The Raven and the Writing Desk

Entry One: (recordings as requested by your Majesty, in all your White-ness)

Off on this mundane adventure. Can it be an adventure if it is to be called mundane? No… one supposes not. Mundane task. No. Mundane misdirection? Aye, a mundane misdirection to misguide very guided thoughts. What would a thought guide look like? Swirly, to counter all the pointedness one would imagine. Imagination, now there's something almost as valuable as muchness. And she had – task. The task on hand Tarrant. Right. Er, Left. Turned left at the Swamp of Dandyish, should arrive at LandEnd by one more sundown.

Sun up, sun down. Rinse, repeat. Four years of this blathering lather. I find myself still pondering words that begin with 'm'. Mundane, meandering, missing, missed?...

"Absolutely not," a strong female voice shot across the air, anger rather than volume giving it power.

The man the rebuke was intended for let out an exasperated sight, leaning a little more across the desk that separated them, "Miss Kingsley your continued refusal holds no business sense. What I'm proposing should be every trading company's dream. It is both financially desirable and, moreover, it helps the national cause. I can in no way," his voice grew strained, "fathom why you find this all so unacceptable."

Alice rose from her desk, leaning forward to match the man's posture, "Lord Stelan, while I am not surprised you cannot fathom something, I have already explained to you multiple times why your contrived logic will not make me forget what you are asking." Her sky-blue eyes threatening a storm. "No promise of gold nor some sort of abstract notion of helping my country," she said with a mocking tinge, "can hide the fact that you are asking me to help enslave and retard an entire people!" She shoved a stack of papers towards him, the top page's signature line conspicuously blank. "I will not taint my father's name, and so I repeat. I Refuse."

Lord Stelan ignored the papers, "Insolent…You would rather see it tarnished in financial ruin?"

"You blindly ignore the slower, more difficult path for ruin. Again, expected."

"I will overlook your insults," Stelan spit out from behind clenched teeth, "and remind you that my offer will not be so polite the next time around."

"I can do without your empty refrain, and your threats. Without my signature you can ship nothing," she paused for breath, "and I will not sign. KA Shipping will carry no opium. Not now, not ever!" She shoved the contract off her desk for emphasis.

Stelan moved, not to catch the papers, but to slam his hand forcefully on the desk. "This is mad – you are mad. China will crave our trade, your routes will help us make them!"

Alice met his glare, her steel gaze carefully punctuating each word, "Not. On. My. Ships." She stared him down a few moments longer then sat back in her chair dismissively. "I presume you know your way out. Kindly show yourself to the door. Or not so kindly if you prefer."

Stelan looked over her, cold and calculating, then turned and left without another word.

As soon as the heavy office door groaned shut behind him Alice let out an annoyed sigh. This was the fourth time in half as many weeks Lord Stelan had tried to purchase room on the China-bound ships. Alice snorted, Lord Stelan. Hah. Lord of all that was persistent, bloated, and annoying. His ego was almost as large as the Red Queen's. Almost. And of course his head wasn't so large. Must be the hat, she mused, extraordinary thing to hide such a ridiculously self-obsessed head. Hats were wondrous though, she had that on greatest authority.

"Tea for calm, Miss Alice?"

The soft Chinese accent saved her from what might have been a somewhat, to very, distracting and melancholy thought process. If one could measure such things.

"Chong-Li, I told you not to do this. You are a business consultant, not a butler," Alice said smiling as she accepted the tea.

"Not bad, tea good for soul." Chong-Li gestured toward the door, "bad business that man," he frowned, "bad outside business too. Careful, yes?"

Alice sipped her tea, nodding. She knew not to mistake Chong-Li's broken English for lack of intelligence. Though the middle-aged Chinese man would never fully grasp a second language his mind and advice had never given her any reason to doubt his abilities. He had proven himself invaluable time and time again during her stay in China, so much so that she had invited him back to London so his advice on new goods and trading routes would be close at hand.

"Yes, I'll admit he irks me, but short of doing away with me in some sort medieval fashion and re-writing the contracts there is nothing he can do. Ascot made sure of that when he handed most of the business over to me." Alice smirked a little to herself, "the fool Stelan thought it would be easier to persuade – no, to bully – the young girl Ascot left in charge. I'm sure he was surprised."

A chuckle escaped the older man's lips, "Ascot, good man. Smart man. See tonight, yes?"

"Yes, we should probably be on our way. I suppose I should be present for my own birthday dinner." Hah. Present. Alice scooped up anything not secured in place on the desk and unceremoniously dumped them into an open drawer. Excellent at business she may be, organized she was not. Focus was always much easier to pinpoint in a bit of chaos. Chong-Li had already drawn the curtains and was waiting for her at the office door. She slipped her coat on over a plain but practical blue dress and rose to meet him, "shall we?"

Alice let Chong-Li lead, taking his arm as they walked the five blocks from Ascots office to her family's London flat. Her mother had hoped that with maturity Alice's thoughts would become more focused – they had not. Her mind was just as apt to wander as it had always been. The comfortable silence she and Chong-Li moved in easily allowed her to fall into her own head. Alice was not particularly happy with what she found there: that same, persistent ache that had been ever so slowly growing these four years. Perhaps, she told herself with no conviction, I am merely apprehensive about being around my family tonight. Her mother, naturally, had not approved of her sudden change in lifestyle after she had rejected Hamish. What mother would rather have their daughter exposed to the danger of high seas and faraway lands than safely married? Of course her mother's anger could not hold up for too long – she was her father's daughter and her mother had always known Alice would only do as Alice wanted to do. Besides, she could now at least boast she had a daughter who had been to the Orient and back. The Orient…Alice then shifted her denial to blaming the ache on a pang for the exotic land of China. This was just as weak as her first excuse though. China had been mystical, new, unknown, exciting, fruitful, and everything she knew it would be; yet, once she had marveled at the soaring pavilions, rickshaw filled streets, and strange foods Alice realized nothing was different. Yes the Chinese culture was unique, beautiful, and foreign but at its core were people with the same hopes and fears as any person breathing on this world was wont to have. And that, Alice knew, was what ailed her: the longing for a world where people were not so similar, where all that had dreams were not people at all.

It was her own sideways glance into a window that interrupted her thoughts. Alice paused at the window, hands slipping from Chong-Li's arms. The Chinese man walked a few steps further before turning back to look at her quizzically.

"Just a moment Chong-Li, something in this window caught my eye."

"Always distract Miss Alice, late be maybe."

She chuckled, "not a problem, I am always late." Her focus was on the writing desk placed front and center in a shop window. The desk was not overly intricate, mostly sleek, dark wood except for the legs and middle drawer. Its simplicity made it more attractive but what particularly caught Alice's eye were the ravens carved at each foot. The birds were not facing forward but instead posed as if looking back over their shoulder, wings folded, so that their tails curved into the desk's feet. The middle drawer was the most ornate, with two detailed ravens circling each other, amber eyes protruding as handles.

"What an intriguing little piece – shame the eyes are amber. They would really look better emerald," Alice muttered. With a quick shake of her head she turned away from the store front and let a slightly sheepish smile adorn her face, "I guess we should move along." Chong-Li only gave her a look of practiced patience before nodding.

Her next thought was, I suppose having a raven-writing desk is not technically the answer.

Her resulting giggle was cut short,

and then there was blood.

It took her a few moments to realize the blood was hers, that there was knife was protruding from her chest. Alice immediately retreated into distraction: What an odd picture this makes, how harshly the steel contrasts with the blood, and the blood with the blue of her dress. White would probably go better, accommodate the gathering pool of red in a much more complimentary frame. Then again, blue was infinitely better in many ways. Of course she could be biased, blue was her color, so she had been told. As she mused on whether or not a person could properly be said to 'have their own color,' something distinctly like pain, screaming, withering pain tried to escape from the back of her mind and draw her into reality. But she had always been just ever so good at ignoring reality.

It took Chong-Li's frantic, jarring curses in Chinese to startle her back. Another part of her brain, one that wasn't screaming or contemplating merits of color, noted that he was not alone, but grappling with a male figure.

Then the blissful forced silence of shock set in.

Hello! This my first fanfiction (kindly forgetting the tweenage love stories from Card Captor Sakura, Yugioh, and Spirited Away that filled my middle school years) but I make no excuses so read,, flame, what-have-you. Hopefully though I can bring back some of that insanity-thinged fun from the movie, which was what inspired me to write in the first place.


- Savi