"I've come here to investigate the strange occurrences at her palace." I replied matter of fact.
This beast gave me a thoughtful look, as if analyzing what I said to see if it were truth. He then dropped into a stance that looked like a martial arts pose, but as if he were ready to fly again as well.
"You're lying!" he snarled.
"What makes you think that?" I asked, trying to sound innocent.
"No one comes to the aide of Her Imperial Viciousness! No one except me! You want to destroy her, don't you? You're a spy for King Arch!"
"I honestly don't know what you're talking…"
I was cut off when the beast slammed himself into me full force, knocking the wind out of me. As I struggled to breathe again, the creature explained himself.
"The place where I came from was Hell! A hell beyond words or descriptions! I came here," he gestured with his claws, "learning of this Wonderland's existence, and wanting solace in its peacefulness. I even gained the ability to get my entire flesh and blood body back! I'm whole again!
"Then something happened to this Wonderland, and now Her Imperial Viciousness is in charge, and I chose to serve her because I didn't want to lose this freedom! I didn't want to give up what I worked so hard to gain!"
I looked at this beast, and realized that I was in a hellish Wonderland, much like the one he described, the one where that Scientist Hatter came from.
In fact, I saw a blueprint in the Scientist Hatter's laboratory that looked exactly like this creature.
Could they be connected?
"It was bad enough I let my creator into this place with that one-eyed alligator thing, but they had business! I knew that my creator was too much of a coward to try anything stupid, that's why he hid behind his machines, and hid behind me!"
So the Scientist Hatter made him a cyborg monster, and now he was whole again. And he didn't want to give it up, even if it meant serving an evil Queen? Even though I didn't fully agree with his logic, I could totally understand why he made that choice.
"You don't have to serve her to keep your gift," I explained. "You can help me defeat her, and restore this kingdom to how it was when you got here."
Of course, I didn't know why I thought that was a good idea, as a rush of fire from the beast's mouth alerted me to the fact that he wasn't listening at all to my preaching. He was set in his ways, and the unfortunate fact was that the only way to make him truly free…was to kill him…
"Beware the Jabberwock, my son!
The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!
Beware the Jubjub bird, and shun
The frumious Bandersnatch!"
He was a monster, nothing more but a mindless, ferocious beast, and it was my job to kill him. This was, as Dark said, a boss battle.
I rolled away from his furious flames, only for him to glide back down and swipe at me. He then wrapped his snakelike fingers around my waist and lifted me to his face level, allowing me to smell the sulfuric stench on his breath as he roared at me. He threw me to the ground as if I were a piece of rubbish, which gave considerable pain. He lifted me again…
He took his vorpal sword in hand:
Long time the manxome foe he sought
Why do I always miraculously have it when I need it? It's like Felix the Cat and his carpet bag…
One, two! One, two! And through and through
The vorpal blade went snicker-snack!
He left it dead, and with its head
He went galumphing back.
Do I cut off his head? Since he's the Jabberwocky, it's more or less law to do it. Isn't it?
I plunged the knife right between his eyes. The beast howled in pain, and almost dropped me. I hung onto one of his fingers tightly, and took another stab, at his eye. I fell to the ground after that act, the eye of the creature stuck onto the knife's end.
"AGH! CUR!" He ran towards me, still clutching his eye-socket. I leapt out of his way, noticing strange vibrations with the knife. It grew longer, the blood-stained metal became wood and I now held a staff in my paws, the Jabberwock's eye sitting proudly at the end.
The creature turned around and breathed more flames, which engulfed the entire area. I just stood there with my eyes closed, thinking that when I open them I'll…
"AGH!" The staff had a mind of its own, releasing a thick purple beam which hit the Jabberwock right in the stomach. His armor split in two and clunked right on the ground. He leapt into the air and darted towards me, his claws reaching for the staff.
The beam hit him again.
"Why do you persist?"
"It's not me, it's…"
"LIES!" He charged towards me like a bull as I dropped the staff and just did what I did in the past; run. Perhaps I should look for another puddle…
The staff appeared back in my hands. Damn thing.
One last time…
The beam came out again.
It sliced his legs off.
IT SLICED HIS LEGS OFF.
He fell over on his back, his wings twitching.
I crawl over on his body, feeling his thick ribs and his heart beat.
I plunge the staff.
"I'm whole again…"
I thought the ordeal would be troubling to me in some way, but it just felt like I had crushed an annoying fly. Perhaps he deserved it…
I passed through the kingdom. Although the buildings leered over me and men in corners gave me shifty looks, the sense of former glory could still be seen. After much walking, I came to a derelict palace, resembling a bishop chess piece, decorated with hearts.
The array of voices had come to an end, much to Alistair's relief. Yet that relief eroded away as he saw who his 'rescuer' was. A certain flying shark.
Hi. Aren't you glad I came?
Alistair folded his arms. "You thought I needed aid? I could have handled them myself."
I don't think you could. Not without me.
"I don't care about you!" Alistair sneered, freeing himself from the shark's clutches with ease. "You're nothing! Hell, the twit could probably take you in a fight!"
The shark giggled.
"What I'm going through is no laughing matter!"
Of course it is. Your cowering just now…that was the punchline.
"Yes, this world is a joke, but your sense of humour is even more pathetic than the hedgehog's."
You're just jealous.
"That's the best retort you can think of? You truly are a twit."
How do I know you're not a 'twit' yourself? You have a conscience after all.
"And what do my personal affairs have to do with you?"
I'm just spreading the word. I'm doing what you did for your friend Courage; knock some sense. A life in my employ is a life without a conscience. Guilt tends to ruin your fun, doesn't it?
"I'm not here to have fun. Now…leave me alone!"
If you think I'm annoying, why don't you just cut me into ribbons like you did those illusions?
"Because you're not worth it."
Alistair walked away. He didn't know what was worse, the voices or the giggling.
I assumed that this was where I was to encounter 'Her Imperial Viciousness' or that Mad Hatter or the Troll Queen. Thus, I expected to enter a Koopa-type castle with flaming torches and rivers of boiling lava or more examples of fallen grandeur.
Instead, pitch blackness surrounded me.
As I stumble around the abyss, making a feeble attempt at finding my way, I felt something around my body. They felt like the legs of a spider, a huge spider. But spiders don't have this many legs.
"Who are you?"
"Myself." The spider legs now felt like hands rubbing against my face.
"I've had enough games! Who are you?"
"Myself." It felt like worms sliding across my feet.
That voice. It wasn't the shark, it actually sounded friendlier…yet more ethereal…
"Go roundabout, Courage!"
"Who are you?!"
I opened my mouth to object, but a flurry of high-pitched female voices pierced the air.
"ALL OUR SISTERS FAR OFF! GATHER HERE!"
Now sharp beaks pecked my face, the wind of flapping wings blowing against my fur.
"SISTERS! MAKE HASTE!"
The beaks grew longer, the wind harsher. The claws sharper, the worms and slugs slimier.
Bells clanged. Bible chants filled the air.
"STOP THIS! COME OUT AND FACE ME!" I put my paw over my mouth at that point.
"And this we must hear and put up with, when I and my sister make music and dance."
She was the only thing illuminated.
The Troll Queen.
The spotlight coming from above, and the way it reflected off her eye and scales, made her look…holy.
She wasn't alone. Next to her, a limping small creature held onto her dress. It shrouded itself in a suit of white cloth that made it resemble a member of the Ku Klux Klan. It gurgled and made strange noises as it looked up at me.
The Queen stared down at it and kissed it on the forehead. "What a head he has got on his shoulders, the dear! You'll be father's living image when once you're a man!"
"Wait, that's your…"
"Yes, Courage." She took a deep breath and regained her former composure. "Don't think you're the only one with a miserable life." The small thing crept back into the shadows from whence it came. The Troll Queen reached for me with that horrid, scaly claw of hers. I just stood there paralyzed, staring at her cold glare.
She tickled me.
Just like Muriel…
"Courage…" I saw tears roll down her eye, but she looked like a crocodile so… "Join me." That's what the Hatter said. That's what the Shadow said. "We don't have to put any more crap. We could improve our lives, we could be loved and worshipped."
"What are they offering you? I'd keep away from them if I were you, and you'd keep away from them if you were me." She bit her lip. "I'm not mad, you know. Join me…"
"Indeed." Another figure crept from the shadows, this one hunched over a walking cane, its every feature covered by rags. "I believe he is truly troll-like."
Queen gasped. "Father? Is that you?"
The ragged figure held a dagger in one hand – claw. "In your left eye, first, I'll scratch you a bit, till you see awry; but all that you see will seem fine and brave. And then I'll just cut your right window-pane out…"
"Go away! I thought I was rid of you!"
"My own daughter!"
"It didn't have to be this way!"
"I want the dog…"
"He acts, does he not, even now in a passably troll-like fashion?"
"YOU'RE AN IDIOT! IT'S ALL YOUR FAULT! BEGONE!"
The hunchbacked man vanished, leaving Queen on the ground in a fetal position, laughing maniacally.
"I should think you might well know the pig by its skin! Why, where are your eyes? Can't you see that he's lame in his shank, just as you too are lame in your soul?"
Trolls sure do talk funny…
After another laugh, she breathed heavily and put her claw on my shoulder. "I'm not mad."
She was just as mad as the rest of them!
Yet I found myself thinking that if I shown her forgiveness, it would balance out what I did to the Jabberwock.
"Such a naughty thing you did," an all too familiar voice spoke from the darkness. Dark Sonic walked into view. "Trying to make excuses for your murderous actions?"
"No.." I replied bluntly.
"I figured as much! You're going to wind up just like that Alice girl."
"No I'm not!" I screamed.
"Those weapons you have are powered by your will. You willed the Jabberwock dead, and the weapon obliged."
Dark Sonic disappeared, leaving me to my own devices.
I reached outside and to where I faced the Jabberwock, to find the body was gone, a trail of blood. No way that thing could still be alive, but then again, everything else seemed impossible here, so…
"Oh," said the Queen, in a much calmer tone, "That must be the Hatter. The one with that big black and white hat I mean. He enjoys his work."
"He works for you?"
"Yes. Unlike most humans, he actually listens to reason. Hopefully, you will as well."
"I'm not going to join you."
The Queen's face twitched. "I have something to show you."
I should have refused, but I wanted to know as much of her scheme as possible.
Hatter Madigan lay under a swinging axe-tipped pendulum, tied tightly to a stone table, stripped of his weaponry. I could see the frantic fear in his eyes as the pendulum swung back and forth, hungering for his flesh. I tried to undo the straps across his body, but felt a strange shock the second I touched them.
She lied to me. She was mad.
"Stop," said the Troll Queen, "Or I'll lower the blade right now. And we wouldn't want that to happen to our friend."
"What is this?"
"If you don't agree to my offer, it'll be curtains for him."
"You are mad!"
"From what I've heard, so are you."
I opened my mouth to answer her back, but I found that nothing escaped my mouth. In fact, my mouth was completely dry. It was that Queenish way she said 'you' that… After a moment of silence, the Queen grabbed my paw and led me to the throne room – her throne room. As she slumped down on the throne, taking a huge breath, I noticed that small creature she brought crouching beside her, clawing her dress.
"I know you're afraid of me," she said.
"Don't flatter yourself."
"You're afraid of me because you don't know me. You think I'm just like the rest of the creatures in this place, trying to drive you mad for the sake of it. And you're probably expecting me to be a naked baby with huge blue hair as well."
I groaned. "You sound like an after-school special."
"You want to leave this place, and I don't blame you. And you also think that if you come back, there will be someone there waiting for you to love."
How did she kn…these questions are getting redundant.
"Love is finite, Courage, nothing but a deception. You foolishly think that it's going to make you happy for the rest of your life, only to have it bite back in your face."
"What are you talking about?"
She then began to twitch in her seat, kicking her legs and tightly biting her lip. After this display, she grabbed the small thing and held it close to her, kissing it.
"There once was…he was…well…"
"You mean this is all because of some ex-boyfriend?"
"Is it true?"
"As true as my name is Peer;-
as true as that you are a lovely woman!
Will you have me? You'll see what a fine man I'll be;
you shall neither tread the loom nor turn the spindle.
You shall eat all you want, till you're ready to burst.
I never will drag you about by the hair-"
As she tried to reason with that canine, the scenes flashed through her mind over and over again, refusing to stop. That time when she went out, disguised as a beautiful human through magick, seeking that Peer. It was her father's idea, he said he wanted the best for her, but it was all to prove a point, she knew it. And maybe he wanted to have a hybrid grandson…
"First with my daughter you make too free-"
"There you lie in your throat!"
"You must marry her."
"Do you dare to accuse me-?"
"It's ever the same with this humankind.
The spirit you're ready to own with your lips,
but in fact nothing counts that your fists cannot handle.
So you really think, then, that lust matters nought?
Wait; you shall soon have ocular proof of it-"
Her species was cursed; all that person had to do was lust for her and she was instantly pregnant. It was a painful birth; the child extracted from her through the blade of a knife. Trolls normally gave birth from laying eggs, but her 'intercourse' was with a mammal, so it wasn't that simple.
Her species was cursed, but no more. Through her practicing magick, she had already eliminated the curse that made them turn to stone in daylight, and now with this world in her clutches, she had bigger plans.
"More than that!" How long did it take her to answer that question? "As you recall, I am the Queen of Trolls, and thus I know what's best for them. For years, us trolls have been under the thumb of those moronic homosapiens, hunted, despised and cursed. Now I'm going to make a few changes…"
She grabbed me by the back and held me up to her eyeball. "Both of us have been persecuted, tormented and ridiculed because someone thought it was funny. Join me now and I'll give you something better than the pretense that is love. You will help me administer a new kind of justice. You will help teach the 'Wonderlanders' their place in this new order."
"What do you want me to do?"
"As Wondertropolis is rebuilt, my subjects will begin to settle there. As they take up residence, they will drive the humans from their homes and make them their servants. You will help reinforce that status quo, ensuring the troll's lifestyles go smoothly." She forced me to look outside, where holographic billboards boasted her smiling face, with slogans such as 'The Time of the Troll is Today!'
"Refuse, and…" Her grinning face turned towards Madigan's direction.