As the moon rose high over the walls of the White Palace at Marmoreal, Alice was putting her plan into action.
She dressed in a pair of black training breeches, black shirt and black boots before slowly creeping from her room armed with the Vorpal sword to the Bandersnatch’s stall in the massive stables located next to the palace. Once she reached the stall, Alice whispered directions for the Bandersnatch to take her to the dilapidated castle in Crims.
Just when she had thought that she had managed to leave the palace undetected, Alice was startled to hear a voice above her head, thus effectively halting her progress towards the castle in Crims and towards her Hatter.
“Stupid girl. Trying to save the Hatter by yourself will only result in your capture.” Absolem scolded, slightly annoyed that the Champion of Underland could put herself in such danger.
“We’ve been over this before. I am not stupid. I will rescue the Hatter and be back before you know it.” Alice countered.
“Very well Champion. I hope you find the Hatter and escape but remember that I did warn you.” Absolem relented, before flying on towards the palace.
Alice spurred the Bandersnatch forward, thus beginning her treacherous journey to Crims.
In the meantime, Chess had once again returned to Tarrant’s cell, this time with a message from Alice.
Tarrant had waited as patiently as he could for the feline, and just when his patience appeared to have run out, the cat appeared before him.
“Chess, you’re terribly late you know. Naughty.” Tarrant said in an attempt to scold the grinning feline for keeping him waiting for so long.
“Forgive me, but I needed to give your message to Alice and wait whilst she replied.” Chess said as he landed in the Hatter’s lap.
At that, Tarrant’s eyes returned to their normal emerald green colour as they had been amber during his imprisonment up to this point.
“What does Alice say?” Tarrant practically demanded in his eagerness to receive word from his love.
Chess rose into the air, slightly tickling Tarrant’s face with his tail as he floated across Tarrant to rest at eye level.
“Your Alice sends you this message: She misses you and returns your love. She also says that you shall be freed.” Chess declared.
Tarrant sighed. He longed to see Alice again, more than anyone would ever know.
Alice finally saw her goal- the dilapidated shell of the castle at Crims. She shuddered as she remembered her last visit to the castle and her treacherous crossing of the moat. She sincerely hoped that Tarrant had kept his head both literally and figuratively.
As Alice drew closer to the castle, she saw that there were no guards manning the gates. She knew that the deposed Queen would be confident that no one would come to help the Hatter escape however she could not believe the Queen’s arrogance at such an assumption.
The Bandersnatch silently walked through the gates as per Alice’s request and into the courtyard where she had confronted Stayne the last time that she found herself there.
The courtyard was completely silent, devoid of all evidence that there had at one time been occupants in the castle. The building which had once housed the Bandersnatch was demolished and the brick wall surrounding the courtyard was crumbling, giving an eerie feel to the courtyard and imposing yet crumbling castle that stood before Alice.
Alice slid off the heaving Bandersnatch and contemplated her next move. Perhaps Absolem was right, Alice mused. She should have made a more thorough plan than simply trying to avoid the Queen and Stayne whilst sneaking around the castle. Shaking these thoughts from her mind, Alice unsheathed her sword and began to walk towards the door of the castle which was rotting, thus allowing Alice easy access to the interior of the castle.
Alice slowly glided along the deathly silent halls of the castle, hoping that no one had been alerted to her presence. That was until a grin appeared in front of her, causing her to stifle a scream.
“Could it be? The Alice?” Chess asked.
“Chess, where is the Hatter?” Alice asked urgently, casting furtive glances along the halls.
“Follow me. Quickly now. The Queen is indisposed and Stayne’s whereabouts is unknown to me.” Chess responded.
Alice hurried after the quickly disappearing cat. The route was windy and eventually Alice could tell that she was going down into the depths of the castle. She couldn’t believe that no one had stopped her which made her slightly suspicious however her excitement to see Tarrant once more outweighed these concerns.
Tarrant could hear footsteps coming towards him however he did not care. Ever since Chess had said that Alice would come for him, he had imagined her arrival so many times that he dismissed these footsteps as either his imagination or his captors coming once more to torture him.
He turned to face the door of his cell in an attempt to see which intruder it was. Tarrant was greeted with the sight of Alice’s blonde locks. He could not believe what he was seeing- it could not be her, could it?
“Hatter?” Alice asked as she walked towards the cell that imprisoned her love.
“Alice?” Tarrant asked in a broken voice, unsure as to whether he should trust the information his eyes were giving him- that his Alice had indeed come for him at last.
As Tarrant took in the sight of Alice, something seemed odd. She was dressed like a man. The Alice he knew wore beautiful blue dresses and gowns designed by him.
To Alice’s complete horror and shock, Tarrant continued, “Yer not her. Get out.” as his eyes and features darkened once more.