Nodding to herself, she suddenly marches toward the refreshment tables, her arms swaying with determination.
Startled, I hurry to catch up with her. “What are you doing?”
One of the goblins spots us and nudges his friend in the ribs. Quickly, the small monsters dart under the tablecloth.
Instead of answering me, Alice pulls up the cloth and leans over.
Stupefied, I watch as she grabs one of the goblins by its flabby arm and yanks it out from the protection of the table.
“No, not you,” she says almost immediately, shoving it away and going back for another.
The goblin shrieks and runs for the closest door, drawing the attention of nearly everyone in the ballroom. Even the players go silent as Alice drags another goblin from under the table.
The others cower in the corner, squealing like terrified piglets.
“You,” she says darkly, bringing the goblin into the light. He wears a woman’s corset on his bulbous body, along with several satin ribbons and an assortment of jewelry.
His eyes go wide with terror. He could easily shred Alice’s exposed skin with his sharp, jagged talons, but he doesn’t dare.
“Give me back my grandmother’s ring,” Alice demands, pointing at the band that hangs from a piece of leather around the goblin’s neck. “Now.”
Shaking, the monster quickly does as it's commanded, thrusting the ring, leather and all, into Alice’s hand. It then prostrates itself on the floor, babbling a string of guttural nonsense that can be nothing but a desperate plea for forgiveness.
Alice kneels in her elaborate ballgown, looking down on the miserable creature. “Do you know what I am? Do you know who I belong to?”
The pathetic creature nods.
“Good,” she says hotly. “Then you know why you will return to your lair or den or whatever your kind hole up in, and you will fetch every last thing you stole from my trunks and return them to Prince Brahm’s estate. Do you understand?”
He nods, nearly smacking his forehead on the ballroom floor.
Alice stands, wiping her hands, likely regretting touching him. “Get out.”
The goblin stumbles to his feet and runs from the room as if a dragon is on his heels.
When Alice turns back, she goes still. Perhaps she didn’t realize she’d drawn such a crowd.
People gather around us, amused by the display. They watch Alice, wondering if she’s something a little different—something they could embrace.
Mother would be livid, but she’s passed out on her throne, fast asleep like she always is by this time of night.
Alice scans her audience, and then she straightens her spine and walks to my side. Concealing a grin, I offer her my arm. “Would you like to wash your hands?”
“Very much, thank you,” she answers primly.
Leaving Alice’s spectators behind, we go into the garden.