Continuing Tales

One Promise Kept: Book 2

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by Manniness

Part 17 of 17

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Wednesday mornings are one of his favorite times of the week. (Not counting the Alice times, of course, like early mornings and afternoon tea and dinnertime and late evenings and the delightfully sensual occasions that follow afterwards! Although, Wednesday mornings are nearly as enjoyable, if for vastly different reasons. Still, just because the reason is different does not make it any less of a reason at all. No, not... yes, still a good... very much so. Exactly!)

The kitchen is full to bursting with noise. Very enjoyable noise. Surprisingly enjoyable noise considering the fact that Tarrant normally complains of crowded places and such... well, unless there’s the opportunity to Futterwhacken, for Alice always and unfailingly requests to see the dance. And even though it makes him feel like a bit of a twiterpated Dodo showing off for his mate, Alice never withholds the smile of pure satisfaction and delight which is – in his opinion – the epitome of all conceivable rewards. Well, with the exception of perhaps...

Tarrant shakes himself briefly and does his best not to think about... about... hm, yes, very wonderful Alice times...

Futterwhacken! He reminds himself sternly.

And although Tarrant is quite enjoying himself, now is not the time for a bit of Futterwhacken. No, not now. Perhaps in a few years the queen might permit him... Yes, perhaps then... But no, not at the present time. At the present time, the twin girls currently flinging spoonfuls of Upelkuchen batter at each other are still a bit young to be thinking about Futterwhackening.

Alicibeth, Tarranya... what I have I told you about looking after magical substances?” the queen asks in a gently chiding tone.

Alicibeth replies dutifully – just as a perfect Princess of the White Realm would! “Magical things have a mind of their own. Don’t let them wander off.”

Tarranya sticks her tongue out at her twin sister’s perfect answer.

“Precisely,” Mirana replies, bending carefully – mindful of her swollen belly – and attempts to coax Thackery out from under the long table.

“The crisis is over, Thackery,” the queen urges. “Come out now.”

“No! No! No! No’ lookin’, Yer Majesty! No‘til th’ Upelkuchen faeries arrive an’ clean i’tall up!” the hare insists.

Sighing, Mirana abandons Thackery to his pot of tea, assortment of yet-to-be-broken teacups and plate of crumpets. Unwrapping one arm from around the warm, wiggling weight against his chest, Tarrant pours the queen a fresh cup of tea and slides the plate of tomato sandwiches in her direction.

“Jam?” he asks solicitously.

“Hm. Thrambleberry, please,” she replies, accepts the jar, then drops a dollop onto a tomato sandwich.

He giggles. Watching the queen eat through a very creative combination of foodstuffs is also quite amusing. And yet another reason why he enjoys Wednesday mornings so much!

After consuming the condiment-adorned sandwich, Mirana dabs her mouth with a snowy white napkin and holds out her arms in his direction. “Thank you, Tarrant. I can take Thacie now.”

“It’s no trouble! Trouble, trouble, ‘twon’t be double!” he sing-songs at the baby girl. He wiggles his rather distinctive eyebrows and the infant chortles and waves her arms toward his vibrant hair.

He feels his hat shift at a rather decisive tug on the sash dangling down his back. Turning, he grins at the toddler who only has eyes for the swaying length of fabric. “Hat! Hat!” she exclaims.

“Hello, there, Princess Amallya. You’d like a hat?” he inquires. “Or would that be a hat-hat? As in two hats? For two different days of the week or would you like them stackable? A stacking hat? Stack, hack, sack, sat?” He reaches out and tickles her chin and neck with his bandaged fingers.

She squeals and races pell-mell over to her mother and hides behind the queen’s voluminous, shimmering skirt. The queen pets her daughter’s hair. In Tarrant’s arms, Thacie begins to fuss so he dips his un-bandaged and non-scratched pinkie into the small pitcher of cream before easing it into the baby’s mouth.

“Hatter,” the queen says. When he looks up, he can’t help but smile in reply to her gentle, relieved grin. “You are a miracle,” she informs him.

He giggles. “That’s the second contradictory statement you’ve made today, Your Majesty. I can’t be a hatter and a miracle, both.”

“Oh, I don’t know...” she muses with a thoughtful expression. “Alice might provide quite a bit of evidence to the contrary.”

Tarrant grins, delighted and amused at the idea.

“What was my first contradictory statement today?” she presses, lifting Amallya up into her lap when the girl begins to climb up the queen’s knees.

He feels himself frown at the now-dozing infant. He wants to be happy. He wants to giggle and make rhymes and play peek-a-boo with the queen’s children, but the thought he’s experiencing is far too much for him to fit both it and frivolity in his head at the same time.

He says tentatively, “That I’m a good father.”

“And how is that contradictory?”

“I’m not a father. Won’t be... Can’t be...” Shouldn’t be?  Alice has never asked me to be...

The queen sighs, visibly upset with... something. “It was simply a remark on your enduring patience and caring nature, Tarrant. Don’t let me upset you.”

“Yes, Your Majesty.” Somehow, he finds his smile again. And just in time for the frontal assault he receives from a suddenly not-so-shy Princess Amallya.

“Och! Ye’ve caught me!” he burrs in a dramatic whisper.

She ducks under the bench and Tarrant waits for what he knows must be coming and... there! Another tug on his top hat’s dangling sash. He’s about to remind her that his hat is much too large for an Amallya head and she’ll tumble into it and get lost if she keeps this up when, suddenly, the hat is not pulled but lifted from his head.

Looking up, he grins. Alice smiles back then leans down to press a kiss to his cheek. “Having fun?” she asks.

“Always!” he declares, squashing the twinge of disappointment when he realizes he hadn’t even heard the door open or his wife’s footsteps.  His gaze drops to the hat Alice holds in her hands. He watches as her fingertips brush over the fabric in little unconscious motions. “Are ye goin’teh keep it safe f’r me?” he asks her.

“I suppose I ought to,” she answers, sitting down next to him. “That’s what I do.”

And finally his giggle finds him, too. “A Champion of hats!”

“Just one hat,” she amends.

He watches as she lifts it and aligns it with her head.

“Ask an’ give!” he reminds her.

Alice merely smiles and places his top hat on her head.

Tarrant feels his heart skip a beat. He’s pretty sure it’s from Delight, but there’s also Possession and a good deal of Anticipation thrown in.

“Alice?” the queen gently interjects.


Mirana clears her throat. “About that discussion we had a... while ago?”

Alice frowns, blinks, and then – oddly enough – looks abashed. “Er, what about it?”

“I thought you were intending to...”

“Ah, right, well. I thought I’d just wait a bit and see what the Oraculum had to say about it.”

The queen sighs, sounding vaguely exasperated. “Alice, I’ve promised to tell you if either Absolem or I have found any indication of... future unfortunate events.”

“I... I know. I’m just...” She huffs out a sigh. “Sorry.”

“Hm,” the queen says. That and no more. She glances down at Thackery and Amallya’s tea party under the table before standing and wandering over to the stove. “Time to put them to bed in their pans, dears,” Mirana instructs her daughters after inspecting the contents of their mixing bowls.

“Alice?” Tarrant whispers.

She turns and focuses her attention on him. “Yes?”

“Why were you consulting the Oraculum?” His arms tense but do not tighten as he considers the possibility of another battle, or worse – Alice departing for Upland. Surely, she must miss her world at times! Perhaps he could go with her... Yes, it’s true the thought of Up There is a terrifying one, but he much prefers it to letting her leave him behind again!

Baby Thacie whimpers and Alice reaches out to pet the little girl’s feather-soft hair. “Everything’s fine,” she assures him. “I suppose I’m just worried about the future. Life has been so peaceful and perfect and...”

“Yes,” he agrees. Their life has been peaceful and perfect – as well as passionate and playful and, in addition, he believes it will continue to be promising! – and he still awakens in the morning and marvels at the fact that his Alice is with him, that she has allowed him to stay beside her all these years! He thinks about those years, years he’d thought he’d forfeited to the Blackness. How had Alice managed to not only forgive him for scaring her so badly, but love him for it?

His wife boggles his mind.

Yes, my Alice has quite the talent for that, he admits.

The kitchen door swings open and the king enters. Having just put the Upelkuchen in the oven, Alicibeth races over to him with a squeal of “Papu!” Dale picks her up and swings her about as if she weighs no more than a Thrambleberry branch.

“Are we almost ready for luncheon?” he asks.

“Hungry day in court?” the queen replies, lifting her face for a kiss.

Dale rumbles a chuckle. “Dispute over the location of the new Orash orchards by Salazen Grum. You know how much I miss...”

“Quite,” she replies with a wide grin as his empty stomach gurgles loud enough for everyone to hear. Tarranya giggles and pokes his belly with a finger.

Mirana observes, “Just thinking about Shuchish food makes your stomach rumble! Lunch will be served as soon as Leif brings—”

“We’re here!”

Leif strides into the room with a squirming boy slung over his shoulder.

“Sorry to keep you waiting, Your Majesties, but a certain someone was having trouble finding his ears while washing up!”

“My ears’re ticklish!” the boy whines as Leif sets him down.

With a gleam in his eye, Leif replies, “I’m sure the Hatter has a handkerchief I can borrow so I scrub them a bit more. I think you missed a spot right...” He leans down to point it out.

The young prince claps his hands over his ears and dashes behind his elder sister, Tarranya. “There, there, Chestor. I won’t let him wash you.”

Alice snorts into her teacup.

“I take it he was as enthusiastic in his fencing lessons as ever?” Dale muses in a dry tone.

“How a boy can get dirty from just whining I’ll never know,” Leif grumbles and the king laughs.

“Leif, will you be joining us for luncheon?” the queen asks. She reaches out to Tarrant again and he reluctantly hands over Thacie. Already his arms feel empty, airy, listless...

They wouldn’t be if...

No, no! This mad hatter is not thinking it!

But you’ve never asked Alice if...

Still not thinking it!!

Maybe she wants to but thinks you...

La-la la la!!!


Tarrant blinks at Tarranya’s declaration. He looks up and notices both of her small hands are clutching Leif’s larger one, a delighted smile on her face that leaves no room for refusal.

“I want you to sit next to me. I’m hungry! What’s for lunch? Are we eating outside? Are we having Upelkuchen for dessert? How big will I get if I eat this much?” she rambles, gesticulating with one hand.

With a bemused grin, Leif allows the princess to haul him over to her parents and siblings. Mirana invites Alice and Tarrant, but Alice waves them off. Enjoying the flunderwhapped expression on the furry face of the King’s Champion, Tarrant chortles and forgets about the emptiness of his arms momentarily.

“What?” Alice murmurs at him, mindful of their audience: Thackery had come out of hiding now that the royal family has gone and is in the midst of counting the Upelkuchen splatters on the cupboard doors... backwards... even numbers first.

Tarrant turns toward her and gently traces the side of her face with his fingertips. He remembers seeing her for the first time, a precocious and incorrigibly curious girl of six for whom he’d poured tea and rhymed riddles. He recalls watching her approach Thackery's tea table for the second time, even smaller than she’d been at six, but undeniably grown up. In that moment of giddy relief and exaltation, he very nearly hadn’t noticed something Very Important...

“Tarranya has a Leif,” he replies, smiling.

Alice raises a brow, which disappears beneath the brim of his hat. “Does she? And what does that mean for Leif?”

Giggling, Tarrant collects Alice’s left hand, deliberately brushing his fingers over the silver flower she still wears.

“No...” Alice replies, shocked and amused and a dozen other things he can easily identify because of each and every day she’s given him, each and every day she’s chosen him.

“Oh, most definitely yes,” he argues.

Her eyes narrow. “And how would you know that?”

“Hm,” he muses. “Perhaps I’ve had a similar experience.”

Alice gapes at him, which he enjoys immensely. “I was six years old!

He smiles. “A truly magical age, it seems,” he agrees, thinking of the crown princesses’ recent birthday. “Yes, you were merely a child, but even then, I was utterly yours for the having, my Alice.” He lifts her hand to his mouth and breathes against her heart line. “I’m so very happy you decided to grow up, Alice. You could have kept me waiting a lot longer, you know.”

Smiling, she shakes her head. “No, I don’t think I could have.”

Completely overjoyed to be sitting next to his Alice, who is all grown up and the right, proper size and who loves him and is wearing his hat and displaying his ring on her finger and showing his mark on her skin, Tarrant leans forward, ducks beneath the brim of his hat, and kisses her.

“Och! None o’ tha’nauw!” Thackery scolds them and Tarrant is hit in the chest with a soggy crumpet. “This room’s f’r eatin’ no’sweetin’! Ge’off wi’ye!”

Laughing breathlessly, Alice pulls him up from the bench and – still holding his hand – leads him back to their apartment. Smiling, he gladly allows his wife to seat him at their dinner table and then giggles when she seats herself on his lap.

Oh, he loves it when she does this! In fact, he’d be hard-pressed to say which he loves more... watching her perform the Shuchish dance she’d learned so long ago while wearing that incomparably delightful garment she’d brought back with her or having her sitting here, across his thighs, touching his face, kissing his jaw and whispering in his ear...

Oh! Yes, whispering!

Tarrant makes an effort to focus on what she’s saying.

“... the queen alluded to earlier. Checking the Oraculum. There was... or, there is a reason...”

“A reason, Raven?” he asks, smoothing his palm up the outside of her thigh to her hip.

“Yes.” Alice leans back and, regarding him with a grin that shows him quite clearly that his wife is oddly nervous and looking forward to something with great anticipation... all at the same time, she says, “I’ve reacquainted myself with the Underlandian childbearing rites between partners of differing origins and... I was wondering what your thoughts were on starting a family?”

There is no clock in their rooms, so – at the moment – there is only perfect silence. Silence, and Alice’s very amused smile.

“Alice... is this...? Am I...? Are you...?  Dream?”

“No,” she says. “I’m not dreaming and neither are you.”

“And... did you just...? That is, did you just ask...? A family, Alice?”

“Yes, I did.”

He stares into her dark eyes, lit with amusement but warm with promise and hope and a bit of nervousness thrown in. And then Tarrant realizes he truly hadn’t just dreamed those words. And when he does, he remembers to breathe. And then close his mouth. And then tighten his arms around Alice. And then...

... and then...

... and then he’s laughing. Great bellows of laughter echo in the room and he hears his own voice shouting, “Writing desk! Writing desk! Writing desk! Writing—!

And then Alice is kissing him and he’s kissing her back and he can’t contain himself for the joy and he’s going to be a father! A wee lad or lass’s Fa...! Maybe not today...

No, no, of course not today!

Nor tomorrow, but he will be! And Alice will be both his wife and the mother of his child and she will be... They will be...! And their life will be...!




“Alice...” he gasps into her mouth, wondering how this day – this life – could be any better.

And that’s when he notices something else that’s Very Important:

“Alice,” he murmurs, his voice deepening, his blood racing, his temperature climbing. “Ye’re still wearin’ m’hat...”

She smiles that most secretest of secret smiles – the one only Tarrant has ever seen – and replies, “I am, aren’t I?” And then she Asks: “What do you think ought to be done about it?”

And so he Gives her his answer.

And everything is... perfect. Together.

One Promise Kept: Book 2

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by Manniness

Part 17 of 17

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