Saturday, December 26, 2020

DWOA Princess Alliance: Chapter 10

Disney's World Of Adventures: Princess Alliance

Chapter 10 – It'll Do Magic, Believe It Or Not

    Once upon a time, there lived a maiden named Cinderella. She was forced to work as a servant in the home of her late father by her wicked stepmother and stepsisters. Day in and day out, she cooked, cleaned, and labored for them, yet with the aid of her talking mice friends, she remained ever gentle, kind, and determined that her dreams would come true.

    One day, A royal ball was announced in honor of the prince, and every maiden in the kingdom was invited. The evil stepfamily attended, but poor Cinderella was left behind. Fortunately, her fairy godmother gifted her with a magical dress, a pair of glass slippers, and carriage to carry her away to the ball, though she was warned that their magic would last only until the final stroke of midnight.

    At the ball, Cinderella met the prince, danced with him, and fell in love. Unfortunately, their romantic evening was interrupted when she was forced to flee before the stroke of midnight. To her favor, she accidently left behind a glass slipper. The prince searched for the foot that fit the slipper, and with it, he finally found his beloved Cinderella. He whisked her away from her evil family and to the palace to be his bride.

    And they all lived happily ever after.

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    Atop one of the three towers of the Castle of Dreams, whiter than the shiniest pearl, was a study; and in that study, staring out the window, was the princess. As she glimpsed at her kingdom below, the Kingdom of Perrault, she drew the curtain until the room, once bathing in sunlight, only caught a faint glimmer peeking from the curtain’s edge. Now the only light illuminating the darkened chamber flickered from the three candles set atop a nearby table.

    On that table sat several mice, all garbed in the clothes she sewed for them when she served as a reluctant chambermaid for her wicked stepfamily. Counted among them were her two best friends, Jaq and Gus. Both mice sat side-by-side, each one’s size contrasted by the other: the former thin and tall, the latter short and stout. They gathered around a bowl of fresh fruit set in the table’s center. Most prominent within this cornucopia was a bright red apple.

    Standing in the corner was her husband of four years: Prince Charming. Both were dressed in casual attire—or as casual as two royals would dress when not attending to their royal duties. He neared her as she strutted away from the curtain.

    “Are you ready?” he asked.

    “Ready as I’ll ever be,” she replied.

    From her dress pocket, she drew a white stick fashioned like a conductor’s baton. Everyone in the room identified the object as a wand. It was similar to the one the Fairy Godmother used to give Cinderella her dress and send her to the ball, where she met her prince, fell in love, and lived happily ever after.

    She lifted the wand to her face and studied it. “I’ve been practicing long enough, so it should come easy.”

    Jaq leaped to his feet and pumped his fist in the air. “We know you can do it, Cinder-Ellie!”

    Gus nodded his head like a bobblehead doll. “Yeah, yeah, you can do it! You can do it.”

    The other mice chattered similar plaudits to their dear friend, eliciting a smile from her. She raised both hands at them and patted the air.

    “Thanks, everyone,” she told them, “But I’d concentrate better with some quiet.”

    The other mice silenced their applause—all except Gus, who cheered and clapped so loudly that he was unable to hear everyone else quiet. Jaq grasped him by the hand and gave a loud “shush!” to finally silence him.

    Stillness and darkness hung over the study like a pall. Cinderella reveled within this dark silence to calm her nerves and focus her attention. She stood steadfast, arms rigid to her side. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath. Then, with eyes still shut, as a conductor would raise his baton to conduct an orchestra, the princess raised her wand; and as he would wave his baton, she began waving her wand. Sparkling pixie dust flew from its tip and glimmered in midair with every stroke.

    “This pick of fruit right here won’t do, I’ll need to change its outer hue,” she almost sang. “From an apple to orange, I command thee to change—”

    She flicked her wand to the side, “Bibbidi,” rose it above her head, “Bobbidi,” then flung it before her, “Boo!”

    From her wand rushed a stream of pixie dust. It flew toward the apple, spiraled around it, and lifted it into the air. As if it hung from an invisible branch, the fruit hung in midair, suspended by the glittering magic dust. Its shiny red peel unveiled patches of leathery tangerine that spread across the surface and faded in place. Soon, in the blink of an eye, the apple completed its magical metamorphosis into an orange.

    As the fruit fell back into place in the bowl, the mice sitting around it rose to their feet to leap and cheer.

    “Yay! Cinder-Ellie did it! She did it!”

    “Hurray!” bellowed Gus, clapping his hands together. “She do-ed it!”

    Cinderella clapped both her hands together, wand still in hand, as a pearly grin stretched across her face.

    Charming clasped her on the shoulder. “Darling, you did it!”

    “I can’t believe how perfectly perfect it went,” she told him.

    Charming pecked a kiss on her lips, before gazing into her eyes, both hands on her shoulders. “Of course it was. Only a perfectly perfect girl like you could pull off a perfectly perfect spell like that.”

    Cinderella returned the kiss before pulling back and playfully rolling her eyes and leaving his grasp. “Well, practice does make perfect. And, of course, I had the perfectly perfect tutor to train me these past two years.”

    “Well,” Charming replied, “It was nice of her to take you under her tutelage after the magical fiasco three years ago. Now your magic is coming along, well, perfectly.”

    His princess waltzed over to the table and examined the apple. “Who knew turning an apple into an orange would be so simple? Now I’m beginning to wonder if I should try a bigger target.”

    She knelt upon her knees and rested her arms upon the table, cradling her head as she looked at her mice friends at their eye level. “Perhaps you all could find a larger piece of fruit for me to practice with, preferably something big and orange.”

    Gus pressed a finger to his chin and squinted his eyes upward, thinking. His eyes jolted open and he rose a finger in the air. “Like a banana?”

    “No no no!” Jaq waved his hands and shook his head. “Banana not orange. Banana yellow. Cinder-Ellie wants big orange fruit.”

    Gus scratched his chin before giving a nod. “A kumquat?”

    Jaq slapped his hand against his face and pulled it down, tugging against his bottom eyelids that promptly snapped back into place as he lowered his hand.

    “Pumpkin, Gus Gus!” he exclaimed. “Pumpkin!”

    Cinderella giggled as she nodded. “Yes! Would you mice fetch me the largest pumpkin you can find? I want to see if I can change it into something else.”

    Jaq saluted her. “Will do, Cinder-Ellie!”

    Gus Gus mimicked him, nodding furiously. “Yeah yeah! Go get pumpkin!”

    All the mice gave a salute before crawling down the table and racing single file under the door. All of them, fortunately, went unnoticed by the person opening it and entering the room. It was her head lady-in-waiting, Prudence.

    “My, it’s dark in here,” she noted, trying her best to survey the unlit room. Her eyes soon adjusted to the darkness and she spotted the royal couple. “There you two are. The royal couple from Talia has arrived. They’re awaiting your presence in the foyer.”

*****

    Having recently arrived at the Kingdom Of Perrault by carriage, Aurora and Phillip were ushered into the castle’s main foyer where they patiently waited for their royal hosts. Soon they saw two figures descending from atop the main staircase.

    Charming, holding hands with Cinderella as he escorted her, smiled as they approached their guests waiting at the foot of the stairs.

    “Prince Phillip and Princess Aurora,” he greeted, giving a bow as he stepped onto the main floor. “Such an honor to meet our royal guests from the Kingdom of Talia.”

    Aurora curtseyed, and Phillip bowed, as their royal hosts approached them.

    “Likewise,” she said, rising from her curtsey, “An honor to meet Prince Charming and Princess Cinderella from the Kingdom of Perrault.”

    Cinderella returned the curtsey. “Oh, by all means, the honor is mine to finally meet another princess—a real princess!”

    She had risen from her curtsey when she received a curious look from Aurora.

    “A real princess?” her guest asked.

    Cinderella blushed and pressed her hand against her heart. “I’m only a princess because I married a prince. Until then, I was but a lowly chambermaid for my noble stepfamily—as ‘un-noble’ as they were. But you, on the other hand, were born a princess. That makes you more deserving of the title than I.”

    Charming gently shook his head and took her by the hand to cradle it. “My dear, you are as much a princess as the royal heiress standing before you.” He kissed that hand. “Do not let your lowly upbringing humble you so.”

    Aurora nodded in agreement with a light chuckle. “Indeed. I may have been born into royalty, but until my sixteenth birthday, I was raised as a peasant girl in the countryside. My lowly upbringing was as humble as your own. Though I certainly had plenty of help from my three fairy godmothers.”

    Cinderella blinked upon hearing those last two words, eliciting an “oh!” from her lips.

    “You had fairy godparents as well?” she asked. “Three of them?”

    “Why, yes,” Aurora replied, eyebrow slightly raised. “As did you?”

    Cinderella nodded. “She was the one who granted me my magic dress and carriage that allowed me to visit the ball and meet my prince. In fact—” From her dress pocket, she drew her pearl-white wand, dazzling with an iridescent shimmer. “For the past three years, she’s been tutoring me in the magical arts.”

    The glow from the magic wand elicited a gleam from the eyes of the other two royals.

    Phillip smirked at his princess. “And here I thought your fairies granting you your magic armor and sword was impressive.”

    “Magic sword and armor?” Charming asked.

    Cinderella clasped her hands together. “That sounds interesting. You wouldn’t happen to have it with you.”

    Aurora reached for the scabbard hanging from her hips and drew her rose-whip sword. “I’ll be glad to show it to you all if you’re willing to show us your magic.”

    Cinderella smiled and nodded in response. “Sounds fair to me.”

*****

    Near the village outskirts, along the rolling hills of a pumpkin patch, wandered Anastasia and her boyfriend, the local baker. As they strolled together hand-in-hand, she surveyed the surrounding autumnal landscape, the fiery red of the nearby trees matching the bright tangerine of the pumpkins dotting the hillside, lounging upon their bed of golden yellow grass. Many of these gourds grew as large as a man’s head, while others had yet to grow any larger than a child’s toy ball.

    “Oh, aren’t these pumpkins just lovely?” She tugged upon her shawl as a breeze flew past her rosy cheeks.

    Her boyfriend lovingly glanced at her and poked her playfully on the nose, eliciting a giggle from her.  “Yes, and you get to pick one of them to be our third-anniversary present.”

    Releasing her gaze from her boyfriend’s eyes, her eyes sporadically darted over the countless orange bulbs until one drew her attention.

“Oh!” She pointed up a hill. “How about that one?”

    The two of them climbed to the top. Waiting for them under the shade of a sprawling oak sat one of the largest pumpkins in the patch. Even under the tree’s looming shadow, its bright orange stood out like the brightest shade of paint against the darkest canvas. And the size! If a helmet were carved from it, two men standing shoulder to shoulder could wear it.

    An even bigger grin stretched across the baker’s face.

    “Perfectly perfect!” He fell to his knees as he stooped before it. “Why, I could bake enough pastries from it to fill my entire bakery. Think of everything I could make: pumpkin pie, pumpkin bread, pumpkin—”

    Several small creatures scurried atop it, prompting him to fall back onto his hands and screech, “Mice!”

    “Spice?” Anastasia only saw her boyfriend of three years fall onto his rump. “Well, that sounds basic, but I guess—”

    When she glanced at the large orange gourd, she noticed the rodents standing atop it. She shrieked and flung her hands back. “Ek! Mice!”

    Upon regaining her breath, she blinked twice and noticed that the mice were wearing clothes. Two wore shirts of red and yellow. Noticing this, her countenance shifted from frightful shock to joyful surprise.

    “Oh!” She clenched her heaving bosom, breathing a sigh of relief. “Why, it’s only Cinderella’s little mice friends.”

    While she may have been relieved to see them, Gus, on the other hand, was not.

    “Oh noes!” he yelped as he began to sprint away. “Evil stepsister!”

    His escape was stopped by Jaq, who caught his fleeing companion by the tail, forcing Gus to run in place.

    “No no no!” Jaq pulled his friend toward him. “She no evil anymore. She nice now. Nice stepsister.”

    Anastasia chuckled as she knelt in front of the pumpkin, while her boyfriend picked himself up and knelt beside her.

    “So what are you two doing out here alone?” Anastasia asked.

    “We come to find big pumpkin for Cinder-Ellie,” Jaq replied.

    “Yeah yeah yeah!” Gus opened his arms as wide as he could stretch them. “Real big pumpkin.”

    Anastasia giggled as she extended a hand to them. Both graciously leaped on as she lifted it to her face. “Well, you two certainly found the biggest one in the patch.”

    She rose to her feet, her boyfriend joining her.

    “We were going to take it for ourselves,” he replied. “But if Cinderella requires it, we can help you two carry it back to the palace for her.”

    None of them noticed green smoke rising in wisps from the ground surrounding the pumpkin, which, like a chameleon, shifted color from orange to green.

    Anastasia nodded. “Sure. We could always come back and find another—wait.” She sniffed the air. “Does anyone else smell something rotten?”

    Gus sniffed his armpits before pinching his nose. “Sorry. Me all sweaty from running.”

    Jaq soon sniffed the air. “No no, Gus. Something else smell bad, smell real bad.”

    The baker soon noticed the green smoke rising near their feet. Soon everyone looked down at the pumpkin and gasp. What had once been a ripe orange gourd now lay rotting green.

    He cautiously stepped back. “What happened to—”

    Anastasia likewise cautiously paced back. The mice scurried up her arm and onto her shoulder, each one standing on either side.

    Yet another stage occurred in the pumpkin’s disquieting metamorphosis. The sickly green gourd expanded and grew in size. What was once large enough to fit two men’s heads as a helmet soon grew big enough to fit three heads. Then four. Then five. It grew large enough to fit an entire person inside. It soon grew tall enough that its very top grazed the leaves of the tree above, almost as if it were wearing it like an auburn wig.

    In the very front, near the top, as though they were carved by invisible hands, appeared two triangular holes like eyes. Beneath them appeared a smaller triangular hole like a nose. And underneath that, near the very bottom, stretched a large toothy groove like a smile. Through these holes glowed a smoky green light, appearing like the glow of a green flame within.

    Its two triangle eyes closed and opened several times, as though it were blinking, then focused upon the two humans and two mice standing in front of it, trembling in fright. Its toothy grin grimly widened in a wicked smirk.

    From underneath, slithering forth like large green snakes, appeared its vines. Like the tendrils of an octopus, they flailed about until they pressed down against the ground and lifted the gourd several feet into the air, pushing back against the tree over and behind it. As it rose into the air, its shadow overwhelmed the four onlookers, who trembled even harder at its sight, it let out a beast-like thunderous roar. From its mouth flew the stench of floral rot and decay, along with a few stray seeds, pelting the unfortunate onlookers.

    Anastasia and the others screamed as she and her boyfriend turned heel and ran in the opposite direction down the hill and past the other pumpkins, the mice desperately clinging onto her shoulder.

*****

    Atop a trickling fountain in the palace courtyard stood an urn. In the blink of an eye, the clay pot shattered into countless fragments as it was pierced by the tip of Aurora’s rose whip.

    The princess stood several yards away from the fountain. With the flick of the trigger, her whip retracted back into a sword, the metal fragments reverting into a single blade. The other three royals stood beside her, applauding her performance.

    “Bravo!” Charming clapped. “That’s quite the impressive weapon you have there. And it destroyed that hundred-year-old vase.”

    Cinderella, chuckling, whipped out her wand. “Nothing a little magic can’t fix.”

    As she did in the study, she waved her wand like a conductor’s baton, its tip releasing a thin trail of pixie dust with every motion.

    “Pieces of the broken vase, set yourselves back into place. Hold together just like glue. Bibbidi-Bobbidi—BOO!”

    From her wand flew a sparkling stream of pixie dust, which, like a whirlwind, circled the fountain and passed over the many broken pottery bits. All of them flew into the air, gathered together at the top of the fountain, and, as quickly as they had shattered, formed together once more into a single urn, appearing as though it had never been destroyed in the first place.

    This performance, likewise, received applause.

    “Oh, truly amazing,” Phillip cheered. “To think your magic can create what was once destroyed.”

    Cinderella placed one hand upon her hip and casually wiggled her wand. “Oh, it has the power to create and destroy. Observe.”

    Flinging her wand, she exclaimed. “Alakazam!”

    From it flew a beam of light that struck the urn, shattering it with the same force as Aurora’s sword whip. Once more, what had been a single vase now lay into countless pieces within and around the fountain.

    “Now fix this urn as if brand new,” Cinderella sang, waving her wand, before flinging it forward with a, “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!”

    The pieces flew from off the ground and out of the fountain to reform back into an urn sitting atop the fount, gurgling forth water from its mouth.

    Again, her performance elicited applause.

    “Simply splendid,” Aurora clapped. “We could certainly use your magic in our alliance.”

    “Alliance?” the other princess asked. “What alliance?”

    Before either Aurora or Phillip could answer, a great cacophony erupted from outside the palace gates. The guards stationed there turned from their posts to glance outside through the metal grating. Their mouths opened agape, their eyes widened like saucers, at what they saw.

    The four royals turned to hear the noise and see the other guards rushing to the gates.

    “Seems there’s trouble afoot outside the castle walls,” Phillip said.

    Cinderella covered her mouth with her hand, holding back a gasp. “Whatever could it be?”

    From outside the castle gates arose such a clatter of screams and crashes. The four royals rushed toward it to see what was the matter. As Cinderella inched her face close to the gate, she was greeted by two pairs of white knuckles clinging to the bars.

    “Cinderella,” Anastasia screamed. She and her boyfriend clung for dear life on the gate. “You have to come quick!”

    “Anastasia?” Cinderella gasped.

    “There’s a big monst—AHH!”

    Before she could finish her sentence, Anastasia and her boyfriend flew away from the gate, vanishing from sight.

    “Guards!” Charming shouted. “Open the gate.”

    One guard saluted as he pulled down a lever. The two metal gates parted, allowing the others to pass through. They had barely stepped a few feet outside when their own feet halted in place. Like statues, everyone froze upon seeing the sight before them.

    “What?” Charming asked, his face scrunched.

    “A pumpkin!” Cinderella exclaimed, both hands over her mouth.

    “Pumpkin?” Aurora asked, brows furrowed, her finger tracing the hilt of her sword in its scabbard.

    “What?!” Phillip, in confusion and fury, whipped out his sword.

    Screaming townsfolk fled left and right to flee from a giant pumpkin, lumbering down the street, large as a house, green with rot, ashen in decay. A sinister scowl and grin were carved on the front, like the face of a jack o’ lantern, through which flickered the glow of a green flame. From underneath the rotten gourd floundered several thick, long vines like the tentacles of an octopus. At the end of two vines, snared in its grasp, screaming and flailing, were—

    “Anastasia!” Cinderella exclaimed. “The baker!”

    The evil green pumpkin cackled through its carved mouth as its two victims writhed in its clutches. Two silver flashes slashed through both snares. The monster let out a shrill scream as its two victims were cut free by the blades of Aurora and Phillip. Both royals leaped forward and swung their swords in a single arc, freeing both Anastasia and her boyfriend. Both fell on the ground with an “oomph!”

    Aurora and Phillip, their swords drawn, stood guarding the two freed captives.

    The princess shot a glance at them both. “To the palace, fly!”

    Neither the stepsister nor the baker replied as they leaped to their feet and fled.

    Phillip swung his blade several times as he eyed the monster before them. “Chopping through this evil gourd should be easy as, well, cutting slices of pumpkin pie.”

    Aurora glanced at him, her sword ready. “So, easy as pie, then?”

    Phillip chuckled. “Fair enough!”

    A roar erupted from the carven mouth as the pumpkin lashed its vines at them like whips. Both royals blocked the attack with their shields. With several swipes of their blades, they cut away at the encroaching vines like machetes.

    The pumpkin monster retracted its vines. Lurching back, it opened wide its carven maw, and lurching forward, it scrunched its mouth into an o-shape. From it, in rapid-fire succession, shot pumpkin seeds, like a round of bullets from a rotary cannon. Fortunately, both royals deflected the attack. Their arms trembled under the force of the ammo ricocheting off their shields.

    “The monster attacks with bullet seeds,” Phillip groaned, struggling to keep his shield raised. “But it’s not effective.”

    The barrage of seed bullets ceased. The pumpkin fell onto its back. Again, it opened wide its mouth before pursuing its lips. From them erupted two smaller pumpkins. Both flew high in the air and into an arc, falling toward the two royals.

    Aurora and Phillip eyed the two gourds as they drew near. They noticed that both stems flickered with flames like bomb fuses. Noticing this, the two royals turned to flee. Both flung their shields back to block the attack. Their shields protected them from the heat of the explosions, but not from the force, which sent them both flying, stumbling across the ground.

    Both fell face flat against the cobblestone pavement, their arms sprawled before them, their swords and shields landing several feet away. Each struggled to push themselves up, but had barely lifted themselves when their feet became ensnared by vines. Like helpless woodland creatures caught in a hanging snare trap, both flew up into the air. Their heads and arms dangled over the ground, and Aurora’s hair fell over her face, as the pumpkin beast lifted them. Both could only writhe within its clutches, their weapons having escaped their own.

    “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!”

    A ray of light struck the pumpkin in the center of its forehead. Before the monster could react, it exploded in a messy burst of pumpkin shell, guts, and seed, all splattering across the street and the walls of the surrounding buildings in a giant green mess.

    The explosion freed Aurora and Phillip from the monster’s grasp and sent them tumbling across the ground. Slowly, they lifted themselves onto their feet, wiping away the stray pumpkin guts splashed onto their clothes and armor. Cinderella lowered her wand, having aimed the final blow.

*****

    “Cinderella!” Phillip exclaimed. “That was simply amazing how you defeated the monster with your magic.”

    The four royals, along with Anastasia and the baker, congregated in the safety of the courtyard while the guards worked tirelessly outside cleaning the remains of the evil pumpkin.

    “Indeed,” added Charming. “Though that now begs the question of where that monster came from. Evil green pumpkins don’t simply grow in patches.”

    Cinderella shrugged. “Last time I encountered an evil pumpkin, my wicked stepmother trapped me inside one. She turned it into a carriage and sent it barreling toward a cliff, while she disguised my stepsister as me and tried to have her married off to the prince.”

    She noticed that Aurora and Phillip were confused by this, to which she replied, “It’s a long story.”

    Anastasia shook her head. “Well, this pumpkin monster wasn’t created by Mother. I haven’t seen her or Drizella since then. But I did see that monster grow in the pumpkin patch with my very own eye.”

    “Yes,” the baker nodded. “There was green smoke rising from the ground, and the next thing we knew, we were staring into the eyes of that giant green jack o’ lantern.”

    Phillip pressed his thumb against his chin, his head tilted. “We’ve seen this evil magic before, back in Hermosa Vista.”

    He glanced at his princess, who nodded in agreement. “Yes, another evil green monster appeared there as well. Perhaps they were both created from the same evil magic. And that’s exactly why we came here to visit.”

    “You have?” Cinderella asked.

    Aurora nodded. “There’s an Ancient Evil threatening to come back, and we need princesses from other kingdoms to help defeat it. That’s why we arrived here. We’ve come to ask for your help, and your magic could very well help us.”

    “She’s right, you know!”

    A voice rang out through the air. Near the fountain appeared a bright flash of light, which disappeared to reveal—

    “Fairy Godmother!” Cinderella rushed to greet her old friend with open arms.

    The elderly fairy embraced the princess with a chuckle. “Yes, my dear. I saw how you saved your kingdom from that vile creature. You’ve certainly come a long way with your magic. I have taught you well, and now you are prepared to face the dangers before you.”

    “So, it’s true then?” Cinderella asked, leaving her godmother’s embrace. “What Aurora and Phillip said? About an Ancient Evil that I need to help stop?”

    The Fairy Godmother nodded. “I, too, am a member of the Spellcaster’s Guild. They had sent Aurora and Phillip to gather the other princesses, and I’ve come to confirm that their story is correct. There is an Ancient Evil that threatens to rear its ugly head once more, and it can only be stopped by ten princesses, each from ten kingdoms.”

    “So that makes me one of those princesses, then?” Cinderella darted her eyes back and forth as she mulled the information in her head. “I don’t know what to say. This is all so sudden. I’m not sure I can do it.”

    “Oh, but you can!” Phillip replied. “You defeated that evil creature when my beloved Aurora and I could not.”

    His princess nodded. “You are gifted with magic powers, and we could certainly use them to fight for our cause.”

    Charming approached her and took her by both hands. “I know you doubt yourself, both your ability and your royal title. But you must not be ashamed of your lower-class origins. You are just as much a princess as one born into royalty, and your magic makes you even better.”

    Upon having it kissed by her husband, Cinderella, blushing, withdrew her hand. She glanced to her feet, took a deep breath, and, with red cheeks, returned her gaze to everyone.

    “Okay, then,” she nodded. “I’ll gladly join your alliance.”

    Upon saying that, a light appeared over her chest and Charming’s. Both lights disappeared to reveal a magic mirror hanging from their necks. When she and Charming inquired about the mirrors, Aurora and Phillip explained how they worked.

    “Oh! One last thing,” the Fairy Godmother added. “The journey ahead of you will be long and difficult. You’ll need a new pair of clothes that can handle the wear and tear. Allow me!”

    She raised her wand, waved it around, and with a “Bibbidi-Bobbidi-Boo!” flung it toward Cinderella. From her wand flew a stream of sparkling pixie dust that spiraled around the princess like a vortex of glitter; and as the dust settled upon her figure, her outfit magically changed in the blink of an eye.

    Cinderella now stood wearing a blue silk dress with a frilly white gossamer, not unlike the dress she wore to the royal ball. The only difference was that the skirt only reached to her knees, revealing a pair of blue tights underneath. The top portion included a dark blue leather plackart and gorget with frilly white shoulder pads, from which hung a flowing white gossamer cape that reached to her ankles. On her hands, she wore elbow-length gauntlets made from a hard translucent material; and on her feet, knee-length high heel boots made from the same material.

    She tapped her heel several times. Each strike emitted a ringing chime, like a spoon banging against a glass goblet.

    “Why, it’s glass!” she exclaimed. “Just like my magic slippers.”

    She took hold of her cape and performed a pirouette to offer a better look at her outfit. Everyone gasped at its sheer splendor.

    Charming approached her with arms outstretched in amazement. “I can’t decide whether to take you to the ball or to take you to battle. Either way, you’d be properly dressed.”

    Phillip leaned over to Aurora and held his hand over his mouth to whisper. “Seems like great minds think alike.”

    His princess leaned over to his ear. “Her outfit certainly looks as elegant as my own.”

    Cinderella smiled as she continued looking herself over before offering a hesitant frown. “Oh, but I do hope it lasts longer than midnight.”

    This elicited a chuckle from the Fairy Godmother. “Oh, don’t worry, dear: with the help of the Three Good Fairies, I’ve since improved my clothes-making spells. They’re no longer temporary. That outfit will last for as long as you want it.”

    “That’s certainly good to know,” Cinderella replied. “It’ll need to last a good long time for the journey ahead.”

    “Speaking of which,” Charming said. “Seeing as how we’ll be heading out for a long trip, and how much fighting that monster worked up an appetite, we certainly need to work up our energy with some food. And to think it’s almost dinnertime.”

*****

    Several hours passed since the four royals sat at the royal banquet table for dinner. They had since finished their meals, their plates clean save for a few scraps, as they discussed their plans.

    “Then it’s settled,” Charming wiped his mouth with his napkin. “We depart for the Kingdom of Grimmoak in the morning.”

    Across the hall, the doors from the kitchen flew open as Anastasia and the baker, both wearing aprons, passed through. The two pushed along a cart with a pastry set on top and several dessert plates stacked next to it.

    “Hope everyone’s saved room for dessert,” the redhead announced. “Because now it’s time for pie.”

    The cart approached, revealing the pastry to be pumpkin pie, fresh steaming rising from it. The baker took the knife to cut each slice and serve it to the four. As soon as their slices were served, they did not hesitate to sink their forks into its fluffy texture and sample a bite for themselves. Smiling lips and hums of “mmm!” proved that everyone was satisfied.

    “Perfectly perfect!” Charming said with a full mouth.

    “Probably the best I’ve ever had,” Cinderella added.

    Before taking a second bite, Phillip raised his fork, signaling his question.

    “This wasn’t made from the remains of that pumpkin monster, was it?”

#####

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