Another Stroke of Midnight
The glass slippers could be heard sweeping across the floor of the royal ballroom as Princess Cinderella danced with her Prince Charming on their wedding night.
The palace halls were full of joy as the kingdom celebrated the prince discovering the maiden of his dreams after searching nights and days to find the girl who's foot fit into the glass slipper.
All were in attendance for the royal wedding, except for Lady Tremaine and her two daughters, Anastasia and Drizella, whom were banished from the kingdom due to their wicked ways and treatment of Cinderella over the years.
Cinderella swayed across the ballroom floor in her wedding gown, her golden hair wrapped up on her head adorn with a crown, with one hand in the prince's and the other fawning out her dress that cascaded with every move.
She looked deep into Prince Charming's brown eyes. "This has been the happiest day of my life and I look forward to many more with you."
Prince Charming responded with a kiss on her lips and a tight squeeze of her perfect waist. Cinderella gave a giggle. Everything was perfect.
The music grew more aggressive and fast-paced as the night grew darker. The nobles in attendance became louder and more obnoxious as the wine continued to flow and the ale continued to pour into their mugs.
Cinderella continued dancing with Prince Charming while she glanced around the room for a familiar face. Over in the corner by the desserts, she finally spotted her fairy godmother, Marie, enjoying more than her fair share of the deliciously large white wedding cake. Cinderella gave her a smile and a wave and her fairy godmother gave a chuckle and nod with a mouthful of cake.
The prince gave Cinderella a quick twirl and after gaining her composure she glanced back at the dessert corner. Marie was nowhere to be seen. She scanned the area for a minute or two wondering where she had gone off to.
Prince Charming continued to admire Cinderella's beauty and noticed her flinch as she searched across the room for someone she had lost. He looked up to the throne where his father sat feasting with friends and royal advisors. He was a rather large man of short stature with a white beard and yellow tunic. His crown sat crooked on his head.
King Leopold sat next to Lucien, his trusting royal advisor to the throne. Lucien was tall and slender with black hair and a long, crooked nose. The prince never felt comfortable with Lucien feeding his father information and suggestions, but he trusted his father's judgement in people and character. The king's eyes met Charming's and they gave each other a congratulatory smile on a successful wedding and both continued going about their business.
The orchestra finished playing another song and the maestro turned towards the dancing guests. "Your majesties, ladies, and gentlemen," he announced with a rather grandiose accent. His mustache twisted on each side of his mouth grazing the edges of his nostrils. "Midnight is upon us and this will be the final dance of the evening! We ask that if you attended the party in a carriage that will soon turn back into a pumpkin, that you make haste immediately so as not to interrupt the orchestra!"
The crowd roared in laughter and Cinderella blushed, as she too laughed alongside Prince Charming and the rest of the nobles in the kingdom. "And now, let us have a midnight toast!" The maestro exclaimed as the laughing died down.
Servants appeared from a corridor each carrying a tray of goblets for a midnight toast. One of the servants approached Cinderella and the prince with a tray holding two unique golden goblets. The male servant handed the first one to Cinderella. "Your majesty," he said with a slight nod as he handed her the goblet of wine. He then turned to Prince Charming, handing him the other goblet of wine. He nodded and muttered, "long live the prince" while withdrawing the tray from their presence.
The king arose from his throne to give a royal toast. "Let us raise our glasses to the future king and queen of this kingdom!" the distinguished guests raised their goblets. "Long live Cinderella and Charming!" The crowd repeated and everyone drank.
"Now, let the final dance commence!" The maestro lifted his baton and a dark waltz filled the ballroom. The strings of the instruments entranced the dancers who fell to its spell and began waltzing and twirling across the marble floor.
Cinderella thought to herself how lucky she was to have all of her dreams come true. Although she now had wealth, power, and freedom, the only thing she truly cared about was Prince Charming in her arms. She rested her head against his shoulder and whispered, "I love you."
The clock struck midnight. The first bell could be heard loud and clear as it chimed. The second chime came but something was different. The crowd had gasped. The third chime rang and the music started to stray. The fourth chime of the clock. screams. The fifth chime. shouts.
The sixth chime. Cinderella opened her eyes and lifted her head from Prince Charming's chest. The seventh chime. She quickly looked around the room. People were running in all directions. The eighth chime. Although the music continued to play, the maestro was staring in her direction and instruments started to sound off key.
The ninth chime of the clock. She looked into the prince's eyes. He only stared back at her. He tried to speak, but nothing came out. The tenth chime. Blood began to pour from his mouth. The eleventh chime. Prince Charming convulsed and collapsed in her arms on the ballroom floor.
"Charming, oh God, what's happening!" She screamed with tears streaming down her eyes as she grasped his head in her lap. The royal guards came out of the corridors and surrounded the great hall. Cinderella screamed for her fairy godmother, Marie, but she was nowhere to be found.
The twelfth chime of the clock tower. Prince Charming took his last breath. There were no final words. No last "I love you." Cinderella was left with the heartbroken stare of his brown eyes into hers as the happily ever after she had been dreaming of all of her life was shattered.
The guests began to wail and mourn at the sight of the dead prince. The king ran to the floor and grabbed Charming's head holding it against his and continued sobbing. "Who could have done this to you! My son! My one and only son!"
Lucien, rushed to the king's side. He carried the prince's golden goblet that was resting on the nearest table after the toast. He sniffed it with his long, crooked nose. "It appears he has been poisoned, your majesty!"
"What! How could that be!" Said Cinderella as she turned to Lucien in shock and tears. "What is happening!"
"You poisoned him, didn't you?" Lucien said in a threatening tone as he pointed his slender finger at her. "You knew if he was dead that you would rule the kingdom as queen!"
"How could you say such a thing!" Cinderella screamed at Lucien. "That is a lie!"
The king looked up from his son's body and stared into Cinderella's crying eyes. He gave her an angry, sinister look - the same look her step mother and step sisters used to give her.
"You killed my son. How could you?"
Cinderella stared mortified at the king's face. "I didn't do this, your majesty. I loved him! This is some type of sabotage!"
Lucien interjected. "You are the only person close enough to poison him! You are the only person with motive! Of course a girl like you would attempt to rise from the ashes of nothing for power and wealth!"
Cinderella rose from the ballroom floor and slapped Lucien across the face. "HOW DARE YOU!" She slowly backed away step by step.
The crowd gasped and gazed in shock at the beautiful princess. She glanced around the room searching for Marie who was nowhere to be found. She was once again alone in the world. She had to run or they would lock her up, or possibly even execute her. She was innocent and was going to find a way to prove it and seek revenge on whoever killed her prince. This meant war.
She turned and fled towards the ballroom doors. "Seal the doors!" Yelled Lucien. But it was too late. Cinderella had already slipped through and continued running through the royal palace towards the palace gate. The royal guards quickly aligned and chased Cinderella along corridors and great halls. She approached the main palace gate and proceeded down a flight of stairs leading towards the entrance grounds.
As she ran down step by step, her left glass slipper came off and she turned to go back and was reminded of a perfect night not so long ago where the same accident of leaving a shoe behind would be her saving grace. She parted ways with the glass slipper, hoping it would save her somehow once more.
She dashed across the palace grounds and into the nearby forest. Her dress being torn to shreds as she ran past limbs and thorns and brush.
She came across a cliff overlooking a river and it was there that Lucien and the guards had caught up and cornered her.
"You can't hide from what you've done, Cinderella." Lucien said with a grin. "It's over. You will be executed for treason and the murder of the prince!"
Cinderella stepped back and glanced over the cliff. Jumping into the river was her only hope at survival. It was her only hope at finding her fairy godmother. It was the only way she could seek revenge on the one who poisoned the prince.
She swayed her gaze back to Lucien and the royal guards, whose spears pointed in her direction as they slowly pressed on. "This isn't over, Lucien. You haven't seen the last of me. This is only the beginning."
"Where is Marie's magic wand? Where has she hidden it?"
Cinderella was taken by surprise. Marie's disappearance was no mistake. "What have you done with her! This was all YOUR doing!"
"Sieze her!" Yelled Lucien. The guards ran forward.
Cinderella took one last look at the clocktower of the palace towering over the forest and dove off of the cliff and into the cold waters of the river below.