Sorry for the wait. I was actually going to post this last Thrusday on Thanks Giving, but then my wi-fi cancelled out on me. I finally got it back yesterday morning, but then school and work interfered. That left me with more time to edit it, I suppose. Warning, there will be dark themes mentioned in this chapter, along with the mentions of a few character deaths (as well as one written in detail). Went Galumphing Back is next on my to-do list, so bear with me, please.
Alice had woken up early that morning, unable to sleep before her venture to China. It was that accursed nightmare again. She had been having it for several nights now.
It was right after her return from Underland, when she had started having her own dreams—the first she had had in a long great while. Now discovering that her previous dreams were her reality, her fantasies had at long last returned to her. But it wasn't a month later, when a dream of something she could have never fathomed coming up with on her own, had infiltrated her mind.
Within it, a chess board lay beneath her feet, covering the earth as far as the eye could see. And off in the distance, were two different parties marching across it towards one another in an aggressive stance. One side was white in color, from the hair of the leaders and generals to the armor of their shining men in uniform; the other, the same, but black in place of white. And on the side of the black, holding the he head of a white haired man by his nearly glowing locks was a figure cloaked in black robes of the finest materials. Though appearing handsome, a sneer stretched across his face and laughing an evil cry of victory that echoed through the battlefield... until he laid eyes upon Alice herself.
That was when the dream ended.
After freshening up some, she had curled up next to the dying embers of her father's library accompanied by the content of one of her sister's books and a nice cup of tea (You'realllatefortea!The March Hare's voice rang in her mind). Normally, she didn't prefer to read something as boring and factual as British history, and would much prefer to let her imagination lead her strangely alert mind. But this time, she wasn't thinking along the lines of the impossible (not anymore), but mostly nostalgia.
She could not believe that she had forgotten all about Underland when she was a child. Why, with all of its quirks and unearthly natural beauty, she was almost ashamed of herself for doing so. But after coming back from her latest venture there, she sat, now determined to keep it intact. The strangest thing was, after her second venture, more and more things were coming back to her. She remembered the first tea party with the mad hatter, her first encounter with Mallyumpkin on the beach beside the ocean of her own tears, and several other encounters that had previously eluded her after all this time.
She also remembered that boring history lesson that her sister had spouted in a dead-panned voice (almost mechanical) voice. The same book she found boring before, that was now clutched in Alice's hands as she reached for her half drunk cup of tea, as it lured her to sleep. How she wished Mictwisp would appear and lead her down a merry chase: Anything to be whisked away back to Underland once more.
But that was not to happen.
For shortly after her engagement party, with the disappointment that her son wasn't going to get married any time soon (and most certainly not after Alice let slip the nature of Hamish's bodily conditions), Mrs. Ascott suddenly became dedicated to the profession of exterior design. While Alice applauded the thought of being joined by another female entrepreneur (even if it was someone as ill tempered as Mrs. Ascott) there was just one thing that kept her from celebrating. For with Mrs. Ascott's uncanny determination to redo every part of her estate, the rabbit hole had since then been mowed over and filled in. In its place, now sat a miniature coy fish pond and bird fountain, accompanied by imported lily pads and reeds.
Alice sighed in spite of herself. She couldn't be so selfish—after-all, she did publicly embarrass everyone at the party (besides herself) and if Mrs. Ascott wanted to do something on her own turf, it should he allowed nonetheless. She still had her memories at the very least. But unfortunately, they were accompanied by a promise—one she could no longer keep. Her heart sank as she remembered the Hatter, Tarrant Hightop.
I'll be back before you know it.
You won't remember me...
How could I forget...?
She bit her lip sadly, but then closed her eyes and thought to herself, before drifting off to sleep. My apologies hattah. I don't think I will be seeing you anytime soon. Though I can promise a least one part of my statement...I will never forget you as long as I live. I promise with every being of my body.
Beneath Alice's feet however, her broken promise was not taken nearly as badly as she would have imagined. In fact, tit had been completely forgotten in anything, in the wake of several severe problems that had sprung up not within one day following Alice's victory. For the next morning, not even twenty-four hours of Tyme's existence had passed since the Jabberywcoky's head had bounced down the stairs of the scene of its final confrontation, when havoc began spreading across the land.
Everywhere, white knights had rebelled, and had turned on their own comrades to which they had known each other for years on end, killed them and later slaughtered those they had been sent to protect. But, had the victims of these white knights known that their associates were not white, but onyx black that had been concealed by plaster and white gesso, they would have been more cautious. They had taken over the castle within hours, painted the otherwise beautiful pure color of Marmoreal a rich ivory black, and established it as a base of operations in Underland.
And with that, no one in the place Alice had once dubbed Wonderland was safe, and it was not so wondrous anymore.
The White Queen, having been marked for death immediately when the siege occurred was quickly concealed by Chess 's and had just barely dodged an assassination attempt by the Black King himself. He was angry about this, but he found otherwise to take out his anger. With that, Bayard's family had separated. Two of his pups had been forcibly taken by the black army, leaving Bayard and his wife guarding the remaining two. With his remaining family in hiding, Bayard had gone in search of the white queen for assistance and had not yet returned. One of the Tweedles was killed, his brother captured, and McTwisp was shot by an arrow, having been among the first slaughtered in the revelation of the infiltration of the white court. The March Hare had run away in a fit of crazed panic (more so than before) while being relentlessly pursued by the black knights, who saw frightening him as nothing more but a cruel game of amusement. Lastly, Absolum, Mally and the Hatter were nowhere to be found.
While hell was unleashed in all parts of Underland, the only person who remained safe (for the moment) was the former Red Queen, who was trapped in what was called Ebonus, the "old castle-" a fortress ruled by a monarchy that had been forgotten for years.
Iracabeth was fuming inside, while her fingers (the one part of her body she could move) were constantly flexing and tightening.. She had not a clue what was transpiring, and didn't even stop to think about it. For as usual, she only cared about one single thing; herself.
This was just completely degrading. She was a queen, and should not suffer this shabby treatment. She had been tied up and blindfolded for what could have been more than a week, and had survived on a loaf of bread and a jug of water a day. These lousy chess pieces! Who did they think they were? And where was the blasted knave of hers—that lousy traitor. Acting all arrogant and leaving her to rot and toil in this stupid little pit.
She should have known though. He had always been like this. She remembered when he was on trial for eating her tarts, that he stood within the midst of the crowd, studying her as if he were churning something in his mind. Unbelievable—even when faced with execution, he was always scheming something or another. She should have known he never cared about her—it took him trying to stab her with a dagger for her to finally realize that. It didn't hurt her, but it was a sharp snap of reality, and it only fueled her anger.
Her thoughts were interuppted when she heard the sound of footsteps and the unlocking of a cell door, which was followed by that familiar chuckle she had learned to hate these past few days.
"Why so frightened?-your- Majesty," he added the last bit in a spiteful teasing voice. "While I do confess, your seat is nowhere near as comfortable as your previous throne, but it'll do in a pinch, wouldn't you agree..."
Iracabeth looked up, hearing the voice of Stayne, but could not see him due to the black cloth that was barely holding itself together on her large cranium, but managed to suffice anyhow.
She responded haughtily, sending his same treatment back at him. "Not as funny as you pretending to be a king, you knave! You think you can fool me, now don't you? Well, I don't see a crown. You have no magic that could ever befall me, and why would you toil at my whim when you could have conquered me at any time. I don't care what kind of masquerade you are presenting before me, but you do realize that if my Mirana finds out you have escaped banishment and have even uttered a single word of me to me, she will kill you without thinking twice."
The response she got was nowhere near as threatening as she had hoped. Stayne merely sighed and walked over so he leaned on the back of her chair towards her ear. "Well, I am sorry to break this to you, but hose rules are only governed as long as those under the White Kingdom follow them. They have little to do with my I am afraid..."
Iracabeth felt her temper increase, shaking in her seat and her face flushing up again. How was it that that horrible man always had the upper-hand? She hated it. Hated it. HATED IT! She then spat, not knowing how much she could take of this, "Why don't you remove your blindfold so I can see you and that smug face of yours? It is silly to keep playing this game when I know who you are, Stayne!"
Ilosovic suddenly erupted into hooting laughter (something she had never seen him do before) shocking Iracabeth. This was the behavior Stayne usually reserved for torturing his enemies, something she sensed that was not so far off.
True as it were, she felt her chains being tugged towards the direction of her captor, rather forcefully. If it wasn't for the foot that kept the chair was falling forward, the former queen might have fallen backwards.
"Come now, your highness..." Stayned chuckled mockingly in her ear. "You aren't that much of a simpleton, are you now?"
Iracabeth said nothing, only focusing on holding her feet down to maintain her balance on the chair, as Stayne tightened his hold on her chains. "Think back, Iracabeth... Remember that time ten years ago, when Alice was first here? Her painting the roses the royal color, the game of Croquet, and most importantly, the trial of your precious missing tarts?"
Iracabeth scoffed and responded, "Not a day goes by that I don't remember them. And how I should have killed her on the spot." She then glanced towards his direction and added. "And you as well. I should have never taken you into my confidence! You stealing my tarts was a sign that you think you can taken whatever you want! Well I can say this, you stole my tarts all right, but you will never steal MY CROWN!"
Stayne said nothing. Iracabeth smirked for a moment, thinking she finally hit a sore spot (oh silly her), but if her eyes were open she would have seen the smirk spread across his face, and then the parting of his lips as he issued out the words that would change everything from that point on. "...Did I?"
Iracabeth's smirk disappeared from her face in an instant. What in Underland does he mean? She thought contemptuously. What does he think he's pulling here? He was there! I remember it clearly! He was standing on that podium, like the confident smug bastard he was, and...
But then she paused in her train of thought, as if she was struck by something. Indeed, something didn't seem right about that. She then reflected on it further.
Podium, she thought. No, that didn't sound right. Stayne hand't been standing there... While yes... Stayne was at the trial, but not as the accused. She thought a little more deeply, diving into memories she hadn't recalled for years. He was standing on a balcony apart from the crowd that otherwise included a party of sitting spectators. The spectators, were all the other kings and queens from the other territories of Underland. The monarchy of the spades, the clubs and diamonds were all there, as well as the white court, which included her parents, Mirana and her future white king were also in attendance. But while all eyes were looking at the trial, Stayne's glance was cast darkly towards the direction of his former wife... wait... wife? Yes... she was a lovely but sickly dark haired, pale skinned woman who looked as if she were in pain from her own thoughts. She wore a crown, indicating her position as the black queen of Underland. Queen? Stayne's wife was the Queen?
So it was true! Stayne was not merely pretending to be a king. He was in fact, a monarch! How could that be? And at the podium, stood...
Upon remembering, she nearly felt sick. Like she would lose not only her lunch but may have wretched up her insides in the process.
Please! I implore you! I swear I didn't steal those tarts! That note could have been written by anyone!
Silence! Sentence will be taken into consideration before we look into this evidence!
Iracabeth started breathing heavily, feeling like she she was losing air every single second she lived.
The man in her memory, which had now nearly come completely back to her, was not Stayne! In fact, he was the polar opposite! He was a short man, a little plump, with red locks and a mustache. He stood before her, a blubbering mess, and was nowhere near as confident as Ilosovic Stayne. As he continued crying, a guard had shoved a tart into his mouth to shut him up, which later became "new evidence" that had eventually sealed the man's fate.
Alice had spoken out against this before the execution, but had later gone missing. She was not there when the axe came down, nor the removal of the corpse.
Nor the time when the sounds of later that night of a group of an unknown party tossing something heavy into the deepest part of the moat.
While she registered all this information, Stayne decided it was time, then roughly undid her blindfold, to stare at Iracabeth's bloodshot eyes and bone white face. She did not look him in the eye, nor notice that he was now dressed in kingly robes and armor with onyx tinted iron glazed with silver stains. And did not take notice of his complacent grin as he relished in her discomfort.
Stayne chuckled nonchalantly and started "I suppose you are confused, big head. Well, let me start out with information you are well aware of." Stayne started pacing in front of her, not even fazed by Iracabeth's sudden change in emotion, as he began his tale
"As you know, yes... we monarchs are entitled to certain perks that no one else can be entitled too. Among being among the ruling parties of Underland, we also have magic drifting through our bloodlines. As you are aware, the white kingdom was notorious for its white magic. The Heart Kingdom was adept at Beast Taming—as you know from your darling Jabber-baby-wocky." He laughed slightly at the idiotic name she had given that stupid pet of hers, before continuing. "The clubs were good with enhancing the powers of basic elements. The spades were quite adept at increasing their physical strength and prowess, and the diamond kingdom was gifted with the power of alchemy,. Lastly, the black kingdom..."
He looked at Iracabeth, who had just raised her head, now knowing exactly who she was up against and who controlled her fate, "-were the enterprisers of what you other kingdoms referred to as forbidden magic. With its power, it was quite easy for me to erase the events of that trial from the minds of those who bothered to stay for the execution." Stayne then started pacing, while relishing in the sound of his own voice in the wake of power he had been without for almost a decade. "I was able to erase the image of the previous knave, and take his place after Alice's second trip to Underland."
Iracabeth suddenly looked directly at him, not quite understanding what he had meant.
Second trip? Wasn't the Frabjous day the end of Alice's second trip? Did that meant that Alice had been here for her third time just a few days ago?
"It was known as the War of the Chess Board. Whoever had won would be declared the true victor of Underland..." Stayne then paused again. Yes..." He said melodically, as he recalled a particular memory, "I was almost ready to declare victory, when that stupid little tyke who I never expected to have a backbone stepped on the square right next to me, looked me in the eyes, and said that stupid, stupid, word..."
"Checkmate?" Iracabeth asked on mere impulse, knowing the rules of engagement.
She regretted saying that, however, as she was brutally slapped across the face by Stayne. He then grabbed her chains again as he brought her up to his face, his putrid breath blowing in her face as he spat at her/ "You have no right to say that!" he snapped viciously, leaning dowards towards her, anger laced over his features with Iracabeth cringing just from his tone. "Only chess based kingdoms have the right to say that! Not a mere card kingdom." He then shoved her back, that Iracabeth nearly toppled over again. He shook his head and hissed. "I had succeeded in taking out the white king, having forfeited the life of my queen to succeed in that victory! If Alice hadn't stepped in to take the place the former white king just before I could utter those blasted words myself... I would have won then! Under-land would have been MINE!" He then kicked Iracabeth's water jug in the height of his anger, Iracabeth flinching at the sound.
"That stupid little BRAT! Had she been the same age when she returned, I would have killed her on site, despite your own desire to take her head yourself!" He then smashed his foot into the plate that held her meal, Ircabeth starting to whimper in fear of what he could do to her. But then he suddenly calmed down some, and his breathing became steady, and even relaxed.
He then looked up towards the ceiling and state thoughtfully, "But no... she didn't return as the child. She came back as a woman. A lovely, beautiful, glamourous creature, who against all odds defeated that Underland's previous harbinger. The only one worthy to be my missing piece."
Iracabeth heard this and stiffened, knowing the full implications of Stayne's words and exactly what they meant when it came to the rules of royalty in Underland. She looked directly at him and shouted defiantly, "She'd rather die than aid you!"
Stayne suddenly looked at her curiously and responded, "How would you know? You've never understood the powers and seductive effect of Black Magic. It worked on your entire court and no one even detected it. And it worked quite well on you, if I do say so myself..."
Hearing this, she suddenly unclenched and her hateful gaze dispersed some. "What are you talking about?" Iracabeth demanded, thought not in a voice as confident as the one she was notorious for,
Stayne chuckled and answered, "Though powerful, our magic has its limits. As king, I can work my spells and hexes on anyone lower than myself. Queens, knaves, knights—they are all easy game. The only rank it wouldn't affect was someone who matched my own. So why do you think your husband, the king, was not there to inform you of this spell, having been completely immune and able to resist?"
Iracabeth suddenly felt her heart stop, having known the answer before he had even finished. Her mind went blank, remembering what had happened, hand felt a part of herself cry out in pain in wake of remembering that horrible tragedy, though her mouth said nothing. She then whispered softly, tears beginning to stream from her eyes, "...Because I killed him..."
Stayne nodded unsympathetically before adding in a deadpanned tone of voice. "Well, not on your own dear." He then took to pacing again. "While I did mention he was heading towards your sister, I unforunately left out the fact that he was riding there to warn the kingdoms of my betrayal and plans. Having already forced you into a vulernable emotional state with my spells, it was quite simple to overstimulate your envy for your sister and have it escalate into severe paranoia. Paranoia which ultimately became your madness and the catalyst of your husband's downfall. It was that madness that allowed you to come up with your own story that he was having an affair with her. Strange... The desire to protect his kingdom and save you and your memories cost him his own head. Funny sort of world isn't it"
Iracabeth forced back her own choked sobs, wishing more than ever her arms were free so she could cover up her eyes and fall to her knees to cry her heart out. Her husband had been trying to save her, and she killed him because she did not see the truth! Because she had been so selfish and preoccupied with her own desires to even hear his side of the story, and din't hesitate to behead him herself. She now saw in herself what everyone in Underland had known her as for her entire rule as queen.
While mousing for her husband and crying tears that could have spawned into puddles beanth her feet., she didn't notice Stayne signal for someone just outside the cell and let him in, the figure holding something steel and heavy in his hands. Stayne then turned his back on her and concluded, "Well, Big Head, its been quite fun telling you these silly stories, but we have run out of time. We have had word that Alice is leaving her home in the world above, and we must make haste to bring her back here."
The former red queen paused in her sobs, and looked at Stayne one last time, her face redder than it had ever been in her life as she hissed from her teeth between whimpers, "I... hope... she... takes.. your HEAD."
"Not before yours dear."
That was the last words the the former red queen heard as the figure that Stayne had let in swung his axe behind her head and shoulder, decapitating her on the spot, her head bouncing off her lap and knees before rolling on the ground like a deflated beach-ball.
Repositioning his crown on his head (having moved slightly while tauning Iracabeth, Stayne murmured unsympathetically, "Effective immediately." He then exited the cell and left the dungeon, not even looking back to as much as glance towards the woman who he had once been affiliated for the last ten years.
TO BE CONTINUED
Please review. Your comments make me want to Futterwaken—if I have multiple corners on my neck and waste of course. (wink)