The Witch’s Guide To Wonderland

[This wonderful cover art commission was done by my friend IfTheArtistConsents (Minds Newgrounds) Go check out his work if you haven’t already!]

As a quick heads up, the formatting in this story is a little weird because of some strange ideas I had for it. Hopefully its still easy to follow along with and enjoyable!

This story incorporates a lot of characters from my previous works. You get enough info on each of them from this to enjoy this story even if you aren’t familiar with the characters. If you’ve read my stuff or you just wanna read this, feel free to read on. If you feel like reading these characters’ backstories, the main ones to read are: Bridgett Means Fire, Little Dragon Girl, The Black Cat, and Striped Samurai. I hope you enjoy!

	A red car coasted down a lonely road on a sunny Saturday morning. It was barely ten o’clock with scarcely a cloud in the sky as soft rock played through the car’s stereo. Sitting in the passenger’s seat of the car was a weresheep with cream colored wool and bright green eyes. Covering her motherly body was a deep purple knitted sweater and form fitting jeans. She turned to face her husband of four years, her waxxed horns glimmering in the sunlight, “Theodore, darling, are we really going to leave the kids with… Maxine?” She had an unsure frown spread across her lips.
	Theodore scoffed and glanced at her from behind his blacked out sunglasses, “Of course! We haven’t had time to ourselves since we met. This isn’t like when Mother babysat them all for a night. Kimiko is there! She’s the most responsible person we know!”
	“I liked it when grandma baby sat me!” Their daughter, Bridgett, a young dragon girl with green scales, blue eyes and black hair grinned. She was wearing a yellow dress.
	Gwen grimaced as she remembered how her adoptive mother had spoiled her children rotten. Bridgett had drank so much caffeine she couldn’t sleep all night and kept waking her parents up, “Well… right. But…”
	“You worry too much!” Theodore laughed, “Plus Maxine said she needed Bridgett’s help for a special project. Everyone on the Hamilton estate has their eyes on the witch. Nothing bad will happen.”
	“I’m still not sure.”
	The man sighed at his beautiful weresheep wife, “Come on, I got us a reservation at your favorite restaurant, two tickets to that new movie you wanted to see, and an afternoon to ourselves.”
	Gwen gave him a tiny smile, she really did want to do those things, but she was a little wary about leaving her children in her somewhat reckless friend’s care. With a glance behind her, she looked over her precious children. The dragon was nearly ten now and her twins were three. Like usual, Ross and Samantha were both asleep, “Alright, alright. But, Bridgett, if anything strange happens you find a phone and call us.”
	“Okay!” The dragon girl bounced excitedly in her seat. With how big she was now, she could easily be mistaken for a young teen. 
	Theodore snickered quietly to himself as he refocused on the road, “I remember a few years ago when my little girl was terrified of Maxine.” 

	“Maxine!” A voice cried. 
The cat witch groaned as she put her book down, “What is it, Svetlana?” Her green cat eyes blinked as she adjusted her short sable hair and long, black, billowing robes.
	The kikimora appeared in the doorway with her own child in her arms. A one year old kikimora with grey hair that matched her mother's, “I hope you have not forgotten about the playdate you scheduled for your children. They should be arriving any minute!” She scolded.
	“Of course I had not,” She scoffed, rising to her feet and putting her wide brimmed, conical hat atop her head, making sure her pointy cat ears stuck through their allotted holes, “My precious Sophia needs her time to bond with Ross at a young age. The two are destined for one another.”
	“You keep saying that…” Svetlana sighed, “What about Kimiko’s children or my daughter interacting with him?”
	“Nothing will come of that,” She assured her best friend with confidence. The two strut down the halls of her wing of the Hamilton manor. Her parents and sister had control of the rest of the abode, but a sizable chunk was under Maxine’s care along with her husband, Richard. Svetlana’s family along with Kimiko, Maxine’s body guard and trusted friend lived on the wealthy family’s property, “Besides, I have more important things to do while the children nap,” The witch had done little decorating in her area. There were a few paintings that her mother had put up for her, but other than that every room was form over function. A room for magical paraphernalia, a personal library, a personal room for her husband, a room for learning martial combat and a few rooms dedicated to her children. Maxine had two now, Sophia, the older at a little over three years and Marcille who was around seventeen months old, “Did you summon Kimiko like I instructed?”
	“Of course. Her and her litter of three are prepared for the play date. Why didn’t you offer to take Daisy or Ruth’s children too? You seem intent on giving your children ample play dates with others their age. Ruth had boys, in fact,” The kikimora points out.
	Maxine grimaced, “It is not that I do not like our friends’ offspring. My two, your one, Kimiko’s three and then Gwen’s three might as well be five with Bridgett involved. It is merely just a lot of children in one place for you and Kimiko to watch.”
	Svetlana sighed, “Yes. Right. You still have not explained what exactly it is you have planned for your favorite dragon.”
	“All in due time,” Maxine purred with a devilish smile, “It is nothing for you to worry your precious little head over."
	She rolled her eyes, “Good. Worrying was never my forte, afterall,” The kikimora shook her head, “Best left to people like you and Kimiko.”
	“Exactly. Where is she anyways? It is unlike her to be tardy,” Maxine frowned as she glanced out one of the front windows to make sure that her wool covered friend wasn’t there yet.
	“Probably at her little pond,” The kikimora gestured to a window up ahead, “She is so large, I assume you could see her from here.”
	“Ah, I think I do see her…” The witch muttered, squinting her eyes.
	The tall tiger woman sat at a small pond surrounded by a modestly sized zen garden. Kimiko was on a large rock with a trail of smaller stones leading to it as to not step in the carefully raked sand. The area was surrounded by a small wall to keep the breeze, children and animals from messing with the jinko’s carefully manicured bonsai trees. If that protection failed, the magical runes that surrounded the area would protect it. She breathed deliberately as she meditated to the sound of running water over smooth stones. 
	She stirred and flicked her tail as she heard someone approaching, “Kimiko?” A man called out to her from behind the walls of her zen sanctuary.
	“Yes, dear husband?” She replied as she stood to her full seven feet tall stature. Her white kimono with a silvery, flowing floral pattern on it billowed slightly in the soft breeze before she tightened the sash around her waist. 
	The man, Calvin, cleared his throat, “Theodore and Gwen should be arriving at any moment. I was asked to summon you,” His tone was formal before he grunted out the next thing he had to say, “And you left your sword lying around again and one of the kids got it. You know how I feel about that. They could really hurt themselves.”
	Kimiko sighed and rose to her feet, “Perhaps I needed to clear my mind more than I had initially thought,” She mused aloud. She put her usual eyepatch over her bad eye and stepped across the stones toward her husband on long, elegant strides.
	“I just want you to be more careful, Kimiko,” Calvin said, the annoyance in his tone had dissipated. 
	She nodded, “I understand,” She leaned down and kissed him on the forehead, “My mind has been clouded as of late. Maxine is up to something… wicked.”
	“She’s a witch. That’s what she does,” Calvin grunted as the two went back to their modest home to collect their children. He adjusted the katana on his hip before handing a katana in a golden decorated sheath to his wife.
	Kimiko nodded, taking the sword and agreeing with him, “She generally can be mischievous, although usually benevolent. A force of good. But this is something else.”
	“The road to evil is paved with good intentions and all that,” He opened the front door and held it open for his wife, “I’ll be around to make sure she doesn’t mess with any of the kids while you keep an eye on her.”
	“Good,” Kimiko smiled as she heard the sounds of numerous little feet running across the floor. Of the three, the two largest were Haruki and Mitsune. Both had cinnamon colored fur on their arms, legs, tail and cat ears with black colored stripes. They both ran into their mother’s arms while the smallest of the three, Aika, leapt into her father’s. The runt had white fur with black stripes, and along with her sisters, all three had orange eyes that matched their mother’s, “My precious children!” The elder jinko chuffed as she kissed both in her arms on the forehead as they both shrieked and giggled about all the play fighting they did, “Quiet down. You have friends arriving soon. Aika, are you sleeping again?” She giggled as she looked toward her husband where her white haired daughter was already napping, “Well, Calvin, bring her, would you?”
	“Yeah,” He grunted back as he adjusted the child in his grip.

	“Oh! I can see Kimiko!” Bridgett shouted excitedly and pointed as her father’s car approached the Hamilton manor. 
	“She’s pretty hard to miss,” Theodore snickered as he spotted the tiger woman before she vanished behind the building, “Look, Maxine’s here to greet us,” He gestured to the front as he pulled his car around a small fountain that spewed water of ever changing colors. From blues and greens to hues of red and orange. 
	The witch waved with her free hand, the other gripped her staff tightly, “Yoohoo! Greetings, friends!” Svetlana stood a little behind her and to the side.
	“Hello, Maxine and Svetlana!” Gwen called as she stepped from her vehicle, “You are looking a bit less ragged than usual. Did you dress up just for us?” She teased as she grabbed her still snoozing son from the backseat.
	“I have merely been saving my energy for the arrival of your little bundles of energy,” The witch shot back with a snicker, “Look at them. Just as wild as ever! Hello, Theodore. You look well.”
	“Thanks,” He had Samantha in one arm and Bridgett’s hand in the other, “Thanks for doing this, by the way.”
	“Of course. I have many others to rely on when I need a break, but you two deserve one as well.”
	Gwen sighed as she reluctantly handed Ross to the witch, “Just no funny business, please. We’ll come pick them up at ten.”
	“Funny business? Oh, Gwen! It wounds me that you would think I could harm such bundles of joy!” She chuckled. Kimiko appeared from the house, “Ah, Kimiko, wonderful timing,” She carefully gave the boy to the jinko.
	“Please keep a close eye on them,” Gwen muttered to Kimiko.
	“Aye. I will, Gwen,” She gave the sheep a little bow.
	Svetlana gladly carried Samantha who snored quietly, “She’s just so cute!” The kikimora giggled. 
	“Come along, Bridgett. Your parents have a very relaxing day ahead of them,” The witch said as she waved her over. 
	“Bye, dad! Bye, mom!” Bridgett waved to her parents as she stood by Maxine’s side. 
	“Be good!” Gwen chuckled nervously as she anxiously got back into her husband’s car. She couldn’t take her eyes off of her precious children, she worried about them, she always did, but this was so intense a worry and her nerves so strongly rattle that she could hardly focus. 
	The weresheep jumped as Theodore touched her arm, “Hey, you alright?”
	“Just worried about my babies…”
	“They’ll be fine, come on. We’ve got plans, remember? At least try to have a good day with me!”
	“Right…” Gwen sighed and leaned back in her seat as the car pulled away from the manor.
	“I was beginning to think she would never leave,” Kimiko murmured as she watched the car go.
	Maxine nodded and clenched her staff, “First thing is first, come along,” She gestured for the others to follow her. Bridgett giddily skipped down the elegant hallways as she followed the three adults, “Are the men keeping an eye on the children right now?”
	“Yes, Maxine,” Kimiko nodded, “Calvin has joined Richard in watching the children.”
	“My husband should be getting lunch prepared currently, I shall join him soon to help get everyones’ meal prepared by noon,” Svetlana declared with a smile.
	“What are we having?” Bridgett asked excitedly as she was led into a room full of toys for younger children. Blocks, cars, a few board games, dolls, and, of course, a large and overly expensive toy kitchen. The dragon’s brother and sister were sat down where they continued taking their nap. Maxine’s two children and Svetlana’s one sat with Richard as he read to them from a picture book. As usual, Kimiko’s two more rambunctious children were play-fighting with one another while their white haired sister demanded that their father play blocks with her. 
	“Well, macaroni for you children, I believe. I believe you like yours with hot dogs in it, hm?” Svetlana mused. Bridgett’s eyes sparkled as she nodded in agreement. She knew that Svetlana made the best mac and cheese around and was very excited for lunch, “I shall return after I check up on my husband,” She gave a small curtsey to Maxine before leaving. 
	“Everything seems to be in order here,” Maxine said to herself as she stepped in, picking up Ross and placing his still sleeping form next to her daughter, “Now then. Come along Bridgett, I have something special I require help with.”
	“Maxy,” Richard stood up and set the children around him aside, “Why do you need Bridgett for this?”
	“You need not worry as to why,” The witch brushed him off quickly and turned to leave.
	Kimiko blocked her escape, “Maxine. I am worried as well. I have been tasked with the young girl’s safe keeping. Explain what you have planned.”
	Maxine groaned, she didn’t have time for this. She simply snatched Bridgett’s hand and waved her staff above her head, easily teleporting herself and the young dragon to a room specifically made for magic. The young girl felt her head spin from the magic for a few moments as Maxine strutted to her work area and began preparing various magical ingredients. Prisoner fruit peels, a few jub jub feathers and a little purple bottle of what has been known in the mage community as ‘baphwater.’
	Bridgett tilted her head as she picked up the discarded jar from a table behind Maxine, “Cheshies’ Bath Water? Do not drink?” She read aloud before staring wide eyed at the purple haired cat woman on the label.
	“Shoot, I forgot you could read proficiently,” Maxine muttered under her breath, “It's a magical reagent, Bridgett. Like mana salt or… dragon scales. Remember when I used some of your discarded scales?”
	“Yeah, you did that to protect Richard. But why do you BUY some cat lady’s bath water when you could just use your own? You’re a cat too and you’ve got magic! Is this Cheshie magic like you?” She pointed out, feeling rather smart.
	Maxine’s bright green cat eye twitched, “Puh-lease do not compare my most masterfully crafted magic to the wild, reckless abandon of a cheshire’s magic!” Her ears perked up as she heard footsteps approaching the door to her study. With the flick of her wrist the door was locked with a little click as the deadbolt rotated into place, “Now please sit on the couch while I prepare this magic spell,” The witch began to murmur her magic words as Bridgett plopped herself down on the couch to watch. 
The dragon watched with wide eyes as the competent magician threw a handful of mana infused salt into the stone bowl she was using. Her hand circled the top of the dish, slowly and magically mixing the ingredients together into a sort of paste. Maxine ignored the jiggling of the door handle as she continued her spell, although she did decide to forego a few words of safety just to speed up the process. 
	“Maxine!” Kimiko called through the door, “I can hear you in there!” 
	“Maxine? Should I let Kimiko in?” Bridgett asked.
	“No! No, I mean, she’ll spoil her surprise!” Maxine fibbed before going back to her spell. 
	“Bridgett!? Unlock this door!” Kimiko hollered again. She knew better than to force the door open. 
	“I, uh, can’t hear you!” Bridgett shouted back with a little giggle. The aetheric winds of Maxine’s magic made her clothes billow and her hair blow into her face.
	“Unbelievable,” The jinko growled to herself before reaching into her kimono and retrieving a simple set of lockpicks. As she quickly took hold of her emotions, she used a long and curved piece of metal to push up all the pins into place so she could rotate the lock with an angled piece of metal. She turned the handle and threw the door open. Maxine turned to her wide eyed, her form, as well as Bridgett’s were both illuminated by a large purple-red portal on the stone wall of the room, “Maxine!?” Kimiko growled as she stomped over to them.
	“Surprise!” Bridgett shouted.
	Maxine cleared her throat at the enraged jinko, “K-Kimiko, as your employer--”
	“I am enraged at you as your employee but more as an associate of Gwen and Theodore,” She scooped up the dragon and held her under her arm, “Looking to send this young girl through your damned portal to who knows where? You had better explain yourself. Now.”
	“Look, look,” Maxine glanced at the portal and then at Kimiko, “I need something that only Bridgett can get.”
	Kimiko’s scowl softened slightly, “Go on.”
	“It's in… Wonderland--”
	“Wonderland!? You refuse to go to that hellscape yourself! Why do you think you can just send this little dragon for you?” She hissed. Bridgett folded her arms and mimicked Kimiko’s cross look.
	“She is ten. At that age, she is immune to the madness of Wonderland. Its inhabitants will not bother her much, they will most likely even try to help her. I just need a few mushrooms that only grow there for something I’m making for Richard!” Maxine explained, “Bridgett can go in and find some nearby then come right back!”
	Kimiko set the dragon down, “What if she wanders off?”
	Maxine rolled her eyes, “Then we’ll use this,” She reached into the sleeve of her flowing robes and began to pull out a very long length of rope, “Secure one end around the child and another to something heavy.”
	“And you are quite sure this is safe?”
	“Of course! I have done much research on this, Kimiko,” Maxine assured her quickly, “Perfectly safe for her.”
	“Bridgett?” Kimiko looked down at the dragon, “Do you want to do this?”
	“Well…” Bridgett didn’t know anything about Wonderland.
	“I will give you whatever you wish, within reason,” Maxine offered quickly.
	Bridgett’s mind nearly burst at the possibilities of what she could ask the all powerful witch for, “Okay. I’ll do it,” She picked up the length of rope and held it up for Kimiko. The jinko nodded and tied it to her then the other end around her own waist.
	“Tug three times if you need help,” Kimiko nodded at her, “I will pull you back. Good luck.”
	“Alright,” Maxine used her magic to create an illusion of a golden colored mushroom, “This is what I need. I need a handful of small ones or just one big one. Can you do that?”
	“Yeah!” The dragon’s mind was still on the things she could wish for. She thought of her birth mother, but quickly pushed that from her mind. Maxine sure had a lot of money. Maybe she could buy Bridgett some food? She wondered if she should ask Gwen what she should ask for. The portal offered little resistance to Bridgett as she walked through it; the swirling purple and red vortex acted like a tunnel that she wandered down for an unknown length of time.
	When the portal spat her out with a loud FWOOMP! Bridgett found herself in a forest standing on a path that stretched out in two directions, north and south. Overhead, the purple and red canopy of the strange trees with dark brown bark offered some shade against the purple and orange twilight or dawn sky. Bushes of similarly colored foliage lined most of the path and dotted amongst them were smaller plants like orange weeds and a few mushrooms of various colors, “Gold mushrooms. Gold Mushrooms,” She reminded herself. This was going to be an easier job than pulling weeds with her dad!
	Bridgett scanned her gaze over numerous mushrooms. Each one that looked kind of golden was a lot more yellow upon closer examination. Besides, these were tiny, she needed something bigger and better to appease Maxine. As she searched, she heard a noise, like the bubbling of water on a hot stove. Curious, the young dragon pushed past the foliage and walked into the woods. There she spotted a massive mushroom, this one of a pink color. She frowned, knowing she had not yet found her prize. Sitting on top of the mushroom was a woman colored a light and pleasant shade of blue. The bubbling water came from some glass bottle with a tube that she would stick in her mouth and blow out an assortment of clouds of various shapes and an array of colors. 
	Bridgett gathered all of her courage and approached, remembering everything about manners that her father and mother had taught her. Bridgett smelled something sickly sweet as she tiptoed closer and began to cough quietly as she accidentally breathed in some of the smoke from the woman’s bubbling tube. Upon closer inspection, the blue woman was actually some form of caterpillar girl like the green worm in her grade. She wore a blouse and a blue overcoat. Two figures sat at the base of the mushroom the worm lounged on, a man in green army fatigues and a snoozing pink colored harpy who was definitely not wearing enough clothes by Bridgett’s standards. The dragon girl wondered if she was impoverished and couldn’t afford clothes. She turned her attention back to the worm and cleared her throat, “E-excuse me?” She mumbled in the most polite tone she could muster.
	The worm put down her pipe and looked at the young girl that had so politely interrupted her, “Hm, a dragon?” She mused, “What can I do for you, dear?” She asked as she buttoned up her shirt to hide some of her cleavage.
	“I-I was wondering i-if you knew where I could find a gold mushroom. P-please. A big one! Like this big!” The dragon spread her arms out wide to emphasize the word big.
	“Hmm…” The wonderworm stroked her chin and idly took a puff of her pipe.
	“What about the duchess?” The man in green fatigues asked, “You’ve said that--”
	The worm shut up her husband by draping her long worm body off of the mushroom and covering up his face, “Yes. The duchess of the land,” The worm nodded, “She should have what you desire.”
	“How do I find this duch… duchess,” Bridgett didn’t like how this new word felt in her mouth. 
	“It's simple. You walk down the path.”
	Bridgett nodded and turned to go, “Which way?”
	“Well, that way,” The wonder worm pointed in both directions by crossing her arms.
	“W-what?” The dragon tilted her head.
“All roads here lead to the duchess's castle, well, except when they don’t! Just start walking and you will eventually find it.”
“Thank you, uh, ma’am,” Bridgett forced a small and weak smile for the blue worm woman.
	“Hear my warning, child,” The wonder worm started to speak again, stopping Bridgett from leaving as she politely turned back to listen, “The road will be long and you will be tested by various Wonderland denizens. Keep your chin up through all of it and you will find your prize. Oh, and when you see the duchess, tell her that Pam says ‘hello’.”
	“Uh, okay,” Bridgett nodded, “Thanks, ma’am,” She smiled and left the clearing, easily making her way back to the path by following the length of rope tied around her waist. She stared at the portal for a few moments before picking a direction, the north, and wandering down it, skipping and humming as she went.

	All the trees looked the same to Bridgett. The path was some kind of compacted dirt that the claws on her feet easily dug into as she skipped. The canopy overhead had opened up and she could more easily see the sky. She loved the sunset but she wondered when night would come, or if it ever would. Or maybe it was morning? The dragon wondered. As she was lost in her thoughts, she nearly ran into a long bright yellow with black stripes... thing that blocked the path in front of her. Without another thought, she went to crawl under it to get past.
	“Hey!” A gruff voice shouted, making Bridgett jump back, “You can’t go UNDER the palisade!” Looking to her right, she noticed a bright yellow building which the palisade was attached to. 
	“W-why not?” Bridgett asked, staring into the toll booth at the obfuscated individual inside.
	“Why!? Y-- Buh-- We--” The figure groaned before grabbing the window she hid behind, her large purple claws stretching the window larger so she could climb out as if the once wooden structure was now made of rubber, “Because them's the RULES!” The woman growled, standing to her full seven foot height. She put her claws on her hips, her purple scales and horns glimmering in the evening/morning light. Her torso was covered by a fancy, lilac, dress shirt with a black tie and a deep purple coat over it. Her legs down a little past the knees were covered in a black skirt and on her head sat a little bowler’s hat. She had a bright pink sash around her waist and over one shoulder that read ‘PORTAL MONITOR.’ Her tanned skin was blemishless, her messy magenta and plum hair was done up in a bun with her bangs covering most of her forehead and her glaring purple eyes were staring at Bridgett from behind a pair of glasses as she out stretched her small, leathery, purple wings. 
Bridgett recognized the woman’s species from a book she had gotten from Maxine about dragons last year; she knew this was a jabberwock, but the child was too nervous to bring it up, “C-can I go around it?” Bridgett timidly asked.
	“Wha-- No!” The large woman groaned, “You can’t go under or around!”
	“...Over it?” 
	She gave Bridgett an exasperated look, “Look, kid--” The jabberwock paused for a second, “What’s your name kid? I gotta put that into my log book,” She explained as she pulled a cartoonishly large leather bound book from her back pocket. Even Bridgett was quick to notice that without ridiculously large cargo shorts, there was no way she could be carrying that book like that.
	The young dragon frowned, unable to see if she really WAS wearing cargo shorts underneath that frilly dress. The jabberwock cleared her throat, expecting an answer from the smaller, green dragon. She cleared her throat, “Uh, Bridgett. With two t’s. And no E at the end.”
	“That’s a cute name,” The jabberwock gave a little smile as she wrote it into her book with a pen.
	“Yeah, it means fire!” Bridgett blew fire out of her mouth, coughing as the smoke started to come up, “What’s yours?” She asked as she recovered, trying to be polite.
	“Mine?” She paused for a moment, “It's Susan.”
	“Susan, huh? Well, Susan, how do I get past this thing?”
Susan put her book away, “If you wanna get past, the palisade has to be up. If you try to do anything else, I’ll stuff you in the prisoner fruit wiggler,” She gestured with a thumb to a big metal box at the back of her little toll booth. 
	Bridgett shuddered with fear at the menacing metal box. She had no idea if she could fit in there, “I don’t wanna go in the wiggler,” She whined, doing her best to not cry in the presence of the intimidating metal box. 
	The jabberwock felt a little bad about yelling at the little dragon girl, “Look, kid. Just stay on the path and you’ll be fine.”
	Bridgett wiped her face and nodded, “How do I get past by following the rules?”
	“Well, you--” The purple scaled wonderland dragon stopped, her face going completely blank as she looked at the palisade, “I-I don’t know… I-it didn’t open when I put your name in! I figured that would be the answer! I don’t know, Bridgett!”
	“You don’t!? Then why are you here!?” Bridgett demanded, her being the one shouting now.
	“Jabberwocks guard portals into Wonderland. But… No one ever makes it this far. Usually men wander into here and they get rap--” Susan turned to the young dragon and bit her tongue, “Get led on alternate paths by, uh, cheshires or captured by the trumpart, the Red Queen’s guard.”
	“But what about kids like me?” Bridgett asked as the jabberwock leaned on the palisade.
	“Well, due to a more recent decree, kids can do whatever they want, as long as they don’t get on the Red Queen’s nerves,” The big purple dragon leaned more heavily on the palisade. She examined her claws and glanced back and Bridgett, “You, uh, in school?” Bridgett nodded, unsure how to proceed on her quest, “That’s cool. Stay in school, alright? Don’t be like me,” She removed her hand from the palisade to throw both of her arms into the air, “I’m thirty two, husbandless, and I can hardly make rent!” She angrily slammed her hand back down on the yellow barrier, snapping it in two and sending the jabberwock to the dirt ground.
 	“Look! The barrier’s gone! Thanks, lady!” Bridgett hurried past the jabberwock, skipping as she went.
	Susan sighed and propped her head up on her hand with a smile, “Good luck, kid.”

	Kimiko breathed deeply and gradually exhaled, pausing before she repeated the process. She sat on the floor with the other side of Bridgett’s rope tied around her waist. Her meditation kept her calm and occupied as she tried not to worry about the young dragon. 
	Maxine sat on the couch, her face buried into a book as she tried to stay busy. Her tail flicked back and forth and her foot tapped with impatience as she waited for Bridgett’s return. She slammed the book shut as she finished it, “Where is she? She should have returned by now.”
	“Perhaps she is struggling to find what you wanted?” Kimiko offered as she tried to keep meditating.
	“Bridgett is smart. She should have finished by now…” Maxine’s worry was obvious. 
	“Did you not say this would be perfectly safe? Why do you worry so?” Kimiko grunted, “I have made a mistake in trusting you.”
	“N-no you have not!” Maxine insisted, “Everything is fine! I am in control!”
	A knock on the door interrupted Kimiko before she could respond. The door opened and Svetlana poked her head in, “Hello~” She quickly glanced at her two friends then the portal, “Uh… Where is Bridgett?”
	“In the portal,” Maxine groaned, “What do you need, Svetlana?”
	The kikimora frowned but decided not to press it further. She collected herself, “Lunch is nearly prepared, can you… please recall Bridgett? Girls her age need to eat lunch every day.”
	“Yes, yes,” Maxine gestured at the jinko, “Bring her home, would you?”
	Kimiko nodded and stood, relief washing over her as she started to pull on the rope. She pulled and pulled, Bridgett only offered a tiny bit of resistance. It took a minute or two, but something was pulled through the portal with a FWUMP noise.
	All three women gasped as they gazed upon the mamano that had been yanked through the portal. A plump, pink harpy with no clothes on stood up and dusted herself off. She looked around the study at each of the women, “You’re not cute boys!” She whined. The rope was tied around her waist, “Cute boys are supposed to be ‘at the end of their rope!’ I can’t believe that--” 
	With a snarl, Kimiko grabbed the jub jub. The jinko bared her fangs and claws at the pink harpy as she grabbed her neck, hardly keeping herself from choking her, “Where is she!?” She hissed.
“Huh? Who?” The jub jub asked as she tilted her head.
“Bridgett! The dragon!” 
	“I don’t know anything about a dragon. But I know a jabberwock! She’s a nice lady!”
	Maxine scowled, “Hold her Kimiko,” The witch mumbled some magic words to herself and touched the still jabbering jub jub’s forehead. Green light came from Maxine’s eyes as she delved into the harpy’s memory. She only used the spell for a handful of moments before pulling away as if in pain, “Ah!” She shouted, grabbing her temples.
	“Maxine!?” Kimiko grabbed the jub jub and threw her back through the portal like a grocery store employee roughly handling a bag of potatoes, “Are you alright?” The jinko asked as she moved to attend to her ward.
	Svetlana quickly realised what was happening, “I’m getting Richard!” She ran off down the hall.
	“Svetlana!” Maxine cried as she slowly got over her acute Wonderland madness, “That rat!”
	“Sit and relax, Maxine,” Kimiko helped her onto the couch, “How can I find Bridgett?”
	“You will not be able to alone,” Maxine grunted, “And I dare not attempt to scry her through magic. The Red Queen would not be pleased with that. You and I will go in together and track her. She could not have gone far!”
	“I’m coming with you,” A man’s voice sent a shiver down Maxine’s spine.
	Her ears sadly flattened on the top of her head as she saw her husband giving her a cross look, “R-Richard…”
	“What happened?” He asked as he began to rifle through his bag. He nodded as he found his sword and pulled it from the bottomless bag. 
	“I sent Bridgett into… Wonderland,” Maxine mewled, guilt ringing out in her voice, “I-it was supposed to be easy. A quick little trip. Children have diplomatic immunity there, so I thought she would be in and out. M-maybe a cheshire decided to lead her astray?” Richard nodded, the few tattoos of his that were visible under his polo glowed slightly with magical energies, “Richard, I can handle this. Trust me.”
	“I do trust you. Kimiko too. But I want to help. Those kids are driving me up the wall,” He admitted quietly, “Svetlana, give Calvin a hand, would you?”
	“Of course, sir,” The kikimora nodded and bowed before stepping down the hall.
	“Well?” The man looked expectantly at his wife.
	She nodded and finished preparing her things. Kimiko sighed, “I hope that girl is alright…”

	Bridgett very happily skipped down the path without a care in the world. The sky was still purple and orange, the trees were still weird and purple, but Bridgett didn’t really care. She had seen green, sometimes orange, trees her entire life and was glad to have a little change of scenery. As the dirt path underfoot turned to stone, she knew she must be going the right way. The young dragon quickly came to a stop as she looked down at the path. The path split into two identical looking, parallel paths. Without really looking around, she started skipping down the left path, not daring to leave the path even if the bright green grass was tempting her. She hummed to herself as she went. It was ‘Ventura Highway,’ one of the songs her father would play his guitar to. After a few minutes of traveling, Bridgett found herself at another fork. The second path had vanished and now she faced two parallel paths once more. She frowned, they looked suspiciously similar to the ones from before but this time she went right. She kept an eye on her surroundings this time. The forest had become more sparse, the grass of the forest and the vegetation was all more visible now as she saw that there were pairings of trees together with ample space between them before another pairing of trees would crop up. Pairs of mushrooms and bushes littered the sides of the paths. Bridgett frowned, unsure what to make of it, but soon enough she was back to staring down two identical paths. She stomped her foot and spewed smoke from her mouth in frustration.
	“My, my,” A giggling voice suddenly purred, “Doth the child finally give in to her anger?” It echoed and sounded like it was coming from all around her.
	“W-who's there?” Bridgett demanded, puffing out her chest to make herself look larger, fire building in her throat, ready to throw it at whoever was taunting her.
	“Stay thy flames, child,” The voice scolded, now sounding like it was right behind her. Bridgett turned with all the speed she could muster, terror making her blast the flames in her mouth toward the voice. All she hit was some shrubs to the side of the road, “Tsk, tsk. Thee would do well to listen to thy elders.”
	Bridgett turned again, not blasting fire this time. She was almost eye level with the woman that had been giggling at her. Bridgett was about five feet tall as was this woman. A cat girl with bright purple hair that messily fell on her shoulders stared at the dragon with grinning yellow eyes that matched her toothy grin. The cat girl wore dark purple slacks and a pink button up with a purple, heart covered tie. Like a lot of bestial monsters, her hands and feet were covered with fur, hers being violet with deep purple stripes along with a similarly colored tail that rose into the air behind her, “W-what do you want?” Bridgett asked meekly.
	“O, mine desires? None that thee would find comprehensible!” She laughed loudly, “Well, mine purpose is that of a wanderer. Wonderland changes its own shape quite often and mine task is to document.”
	“Okay…” Bridgett eyed her suspiciously, not trusting the strange aura that the woman exuded. 
	“If thou cannot tell, thee hast been returned to thine starting point twice now. Can thou ascertain as to why?”
	Bridgett took a few minutes to think, she didn’t mind helping the strange purple cat lady, “Only one me and two paths?”
	“Almost!” The cat woman purred with delight, “Put thine eyes upon the scenery. What changes can thee ascertain?”
	“Two of everything?”
	“Precisely!” Her grin somehow widened further, “Thee hast a good head on thine shoulders, dragon! Now, we hast a new problem. I cannot pass alone and neither can thee.”
	“We have to go together?” Bridgett assumed.
	“Wonderfully deducted~!” The purple cat giggled, “Come, dear dragon. Our travel shall be short!” The woman looped her arm into Bridgett’s and pulled her along, taking the left path as she skipped along with Bridgett, “O! Look at the foliage! Does Wonderland not look beautiful this time of year?”
	“It is nice,” Bridgett murmured, her mind once again focused on her task. 
	“Thy mind is sharp and focused. Good. Thee will need that to cross the rest of the land,” She let Bridgett go as the two paths split from one another, one to the left and one to the right, “Thy goal is to the left, Bridgett,” The woman explained as she skipped the gap between the paths and headed to the right.
	“H-how did you know!?” Brigdett asked.
	“As a cheshire, I am a guide, young dragon! It is mine job to know things!” She giggled like a lunatic as she disappeared, only her grin and yellow eyes staying behind for a few more moments before she ran off, laughing and giggling the whole way, “Good luck in the Familiar Forest, young Bridgett!” The far off, echoey voice called.
	Bridgett shuddered, but she trusted her guide. She had no reason not to, she decided as she began to take the left path and head deeper into the now much more dense woods, the rope still tied around her waist and dragging along the ground. 

	FWOOMP! FWOOMP! FWOOMP!
	The three stepped into Wonderland, the portal closing behind them, “I shall reopen it when needed,” Maxine explained as she clutched her staff with a white knuckled grip, “We cannot allow the Wonderlanders to spill into our world.”
	“Aren’t there natural portals back and forth?” Richard wondered aloud with a shrug before he adjusted the sword on his hip. 
	“Do not remind me,” Maxine hissed as she looked around. She squinted at the unnaturally colored foliage and shuddered. She imagined this was what hell was like, and the Wonderland denizens were the insane demons and devils which resided within. Her mind was still obfuscated from herself due to the pure, concentrated insanity she had seen when viewing the jub jub’s memories. She had caught a glimpse of Bridgett within the insane harpy’s mind so she believed they were at least on the right track. The path before them spread out to the left and right, the dirt ground in either direction looking exactly the same. Kimiko smelled the air but could smell little more than the sickly sweet scent of the strange haze around them.
	“Which way?” Richard asked, eager to get moving.
        “South,” Maxine said.
        “North,” The wondrous and most wise Maxine declared regally in a commanding tone.
	
	Richard gave her a strange look, “How can you tell?” 
	Her wondrous and loving husband, Richard, nodded in agreement, knowing better than to argue against his most doting and caring wife. After all, a happy wife is a happy life! “As you say, Maxy!” He smiled a heartwarming smile that made Maxine’s heart pound just a little faster with happiness.
	“Um,” Kimiko frowned. She sensed magic most vile and wicked on Maxine. She swore that the witch was looking less black and more… purple, but it was only a tiny tinge of it.
Richard put a hand over his mouth and rubbed his jaw. The memories in his head and what he had said didn’t seem to line up. His tongue felt strange as did his mind, “W-what? Did I say that?” He muttered to himself as a cold sweat formed across his body.
	A strange feeling had come to Maxine. A sort of… premonition. A view of the past, it seemed. A vision that consisted of words on a page that she knew to be true. One she did not call upon with her magic. It was an odd almost out of body experience unlike anything she had ever felt. To be honest, it was uncomfortable, but that was most likely just the remnants of the jub jub’s insanity in her mind, “Yes. North,” She restated with a modicum of confidence. 
	“How do you know?” Kimiko asked with a frown and folded arms.
	“I-I saw it in a vision. The word ‘north.’”
	“That’s the best bet we have,” Richard sighed and shook his head as he shook the strange and almost sickening feeling from his mind, “Are you alright, Maxy?”
	“I am fine. Still reeling from attempting to view that damned pink demon’s mind,” She explained quickly before taking off in the direction she described. Kimiko and Richard followed without any protest, deciding that the witch’s magic and wisdom could be trusted. She was normally quite strange in both Kimiko and Richard’s eyes so her new weirdness was just a small quirk to them, “Strange,” Maxine muttered, “I see the sides of the path here are littered with the mushrooms I asked her to collect. Why did she wander?”
	“We’ll ask her when we find her,” Richard said, “I’m sure she had a good reason.”
	Kimiko eyed him then her employer as she kept walking down the path, hoping that nothing major would impede their progress. She slowed to a stop as the three rounded the bend and came across a building. A woman stood near the building, it was a toll booth with its palisade down and the purple colored woman was quickly identified, “Jabberwock,” Maxine whispered.
	“Should I be worried?” Kimiko asked with a hushed tone.
	Maxine shook her head, “They are merely gatekeepers. She is here because of my portal, but she should not be a problem. I will handle this. Ho! Gatekeeper!” Maxine called to the purple dragon.
	Susan finished duct taping her broken barrier back together just as another visitor arrived. Lo and behold, it wasn’t just one this time, but three. Two cats, non cheshires surprisingly, and a man. The smaller one clad in robes approached her, “Hello, travellers,” Susan replied as she grabbed her big book. She glanced at her now crooked, duct taped together palisade and frowned, hoping that it wouldn’t just break this time, “How can I help you?”
	Maxine opened her mouth to speak but Kimiko was faster, “Have you seen a dragon with green scales pass by here? About this tall?” The jinko asked as she put her hand at about five feet in height.
	“Who wants to know?” The jabberwock asked as she pushed her glasses up the bridge of her nose. 
	“Her temporary guardians. Please, we just want to know if she came this way,” Kimiko pleaded, “She’s a long way from home and must be terrified by now.”
	“Well, if you mean Bridgett, she seemed quite alright when she passed by,” Susan grumpily grumbled, her wings flapping slightly and her long tail flicking from side to side like an annoyed cat, “Quite happy even.” 
	“Yes! We do mean her!” Maxine exclaimed, “May we pass your barrier, ma’am? We need to catch up to her and bring her home!”
	“Names?” The jabberwock asked as she opened up her large tome and readied her pen.
	“Maxine, Richard and Kimiko. Do you need last names?”
	“No, that will do,” Susan grunted as she finished putting their names in.
	“Can we pass now?” Richard inquired, getting a little antsy.
	The jabberwock took her time very neatly writing the date, the time and the threes’ names into her book. The date and time was pretty much random, Susan didn’t own a watch. Or a calendar. But she did own a colander for when she made macaroni and salads. She looked at them and then at the gate, “I don’t know how to open it.”
	“You’re the gatekeeper… and you don’t know how to open it?” The man gave her a skeptical look, “I’m just gonna go around it.”
	“I’ll throw you in the prisoner fruit wiggler if you do that,” Susan warned, “Stay on the path. Them’s the rules.”
	“Do NOT threaten my husband, you harlot!” Maxine hissed at her.
	“It was not a threat. It was a promise,” The jabberwock put her book away and folded her arms. 
	Kimiko’s hand instinctively rested on the hilt of her sword, “How did Bridgett get past?”
	“Wouldn’t you like to know,” The territorial jabberwock was much too embarrassed to admit what had actually happened. She suddenly wished she was at home with her colander and making macaroni. Susan loved macaroni.
	“I do NOT have time for this,” Maxine declared before vaulting over the palisade.
	“HEY!” Susan shouted as she stopped thinking about macaroni and ran to the palisade, “Come back here!” 
	“No!” Maxine stuck her tongue out at the jabberwock, “Richard! Kimiko! Come along!”
	Richard glanced at Susan. She looked like she was about to pop a blood vessel as she tried to figure out how to get past the palisade while not breaking the rules of the land, “Maxy, I don’t think you should have done that…” He warned quietly.
	“Oh, I pray you do not wish to scold me about rules like this plum colored dragon!” The witch groaned. 
	Kimiko sighed, “You would be wise to listen to your better half.”
	Maxine rolled her eyes, “Fine. I can see that being lawful is more important to you than finding Bridgett. I will find some way to open this barrier for you.”
	“I don’t wanna be put in the fruit wiggler!” Richard protested, “Look at it!” He pointed to the imposing metal box in the little guard house. 
	“Perhaps you should get past this barrier the same way Bridgett did?” Kimiko suggested to the flustered jabberwock, fully intending to follow her lead to get past it herself. She was unsure if she could take the jabberwock in a fight, but with Maxine’s help she might be able to, though she’d much rather avoid conflict if possible, “Surely she got past you by following the rules?”
	Susan grumbled and looked down, “Well, she did but I... uh, can’t. Well, I don't want to. I just gotta figure out how to get past this thing… in my own way.”
	Maxine felt the same feeling as when deciding which direction to go. A premonition in the back of her mind, along with a madness waiting in the wings to take hold of her psyche. In only a few moments, she decided to give in to it. She looked down at her robes and saw it turn a little more purple with strange designs starting to form. The latent insanity in a caster, especially a witch, was not wholly unfamiliar to her. But this… the insanity of Wonderland only compounded it. She tuned out her husband, body guard, and the jabberwock as she used her magic to bolster the strange premonitions she had been getting. A grin spread across her lips and a giggle emanated from her throat. She had gone totally mad. But there was power in this madness, a terrible and limitless power that she had yet to understand. She--
     Maxine, as beautiful and regal as she was, did feel the need to lift a finger to aid these poor peasants before her. She struggled chose not to look into the words of the past like she had before. Instead, she chose to control the jabberwock with this new power.
     “Oh, gatekeeper,” Maxine called out, gloriously rolling her R’s as she spoke, “Perhaps you are able to just lift the palisade?”
     “I doubt it,” Susan replied, “That’s not how these work.”
     The dumb, smelly jabberwock, that the author had foolishly dubbed ‘Susan’ as he for some reason found giving Wonderlanders mundane names humorous, nodded at Maxine’s gorgeous form, “Duh, yeah, Maxine. I will use my big dumb dragon strength to lift the palisade. You sure are smart!”
	Kimiko frowned and clutched her forehead, the sudden change of character from the jabberwock was jarring, to say the least. Something maddening was at work and all of her years of mental training were not enough to save her. But at least the jabberwock did manage to just lift the palisade without much difficulty, allowing her and Richard to pass through. Richard frowned, Maxine couldn’t roll her R’s like that. But, the path was clear so he and the jinko walked through.
	“Hey!” Susan realised as she snapped out of it. She took a few steps toward Maxine, ready to put her into the prisoner fruit wiggler and dish out her due punishment, “For breaking the rules set by our duchess, I sentence you to five minutes in the wiggler!”
     “Wow, Maxine!” The stupid jabberwock grinned ear to ear, “Thanks for helping me figure that out! I think I’ll take a nap now and cry myself to sleep about how alone I am!”
     Jeez, that was a little harsh, Maxine.

     It was your idea to write such an annoying character who dared to step into my path, Mr. Author!
     It would be pretty boring if you were able to walk from point A to point B without so much as a challenge or interruption, Maxine. Think of the reader, and their enjoyment! How is someone supposed to get engaged if you’re just handed everything?
     And? While I am honored someone would be so inclined to read about me, well, not really, they should be honored they have the privilege of reading about such a powerful and beautiful wizard! Putting obstructions into my path is quite rude of you.
     I knew I should have made this a Bridgett only story… She would have been nice to me, at least.
     Giving me these powers wasn’t your only mistake it seems!
     ANYWAY! Where was I? Right.
     Susan slowly came to . She felt exhausted for some inexplicable reason and most definitely did not want to cry herself to sleep on account of being single. She looked around, still hellbent on putting that witch in the wiggler. Unfortunately the witch, the man and the jinko had all bolted off while the jabberwock was dazed. Susan clenched her fists and her teeth. She would catch that damn cat even if it was the last thing she ever did. She eyed the toll booth and climbed back in before grabbing the prisoner fruit wiggler.
 
	Bridgett stomped down the stone bricked path, swinging her arms as she went. The Familiar Forest was what that cat woman had told her this was, at least she thought that’s what she said. Bridgett frowned, it wasn’t like she didn’t like familiars, she just found their whole sabbath thing kind of weird. Bridgett wanted to grow up, being an adult sounded cool! She could drink wine like her parents and she’d go to work and have a cool job and maybe find a husband. Being a kid forever, or at least acting like one, would mean she couldn’t have any of those things. But some of those ninja sabbath that Kimiko and Calvin were friends with looked kinda old. Bridgett could never pronounce their leader’s name but she had wrinkles. Or at least Bridgett was sure she did.
	“Ohayō Gozaimasu, Bridgett-chan~!” A familiar voice greeted her accompanied by some cheery and quiet percussion. Bridgett was roused from her thoughts quickly. An old, lolibaba baphomet sat on a stump at the side of the path in a purple kimono with a sword on her hip. She had a xylophone on her lap and was gently tapping away at it. Although she looked strange, still Bridgett did recognize her as the leader of the ninja sabbath, “Nice to see you.”
	“Ah, yeah, nice to see you too,” Bridgett said as she looked her up and down. The grey haired baphomet’s horns looked strangely pink. 
	“Headed to the duchess’s castle? Should be a fun time. Oh, could you--” The elder baphomet stopped as her xylophone started to ring, “Ah, I shouldn’t keep you here much longer. Move along now, young dragon,” She brought the xylophone to her ear, “Moshi moshi?”
	Bridgett moved on quickly as the older woman started to have a conversation with someone. That couldn’t have been the real person, could it? Maybe that had been the ‘familiar’ that the name of the forest referred to? But could they shapeshift? Bridgett didn’t know a whole lot about magic, but it seemed entirely possible, “What was it that Ruth likes to say? Dang magic isn’t worth the effort of learning or learning about?” Bridgett did her best imitation of the hellhound’s gruff tone. She flinched as she heard loud gears turning and the loud clanking of metal. Before her was a large metal set of stairs that led into the sky. One set rolled upwards, ready to carry whoever stepped onto it toward the canopy of the trees and the other cascaded downward at a slow and steady rate, “Oh! An es-cav-lator!” Bridgett declared with a smile, she could use this to go up like at the mall! But she had no idea where it would take her since she was in the woods.
	“Yo! Lil’ Bridg’!” A gruff voice shouted from behind her. Turning she saw a friendly face. A tall hellhound stomped over to her in large work boots, dark purple jeans, a black t-shirt, a bright purple safety vest with matching hard hat, along with a fully stocked tool belt, “Hey, hey! Good to see ya!”
	“Hi, Ruth!” Bridgett grinned at the hellhound.
	Ruth’s eyes burned a bright purple, which was definitely strange but so was this whole place, “What are you doing here?”
	“Oh, ya know. Operating the escavlator like usual. Here, I’ll ride it up with ya,” She grabbed a big metal crank from her belt and stuck it into the side of the ‘escavlator’ and cranked it, making it move at full speed before gesturing to the dragon to follow her. Both got on the stairs and started to ride them up.
	“What are you building?”
	“Ah, well, we’re building a natural reservitory for aviars,” The hellhound explained cheerfully.
	“Oh! A big bird filled house thing!” Bridgett repeated, “Aviars really need more homes. Once, I saw this huge werecat down the street catch like three harpies at once and rough them up!”
“Yeah, I know who you’re talking about. Princess, I think. I’ve gotten into a friendly scrap or two with her,” Ruth chuckled as she leaned on the railing of the ‘escavlator.’ 
	“So where are we going?”
	“Forward, lil’ Bridg.’ Always gotta be moving forward, ya know? Up and over the bad stuff.”
	“Bad stuff?” 
	“Look, we wanna keep this story lighthearted, alright? We don’t need some emotional stuff in this story. Even if the story is named after you,” The hellhound grunted.
	The insane Wonderland meta magic went in one of Bridgett’s ears and right out the other one, “What?” She shook her head and decided to drop it, “Oh! Where’s Daisy? She’s always with you!”
	Ruth pointed to the down escalator. A familiar, well, somewhat familiar kobold wearing athletic wear jogged in place as she rode the ‘escavlator’ down. It was obviously Daisy, but the fur covering a lot of her body was a dark purple instead of a brown like usual. In her hand was a smaller xylophone which she held up to her ear and spoke into. She gave a small wave and kept riding it down, “See? There she is. Stop’s comin’ up,” Ruth warned. 
	Looking around, Bridgett noticed they were suddenly underground in a brightly lit area with the ‘escavlator’ bringing them to the surface. Soon, Bridgett and Ruth were above ground and the dense ‘Familiar Forest’ left behind them. They stood on the very edge, “Thanks Ruth!” Bridgett gave the hellhound a big smile which disappeared as a thought crossed her mind, “Say, are you the… REAL Ruth?”
	The hellhound shrugged, the purple flames in her eyes burning brightly, “Who’s to say? Are you the REAL Bridgett? Maybe you’re just as mad as the duchess!” She giggled as she started to fade away, “Be careful, Bridgett! The duchess may not be what she seems!”
	“I will!” Bridgett waved, “Thanks, weird Ruth!” She watched as the entirety of the hellhound disappeared with her flames going last. 
“See ya around, Bridg!”
Bridgett turned back, looking beyond the forest at the vast purple plains before her. Far off, obscuring the purplish orange sky was a large castle surrounded by a nice looking town and a few farms and orchards beyond it. The young dragon put her hands on her hips and nodded. That had to be the duchess’s castle. It had taken a lot longer than she had originally imagined, but she still had the rope around her waist so she had to still be doing fine. If Maxine wanted her to return, she would have pulled her back or come to collect her. She started skipping again as she headed down the stone path toward the town.

	Richard glanced at Maxine. She had turned a vivid purple at this point. Kimiko was looking… mostly normal but there was a crazed look in her eyes that he feared, the magical runes that dotted his covered skin must be protecting him, he figured. He had no idea how many he had or what exactly it was that they did due to Maxine crafting most of them in the dead of night without his knowledge. Even then she claimed to not really know what exactly they did, "So are we still going the right way?" He wondered aloud.
	Maxine nodded, still diligently trudging on as she wondered what these new powers meant for her, "The path has not split once. She is a good girl and I doubt she has left the path at all."
	Kimiko chortled to herself, "That may be the most sane statement you have made all day."
	"Sane? Me? I cannot say if I have ever been as sane as I am right now!" Maxine giggled, her green eyes glowing slightly at her bodyguard.
	"Surely you are making a jape," With a grimace, the jinko looked away from her employer.
	"I can wholeheartedly assure you that I am quite serious! In fact, I--"
	"Maxy, hush," Richard warned as he noticed the scenery changing around them. The path split into two identical paths with a thin line of grass between them. Every plant, stone, fruit and even blade of grass had a partner it sat close to, "Huh…"
	"Bridgett came this way," Kimiko declared as she pointed to a recently burnt bush, it was still smoking and smoldering due to the flames it had been bathed in, "Dragon fire obliterated this bush."
	"No sense in staying here then," Maxine decided as she picked the left path and started walking. Her husband and jinko servant both followed close. 
	Kimiko wanted this nightmare to end. Maxine had been corrupted and she could feel herself careening toward the edge soon. The extensive training she had received back in Zipangu, in the old world, had not prepared her for this ordeal. Her only hope was that Maxine’s mad babbling would cease and Bridgett could be found before it was too late, “Is… That the same bush from before?” She gasped while looking around again.
	“It seems so,” With a nod, Maxine hastily examined the burnt bush, “Scorched by dragon fire, just like you said,” She also saw that before them the path split into two once more, “We have been sent back to the beginning, it seems.”
	The man groaned, “How do we get past?” Richard was already getting annoyed.
	“Should we take the right path?” Kimiko asked, eager to move on, “Perhaps going through twice will--”
	“No need. I shall look into the past and divine the path,” The witch declared as she grasped her staff, the crystal on the top turning pink as it started to glow. As terror overtook her, Kimiko put her hands over her ears to block out any of Maxine’s poisonous words. 
	‘Bridgett in Wonderland.’ Maxine read the story title to herself. The words came to mind and she quickly skimmed through. As she glanced through paragraph after paragraph, she found herself disapproving of how she was described. She considered going through and changing what the author had written to something more to her tastes.
	...To something much more eloquent and lovely for such an eloquent and lovely woman. She was a woman of culture, a paragon of what all monster girls or even all women in general should strive to be. But, she found the task of reworking numerous paragraphs of dialogue and description completely unworthy of her time as the reader had already gotten past it, her effort would be completely wasted. She had much better things to do with her time like correct and berate the Author she was dealing with. She wondered how she could get to him. It was impossible for her to pass into his world as for him, she was merely words on a page. Then a most wonderful idea came to her, she called out to the reader of this very story and asked them, very politely in a manner that they would be swooned just by her words and looks, that they may send him a ‘direct message’-- whatever that is-- to the author and tell him that--
	Maxine’s monologue was cut short as a sudden burst of forbidden knowledge entered her thoughts. As she got past the disappointment of how she was written, she started to read the words on the metaphysical pages in her mind, “, hardly able to ignore the words that irked her so much. But she pressed on, reading word after word until she got to what she wanted. She began to read aloud to the others but mostly herself, “‘If thou cannot tell, thee hast been returned to thine starting point twice now. Can thou ascertain as to why?'” She read from around the midpoint of the story. Kimiko could hardly maintain her sanity as Maxine’s unholy magic was given life again. The words pierced her ears despite her hands blocking them. It was driven like daggers into her mind, each one bringing more pain and insanity as the witch mimicked both people in the dialogue to an unsettling degree. She continued reading from a few scraps of paper that had materialised in her hands, “Bridgett took a few minutes to think, she didn’t mind helping the strange purple cat lady, ‘Only one me and two paths?’ ‘Almost!’ The cat woman purred with delight, ‘Put thine eyes upon the scenery. What changes can thee ascertain?’ ‘Two of everything?’ ‘Precisely!’ Her grin blah blah blah they skipped merrily down one of the paths then took the left road at the fork.” 
        With her well manicured hands, Maxine flipped back to the beginning page and looked at the title again. ‘Bridgett in Wonderland.’ She scoffed at it and decided it needed to be changed. She couldn’t trust the author to pick a better title. She paused for a few moments, using her near limitless intellectual prowess, she chose a much better title. ‘Maxine’s Wondrous Adventure in a Most Peculiar Place.’ With a satisfied nod, and the flick of her wrist, the title of the story she was a part of changed. You may continue, I have improved your reader’s enjoyment of this story at least ten fold!
	Yeah… Anyways.
        After she put the pages away in the depths of her cloak and looked at Kimiko who had curled up into a ball. Her once orange fur seemed like it was starting to turn purple starting with her hands and feet. Richard was reeling as well, his face was looking the most vile shade of green as the wards protecting him began to fail. With a sigh, she quickly chose between the two, “Richard, come on. We have a dragon to catch.”
	The man scowled at his wife, “And we’re just going to leave Kimiko here?”
	“We do not have a choice. Kimiko. I wish for you to remain here. We shall collect you on our return trip,” Maxine ordered.
	Kimiko, her body shuddering from chills, didn’t respond. Richard frowned, his face still mostly green, “Alright…” Using his enhanced strength, he moved the jinko to the side of the road, propping her up against a tree. He looked at Maxine who tapped her foot impatiently. He didn’t even feel like he recognized who she was anymore. This purple bastardization of his wife’s form was someone else entirely. He grit his teeth, right now finding Bridgett was his highest priority, he was worried about her. After that he’d need to figure out what to do with his wife, “I’ll come back for you, Kimiko. Just stay strong, alright?” He took off his jacket and put it over her shivering form, “Let’s go, Maxy.”
	Maxine felt strange as something was blocking her from using her new, strange magics. She pushed it from her mind and focused on the task at hand. She put her hand in his and pulled him down the left path, “Having fun?” She asked with a little smile.
	“I’m looking for my good friends’ daughter so they don’t get mad at my wife. So no. I’m not really having fun,” He admitted. He bit his tongue and stopped himself from commenting on how purple she was now. It was like Maxine had given in and completely become a cheshire cat where she was exemplifying all the worst traits of one. 
	Maxine frowned, she wished her husband could be enjoying himself despite their task. But, she understood, or at least believed she did. Even she had to admit that some of her people skills had deteriorated somewhat. Before she knew it, the two had exited the area where they had to go with two people and were now headed into the dense Familiar Forest as they took the left path.

	Bridgett skipped merrily down the path. The sun or moon was out and the dawn or dusk sky was still the most beautiful shades of purple and orange. It was strange to the little dragon that it felt like time hadn't moved an inch since she had arrived. A pink colored stream ran parallel to the path with flowers of wildly different colors, sizes and shapes were planted along the sides of the path. There was a temptation to pick a few to take home to Gwen, but with all that talk of the rules, and especially the threat of being put in the prisoner fruit wiggler, she didn’t dare try. But she couldn’t stop herself from leaning down and smelling a particularly large and vibrant pink flower that stood tall above the others. It smelled strangely like the fruit snacks she would take to school in her lunches. 
	“Hail, traveller,” A nearby voice called out to her. 
	Due to being startled, as well as the pollen now clogging her nose, Bridgett sneezed violently, spraying flames on whoever it was that startled her. After one puff of flames, the young dragon stared at whoever it was that had snuck up on her. Large dark grey wings unfurled around two smaller forms as the wings turned to a lighter shade of grey. It was still close to asphalt in color but a lot less so. The large leathery wings folded behind the largest of the three creatures. The wings were like big arms with the leathery webbing attached and ended with large hands that only had three fingers plus a thumb. Each’s skin was a different shade of grey and each was of varying height. The tallest had long black hair that was pulled back into a simple ponytail and a single horn that was off center to the left. The medium sized one was a light almost marble like grey with silvery hair that fell onto her shoulders with two small, sharp horns. The smallest one had no wings but had large, curling horns and blonde hair with her muddy grey skin, “You scared the snot outta her!” The smallest scolded the tall one. Each girl wore matching armor with red hearts and diamonds painted onto the chest of each. They neglected to wear leg armor, instead opting for all black, shiny bike shorts. Not only because they were aerodynamic, but because all three thought they looked good in them. All of them gave toothy, apologetic smiles that showed off their wildly different fangs.
	Wings? Horns? Big sharp teeth? With wide eyes, the young dragon stared at the three. She was a little taller than the shortest one, but she couldn’t really tell what they were, “Dragons...?” Her hands covered her mouth after accidently saying that aloud.
	The middle one smirked, “Ah, not quite, young dragon.”
	The tallest piped up, “Perhaps an introduction is in order, dear sisters?”
	“Yes! I love this part!” The smallest one screeched.
	The three got in a line, the smallest right in front of Bridgett with the middle and tallest behind her in a single file row, smallest to largest. As if descending from the heavens; distorted, electric guitar filled butt rock began to play loudly. The smallest of the three struck a pose, both arms in the air like a ‘Y’ and standing on one leg, “I’m Gail!”
	The biggest put her arms straight up then bent her elbows at a 45 degree angle, making a sort of O as she showed off her muscles, “I am... Rachel!”
	The middle sized one stepped to the side and turned around, spreading her legs and leaning her torso down to see through her legs, “And I am the illustrious Caaaptaaain… Goyle!”
	All three shouted at once as the music crescendoed, “We are… the Goyle Force!”
	Bridgett clapped as pyrotechnics went off behind the three gargoyles. She didn’t really understand, but they were SO COOL, “Wow!” Bridgett finished clapping as the shredding guitar faded and the three Goyles stopped posing. 
	“Make sense now?” Captain Goyle asked as all three stood in a row, hands on their hips, “We’re usually five strong, but we split up to search.”
	“Yeah, I think so!” Bridgett nodded.
	“Where are ya headed, little girl?” Rachel asked with a little frown.
	“I’m going to the duchess’s castle! I’m on a mission!”
	“So are we!” Captain Goyle exclaimed as she put her fist in her other hand. She did this with her wing hands as well, “Show her the picture, Gail.”
	She nodded and grabbed a wanted poster from her bag, “Have you seen this lady?” 
With the unfurling of the paper, Bridgett stared at it completely blank faced. It looked like Maxine but with purple hair and robes. She had a weird grin too, and Maxine was neither purple nor did she grin like that. The young dragon shook her head, “Nope!”
	Captain Goyle stomped her foot in defeat, “Drat. But the Goyle force will not be dissuaded!” They all quickly posed again, “We may have failed to locate all seven of the Jabberwock-Balls that we read about on CheshireChan, but we will not fail in our task of tracking down this rule breaking cheshire! But now we have a new task! Sisters! We will see this child safely to the duchess’s castle!”
	“Yes, Captain!” Gail and Rachel gave her a salute.
	“Really!? Thank you!” Bridgett grinned as the three sisters gestured for her to follow as they made a formation around her. 
	“Of course! The duchess has been waiting for you, Bridgett!” The captain returned the smile as the four skipped down the path way together. Bridgett was excited now. She was to be a guest at the duchess’s castle! She hoped there would be food, maybe a buffet like in those movies! She was excited, this had already been a great adventure, but it was only getting better in her mind!

	Maxine and Richard stepped into the dense forest. Maxine had read more of the pages she had materialised and saw that this was called the Familiar Forest. She knew better than to expect familiars in the forest. If Bridgett’s trek through here was a good example, then this should be easy enough, all she had to do was NOT think about things she didn’t like, “Richard, dear,” Maxine turned to her husband. He glanced at her. He was still looking and feeling standoffish but Maxine was pretty much unable to pick up on that, “Please do not think of anyone foul. The last thing we need is for someone like… Oscar to show up and--”
	“M’lady Maxine!” A nasally voice shouted as a pudgy form ran toward the witch. It was Oscar. The bane of her existence. 
	“RICHARD!” Maxine hissed as she stared daggers into her husband.
	“You mentioned foul people and he’s the first thing I thought of, sorry,” Her husband shrugged.
	Oscar stared right at Maxine, “Oh, m’lady Maxine! How I have yearned for your return! I had escaped from that maximum security prison just to see you again!” With a nervous shift, he continued, “A-as your humble suitor, I-I have but one r-request of you…”
	“Oh, Maou, give me strength,” The witch groaned.
	“I request that I be allowed to touch and perhaps even be blessed with the privilege to touch and maybe even kiss your wonderous feet.”
	Maxine was stunned, partially in disgust that this abomination of a man would dare speak to her like that, “WHY IS HE ASKING ABOUT MY FEET!?” She shouted to her husband who was unable to contain his laughter.
	“He looks like a foot guy! Just look at that awful mustache!” Richard wiped the tears of laughter out of his eyes, “Just be glad he isn’t asking to smell them.”
	“Oh, I would love that too!” Oscar announced loudly.
	Mortified, Maxine nearly fainted. Fury formed in her mind and heart that was directed at her husband.
        She did not blame her husband for this, no she once more blamed the author of this story for impeding her progress with such a wretched creature. She vowed to get back at him in some way. But for now, she had something else to deal with, “You know, dearest husband,” Maxine growled, “A lot of folks were quite disappointed that you did not slay Oscar at the end of the third act of ‘The Black Cat.’ You wanted to show you were better than him, but perhaps it would have been what he deserved after everything.”
	Try as she might, Maxine found herself unable to control her husband’s actions or thoughts due to some of the protective runes that she herself had placed upon his body. It was strange that it had worked earlier but it was like the rules had changed or some of the runes had reactivated. But, lucky for her this author she had begun to hate so much had a bit of regret about that as well so he decided to play along.
	Thank you.
	A pain was felt in Richard’s chest, the spot where he had been stabbed all those years ago still burnt and in himself he too felt a little regret, “Yeah, maybe I should have,” He grunted to himself as he drew the same sword he had used to defeat Oscar all those years ago, “Not as good as the real thing, but I’ll still cut you down, foot lover!”
	“YOU!” Oscar shouted with an outstretched, accusatory, and pudgy finger, “I will not allow you to get in the way of my totally legit wedding this time! Have at you!”
	Oscar was as quick as he had been before but Richard had been training. The fat man’s rapier was easily knocked away before Richard went in for the kill. Due to it being little more than an illusion, his sword cut right through him, giving him little satisfaction as he faded away, “There. Can we move on now?”
	“Of course, my love. This way,” Maxine gestured to him before starting down the path again. 
	Although he felt a little better now, Richard was still wary of what Maxine had become. He started to wonder what his wife’s mother would think of what she had become. As soon as the image of Lady Hamilton came to mind--
	NO! NO, NO, NO! We are NOT bringing my mother into this! I will not suffer humiliation again at the hands of this forest! 
	Maxine’s mother gave her a cross look--
	LALALA the reader can’t read what you’re writing if they are reading what I am writing! We are moving on! Maxine and Richard exited the forest after having a very uneventful walk. Both felt relief as they went from dense woods to the sprawling country side. Way off in the distance they spotted the duchess’s castle. The lovely and powerful witch known as Maxine nodded as she glanced at the surrounding farms and hamlet, “That is where Bridgett is,” She explained, “We must be moving, wonderful husband of mine.”
	END SCENE. MOVE ON.
	Bitterness and resentment exuded from Susan’s heart. The witch had gotten away along with her two companions. She felt no anger towards the jinko or man, but that damned cat needed to go in the wiggler for a few minutes. Her claws stomped across the stone surface of the path until she came to a familiar sight, two parallel paths right next to one another. A groan escaped her mouth, she didn’t have that cheshire to help her this time, but she still needed to figure out a way past. 
	“How did those three get through…?” The jabberwock asked herself quietly.
	“Maxine and her husband simply walked through,” A voice with an exotic accent grunted. The large jinko woman revealed herself from within a group of trees that were almost on the path, “I am stranded here, unfortunately. I tried both paths alone and got nowhere.”
	“Well, this path needs two people in a group to let them pass,” Susan explained as if Kimiko was just a baby in need of guidance, “Them’s the rules.”
	With a scowl, the jinko crossed her arms, “Yes, but why?”
	With a shake of her head, the jabberwock sighed, “That’s just how it is here. Now, if you don’t mind, I need a partner to help me get through this path.”
	Kimiko sighed back but nodded in agreement, “Aye. I need to catch up to Maxine. Shall we be off?”
	Susan gave her a little, almost delighted smile, “Yes. This way,” She started down the right path.
	“But Maxine and Richard went to the left…”
	“Are you CRAZY? Do you want to go through the Familiar Forest?”
	“Is it particularly dangerous?” Kimiko asked as she followed the well travelled jabberwock.
	“No. Not at all, really. It's all just illusions,” Susan explained. She finally gave the jinko a look. Her once orange and black striped fur was now looking purple. On her eyepatch was a bright yellow eye that kind of looked drawn on. The hair on her head retained its usual brown color. Susan had seen this once or twice, visitors going mad and turning into various wonderlanders, but the jinko seemed to be handling it well enough so she decided not to bring it up.
	Said jinko rubbed her chin with a big purple paw before staring down at it in disgust. She knew she was changing but through rigorous meditation she had managed to stave off most of the madness for now. Kimiko’s mind wandered back to the forest that the jabberwock was so distrustful of, “If it is harmless, why can we not go that way?”
	“It takes things, people mostly, from your memories and manifests them how you see them. If you see your husband, assuming you have one, as a big tough guy, even if he really isn’t one he’ll look like one,” Susan explained, slowly warming up to her new travel partner, “The problem is if it gets to one of your traumas.”
	Kimiko immediately prayed that Bridgett hadn’t seen her deceased mother. She couldn’t fathom what kind of magic related madness Maxine could have summoned for herself. What about Richard? He had been slain at the hands of Maxine’s suitor and brought back to life, would that manifest in horrid trauma? She shuddered, “I think I understand your point.”
	“Still wanna walk through it?”
	“N-no. Can we bypass it?”
	“Of course. There’s a second path that’ll lead us into town that doesn’t go through there. That’s how I got here even if that damned cheshire wanted to take the Familiar Forest path. I’m not about to endure that,” Susan scowled as she thought of that adventurous cheshire, “How do you know this Maxine woman?”
	“I was hired by her mother as a sort of bodyguard. I was hired on the spot after saving Lady Hamilton from an attempted assassination at a public event I had been hired to do security at. The attackers were human supremacists from some tiny far off country. I do not remember the exact reason why it happened but the ten of them were no match at all for me and my trusty sword,” Kimiko smiled as she reminisced, “Ah, my glory days. Now I’m a mother and well… It feels as if Maxine no longer sees me as a friend but as nothing more than a tool or common servant. She has always been selfish and eccentric, but I always thought of her as a person trying to be good.”
	“Sounds rough,” Susan gave a little apologetic smile.
	“It is not all bad. My days are quiet and I’ve had more chances to sneak off and check on my husband. He helps tend to the grounds and watches our precious children.”
	“That’s something, I guess,” The jabberwock frowned, her lust for a man of her own flared to an almost painful degree.”
	“I must say… I never caught your name,” Kimiko admitted.
	“Susan.”
	“Yes, Susan. You are much more… sane than I imagined the denizens of Wonderland to be,” Kimiko felt more at ease than she had in Maxine’s presence.
	Susan smirked, “You won’t get this from most, so don’t expect it.”
	“Are those the rules too?” Kimiko playfully jabbed.
	“Eh, well… maybe,” Susan shrugged sheepishly, “Hey, we’re out of the duo path bull crap. This way,” She started down the right with Kimiko taking a few moments to curiously stare into the Familiar Forest before hurrying to catch up with Susan.

	The Wonderland town was surprisingly normal to Bridgett. It was a little more like something out of one of her dad’s old fantasy books, movies, or games, but it was still relatively normal. A few wonderland denizens were out and about doing chores like sweeping, collecting water, and there was even a cheshire out helping a man install a satellite dish on her house. Bridgett assumed that was for a TV. Despite the houses looking like they’re from the middle ages, she saw a few modern amenities like light bulbs and telephones which contrasted the water wheels and an entire black smithing set up. 
	She saw a very peculiar sight, a small, but very modern looking hospital just sitting in an otherwise ancient looking town, “Are the doctors in this town nice?” Bridgett asked, just trying to make conversation with the Goyle Force.
	Captain Goyle adjusted her armor, “Well…”
	“They’re nice, but for some reason the only Wonderland monsters that bother to get a doctorate are cheshires,” Gail explained with a grimace, “If you get a human male, it's fine but…”
	Rachell nodded and picked up the explanation, “I went in last week for a check up and the cheshire doctor came back with the results and she told me that I had ligma. Whatever the hell that is.”
	“I got deez,” Captain Goyle groaned.
	“Ma for me,” Gail sighed, “I think she brought up someone named Mike too.”
	“Those all sound kinda serious. How bad was it?” Bridgett wondered.
	The Captain looked the dragon up and down, “How old are you, Bridgett?”
	“I’m almost ten!” She cheerfully said, very excited for her age to be double digits.
	“You’re nine!?” Gail gasped. She was nearly shorter than Bridgett, “When did they start making kids so damn-- darn big!?”
	“She’s a dragon, Gail,” Rachell reminded her, “They get big like jabberwocks.”
	“But what’s ligma? And ma? Who is Mike?” Bridgett started to impatiently ask.
	“Ask your parents,” Captain Goyle ordered curtly.
	“But--”
	“Oh, look! We’re here!” Captain Goyle interrupted as the little group arrived at the gates of the duchess’s castle. Bridgett hadn’t even noticed that they had gotten onto a drawbridge. The Captain nodded to the two funny looking card ladies that flanked the large gate that led to the castle’s inner courtyard. The trumparts stepped aside as the gate raised up. The young dragon rushed ahead and she started to look around at the sprawling private garden. Past the lush plant life was the main castle, it was honestly quite small compared to the tall yellow colored stone walls that surrounded it. 
The main castle was yellow and had two large purple banners with wheels of yellow cheese on them. The plant life was somewhat normal, recognizable trees with large purple leaves. Bridgett got closer to examine them and saw the ‘fruit’ on them, “Cheese?” The young dragon gasped as she picked a whole cheese wheel out of a bush.
	“Aye, the duchess loves her cheese,” Captain Goyle smiles, “Don’t dawdle, Bridgett. She’s expecting you.”
	“Uh, right,” She put the small cheese wheel back the best she could before following the three gargoyles. She spotted her quarry soon after, a cluster of massive golden mushrooms sat together in a disused corner of the garden. She nearly ran over and grabbed one, but she was raised to ask permission before taking things, even if the person who had it didn’t seem to care about whatever it was she wanted.
 The four stepped through a set of massive oaken double doors and into a main hall. Even inside there was more imagery of cheese. Instead of busts of heads, portraits of important people and random other decorations, all of the sculptures were cheese shaped or paintings of cheese, “Which way was it?” Gail wondered aloud.
	Rachel bonked her on the head, “Would it kill you to put something other than 80’s TV reruns in that big dumb head of yours?” 
	“Nope! I never will!” She poised to retaliate against the larger ‘goyle.
	“Can it, both of you,” The Captain ordered, “Over here,” She led the other three through another set of smaller oak doors on the far side of the foyer beneath a dual set of stairs that led to a second floor. The next room was a giant dining room with a long table. About 24 people could sit at it and at the far end was a small woman with two large round ears on the top of her head. She wore grey pajamas with yellow and red cheese wheels printed across the cloth. 
	“Oh! A mouse!” Bridgett exclaimed as she gazed upon the empty, dark brown, and glossy table then back to the duchess.
	“Ho! Duchess!” Captain Goyle called with a raised hand in gesture, “We have brought the dragon you were expecting!”
	The duchess, who Bridgett saw was asleep, said nothing as she snored softly. The Goyle Force and the young dragon stood around waiting for something to happen. With a lot of drowsiness in her voice, the duchess mumbled something, “...cheese…”
	“So be it,” The captain nodded in agreement as Bridgett gave both a bewildered look, “It seems you are to be the guest of honor in the duchess’s feast today. You are lucky, I wish me and my Force could join you both but we have much to attend to. Jabberwock-balls and cheshires to catch. Good day.”
	“Bye...” Bridgett called before slowly taking a seat to the right of the duchess. Soon enough, trays stacked high with food were brought out by chefs and servants as other guests began to arrive. Posh looking Wonderland denizens sat around talking politics, banking, and golf with one another. The excited grin fell off Bridgett’s face and turned to a modestly happy smile as she realised she hated the conversations going on around her, “At least I have food. Should be better meat than that dad makes,” She joked to herself. She was sorely disappointed as each tray was revealed to be carrying nothing but cheese. Her stomach rumbled, she was hungry and fancy cheeses weren’t any good to her. Bridgett looked down at the rope tied around her waist and gave it a tug. She found there was no resistance. Hope drained from her soul as she pulled the entire length of rope to herself. She slouched in her seat and glanced at the duchess.
 The dormouse was still sleeping and every so often she would mumble something, “...four…”
	“I agree, lady duchess,” One party member nodded. It was a mad hatter, “I too yell that during golf.”
	“Such a silly thing,” The man next to her agreed.
	Bridgett had no idea how to leave politely or how to even make it home if she could get out. With a sigh, she grabbed some cheddar and had a few bites along with some ridiculously dry crackers. She wanted to go home.

	Maxine pulled Richard through the sprawling fields along the stone path. The yellow colored castle and village in the distance were getting closer and closer. The two walked side by side next to an orchard that produced fruits of various and wildly varying colors. Maxine examined their shiny surfaces but didn’t dare eat any of them. She knew better than to eat anything from this land without being offered it by a denizen, that was one of the rules, after all. She looked to her husband who quickly looked away with folded arms. Maxine had no idea what his issue was. Suddenly, two creatures descended from the sky, flying fast as they had found their quarry, the two beings kicked up dust and dirt as they crashed into the path, ready to apprehend the criminal they sought. “Witch! You are wanted by the duchess’s court! Do not resist, you are no match for the two strongest members of the Goyle Force!”
	The two gargoyles looked around. The woman they thought they had spotted from the air was nowhere to be seen. Neither was the man that had been with her. The most beautiful and powerful witch in Wonderland: Maxine held one hand over her husband’s mouth to keep him quiet as her invisibility spell would end if either of them made a sound. 
	The two gargoyles, Justine (AKA: Juice) and Burmy scratched their heads, “I thought I saw them!” The taller of the two, Burmy cried. She was bigger but had only two little horns on the top of her head with short curly black hair and dark grey asphalt colored skin.
	The other gargoyle, Justine shook her head, “I knew I shouldn’t have let YOU use the scanner!” Justine growled angrily, her long white hair flowing down her back with three horns jutting from the crown of her head. Her skin was more of a reddish clay color, “Gimmie, that!” She snatched the small device from the taller one’s face and put it on her own. She used it to try and detect the power level mana of anyone around.
	Unfortunately for the two members of the Dunce Force, the scanner was now out of batteries due to the larger and incompetent one leaving it on overnight and not plugging it in, “Dammit!” Justine spiked it into the ground out of anger, “I’m going to the Captain and I’m telling her how incompetent you are!” 
	“W-what!? You bitch! Not if I get there first! You forgot YOUR scanner at the Goyle Force base!” Burmy shouted back before taking off into the air. Justine went after her, determined to find the Captain first. 
	The witch released her husband and stopped focusing on the invisibility spell. She stopped holding her breath and wiped her brow of sweat. Her husband stood up straight and folded his arms at her, “How the hell did you know those two were coming?” Richard demanded.
	“I read ahead,” The wondrous Maxine replied as she showed her husband the papers titled, ‘Maxine’s Wondrous Adventure in a Most Peculiar Place,’ “I just saved our skin, my dear.”
	Richard frowned, “I guess I should thank you. You know, it's kinda weird to see gargoyles here. They’re rare in the first place but to see two of em…”
	“Well, due to this author’s head cannon, gargoyles are natural Wonderland denizens so I am sure we would see more if we were to look. I believe the author got it from another author he is friends with.”
	“...What are you talking about? Author? Head Cannon? Maxine, this is real life, not a… a… a story written by some guy with too much free time!” Richard shouted, finally hitting his limit with her. 
	“But that is just it, it is! I have seen beyond the veil, into the magic that makes up the universe and I have seen this author!” Maxine reached into her robes and grabbed her phone, “Look! I even pulled up his website! You know, for someone calling themself ‘Medusa’ he sure seems to like gremlins a lot. I mean, look at these images on his site!” 
	Apprehensively, Richard took the phone from her and scrolled through the site on a page called ‘Art I’ve Commissioned’ a bit, “Well… There’s you, Gwen, Bridgett, and Ruth. Wow, he likes this gremlin a lot. Oh, Kimiko’s in here too,” He felt ill again. He looked at the purple witch in front of him.
	“I’m not sure what this means for us, I’m still struggling to wrap my head around all of this. Is he real or are we real? Perhaps both? Here, we should go so I may return to my study. I need to focus on this!”
	“And just leave those two here!?” Richard was shocked. Maxine opened her mouth to speak again, “I don’t even know who you are anymore! You never would have just left Kimiko behind if you were the REAL you! I look at you and I can’t even recognize you anymore! You’re not the woman I fell in love with anymore,” Maxine felt physical pain as her heart shattered into a billion pieces and her once loving husband pushed past her and started down the path again toward the castle, “I’m gonna find Bridgett myself and go get Kimiko. Do whatever you want.”
	Maxine… now less wondrous and now more… depressed and aimless. She fell to her knees and dropped her precious staff and let the pages she clinged to be carried away by the wind. The insanity finally left her mind, all that remained of it was the purple in her hair and robes. What had happened to her? It only took a few moments before she finally realised it but did not want to admit it. Her flaws had become all she was. She knew what she wanted and was competent enough to get it, but the selfishness and self centeredness she had within her had become all that she was, like an all consuming fire she had let the good parts of herself die and let this maddened cheshire form take hold. She knew she could do better, her husband and friends knew she could do better and even the author and you, the reader, knew she could do better. What was she to do, she wondered… What am I to do, Mr. Author? Assuming you are still here and I did not run you off like I did my own husband.
	Well, you need to give up these powers somehow. Extract them from your body and return to semi normalcy. And give me back my control over this story.
	Normal… I understand. Wrenching this portion of me from myself will require vast amounts of mana. I will need my husband. But how can I expect him to aid me when I have been nothing but horrible towards those around me?
	Just go apologize to him!
	I know not if I have the strength to do so.
	With a sigh, the Author took hold of the story. Maxine rose to her feet and grabbed her staff, disregarding the pages of the story she had been editing with green text and hurried to catch up to her husband, “Richard!” She shouted as she ran to catch him.
	“What is it?” He grumbled as he turned back to the witch. Neither said anything as she panted to catch her breath. Richard stared into her face and saw the fear and guilt in her eyes along the tears running down her face that she couldn’t hold back, “Maxy?”
	“Richard, I need you. I’m so sorry!” The witch wailed as she dropped her staff to the ground. 
	The man sighed as the witch cried before him, her pride usually kept her from having emotional outbursts like this, especially in public. He gently hugged the witch and let her cry on his shoulder, “Maxy…” He stroked her now purple hair, slowly calming her down like usual, “What am I gonna do with you?”
	Maxine sniffled and wiped her eyes, “I do not expect you to forgive me, but I must ask for your aid.”
	“Go on.”
	“I must separate this madness from my mind, I cannot do it alone. I understand if you do not love THIS me, but I want to be the old me again, the version of me that is not… whatever I am now!”
	Richard frowned, “But what can we do? What do you need from me?” He picked up her staff and put it in her hands.
	“I-I need you to trust me,” The witch meekly asked, “A-and I need mana. Enough mana to cast something on the fly to remove this from me.”
	“Mana? Alright. I’ve done this one before. Where should--”
	Maxine grabbed his arm and yanked him off the path and into the dense orchard, “Remember the night of our wedding?”
	“Of course I remember our first time. But…”
	Maxine pulled Richard to her and kissed him on the lips, “I want to have a moment of passion just like that with you,” Maxine pressed herself against a tree in a secluded area and pulled up her robes to reveal her now purple heart print panties, “I am hot and eager for you, my dear,” She licked her lips at him.
	Richard kissed her back before grabbing her hips and hoisting her up and pinning her against the tree, the two of them rubbing their loins against one another, “Do you really feel like we were never passionate again? I know I’m really busy working for your mom, but…”
	The witch wrapped her legs around him and put one arm around his shoulders, the other hand gripping her staff, “Do not fret about it,” With the wave of her staff, her panties and her husband's underwear and pants were both teleported off of them, their privates rubbing up against one another, their bodies shuddering from the sudden sensation of pleasure. The two rubbed against one another, panting and gasping as their privates grinded against their spouse’s. The witch was already horny, her clean shaven pussy was already glistening with her love juices. Richard was quickly erect, even if he was upset with her he still found her to be a beautiful woman with a wonderful body. It was hard for him to stay mad when she was teasing him between her legs. He might have been disappointed in himself for giving in so easily if it didn't feel so good with foreplay alone. With another wave of Maxine’s staff, her husband’s member pierced her. She moaned loudly, “Ah, darling~!” She cried as she took her husband’s manhood. 
	Richard grunted as he started to thrust, pushing deeper and deeper into his wife with each thrust. He took what frustration he had left towards her out between her legs as he slammed his hips against hers. As she took her husband’s dick to the hilt, Maxine cried out loudly in pleasure and her legs tightly wrapped around her husband’s waist. As a firm smack hit her rear, Maxine began to whimper as her husband’s thrusting got more vigorous and rough. The witch knew the time was nearing, mana was starting to fill her body. She needed to be ready to use the over flow of mana from her husband’s spirit energy. She started to concentrate and use her hands to cast but she lost it as her husband started to kiss her neck passionately, “R-Richaaaaard!” She cried out as she suddenly orgasmed, her body convulsing while she shouted loudly into her husband’s ear. Her hat fell off her head as her eyes rolled up, her concentration fully broken by her husband's ravaging of her body and mind. 
With a grin, Richard slowed down and gave her a chance to calm herself and regain her senses, “Good girl,” He cooed into her ear as he stroked her hair.
	Maxine started to cast again, “Cum in me, Richard. Give me your energy,” She panted and started to chant her magical words. Her husband gave her a nod and started to thrust again, his manhood continually going down to the hilt with loud, wet and lewd plapping noises echoing around the orchard. Pressure started to build in Richard’s loins, and though he wanted to continue he found himself wanting to fill his wife with his love more. He could feel the love juices from Maxine’s pussy start to run down his thighs, some of it even sprinkling his belly. Even with Maxine chanting her magical mumbo jumbo in his ear, he knew he couldn't hold on any longer, he was going to erupt soon. His penis throbbed as he orgasmed, cumming inside the witch and giving her the spirit energy and in turn the mana she desired. 
	Maxine’s body rumbled as she used her magic; the spell drained her mana, spending it as soon as she got it as she began to remove the madness from her mind and spirit. As her husband continued cumming inside of her, the madness manifested as a sort of purple mist around them. With the last of her energy, the last of her husband’s baby batter, and the last of her madness leaving her body, something was--
	I was formed.
	Maxine and Richard collapsed to the ground, smiling at one another as they spent a few moments laying in their shared after sex warmth. The witch giggled, feeling quite warm and cozy as she gave a contented sigh, “Wonderful,” She mumbled to her husband before kissing him on the cheek. She glanced to the side to catch her breath only for a moment and her heart stopped. She saw the visage of a woman standing nearby, a woman with short, messy, purple hair and a devilish grin on her face, a purple tail flicking back and forth contemplation and amusement. A cheshire. A cheshire that was naked and had her face.
	Richard looked where she was looking with such a strange, almost fear filled look. He saw something, if only for a moment, but it was a figure that looked like Maxine. As soon as he had processed what was before him, the purple cheshire version of his wife vanished, “M-Maxy? W-what…?”
	“We shall not speak of it. The evils of this land are not to be trifled with. I am such a fool for causing all of this,” The witch groaned as she put her hat and panties back on. She looked down at her robes and saw that they were once again completely black, “How do I look?”
	“Like yourself,” Richard smiled before lifting up her hat to kiss her on the forehead, “I’m glad to have you back,” He suddenly gave her a stern look, “But after everything you put me, Bridgett, and Kimiko through, you’re in so much trouble when we get home.”
	The witch sighed, “I accept that. I will take my punishment in stride,” She used the last of her mana to clean up both herself and her husband with the wave of her staff. She took him by the hand again and led him back to the path, “We need to find Bridgett and I have a feeling she’s over at the castle. We just need to sneak over, and--”
	She had only taken a few steps back onto the path before she was cut off and the ground shook violently, “Aw, shoot,” Richard scowled at the five gargoyles that had landed in front of them. They all made poses that Maxine considered foolish, even by Wonderland’s standards, as butt rock screeched out from the heavens.
	“Rachel!”
	“Burmy!”
	“Justine!”
	“Gail!”
	“Captaaaaain… Goyle!”
	The light of the world went out black as pitch, like someone had flipped the switch of Wonderland’s sun off. All five shouted in unison, “We are, the Goyle Force!” Pyrotechnics went off behind them, lighting them up with colored smoke behind their poses, afterwhich light returned to the world.
	“Do something,” Richard begged Maxine in a hushed voice.
	She shook her head, “Whatever was that purple cat, she took what little mana I had left.”
	“You! Witch!” Captain Goyle pointed dramatically at Maxine, “By the decree of the royal duchess, you are under arrest!”
	“Yeah!”
	“Yeah, rulebreaker!”
	“Come quietly or be destroyed!”
	Maxine put her hands up, “Fine. She lives in that castle right?”
	“Of course!”
	“Bridgett might be there,” Richard said quietly to himself while putting his hands up, “We’ll go quietly, Goyle Force. Just don’t hurt my wife, please.”
	“Wise choice. Come on.”
	The Goyle Force formed around the two captives and started to skip down the path. Maxine and Richard gave them confused looks, “You have to skip!” Captain Goyle ordered, “It's faster!”
	“That’s the rules!”
	“Ugh, fine. I will skip if I HAVE to!” The witch hissed, starting to skip along with the five gargoyles. Richard followed suit. He couldn't really sense a difference in speed, but the castle did seem to get a lot closer.
	Soon, the group of seven was skipping through the town and then up to the castle. Once more, the trumparts opened up the gate and let the Goyle Force in. Maxine took a quick glance around the garden, her mana was slowly regenerating and she needed to figure out an escape route. She wasn’t sure if she’d have enough to make a portal home, she would probably have to get mana from her husband again for that. The only exit seemed to be the gate they came in. Her husband was a good swordsman, but there was no way he could fight all five of the ‘Dunce Force.’ Next they were brought into the main castle and into the large, grand dining room.
	“Wow, she REALLY likes cheese, huh?” Richard snarked as they’re brought before the sleeping duchess.
	“Oh! Hi, Maxine! Hi, Richard!” Bridgett called from where she sat, relieved to finally see a way home, “You met the Goyle Force too!? They’re SO COOL!”
	“Bridgett is acquaintances with the two rule breakers?” Captain Goyle frowned, “Duchess, what should we do with the two rule breakers?”
	The dormouse snoozed still, “Mph… guillotine…”
	“Guillotine? Off with their heads? As you wish, duchess. The red queen would be proud. And what of Bridgett?”
	“...cheese… guillotine…”
	“As you wish. She will be put to the cheese themed guillotine.”
“What!? Do children not have protection anymore in this mad land!?” Maxine shouted as two of the goyles grabbed her. Two more grabbed Richard while the Captain grabbed Bridgett’s shoulder. She looked pale and scared, but Captain Goyle could only give her an apologetic smile.
	“We… have to do as the duchess commands,” The Captain Mumbled to the witch, “Bring them to the courtyard.”

	Kimiko and Susan stepped into the town surrounding the duchess’s castle, “Now what?” Kimiko asked as she looked around at all the Wonderland denizens. Her hair had turned purple finally. She struggled to keep herself somewhat sane, though even with her extensive training her mind was no match for the maddening powers of Wonderland. The town was abuzz with excitement as if there was something in the air or an event to look forward to.
	“Find the witch, right?” Susan grunted as she too looked around town, “Maybe the duchess would know where they are.”
	“Where would we find her?”
	Susan gave her an annoyed look before pointing at the yellow colored castle walls, “There, maybe?”
	“Ah. Right. Can we just waltz in, or…?”
	“Probably not. We’ll have to figure something out.”
	“Can you not just fly over the walls?” Kimiko asked, knowing that her traveling companion was a jabberwock.
	“Do you see these wings? They’re… too small to let me fly,” With a sigh, she fluttered them for a short time.
	Kimiko frowned, “I am sorry. I assumed there was some rule that allowed you to fly even with such small wings.”
	“Yeah, well, there isn’t,” Susan hissed. Kimiko was unphased, “Maybe someone around here has seen any of those three. Over here,” She wandered over to the general store. 
	“Susan. Look,” Kimiko wandered over to a telephone pole and tore off a flyer. Three familiar faces stared at Kimiko drawing in some kind of marker or crayon. Maxine, Richard, and even Bridgett were all set to be executed by guillotine, “Oh no.”
	Susan huffed, “What? I am amazed that the duchess was so quick to--” She gasped as she saw Bridgett was on the chopping block too, “She can’t do that! Children have immunity! Now even the duchess is a-a-a RULE BREAKER!”
	“Well, she is. We need to get into the duchess’s castle and put a stop to this. I will scale the walls if I need to. I need to save the three of them.”
	“I thought you hated Maxine now?” Susan asked as she tried to stall Kimiko a bit.
	Kimiko turned with a furious expression on her face. She gripped the sides of her head, her claws digging into her skin slightly, “Even if I am angry at her, she is my ward. It is my task to protect her and Richard. Bridgett does not deserve this. It matters not how I feel about Maxine right now,” She lurched forward, grabbing Susan’s neck and shoulder, “Now tell me how to get into that castle before I lose my temper and crush your windpipe!” 
	“Okay, okay! I-I… look, there's a secret entrance that I know about. But to get to it… we have to stray from the path,” Susan quickly explained. It was obvious to her how much stronger the jinko was and with her body being the way that it was now with the madness there was no telling what she would do.
	Kimiko lost it. The madness took hold, “Why does this land have such arbitrary rules that restrict passage to such simple paths? Why must it be so difficult to traverse this area and I assume even harder to live here? I cannot even fathom the daily struggles of just living in this purple tinted hellscape!”
	Susan stopped, “W-well--”
	“You cannot stray from the path momentarily to stop a LITTLE GIRL from getting decapitated!?” She shouted in the jabberwock’s face.
	“B-but if we break the rules, we’ll get necked too! I can’t live in Wonderland if I’m a rule breaker!”
	Kimiko tore off Susan’s ‘Portal Monitor’ sash and tossed it aside, “Then you are coming to my world when we are done! Take me to that secret entrance. NOW.”
	Susan blinked. She ran through the idea of going to the ‘real’ world through her head. She didn’t like that idea. She was much more comfortable in Wonderland and she knew her role as a portal guardian and--
	Susan loved the idea. She would have much better chances finding a man once she was in the other world. No cheshires, trumparts, jub jubs or any other crazy girls would destroy her chances at a husband and happiness.
	“Alright. I’ll do it. The voice in my head says this is a good idea,” The jabberwock was slowly released, “Come on, slow poke!” She started skipping down the path. Kimiko, not knowing what else to do, started skipping as well. 

	Gwen and Theodore rode in the man’s red car back to the Hamilton manor. The two were a little sad that their wonderful day together was over, but Gwen was relieved to see her children again, “I hope the kids behaved,” She mused aloud.
	Theodore nodded and turned down the radio, “I’m sure they did. Aren’t you more worried that Maxine didn’t behave?”
	“Do not remind me, darling,” The weresheep sighed, “I just hope everything went smoothly.”
	“I’m sure everything was fine. Bridgett will tell you how much fun she had and Maxine will say the toddlers slept nearly the whole day!” He laughed, “Don’t look so glum,” The car pulled up to the front of the manor and he shut the car off, “Look, the manor hasn’t burnt down or anything! Everything is fine.”
	“Alright, I suppose you are correct,” The weresheep let out a long sigh as she finally felt a little relaxed. She got out of the car and took her husband’s hand as the two stepped up to the regal doors.
	Richard used the big knocker and waited. Eventually, they could hear footsteps clacking across the stone floors of the foyer. The door was opened and the two were looking at Svetlana, “Ah! Good to see you both!” The kikimora curtseyed to the two. Gwen could immediately tell that her maid uniform was a lot more ragged than she ever let it get, “Please, come right in!”
	“Thank you,” Gwen gave a little smile, “How are the children? I hope they were not any trouble for you!”
	“Oh, heavens no! Little angels, your two. Kimiko’s triplets gave me a hard time, but Ross and Samantha were great.”
	“What about Bridgett?” Theodore asked.
	Svetlana went pale, “W-well… admittedly, I did not manage her much today. Maxine, Kimiko and even Richard went on an… errand and Bridgett went with,” Her heart pounded and she was nearly about to break down from the stress, “A-all the kids were put down to sleep about an hour ago. H-hopefully they return soon!”
	“Well, we are a little early. We can wait for a little bit,” They were led to the room where all the children slept in sleeping bags or on air mattresses. Calvin slept in the corner in a rocking chair, completely exhausted from managing all the kids.
	“Of course. Let us go to the study, shall I prepare some tea for you both?” Svetlana asked, quickly taking them away from the children’s room.
	
	Maxine, Richard, and Bridgett all stood in the middle of the duchess’s garden on a raised platform. A crowd had formed, eager to watch the macabre show. The dutchess, still asleep, sat on a sort of throne with a good view of the guillotine that was painted to resemble cheese. A sharp, steel blade hung from the top of the guillotine showing the three that these people meant business. Next to the execution device was a muscular man in all black with a hood concealing his face and an axe in his hands. A few trumparts surrounded the platform to make sure no one would try to be a hero. 
	“What do we do?” Richard asked quietly. All three had their hands bound behind their backs and a trumpart nearby held Richard’s sword and Maxine’s staff and hat. 
	The witch’s ears were drooping sadly, “I-I do not know,” She did have a wand hidden in her robes, but she couldn’t cast with her hands bound like this, “I am so sorry, both of you. This is all my fault.”
	“I just… I can’t believe this is it,” Richard mumbled as they listened to some kind of bishop say their last rites, “Bridgett?”
	The dragon said nothing. Something was building in her. As the bishop finished their little sermon, the executioner walked over to grab one of the three, “I’ll go first,” The young dragon said bravely as if another voice entirely had said it. The executioner nodded and took her by the shoulder. Her head was put through the bottom of the guillotine and the emotions that she had been holding back finally started to burst. The executioner grabbed the handle and pulled. In that instant, Bridgett let out a loud roar and started to transform. The scales across her body hardened, shattering the steel blade of the guillotine on impact. She grew in size, more than quintupling her mass as she turned into her bestial form which easily shattered the execution device. Her claws, wings, body and tail all grew to a tremendous and powerful size. The crowd screamed in terror as the large dragon roared again, rearing back and billowing flames into the air with a mighty roar that shook the earth. The executioner brought up his axe to attack the dragon from behind but was cut down by Kimiko’s lightning fast swordplay.
	“Kimiko!” Maxine shouted happily, quite relieved to see her bodyguard was doing well despite the fact that she too had turned into a cheshire. Silently, the jinko cut the two of them free, “Kimiko, I am so sorry for all of this. I put all of you through all of this and--”
	“We can talk about forgiveness later,” She grunted as she slashed through a trumpart with her demon silver blade. Richard slammed himself into the trumpart holding their belongings, snatching up his sword and his wife’s things which he quickly tossed to her. 
	The Goyle Force jumped in front of the dragon and assumed their poses, “Halt!” Captain Goyle shouted, “Due to the duchess’s fourth decree, no little girl may grow to massive size! You have broken the rules and--” Bridgett backhanded all five of them in a single swipe, sending them flying through the gates of the castle. All of them hardened their skin in response, which may have saved their skins, but it turned them into man-sized bullets, easily blowing the gate down like five cannon blasts. She huffed to herself before her eyes fixated on the golden mushrooms.
	The rank and file citizens all ran from the castle grounds as did the trumparts who all failed to pierce the thick scales of Bridgett’s hide as she completely ignored them. Kimiko and Richard fought off the rest of the trumparts together until all of them were downed with the demon silver weapons, “Duchess!” A voice boomed at the sleeping dormouse. Susan stomped over to the royal duchess, the jabberwock towering over her drowsy form, “By the power given to me by the Red Queen, and due to your breaking of one of the Queen’s most precious rules, as judge, jury and executioner I sentence you to 30 minutes in the prisoner fruit wiggler without parole!” She lifted up her skirt, revealing her cargo shorts and pulled the massive metal box from one of the big pockets and set it up in a few moments. The box began to vibrate loudly, sending fear into Maxine, Richard, Kimiko and Bridgett. The jabberwock grabbed the dormouse and stuffed her into the box. The duchess still slept, snoring loudly as she was put into the prisoner fruit wiggler to atone for her crimes. Susan dusted her hands off and nodded, “That’s that.”
	“Can we go home now?” Bridgett asked, one of her big claws was full of the large mushrooms, “I’m hungry.”
	“I need more mana,” Maxine frowned. The five of them were the only people left in the castle it seemed, “Perhaps Richard and I must--”
	“No need,” A voice giggled as a form materialized next to the witch. First the large grin, then the eyes and finally the rest of the monster. She looked exactly like the just as gorgeous Maxine but there was a wild look in her green eyes. Her hair was lilac and messy, herher witch’s hat a shade of deep purple. Her robes were like a dark wine color coated with each suit of cards from vibrant violets to muted mauve clubs, hearts, diamonds and spades.
	“Maxine?” Richard gasped as he stared at the spitting image of his wife.
	Kimiko brandished her sword, “What foul trickery is this?”
	The purple witch giggled, “No need to be so feisty, Kimiko. Let me aid you,” Kimiko couldn’t respond before the purple cat teleported to her and jabbed a finger into the jinko’s stomach. All of the madness and craziness drained from Kimiko’s body, letting her grunt out a relieved sigh as the voices finally stopped. The wondrously plum colored witch took all Wonderland energy that had built up in the samurai and used it to tear open a large purple portal, “Run along now.”
	“I do not understand how you were formed, but thank you,” Maxine gave a small smile to… herself. Bridgett, still in dragon form, along with Richard, Kimiko and Susan all stepped through the portal with loud FWOOMP noises, “Who… are you?”
	The purple witch poked her counterpart’s chest, imbuing her with a little Wonderland magic for the road, “Hm… I believe Cheshine will work for now.”
	“Not too creative on the author’s part, but it will do for now,” Maxine said, realising her maddening Wonderland powers were back, albeit in a limited capacity.
	“He never was one for names, hm?” Cheshine stared at Maxine for a few moments, “Perhaps we will see one another again? I will be a bit busy as I take the role of duchess of this land seeing as the last one broke the rules, but swing by any time.”
	“I will. How do you know you will be duchess?”
	“Other than the Red Queen, not many Wonderlanders have magic beyond innate abilities. Witchcraft plus Wonderland madness as you saw is… well… tremendously powerful. Put what little you have to good use,” Cheshine explained, “I will use mine to reign in the people here. And to change this horrible decor!”
	“Ah, I see. Well, so long for now, Cheshine.”
	“So long, Maxine,” The witch watched as the other witch stepped into the portal, closing it behind her.
	The manor rumbled as there were five loud FWOOMP noises. Books shook and the fine drinking ware rattled and splashed out some of their contents. Svetlana, Gwen and Theodore all jumped up and hurried toward the noise. The three burst out of the back door toward Kimiko and Svetlana’s homes. Illuminated by the moonlight and rising to their feet amongst the well manicured garden. Bridgett’s dragon form was obvious right away along with Maxine, Richard, Kimiko and a purple dragon woman that Gwen didn’t recognize, “Look, Maxine!” Bridgett shouted in a booming voice that set off a few car alarms, “I got the mushrooms you wanted! A whole bunch of em!” She dropped some golden mushrooms that glimmered in the moonlight. 
	“Yes, yes, thank you, Bridgett. Now please turn back into a little girl before your parents come home so Gwen doesn’t gore me with her horns!” Maxine pleaded.
	“I… Hi, mom!” Bridgett waved as her powerful dragon eyes spotted her mother. 
	Gwen stomped up to Maxine whose ears sheepishly flattened on her head, “Maxine. What is going on? Why is my daughter in her dragon form and-- who is this?” She pointed to the jabberwock.
	“Why the hell are the bushes green?” Susan asked, “What an ugly color.”
	“That’s… Kimiko, why did she come with us?” Maxine in turn asked the bodyguard.
	“Because she broke the rules to help me save you,” Kimiko grunted, “Susan here was of great help to me in helping save your daughter and our… FRIEND,” Maxine received a cross look.
	Gwen stared in horror, “What!? What happened?” 
	“I had such a fun time!” Brdigett giddly said with a big grin on her face, “Maxine asked me to get some golden mushrooms so I went to Wonderland! I went on a really fun adventure and I was only scared at the end where the mean duchess wanted to chop our heads off with a… guilla-- geeoo--”
	“Guillotine,” Kimiko corrected.
	“That! I met nice people and was at a feast and I saw Ruth and Daisy and they were kinda funny lookin’! Can Maxine watch me more often, mom? Please!?” Bridgett begged, bringing her large dragon head down to her mother’s eye level, “I wanna go on more adventures!”
	Gwen pinched the bridge of her nose before patting her daughter’s nose, “Maxine.”
	The witch started to talk quickly, “Gwen, I can assure you that she was never in any danger. She just happened to wander off and her being put on the chopping block was entirely my fault. I am so sorry all of this happened. I am so sorry to all of you, everything that went wrong was my fault. I was just afraid of going to Wonderland and Bridgett was immune to the insanity and I just figured everything would go to plan like it usually does for me. I--”
	“Maxine. I have never seen Bridgett so excited and happy like this. I have to thank you for that,” Gwen admitted, “But sending her to Wonderland unsupervised!? How can you be so short sighted!?”
	“In her defense,” Susan piped up, “Children have a sort of diplomatic immunity due to a decree from the Red Queen. She was completely safe until the duchess decided to break the rules.”
	“Exactly! I did my research and planned and…” Maxine sighed, “I am in the wrong. I am sorry. I will not try to excuse myself further. Richard, I am ready to accept my punishment.”
	“Right,” Richard sighed at her, “Hand over your staff.”
	“W-what? I-- Yes. Alright,” The witch gave it to her husband hesitantly.
	“And your wand,” He ordered. Without a word she gave that to him as well, “You’re out of magic for two weeks. Kimiko deserves a break so you’ll be doing whatever she and Svetlana need.”
	The jinko’s shoulders slouched, “A vacation at Maxine’s expense sounds wonderful.”
	“...I will do as I am told,” Maxine meekly replied, her pride taking a massive hit as her husband took her witch’s hat as well.
	“Good,” Richard gave her messy hair a few pats, “Gwen, on behalf of my wife, I’m also really sorry this happened. I should have been more wary.”
	“I am glad she is receiving a punishment beyond a simple slap on the wrist,” The weresheep glanced at Bridgett who had finally turned back into a little dragon girl. She yawned from her exhaustion of playing all day, “I am also quite happy that my daughter is so elated… perhaps I should let Maxine watch her more often. They are both children after all,” She chuckled, “Come on, Bridgett, time for bed.”
	“Watch my children tonight, Maxine,” Kimiko ordered, “I wish for an evening alone with my man,” She licked her lips and stomped into the manor, looking for her husband.
	Maxine stared at the ground and sighed. Richard patted her shoulder, “I’m proud of you,” He admitted, “Owning up to your mistakes is quite a big step for you.”
	She looked at him with tears in her eyes, “Y-yeah,” She wiped her eyes, “I am just glad that everyone does not hate me. At least it seems that way.”
	“Yup. How about you go talk to Svetlana? I’m sure she needs help with the children.”
	“Right. Now what to do with you?” She turned to Susan who simply stood there, staring at the plants.
	“We need someone to watch the gate house, right? We know she can do that!” Richard laughed.
	“As long as you tell me how to open the gate I can do that!” Susan clenched her fist and gave them a smile.
	“I’ll get her set up in the guest room. See you when you’re done with your chores, Maxy!” Richard gave his wife a wave as he left with the jabberwock in tow, “Don’t look so down. You’re gonna look adorable in a maid’s uniform, Maxy!”
	“Yeah, yeah,” The witch sighed and folded her arms before slowly making her way to the manor toward her best friend, Svetlana, who was more than eager to give her the orders for once.
	The beautiful and powerful Duchess Cheshine put the book down. She had a little smile on her face but there was one issue with the story, ‘Maxine’s Wondrous Adventure in a Most Peculiar Place’ was such a horrible name! Could you, dear reader, imagine trying to sell someone on a story with that title? Absolutely dreadful! Cheshine wondered for a short time as to what to change the title to. Although the author had originally planned for this to be a Bridgett centered story, it had sort of spiraled out of control due to Maxine and admittedly my own interference. Eventually she settled on a name: ‘The Witch’s Guide to Wonderland.’ She nodded and scrubbed out the green text that was Maxine’s title and wrote the new one in bold pink letters. Now satisfied, she returned the book to the shelf of her study. 
       “I hope you enjoyed yourself, dear reader. I know I did. Now, you may be asking, ‘Oh, Cheshine! How gorgeous and powerful you are! Will I ever see you again?’ Perhaps not in person, but perhaps through this thin wall of our realities. Perhaps not, I am a very busy woman. But, until then, so long.”

2 responses to “The Witch’s Guide To Wonderland”

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