"Megan!" Tarrant rose from his seat and stumbled across the table.
"Girls!" Thackery thumped the table, causing the ancient crockery to rattle. "Yer back!" I walked over to the table and tipped my hat.
"How long has it been?" Tarrant grinned.
"Six whole weeks," I replied, matching his half-mad grin.
"Feels like forever!" Mallymkin put in, spearing a croissant. "I swear these things have gone half stale!" There was a round of mad laughter from the three of them, something Chess, Queenie and I had got used to. But Queenie jumped, and I took that as Rabbit flinching in the bushes.
"Enough chitter!" Tarrant cried clapping his hands together. "It's time for tea!" He jumped back onto the table, and we did likewise.
"I've missed this!" Chess cried, stuffing a huge slice of jam sponge into her mouth.
"Me too!" Queenie agreed, sipping her tea. I leaned back in my chair. At last. I was home.
"Have you grown taller?" Tarrant suddenly asked.
"And what if I have?"
"Oh, there's nothing wrong with it. It's a good size! It's a great size it's the right proper -" I grabbed his hand.
"Let's not start that again!" I laughed.
"Sorry," he whispered hoarsely. I leaned back again, glad things were settling in. All of a sudden, Chesshur appeared. My first thoughts weren't the best.
"Hello again, Tarrant." Chesshur grinned, making me feel more uneasy. Chesshur, being the nosey feline he is, couldn't help but notice.
"Feeling unwell, love?" He purred. "Maybe we should get this suprise over with then?" Damn
, I thought. It was obvious Chess and Queenie were thinking the exact same thing.
"Suprise?" The word echoed around the table.
"I love suprises!" Mallymkin cried gleefully. I laughed nervously.
"Sure! We've got a suprise!" Queenie said anxiously. "Chess?"
"Well, it's not really my place to say," Chess laughed, tugging at her jumper neck. "Hatter?" I scratched my neck.
"Ah, geez. Um, Tarrant, can I talk to you a minute?" He nodded, confused. I stood up and grabbed Chess and Queenie, dragging them along. We stood with Tarrant a little away from the table.
"What's going on?" He asked.
"Tarrant!" Queenie began. "We are so, so so so so sososososo sorry!"
"We don't know how it happened!" The pair of them suddenly began babbling all at once, so it was impossible to understand either of them.
"Guys!" I yelled. "Calm down!" Tarrant smiled, bemused.
"Can you explain this to me? I can't seem to snaffle it?" We were silent. I took a deep breath.
"Someone fell down the rabbit hole." There was a long silence.
"Are they here?" Tarrant asked.
"Yeah." Chess twisted her hair around her finger. Another silence.
"Shall we...go get her?" I asked. Tarrant smiled. "I think that would be a good idea." We nodded, and scuttled back into the bushes.
"Can I come out now?" She whispered. I nodded, and grabbed her hand. Queenie grabbed her other hand. Chess put her hands on Rabbit's shoulders. Together we marched out of the bush.
Tarrant looked suprised for a minute, then smiled inquisitivlely. We stopped in front of him, and Rabbit smiled weakly.
"Tarrant, this is Luna Aquario, our friend."
"Hi," Rabbit smiled.
"Luna Aquario," Tarrant repeated to himself, taking it in. "My, what a marvellous name! Latin I believe."
"Yes, for Moon Water." I smiled. This was going better than expected.
"Luna is a good friend of ours," Chess said.
"Otherwise known as Rabbit," Queenie finished.
"Rabbit!" Tarrant laughed. "We wouldn't be speaking of our very own McTwisp would we?"
"Ding Ding!" Rabbit chimed. "We have a winner!" I laughed. This was easy.
"I say, Rabbit," Queenie said. "Care to join us for tea?" Rabbit grinned and nodded. Chess and Queenie took her hands and led her to the table. Mally immediately jumped up and drew her sword.
"Who is that?!" she demanded.
"Mally, please! This is Luna, she's a friend of the girls." Mally scowled, and reluctantly put her sword away. Rabbit grinned as we led her to a seat. Chesshur peered at Rabbit and grinned.
"So this is what you were hiding?" he purred. "How many more should I be expecting?"
"Hopefully none!" Rabbit laughed, grabbing an iced bun.
"Right!" Tarrant clapped his hands again. "But since we've all become aquainted, let's get down to business!"
"Business?" I nearly dropped my teacup. Tarrant only mentioned 'business' unless there was something really wrong.
"Yes, business. I'm afraid I have some terrible news."
"Our parents haven't perished in a fire have they?" Queenie cried. We all laughed.
"No, Queenie, our parents did not
perish in a fire, and neither is Tarrant Timothy Spall!" I said, laughing.
"Beadle! Beadle! Where are you?
" Chess sang. "I saw you come up here!"
"Back to the matter at hand," Chesshur put in. We promptly sat down.
"As I was saying, I have some terrible news."
"What's going on?" I asked. Tarrant hesitated, then took a deep breath.
"Red Queen has returned."
This time I really did drop my teacup. Tea spilled all over the tablecloth, and Thackery panicked. He desperately attempted to save all his cutlery from the flood.
"How is that possible?" Queenie whispered.
"It can't be true!" Chess said, in a voice a lot louder than a whisper. I shook my head in disbelief.
"How?" I finally said.
"Well," Tarrant straightened his hat. "After Carlotta (he spat the name out like poison) had you arrested and taken to the mask ball, no one saw anymore of Iracebeth. There were rumors that she and Stayne had hidden away in the remains of her castle at Salozem Grom. But while you were away, it seems that the castle seems completely new. There have been death threats to Miriana, and I fear muchly for her safety. We need to stop Iracebeth from doing...er...whatever it is she plans to do."
"Do you think we can do it?" Chess asked.
"Of course we can!" I yelled. "We've managed before! And besides, we have Rabbit now!" I smiled at her, a smile that would say Don't worry
"Yeah!" she cried. The pocket watch around her neck swayed.
"What is that I see?" Tarrant reached over and yanked the pocket watch off the chain.
"Hey! Give that back!" Rabbit desperately tried to claw the watch back, but to no avail. Tarrant tapped it and listened intently.
"Just as I thought!" he cried.
"What?" Chess, Queenie, Rabbit and I all asked at the same time. Thackery thumped his fist on the table.
"It's broken!" He cried.
"This watch, girls, is exactly -"
"Two days slow." I finished. Tarrant hiccuped a laugh.
"How did you know?" Rabbit whispered.
"They did this to Nivens once," I replied.
"Come, dear Luna! We shall fix the watch for you!" Tarrant said.
"Oh no!" I slapped my hand to my to my face.
"What?" Rabbit asked.
"Here comes the butter!" Queenie cried. Right on time, Tarrant pulled out a slab of butter and dipped the watch in butter. Then in Thackery's tea. Then in a pot of jam. And finally in the lemon. The watch's hands began whizzing at and alarming rate, and a series of clunks was heard.
"The watch has gone mad!" Chess shouted. Grinning, Thackery pulled out a small mallet.
"HOLY CRAP WHERE DID HE GET THAT?!" Rabbit yelled. Ignoring her, Thackery smashed the pocket watch.
"My pocket watch!" Rabbit objected.
"What was I saying again?" Tarrant asked. My heart nearly stopped as I heard a trumpet sound. Tarrant looked at me. I looked at Chess. Chess looked at Queenie. Thackery was slyly licking the sugar spoon.
"RED KNIGHT!" We all yelled.