On the advice of a fellow fforde fan I saved up enough BookWorld tokens (and time) to upgrade this story from third person narrative to First Person Narrative. Oh, and I also tossed a couple of bewildered's into the Text Sea! :D So thank you!
Quick Summary: Miss Tiggy-Winkle and Thursday visit the Mad Hatter's Tearoom for tea. Staring, the March Hare, Dormouse; from Alice in and Diana from the Luxe series, Hansel and Gretal and Mr Willie Wonka. Emperor Zhark not in story but mentioned anyway as due to the wishes of his Highness (and his Zharkain Death Ray).
Mad Hatter's Tearoom
Miss Tiggy-Winkle led me down an average street in the Well. Zhark had taken the afternoon off and she had taken it upon herself to help ease my transition into BookWorld. She was being helpful and dropped hints which were not written down in my Travel book, unlike Mrs Havisham's methods which recently meant that she would ditch her with characters who had complaints and leave me to fix the problems.
Opposite a shop which sold book plots and next door to a pet shop which had a number of strange animals and domestic pets wandering around freely inside was the Mad Hatter's Tearoom. It was detached from the row and looked odd with its large top hat shaped building in between the other wooden and glass shop fronts. It was black and had a painted beige coloured ribbon around it. Just another normal shop in the Well, but far from anything I had ever seen in the Outland.
"We're going here?" I asked bemused. I had gotten used to the fact that Bookworld was different to the real world, but still never quite sure to what extent.
"Yes, it's the only place to go if you want a decent cup of tea." Miss Tiggy-Winkle said as she opened the front door and walked in. I followed her inside and smiled at the decor. It was very much like the Mad Hatter, and I wouldn't have put it pass him to have happily decorated the whole place over a weekend.
Inside was stranger than outside. There was a black marble counter at the far end of the shop which stretched from one end to the other across the width of the shop. The walls were painted differently, two were purple, one was red, three quarters of the fourth was wallpapered with a black and silver leaf pattern the remaining quarter painted dark blue.
The tables and chairs were mismatched too, some were small, some were medium, and some were large. There was an extra extra large sofa chair in a corner made of pink velvet and large enough for a human to sit on it with their feet ending up a good ten inches off the soft green turf carpet. Tea cup chandeliers on the high ceiling softly lit up the room which gave it cosy feeling. When I looked up she noticed that the ceiling itself was a tribute to hats, as they actually made up the ceiling.
We sat at a wooden circle table which had most of the middle carved out and Miss Tiggy-Winkle passed over the menu. "I already know what I'm having, you have a look dear, although, I'd avoid the brownies if I were you. He's still working on the recipe."
Topsy Turvey Chocolate Cake
Inside Out Strawberry Pie
Blueberry and Kiwi Brownies
Hatter's Special – Edible Teacup
"What would you like to order?" A voice sounded and I looked up from the menu to reply to Miss Tiggy-Winkle. She, however had leaned over the side of the table and was talking to a small dormouse with droopy eyes and a tail to match.
"Hello dear, I'll just have a cup of tea and a slice of the cake, thank you. Thursday?" The large hedgehog asked.
I sat still for a moment to gather her thoughts and then slowly replied. "Coffee and the special please."
"Coming up." The Dormouse replied sleepily and plodded up to the back of the shop and up a small flight of steps built into the side of the counter. He spoke to a large brown hare in a waistcoat and then swayed a bit.
"So Thursday, how are you finding Jurisfiction?" Tiggy-Winkle asked me politely. "I know it can be tricky at the start, all new cadets can have some mishaps but you shouldn't stress yourself out, I'm sure you'll find your feet."
I nodded in response, "Yes it's very..." I searched for the right word, "...different."
The doorbell rang as two young ladies dressed in extravagant, and old fashioned dresses walked in, they sat down at a table nearby and one removed her top hat. They were both around the same age, one with golden hair and the other with dark brown hair. They both continued their conversation animatedly after the blonde one waved politely to Miss Tiggy-Winkle.
"Oh, I'm so sorry Thursday, I've just remembered I have to speak to the Hatter about a new bonnet. I won't be long." The hedgehog excused herself and hastily walked out of the shop, the doorbell tinkling as the door shut. I sat for a while admiring the design of the ceiling and then rummaged in her bag for her Jurisfiction manual. Opening it to the page about Boojumming (p43) I began to read. A clatter at the back of the tearoom made me look up and I saw that the Dormouse had fallen asleep and toppled down the stairs.
Standing up slowly, I paused before walking over to the counter and brushed away the broken plates and the mess of a squashed cake and then piled it up onto the counter so that the little mouse wouldn't be crushed. The March Hare appeared too and shook his head, "There's nothing we can do, he's been to the doctor hundreds of times, narcolepsy is written into his character," he tutted and I nodded along. I had learnt that illnesses and afflictions that characters had been written with didn't stop when the book was over.
"Still, there are orders that need to be collected and I need a temporary waiter. There's no use in waiting for him to wake up, last time it took hours. And it would take too long to send for a spare generic. I'm not letting Prometheus back in here either. Last time he spilt mineral water all over the Wicked Witch of the West. She wouldn't stop moaning, threatened to sue too." The Hare thought out loud, and then his ears perked up. "Say, you wouldn't be able to help would you?"
"Me?" I stared at the March Hare confused.
"Yes, you." He thrusted a notepad and pen into my hand and then marched back off behind the counter. The Dormouse curled up into a ball and then began to snore. I blinked twice before sighing and then moved to the front of the shop. I walked up to the first table where the two ladies were sitting. They didn't notice me standing there and continued the conversation.
"Di, it's so lovely that Lina and Claire are hosting, I love the ending of the series, and because there's no time limit to the parties it means she can hold as many as she wants too." The blonde one said cheerfully.
"Mmm, I know Liz, but I hate having to do the farewell chapter with Henry, it's ever so sad. Sometimes I think that I shouldn't speak the sentences and say what I really want to happen. To stay, or make him come with me to Paris." Di said.
"Excuse me?" I said waiting for a break in the conversation. I smiled awkwardly and waved the notepad as an explanation.
"Oh, I must apologise, how long were you standing there for, oh never mind. Take a seat." The blonde one said waving her hand. I pulled up a velvet barstool to the silver table and sat down, glancing back to the counter but the March Hare had disappeared.
"I'm Elizabeth Holland and this is my sister Diana Holland, we are from the Luxe series, you may have heard that we are in progress of construction in the Well." Elizabeth informed.
"No, I'm sorry I haven't heard." I replied a little embarrassed.
"Oh, which book are you from?" Diana asked curiously, her dark brown eyes scanned over me.
"I'm not from a book." I said and the two sisters exchanged a glance with each other.
"By that you mean..." Elizabeth prompted.
"I'm from the real world." I replied.
"Outland?" Diana asked and I nodded unsure what the fuss was about.
"If I was you, I wouldn't tell many people. Outland goods make up the black market down in the Well and someone like Big Martin might find out and you'll end up either working for him or 'swimming with the catfish." Elizabeth informed me in a whispered voice.
I looked a little alarmed but then was distracted when Diana asked, "In Outland, do you really have traffic jams, and what flavour are they?"
"No it's just a figure of speech." I explained.
"But a jam made of traffic." Diana mused.
"My sister is always daydreaming about the world beyond our own, whether it be outside the Holland residence, outside of New York or even America." Elizabeth explained.
"It's a bigger world than I thought it was." I commented and then remembered why I had come to the table in the first place.
"So, can I take your order?" I asked the two sisters.
"Yes, I would like a slice of pie please and some tea." Elizabeth answered.
"I'll have the brownies. They're my favourite." Diana said.
"Ok, I'll go and get them." I said, standing up, I walked back to the counter and the Hare took the order from me and then told me to go to orange and purple striped table. There were two children sitting at the oddly coloured table, a girl and a boy.
"Hello." I said with a smile. They were both wearing scuffed up clothes, the girl wore a tatty dress and the boy was wearing a pale blue shirt with black trousers. Both were dusty and had rips in their clothes.
"Yes." The girl replied haughtily and the boy elbowed her.
"You said you'd stop it." He told her.
"I get grumpy when I'm hungry. Not my fault." She said then turned back to me, struggling to paste a smile on her face, "Sorry, but so would you if you had to blunder about in the forest dropping bread to follow on the way back." The little girl glared at the boy.
"The stones are in the second part of the story. It's not up to me." The boy retorted.
I stood and watched while they bickered between each other, then I realised that they must be Hansel and Gretel. "What would you like to order?" I asked when they had both relapsed into an angry silence.
"What is there?" Hansel asked.
"Topsy Turvey, Chocolate Cake, Inside Out Strawberry Pie, Blueberry and Kiwi Brownies. The Hatter's Special is Edible Teacup, oh and there's also Gingerbread Garden." I read through the menu.
"Gingerbread Garden?" The girl exploded, half crying, half screaming. Diana and Elizabeth turned around to watch what was happening.
"I would recommend the chocolate cake to you both." The March Hare said as he lopped over to the table. I winced as she walked back to the counter with him.
"I didn't know that they would react like that." I told him quietly, looking back warily at the table with the young siblings. The little girl, Gretel was crying into her hands and her brother was staring at the table sadly.
"Gingerbread is a touchy subject for those two. Actually anything with cinnamon really." The Hare explained.
"I sent for a spare generic and she's here now, Mary Mary could you go to the square table. Mr Willie Wonka is there with some friends but keep your eye on him," his ears twitched and he glanced over to the table which was occupied by Verminous Knids, a couple of Oompa Loompas and what looked like a house plant.
"Yes Mr Hare." Mary replied.
"You know what he's like, and don't let him get behind the counter for goodness sake! Hatter almost skewered him with one of his cake stands when he found out he was trying to steal the recipe for his Everlasting Gobstoppers." The March Hare continued talking even as he walked off.
The doorbell tinkled as Miss Tiggy-Winkle stepped in carrying a large shopping bag. "Hi Thursday, I'm back," she said happily.
"Your orders are done, you can go back to your table now, thank you for helping." The March Hare said nodded at me from behind the counter and I walked back to the round wooden table and sat down opposite Mrs Tiggy Winkle. I let out a sigh of relief, glad that my helping was over.
"Look at my new hat!" Miss Tiggy-Winkle exclaimed as she pulled a new straw bonnet out of the bag. It had a print of a washing line on the side and a large purple ribbon."What do you think?" She asked me.
"It suits you" I admitted. The March Hare brought over our food and drinks and I was surprised to find that the edible teacup was made of marzipan and tasted delicious, inside was sweet whipped cream and I finished it off quickly. "I think he's perfected this particular recipe." I added, snapping off the handle and popping it into my mouth.
The two Holland sisters walked up to the table just before leaving and Elizabeth invited Thursday to visit the book Splendor, "At the end if you do decide to come, there are brilliant parties. You'd love it."
"Masquerade are the best. Although most of the boys are boring and dress up as French courtier all the time." Diana added, "Maybe you could bring an Outland dress for me. I'd love to upstage Penelope, and Henry would like it too." I grinned and thanked both of them and then they left, the door bell clanging as the door shut.
"Clanging doorbell? That's unusual." Miss Tiggy Winkle commented as the Hare passed.
"Yes, there's a narrative problem, someone from the Stores was meant to come and fix it this morning." The March Hare replied.
"Make sure they're not cowboys, the Red Queen had some people building a larger conservatory at her summer castle and they really botched up the job, lassos everywhere and no glass in sight. As you can guess, they all lost their head. The Bellman wasn't happy, too much paperwork." Miss Tiggy-Winkle said casually as she finished off her tea.
"Those western characters are really a law unto themselves." The March Hare said shaking his head.
Miss Tiggy-Winkle checked her watch and then asked me if I was done. "Roll call is in ten minutes so we'd better get going, goodbye March Hare. Can you tell Dormouse that I'll have the washing done and ready to be collected by Wednesday?" She asked the Hare and he agreed.
We left the Mad Hatter's Tearoom, walked back down the street towards the elevators and left the Well of Lost Plots, ready for the next assignment, which, by the sounds of it, Mrs Havisham would make it awkwardly difficult but with some sort of BookWorld lesson wrapped up in it.
Review please! :D