The palace was still in turmoil. The Queen of Hearts’ chambers were quiet. Megette was tending to her while she remained catatonic and staring into space. She hadn’t responded to anything since she stopped crying. Everything had gone out of her. She lay on her great bed in a daze of incoherency at the trauma she had undergone. Khamet appeared in the room and slowly approached Megette. “How is my lady?”

Megette had obviously been crying and shook her head.

“I need your sword.” Khamet whispered.

“Off with their heads,” the Queen suddenly mumbled.

Megette leaned close to Khamet, “That’s all she says,” she whispered. “The sword is down the hall.” She motioned towards her chambers.

Khamet looked at the queen and nuzzled her hand. Her eyes fluttered from their stare, but that was all. Khamet moved to the door and slipped out.

Downstairs the hall was consumed with cards and animates from around the kingdom who had been friends of the Princess of Hearts and the royal family. Many had been crying and there was an audible gasp as Khamet stepped into the passage. They parted as he passed down the hall to Megette’s chambers. He looked grave, but as he passed he felt hands brushing his fur, reaching out to touch him as they cried and whispered something under their breath. At Megette’s chamber door he gave the mourners one last look before slipping inside. The sword was leaning in the corner. Khamet took it in his mouth as best he could despite the awkward size and vanished.

“Off! Off boy! Off!” The Jack of all Trades was saying.

“Dumbdeedumbdeedumb.” The two boys called clutching the Jack of all Trades legs as he tried to walk. They were both biting, but his thick green leather pants were not allowing much penetration. “Dumbdeedumbdeedumb.”

“Cat! Excellent!”

The Jack of all Trades tried dislodging himself from the two babies who began to scream in protest. The woman came out. “Oh, come now dears,” she said moving to help dislodge them. They were biting at the Jack’s hands as he grabbed at them.

Khamet dropped the sword. “Here.”

The Jack picked it up and looked at it questioningly.

Khamet moved to the woman. “I don’t know how this works but,” he stared at one of the babies and said, “Tweedle Dee.” Then he turned to the other and said “Tweedle Dumb.”

The woman smiled and started to cry then she scooped up the babies, “Did you hear that? Did you just hear your names?” She nuzzled both of the babies, “Thank you.”

Khamet nodded and moved back to the Jack who still held the sword with a questioning look on his face. “Can you use that?”

“This blade just about wields itself.” He said.

“Good, then you can deal with the Jabberwock.” He moved back towards the forest.

The Jack remained standing where he was with a questioning look.

Khamet turned back to the Jack. “I don’t know.” He answered the Jack’s look. He wanted to know about the Queen. “But we will return to the palace once this is all finished.”

The Jack looked stricken. He nodded and reluctantly raised the sword and followed Khamet into the forest.

The sword began to glow the moment they entered the darkness and then as if sensing the totality of the dark swelled with light until they could no longer look directly at it. A moment later light belched from the tip and all around them the area was illuminated.

“That’s a nice trick.” The Jack said swinging the blade to see if there was any change. The glow didn’t seem to be affected by the blade, it simply remained and moved with them as they moved deeper into the forest.

The dark of the Tulgey Wood was ominous and the light thrown by the sword caused strange shadows of all types. The Jack was very on edge. “How was she?” he asked to take his mind off his agitation.

“Megette is tending to her. She seems to have been very disturbed by what happened in the dungeon. I think she will be all right,” Khamet’s tone didn’t even sound convincing to himself.

“My father is dead.” The Jack said confessing.

“I know. I’m sorry.”

“I thought I would feel better… but… he was my father. As despicable as it might be and… someone had too…”

“Yes. Believe it or not I think I know how you feel.”

The Jack of all Trades looked sullen and waited for Khamet to speak, but the enormous cat had stopped walking. His heavy green eyes were focused on something in the forest. His ears were up and his body was slowly lowering to a crouch. The Jack peered ahead into the trees where the light ended and stopped as he saw them. Two heavy dark yellow orbs, each of them the size of the Jacks head, stared down at them from up in the trees.

The Jack froze and the ‘chittering’ began. The eyes came forward and a broad set of sharp teeth in a wide yellow grin began to show itself. The head was enormous and pushed two trees aside as it came through to loom over them. The teeth glowed a faint haze in the light and shown some of the bits of whatever it had been eating. The mouth could have bitten them in half. The Jack noticed that some of the bits in the teeth glowed purple and green with little tufts of fluff attached to it.  He brought the sword up and whispered to Khamet, “It was eating mome raths.”

Khamet didn’t seem particularly scared. “You are not supposed to eat the mome raths brother. They’re poisonous.”

The Jack’s hold on the sword wavered a bit at the sound of ‘brother,’ but he didn’t lose any ground.

The ‘chittering’ stopped. “I can eat what I will brother.” The lips slithered over the teeth that only parted a bit as it spoke. “The land listens and when I eat the mushrooms I am a God. I can eat what I will as much or as little.” The eyes never stopped staring and they never completely blinked. It was always watching.

“I went and came back. You didn’t want me to do that. I even have a few lives left so you can’t kill me.”

“Oh I can kill you brother, I can eat you and your animate Jack.” The eyes found the Jack and stared and it ‘chittered’, a hungry smackleing sound. “I have found Jokers quite tasty, though cards are not. I wonder what you will taste like my Jack of all Trades.” He turned back to Khamet. “No brother, until you have a name given to you by me or the Popularopinion, you are still quite vulnerable. I have a name! And now…” The Jabberwock shot forward breeching the trees and at this the Jack did step back.

There was no telling what he was seeing, though with all the creatures and of all the wonders of Heere, the Jack had never seen something so horrible. There was once tales told of a dragon that lived in the Purple Rock Candy Mountains. He had seen pictures drawn and the Jokers had a story of its death that described the thing fully. The Jabberwock was worse than that. So utterly indescribable it was as if all the animals it had consumed had merged in a beast with tight leathery skin like that of something that had been burned. It had something that looked like wings on its back, but so small and deformed they would certainly not fly. Stubbly little arms reached out from a thin body and ended at two great powerful legs, each ending in clawed hoof like feet.

Khamet also stared, his mind going back to his time at the harbor and the old seaman. While out in the city he had seen pictures of a horrible looking man who was terribly deformed with a twisted body and a strange head far too large for his size with bulging lumps all over its back. People called him The Elephant Man, and at the very least he could see that it might have been man, but there was no trace of cat in his brother any longer. Was this from eating the mome raths? Too many mushrooms? Their essence having twisted him into something that even the mushrooms could no longer affect? Was it the Payasograss? Or was it a combination of them all that had turned him into something so indescribable?

The ‘chittering squeal’ came and the large head with the long neck dipped and snapped. Khamet vanished and appeared in the trees. The Jabberwock didn’t seem interested in the Jack very much, but snapped at him in passing as the acrobatic Jack used the sword as he would his baton and vaulted away. The light followed him, but the Jabberwock was searching for Khamet.

The Jabberwock swung its enormous neck that elongated as he reached towards the cat sitting on a branch. Khamet vanished again and appeared on another branch.

“It still listens to me.” the Jabberwock chittered. “We are a part of the land.” The Jabberwock spun and came at Khamet again who vanished.

Suddenly all of the trees in the area vanished and Khamet was sitting in midair. He fell right to the ground with the Jabberwocky’s head already coming down to meet him. The teeth snapped and there was an audible muffled crunch as Khamet screamed.

The Jack lunged and suddenly all the light in the vicinity went out and the Jabberwock cried out in pain. He raised his head and turned to face the Jack with a limp Khamet speared in his teeth. The Jabberwock growled.

The Jack stepped back in the darkness. The glow from the sword shined from the wound in the Jabberwock’s chest. The Jabberwock began scratching at the sword with his leg and opened his mouth to drop the cat. Both legs came together and it rolled on its back in pain and fury to remove the glowing Vorpal Sword that stuck out like a hot poker. The Jabberwock leaned back scratching and making the cut bigger as glowing black fluid oozed from the wound.

The Jabberwock ‘chittered’ and scratched and ‘chittered’ some more as the Jack of all Trades moved to Khamet. The cat’s body was twisted and crushed most obviously dead.

 

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