I do not own the rights to the Hollow Kingdom or song.

I'm posting a little early, since I have to go somewhere different tomorrow for work, and I don't know if I'll have enough time in the morning to post a new story. So enjoy the first chapter of After.


The Age of Not Believing

The six year-old girl watched as her father walked away. He had patted her on the head, telling her to be good, before he left. Soon her older sister joined her.

"When will we see him again?" she asked of her older sister.

"I don't know," was her response. Her sister started to cry.

Wiping her tears away, the older girl comforted the younger. "Don't cry. We'll always have each other. I promise."

"You promise?"

"Yes. Why don't we both make the promise together? That we'll always be together, and won't ever be separated."

"I promise," the sisters said together. And with that the started to play.

"Still No Trace of Missing American Four Months Later"

Four months after the sudden disappearance of Alice Thompson, 18, police still have no leads. On June 1, 2010, Miss Thompson vanished at a fair in England while with her cousin, Nick Thompson, and friend Candace Bryden.

It is believed by police that the person behind her disappearance was also responsible for luring Mr. Thompson away from the girls and drugging him. It is also believed that his target originally was Miss Bryden. However growing impatient while she was in the restroom, he grabbed Miss Thompson instead. Despite a massive manhunt and international co-operations between the United States and the United Kingdom, nothing has been found of the missing teen.

Her parents yesterday, on the four month anniversary of her disappearance, released the following statement: "We will not give up hope that our daughter is still out there somewhere alive. We will continue to look for her no matter what. If anyone knows anything about her disappearance, please come forward. All we want is closure."

Miss Thompson was with Mr. Thompson and Miss Bryden celebrating their high school graduation. She had plans in the fall to attend college as a freshman with an undecided major. Anyone with any information is encouraged to contact their local police department as well as the number below. A reward is being offered.

Alex looked at the paper in her lap. Four months and still not one word on her sister. Well, other than the Candace bit. When Candace had first said she saw Alice's ghost, Alex thought she had been making it up to get sympathy. Then she had mentioned the ever after line, something from her and Alice's childhood days when Alice loved to play make believe. It was possible that Alice mentioned it once to Candace, but Alex didn't think she would, given the fact that it was the sort of thing Candace would tease her over. Besides the line, nothing more was ever found of Alice.

She then fingered the book her sister had bought just hours before her disappearance. It contained stories about goblins and elves and other local legends. Alex didn't believe in goblins or elves. Alex believed in science, not magic. She believed that there was a logical explanation for her sister's disappearance and was determined to get to the bottom of it. But it was still one of the last things her sister had touched, so Alex treated it carefully.

Alex had only been allowed a week off from her internship to go to Hollow Hill before having to return. Now that it was over with, she was going back. It took a lot of time to convince her parents to let her take a semester off from college to do the trip. But she needed closure. She needed to know she did everything in her power to find her sister and she wouldn't be satisfied till that point.

One interesting thing she had noticed about her parents was that ever since Alice went missing, they had grown closer. After being divorced for years, they found comfort in each other over their youngest child's disappearance. Alex wasn't sure what she thought of it. It was nice to see her parents together again, but she didn't know if it would last. And worse was the circumstances that brought it about.

To distract herself from those thoughts, she thought of Finn instead. Finn was the friend that Alice had bought the figurine for when she bought her book. He was a huge comic book, fantasy, fan and she thought he might enjoy it. He was also Alex's best friend. Unfortunately, Finn had been unable to join Alex due to his fear of flying.

"I know there's a higher probability of dying in a car accident than a plane crash, but for some reason my brain doesn't process it. Instead it processes the image of my body falling several miles while achieving terminal velocity only to go splat into a million tiny pieces upon reaching the ground. I like my body on the ground in one piece thank you very much. Planes and rockets are pretty to look at design wise, but not to ride in," was the way he had explained it to her.

Alex found it amusing since Finn actually wanted to design rockets and space ships one day. When she pointed it out to him, he had merely noted that he was perfectly capable of design and did not necessarily have to ride in what he built. And no, that was not the same as a cook who did not eat what he made.

However he didn't leave her empty handed. Instead he had sent a special set of thermal imaging glasses he had modified, tweaked her cell phone reception, created a hearing aid that picked up sounds that she wouldn't be able to hear her otherwise, modified her laptop and cell phone so they could be recharged by the sun, and promised to keep in touch with her every twenty-four hours to help her analyze her evidence. In short she was a walking crime lab. As for her contributions to it, she had brought her trusty pocket knife and had bought a high powered taser (slightly modified by Finn of course) and some mace (also modified by Finn). The last three items she had mailed ahead of time, not wanting to waste any time with airport security explaining what she was doing with them.

Alex had no doubt in her mind that she would not fail to find her sister. When she was determined to do something, she did it. She may have not been there to protect Alice when she needed it, but she would make up for it now. And above all, she would make the bastard responsible pay for what he put her family through.

**Author's Note**

Thanks to JayLah, speederina, and SiriusBlackisSeriuslyfunny33 for reviews. Reviews are always nice and are welcomed.

Next chapter is Heffalumps and Woozles. It's one of my favorites because of all the hours I spent researching on Dunkle's website and the books. Basically all the canon characters who have disappeared with the years, along with my own OC's, and a couple liberties taken with last names, among other incidents that have happened over the years.

Ah, Finn. He is probably one of my favorite characters. His character was inspired by Sheldon from the Big Bang Theory, but he's not as extreme as Sheldon. His name was mentioned once in Ever, and if you blink you'll miss it. But you'll be seeing a lot of him in After, especially in the next couple chapters.

As always, read, enjoy, and review!