"Send Stayne," Iracebeth ordered. "He always knew how to handle my little sister," This was ridiculous. She had been the rightful queen for nearly two years now! Why would Mirana return, and try to steal her throne? You know why the voice in her head hissed She has the documents. She is the true queen of Underland. No. It was her right, as the eldest. Her father was very sick, he didn't know what he was doing.
Mirana had returned two months ago, in secret she had been told. From there her and the village Hatter had set about recruiting the villagers to her cause. People had always loved Mirana. Even when they were very small, the crowds adored her. It was because of her tiny head, she knew. Once the entire village was set against The Queen, Mirana had set about recruiting the castle staff and guards. Nine days ago, they had surrounded the castle and begun the siege, leaving Iracebeth alone with twelve servants, ten guards and -of course- Stayne. At first she had been diligent, beheading a servant a day to make Mirana swerve, but she hadn't. In the months she had been away (apart from making a vow to never harm any living creature) her little sister had gained some kind of obstinance and fortitude, and would not be deterred by beheadings as she would've done in the past. Mirana had changed, she had become stronger, wiser. She had become a queen.
Iracebeth stared out the window and bit her nails with worry. She could see Mirana's guards surrounding the moat, tin knights with gleaming white armour. She saw her sister's tent, white of course. She took deep breaths to control her fury, gritting her teeth with anger. Now Mirana wanted a treaty, wanted her to come out herself. Fat chance of that happening, the little would-be-queen was not worthy of her presence. Iracebeth reached for her crown protectively, a habit she found herself doing increasingly often. She held it tight, listening to the drawbridge lower and watching Stayne cross it on his black horse. She watched him wait at the end of the drawbridge, saw Mirana leave her tent and mount her own pure white steed, Vaquara. Mirana was accompanied by the Hatter she adored, and Uileam. Iracebeth hissed at the sight of her old friend; a worthless Dodo who had betrayed her to her little sister, sending her the recipe to the medicine Iracebeth had been poisoning their father with. Uileam had gotten cold feet about the operation, and betrayed her before fleeing to Marmoreal to seek forgiveness off the little pig. When Mirana caught sight of Stayne, Iracebeth watched her suddenly freeze up and chuckled slightly. She had usted Stayne to haunt her little sister when they were younger, to terrify her every waking moment. When Stayne had cut her, he had scarred her for life. Iracebeth watched her sister subconsciously touch the heart on her arm, a scar Stayne had given her a while ago. She sighed, watching the two party's converse. What had happened to her gang? Stayne had stayed, of course he had. Stayne had always stayed with her- but what of the others? Joella had gone off on her orders, to help supervise the building of her red army. Uileam was a traitor, and didn't bear thinking about. Lugg had fled to the mountains, on tales of a Jabberwocky being sighted there. And Harwall- she shuddered. She did not want to think about Harwall. For months she had woken to nightmares of his mutilated body, limp and leaning against a wall with his entrails wrapped around his throat. His eyes pale and gleaming, his mouth jammed open as if he were screaming in pain. Mirana had scared her that day, had terrified her beyond belief, not that she would ever admit to it.
She snapped out of her daydream at the sound of the drawbridge closing, and when she looked up it was with horror. Stayne was going with Mirana. She saw that he was still on his horse, but his hands were bound and he was being escorted by two guards. Iracebeth stood and stomped her feet in fury. She couldn't do that!! It wasn't FAIR! She couldn't arrest Stayne, she needed him. after a moment of two of fury it dawned on her that all hope was lost. Stayne was gone, she was on her own. She made up her mind, she was going to have to escape that night. She would take the Bandersnatch, of course she would, and she would go and find Joella. But she would be back. She would be back with an army, and a Jabberwocky, and she would fill the streets with the blood of her sister, and turn them red.
* * *
Gone? A cheer went up among the crowd and Mirana forced a smile onto her face, but inside she felt worried. It shouldn't have been that easy, her sister would never have given up so quick. She left her men rejoicing, but she felt unsettled, something was not right. Without really thinking, she made her way to a tent at the back of the siege. As she walked in the smell of blood and urine choked her, and she paused for a second. Tied to a post in the middle of the dark tent was Ilosovic Stayne. Beaten and bruised, he raised his head slowly, and she felt the cold terror that filled her whenever she saw him. Frozen in fear, she considered turning back and running. But she couldn't, her legs were glued to the spot. When his eyes adjusted onto hers, he smiled cruelly and Mirana blinked and shuddered.
"Your highness," He said mockingly. "I would kneel, but as it happens i'm all tied up at the moment." He chuckled at his own joke and Mirana forced herself to unfreeze, to take a step forward.
"My sister has fled," She said slowly. Stayne tutted.
"I knew she would," He mumbled, before lifting his head to her and smiling. "Are you here to gloat, Your Grace?" She took another step forward and shook her head. "Then I don't suppose you fancy untying me? Only I think i look much more handsome with my head on my shoulders," She took a deep breath and wondered if she was really doing the right thing. She moved around the back of him and untied the rope that was keeping him there. In one swift movement, he swept up behind he and forced her against the post. He pressed himself against her, and he smelt of blood and filth.
"Are you sure you know what your doing?" He asked quietly, menacingly. She breathed deeply with panic, staring at his middle and trying not to hyperventilate.
"My-sister" She breathed, trying to stop herself from shaking, "She-needs-you," Her voice was barley above a whisper. He pulled her chin up until she was looking directly into his eye, and he reached down and kissed her, lightly at first, before slowly pushing his tongue into her mouth. She was too scared to resist, he had her forced up against the post and there was nowhere to run. He pulled back, licking his lips and smiling.
"We will meet again, Mirana of Marmoreal," He leaned in, whispering in her ear, "And boy I can't wait," He kissed her again, before fleeing from the tent. Unaware of the fact he had been holding her up, Mirana's knees turned to jelly and she sank onto the floor, struggling to breath and shaking like fury. She drew her knees up to her and put her head in her arms, frantically sobbing. She didn't hear anyone else enter the tent, but she felt herself being enveloped in a small pair of arms that held her while she cried. When her sobbing receded, she raised her head and Tarrant Hightop wiped her eyes with his sleeve.
"Sometimes, I think you're as mad as I am," He said softly, and she smiled through her tears.
"As mad as a Hatter," She declared. "As mad as a Hatter,"