"What took you so long child?" The Red Queen asked "Did you decide to have a little chatter with the Queen?" Alice smirked, the Red Queen had no idea how right she was. "I simply felt a little sentimental Queen." She answered, and blinked at her. The Queen put on her favorite offended face, and turned to leave. Alice looked at the Hatter, who looked back at her with a quizzical look. Alice quickly turned away and went to follow the Red Queen, whom was bobbing her way towards the door, her large puffy dress swinging like a church bell.
It was a long way back to the castle square, and Alice could feel Hatter's suspicious stare all the way through the hallways of the White Castle. Alice felt like a convicted criminal, and the feeling was not a pleasant one. "What seems to be the problem Hatter?" She asked, hoping to get him to look away, she was disappointed. The Hatter kept his gaze locked onto Alice, as he spoke. "It just seemed that you spent an awfully long time at the Queen's side, and I was merely pondering as to what took you so long." He said, and Alice felt cold sweat spring from her pores. "I simply felt like having a moment of peace with the Queen, you see she tal-" "You cannot tell them!" Alice blinked, she thought for sure she had heard the Queen's voice once more, but surely she had been wrong. "No I'm afraid I have gotten myself stuck in here." She said, and Alice quickly turned away from the Hatter, to not let her face give away that something was amiss. "I thought you had left me Queen" Alice thought, and hoped that she wasn't going mad, although this was far from the most bizarre things she had experienced. "I thought so too, but it seems that getting out of your head is a lot harder than it is getting in." The Queen said "Although neither was particularly easy". Alice wasn't sure whether to take that as a compliment or an insult, so she chose to disregard it all together.
"Alice?" Alice flinched, she had forgotten about the Hatter, whom was still staring at her with a suspicious look "You were saying?" Alice looked at him. If the Queen told her not to tell them, it was probably with good reason. "Nothing" she answered, perfectly aware that she was fooling no one, especially not Hatter whom had a reputation of being quite aware beneath his shroud of insanity. His facial expression was his ever so cheerful smile, but Alice saw a flash of something else pass through his eyes, she had to be careful or her friends would grow suspicious.
Hatter looked towards the rest of the group, whom had gone ahead when Alice and Hatter had slowed down. "I think we should seek to find a place to rest." He said, and the others nodded. They were all tired after the long day in the tunnels, Alice could feel it slowly catching up to her, her feet were beginning to hurt and her eyelids were getting heavy. "I believe there's a nice little inn down hope street, respectable rooms for respectable prizes." said the Hare's breast pocket, although Alice suspected that it actually was the Dormouse whom had awoken, all give it briefly, for seconds later she heard the little rodent's familiar snore making it's way to her ear. "Then the decision has been made" the Hatter said, and started to walk towards wherever it was that the Dormouse had directed them to. Alice cast her eyes towards the ground and stayed silent, as they made their way towards the alleged inn.
Alice wasn't sure as to what she was going to do, it was all very confusing, and she felt like she was going to have a headache from all the commotion. "Worry not girl" the Queens voice sounded through her head, and normally Alice wouldn't mind her sweet voice, but currently all she wanted was to have a moment to relax, and maybe even sleep. "Queen" she began, and even her thoughts sounded tired "I am quite aware that you're agenda is a busy one, but I am tired and I need to rest, just for the night if you don't mind." "Surely" the Queen responded "But rest quickly for you have a big day ahead of you." Alice sighed, all she wanted was a good nights sleep, but it would certainly be a problem if she couldn't even have her own head for herself.
As they made their way through the curly streets, Alice found Hatter looking back at her numerous times, although never for more than a second or two. She was bothered by it, but she decided not to pursue it, in fear of him figuring out her secret. Which, come to think of it, she had no idea why it was a secret in the first place. She would have to ask the Queen if she ever got the chance. "There it is" the Hare, whom had takes the lead exclaimed. Alice looked ahead, they were in an old looking street, with a cobblestone road, and nice medieval house facades on both sides. The Hare was pointing at a nice looking wooden facade, with a little wooden sign hanging above the door which read "The Stove Inn". Alice could hear cheerful music coming fro within, and a nice smell of food hung in the air, making her stomach growl. "I concur" the Hatter said, smiling at her "It truly is time to eat and rest." he finished, as he opened the door, and led the party inside.
The place was nice and warm, and a large fireplace was burning in one end of the tavern. It was a large rectangle room, with a bar in the middle and sets of chairs and tables scattered around it. The fireplace was burning in the wall to the right of the door, and to the left a set of stairs led up to the second floor. The room was live with people grinning and laughing and chatting, two bartenders were handing large mugs of ale over the counter, and several servant were bringing meals to tables all around the room. The food looked delicious, and the air was heavy with a pleasant mix of spices and dry firewood. Alice smiled and laughed "This place certainly is something" She said. "Certainly is" The Hatter responded, as he looked over the crowded room. "How savage" the Red Queen said grumpily from, and Hatter rolled his eyes at Alice. They made their way through the crowd, until they finally found an empty table in the back of the room. They had barely sat down before a waitress appeared at their table, carrying an abundance of drinks, and a little notepad. As soon as she had put down the drinks, which seemed to be in all colors of the rainbow, she looked at Hatter, whom undoubtedly looked like the authority of the table. "What can I get you gentlemen and girl tonight?" Hatter looked around at the table, waiting for everyone to order. Alice was slightly confused, since she hadn't seen the shade of a menu, and frankly she didn't really have time to decide anything. "I'll have the ratgout" The Hatter said, and Alice heard the Dormouse squeak from Hares pocket. "What in the world is a ratgout?" Alice asked, for she had surely never heard of such a dish. Hatter looked delighted, it was obviously a delicacy of his, "It is merely a ragout but with rat meat rather than pork." Alice frowned, who in their good mind would eat such an atrocity? But she didn't bother to inquire further into what the Hatter was thinking, for she had to figure out what she would order, which would certainly be a challenge, seeing as she had not the slightest clue what she could order. She looked around, but none of the other seemed to have a problem ordering, Hare was having Apple spaghetti, the Queen was having a red velvet stake and the Dormouse ordered a cheese filet, as he slowly made his way down Hare's vest, to prepare for his meal.
"I'd go for the strawberry soup" The White Queen's voice sounded, and Alice smiled, she had forgotten about her helpful companion. "I'll have the strawberry soup" She said to the waitress, whom promptly wrote it down. Hatter looked suspiciously at her, "Good choice Alice, that's the White Queen's favorite meal." He said, and Alice quickly looked away. She was afraid that Hatter knew that something was amiss, but she could not tell him, as much as she wanted to. "May I inquire as to why I cant tell them" Alice thought, for she did not like keeping secrets from her friends. "I would have much rather stayed within the confines of my own mind, but you needed the message I had for you. Unfortunately I got myself stuck, so now I'll make the best of it. But for the rest of them, I am stuck in my sleep, and I wish them to continue believing so." The Queen explained. Alice decided to leave her be for now, she would have plenty of time to talk with her later. She was still not sure why The Queen wished for her to keep her secret, but Alice had never seen her be wrong about anything, so she would abide for now, but she would certainly question her about it later.
The food arrived promptly, and Alice quickly devoured her bowl of soup. It certainly was delicious, and she found that, despite it's light nature, it filled her stomach better than any steak would. After she had eaten, she excused herself to her room, for her eyelids had grown heavy, and the thought of sleeping almost made her drool.
She went up the little stairwell, which led her to a long corridor where doors, marked with pictures rather than numbers, were lined up on either side of the narrow hallway. The lady whom had given her the golden key for her room, had told her to look for the golden horse. Alice looked at the doors as she walked past them, there was a rabbit holding a scepter on one, and on the other was a picture of a parrot hanging upside down like a bat. Another one had fierce looking dog with red eyes looking back at her, and next to that was a picture of a golden stallion prancing, its golden mane flowing in the wind like fire. Alice tried putting the key in the door, but it went straight through the seemingly solid wood, along with her right hand, in which she was holding the key.
"Magnificent isn't it?" Alice jumped at the sound of Hatter's voice. He was standing directly behind her, although how he had gotten there without her noticing, was beyond her. He was holding his own key, although his was black as tar, and he was looking at her with an amused look on his face. "What is with this door?" Alice asked, and Hatter laughed a hearty laugh. "Worry not little one" He said, and put his own hand trough his door, the one with the black dog on it. "You need not bother unlocking these doors." He explained "Simply hold you key, and you can proceed through." Alice tried putting her hand towards the door, and watched in awe as the wooden portal swallowed up her entire hand and arm. "You see?" Hatter asked, and Alice nodded. "Very well Alice" He said, yawning, "I will proceed to my quarters, and I hope to see you tomorrow." He smiled at her and waved a quick goodbye, before disappearing through the door.
Alice hesitantly moved trough her own door, scared of, well to be honest she didn't know what she was scared of, but it certainly wasn't everyday she tried walking through doors.
When she made her way to the other side, she found herself in a tiny rectangular room with bare walls, and a single bed propped in the corner. Alice didn't have the energy to undress, she simply let herself fall onto the the bed, and closed her eyes. As she felt her conscience drift away, she could've sworn she heard the Queen voice saying her name, but she was simply too tired to listen. "I'll talk tomorrow" she mumbled, before she fell asleep, and let dreams fill her head.