Curiouser

Where Wonderland, Oz, and a range of fairytale elements inside a game-like universe are all in one!

Emily continues to relive a terrible memory of her mother's death. As she and her older brother Nate are invited to the king's birthday ball, she steps into another world she's never seen before!

It's an adventurous world full of magic, darkness, and strange things.

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3. Nonsense

The scroll travels down last, hitting Emily in the head before rolling away on the floor. She gasps, and then reaches out to grab it. Nathaniel laughs. She glared, "What's so funny?" He cleared his throat and said, "Nothing."

They both look to the door. The person steps out of the warm yellow light, "How do you do." They bowed, "I am Sir Gold-Digger." It was a knight in golden armour that sparkled like the sun.

She got to her feet, "How do you do, Sir Gold-Digger. I am Emily, and this is-" He cut her off, holding his head as he said, "A disaster!" She raised an eyebrow in confusion, "Uh..?"

He points to her, "You have a rat's nest of hair, and you!" He pointed to Nathaniel next, and walks up to him, "Your eyes are too blue!"

He frowned, "Well then your armour is too...too bold!" He shook his hands in the air. Sir Gold-Digger snarled. She cut in, "Gentlemen, please!" They stop and look down at her, "We are not here to fight." She said. They sighed.

Sir Gold-Digger said, "My apologies, ma'am." Nathaniel rubbed the back of his neck, "I'm sorry too." She nodded, "Better."

He turns back, "Since you're all here, I might as well show you around." He opened another door further to the left from the other.

She pointed to the previous one, "But didn't you just come out that door?" He looked and said, "What door?" She looked again; it was gone like it never existed. It left her speechless, "Uh..?"

Sir Gold-Digger opens the door, "Come along now." He waved. As soon as they stepped out into a different place filled with random letters, big and small, her eyes widened in awe.

A mirror with bird wings flew in her face. She checked her reflection, her hair isn't messy anymore. It's in curls. The choppy hair from the axe was even braided back with rainbow coloured ribbons through it tied in a neat bow.

Looking down, she saw her dress is changed, too. Its pastel rainbow colours with stitches of bright, bold letters, a green A, a red B, a blue X, and a yellow Y. Her mismatched stockings only has little random letters in different colours. Her gloves have only have ABC on them in light colours of orange, indigo, and turquoise.

Pulling off his hood, he looks up at the letters flapping their wings in the air. His robe was even different. It went from a deep purple to a royal blue with a gold trim of the entire alphabet sewn together.

Instead of ordinary bricks, the path they followed is just jumbles of letters. Sir Gold-Digger led the way.

He lifts up his helmet before picking at his nose and flicking it. She gave a look of disgust, "Err!" Nathaniel turns his lips to her in a whisper, "Now we know why they call him Gold-Digger."

They came to the end of the road, "Here we are!" Sir Gold-Digger said. There's nothing but an empty piece of land. She looked around, "But there's nothing here..?" She blinked right when she looked again.

Where a long table that wasn't there before, sat in the middle with a chubby lady in a dark red dress, she said cheerfully, "Come, come sit!"

They sat at the table, "Have some tea!" She grinned. Teacups popped in. A teapot swung down to pour into them. A cup of sugar bounced over with a spoon in its hand, "Two, please." Emily said.

It poured sugar with its spoon into her cup, and then moved on to the next. Nathaniel also asked for two, but Sir Gold-Digger asked for seven. When it came down to the lady, she asked for three.

As milk passed around, she asked, "So tell me. How is it in the upper world?" Emily wasn't quite sure what to say about it. She turned to Nathaniel, expecting him to answer first. He cleared his throat, "A big mystery as always. You know it's not that all different to yours."

She sipped her tea, "I try to add a lot more wonder to this place." To the round table at her end, she took off the silver bowl-shaped lid.

Stacked on display in the shape of a pyramid were cupcakes with a decorative pair of purple and pink butterfly wings. With each one fluttering away above their heads, the lady swings up a net to catch one.

She takes a bite and looks to everyone, "Go on! Take up a net!" One appears in their hands. With Emily having her eye on one, she swings her net, slamming it down onto the table. The sugar cup struggles to free itself from inside it, "Oops! Sorry." She lifts it up again, letting it go free as well as the cupcake.

She tries to go for it again. Sir Gold-Digger swipes it away first, "Hey!" She frowned. He chewed as he said with a shrug, "What?" There were only two left now since he kept eating them. She swung for it again at the same time Nathaniel did. He caught both in his net.

He slightly opens it up to grab one, and then hands it over, "Here." Touched as she took it from him, she smiled, "Thank you."

He looked to the lady and said, "You haven't heard that people are missing from Minikin Village, have you?" She spat pieces of her cupcake in reply, "Have you checked with the ogres?" He nodded, "We have, and apparently they've never stepped foot outside their land. They wouldn't disturb the peace of others."

She thought about it for a moment, "Well, ogres have a peaceful nature, until you step foot onto their territory. What about Castle Woolf, have you checked there?"

He grew quiet; he and Emily did turn up at the castle uninvited. He didn't know it was infested with werewolves, or anyone for that matter. It looked more abandoned than any. No Gardner to trim the trees and water the plants. A couple of towers are broken. One looks like something took a big bite out of the side of it, and the other is missing half. There's simply no roof over it.

He sighed, "We did look, but...we were in a hurry to get out of there as quickly as possible." She understood, "It was a full moon after all."

She places a chess piece over onto the pink and blue tablecloth of checkers and said, "Checkmate." Everything whirls in a spiral, shifting into a completely different area - darkness and falling letters.

She led the way to the only door in front of them, a door with the alphabet all 'round the frame. She opens it. A rainbow of colour swirls inside. She looks back and waves, "This way!" Her voice echoed.

Golden light outlines her body as she passes through. They push themselves toward the door floating in the dark. Emily reaches the knob and pulls it back before it closed. She looks back to take Nathaniel's hand, as he takes Sir Gold-Digger's.

Her hand touches the rainbow swirl, and then, a pull sucks them in like a vacuum. Letters drop faster and faster at the speed of light as they fall into a bright gold beacon.

A hand grips onto her shoulder and she jumps, she had her eyes squeezed shut the whole time. Nathaniel pointed to the path ahead.

The lady waved from a distance. Emily walked along, but then he pulled her back, "Wait!" He said, pointing to the ground.

The path broke off to the right. There is no land, no sky, just a red 3D path that looks made of plastic, led the way.

He steps first onto the block; another piece drew over, "It's ok!" He said, looking back to her, "Follow where I step." She nodded. As he continues from one block to another, she and Sir Gold-Digger follow just as he said.

He makes a stop, "Hold up!" They freeze, "What?!" She called further behind. He faced a block five kilometres away, "You're going to have to jump this one!" She looks down at where she steps to catch up.

Holding the staff close to his chest, he closed his eyes. She made it onto the block he stood on, "Are we going to make that?" She asked. He looked to her, "You remember how to fly?"

Sir Gold-Digger finally made it over, "Boy, all this is making me sweat under the armour!" He panted, with his hands on his knees, "What are we doing again?" Nathaniel swung his staff and said, "We're flying over!" Their bodies lifted off into the air.

As they flew, Sir Gold-Digger pushed himself with joy, "Weee!" Emily giggled and Nathaniel focused ahead. The three of them landed onto the block at last, "Wait, why go on and walk when we can just fly over the path?" She asked.

He shook his head, "Remember, magic has its limits. Flying won't last long, and besides, we don't know where to go without walking. Each step we take leads us to a different direction; we may never know where another block will end up next. Madam Jumbo could be anywhere."

She looked to him, "Madam Jumbo, that lady?" He nodded, "That's her. I've known her a long time, since I was a kid. She's very...ambitious to make her lower world stranger than the upper world where we came from."

Surprised by how much effort Madam Jumbo put into this, she looked around more, "She made all this herself?"

He nodded again, "Yes. She's a big fan of letters, whilst her twin brother of the upper world much prefers shapes."

Twin...

Looking down, they continued to take each step over to the end. There were no more blocks, just a puff of cloud. He took up his staff and waved it in circles. As the crystal glows, a path drew the cloud away.

A long purple arrow points in the direction they should take. He steps onto it and gives her a hand over. Sir Gold-Digger refuses to be helped and just steps over, himself.

Walking between the bluish clouds along the arrow, she said, "So this arrow will lead us to Madam Jumbo?" He nodded, "Certainly. It's never wrong."

Sir Gold-Digger picked at his nose again, and she quivered in disgust, Bleh!

Nathaniel smiled, "He's doing it again, isn't he?" She crossed her arms and said, "And what are you smiling at?" He chuckled and said, "The look on your face."

She looked away with a frown, "You enjoy poking fun at me, don't you?" He chuckled, "You're so cute." He said, she growled. She even hated being called cute by her brother Nate.

He resembles so much of him, his childish nature, and the fact they look exactly alike, except his eyes a so blue, whereas Nate's eyes are somewhat green.

The path ended onto a mountain. They hopped off the arrow down to where Madam Jumbo waited for them, "What took you so long?" She said, with her hands on her hips, "Never mind that." She smiled and turned to the horizon.

There's nothing but more fog ahead over many mountains, a thunderstorm brew, raining tiny letters. She pulls out an umbrella, large enough for a group of ten to fit under. The raining letters melt as they hit the ground.

With them under the umbrella, Madam Jumbo said, "The quickest route to where you're headed is right here!" Lightning struck the tip of the umbrella. An electrical surge passed through her, and she gripped onto Emily's shoulder.

~|~

A familiar voice echoed, "Emily?" She blinked a few times, taking a clear view of Nathaniel with a worried look on his face.

She sat up, feeling nauseous and dizzy, "Whoa..." she said, Sir Gold-Digger held up two fingers and asked, "How many fingers am I holding up?" She narrowed her eyes trying to focus, "Four?" He then said dramatically, "Oh no! We've lost her!"

Nathaniel picked him up by the shoulder, "We haven't lost her." He said.  She blinked, "Where's Madam Jumbo?" He kneeled and said, "She disappeared the moment she grabbed you at the flash of lightning."

Her vision return to focus, "She said about where we're heading is right here?" He pursed his lips, "She said the quickest route is here, actually." She closed her eyes and shook her head, "Right, that's what I meant."

She turned her head back to him. His hand reached out for hers, "Let me help you up." She allowed him her hand and he pulled her back on her feet.

Sir Gold-Digger stood somewhere, thinking with a hand to his chin, "I believe I have found something!" He pointed out to the object in front of him.

They came to look, "What is that?" She asked. Sir Gold-Digger cleared his throat, "That, my lady is the quickest route."

The object is made of green marble in the shape of a maze. She picked it up; it was just the size of her palm. She asked, "How do we use it?"

Sir Gold-Digger took it from her and then kneeled at a rock, pulling away the vines. There's a carving of the same maze. He places it inside, and then the marble glows.

The ground shakes and the mountain opens. He held them back from the top of the mountain. An eruption of lava bursts out from inside it like a volcano. Steam blows out next.

He goes to jump in, "Come on!" He waved. As he fell, the steam pushed him up into the air. Nathaniel took her by the hand, and together they jumped. The pressure raised them high into the clouds.

They spot Sir Gold-Digger waving to them. They make a soft landing on top of a cloud. Sir Gold-Digger led the way as he said, "All we got to do is travel from here, and then find the next exit to the upper world."

The two follow behind, "You're still holding my hand." She said. He blinked wide eyed at the moment of realisation, "Sorry." He let go and went on ahead. The last time Nate held her hand was when she was eight.

She remembers the time when they ran together and rolled down the hill, with all the laughter and sunshine through the trees. They'd pick out what each cloud looked like. The thought of it made her smile at least, but then she remembered their parents. The memory of them still hurts, even if it was just so long ago.

Nathaniel looks back, seeing her just stand there deep in thought, "Aren't you coming?" He asked. She blinks out of it, "Yes, I am."

They walked on and on until they came to a stop. Her stomach grumbled. Nathaniel pulled out a snack from his pocket, "Eat this." He hands it to her. They were blue diamond shaped cookies with green triangles inside them.

She took a bite of one. Intrigued by the flavour, she said, "Oh my goodness! This is...this real good. What flavour is it?" He smiled, "Greenberry and blapple. It's best if you just eat one. More than that in a day can make you bloat."

Sir Gold-Digger sat, aching at his feet, "May I at least have one, please?" He handed one over, "Sure." He took off his helmet before taking a bite out of it. Sir Gold-Digger too, looked familiar. She knew a boy at school who picked his nose, and the cruel kids would call him gold-digger. He grew up successful, a poet, but she hasn't seen him since then.

The fog parted to reveal a tall dark castle. There were a few gargoyles, less than Castle Woolf's. Nathaniel looked up, "Are we to trust another castle this time?" Sir Gold-Digger walked to the gates, "You may not want to trust this one." The sky grew dark, "Uh-oh..." He pulled on his helmet, "We better leave right now!"

Bats flew out from the windows. Nathaniel took her by the hand again and ran with Sir Gold-Digger, "What's going on!?" She asked, and Sir Gold-Digger yelled, "Vampires!"

The bats were larger and more beastly than normal. They swarmed down to pick off Emily. She screamed at the grip of talons taking her off the ground. Nathaniel's hand slips away as he tried to keep her down.

Taking up his staff, he blasts at the bat. It screeches, almost dropping her. The others swarm around him. He grunts as they scratch at his face until he collapsed to the ground. Sir Gold-Digger tried to slice at them with his sword but was forced to the ground as well.

The bat drops her to the floor up in the highest tower. It lands, shifting to its original form, a vampire with long red hair. She groans, pushing herself up.

He turns to face her, "You child, are very familiar, and yet, I have not seen you." He pulls his cloak. She looked up at the young vampire; he wasn't familiar to her in any way. She said, "I do not believe we have met. I don't remember you at all."

At the whip of his cloak, he sat on his throne, "But you, you have met my younger brother at Castle Woolf, have you not?" She shrugs, "I might have, who told you?"

He grinned, baring fangs, "I have friends in high places. You, my dear, are very special indeed." He steps down off his throne, "Let me show you." She shook her head, "No thank you."

He gazed into her eyes as his glowed red. She isn't sure what to expect, but she still said, "No." He blinked, "Why is it not working on you?" She raised an eyebrow and asked, "Excuse me?"

He tried again, and she still felt nothing, "How are you resisting?" She backed away, "What are you getting at?" He growled, "What power do you wield?!"

The castle morphed. She found herself back on the cloud where Nathaniel and Sir Gold-Digger were found lying unconscious.

She shook them awake. They got up onto their feet weak at the knees, "Emily?" Nathaniel groaned. She hugged him, "It's me."

Surprised, he asked, "Why are you hugging me?" She lets go, looking back to him, "I'm just glad you're all right."

Sir Gold-Digger shook out of dizziness. Nathaniel picked up his staff, "You were gone. They...they took you away...and we couldn't stop them." His eyes brighten more bluer than before, looking away from her.

She put a hand on his over the staff and said, "Hey, at least you tried. I'm all right." He sighed, fighting back the tears, "How did you even escape?"

She isn't quite sure herself. All that happened was that she appeared right back on the ground again. Looking back at where the castle is, it appeared to be no longer there in the fog.

What's happening? Nothing's making sense.

Turning to where Nathaniel stood, he's already walking ahead beside Sir Gold-Digger. They're leaving already? She caught up to them, "Hey, wait!" It's too late; they've disappeared through the fog.

As she continues to on, searching them out, calling their names, none of them answered, and none of them showed. She fell to her knees, "Where've you gone..?"

It's hopeless. She's lost with nowhere to go. Everything is just continuous, a fog on top of the clouds and nothing else. How is she going to find the next exit and return the scroll without their help?

Facing down, about to shed a tear. A light revealed within the fog. It hovers over. She looks up and sees the orange orb look like it's waving to her to come here. She follows it down to a stop. It floats up and spins, brushing away the fog.

Letters show up, and an instruction box opens:

GUESS THE WORD CORRECT, YOU MAY PASS. GET A LETTER WRONG, YOU GET AN X. YOU HAVE FIVE TRIES. GOOD LUCK!

She said after reading, "Oh dear...this is going to be difficult." Lines appear, like in a game of hangman. She counts them to find the word has eight letters, "I will start with a vowel." She chooses the letter A.

A bold red X appeared to the side. She tried again, choosing O. Another X appeared. This isn't as easy as she hoped. She has three tries left.

Her hand hovers over the letter I, having a second thought, she hits the U instead. Waiting for another X to appear, it instead revealed a U in the second line. Relieved, but heart racing, she gave the 'I' a try. It appeared in the third line up from U.

She chose the last vowel, E. Another red X popped up. Two tries left. Now that all the vowels are out, this will be harder to guess.

She tries an S. Another red X and one try left. How is she going to get this? She stares at the letters. A full stop was there for some reason. She hits it. Words pop, "Would you like a hint?" It reads in an echo. She chooses YES. The hint box opens, "Relates to the word, CONFUSING."

She gave it some thought, "Confusing?" And then it hit her, "P-puzzling!" She pointed up a finger. The word revealed, "Correct!" The words flash. The game fades.

A voice called out from inside the fog, "Emily!" She looks up, still sitting on her knees where she was this whole time, "I'm over here!"

A purple orb orbited around her head. Nathaniel sighed in relief, "There you are. Why'd you run off?" She raised an eyebrow, "I didn't! You two were gone."

He shook his head, "We've been with you the whole time. You just suddenly walked off like you were asleep." He gave her a hand onto her feet, "We're almost there anyway." The purple orb sucked back inside the crystal of his staff.

Sir Gold-Digger clears his throat and leans over his shoulder, "May I speak to you privately for a minute?" He looks back to her, "Wait here for a second." They leave to talk. She crosses her arms in wait.

A letter fell on top of her head. She catches it in time before it hit the ground, "A red X?" She looked up, no more letters were falling. She kept it in her pocket next to the skeleton key.

The two returned. Nathaniel asked, "Emily, have you slept-walk before?" She shrugged, "Once or twice as a kid, why?" He took her by the hand, "No reason. Come on."

"Why are you taking my hand?"

"In case you wander off again."

As Sir Gold-Digger led the way, he stops and turns to them, "We're here!" He pointed to a single rain cloud with pure blue pool inside it. He takes a leap, "Weee!"

Nathaniel looks to her, "Well...at least it's not a tree." He said, "You first!" He pushes her in, and she squeals before he jumps in after her, "I hate you!" She splashes, and he chuckles, "It's not that bad."

"How does this work?"

"Give it a second."

The water drops. They drop through a tube and blast out of the lake, falling right back underwater. Her eyes are squeezed shut holding her breath. He laughed and said, "You can breath, you know." Her face turned red before she finally took a breath, "Oh."

The scroll floated out from her pocket, "Oh no!" She tried to swim after it. He reached for it, "I got it!"

She shook her head and said, "No, the scroll is ruined! Whatever is written inside it is probably smeared by now. Paper and ink doesn't work well in water!" He raised an eyebrow, "Whoever told you that?"

"What are you-!?" She paused; this world doesn't work the same as back at home. They're talking underwater after all. She sighed and looked around, "Where's Sir Gold-Digger?"

He was floating on the surface, humming to himself.

She put the scroll in her pocket and checked the other, the red X and key was still in there. He pulled her up to the surface with him, "There he is!" She pointed.

Sir Gold-Digger rowed right over, "Where'd you get the boat?" She asked, and he said, "From over there." He points to the shore which isn't even that far. He pulled them in and rowed back.

Their hair and clothes aren't even wet, "This is so strange. The world is...full of nonsense." She said. The two look at her like she's crazy, "Full of nonsense that is what the worlds are. Nothing's impossible." Sir Gold-Digger said.

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