Of course, if you knew time as well as anyone else in Underland, you wouldn't call it 'it'. Time is a he. And Time is very, very important.
“I’m so happy you came to my concert.”
Iracebeth smiled an indescribable smile--which wavered between ‘sickly-sweet’ and ‘insane psychopath’--At the gentleman in the tailcoat beside her. She was very obviously trying to get on his good side, since he was one of the more powerful people in all of Underland and could probably screw up her life within reasonable limits, given the first chance.
“The pleasure is mine, certainly.” He insisted, looking at three different pocket-watches from the vast array that adorned his outfit: One told the second, the second the minute, and the third the hour. Twelve forty and fifty five, no, fifty eight, sixty! Twelve forty-one it was. He put them back in any pocket of his suit as he asked, “And how is the knave doing, I must know.”
“No, no, the knave of hearts. Jack?”
“Stayne is the knave of hearts.”
He blinked in surprise. Last time he checked, Jack was the knave (As well as Iracebeth’s nephew, though only on her father’s side), though Stayne was the knave of spades. Had he switched sides? “Never mind.”
The two of them walked quietly through the castle at Salazen Grum, not looking at one another, for any number of reasons.
The man beside her was Time himself, and had the immense duty of making sure time worked correctly in all parts of Underland, as well as creating all the flashbacks. As such, he was a very busy man, and people were usually very intimidated by someone with such power, though the red queen (Being the suck-up she was) had gleefully invited him to her very concert, claiming it to be quite the sight.
“I found a new sing-ah
.” She said, emphasizing the second syllable in just her way of doing it. “From Hightopps. Tarrant, his name was. Tarrant Hightopp.”
Hightopps. Time knew of the place, though never paid much mind to it. It existed, so be it. However, there was that one thing . . . He quickly disregarded it. The issue would be brought up later, when he could properly have a word with the page.
They entered the castle’s grand hall and were immediately seated atop a balcony across from the large stage. They were the only two up there for a brief moment before the former knave of spades himself appeared beside his queen. He bowed respectfully. “M’lady.” He then looked over to the man sitting beside her, and giving a look that was hinting something but Time couldn’t tell what, added, “And Time, what a pleasure.”
It didn’t help that he kept the black eyepatch. “Nice to see you again, Stayne. Tell me, what became of Jack?”
He appeared confused. “Jack?”
Time sighed, looking back to the stage. “Never mind.”
The queen and her new knave talked with one another until the red curtain rose, revealing a dotty-looking man with bright orange hair, funny clothes, and a top hat. He was from Hightopps, then, since everyone in that place had the same dottiness about them. He smiled (Which was a tad unsettling for Time) and then said, “I know lots of little ditties, Queeny, which one should I do? I know one from the Mock Turtle or from the flowers, or what about the one from the Duchess, or maybe--”
“I don’t care what you sing, just sing it!” Iracebeth snapped, crossing her arms. “Make it worth my time.”
“Ahem.” Time coughed.
“Pardon the expression.” She muttered bitterly.
He nodded a few times rapidly. “Then there’s one the Hare and I composed! Ahem!” Tarrant stood up slightly taller then before and began to sing:
“Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!
How I wonder what you’re at!
Up above the world you fly,
Like a tea-tray in the--”
At some point, Iracebeth had stood up to lean on the railing of the balcony. She stomped her foot and cried, “He’s murdering the time! Off with his head!”
Time jumped to his feet, advancing nearer to the queen. “Well, I never! And right when you invite me to this very concert, too!” Fumbling in his pocket, he grabbed one particular watch and began twirling the hands backwards faster and faster. Things in the grand concert hall began slowing to a stop, though Stayne walked over calmly and plucked the watch away from Time. “What m’lady means is, he is an utter disgrace to singing anywhere and must be punished. Isn’t that right?”
“OFF WITH HIS HEAD!” She screamed, apparently not listening at all.
He took back his watch, growling at the knave. “’Watch’ it.” He hissed, tapping the watch so it swung a bit, and left the hall in a rage. Well, of all things to say, she had to pick the one phrase that could . . .
Someone tapped his shoulder. He jumped around, starting to twirl the watch’s hands again, only to find a much more gentle female face. “Oh, not now.” He hissed to her, pulling on his coat, irritated. “I’m not in the mood.”
“When will you be?” She replied.
“When that--That Tarrant
pays for this. If he weren’t such a horrible singer--”
“Time.” She said gently. “I didn’t shirk on my chores back at the house to see a singer. I wanted to see you. We haven’t spoken in so long.”
Now Time was just infuriated. “I’m off!” He hissed, turning around and stomping away, calling behind him, “It’s almost tea, and I mustn’t be late. And besides, you have loads of work to do, Mary Ann!”
As he left, Mary Ann sighed. He was right, she knew, and McTwisp would be furious to see she had snuck out again. He hadn’t known of her outings so far, as Pat and Bill rarely noticed her leave (Busy tending the cucumbers and digging for apples), though still . . .
Time marched up through the Red Desert unscathed, went through the door into Hightopps, and went on walking his route until he found Thackery’s windmill and the tea-table in front of it. As he expected, Tarrant, Thackery, and Mallymkun were all having tea together. He loomed over the table, crossing his arms.
Mallymkun was the first to notice him. She yawned from another doze-off, blinked her beady black eyes, and looked up at him. “Oh, hello, Time.” She said with a yawn before sleeping again.
Thackery turned around; smiling best a Hare could smile. “Oh, Time, ‘tis such an honor!”
“You came for tea?” Tarrant smiled as well, and it still unsettled Time.
“No.” He replied bitterly. “I came because you made a mockery of me.”
His smile didn’t waver in the slightest. “Pardon?”
“Iracebeth said you were murdering the time with your singing. Surely you remember that?”
“Oh, you mean the concert! Lovely thing, it was, never saw the executioner so up close before . . . ”
Time wasn’t amused. “So, this is a joke to you, Tarrant? And don’t fool around this time, I know all about what you and McTwisp did at Hightopps.”
“Did what at Hightopps?” Thackery asked, thoroughly confused.
“It.” Mallymkun explained, yawning again as she awoke into half-consciousness.
Tarrant, on the other hand, looked a bit surprised. He had it planned so carefully, he and the rabbit. “Can’t say I know what you mean.” He lied.
Fed up with his faked stupidity, Time cooled himself down before pulling out his watch again and twirling the hands widdershins around and around. “Have fun at tea.” He bit them as he walked away, formulating a plan to meet up with Mary Ann at his house. “It’s going to last quite the while, now.”