Continuing Tales

One Promise Kept: Book 4

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by Manniness

Part 15 of 15

<< Previous     Home     
One Promise Kept: Book 4

All things must end.

Tarrant hates those four words, especially in that particular order. In fact, he hates them with increasing intensity with each passing day.

He’s wasting Time, he knows. Time is not infinite, after all. (That is – unfortunately – a very easy fact to forget here in Underland where people are as young as they feel and Time galumphs rather than marches.) Well... perhaps Time itself is infinite, but Tarrant’s time... That is another matter entirely.

He had forced himself not to Dwell on the future, although he had not been able to stop himself from thinking on it, he had managed to keep the prolonged contemplation of it to a minimum. Busy-ness had helped: the Barterment had been a wonderfully busy time with Alice and Tam at his side throughout the entirety of it. More busy-ness had followed that event: they had returned to Iplam, had delivered the orders that had been placed through them by residents of far away lands, had organized foodstuff exchanges; Tarrant had sewn a high-collared blouse for Alice so that they could go Above for tea while avoiding Questions; Tam had formally declared his intent to Master Time and had been introduced to the Royal Clockmaster at Mamoreal.

“I’ve never seen a young man with such a keen insight into the workings of time,” Albertie Tickings had confessed. “Although he’s a bit young to start it would be a waste to make him wait... I’d be willing to set aside a day a week to work with him, if that’s agreeable, Laird Hightopp?”

And it had been. Now Tam visits Mamoreal not only to pass Sir Fenruffle’s exams but to meet the Clockmaster. They leave in the evening and return the following night. Alice spends the day at Mamoreal with her Champion’s duties, advising the queen and training with the White Guard. Tarrant assists his skillful apprentice with more and more challenging hats. And Tamial – bit by bit – masters Time.

How ironic that this is the path his son has chosen.

How perfect that this is the path Alices son has chosen.

The irony and perfection he cannot – must not – Contemplate, for if he starts...

Tarrant shakes his head and focuses on the hat that sits at a jaunty angle on the head of its wooden model. It is a cap, a ladies’ cap, meant to be worn in a saucy manner. Which is fine. Sauciness matches the cap’s intention quite nicely.

The base is a striking deep blue and many of the long, curling, carefully shaved feathers are variations of the same hue. They twist and curve, conform to the wearer’s head, each with its own message to deliver. He had considered those messages carefully, just as he’d considered the color with equal care. There are emerald greens, indigo blues, violet purples, and even a magenta feather here and there. Each with a message or a thought or a wish or hope. The creation of this hat had come from the very depths of his heart, his soul.

And now it is finished.

He does not wish for it to be finished. He is not ready.

He will never be ready.



He turns away for a moment, groping for a handkerchief and scrubbing at his eyes, at the pair of fat tears that threaten to leap from his lashes. “Yes, Alice?”

The house is quiet today; Tamial is spending the day with the Paneshines, learning about the glass he will one day use when he is permitted to make his first clock or pocket watch. He listens as Alice approaches, her feet scuffing against the rug on his workroom floor.

“You’re hurting again,” she observes on a breath, stepping around his back and making herself at home on his lap. His chair groans, but accommodates them. He watches as she pats the armrest in a silent gesture of appreciation and then looks up into his eyes.

She can only hold his gaze for so long before the mark on her neck draws his attention. His fingertips brush over his wife’s throat and the scar he had given her. (The scar he had given her!) Every day, it heals bit by bit. Every day is a bit more Time. He should be thankful, he knows. He should be, but he isn’t. Can’t! Won’t!

“Why are you so angry?” Alice whispers, petting his brows, his cheeks, his ears.

He shakes his head. He cannot tell her. He cannot.

He returns his attention to her newest scar. It is healing slowly. Very slowly. Mirana had informed them that Pain Paste only soothes away hurts that are Unwelcome. It only helps the resulting scar fade if the injury had been Unwanted.

Alice had Welcomed – had Wanted – this one.

And so it heals slowly.

He leans into her touch, marvels that her hands are rough again – her students are no doubt training hard for the first Festival of War Games which will take place within a fortnight’s time – and her smile is happy and yet she is still a Lady here. She still organizes the foodstuff exchange. She still makes time to give basic lessons to the handful of young ones in the village. His wife: a lady, a Champion, and soon...

Tarrant shies away from that thought.

“Would a bit of sparring help?” she asks, rubbing his shoulders.

He shakes his head. No, no sparring will not help. Sparring will Remind him of the time, long ago, when Alice had asked:

“Where did you learn to fight?”

And he had answered:

“Most of it I learned from my Fa. Then I relearned it after that Horvendush Day...”

He shudders.

“Please, talk to me,” she whispers into his hair, against the crown of his head.

“That, my Alice,” he replies, his lips curving into a smile... finally, “I can do. And so can this.”

He reaches around her and gestures to the hat – the only hat – on his worktable.

Alice twists in his arms, on his lap, and regards it. “Oh! You’ve finished it? Your first Hightopp Hat Invention?”

“Yes,” he lisps. “And,” he continues, collecting it with one bandaged hand and holding it up for her inspection, “it is for you, love.”

Against and around his heart, Alice’s adoration and awe throbs... painfully. He closes his eyes and sighs. Yes, he’d known she would like it. This. His first invention.

“Try it on,” he bids her.

She takes the hat from his hands, stands, turns, seats herself on the worktable, and he watches as she places it on her head and secures it to her short hair with the clips he’d installed upon it.

He watches his wife wearing his hat, his invention...

And then he leans forward and blows, causing one of the dark blue feathers to brush her cheek, and watches a bit more.

Her eyes widen with surprise... and then a smile stretches her lips... She reaches up and trails her fingertips along a green feather and then she dares to fondle a purple one and suddenly her eyes are twinkling with a very naughty light.

He giggles, momentarily shedding the Knowledge he carries with him. “You look very... fetching, my Alice.”

“Tarrant...” she whispers. She licks her lips. “What do you call this marvelous invention?”

“Why, it’s a Thinking Cap.”

“Is it?”

“Yes, yes. Each feather contains one of my thoughts... about the wearer.”

Green for memories of laughter and being together. Blue for moments of love. Purple for his passion and magenta for...

He holds his breath as she reaches blindly and her fingertips manage to find and caress one of the rare magenta feathers attached to the hat. He is not sure if she will like those thoughts. It has been a very long time since she has asked him to...

“And, how many wearers has this cap been made for?” she asks, her eyes taking on an impassioned glaze. He smirks. He can guess precisely which thoughts of his she’s listening to now!

“Just one. Just you.”

“And if someone else should... try on this hat?” she dares, sliding her knee between his and along the inside of his left thigh.

“It will keep my secrets,” he assures her, slumping a bit in his chair, pressing back against her touch. “And yours.”

“Hm. Mine,” she agrees, her lips parting and her breaths becoming a bit thin. She leans forward, bracing her hands on his shoulders. Tarrant allows his own hands to glide up her trousered legs to her hips.

“Do you like it, my Alice?”

“I do, Raven. Very much.”

He reaches up and guides one indigo feather in particular to the shell of her ear and tucks it against her skin.

She gasps. Just as he’d hoped she would.

“Do you really...?” she whispers in his ear as his hands delve beneath her shirt and vest.

“Do I really...?”

She leans in so close he can feel her lips brush his ear. “... think I’m beautiful?”

And then she gasps as he Answers her with his heart.

“Yes,” he whispers needlessly – no, not needlessly, for although she does not need to hear it – his heart speaks for him – he needs to say it! “You are Beautiful, my Alice, my Raven, mine...”

“Tarrant,” she sighs against his skin, making him shudder. “Thank you...”

And then she Shows him precisely How Much she likes his Thinking Cap, how much she loves his thoughts, how much she adores him. And, for a short time, Tarrant does not think about why he had so badly needed to make this particular hat for her nor why he had rushed to finish it and fill it with thoughts.

He does not think about the future or the past.

He allows himself to forget for a few moments the unavoidable Truth:

All things must end.

One Promise Kept: Book 4

A Alice in Wonderland Story
by Manniness

Part 15 of 15

<< Previous     Home