Author's Notes (if any): This story takes place after the movie, but might be, maybe, could be considered AU. I guess you'll have to determine that yourself. :D As always, reviews are like candy!
THANK YOU to creepylicious for the awesome artwork and soundtrack (the master list can be found on my LJ)! A big huge thank you to my Scottish guru azure_horizon who answered countless questions with the utmost patience. Without her, Tarrant would be speaking like a surfer dude. Seriously. An enormous, extra huge thank you (and a future package of cinnamon rolls, LOL) goes to manniness who has been my cheerleader, beta, and English to Outlandish translator. Without her, the ending would have been rubbish. You, as always, rock! There are some Outlandish words created by the talented manniness that can be found at her LJ.
"I have something to show you."
Alice looked up from her tea cup to Tarrant. A smile danced on her lips as she watched him stir in his seat, nearly unable to control his excitement. "What is it?" she asked.
"I'm afraid I can't tell you." At her frown, he quickly added, "At least, not yet."
Alice was intrigued, which, she suspected, was the purpose of his announcement. "Well," she said before taking a sip of her tea, "when can you tell me?"
His triumphant grin confirmed her thoughts. He was trying to stir up her curiosity!
"We have to go there first," he replied, smiling.
Without wasting another moment, he led her outside of his workshop, through the courtyard and beyond the castle gates. He finally stopped several hundred yards from the front of the castle. "Yes, yes, here we are," he said, seeming pleased with himself.
"It's High Winter's Night," he stated.
Alice overheard the queen talking about it earlier that morning, but she was unaware of what significance it had in Underland. "What's that?" she asked, looking around the empty field for any clues.
His eyes lit up as they often did when he explained an unfamiliar aspect about Underland to Alice. "It's th' shortest day o' th' year. Tae keep th' citizens o' Underland from missin' th' sun tay much, th' constellations give us a gift every High Winter's Nicht," he explained, taking a seat on the ground.
Alice joined him, her hand brushing his. She was about to pull away when she felt his hand covering her own. She smiled at him before he started speaking.
"For years, I would come out on High Winter's Night and watch them alone," he confessed quietly.
"What about Mally and Thackery?" she asked.
"It would interfere with the preparations for the Tea of the High Winter's Night," he answered.
"It's alrigh'," he said when she flashed him a sympathetic smile. "I'm glad I'm able tae share this wi' ye now." He reached in his jacket pocket and pulled out his long-broken pocket watch. "It's gonnae start soon," he declared after a quick glance at the time.
A blur of movement coming from the sky stole Alice's attention. The constellation was moving!
The constellation transformed from a seemingly random arrangement of stars to a life-like image of a warrior woman, walking across the vast Underland sky. On the other side, a Bandersnatch ran around wildly, knocking the stars around.
"That's Eyvn, the first tamer of the Bandersnatch," he whispered as they watched the powerful woman climb on the wild beast. They soared across the sky as the woman finally managed to slow the Bandersnatch, controlling it as they rode across the horizon.
"Tarrant, this is…breathtaking," she whispered. Alice leaned back on her hands as she sat on the lush grass and willed her eyes to turn from the majestic display in the sky to the man seated next to her.
"Aye, it is quite callouryin'," he agreed.
Together they watched another dozen constellations come to life and, every time, Tarrant gave her a brief background of each one. When Azul, the Keeper of Light faded back into the stars, she turned to him.
"Thank you, Tarrant, for sharing this with me," she said sincerely.
He turned to her with the Smile that only was for her. "It was my pleasure," he replied softly.
She leaned forward, softly touching her lips to his. "Can we do this next year?"
"Every year," he answered.
Alice felt another smile stretch her lips. They sat in silence for a few seconds before a loud roar caught her attention. "Is this part of the High Winter's Night festivities?" she asked, confused.
A panicked look settled over Tarrant's face. "No, I haven't heard that terrible sound since..." he trailed off as the source of the heart-racing clamor came into view.
"How is this possible?" Alice said as they watched the frightful beast circling around the castle in the moonlight. She stood up and started making her way back to the castle.
Tarrant stood up, but remained frozen in fear. "Ah hae nae idea," he admitted, his eyes turning orange. "Ye slew, smote, struck, slaughtered-"
"Tarrant!" Alice interrupted, desperate to keep him from slipping into the Madness. "I need to get the Vorpal Sword from inside the castle."
He nodded his head, barely keeping his insanity at bay. She grabbed his hand, anchoring him. "Together, Tarrant."
He squeezed her hand back as the first stream of fire shot from the Jabberwocky's mouth. She could hear the screams of the confused people inside the castle. Help, they cried, looking for their Champion.
Alice and Tarrant hid themselves from the Jabberwocky's view as they scrambled through the castle gates. Powerless, they watched as the beast swung its powerful tail and knocked over one of the towers, showering the once-safe courtyards with debris.
"We have to hurry," Alice hissed.
Getting into the castle was going to be more difficult than she thought. The queen's servants were fleeing the castle while the queen's guards were running around aimlessly trying to defend their home from an enemy they could not defeat. She watched as the Tweedles waddled by quickly, trying to escape. Only when they left through the gates did Alice allow herself to not worry about the boys.
The Jabberwocky was wasting no time in destroying the castle. Between his purple fire of destruction and the strength in his tail, the castle would not stand for long. Debris from another crumbling tower fell in the courtyard, causing the people to scatter.
Despite the screams and sounds of chaos, Alice was able to make out a strong voice.
"Hatter!" cried Mally.
He stopped his journey to the armory and turned to his friend. "Come along, Mally," he shouted, taking off his hat and holding it down on the ground so she could climb onto it. "Alice is going to save us."
Alice closed her eyes briefly as the weight of his words settled on her.
Again, it was up to her to save Underland.
Again, it was up to her not to fail.
She watched the determined dormouse weave through rushing feet, when, suddenly, the Jabberwocky knocked over an enormous portion of the keep. Stones came crashing down around them.
Alice ducked under one of the still-standing eaves. "Mally! Tarrant! Hurry!" she yelled.
But it was too late.
A huge piece of shattered rock landed directly in front of Tarrant and crushed everything in its path.
"NO!" Alice cried, running to Tarrant.
He faced her, his face streaked with blood and grime. "Mally?" he called softly.
There was no movement under the masonry.
Alice swallowed the bile making its way up her throat. Despite the crushing devastation running through her, she knew that if she didn't get to the armory and find the Vorpal Sword all of those who lived in Underland would suffer Mally's fate.
"She's dead?" he lisped to Alice. Before she could reply, he roared, "SHE'S DEAD! MURDERED! MASSACRED! "
Alice's heart broke at his devastation. There was no way he would be able to control his Madness now, Alice knew. "Tarrant, we must go."
"Ye slew the Jabberwocky! This cannae b'happenin'," he said adamantly, not hearing her. "This isnae real. It's all a dream, delusion, de-"
"Tarrant!" she called. "We need to get the Vorpal Sword."
He shook his head as he frantically tried to pull himself from the rubble. "Ah cannae. Ma hands are stuck. Ye must go on without me," he said, shamed.
She knelt down, desperate to free him. She felt another wave of nausea wash over her as she saw his arms, crushed and mangled under the rock. There was no way she could save him.
"I'm sorry," he whispered as a tear from his now grey eyes fell on his face.
"I can't do this alone!" she yelled as she watched the life drain out of his eyes.
"But, Alice, you are alone," said a voice from behind her.
She turned to the source and gasped. Mirana, once the epitome of beauty and perfection, was bruised, cut and covered in blood.
"You are on a path of solitude that cannot be changed," she continued. "You had a choice, Alice, and now you must accept the consequences."
Alice faintly registered a loud crash as the last of the castle fell.
Then everything went black
With a gasp and shiver, Alice woke up in her narrow her small bed in her small cabin on the large trading ship. She ran outside her room and made her way to the ship's edge before the remains of the previous night's dinner went into the water.
"That's the third one you've had in two weeks."
Alice turned back to the voice, wiping her mouth. It was William, the ship's head chef. Unlike most of the other crew, he had accepted Alice's presence on the Wonder. Still, she ignored his unspoken offer to share what was bothering her.
"I'll be fine." She pasted her most reassuring smile on her face.
When Alice first started having the nightmare, she attributed it to missing her friends after being away for so long. But now, after having the same dream three times was convinced someone-or something- was trying to tell her something very Important.
For the past two weeks, she looked for Absolem floating in the sky, but it was in vain; there was no sign of her Underlandian friend.
William didn't comment on her obvious lie and changed subjects. "We'll be pulling into port in the next couple of hours. Fredward has the contracts ready for you. Then, it's back to England." There was no mistaking the gladness in his voice.
They only had a few merchants-and several dozen trade agreements, Alice added-to deal with before they could begin the last leg of their journey home. Then, she could finally return to Underland.
"Yes," she agreed with a smile. "It will be wonderful to finally return home."
As expected, the ship docked two hours later. When Alice stepped off the Wonder, a flash of blue caught her eye.
It was Absolem! Instead of flying towards her, however, he was moving in the opposite direction. She waved her hand towards him, but he paid her no attention. Alice watched helplessly until she could no longer see him floating in the sky.
She turned her attention back to the men waiting for her at the end of the dock. But instead of trade agreements, a single telegraph was handed to her.
Mother extremely ill STOP Return to London immediately STOP
Alice rushed to book passage on the fastest ship sailing for her London, ignoring her commitments to the trading company.
On the return journey home, Alice dreamed no more.