Ella walked through the halls of the palace. They were brightly lit by sunshine bouncing off the decorating jewels. She remembered the times when her step-sisters had called her Cinderella. It was over now. A dream come true. And as her beautiful shoes made a resonating sound, she could only dream of going back. Of course, not back to her old life. Those memories had been stored deep inside her, and she barely thought of that now. But she wished to visit the house in which she grew up.
Being queen for ten long years had taken a toll on her body. Her once flawless face now showed a few signs of wrinkles to come. Beauticians came from far away to offer her treatments, solutions for her aging skin, but she could not be bothered by their comments and embraced the marks.
But what truly commemorated the long years of their marriage was their son, James. Prince James had been brought up in extravagant luxury like his father but had learned of work and a simple lifestyle early on from his mother. Many were against the latter teachings, but they had made him a better boy and would surely make him a better king.
Queen Ella knocked softly on the wooden doors at the end of the hall. They were opened by guards to whom she kindly smiled, as was her custom, and they bowed in return.
“Kip, it’s time to go,” she said. “Everyone is waiting for you.”
“Oops. I’m sorry, dear. I just have to sign this last letter and then I’ll be all yours for the weekend.”
“Please, do hurry.” She kissed his forehead and walked off, thinking of what they would do when they arrived. Would she feed the chickens? Perhaps watch the fluttering butterflies! But only time would tell.
The King and Queen arrived almost at the same time and saw Prince James reading a book in the carriage. He had already done away with this fancy clothes and wore simpler versions, still rather lavish, but more comfortable for his adventures in tree-climbing as the king of the forest.
It did not take too long to arrive at Ella’s house. Once they had settled, the couple began to stroll around the gardens. They laughed and took great joy in each other while James took to playing with a very friendly goose.
“Mr. Goose,” he played, “I usually am king of the forest, but I think you are more fitting to wear the crown today. How would you feel about that?” The goose, as if understanding the boy, nodded and followed him. “But I warn you! The crown is at the very top of the tree. You’ll need to fly up there. Are you scared? Would you like me to assist you?”
Just as Ella and Kip were making their way back around to where James was playing, they spotted him carrying a goose to the very top of a tree. He proceeded to place a couple of leaves on its head, and, looking quite smug, the goose let out a loud and proud honk. This made the King and Queen laugh, and James noticed his parents and smiled. They were about to continue their stroll when a loud bang erupted from inside the house. A loud thud came from the tree and Ella ran to her son, who now laid on the ground. The goose had flown next to them. James had nothing but a small scrape on his knee.
Helping her son get up, Ella realized that Kip had gone inside to investigate the loud bang. She held her son’s hand, tight, and called for the guards. They didn’t come. She held his hand firmly and walked in front of him. They entered the house together. Some items had been thrown around.
James let out a surprised gasp as he pointed down to the floor. Blood. Ella began shouting for Kip, but there was no answer. They went out to the entrance to get the guards. They were getting up, having clearly just gotten out of a struggle.
“Queen!” said the one on the right. “The King – we tried to stop them. But there were too many. He has been taken.”
“Who – who was it? Did you see?”
“No, Your Majesty.”
“They must not be far.”
“It was a woman who led them, I believe.”
“Step-mother. I had been warned, but I never thought her capable. She was looking for me, I bet. But she will not win. I’ll go after her. I know where she’s keeping the King. James, stay with the guard. And you,” she spoke to the guard on her left, “please be so kind as to take him promptly to the castle. Once you’re there, tell all the chief he must be safe no matter what. Understood?”
“Yes, Your Highness.” He walked away holding James’s hand.
“Would you accompany me to find my husband?”
“Surely, my Queen, you will not go yourself.”
“I must, and I will. She is a smart woman and has to be stopped as quickly as possible. We cannot wait for anyone else.”
“Then, I will go with you.”
“Good. What is your name?”
“Well, then, Thomas. Let’s go save my husband.”