Chapter 4 The White Knight

Hatter and Alice look unbelievably at the old man standing above them.  He huffs and storms away clanking.

Hatter looks at Alice and asks her again if she is alright.

“Yes, but what is going on?” Alice asks.   She looks upset and bewildered at the same time.  He jumps up, grabs his hat and tosses it in the air; he does it not even consciously thinking, as he does this and other tricks with his hats most mornings.  Hatter then walks over to Alice and leans down to help her up. As he stands back up with Alice, his hat lands on his head.  Alice just stares at him and then she starts to sway a bit.  Worried, Hatter grabs her by her arms to help support her and looks her over thinking that she may have hit her head in the fall.

He anxiously asks her, “Alice, are you ok?  What is wrong?”

Alice is trying to get a handle on what is going on.  First that…that…creature is chasing her.  She had thought that Hatter had left her on her own.   But soon after she thought that, Hatter had come running up to her.  Alice had been elated to see him appear and then save her from being nearly being eaten.  Once he punched the creature with that strange hand of his, they jumped up running for their lives.  Thinking that they may be able to get away if they reached the clearing, they instead found themselves falling into this pit narrowing missing all these sharpened stakes.  Then that… that… jabber thing tried to attack them again, but the same stakes that had almost impaled her, save her life.  The jabberwocky, ‘Is that what its name is?’ she wonders, goes away and when they finally think they can have a breather, this old man comes out of nowhere and starts yelling at them.  And now…Hatter…hat…oh God, is there nothing that is normal in this world?

Hatter is watching her and softly asks again, “Alice, please tell me what is wrong.”  ‘I can’t help you if I don’t know what is wrong’, he thinks.  She just stares at him and he begins to get even more worried.

Before Hatter can do anything, Alice starts telling him in a voice that is getting progressively louder, “I can’t take it.  Is there nothing normal here? I don’t know what to do, Hatter!”

He looks at her, unable to deny himself or her anymore; he pulls her into his arms to try to calm her.   He tries not to think of how good it feels to have her in his embrace as he comforts his Alice.  He softly tells her, “It’s ok, trust me, I will make sure nothing will happen to you.”  When she says nothing, Hatter reluctantly lets her free and holds her out at arm’s length.  Noticing she still looks shocked, he shakes her gently as he calls her name, “Alice.”  Nothing.  He says her name louder, “ALICE!”

Alice jumps away from him startled and drops into her fighter’s stance.  The next minute her body relaxes. Realizing it is Hatter, she tells him, “Sorry.  I got lost there for a second.”

Hatter stares at her and shakes his head briefly, still surprised that this dainty woman in front of him can fight.  She obviously has been well trained that she automatically reacts like that when startled.

He moves closer to her, telling her in a soft voice to not give anything away to the stranger above them, “Alice, we need to get out of the pit. “  As he speaks a rope drops down behind him, “And we can use this rope.”  He stares at her trying to decide if she can make it up the rope by herself or should he go up first and then pull her up?  Or would it be safer for him to stay down here in case she falls?

Alice can’t believe she zoned out there, telling herself, ‘You need to get a handle on yourself!’ She looks at Hatter and realizes he looks like he is starting to worry about her.  She is momentarily taken aback.  No one worries about her; they all just assume that she can handle whatever comes her way. Yet another thing for her to think about, whenever she gets the chance.  She then looks at the rope. And realizes a slight problem. “Hatter you can go ahead…” Her voice trails off as she watches him.

Hatter looks at her with his grin and dimples appearing as he asks, “Are you sure?  I can stay down here in case you fall-”

Alice again interrupts him while putting her hands on her waist.  “HATTER!  You are not staying down here while I climb a rope in a dress.  Plus there is that… that weird man up there. Do you want me up there with him alone?”  She looks at him as she realizes he had been trying to help her and her face softens, as she quietly tells him, “I will be right behind you.”

Hatter’s grin slowly fades away as he turns around, her safety being his highest priority. He grabs the rope and starts to pull himself out of the pit.  When he gets to the top he peers over the edge and doesn’t see the old man.  He pulls himself quickly up and then turns back to help Alice, whom as she had stated, is right behind him.

As they stand up and brush themselves off, the old man appears in front of them across the pit, startling them both.  ‘Where did he come from?’

He starts in on them again calling them, “Subverters. Pig pushing flecks”.  He looks like he is quivering in rage and as he continues to – “Bug Bashers” – insult them?

Alice is frustrated and finally bursts out, “Who the hell are you?”  She is getting fed up with all this weirdness, is there nothing normal in this world?   She feels herself losing control of her temper and here is something she can take her anger out on.

Hatter glances at her shocked that she had swore and grabs her hand.  He doesn’t need Alice going to town on the old man; he knows she will regret it later and be upset about it.  And if the old man is dangerous… well, Hatter can pull her behind him and deal with him.  He has no intention of letting her get hurt, promises or not.  Plus, Hatter believes he can take the old man.

The old man charges up to them, growling his answer to her, “I am a Knight.”  He looks off to the side, like someone is reminding him of the proper ways to behave in front of someone. He continues in a more polite tone of voice, “A White Knight to be precise. Sir Charles Eustace Fotheringhay le Malvoy III.”

Hatter and Alice are just staring at the old man, Hatter’s eyebrows raised in disbelief.  ‘Can he be for real?’ They both think to themselves.  Hatter grips Alice’s hand a little tighter, determined to make sure that nothing will happen to her.

The White Knight stares at both with his beard quivering waiting for them to do the Proper Thing and introduce themselves to him.  When he can see that neither is going to be Proper, he asks them, “Who… are you?”

Hatter just stares at him trying to get his thoughts together.  Should they tell him who they really are?  Or should they… his thoughts cut off when he hears Alice answer the Knight.

“I am Alice” Alice answers.  She feels like she is being interrogated again like in Dodo’s office.  But she can feel Hatter’s hand holding hers tightly.  She feels a little stronger, safer, and comforted by him doing so.  She then realizes that this is not the same as it is in the Great Library, Hatter is there for her and he doesn’t have any other agenda but her safety.

The old Knight repeats what she says, “Alice.” As her name sinks in, he straightens up and repeats again, “The Alice?” Eager to confirm his idea, he gets closer to Alice, and getting within inches of her face he asks, “THE Alice???”

Hatter gets ready in case he gets threatening to his Alice.  Already the old Knight is much closer than he would like.  He watches, keeping a firm grip on her hand and feels her hand clench his back.

“No… just Alice” Alice replies back.  Why does everyone ask her that question?  Then it dawns on her, out of everyone in Wonderland, Hatter has been the only one that has not made that observation.  He in fact-

The Knight interrupts her flow of thoughts, “Just Alice.” He turns into himself humming,  “Hmmmm.”  He has still not moved away from Alice.

‘You can visibly see the wheels turning in his head,’ Hatter thought.  He needs the old man to back away from his Alice. Then it dawns on him, what he has been saying to himself.  ‘Hmm, MY Alice?’  Hatter decides to store that one away for a later time when they are safer.

Hatter then resolves to pull the old Knight’s attention away from his Alice and asks, “I thought all you guys are wiped out years ago.”

Alice notices that his voice had that funny higher sound again. It seems to happen when he’s not sure of the person he is speaking with or trying to con someone.

The Knight acts affronted.  “Well, you thought wrong. As you can see, I am as fit as a butcher’s dog.”  He bangs on his chest plate to emphasize what he is saying then he coughs.

Hatter stares at the Knight, puzzled.  He is getting more and more sure that the old man has lost his marbles being out here by himself.  Hatter grows more determined to protect Alice, and moves closer to her, putting himself a little in front of her, in case something is to happen.

Alice just stares at the Knight and wonders, ‘What the heck type of saying is that?’  Alice gives up at that time.  She will figure this out later and firmly puts it aside.  But, then another thought surfaces from Hatter’s conversation in that bus/elevator thing.  ‘Hmmm maybe…’ She asks him, “Are there any others like you?”

The Knight laughs, “Certainly not, I am a one off.”  The Knight turns away from them, “My nan used to say that,” he walked over to the side of the pit and holding a finger out asking her to wait, he continues, “If I was the only eligible bachelor left in the world,” He leans down to grab a shovel resting there, that is white, of course. “There is not a warthog or a wallflower that would polish my escutcheon.” He laughs.

Hatter is pretty sure this guy is insane, he just needs to determine how insane and try to get Alice away.

Alice looks at the Knight in shock over what he just says… ‘What is he saying?  Oh!  Umm.’  She clarifies, “No, I meant are there any more Knights in these woods?”  When he stares at her she continues to make clear, “Your comrades in arms.”

The Knight replies to her, “Heavens, no! Are you mad? We were wiped out years ago!” He stands there looking at her like she is the mad one.

Hatter really studies at the Knight and he realizes who had dug the pit, “You dug that pit on your own.” Hatter accuses him.

Charlie reacts to his statement by dropping his shovel, as he charges back at Hatter and Alice.

Hatter pulls Alice behind him as they backed up, protecting her with his body.

Charlie starts to rant at Hatter as he drives them back, “You think I am too old?  Well, let me tell you something knugface!!  Youth is a vastly over rated!”  Charlie continues to gesture as he seethes at them, the two of them still backing away from him.

Hatter is making sure Alice is behind him as he sizes up the old Knight.  Alice’s safety is coming to mean more and more to him.  He will protect her.

The Knight grew a little calmer, but he is still ranting at Hatter, telling him, “I may have put on a few years, but I am crafty.  I have a very inventive and crafty mind that is filled with ground breaking state of the art thinking.  I have invented all kinds of things.”  He stops and takes a deep breath and then evenly tells them, “The beehive mousetrap for instance.”

Hatter has been staring at him, shocked at his rapid change of emotions.  He then soon realizes that this old man must have been on his own for a very long time.  Before he can do more than come to that recognition, the Knight starts off again.

He starts charging off towards the pit and telling them, “This here pit, as you so rudely put it.”  Then he turns back and charges back at them with his voice getting progressively louder, “Is my third attempt at the gravity assisted snare Mark IV.” The Knight looks off in the distance as he loses his train of thought.

That is it.  He needs to get Alice away, and he knows he will have to convince her of this. Hatter turns to Alice and tells her bluntly in his normal tone of voice, “He is as mad as a box of frogs.”  She looks at him shocked.  He turns around, taking a few steps toward the Knight, feeling aggravated, and needing the Knight to do something to prove him right to her and demands, “How the hell have you survived?” This had sent Charlie off before.

The Knight looks around and pantomimes like he has a box around him and then answers Hatter. “I am a Knight!”

‘Like that explains everything,’ they both think.

Charlie moves closer to Alice.  Hatter backs up correspondingly to make sure Charlie cannot touch Alice, without Hatter there to protect her.  Once Hatter is in front of Alice, he feels her hand rest on him briefly, as to assure herself, he is there.  He takes a more determined stance in front of her.

Charlie continues on, telling them, “And I am an inventor.  It’s more strictly on a part time bases.”

Hatter looks at him on guardedly and comments, “You don’t say.”

Charlie continues as though Hatter hadn’t interrupted him. “I also dabble in the black arts now and then…”  Seeing their faces he explains, “Soothsaying… toenail readings… that sort of thing.”  Seeing the disbelief on their faces, he moves to grab Alice’s hand, “Here let me show you, give me your palm-”

Alice jerks her hand back from him, telling him, “Get off…”

Hatter and Alice both get worried.  Did he see the ri…“What’s that on your finger”…ng.  That would be a yes.

Alice feels Hatter grab her hand as she looks down at the ring.  How can she have forgotten the damned ring, the one that everyone in Wonderland seems to want?  And then it reminds her of Jack, and how she needs some time to think some thoughts through. Like where did he get the ring?  This all flashes through her mind quickly as she notices Hatter has pulled her closer to him and drops her hand.  He then put his shoulder slightly in front of her and she realizes he means to protect her.

She answers Charlie distracted by the novelty of someone doing that for her, “Nothing.”

The old Knight continues on getting excited, “It’s the sacred ring… the Stone of Wonderland… our ring.”

Alice is wondering if the Stone of Wonderland is like the One Ring from the Lord of the Rings.  Everyone seems to go nuts over it.  She backs off from Charlie, hiding behind Hatter’s willing body.

At this point the old Knight is getting too close to Alice.  She clearly is getting nervous, moving behind him and Hatter figures that he needs to step in.  The old man needs to back off before he gets too dangerous.  He repositions himself, putting his body between the White Knight and Alice, and puts his hand on Charlie’s chest. “Don’t get too excited, granddad, the ring stays on the lady’s finger. Okay?”

Charlie drops to the ground.

Holding his hands up, Hatter indicates that he didn’t hurt him!!

Then the old man starts to mutter, “It is meant to be, this time… this place… this meeting in the woods!”

Hatter pulls Alice away from the kneeling Knight, telling her, “Ok, we need to get away before he gets us killed.”

Alice pulls away from him, relating to Hatter, “Maybe he can help us.”

Hatter can’t believe it; she has been reassuring herself by touching him, holding his hand, accepting him protecting her, to now be pulling away from him?  He tries to reason with her, “Have you forgotten about that weirdo that is tailing us?”  He indicates Charlie who is still kneeling on the ground looking as though he is praying and muttering, and tells Alice, “This… freak show is going to draw his attention for sure!”  Maybe she will listen to logic.

Alice looks at Charlie and answers Hatter, “This Knight has survived out here for this long.”  She then glances back at Hatter, and seeing the hurt on his face and with a quick glimpse back at Charlie, finishes her sentence, “Maybe he knows a thing or two.”  As Hatter moves towards her to argue, she turns away from him and moves over to the Knight.

Hatter throws up his arms. Or, maybe she won’t listen to him.  Doesn’t she trust him? Hasn’t he shown her that he is trying to protect her?

Alice moves away from Hatter, asking the Knight still kneeling on the ground, “Charlie, there are some very bad men following us that want to kill us, and steal the ring. Do you know anywhere where we can lay low for awhile?” ‘And give me time to think and figure out what is going on without anyone chasing or shooting or…’

Charlie blurts out, “The stars are aligned in a cosmic array of hope.”

Hatter stands there watching her with his hands on his hips.  He can’t believe her.  He has been trying his hardest to keep her safe!

He waves one hand at Charlie, and asks her, “And you want to put your faith in him?” Hatter just feels the need to make a point of why she should trust him.  Even more basic, is that all Hatter really wants, is to keep her safe.

Alice answers him as she watches Charlie mutter, “Yes.” She turns back to him realizing that Hatter is upset and tries to explain her thoughts. “Ahh…”  She pleads with him to understand, to help confirm she is not going crazy yet.

She moves back in front of him and notices that he puts his arms down and really looks like he is listening to what she is saying.  She makes her case, “He might be nuts and 150 years old and dressed as a car crash.”  She lowers her voice in a plea for him to understand, “But he is a survivor.”  She plays with her hands, wishing it is earlier and she feels the confidence to just reach out to touch him.

Hatter turns back to her after glancing at the Knight, as he listens to her. He hears the pleading in her voice not to dismiss her.  His face and his stance soften.   He stares into her eyes as she plays with her hands and looks intently back at him.  Something clicks between the two of them and before he can let her know he does trust her, Charlie interrupts.  Hatter and Alice pull their gazes from each other, both looking a little bewildered, Hatter especially looking more relaxed.

“AND I am not deaf!”  The Knight jumps up seeming to have come up with a decision. “Just Alice… I, Sir Charles Eustace Fotheringhay le Malvoy III, Guardian of the Curtsey.”  And he drops into a curtsey.

Hatter just can’t help himself and comments, “Oh, very nice.” And then he glances back at Alice. And his face fell slightly when she wouldn’t look or even grin slightly at his comment.

The White Knight ignores him and continues, “Will be honored to escort you, your goods and…” His voice drops signaling his reluctance, “Vassal… to my sacred kingdom.” He then bows slightly to Alice smiling.

Hatter can’t believe it.  Alice has maybe gained them either instant death or a valuable ally.  And just maybe, a way to the Lost Kingdom that legend tells that the White Knights still guard?  Only time can tell.

‘Wait a second,’  “Did he just call me a vassal?” He asks of Alice. He feels a little better when it looks as though she wants to react, but she never takes her eyes off of Charlie.

The Knight groans, “Quickly, quickly, Sacroiliac.” He indicates he wants Hatter to come help him.

Hatter throws up his hands commenting, “Oh, for crying out loud.”

He glances at Alice and sees her smiling.  He will do anything to keep her smiling…even if it means helping the old codger.  He walks over to the Knight and put his hands on him.

Charlie groans in pain and pants out, “Straighten, straighten, straighten… hard, hard…” Charlie says.

Hatter carefully put his strength in his hands on the old Knight to unbend him.

The Knight walks off saying “Good-o” as Hatter watches him unbelieving.

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1 Comment

  1. The OTHER Mrs. Northman

    Oh I love a protective Hatter!!!! On to ch 5!!!

    Reply

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