The tour was pretty much useless, because it was the exact same thing as the school. I'd already been given this tour, not that long ago, actually. He seemed insistent on showing me the barracks where his army lived for some reason.
"Well, I could go see it. Though the school didn't have a barracks," I finally agreed.
"It's not for the barracks themselves, there's someone here I'm sure you'll want to see," said Derek.
"If you say so."
The barracks weren't impressive from the outside, just what looked like your average bunker, but then I went inside. There was hundreds of pretty much anything you could imagine. Trolls, hobogoblins, opalvirgins, adults, teens, and tons of mages and others of the sort. Derek steered me over to the back of the bunker.
"I'd like you to meet General White. She keeps this place on its feet," said Derek. The girl was wearing armor and a helmet. She took the helmet off and smiled.
Her hair was black and mussed up. Her eyes were golden brown, kind of amberish. Her lips were red. Her skin was pale. Her feet were bare, oddly enough. Strapped to her back was a machine gun. She whistled and a squirrel came running out of nowhere. It scurried up her leg, over her armor, and up onto her shoulder.
"Status report?" she asked.
Derek didn't reply and she wasn't looking at me, she was asking the squirrel. It made a whole bunch of chattering noises.
"Good. Bring up the front by ten point two inches and hold that position as long as you can. I'll send the ravens as soon as possible. Go!" she said to the squirrel.
Something about this girl seemed really familiar. I put together the pieces I knew about her and she reminded me of Snow. I looked at her for so long that she looked over at me. She was taking me in as well; you could see it in the way her eyes swept over me. Then she broke out into a smile, which seemed odd to me, considering the fact that she could've gutted me in three seconds flat. Then she hugged me and I just stared off into the distance in shock.
"What?" I finally said.
"I thought you died!" said General White.
"And you are?" I asked.
"Oh, right! I'm Snow White. I'm okay! I know you thought I died and to be honest I thought I was going to die when I went flying too. But I landed on a big patch of bog moss."
"Oh my god!" I exclaimed as I hugged her back. She was okay after all. "Wait, why are you here?"
"I landed just outside the barracks. Camp's not that far away from here. I still go there sometimes."
"Well, we've had some interesting experiences since then."
"Yeah, Jack, Merida, Rapunzel, and Kida. We all went to Neverland and we're with Peter and Wendy and the Lost Boys. There were also these two fairies, but…" I couldn't bring myself to talk about Terence again yet. I cleared my throat to get rid of the lump forming inside of it and went on. "We also helped Ariel with the Bubble Ball. By the way, Ariel is the Queen now and Melody is the heir to Atlantica."
"Awww, I missed the Bubble Ball? But you guys all went? Not fair!"
"Okay, you are really messing with my head right now. You look like you want to gut me and sometimes you talk like it too, but then you just act exactly the way you were before, all happy and pouty, like a normal princess. It's giving me a headache."
She laughed and asked Derek what I was doing here. His face turned beet red and he looked around nervously.
"Oh, my God! Do I have to do everything around here too? He came to Neverland one day and offered me a choice. He kidnapped all the princesses from Mickey's castle and also the kid who helped Jack save the world, Jamie. He told me he'd let them go if I came with him, that, or I could come recue one or the other."
"But why did you choose Derek? Aren't you with Jack?"
"Not anymore. We weren't doing so well because everyone started to argue about who should be saved. I spent a lot of time with one of the fairies. His name was Terence. I didn't have a crush on him or anything; he was just the only one who wasn't pressuring me to choose. We were on a picnic and then an opalvirgin came and told us we had ten seconds to run. We went back into the hideout and then we fought with them. Terence was in trouble, but I couldn't get to him. Jack could have saved him, but he just ignored Terence and kept fighting. Terence…" My voice broke. "They killed him. Then when I wanted to get some space, Jack told me that I couldn't, that I had to stay focused and choose. I got mad. Then he just disappeared. So I came here, and that's the end of it."
"Aren't you going to let them out?" Snow asked Derek.
"Well, I no longer have control or power over the opalvirgins who guarded our friends and my sister, but we could go free Jamie," said Derek.
"No. Not all of you. I'll go. Alone," I said. Derek shrugged but Snow gasped.
"Why would you go without me?" she demanded.
"Can you fly?" I asked. No response. "Do you know any spells that would make you fly?" No response. "Then the answer is no."
"I don't need magic. Not when I have a griffin." She opened a window and whistled out it. I heard a sound between a roar and the cry of an eagle. Then a heavy thud as something landed just outside the barracks. "Meet Danzi." She waved me over and moved so I could look out the window at the griffin. It had the front body of an eagle right up to about its waist. Its feathers were brown. Its front feet were talons like an eagle's talons. Its wings were right on its shoulders. From the waist down it was a lion, complete with the tail and everything. It was massive, but its head still twitched and turned like a normal bird's would.
"Well then, where is Jamie anyways?" I asked Derek.
"Just south of the ruins of the old school. You can't miss it, it's the biggest thing there, taller than every other tree, and the roof of it is neon yellow," said Derek.
"Uh," I said, "why?"
"So I could find it from the air. You can't see it from here, but it's not that far away from the barracks. Only about two, three miles past the school."
"And where's that?"
"I said you'll see it!"
"Jeez! Fine, I guess we'd better leave then. We'll be back with Jamie."
Snow and I went out into the clearing where her griffin Danzi was waiting. It was nervous about my approaching it, but Snow calmed it down quickly. She scratched under its chin and said one single word that I couldn't understand and just like that, it stopped making that weird screech roaring sound and standing on its hind paws in anxiety.
"So, will you ride with me, or will you fly?" asked Snow.
"I think I'll fly. Jamie will be used to flying people with white hair. Griffins though? I don't think he'd think we were coming to rescue him."
So without any real plan, Snow climbed onto Danzi and they took to the sky. I came up seconds later. While we flew, I asked Snow why she was working with Derek.
"I was glad to see him again. I mean, not because I like him or anything, just because he promised me I could fight. I could finally fight, like I was meant to. He made me his General and I met Danzi here just last week. Why? Do you think I shouldn't be fighting for him?"
"No, that's not it, I just wondered. Isn't he supposed to be evil?"
"Derek? Evil? No! Just…misguided. I keep telling him not to trust him, but he doesn't listen to me. I'll wager the kidnappings weren't his idea at all. Derek doesn't like hurting people. He's not evil, but sometimes…sometimes he takes over Derek to do the things he knows Derek would never do."
"What? Someone possesses Derek? Who?"
"I can't tell you. I promised Derek I wouldn't tell anyone who it was. Honestly he scares me so much I don't want to mention his name at all."
I dropped it. We flew past the camp, past the school and finally arrived at the tower. The roof really was neon yellow. Something in front of it made me land. It was what looked like a massive piece of crystal or something else clear. When I was in front of it, I saw a blur of brown and crème and russet through the stone. Danzi and Snow landed next to me before I could register what it was.
"What is that?" asked Snow, voicing my own question.
"I have absolutely no idea. Come on, Jamie's waiting."
We went up to the doors and were about to yank them open when we both fell to the ground. My head was pounding all of a sudden and it was too painful to keep my eyes open. Then the pain was gone. I stood up and I wasn't there anymore. I stood up and slid a bit. I looked down and saw that I was on ice. That was weird. I never slipped on ice. It was night. I looked up and saw the moon.
Vanessa, I saved you great pain and suffering in the future, but now I'm forced to make you feel great pain and suffering in the past, said Manny. Vanessa, you have a story far bigger than just you. I brought you here to show you a small piece of the suffering you'll feel increasingly the more time you spend away from Jack.
Manny, no offense, but being with Jack hurt. He let Terence die! I'm supposed to stay with someone who lets their jealousy go that far?
He did it foolishly of course. But you should be strong. Strong enough to forgive and forget. Keep that in mind while you watch this.
I of course had no idea what he was talking about. Then I saw a girl and a boy come through the woods. Her eyes were pale violet. Her hair was strawberry blond and waist length. Neither looked much older than fourteen. She laughed and looked up at the boy she was holding hands with. His hair was brown and spiky. His eyes were a matching brown. He laughed along with her. They were dressed very strangely. The girl was wearing a dark brown dress with long sleeves, and at the hem was a red diamond pattern. He was wearing brown pants that went just above his ankles. His shirt was crème colored with puffed sleeves and there was a small dark brown vest over it. Over that he wore a brown cloak. The bottom layer of it went to his waist; the top layer of it went down just past his shoulders. They were talking about the girl's birthday. Their voices were both familiar and their laughs were too. Then I realized that this was me and Jack. But I'd never seen him in that shirt and I'd never worn that outfit.
Manny, what is this? I asked Manny. When was this?
Long ago, back when you met for the very first time.
That was at school.
No, it wasn't. You met long ago, back before Jackson Overland became Jack Frost.
Overland? Is that his real last name?
Vanessa, take this seriously!
By the looks of things, they couldn't see or hear me. So I got a closer look.
"Here. I carved this for you," said Jack. He handed the other me a comb. It was an off-white comb.
"Ivory?! Jack, you didn't have to…" Jack held up his hand.
"I bought a deer horn from the butcher. I've been carving it for a while, but I had to get you this for your birthday this year. That's not all I got you though."
"Jack, the horn alone must have cost you at least three nickels. I couldn't accept another gift from you."
"This one you'll need." He sat on a tree stump and patted one next to him. Other me got a concerned look on her face and sat. "Vanessa, I've known you since I was a child. You're my best and closest friend. Bitsy loves you. My mother adores you. You've enchanted my whole family."
"My parents adore you too Jack," Other me said with a laugh. He reached out for her hand and she grabbed it. "What's the matter?"
"Nothing's really the matter," he said, staring at his bare toes. Then he met Other me's eyes. "Vanessa, I love you." Other me seemed in complete shock, like he'd never said that to her before. "I've loved you ever since we were six. And now that we're both fourteen, I love you so much; I want to keep you with me forever. I guess what I'm really trying to say is…" He reached into his pocket and pulled out something small and circular and gold with a little sparkling jewel on it. "Vanessa, say yes. Say you'll marry me. Say you want to be my wife."
Other Me just kept looking from Jack's eyes to the ring, the ring to Jack's eyes. She opened her mouth to say something at least a dozen times, but she kept closing it again. Tears welled up in her eyes like she felt the same and wanted to say yes, but the words escaped her. Finally she started to laugh.
"What? What is it?" asked Jack.
"Nothing, nothing. Yes, Jack, I will marry you."
They kissed and walked off back the way they came.
"I'm taking Bitsy ice skating tomorrow to tell her the good news. Do you want to come?" asked Jack.
"No, I have a family reunion tomorrow. I'll see her when it's over though," said Other Me as they vanished into the foliage.
I stood there, alone and cold and confused. What? What on Earth had just happened? Jack and I were here together. He proposed to me. How come I didn't remember any of this? I had a family reunion tomorrow. Jack was taking his little sister Bitsy ice skating tomorrow and I wasn't coming with them. Then it hit me. Jack. Bitsy. Ice skating. Jack died while ice skating with his sister. I wasn't there, but I would be mourning for him. How? When? What?
Manny, what does that mean? When were Jack and I going to get married? How did I meet him here? How did I meet him now? I wasn't alive yet!
Keep watching. It's not yet over.
Of course it isn't. What else are you going to show me?
The trees and snow and ice melted away and I was standing next to Other Me. She was standing in front of a window in what appeared to be her room. This was clearly the following night, because there were tears in my eyes. They were old tears. Other Me had already grieved and mourned enough. Now she was just looking to the heavens to ask why. Why Jack? Why before they could be together? Why did her family reunion have to be the day Jack died and could have been saved had she been there? She was lost and scared and helpless and hopeless. She was desperate for answers. I could relate fully, mostly because we were the same person.
Then Other Me froze. We both heard a laugh outside the window. She peered around, wondering who would dare to trick her. I could see him too. He was clearly Jack Frost now. He was carrying that staff and his hair was white. She raised an eyebrow and called out his name. Before he could see where the voice was coming from, Other Me looked down at her ring. The diamond on it was growing around her up and around her finger. She stared at it in shock. It went on to envelope her other fingers, her hand, up her arm, down her sides and stomach, over her legs. Then she screamed. Before the sound could make it to Jack, the diamond grew from her stomach to her neck and covered her head, hair and all. I gasped in shock. It wasn't done growing yet. It grew and grew until it was a circle with a flat base.
Manny, what the hell just happened? What is going on?
Watch and learn.
Other Me vanished suddenly. I was left alone in the room. Then I heard Manny tell Jack what his name was, Jack Frost.
I took you up to me for safeguarding. Your mother as well. I needed you for Jack. Jack would save the world once with Jamie, and another time with you, after the first time. Jamie wouldn't be born for many centuries, so I needed you to stay alive for that long and longer. Do you remember much of your childhood?
I wanted to say yes, but I knew that I couldn't. I remembered only being fourteen. I was fourteen in Canada, I was fourteen when Mom and I went to Italy, I was fourteen when I went to the school, and I was fourteen when I met Jack. Then I realized that yesterday in my past must have been my fourteenth birthday.
But…but…I… I wanted to protest but I couldn't. I should be dead already. I shouldn't still be alive. I should have died here, in this time, in this village, alone and sad and afraid for the rest of my life. But I would have no end now, if I was careful. Manny, a headache is better than this. Take me back.
My eyes opened and I saw the face of a worried boy. His eyes were brown, and so was his hair. He looked relieved to see that I was still alive.
"Jamie?" I managed to moan out.
"Hi," was the only thing he could think to say.
"How did we get inside?"
"I don't know. You two just appeared in the room. You look like Jack."
"I should. My name is Vanessa. I'm…well, I used to be Jack's girlfriend."
"What's her name? And where's Jack?"
"Her name is Snow White, and I think Jack's still on Neverland."
"Well, you're lucky you woke up so soon. You two were only outside my window unconscious for two days."
"TWO DAYS? That's not long?"
He shook his head. "I was out for four days once when I tried to escape. I've been trapped here for a month."
I looked around. The room was a plain white circular room with one window with chicken wire embedded in it. There was a bed, a toilet and a fridge sitting against the back wall. I hugged Jamie. I was relieved that he was okay, and in one piece. At least Jack's efforts weren't in vain.
"I wouldn't be worried about me. I'd be worried about Thimble," said Jamie, hugging me back. "She's trapped in there and they all think that she murdered her whole family."
"Thimble? Who? Where? What?" I asked. I put my hands on his shoulders and held him at arm's length.
"Thimble. She's inside the diamond outside. She talks to me. She has powerful magic, but she would never hurt a fly. She was framed. She only hurts people because he promised her that if she did, he'd let her out. He won't really though. He's using her like he's using the other guy, Derek."
"We'll sort all this out later, but for now, we have to figure out how to get out," I said, looking around in panic. The way it looked, there was no way out.