully. "I do need help, and you're the only one who can help me. Seven years ago, I tried to take over the world with fear and darkness; to get people to believe in me once again. I almost did it. I had killed Sandy. The Guardians were at their weakest. Every child but one stopped believing in them. But that one child and the newest Guardian, Jack Frost, were all it took to get children to believe again. Sandy came back and I became invisible once more. My own Nightmares dragged me down into my lair, attacking me, showing no mercy to their creator. It's taken me this long to build up my strength and develop a plan, and now that I'm ready, I need your assistance."
"Oh, I zee. You know zat revehnge ees my ayxpehrtise and you vant to use me to your advanteege. Well, I won't do eet. You vill need much more zan chahrm to conveence me, Peetch. You treecked me once, eet will not 'appen again." She turns to desert the enigmatic lair. Her feathery appendages sprout from her vertebrae, set for take off, when a shaded, narrow hand seizes her exposed shoulder, tempting goosebumps to settle on her gentle skin.
"Leila, I know I hurt you in the past. I was stupid and I was wrong. I don't deserve your forgiveness. But, please, let me try to make it up to you. Let me try to fix what I did. Please."
She pivots and meets his eclipsing eyes that mourn with sincere nostalgia. The shadows below his orbs expose centuries of sorrow and yearning. His lips curl downward, partially ajar. She takes a deep breath. "Fine. But I promise you zees: eef you 'urt me een any way, you vill regret eet." He nods respectfully. "Now, what ees your veecked plan zees time?"
Pitch's expression changes to a tender smile that is instantly morphed into a vile one. "Do you know of the New Year Moon?"
"Peetch, I'm not an eediot."
"Right. My apologies. Anyway, on that night, the Guardians will all be focused on helping Sandy and the Man in the Moon with the dreams. None of their attention will be on protection; they still think I'm no longer a threat. The Moon Clipper, the Man in the Moon's ship, will be the closest to Earth during this time. So, if we take control of the Moon Clipper-"
"We take over ze dreams and turn zem into nightmares..." she deciphers.
"Thus defeating the Guardians and plunging the world into a second Dark Age," he ends with a smirk.
"Zo, why zend a Fearling to bring me to you vhen you could 'ave gotten me yourself?" She crosses her arms and awaits his response.
He looks at her with a ludicrous expression. "Really? I thought you would've figured it out. I'm slightly disappointed in you, Leila." He twists around, wandering further into the strange chasm.
Leila extends her arm to abstain his departure, but her diligent fingers barely evade Pitch's neck, slightly brushing the collar of his silken robe. Her body stutters, hesitant between pause and pursuit. Her arm subsides to her hip. He is nearly invisible now, masked by the shadowy tunnel. She speculates the possibilities hastily. When the explanation comes to her, she flies into the darkness. "You deed not want ze Man een ze Moon to know of your return, no? You vere, 'ow you say, staying out of ze limelight?"
An enticing chuckle rings in her ears as numerous shadows of the Boogeyman encircle her. "Well done, although you're missing a key part." The shadows accumulate and Pitch arises. "Have you noticed anything different about the location of the moon beams lately?"
"Why would I pay attention to zat?"
"Ah, but you should always pay attention to everything. The smallest detail can be your enemy's downfall." He strides behind her, tenderly placing his hands on her shoulders. "I have been observing the patterns of the moon beams for the past few months, and what I've come to find is that they have been lingering in one specific area in Burgess. I think that the Man in the Moon has been watching over someone, someone of some importance to him."
She gives him a quizzical look. "You mean to say you are paranoid about a leetle ayxtra light?"
"With good reason. The Fearling I sent to escort you had another task - to find out who the Moon is after." Promptly, the Fearling swoops to Pitch's side. It elevates to his face, sending coarse whispers into his ear, and whisks away into the blackness. "Ah," he simpers. "It seems as though our lunar friend is seeking a young girl, and one with power, too."
"What? Why? Does 'e know of your plans?"
He looks down into her flaming eyes. "I don't know, but one thing's for certain: We need to find this girl and dispose of any threat she brings to us. As far as we know, she hasn't chosen a side yet. She is still a neutral party, and I'm not going to ignore this one."