Nov 13, 2019 1:35 AM
Sadde in Wonderland
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"Excellent! It's yours." He drops it on her head; it's a little too big, and slides down to cover one eye. 

"Now then," he says, leaning in, "what did Everless tell you?"

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She giggles. "I'm still not sure what the appropriate level of paranoia here is," she remarks, "but I dislike the Queen and there may or may not be a person who sometimes lives in the future and who may have suggested I'll become the new Queen."

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The Hatter fakes a gasp. "Your Highness!" he exclaims in mock-horror, taking off his hat and sweeping it to the side as he bows.

He sets his hat firmly back on his head once he's upright, and returns to sobriety.

"If true, that would be the best news the Resistance has had in years. But how do you know this?"

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"I asked Everless if there was some prophecy - because it was narratively fitting, you see - and she mentioned the Wandering Seer and observed that he couldn't decide whether you'd have a King or a Queen, after. I observed my gender identity is not consistent in time, which seems to explain stuff. Also I'm still more than half-convinced this is an incredibly elaborate dream of some sort, but still, who doesn't want to be Queen even if just in a dream?"

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"That would explain a few things, yes. Narratively fitting?"

Before Sadde can answer, there's a loud tapping at the window. Everless is perched on the sill, and is tapping on the glass with her beak.

"Ah, there she is." The Hatter gets up and goes to let her in.

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"Hello again, Everless. Bit of advice, next time you're leading someone somewhere, make sure they can actually keep up." And back to the Hatter: "Wonderland looks and acts a lot like it's fictional, so if someone's writing a story, I want to be the smart, sensible character the readers won't be frustrated with."

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Everless ignores this, or at least chooses not to respond to it.

She hops through the window onto the Hatter's arm, and from there goes to perch on the back of a threadbare armchair. 

 

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"An admirable goal. Has this method served you well so far?"

He rummages in a sideboard, and produces two teacups. "More tea?"

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"I think it has. And I have not actually had any tea, so sure."

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"Well, it's easy to have more if you haven't had any," Hatter argues. "It would be difficult to have less!"

He pours tea for Sadde and Everless, refilling his own cup at the same time. 

"Now, what can this humble milliner do for the Resistance and their new hope?"

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"I have no idea and was hoping you'd answer a symmetrical question, as a matter of fact."

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Everless speaks up.

"We need to put Sadde in touch with the coordinators. They'll know how she is best used. Meanwhile, your house is the most secure location to which I had easy access, and seemed a sensible place to begin instructing our newest member on the history of the Resistance."

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"That sounds like a lovely idea." She sits and prepares for Exposition.

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"Long ago," Everless begins, "Wonderland was divided into two kingdoms ruled by two kings, the Red and the White. For many years, they fought each other over the border between their kingdoms, until finally, mounting a great offensive, the Red King defeated the White and united Wonderland under his own rule. 

"But his armies were overstretched, spread too thin across his newly enlarged kingdom. There were not enough guards assigned to protect the King while he slept in his palace, and so, with the help of two traitors among the Red Knights, Marcella was able to steal into his chamber and pluck the heart from his chest where he lay.

"The rest of the court quickly followed. The Red Queen was long dead, assassinated by a White Knight some years before, and Marcella killed or stole the hearts of the Bishops and Rooks. The King's young son disappeared that night, and some say Marcella took him to raise as her own. Some say, further, that he was the boy who became the Ace of Hearts, and who now serves the Queen as her devoted right hand. Personally, I do not believe there is sufficient evidence to support such rumours. 

"The Red King never woke, and sleeps still, guarded by his two traitorous Knights. Marcella has ruled ever since, unopposed save by a small handful." She gestures to herself and Hatter with one wing. "Any questions so far?"

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"Oh I ran into the Red King on my way here."

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Everless almost falls off her perch. "You...what? Tell me everything!"

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So she relates the encounter with the knights and her decision not to bother the King, and her second meeting with the Cheshire Cat.

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"Interesting," Everless pronounces this. "A different person, he said? I wonder..." 

She shakes herself, feathers ruffling up. "But let us return to politics. Marcella's court is composed of the ten Hearts, along with her husband and son, plus her lesser servants, the Spades and Clubs. Spades are domestic servants, while Clubs are guards. Neither pose any great threat to us; it is the Hearts one must worry about.

"Each Heart has a number representing his or her rank in the Queen's favour, with Two being the lowest and Ten being the highest - the Ace seems to be outside of this ranking system. This can also be used as a rough estimate of their relative power levels, both politically and magically. The Ace's capabilities are unknown, and may even be variable. 

"The Hearts are each tasked with the oversight of one particular aspect of Wonderland. Eight has control of the labyrinth and its monsters; Five is in charge of propaganda and censorship; Four oversees exploration beyond Wonderland's borders; Six is the head of the Inquisition. The latter is our main concern; he is tasked with searching out the Resistance."

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"I think it would be very interesting to know more about this place's magic. And also geography - is there a map?"

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The Hatter snorts. "A map? You've been wandering around this place for a while now; does it seem like it has consistent geography to you?"

He shakes his head. "Once you've lived here a while, you develop a certain feel for how to navigate it - but the Cheshire Cat is the only one who can get you where you need to go every time, without fail."

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"Conceptual map? Magic map that changes with the geography? It can't be completely inconsistent otherwise no one would be able to develop this certain feel you mention. And she did say there were borders."

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"There are rules," Everless agrees. "But even I do not know exactly what they are, not to the degree required for a map to be useful. It's far more practical to simply memorise a series of routes or contingencies for travelling between a small number of locations, and to ask for directions from someone who has memorised a slightly different set.

"Or, if one is unusually lucky, from Chess," she adds.

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"What's his deal, exactly? What does he want?"

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Everless sighs. "You know as much as I do about the Cheshire Cat, at this point." She does not seem pleased about this.

"Now, I believe you asked about magic? Unfortunately, our knowledge there is also somewhat limited, since the most relevant, and potentially useful, magic system is in the hands of the Queen and the Hearts. None of the Resistance have any magic to speak of, unless one counts Chess as both magic and as a member (both of which are debatable), with the exception of the Wandering Seer."

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"- I see. That sounds suboptimal." Pause. "Who else is in this Resistance?"

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