Twisted

On her wedding day, Ella couldn't have wished for more. She had everything, a prince, a palace, jewels and riches beyond imagination. But a hole fills her heart, yet she doesn't quite know why. On the other hand, Snow White is trapped in a loveless marriage with her supposed 'prince charming.' Meanwhile, Lady Tremaine, Ella's evil step-mother, still holds a heart full of hatred for her step-daughter. So when Lady Tremaine decides to call up some family to help brew up a spell for revenge, will all of the fairytale characters happy endings be in jeopardy?

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9. Farther Than Oz- Cinderella

Pain. She felt an insufferable, throbbing pain pounding in the back of her head, her heart felt as though someone were pulling its very strings, untying them, one by one. Shoots of hot fire flew up and done her arms, spreading like a wildfire in her bones. Her cheeks were flooded with sizzling tears though she did not feel it, it was so horrible, being on the brink of blackness, the edge of numbness because right before you leave, everything is multiplied. Especially thoughts. 

She wanted to rake her ears, they felt as though blood were pouring out of them as mournful turmoils of a woman's screams echoed in her mind. They were desperate and empty and it killed her, killed her to know that she knew this woman. If only she could catch the memory, it was so close yet so far. Her body was deathly still from the outside, the only slightest twitch of her closed eyes indicated that flickers of life still fluttered feebly in her. She wish she were dead, though, anything was better than the shrieks. Over and over again the woman yelled her name, shouting it out through muggy tears and a coarse throat. Ella's name seemed to live and die on the woman's cracked, white lips as her body was racked with sobs and heaving. Every time her name was cried, something died inside of Ella; something grew black and spread its roots through her soul, forcing their way down into her very core. Over and over again she became winded as her hands shook violently. Then the most heart wrenching, life destroying phrase sounded in the back of her mind. The woman's voice came out whispery and hollow, like a dying tree, loosing its last leaves as they blew limply through the air.

"I love you." Three words. Three simple words thrummed through her mind making her bones clatter, teeth chatter and blood spring from her lips, the metallic liquid slithering down her throat as her lips took on a scarlet tint.

"Stop!" She gasped, coughing and spluttering; becoming drunk on air. Ella was drenched in sweat as her breath rattled hoarsely in and out of her lungs, making her feel dizzy. Her face was pale white, drained of any color for she had been touched by death, she had been on the cliff, almost ready to jump. Almost.

She didn't realize she was crying until she felt the wet moisture run its course down to her dried hands as she shivered all over; not from the weather but from the memory of the sounds. They had died immediately when she woke but she couldn't shake off the feeling of pure bleakness. Those screams. Ella had heard them before, she knew she had deep down, even if she couldn't remember it. She searched and searched her mind for that sliver of a memory she had had before but nothing surfaced; in fact she felt as though she were pushing against a brick wall which only made more annoying spots dance teasingly in front of her eyes. 

Pain still coursed through her veins but it had been nothing compared to what she had heard. Of course, she still wanted to be numb; to not have to feel anything, but the thought of having to possibly go back to that dark state was unfathomable. So she just sat, her heart beat slowing bit by bit as she simply concentrated on the basic task of breathing. In, out, in, out, over and over again. She ran her fingers weakly through the grass she was lying in, toying with the candy colored wildflowers as she stared to no where in particular, her eyes vacant from thought. As she became acquainted with reality again, Ella let her eyes wander lazily over her surroundings. She didn't try to guess where she was or why she was there at the moment; she would've gone straight back into blackness but instead she just drunk in the sights. The soft, muted color of the pale blue sky against the towering oak trees, the red cobblestone brick that fringed the edge of the grass, the weathered stone wishing well sitting contentedly as weeds and vines twined playfully up it. For a couple of minutes, Ella just decided to not think or care about anything. She made an executive decision in her mind that for five more minutes, she would just be. 

Birds chattered melodically up in the sky as a fresh breath of nature 'whooshed' throughout the tall grass in the meadow, disturbing a couple of crickets and other little critters. It seemed impossibly short but she knew her time was up, that those magical five minutes were gone and that her soul had to snuggle back into her body and face the music. Slowly, Ella tested out her limbs, moving them in the smallest of movements; she wiggled her toes and rolled her shoulders as she began to steadily sit up, willing the black spots to not appear. After what seemed like hours, Ella finally managed to get herself into a sitting position without feeling like she would pass out. Kneeling now, she hobbled onto two legs catching her balance on a chipped, elderly tree. She huffed exasperatedly. Ella hated being this slow and cautious, she was all about chance and rash decisions; not one of her best qualities, probably, but maybe one of her bravest. Remembering the charming wishing well, she stumbled her way over to it, breathing heavily. Placing her two hands on the cool stone, she grabbed the grainy rope and started pulling it up, hearing the sloshing water drip, drip, drip from the bucket below. 

Finally, hoisting it up, she splashed the icy water on her clammy face and ran her fingers gently through her hair, twisting it into a tight braid. Inhaling (again) a couple of times, she guzzled some of the liquid down as it burned her parched throat. Feeling a bit more alive, she pushed her shoulder back and turned around, trying to find her bearings. She saw that she was at the edge of the forest, a dusty cinnamon path leading from the well to what seemed like an abandoned castle. It loomed forlornly ahead, towering over the trees, its stone walls decorated with vines and greenery. It made Ella shiver for one of the things she hated most an empty house, a shell of past life and memories. 

Then, the current situation hit her at full force, making her stumble back and trip over a branch. This was not her home. Where was she? This was not her home. What curse was set across the land? This was not her home.

Her heart thrummed in her chest, as blood rushed through her ears but she forcefully stomped her foot on the ground, cursing.

"Pull yourself together, Ella, you've beaten her before you can do it again." She scolded herself, a new light of determination and anger set in her eyes. As she collected her thoughts and brushed herself off, she felt her teeth chatter involuntarily as the castle ahead seemed to be moaning her name, beckoning her to walk its damp and musty hallways once more. As much as she didn't want to go, deep down she felt as though something was in there, that something was cowering in the darkness, waiting to be found. And who knows? Perhaps she could find a place to stay in the dank palace although she highly doubted it.

Walking a bit more upright and stronger than before, she made her way over to the sulking structure and recalled all the threats that Lady Tremaine had said to her right before her palace collapsed and the world seemed to end. Her stepmother hadn't said much really; just some cocky, sarcastic words that were meant to hurt her. She also mentioned that once that 'shabby little brat' (meaning Ella) was out of her way, she would restore order and prosperity to all of Follia. Well, nobody had believed that load of horse manure since all of the ball guests had been put under a wordless curse and the very walls of the ballroom were starting to deteriorate. Then, of course, Ella had seen that infuriating girl with the black hair who looked all timid and afraid but then again, something, maybe curiosity, pulled her towards the woman who was the same color of freshly fallen snow. Ella simply sighed though. Lady Tremaine was smart- she wasn't the typical type of villain Ella read about who gave all of their evil plans away to the victims just before the curse was set out. No, Irena knew that Ella was strong and she knew that giving any type of hint was as good as a death sentence to her.

Ella was so deep in her thoughts that she almost didn't realize that she was right in front of the castle portcullis. It wasn't much protection, though, for half of it looked like it had been blown off; the golden bars were blackened and charred. She turned her head up towards the sky, catching glimpses of the enormous stone towers, their stones decaying and cracking ever so slowly. The more she walked, the more curious she became. The shivers she had felt earlier went away a little bit; of course, she was still throughly creeped out at the abandoned, stricken home but there was an aroma of blissful memories traced in the air and Ella could still seem to hear childish peels of laughter bouncing of the walls. However, the only flicker of life she saw was a lone apple tree, growing in the courtyard, its roots uplifting the stone and stanching out far and wide. The apples were a vermilion red, full and ripe with life. It was the most curious thing to see; a tree that was so fresh and zestful in the middle of a dead court. The tree, though, as lively as it looked, seemed to push her away and Ella quickly made her way into the palace, through a small servants door. 

​The room she entered was fairly large and remnants of what looked like to be a kitchen were scattered around the room. A rusted pot here, a broken countertop there... Light flittered through the smashed windows, skipping all over the shards of shattered glass. Ella walked on, knowing that this was not quite what she was looking for although, she didn't know what she was looking for in the first place, she was just following her gut and this was probably not the best idea since the last time she followed her gut, she had ended up at that fateful ball.

Making her way out of an empty doorframe, she found herself in what seemed to be a grand dining and ball room. The hall was completely empty and every step she made seem to echo with a monstrously loud sound. For a second, she pictured the space brightly lit with warm glows of a fire and laughing courtiers, the clinking of wine glasses as everyone laughed merrily. Ella could seem to even hear gleeful music and with every note she imagined, obliviously she dragged her feet in a small dance around the room, twirling and spinning every so often. 

Finally, after drawing a little smiley face on the dusty window, she stopped goofing off and made her way up the grand staircase at in the center of the ball area. She ran her hand up the bannister and took the steps gracefully; almost out of habit. Reaching the top, she had a huge urge to slide back down but looking back at the railing, it didn't seem like such a good idea.

Turning the corner, though, all of the little flickers of fun went out like a dimmed candle. For the first time, Ella saw an actual door in the palace and it was shut tightly over a room and unfortunately, the beating of her heart and the sweatiness of her palms told her that this was the rightest wrong place. Trying to mentally put on her big girl pants, she ambled cautiously over to the door, the floorboards creaking grumpily beneath her footing. She practically jumped when she heard the baby scattering feet of mice, a drip of sweat falling from her face. 

Placing her hand on the brass doorknob, it felt cold and uninviting, it clicking when she shakily turned it. Pushing the stubborn door open, it grazed the over the moldy wooden floors and revealed a room that made Ella's very soul shudder.

A bed stood ghostly at the back of the room, its white canopy blowing softly in the wind. Upturned furniture was everywhere, must of it tainted by fire and appeared to have been slashed by a knife. Ella forced herself to put one foot in front of the other as a frigid draft washed over her. This room was full of agony and torture, the door to this room was never supposed to have been opened again. But it had been.

Ella knelt to the floor and studied the dust marks, it had been some years since someone had been here, that was for sure. Suddenly, Ella spotted a muted color of red and it made her breath get caught in her throat. Specks of blood were still tainted all over the floor, leading up to the bed. She followed the sickening pathway up to the snowy white sleeping place and was only made to feel even more queasy and Ella wasn't one to be disgusted quickly. The white sheets of the bed were drenched in crusted blood and it seemed to shape a the outline of a body. The slashed blankets were bundled into messy piles and the pillows were deflated of feathers. Ella stared horrifically down at the sight when something crumpled caught her eye. A balled up piece of paper lay half under a sheet and the curiosity of it was too much; Ella reached out and grabbed it hungrily which instantly lead to her regret of rash fulness.

She fell back at full force as she was blinded by images, choppy and nonsensical. A picture of a frail girl wailing by her dead mother's side, a beautifully pained woman with a knife puncturing her chest, a girl who was enveloped by darkness but her green eyes shining out lustfully, a falling apple. Ella screamed, letting the piece of paper flutter out of her hands to the floor beneath her. Her breathing was harsh and unsteady for the second time today as she stood up, legs shaking and started running out of the bedroom when she tripped, cursing her tethered shoe. But it wasn't her shoe she had fallen on. A wonky floorboard stuck up awkwardly from the floor, its nails seemingly ripped out. Frantically, Ella's hands danced around it, prying it up. Whatever she came here for, this was what she needed.

Heart pounding, she worked as fast and panicked. Finally gave one last heave that revealed a black hole and a silver box. She scooped the object out, not thinking twice about what it was and sprinted down the steps, convinced that whatever evil had lurked in that room was still following her. The minute she left, the door slammed shut by itself, echoing throughout the palace which only made Ella run harder.

By the time she reached the wishing well, she was thoroughly out of breath but couldn't be more thankful that she was out of that place, out of that eeriness. Almost forgetting about her precious cargo in her hand, she cradled it carefully, not wanting to open it just yet for all she was thinking about was getting as far away from the castle as possible. She didn't care where she went, not that she could decide, anyways, for all she knew, she was in Oz or some other far off land. 

Tightening the laces on her boots and grabbing one more sip of water, she quickly knotted her hair into a tight bun, preparing for the long hike ahead. She thought about trying to find a village or town or something- she probably (and hopefully) wasn't the only lost citizen of Follia. Ella saw some damp ground, damper then it would be if it had rained so she knew a stream was close by and usually, a stream lead to a river which meant that settlements would be nearby because EVERYBODY needed water. Ella decided to start with that form of navigation, not that she had anything else, of course.

Walking through the forest would've been nice if she had had more happier thoughts to think about but all her mind was plagued with was thoughts of the silver box, Lady Tremaine, the snow girl and Char. 

Trembling a little at the thought of her best friend, she recalled last night and how his strong arms had wrapped around her, yelling that he would never leave her unprotected through the howls of the wind and the crashing of the ballroom. Ella had absolutely no idea what had happened to him; if he were dead or suffering or lying in a pool of his own blood... She shook her head violently, trying to clear the horrific images from her mind. They had been dancing and of course Ella was stumbling all over him making a proud statement that she never was or would be royal. She had been whispering sarcastic and jeering remarks in his ear about how idiotic everybody looked in THEIR over-stuffed parrot gowns and how utterly stupid the art of graceful dancing was when suddenly, her oh-so-wonderful step mother had appeared at the front.

Char had held her up with support when her knees buckled (embarrassingly) and when Irena had started scoffing about how it was all Ella's fault that this curse had to be set. Then, of course, the room started falling apart and being sucked into this big, bottomless pit but she nor he had been scared. In fact, they were so confident that Char had looked into her eyes once more, kissed her lightly on the mouth and then lead her to the edge where they had jumped in. 

Looking back on it, it might've been smarter if they hand't acted so gallantly but something told Ella that even if they hadn't, they would've been separated inevitably. The more she thought about it, the more anger rushed to her cheeks. All she really wanted to do was spit in Irena's face and tell her that she was a stiff, sour, old jerk. 

The afternoon sun rose above her and despite the trees cover, the heat still made Ella feel as though she were burning. It was odd how it Follia it was nearly winter but here it seemed to be brimming on the edges of summer, wherever she was. The more she walked, the more her back seemed to have its skin being peeled, the more mud caked on her shoes, the hotter the crown of her head became. She finally knelt down out of near sun stroke and tried to make a quick detour by drinking some of the stream water. She splashed the lukewarm liquid on her face and arms, cooling them down ever so slightly. Ella was disappointed that she had not seen any sign of civilization yet and it was making her a bit frantic. She gazed tiredly down into the stream as if it held all the answers when she took notice of her appearance for once. Ella didn't actually think she was that magnificent looking and to be honest, she had no idea why she was picked as the most fair looking maiden at the ball. Her nose was too long for her face, her eyebrows were a bit too slanted so it looked like she was constantly ready for battle, or something. Her soft, rounded eyes didn't seem to match her lips that were a bit too thin looking. Of course, Ella didn't care at all about her appearance or weight or height like all the other girls did. No one had ever had a 'crush' on her when she was younger- other than Edward but he was just probably playing around but that was always fine by Ella. She had always preferred mud fights and archery.

Just as she was standing up to leave, a long, strand of red looped over the ground. Ella picked it up for inspection as the dirtied silk swam easily through her rough hands. She didn't know why it was there but it gave her the smallest flicker of hope; maybe it belonged to a girl who lived nearby. She stuffed it in the pocket of her tattered ball gown from the previous day- she seemed to be ruining a lot of dresses lately. 

After another hour or so when the sun started sinking tiredly in the horizon, Ella began to become nervous. There was something lonely and cold about sleeping out in a forest all by yourself and she had never been one with little insects. She was fine with mice and other small animals just never those shiny black beetles or buzzing mosquitoes. Just as she was planning on climbing a smallish oak tree and making camp up there, a literal miracle came about. A hidden clearing had been made up ahead where an empty clothes line stood, a crystal lake had pooled and an enchanting yet small cottage rested with darkened windows. The house looked abandoned and at this point, Ella didn't care if a serial killer lived here (well maybe a little bit) however she highly doubted that the quant, quiet home was any villain's style. So, she tip-toed silently towards it, avoiding fallen leaves and twigs at all costs, just to make sure that nobody was home. 

Ella was about five feet from the framed glass windows that had panes made of sticks and grass ties. Bending down ever so slightly, she peered in the dusty glass and saw a petite kitchen and wooden table set nicely about. Pans hung cleanly from the wall and a vase of freshly picked flowers sat contentedly on the home-made, oak counters. It was obvious that someone lived here but Ella made an executive guess that these people were out tonight and that she would be there guest of honor.

Marching her way confidently to the door, she wiggled the doorknob and too her surprise, the door swung welcomely open. Ella had to duck in the oddly small door frame and it made her wonder just how small these people were. Although, she didn't really care; all that mattered was that she had an actual roof over her head.

As she placed the ribbon and silver box on the table, she made her way over to the pantry that sat fatly in the corner. Opening it, she came across rows and rows of fresh food: fro truffles to oranges and baked pies to chestnuts. The only thing that the cupboard didn't hold was apples which Ella found kind of weird since their seemed to be numerous apple trees all over the forest. 

Right as she started shifting through the food, she nearly had a heart attack when a dry, low voice sounded out behind her.

"Gees, how many of these women are the dwarfs going to get? They're like a female magnet, or something." 

Instinctively, Ella reached for her knife which wasn't there. Usually, when she wore her simple dresses and work clothes, she kept it in her back pocket but obviously she hadn't taken it to the ball with her. Instead, she dislodged a heavy, metal from the wall and held it up defensively in front of her. She had once knocked a thief out with a cooking pot when he was stealing from her garden so hopefully she would be able to do it again.

"Who are you and what do you want?" She demanded forcefully, not showing a sliver of fear. The man had shoulder length, brown, curly hair and hazel eyes. He was tall and muscular and something told Ella that he was pretty rich, the way he was dresses.

He smiled humorlessly. "Shouldn't I be asking you that since you're the one breaking in and stealing?" 

Ella considered that for only a moment before she retorted back, "Well, you obviously don't live here, either... you're way too tall." She gestured to him with the pan, acknowledging his height. That comment sounded a lot better in her head. 

He walked over casually and pulled out one of the wooden chairs from the table, sitting and putting his hands behind his head like it was some old, friendly get together.

Ella automatically disliked him; he was cocky and arrogant, two traits she really hated. "Who do you think you are?" She questioned annoyed. As much as she found him particularly distasteful, a part of her troubled mind relaxed. She wasn't the only human being walking around in this godforsaken forest.

"Oooh, were playing this game, huh? Well, princess, I think that I am the most irresistible guy in the world and I think that you are a mentally deranged crazy woman, or at least, that's what your dress tells me. Am I right, princess?"

Ella glared daggers at him. "First of all, stop calling me princess or so help me Rhonda I will knock you out so cold you'll be sent to the North Pole." 

He grinned. "Oooh, a scary princess."

Ella closed her eyes and took a deep breath, trying to regain composure. As much as she wanted to see a big, red pan mark on his conceited face, she probably needed him to survive.

She slowly lowered the pan and placed it on the counter, standing up straighter to show that she wasn't some cower some girl who had no power or fighting skills. Making her way back over to the table, she wanted to grab the red ribbon and the silver box and place them behind her, just to make sure he didn't get any ideas of stealing them. As she bent down to get the objects, her trademark item, the blue sapphire chocker in which she wore in all of the royal family portraits hung loosely around her neck. She saw the man looking at the chocker curiously and then his face suddenly went deathly pale with recognition. 

Out of the blue, he leaped from his chair and pointed his sword directly at her chest, eyes dancing with fire. 

"You, you.... you're that girl, that girl who Snow and I saw through the portal, the one who's Essie's sister." He stuttered, growling at her.

Ella was too shocked to grab her frying pan as she was too stuck in confusion when suddenly it hit her, a note of a memory appeared in her head as she realized that this was the prince who was standing next to that snow girl. Still, she had no idea why he was pointing his sword at her, 'Who in the world is Essie?' She thought to herself.

"You know exactly who she is, don't play games with me, witch." He hissed, acid dripping in his voice and the next moment, he was pinning Ella against a wall, his raged face right next to hers as she registered that she had said her thought aloud. 

"What do you know? Where is Snow White?" He yelled, spit getting in her face. "I'm not in a patient mood today, tell me what you know!"

"Who is Snow White? What are you talking-" Ella as cut off as he pressed his arm up tighter to her throat, barely allowing her to breath.

​"I'll ask one more time: Where is Snow White?" He scoffed deathly quiet.

Ella then remembered something Char taught her long ago when she was learning how to fight: it was quite a common thing back then to go and try to win some street money from throwing a few punches. Ella could hear his voice in her head as clearly as if he were saying it to her now.

They had been standing in a snowy field in the middle of December, small flakes of crystals falling lightly on their near frozen hands. Char had pinned her down and was talking her through the maneuver she needed to complete to get out of it.

She had looked attentively up into his big, blue eyes with a hard expression of determination set on her childish face. "When they have you down like this, my only big, simple secret is to bite them so hard that they scream and shock and release you." Of course, Ella had made Char scream so loud that he nearly started an avalanche and she was ready to use that good old tactic once again.

She looked right at him with her forget-me-not blue eyes, trying to appear innocent and sweet, right before she snapped at his fingers. Hard. 

He yelped and jumped back in surprise giving Ella just enough time to skid around him a shove him into the wall, thrusting her arm at HIS neck. She smiled at him sweetly.

"I'll tell you one more time you little egotistical pin-head: I have no idea what you're talking about. All I can guess is that my step-mother, Lady Tremaine knows this Essie girl who wants revenge on someone you know and that they teamed up to release one big butt-kicking curse." Ella huffed, finally getting him to listen. She noticed his hazel eyes soften and start to understand that she knew nothing which made him basically look utterly defeated. 

Ella slowly backed away, releasing him. He immediately rubbed his neck and Ella couldn't help but feel a little proud of her fighting skills but her feeling of success didn't hold up for long when she saw the mans expression truly. His eyes seemed to be red from crying and bags sat under his eyes. His mouth was set into a mournful frown and his hair was tousled horribly.

Ella then became conscious of the fact that she did not know his name. "I'm Ella, what's your name?" She asked softly, feeling a bit childish.

"James." He muttered back. He extended his hand and Ella shook it tentatively. "Sorry about all that- I've just had a rough couple hours."

Ella rolled her eyes. "Yeah, me to. It's not so fun waking up nearly dead in the middle of nowhere with nobody."
"Sorry." James replied again, this time a bit sheepishly.

Ella ambled over to the countertop and hoisted herself on to it, seining her legs back and forth. "So who is this Snow White girl, anyways?"

James sighed, sitting back down. "It was the woman standing next to me when you saw us through the portal."

Ella's jaw dropped, gobsmacked. "That's her?" She questioned indecorously. "She looks a bit frail." Ella sputtered without really thinking.

"Actually she is one of the most brave women I know and she just happens to be my wife." James replied defensively.

​"You two didn't look very 'in love.'" Ella mumbled, embarrassed. 

"That's because we aren't; it was an arranged thing." James said, twidling his fingers on the table. "You didn't look completely head over heels about the guy you were with, either."

"I had an arranged marriage, too." Ella responded quietly, staring intently at the floor.

"Oh."

Ella studied his face and she found herself surprised that they even had one thing in common. "I'm not in love with him but he's kind of my best friend and from the way you describe...Snow, it sounds like you kind of like her too."

"Are you trying to propose something here because if you are, just say it." James grumbled impatiently.

"This is just a hunch, but I have a feeling that we both know something that can help us get back to well... whatever our weird sense of 'normality' is." Ella remarked hurriedly.

"Are you saying you want a truce?" James inquired with a chip of amusement in his voice.

Ella then looked at his hazel eyes straight on. "That is exactly what I'm saying."


 

 

 

 

 

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