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Chapter 1: Neschermant

Madeline propped herself up on her elbows, rubbing her head, she couldn't recognize where she was...All she remembered was climbing a tree, and falling through it...Like part of it wasn't real...

Oh, brilliant...Of all holidays to get lost, you had to go and choose Christmas...

She had been allowed five minutes to leave her grandfather's party to go look at the windmill near the backyard, why she ever decided to climb the old oak tree, she'd never know.

She pulled her fake fur-lined hood up over her curly, golden brown hair, and hugged her cream colored coat around herself tightly. Why on Earth was it so cold here? And...Why was the snow tye-dyed...?

She bent forward placed a hand in the colorful crystals. She shivered, it seemed colder than regular snow...But why did someone paint it? Looking around her, she came to realize that the snow wasn't painted...the snow was real...Where was she?

Standing up, she could've sworn she heard voices...

"How did she get here?"

"I bet anything that she followed Lucas, he's always going to the surface..."

"Now now, Insovinia, let's not be hasty, should could've stumbled here on accident."

"Oh, shut up, Thackery..."

Madeline approached the voices, "Hello? Is anyone here? Who, may I ask, is speaking about me?"

Upon a closer view, she observed who was speaking...it was a mole...and a rabbit. The rabbit wore a small dress and had a book under her paw, the mole had small spectacles on the end of his snout, and a dress coat.

"She's spotted us, Thackery!" The fluffy-tailed animal shrieked.

"Insovinia, please, calm down, maybe she'll be...not...bad." the mole, apparently named Thackery, attempted to soothe the sharp-tongued hare.

"Uhm...Hello, sir, ma'am," Madeline said, attempting to treat the animals as a normal person, "By any chance, could either of you tell me where I am?"

"Uhm...Well, Miss...?" The mole began.

"Madeline, Madeline Swift," The golden brown-haired girl replied.

"Well, Ms. Swift, you're in Underworld."

"Underworld?! What have I done wrong?!" Madeline shouted, falling back into the snow.

"No, not that Underworld you stupid girl," Insovinia said, rolling her eyes.

"No, you see, we refer to our land as 'Underworld' around your kind, because your world, is 'Overworld'. In other words, your ground, is our sky," Thackery explained.

"So...Your world is...underneath mine?" Madeline asked.

"Yes," Insovinia said, with a curt nod.

"Well...Do...Do you have any idea how I can get back home, Sir?"

"Uhm...Well, you see-"

Insovinia cut him off, "He's useless, dear, you'll have to go find Lucas Kingsleigh; he hosts a neverending tea party, for every visitor to Neschermant."

"Neschermant?" Madeline asked.

"That's the proper name for this place, Ms. Swift," Thackery stated, pushing his glasses up the ridge of his snout.

"Okay...So, does...Lucas...know how to get me home?" Madeline asked.

"Well...we don't know...but he might know someone who can get you there, dearie," The dress-clad rabbit said.

"Alright...Do you think you could point the way?"

Thackery nodded, "Continue north for a while, then listen for a song, a strange song, a soothing song, one that you've probably never heard before, follow the song, and you'll probably find Sir Kingsleigh," The rodent said, pointing towards a large group of trees made of...water?

Madeline nodded and stood up, brushing the colorful ice crystals off of her dress, "Thank you very much, Mr. Thackery, and Ms. Insovinia," she said, smiling kindly, and walking off towards the trees.

"Silly girl..." Insovinia sighed, rolling her eyes and shaking her head, "Only Overworlders would be thick enough to seek out the madman in the waistcoat..."

"Now, Insovinia, don't be judgmental..."

"Hush up, Thackery...You know, I've never seen anyone dressed like that...in all gold and green..."

"Maybe it's an Overworld custom..."

"Maybe she's just stupid."

"Stop that, you rude little hare! Let's just hope she finds Sir Kingsleigh before someone else finds her..."

Chapter 2: The Song of Kingsleigh

Madeline wove her way through the dense thicket of trees, how wonderful it was...The land was beautiful...The colored snow, the liquid trees, and the bright flowers...

She wanted to stay, explore the world around her, but she knew she would get lost, and she couldn't have that, not when her family was expecting her, and not while there was someone waiting for company, which, she assumed, didn't come often in this realm.

Then she heard music, beautiful music...She listened to the sound...And realized it was just one voice...Oh, what a beautiful voice...

"Come inside, don't be afraid, it's just a little...mess I've made."

Madeline crept toward the noise, careful not to make a sound, she didn't want to disturb whoever was singing.

"Dear child come closer, I won't harm you, it's just not something, that I do..."

Madeline could've sworn that whoever was singing was beckoning to her...But she decided to ignore the call.

"If you're wondering who I am, where I come from, things like that, it all started with special a girl, a girl and this hat..."

Madeline came upon a clearing near the woods, and she hid behind the tree nearest to it. Carefully, she peeked around, to look at the mysterious singer.

"This hat, you see, was a gift, a gift made for me. Made by a hatter who was a girl, in fact, but, lucky for me, she hadn't yet cracked."

Carefully, Madeline looked around the trunk of the tree, to find a boy, dancing, his movements so fluid...almost as if he was made of liquid.

"Of course, in my future, that was my fate, I would soon snap, that wasn't all that great."

He twisted his legs inward, and bent down, his knees almost coming in contact with the surface, but not quite. Just as quickly, he pulled himself back up onto his feet, twirling a grey, matted top hat on his finger, all in a single swift motion. Madeline had no idea how anyone could move like that, but there he was, doing exactly what she thought was impossible...

"Sadly I lost this girl, by the cruelness of fate...Now she is known as 'Barbara, the late'..."

Madeline gasped slightly, hearing a sudden sadness in the tale...But he continued the song with a spring in his step.

"But enough about me child, tell me about you, how did you come here, and what can I do?"

He looked up at her, with impossibly green eyes...They were so vibrant, and tantalizing. Then he grinned, she noticed a small gap in his front teeth, but that seemed to give him all the more madness...yet a strange charm as well. She hid behind the tree again.

"Don't be afraid, don't mind me, I'm just a madman..." He approached the tree and looked around at her, "Who hasn't had company in oh-so long, would you like to stay for tea?"

Madeline backed up against the tall, natural structure, unsure of what to expect from this strange man..."Uhm...P-Pardon me, sir, but...Might I ask who you are?"

The strangely dressed boy seemed to take a moment to consider the question...as if he didn't know his own name, fiddling with a button on his waistcoat, he said,"...My name is...Tarrant."

"Tarrant?"

"Who?" The boy had a look of genuine confusion on his white face. "I'm afraid you must be mistaken, I'm known as Lucas."

"Lucas...Kingsleigh?" Madeline asked.

Lucas nodded, placing his hat over bright, curly, untidy, red hair, "That's right."

"Perfect! Mr. Kingsleigh, my name is Madeline Swift," She explained with a polite curtsy."And I require your help."

"Help? Funny, no one ever asks me for help these days..." Lucas said, turning around and walking towards a long table in the clearing.

Madeline followed, "Why ever not?"

"Well, around here, they say I'm mad as a hatter, which, is actually quite true, I went 'round the bend a long time ago," Lucas explained, walking onto a chair and from there onto the table, picking up a cracked teapot and a chipped cup.

Madeline sat down in a large armchair nearby the head of the table, "So...You're mad? And you realize it?"

Lucas nodded, "Entirely, yes. I've accepted it too, and I'm quite happy." He climbed off the table and sat in a chair next to Madeline, handing her the cup he was carrying.

She took it and looked down at the contents, not wanting to be rude, she took a sip. It wasn't tea, she could tell, but it wasn't bad, it was very sweet.

"So, what do you need help with?" The madman asked, a grin taking over his white face.

"Well," Madeline began, setting the cup down on a plate in front of her, "I was wondering if you knew how to get me back home."

"Where would 'home' be?" He asked.

Madeline pointed upwards to the sky, "The Overworld," she said.

"Overworld!" Lucas exclaimed, jumping out of his seat and onto the table.

Madeline shrunk back into her seat, surprised and slightly frightened...Was this madman going to harm her for being an Overworlder...?

He jumped off the table and landed in front of her, "The Overworld! I love the Overworld! You're from there, you say?"

Madeline sighed with relief, "Mhm, do you know how to get there?"

"Well...I don't, but I know someone who does!...Out of curiosity, why are you leaving so soon?" Lucas asked.

Madeline replied, warily, "I want to be home in time for the holidays."

Lucas tilted his head to one side and took out a pocketwatch, "Holidays? Is it Grisman's Day already?"

Madeline shook her head, "Oh, no, no, to get home for Christmas."

"Chris-What?" The oddly dressed madman asked.

"Christmas," Madeline repeated.

Lucas still had an expression of genuine confusion etched upon his white face, green eyes searched her brown ones for the answer...

"Wait...You're saying you have no idea what Christmas is?" Madeline asked, leaning forward.

The bright red-haired boy shook his head, "I haven't the foggiest, could you teach me?"

Madeline paused thoughtfully for a moment, "...Well...I'll make you a deal."

Lucas nodded, "I'm listening."

"I'll show you what Christmas is all about, if you can take me home."

Lucas grinned and nodded vigorously, "Yes, yes, yes! Brilliant idea! But first...Let's finish our tea." He turned around, and lifted a cracked teacup up high above his head.

Madeline smiled, maybe this madman wasn't as bad as she first assumed he would be...

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