xXbunnyholicXx (aka Bunbun) is back! I always wondered about if there was a hidden relationship between the Queen of Hearts and the Mad Hatter, and so, here it is! The "Role" idea, as you will discover later in the story, was influenced by "Alice in the Country of Hearts (Heart no Kuni no Alice). Check it out while you can!
Disclaimer: I do not own Alice in Wonderland nor its characters.
The Queen of Hearts was infamous for her executions. Every single one of them was exactly the same: The accused is dragged to the platform, hands and feet bound with thousands of anxious eyes watching, praying, for a miracle. The executioner towers over the prisoner, remorse hidden behind a black mask. The scarlet axe in his (or her?) gloved hands glistens with the dried blood of a million previous victims, unwashed since the first beheading.
The Queen herself sits a good distance above her subjects, as was the rule she had set since she ascended Wonderland's throne. Shaded from the bright sun, her ruby red lips curl up into a smile as she raises her slender hand – in it she grasps a thorn-less red rose, as bright and piercing as her insane crimson eyes. The crowd sucks in a collective breath.
The rose is dropped.
The axe is swung.
The hollow sound of flesh hitting water echoes throughout the stadium.
And the crowd fingers their own necks, wondering who is to be next.
But today was different. Today was to mark the beheading of the Hatter, or the Mad Hatter, as many had nicknamed him as. Now what was so different about this particular execution? Simple – he was a Role. A figure known by all, admired by all – a figure whose behavior had carved him or her into Wonderland's immortal history.
But a Role was also replaced if death was to descend upon them, so essentially, they never disappeared. They never "died." So instead of anxious crowds, curious ones flooded into the Heart Stadium, all eager to see the blood of a Role. All of Wonderland buzzed with excitement, and rumors flew that this execution would be exceptional.
But deep inside the Heart Palace, past gilded columns and jeweled paintings, a woman sat, staring into her looking glass searchingly. Raven hair tumbled in curls down her back, untamed and wild, and her red eyes were dull and glazed.
A knock resounded throughout the master bedroom, and a timid young maid shuffled in, carrying a breakfast platter. "Your Majesty? You have not eaten at all, and the kitchen has prepared a special breakfast for you, in honor of the execution today," she said.
"I see…take it outside to the balcony, and set it on the table," the Queen of Hearts said, slowly getting up from her chair. Folds of red fabric swept around her knees, her silk nightdress made by the finest tailors in Wonderland.
Surprised, the maid nodded quickly and rushed to the open balcony. However, she stumbled, and a plate crashed onto the tiled terrace.
The maid gasped. "I-I'm so sorry Your Majesty!" she said, frozen to the spot.
The Queen looked down at the white and red bits of china, and knelt to pick up a piece. Almost immediately, she recoiled, and a cut was now visible on her finger, alarmingly red against her snow white skin.
Memories assaulted her, overcoming the sting of the cut
The wail of a six-year old child resonated throughout the garden, curled on the floor and biting her lip in pain. It was already very tiring to get lost in a maze – imagine getting hurt.
"Why are you crying?" an unknown voice asked. Still sniffling, the girl looked up through blurred vision, and saw the figure of a young boy, perhaps a year or two older.. His eccentric red hair was ruffled and messy, and his blue eyes were filled with concern. "Did you trip? Are you hurt anywhere?"
Not sure what to do, she nodded her head slowly, eyes now wide with curiosity instead of tears.
"Here, show me."
The girl stretched out her leg, and a small scrape marred her pale skin. "It hurts," she hiccuped. Her black curls bobbed in a short cut around her round face.
"Ah, it's only a small scrape! It's nothing serious," the boy said. He grabbed a handkerchief and a small pouch of water, pouring the liquid onto the cloth until it was damp. "Hold on, this might sting."
After a few minutes, the injury was treated and wrapped with cloth. The red kerchief complemented the girl's equally red dress quite nicely.
Her eyes widened. "Hey, it doesn't hurt anymore!"
The boy grinned. "I'm not so bad at treating these, huh?" He plopped down next to her on the grass. "So, what's your name kiddo?"
"I'm Red!" Red piped, a smile on her lips.
"Red huh? My name's Alois."
"Your Majesty? Your Majesty?"
The Queen blinked, snapping out of her thoughts. Annoyed, she glared at the cowering maid. "Clean this up quickly," she ordered, licking the cut on her finger to stem the flow of blood.
"Y-yes, your Majesty!" the maid exclaimed, and began collecting the shattered china into her apron.
The Queen settled down onto a chair, and reached out to grasp a steaming cup of tea. Steam bathed her face, and she blinked. "What tea is this?" she asked, a tiny frown marring her red-stained lips.
Fearing the worst, the maid braced herself. "I-its Earl Grey – the kitchen ran out of rose petals to fragrant the tea, a-and…I-I'm sorry!" the maid stuttered, standing up. The broken pieces of china clattered in her apron.
"It's quite alright…" the Queen replied. The maid looked up in bewilderment, and noticed a far away look on her sovereign's face. "You may leave now. I shall ring for you when I am done."
"Y-yes! Then please excuse me, Your Majesty," the maid exclaimed, bowing quickly before scurrying from the room. The red doors clicked closed behind her.
Absently, the Queen fingered the elegant porcelain, and she was suddenly overcome with another memory.
"Where are we going Alois?" Red exclaimed, her gloved hand grasped by the older boy in front of her. "It's cold and snowing, and I didn't leave Mother a note!"
"We're almost there! Just wait!" Alois called back, still running. Their boots made footprints in the crisp snow of the woods, and Red was vaguely aware of a light coming up ahead.
Soon, they were in a small clearing, where Red gasped. In the center of the clearing was a small table, sheltered by the bare, overhanging branches of the trees around them. Quickly, Alois walked over and pulled out one of two chairs. "For you, m'lady."
Red hopped over, her hair tied up in pigtails. She plopped down into the seat, which was promptly pushed in so that she was able to reach the table more easily. Alois sat on the other end, grinning.
"Well, whaddya think?"
Red blinked once, twice. Then her face lit up in a bright smile.
"Everything's made of snow!" she exclaimed. It was true – the cakes, the pastries. There were icy arrangements that looked like crystal scattered on the ivory cloth, and Alois had even somehow to make a candle holder of ice.
"Everything but this," Alois said, and motioned to the tea cups. He poured steaming liquid out of the teapot, and presented it to Red with a flourish. He grinned. "It's Earl Grey. They say it's really fragrant, and really nice for cold days like this."
Red blew gently on the tea and sipped at it cautiously. Her eyes widened and she gulped it down eagerly, coughing when the scalding liquid scorched her throat and tongue.
"Hey, be careful there Red! Here, have some snow!" Alois exclaimed, handing her a plate of snow tiramisu. Red grabbed a handful of snow and stuffed it into her mouth. Her face scrunched up and she spat it out. "It's so cold!" she sputtered.
"Well it is snow," Alois said, amused.
"So, what's all of this for?" Red asked, after she'd regained her breath. The tingle of the hot tea still lingered on her tongue. "Is there a special event?"
Alois grinned. "Happy 12th birthday Red!" he exclaimed, standing up and gesturing his hand over the table with a flourish.
Ruby eyes widened as Red gaped up at a grinning Alois. "Alois…thank you! But…"
"…it's not my birthday until next year," Red said, biting her lip to keep from giggling.
Alois's jaw dropped, flushing a light shade of pink from embarrassment. Almost instantly though, he recovered. "I know!"
The tea cup was slammed violently onto the saucer, liquid splashing all over the glass surface of the table. The Queen ignored it, wiping her hand with a handkerchief. Abruptly she stood up. She wasn't hungry.
With a snap of her manicured fingers, the same maid came running onto the balcony. "Clean this up, and tell everyone that no one is to go into the Gardens. I will be going for a walk."
The maid nodded, then, hesitantly, asked. "In…that, Your Majesty?"
The Queen blinked, and looked down at her red nightgown. She rolled her eyes and glared at the servant. "Yes, in this you fool. Why else would I command no one to enter the Gardens? Now hurry up – my patience is thinning."
Frightened, for no one wanted the ire of the Queen of Hearts, the maid nodded and quickly began gathering the dishes, as well as typing in a message into a strange device. Once the message was sent, every single painting and statue of the Queen would flash, and the artworks would rattle off the command to the entire palace.
The Queen nodded, satisfied as she heard her booming voice throughout the castle. She walked over to the railing and tapped on it. Once, twice. On the third tap a section of the railing swung open to reveal a gap, and dozens of cards lined up to form a thin, but sturdy, staircase. Slipping on a pair of red slippers, the Queen walked gracefully down without her usual cruelness, which was to fake a slip or a fall so she could watch the cards scramble to prevent any injury to her.
She soon reached the solid stone pathway of the Heart Gardens, and she walked off, eyeing the multiple varieties of plants to make sure they were being taken care of properly.
A few turns, twists, and sidesteps brought her, unknowingly, to the center of the Gardens. As it was essentially the "heart" of the Gardens, fittingly, only one plant bloomed here: Roses.
The Queen paused, and then walked over, brushing her hands over the multiple colors of the blooming flower. Yellow, white, pink, orange, purple…
"Don't follow me Alois, my mind is made up!" and eighteen-year old Red snapped, briskly walking away from the young man chasing desperately after her.
"Red, you don't have to take up this Role! Please, just stay here! You can refuse, can't you? Can't you?" Alois finally caught up to her and clutched Red's gloved arm.
"You think it is that simple? You are not the one who is being pressured by all of Wonderland to take up this task!" with a wrench, Red freed herself from his grasp, and turned to face him. Her red eyes glowed dangerously against her pale white skin, making her seem fierce. "You are not the one who must soon leave her friends, family, and give up her name for a title! There is no choice to this matter Alois. I cannot back down!"
"Please Red, just listen to me. We could run off somewhere! Somewhere where they will never be able to find us. You don't have to do this," Alois pleaded. Though the years had molded his features from boy to man, he still had a childish innocence, a hope, present in his blue eyes.
Red clenched her eyes shut. "Go home Alois, I am running late, and I cannot afford to do so for this occasion," she grit out. Then, suddenly defeated, she slumped. "You really think that I long for this? This…this curse? To never age, never be loved…and to be replaced in the event that I die? You truly think I wish for this?" Red asked, her features softening. "I would do anything, anything, to bring back our childhood days."
"Because you know the consequences!" Red exclaimed, turning rigid again. "If I do not take up this position, I will be shunned, humiliated…along with everyone around me. Do you not see Alois? I'm doing this for you." She took in a deep breath, and looked up to see her childhood friend's reaction.
There was a strange look on his face, tender but regretful. Then, slowly, he reached into his coat and pulled forth a red rose, bloomed to perfection. Red's eyes widened – roses were rare to come by, as they detested being plucked and even more so to be grown anywhere outside of royal gardens.
"Take it Red, as a reminder. Take it as a vow, that I will never forget you, even when you immortalize yourself in Wonderland's history…as a Role," Alois said with a soft voice.
Trembling, Red reached out.
"Out of the way boy!" a rough voice shouted out, the rumble of a carriage coming down the road. Then, everything seemed to go in slow motion – a whip lashed out, coiling around Alois's throat. With wide, horrified eyes, Red watched as it slashed through skin and ripped through muscle. She stood as Alois fell back, blue eyes wide in fear. Blood spattered Red's paled face.
She screamed. The rose lay on its side in the dusty road, untouched and withering. She screamed and screamed and screamed…
…The evening of her coronation, Red scanned the crowd, voice hoarse and rough. As the crown touched her head, Red died.
And the Queen of Hearts spoke her first words:
"Off with his head."
Snap! The stem of the rose broke off under the Queen's fierce grip, its thorns drawing royal blood, red as the shade on the flower. She turned on her heel and strode back towards the palace, black hair whipping in the wind behind her. With smooth steps and harsh commands, she prepared for the execution, trying to keep her mind off the impending event. She was no longer Red, she was the Queen of Hearts, and she had to live up to her title.
She threw away her name long ago.
Swaths of velvet and silk, both in red, swept around her feet, a crimson corset nipping at her waist as servants swept her hair up into an elegant, loose bun, the plucked rose somehow keeping it in place. She stained her lips with red, and wore a dark ruby on her finger, the stone glinting with the importance of her class. The scarlet diamond choker seemed on the verge of slitting her throat, and the gold crown on her head was the only bright object in her dark attire.
With meek, frantic nods and praises from her staff, the Queen started off briskly toward the stadium. But as she reached the small wooden door of the balcony, her step faltered.
For the first time since she ascended the throne, she dreaded sitting on that gilded chair.
She had been sitting on the same one when they brought him in…
The Queen cackled, the aftermath of a satisfying execution, her eyes scanning the crowds for, perhaps, some stubborn fool that she could use as her next victim. Oh how she loved cutting off the heads of those imbeciles. There was always blood, so much blood. So red, so bright, so insane…
A knock on the door snapped her out of her crazed pleasure, and she glared at the door. "Yes? What is it?"
A card soldier walked in, dull and monotonous. "Your Majesty, we have caught a violator of your ways."
Glaring, she slashed the card with her sharp scepter, blood spattering across her face and the balcony as the part human, part card being was killed by a clean cut to the head. "Fools! Did I not tell you to never interrupt me when an execution is taking place?" she spat.
Another card stepped forward, unshaken as he stepped on the dead corpse of his former comrade. "But this is different, Your Majesty. The man we have caught not only refused to come sing at your birthday ceremony, but also painted his roses red, instead of replanting the lot. That, according to your law, is a crime punishable only by death," the soldier paused. "He is also a Role, if it pleases Your Majesty."
The Queen sneered. "I have yet to own the head of a Role. Very well, be grateful, for I am feeling merciful," she said, lowering herself into her throne and swiveling around. "Well? Bring the man in!"
Bowing, the soldier motioned for the prisoner to be brought in. The rattle of chains was heard, and a man was brought in. Bright red hair stuck out in odd places, contrasting against his black top hat, and his blue eyes bore into the Queen.
Had the Queen not been sitting in her throne, she would have collapsed in shock. Kneeling in front of her was her old childhood friend, the one she had seen decapitated in front of her very eyes.
Shaking and unable to stop, the Queen swallowed visibly. She opened her mouth to speak. "Al –"
At the sound of her voice, the man seemed to snap up, and his face grew into a huge grin. "Good evening Your Majesty! Hatter here at your service. Fine day isn't it? Do you know why a raven is like a writing desk? Oh dear me, it must be time for supper by now. Six in the evening, is it not? Oh dear dear dear, why are you just sitting there? Has supper not yet been prepared? I very much like your head, I would very much like to hat it," he stood up, and two soldiers immediately leaped forward to restrain him. But it did not seem to cease his rambling. "Yes, I would love to hat it. Would you permit me to? Surely someone of your royal status would not object to something other than that boring piece of metal on your head all day," he paused, suddenly seeming to fall silent. Then:
"Do you know why a raven is like a writing desk?"
The Queen couldn't speak. There he was, her childhood friend, her supporter, her love, gone…
"Mad," she whispered aloud.
The cheers of the crowd echoed dully in the Queen's ears, the blinding sunlight a mockery on her darkened heart. Slowly, painfully, she slid onto her golden throne at the front of the balcony, where a clear view of the execution site was visible. She scanned the crowd. The tables had been turned – she was no longer the mad one. The whole of Wonderland was grinning insanely, and it seemed like this time she was the only one with a clear head. This time it was she, who prayed for a miracle.
The gates creaked open, and out walked the Hatter, shackled by his hands and feet. His eyes were trained on the dusty ground, red hair disheveled and still sticking out in odd spots. The top hat was still on his head, for what good was the head of a Role without their signified item?
The memories came now, rapid, unabated.
"Red, wait up!"
"Red, don't be so cynical."
"Red, it'll be alright."
"Red! I won! I won the singing contest!"
"Red, smile. You're beautiful like that."
Startled, the Queen's head snapped up. She looked around. The card soldiers were at their proper places; not one of them had moved a single inch, as the Queen of Hearts had a penchant for perfection. And none of them knew her name.
'Impossible…' she thought, looking back at the Hatter. But it was unmistakable. He was smiling, those blue eyes once again innocent and uncrazed. The same smile stayed on his face as he was forced to the execution block, tied down. He looked up. Sapphires met rubies.
"Red," he mouthed it again. In an instant, this was no longer the condemned Hatter – it was Alois, back from the dead.
'You fool,' the Queen thought, her heart beginning that dull ache again. It couldn't break – it was already broken. 'You smile on your death bed...for a girl long dead.'
"Your Majesty, it is time…" a brave soldier ventured. The Queen nodded, unable to gather up her usual rage and pierce the man in the heart for telling her what to do. With great precision, she stood up, her pulse now pounding dully in her ears, overriding the crowd's cheers.
She slid the rose from her hair, loosening the bun and causing the raven locks to sweep against her back in gentle curls. The thorns glinted menacingly. The petals were stained with a deep scarlet hue.
Alois still smiled, but this time with a tender expression. 'Don't look at me like that Alois, don't…' Red pleaded. The crowd saw their cruel sovereign – the condemned prisoner saw a broken girl.
"I forgive you…"
The rose falls.
Thanks for reading! Reviews and criticism are greatly appreciated. -bows-