Ok, so this fanfic starts when Ella has just been revealed to Char at the third ball…hope you like it!
"Ella!" Hattie shrieked. Char gasped.
"Ella?" I broke away from him and ran. Hattie must have been constraining him somehow; otherwise he would have caught me in a second. I ran down the palace steps, and past the pumpkin that had been my carriage, and ran towards the manor. As I neared it, I slowed, panting for breath, a thousand things running through my head. How could I have been so careless, now Char would follow me and-a sudden realization smacked me in the face. I couldn't return to the manor. At least, not right away. That would be the first place Char would look for me. But then, what should I do? Where should I go? I considered several plans, before selecting the simplest and safest one. I straightened, and ran towards the woods behind the manor. There I could hide, and still see what was going on. Once Char had visited the manor, and then left, I could go get Mandy. I darted behind a large, mossy tree, just as hoof beats thundered on the road I had just been on. Char, closely followed by his knights, tore towards the manor. Char barely slowed his mount before leaping off, and running to the door. He pounded on it several times before Dame Olga swept it open. He stalked past her, and out of my sight.
I stormed into Ella's manor, her stepmother hot on my heels. I spun around to face her. "I want you to gather every human in this manor!" She gaped at me, confused, as I tried to calm myself. She arranged her face into a sickeningly sweet smile.
"But of course. Mandy!" She hollered, turning from me. "Have everyone in this establishment gather here at once!" Mandy bobbed in a curtsy.
"As your ladyship wishes." The plump woman hurried out of the room. Within minutes, everyone, from the lowliest of the servants to Dame Olga and her daughters had gathered. My knights walked among them, searching for Ella.
"Here's a lass!" called Sir Stephan. "Come along now miss," he said gently, pulling her forward. Her face was barely recognizable under the layers of soot and cinders.
"Ella?" I asked softly, my heart begging that it was her. But the girl shook her head.
"My name 'tis Aria, sir," she said in a lilting accent. Despair crushed my heart. The only reason it kept beating was that I hoped she may be Ella, using her talent for and languages and accents. I took one of her hands, to see if it really wasn't her. But it was a hand I did not recognize; a hand that didn't know mine like Ella's.
"It isn't her," I said softly, defeated. One of Dame Olga's daughters spoke up, Hattie.
"Why are you looking for Ella?" I turned to her.
"May I ask your family some questions in private?" I asked them wearily.
"But of course, Prince Charmont," Hattie beamed through her large front teeth.
"Who is the gentleman Ella is...is...married to?" Dame Olga frowned at me.
"Married? Ella isn't married! She lives here with us."
"Ella isn't…isn't married?"
"No, of course not!" Hattie looked shocked. "Who would want to marry her? She lives here."
"Yes, Ella works for us, 'cause she does everything she's told," Olive put in. My head snapped up, as did Hattie's.
"Did you just say Ella works for you?"
"No! Of course not!" Hattie said. "What she meant was-"
"Shut up," I growled at her. She snapped her mouth shut, shocked. I turned back to Olive. "What did you say?"
"I said that Ella is one of the servants, 'cause she has to obey every command she's told," she squeaked, sounding frightened. I pinched the bridge of my nose, and squeezed my eyes shut, trying to stay calm.
"Are you telling me that Ella isn't married and that you've been using her as a servant? She's a noble! But more importantly, she's a part of your family!" I glared at them. "Answer me!"
Hattie kept her head down, and Dame Olga wouldn't meet my eye. I turned to Olive. "Is this true?" I asked, forcing my tone to stay calm and composed. She nodded. I groaned. "And let me guess-you made her write me that letter telling me she was married?" Hattie looked up, confused.
"Yes! We wrote letters back and forth the entire time I was in Ayortha."
"She was writing you?" Hattie shrieked. I glared at her. She shrank back.
"No, I didn't tell her too. I didn't even know she was writing you letters. I guess I could have told her to write it...she would have had to." Something clicked.
"Wait...why do you keep saying she has to obey?" Hattie glanced at her mother.
"Well...she can't not obey."
"What do you mean she can't?"
"She'll try not to but...it hurts her. She can only not obey an order for a minute or two before she has to obey. It's almost like she's cursed." With those words, it was like I had been handed the last piece of a puzzle. Why she had to listen to what everyone told her to do, why she hid at the wedding until that fairy had left...the fairy that had used her magic so irresponsibly on Sir Peter...
"Cursed..." I said, dazed, trying to wrap my mind around the idea. I stood up, nearly knocking down the chair I had been sitting on. "I need to go," I said, before walking out on them. I walked out of the manor in a daze, and had trouble mounting my horse. Was Ella…cursed?
I watched Char stumble out of the manor, and gallop off towards the palace. Good. One obstacle down, one to go. I watched the window I knew was Dame Olga's, until the light went out. It was now nearly dawn. I didn't have much time. I snuck into the manor through the stables, and crept to the kitchen, where I knew Mandy would be cleaning up. Sure enough, there she was. "Mandy," I whispered. Her head popped up, and she ran over to give me a hug.
"Oh, Ella! I was getting worried about you!"
"Mandy, listen," I whispered urgently. "I have to leave. I think I'll go to Ayortha, to Areida's. I can't stay here." Tears ran down her face.
"Oh, Lady, I'm going to miss you. Go get your things; I'll get you everything else you'll need." I ran to my room, slipping into comfortable traveling clothes. I carefully put my book, my Auglen wolf, and my one remaining slipper into it. As I crept down the hall, I paused in front of Hattie's room. Before I could stop myself, I slipped in and took back Mother's necklace, which I quickly stored in my bag. When I returned to the kitchen, Mandy had food, money, and a gift waiting for me.
"Here Lady," she said, handing me a smooth, wooden box, with a carving of a unicorn, so beautiful that it almost moved, on top. "This is a fairy trinket. If you put something in it, close the lid, and lock it, it will disappear, and will reappear in my box," she said, tapping a second box. I fought back tears and hugged her as hard as I could. "Now, it's time for you to go. The sun will rise soon."
"I'll miss you," I said, my voice muffled against her apron. Mandy led me outside, where Lafaria, a black mare who was one of the best horses we owned, stood saddled and ready to go. I swung myself up, and said goodbye to Mandy. As I rode down the road away from Frell, I stopped Lafaria so I could look back at the castle. "Goodbye Char," I whispered. I turned, and galloped away from the one person my heart told me to go towards.
Please review and tell me what you think!