The next time I opened my eyes I heard a deafening splash. To my great fortune, I’d landed in the moat. I sighed in relief as I floated around in the surprisingly deep moat. Then something bounced against my foot. My face twisted in horror as a head floated near my face. Without warning I started yelling.
“Hatter!” Rabbit yelled, as Tarrant lowered her to the floor. “Are you alright?”
“I think I’m going to be sick!” I yelled, desperately trying to avoid the heads. But it was impossible, there were so many of them.
“Get her out!” Chess cried appearing from nowhere.
“Allow me.” Suddenly I was hoisted from the moat and onto dry land. I lay on the ground, gasping, and looked up to see my rescuer. I then decided I preferred the company of the floating heads. Stayne smiled down at me, chuckling. Two guards grabbed me under the arms and dragged me to my feet. I was then shoved towards my friends. I staggered, still slightly weak from passing out. I nearly hit the ground, but Tarrant grabbed me and put me back on my feet.
“I think the ground has enough friends for now,” he said. I smiled weakly. We were now surrounded by guards. Stanye circled us, smirking.
“I knew I recognised you,” he said. “Welcome back, Tarrant Hightopp.” Tarrant tipped his hat.
“I knew we’d find you around somewhere. You just couldn’t resist claiming back your little sister.” I rolled my eyes.
“What I didn’t realise was how pleased she was to see you. Have you finally chosen a side, Harriet?” This time Tarrant rolled his eyes. I shrugged to myself. Might as well make it known.
“I chose my side a long time ago, Ilsovic Stayne.” Stayne sighed.
“Her majesty is going to be so very upset,”
“If she wants to behead Queenie, she can fight me first,” I stood aside Queenie, who smiled gratefully.
“And me,” Chess shouted.
“And me!” Rabbit joined in. Tarrant grinned.
“I was hoping I wouldn’t have to kill you,”
“Do your worst!” I shouted.
“Very well. Guards! Arrest them for high treason against the crown!”
“Well, we’d love to chat but we must be going!” I shouted. I grabbed Chess, who evaporated, along with me. We rose into the air, invisible to the guards.
“Find them!” Stayne yelled. We closed in behind him. Chess held me by the legs, and I reached down and grabbed him by the throat. With a lot of effort (he’s really heavy) we lifted him into the air.
“Let them go or we kill him!” I yelled as we reappeared. Half the guards dropped their weapons, the other half stopped and stared.
“Go ahead – you aren’t strong enough.” I smiled and tightened my grip. Stayne flailed and gargled.
“Stop!” he choked. I giggled and loosened my grip.
“I’ll do it!” I threatened.
“Don’t trust her!” Stayne yelled. “She’s mad!”
“I’m so very
unpredictable,” I teased, twirling my hair with my free hand. After a minute of hesitation, the other half of the guards dropped their weapons. Queenie, Tarrant (who found all this insanely funny) and Rabbit all ran off.
“They’ve done as you asked, now put me down you freakish lunatic!” I smiled up at Chess.
“If you say so.” Chess and I burst into laughter as I dropped him. Then we dropped to the ground and ran for all we were worth.
We ran right through the castle gates, laughing hysterically. Out of nowhere Rabbit, Queenie and Tarrant appeared. We all ran into the Tulgey wood.
"Where are we going?" Chess asked.
"We can't go back to the tea party right now," Tarrant said.
"Queenie saw the guards waiting for us."
"Miriana's castle?" I suggested. Queeie laughed.
"Do you really want to run all the way there?"
"So where then?" Chess asked.
"The last place we can go," Tarrant sighed. My eyes widened.
"No...no...no no no NONONO! We are NOT going there!"
"Now, Megan...I know you two don't get on - "
"GET ON?? I'd SHOOT the woman if I could! I refuse to set foot in her house! That lumpish common-kissing hugger mugger (shakespeare again, ladies and gentlemen) that -"
"HATTER!" Chess yelled. I coughed and blinked.
"I'm not going," I said quietly.
"You have to," Queenie pleaded.
"Would you rather take your chances with Iracebeth?" Rabbit asked. I nodded.
"Come on Hatter!" Chess said.
"It's only for a few days!" Queenie said. I looked at Queenie. I looked at Chess. I looked at Rabbit. I looked at Tarrant. Ah crap.
"Not 'the look'," I muttered. The look was Tarrant's half minded gaze. It was so pointless it either sent you into hysterics of laughter or made you completely forget what you were talking about.
"Alright alright! I'm coming!" Reluctantly, I ran after them.
"Good," Chess said, elbowing me playfully.
"I can't believe I'm going anywhere between three metres near that...that...THING."
"She can't be that annoying!" Queenie said "...can she?" I shot Queenie a menacing look.
"You're lucky you've never had the misfortune to have to talk to Esmerelda."
"How bad can it be?" Rabbit said, slapping my back. I stared at her menacingly.
"Tarrant!" Esmerelda Tourean, better known as the Duchess, ran from the doorway of her cottage over to us. How she came to live in a cottage, I'll never know. She seemed the type of person who would own a hip London flat (but you don't tend to find them in Underland). She ran over to us and hugged Tarrant tightly. He coughed and held his hands in the air, clearly in a lot of distress.
"Esmerelda," I coughed. "I think you're strangling Tarrant." The duchess blinked, and let go of Tarrant (who slipped behind a tree, gasping for air). She strode over to me, her thin lips tight and unmoving. I think it's safe to say that the Duchess and I did not get along. She was a tall, skinny woman, with blonde hair down to her hips, with long legs. She wore skimpy shorts and I top that barely covered her stomach. I cannot deny, she was very beautiful, but she was so very, very, very
"Harriet," she nodded to me, unsmiling. She was also one of the foolish who continued to believe that my name was Harriet.
"Esmerelda." I tipped my hat forward. The Duchess cast her gaze away from me and spotted Rabbit, Chess and Queenie.
"Who are these lovelies?" she cooed. Her voice made my ears twitch.
"Oh no..." I covered my face with my hands. The Duchess waltzed over to my friends and inspected them.
“Hello there me’dears,” she gargled. She walked slowly around them, and stopped behind Queenie.
“Hello there lovely.” The Duchess placed her chin on Queenie’s shoulder – and I know from experience, her chin is incredibly sharp. I could see Queenie wincing as the Duchess babbled on mindlessly. Nobody paid any attention to her anyway.
“Shall we see ourselves in?” Tarrant asked, suddenly stood next to me.
“If we must,” I sighed. While the Duchess talked the ears off Queenie, Chess and Rabbit (eh, I was in a foul mood – I thought I’d let them handle it for a bit), Tarrant and I entered the cottage.
The first thing I’d do when I entered that cottage was always the same. I’d sneeze. The Duchess’ boyfriend, Thomas Lank, used to be a cook at Salozem Grom. He was absolutely obsessed
with Pepper. Everything had to be overloaded with pepper. Pepper with everything. Ugh. He even put pepper in Tarrant's tea once (Tarrant got REALLY mad, it was so funny).
"Afternoon, Tom," I said bluntly. He raised his hand, not looking up from his cooking pot. He rarely spoke. Barely breathing, Tarrant and I took a seat in the kitchen. There wasn’t really anywhere else to go – the whole house stank of pepper anyway.
“Do we have to stay?” I asked helplessly.
“No,” Tarrant said. I smiled at him hopefully.
“No, we don’t. But I’m not sure we’ll get a very warm welcome anywhere else.”
“Why can’t we go to Miriana?” Tarrant was silent.
“Tarrant? Tell me.”
“I didn’t want to cause a fuss,” he said nervously, shifting on his chair.
“I’m your sister, you can tell me!” Tarrant grinned at me.
“Aren’t you the one who’s always objecting to that statement?” I shrugged.
“It’s useful sometimes, I’ll give you that.” Tarrant smiled.
“Well, I’m not sure if this is of any importance, but Miriana…she’s…”
“WHAT!?” I stood up so quickly my stool toppled over. “Why didn’t you tell us!?” Tarrant bit his lip.
“Didn’t really think it was important.” I sighed, and sat back down.
“Are you mad?” Tarrant squeaked, mimicking Esmerelda’s voice when she was in a row with me. I instantly burst into laughter. Thomas looked up, thinking the Duchess had entered the room, and upon realising it was just the lunatics being lunatics, he went back to his cooking pot. I’m no mind reader, but what he was thinking was obvious.
Why on earth do we have to hide lunatics anyway? If they have no sense left in their heads then what's the point of having one in the first place?
“Because if Hatter didn’t have a head, she’d have nowhere to put her hat!” Queenie laughed entering the room suddenly. My guess had obviously been spot on. Thomas, jumped as she entered. Thomas hated us, but for some reason Queenie scared him the most. Maybe it was the mind reading thing. I never understood why, for I’d always seen Queenie as a kind hearted person, far less threatening than some other people I could mention(except Mally, poor dear she’s so very full of herself, but the truth is your enemies aren’t very scary when you could squish them). Chess, and Rabbit followed, and the three sat down next to me. The Duchess ran over to Thomas (her unfeeling boyfriend I might mention) and began blabbing away again.
“How was your chat?” I asked. Queenie turned to me, a stern look on her face.
“If I’m quite honest, it really was quite pleasant!” I was shocked.
“Of course not! Shoot me now! Please!” I grinned.
“I warned you.”
“Nothing could have prepared us,” Chess groaned. The conversation could not have gone further, for the Duchess decided to turn to us.
“Are you all sitting comfortably?” she asked. Silence. She took this as a yes.
“Well then, Harriet, may I speak with you?”
“No thanks I’m full.” The Duchess stopped smiling. She grabbed my arm and dragged me out of the room.
“Ow! Stop digging your nails into my arm!” she sighed irritably and dragged me up to her room. Fearing the worst, I was forced to follow.
“Now Harriet,” The Duchess sat on the bed. She twirled her hair between her long fingers. Not really paying attention, I sat on my head against the wall, and balanced my hat on my feet. “I know we don’t always get on,” I snorted. “And I’ve tried to be polite, well…at the start.”
“At the start I was polite, but look where we are now!” The Duchess held up her hand.
“If you please. Anyway, we don’t always get on, but there’s something that connects us.”
“And what would that be?” I folded my arms. The Duchess chewed her lip.
“Your brother.”I sat back upright.
“What? What do you want with….Tarrant?” I ground my teeth.
“Well, for the past few months, I’ve developed…” The Duchess wrung her hands. “…feelings, for him.” I stared at her.
“You have a crush on Tarrant?”
“Why do you always call him Tarrant. It’s never ‘my brother’ it’s always Tarrant…”
“Don’t change the subject. Why do you have a crush on Tarrant?”
“It’s not a crush! It’s love…”
“Oh don’t give me that crap. You were ‘in love’ with Miriana’s footman. You were ‘in love’ with Thackery. You were even ‘in love’ with Stayne at one point! So don’t tell me this is love. The man you’re supposed to love is stood in the kitchen all day!” The Duchess sat quietly.
“Well I was hoping you could help me…”
“Oh no!” I held my hands in the air, backing away. “I’m not getting involved!”
“But you’re his sister!”
“Doesn’t mean I’m getting involved in your personal affairs! Let’s face it…we don’t like each other. But I don’t get involved in ANYONE’S personal life. Nobody’s. I know nothing of love. Go ask Chess. I’m done with this conversation.” I strode out of the room, my hat pulled over my eyes. I was amazed that I didn’t crash into a wall.
I didn’t talk with the Duchess for the rest of the day. She kept shooting awkward glances. When I pulled a silly face, she scowled. We pretty much went through the day like that.
That night, I lay awake in my bed.
“Hatter, you awake?”
“Nah I’m just sleeping with my eyes closed.”
Chess giggled from the other side of the room.
“I don’t like it here,” Rabbit sighed, turning over. “It’s weird.”
“I think we all hate it,” Chess said. “Especially Hatter.”
“I can’t help it!” I laughed. “The Duchess really gets on my nerves. And this cottage…something about it makes me really cranky.”
“You don’t look cranky,” Queenie remarked. “You’ve been thinking all day.” I sighed.
“Guys…there may be a teeny tiny, absolutely miniscule
“Who died?” Chess asked, her voice laden with sarcasm.
“Nobody! At least…not yet…” Queenie sat up.
“Hatter, what’s happened?” She asked seriously. I sighed.
“Tarrant may have overlooked a fact,”
“What?” Rabbit asked.
“Miriana might be missing.”
“Oh Hatter!” Queenie gasped. “Why didn’t you tell us?”
“I had bigger fish to fry,”
“Like what?” Chess asked.
“Oh I don’t know…Esmerelda falling in love with Tarrant?”
“Holy shi – “
“CHESS!” I yelled – quietly. “NO SWEARING!”
“How?” Queenie asked. I shrugged.
“I told her I wasn’t getting involved.”
“Let’s hope Thomas doesn’t find out. If he does, we’re history.”
“Let that cook take a shot at me!” Rabbit cried. “I can take on a wooden spoon!” From the corner of my eye, something darted past the door. Without warning, I leapt from my bed and burst out of the room. I jumped into my shoes (I was already fully clothed – I wouldn’t go near the Duchess’ night dresses) and ran down the landing. The shadow thundered down the stairs, and I followed. It ran through the empty kitchen and out the front door. It went to dart around the house, but I threw myself in front of it. I stood in front of it, blocking the path. I glared, then gasped.
“Oh thank god! Tarrant!”
“I-I-I was looking for my hat,” a very bemused Tarrant said. He too was fully clothed.
“What? Are you going somewhere?”
“I was going to get some tea, the supplies are dreadfully low.” I laughed, but stopped in mid laugh as a trumpet sounded in the distance. I turned around in horror.
“Oh no. Not again!”