(Starting before the confrontation)
It was strange how he had gotten there, although, in this realm things never did seem normal. He was sure that nobody would contest him, and in his confidence, he decided to stroll through the world. The first place he had visited was the rabbit hole.
His portal opened, wisps of darkness transforming to tendrils of smoke and water, living alongside each other as only an elementalist of his caliber could command. As the portal opened and wind rushed, dust peering from either realm, Terradagger thought on the fall that he was going to take. He stepped through, his gut wrenching and his lips curling up in excitement, as he fell through the tunnel, his heart pounding against his chest.
Every passing second, every millisecond, he felt like he was never going to make it to the end, and yet he expected the end to come at the end of each passing breath. He was amazed that he could never really pin down how long the rabbit hole was, elusive in its nature, but then… What would Wonderland be if someone could always peg it down.
That was one of the things that drew Terradagger to the world. When he had come to this world as a smaller child he was overwhelmed in severe sadness and melancholy, or the memory of the feelings, as his friends fought each other and wars waged. He had an army to command, but at the age of fourteen, that was incredibly dangerous. Still, as he grew in this place, there were those that taught him madness was quite a good thing, instead of sorrow. It was interesting, and though he didn’t have an opportunity to chat with too many of the citizens one on one on a daily basis, he learned it by osmosis.
For example, the Chesshire Cat was always willing, not only to listen, but to advise in a way that wasn’t always normal. He couldn’t expect such mystery to come from most humans, no… Humans were often too obvious about what they wanted or how they felt. That Chesshire Cat spoke in more riddles and cryptic thoughts than anybody he had ever known.
Sometimes, Terradagger even wondered if that was something that the Cat had aimed for. Such mystery and such craze that the thoughts it was riddling didn’t even seem like answers to a precise question, but almost like it was just saying things to say things. The mystery in its own was quite hilarious.
There were many of the customs of the world. It seemed that everything ran on time, or two minutes ahead, or two minutes behind. Nobody knew, really. It seemed that roses never came in the color red, no, they were expected to be painted, and the paints? Paid by a court salary, no less. However, a court salary could range anywhere from some munny to a spot at the table during a marvelous, beautiful, tea party.
Speaking of tea parties… It seemed like it was quite the time to have one. Terradagger would have to drop by, if this rabbit hole ever ended.
And as though on cue, his feet touched the ground and he found himself in a room that seemed far larger than he, or far smaller than he, or even the same size. It took a moment to adjust. Still, as he took a deep breath, he realized that he needed to grow a bit, so he went along and searched for the potion to drink.
As he found it, he took a swig. It wasn’t too great, but it wasn’t disgusting either. As he swelled, he searched for something in the room, something that he had hidden there before he left. It was something that meant a lot to him.
Along the edges of the room, nearest the smallest door, above the floor, below the roof, close one eye, feel with your finger... Aha!
He opened a little compartment in the wall that hid a book. He pulled the book out slowly, and as he pulled it out, he knew he needed his size no longer. All the same, he had to persuade the doorknob to let him through the smaller door so that he could find his way to the other places in the castle he was posing to visit.
As he pressed the book to his chest, drinking more of the potion and feeling himself and the book grow smaller, shrinking largely, he took a deep breath, not only in wonder, but in happiness, as he opened the front cover. The times were dark, those that were chronicled in this book, but they ended in a fair amount of happiness.
He recalled the war that had brought him, largely, to this place. Since he had found himself in this universe, remembering nothing, and all the same, seeking to grow and to be better, stronger, and smarter, he was trained in militia by Zexion, a foot soldier, nothing more, alongside Jeremi. Still, they found themselves growing, and while growing, they found themselves more and more easily persuaded to fight the battles of their mentors.
A time came when war was knocking on everyone’s door, Terradagger, enlisting under Zexion for the might of the Empire, answering the call to war that the Republic had given, and as they fought and Castle Oblivion came under siege, Terradagger did what he could to fight and defend.
It was on the very floor level that he had fought his first tragic battle. The man, ran, bald and maniacal, almost sick, as Terradagger fought his way through to him. There were bits and pieces of marble, hard and sharp, that had littered the ground as much of the battle had been fought in the higher tiers of the castle already. Terradagger cast spells of wind to take the marble from the ground through his enemy, through Swaiti. The man, cut but still courageous, threw a grenade at Terradagger, hoping to end the battle.
However, the wind magic simply acted for Terradagger and he sent the grenade back upon his foe, and Swaiti met his defeat. Terradagger dealt the final blow, the first blood he had drawn, and yet, he didn’t hunger for it, or yearn for it. Later, his life would be riddled by blood and darkness, the loss of his friends and companions…
He had a friend, Pinky Rose, who he fought alongside often, as they pledged themselves to the Restoration of the worlds that had fallen by the hands of tyrannical villains. Terradagger thought it ironically similar to the situation of the worlds now, plagued and threatened by the man named Onyx, though Terra knew not what to call him by, simply his appearance. Terradagger found himself struggling in wonder, imagining that he had been brought back to this world simply to restore, woken from his dreams so that he could be part of this plot that involved destruction and repair.
But when would it ever stop? When would he not have to keep repairing broken things, like worlds or castles, or even hearts? He knew how tragic it was for him to leave Yima, but out of selfishness, he had done it. He didn’t want to admit it, but he sought power, and maybe even respite, reprieve from the world, another chance to be him, even in his own thoughts, and memories, even in the Realm of Sleep, dwelling for two years. But it wasn’t fair, not to him, or to Yima, and especially now that he’d found that his child had not only come to fruition, but had been born, among these halls and gardens, a young man that had blossomed from a mage infant, it seemed insane to him, but then…
Terradagger managed to wipe a tear from his face. He knew that things happened as they needed to. He didn’t have an answer for his slumber, never intending it to last for two years, and he knew that Yima Qwin was ever grateful for his reappearance in the worlds, and even Lenneth, and all of the new friends he was making.
He closed the book, the Chesshire Cat appearing before him. The cat grinned, a grin that he had seen on his son. He wondered how coincidental it was, or maybe learned.
“He has your smile,” Terradagger said to the cat, the cat understanding, and dancing a moment before disappearing and reappearing in an entirely different pose near the man.
“Me his or his mine?” his smile seemed to get even wider, even though Terra doubted that it was much of what the cat was doing and simply a mental punctuation that Terra made for the cat himself. He grinned as he watched the cat dance around some more.
“Are you looking for the throne?” the cat wondered, in what seemed like an answered question. Terradagger nodded, and as Terradagger nodded, the cat would disappear and reappear again.
“I know where it is,” Terradagger said, almost anticipating what the cat would say next. The cat disappeared, but didn’t reappear this time, its crazy eyes watching, but never showing, and rarely blinking as Terradagger started towards the doorknob that was actually pretty attentive, to his surprise.
“My king,” the doorknob said, as the door swung open to the bizarre room. Terradagger knew that it was a favor, although, it was the return of one. Once, when the doorknob had fallen ill (how does brass catch a cold, anyways), Terradagger had insisted that a small band play for the doorknob to try and make it feel better. After that hadn’t worked, and the doorknob complained of a stuffy nose, Terradagger insisted that they try and find medicine for it. There was no such medicine that they could find, although the doorknob did get quite a few different concoctions of potions, some from the mushroom forest, some from the Lotuses.
As Terradagger lumbered through, he thought on the mysterious nature of the room. It was rumored that if you entered the room from different doors, the gravity would be different, and he could easily hold a conversation with someone that was walking along the ceiling, and someone along the walls, while he walked on the floor. Then, he wondered, was he really on the floor, or was he on the ceiling? Were the walls actually walls, or were they floors, or did it matter as what was up was down and what was down was up anyways? Do sides matter if they are sides to nothing and stepping and walking only meant that the up and down only mattered to you and not to the guy next to you?
He missed it here.
He walked through and found himself, after a time of walking, in the rose maze. Walking through the rose maze, the hedges tall and the roses freshly painted (they smelled of Behr, actually) he thought on the place. He wondered how metaphorical the place was, and then felt some heavy handed, strong symbolism coming on, about how life was a maze and how sometimes, we make our own red roses when we need to make our own happiness.
The man chuckled at himself. He knew that this was something he would have said in his youth. Oh, woe is me, I really, really need for this maze to mean something so that I can draw some parallel to my life and understand somehow, because it’s all too complex and emotional. I hate it when I have to fight wars and stuff… Although the latter part was true, war was never great, he found that, in retrospect, he had become far too dramatic in those times, and it started inhibiting his other emotions.
So even though the maze could easily represent life, and its twists and turns, following a path you’re certain of until you find that it’s a dead end, or what you’ve found at the end of the path isn’t what you wanted, it was much more important for Terradagger to think on it as a place where one comes not to find their mind, but to lose it.
As he stepped into the maze, he started to think on his son. His son that had only just been born no more than 24 months ago, aged by this world, practically raised by its citizens, in large part a secret. He and the Chesshire Cat clearly spent a lot of time together, and Terradagger had almost gathered that as he heard that the boy had a knack for illusion magic. Of course, it wasn’t surprising that he had a skill for magic at all, the power coursing through his veins. As the man thought on It, he felt strong regret.
Regret wasn’t so much followed by sadness as it was by a sense of urgency. It wasn’t fair for him to feel bad about something that he couldn’t help. He had only barely learned what he needed to in his slumber when he awoke, and quickly, found his family and reunited them. He didn’t have much of a chance, and having slept and learned so much in such a short amount of time previously, it seemed outrageous to think that he would ever sleep for two years. It taught him a very dangerous lesson, though, that he could never plan something as such again.
He thought on how big his boy had grown. It was weird that his son was marked up like he was, a fourteen year old having to deal with tattoos seemed strange. There were spades on his body, up and down the left side of his torso, and there was one in particular, right over the boy’s heart, that seemed interesting. The spade was simple, except for the face of a jack o’lantern cut into it.
This wasn’t reflective of the worlds then, but it represented Terradagger’s two favorite worlds to be in. The world of Wonderland, where he was King of Spades, and the world of Halloween Town, where Yima was king. Terradagger would ask Trist about it one day, while eating breakfast. He asked, “What do you think of that tattoo?”
The boy corrected him. “A tattoo is something that you put on yourself. It’s something that you decide on, something that has a lot of thought and feeling go into it, as you know you’re going to have that for the rest of your life. This isn’t a tattoo, dad. This is a birthmark, something that will always remind me of who I am and where I came from.
Sometimes I look in the looking glass and I think, this is strange. When I think about it, I remember like it was some secret buried in the back of my head, I have two fathers, two kings that are great and powerful, and this mark represents those worlds. This mark represents the lines of life that I carry in my veins. There’s not much to think about that. It’s where I come from, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
Well spoken, Terradagger thought as the breakfast had passed and he thought most of the day on those words. It was interesting to hear such wisdom come from the boy, but it was clear that his thoughts had been developed because he had exercised that very notion, he had thought on what the birthmark meant. That, and the Chesshire Cat practically being the boy’s wetnurse suggested nothing less than brilliance in speech in the boy.
Terradagger turned left and then right again, his hand brushing along the hedges of the maze. He smiled to feel the greens once again, his fingertips tingling, especially along the occasional thorn that would prick him a bit. He didn’t bleed much, and the rose hedge didn’t seem to mind as he wiped some of the blood on its leaves, though he had to be careful. He’d never talked to the rose hedge, but he knew that it was possible.
He felt amazing as he turned left again, and then headed straight for quite some time. He had to imagine what plans he had for the world, and what amazing ideas came to fruition were nearly intimidating. As he thought on it, he envisioned his castle library lined with books of knowledge of great magic, almost like that of Castle Oblivion, but taller, and more decorated. He knew that it would be quite the long shot, having visited the world and having just met
Ah, yes! Yukina Tarka, the witch. He wondered on the woman, and as he followed the green paths, the red changing shades here and the paint smelling more like Sherwin Williams, he imagined the girl and how much she might enjoy, or hate the place. He knew that she dabbled in darkness, so it wouldn’t surprise him if she was quite cynical of… well… everything.
Still, even for cynics, this world could work wonders, and as maddening as it was, the madness was almost therapeutic. Terradagger smiled as he thought on how much he enjoyed the madness in the place, and how much he enjoyed even the red on the rose, the difference in hue because someone didn’t buy enough paint in the first place. He would have to invite Yukina to a glass of wine once this was all said and done with.
They might even have some fun playing at magic with each other. Oh!
The idea struck him quickly and faded just as fast, but he had a grip on it. He thought on adding a room, near indestructible, where he could go and train his magic. When he wanted to have bouts with Lenneth, testing out each other’s magical abilities and prowess, then he would have to do it in this room, a room filled of white, like the empty pages of a book. He would call it the ink room, his every action there recorded in the world’s history, a process of growth an learning for himself and for visitors. There was much that could be learned and gained in a room such as that, especially if one was looking for themselves.
It only takes retrospect to force someone to grow and to realize who they are. The fact was simple, If one spent just several hours in the room, they would be able to see and recount everything that they had done, and in just watching, they would learn of their mannerisms, their triumphs, their mistakes. Of course, this room would be private for a while so that Terradagger could learn of how well something would work, and in such a world, he felt that it would lose the flair of Wonderland if it didn’t have some sort of mad twist to it. Perhaps the Cat could help him design such a thing.
There, he had absent mindedly finished the maze, not thinking on it too hard. As strange as it was, there were parts of this world that he had memorized, and there were other parts that still came as a mystery to him.
The next stop would be to have a spot of tea. As he made his way towards the table, going through the Lotus Forest, the place growing and shrinking, it seemed, as he stepped through, he almost had to glare at one of the gardeners there. He made a joke, “I thought we weren’t supposed to water this place with the potions,” and the citizen of court turned and laughed at the stupid joke and went back to his work, waiting to see if Terradagger was watching, and putting a bit of the potion in his watering can as soon as he knew the coast was clear.
Terradagger sat at one end of the table, and as he sat there, he turned, looking, making sure that nobody was there. He didn’t like this side of himself, he thought that it was far too mad and far too misrepresentative of who he was. Still, he needed to enjoy himself, and if that meant that he would have to do it, then he would.
He poured himself some tea. He poured himself not one cup, not two cups, but six cups of tea, and put the cups on small pastry dishes. He looked around a bit, his eyes glancing back and forth, and took a sip of the cup that was centered on the table, right in front of him. His eyes closed as he took the sip of the warm tea. It was strange that the tea was always warm there. There wasn’t even a burner anywhere.
Still, he took a sip, his eyes closed, and his breath welling within him as the warmth went down his throat and to his heart. He swallowed and set the cup of tea down onto the plate and looked to his left. “Marvelous tea, no?” he asked to nobody in particular, but the response came.
“I say that it’s droll…” the response came. Terradagger lifted the cup of tea on the far side and as he sipped it, he made a squeamish face, disgusted at it. “I can’t stand when something is so disgustingly outdated. When was this brewed? 1215? Not the time of day, the year you idiot!” Terradagger shot himself a look as he smiled at the bad time joke.
“It needs more sugar,” he protested again as he put the cup down, then grabbed the cup of tea to the far right.
“You know sugar goes straight to your hips, right? Besides, you’re so sweet, you have enough sugar in there for three days and a second more than a week, that you do,” Terradagger responded with the cute cup nearly to his lips. He smiled as he looked at the Terradagger right next to him.
“Oh, yes, I do agree, but it seems so impolite to scold, why would you do such a thing on such a nice day where we have sun! Didn’t you see the roses freshly painted, and the lotuses were dancing. You know that gardener is up to no good, but who could blame the poor thing?” the chatterbox continued, the pitch in his voice slightly increasing until it simply became piccolo gibberish. He smiled as he set the cup of tea down, the Terradagger two seats over having just a couple things to say.
He took a small sip and as he swallowed, he put the cup down on the plate. “It tastes like sadness…”
They all groaned, the middle Terradagger picking a biscuit up off the table and tossing it at the boy. He frowned as he took another sip of tea and then turned to his counterparts. “It’s really quite good. I think that it’s the perfect mixture of sugar, and even overly emotional with a hint of teenage angst. I think there’s just the right amount of politeness in there, and definitely defiance as well. I think that it’s all sorted out quite fine.”
He smiled as he finished each cup of tea, taking on a different, ridiculous persona. How fun would it be if he just sat there and had tea by himself? That’s no way to live, and actually seemed fairly sad, like eating alone or even going to a movie on one’s own. But then…
He wondered how long Yima had been doing that. Was it fair for him to weigh down such a big day with something so sad? But, then, he owed it to Yima to at least think on the situation, he couldn’t ignore it as something that didn’t exist or didn’t happen.
He shook his hair out a bit, a hand flying up to comb his fingers through it. He wanted to be sure that everything was okay with his hair do, even though nobody had been there to watch, and if they had, they might instantly throw him off the throne…. Or better praise him, who knew?
Terradagger made his way out of the Tea Party Room to find himself walking along the Lotus Forest again. There was nobody there that time, but Terradagger had no surprises there. However, the lotuses grew and shrank just as quickly as they had before, maybe even faster, so Terradagger had to suspect that there was something “amiss” with the water that was used to quench the thirst in this room. It had become clear that it wasn’t just water. Still, this was the beauty of the world.
Terradagger started to make his way towards the throne room.
Terradagger had opened the portal slowly, but surely, the tendrils turning to wisps of wind as they had before, dust coming from the very bottom of the portal, a glorious flame erupting, steaming at the top edges. He smiled as he stepped through and on the other side, found himself in Wonderland. The four elements collided and combined, as nothingness started to ripple from the very center of the portal, bringing purity to the blaze and the steam, the stone and the wind.
He opened it to the throne room, the cobblestone coming from it very cold and dark. The castle was close to as he had left it, although, in his slumber, he had some ideas for changes. He wanted a sense of madness in this place as well, and eventually, he might annex that Ink Room he was thinking about. As he stepped away from the portal, he sat on the throne, wondering, thinking about the world and what was to come, what would become of the glorious place. He was quite excited to see the how the place would grow under his leadership again, something that seemed muted from the last who was present there, though he didn’t know much about who had taken the world since he had left. The card soldiers that lined the halls simply watched. Some nodded in agreement, happy to see their old king sitting on the throne again, and some were more enthusiastic about showing their pleasure for the man’s return, lifting their spears and battle axes. Terradagger smiled and raised a hand at them, a palm towards them.
The portal closed behind him and as he sat, watching, he thought of all the things to come. There was a menace torching worlds, and it was only a matter of time until that same menace knocked at his door. He knew that there was time he needed to set aside to prepare for that. He needed to find a magic in the world hopefully strong enough to deal with the flooding pools of lava, as he would not have his world turned to a barren river of scorched earth.
And what of Yima? He knew he would have to spend time alternating between both worlds. He could leave his prince son in charge of the times he wasn’t there, and he could also share his kingdom with that of Yima’s. He hadn’t thought that far. He didn’t want things to spark like they had in the past, it had all happened because the worlds polarized into political affiliations, sometimes meaningless ones.
Still, his attention had been brought to the girl who had come in and approached him. It was Katerina. And at the mention of the name, vague memories shot through him, and his fingers flexed and a smile was brought to his lips.
“Ah, my lady,” he said cordially, bowing his head. He looked up at her through locks of scarlet and as he raised his head, he proclaimed his own name.
“I was hoping to reclaim my throne, though if you are here to contest it, you are more than welcome. My name is Terradagger, and I am the King of Spades, and I am here for sake of this land. I was ruler of this place for more than two years, but in recent slumber, it was passed down to someone who clearly treated it poorly.
Normally, I would suggest some form of diplomacy, but I do not see such as possible. It is unfortunate that it would come to this, but I believe this is my rightful throne, and I will make sure I am the one that sits in it at the end of the day. If you’ve any bargaining to suggest, I’m more than willing to hear it. But you know my purpose, and my determination.
His feet lifted off the ground and magic started to course about the mage. He sensed the magic in the hallway, the portal opening and closing. He shot a glance in the direction, but he didn’t recognize a figure, and it was an aura that he didn’t readily recognize.