It had been a weird morning for Alice to say the least, and sadly, it was just going to keep getting weirder. The front door of the Clock Tower slammed open and two men came rushing out. The first was rather tall and muscular, Alice's first thought was that he resembled a knight. He had on a long black cloak that swept at the dirt around his feet, there was a silver button clasping it together at the top. From under the cloak poked a rather long sword that shocked Alice. His boots slammed into the ground as he purposefully made his way over, the scowl on his face causing both Alice and Ches to cower away from him. His hair and eyes were both near pitch black, his hair long enough to hang down in front of his face slightly, though not covering his snarl.
The second man was just as tall, though he seemed much friendlier. His hair was a greying black and his eyes were a warm color that resembled honey. He was easily keeping stride with the younger man, mumbling to him, which the first man was completely ignoring. This man wore a simple pair of pants and a plain shirt underneath a mahogany robe. He was continuously running his hand through his hair, though it was so short that it barely got mussed up. As the two got closer, Alice could begin to hear what the older man way saying.
"You better not flip, just keep control of yourself until you get some tea in ya!" Alice's eyes widened, who were these strange men?
"Ches." The younger man growled, stopping suddenly in front of the two girls. Ches squared her shoulders and wiped all traces of fear from her face, something that extremely impressed Alice.
"Jem." So this was the man who would supposedly save the world. She couldn't hold back her scoff.
"He can't be. He doesn't look like he could save anything, much less the world." Alice stated, speaking before thinking.
"What?" Jem turned his glare on her. "Ches what the hell have you been saying?" He turned back to the other girl. "And what is she doing here?" He pointed roughly at Alice. His rudeness made her completely forget about how scared she was of him.
"Excuse me, but I have a name." Jem ignored her.
"You had one job, Ches. One!"
"It wasn't my fault!" Ches cried, crossing her arms. She looked much like a little kid being scolded by an older brother. Alice wondered if they were related, though her bright hair was the exact opposite of his. "William showed up." Jem shut his mouth quickly, his eyes seemed to lighten some. The other man quickly took an interest and joined the conversation.
"They found you?" Ches nodded. "But she was untraceable, I made sure. I don't understand…" Alice huffed loudly, but was still ignored.
"Excuse me!" She said loudly, finally catching the attention of the three. "Don't talk about me as if I'm not here. What is going on?" Ches looked away ashamed, while Jem crossed his arms and glared at the sky.
"I'm so sorry!" The older man extended his hand. "My name is Gideon Locke, and this is James Hatter. We've been expecting you."
Inside the Clock Tower it was much more comfortable than Alice had expected. Gideon sat her down at the table and quickly poured her a cup of tea. Ches flopped down in another chair, sitting backwards in it with her arms resting on the back. Jem was busy pacing around the room, his hands twitching in and out of fists.
"Jem, chill or you're gonna flip." Ches said, taking a sip of the tea Gideon had given her. The raven haired man turned to yell at her, but she shoved her cup into face. "Drink." They stared at each other for a few moments before Jem, still glaring daggers, took a sip. The spark in his eye dulled and his posture relaxed some. Alice was amazed at the transformation. She quickly picked up her own drink and took a sip. Gideon laughed at her antics.
"The tea isn't magical." He said lowly, leaning on his elbow near her. "Jem just has… anger problems. Tea is what calms him down." Alice looked slightly saddened, but still continued to drink her tea.
"So what'dya think?" Ches grinned. "Gideon's tea is the best, right?" Gideon waved his hand modestly.
"It tastes delicious." Alice agreed. "Oh!" She suddenly widened her eyes and turned sharply to Gideon. "I completely forgot to thank you. Thank you!" She said, a slight blush growing on her cheeks. Gideon and Ches laughed at her.
"You're welcome. But it isn't anything special."
"It makes Jem shut up, that's pretty special to me." Alice let out a giggle. Jem flipped Ches off; he was too preoccupied with his mug to reply. He hadn't stop drinking it since it was handed to him.
"So how have you been?" Gideon asked, turning his full attention to Ches. "It's been years since I've seen you."
"Twelve." Ches added.
"Twelve blissful years." Jem threw out, having finished his tea (surprisingly quick) and joining them at the table. Alice listened with a smile as Ches and Jem continued bantering. She sipped at her tea, smiling slightly as they exchanged insults, Gideon chuckling all the while.
"Bicker worse than siblings!" He said to Alice.
"Oh, so they aren't related?" She questioned. She mentally scratched that idea off and wrote the next down: dating?
"Oh goodness, no! Even after twelve years apart they can barely stand to be in the same room." Gideon took a sip of his tea, smiling at Alice.
"I guess they wouldn't be dating then, either?" Gideon's tea shot out of his mouth as Jem and Ches blanched. They started yelling at her at the same time, Alice's eyes going wide in fear.
"I would never, under any circumstances…"
"Why would you even think that?"
"How stupid could you be?"
"I know you've got some weird thoughts, but…" Alice as switching her gaze quickly between the two, unsure how to get them to stop yelling at her. Suddenly, she placed her cup down and leaned in toward Jem, her eyes scrunched up with an eyebrow raised. Jem cut his sentence short, settling for just glaring at the stranger, who was obviously completely ignoring his rant.
"Your eyes… they're green." She pointed out. Jem's eyes switched into a glare as he leaned as far away as possible from her.
"They were black earlier. Weren't they?" She turned to Ches and Gideon, hoping for an explanation.
"Ah, so you noticed!" Gideon said happily. Ches beamed at her friend.
"They kinda do that. Weird, ain't it?"
"It's not weird!" Jem growled. He tucked his head and hunched his shoulders; obviously he wasn't comfortable with the subject.
Oh, no! What if I've embarrassed him? But surely there's an explanation for it, I was only wondering. He's going to hate me now, even more so than for insinuating a relationship with him and Ches. And now I have to cross that off… so how do they know each other? Childhood friends gone bad? Ches did say she's been gone twelve years. Wait, that's when I found her! So she came to me right away, but why? Alice continued her thoughts, absentmindedly grabbing onto her hair and dragging her fingers through it.
"What are you doing?" Jem scoffed. When Alice didn't even acknowledge him he turned to Ches. "What is she doing?"
"That's her thinking mode. She's trying to figure something out." Ches leaned forward and snapped in her face, causing Alice to jump out of her trance. "Yo, what's puzzling you?" Alice was confused for a moment, before remembering that Ches was actually Dinah, who would of course know of her habits. But then her mind started to wander to its previous train of thought and she shook her head.
"Why were you my cat?"
"Of course, she doesn't ask how." Gideon shushed Jem.
"We needed someone to keep an eye on you, Ches was the best choice." He explained gently. He was holding something back, Alice could tell, but she was afraid to pry too far.
"Why?" She asked tentatively.
"Well… for the exact reason that you're here. We had hoped she could keep William away from you."
"And she did such a marvelous job." Jem whispered. Ches punched him on the shoulder, ready to start a scuffle before Alice continued.
"The adorable rabbit?" Ches' eyes bugged out.
"That thing is so far from adorable! Alice I thought you had good taste!"
"Oh! I'm sorry!" Gideon waved his hands in front of him.
"You didn't know, dear, it's fine."
"Dear?" Alice blushed slightly, a hint of a smile forming.
"Oh God, Gideon watch what you say or she'll develop a crush." Alice's blush became much darker and she rounded on Jem.
"I will not!" She stammered. Ches just laughed, enjoying her misfortune. "Now please answer my question!" She crossed her arms and stared down at the empty tea cup in front of her, willing the blush away.
"Terribly sorry." Gideon started. "You see, William works for the Queen of Hearts."
"There's a Queen here?" Alice asked, perking up immediately. Ches and Jem both groaned.
"She's a horrible woman, Alice. She isn't the kind of lady you're imagining." But she could already tell Alice was lost in her imagination. From all the stories Alice had read 'Dinah', Ches knew the blonde was imaging a grand castle with roses everywhere (at least that part would be true) and a graceful, beautiful queen walking through them. As Alice's eyes began to sparkle, Ches knew fairies had just entered her vision. "Alice!" She snapped, once again getting Alice's head out of the clouds.
"Please, Alice, you must understand this. The queen here is an awful woman." Gideon said calmly. "She beheads people for the slightest reasons and uses their heads as decoration." Alice grew pale and Gideon regretted being so blunt.
"I don't think I like this place so much…" Alice mumbled.
"Good! You should just leave then." Jem said with finality.
"I would like to, but I can't seem to wake up." She said sadly. "I thought the tea would help, perhaps a pinch?"
"You… you think you're dreaming?" Gideon asked worriedly. Alice nodded.
"Well of course! Queens don't behead people in real life!" The others groaned. Of all the things that had happened to her, she chose the realistic one to not believe.
"Well, besides that… could this all be real?" Jem asked, a hint of hope tinging his voice.
"Of course not! Dinah isn't a human. And people's eye colors don't suddenly change after drinking some magical tea."
"It isn't magical…" Gideon mumbled, unnoticed by the others.
"You… you…" Jem pushed away from the table and stalked off. "Ches, this is entirely your fault!" Ches opened her mouth to argue, but slowly shut it.
"No, Ches. It's Williams and that damn queen." Gideon grabbed her shoulder. "Please don't blame yourself, Jem is only upset, you know he didn't mean it." Ches smiled up at him, though it didn't reach her eyes.
"I'm sorry… why can't I think this is a dream?" Alice asked.
"Well, you can't leave until you believe it's real… one of the spells the Queen created when she first stole the thrown."
"Why would she do that? It's silly to think that I've come up with a way to trap myself in my own dream. Now I must convince myself its real! But why would I create such an odd dream to have to believe is real..." Gideon's mouth hung open slightly, confused by her words.
"Welcome to my world." Ches grinned.
"Stole that thrown?" Alice questioned, return to the main subject. Gideon's smile turned grim.
"I'm afraid so. See, long ago…"
"Settle in, it's story time!" Ches said, getting comfortable in her chair. Alice listened and copied her while Gideon sighed.
"Long ago the White Castle stood tall and proud. Lady Vanessa White was the fairest ruler this land had seen yet. She spoke only kind words and the land was more prosperous than it had been for hundreds of years.
"For once, there were no wars taking part between the two villages. The King of the Reds was smitten with the lady and could not bear to siege war on her. Eventually, the two were married, and all the lands rejoiced. The villages of Diamonds, Spades, Hearts, and Clubs all held a celebration together, the first Wonderland has ever seen. The four governors of the villages got together, signing a treaty that they would trade openly, making it so the four villages would be in equal standing with no one slipping into poverty.
"For Clubs and Spades, this was grand. They were both filled with homeless with no hope of things changing. For Hearts, however, it would be a step down. They were the richest village and had things easy, only the rich could live there. However, the mayor believed that giving up some of their wealth for the others was by far worth it, unfortunately very few of his people agreed. Tayness Heart, his daughter, led the rebellion against him. It was over quickly, and Tayness called all the villages to gather in Hearts.
"She had her father executed. Chopped off his head in front of the three other villages. She said that everyone needed to make a choice: either follow her, or lose their head." Alice let out a gasp, covering her mouth with her hands. Her eyes watered slightly, but she refused to let tears fall yet.
"The bloodshed was huge, our sweet queen was at a loss of what to do. She sent out hordes of her troops to try and bring peace, but they were slowly picked off one by one. Eventually, she sent out smaller troops in silence. Their job was to find those who didn't follow Tayness and take them to what was left of Diamond Village. She sent a majority of her troops there to keep the villagers safe. She was a saint, our queen, if it weren't for those soldiers Diamond would have burned with the other three villages.
"However, this meant the White Castle had less security. Tayness left Diamond village alone and sent all her forces to the castle. Diamond was all the way on the other edge of Wonderland, there was no chance for her troops to make it back in time. Queen Vanessa and King Charles were beheaded in the same manner as Mayor Heart. It was a sad day in Wonderland." Alice was freely crying now, the tears pouring down her face.
"Tayness had the White Castle destroyed, all that remains is rubble. She now lives in the Red Castle, which she has renamed Heart Castle. According to her and her loyal subjects, Wonderland has become the Land of Hearts. The villagers of Diamond have mostly succumbed to her wishes in return for their lives." Alice buried her face completely in her hands.
"I want to go home! I don't feel safe here anymore!" She cried.
"Alice, I wish you could. But so long as you think you're dreaming you can't." Gideon said sadly.
"That's not fair! I shouldn't be able to be trapped in my own dream!" She looked up, her eyes red and puffy with tears still coming. "I don't want to lose my head, Dinah take me home!"
"It's…" Ches sighed, not willing to correct the poor girl.
"Please, please, I beg you!" Ches looked ready to start crying herself.
"Alice, I can't! I…" She suddenly opened her eyes wide and leaned forward. "Alice, there's fairies here." She bit her lip, it was a long shot, but…
"Fairies?" Alice sucked in a few shallow breaths. "They're real?"
"Sure are! And mermaids, too! I can take you to see them, but I can't take you home yet. The Queen has too much power." Alice's eyes went wide with fear again.
"I don't want to lose…" She started, but Gideon cut her off.
"This Clock Tower has always been a place of power, and is thankfully untouchable by the Queen's powers."
"You keep saying she has powers… how?" Alice let out a sniffle.
"She's a witch, as was Lady Vanessa." Alice gasped again.
"Witches exist here?"
"As do wizards. I am one." Gideon nodded. He was carefully watching Alice's reaction. Her eyes widened, she seemed frightened at first, which worried Gideon. He hated when people were scared of him, but then Alice relaxed and gave a small smile.
"I never would have guessed, you're far too nice." Gideon smiled at her.
"Thank you." Alice bit her lip, looking as if she had more questions.
"Do…" She glanced up at Ches before looking back down. "Do you all have powers here?" Ches let out a short laugh.
"Sorta." Alice looked up shocked. "Oh come on! I turned into a cat!"
"Well, actually a cat turned into you."
"No, I turned into a cat, then back into a human. You don't have to see things for them to be true." Alice nodded her head.
"So you're a witch."
"No!" Ches grinned widely. "I'm a pixie." Alice's eyes widened even further. "Don't go thinking too far into that. I have very little magic, I can only do certain tricks, like turning into a cat." Alice stared at her wide-eyed.
"Pixie? Oh, really?" Ches' grin grew even wider. "I imagined you would be… smaller."
"Nah, the fairies are the small ones." Alice clasped her hands together and held them close to her chest.
"Oh, please, please, please can you show me the fairies!" Ches stood up and stretched her arms above her head.
"I don't see why not." Alice let out a cheer.
"Hold up." Gideon ran a hand through his short hair. "It's not safe." Alice and Ches both groaned. "Ches, you know better. I'm sure William has alreadyreported to the Queen. There will be a massive manhunt out for Alice, and I can guarantee William will be in the lead."
"Yeah, yeah. And Alex right with him, I know." Ches pouted. The door opened and Jem walked back into the room. His face was devoid of any emotion, until he heard Ches' next words that is. "Jem can protect us!" He froze and stared them down, weary of the smile Ches was wearing.
"To see the fairies!" Alice supplied excitedly.
"No." Jem objected immediately. Alice ran closer to him, startling him, and looked up at him pleadingly.
"Please, I've always wanted to meet one! Even if it is just in my dreams." Jem leaned back slightly, looking down with a look of disbelief at the blonde. His gaze moved up to Gideon's. The honey haired man gave a small chuckle as Alice continued talking. "It is quite weird, but even though I've always dreamed of seeing one, I've never actually dreamed about this. It's as if my mind couldn't decide what they should look like! Ches just clarified that they're tiny, though since she's my dream I guess I decided that…" Jem shook his head, trying to block out her ponderings. "…though I guess I'll have to actually decide now. What color should their wings be? Oh! What kind of wings in general…"
"Shut up!" Jem threw his hands in the air. "I'll take you if you just stop talking!" Alice squealed excitedly.
"Thank you, thank you!" She started to give him a hug, but Jem quickly stepped to the side, his dodge nearly causing her to fall over.
"No rambling and no touching. Let's go." He turned and stalked toward the door. Ches and Alice obediently following behind.
"Grouchy, much?" Ches scoffed.
"And I swear, if either of you gets in trouble I'm not saving you!"
Well… isn't Jem such a charmer? Heh.
Anywho… I see you out there… yeah, you! Don't be shy, say hi! (That rhymed!)
Hope you're enjoying anyway!