I like Chapel…it's the one place I can go where they don't poke me with needles or demand that I talk about why I don't talk. God can hear my thoughts and I can talk to Him and not get in trouble that way…

Today, the pastor talked about the people who believed in God getting out of Egypt and passing into the desert before reaching the promised land. I'm wondering if this place is my Egypt…

Aurora was always disappointed when Sunday service was over. It meant that her two hours of peace were over. She always lingered in the sun-filled room because it was the only place in the whole hospital that didn't feel like a hospital. She was ushered out by an impatient orderly. It was back to the chaos, back to the everyday and the ordinary. She watched the doors close and wished she could believe in the impossible everywhere else as well.

If God and Jesus are real and you can't be thrown in here for believing in them, why can't I believe in fairy-tales?

A group session was about to start. She was made to go into the room where the chairs were set up in a circular fashion. As usual, she didn't talk. As usual, she was scolded for not talking. Her individual session consisted of being insulted by her psychiatrist. She really made him angry by turning her chair so that her back was to him. Moments later, she found herself in a solitary confinement room.

Oh well…at least nobody will bother me here, she thought, sitting down on what passed for a bed.

Puzzled, she felt something hard under her leg and held up a small glass bottle. There was a tag on it that read "Drink Me".

What is this thing? And how did it get in here?

Puzzled, she took a swallow. The bitter taste almost made her sick and she lurched forward when her stomach started to cringe. She had the awful feeling of falling; she was surprised when she finally hit the floor. Her hospital uniform had enlarged so much that it was like a tent.

She crawled out from under it and shivered; she had only a pair of generic white panties to her name now that her shirt and pants didn't fit. The whole world seemed huge. She noticed the narrow slot at the bottom of the door.

I wonder if I can fit through there now…

She knelt down and crawled under it. With a little bit of a tug, she was free of the isolation room. A wild idea occurred to her; maybe she could escape after all this time. Her heart began to pound; but where would she go and what would she do? Shrugging, she decided that it didn't matter. A janitor was rolling a cart by. She decided to hitch a ride.

While she was there, she noticed a variety of cleaning rags. Tucking one around her like a towel, she secured it as best as she could so that it would stay in place. It was a long ride and they didn't even get close to a door for what seemed like an eternity. While the automatic doors were open, she dashed through them. Open air beckoned to her.

She fell through a hole about two seconds later. The last thing she remembered was falling headlong through the darkness before she passed out.

…..

Getting into that hospital had been absolute hell. Getting in there with a vial of Pishsalver had been even harder, he recalled. He'd had to drink about half the contents to get it in there in the first place. Thankfully, she really was insane enough to drink it herself. Her getting out by herself had been an added bonus…though the rag-dress didn't do her much justice, he thought. After that, she'd toppled right down the hole.

Maybe madness wasn't all bad.

Thankfully, getting back to his original size was easy. After he'd chewed the corner off of one of the cakes, he'd broken off a piece and stuffed a little bit of the Upelkuchen in her mouth as well and dragged her through the door. After that, she was on her own.

Her unnamed hero looked at her one last time before disappearing never to be seen again. His part in the Oraculum was done…now, it was up to either Tarrant Hightopp or Ilosovic Stayne to find her. The one last thing he did was put her into a new hospital uniform. It would have to do for now.

….

Ilosovic Stayne had just finished studying the Oraculum and sent out both of the hounds to hunt for the girls. One of them was Alice, the one who was supposed to kill the Jabberwocky and bring the White Queen back to power. The other one, the one that no one had seemed to notice, was the Black Queen. The Black Queen was the lost sister of Mirana and Iracebeth. The Black Queen was supposed to take over Iracebeth's throne and help the White Queen rule.

If Iracebeth hadn't been yelling so much about her stupid tarts and yelling about Alice, she might have noticed that she'd have a replacement. Stayne himself was the only one who had noticed—he couldn't complain.

But the sooner he nipped this problem in the bud, the better. A third queen would complicate things considerably. His horse trotted through the woods with the playing card guards clanking along beside him. They all jumped when they heard a horrendous shriek. He'd know that sound anywhere…

It was a Jubjub bird. He drew his sword as they prepared to deal with the nasty creature. What they weren't prepared for was what the bird was trying to catch.

A girl in a gray uniform was running towards the woods where she would be better protected. Her shirt had almost been torn to ribbons and bloody gashes shone on her back. She was trying to escape the bird and seemed to be tiring out. He saw the raven curls and commanded his soldiers to dispatch the bird. Since birds don't eat metal, they drove it away fairly quickly. He approached the fallen girl.

She was turning pale from blood loss. He lifted her weight of one-hundred-ninety-six pounds as if she weighed nothing and slung her over the horse's back. They had found the Black Queen.

A plan was formulating in his mind as they raced back to the castle. If he could keep her identity a secret from Iracebeth, maybe she'd return the favor and let him have some of the resulting power from Iracebeth being defeated. The girl had a look of madness about her, but it wasn't the same scary power-hungry madness as Iracebeth. It was a sad, haunted look. Maybe their subjects would live longer under her rule…

He smuggled her into the castle under the cover of darkness and bribed the doctor not to tell anyone. Then, he examined the Oraculum again. What else could he work to his advantage?

He saw her holding a paintbrush. So…she was an artist. Her false identity began to form in his mind. She could be a royal artist (if her work was half as good as the Oraculum portrayed it). Yes…appealing to Iracebeth's vanity would be the easiest way to keep her alive. Now, it was just a matter of finding Alice…