Author's Note: This story is finally back after a long, unannounced haitus! The trouble came along when writing this and the next chapter, as they used to be one super long chapter that yeilded too many illustration ideas as well as too much editing. I now understand that I need to relax on editing, as I created two rough drafts and did easily ten read-throughs of this final part just to get it to my collaborator. For the next project I'm going to work on, which I'll announce at the note for the final chapter, I'm going to look past my obsessive compulsive need to edit and do a little more crunching.

Anyway, the next chapter will likely be up in a few days but might arrive sooner if we get three reviews to meet our goal! Thanks for reading!

*S. Snowflake

Part VI

Tim did not return to the underground for more training. Neither he nor his sister mentioned what had happened to their parents. The prince wouldn't reveal what his final lesson with the shadow had been to his sister. He was ashamed to have caused her such fear and betrayed his family's trust, and it showed in how he acted in the final days leading up to Halloween. He rarely spoke and certainly didn't practice scares. Though the whole family could sense something was amiss with the boy, their ever-important holiday was the focus of the adults, and soon enough, it was Halloween night.

All sorts of creatures ventured beyond their world to join in their annual tricks of spooking humans. They would pop up in graveyards, old houses, and spooky displays set up by the humans as part of the fun, and sometimes scare a non-believing older human into thinking twice on their holiday. There were little jobs to do as well, such as guiding trick-or-treaters to the "good" houses or unleashing all sorts of spooky howls into the night, but ultimately, all the creatures would return to Halloween Town for the ceremony at the fountain.

The royal family partook in scaring the humans, all except for Tim. He helped with little things, but overall was quiet that night, if not downright depressed. Jack, finding his son moping on a prop tombstone and petting Zero for comfort, wanted to help.

"Tim, why don't you light the pumpkins over there?" he asked. "They're completely out, and just a spark will do it."

Tim looked up from his spot, but then looked away. "I can't do it, dad."

"Yes you can. I know you can." His son's sadness was deeply disturbing to him, since Halloween was a night when no little goblin should feel so sad. "What's wrong, son?"

"I…I just can't," Tim mumbled, leaping off the tombstone and walking into the mob of trick-or-treaters and hidden spooks ahead.

"Tim?" Jack called, but it was too late. The boy had vanished. It pained him to use them, but the dark tricks that the shadow had showed him were all that the boy could think to use to get away.

For the first time since their visit to the underground, Jack was worried about what would happen at the ceremony. The king could put on a terrifying performance without his son, but he couldn't help the feeling that he needed to find Tim before something terrible happened. The skeleton man pondered deeply what this sense of dread was about in the manmade graveyard, not minding any human who stared for a moment at him.

"Jack?" asked the voice he would always hear when he needed it from behind.

Jack turned around to see Sally in her finest royal gown of spider webs and rags, holding Noel, Star following close behind.

"What are you standing around for, Papa?" Star asked.

The king laughed and kissed his queen's cheek. "Nothing."

The night's celebrations began as planned in Halloween Town. Sally and Star helped to prepare the ghoulish choir while Jack scurried off to the Pumpkin Patch where he and Behemoth prepared for his grand entrance atop a straw horse. Tim was in the underground passage just beneath the fountain in the town square where he was intended to be stationed to meet his father. His family knew that he wouldn't be joining in the fire tricks, but many citizens of Halloween and the tourists were still hopeful that he would.

Tim shuffled his skeletal feet, wondering if he would feel better at least trying to join the show despite his lack of confidence in fire, before he heard something. It was a mere whisper in the dark, yet one he knew well.

"Tim Skellington…"

He froze momentarily then resolved not to show any emotion toward the shadow. Perhaps it would leave him be if he remained distant.

"Come now, boy. It's All Hallow's Eve. Time for your show-stopper," said the shadow. It was very close, hiding in a tunnel just beyond Tim's view.

The prince refused to move from where he stood and crossed his arms.

"What's wrong with you, boy?" asked the shadow.

Just then, two huge black hands appeared from the tunnel ahead, the arms stretching impossibly thin order to reach Tim. He had no time to react as the shadowed hands snatched something–his very own shadow–and began to drag it away. Being attached to his shadow of course, the boy was dragged with it.

To make his escape and the trick he had sworn to never use work, Tim had to concentrate deeply, but also work quickly. A sort of snap ran up his spine, then his shadow separated from his feet. The doppelganger struggled to break free of its own accord while the boy escaped his captor's clutches.

"Fine work," remarked the shadow, "but it won't save you this time."

Tim tried to run before he could discover what the shadow had planned for him this time. His gateway to the town square above was in a crack in the wall above his head, but he had to climb up the wall to reach it. He clambered up like a spider, but behind him, the shadow already had a plan.

"Don't even try to run. You're my puppet now," the shadow said, letting his shadow go.

Just as Tim was nearly free with his double in pursuit, the shadow flicked one of his long, black fingers. With that, Tim's shadow stopped short, and was tugged backward. Just then, Tim could feel that he, too, was being pulled back. He turned around to see the shadow dragging both he and his doppelganger deep into the underground.

Tim struggled as his double pulled him back into the dark, but he could find no escape. His pumpkin mask and several strands of hay from his costume fell in the struggle as he screamed for help, but it was Halloween night; the joyous screams from above easily drowned him out.

Queen Sally had been quite busy directing the Halloween Town chorus, but she did manage to break free of the group. She needed to talk to her son once more before Jack's act started. With Star in tow she walked to the underground entrance then peeked inside.

"Tim?" she said quietly.

There was no response.

Sally was irked by her son's outright refusal to talk. "Timothy Skellington, the show's about to start, and if you could come up here to…" The rag doll climbed down and looked around the chamber, but her son wasn't there. His pumpkin mask was left on the ground with no owner. "Tim?" she called, now concerned. "Tim!"

After a moment of searching, the queen creased her brow, thinking. "He wouldn't run away from this. I know he was just here."

Star trembled as she listened from above. She hoped that she was wrong, but she had an idea of where her brother was, and if it were true, she had to tell. "He…could be with Mister Shadow."

If Sally's wide doll eyes could have grown wider, they would have.