Continuing Tales

One Promise Kept: Book 1

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by Manniness

Part 1 of 13

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The soft knock on the door sends the room’s occupant into a frenzy of activity.

“Oh! Oh, you’ve arrived! At last. Come in, come in!”

A tea cup is inspected for dust and other unsightly blemishes before being set down once again on its saucer. It wobbles precariously before sliding into its niche safely. By that time, however, two pieces of silver have been polished on a slightly wrinkled waistcoat, the tea ball – minus the necessary tea – has begun to steep ineffectually in the tepid water of the blue teapot, and the plate of cucumber sandwiches has been turned over to prevent anyone from attempting to eat them now that they’ve been aged in the open air for several hours.

“Don’t dawdle by the door! The tea is ready! Long past ready! Although I... well, that’s not to say you’re late... No, no, I wouldn’t say you’re late, but I am so very glad you’ve come! Sit down! Sit down!”

The man in the room hurriedly strides toward the open door and gestures as if waiting for a lady’s hand to be presented to him. He then mimes guiding her, his invisible guest, to the table. A chair is pulled out and then gently pushed in.

“It’s been so very long since we’ve had tea, hasn’t it, Alice? Would you like a scone? No, no, not one of those.” The offending pastry is thrown in the general direction of the bay window, but bounces against the curtain, releasing a puff of dust.

“Let us see... How about a cake? Here, I know I have a very nice slice of lemon cake here for you... Ah, finally!” The slice hovers over an empty plate for a moment.

The man tilts his head to the side as if listening to his guest. “What was that? No cake?” The serving ware trembles in his pale hands and the slice plops down upon the pristine tablecloth. With a flick of his wrists, the gleaming utensils are tossed over his shoulder, clattering against the wall, and a tray of fruit is slammed down on top of the fallen slice of cake, obliterating it.

“Very well, very well,” the man continues in a calm tone, taking his seat. “Are you quite comfortable with your teaspoon?” he asks seriously and seems to listen quite intently to the reply.

He steeples his fingers and leans toward the chair opposite. His bushy red brows draw together over green eyes that nearly glow with their intensity.

“Alice,” he begins, and the tone of his voice is significant, his lisp endearing, “why is a raven like a writing desk?”

Standing in the doorway to her beloved Hatter’s rooms, Mirana, the White Queen of Underland, closes her eyes and turns away from the scene: nothing has changed. Every week she stops by his apartment in the castle to see how he’s getting on and every week his delusions grow more and more elaborate. She knows what comes next – she’s heard it dozens of times before – but she flinches nonetheless.

“You must speak louder, Alice, I cannae hear ye...” the Hatter murmurs softly, his Outlandish brogue thickening the words and deepening his voice.

And then more forcefully: “I wi’nae speak teh a figment o’ yer imagination!”


Mirana flinches as the teapot with its empty tea ball and tepid water crashes against the wall just an arm’s length from her face. The Hatter leaps upon the table, stomping the overturned plate of cucumber sandwiches with his boot.

The first dozen times she’d seen this particular opera, Mirana had tried to reason with him, calm him, bring him back to the here and now in Underland. And, the first dozen times, it had worked.

However, interrupting his teatime delusions have not been possible for some time now.

Now she knows there is no comfort she can give her very dear old friend that he will accept. No, only one person can reach him. The one person he has been waiting for ever since she’d drunk the blood of the Jabberwocky and disappeared from the checkered battlefield.

Mirana closes the door behind her. And barely a moment later, a teacup – or some other piece of china – explodes against it. For months, Tarrant Hightopp has been waiting for his dearest Alice to return as she’d promised. For months, he’s been hosting these lonely, weekly tea parties before destroying the contents of his parlor. For months, the Queen of Underland has merely watched and waited for a single promise to be kept.

But no longer.

To the casual observer, Mirana seems to wander gracefully through the castle, in the general direction of her office, but actually, the queen is quite intent on her destination. She drifts into the room and, pivoting neatly, closes the door behind her. She considers the calendar on the far wall and sighs. Mirana had hoped to give her dearest Champion a bit more time to return to Underland on her own. After all, there is still time, a bit of time before she will be required to attend to her duties.


The sound of broken glass startles her. Hand fluttering over her heart, Mirana glances outside in time to see a small tea table, draped in a white tablecloth, with a good half of the surviving tea service and silverware settings, crash to her balcony.

Perhaps she shouldn’t have offered Tarrant the room above her study after all...

She approaches the pile of broken engagements slowly, dreading the sight of a certain Hatter following them in his despair. In the open doorway, out of sight, she pauses.

A sob escapes the broken bay window above.


Mirana closes her eyes, recognizing that soft lisp.

“You promised, Alice...”

His tears are silent but not his pain. She flinches as a strangled cry echoes through the valley. Mirana waits, not sure of what she would or could do if her Hatter decides to join the tea table on her balcony. But, in the end, all is silent.

Wiping a tear away, she calls her footmen.

“Please see that Mr. Hightopp is comfortable and, if he is sleeping soundly, perhaps this would be a good time to straighten up his rooms a bit.”

“As you wish, Your Majesty.”

As the frog in the pale gray waistcoat bows himself out, Mirana settles down at her desk and tries to focus on the royal decrees awaiting her seal and signature. But she can’t. With a frustrated growl, she stabs her quill back in its stand and lets her mind wander where it undoubtedly wants to go.

It saddens Mirana that she cannot simply ask Alice to come back for the sake of the Hatter. After all, Alice had promised him she would return. Mirana certainly hadn’t expected Alice to be so long in getting back to him on that. So there had been no reason not to agree to Hatta’s request all those months ago when he’d still been speaking to actual people at teatime:

“Promise me ye wi’ nae bring her back teh Underland. Promise me ye’ll leave her be...”

“Of course, Tarrant. It won’t be long now...”

What a silly, stupid promise Mirana had made.

And she’ll have to keep it.


The White Queen of Underland has been spying on – No, no! Watching over! – her wayward Uplandian Champion for nearly three years.

It had taken a bit of doing, naturally. Absolum’s information had been invaluable in helping Mirana locate the mirror in Alice’s room in Upland and then, when she’d made preparations to sail, both Alice’s ship and the correct mirror aboard it.

Those first few months of Alice’s journey had been a pleasure to watch. The White Queen’s Champion had glowed with pride and purpose. Mirana had nearly pushed through the mirror to ask Alice all about the challenges she must have faced and defeated in her journey thus far. It had been quite obvious that Underland’s Champion had indeed won the right to sail away on that grand vessel on a wondrous journey. Yes, those first months at sea, Alice had been a thing of beauty.

Mirana had even thought to invite the Hatter to share these looking glass visits:

“My dear Hatter, your work is wonderful!” Mirana had exclaimed, modeling the tiniest cap she’d ever seen. It sparkled and shimmered and she imagined it would look undeniably fetching if she put her hair up and perched the hat just so. “I do wish Alice could see your creations! In fact, I should like to ask her what she thinks of this one! There is a way, you know, to see her where she is now, speak with her...”

Still smiling, she’d turned to behold an odd sight: her Hatter, Tarrant Hightopp, staring unblinkingly at the terribly crushed once-had-been-a-hat in his hands.


So very softly, he had murmured, “I was nae talented enough teh keep her. ‘Tis best this way. Were I teh see her again... Nae... Nae. I woul’nae b‘able teh let her leave again...”

Slightly alarmed, the White Queen had pressed, “Tarrant? Are you all right?”

The Hatter had shaken himself, losing his Outlandish brogue. His eyes had flashed peridot green, but his lisp had been light and lilting: “The Alice in my memory is mine. She can’t be taken from me as I’ve already caught her, you see. So, there’ll be no more talk of... Oh! Oh!” He’d finally noticed the remnants of the hat clutched in his fists. “I’d rather liked this one. Pity.”

And then, with bright smile and a cleansing breath, he’d tossed the scraps over his shoulder and reached for another. “Never mind. Never mind. Would you like to try this one, Your Majesty?”

Mirana had glanced at the orange fez he’d offered her. The hat had been so obviously wrong for Mirana that the queen had known immediately that Tarrant had been desperate to change the subject of their conversation. The poor man could barely focus enough to offer her the correct hat!

“Perhaps something in a dark red or violet?” she’d suggested. And she hadn’t imagined the relief in his eyes when he’d jumped to comply.

The White Queen regards her vanity mirror with a sad shake of her head. Oh, how she’d wanted to show him Alice all those months ago! But she’d sensed that seeing Alice with that triumphant smile curving her lips and that light in her eyes, looking every bit the Champion she is... It would have broken her friend in ways she couldn’t have borne. So, the queen had kept this secret window to herself and had contented herself with checking on Alice only once in a while. In silence, Mirana had shared Alice’s good fortune... for as long as it had lasted.

Mirana can’t put her finger on when exactly Alice’s fortune had changed, but recently it has been undeniably obvious how very miserable Alice has become.

Perhaps she misses her family?

Mirana had watched as Alice had written letter after letter to her mother and elder sister. In those times, Alice had seemed to marshal her resolve not cry her heart out. No, those miserable moments had come after the letters to her family had been sealed and put into her jacket pocket for safe keeping.

Time after time, Mirana has watched as Alice had placed a fresh sheet of stationary on her writing desk, had filled her pen from the inkwell, but had written nothing at all. Not with ink at least. Those inkless letters she’d only ever composed with tears.

“Who do you send your tears to, Alice?” Mirana wonders for the ninety-times-ninth time.

With a sigh, Mirana gently waves a hand in front of her vanity mirror and waits as her reflection melts into the dull, shadowy cabin aboard the ship that is carrying Alice across the oceans of Upland. Once again, Alice is at her writing desk and Mirana looks down upon the young woman as she finishes off a letter to her mother. (It had taken a good deal of practice to master the ability to read letters upside-down and through a mirror and Mirana is quite proud of the fact that she’d accomplished it!)

Once again, Mirana watches as Alice folds her letters, seals them in envelopes and once again tucks them into the inside pocket of her jacket, which has been hung on the back of her wooden chair. Again, the White Queen watches as Alice places a fresh sheet on the desk, inks her pen and, with teary eyes, begins the third letter she’s never before managed to write:

My dearest Hatter,

Mirana gasps and presses her face closer to the glass.

I am writing in hopes that you will be able to forgive me for leaving Underland. Although I knew I’d had to go back to England after slaying the Jabberwocky, I should not have kept you waiting so very long.

Alice pauses, bites her lip, and appears to mumble. Unfortunately, due to the glass between them, the queen cannot hear anything from Alice’s side.

Alice takes a deep breath, inks her pen once again, and continues:

I can’t say I regret taking this chance. (I never told you I’d gone into the trading business.) At first, I’d been quite good at it. However, things have not turned out as well as I’d hoped. In fact, I’ve failed miserably.

I wish I’d never left Underland. I fear going back now. I’ve nothing to tie me here but it feels as if I’m running away. A coward. What has happened to the girl who slew the Jabberwocky? When I look in the mirror, I no longer see her. I can’t help but wonder if I might find her reflected in your eyes, were I to sit with you at your tea table again.

I think I’ve lost my muchness. And I’m not sure I’ll be able to find it again. So, perhaps this is all for the best: you deserve a much better friend than a woman who passes each hour wishing for nothing more than to hide from her troubles.

I am so sorry Hatter. I miss you dreadfully. Would you welcome me back if I were to come? Would you think any less of me for running away from my failures?

You are, as always, in my thoughts.

Yours utterly,


Mirana sniffs delicately and wipes a tear from her eye. After a series of eyelash fluttering blinks, she notices that Alice is speaking again and this time, Mirana dares to hear the words. She presses her face against the glass until the salty, humid sea air assaults her senses. She wrinkles her nose when she notices the air is heavy with not only the ocean’s breath but with the scent of unwashed bodies and closed doors and latched windows. She presses a bit further until one ear passes through the glass.

“Ridiculous, Alice. What was gained by writing that rubbish down? Do you feel any better now? Of course not. Why not stare at your failures a bit longer? Perhaps give yourself a paper cut and rub a bit of salt in it for good measure!”

Mirana presses a bit further until her entire face and both ears have emerged from the glass. Alice does not notice. The White Queen looks down upon the young woman’s unwashed hair as she pillows her forehead on her folded arms. In her right hand, the letter to Tarrant has been crushed, reminding the queen of the hat she’d never had the opportunity to try on.

Oh, Alice. How I wish I could ask you to come back...

Mirana closes her eyes and withdraws from the cabin mirror.

“This cannot go on,” the White Queen declares to her lace handkerchief.

Of course, she would never have expected Fate to overhear her... much less agree.


“Tarrant, thank you so much for making this delivery today.” The White Queen rises and drifts over to the tea service. “Can I offer you a cup of Throeston Blend?”

In unnerving – but unfortunately characteristic – silence, the Hatter sets a smallish hatbox down on the flagstones and takes a seat. “Thank you,” he replies demurely, accepting the beverage.

The queen tries not to stare at him but Tarrant Hightopp’s un-Saturday behavior never ceases to frighten her. (In a quiet way, of course, as her Hatter is so much more quieter on these days. As silent as an asteroid that falls from the sky without appearing to move. She cannot help waiting for the inevitable impact.)

Mirana takes note of his eyes and reads his mood: again those once-was-ever-bright green eyes have dulled to a wishy-washy, foul-storm green-gray. She sees dark shadows beneath the mercury stains around those eyes as well. Over the years, his hair has grown longer, but she guesses that it has not been washed in days. Perhaps not since last Saturday. The queen redirects her gaze to her cup and reaches for the cream, trying not to look alarmed at how completely her Royal Hatter is falling apart.

After a moment, Mirana clears her throat. “I would like to ask for your advice, if I might.”

Tarrant takes an automatic sip of his tea and stares into its depths. “If it pleases Your Majesty.”

Ignoring that frustratingly bland acquiescence, she forges onward, “I’m in a bit of quandary: A very good friend of mine is in trouble. This trouble could easily be remedied if not for one complication.”

Mirana watches her guest gaze into his tea, his neglected eyebrows twitching occasionally but his eyes remaining that horrible, lifeless, muddy green.

“It’s a promise, you see,” Mirana continues. “My promise to you, Tarrant.”

The Royal Hatter says nothing. His fingers curl tighter around the tea cup.

“Please, permit me to break it...”

NO!” An instant after the outburst, the teacup explodes in his hands.

The queen ignores the droplets of tea staining her dress and dripping down her nose. “Stop this, Tarrant! She’s miserable! You’re miserable! Allow me bring her home!

Tarrant’s eyes begin to simmer a yellowish green-gray. She ignores his anger and pulls him toward the vanity mirror against the wall of her office. “Cease this exercise in foolishness, Tarrant, and just look at her.”

Mirana grips his shoulders and holds him in front of the mirror. She can’t force him to open his eyes or even turn his head toward it, however. But she can see the dingy cabin well enough over his shoulder. Alice is there, as she nearly always is at this time of day. She’s sitting on her bed, pulling on her boots. Despite the steadiness of the image, Alice has trouble standing and she looks alarmingly pale and worn. The queen watches her stagger to the door and disappear into the hall.

Although there’s nothing much to be seen in the mirror anymore, Mirana doesn’t dispel the image. She drops her hands from his shoulders and – grasping his elbow –turns him toward her so that she might look Tarrant in the eyes. Seeing them pressed tightly closed, she sighs.

“Did you even look at her?”

“Ye...” The arm under her hand shudders. “Ye’ve been... watchin’ her?

“I have.”

“Ye... promised me...”

“I promised I wouldn’t bring her back to Underland. And that promise, Tarrant Hightopp, has become Alice’s punishment! Do you understand what I’m telling you? She wants to come home! Not in a month or a year but right this instant!”

Tarrant steps back. His expression is meek, his eyes murky once again. Mirana is not surprised to hear his courteous lisp rather than the impassioned brogue. “Then she’ll have to find her way back to us on her own.” He bends and retrieves the hatbox from the floor and places it on the vanity. “Your hat, Your Majesty. If you have further requests, please advise me.” With that, the Royal Hatter turns toward the door.

Deflated, defeated, and dreadfully frustrated, Mirana tells him, “I’ll not bring her through, but I’m not closing this mirror to her.”

Mirana watches him hesitate to take his next step, and hope rises within her...

And then is squashed flat as he continues out the door.

He doesn’t even slam it behind him.

Mirana stares after him for a moment before sinking down onto her vanity bench. With the closed office door before her, and the secured cabin door behind her, Mirana has never felt more trapped.


Unfortunately, it’s her chief of staff, a gryphon called Fenruffle, who suffers from her distraction that afternoon.

“Your Majesty?” he prompts her.

“Yes, yes, I’m listening.”

“Ah, of course.” He clears his throat. “Then, what has Your Majesty decided to do about the Wooing Rites?”

“Yes, that’s fine.”

“I beg your pardon, Your Majesty, but, as reassuring as it is to hear you say that, it won’t help me allocate castle resources should you decide to host the customary banquet at the opening of the event.”

“A banquet? For whom?” She blinks in an attempt to clear her thoughts.

Fenruffle closes his golden eyes and, with an air of regal suffering, explains, “The candidates, Your Majesty, for the Wooing Rites.”

“Well, but, it’s a bit early to be thinking about that just yet...”

“It’s a well-known fact that Your Majesty has chosen a Champion. And, according to the laws of Underland, any eligible male may ask for your hand in marriage. We’ve received several inquiries. Especially recently.”

Mirana smiles away her irritation. “Ah, yes. I see. Well, they are welcome to try to win my favor as soon as my Champion returns.”

Fenruffle gives her a long look. “It has been three years, two weeks, and six days since the Jabberwocky was slain by your Champion...”

“Yes, of course. I have been keeping an eye on the date.”

“Hmm. So I shall instruct your secretary to dispatch replies explaining that your Champion will be available to answer their challenges by the Dimmer Solstice? That will give Alice more than sufficient time to evaluate the candidates before her other obligations become pressing.”

The White Queen smiles at him. “I haven’t decided on the banquet yet. I’ll just... consult with... and I’ll... let’s see... How does next Monday morning sound? We’ll have a full discussion of these issues then.” Is it wrong of her to hope that something woefully catastrophic will happen before then that will relegate the issue to the waste bin? Mirana winces.

Fenruffle gathers himself. She pretends not to see his fierce frown. “Very well, Your Majesty.”

Mirana watches him go, sighing with relief only when the gryphon is out of sight. She stares around her at the Royal Library and slumps very uncharacteristically in her very comfortable chair. Her intention of spending her one free afternoon this week by researching other ways of bringing someone to Underland unintentionally has been completely circumvented.


She returns the dusty tomes she’d selected to their places and sweeps out of the room, up the stairs, and down the hall to her office. She reaches out a hand to open the door, but the doorknob stops her.

“The Hatter’s inside,” the latch says with a disdainful sniff. “Sitting at Your Majesty’s vanity. Can’t see what he’s doing, but I’ve a bet with Seamus across the hall he’s trying on Your Majesty’s rouge.”

“Thank you for the warning,” Mirana whispers and eases open the door.

She smiles with relief at the sight of a man with wild, orange hair sitting on her vanity bench. He reaches out a hand to the mirror in front of him.

He says nothing, but she can hear the echo of a name in the room nonetheless: “Alice...”

Mirana glides across the threshold and closes the door. Tarrant doesn’t move from his seat. The White Queen crosses the room and lays a hand gently on his shoulder.

“How is she, Tarrant?”

“If not for the weariness about her... rather... thwumpished.”

“Indeed she is,” Mirana says, glancing in the mirror at Alice as she sits at her writing desk, attempting to complete a report. The pen leaps across the page so much that Mirana can barely make out two words out of ten.

“It must be a very bad storm,” she murmurs.

On the bench, Tarrant stills. “Storm?”

“Undoubtedly. It’s been going on for quite a while. Since this morning.” After all, Alice doesn’t normally stagger from left to right on her way out the door. Eyeing the report through the looking glass, Mirana frowns as she reads the following words:

Lost five men...

Sails irreparable...

Alice puts her pen down and presses a fist to her mouth. Mirana winces at the woman’s pallor and the dark circles beneath her eyes. Now that she’s looking, she can see Alice’s clothes are completely soaked and her hair is a tangled mess!

Without any warning whatsoever, Alice tumbles from her chair and over her upended bed. Mirana gapes as Alice crashes against the wall, raising her arms just in time to stop the chair from striking her in the head. She manages to twist out of the way before the writing desk tips over onto her against the wall.

Tarrant gapes. “That...! What...?”

In the mirror, Alice scrambles for the door, pushing up against the wall and bracing her arms against the ceiling, as if the ship has turned on its side. She reaches for the door latch, but pauses. Mirana follows her Champion’s horrified gaze to the seawater rushing in between the door and the frame.

Frozen with horror, the queen doesn’t even flinch as Tarrant stands, grasps the vanity mirror with both hands and bellows: ALICE!

The water in the tilted cabin has risen to Alice’s ankles now and Mirana wonders how much longer the flimsy-looking door will be able to withstand the weight of the water.

“Tarrant,” she whispers. “Let me save her. Please.”

She places a hand on his arm. His fingers uncurl from the mirror frame and fist at his sides but his gaze never wavers from the looking glass. “No.”


Mirana stares at him but his voice is calm, steady. His Outlandish brogue is a vague memory in his words: “No, I’ll do it. Just be ready to pull us through.”

The queen lunges as he tenses, readying himself to leap through the mirror. “You can’t! The mirror’s not large enough on the other side! Just your head and one arm. Do you understand? That’s all that’ll fit.” And thank the Fates she’d investigated those dimensions herself not too long ago!

She examines his profile. Mirana knows they don’t have time for this conversation, especially when she still needs to locate the dose of Pishsalver Alice will need. But they have even less time for ill-prepared heroics that get both her Champion and her Hatter killed.

“Only your head and your arm, Tarrant!”

He nods, whips off his hat, and leans down, pressing his face against the mirror. Mirana doesn’t linger, watching him sink into the looking glass up to his neck. The water’s at Alice’s knees now. And there’s a Shrinking Potion to be found.

One Promise Kept: Book 1

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by Manniness

Part 1 of 13

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