As promised, here is a Cinderella retelling by Leandra Ranger!
Leandra and Gwen
Her name echoed through the halls. “Ellie! I’m hungry!” “Ellie! Where are my stays?!” “Ellie! Feed the cat!” It seemed the shouts never ended. They rose and set with the sun.
Ellie wished she could sleep when night fell.
Well, she normally did, but not today. Tonight, there was a ball, and all the maidens of the city were invited to attend, even Ellie. It was her one chance to appeal to the Queen about her situation.
“Ellie!” bellowed her stepmother, dripping in diamonds bought with Ellie’s inheritance, “Get me my gown. Don’t make me wait.” Suppressing a sigh, Ellie scuttled away on her new task and prayed she could get control of her lands before her stepfamily consumed them all.
~ ~ ~
Sixteen hours later, Ellie, surrounded by perfectly dressed denizens of the realm, curtsied in front of the Queen.
The Queen looked less than impressed as she took in Ellie’s faded gown and thread-bare slippers, however, the weight of Ellie’s family name was enough to grant five minutes of conversation.
“I’m sorry I have been absent at court, Your Majesty,” began Ellie, trying to keep a calm demeanor as her mind whirled with the importance of the conversation. “I have been doing my familial duty as a stepdaughter of my father’s widow. However,” Ellie leaned forward, pleading with her stoic monarch, “I must implore you to pass control of the family lands over to me early. I have papers,” Ellie pulled a sheaf from her bodice, to the Queen’s well-disguised dismay, “that prove abuse of stewardship-“
The Queen waved a hand, effectively cutting off Ellie. “We have sworn to leave the ruling families to their own devices unless felonies are proved or the head of the house requests it. You know this.” “A just monarch does not break their own rules.” Ellie opened and closed her mouth fruitlessly as the words sunk in, hands grasping at her dress. The Queen waved her hand, further cementing Ellie’s fate. “Enjoy the ball, Lady Eleanor.” Ellie curtseyed and left the Queen, useless plans already crowding her mind in an attempt to hold back tears. She escaped behind a pillar and resisted the urge to crumple with some deep breaths. She would have to find another way; she just needed to comb through her father’s law books one more time. But first, she needed to make it through the ball, and, for that, she needed a drink.
Apparently, she wasn’t the only one. Prince Henry was trading an empty champagne flute for a full one when Ellie approached the service table. She gave him a polite nod as she walked by, and he turned to face her.
“Lady Eleanor,” he charmed, “Might I speak with you? Alone?”
“Of course, my Prince,” she replied, cleverly disguising her desire to be alone with her thoughts and her drink out of respect of his status. With her permission, he deftly steered her around some chittering ladies to a nearby alcove.
“I overheard your conversation with my mother,” he began, releasing her elbow. “And I want to help.”
“So you’ll give me back my lands?” asked Ellie, incredulous but unable to deny her hope.
Henry sook is head, chest deflating slightly at being unable to fulfill her request. “My hands are tied in the same way my mothers’ are, unfortunately. However, I can offer you a way around the rules.”
“Oh?” asked Ellie, somewhat suspicious, “And what is that?”
“This ball is held so that I might find a bride amongst the ruling class. You be that bride.” Ellie went to interject, but the Prince held up his hand to silence her, “Don’t worry; we’ll leave each other to our own devices in the bedroom-I want that freedom anyway. And, most importantly to you, you would then be a part of the Queen’s family-“
“And,” Ellie’s nodded, unbidden excitement filling her heart as the implications sank in, “she can rule upon my lands.”
“If your evidence is as good as you seem to think it is, you could have stewardship within a week of the engagement.”
“How convenient.” Ellie sipped her drink, enthusiasm quickly giving way to caution and consideration. She had no promise he would keep his word, and she certainly did not love him. However, if she waited for her eighteenth birthday, her fortune would be squandered. There were worse reasons to marry.
“What do you say, Lady Eleanor?” asked the Prince, rakish smile rising when he was not rejected outright. “Do you accept my proposal?”
“I think,” she paused, thoughts of her father’s legacy running through her head, “I think you have found your princess.”