Delanna: Yay! I was worried about how people would react to the different characters, I'm happy to see that it went over well. And thanks so much for the originality comment. I'm always paranoid about being original, so it makes me happy when people say I am.

Minori: Fantasy and I were debating on how the royals should be different. After several messages, I was like, "What if the king crossdressed?" Haha, Averill's a peach, so I'm glad you enjoyed him as much as I did. And Vivaldi's "Spring" is probably one of the most famous subtle classics, like Mozart's "Eine Klein Nacht Music," so you probably have heard it in several places. :D It's a happy song.

Averill was almost in tears when she—he—ugh—heard that they were going back to the Clock Tower on their own. "Oh, my dears, will you two be alright? I could send Garrick—"

"No thank you!" both girls simultaneously replied. Garrick was the last thing Lorina wanted to see. She normally got along with people and believed that no one was genuinely bad, but the knight made it hard for her to remember that. He was such a snob.

The queen looked distressed. "But—"

"Averill," Ravel said, pausing only to glance at his spouse. "They're outsiders. No one will hurt them."

"That's right," Alysa agreed, "we're outsiders." Whatever that meant.

"Why didn't we listen to him—her—Averill?" Lorina whined, for the seventh time in the past two hours. Garrick may have been the last person she wanted to see, but he would do if she could just seesomeone. Almost since they left the palace, they had been lost. Despite the shade of the forest's canopy, she and her cousin were hot and sweating from the exertion of being laden with books for the whole, misguided trip.

"Because we both imagined that it was a straight shot to Kenelm's," Alysa huffed.

"You sound mad," Lorina paused, peering over her stack. Her cousin was irritated sometimes, and occasionally enjoyed excessive vengeance, but was rarely angry. Lorina determined it must have been Garrick's fault. When her cousin didn't immediately reply, she continued. "It's okay, I don't like him, either."

Alysa started, looking over at her. "It's—it's not that I don't like him, I'm just angry that he tricked us."

"He tricked us? I thought he was too stupid to trick us."

Alysa pursed her lips. "Lorina, you shouldn't say things like that, especially when he's so nice to let us stay with him."

"No he's not! He's not nice at all! And he never offered to let us stay!"

"Lorina, what are you talking about?"

"Garrick! What are youtalking about?"

"Kenelm."

The two cousins looked at each other for a moment and broke into an exhausted sort of giggles.

"Maybe we should take a break," Alysa said, setting down her books.

Lorina, nodding her agreement, sat down with a heavy thump and peeled off her shoes and stockings. When her cousin issued a warning, Lorina threw herself onto the ground. "I don't care if it's unladylike! No one's gonna see my ankles anyways! We're lost—alone—in a forest who-knows-where."

"Oliver believes someone knows where we possibly are."

The two girls started at the new voice. Alysa was the first to gather herself and looked around for the speaker. Lorina shrieked and yanked her stockings back on.

"Of course, they wouldn't know where Oliveris, Oliver thinks," the voice continued. "But if they happened upon Oliver, Oliver thinks they might know the location in which Oliver is standing, Oliver supposes. But in that circumstance, Oliver would imagine that they would first have to know where Oliver possibly isn't." As he spoke, he appeared before them in parts. First it was his eyes—a startling, dragonfly-wing silver with a slit-shaped pupil—then a grinning mouth, followed by wine-purple hair, a sallow face with a pointed chin, and a whip-thin body covered in neon orange tank top and silver shorts. A silver collar hung loosely around his neck. He looked somewhere in his preteens.

"Who are you?" Alysa finally responded.

"But in that case," he muttered to himself, still grinning, "Oliver would think that Oliver should have been able to deduce where Oliver is by where Oliver isn't."

"Who are you?" Lorina repeated a little more harshly than her cousin.

He looked startled, as if he had forgotten they were there. The girls noticed that the smile didn't drop from his face. "Well, Oliver is Oliver. And Oliver supposes that you is You." The sentence seemed to tickle him greatly, as his face broke into a smile and he began a sort of tittering laugh. It was more unnerving than humorous.

The cousins glanced at each other. "Um, we'll have to be going," Alysa stood, quickly gathering her books.

The smile dropped from his face, replaced with a lonely expression. "Don't say that." The grin returned, and he looked at Lorina. "Play with Oliver. You're lost aren't you? Oliver can take you where you need to go, Oliver thinks. But Oliver can't unless You plays with Oliver."

"I'm sorry, but—" Alysa started.

"Okay," Lorina said. "I'll play with you."

The boy's eyes lit up. "Really? You'll play with Oliver?" His grin widened so much that Alysa was worried that his thin face might split in half. She stepped towards her cousin, taking her arm to help her stand.

"We're actually in a hurry, so I'm afraid that—"

The boy's eyes narrowed, and for the first time, Alysa noticed that he sported a pair of cat ears and a tail that had begun to thrash back and forth. "Oliver didn't ask the hag. Oliver wants to play with You." A pair of Glocks materialized in his hands, both aimed at Alysa. "Let. You. Go."

Alysa was so shocked that her grip relaxed for a moment. But in that moment, Lorina was tackled out of her grasp and literally disappeared. All that was left was a stocking and her pile of books.

"Lorina? Lorina!" Alysa called. She couldn't have just disappeared, that was impossible. But the longer she spent wondering, the more disappearing seemed probable. Earlier, Garrick had told them that "that's how Wonderland works." Was this another Wonderland phenomenon, for preteens to hold someone to gunpoint then kidnap their family? Or, thinking back to the twin gatekeepers, was this considered unusually trite?

Alysa shuddered. "Lorina! Please answer me!"

He looked like an underage homicidal maniac. Where had he taken Lorina? What was he doingto Lorina? Would she be all right until Alysa found her again? Would Alysa find her again? If she could get so easily lost in this place, it had to be large, and if it was large, how could she possibly find a single person? What if she never saw her cousin again?

No. Alysa shook the thought out of her head. She would find her cousin, regardless of how long it took. She would get Lorina out of this godforsaken "Wonderland," if it was the last thing she did.

"Let me go! That hurt!" Lorina shoved the boy off of her. After tackling her, it seemed that Oliver had apparated them somewhere entirely different. It was still heavily forested, but the trees seemed thinner and lighter. More light filtered through the leaves and the whole area was brighter. She could hear jazz music floating by, its source nowhere to be seen, but apparently close enough to be heard.

"Why did you do that? Howdid you do that? Alysa's probably scared out of her wits, and you held her at gunpoint!"

The boy climbed off of her, ears flat against his head. "Oliver wanted to play with You, but the hag wouldn't let us."

"My name isn't 'You!'" she shouted, making the boy shrink. "It's Lorina! And that's no excuse to be point guns at people! Do you even know what guns can do? They killpeople! Dead! Okay?"

"But… but…" he had shrunk closer to the ground, "but Oliver wanted—"

"It doesn't matter what you wanted! You acted selfishly and now Alysa—she probably thinks I'm dead! What if I am dead? You're going to kill me, aren't you?"

"But… play…" the boy began shaking. "Oliver… play…"

Lorina stepped away while Oliver shivered. When she sat on the ground with a thump, he scooted over to her and reached out his hand. She flinched away and he withdrew his hand with a start.

"Sorry," he curled back, lip quivering. "Oliver is sorry." With a tentative air, he scooted closer. "Oliver won't do it again."

She tried not to flinch away—it might set him off again. "G-good," she said instead. Eyes sinking, they landed on his collar's silver tag.

Oliver Bell

Breed: Cheshire

Property of T. Cupp

If lost, please return

lost pet to the

Am. Park

That was an awful lot of words for one tag, Lorina thought, squinting to read it all. What was an "Am. Park"? She asked Oliver about it.

"Oliver lives there," he replied, pointing in the direction of the source of the jazz music. "Does Y—Lorina want to play with Oliver there?"

Her eyebrows knit, considering her options. He kidnapped her just to "play," and it didn't seem like he was letting her go until she did. He had tolerated her shouting, but there was no telling when he would snap again. "Maybe some other time," she tried. "I need to get back to Alysa. Can you take me back?"

Oliver knit his eyebrows, too. "Oliver doesn't think so. Oliver can only travel to places he knows. Oliver was lost when he found you, but Oliver can travel to his home. Do you want to play with Oliver there?"

"Oliver," Lorina sighed, "I can't play—"

He looked heartbroken.

"—um… I can't play very long, okay?" she amended. Stay alive until you find Alysa again.

"Okay! Oliver understands!" And with that, he grabbed her hand, and they whisked away.

I have always been a little irritated at the creators for making Boris the Cheshire cat for several reasons. The first is that he was wearing a halter top, which was/is just disturbing, the second was that he wasn't very smiley, and instead made him a good-natured prankster with multiple piercings, which is as permissible as the halter top. I think he's adorable, but not Cheshire material. The third and most important reason is that Boris is SANE. He's the Cheshire cat! He should be completely unhinged! And so… I might have made Oliver a little too creepy.