No one noticed as a lone, armored clad figure stood on the threshold of Marmoreal, and then proceeded forward with aching slowness. Legs twinged with the struggle of staying upright, head down, sword dragging on the ground, scraping away dirt and leaving a chasm not unlike her own heart.
It was a night like no other—the horror was over, the darkness dissipated by a spark of incredible innocence and light. A collective sigh torn from the rivers and forests of Underland, a reverberation to the outer most reaches of the Kingdom. Marmoreal was now free, and its people unfettered from the clutches of an evil tyranny, a despotism that sought nothing but a cold submission of the will and spirit to its inner darkness.
Lords and Ladies danced, the trees sang, and the waters ran clean and deep...
Underland sang in commemoration of the illustrious victory known as Frabjous day; for the darkness was over, and, hopefully, a new era begun. The people were free—free to do what was needed to unleash their sorrow and lay aside grief.
The bodies swayed as an ethereal waft of music floated through the Great Hall…
But just as the mourning of all was being mended, the suffering of one began. For the sweet victory had been bought at a dreadful price. That price was lost innocence.
The great fireplace created a warmth within the Throne room that had been previously unknown. A well-placed hand settled onto the mantle and its owner sighed. Muscles that earlier in the day had strained in time with the Vorpal sword now relaxed and twitched, and a small groan escaped soft pink lips. The wine, so forbidden to her in a strange world above, now soothed a dry throat and battered limbs. She felt its warmth permeate to her inner core, but instead of bringing a much needed calmness, it caused something else—a tiny spark, of sorts, a small flame of what could only called a need.
She dared a glance at the throne and a small pang clutched at her heart. Brown eyes squinted as if to burn away the sight before her, a quiet sob escaped young lips. For hours it seemed, one suitor after another, all vying for the one that meant more…more than…Oh, Mirana…
Mirana, too, suffered, for all she wanted was a private room, some quiet place, to be present to her young Champion. The lines of suitors, cold men from the far reaches of Underland, like a funeral procession.
"Not at all, Aelffaed of Damerham, you are most welcome in Marmoreal." The extended white hand was stiff, not at all in concordance with the lyrical cadence of the spoken voice.
"Your Majesty." A kiss that lingered too long, eager eyes searched the dark, russet stare for any sign of warmth.
Graceful fingers settled onto the goblet, the aperitif warm and inviting and releasing just the right amount of tension. The indifferent stare was unsettling and spoke a clear message; back off. "Your Grace."
The White Queen stole a glance; her usually calm demeanor shifted somehow, its axis settling on a new emotion—one both unfamiliar in its desire yet plainly clear in its want.
I love you, my Champion. But her Champion had turned away.
She was safe, if even only for the moment, all potential suitors gone at least for the rest of the night. It was not hard to find the tension areas of her body as she leaned back and settled into the throne. The dancers continued to sway to the otherworldly music, the light from the fireplace reflecting graceful images off the walls, creating a sensual mood. Its effect was both sublime and illusory. It stirred a powerful emotion within her, one that demanded to be recognized.
Alice gripped the mantle harder in a vain attempt to substitute one unbearable pain for another. It was too much, first the Jabberwock and now this—this farce, this pretense of a celebration. It was supposed to bring relief, a cathartic ending to the madness. But it only brought a tension, one that was not altogether unpleasant. As she spared a final glance at the throne her breath caught in her throat. You are beautiful.
Mirana spared Nivens a glance. "Yes."
Alice… A heartbeat quickened as suddenly moist hands ran down the sides of her dress. "What about—"
Fingers gripped the arms of the throne, and a small gasp escaped her lips. "Alice? Where did she go?"
The rabbit lifted a paw and pointed. "She went behind those drapes."
Mirana knew the way by heart; Alice had gone the way to her personal library, just off to the side of the great Throne Room. She airily rose to her feet and curtsied to her ladies in waiting. "If you will excuse me."
A soft breeze caused the curtains in her library to sway slightly. The music from the Great Throne room muted—dreamy—almost like a dirge. She faltered in her steps and turned a corner. Her Champion lifted the glass to her mouth and downed the libation in one fluid move. The White Queen stifled a gasp of worry.
The girl's shoulders were slumped and she appeared to be hurt. Injuries that had previously gone unnoticed were now apparent—a cut above her left eye was starting to swell, a tiny flow of blood oozed from the greave on her left leg and her left hand looked singed and bruised.
Alice felt the hairs on the back of her neck tingle and a not so unpleasant feeling crawled slowly up her spine; she shuddered. "Good evening, Your Majesty."
A noose tightened around her heart; her soul cried out in anguish. "Alice."
This was the end, or the beginning, for both. Time seemed to stop as two tattered souls waited for permission to unbind the other.
Alice Kingsleigh dropped the glass she was holding and it splintered into several tiny pieces, keeping perfect time with the shattering of her heart. She turned to face her—what was Mirana? Her Queen—maybe, or perhaps a secret foe, or perhaps something more. My savior…
Mirana froze at the cold stare. "Let me help you, my love."
Alice's heart beat out a wild staccato. "I'm fine."
"But, Alice, you don't appear to be."
Young eyes bore into the other woman's, unsettling her. "Vincit omnia veritas, Mirana?"
A moment of truth, they reached a pinnacle, the certainty of what they both felt and understood hanging, precariously, on an unsteady balance.
Mirana flinched, but held it in check. "Yes, in all things. Vero nihil verius, Alice."
"I killed something today." Alice felt her armor crack, her comment meant to sting, and it did.
There was a long pause, the flickering flames the only sound heard, and a prelude, of sorts. The White Queen's somber voice spoke. "It had to be done, my Alice."
Alice fiercely wiped at the tears she desperately did not want Mirana to see. Her anguish momentarily blinding her to the truth. "I'm not your Alice!"
A certain but cautious step forward. "I can understand how you feel—"
Her body became rigid as a flare of anger pierced her. "Tell me, Your Majesty, have you ever killed anything?" Her hands balled into fists.
"No, I have not. My vows—"
Alice kicked out and her foot toppled a small table. "I don't bloody care about your stupid vows!"
Mirana inhaled deeply. She knew of the inferno that was threatening to pull her Champion asunder. "Please listen to me, my Champion."
Alice stumbled forward and lost her balance, she landed on her knees, her body wracked with sobs.
All thought forgotten; Mirana dropped in front of the girl and wrapped her arms around the cold steel of the armor Alice wore. She lifted her hands and gently brought the girls head upon her shoulder. "I'm sorry…I'm sorry, my love."
And her armor cracked some more, releasing sorrow already too much to bear. She allowed the White Queen to pepper kisses all along her cheeks, and when Mirana's lips found a sensitive spot behind her ear she let out a grief-stricken moan. She tried to push the White Queen away, but Mirana held on as they staggered backwards. For a brief moment, their eyes locked. And then Alice grabbed at the fabric on Mirana's shoulders and pulled her closer, whimpering loudly.
And the pain became too much, and the anger melted into the desire she desperately wanted to feel. Alice grabbed Mirana around her waist and crushed her to her body, her eyes pleaded for something, anything to quench the fire within. "I need…" She relished the feel of the slender form as her hands moved and caressed and teased.
Mirana knew—had seen the battle lust herself—as Iracebeth's minions spoiled and raped the land. Her Champion suffered, and she knew what she required. She wound her arms around Alice's neck. "Yes, dear Alice, my Champion. Be my Champion, champion me, my Alice…"
All thought was thrown to the wayside as Alice took hold of Mirana's dress. A rough tear split the silk garment making it useless, hands fought for control as the sound of armor clanging to the stone floor rang out. The world fell away as urgency overrode propriety and the struggle for supremacy a ruse, as the White Queen knew what Alice yearned for. A gasp turned into a whimper as one heated body fell onto another. And when Mirana wrapped her legs around her Champion's hips, Alice fractured completely.
She stretched somewhat, trying to loosen stiff and sore muscles. Her position on her stomach did not afford her a clear view of the room. The dim light told her that dawn was fast approaching.
The tiny voice startled her. She turned her head to find that Alice was watching her from her position on the other side of the large divan. Mirana sighed. "For what are you sorry, dear Alice?"
Her head hung low, blond hair hiding her features. "What I did to you last night." She could no longer hold up her body and collapsed next to her Queen, hiding her face. "How can you stand to be near me?"
"Look at me, Alice."
Mirana reached over and was surprised when the girl did not pull away. "What we did last night was mutual, my love. You needed me and I needed you."
"You undo me."
"As you, me."
Alice closed her eyes. "This changes things."
"I certainly hope so."
The girl let out a small moan. "I love you, Mirana. I'm in love with you, I'm sure of it." Her revelation was too much, and a strangled sob escaped her lips.
The White Queen gently took her Champion into her arms and ran her hand gently down her back. "Shhh…it's okay, Alice. I'm here, I won't leave you, and I could never leave you. I love you, too."
And all of Alice's former life, with its hopes, dreams and dismal failures—her uniqueness, strengths and fortitude—found release and expression in the arms of Mirana of Marmoreal, her White Queen. Hearts found their way to the other, and the long process of mending begun, promises spoken, and two souls united in love and passion.
"I'm all yours," Mirana whispered against her Champion's lips.
Alice nodded and offered her Queen a small smile. "I am to my Beloved, as my Beloved is to me."
"Oh, that is lovely, Alice."
Alice rolled them over until she was on top. "Let me show you how…"