"Nice to meet you, too, Aldwin," said Pandora, greeting the boy in front of us. Only Wiese and and were still on the floor, but it didn't hurt that bad after a couple of seconds. It had been only an impression, not a heavy impact against the ground.
"Pandora?" I asked, standing up and helping Wiese do the same. They and Gail remained behind me. "Where are we and who is he?"
"Aldwin Carroll, he's a good friend of mine. Aldwin, she's Alynne, those are Wiese, Gail and Draxen, the friends I told you about," Pandora gestured to each of us as she said our names.
"So good to see you, all of you, welcome to the Dreaming Land." The guy smiled as he spoke, barely conscious about his partial, almost complete, nudity.
"Can someone explain this?" Asked Draxen.
"Sure," said a voice that came from nowhere, "but find another place. Losing your head is something only I enjoy, although you can try it if you want to."
A strange hybrid of cat and man appeared beside Aldwin, covered in grey hair and some turquoise lines here and there. What worried me the most was the smile he had, so broad and unnatural, that it seemed almost hypocritical, touching the sociopath.
"The Rose Knights are here already?" Asked the boy to the creature, who was still smiling.
"Not yet, but they could be arriving right now, or never, you never know for sure!" He laughed and my blood froze by hearing it. "Want to stay and play a little game?"
"Later, Cat," said Aldwin. How could he be so calm? "Pandora, and all of you," he smiled when talking, "we'll go somewhere safe. I promise to explain all of this, but you won't want to be here when the Queen's Knights arrive, trust me."
"They cannot be worse than the shadows," Draxen said, and I nodded in agreement.
"Not at all, but the Queen of Hearts is the real threat in here. She's even worse than the Tenth."
"How do you know about her?" I asked in surprise.
"I wold you I'll explain, but come with me first, I'm with you and want to help, but we're running out of time." The guy seemed to be genuinely worried about what he told us about, but we had just met him, how could we trust him?
"Do it," said Wiese. "He's being honest and won't do us any harm"
"Just because you're telling me, but I still don't trust him." I looked for Gail, who was still behind me, insecure of letting be seen. "Take my hand, we have to get away from here." She did as soon as I told her to, but said nothing.
I was starting to get worried because of that, but we had to follow Aldwin. I wouldn't forget about Gail's state, not when I couldn't remember the last time she spoke to me. Then we heard the sound of marching steps, along with strange voice.
"Scheiße! They're coming!" Said Aldwin. "Come with me!" He didn't even wait for us to do it, but ran right away between the trees. Draxen and Pandora were right behind him, then Wiese and Gail, who were doing the best they could to keep the pace.
"Pandora, help them to go faster." I said trying to catch my breath. My friend draw two simple runes, and as soon as they touched the kids, they started to run just like us. I smiled, thanking her in silence. The cat-like creature that had greeted us was flying beside us, always smiling, but watching if someone was coming. I could only hope his silence meant we were safe.
The first thing I realized was that the environment was completely different to Dreamare's. The plants had bright colors, the sky was clear, the air felt pure, even the ground felt softer. How was it that Aldwin had called it, the Dreaming Land?
Maybe I wasn't that wrong, and we had been in an entire different land all this time, one that we all feared while we could breathe. The sole idea was strong enough to send chills down my spine, and despite I knew my group needed to know, I was scared of how they could take it once they listened to me.
"Here!" Aldwin pointed to a house not near from where we were.
"Just in time for tea time!" Said the cat-creature. "Hatter will love this!"
"Only if he kept his head," said Aldwin, fixing the fabrics he had around, barely covering his body. I couldn't yet figure out how he could run as if he wasn't aware he was practically naked.
"So what? More for us!" The cat started to laugh again. It was as if I was trapped in a nightmare, a hundred times worse than the past one, but Gail was smiling for some reason. I had no time to see if Wiese was as well, as we had to come into the house after Aldwin made a strange gesture with his hands to open the main door.
Pandora draw a couple of runes I couldn't recognize once we were inside, still in a hurry, and send them to the four cardinal points before Aldwin closed the door. Unfortunately, the cat-creature was also inside.
"Yay! We're alive!" He started to dance in the air, never touching the floor a single time.
"Let's try to keep it like that, then," said Pandora.
"Can someone please tell me what this is all about?" I was sick of running blind. I deserved to at least know in which hell I was standing.
"You're right," responded my friend. Draxen looked at her raising one eyebrow. At least he was with me. "We're in the real Realm of the Dreams, the Dreamland or, as Aldwin said, the Dreaming Land. The Tenth trapped us somewhere else and lie to everyone, how strange coming from her, so we could never know the place we where."
"Which turns to be?" I already knew, I repeated the answer over and over again as I remained sat down on the floor, right in the middle of what I thought was a messy living room.
"The Land of the Dead, of course." A man came from behind, dressed in a large, blue night coat and white pats, bare chest and black hair under the tallest top hat I ever saw. He was holding a teapot three times bigger in one hand, a tower of almost twenty teacups in the other and smiled just as much as the cat-creature. "You're just in time, I made some hibiscus tea!"
YOU ARE READING
The darkest Sleeping Beauty you'll ever meet. They say dreaming is one of the best things, but for me, it is a never-ending pain. I can see how my kingdom is going under, I can see as it slowly turns into hell, how filled it is with so much misery...