Disclaimer: Alice in Wonderland is not mine.

Author's Note: I know it's been a while and I won't bother coming up with lame excuses. Just let me make it up to you guys. Enjoy! Oh, and this chapter is dedicated to Neshomeh. You know why.

Again, enjoy!

Stayne stared at her for another minute, seeming beyond words. Then finally, he threw his head back and laughed.

It was a scary sound.

When he looked at Jen again, his eyes were hard and menacing. "Back down now you silly girl. Stop this foolishness now while you still have the chance."

Jen arched one fine dark brow and smirked. "Scared?"

That changed everything. Looking at her in contempt Stayne shifted position if only slightly; his tight grip on his sword however, told a different story.

Jen felt adrenaline flow through her own body. The challenge had been issued and accepted; there was nothing more to say. They were now facing each other ready to fight. She had no idea how the Knave was in this mood and she shuddered at the most likely outcome of this skirmish; the knave's pride and his skill had been questioned and he looked absolutely determined to win. Relax, she told herself. She should be very familiar with this after all. Isidore senior was no different.

The brunette only wished to get this over with. She was much better at playing with words than fighting. Without taking her eyes from him, Jen reached out and picked a sword from the rack behind her.

She wouldn't try to use that first though, Stayne predicted. If she really had the slightest ounce of skill she has been so foolishly boasting, then she would go for disarming him first. The simplest way to do this was to break the wrist of his dominant hand. After that she'd most likely go for critical points and nerve centers. Something in the girl's stance led him to believe she was hoping to end this quickly.

Well, he would like to see her try.

A minute change in the Knave's posture alerted her, and then they were both moving. He swung his sword up and down in a perfect arc, aiming for her right wrist. Jen blocked easily with her own blade and felt the shock as metal clashed with metal. She instantly changed her grip and tried for a trap, but he maneuvered his sword out of the way and was facing her again as if he'd never moved in the first place.

The Knave smiled at her unkindly. He looked so confident of his victory. A small chill went through Jen, and for the second time she worried about her ability to beat him.

"You're so predictable, Knave" she told him suddenly, changing tactics. "I could fight you in my sleep." She feinted toward his wrist and then tried to sweep his legs out from underneath him.

He snorted, knowing better than to rise to the bait. He blocked and then tried for a trap. They circled each other warily.

Jen grinned at the intimidating man across her, knowing it was not a particularly nice smile. Her feet whispered across the stone floors of the throne room as she planned her next attack.

The Knave's only response was to give her an impassive gaze. "Next you're going to try for a head strike," he informed her coolly.

Jen faltered for a moment because she was thinking just that. "Wrong," she countered, just as calmly and went for a head strike.

"Who's predictable now?" Ilosovic twisted his blade sharply, got leverage on hers, and whipped it down, the flat of his sword's blade almost touching her shoulder blade. "Trap." He grinned nastily into her face.

And was startled for a moment. He hadn't been this close to her since he had first seen her in the garden. Her eyes—the color of deep amber that they were almost brown, so full of intensity and burning with a strange light. Full of fierce golden sparks of determination. For just an instant neither of them moved; their weapons down, their gazes connected. Their faces were so close their breath mingled.

Stayne gracefully slipped out of the trap. "That won't work on me again," he said brusquely.

"I beg your pardon?" The moment her sword was free of his, Jen snapped it up again, reversing her grip and thrusting toward his eyes.

"You very well know what I'm talking about girl," he growled and deflected her thrust with unnecessary force. "Stop distracting me."

"Knave. . . what are you . . . talking about?" In between the words she attacked, a strike aimed at his throat and then one to his temple. He blocked and evaded-which was just what she wanted. Evasion. Retreat. She was crowding him into a corner.

Stayne murmured under his breath and countered viciously, but it didn't matter. Jen blocked with a whirlwind of strikes of her own, pressing him, and then he had no choice but to retreat until his back was against the corner.

She had him.

"Hey, all's fair, right?" she told him, still confused. "And what do you mean, it won't work? I've got you, haven't I?" She flashed out a couple of quick attacks, more to keep him occupied than anything else. "You're caught, and you're going to have to let down your guard sometime."

The onyx eyes that had been stilled with nonchalance suddenly went cold. The color of black glacier ice. "Unless I do something unexpected," he said.

Years of expertise enabled the Knave to drove upward with breathtaking speed to catch her onslaught from below. Then he twisted, sweeping her blade in a circle, forcing her off balance, trying to topple her backward. As Jen fought to recover, he struck to her elbow. Hard.

Jen heard her own involuntary gasp of pain. Electricity shot up her arm, into her shoulder, and for a moment she lost her grip on the sword with her right hand. She would have thanked the Knave if he sliced her forearm open instead of striking the hollow sensitive tendon of her elbow with the flat of his blade. She forced her fingers to close on it again, but they were numb. She couldn't feel what she was holding. She couldn't block properly with one arm useless.

And Stayne was advancing, that deadly cold light in his eyes. Absolutely merciless. His movements were relaxed and easy; he knew exactly what he was doing now.

Two more whips of his blade and he got through her guard again. The other side of his blade slammed into her ribs and she felt another wave of sickening pain. Gray dots danced in front of her eyes and she shook her with a vicious frown when she thought she heard the Red Queen tut with evident mockery.

Pain sparked up and down her arm again, lighting every nerve. She had no choice but to back up. He was crowding her relentlessly, forcing her to the wall.

Stayne flashed a smile at her. Not the cold smile. This one was brilliant, and confident. It

made him look devastatingly handsome, and it meant that he was in absolute command of the situation. "You can give up anytime, now," the Knave said patronizingly. "You've been a worthwile challenge but I'm going to win and we both know it."

I can't lose this fight. For Alice.

Suddenly that was the only thought in Jen's mind. She couldn't afford to be hurt or scared—or stupid.

There was too much riding on it. And since Stayne had the advantages of being perfectly unscathed, she was going to have to come up with some clever way to beat him.

It only took a moment to come up with a plan. And then Jen was carrying it out, every ounce of her

concentration focused on tricking him, banking all to her last resort. She stopped backing up and took a step sideways, deliberately putting herself in a position where she could make only a clumsy block. Then she gave him an opening, holding her sword awkwardly, its tip toward him but drooping too far down.

You see—it's my elbow, she thought to him, knowing he couldn't hear her, but willing him to take the bait. My elbow hurts too much; I'm distracted; the sword is no longer an extension of me. My right side is unprotected.

She was as good at it as any mother bird who pretends to have a broken wing to lure a predator away

from her nest. And she could see the flash of triumph in the Knave's eyes.

That's it; don't waste time injuring me anymore ... come in for the kill.

He was doing it. He'd stopped trying to get her into a corner. With his handsome—that was twice Jen surprised herself by suddenly thinking of him as such—face intent, his eyes narrowed in concentration, he was maneuvering for a single decisive strike; a takedown to end the combat. But as he raised his sword to make it, Jen pulled her own blade back as if she were afraid to block, afraid of the jarring contact. This was the moment. If he caught on now, if he realized why she was positioning her blade this way, he'd never make the move she wanted him to. He'd go back to disarming her.

I'm too hurt to block properly; my arm's too weak to raise, she thought, letting her shoulders droop and her body sway tiredly. It wasn't hard to pretend. The pain in various parts of her body was real enough, and if she let herself feel it, it was very nearly disabling.

Stayne fell for it.

He made the strike she wanted; straight down. At that instant Jen slid her leading foot back, shifting just out of range. His blade whizzed by her nose-missing. And then, before he could raise it again, while he was unguarded, Jen lunged. She put all the power of her body behind it, all her strength, slipping in between the Knave's arms and driving her shoulder blade to his midsection.

The air in his lungs exploded out in a harsh gasp and he doubled over.

The Knave landed with a thud. Before he could move, Jen snap-kicked hard, catching his wrist and

knocking his sword away. It clattered dully across the floor.

Then she held the pointed the end of her own blade to his throat.

"Yield or die," she said breathlessly, and smiled.

Ilosovic glared up at her. He was even more breathless than she was, but there was nothing like surrender in his visible eye. He was mad, frighteningly so. "Scoundrel! You tricked me!"

"All's fair."

He glowered at her from under the dark veil of hair that fell across his pale face. He was

sprawled flat, long legs stretched out, arms flung to either side, with the tip of her sword

resting snugly in the pale hollow of his throat. He was completely at her mercy—or at least that was how it seemed.

And then Stayne's upper lip curled. "Bravo."

So shocked was she of his appraisal that she barely had time to register him threw his head back and deliver a brutal kick to her shins. Jen sidestepped in time but evading gave the Knave just enough time to reclaim his sword.

A second after and the tips of their respective blades were at each other's throat.


The shrill order came from the Red Queen who had risen irritably from her throne. When neither appeared to have heard her stomped angrily and in a threatening voice declared, "That's enough or it's off with both of your heads!"

This elicited the slightest of twitches from both combatants. It was the Knave who lowered his weapon first, pinning his opponent a contemptuous sneer, the fleeting ounce of respect in his eyes completely missed by his opponent as he turned away in disdain.

Despite the throbbing pain in her elbow, Jen held on to her sword until the Knave sheathed his. Determined eyes countered his sneer, only turning expectant when she met the Red Queen's satisfied gaze.

"It seems…" Iracebeth began wistfully and every nerve in Jen's body anticipated the Queen's next words. She won. Well, technically it was a tie. But it was only because that arrogant Knave cheated!

She could feel the corners of her mouth twitching upwards in anticipatory triumph. She had this in the bag. She could feel it.

The Red Queen's eyes bore into her, and her alone.

Before flickering sideward to the Knave at the last second.

"…you have found yourself a new deputy Ilosovic."

Understatement indeed.

This time the illustration showed the Alice that should have been present in the previous section of the Oraculum and she was not alone in this one too. But instead of the monstrous Jabberwocky towering over her, Alice was locked in an even battle against a mysterious figure of that was by her estimate, a few inches taller than her. Looking undoubtedly human—what with two long legs in steel-plated shin guards and a pair of arms decorated in metal braces—the figure was a twin match to the armor Alice wore except for a single difference. The stranger was wearing a helm, a vicious-looking visor that resembled—to everyone's horror—the head of the fearsome Jabberwocky, which served to conceal its wearer's identity.

But while the others were too occupied with the illustration, the Hatter was more interested on the text scrawled underneath it. Tarrant brushed over the words quickly and passing line after line only served his eyebrows to inch further and further to his hairline.

His eyes flicked back to the illustration and frowned.

Was it Iracebeth?

Nay, Tarrant banished the thought quickly as it came and a wry smile tugged at the corners of his mouth. There was no such way the visor could accommodate that bloody big head.

Then who?

"The Knave!"

Tarrant clucked his tongue and shook his head at his friend. "If you recall Mally, our dear ol' friend should be much much taller—"

He stopped, noting that Mally was looking past him in horror. Only then did Tarrant register the sound of thunderous galloping and heavy footfalls. Making a split second decision he rolled the Oraculum and tossed it to Chessur, who caught it neatly before evaporating without so much as wink and a sheepish, "Goodbye."

No longer having the Cheshire cat to hide behind, Thackery scurried back to his seat.

The footfalls echoed louder and the Hatter shoved a tiny glass bottle to Alice's lips. "Drink this quickly," he whispered.

"Quick!" Thackery cried.

The effect was immediate. She shrank to a height of three inches and the moment she stopped shrinking Tarrant grabbed Alice and hastily stuffed her into a teapot then carefully placed it onto his lap below the table.

"Oh, dear," Mallymkun uttered nervously upon seeing dark figures approaching. To her right, Thackery arranged the dishes set before him wide and sipped at his tea, wide-eyed and trembling. The doormouse mimicked him.

Just then soldiers in red armor poured at the mouth of Tulgey wood. Leading them was the Knave of Hearts, looking as formidable as ever.

"Well," he sneered, dismounting from his horse as Bayard the bloodhound sniffed around the table."If it's not my favorite trio…of lunatics."

"Would you like to join us?" Mallymkun offered politely.

Stayne only scoffed and unfortunately, Thackery was not amused with this. "You're late for tea!" he hollered and threw his teacup at the Knave.

Stayne ducked just in time and raised a warning finger at the March Hare who only laughed hysterically. Knowing any further attempt of appraisal was futile, Stayne reined in his temper and strolled over to the leader of this band of misfits instead. His gaze narrowed at the Hatter who sat at the head of the table. "We're looking for the girl called Alice," he finally declared.

"Speaking of the queen," Tarrant cut in as if he hadn't heard Stayne at all, "here's a little song we used to sing in her honor." He looked to his friends and together they sang, "Twinkle, twinkle little bat, how I wonder what you're at, up above—"

Quick as lightning Stayne swooped down choked the Hatter from further singing. "If you're hiding her…" his paused menacingly, visible eye glinting with an almost cruel mirth, "you'll lose your heads!"

"Already lost them," Tarrant wheezed.

Thackery and Mallymkun roared with laughter. Annoyed, Stayne released his hold on Tarrant.

"Altogether now," the Hatter piped merrily. "Up above the world you fly, like a tea tray in the sky. Twinkle, twinkle…"

Just as the trio were about to finish the song, the collection of tables trembled and they watched anxiously as Bayard sniffed his way underneath them. The bloodhound came to stop at the teapot Tarrant held in his lap.

"Downal wyth Bluddy Behg Hid," Tarrant whispered to the growling dog. Bayard looked reluctant but moved away. He finally took off barking back into the woods.

"Want some more tea?" Thackery offered and threw another cup as the Knave took a cup of his own.

"Follow the bloodhound!" Stayne ordered almost lazily, sparing only a glance as the soldiers took off after it.

Meanwhile Mally had chucked a cube of sugar at the March Hare. It landed perfectly in his teacup.

The March Hare clapped, his eyes going wide in amazement as he breathed, "Oh, that's lovely."

Stayne looked on in disgust. "You're all mad," he sneered and threw down his teacup.

"Thanks very much," Thackery snickered.

The Knave ignored the urge to wring the lunatic's skinny neck for that comment. Instead, he mounted Osiris and took after the soldiers, Thackery and Mallymkun laughing the whole time.

"Pass the scones, please," Mallymkun said calmly to the March Hare as the Knave rode out of sight.

Tarrant smiled in relief, then, placed the teapot back onto the table. He opened the lid only to avert his eyes in haste. "Pardon," he said to Alice, quickly closing the lid. He opened it again just a tiny bit this time and pulled out some fabric. "One moment," he said and brought out scissors, a needle, and some thread. In seconds he made a make-shift dress and matching shoes to fit her new size. Looking away, he deposited the dress into the teapot.

A moment later knocking came from within the teapot. Tarrant removed the lid, pulled Alice out, and set her on the table. "Mmm," he looked her over and grinned. "I like it!"

"Good thing the bloodhound is one of us," Mallymkun spoke up, catching Alice's attention. "Or you'd be…" she made a deliberate throat-cutting gesture and pretended to choke.

Alice spoke in a low voice. "What do they want with me?"

"Best take her to the White Queen. She'll be safe there…." Thackery trailed off, his large curious eyes distracted by the utensil in his hand. "Spoooon."

Tarrant chuckled at his friend's antics before setting his top hat on the table. "You're carriage, my lady," he said gallantly.

Alice eyed it suspiciously. "The hat?"

The Hatter beamed at her. "'Course! Anyone else can go by horse or rail. But the absolute best way to travel is by hat." The Hatter turned to his friends, "Have I made a rhyme?" The March Hare and Dormouse giggled.

Alice hesitated a second longer before finally relenting.

"Oh, I love travelling by hat!" Mallymkun said eagerly, attempting to join Alice.

"Sorry, Mally," Tarrant said gently. "Just Alice, please."

The Dormouse's shoulder sagged but she could only pout dejectedly. It was always Alice.

"Fairfarren, all!" Tarrant said and he carefully put on his hat.

"Watcha mean?" cried the March Hare as he threw a teacup at Tarrant.

The Hatter neatly sidestepped to avoid getting hit. "I'll take her to the White Queen. Go to McTwisp and get the Vorpal sword."

He turned away, confident enough in his friends not to wait anymore for Mally's confirmation. Sure enough, the Doormouse took off running in the direction of the Red Queen's castle just as he and Alice made their way toward Tulgey Wood.

Jen was fuming.

For the nth time she glared at the curved narrow path where she last saw that insufferable man disappear into—right before he flashed that annoyingly superior smirk and ordered her to 'stay put'. She took little comfort in the fact that only a few moments earlier just before they left Salazen Grum, the Knave had to introduce her as his new deputy—he had all but spat the title—to the whole Red Army, all under the Red Queen's orders of course. She had particularly enjoyed watching that sour look on his face, as though he had just eaten something foul, the whole time he was discussing her solemn duties and responsibilities. More important than that however and this, she took seriously, was when he began briefing her about the first solid lead they had picked up regarding the possible location of this so called menace to the Red Queen, namely Alice, Jen's dearest cousin and the only reason she was putting up with his unpleasant company.

Jen still could not believe that all of the stories Alice told her in their childhood were true. A skeptic even as a child, Jen only ever let herself be subjected to the storytelling of talking rabbits and unusual tea parties because she enjoyed the way Alice would lit up everytime she described this fantastic placed called Wonderland. Her smile had always been contagious.

That's why hearing these strategies all for the sake of capturing her and then…Jen couldn't even bear to think what was supposed to come after that.

"She's just a girl."

The words slipped out of her mouth before she could stop herself, unable to suppress the anger she felt for whoever was it that had given her cousin this burden. She had quickly avoided Stayne's narrowed gaze after that.

Luckily, he had dismissed her tone as that of arrogance. He had sneered at her and launched into a brief yet horrible tale of a young girl, a prophecy and the fearsome Jabberwocky.

The pride that swelled inside Jen for her cousin was disguised in a form of a smirk. "Then I just have to make sure it won't happen again, Commander."

She may have laughed at the glare Stayne sent her way after that bold statement but Jen really did mean it. She'd be damned first before she let some Jabberwocky lay its filthy claws on her baby cousin.

Which leads her back to the source of her black mood.

She nearly lost a limb just to attain the position she held now. But what good was Deputy Commander when all she had done in the past half an hour was to 'stay put' while all chances of locating her cousin was out there, with Ilosovic Stayne no less!

A series of loud barks interrupted her inner ranting and she looked up to spy on the poor bloodhound the Knave blackmailed earlier, on a mad sprint toward the woods. Jen's gaze immediately swerved at the tail of the army that was following Bayard. There was no sign of the Knave of Hearts.

Boredom and instinct tugged at the pit of her stomach.

Jen hesitated for a span of five full seconds. And then seized Isis' reins tightly. The gleaming white mare snorted at her mistress once before she obliged and broke into a swift graceful canter.

"Deputy Commander, we are under orders to—"

Whatever the soldier's next words were had been drowned by the powerful sounds of hooves pounding against dirt.

"And as in uffish thought he stood,

The Jabberwock, with eyes of flame,

Came whiffling through the Tulgey Wood,

And burbled as it came!

One, two! One, two!

And through and through

The Vorpal blade went snicker-snack!

She left it dead, and with its head

She went galumphing back."

Tarrant fixed Alice a long solemn gaze, the irises of his eyes a pale yellow. "That's about you, you know?" he said softly.

"I'm not slaying anything. I don't slay so put it out of your mind," Alice stated firmly. "Besides, the Oraculum said…" she trailed off, suddenly unsure of what to say. Because of the Knave's sudden arrival, she wasn't exactly given time to sort out her feelings.

"Ah yes," agreed Tarrant though his voice remained neutral. "But there's also the last illustration. Keep that in mind."

"Mmm, mind," the Hatter repeated then plucked Alice off his shoulder and placed her on a tree stump. He began walking on without her.

"Wait!" Alice cried indignantly. "You can't leave me here!"

The Hatter immediately stopped, pivoted, and marched back to the stump. "You don't slay," he whispered almost tauntingly. His voice was now heavy with Outlandish accent.

"I couldn't even if I wanted to," Alice mumbled.

Tarrant peered down at the tiny girl and frowned. "You're not the same as you were before. You were much more… muchier. You've lost your muchness."

Alice's chest constricted at the sound of disappointment in his voice. "My muchness?"

Tarrant lowered himself to his knees and poked Alice in the stomach. "In there," he said, as if that explained everything. "Something's missing."

"Tell me what the Red Queen has done."

Tarrant's expression darkened. "It's not a pretty story."

"Tell me anyway," she insisted

Various emotions flitted about the Hatter's face. Anger, sadness and longing, most of all. For a moment, he just stood there, seemingly trapped in a world that he couldn't quite decide whether he wanted to stay or leave behind.

"It was here," he said looking beyond Alice at the clearing full of scorched stones, ashes, and dried wood.

She followed his gaze. "Here?"

Tarrant nodded and his unfocused eyes were glassy as he remained fixated on something Alice couldn't see—couldn't witness. The unshed tears said everything though and it broke Alice's heart to see him like this.

"I was the hatter to the White Queen at the time. Hightopp clan have always been employed at court." His voice lowered into a whisper and Alice strained to hear him. "Before the Red Queen unleashed the Jabberwocky and enslaved those that the monster did not kill."

Guilt tore through Alice. "I'm sorry," she said softly. "That's terrible. I'm so sorry…"

Tarrant did not respond.

Alice searched the Hatter's face, but he was still far away. "Hatter?" she called to him. "Hatter!"

Tarrant snapped out of his reminiscing and looked down at Alice. "I'm fine," he choked and looked away.

"Are you? You seem—"

"Hush!" Tarrant silenced her as he swerved to look around their surroundings. A moment later, Bayard's persistent howls echoed through the clearing.

The Hatter swiftly put Alice back onto his hat and sprinted across the rubble and deeper into the woods, desperate to reach its edge at the border of Snud and Queast. It was the closest route to Marmoreal.

"Go south to Trotter's Bottom," Tarrant instructed, his voice serious. "The White Queen's castle is just beyond."

They finally reached the border. Risking a glance back, Tarrant saw the soldiers marching closer. He removed his hat and looked directly at Alice. "Tell the queen I'm retrieving the Vorpal for her."

Realization dawned on her. He was not coming! She tried to protest. "But—"

The Hatter shook his head. "There's no time here, Alice. Now, hold down tightly."

Alice unhappily obeyed. After making sure she had safely braced herself, the Hatter spun his hat out of the trees to the gloomy plains. He let out a sigh of relief, seeing the hat land safely with the tiny girl.

Tarrant turned around and grinned.

The sight that greeted him forced the rest of his bold declaration down his throat. Leading the oncoming red army was not Ilosovic Stayne.

Green eyes met gold.

And when Tarrant shut his eyes, it was the script from the Oraculum that only he had been able to read swam before his vision. The words seemed to be imprinted beneath his lids.

Blood is the thing family shares

But it will be spilled when betrayal snares

The Champion of White with her golden hair

Shall battle the golden-eyed Chosen of the Red in despair.

Blessed by the vorpal blade, the former will aim to deliver

Cursed by the Jabberwock's blood, the latter shall conquer

The skirmish will be fiercer than any other

But the final battle scream shall be, "Zounder!"


The firm command brought the Hatter out of his reverie. He blinked, finally making out the the red knights reluctantly pausing to a standstill and iron clasps shackled around his arms. Tarrant blinked again. And saw her.

"Stand back!" Jen swiftly dismounted Isis, shooting the Red Knights a warning glance before striding forward and coming to a stop in front of the strangely-dressed man. More or less she had gotten used to…unusual appearances Underland had to offer…but something about the man in front of her stood out. Whatever it was, she could satisfy her curiosity later. There is a much more important matter she had to discuss with him and she didn't have much time.

"You have to tell me where Alice is!" The request came out harsher and fiercer than she intended. She winced. It did not help that she was towering over him. However instead of the frightened or blank expression she expected he would wear, Jen was only met with hysterical laughter.

"Oh you mean the poor lad!" Tarrant exclaimed, a wild grin on his lips. "Think I saw 'im galumphing 'round Iplam. Or was it Witzen?" He shrugged innocently and pointed excitedly at her. "Why don't you tell me where the poor boy is!"

Jen swallowed hard, feeling the last tendrils of hope begin to slip through her fingertips.

"Look," she lowered her voice into a whisper, "I'm Jen, Alice is my—"

The fierce neigh that pierced the air promptly shut her mouth and all traces of hope, disappointment and desperation fled her expression. Jen swiftly moved away from the strange man just as Stayne fell into a step beside her.

"And what do you think are you doing?" he hissed, tendrils of cold suspicion once again creeping in his tone.

Jen looked at him calmly. "I was interrogating him."

The Knave's upper lip curled. "I do not remember giving you my permission."

"I do remember interrogation as standard protocol," Jen shot back.

Stayne smirked nastily in response. "Not when you are unable to secure your superior's approval." He paused then leaned closer to whisper in her ear, "I will not tolerate disobedience next time." He passed by her the moment he saw her mouth open in what he was sure was a retort. Insolent girl. The Knave turned his attention to their captive.

"Ah, what do we have here?" he drawled, the corners of his mouth slanting to a smug smirk.

The Hatter beamed at the Knave jovially. "Stayne, you old dog! Why, 'tis been a long time, eh old chap?" Tarrant spread his arms expectantly.

"We've seen each other not even close to an hour ago," the Knave couldn't help but comment wryly, staring at the open arms in disgust. Finally, his gaze snapped up. "Now, let's get to business. You wouldn't have fled if you weren't hiding something. Tell me now Hatter, or the Red Queen—"

The smile vanished from the Hatter's face. "Down with the bloody red Queen!" Tarrant suddenly roared, his eyes no longer on the Knave's, who had reared back in surprise at the outburst.

Gold met yellow.

Jen, was it? Tarrant had made up his mind. He would destroy this Jen person. For Alice.

Thank you for reading.