Cinderella...Well, Sort of....

by Mary Christmas (unicorn_76010 at lycos.com)
3/22/02
Once upon a time, in the fair land of New London... Okay, so it wasn't so fair, what with all the pollution and hovercraft filling the sky, blanketing it so that you couldn't even really tell if it was blue or not.... Anyway, one fine fog-filled day, a man's wife died. He had loved her very much and was in mourning for her. However, they did have a daughter whose name was Elizabeth. So, though he mourned inside, he knew he had to put on a good face for her at least.
Two years had passed since the woman's death, and the man was now married to a lovely woman named Edith who had two daughters of her own that were the same age as Elizabeth. Their names were Deidre and Mary. At first, the whole family got along pretty well. Then, the man died, leaving everything to....Edith, Mary and Deidre! There was nothing for poor Elizabeth, because Edith had changed the will when no one was looking, and had had a French geneticist named Fenwick poison her husband. Okay, so not really, the guy died of a broken heart, since he still loved his first wife and now that his daughter was 'taken care of', so to speak, he could go to join her. Edith was just acting in the best interests of herself and her own daughters when she 'forgot' to mention the inheritance that Beth was to receive.
Five years passed slowly for the poor little girl. She was constantly told how much she should be grateful for the home she had been given, when she should have been thrown out. She was taken from her very cushy room and sent to live in the kitchen, tending the fire. She soon became covered in soot from head to toe, and was from then on called Cinderella by her two stepsisters and stepmother.
Mary and Deidre of course grew more beautiful with every passing day...okay, I can't lie. Deidre, though actually lovely herself, became a sort of bullying thug. She was always picking pockets when she went into town with her mother and sister, and would often blame everything she did on Cinderella, regardless of whether her stepsister was in the room or not. Mary was a rather plump individual, who loved to eat more than she cared about her appearance, and she wrote very silly verses that no one but she could understand.
Cinderella was forever cleaning and working and doing stuff for her family. She had almost no time to herself, except the time between 2 a.m. and 11 a.m. when they would all be snoring away. It was during one of these nights that she happened to meet some special friends, or to find out that they were special, anyway.
The family dog was a great brute of a beast. He looked like a wolf, except for the warm golden eyes portraying his obvious intelligence. His name was Ghost because of his silvery white coat. The one horse that was the pride and joy of the family, since he obviously came from good stock though no one could say which, was Myst. His white coat would gleam even in the wintertime, when most horses grow thick woolen winter coats. His eyes were the most impressive, however, as they were a brilliant sapphire, and could see into your soul. Then there were the mice...well...three mice and one rat. These guys were forever going about and doing things that Cinderella would often dream that she had once done, though how could she, when this life was all she could remember?
Anyway, it was during a late night stint to herself that Cinderella heard strange voices coming from the mantel. She rubbed her eyes and carefully looked towards the fireplace, only to see the three mice and the one rat having a showdown!
"Halt, you vile, reprehensible fiend!" the tallest of the two male mice squeaked in a British accent. "You shall not get away this time!"
"Yeah, freeze, clonehead!" the female mouse seconded.
For a moment Cinderella was confused. Hadn't she said that before? She quickly shook her head and continued to listen to this very odd conversation.
"No, Vole, don't!" the first mouse cried, just as the female jumped at the rat.
The rat yawned and stepped aside, letting the mouse fall straight towards the fire! Cinderella couldn't just sit by and let this happen. So she moved forward and caught the little creature in her hands. The other three standing on the mantel looked down at her with expressions varying from awe to dismay. The dismay was on the rat's face.
"Human," the rat began, "you have no clue who you're messing with, do you?" When Cinderella shook her head, he waved his opera cloak around and gave a deep bow. "Professor James Ratigan at your service. Or rather not at your service, muahahah!"
"Okay, Professor James Ratigan," Cinderella answered, "you stop what you're doing right now, or I'll get out that poison my stepmother left just for this. I never did like killing creatures but I could make an exception with you!"
The rat instantly subsided.
Ghost chose that moment to come sniffing around. "Glad somebody finally told him off. I was getting tired of hearing those same lines over and over again. You know, the robot would have saved her with his rope thingy."
Cinderella looked at the dog and nodded eagerly.
Now, I know what you're thinking -- talking mice and dogs. Why isn't she thinking she's mad? Well, I'll tell you why. She has no friends and nobody to talk to. Who cares if she's crazy? Anyway, on with the story.
Ghost introduced the three mice. "The one you're holding is Inspector Alicia Vole of New Mouseland Yard. She's pretty okay, but a bit impetuous. The tall one with the big schnoz is Basil of Baker Street, the Great Mouse Detective. He's supposed to be dead but...well, Allie is impetuous, like I said. She seems to think he's the only one who can defeat the rat. Anyway, the other mouse is actually a mech-mouse. He's wearing some sort of mask of some type. I don't know, and I don't really care. Oh yeah, his name's Dawson."
As each of them were introduced, they all gave a little bow. "It is a pleasure to speak with you at last, Miss Cinderella," the robot squeaked in a highly dignified little tone. "You always looked so lonely sitting in that corner all by yourself. I wanted to come speak with you...but there are rules against that. Unless you accidentally overhear us, we cannot speak in your presence."
That of course, was the beginning of a beautiful... well, okay, it was a very interesting friendship, to say the least. Myst had learned (from Ghost, of course) that Cinderella could talk to them, and very willingly chatted with her as she completed the stable chores. The chickens and the birds that hung about the place didn't speak, but then what else would you expect from such bird-brains? The one cat they had was a calico and was absolutely worthless at catching mice. She seemed to have more fun playing hide and go seek with them. She didn't speak, either; but that was because Cinderella had saved her from drowning, though not before there was some slight brain damage. The kitty was a sweetheart, though, and even the cold, tough hearts of her stepfamily were swayed by the little thing. Kitty was her name.
And now, we finally come to the point I have been trying to get at all this time. It had been five years since her father's death, and Cinderella had all but forgotten life before this. It was a cold and dreary day -- weather in London always being such most of the time. (p.s. Don't try to figure that sentence out...it gave me a headache too....) And we are going to completely change perspectives on you because I feel like it.
At New Scotland Yard Castle (yep, New Scotland Yard Castle...), there lived a portly old king, who had a very annoying son whose name was Sherlock. Now, Prince Sherlock was not satisfied being a prince. In fact, all he wanted to do was detective work, which was so much more satisfying. He had already caught the gold smuggler, the guy who was embezzling funds and a whole bunch of other baddies.
On this particular day, however, King Charles was adamant.
"No, no and no again! How many times do I have to tell you that you cannot be a detective! That is what the royal guard is for!"
"Father, no offense, but the men in the royal guard couldn't find their way out of this castle if it weren't for the clearly marked exit signs." One of these brilliantly lit neon signs blew a circuit and went out, right over the king's head.
"Right. Well, I tell you what. Since you'll be king someday, it would be good for you to be able to keep your kingdom safe. So, I'll let you be a detective. On one condition, however."
Sherlock smiled, knowing he had it won. "Anything, Father."
"You will be married by this time next month."
"What!" Sherlock was shocked. His father looked incredibly pleased by this, judging by the smug smile on his face. However, Sherlock knew that the man was simply trying to get him to back down. As much as he hated the thought of marriage, it was the lesser evil. "Very well, Father, but I expect to have a choice in the matter. All eligible females in the kingdom. And by eligible I mean of marriageable age, not bank account."
The king gaped at his son, but knew there was no way out. Oh, well, you can't win them all. He instantly sent for the Grand Duke and Sherlock's best friend Watson. Watson was a robot, but who really cares?
"Watson, I want you to get this notice out immediately. All females of marriageable age are required...er..okay, are invited to attend a ball in the prince's honor."
"A ball? Now wait a minute, Father..."
"No, no, son, this is the best way to catch them out. You'll get to meet them all, talk to them, dance with them, and decide. Now you go on and do your detective stuff."
Sherlock could only agree and walked out.
And now, we skip a couple of days ahead to the market square where Watson is nailing up (what? you don't understand? Oh, well, then, let me explain...I don't really, either. It's not supposed to make sense. Just go with it, okay?) a flyer. When he had done and walked off (not before Deidre had got a couple of very nice jewels off him) Edith, Mary and Deidre shoved their way to the front of the crowd. The flyer read as follows:
Attention all females of marriageable age. You are required...er, okay, invited to attend a ball in the prince's honor, one month from two days ago. We expect...er, hope to see you there.
All the women in the marketplace squealed happily and ran home. The dressmakers were required to provide materials for ballgowns for free, since a lot of the girls couldn't afford their exorbitant prices. And so followed a month of frenetic energy.
Poor Cinderella didn't even have that short time to herself any longer, what with helping her sisters with their dresses along with cooking, cleaning, sewing, mending, washing, etc. Anyway, during one afternoon session of trying to convince Mary to put on her corset (those things are torture devices! Much worse than bras!) Cinderella tentatively brought up the question about going to the ball. Not that she really wanted to go. She didn't like corsets, either. It was, however, a chance to know more than this provincial life. (Oops, wrong movie....)
Edith looked down her nose at Cinderella, then smiled a nasty but beautiful smile. "But of course you can go Cindy dear...after you have completed your chores, you can make yourself a dress."
With a sinking heart, Cinderella realized that would never happen, and she made her way down to the stables to finish mucking out the single stall, even though it never seemed to be dirty. Myst was an odd horse.
What Cinderella didn't know was that her dear mousey friends, and the rat too, had overheard what was going on. They came up with a plan of their own.
"Okay," Alicia said, "we're gonna make her a dress. That way, when the night comes, it'll be done whether or not she's finished her chores or not. Right? Right."
"I do believe that is the most intelligent thing I've ever heard you say, my dear Alicia," Ratigan purred.
"Shove it, second most evil criminal mastermind in the world!" Alicia snarled. "And don't say my name like that. It gives me the willies."
"Yes yes yes!" Basil crowed, "here we are. Now we just need Ghost and Kitty's help in keeping the witches away."
And so Cinderella's loyal friends (and the rat) made her a dress. Though it wasn't the most stylish thing, it was rather lovely. Anyway, the night of the ball came, and the four (and the rat) presented it to her with a flourish.
"Oh, you guys...it's a good thing I finished my chores only a few minutes ago. Hurry, help me get it on! They'll leave without me!"
So with much hustle, and a lot of work (come on, guys, she's a full grown human and they are like way smaller...) they finally got the dress on. Of course she was still covered in soot, but oh well. She ran down the stairs, to find her stepmother and sisters already gone. There was no way she could catch up even if she did ride Myst, who was left behind since one they had used a rental coach. (Just to look more classy than everybody else.)
Cinderella slumped to the ground in defeat. The grass was wet from the rain, but she didn't care. Alicia, Basil and Dawson all climbed onto her shoulders, and Ghost padded over and laid his head in her lap. "Thanks anyway, you guys. At least I know I'll always have you."
"Not so fast, my dear," a deep masculine voice said from behind her. They all turned around to see a man wearing a frilly pink dress, with a low bodice showing his chest hair, and a curly white wig. The whole effect was extremely incongruous, especially with the long, dark black sideburns, and goatee. He carried a tiny toy fairy wand -- you know the kind they have in with the fairy costume for Halloween? Yeah. Cinderella very carefully kept the grin off her face, as did Ghost, Vole, Basil and Dawson. Ratigan, of course, was nowhere near as reserved, and downright guffawed.
"Who are you supposed to be?" the rat asked between laughs. "Cindy's fairy godmother?"
"As a matter of fact, vermin, I am," the man said with a sort of hurt dignity, "I am also the world's greatest criminal genius, Moriarty."
This only set the rat to laughing even more. "Oh...yeah... right...I suppose you were cloned by an evil French geneticist who thought he would control you but you ended up controlling him instead?"
"Now," Moriarty said, ignoring the rat, "I am going to need a dog, a horse, four mice or rats, and a pumpkin."
Cinderella blinked, not entirely certain she should trust this person. "We don't have any pumpkins...."
Moriarty rolled his eyes and gave a long suffering sigh. "Fine. Do you have anything at all that is living that has a round shape?"
"Why, yes," Dawson supplied helpfully, "there are the tulip bulbs that have yet to be planted."
"Excellent," Moriarty exclaimed, rubbing his hands together. "Now just bring all the items to me."
Cinderella, still not certain she should trust him, did as he bid anyway. First she went to the stable and opened Myst's stall. Then she proceeded to gather up a tulip bulb, which she carried carefully back to where the others stood waiting.
The fairy godmother motioned for Cinderella to stand back as he lifted the toy wand. Tiny sparks flew from it, and a strange mechanical chamber as large as the house appeared beside him, along with a horridly disfigured man.
"My magic is limited," Moriarty explained with a shrug, "All right, Fenwick, the tulip first."
The weird little man did as he was told and placed the bulb inside the chamber, an insignificant speck against the yawning cavern. He then walked over to the side and pulled a lever. A heavy metal door slammed shut. Fenwick pressed a few buttions, and from within the chamber a flash of light could be seen.
Afterwards, the door opened and there, sitting in regal splendor was an ivory coach in the shape of a tulip.
"Now the rat goes next," Moriarty said, while Fenwick, surprisingly strong for such a short person, pulled the coach out.
Ratigan protested. "I am not a RAT!" and tried to run away.
However, Moriarty quickly captured him and threw him into the chamber. "Yes, you are."
When the flashing light thing was done, out stepped a man dressed in white livery with gold trim.
"Fenwick, you imbecile! The rat and the mice are supposed to be white horses!"
"S...sorry master. Et weel not 'appen again."
"It had better not! Now, try and match the other three to this horse, and turn the dog into the other human! Immediately!"
The rest of the transformations went without mishap and soon four beautifully matched white horses stood harnessed to the ivory-colored tulip-shaped coach. Ratigan was the footman (it was too much of a hazard to let him have the driving whip) and Ghost was the driver.
"Now, for you, my dear," Moriarty said with a smile.
Cinderella backed away slowly. She didn't really have to go to this ball, and who knew if that thing was actually safe?
"Oh, don't be absurd," the man exclaimed, "I'm going to use my limited magic to clean you up and make you more presentable."
"Oh," was all she could manage...Yeah, right. "Um...why is your magic limited, anyway?"
"I'm only a part-time fairy godmother," was the reply. Then he waved his toy wand and suddenly she was wearing a beautiful white ballgown -- and of course this wouldn't be Cinderella without the glass slippers. Moriarty also handed her a mask. "So your family won't recognize you. I can only imagine the heck you'll have to pay if they find out."
As the coach was pulling away, Moriarty called out a warning. "Remember, you have to be back by midnight! The genetic changes are unstable and won't last past that. And as I said, my magic is limited. Have fun!"
And we're switching perspectives again. Dull, dreadfully dull. That was all Sherlock could think of as he stood greeting each of the guests who entered the castle. Not a one of them was interesting in the least. Oh, they might have one or two points that would intrigue him, but he soon had the mystery solved and was once again bored out of his mind. Now, he was greeting the last three, and he was in a slight panic. How could he choose from this lot?
The smallest of the two girls, Deidre, was obviously a thief and most likely the one that had the Guard completely baffled. Though that showed she had brains, he simply wasn't interested. Her sister Mary, a plump young woman, was rather vacuous and didn't seem at all interested in him or the proceedings. He smiled at their mother and made all the appropriate remarks, then quickly walked away.
Surely this couldn't be all the girls in the kingdom? He was doomed, otherwise.
And then it happened. She walked in. A young woman with dark brown hair fixed into little ringlets atop her head. She had on an ivory-colored dress that shimmered as she walked, and glass slippers clinging to her dainty feet. But that wasn't the most interesting thing about her. Oh goodness no! Out of all the guests, she was the only one to wear a mask! It was...intriguing, mysterious, an enigma. Who was this young lady that she didn't want to be known? Surely with her beauty she would want all to gaze upon her. Perhaps that was it. She probably had scars or...no, he simply had to find out for himself.
Ignoring all the others, he walked towards her as if in a trance. He reached the stairs just as her name was announced.
"Lady Elizabeth of Jewel."
Jewel. He had never heard of it, and it added to her aura of mystery.
"Lady Elizabeth," he said softly. Her face jerked towards him, and he was pierced by brilliant blue eyes that were filled with...discomfort? He grinned.
"I perceive you do not want to be here, m'lady," he said, giving a gallant bow.
The girl's lips quirked up into a grin. "How very perceptive of you, sir."
"Ah, but I make it my life's work to observe that which ordinary folk overlook. They look without seeing, but I, I truly see."
"Oh really? Then can you see that I am going to leave now?" The girl turned to walk out.
"Wait!" he called, "But give me one dance, and we shall see if I cannot convince you to stay, at least for a little while longer."
The girl turned back to him, surprise evident in those sparkling eyes. "I...all right." She accepted his hand and he pulled her onto the dance floor, just as the orchestra struck up a waltz.
"Do you know the prince?" she asked suddenly.
He glanced into her eyes again, startled. Was she joking? No, she truly did not know.
"We've...met. So, tell me is that all you came here for? To see if you could succeed where others have failed, in securing the prince's hand?"
Lady Elizabeth snorted, a rather inelegant unladylike sound. He loved it. "Hardly. I just...wanted a change of pace, if you know what I mean."
There ensued a lively conversation that quickly turned into a stimulating argument. The song ended, but he was in no mood to end the discussion and led her out to the balcony, where they continued on until they both actually agreed on something, at which point they broke down into gales of laughter.
Sobering up, he took one of her hands. "Can I not have just one look at your face, lovely lady?"
"I...oh no!" The clock was striking the midnight hour, and the girl stood up and ran through the ballroom and out the door. He watched, rather dumbfounded, then gave chase. It was too late, however. All that was left of the enigmatic girl was a glass slipper that had slipped off her foot in her haste.
"Well," Watson said coming up beside him, "it will be an impossible task to find this girl. That shoe could fit any small-footed beauty."
"On the contrary, Watson," Sherlock corrected. "Do you not see that this shoe was tailor-made to fit only one foot? It would make for an uncomfortable wear should one to whom it does not belong try it on. Come Watson! The game is a foot!"
(Okay, I just had to do that...)
Back to Cinderelly's point of view....Cinderella, even though the coach crashed just outside the gates of the house, was in a wonderful mood. Sure she'd never see that man again, or even know his name. But she still had her memories, and one glass slipper. Doing her stepmother and sisters' bidding would not be so bad.
The thought of her stepmother reminded her that she needed to get Myst back into his stall, and change into her normal rags. She quickly finished, and was just sitting down on the stool by the fire when the girls and their mother walked in.
"Zedding prince!" Deidre exclaimed, "'E didn't even talk to anyone. Passed us right up, 'e did!"
"So?" Mary countered, "You didn't want to marry him, anyway."
"You didn't, either!"
"So?'
"So?'
"So?"
"So?"
"That is enough, girls!" Edith shouted. "Now go up to your rooms; you're giving me a headache!" The woman turned to Cinderella and sneered. "Be grateful you got to sit here all alone, because you would have been more embarassed than us. All that dreadful prince could do was dance and talk with that girl. Lady Elizabeth of Jewel indeed. I ought to jewel her!" This last was thrown over her shoulder at the girl as she walked upstairs.
Cinderella waited until she was sure she was alone before turning to Ghost. "I...talked to the prince! Not just talked, I actually argued with him! Oh, how silly he must think me. 'Do you know the prince?' Well it's a good thing he won't ever know who I am, right?"
"Maybe...." Ghost said, his tone unconvinced.
"Eck," Ratigan said, suddenly popping up from behind the firewood. "Remind me never to hide behind that again. Bunch of blockheads down there."
"Sure thing, Ratty, but aren't you one of them?" Alicia said sweetly.
"I AM NOT A RAT!"
"Quiet!" Cinderella hissed, "And yes you are! Allie, don't egg him on, please?"
"I find it rather amusing," Basil stated, scampering up to Cinderella's shoulder. "Ah, you know, it is very interesting to view the world from another creature's point of view? I think I'll write a monogram on it." Having said his piece, he jumped down and sauntered off to do just that. Dawson scurried after him, followed closely by Alicia and Ratigan.
Cinderella smiled, shaking her head at their antics, then lay down on her skimpy, hard pallet by the stove. Sleep soon claimed her and she was off dreaming about the prince.
The next morning she was awakened by a loud wailing. It was Deidre.
Standing up quickly, she walked towards the living area, only to find a strange robot and...the prince! sitting on the sofa.
"I am telling you, it won't fit her," the prince was saying, "not only does the structure of her foot not match, I remember her face! Just as I have remembered all their faces!" The particular girl he had remembered here happened to be Mary, who didn't look too keen on trying on the glass slipper in the robot's hands. "The girl I am looking for was wearing a mask! Therefore, I would not know her face. So why do you insist on this foolish business?"
"Because your father ordered me to."
"Oh!" the prince groaned. "Very well, keep on!"
Of course the shoe most certainly did not fit Mary's foot. Cinderella quickly ducked from the room, but not before her stepmother caught sight of her.
"Your highness," Edith said, "you are going to marry the girl whose foot this glass slipper fits?"
"No. I am just out to solve a mystery."
"Well, then, Cindy dear, come on out."
Cinderella gaped at her stepmother with wide eyes. She was slightly hurt that prince didn't want to marry her, but then, it was as she had thought. He thought she was just a silly girl whose name he had to discover so that his mind would be at rest. With a small sigh, she walked into the room, avoiding everyone's eyes.
The robot helped her to sit on the sofa, and took off her worn workboot. The prince clapped in satisfaction. "Oh yes yes, this is perfect. The structure is a perfect match. Now let me see your eyes."
Cinderella looked up at the prince as the robot slipped the glass slipper onto her foot. She was shocked to see him smiling as if in triumph. "And now, dear lady, if you would consent to take my hand in marriage, I would be a most happy man."
"I thought you said you wouldn't be marrying the girl whose foot fit that slipper," Edith exclaimed, outraged.
"My dear lady, I lied. You see, when you asked that question, you looked back at the kitchen area. Now, ordinarily that would cause no comment. However, the young woman who came to the ball wore a mask. Why would she do such a thing? Because she didn't want to be recognized. I simply inferred from that that you had suddenly come to the conclusion that your step-daughter was the young woman, and that you were making sure I wasn't going to ask her before letting her come out. Very clever, but not clever enough, I fear."
"Oh bravo!" Basil stated coming out of his little hole. "Who are you, sir, that I might mmmph!" Alicia popped out and pulled him back inside with a little apologetic squeak.
"Well?" the prince questioned, his voice uncertain.
"Yes. I will marry you!"
And so everybody lived happily ever after. Well, almost everybody. Poor Ratigan was hounded every day for the rest of his life by Basil, Alicia and Dawson. Moriarty, the fairy godmother, quit that part time job and went full time into being a criminal mastermind, though King Sherlock and his wife Queen Elizabeth stopped every single one of his ventures. The king and queen had two children, a boy and a boy. (Sorry, I've always wanted to do that....) Mary took off with Ghost and Myst to who knows where. Deidre met some undercover Guard people that Sherlock actually trusted and became one of them. Their names were Wiggins and Tennyson. Edith moved back in with her father and step-mother, who was a much better step-mother than she had been.

THE END
Editor's Disclaimer: Basil of Baker Street, Dawson and Ratigan belong to the estate of the late Eve Bunting, but Alicia Vole is Mary's problem. White horses with blue eyes appear here only by coincidence and definitely do not belong to M. Lackey, just like "Lammas Night" is a poem and not a filksong set to music by Leslie Fish. And the editor has absolutely no idea who Ghost belongs to, other than himself.
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