A/N: This will be a multi-chaptered AiW fanfic, and it
A/N: This will be a multi-chaptered AiW fanfic, and itwill have a story, though each chapter will begin with an excerpt from the Underland Miscellany.
If you can catch the little references I make to other works later in this story (and I warn you: there be many) you get a cookie.
Many thanks go to Darianella, for being such a great beta reader.
Disclaimer: I don't own Alice in Wonderland. Obviously. The movie belongs to Tim Burton (along with all the other creative geniuses who worked on it), and the original story belongs to Lewis Carroll (and in a way, the original little Alice because she was the inspiration).
Chapter 1: The Underland Miscellany
or Homecoming and Introductions
The Underland Miscellany resides on a large table in the center of the Library of Marmoreal. It is a useful compendium of Underland facts; anything and everything one would wish to know about Underland is contained in its pages. It is so large and heavy that two men would be needed to lift it - not that anybody could lift it, for it is chained to the table.
Unlike most books, the Miscellany is not written by any one author. It is, instead, written by the citizens of Underland, which is what makes it unique. Anyone who wishes may come by the Library, check the headings in the contents table of the Miscellany, and record what they wish under the proper section. Many people - from Kings and Queens to humble Worms - have written in its pages. For thousands of years the Miscellany has been kept and recorded in. Its pages hold everything from the Histories of Rulers to the Duchess's family recipe for plum cake.
A Keeper has always been appointed to the Miscellany whose job it is to check the validity of the book's content. He or she has always - for some unknown, traditional reason - been a member of the Worm family.
Alice was very well aware that the carriage was rapidly moving. Yes, she could see the scenery of London zooming past, as well as feel the jostling and jolting of the carriage, yet it seemed to her impatient mind that the carriage was travelling at a snail's pace. This was due in part to the fact that she knew they were getting close to her home, and the closer they got the more her impatience mounted.
She had not seen her family in four years. Though she kept up a regular correspondence with her mother and sister by letter, as anybody who has been away from family for a fair amount of time knows, missives are nowhere near as satisfying as face-to-face communication.
After answering Hamish's proposal in such a way, she was the talk of her mother's social circles for weeks. She then proceeded to propose that Mr. Ascot - who had kindly taken over Charles Kingsleigh's trading company after his death - extend the company's trading route as far as China, which added to the scandal (as well as rumors that the youngest Kingsleigh girl had gone absolutely daft). It was quite a gamble, but he agreed to the venture. Alice, of course, wanted to work for the company. At first, Mr. Ascot had struggled to find a position to put her in, trying office work before Alice asserted that she would rather travel to the foreign lands. She suggested that she go as a representative of the company to conduct trade negotiations, and then report back to England as to the affairs. Since her natural curiosity was piqued by the possibilities of seeing the world, these ventures were irresistible and she seized the chance to voyage (besides that, travel was far better than sitting in a boring office in England tallying up accounts). Finally, after much negotiating, she was allowed.
Seeing foreign lands and learning of new, rich cultures fascinated her. How many other English girls could say that they had helped establish trade with China? None, she was certain - considering the society she lived in - and she relished being able to step outside of the social norms and customs by being a businesswoman.
But since the company had been thriving for the past seven years and she had spent the past three years in constant travel, she had finally opted to go back to England and take a break from the business for a while. While she was in England she would, of course, see her family and friends and take a rest, but she also had a secret wish –one that she would not even voice to herself - to go back to Underland for a while.
Alice breathed in the cool evening air as she watched as the carriage clatter away down the street, leaving her and several large travelling trunks standing on the doorstep of the Kingsleigh residence. Though the coachman would have stayed and helped her carry her baggage into the house, Alice staunchly refused his help. She had been sailing around the world for the last few years and, as such, was perfectly capable of carrying her own things. She did not need any assistance, thank you very much!
And so Alice marched up the stairs, lugging the cumbersome trunks behind her one by one. She debated knocking on the door for a moment, before discarding decorum entirely and walking straight into the house.
After depositing her trunks by the door, she stole quietly to the drawing room, from which the sound of voices emanated, and peered in. The room was occupied by her mother and sister, as well as a couple of children who Alice assumed must have been Margaret's boys. Her mother and sister were in chairs facing opposite the door, engaged in quiet tête-à-tête, while one of the boys sat curled in a chair engaged in reading a small book and the other seemed absorbed in staring out the window at the birds perched in a tree. As Alice crept into the room, the boy who had been seemingly engrossed with the birds appeared to hear her, as he suddenly turned to stare at her curiously. Alice hastily put a finger to her lips indicating silence, before creeping up behind her mother and placing a hand on her shoulder.
"Mother," she whispered. "I'm back."
As soon as Helen Kingsleigh heard the familiar voice, she was out of her seat and clasping her long-absent daughter in a tight embrace (during which she noticed that her unruly daughter still refused to wear corsets -and stockings too, she suspected- but decided it was best not to mention the matter at the moment; she had no desire to spoil their reunion). Margaret Manchester, on seeing her sister back, also sprang up and rushed to hug her sister, and the next few minutes were filled with the general greetings, hugs, and exclamations that are customary of homecomings.
"We weren't expecting you for another week!"
"Yes, I wanted it to be a surprise!"
"Well, we certainly are surprised."
"How were your travels?"
"Oh, I have so much to tell you that it would take weeks!" Noticing the two curious faces peeping at her from further on in the room, Alice remarked, "Margaret, are these your boys? I know you wrote of them- but barely recognized them, they have grown so!"
"I daresay they have grown quite a lot since you were here last."
"What are their ages now?"
"Charles is eight and Toby seven. Boys, come say 'how do you do' to your aunt Alice."
Charles was the first to put down his book and greet his aunt solemnly, and his brother quickly came away from the window to follow suit. Charles was very much like his father as to the hue of his hair and some of his facial features, but his dark, penetrating eyes were unmistakably those of his namesake - Charles Kingsleigh - and his serious, guileless expression was much like his mother's. Toby, however, stared at Alice with undisguised curiosity. He looked most like his mother as to facial features, and his dark blonde hair and hazel eyes were large and wistful-looking.
"How do you do, Charles? Toby?" Alice greeted them equally as solemnly with a handshake, but the façade quickly crumbled as she broke out in a warm smile. "I daresay you don't remember me very well - and I am sure I must seem a stranger - but I hope we can become friends in time."
Charles responded with a smile and a nod. His brother did the same, and, after a moment of deliberation, finally stammered a query as to what she had done and seen during her travels. That broke the ice, and soon they were peppering her with questions faster than she could answer.
"In China do people really eat with sticks?"
"What is it like sailing on a ship?"
"Is Chinese tea the same as our tea?"
"Did you see any elephants?"
"Did you bring anything back with you?"
"Boys!" Margaret exclaimed reprovingly. "That is terribly rude. Stop bothering Alice, both of you. I'm sure she is tired from her journey and does not wish to be pestered-"
"Margaret, it's fine," Alice interrupted. She, actually, quite approved of their questions- it reminded her of herself at that age, curious about everything. "I brought back a great many souvenirs," she replied to the boys. "And I will tell you all of my adventures later."
"Promise. But right now I need to unpack. Then you shall see some of the curious things I brought back!"
As she unpacked her trunks, and – subsequently - a few small, light curios and souvenirs that she had brought home with her (a fan, a curious little statue, a fine necklace for her mother and another for her sister, as well as some trinkets for other friends and her nephews) she lingered for a moment over her prized possession. It was a little airtight wooden box, finely carved, containing samples of some of the tastiest teas she had found during her travels. She had collected the tea leaf bits ostensibly because she planned on using them later, but she never once had.
The thought had lingered in the back of her mind that she planned on giving this to the Hatter, if ever she- no, no. She cut the thought off. No, she mustn't think of Underland. She mustn't- well… Why not? She had finished all of her Unfinished Business. Very well, she decided, concluding the thought- whenever she returned to Underland.
It had become a habit of hers over the years to push aside thoughts of Underland, because she was still attending to her Unfinished Business and it would not do to dwell on the impossible (thus, 'going back to Underland' was frequently foremost on her list of Six Impossible Things). For it was impossible for her to return to Underland. Oh, not physically impossible, for she could have taken the plunge down the rabbit hole any of the times she was in England. No, it was a matter of finishing said Unfinished Business. When the Hatter had offered her the chance to stay in Underland, she had been sorely tempted. But she was too much like her father in the respect that, as long as she knew she had unfinished business to tend to elsewhere, she simply could not ignore it. If she had been selfish - if she had said 'I will' when asked to stay - she knew that the Unfinished Business would have continued niggling at the back of her mind, and she would not have been able to truly enjoy herself (and, most likely, would have returned Aboveground to finish it anyway). So, before leaving, she had made the promise to return someday, and internally vowed that, as soon as she had answered the questions that needed answering and done all that she needed to do, then - and only then - would she return.
Dinner that night was a celebratory occasion, because Lowell, Margaret, and the boys had also opted to stay for the meal. Conversation was abundant, for everybody present wished to know what Alice had accomplished whilst abroad (even Lowell ventured a few questions, albeit with a bit of a sneer so as not to appear too interested). Alice shared a few anecdotes before turning the conversation elsewhere, for she was interested more in the goings-on of her family than recounting her travels.
Afterward, to keep her nephews from pestering for 'one more story', she lent them her travel journal to peruse for the evening while she talked with the other adults (the log having been kept for the express purpose of recording what she had accomplished and seen during a day- there was another journal she had set aside for her own personal musings). Later on - after being asked - Alice brought out some of the trinkets that she had bought during her time abroad, and handed out gifts that she had picked out especially for each member of the family, much to their delight.