Watch the Queen Conquer
By Jen Lee (AurumArrows)
Twisted from Alice in Wonderland
For years, Wonderland has been engaged with a civil war against rival factions: The Reds and The Whites. Two different ideologies, two different views, two different women fighting for a monopoly on the crown. Both colors symbolize power, but which one will win the struggle?
In the land of topiary and roses, the Queen of Hearts sits and with nearly unmatched skill, commands the chessboard and the cards. The King, the Rook, the Knight, the Bishop, and the Pawn are all at her disposal as well as half the deck. Hearts and Diamonds take up arms against their black counterparts.
In the land of marble and snow is the newly coronated White Queen, otherwise known as the wayward traveler Alice Liddell. She commanded the White Pieces, the Spades, and Clubs. All the people who feared the Queen of Hearts went to her for safety, though in reality, Alice granted haven for people of a certain color.
Well since her coronation, the country was torn apart, quite literally. Roads don’t lead to where they were meant to lead. Buildings warped, the green chessboard barren, and the sky, a cacophonous mixture of red and white; only the rising motion of the sun and moon stayed constant. Wonderland was always mad, but this was just ridiculous.
The Queen of Hearts sipped her tea, bit a crumpet, and listened intently to the war board brief. Most of the pieces and aces were there, albeit roughed up. Normally she concerned herself with cards, but ever since Alice captured the Red Queen, the Queen of Hearts assumed her position until she returned. Someone needs to command them, but the Red Pieces were resilient against anyone. Really, the only thing that is keeping this alliance together is Alice and her reign of terror across Wonderland.
“Your Majesty,” a man said. It was the Ace of Diamonds, holding a scroll embellished with rhombus designs. The Queen of Hearts couldn’t help but wonder how her sister was doing. “I’m afraid that our division in the Mushroom Forest was defeated. We still have a small stronghold, along the western border, but if we don’t send reinforcements, then The Whites will most likely take control of the terrain.”
Consenting murmurs were heard throughout the table. The Queen of Hearts kept a placid face, but inside, she was extremely exhausted. Her normal energetic personality has faded to weariness. The times of shouting “off with your head” were over and replaced with a halfhearted “send the soldiers here.” The latter was more of death
sentence than anything else.
She never really beheaded anyone; it was all in good spirit. In the long run, she supposed it was a bad idea since most of her subjects left in fear. On the bright side, now most of those subjects lived in fear under Alice and in an act of quiet defiance, sent her limited but vital information. But what use was the information if you can’t handle it right?
The queen had to give Alice some credit for being in charge of a large force at such a young age. But will she be able to handle it, is the true question. She already got her answer, and the answer is no. Although Alice was skillfully commanding an army, she doesn’t have any experience. She’s young, naïve, and like most people her age, a bit idealistic.
Another person stood up; this time it was the Knight. “I will not allow any more of the Red Queen’s people to be decimated. How many Pawns have been lost? How many will lose their lives? The Chess Pieces are all in an uproar. If this alliance shall continue, then we need a victory.”
She turned her eyes to him. “I am trying.”
The Knight slammed his palms onto the table, causing it to shake and the board members to flinch. “It is not enough! The only substantial win that we had was last month, and that was at the cost of thousands of pieces and cards!”
“Silence!” The queen flared her nostrils and sent a withering look at the Knight. “If I do recall, this is my kingdom. I may be an incapable commander in your eyes, but I am willing to do anything to win this war and bring relative peace back to Wonderland. You know very well that the Chess Pieces cannot function without both a king and a queen. Whether you like it or not, we are allies.”
The meeting room fell silent. The Knight stared at the Queen of Hearts, muttered an apology, stiffly bowed, and sat down.
For a moment there, she felt like she was in control, back in the good old days of peacetime when everyone listened to her. Does the same hold true for now? She took a deep breath and stood up, back straight and eyes meeting the faces of everyone at the table. All attention was drawn to her, and she would make it worth their while.
“Well, now that ordeal is over, I propose a change of plans.” She took another sip of her tea, for her throat was very dry after scolding the Knight. The queen wasn’t the best at strategy, but she knew that this plan was their best chance at winning. “This game has been going on for four years now. Pieces sacrificed, cards discarded, and clearly, just wantonly throwing them at the enemy isn’t going to work.” She paused. “If it is one advantage we have over The Whites, it is that we have a steady line of supplies.
“Although they do have better-trained warriors, no offense, we live in the warmer parts of Wonderland. Food is available all year-round and we are prepared to fight a war of attrition. I know that fighting this way is, perhaps, not the most exciting but if we are to win this war, then it is the best course.” She breathed in deeply. “Any questions?”
She was met with fearful no’s and a hint of approval.
The queen clapped her hands. “Wonderful! Now then, let us adjourn and meet again in—you there! What time is it?”
“It is nearly 3, your Majesty.”
“—In an hour. I expect no tardiness from anyone.”
The room slowly filtered out, leaving the Queen of Hearts to her own devices. Very rarely would she call a meeting in the days before the war. By this time of day, her subjects and she would be outside playing a nice game of croquet with the flamingos.
There seems to be no end to this power struggle. A war of attrition would take months, maybe even years to win. Alice’s will was strong, but will it fall to waiting? Only time will tell. The queen remembered the first time she met little Alice, an insolent little girl who managed to worm her way to the royal court. Now, she was still insolent but this time, she was a force to be reckoned with.
Everything associated with the color red was promptly executed by the White Queen’s soldiers, by guillotines of all things! In an ironic twist, it was The Whites who were causing so much red to be splattered upon the streets. The event was aptly named the “White Terror” and dropped a dark stain on Wonderland’s peaceful history. For years, the Red and White Kingdoms have peacefully coexisted and it was only now that any sort of major conflict emerged.
This wanton persecution was unlike what the quivering White Queen would do. What exactly was happening? It was only later, when the Queen of Hearts’s kingdom was infringed, she knew exactly what was going on. In between the smoke and ash from a burning village, the last person she expected to see was Alice dressed in white regalia holding a sword, a wicked gleam in her eyes, and a diamond tiara situated on her fair hair. The Queen of Hearts was no fool: Alice has dethroned the White Queen.
Both women quickly glanced at one another, condescending blue eyes meeting surprised brown eyes.
“Alice, what are you doing?” the Queen of Hearts fearfully said. “I’ve never known you well, but this is unlike of what a proper girl should be doing! Please, lay down your sword and let us settle this diplomatically. Why, it was only yesterday when you were in the court and if you’re angry about that, then I express my deepest apologies.”
Alice looked at the queen with an unreadable expression. “Yesterday? Several years have passed since yesterday. It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person.”
The Queen of Hearts grimaced at the memory. A different person indeed. Time works differently in Wonderland: One second here is forever in Alice’s world, but yesterday couldn’t be the answer. Something changed within Alice, but what was that something, the queen hadn’t had the faintest idea.
The queen paused in her thoughts. In retrospect, she too had changed. Films of memories played in her head: yelling at everyone in a fury, executing innocents (she knew her husband pardoned them behind her back, but the orders didn’t really mean anything), and abusing her people. She was more of a child than Alice was and if good came out of this war, it was that it taught the queen responsibility. The only thing that stayed the same was her blood-pressure levels. The sun never sets on them.
She looked down at the chessboard. The answer to victory lay in those red and white squares. On the red side, there were two Knights, two Bishops, a Rook, and a handful of Pawns left on the table. The Red King, of course, is safely sheltered away. That was one thing The Reds had going for them; the Red Queen may have been captured, but the game doesn’t end until the King is checked.
As for the cards, she still had two aces up her sleeve while Alice only had one. Whether she can use her trump cards correctly is another matter entirely. The queen knew that Alice’s alliance with the Spades and the Clubs was tentative as they were of a different color, and she knew that the White Chess Pieces didn’t exactly see her as the true leader. It was only a matter of time before Alice’s regime collapsed under the strained alliance.
She knew how the game was played. Slowly, deliberately, calculatingly, she moved a Pawn one square up.