AN: Wow! I wasn't expecting so much positive feedback! I thought maybe I would get only one or two reviews. Thanks to all of you for reviewing! I really appreciate it!
RECENTLY RE-EDITED (1/9/16)
Blegh, I've always been terrible at introduction chapters and re-editing this chapter just serves as a reminder of why that is. Hopefully it sounds MUCH better to you guys than it does me.
Disclaimer: I don't own Rise of the Guardians or Alice: Madness Returns.
Picture, you're the queen of everything
As far as the eye can see
Under your command
I will be your guardian
When all is crumbling
I steady your hand
Never Say Never ~ The Fray
"Who's Alice Liddell?"
The four elder guardians looked at each other nervously. The air around the group grew heavy with some an unspoken dilemma that all the guardians seemed privy to except for Jack. Seeing that nobody was going to answer his questions anytime soon, Jack let out a frustrated sigh before leaning back against a wooden pillar to watch his friends. He had been in this situation many times before, where his title as "newbie" among the guardians still shone like a beacon. It made him feel a little excluded sometimes, but it was usually best to just wait until the others remembered he still existed and clued him in.
"Why would the Man in the Moon choose her," Bunny asked, that fire still blazing in his eyes. "Doesn't he know where she is and how long she's been there?"
"Have faith, Bunny," North said with conviction. He was just as confused as his pooka friend, but his faith in the moon already had the Russian embracing the new idea. "Man in Moon must have good reason."
"North's right! The Man in the Moon always has a good reason," Tooth agreed.
North shot the colorful fairy an appreciative smile, grateful that someone was taking his side. No matter how many times he found himself crossing hairs with the pooka, Bunny was always a difficult person to argue with. It helped to have a little support.
"That's what you said about him," Bunny argued as he jutted a paw over his shoulder at Jack. "And look how well that turned out."
Deciding to not even dignify Bunny's jab with a response, Jack stuck his tongue out at the pooka's back childishly before grabbing a mug of eggnog from a passing elf. He chilled the Christmas beverage with the skin of his palm, turning it into an appetizing slush before taking a drink.
Jack really wanted to be somewhere else. Maybe starting a snowball fight with some schoolkids, or causing a blizzard. Blizzards were always fun and a great way to burn off pent up energy, unlike guardian meetings. He always found them boring because "Old Saint Nick" always made Jack actually participate in their discussions, asking for his opinion and his input as if Jack ever had something profound to say of anything of importance, rather than just let the teen free roam around his workshop. Although in hindsight, that was probably a smart move on the Guardian of Wonder's part. An unsupervised Jack Frost in the famous Santa's Workshop was just a disaster waiting to happen, especially for any unsuspecting elves and yetis.
Usually, Jack tried to avoid coming to guardian meetings by "forgetting" what day they were being held, but in the letter that he received from an elf a week earlier, North sounded adamant that he show up this time. The Russian didn't mention in the letter why Jack's presence was so important (probably North's way of building suspense), but he did take the time to tell him that if he didn't show up, North would send Bunny, a couple of yetis, and a familiar red sack to retrieve him, and since Jack wasn't a big fan of the Sack o' Kidnapping, he decided to show up. Fashionably late though, naturally.
Knowing what he knew now, he wasn't surprised by North's persistent letter. A new Guardian was a pretty big deal for these guys, which he could understand. Still though, he really rather be somewhere else.
"How 'bout we focus on getting her here?" North suggested. "Last time I hear, she was in Wonderland."
'Wonderland?' Jack thought as his attention fell back on the old codger. 'Wait, Alice? They don't mean...'
"That's where Alice has been for the past one hundred and thirty years!" Bunny bellowed in frustration. "Gettin' her to leave now won't be a pleasant walk in the park, mate."
"Whoa there, fuzzy wuzzy," Jack cut in. "Alice? As in Alice in Wonderland, Alice? I didn't know she was real."
Tooth hovered down next to him and gently placed a hand on his shoulder. "I'm not surprised, Jack. Like Bunny said, Alice hasn't left her Wonderland in over a hundred years. No one except Bunny visits her. She's very reclusive."
"Wait, so Wonderland is an actual place?"
"It wasn't at first," Bunny replied dryly, cutting back into the conversation. "When Alice was human, Wonderland was just a place in her imagination, but from my understandin', once Manny made her into a spirit, he recreated Wonderland inside some kind of blank dimension. In that dimension, Alice is free to create whatever she wants, but unlike when she was human, her creations are real."
As Bunny spoke, he crossed his arms and stared at the glowing crystal in front of him. His furry face was void of emotion, but his eyes were distant as if he was reliving old memories. Jack was almost completely lost at that point from confusion alone. The other guardians were talking more among themselves than at him. He sighed again in frustration and went to go stand next to a sleeping Sandy, a fellow spirit who also could never get a word in edgewise.
"Now that I have given thought to idea, I am no longer surprised Manny chose Alice," North nodded as he combed his fingers through his white beard. "She is very powerful girl."
"Of course she is, but is she really guardian material?" Tooth asked. She placed a lot of her faith in the Moon, as did all the guardians, but even she was feeling a little doubtful. "Bunny's right, Alice hasn't left her Wonderland in a very long time. Will she be able to adjust being in our world again?"
"I know children hold a lot more power than we originally thought-" Jack spoke up. "-but why would the moon choose a little girl to be a Guardian? Shouldn't there be some age requirement or something? I mean, I'm one of the youngest spirits out there - having only three centuries under my belt - and you guys barely trust me with anything. How's a kid going to hold up compared to that?"
North, Bunnymund, and Tooth stared at the immortal teen before the men of the group burst out laughing. Both Jack and Tooth looked at them with unimpressed glares as the two spirits continued to laugh. North clutched his slightly rotund belly while Bunny leaned on his friend's heavy arm for support as they laughed.
"Oh hush, you two," Tooth scolded before turning back to the winter spirit. "Jack, you should know by now that the traditional fairy tales and myths don't always portray the real person correctly."
"Alice is young, but she certainly ain't the little ankle-biter her books make her out to be," Bunny chuckled as he sobered up. "That's the author, Lewis Carroll's doin'. The real Alice is very different from what you're probably use to, Frostbite."
Jack, not appreciating being laughed at, was about to respond with a sarcastic remark, but a loud clap from North cut him off. He was finished laughing at Jack's expense and was now ready to get serious. The Man in the Moon made his decision and it was their responsibilities as guardians to accept that.
"Now this has been all nice and dandy, my friends, but Manny has spoken! Alice is our new guardian and we need a plan to get her here so she can take Guardian Oath."
"Why not use a sack and a magic portal like you did with me?" Jack suggested almost bitterly as he remembered his first portal ride two years ago.
"Because we actually like Alice," Bunny smirked.
"Oh ouch," Jack whined sarcastically, putting a hand to his chest as if physically wounded by the pooka's snide comment. "That really hurt kangaroo."
Bunny opened his mouth to reply back with something witty, but Tooth flew in between the two bickering guardians. The situation they were in was stressful enough, they didn't need any of Jack and Bunny's fighting.
"Enough boys," She said sternly, placing a small hand on each of their puffed out chests. "We're all friends here, remember? And no one is getting thrown into a sack again."
"'though I am avid fan of sack, Tooth is right," North chuckled. "We use different method."
"Like I said before, gettin' Alice to come back to this world won't be easy," Bunny said while crossing his arms. "She's even more stubborn than Frost!"
North ignored Jack's indignant proclamation of "Hey!" and faced the know-it-all pooka.
"Tis excellent point, Bunny," North said with a smirk. "Which is why we send you to retrieve Alice."
Bunny started with surprise and his eyes widened in disbelief. Jack laughed mockingly and pointed a finger at the stunned rabbit. It was funny to see the oversized rabbit get the short end of the stick.
Although, personally, he wouldn't mind seeing the real Wonderland for himself since he had already heard so much about it.
Jamie's mom would read "Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" to Sophie every night. The little girl absolutely loved the book and was obsessed with the old animated Disney movie. Sometimes Jack would stick around Jamie's house on their family movie nights, and whenever it was Sophie's turn to pick the movie, she always picked Wonderland. So he was rather familiar with the story books, which was why it was hard for him to picture Alice as anything but the curious and blonde, little girl from the books.
The copy of the book in Jamie's home was really worn out. The boy said that his grandmother used to read it to his mom when she was a little girl. The old book was practically a family heirloom. Jack never knew a book could have such sentimental value, but he remembered seeing the cover once. On the front of the book was a large oak tree with a fat cat laying on one of its lower branches. The cat was smiling down at a small girl with blonde curls and a black ribbon tied neatly into a bow on the top of her head. She wore a cute, blue dress with a frilly white apron, white stockings, and shiny, black shoes.
The stories were silly, colorful and fun, and that was why children loved them so much, and Jack couldn't help but think, that if the books had existed when he was alive, his little sister would have loved them too.
"Me!? Why do I have to go?" Bunny shouted.
"Because, you've known her since she was a little girl," Tooth pointed out. "And you also still visit her, don't you? You know you're the only one she'll listen to."
"Maybe once or twice a year," Bunny mumbled. "But-"
"Stop being so difficult, Bunny," North laughed as he waved off Bunny's excuses.
The Sandman, who recently woke up from his nap, gently tugged on Bunny's boomerang holster before making a small cat out of dreamsand. He smirked knowingly up at the pooka. North looked at Sandy and laughed at the spirit's teasing antics.
"Or is Sandy right?" North asked coyly with a raised eyebrow. "Are you still afraid of the Cheshire Cat?"
"No!" Bunnymund snapped. "I was never afraid of that thing. Just very, very...cautious."
"Bunny is afraid of the Cheshire Cat?" Jack laughed. "No way! That's hilarious!"
Bunny was practically grinding his teeth in anger at the laughing Winter spirit. The Pooka did not like being teased. It also didn't help that North and Sandy were laughing too. Jack was laughing so hard he was holding his sides. The thought of big, bad Bunnymund, being afraid of a comically, fat cat with a stupid grin was just too much to handle. Even Tooth giggled behind her hand at Bunny's frustration.
"Have any of you blokes ever seen the real Cheshire Cat?" Bunny growled through clenched teeth. "No, of course you haven't, otherwise, you wouldn't be laughin'. It's bloody freaky lookin'!"
"Calm down, Bunny," North chuckled. "We are only teasing."
Bunny only grumbled and shot his friends a pointed glare. The room fell silent while the pooka thought over his options. Jack leaned back against a wooden pillar as he watched Bunny's face grow more serious with each passing second. If Bunny already knew Alice, why was he so reluctant to go get her? And why did Bunny know her so well while nobody else has seen her in over a century? Why hasn't Jack ever heard about her before? He couldn't say he personally knew every spirit living on Earth, but up until today, at the very least he always thought he knew who, and how many spirits, existed.
"Alright," Bunny sighed, finally giving in. It was probably for the best if he went by himself. Alice would definitely gut him like a fish if he brought total strangers into her Wonderland sanctuary. "I'll go talk to Alice. I'll try my best to convince her to come to the Pole, but I can't promise anythin'. And if by some unlikely chance she does come, Alice won't go anywhere outside this workshop without me."
"Yes, yes of course, Bunny," North nodded in understanding. "I know how much Alice's safety means to you. I wouldn't allow anything to harm her. You know this, my friend."
Confusion and interest sparked Jack's attention. It sounded like Bunny had a soft spot for this little girl. The new information only added to Jack's curiosity and the mystery of, Who was Alice Liddell?
'Very interesting,' The winter spirit mused to himself.
Bunny reached behind his shoulder and pulled something out of his boomerang holster; a tiny leather pouch. He opened the top and tilted the pouch over his open paw until a small, iridescent marble fell out. Jack watched with acute interest as Bunny tapped the ground twice with his big rabbit foot, summoning one of his tunnels before tossing the marble into it. For several moments nothing happened, but just when Jack was about to make a snarky comment, a bright blue light exploded from the hole, projecting an array of colors and lights like the portals created by North's snow globes.
"I'll be back as soon as I can," Bunnymund promised with a nod towards the other guardians.
Without another word, the Easter Bunny jumped into the portal and the ground closed up behind him. No one but Jack seemed to be affected by the change in Bunny's tunnel, probably because the meeting had unofficially been dismissed. Jack sat on a nearby workshop table and looked around at the other guardians.
Sandy waved goodbye at them before he left to spread his dreamsand around the world. Tooth was off somewhere, most likely checking in with her little fairies and their teeth collecting, same as always. North was chastising a yeti for painting a stack of robots red and ordering the poor creature to re-paint all of them green. The yeti shouted out indignantly before banging his head on the table in frustration. North just chuckled, making his way past Jack. He had important toy making business to attend to in his office.
"Hey," Jack said, getting the large man's attention. "What was with the bag of marbles that Bunny had?"
"Oh, Jack. Everybody knows the only proper way to get to Wonderland is through a rabbit hole!" North laughed, patting Jack's shoulder like it was common knowledge. The Winter spirit stumbled forward from North's "gentle" pat and looked up at the friendly Russian with an annoyed expression on his pale face.
"Oh right, silly me," Jack smiled sarcastically as North walked off towards a nearby staircase. "That didn't exactly answer my question, but whatever."
Not even thirty seconds after North left, Jack realized that he was alone and unsupervised. None of the yetis were paying him any attention, so he stood up and brushed off his blue hoodie, readjusting his grip on his staff.
"I wonder where that toy airplane went."
Bunny hated traveling to Wonderland through his tunnels.
The bag of marbles was a little gift Alice gave him a long time ago, allowing the pooka complete access to Wonderland whenever he wanted. They opened into a portal when one was smashed against the ground, similar to North's snow globes,or dropped into one of his tunnels. The trip through the infamous Wonderland rabbit hole wasn't a very pleasant one in Bunny's opinion, but he was used to it.
When traveling through the portal, one would find themselves falling down through a sea of blurred colors. Then, as they neared the end, they would pass by clocks, books, furniture, and giant-sized toys before finally hitting a blinding light. When the light cleared, the rabbit hole traveler would find themselves approaching the ground below at a less dangerous pace. Granted, they would still be falling, but once they hit the ground, depending on how they landed, they might only get a bruise or two.
Bunny has traveled to Wonderland so many times before, he could now easily maneuver himself in the air and land on his feet. His first trip to Wonderland was a different story. He nearly broke his ankle the first time.
Bunny landed on a patch of green grass in the area he came to recognize as the Vale of Tears. The Vale was one of Alice's favorite places in Wonderland, it only made sense that the rabbit hole would open there. The forest was littered with over-sized dominoes, marbles, and the occasional giant snowglobe. Animals of mixed species went along with their usual business, not paying Bunny any piece of mind. The only things that seemed to acknowledge him were the colossal snails with large oak trees growing on the back of their shells. They looked down at the Easter Bunny with their long, beady eyes as he made his way through the Vale.
The gray pooka sniffed the air, trying to pick up Alice's scent, only to sigh in frustration when he came up with nothing. There were so many different areas of Wonderland Alice could be in and Bunny didn't have the will, nor the time, to check them all. That could take him days. His best option would be to find someone, or something, that could tell him where to find the girl, or at least narrow his search a little.
The problem was, nobody in Wonderland was exactly what he would call "sane". It was a nightmare trying to get anything useful from them.
Bunny searched through the Vale for someone who could help. Eventually, he came to a fork in the path he was walking along. He sniffed the air deeply, gauging the split paths in front of him before wincing. The left side of the fork had a strong scent of pepper coming from it, causing Bunny to groan at the thought of encountering the mean and ugly Duchess. The ogre once tried to make pooka soup out of him, a couple of decades ago. He narrowly managed to escape by throwing an exploding Easter egg in her face.
Nothing could get Bunny to go anywhere near the Duchess' deadly kitchen again. He shuddered at the very thought as he quickly made his way down the right side of the path, but came to a skidding halt when he spotted a hybrid lemur with bright, colorful parrot wings where a normal lemur would have gangly arms. The creature was perched up in a tree, toying around with some kind of nut, sniffing it and trying to figure out how to crack it open.
"Uh, 'scuse me," Bunny called up the tree where the lemur-parrot sat on a high branch.
The lemur's ears perked up at Bunny's voice and it looked down at him. It eyed him warily, taking in his tall stature and the weapon holster wrapped around his chest.
"What'd ya want?" the creature asked in something akin to a Brooklyn accent.
Bunny blinked in surprise at the lemur's voice. Usually the beings living in Wonderland had English accents like Alice. Occasionally there was some deviation, like the section of Wonderland made up of an origami ant population who spoke with Japanese accents. But Bunny has never heard someone in Wonderland speak with an accent even remotely close to an American one. Mainly because they were Alice's creations and Alice has never really been exposed to very much North American culture. Regardless though, he pushed away the thought. He knew better than to question Alice's bizarre creations. He would undoubtedly receive a splitting headache for his efforts.
"I'm lookin' for Alice," Bunny said. "Have you seen her?"
"Hmm, Alice eh?" The lemur mused in a nasally, obnoxious voice that only added to his accent before hanging upside down by his tail. "Pretty lil' thing with black hair, right?"
The gray pooka nodded.
"Blue dress? Black boots?"
Bunny scowled impatiently but nodded again. He could never just get a straight answer from these things.
"Green eyes? Small waist? Nice rac-"
"Hey!" Bunny snapped.
Not only did he not have the time to play twenty questions, but nobody talked about Alice like that in front of the Easter Bunny. Not unless they wanted their teeth kicked in. The lemur howled in fright when Bunny reached for his boomerangs strapped to his back. He held up his wings in surrender as he cowered behind the long feathers.
"Have you seen Alice or not?" He growled.
"Geez! Calm down!" The lemur yelped. "Sorry! It's just...outsiders never come 'round 'ere. I was only funnin' with ya. Alice is down by the first stop of the Lookin' Glass Line. It's not far from here, just keep followin' the path. Ya can't miss it!"
Bunny didn't bother thanking the annoying pest before taking his leave. Wonderland humor was always crude like that, so he wasn't surprised at all by the hybrid's remarks. But that didn't mean he was just going to sit back and listen, not when it was disrespectful towards Alice. That bag of feathers and fur was lucky that the Easter Bunny was there on an important mission, otherwise, the pooka would've skinned himself a new hat.
Not wasting anymore time, Bunny picked up the pace as he started running down the path on all fours until he eventually hit a small cliff that overlooked a small, broken down train stop. Bunny quickly hopped off the cliff and landed on the ground below, his green eyes surveying the deserted area.
Unlike the rest of the Vale of Tears, the railroad stop was bare of all plant life. The train tracks were broken apart and the edges hung over a bottomless drop into a cloudy unknown. Large patches of the dirt ground were scorched black, ugly scars from the black ooze that once plagued Wonderland over a hundred years ago.
Alice once told Bunny that the black ooze had been part of the Dollmaker's Siege, and that even after all these years, she was still cleaning up the mess. Fortunately, she almost had all the nasty stuff cleared away from Wonderland. She didn't usually like talking about that incident though, mainly because she was still human at the time and Alice's time as a human was rarely ever brought up. He didn't know much about the siege, but he did know that it was a very touchy subject for her, much like a lot of things when it came to the short-tempered girl.
Bunny met Alice when she was only four years old. He had stumbled across her while he was hiding eggs for Easter that year in a local Oxford park. She was sitting all alone, crying her eyes out. And since he hated seeing girls cry, especially the little ones, he hopped over to her and placed three, brightly colored eggs next to her. Bunny hadn't expected her to be able to see him, but to his surprise, Alice looked up at him with tear-filled green eyes.
Their interaction had been...odd, to say the very least. He asked her why she was crying on such a bright, sunny day, but she didn't answer him, and for a while, Bunny thought she was mute like Sandy. Her behavior towards him was even stranger. It was what kept Bunny from completely brushing off their brief meeting as soon as he returned to his Warren. He even started visiting her on a regular basis. For the next two years, Bunny found himself enlisting Alice's help to hide Easter eggs around her neighborhood and the nearby park. He never took her too far from home, but Alice didn't seem to mind. She just loved it when the six-foot rabbit came to visit her.
Then when Alice was seven, the fire happened. He stayed by her side for a whole year while she was healing in Littlemore Infirmary, but he unfortunately lost track of her when she was transferred from the hospital's care. He looked for her everywhere, and despite his best efforts, he couldn't find her. He didn't end up seeing her again until about twenty-two years after the night of the fire. He remembered their reunion just as clearly as he remembered their first meeting. It was both awkward, and heartwarming.
Bunny quickly shook away the memories. He needed to focus on the task at hand. The others were waiting back at the Pole.
He sighed in frustration when it became obvious that the winged primate had pointed him in the wrong direction. He briefly considered going back and giving the feather-brained monkey a piece of his mind, but decided against it. If it had anything remotely resembling a brain in its skull, the annoying lemur would be long gone by now.
Bunny had covered a large majority of the Vale at that point and he figured it would probably be best if he moved on to another section of Wonderland.
'Maybe I should check the Red Kingdom,' Bunny thought as he looked at the broken railroad tracks. 'Alice seems to-'
The Easter Bunny almost jumped at the sudden sound of a familiar, accented voice.
AN: Next chapter will focus mostly on what Alice has been up to for the past one hundred and thirty years and Bunny trying to convince Alice to leave Wonderland.
Also, sorry for any mistakes or errors in the text! If you find any let me know and I'll fix them.
And thanks again for all the fabulous reviews! I really appreciate them! I hope you guys liked this chapter!