Queen Rosaline sat with a furious expression on her face. Her green eyes could not hide the furry she was feeling. Her long black hair was placed in a beautiful updo that showed her face was as red as her dress.
“Bring him in here!” The queen yelled at the top of her lungs. “Now!”
Two palace guards bumped into each other as they tried to rush out of the room to grab the prisoner. Another guard ran into the door trying to flee the room.
“Imbeciles.” The queen pulled her sword out. “They are all imbeciles.”
“Relax my queen, you are scaring them. You are usually much calmer than this.” The queen’s royal adviser called from the other side of the room. Like everyone else in the queendom, no one wanted to be within swinging length of the queen.
“I have a right to be mad.” The queen said to the adviser.
“Of course, you have every right to be mad, but you don’t need to scare the castle’s staff. Take a deep breath and I will fetch you some water.” The royal adviser raced out of the room because he did not want to be there for the blood shed that was about to happen.
As the royal adviser left the room the royal guards brought in the raggedy prisoner. His skin was covered in dirt and his grey eyes squinted in the light. He was skinnier now after a week of being in the castle’s prison. He had been beaten by the guards, which caused dried blood to cover his dirty clothes.
“Oh, how the mighty has fallen.” Laughed the queen.
“I’m sorry my love.” The former king said in a horse voice. “I should have done better.”
“I bet you don’t even know why I’m mad, do you?”
“No, I don’t.”
“I found out your little secret, you didn’t hide it as well as you thought.”
The former king’s eyes grew wide. “You know about her don’t you.”
“Why else would I throw you into the castle’s prison?”
“I am sorry my love for cheating on you, I should have been loyal...” The former king was cut off by the queen as she cut off his head with one swing of her sword.
The blood had splattered onto the queen’s face and onto her dress. “Good thing I wore red.” The queen laughed an evil laugh.
The guards dragged away the former king’s body away while the queen continued to laugh.
It had been five years after the former king’s death and once again the queen was furious. Her precious ruby necklace had been stolen; the same necklace given to her by her mother. The only clue at the scene was a few strains of blonde hairs and a light blue ribbon. The guards who she escaped from said she was dressed in blue and had blue eyes.
The guards had found the girl again sitting at a tea party with the castle’s hat maker. They were bringing her in so the queen could question her.
“Your majesty, we need to keep calm this time.” The queen advisor reminded the queen.
“One beheading and the neighboring kingdoms think I’m a monster.” Sighed queen Rosaline. “I the only good thing to come from that man was princess Nerissa and princess Mariana.”
“Your queendom wasn’t fond of the former king, and they don’t blame you but, the neighboring kingdoms are another story and we need to worry about them. We can’t go killing this girl right away. We don’t want a war with the neighboring kingdoms, especially with princess Nerissa’s coronation at the end of the month.”
“I understand. We are counting on the marriage proposals for princess Nerissa, but this is my queendom and I decide how to punish criminals. Stealing from the crown will not be tolerated.”
The door swung open and in walked two guards dragging a blonde woman who was dressed in a blue dress with white leggings and dark boots.
“How may I be of service?” The blonde bowed to the queen.
“What is your name?” Queen Rosaline stood from her throne.
“Alice.” The woman responded.
“Did you steel my ruby necklace?”
“No, your highness. I would never risk the wrath of the red queen.” Alice said meekly. “I think I know who stole the necklace.”
“Who would that be?”
“She calls herself Duchess. She has blonde hair like me, and she allowed me to borrow this dress.
“Does this Duchess carry a pig like a baby?” The advisor chimed in. “And does she have a cook that has crazy red hair?”
“That’s the one.”
“She was always jealous of me.” The queen cried out. “She took my husband and now my ruby necklace.”
“She is on the run.” Alice told the queen. “But I can get her. That’s what I do, I track down people.”
“What do you mean you track people down?” The queen asked with a plan in mind.
“Where I was from originally, they call me a bounty hunter. I track down people who are on the run from the law.”
“How much will it cost to have you track down the duchess?”
“If I can bring her back with in three days you will make me your royal bounty hunter.” Alice offered.
“On one condition, I will come with you. I have to make sure you aren’t cutting corners.” The queen stood.
“Absolutely not!” The royal advisor declared.
“Princess Nerissa can watch the queendom for three days.” Queen Rosaline walked closer to Alice. “I will change and then we will leave.”
“Shouldn’t you talk to Princess Nerissa?” The royal advisor sighed.
“Send her to my room. I will talk to her as I get dressed.” The queen opened the door of the throne room.
“Yes, your majesty.”
“Alice stay here. I will be back quickly. The queen was out the door quickly.
“This seems like a bad idea.” Nerissa told her mother. “You don’t know this woman and I have no idea how to run this queendom.”
“The royal advisor will be there to help you and Kayleigh will come with me to keep me safe. This cloak and dress will keep me from being recognized as queen.”
“You better come back alive.” Nerissa hugged her mother goodbye. “I need my mother at my coronation.”
“I will be back before then; I will even be back before your sister gets back from school.” The queen opened the door. “From this moment until I get back, you are in charge. I know you can do it.”
Kayleigh was no longer dressed her royal warrior attire, instead she was dressed in a common dress. Her daggers were hidden under her dress and her red hair was hidden under her cloak.
Alice had been given a change of clothes and a clock so she could blend in better. She was already on one of the royal horses. Her own daggers were returned to her and now hidden in her bag.
Queen Rosaline walked outside to see her best warrior staring down Alice. There would be no trust between Alice and Kayleigh, but Rosaline was prepared for it.
“This necklace is important; it was given to me by my mother the day of my coronation and I want to give it to Nerissa the day of her coronation. Duchess took this necklace because she was always jealous.” The queen climbed onto her horse. “She was next in line for the throne, before Nerissa and Mariana was born.”
“Why are you telling us this?” Asked Alice.
“I thought you should know why you are doing this.”
Alice and Kayleigh got quiet. This new information made no difference to the girls, after all they were doing this for their own reasons.
The Duchess’s home was cleared out when the group of three made it there. Most of the Duchess’s furniture was gone along with all her clothes and personal items. A table and a few trash cans were all that was left.
“What now?” Kayleigh asked Alice, a smug look on her face. “The Duchess isn’t here.”
“We look for clues.” Alice bent down and looked at the trash that was in one of the trash cans. “Go look in the trash can that was in the other room.”
“What am I looking for?” Kayleigh yelled to Alice as she looked at each paper in the trash.
“This.” Alice held up a map. “It looks like a town in east Wonderland has been circled. This should be where we start.”
“Let’s head out. We can be there before night fall as long as we travel fast.” Rosaline looked at the map. “I know an inn we can stay in for the night.”
“Duchess, I’m back. I got the supplies for dinner.” A short woman with messy red hair walked into the house. “I know it took a while but…”
“Cook.” Rosaline called to the woman as Alice and Kayleigh stopped her from running. “Just the person to help us.”
“Where is Duchess?” The cook asked in fear. “What did you do?”
“She ran off, after stealing the ruby necklace. I am a bit surprised she would leave you here, but maybe she has a cook in east Wonderland.”
“She would never get another cook. I have been her cook for years.”
“Come with us to find her. We could see if she got a new cook, together.”
“You’ll see.” The cook mumbled as she climbed on the horse with Alice.
The small house was grey with a black roof and blue curtains in the windows. The mailbox was rusted, and the house was falling apart. Red rose bushes had grown onto the path to the house. The dirt path was covered in potholes.
Duchess had a bad feeling in her gut. She held her baby in her arms. She was wearing the ruby necklace and a red dress that she had stolen from queen Rosaline. She had thought about stealing a ruby crown, but she didn’t want to push her luck.
She saw Alice and her cook first, followed by queen Rosaline and the queen’s head warrior. She thought about running, but she knew she was stuck. She thought about going to another kingdom, but she knew she wouldn’t have made it.
“Duchess, tell them you wouldn’t replace me.” The cook called out. “Tell them how important I am to you.”
“You idiot.” Duchess placed her baby into the crib.
“We don’t want to hurt you. I just want to get the necklace back.” Rosaline was in the doorway. “It belongs to your niece.”
“You wore this dress and necklace when you killed him.” A tear ran down her face.
“He deserved what happened to him. He wasn’t loyal and he spent the queendom’s money in ways he shouldn’t have.”
“I loved him.”
“You loved that you had something of mine.”
“I wanted to be queen.”
“I will make you a deal, give me the necklace and you can stay here, with cook, and you can stay in line for the queendom. I have no ill will for you.”
Duchess handed Rosaline the necklace and gave a half-hearted smile. “Maybe you’re right, you had everything I wanted. A husband, the queendom, and your own children. I looked up to you.”
“I am sorry.”
“You need to get back to Nerissa.”
“And you need to reassure your cook how important she is to you.”
The two hugged goodbye, both knowing this wasn’t the end.