Summary: "There are questions I have to answer...things I have to do..." On a quest to fulfill a dream, Alice travels the world with the Company but finds herself leading a double life with twice the complication, thanks to a certain butterfly and an increasingly emotional correspondence with the Hatter that leaves her torn between the two worlds. Book One of the Alice in Underland trilogy.

Genre: Romance/Adventure

Pairing: Alice Kingsley & The Mad Hatter/Tarrant Hightopp

Disclaimer: I don't own any characters or locations from Lewis Carroll's novels Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, nor do I own any characters or locations from Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland. All rights go to Lewis Carroll, Tim Burton, Linda Woolverton, Disney, etc.


* A/N: I know it's been ages since I last updated but I've been busy working on a big edit of all my stories (although posting the rewrites will take some time and will therefore continue to be a work in progress). In addition to that, I have to admit, The Letters is proving to be a more difficult story to write, because unlike Alice in Underland: The Return, it is essentially set entirely in this world during the 1870's so it requires a lot more research and a stricter adherence and attention to historical detail which is very time-consuming. However, I just want to reassure everyone that, as ever, I am fully committed to writing and completing the trilogy and the two companion stories. Once I finish The Letters, I will immediately start on The Trio of Guardians. The final story in the trilogy will be much easier to write; and as a result, will be updated more frequently.

Please forgive the slow pace of The Letters. After writing Alice in Underland: The Return so quickly (with a new chapter posted daily), I find it quite distressing that it's taking so long to write this story. Unfortunately, certain real life complications as well as the added intricacy of the setting and all that it entails have made it a more formidable process. I had initially intended this to be just a small companion piece but once I started writing it, just like with Alice in Underland: The Return, it ended up taking on a life of its own and I realised it was meant to be more than a prequel, so instead it has now become Book One of the trilogy (although still a work in progress). Despite how long it's taking, I do have The Letters all plotted out in its entirety, and the aim is to make it a story that is as deep and rich in plot and character development as Book Two, so in the end, I believe that my taking this extra time will be worth it.

As a further note, please add me as a friend on Facebook for additional Author's Notes, updates on the progress of the stories, and questions you might want to ask me. The url is in my profile. With that said, please enjoy this next installment of The Letters, and as always, reviews are greatly appreciated.


Alice in Underland: The Letters

Part Thirteen

22 January 1873

Dear Tarrant,

Today was the 22nd of January, which means it's been exactly nine months since I last saw you. I have to confess, I tend to feel a bit down on the 22nd of each month but at least now I have something tangible from you - my lovely rose - and that makes me feel a bit better. Are you still wearing the amulet? Are you wearing it at this very moment, I wonder? When I asked Absolem if you liked it, he told me that you keep it on at all times. I was very happy to hear that. I remember the precise stall in Bombay where I found it, and the next time we're there, on the return journey back to England, I am going to see if they have a matching one for me to wear.

You see, Absolem told me something rather intriguing today. He said there's a special kind of magic in the amulet, just as there is in the rose that you gave to me, and that because the Buddhist monks performed the purification and blessing ceremonies on me, the magic from the amulet and the rose has changed and opened up a new connection between us. I believe it too. After we left the temple this afternoon, I felt a strange sense of...something. A link to you, but not just any link. I could feel you. I had a vision of you during the blessing ceremony. I could see it so clearly. The blessing ceremony itself was similar to the purification ceremony, except the monks chanted something different and the incense they used to wave over me had a different aroma. They also placed lit candles of various colours between the stones that made up the circle. Once they began, it wasn't long before I fell into a trance and I thought of you and then suddenly, I saw you. Afterwards, I told Absolem about it and that's when he explained the connection between the amulet and the rose. He said there is a dimension between the two worlds and that now the magic has become aligned in some way which created a bridge to that dimension. Goodness! It does sound rather esoteric, doesn't it? But I have to say, it makes sense to me.

When Absolem and I returned to my cabin, the most peculiar thing happened. I looked at my rose and it seemed to have an odd kind of glow around it. It's really quite amazing! As I am certain I've told you before, I have always felt a special connection between us, at least since we met this last time I was in Underland, but this is different. I wonder, are you feeling it too? Did you feel anything out of the ordinary from your amulet this afternoon?

Goodnight, dear Tarrant.

Yours always,

Alice


My darling Alice,

Yes, I did feel my amulet tingling again yesterday. It's astonishing. How wonderful and mysterious! So the magic has created a bridge to the dimension that exists between our two worlds? And you had a vision of me! It's amazing, Alice.

I've been trying to explore this new connection since I read your letter. When I closed my eyes and held the amulet in my hand and concentrated, I could feel you. I think I could even see you, though I don't know if that was just my imagination.

Are you really going to get a matching amulet to wear when you go back to Bombay? That would mean so much to me, to be connected in such a way. It's rather romantic. And on a more spiritual level, perhaps it might open up the link between us even more.

Forever yours,

Tarrant


23 January 1873

Dear Tarrant,

I forgot to mention in my letter last night that we left Saigon and are back at sea now. We left at dusk, just after the men returned from their tour of another rice paddy. It's a shame we had to go, really, because Absolem and I were enjoying our meetings with the Buddhist monks. I should have liked to stay for a few days longer. I shall certainly visit them again, as we plan on stopping in Saigon a second time on the journey home to England. They told me I must, for they want to check on me and see how the two ceremonies they performed have affected me. They said I should expect some very interesting changes in my life.

I'm a bit tired now so tonight's letter will be a short one, but now that we're back at sea perhaps tomorrow night I'll send you some new questions that I've been wanting to ask you.

Goodnight, dear Tarrant.

Yours always,

Alice


My darling Alice,

I'm glad to know you shall be going back to Saigon on your return trip, as it was quite fascinating to read about the things you experienced there. I think you've undergone a sort of spiritual awakening and I look forward to discovering how that will unfold for you. I feel like I am going through a similar kind of awakening. Perhaps that is part of the greater plan the Fates have in store for us. Perhaps you and I are meant to explore certain things on our own and grow as individuals before we can be together. Yes. It does make sense. I believe this is precisely what our being kept apart is meant to accomplish. And in understanding that, perhaps I can stop questioning "why" and instead, focus on the path that is set before me.

What a revelation! It's all clear, the higher purpose behind our current circumstances. I see what I need to do now and I shall endeavour to do it with an open heart and an open mind.

Forever yours,

Tarrant


24 January 1873

Dear Tarrant,

Now that we're at sea once again, things have settled back into the usual routine. Miss Prescott and I worked on the puzzle this afternoon, all the while coming up with amusing forfeits to make the Company men pay, should the opportunity arise. Naturally, it did. After dinner this evening we played Charades but once Lord Ascot retired, we played the Forfeits game. It was rather entertaining. I had forgotten how silly it can be. I lost during one turn and my forfeit was to dance a jig while holding a glass of water without spilling it, which Absolem later told me was quite hilarious to watch.

In any case, despite my enjoyment playing, I excused myself before the games finished and went back to my cabin early, because I found myself distracted. All throughout the evening, I had begun to feel a more and more pressing need to talk to Absolem about some things that have been on my mind. There's so much I'm learning and discovering at this time, and it brings up so many questions.

But I shall write about all that in another letter because I have some questions I want to ask you.

1. What is your favourite shape or symbol? This is actually one of the topics that came up tonight during my talk with Absolem. I was showing him the Egyptian ankh symbol (which is a symbol for eternal life) and telling him how I've always felt rather drawn to it, and he told me I felt that way because I'd had a past life in Egypt. Truthfully, such a revelation doesn't surprise me at all, for it's something I have always suspected, but it is not exactly a topic that I've ever been able to discuss with my acquaintances. Just Absolem and the Brahmins and Buddhists. In this part of the world, the concept of past lives and reincarnation is just a matter of course, but the beliefs that are common here are not widely accepted in the Western world, where I come from. And that brings up my next question:

2. Do you believe in reincarnation? Absolem told me that everyone in Underland is immortal, but if someone dies, they will be reborn. Is that something everyone is aware of in Underland or is it something only Absolem knows?

3. How do you feel about philosophical discussions? Do you enjoy them? Do you like thinking about spiritual matters or do you find it boring?

Yours always,

Alice


My darling Alice,

1. I've always been partial to the infinity symbol, which in case it is different in the Otherworld, is a sideways number 8. Your answer was very interesting. I haven't seen the ankh symbol but it's quite fascinating that you've had a past life, and that Absolem told you about it.

2. Yes, I do believe in reincarnation, though we don't get many cases of it here. Well, I don't know actually. So many people died under the Red Queen, so doesn't it stand to reason that there are a lot of souls waiting to be reborn here? Yet, no babies have been born in Underland since the Red Queen got control of the crown. Are those souls still waiting? Or, are they getting reborn in the Otherworld? That is a profound question I shall have to ponder. As for our immortality, yes, everyone knows about it. And that makes me wonder now about you and what your Fate is when you come back here. Will you become immortal too? Oh my! What if you won't? I couldn't bear that. I'm going to have to speak to Absolem about this. I'm very worried now.

3. I love having philosophical discussions. I can't wait until we're together in person and can talk about these things with one another.

After answering your questions I called for Absolem. I had to know if you're going to become immortal when you come back here. He wouldn't answer me directly and instead spoke in riddles but he did hint that if you return here and make the choice to stay, by making some kind of definitive tie to Underland, you will become immortal. I wonder how you'll feel about that. I asked what would constitute a definitive tie to Underland, and he said I should think about it and the answer will be obvious. So I meditated on it after he left and indeed, the answer did come to me, and it was obvious, but I shan't say what it is, for I don't want to jinx things.

Forever yours,

Tarrant


25 January 1873

Dear Tarrant,

I'm laughing as I write this because at this very moment, Absolem is off tormenting one of the men in the Company. He's making good on his promise to punish the next man who dared to bother me. You see, we played the Forfeits game again and unfortunately I had a lapse in judgement which resulted in a rather unpleasant incident. All was well until Mr. Smythe lost and his forfeit was to kiss me on the cheek. I refused at first but then I started thinking that perhaps the men were beginning to think I was behaving like a frightened little priss, instead of a woman of the world, and really, the game is supposed to be "all in good fun" so I didn't want to spoil it by acting too prim and unsophisticated. Miss Prescott seemed to agree, because when I looked at her, she gave me a nod of encouragement. So I let Mr. Smythe kiss my cheek. The problem was, he grabbed hold of me after and stole a real kiss, right on my mouth. I was horrified and terribly embarrassed because many of the men started clapping, as if they had been waiting a long time for such a thing to occur. I got quite angry and pushed Mr. Smythe away at once then told him that just because I'd agreed to a kiss on the cheek, it certainly didn't mean he was free to take liberties with my person. But I didn't want to make too much of a fuss over it, because for one thing, I knew Absolem would get him back later, and the truth is, I simply cannot have the men thinking I'm just a silly, prudish girl pretending to be an adult. What that man did was wrong but I couldn't let them see how upset I truly was. I did, however, make it very clear to everyone present that there would never be an opportunity for a repeat performance.

At any rate, when I went back to my cabin, Absolem appeared a moment later and evil creature that he is, he was laughing and practically rubbing his hands together with malicious glee at the prospect of scaring Mr. Smythe out of his wits. He had seen the whole thing so he was quite ready to cause a little mayhem in 's cabin. It's terrible to admit, but I couldn't help but laugh along with him because he had a rather determined gleam in his eyes which was very amusing, as I'm sure you can imagine.

Oh! He's back now and he looks rather excited to tell me what happened. I shall have to pause for the moment and continue this letter later, after I hear Absolem's report!

Goodness! Apparently Mr. Smythe screamed like a girl when Absolem whispered into his ear in the dark. Isn't that funny? Do you think we're depraved and monstrous for being so horrid? I've only just recovered from my laughing fit. Abby's impression of his reaction had me in stitches.

Goodnight, dear Tarrant.

Yours always,

Alice


My darling Alice,

I have to admit, I was very upset when reading about that man stealing a kiss from you. I can only imagine how you must have felt when all the men started clapping, and it makes me so angry! How dare he take advantage of you? From everything you've written to me about how complicated a woman's place is in the Otherworld, I can understand why you agreed to a kiss on the cheek but it makes me sad that such measures are thought to be necessary. It shouldn't have to be like that.

Absolem's punishment made me laugh too so no, I certainly don't think you two are depraved or monstrous. I'm glad he did what he did. And it's clear that he is very good for you, and knows just what to do to keep you from getting distressed or too affected by such unpleasant happenings.

Forever yours,

Tarrant


26 January 1873

Dear Tarrant,

I had planned to ask you some more questions in my letter last night but I ended up getting sidetracked by the "Forfeits incident" as Absolem and I like to call it. So now I shall ask the questions I meant to send to you in yesterday's letter:

1. Are you superstitious? I can be, about some things. I believe that Four Leaf Clovers are good omens, because I found one once and it seemed to bring me good luck for a time. There is also a superstition about salt that I have always followed. The idea is, to ward off bad luck, you're meant to throw a pinch of it over your shoulder then all will be well. It's interesting because I told Absolem about it and he said there actually is something to that, but we haven't gotten it exactly right here in this world. He said salt absorbs dark and dense energies in the atmosphere, especially if you place it in a bowl in the middle of a room. He's been teaching me meditation and today he had me get a cup of salt then he led me through a meditation we've been practising. When I reached the trance-like state that meditation produces, he had me hold a handful of the salt in my palm. I could feel it then. Absolem told me to concentrate and focus on my anger towards Mr. Smythe and all the other men who have bothered me and to feel the salt absorbing that anger. And I did. It really works!

2. Of all the places I've been so far on this trip which would you most like to visit? The two places I most look forward to visiting again are Saigon and Bombay. Both have had a very powerful impact on me.

3. If you had to choose, would you rather be a Knight for the White Queen or a Lord in her Court?

Goodnight, dear Tarrant.

Yours always,

Alice


My darling Alice,

I'm glad to see that what happened with Mr. Smythe hasn't seemed to have had a lasting effect on you. There was a time when such a thing would have had you depressed or upset for days.

Here are my answers to your questions:

1. The only thing I am susperstitious about is the position of the bed in which I sleep. Placing the bottom of a bed to face a door is considered bad luck. It's very interesting that you've been practising meditation with Absolem because I have been practising it too, ever since you wrote to me about the magic in the rose and the amulet. How extraordinary that we are so parallel and in sync in our activities and pursuits, without even knowing it. This link that has opened between us is proving to be quite amazing! I shall have to try that thing with the salt whenever I feel upset or overwhelmed.

2. Hmmm. You've been to so many places and really, they all sound wonderful. But I have to agree with your choices. Bombay and Saigon are the two places that I am most drawn to, and not just because of the things you wrote about them or because of what you experienced during your visits. I feel something when I think of both places.

3. There was a time when I would have answered, "Neither," but now you are a Lady here in Underland so I should like to be a Lord. I don't want that now at the moment, but when you come back, there is no doubt that things would be easier if were a Lord and the two of us were considered to be of equal stations so I can court you without worry about what others might think.

Forever yours,

Tarrant


27 January 1873

Dear Tarrant,

Nothing out of the ordinary happened today so I shall go right to the questions.

1. Do you measure yourself by your strengths or weaknesses? Though I've found that most people lean more towards one or the other, for me, it's an even split. I know what my strengths are but I equally acknowledge my weaknesses, and I am constantly endeavouring to improve myself.

2. Which do you prefer: the mountains or the sea? That is a difficult one because I love both.

3. Do you identify more with fictional characters from books or your actual friends and acquaintances? With the exception of my father, I used to identify more with fictional characters from books, but since I met you and Absolem, that has changed.

Goodnight, dear Tarrant.

Yours always,

Alice


My darling Alice,

1. I swing back and forth, to be honest. Sometimes I measure myself by my strengths, but other times, all I can see are my weaknesses. You seem to have a more balanced sense of yourself, which is very admirable. What you wrote about how you are constantly endeavouring to improve yourself struck a chord with me. I'm like that too. It's yet another thing we share in common.

2. Like you, I find it difficult to choose between the two. However, if I were to pick, I'd have to say the sea...but not the ones here. I should like to see the seas in the Otherworld. Are they different from the ones in Underland?

3. As usual, my answer is remarkably similar to yours. I have always tended to identify more with fictional characters from books, but now I've met you and that has changed everything.

Forever yours,

Tarrant


28 January 1873

Dear Tarrant,

Again, nothing special happened today so I shall go straight to tonight's questions:

1. Do you adapt well to change or resist it? I adapt quite well to change, especially if I am the one to initiate it.

2. What do you daydream about? I daydream about so many things. The places I'm going to see. The places I've been to on this trip. Things I'd like to do. Sometimes I daydream about odd things, like what it would be like to fly or to be able to breathe underwater. When I was a child, my father asked me once what I wanted to be when I grew up, and my answer was, "A mermaid." Are there mermaids in Underland? If there are, I should like to talk to one. I find myself daydreaming about Underland a lot, but most especially, I daydream about you. I try to imagine where you are and what you are doing.

3. Do you ever say things just to shock people? I have to admit, I think I do say things just to shock people sometimes. I don't know why. Perhaps it's because I'm trying to wake people up, or maybe I'm trying to challenge them in some way, challenge their beliefs or the way they think, or challenge their complacency with the way things are.

Goodnight, dear Tarrant.

Yours always,

Alice


My darling Alice,

1. I used to resist change but I have been trying to be more open to it now.

2. Honestly? I daydream about you, about being with you in the Otherworld and having tea parties in your cabin on the ship, and going to the markets with you in all the different places you've been. I imagine myself sharing in all the adventures you're having. I also daydream about you being here in Underland, and I imagine all the things I would like to do with you. There's so much of Underland you haven't seen and I think about where I would like to take you. It makes me happy to know you daydream about me too. To answer your question, yes, there are mermaids here, in the White Sea, but like unicorns, they tend to hide from us so it is very rare to see one.

3. I must confess, I say things just to shock people sometimes too, and I do it for the same reasons you do.

Forever yours,

Tarrant


29 January 1873

Dear Tarrant,

We shall be arriving in Hong Kong sometime in the middle of the night. Tomorrow we're going to take a rather extensive tour of it and I'm very excited about that! Absolem is too. It's rather amusing to see how much he's enjoying travelling around this world. As you can probably ascertain from my letters, he's spending more and more time here, which makes me happy. I do enjoy Miss Prescott's company, but it's not the same. I can talk about anything and everything with Absolem. I just wish you could be here as well. What fun we would have!

Here are tonight's questions:

1. When you were a child how did you spend most of your time? Did you have a lot of friends? I spent most of my time outdoors, reading. I also liked to paint and draw and write stories.

2. Do you find it easy to forgive people and forget about the bad things that have happened to you? I find it easy if I feel justice has been served. Though really, I think I am actually a more forgiving person than people might imagine. It's very rare for me to hold grudges against others, no matter what they might have done.

3. Have you ever played the game called "Horseshoes"?

Goodnight, dear Tarrant.

Yours always,

Alice


My darling Alice,

I wish I could be there too, more than anything. Like I wrote in my letter yesterday, it's something I imagine all the time.

My answers to your questions:

1. No, I didn't have many friends. As I think I mentioned before when you asked about my childhood, I had a rather lonely one. It sounds like you did too. I spent most of my time exploring as much of Underland as I could or learning the hat-making trade from my father.

2. The truthful answer is no, I don't find it easy to forgive those who have wronged me. I admire that you can, and wish I could be more like you.

3. I have. We often play it in Marmoreal. The Red Queen preferred croquet but the White Queen is more inclined towards other games, Horseshoes being one of her favourites.

Forever yours,

Tarrant


30 January 1873

Dear Tarrant,

How do I describe Hong Kong? Much like Bombay, it's so incredibly interesting to see such a fascinating blend of British culture alongside the more exotic and intriguing culture of the Chinese natives. It's quite exciting to be here. Although under Queen Victoria's rule and officially a Crown colony, Hong Kong is a territory that is really split into two very distinct sides, with the east side being decidedly British. During the tour we took today I noted the very English museums, libraries, shops, hotels, post offices, and more than one town hall. I even saw a race course and fields where groups of men were playing polo and cricket! Naturally, it is the west side that I find more appealing. That's where the natives are. It's so wonderful. There's so much of the Chinese culture that I want to see and explore. We only had a short time at the markets there but tomorrow Miss Prescott and I plan to go back, accompanied by Mr. Bowen. Goodness! It really is extraordinary here. You wouldn't believe the beautiful silks they had on display, Tarrant! They were divine. You would be amazed if you could see the quality of the fine fabrics and textiles, and all the lovely colours. We saw a number of Chinese teahouses that looked promising too. Absolem did a bit of exploring himself, while following behind me at a discreet distance, and he told me that we shall have to learn about the ancient art of Feng Shui while we are here. I'm not really sure what Feng Shui is yet but I do look forward to finding out.

Tonight we had a large Company dinner out in Hong Kong, rather than on the ship, but we ate British food at a British establishment, which I admit I found rather disappointing. Honestly! The whole point of travelling is to try new things and get immersed in the fantastic and thoroughly different cultures that we're given the opportunity to experience, not hide away in the ones we already know. It seems so provincial. I must say, I am very glad Absolem is here with me because he fully agrees. He really loves seeing the Otherworld. Yes, I did call my world the Otherworld because in this region, it really is like another world.

Absolem is excited because we shall be trading for more opium here. Judging from what I saw in the cargo hold, I would have thought the Company had already obtained plenty, but that is apparently not the case. And now Absolem is proposing a second excursion down to the hold to get another pinch, if you can believe it! He said he feels another vision is forthcoming and it will help. I expressed concern that he might get addicted to it if he's not careful, for I have heard it's quite terrible that way, but he just laughed at me as if I'd said something hilarious. The truth is, I know I will end up giving in, as always, but I will only do it if he is absolutely certain that we won't get caught. I can't even imagine the trouble I would be in if I were caught stealing a pinch of opium from the cargo hold!

Goodnight, dear Tarrant.

Yours always,

Alice


My darling Alice,

It was so wonderful reading your most recent letter. Hong Kong does indeed sound quite interesting. I should love to see it. Perhaps I shall one day. Wouldn't that be something? I think I should especially love to see those silks and fabrics that you described. And I should love to try some tea from a Chinese teahouse. How delightful it sounds!

I have to confess, I find myself feeling rather jealous of Absolem. He gets to share all these amazing adventures with you. Truly, it makes me happy to know that he's looking after you and making sure that you aren't too lonely, and I know he is protecting you from any possible dangers you might face, yet at the same time, I can't help but feel envious of him. It makes me feel terrible and petty and horribly selfish, but sometimes it's a bit difficult to read about all the incredible things that you're experiencing with him.

As for the opium, I wouldn't worry too much about it. As you can be certain, Absolem really does know what he is doing and he'll make sure you won't get caught. I do wonder what the vision will be.

Forever yours,

Tarrant


31 January 1873

Dear Tarrant,

Today was another marvelous day. I went to the west side of Hong Kong with Miss Prescott and Mr. Bowen, as planned, and it was quite an experience. Thankfully, they both enjoy exploring other cultures, just as I do, so we had a lovely tour of the Chinese district. Absolem came along too, but he had to keep out of sight most of the time, though he did manage to lead me to a man who told us a bit about Feng Shui while Miss Prescott and Mr. Bowen browsed some of the stalls at the markets. Well, really it was me the man talked to about it, but he did seem rather interested in Absolem. Everyone is. The sight of a butterfly perched upon a person's shoulder is not something people usually see.

We had another dinner in Hong Kong but this time we ate on the west side, dining with a group of Chinese merchants who deal in silks and jade and of course, tea. It was a rather nice meal, though I have no idea what it was that we actually ate.

Tomorrow morning I have to do some Company business but in the afternoon I'll be free to do what I like. Absolem wants us to visit a Taoist temple to learn about the religion, which I'm looking forward to. That is becoming one of my favourite parts about this trip. Learning about other religions and talking to people about their beliefs is fascinating, and I really enjoy it. Absolem said it's important to gain as much knowledge as possible because every bit of information opens the mind to new insights and higher truths, and I find that I quite agree. I feel different. This journey has changed me. The things I've experienced are making me see life from a whole new perspective. Absolem and I talk about that a lot. He said my Consciousness is opening. He also said that he can see I have a special gift but I have to grow into it. I asked him what the special gift is but he wouldn't tell me. Perhaps it sounds strange, but I'm beginning to understand that some things are meant to be hidden from one's self until the time is right. I think I'm beginning to learn what patience means, in a very profound way.

Goodnight, dear Tarrant.

Yours always,

Alice


My darling Alice,

Yes, I can see an immense change in you, and it's very inspiring. It's clear I have much to learn from you. What you wrote about patience was quite illuminating. I shall have to think about it more in depth but I realise that I too need to explore what patience really means and embrace the fact that some things are meant to be hidden from one's self until the time is right.

Forever yours,

Tarrant