To their complete and utter horror, a woman and a man stepped out of the bushes. On its own, this would have been enough to merely startle the couple as their relationship was only beginning to flourish, however coupled with the fact that the man was towering over the woman whose head could only be described as bulbous, the couple certainly had cause for worry.
Tarrant’s eyes blazed a fierce orange as he pulled Alice slightly behind him in an attempt to protect her from two of the most infamous enemies of Underland. Alice merely stood there, too stunned, shocked and angry that Iracebeth and Stayne had the gall to show themselves; in the White Queen’s garden no less.
Iracebeth laughed sinisterly at the sight before she said, “How cute. You are willing to align yourself with a murderous traitor, Hightopp?”
This served to anger Tarrant even further, however he managed to reply, “Nae, Bluddy Behg Head!”
Alice rested her hand on Tarrant’s arm in the hopes that this would calm him; however Stayne chose that moment to speak.
“Hello, Um. I still find you very attractive, you know, but you are so small.” Stayne said with a sneer, knowing that his words would make Tarrant crack.
Iracebeth glared at him, for she believed him to have eyes only for her.
Stayne’s statement had the desired effect upon Tarrant. He glared at Stayne with all the hate he could muster. He could not believe what Stayne had said about his Alice.
Inside the palace, in the ballroom, Mirana was worried about her Champion and Hatter as they had been in the gardens for a long time.
Sensing her anxiety, Charles sought to ease her fears.
“Mirana, do not worry, they will return when they are ready.” Charles said soothingly, despite the unease that he felt.
At that, Chess materialised without his trademark grin.
“Milady, Charles, you may have some cause for concern.” Chess said grimly, much to the dismay of both Mirana and Charles.
“Chess, what has happened?” Mirana asked, her face contorted with worry and concern.
“Iracebeth and Stayne have breached the security at the palace gates.” Chess replied.
Mirana’s face paled significantly, becoming nearly the same colour as her dress and the rest of the palace. Charles had a similar reaction, reaching for the sword that a nearby guard had girded about his waist, in its sheath. He ran out of the ballroom in search of his daughter and the Hatter.
Iracebeth and Stayne continued to torment the Hatter. Finally, Alice ran out of patience and decided to ask the obvious question that everyone seemed to have skirted around.
“Iracebeth, what do you want?” Alice asked in a tone that would brook no argument.
Iracebeth laughed, and then replied, “My dear Alice, I should have thought you would have been able to work that one out. Who else killed my beloved pet before my eyes? Who else stole the Bandersnatch from my palace, along with the most powerful weapon in all Underland? And lastly, who stole the crown that was rightfully mine?” she asked in a saccharine sweet tone of voice, however the message was quite menacing.
Alice bristled against the unjust accusations put before her. She knew that she had done all in her power to protect Underland. Instead, she said nothing. Tarrant had apparently been struck dumb by what had been said, however he soon regained enough composure for his anger to flare once more. Before he could act upon his anger, he was interrupted.
“Tarrant, don’t!” Charles warned as Tarrant stepped slightly closer to Iracebeth with a knife that he had hidden somewhere on his person.
At Charles’ voice, Tarrant calmed sufficiently to gain control of his madness once more. He resumed his position in front of Alice protectively.
Mirana, who had followed closely on Charles’ heels, glared at her sister and henchman, for he was no longer a Knave due to the fact that the Red Queen had been deposed.
Mirana spoke then, directly addressing her sister, saying, “Iracebeth, why are you not in the Outlands? You have no power over us now.”
“You are wrong, sister. I have great power over your Champion.” Iracebeth declared triumphantly.
“You do not have power over me.” Alice declared stubbornly.
“Oh, poor Alice. You always were so naive and childish. If I control the Hatter, I control you. Do you think I missed the touching moment you shared before I revealed myself?” Iracebeth asked, eyes glinting sinisterly.
Alice could no longer think rationally. She stared in disbelief and horror that Iracebeth would use Tarrant to get to her.
“Alice, you will answer for the crimes that you committed against me. I will torture you by torturing the Hatter until you are a shell of the woman you are now and he is as good as dead. Then, I will kill the Hatter in front of you, making you wish you were dead.” Iracebeth stated menacingly.
“Do nae speak to Alice like that, you Bluddy Behg head!” Tarrant yelled, no longer able to contain his rage as he lunged at Iracebeth and Stayne.
Mirana and Charles could only watch in horror as this scene unfolded, both rendered speechless and powerless to stop the enraged Tarrant.
Unfortunately for Tarrant, Stayne’s reflexes were as good as ever and he easily caught Tarrant’s wrist before he could inflict harm on them. Iracebeth grinned maniacally as Alice was rooted to the spot, helpless as her Hatter was captured.
“Until next time Alice.” Stayne said lazily as he dragged Tarrant alongside him. Tarrant had realised it was futile to resist and so for all appearances went willingly.
Unable to contain her emotions any longer, Alice slumped to the ground and wept. Charles watched as his daughter’s body was wracked with sobs that he was powerless to stop. He realised that the Red Queen’s plan had succeeded- Tarrant’s capture would hurt Alice to the point of incapacitation and thus she would do whatever the Red Queen said in order to ensure his safety.