Chapter Twenty: It's Imperative

The next day the castle was as jammed with characters as it had been mere days previously, all sitting on the edges of their seats, jabbering nervously. Agatha had spent the time pacing around, completely infuriated, and then dragging the council off to a private room the moment they arrived. While they were off discussing things, Charming took it upon himself to address the crowd and explain what was going on. Not surprisingly, the news didn't go over well, but for once, neither Charming nor Cinderella tried to calm the overzealous populous. Instead they sat down on two of the uncomfortable throne room chairs, waiting for the return of Agatha and her merry band of councilmen.

It turned out to be a rather long wait. The council was in session for at least two hours before Violet finally twittered in, looking every which way around the room before spotting Charming and Cinderella. She rushed up to them, kneeling in front of them.

"Where's Briar Rose?" she whispered.

Charming shrugged and Cin shook her head slightly. "I haven't seen her in hours," she said. "I don't know where she is."

"With Phil, maybe," suggested Charming. "Although I locked the door."

Violet sighed. "This is really bad," she said.

"Funny," said Charming. "That's what BR kept saying."

"Well she's right. Agatha is insanely angry. And the rest of the council is none too happy either."

"Does that include you?" asked Cin.

Violet bit her lip. "I..." she began. "It's...complicated. It's...Philip."

Suddenly the level of noise in the room dropped to a near-silence, and Violet twisted around to face the door. The rest of the council had entered.

"I don't know if you have been informed or not," said Agatha loudly, "but The Book of All Fairy Tales has been burned."

"Charming told us!" someone shouted.

There was a pause.

"Who did it?" another asked. Agatha crossed her arms and glared at Charming from across the room. "I see Charming has failed to mention the perpetrator. Surprise, surprise." She cleared her throat. "I know this will be hard to believe, but the culprit was none other than Prince Philip of 'Sleeping Beauty'."

This time Agatha got the collective gasp she seemed to be expecting from the crowd.

"I know, I know," she said. "I couldn't believe it either when I heard. This is the highest form of treason one of us could ever commit, and coming from Philip, well, it's entirely inexcusable."

At this, Cinderella shot up from her seat. "We're not dead, Agatha. We're still here, alive. No harm came from burning The Book."

"No harm!" exclaimed Agatha. "No harm?" She laughed. "Don't be so sure, Cinderella."

"Explain it to me then!" Cin shouted back. "What is the harm?"

"We've lost the source of our identities!" said Agatha. "It's gone, forever. Nothing more than ash in the fireplace!"

Someone in the crowd sobbed loudly.

"And for this," Agatha continued, "Philip must be punished."

"He was just doing what he thought was right," yelled Charming, standing up next to his wife. "You can't punish him for that!"

"Watch me," said Agatha.

Finally, Violet rose, unable to resist speaking any longer. "Don't get out of hand, Agatha," she said. Agatha narrowed her eyes and glared at the fairy. "You can't do anything without giving Philip some sort of trial first."

Agatha exhaled loudly. "Of course not," she agreed. "A trial is imperative."

A murmur began throughout the crowd.

"Where is Philip?" someone asked.

"Secured in one of the towers," said Agatha. "He's no threat to anyone at the moment."

Suddenly Violet stiffened and turned sharply toward Charming. "Which tower is he in?" she asked. "Do you know?"

Charming furrowed his brow. "Yeah," he said. "We put him in the south tower. It's the most comfortable. Don't tell Agatha that, though." Violet frowned, grabbed Cinderella's hand, and began to lead them out of the other exit in the throne room.

"Hey! Where are you going?" asked Charming.

"Shh!" snapped Violet. "Stay here and keep them occupied."

Then she practically dragged Cinderella out of the room.

"Where are we going?" asked Cin. "What's going on?"

"A lot if I know Briar Rose as well as I think I do."

Cin's eyes widened. "You don't think she..."

"That's what we're going to find out," said Violet.

After a lot of twisting and turning, and Cinderella losing her shoe twice, the pair finally made it to the south tower. Violet pulled on the handle of the door and it moaned as it opened.

"That's a bad sign," whispered Cinderella.

They entered the room quietly and took only seconds to assess that no one was there.

"How did he-" Cin trailed off as Violet pointed to the window. A rope, tied to one of the bedposts, trailed out the window and down to the ground.

Violet and Cinderella exchanged a look, and then Violet turned to make her way back to the throne room.


A/n: I can't believe I've been working on this piece for over a year now. Wow. Thank you so much to everyone who has read and reviewed, and especially to those of you who are still following this story. I really appreciate all of the kind words and encouragement. You guys are great. : )