nce upon a time, in a far away land... there lived a noble king, who was beloved by all his subjects. He had long, golden hair and powerful blue eyes, but what he was known for was his immeasurable kindness and love for all those that lived within his kingdom. In the height of his youthful fitness, he rescued a beautiful princess from the clutches of a cruel dragon and the pair were soon wed. The entire kingdom rejoiced on the blissful day, and such joy was only surpassed when the king and queen gave birth to a daughter, whom they named Cinderella. She was a happy baby that rarely cried, and everyone that met the family knew that their daughter found such contentment because she knew she was loved, even before she knew what love was. It was a perfect little wonderland. Yes, people had problems, but with the king and queen giving their people such fine examples of nobility, generosity of spirit and love, the people learned to develop these traits in their own lives so that even the poorest of villagers knew how to show compassion and love for their fellow man. It was known, however, that the king wished for a son that he might mould in his own image, and when Cinderella was barely a year old, the queen fell pregnant again. The kingdom was a-flutter with excitement over the soon-to-be prince that the queen would give birth to in the following spring, and the royal family's love grew stronger with each passing day. During this time, the king and queen sought the aid of a white witch, to serve as a general advisor, but also as a handmaiden to the queen as she prepared for her second childbirth. The white witch produced a variety of potions, incenses and charms to help relax the queen as she grew larger, along with ensuring that she had a warm bath and a comfortable bed in the last few months of winter. She grew very close to the royal family, and both the king and queen trusted her explicitly. Complications arose, however, as the queen became ready to birth during the deep of winter. She knew it was time, even though it was a good month earlier than any physician had predicted, but as she entered labour the court physicians and white witch took her into a private chamber where she might birth the king's son. It was a bitterly cold winter, far colder than any in living memory, and even with the best care available, the queen complained of terrible coldness, and her birthing chamber was as cold as any room in the castle. Fires were stoked and warm blankets were brought forwards, but the combination of cold and an early birth led to tragedy as the future prince was a still-born. The entire kingdom fell into mourning, but further tragedy was to follow as the queen was taken ill with a fever. The coldness had led to her catching a chill, and even with the king at her side for all the hours of the day, she could not find the strength to fight her illness. The strains of pregnancy and the emotional suffering of birthing a still-born had taken their toll so that, in the space of a week, the kingdom lost both its future king, and its current queen. The entire kingdom plunged into darkness, with no-one more miserable than the king. Even his daughter, now the only family he had left, failed to bring a smile to his face as the king locked himself away in his chambers and refused to see anyone but the trusted white witch. True to form, she found a kind of magic that was able to bring the king out of his depression, and back into the public eye. Whilst a visibly broken man, he addressed his people, told them of the great tragedy and declared his intention to press on, for both his wife and son. In time, the dark clouds melted away and happiness returned to the land. The king found his joy in life once more and Cinderella grew to be a fine young girl, excelling in her studies and blessed with her mother's radiant smile. Without a queen, the king looked to his white witch for assistance in helping him raise a daughter alone and, as the fates would have it, he fell for the witch over time, and the pair were wed when Cinderella was only three years old. It was a joyous moment for the kingdom, as many felt that the witch was exactly what the king needed, and they so loved their king that they wanted him to find true happiness once more. Indeed, happiness was plentiful as the witch, now known to the people as Queen Grimhilde, gave birth to a son the following year. He was named Frederick, and quickly became the pride and joy of the land. He grew up alongside his sister, but the spotlight was always on the young prince as he grew into a handsome young man, with thick, red hair and the fierce blue eyes of his father. The king doted equally on his children, loving his son as an heir, and his daughter as his beloved princess and the only connection he had to his first wife. The new queen did not take so well to Cinderella, and firmly established her son as the true heir to the kingdom. In time, the king's health began to fail, for he was a good deal older than his new wife, and he had been old when his daughter was born. He died peacefully, but as Prince Frederick, the heir apparent, was only ten, the kingdom fell into the hands of Queen Grimhilde, instead. She would oversee the land until Frederick turned eighteen, at which point he would be crowned as king instead. With absolute power, Queen Grimhilde began to change. She moved away from the public eye and banished many of the king's advisors, replacing them with two of her own choosing; a vizier from a far off desert land who boasted an impressive knowledge of legends and magic, and a female sorceress that Grimhilde had known from her childhood. The vizier was the public face, with the sorceress rarely showing herself and the queen only addressing her public on high days and holidays, when it was absolutely necessary. In time, the kingdom became a less joyful place; without a constant reminder of the important of good morals, its people became selfish and cruel, taking on the traits that seemed to consume a queen obsessed with her own image and reputation. Some villagers felt that the vizier and the sorceress were corrupting their queen, whilst others, especially those that had worked for the king, alleged that she had always been a wicked woman and now that the king was no longer around, she was merely asserting herself on the kingdom. The skies were always dark, the land always barren, and the winds always bitterly cold. The kingdom of love was now as lifeless as any rock, and just as lonely. Taxes were raised, the queen's soldiers became brutal and ferocious, and the populace was forced into abject poverty, with no hope of returning to the life that they had once known. Inside the castle, the picture was just as dark. Prince Frederick, loyal to his mother and spoiled rotten, grew up in her twisted mould, becoming as vain and self-obsessed as his mother. He was cruel to the male servants, physically abusing them and mocking them, despite only being a teenager, whilst he insisted that the family only employ attractive female servants, so that his wandering eyes and groping hands had some kind of entertainment. Without the king to protect her, Cinderella found herself forced into the demeaning life of a slave, being worked to death by the cruel queen and her two assistants. The court, once filled with healthy debate and intellectual discourse, was replaced entirely with sycophantic yes-men that agreed with everything the queen said, ensuring that any new law she wished to pass would be passed. Knowing, however, that Cinderella had not been forgotten (and that her death would not go by without suspicion), the queen kept the girl a slave behind closed doors, hiding her from public view and forcing her to live in filth. When princes and dukes from other kingdoms came visiting to ask for the princess' hand in marriage, they were shown a woman covered in dirt, weakened from lack of food and put into a dress that clearly no longer fit her. These men knew well enough that something was wrong, but the kingdom's military might made it difficult for them to speak up, so they simply apologised for their disturbance and moved on to the next kingdom. As Cinderella grew older, the queen realised that she had not been completely forgotten by the public, and their sense of outrage at being denied the chance to see their princess was causing them to revolt. To quell such notions, Queen Grimhilde began making preparations. By the age of eighteen, it was expected that a noble young woman would have met a suitor and may even be married, but for Cinderella to still be single and rebuked by so many eligible princes, the queen made a public declaration that the best thing for the young girl to do was to join a convent of nuns, where she might live her life devoted to God, instead of any mortal man. In such company, and on such holy grounds, she might be able to find a cure for the darkness that their kingdom had been plunged into, a lie that was sure to win over the hearts of all but the most doubtful of people. With this, the public unrest was sated, and they even held hope that the princess' faith might bring an end to their suffering, so, a week after the princess turned eighteen, she was to be sent to a convent in the mountains on the far side of the country. It was far, far away, picked intentionally by the queen to ensure that she would never return, whilst telling people that this was by far the holiest of nunneries, so that Cinderella might indeed become the holiest of nuns. The plan was perfect; Cinderella would be out of sight and out of mind, and for every year that she failed to cure the kingdom's ills, its people would resent her further for their continued suffering. All the while, Queen Grimhilde and her son would be free to do as they pleased, with the populace either unable or unwilling to fight against them. When the day arrived, the vizier brought forth a man from the town by the name of Robin to be her guide. He was given supplies, a few gold coins and two of the finest horses in the kingdom for the journey, and promised riches upon his return, so long as he returned alone. The stage was set, and the princess had no choice in the matter. She had been woken earlier by the queen's sorceress, and instructed to wash and dress, so that her unkempt appearance would not upset the people of her kingdom. She was given breakfast for the first time in many years, and her hair was cut shorter and brushed, ready for her to begin her life as a handmaiden of God. All she had to do now was leave quietly... ~~~ The Vizier, #660000 There was a loud, impatient knocking at the door of Cinderella's chambers. The girl's maids had left well over an hour before, but she still remained inside, refusing to come out and accept her fate. Jafar could understand why she might not want to ride off into a life of poverty, but he had never been fond of waiting and this girl was making him wait an awful lot this morning. He knew she was still in her room, for the windows were bolted shut and he could hear her pacing the floor, but she neither responded to his knocking nor his words. He had several soldiers stood by as guards, but also as enforcers, and whilst his group looked more like it was organised to arrest a violent criminal, he didn't care. His queen had given him one simple order, which was to fetch Princess Cinderella. He was going to make good on that order, one way or another. He extended his staff and rapped the golden snake head against the door for at least the tenth time. "Come now, Cinderella, it is not befitting of a princess to make her people wait like this. They grow agitated and restless, when all they want is to catch a glimpse of the noble young woman that will ride off a mere princess and return as a saviour." He smiled to himself and gave a dry chuckle, "You do wish to help free our kingdom from this malaise, don't you?" There was still no response. Jafar sighed and turned back to the soldiers, "It would seem that our princess has grown selfish and spoiled, she does not care for the suffering of her people." He shrugged his shoulders and edged a little closer to the door, speaking in his cruellest tone, "I can only wonder what King Alfred would think. A man as great as he would surely have done everything in his power to cleanse this kingdom of such a blight, and whilst I never had the pleasure of meeting her, I am assured that the fair Queen Marie would have given her life to save the people." "What a shame it is to find that their daughter cannot even bring herself to leave her room for the sake of the people..." he added, before striking the door with his staff once again. Letting his frustration boil over, the vizier struck the door repeatedly, leaving a dent in the wood of it. "Princess!" he shouted, seething with anger. "If I strike this door again, I will bring it down, so I do hope that you are ready in there. I will not be kept waiting any longer for a miserably, bratty child! Is that understood? This is your last chance to start behaving like a princess by doing as you're told and coming with me. I shall not be held accountable for what happens next. It will be only what you have forced me to do. I did so want for our last meeting to be a pleasant one, but you seem determined to make me very angry!" With that, Jafar swung at the door again, and again, and again, cleaving through the wood by sheer force until he could see into the eighteen year old's room. He peered in through the gap and hissed, his face a deep red as his blood boiled beneath the surface. "Princess! Get out here... NOW!"