The Outlands are an untamed land that lies to the west of Witzend. All sane- and most insane- people avoid the Outlands because it is such a terrible, lonely place. It is uninhabitable: a mostly flat, barren desert landscape with some dense woods here and there that are rumored to be full of huge, terrifying creatures.
The deserts of the Outlands are free of rocks, brush, plants, and sticks… Free of anything that could possibly be used as a weapon. Which, thought Ilosovic Stayne (formerly known as the Knave of Hearts), was a pity, because there was absolutely nothing that could be used to harm, injure, mutilate or kill oneself or somebody else with. And Stayne would have given anything at that moment to be somehow rid of the shrieking large-headed woman attached to his arm. (He had briefly considered strangling as a method of ridding himself of her, but then concluded that it would be too much like a hug –the thought of which made him shudder, as he loathed her- and besides that there was the problem of her exceptionally huge head getting in the way.)
"YOU TRIED TO KILL ME! YOU TRIED TO KILL ME! YOU TRIED TO KILL ME!" the former Red Queen, Iracebeth, howled apoplectically as she had been for the past- Stayne did a calculation in his head- 4 hours, 38 minutes, and 23 seconds.
She appeared to be in a state of hysterical shock- after all, her entire world had been shattered in a matter of minutes after Alice had slain the Jabberwocky. The crown had been reclaimed and returned to her younger sister, Mirana of Marmoreal, and the said sister had banished her to wander through this godforsaken wilderness chained to the Knave of Hearts, her trusted, loyal right-hand man- who turned out to be a selfish, slimy traitor, since he had turned on her and tried to kill her only a few hours before. This state of affairs far was less than picturesque for Iracebeth, and she did not quite know how to handle herself. Iracebeth had not stopped screaming ever since they had been dragged off to the Outlands. She had refused to move when they arrived, and as Stayne refused to drag her shrieking deadweight around the desert by the arm, they were at an impasse.
"YOU TRIED TO KILL ME! OFF WITH YOUR HEAD!" Iracebeth screamed for the millionth time, her large face crimson, red mouth open wide.
"I would very gladly have my head taken off if it meant getting away from you!" Stayne growled irritably.
Iracebeth, of course, paid no heed since she was screaming too loudly to hear anything else. Stayne put his free hand over his ear- the other was held down by Iracebeth, who, despite her hysterical accusations, still clung to it tightly like a small child- and tried to block out the sound. The screaming was really grating on Stayne's nerves and he was about ready to snap. He was certain he would go mad if he was stuck chained to this horrid crying thing for much longer.
"YOU TRIED TO KILL ME! YOU TRIED TO-"
"Oh snap out of it, you big crybaby!" Stayne yelled, finally growing fed up and smacking Iracebeth across the face. It was extremely satisfying. Slapping Iracebeth was something he had always wanted to do but never could before since he had been a subservient knave. But Iracebeth wasn't the queen anymore and Stayne realized that meant he did not have to hide his loathing of her anymore, either.
Iracebeth touched her cheek and stared at Stayne in disbelief, her eyes wide and uncomprehending, mouth agape in shock. She had never been slapped in her life before. Nobody had ever dared slap her. She had always been the one doing the slapping, and now she was on the receiving end, she was unsure of what to do and she didn't like it one bit.
"You… You slapped… You slapped me," she whispered, stunned. "…You slapped me!!" her face turned scarlet in anger. "YOU SLAPPED ME! YOU SLAPPED ME!"
"Yes, I did," Stayne slapped her again.
Iracebeth gasped in surprise and screamed, "STOP IT! HOW DARE YOU SLAP ME! HOW COULD YOU-"
"ILOSOVIC STAYNE! YOU STOP THAT!" Iracebeth cried, furious.
Smack! Stayne was enjoying himself a bit too much.
Iracebeth grimaced and gritted her teeth in fury. How dare he treat her this way! She wasn't going to stand for it. She stood on her tiptoes to give herself more height and slapped him hard, sending him reeling.
"Do not slap me again, Stayne!" Iracebeth ordered angrily.
Stayne's response was to slap her back. "You're not the queen. Therefore, you do not command me anymore, Iracebeth," he snarled.
She gasped at his impudence and slapped him again. "How dare you speak to me that way!"
He slapped her once more in reply.
She paused for a moment and took a quick, shuddering breath. "How could you, Stayne?" she cried, slapping him even harder. "How could you?! I…I love- …I-I trusted you! And- And then you… YOU TRIED TO KILL ME!" Iracebeth wailed miserably.
"Yes! I know, I tried to kill you!" Stayne snarled.
"WHYYYYYY?!" Iracebeth roared.
"Because you are the most hideous, maddening, nauseating, spoiled, cruel, tyrannical, thing in all of Underland, and I hate you, bloody big head!" Stayne yelled, relieved to finally voice his feelings.
Iracebeth gasped in shock and her eyes filled with tears. "Then… then why… All those times- You- I thought you…" Iracebeth choked on a sob. "I thought you loved me!"
"NO!" Stayne cried vehemently. "The only reason I put up with you was because if I hadn't, you would have cut off my head, just as you did with anybody else who displeased you!"
Iracebeth's eyes grew very wide and with a cry of rage and grief she slapped Stayne harder than she had ever slapped anybody before in her life. "You really think I would have done that to you?" she cried.
"You did to the King," Stayne reminded.
"I HAD TO! He would have left me for Miwana," Iracebeth yelled, sinking to the ground and beginning to bawl hysterically.
Stayne twitched and pushed aside the habitual impulse to calm Iracebeth down. Instead he sighed, moved as far away from Iracebeth as he could and sat down on the ground, to wait for her to cry herself out. He noticed a stray hairpin sticking out of her hair, so, having nothing better to do, he unobtrusively pulled it out and attempted to pick the lock of the chains that bond them together. She didn't notice. Picking the lock didn't work, and all Stayne ended up with was a bent hairpin. He tossed it aside in disgust.
After a while of hysterical crying, Iracebeth eventually began to calm down. At least she became quieter and after a few minutes she began to mutter to herself bitterly. "…Nobody loves me. Mummy and Daddy didn't… That hideous puny-headed sister of mine doesn't… My subjects didn't… Even the King didn't… And you certainly don't," Iracebeth spat the last part at Stayne venomously.
"Didn't you say that it was better to be feared than loved?" Stayne said mockingly.
"You're the one who said it first," Iracebeth snapped. "And that was when I thought you loved me," she added resentfully. "…I hate you!"
"Now we finally have a mutual understanding," Stayne thought.
Iracebeth stood up and drew a line in the sand with her finger, then stood on one side of it. "That is your side," she said, pointing. "This is my side."
Stayne snorted and shrugged. Boundaries are good. "That's wonderful," he muttered, stretching out onto his back and attempting to fall asleep, as by this time night had fallen.
Iracebeth glared at Stayne, her nose wrinkled in revulsion, and spent the next few hours trying to pick the chain's lock by moonlight with the rest of the hairpins from her hair. All she resulted with was a pile of broken and bent hairpins and a tangled, unmanageable mess of curly, bright red hair that kept getting in her face. Grumbling furiously and, with difficulty, resisting the impulse to kick the sleeping form of Stayne as hard as she could, she too tried to fall asleep on the hard-packed, sandy ground. Being accustomed to sleeping in a luxurious, soft bed, this was extraordinarily difficult, and Iracebeth silently wished a thousand curses on Mirana for giving her this punishment.
She lay there for quite a while, wide-awake, listening to the strange, spooky nighttime noises of the Outlands. It was creepy, Iracebeth thought, to be the only human thing- at least, as far as she knew- out here alert. A snore from Stayne arrested her attention, and she glared at him bitterly, even though it was dark and he was asleep. How dare he sleep so soundly while she was still awake! She considered waking him up, and was just about to do so, when she had another idea- an idea that made the tiny part of her that still loved Stayne- for she still, deep down, loved him a tiny bit- giggle in delight.
When Stayne awoke the next morning, the first thing he felt was an unusual weight on his chest. And the weight was moving slightly and making strange sleepy noises. He was extremely disturbed and baffled by this mysterious circumstance, so he looked at his chest in sleepy-dazed confusion. Puzzled to find himself staring at a tangled mess of bright red… something first thing in the morning, it took him a few moments to realize that the red thing he was looking at was Iracebeth's hair, and to realize that she had been using his chest as a pillow for her unusually large head.
"AAAAUGH! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?!" he screamed in horror, pushing the offending head off him and scrambling up as fast as he could.
Iracebeth, indignant at being so rudely awakened and still slightly sleep-dazed, glared up at Stayne and demanded petulantly, "Wha- What was that for?"
Stayne shuddered in revulsion and groaned. "Why did I have to get stuck out here with you?"
Iracebeth, who had been blowing at the strands of hair streaming in front of her face, stuck her tongue out at him, heaped her hair on top of her head out of the way, and pinned it up into something that resembled a sort of birds nest with the remaining hairpins she could find. That being done, she stood up and declared, "I'm hungry."
"Well there's nothing to eat here," Stayne said crossly, indicating the wasteland that surrounded them.
"I'm HUNGRY!" Iracebeth yelled, undeterred. "GET ME SOMETHING TO EAT NOW!
"Does she think I can just magically produce food out of the air?" Stayne wondered wearily. Iracebeth hadn't been awake more than five minutes and already he was getting sick of her.
"Come on," Stayne grumbled. He began to walk, tugging the arm that was attached to Iracebeth proddingly. "Let's get moving."
"Where are we going?" Iracebeth held back suspiciously.
"To find something to eat," he snapped. "Aren't you hungry?"
At the word 'eat', Iracebeth perked up slightly and followed behind him.