Wonderland’s Warriors: The Chessmen

The Chessmen often cooperate with the other security agencies such as the Guardsmen and the Deck. Alongside the Guardsmen they work to protect Heart Palace and can be summoned in an emergency at a moment’s notice. With the Deck they work to defend Wonderland’s borders and plan and execute high-risk special forces operations.

The Chessmen are regimented, specialized operatives whose maneuvers are carefully planned. The front echelon, made up of The Pawns, have numbers but not much in the way of individual skill. The rear echelon, made up of Rooks, Bishops and Knights, all have equal rank, different skills, and are most useful in a variety of different situations.

THE KNIGHTS

The White Knight from The Looking Glass Wars vs. Lewis Carroll's Version
The White Knight from The Looking Glass Wars vs. Lewis Carroll's Version

The Knights are members of the rear echelon of the Chessmen and are of equal rank to the Rooks and Bishops. Typically employed for special operations, the Knights are notoriously formidable in open battle and do well thinking around corners to complete missions in a surprising and unexpected manner. They have a high success rate and do especially well in espionage and intelligence gathering. Strength of both body and mind is a credo among The Chessmen Knights.

They often work in cooperation with the other security agencies such as the Guardsmen and the Deck, always going where they are needed and ready for anything at a moment’s notice.

It is worth noting that Alyss Heart (or Alice Liddell, as those on Earth came to call her) did tell Lewis Carroll (Charles Dodgson) about the White Knight she knew during her childhood in Heart Palace. This character was warped and turned into the White Knight that appears in Through The Looking-Glass. However, just like the Mad Hatter & others, the character was sanitized for the fictional book.

In reality, he was one of the few high-ranking chessmen to escape the massacre at Heart Palace. The Knight proves himself an invaluable member of the Alyssians throughout Redd’s reign alongside the Rook. The Knight remains a loyal, constant, and indispensable figure in the military defense of Wondertropolis and Wonderland as a whole.

Following Queen Redd’s defeat, the Knight continues to serve the newly crowned Queen Alyss as a member of her military and as a result fights alongside her during the battles during Glass Eye invasion and later fights to defend Wondertropolis in the face of overwhelming odds as Redd brings her newly recruited forces to bear against Wonderland.

THE ROOKS

The Rook from The Looking Glass Wars Graphic Novel Crossfire
The Rook from The Looking Glass Wars Graphic Novel Crossfire

The Rooks are members of the rear echelon of the Chessmen and are of equal rank to the Knights

and Bishops. Typically employed for special operations, the Rooks are the Chessmen with the highest success rate of high-risk operations in foreign environments. They are sly and quick thinking, opting for unconventional solutions to the challenges, with expert sabotage skills. Like the Knights, Rooks often work in cooperation with the other security agencies of Wonderland such as the Guardsmen and the Deck.

Alyss was never as close to Rooks as her companion, Dodge Anders, was. On the day of Redd’s bloody coup The Rook, like the White Knight, was one of the few high-ranking chessmen to escape with their life.

The Rook from The Looking Glass Wars in casual wear
The Rook from The Looking Glass Wars in casual wear

This Rook proves himself an invaluable member of the Alyssians and an indispensable friend to Dodge during Redd’s reign. The Rook accompanies Dodge into Wondertropolis the night after the attack to retrieve and bury his father’s body, even going so far as to finish burying him when Dodge cannot.

The duo fight together for years, watching the other’s back, and saving the other’s life too often to keep track of. A veteran of countless battles, The Rook is an expert of getting out of tough scrapes alive when any lesser warrior would likely be killed. After Queen Alyss takes power, The Rook remains a steadfast, unbroken, and vital figure in her inner circle of military defense. Dodge implicitly trusts The Rook as his right hand.

THE BISHOPS

The Bishop from The Looking Glass Wars Graphic Novel Crossfire
The Bishop from The Looking Glass Wars Graphic Novel Crossfire

The Bishops are members of the rear echelon of the Chessmen and are of equal rank to the Knights

and Rooks. Typically employed for special operations, the Bishops are most often used in a planning and tactical capacity. With fantastical intuition and expert perception abilities, this sect of the Chessmen is often compared to the Albino Tutors in their insatiable quest for information, all be it their interest is purely strategic in nature.

Though they might be the least physically imposing of the Chessmen’s rear echelon, they manipulate their adversaries by lulling them into a false sense of security. Once the trap is laid, the wicked strength of a Bishop can be unleashed on their enemies with deceptively aggressive martial skills. ‘Quick of foot and of mind’ is a well-used motto among Bishops.

During Redd’s rule of Wonderland, the Bishops that survived her initial assault were high value targets for capture. Those that were (miraculously) taken alive were “persuaded” to divulge their information to Redd—however, it is well known that over the years Her Imperial Viciousness stopped attempting to extract this information due to a string of extraordinarily botched missions. The Bishops intentionally used their tactical know how to sabotage any attempt at turning them against the rebel Alyssians—often at the cost of their own lives. They are remembered as heroes of Wonderland, and these heroic tales served to bolster future recruitment to their ranks.

THE PAWNS

The Pawn from The Looking Glass Wars Graphic Novel Crossfire
The Pawn from The Looking Glass Wars Graphic Novel Crossfire

The Front Echelon of the Chessmen is comprised of The Pawns. This group lacks skill but make up for it by the sheer numbers in which they attack. Pawns outnumber Knights, Bishops, and Rooks by several multitudes. They are the foot soldiers that often guard Wonderland’s territory alongside low number Card Soldiers.

It is not uncommon for Pawns to pursue distinguishing themselves through bold action. They have a deep love of Wonderland, and an undying loyalty to uphold the ruling Queen. Missions of great danger are a welcome break to the monotony of low-level patrolling in the minds of most Pawns.

Like the Rear Echelon, Pawns often work alongside the other security forces of Wonderland like the Guardsmen and the Deck—however, they often find a certain level of discrimination levied at them. This internal tension is often a thorn in General Doppelgänger’s side— however, in his wisdom as great military leader, the General never undervalued the importance of The Pawns. This civility earned the General(s) an excellent reputation among the ranks of his/their foot soldiers, and perhaps in its small way saved the Queendom. Had The Pawns stood for the Red Queen, it is possible Wonderland would have fallen to Dark Imagination for all time.

Celebrate Mad Hatter Day With These Deadly Weapon Hats

Happy Mad Hatter Day everyone, I hope you’re all fully expressing yourselves, wearing weird hats, or eating mercury in an attempt to become a real mad hatter yourself on this most frabjous of days. What am I doing on this day to celebrate? I couldn’t find any mercury, but I stopped taking my mood stabilizers, so the words I type are in God’s (Franks) hands now. Okay, I didn’t actually do that and you shouldn’t either, nor can I actually recommend in good conscious you eat mercury, no matter how delicious it is.

What is one to do on Mad Hatter day you ask? Be weird, be silly, wear crazy top hats, keep changing places at a table or in a car at a red light, I may not know a lot of laws but I think that’s perfectly legal on Mad Hatter day. Just remember, if you wear a top hat, laws don’t apply. On that note, I am not a lawyer. I’m Denholm Afedoj, famously redacted ex-jester for the queen of Wonderland. You’re probably asking yourself, “Denholm, when are you going to finish giving us bad advice and get to the topic of this blog post?” And too that I say, right after this last bit of bad advice. You can pay off your credit cards with another credit card indefinitely, just keep opening new accounts. Okay, onto the topic.

I’m sure you’re all aware of who the Mad Hatter is but here is a reminder. He is a silly man who enables the caffeine-addicted March Hare by throwing wild tea parties to celebrate his, yours, anyone’s, unbirthday. Or so you’ve been told. Remember, Bibwit and I are proof that Lewis Carrol got it all wrong, Alice is actually spelled Alyss, and the Mad Hatter’s real name is Hatter Madigan. The Looking Glass Wars is actually what happened. Hatter Madigan, the inspiration for the Mad Hatter, is the queen’s personal guard, a leading member of Wonderland’s elite security force, the Millinery.

Hatter Madigan Deploys His Hat

Those of you who are not in the know are probably thinking, “Denholm, how did this Hatter Madigan character protect the queen?” Well, along with a multitude of other weapons including a wrist-mounted, retractable blade that would put Ezio Auditore’s (Assassin’s Creed) to shame. He uses his hat, which is fitted with s-shaped blades that retract and can be thrown like a boomerang. I’ve seen him use it in person, you do not want to be on the business end of that throw.

So, today I bring you a list, of six other, hat weapons in popular culture. Remember this is a list of hat weapons, not famous hats. The sorting hat will not be on this list, and you definitely cheated when you took the online sorting hat quiz to get the house you wanted. Okay onto the list.

6. Oddjob’s hat, Goldfinger

Oddjob the silent, bowler hat throwing, henchmen for Auric Goldfinger, is a villain in the James Bond film, Goldfinger. Besides being incredibly skilled at had to hand combat, he is most famous for his bowler hat that is fitted with a knife inside the brim. People like to think that his hat was inspired by the chakram, a round thrown knife, invented in India, that was worn on top of turbans. Us Wonderlanders know the truth though, obviously, Ian Fleming, the author of the James Bond books, was inspired by a Millinery hat that fell into the heart crystal. Unlike Hatter Madigan, Oddjob’s hat was the cause of his demise, after he attempted to retrieve his hat that was stuck in a live electrical cable. When asked about Oddjob’s death, James Bond smoothly quips, “He blew a fuse.”

5. Kung Lao, Mortal Kombat

MORTAL KOMBAT!!! Dun dun dun dun dun-da dun dun dun dun dun du. Ready? Fight! From the famous/infamous video game series, Mortal Kombat, we find the next character on this list, Kung Lao. First making his debut in Mortal Kombat II, Kung Lao is the teleporting, hat throwing, Shaolin monk. Kung Lao’s hat may seem similar to Oddjob’s and this is no coincidence, the creators of the game have stated they drew inspiration from the Bond villain. This means, if you’ve been paying attention and following my logic, Kung Lao was technically inspired by Hatter Madigan. Kung Lao uses his razor blade-rimmed hat to amputate the limbs of those unfortunate enough to end up in a bout against him.

His hat is also prominently featured in his post-fight finishing moves, aka fatalities. My personal favorite fatality is when Kung Lao throws the hat into the ground, where it continues spinning like a circular saw at a lumber mill. Kung Lao then drags his opponent by their feet through the saw, holding up the two halves of what was a person to the camera to celebrate the win. Graphic moves like this are the reason why Mortal Kombat is responsible for the invention of the ESRB game rating system and was awarded the first “M” rating. Does anyone else want to see Oddjob, Kung Lao, and Hatter Madigan duke it out? I’m taking all bets.

4. Peaky Blinders, Peaky Blinders

The calling card of a member of the Peaky Blinders gang is a newsboy hat with a razor blade peeking out of the blinder. Which I’m just now realizing is how they came up with the name. While the two previously mentioned knife hats were welded by skilled martial artists, these hats are used to give the members of the Peaky Blinders a surprise upper hand in a fight. When I wear a hat I’m constantly adjusting it, so I think that if I were in the Peaky Blinders I would have the nickname “Bandaids”. These hats have a hidden third use, they block the sun, have a blade in them, and can be used to shave. Imagine if the screenwriter of Peaky Blinders, Steven Knight, did a Looking Glass Wars T.V. show! Who would play Alyss though? Who would make a good Hatter Madigan? WHO would play me? Who am I kidding, with my track record, I wouldn’t even be an extra…

3.  Inspector Gadget’s Hat, Inspector Gadget

While this hat does not have knives, it does have helicopter blades. I’ve always wanted to use Inspector Gadget’s helicopter hat. This hat can do more than just fly, it has binoculars that lower out of the brim, hands for various necessary hand abilities, a police light, grappling hook, umbrella, and parachute. This hat is truly a Swiss army knife, I wouldn’t be surprised if it has a fish scaler in it as well. While this isn’t a traditional weapon, I felt as though it somehow fit on the list. Also, there are like twenty anime characters with knife hats so this is a nice change. Oh, and evil Inspector Gadget from the 1998 movie has a flamethrower, it counts! Go, go, gadget, write the rest of this for me… Damn… Wait, I got it, go, go, onto the next hat!

2. Cappy, Super Mario Odyssey

This is the only sentient hat on this list. Cappy is Mario’s magic hat from Super Mario Odyssey that gives Mario the ability to enter the body and take control of whatever he throws the hat onto. Be it Goomba, T-rex, or those orange flexible traffic posts. While throwing the cap does not harm the person or thing you take control of, you can use the fact that you control something else to make them fall off of ledges, walk into spikes, or get electrocuted. You get the idea. I feel as though if Hatter Madigan had Cappy, it would have changed the events of the Looking Glass Wars significantly.

Think about it, he could have thrown Cappy at a jabberwocky, quickly gotten through a bunch of playing card soldiers, and eaten Queen Redd. Oh oh, I know, he could have become a cannonball spider and launched himself at the castle. No wait, I got it! He could have thrown Cappy at a tarty tart that the Red Queen was going to eat, then when he was eaten, taken Cappy off, and the size shift would cause him to explode out of her body. Yup, that’s the most straightforward plan of action.

1. Laszlo’s Witch Skin Hat, What We Do in the Shadows

A cursed hat made out of the skin of a dead witch? Denholm, you disrespected the sorting hat then go with this?” Oh, my dear, sweet, innocent, reader, I can go with whatever I want, I’m the god of this document. Unless Frank says otherwise. First of all, the concept of this hat makes me laugh. For those of you who don’t know, Laszlo from What We Do in the Shadows has this hat made out of a dead witch. It is one of Laszlo’s most prized possessions. It’s also insanely cursed. This hat is canonically responsible for the Great Potato Famine in Ireland. Along with that, one time, when Laszlo wore the hat, he was attacked by a horse, who then tried to mate with him. “That’s all fine and dandy Denholm, but I still don’t see how this hat is a weapon.” I’m getting there!

The thing about this hat is Laszlo really loves it, he thinks it’s cool and makes people jealous of him, there is also another vampire who wants the hat really badly, and he tries to kill Laszlo for it. In a 4D chess maneuver, Laszlo uses reverse psychology to have the other vampire wear it, which ends up being the other vampire’s demise. It’s a far stretch, but in the right hands, a weapon.

We all agree that these hats are cool, but Hatter Madigan takes the cake here. Here are some hats that I wanted to add to the list, but realized that they actually weren’t “weapons”, but have threatening auras that would make Queen Redd take notice.

Chum Bucket bucket hat, from the SpongeBob Squarepants Movie

The Cat in the hats, hat.

Ash Ketchum’s hat, but only when he turns it around backward.

Beer helmets…

Any headgear with a Raiders logo on it!

Most (if not all) Fedoras…

And, last but not least, this…

Okay, this hat is a weapon technically, but it’s lack of efficacy would make any self-respecting Milliner gasp. That this madness is actually a real patented design is insane to me! Do NOT wear this one to any tea parties you attend!

Happy Mad Hatter day everyone!

How You Can Celebrate Mad Hatter Day 2022

Now that we have entered October, all of western civilization eagerly awaits October 6th, Mad Hatter Day. What started as an ode to Lewis Carroll's greatest classic, Alice in Wonderland, has become a cultural phenomenon complete with the quirks and mesmerizing experiences of Wonderland.

But when it comes to things to do on Mad Hatter Day, we have merely put one foot into the rabbit hole. Let’s go all in and explore the fun things you can engage in with your family, friends, at school, or by your lonesome on Mad Hatter day.

Watch the Alice and Wonderland Movie – Both Old and New

Start your day doing something more traditional. Experience the wonderful world of Alice in Wonderland with the movie, but don’t go with just one. If you’re looking for a full-fledged experience of this principal character of Lewis Carroll's novels, both films should be on your schedule.

For a more mature look into Alice in Wonderland with horror elements, go with the old movie. While it was marketed to children, Alice in Wonderland (1951) has some intrinsically dark undertones that might not be wholly suitable for children. But it is a classic – and underrated one at that.

If a more light-hearted movie is more of your cup of tea, you can join Mad Hatter's tea party with Tim Burton's 2010 Alice in Wonderland. This movie has taken a more grounded approach to the character of Johnny Depp’s Mad Hatter but you won't be able to notice any of that due to Tim's bombastic approach to directing.

This activity is great at home or at school if you can get permission. The movies are enjoyable, and every student can compare the films with the original Alice text.

Tap Into Madness with Teatime Snacks

Try some traditional Mad Hatter tea party foods. Go with afternoon tea snacks like macarons, pastries, and scones. Fresh fruits are always a good idea if you're more health conscious. But do give these clock-faced macaroons a try!

You can also pick and choose among your favorite snacks from here.

Make Your Own Paper Hats

Get in the spirit of Mad Hatter Day by making a paper hat. Like Hatter Madigan and the other Millinery Academy Cadets can attest—a true Mad Hatter is only as good as their hat!

This most excellent activity is fun for both home and school—the more the merrier. The overseeing Milliner could even organize a friendly competition. Most imaginative top hat wins!

Let your creativity fly. But here are some hat ideas that are extra special for the occasion.

Toilet Paper Top Hat: Embrace true creativity by taking a minimalistic approach to creating a top hat. All it would require is some toilet paper. You can go with craft paper, but we are trying to be a bit frugal here and making it simple. Just grab some toilet paper, scissors, and some black construction paper. Roll the toilet paper under the black paper, cut out two black circles from the remaining paper and affix it atop this roll, and viola, you get a toilet paper top hat. To make it more thematic, stick some playing cards to the side.

Don't worry if you don't have the cards. You make the hat smaller and bring your pet to the party.

Cardboard Top Hat: If you want to stay true to the Mad Hatter theme, you can give your students some cardboard and let them craft a more precise hat out of it.

Be careful, though, as it will take a lot of effort. I suggest you don't use it for a competition, but rather as a group project. May the best hat wins.

There is a wide array of hat competitions that you can arrange for your students. If you’re having a mad hatter party at home, you can also bring the contest there. Let's see the adults try it too.

Singing Songs About the Hatter

Nothing beats Mad Hatter-themed music to make Mad Hatter's Day more… madder. For students, you can organize a poem competition. But if you're at home and in the mood to party, you can jam to any Alice in Wonderland Inspired music.

Mad Hatter’s music theme isn’t restricted to children. If you want to get more R-rated with it, Melanie Martinez’s Mad Hatter is a treat with over 100 million views on YouTube. The music is trippy and a perfect dance number if you want to add a party-flare to Mad Hatter’s Tea party.

Listen to some Alice In Wonderland inspired music. The video is no slouch, it perfectly encompasses what Mad Hatter is all about, but it cranks it up to eleven.

Hosting a Tea Party

Let's get a bit more basic – and obvious – here. Mad Hatter Tea party is iconic and a must-do on Mad Hatter’s Day. You can buy all the party accessories from your nearest departmental store and get started. Just make sure you have a room where you can get a long table to get the feel right.

Now, we understand that not everyone has a big home enough to do mad hatter party justice. So, how about going outside and finding a location to party? These places are thematic and have the Mad Hatter aesthetics down to the "tea" (pun intended).

And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can join the Mad Hatter Gin and Tea Party in a location near you. The ambiance of this event is legendary.

Telling Riddles – The Madder The Better

No Mad Hatter’s Party is complete without riddles. Practice and come up with the ridiculous riddles you can find and see as your guests scratch their heads trying to come up with an answer.

So, riddle me this – What walks on four legs, then two, and then three? (Hint—ask the Sphinx what the answer is)

Curious Costumes

Alice in Wonderland is all about aesthetics and Mad Hatter Day encapsulates it perfectly. So, why not try a fancy dress party from the Victorian era? Doll yourself up as a dormouse or paint the roses red like the Queen of Hearts. No amount of accessorizing is over the top—you cannot have too much muchness.

Here is a fantastic teatime variant of the Mad Hatter costume, complete with a top hat and gloves.

That is as far as we go into the rabbit hole for now. So, how will you celebrate this most frabjous day of days? No matter your answer, the only thing that matters is to enjoy yourself and your friends and to be as Mad as the Hatter.

The Red Queen’s Last Son: Prince Leopold

Prince Leopold, Duke of Albany (1853-1884), was the eighth and youngest son of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. Handsome, gentle, charmingly shy, he received more of his mother’s attention than he liked, and as a young man he decided that the best means for gaining his independence was through marriage.

Leopold suffered from hemophilia, however, which not only kept him from active participation in sports and the military (though he held honorary positions in the latter); it also hindered his marriage prospects. Heiresses, second cousins, and aristocratic women were all briefly candidates to be his bride. Did no one want to marry a prince just because he was a hemophiliac? What of the wealth and privilege such a union would bring? Many young ladies did aspire to the royal family, and Leopold’s illness alone wouldn’t have been enough to put them off. But for those already high in society, the rank of princess wasn’t so tempting when it meant having Queen Victoria for a mother-in-law.

Prince Leopold

With Leopold determined to marry, Victoria—as she had done with her older children—loudly, repeatedly proclaimed that offspring of British monarchs should wed royals or nobles of other nations as a means of forming political and military alliances. She would prefer that Leopold stay with her and not marry at all, but if he insisted, then his must be a union that strengthened her reputation as the “grandmother of Europe”— i.e., a union with a notable someone not from the UK.

Leopold was a great admirer of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and like most of London society, he knew that Alice Liddell, daughter of Henry Liddell, Dean of Oxford’s Christ Church, had been the inspiration for the titular character. Though Alice was no longer the girl she’d been when Lewis Carroll penned his masterpiece, Leopold felt—a little rightly, a little wrongly—that because of his familiarity with the book, he knew her.

He met the twenty-year-old Alice one beautiful Saturday afternoon at Christ Church. Not near as conservative and priggish as Alice had presumed him to be, she found the prince appreciative of the satire in Carroll’s “nonsensical” novel and open-minded to her ideas for ending child labor in the kingdom. As to her notions concerning a woman’s place in society—how a woman need not be so subservient, yoked to domestic duties only—Leopold encouraged them.

If women in general were half as resourceful as Alice Liddell, he thought, the monarchy would surely benefit from their being treated as men’s equals.

“The more I’m with you, Miss Liddell,” he even admitted one afternoon, “the more I suspect women are superior to men.”

She assured him of it, and unlike with heiresses, second cousins, and aristocrats, Prince Leopold lost himself; he was in love with a commoner, an orphan of no known pedigree who had been adopted into a middle-class family, and who passionately acted upon ideas that Queen Victoria considered outlandish, even dangerous.

By marrying his beloved Alice, Leopold could do more than just gain independence from his domineering mother; he could rebel against her. This, even though the prospective bride would surprisingly prove to be, in accord with the queen’s dictate, quite a notable someone not from the UK. Alice presses on with her goal of founding an orphanage, desperate to protect children from hard labor, starvation, and violence.

Alice’s growing reputation for fighting against child labor, the prince’s love—these earn her the smoldering ire of QUEEN VICTORIA. How can the queen’s youngest son be enamored of a plainly dressed commoner? A commoner, no less, whose efforts to improve the welfare of the country’s most vulnerable population conflict with certain arrangements of providing a cheap labor force to support the aristocracy that Victoria strives politically to maintain.

The Prince and His Mother Queen Victoria

No way Victoria will tolerate the upstart, Alice Liddell. Behind Prince Leopold’s back, she schemes to tear the young couple apart.

One scheme involves recruiting a gang to do away with Miss Liddell. The job falls to QUIGLY, but he has good reason not to murder the charitable Alice; he had been the very first person she met after crossing over into our realm, her best friend on Earth for a time. Every day, she contends with Jesus the gang for the theater (the site of her orphanage). And every day, the crown acts as a stealth wedge attempting to drive her and Prince Leopold apart.

It’s always easier to give in, and we might think that Alice’s life would be less troubled were she to accept a proposal of marriage and forget her do-gooder ambitions. We’d be wrong. Prince Leopold, defying his overbearing mother, proposes to Alice, and buffeted on all sides by responsibilities, other people’s hopes and expectations, she goes into something of a tailspin.

She puts off answering Leopold, knowing that, though she loves him, agreeing to become his wife will have negative implications for her work with orphans. She’s no longer naïve enough to think that the queen shares her enthusiasm for improving the children’s welfare. Nor is she unaware that the queen judges her to be an uppity no-name who’s grown from a foundling to mistakenly acting as if a woman can make her own decisions, conduct business, etc.—i.e., do everything a man can do.

Excerpt from The Looking Glass Wars:

By Alice’s twentieth year, Mrs. Liddell was becoming anxious for her to choose a husband from among her many suitors.

‘But I don’t feel anything for a single one of them,’ Alice complained, shaking her head to fling out the unwanted memory of a boy left behind long ago. Don’t think of him! I mustn’t!

Then, one Saturday, the Liddell family attended an outdoor concert by a quartet at Christ Church Meadow. They were about to take their seats when a young gentleman, under the pretense of introducing himself to Dean Liddell, approached. He was Prince Leopold, Queen Victoria’s youngest son, and he had been sent to Christ Church so that Dean Liddell might oversee his education. This was his first time meeting the family.

Mrs. Liddell became fidgety and excited as she was introduced. ‘And these ladies,’ said Dean Liddell, presenting his daughters, ‘are Edith, Lorina, and Alice. Girls, say hello to Prince Leopold.’

Alice held out her hand for the Prince to kiss. He seemed reluctant to let it go.

‘I’m afraid you can’t keep it, Your Highness,’ she said. And when he didn’t understand: ‘My hand. I may have use for it still.’

‘Ah. Well, if I must return it to you, then I must, though if it ever needs safe keeping . . .’

‘I shall think of you, Your Highness.’

Prince Leopold insisted that the Liddell’s sit with him. He placed himself between Alice and Mrs. Liddell, and when the concert began with a Mozart medley, he leaned over and whispered in Alice’s ear, ‘I don’t fancy medleys. They skip lightly over so many works without delving thoroughly into any one of them.’

‘There are quite a few people like that as well,’ Alice whispered in return.

Mrs. Liddell, not hearing this exchange, flashed her daughter a look, which Alice was at a loss to interpret. The Prince talked to her through the entire concert, discussing everything from art to politics. He found Miss Liddell unlike other young women, who spoke of nothing but velvet draperies, wallpaper patterns and the latest fashions, women who batted their eyelashes and expected him to swoon. Miss Liddell didn’t try to impress him – indeed, she gave the impression that she didn’t much care what he thought of her and he rather admired that. And her beauty . . . yes, her beauty was undeniable. All in all, he thought her a delectable puzzle of a creature.

No sooner was the concert over and Leopold gone than Mrs. Liddell voiced what she’d been trying to communicate to Alice with her eyes.

‘He’s a prince! A prince!  And he’s taken a fancy to you, I’m certain!’

‘We were only talking, Mother. I talked to him as I would have talked to anyone.’

But her mother’s awe and enthusiasm were difficult to ignore, and she started running into Leopold all over town. If she strolled through the Christ Church Picture Gallery, she found him gazing intently at an oil painting by one of the old masters. If she visited the Bodleian Library, she found him thumbing through a volume of Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (which she had read in its entirety). He’s handsome enough, I suppose. And obviously well bred. Yes, but so were many of the men who vied for her attention. But at least he didn’t stroke his moustache with impatience as she talked of the need to provide for Britain’s poor. 

‘A nation should be judged on how it looks after its more unfortunate children,’ she explained. ‘If Great Britain is truly to be the greatest kingdom in the world, it is not enough to flaunt our military power and our dominance in industry. We must lead by example and be more charitable to and protective of our own.’

Prince Leopold always listened to her judiciously, weighing her arguments and reasonings with seriousness. He never agreed or disagreed with her.

Mother may be right. I could certainly do worse than marry a prince. But although Alice tried to feel something for the man, her heart remained unconvinced.

Prince Leopold dressed "plainly"

Three months after the concert at Christ Church Meadow, while taking a ride in his carriage to Boar’s Hill, Prince Leopold said, ‘Your father tells me that you’ll be visiting the Banbury Orphanage tomorrow afternoon. I’d like to come along if you’ll have me. One never knows what sort of troubles might beset a young woman there.’

‘If you think it best, Your Highness.’

He offered to take her in the carriage, but Alice said that she’d prefer to walk.

‘You see so much more of the town when you walk – a little curiosity shop or a snatch of garden where you wouldn’t think it possible to have a garden, choked as it is by city things. In a carriage, you hurry past these treasures without noticing them.’

She didn’t take the slightest quirk of mankind for granted but viewed it as a small miracle and cause for celebration, and the prince had begun to love her for this.

At Banbury, the orphans crowded around Alice, hugging her skirts, all shouting at once. Alice laughed, held four conversations simultaneously and, to Leopold’s eye, set off against the soot-stained walls, the drab and loose-hanging clothes of the orphans and the pale bloodless faces of the wardens, she looked more radiant than he’d ever seen her. On a tour of the orphanage, a train of children following at their heels, one young boy refused to let go of Alice’s left thumb.

Alice requested a thorough accounting of the troubles facing the Banbury Orphanage. The wardens pointed out floors rotten from overflowing sewage, the sagging infirmary roof, the time-worn mattresses as thin as wafers. They showed her the pantry, empty save for sacks of dried kidney beans and uncooked rice.

‘The children have had nothing but beans and rice for two weeks,’ one of the women told her. ‘We were supposed to be getting a supply of beef ribs, but so far . . . nothing. This sort of thing happens rather frequently, I’m afraid.’

Prince Leopold had been silent for some time. He cleared his throat.   ‘What   of   the   warden   responsible   for   ensuring   that Banbury receives the food and clothes the children need?’

‘The chief warden is very selective as to who gets what and how much of it, Your Highness,’ the warden explained. ‘He says we take in too many children and that perhaps they are not so deserving. For example, that one there . . .’ the warden pointed at the boy holding on to Alice’s thumb ‘. . . he has a real talent for thieving, though often as not what he steals is food because of how hungry he is. They all are.’ She gestured at the surrounding orphans.

Alice looked at the boy clutching her thumb, reminded of Quigly Gaffer. What’s become of him? And the others? Andrew, Margaret, and Francine, hardly old enough to dress themselves, never mind living on the streets without the love and support of family.

The mournful, faraway look on Alice’s face had a profound effect on the Prince. ‘I shall talk with the Queen,’ he said after several moments. ‘I think we might establish a Commission of Inquiry into the matter and, in the meantime, arrange for an increase in food rations. How does that sound?’

‘It sounds like generosity rarely met with among the living,’ said the woman.

‘Well, no one here shall soon discover if it’s to be met with among the dead either, if I can help it.’

The orphans blinked and said nothing, hardly believing what they had heard: Queen Victoria and Prince Leopold were going to work on their behalf! The wardens offered the Prince their thanks many times over, while Alice looked on and smiled, which was all the thanks he desired.

On the walk home, they stopped to rest in the university’s Botanic Garden, where Alice found herself sitting on a bench with Leopold suddenly kneeling in front of her.

‘No matter what you decide, Alice,’ he was saying, ‘I want you to know that in the coming years I will be only too glad to assist you in your charitable endeavors. But I hope with all my heart that you’ll allow me to do so as your husband.’

Alice didn’t understand.

‘I’m asking for your hand in marriage,’ Leopold explained. ‘But . . . Your Highness, are you sure?’

‘That is not exactly the answer for which I was hoping. Alice, you are a most uncommon commoner, to say the least, and I would be proud to call myself your husband. Of course, you realize that you will not have the title of Princess, nor be entitled to ownership of the royal estates?’

‘Of course.’ Marriage? Again, she felt the tug of a long-buried affection for one who . . . No no no! Think of other things. Be realistic. The marriage would please her mother. She would do it for her mother, for her family’s sake. ‘I accept, Leopold.’

She let herself be kissed, feeling the coolness of dusk settle in around her.

‘I have already spoken with the Queen and I have asked for, and received, your father’s blessing,’ the Prince said. ‘We shall host a party to announce the engagement.’

If she’d had time to think about it, Alice might have stopped herself, considering the idea too whimsical. But the words had a force of their own, and only after she said them aloud did she realize just how appropriate the idea was.

‘Let’s have a masquerade.’

Yes, it felt right: a masquerade to celebrate the orphan girl’s impending marriage to Prince Leopold of Great Britain.

Wonderland Look-Alikes: Some of the People Lewis Carroll Got Wrong

Princess Alyss Heart’s history was a bloody tale, full of power and terror and even a glowing glimmer of hope. When Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (a.k.a. Lewis Carroll) heard the harrowing story, he was full of good intentions. Jotting down her story he tried to help the troubled foundling, adopted by his dear friends, to adjust to her own childhood in Victorian England.

The writer did his best, crafting a story of whimsy that amused children and adults alike—however, they did not amuse Alice Liddell (as she had become accustomed to calling herself over the years since departing the adventures in Wonderland). The familiar faces of her childhood were warped, the truth obscured.

These are the facts behind Lewis Carroll’s fabrications:

Bibwit Harte (The White Rabbit)

Bibwit, like so many others, figured prominently in the stories Princess Alyss Heart imparted to Charles Dodgson thus resulting in his being written into the book as the character of the White Rabbit in Alice’s Adventures Underground. He became this particular character because his name could be anagrammed to spell: “White Rabbit.”

An imperious, but loving 6-foot-tall albino with pale green veins that pulse beneath his alabaster skin, Bibwit is known for his excellent hearing, swift body and razor wit. He is also fond of conversing with others and is often fond chatting with anyone who will take the time to listen, including the flowers that populate the palace grounds.

Trained in the Tutor Corps in the tradition of his kind, Bibwit was head of his class, excelling in everything he set his mind to. Though his people act as great conveyors of knowledge, they lack the ability to utilize the magic of Imagination themselves—and so excel as instructors. Becoming the Royal Tutor to the Queens of Wonderland was an honor bestowed on Bibwit for his unparalleled grasp of the principles of Light Imagination.

Capable of doing six things at once, Bibwit can often predict what the Queen will say and always follows orders to the letter. His sensitivity, however, makes him fragile physically and emotionally. As he takes pride in the triumphs of those he has trained, so to does he take their failures to heart and look for the fault within himself. 

Such is the case when Rose Heart, the princess who would one day be disowned and become Redd (The Red Queen), begins to tread upon those darker paths, turning her back on light imagination and committing fully to the path of dark imagination. In the years following her exile, Bibwit often blamed himself for failing her, attributing her fall to a failure in her education. 

Bibwit would have tutored Princess Alyss as he did for her mother Queen Genevieve (The White Queen) had Redd’s coup not ousted the Princess from Wonderland. Though he obeyed Redd during her terrible reign, he did so only to maintain a place in her court— while funneling information back to the Alyssian resistance.

Upon Alyss’ return to Wonderland, Bibwit will be among her closest allies. Resuming her education, the Royal Tutor will assist Alyss in preparing to navigate her Looking Glass Maze. 

Bibwit Harte from The Looking Glass Wars vs Lewis Carroll's White Rabbit

General Doppelgänger (Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum)

The Commander of the Royal Army, General Doppelgänger is made up of two people, Doppel and Gänger, whose natural state is to reside within one body. The able warrior distinguished himself in the war between Genevieve and Redd for the throne, becoming a close compatriot of The White Queen.

Through much of Wonderland’s history the condition suffered by General Doppelgänger was considered purely mental, a split personality disorder. That is until a pioneering physician found a way to unravel the afflicted person into two (or more) distinct people.

 This clarified the problem but was an imperfect solution as many of the twins, once disentwined, became traumatized. The true breakthrough came a generation later, when a method was devised which allowed the twins to be either one singular being or separated into two or more beings at will.

As Alyss told Lewis Carroll of her mother’s loyal servant that could split in two, the author took liberties to contain the martial nature of Wonderland’s leading military mind into the farcical Tweedledee and Tweedledum (thanks to a little help from the poetry he was constantly consuming).

The truth of the matter is the General was one of the few present at Redd’s attack on Heart Palace to escape the palace with both their lives and their freedom that day, alongside a handful of chessmen and the traumatized Dodge Anders. 

Together the beaten and grieving group made their way into the Everlasting Forest and over the following weeks, General Doppelgänger would work alongside these forces and the others who fled Wondertropolis to establish the Alyssians. Named for the lost princess that all assumed dead, the rebels dared to strike back at Redd Heart. 

At the height of their activities, the Alyssian forces struck out at strategic locations striving to right the worst of the wrongs committed by Redd. However, as the years of tyranny mount, the strength of the rebels begins to wane, creating a dire situation at the time of Alyss’ return.

With the rightful heir returned to Wonderland, General Doppelgänger is unflinchingly prepared to oust Redd from the throne.

General Doppelgänger from The Looking Glass Wars vs. Lewis Carroll's Tweedle Dee & Tweedle Dum

Frog Messengers

Though being a rather humble member of the Royal Court in Wonderland, with what most could call a “simple” job— the Frog Messenger is insultingly misrepresented as “the Frog Footman” in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

While the character in Lewis Carroll’s children’s tale sits with an invitation undelivered for days, to royalty no less, the Frog Messengers of Wonderland would never delay in carrying out their courier duties. They would also have you know a Frog Messenger would never tangle their wigs with the Fish Footman—because everyone knows Fish Footmen do not wear wigs!

The Frog Messenger from The Looking Glass Wars vs. Lewis Carroll's Frog Messenger

The Walrus

A butler at Heart Palace whose uniform is a tuxedo jacket two sizes too small. He’s a servant—first of Genevieve, then Redd; a comic figure whose helpless innocence and good wishes for all endear him to anyone he meets (except maybe Redd and her vicious servant known, wrongly, to some as the Cheshire Cat). 

He carries a pouch of dust around the palace, sprinkling dust on objects and surfaces as needed—Wonderland’s version of our household chore known as “dusting.” When nervous or worried, the Walrus tends to overcompensate by, bringing endless supplies of refreshments.

How Lewis Carroll could twist the selfless servant of the ruling family is beyond Alyss. While the character in The Walrus and Carpenter poem within the absurd book is a glutton for oysters, the Princess could not recall at any time seeing the Walrus consume even so much as a tarty tart. Surly the sweet creature did eat, but never in sight of anyone.

After surviving, and escaping, Redd’s oppression on Mt. Isolation the Walrus will hold the honor of being the first to call Alyss “Queen” after she successfully navigates her Looking Glass Maze.

The Walrus Butler from The Looking Glass Wars vs. Lewis Carroll's Walrus

Wonderland Warrior & Alice's Future King: Dodge Anders

Dodge Anders—son of Sir Justice Anders, head guardsman of Wonderland’s Heart Palace—was a commoner who lived amid great privilege, having the splendors of his father’s workplace for his playground. He idolized his father, and the direction of his life had been known ever since the age of three, when he toddled into the coat of Sir Justice’s uniform and saluted. 

His dedication to following his father’s path was apparent in much of his childhood play with his best friend, Princess Alyss Heart, (Alice in Wonderland). He and Alyss were essentially growing up together, and though a few years the princess’s elder, Dodge couldn’t remember a time when she hadn’t been his partner in adventure. Countless afternoons, pretending to be leader of the palace guard while Alyss played a queen in peril, Dodge would brandish a dull sword and rescue Alyss from her evil aunt Redd—to them, a mythical figure. 

Redd (Red Queen) had been removed from succession for reasons they were still too young to understand (Dodge not yet being ten, Alyss six). They knew that Redd, angry that she wouldn’t be queen, had killed her own mother, Queen Theodora. They knew that she had plunged Wonderland into a bloody civil war in a failed attempt to take the crown from her sister Genevieve (Alyss’s mother, the White Queen), and then been banished from the realm before their births. Redd’s ruthlessness was legendary. If Dodge was intent on impressing a young royal with his bravery and gallantry, he couldn’t have done better than fight against Redd. 

The love Dodge and Alyss shared was no secret at the palace. On her bedside table, the princess kept a holographic crystal that showed the guardsman’s son, at four years old, kissing her cheek as she sat in a baby carriage while officers of the court frowned in the background. Dodge often became embarrassed—lowering his flushed face, kicking the toe of his shoe against the floor— whenever Alyss showed him this particular holo-crystal, so she showed it to him often. 

But it wasn’t his affection for her that embarrassed him. It was because he knew why the court officers were frowning: the importance of class distinctions, of consorting with one’s own kind. Sir Justice had explained to Dodge that part of being a successful guardsman meant abiding by what was considered proper and not allowing his affections for anybody to compromise his duty. 

“You can never marry the princess, Dodge,” Sir Justice had explained, sympathetic, even a little proud that Alyss had such obvious affection for his son. “She will one day be your queen. You can show your feelings by serving her to the best of your ability, but she must marry someone from a suit family. I’m sorry, Dodge, but you and the princess . . . it’s not in the cards.” 

“I understand, Father.” 

But this had been only half true; Dodge’s head understood, his heart did not.

Sir Justice Anders and his son Dodge Anders

On Alyss’s seventh birthday, ten-year-old Dodge stood at attention in a certain hall of Heart Palace. He was wearing a guardsman’s uniform, complete with fleur-de-lis badge on his right breast. He knew that Alyss would pass his way sooner or later, but maintaining a professional pose—facing forward, chin parallel to the ground, arms stiff at his side—he looked as if he might wait for her all his life if necessary.

Then came the sound of frolicking feet. No doubt Alyss was running from someone she’d just pranked, Dodge assumed; she was always using her powerful imagination for such things, conjuring squiggling gwormmies to appear in her tutor’s food, for instance.

Alyss rounded a corner into view, and he stepped to the middle of the hall and presented her with a small box tied with a rainbow-colored ribbon.

“Happy birthday, Princess,” he said with a bow.

“Cut it out.”

She didn’t like him bowing to her or calling her “princess.” She was, by this age, aware of the class difference between them, but she hated to be reminded of it . . . especially by Dodge himself.

“Jabberwock tooth,” he said when, with eager fingers, Alyss opened her present: a sharp, triangular-shaped tooth resting on a bed of puff.

“You didn’t kill the beast yourself; I hope?”

Jabberwocky were huge, ferocious creatures living in The Volcanic Plains—a land of active volcanoes, lava rivers, and geysers of noxious gas, extremely dangerous for any Wonderlander to enter. It says something about Dodge that his best friend thought that he might have faced off against a jabberwock.

“No, I bought that in a shop,” he admitted.

Alyss thanked him—she would treasure the gift forever, she said—and slipped the tooth onto her necklace, giving him a mischievous look. “Don’t you have to practice any military exercises?”

“I can always use more practice, my princess.”

“Stop calling me that. You know I don’t like it.”

“I can never forget who and what you are, my princess.”

Alyss clicked her tongue—a sign, Dodge knew, that she was finding his seriousness tiresome.

“I have a new military exercise for you,” she said. “We must pretend we’re enjoying ourselves at my party later this afternoon. Music is playing, there are platters of tarty tarts to enjoy, and you and I begin to dance.” 

She held out her hand. Dodge hesitated. 

“Come on now.” 

He put an arm around Alyss’s waist and moved with her in gentle circles. He had never touched the princess before—not like this. She smelled of sweet earth and powder. It was a clean, delicate smell. Did all girls smell like this or only princesses? A potted sunflower in the hall began to serenade them. 

“This isn’t a military exercise,” he said, making a weak attempt to free himself. 

“I order you not to go anywhere. While we’re dancing, Redd and her soldiers crash into the room. It’s a surprise attack. People are screaming and running. People are dying. But you stay calm. You promise to protect me.” 

“You know I’d protect you, Alyss.” He felt warm all over and a little dizzy. He was holding the princess close. He could feel her breath on his neck. He was the luckiest boy in the queendom. 

“And then you battle Redd and her soldiers.” 

He didn’t want to let her go, but he did, wielding his sword. He jousted this way and that with his imaginary foes, spinning and ducking. 

“After many close calls,” Alyss narrated, “your life in danger every second, you defeat the soldiers and stab your sword into Redd.” 

Dodge looked the picture of intensity as he plunged his sword into the air where he envisioned Redd to be. He made a show of eyeing his handiwork, his vanquished foes littered on the ground before him. He returned his sword to its scabbard. 

“I’m saved,” Alyss continued, “but I’m shaken by what I’ve just witnessed. You calm my nerves by dancing with me.” 

The sunflower again began to serenade. Without hesitation this time, Dodge took Alyss and spun her about the hall. He had loosened up despite himself. 

“Will you be my king, Dodge?” 

“If it pleases you,” he said, his rebellious heart for the moment not caring what his father would think of his behavior, reveling in feelings he should never have allowed himself, and unaware of how prescient the more menacing aspects of Alyss’s make-believe would prove.

The Pool of Tears, located past the Whispering Woods

Dodge snuck the princess off palace grounds and brought her to a cliff at the edge of The Whispering Woods. They stood looking down at a body of water surrounded by a crystal barrier. 

“It’s called The Pool of Tears,” Dodge explained. “They say it takes you out of Wonderland, but no one knows for sure. People have gone in, but nobody’s ever come back.” 

“Gone in? “Alyss said. “Did they fall or jump?” 

“Both. Those hoping for their return sometimes stand here and cry, letting their tears drop into the water. That’s how the pool got its name. We’d better get back to the palace or we’ll miss your party.” 

They were making their way along the row of glorious fountains that led to the palace’s front gate when Alyss befriended a kitten that seemed intended as a birthday present for her, though from whom was a mystery. She carried the animal inside. He jumped from her arms and ran off as if he had an appointment to keep. Which he did: in the Security Oversight Room. 

Dodge and Alyss weren’t long at the birthday celebrations, everyone enjoying tea, before the kitten reappeared and transformed into a humanoid figure with massive lethal claws, and— 

A wall exploded, the force of the detonation knocking Dodge from his chair. Coughing from dust and debris, he saw innocent courtiers and civilians attacked by a mob of card soldiers. Queen Genevieve’s chessmen and her famed bodyguard Hatter Madigan (the Mad Hatter) leaped into action. Amid the rubble and confusion stood a woman Dodge knew well, though he’d never had the displeasure of meeting her.

Her dress of writhing vines with toothy roses opening and closing for a bite of flesh; her scraggle of flame-colored hair: it was Redd Heart.

“No!” a voice near Dodge yelled.

Alyss!

He crawled to where she’d fallen, put a hand over her mouth, and pulled her under a table with him.

“We must keep quiet, or they’ll get us, too. Don’t move.”

Something slammed against the tabletop.

“Don’t move, don’t move,” he whispered, squeezing Alyss tight against him.

She buried her face in his shoulder, but he kept his eyes open to the surrounding carnage. There was his father, Sir Justice, slashing at invading card soldiers with all the expertise at his command, then rescuing a couple of chessmen who had been momentarily overpowered by a band of Two Cards. And there again—Sir Justice, sword poised to strike, charging toward the humanoid feline who had taken out a board’s worth of palace chessmen by himself.

“Watch this,” Dodge whispered to Alyss, pride in his father getting the better of his judgment.

Alyss did watch. It was horrid. With the back of his paw, The Cat knocked Sir Justice to the ground. The man’s sword went skittering across the floor and out of reach. The Cat picked up Sir Justice and gouged him to death.

“Noooo!” Dodge wailed, bolting out from under the table, snatching up his father’s sword and attacking The Cat, who merely grinned, knocking him to the ground with a light blow. 

Six chessmen converged on the assassin. 

Dodge, his right cheek bleeding from the four parallel cuts left by The Cat’s claws, crawled over to his father’s body and knelt there, sobbing. 

It was some time before he realized that Alyss was no longer in the room, nor Queen Genevieve, Hatter Madigan, Redd, and The Cat (Cheshire Cat). All around him were fallen bodies, chessmen fighting against card soldiers. It didn’t look good for the queen’s forces. Redd’s mercenaries were going to win, and with an instinct he didn’t know he had, Dodge worked his way to the door, hiding behind toppled furniture, inert pawns, and rooks, until he successfully made his escape. 

Later, struggling to comprehend the loss of his father, he heard of Genevieve’s and Alyss’s deaths along with the rest of Wonderland: when Redd announced herself the new queen. Was it really true? Would he never more see lively, sweet-smelling Alyss? Never again confide to her his dreams of soldier-fame? What good were dreams now

His father. Alyss. Where the two greatest loves of his life had been, Dodge was faced with nothing, blankness. 

An idea suddenly blazed in his brain, the resolve to carry it through firm. It was too late to do anything for Alyss, but there was still something he could do for his father. Sir Justice deserved a burial proper to his station, and Dodge was going to give it to him.

Dodge Anders, years after Redd's Coup

In the weeks following Redd’s coup, the capital city of Wondertropolis seemed largely deserted. Small clans of Redd’s soldiers lolled outside abandoned cafés, drunk on flugelberry wine, harassing the few citizens who braved the streets and hurried to their destinations with lowered heads.

Dodge made it to Heart Palace without incident, surprised to find it unguarded, unmanned, but not quite unoccupied. A figure laden with goblets and dishes ran past him and was gone. Then another, carrying a music box. Throughout the palace’s darkened salons and banquet halls looters moved about in silent hurry, helping themselves to souvenirs of the former ruling family. Several Redd’s soldiers were passed out on tables and other furniture, but there was no sign of Redd or The Cat. 

In the dining room where Sir Justice had lost his life, the scene was ghastly.

Dodge managed to get his father’s body out to the garden, and to dig a grave using a broken chair back as shovel. He laid Sir Justice carefully, respectfully in the earth, and with unsteady hands began to cover the body with soil. A cry burst out of him. He threw his makeshift shovel to the ground. How could he live? Why should he live when those he held most dear did not? He became quiet, subdued. How to live? Why? These were questions to be answered. The only questions. 

The grave filled; Dodge planted a Hereafter Seed at its head. Instantly, the seed took root and up grew a bouquet of flowers, the arrangement of which formed Sir Justice’s likeness, a living memorial. Had anyone been watching Dodge at that moment, they would not have seen tears on his cheeks. His eyes hard and unblinking, his jaw clenched, he looked more angry than sad. 

This is a good man’s reward in Wonderland now,” he murmured.

Dodge Anders acting as a Rebel Portal Runner during the reign of Queen Redd

Years passed. Wonderland became a bastion of Dark Imagination—a hive of paranoia, deceit, and violence. Redd demanded absolute loyalty from every citizen, but not every citizen gave it. The rebels called themselves Alyssians, in honor of the young princess who’d been killed to prevent her from ever ascending to her rightful throne. Princess Alyss Heart: not alive in flesh and blood, but very much alive as a symbol of more innocent though still imperfect times, an icon of hope for peace’s return. 

Among the Alyssians, one particular soldier had made a name for himself with his military prowess and suicidal bravery—Dodge Anders, twenty-three years old, the four parallel scars on his right cheek serving as needless reminder that his greatest enemy wasn’t Redd but the beast who’d killed his father. 

Sending and retrieving sensitive Alyssian intelligence required portal runners, those who traversed The Crystal Continuum, a network of byways that enabled Wonderlanders to enter through a given looking glass and exit from another. But Redd’s spies were everywhere and being a portal runner meant dying sooner rather than later. Dodge Anders was the best portal runner the Alyssians had, and he always volunteered for the most dangerous missions. 

Sometimes, after a run, he visited the cliff overlooking The Pool of Tears, remembering that fateful day when he had stood there with seven-year-old Alyss Heart. He was starting to doubt her death, having heard whispers that Redd hadn’t been able to locate Alyss’s body in her imagination’s eye. 

If Alyss is alive . . . 

He soon convinced himself that she lived. And he would never stop believing, never give up on a love seeded in childhood that, despite poor soil, despite uncertain light and watering, might yet have a chance to blossom. 

Alyss is alive. 

She had to be. The future of Wonderland depended on it.

The Mother of Alyss Heart, Queen Genevieve

For Wonderland’s Queen Genevieve, (White Queen) even the most festive occasions could be clouded by the less savory aspects of governing. Her daughter Alyss (Alice) celebrating a seventh birthday party at Heart Palace was, by contrast, making all economic worries, political concerns, and military threats feel more acute. 

Especially the military threats. 

Unconfirmed reports suggested that Redd (Red Queen) was growing more powerful, in the final stages of outfitting troops for an attack, and Genevieve was no longer sure that her forces could provide adequate defense. 

Needing a moment of solitude, she slipped away to her private rooms, leaving the guests to their entertainments. In a salon filled with overstuffed couches and giant pillows, she studied her reflection in a looking glass. It wasn’t just the political machinations and constant military strategizing that was bothering her. Alyss’s birthday had made her feel old.

Queen Genevieve Heart

She saw lines at the corners of her eyes and framing her mouth. In the not too distant future, Alyss might also find herself prematurely aged by the responsibilities of being a sovereign, although Genevieve hoped not. She wanted to believe that her daughter would handle the crown better than she ever could—she who, at Alyss’s age, and for a good many years after, had never supposed that she would be queen. Her older sister, Rose, was to have ruled Wonderland. And if only Rose—now known as Redd, for her proclivity to bloodshed, hadn’t been so— 

A plume of blue smoke passed between Genevieve and her reflection, interrupting her thoughts. She smelled a familiar spicy-sweet aroma and turned to see a giant blue caterpillar coiled dreamily around his hookah. Ordinarily, Genevieve would have been annoyed to discover anyone in her private sanctuary without having been invited, but this outsize larva wasn’t just anybody.

He was one of Wonderland’s eight caterpillar-oracles who kept watch over the Heart Crystal—the power source for all creation. Whatever passed into the crystal went out into the universe to inspire imaginations in other worlds. An unexpected visit from an oracle was rarely a good thing, but Genevieve wanted to believe that this was one such exception. 

“Your presence is an honor,” she said. “Princess Alyss will be so pleased that you could attend her party.” 

“Ahem hum hum,” grumbled the blue caterpillar, exhaling a cloud of smoke. 

The smoke formed the shape of a butterfly with extended wings, then metamorphosed into a confusion of scenes. Genevieve saw a large cat grooming itself. She saw what looked like a lightning bolt. She saw Redd’s face. Then the smoke again formed the shape of a butterfly, which folded its wings, and Genevieve awoke on a couch with the smell of tobacco in her nostrils. The caterpillar was gone. Her bodyguard Hatter Madigan and a walrus in a tuxedo jacket were standing over her. 

“You must have fainted, madam,” said the walrus. “I will get you some water.” 

The walrus hurried out of the room. The queen remained silent for several moments. 

“The blue caterpillar was here,” she said finally. “I’m not quite sure what he showed me.” 

“I’ll inform General Doppelgänger and the Millinery,” Hatter said. “We’ll be on alert for whatever’s coming.” 

Just once, Queen Genevieve would have liked to relax the watchful vigilance she was forced to maintain every hour of every day to ensure Wonderland’s safety. The caterpillars’ prophecies were always so vague. Sometimes their visions reflected only possibilities, the dark wishes of those who never planned to carry them out. But she couldn’t take a chance, not when it concerned Redd. 

“Make sure not to alarm our guests,” she said. 

It might have been better to end the birthday celebration, however, and had Genevieve lived, she undoubtedly would have scolded herself for not doing so. 

The partygoers were enjoying tea and wondercrumpets in the South Dining Room when a kitten (you might know as the Cheshire Cat) trotted into the room and transformed into a muscled humanoid with a feline head and claws as long and glinting as any blade from Hatter Madigan’s arsenal. The room shook from an explosion, and Redd sashayed in amid a welter of dust and rubble, followed by a mob of rejects from the Wonderland Decks—the platoons of card soldiers that made up a large portion of the queendom’s military.

General Doppelgänger ran behind a curtain and pulled a lever attached to a crank half buried in the floor; the black floor tiles of the room flipped over to reveal a cadre of chessmen—knights, rooks, bishops, pawns—who faced off against the invading card soldiers, blades swinging and bodies falling. 

With a flick of his wrist, Hatter Madigan (the Mad Hatter) flattened his top hat into a series of S-shaped rotary blades, which he sent slicing through the enemy, while Queen Genevieve—out of her chair, sword drawn as soon as she saw The Cat—engaged against Redd’s soldiers two and three at a time, conjuring knives, sabers, and spiked clubs for herself whenever one was knocked from her grip. ---

She was always armed with four weapons at once, her imagination swinging two of them, to fend off attacks from behind. If, solely by the power of her imagination, Genevieve could have imagined the invaders dead, piled in a heap in the center of the room—her sister included—she would have. But by imagination alone, nobody could kill a creature that had the will to live.

Which was too bad, because Redd, unharmed in the midst of battle, lifted Princess Alyss out from under a table, held the girl aloft by her hair, and wrinkled her already wrinkled face as if she were clutching some detestable pest.

“Let her go,” Genevieve said, stalling, knowing that Redd wouldn’t. “Please.”

Redd scoffed and spat out words that Genevieve hardly heard, alert for the slightest opportunity to free Alyss, but then Redd conjured a scene—silent, moving phantoms on a screen of red smoke: Genevieve’s husband King Nolan, on his way home from negotiations with neighboring Boarderland, had been ambushed and killed by Redd.

Genevieve lost control of herself. She imagined eighteen dagger-sharp cones into existence and directed them toward Redd; she imagined double-edged spears cartwheeling toward Redd: all of which her sister easily relegated to dust.

Redd had always been the more imaginatively gifted, as Genevieve well knew.

“Ah!”

Redd dropped Alyss, who had stabbed her forearm with something on her necklace.

Queen Genevieve and Princess Alyss

Genevieve grabbed her daughter’s hand and ran to her private rooms, knowing that she wouldn’t survive but also that she didn’t need to—not for Wonderland’s sake—if Alyss could be kept alive.

The humanoid feline pounced at them, seeming to come out of nowhere, but before he could swipe them with a single claw— thwip! — he fell to the floor, a blade in his chest.

Hatter Madigan stepped up to the fallen assassin and pulled his top hat blades free of the mortal wound.

“Take Alyss and go,” Genevieve said to him, pointing at a looking glass. “As far away as possible. You must keep the princess safe until she’s old enough to rule. She’s the only chance Wonderland has to survive.” 

Genevieve knelt in front of Alyss. “No matter what happens, I will always be near you, sweetheart. On the other side of the looking glass. And never forget who you are. Do you understand?” 

“I want to stay with you.” 

“I know. I love you.” 

“No! I’m staying!’ 

Alyss threw her arms around her mother. 

A wall crashed down and there stood Redd, a platoon of card soldiers at her back. “Aw, how sweet. Let’s have a group hug,” she said, hardly looking like the hugging type. 

Hatter picked up Alyss and jumped into the looking glass. Genevieve smashed the glass and turned to face Redd, unable to believe it when, in her peripheral vision, she saw The Cat, on the floor with a gaping hole in his chest, open his eyes. His wound healed and he sprang at her. She conjured a white bolt of energy from her imagination and thrust it into him, killing him a second time. 

Redd laughed derisively and pulled the jagged bolt out of The Cat. The bolt turned crimson in her hand, and she slammed it into the floor; dozens of black roses sprouted from the point of impact, their thorny stems wrapping themselves around Genevieve, pricking and binding her. 

“Well, Gen, what can I say?” Redd seethed. “I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I’m tickled to see you go.” 

Pulling the energy bolt out of the floor, she swung it at her sister’s neck. 

Genevieve’s headless body slumped to the floor, her crown rolling along the polished stone tiles like a dropped coin.

The House of Hearts: (from left) Princess Rose Heart, Queen Theodora Heart, King Tyman Heart, and Princess Genevieve

Princesses Genevieve and Rose Heart had once been inseparable, their different temperaments complementing each other. Where Redd was opinionated, undisciplined, and flirtatious, Genevieve was quiet, studious, and proper. Both were intelligent. Both were gifted with powerful imaginations, though Redd’s was stronger, and it required little effort for her to imagine into existence what Genevieve had to regularly practice.

Genevieve naturally looked up to her charismatic older sister. She didn’t agree with everything Rose did, but she often wished to be more like her—freer, publicly confident, treating life as if it were a game she’d already deservedly won.

But Rose was heir to the throne, and as the time for her accession drew nearer, the differences that had once brought the sisters together began to push them apart. She became increasingly arrogant and contemptuous. Her lack of discipline, which had seemed like a cavalier disregard for stuffy conventions, evolved into a general unruliness that included more than just dabbling in illegalities.

Again and again, Genevieve found herself trying to defend her sister’s behavior to their mother, Queen Theodora, (Queen of Wonderland). Again and again, she made excuses for Rose’s non-appearance at royal functions, lying for her sister, saying that Rose was sick in bed when she was actually out with sleazy characters, lolling in some artificial crystal den (an opium den of Wonderland).

She frequently tried talking Rose out of her bad behavior.

“Perhaps you shouldn’t doubt Mother in front of her advisers,” she once said. “It comes off as if you’re questioning the queen’s authority, which many see as undermining it.”

“If she makes a dumb decision, I’m supposed to let her?” Rose had answered. “I should just sit back and be quiet and let her compromise my inheritance? Our inheritance, I should say,

although you won’t have the burden of running the queendom.”

She’s spoiled, Genevieve thought, wondering how Rose came to be that way when she herself wasn’t. Their parents hadn’t been particularly indulgent, had sought to instill in them a reverence for Light Imagination, the principles of which were guided by love, a sense of justice and duty to the well-being of others. Genevieve and her sister had grown up surrounded by wealth and privilege, but Genevieve could not help thinking of those less fortunate, whereas Rose seemed to take wealth, privilege, and authority as her due.

Quietly disappointed in her sister, Genevieve still never expected Rose to be removed from succession. Nor did she long for it. She wasn’t grasping or envious; she had no desire to be queen. Yet Genevieve considered it the responsible thing, appropriate to her title and station, to be schooled in swordplay and all things martial.

Besides, it couldn’t hurt for a woman to know how to defend herself.

So, she trained as warrior queens of earlier generations had done, and exercised her imagination daily, gaining impressive control and nuance in her conjuring’s.

Then things worsened: Rose was pregnant and refused to identify the father.

Embarrassed by such disdain for social norms, for the well-being of a child born out of wedlock, Genevieve was ashamed of her sister. But she felt protective, too; Rose—with child, physically sensitive, hormonally wrought—was at her most vulnerable.

Rose gave birth to a healthy girl, but Queen Theodora, enlisting Genevieve in the subterfuge, convinced her that the baby hadn’t survived. Genevieve, who felt guilty about lying to her sister, hoped that the “loss” of the child would induce Rose to improve her behavior. And it’s possible, though doubtful, that it would have, if Theodora hadn’t done what she did next. Genevieve found out only afterward, Rose raging, her voice echoing throughout the palace. 

The eldest Heart daughter had been removed from succession, replaced by the younger. 

Rose burst into Genevieve’s rooms and accused her of having connived for the crown all along. 

Denying this, Genevieve said, “I want the best for you, Rose. I always have. Do I wish that you’d be less stubborn in your refusal to abide by anyone’s rules but your own? Yes, but—” 

Rose swore vengeance. 

“Your inclination for vengeance is part of the problem,” Genevieve tried, but too late; her sister was stalking out of the rooms. 

She did want the best for Rose and believed that she always would, but all scrap of sisterly love disintegrated after Rose sneaked into Theodora’s bedchamber one night and placed a fatal mushroom on her tongue. 

For the good of the queendom, Genevieve was coronated. Furious, Rose threw off her given name in favor of “Redd,” promising that unbridled bloodshed would splatter the doorstep of every Wonderlander. Both sisters gathered their followers and Wonderland succumbed to civil war, during which Redd lived up to her promise. Genevieve proved victorious only because of the superiority of her army. She banished Redd from the realm, and the daily life of Wonderland returned to what might be called “normal.” 

Queen Genevieve ruled judiciously, guided by the precepts of Light Imagination, but never for a second—and especially not after she gave birth to Alyss—did she forget that dark forces were at work in The Chessboard Desert, where Redd had ensconced herself in a bleak fortress dubbed Mt. Isolation. Sooner or later, Genevieve knew, Redd would attack the queendom, and it would require all of her imaginative powers and then some to ensure its survival... and Alyss’s.

Who The Queen of Hearts is Based On: Queen Victoria

When Queen Victoria, monarch of the United Kingdom from 1837-1901, first took the throne at the age of nine­teen, the role of the crown was uncertain, fluid. The Prime Minister and those elected to House of Commons and the House of Lords did the political heavy lifting, and no one expected the crown to serve as a spur to the economy; there were innovative capitalists enough for that.

Even the crown’s ceremonial role was in doubt, some claiming the monarchy superfluous. But the new queen impressed with her grace and assurance, and the public romanticized the accession of a young woman—a woman so young, so sheltered, that not until she was officially monarch did, she have her own bedroom. Even then, custom dictated that she couldn’t live independent of parental supervision before mar­riage; until the queen wed her cousin Albert, her mother resided in Buckingham Palace.

Small of stature, Victoria was big with contradictions. She hated being pregnant and was said to detest babies, her renowned quote “An ugly baby is a very nasty object and the prettiest is frightful”. This is intriguing as Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland” depicted the Duchess and her baby (which became a pig). --

Evidently, the Duchess neglects the baby, and tosses it to Alice when she needs to play croquet with the Queen. The verses to the Duchess’ lullaby – “Speak roughly to your little boy, And beat him when he sneezes; He only does it to annoy, Because he knows it teases,” is as violent as the way she tosses the baby up and down.

Queen Victoria was quoted to have referred to behavior of children as that of “rabbits and guinea pigs, and Carrol; portrayed children as pigs in his book. He had a similar dislike of babies as well. “If (the baby) had grown up, ‘(Alice) said to herself, “it would have made a dreadfully ugly child; but it makes a rather handsome pig, I think.” Chapter VI Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Yet, the Queen gave birth to nine children, and the era that bears her name placed a high value on motherhood.

She had no interest in social issues (inevitably blaming flare-ups of discontent and unrest on small groups of agitators), but while she was in power, Britain under­went tremendous social reform. She did not embrace changes wrought by technology, slow to appreciate potential economic benefits, but technological innovations reshaped Europe and much of the world throughout the 19th century. Victorian England was living the imperial experience, the British Empire was expanding while new lands and cultures were discovered.

What followed was an encounter of cultures and, quite often, an aggression against the foreignness perpetrated by the British Empire. Danial Bivona in “Alice the Child-Imperialist and Games of Wonderland”, argues that Alice’s approach to Wonderland is deeply marked by an imperialistic attitude. She comes from her incapacity of understanding the other culture, assuming that, only because she cannot understand it, it must be devoid of logical rules. An assessment true for all time, and deeply rooted in the world Victoria helped shape.

And as Queen Victoria’s reign wore on, she concluded that governance was no place for a woman and accordingly subordinated herself to her husband, giving him a greater role in handling the crown’s responsibilities.

Queen Victoria: a headstrong woman with conservative principles, cautious in her friendships, prone to temper tantrums and depression. Not one to readily forgive, she ensured that woe befell anyone who wittingly or unwittingly fought against her— a trait Alice (or rather Alyss) eventually came to think of as a fractal reflection manifesting the ill intent sent from Queen Redd (Red Queen) in Wonderland at the time.

Throughout her life there were eight assassination attempts against the Queen, all of them failing miserably. Her carriage was shot at by Edward Oxford in 1840 while she was five months pregnant— an unthinkable trauma that Victoria accepted rather well. –

Then twice more the Queen was shot at in 1842 by the would-be assassin John Francis. A hunchback named John William Bean fired a pistol at the Queen just five weeks later— though it was unloaded, and the man postured his attack as a cry to be sent to a penal colony (far from the hardship of Britain).

Victoria’s carriage was shot at again in 1849 by William Hamilton. A year later, known lunatic Robert Pale attacked the Queen in Hyde Park, smacking her on the head with his cane (making him the only assassin to injure the Queen). A 17-year-old named Arthur O’Conner attempted to shoot the Queen in 1872 but was foiled by her favorite personal attendant, John Brown.

Her final would-be-assassin was a man named Roderick Maclean who attempted to shoot the Queen in 1882 but was tackled by a group of Eton college boys. Such was the earthly queen with whom Alice Liddell, née Alyss Heart of Wonderland, would contend.

By 1859, Victoria had successfully married off eight of her chil­dren. Only the youngest, Leopold, remained. He was grown into a fine man, and the discomfort she’d felt around him when he was a youngster had evaporated; she was now greedy for his company and overprotective. Much as she had done to rid her­self of her mother’s “supervision,” Leopold was determined to marry to get out from under the maternal thumb.

Victoria believed that offspring of British monarchs should wed royals or nobles of other nations as a means of forming political and military alliances. How galling then, that Leopold set his heart on a former foundling named Alice Liddell, a member of the gentry, modestly famous for being Lewis Carroll’s muse (the queen loved Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland but knew that it satirized her court,) what was worse: Miss Liddell had progressive ideas on social and economic reform, and she didn’t care to abide a woman’s place in society. 

A bit of trivia -- Queen Victoria suggested that Carroll dedicate his next book to her. And so, his next work, “An Elementary Treatise on Determinants, With Their Application to Simultaneous Linear Equations and Algebraic Equations,” was presented to the queen- no recorded reaction is known.

Queen Victoria could never let Leopold marry this upstart with the arrogance of a princess. But she couldn’t simply forbid him from marrying her either; he would detest her, and he reminded her too much of Albert (who had died prematurely and mourning whom Victoria wore only black for the rest of her reign) for her to have tolerated that. –

She would have to be subtle, nuanced in her sabotaging of Leopold and Alice’s relationship; they would seem, to themselves, to be masters of their own uncoupling, then Alice Liddell would give up her pretensions and reforms and fall back into her proper sphere.

Queen Victoria wasn’t accustomed to failing.

The Mad Hatter’s Missing Brother: Dalton Madigan

Dalton Madigan had worked hard to be a Milliner for the ages, and his skillset—that of a ninja, US Army Ranger, Navy Seal, MI6 agent, and KGB operative rolled into one—now surpassed his instructors’ expectations, their estimates of his potential, as high as they had been, having proven too conser­vative. Yet technically, Dalton was still a student, a cadet at the academy where generations of select Wonderlanders had trained in hopes of becoming members of the queendom’s most accom­plished security force.

The morning of his graduation, Dalton spent his last hours on campus walking the grounds in quiet contemplation, every sight a touchstone to memory. There, next to the sprit-dane topiary, was where he’d tended wounds that his younger brother Hatter had suffered while toying with a wrist-blade. ---

There was the patch of grass inside the service gate, which Dalton had fre­quently used as his own private training area, spending count­less hours perfecting hand-to-hand combat fundamentals. And there—the curving path to the kitchens that he and Hatter had first taken eight years earlier, when they had been brought to the Millinery to live as its wards after their parents Belmore and Lydia were killed on a mission.

“He’s so little!” Cook exclaimed of Hatter.

Dalton placed a protective hand on his brother’s shoulder. “He’s the son of two of the greatest Milliners in history.”

“Of course!” Cook said and gave them each a plate piled high with jollyjelly scones.

Dalton strolled on, past the banquet hall and the Wonder­ground practice field. The Millinery had, unsurprisingly, become more than just an institution to him; it was home. But every­body had to leave home some time.

At only twenty years old, Top Cadet in his class, Dalton Madigan had been awarded the post of Queen Theodora’s per­sonal bodyguard, the highest possible honor a Milliner could receive in Wonderland.

Dalton Madigan deploys his Milliner Blades

Carrying a dusty old box, Dalton found Hatter (aka the Mad Hatter) in his newly assigned dorm room. It was a small, minimally furnished space, but a decided improvement over the basement apartment where he, too, had lived before formally beginning his education.

“I might not have a chance to see you alone again before I go,” he said.

Hatter merely nodded, shy around the queen’s new bodyguard.

Say something about how you’re going to miss him, Dalton prodded himself. Tell him you’d rather not leave the only family you still have.

Dalton pulled a battered stovepipe hat from the box he was carrying. “It belonged to Dad,” he said, offering the hat to his brother. “It’s the first one he ever wore as a Milliner. I was wait­ing to give it to you until you started your education.”

“Dad’s?” Hatter faintly echoed, his lips twisting in either per­plexity or displeasure, Dalton couldn’t tell which; and belatedly, the older Madigan realized: unimpressive as the hat was, it was nothing if not a stinging reminder of their parents’ absence.

Dalton opened his mouth to say—what? That the stove­pipe might inspire Hatter to accomplish great things, as it had inspired him? It felt like a lie. The hat had inspired him, but more from negative connotations than positive ones. The brothers hadn’t resided long at the Millinery before Dalton started hearing rumors that Belmore and Lydia had compromised themselves somehow, not only abandoning Millinery procedures, failing to perform up to the level of its least impressive graduates, but possibly engaging in treason.

Dalton, just twelve at the time, might have imagined worse than the truth. But since he never learned the truth, throughout his teen years he waffled between missing his parents, revering them as he had when they’d been alive, and being angry with them for having, by their deaths, abandoned him and Hatter— though not before compromising the Madigan reputation.

And Dalton’s worst assumptions were still with him. Which was why he’d worked so hard to excel at the Millinery Academy, to ensure that the Madigan name would again reverberate in people’s heads with respect, awe.

He must know the rumors, Dalton thought, watching Hatter wipe dust from the crown of their father’s hat. They hadn’t talked about it, but . . . he must know.

“I wish I could be around for you,” Dalton offered.

The words sounded false to his ears. Like many such orphaned siblings before him, he had tried to be everything to his younger brother—mother and father, all while keeping on top of his stud­ies. An impossibility. No doubt he hadn’t always been around when Hatter had needed him, and here he was, pretending he could make up for earlier neglect with a futile comment about the future.

“I wish . . . ” Dalton started again, but his voice petered out.

He knew that everyone at the academy thought him as emo­tive as a quartz slab. Not infrequently, he longed to bust free of the rigid exoskeleton under which he stowed all feeling.

Stepping forward, Dalton awkwardly put an arm across Hatter’s shoulders, unable to remember the last time he had touched his brother with more than a handshake.

The Hat of Belmore Madigan, passed down to Dalton and Hatter

It would be his last act as a cadet: to impress upon the incoming Millinery class a sense of what they might accomplish if they put in the effort.

Outfitted with his full complement of gear, Dalton stood in the open space of the academy’s Holographic and Transmutative Base of Extremecombat, a state-of-the-art training arena commonly called the HATBOX.

Floor, walls, ceiling: all were checkerboards of large blue and white tiles. Temporary bleachers had been erected at one end of the otherwise barren room, and the new cadets—Hatter among them—took their seats and waited in anxious silence for . . . they didn’t know what. Expressionless, immobile, Dalton also didn’t know what he was waiting for— not exactly. He had asked not to be told in advance, wanting to react instinctively to adversaries.

A sound like escaping steam came from the bleachers, the audience gasping in near unison as—

Zzmp.

Fourteen white floor tiles flipped to reveal a platoon of card soldiers from the Diamond Deck. The soldiers charged Dalton, and he shrugged to activate his Millinery backpack; it sprouted an array of blades—C-blades, J-blades, daggers, corkscrews— all of which he put to excellent use. ---

Succumbing to Dalton’s weapons, soldiers folded in on themselves. Only two were left. Leaping over the Four Card, midair, Dalton threw a dagger into its vitals. Landing, he dodged left to avoid the sword of the Three Card, whose life he deftly ended with a J-blade to the heart.

Breathing heavily, Dalton stood in the ringing silence, no longer aware of the bleachers’ worth of cadets holding their collective breath. He was alive only to his own survival.

Zzmp.

The tiles supporting the dead card soldiers flipped; up came a set of white chessmen—pawns, knights, and rooks—and they raged toward Dalton. In a single fluid motion, he snatched the top hat off his head and flicked it flat into spinning rotary blades, which he sent slicing into the nearest pawn. The blades took out two more pawns and a rook while—

“Yah! Ugh!”

Dalton defended himself against a pair of knights, the wrist-blades of one hand activated—a centrifugal blur of Wonderland steel that served as a shield against the knights’ thrusts. He lifted his free hand to catch his spinning hat blades as they boomer­anged back to him.

Thuuunnk!

A cannonball dropped from the ceiling—so close that it took out one of the knights. Dalton staggered backward, unable regain solid footing before the ball doubled in size, morphing. Nodules protruded. Panels retracted. Eight long mechanical legs unfolded. Dalton found himself backed toward a wall by what we on Earth might describe as a giant steampunkish arachnid. Like all cannonball spiders, this one had pincers capable of sev­ering a Milliner in half.

Dalton slashed his way through a converging scrum of chess­men and ran to meet the advancing spider, diving head first between its legs and taking up position underneath its “belly.” The spider scuttled about, trying to get out of its own way, as it were, its pincers clacking air.

Thuuunnk! Thuuunnk!

More cannonball spiders dropped from the ceiling. A pro­jectile the size and shape of an ordinary playing card whizzed past Dalton’s head, shot from a rook’s AD-52—an automatic dealer capable of shooting razor-cards at the rate of fifty-two per second. Dalton pulled a tab on his backpack’s shoulder strap; a complex of rods and blades telescoped up and out of the pack, arranging themselves into a horizontal propeller that whirred over his head, lifting him into the air.

Kkkrrchkkrchkchk.

It wasn’t the smoothest liftoff, ascending through the body of a cannonball spider. The propeller jammed more than once. Dalton veered at chest height amid chessmen, kicking at them to get free. A spider’s pincers tore off half a trouser leg, but then . . . up, up he went, pulling his knees close to his chest, extending his arms below, and flexing his fists to activate his wrist-blades as shields from the chessmen’s razor-cards and crystal shot.

The cannonball spiders started to climb the walls. Dalton, nearing the ceiling. deactivated his wrist-blades, and a hand again went to his shoulder strap. The propeller retracted, his backpack returned to its everyday innocuous appearance, and he punched his belt buckle to open the sabers at his midsection; the longest blades he possessed flicked out out from all sides of him.

He let himself drop, spinning like a blender into the chess­men below.

Swink, swink, swink, swink!

Pieces of pawns, rooks, and nights lay all around him. AD52s and crystal shooters littered the floor.

The cannonball spiders jumped from the walls as Dalton armed himself with an AD52 in one hand and a crystal shooter in the other. He aimed between their pincers, sending missiles down their mechanical gullets. Most of the spiders burst into pieces. Some wobbled, then folded their legs, forever inert.

Dalton again stood, out of breath, in a ringing silence.

Zzmp.

The HATBOX floor tiles flipped, clearing the arena. The exhi­bition was over. Every cadet in the audience, having ducked or crouched to avoid cannonball spider shrapnel, now sat with their eyes wide and their mouths hanging open, the name Madigan reverberating in their heads with respect, awe.

Dalton Madigan Rides a Spirit-Dane

The life of a queen’s bodyguard: constant vigilance, but so far, for Dalton at least, no combat. He told himself that he wasn’t get­ting soft, that just because he spent his days amid the splendors of Heart Palace, where royals sipped tea and strolled in gardens while Queen Theodora occupied herself with diplomacy—none of this meant that he was falling out of top Milliner shape, phys­ically or mentally.

He wasn’t entirely convinced.

More and more, as he stood discreetly within sight of the queen while she confabbed with the Lords and Ladies of the Diamond, Club, and Spade families, Dalton would be flanked by the Heart princesses, Rose and Genevieve. Was he always so stiff and somber? Rose would tease. She was a constant flirt and decidedly less conventional than her sister.

“How can you effectively fight against Dark Imagination if you don’t know what it feels like?” she asked one time.

“I don’t need to be a criminal to thwart a criminal,” Dalton answered. “An assassin to thwart a murder—

“But you are an assassin when called upon to be one, aren’t you?” Rose laughed.

His brain always went fuzzy in her company. He tried not to notice the way her tongue poked out deliciously from between her teeth when she was privately amused. He tried not to notice the curves of her body, so tauntingly outlined by the tight dresses of jabberwock-hide she favored. But he couldn’t help it; his head, his thoughts, kept turning in Rose Heart’s direction.

It wasn’t instantaneous but a gradual wearing down of his resolve. Dalton came to feel that he didn’t have much choice; he surrendered to Rose and let himself be seduced. Having an affair with the princess, the daughter of the queen he’d sworn to pro­tect: he could be expelled from the Millinery for such a breach of ethics.

He had no intention of being like his parents, sabotaging his reputation, and he vowed to himself to end the relationship. But every time Rose called for him, he went to her, and he soon discovered that he liked secretly breaking the rules. As long as no one found out, he wouldn’t be like his parents.

He knew that Rose dabbled in Dark Imagination, and more than once, as he guarded Queen Theodora’s rooms at night, she messaged him, asking him to retrieve her from some illegal establishment that she’d sneaked off to visit, too far gone on artificial crystal to make it back to Heart Palace on her own. The more wild Rose became, the more he liked her. She was so unabashed, so disregardful of etiquette, norms, expectations, so unafraid to just be. He “liked” her? No, he loved her.

Then something happened. Queen Theodora quarantined her eldest daughter. It wasn’t like Rose to tolerate such treatment, but Dalton couldn’t get any information out of Genevieve as to the reason for the quarantine or for Rose’s tolerance of it. When, after what felt like an excruciatingly long time, he saw Rose again, he didn’t know that she had given birth to a girl, allegedly stillborn. But along with everyone else in Wonderland, he did know that, on account of Rose’s rebellious behavior, Queen Theodora had removed her from succession to the throne.

“How are you?” he asked tenderly.

“Glad I won’t have the burden of ruling,” she said with seem­ing nonchalance.

A few nights later she messaged him, needing him to bring her home from an artificial crystal den. As always, he didn’t ask for a palace guard to cover his post because this would have been a public admission that he was shirking his responsibilities. He secreted himself off to the crystal den, but Rose wasn’t there, and he very soon discovered why: she’d used his absence to sneak into Theodora’s rooms and murder the queen, swearing that she would wear the crown.

With shock, anger, dismay, Dalton understood that he’d been an accomplice in the queen’s death—unwitting, but an accomplice, nonetheless.

He didn’t say goodbye to anyone—not to Rose, whom he couldn’t help loving despite all, and not to his brother Hatter. He jumped into The Pool of Tears, a portal presumed to take those who entered its waters to other worlds, though no one had ever returned to verify it.

Dalton’s impulse to run, his unwillingness to face the conse­quences of his actions, surprised him. But he refused to live with his disgrace reflected in every Wonderland eye that deigned to look at him.

The Pool of Tears

Earth is a gray and primitive place compared to Wonderland. But Dalton, going through his days as if serving a prison term, thinks it appropriate; he doesn’t deserve better. He has spent years working as a mercenary for the unscrupulous and power-mad. His self-hatred and constant proximity to corruption have smashed what was left of his moral compass. Now, unknown to him, Wonderland suffers a violent convulsion, and his younger brother jumps into The Pool of Tears.

Now, not one but two Madigans wander the earth; each lost to themselves, they might yet find each other.

A Look At Lewis Carroll’s Wonderland Through the Pool of Tears

As the Royal Scholar of Wonderland, I, Bibwit Harte am tasked with peering through the Pool of Tears to see the myriad of creations inspired by Wonderland, from Lewis Carroll's fanciful novels, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland  and Through the Looking Glass first published in 1865, to the 1951 animated movie Alice in Wonderland from Disney to the very accurate 2006 New York Times best-selling series The Looking Glass Wars with Princess Alyss by Frank Beddor.

Today we will explore the influence of The Royal Millinery on other worlds. You maybe quite surprised to learn that in the less imaginative realms, hats are never imbued with Caterpillar Thread and are very rarely used as weapons. The only acts of violence ever ascribed to this mundane millinery is they are on occasion referred to as “Killer Looks.” (chortle)

In spite of their less dangerous designs, several hats in this world (and their owners) have become rather famous. Here is a little list…

The Venus of Willendorf’s Woven Cap

While there are not many official records of hats before 3,000 BC, they probably were commonplace before that. The 27,000-to-30,000-year-old Venus of Willendorf figurine appears to depict a woman wearing a woven hat. Similar sculptures, first discovered in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, are traditionally referred to in archaeology as "Venus figurines", due to the widely-held belief that depictions of women represented an early fertility deity, perhaps a mother goddess. Hats have been around since the time of the mastodon.

The Cap-Crown of Queen Nefertiti

Nefertiti was a queen of the 18th Dynasty of Ancient Egypt, the great royal wife of Pharaoh Akhenaten. Nefertiti and her husband were known for a religious revolution, in which they worshipped solely the sun disc, Aten, as the only god. With her husband, she reigned at what was arguably the wealthiest period of ancient Egyptian. Nefertiti favored a flat-topped version of the blue war crown (or Cap-Crown.) The famous bust of Nefertiti depicts her wearing this crown. The crown linked the queen with the goddess Tefnut, a solar deity and it looked stunning! (Note to self: I should look into getting a similar hat made for Alyss of Wonderland.)

Archibald Armstrong’s Jester’s Cap

When King James I  succeeded to the English throne, Armstrong was appointed court jester. Archibald modified the traditional “donkey eared” fool’s cap and added bells and a third floppy cone creating the now famous (or infamous) Jester’s Cap.

His influence was considerable and he was greatly courted and flattered, but his success appears to have gone to the jester’s head. He became presumptuous, insolent, and mischievous and was much disliked by the members of the court, but James favored him and as long as he pleased his audience of one, he was able to keep his head (and his hat) safely attached to his body. Certainly, if Archibald had been in the Court of Queen Redd of Wonderland, she would have said, “Off with his head!”

Marie Antoinette’s Boat Hat

Marie Antoinette  was the last Queen of France prior to the French Revolution and before she lost her head, she was known for her outlandish hats and hairstyles. In Paris, following a maritime skirmish in 1778, women of fashion commemorated what they saw as a French victory against the British with the Coiffure à la Belle Poule, an elaborate hairstyle containing a replica of the ship itself.

The Queen was not to be outdone by her courtiers, so she created the most lavish nautical fascinator of them all. Certainly, this elaborate headpiece did nothing to silence claims of her extravagance. Queen Genevieve of Wonderland (Queen of Hearts) would have never tolerated such decadent behavior! Her royal subjects were her priority.

Napoleon Bonaparte’s Bicorne

French emperor Napoleon understood the importance of branding, and throughout his life used imagery and clothing to convey power and status. His most famous hat was his black-felted beaver fur bicorne. The imposing nature of this chapeau gave the Emperor some much needed stature. Traditionally, the bicorne, with its distinctive deep gutter and two pointed corners, was worn with the corners facing to the front and back, but so as to be distinct on the battlefield, Napoleon wore the hat sideways so that anyone scanning the crowds would instantly know him by his jauntily angled hat.

The conquering ways remind this author of the Wonderland’s ArchEnemy,  King Arch of Archland.

Davy Crockett’s Coon Skin Cap

Davy Crockett was a celebrated 19th-century American folk hero, frontiersman, soldier and politician. Even after he left his deep woods home to become a member of the United States House of Representatives, he still would frequently don his signature cap to remind himself (and others) of his humble beginnings.  Coonskin caps are fur hats made from the skin of a raccoon, with the animal’s tail hanging down the back.

The caps were originally worn by Native Americans, but were appropriated by 18th century frontiersmen as hunting caps. Davy Crockett, who is frequently depicted wearing a coonskin cap, seems to have had an authentic connection to them. He wore the hat during the famous Battle at the Alamo and the presence of the coon skin cap allowed his battle torn body to be identified.

Abraham Lincoln’s Stovepipe Hat

Sixteenth president of the United States Abraham Lincolnwas exceedingly tall at 6 foot 4 inches, and the addition of his famous top hat accentuated his height even further. Lincoln used to keep papers and speeches tucked inside his hat and he would fish them out when needed, making his hat not just a natty bit of headgear but also a useful repository. The most famous of Lincoln’s stovepipe hats was the very one he wore on the night of his assassination at Ford's Theater on April 14, 1865. Gentle readers, you may recall that Hatter Madigan once instructed President Lincoln on the art of Hat Throwing. This adventure was chronicled in the thrilling tome, Mad with Wonder.

Winston Churchill’s Homburg

British wartime prime minister Winston Churchill was renowned for his hats. Churchill himself once wrote a humorous essay on the subject, remarking that as he did not have a distinctive hairstyle, spectacles, or facial hair like other famous statesmen. Cartoonists and photographers of the day focused instead on his love of headgear.

Churchill wore a number of styles of hat, from top hats to bowler hats, but he is probably most famous for his homburg. The homburg is a felt hat with a curved brim, a dent that runs from front to back, and a grosgrain ribbon that forms a band. On the subject of homburgs, we are all very familiar with the Wonderland resident, Molly Homberg. Churchill certainly would have admired her spirit!

Jackie Kennedy’s Pillbox Hat

Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis was one of America’s greatest style icons, and one of her most memorable looks was the pillbox hat perched on the back of her head. Kennedy had many versions of the pillbox, but the most famous is the watermelon pink one she wore with matching pink Chanel-style suit on November 22, 1963, the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Jackie, who had been at his side in her pink suit, was covered in her husband’s blood. When aides repeatedly suggested she change her clothes, according to biographer William Manchester Jackie refused, saying "No, let them see what they've done."

If you enjoyed my little Hat History, please return soon for more posts about all things Alyss (and Alice) in Wonderland!