Continuing Tales

One Promise Kept: Book 4

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by Manniness

Part 12 of 15

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One Promise Kept: Book 4

Tamial Hightopp – man of Action and defier of Parental Declarations! – pokes his head out of the mirror and listens very carefully. He examines the room in front of him, recognizing the sheet-covered furniture and thanks his parents’ oversight: they had not recovered the looking glass after all!

When only silence tumbles into his ears and stillness unfolds before his eyes, Tam grins and steps through the mirror completely.

He’s home.


Oh, he knows he’ll have to go back to London soon – before Aunt Margaret comes to wake him for breakfast – but for now he can sleep in his own bed! Perhaps on his familiar mattress, he’ll be able to escape the nightmares that had stalked him last night!

He tiptoes over to the living room window and pulls back the curtain. It’s dawn. The line of the Witzend-side horizon is darkening against a softly glowing sky. Wispy clouds dance slowly against the backdrop of pale gold.

Yes, the weather is most definitely better here!

The motions of the cherry trees, their boughs waving in the breeze, draw his gaze and Tam sighs with contentment at the sight. How he has missed this place!

He turns and surveys the apartment, frowning at the open door to his parents’ room. He peeps through the portal and notes the utter... chaos within. Bed sheets and pillows – two of which had been separated from their cases! – litter the floor. Even the curtains are askew! The wardrobe doors are open and changes of clothes are scattered all over the place. Even...

Is that a... sock on top of the dresser mirror?!

Tam’s brows arch upward with incredulity.

“Well. Something... happened in here...”

And considering the people to whom this room belongs and the activities he has caught them at once before (only once, thank the Fates!), Tam would rather not think in any more detail on the matter, thank you very much!

He turns away and reconsiders the mirror. Should he go back through? If his Mam and Fa walk through the front door and catch him here...

Tam frowns and considers his options. Yes, he would like to sleep a bit longer in his own bed... but is it worth the risk? Perhaps another bedroom in the castle would do just as well. Now he’ll just have to find one that’s not in use.

He creeps to the front door and pauses to listen again. Gently, mindful of the keyhole’s snores, he eases the portal open and slips into the hall. The very, very silent hall.

He scowls. Yes, it’s early in the morning, but even at times like this there is some noise echoing in the corridors: fish butlers dusting, frog footmen delivering tea trays, and everyone knows Thackery is up early banging away in the kitchen and that racket echoes for miles!

Tam sneaks down the hallway, toward the stairs. He encounters no one, only Silence. It’s not until he’s making his way past the terrace that overlooks the training field that he hears any sounds of life at all!

“No, no! You’ve got to hold it up higher. Yes, like that!”



“You dunce! What did you let it go for?”

“... got a splinter in my thumb.”

“Oh for...! Come on. Your turn now.”

Tam approaches the edge of the terrace and peers over the railing. There, on the pitch, two boys are facing off to do battle with wooden swords. Two boys Tam knows very well!

“Lanny! Ian!” he shouts, forgetting his priority to remain stealthy and undetected.

Lanny pauses in mid swing and looks up, shading his eyes. “Tam?! What are you doing here?”

“Aren’t you supposed to be in Upland?”

Tam smirks and skips down the stairs. “Well... yes, I am,” he admits, grinning.

The twin princes gape at him, then at each other, and then they grin.

“Awesome!” they chorus.

“How’d you get back by yourself?” Ian presses.

“Through the looking glass,” Tam replies, his chest puffing up. “Of course.”

“Of course? Of course?! ” Ian stutters.

Lanny rushes to confirm, “So, you figured out how to do it?”

“I’ll show you later if you don’t tell anyone I was here!”


They shake on it.

“So...” Tam muses, taking a moment to take a good look around. “Where is everyone?”

The twins’ eyes widen until Tam fears they’ll topple right out of their sockets and find their way into luncheon soup. “You don’t know? ” Lanny whispers, clearly scandalized.

“Know what?”

“About the battle!” Ian informs him.

“What battle?”

“That battle between two Champions, of course,” a new voice inserts.

Tam turns and watches as Maevyn waddles around the corner with what appears to be a suspiciously Thrambleberry-juice colored stain on its jaw.

“Which two champions?” Tam asks, his heart pounding so loud his manners tumble right out of his mind.

“Princess Tarranya and Alice,” the jabberwocky replies absently.

Tam gapes at Maevyn then turns and gapes at the twins. “Why are you still here?

Ian winces and Lanny grumps, “We’re not allowed to go. Bethie’s watching us.”

Tam cranes his neck and searches the pitch, the orchard, the castle windows. “Well... I don’t see her here watching us now... do you?”

Ian grins. Lanny giggles. Tam turns toward Maevyn.

“What?” the young jabberwocky asks, looking up from licking its berry-juice-coated claws.

Tam eyes the creature’s back and muses, “How many bushels of Thrambleberries would it cost us for you to give us a ride?”




The first hint Tarra had been given that not everything was as it appeared to be – the first hint that she had not been the hunter , as she’d thought, but the prey – had come the moment Abler Masonmark had held out a hand to her as she’d half-sat, half-lain on the floor of the tunnel, trying desperately not to crush the dormouse hiding in her cloak hood. He had calmly held out his hand to help her up and she had Known.

As he had pulled her to her feet, she had taken a moment to marvel: he’d played her, damn his slithy, shrifty black heart. And here she’d been so proud of herself for playing him!

From the outset, he had been part of her game. Tarra – or, rather Dirka Worthwool – had drawn Abler Masonmark in. Not because she had liked him (Eugh! The very idea turns her stomach!) but because she had needed to be noticed. She’d been a newcomer to town – unavoidably noticeable – but with the other newcomers that had followed in her wake, Tarra had known that it was up to her to draw as much attention to herself – and away from them – as possible. For a moment, she had been furious. This assignment had been given to her! Not to Mallymkun and Bayto! Not to that blasted boy lion lurking in the shadows!

But no, she’d thought to herself. Calm, Tarra. Control. Change the rules of the game, just as Mistress Alice taught you.

And she had. She had allowed them to follow her, had allowed them the privilege of listening for the muttermongings. She had tacitly joined their team, been their diversion. For the first day, she had managed quite well, she’d thought, despite the lack of inflammatory rumors. But each following day, her task had gotten harder, the weight of her responsibilities heavier, the loneliness... sharper.

“Fight the battle thats in front of you, ahead of you...”

She had taken Mistress Alice’s words to heart, had not looked over her shoulder, had not shown her cards, had not revealed the fact that she is always followed by her mother’s most trusted allies. She had thought – on several occasions – that she had been needlessly overcautious.

Obviously, she had not expected Abler to turn out to be the leader of the rumored resistance movement against the White Queen.

Her first reaction to this revelation had been jubilation: perhaps she’d under-appreciated Luck; the fellow is a rather useful friend to have at your back!

But, as she’d looked up into Abler’s triumphant expression there in the dark, dank tunnel beneath the Orash orchards surrounding Crimson Harbor, she’d wondered: had it been Luck to lead her to the very object of her search? Or had Abler suspected who she really was when he’d strutted up to her in the bakery that first day? Had she been played?

She’d played back, just as Mistress Alice had taught her to do:

“Infiltrate their ranks. By any means necessary. Count their numbers. Gain their trust. And make the game yours.

Yes, Tarra has done – and is doing – that very thing! Yes, now... now, she’s not just playing Abler Masonmark; she’s playing all of them.

Still, those first moments had been frightening. She had stood there, in the dark with the flickering torches surrounding her, held aloft by too many to fight. Abler had stood too close to her, his hand on her arm, his fingers ready to grasp, trap, take...

The warning that she had been played had come far too late for her to turn back. It had come when the only path left open to her had been the one onward and forward into unforgivable and terrifying territory.

But Mistress Alice had prepared her for this:

“Fight the battle that’s in front of you and ahead of you: you cannot undo your missteps. Your footwork must be better than your opponent’s. Run rings around him, Tarra.”

To hesitate in the face of Discovery – to try to fight the facts as she had faced more than a dozen armed rebels – would have been the end of her and the end of the mission; she had allowed the guise of Dirka Worthwool to fall away; she had moved forward, her bearing regal despite her mussed hair and the dull, uninspiring color of it. There had been no point in pretending she is not the daughter of the very woman they seek to depose. There had been no point in pretending she is not strong, a warrior, a fighter trained by the best Champion in the known history of the White Realm. There had been no point in hiding, in backtracking, in even looking over her shoulder at the might-have-beens with regret.

Tarra had been trained very well and she knows that the first hint that her disguise has been found out, that her motives have been questioned, will be her last if she is not very fast and very Alice-y.

“Run rings around him, Tarra. Run.

She had done just that. Is doing just that.

She runs but she does not run away.

“Are ye ready fer this?”

Tarra glances briefly in Abler’s direction as he – yet again! – finds it impossible to keep his blasted hands to himself. She thinks longingly of a hot bath and forces herself not to step away from the warm hand nestled against her lower back. Still, she’s allowed to have a bit of fun, isn’t she?

Tarra winks at Corea’s blatantly jealous stare. Yes, Corea had managed – thank the Fates! – to convince Abler to share her pallet the night before but shes not the one he has chosen to stand with here on the battlefield, is she? Tarra knows she shouldn’t rile the girl – the poor thing is obviously in love with the worthless tail feather of a frumious borogove – but... she can’t help it!

“Am I ready?” she echoes, grinning out at the sea of broken, cracked, weed-crowded tiles. “I was born ready.”

The rebel force finds this highly amusing. The ten dozen or so just-turned men and women, and even some creatures that Abler has rallied to his cause, all find a reason to laugh at her overconfident words. Abler finds this particularly reassuring and not only removes his hand from her person but also strides off, no doubt to inspect something or otherwise make himself look Very Important.

Yes, she has charmed the enemy very nicely. Well, except for Corea, everyone laughs at Tarra’s wit and bravado. Their two captives, however, do not seem to share their... rebellious sense of humor.

“Tarra, please,” Leif rumbles too softly for anyone to hear over the chuckles and giggles and bellows of laughter. “You can see where this path leads. Turn away now.”

She feels her temper flash. Her shoulders tense. She opens her mouth and, surprisingly, the words of accusation she had intended to say get lost, confused, reordered. She hears herself ask in a tone that is too serious, too loud, “Turn away?! I suppose I could... but would you respect me in the morning, lion man?”

Yes, her tone had been too serious but she has the presence of mind to force a smirk onto her lips. The gesture feels stiff, unnatural. It unsettles her as nothing she has done so far has managed to do.

Masonmark and his army laugh. They laugh as if they hear a joke and not a very Serious Challenge taking place right here, out in the open, in their very midst.

Tarra tilts her head to the side and puts a hand to her ear, miming like a clown, entertaining and distracting the masses. “Ah, finally. I think I hear the melodious steps of an arriving army. Here,” she continues, pulling off her cloak with a flourish and laying it gently over Leif’s bound hands. “Make yourself useful and hold this,” she instructs him with a wink.

The Outlander lads and lasses roar with laughter, slap their thighs, snort behind their hands. They are enjoying the show too much to notice that a hat pin armed dormouse has slipped out from inside the hood of Tarra’s cloak and is making her way toward the rough twine knotted around Leif’s wrists. With a nod of satisfaction and a widening smile of triumph, Tarra turns her back to him and gazes out across the battlefield.

She watches as the White Army approaches in ordered ranks. Her gaze moves from her mother, riding atop her faithful steed, Alfred, to her father who is carried by her brother’s friend and steed, Winsommer. The Bandersnatch gambols forward and then lurches to a halt only two dozen paces away. From his shoulders, Mistress Alice – resplendent in her gleaming armor, slides to the ground. Uncle Tarrant, dressed in his clan colors, steps up beside her.

For a moment, Tarra is proud to be a member of such a strong, fierce family.

But then she remembers:

She has a job to do; in fact, it is nearly finished. It smarts that she won’t be the one to deliver the Killing Blow – so to speak – to these rebels. She’d like to be able to take all the credit for the coming victory. But she consoles herself with worthwhile facts: Tarra’s role is necessary and she has played it well. Better than “well”! She has played it perfectly!

Still, she wonders... how exactly is Mistress Alice going to finish this mission? Tarra had issued that Challenge to stop the White Army from attacking, to save her mother (dear Fates, had the woman forgotten her Vows completely? ) from making a horrible mistake. Tarra had not expected her mentor to actually accept the Challenge!

What will happen now? Tarra wonders uneasily as she glares across the plain at her teacher’s hardened expression. Mistress Alice had never taught her this lesson. She would like to believe that Mistress Alice had not found the time or had simply forgotten to mention the protocol for situations like this... but Tarra knows that is not possible: Alice doesn’t forget things like that. And it irritates Tarra to realize that her mentor had likely intended for her to be less than completely self-sufficient, less that a True Champion.

When this is all over, youll have some explaining to do, Tarra silently informs her teacher. When this is all over, Ill expect to receive the rest of my education!

After all, Tarra thinks as she considers her recent accomplishments, she has earned it!


Tamial Hightopp – Jabberwocky Pilot and Fearless Adventurer of Daring-Do! – realizes he’s made a slight error in logic as he clutches Maevyn’s neck and the wilderness sweeps past beneath them. Yes, the promise of seeing his Mam finally doing her job as Champion to the White Queen and the resulting rush of excitement had made Tam completely forget about Aunt Margaret, the breakfast call, and an unfortunately vacant bed in the guest room on the other side of the looking glass.


But then he shrugs. So they find out. So he gets into trouble... again. He’ll think about that later. This will be worth it, he’s sure! In fact, now that he thinks about it, why did his Fa say he’d come and collect him tonight? Why wouldn’t his Fa and Mam want him to see this?

Well, that hardly matters now!

Over Maevyn’s crest, Tam can make out the ruins at the battlefield. True, he’s never been here before, but Uncle Thackery had described it lots of times... back when he’d been allowed to tell Tam bedtime stories.

Tam smiles at the memory.

Then sighs. He misses Thackery’s bedtime stories. He misses the days when he’d been ten years old. He misses... home.

“There they are!” Lanny shouts, pointing over Tam’s shoulder and directing his attention to the much-closer battlefield.

“And they’ve already started the duel!” Ian moans with disappointment.

“Land over there!” Tam says, “on the tower ruins.”

“Hm... all right. I think I can manage that.”

Tam blinks. “Excuse me?

“Oh? Didn’t I mention I’m still working on my landings?”

“Er... no.

“Oh,” Maevyn remarks and then, thoughtfully, adds: “Sorry.”

Tam locks his jaw and grits his teeth to keep the unmanly scream from escaping him as the jabberwocky dives with sudden intent toward the crumbling stone sentinel. For a moment, he considers closing his eyes, but no! He will be brave and if this is the end, then he will meet Death head on! He will...!

“Ooof!” he grunts, as Maevyn skids across the largest flat space available, flounders with much scraping and scrabbling of claws, and then halts with a suddenness that sends Tam cartwheeling over the jabberwocky’s neck and landing flat on his back on the stone.

“Ow,” he informs his transportation.

“All right?” Maevyn inquires solicitously, its brows crinkling together with concern.

“I’m docking you a bushel for that.”

The jabberwocky snorts.

“Come on, Tam! Get up!” Ian urges him, grabbing one of his arms. Lanny grabs the other.

“Feel pain later! Just lookit that!

Tam scrambles to his feet and then stumbles to his knees between his friends. They brace their hands on a fallen column and watch as the two combatants clash swords, pivot away before turning back, blades swinging.

“Wow...” Ian intones.

Tam is too busy staring to add to the commentary. That must be Tarra in the leather jerkin and hide shin guards because That gleam of silver steel is his Mam’s armor. From when she’d slain the Jabberwocky and had ended the Red Queen’s reign. Sir Fenruffle had told them the story and had taken them to see the suit of armor once. This is the first time he’s ever seen his Mam actually in it, though, and... well, she hardly looks like his Mam at all!

Her expression is fierce yet she doesn’t seem to be in any hurry at all to finish the fight. He watches as she blocks another thrust from Tarra’s sword. Tam tears his attention away long enough to search for his Fa and...

There! Tam sighs out a breath of relief when he spies his Fa standing three paces out beyond the front lines. He can’t make out the color of his Fa’s eyes at this distance, but his hands are twitching. Maybe Tam’s sigh of relief had been a bit... premature?

He looks back at the Champions battling in the center of the field. His Mam relents under Tarra’s sudden fury of attacks, approaching the front line of the White Army. She’s only six paces or so away from his Fa when, suddenly, his Mam moves so swiftly he doesn’t even catch the motion that nearly knocks the sword from Tarra’s hands. Her grips is strong, though, and she doesn’t let go. She twists with the blow and falls to her knees rather than drop the weapon.

“I expected more... enthusiasm,” Tam hears his Mam sneer with surprising aggression. “Especially when I’ve most considerately obliged you with a second chance to slice open my throat.”

Tarra climbs to her feet.

His Mam steps forward, sword at the ready...

She swings, misses and...!

Tam gasps as Tarra lifts her sword and arcs it through the air. His Mam’s arms are lowered, her throat exposed above the gleaming collar of her armor and...!

Tam reaches out for his friends as Disaster unfolds right before them.

The blade reaches out, is nearly level with his Mam’s neck, and then...!

And then...

And then all is Silent.



Tam tries to blink, to move, to say... well, to say something!

He can’t. Out of the corner of his eye and to his left, Lanny is perfectly still. To his right, Ian’s expression is a mask of dawning horror. And before him... before him...!

Tam watches as his Fa steps forward hesitantly. “Alice,” he whispers and Tam hears an odd lisp in his voice. His Fa never lisps unless... unless...

“Please, Alice,” he murmurs yet, in the perfect Silence, the sound carries.

His Mam steps away from the sword tip that is nearly kissing her throat and turns toward his Fa. She holds out her hand which Tam sees is completely bare... which seems odd to him although he can’t be sure why . His Fa crosses the utterly motionless scene and takes it. “I need you,” she says and Tam cannot understand how her voice can be so strong at a time like this. “Underland needs you. These children need you. Please.”

And then his Fa lifts his hands to his Mam’s face, cradles it in his palms, and kisses her. “I luv ye, my Alice.”

And then it all happens so fast Tam would have been shocked breathless if he’d been capable of breathing at all:

His Mam turns back to Tarra’s blade, reaches for it with her right hand and runs her open palm along the sword’s edge.

Blood, dark and red, drips onto the steel.

His Fa steps up behind her, places a hand on her forehead and pulls her head back against his shoulder. His face is twisted with such pain Tam feels the ache even though he does not understand it... and then he lifts his other arm, reveals a knife in his grasp and presses the blade against his Mam’s throat...

And slices it open.

Blood spurts and his Fa leaps back toward the White Army and then...

And then...!

And then everything is in motion again.

Tam watches – frozen despite the fact that he can move now if he wants to! – as his Mam doubles over, reaches for her slit throat with her right hand and stumbles back.

Alice! ” Tam twitches, recognizing the force of his Fa’s scream. He stares, unable to move – to think – as his Fa races to his Mam’s side. He does not reach her before she falls. She tries to stay standing but the blood... there is so much blood! Red and strange and his Mams blood! And she braces herself on the stones with her left hand – When had she dropped her sword? He can’t remember hearing it fall. – and she looks up at Princess Tarra. Tarra, whose face and jerkin are splattered with red blood, whose blade is dripping with it...

His Mam looks at her... opens her mouth to speak... and gurgles instead. His Fa reaches her then, as the blood seeps out over her lips.

Alice... Alice... Alice...” he cries softly. From this vantage point Tam can see his Fa’s hands lowering Mam gently to the ground, reaching for a handkerchief and then beginning to work swiftly at her neck. “Ye cannae leave me, Alice... Ye promised... Us... us...

Tam watches the color drain from his Mam’s face. The blood is too dark and her skin is too white and her eyes become glassy and wide. Her hand flutters weakly upward, to his Fa’s face, which she touches briefly before her arm drops and her left hand – the heart line so stark it is nearly black – rolls over... and is still.


“Youve forgotten your gauntlets, Alice.”

It’s an utterly ridiculous thing to think, an utterly pointless memory to draw upon, in the wake of what she has just seen:

Alice’s taunt and faulty attack...

Tarra’s blade arching up... and then slicing through her throat.

The blood – unsettlingly red – had sprayed so quickly Mirana had not even see it travel through the air... but there it is: undeniably dripping down her daughter’s pale face just as it had undeniably run in rivulets between the fingers of Alice’s right hand which had clutched reflexively at the gash in her throat... a pathetic and pointless attempt to stop the bleeding.

“You’ve forgotten your gauntlets, Alice,” Mirana had observed as her Champion had lifted her sword, ready to step out and meet the queen’s second daughter.

“No, I haven’t,” Alice had said in a soft, confident voice. Mirana had heard a small hiccup come from Tarrant in response to that, had wondered about it...

But now... now Mirana understands why gauntlets had not been needful today.

She stares at the fallen form of her Champion, at her pale, outstretched had... at the heart line that stretches up her third finger and toward her wrist. Tarrant’s mutters are barely audible over the shock that has rendered her mind utterly useless. From this vantage point, with his back to the opposing army, she can see his hands working furiously to save Alice’s life. But a wound like that, from a blade like the one Tarra had been holding... Even the alchemist in her cannot feel that there is any hope.

She stares, as everyone else stares, in silence.

“No... NO! MAM!!

Mirana startles as a voice – a young boy’s voice – echoes across the field. She forces her gaze away from Alice, her now-lifeless friend and fallen Champion, and watches – heart screaming in agony and tears gathering – as Tamial Hightopp races down the crumbling steps of the ruins. The very steps his mother had descended over twenty years ago... after slaying the Jabberwocky.


He races across the field, pushes his way through the silent and shocked rebels, dashes past Tarra who stands frozen, sword still frozen at the conclusion of its arc, bosom still heaving with exertion, and then Tam crashes to a halt on his knees beside his mother’s body. Tarrant, oddly enough, is silent now. Utterly silent... and still. His shoulders are bowed. His head hangs. His hands are pressed – uselessly – against Alice’s bloody throat. He is... defeated.

Alice is Gone. Mirana can only guess what will become of his mind now.

She blinks at that thought, shakes herself. Yes, yes, she must act quickly!

But before she can take a breath, her daughter sinks to her knees, drops her sword and says, simply, “No... No...

It is Leif, surprisingly enough, who reaches her first, who puts his unbound paws on her shoulders and holds her steady.

Movement atop the battlefield ruins draw her gaze and she has to clench her hands into fists at the sight of her two youngest sons standing beside one of the young jabberwockies. Yet another tragedy today: she had not wanted Dalerian or Leivlan to see... this. She glances toward her husband who is also glaring up at the boys a top the ruined tower. Yes, he will handle them . Now, she must handle this.

Now, Mirana judges, aching for her sons – Their innocence is well and truly lost now! – aching for her daughter – She is a murderer now! – and aching for Alice – Why did you lie to me? Everything is not all right! – aching for Tarrant and Tamial and...

Now, the queen realizes... Now is the time to make the most of Alice’s sacrifice. Now is the time to honor her requests: amnesty and negotiations.

Those objectives seem so... petty now. But, petty or not, they are what Alice has given her life for. Mirana must not allow that to have been in vain. Still, she cannot forgive them so quickly, not with Alice’s body cooling on the stones just a dozen paces away.

She draws in another breath and the White Queen speaks, “Is this what you wanted?” The question is softer than she’d intended for it to be but that makes it no less audible. “Death? Is this what you sought? Are you satisfied?”

For a long moment, no one answers. And then...

How could you!” The scream, surprisingly enough is not from Tarrant... it is from Tamial. And it is not directed at Tarra. “How could you do this to her?” His voice cracks and gurgles with his tears. Tamial Hightopp glares at his father. “Mam...” Tamial visibly struggles to say more. Struggles... and fails. “Mam...!

“Yer Mam...” Tarrant whispers brokenly. “Woul’nae wan’ ye teh see her this way.

Mirana concurs and nods for a pair of soldiers to step forward. They do, collecting Tam despite his flailing arms and kicking legs, and pull him off of the battlefield. The fight is not over with yet and Mirana will not tolerate another avoidable death. Not here. Not today.

She gazes at her daughter who has never looked so drawn, so beaten. And then Mirana turns her gaze back to her Champion’s body. So still. So pale. Alice, her friend, is Gone.

“What is it you want?” the White queen asks. “What did this wife, this mother, die for?”

Mirana forces herself to look away, to look out at the sea of shocked faces, many of which are streaked with tears. She aches to run to her daughter, to comfort her, but she cannot. Not yet. Tarra is inconsolable yet silent, still kneeling at Alice’s feet with Leif’s arms around her.

SPEAK!” Mirana shouts, frustrated and grieving and a dozen other things that threaten to tear her apart.

“Th’ righ’ teh bear arms,” one young man says in a gravely voice. “We wan’teh b’ proud o’ our ancestry as figh’ers. ’Tis all.”

“Then...” Mirana forces herself to say recalling Alice’s instructions. “We will discuss terms...”

“O’ surrender?” the young man finishes. It should have been a remark laden with defiance and victory... but it rings out... hollowly.

Still, it must be answered. Alice, the White Queen’s Champion has fallen. Which means...

Mirana draws in a breath, prepares the White Queen’s answer...


At the sound of that voice, Mirana turns, feels her jaw drop, and hears herself gasp as Alice...


Alice, with Tarrant’s assistance, sits up, still clutching the bloodied handkerchief to her throat. Her face is still so pale Mirana fears she will fade into nothing even without the assistance of the blood of the Jabberwocky.

“No,” she repeats on a croaking whisper of breath and, summoning her strength, she lifts her sword with her left hand and points the quivering blade at Tarra’s heart. “We do not surrender.”

“However,” Mirana hears herself say as the miracle of Alice’s life unclogs her throat, un-cremates her heart, unfreezes her mind. “We offer you amnesty and we wish to hear your claims in detail... so that negotiations may begin.”

“Negotiations?” the young man snorts in hysteric disbelief.

“Yes,” Mirana says, understanding Alice’s plan in a flash of insight. “No one has lost their life. It is not too late to withdraw... and begin again.”

For a very long moment, no one moves. Alice continues to hold the blade unsteadily over Tarra’s heart and Tarra does not protest. She stares into the chalky-white face of her teacher... and says nothing.

The young man who had spoken, who had introduced himself at the beginning of the duel as Abler Masonmark, takes a deep breath. Slowly, he nods. And then sheathes his sword. The others follow suit.


Alice does not – cannot turn her head toward her son – but she drops the sword and reaches out to him. The guards wait for Mirana’s nod of acquiescence, which she gives, to release their charge.

Tamial is across the field and wrapping his arms around his mother in the next instant.

“So sorry, Tam,” Mirana hears Alice rasp as she alternately clutches her son and her husband with her left hand. “So sorry you saw...”

And yes, Tamial did see.

Just as the rebels now See.

Just as Tarra now Sees.

Reclining against her husband’s chest is Underland’s True Champion.

Mirana regards her friend, who has – amazingly – survived despite her injury...

Yes... that very distinct injury, Mirana muses, considering its location and severity... and its likeliness to scar...

Tears fill her eyes as Mirana looks upon a woman who is and will always be a Champion.

One Promise Kept: Book 4

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by Manniness

Part 12 of 15

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