HEARTS AND JACKS
The man walking down the rows of trees and bushes behind the castle was not a man. He looked like a man in every respect, but he was not a man for he was in Heere. There were no men in the land of Heere, nor were there women for that matter. This is because this was Heere and not there. Yonderland had men, and women and cats and dogs and all manner of things that Heere did not. Similarly, Heere had all manner of things that Yonderland did not. Men and women sometimes came to Heere from there. There being Yonderland, but not understanding the rules of Heere they usually didn’t last very long. What happened to the men and women that came Heere is all very different and personal to each individual. Some died, some went back and the rest… were changed. One never remains the same once one passes through the looking glass.
Cats were special. Cats to some extent lived in both worlds at the same time. Most changed when they came Heere, but cats are one of the most mystical of all creatures and cannot be bothered by the common worries or dangers of most creatures. Truth be told, most cats exist in several different worlds at the same time.
One cat in particular was more special than the others. By luck or by chance, he passed to Heere, from there, there being Yonderland, what the cat had called Kemet, what others call reality, and some might just call Earth. That happened several somes ago. Somes being years in Yonderland. He passed back through the glass and is returning. Of course all things being what they are, everything is relative, is it not? But if not, then what is, or is not?
The rows of trees and bushes behind the castle were delicious, that is they held delicious red fruits and flowers. Apples, tomatoes and roses. Now if one is not aware of the delectable deliciousness of these fruits and flowers there is a recipe that has been known to change minds and hearts too love. In a bowl, mix equal parts apples, tomatoes and red rose petals all finely chopped. Sprinkle one tablespoon of sugar for every cup of rose petals and mix everything very well, serve warm or chilled.
The Jack of all Trades walked the rows behind the Heart’s Castle debating how best to proceed. His mission had changed and he was not certain what to do about it. His feelings had changed. He should be inside by now, but he was not. He would be put out for this failure. His father would see to it. He wandered through the royal garden unaware he was being watched and at this moment the very person who had him so very confused was already riding out to intercept him.
Khamet felt something pricking him through his fir. He rolled away from it. There was a jostling and something dropped onto is head with a light thud.
“What is…” he stopped at the sound of his own voice again. He had returned. The grin came easier this time though not very full. He looked around to see what had struck him. A smooth, heavy red ball sat right beside him. Khamet stood to investigate. He sniffed. Then licked. It was pleasant and warm from the sun. It felt soft and Khamet began rubbing his head and face over the warm round edge of the tomato. It rolled and Khamet’s green eyes followed it. He pounced on the tomato playfully. He used his claws and they sunk into its meat. A pungent tasty aroma came into the air and Khamet stepped back staring at the seepage. He licked the tasty sweetness of the tomato and shook his head at the flavor.
Khamet looked around, unsure where this was. It was not the field of Piassograss that was certain. If his brother knew where he was he may be arriving at any moment to bring him back to the mirror again. The thought unnerved him. Khamet realized he was sort of in the open and searched the sky. There was an apple tree a few yards away and he darted for it leaving the tomato bush.
He climbed as high as he dared to get a better vantage and see if his brother was coming. In the distance there was a large structure with great spires reaching up to the sky. Overall it looked like a safe place. It was not out in the open where the Bandersnatch might get him. He decided he wanted to be away from here by the time his brother arrived. He didn’t want to go back again, not for a little while at least.
He searched the sky for any sign of the Bandersnatch. There was nothing save some wisps of cloud in the blue and all around him were apple trees, tomato plants and rose bushes, all laid in neat rows one after another that stretched from horizon to horizon. He climbed down from the apple tree and cautiously began making his way towards the large structure. He crossed the open rows as quickly as possible moving from tree to tree until he heard, “Excuse me, but who are you and where do you think you are going?”
Khamet crouched and looked up, “I am…” he began until he noticed that he was alone. The voice was coming from somewhere in the next row.
“Well I have to see the King,” another voice responded.
Khamet curiously crept to the apple tree nearest the conversation and climbed quickly.
“Well for one thing,” a feminine voice spoke. “That is not possible at the moment, but you are on the king’s grounds. Again I will ask you what it is you are doing here for you are trespassing.”
“Am I,” the masculine voice said with sarcastic shock. “I saw no land edge or anything to indicate such…”
“Do not play coy with me sir. If I call the guard I will have you summarily executed.”
Khamet found a strong branch and crept out to its edge to get a better view.
“Please my lady, I only seek an audience with the king and believe me it is most urgent that I see him.”
“Who are you card, and what is your title.”
“Excuse me my lady, forgive my manners.” He stood and bowed low. “You have the pleasure of addressing the Jack of all Trades.”
“All trades? The impertinence! And your purpose?”
“My purpose is whatever the king might find that I may be of use to him, for I am quite handy, but may I ask,” his voice suddenly sounded pinched and nervous. “Whom am I addressing?”
“You are addressing the king’s daughter, the Princess of Hearts and should conduct yourself as so. My father is the Suicide King and as I said he is not receiving today. Especially rogues such as yourself.”
“My lady I am no rogue of any sort I assure you.” The Jack had a flirtatious grin.
Khamet tried to get a better view of the woman.
“You are no one of status that is quite certain.” The Princess said.
Something snorted at the last remark and Khamet moved further out onto the branch to get a better view. The lady was almost as high as Khamet was, and sitting atop a strange creature that looked somewhat familiar. It was striped with a catlike, almost human face. It had the body of a lion and six legs. The Princess’ hair was jet black. It was high and wrapped in a large deep red bun in the shape of a heart with black strands descending from it. She wore a dark red dress that looked hot and uncomfortable, but it all framed her ghostly pale skin very well.
The Jack of all Trades had straight black hair as well, but with deep sun-darkened skin compared to the Princess’s pallor. He wore many colors most of which had green tinges to them and though his clothing looked as if it might weigh him down, he had an air of power and loose balance, akin to Khamet’s catlike agility, which gave him the scent of freedom. Khamet smiled at this and watched as the conversation continued.
“Do not smile at me sir for your status is that of someone whom I should not be addressing.” The Princess said this, but the corners of her lips were fighting to keep straight and her eyes shown with delight.
“But might I be allowed my lady, for I would be remiss if I did not note that you are now in full possession of me at this moment.” The Jack of all Trades bowed with a flourish and his cheeks reddened.
The Princess made a face of shock, but coughed and recovered quickly. “You may vacate these gardens or I shall have you removed from them.”
“That’s fine,” the Jack said with another great bow. He stepped past the lady and her great steed and moved towards the castle.
“Not to the castle! Back the way you have come.”
Khamet caught a scent in the air that was familiar. He had observed this in the past when two people were interested in each other. The scent wafted from the Jack as he moved beneath the tree where Khamet was sitting. Then as the lady turned her steed, he got the same scent from her.
“Please my lady,” The Jack pleaded. “It has been quite the journey for me to get even this far and I cannot return without seeing you’re…”
“Guards,” she remarked casually.
Khamet felt the tree he was perched on shift and suddenly the branches reached down and seized the Jack by both his arms. The shift threw Khamet forward and he fell grasping an apple and dangling right in front of the Princess.
“By rublick?” The Princess cried out rearing back on her steed.
“Sorry my lady.” Khamet said trying to claw himself back onto the branch.
“Come down here at once.”
“Yes,” Khamet released the branch and dropped to the ground.
“What are you doing in this garden? Are you with this rogue?”
“I am not a rogue,” the Jack began with obstinate pride.
“Silence,” the Princess of Hearts pointed and the apple tree reached out a leafy branch and stuffed an apple into the Jack’s mouth. “Now speak up.” she said to Khamet.
“I am not with him. I am here accidentally my lady.”
“What sort of creature are you?” she looked down very suspiciously.
“I am a Mau.” Khamet said then rethought, “a cat.”
“That is what I said little one, do not correct me… Cat, what is your business?”
“I have none my lady I am simply exploring these gardens.”
The creature she rode gave a strange sort of snort and brought its head down to nuzzle Khamet a bit. Getting a closer look at the beast, Khamet realized it was a sphinx. Wow, he thought. He had only seen them in drawings.
The Princess of Hearts patted the sphinx on the neck and reached down to Khamet. “Up.” She commanded.
Khamet leapt up the sphinx’s leg to her lap.
“You are a cute little thing,” she stroked him. It was the first personal contact Khamet had in ages and his back stiffened into an extremely high arch. He began purring so loudly it sounded as if he were growling again, “Oh my, what is that?”
Khamet opened his mouth to speak and released a loud growl as he did so and the sound of his own voice rumbled. “My apologies my lady I…”
“Guards.” She called out, again.
A branch shot out to snatch Khamet up, but he was fast and much more sleek and lithe than anything the guardtree had attempted to catch before. Khamet dodged the apple tree branches, leaping onto them and running into the leaves as the tree struggled to catch him. Khamet dropped to the ground avoiding the branches that reached for him. Other trees came to life and began to reach out.
“My lady I am not a danger to you. I am here accidentally from Yonderland.”
The Princess of Hearts had been watching this with wonderment and put her hand up. The trees all stopped at once and stood still. “Yonderland you say?”
Even the Jack seemed interested in this fact, but he struggled with his mouth filled with apple.
“Come here mow, or cat or whatever you are.”
“What is that?”
The Princess of Hearts seemed to dismiss this statement. “Do you have a place to go cat?”
“Are you Hungry?”
“Wonderful, my father is throwing a banquet this very evening and you shall be my guest,” The Princess said.
A muffled sound came from the tree and the Jack sputtered apple juice.
“Bring him to the dungeon. I shall decide later what to do with him…” Khamet watched the lady stare down at the Jack with such a deep look of interest and curiosity. “Come cat. Up. Or maybe I won’t.” She said smiling over her shoulder. She nudged the sphinx and the six powerful legs thundered them off.
Khamet stared back at the Jack of all Trades who stared after them as the tree carried him away.