Wonderland, Scene III (Daphne, Erin, Underwood)

Wonderland, Scene III (Daphne, Erin, Underwood)


The Caterpillar and Alice looked at each other for some time in silence: at last the Caterpillar took the hookah out of its mouth, and addressed her in a languid, sleepy voice.
'Who are you?' said the Caterpillar.
This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, 'I I hardly know, sir, just at present at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then.'
'What do you mean by that?' said the Caterpillar sternly. 'Explain yourself!'
'I can't explain myself, I'm afraid, sir' said Alice, 'because I'm not myself, you see.'
'I don't see,' said the Caterpillar.
'I'm afraid I can't put it more clearly,' Alice replied very politely, 'for I can't understand it myself to begin with; and being so many different sizes in a day is very confusing.'

Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland


April ??th, 2007

As you fell asleep that night, in the eternal twilight of the Hedge, you passed into a deeper world. You passed through the veil of sleep, through that misty, eternal, unceasing fog wherein the mind cast up a myriad images. It was an uncertain sort of thing, filled with illusions, and where reality was mixed with metaphor, and reality was only a metaphor for some deeper truth.

But guided by the dreams of prophecy -- for all that Sergei would object severely to the designation of prophecy -- you came to a more settled, solid place. It was crystal clear, rather than the usual fog of dreams, and it was beautiful, and it was horrific.

You stood, three Lost and Sergei, on a winding road high in the mountains. A few feet to either side of you was a limitless drop, sharp and steep and covered with rocks, to distant clouds below. It was an impossible sort of geography, this winding road, but then you looked up above, and saw the Castle in the Clouds. It was like those images of Neuschwanstein, more faerie-tale palace than a castle, but even the beauty of that alpine castle could not compare. Walls of gleaming marble were set with stained glass windows in brilliant colors, magnificent reds and blues and greens. It was a castle of beyond human beauty, of beyond human reality.

You smelled blood.

Underwood whistled, taking off his dream-Panama-hat and fanning himself with it a few times. “Some metaphor. My dreams don’t have nearly as good an architect.”

He looked around at the little group, laid-back but ready for anything – the reporter’s ability to take things in stride was in full effect, here, and besides, this wasn’t exactly a real situation. “So, seeing as we’re either going to hike up, hike back, or break out the ropes and boot spikes, I guess we’re going to hike up. Seems like the right thing to do. We agreed about this?”

Erin caught the scent of blood, waving her antennae in the air to try to catch where it had come from, but she saw the castle, and she stopped. Dead. Her eyes widened into perfect spheres, near glowing, as if they could reflect that splendor and that majesty, as if they could catch every facet of those beautifully jeweled windows. She took a step forward, and then a sudden step backward.

If Cinder had felt confused at the thought of her father, then Erin matched her emotions now. Love, fear, hatred, longing... she stared at the the castle, like a child at Christmas, like a child before a gunman. Her breath drew in one sharp, crystal gasp, and then it caught, in the icy morning air. She could taste the air on her tongue, like diamonds. She could feel the colors of those beautiful windows. The world suddenly was brighter.

"I'd forgotten..." she whispered, her breath still stolen from her chest. "I'd forgotten... how beautiful it was..."

"I'm home," she breathed.

Daphne rolled onto her side. She had been sleeping on her stomach. Her liquidy eyes took in the sight, and she breathed in the coppery scent. The smell did not match the view. Well, actually it did, if you knew all the fairytales.

Then she heard those two.little.words.

She popped up and made a bee line for Erin. It was comparable to an ent's stride, but less gangly.

"Easy now." Daphne put a gentle hand on Erin's small shoulder. She glanced at Underwood. This could be bad. Very bad.


Underwood’s expression changed, too: this was suddenly no joking matter. Erin got another hand on her other shoulder, and a very concerned bit of eye contact.

“Kiddo…we don’t have to go in there, you know. If it’s too rough.”

"Oh." Sergei said, his own eyes going wide as he realized just what this place meant for Erin. It meant that this was the place of perfect horror, the place of perfect enslavement. Terror coursed through Sergei's veins. The last time Erin had been here, it had broken her. What would happen a second time. "Oh no."

"Erin. My angel. We're here." He kneeled in front of Erin, taking her hand. In short order, Erin was the very center of attention. "It is alright. This place is behind you. You don't need to fear it."

But of course, there is always reason to fear in Arcadia. And dreams of Arcadia are only marginally less dangerous than the reality of the same. The stink of hot blood grew stronger, and then as all looked at Erin, the source appeared.

It crawled up from the ground, it's thousand legs churning through the dirt road, rearing its head high above you. It was a creature something like a centipede, for it had hundreds, thousands of sharp-edged feet, each a few feet long. It was a creature something like a serpent, with glistening fangs and hard scales. And it was a creature something like a caterpillar, brightly colored, covered in hairs, and with eight compound eyes set on its head. The entire thing was twenty, thirty feet long, and as thick as a tree trunk.

It was bleeding from the throat -- it was missing its throat -- as though someone had torn a huge hunk of flesh from its throat. But nevertheless it spoke.

"Whoooooooo." It whispered, its eyes a rainbow of color. "Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre."


Well, then. This was not an unduly welcome turn of events, especially if this thing was some kind of phantasmal call-back to Erin’s durance – Underwood, of course, didn’t know either way. But it wasn’t actively trying to kill them, and it’s not as if Underwood could shape the dream around it without ruining the prophecy, so. Play this one straight.

Underwood turned around to face the caterpillar, his body language guarded, putting himself between it and Erin.

“…I’m J.T. Underwood, Winter Court Reporter, and I could ask you the same question, mac. Who are you?”

Originally Posted by NeoTiamat View Post
"Erin. My angel. We're here." He kneeled in front of Erin, taking her hand. In short order, Erin was the very center of attention. "It is alright. This place is behind you. You don't need to fear it."
"No," Erin whispered, staring at that jewel in the sky. "This place is in front of us, now."

She unsteady wrapped her arms around Sergei's neck, drawing his head to her chest. When she saw the caterpillar, she froze. It was a wholly unfamiliar thing, nothing she'd ever encountered, and it showed in her expression. Curiosity and fear warred on her face, before it all went completely blank.

The normal Erin would have said something, done something useful to diffuse this situation, been clever, or perhaps been concerned, asked how it had been hurt, offered to help the wretched thing. But she wasn't really that creature anymore, was she? Not here, of all places. The little girl Moth would have just bolted, running for her life, and praying to anything she could that she was fast enough. The creature somewhere in between the two would have called on her Mistress' protection. But the Mistress wasn't here any more. Or was she?

So she did nothing. Just froze, and cradled her lover possessively.

Originally Posted by Underwood
Im J.T. Underwood, Winter Court Reporter, and I could ask you the same question, mac. Who are you?
The monstrous door guardian -- who was not a caterpillar, though it wasn't precisely a centipede and most certainly wasn't a serpent -- moved more of its body out of the burrow, raising its head far above you. It was big, and it was heavy, and it was bleeding from dozens of torn-open wounds.

"Iiiiiiiiiiii." The beast said, turning its many-faceted eyes towards Underwood. "Aaaaaaaaaaaammm."

"The Woooooooooorm."

"Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaaat." It whispered, and it clicked its venomous fangs closer to Underwood's face. "Arrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrre."


What was this thing? Has it been here when she had? She hadn't seen it, but she had only been outside the castle twice - the day she'd arrived, and the day she left. Was it new? Had it always been here? Was it the guardian of her Mistress, or had another Gentry taken this domain? She drew her breath shakily, still clutching her lover, and spoke.

"I am a servant of this castle," she said, the words coming out smoother and quieter than she'd thought she'd be able to speak them. She hated herself, just a little, for how easy it was to say. "Please stand aside, sir, for I have business I must attend to."


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