Disclaimer- I own no character you may recognize from the book. They belong to their lovely creator, Gail Carson Levine.
Summary- Instead of Char finding out about Lela's true identity, Ella and Mandy tries to escape. Mandy becomes captured, but Ella soon arrives at a town called Bast. There, she catches the eye of another gentleman. Char, meanwhile, goes on a journey of his own…
A/n- Just another alternate ending to the wonderful book Ella Enchanted. Please read and review!
"Ella!" Hattie screeched as I hurriedly covered my face with my hands. Without my mask in the presence of Char, I felt naked, exposed. Not daring to risk a glance his way, I took off for the door at the end of this chamber.
"Ella?" I heard Char gasp from behind me, and I willed my racing heart to calm down. Hearing him say my real name after so long caused a sudden reaction within me that I didn't want to define. But instead of looking back and flinging myself into his arms, I ignored everything surrounding me and concentrated fully on the safety outside this castle, and the shelter provided in Mum Olga's place.
If I could get there in time.
I was running as if my life depended on it. Somewhere in the madness of my escape, I lost one of my glass slippers. I heard screams, shrieks, laughs, and other intimidating sounds and voices that kept me going. I was afraid that if I stopped for anything, Char would catch up with me and demand an explanation.
Finally, the sight of the manor came into view. I ran into the kitchen, looking for Mandy. She glanced up, startled, as I stormed in there, breathless and flushed.
"Sweet, what's wrong?" Mandy asked, coming over to the doorway. She handed me a glass of water, which I gulped down quickly. "Why are you home early?"
"No time for long explanations now, Mandy," I gasped. "We have to leave. Now. Char has seen my face."
Just then Nancy, the serving maid, bounced into the room, looking somewhat excited yet nervous at the same time. She clasped her hands together and whispered, her voice filled with thrill. "The prince is here! He wants to see everyone."
Before I even had a chance to open my mouth, Mandy spoke: "All right, Nancy. We'll be right there. Go ahead. Give Ella and me a few seconds to collect ourselves."
Nancy nodded and left hastily, leaving Mandy and I alone. I turned to her, waiting for instructions on what to do. I was feeling very frantic by this time. Char must have brought many extra knights, and they must have been patrolling outside this manor right now. How could we get away without being seen?
"Sweet, we won't have any time to pack. Come with me." Mandy ordered, and for once I was glad to obey.
We crept silently out through the door behind the servants' quarter. I could hear some knights talking among themselves on the other side, and their booming footsteps brought goosebumps onto my arms. I was deathly afraid that my thundering heart would give us away, and we would be found out and accompanied inside. There Char would surely recognize me, even in all my glory of soot and cinders.
However, we did manage to escape unnoticed at first. Mandy and I were quietly running down the road toward the mountain track some way not too far from the manor. Just as I was beginning to relax and slow my pace down a little bit, I heard the sound of people running after us. I knew I should have just kept running, but I couldn't help but turn back and sneak a peek.
Upon seeing who they were, the blood doubtlessly froze in my veins.
Knights. Char's knights.
It was Ella impersonating Lela at the ball. I knew that the moment Hattie carelessly snatched off her mask. It was only pride, and shock, that kept me from just scooping her up into my arms that exact instant. Her stepsister had written to me about her marrying a rich, old man and living happily ever after. Ella herself had penned the words of "married lady". What had gone on? What did I miss?
Just as I had regained my senses and was getting ready to go after Ella, that fright Hattie grabbed onto my arm, preventing me from reaching Ella in time. Therefore, after I commanded her to let go of me, Ella was long gone. Out of sight, out of reach.
But I prayed not for long.
I immediately ordered my men to go with me to Dame Olga's estate, where I knew Ella was staying. At least, I was pretty sure. Where else could she have gone to, if not her stepmother's home? But when I arrived and searched every single face there, I did not see hers. Even the servants were called. I inspected all of them myself for at least five times, yet it all turned out to be in vain.
"Are these all that reside here?" I asked Dame Olga, mother to Hattie and her sister Olive.
"Yes, Your Highness," She said, smiling what she thought may be a dazzling smile, but to me which just seemed forced.
"But what happened to Ella?" I asked, feeling suspicious. "Doesn't she live with you, since her father wed you last year?"
Dame Olga shot her daughters a look I didn't recognize. Hattie glowered, and Olive just seemed plain confused. I never thought the day would come when Olive and I would have something in common.
That was very unkind of me to think, but I really was not feeling very compassionate today. I had just witnessed Ella with my own eyes minutes ago, but now it seemed I had lost her once again.
"Ella has gone to live with her father on the road, Your Highness," Dame Olga finally replied. "She did not like the life here with us. She said that she found it simple and boring."
That was a complete and total lie. I knew Ella well enough to assume that she would never find anything simple or tedious. She can make anything worthwhile with her sweet and forgiving nature.
And Hattie must have forgotten to tell her mother about seeing Ella at the ball. With that forewarning, maybe she would have thought up a better fib.
"But why the search, Your Highness?" Hattie asked, looking at me with what she'd think as innocent eyes. "You must not hope to find Ella here? She really was staying with her father. We feel hurt that she did not tell us that she has come back to attend your balls."
"Isn't she supposed to be married to an old, wealthy man that lives far away from Frell?" I asked, trying another tactic. Perhaps that would help me get to the bottom of that last letter.
All three women seemed puzzled by my question. They all shook their heads, and Dame Olga answered. "No, Your Highness. I'm afraid Ella has yet to enter the matrimonial state."
Well, I guess that meant the letter was all a cruel trick. But why would Ella do something like that? Did she have any secrets to hide from me? What is concealed under her radiant smile and breathtakingly deep eyes?
I definitely wasn't going to find out by merely standing there and questioning them all day. Just as I was getting ready to bid them farewell and leave to search elsewhere, one of my knights, Stephan, came rushing into the room.
Surprised at his breathless state, I asked him what was wrong.
"We've just seen two women running off toward the mountains, Your Highness. And one of them may just be Ella."
"Keep running, sweet," Mandy called to me. "Concentrate on getting away. Don't look back."
Her commands helped. I concentrated on outrunning the knights. I didn't look back, and that certainly worked to my advantage of being frightened. After awhile, the only thing I could hear was my own ragged breathing, and my and Mandy's footsteps as we flew in the direction of safety.
"Mandy," I wheezed, halting to catch my breath. "Have we lost them?"
Mandy unwillingly stopped also, and glanced back to look. I watched as her eyes slowly widened, and I wished to have a peep also. Mandy grabbed my arm and soon we were racing with the wind again to the mountains.
"I take it they're not gone?" I asked as we resumed our running.
"They're too close to us, sweet." Mandy murmured, and I had to strain to hear her.
It's at that moment when I heard the earsplitting voices behind us, calling us to stop. The sounds sounded too near, and their steps were quickly approaching, too. Fear gripped my insides, and I squeezed Mandy's arm.
"Can't you just use the teeniest bit of magic for us to get away?" I whispered, feeling quite desperate.
"I'm sorry, sweet. But that will prove to be big magic." Mandy did sound sorry. But at that time I was feeling to bitter and scared to care much for it.
"They'll catch us soon if you don't do something," I hissed loudly, and blinked back my tears. "Mandy, just this once, please?"
Mandy didn't speak. Instead, she tightened her hold on my arm and we were running faster than ever in the direction of the mountain. All I could think as we got closer and closer was that any minute, the knights will catch up to us and we will be brought back. Then I will have to face Char and there is no way I could lie to him face to face.
However, the thought of keeping him safe and free of worry was enough to make my legs go a little further when they felt like giving out. I ignored the cramp in my stomach, and the soreness of my throat. Not too long after, we arrived at the base of the mountain, where a little forest stood waiting at the edge.
Using the little of our strength that we had left, Mandy and I went in. Mandy informed me breathlessly that I could stop running. I immediately collapsed against a tree, and leaned there panting for a moment. Mandy did the same.
"Well, we did it," She said, smiling at me. "We escaped."
I smiled back. But no sooner were the words out of her mouth, I heard the sounds of the knights approaching once again. Gasping for breath as I struggled to right myself, I stumbled and fell just as they tore into the forest.
"Get up and start running, Ella," Mandy instructed. "I'll take care of them. Try not to worry about me. I will be fine. Now GO!"
I was powerless against the force of her commands. Picking myself up, I began running again. I heard shouts from behind me, but didn't dare turn around. I don't know what Mandy did to hold them off, but none of the knights caught up with me. Before long, I couldn't hear anything anymore, except the chirping of the birds and the occasional hooting of the owls.
I stopped my running and slowly turned around. I could see nothing except the outline of trees. Darkness consumed me, and I sank into the ground, feeling completely exhausted and helpless.
Gazing into wilderness, I whispered one last word before I gave in. "Mandy?"
But I was met with only an eerie silence.
A/n- Please review! Just tell me whatever you thought of this first chapter. Reviews are totally my biggest inspiration.