THE QUEENDOM had been enjoying a tentative peace ever since the time, twelve
years earlier, when unbridled bloodshed spattered the doorstep of every
Wonderlander. The civil war hadn't been the longest in all of recorded history,
but no doubt it was one of the bloodiest. Those who had entered a little too
quickly into the carnage and destruction had trouble adapting to life during
peacetime. When hostilities ceased, they ran amok on the streets of Wonderland's
capital city, looting and pillaging Wondertropolis until Queen Genevieve had
them rounded up and shipped off to the Crystal Minesa spiderweb-like network of
tunnels carved in a far-off mountainside, where those unwilling to abide by the
laws of decent society lived in windowless dormitories and labored to excavate
crystal from the unforgiving mountain. Even after these people were taken off
the streets, the peace that settled on Wonderland was nothing like that which
had existed before the war. A third of Wondertropolis' quartz-like buildings had
to be rebuilt. The smooth turquoise amphitheater had suffered damage in an air
raid, as had the public works towers and spires sporting fiery, reflective
pyrite skin. But the scars of war are not always visible. Although Queen
Genevieve ruled her queendom judiciously, with care for the well-being of her
people, the monarchy had forever been weakened. The coalition of Diamond, Club,
and Spade dynasties that made up Parliament were falling apart. The matriarchs
of the families were jealous of Genevieve's power. Each thought she could rule
Wonderland better then the queen. Each watched and waited for an opportunity to
wrest control from her, keeping a none-too-friendly eye on the other families in
case they happened to make a move first.
Entertaining no thoughts of war, Princess Alyss Heart stood on the balcony of
Heart Palace with her mother, Queen Genevieve. The city was in the midst of a
jubilant gala. From the Everlasting Forest to the Valley of Mushrooms,
Wonderlanders had come to celebrate the seventh birthday of their future queen,
who, as it happened, was bored out of her wits. Alyss knew she could do a lot
worse than be Queen of Wonderland, but even a future monarch doesn't always want
to do what she is supposed to dolike site through hours of pageantry. She would
rather have hidden with her friend Dodge in one of the palace towers, dropping
jollyjellies from an open window and watching them splat on the guards below.
Dodge wouldn't like the jollyjelly bitguardsmen deserved better treatment, he'd
saybut that would only make it more fun.
Where was Dodge anyway? She hadn't seen him all morning, and it wasn't nice
to avoid the birthday girl on her birthday. She searched for him among the
Wonderlanders gathered to watch the Inventors' Parade on the cobbled lane below.
No sign of him. He was probably off doing something fun; whatever it was had to
be more fun than being stuck here, forced to watch Wonderlanders show off their
silly contraptions. Bibwit Harte, the royal tutor, had explained to her that
most of Wonderland took pride in the Inventors' Parade, the one time every year
when citizens flaunted their skills and ingenuity before the queen. If Genevieve
saw something in the parade that she thought particularly good, she would send
it into the Heart Crystala thirty-three-foot-tall, fifty-two-foot-wide
shimmering crystal on the palace grounds, the power source for all creation.
Whatever passed into the crystal went out into the universe to inspire
imaginations in other worlds. If a Wonderlander bounced in front of Queen
Genevieve on a spring-operated stick with handlebars and footrests and she
passed this curious invention into the crystal, before long, in one civilization
or another, a pogo stick would be invented.
Still, Alyss wondered, what was the big deal? Having to stand here until her
feet hurtit was punishment.
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