Old Paths and New Beginnings
Down a dark, cold ally way, she waited. Though the winter wind and misting rain sent many rushing for the warmth of their home, still she waited. She remained still, not even allowing herself to shiver as the wet seeped through her clothing. She had been searching for five years for a thinning between worlds, an opening calling her home to a place she had never seen with her own eyes. Nothing would make her miss this opportunity. She stared intently as the wet brick in front of her began to waiver. Her sight narrowed and a small smile played at her lips. With no hesitation, she jumped into the wall. Pitch black greeted her as her body fell through the air. She closed her eyes, smile widening, enjoying the sensation of falling, though no air rushed passed her.
Landing softly on her feet, she braced herself until the slight dizziness passed. Standing tall again, she opened her eyes to the new wonders before her. In the distance she could see a large clock tower casting shadows across the land in the morning sun light. That would be her second stop, but first she had a promise to keep. She headed to the right of the tower down a path her mother had often traveled.
Sensing that she was close to her destination, she took a moment and stopped just inside of the woods. She pulled a small sapphire and silver ring out of her pocket and placed it in the palm of her hand. The dark blue stone sparkled in the dim light filtering down from the leaves above her. Closing her eyes, she focused on the ring, willing it to do her bidding. When she looked once more, she found a small pair of silver glasses with dark blue lenses. Placing them on her face, she was proud to see that she could see through them just fine with no color distortion, but they hid her eyes perfectly. She grinned and set out again, tossing her old brown bag over her shoulder. She adjusted the old hat on her head as well, covering most of her hair.
Walking silently along the path, it was not long before she heard voices. Stopping at the tree line, she remained hidden as she studied the stone wall and metal gate that was before her. She felt a twinge and her temper started to rise a little. He was in there. She pushed it back down, knowing that her mother would not want her to be angry anymore.
The voices came closer made her calmly duck behind a tree. Two boys in their teens came through the gate followed by a tall man with brown rabbit ears. A thrill went through her, she had the right place. Her mother’s memory had been perfect right down to the weapons they carried. That surprised her a little, her mother hated weapons and fighting. She listened as they argued, taking note of how the two carried their axes and the rabbit carried a gun at his side. Shrugging her shoulders, she stepped out in the open.
The twins noticed her first, raising their weapons immediately. The man turned toward her, his eyes taking note of her quickly. She appeared to be about seventeen, dressed in baggy pants and a large white button down shirt. The shirt was unbuttoned about half way down, revealing a dark blue and black lace corset that showed through. Her hair was stuffed up underneath an old brown hat, leaving only a few golden brown strands shinning when the light would hit them. Her eyes were covered by dark glasses and he could not make them out. She walked toward them slowly, unconcerned about the weapons pointing her way. Something about the shape of her face and the way she walked tugged at his mind.
“What do you want?” The twins asked together.
The woman smiled sweetly at them. “I’ve come for Blood, of course.” Her voice was cheerful and very familiar.
The hare took a step closer, not trusting his ears. “Alice?” he whispered.
She rushed passed him, half running up the pale stone wall. She grabbed the edge and swiftly pulled herself up. She walked edge tauntingly for a few feet. “Close, Elliot, dear.” She laughed at their startled faces then flipped off the wall landing on the other side.
Once there, she quickly headed toward the heavy scent of roses, knowing that she would find her quarry there. The men at the gate would also catch up soon. She had little doubt that she could drop them if she needed to, but really did not want to cause them any harm.
The smell of roses intensified with every step. How she had missed the smell of them. She had brought them to her mother every day she had been able. They had made games with the petals and her mother told her stories with a soft smile. Stories of her life here in the country of hearts. She touched the locket at her throat, held in place by a dark blue ribbon. “Don’t worry momma, I will do what you asked me.” She whispered as a table came into view.
It was covered with a long white cloth and set with various tea sets and colorful dishes, but that was just a passing glance. Her eyes fixed on the man sitting at the end of the table, calmly drinking his tea. Excitement took over as she looked over the man. The white suit and black top hat decorated in blood red roses. She had the right man. She had imagined this moment for many years, though in her dreams her mother had been by her side. A spark of anger returned and she ignored it again. She rose and walked toward him, hearing the gate keepers coming behind her.
She could tell right away when he became aware of her. His hand tightened on the cane he had by his side. Still, he leisurely took a sip and calmly placed the cup back on its plate soundlessly. “Can I help you, young lady?” he asked.
Smiling at him, she stopped within an arms’ length of him. “I have a message for you.” She said waiting patiently for him to respond, her hands folded behind her back.
The others caught up to her. She heard them coming, but did not change her stance. “Boss?” Elliot asked from close behind her.
“A message from whom?” he asked in a bored tone.
“From my mother.” She replied.
“Interesting.” He turned slightly toward her. “And what have you to say?”
The spark was back stronger than before and she let it simmer a bit. Still she went up to him, her fingers trailing across the back of his chair. She bent down and gently kissed his cheek. “I forgive you, my love.” She whispered low enough the others could not hear her. She rose and stepped back. He caught her wrist and held tightly, not allowing her to move away. “Who is your mother?” he asked, his voice chilly.
“Alice, of course.” She said brightly. She turned her wrist in his hand and swiftly pulled up toward his thumb, breaking his hold on her. She strolled a few chairs down and sat, facing the twins and the hare who also sat. She played with the cup in front of her. “I have messages for the three of you as well.” She told them.
“From big sis?” Dee asked.
“uh hu.” She said, flipping the tea cup and catching it.
“Who is your father?” the hatter cut in.
She sighed and rose, looking bored. She walked slowly down the table, her fingers trailing down the embroidered table cloth. “It was almost you, wasn’t it, Blood?” her voice lowered, becoming hard. “After all, I came to be the night you almost strangled the life from my mother.” She did not look his way, just continued moving down the table away from him.
“She left that night.” He said, not trying to deny anything. His eyes followed her every move.
“Not quite.” She rounded the end of the table. As she neared Dee and Dum, she spoke again. “After leaving you, she ran to a friend. After spending the night in the comfort he offered her, she left that morning carrying little me with her.” She laughed darkly. “You drove her to do the very thing you were accused her of. Isn’t it strangely poetic?” She asked, flashing him a perky smile.
She sat between Dee and Dum, facing away from the table. She was part on Dee’s right leg and Dum’s left. Laying her hands over their hearts, she felt the ticking of clocks. Closing her eyes, she sped them up. She opened them again to see two grown men before her. She leaned forward and pressed a kiss to Dee’s mouth, then did the same to his brothers. “I get to play games with you, but big sis says no killing.”
They smiled and glanced at each other. “Can we pick the game?” Dum asked.
“We have a good one.” Dee followed.
She just grinned and hopped up. Then she moved on to Elliot who sat on Bloods left. Standing behind his chair, she gently rubbed down his ears, something her mother had loved to do. He shivered but did not comment. The hatter watched her closely as she sat on his lap and placed a soft kiss on his lips. “Thank you for being a friend and protector.” She smiled at him, “I am also supposed to bake you some carrot cookies as soon as I get settled.” He smiled back at her softly, his green eyes sparkling.
Blood reached over and pulled her out of the his lap and close to him in one smooth motion. “Who is your father?” he asked again, his grip painful on her arm.
She smiled darkly at him, “Careful, hatter, Alice forgave you. I have not.”
“I owe you nothing.” He sneered.
“Nothing?” she repeated, her voice growing colder than his. “yes you owe me. You owe me elven years of watching her suffer locked away like a dirty secret. You owe me back every second of watching her slowly die inside.” She pushed close to him, beyond caring if he hurt her. “You owe me time and her your heart.” She pulled the glasses from her face. Two toned eyes glared into his. One was pure bright blue, so like Alice’s had been. The other was dark blue, almost appearing black. He was startled to see that dark start to glow like it was backlit from within. Her face was so like Alice’s it was almost painful for him to see. “In fact, I think I get both our pay.” She said smiling all the while the glasses she held reformed into a silver dagger with a blue sapphire in the hilt. It descended quickly, headed straight for his clock, determined to dig it right out of his chest.
“Aliya!” came a voice from behind her. The glow faded instantly and the dagger became the ring resting on her middle finger of her right hand. “Uncle Nighty!” she launched herself at the new comer. He visibly braced himself, but caught her with ease. “Aliya, please don’t call me that.” Nightmare sighed, setting her from him. “You were supposed to come to me first.” He felt her shrug where he still held her shoulders. “What did you promise you mother about Blood?” he asked.
She stood with her hands behind her back and dutifully replied, “Don’t fight with him because I will always love him.” She sighed and rolled her eyes, then turned back to the man still seated at the table. She bowed formally, causing the hat to fall from her head. Silky tresses fell to her waist. Most of them were Alice’s golden brown, but dark blue streaked through in several places. “My apologies sir, I forgot for a moment.” She smiled charmingly at him as if she had not just tried to cut out his heart.
Elliot blew a harsh breath out and the twins laughed delightedly. Blood stared at her for a moment. “The clockmaker,” he said absently, hand tightening on his cane.
“Yep,” she said, “but you aren’t allowed to fight with my daddy. I’m to make sure of it.” She approached him and patted his hand comfortingly, “After all you are the only one that had her heart.”
“Nightmare!” a voice called. The man in question looked around quickly, then dove under the empty end of the table.
Aliya’s eye sparkled brightly. “Gray,” she called out to him. When he came cautiously closer, she jumped on him and wrapped her arms around his neck, causing him to spill the glass he carried with him. She kissed him quick and hard.
“You must be Aliya, right?” he said setting her from him.
“Yep. I have a gift for you!” she said and rushed over to where she had stashed her bag at the edge of the rose garden. She pulled out several thin books and ran back to Gray, presenting them to him. Slowly, he took them from her. “These are cookbooks,” she said, “Mom said that they had very good healthy soup recipes for building up strength.” Nightmare groaned from under the table, giving himself away.
As Gray drug him out from his hiding place, the hatter looked at Aliya. “Did you mother tell you to kiss everyone as well?” he asked casually, though a million thoughts rushed through his mind.
She laughed, causing all of them to want to smile. “No, she said to give everyone her love and gratitude. I just adore kisses.” She winked, grinning brightly.
“Aliya, it’s time to go.” Nightmare said, taking her arm and cutting off Gray’s lecture about hiding from him.
“Ok.” She happily gathered her things. “Bye, guys.” She blew a kiss in Elliot and the twin’s direction.
“You will come back,” Blood demanded “for your time, young lady.”
“I will.” She agreed, looking serious for a moment. Then she cheerfully waived and followed nightmare. Gray fell in step behind them, still lecturing.