Love is Weakness
Equestria, Present Day
Queen Chrysalis sat alone and in pain, deep within the dark confines of her castle. It had been only a week since her invasion of Canterlot had failed at the hooves of Shining Armor, Princess Cadance, and Twilight Sparkle. A twinge of anger shot through her body, with a jolt of pain following soon after. How she deeply loathed those who had defeated her. She hated them all and wished only for their destruction. Well...maybe not all of them.
"My queen," hissed the voice of a changeling drone who had entered her chamber.
Chrysalis turned to her visitor. "You know how I feel about any of you barging into my chamber without knocking," she snarled. The drone gulped and took a step back. On any ordinary day, Chrysalis would have killed the drone right then and there. However, she was still heavily weak from the failed invasion and didn't want to waste any of her remaining magic on taking her anger out on somepony. She had a far more important task at hand to use her magic on. "What is it?"
"My apologies, my queen, but General Viper has returned from the mission you sent him on."
Chrysalis's mouth curled into a satisfied smile. "Excellent. Tell him to make haste and come to me."
The drone bowed, turned around, and departed through the door.
Chrysalis pulled herself off the bed she had been lying on and stretched her bandaged limbs. It would certainly take a while for her to regain her full strength, but she had a feeling that she wouldn't be living long enough to reach that point. The task she had set out for herself was most definitely a one-way trip. A suicide mission, to save the least.
She didn't care, though. She had waited a long time to track down the necessary ingredients. Her time in the Canterlot Library as Princess Cadance had provided her with the last piece of the puzzle. The last step needed to be taken for her to finally take her revenge.
There was a knock at her door.
"Come in," Chrysalis stated.
The door opened and in walked a drone a bit larger than the previous one that was wearing black war armor. "My queen, I have come with the object you tasked me to obtain," hissed General Viper.
"Excellent work, General. Bring it to me."
Viper approached Chrysalis and gave her the object, which was wrapped in a purple blanket. Chrysalis unfolded the blanket and gave a smirk of satisfaction upon seeing the Sun Daisy glowing up at her. "My queen, may I ask-"
"Let me guess, General. You're curious about why I ordered you to obtain a Sun Daisy for me, aren't you?" Chrysalis guessed as she made her way over towards a wooden cabinet.
"That would be correct, my queen."
The cabinet was opened and Chrysalis pulled out a small cauldron and several bags and vials of strange, exotic ingredients she had spent many years collecting. "I have a plan, General. A mission."
A sadistic grin appeared on Viper's face. "Have you conjured up another method for us to take over-"
"This has nothing to do with Equestria. Forget Equestria. Forget the Princesses. Forget it all."
"And you can forget this queen nonsense. After today, I will no longer be your queen." Chrysalis began pouring the contents into the cauldron and stirring them together. The substance that was being formed was already heating up and bubbling due to the reactions caused by the different ingredients making contact with each other.
Viper continued to look on in confusion. "I don't understand, my...er...Chrysalis. What is this mission you are about to set out on?"
The light of Chrysalis's potion reflected off her hungry face. Every part of her was ticklish with excitement. This was it. After so many years, it was finally time for her to grant her greatest wish. Accomplish her most important goal. "General Viper, as of today, you are the King of the Changelings."
"You have been a great general and...an even better friend. It is only fitting that you now take my place."
"But why?! What are you doing, Chrysalis?!"
"I'm opening a portal, Viper."
"A portal? To where?"
"To another world. A place far away from here. A place where I shall find the one who wronged me." Chrysalis fell silent as she reached for the final ingredient: a bottle containing a wad of dark brown hair. "Ruling Equestria was never my true goal, Viper. It was only a step towards it. And even though it was a military failure for the changelings, it was a magnificent success for me." She took the wad of hair and added it to the potion, which proceeded to turn dark green. "Now that I think about it, I feel sorry for all those I've hurt and wronged over the years. All those innocent ponies and magical creatures. But one must do what needs to be done in order to survive, especially if you're a changeling and most especially if you're a changeling with a goal."
Chrysalis smiled as the potion illuminated up at her. It was ready. In a quick flash, she jumped up and kicked the cauldron over. The contents spilled out onto the floor. Chrysalis's horn illuminated for a second before a green bolt of lighting shot from it and struck the spilt liquid. Viper's eyes widened in amazement as the potion on the floor began to spin around in a vortex-like manner. Within seconds, a green, swirling portal was situated in the floor in front of Chrysalis and Viper. Powerful, magical winds blew up from the depths of the spinning vortex.
"Chrysalis?! Where does this portal lead to?! What goal are you seeking?!" Viper asked.
"Revenge, Viper. Something I've been waiting oh so long to get," Chrysalis replied. She turned back to smile at Viper. "Thank you for all your help, Viper. I'm certain you'll be a perfect successor. Keep our changelings alive and thriving. Invade Canterlot again if you wish. Put a spear through Princess Cadance's heart for me. Be careful...and farewell."
Chrysalis stepped towards the portal.
"Wait! Chrysalis!" Viper called. Chrysalis stopped and glanced back at Viper. "Before you go...can you at least tell me who it is you're getting revenge on?"
Chrysalis's face became stern and cold, pure hatred oozed from every pore on her face. "Her name is Cora: the Queen of Hearts. And she's going to pay for what she did to me."
With that said, Chrysalis flung herself forward into the heart of the swirling, green portal.
Wonderland, Some Years Ago
Chrissie opened her sharp green eyes to see rays of sunshine pouring in through her bedroom window. A quiet yawn escaped her lips as she sat up and stretched her arms. Her caramel skin glowed in the light of morning while her dark cerulean hair sparkled a bit in places. She often thought herself of having one of the stranger hair-skin combinations one could have but, given all of the other types of people and creatures she had come across in her exotic home that was Wonderland, she had seen crazier things.
She stood up and made her way over to the closet. Upon opening the door, she was quick to grab the nearest emerald green dress and put it on. A pair of black slippers and a spray of moderately-expensive perfume wrapped everything up in a nice bow.
No sooner had she finished dressing did a knock emanate from the front door of her cottage. "Who is it?" she asked in an almost sing-song tone.
"You know who," teased a familiar, male voice from the other side.
Chrissie laughed as she entered the living room. "No, I don't believe I do. You might have to come in and remind me."
The door opened and in walked a tall, young man with skin that was about one shade away from pale and hair nearly as blue as the ocean. He was dressed in a red-and-black soldier's uniform and carrying a brown paper bag. He gave a polite bow, reached into the bag, and presented a cream cheese danish to Chrissie. "Breakfast for the beautiful lady of the house."
Chrissie happily received the danish and took a small bite. "And, once again, you are my knight in shining armor."
"I've certainly developed a talent for being that lately. Maybe I should change my name to that. Sir Shining Armor!"
"Please don't." Chrissie gave an extremely deadpan expression. "That would be really pompous. Even for you. Stick with Aaron."
Aaron reached forward, wrapped his arms around Chrissie's waist, and pulled her close to him. "Whatever you wish, love." The two lovers locked lips in a fiery display of passion. Chrissie wished for it to never end, as she always did, but Aaron pulled away anyway. "We best not try to have our best kisses now. The wedding's not for another month."
Chrissie rolled her eyes as she strolled over to the table to finish her danish. "I don't see why we have to wait so long for the ceremony. Last time I checked, there was nothing all that dangerous happening here in Wonderland," she stated.
"Trust me. There's plenty for us Soldiers of Heart to be worrying about right now," Aaron stated as he sat down across the table from Chrissie.
"Like keeping on her majesty's good side." Chrissie made no effort in hiding her disdain for her fiancé's employer.
"Look, Chrissie, I know you're not really that fond of her-"
"You're damn right I'm not. Need I remind you about what's she's done? What she still does?"
"No. I've already seen enough of it on the job."
"And you can't possibly be okay with any of it! I know you, Aaron!"
Aaron sighed. "You're right. I hate it, what she does."
"Then why don't you just quit and allow the two of us to find work somewhere else?! Far away from her!"
"Who else is there to turn to, Chrissie? The Red Queen isn't that much better."
"At least she has the decency to not meddle around with others' hearts."
"Look, this isn't going to be forever. This job pays well and once I have enough we'll leave this place far behind."
"Promise?" Chrissie gave the cutest look she could muster and Aaron rolled his eyes in response.
"I promise. Now go ahead and finish your breakfast. It's a beautiful day and I'd like to take a walk with the most gorgeous woman in Wonderland before my shift begins."
Chrissie giggled before taking another bite of danish.
It truly was an exceptionally clear and welcoming morning in Wonderland. The Sun was incredibly bright and the occasional cloud caused the sunlight to pour down in concentrated rays, creating a spectacular light show in the morning sky.
Chrissie held onto Aaron's hand tightly as they strolled down a cobbled road. Green hills spread out in all directions with exotic plants scattered about that were native to only that section of Wonderland. A town consisting of many red and white buildings rose up in the center of the fields. It was connected to a large white and red castle as well as to a massive maze which spread out well beyond the town's limits.
As the couple entered the town, they couldn't help but notice the excited buzz in the air. The town's citizens were whispering eagerly and practically jumping up and down in excitement. Chrissie turned to Aaron just in time to see him roll his eyes.
"Is something wrong, Aaron?" she asked. "What's going on?"
Aaron shook his head. "Sometimes, the people of this town disgust me more than the Queen herself," he whispered back.
Chrissie took another look at the town's excited populace as they treaded through the entrance plaza. She had to admit that their abnormally giddy behavior had an almost dark, sadistic feel to it. A feel that made her quickly dislike being in their presence. "Again I ask, what's going on?"
"The Queen's found more people to execute."
Chrissie gave a soft gasp as she and Aaron made their way through the town and towards the castle. They were quickly caught up in a massive crowd of townsfolk making their way across the wide drawbridge. The barrage of giddy laughter and excited conversations combined around her into an uncontrollable mesh of painful noise. She tightened her grip on Aaron's hand and simultaneously used her free hand to cover one of her ears.
The drawbridge led to an arched gateway situated in the center of the side of the white castle wall that faced the town. The silver gate was raised high enough for the townsfolk to make their way into the massive courtyard that lay beyond.
The courtyard was constructed out of red and white bricks with two fountains situated on both sides. Both of the fountains spewed out a stream of water that gradually changed between being as white as white paint and red as blood. One of the fountains was a statue of a young woman with a sad look on her face and water pouring out of her eyes and mouth. The other fountain was a statue of an impish man with messy hair and fancy clothing, which had water pouring out of his ears and nose.
Several white and red rose bushes were scattered about the courtyard and the edge of the courtyard that bordered the entrance to the castle held a raised platform constructed out of marble. The townsfolk began to gather in front of the platform. Chrissie and Aaron found a spot somewhere in the middle of the crowd.
Just then, the talking citizens were silenced by the blowing of a trumpet. A group of soldiers appeared and marched out onto the platform. Walking alongside them were five chained people, two men and three women. Chrissie felt a lump appear in her throat as the five prisoners were led into the center of the platform.
One of the soldiers stepped forward and cleared his throat. "Her Majesty, the Queen of Hearts!" he proclaimed.
There was a cloud of purple smoke and there she was. Cora: the Queen of Hearts. She was dressed in an elegant dress of white and red, her above average white skin seemed to almost reflect like a mirror in the Wonderland sunlight, and her dark brown hair was fixed in a neat bun. She had a half smile on her face as she strode across the platform. But though she had a smile on her face, Chrissie knew there was no meaning to it. She saw no happiness emanating from the Queen's face. She only saw darkness. Darkness and emptiness.
A cold, sophisticated laugh passed through the Queen's lips as she approached the soldier that had announced her arrival. "I can take it from here, soldier," she stated firmly.
"Of course, your grace," the soldier hastily bowed and stepped back behind the prisoners.
For a moment, silence reigned supreme in the courtyard. Nobody dared speak a word. As was expected, it was the Queen of Hearts who broke the silence.
"Look at all of you. Come to once again witness the consequences of crossing me," chuckled the Queen as she started to calmly pace back and forth in the center of the platform. She came to a stop in front of a young woman with short, blonde hair. She looked to be no older than twenty at best. "Tell the people why you are here, dear." The woman remained silent. The Queen cleared her throat and took a step towards the woman. "Come now. No need to be shy. Just tell the people why you're here today."
The woman had a rebellious look in her eyes. She glanced at her fellow prisoners before turning back to the Queen. "What's the point?" she asked in response. "You're going to kill me either way."
Chrissie heard a few of the townspeople gasp around her. The Queen took another step towards the girl and place a finger under her chin. She then forced the girl to look up and make eye contact with her. "You're here because you're someone who doesn't appreciate what they have. You go against those above you and ultimately make everything worse for yourself in the process," the Queen stated with venom tainting her every word. She took her finger away from the woman's chin and turned back to the crowd.
"And you're a heartless murderer who has no right to the power you have!" the woman snapped from behind the Queen. "I damn whatever force brought you to Wonderland!"
A few more of the townsfolk gasped. The Queen simply chuckled and gave a relaxed sigh, all the while keeping her attention on her audience. "That force, child, was an awful lot like you." Chrissie felt everything grow cold as she noticed the Queen casually stretch and ready her fingers. The Queen then cleared her throat and raised her arm. "Pay attention, my loyal subjects. This is what happens to those of you who decide to bite the hand that feeds you. And don't look away. I'll know if you do." She then gave another chuckle before driving her hand deep into the woman's chest.
Chrissie couldn't bear to look. She buried her face into Aaron's arm and closed her eyes tight. She shook as the sound of the woman's screams pierced her eardrums. The screams were then followed by a sickening crunch and a dying gasp. "YOU THERE!" shouted the Queen's voice. Chrissie felt her heart stop. She opened her eyes and turned forward. The Queen of Hearts was pointing her finger directly at her. Behind the Queen, Chrissie could see the body of the woman crumpled on the floor. The Queen then waved her hand and a cloud of purple smoke surrounded Chrissie.
"Aaron?! Aaron?!" she asked in fright as she felt both the ground beneath her feet and the hand holding onto her vanish. "Aaron?!"
The smoke disappeared as quickly as it had appeared and Chrissie had to keep herself from gasping aloud when she saw that she was now standing on the platform and in front of the Queen of Hearts herself.
"There you are," chuckled the Queen as she approached Chrissie. Chrissie could feel an icy aura emanating off the Queen's body as she approached her. "Don't be afraid, child. I just wish to ask you a question."
Chrissie grabbed the sides of her dress tightly and gave a quick bow. "Yes...your majesty?" she asked in reply.
"Tell me, child. Did you not hear my instruction?"
Chrissie felt the Queen's icy glare burning deep into her skin. "No, your majesty. I heard you clearly."
The Queen took a couple steps towards Chrissie. "If that's so, why did you turn away?"
Chrissie froze. She had to be very careful with her words. One wrong statement and her heart would be dust in no time flat. "I...I...I do not think I am...worthy enough to witness such...fantastic feats performed by someone as...brilliantly powerful as you...your majesty," Chrissie replied.
The Queen chuckled again. Chrissie was beginning to hate that chuckle. "No. That's not it," said the Queen of Hearts smoothly. She took another step towards Chrissie. Chrissie found herself unable to focus on anything except the Queen's cold, emotionless eyes. "Now why don't you be a dear and tell us the truth? Why did you turn away?"
Chrissie felt the lump in her throat return. For several seconds, she struggled with what to say. She could feel dark, external forces acting on her and she knew without a doubt that they were coming from the powerful woman standing before her. She cleared her throat and finally found the right words to say. "It terrified me, your majesty. Your powers frighten me."
Chrissie shook as she heard that familiar chuckle once more. The Queen's half smile grew a little bigger. "And that's good," the Queen stated. "It is a frightening power. You would be foolish to not be afraid of it."
Chrissie took an awkward step back. "Would...would that be all, your majesty?" she asked.
"Just one last question."
"Yes, your majesty?"
"Don't look so scared, child. All I want to know is your name."
Chrissie felt like she should have been relieved but she wasn't. "Chrissie, your majesty."
"Such a simple name. Perfect for a girl such as yourself who has one of my soldier's hearts in your grasp." Chrissie gave a stunned look before quickly glancing at Aaron, who was still standing in the center of the crowd. "I know everything about everyone who works for me." Chrissie felt as if a massive weight had landed on top of her. "As long as you continue to live your life the way you currently are you should have nothing to worry about." The Queen stepped away from Chrissie and waved her hand. "You are free to leave now."
Chrissie gave a polite bow. "Thank you, your majesty." She then turned and walked off the platform. She walked past the crowd and headed towards the courtyard exit, refusing to turn back and face the cold eyes of the Queen of Hearts any longer.
"Chrissie," said the calming voice of Aaron as a loving hand grabbed her arm. She came to a stop a few steps short of the courtyard archway and turned back to face him. Looking into the caring eyes of the man she loved helped her feel a little better. "Are you...okay?"
"I've been better but at least I got out of there in one piece," Chrissie replied as she placed a hand over her heart.
Aaron took her hands and held them tightly. "I have to admit that I was a bit worried there for a moment."
"Well, at least we're apparently in the Queen's good graces for now."
"And let's have it stay that way. Agreed?"
Chrissie nodded with a smirk. "Agreed."
Aaron gave her a quick kiss on the lips. "My shift starts in a few minutes so I'm going to go ahead and head out. I'll see you tonight, okay?"
"Yes you will." Chrissie tapped Aaron's nose with one of her fingers and laughed.
"Try to stay out of trouble, okay?"
"Trust me, I'm not looking for any trouble." She gave him a quick kiss on the lips. "Love you."
"I love you too."
The lovers let go of each others' hands. Chrissie stood under the archway for several seconds as she watched Aaron disappear back into the crowd. She noticed the Queen was about to perform another execution so she hastily turned around and ran across the drawbridge.
As she ran back into the town, she heard someone call out to her in a hoarse tone. "Chrissie!" called the voice.
Chrissie looked towards an alleyway between a bakery and a butcher shop and saw a small figure hiding in the shadows. At first, Chrissie was cautious and caught off guard. However, once she saw a pair of tall ears stick up she knew who was talking to her. A smile appeared on her face before she ran into the darkness of the alley to meet her old friend.
"Rabbit!" she exclaimed happily.
"SHHH!" hissed the White Rabbit as he placed a finger against his mouth. Though it had been a while since Chrissie had last seen her old friend, the White Rabbit hadn't changed a bit. He was still clothed in his usual black bowler hat, red-tinted glasses, white suit, white vest, white bow tie, white trousers, and black shoes. It really made Chrissie wonder about how many of each article of clothing he kept. "You know the Queen of Hearts would like nothing more than to have my head!"
"Exactly! Why are you here then?" Chrissie asked in a whisper.
"Well I was in the neighborhood and figured that I'd drop by and visit since it's been a long time since we last saw each other."
Chrissie nodded. "It has been a while."
"In fact, if my math's correct, it's been..." The Rabbit pulled out his golden pocket watch and tapped the glass. "Six months, one week, twelve days, three hours, forty-five minutes, and eighteen seconds."
Chrissie laughed. "I'll never understand how you can be so punctual."
The Rabbit shrugged his shoulders. "It's a gift." He stored his pocket watch away and snapped his fingers. "So, if your aren't too busy right now, how about a trip?"
"A trip?" A rebellious smile appeared on Chrissie's face. "Aaron won't be off until tonight and it has been a while. Sure! Why not? Dig your hole, Rabbit!"
"Excellent! And I know just the place to go!"
The Rabbit pressed a finger against the wall of the bakery and made a circular motion. Within seconds, a blue portal was situated in front of the them. "Where are we going?" Chrissie asked as the Rabbit took hold of her hand.
"It's a new place I recently discovered! It's called Equestria!" replied the Rabbit.
With that said, Chrissie and the White Rabbit jumped into the portal.
Equestria, Some Years Ago
The sound of an explosion rocked the air as the rabbit hole opened and Chrissie and the White Rabbit emerged from their trip between the worlds. The Rabbit stretched his arms and legs while Chrissie stepped forward the examine the scene before her.
"Wow," she said.
She and the Rabbit were standing in a field of grass that appeared to be on the top of an incredibly high mountain. A pathway stretched through the center of the field and ended at the foot of a charming, purple gazebo. Large, fluffy, white clouds floated above the top of the mountain and rainbows poured straight down out of them. The rainbows poured down into a vat of rainbow water that cascaded over a waterfall into both a turquoise blue lake and a river which ended in a much higher and steeper waterfall.
Chrissie stared up at the rainbow waterfalls in complete awe. "Amazing," she managed to utter.
"Yep. They sure are a sight to see," stated the Rabbit.
"That's an understatement. What's this placed called?"
"Not sure. Haven't had much of a chance to talk to the locals."
Chrissie looked out at the vast countryside that spread out away from the base of the incredibly tall mountain she was now standing atop of. "And who are the locals?"
"Talking ponies." Chrissie looked at the Rabbit with a raised eyebrow. "Oh don't give me that look! You come from a world where there are plants that make you bigger or smaller when you eat them. Heck! I, your friend, am a talking rabbit! Are taking ponies really that hard for you to believe?"
Chrissie shrugged her shoulders. "I don't know. It just seems kind of out there, even when compared to all the other worlds you've shown me." She walked over towards the lake and sat down on the edge. "Talking ponies and rainbow waterfalls. You've certainly outdone yourself this time, Rabbit. I bet Mrs. Rabbit took a real liking to this place."
"Actually...I haven't brought her here yet," the Rabbit chuckled as he sat down at the edge of the lake next to Chrissie. She turned to him with another raised eyebrow. "I'm planning on bringing her and the kids here for a picnic later this week."
"I get to see this place before your beloved!" Chrissie shook her head with a smirk. "Mrs. Rabbit won't be happy about that."
The Rabbit gave a nervous grin. "If you would be so kind, please don't tell her. I wasn't originally going to show you this place before her...but I figured you could use a change of scenery after having to deal with the Queen of Hearts." Chrissie's smirk melted into an expression of mild shock. "I saw what happened in the courtyard. Everybody was too busy focusing on the new executions to notice a rabbit in a suit hiding in the back." Chrissie sighed before looking down at the surface of the lake. She stared at her reflection intensely. "Do you want to talk about it, Chrissie?"
Chrissie shook her head before kicking the surface of the lake, sending waves of ripples spreading out into its depths. "I'm fine, Rabbit. It wasn't a particularly traumatizing experience," she replied.
"But you're still bothered," the Rabbit added.
Chrissie playfully rolled her eyes. "Well of course I'm still bothered! Everything about that woman bothers me."
"Yeah, she's a nasty piece of work. I can't imagine how many times I've come close to losing my head because of her."
"No. That's because you're stupid enough to keep popping up in her domain and getting caught," Chrissie stated with a giggle.
"It's not my fault that Wonderland turns me around sometimes!" the Rabbit argued back.
Chrissie smiled at the Rabbit. "And yet you wonder why you're always late for your important dates, Mr. Punctual." The two of them let out a hearty laugh. It faded away after a few seconds. "That woman." Chrissie shook her head. "I cannot wait for the day Aaron gets enough money to allow us to leave her domain and start off fresh somewhere else."
"Why wait for the money in order to do that?" The Rabbit twirled his fingers. "I'm sure I could find find you two a nice home in another land. Heh. Maybe I could bring you two here to Equestria."
"You know the name of the world and yet you haven't met its locals or even tried to find out the name of its rainbow waterfall mountain."
The Rabbit wiggled his ears. "That comes with the power I have to travel between worlds. I instantly learn and memorize all of their names. But getting back to the point-"
"No." Chrissie gave a small smile and shook her head. "We're not running off to another world. Wonderland is our home and I nor Aaron am going to leave it behind because of that woman."
"Then why don't I just bring you to another part of Wonderland then?"
"And then what, Rabbit? Aaron and I currently only have enough to keep us sustained in the home we have right now. I would be happy even if we just had a shack and the bare necessities of life but Aaron believes I deserve the best and I know he would be constantly kicking himself for letting me settle for just a shack."
"If things get too bad with that woman or if things take a bad turn I'll give you a shout."
The Rabbit reached into one of his pockets. "Here." He pulled out an object and presented it to Chrissie. It was a whistle in the shape of a running white rabbit. "If you need me again or if you get caught in a jam, just blow on this and I'll come running." He placed it in her hand and she held it tightly.
"Just promise me you won't let Wonderland turn you around on the way," she said with a laugh. The Rabbit gave her an annoyed expression as she stored the whistle in one of her pockets.
Just then, a fly appeared out of nowhere and landed on Chrissie's nose. Her eyes immediately crossed and focused on the fly. "Get off me!" she ordered. She then began to wave her arms madly in the air, swatting viciously at the fly as it flew away. "Go away! Shoo! Never come back!"
As the fly disappeared into the wide Equestrian sky, the Rabbit raised an eyebrow at the now heavily breathing Chrissie. "Now what was all that about?" he asked.
"Sorry," Chrissie said with the blush as she began to relax and calmly kick her feet along the lake's surface. "I hate bugs."
Wonderland, Some Years Ago
Chrissie sat patiently in a rocking chair on the porch of her cabin. The Sun had set hours previously and the only light that remained for Chrissie was that of the full moon and the lantern hanging beside her. Her trip with the White Rabbit was still fresh in her mind and she had now occupied herself with examining the gift he had given her.
The minutes ticked by as she remained on the porch, waiting anxiously for Aaron to make his appearance from the surrounding darkness.
"Where are you, Aaron?" she asked into the night. Those were the last words she managed to utter that night before she unwillingly allowed sleep to overtake her.
Chrissie was awoken the following morning by a gentle shaking of the shoulder. She opened her eyes to see Aaron standing before her. He was still dressed in his uniform and had an odd expression on his face, as if he were trying to hold something back.
"Where the hell were you?!" Chrissie snapped as she stood up and approached her love. "I waited here all night for you!"
"You shouldn't have done that," Aaron said simply. "You know how dangerous it is at night."
"As should you!"
Aaron tapped the handle of his sword. "I think I can handle myself."
"Where were you?!"
"My shift got extended a bit. I'm sorry for worrying you." He suddenly presented something to Chrissie: a large, brown bag. "Here."
"What's this? Your apology gift?" Chrissie asked with a bit of snark as she accepted the bag.
"Everything," he replied with a gulp. "Every ounce of my money."
Chrissie paused and raised an eyebrow. Something was wrong here. "And why exactly are you giving me all of your money?"
"Because I won't be needing it any longer. You can combine it with your own savings and finally get away from here. Find a place to your liking."
Chrissie took another step towards Aaron. "Wait, wait, wait. What are you saying, exactly?" Her heart began to beat rapidly.
Aaron was silent for a few seconds. He bit his bottom lip and clutched the side of his pants tightly. "I guess I better cut to the chase then." He voice sounded a little choked up. "I've been promoted. It's a great honor and I'm proud to be serving this great land of ours." Chrissie was now even more confused. "But it's a full commitment, this position I'm now in. And...there's no room for marriage...or love."
Chrissie felt as if her heart was being punctured by a thousand arrows. "Wait, wait, wait! What are you saying?!"
"What do you think I'm saying?!" Aaron snapped. "It's over, Chrissie! The marriage is off! We're through!"
Now Chrissie felt as if her heart had been ripped straight out of her chest. She took another step towards Aaron, shaking her head slowly as she went. "No. I don't believe that," she stated.
"Believe it! It's done!" Aaron's voice was beginning to sound even more choked up, no matter how hard he was trying to put on a stern and cold expression. "Goodbye, Chrissie. This is where we go our separate ways. May you have a good life." Aaron turned around and started to walk away.
"NOOOOOOOO!" Chrissie cried as she dropped Aaron's money bag, ran forward, and grabbed his arm. "I'm not going to let you walk away! It can't be over! Not after everything we've been through!"
"Let go, Chrissie," ordered Aaron.
"No! I'm not letting you go until you tell me what the hell is going on here! None of this makes any sense!" Tears began to stream down Chrissie's face. "This isn't you! You would never do this!"
"Well I'm doing it now. Now let GO!" Chrissie gasped as Aaron's free hand came up and slapped her across the face. She lost her grip on Aaron's other hand and fell to the ground. She clutched the side of her stinging face and looked up. Aaron was staring down at her. His face was contorting between stern and sad and several tears were rolling down his cheeks.
Chrissie reached towards his face. "Aaron-"
Aaron swatted her hand away. "Go, Chrissie! Leave! Get as far away from here as you can! Start fresh somewhere else!" He began to choke on his last words. "Without me. Farewell." Aaron turned and hastily walked off down the pathway that led out of the forest and back to the plains.
Chrissie curled up in a ball on the ground, trying to let out loud cries but unable to do so due to the immense pain in her throat. She couldn't believe what had just happened. In barely a minute, her entire world and future had crumbled to dust right in front of her.
However, her incredible sadness was quickly replaced a determination unlike any she had ever had previously. She picked herself up and rushed into the trees. None of this made any sense. She knew something was wrong. She knew her love hadn't meant one word he had spouted at her. She had seen it in his eyes. Something else was going on here. Something else had been forcing him to cut all ties with her. It must have been...her.
Chrissie came to a stop. Her breathing was quick and raspy and her entire body was shaking. Something had happened to her beloved last night and she was the reason. The Queen of Hearts was involved in this somehow. Chrissie could feel it in her gut.
That's when it hit her. The weight of the possibility of who she would be going up against if she went after Aaron. She would be fighting Cora: the Queen of Hearts. The woman infamous to ripping out people's hearts and crushing them in one fell swoop. A woman who had performed terrible feats of powerful, dark magic.
Chrissie looked down at herself. And what was she? An average woman living in a cabin in the woods? Chrissie knelt down against a tree and clutched the trunk. She was an average woman going up against one of the most powerful people in Wonderland. Hell, she wasn't even completely sure if the Queen was responsible for Aaron's cold and swift change of heart. But something dark was happening here. She knew Aaron didn't do this under his own free will. Tears began to roll down her face once more as Chrissie came to terms with her current dilemma.
"What am I to do?" Chrissie asked herself through her tears. She clutched the trunk of the tree harder. "Oh, Aaron. What am I to do to bring you back?"
Suddenly, there was a tap on her shoulder. "Oi," said a straightforward, male voice. Chrissie turned around to see a young, handsome man standing behind her. He had short, black hair; fair skin; and was wearing a gray jacket. "You the one who lives in the cabin a little ways back?"
Chrissie wiped her tears away and nodded. "Yes," she replied with a small croak.
"Word of advice, don't leave your bag of money lying around." The man place Aaron's money bag next to her. "Also, best to not leave your door open."
Chrissie turned between the money bag and the man. "You...didn't steal it?"
"Why would I? It's not mine."
Chrissie gave a small smile of admiration. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it." The man nodded at Chrissie and began to walk away. Chrissie kept her eye on the man as he took his leave. Suddenly, he came to a stop and Chrissie heard him mutter, "Bloody hell," to himself before turning back to Chrissie. "Say...want to grab a drink? There's a pub not too far from here."
"Thanks," Chrissie replied awkwardly as she stood up. "But...I-"
"You don't have to if you're not up to it. But, in my opinion, you look like somebody who could use a drink."
Chrissie gave a tired sigh and rubbed her forehead. She let out a soft chuckle and smiled at the man. "A drink does sound good right about now."
Chrissie and the man found a table towards the back of the pub, away from the rest of the customers. Chrissie silently gazed down at her fuzzy reflection in the beer. She looked up at the man to see him quickly draining his cup. A sense of familiarity came over her. This man looked oddly familiar. She had seen him somewhere before. But where?
The man finished his drink and gave a loud sigh as he placed his cup down on the table. He looked at Chrissie, noticed her drink was still full, and rubbed the spot between his eyes. "I didn't buy you your drink for you to stare at it," he stated.
"Sorry," said Chrissie in a near emotionless tone as she took a sip of the drink. It was bitter, thus reminding her why she didn't drink alcoholic beverages that often. "Got a lot on my mind."
The man snorted. "Don't we all?"
Chrissie shrugged her shoulders. "I suppose."
The man chuckled. "Funny. I buy you a drink and I don't even know your name."
It was time for Chrissie to snort. "And I don't know yours." She raised an eyebrow at her new acquaintance.
The man rubbed the back of his neck. "Well-"
Just then, the door to the pub opened and three Soldiers of Heart entered. Chrissie instantly gave the soldiers an icy stare. However, she noticed the man glance back at them only to quickly turn away and lower his head. Chrissie took another close look at the man's face and glanced back and forth between him and the soldiers. That's when it clicked.
"I knew you looked familiar!" Chrissie whispered to her acquaintance. The man looked up and met Chrissie's eyes. Chrissie couldn't help but give a snarky smile. "You're not nearly as weaselly as I've heard, Will Scarlet."
"Shhh!" hissed Will Scarlet. He took another glance at the soldiers before turning back to Chrissie. "You know it would be very rude to turn in the bloke who bought you a drink."
"Don't worry. I'm not turning you in. It'll give me satisfaction knowing that you slipped away under that woman's forces once again."
Will chuckled. "Thanks, Chrissie."
Chrissie suddenly gave a dumbfounded look. "I thought you didn't know my name," she said.
Will stroked the spot between his eyes again and sighed, "Bloody hell." Chrissie gave him an accusing look and he quickly noticed. "Okay...so I may have...kinda...come across your argument with that soldier a little while ago."
Chrissie's face became sad once again. "Aaron."
Will softly snapped his fingers. "That's him!"
Chrissie rubbed her forehead and groaned. "How much did you hear?"
"Most of it."
As she came to terms with the fact that Will Scarlet of all people had witnessed her emotional break up with Aaron, she noticed a detail that struck her as...off. "That doesn't make sense," she stated.
"What about that doesn't make sense?" Will asked. "I was walking through the woods and I stumbled across your bloke leaving ya. Nothing very complicated about that."
"Not that." Chrissie gave a quick shake of her head and bit her bottom lip. "Your reputation precedes you, Will Scarlet. Thief. Often caught deep in debt."
"Thanks for reminding me." Will rolled his eyes.
"You saw that big bag of money I left behind." Chrissie tapped the money bag under the table with her foot. "You saw all that money and instead of using it for self gain or paying off your debts...you return it to me."
Will nodded. "This is true."
Will gave a deep sigh. "I dunno. Just wanted to do something nice, you know? I felt...sorry for you."
"Sorry for me?"
"You know, you ask a lot of questions."
"You've done things that demand questions. Now answer or I'll let those charming soldiers over there know that Will Scarlet has dropped in for a visit."
Will glanced back at the soldiers and groaned before turning back to Chrissie. "Fine. Like you...I have experience when it comes to having your heart broken."
They fell silent. Chrissie took another sip of her beer. "So...who broke your heart?" she asked.
Will sighed with a hint of annoyance. "She's not someone I like to think about a whole lot anymore. Her name was Anastasia," he replied.
"That's a lovely name."
Will snorted. "Yeah, well, she ended up dumping me in exchange for a better life."
"At least your bloke still loves ya."
A powerful shock seemed to shoot straight through Chrissie's body. "What?!"
"That was no willing act on his end of things, believe me. I know when she has her hand in something."
"Who?!" Chrissie leaned in closer to Will.
"The Queen of Hearts."
Chrissie leaned back in her seat. "I knew she had something to do with this." A new thought came to mind and she once again leaned in towards Will. "But how do you know?"
"I don't know if you've heard but I once worked for the Queen of Hearts," Will informed.
Chrissie gave a look of remembrance. "Right! You were the Knave of Hearts, if what Aaron told me was accurate," she replied.
"Yeah. Queen took out my heart and forced me to work for her. That's what happened to your Aaron. When it comes to the Soldiers of Heart, a promotion is just another word for the Queen seeing you as a valuable asset to her puppet collection and taking your heart out so that she'll have your full loyalty and service."
"Wait, wait, wait. The Queen can control people with their hearts?!"
"You didn't know?"
"I knew she could take people's hearts out and crush them but I've never heard of her controlling people."
"She does it all right. Take it from a first hand witness." Will tapped the spot over his heart. "She has a vault in that maze of hers. Filled with the hearts of people she controls. Your lover's heart is in there, I'll bet."
Chrissie began stroking her chin. "A vault, huh?"
Will began to shake his head and hands. "I wouldn't try robbing it. It's heavily guarded and there's only one person so far who's managed of successfully steal from it."
"Who?" asked Chrissie as she leaned in close to Will once again.
"Alice," replied Will as he tapped the spot over his heart once again. "The person who stole my heart back from the Queen."
"Where can I find this Alice? Can she help-"
"You're a bit late on that one."
"What do you mean?"
"Alice's gone. Left Wonderland a little while ago."
Chrissie leaned back in her chair and rubbed her forehead. "Great."
"And don't you go asking me. Sorry but I've got enough trouble with the Queen of Hearts already."
Chrissie groaned. She felt so close and yet so far from getting Aaron back. She knew who was responsible now. But her goal of getting her beloved back was made only that much harder by who she was going up against. She rested her elbows on the table and clasped her hands together, resting her forehead against her locked fingers.
"Alice is gone and you won't help me, which I understand," she sighed. She lowered her hands and stared straight into Will's eyes with a look of determination. "Looks like I'll be the one to steal Aaron's heart back!"
"It'll be dangerous, Chrissie," Will warned. "You know what happens to those who cross the Queen of Hearts."
"Yes. I know it'll be dangerous. I know it'll be risky. I know what the cost will be if I fail. But I love Aaron and I'll never be complete again until I'm in his arms. I'm going to do it."
Will raised his hands in defeat. "Who am I to get in the way of a woman caught up in true love? I just hope, for your sake, this bloke of yours is worth the trouble."
"Don't worry, he is." Chrissie laughed and gave a wide smile. "Thank you, Will Scarlet." She grabbed Aaron's money bag, stood up, and extended her hand. "Thank you for everything."
Will Scarlet gave a small smile, stood up, and shook her hand. "Hey. It was nothing."
"Wait a second!" said a booming voice from a few yards away. Chrissie and Will turned to see that one of the soldiers was standing up and looking straight at them. "It's Will Scarlet!"
"Bloody hell," groaned Will.
"SEIZE HIM!" yelled the second soldier as he raised his sword and charged towards them.
Will turned back to Chrissie and gave a quick nod. "Good luck to you," he said.
"Good luck to you," Chrissie said back with a nod.
With that said, Will lunged for a nearby window and crashed through. The soldier came to a stop next to Chrissie. They both watched as, outside the window, Will stood up, dusted off his jacket, waved goodbye to Chrissie, and took off.
"STOP IN THE NAME OF THE QUEEN!" ordered the soldier as he climbed through the window and continued his pursuit of Will. The other two soldiers charged out through the front door.
Chrissie calmly slung Aaron's money bag over her shoulder and made her way out of the pub. A wide smile was still plastered on her face. She had a plan now. She was going to get Aaron back his freedom!