Author's Note:

Thank you for the follows, favourites and reviews thus far. I'm glad people seem to be enjoying this story.

Guest Reviews:

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sparklehannah: Thanks, that's great to hear. I hope you enjoy the latest instalment.

Beta: Sumi-Sprite


Chapter 2:

Search Party

Bunny emerged shivering and cold on the Black Forrest's outskirts, where the city of Pforzheim gleamed like old gold in the winter light. Jack had been there; the landscape was rife with tell-tale lingerings of his frostbitten touch, from bone-bare trees, to a glittering snowfall. But there was no way of knowing how long ago his last visit might have been. For once the sprite left his mark, it was there to stay until his spring counterpart came to melt it away.

Bunny raced west along the forest's northern border, a grey streak on white as he tried to pick up the faintest scent. His efforts were as fruitless as the trees that rose on either side of his path. Just as he found a trace, the Wind carried it away. Like it didn't want Jack to be found.

Screw that, Bunny thought as he skidded to a halt. He's coming home. One way or another.

With two sharp raps of his foot, the ground fell away. Bunny dove down the tunnel, and bolted at a break-neck speed towards home. He knew there was no chance Jack would resurface at the Warren of all places, but should Jack be found in a worse state than before, Bunny would need whatever healing remedies his arsenal could provide.

He only hoped the other factions of his search party were having more luck.

— O —

The portal opened, and North was hit by a wind so fierce it was made bearable only by the protective magic woven into the fabric of his thick, Siberian coat. After circling once in a wide arc, North had his reindeer descend closer to the surface of the Antarctic glacier. Like a bullet they flew, and it wasn't long before he noticed an odd shape rising in the distance. He called to the reindeer, urging them towards it.

When the sleigh landed on the almost-barren clifftop, it bumped and jostled in a rocky touchdown. Snow crunched under North's boots as he disembarked and drew his sabers from their sheaths.

The spire—a mass of black-tinged blue ice—had to be at least fifteen feet tall. It towered above him, a decidedly unnatural imposition on the landscape, and hummed with an energy that sent a shiver down his spine. This was Jack's work, something born of his power. But the darkness within was someone else's doing… North reached out his callused hand to touch the magic frozen for all eternity. In the second his skin connected with the glassy ice, his heart was pierced by an immense, inescapable, dark winter. He wrenched his hand away, breathing heavily. The spire was not as dead-cold as he anticipated.

Cold, certainly; but by no means dead.

There was raw, electric power confined within this prison. A slumbering demon being kept at bay, not because of the will imposed on it by another, but because it felt no need to wake. Not yet. This was one thing North and his ancient nemesis could still agree upon: brute-force achieves nothing when the timing is wrong.

North backed away from the spire with fear in his heart and foreboding in his belly. Moving quickly, he took up the reigns of his sleigh once again. At his bellowed command, the reindeer pulled him back into the sky, and through the snowglobe portal leading them to Burgess.

— O —

A gale rattled the awnings of the Bennett house, and like the sensible boy he was, Jamie had elected to stay indoors that day. He was sprawled on the floor, reading the third installment of Rainbow Quest, while Sophie and their greyhound, Abby, gamboled in a game around the room. All was calm. Until Abby stood rigid, then nearly mowed Sophie down as she raced out the door. Having been rendered off balance by the dog's sudden sprint, Sophie landed on her knees and threw out her palms to break her fall. The tears were almost immediate. Rolling his eyes, Jamie closed his book and went over to help his little sister pick herself up off the ground. But just before his head could turn in the direction of his window, Tooth ducked out of sight, and hovered just below the ledge. She exhaled with a puff of her cheeks.

Of all the children in Burgess, Jamie's attention was not the one Tooth wanted to draw. He was a sweet boy, but perceptive. Almost to a fault. One look, and he would not only slow down her reconnaissance with a barrage of questions, he would know, instinctively, that something was wrong. And Tooth wasn't confident she could hold herself together through such a grueling interrogation. For although their search had been thorough, she and her fairies had found no sign of Jack.

"I'm not panicking. I'm not panicking. Everything is going to be fine…" Tooth muttered to herself. At that moment, an iridescent speck rounded the corner of the Bennett's house, flying at a speed the rate of knots.

"What is it? Did you find him?" Tooth asked as she gathered the flustered fairy in the cup of her hands.

"No…dog…found me," the fairy chittered through gasps. Tooth's heart sank.

"Oh Jack, where are you?" she whispered, letting the Wind carry her question away as her gaze swept the town. Over the rooves of picket-fenced houses lay the dark green blanket of Burgess park's tree tops; an ordinary landscape. Except for the bright burst of golden light that broke through the canopy. Tooth frowned, and rose to the Bennett's roof to better see the disturbance.

"Wait a minute…is that…?"

Another flash had Tooth squint her eyes against the glare. But this time the light did not fade—not exactly. Golden beams splayed out through the trees, bathing the clouds above in an eerie yellowish glow. Then the light began to die. It flickered like a faulty bulb, until it disappeared altogether. It was like lightning.

"That's Sandy," Tooth said to her disoriented little helper. The fairy let out a shrill peal of twitters, to which she responded, "No, I don't think he's alone out there either."