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Once we were a scattered people. Different tribes. Different kingdoms. Different worlds. We knew of each other in a distant sort of way. The same way you are aware there other people in other countries. We did not intermingle though. There were no laws against it, as there were no common laws. We simply minded our own, and left others to theirs. The Dark Lord took advantage of our indifference to one another. Used it against us. I had heard of an upheaval in the land of Oz. A shake up in the rulership of the winkie people. Like thunder in the far distance. Some of us may have looked up, but most did not take notice. Every one knows happily ever after is an oxymoron, after all.
Then Narnia fell. And a few more of us looked up. It was rumored that the Dark Lord had Jack Frost himself in his employ, and that Narnia had been reduced to a frozen wasteland. The inhabitants that did not surrender or run, were put to the sword without mercy. The survivors had turned as one, troll and goat. Living tree and fire elemental. Vampires and fairy. Having a common enemy for the first time ever, and had fled together to the gates of that realm. I learned all this from a faun who had fled from Narnia. He had a queer name. Mr... something. Started with a T. Poor fellow died from injuries he had sustained. He claimed he could trace his blood back to Pan himself, but don't they all?
Then Neverland fell beneath the Dark Lords boot. Peter Pan and his lost boys fought the invaders to the last man. But arrows and knives are little use against tin soldiers. I've heard they fed Captain Hook to that old crocodile feet first. And Peter, well, I'll let Tinkerbell tell that story. Of course we realized far too late that we were being surrounded. That they wanted our lands too. No one was overly surprised when the Red Queen signed her kingdom over to the Dark Lord. And I wasn't surprised when he ordered her head be cleaved from her shoulders the moment she ordered her playing card soldiers to follow the Dark Lord's orders. Cheshire Cat was our spy in the effort. He was reluctant, and hard to coerce at the best of times. But he understood at the end of the day, that Wonderland would fall under oppression, unless every able-bodied citizen did their part for the war.
Humpty Dumpty, gods bless him, he was all ready to lead the charge against card soldiers, tin soldiers. And the Jabberwock itself, if it felt so brave. If our stronger residents had been so patriotic as him, I believe we would have won that first day. Given his frail nature (he was an egg after all) I ordered him to man the looking glass. Which the White Queen and ordered my company to guard. If the Looking Glass gate fell, then there would be no stopping the Dark Lord from taking all the fable lands.
We had to stop him here. To save countless other lands.
Cheshire arrived without his usual flare, or grin. "Report Ches." I ordered. He knew the drill, but battlefield habits are hard to break.
"There's a battalion on the march." He wrung his paws nervously.
"How many Ches." I asked softly, knowing the answer.
"All of them love. All the card soldiers, the tin soldiers, and the jabberwocky."
I knew this day was coming. Had known for a while. The Dark Lord had grown sick of playing war games, and was ready to step on the last of the resistors in one swoop. "Inform the White Queen. Then get your furry duff through the Looking Glass."
"Alice..." He began.
"That's an order private. Now report to your queen." He disappeared without further protests, as I knew he would. No one wants to be thought a coward. Especially not a coward. Our company had suffered greatly since the start of the invasion. The mock turtle was the first to fall in battle. The tin soldiers hacked him to bits, fluid leaking from their eyes the whole time. No one knew why they cried, but it was believed to be psychological. To make us hesitate at the killing blow.
The war is mostly fought by white knights now. But they were being wiped out everyday. My group fell back on guerrilla warfare. Attacking halted marches, and at night, spurning the company motto "who needs sleep?". It wasn't fair fighting, but we couldn't afford to lose. So we cheated. But now it seemed all we really did was delay things a bit.
"I'm investigating things that begin with the letter M." The Hatter mumbled to himself. "Mid-day marches. Massacre. Madness. Misery." He had inconsolable since the March Hair was killed. We were out numbered, and I made the call to retreat. But Marchy wasn't with us when we made camp. The Dark Lord had his pelt delivered to Hatter ion a white box neatly wrapped with a ribbon. I won't say what we did to the messenger, but it counts as a war crime.
Ches appeared again before me. He couldn't raise his eyes to mine though. "We gave it a good go, didn't we?" I knew what he wanted. And what the hell. He had earned it.
"Cheshire Cat. You have served your kingdom, and your queen to the best of your abilities. You are freed from your oath of service. Fare farren Ches." I scratched his chin for what I was sure was the last time. He was a good character in his own right.
After he was gone I sat down next to the Hatter who was playing the company march on his harmonica. With his nose. Always an odd fellow, that one. But I couldn't help but smile when he looked at me sideways and winked.
The White Queen gave her final address to the troops that day.
"Citizens of Wonderland, you have fought bravely for our homeland. But...." She hesitated, "....we have lost Wonderland to the Dark Lord." That wasn't news to anyone. But hearing it from her still made my heart sink a little. We would have fought to the last man if she had asked us. But to hear her say it just made our defeat official. "But we cannot let the Looking Glass gate fall into the Dark Lords hands." She looked at me sitting next to the Hatter. "After everyone is through, the Looking Glass must be destroyed to prevent the Dark Lord from following. There are other gates, but this will slow him down greatly. Perhaps giving others time to succeed where we have failed."
So there it was. One last mission. A suicide mission. But if it only annoyed the Dark Lord, then it was worth it. Hours passed while the people, and animals, and more then a few potted flowers went through the gate. Let it be a testament to the queens reign, that she waited till the last butterfly had gone through before moving towards the gate herself. I assumed she was giving me the chance to say good bye to Hatter.
And I was right, in a way.
She nodded in my direction, and then stepped through the Looking Glass. By then we could hear the tireless march of tin feet hitting the ground, and we both knew they were almost upon us.
"I suppose you should be going then Hatter." I stepped away from him, trying very hard to keep the tears back. Of all the Wonderlanders, he was my best friend.
"Tell me Alice, do you have any idea why a raven is like a writing desk?" He asked. I knew from experience he was wearing the lopsided hopeful grin. As if today of all days I would answer his none sense riddle. It was a running joke between us.
"I....I haven't a clue." I replied. And the tears came then. The hot tears of sorrow that cannot, nor should be, contained inside. I heard him step up besides me, and felt him wrap his arms around my trembling body and held me.
“I wonder if the snow loves the trees and fields, that it kisses them so gently? And then it covers them up snug, you know, with a white quilt; and perhaps it says "Go to sleep, darlings, till the summer comes again.”
"Will the Summer come again?" I asked him, but rather then answer me, he walked me slowly to the gate.
"It will, but not yet. And not if you fall today."
"Wait! Hatter! I am under orders---"
"We all have our orders Alice." He replied softly, kissing the back of my head, and pushed me through the mirror even as the first tin soldiers appeared in the clearing. I realized too late I still held the Vorpal blade. But of course he had known. Because the enemy couldn't get his hands on the Vorpal sword. It would be years before I learned of my friends final fate. And it cost me a lot of money to use the magic mirror in Fable town. And this is what happened....
"Afternoon ladies! I would invite to you tea, but we're terribly over crowed already." He gestured to the dormouse next to him with one hand, while holding a teacup with one foot, and leaning on his sword like a cane.
"Overcrowded." The dormouse squeaked, and faked a yawn. "Not enough real sugar cubes for all the imaginary tea."
"Quite right! Molly. Unless....we could imagine more sugar cubes."
"Not much of an afternoon tea with imaginary tea, and imaginary sugar cubes." The dormouse pointed out.
"We'll just have to bake more imaginary scones then." He nodded.
"Enough of this madness!" The captain of the card soldiers said. "Step aside from the mirror Hatter, and be granted a merciful death."
"Oh you're here for the Looking Glass. Huzzah! We shan't have to share our imaginary tea after all." He leaned his head to one side then, a sly smile stretching across his face. "But there are many of you, and only one mirror. Shame there's not two. Or seven. Or a hundred. Or even five! Imagine that Molly. Five looking glasses. It boggles the mind. Let's see how many we can make." He swung his sword then, smashing the Looking Glass to pieces with a crash. "Calu! Caley!" He giggled, and began to dance on the pieces. His victory was short lived though, as his arms were each held by a tin soldier. The card soldier commander grabbed Hatter's throat in a choke hold as he was forced down on his knees on the broken shards of glass.
"We know how the gate works you gabbling idiot." The card commander sneered. "We will simply out it back together. It will take time, but its not impossible." Hatter raised one hand, unable to speak while being choked. "Last words then?"
"Ack--The mirror will only work--ach--with every piece." He smiled then. "And you don't have every piece."
"The dormouse!" The commandeer yelled, realization crossing his face. Molly, of course, had made off with the smallest sliver of mirror while Hatter distracted the tin soldiers, without which the looking glass was just a reflective surface. Molly escaped through another gate, and had adventures of her own. But that's another story.
For his bravery, the Hatter paid with his life. His sacrifice stopped the Dark Lord from flooding a hundred unprepared worlds, and saved who knows how many fables in the process. May his final act never be forgotten.
As for me, I await the day we retake the homelands from under the Dark Lords black boot. And I intend to remove his head from his shoulders myself.