Starlight in a Broken Vessel

by the-pieman

Chapter 82: Return from Wunderland

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Return from Wunderland

Pinkie is looking at me with an expression of betrayal.

“Really, Anthony, what did you do? Mr. Hatter was so nice!”

“I didn’t do a darn thing, the guy liquified by himself. I’m willing to bet he’ll come back if he wants. But right now, there’s a girl about to run into big trouble.”

Twilight and Cadence look at each other with faces full of worry, but Pinkie looks upset. “I just finished my first unbirthday cake! And besides, Alice-”

“Is about to run through a nightmare land where she almost gets killed or worse an innumerable amount of times. Just because she comes out of it fine at the end doesn’t mean I can’t just sit here and watch as a twelve-year-old kid gets sent through this hell of a world. Heck, I have powers and I may not have made it this far!”

Pinkie looks at me, her blue eyes radiating empathy. “Anthony, sometimes it’s about letting someone do it themselves. Saving someone when it’ll only help won’t help them. My Granny Pie has been talking about this day for ages, and I never thought I’d be here for it.” She puts a hoof on my chest and gives me a pleading look.

“Maybe it’s because I’m a jerk, but I feel like breaking the rules so a kid doesn’t have to walk through this place. I’ve read the books, I know exactly what happens... shit! She’s probably at the Chessboard right now!” I look in the direction Alice ran. “I want to help someone-” Pinkie hugs me, tight enough to knock my breath out. regardless, I finish my thought, though a bit quieter than the yelling I’d begun before.

“And if that means I’m the bad guy, then fine, stay here while I go help someone in trouble.” I go intangible and slip out of Pinkie’s embrace and rush off to the Chessboard.

Almost instantly, I find myself there, with a feeling like letting tension out of a rubber band. The whole castle is more grand than in the books, but more... simplistic, at the same time.

It’s strange, it’s less like a castle, and more like a child’s interpretation of what a castle should be. And I see Alice, somehow much farther through her story than she should be, grown immense. She breaks through the castle and throws chunks of masonry the size of buicks at the approaching guards, all of whom appear terrified. They don’t have a choice, but they have to march on Alice, who may as well be a god now that she’s ‘awoken’. Or is ‘waking’, I’m not sure which.

I grow to match her size.... well, I grow so we’ve essentially grown the same amount, me being about a head or two taller than her. Almost as if in response, a look of shock crosses her face, and she suddenly begins shrinking, becoming tiny. Right, she’d just eaten both the grow and the shrink effects, and then... Then I realize I’m a giant, a monstrous prince of the chessboard. And I just chased Alice untold miles through her story in an instant.

I shrink back down to my normal size, though Alice is much smaller than me. “Don’t worry, I’m not gonna hurt you. I want to help you. You’re in danger.”

Alice looks past me, and I see that I’ve turned translucent again. I want to scream, to burn something. Why can’t I change this?

Wunderland wants to play dirty? Fine. I’ll do the same. “Alright you goddamn queens, get over here. I’m gonna roast you both if you try to ignore me!”

I supercharge my heat form, and step quickly across the board towards the Red Queen, who currently looks human, minus a face that is nothing but a red heart-shape. The Queen’s head swivels towards me, and she whispers to me.

“Pieces can’t take their own color, Anthony. And you chose me.” the Queen waves a hand, and I find myself about-faced, once more towards a scared and running Alice. Maybe if I can get to her, push the others away from her... I can’t take them, but any piece you can’t take can block your movement, right?

I turn to the Red Queen. “I’m not playing your game, anymore. I’m playing mine.” I rush over to where Alice is and prepare to completely obliterate anything that gets too close to her. After going nowhere fast, I remember I should slow down to proceed. I turn and give the Red Queen a dirty look before I continue towards Alice at a slower pace. Once I’m in front of her I address her.

“Sorry about scaring you earlier, but you aren’t safe here, Alice. Come with me if you want to live.” I have always wanted to say that!

Alice looks at me for a moment, and the world goes sort of... fuzzy. All around her, the world drifts out of focus for a moment, before her gaze slips from me, turning back towards the assembled army. I feel like puking, whatever just happened was like getting run through the most violent sea-voyage compressed into two seconds.

Fighting my gag-reflex I turn to the army of pieces and cards. “Now we can do this the easy way, or the hot way.” I surround myself in flames once more, the fire burning a sky-blue for some reason. “Any of you bastards gonna try and stop me?”

The army charges again, all of them screaming for Alice. I prepare to toast the first one to come near me, but they begin to march in a spiral, mid-air, going up, over, and around me, Alice running along the base of the tilted spiral like it was a tube. It’s over, one way or another, but I can still pour my anger out at all these cheating, lying, manipulative assholes. I may be too late by their trickery, but at least I can avenge what’s happened.

I look down at the board at my feet, and set it ablaze. They want games? They’re gonna need a new board. I proceed to do what I did with the flowers and run around. My flaming footsteps singeing all the pieces around me to black, a field of indistinguishable desolation.

Finally, I run through the assembled card soldiers, all of them looking like they’re afraid. If they’re so afraid, though, then they should run. But they don’t, and I light them up, screaming my throat raw. I’m not in the mood for quiet anymore.

I feel two options are available. One, find the queens and force them to tell me where Alice is. The other being to just try and figure it out myself. This being Wunderland, I think the former option is best.

“Alright you royal pains! Get over here. Now!”

A pair of huge chess pieces slide over to me, each a Queen in white or red. Slowly, they begin to take the forms of alicorns, their eyes glazed for several seconds after they finish.

“Where is Alice? You better not make this any more difficult than it has to be... no, any more difficult than I want it to be.”

The two alicorns begin to speak, perfectly in unison, their eyes still glazed. “She is home.”

“Yeah right. Prove it. Show me where she is.”

“She is not within Wonderland anymore. I have no power beyond its borders, and very little beyond the Board. My part has been played, and I have exited the stage.”

“Why do I not believe you? Speak up, or I kill your puppets.”

“Do as you wish, I am already fading. The Alice awakens, and she will guide the world.”

“Fine, I’ll take your word for it. But if Alice is still here somewhere, you’re going to regret every breath you spent lying to me.”

“I have completed the reason for my existence. Why would I regret anything?” The two alicorns begin to fade, slowly reshaping into a pegasus and an earth pony, both of whom appear starved.

My work here seems done, so I leave the ponies and head back to the rest of my group. I still want confirmation of Alice’s escape though. The cat appears, with the most disgruntled look on her face I’ve ever seen on a cat.

“You broke the deal.” the cat says, before flicking her tail and leading me to my friends.

“I did not. The deal was that you take me to my friends and the Gate. Never was it mentioned if I could or could not do something else before we reached the gate.” I stare at the cat as I follow it.

“Not that deal! The one at the gate. Or does nobody bother to read it anymore?”

“There was nothing at the Gate but trees. If you want something known, express it clearly or it’s your fault.”

“It’s on your side of the gate, all up and down the rim. It’s not my fault if whoever sent you here failed to mention that stepping through the Gate constitutes a binding contract. You’re supposed to read the entire thing, which activates it until you come back. What, do you have some village or something on this side of the Gate to keep it open?” The cat says, sarcastically.

“On this side, no. But the Gate on our side opens and closes whenever the heck it wants, no reading required, just being there when the Gate decides to open.”

The cat looks at me like I’m stupid, which is probably what the cat thinks. “Gates don’t work like that, but I suppose that’s all you can understand of it. Bah, I just wish that Blueish pony had bothered to tell others what I told him about making and using Gates. Either way, here are your friends.” The cat gestures, and sure enough we’re at the clearing with Pinkie, Twilight, and Cadence. Anne is nowhere to be seen.

“Anne better be here and invisible, or I will really shave you.” I say staring at the cat.

“She did that thing she does when she saw your princess, and now I can’t tell where she is.” The cat chuckles, dark mood breaking. “Heh, I bet she’d excel at hide-and-seek.”

I pull some coal out of my satchel and, making a set of small spinning sawblades, call out for Anne.

I blink, and drop the saws as I suddenly realize that Anne is clinging to me, opposite from where Cadence is talking. The harpy is burying her face in my side, and I can feel the wetness of her tears. It’s really weird, because she must’ve been hanging on to me for a few moments, but I didn’t feel her at all.

“Alright. I suppose our vacation is over early. Come on, gang! We’re leaving!”

The whole group gets up, the ponies grumbling a bit, and Anne still clinging to me. I sigh, trying to figure out why she’s- oh wait, Cadence is an alicorn, and is pink.

“Anne, Cadence isn’t going to hurt you, she’s fine. As for you ponies, you can stay if you want I suppose, but I’m leaving. As far as I’m concerned, Wonderland is a complete waste of my time.”

The ponies quiet, and I lead us after the Cat, who finally brings us to a freestanding arch of stone, in the middle of a glade. A sheet of quicksilver ripples gently in the archway, and the arch itself is inscribed with the same runes and symbols as the machete I have.

Either way, this is not the Gate we came in through.

“Okay, I’m not stupid. We go through this and we’re not gonna end up in Canterlot, are we?” I stare at the cat once more, but it’s already almost gone, nothing but its eyes and a disappointed frown.

“Of course you’re not stupid. And yet, when you made the deal for me to lead you to ‘the Gate’, you forgot a big, important-”

“Yeah yeah, I know, which Gate I wanted to be taken to. Just shut up and poof away. Be someone else’s headache, fleabag.”

I feel a breeze across my chest and look down as the Cat glares and fades away. All of my clothes have just faded out as well, leaving me just the stainless, pure-white boxers Rarity made for me. all my gear went with it, minus the vorpal blade. I throw my hands up into the air.

“I don’t even fucking care anymore. Screw this place, I’m going home.” I say and step through the portal, awaiting the loopy effect from before. Next Chapter: Chapter 83 Estimated time remaining: 23 Hours, 21 Minutes

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