Continuing Tales

One Promise Kept: Book 3

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by Manniness

Part 22 of 22

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How is this possible?

Mirana, the White Queen of Mamoreal, lingers on the threshold of the solarium terrace and gazes out at the scene on the wide lawn before her:

Her eldest daughter, Alicibeth, perches elegantly in the chair at her youngest sister’s tea table and offers to refill Thacie’s teacup.

Chestor, her eldest son is putting his best friend and steed, Winsommer, through a very intricate routine that could be a dance if not for the military precision of each step the stallion takes across the croquet pitch.

Mirana knows where her middle child, Amallya, is – where she always is at this time of day. And, of course, from the racket they’re making, it’s easy enough to locate her two youngest sons.

However, it is Mirana’s second eldest daughter – the ever-perfect crown princess’s identical twin – who captures her mother’s attention. Mirana watches as Tarranya, who truly could be her sister’s mirror reflection in every sense with the exception of character and hair style, lies on her back in the middle of the pitch, a blunt-edged practice sword at her side and her arms folded beneath her head. From here – in the shadows – Mirana can see that her daughter’s eyes are closed and her short hair is tangled with drying sweat and dust. In this moment, Tarranya of Mamoreal looks utterly peaceful – a sharp contrast to her usual fiercely opinionated and confrontational disposition. The sight of her manages to unsettle Mirana even more than she had been before pausing on the threshold.

“Are you daydream walking, Mirana?”

She blinks and looks up at her Champion. She takes a breath, twirls her fingers through the air and manages to return her friend’s smile. “Good afternoon, Alice. How was Tarra’s training today?”

“Excellent. As always,” Alice says, leaning against the railing and angling herself so that she can enjoy the view beyond. “She’s determined, you know.”

“As determined as you were?” the queen hears herself ask.

“More so.”

Mirana sighs.

“What is it?” Alice asks, straightening. Her smile fades and her brows draw together in concern.

“I... Well, I...” Mirana draws in another deep breath and huffs it out. “Alice, how is it possible that I’ve become the mother of two nearly grown women?

Alice’s lips twist into a wry smile. “I’m assuming you’re referring to Bethie and Tarra?” She snorts before Mirana can reply. “You were at their birthday celebration last week, weren’t you? You do recall it was their seventeenth?”

“Yes, yes, I do,” Mirana sighs out. “Somehow... it hadn’t seemed quite so... real then.”

And with uncanny insight – perhaps Tarrant’s Sight has decided to accompany Alice today! – Alice remarks, “What happened to make it seem so real today?”

Mirana drifts over to the railing to stand next to her Champion. She needs a shoulder to lean on.

Alice turns to stand beside her and accepts Mirana’s weight easily. But of course Alice would provide a perfectly steady shoulder for Mirana to lean on – she’s had nearly twenty years of practice at it!

For a long moment, Mirana says nothing. She marvels at how neither she nor her good friend nor their spouses have aged but their children had certainly – and, at the moment, it seems quite suddenly! – grown up. The queen’s dark gaze sweeps over the genteel teatime of two young ladies, her son looking quite dashing on Winsommer, her twin boys attempting to out-Futterwhacken their best friend... (It’s a lost battle, she knows. No one out-Futterwhackens Tamial Hightopp. Not even his teacher and father! Mirana watches the sunlight play with the boy’s red-gold, curly hair as he twists and turns and dips and bows and steps and slides. The dance leaves her breathless and the boy hasn’t even reached his Dancer’s Prime yet! Not at a mere ten years of age!) Mirana almost makes a comment about how excited Tam must be about the coming Maigh but, in the center of the pitch, seeming oblivious to her brother and Winsommer’s exercises, Tarra draws her gaze again.

“Mirana? What’s happened?” Alice presses, all humor gone.

The queen sighs. “The Oraculum.”

It’s only two words, but Alice understands. Mirana can hear the caution in her Champion’s quiet contemplation. And then: “Can you tell me?”

Mirana’s spontaneous giggle slams into the back of her lips, which she’d pressed together very deliberately, then takes a detour and escapes through her nose, much to her embarrassment. “I’m afraid, my Champion, I’ll be in need of your services again... soon.”

Alice tenses. “I’m listening.”

“It’s Tarra, you see,” Mirana continues, still studying her daughter.

“Yes? Is this about her insisting on becoming the next Champion?”

“No, actually. It’s about her and a Mamoreal lion-man with a flunderwhapped expression on his face standing together under the arbor... with his First Claw around her neck.”

“The arbor you and King Dale spoke your vows beneath?” Alice confirms.

“The very same.”

“Oh, botheration.

Mirana lifts a brow and nods once in complete agreement.

“And how does this little drama come about?”

The queen sighs. “I’m afraid I don’t know.”

“You...? Excuse me?”

“Absolem, in his infinite wisdom –”

Alice snorts and Mirana makes a mental note to channel her frustration more circumspectly.

“ – saw fit to only show me the one day.”

“Hm. And just how much time will I have to prepare my interview questions?” Alice muses aloud.

“That... was also unclear.”

Alice glances out across the field and Mirana watches her Champion regard her protégé with a thoughtful expression and crossed arms. “Once she’s nineteen, she won’t need a Champion to test her suitor for her. The image you saw could be... some time off yet.”

“Do you honestly believe that?”


Mirana sighs. Yes, for some time now she’s suspected her daughter is smitten with Champion Leif. And Tarra is not one to indulge in inactivity once she knows what she wants.

“But there’s Leif to consider, you know,” Alice tries to comfort her. And it would have been a comfort if Mirana hadn’t overheard the lion-man – just yesterday! – call her daughter the most sacred of Shuchish endearments: Tarrash-rya.

Mirana sighs.

Alice smiles. And when Mirana notices, she rolls her eyes. “You would enjoy this, Champion.

“Yes, I would,” Alice agrees. “I’m quite looking forward to another round of Wooing Rights, Your Majesty. It’s been a bit dull around here recently.”

Before Mirana can decide how she feels about seeing her Champion fight her husband’s Champion for the hand of her still-too-young daughter, Alice continues:

“If you ask Tarrant, he’ll tell you the same thing the Oraculum did: it’s meant to be.” Alice offers up a sheepish grin. “He’s Suspected for Some Time now. Actually, once he finds out what the Oraculum has shown, I fully expect him to be unbearably enpuffed about it.”

“And were it any other situation, I’d been thoroughly entertained at the thought of Tarrant in an unbearable state of... puffiness.”

Alice sniggers. “It’s hard to imagine that he can puff up any more, I know, what with Tam being the dancer he is and so smart and funny. But it’s possible. With Tarrant, anything’s possible,” Alice warns her happily.

“Very true,” Mirana allows. And then dares, “Even that he’ll manage to convince his son to take up his trade?”

Alice shakes her head. “Tam got his stubborn streak from me. No, that one’s not destined to be a hatter,” she says with a contented smile. “Besides, Tarrant’s very pleased with his current apprentice.”

Mirana grimaces. “Yes, I was afraid you’d say that.”

Alice laughs. She glances from Tarra to Tamial then commences with a brief survey of the wellbeing of her other charges. “Everyone is fine, Mirana,” Alice assures her. “And happy and I’ll prove it to you; it’s nearly teatime and I think there’s room for one more chair around the tea table in the workshop.” Straightening, Alice gestures for Mirana to follow her. “Come on. Amallya can show you what she’s working on. You’ll even get to see Tarrant looking thoroughly enpuffed over his apprentice’s most recent accomplishments!”

“And with a treat like that on offer, how can I refuse?” Mirana replies and moves to follow.

Yet, on the threshold, she pauses, turns, and looks back at her children and at the one daughter in particular who seems to be teetering on the very edge of adulthood.

Tarra smiles up at the sun, still lying on the pitch, her eyes closed to the world around her. With all her heart and not only her soul but her husband’s, Mirana wishes she could say something to encourage her daughter to linger there just a little longer, in childhood. But Mirana knows her child, her daughter, her brave warrior-woman.

And just as certainly, she knows that Change is coming for her.


But not today.


The queen takes a cleansing breath, coaches a smile onto her lips and turns around. “Sorry, Alice. Yes, let’s go to the workshop for tea. I’m ready for Amallya to impress me.”

Alice grins and reaches out to rub Mirana’s shoulder. “And you’ll be ready for the other thing, too. When it’s Time.”

“Yes, everything has its own Time.”

Alice’s eyes flash with a secretive gleam at that comment and Mirana finds herself wondering what it is Alice Knows about Time. “How very true, Your Majesty. How very true. And at the moment, it’s teatime.”

“It is.”

And that is how life must be lived, Mirana knows: one moment at a time. This one will be for tea and hats and the princess who is determined to make them for the rest of her life. And, for now, Mirana will focus on that.

The rest will come when it comes. As it inevitably will.

And, when it does, she’ll be ready for it. After all, that’s her job.

As a queen. And as a mother.

One Promise Kept: Book 3

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by Manniness

Part 22 of 22

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