Chapter 20: Welcome to Wonderland
Read all the chapters here. Enjoy!
Previously: Having stumbled into Wonderland by mistake with Alice and Harrey, Madnes now has some explaining to do–about who and what he really is. The dragon who guards portals lazily munches trees as they talk… Meanwhile, Cheshire is engrossed in his search for answers regarding the mysterious Madness Solver power, and combs the palace library’s many shelves…
*Note: Cheshire does not know of the conflict between Oz and Madnes. It was never mentioned to him, though many other characters are aware.
Cheshire flipped open book after old book, page after yellowed page, scouring the palace library. In search of words, hints, anything that could tell him where the Madness Solver power originated, and how it all began.
The clues must be there somewhere, clues that could save Madnes’ life from the Madness Solver power before it was too late. If only he could locate the information he was seeking…
“Why, Cheshire, what brings you here?” spoke a voice at his back. Cheshire turned around, tilting his head far back to meet Oz’s gaze.
“Prince Oz, a coincidence meeting you here.” He gave a formal bow, to which Oz slightly inclined his head.
“I’m often in the library. I’m surprised you didn’t know I was a voracious reader.”
“Haha, my mistake,” Cheshire grinned sheepishly. “I’m doing a little research into the ancient history of Wonderland,” he answered the first question. “Particularly the history of the Madness Solver. You wouldn’t happen to know of any old—perhaps hidden away—books on the subject would you, Prince?”
“Hmm,” Oz touched his lower lip and looked to the ceiling, pondering. “Other than what we have in regular history books, can’t say that I’ve come across anything. What’s recorded of the first Madness Solver is not much.” He flashed a smile. “Sorry I cannot be of more use, Cheshire.”
The cat heaved out a breath. “No, no. That’s quite alright. I knew it’d be a difficult task from the start.” His paw brushed at whiskers, and he looked back to the rows of books lining the 3-story royal library, a great distance high up. “Maybe…” an absent idea made him consider, “could you direct me to the mythological and folklore section?”
Oz gave a nod and led the way. He stopped at a bookcase tucked away in an alcove, indicating it with a raised palm, “Our oldest collection of myths, legends and whatnot, Cheshire.”
“Thank you, Prince Oz.”
A half smile flickered. “I have other matters to attend today, so I’ll wish you the best now.”
“Yes, yes, of course.” Cheshire bowed as the prince left his presence, blue cape sweeping the marble floor behind him.
It was no easy task explaining Wonderland, the mysterious Solver power, and his new job to his bewildered friends. Madnes was in a sweat by the time he finished.
He left out the most important fact, however: that his life was the price paid for using the power. Every time he used it, the clock in his wrist ticked away at his life. It was a sad truth, and one he wasn’t allowed to tell them—that was one of the power’s rules. Who knew what would happen if he broke it.
“Ohhh,” realization dawned on his friend Harrey’s face. “That’s why you were talking to air and paperbags n’ weird stuff. Those were Wonderlanders in disguise. You weren’t just going crazy.”
“Yes, I’m not crazy, thank you,” said Madnes with a frown. “Not yet, anyway.”
“You could have told us from the start, Madnes.” Alice wore a pout that she was fighting to hide. He cocked an eyebrow and she half rolled her eyes. “Yeah, I know. It’d sound crazy and most likely we wouldn’t have been able to believe you—something as impossible and fantastical as this.”
“Thanks for understanding,” he said sheepishly. “There were a few times I wanted to say…but…couldn’t get the right words out.” She bobbed her head knowingly.
A gleam of gold from the sun’s distant light caught on Alice’s hair, and for a moment it wasn’t blonde but fiery, golden flames, her skin almost glowing. Madnes jaw fell slack and he blinked. But when he looked again there was nothing out of the ordinary.
Her eyebrows knitted together at his expression, and she shrugged with a question, as if wondering why he was staring.
His mouth worked, then he shook his head that it was nothing, quick diverting his attention elsewhere and patting Ugly as the goose sat perched on his shoulder.
Armor creaked and the dragon knight, who had been waiting patiently all this time, raised a hand, lazily interrupting. “Are you planning on living here?”
“What? No, no. We’ll leave your grass, yard, living space or whatever it is. But we can’t go back home the way we came—not unless we want to meet our end in the Sacred Pond’s waters.” He combed a hand through drying red hair. “Is there another way?”
The dragon knight nodded. “There are a few other distant portals,” he drawled. “It will be faster if I take you there, Madness Solver.” His head inclined. “Pardon for my earlier ignorance, not recognizing you for who you are.”
Madnes waved a hand that all was fine. “You help guard the portals I’m supposed to manage. In a way, we’re sort of colleagues.”
The knight lazily blushed, “Oh, you honor me, Sir Madnes.”
“Do you have a name?”
“I am the purple knight.”
“…Yes, you are a knight with purple armor, who becomes a purple dragon. I get that. But your name?”
“Purple dragon knight.”
Madnes stared at him levelly. “Do dragons not have names? We’ll get nowhere with this, will we…” The knight cocked his head placidly. “How about this: I come up with one for you using ‘purple’.”
The knight’s face perked, suddenly interested.
“Oo-oo! A game! Let me play!” Harrey chimed in. “Pleur! Prepul? Lepur. Purlep? Pelrup?”
Madnes massaged between his eyebrows. “Pelur,” he finally stated. “We’ll call you Knight Pelur. How’s that?”
Stars sparkled in the knight’s eyes, and Madnes took a step back. “A true name. My life has meaning.”
“Eh…didn’t it before?” Madnes stalled him with a raised hand before any more could be said. “Anyways, will you take us there now?”
Pelur’s luscious black hair bobbed, “It’s after lunchtime, but I’ll manage. For you, Sir Madnes.”
“Um, thank you.”
A swirl of smoke lifted up from the ground around the knight, obscuring him from view, and a growl rumbled the ground. They took cautionary steps back, and a breath of air cleared the smoke away in one giant puff—almost clearing Madnes and group away in the process.
There stood the fearsome, grand dragon in Pelur’s place. He swept a webbed wing down for them to climb up onto his back.
They tried to find a seat, avoiding long, curved spikes lining Pelur’s spine. It worked better sitting sideways, and using spikes for safety bars—something good to cling to as the massive dragon shifted, stood up on hide legs, and launched into the air with all the power of a jet.
“Guwaaahh!” Harrey’s mouth flapped wildly in the rushing air, and Alice’s arms found their way around Madnes chest—clinging tight; oddly he blushed and didn’t mind it.
Only once the dragon’s flight leveled out did things calm down, and they could peer over Pelur’s sides down at distant Wonderland below.
The coast was under them, a sea of blue crashing upon stripe-colored cliffs. The portal and Pelur’s cave lay situated on a jut of land attached to the mainland by a narrow strip, and they soon left it behind for the mainland, coming over a landscape so bizarre no sense could be made of it.
It was beautiful. It was mysterious. Colors painted portions of Wonderland like a Vango canvas, while other portions simmered dark and secretive. In the rolling landscapes center, just cresting the horizon, rose a castle. Red as blood, its towers and domes reached for the sky in gothic wonder.
“The Red King’s palace,” rumbled dragon Pelur.
The palace, Madnes thought—where Oz lived.
Violet eyes latched onto the palace as it drew nearer and nearer, lids narrowing against the wind. “Oz, so this is where you’ve been living.”
Cheshire crossed the blue-green lawn as he exited the palace library, and a distant smudge up in the sky caught his attention. Shielding with a paw, he saw it was a purple dragon. And on the dragon was…
Please share with friends via social media buttons and help spread the word about #MadnesSolver! Follow the newsletter and blog for more chapters to come! 🙂
Thank you for reading, and check back next Wednesday for more Okinala Island and Wonderland adventure 😀.
© copyright 2015 E. Rawls and Rawls E. Fantasy, All Rights Reserved
This is my entry for this week’s #BlogBattle challenge by the wonderful author Rachael Ritchey, where the challenge is to write a short story based on that week’s chosen word. This week’s word was: “Distance.” Check out the link, read other great stories there, and VOTE for your 3 favorite to win!
Hope to see you on Okinala Island (here) next Wednesday!
(the adds are by wordpress, not me, in exchange for using this sight free.)