Knock, knock, knock.
Mary Ann knocked thrice on Time’s door, then just opened it and walked in, rendering the action useless. “Time?”
He turned around, adjusting his suit coat, which looked more rumpled then usual. She laughed a little. “What happened to you?”
“I’ll put it this way--I must label the bottles I have around here.”
Time was a disorganized person. You didn’t need to be his closest friend (Being Mary Ann herself) to know that: If the watches shoved into any pocket didn’t clue you in, if you were to peek inside his house you would see hourglasses and sundials just thrown about anywhere with Grandfather clocks standing in every corner. A roll-top desk was against one wall, with papers just thrown everywhere and a small crank-powered projector leaned against it, which he used to make flashbacks. Empty and filled bottles were thrown anywhere, as well as plates of cookies and cakes and baskets of mushrooms he got as gifts. He promised himself once or twice he would tidy up, though never lived up to that promise.
She chuckled again, though suddenly grew serious. “I wanted to talk to you about the incident at Hightopps.”
That set him off nicely. “That rabbit and the hatter should have known better then to do something as stupid as that! Make another mockery of me; hide the door at noon sharp, clever, clever, as though I wouldn’t find out!” He started pulling watches out of his pockets, setting them on the desk. “Just a shortcut to the Red Desert, nothing more, ugh! I ought to have all the clocks in Underland destroyed.”
Mary Ann bit the inside of her cheek. If there were two things you should know about Time, it was that he was very disorganized and could rant about anything, given he had strong enough feelings on the topic. “McTwisp didn’t mean any harm.”
“Nobody ever does, but once you hide the shortcut to the Red Desert at noon sharp, you’ve passed the line.”
“What line, exactly?”
“Just . . . The line. I don’t know.”
“I just wanted to say a shortcut to Salazen Grum is always welcomed.” Her eyes glinted for no particular reason. “I daresay you’ve used it yourself?”
Time couldn’t object to that like he so desperately wanted to. He decided to object anyway, since he wasn’t letting her have the last word. “Not when I can avoid it.”
Deciding this conversation was going nowhere, Mary Ann rubbed her hands together. “I heard the white queen’s going to be having a party.”
“Mirana?” Time looked thoughtful. Mirana always threw better parties then Iracebeth, he knew. “Will there be jam?”
“I’m not sure. She didn’t say if it took place tomorrow or yesterday.”
Naturally, Mirana didn’t consider the pressing issue of jam. “We shouldn’t count on it, then. Which is a shame, I need something to off-set all that pepper the duchess puts in everything.”
Mary Ann laughed again, only for someone to knock on the door. She began walking over, as though to open it, then stopped and laughed sheepishly. “Ah, that’s for you, isn’t it?”
Time gave a nod. “Correct as usual.” He smiled as he walked over and opened the door. His eyes lit up when he saw just who it was, though--Two men who bore a striking resemblance to Tarrant and Thackery, although in Thackery’s case, more human. “Hatta and Haigha!” (Should you be wondering, you should say ‘Haigha’ to rhyme with ‘mayor’) “What brings you two here? Not in trouble with the law again, I hope.”
“Oh, no, no.” Hatta laughed, smiling. “Well, not yet, but you know the white queen, she might incriminate me anyway! Anyway, we have message. From the king!”
He smiled. “Do you? Well, tell me it. It isn’t nice to waste my time.”
After a brief pause to deduct if that statement was redundant or not, they decided it wasn’t worth the effort as Hatta took out a piece of parchment and read: “Dear Mister Time, Mirana and I humbly ask of you to simply attend our conference meeting for our party to be taking place at a later date, because we have a feeling of who’s to come and wanted to send these in advance. Signed, White Queen and King. PS, I am about to accidently get a paper cut. It hurts badly.”
Time nodded. “Yes, I don’t see a reason why I can’t attend. We must disembark immediately, though, Marmoreal is a rather far place from here. Mary Ann, will you be coming along?”
She seemed surprised Time even offered she come, though shook her head. “McTwisp doesn’t know I’m out again.”
“Oh, who’s in trouble with the law, now?” Hatta teased, and the two messengers laughed.
Mary Ann frowned, crossing her arms. “McTwisp doesn’t do anything about it, and your queen can’t arrest me, since I don’t live in Marmoreal.”
“Now, if you did, it would be different.” Hatta and Haigha laughed again. “You’d be serving time before you did the crime itself!”
“Now, now. We won’t be discussing the court systems now.” Frankly, Time thought that both courts were shams, even if Mirana was generally fairer. Though, even then, serving time before you did anything wrong was just as bad as the sentence-first-verdict-afterward motto Iracebeth’s courts went with. “We’re going to need some way to get to Marmoreal, won’t we?”
“Oh, we thought of that.” Hatta smiled, pointing behind him with his thumb. “We got the Unicorn.”
“A Unicorn? A
They both nodded. “We stopped him from fighting with the Lion just long enough for him to do it.”
Time tapped his foot, annoyed. “And how are we all supposed to fit atop one Unicorn?”
As though this were a very obvious answer, they both took out little bottles of liquid. “Cheers!”
Time sighed. The white king really thought of everything, didn’t he? “Alright, if you insist on doing it that way, I’ll meet you out by the Unicorn. Mary Ann?”
Her wandering attention suddenly snapped back to him “Y-yes?”
“Go on back to McTwisp. I’ll meet you, ah, when I get back.”
She nodded, curtsied, and scurried out of Time’s house. When he saw she was over the horizon, he sighed and walked out by the white Unicorn. He didn’t speak to it, and neither did the beast to him, and there was an increasingly awkward silence between them before a little voice piped, “Well, go on, Unicorn! Ay-up!”
Time hardly had any (and pardon the slight redundancy) time to mount the Unicorn before it took off straight for Marmoreal, galloping at speeds unknown and leaping over any obstacles high enough to leap over. He had never had such a ride.
“My money’s on the Unicorn, personally.” Haigha said out of nowhere, as though conversation were an easy thing to do on a Unicorn. “He’s already the king’s knight, so he already has the crown. Winning by default, as they say. What do you think, Time?”
Time hissed, “I wouldn’t know, I don’t take sides in anything!”
“I asked the Tweedles, and they said the same thing. However, I don’t see why they’re not taking sides, both of ‘em are white rooks, all the same. They were hunting those green pigs, though . . .”
Haigha was one to never have a point to his conversations. Then again, all important things were said while coming, and as Hatta was assigned to coming and Haigha to going, what could you do?
“Do you know anything about Jack, the knave?” Time asked suddenly, wondering if Stayne had really been the knave all this time and he just kept calling him Jack.
“Knave of what, that’s a vital detail.”
“Hearts, of course.”
“I don’t look into hearts much. It’s all clubs and diamonds, isn’t Hatta?”
“Clubs, mostly.” He replied, and then resumed his silence.
Of course the messengers of the white king wouldn’t know a thing about who the knave of Salazen Grum was. What was he thinking? Time ducked his head lower so his nose was touching the Unicorn’s mane, scared of the roaring speeds at which they were going, and said no more.
And just as suddenly as the trip began, it ended in front of the large, white castle of Marmoreal. Sighing in relief, Time slid off the Unicorn and bid him goodbye, knowing the creature was probably contemplating battle tactics for when it fought the Lion again. Wherever Hatta and Haigha got off to, he didn’t know, and didn’t particularly care as he walked up to the castle door briskly.