This story was inspired by Strager's fanfic Six Years Later, which was in turn inspired by the 2007 Disney DTV sequel Cinderella III: A Twist in Time. In the story Six Years Later, Cinderella's stepmother had succeeded in exiling her, and she returns to her original kingdom as a foreign diplomat six years later. This story will explore that same scenario but dealing with the immediate aftermath. In this story, everything from the original film and the second sequel up until the moment the prince rides out to the harbor is considered "canon." This is not intended to be a prequel to Six Years Later. It is my own interpretation of what might have happened. I would strongly recommend that you read Six Years Later. Since this story deals with more original material than my other Cinderella story, lots of reviews would be highly appreciated. I'd like to have at least five reviews for each chapter, so if you see something you like (or even something you don't like), please leave a review. It would make my day.

Chapter 1

The horse's hooves violently struck the stone pavement, and the clip-clop sound echoed in the street. Villagers and passersby frantically ran out of the way as the horse ran as fast as it could, at the command of its rider, Prince Charles, the crown prince, the only son and heir of King Hugh. The past several hours had been a complete blur to the young prince. Mere hours ago he had believed that Anastasia had been the girl from the ball the previous night. But then an unsettling series of events had suddenly caused him to doubt this. First a young woman with strawberry blonde hair had come to the palace claiming that she had been the girl from the ball. Not much later than that, that same woman had been apprehended by the palace guards. One of the guards had said that she was nothing more than a thief, but she didn't look like a thief. She told him that the only reason he didn't recognize her was because he was under a spell. Shortly after that, he was confronted by a pair of talking mice. Talking mice, of all things! The two of them made the same claim, that the girl was the rightful owner of the glass slipper, and that this girl, this "Cinderelly," they had called her, was going to be sent into exile as part of some nefarious plot by her stepmother.

Against his father's wishes, he had immediately jumped on a horse and rode to the harbor in order to figure out who exactly the girl was. He had been riding for several minutes. The harbor had just entered his line of sight. It would not be long before he would reach it.

"Hiyah!" he shouted at the top of his lungs, kicking the side of the horse with his shoe, urging him to gallop even faster. He had to figure out who this girl was. Within minutes, he was at the harbor. He quickly jumped off the horse and tied its reigns to a post. He ran off to find the dock officer.

"Is there a problem, Your Highness?" the dock officer asked.

"I would like to check your ship records, sir," the prince said.

The dock officer led him to a building which overlooked the entire harbor. He opened up a large book containing records of cargo, crew, and passengers for all incoming and outgoing vessels in the harbor. Finding that day's date, the dock officer turned to the prince and asked him, "What are you trying to find, Your Highness?"

The prince then explained to him, "A young woman was arranged to be deported from the kingdom, and I would like to prevent the sentence from being carried out. But I have no idea what ship she's been placed on."

The dock officer nodded and checked through that day's records. It took him several minutes to examine the payloads of each ship. After scanning the pages several times, he turned back to the prince.

"I'm sorry, Your Highness, but I can't find any record of a woman being exiled on any of the ships scheduled today," he said.

The prince groaned in frustration. He should have realized that she wouldn't be anywhere in the records. She had been added to the ship only very recently. He quickly ran out of the building. Taking a quick glance, he noticed that there were two ships docked in the harbor at that moment. He ran to the closest sailor he could find.

"I need to speak with your captain at once!" he shouted frantically. The sailor, startled by the prince's tone of voice, nodded and said, "Follow me, your Highness." The sailor then led the prince to his captain's ship, the Blackadder. Once on board, the prince quickly introduced himself to the captain.

"I'm requesting permission to search your ship, sir," he said.

"May I ask why, Your Highness?" the captain asked.

"A young woman had been ordered banished from the kingdom, but I believe she may have been wrongfully accused. I have reason to believe that she is somewhere in this harbor."

"I can assure you, Your Highness, that no woman has been placed on this ship. It is strictly a cargo vessel."

"Be that as it may, captain, I would like to inspect this ship personally."

"I normally take offense to people doubting my word, Your Highness," the captain began. Prince Charles began to open his mouth again, but before he could say anything, the captain raised his right hand. "But because I do not wish to cause trouble for the crown, I will give you free reign to search this ship in its entirety."

The prince thanked the captain and proceeded to thoroughly search the vessel. Not finding the girl on board, he apologized to the captain for doubting his word and departed from the ship. A complete search of the other ship docked in the harbor also proved futile. The prince sighed in defeat as he looked out at the sea. He realized that he would never find out who this girl was, so all he could do was get back on his horse and ride straight back to the castle.

Lady Tremaine seethed with rage as she saw the prince ride off out of the castle grounds. Up until that point, her plan had worked with near perfection. With the use of a magic wand that her younger daughter, Anastasia, had found by sheer luck, she had managed to reverse time and make the glass slipper fit Anastasia instead of Cinderella. Even though she now fit the slipper, the prince had not intended to propose to Anastasia, claiming that he did not dance with her. This had merely proved to be a minor setback, as Lady Tremaine promptly used the wand to place the prince under a spell, making him think that he had danced with Anastasia. The now-charmed prince had then immediately proposed to her.

But Cinderella proved far more determined than Lady Tremaine had anticipated. She was shocked to find that she had somehow infiltrated the castle and very nearly retrieved the magic wand in an effort to foil her plot. Lady Tremaine would have admitted she almost admired the girl for that, almost. But she wasn't about to let her stepdaughter get in the way of things. Fortunately for her, Cinderella was apprehended and she had arranged her banishment from the kingdom. But it appeared that Cinderella might interfere again. She had somehow gotten to Prince Charles, and he was riding off to find her. She would have to improvise once more. She headed towards the room she and her daughters had been assigned to re-think things.

She threw the doors open and stormed into the room. Drizella was sitting at the other side of the room, staring out the window. She didn't flinch when her mother entered the room.

"It's not ever yet!" Lady Tremaine shouted.

Drizella quickly turned her head towards her mother and asked, "Huh?"

"He thinks he can ruin my plans," Lady Tremaine said to herself. "I think not."

"Who?" Anastasia asked nervously.

"The prince," her mother told her, still angry. He's gone after Cinderella."

Anastasia paled. "But I thought he loved me."

"Mother?" Drizella was now looking out the window again. Lady Tremaine and Anastasia walked over to the window to observe the scene below.

Prince Charles now rode his horse at an extremely slow pace, in no hurry to return to the castle. There was no need for him to rush, and his horse needed the rest. He tried to make sense of everything that had just happened. Several questions ran through his mind. Who exactly was this "Cinderelly?" Was she really the girl from the ball? Why was he so determined to find her when he didn't even remember her? Why would her stepmother do this to her? And if Cinderelly really was the girl from the ball, then who was Anastasia? How were they connected? Were they connected at all? He tried to shake these questions aside, doubting he would ever truly come to learn the answers to any of them.

He looked up at the gray sky and saw that it was about to rain. Until then he had been content to move at a slow, leisurely pace. But when the raindrops began to fall, he quickened his pace. When he finally returned to the castle, he saw his father and the Grand Duke waiting for him in the front courtyard. He dismounted the horse and said to this father, "I suppose I owe you an explanation for what I just did."

The king nodded and gestured towards the castle entrance. "We should go inside first, no sense standing out here in the rain. You can tell me about it in there," he said.

The king led the Grand Duke and his son down a long hallway towards the palace library when he heard a squeaky voice saying, "Princey! Princey! Did you find her?" The king turned around and saw his son down on one knee shaking his head softly, with a look of regret on his face.

"No, I didn't find her. By the time I made it to the harbor it was too late. She was already gone," the prince said, but the king didn't see anyone else in the hallway.

"Son, who is that?" he asked, walking towards his son. The prince stood back up and turned back towards his father.

"These are the mice I mentioned before, before I ran off to the harbor," he explained, pointing towards the floor where the mice were still standing.

"Are they the ones who warned you that Anastasia wasn't the girl from the ball?" the king asked.

The prince nodded. "I don't blame you for not understanding. I thought I'd lost my mind when I first heard them," he said, still feeling a little embarrassed. The king chuckled softly in amusement before he knelt down on one knee to get a closer look at the mice.

"I don't think you told me what your names were," the prince said.

"I'm Jaq Jaq, and this here is Gus Gus."

The king chuckled again. "Well, Jaq Jaq," he began, "would you and Gus Gus join us so we can discuss what's happened in the past few hours?"

Jaq and Gus nodded and followed them. With the mice joining them, they began to make their way towards the library again. No one would hear them in there. Once inside, the king closed the door behind them, turned back towards his son, and asked, "Now, what exactly happened before you ran off?"

Prince Charles began to tell his father his story. "I was alone practicing fencing when a pair of bluebirds flew into the room. They then flew towards me and grabbed onto my shirt with their talons. After they tried to drag me away, I waved them off, only to see them come back at me. I then realized they were trying to convince me to follow them. They led me towards the main staircase where a young woman dressed as a servant was at the top of the stairs. I had seen her just a few hours earlier, when she claimed that I had danced with her, not Anastasia. Suddenly she was apprehended by two of the palace guards. I ran up the stairs to figure out what had happened. Anastasia's mother then appeared and told me that the girl was her maid. One of the guards claimed that she was a thief, but she immediately denied that before claiming that I didn't recognize her because I had been placed under a spell. Anastasia's mother then claimed that something was wrong with her and that she would handle it. I didn't know what to believe, so I went to talk to you. Before I could explain things, these two mice here, asked me to talk with them in another room. They said the exact same thing, that the servant girl -they said her name was Cinderelly- was actually the girl from the ball, and that I couldn't remember her because of this spell."

"One moment, son," the king interrupted. "I'd like to know how exactly these mice know this girl." He turned to Jaq and Gus, who now were sitting on a table. "Would you care to explain that to me?" he asked both of them.

Jaq quickly stood up and said to the king, "We lived in Cinderelly's house. She found me in a trap several years ago, and she rescued me from it, same with Gus Gus. She became our friend."

"I see. Can you prove that this Cinderelly was really at the ball?"

Both mice immediately knew how to answer this. They began to jump up and down shouting, "The slipper, the slipper!"

"Slipper?" the king asked in confusion.

"They mean the glass slipper, father. When they were talking with me, they showed me the other slipper."

The prince then left the room and returned a few minutes later with the slipper. He placed it on the table near where his father was standing. When both of them took a closer look at it, the prince noticed that the slipper was cracked in several places.

"It looks like the slipper was broken. I hadn't noticed that when the mice brought it here."

"How was it broken?" the king asked, turning from the slipper to the mice.

"Stepmother broke it," Jaq said solemnly. "She knew Cinderelly could use it to prove who she was."

"Stepmother?" the king asked in confusion.

"Anastasia's mother is Cinderelly's step-mother," the prince quickly explained. "They said that she put me under the spell, and that, when she learned that Cinderelly came to the palace to remind me of who she was, she had arranged for her to be placed on a ship and banished from the kingdom. I got on my horse and rode to the harbor as fast as I could. But when I got there, I learned that the ship had already left, and I couldn't find out what ship she was on, or where its destination was. With seemingly no way to figure out who she was, I had no other choice but to come back here."

At this point the Grand Duke, who had been silent up until this point, spoke up. "I knew we couldn't trust that woman," he whispered. The king and prince both looked towards him.

"Did you sense any deception from her initially?" the prince asked.

"No, Your Highness, I did not, but I was not particularly looking, either. When I began to read the proclamation, she informed me that she was already fully aware of the proclamation, and then suggested that I should begin the fitting immediately. At the time, I was simply relieved that I didn't have to read the proclamation again, but in hindsight I suppose that could have been an indication that she was hiding something. No other house I had visited had interrupted me."

"And what about when they arrived at the palace?" the king asked.

"She has been simply unbearable, Your Majesty," the Grand Duke said, sounding relieved that he had finally said it. "She berated my preparations for the wedding, trying to overrule them. She called them 'entirely unacceptable.' Then, when her two daughters began fighting each over some trivial matter, she did nothing to stop them, and then proceeded to blame me for letting it happen."

The king stood silently for a moment, pondering over what he had just been told. After a few minutes, he sighed and then said, "It all makes sense now. Just this afternoon, Anastasia couldn't dance at all, but the girl from last night had a perfect step. Furthermore, the two girls look nothing alike. It is one thing if you really were under a spell, but I should have known. And even if I hadn't, the Grand Duke should have noticed this."

There was a long pause. The prince rubbed his temples in thought as he tried to make sense of the past several hours, while his father began to pace back and forth, trying to do the same. Finally the king broke the silence and asked, "So what do you think we should do now?"

The prince thought for a moment before turning and heading towards the door. "I'm going to talk to her."

The king looked up. "Who?"

"Anastasia."

"Why? What would that accomplish?" the king asked incredulously. If what the mice said was true, the king thought, then he doubted that Anastasia would tell them anything.

"I don't know, but I don't think we'll find anything out from her mother or sister. You talked to her earlier. What did you think of her?"

"She seemed sincere, from what I saw. But that was before I heard all this. If the story is true, then how can we trust her?"

"That's what I want to know." He turned back towards the mice. "Was Anastasia involved in any way?"

Jaq and Gus looked at each other for a moment before they both shook their heads. "I never saw Anastasia use the wand," Jaq said.

"Then all we know is that her mother was behind this," the prince said, turning back to his father. "We don't know how much Anastasia was involved, or if she was involved at all. If we can somehow figure out her involvement, then maybe we can decide what to do. I need you here, too. I want you to talk to her with me," he concluded. He turned to the Grand Duke and asked him to escort Anastasia to them. The Grand Duke nodded and walked out the door.

Lady Tremaine had initially breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the prince return alone. Cinderella had indeed been sent away. But that feeling did not last very long. Even with Cinderella now out of the picture for good, there was still a chance her plan could unravel. Their secret might have been discovered.

Anastasia did not share in this concern. She had watched in confusion as she saw the prince riding back to the castle. It didn't make any sense to her. She hadn't learned that Cinderella had been banished. For all Anastasia knew, Cinderella was still somewhere inside the castle.

"Where did the prince go, mother?"

"You don't need to worry about it, Anastasia," her mother said sharply. She didn't want any further distractions from either or her daughters. She needed to think. She began to pace back and forth in the room, tapping her hand with the wand.

"If the prince went to look for her, then there's a chance he found out about the wand," she said to herself.

"And if he has?" Drizella asked.

Fortunately for Lady Tremaine, she still held possession of the wand. She had already used it several times to forward her plan, and she didn't see any reason why she couldn't simply use it again.

"I suppose I'll just have to use the wand on him again. I'll make him forget all about this," she said decisively.

"Please don't, mother," Anastasia begged. "I want him to love me for who I am."

Lady Tremaine sharply turned around and faced her daughter, narrowing her eyes. "And what is love to me?" she snapped. "Love is not important to me, and it shouldn't be important to you, either. It is nothing compared to the power and wealth you'll soon have once he marries you. Love doesn't give you that, and it is time you realized this."

"But mother, I...Please, just let me try it. It is important to me."

Lady Tremaine narrowed her eyes even further as she glared angrily at her daughter. "Anastasia, I don't want to hear any more of your foolishness," she hissed. "We are too close to succeeding for you to take a chance like this."

"But mother, I really think he could love me."

Lady Tremaine opened her mouth to retort once more, but before she could answer, Drizella spoke up.

"It's too risky."

Anastasia and her mother turned when Drizella had spoken up. Anastasia had expected her older sister to mock her with some scathing remark. But instead, Drizella's voice had been shaky, and she seemed suddenly frail. She was shivering.

"If he doesn't fall in love with you, we could all be in trouble." She looked afraid, but it was more than just fear of their plan failing. It was fear of her mother. Drizella had nearly jeopardized the plan herself by taunting Cinderella as the guards removed her from the castle, and her mother had threatened to banish her as well as a result if she made another mistake. She didn't want to upset her mother again.

Suddenly they heard someone knocking at the door. Lady Tremaine hid the wand up her sleeve and opened the door. The Grand Duke was standing outside.

"Prince Charles would like to speak with Anastasia immediately, and he would like her to come alone," he informed them. Anastasia silently followed the Grand Duke out the door. Once the door had been closed, Lady Tremaine took the wand back out and began pacing again.

"She had better not ruin my plan," she mumbled to herself. Drizella looked up but didn't respond.