A/N: I. Am. Not. Dead. I swear it! See! Look at the pretty chapter! And the new edited chapter! It's so nice and shiny and new. Anyway, please enjoy the sixteenth chapter of Life After Everything Else.
Life After Everything Else
Chapter Sixteen: Looking Glass Land
The pishalver tasted just as disgusting as Alice had first remembered. Scrunching her nose as the liquid filled her stomach, she waited until she was as small as the rest of the group before joining them near the tiny door that led into the Round Room. Thankfully, the clothes that Tarrant had given her for the occasion had shrunk with her, and she smiled as he took her hand and led her through the door behind the rest of the group.
Earlier in the morning, a disgruntled Sapphira and an ecstatic Mirana had awaked Alice. Both women had entered her room, waking her up before proceeding to help her dress in comfortable clothes. As Sapphira glared at the choices in Alice's wardrobe, Mirana excitedly explained to Alice the plans for the day. After breakfast was served, her, Mirana, Sapphira, Tarrant, and Chessur were all to travel to the Round Hall and Mirana was to show them Looking Glass Land, a place she had visited many times as a child.
Alice watched with a broad smile as Mirana quickly excused herself so that she may properly dress as well before allowing Sapphira to dress her. Despite the bad mood Sapphira always seemed to be in, even she seemed somewhat excited as she brushed out Alice's hair before putting it up.
Meeting up with everyone downstairs for an early breakfast, Mirana and Tarrant shared with the rest of the group Cecil's improving condition thanks to the doctors who had been working on him throughout the whole night. Cheers were shared all around and it was agreed that they would pay a visit to him once they returned from their exploring.
After finishing their breakfast, everyone moved out to the stables and was given horses to ride to their destination. It didn't take long until they arrived at the door and were walking through it with much excitement coursing through the group.
"Stay away from the mirrors, Alice," Chessur purred, smiling broadly at the blonde as he floated past everyone and disappeared through the ceiling. Only a few minutes passed before he returned with a ring of different sized keys in his paw.
"For you," he said, giving the keys to Mirana. Nodding her thanks, Sapphira quickly dug out a small portion of Upelkuchen and broke it into four for the group. After the short growth spurt, Mirana stepped forward to the only set of double doors and unlocked them. Opening them up wide, she grinned as she led everyone out into the new world.
"Oh, my word..." Sapphira breathed, causing Alice and Mirana to share a knowing glance. Just like Alice, this was Sapphira's first time out of Queensland. Unlike Alice, she had no idea what sort of things would be waiting for her when she arrived.
Even from where she stood, Alice could see all of Looking Glass Land. The area was flat and surrounded by lush forests that belong to Tulgey Woods, but it was what was in the middle that caused a sense of wonder. From the distance, it appeared to be nothing more but a splash of bright colors amidst the green, but Alice recalled Mirana telling her of the beautiful talking flowers that called this land home. In the middle of a small opening that the flowers gave was a small house, which was where they were all heading toward this trip.
"Oh, Tarrant, it's beautiful," Alice sighed as they began walking away from the door and down the small hill that it rested upon.
"It seems that Looking Glass land has healed wonderfully," he replied with a smile, his eyes so green that Alice couldn't help but smile. Leaning closer, he shyly kissed his cheek. This earned a very stern glare from Sapphira, which only caused the two to laugh as they continued walking.
"Alice! Alice, come look!" Mirana said, breathless as she waved the younger girl over. Leaving Tarrant's side, she walked over to the White Queen and inquired as to what it was she wished her to see. "Look over there!" Mirana said, pointing at the house that was now closer to them.
"Yes, Lady Mirana, what is it?" she asked, laughing with the woman.
"I remember that house! Remember how I told you I came here as a child? Well, Father would bring Iracebeth and me with him when he came here to Looking Glass Land to oversee the flowers that lived here and the miners when Underland use to harvest looking glass. We would stay there. I can't believe I didn't remember it until now!" she said happily, smiling with Alice as they reached the bottom of the hill and the beginning of the vast collections of gardens.
"Honestly, Lady Mirana, it would do you good not to jump around so," Sapphira scolded, eying the house with apprehension. "You are acting just as bad as Miss Alice does. Besides, I doubt that house is in any sort of stable condition."
"I say, Sapphira, you've gotten much more bitter since I last saw you," Chessur said, appearing in front of the woman which caused a yelp to issue from her.
"I'm just watching out over Lady Mirana, that's all," she snapped, walking past the Cheshire cat with a frown.
Alice and Mirana both ignored the woman, smiling and waving to all the flowers they were passing by. They were all so beautiful; posies and lilacs, roses and violets, tiger lilies and tulips and more were all scattered about. Some slept, others chattered amongst each other, and almost all of them bowed to Lady Mirana and gave their heartfelt thanks to Alice. News had spread fast since she had slain the Jabberwocky almost two months ago, and Alice was treated like a hero by the flowers when they noticed her.
She had noticed one elderly flower, her leaves beginning to wither and her color fading, as she tended to a nursery of baby's breath. "Hello, ma'am," she said, curtsying to the flower. "May I ask you something?"
"Of course, dearie," the flower answered, turning to face her as the rest of the group conversed with other flowers. "What do you want to know?"
"How long has Looking Glass Land been here?"
"Oh, ever since Underland first started! We have a long, rich history here. The royalty of Underland use to call this place home, and we even had a castle here not too long ago. However, one day a village child visiting had fallen down a hole and discovered the abundance of looking glass that was resting underground. After the find, the castle was torn down and replaced with a mining camp. That only lasted a few years, and soon that was closed down as well and all the mine entrances in the forest were boarded , that didn't happen until recently. The base of the mining camp was moved and was replaced by that house you see over there. The former king lived there with his wife and two daughters whenever he came to oversee the mining.."
"When did the flowers arrive?"
"Oh, during the time of the first castle. The reigning queen at the time adored us, so she planted us everywhere. I'm one of the oldest flowers, but since I can't do much it's been up to me to take care of the children here," she said, smiling down at the small flowers nestled together.
"That's lovely," Alice said, smiling as she gazed down at the small blue flowers. Hearing her name being called out, she turned to see Tarrant and Mirana waving at her to come. "I really am sorry, but I must leave. Do take care."
"You too, Miss Alice. And thank you very much for all you've done." Smiling, Alice waved goodbye to the elderly flower before running to join everyone else. Slowing down beside Tarrant, she greeted them breathlessly and asked where they were heading.
"Unfortunately, Lady Mirana insisted that we see her childhood home before we are to return to Marmoreal," Sapphira explained, glaring at Tarrant as he held offered Alice his arm. "Indecent," she muttered before walking faster so that she joined Mirana ahead of the couple.
"Don't be upset, Alice," Chessur said, appearing and now sitting now atop Tarrant's hat. "Sapphira wasn't always like this."
"Do you mind?" Tarrant said as Chessur took his hat and floated slightly in front of them. His mouth spreading into a wide grin, Chessur rolled onto his back, resting the hat on his stomach as he looked at the two.
"Not at all. I do so love this hat."
"What do you mean she wasn't always like this?" Alice whispered.
"Well, she used to be very nice and soft-spoken. That was, until the White Knave showed up."
"The White Knave?" Tarrant questioned. "Everyone knows that he was banished years ago for treason. Why would he have anything to do with Sapphira?"
"Do you recall the rumor going about the castle during that time?" Tarrant raised an eyebrow, becoming just as curious as Alice was. "Well, several years ago, the charming White Knave served under Lady Mirana's father and mother. And, believe me, not even the royalty was immune to his affection," Chessur said, glancing back at Mirana before returning Tarrant's hat and disappearing.
"You don't think—"
"He's right," Tarrant answered. "During the time, there was a rumor going on that Lady Mirana and the White Knave were in love."
"Chessur said that he was banished for treason. What was his crime?"
"As the story goes, he tried to kill the king and queen in their sleep. Although he was charming and an excellent liar, he was unable to escape his punishment. Originally, he was to be beheaded."
"And Lady Mirana stopped it?"
"No one knows. The day that his sentence was to be given, the punishment was changed to banishment to the Outlands."
"How curious," Alice whispered, watching Sapphira and Mirana as they conversed together. Letting the subject settle, the two began talking of plans for their own outing together as they approached the house.
Sapphira was right; the house did not seem to be in the best condition. The wood was beginning to rot away and the shutters that covered the windows seemed to be falling off. Nonetheless, Mirana excitedly opened the door and stepped inside. Alice had to stop herself from coughing, the smell of must and rot almost overpowering. Sapphira, apparently thinking the same as Alice, took no time in opening the windows to allow fresh air in as Mirana ran off into one of the side rooms. Following her, Alice watched as Mirana ignored the room and immediately headed up the stairs. Glancing at the room, she noticed that it looked as if it had never been inhabited and was left to collect dust. Feeling slightly saddened, she followed Tarrant carefully up the stairs and into the upper portion of the house. The briefest glance of a white skirt disappearing behind a door told the two where Mirana had headed to and they diligently followed her down the hallway.
"It's so small," Alice noted quietly, "and neat. It's like no one ever lived in here."
"Strange indeed," Tarrant agreed. "I recall hearing stories of a grand, if somewhat modest villa where Lady Mirana and her family stayed at whenever her father had business here."
Suddenly they both stopped when they noticed an open door and Mirana sitting on a small bed, a dusty box resting on her lap. Walking inside, Alice left Tarrant's side and sat down beside the Queen, smiling warmly at her.
"This was my room," Mirana explained. "Although I never stayed in it much. I always preferred going outside to talk to the flowers," she said, laughing as she looked up at Alice. "And this," she whispered, not noticing Tarrant walk out of the room, "this was where I kept all my secrets." Opening the lid, Alice watched with great interest as Mirana pulled out stacked letters and small trinkets she had no doubt collected in her childhood years.
"Why did you leave all of this stuff here?" Alice whispered, reaching forward and picking up a small shell that was an incredible blend of different shades of blue.
"The past is where many things should be left, Alice. When my father passed away, I deemed it best that I leave this place. Although I'm excited to be back now, believe me, there were a lot of memories at the time that were too painful for me to have to go through," she explained, shifting through the many letters she had pulled out. Curious, Alice glanced at the letters, barely able to read the faded letters. Mirana opened one with a heavy sigh, skimming over the contents before folding it back up and tucking it away. All Alice could see from it was an M as the signature at the bottom.
"I'm sorry," Alice said.
Mirana wasn't the only one that returned to Marmoreal in a somewhat foul mood. When they met up again, Alice quickly discovered the short temper Tarrant had fallen into when he had snapped at her. Although something told her that Sapphira had played a hand in it, she kept quiet as they all traveled back through the door and made their way back to Marmoreal. The ride back was held mostly in silence, the air being broken shortly when Chessur appeared to discuss all the wonderful things he had found left behind in the house. At one point, he even told Alice about how he had gone into the looking glass mines and discovered that the mines led to another part of Underland. The land more than likely belonged to the door a bit of the ways down from Looking Glass Land's door, but Chessur explained that the reason that mine traveled to there was because it was the home of a village. Whereas people who were able to apply as servants or were nobility lived in Queensland, the common folk lived in this small portion of Underland and it was where Father Time lived as well.
Interested in this bit of news, Alice resolved to learn more of this part of Underland as Chessur disappeared into the air once again. It wasn't long until the marble towers appeared on the horizon, and Alice smiled softly as they approached the gates and, eventually, entered the stables. Once everything was sorted out, everyone quickly hurried inside to learn of the news of the newest arrival to Queensland.
Stepping inside a brightly lit room, Alice watched as Mirana and Sapphira hurried to the bedside where the patient, now fully awake, sat. "Cecil, it's been so long!" Mirana said, smiling as she sat down beside him. He gave a weak smile back and placed his hand over Mirana's in a brotherly affection.
"Mirana, I have missed you so much. Please forgive me, it happened so long ago and I don't even know why I left and—"
"All is forgiven," Mirana reassured him. "All that matters now is helping you get better."
"I don't know about you, Lady Mirana, but I personally have a few questions for him," Sapphira interjected, taking a seat at the foot of the bed. "Where have you been all this time? No one has access to the Round Hall keys except for McTwisp, Chessur, and Lady Mirana, so you had to be here in Queensland. Not only that, how did you find your way to the Tulgey Woods in your condition, and who did this to you? You've suffered broken bones and the doctor says that you're permanently blind in your left eye now."
"Everything is vague, Miss Sapphira. I just recall following a voice, doing whatever it told me. I don't know where I was nor do I know who did this to me. I wish I could be of more help."
"Do you still sing?" Alice asked, stepping closer to the bed. Blue eyes fell on her, clearly curious as to whom she was.
"Occasionally I sang to comfort myself," Cecil replied. "But it has been a long time since I have done anything professional."
"Lady Mirana told me of how you use to sing for the residents here. How you had the most beautiful voice in all of Queensland."
"I didn't say all of that," Mirana giggled.
"...May I ask who you are?" Cecil asked cautiously, his eyes never having once left her since she had brought herself to his attention.
"Alice Kingsleigh," she said, curtsying to him. "I'm pleased to meet you."
"Oh, Cecil, you recall how we were looking for a Champion, do you? Miss Alice was our Champion," Mirana explained.
"How...lovely," Cecil said, smiling to Alice. "I do hate to seem rude, but may Mirana and I have some time alone? I haven't seen her in so very long."
"Of course. Come along, Alice, it's growing late anyway," Sapphira said, quickly standing up and hurrying Alice out of the room. "You as well, Mr. Hightopp," Sapphira added with a glare. Smiling at him, Alice walked with Tarrant out of the room, giggling when Sapphira nearly slammed the door closed and nearly ran so that she was beside the two.
"I trust that you had an exhausting day, Miss Alice?" Sapphira asked, her voice almost hopeful.
"Very much so. In fact, you can go on ahead to your room, Sapphira. Tarrant can escort me to my room," she replied.
"Miss Alice!" Sapphira sputtered. "Just because you two are courting, heaven above forbid that act alone, does not mean that you two are...are to always be in each others company! It's a ridiculous notion, and one I will not put up with!"
Glancing up at Tarrant, Alice could see that his eyes were beginning to turn red, something that was never a good indicator for his mood. Clearly Sapphira was the cause for his silence earlier, as now his mood was only worsening with each word that she spoke.
"And furthermore, this is not the grounds onto which a healthy relationship should be based upo—"
"Not another word!" Tarrant shouted, his red eyes boring into Sapphira with such intense anger that Alice was almost concerned for Sapphira.
Sapphira fell silent, not sure how to respond to Tarrant's outburst. "E-Excuse me?"
"Not another word out of you, Sapphira," Tarrant hissed. "You know absolutely nothing, nor do I think you wish to. You like to pretend you know everything, that you know what Alice wants more than anyone else does. But you don't. She loves me, and I love her, and there is nothing that you can do about that. Now, please go. I shall escort Alice to her bedroom, myself."
"I-I-I'm sorry, Tarrant, but I cannot allow that—"
"What do you think I'll do to her!" he demanded. "I would never harm her, I would never even think of forcing myself on her if that is what you accuse me of doing! You know nothing of how much I care for her! Now leave us!"
Sapphira was quiet, staring in a mixture of shock and surprise at the man. Her mouth was opened, ready for a response or a snide remark, but nothing came. Finally she closed her mouth, her features expressing exactly what she thought of the remaining member of the Hightopp Clan as she mockingly curtsied to him.
"Pleasant evening then, Mr. Hightopp," she said through clipped lips before pushing past the two and walking towards her own room.
Glancing up at Tarrant, Alice noticed how he was slowly calming down, the red eyes slowly turning brown then a dark shade of green. "Come on then, Tarrant," she said, linking her arm in his and gently pulling him in the direction of her room. Nodding, he started walking beside her and remained silent the entire time. When they arrived to Alice's door, she turned to him and reached her hands up, gently holding his face.
"Are you alright?" she whispered, genuinely concerned. Seeing his eyes begin to slowly lighten, she sighed in relief as he bent down and held her against him.
"I'm fine, Alice," he said, his finger running through the curls in her hair. "That woman is just insufferable at times."
"I know," she said, smiling as his hands reached up and their fingers interlocked. "But everything is fine now."
Feeling one of his hands leave hers, Alice's eyes closed as his hand reached forward and gently touched her flushed cheek. Ever so gently, she felt his lips brush against hers, causing butterflies to flutter in her stomach. The feeling made her lightheaded, almost dizzy, but she wanted more. Shyly, she moved closer to him so that his lips were fully pressed against hers, her arms moving down to wrap around his neck. The kiss, however modest, was intoxicating and she longed for more the minute Tarrant pulled away.
"Goodnight, Miss Alice," he said, kissing her forehead. "Tomorrow will be a big day. Do rest."
"I'll try," she promised with a smile. "Goodnight, Tarrant." Reluctantly, she left his arms and waited until Tarrant disappeared down the hall before walking inside. Her heart was beating wildly and her stomach was jittering as she changed into her nightgown and crawled into the warmth of her bed. Dreams of what tomorrow would bring were filling her mind before her head could even hit the pillow.
A/N: Did everyone enjoy that? I do hope so, because I've been typing nonstop to get this chapter done today! Anyway, please leave a review and tune in for the next chapter, which will appear a lot sooner than this one did! Also, I have a poll up on my profile so if anyone is interested in more stories after this one is completed, please go over and vote! Thank you all for reading.