The sky had the colour of troll vomit. I should know. I saw one of those guys getting plastered and, subsequently, throwing up in my bar. But there weren’t any trolls around. In fact, there wasn’t even a bar in the vicinity and if we by some miracle found one it wouldn’t, sadly, be Bottle’s bottom because we have left the Land of Ever After. We is in this case me, Raven, Apple, Lizzie, Alistair, Kitty and Maddie. And Nevermore.
The eight of us have come to the Wonderland three days ago. Our task is to retrieve the Storybook of Legends and return to the Land of Ever After as soon as possible. Before the black magic takes its toll on our health. We call this mission Hexpedition Wonderlust. Not that we lust after the curse infected air or magic polluted water but some of my students do long to see their homeland and their friends and families who were sealed within.
The reason the clouds and stratosphere above our head are so beautiful, colored in shades of green, brown and black (that’s heavy irony by the way) is that five years ago the current Evil Queen has tried to conquer the Wonderland with her magical powers. She didn’t succeed in taking over the land but she did curse the realm. Since then it has been like this because no one was able to find the right cure yet. Afraid, the curse may spread through magical portals into the worlds next to Wonderland and then further away, the headmasters of Ever After High, the brothers Milton and Giles Grimm and a group of their friends and subordinates have sealed all portals, rifts and interdimensional doors. Only a measly number of wonderlandian citizens had been evacuated, the rest had no choice but to spend the rest of their lives in quarantine, isolated from all other fairy tale lands.
Unfortunately for the cardpeople, animals and other beings living in this mad land neither do I know how to get rid of that nasty spell that has penetrated the soil and is taken with every breath, every gulp of water by all plants and creatures. The research to find the antidote proved to be futile so far. But someone had to go and bring the Storybook back. So I volunteered. I was ok with going alone. I mean apart from trips with Wu or Jane and Charlotte (I still can’t get used to call them Laura and Beatrice) I operated alone often. Maybe too often like my new family pointed out. My spirit moms opposed the idea of me going alone and Milton and Giles were worried too, so we agreed on a compromise. I will take with me a group of Wonderland natives to guide me through the customs and paths. I was just glad the Grimm brothers stay at home because I didn’t want to give anybody ideas that the headmasters may had another falling out. And because learning to be a future headmistress means I have to get better at leading, among other things, I left with a small squad of students that I will get to command around.
You ask who is coming with me to that troubled world? First is Lizzie Hearts, who as a princess of hearts being a person of authority will get us anywhere through, Alistair Wonderland is experienced explorer and knows every corner and nook of this land, Maddie Hatter is great companion to keep your party’s spirit high and serves as group’s medic thanks to her tea brewing skills, Kitty Cheshire is the perfect scout and spy able to vanish and reappear wherever she pleases. Unexpectedly our hexpedition gained three more members when Raven Queen insisted she has to redeem her family. Plus she volunteered Nevermore to carry supplies. Then we were joined by none other than Apple White. Although cooking isn’t her favorite pastime she can make a few tasty dishes and has wide knowledge about many things fairytale. But I’m glad we weren’t joined by anyone else. We are supposed to be a swift task force not a crowd.
Our orders are clear. Travel light and fast. Don’t make unnecessary delays. Hurry to get the book and return to Ever After High as soon as you get it. You’re probably wondering how are we going to find the SOL in the country that went bonkers even before it was cursed. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
Zelda cocked her head: “Brooke, I know you’re up there. Please be a sweetheart and narrate about how our group of misfits started this quest. Thanks a lot!”
Brooke: “I’m always ready, Zelda. *giggle* Listen well, for this story will be amazing and suspenseful and wonderful. It all began four days ago…
…the Land of Ever After, in the school for the daughters and sons of fairy tale Characters – the Ever After High. Few days ago the whole land has celebrated the coming of spring. But during the festival two Wonderlandians showed up. Alistair Wonderland and Bunny Blanc. They were convinced they were taking the Storybook of Legends back to the Land of Ever After but it was just a copy. For they’ve met Mrs. Cheshire Cat just prior to coming to the Ever After land and she tricked them. She stole the real Storybook and left an enchanted tome in Alistair’s bag instead. The spells in the faux Storybook and Mrs. Cheshire herself have wreaked some havoc but in the end everything was restored to order. But it was clear that they can’t leave the Storybook of Legends in the Wonderland. Not when it could be misused or get corrupted by the magic of the curse that was unleashed long time ago.”
Brooke: “Therefore Zelda Tolkien, the headmistress-in-training and adopted daughter to the Mr. and Mr. Grimm, decided to venture into the unknown and danger. This is her discussing the hexpedition with her new mentors and fathers.”
The Grimm Brothers frowned at Zelda’s proposal. It was true that the book was valuable and the public may start spreading rumors about another disagreement in the highest places but the curse was still in full effect and they didn’t want to send anyone in such hostile circumstances, much less a Quill.
But Akasha was stubborn about going there. The spirits of their lovers have told them that their new apprentice thinks of herself as expendable. That she accepts the role of an agent because nobody will mourn if a trainee goes missing in action but the land absolutely can’t afford losing one of the cherished and respected Grimm Brothers. Both brothers were saddened that their new daughter sees herself as a spare but they hoped that it will eventually pass.
“Be careful. Wonderland has always been sensitive to magic and now that it has been affected by the curse, well,” Giles shrugged, “magic is even more unpredictable than ever.” “I get it.” Zelda understood. Not that she liked it, though. The question was if one could ever get ready for a crazy land that has gone super-hextra nuts?
Milton stared out of the window but Zelda doubted he was looking at the sky or the students. No, Grimm was going through an internal struggle about the idea of letting a bunch of students and Zelda who was an adult but still green from his two thousand years old self’s point of view. But the more Quills go in that land, the less stable the magic gets.
Milton closed his eyes and sighed heavily before turning to face Zelda. He leaned to her and grasped her shoulders: “Don’t go gallivanting in that place. Follow the signal the fake Storybook is picking up, it should lead you to the real one. And for Vergilius’s sake, hurry up and head straight to the school if something goes wrong,” he made a short pause. “Promise me you will be careful,” he looked straight into Zelda’s eyes. His adopted daughter suppressed the sudden urge to roll her eyes and calmed him down: “I promise.”
Zelda almost finished her packing when she summoned her spirit mentors, friends and adoptive mothers in two persons. Laura had fair hair almost white and lightly brown skin while Beatrice’s hair was reddish, similar to copper. Both had blue eyes but with varying shades. And both were very pretty.
“I’m going to Wonderland tomorrow and I could use some pep talk,” said Zelda after they have greeted each other. “I’m sorry, we don’t know that land but we’re convinced you will do your best,” said Laura, “however from what we’ve heard it won’t be easy.
Akasha said wearily: “I know. I heard this warning from all sides now.” Zelda was exaggerating only a little. The Grimms weren’t the only ones to warn her, Alistair and Bunny told her about their first-hand experiences with living in the magic polluted land and even Mrs Trollsworth has expressed worries about her well-being. Not to mention it wasn’t the first time she spoke to Jane and Charlotte about her plan to fetch the real Storybook. “You shall listen to them. They were there when the threat has started.” “I am. But somebody has to do it,” Zelda looked almost pleadingly at them.
Bea said with a concerned soft smile: “We just don’t want you to get hurt.” “I think there is something you’re not aware of or you try to ignore it on purpose. We talked to Giles and Milton about the situation there and even though we haven’t see the land, we think it’s not a place to venture into carelessly, especially for a Quill” Laura steered the conversation away from fluffy family chat and returned to the instability of the world.
“Laura is right. Zelda, do you remember how certain dreams made you dizzy?” “Yes.” Akasha had already bad feeling about the upcoming journey that only increased now. She knew her mentors long enough to recognize when they are going to say something she won’t like to hear. Laura: “Well, Wonderland is one of these dreams that make a head go all fuzzy.” “No,” Zelda retorted dryly. Yup, bad news right ahead. For some reason some of the fictional worlds caused her to feel nauseous or random thoughts popped into her mind, which wouldn’t be that bad if it wouldn’t be at uncontrollable speed and quantity. It was mostly a sign you wounded up in a surrealistic or Dadaistic story. Granted Wonderland was a bit different but there neither Zelda nor her caretakers could be sure how well she is going to cope with a nonsense genre. In short: Zelda was about to have an adventure that will test her to the core.
The next day everyone gathered on the borderline between school grounds and the Enchanted Forest. The place was chosen intentionally as not to draw too much attention to the expedition. No one, except the members of the traveling party and the headmasters, knew where and why they were going.
Zelda was getting used to the fact that whenever she planned to take a student or two somewhere, someone crossed the plan and joined them regardless of danger or inconveniences it caused. This time it was a slender girl with purple streaks amidst her black hair dressed in the same two colors and with a pet dragon at her side. “You have to take me with you. I must try to reverse the curse or at least learn enough about it to be able to find a cure,” claimed Raven Queen. “How do you-? Ah, scratch that, you’re best friend with Maddie after all. We aren’t going to heal the land. We’re a search party,” protested Zelda. She was torn. Raven was one of her best friends but sometimes her sense for doing what was right prompted her to do something highly impulsive.
“Let me come with you. What if we do accidentally learn something that may help while doing something else? You hocus focus on the book and I will write notes about the curse and how to fight it. I won’t interfere with the hexpedition.” Zelda believed she meant those words. For now. But the situation may change once she sees the effects of the curse.
“And I will borrow you Nevermore. She can carry a lot of things when she gets big,” offered the dark princess. That was a good argument. Nevermore was only few months old but she had the ability to size-shift which meant that she could grow or shrink at will. Right now she was the size of a wolfhound and wore the face of excitement of an overgrown puppy. Zelda almost expected her to start wagging her tail.
“It’s true you’re getting the hold of your magic and a spellcaster may come handy. Just don’t do anything rash. As Giles told me the realm is overly sensitive on any uses of magic. And no doubt Nevermore will be useful,” nodded the redhead. Zelda turned to the dragon and shouted: “Come to auntie, you big scaly rascal.”
Nevermore saw an opportunity and ran with it. She embraced the Quill with her front paws and licked her face so thoroughly that her dragon long and wide tongue slid into her friend’s mouth. “Gosh, a French kiss delivered by a flying lizard is exactly what I was missing in my life,” Zelda coughed up shocked and disgusted to have dragon slobber in her mouth. She then scratched Nevermore’s chin.
While the party leader was busy petting the team mount a princess has run to the party. “I’m going, too,” this voice belonged to a blonde and pale girl who dressed in red, gold and white and White was her name. Zelda raised an eyebrow. Does Apple want to make sure Raven doesn’t harm the Storybook if we find it or is it her innate helpfulness that forces her to join us? Whatever. One was clear. For some reason it was hard to keep those two apart. “Ok, but only if you keep Raven level-headed and won’t let her run off to cure the curse. Everyone, don’t forget we are here to find the Storybook of Legends. Everything else is inferior,” Zelda looked from one hexpedition member to another. “And no more, I repeat, no more additional members!”