Actions

Work Header

Twisted Wonderland - Part 4

Chapter Text

The world is terrible. It’s filled with rot, a stagnation that permeates the very core of its being. There’s nothing but sex, drinking, drugs, and every other hedonistic vice one can think of. No matter where one looks, someone is trying to use the very problem to get away from its symptoms, and visit a softer, sweeter place. The source of it all, is the Royals.

The Queen, who lives in majesty over a Capital flush with debauchery and sin. She enjoys a lavish life with all the food, righteous violence, and fearful respect she could ask for. Her castle sits on a hill above it all from where she offers no law but that of against murder. The death of another Wonderlander, or human. Even that is such a quaint superfluous law. The one thing that one could use to gain traction and shock the others out of their stupor is outlawed. And for that, I would almost admire her sly intelligence, if it weren’t for the way she had ruled her country into the muddy ground. It’s through her negligence that the world is a cesspool, that slavery is rampant, that rape goes unchallenged and that no one bothers to ask as to why. But she is not the only cause.

The King, who lives in the north against a sheer wall of mountain, looking down over his terrified people and grinning. He’s a mysterious, savage figure that installs his own laws and enjoys especially the suffering of others. Of course, he would never kill, no, that would go against the Queens’ wishes. And he loves his sister, of course, if the rumors are true. The Royals agree to work with each other as long as they may have their own dominion. So the King skirts around the Queens’ trivial law against murder. Torture, inevitable death, that isn’t murder. It is retribution for what the criminal has obviously done to taint the Kings’ good standing. That can never go unpunished. The torture chamber is hidden away in his palace, but if one has the right eye, one may end up descending those limestone stairs and edging towards the scent of blood and death. But even he at least acknowledges his people.

The Lord, who lives in the splendor of eternal harvest still manages to be the poorest kingdom of them all. Why is that? His cowardice. The Lord himself is elusive to the point of nonexistence. He spends his days in his room being waited on hand and foot by nobility and humans alike. An immortal being so careful and feigning such sickness is enough to make my stomach roil. He spends his days enjoying the internal world of his palace and never once has seen the light of day in recent memory. Whatever poaching his human subjects may suffer, whatever fear of death and sickness the Lord nobles themselves may have, he turns a blind eye. He can not be affected by the plague, but he would certainly hide away until it was over regardless. The only thing he could possibly care about is whether food will still appear on his plate, and whether there are any young boys left for him to fuck.

Which brings us to the Duchess. Living far, far away from the other three countries, across the Wonderland Forest and in the eternal winter that all other nobles dread, she sits at her throne and watches. She sees the stagnation, the world’s literal decay as the trees turn a sick green and the undergrowth fades to black. And she merely watches. She watches, and she waits, for the day that something will happen. That someone will come. That Alice will return, perhaps. Anyone who would invest their time in a storybook is mad. But then, aren’t we all? Mad?

I’m certainly mad, for what I am about to do.

Because here I am, about to kill them all. The Queen, the King, the Lord, perhaps even the Duchess. Kill them all, if it will destroy the stagnation that infects our precious Wonderland. All for a girl. A girl that tried to kill me.

This is my twisted story.

Chapter Text

QUILL

I sprinted down the hall lined with yellow tapestries bordered in brown and black, then stopped abruptly against a potted plant, and listened. The sound of footsteps around me was normal. Servants dressed in the simple restrained garb of a slave passed by constantly, giving the occasional strange look in my direction. Hair the color of straw, freckled with bold yellow eyes shining with mischief, I suppose I looked out of place among the regular meek and mild Lord nobility. I wasn’t about to cower behind a girl, or shuffle quietly along to my studies. I paid no mind to their looks. They were slaves and nothing more, they’d never dare to bother me.

But then I heard it. The scuffled noises of a run trying to hide itself. It was nearly there. A few more feet around the corner, and I’d have to break out to the nearest hiding spot again and hope he wouldn’t be able to catch me. His step slowed, sped up, then slowed again. He was trying so hard to be quiet, but the stone flooring of the castle could never hide the light steps of someone running about with such a strange uneven purpose. The chatter of the nobles passing by in the hallways didn’t hide it either, even if he thought it did. I could hear him trying to move faster when the laughter picked up. Even so, he was close. Achingly close. My heart was beating too fast to breathe. I’d have to take off again. Just one more step…

I gasped when a hand gripped my mouth tightly to keep me from screaming. A larger form pulled itself against me, and my eyes whirled around to see the girl that was three years older and a head taller than I was. She’d never let me forget it either. Jillians’ pale golden eyes glinted, and she tightened her grip. She smirked at my reaction.

“No screaming,” she warned quietly. “Or Lod will hear you.” Golden locks flowed down her back in a silvery sheen near to her waist. She’d forgone the hair tie today in favor of a wild look. I would have kept it back, it was too easily noticed when she was running. It was probably her speed that had kept her from getting caught yet. All the same, I nodded faintly, and went back to listening to the footsteps with growing apprehension. They grew stronger, then paused, then faded away as they turned a different direction. Those footsteps were drowned out by the walking of servants and slaves, and then I knew we were safe. If not even I could hear it, then he was long gone in another direction. I sighed in relief, and slumped back into my cousins’ arms. She let go of my mouth and wiped her hand on side of her dull yellow embroidered dress for good measure.

“Did you have to take my hiding spot?” I demanded. “The castle’s big enough.”

“If it was up to you alone, you would have been caught five minutes ago. I’m saving your bloody behind, you know.”

“I don’t need saving!” She pinched my cheek, and I rubbed it with a grumble.

“Whatever,” she dismissed. “I’m here now, so be quiet. Lod will come back if you keep nattering on. At least, he might. I’m not sure with him. She ducked her head around to watch the larger hallway. “He went in one of the servant quarters, now.” She grinned. “Maybe I’m wrong. We might last till dinner.”

“That’s no way to talk about Lod,” I scoffed. Sure, Lod might have had a difficult time of it, but he was still my cousin. And when he smiled or followed me around and did what I wanted, I couldn’t help but like him. He was malleable, but not in a way that I would ever take advantage of.

My mind was wandering again, and I pinched my arm.

Jillian never bothered to go easy on her little brother, because she could never get passed the ‘little’ part. But if Lod wasn’t Lod, then I wouldn’t trust him as much as I did. “He just isn’t used to being the one seeking. You keep volunteering all the time, you think either of us would be as good as you?”

“If you two ever bothered to learn the layout of the castle past the kitchens and noble quarters, maybe you wouldn’t keep getting lost and hopeless all the time.”

“It’s not exactly easy to memorize something as big as the castle!”

“I can do it.” She crossed her arms with that condescending smirk she always wore. “You’re both just useless. It’s so annoying when I end up finding you two blubbering because you’ve been stuck on the second floor of the storage quarters for the past hour wandering in circles. You can’t even seem to remember how you ended up in a room, that’s just sad. Although, it’s kind of funny.”

“We don’t blubber…”

“I’ve seen you cry before. And Lod definitely cries, you can’t deny that. He’s my baby brother, but he’s a baby first. You two were born in this castle. The fact that you can’t even figure out where things are boggles my mind.”

“If we went seeking more instead of you hogging it all the time, maybe we’d learn more about it.”

“I don’t think you could learn if you studied the blueprints for the next three months.” She paused, then hissed. “Okay shut up he’s coming back out.”

“But you were the one talking!”

“Shut up, I said!”

“You shut up!”

“You shut up!”

“Jill? Quill?” Lod stared at Jillian and I currently in the midst of slapping each other. The boy with cropped pale hair and paler eyes seemed tentative as he tilted from foot to foot, entirely unsure as to how he had caught us so easily. His lost and confused expression had me faltering for a second. I couldn’t form thoughts when he was so sheepish like that.

I froze, then gave a tentative grin.

“Pretend you didn’t see me?” I offered. “It’s Jills’ fault, blame Jill.”

“But you’re right there… Should we try again? Maybe I didn’t give you enough time…”

Jillian deflated with a groan, then walked over to clap Lod on the shoulder. “Okay. That’s it. I give up. I’ll go seeking again. Both of you are absolutely terrible at this game when you’re not together.”

“She was the one that gave the game away,” I grumbled to Lod as Jillian found the nearest unclaimed hall column to knock her head against and start counting. He smiled that classic simple, dimpled smile, and nodded his head understandingly. I pinched myself again.

“It’s fine, we’re better together, right? We’ll beat her for sure this time. And we won’t get lost.” He lowered his head nervously. “We won’t get lost, right?”

“It’s better if we do.” I lowered my voice, and pulled him closer by the collar of his shirt. “If we find a spot that not even we know, then Jillian probably won’t know it well either, right?” I grinned. “We just have to think even more craftily than her, and we can win.”

“That’s a terrible idea,” he mumbled.

“No it’s not. It’s a perfect idea. We’ll never be able to win if we stick to the places she knows we know, right? She’s older, she gets to go to all the meetings and knows where everything is. We never get to go anywhere other than tutoring, so there’s a handicap. There’s always going to be one if we don’t break out of our comfort zone.”

“I’m going to end up having to cry for Jillian to pick me up again, aren’t I…”

“Hey!” Jillian called back from her column. “I’m going to start counting to forty, so you two better get hiding, alright?”

“Alright!” I said over my shoulder, then whispered to Lod. “Just follow me.” I took his hand in mine and held tight. The two of us started running just as Jillian began to count. “This way!”

We ran past brightly lit golden archways that sailed above us and adult nobles alike, beautifully inlaid mosaic walls and oil paintings, and baskets of freshly picked flowers on every corner. The corridors were filled with nobles on the first floor. They sported all shades of yellow in their hair as they chatted amongst themselves about the weather, the harvest, the economy, and other trivial matters that neither Lod nor I ever cared for outside of tutoring. Their hair, eyes and clothing were a sea of every shade of yellow imaginable, from a dull ruddy brown to faintest platinum. Accents of blue and green weren’t uncommon either, though they did represent a striking message. Someone who did not wear the Courts’ colors in the Courts’ very castle was either rebellious, or clueless, my father would always say. But everyone got sick of yellow after a while. Even I wore a deep green vest today, with trousers that were a silvery grey instead of brown. Lod thought it would look good on me, and he was right. I got the occasional looks in my direction as the splash of exotic color was certainly something eye-catching, but nothing more. I was little more than a child, I doubted any would care. If my father saw me, perhaps he might say something. But he wasn’t here, and I was busy enjoying myself. I was the Right Hands’ son anyways. I made the rules, I didn’t have to follow them.

Lod and I were rampant in the castle, sprinting every which way through the crowds of human servants bringing food and water to the chambers of Lord nobles, and returning to the kitchens. Briefly the two of us could smell freshly made pasties as one of the cook slaves passed us by with a heaping tray. I lost the game for a moment, pausing in the middle of the hall with my hand raised to pilfer a few, but a quick tug from Lod brought me back to my senses. If Jill was Jill, then she would probably cheat us out of half the time she said she’d given us. We had no time to steal steak pasties, even if it did smell like the best thing ever created. Our hiding spots would be limited.

I could breathe easily when we made it to the third floor of the monolithic building. The two of us paused for a moment to catch our breath, and only then did I let go of Lod’s hand. His pale yellow hair stuck up patches from the sweat and sharp turns, and his face was almost as red as mine felt. When I started up again to carefully examine our possible hiding opportunities, he lagged behind. He might have been as strong as me, but he always preferred staying in the kitchens to swimming in the pond that took up the majority of the gardens. I didn’t mind.

As we wandered the passageway, I began to realize that I’d done exactly what I’d set out to do. We’d never been in this part of the castle before, and it looked like quite a few hadn’t either. It was quieter here, probably used for storage of old furniture that was in need of cleaning and fixing. The braziers were still lit, and there was still a bouquet of tulips on a side table at the end of one corner of the hall, but the tapestries were old and dusty. The stone flooring was in need of a good scrub, and probably had been for the past few years. Lod and I both peeked through each of the doors that lined the quiet and ancient hall, but found nothing more than a few broken tables and chairs. There was the occasional cupboard, but nothing large enough to fit us.

“This is foolish,” Lord murmured. The further we travelled, the more silent the world became, until the sound of his voice spooked even himself. I could feel the trembling in his hand when I took it again. The fingers were cold and clammy. “We’re going to get hopelessly lost again.”

“I know where the staircase is,” I reassured him. “We’re not entirely lost. Just a little. But Jillian’s not going to have any idea that we ended up here of all places.” I grinned from ear to ear when I opened one of the doors near the end of the hall, and saw our prize.

The wardrobe was the perfect size for the both of us. The ornate dark wood on the outside formed roses, the handles accented in the same flowers in varying states of flowering. Surrounding it were older, small cupboards left to rot in disuse for what looked like decades. A few of them were covered by white sheets, but the wardrobe stood out among them, looking as strong and intimidating as a piece of furniture could. Lod followed my sure walk towards the large cupboard with his own small, tentative steps. I pulled on a rose bud and confirmed the size. My grin only widened when I saw the emptiness. A few mothballs, an old blouse, but nothing more. More than enough room to sit inside together.

“This is perfect.” I turned back to Lod, and motioned to it. “Come on. Get in. We can hide in here for a long time.”

“I don’t like this,” He muttered. “It’s too small and cramped.”

“It’s more than big enough,” I dismissed him, and stepped inside. I turned around in the wardrobe, crossed my legs, then grinned back at him boyishly. He joined me reluctantly. My cousin sat down in the large wardrobe facing the door and stretched out his feet as far as they would go. It wasn’t far, especially as I struggled to close the heavy wooden slabs of the doors. I paid no mind to his arguing as I pulled the doors fully closed with a small creak of the wood rebelling at being touched for the first time in years. He ended up cross-legged as well, and all the more miserable for it.

It was dark. The small crack of light between the doors was the only thing keeping us from total sightlessness, but that wasn’t much of a help. It was still shades of grey and faint yellow in here. I liked it; I was sick of yellow. But I could see Lod’s fearful face at thought of being stuck in here. Lod was afraid of most things. A gentle squeeze from my hand was usually enough to calm him down. We’re safe,” I told him. “And the door isn’t locked. We can get out any time we want.”

“I don’t like being stuck in something like this,” he murmured. “It feels too small and cramped. Side by side like this, I can’t even stretch anything out. I don’t like it. It’s congesting.”

“Here.” I moved my body lengthwise, until my legs were brushing his side. I was startled by how close he was when I faced him. I could see his eyes in the dark, shining and wet with possible tears. My heart beat a little faster, but I tried to ignore it. He followed my lead to move and make things more comfortable. Both of us ended up staring at each other in the darkness. I could stretch my legs out, and he could do the same. His shoes pressed faintly against my sides. I rested my hands on his legs. “How is that?” I asked.

“Better…” He said tentatively.

“Good. Let me know if you need to stretch.” I smiled. “I’ll try to move out of the way.”

A minute passed between us. His eyes were dull and dark in the light. Maybe I wasn’t entirely sick of yellow, when the shade didn’t do him justice. Though, I could still see his face. It was as boyish as my own features, to the point that we often used to be mistaken for one another, but he was already starting to grow broader in the chest. He’d outpace me soon enough. There was a faint pang in my stomach. But it was silly. I was fine with that. Even if he did change the way he looked, he was still Lod. We didn’t have to look the same. The nagging thought wouldn’t go away, though, no matter how much I tried to ignore it.

He stared back at me, then ducked his head to the side to gaze out of the small crack. “What are we going to do if Jillian can’t find us? Stay here the whole time?”

“We’ll wait until dinner, then come back like champions.” I grinned in the darkness. I found myself wiping drool from my mouth. “You can stick it out that long, right?”

“Maybe we should have grabbed a few of those pasties. Then we wouldn’t have to go back.”

“We’d have to go to the toilet eventually anyways.” I peered closer at him. His breath was short. Probably from the small hiding place. So easily afraid of everything. “How long do you think you could last?”

“A few hours, maybe? I don’t know. But I don’t like it in here. It’s too dark.”

“You’re afraid of everything.” I scooted closer to grab his hand. This time he tensed at the touch. He’d never done that before. For a moment, it felt like he was going to pull away. His face was close to mine, almost too close. But then he gripped tighter, and smiled at me.

“I’m not afraid of you.”

“Good,” I grinned. “I’ll protect you.”

The two of us stayed like that for what felt like hours.

Lod was right, the wardrobe was congesting. The longer we stayed, the warmer it felt. The cold and clammy feeling of holding his hand had changed. It was warm and sticky now, but I dared not let go. I looked over to him, but he was still looking out through the crack of the wardrobe. His eyes were lit up by the faint light. He wore a simple loose blouse, and tighter trousers than me, with boots that reached to his knees. The cuffs of his shirt were buttoned up tightly. I’d helped him pick out the outfit, just as he had done for me. Every day we’d dress each other on the faith that we would make each other look like fools. I had to admit, we’d betrayed each other multiple times. Today I hadn’t, and neither had he. He looked good in a loose shirt. The neck line was low on his body. I looked at the rise and fall of his throat.

My stomach tightened. I had to resist the urge to let go of his hand.

“Hey, Lod,” I murmured.

“Yeah?”

My stomach was churning in knots. “Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be with a girl?”

He paused, then flushed. “Sometimes.”

“Do you think their breasts are soft?” I asked tentatively.

“Probably.”

“And they’re probably really warm.”

“Well, you’re warm. I think everyone’s warm.” I blinked, then moved closer.

“Everyone?”

“Now you just sound stupid. Of course everyone is warm. Except for maybe Duchess nobles, I’d wager. Living in the cold is bound to do something to them.” He grinned tentatively, but I simply watched him.

“What’s kissing like, do you think?”

“I don’t know. But what’s the point of asking these questions? We’re not of age, it’s not like your father or mine would ever agree to an entertainment girl.” He looked shyly down at his feet. “I don’t like the rules either, but your father is militant about it. And mine always agrees. And I don’t want to have to think about that when I can’t do anything about it.” He pursed his lips, then scratched the back of his neck. “Besides. Jill doesn’t have anybody. Maybe it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.”

“Jillian is too mean,” I argued. “No one wants to be with her anyways. And she’s not much older. She’s just barely of age, but she’s so busy lording over her studies ahead of us that she doesn’t have time to get her snatch wet.” I glanced over at him, then changed the position I was in until we were against each other, nearly shoulder to shoulder. His face might have reddened in the darkness, but I couldn’t tell. I knew my face was hot. It wasn’t from the congestion anymore. Being close to him, when I wasn’t busy thinking of pranks we could play, or places we could get into, when my mind was on something else…

The position we were in made the wardrobe more uncomfortable to hide in, but Lod didn’t say a word.

“Hey, Lod.”

“Yeah?”

“What if… We kissed?”

Chapter Text

Speechlessly, Lod’s mouth hung open, staring as I defensively ducked my head. My heart was in my throat. I’d made a terrible mistake.

“I mean-“ I bit my lip. “If we’re not going to be able to do anything until we come of age, then there’s no other way, right? Maybe – it’s stupid. What I said was stupid. Never mind. Stop looking at me like that!”

“We’re cousins, Quill. You’re like – you’re like my brother!”

“It’s just so we can say that we had our first kiss!” I said quickly. “What if we go through finding an entertainment girl and we don’t even know how anything works? Like, you don’t know where to put your cock, or we can’t even kiss right. I don’t know how to kiss, do you? No, of course not! We’d be laughingstocks. We wouldn’t be able to show our faces around them. We’d never get to do anything ever again!”

“I guess… Fair play. But you’re my cousin-”

“What, is a cousin going to give you cooties?”

“But…” He bit his lip. Even in the darkened light, I could see a faint flush on his face now. He was as red as I felt. “I don’t know. You’re a… You’re a boy.”

“Since when does that matter? I have a mouth. I can kiss you, can’t I?”

“Yes, but the other stuff, how would that even work?”

I pressed my chest up against his. I could feel his heartbeat, his breath against face, quickening the moment I got closer.

“I told you, neither of us know how,” I murmured. “And we’re never going to know until we try. It can’t be that different between two guys, can it? There’s still kissing, more than likely. Still… You know, going inside. There’s a… Hole, I suppose…” His heartbeat quickened, and I suppressed a noise in my throat. He was just like me. I thought I had been pushing him, alone in this the whole time. Up until that point, I thought just telling him would make him run right out of that wardrobe, and never talk to me again.

I should have never doubted him. Lod was Lod. Reliable to the core, and more often than not, thinking the same things I was.

“Lod.” I blinked at him as I pressed closer. “Do you feel that?”

“Yeah.” His voice was strained.

“Me too.” I flicked my eyes to his lips. They were wet with salivation in expectancy, just as mine were. “That’s not… That’s not exactly a brotherly feeling, is it?”

“I don’t know,” he whimpered. “Quill, why do you always have to pull me into weird things?”

“Do you want me to stop?” He buried his head against my hair.

“No…”

“Let’s just- let’s stop thinking about this.” I gripped his hand tightly. “Do you… You want to try kissing me first? Or should I just go…”

“I don’t know!” he repeated.

“Fine, fine, I’ll do it.” I pushed his chin back up, and stared at him. His eyes were wet with tears again. “Why are you crying?”

“I’m scared.”

I gulped. “Well… Don’t be. I told you I’d protect you.”

My face grew even hotter as I finally closed the gap. I pressed my lips against his for only a second, but even that was more than enough. I pulled away with my heart beating out of my chest, and waited for…

I wasn’t sure what.

“There,” I muttered.

“That… That was it?” He blinked down at me expectantly.

I flushed to the roots of my hair.

“Do you want more?” I hesitated.

He chewed on his lip. “I don’t know… Yes?”

“Lod, you indecisive bastard.”

This time I didn’t stop. I found my arms twining around his neck, and my mouth pressing harder and harder against his as he struggled to keep up with me. His tongue lapped tentatively at my mouth, and that shock echoed all the way to my groin. I didn’t realize how amazing a tongue could feel until I gasped, and he probed his against my open mouth with a faint moan. I obliged him, feeling the strangeness of it completely fog my senses and licking at his tongue with my own in return. This time, when we pulled away, we were little more than panting messes.

I hadn’t realized that I managed to sit on his lap until then. The small wardrobe felt a little larger with the two of us occupying the same space. Panting to catch my breath, I let my arms fall from his neck and blinked up at him with a dazed expression.

“Lod…”

“Mhm?” He was as out of it as I was.

“You’re hard,” I whispered.

A shiver went through his body when I pressed my groin against his. I lay a hand tentatively over the wet patch that had formed in the tight trousers. “No…” He whimpered. “We should probably stop. Before… What if Jillian finds us?”

“She won’t. I told you, she wouldn’t be able to find us here, she thinks we’re babies.” I looked down at his crotch, flushed at the obvious bulge, then shyly glanced back up to him. “I don’t feel like a baby, do you?”

“No…” He stuttered. “What do we even do?”

“Can you shimmy out of your trousers?” I asked. I was already pulling mine down. He was about to do the same, but when I unearthed my own hardon, his body exhaled, and his arm dropped as his eyes focused on me.

We’d seen each other naked before, it wasn’t anything new. I knew he was bigger than me, but only by the smallest inch. We’d laughed about it before, measuring ourselves and arguing about whether or not it mattered. Always thinking that it wouldn’t in the end, if we satisfied different women. I don’t suppose he ever realized where it could lead.

I could feel his eyes still on me as I pulled my trousers and pants down to my knees in quick succession.

“Come on, Lod,” I whimpered. “You have to do the same.” I helped his numb hands fumble for the ties on the tighter clothing, then pealed it back to reveal what I had been pressing up against. It was my turn to break. I’d never seen him at full mast, not this close. Seeing the measurement, rather than hearing it, was another story. He leaked slightly at the tip. I tentatively reached closer, then stopped myself in apprehension.

“Wow…” I murmured.

“What are you saying wow for?” Lod sheepishly put his hands in front of himself. “Stop staring at me.”

“You were staring at me before.” I moved closer and pulled his hands apart for good measure. A tremor rippled when the erections touched. I pressed my face against his neck, then chuckled breathily. “It’s not fair. You’re even bigger than me when you’re hard. How did that happen? I thought the measurements were only the slightest difference.”

“I don’t know,” he whimpered. “We’re not the same.”

“We’ve always been the same, Lod,” I purred.

“I don’t think anyone else in this castle would agree- Ah-“ He gasped as I tentatively tried stroking the two of us together. “What are you doing?”

“Masturbating the two us. It’s fine, see?” It wasn’t much different than wanking off myself, though I needed two hands to do it. But with Lod there, his breath and his whimpers at the edge of his voice, and the feeling of him in my hand as well as my own growing need, it led to an entirely different experience. The two of us fell silent as I wanked the both of us off. His hips twitched and jerked, and mine struggled to stay still. I couldn’t last for more than a few minutes before I had to stop. I wanted everything, it couldn’t just end with that. He whimpered at the loss of touch, so moved my hips in front of that massive hardon.

“I know a way for us to do it, together,” I said. Lod’s cock pressed up against my ass in a deliciously sinful way. Through fevered eyes, I peered up at him, and wiped my mouth of drool.

“I can’t do that.” Lod shook his head adamantly. His cock twitched against me, and he flinched with every movement. “I’d hurt you.”

“I don’t care.” I leaned up to kiss him again. “It doesn’t matter.”

“Yes it does.” He pulled away to look at me earnestly. “You’re my best friend, Quill. I don’t want to hurt you.”

“You’re not hurting me,” I said gently. I pushed back against him, and listened to him whimper. “I’ll be okay. I just want you. Please, Lod?”

“Stop iiit…”

“Please?” I begged. The more I spoke, the redder he got, and the harder he twitched against me. “Please, I want to have your cock inside me. You have no idea how much I’d been thinking about you…” I had no idea what I was saying. It felt terrible, I flushed with every word but I couldn’t stop talking. I tugged on the collar of his shirt and whined against his ear. His cock twitched hard. I angled it carefully up against me, until the head was just there pressed against my entrance. The heat was driving my mind numb. It was almost there. “Do you have any inkling of how many times I’d wanted to do this?”

“Quill, please…”

“Every time we’ve bathed together, every time we’ve slept in the same bed…”

“Me… Me too,” Lod whimpered.

“Please… Brother. Fuck me,” I whispered against his ear.

“Shut up!” He snapped. He’d flushed down to his shoulders. “Just do it! Please!”

I didn’t need to be told twice. My hips went down slowly, and an immediate searing pain filled my senses. My mouth went wide as it struck through my body. It didn’t matter how aroused I was. I hadn’t been prepared. I hadn’t even thought to try. I’d been so focused on him inside me, that using fingers, or even a tongue to stretch myself out, had been completely forgotten. Instead I was subjected to the completely foreign feeling of being filled with cock. The initial thrust was gut wrenching. I almost bent over with a sharp whine. My tongue loosened from my mouth, and I closed my eyes as I let it wash over me. I had no idea that pain could feel so… So amazing…

“Quill!” Lod grabbed me by the shoulders with a whimper and squeezed. I choked back a gasp when his fingernails dug in. “Are you okay? We should stop. It’s too much!”

“Why would I want to stop?” I whimpered, and looked back up at him with a pained grin. There wasn’t any point in trying to wipe away this much drool. “It feels amazing, Lod… So, so amazing…” I pushed down further, and Lod’s grip tightened even harder on my shoulders. He let out a muted moan and pulled me into his tense and shaky arms. His poor hips twitched up against me despite his best attempts to stay still, causing more sharp pain to leap up into my stomach. I forced myself back into him, coupled with a whimper. “You can thrust, Lod… I don’t mind.”

“But you’re so tight…” He gasped. “There’s no way I could- it’s too much.”

“I can take it. It’s just your fault, that you’re the who had to grow so big,” I whined. “Please, just… Move your hips. More.” My eyes were weeping through the pain, and with every thrust deeper I was closer to wailing. But it was good. Unimaginably good.

After reassuring him thoroughly that I was okay with it, he wasted little time in starting to thrust regularly. It was rough, sharp and crude, but it began to get slowly easier when I spit on my hand and used the lubrication to help. I was afraid that it would lessen the pain, but Lod couldn’t move right without it.

I didn’t need to worry much. The pain barely faded after that. Whatever he had done had gotten deep inside, and nothing would stop it. I egged him on with kisses, nips and bites over his neck, whimpers for more, whines against his ear and a rocking gyration of my hips as I struggled to accommodate him.

He held me tighter and tighter as he used me, whimpering with each penetration and whispering my name under his breath. I couldn’t help but kiss him again, crying against his face and letting him lick the tears away.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” He moaned by my ear. His rhythm was picking up, his face growing more and more desperate. I could feel a tension in his stomach. He was close. “It looks like it still hurts…”

My face was so flushed with pain and pleasure, I couldn’t tell which was which anymore. “It does hurt,” I told him, then pushed my face against his chest to hide a moan that turned into a scream. “It hurts and it feels amazing…”

“I thought it wasn’t supposed to hurt,” he stuttered, but kept thrusting all the same. He was too close to finished to turn back now, and I didn’t want him to. I could myself getting to the edge just as he did. I didn’t have anything better to do with my hands, so I stroked my own erection ruthlessly while he rocked his inside. I had no idea what I was experiencing anymore. The overwhelming feeling had reached beyond the realms of pain, or please. All I knew was my cousin was fucking me like he fucked his damn pillow in the middle of the night, and it was the most amazing feeling in the world.

“It’s okay,” I panted in reassurance. I grinned at him, my tongue sliding through my mouth as I closed the gap again to let him suck on my tongue. “I’m okay,” I moaned. “I promise. More… Please, brother.”

“Stop it,” he whined. He could barely speak through grunts and moans. “Why do you keep saying that?”

“Every time I do, you thrust harder,” I teased. I pushed back against his hips for good measure, and listened to him moan.

The two of us worked desperately, our hips knocking against each other with little knowledge of what we were actually doing. Screaming and moaning each other’s names, teasing him until his ears turned red, the slap of skin against skin as his precum loosened me up even further, it was enough noise to send anyone running curiously in our direction.

When the wardrobe door swung open and Jillian saw us, I didn’t think to stop. The light blinded the both of us, and at first Lod couldn’t tell what was happening. Then he heard her voice.

“What?” I could dimly hear Jillian’s voice through the haze. “Is that- Quill?”

“Jill!” Lod squealed. His cock jumped inside me as I he struggled to get away. I could feel his breath harsh against mine. He was at the very edge. “We’re – Quill, stop it! Stop! Quill!” I twined my legs firmly around his waist. He couldn’t move off if he wanted to. I knew he didn’t. I could feel it inside me, he wanted to finish. It didn’t matter if she was watching.

“You’re close, aren’t you?” I asked him. I ignored the stares of his sister and continued to stroke myself up against his stomach. “Please… More…”

“Quill, please,” he stuttered in pants. “You’re mad…”

“Quill, what the hell’s gotten into you?” Jillian muttered. She used her body to block the sight between the open door to the room, and the two of us inside the cupboard. But her eyes didn’t leave us. They were focused on the connection between me and him. Lod’s thrusting cock moving at unimaginable speeds, and my own panting form as I took everything he gave me. I could feel her eyes on me. Hungry. It drove me further. The hairs on my neck prickled as she watched without so much as a word. I pressed my face against Lod, and whimpered.

“She’s watching, Lod…”

That set him off. I could feel the sudden rush of something twitching unmercifully inside, the sticky sensation of being filled, and then my own orgasm rushing through me and heightening everything that had already since overwhelmed me.

I lay against Lod’s spent chest, and could only pant in gasping breaths.

“What the blood hell did we just do…” Lod finally muttered. Tentatively, he glanced to Jillian like a kicked puppy. “I’m… I’m sorry you had to… To see that.”

“Sorry?” She raised an eyebrow. I blinked, then turned my head back towards her with a fain flush. A slow, lascivious grin rose on her face. She looked as though she’d just been through the ringer as well. The red on her cheeks, the subtle waver in her voice… I wondered what she might have wanted. “That’s the best entertainment I’ve had all day.”

“What? Really?” Lod asked.

She moved closer, until she was within inches of the two of us. The two of us twisted uncomfortably under the scrutiny, but Lod couldn’t move. And I didn’t want to. “Well, it’s not what I expected. You know you’re cousins, right? And weren’t you two always talking about getting entertainment girls when you came of age?”

“It doesn’t mean I don’t want one eventually,” I scoffed. “Just…” I pressed my chin against Lod’s chest, and sighed. He was still large inside me, even after all of this. I felt a shiver go up my spine. “This is nice too.” I kissed his cheek, and purred. He flushed, then hid his face against my hair.

“This is so embarrassing,” he muttered.

Abruptly, the two of us flinched as we felt Jillian stroke over his deflating cock, then at my entrance with a curious experimental touch. Lod’s eyes went wide, but I merely whined. Her fingers rubbed against the two of us at the same time, prodding and poking at Lod’s cock while tenderly rubbing against my spent behind.

“Jill!” He exclaimed. “What the hell are you doing?”

“What?” She said. “I’m just looking.”

“That’s not looking- oh- Jill-“ I moaned as she pressed a finger up against me, then slowly inserted it. She moved it slowly, almost painstakingly. That harsh fire was back just as much as before, but this time it was far too overwhelming to enjoy it. “Jill, I just… I can’t do it anymore… It hurts…”

“You really got it up there, Loddy.” Her voice was soft and breathy as she slowly thrust it back and forth. “He’s totally filled up.”

“Don’t say it like that!” Lod whimpered. “And I can you feel you there too, you know. This is even worse, God, you’re my sister!”

“Sorry, sorry.” She drew her finger away, but a sly smile remained on her lips. “If you’re willing to fuck Quill, Loddy, then I don’t understand why you have such reservations about me just touching. I wouldn’t even ask anything of you, as long as I got to touch… It’s rude to leave me out when you two are having your fun, you know.”

“You’re always running off to go to meetings and such,” I mumbled. “Why should we wait for you on these things?”

“There’s no way I’d have sex with my sister,” Lod mumbled.

“Because unlike you, I know how to have sex.” Jill continued uninhibited by Lod’s comment. She crossed her arms, then sat down at the edge of the wardrobe. “And I can help make sure that this-“ She held up a hand tinged with blood. “Doesn’t happen again.”

Lod paled. I mentally kicked myself.

“I wasn’t thinking-“

“Of course you weren’t thinking.” She rolled her eyes. “You were too busy getting off on it, I’m guessing, with that kind of moaning. But that’s fine. You’re just going to feel like your as is on fire for the next week or so. Live and learn. There are other ways to enjoy pain, Quilly.” She paused, then glanced almost shyly at us. “Have you guys been doing this before?”

“No!” Lod stuttered immediately. “Never – I didn’t even… I didn’t think about it.”

“It was my idea,” I said. “This was the first time.”

“Well… I suppose you wouldn’t be able to hide moans like that,” she surmised. “But it’s not fair that you did it behind my back.” She bit her lip. I was surprised at how hurt she looked. “I thought we were all close.”

“We are,” I insisted. I sat up against Lod’s chest. “Tell her Lod,” I poked him. “We are, aren’t we?”

“Yes… Yes, Jill, I’m sorry,” He stuttered. “I just… I don’t know what to think. This is all so strange. I didn’t think… I can’t think - Quill, I can’t stay like this forever, you’re too tight.”

Jillian stood up, then offered her clean hand to me. “Right, we should probably get you cleaned up.” She smiled. “Get you both into showers, and then we’ll go down for dinner. Does that sound good?”

I tentatively smiled back, and took her hand.

“Yeah,” Lod whimpered. “Except I don’t think I can feel my legs.”

Chapter Text

Madness is all around me and I am forced to wade through its disgusting, treacherous filth. Mud stains, screams, laughs and moans of unimaginable pleasure fill my senses. I am amongst the sick and depraved, surrounded by hands reaching out to grab my skirt, my arms, my hair, anything to get a taste. I can feel eyes on me from every angle. There’s madness around every corner, every bend and barrow, but in brief moments of lucidity, I know it long ago found a home within me. I can feel it there, at the edges of my brain, eating away and egging me on to do the things I hate the most. To hold that knife, to hear those screams, and to laugh in the face of torture. We can’t feel pain, why should they? It’s that voice inside your head that tells you to break yourself. To do something that would put you beyond the pale, and see the consequences of your actions. And laugh. I laugh. I laughed a lot, every time I heard it. I knew everyone else could, in their mind. They had their own madness. They feel nothing, just as I do.

Some chose to ignore it, to dilute it with drink, drugs, and sex. But that only heightened just how strong the madness could be. Once you took away those inhibited minds, and understood a brief moment of lucid thought, the madness would take sway. The madness would find those addled minds, that desperately hide away with vices, and it would churn their bodies into wasted souls. I’ve seen a madman with my own two eyes. He looked back at me. He slapped me, he laughed, and he changed into a monster. Those eyes showed me what he was capable of. There was a parasite within him. And I couldn’t save him.

When your own brother is mad, what could there possibly be left for you, but to go mad as well? That is the way of the world. It slowly slides down the scale towards the definite ending that no one will ever be able to escape. It’s the reason this world exists. Madness is how this realm is meant to function. When you take away the love, the brilliance, and the passion of a world created by a child, what is there left but rot and ruin? That sweet madness that once blessed the world with whimsy and the spark of life is twisted in and of itself. Now it’s rotten, just as everything else. We’re all mad here. What a joke. No one truly realizes the danger of that these days. No one has realized how far the madness has taken us.

Rot. Ruin. Death. Blood. Blood is the cleanest. Sweet, shimmering blood shows that there may still be hope for this world. No matter how much it may be diluted with pig swill and whiskey. No matter who’s blood it may be, a slaves’ or a masters’, it is still blood. Luxurious, and red. Redder than the Queen could ever be.

She is the maddest of them all. It was through her, that this world was brought to its inevitable death. The Queen is the reason we are mindless. The reason we are stuck within this pit of tar and don’t bother to struggle. We simply beg for more.

We live in death even now. But no one has told us that this world dead, and we ignore the obvious signs. We ignore the dead trees, the black undergrowth, the wastelands that were once meadows, the dried up lakes. We continue to live upon this broken, destruction of a realm, and pretend that we are in the golden years of a beautifully wrought world. But we are an echo. An unchanging echoing shadow. Shadows don’t bleed.

I bleed. When I bleed, it’s beautiful. I can see something alive.

When the nobles I stalk bleed, I see the same. And I know I am mad. I know I have lost, just as everyone else will. It is inevitable.

So why fight it?

Chapter Text

MARGRET

Far off and away from any castle and any city, past the long overwhelmingly sunny plains and the winding road to the Capital, past the unyielding forests hiding dark and deceiving creatures, there lay a field of green and gold. The flowers there bloomed every morning in purples, oranges and reds. A few of these beautiful flowers grew in vines, leading to rows along the soft grassy ground that led up to the cottage. A few of them clustered among moister areas with the moss in clearings where the grass grew sparser. Amongst them were strawberries, or raspberries that hadn’t been choked by the grasses’ grip. Blackberries huddled there too. It was easy to mistake a blackberry for a fresh and juicy raspberry. There was a cluster of the two of them, with strawberries lining the bushes, right outside the cottage.

The cottage itself was rather simple. Wooden, with windows that had no glass, and dirt floors. Sitting outside the door, the sky was bright and clear. One could see for miles, with the thinnest slice of dark woods on the horizon in the distance. The wind howled over the meadow, and moved with it a scent of fresh air mixed with the blooming flowers.

This is where I was born. A simple place, a cottage, with a field. Inside the small cabin were few rooms. One for me, one for my parents, and one for food and pleasure. The furniture was the best that my father could do with the knowledge he had. Crudely hewn as the beds and chairs were, they were still comfortable.

My father was better with a needle and thread than he was with wood. While we never seemed to have anything beautiful for furniture, we still had smocks that were more than satisfactory. For my birthday he used any excess cloth he had on hand and somehow manage a beautiful dress. Every time I’d get a new dress, I’d have something beautiful and bright to whirl around in among the fields.

My father always referred to himself at the Mad Hatter, whenever I wasn’t busy calling him father. I knew it was a title, but I never asked for his real name. My mothers’ name was Alice. Her visage emulated whom she was named after. She had a heart shaped face, and beautiful blue eyes, though her hair was a dull black. She kept it neatly in a bun. My father asked on numerous occasions for her to take it down like she always used to. She only did that on his birthdays, dressing like how he remembered her. She cooked, cleaned, and grew the food from the rough patch of ground we had hoed, and kept the grass from encroaching onto it. He gathered what they couldn’t on their own. The Mad Hatter set off on several occasions off to the south towards he never took any of us, and never spoke about it the days after. I assumed that it was some kind of mesmerizing place where you simply had to ask and suddenly sugar would appear, or fabric, or metals. But wherever he went to was always too far to see, even on the clearest day, so I was left with mothers’ cold stare to watch and wait for him to return. He left for days at a time. I didn’t see him again until nearly a week had passed. It was soon after he returned that first time after I was born that the two of them were terrified to discover what I had done to myself.

I didn’t cry like other children. I didn’t feel things that babies were supposed to feel. I didn’t feel the pain from biting my own hands, the hurt from grabbing something sharp, or the agony when I toddled over a patch of briar. They knew that something was wrong with me from the moment they had caught me nearly biting off my own finger. My mother came back from working in the fields to see blood covering my mouth. And I smiled at her. I laughed, raised a mutilated hand at her, and made motions to be picked up from the roughly hewn cradle I’d been placed in. She called my father over to her, and the two of them stared in shock and fear at what I had done to myself. They argued, they questioned, they experimented, and they asked me as soon as I knew how to speak, what was wrong.

“There’s nothing wrong,” I said with a smile. “I feel fine.” There was a deep gash in my leg from tripping over a log, but all I could feel was the flow of blood slowly dripping down my leg. I kept it still for my father to look at, but there was still a tugging sensation within me of wanting to run. There were more butterflies to catch. My father whistled at the cut, carefully cleaned and packed it with gauze, then glanced back to my mother with a sheepish look of defeat.

“What do you think, dear?”

“She can’t be lying. But she doesn’t hurt. She has to be careful. I don’t know…” Her voice was soft, serene, and broken. My mother shook her head in defeat, and turned back to finish dinner. My father grinned back at me and tenderly lay a hand on my small shoulder.

“You’re going to have to be careful, crimson. You may not feel it, but this body of yours can’t take as much as you think it can. You might be feeling as happy as a clam, but that doesn’t mean you can take the wounds you don’t feel.” He carefully pointed to the other cuts and bruises. I hadn’t even noticed them. “This can’t happen, okay? You have to be extra careful. That means either you can’t chase the butterflies, or you make sure you don’t trip.”

“I want to chase the butterflies,” I replied stubbornly. “They’re pretty.”

“Then move carefully. Not like a butterfly. You have to pay attention to where you’re walking, alright?” He ruffled my hair with his calloused hands, then hugged me as tight as he could. I felt like I could never fall in those arms.

When I was five, I asked my father why we lived here. The cottage had always been my home. He never told me of anything else, and I never bothered to ask until that point. I never saw the point, if this was my world. I should have been happy here. I had the family who loved me, nothing to need for. I’m not sure why I thought to shatter his world that day. I looked up to my father in wonderment as I proceeded to ask him what had popped into my head as if it were the most interesting thing in the world.

“Why do we live here?” I asked. He looked down from focusing so intensely on the square of thin beige fabric to see me, and he smiled with that shining bright smile. He placed down the thread carefully on the mattress of the bed and lifted me to the other side to avoid the needle.

“Why do you ask, crimson?”

“Because I just know here. And I know you and mother.” I pouted. “But I don’t know anything else. Were we always here?”

“No, my dear, we weren’t. Well, your mother and I weren’t. You were always here.” He always laughed softly when I pouted. His laugh was almost raspy, sweet in a way. His heavily calloused hand rubbed my dark red hair with flecks of burgundy, mussing it until strands stuck up on all angles.

“We lived once, somewhere else, your mother and I. But it was a bad place, a very bad place. And no matter what we tried, it only seemed to get worse. Your mother had to live with a lot of cruelty in her life, and it caused a dark spot to grow on her heart. I mended it as much as I could.” He raised the patch of dress he had been working with. “Much like this. But there was still some leftover. That’s why she can appear cold at times.”

“All the time,” I interrupted. “She won’t even let me help cook.” He chuckled, and tossed me in his arms. I didn’t know what was so funny. My mother never seemed to do anything more than smile thinly when I brought her flowers, or helped her with the work around the house. I just wanted to make her happy, but she made it so hard.

“She might look that way. But I know she loves you still, very much. There is only so much madness a person can go through before it seeps within their heart. Mending it is something that only someone very special to them can fix. I wouldn’t talk about it with her.”

“Why not?”

“If someone is reminded of it in a way that isn’t careful, and isn’t slowly helping them to work through those things, it can hurt. In fact, it can push them right back to the way they were. That would make the darkness come back, wouldn’t it? We work on it every day, but it has to happen slowly. Painstakingly.” He tousled my hair again and grinned at my frown. “Maybe you can even help her get through it too, when you’re older. But the things she went through, we’ll have to talk about another day.” I could forgive my mother, if she was suffering. I knew there was something wrong when she looked faraway sometimes, or when she couldn’t stop frowning even as good things happened. I was alright with being patient. She’d gotten better, that I could tell. But he hadn’t answered my question.

“Fine,” I interjected. “But what about the bad place? I don’t know anything else, about anything. It’s just, bad place. Is it beyond the woods? Is it to the south? Where is the bad place? What makes it so bad? What madness?”

“Margret.” The tips of his mouth went down. “The place I speak of is unsuitable for children, and the things I’ve seen… I wouldn’t forgive myself if I told you. It’s a terrible, lonely place, and when we left it was only getting more so. It lies at the heart of this country.” He pointed to the window outside. “Past the Wonderland Forest, past the fields and down a winding evil capillary of a road, that’s where the heart is. We left it because that heart was rotten. We left because your mother wasn’t considered a true person there, and I was expected to add to the terrible things that this place was creating. I was told by the people that called themselves my friends that were were expectations of me, for me to treat her just as terribly. It was how things were done, they said. I couldn’t do that to your mother. No one should have to suffer. So we traveled far, very far, and we ended here on the outskirts of it all. Now we’re free from the touch of that place. There’s no more evil, or madness. Just peace.”

“You left because of… mother? And evil?” It was a different concept to grasp.

“Yes. Evil, mad, everything bad.” He smiled. “It was a terrible land. We’re far away from it now, so we don’t have to think about it anymore. Though, I fear that one day, we will have to move ever further to avoid it. That day may come eventually, but not now. Not while you’re as you are, crimson. For now, we have this place, and it’s still free. And I want you to experience that for as long as you can.”

I left it at that, with a hug and a kiss to his cheek. I loved our little slice of happiness. I could never imagine having anything else. My heart was full. I had parents that loved me more than life itself. With time, my mother would talk to me more and more, and I could feel than my sympathy and care had given her even more reason to love again. I didn’t want to ask her what happened, if it meant that she wouldn't talk to me anymore. I wanted to keep quiet for the both of them. I didn’t want to break this world for them. We had to work together to maintain it, and keep it alive.

We stayed in the same cottage for ages. Everything was perfect. My father collected wood for the stove top every few days and I’d follow him to the edge of the forest that lay on the other side of the meadow. There were two sides to this slice of heaven. One was the dark Wonderland Forest that my father had once told me led to the evil world. And the other was the softer one, the bright forest that marked the edge of the world. It took ages to travel to this side, but it was worth it. My father and I camped at the edge of that wood, and returned to mother the following morning with stacks of logs on a makeshift gurney that would last us the next month. We laughed, talked, and whistled the whole war back. I could never manage to whistle quite like he could.

“Come on crimson, you have to purse your lips together.” He said, and let out a tune. I tried to copy him and spit on the ground instead.

“It’s too hard, father,” I complained. “How do you make it sound good?”

“Patience, dear. You’ll have all the time in the world to perfect it,” he laughed. “You have to be careful where your tongue is, and you have to make your mother wider than that. The noise is from me pushing the air through the lungs, and out through the mouth. So you can’t constrict that, if you want the noise to show through.”

“But that’s so complicated.” I kicked a stump, and he winced when he heard the sharp noise of it.

“Careful,” he reminded me. “That’s too hard. You’ll hurt your foot, if you keep that up.”

“Fine, fine…” I mumbled. “I’m tired of trying to be careful all the time.” I looked up at him, thought for a moment, then tugged his hand. He had to know the answer. Father knew everything. “Why don’t I feel it, father? It’s so annoying, all the time. I burned my hand on the fire last week. There’s still blisters.” I showed it to him again. He tutted, carefully turning it over.

“You tried to pop them again, didn’t you? That’s supposed to hurt too, dear. You have to let the bubbles heal the hurt skin inside, or it’ll create twisted scars. I don’t want those pretty fingers of yours looking twisted and gnarled at your age.” He knelt down to kiss my fingers, then picked up his wood and started walking again. “I don’t know why you don’t feel pain, my dear. Really, I’m sorry for it. I wish I could help. Of all the things in the world, I wish you could feel these things, so you wouldn’t have to spend all your life focusing on them. But all I can do for you is teach you to be careful.” He ruffled my hair tenderly this time. “If you’re careful, then you won’t have to suffer at all, even if you don’t feel it. Pay as much attention as you can to yourself, and the world around you. That’s the only way you can survive in this world. Until you learn that, I’ll do everything I can to remind you, and teach you. I’ll be your eyes until you can catch it even better than I can.”

“I’ll never be that good!” I laughed, and the two of us continued down the path that divided the enormously tall field of grass in two.

When I turned six, mother was pregnant again. The night that the two of them realized, I could hear them speaking excitedly in their room feet away from where I lay, staring up at the ceiling. The sounds of crying in bed at first turned into joyful laughter that they couldn’t seem to keep down no matter how hard they tried. They were acting like children, but I couldn’t fault them for it.

My fathers’ laugh was infectious, even for my mother. She could have been as cold as ice, but she still melted under that laugh. He didn’t seem to realize how loud it was, but when she told him she was having the same signs again, the reverb from his hearty throat could be felt through the entirety of the little house.

“Stop it!” I heard her say amongst her own giggling. “There’s nothing to feel! There’s barely anything there yet anyways. Lie back down, I’m fine! You’re going to wake up Margret, you know.”

“I know, I’m sorry, I’m just getting a feel for where the baby is going to be.” My mother squealed, and I knew that he had lifted her. “How long, do you think? Will you be ready? How do you feel? I want to do everything I can for you. All I can. Just like before. You never have to lift a finger. Margrets’ old enough, we’ll work together. Anything you want, I’ll get you.”

“What I want is for you to put me down. You already do more than enough, and Margret doesn’t need a full adult heaping of chores just yet. You’re getting ahead of yourself. Keep handling me like that and you’ll hurt the baby.” She teased him, and he seemed to oblige. The two of them quieted down after that, but even then they couldn’t seem to get to sleep. The silence only lasted for a couple minutes before my father started whispering far too loudly.

“Do you think it’ll be another girl?”

“How am I supposed to know?” She started giggling again, and he did the same.

“I don’t know, does it feel like Margret?”

“I would assume being pregnant feels like every baby, right?”

“But what if girls are special? If there’s another girl, Margret would have a little sister.” His voice grew with excitement again. “A little baby to take care of. She’d love that, Alice. You know she would. The two of them, growing up together. A big family. And maybe another after this! An even bigger family! Red, black, blue, green, running around the place.”

“We’re not even certain yet!” She laughed. “Why are you planning out the rest of our family already? I don’t want to get your hopes up, but you’re not the one that has to deal with the child leaving the body.”

“Which is why I promise to give you everything you need up until the most important part of our lives.” I could heard the grin in his voice. My mother just responded with another laugh.

My mother had never laughed that much before. I stayed in my room, my eyes wide open and listening to them bounce off each other. No one was going to get a good sleep that night in the house. But I couldn’t stop smiling either.

The days after were wonderful and bright. The cottage itself seemed to take on an aura of life and brilliance that made the years previous pale in comparison. Father cleaned, mother cooked, and they sang and hummed and whistled together to pass the time. I tried to follow along, but I still couldn’t seem to get the lips right. Father taught me in my little work book words and maths, but he was too swept up in his own fantasy that I had to tug on his shirt multiple times before he could hear me asking him how to solve a question. In between they discussed baby names and taught me on how to be the best big sister I could be. That was something my father seemed to be more coherent for. I couldn’t lie, though, I got swept up in it all too. Soon, I was going to have a little brother or sister. Not even I could focus on the chores they gave me, when I could watch my father setting up the old cradle in their bedroom, or stare at my mothers’ stomach getting larger by the day. I was right at the age where I wanted to copy my mother. I took care of my own little grass dolls when I wasn’t busy with working, and whispered sweetly in their ears that I would be the best mother in the world.

“Margret?” My father peeked his head into the room. Embarrassed, I quickly put the dolls back down and tried to focus on the embroidery work he had given me to try out on my own. “Are those your dolls?” He smiled. “What were you doing?”

I couldn’t lie to that face.

“I was telling them how I was going to be a really good mother…” I sheepishly put down the embroidery cloth, and picked up my favorite doll. “I would bring them around in the fields and show them all my favorite hiding places, and then we’d both hike to the forest and sleep under the stars. And you can come too,” I added the last part quickly.

“Are you doing to do that with your sibling?” He asked with a smile. I nodded hesitantly, and his grin went wide. “You’re going to be the best big sister in the world, Margret.” He made sure to ruffle my hair before he left the room. “You’re so careful all the time. I’m sure you’ll make sure your little brother or sister won’t get hurt either, right?”

I nodded again. “I’ll protect them.” Beaming, I held up my doll. “We’re a family. Together.”

There’s a certain kind of happiness that’s so blinding bright perfect, one is never truly away of the storm that transpires after.

The day that mother gave birth in their room I was sitting at the table in the center room and pretending to work on my studies. There was no way I’d be able to learn the times tables while something so important was occurring just beyond my sight. I could hear the screams, the shouts and the sobs but father had forbidden me from entering that room. I could feel my teeth grind against each other. Looking at page after page of numbers couldn’t set my mind at ease. I had no idea what my mother was going through. She told me that having me had been an effort, but in the end it had still been worth it. She’d still ended up holding me in her arms and falling in love all over again. And my father had added onto that how amazing it was to have me. When mother couldn’t express it, father could. They were a team, working together in there. But it sounded so painful and terrible that I was starting to wonder if a baby was worth it. By the fourth and fifth hour, I was convinced it wasn’t. My mother hadn’t stopped screaming. She had stretched her throat raw, and the noises were like a crow. But these desperate shouted and screamed at nothing. I could hear my father whenever she took a harsh and raspy breath, couching in a futile whimper that she could make it. His words were as strong as ever, but even his voice was wavering. It made my stomach churn, to hear him. More than my mothers’ pain, it was his fear that got to me. I looked down to see that I’d stabbed my pencil into my hand without noticing, and quickly removed, then went to bandage up the leaking wound.

None of his words got through to her. She never responded to them. In her next breath, she was screaming again, just as loud and as wretched as before. But when she went quiet to take in another breath, he offered yet more words of encouragement.

A baby was no longer on anyone’s mind.

At the end of the tenth hour, I left food at their doorway. I’d done what I could with fried bread and jam and left a few pieces of jerky for good measure. But I closed the door behind me before I saw anything. I had to do as my father asked. I couldn’t let curiosity get the better of me, no matter how much I wanted to hold his hand and tell my mother the same things he did. I could hear his voice, nearly silent. But when I pressed my ear up against the door, I caught it.

“Don’t stop, Alice. There’s a baby waiting for us. A baby. We have to have that baby. And then Margret will be happy. All of us will. We’ll be a family. I know you can do it.” His voice caught in his throat. “You’re the strongest person I know, love. The strongest person in the world. This is nothing for you. You’re beautiful, and you’re strong, and you can do this.”

She responded with little more than a whimper. The screams had died down to nothing. I was surprised to hear any noise at all. Her voice had wilted like a flower. She was so quiet that father felt he had to as well. He whispered to her the same things he’d been saying since the moment it started. She was so tired.

I sat back down on the chair in the main room and turned my attention to the small pocket watch sitting above the hearth. It was the only way I could tell that ten hours had passed. The memento my father had brought with him from his vague bad place was emblazoned with gold and silver with beautiful patterns along it. I had spent hours looking it over and wondering at its fine design. But today it kept time. And it kept my curiosity from getting the better of me. It kept me company when I couldn’t sleep, because there were tears in my eyes that wouldn’t go away no matter how many times I blinked them. I’d barely eaten anything. My stomach was turning in circles and all I could do was watch that little ticking clock as another long hour passed us all by. The sharp ticking was growing increasingly harder to ignore as it grated on my ears and reminded me that mother had taken three times as long as she had taken to give birth to me.

It was twelve hours later when silence settled in that room. The house was still. There was nothing but the faint ticking of that pocket watch. I lay in the chair with my face sticky, and wet, and listened for something. Anything.

Then the soft wail of a baby broke the silence. It was so quiet even then, barely more than sniffles. It quieted down minutes after it had come. I stood up straighter when I heard footsteps slowly force their way through the house, and end in front of me. A bundle swaddled in stitched blankets stained red was dropped onto my lap and I picked it up in an instant. Exhaustion ate away at me, but even so I couldn’t look away from him. His eyes were tightly shut with a face as wrinkled as could be, but there was a small little fuzz of bright red hair on the top of his head. “It’s a boy!” I said after having to check for myself. “He’s wonderful, a boy, father! A little boy, I have a brother!” It was only then I looked up to see my father.

He was a corpse. His mouth was drawn in a thin line, his body stilted and crouched. He turned around without a word, and began to shamble back towards their room. I could see the eyes just before he turned. Hollow, and haunted.

I didn’t want to remember the stains of red that had been on his hands, or all over his shirt and pants. I didn’t want to remember the tears that stained his face, or the fact that in the last hour of the birth, my mother hadn’t made any noise at all. There had been nothing but silence, when I stared at that ticking pocket watch and waited.

I didn’t go into that room. I held tightly onto my baby brother, and I pretended that my parents were both asleep. The two of us ended up sleeping as well. I fell back in the chair with my brother in my arms and closed my eyes without meaning to. I wasn’t woken up until I heard his crying. It had only been a few hours, but he must have been starving. His face was even more scrunched than before, and he wailed as loud as he could. It was weak and small even then. The two of us left the small house that smelled of blood and death and went as quickly as we could to the small stable alongside it. I tried to feed him milk from the goats we kept, but I knew it wouldn’t be enough. It wasn’t human, and it wasn’t good enough. When I looked from the stable out towards the field, I saw the mound in front of the house for the first time. As the sun rose up, it shone down on the freshly covered dirt. The shovel it had been dug with still lay thrown a few feet away against the long grass.

I marked the grave with flowers before walking back inside.

My father was staring at the pocket watch. He sat where I had not long before. He couldn’t take his eyes off the ticket clock. There was nothing in his eyes.

“Father.” I broke the silence. He didn’t respond. He wouldn’t stop staring. His mouth was open, but it said nothing.

“Father.” I said again. “He needs to feed. We need to get him milk. Please, you need to bring milk back.”

“Milk…” He said it slowly. It was like a strange new thing for him, something he’d never thought of before. “Milk.”

“Please. From where you get everything else. Please. He needs it. The goats aren’t enough.”

“Milk…” He stood up, and walked out the door. The baby cried, and I rocked him in my arms. In the time father was gone, I fed my little brother as much as I could, changed him, and still he seemed to grow weaker with every passing hour. I knew he wasn’t going to last long if father didn’t return. He wouldn’t survive on the goats and there was nothing I could do. I couldn’t feed him. I was helpless. This wasn’t a doll, this was a human life, and it was fading away before my eyes just like mother had while father could only watch. She was going to have died in vain.

The world around us was quiet and cold. I ended huddled in my room with him swaddled in my arms as I told him stories I had come up with on the spot to pass the time. He would cry and cry, and I would continue to hold him and talk as if nothing were wrong. Eventually he grew quiet, and for a moment I thought that it had worked. But his closed eyes were more sunken than before. He was weak from hunger.

At the end of the second day, father turned with enough breast milk to sustain him for the next few weeks. I didn’t ask where he had gotten it from. He kept it cold and viable in a pack of ice that had lasted him the entire way back, and stored it in the cold box of the cellar as soon as he was through the door. He named him the day he returned. “Rettah.” He’d said when he walked through the door. “I have the milk for Rettah.”

“Thank you, father.” I tried to reach up to him with a free hand, but he did nothing but stare above me. “We’ll be okay now,” I said. “We’ll be okay, right?”

He said nothing. His eyes hadn’t changed. There was nothing inside them. He wasn’t father anymore.

There were tears in my eyes when I realized I’d lost both my parents.

I fed Rettah, and he grew quickly. It was amazing how much a baby could bounce back after brought to the brink. But his eyes opened, and that nearly blinding, shimmering green coupled with the scarlet that covered his head was almost awesome. He was alive, breathtakingly alive.

Father occasionally left, brought back more milk and food, but he did nothing else. I would cook, and feed him, and he would just sit there and watch the clock, as if waiting for the time he would have motivation again to get up and bring back more. I wondered if the ticking tortured him as much as it did to me.

Rettah only grew brighter. Both of us looked so alike, but he was always more there, more alive. His hair was a pure crimson, and mine was a mixture of burgundy and duller, darker colors. He was a shining star. I was a dull planet. And yet, I couldn’t be jealous. He barely cried, he learned his words quickly and his manners quicker, and he was always there and ready to learn and experience new things. I was there when he learned to walk and coached him the entire way. I was there when he said his first words and then sentences. I was there when he tried a raspberry for the first time and decided it was the most sour thing in the world. I was there when he tried it the second time and suddenly seemed to like it. I hid a smile when I realized he’d mistaken a blackberry for a raspberry the first time. He had such a sweet tooth.

Father just stared at that clock. Nothing I did would draw him out of it. Once, I forgot to give him his dinner, and in the morning he was still there, still un-moving, still as cold as ever. He had left the day that she died when he walked out of that house, and there was nothing I could do to reach him. There was always that guilt, that helpless feeling that if only I took his advice, if only I tried and worked through it with him, maybe he would look at me again. Maybe he would hold me in his arms and call me crimson.

I couldn’t wait for that day. I had to devote myself to the one thing that kept me from fading away. Rettah needed me as much as I needed him. My little brother was more than I deserved.

When he was four and I was starting to teach him how to cook, father stood up from the chair he sat on. Still staring at that clock, still watching it tick the hours away.

“Are you going to get supplies?” I asked from over my shoulder. I couldn’t leave the pan unattended with Rettah beside me. Even now I kept an eye on it, knowing that if I wasn’t careful I could spill oil on myself. I’d done it before, and the scars weren’t very appealing.

Father didn’t respond, but I didn’t expect him to say anything. “We don’t need anything right now.” I continued. “You don’t have to go out.”

“Where’s father going?” Rettah chirped. He ducked his head under my arm and watched father walk closer to the clock.

“Father, you don’t have to go. It’s alright. Dinner’s almost ready, I’ll have it for you in a moment.” He grabbed the watch and brought it to his face. The pocket watch neatly fit into his hands. They were still calloused hands. A little wrinkled now, with age. A little softer, since he hadn’t touched a needle in years. But still the same ones that had once fluffed up my hair.

“Father?” An edge of worry grew in my voice as he turned without a word for the door. He had pocketed the watch and I had to crane my neck to see him leave. The oil was boiling furiously but I reluctantly left it as I ran out the door to catch him. “Father!” I cried out.

He walked with his back to me towards the sea of green and gold, towards the sliver of forest he never took me too, and towards the evil place. He wasn’t slowing. He wasn’t stopping. He was walking down that old and barely used path with no intention of stopping. I ran up to catch him and gripped his waistcoat. His strength almost barreled me over, but I had stopped him, I had caught him.

“Father.” I gasped. “Please, stay with us. Don’t go. We need you. Please.” He didn’t say anything for a long moment. He was staring at the trees that lay miles ahead, a thin line of lime green and black that bordered the field. “Please!” I cried. “You can’t go! I need you, I can’t do this without you!” I sobbed, and shoved my face into his back. “We’re supposed to be a big happy family. We can’t be a family without a father, we can’t be happy without you. We need you. I need you. Please.” I stretched my hand out to grab his, and with watery eyes, placed it on my head. I looked up to him with a whimper, and tried to smile. “It’s me, father. It’s Crimson. I’m here, father. I’ve been careful this whole time. I didn’t burn myself, I didn’t trip, I only cut myself with the knife a few times when I cut carrots. I told you I’d be a good big sister. I’ve been good, haven’t I?” My voice cracked. “I’ve been good, haven’t I?”

He spoke his first words to me in four years without turning around.

“I’m going to kill them all.”

He forced my hand off him, and walked away.

I never saw him again.

Chapter Text

QUILL

 

The Lord Kingdom spanned the entire south of Wonderland up to the very edge of the Wonderland Forest. To the west, the borders ended up sandy shoreline and cliff-sides that might have seemed tall, but I was always told that the Queens’ Kingdom had ones much more awe-inspiring. The borders ended up north near the winding roads that led to the Capital, and to the east at the edges of Wonderland forest, making the Lord Kingdom one of the largest in Wonderland. Every bit of it was filled with farms of green and gold. An eternal autumn in the Lord Kingdom - a sliver of the meager magic left in the world - meant an eternal harvest. The cows, pigs and chickens were always plump and juicy, the calves grew quickly, and the barley skyrocketed over our heads. It was difficult to call ourselves the poorest kingdom, with such abundance. No one in the palace would ever starve.

And the palace itself, well that was massive. At the center of this enormous swath of land was the castle that housed the Lord in charge of it all. It was much the same as the other three palaces, ruled by their respective leaders the King, Queen, and Duchess. But this one was golden, surrounded by fields of wheat and from it rose those with the brightest yellow hair and the most golden of eyes. We were all descendants of the immortal Lord. We hid among our castle in the safety it provided, just as their Lord hid by himself in his rooms and never left. I didn’t mind. I didn’t need to know who it was that granted us this safety.

What I did need to know was whether or not any of these hidden nobles would come upon the second floor hallway that ran straight down the middle of the castle. It was a smaller one, at least. Not many were going to use it. But the thought of someone seeing the three of us, the thought that we might be caught with Lod pounding my ass and Jillian gripping me tighter while egging me on, nearly sent me over the edge.

“Quill, you have to be quiet if you want to do this here,” Jillian teased by my ear. “I suppose I could ball my sock in your mouth, but that would be a tad disgusting. I wouldn’t want your drool all over it, would I?”

“I can’t help it,” I tried to talk past the moans, but when I wasn’t busy covering my free hand with my mouth, I was nearly screaming. Sharp stabs rose up from my entrance and made my cock twitch with every thrust. “It’s… Good… So Good.” She laughed, and pressed her body closer against me. I could feel her breasts pointed and hard from watching us. She always teased herself too much. If she told me to do something for her, I would, but she never did.

“Quill,” Lod stammered between pants behind me. His hands gripped my waist like a vice as he rolled his hips into my abused hole. Without preparation, it was almost painfully tight for him. For me, it was intoxicating. I rocked back with every thrust and could feel the squelching of his own fluid, and the small amount of spit he’d used as an afterthought. I was being rammed by my cousin and I couldn’t have been more aroused. He always seemed surprised when I pushed back into his thrusts. But he never moved hard enough. “I can cover your mouth with my hand, if you want.”

“No, I got it,” I stuttered through another thrust, glanced back at my tentative cousin, and offered a pained grin. “More, Lod. Please.”

“I’m already going as hard as I can without making you bleed again…”

This was our favorite kind of play. None of us could get enough of it. We all knew it was wrong, we all knew it was terrible, we knew getting excited at the idea of a cousin or a sibling turning your insides out meant there had to be something wrong with us. But we didn’t want to stop. I didn’t want to stop. If either of our parents’ found out, we knew it would be over. Jill was especially terrified of her newly installed privileges being revoked. But I couldn’t leave well enough alone. I poked and prodded Lod the entire time after, and refused to let him shun me like he wanted to. He thought leaving me alone and never talking about it again would work. He was sorely mistaken.

The second time convincing Lod was worst than the first. He’d gotten far too thoughtful, thinking with his head instead of his cock. Instead of remembering how I must have felt around him, he was busy thinking of what would happen if we were ever caught. Or worse, what would his mother say to him. He was obviously a monster, for sleeping with me. A degenerate. He’d said as much and worse, and every word had sunk into my back like an arrow. He’d preface it with how much he cared about me, of course. I’d been limping for weeks after he’d used me. Sitting down was impossible, and when we went for our lessons it took everything I had not to howl when the tutor forced me to sit down and read through the historical textbook. Then when I’d patiently reminded him that pain was one of my favorite parts of the experience, he’d go back to talking about Jillian.

She was complicated. I didn’t think she’d find us, much less enjoy it as much as we did. Lod and I were uncomfortable in the days after. But she wouldn’t leave me alone, the same way I wouldn’t leave him alone. And Jill, well… She was still beautiful. Like a female Lod, with darker hair and a grueling temper. But when she got what she wanted, she was nice, if a little teasing. It lit up some part of me that I hadn’t even realized. And Lod listened to her. When she told him to sit back on the bed and let me try lapping at his reluctant cock for the first time, he did it. And when I begged to have him again, she was right there helping convince Lod that it was in his best interest that he used me just as roughly as he had before. It was the only chance that he’d ever have at getting his dick wet, after all. She knew her brother as well as I did, but she had the strength to back it up.

She was the one that found this place in her travels. It was used as the living quarters of the nobility working in economics and lesser trade duties for the Capital, so they tended to be off away on business. There wasn’t a likely chance that they’d hear us, she’d told him. I could see by the twinkle in her eyes that she was hiding something. The conspirator glance she gave me after proved me right. If she told
Lod she wanted dangerous sex that anyone could see, he’d run away before she could finish her sentence. But she knew how to phrase things. And she knew that all three of us loved the danger, even if we weren’t willing to admit it. He was hardest inside me when he was filled with anticipation of being seen.

I could feel it even now. Sandwiched between cousins and feeling the heartbeats of both of them as Lod plunged over and over, I could feel the eyes on me from each of the doors. Any of them could open, if one of them happened to still be in the Palace. Maybe their lover, or child would see us instead. They’d catch me being played with in a way that made me sob against Jills’ shoulder, and beg for more. I hadn’t even known what a pervert meant until Lod had started fucking me. Now I seemed textbook.

“Wow,” Jill muttered under her breath as she took a look at the rough and painful thrusts between us. Lod was relentless because I told him to be, but he was also enjoying it for his own sake. I could hear his panting by my ear. I knew what he sounded like when he was getting closer. I was making him closer.

Jill held me firmly in her arms, having the perfect seat to see me shaking and moaning pitifully in pain and pleasure. Her kisses peppered my cheeks and forehead in encouragement, but that strange gleam in her eyes told me she liked my discomfort as much as I did. I didn’t mind if she egged on my favorite things. “I don’t know how you stand this, Quill. It looks like you’re going to be bleeding again if he keeps this up.”

“I don’t care,” I moaned, and pushed my face against her chest. She towered over me and it felt good to be held when Lod couldn’t. “It’s good… I want more.” I was between my favorite people and I couldn’t even think. I didn’t want to. Jill made sure I didn’t have to.

“Is that the only thing you can say to describe it?” She asked. “Have you lost the last of your braincells again, Quill? Did he fuck them all away?”

“Nnn… Maybe…” She laughed, running a hand through my hair and biting my ear until I flinched. Her grip tightened on my shoulders, and the pain started to veer me closer to the edge as well.

“You look like you’re about to cum.” She grinned. “It’s all dangling and leaking. Your poor cock seems abused, not getting touched like this. I almost want to relieve you.” She reached out to touch it, but dropped her hand at the last moment. A small whimper died on my throat. “I guess your ass will have to make up for it. I’m sure you don’t mind.” She glanced over at Lod again, and purred. “How are you holding up, Loddy?”

“Jill, stop it!” He pressed his own face against my back. I could feel the heat of his blush against my bare back. “I’m not letting you talk to me like that, I can’t take my own sister saying those things. Why do you have to speak so dirty?”

“Come on, get over yourself. I’m just trying to facilitate my brothers’ enjoyment here. You love the talk, don’t you?”

“No,” he stuttered. He’d gotten harder again.

“He does,” I whimpered against her chest. “I can feel him. Fuck Lod, you dirty bastard…”

“Well,” she said as she continued stroking my hair. “If not for your sake, Lod, then to make sure our cousin here knows his place. He’s an adorable slut for the both of us and I rather enjoy making sure he remembers that. Isn’t that right, Quill? How do you like being sandwiched between us like this?” She looked down at me with an evil smirk. I could only whimper. The games she played were strange, but they made my heart beat out of my chest. I found myself nodding, offering a muffled happy noise, and getting rewarded with another twist of her fingernails digging into my shoulders. Lod moaned as I tightened up considerably around him. I choked back a scream. “He might love this, but I’m worried you won’t be able to hold on by the time Quilly is ready to come. If you finish prematurely like last time-”

“I won’t!” He exclaimed, and thrust inside me for good measure. I blanched, wailing at the pain before quickly covering my mouth again. “Why did I even agree to this… We could have just tried the bedroom again!”

“Because,” I stuttered through rougher thrusts. “It’s on the first floor. There’s too many people. Jill said.”

“I did say that, didn’t I?” Jill looked down at me with a dark look, and grinned as she ran a hand through my hair. I bucked into her grip, then back against Lod as that delicious pain built up inside of me. “But the idea of being caught is also pretty appealing in and of itself, isn’t it?”

“Jill!” Lod stared in disbelief. He paused his thrusts for a second. I whimpered in my orgasm delaying again. The last time he’d finished too soon, Jill wouldn’t let me finish until he was ready to go again.

“What?” She rolled her eyes. She was giving the game away. I could only hope he didn’t run off. “The two of you went insane when I caught you before. It was quite the sight to see. I don’t think we’ve quite captured the passion since.” She lowered her gaze to me with a predatory grin that widened as Lods’ thrusts began jerking me around again. My cousin was shaking, muttering under his breath, but he wasn’t leaving until he’d finished fucking me. I tried to bite my lip to keep from moaning, but in the end, I was wailing right in front of her like a little girl and enjoying every second of it. There was no point to hiding the noises I made. The slapping of Lod’s cock against my hole more than made up for it.

Jillian kissed me then and there for the first time. I was shocked to feel how this time it was her that probed my mouth, not Lod. The taste of her was so different. Mint and spice. He was so much sweeter. She knew what she was doing, twisting and pulling every which way. She must have done it a few times before. I could feel her breath, airy and hot against my mouth as she paused for air, then sucked on my tongue as roughly as she could. When she finally let me go, my own tongue hung out waiting for more. I looked up at her with hazy eyes, and whimpered for more.

“You taste sweet,” she chuckled. The shock took over, when I realized what we had done. I thought I wanted Lod. I was sure I had only wanted Lod. But right then, I wanted her just as much. I couldn’t believe myself. “Cute.” Her fingers ran through my shaggy hair. I dropped my face against her hand, and closed my eyes.

“You kissed her.” Lods’ eyes were wide. “You kissed Jillian.”

I flushed darker and ducked my head with my mouth covered firmly by my hand. He began moving even faster than before, and every breath was a gasp as I barely contained myself. I was so close, almost there, and he was right on the edge as well. His hips bucked sharply into me like some kind of animal, and Jillian was smirking like the cat that got the cream. He was needlessly rough, wanting to fuck away her claim. He didn’t need to. I was still firmly skewered on his cock.

“Jealous, brother?” She asked. When he nodded meekly, she stepped aside, grabbed him by the throat, and kissed him as well.

He choked for a moment. We both did, when I realized what she had done.

Lod bucked harder than ever before when she forcibly opened his mouth and tasted him. She led the kiss even more harshly than she had with me. Her cheeks flushed, her eyes half closed in desire, she tangled her tongue with his, bit at his lip and purred against his mouth as he struggled to maintain a steady rhythm. He couldn’t last. I could feel him finish inside me, and groaned at the warmth of the fluid that filled up all of the burns from over-passionate thrusts. The slick feeling of being used had me nearly collapsing and on the edge of my own orgasm. But as I rocked back against him, I could feel him already growing smaller. I hadn’t come yet. And Jillian was probably going to play her game again.

I sighed in exhaustion and let myself fall against the wall.

“Jill, I already – you can stop-” Lod couldn’t get a word in while Jill lapped at his lips. Her eyes were still heavy, though his were wide with fright, as she pushed his mouth apart to lead him on another deep and passionate kiss. She reached for his arms and pulled them to his sides, then brushed against the poor cock that had just finished from a rough fuck.

When they pulled away, a string of saliva connected the two of them. Lod stared up wordlessly at her, as red as the first day we’d touched each other.

“It’s good, right?” She whispered.

He nodded meekly again. The dull heat surrounded all of us. We were in a haze of desire, of happiness, of flushed bodies. It was a dream.

“Quill!”

Jillian and Lod turned sharply at the noise of my fathers’ commanding voice. Lod whimpered in terror, half naked in the middle of the hall and entirely unsure of what to do with himself. Jillian moved in front of him and me both with her eyes betraying the terror she felt. I was completely nude, half collapsed against the floor among the clothes we’d left forgotten, and still reeling from a high that had nearly made me finished. I was bruised and bitten, and for a moment aroused at the sound of being found out. I hadn’t gotten it until it was far too late.

When my addled mind put two and two together, I looked up in mute horror at my father. He stood before me as a giant, far taller than Jillian and an aura of superiority that he could back up with ease. The man was as yellow as they came, with blinding yellow eyes and hair the color of the sun. His clothing was pristine, a faint pastel yellow with brass pants and a belt shining gold. The embroidery was filled with the spades symbol of the Lord.

And his eyes gored into my body. I trembled against the wall and struggled to stand up, but I slipped on the semen falling between my legs. The fantasy had ended. There was nothing left but fear.

“Father,” I stuttered.

“I hear that you’ve been doing terrible things with your own cousins behind my back.” His voice was chilling, like cold water splashed on my face. “I couldn’t believe these rumors. But now this? In the middle of the palace? Do you realize what you’re doing?”

Lod tucked himself quietly back into his pants and glanced from me to the formidable creature that was my father. “We were just playing,” Jillian began, but my father cut her off with a scowl.

“Just playing? Young lady, should I tell your parents about what you are doing? I understand Lord noble girls are particularly stubborn, but you tread dangerous waters when you speak to me like that.”

“But he didn’t do anything wrong!” She said. “I suggested it! It’s not their fault, it’s mine!” She stuttered the last part. Lod and I both watched in surprise.

“Jill,” I groaned. “You can’t do that. Your privileges…”

“Bugger the privileges, it was my fault!” She glared up at my father. “Don’t hurt them.”

“I’m sure you did everything here,” he said dryly. “You obviously have a cock to fuck Quill with. It doesn’t matter, Jillian, but I’ll keep that in mind when I discuss your punishment with your father. Now both of you, run along. I have to deal with my son.”

The two of them looked between each other. I could see the fear in their eyes. Jill wanted to stay. She was too stubborn, and Lod would do whatever I asked. I could see it in them, the way they held each other. They kept looking at my father, to me, between each other like a pair of lost souls. They wanted to protect me so much that they wouldn’t bother to help themselves.

“We’re not-”

“Go,” I whimpered. “Go back to Lod’s room. I’ll be back. I promise.”

“We can’t,” Lod whimpered.

“Are you going against my orders?” My father intoned.

Lod flinches, then weakly shook his head. Jillian was grabbing his hand and dragging him away before either of them could speak again. She looked over her shoulder just once to look back at me. Worried.

I tried to smile at her.

“Now, Quill.” The tone of my fathers’ voice grew darker. Abruptly I felt an arm wrench me to my feet, and another shove me towards the nearest room. He opened the empty chamber and closed the door behind him, with the clothes I’d left on the floor of the hall gripped in my hand like they were garbage to him. He threw them onto the nearby bed and blocked the only exist with his own body, leaning noncommittally against the frame. I stood in front of him, naked and shaking. My erection wouldn’t go down. I kept willing it to, kept trying to think of something else, but it wouldn’t stop. Every raunchy idea me or Jill had ever thought of had vanished in a puff of smoke. The fantasy was gone, and I was staring down the barrel of a cannon. And yet I couldn’t will myself back down. I was stuck trying to maintain my fathers’ eye contact and covering myself as best I could. He wasn’t looking at my face.

“Can I have my clothes back?” I muttered.

“No.” I suppose I already knew the answer.

“I’m sorry, father,” I tried to say, but stopped when his eyes narrowed at me.

“You have no idea what to be sorry for. You’re simply apologizing because you see me like this. You don’t even realize what you’ve done, have you?”

“What did I do?” I whimpered. “I was just trying to enjoy myself. You don’t let us touch the entertainment girls until we’re sixteen. The Capital is full of sex, isn’t it? Why can’t we-”

“This is not the Capital,” His voice commanded. He wasn’t loud, but he didn’t need to be. I still flinched. “This is the Lords’ Palace, and we are under his jurisdiction. These rules are kept in place to make sure you don’t do something foolish, like have a child when you are still one yourself. But it seems that my rules were still too lax.”

“Lod can’t get me pregnant!” I tried to reason.

“No, he can’t.” My father eyed the seat beside the desk, abandoned with nothing but blank papers and quills, then sat down on the ornate wooden chair and crossed his legs. “Come here, Quill.”

I didn’t move. There was something in his eyes. He’d never looked at me like that before.

“Come. Here. That is an order from your father.”

I held my breath, and walked up to him.

“I’m about to tell you something that you mustn’t tell others, do you understand me?”

“I understand,” I whimpered, though I had never been more confused. My damned cock still wouldn’t go down. Hiding it with my hands was doing next to nothing. And he kept watching me. I couldn’t meet his eyes.

“Lod’s father and I were the same.”

“The same-”

“We fucked.” He tilted his head, and eyed my body from my chest down to my knees. “But he knows his place. He knows where he belongs, and it is certainly not as a top. Lod’s father is as meek as they come. I have made it absolutely certain that our family line will be the dominant one. We are the rulers, Quill. Of our family line, of this Palace. I am the one that keeps this place turning. Which is why this little game of yours is embarrassing and infuriating to me. Do you not realize how humiliating it is for Lod’s own son to be the top in this little relationship of yours? Do you not realize who it is you’re representing?”

“I don’t understand,” I whimpered. “Why does it matter? I like it this way.”

The slap stung my cheek. I hadn’t even seen it happen. It was only the sharp pain of the aftermath, and the shock of what he had done to me that I felt. I slowly turned my head back around with wide eyes, but he hadn’t even changed his expression. He was still hungry. I’d only ever seen that look in Jill’s eyes, before.

The back of my neck prickled in fear.

“What you like doesn’t matter.” He eyed the bruises, the bitemarks, and the semen still dripping from between my legs. “Where did I ever go wrong with you?” He murmured. “I got a strong wife, second only to me. I made sure you had the best tutors. I only allowed you to play with the highest breed of Lord nobility. The Lord himself attested to your birth. Do you realize how rare it is for the Lord to comment on anything?”

“I don’t know, sir.”

“Sir.” He gripped my chin. “Is that how you intend to make me feel better?”

“I don’t know how else,” I stuttered. “What can I do to make you happy?”

He gripped my cock, and started to stroke it.

“I suppose I’ll have to revaluate how I see you.” His eyes darkened as he tightened his grip on my poor cock until I hissed in pain. Then he loosened it, only just, and stroked to the tip. He pinched the edge, and a slow thin smile rose on his face when I squirmed against it. “You’re no true son of mine. You’re weak. You’d let Lod fuck you, and like it. I’d bet you would let anyone fuck you.”

“No…” His grip tightened on my erection, and I flinched into him this time. He held me up against his chest and jerked me more soothingly.

“That’s a lie, Quill. Tell the truth.”
“No!”

He wrenched my cock in his grip, and my eyes bulged.

“You shouldn’t lie to your own father.”

“I… I would like it,” I felt like crying. I pressed my face against my father’s collar as the tears started to fall. It reminded me of the time he held me, when I fell in the yard. I couldn’t have been more than five. I couldn’t let him see me like this. I couldn’t cry in front of him again. I couldn’t show more weakness.

His strokes grew more frantic. I didn’t want to like it. I tried so hard to hate it. But I was panting by his ear and he could hear it. He could feel me getting bigger in his hand. I could feel it too. “Good,” he said. “The one thing you have left is telling the truth. Tell me, why is it that you let them fuck you bloody?”

“I liked it,” I cried softly. I almost tried to push away from him when he went faster. My arms were tensed and strained. One side of my mind was yelling at me to run. But I was close. I couldn’t seem to forget who it was that was touching me. I was reminded of it over and over, every time I heard his voice, every time I made the mistake of opening up my scrunched eyes and looking at his impossibly golden hair. “Father, please…”

“Please, what?” He chuckled. “Let you finish in my hand? If you’re the bottom of this food chain, Quill, then do you really believe you deserve it?”

I wanted to beg him to stop. I wanted this to be a nightmare. I wanted to hate what he was doing to me. But I was arching into his touch. I was gripping his shoulders and panting with every touch, bucking my pathetic hips and waiting, wanting it to be over. I finished into his hand with a shrill whine, and he directed the cock to splatter the semen against my own heaving body. Not a drop of it landed on him.

He held me for a moment longer. I could hear his hastened heartbeat. I was pressed close enough to feel his hardening erection. It twitched between us, and the nausea hit me. I nearly fell into him.

“Are you so weak that a single orgasm renders you immobile?” He tutted, and let me lie against him. His hand stroked over my hair, and gently continued. He caressed down my shoulders, my back, and ended at my entrance with a light touch of his finger against the slick, coated hole. His body seemed to tense, but he continued down without lingering there. “I want you to get your clothes on, and go to your tutoring,” he finally said.

“I should get cleaned up.” My voice sounded like a whisper.

“Sluts don’t bother to clean their holes, Quill.” His voice was still just as cold. “I have work to do. If you’re going to be Lod’s toy, then be aware of the consequences. Do I make myself clear?”

My stomach roiled.

“Yes… Father.”

“Good.” My father pulled me off of him and rose, then left the room without another word.

I fell to the ground in a heap. There weren’t any tears. Not now. I could only stare at the floor of the room, and listen to the quiet dripping of my own semen off of my chest. My cock was still hot from my father’s touch.

Chapter Text

MARGRET

For a year, I tried to make it work. I used what little supplies we had in the cellar, I gave Rettah as much of the milk as we could get from the goats, and grew what I could from the meager farms that my mother had once tended. Out in the sun in the middle of a heated day, I tried to cut the soil with the tools my father had gotten. The world had gotten drier and drier. The fronds of cracked and desiccated grass blew in the breeze, but they offered no shade. I could see Rettah from here, just in front of the house. He sat at the steps drawing in the dirt in front of him. This time it was a goat. At least I thought it was, if I squinted my eyes. His face was growing slowly thinner, and there were dark circles under his eyes. He must have been woken by the noises we’d both heard last night, but tried not to think about.

I turned back to the plants, and dug harder.

I gave him all the berries we could find. I cried when the carrots and potatoes we planted died. And I cried harder when the already meager reserves had dwindled down to a dozen canned vegetables. Rettah grabbed my hand that time. He blinked up at me with a lack of comprehension in his face, and he smiled.

“Why are you crying?”

“No… No reason.” I wiped my eyes, and tried to smile back. “Did you get any berries, today?”

“The berries are all picked over, Margy.” He said my name like a song, and swished my hand in his for good measure. “I couldn’t find any for a mile.”

“We’ll have the canned potatoes, then,” I said. “How much wood do we have left?”

“None. You’ll have to go out again.” I nodded to myself, but internally the fear prickled in my stomach. There was no way I could make it to the far end of the forest, not with the meager food we had. I’d have to go to the other side. That lime crest on the edge of the horizon that my father had walked towards months ago. The Wonderland forest was one of the places I’d been told time and time again not to even tread towards.

“Then I’ll leave you in charge of the house.” I knelt down to his level, and stroked his hair. “You have to take care of everything while I get wood, alright?”

“I’ll sweep!” He grinned, and I smiled back. The exhaustion left for the subtle moments like these. Just to see him happy, it made me forget how little we had left.

“You sweep, and you eat all the berries you can find, okay? Even the sour ones. I want you to stay happy, and not hungry.”

“But I hate the sour ones,” he whined. He wrapped his hands around my neck. They were cool from the cellar. “And that’s not fair to you. You never even eat at all.”

“Yes I do.” I pet his head with a smile. “I have food when you do.”

“You always give me too much. You don’t eat hardly any. Doesn’t it hurt?” He blinked at me. “You’re really thin. Like a twig.”

“I’m fine. Really. It doesn’t hurt.” I got up slowly on legs that nearly buckled, and led him back up to the house. “You’re a growing boy. You need to eat.”

“You’re a growing girl,” he retorted, but he went quiet after that. He was always good at knowing when there wasn’t a point in arguing. I hadn’t told him, but he must have known. Somewhere in there, he must have realized we were running on borrowed time. But I couldn’t tell him. I didn’t want to give him the suffering I already had.

I left for the Wonderland forest the next day.

Staring into the dead branches, the leaves that didn’t move in the breeze-less air, I began to realize why my father never took me here. Something was in there. I could feel it. It pushed me away, like a hand was desperate to keep me from subjecting myself to whatever was in there. I stared deep into the recesses of the line trail that wound around and disappeared into the darkness, still there in the middle of the day. The further I looked into that forest, the more the world seemed to twist off its axis. The silence grew stronger, until I had to avert my eyes and tap on the road to make sure my hearing hadn’t gone.

I held my ax tighter, and tried to be strong. I had to be strong. For Rettah. I had to be a grownup now. No more dolls, I’d burned those long ago. No more toys. I could be a grownup. I could do this. I could be strong enough for both of us. And maybe I could fix the plants for next time. Maybe I hadn’t hoed deeply enough into the ground. It was possible. I could do this.

The wood was black inside when I chopped it down, and a lot of it crumbled in my hands. Fear seized me, that this was all for nothing. That I’d wasted energy. But I couldn’t think like that. Some of the wood held its shape. I turned it over in my hands and noted the slight brown in the very center of the pieces. It might have been dead, but it still held the lime green leaves the entire forest was filled with. If it grew, it should burn.

With that thought in mind, I turned for home with as much of the wood as I could carry.

I heard Rettah before I saw him. When the crying prickled my ears, I broke into a sprint with my arms gripping the wood like they were the most important thing in the world. I tried to reach for the ax tied about my waist but I nicked my hand in my haste. I could feel the cool blood dripping down my hand when I finally found him.

Rettah was holding the head of one of our goats. All of them, all five of the herd, had been ripped to shreds.

“Rettah… Get away from there.” I dropped the wood and held up my ax. My hand hadn’t been nicked; there was a deep groove of flesh leaking dark liquor. I winced. I hadn’t been careful, and that would cost me energy I didn’t have.

“She’s dead,” he whimpered, and looked to me like I held the answer as to why. “She wasn’t like this, but then I heard screaming. I thought they were you, but…” He broke into stutters. “But I was scared. I thought something had happened and I was too scared.”

“It’s okay Rettah, you did everything right. You stayed in the house. That’s good.” I smiled nervously at him and beckoned him over. “It’s okay. It’s fine.” He ran up to me in tears, and I hugged him with my good hand. The other felt numb. “Something bad happened to them, but we’ll figure it out.”

“What happened?” He asked.

“I…” I looked to the bodies. “I… I don’t know.” There were marks all over them, marks I’d never even seen before. There wasn’t anything living in the fields, no predators, not even rabbits. Nothing but berries. So this… This was something else. The claw marks stretched from their necks down to their stomach. It looked like a mixture of a massive three pronged claw tearing the fur and skin from the flesh underneath, and deep gouging wounds that had rent the flesh from their carcasses. There was nothing left of their stomach, or most of their backs and legs. They’d left the face, but they’d attacked the ears. In the stables, I could see the footprints of something with talons skulking away. Things, plural. There were dozens of pairs of prints. Where the terrified hooves of the goats shuffling away from the monsters in futility weren’t, the creatures made up for it. They were everywhere. When I turned back to the entrance of the house, there were tears in my eyes. The grooves in the ground went up to the front of the house.

There was a claw mark in the door.

“How are we going to get milk?” Rettah asked again as he tugged on my tattered dress.

My heart sank.

“We’re not,” I said quietly. “Come inside. Quickly.”

The supplies dwindled to nothing in the following weeks. I found myself staring out at the southern path and wondering if I should dare try to make it. My father had done it before, but he’d warned me. He never failed to say how dangerous it was that way, how it was just the same as beyond the forest. He could get resources, supplies, food, furs, but I could never follow him to wherever he got them from. The Wonderland forest was one thing, but a path to a land I couldn’t even make out in the distance was another.

The feeling of nothing but water in my stomach was starting to make me question even that. I could make it, maybe. If I tried. The plants weren’t going to grow again. They’d withered in the sun, along with a lot of the berry bushes we used to pick from. There was nothing here.

I turned from the window to gaze at Rettah. He was staring at the wall, unmoving in his chair, without even the slightest twitch in his limbs. My heart sank when I saw that familiar catatonic look. I rushed to the small boy, knelt, and tenderly caressed his hair. “Rettah?” I asked. There was nothing. I shook his shoulder gently, then harder as my pulse started to race. I couldn’t lose him. I couldn’t lose someone else right now. “Rettah? Are you there Rettah? Stay with me. I need you here, right now.”

When he blinked slowly, I nearly fainted against his small body. He smiled meekly down at me, looking as though he had woken up from a dream. Small hands rubbed my hair back, then dropped into his lap like limp, lifeless bones. “I’m here, Margy. I’m just hungry.”

I sighed in relief, and held his thin form against mine. He was here. I wasn’t alone.

“I was terrified, Rettah. Don’t do that to me.”

“I’m sorry. I just… I knew you were calling.” He pressed his head against me. His eyes started to water when he realized I was shaking. “I didn’t have the energy to call back. But I’m here Margy. I promise.”

“Good. Don’t leave me, okay?” I caressed his cheek and held his head up to look at my serious face. “We have to stick together. We’re brother and sister. Mother and father always told us we would need to stick together. They’re gone now, but we’re still here, right?” I smiled a watery smile. “Family?”

“Family.” He nodded without hesitation. “Family together forever.”

“We never leave family.” I needed him to say it again. “Please.”

“No! I wouldn’t, Margy. Never leave. You’re the best sister ever.” He hugged my head and pressed his whimpering face into my hair. I blinked back tears, and allowed myself a smile. The moment ended when his stomach rumbled.

“I’m sorry,” he whimpered.

“No, it’s okay.” I tenderly pulled away and took his hands in mine. “Maybe there’s a jar of jam left in the storeroom, and we just didn’t see it.” Slowly, I rose with thin joints that barely held my form, squeaking in protest as I finally made it up, then took his hand. “Let’s go look together, shall we?”

“Okay!” He beamed, and we headed down to the cellar together. I gave him the last jar of jam I’d been saving for emergencies that day. I knew it was there. I knew it was half hidden away, still sitting on the shelf because a hairline crack down the glass made me nervous about whether it was still good. It was. Of course it was, Rettah was my good luck charm. The look on his face was worth it, even if I didn’t eat. I couldn’t stand to take food away from him. He had it on pieces of earthy potato and ate it like it was candied pecans. The stomach pains didn’t hurt, even as I watched him. I looked at my own thin wrists, and I knew I could withstand it. He couldn’t, and I would never let him suffer like that. I watched him eat, and I resigned myself to try again with the plants outside. More irrigation, further travel for berries… We could make it. I could bring back more food for both of us.

The next day, the creatures returned.

This time we could hear the noises in the night, and we knew what they were. The sound of screeching, squawking, of something kicking and clawing at the door. Rettah and I held each other. He cried into my arms as the house rattled against whatever was outside. I tried to hide my face, but I was crying too. I’d never truly believed in monsters until that day. Even after the goats, the occasional noises in the night, I never thought something like that could happen. I never thought that evil could be real until I heard the sound of a creature screech right beside the bedroom window. I kept wondering if this is what my father had told me to fear. If this is what waited on the other side of the forest. If the time had finally come, and we’d been too late. We couldn’t move. We were surrounded.

Everything was closed, there was no way they could get in. The shutters were locked, the door was barred, but even then, I had to keep reminding myself that it was the case. I’d locked everything up, but I still couldn’t remember half the time. I couldn’t tell if it was night anymore. It might have been day. There were no times between meals anymore, no way of telling. We stayed huddled in the bed, crying against each other until the hunger settled in and even that was too much energy to spare. He cried in fear and pain at an empty stomach, and I could do nothing to help him. The hunger might have been painless for me, but it was tiring. I couldn’t be there to suffer with him. Despite the fear, shock, and Rettah clinging to me with muted whimpers, I was starting to drift towards unconsciousness.

“Rettah,” I murmured soothingly. “It’s okay. This house is magic. It’ll protect us.”

“Magic?” He whimpered. I had no idea what I was talking about. Were those my lips? Was that my tongue moving?

“Magic. The door won’t open, unless someone you like comes through it. It’s magic, because it’s our home. We’ll be safe. I promise.”

“Magic doors…” He smiled against my chest, and jumped a little less at the next screech. “Magic will protect us.”

“The magic of family.” I couldn’t remember the rest. The two of us fell into an uneasy sleep, dreaming about magic as if it were real.

The next day the monsters greeted our morning with shrieks and screaming. We woke up to the sound of those terrible things circling our house even still. The screeching echoed around us from every angle of the house, though the clawing had subsided. There was still the occasional kick to the door, the peck at a window screen they thought they could get through, but the house was safe. It was magic. We would survive long enough to starve.

I gripped Rettah’s hand and led him to the kitchen. There were two potatoes left on the counter, shrivelled and half rotten and rocking against each other as the creatures sent another kick to the door. This, this would be our last meal.

Rettah whimpered at the noises while I tried my best to boil the old root vegetables on the stove with the little wood we had left. His held his hands over his head, jumping at every kick and staying as close to my tattered dress as he could. He gripped the hem of the fabric I’d long since stopped trying to mend when I stepped away from the hob. He didn’t look at the food when I gave him the larger of the two potatoes, instead turning to me with eyes full of fear and confusion. “Are we ever going to be able to go outside?” He whined.

“I don’t know,” I sighed, and stroked his matted hair. The older he grew, the more unruly the strands were. Once I might have teased him about it, perhaps told him to brush it out. But mine couldn’t have looked much better.

We held each other, eating the very last meal as we listened to the world falling down around us. I didn’t know what day of the week it was anymore, what month, or year. I didn’t know if it was the morning or the afternoon. Eventually, time seemed to stand still as the creatures battered our house looking for the scraps they had once left behind. They wouldn’t leave. There were no goats to sate them. They wouldn’t go and I wished they would. I wanted to yell. I wanted to scream. I wanted to throw a temper tantrum like I should be able to. I wanted to tell them this was my house, and they weren’t allowed in. They’d me burn my dolls. They’d made me grow up. They’d made me my own parents.

I wanted my father to ruffle my hair and call me crimson. I wanted my mother to smile at me. I wanted something to hold onto, so I held Rettah and I tried to wait for it all to end. The two of us were twin skeletons against the floor of the kitchen, too weak to cry and too weak to talk. The window in the kitchen rattled with a well aimed kick, and Rettah flinched into my arms. I hushed him. Rocking him stopped the crying, but I was almost more fearful of his silence. More and more he’d slip into a state of nothing. I was afraid I’d follow.

The next day I knew that it wouldn’t matter if they left. We’d still be too weak to leave the house. The sun rose in the sky for what felt like the last we would ever see it through the cracks in the shutters, and I found myself smiling. Morning, it was the morning. It was the morning, and perhaps the next morning we’d be able to see our parents again. We’d be a big happy family together. We wouldn’t have the house, but we’d have each other. Perhaps that would be enough.

“It’s not so bad, Rettah.” I finally found my voice. His eyes fluttered when he heard me, but he didn’t open them. “It’s not so bad if we can’t find food. Or if we can’t leave. Mother and father will be waiting. They’ll be there. You can see his funny top hat again. Mother’s hair will be down, instead of in a tight bun. And she’ll be laughing. You’ll get to see her laugh. Mother was so pretty. Like a doll.”

“Laugh?” He tried to smile, but his lips were cracked. A drop of water splashed onto his forehead, and I wiped my eyes of the tears.

“She’ll laugh and pick you up and whirl you around and we’ll be happy together. There’s so much waiting for us. We’ll have the goats again, and my dolls, and you can eat all the berries you want. And we’ll be the biggest, happiest family.” I wanted to believe it. I had to believe it. “We won’t need to suffer much longer.”

“I’m hungry, Margy…”

“I know,” I whimpered. I held him tighter. “I know. Me too. We won’t be, much longer. I promise.”

The sound of yelling interrupted the two of us. It was a call to action, the sharp cry of a man echoed by the screech of a monster. The clanging of armor, then the clash of metal against flesh. The battle outside commenced, full of screaming, violence, and the sound of mutilation and death followed in its wake.

My stomach churned as I heard them. My heart was pounding. The shouts and orders kicked the adrenaline inside my little body up, and I pulled Rettah under the table with fear rising in my throat. If I had anything in my stomach, I would have thrown it up already.

“What’s that sound?” He whimpered.

“I don’t know.” I kept my eyes firmly on the door as the fighting continued. The screeching was pitiful against the yells and the laughter, the laughter of people destroying the very things that had plagued us. Something was killing the creatures out there, something Wonderlander, or human. I should have been grateful. I should have been opening that door and falling on their feet in desperate relief. There were people just outside our door. Strangers. No, there was nothing but fear clawing at my heart and telling me to run. Telling me that I should have brought the wood ax inside ages ago and done what I had to do, to my brother and then myself. I shouldn’t have let us suffer. I should have brought us back to our family while we still had the choice. Rettah noticed me crying again, and he struggled to his knees to place a kiss on my cheek.

“Don’t cry, Margy. They’re killing the monsters.” I wanted to tell him I was afraid they were worse than the monsters. Father told me, he always told me, and I always listened. But he never said what I should do, if people came to the door. Not without him. He never told me what do to if there were no exits, if both of us were too weak to move. We were boxed in. Doomed. But I couldn’t tell Rettah. “The monsters are going to be dead, and then we can go outside.”

“We can’t.” My throat was raspy. “We can’t. Father said no. Never… Never trust anyone.”

“But they’re saving us!” He said with all his tiny broken voice could muster, but the harsh whisper fell to silence when the door was kicked open.

“Hello?” It was a strange voice. Gravelly. I could hear the faint sound of jingling metal and the soft slipping noise of a blade into a sheath as the stranger entered the main room of the tiny house. “Anyone here?” He said again. I couldn’t stop shaking. My mouth closed itself into the firmest line it could muster, then I covered Rettah’s gasping lips for good measure. His eyes were as wide as dinner plates at the sound of the voice. He’d never heard anyone before, no one but father and I. And I doubt he could remember what he sounded like. This whole time it had been my voice. The sound of an adult’s deep and gravelly, authoritative tone was terrifying to me, and clearly entrancing to him. His hand slowly crept up my clamped arm, then tugged faintly. But I kept it firm. He couldn’t talk. He knew he couldn’t. Adrenaline pumped through our veins. Whatever energy we had left, it was being expended here.

“This place looks lived in.” Another voice joined the first, and I closed my eyes with silent sobs. The footsteps were the same. Two pairs of heavy, tactless boots knocking into our house and dirtying up the floors. They went to the center of our room, they looked at everything that was ours, and they spoke like they could have entered a forest for all they cared. Every hit against the wood made me wince.

Then the footsteps drew slowly closer. Clunk after solid clunk against the floor was making my body break out into shivers that wouldn’t quit. Rettah felt me shaking in his arms. He tugged on my hand harder, but I couldn’t let go. I made the grip tighter, and slowly shook my head at him. He should have known better. Maybe father never told him, but I sure did.

The footsteps were in the kitchen. I could see them. Their boots. Metal laced with leather, dotted with blood and dirt and heavy and big. The hair on the back of my neck stood up in a way that the monsters could never make happen. The table wasn’t good enough but there was nowhere else to hide. We couldn’t run. For all we knew, there could have been more just outside. Even if we had the strength to run, we’d be running into their arms. I was staring down the point of an ax and I could do nothing but watch with my brother squirming against my grip. The one time he didn’t behave, and it was in a life or death scenario. Where had this energy come from? He looked like he was about to faint moments ago.

“Do you think this is really the place? There’s bound to be others on this side of the forest. This looks like just another human hovel to me.” The first voice spoke up again. His large metal boots pivoted, and he began to slowly plod towards the stove. I held in a whimper. He could see the pot left from the boiled potatoes. Of course he’d see it. I was so stupid. I should have tried to run when we had the chance. I should have stopped all of this when I had the chance. We could have seen our parents again. It could have all been over. There was no telling what they’d do to us. To Rettah.

“If we don’t stop at every human hovel this side of the forest, then she’s going to think we missed something. And I don’t want to spend anymore time outside of the Capital than I have to. I’ve got girls what need me back to warm their beds at night. Takes a while, but I’m willing to do this thorough-like. Better than having to go back and forth.”

“It’s a non-existent needle in a haystack is what this is.”

“You best not be telling that to the Queen’s face.”

“I would never fart in her Highness’s face in the wrong inflection and you know it.”

The man’s laugh was harsh and deep. Nothing like my father’s. It was like a hissing creature, drawing air through his teeth and pushing it out the same way. My stomach tightened, and I held Rettah as tightly as I possibly could. They were strong, if they killed the monsters. We could never outrun them, let alone fight them. And a Queen? I’d never heard of a Queen. They had to have come from beyond the forest. They were evil. Just like father said. We shouldn’t trust them. I cursed myself, for waiting so long. We should have tried to run to the further forest ages ago. We should have tried to brave the wilds, lived off of what we could. It was my own habit that led to this.

But maybe we could get through this. If we didn’t say a word, if I held onto Rettah as tight as I could, maybe they’d go away. They had to go away.

The first man spoke again. “This place looks ‘bit nicer than a hovel, don’t it? There’s an icebox. Looks like a cellar down there. No food, though. But look at the pot. Looks though it’s just been taken off the hob. Still got water in. And it’s cast iron too. Good quality.” I held in my breath. Seconds ticked by as both of the men stopped walking. The silence was unimaginable.

“Anyone there?” The second man finally said.

“You think that’s going to work?” The first asked.

“Better than nothin’. Any kids? You can come out, nothing to worry about. There a girl here? A human? You can come too. We promise we won’t hurt ya. Queen’s orders. Even a human, come on out. We’re just here to make sure. Hello?”

Rettah’s squirming was getting worse and I couldn’t hold back my tears.

“Promise we won’t hurt ya.” The first added. I gulped at the sinister tone in his voice, but that moment of shock was enough for my brother. The small boy fled my grasp, tumbling out from under the table before I could even scream. His stomach rumbled, he looked up, and he saw his first outsider with wide, curious eyes.

I leapt over Rettah before he could speak. Bearing my teeth, I hissed and growled, did everything I could to dissuade the men in front of us looking on and… And… Laughing. I was shaking, barely able to stand and the two men with numbered tattoos on their faces were laughing that same hissing laugh that made my hair stand on end.

“Look at this little she-beast eh?”

“Stay back!” I croaked. “Go away!”

“You needn’t worry,” The first man said. There was a number six on both cheeks, bold and black. His hair was a dull brick red, cropped short to make room for the cape twisted about his shoulders. On the pauldrons, gauntlets, and chest of his armor were elegantly designed hearts. Red and bordered by black wisping and tumbling leaves, the hearts bloomed as dark as blood. Small splashes of the real thing from the battle still dotted his otherwise untouched armor. He knelt to our level, and I tried to hiss at him while pulling Rettah back towards the table. He weakly pulled at my grip and whimpered a reluctant noise.

“Margy, no-“

“They’re bad, Rettah!”

“We ain’t bad.” The first man gave me a lopsided grin. “Margy, is it? I’m the six of hearts, my mate here’s the three. We promise, we’re here to help.”

“Stay away!”

“We got food,” the second man offered. Rettah’s eyes went wide, but I tried not to listen. I wrenched him back towards the table, but I didn’t realize how much weaker I was. He pulled out of my grasp and crawled towards them.

“Food?” He whimpered.

“’Course. What kind do you like? We got stew, some meat cooking, and the Queen’s got some lovely tarts.”

“Tarts?” Rettah gripped the man’s leg and I gasped in terror. “I love tarts!”

“Well, would you look at that.” The second man looked down to the first with a sly grin. “Takes after the Queen, doesn’t he? He’s a Hatter, through and through.” I could only watch in mute horror as the man gripped Rettah by the scruff of his tattered shirt, and slowly pulled him to his feet. The boy was a skeleton under the clothes already far too large for him. I thought that eventually he might fit into father’s clothes, when the time was right. But he’d only gotten smaller and smaller. The shirt hung off his shoulder, and the man with the six on his cheeks laughed as he pulled him up to eye level. “You’re a scrawny little bugger, ain’t you?”

“I’m hungry,” Rettah whimpered. He didn’t try to fight back. He pleaded at the man with wide eyes, one trembling hand after another gingerly gripping the metal arm and holding it like his life depended on it. “Please, I’m so hungry.”

I hissed when a thick arm grabbed me by the shoulder, but I couldn’t do much more than that. The man with the three merely chuckled as he carted me out of the house with Rettah and the six man close behind. “Calm down, sweetheart,” he said with the same hissing laugh. “I’m not gonna hurt you. You’re a little small for me anyways. No man’s a fan of a girl without any meat on her bones, and you’re a skeleton. Wonder how you even walk with what you got. Want me to carry you?”

“Don’t touch me,” I muttered. I eyed the hand that kept itself firmly on his shoulder, but he wasn’t about to let go. He gripped it tighter as he angled me towards the open and broken door of our home, and I kept looking back to Rettah being help so roughly by the man behind us. I didn’t notice at first, what lay before us. I should have paid more attention.

An ornate carriage, extensively designed with hearts in every edifice and side, red and black, with the lightest gold trim, stood outside the cottage like it dared the small house to try and outdo it. Four horses snorted ahead of it, shackled like slaves to the front. The vehicle itself lay forebodingly in the wake of dozens of the creatures that the other men had cut down in their attempts to get into the house themselves. The monsters were birdlike. They once stood on two massive clawed legs that had since buckled into their dead weight, and they sported beaks almost as long as each of their toes. My eyes widened when I saw teeth hiding between the corners of one of their beaks. Their chalky blue feathers peeled away at their necks to reveal sightless eyes that had once surely contained animalistic hateful intent. The body was covered in thicker plumage, with small wings that ended in streaks of white.

“What are they?” I found myself whispering.

“Some call ‘em dodos around the caravan. Old myths die hard,” the man behind me offered. “But they’re terrors, s’what they are. Never seen them until we went across the forest. Haven’t you seen ‘em before?”

I shook my head numbly. “No… They just… They just arrived.”

“Scary,” Rettah whimpered behind me, and I flinched.

I was brought to the door of the carriage, and was made to stand as it was slowly opened to reveal the red velvet interior within. Thankfully, Rettah was dropped beside me so I could hold his hand. I squeezed it tight when I beheld a woman stranger than anything I could have imagined.

She lay, rather than sat in the velvet seat that was offered to her. Across from her, a girl with hair as black as my mother’s stood with two silvery plates in her hands. One held something baked with red oozing from the corners, and the other was something that smelled like meat and herbs. The girls’ hands were steady, though the rest of her body trembled as she allowed the creature before her to select between them. The woman chose a pastry, then slowly turned her eyes toward the two of us.

Her eyes were the most vibrant, daring green I’d ever seen. It was incomparable to the grass, the leaves of berries, even to the lime green strangeness of Wonderland forest. As she slowly rose to sit, the tendrils of mesmerizing, intoxicating red hair pulled away from her to reveal a pearl white neck. Long, languid embroidered fabric hung off of her thin and beautiful form. The dress didn’t do her looks justice. Nothing would. When she smiled, my heart leapt into my throat.

If I had the energy, I would have run as fast as I could. She had fangs. The slightest fangs of something inhuman, just there if you looked. She was an ageless, alien monster more terrifying than any bird, any man, anything. She was beautiful. That only made it more terrifying. Infinitely worse.

She slowly moved closer to us, until she was half leaning out of the carriage and smiling with those horrific teeth. “You found them…” She swooned. “And they’re as perfect as I imagined. My, what sweet children. Are you hungry?”

“Please,” Rettah looked like he was about to cry at the smell of the food in front of us. “Do you have tarts? I want tarts.”

“Of course dear.” She held out a hand, and he took it without question. I tried to pull him back, but she was too fast. Far too quickly, she had him parceled into the carriage beside him and was handing him the tart she had so carefully picked from the silver plate. She turned to me, and smiled that same smile.

“And you? Are you hungry?”

“Who are you?” I whimpered, instead of answering her. Her eyes narrowed, but that smile remained.

“I said, are you hungry, dear?”

“Yes,” I stammered. “Yes. I am.”

She held out her hand. I was too hungry not to take it.

I was placed beside Rettah just as the carriage closed behind us. The haze of hunger was getting to me again. I was tired. This could have very well been a dream. But when the meat and herbs were placed beneath my nose, I began eating mechanically and I realized no dream could taste this good. I didn’t even realize that the carriage was moving until minutes into the most delicious food in the world. The meat was succulent, tender, and still oozing with blood. The herbs were baked into it with butter and offered a gentle tang. The whole thing dissolved in my mouth, like sugar.

“Both of you don’t seem to have any manners.” I could barely hear the Queen speaking over the roaring in my ears. Food was the only thing on my mind. “In the Capital, we do not eat with our hands in such a grotesque fashion. But we can rectify that when we get there.” She sighed, and smiled. “But it is lovely to meet the children of the Hatter. Really, I don’t think I would have expected any less beautifully bred Queen noble than this from him, even if he did mate with some human. I don’t see it in either of you. You’re both adorable. Especially you, sweet one.” I glanced up to see her manicured nails carefully stroke over Rettah’s hair. He was so busy eating his third tart that he didn’t even flinch at the touch from a stranger. She pulled something out from further back in the carriage, and placed it on his head.

My blood went cold.

My father’s hat. I would never have forgotten it as long as I lived. It didn’t fit Rettahs’ small five year old head.

“Where did you get that?” I whimpered. She turned to me, looking less than amused at being interrupted from enjoying Rettah’s company.

“From the edge of Wonderland forest, of course. It appears the Jabberwocky got to your precious father. Quite unfortunate, but that is the way of things. This is all we could salvage. I would say it’s fate that such an heirloom remains alive and continues onto the next Hatter, no? And he’ll grow into it, don’t you think?” She slowly smiled. “The Queen of Hearts will always need a Hatter. That is the way it has always been, and always will be. How is that tart, sweet one?”

Rettah looked up and smiled with pastry all over his face. “It’s sweet. So sweet. So good.”

“There will be more where that came from. Pace yourself.” The Queen pulled Rettah into her arms, caressing his paper-thin arms and his limp bird’s nest of hair. “You’ll never have to starve again, now. Not so long as I have you. No harm will come to my precious Hatter. You’ll never want for anything.” With coos against his ear, Rettah ate the rest of his pastry and looked as sleepy as the day he was born. Across from us, the girl with black hair said nothing. She simply sat on the wooden stool allotted to her in the carriage, and waited to be called upon again to serve.

I looked down at my own food, and wasn’t hungry anymore.

Chapter Text

QUILL

“Do… Do you want to talk about it?”

“No.”

Lod reeled back as if he’d been struck, and I flinched as if I’d hit him.

The three of us sat on my bed with the faint light of the sunset filtering through the half open window. A soft fall breeze made each of us shiver. Dragging myself back here had been all I could think of. The same faint yellow walls of my room offered something, at least. I wasn’t sure what I was looking for. I thought perhaps curling up in the large four poster bed might help. My mind was scattered. I didn’t know whether to cry, whether to sleep, if I should be anything at all. But I should have known they would have found me. Jillian was the one that barged in, seated herself on the edge of the bed, and made Lod follow her like some kind of confidante. She took one look at my sallow face, the eyes that never left my feet, and the curled up nature of my body, and she refused to leave.

“We can’t help you if we don’t know what happened, Quill.” Jillian murmured. It was strange to hear her try to sound soothing. She wasn’t very good at it.

“Nothing happened.”

“Quill…” Lod tried again. “We… We heard noises. And… Well…”

“Did you see?” Fear prickled at the edge of my neck. I finally looked up. The two of them had guilt all over their faces, and that only made it worse. My heart was beating faster and faster just at the thought of what they could have known. Had they seen me beg? Had they seen me agree with my father, finish in in his hand?

“No,” Lod said quickly. It wasn’t quick enough. “We just heard the commotion. If you wanted to talk about it, then…”

“I don’t.” My eyes hardened, and I looked back down. I couldn’t cry in front of them. I was already weak enough.

“Quill, don’t be an ass.” Jillian sighed, then languidly stretched her body over to mine until her arms landed gently around my waist. She pulled me into her lap before I could protest, then began to slowly work her fingers through my hair. Realizing I was stuck between them when Lod closed the gap, I merely curled up and ducked my head back into my hands. “If you never say it, then it’s just going to hurt more, you know?”

“You don’t get it,” I murmured. “I don’t want talk about it.”

“We don’t get it,” she agreed, moving a few tendrils of hair away from shadowing my face. “So tell us. Did he hit you?”

“Yes.” Lod’s eyes widened, and he moved tentatively closer. He was afraid to touch me. He didn’t know what to do with his hands, he looked between them and reached out, only to pull away again and looking even more unsure than before.

“What? He hurt you?”

“No- I mean – it was just once.” I curled up tighter. “It’s not as if he hasn’t done it before. If I do something exceedingly stupid, then it’s only fair. I… I could have handled that.” I could still feel his hands on me. I could feel the way he tightened his grip. The way he tutted and nearly put a finger inside. The way he made me talk to him, made me beg, made me-

Jillian grabbed my arm when she saw I was about to cry.

“Hey,” she said softly. “Hey. Talk to us. This isn’t like you at all, Quill.”

“Please, Quill.” Lod pressed closer with wide, worried eyes. The tender and lightest stroke of his cheek against my face made me forget everything, if only for a second. He’d gotten over his fear, and it was a comfort I didn’t know I wanted. I pressed closer until our foreheads were touching. His breath heightened. Just being close to each other was enough to get him going. Maybe it would have been the same for me. But I just wanted to be close right now. He had no idea. Neither of them did. It was up to me to say it.

“He made me finish in his hand, Loddy,” I whispered to him. “He touched me, made me beg, and made me… He…”

Jillian’s grip had tightened, and Lod’s eyes widened to dinner plates. He pulled away, and I almost whimpered. “No,” he said in disbelief at first. It quickly grew and grew until he was almost yelling it. “No, no he couldn’t have. He’s your father. He wouldn’t – my father would never-“

“He did,” I muttered. “I could see how much he wanted me. But it was a punishment too. And then he started saying things to me. And he touched me. I was weak.” I hissed. “This is my fault, isn’t it. Because I was weak.”

“You’re not weak,” Jillian spoke behind me. Her grip tightened on me, squeezing until I had to squirm to get her to stop. I couldn’t hide away if she kept holding me like that. “Quill, you’re not, and that’s a stupid thing to believe. You really think jerking you off is a punishment? He’s your father. Even a slap is beyond what ours would do.”

“Then what was that!” I yelled at her, and wrenched away from her grip. The two of them looked so lost when I scampered to the other side of the bed and turned back with gritted teeth. I wanted to send them away. I couldn’t face them. They could get hurt too. “Why did he touch me, then? It’s my fault. All of this is my fault. I’m the one who kept begging, I’m the one that made both of you into this. If it weren’t for me, Lod would never have known about this until he was what, sixteen? That’s the age we’re supposed to be allowed. That’s the age we get entertainment girls and get to do what we want. Neither of you would ever have agreed to this on your own, not if you didn’t know I wanted it too. But I shouldn’t – I shouldn’t want this. I’m wrong. I shouldn’t – all of this is wrong. I’m not supposed to like it, so… So why…” I held up my hands. My arms were covered in bruises. I could see Lod and Jillian’ fingerprints etched into me like markers of what we’d done. I knew what every hand print mean, what position we must have taken. My neck must have been infinitely worse; I could still feel the faint heat of pain from what they’d done to me. It made me want to throw up now. How could I have liked being at the bottom of the barrel? How could I have begged them for it? The heat of tears settling on my cheeks only made it worse. They saw me cry. I didn’t want their pity. I wasn’t supposed to cry. I was supposed to be strong. And all I’d done was made a terrible mistake and brought them into this mess.

“Father told me he did everything for me,” I whimpered. Wiping the tears only left room for more. “He told me that he wanted someone that would be strong. He married a strong woman, built up a strong empire – he did everything for me. He loved me, and I spit in his face. What kind of strong person likes taking it up the arse? What kind of strong person likes being hurt? No… No wonder he showed me what that leads to. Of course anyone would take advantage of me.” I had to laugh, even as I cried. “What did I expect would happen from this little gallivanting?”

“You’re not weak, Quill. Stop trying to justify it.” Jillian shook her head, and the harsh sound of a growl died in her throat. “He’s an asshole and his logic is flawed. Something about him rubs me the wrong way. I didn’t like the way he looked at you either, before. We all saw it. It wasn’t right. Not like a father.”

“But he’s right. This was supposed to be a punishment-”

“You’re the one that started all of this, right?” Lod said tentatively, with a waver in his voice. “You said it yourself. So… You’re the strong one. You came up with all of this. You convinced us. And… And we’re happy like this, now. We were happy before. I liked it. You’re the one that unites all of us and I don’t know in what world that’s meant to be weak. You’re like a leader. More of a leader than he is right?” He was holding back tears. “Right?”

“Lod,” Jillian tentatively reached out to him. “Don’t cry, it’s okay.”

“No, it’s not okay!” He cried. “Look what he did to Quill!” I stared in disbelief as my cousin began to break down on my bed. The tears welled up and fell in seconds as he began to realize the gravity of the situation. Snot blew from his nose as he curled up there, and began to sob. “Who do you go to when the father is the one that’s making the trouble?” There was a stutter in his voice. “Your father always said to come to him when something bad happens. Do we talk to mother? Could she even do anything? The people in charge did this. He’s the Right Hand. How can he get in trouble?”

“We could go to our father,” Jillian grabbed him by the arm and pulled him into her lap instead. “Stop your blubbering. There’s solutions, and there’s different adults we can go to.”

“Father’s doing the same to yours,” I said quietly. “I wouldn’t be surprised if your mother and mine knew about it as well.” The two of them looked to me like birds, their heads swiveling to me on a dime.

“What?” Jillian finally said. “That’s not a funny joke, Quill.”

“That’s why he hated what I did. He’s the top. Our family is supposed to be the top. Always the top. We have to show that we are the superior family.” I bit my lip, looking further and further embarrassed the more they watched me. I didn’t want to have to be the one to tell them this. I knew their father. He was a quiet, kind man with a personality not unlike Lod’s. He was the one that gave us candies when he came back from the Capital. He was the one that made sure we didn’t get hurt when we went swimming in the pond past the gardens. I suppose I should have known it was the case. My own father would never subject himself to what I had done. What I had done, that… That was unforgivable, after all he’d built for me. “He told me, before. He was disgusted by the idea of Lod touching me like that. He made everything for me. He wanted me to be strong.”

“So what, he did the same to you?” Jillian balked. “What kind of logic is he thinking with, the one in his little head? It doesn’t make any sense. If he wanted you strong, he would have sat you down and talked to you about it. Not touched you, not reinforced whatever position he thinks you have on this stupid ladder. Because it’s not real, and he just likes to pretend it is. He just…” Her face paled. “He’s a disgusting ass who wants to fuck his own son. We have to protect you.”

“No,” I said sharply. “No. You can’t. He already said he was going to tell your parents, right? They have to be in on this too, he wouldn’t tell someone like me otherwise. If even a child knows, then he’s not afraid of me telling them. If we open that can of worms, only to find that we don’t have any allies on any side… We can’t – I can’t let you do that for me.”

“Fine,” Jillian mumbled. “But that doesn’t mean I’m not going to help. Even if we don’t look to our parents for support, that doesn’t mean we can’t try to protect you.”

“I want to help,” Lod whimpered tentatively. His eyes were already drying. “I just… I don’t know how to fight a parent. Especially the Right Hand of the Lord.”

I smiled a tired smile. “You can’t,” I sighed. “If you want to be there for me, after… I’d appreciate it. But you can’t fight an adult. You shouldn’t.”

“We can’t let you stay like this. What if he does it again?”

“Then I deal with it.”

“Look at what he did to you, Quill.” Lod reached out to gently touch my shoulder. The faint sting from where it had been bitten over and over again sent those same familiar shivers down to my groin. Half of me wanted to wretch. The other half of me wanted to barrel him over and forget about all of this.

I was worse than I thought. Seeking refuge in both of them. Seeking pleasure, knowing they’d both jump at the bit to make me happy. I’d trained them well. It made me sick, but I’d never be able to fight it.

“There’s a chance he won’t do it again, right?” I said softly, knowing I didn’t believe it. I crawled towards Lod until he realized what I was doing, and he flushed. He uncrossed his legs, so I could sit in his lap. Jillian held onto her brother from behind and rested her chin against his shoulder. “Maybe this was a warning. A warning not to do it again.”

“I don’t know.” Lod looked unconvinced. “But if he looked at you like that, like…” He didn’t want to say it. It made his cheeks hollow and his eyes flick away from me. “I don’t think he’ll stop. And-“ I kissed him softly, and his eyes went wide.

“Quill!” He pulled away quickly and nearly knocked Jillian in the chin.

“I’m sorry,” I breathed. I could feel Jillian’s gaze on the both of us. “I keep… Seeing the same things over and over in my head. I can’t get them out, no matter what I try to think about.” I trailed down to feel my own cock lying half hard in my pants. I hated it. I knew why it reacted. It wasn’t Lod, and even if it was, it was wrong. But the growing urge to throw up was only combated by my cousins’ temperate expression. He was sweet when he tried to look like he didn’t want me. I kissed him again, and he mutely sat there and took it. His eyes flicked over to where I was slowly massaging my own erection, and a flush rose to his cheeks. Reluctance was clouding over again.

“He did things to me, Lod. Things I can’t unfeel.” Even now, I could recognize that touch. I had finished from my own father. I had begged him. I’d agreed with him. I’d let him do what he wanted to me. I let him hold me after. I sought out his comfort. If this wasn’t a punishment, if this wasn’t meant to be some kind of lesson to be learned, then I’d willing brought myself to my own father. I could have ran. I could have hid. But I let him touch me.

I could never tell Lod just how much I’d wanted to finish in the end. Just how lost I’d felt when my father left me to pick myself up and find my way back on my own. How much I wished he had just stayed there and held on. Like it was a joke, some silly mistake, and we could hug and laugh about it after. Even if it was real, just the comfort of being in his arms was enough. I could ignore the disgust. I could ignore all of it if he just cared enough to hold me.

“We should talk about it, then,” Lod whimpered. “Not this.”

“I don’t want to talk,” I whimpered. “Lod, my mind is swimming and this is the only thing that seems to make it stop.” Tentatively, I glanced up to him and kissed just under his shivering chin. “Can we move past this? Can you help me try to forget? Every time you touch me, I feel a little less…” I didn’t know what to say.

“Quill, I know you’ve never been one to think about things before doing them,” Jillian spoke up. “But this isn’t something you should ignore.” I dropped my hand from my crotch.

“You don’t understand.”

“No,” she agreed, then pulled me into her arms with Lod at my side. She was tall enough to hold both of us together, if we squeezed into her lap. A set of arms a little larger than our own held us together like peas in a pod. She pressed a kiss to my neck. “You sound like a broken record. Of course I don’t. My father didn’t touch me. But… if nothing else is working and this is the only way to help, then we will.”

“Jill!” Lod squeaked in indignation.

“What else can we do?” She argued. “We can’t fight the Right Hand, and he’s got our own father in his pocket. It doesn’t matter if our mother or his learns the truth. What’s the worst they could do, leave their respective husbands? It’s not as though they have any power. And the Left Hand of the Lord is a joke. We can’t use her either. It’s just some woman that pretends to control the economy. Big deal. That women gave all her power to Quill’s father years ago. She’s no better than the other subordinate women here. There’s no one we can go to, woman or man… That’s why I want to be Hand. I want to show people that I can be strong. That the Lord nobility is capable of great things. But-” She turned back to me, and a wicked smile slowly crossed her face. Her hand trailed from grazing my battered shoulder, down to my hip, and slowed when it reached my groin. A single touch and I already felt like melting. “You’re to be the next Right Hand are you not, Quill?”

“It could be either one of us. Lod could be Hand.” I watched her massage the obvious erection that bulged from my trousers, tried not to squirm too much. Her hand moved slowly, languidly over the to the edge of the tip. She knew me well enough to know my little cock was already leaking from something so simple. I couldn’t help it. I moaned softly against the touch, pressed back into her comforting form, and bit my lip. Whatever I might have thought before, it was gone. I could smell her scent, and Lod’s right beside. He was watching me like a hawk, his mouth slack and his face slowly growing in a blush he couldn’t control as his sister played with me. Her touches got stronger, a little rougher, but I just couldn’t sit still. I pressed my face into the crook of Lod’s neck, and let Jillian do as she pleased.

“If you keep squirming like that, I won’t be able to do anything,” Jillian murmured. “I can’t even reach the waistband.”

“What are you doing?” Lod murmured. He only now seemed to get his voice back as the spell of quiet was broken. “Jill. You shouldn’t.”

“I bet Lod would make a good Right Hand,” I breathed against Lod’s neck, then pressed my lips against his gulping flesh. It was cold and clammy. It always was, right before it got hot with arousal. Jillian tucked her hand under my pants and began to run a finger over my shivering cock. It was small in her hands, even when hard. I supposed I’d have to wait for my own growth spurt. “He’s good with numbers in tutoring.”

“There’s more to the Right Hand than numbers,” Jill reminded me. “You have to have the charisma to deal with the other Right Hands. Those meetings are brutal, I’ve heard. Especially to Lord nobles. They seem to think we’re the butt of some joke that everyone else got told but us.” She squeezed me at the end, and I gasped. I found myself grinding back into her breathlessly and barely catching her words. Her hand was warm, but I was warmer.

“Lod,” she purred. “Do you want to get behind him? You can sit in my lap.”

“Jill, that doesn’t sound very…” Lod craned his head back at her. She smirked.

“I can keep you still.”

“So you can feel me fucking him, you mean.” He didn’t sound completely against it.

“Would you rather Quill lie in front of me? Then I could kiss him senseless.” Lod blushed, then shook his head.

“I don’t mind changing positions this time,” he mumbled.

“You never get anything out of this, Jill.” I blinked up at her, still panting from her hand. She was jerking my cock insistently, squeezing at the tip of the glans and feeling for the precum that she slid as lube over the rest of my length. “Why are you positioning us like dolls to face away from you?”

“I’d rather watch. You think I don’t do my own thing when we part ways?”

“Well, what if we wanted to watch too?” Her hand paused. Lod was whimpering, I was grinding into the touch that I so desperately needed, and she was watching me like I’d suggested something more taboo than usual.

“You’d want to watch me?”

“At least.. I want Lod. I always do. But that doesn’t mean I don’t want you too.”

I was surprised to see her look so flustered. There was a growing red on her face that seemed to mirror Lod’s, and it was starting to dawn on me just how alike the two siblings were. “That’s rather presumptuous of me, getting in the way of this puppy love.” She said with an awkward grin. “I could have any slave I wanted. I don’t really need you. How about you two fuck the shit out of each other instead? I’ll just watch.”

Lod was as quiet as ever, but I just sighed. If she was too nervous, I wouldn’t make her.

“Lod.” I turned around back into Lod and tugged his sleeve. He’d found his way into the curve of Jillian’s body, and I could plainly see the bulge that he was trying not to draw attention to. But Jill saw, and so did I. We were trained on it. He should have learned by now that his cock was usually the star of the show.

“I don’t know about this,” Lod said tentatively.

“You never know about this.” I grinned. “Maybe after, we’ll do something for your sister. Right?”

“… Okay.” What? He never agreed to anything so easily.

“Really?”

“Jill’s with us too,” he said tentatively. “You’re right.” I sat shocked for a moment, but quickly realized that questioning it would just lead to my dear cousin going through another series of second guesses that he was known for. Instead, I just smiled, and set to work.

His ears were red as he slowly unearthed his slick throbbing prick. It dripped precum in excess just at the thought of what we were going to do. I couldn’t help but stare. All the things we’d done together, I’d done with this cock.

I tugged my own trousers down to my knees as quickly as I could, then moved closer until I was settled into his lap. His cock pressed into my stomach.

“Look, Lod,” I muttered. I stroked along the head and listened to him whimper, then pulled it closer until it was resting firmly up against me. “See this length, brother?” I purred the last part, and was rewarded with a muted moan.

“Quill, stop it…” He was adorable when he was embarrassed.

“Look how big it is. You’ve gotten bigger than before. You never seem to stop growing, but I can still take it all the way down to the base, can’t I?” I prodded the head teasingly, and felt his body flinch. The glans was shivering.

“Quill…”

“You trained my body well,” I murmured. “I’m not sure I’ll ever be satisfied without it filling me up, you know.”

Though embarrassed, he still was straining against me, his cock pulsing with need. He wanted inside me and I couldn’t say no to that. My brother wanted to fuck me and I would listen to anything he wanted. The way he looked at me, like he wanted to eat me alive through all that fear an embarrassment and tentative nature, I wanted melt under it. He could tell me to lick his shoes, and I probably would.

After making sure Jill was watching, I carefully angled the cock. Slowly pushing down on that bulbous head was the most satisfying, electric part. He was ripping me to pieces, and I could feel every second. My ass always struggled when it hadn’t been properly prepared, but that only made it better. Worse. Same thing. Tears filled my eyes as the pain of being stretched grew in my stomach, straining every muscle. It was immediate, burning, harsh, and I wanted more.

“Lod, thrust it,” I whimpered. “I got the head in. Hurt me, Lod. Please.” I pressed my face against his chest. “Fuck me, Lod.”

“Quill,” he gasped. “I don’t-” He thrust without meaning to like some untrained overexcited dog. I could barely hold onto him. Rough, shallow movements of someone that had been kept in a cage for too long. It had been less than a day, and he was already fully willing to break me to get a little pleasure of his own. He grabbed onto my waist too hard, small and thin in his hands. I could pretend he wanted to break me, that he wanted to hurt me, make me into nothing more than a hole, and all I could do was cry. “Quill, you’re so tight. I feel like I’m going to break.”

“It hurts,” I whimpered by his ear, then bit down gently on the flesh. A shudder ripped through him as he arched his whole body. The thrusts broke through. He was deep. Achingly deep. With one thrust, he forced the cock out of me to the head and I felt like he was taking my own guts out with him.

“You’re bleeding again,” Jillian observed. Her eyes were calm and narrowed in pleasure as she dropped her face to mine.

“I never seem to stop,” I whimpered. I tried to smile, but it was more of a grimace. He wasn’t relenting. He wouldn’t stop. He’d seemed to have forgotten what he was fucking, and now he just seemed to want to go as deep as he could go. I gasped with every rough, painful and visceral motion until my eyes widened as Lod finally bottomed out inside me. He paused for a moment, his breath hitching, and the two of us shared a brief moment of realization over what he had done to me. “Fuck… Jill…” I whimpered.

“What is it, Quill?” She smirked, and pushed a lock of hair behind my ear, as though that would make me look like less of a fucked mess. “You look really cute like this, you know. You should get fucked more often.”

“He’s all the way in,” I whined. “He’s never been this rough before.”

“Really?” She pressed a kiss to Lod’s nape, and chuckled when my cousin could only groan in response. “He seems to be finding it hard to think. Do you want him to go easier on you?”

“Never. Don’t break him out of it. Jill,” I pressed closer into Lod in a desperate bit to get closer to Jill, and inside I felt like I was getting rearranged. “Can you… Can you kiss me again? Please?” My voice cracked at the end. Lod had begun thrusting again. Slow, deep thrusts repeatedly pushed his entire cock deep into my guts, his mouth panting like a machine in making sure that meat of his was thoroughly inside. With a bruising grip on my hips, he rocked over and over, thrusting with deep penetration slick with blood and precum as he make my body memorize every inch of him. My toes were curling. I could barely breathe. He had no idea what he was doing to me. I’m not even sure he was thinking anymore. I was being stretched. Pulled apart by my brother’s cock.

Jillian pushed her tongue into my mouth. I let her lead it, she could do anything she wanted. She pushed my tongue to the side, invaded with her own, laughed when I whimpered into her mouth. After pulling away with my tongue hanging out and my mind faraway, I leaned back into Lod and kissed him instead.

He barely reacted. His entire body was a machine, forcing me up and down and doing the same. So embarrassed moments ago, now it seemed like he wanted nothing more than to make me suffer. I was panting, keening against every brutal thrust and he was only getting faster, rougher, and more desperate. Jillian stared at our connection where Lod’s cock ended and my entrance began, and she licked her lips. It was enough to drive me over the edge.

“Lod,” I whined, pressing my face into his neck, splattering over his chest and clenching as hard as I could around his insertion. That didn’t stop him. He kept moving, faster, harder, until the tightening of my abused ass finally caught up to him and he was groaning, biting into my shoulder as he finished inside of me.

We stayed like that for a while, gasping and shaking. Half embarrassed, I slowly raised my hips until his spent cock slipped from inside me with a wet plop. The cum mixed with blood dripped out after in thick rivulets down my thighs and onto his softening prick. I stared at it, growing redder by the second, and tentatively reached a hand down to assess how much he’d messed me up. It stung. I’d live, but it would take more than a week for this to heal.

“Fucking hell, Quill,” Jillian half moaned. I’d never heard her sound like that before. I blinked up at her, going a little redder when I saw where her eyes were. Tentatively, I spread my legs further apart to show her just how stretched out I’d become.

“It’s… Ah…”

“Fucking hot is what it is.”

“What happened,” Lod groaned softly.

“You bloody well destroyed your brother is what happened,” Jillian purred.

“What? Cousin! He’s a cousin! Stop doing that, both of you!” he cried indignantly, but there was nothing behind it. He was utterly spent.

Half trembling, I gently nudged Lod to the side and slowly crawled up to Jillian. She watched the both of us with pure lust. She was so entranced in Lod’s dreamy face and how much he’d broken me that she didn’t realize what I was doing until I tugged at the hem of her dress.

“Hey, stop that.” Jill quickly pushed the frilled fabric back down. I lay my head against the inside of her thigh and groaned softly. Every movement made me ache.

“What, so you can do whatever you want to do when you and Lod bugger off to your separate bedrooms?”

“Yes. I don’t need your help.”

“It’s not fair,” I nudged my face closer, and tugged at the hem of her dress again with my teeth. Behind me, Lod looked as lost as ever. He still hadn’t figured out what I was doing. I wasn’t sure he knew where he was.

“Quill, I don’t need it,” she insisted. But she wasn’t stopping me. The closer I got to what lay between her legs, the more she tensed up. Her eyes were wary, full of temptation and fear. She was a mess of nerves. I never expected Jillian to be the one out of all of us that would ever be afraid of sex. I almost felt lost, myself. It was weird not being ordered around by her.

“Jill, it’s okay.” I looked up at her and smiled tiredly. “It’s just Lod and I. You don’t mind if Lod watches, do you?”

“This is weird,” she muttered. “Bloody weird…” But she shook her head that she didn’t mind, and finally seemed to get a proper grip on those frayed nerves of hers. Slowly, she lifted up the frills of her dress to show that she was wearing nothing underneath. My heart leapt into my throat. It was right there. Right in front of me. I’d never seen one before. I thought I’d be seeing one when I turned sixteen perhaps. But this was different. It was real. And Jill’s. Perhaps there was some kind of madness in my mind. Perhaps I was bleeding out. But that slit of hers was so wet, she had nearly soaked through her dress. It was slightly parted to reveal the inside. I had no idea what to do with it. I just knew I wanted to do something. Anything.

“Stop staring at it,” she growled. There was a whine in the back of her throat. Before I could respond, she grabbed me by the hair and shoved my face into her waiting gash. My eyes widened. “Lick. Suck. Don’t bite or I’ll kick you in that weeping cock of yours.”

It smelled like cock, tasted like precum, and I knew I’d been here before. I didn’t think, I just listened. Licking at those folds was the first thing I tried, but she was quick to move my face into the position she wanted. Her hands were shaking, even if she was being rough.

“There. Right there. Not there, you idiot, there. Fuck- THERE.” She breathed out a shrill moan and rocked her hips when I finally found the spot she wanted. Her legs closed around my ears, her hand forcing me deeper and deeper into that leaking slit until I had my nose mashed against something that made her flinch with every touch.

“That’s right,” She moaned. “Perfect. Fucking hell, Quill.” She laughed nervously as she grinded my face into her and felt me licking harder. “You might be an amateur, but you’re a good- nnh – listener.” A shiver tore through her as I sucked on the hood of what I presumed was her clit, and she pushed me back down before the feeling got too intense. “No, there. There. Good – good boy,” she gasped.

I tried purring, and her moans got considerably louder. I could barely breathe, but I didn’t care. I looked up at her, shaking and flinching with every touch, listened to her laugh when I licked a part of her that obviously had no reaction, and I almost smiled.

I felt Lod press up against my back, and I was suddenly safe. Between them letting Jill fuck my mouth however she wanted with Lod panting and holding onto me for dear life, I felt like I was home.

“Fucking hell, Quill – good boy – just like that, harder, come on.” Jillian breathed in sharp whines between every rock of her hips, and smothered my face in the juices that wouldn’t stop flowing from between those milky legs. I had no idea what I was doing, but she didn’t seem to care. I kept my tongue out, my lips closed over my teeth, and she used my hair to direct me to whatever part of her she wanted. I whimpered faintly as I tried to gasp for a breath, but she just grinned that evil grin of hers and held me down. It wasn’t as effective when it looked like she was starting to come apart at the seams.

Her hips were moving faster and faster, I could feel Lod’s breath tickling the back of my neck, and before I knew it, she was nearly screaming my name and arching her entire body into my open mouth.

She slowly fell back against the bed with a muted whimper, but she was smiling. Her hand loosened enough for me to pull away to gasp for air, but she was pulling me back into her arms a moment later with a grip so strong that she must have thought I was trying to get away. Lying back on the bed until her form was nearly hanging off the side, she brought my head up in the crook of her neck.

“Okay. That was good,” she muttered.

“I told you!” I whined as I wiped my mouth off of all her arousal. “You don’t have to be scared.”

“I’m not scared,” she grumbled to herself. “I just like it better when Lod’s fucking you. Right, Lod?” She looked back at her brother, then went considerably red when she saw his expression.

His jaw was half open, his cock already starting to harden again. His eyes half fevered, shaking faintly himself, he seemed to be trying to put words together but gave up halfway through. He was full of nothing but pure want. And his eyes, they were focused entirely on Jillian’s slit left uncovered in the aftermath.

“Lod?” She whispered.

“I… I…”

“You want to go next?” I grinned.

“No, I… She’s my sister, I couldn’t!”

Jill chuckled as she shook her head in disbelief, then lay back down and sighed, listening to his gibberish of excuses and pleads. “It’s alright, Lod. I liked you watching me.” That shut him up. She took another few gulps of air, still trying to catch her breath from the aftermath. “If you wanted to try it too… I guess I’d let you” She nestled her chin against my hair to try and hide her embarrassment. But I could see that she was avoiding looking at him, even if she was smiling. “It’s not like we hadn’t tried other things. It’s just… I don’t like being the center of attention is all.”

“You deserve it sometimes,” I tugged her hair teasingly. “Besides, Lod and I pull enough pranks on you that it seems like it’s only fair we get a little punishment in return.”

The word suddenly pulled at me. Wrenched me, more like. In one second I was the happiest I’d ever been, and in the next, memories were flooding back far too soon. This was all a farce. A façade. I still remembered. I don’t think I would ever forget.

I wasn’t sure how, but Jillian seemed to catch it. She pulled me closer into her arms and pressed a kiss to the top of my nest of hair.

“It’s okay, Quill. I’m right here. It’s not a punishment. But I like playing these games. Right, Quill? You’re having fun too, right? We’re all together here, right? One big happy family.”

“Right…” I smiled weakly. “Big happy family. Right. I know. Lod, com here.” I held out my hands for him. He was too far away. He clambered into the heap of us awkwardly until he ended up on the other side of Jill, curling into her side and purring like a kitten.

“It doesn’t matter what happens,” Lod said softly. “I’m not going to let anyone pull us apart.”

Jillian nodded adamantly. “He’s right. We’ll always be here for you Quill. Come to us, and we’ll be here.”

I smiled sleepily and nodded along, but deep inside that fear still prickled inside. I loved them both as much I could of anything, but I knew they wouldn’t be enough.

Chapter Text

MARGRET

The Queen wouldn’t let us see the city. No matter how many days, weeks we stayed huddled in that carriage and listened to the growing voices of people all around us, she refused to let us open the door and look out once the voices grew around us, along with the sounds and smells of more people than I had ever imagined. There could have been anything out there. I heard screams, laughs, moans, and calls for prices of food. They all spoke like my father had, but the words they used were utterly alien. They talked about money I’d never seen, laughed about jokes and political positions, courts, festivals. So many people, so many voices. Old, young, rough, sweet. There was an entire world our there beyond that door that I wasn’t sure I wanted to open. I wanted to see other people, certainly. I wanted to be free of the stranger next to me that so obviously had ill intentions. But when the word slave crossed the lips of one of those people, particularly loudly in an atmosphere of buying and selling as if it were just another sack of grain, I went green and sat back against my seat. The food I’d eaten in the weeks of us returning to this Capital of hers hadn’t sat well with me. It was bad when we’d gone through the Wonderland forest and lost several soldiers along the way, and it was bad now. But it was worse in that moment.

“Two hundred for the boy, that’s right, do I hear two hundred? Lovely sir, and do I hear two fifty- a three hundred ma’am? Excellent choice. Anyone else? Four hundred over there! Good choice sir. And remember, just a few more years and he’ll be perfect breeding stock. Good for all the carnal pleasures too, if you know hot to break him in! If you like them young, he’s the one to beat!”

I didn’t want to go outside. I didn’t want to go outside. I didn’t want to go outside.

“I want to see,” Rettah whined. He sat by the door with his luminous eyes on the latch. It jilted with every movement as the carriage navigated the cobblestone streets. But his hands were still there, just poised below it. The hat that had been his father’s was lopsided against his mess of red hair.

“In a little while, dear one,” The queen breathed more than spoke. I had been about to grab him, I swore it. But in that moment, my hands didn’t work. I was too busy listening to the terror outside. “The world out there is not ready for one as daring as you. You’re far too sweet for the likes of them. And you could get lost, you know. And you need your strength back. As much as you’ve grown with food, it will be a while before you return to a healthy weight, no?”

“We never agreed to being taken here,” I muttered. “We never agreed to anything. You could let us go.”

“Where else would you go?” The Queen barely turned her head from her languid prone form over the indulgent silk cushioning of the carriage.

“Somewhere else. Anywhere.”

“You had nothing, dear. Poor Rettah was little more than bones, and you were no better.” Every time she said his name, I would shake a little harder. I glanced to the servant girl that shared the room with us, but she watched on with an absent expression. Waiting for whenever the Queen asked for lunch, I supposed.

“We were dying. But father left this place for a reason.” I glared defiantly at the woman that seemed less and more than human, but all she did was purse her lips and smile like there was a secret hiding between them.

“Your father was a bit of a child when it came to things that he wanted.”

“You’re lying.”

“It’s rude to interrupt the Queen, my dear. I knew your father very well. He was the previous Right Hand of the Queen, you know. In charge of diplomacy and the like. A well trusted advisor of mine. But what you may not realize is that he was quite happy here. Before everything else, before he left with that whore and left me behind to deal with the scandal, he was content to eat, drink, and be merry. He loved this place as much as he loved his Queen, little one.” She sighed a deep huff of air that had filled her lungs until it could hold no more. “You may have gained a father, but I lost a great man. Always so fun at parties. Never a dull moment, drunk half the time and horny the rest. A wonderful lay in bed. They say he was legendary, now that he’s a legend. I can attest to that.”

“What are you talking about?”

“Oh. Oooh…” She sat up so suddenly that the servant girl stirred into action like a clockwork doll, and moved to quickly make sure every prepared food was in place should the Queen want her lunch early. “He kept you innocent.”

“What?” I looked at her incredulously. “No he didn’t.”

“What’s going on?” Rettah wandered back over to his seat with one last longing look at the door and kept his hat steady as it slid around.

“You and your sister aren’t particularly well versed in one of Wonderland’s staples, are you?” The Queen chuckled. It was slow, deep, and unearthly.

“I know how children are formed, if that’s what you’re asking,” I spat. “I helped take care of my mother. And father told me what he had to do. Don’t patronize me.”

“Such big words from a little girl.” The Queen gathered up the silks of her dress, then moved forward. My words died in my throat as she approached, leaning forward slowly until cold hands were grazing my cheeks and I could only whimper. “But that is only the beginning of what fucking can do to a person. To have a child is to ensure the continuation of a family line, certainly. All Wonderlanders require such a thing to ensure our position remains strong over lesser creatures. But sex, well… You’ll learn about that soon enough. I’ve made this world in the image of pleasure that Wonderland needed all along. We needed a little release, here. Playing to the demands of a child with a broken mind grew taxing. Her death was the greatest thing to ever happen to Wonderland. Now it’s so lovely, so… Beautiful.” She took a moment to stroke over her own face, and smiled. “And you’ve spent far too much time running around in the woods and fields pretending that slit between your legs is only for urine and babies.” Her smile was insidious, but when she turned to Rettah he seemed to lap it up with a blind, happy grin.

“You’re still a little young.” She tried to tuck the hair in his face behind his ears, but it bounced back into the same position a second later like it had never been touched. She chuckled. I was resisting each and every moment that urge to throw myself at her and see if I could shove her out the door of the carriage. But if we ran, if we got out that door, we’d be somewhere utterly alien to us. We’d never survive, and if this Queen had even an ounce of truth in the fear mongering she told me, then that place was infinitely more dangerous than the carriage. And Rettah was happy. I couldn’t ignore that. I couldn’t pretend the way he smiled at her wasn’t genuine. I couldn’t pretend that she wasn’t caring for him in a way I never could. There was food here. Safety.

That monster gave him everything I never could, and I could only watch.

The door of the carriage opened to reveal a building far larger than anything I’d ever dreamed off. They called it a castle. I couldn’t think of a better word for it. The black and red brick, the lighter colors of stone, the floods of people all dressed in red, and so many with the same hair color as ours. It stood at the top of a hill surrounded by a courtyard filled with flowers of all shapes and sizes. Birds of beautiful rainbow feathers perched on a white trellis of blood red roses. Their plumage caught the sun and caused a kaleidoscope of color to rain down against the shade of the sun. The oppressive heat seemed to go on ignored by everyone around us. Women in heavy petticoats puttered about like it was a brisk chill morning.

Below us the rest of the city stood, and I finally got to see the cobbled and old ruinous world that she had kept hidden away. Its dilapidated state was hidden by the brightly flying banners and painted crenulations that littered every nook and cranny, but it was unavoidable how lopsided it was from up here. Some buildings appeared to be little more than a child’s drawing come to life. Nor was it hard to deny how grey, and… Dead they looked. The decorations of blue, grey, yellow, and red hid it well, but there was an absence of color, an absence of life that I could feel, not just see. But the castle, that was one thing that wasn’t lopsided. When I turned back to face it again, I realized that I was looking into the maw of an animal that was more than ready to swallow me up. The jaws were the massive double doors held open by more guards dressed in hearts, allowing the stream of greeters to meet their Queen.

The moment we arrived, we were surrounded. Women with brown and black hair carefully took stock of Rettah and I while the Queen was tended to by swarms of ladies in waiting. It was a sea of red hair, braided with ribbons and their clothes held red crests of hearts on their chest to match, but not outclass the sheer magnificence of the ethereal woman before them. Their sashes around their waist matched their hair, some in red, some in black, and still others in silver and gold. They may not have all matched each other exactly, but it was difficult for me to tell the difference between one smiling face and the next. Everyone wore black and red and white. Everyone seemed so happy. Everyone had hair in the shade of a raspberry, whether that be pale to near purple. I always thought my hair was less vibrant than that of my father and brother, but I was beginning to realize that my hair might have just been some of the brightest around us. And if I stood out, that meant Rettah was a sore thumb.

The flock of red hens didn’t stay in my attention for long. Human women dressed in a similar way to the Queen’s servant crowded around Rettah and I with looks of worry and concern, tutting at our arms and poked my side before I could flinch away at the sudden contact. I tried not to snarl, I tried to dully take it, but I couldn’t help it when they were refusing to let me get my bearings. I couldn’t even think. There were too many things. Too much to focus on.

The Queen only had to hold up a hand of dismissal, and we were whisked away into the awaiting maw of the palace before us. I had no time to think or breathe. There was a woman holding me by the hand and leading me through the palace. I whipped my head around to see Rettah beside me, but that soothed my nerves little. We barely lingered to see the hauntingly large throne room in front of us before we were brought down a corridor to the right, then the left, then a set of stairs. Everything was clean and polished. Moving bodies everywhere, too much to see. I couldn’t look fast enough to take in the servants, the décor, the overwhelming red that was around every corner. There were smells of food, shouting quiet whispering, loving words behind one door and screaming behind the next. Servants parted like an ocean for us, but I could still see them all before me with wide eyes as I was dragged past and I just couldn’t take in the color. I couldn’t take in the tapestries that hung, decorated with embroidered designs and epitaphs of the Queen’s accomplishments. Of myths of the original Alice and of a world that might have once been or else never was. But then I was swept to the side again and forced to look at something else before I could watch it for just a half a second.

Rettah was getting further away. He was already far down the hall, and getting smaller and smaller. I’d been so busy trying to figure out the shock of the world around me that I hadn’t noticed they were trying to separate us.

“Don’t touch me!” I snarled as I wrenched my hand back from the woman’s shocked expression. My heart was thrumming in my chest when I realized how far away he was. Almost out of sight.

“My lady, we need to have you looked at and cleaned.”

“Not without Rettah.” He was gone, being dragged further along towards a different room by a different collection of women. I tried to run after him, but my legs wouldn’t cooperate. The muscles had atrophied too far, and I could only make it feet before collapsing against the thick carpeted floor of the hall. “Give him back,” I whimpered. I tried to crawl towards where I’d last seen him, but I wasn’t nearly fast enough. They were disappearing right before my eyes. Rettah would be gone. My throat closed up. Rettah was gone. They’d taken him away from me the moment they could.

“My dear,” The woman who had taken my hand gently pulled me to my feet. When it was clear my legs wouldn’t hold my weight, she lifted me into her arms herself. “Your brother will be alright. He needs to have a bath as well. Special care needs to be taken for the both of you, so we wanted to give you the chance to rest separately-”

“Please. You can’t take him away,” I choked. “I need him. I just need to stay with him.”

The woman and the rest of her flock looked nervously from the door they were about to enter into what was presumably my own room, then back at where the scarlet haired boy had disappeared. With a soft sigh, she followed after them. She wasn’t quick enough. They were gone. I couldn’t see them. But I didn’t have the energy to go faster myself.

“We really should be cleaning you separately,” she murmured. “You both are in need of urgent care. The doctor needs to take a look at you, and you should be eating sparingly. I’m just glad the Queen didn’t let you gorge yourselves.”

“I need to see Rettah,” I maintained with shaky breaths. At least she was listening.

“Your brother should be fine, you know.” She smiled faintly at me, but I wasn’t looking at her. I was too busy straining to see where he was. “He’s a nice boy. He’s only been here a few minutes and he’s already been so charming. He was almost as bad as you were, but he was smiling the moment he stepped out of the carriage. I don’t understand why you’re so prickly.” I hadn’t noticed anything. I didn’t care if he was charming. I couldn’t think, I couldn’t breathe.

“Rettah. I want Rettah.”

“You really care for your brother, don’t you?” The woman tutted. “We’re nearly there, don’t worry. I can only imagine what you’ve been through out there in the wilderness. You weigh hardly anything at all. Why, I feel like a Wonderlander, being able to carry something so easily. It frightens me. How did you manage to survive like this?”

“I don’t know. I just want Rettah.” I steeled my eyes towards the end of the hall and scanned it for any sign of my brother. The woman sighed. In the back of my mind, I knew she wasn’t a danger. But I couldn’t focus on her right now. I had no clue as to what was happening. Only Rettah kept me from falling apart at the seams.

Then she turned into a room, and he was there. At the first sight of my brother, I desperately tried to pull away form the woman to get to him.

“Rettah!”

“There’s food, Margy!” Rettah helped up a strawberry tart that he had swiped the moment he’d been led into his room. He was already half disrobed, taken care of by the servants that tutted and smiled around him. The broken top hat still hung halfway on his dwarfed head. Bathwater in a clawfoot tub lay ready and steaming for him, in the center of the massive open bedroom ringed with silks of red and black and a window wide open behind him to light up the space with a hot sun. The massive bed was off to the side to make room for the tub, covered in soft, light looking blankets. He was placed on a chair, enjoying the spread of food they’d brought with them for his enjoyment. The meats and savory items had been ignored in favor of the tart pastries he couldn’t seem to get enough of. Waving his feet back and forth, he held a tart tinged red to my shocked face, and smiled.

“Do you want some?”

“Rettah…”

“What’s wrong, Margy?” His pants were neatly undone and pulled from his emaciated form by a cooing woman, but he kept his eyes on me. Behind him, women worked back and forth, chatting to each other in earnest as they tried to decide what he should wear after his bath. “You look scared. But there’s nothing to be scared about. We have food. And look, a warm bath! I can’t remember the last time I had a warm bath.”

“Rettah, this doesn’t feel right.” The kindly woman that had led me to Rettah gently placed me onto a nearby chair and began to unclasp my dress. A few others behind her hovered, brushed at the knots in my hair, and whispered between them. I couldn’t catch what they were saying, but I didn’t like it. “There’s something wrong. Did you see the town?”

“I did!” He beamed. “It was so big. Bigger than anything. I’d love to go. I’d bet it’s full of people. I’ve never seen so many people. Just people, everywhere. And red hair! So much red hair, just like us.” He smiled at the girl that was trying to untangle his rats nest of hair, then offered her a tart. “Tart?”

She blinked in surprise. There was a hunger in her eyes, but she shook her head. “No, sir. You need the food far more than any of us. You need to recover. Your poor stomach is concave.”

“I can have half and you can have half. I’m not hungry anymore anyways. The Queen fed me lots and lots.” He broke it in half, then handed a crumbly mess of a piece to her. His eyes were shining so brightly with determination that she resigned herself to taking the sticky crumbles and quickly eating them before resuming her duties. Before anyone could see.

“Like that!” I said. “She’s hungry. Why aren’t they feeding you? What’s going on?”

“Dear,” the woman who had brought me here began to say, but I kept talking. The guttural tinge of nervousness wasn’t going to stop me.

“Why were we shoved out of our home and brought here? Why are there slaves? Why were people buying them? Why are you being forced to take care of us? My mom was a human. She ran away. They both did. We shouldn’t be here! The Queen is cruel, and… and strange! This isn’t good, this isn’t- it isn’t right!”

The flock of women stopped. Slowly, each face turned on me until there was a sea of black and brown eyes focused only on my face. None of them were smiling. Some frowned, some looked on with suspicion, and still others looked almost… Afraid. My throat was closing up again.

The kindly woman was the first to gently touch my shoulder and smile. “It’s alright, dear. What was your name again?”

“Margret,” I muttered.

“I’m Sylvia. A pleasure to meet you, Margret. Now let’s get you a nice hot bath with your brother, some warm food, and then get you into some presentable clothes, shall we?”

The spell had been broken behind her. The women were back to cooing at Rettah and sliding him into the awaiting bathwater with enthusiasm from the chirping boy. He was more than happy to accept something so warm and inviting. The only one that seemed ill at ease now was that hopeless lady pulling and brushing at Rettah’s hair trying to untangle it. Even as thin as it was from the lack of food, it was still hopelessly knotted and sticking up every possible way. She resigned herself to her fate, buckling down with tensed arms as she went over the same patch again and again with little to no results. No one said a word to me.

I was placed in the bath across from Rettah once I’d been fully undressed. The lady taking care of my hair was tutting more at how thin and dull it had gotten, and less about how difficult it was to untangle.

I was offered a tart, but I turned it away. My stomach was still churning. These people and their smiles had me on edge. I could see the looks in their eyes. They were waiting for me to explode again. Waiting for me to say something else that was sane enough to be scandalous. I kept my mouth shut. I just wanted it to be over. I could see my mother’s face in every one of theirs, but I couldn’t do anything about them. Not if they looked at me like I was a danger when I finally spoke up.

I couldn’t understand why. These people were slaves. They had to be. The way they bowed their heads with a noble women entered the room to check up on us, listened to the orders of feeding us and putting us to bed as soon as they were finished. I’d never seen anything like it before. Quiet submission. Like they’d accepted this was where they were meant to be. They waited on us hand and food, but even when Rettah and I were fed, they took nothing. They didn’t even feed on the leftovers when they were taken away. Which isn’t to say that Rettah ever stopped offering them food. He smiled that adorable smile of his and would hand anyone that looked even the tiniest bit hungry the better half of his food, much to an elder servant’s chagrin. But they couldn’t exactly reprimand the person they were meant to defer to. So, they kept quiet, and they made sure that no other noble saw when they took food from a starving boy.

I tried to feed them. They didn’t even dignify it with a response.

When I yelled loudly enough that there was no way I was going to sleep in a room without Rettah, they complied. They listened to me. I was just a child, and they listened to what I had to say. They did everything I wanted. There was a power to my words. If I expressed distaste, if I asked for something else, they’d jump at the bit to acquiesce. But they wouldn’t dignify this. They wouldn’t admit it.

I held Rettah in my arms the first few nights. He’d gone to sleep the moment the world around him ceased to buzz with cooing women that were so intent on doting on him. I could only stare at the wall across from us dancing with moonlight from the faint breeze of an open window behind us, and cry. I was silent. I didn’t want to wake Rettah. There was our home out there, somewhere past the Wonderland forest and in the green and yellow fields that I had grown to hate over the last year. We could have died there. We would have. But we would have died somewhere that was home. Not here, not in a palace filled with strangers and people that were enslaved that looked like mother, and a terrifying monster with red hair that called herself a Queen. But I couldn’t do anything else. I was just a child. A little girl. I couldn’t fight the very things that father hated. He had told me always to never go here. To never pass the forest. To never see what’s on the other side, never to talk to strangers, and never to even think of what might lay beyond our little world. It was too late for that. He never told me what to do if our house was gone. If there were monsters attacking. If we ran out of food. If Rettah was starving. He never told me which mattered more. Rettah, or staying away from the evil.

I looked down at Rettah. He was the one thing that showed me I’d made the right decision. His breathing was soft, slow, and far less erratic since he’d gotten more food in him. Even through travelling, he’d grown in size. He wasn’t the skeleton I’d seen him as, now he was getting close to a skinny six year old boy’s physique. I could only imagine what I looked like. I didn’t really care. What mattered was Rettah was thriving. And that is what reaffirmed me I’d chosen right. We could brave the evil, as long as we did it together.

I wanted to believe it. I held Rettah tighter, and I almost did.

Over the next few days, we were put through the same steps over and over by the same human women taking care of us. Waking up in the morning, breakfast, bathing, a quick exercise through the grounds. The beautiful world around us hid away the city down below when there were massive walls and a cliff to the ocean keeping one from looking over the side. We instead were entitled to beautiful flowers on vines, fruits of all different colors and flavors, massive tropical trees towering stories high, an overwhelming abundance of roses that made themselves into a little hedge maze near the center, and noble after Queen noble enjoying the premises with little huffs and smiles here and there. Sea birds flocked over head and landed in the orchards of oranges and limes with white plumage spreading before them before they tried to swoop down and steal a leftover pastry. On a quiet day, the sound of the ocean could be heard far below the massive cliff edge that bordered this castle on a hill. A few trails led to the side of the castle on cobbled paths, but we were always kept a close watch. We were to enjoy the garden. To smile. To walk. To exercise the muscles and the mind.

Then eating again. More eating, with periods for exercise to work the muscles back towards something more comprehensible. They knew what they were doing. The faces would change periodically as new servants took over while the other servants were placed on some other task, but Sylvia remained the same. She seemed to be one of the elders of the servant class, leading the younger women through what needed to be done to take care of young noble children. There didn’t appear to be any official positions. She just showed them that they must always listen to us, that we could not be ignored, and that other than the Queen, our orders are what they must follow. She didn’t say this in so many words, but I could feel it in the careful spider web of looks and expressions they interchanged with each other. There was a secret language going on before my very eyes that I could only catch glimpses of. It didn’t seem to matter how we acted, they’d never stop smiling. As long as I never brought up the question of their servitude, they would listen to anything I asked of them. I was ordering around my mother. Every time I was asked what I wanted, I felt sick.

“Miss Margret, why aren’t you eating your steak?” Sylvia asked by my shoulder. I looked up at the woman and her neat, tidy bun, then pushed away the food and sighed.

“I’m not particularly hungry, sorry.” Across from me, Rettah’s plate was piled with all of the sweetened pastries and fruits he could find. His sweet tooth knew no bounds, and now that he had the ability to eat anything sweet he wanted, the only thing stopping him was the doctors that checked on us regularly and informed his caretakers of the dangers of only feeding him sweets. They’d supplemented him with some sweetened meats, milk, and more fruits than he could ever consume. He didn’t seem to mind. He reacted to everything with a charming boyish smile and never failed to offer the women around him at least half of what was on his plate. If he was eating, everyone else around him had to be eating too.

“Why not, dear? You have barely been trying any of the food for the past few days. Your brother’s appetite knows no bounds, but you’re just picking at it.” I wasn’t surprised that Sylvia would say something so bold. She might have been the only one of the servants that actively spoke like a mother, rather than a submissive servant. Her elderly nature and general ranking above the others was the only reason. I kept being reminded of my own mother. She made me calmer. Like she had chosen to be here. Like she actually cared about me. It was a lie, but it was enough to get me to take a few more bites of my steak and potatoes.

She smiled. That looked real enough. If I squinted, maybe I could see that it didn’t reach her eyes. But then, I didn’t want to squint. I didn’t want to see what was real, and what wasn’t.

Perhaps that was what kept people here from going insane.

“I don’t like it here,” I muttered.

“I’m so sorry, miss.” Sylvie tenderly stroked my shoulder, then leaned down to my eye level. “What do you want? What would make this place better for you? We’d be happy to help. The both of you are such sweet, charming children.”

“You can’t do anything.” I couldn’t bring up slavery again, it was a useless endeavour. They’d just stare at me like I was insane, and then Sylvie would have to say something again to bring them back. Instead, I watched Rettah devour half a peach, then hand the other half to a young servant girl that was only a few years older than me. I smiled faintly at Rettah, and found the energy to eat a few more bites off own my plate. “I just… As long as Rettah is happy, and we’re together, I’m alright. ”

“Margret, dear, about that…” She stroked comfortingly over my shoulder. If I closed my eyes, I could imagine my father. But those bittersweet memories made my eyes sting with tears. “Rettah and you are going to start attending tutoring lessons in the coming weeks, as soon as you both achieve a healthier weight.” I waited for the bad news. I could hear it coming, so I looked her in the eye, and I waited. She faltered at this, but tried to remain smiling. “The Queen has decreed that your brother is to be the future Right Hand of the Queen, and so has quite the schedule lain out for him. He must be tutored in all aspects of the Kingdom of Hearts as well as the others, in order to prepare for this position. It’s very prestigious.”

“What?” I stared at her in disbelief.

“Right!” Rettah beamed. “Beatrice told me about it, right Bea?” He looked up at one of the older women, her hair carefully braided and looped around her head. She smiled primly, but it was faint and she was far more focused on trying to comb out his unmanageable hair. Weeks into it, and they still hadn’t given up. “I get to help the Queen.”

“That is correct. You’ll be learning all about diplomacy, foreign relations, and cooperation with the other Hands. It’s a very important position, so it’s always best to start early. That’s why the Royals pick so carefully who will be Hand, you know.” Bea’s voice was one full of coughing and wretching barely held back by a firm willpower. She must have been terribly sick, but it couldn’t have been contagious if she was allowed alongside us. “It means the Queen trusts you above all else as well. She must love you.”

“And you, Margret,” Sylvie hummed. “She has plans for you to be the Left Hand, you know.”

“I don’t want it.” Alarmed, I flinched away from her and nearly flipped my food over in the process. “I don’t want to help the Queen.”

“Dear, it’s not as bad as you think it is.” Sylvie looked back at me in worry, but she said nothing on my reaction, instead stilling my plate and putting my utensils back in proper position. “The Left Hand focuses on the economy and trade of Wonderland. You could help the Capital grow prosperous and strong. It would help everyone if you were to take control over that position, not just the Queen.”

“I don’t want to.” I bit my lip. I couldn’t say anything more. I couldn’t say why. Sylvie knew that. She could see in my eyes how hard I was trying not to alarm the other women that were already staring at me. The hollow look in her eyes proved it to me. This was no suggestion, or ask. This was an order from the Queen herself. One I couldn’t refuse.

I could still feel her fingers on my cheek. Cold, silken fingers.

“Regardless of where you end up, miss, wouldn’t you still like to learn?”

“I…” I looked to the food uncertainly. “I don’t know. I… I guess.”

“It’ll be fun, Margy,” Rettah chimed in. He wasn’t smiling either. In fact, he seemed quite alarmed at my reaction, worry etched in his expression that seemed altogether too serious with a broken crooked hat on his little head. I couldn’t have him worrying. I couldn’t let him think something was wrong, and it was just me. He was having the time of his life, and I was ruining it for him.

“I’ll try,” I muttered. But I’d lost my appetite again. “At least we’ll learn together.”

“That’s the issue, miss,” Sylvie intoned. “The tutoring is for two separate kinds of learning. The Queen wanted you two apart for that. She believes it’s better to start specified from a young age.”

“Of course,” I said bitterly. I stabbed at my steak, but my hands were shaking. I couldn’t cry. Not in front of Rettah.
“It won’t be so bad,” Rettah smiled tentatively at me. “Maybe we can both make some friends. Wouldn’t that be fun?”

“Fun,” I echoed, then grimaced as I met his gaze. “As long as you’re happy, then I don’t care what happens.”

“But Margy,” Rettah tentatively pressed closer from across the table, and lay a hand down on my shivering fist. I stopped, then slowly turned to look him in the eye. I couldn’t cry. Not here. “You’re not happy here, are you?”

I tried to smile. “I’m happy that you’re safe, Rettah. And that you’re happy. You’ve never smiled so much before.”

“I’m happy, but all you seem to do is frown.” He lowered his eyes. “And you don’t like pastries, so I can’t offer you anything. I don’t know what to do to make you happy too. Is it something I said? Something someone else said?”

“No- not at all!” I grabbed his hand with both of mine and clutched it as tight as I could. “I love you, Rettah. I just want to protect you. And this place is new, and scary, and it’s full of things that make me worry. But that’s all I’ve ever done, all my life, right?” I grimaced.

“Then stop worrying, silly!” He smiled. “We’re safe, now. There’s no one to hurt us. We have friends everywhere, and family too. Everyone with red hair is like one big happy family. Like the Queen! She’s the prettiest person.”

I tried to ignore my heart dropping. “But I can’t exactly stop worrying. It’s not something I can turn off.”

“But can you try? For me?” He blinked up at me with imploring eyes, those big lashes almost alien. Pretty green eyes. Just like father. Just like me.

“I’ll try,” I finally sighed. “I’ll try really, really hard for you. I want us both to be happy. To be safe. Every time you’re not in my sight, I’m so terrified that you won’t be safe. I never want to let you go.”

“I’ll be okay. I have all of my friends here.” The women behind him twitched, but he didn’t seem to notice. “People are looking out for us now. We’re not alone. We’re safe. The Queen is keeping us safe. And the Queen knows that we’ll do better if we get tutored separately, right? She knows best. I promise, I’ll always come back to you every night. Always.”

The Queen was keeping us trapped. Trapped, fed, and kept. And because of that, Rettah was smiling. Rettah was going to get an education, he’d make friends, he’d get to enjoy all of his favorite foods. And he was alive. And I had to let it go.

I let it go.

I smiled, let go of his hand, nodded to myself, and went back to my meal.

Chapter Text

QUILL

“If you believe you know everything, Quill, then teach it to me. Truly, I’d like to hear it.” The tutor glared down at me with nostrils that flared up in unbidden hostility. His glass glinted in the candle light as he pointed to his study guide, then quickly covered any answer with a thin gnarled hand. The wooden table was large enough that I could have sat across from the man and kept his worries at bay that I would ever try to cheat him, but he insisted on my staying at his shoulder, so close that I could smell the hookah pipe still on his lips. Probably a gift from the Capital ages ago. I had to resist rolling my eyes. If I did that, I knew a smack to the head would be just what the doctor ordered, in his mind. “This is basic knowledge, you know. You should have already learned this ages ago from prior tutors. It can’t have been their faults, so it must be yours. Just look at your cousin.”

Across from our table in the cheerily lit room, Lod sat at his own station with his tutor in front of him, both in the depths of conversation. Between us, a large window showed the brisk fall day outside, and the courtyard that I wish I could have been in. Anywhere but here.

His tutor preferred Lod sit across from him, and they chatted amiably more than taught. Yet, whenever Lod was called upon to answer a question from his tutor, he seemed to get it in an instant. He rocked back and forth on his chair with a small smile, and the kindly old man in front of him seemed calm and subdued. Today, Lod was being taught by one of the few Lord nobles that ventured out into the world simply because they wished to. He’d spent most of his time in the Capital, teaching children in one of the academies under the thumb of the Queen. I supposed something had dragged him back here, but he didn’t seem to mind at all. He was used to children, at least from what I could observe. Happy with them, even, when compared to the whippet of a man that sat before me. This one’s glasses were pushed sharply up his nose, long blond hair pulled back in a thin ponytail. He wasn’t old, but he was more than mean enough to make up for it. Wrinkles lining his forehead were from frowning, not age. His muddy brown eyes peered over me with cruel anticipation.

“You haven’t told me the answers, sir,” I tried to explain as calmly as I could. Picking apart at the frayed edge of my sleeve, I didn’t keep eye contact with him more than I had to. Too little and he grew annoyed. Too much, and he thought I was challenging him. I preferred annoyed. “I can’t recall what the secondary exports of each of the four kingdoms are.”

“This is review for a boy your age, especially one that has the intention of being the Right Hand. This lack of respect for your elders is appalling.” The tutor wrinkled his nose and pushed the papers further away, as if I were thinking of trying to grab them.

“So you want me to guess?”

“Are you talking back to me?” He narrowed his already beady eyes to slits. I glanced up at him to see that rage building on his face, but looked away before it could blow up in front of me. “You might be the son of the Right Hand, but that does not give you the right to speak to your elders and betters like you are one. You are in training, boy. You’re no Hand. And the fact that you put such little effort into trying to review the information you should already know means that you are disrespecting me even further.”

“I know, sir. Sorry, sir.” I picked harder at my sleeve, until the edges began to fray. I already knew the answer to his damned question. I should have, at least. I could remember talking to Lod about it before. We’d reviewed time and time again, but even then I hadn’t much of a mind to think about it. I hadn’t much of any mind lately. And looking out at that window just made me want to run, far, far away. I was blanking, and I couldn’t do anything to rectify it. There was no room in my mind for schoolwork these days, not when everything was already about father.

If only the man knew. If only he realized just how much I was thinking about the Right Hand. But no, I doubted he would care. I doubted the damned Lord would care. No one had seen him in months. The throne room has remained silent but for the Right Hand and his brother taking care of things. My uncle… No, he was complicit. My mother, oblivious. Lod, Jillian… Helpless. I couldn’t tell my cousin what had happened. He was right across the room from me, laughing and enjoying a tutoring session that played to his personable strengths, and I couldn’t take that away from him. What would there be in telling him? More tears, more desperate futile attempts at trying to solve problems, maybe a little sprinkle of the brief idea of running away. Where to? All of my life was here.

The picking subsided as I recalled the memory. We’d all enjoyed ourselves, in the end, in that bed. We played together, again and again. And I forgot about father completely. I started to think that maybe it had been a terrifying, twisted dream I’d had. Jillian and Lod never brought it up again, and in a way that was both a blessing and a curse. When I was so busy enjoying my cousin’s company and basking in the afterglow of orgasm after orgasm, I never had to think about just why they were pampering me. But then I found myself questioning all of it.

It took waiting two days for the other shoe to fall.

The door had opened quietly. Long after Jillian and Lod had left, as they always did, to their own rooms. Long after everyone else in the castle should have been asleep. Only a few hours before the bread began to cook in the kitchens and the servants prepared hot water for morning baths, and the rooster started crowing far off in the distance. I don’t know how he knew I would be awake. I didn’t know why I still was, still staring at the ceiling of my room and thinking of what may come tomorrow. I had a smile on my face. I was happy. I was naïvely thinking of what Jillian and Lod might have planned for tomorrow.

Stupid.

“I’d thought you’d be with your two accomplices,” he’d said, and then he’d walked into my room without so much as an ask for entry. “Or asleep, perhaps.” I sat up straight in my bed and stared at the figure cloaked in darkness. There was a small hiss, and then the candle by my door lit up with a warmth that held onto my father’s sharp features. He was in nightclothes, like he had just left my mother’s side. They still slept in the same bed. I wasn’t surprised.

I held my breath, my heart beat speeding up the more he stared at me in silence. Perhaps he’d come to apologize. Perhaps he’d come to explain himself. He must have. In the middle of the night, maybe some guilt had taken hold of him. Maybe he was afraid. But I looked into his eyes, and all of those thoughts died away in the chill.

“No, sir.” I’d said softly to him. I didn’t look him in the eyes again. I couldn’t stomach it. I couldn’t bear it any longer. “They left hours ago. It’s very late at night, sir.” He took a step forward and my heartbeat jumped with it. One slow step, not tentative, but purposeful. There was nothing tentative about my father. He couldn’t be.

“And yet you’re still awake,” he’d muttered as he inspected the tossed-up sheets of my bed. I hadn’t slept, but that didn’t mean I’d lain still in silence. I just hoped he wouldn’t see the blood that I’d stained it with earlier in the evening.

“I couldn’t sleep, sir.” He was right in front of me. The candle was at his back, and his face dipped into shadow. His golden eyes stared down at me, like pools of molten gold. Long, heavy hands lay dormant at his sides, but then they twitched. I could see the strain in his shoulders as I clutched at the thin sheets of my bed and waited for what he decided to do.

“No? Why is that?” My father sat down beside me, and rose his hand up to my arm. He squeezed it, as though it were a comfort. I couldn’t stop staring at the foreign touch. There was fire on my arm.

“I don’t know, sir.” Tentatively, I glanced up to look at his face, for any kind of change. I risked looking him in the eyes.

It was hunger.

“Quill,” he murmured. “There’s a way to help you sleep, you know. Leave you knackered, pleasantly sated.”

“… I don’t mind not sleeping, sir.”

“Fine.” He narrowed his eyes, then climbed further into my bed and sat across from me, his legs crossed and his eyes hardened from any playful tone they might have had. His posture had changed. There was a lion at the foot of my bed. “You don’t need to sleep? Then you can make yourself useful instead.”

“I… I…” My mouth had run dry. He’d sat on the bed like some kind of child, but then he’d started to untie the strings of his trousers, and that innocent fantasy was gone. His hands worked deftly at the strings. I couldn’t look away from the clear bulge in his pants. Had it been for me? Or had my mother decided she didn’t want to do anything that night? He could have had her. He could have just woken her up. Or my uncle. Anyone but me. He didn’t need me. He didn’t have to do this.

I wanted to disappear.

“Come here, Quill,” He beckoned me closer with his free hand, and my body moved of its own accord. I found myself in the arms of my father just as before. Shaking, wishing for anything else, and hating that the gentle stroking of his hand against my side was the most comforting thing I’d felt in a long time. It was strange, not even Jillian could make me feel like this. A part of me missed when I was younger. When I was little more than a tot and he held me in his arms like a father should. I kept pretending that is was benign, that he simply wanted to soothe my nerves. I couldn’t understand how he made me forget about anything else. Like he was the center of my world, and all I had to do to survive was to listen.

It was almost enough that I didn’t jump, when he pulled out the massive length that was his own adult erection. Topped with a fine blond hair that matched his head, far too big, and beating red from… Me. My vicinity. My nose immediately wrinkled at the sight, but I didn’t dare say a word. I just listened, to the sound of my father’s breath, the slight hitch when I stared at his cock.

“Do you know what to do?”

“No, sir.”

“The same as I did for you.” He grabbed my hand in his own, then placed it on the beating heat of the cock. As soon as I touched it, my stomach heaved. Still, I said nothing. Not even when he began to move my hand slowly, back and forth on the twitching, flinching length, not even when he made me tighten my grip, and not even when he let his hand fall away so he could watch me do it by myself.

I got to work. I did what I had to do. I pressed closer into my father’s chest, half hiding my face with the smallest whimper in the back of my throat as I stroked over the cock that I couldn’t get my hand all the way around, up to the tip where I squeezed until he barked a rasping breath to stop. I did what he asked. I hated that I knew what to do. That I’d done this before, and I understood just what he wanted out of me. I gripped harder, moved my hand faster, and at one moment, licked my hand before continuing to keep from the friction growing too strong. I dared to look up to see what his reaction was.

A predator looked down at me, his eyes filled with want. “You’re doing well, Quill,” he muttered breathlessly and pushed his face up against my ear. My face flushed when he spoke. “No wonder Lod wants you so badly. You have a body made to be broken.”

I turned away and tried to ignore the growing heat on my cheeks, even as he nibbled my ear. He was happy with me. Almost smiling, or perhaps it was his teeth gritted to keep himself from moaning. But his hand was on my head, stroking, pushing me slowly closer. Slowly, I found myself moving towards that massive thing, something with thick hair and girth and size and everything I wasn’t. I didn’t resist. I didn’t feel it within me to try. He nudged me ever closer, caressing and teasing me towards him, and in the end I did it before he made me have to. I pushed my lips around the head of that cock, widened my jaw as far as it could go, and swallowed him in my mouth.

My father moaned. It only took a few more strokes, and my cheeks were filled with his semen.

He kept my head firmly down on his cock until I’d drank all his seed, but even after his orgasm had coated my throat, he wouldn’t let me leave. His cock slowly softened under my tongue as his hands ran through my hair with a gentle fervor, whispering something so quietly under his breath that I couldn’t here. He only let me up when he was entirely soft.

“Open your mouth,” he ordered. I did as I was asked.

He held my jaw and turned my face up for good measure, then smirked in satisfaction.

“You didn’t spill a drop. You’re truly meant to be a cocksleeve, aren’t you?”

I said nothing. Any illusion of care had been broken. I was staring at my own father, with taste of his cum still in my mouth. Tears prickled at the edge of my eyes.

“Quill?”

“… Yes. Sir.”

“What are you, Quill?”

“A cocksleeve, sir. I’m meant to be a cocksleeve.”

“And?”

“I… I like being a cocksleeve. For you. S-sir.” My own words felt like hot irons on my mind.

“You’re meant to be here, aren’t you?” He asked rhetorically, his eyes narrowed on my face, stroking my chin. “Your position belongs at the bottom. I supposed I raised a failure. But you’re no different from your uncle.” He tutted. “You’re still useful. And you’re still sweet. Adorable, even. A cute little slut.”

I could only sit there in shock as he pressed his lips against mine. I’d just tasted him. I was dirty. He shouldn’t have. But he was kissing me, pushing my face up against his, lovingly embracing me like I was his wife. His tongue pushed into my mouth, and my world went white.

“Quill!” The tutor snarled and slammed his fist onto the table to emphasize it. I turned to him in shock.

“I’m sorry, sir.” I blinked blearily. “I… I didn’t hear you.” Far across the room, the outburst had finally alerted Lod and the other tutor that anything was amiss. Both of them turned to see, but the elderly man turned back without so much as a second glance. His kindly eyes flickered cold, but returned to the same jolly expression when they settled on my cousin. That stunned me nearly as much as my own tutor. A sinking feeling grew in my stomach, that no matter what happened, I wasn’t going to get any help from him. Lod lingered, his eyes meeting mine for a second, sympathetic but helpless as he turned back to his own work.

“No? Where is your mind, then? Stuck in the clouds?”

“No, sir.”

“No, it wouldn’t be, would it.” His frown turned into a nasty smirk as he drew closer to me, until his face was inches from mine. “I suppose it would be deep in thought about fucking your cousins, eh?”

My ears were ringing. I stared uncomprehendingly at the man, but I couldn’t hear what he said after. He was smirking, talking, but I couldn’t think to hear. Dimly, I could feel the hairs on my neck standing up, but everything suddenly seemed to be so far away.

“… father too, huh?” I only caught the last part of his sentence as the words started to appear back, one by one. But even then I hoped to God that I had misheard him.

“I… I’m sorry, sir?” The words leaving my mouth like slugs on my tongue.

“Seems you’re fucking everyone in the castle, these days.” The tutor looked over his notes, then peered at me with eyes that were far too familiar. A chill went down my spine when he stopped looking at my face and started trailing down my chest. “Including your own father, it seems.”

“I… No, I…”

“I wouldn’t try to deny something like that, you know.” He frowned at me. “Enough people have heard and seen you and your cousins. None of you ever seemed to want to keep it a secret. And I’ve heard some interesting stories from your father, himself. Seems he doesn’t mind sharing how disciplines his child. It’s a shame, really. I expected great things from the son of the Right Hand. Acknowledged by the Lord, recommended for Hand as well, and with that bright yellow hair and eyes. The spitting image of a perfect noble. But it appears that all you seem to do is open your legs for the nearest man that will give you what you want, now is that right? Or, I suppose, a girl in the case of your cousin. But she’s always been a problem child. Probably likes to pretend she’s a man anyways, with those big hands and feet of hers.”

“I don’t understand,” I whispered.

“What is there to understand? Boy, you reap what you sow. And you’ve sown yourself the field of a manwhore. Your father has been at your wits end with you, from what I’d heard. Apparently you’re a lost cause, unable to have any sort of backbone. That’s what you get for being the bottom of the heap. Which I suppose is why I can’t seem to teach you anything.” He pushed his books to the side and sat back against his chair with a sigh. “Too busy with your mind full of cock. Is that what it was? Who was in your mind then, your cousin over there?” I couldn’t speak. “Or perhaps your father?” His eyes glittered. “Has he fucked you yet?”

“Stop it…”

“Are you actually trying to order me around, boy?” He jumped forward and grabbed me by the ear. I winced as he dug in his fingernails until a small trickle of blood slithered from the lobe onto my shoulder. The tiniest shiver drew itself out of me.

“No, sir. Sorry, sir.”

“Good. At the very least, you’re obedient. I suppose its your father’s training.” His discerning eyes were lost in thought for a moment, then lit up with narrowed features as a grin slowly took over his face.

“You can’t seem to focus without a bit of cock in you, so I suppose we’ll have to take a break, shan’t we? You can consider this a punishment for your daydreaming.”

“What?” Nervously, I tried to push my chair back, but he grabbed me by the shoulder before I could stand. There was no reasoning with an expression like that, so I could only stare up in horror as the man’s mouth slowly curled into a façade of a smile.

“On your knees, boy,” he said, spite souring his tone.

“Sir,” I whimpered. “Please don’t make me do this.” I kept glancing to Lod, but he was too focused, too busy in conversation. Surely he could hear this. Surely the elderly man could… No. He heard. He knew. He was keeping Lord’s attention away, and there was nothing my cousin could do anyways. Neither of them would stop this. I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t say no. It was a punishment. He saw fit to punish me. Like this. Just like father.

“Your begging eyes will get you nowhere other than closer to the cock you seek. Now I want you on your knees. You can’t answer simple questions. You’re not fit to be Hand. So you’ll serve your punishment, and then we’ll see if I can try again once you’ve been sated.”

“Sir-”

“On. Your. Knees.”

With tremulous fingers and legs that didn’t function, I let myself fall to the floor in a heap. He gripped my shoulder tightly, guiding me under the table and between his thighs with just enough space to watch my terrified eyes looking back at him. Silently begging him to stop. He should have seen the terror. There should have been something, anything there. He merely grinned.

My breath caught in my throat when he unbuckled his trousers and revealed that he had been straining for far longer than I had anticipated. Sticky fluid clung to the inside of his trousers from the strain, and when he finally released himself, it was with a low groan. I felt sick to my stomach when I realized that. All this time, he knew I was going to fail. He knew that he was going to do this. Maybe the moment that I had entered the classroom for the tutoring session, he’d figured this is what he was going to do.

I was almost relieved to see that it was smaller than father’s, even if it was unreasonably large.

“Well, what are you waiting for?” He snarled. “Start sucking.” Surely Lod had to have noticed by now. Surely anyone noticed. I wouldn’t have to do this, if I just waited a few more minutes. Then I could sear the image of the flicking cock in front of me out of my brain. I could go back to Jillian and Lod and pretend that none of this was happening. I could be safe. If I just hid in my room with Jill and Lod and let them take me, I could be safe.

He pushed me by the shoulder up against his length, and I heaved.

“Stop that! Open your mouth and take it.”

“Quill?” Came a whimpering voice from the far side of the classroom. I closed my eyes and whimpered. It was too late, and there was nothing he could do anyways. All I could do was panic, and cry. With shaking, sobbing breaths, I slowly opened my mouth and let the man push the head of his cock through my small, whimpering lips.

It was salty, and tasted no different from father. When he slowly pushed in the velvet tip, more and more, it was all the same as before. Maybe a little softer, maybe a little smaller, but there was still an adult’s cock being pressed through my lips, the same blond hair sticking from the end, the same veins that I could trace with my tongue. Still too large for me to comfortable take in my mouth. I could imagine opening my eyes and see the face of the other man that wanted me so badly, my own father staring down at me and waiting impatiently for me to pick up the pace.

“Well, that’s a sight,” he muttered under his breath as he stared unabashed at my hollowed cheeks. I only caught a glimpse of his stare before my eyes were closed again. The more I looked at him, the more my heart hammered in my chest and the more I felt like I could break down then and there. I just had a job to do. I could do this. I just had to keep my mouth open, and let him do as he liked. Be a cocksleeve. I could do that. Just as before, suck until the man was dry, then wait for his afterglow to subside so he’d be a reasonable human being. As reasonable as he could get.

Rationalization couldn’t keep me safe when he was grabbing me by the hair and thrusting down my throat.

I tried to gasp, but it turned into a choking mess. He was rocking his hips past the point of no return. My throat closed up around him, my entire body straining to try to heave out the foreign thing. My stomach roiled in protest, but he wasn’t stopping. I could feel my vision fading the further he thrust without letting up for air. Faintly, I tried to push away with muted whimpers, and only then did he let up.

I coughed, hacking up phlegm against the floor as I struggled for breath.

“Quill!” I dimly heard Lod’s voice getting closer, but my tutor’s growl kept him away. The latter was thick with lust, barely human. The elderly man was calling back to my cousin, telling him to come back to study. That this wasn’t his problem.

“He deserves to be punished for his actions, boy,” the man said calmly to Lod. “He’s no better than a slave, anyways, if even half the rumors around the castle are to be believed.”

“He’s my cousin!”

“I understand you two are close. You might very well have helped led him down this path in the first place,” his voice took on a warning tone. “But you can’t let someone like that cloud your judgement. Do you want to end up the same as Quill?”

“No- But- he’s- you can’t do that to him! He doesn’t deserve that! He’s hurting – He sounds like he’s choking!”

“If you can’t behave yourself, you’ll be getting your own punishment.” Lod went silent. I didn’t have to see him to know that look on his face. Absolute despair.

I tried to smile, but my jaw was locked and still hacking from the rough thrusts down my gullet. Tears prickled the edge of my vision. I was willing Lod in the back of my mind to let it go. To just let me face this alone. He didn’t need to hurt too. He didn’t need to have some cock shoved down his throat. It wasn’t him anyways. He wasn’t the bottom. He was afraid of pain. He didn’t have the experience to deal with what adults wanted. And what they wanted, was something small and pliable to fuck. I just had to be small and pliable. They liked it when I cried. When I looked up at them with begging eyes. They loved it when I was scared. At least I didn’t have to pretend.

The tutor brought his cock back against my lips for another go around, coupled with a faint hiss of arousal. The velvet head pressed against my mouth, slick with my own saliva. “Alright, let’s try this again. Relax your throat, or you’re just going to choke, you understand?”

I didn’t have a working mouth to say yes, it was too busy sucking down the head of his cock and staring up at him. Damnit, if he’d just finish it already. His hooded eyes watched me like a snake, a hand outstretched to grab me by the hair again and pull me back down into the depths. It went to the back of my mouth, then my throat, then I felt like coughing and choking again. “Swallow,” he muttered. “Just keep swallowing. That’s it. Swallow, over and over again…” I did as he asked. It hurt, there was too much, and my cheeks could barely take it, but I swallowed, and it got easier. Slowly. This time I’d been ready for it. He thrust into the back of my throat slowly, groaning and shivering with every twitch of his hips, and chuckled to himself when I took what he gave me. “There you are. This is deepthroating, Quill. And I must say. You’re very, very good. Especially for your first time. I can see the bulge down your throat.” When my vision began to fade again, I gripped his thigh hard and he pulled himself back out to let me cough and breathe again. His cock was slick with phlegm and spit, hard as metal and faintly twitching from where it had been buried down my throat. When I’d finally gotten a hold of myself again, I slowly opened my mouth and waited for him to push it back in expectantly.

He grinned. “Good boy.”

The cock went back down my gullet again, thrusting faster this time. He used my hair for leverage, gripping the rat’s nest I’d not bothered to brush. His breath hitched when I choked or swallowed, moaning to himself, all the while holding the back of my head to keep me from pulling away before I was about to lose consciousness. I barely had to do anything but hold my aching jaw open for him to thrust away as he pleased. Each harsh movement went from the very head of his cock down to the base where I could smell him as his hair tickled my nose. That musky scent wasn’t awful, the constant jilting of moving, the small breaths I got when he let me up for air, it wasn’t impossible to live with. He wasn’t trying to kill me. He just wanted his sock stuffed down my throat. If I closed my eyes, let him fuck my face as he pleased, and took it, then it was almost… Bearable.

There was a growing harness between my legs that I was trying to ignore, but it was there. The more he thrust down my gullet, used me like a bloody hole, the more I could feel my own erection straining on the inside of my leg. If Lod was still talking, I couldn’t hear it. All I could hear was moans and shaking and the sound of squelching as a cock was shoved over and over down my throat to the very brim. And the roaring of the blood in my ears, the faint ringing, the tremors of my own body as I held onto the man’s thighs for dear life and let him do what he liked.

When he was finally done, he held it there. His hips twitched uncontrollably, arching and thrusting as fast as he could as deeply as he could, until he let out a sharp gasping whine and pulled me as far down as he could get me. Right at the base. I felt the movement of semen travelling down the length of his cock. He finished right down my throat, grinding his abdomen into my nose and forcing me to swallow every last drop of his semen. Just like father. It all sprayed down my throat, I didn’t even have the chance to spit it out.

Slowly, achingly slowly, he pulled his softening cock out and let me hack up a lung under the table, grasping at my throat and massaging it as I tried to regain my breathing. He sighed, sitting back further in the chair, and finally looked satisfied. I looked at him with my hand still on my throat, waiting for him to say something.

“Well, that was certainly something.” That wasn’t the tutor.

I paled.

Father stood at the edge of the door to the tutoring room, his arms crossed and his body leaning languidly against the frame, but his eyes were focused only on me. He could see me clearly from under the table. I could see the strain in his pants from here. I turned away as my face heated. I wasn’t in the right state of mind. I tried to strangle the erection in my pants with my legs, but that only made it worse.

“Right Hand, sir!” The tutor immediately sat up with wide eyes to greet my father. “I just – I was just-”

“Facefucking my son, were you?” Across the room, Lod was staring at his tutoring book with hands that wouldn’t stop shaking. The whites of his eyes were massive, his teeth gritted with the tiniest whimper escaping his mouth. The elderly man said not a word to anyone else.

“I thought it would be – a – a – punishment, sir. Something to show him his place.” The tutor pushed his glasses up that had fallen halfway down his face tried to give a sheepish smile that quickly turned to a grimace. “I thought – perhaps – maybe I got the wrong idea from what you’d told me – if so I apologize most severely!”

My father’s eyes narrowed, only glancing at the tutor before turning his predatory expression back to me. I ducked my head, and squeezed my legs together. My own cock was straining against me. Aching for touch. I hated it. It was disgusting. I was still looking at my tutors’ spent phallus, but all I could imagine was being used like a cocksleeve again. Terrifying. Arousing. Everything I hated. My father was right there. I wasn’t sure what I felt at all, anymore. And that was what scared me most of all. I didn’t even feel like crying. In all I just… Felt so empty.

“No, you did well,” my father finally said. I sat still in shock as I digested his words. He’d done well. He was fine with throwing me to the dogs. I shouldn’t have… I should never have thought this was special. That there was anything more to this than my emotional destruction. “The next time he disobeys you, feel free to do the same,” my father continued with the same hunger still threatening at the edge of his tongue. But… Don’t let him come.” I furrowed my brows in confusion, but the strange emptiness was overwhelming my reasoning. I was lost. Utterly lost on the ground, listening to my father giving full permission to this man to do what he wanted with me. I was just a toy. “That’s less of a punishment, and more of a treat. Something his little friends give him.”

Something he’d given me.

I bored my eyes into the floor and listened to my breath hitching from otherwise silent sobs.

“I’ll keep that in mind,” The tutor nodded at my father, who left without so much as another word. He turned back to me, glaring down through those glasses and grabbing me by the hair once again. I flinched at the contact, then winced harder as he pulled me back up to my chair without mercy.

“You heard your father. If you disobey me, you’ll be sucking my cock again. Do you understand?”

“Yes, sir,” I stammered. It was difficult to speak with my throat so badly bruised.

“Your father’s given me permission to punish you how I please, now. As long as you’re not allowed to finish. But then, I suppose that’s how it’s meant to be, you know. You’re nothing more than a tool for pleasure.” I said nothing. I didn’t look him in the eyes, and I waited for him to finish gloating so we could go back to focusing on school work. “Your lips are all red and puffed, now,” He pushed a thumb into my mouth and pulled it apart. Obediently, I opened it for him, flushing steadily darker when he wouldn’t let me go. There was something still hard between my legs clouding my judgement, making me think that this was somehow alright. That I wasn’t being touched by a stranger, or that my father hadn’t just thrown me to the hounds. He pulled at my bottom lip with a finger, moving steadily closer, then stopped with his face was inches from mine. “Cocksucking lips, now.”

“Yes, sir.” I just wanted school work. I would take anything, anything over this.

“You swallowed everything down that throat of yours didn’t you, boy?”

“Yes, sir.” He pressed a finger down my throat and traced over my Adam's apple, before continuing further down to the edge of my collarbone. I took in a wretched breath of air and held in a whimper.

“It makes me wonder what that ass of yours can do,” he pondered. That almost knocked me out of the hazy arousal, but then he grabbed me by the hair, and kissed me.

He was rougher than my father, but satisfied a lot quicker. He didn’t seem to like the taste of his own cock, so he only lasted a moment or so before he pulled away with a wrinkled nose. And yet I was still left shaking, panting for breath, straining until there must have been some slickness between my legs that wouldn’t be satisfied. And I hated it. More than anything, I hated that I just wanted this bastard to finish me off. Across the room, I could see Lod trying so desperately not to look me in the eye.

I didn’t want the tutor. I wanted that. I wanted my brother again.

“Fine,” He muttered. “Now, let’s get back to tutoring. The secondary exports of each kingdom, Quill.”

“I don’t know, sir,” I managed as a whisper.

“No, of course you wouldn’t. I bet my cock knocked the last brain-cell from your head. The King has lumber, the Queen has seafood, the Lord has slaves, and the Duchess has furs. This is due to the King’s close proximity to the Wonderland forest, the Queen’s proximity to the coast and access down the cliffs, the Lord’s overabundance of human population to the north, and the eternal winter season causing animals to develop heavier coats from the Duchess. It’s not difficult. The logic behind it is there, and I know that even a tot can understand the major exports of each of the Kingdoms. That’s Left Hand work, for god’s sake. A woman can manage it. But I suppose I expect too much of you. Even your own kingdom is too difficult of a task for you to manage. Every day it seems you’re getting lower and lower, Quill.”

I was staring at the table, unable to look my tutor in the eye, barely listening to what he was saying. “Yes, sir.”

“Then Lod can pick up the slack where you fall. Otherwise, you’d turn this kingdom to ruin. Your rule as Hand would be little more than you getting fucked all hours of the day, I’d imagine.” He paused. “But, then, I suppose that would be nice. I’d like the ability to take out my frustrations on a Hand by fucking the shit out of them. Your father is an honorable man. But I can’t say the same about you.”

I let him continue talking. I was too busy far, far away from all of this. Somewhere with Jill, and Lod, in a bed together. Jill with her soft lips, Lod with his sweet smile. We’d all hold each other, drift off to sleep like that, and feel the darkness come calling to us like a siren’s song.

“I don’t even suppose you’d take a girl at the age of sixteen, would you? You’re have more than enough cock to satisfy you,” he continued to blather on. “Perhaps the Lord has gotten wind of your antics by now. I wonder, how would someone like him react? He’s quite enigmatic, but I’m sure even he would take notice of someone he deigned worthy taking that respect and throwing it down the toilet.”

Jillian would be in her own tutoring by now. I could see her after. All of us, together again. Maybe we could go to the courtyard and swim in the pond.

“Or perhaps, he’d see that you belonged in your place. At the bottom.”

Just a few more hours and I wouldn’t have to hold in the tears any longer.

Chapter Text

MARGRET

The longer I spent in the palace, the more they found ways to keep us apart. Whether it was bathing us in different rooms, bringing us meals at different times, or the dreaded tutoring that weighed over my head, they always found a reason that Rettah and I couldn’t see each other. No one said anything, no one even acknowledged it, but I saw the way they whispered. The way they ignored me.

At first, they said it was only for a couple hours at a time, to get ourselves acquainted with our new tutors. I had no interest in being anyone’s Hand, but I knew I didn’t have a voice. Sylvia might have the orders to do whatever I said, but when the Queen herself was telling her to take me to tutoring lessons, I could see the way everyone around us gulped and resigned to the fact that she had spoken. I would be one of the candidates for the next Left Hand. Rettah was the same for the Right.

The first tutor that the Queen handpicked for me was an elderly man, his brick colored beard already showing streaks of grey. I entered the room cautiously, with Sylvia at my heels. My feet shuffled, moving slowly and as quietly as I could. In the back of my mind, I knew that Rettah wasn’t far. He was being tutored for the first time, too. Probably learning his letters, or his numbers I’d never gotten around to teaching him, as much as I’d meant to. He was safe. But between me and him was a series of corridors and hallways that I had no idea how to navigate. I’d have to wait a couple hours just to see him again. His hand wasn’t on mine, gripping it tightly like he always did. He wasn’t there to smile and laugh and ask for more tarts. He wasn’t there to ask me why I was frowning.

My tutor turned from his seat at the round table, then stood up slowly with a groan as his back struggled to accommodate his rotund figure. A saggy set of breeches and a blouse stained with the morning’s soup marked him in red just like all the others, and a cape framed with black hearts fanned out behind him that seemed just as tattered. He smiled at me when I quietly took him in. I didn’t like the way he smiled. No one in this castle seemed real to me. Even Sylvie was excellent at hiding when I said something treasonous.

“Is this the girl I’ll be teaching, then? She looks like a bright young lass. Really, the hatter’s daughter should pick up things easily if she’s got a mind anything like her father.”

Sylvie nodded her quiet assent, and gently guided me over to meet the man that I couldn’t look away from. He held out a meaty hand tied together with gnarled blue veins for me to shake. I gripped a finger politely, but I kept turning back to his face. Black eyes glittered down at me, beady against a squished nose and mouth. When he smiled, I could smell that soup again. I found myself edging back when that grin didn’t disappear, but he kept my hand entrapped within his massive palm. “And you’re such a beautiful elegant girl, too, aren’t you. I heard you didn’t have much meat on your bones when you came in, but you’ve filled out nicely. How old are you, dear?”

“Eleven.” I tried to speak clearly, but the faintest stutter showed I still wasn’t used to talking to strangers.

“So young, and yet you’re already gorgeous. Does your slave do your hair? It looks sweet with those pins.” He gazed over me a little longer, but he wasn’t looking at my hair. I couldn’t seem to stop the shaking in my knees, but I hadn’t the faintest idea why. Perhaps I seemed out of place in my clothes. I certainly felt it. Today, they’d made me wear a pale red dress with a darker sash around the middle, and mahogany dress shoes. All of the red surrounding me was starting to make me grow cross-eyed. Even in the gardens they tended to favor red roses and lilies. I couldn’t seem to escape the dreaded color.

Not to mention, I couldn’t run in something with such a large petticoat. I’d found myself constantly being reminded by Sylvie not to hunch myself over, even if I was at an awkward height compared to most girls. As much as I tried not to care, it only made me stand out more. I’d about had it with these eyes on me.

“Well,” he clapped his hands together, and I flinched. “Why don’t you sit down beside me, and we’ll get started, shall we? We should go over a rudimentary understanding of the Capital to begin. Once you’re the Left Hand of the Queen, you should know this place inside and out, at least in terms of economics. It’s extremely important for keeping the city alive.”

His eyes were on me even as I slipped into the chair beside him. I tried to seem confident, with a tentative glance in Sylvia’s direction, but she seemed troubled rather than annoyed. That was an expression I hadn’t seen on her before. I faltered, but the tutor seemed unperturbed. He only paused to turn the page on the text book, before looking back at me and grinning once more. The soup must have been cream of onion. I couldn’t get it out of my nostrils.

“Now, what do you know so far about the realm of the Queen?”

“It’s very red,” I muttered. Looking him in the eye wasn’t making him turn away, so I did instead. I was surprised to see Sylvie right beside me. She’d been by the door just a moment ago. When I looked up at her again, her gaze had turned onto the man. Her eyes flicked between him and his hand, the way it hovered beside mine. Curiously, I looked over at it, then nudged my chair away to put her nerves at ease. The way she seemed so protective was strange. She might have been one of the few lighthearted servants I knew.

The tutor wrinkled his nose. “Just red? Did the hatter teach you nothing, little one? I would assume you’d at least know a few important figures, perhaps some geography?”

“My father taught me many things. How to sew, how to cut trees, how to keep a farm, how to cook. But he didn’t talk about this place. He only ever spoke about home, because he never imagined his children ending up here.” I bit my lip. I shouldn’t be speaking like that to him. It wasn’t as though he was the reason I was stuck in this place. No matter how much I wished I could yell and scream, I knew that was the best way to cause trouble. I didn’t want trouble. Not for Rettah.

He merely chuckled, and took the opportunity to pet my hair.

In shock, I stilled and waited for him to finish, but he didn’t. A meaty finger combed through my hair and along the pins that Sylvia had painstakingly run through it. A visceral, involuntary shudder went through me. Confusion and apprehension grew. “Sweet and sword-tongued. What a lovely combination. You’re truly the hatter’s daughter. Well, my dear, the Queen’s Kingdom isn’t as bad as you might think, though it’s saddening that your father neglected your studies. It’s a wonderful center for trade goods, which is the leading source of income for the Queen’s kingdom. The Capital is the largest city by far in all of Wonderland, lying at the very edge of the sea of Tears. It’s thanks to all the sailors braving the seas and coming from distant lands to trade that we end up as one of the wealthiest kingdoms. That port is a massive hub for commerce, up north from the castle. We give them lumber, slaves, a few foods and spices they can’t find anywhere else, and we get all the glorious wonders that you can find in the Capital’s port and trade districts. There’s all sorts of exotic spices, liquors, wood, animals... I’ve been down there myself, getting a mini-bird for my wife. Cute little thing, like you. Even the people there are strange, you know. There’s some creatures there from across the sea that don’t speak a lick of English, but they’re still great hagglers. Some of them remind me of those old legends, you know.” He chuckled. “Talking animals and such. A silly idea, now, though creatures like that make you wonder. But still, I find those coming from other the seas as brave as they are idiotic. They say the sea’s more treacherous than the Wonderland Forest.” As he spoke, he didn’t cease in stroking, though he’d moved from my hair to the back of my neck. I turned to Sylvia in alarm, unsure of how to proceed other than to keep listening to his vapid anecdotes. She was as still as a statue, her lips set in a firm line and alarm in her eyes. I was confused, but she was scared.

“We also are quite famous for the festivals, and all the other exciting districts full of life and wonder. One is coming up right now, honoring the year that Alice supposedly came to Wonderland for the last time. Drinking, food, mushrooms, hookah, all sorts. There’s the food district, where restaurants and carts line the streets for nearly a mile, the Red Light district – well,” he chuckled. “We’ll have to talk about that one too, eventually. But there’s many others, each branching out into each other. The factory district, the slave district,” I stiffened, “Of course the housing district is there, as well. We might not have quite the population that the Lord’s Kingdom has, but that may be because our entire population seems to congregate in this one beautiful city we all call home. Seems that population is the only thing the Lord Kingdom has going for itself anyways, you know.” He laughed, but it turned into a hacking cough midway through. I took the opportunity to move further away until I was just out of his giant sweeping arm’s reach.

“What about the slaves?” I interrupted. “Can we talk about them? Why are there slaves anyways?” My eyes glittered as I watched him. If I was going to be stuck here listening to the man, then I’d at the very least not want to waste my time. But he wiped his mouth and frowned when he saw that I was further away. A strange look twinkled in his eyes. My heart began to beat faster.

“What a silly question. Slaves exist because nobility requires service to accomplish all our great endeavors. But come here, girl, my hearing’s not so great when you’re all the way over there. We can be friends you and I, can’t we?”

“I’ll yell if I have to,” I said louder. “But I want to be over here.” I waited for him to respond.

All of the joyful banter in his voice seemed to melt away. “I’m your tutor, girl. If I say something, then it’s for a good reason. It’s better if you’re closer.”

“I-“ I backed further away, noticing how his fists seem to clench and his body stiffened. “I’m not sure –“

Sylvie coughed politely, and the both of us turned. “I understand you quite like my charge. Perhaps too much.”

“You have no voice here, slave,” The man huffed, keeping his gaze on me. “Why don’t you go offer your services somewhere else? Margery and I can speak together privately.” He waved a hand dismissively, but Sylvia didn’t move a muscle.

“But,” she continued unabated. “Though you are her tutor, and I must respect you as my better, MARGRET still far outranks you as a Left Hand to be, does she not?”

“What are you talking about? She’s just a girl.”

“A girl, with the Queen’s personal approval. Were you not informed?”

“I can do what I like with the girl, as long as I teach her.” I looked between the two of them fearfully. The way he said that made my stomach twist. Sylvia looked as bad I felt.

“The Queen gave me express orders to listen to what she wants, and to do as she says. And if my lady Margret wishes to be on the other side of the table, then she will be on the other side of the table.” I could hear a hint of wavering in her voice, but her eyes remained firm. “And we will get another tutor, if your hearing is too taxing. Nothing should get in the way of her learning.” Her eyes narrowed, her voice lowering to a whisper she didn’t think a Wonderlander could hear. “Especially not a lascivious old lecher. She’s a child, you swine.”

She hadn’t meant for him to hear her. He did. He did, and she realized her mistake seconds too late. “Why you –“ He stood up as quickly as he could, the rolls on his stomach jiggling in tandem as he marched towards Sylvia’s terrified eyes. “I don’t care if the Queen’s got a bloody stamp on her name!”

“Sir – I-”

I got in front of him before he could touch her, but only just. In a single moment, the furious monster had gone from glaring at the woman, to punching where her abdomen would have been. I felt his fist connect with my stomach, the air leave my lungs, and then I was on the ground struggling for air with a blurry vision. The punch was meant for an adult, a servant, meant to make them double over in pain and remember their place. I could barely breathe. My body was weak. I hated it.

Brittle, brittle bones.

“Margret!” Sylvie screamed. The earsplitting screech was enough to send the man running as fast as his morbid, indolent body could take him.

I felt hands gingerly pulling at my arms, stroking me and desperately trying to examine where the punch had collided. I batted the hands away. Panting, shaking faintly, gasping for breath, I managed a small smile at the hazy image of Sylvie kneeling beside me, then climbed up her form to bring myself onto my knees.

Her demeanor faltered when I patted her shoulder, then slowly used her to get onto my own two feet. It was shaky going at first. I could only breathe in pants, and Sylvie wouldn’t leave me alone. She rose with me, eyes still wide in terror. “I’m alright,” I wheezed. It didn’t sound as bad as I thought. If I could breathe then nothing had punctured my lungs. Hopefully. There was no way of telling for certain. “It’s fine. Are you okay?”

“No you’re not! You can’t be – that punch should have broken a rib, aren’t you - I swore I heard a- a crunch.” She said it like it was a curse. The woman had the front of my dress unbuttoned, the sash torn away and the whole ensemble halfway down my stomach before I could protest. Her face fell when she saw the sunken mark, the heavy bruising, and the clearly broken rib. Thankfully nowhere close to my lung. Still nerve-wracking to see. I could even feel it, now that I was looking at it. Everything in my stomach had shifted from the punch. There were clearly pieces of myself in the wrong position. Internally, I swore for throwing myself into danger. It’d never been this bad before. I was supposed to be careful. I couldn’t be broken now.

“Oh my god, Margret,” Sylvie whimpered through tears. “Sweetheart – how are you awake? Doesn’t it hurt?”

Sheepishly, I turned away from her, and bit my lip. “No, Sylvia, it… It-“

She shook her head and probed closer before I could say another word. “We’ll need to get you to a doctor. Oh, dear God, my poor girl – why did you do that? Nevermind. We need to get you help. Immediately.”

“No – Sylvie - I know the rib’s broken– but Sylvie, there’s something else and I don’t think a doctor is going to fix it-”

“Nonsense, I’ll get a guard to carry you – or a stretcher – it must be shock, that’s it.” She turned to go but I grabbed her on steady legs. She stared back in disbelief, and a moment passed before she wasn’t speechless.

“You shouldn’t be moving, Margret, please! You’re going to get yourself killed!”

“I can’t feel pain, Sylvia.”

“What are you saying?” She shook her head. “Clearly you’re still in shock. You should be lying here – we should have you transported-”

“Sylvia. Please. Listen to me.” I motioned to the deep scars crisscrossing down my arms from the many times I’d failed with the ax. Some were worse than others, but all were nasty enough to warrant suspicion.

She’d never said a word about it. No one had. It was better to keep one’s mouth shut about the possibility of foul play. They had no idea that I’d done it all myself. Each one was a memory of a bad decision, no noticing the feeling of the slice through my skin, or the distraction of Rettah playing in the garden. Bittersweet memories. “Do you see this?” I held them up to her.

“The marks of abuse- it – there’s no way those could be self inflicted.” She whimpered, and fell back once again to my arms with no sure path to take. She tried to pull me into her arms, but I held back and listened to her shaky, unsure rant. “I thought perhaps, your father, or maybe your mother-“

“No.” I stiffened. “It wasn’t them. It’s me. I’m too accident prone for my own good. I barely felt some of them, Sylvie. And none of them hurt.”

“But – that can’t be right – it’s – Margret - you shouldn’t be standing like this. Please, let me carry you at least. We need to get that looked at.”

“Sylvie.”

“I don’t know what’s going on, but can I please bring you to the clinic?” She asked. “We can talk about this later.”

I grimaced, then sighed. This was going nowhere, and I didn’t want to stay here. “It’s probably not a good idea for me to walk anyways.”

Tenderly, she picked me up into her arms and held me like a porcelain doll, that nervous, shuddering touch relenting for the sake of a steady hand. For decency, she lay her shawl over my chest, but at even that she was tentative. Every touch was feather-light, as though I would break, and I could feel her heart beating faster than ever as she rushed out the door as soon as she was able.

“This shock must have hurt you terribly – I know a doctor that can help,” she said worriedly. She didn’t seem to be listening to me. All around us there were half-curious eyes watching the human servant carry the noble girl through the hallway, their bodies nothing but obstacles for Sylvia. Their attentions flickered from us, to the sounds of the squealing pig down the hall, some of them outright stopping to try and catch the scene. It was pointless to ask them to move. They were just bodies to navigate around. “It’s not – you can breathe, right?”

“It doesn’t hurt, Sylvie. I could feel it happening. I know something’s wrong. I could feel the punch when it collided. But it’s… Different. I promise.”

“The shock –“

“It’s not shock. Please. Believe me.” I earnestly grabbed her hand and she held it tightly in hers, but I could tell that she still wasn’t listening. Her eyebrows just furrowed in further worry. When I glanced back to see the gluttonous man, he was staring down the lances of two guards and holding his hands above his head with puffing whimpers. A crowd had gathered. I was shocked; I thought for certain that he would have just kept running.

Without warning, another guard caught Sylvia by the arm and stopped us. Neither of us had noticed him in the throng of bodies, coming out of nowhere to hold onto us with his other hand firmly on the pommel of a sword. I gulped, shivering at the stop. The force had jolted my stomach into a different position. The running had drawn his attention, but his expression went from hardened to worried when he saw the state I was in. Sylvie was puffing, I was shaking, the two of us made an odd pair. Even if it didn’t hurt, I till found myself weak.

“The girl looks as pale as the grave. What happened?” His attention turned to the man warily, then back to us. “Did you do something, woman?” The other guards hadn’t let the man move an inch. The crowd made it hard to see. I tilted my head awkwardly back, hearing the sound of orders, of cries, of curious whispers and calls for further guards. I could feel the grip of Sylvie tighten, a nervous whimper dying in her throat. The corridor continued with the steady stream of nobility towards the more shocking situation, but there were several sets of eyes on our scene. We didn’t have time for this. I felt like retching.

Sylvie spoke breathlessly. “Sir – I…” I grabbed her by the sleeve, then smiled weakly at the man.

“My tutor. He assaulted me. He… Touched me. I…” I paused, and something clicked.

A shiver ran down my spine, and the touch of that man on the back of my neck suddenly felt real again.

I bit my lip. “He was touching me. Inappropriately. And I didn’t want him to. So he attacked me.” I turned up to Sylvie, with mounting horror growing in the pit of my stomach. That grim look from her was all I needed to confirm it. She’d been afraid for good reason. I hadn’t even thought… I’d been so stupid, walking into the maw of a beast so willingly. Now all I could feel was his hands on every fibre of my being. I started shivering for a very different reason.

“Right. We’ll deal with him. Slave, take the girl to safety.” The young man drew his sword, patted my hair and ran past the two of us all the while shouting orders to the other two holding the pig hostage.

Sylvie kept running. Neither of us spoke at first. I was still reeling. This time the nobility and servants surrounding us parted as quickly as we could move.

“What’s going to happen to him now?” I finally asked.

“I don’t know, my lady,” her focus wasn’t on me. “Execution, perhaps. Damnit, where is that clinic.”

“Execution? What?”

“The price of assaulting someone in this court is high, is the Queen has anything to do with it. She’ll want to see the man pay if he hurt you.”

“He… Touched me, but…”

“I know, my lady.”

“She doesn’t care about me. The Queen. Why would she do that?”

“I don’t know about that.” She bit her lip, looking at me as though she were betraying a secret. “But the Queen likes blood, my dear. She will want to see heads roll for this. Any excuse for an execution is an excuse worth taking.”

“But… She can’t do that!” I wavered. “That man might have been terrible, but shouldn’t there be justice? Anything?”

“She’s the Queen. And that man hurt you, don’t you remember?” She held in a whimper. “There was no telling what he might have done to you, I didn’t – I don’t want to think about it. As far as justice, you should be glad that he won’t be harming you any longer.” Sylvie looked down at me, her eyes still pierced with worry. “My lady, that man was sick. I’m glad he won’t be hurting you. No matter what it is that may happen to him.”

I gripped her arm tighter as she turned a corner. “But I don’t want to be responsible for a man’s death. He was aiming for you…” I bit my tongue. It shouldn’t have mattered.

“You shouldn’t think of it like that. Whatever happens is out of both of our hands. It’s the Queen’s decision. Hopefully we won’t have to see the outcome. But you shouldn’t be speaking right now. You should be focusing on keeping yourself still, alright? We need to get a doctor to see you to. That clinic – it should be right here. There. Thank God.” She breathed a sigh of relief when she entered the clinic, and gladly relinquished me to the hovering human women that seemed to gawk and flutter as soon as they saw the wound.

Hours were spent in that godforsaken room, listening to doctor after doctor telling me the same thing. They placed me in a room of the hospital wing, a clinic that ran from corridor to corridor treating all manner of issues. For me, they tried everything for shock, not once listening to my words of protest. I kept trying to tell them over and over again. I showed them the scars. I told them the stories. I pricked my own arm with a quill tip.

It took several examinations for them to even question it, coming back hours later with the confusion on their faces once they had carefully cross-referenced the break and found it should have left me on the floor in screaming pain, if not unconscious. There was a second opinion, then a third, then a fourth, and when a nurse finally sighed and decided there was no possible way I could be lying, they finally left me to rest.

They couldn’t believe it. No, they wouldn’t. Sylvie still didn’t. Word spread around the clinic, I had eyes on me waiting for something even stranger to happen, but all I could do was wait, heal, and wish for Rettah.

Rettah. His tutoring session should have finished by now.

I even thought about faking the pain, but it was too late now. I could do little more than wait for them to decide what to do with me, curled up in the feather bed with Sylvie’s watchful eyes at my side. Time passed with me watching the clinic staff moving from room to room in the warm, welcoming wing. Their attention started to lessen, leaving me to rest with words of warning. I watched the world go by out of boredom. The sheets here were light, cotton, and reminded me of home. The window highlighted a particularly beautiful part of the gardens full of wild berries on the vine. Birds chirped outside, and people talked softly from bed to bed about the day’s gossip while they got over their colds. For a few minutes, I forgot where I was.

But through the window, the sun began to set. I watched as the shadows slowly lengthened, bit by bit, running along the bedframe, then the doorway, until there was little more than a sliver of light remaining from the outside. Servants with black hair tied in buns came to light the large candles that would last the night, greeting me curtly as they passed. I felt something grow in the pit of my stomach, but it wasn’t pain.

“Where’s Rettah?” I finally asked Sylvie. I gave her hand a squeeze to wake her up. She’d been dozing, but I was growing impatient. It was long past dinner, but I wasn’t hungry for the tray they’d brought me. “Could you find him for me?”

“Rettah? Oh – he must be somewhere. But dear, you should rest.”

“I want to see him,” I said adamantly. “He can’t be doing anything important right now, would he? He must be in his room. Worried, I’d bet. I told him I would be back soon, that it would only be a few hours.”

I pursed my lips, then added: “Why hasn’t he come to see me?”

“He might be preoccupied, don’t let it worry you. The lad is sweet, I don’t think he would have left you alone on purpose, right? Perhaps he heard about what happened, and he decided you needed time to sleep.”

“No, that doesn’t make any sense.” I shook my head. “I don’t understand. What if something happened to him? I should go to him.” I made a move to leave the bed, but she gripped my hand firmly.

“Dear, you’re going to give yourself an ulcer thinking that way. Rest. Both of us had a hectic time. I want you to be safe and healthy, and sleep will help.”

“But Rettah-“

“Rettah will come,” she pressed. “But you need sleep. Please, my lady. For me.”

I tossed and turned that night, as much as the doctors would have hated me for it. The nightmares clawed against the insides of my eyes and beckoned me closer. I kept waking up in the middle of the night, staring at the whitewashed ceiling of the clinic, and holding onto my blanket as though it were Rettah’s small body. But it offered no comfort. It wasn’t there to kick off the covers, of change positions in the middle of the night. It wasn’t warm. It wasn’t my little brother.

Two days later, Rettah’s face peeked out from behind the door, his silly hat making him a foot taller than he should have been. I didn’t notice him, not at first. The doctors had swarmed me again, begging for more accounts of my condition with the come of the morning sun. I’d already given them all I could remember, but it never seemed to be enough. And if it wasn’t that, then it was a nurse begging me to eat, or Sylvie asking me what I might like from the kitchens. Spoiling me. Begging me. I couldn’t help it. I wasn’t hungry without Rettah around.

“Margy?” His small voice cut through all the others. As soon as I hear it, I felt like everything was the right way up again.

“Rettah!” I rushed out of bed before the doctors could stop me. I knew I’d be paying for it later, but I couldn’t have cared less. Rettah leaping into my arms was more than enough. He giggled when I held him, and it was like the entire night melted away. He smiled, and the entire corridor brightened. “Are you okay? How are you? I’ve been thinking about you this whole time – you’re alright, aren’t you?”

“I’m alright.” He smiled, but I couldn’t stop myself from checking him myself. He patiently let me comb through his hair for any hidden cuts, look at his arms and carefully check his hands for the tiniest scratches. He was clean as could be. He smelled like he’d been standing next to the pastry. I pressed my face against his shoulder. He probably had. “I’ve been studying with Ms. Perennial. She’s really nice, she teaches me all about maths and English, and she’s teaching me piano!”

“Ms. Perennial? Is she your tutor?”

“My lady,” a doctor gently placed a hand on my shoulder. I stiffened. “You need to be resting after your injury,” He pragmatically intoned. “Please.”

“Right.” I reluctantly followed with my arms still gripping Rettah as tightly as a pillow. He humored me, staying by my side even as I lay down on the bed and once again returned to my familiar piece of ceiling. This time, a familiar warm body lay down beside me and held tightly onto my hand with his own little fingers. He was nodding emphatically the entire way, the brightest smile on his face. I couldn’t stop myself from smiling back.

“Ms. Perennial is so kind,” he couldn’t stop himself from gushing. “She’s got lovely red hair, like a grape, and it’s all shiny too. And she talks in a really pretty way. She rolls all her letters like they’re little gems.” He paused, then earnestly pressed closer. “Are you okay, Margy?”

“I’m alright, I want to hear more about Ms. Perennial.” I glanced to the door and noticed Sylvie watching the two of us. Her hands gripped the apron of her dress tightly as she looked between us, but she maintained a faint, appropriate smile. The doctors passed her by as though she weren’t there. “Did Sylvie bring you?”

“She said you weren’t eating.” Rettah frowned. “You should eat, Margy. It’ll make you grow up big and strong. You’re thin, she says. And that you wouldn’t have gotten so hurt if you ate more.” He pressed closer, pushing his face against my chest. “Please eat.”

I ran a hand through Rettah’s bush of hair after knocking that ridiculous hat off, and smiled when I could only get partway through. “I’m alright, Rettah. I just… I was worried, about you.” But everything was alright now. Rettah was here, Sylvie was watching over us, and I could protect him here. I could see him.

“But you’re sick and you need to get better, right?” He asked.

“Right…” I smiled. “I’m very sick right now. But you visiting makes me feel better.”

“That’s what Sylvie says. So I came to say you need to get better. I have lots of things to do, but I didn’t want to forget about you.” He smiled as bright as could be. “And I’ve got to learn a lot so I can be a Right Hand and you can learn a lot so you can be a Left Hand, and together we’ll be both hands and we can clap.”

“Of course,” I giggled. “But… Why didn’t you visit before? When I was… Sick.”

“Oh, I was busy.” He smiled. “The Queen wanted me to come to tea, and then some other children invited me to play hide in seek, and I didn’t want to be rude. And I didn’t know you were sick, before.” He blinked. “I thought you were busy too, when you didn’t come back to the room. The Queen got me this big stuffed dog, so I got to cuddle him in bed instead. And then we had tarts and tea and she let me sit on her lap.”

I gripped his hand tighter. “Rettah,” I began tentatively. “I know you like the Queen, but…”

“But what? The Queen is so nice!” He indignantly waved my hand around with his. “She said you don’t like her, but I said that you were just scared. I was too, a little bit. But she’s nice. Everyone here is so nice. We’re safe here, Margy.” He beamed. “Right?”

My stomach was twisting in knots. “Of course, Rettah. You’re safe. No one’s tried to… Do anything bad with you, right?”

“Like what? I love it here. It’s like heaven.” He smiled. “We can do whatever we want and we get to learn so much and everyone is like us and it’s safe and the servants are kind too. And we can talk to each other all the time.”

“But we’re not together,” I whimpered. “I haven’t seen you in days, Rettah.”

“We don’t have to always be together, do we? Don’t you want to do things on your own? The Queen introduced me to some other kids, too! The ones I played hide and seek with. There’s Trent, and Sigil, and Allegra, and some I don’t even remember! And they also have red hair. They’re nice, but they didn’t stay for more tea. They missed all the pastries.”

“Rettah…” I squeezed his hand. “It’s different. We’re family. They’re not. We have to stick together, alright?”

“No, we don’t,” he said. As sincere as he could be. He pulled his hand away when I held on too tight. I looked down at my hands. Shaking. “I want to explore. Why don’t you?”

“Because I…” I felt tears burning the edges of my eyes. “I love you, and I want to keep you safe.”

“I AM safe!”

“I…”

“Margy, it’s okay.” He held my hand up against his face, and gave it a big fat slobbery kiss. “We’re safe. Together. Forever. I just wanna learn. Don’t you?”

I grimaced, caressed his cheek, then let my hand fall into my lap. “Of course, Rettah. We’re safe. We have everything we could ever want.” I closed my eyes. “You’re safe. I keep forgetting. You’re safe here.”

My stomach hurt.

Chapter Text

QUILL

I walked silently among the heavily populated halls of the lord kingdom, my hands clenching and unclenching as I went. The string of my blouse had been tied too tightly. I was choking amongst the sea of nobodies.

Human servants carried towels and platters of food to and fro. They carefully avoided suspicion themselves, but everyone was used to the workers that kept the court in stock of food and supplies. They passed under fall tapestries, brightly sparkling torches, and bowls of flowers and fruit at the end of each hall. Some were tending to them as they passed, silent conversation echoing between them.

Nobility spoke amongst each other in shouts, whispers, really it depended on the conversation at hand. Some broke into laughter at a quick quip made by one concerning a group of Lord nobles that had made their presence known in the Red Light District after living most of their lives in the palace. They wouldn’t last long, one was chiding. Another broke in with a greater laugh and suggesting they try the mushrooms they’d been sent by their cousin from there. That caused the rest of the crowd to twitter in excitement. A few feet away from them, two of their wives watched with less than impressed expressions, but said nothing. One raised a fan and daintily waved it, the other snorted and swept back her hair. I passed close enough to hear the latter’s proposition to the former, though their husbands heard nothing. The younger woman trailed a hand down the side of the elder’s.

Children ran about the streams with not so much as a glance in my direction. I believed they were playing hide and seek. A boy of six chased after the much older siblings that could have been twins, both perhaps twelve years old. The poor boy couldn’t hope to catch up, but the smile on his face proved it didn’t matter. The other two disappeared behind a hall with a jeer, but when the boy looked down, he was shocked to find the two of them missing. Too young, I supposed, to know of the hidden hallway that lay between the two corridors just behind the bowl of pears.

I turned away from them.

Guards with swords sheathed in their belts stood at attention every fifty meters, their eyes staring ahead at the crowd. A few bobbed their head in salute, some smiled at a pretty woman that passed, but their attention remained, for the most part, stable. They grew thicker in number, here. It was to be expected of such a place. I kept my head down when I felt their gaze waver on me. I was nothing of importance. They could let me continue on my way. Of course they would. The metal they wore was unblemished, as shiny as the day it had come out of the forge. The Lord Kingdom hadn’t seen a battle for hundreds upon hundreds of years. No one had. And these guards were bored out of their damned minds. It was only an hour or so before their shift changed and they could enjoy a hearty dinner of salty lamb stew and soft, sweet bread like the rest of us.

The castle must have thought it was strange. I would have, if I had seen the slut of the palace roaming free without some consort. For all intents and purposes, I should have been on my hands and knees servicing the next man to come along.

Perhaps a guard, like father had convinced me to last week. They were certainly bored. Maybe they’d had enough of their wives, or their daughters. Maybe sons were the newest, interesting thing. It was all the rage in the Capital, those young nubile children plucked right before they were ripe to ensure a taste so bitter and tart that you would never miss that overly sweet syrup. Those men spoke about it over there. Those idiots that idolized the Capital.

Or perhaps father would prefer something more brutal, instead. A whole host of guards, now that was something more his speed. To see just how many I could suck off from that score, while simultaneously being drilled down to the absolute core of my being, well…. That was a special treat. He’d let me try that a month ago. I still hadn’t recovered, completely.

If I looked up from my feet in this hell of a hallway, perhaps I’d recognize the one that had shot his load down my throat and made me cough and thank him afterwards. Maybe I’d see the one that nearly yanked my hair out of my scalp when he pulled me back to see his semen dribbling down my chin. Or I’d see the one that refused to look me in the eye when he came balls-deep in my rectum. Probably thinking of his wife, instead. I was probably tighter than her.

I walked faster down the hall, well aware of the eyes on me. I could have been imagining them. It wouldn’t have mattered.

It wasn’t official, but it didn’t matter. The Right Hand had still decreed under his breath that I had gone beyond the realms of appropriate behaviour, and was to be punished. A façade, really. An excuse for whatever ideas for me he had in mind. An excuse for anyone to touch me.

The tutor was the first. Then a guard. Then a friend from the Capital. Then a Queen noble, with dark red hair and cold green eyes, a slaver bringing in the latest shipment and enjoying the splendor that the Lord Kingdom had to offer.

Then my mother, standing idly by, as she listened to her son being fucked by the man she married in the next room over because I couldn’t bare to look at her without crying. She just knitted. She knitted, and listened to my moans and cries, and ate the scone a servant had brought for her. And then she smiled, when I returned. With semen still running down my thighs from beneath my trousers. And we had a conversation like family. I looked her in the eyes, for some kind of fear behind it. For anything.
Horror struck me when I realized she looked the same as she always had. Not even her eyes had changed.

I should have known. I should have known from the day my father watched me, and did nothing. From the day he’d lifted a hand, I should have realized where I belonged. That the touches of men twice my age would grow to normalcy as I wandered down to the dining hall every day. That disdain and disagreements would be left with nothing more than harder fucks. It was best to just agree.

I couldn’t remember the last time Lod had touched me. I couldn’t remember who had touched me at all. When, where. It didn’t matter. This body didn’t belong to me anymore.

Every step I took, I could feel another set of eyes boring into my skull. Questioning me. Where was I going? I shouldn’t have been heading in this direction. I shouldn’t have been alone.

Maybe what I was doing what stupid. It was reckless, certainly. Maybe I should have waited for Lod or Jillian to accompany me. That attempt at defense was the only one I had these days, as futile as it was. But the two of them were busy with their own tutoring. And I should have been right there with Lod. We could have been learning about the last war on dragons today, the etiquette surrounding talks with other Right Hands of the neighboring kingdoms, and the appropriate response to being called by your respective Royal once one has the title of Right Hand. Perhaps Lod would learn that, today. I’d read it and more in the texts, but I’d never once heard it come out of my tutor’s mouth. The only other learning I’d get would be from listening in on Lod’s conversations with his own tutor while desperately trying to focus. The man in glasses that called himself my tutor would have to forgive me for not being there to stuff his cock in my mouth today. For not being there to let him push what he pleased into my ass. To see what size of candle I could fit around me today with the only spit being the lubricant he deemed worthy. Apparently, the last one was the size of a fist. I didn’t really want to know how much larger he could get.

I wondered if father could possibly know, underneath my firm walk and my eyes that I kept on my own shoes.

I knew the way. Everyone did. It wasn’t a way that one was supposed to walk, of course. The directions were instilled in every resident of the palace for the very reason of making sure not to end up in that specific corridor. To not go to the top floor of the very back of the palace, to not pass by the braziers that burned down low and were only topped up every few days at a time. To not continue down that hallway that was meant to only be used by servants and those with high enough standing. I bet if I bothered to look, I might recognize my father’s shoes in the dust that hadn’t been swept for weeks. It wasn’t as though anyone liked to keep it in this sorry state. But those were the Lord’s orders.

Even the thought of disturbing him was nearly enough to send me back. I knew what I was doing was wrong. This was one of the worst possible decisions I could have been making. Standing outside the wide mahogany doors that had been elegantly carved to represent autumn leaves and the symbol of the Spade, I knew that I was breaking the largest taboo that had ever been instilled within me in this godforsaken palace.

I smiled to myself. I had nothing left to lose.

With a quiet rap on the door, I waited to see a man that I could not remember.

“Who is it?” The wavering voice asked. I paused, unsure what to do next. The voice was small. Quiet.

“It’s… Quill, sir. My Lord? Your Majesty?”

“Who is Quill?” The voice asked like a frightened, nervous little man.

“The son of the Right Hand, my… Your Majesty.” I paused. “You approved my birth, when I was a babe.”

“The son of… Quill?” The voice murmured to itself. “A Quill again, I see… The last Quill I can recall, why… He must be dead by now, I suspect. You must be a new Quill, then. Ah, yes, that babe… How many years ago it must have been?” A moment later, the door opened slowly, and a man unlike any I had ever seen before slowly opened the doors.

His eyes were like twin suns, looking down at me with a faintly furrowed expression. Soft, luxurious locks of spun gold flowed down to his shoulders. His face was ethereally, beautifully alien, ageless, his jaw narrow and his nose the perfect aquiline size against his face. He could have been Jillian’s age. He could have been fifty. It took me far too long to glance at the rest of him, with a face like that. The robe he wore around his form was made of silk, lined with white fur, and clung to him like greedy fingers. The golden strands intertwined with silver and shimmered against the sunlight that dappled from his room. His entire body was bathed in it. He soaked in it. He stared down at me like a strange little fly.

It took everything I had not to collapse in front of him.

“Your… Majesty,” I breathed.

“What are you doing here?” He asked. I tried to ignore the faint disdain in his voice. “I suppose it’s been fourteen years then. No… Fifteen? Already fifteen? I’m not expecting another meal for the next hour, at least, you know.”

“I needed to speak with you, your Majesty,” I finally blurted. “Please. In private.”

“In private?” He asked, but I doubted he expected an answer. He thought to himself for a moment, then nodded. His height made him tower over me, his cloak flowing like a curtain as he held an arm up to hold the door open long enough for me to step inside.

I caught my breath.

The royal chambers were blinded by the sunlight of the midafternoon that filtered through massive, elegant windows decorated with stencils of orchards and fields. The roof arched upwards, the ceiling twenty feet tall at its highest point. The faint scent of cinnamon and apples drifted through the room filled with hanging yellow and orange silks, which grew thicker and more vibrant the closer to the bed canopy they got. The bed itself was extravagant, the cushions carefully embroidered with vines and fallen leaves, along with the sheets that stretched unmade across the mattress of goose down. Two large end tables framed the overly sized bed, with a wardrobe of dark wood further down, and a divider decorated with trees for changing. Across the room, a table and chairs overlooking the beautiful view of the palace grounds stood empty and lonesome. A bowl of this harvest’s apples sat in the middle, surrounded by a silk table cloth and a copper decanter of red wine, glasses beside it. The scent seemed stronger there, a heady scent, like the morning’s baking. Further across, a large row of bookshelves housed quite the library, though it was nowhere near the main one in the castle.

The Lord walked soundlessly across the wooden floor boards, and it was then I first noticed that he wore no shoes. His feet seemed just as tidy as the rest of his body, coming to a stop at the table and pouring himself a glass of the deep red liquid.

“Would you care for some?” His small voice knocked me out of my thoughts. “It’s a lovely red. From a good year, a decade or so ago. We saw a lot of rain, then.” I shook my head quietly as I closed the door behind me.

“No thank you, your Majesty. I’m a little young to be drinking.”

“I see.” He took a sip, then sat down at one of the cushioned chairs. The silks flowed out behind him. “I believe, that year, we had a particularly large monsoon. It was a nightmare on the drier crops. Quite a bit ruined. Everyone was upset about the pumpkin and squash.” His lilting voice was distracting. I found myself in the middle of the room, unsure of what to do with myself, and it took his gentle hand waving to send me over beside him.

I sat down facing the windows. “It sounds like a sad year, your Majesty.”

“All years are sad.”

“I… I see.”

“Quill, was it?”

“Yes, your Majesty.”

“That’s an interesting name,” He observed, rolling the wine around in his glass before he took another sip. “Like a quill and inkwell. Did your father think you’d be a scribe?”

“I don’t know… Your Majesty. I never asked.”

“I’m always curious, about those naming conventions. It caught on and never seemed to go away. Quite a fad. But naming your child after something you want them to do leaves shoes to fill. Do you think you’re a scribe, Quill?”

“No, your Majesty,” I said hesitantly. Seconds ticked by, but I was struggling to find a way to turn the conversation around. The Lord sipped at his wine, I couldn’t bear to look him in the eye, and the both of us listened to the faint sound of birds outside the window.

“Birds,” the Lord observed.

“Yes, your Majesty. I think that’s a wren. Perhaps a few jays.”

“You’re quite knowledgeable for a young lad, aren’t you Quill?”

I gulped, and awkwardly stared at the window, ducking my head. “Thank you, your Majesty.”

“Are you sure you’re not a scribe? Perhaps a scholar?”

“Perhaps… One day, your Majesty.”

“One day, eh…” He took a deep draught of the wine, then reached to refill the glass. He poured it slowly. When I looked to him, his eyes seemed to narrow on the spool of the red liquid as it churned into his glass. He placed the carafe back down, then held the glass up to his face, and sipped. “Why have you come, Quill?”

“Because… My father…” I flushed, turning away and realizing only now how difficult this would be. I wanted to respect the Lord, I’d learned enough about him in theory, but in truth, looking at him now, I was quickly realizing I was in the room with a stranger. Explaining this to someone I’d never met was terrifying. There was no telling how he’d react. What he might do. I bit my lip, but he said nothing. He couldn’t have known, yet, but it was as though he already did. His eyes gleamed, waiting for me to continue. “My father has been abusing me,” I said tentatively. “Your Majesty,” I added quickly after. “The whole castle has. Everyone seems to turn a blind eye. I… I don’t know what else to do. I came here today – and I know I shouldn’t have, I know how you appreciate your privacy – but I didn’t know what else to do. I thought… I thought perhaps if the Hand wouldn’t help me, that the Lord might.” I twitched away, feeling blood pool beneath my lip as I bit down harder. “I apologize for overstepping my bounds.”

“Well…” The Lord took a deep breath. I myself was struggling for one. “That’s… Quite something. You don’t look hurt.” He looked over at me.

“It’s not that kind of abuse, your Majesty,” I murmured. I ducked my head again, but he leaned in closer, sipping from his glass.

“What is your father doing to you, Quill?”

“… Raping me, your Majesty.”

“And the rest of the castle?”

“Yes, your Majesty.”

“Was there a reason you were picked?” He didn’t sound accusatory, only curious. But my heart still beat faster.

“He saw me with my cousins. Lod, and Jillian. He was upset. That I liked being on the bottom. He claimed he didn’t raise me that way. But I have reason to believe that all of this is just an excuse for something he had planned for a much longer time.” I was startled at how close the Lord was. Those pools of gold watched me intently, and I found it difficult to meet his gaze. “I believe my father wanted to do this for a long time, and he chose that incident as a catalyst. And I believe that if you decreed as an order that I were not to be touched, I could be safe. I didn’t mean to overstep my bounds, but you seemed to acknowledge me, before.” I pressed earnestly closer. “I thought, perhaps, not as a favor – but perhaps in exchange, I could help, I don’t know how. But something, perhaps.”

The Lord watched me a moment longer, then stood up straight and turned back to the window. I held in a whimper, waiting for him to say something. It took so long.

“I don’t know, Quill,” he said softly. “How much schooling have you done?”

“Enough. I’m studying to be a Right Hand. But… The abuse makes things difficult. My tutor is in on it, just as the others are.”

“You would know enough that there are four Kingdoms, though, would you not?”

“I… Yes, your Majesty.” I deflated.

“The Lord’s Kingdom is the largest of all four, an eternal fall over the entirety of our land. Right up against the border with the South. I got all of these wonderful silks from a Southern trader, before the slavers caught wind of how lucrative the South could be for humans that were so exotically beautiful. Back when the borders were more open, and it was easier for trade caravans to pass between our lands and the desert beyond. Perhaps a hundred years ago, perhaps two hundred… Time moves strangely, for me. The trader dealt with my Left Hand and Right Hand, at the time. They brought me these silks, as a gift. I never left my room. Do you know when I last left this room, Quill?”

“No, your Majesty.”

“I think it must have been four hundred years ago. It was for a boy, not much older than yourself. I think he wanted to show me the swans out in the courtyard. The pond was very large, that year. Rain, again. Full of eels. Fish. Frogs. He liked to pick them up and show them to me what he caught, then let them go again.” He sipped his wine. “He was a pretty boy. Blond hair. Soft brown eyes that twinkled yellow in the sun. He drowned, a year later. They said it was an accident. I never knew someone with such skill in the water to die like that. But I suppose these things happen.” He turned to me, and I could smell the wine on his lips. “Quill?”

“I don’t understand, your Majesty.” I said tentatively. “What are you trying to say?”

“The Right and Left Hands of the Lord are in control of this Palace, Quill. They choose to give me what I might like, and leave me alone to enjoy the stillness of the world. I don’t need the outside world and whatever peril there might be. Whatever danger there is. But the day I decided to never leave this room was the day that I gave up on the throne.”

I found it difficult to breathe. When he turned back to his drink, I grabbed the sleeve of his cloak and tugged it with a desperate whine escaping, the only sound I could make. He reeled back in surprise, but at this point, I couldn’t stop myself. The tears kept flowing.

“You have to do something!” I cried. “Please! I can’t take this anymore. You don’t understand. You can’t. You don’t know what it’s like.” Slowly, my head felt, sobs wracking my body. “I can’t… I can’t do this anymore. I can’t go back there again. I can’t.”

“Unhand me, Quill.” His voice was calm, and I did as I asked, but the tears were still flowing, and my eyes stung from the scent of apples. I could smell nothing else. The Lord drank the rest of his glass and set the glass aside, then pulled me into his arms. I gasped, sticky and teary eyed and shaking as I felt the warmth of his body against me. The back of my neck was buffeted by his breath. “No,” he murmured as he began to stroke my side. “I can’t do anything about them. But you could stay here, could you not? You would be safe here.”

“No –“ I realized what I’d said all too late. “I have my cousins, your Majesty.” A familiar drop in my stomach. Fresher tears. The sobs subsided, but there was a chill that wouldn’t go away.“I can’t leave them behind. I…” He placed a hand by my lap, and a shiver ran through me.

“They could visit. Stay here often.” He kept me close as he reached to get another glass of wine, but I stopped his hand.

“Haven’t you had enough?” I asked nervously. I tried to smile through the tears.

He narrowed his eyes. There was nothing benevolent in that face. I remembered my place, and let him go, and that drop in my stomach grew.

“You could be a scholar here, Quill. I have books from the South. All sorts, about the dragon wars, the ancient world of Alice, the legends of worlds beyond, all sorts. Wouldn’t you like to know about what comes from beyond the sea? The men the size of children, the isle of color, the talking birds that walk upright? It’s like an entire world within a book, and you’d never have to leave your room. You’d have my pick of the libraries. All of these books are those I’ve deemed worthy, my favorites.” He trailed his hand up closer, a finger touching the cloak I’d draped around myself. “And you could write stories for me. My little scholar.” He reached for my jaw in one hand as he took a long draught of wine with the other. I sat frozen, watching him. “There’s a certain kind of beauty in a face like yours. Sunkissed skin. Freckles. Hair the color of straw. You might hide your body, but that agile frame is there. You remind me of him.”

“Who?” I stammered, afraid to say more.

“The boy that drowned. His name was Alphonse.” He pressed his lips to mine, and I tasted the sickly wine. It was sour.

The Lord drew away from me, lying back against the chair and watched as I sat dumbstruck and struggling to speak. Words swirled around my mind, unable to come to a conclusion. All I could do was stare at the creature that wasn’t human that now had his hands around my waist. His eyes weren’t natural. Nothing about him was. And yet, when he looked back towards the window as though he had all the time in the world, it was like he was in his element. The sunlight flashed over his face. His eyes were liquid gold. He was utterly beautiful.

“You’re a sweet one, Quill. I want to keep you.”

“You can’t, my Lord,” I whispered. I was afraid to speak any louder. “Please, let me go.”

“Let you go?” His eyebrows furrowed mournfully, his eyes far away. “Is that truly what you want?”

“I just want it to stop,” I whimpered. “Please.”

“Crying again,” He spoke in undertone, then slowly shook his head. “Just once, Quill. This once, and if I let you leave, I know I shall never see you again. If you give me just a memory, that would be enough.”

“My Lord-“ He pulled me up with him as he stood from his chair like I weighed nothing at all. I hadn’t the strength, nor the courage to struggle. My eyes bulged from terror. I couldn’t stop shaking.

I was tossed gracelessly against the mattress, struggling to get away with the goose down offering no chance of grip. Everything was so soft, so luxuriant, that the Lord had pinned me to the bed in moment. His wine-soaked breath coated my senses. The silks he’d gotten as a bribe so long ago hung like rolls of flesh from his body. His form might have been perfect, but he couldn’t have been more wrong. And I was trapped.

“Please,” I whimpered.

“I promise I’ll be gentle,” he murmured. His carefully tucked a strand of hair behind my ear, and I supressed a shiver. “Your body is too sweet to break. I’m no killer.”

No. He was a coward. I shut my eyes tight.

“Quill,” he whispered sweetly in my ear. “Look at me. What do I look like to you?”

I whimpered, and slowly obeyed.

My Lord lay over me, the curls of his golden hair falling down his neck, his lips faintly parted, and his beautiful eyes twinkling with the hint of a smile. Tears brimmed at the edge, then dropped when he dipped down to press his lips against my cheek. The scent of apples and cinnamon seemed to seep from the Lord himself. I could smell nothing but it when he was so close.

“Just once,” He said softly. “One moment of your time.”

“Your Majesty…” His fingers gently picked at the buckles of my leathers, his eyes focused on me. I lay there, frozen as ever, my heart beating ever faster as the man began to undress me. All of that effort of hiding myself was nothing in the end. Layer after layer of clothing was shrugged slowly off of me, and all I did was lie there and let it happen. The bed wasn’t soft enough. I wanted to sink into it until there was nothing left.

Then it was done, I was breathing harder, and had pressed my face against pillow with soft sobs shivering through me. He’d found me hard halfway through the process, but he hadn’t touched me. It wasn’t until he was finished that he even said anything.

“You’re beautiful,” he finally whispered by my ear. I whimpered in response. “Really,” he continued. “Beautiful.” He lay a cool hand against the heat of my stomach. “Warm. Pretty. Do you swim much, Quill?”

“Not anymore…”

He pushed a tear away from my cheek, then pressed gentle kisses down my neck. He stopped at my chest, grasping a nipple in his mouth, and pulled with only his lips. I gasped, grappling at his hair. My cock twitched in response. He let go and his eyes darkened when he saw the way I was still catching my breath, my ears flushed and pink.

“Were they rough with you, Quill?” He asked, continuing his kisses downward.

“Yes…” I stammered. I wanted to close my eyes again, but he was watching me.

“There are scars. On your shoulders. Your hips. Someone’s ripped you up.” I flushed to the roots of my hair, staring mutely up at the ceiling and wishing he would stop looking at me. He pressed a kiss against my hip. “Did you want it that way?”

I closed my eyes and let another wave of grief flow over me. “Not by them. Not like this.”

“Do you feel dirty, Quill?”

“Yes,” I gasped. He’d pressed his lips against the edge of my cock. “Yes. Always. I can’t – I can’t get it off. I just want it to come off. But I don’t know how”

“Wonderland is a dirty place,” he muttered against me, before swallowing me in his mouth. An experienced tongue tangled over my length. I danced in the bed, shivering and trying to move away only to be pulled back by his firm, pianist fingers. The soft suction was insistent, overstimulating and I couldn’t find a way to drift away. I was too present. I wanted to disappear. I couldn’t look at anywhere but at the Lord. He could have been Lod. If I squinted, I could see it. But it wasn’t. And I was deluding myself.

I moaned through my teeth, and he moved his head faster. His eyes darted up to me, my writhing form, my quieted gasps and pants. I locked eyes with him, and shameful arousal grew. Then his tongue licked around the underside of my glans, dipped against my slit, and slid back down as the rest of my cock was swallowed in another deep bob of his head. I was being eaten, and I hated how much I enjoyed it.

I was hardening in his mouth, twitching and shaking. My fingers locked into the goose down bed, and my voice grew until I was outright moaning in the otherwise silent room. It had been so quiet before. Calm. I was ruining everything.

Pretend it was Jillian. Pretend it was Lod.

But then, this was my Lord. I was supposed to care for him. I was supposed to serve him.

I closed my eyes and felt that resignation. I’d done this countless times before. The only difference was the level of respect I should have showed.

This was what my father said I was meant to do. So I’d do it.

I gasped, grabbing onto the curls of hair as I finished in his mouth. He swallowed without flinching, then slowly moved off of my spent erection and went back to kissing over my stomach and chest. When he reached my mouth, I kissed back. He wasn’t surprised, he pressed closer, enveloping me with his larger form. The silks seemed to flow off of him with nothing more than a soft tug of his hand. His shoulders were exposed, then his pale chest, then the lines of his waist, then a pale yellow bush with a cock just like all others. I’d grown numb. He pushed his tongue into my mouth, and I let him explore as he pleased. Whatever he wanted. If he noticed I’d stopped shaking, he didn’t say anything. He was enjoying my mouth a lot more than I thought he could. He pushed his lips closer, nuzzled into me, lapped at my lips, tugged them with his teeth, an incessant whine at the back of his throat.

I’d long since let go of his hair. They just lay there beside me. I was still as a statue.

He finally pulled away, pressing a thumb against my mouth.

“You’ll be sixteen soon,” he murmured. I quietly nodded without so much as a twitch in my blank expression.

He smiled. “Do you know what that means, Quill?”

“No, sir. Should I?” He gently pushed my lips apart with his thumb, watching as I took it obediently in my mouth and began to suck on it. His cock hardened against my thigh, but he didn’t acknowledge it.

“It means that soon enough you’ll be permitted to enjoy an entertainment girl, if that’s what you seek. There aren’t many slave shipments that come here from the Capital. But you might find something you like. A girl to suit your needs. You might find that you’ll enjoy yourself that way. Do you like girls, Quill?”

A flash of Jillian’s smile made it impossible to see the Lord through a thin sheen of tears. “Yes, your Majesty,” I whispered.

“Don’t cry, Quill.” He placed a kiss on my shoulder and ran a hand through my hair, expecting that to help. “An entertainment girl may be the very thing you need here. Perhaps I can’t help you, except for taking your mind off of things. But find yourself a way to think of something else. That’s the way that Wonderland works. Whatever happens, find yourself a vice. Find an oasis, and you’ll be safe there.”

“I don’t understand,” I whispered. “I love Jill and Lod…” The façade had cracked away, and suddenly I was in the present again and there was a man standing over me with my legs hanging over his shoulders. He was prodding my entrance with a dainty hand while talking to me like this could in any way have been a normal conversation. My entire body shivered with his touch. It felt too raw after the last time I’d been fucked. But at least he was gentle. I could be grateful for that.

“Loving them isn’t a crime, but your father thinks it is one. But if you find a way to show that you’re just like the others, if you play this game of his and try to do as he planned for you…”

“It was an excuse. The man wanted to fuck me.” He pushed another finger in with the first he had been carefully working in, and my breath hitched. I didn’t mean to, but I found myself rocking into his touch before I could stop myself. I looked down at what he was doing, and moaned through my teeth when he pressed his lips closer and licked at my cock. He curled his fingers as he thrust them inside, watching the way I shook and crossed and uncrossed my legs in embarrassment.

“Perhaps. Perhaps all he cares about is doing what makes him happy. But an entertainment girl is camouflage. Surround yourself with slaves. Use them however you might need. You are a noble, Quill. You should know your place.”

I flinched, turning away and gasping as he pushed his fingers in harder.

“My place is on the bottom,” I stuttered.

“You’re my descendant, Quill. You’re my descendant. A beautiful example of one. You’re better than any human. Better than the base nobles with their faintly yellow eyes or their lighter shades of earthen hair. A Lord noble might not be considered the most confident, or the most useful. Well, that doesn’t matter. You’re still a noble, regardless. You’re stronger. You’re better. So do what is your birthright. Subjugate. And use them for the defense you so clearly need.”

“I…” Something was churning in my stomach harder than ever, but it could very well have been that he had pushed his three fingers apart inside me. I didn’t have the words to speak. When I opened my mouth, a moan came out instead as he forced them in until he was looking down inside me and I couldn’t push my legs together if I wanted to. He’d scissored the opening until I was spread, blinking back at him.

“You’re easy to pry apart,” he commented. “Tightness should extend from the muscles, should they not?” I turned my face against the pillow again, flushing darkly.

The cock was pushed in just as slowly. I tightened up as soon as he pushed the head inside. My whole body shivered in recognition at what he was doing, knowing it was wrong. Somehow wanting it more. My chest heaved. He moaned quietly, a soft, pathetic sound, then he pushed his cock slowly deeper.

He didn’t thrust until he was certain I was done adjusting. Only when I was little more than shivering, squeezing his cock tightly with my ass, splayed with my legs around his neck, did he start rocking. The soft spurting and squishing noises of the saliva he’d slicked his fingers with was grating on my ears. But that meant I could walk away from this. I wouldn’t bleed and ruin his bed.

I almost wished he’d just hurt me.

“You’re gripping me so well,” he muttered, then moaned a moment later. I closed my eyes, rocking back my hips to make things go faster. His cock was bigger than I thought it would be. Every push made it feel like he was prodding my guts, his gentle gliding turning slowly rougher as he seemed spurred onward by my reactions. I pulled at the blankets, unsure what to touch.

I thought this would have been enough for him. But then he grabbed my hands, pulled my body forwards and used that for resistance as he rocked his hips down into mine. He bottomed out, and I whined sharply at the way he filled me up. Lod wasn’t big. He wasn’t this. This was something else entirely. I could feel every inch of him, the way he ground his hips inside. It didn’t hurt. He enjoyed himself. I tried to close my eyes and enjoy it too. And I did. It was good. It was amazing. I was fucking my Lord. The Lord I’d been made to serve. I could almost live with this.

But then I opened my eyes again, and the strange man in front of me was crying ugly tears.

“Alphonse,” the man muttered. “I missed this, Alphonse…” He thrust harder, his grip tightening on my hips, forcing his cock in, pounding away. I whimpered, gasped, wailed as he rocked into my with everything he had. His body was twitching and shivering uncontrollably, unable to fully grasp the pleasure. He was getting rougher, but he was so strained, so unusually reserved in the way he rocked his hips. I’d never felt something so gentle. I kept my eyes closed and let myself get lost.

I finished on my own stomach moments after he emptied his load inside me. He dipped his head down and slowly caught his breath. Then he looked up, let go of my wrists and slowly pulled away with slightly wide eyes as he seemed to realize what he’d done to me. His spent cock fell out of my ass, and with it came the semen that flowed onto his precious silks. I turned away in disgust.

“Are you done,” I muttered.

“Alphonse…”

“I’m Quill,” I said, and sat up on the bed. I faced the thin, sickly man with his too bright eyes and silks.

“Quill…” He blinked, then smiled. “Sorry. Time blurs. It’s been too long.”

“Right.” I curled tightly up by the pillow as far away from the man as I could get and eyed my clothes that had been torn away from me. They’d been thrown halfway across the room. I went for them, then paused when I noticed the Lord pulling his silks back on and sitting motionless on the edge of the bed. He kept wiping his eyes, but he was deep into his quiet sobs. I’d never seen something so pathetic.

“You look just like him,” he muttered.

“I’m a child.” I stared at him. He looked up at me, new tears forming.

“You don’t understand.”

“I think I understand. Too well.”

“No-“

“Are all Lord nobles like this? Are we all meant to be cowards? Are we all doomed to end up child lovers preying on our children and so desperate to be loved? What are you?” Angry tears dripped down my chin. There was nothing left to fear. He was nothing, now. I pulled my clothes on roughly and ignored the semen still dripping down my thighs.

“No, Quill…” The man whimpered and stumbled closer. All of that splendor was gone. He wasn’t even a monster anymore. He reached out to me and I slapped it away. And he meekly accepted that.

“Don’t touch me,” I whimpered. “Don’t.”

“Come back, please,” he cried, slumping onto the wooden floor with a muffled thump. “I’m so lonely. Please. “If you’re here, you’ll be safe. It could just be us again. You and I. We could do whatever you liked, Alphonse. I was even gentle this time. I did everything for you. We could hide the rest of the world out in this room. It’s safe here.”

“You’re insane.”

He smiled through his tears and struggled to his knees.

“I suppose I’ve been alive too long. I don’t think I know what day it is, anymore.”

I slammed that door behind me and slumped to the dusty floor. Across from me, a supply closet stood half open and abandoned. The brazier was still burning. Someone had topped it up. Semen was staining my underclothes. The Lord’s semen. Royal semen.

I grimaced before I burst into tears.

Chapter Text

MARGRET

Years past, and the world continued turning.

There were those that wished to see me dead, and those that wished to see me beneath them spread across some bed waiting invitingly for whatever they wanted from me. Eyes that watched me every moment of my day could have been friend or foe. Every hand that held itself out to me could have been a monster in disguise. The redder their hair, the more trouble they were. At first, Sylvia had taught me not to speak to adults. To stay away from the men that claimed to be scholars, from the nobility that roamed the halls and laughed far too loudly. It was those men that wanted to hurt me in the worst possible way, she claimed. It was those creatures far past their prime that looked for youth that they could suck on the teat of. Parasites stalking the palace grounds and looking for the children of unwary nobility that let their spawn run about. Human servants watched idly by as a little boy or girl was pulled away from the main hall and found a few hours later, a little quieter. A little less alive.

I thought to Rettah, and Sylvia had to hold me until I stopped trying to run.

It was currying favor with servants and nobility that kept people safe. All people. Rettah was of the Queen, and I’d at least garnered favor with Sylvie. She’d keep me safe, and she taught me what was up and what was down. That kind of tutoring was one I so desperately needed. She told me of the dangers of walking alone without her, or to keep away from the even the women who’s eyes were filled with jealousy. I didn’t understand what they were jealous of. They didn’t want this. No one should have.

I suppose I should have known that sex was not the only thing to be afraid of. That it was more than men, or women. There was a reason children never played with me.

I walked through the courtyard by myself. The years had made me taller, gangly. It seemed like I was never going to stop growing. The tailors had a difficult time of it finding dresses to fit me, and in the end they’d collapsed among themselves and decided to reluctantly agree to a shirt and flowing skirt, rather than constantly have to change the height and bust in a more form fitting dress. The freedom of clothing without too many ruffles was lost on most of court fashion with their bodices and petticoats, but the fact that I could run if I wished down this orchard of oranges was almost enough of a high to forget about Rettah.

Even if it wasn’t my father’s work. Nothing could be quite the same as his stitching. Growing out of those outfits was a blow to my heart. I kept a dress, but Sylvia had insisted on no more. There was no point to them in my wardrobe, she’d tell me. I couldn’t focus on the past. There were studies, tutors to learn from, a world to better. Perhaps she was right. My brother probably wouldn’t have cared.

And at the thought of my brother, I shrunk again, and went back to quietly padding down the path in my flats on the way towards the edge of the world. My brother wore whatever fashion the servants thought looked best on him, and he never argued. He was perfectly content in whatever outfit was picked. Joyous even, to be considered. And then he’d be quickly carted off to the Queen, in some perfect schedule that kept us apart. He was the perfect noble.

The cliff’s edge was overwhelming, no matter how many times I visited it. The height must have reached three times the length of the castle, if not further. It took a trek to get to the coast line of the Ocean of Tears, but when I did, I could look ahead for miles at the sea that was supposedly more dangerous than any other place in the world. Sea monsters lived out there, leviathans that roiled around on the ocean floor and waited for ships to cross over above and dapple the sunlight below. Fish across the world took up entire bays with their frog shaped enormity, keeping their mouths open for months before ingesting an entire ecosystem of fish. Somewhere out there, merfolk danced under the water and made cities out of coral and stone. They called to the people on their ships and begged them for an hour of their time. Then those people would disappear.

I sat down at the edge, wrapping my arms around my legs, and looked down hundreds of feet to see the rocks that dotted the bottom. Sheer cliff-side met the crashing waves. I could barely hear them from my perch, but they were still music to my ears. I could close my eyes and imagine myself closer, at the docks that my newest tutor had talked about in passing. This one loved sea stories. He frequented those docks, and had so many stories to tell. They wouldn’t let me leave for whatever arbitrary reason the Queen set in place, so I only had my own imagination and his recollection. The dock was only a few miles north of the castle. Set apart from the main city, it was filled with fish mongers and clam diggers selling wares out of wheelbarrows heaped with their wares. There were traders with goods that they sold right out of their ships, exotic livestock fluttering about at the auction house. Questionable men no one wanted to label “pirate” walked about with markings down their arms and tales about black obelisks far across the eastern continent, which they claimed had healed them from terminal illness. A decrepit woman with a glass eye spent a lot of time at one of the bars every night spinning a story of snow dragons as big as mountains in the north, if only you paid her a half pound. It had no bearing that the dragons died out hundreds of years ago, she’d seen them only a year prior, stealing the last of her sheep.

I wondered if Rettah liked dragons. If he’d been taught about the history of Wonderland in the same way I had. If he’d learned about the legends of Alice and the older, brighter world before the rest of the Royals appeared mysteriously in the annals of history. Then suddenly the forest was dying and all of the suppose magic was gone. If it were true, that is. No one believed it anymore.

But I wondered if he’d learned about the failing economy of Wonderland, and how it was only surviving through free slave labor, intensive trade, and the quick wit of underrated Left Hands. Perhaps that was too much to teach a child.

But I wondered if he wanted to go to the pier and look at the ships that must have been massive to make it through all of the sea monsters within the Ocean of Tears. The massive multicolored sails of the Kaleidoscope isles with their gorgeous gemstones and spicy food. The black sails of the darklands, and the otherworldly “magic” they brought with them through dolls with exes for eyes. And the stranger, off white sails of the eastern continent across the sea. Those were the best, the ones that brought tidings of the obelisks, and the war with people they claimed were dragons even though no one had ever seen them. So many people, no one with the same hair colors as nobles. Some were human. Humans, across the sea, living in freedom. Humans that acted with the same charisma as nobility, as if there were no noose tied around their necks as soon as they docked. None of it mattered to them. For all the Wonderlanders seemed to care, the continent across the sea could be ruled by humans. As long as they continued to offer cheap trade deals, they wouldn’t touch those that arrived by ship. It would have been so easy for a Wonderland human to slip through the cracks, to run away and never come back. But I supposed Sylvia was too easily seasick.

The South was a different story, one that my tutor didn’t often talk about. My tailor did, but only when he wished to complain about the lack of silks in his inventory. The South’s people had been decimated by incalculable slavery, leading to the standing army at that border being insurmountable. The cities were even worse, from what my tailor had said. A guard for every five people. And then a neighboring noble chimed in with a sigh, despondent that he would never be able to fuck an exotic beauty so long as their kept their gems so well defended. There was naught left but the crumbs that made the terrible mistake to walk across the border without an armored caravan as their guide. If it wasn’t slaves or silks that interested them, my tailor continued that the exotic pets and spices were just as interesting. Anything to show off to the fellow hedonist, really. The more expensive and rare, the better.

I shook my head. I couldn’t continue on so callous, unless I wanted to end up like them.

Maybe, if I asked enough, Sylvie might be able to pull some strings and allow me to see Rettah again. Maybe he could make time for me. Maybe we could have an exception made, and go down to see the ships ourselves.

I curled my legs up closer. The last time I’d seen him, he’d gotten so big. He wasn’t my height, but he was still matching me foot for foot. His hair was a little longer, a little more ragged, and his hat fit just a little bit more. He must have been eight, by now, if I was fourteen. A smart boy. I told him the day of his birthday, but neither of us ever had the time or funds to celebrate. If his was coming up, I’d like to get him a present. Perhaps something sweet, but unique. A pastry with an orange, maybe. Or a lime. It would mean I’d have to use the kitchens, but the servants seemed unkind when I asked things of them. I supposed I could leave it in his room. Whenever he had the chance to return, he’d see it, and there would be a little note there reminding him that I was still here, and he could visit whenever he liked.

A hand shoved me from behind, and my stomach lurched as the space between me and the cliff edge closed with only an inch between before I could get my bearings. I didn’t even have time to scream. My hands gripped tufts of grass, staring in shock at the rocks below, and barely hearing the sound of laughter behind me as I slowly edged myself back away.

“You should have seen the look on your face! Wow, I got you good!”

“Sigil,” I tried to hide the whimper in my voice. “What was that for?”

“To get the blood pumping. You can thank me later.”

“You could have killed me.” I slowly turned my head to stare in disbelief at the girl only a year younger than me. Her bright green eyes glimmered strangely as she watched me crawl back from the edge, holding her hands behind her back. Thin strands of black hair spliced with faint flecks of red dripped from her head like ink, and the slightest of fang poked out from her smirk.

“Well, it’s not a big deal if I do, right? You wouldn’t feel it.”

“Yes I would!”

“You can’t feel pain, so I don’t see the point in not utilizing something like that, right? I think it’s pretty brilliant.” Her smirk disappeared, her eyes suddenly going wide in mock sincerity. “It means that you’ll never be affected by torture.”

I gagged. “You’re disgusting. Why do you have to act that way?”

She balanced on her heels, and didn’t bother to fold down her dark red dress when a gust of wind flipped it up to show her panties. I turned away from the strange girl that haunted me relentlessly, but she was back to pushing me just as I did. This time, I caught her by the arm and pushed back, knocking her down into the tall grass with a frown. I stood over her, but she didn’t seem bothered.

“Why do you always bother me? Don’t you have other things to do?”

She shrugged. “You’re always there to bother. You don’t really do anything, do you?”

“I do plenty. I’m doing something right now.”

“Brooding? Anyone can brood. My father broods all the time.”

“Who, the treasurer? What’s he got to brood over?”

“Money. The lack of it. He loves taxes. And being henpecked by that crone of a Left Hand.” She nodded solemnly, then pressed her hands together and jumped to her feet with a smile. “Want to play with me?”

I frowned and shook my head. After a year of this back and forth, I’d learned enough about Sigil to know to avoid her. If only she’d let me. Servants didn’t talk about the dead squirrels with their throats sliced that appeared on main paths in the courtyard, but everyone knew who it was. And I should have been heading back to Sylvie by now. There was tea to attend to, and then a small chance to catch Rettah before he was whisked off to another event with the Queen.

“I don’t think you should say no, you know. You don’t have any other friends.” She ran up to meet me as I stormed away. I tried to ignore her, but she kept poking herself in my face and demanding attention with those big green eyes. I focused on my shoes clicking sharply against the cobbled path. “Margret, why aren’t you listening to me? You’re my friend, right? My best friend.”

“Stop it, Sigil.” She frowned comically.

“Stop it, Sigil,” she mocked. “Jeez, you’re so boring. What is it this time, are you upset over your brother not coming to see you? Has there ever been a time you weren’t upset? All you ever do is cry in your room and contemplate jumping off cliffs. Or are you planning an exodus of slaves this time?”

“Sometimes I’m not upset. When you’re not around.” I kept walking. But then I heard the quiet sniffles, and I stopped. Sighing deeply, I slowly turned around, expecting to see her snickering, and balked when I realized that Sigil was crying real tears. She pressed her hands up against her face, whimpering and sobbing in the most pathetic way she could.

“I’m sorry,” she whimpered. I faltered.

“Sigil…” I bit my lip and tentatively took a step closer. As much as I didn’t believe her, I’d never seen her cry before. Her voice shook and cracked, her chest heaved, and her cheeks were stained with heavy tears as she hiccupped and panted. The image of Sigil’s smirking, confusing face was suddenly contorted into childish sobs that I didn’t know how to contend with. “Sorry, that was harsh of me, I didn’t mean it. Don’t cry. You’re just… Very strange, and you always seem to try to push me into things. Or out of things. That’s not very nice.”

“No, no… it’s okay.” She wiped her eyes and smiled through the tears. “I understand. I just… I thought maybe… Since neither of us had any friends, maybe we could. But you don’t even want me.”

“Sigil, please forgive me, I didn’t mean it.” I held my breath. I hadn’t even realized. “If you want a friend so badly, you could… Well, we could be friends. But you have to stop being mean.”

“Oh?” She whimpered. “Really?”

“Of course. You’re not that bad…” The dead squirrels wanted to disagree, but I couldn’t stand the sound of crying. Especially hers.

She shrugged, and wiped the tears away. Then she smirked.

“Well, then I guess I’m not trying hard enough.”

I flinched, staring in shock for a moment before turning abruptly on my heel and continuing down the rows of oranges. In less than a moment, the tears were gone and she was back to that evil grin. I should have known. This was Sigil’s game, using whatever emotion she wanted at any given moment. I refused to stop. Nothing was going to make me turn around. No matter what she did.

“Now you’re not even looking at me,” she wailed beside my shoulder, easily keeping pace. “Maybe I should add another scar to your collection. Then you’d notice me, right? I could do it right along your eye.” She pointed a finger too close and I swatted it away.

“What do you want from me?” I demanded. “Just go away already.”

“You want to know what I want? You’re so gracious. I suppose I should expect that from one of the Queen’s favorites.”

“I’m not her favorite. Just spit it out so you can leave me alone.”

“That’s just it, Margret,” she smiled. “I don’t want to leave you alone until you promise me something.”

“What?” I scowled.

“That you’ll give up being Left Hand.”

I stared at the ground, but I didn’t stop.

It made perfect sense. Of course it did.

No children spoke to either of us. And they wouldn’t. Not only were they not being trained to be Left Hands, but I was a stranger, and Sigil was a nightmare. They didn’t have to care about the position, and those that were, were singled out by the Queen herself. We were touched with this power that we couldn’t access. It had to be us two. Sigil, the girl that swiped knives from the kitchen, the girl that could be cut with those knives and do little more than glare at the girl while trying to deal with the inconvenience of bleeding. Sigil and I both were estranged from the rest of the court, and that left only the two of us to interact, and for a while I’d thought that meant I’d simply been stuck with a strange girl no one ever wanted. I’d thought this Left Hand business was just an excuse to have us learning in the same room together when it came to figures and economics. It was a joke. She should have known that. Everything about this bloody position was a joke. She laughed about it, she was always laughing. And I’d stayed in my own head and ignored everything else. I’d pretended she hadn’t existed. I’d never looked at her face and seen that she could have been just as dangerous as those men Sylvie told me never to cross. She was smarter than that, Sigil was. She had to be smarter than to think a position like Left Hand would ever have any meaning.

No. This was Sigil. Of course she wouldn’t have the common sense. Of course I’d just been blind.

“Is that the only reason you’ve been bothering me all this time?” I asked in shock.

“Maybe. Or maybe I just like you.” She was hiding it now, but her hand had been revealed. Her eyes were beady and full of want.

“Whatever. If you want to be Left Hand, take it. I don’t want it. I never have.” I gritted my teeth. It would have been a blessing not to be forced into the spot the Queen had lain out for me. I didn’t need to fight Sigil for something I had no intention of keeping.

“While that’s such a lovely gift, the Queen wants you as Hand, and it’s rather difficult to get her to agree to let you go.”

“I don’t talk to the Queen,” I growled. “Not unless she asks for me. And she doesn’t. Ever. If you think I have any favor with her to speak of, then you’re wrong. I’m just here for my brother, nothing more. If you’ll excuse me, I’m trying to get to him.”

Sigil grabbed my arm and nearly wrenched it out of the socket as she forced me to stop in the middle of the lime orchard. “The Queen thinks you have the superior genes, Margret.” She smiled serenely. “You’re the daughter of the old Mad Hatter. That’s one of the oldest lines in Wonderland, bar the Royals. That puts you directly in line to be the Left Hand of the Queen. The Hatter has always been a Right Hand, that’s the way of things. If he isn’t, then that Hand has never been a very good one. And to have a relative of that line as Left Hand? The Queen is a traditionalist. You’re not even that smart, or that resourceful, or that interesting, but for your parentage alone, the Queen is planning on making you Hand. Do you know that?”

“I didn’t. And I don’t want the position.” I tried to pull away from her grip, but she was surprisingly strong. I’d have bruises in an hour.

“But you can’t just say no to her Majesty,” Sigil tilted her head to the side. “And I think you know that. Otherwise you would have left already, and run off with your brother to somewhere else.”

“Don’t bring my brother into this,” I snarled.

“The royals always train a few possible Hands, just on the occasion that one dies, you know. There’s always an understudy, a chance for someone else to have the position if another should fail for any reason. If a Left Hand were to die, let’s say, they’d always need a replacement.”

“What are you implying?” I glared her down.

She smiled innocently, then ran me into a tree. The air knocked out of me with a muffled noise as she shoved me into the rough bark, then pinned me by the arms to peer up at me. Still just as innocent, as if she wasn’t showing me the knife she’d stashed in the waistband of her dress. “You’re so cute, Margret,” she cooed. “Maybe it’s because you don’t belong here that you’re so innocent. That backwards country bumpkin thinking is almost… human.” She purred. “It makes you as sweet as it does weak. But I’m telling you, here and now, that I want the position, and I’ll do what it takes to get it.”

“I’m not fighting you.” I tried to glare at her. “I’m saying you can have it, and the Queen doesn’t want me. She’s never wanted me. And I don’t want her.”

“Oh, trust me. She does. And it’s up to you in the end, to give up your position. But it’s also up to you how on you want to give it up. Shall we do it by a brutal murder? I could slice you through, one side of the neck to the other. Should we go back to the cliff so I can push you down properly this time? Or are you going to get a horse, and disappear into the Capital? I know a ship that could take you into the Ocean of Tears. You seem to like ships, don’t you?”

“I’m not going anywhere.” I tried to push her off, but her grip just tightened. “I have my bother to take care of. And HE is the Queen’s favorite. She won’t leave him alone and I never even get to see him. I can’t just leave him. You understand that the Queen isn’t safe, right?”

She just stared at me.

“The Queen could just as easily kill him as invite him to tea,” I continued. “And it’s no secret that she’s done it before. I don’t want the position, I’ll give you the work, you can have it. I’m just here for my brother. I have to keep him safe.”

“I don’t want the work, I want the position.” Her eyes gleamed as she pressed closer. “The title of Left Hand is as prestigious as it could get. I would be only one step below the Queen. I could rule alongside her. I could make my father proud. We’d be going the highest we ever had as a family. My mother would love me.”

“Your mother is dead, Sigil.”

“Of course she is. She was human. Weak. But she’d still be proud. Hey,” she paused with a grin. “I’ll let your brother live, if you let me have it.”

“Don’t you even dare,” I growled. My vision clouded. The grip on my arm was tight, but a flash of anger had me pushing back hard enough to send her nearly reeling. She pushed back, grinning wider. The struggle was evenly matched, but I kept having to avoid the knife. She didn’t seem to care that it was digging into her side.

“Oh, pushy pushy. You know, it feels like we’re dancing. What if we were lovers?”

“What are you talking about?” I bit my lip. “Sigil, this is getting stupid. Just let me go, I’m not about to step on your toes. You can have it. I’m not going to fight you on this. We don’t have to fight. Just stop.”

“But I want to fight.” She kicked me in the shin, then pushed up to me until the gap was closed.

She pressed her lips against mine, then. I went limp, staring in shock Sigil’s open eyed grin. Her grip seemed to relax, too. She hummed under her breath, pressing closer when she saw that I wasn’t fighting back, and licked my lips. Her mouth was chapped. She tasted like bitter syrup. She kept pushing, closer and closer, moving her leg in between mine and trying open my mouth with her tongue. That bitter taste was getting stronger and I couldn’t place it. I shivered, trying to clamp my mouth closed, a shiver going up my spine. She managed to get her leg in too far, and an electric feeling through me, oddly familiar. My eyes widened.

When she pulled away, she was grinning like a cat that had got the cream. I was trying to breathe.

“Stole your first kiss.” She laughed.

“Leave me alone,” I panted. That feeling was still there. I crossed my legs.

“Why would I do that? You’re all red, Margy-“

“Don’t say that!” I shoved her off of me, then wiped my mouth. “You don’t get to say that.”

“What, Margy?”

“Stop it!” I pushed her down onto the cobbled path and faced little resistance. She grinned up at me, her hair fanning out behind her. She lifted a leg up to hitch her dress to her waist.

“You’re a good kisser, Margy.”

“Why won’t you just leave me alone!” I hissed. She laughed, pushed her leg up between mine, and grabbed me by the hair.

“Maybe you want to be on top?” She asked. “I don’t mind being broken in. Trent’s a bad kisser, anyways. He’s already nine, you’d think he’d at least know how to purse his lips.”

“Stop it, I-I don’t want anything!” Her grip was too strong. I couldn’t stop the leg that was grinding into my groin. I couldn’t think straight.

“Maybe you do. Haven’t you ever had a crush on a guy? Do you like girls more, Margy? I like girls, sometimes. All the boys think they’re better than us, that they can kiss better than us, fuck better than us. But girls know how girls work.” She wouldn’t stop grinding.

“Stop it-“

“Or maybe you prefer your brother.” Her eyes narrowed, and her leg stopped. “Are you waiting for the day his little cock responds to you? Maybe I should cut it off, and give it to you as a present.”

I punched her in the face.

It was just one. Only one. I stared at my own hand in shock, then at the Sigil.

She grinned up at me. Her nose dripped. The blood pooled in droplets on the cobbled road, curling up in the crevices. She didn’t bother to wipe it.

“Hit me again, Margy,” she spat on the ground, then smiled serenely back up at me. “I want it.”

I hit her again.

And again.

And again.

The crack of bone never felt so satisfying. The slam of a fist against a nose that cracks like glass on impact was glorious. I revelled in the smell of blood. All of my focus was on her. She was smiling, enjoying every minute.

Sylvia was the one that had to pull me off of her.

There was so much screaming. So much blood. I had felt her teeth crack under my fist, the bubbles of laughter as I pounded into her cheek and eyes. My hands were numb. The knuckles had been scraped away near to the bone, blood dribbling when I tried to straighten them out. I couldn’t tell what was hers and what was mine anymore. Sigil’s mouth was a mess of blood and broken teeth. She was crying her heart out now as she was tenderly picked up by a passing group of nobles, all of their furious expressions on me. On us, Sylvie and I. I couldn’t stop staring at the scene as I was being pulled away. She was stretched out like a fallen angel, her chest heaving in screams as she struggled to form words through a crooked face. My ears were filled with water and my eyes blurred as I was led into the castle.

Sylvia pulled me under her wing and flew us off to my room before I could form a thought.

There were certainly words somewhere, inside my head. They floated around, asking formless questions to me and prodding me to say something to the woman who’s hand was holding my arm like I was about to run off to the Capital. But my tongue was fuzzy. The sound of my steps against the palace floor was muffled. The world was off. There was a faint ringing in my ears. I couldn’t seem to remember who I was. Sylvie pulled me from this hallway and that, through corridors and along crowds of people that stared at my dripping hands. Their mouths formed words I couldn’t hear and perhaps didn’t want to.

I couldn’t recall how I’d gotten there but I was in my room, sitting on a splendid little armchair with a basin of warm water beside me stained red. Sylvie sat on a bench huddled over my hands with worried eyes, gently dabbing an alcohol soaked cotton ball over the ruins of my knuckles. She could have been saying something, but I couldn’t hear it. Her mouth was barely moving behind those gritted teeth. I stared at her doing her work, diligently dabbing the swab and flinching when she saw raw flesh in place of skin. She went green when I twitched my hand, and the flesh moved. It seeped blood, oozing slowly as the clots began to form. Her mouth stopped moving, she closed it, then looked at me.

She smiled tiredly at me, and gently pet my hair.

“It’s not your fault,” I just managed to catch her say to me. I blinked in a daze.

“What?”

“It’s not your fault,” she repeated. “That girl has something wrong with her. I don’t blame you.” Her smile didn’t rise to her eyes.

“What happened?” I asked her.

“You don’t know?”

“I… I don’t know how we got here.” Bits and pieces of my mind were eating away at me. I looked over at my fist and tried to focus on the sound of birds by the window. “I can’t really remember.” Somewhere in the back of my mind there was guilt, and confusion, but I didn’t know where it belonged.

“You attacked Sigil,” she said gently. “But you must have been provoked. That girl is a problem that I wish we could solve. But the Palace has more than one bad egg like that one. I knew that she’d been following you around, but I never imagined… This. Don’t worry your head about it Margret. I know you’re a good person.”

I looked up at Sylvie numbly.

“I don’t feel any punches on me.”

“Well…” She chewed her lip. “No. But you might not feel them. She could have had a knife, maybe she was threatening you. Are you alright? Did you hit your head at all? Is anything dizzy?”

I frowned. “I don’t remember her attacking me.” Sylvia took my hand again and continued dabbing.

“I’m worried you might have hit your head if you can’t remember the fight, Margret. We might have to get you to the clinic again and speak to the doctor. Are you sure you don’t know what happened? Anything at all? Do you know what she said to you? What started the fight?”

I stared at my broken hand and wracked my brain for the memories that seemed so far away. It was a dream I’d had and long since forgotten where none of the characters were real and I’d woken up only half remembering it. “I don’t think I hit my head. She was… Threatening Rettah, I think.” That made sense, but somehow it didn’t sit well. Her face was a half forgotten memory. Blood was still roaring in my ears. I furrowed my brows as I realized just how hard it was to remember. It shouldn’t have been like this. “She threatened to hurt him, so I punched her.”

“Margret, that doesn’t sound like you.” Sylvia paused again to look at me. She tilted my chin up gently to see her, and the sincere worry in her eyes only made it feel worse. “Whatever happened, there had to be a good reason for it. Try to remember, alright? I know you’re a good girl. I would never judge you.” She smiled, and the lines around her eyes wrinkled.

A chill trickled down my spine as the memories began flooding back all at once. I stared at Sylvie with hollow eyes as I gripped her hand tightly. My knuckles began to ooze again, but I couldn’t have cared less.

“She asked me to,” I whimpered. “She asked me to, and I did it. And I liked it.”