Title: Choices (2/?)
Pairing: Alice/Mirana (White Queen)
Rating: PG-13, for now
Disclaimer: I don't own any of the recognizable characters. There will be some OCs, yes, but chances are they won't be main characters.
Summary: It's the choices we make that make us who we are.
Given that she was on the Wonder primarily to help set up their trade routes, Alice didn't exactly have much in the way of day to day responsibilities. She did help out where she could, of course, as she hadn't been raised to be lazy, but at the moment, there really was nothing for her to do. Given that she was trying to find a distraction from thinking about just how much longer it would be before they were in port again - and that port wasn't even in England - that was not especially helpful.
After enjoying a rather beautiful sunrise - another good thing to result from her curious bout of insomnia - she'd mainly tried to stay out of everyone's way. As she did, she couldn't help but wonder how events had been progressing in Underland over the past year. She was certain that Mirana was being a just and wise queen, but what about the others? The Hatter, the March Hare, Mallymkun, the Tweedles, Chessur... everyone. Part of her wished she'd gotten to examine the Oraculum a bit more closely, to perhaps get a clue as to their fates after she'd departed, but that only sent her thoughts off onto another tangent completely.
Was there such a thing as fate?
The Oraculum had said - well, suggested, anyway, as best she'd been able to tell - that she'd been destined to slay the Jabberwocky. Everyone she'd met there had likewise told her that it was her fate to do so. And, indeed, she had slain it. (Or, if one wanted to be technical, she'd held onto the Vorpal Sword while it had killed the Jabberwocky, but it had still "needed" to be her wielding it, evidently.)
And yet, despite being one of the ones who had believed the prophecy, it had been Mirana herself who had given her a choice, to be their champion or not. So she had chosen, making the only choice she would have been able to live with, after she'd realized that all her new friends were indeed real people, and that refusing might well have meant leaving them to their deaths. And having been the one doing the fighting, she knew full well that the battle's outcome had been far from certain. She'd come close to dying more times then was likely good for her sanity to dwell on.
The question, then, was whether or not the choice had even been real. Had she decided to face the Jabberwocky of her own free will, or had she always been meant to make that decision? She hadn't felt like she was being forced, but she couldn't quite overlook the fact that she had ended up doing precisely what it had been foretold that she would. Yet she also couldn't dismiss Mirana, who she knew had been sincere in her offer. She really would have let Alice walk away if she'd wanted to, despite what that might have meant for her kingdom. Or had she been able to make that offer because she believed that she already knew what Alice would ultimately choose? Which might not even have had anything to do with the Oraculum, but just that she knew Alice well enough to guess what she would do in the end. She had looked rather relieved when her champion had charged out of the castle, fully armored and ready for battle. But then, she'd also stated multiple times that Alice was meant to be their champion.
She was going to drive herself even madder then usual if she kept this up.
"You all right there, Miss Alice?" Surprised at the sudden question, she refocused on the outside world and turned from her position at the front of the ship to see that one of the sailors, Edward Hollingberry - commonly referred to as Ned - had paused near her, giving her an inquiring look. Tall and slender - and blessed with an unruly mop of brown hair that made her constantly want to send him to get a haircut, even after it just had been - he was the only person on the ship actually younger then she was. He had endured a fair amount of good-natured teasing from the rest of the crew because of that, she knew, but that had mostly tapered off of late. If anyone was suggesting that they would make a cute couple, they weren't doing so in her hearing. "You look like you're having thoughts entirely too serious for a day as lovely as this."
She smiled. "Only because I am, I fear." Perhaps a second opinion would help. "What do you think, Ned? Is free will real, or are we all consigned to fates that we can't escape?"
He blinked, obviously not having expected something that serious. "May I ask what brought that question on, Miss?"
She chuckled and shook her head. "Oh, you can certainly ask. I fear I couldn't quite answer you, though." Not without convincing him that she was utterly insane, at any rate.
"Well..." He shifted the length of rope he had coiled over his shoulder as he tried to come up with an answer. "Can't say I've ever given it much thought, meself. My mum always told me that the good Lord had a plan for all of us, though."
"But didn't He also give us free will?" she countered. She wasn't quite sure she wanted to bring religion into this - she wanted a more down to earth answer - but she had to admit, that did lend itself well to the subject matter at hand.
Ned looked increasingly uncomfortable, but was spared having to answer when someone shouted, "Oy! Lad! We be needin' that rope sometime within the fortnight!" He hurried in the direction of the shouter, and Alice, having nothing better to do, followed. "My apologies, gentlemen. I'm afraid I waylaid Ned with a question that's been bothering me of late."
"Think nothing of it, Miss Alice," Ben Moore told her. He was short and robust, of an indeterminate age. She thought his hair was also brown, but she'd never once seen him without his cap, so she couldn't say for certain. (In the past, such thoughts had often lead to the Hatter, which, of course, naturally ended with her thinking about Mirana.) Standing with him were Owen and Paul Thomas, two brothers who looked similar enough to each other that they could have been twins, had they not been born three years apart. They were of a moderate height with dusky red hair, which set them apart from the tall, stout - and older - Carter, who also bore a bushy red beard. They weren't quite as nice to look at as the twins back home (and really, Alice, watching them swim naked? Just how many more times would you have needed to do that before you realized it wasn't just for blackmail material?), nor as amusing as the Tweedles, but she did find them perfectly likable on their own merits. "I am curious as to what would be so distractin', though."
"We were debating the subject of fate versus free will." She smiled. "Would you care to venture forth an opinion?"
"Never believed in fate, meself," Owen volunteered. "I make me own decisions. Always have."
"But how can you know you weren't just following a path that had been laid out for you some time ago, which you just didn't know about?" she asked.
"It'd be easy enough to say that after something's come to pass, Miss," Paul said. He was a bit quieter then his little brother, but not so much that you couldn't hear him. "But in the before, when you're actually makin' the decision, you know it's up to you. The future's not set, after all. If you want fate, you have to make it yourself."
Alice wanted very much to believe that, but her memories of the Oraculum made that difficult. The frustrating thing was, she couldn't even tell them about that.
A loud crack of thunder split the air, and she flinched and ducked instinctively. She was amazed to find that in the space of, literally, a few seconds, the blue sky had vanished behind low hanging clouds. "How peculiar," she commented as she straightened up. Something - an odd trick of the light or something in the air, perhaps - seemed to be giving the clouds an odd greenish tint.
"Never seen nothing like that before," one of the Thomas brothers said, though she couldn't have said which one. Whichever one it was, a quick look at the rest of the group told her that he wasn't alone in that sentiment. She decided to leave them to their task - whatever it was - politely excusing herself before heading back to the bow of the ship.
She wasn't alone in doing so, as she was soon joined by Carter. "You're up a mite early, if you don't mind my saying," she told him with a smile.
He chuckled. "As if I could sleep through that racket." He shook his head. "Never laid eyes on the likes of that up there, either."
Well, there went any hope Alice might have held for easy answers. If Carter had never seen such a thing before, she was certain no one aboard had. And speaking of seeing things... "Um, Carter?" She gestured out to sea. "How long has that been there?"
He obediently looked in the indicated direction. "What's whe- Bless me thrice!" Which told her that she wasn't imagining things.
There really was a pirate ship closing on them.
At least, it seemed like there was. There was something... wrong with it, though. It seemed to flicker, somehow, as if it wasn't entirely there. The tiny forms she could see scurrying about onboard it were nearly transparent. While she had heard legends about ghost ships before, she didn't think that was what this was. Apart from not seeming able to decide whether or not it existed, the ship was otherwise in perfect condition.
As if determined to prove her wrong, there was a tiny blur of movement between the two ships, and when she followed it, she saw that what certainly seemed to be a cannonball was flying away from the Wonder, as if it had gone right through the ship without stopping. A quick look down confirmed that there were no fresh holes in the boat.
It was impossible to say which crew was more confounded by this.
The rest of the Wonder's crew had begun noticing the other vessel by now, and urgent commands were being bellowed from every which way. She wasn't sure she could follow it, but they didn't seem to be confusing each other, which she supposed was the important part. Someone - the captain, she guessed - ordered an evasive course, but the pirates seemed to be driven by a wind that no one else could feel, and drew up alongside them in short order.
That was when things started getting quite peculiar, indeed.
Given how much larger both the pirate ship and its crew were compared to the Wonder, it seemed unlikely in the extreme that they would be able to successfully repel any boarders. However, while their efforts did prove utterly futile, it wasn't due to any lack of skill on their part, but because the pirates that swung onto their ship passed right through everyone they encountered.
The look of surprise on the face of the first pirate to do so was rather comical, but Alice wasn't laughing. There was something about the entire affair that felt horribly wrong, more so then even ghost pirates could account for, but she couldn't quite put her finger on what. The ominous sky certainly wasn't helping matters at all, that was for certain.
It took several seconds for both crews to realize that hand to hand combat wasn't quite working, as no one was really standing still and letting someone from the other side slash at them with a sword. The pirates looked both surprised and frustrated, and their mouths moved soundlessly, as if they were speaking, yet they made no sound at all that anyone could hear. Still, despite all evidence telling her that they were harmless, Alice couldn't help but react when she saw one of them swinging his sword at Carter's head.
That was when she made a mistake.
Even as she reached out to shove the pirate away, she knew she was being foolish. The sword wouldn't even touch him - she'd seen several examples of pirate swords passing through both people and the ship (though that didn't exactly clear up how they were able to stand on the deck without falling through) - and all she was going to accomplish was falling flat on her face.
She was mostly correct.
What actually happened was that, for just one moment, she made contact with the pirate's arm and shoulder. Frayed cloth and the warmth of a flesh and blood person surprised her almost as much as the fact that she did manage to begin changing his course... And then it was gone, and she was falling through him to crash painfully to the deck.
Unfortunately, this didn't go unnoticed.
Even as she was trying to figure out what had just happened, the pirates seemed to be chattering to each other excitedly. She felt strange, as if she could almost hear what they were saying, and she wondered if she'd struck her head. What had that been, exactly? Some lingering after effect of the Jabberwocky's blood? It was the only thing she could think of that would set her apart from the rest of the crew. She felt an odd flash of resentment for the creature, as if it had somehow arranged this just to strike back at her for killing it, which was beyond absurd. She must have hit her head. Dimly, she heard someone calling her name, and looked up in time to see something shadowy flying towards her. Was that a net? Why would-
PAIN! She lost track of the thought, and everything else, as the net wrapped itself around her. It felt like she'd just been struck by lightning, fire coursing through her veins as she thrashed helplessly. She thought she heard someone scream. It might even have been herself.
Everything went black.
When she opened her eyes, she was surrounded by white.
Alice looked around in confusion. Where had everyone gone? The crew, the pirates... Indeed, where was the ocean? It had been a while since she'd been on dry land, but the lack of gentle rocking was quite telling. And given that she'd been rendered unconscious somehow by pirates, waking to find herself on a large, incredibly soft white bed seemed incredibly unlikely. None of this made any sense. In fact, it made so little sense that it could only be...
She was dreaming, then. Well, that was preferable to what she would no doubt find waiting for her when she awoke, but it wouldn't last. She was tempted to just lay back on the bed and rest, but for all she knew, falling asleep here would mean waking up in the real world. With some regret, she slid off the bed and got to her feet, marveling that she felt just fine. Surely a jolt such as the one she'd just taken should have translated into her dreams?
She was distracted from her musings by the sight of the chamber within which she found herself. Everything, from the high ceiling to the thickly carpeted floor, was solid white. There was no one else present, but the size and grandeur of the room told her exactly where she was.
After taking a moment to adjust to that, she shook her head. Really, if she was going to go to all the trouble of dreaming herself to Marmoreal, it seemed that the least the queen could do was be there to greet her. Well, as the old saying went, 'If the mountain will not come to Mohammad, Mohammad will go to the mountain'. She took another moment to soak in the peaceful atmosphere of the room, knowing that would be something in short supply once she woke up, then walked to the door and opened it.
The hall was empty, and she honestly wasn't sure whether or not that should have surprised her. She wandered aimlessly, not entirely sure where she was going. Where would Mirana be? The throne room, perhaps? Maybe the kitchen? Truthfully, she could have been anywhere on the grounds. And, unhelpfully, since she'd never been to Mirana's bedroom before, she had no idea where she was now in relation to the rest of the palace. She could be wandering around for ages before she found something she recognized, and she doubted she had that much time. Reasoning that she had seen enough of the outside of the palace that she could find her way to the front entrance from there, she began seeking a more outward path.
Initially, that didn't seem to help much, as she was so utterly lost that she wasn't sure which direction would lead toward the outside of the palace, and which would lead her deeper into it. Eventually, though, she passed a statue that she thought she recognized, and hung a left. Yes, she'd definitely seen that archway before. Which meant that... Yes! There was their balcony. Well, not really, as she didn't live there, and a lot more people then just her and Mirana used it, but part of her still thought of it as 'theirs'.
She was momentarily distracted by the overcast sky, full of clouds tinted a sickly green. It looked just like the sky when they were attacked, and she wondered why she'd dreamed that up.
She forgot all about it when she realized that, standing near the telescope, looking up at it as well, was Mirana herself.
For a second, she was simply frozen in place. She'd forgotten - or somehow made herself forget - exactly how beautiful the White Queen was. And now that she openly acknowledged the effect that beauty had on her... Her mouth felt dry. Shaking it off as best she could, she softly called, "Mirana?"
No answer. Deciding she'd been too quiet, she forced herself to move closer while raising her voice. "Mirana!" Still nothing. Was she being too informal? "Your highness?" she tried.
Again, there was no response.
She'd reached the queen's side by then, and waved a hand in front of her face. Mirana didn't even blink. Now that she was getting a good look at her, Alice could see that Mirana's lips were moving soundlessly as she stared up at the sky. "Oh, no," Alice muttered. "No, no, no." It would be just her luck if this was some kind of nightmare where she could see Mirana, but not hear, touch, or speak with her. Maybe the pirates had bled through to her dreaming mind, after all. She reached out to touch Mirana's arm, and was relieved to find her reassuringly solid. Mirana didn't seem to notice that, either, obviously caught up in... whatever it was that she was doing.
There was a green flare from above, and Alice looked up to find what seemed to be a tendril of clouds winding its way downward. Mirana raised her right hand, palm up as if pushing against something, and her countenance took on a more stern appearance. Had her voice been audible, Alice was certain it would have been raised, as well.
And she was pushing against something, Alice realized. Whatever it was in the sky, the White Queen was visibly straining to keep it at bay. She was distressed to see that Mirana seemed to be having some difficulty. "How can I help?" she asked reflexively, but that went unheard, as well. Lacking any better idea what to do, she embraced the queen from behind - and this was her dream, so who cared how many rules of protocol that might be breaking? - resting her arms over Mirana's stomach, and whispered into her ear, "You are not alone, my queen. Not ever." She placed a tender kiss on Mirana's neck...
...and felt a jolt entirely dissimilar from when she'd been hit by the net. The world briefly went gray, but all she cared about was that Mirana straightened up, commanding whatever it was in the sky to be gone so clearly that Alice didn't even need to be able to hear her to know it. The tendril dispersed, the green clouds darkening to an almost black.
Or was color leeching out of everything? No... no! I don't want to wake up, yet! It seemed that she was being given no choice in the matter, though. She tightened her grip on Mirana, silently trying to convey everything she was feeling, but all too soon the body in her grasp became wispy and insubstantial, and was gone.
Mirana leaned against the railing, fatigued. As she'd feared, the unseen enemy had finally gathered its force for one all-out strike. She had countered it as best she was able, but it had just kept coming. As time went by, inevitably she'd begun to falter. And then...
Then she'd been surrounded by an incredible warmth, suffused by the knowledge that she did not stand alone, and flooded by a strength that was at once both foreign and incredibly familiar. Power had leapt unbidden to her command, and she had pushed back at the enemy with everything she had.
And it had fallen back. She could sense it. Usually the best she could do was to push it back to where it had been before the latest attack, but now, for the first time since the conflict had begun, she'd actually gained ground. How long the respite would last, she had no idea, but she would enjoy it while it did.
She turned to head back inside, and promptly tripped.
It was fortunate, she decided, that no one else was around to witness her being less then graceful. She struggled briefly to get up, before realizing that her feet were tangled in something, which was what had made her fall in the first place. After disentangling herself and standing back up, retrieved the item from the floor. After a brief inspection, she determined that it was a coat of some kind, light blue in color. She sniffed it, and a smile slowly spread across her face.
Of course. She should have known. Who else would have come to her aid, precisely when she needed it most?
She folded up the garment carefully, carrying it back inside with her. That there was no logical explanation for its presence bothered her not in the slightest. She would keep it safe, until its owner came to claim it.
However long that might be.
Alice groaned quietly as she woke up. A lingering pain throughout her entire body, mixed with a (blessedly fading) nausea, told her that she was definitely awake this time. The swaying of the floor underneath her said she was definitely on a ship, and the rough, unfamiliar voices she could just hear told her it was not the right one.
She found she was still tangled up in that hateful net, though it didn't seem to be doing anything to her now. Well, nothing beyond keeping her prisoner, at any rate. Was it some kind of magic net, she wondered, meant to take prisoners back into whatever ghost world the pirates had come from? Why had they used it on her? Why had it worked? Because she'd briefly come into contact with that pirate back on the Wonder? Why had that even happened? Had it been because of the Jabberwocky's blood? How could that still be a factor after a year?
And where on earth was her coat?
Well, she had a lot of questions, and only one way to get any answers. She carefully opened her eyes ever-so-slightly. There was almost no light, and as best she could tell, no one else around. She risked opening her eyes wider, and found that she'd been thrown into what must have been the pirate ship's hold. She began fumbling at the net, trying to figure out where the top was. Once that was accomplished, she set to work on getting it open. She had no idea how long it would take for someone to come check on her, and she wanted to be loose before that happened.
And then what?
She pushed aside that unhelpful thought. Right now, she had to focus on the present. She really needed to know where she was before she could figure out where she was going to go once she escaped from the pirates.
Of course, all that was dependent upon her actually escaping first.
Eventually, she managed to wriggle free of the net, relishing being able to stand unhindered. She could just see a set of stairs illuminated by the light spilling through the edges around a door that she knew must have lead to the main deck. She carefully made her way over, not wishing to trip over something and injure herself, or make some kind of noise that would alert them to the fact that she was awake and free. Once she'd safely reached them, she crept up them as silently as she was able, then pressed her ear against the door.
She could still barely hear them, but she could make out enough words to realize that she was being discussed. They'd come specifically for her, it seemed, though to her frustration, none of them said anything about how they'd known where to find her. Someone wanted her out of the way of... something... because she could supposedly interfere with that something to some degree, and...
She sighed noiselessly. Really, were details too much to ask for? They could have been talking about anything! Who wanted her out of the way? The Red Queen? Given that her head was still attached to her neck, that seemed unlikely. And why were their voices getting louder?
It took her still foggy head a moment to get it.
They were heading her way! She had exactly five seconds in which to think of a course of action, and she hadn't quite succeeded when the door began opening.
So, impulsively, she punched the first pirate she saw in the face.
Even as he fell, she ducked under the reach of a second, grabbed the sword from the first, and ran. She was aware of shouting behind her, which was taken up by other voices all over the ship, but she was too busy trying to figure out where, exactly, she was going. She ended up running to the bow of the ship, surrounded by a semi-circle of unwashed pirates. She experienced a flash of déjà vu, and mentally substituted them for a pack of red playing card men.
Unfortunately, this time she knew the Bandersnatch wouldn't be coming to her aid.
"What is the meaning of all this commotion?" a more cultured voice asked - or, at least, more cultured in comparison, which may not have been the biggest challenge in the world. The pirates halted and straightened up, making her suspect that was their captain. She took the opportunity to look around, surprised to find that they were approaching an island she'd never seen before. A tropical island, if the heat and humidity in the air were any indication, and she again wondered just where they'd taken her.
"Sorry, Cap'n," one of them said. She couldn't tell which one it had been. One near the back that she couldn't see, she thought. "She's a bit more... feisty... then expected."
"Indeed." The crowd parted, showing her a tall man with long black hair that was easily as curly as her own - not something most men she was familiar with would allow - wearing a large feathered hat, a long red coat, and knee breeches. "My apologies, Miss Kingsleigh. I'm afraid my men aren't used to dealing with a lady of your stature." He stood with his hands behind his back, as if he were the perfect gentleman.
She was not fooled. "How do you know my name?" she asked suspiciously. "And who are you?"
He inclined his head. "How terribly rude of me. I am Captain James-"
"Captain Codfish!" another, more youthful voice interjected. Before Alice could figure out where the shout had come from, something - someone? - had grasped her around the midsection, and she was suddenly airborne.
A commotion that put the previous one to shame broke out on the deck of the pirate ship, but Alice's rescuer - little more then a boy, she now saw - merely laughed. "Don't worry, Miss, I've got you!"
"You've got me," Alice agreed, staring down at the ocean below them in shock. "But who's got you?!"
He merely laughed again as he rapidly whisked her toward the island, an enraged cry of "PAAAAAAAAAAAAANNN!" echoing out over the water in their wake.
I suppose now is as good a time as any to mention that this will be a multi-fandom crossover? *wanders off, whistling innocently*