I don't own Alice in Wonderland or any of its characters. Based on the 2010 Tim Burton film.
Mally is left behind as Tarrant goes Above with Alice to Celebrate Christmas with the Kingsleigh family. She is determined to make the journey, with or without Chess's help. But where is Chess, anyway?
Dedicated to jjhatter, who I hope enjoys this little Christmas story!
His Greatest Christmas Delight
Mally was absolutely furious. How dare Tarrant leave without her? He had made Alice and her mother and sister lovely shawls and hats. He had made Lowell a very fashionable Above-style derby hat. He would be meeting Alice's family for the second time since Alice, Queen Mirana, and McTwisp had traveled to the Kingsleigh home and had taken several days explaining Everything to them. Well, it had taken several days of not only explanations but for time for the family to come to terms with and accept it all as truth and not a wild and fantastical tale.
Well, that was all well and fine, the dormouse pouted, but he hadn't once even considered asking her to go with him! After all, Alice was her friend, too, and she wanted the chance to celebrate this holiday called Christmas with Alice and her family.
She was also furious with Chess. She had simply assumed that Tarrant planned on taking her with him and she had, in turn, invited Chess along for the festivities. Her new beau had agreed, but now that the day to depart had come, he was nowhere about! Tarrant had already gone and had used a special potion the Queen had made for him. And since he had forgotten all about her and wasn't holding on to her, she had no way to leave Underland!
However, Chess could leave Underland any time he wished. He had the same ability as Absolem. He could simply evaporate from one place and travel quickly to another. But without either mode of Transport; that is to say, Tarrant's pocket or Chess's back, Mally was stranded in Alice and Tarrant's home.
What was worse was that she had even obtained the perfect presents for Alice and her family and had gone to quite some trouble to acquire them. She had listened intently when Alice had spoken of her family and she knew that her mother loved to knit. Therefore, Mally had tracked down the most colourful and special yarn she could find. She had, after weeks of searching, finally located some rare and shimmering yarn from the fur of Outland goats known as the Prism Goats. The goats themselves were not actually prismatic, but their fur shimmered with almost every colour conceivable to the eye.
Alice's sister, Margaret, was fond of playing the piano-forte. Mally had ordered over a dozen compositions of Underlandian Music fit for nearly every festive occasion. The woman would never find such music Above!
Alice's brother-in-law, Lowell, was a weapons collector. For him Mally had acquired a relatively rare dagger from a long extinct Outlander Clan who had specialized in crafting the finest weapons in Underland.
For Alice, Mally had purchased a glass pen and an inkwell with ink that changed colours constantly. The young woman was forever writing in journals and had recently also taken up the hobby of creating stories for children. What more fitting gift for an aspiring writer in Underland?
So here Mally sat with her bag of gifts and no place to go! Well, that wasn't entirely true; she had a place to go, she simply had no means of getting there.
Mallymkun let out an angry huff and crossed her arms across her chest in consternation. Then a thought occurred to her. It would not be easy; but perhaps she could manage despite having to tie the sack to her waist to do so. Yes, she would climb the Rabbit Hole to the top and emerge into Alice's native world.
Mally climbed and climbed and then climbed some more. The Rabbit Hole was vast and seemingly endless. Mally struggled ever upward with her tiny paws and was fortunate that the Hole was lined with roots, else she never would have been able to climb while carrying her burden just by trying to cling to the dirt walls.
How many hours had she been climbing? Her entire body ached, she was perspiring, and every muscle in her body was straining. She had no idea how much time was passing, but she knew that she could not give up. She had gone so far that when she looked down, she could not see the bottom. There was no way she was going to give up!
So, body aching and joints complaining, the determined dormouse continued on her way to the Above.
All of a sudden her eyes watered, and it wasn't from the sweat running into them, either. It was from a sliver of light coming from above her! Hopefully, Mally looked up. Yes! There was definitely light! She was almost there!
Finally! Mally struggled out of the Rabbit Hole and collapsed in the snow. Gratefully, she untied the bag from around her waist and sighed with relief as the pain and soreness from the chafing string eased. She lay in the snow until she felt some of her strength return. But when she stood up and prepared to continue on her way, she realised something very important.
She had no idea where the Kingsleigh house was! She knew she was in the garden of the Ascots, but that was all she knew. Yes, the Kingsleigh family visited this place, but where was their own?
Now, not only was the white dormouse extremely sore and dirty, she was lost and cold. Lost and cold, with a bag full of gifts that may never reach their intended recipients!
Mally sat down and hugged herself tightly. It was still snowing and she was chilled already. The only course of action she could think of was to make her way to the Ascot's home and hope she could hide there until she could plan what to do next. Perhaps, if she was lucky, she may discover where the Kingsleigh family lived.
Sighing with resignation and very little hope, the cold and disheveled dormouse began to trudge her way to the massive house in the distance, dragging her sack of gifts behind her.
Suddenly a rush of air and a bright sharp-as-knives grin appeared before her. Mally shrieked, instinctively drew her pin-sword and stabbed the image before her.
"Ouch!" Chess fully materialized before the panting and ready for battle mouse and licked his paw, shooting her a wounded look. "Why did you do that?"
Mally gasped in both relief and outrage. "Chess! Well, yeh've yer bleedin' nerve! I just scratched and climbed all the way to the top of the blasted Rabbit Hole and where have you been while I was sweatin' and strainin' and lookin' for you but you were nowhere to be found! Blasted cat! Useless, stinkin', slurvish cat!"
The mouse sheathed her pin-sword and turned her back on the Cheshire. "You and Tarrant both...you both just left me alone to find my own way here! You've no idea how it felt to be forgotten and just left behind! I'll find Alice and her family and I don't need either of you to help me!"
Mally tried to continue on her way, but a soft warm tail curled about her and held her fast. "Shhh...love, I can see you're upset! But just let me explain!"
There was a pleading in his tone that told Mally he was serious and genuinely upset to see her so angry.
"All right," she grumbled, "you've got me trapped so I may as well listen!"
"Well, that's a relief," Chess drawled, trying to sound casual, but failing. He was really quite unhappy that he had failed to reach his tiny love sooner. "Mally, love, I couldn't possibly forget you, ever. To tell the truth..." He hesitated, watching her eyes closely. They were still glittering angrily, but as he fell quiet and continued to watch her, his own eyes soulful and sad, those lovely little eyes began to soften.
"Well, spit it out!" Mally said, but she sounded significantly less angry than before.
"To tell the truth, I can never forget about you, love. I'm always thinking about you. Every minute all the time. Well, except when I'm hunting and eating, but that doesn't take me long. So, you see, I think of you quite a lot, and..."
"Chess, you're sounding just like the Hatter!" Mally said, snapping the feline out of his nervous rambling.
"Um...yes, quite right." Chess licked his paw one final time, closing the puncture wound that Mally had inflicted on him. "What I mean to say is that I came to fetch you as soon as I could. I had some...business to attend to, and couldn't make it until now. By the time I went to find you at Alice and Tarrant's, you were already gone! I tried to find you at the Windmill House, then the Woods, then Marmoreal, and finally I tried the Room of Doors and picked up your scent quite strongly. I came up here straight away but you had already made it to the top. I...I'm sorry."
Mally was silent, contemplating her 'beau.' Was he her beau? Well, they had admitted that they were 'seeing each other' and that they 'cared for each other as more than friends,' so...yes. He was her beau. And her beau would not have forgotten her on Christmas Eve and left her to struggle Topside on her own unless he had been unavoidably detained.
"All right," she conceded, softening her tone, "but what took you so long? Where have you been?"
Chess smiled a small smile and licked her head, plastering her fur to one side. He licked her head again and again until she began to giggle. Only then did he respond.
"Mally, my pint-sized love, I can't tell you that right now. It's a secret." He grinned again, his good humour restored along with hers. "But what is not secret is that we need to get to the Kingsleigh house and let you clean and dress for tonight."
"Oi!" Mally shrieked, startling Chess and making him flinch. "Dress! I didn't think of that! Chess, I didn't bring a dress to wear! I just have my jacket and breeches and sheath! I shouldn't show up like this!"
"Shhh...love," Chess cooed, for the second time, "it's all right. Tarrant is there. He can make you a dress in a matter of moments. Let's just get going, shall we? Hop on and I'll have us there in no time."
"You know where Alice's family lives?" Mally asked, then realised what a foolish question that was. Of course he knew! The Cheshire Cat made a hobby of knowing things.
Chess simply laughed and scooped Mally up with a paw and deposited her onto his back. "Just hold on, love!"
"Oh, of course, Miss Mallymkun, and welcome!" Margaret Manchester said excitedly as she welcomed the two guests into the foyer. "I'll run you a warm bath right away and then I'll ask Tarrant to hurry and make you a dress. Now, Chess, is it? Take her upstairs to the second bedroom on the right. That is Alice's room. I'll be right up with a bowl of water and soap. Oh, and I'll place your bag under the tree. Don't worry! No-one will peek inside!"
"You'd better not!" Mally said with a laugh. She was so happy to be at the Kingsleigh's and with Chess that her good humour had entirely returned. She was still not looking forward to seeing, Tarrant, however. She was still angry that he had left without her.
Margaret was as good as her word. Barely had Chess reached Alice's room and helped Mally prepare to be bathed when Margaret entered the room. She set a bowl of warm water filled with soap flakes on the dresser and laid two towels beside it.
"Chess, you go downstairs and fetch the dress from Tarrant. This is a time for ladies only. Now, shoo!"
Chess laughed and floated downstairs, ready to make a grand entrance.
"Thank you for helping me, Margaret," Mally said.
"Oh, you're quite welcome!" Margaret said warmly. "Actually, I've heard so much about you that I've been hoping you'd come soon for a visit! I've been wanting to meet the heroic mouse who bravely fought the Bandersnatch that left my sister those dreadful scars! You faced down a creature so large and ferocious that I doubt any of our most famous hunters would take it on!"
Mally blushed modestly. "Aw, it weren't nothin', really. Any of the Queen's fighters woulda done the same!"
"Oh, I doubt that," Margaret said, gently lowering Mally into the water that reached the dormouse's waist. She dipped the edge of a small cloth into the soapy water and gently began to dab at the dirt on her tiny charge's back and arms. "Even Tarrant told us how very fearsome a Bandersnatch is. And Alice said that you actually took its eye! But you were also a hero twice, in that you gave Alice the eye and that was how she got the Bandersnatch to give her the Vorpal Sword and become an ally to Queen Mirana!"
Mally blushed again and didn't correct Margaret. Obviously, Alice hadn't told her that they had not started out as friends and that she had taken the eye from Mally by quick-handedness.
"Well, I just did what had to be done."
"I think you went above and beyond what had to be done," said Margaret, and handed the cloth to Mally so she could clean the rest of herself. "And to think I never believed Alice! It all turned out to be true! Oh, such stories you all can tell! I cannot imagine what your lives must be like. I do hope that times are better now that Queen Mirana rules."
"Oh, it is," Mally replied, finishing cleaning herself. "Things have never been better! The Outlands are even..."
Her story was broken off as Chess floated into the room carrying a tiny red and green dress.
"How lovely!" Margaret exclaimed. "Your friend is incredibly talented, Miss Mallymkun."
"Call me Mally," the dormouse said, and added grudgingly, "and yes, he is."
She stepped out of the bowl and onto a towel and dried herself. Mally lifted her arms and Margaret carefully pulled the dress down and over her.
"You look positively beautiful," Margaret breathed in awe.
Mally turned and looked into the dresser mirror. Alice's sister was right; she did look beautiful!
"I think you look more beautiful without a dress," Chess purred suggestively into her ear.
"Chess!" Margaret burst out, scandalized. "Downstairs with you! Go, go!" Chess floated away and Margaret laughed. "He is as incorrigible as Alice says Tarrant is!"
Mally couldn't help but smile. "I guess he is! Well, I mean, they both are!"
Downstairs Mally was given a very warm welcome by everyone, even Tarrant, who apologized so profusely for forgetting to bring Mally with him that she couldn't help but forgive him. After all, this Christmas holiday was all about love and forgiveness, wasn't it? Besides, she never could stay mad at the Hatter for long.
Helen and Alice offered to bring hot cocoa or cold egg-nog for everyone, whichever they preferred.
"I'm up for a good nog!" Lowell said, "I could use a shot of brandy!" He obviously had no care for the 'egg' part and everyone laughed.
"Brandy, eh?" Tarrant asked, intrigued, not accustomed to drinking liquor, "I think I'll try that, as well!"
"So will I!" chimed in Mally, and Chess, continuing to want to stay on her good side, asked for the same.
Alice smiled and said that she herself would take hot cocoa, and Margaret and Helen agreed.
After the drinks were served Helen suggested that the gifts be exchanged as she knew that their guests were eager to experience this tradition.
Mally jumped up and insisted on being first to pass out gifts, and laughing, Margaret said that they must allow this as the 'valiant defender of the Crown' should not be denied!
Mally passed out her gifts and each was opened with awe and genuine pleasure. Helen was astounded at the beauty and incredible softness of the prismatic yarn.
"I...Miss Mally, I thank you! This is the most exquisite yarn I have ever seen! Why, I don't know what to use it for! It must be for something very special, indeed!"
"This dagger defies description!" Lowell exclaimed. "I know it is Underlandian, of course, but it is obviously of great value and the highest quality! Thank you!"
Margaret exclaimed with delight over the unfamiliar new piano music and insisted that she would play it for them all the following day before the Underlandians would depart.
"Mally, this is wonderful," she said. "You have no idea how difficult it can be to come upon festive music when one is 'in Society,'" she said, sounding as disdainful of it as Alice. "Besides, no-one will recognize these. What a pleasant change that will be!"
Alice picked up her tiny friend and kissed her cheek. "Thank you, Mally, I love the pen and ink! And to think that it changes colour? I don't know that I'll be able to write for staring at the colours in wonder!"
Mally blushed again. How many times had she done that this very night?
She also pulled out a surprise for Tarrant. "I even got you something," she said. "I know we said we wouldn't get each other anything, but I had to when I saw these."
Tarrant grinned when he opened his gift and saw a glass box filled with exquisite antique buttons of all shapes and sizes. He took his friend upon his palm and kissed the top of her head.
"Thank you, Mally! I've never seen so many unique buttons before! But...I haven't anything for you."
"Yes, you have," she said, "you have welcomed me into your family here. You and Alice both. That is the best gift I could have wished for."
"Well, if that doesn't sound the death knell for my gift to you," Chess said, putting on a show of mock hurt, "I don't know what does. I have a gift for you as well, love, and that was what kept me from you for so long."
"Oh?" she asked, intrigued. "So that is your excuse! I suppose I can forgive you even more, then." She smiled.
Chess grinned and everybody watched as if spell-bound as the cat handed Mally a box that was as large as she was. Where he had concealed it all this time nobody knew.
Mally ripped off the paper and eagerly opened the lid. She gasped and everyone crowded over to look inside.
What was inside was breath-taking. It was a suit of armour that was so shiny and beautiful that Mally was speechless. She lifted the breast-plate and exclaimed in surprise at how light it was.
"Yes," Chess said, "I had it made special for you. I found the Clan that makes the best armour in Underland. It is the strongest armour to be found, and also the lightest. I...don't want to take chances with your safety."
Mally hugged his neck and kissed his cheek in appreciation. Tarrant and Alice then gave out their gifts, followed by Helen, then Margaret and Lowell. Mittens, scarves, shawls, hats, jewelry, and candies were received by grateful and appreciative recipients.
Even Chess got a couple of gifts, both from Mrs. Kingsleigh. Cats love shiny objects, and he was no exception. Helen presented him with a silver dove ornament that she knew he would enjoy, and a thick ball of yarn to play with. Everyone laughed when Chess began batting at the yarn enthusiastically, leaving the precious ornament in Mally's keeping for the time being.
Tarrant was on his third egg nog and beginning to giggle a little too often. Lowell was on his fifth and wasn't shy about putting his arm around his wife and nuzzling her cheek, who blushed and enjoyed his attentions.
Alice stood with the intention of bringing more cups of hot cocoa and Tarrant pinched her bottom.
"Tarrant Hightopp, you watch your hands!" she snapped, embarrassed.
Chess was also feeling the effects of the brandy and as Mally was still admiring her newest gift, which happened to be an exquisite ruby-topped hat-pin that Margaret and Lowell had procured for her, telling her that a decorative sword could be a delight, especially if she was a collector, as Lowell was. Mally agreed and hefted it experimentally. She then announced that it was too well-balanced a weapon to be merely decorative and promised that it would see use.
"Oh, but the ruby..." Margaret began, but Lowell placed a finger over her lips and shushed her with a smile.
"Let her use it, dearest!" he whispered. "After all, she is a hero!"
Alice was now swatting Tarrant's hands and firmly telling him to behave and that he would be having no more egg-nog tonight.
Chess leaned over and as soon as Mally set down her new weapon he gave her a lick that was so large that he accidentally swept her dress up and off of her.
Mally squealed in protest and the ladies gasped. It wasn't as if a dormouse needed a dress, but the fact that she had been wearing one and now was not, was a cause of momentary embarrassment for everyone. Except Chess.
"I told you that you look lovelier without a dress," he drawled, as Mally struggled to pull the wet fabric back over herself.
"You...you big oaf!" she said angrily. It seemed that she, even as tiny as she was, could hold her liquor better than her much larger beau.
"Please excuse me while I fetch everyone some hot cocoa," Helen said, rising. She had no intention of allowing the men, or males, rather, any more alcohol of any kind. But a small smile tugged at the corners of her mouth as she left the room.
"Oh, sorry love!" Chess purred, contrite, "I didn't mean to do that!"
"Well, you did mean to say that I look lovelier without a dress!" Mally snapped back, and then stood perfectly still. She thought about that remark. Was it crude? Yes. Was it embarrassing in front of company? Absolutely. But did she really mind that Chess thought of her...that way? No, she didn't. She actually liked that Chess found her lovely. And although his remark was said in a teasing manner, she knew that he meant it; and that pleased her.
"Mally?" he asked softly, looking worried now. "Are you terribly angry?"
"Well, I should be! My dress is sopping wet, my fur is all messed up, and I'm sticky with egg-nog!"
"Oh, yes, well..." Chess hesitated, then he licked her head more gently. "Um...no, you are still sticky, love. I suppose my tongue is a hopeless cause tonight."
"I'll help you take another bath!" Margaret offered, rising.
"Thank you," Mally said. Then she turned to Chess. "I'm not angry," she whispered to him. "I'm glad you think I'm lovely with or without a dress!"
Chess grinned and licked her once more, making her giggle as Margaret gently picked her up.
"Tarrant, do you think you can make Mally a new dress without cutting off your fingers?" Alice asked him with a smile.
"Of course, lass!"
"Well, I'll watch you just to make certain."
"Not necessary for (hic!) such a simple task!" Tarrant giggled and Alice rolled her eyes.
"Never mind! I'll do it myself! You just sit here and have some cocoa."
As Alice went to fetch a fresh piece of spare fabric she shot Chess a mock disapproving look. "So, I take it your favourite part of Christmas is the egg-nog? Or, rather, the brandy in the egg-nog?"
Chess grinned widely, but his eyes were soft as he watched Margaret carry Mally upstairs. "No, Champion Alice Hightopp. My valiant and lovely little Mally is my greatest Christmas delight."
I hope everyone has a very happy Holiday Season!