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Silence Falls

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"Father," she mumbled, uncertain. Iracebeth shot her a warning look and she receded back into the shadows. Her father didn't even glance at her. He kept his stony gaze on Iracebeth, who looked defiantly back into his eyes.
"Iracebeth Crimms, this is too far," He spoke, his voice hard as hard as stone. Her father scared her sometimes, but he never scared Iracebeth at all. Nothing scared Iracebeth, ever.
"Really father, you make such a fuss!" Iracebeth said, throwing the matter aside. Her father grew redder.
"Enough! It is time you learned the consequences of your actions!" he spoke. "One more move like this, and i will denounce you as my heir, do you understand? It will pass to your sister," Mirana looked up in panic, and Iracebeth threw her and infuriated glare, as if it was her fault. "For now," The King continued, "You are confined to the palace grounds. You will not leave these walls, for forty days," Iracebeth's enlarged face turned bright red and she opened her mouth and screamed.
"I WILL NOT HAVE IT!" She bellowed "I WILL NOT HAVE IT!" And she stormed out, knocking Mirana to the ground on her way. There was a pause after she had gone, while Mirana and her father listened to her shouts as she moved further away from them. Mirana looked at her father, and it pained her to see the worry behind his eyes.
"Do you think she will disobey you?" She asked quietly. The King considered this.
"No," He said at last, "She craves power too much to throw it away on such a small issue. She knows this is no empty threat. She will stay," He sent her away after that, and after she kissed him goodbye she left, shutting the door behind her. She considered her sister for a while, wishing she wasn't so cruel and bloodthirsty. 'Things would be different if she wasn't a Princess,' She thought 'People wouldn't treat her with so much respect. They would laugh at her bulbous head, and she might well be humbled,' She sighed to herself, then decided to go to bed. It was late after all, and she was very tired. And it wasn't safe to be out after dark. When the sun went down Iracebeth patrolled castle halls, and if she saw Mirana after today... She shuddered. The castle was vast, and neither her sister nor her father had been in all of it, but she had. She had made a point of exploring every nook and cranny, every spare bedroom and garden. Everything. She drew maps of the castle, and kept them in the secret section of her dressing table, away from Iracebeth's prying eyes.
Iracebeth was a devil. her father was hardly ever well, and Iracebeth often ruled in his place. She was also considered owner of the castle by most, and pure fear meant that she felt obliged to do as her sister told her to. Iracebeth had forced her into the smallest room of the castle, into a cold attic room that was right at the top of several flights of stairs. Into a room that locked on the outside, and her sister was prone to locking her in for long periods of time. Iracebeth blamed her for nearly everything, and often punished her accordingly. Her sister terrorized her, followed her every move. If she dropped a vase, Iracebeth was there. If she sneaked out, Iracebeth was there. Iracebeth was her own personal nightmare.
She reached the topmost flight of stairs, and opened her door. The attic wasn't so bad really. It was cosy at least, and it was her own, and there were many hiding places for her to sneak things. It was her own.
"You told him, didn't you? You sly cur," Her sisters cold voice broke through her dreams, and when Mirana turned in horror she saw her sister sitting on the edge of her bed, brushing her dolls hair.
"I-I didn't. I swear it. The guard at the gate told him, his wife saw you," She said quietly, moving towards her sister. Iracebeth held up her hand and she stopped.
"Don't lie to me, Mirana. I know you sneaked, I know you were jealous!" She hissed, and Mirana frowned.
"I didn't! Beth please, I wouldn't!" Iracebeth stood and her eyes narrowed. She slapped Mirana across the face and watched her back away. She seethed.
"Whatever. But I know it was you, and if you so much as breath another word to father, I'll have your head," She threatened. Mirana paled and straightened up, shaking like fury.
"You can't," She whispered in fear. Iracebeth smiled out of the corner of her mouth.
"Maybe not, but I'll have Stayne cut out your tongue and feed it to my Bandersnatch," Mirana wanted to point out that technically the Bandersnatch was not yet hers, not until their father died, but the stinging in her cheek told her not to. Iracebeth turned back to the bed and placed the china doll back under the sheets.
"You're going back then?" Mirana asked quietly. Iracebeth turned.
"No, Mimi, you are," She said. Mirana shook her head.
"They'll kill me," She whispered. Iracebeth's face turned stony.
"You'll do as your told. They won't kill you, you'll be there for me. You'll tell them whats happened, you'll give them this note and then you'll accept they're reply and return," She said cooly, holding out a note sealed with wax. Subconsciously, Mirana took it, but she continued to shake her head.
"I won't do it, I wont disobey father," She said resolutely. Iracebeth grabbed her hair and pulled her in, shouting in her ear "YOU'LL DO IT, OR I'LL HAVE STAYNE TO MORE TO YOU THAN CUT OUT YOUR TONGUE!" So loud that Mirana found herself sobbing and laughing. Iracebeth smiled cruelly and sent her off running. Mirana shook as she left her sister behind, running as fast as her shaky legs could carry her.

Chapter Text

It wasn't too hard to slip out of the Castle. Mirana was silent and fairly inconspicuous, and also even if the guards did see her, they wouldn't pay any mind to her leaving. After all, she was allowed. A sickening dread was beginning to build inside her stomach. Though she was a Princess and would never admit to her, Iracebeth's friends frightened her. Uilleam was a Dodo bird, and while seemed harmless Mirana had seen him rip apart a frog and eat him. He was practically silent though, and his beady stare felt like he was seeing straight through her. Joella, or 'BigEars' as Mirana called her behind her back wasn't remotely scary, however she was at court and she spread gossip like the kitchen maid spread butter on toast, and it was for that reason that Mirana was weary of the large-eared gossip. Harwall owned a great estate one side of the east river, and he was richer than even the King. He provided the group with all the funds, and he had spent half of his inheritance on sharpening each of his teeth to fangs. He was well known to slowly drag his teeth down the skin of victims, until they begged for mercy. He was always held back from Mirana by the presence of her sister, but alone Mirana knew she could know show him how she felt. Lugg was a half giant, or a half troll she wasn't really sure which. He spoke loudly and in one word sentences, but he could rip a man's head straight of of his shoulders, or crush his skull as it suited him. But he wasn't the scariest. The scariest by a thousand miles, was Ilosovic Stayne.
Stayne was never cruel to her. He didn't hurt her, or tease her or threaten her. But he shadowed her. He was often in the castle, helping Iracebeth with everything, but sometimes he was there even if her sister wasn't. He was always watching her, always there. She knew that he was the power behind her sister. A whisper from him and you wouldn't survive the week. He was the worst. He was by far the worst.
Mirana reached the door of the basement they held their meetings in, and swallowing her fear she knocked. The door opened slightly to BigEars.
"What do you want? Wheres Beth?" She snapped.
"She can't come," Mirana replied sharply with a courage that didn't quite reach her heart. BigEars scowled.
"Then what are YOU doing here," BigEars hissed.
"I have a note from her," She replied, softening slightly. A chilling voice drifted from the inside, a voice so soft you had to strain to hear it.
"Let her in, Joella," BigEars scowled even more, unlatched the door, and shoved it backwards, pulling Mirana in with such a force that she fell to the floor on her hands and knees.
"It's the whitey girl," Lugg said, his dimwitted brain working slowly. Mirana felt her heart stop. She was so scared, she couldn't even look up. She stayed there, on her hands and knees, staring at the feet and claws of the villains standing above her. A pair of sleek and shiny patent shoes took two steps towards her and stood directly in front of her for a moment. Stayne bent down and lifted her chin until he was staring deep into his eye. He stared at her, and she felt oddly exposed.
"A note, you say?" He said in his soft voice.
"I say we kill her straight," Harwall snooted. Mirana looked at him with panic as BigEars laughed cruelly.
"How do we know she's not lying? Uileam asked.
"She's not," Stayne vouched, looking deep into her eyes. She couldn't stare back at him, she couldn't make eye contact, she couldn't move. He was so close that she couldn't even breathe. He held out his hand, and Mirana stared at him for a while.
"The note," He nudged and Mirana came to her senses and handed him the note slowly. Still on one knee, he opened it and read it, and returning his eyes to her, he passed the note back behind him. She stared at the floor while the passed the note around them and read it.
"Beth will want to know we've got it," BigEars said. 'You could write a reply' She thought to herself.
"Perhaps, a little perminant mark?" Harwall suggested.
"Cut her," Lugg said, much blunter. Mirana could hardly hide her shoulders shaking. She would be strong. She would be strong. Stayne pulled out his knife, and pressed his fingers agaisnt the point. It was so sharp it cut his finger instantly, and he licked up the blood. He held out his hand, but Mirana didn't move. Harwall lunged upon her and used his body weight to pin her down on the floor. Her panicked and struggled, but it was no good. Stayne walked around into her line of sight and leaned over her. Upside down, she sent him a silent plea for mercy. He leaned over her, grasping her arm, and raised his knife, and Mirana screamed.
A Heart of blood, Iracebeth would like that.

Chapter Text

"Was there a reply?" Mirana's eyes flew open and she woke immediately. She felt tired and groggy, but also wary. She blinked and yawned and shied away under the covers slightly.
"Was there a reply?" Iracebeth asked, her voice more urgent and threatening. Mirana coughed and sat up. She held out her arm bitterly, and Iracebeth grinned.
"I bet Ilosovic gave you that didn't he? I bet he made you SCREAM. I bet you begged for mercy," Mirana withdrew her arm, ignoring her sisters cruel laughter. She wanted to ask her what the plan was, to find out what they were up to, but she didn't dare. She stayed silent, wishing her sister would leave. Iracebeth paced the room.
"I'm having the guard at the gate beheaded today, and his wife," She said casually. Mirana looked up in horror.
"What for?" She asked
"Treason," Her sister said, and Mirana cursed herself for mentioning those names yesterday.
"Beth please! They have three children! Young children! One of them's just a baby! Please Beth! Please!"
"Quiet," Iracebeth snapped. "Or I'll have you executed as well," Mirana shut her mouth, feeling sick. A silence grew as Iracebeth paced the floor, and Mirana tried to push down the hideous feeling in her stomach. 'Here goes' she thought.
"I thought I'd visit Marmoreal today, I thought i'd-"
"Oh No," Iracebeth cut in "You'll be watching the execution," A sickening grin lit up her face. Her head was so large it nearly touched the ceiling. "And besides, other than by my orders I've decided that being as you sneaked on me, you shall share my punishment," She sneered. Mirana didn't look at her. "You'll be stuck here for the next forty days as well as me, So you can't go running off to Marmoreal today to cry to Mummy! Mummy can't help you now! And neither can Daddy for that matter," Her sister spat at her in fury, before sweeping off and out of the room. Mirana listened to her descend the stairs, before throwing the covers over her and wishing it was all a bad dream.

The execution was horrific. Yorn the executioner was there, standing on the raised heart, all clad in black. Yorn scared Mirana almost as much as her sister's friends did. She looked over at her sister, sitting next to her, a cruel grin spread across her face. 'She's actually enjoying this' Mirana thought. BigEars stood right behind her, whispering in her own gargantuan ears. 'THEY'RE FAKE!' she wanted to shout, but she didn't. Iracebeth would never believe her anyway. The poor guard cried for mercy, not for him but for his wife. For his children. Mirana wished he wouldn't bring up his children so much, Iracebeth might actually forget about them. Yorn took his head off with one swing, though Mirana couldn't bear to watch. She closed her eyes, and listened to other people's cries of disgust. She didn't open them again until soft voice whispered into her ear "It's over now," Mirana opened them suddenly, and looked up into the haunting face of Ilosovic Stayne.
"Ah! Stayne! You're here. Good," Her sister proclaimed, having a servant bring him a chair directly in between them "Ilosovic's here to keep an eye on you, Mimi," She said "To make sure you don't leave the castle," He sat down, and Mirana couldn't help but feel like he was too close for comfort. Then they brought the wife out and took her up onto the stone platform, her husband's blood still dripping off the executioners block. Unlike her husband, she didn't beg for mercy, she remained completely silent. Yorn told her to put her head on the block, and she looked up solidly at the acting Queen.
"Down with the bloody Bighead!" She screamed violently, and immediately sent riots going up the crowd. Outraged, her sister stood up and screamed next to her.
"Kill her! Kill her kill her kill her! Cut out her tongue! Off with her head! Off with her head!" Joella was shouting too, and Iracebeth's 'Loyal Subjects'. Mirana swallowed nervously. She could feel Stayne's eyes on her, she knew he was watching her. With that knowledge, she wouldn't dare close her eyes again. Stayne would tell her sister, and her sister would execute a hundred peasants, and make her watch all of them. She kept her eyes open, and tried not to look scared. This time, it took Yorn three blows to remove the woman's head. The long blows, all of which the poor creature remained silent through. Mirana couldn't stand it. She had had to endure beheadings before of course, several. But nothing could ever prepare you for it. Her sister laughed and clapped her hands in delight. Throughout the entire ordeal, Stayne's eyes never left her.

Chapter Text

This was more like Iracebeth. A Summons. Mirana didn't mind, at least it meant her sister was not lurking about in her room. She knocked on the door tentatively, and Stayne opened it.
"Hello Mirana," He said softly. She shuddered.
"Is it my sister? Send her in Stayne," Iracebeth ordered, and she slipped past Stayne and into the room. Her sister was sitting comfortably on a couch, watching two dogs try to tear out each others throats. Dog fighting was always something that Beth had enjoyed, or indeed anything with violence involved.
"Ah, Mimi." Her sister said, turning. Mirana stood to attention. "I have an urgent message for you to take to Joella. You know where she lives don't you? Good. Tell her that you and Stayne will be collecting the BlackIvy tomorrow night."
"BlackIvy?" Mirana interjected, horrified. BlackIvy was the strongest poison in Underland, and was rare enough to get your hands on. "Beth! What on earth are you doing with BlackIvy?"
"Don't ask questions," Beth snapped, "And if you breathe a word to anyone I'll have your head do you understand?" Mirana gulped and nodded. But still... BlackIvy? Her sisters gang were well known for torturing and killing, but they had never used such methods as BlackIvy before. Iracebeth sent her off with the message, and Mirana left in a hurry. She went to the stables, as BigEars lived quite far away, it would be easier to ride. And also, Mirana wanted to make a little sidestop on the way. She saddled her horse, Vaquara, and ride her up to the drawbridge. She received a quizzical look from the new guard at the gate, but she hoped that for his sake he would keep out of it. She rode like fury, until she came to BigEars' house.
BigEars' farther owned the village apothecary, and he was a very skilled man of medicine (Although Mirana always found him rather simple). The man had been making medicine for her father ever since he fell ill three years ago. She knew that BigEars had learned a lot about medicine too, and was fairly skilled at such things. But Mirana had no idea that she could make BlackIvy. Apparently, she could.
She delivered the message through the door, as she had no wish to enter and besides, BigEars wouldn't let her in. Mirana knew why; Joella had no need to wear the fake ears in her own home. She jumped back onto her horse and turned directions, heading towards Salazen Grum's meagre orphanage. Mirana didn't even know why Salazen Grum had an orphanage, as the children there were neglected, until her dear sister would take them to the palace and use them for target practice. She reared up outside and dismounted, letting herself in. The Orphanage was run by Hegwen, an old crone who was a notorious alcoholic. Mirana knocked loudly on her office door to wake her up, and when she spluttered awake she scowled openly at Mirana.
"Whadda you want?" She spat, slurring her words.
"I wondered, were the Guard-at-the-gate's children brought here?" She asked, as politely as she could manage.
"No new children 'ere for six months!" She declared, holding up five fingers. Then she belched loudly. Mirana guessed her audience was over, and once outside she thought about what to do next. The answer was clear, she mounted her horse and rode to the heart of the village. She left Vaquara tied to a post, before moving to the third house down in a row of seven. She picked up a light pebble from the floor and threw it against the topmost window. She waited a moment, then threw another one. Then a light went on, and a flash of bright orange appeared at the window.
"Really Princess, one could have been sleeping!" Tarrant Hightop announced, leaning out of the window.
"I need your help," She said. "Do you know what happened to the guard at the gate's children?" Tarrant paused, thinking deeply. "Children... children... Ah yes!" He said happily. "I thought you might like them well preserved! They're in the larder!" Mirana giggled, and entered the house. She found the three children asleep in the larder, with full bellies.
"They eat an awful lot," Tarrant observed from behind her. She sighed.
"Tarrant, you're a wonder! You really are!" She said, throwing her arms around his neck.
"Careful," He said "I'd hate to wake them," Mirana looked back at them.
"Poor things," She turned "Tarrant, I have to get them away from my sister," Tarrant nodded enthusiastically.
"I'll send them with Vaquara, to Marmoreal!" Tarrant grinned.
"I knew you'd say that!" And then to the sleeping children "I knew she'd say that!" She sent Tarrant off to pack each of them a bag for the trip, while she woke them gently. The eldest was a pale skinny girl, only seven or eight years old. The girl picked up the baby, and helped Mirana to wake the other boy, who was five by the looks of him. Tarrant helped her to put them on her steady horse, and tie their travel bags to the saddle.
"Vaquara knows the way, and she will take you there as fast as you can," Mirana said to the girl "Once you get there go straight to the castle, and tell that that the Princess sent you. You'll be safe there. I'm-," She paused "I'm awfully sorry about your parents," The boy sniffed and started to cr, and tears formed in the girls eyes, but she blinked them back.
"Thank you, Princess Mirana," She mumbled, before Mirana sent them on their way. She trusted Vaquara. Her horse could outrun any guards her sister sent after them. Tarrant and her watched them disappear into the distance.
"What will you do now?" Tarrant asked quietly. She considered this.
"I'll go back, and hope Iracebeth doesn't question how long I've been gone," She replied. "Did you see the execution?"
"I make a point of avoiding the colour red. It does so clash with my hair," She smiled lightly at his reply.
"My sister can never be queen," She said. She wasn't sure when it cam from, but as soon as the words came out of her mouth she wised she could take them back. Things like that were dangerous to say, even if they were true. "With all her hearts and minions and animals and violence and-"
"Blood," Tarrant finished. "She's a Bloody Red Queen," Mirana swallowed and nodded.
"The Red Queen,"
She bid Tarrant farewell and made her way back on foot to the castle. It was a long journey, but the thought of those children safe made it worth every aching step. But it was still a long journey nonetheless, and a scary one at that. The world was asleep, and it was dark, darker than she would care to admit.
"It seems you are in need of a ride," Stayne said, riding up alongside her. Mirana jumped and looked at him in horror. Had he been following her all this time? Did he know about the children? About Tarrant? About what she had said?
"Come on," He said "I'll take you home," And he helped her onto the front of his horse. Mirana hated being so close to him, and all alone in the dark night, but there was nothing she could do about it. When she spoke, her voice was small and frightened and not like her own.
"What are you doing here?" She asked. Stayne didn't answer straight away.
"Giving you a lift back to the castle," He said shortly. Mirana blinked. He was far too close.
"Have you been following me since I left the castle?" She bit her lip and waited for his response. He didn't reply, and they made the rest of the journey in silence. When the reached the castle, Mirana jumped off the horse almost immediately. She felt better about things at a distance from him. He too jumped down and gave his horse to a servant who sped away with it. Mirana wished she could run away too. Stayne bowed slightly to her.
"If you'll excuse me, Princess," He said "I have to return to the Red Queen," And he smiled at her horrified face, before turning and leaving her alone in the blackened courtyard in the dead of night.

Chapter Text

"Maybe I'll have one built in Crimms?" Her sister said. She and Stayne were discussing castles over breakfast.'I hope not, for the poor people in Crimms' sake' Mirana thought to herself. Stayne looked up at her and she looked away quickly. As far as she was aware, he hadn't told Iracebeth anything about the previous night, and she was tremendously grateful.
"I think it would be nice to go home," Mirana made a point of staying out of this conversation, mainly because she already had her own castle. Her mother had given her the castle in Marmoreal before she died, and Mirana had sent her friend, Seraphina, over to redecorate it white. That was over three years ago now, and her sister still hated her for it.
"Your Majesty, whats wrong with this castle?" Stayne asked. Iracebeth shifted and didn't reply. Mirana wondered if it had anything to do with 'The Plan' that she was desperately trying to discover. Who was the BlackIvy for? She didn't dare ask. When she looked up again, Stayne was still staring at her. She pushed back her chair and got up.
"Whats wrong sister?"
"I've lost my appetite," She said slowly. "I'm going to visit father," and she walked out before anyone could stop her. The King's manservant, Locklorm, was very happy to see her.
"Come in, Princess Mirana," He greeted.
"Hello Locklorm, how is my father?" She asked, smiling. Locklorm led her to her father's bedside.
"He's asleep, Princess. He's been sleep all day today, and yesterday," Locklorm looked sad. Mirana sat at her father's bedside and took his hand, staring at his pale and wrinkled face. Lockorm glanced at the clock.
"Princess, can I trust you to give the King his medicine in an hour? I need to go and help with Cook's de-"
"It's fine, I'll do it," Mirana said with a smile. She looked up at the time. 9 o'clock, or thereabouts.
"Thank you Princess," Locklorm said, closing the door behind him. Mirana stroked her fathers hand and rested her head on the edge of his bed. Three years ago, not long after her 9th birthday, The King was taken gravely ill. It came on incredibly suddenly, and Joella's father said it was a disease of the mind, and prescribed a regular medicine to be taken every four hours. Some days the King was almost his normal self, once he even made it out of bed. But most days he would just sleep. Some days (And these were the worst days) He would forget who he was. He wouldn't even remember Mirana. A tear left her eyes, which she found were growing incredibly heavy. Perhaps her night time adventures were taking their toll. Her eyes drooped, and she fell into a deep sleep.

In her dreams, she was back in the basement where Iracebeth's friends held their meetings. Stayne was crouched in front o her, staring at her with his only eye. The note was being passed around. She wished she could see it, what was on it. There were voices, vague far away voices that she didn't here. Then Lugg dropped the note, and it floated softly to the ground. Stayne's eye was still on her, If only she could get to that note. Then he pulled out his knife, and just for a few seconds turned his gaze off her to look at it. It was all she needed. Her eyes darted over to the note, but there was another voice.
"Mirana," It said, deafening in her ears. "Mirana my Princess, wake up dear,"

She woke up. Her father was smiling down at her.
"You've been asleep for hours!" He said, smiling. "Haven't you been sleeping at all?" Mirana lifted her head lazily off the bed.
"Hello father," She said happily. He squeezed her hand and sat up slightly.
"What day is it?" He asked. Mirana thought.
"The Orparr day, father," She said. He nodded.
"Your mothers birthday approaches. I must remember to send flowers to her grave in Marmoreal. Perhaps I'll visit her, If i'm feeling any better."
Mirana smiled but didn't respond. He would never be able to visit her, Marmoreal was too far. He couldn't even get out of bed.
"I'll have Locklorm buy some flowers now, where is he?"
"He went to the kitchens, to help cook,"
"Well in that case send for Farghen," He ordered. Mirana frowned, who WAS that? He laughed at her confusion.
"The guard at the gate!" He said, still smiling. Mirana's smile left her face and she paled. She began to feel hideously sick.
"Father..." She said slowly.
"What is it?" He asked, usmiling. She looked at him and his face turned stony.
"Iracebeth," He hissed. "When did she execute him?"
"Yesterday," She whispered. He father grew furious.
"SEND FOR LOCKLorM NOW," he ordered "AND IRACEBETH. TELL HIM TO BRING THE PAPERS," 'Oh No,' she thought 'He's going to denounce her as heir, and it's all my fault. I'll lose my head for this,'
"Father please," She said quietly, but he gave her a look and she disappeared, returning with Locklorm and an equally fuming sister. The silence grew in the room, as Locklorm sat at the desk and began to write. Mirana wondered if she dare try to leave.
"Iracebeth of Crimms," Her father began, his voice dangerously low. "I hereby denounced you as my heir. You will no longer inherit the throne. That right will belong to your sister, Mirana of Marmoreal, who I claim as my new heir," Iracebeth flinched like she had been slapped. Locklorm was scribbling furiously.
"Furthermore," Her father continued, "You shall inherit nothing from me, and henceforth simply be known as Iracebeth," His face grew dark, "You are no daughter of mine,"
As He signed the papers, Mirana (Who was hiding in the corner) Studied her sister. It was the first time since she became acting queen that Iracebeth actually looked like a sixteen year old girl. Despite her bulbous head, she looked almost normal. But there was something wrong. Her crown meant everything to her, and yet she wasn't that upset. Something was wrong, Mirana could feel it. Her father applied the royal seal.
"You are dismissed," He said sharply to Iracebeth. "Get out of my sight," She left, without a single word. Locklorm blew the ink dry, rolled up the parchment and tied a red ribbon around it. He rolled up another one, tied it with a white ribbon and handed it to Mirana.
"This is your copy. It states that you are the heir to the throne of Underland," He smiled at her, and she offered a meager smile back to him,then at her father, then her eyes were drawn to the bottle on the bedside table.
"Your MEDICINE!" She said suddenly, "I forgot!"
"I'll take it now then instead," The king sad, and took it himself.
Thirty minutes later, Locklorm had left, and her father had gone back to sleep. Mirana left the room, shutting the door behind her.
"It doesn't matter, you know," A cold voice said. Iracebeth's face was irreadable.
"It doesn't matter. You'll see," she said and turned. "Stayne can pick up the BlackIvy on his own," She said, descending the stairs. With a sigh of relief, Mirana turned in the opposite direction and began to ascend the stairs, tightly clutching her scroll.

Chapter Text

Mirana settled up for an early night. Whatever it was that was nagging her in the back of her mind was giving her a horrific headache, and nothing quite soothes a headache like sleep!
She climbed staiircase after staircase, her head throbbing with pain. As she walked she tried to figure out what it was that was bothering her, but as soon as she came close to an answer it fluttered away, and her headache grew. By the time she reached her room the pain was almost blinding. She threw a nightgown on clumsily, and was unaware that she had laced up her favourite white boots. With a sigh she decided to keep them on, she didn't have the energy to do otherwise. She swung her legs up onto the bed and threw the blanket around her, her body fatigued and moving slowly. She lay down to sleep.
But she found she couldn't sleep. The thing that was nagging her kept her awake. Something just wasn't RIGHT, and she needed to find out what it is. When she reached over to her bedside table for a glass of water, she noticed a letter there, with no writing on it at all. Nervously, she opened it, and pulled out what looked like a receipt. She saw slowly that it was a recipe, for her father's medicine. Mirana wondered who would have sent her a letter with her fathers medicine ingredients. Whoever it was must have known that Mirana studied potions vigorously.
She was dedicated to her studies. When she turned five, and her sister was nine, her father had told them that their general studies had ended, and they must both chose a particular subject to continue on. Iracebeth hadn't even blinked.
"Dominion over living things' She said. But for Mirana, the choice had been difficult, and not an easy choice for a five yer old to make. Eventually, her love for potions had won and she had spent many hours with a variation of people in the kitchens. The castle's own physician, the cook. Her father had even once employed a potions master to come in and teach her. When her father grew ill and unaware of Iracebeth's tyranny, she had dismissed the man without a second glance. Mirana was just glad she hadn't beheaded him. Since then, Mirana had taught herself mostly, with occasional help from Tarrant and the March Hare.
She scanned through the ingredients, Puppies' Liver, Roasted Eyeballs, Dreams of an Orphan, Beggar tongue, A jar of pure Cloud. She frowned. Pure Cloud? That was often used as a slow working poison of the mind, to muddle people's brains. Then it dawned on her, and she began to realise what was going on. But something was still not right. Why was a man of medicine giving her father Pure Cloud? Then she remembered BigEars and another piece of the puzzle fell into place, but her headache was so bad she felt like her brain was exploding, so there was nothing she could do except to lie down and sleep.
The dream returned, but this time there was no one to wake her. She watched them all pass the note around, watched it flutter to the floor, watched Stayne pull out his knife and take his eyes off her for just a second...
The second was enough. Mirana glanced at the note as the memory came flooding back to her. Her eyes fluttered open, her headache now gone but a sickening dread in it's place. She felt like she had swallowed a ton of butterflies. She felt the colour leave her face as she recalled the contents of the note. She had caught two words.
'BlackIvy' and 'The King'
Iracebeth was going to poison The King

Chapter Text

She threw off the covers and sprinted out of the room and down the stairs, running at a speed she wasn't even aware she could reach. She raced down staircase after staircase until she reached her fathers corridor. She could hear voices muttering behind the King's bedroom door and she reached forward and threw it open.
"Father!" She cried, drinking in the scene. Harwall was holding an empty bottle of BlackIvy, which Mirana could see her father had just swallowed. When she entered, Iracebeth backed into a corner, a sickening grin on her face. Locklorm's body was slumped against a wardrobe, a knife sticking out of his crisp white nightshirt, which was stained with blood.
A White rage took hold of Mirana, her face turned red hot, and set itself in a stony expression. She marched towards Harwall, almost as in a dream. She was no longer in control of herself. She watched her own hand force its way down his throat, being scraped by his sharpened teeth, and yank out whatever she grasped. She watched her arm yank out his oesophagus and pull it tight around his neck. In the blink of an eye, Harwall had gone from watching her, to choking on his own entrails. Mirana watched him die with a cold indifference. She turned with urgency to her farther, a warmth returning to the tips of her fingers as she grasped his hand.
"Father!" She cried, her emotions reappearing. "Father! No! No! No!," The King raised his eyes to his youngest daughter, before closing them forever. A wave of pain crashed over Mirana, and she let out a dry sob which wracked her body. She rocked her dead father in her small cold arms, calling to him, willing him to wake. No. No. No.
A sniff from the other side of the room brought her attention to the only other remaining living body. Her sister was staring at Harwall's bloody corpse, a look of horror frozen on her face. Mirana walked over to her menacingly, her face as pale as the clothes she wore. She grasped Iracebeth by the throat, using both her hands and wrapping them around her sisters trunk of a neck. In doing so, smearing blood all over her. Iracebeth whimpered.
"You BITCH," Mirana spat, beginning to choke her. Her sister looked terrified. 'Good' "I want you to admit your crimes," When she spoke, her voice was barely a whisper. She was looking Iracebeth straight in the eye, completely unfeeling. "You made father ill. Once BigEars was old enough you made father ill and had the physician prescribe him that medicine," a new thought struck her. "That's why he's so clueless isn't it? Joella's been poisoning her own father for years, and helping you poison yours," She increased pressure. Iracebeth's huge face was beginning to turn red. "You poisoned your own father so you could begin your own tyrannical rule." Beth began to clutch at her arms, trying to pull Mirana away, "Once your future crown was threatened you had him killed," Her face was turning a queer shade of purple, her eyes lolling into the back of her head. Reluctantly, Mirana let go. Iracebeth fell to her knees and gasped in air, taking deep breaths as she clutched at her throat, as though phantom hands were still there.
"You make me SICK," Mirana spat, slapping her hyperventilating and murderous sister across the face. Iracebeth fell onto her hands and looked up in terror at her twelve year old sister. She stumbled out of the room, panting and gasping and sobbing.

It was only then that Mirana regained herself. She looked out at the miserable scene. A dead king, his dead servant. Her eyes turned to Harwall and she gagged in horror. What had she done? WHAT HAD SHE DONE? Her hands flew to her mouth and she stepped back, taking in the gruesome sight of the mutilated man. She turned and threw up on the floor, retching and retching until no more would come. Tears blurred her vision. She couldn't bear to look at her victim. She was a monster. A white haired, black eyed monster. She walked past Harwall to the body of Locklorm, who still had his pale eyes open. He too was watching Harwall, almost in horror. Mirana couldn't help but feel like he was judging her. She shut his eyes delicately, and apologised allowed for what she had done. She wanted to think that he had forgiven her.
She didn't remember leaving the scene, or returning to her bedroom. She couldn't recall packing, ensuring she had her royal seal stating her heir to the throne of Underland. She forgot how she ended up on a white horse heading towards Marmoreal. But what she did remember was how her bloodstained hands turned the horse's mane red. She remembered Harwall. His corpse haunted her whenever she closed her eyes. Eight words, plaguing her every metre.
I am a Queen
I am a murderer.

Chapter Text

"Send Stayne," Iracebeth ordered. "He always knew how to handle my little sister," This was ridiculous. She had been the rightful queen for nearly two years now! Why would Mirana return, and try to steal her throne? You know why the voice in her head hissed She has the documents. She is the true queen of Underland. No. It was her right, as the eldest. Her father was very sick, he didn't know what he was doing.

Mirana had returned two months ago, in secret she had been told. From there her and the village Hatter had set about recruiting the villagers to her cause. People had always loved Mirana. Even when they were very small, the crowds adored her. It was because of her tiny head, she knew. Once the entire village was set against The Queen, Mirana had set about recruiting the castle staff and guards. Nine days ago, they had surrounded the castle and begun the siege, leaving Iracebeth alone with twelve servants, ten guards and -of course- Stayne. At first she had been diligent, beheading a servant a day to make Mirana swerve, but she hadn't. In the months she had been away (apart from making a vow to never harm any living creature) her little sister had gained some kind of obstinance and fortitude, and would not be deterred by  beheadings as she would've done in the past. Mirana had changed, she had become stronger, wiser. She had become a queen.

Iracebeth stared out the window and bit her nails with worry. She could see Mirana's guards surrounding the moat, tin knights with gleaming white armour. She saw her sister's tent, white of course. She took deep breaths to control her fury, gritting her teeth with anger. Now Mirana wanted a treaty, wanted her to come out herself. Fat chance of that happening, the little would-be-queen was not worthy of her presence. Iracebeth reached for her crown protectively, a habit she found herself doing increasingly often. She held it tight, listening to the drawbridge lower and watching Stayne cross it on his black horse. She watched him wait at the end of the drawbridge, saw Mirana leave her tent and mount her own pure white steed, Vaquara. Mirana was accompanied by the Hatter she adored, and Uileam. Iracebeth hissed at the sight of her old friend; a worthless Dodo who had betrayed her to her little sister, sending her the recipe to the medicine Iracebeth had been poisoning their father with. Uileam had gotten cold feet about the operation, and betrayed her before fleeing to Marmoreal to seek forgiveness off the little pig. When Mirana caught sight of Stayne, Iracebeth watched her suddenly freeze up and chuckled slightly. She had usted Stayne to haunt her little sister when they were younger, to terrify her every waking moment. When Stayne had cut her, he had scarred her for life. Iracebeth watched her sister subconsciously touch the heart on her arm, a scar Stayne had given her a while ago. She sighed, watching the two party's converse. What had happened to her gang? Stayne had stayed, of course he had. Stayne had always stayed with her- but what of the others? Joella had gone off on her orders, to help supervise the building of her red army. Uileam was a traitor, and didn't bear thinking about. Lugg had fled to the mountains, on tales of a Jabberwocky being sighted there. And Harwall- she shuddered. She did not want to think about Harwall. For months she had woken to nightmares of his mutilated body, limp and leaning against a wall with his entrails wrapped around his throat. His eyes pale and gleaming, his mouth jammed open as if he were screaming in pain. Mirana had scared her that day, had terrified her beyond belief, not that she would ever admit to it. 

She snapped out of her daydream at the sound of the drawbridge closing, and when she looked up it was with horror. Stayne was going with Mirana. She saw that he was still on his horse, but his hands were bound and he was being escorted by two guards. Iracebeth stood and stomped her feet in fury. She couldn't do that!! It wasn't FAIR! She couldn't arrest Stayne, she needed him. after a moment of two of fury it dawned on her that all hope was lost. Stayne was gone, she was on her own. She made up her mind, she was going to have to escape that night. She would take the Bandersnatch, of course she would, and she would go and find Joella. But she would be back. She would be back with an army, and a Jabberwocky, and she would fill the streets with the blood of her sister, and turn them red.

 

 

 

 

*   *   *

 

 

Gone? A cheer went up among the crowd and Mirana forced a smile onto her face, but inside she felt worried. It shouldn't have been that easy, her sister would never have given up so quick. She left her men rejoicing, but she felt unsettled, something was not right. Without really thinking, she made her way to a tent at the back of the siege. As she walked in the smell of blood and urine choked her, and she paused for a second. Tied to a post in the middle of the dark tent was Ilosovic Stayne. Beaten and bruised, he raised his head slowly, and she felt the cold terror that filled her whenever she saw him. Frozen in fear, she considered turning back and running. But she couldn't, her legs were glued to the spot. When his eyes adjusted onto hers, he smiled cruelly and Mirana blinked and shuddered.

"Your highness," He said mockingly. "I would kneel, but as it happens i'm all tied up at the moment." He chuckled at his own joke and Mirana forced herself to unfreeze, to take a step forward.

"My sister has fled," She said slowly. Stayne tutted.

"I knew she would," He mumbled, before lifting his head to her and smiling. "Are you here to gloat, Your Grace?" She took another step forward and shook her head. "Then I don't suppose you fancy untying me? Only I think i look much more handsome with my head on my shoulders," She took a deep breath and wondered if she was really doing the right thing. She moved around the back of him and untied the rope that was keeping him there. In one swift movement, he swept up behind he and forced her against the post. He pressed himself against her, and he smelt of blood and filth.

"Are you sure you know what your doing?" He asked quietly, menacingly. She breathed deeply with panic, staring at his middle and trying not to hyperventilate.

"My-sister" She breathed, trying to stop herself from shaking, "She-needs-you," Her voice was barley above a whisper. He pulled her chin up until she was looking directly into his eye, and he reached down and kissed her, lightly at first, before slowly pushing his tongue into her mouth. She was too scared to resist, he had her forced up against the post and there was nowhere to run. He pulled back, licking his lips and smiling. 

"We will meet again, Mirana of Marmoreal," He leaned in, whispering in her ear, "And boy I can't wait," He kissed her again, before fleeing from the tent. Unaware of the fact he had been holding her up, Mirana's knees turned to jelly and she sank onto the floor, struggling to breath and shaking like fury. She drew her knees up to her and put her head in her arms, frantically sobbing. She didn't hear anyone else enter the tent, but she felt herself being enveloped in a small pair of arms that held her while she cried. When her sobbing receded, she raised her head and Tarrant Hightop wiped her eyes with his sleeve.

"Sometimes, I think you're as mad as I am," He said softly, and she smiled through her tears.

"As mad as a Hatter," She declared. "As mad as a Hatter,"