Once apon a time, in a land far away, there was a young girl named Elise. She was a happy girl as lovely as she was kind. She had big blue eyes and a head of golden hair. She was loved by all her met her.
Her father Sir Lionel was a gentleman of ancient blood. He was on whole a good father, ready with a good word or an affectionate pat on the head. But this was not to say he did not have his vices, namely he was very fond of wine and wagers. These habits were kept in check by his wife, Katharine, whom he loved most dearly.
Katherine was the stricter of the two. She put much effort in training Elise how to be a lady; how to embroider, cook tarts, stand strait, talk properly and in every way be pleasing to others. This said is to be noted that this training was done in a way not to be burdensome but often with smiles and gentle talk. Every night Elise would fall asleep to the calming sound of her mother voice reading her her favorite book, Moss-gown. The world seemed for that moment perfect.
In this Kingdom there also lived a King. He was corrupt and oppressive. He lived in the finest luxury by leveling heavy taxes on the common people. Poverty and starvation was common. Laws were made only to protect the wealthy. He was also very fond of women. He made a habit of having great feasts of the lords of his kingdom .Then wooing the wives and daughters of his choosing. This is what happened to Sir Lionel and his wife. To refuse the king meant trumped up charges, forfeiture of your estate and imprisonment for husbands. This is what was told to the wives and it was true. So she didn't refuse. He mother would often leave dressed up at night and not come back till midmorning. Elise remembered hearing her parents argue. She remembered the anger on her father's face, the hollow look on her mothers. They thought she was too young to understand what was going on. She wasn't.
Then her mother died. Though it was not said Elise knew it was by her mother's own hand. Something inside her father broke. Though still loving toward her, he became more and more distracted. Leaving for long periods of time he often came home broke and drunk. She would watch as the servants would have to half drag half carry him up stairs. Often he would buy her an expensive gift the next day as if to make up for his behavior. This in a way made matters worse for their money was becoming increasingly short. They sold what they could while still maintaining appearances. They dismissed most of the servants and she had to clean and drag her sick-covered father to bed herself. The debt collectors were at the door.
Then Sir Lionel met Marinna the widow of one the richest merchants in the city. This seemed to the answer to his problems. She had the money; he had the name and the connections. He sold the rest of Katherine's things to refurnish parts of the house. Then he quickly proposed. It was a huge wedding. Elise, while still mourning the death of her mother, was pleased. She hoped now that her father had someone he would become like his old self again. Or perhaps at the very least she would finally have playmates, for her new stepmother had two daughters around her age. This was not to be.
Her new stepmother disliked Elise immediately. This was in part due to her father. Her step-mother was made very aware by her new husband that he had married her only for her money and that she was neither as beautiful nor as intelligent nor of noble birth as first wife or his beloved daughter. This kindled an intense jealousy in an already proud and critical woman. Her daughter, whom to her could do no wrong, imitated their mother's example. So as often as her father was gone, which was even more now, they would treat Elise as slave in her own home. They threatened her with violence if she would ever tell. She kept silent not as much afraid of their threats as much as she thought her father did not care anymore as long as he had money to spend. So day after day she endured. Day after day, they treated her as dirt. The girls even had contest to see who could come up with the best insults, beating Elise with their words and even occasionally with their hands. Everything that was hers became theirs.
All she had for comfort were a hug and smile from her father on the rare occasions when he was home and sober and the two things she had left of her mother's a necklace and a book. The necklace had been in the family for hundreds of years. It was absolutely beautiful like night sky of diamonds. She kept it secreted away as she could not bear to see it sold. The book (which was, of course, Moss-gown) she read late at night by the fire trying to go back if only for a few minutes to that happy time. One of the step-sisters, Aria saw her sitting on the floor in the ashes leaning back to catch the light of the embers. She broke into a laugh" Look at the worthless little cinder girl. Is she trying to read?" she said with a shove knocking the book into the fire and almost Elise along with it. Elise scrambled to retrieve the book but it was already gone. This was when the cold darkness began to take root in Elise's heart. Aria later told the story to the stepmother and sister. They though it was quite funny, especially the image of Elise burning her hands trying to get some old book from the fire. The other step sister, Gertrude then cleverly came up with the nickname Cider-Elise.
Then her father, drunk of course, stumbled in front of a rushing carriage and died. Then there were no more sweet words. They sold the ancestral estate and got a bigger one on the fancier side of town. There she lost all title and was introduced to guessed as simply a servant Cinderella. With her last protection gone, she was treated worse than ever. She was beat for any mistake, locked in closets for hours as a joke and made to eat in a dish on the floor like a dog. The worst for her though was the constant mockery. She laid her aching body on her dirty flea-ridden pile of straw in the attic. She realized all hope was gone now. Her mind had started become fractured. The king, she thought, that was where it all started. The king must pay. But how? That was the question.
So she worked, endured, plotted and grew. Then came her chance. The king was throwing a ball for his son who had just returned from taking over the next kingdom. His son had even a worse reputation among the commoners than the king for not only did he share his father's fascination with women but had a sadistic cruel streak as well. Often torturing captured soldiers for sheer enjoyment. She went to a special dealer she knew for supplies.
The night of the ball was a beautiful one. The stars glittered in the heavens. The guests filed into the grand ballroom of palace. They were all dressed in their finest, a rainbow of color and texture. Especially the young women, for it was known tonight the prince would choose a new mistress which meant a position both of influence and luxury. For unlike his father, once he did have a favorite he treated them like queens as long as they kept his fancy. In come Marinna and her two daughters, each one shamelessly flirty. The prince danced with girl after girl with a thoroughly bored expression on his face. For if the prince loved anything it was something new and exciting.
Then half way through his dance with Gertrude (and a yawn) there appeared a woman. A woman he had never seen before. A beautiful woman, no, he thought, the most beautiful woman. Everyone stopped to look.
She wore a red flowing dress, white glove, shoes that shone like glass, and a necklace like a night sky filled with diamonds. Her face was the most striking thing though not only was there not a flaw on it but there was something in her eyes, something that burned like fire. He dropped whoever he was dancing with. He took her hand. They danced. She was all he saw. They whispered and laughed. "Upstairs" He said.
"No, outside" she whispered giddily. He looked intrigued.
They started to leave. A bodyguard started to follow.
"Alone" She said. He waved the guard away.
They went out into the warm night. They stared up at full moon.
"It's midnight" She said.
"What now?" he asked leeringly.
"I supposed you want to kiss me" she replied.
"It's a start" he said and leaned closer.
She leaned in. Suddenly, she clapped her left hand over the prince's mouth. His eyes widened and he let out a muffled groan. He fell back, a growing crimson spot on his chest.
"Now your father will understand what is like to lose all that he loves." she said bitterly, the dagger dripping in her right hand. But he was already beyond hearing.
"Halt" she heard someone shout. She looked up. It was the guard. She cursed under her breath. She thought she would have plenty of time to make her escape. She turned around and ran. The guard was catching up fast. The guard dove and caught her leg. They both fell. She kicked him in the face with her foot. He loosened his grip. She wiggled out, leaving her shoe in his grip. She quickly took the other one off. Holding it in her hand, she took off running again. She manage to barley manage to elude capture as she ran at full speed through the dark back alleys of the city. She dropped the dagger in the river as she crossed the bridge.
She was struggling to breath by the time she got back to the house. She quickly stripped and threw the ball dress she had made into the oven. She hesitated a moment then broke her mother's necklace into individual stones. She but back on her rags and dirtied her face and hair.
Now what to do with the shoe? Why had she even kept it with her?
Her stepmother and sisters came in. She stuck the shoe in the rubbish bin. They were brimming over with news and excitement. Apparently any crush hopes of riches were overshadowed by what they viewed as entertainment, that is the tracking down and hanging of one of their peers.
Despite the danger she was in, Cinderella sleep peacefully. It was if she somehow relieved of a terrible weight. The next day she went to the market to buy food as usual. She saw a wanted poster up and as she suspected it spent good deal of room on what she was wearing and very little on what she looked like. She felt strange walking around like everything was normal. The commoners were laughing and making crude jokes. There would be few that mourned the princes passing. Except… she thought as she looked toward the palace. For a moment she felt sick she did not know why.
Then a messenger came. He read a proclamation. They royal guards were going door to door to try a slipper on the foot of every girl between the ages sixteen and thirty. Everyone must comply.
Every girl… thought Cinderella; surely there are lots of girls that wear the same size shoe as me.
She looked down at her feet. All of the sudden they looked ridiculously small. She went home and went through the daily motions of work. All of the while wondering what she should do. They would be here tomorrow. Aria smacked her in the back of the head with a boot.
"Quit daydreaming you idiot. Get back to work" Aria said.
Cinderella knew now what she would do. That night she wrote a note in her stepmother's handwriting. She signed her two stepsister's names too. She snuck into Aria's room. She shook her to make sure the drug in her tea had taken effect. She removed the kitchen knife and sewing kit from her bag and looked at Aria's long hideous toes.
She gave the other shoe to the messenger saying she had found it cleaning.
The next day Marinna, Aria, and Gertrude De'Vay were hung for murder and conspiracy to comment murder in the public square.
As to whether or not Cinderella, or as she now goes by again Elise, lived happily ever after ,who can say?