This is how the Story Ends…

Authors' Note:

First off, this is a joint project by BellaRina Girl and her co-author Jax Creation (/u/1450575/).
You could think of it being a Jackabelle Creation (inside joke, funny to us, maybe not to you.)

This is how the Story Ends ('Story's End' for short) is set in an alternate universe to the book and movie and in this universe there are no such things as vampires - dragons and witches perhaps, but no vampires... at least we don't have any of them planned, yet. Before you ask, of course there is cringeworthy, lemony romance (Jax finds all romance cringeworthy - yet she writes it... stupid) but there's also humor, drama and all sorts of other things thrown into the mix! So please read on and, if you have time, leave us a review!

N.B. Bella receives and replies to all reviews on behalf of both Jax and herself. If you have a particular question for or want an comment from Jax, please mention it in your review so that Bella can forward it to her and then send back the reply.


P R O L O G U E

It was raining.

Charlie Swan grumbled to himself as his right leg, still slow and stiff from his days as a captain in the royal army, throbbed, as it always did when bad weather descended on the kingdom. The hour was later than Charlie would have liked. Usually he would be tucked up in bed but tonight he had reason to stay awake; the messenger from Lord Carlisle had arrived only an hour ago to inform Charlie that a 'Lady Isabella Swan' was in a carriage and on her way to his house.

The former captain lurched to his feet as a carriage bearing the coat-of-arms of Duke Phillip of Dwyer halted outside his shack and hurried to open the door for his skin-soaked daughter. He looked over, feeling as if he were looking at a stranger; she had changed so much since he'd last seen her, ten years ago. Bella was no longer the small, tomboyish little girl who'd always refused to act a lady; her hair, which had once been red, was chestnut brown and she'd let it grow down to her waist; she was a lot paler and bit thinner than he remembered and her gown, through now torn and dirtied was made of material that Charlie would never have been able to afford. A sardonic smile inched onto his features, so Renee had found the rich man she'd always wanted, it quickly disappeared as Charlie cast the bitter thought aside and forced himself to look into Bella's tear-streaked face.

"Long time no see, Belles," he said quietly, his voice cracking slightly with overwhelming emotion.

Bella's lower lip trembled, then she crumbled and threw herself at her father. "Dad..." she whispered, her eyes welling up, "It's you… it's really…"

Charlie reached out and hugged her, almost breaking down into tears himself; it was the first fatherly act he'd be able to make in ten years. He soothed her until the tears stopped. "It's alright, Belles," he told her. "Why don't you sit down?"

In a broken manner, she did as she was told while Charlie limped into his tiny kitchen and fixed tea for them both, adding a few herbs into his cup to relieve the pain in his leg.

"Here you go."

Bella stared blankly at the liquid in the cheap china on the table in front of her.

"Drink," Charlie ordered, slipping momentarily into soldier mode. "It'll make you feel better," he added in a softer tone.

Wordlessly she obeyed.

Charlie sat down beside her and sipped his own tea, feeling the ache in his leg ease slightly and wondering what he ought to say or do to comfort Bella.

"Dad," she mumbled suddenly, causing Charlie to jerk and spill the drink onto his nightshirt. "Will you tell me a story?"

For a moment Charlie felt as if time had gone backwards and he was sitting with a five-year-old Bella just before bedtime. He smiled gently realising that this could be his opportunity to help her, to show her that she made the right choices throughout this last year and that it wasn't all over just yet.

And so, he began…


C H A P T E R O N E

Once upon a time, in a kingdom far, far away there was a young lady, her name was Isabella Swan - though she preferred to be called Bella because to her, Isabella was far too formal. Her father disappeared during a civil war that ended when the throne was usurped by the tyrant, King Archibald of Dwyer and the true royal family disappeared. Bella's mother remarried five years later to Duke Phillip of Dwyer, the cousin of the evil king and Bella soon became one of the most adorned ornaments of the royal court. However the true story begins on the day of Lady Isabella's seventeenth birthday…

"Miss Bella, may I come in?"

Bella covered her head with a pillow, pretending to be asleep as her maid; a petite young woman with short, spiky black hair by the name of Alice bustled around the room, carefully folding gowns and nightdresses into a rather large trunk to be taken to the Palace for their weekend stay at the Palace where Bella's seventeenth birthday celebrations would be held. The maid was dressed in the typical navy blue shift and white apron of the Dwyer servants. Finished with the packing, she glanced at the lump on the bed and sighed, then giggled and yanked away the bed sheets. "Miss, you can't fool me, if you don't get out of bed I shall have to make you do so. Plus, you're too old to be taking naps in the afternoon."

"Oh dear God," groaned Bella, sitting up and rolling out of bed in a most unladylike fashion. "I don't want to go…"

"Miss Bella, you have to go, the celebration is for you, after all. A party at the palace, what I wouldn't give to be a part of it!" said Alice cheerfully. "Look, you've even got a new dress to wear for the occasion!"

Bella eyed the box that Alice had set on the bed warily. "Throw it away," she ordered.

Alice laughed and opened the box, knowing full well that Bella wouldn't touch it. "Milady, it's a just a dress," she said, "You'd think from the expression on your face that I was trying to force feed you poison. Now if I owned such extravagancy I would so happy I could die. Now suck in whilst I do up your corset."

"If I could, I would be more than happy to trade places with you," Bella muttered and winced as Alice apologised and yanked hard on the laces of her bodice, "And you're welcome to any of the extravagancy I own. There's a good lot of it that I have never touched and don't plan on touching any time soon."

The maid sighed and carefully smoothed out Bella's skirts. "You're so ungrateful, milady," she commented. "Many young women would kill to be in your position. You've got wealth, power, status…" Alice sighed. "Consider yourself lucky to be of the upper class and not one of us lowly common folk, Miss Bella."

"Yeah… lucky…" repeated Bella dully and obediently sat down so that Alice could arrange her hair.

"Well you are, after all you will not have to catch a husband like the rest of us!" said Alice as she carefully pinned the last long lock of hair into place. Then she grinned and added cheekily, "The men will have to catch you."

Bella flushed indignantly and made for the door without saying anything in response. Most other ladies would have reprimanded the maid and given her a good slap for showing such cheek but Alice was more than just her maid, she was her friend – the only real friend she had in this world of politics and greed.

"You look beautiful, Miss Bella," sighed Alice as she trailed behind.

"Sure…" muttered Bella focusing on walking down the stairs without tripping over the hem of her skirts.

"Really, Miss," insisted Alice, grabbing her shoulder and bringing her to a stop in front of a mirror. "See for yourself."

Bella sighed and examined her reflection; the gown, however much she hated it, was a truly stunning affair of violet material and silver embroidery offset with tiny, numerous diamonds that glinted in the evening sunlight, pouring through the windows. Alice had pinned her long sheet mahogany brown hair within an inch of its life and fastened a near-invisible net decorated with dozen of miniscule diamonds over the lot. It was true, Alice's efforts had truly paid off, she looked lovely with the dress and the diamonds but that was the problem; ten years ago she wouldn't have owned anything of the sort; money and displays of it, like the ensemble she wore now, she loathed them. She turned to Alice and scowled as the full skirts and numerous under-skirts swished around her new shoes and the diamonds in her hair and on her dress threw lights onto the walls.

"See, you look absolutely breathtaking," said Alice cheerfully not at all fazed by her mistress's murderous expression; she understood the reason behind it. "I've done a wonderful job. All the strapping young men at your birthday celebrations will be falling in line to dance with you. How I wish I could see it; everyone falling over because you're so clumsy!"

Bella turned red, her foul mood forgotten. "I am not clumsy!" she spluttered.

Alice giggled. "Tell that to the poor souls you're going to trip over when you attempt to dance."

Bella gave up; there was no winning when Alice was your opponent. Wordlessly she continued down the hall while Alice chuckled to herself at the thought of her mistress trying to dance. Bella paused at the impressive double doors, opening them a crack to see if her mother and step-father were outside waiting for her. She grinned at Alice when she discovered that the coast was clear. "Do you think we could run–"

"Of course not, Miss!" said Alice, appalled that she could even think of doing such a thing. "How is it that I am more excited than you are about this? It's your seventeen birthday, Miss Bella, your last year of freedom and the year you, as a noblewoman, are expected to find a husband!"

"But –"

"No buts, Miss Bella, you are going to your party. There will be no running away permitted," said Alice firmly, grabbing her mistress by the arm and dragging away from the door so that she wouldn't be tempted to even try. "This party will be good for you! Maybe some dashing unsuspecting foreign prince will dance with you, fall in love and then whisk you away to a beautiful castle on a hill where you-and your ever-so-loving maid will live happily ever after!"

Bella stared at her blankly. "Yes, and my horse will grow wings and pull the marriage carriage," she said sarcastically.

"Well you never know," replied Alice, always the optimist. "The other reason I think you shouldn't try it is because you'll fall down and ruin your magnificent ball gown and we can't have that now, can we?"

"I am not that clumsy," glowered Bella.

"Don't lie, Miss Bella, it's unbecoming. The world knows that you can't walk ten steps without tripping yourself."

Bella inhaled to retort loudly and defend herself but quickly swallowed her words as her mother entered the hallway accompanied by the "Great" Duke Phillip of Dwyer, Bella's arrogant, egotistic and utterly irritating step-father. Alice swept into a curtsey and Bella burst into a coughing fit after she choked on her breath as Their Graces approached, flanked by Her Grace's three ladies-in-waiting and the half-a-dozen ever-present, and completely useless guards.

"Daughter, that dress really does compliment you," said Duchess Renee of Dwyer with smile. Ever since she'd married the Duke, she'd referred to Bella as 'daughter' rather than calling her by name. Bella hated it; it was like being called 'Step-Daughter' by the Duke though he only did it because he actually didn't know her name.

Bella pasted a smile onto her face, unsure if the comment was intended as a compliment or an insult – her mother no longer seemed to know the difference between the two. "Why thank you Your Grace," she replied without bothering to acknowledge her step-father. This was her small revenge; so long as Renee referred to her as 'Daughter' instead of 'Bella' she would refer to her not as 'mother' but as 'Her/Your Grace'.

"Happy birthday, Step-Daughter," said the Duke, staring over her head rather than looking at her face.

"Thank you, Your Grace."

Silence resounded in the room. Alice tried to make herself shrink as the tension grew. The other servants in the room – and the ladies-in-waiting, who technically weren't servants, also stepped away.

"Shall we go then?" asked Renee somewhat reluctantly, though she was still forcing a smile, one so wide that it looked as if her face was going to crack if she kept it up for much longer.

"Indeed," agreed the Duke.

"Hmm…" said Bella wishing that Alice had let her run away before.

Silence reigned once again as the doormen, who had been standing outside listening to the conversation, opened the doors and four of the Dwyer family carriages drew up in front of the house; one for Their Graces, one for Bella and Alice – who would remain in the servants' room for the duration of the ball, one for the ladies-in-waiting, who refused to be lumped in with the commoners, and one for the additional servants.

Bella watched her mother and step-father climb into their carriage and considered bribing the driver of her carriage to take her somewhere else.

"Don't even think about it," mouthed Alice.

Bella scowled. Why was it that her maid always knew what she was thinking? "Think about what, Alice?" she asked, pretending that she didn't know what the maid was talking about.

"You are not running away from your birthday party and if you do, I refuse to be dragged along with you," said Alice sternly. "I can read you like an open book, Miss Bella."

A tall, slight youth standing beside their carriage, presumably a footman or some other servant of the estate chuckled to himself. The two young women turned to stare at him. He grinned widely, his bright green eyes twinkling and spread his hands in a gesture of innocence. "Ladies," he said, inclining his head and motioning towards the open carriage door, "I believe it's time to leave."

Speechless, Bella stepped up into the carriage and sat down. Alice did likewise. They glanced at the door as the green-eyed footmen shut it then at each other as the carriage began to move.

Then Alice's lips twitched upwards and she started to laugh. "Oh your face, you should have seen your face when he started to laugh!" she cried, her shoulders shaking with mirth. "Priceless, absolutely priceless!"

Bella blushed and retorted, "Well you have no right to laugh! You were surprised by his reaction too! It's just – that's the first time someone has acted like you and laughed at me."

"Us," corrected Alice, wiping a tear from the corner of her eye. "He was laughing at us. I do hope that he'll be in the servants' quarters during the party. I'll have someone interesting to talk and spread rumours about you to."

"Alice!" exclaimed Bella indignantly.

"Maybe I can convince him to pretend to be my escort and sneak into the ball with me so that I can watch you trip your dance partners…"

"Alice…" repeated Bella warningly.

The maid grinned evilly, "Oh I'm sorry, milady, I forgot that you were there."

"Alice you –"

Bella had never been more relieved to leave a carriage than that day.

The horses stopped and the door swung open. The green-eyed boy, who had laughed before, winked cheerfully at her and offered his hand. She accepted it and stepped down with a murmured, "Thank you." Safely on the ground, Bella turned around and shut the carriage door in her maid's face.

Another chuckle escaped the youth's lips.

Bella glanced at him and raised her eyebrows.

He beamed innocently down at her. "My apologies, Lady Swan," he said. "Shall I tell the driver to drop her off in the middle of town?"

Bella's lips twitched into a small smile. "No, that will not be necessary," she said in the fakest, loftiest voice she could manage.

His grin grew wider. "Very good, Lady Swan," he said with a courteous bow.

Bella blinked at him. "You just called me Lady Swan," she said quietly. "How did you know that I'm not a Dwy– "

They both looked towards the carriage as the door flew open and Alice flounced out, rushing over to her mistress to give her a good scolding. "Miss Bella, you ought to know better than to shut the door in another lady's face!"

The footman was laughing again. Even Bella found herself smiling broadly at Alice's sulky expression as the maid continued her spiel on childish behavior and good etiquette.

The three of them abruptly fell silent as the Duchess's voice rang loud and clear through the air. "Daughter!"

"That would be me," muttered Bella irritably. She sighed and turned to her maid. "Am I still not permitted to run away?"

The footman grinned while Alice said warning, "Miss Bella…"

"I guess not…" murmured Bella, feeling more than a little disappointed.

Resignedly she began to trudge down the paved Palace roads, through an archway and into a large, open pavilion where the Duke and Duchess and three young men Bella had never seen before in her life waited for her. She glanced over the boys, wracking her memory for anything about any of them The first was short, blonde and nervous looking, his clothes looked a little big on him and his Adam's apple bobbed and he nervously swallowed time and time again; the second was tall, dark-haired and extremely well-built, he looked uncomfortable in the stiff, formal clothes he wore – or maybe he was just uncomfortable being there, Bella thought that it was likely to be a mixture of both – the young man would have looked more in place on a battlefield or the training grounds than her birthday ball; and the third was an obvious foreigner, he looked to be a fair bit younger than the other two but he was just as tall as the youth in the middle, the expression on his face was one of obvious boredom – he wasn't even trying to hide it.

Bella ogled them, wondering why they were there, her intuition tingling. Then, out of nowhere, Alice's word's echoed in her mind, It's your seventeen birthday, Miss Bella, your last year of freedom and the year you, as a noblewoman, are expected to find a husband!

Seventeen… last year of freedom.

Three boys… expected to find a husband.

Bella froze; her mouth dropping open as all thoughts of being polite and distant flew out of her mind, turned to Renee and said, "Mama, you're not serious."