A/N: Firstly, thank you for the constructive feedback I have received about it not being clear that there are alternate universe versions of Mirana. I will clarify in the next couple of chapters. I always appreciate constructive criticism/feedback and welcome more should anyone have any. (I am sure there is lots for grammar!)
Secondly, a great massive thank you for everyone who has commented without signing in. I have tried to search for you so I can send a personal thank you back but the search engine on this site isn't the best so figured would just give a mass thank you in this chapter – so, um, thank you – I really appreciate the feedback.
As Mirana disconsolately trudged away from Alice's room, her normally fluid gait reflecting the utter chaos of her thoughts, she almost literally ran into Arianne – her main lady in waiting – who appeared to be fairing almost as badly herself. (By the by, if it seems as though there was a lot of running into each other, that isn't contrived and lazy storytelling, just fact. For whilst the corridors of Marmoreal were startlingly white, marking all clearly visible against their walls, their many blind corners made those who travelled their length, well…exactly that. Something Mirana disliked immensely but even with her wealth and magic couldn't fix, not without rebuilding the entire castle structure, and understandably even she could not find motivation or justification enough for this.)
Her eyes alighting on Mirana, Arianne's chin quivered, her eyes welled up and she started to sob. Throwing the queen an anguished look, she quickened her pace, not pausing or giving Mirana a due curtsy, and ran right past. Mirana frowned, not hardly for the failure of a curtsy – she welcomed but did not expect such a sign of respect – but because in all the time that she had known Arianne, she'd never seen her so upset; or at least so emotional in public – a quality which Mirana mightily appreciated – being that she was forced to always appear cool and calm herself. Trying to shake off the strangeness of the incident, quite frankly the entire day, she proceeded to walk on at pace. Almost immediately, Aurora – her second lady in waiting – rounded a corner, not only also failing to curtsy but throwing Mirana a curiously malicious look. Bewildered at this turn of events, Mirana could no longer restrain her curiosity and stopped to question, "Aurora, a moment, please. Have I done something to offend either Arianne or yourself today?"
Incredulous, Aurora paused and stared. "Well, I suppose, that would depend on your definition of offend. I understand that her majesty may not have woken up in the best of moods today but I was not aware part of our duty was to stand around while you called us lazy, incompetent and –" Aurora fairly bristled with rage as she finished, "Fat!"
Stunned, Mirana stammered, "W-when…Aurora, I-I would never –"
"Yes, I'd think it all some strange and crazy fantasy myself, except it happened but a short few minutes ago, your majesty. And as you can clearly see, "she pinched herself, finishing with a good dollop of sarcasm, "Unfortunately, I appear to be awake."
"Of course, you are." Mirana resisted the urge to burst out crying, scream or both. Several more choice murderous thoughts flitted through her head. "I can only offer my most sincere apologies, what I said was utterly inexcusable." She wondered how many more times in the nearby future she would be forced to end up saying precisely that. "However, there is an explanation, Aurora, I promise. It is just…I cannot offer it as of yet. You see –"
Aurora's gaze seemed to soften imperceptibly before she bit out, "No explanation is necessary, your majesty, I would imagine all of us have been exactly where you are. Of course, we would all like to know when you plan to take the necessary action so that you may once again become…yourself."
Startled, Mirana asked, "You know? This type of thing has happened before?"
Aurora's face seemed to dissolve into a reluctant smile, she smirking, "Does her majesty truly imagine that she is the first?"
"W-well, yes," Mirana frowned in puzzlement, "I would not think that any of you would have the magic for such a thing."
Now Aurora was the one that gazed in utter surprise, "You think that such feelings are exclusive to royalty alone?"
"What feelings?" Realising they weren't nearly talking about the same thing, Mirana clarified, "Aurora, what is it that you speak of?"
Gazing long and hard at the monarch as if weighing up her answer, Aurora eventually pronounced, "Why, your majesty, I speak of love."
"Love? I am not in love!" Mirana exclaimed, a little too quickly, fingers fluttering against her will. Horrified, she whispered, "Is that what the entire court believes?"
Lowering her own tone to match Mirana's, Aurora shrugged, "Of course, it isn't hard to decipher for anyone that knows you well enough. You've never been this way before, everything about the way you act tells us you're in love, what we don't understand is why you fight it. Mirana," Aurora unusually resorted to dropping the formality of her title, "surely you do not question that Alice wants you only for…yourself?"
"Of course not, what a ridiculous notion," Mirana snapped out angrily, her eyes involuntarily closing at Aurora's raised brow and pointed look.
"Then, please, your majesty, it is not my place to offer you advice on such a matter but I beg that you go and find the…comfort…that you seek. Your temper grows extremely trying and we would hate it were you to allow it to test the bonds of our love. Now I must go see to Arianne and convince her that you did not mean to say that she no longer held a place in Marmoreal's court."
"Thank you, Aurora. Please do, and please apologise to her on my behalf. I will see to it myself but for now there is another matter that I must take care of at speed."
Curtsying to Aurora in the manner normally afforded only to other royalty, Mirana marched along the corridors to where she knew she would find the other queen. Fuming at, well quite frankly everyone, she threw open the door to the dressing room chamber, taking a step over the threshold. She immediately stepped out again, pressing a thumb and a forefinger over her eyes, hoping against hope that this was yet another dream.
Well, actually a nightmare for just as in the previous chamber, this Mirana and Alice also appeared to hastily spring apart.
"Mirana, wait, I can explain –"
Not allowing Alice to finish, Mirana yelled, "Not now, get out!"
"Not you," Mirana snagged the other Mirana as she glided past, "you and I have many things to discuss." Turning, her eyes dark with pain and fury, she bit out, "Alice, heed my words, I had better not find you outside your room again. Stay there, lock the door, and do not venture out. Should I encounter you anywhere in Marmoreal after this, you will not like the consequences. I mean it," her gaze heavy with things being left unsaid, she finished, "think very carefully should you decide to make the choice to leave."
"But Mirana, I –"
"But nothing! For once, Alice, can you not do a simple task as you are told? I grow weary of you disobeying me at every turn. Quite honestly, at times I find you worse than a wilful –"
Now here, as the impartial party, some of you are laughing gleefully whilst shoving popcorn in your mouth. Of course, those of you rooting for Mirana and Alice are equally as vocal – undoubtedly screaming for Mirana, no matter how hurt she is, to – for the love of all things holy – shut the hell up. Unfortunately, in real life – just as for the characters in our story – there is a pause but there is no rewind; and often we do not need for someone to finish their sentence in order to be able to glean what they had been about to say.
"C-child?" Alice finished bitterly, her breath hitching with her own welling hurt. "If that is really how you feel, then there's nothing more to say, is there, your majesty?" Her hand on the door knob, she turned, throwing Mirana one last look. "Should you require my childish company, you should know exactly where to find me." Had the words not already been so utterly mocking, Alice's feelings would have been made even more reasonably clear by the eardrum splitting slam of the chamber door.
An action truly befitting a child but given her unfairly wounded sensibilities, this time Alice deserves to be cut a little slack. Especially as you are about to be privy to the disaster she just managed to prevent, something that Mirana is not aware of as yet. Something Mirana is probably never going to know unless Alice is the one that tells her for the Dark Mirana is somewhat…economical…with the truth. But let me not keep you in suspense and simply get right to it, by doing what Mirana is now longing for with all her heart – hit the button marked 'rewind.'