Through a field of the blackest lilies Alice led Dan by the hand, the grey and maroon storm clouds rolled over in the sky angrily even as Alice pointed to a house up a chequered grass path that had two metal stands, bowls rested on top and pitch burning within them.
“My home” she said pointing, tree roots sticking out at odd angles marred the chequered path, “The next doorway is through here,” she said opening the door.
On the floor was a spiral pattern of black and white and staircase that curled around the wall and up to the next floor, which Alice began to walk up with Dan close at her heels. She opened the door nearest her and stepped inside. Dan on the other hand was looking into a room around the balcony, it was a small child’s room and a little girl drifted past the door looking straight into his eyes, the little girls were dark blue and wet with tears.
“It’s through here” Dan jumped at Alice’s voice being close to his ear, when he looked back the door clicked closed.
“Who was that girl?” Dan said pointing, her gaze followed his finger to the white door and she frowned,
“She is of no concern to you” she said quickly grabbing his wrist to stop him walking around to the door “If you want to go home you’ll forget her and follow me” the playful gleam had disappeared from her eyes as she waited for him to decide.
“Fine I’ll come,” he said after wrestling with his torn thoughts about leaving the little girl, then was led into a large room with the darkest red walls, ravens feathers scattered over the wooden floor and a large four poster bed with deep red drapes from the ceiling to floor.
“Is this your bedroom?” he said blushing a little as she turned and smiled,
“Yes it is. The best way to guard a portal is to have it by your bedside” she nodded toward the door beside the bed.
“Come, the boat will leave soon” Alice said opening the door to reveal a set of stone steps leading downward.
AS he followed Alice down the steps he saw a long thin wooden boat with a hooded boatman in waiting.
“Do you want a hand?” Dan offered politely as he stood in the boat, she hopped inside without causing a single small rock of the boat.
“I have done this many times dear,” she said, which gave Dan a thought,
“How long have you been here? And no riddles please.” He asked as the boatman pushed off onto a large lake covered in a thick mist so the water couldn’t be seen.
“I’ve been the guardian of Darkland for over five centuries, I stopped aging at twenty” she said quietly.
“So you haven’t always lived here then?” Dan thought he’d struck upon something but she didn’t answer the question.
“I wouldn’t do that if I were you” Alice said,
“What?” he was running his hand in the water though he couldn’t actually see it and something grabbed his hand dragging him over the side of the boat into the icy waters.
“That” Alice sighed, taking her top hat off.
Dan was being dragged further into the depths of the ice-cold lake and was running out of air fast as he screamed into the waters.
The boatman tried to stop Alice from diving into the lake to help Dan,
“Mistress Alice don’t! There are others you could use surely,” the boatman said,
“Know your place! I have little time left” she snapped, dove into the waters and began swimming down toward Dan with her long blue hair streaming out behind her. Alice saw Dan’s still form sinking slowly in the water as she pulled him toward the surface by the tux.
When the broke the surface of the water Alice passed Dan to the boatman who dragged him in giving Alice a chance to climb in the boat. He coughed water up.
“Come here!” Alice said angrily at Dan who was running a hand through his soaked hair, he looked at the mist covering the lake as Alice waved her hand above it so it cleared for a second. What he saw made a shudder run down his spine, there were ghost like spectres drifting through the water, hundreds of them. “Any longer and they would have added you to their collection” she said ringing out her long hair,
“So why didn’t they collect you?” he coughed,
“Because after five centuries of living…. Of being here you soul isn’t worth that much besides I’m the guardian of these lands” she said bitterly “besides you still have another appointment, which you will do alone” Alice slicked her wet hair back and took her top hat from the boatman to put it on her head.
“We’re here Alice,” said the boatman in a rattling deep voice, the boat crunched up onto a small island with one small cottage on it.
Alice jumped onto the bank singing a little tune to herself,
“ And though I may be thinking,
My little thought,
Caught in what I’m doing,
Catching a drifting thought,
And she caught a dragonfly that flew in front of her, the opened her hand again blowing it as it flew off. Dan looked at her and wondered how she could just suddenly change mood so quickly, she led him down a path of winding vines that he could have sworn were purposefully trying to trip him up but Alice just kept humming to herself.
“This way” she said just as the door to the cottage creaked open by itself.
When they got to the doorway of the final room Alice froze,
“It seems your on you own, the widow Windshift should be waiting for you” and waved him forward as she walked into a side room.
Dan walked into the room; stunned to see the Madhatter sat at the window of the cottage, when he noticed Dan stood there he smiled an evil little smile.
“No Alice I see…good!” he got up and walked over to Dan “You’ve seen the little girl?” he said,
“Yeah I have, what of it?”
“Do you know who she is? And why she is locked in that room…. There are many mysteries in Darkland which if you’re not careful you will have time to find them all out” the Madhatter growled at him, there was a distinctive clunk and the sound of a girl yell then another sickening thud.
“Alice!” there was no answer “What have you done to her?”
The Madhatter laughed,
“Nobody escapes Darkland, Nobody” Dan ran out of the room and into the side room where there was a darkened trapdoor open and blood on the edge, the Madhatter’s laughter ran through the cottage as someone pushed Dan from behind making him topple into the darkness….