Mallymkun dipped her cookie into the teapot again, nibbling on it without much interest. It was stale, anyway. No, she was thinking about that Alice girl—the wrong Alice, no less—that Tarrant was out risking his life for right now. Sure, the Red Queen's soldiers had come and gone already, but the dormouse knew better than to trust anyone, even Bayard, these days.
She should have insisted that Tarrant let her come with him and Alice to Marmoreal. That way, she'd at least know where he was. The hatter had a habit of easily getting distracted, especially when it came to matters of the Resistance.
Oh, shut up, she told her subconscious. If you were really worried about him, you would have followed him. Now eat your cookie.
"No thanks," she muttered, crushing the dessert into tiny crumbs.
Then she sighed. Great. Now I'm talking to myself. Pull yourself together, Mallymkun, the Resistance needs at least one sane member!
"The Hatter'd better get back soon, or he'll be late for tea!" Thackery cried out suddenly, tossing a saucer into the air. It hit the ground hard and shattered.
"It's always teatime here, Thackery," Mallymkun pointed out.
"Good to know, in case I ever need a drink," a voice purred as Chessur materialized in a chair across the table from the dormouse.
"What do you want, Chessur?" Mallymkun frowned at the cat. "Whatever it is, I have no reason to give it to you. Where were you just now, when we were risking our heads over that wrong Alice?" she challenged.
"Whoever told you that I wanted anything was misleading you," Chessur said, grinning nonchalantly. "Right now, it's what you want that's of interest."
"You're asking for a sticking," said the Dormouse, fingering her hatpin. "State your business or leave."
The cat's smile widened further than Mallymkun would have thought possible, if she hadn't seen it before. "Information," he said. "Espionage, you might say. I'm not completely selfish, you know."
"You've done very little to prove such a point."
"Well, how's this for proof?" Chessur leaned back in the chair. "Tarrant's been captured by the Knave of Hearts."
"What?" Mallymkun leapt to her feet.
"He gave himself up to let Alice escape," the cat continued. "Right now, he's on his way to Salazen Grum. You might make it there…before he's been tortured too much."
"That slurking…!" Mallymkun ran to the edge of the table. "Thackery, I'm going to Salazen Grum," she called over her shoulder.
"But—But—Then you'll be late for tea!" the hare protested.
"Then go to Marmoreal and get it ready," the dormouse said, trying to be patient with him while practically jumping out of her skin in her urgency to leave. "Tarrant and I will be there on time."
Without waiting for an answer, she ran off into the woods.
It took Mallymkun too long for her liking to reach Salazen Grum—nearly two days, and that was with allowing herself almost no time to rest. But now she stood on a rocky outcrop, looking down at the Red Queen's castle.
"I don't suppose you have a plan," Chessur said, materializing next to her.
"Of course I do," said the dormouse. "Get in, find Tarrant, get us both out."
"I thought not," sighed the cat.
"Well, it's more than you have!" Mallymkun shouted, turning on Chessur suddenly. "You, who slithers out of all responsibility! You, who's suffered just as much as any of us! You, who's never so much as thanked Tarrant for saving your life, twice, and instead abandoned the only survivors of the Horunvendush Day—who were relying on you to lead them to safety—the instant the Knave of Hearts came searching for them!"
The dormouse turned away, breathing hard from her rant, and started down the slope. Chessur sat on the rocks for a long time, watching her make her way up to the castle, cross the moat, and sneak in through a hole in the garden wall.
He wasn't smiling anymore.