Status: This is an ongoing story! I will be posting chapters as I finish them. I hope you like the story and have as much fun reading it as I did/do writing it.

Once Upon a Time

Chapter One

It was dark inside the wolf.

She had gotten quite used to this fact. She often found herself in his stomach, waiting for the hunter to make his appearance to save her for the umpteenth time. As she waited, she began humming a tune quietly to herself. A rather annoying one, she realized, that the Pied Piper must have been playing the night before.
She was disrupted from her thoughts by a loud commotion. Placing her best panicked expression on her face, she prepared to be rescued. Daylight trickled into the wolf’s digestive system as she was unceremoniously sliced out of his gut, and the plot continued. “Why thank you, noble huntsman, what-” It was then she noticed that the ‘huntsman’ had a rather mischievous glint in his eye, and his grin was slightly lopsided. Rolling her eyes, she continued. “Whatever shall I do about Grandmother? Why, it seems as if she has been stuffed in the closet this whole time!”

As she reached the closet and opened it to help her Grandmother, she eyed the man standing rather pretentiously in the corner. He supplied her with a sly wink, causing her to roll her eyes yet again.
The light dimmed, signaling her story’s end. Her face fell as she walked out of the cottage, mysterious man in tow. When she approached the end of eavesdropping distance from the cottage, she whirled around. Eyes flashing with anger, she hissed. “Just what are you doing out of your book, Hood?”
Robin shrugged, flashing that lopsided grin yet again. “I was simply bored, Miss Hood! I was tired of hearing the friar’s story about how he nearly choked on a leg of mutton that he decided he should eat whole-a story I’ve heard, far too often, mind-and I thought what better way to pass the time than to have a little fun in someone else’s story.” A moment or two passed, in which he seemed to be in deep concentration (a feat she thought impossible and probably dangerous). His eyes lit up as he added, “Plus, I’ve always found your story to be much more enjoyable than my own.”
At this, she laughed, and began walking into the forest. “How can you possibly find your own story to be boring? You get to go on adventures with your merry men, thwarting an evil sheriff’s plans for ultimate chaos along the way! Now, I don’t know about you, but I hardly find that to be less enjoyable than my own tale.”
Robin scoffed. “Red, those adventures are the same ones I’ve been doing for years now. The surprising twists are far less surprising the hundredth go around than the first. Little John’s stories of the many women he’s-erm..” He trailed off, eyes tracing the ground for a moment. “...courted, throughout his life have become predictable.” He stopped in his tracks, and turned to her. “I suppose what I mean to say is, I’ve grown tired of my own story.” He looked around at the dense forest, a wistful glaze over his bright green eyes. “Hence why I’m here. Story hopping.”
Red busied herself picking off strands of wolf fur, giving herself time to think. At last, she spoke.

“Well, while I personally wouldn’t ever leave my book for another tale, I can understand where you’re coming from. You’re a man of great adventures in epic proportions. It’s no wonder you’re looking for greater adventures in even more epic proportions.” She paused, pondering her next words carefully. “I suppose if you really must get out of your own pages, you could join mine-” A wall of musty forest vigilante slammed into her as she was crushed into a giant bear hug, her words quite literally being squashed out of her. There were a few too many arms involved in the embrace, however..
Her eyes widened in shock as she wriggled out of the hold to assess the situation properly. In front of her-looking quite sheepish-stood the entire cast of Robin’s merry men!

She turned to Robin, accusatory finger raised and poised for the attack. “You said it was only you who was here. Hood, what the hell-”
Robin raised his hands in a pathetic attempt of surrender. “Well, I did only mention myself in the whole ‘I need a break from monotony’ tirade, but I didn’t exactly say that it was only me who was needing the break.” His best attempt at a confident leer tentatively crept across his face, but under the scrutiny of a girl who had learned the ways of deception via a towering mass of foul smelling fur, it darted back into his features before fully coming to fruition.
Hands on her hips, she paced for what seemed like ages but was probably much shorter. She sighed, scoring the ground with the heel of her worn leather boots. Turning to the crowd of men, she sighed again. Looking up to the heavens, she grimaced. “You owe me for this, Hood,” she muttered.
At this, cheers rang out as the men slapped each other heartily on the shoulders, their noises carried into the branches above and swept away by the wind. Before they could turn to leave however, Red decided she had one more thing to add. Grabbing Robin’s forearm, she turned him to face her, sending a severe glare into his jovial jade eyes. “So long as you don’t go messing about my story while you’re here, you can stay. If you put a toe out of line-” Robin cut into her tirade with a boyish giggle. “Come now, Red, surely you can be more original than that?”
The next few weeks were spent in a similar fashion than the first, save for the fact that Red’s usual tale had a few more characters. One day in particular, John had swapped places with her wolf, donning an awful fur suit that fit him so terribly that Red could scarcely get past her usual questionnaire about his appearance without laughing. This was all ended abruptly however, as her real wolf grabbed onto the scruff of the costume and yanked John aside, looking very put out by the whole thing. All Red could do was give him an apologetic glance as she swiped at the tears on her cheeks. She later baked him a tray (or seven) of his favorite brownies-chocolate chip with a marshmallow coating on top sprinkled with even more chocolate chips-which seemed to do the trick-so that her wolf wouldn’t find himself having forest man for lunch.
Red’s grandmother, on the other hand, seemed to find the whole situation a riot. When asked why she was found giggling in the closet during one of the readings, she just shrugged and said, “It’s not every day one comes across this much fun in their story. I find it to be very enjoyable.” Red couldn’t help but agree. Even though she wasn’t much of a rule breaker, she didn’t see the harm in bending a few, just as long as her story didn’t get shelved for it.
“Hey, Red!”
“There’s a party over at the Writer’s Block tonight, want to come?”
“Well, parties aren’t really my thing..”
“Come on, Red. Live a little!”
“Oh right, because being eaten whole by a wolf on a daily basis isn’t ‘living a little’...”
“I’m waiting…”
“Alright, fine. Just don’t make me do any socializing!”

This was the conversation that happened in the early morning hours before her story was read. It was some time later as she went to take her daily wash to get the stench of wolf off her that she was forced to remember the earlier discussion.
As she went on her walk back to her cottage, she was stopped by Little John. Well, he had tried to stop her. With how much time she had spent around the merry men as of late, she was starting to believe that some-if not most-of them really had no clue about the importance of washing wolf stomach acid off of one’s body. It was Red’s opinion that any conversation could be had after she no longer smelled like wolf intestines.
It seemed as if John was not going to leave her alone with her thoughts until then, however. Finally deciding to acknowledge his presence, she groaned. “Alright, I’ll bite. What do you want, John?”

John, looking rather sheepish, muttered something under his breath.
“I’m sorry, what was that?”
Flinching, he raised his voice a fraction. “R-Robin wants me to escort you to the party, Miss Hood.”
“Yeah, at Writer’ Block?”

She paused, recalling their earlier conversation. As the topic of the party came back to her, her frame shrank with dread at the prospect. “Ah, it seems I forgot.” What she wanted to say was, “I was sort of hoping no one would remind me of it, and yet here we are.”
Turning back to her trek to her lovely cottage, she replied. “Well, I suppose I’ll go after all. Let me get changed into something more presentable, and I’ll meet you there.”

‘Something more presentable’ turned out to be the exact same dress, minus the wolf slime. She had made one change to her outfit, however, and she was quite proud of herself. She left her hair down. And brushed it a little. Red quite liked her simple light blue gown, and didn’t see a problem with only having one pair of leather boots at a time. She never liked being all fancy, all the frills and lace that a woman in her story tended to wear simply exhausted Red to no end. As for the hair, as long as there was still some on her head in the morning she didn’t look twice.
The esteemed Writer’s Block Bar was not in her story. Like every other storybook character, she had to travel to the very end of her pages, past the very last word, and dive off the cliff hanger (which was literally a cliff at the end of the last word) into the portal to the Bookshelf. From there it was another series of turns until she reached a massive wall in which was a hidden door, and she had reached tonight’s festivities.
The bar itself looked rather bland on the outside. It was a simple red brick wall, and inside was a very bland color pallet. Inside, it looked as if someone wasn’t quite sure whether to go with a sepia filter or to go all black and white, so it appeared they went for both. At first glance, one might think it to be quite the boring party scene, but that’s assuming that every night the bar wasn’t filled with wild entertainment. Some nights, Aladdin would come and do tricks on his floating carpet, and others Peter Pan would appear and sprinkle pixie dust everywhere, causing patrons to float about the room. When he showed, however, staff made sure to bolt down chairs and tables so as not to cause too much injury. Every once in a while, the mysterious man (who Red simply couldn’t remember the name of) who looked to be made entirely of bone wearing a scarf and dressed quite dapper did elemental magic. When you asked his name he simply replied, “Names have power, and so I won't give mine to you.” which was rather frustrating if one ever wanted to go to his story and ask after him.

Red had just started to reach for her hood to pull it over her head and face, when she was tapped on the shoulder. Hand on the small knife tucked away in the hilt she never took off, she turned.
Upon realizing who the mysterious shoulder-tapper was, she relaxed and began beaming. “Alice! How good to see you again!”
The girl returned her grin, blonde curls bouncing with excitement. “Hello, Red! It has been such a long time.” She wore her usual attire, solid blue dress with a frilly white apron. Instead of drinking from one of the pints from the bar, she sipped delicately from a tea set that appeared to be dancing a jig around the table.
Red snagged a chair over in the corner, away from most of the noise. Flagging down a waiter and ordering a round of drinks, she replied. “It really has, you should try to get away from Hatter’s...antics, more often!”
Alice rolled her eyes, peering out the window. “He’s not so bad once you get to know him. That’s not exactly what’s kept me away anyway..” As she spoke, her brow furrowed in concentration, fingers restlessly toying with a hole in her sleeve.
Red placed a hand over Alice’s, breaking her out of her thoughts. “What’s wrong, Al?
Almost as soon as she spoke, Alice’s eyes began to fill with tears. Red, being no good at emotions, started to curse under her breath at the sight.
Alice took a moment to compose herself before speaking.
“It’s the White Rabbit.” Tears threatened to appear again.
Still confused, Red persisted.
“What do you mean, Al?”
When Alice next spoke, her voice shook.“He’s gone. Hasn’t shown for our readings for quite some time now. Thankfully his family lives in the area, so they have been swapping out every couple days. I have asked everyone I know and they simply cannot recall having seen him lately. I’m getting quite worried, Red.”
Red’s heart sank at the news. As anyone would know, without the White Rabbit, Alice had no story. If any character were to not show for a reading and was noticed by their Reader, it could spell a story’s end. Permanently. Clearing her throat, she prodded on. “Did he say anything to you before he left? Do you have any clue where he could have gone?” She paused, thinking. “And how on earth has no one noticed? Won’t his disappearance cause..y’know..” She couldn’t voice the last bit; it was too horrible. Alice nodded. “His family have been taking his place for a while now, but I am hoping that he will return before the Readers notice.” Red could imagine just how terribly his family was doing acting as the White Rabbit. You would think that his whole family acted just like him, but his brothers and sisters were quite lazy in comparison, and his father and mother simply lacked the energy to do the part.
Alice sipped her tea, and then sat bolt upright as she remembered something. Pulling out her journal, she rifled through the pages until she found the one. “I didn’t think much of it at first, I thought perhaps that Cheshire had upset him-you know how he is-but I did find this symbol on the door of his home.”
On the page she had drawn an image of the White Rabbit’s door, and on the door was something Red had never seen. “Do you think maybe The Bookworm has any idea?”
Alice shook her head again. “Like I said, I’ve asked everyone who knows our story, and not one of them knows a thing about what’s happened.” After a moment, tears began welling up in her eyes again. “I’m terribly frightened, Red. I don’t know what to do. If my Writer catches on-”

Red grabbed Alice’s hand again, squeezing it tightly. “Alice, I promise you it won’t come to that. We’ll get this sorted before...before that.”
It was at that moment Red took a second glance at what was scribbled in her friend’s journal. An image of an inkwell whose contents had been been spilled in the shape of two words.

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This is currently an ongoing novel (unless it says "The End" at..well, the end). That's all, enjoy!