Check out our episode here! Cinderella Is Dead by Kalynn Bayron
Cinderella has been dead for two hundred years. In the forest on Lille’s eastern border, Sophia presses Erin up against a tree, hiding them both as palace guards walk past. If they are caught, they will be killed. The guards are joking about the most gorgeous girls in a generation who will be attending the ball, perhaps their wives may have an “accident” and they will get to choose another, prettier, younger girl. When they finally pass, both girls breathe a sigh of relief, but it was awfully close in ending in disaster. Their love is forbidden. Lille follows the traditions of Cinderella laid down in her story. It is the law that every girl must attend the King's annual ball where they shall meet their husband. They have no say in who they wed, they have no control over their lives, no income, no property, no rights. If they are even caught in the woods, they will be paraded through the streets in shackles, possibly stuffed into a cage in the center of town and be subjected to humiliation for daring to step off the path. Sophia wants to run away with Erin, start a life together, but Erin won’t.
Sophia is meant to be meeting her mother at the seamstress’s shop for a fitting, bathed, with her hair washed and with a fresh face. After her run through the woods, however, she is dirty, disheveled and has cuts on her knees from a fall. As Sophia walks quickly though the streets, keeping her head down, she notices more guards than usual. Lille is on high alert after the incident two weeks ago when an explosion damaged the Colossus, a twenty-foot likeness of Mersaille’s savior, Prince Charming, in the city of Chione. At home, Sophia looks at the portrait of the King of Mersailles. It is required they be hung in every residence and every public place. The current king, King Manford, has a capacity for cruelty and a lust for control that rivals his predecessors.
The king of Mersaille controls his subjects through the Lille Decrees. They are as follows:
1. A minimum of one pristine copy of Cinderella will be kept in every household.
2. The annual ball is a mandatory event. Three trips are permitted, after which attendees are considered forfeit.
3. Participants in unlawful, unsanctioned unions will be considered forfeit.
4. All members of households in Mersailles are required to designate one male, of legal age, to be head of household, and his name will be registered with the palace. All activities undertaken by any member of the household must be sanctioned by the head of household.
5. For their protection, women and children must be in their permanent place of residence by the stroke of eight each night.
6. A copy of all applicable laws and decrees along with an approved portrait of His Majesty will be displayed in every household, at all times.
It is a requirement that the girls of Mersaille have a palace-approved copy of Cinderella’s tale. It's decree number one. Every girl is raised to know the story by heart, to believe that if they are good and obedient, the fairy godmother will bless them. They are raised never to doubt the tale, and most especially, to never voice those doubts. Sophia has many doubts. She looks at the beautifully illustrated copy of Cinderella’s tale and the ivory envelope with her ball invitation and sees the face value beauty. Her fate is terrible, whether she is selected or not. Hurrying to the dressmaker’s shop now, she passes people purchasing ostentatious wigs, replica glass-slippers and dresses, tinctures, potions, magic charms, items they can’t afford and of dubious nature in a bid to make their daughter stand out.
Rushing through the Bicentennial Celebration on her way to the seamstress, Sophia sees little girls playing Cinderella-themed games, winning fake palace-approved merchandise. When they lose, they receive ugly step-sister-themed items. Little girls cry at those, they don’t want to turn out like them. On the way, Sophia bumps into her friend Liv who is excited to have won a palace-approved replica fairy godmother wand. She also runs into Erin. Erin shushes Sophia when she voices her cynicism, reminding her “If we are diligent, if we know the passages, if we honor our fathers, we might be granted the things Cinderella was.” They must put faith in the story. Erin wants Sophia to accept the way things are, but Sophia can’t do that. There is a commotion and the girls overhear that another body was found at Gray Lake. These are very troubling times. Sophia, two hours late, finally reaches the seamstress's shop. Her mother is not pleased, but her fitting proceeds. Sophia notices the marks along the seamstress’s neck. It seems she did not make a fortuitous match at her ball.
Sophia and her mother make it home as the bell tolls, signaling the curfew for the women and children. Her mother tries to instill the importance that Sophia makes a match at the ball. She knows her daughter is different, but she can’t be. She must conform in order to survive. When Sophia challenges her mother about wanting her to be happy, she tells her in no uncertain terms that she wants Sophia to be safe, that happiness is a bonus, and she is not entitled to it.
The next day, Sophia is going about her chores when her mother sends her back into town. She forgot the ribbons for Sophia’s hair. Mr. Langley’s son will come to collect her, so no, she can’t walk by herself, and no, she can’t take the carriage by herself. Mr. Langley’s son, Luke, is a puzzle. He has an easy smile and Sophia tries to put distance between them, but he just keeps chatting. In pointed tones, Luke says he is different as well, he has no interest in the ball either and he gives Sophia a knowing look which terrifies her. Sophia doesn’t have too much time to consider the look, though, as she runs into the seamstress’s shop to collect the ribbons and finds a disturbing sight. The seamstress’s son is crying, his mommy and daddy are fighting again. When the seamstress comes out with obvious signs of being hit, she ushers her son away but her husband comes out and confirms the abusive situation with threats to his wife and Sophia. The seamstress sees that Sophia is one of those girls that thinks there is a way out, that there is something better. She tells her, there isn’t.
On the way home, Sophia and Luke encounter some bullies who have made Luke’s life miserable. Morris in particular seems shocked that Luke is with a girl. As they taunt Luke about a boy named Louis, punches are thrown, and Morris and his friends run off. It’s only when Luke says he always imagined Prince Charming for him that Sophia realizes Luke is gay. Luke was in a relationship with Louis, but when Louis’s parents found out, they took him to the palace as a forfeit, and Luke never saw him again. He was only saved because his sister convinced them Luke was going through a phase. People who don’t fit into the king's small defined boxes end up imprisoned or dead.
It is the day of the ball, which requires an exceedingly early start to get ready. Four women help Sophia dress, buzzing around her, pulling things tight, primping and making everything just so. Sophia keeps eyeing the door as if looking for a moment to bolt through and escape, but her mother can clearly read her mind. When the five inch pointed shoes come out, Sophia has to remind herself that it isn’t about what she wants or likes, it’s about what everyone else thinks is best. One of the dressers comments that assisting the girls to get ready helps them honor Cinderella’s memory since they can no longer do it in the traditional way. What does that mean? By her expression, it seems Sophia’s mother knows. The dresser tells Sophia that they used to leave flowers and trinkets at Cinderella’s tomb. When Sophia questions this, everyone gives her a look that says she's grown a second head.
At the departure of the dressers, Sophia’s father comes in and gives her a gift, the necklace his mother used to wear. Sophia’s grandmother was a spitfire, she would always say if Sophia went to the ball, she never assumed. She would also tell Sophia to set the palace on fire and dance on the ashes if she did go to the ball. Her father besieges her to temper her rebellious spirit when the carriage arrives with Erin inside. Their parents are giving them the opportunity to say goodbye. On the way, Erin tells Sophia they are out of time.
The palace is magnificent. The guards are dressed in their best matching livery, lamps are illuminating everything in an ethereal glow, carriages are lining up in all their splendor. It is a beautiful nightmare. One girl tries to belittle Sophia but is not equipped for Sophia’s verbal punches. Trumpets blast and guards shove through the girls, sorting them into lines, and Sophia nearly comes to blows with one but it deescalates when the trumpets blast again. The girls are terrified. Sophia spots Liv in a plain cotton dress with sprigs of baby's breath in her hair. Her parents couldn’t afford to make other arrangements and she had no visit from a fairy godmother. If she isn’t selected, it doesn’t bear thinking about.
A guard announces the arrival of the men, from the Marquess of Eastern Lille to the peasants. Among them is Luke. Sophia catches his eye and they share a friendly smile. The king has not arrived yet but his large, imposing portrait looks down at them along with his predecessors. The throne is passed to a successor of the king’s choosing, handpicked from a city beyond the Forbidden Lands. Suddenly the royal anthem plays and King Manford appears. He walks to his throne and starts to give a grand speech when he singles out Liv. Her appearance offends him. Her parents' lack of devotion to the ball, to tradition, to their king offends him. He taunts Liv and is cruel and sarcastic to her. He orders her to be forcibly taken away before declaring the start of the festivities. Sophia pulls Erin aside and tells her she wants to leave Lille, and she wants her to come. They can find Liv, too, and escape, but Erin won’t. Luke interrupts them then to tell Sophia he came to the ball that evening specifically to choose her. Their match would be a ruse of course, but it would save them from unsavory companions who would treat them poorly and from being forfeit. Unfortunately, they are interrupted by some cocky, slimy man, Morris’s brother, Édouard.
Édouard is soon joined by Morris and they try to taunt Luke, but he isn’t having any of it. Luke explains that they feel entitled as their father helps fund the crown, their father also forfeited their mother so he could take a younger wife, and they brag about it. Sophia and Luke start to plan an escape. Luke goes to “claim” Sophia with the registrar (he is very sorry about the term) when Sophia goes to the powder room. She looks at her painted face in the mirror and washes it off. When she comes out, there is a commotion at the door Liv was taken out of. Guards are holding Luke and Édouard is standing next to them, smirking. Édouard declares that Morris intended to claim Sophia and that Luke is mocking tradition, that Morris’s claim is valid over Luke’s because of his higher social class. Morris ambles over and tells Sophia to smile. Sophia knees him in the balls. He yelps, causing people to turn and stare. Sophia uses this distraction to run into the powder room and escape through the window.
A guard grabs Sophia’s ankle as she is half way through the window, shouting that they’ve got a runner. She kicks back to break his hold, pulls herself the rest of the way through, and is out. She has to traverse the roof and go back into the palace, then goes through a passageway that stinks of stale water and dirt. A quiet voice tells her to keep running, don’t look back, save yourself. Sophia finds an exterior door and manages to cross the grounds and head into the woods. She pushes forward, unable to see where she is going for a long time when she stumbles into a clearing with a mausoleum at its center. One name marks the occupant: Cinderella.
Cinderella’s mausoleum is creepy, overgrown and neglected. It’s surrounded by hundreds of toys, crumbling flowers and trinkets. Pieces of paper in various stages of decay litter the mausoleum, all asking Cinderella to bless their daughter at the ball. From behind the stained glass window in the door, Sophia sees flashes of white-blue light illuminating the inside. Hearing a snapping branch in the woods, Sophia ducks inside and is confronted by Cinderella’s tomb. Spying the cause of the flashing, Sophia finds Cinderella’s glass slippers. Muttering aloud to herself about the legends being true, she doesn’t expect a reply. Standing in the doorway is a figure in a long cloak with a hood covering their face. Pulling the hood back, a striking woman with thick reddish hair stands before her. Sophia is freezing in the remnants of her ballgown and the stranger offers Sophia her cloak. She’s wearing pants and a tunic. Sophia’s never seen that before. Why is she dressed so? For the pockets of course! “The pockets ... I love pockets.” This woman is Constance and she agrees to help Sophia evade the King’s Guards. Giving her some better clothes to wear, they arrange to meet the following day. For now, Sophia must stay hidden in the mausoleum.
The next day, Sophia wants to meet Constance but she needs to see her parents. Sneaking home, there are guards everywhere, but she manages to have a little time with her mother and father. Her mother is worried and disgusted by Sophia’s report of the ball, and her father calls her selfish and tells her she will be forfeit and throws her out. Running away, Sophia heads for the city’s border. On the way, she hears two guards talk about something, or someone, near an embankment. They mention white hair but also say she was at the ball, and it’s a shame how she was dressed. When the guards leave to fetch a cart, Sophia takes a look. It’s Liv. Her hair is now white as snow, her skin is shriveled and ashen gray, her arms are drawn up in front of her, hands rigid, fingers curled into claws. Sophia hides in some oak trees and lets her tears come.
In a daze, Sophia goes to meet Constance. When they meet, she tells Constance about Liv. Constance looks worried. She tells Sophia to follow her and takes her to an old ruined cottage. This was Cinderella’s home, the one she shared with her family. They make a fire and have a meal and Sophia finally asks who Constance is. She is the descendant of Gabrielle, one of Cinderella’s step-sisters. And no, they weren’t wicked, they were loved. The stories about them have been greatly twisted and exaggerated.
Constance lays a few truths out for Sophia. Prince Charming? Do you really think that was his real name? No, but no one knows what it was. Cinderella’s father was the highest-ranking adviser to the old king who ruled Mersailles before Prince Charming. Times were difficult with famine and drought, and Charming offered to help if they made him King which the people did when they got desperate. Cinderella’s parents spoke openly of how the laws Charming was implementing were unfair and dangerous so Charming’s guards executed her mother in the driveway. Cinderella’s father remarried, and his new bride, Lady Davis, was equally as outspoken against the king but subversive about it. She vowed to keep all her daughters, Cinderella included, safe from the king. Then Charming had her father killed when she was around eighteen, which was also the year of the first ball. Shortly after Prince Charming married Cinderella, the laws surrounding the ball and the treatment of women and girls in Lille became worse for a long time. Then Charming died and his successor, King Eustice, was worse. The kings of Mersailles have all followed the same tenets Prince Charming laid down. Lady Davis and Gabrielle and her younger sister were shackled to wooden stakes, but after three days they were able to escape. They left and went past the White Wood. Lady Davis lived for another twenty years, then Gabrielle and her sister made lives for themselves and had families. Descendants of the step-sisters have trained and fought and died trying to fix the broken kingdom. One question has haunted Constance’s family, why would Cinderella willingly go to the ball and marry Charming? Constance is the last of the descendants, and she was the one who tried to blow up the statue a few nights ago.
Constance asks Sophia what she intends to do. Sophia is going after the king before he can get her. She reveals that Gabrielle received a letter from Cinderella shortly before her death, asking her to meet her at this cottage. When Gabrielle showed up it was to see Cinderella being dragged away by palace guards, screaming that Charming was the curse upon Mersailles and he must be stopped. Sophia wonders if maybe the fairy godmother had something to do with it. Maybe she isn’t a godmother, but a witch. Constance tells her there were rumors that she went into the heart of the White Wood when Cinderella died. Could answers be in there?
The next day they head into town for supplies dressed as boys. There is a lot of sexual tension as they are getting ready. A lot. As they leave the cottage, Constance gestures to a huge tree that seems to be growing into the house, it’s the site where Cinderella’s mother is buried. She doesn’t have a name in the story, but there is a grave marker; “Alexandra Hochadel, Beloved Mother, Wife, and Friend.”
They reach the town center. Constance leaves Sophia with a list of items to purchase and a warning to keep her head down, blend in and don’t talk to anyone. But then Sophia sees Erin and their eyes meet. One of Erin's is swollen, and she has a puffed lip and bruises on her neck. She heads toward Sophia and, choking back tears, tells Sophia how wonderful it is that she is married now. Again Sophia begs her to come away with her, and again Erin refuses. She disappears back into the crowds just before Constance reappears and the trumpets blast. Royal guards march into the market and King Manford rides his snow-white steed. The king talks about sacred traditions, consequences for defiance, and respecting the rules. It seems a reminder is needed. King Manford tells the crowd the defiant girl has been located and dispatched, (liar) but she was assisted and he brings out the seamstress. As he publicly berates the seamstress, he turns to a young girl and tells her to “Smile. You’re so much prettier when you smile” before giving the execution order. They need to leave now, and try to, but a market seller picks them out and accuses them of theft (because they’re women dressed as boys), but Constance scares him so much he pisses his pants. They escape the city with the help of Constance’s explosive distractions and head into the White Woods.
They head deeper and deeper into the woods, so far that they have to let the horse and cart go. Then something spooks the horse. Wolves. The pack attacks the horse and Sophia and Constance escape. They travel for a long time until they hear singing and see movement in the trees. They run, pushing themselves until they fall out into a clearing. Sitting at the center is a small house. An old woman steps outside. Her eyes are black, her skin is withered, her voice is raspy. She accuses them of being a long way from home and invites them inside. The house is a typical witch house straight from a fairy tale, big black cauldron, dried herbs everywhere, angles off kilter, shelves filled with jars of all manner of items, and candles on every available surface. This is the fairy godmother of Cinderella’s tale. Constance and the fairy godmother (well Witch is a better term) whose name is Amina don’t get on well. From the outset they bicker, mock and jibe each other. Amina isn’t really interested in helping them, it’s such a bother and a burden she will never be free of. She says that she will be carrying it, whatever it is, until the next life and won’t expand any further. Sophia and Constance ask Amina to tell them what she knows. She will, but she won’t be responsible for the hopelessness or emptiness they will feel afterward.
Born and raised in the craft, Amina experienced two sides of people, those who wanted her help and those who accused her of evil. One day, they came for her, the pyre was ready, but a man seeking power stopped them. He was desirous of a kingdom and asked her to make the rivers run dry, the wheat die and make the rain stop falling. He would rise to power and she would be one of his closest advisers. This is the same man who currently sits on the throne of Mersailles. Prince Charming, King Eustice, King Stephan and King Manford are one and the same. The king supposedly withers and dies by himself, is buried without ceremony and a young man from the Forbidden Lands comes to take power, but the king actually has a power which sustains him. It is not the same as Amina, she ages but uses potions to sustain her illusion to appear younger. With Cinderella, she found a girl surrounded by family and a step-mother with a raging fire. She gave Cinderella everything she needed to kill Prince Charming, but when he saw her he fell madly in love. He persuaded Amina that if he had Cinderella, he would be a better man, so Amina used a potion so that she would fall for him. Lady Davis and Gabrielle tried to drag Cinderella out of the ball and she lost her slipper in the process. They locked Cinderella away, but Prince Charming came anyway. Now Amina lives with the law of three, “whatever you put out will come back to you three times over." She is just waiting for it. Sophia and Constance ask for her help, she owes them from what she has said, but Amina refuses to consider it until morning.
The next morning, before Amina wakes, Sophia makes Constance promise not to provoke her because they need her help. Constance wakes Amina up by calling her Granny not a minute later, this doesn’t really bode well. They discuss the last message Cinderella tried to give Gabrielle but Amina doesn’t know anything about it and says there is nothing they can do to change Mersaille. Constance calls her a coward and a mean old Granny. Amina reminds them that this is just a façade. She is not to be provoked. They separate to let tension fade when Sophia finds a book titled Necromancy. They decide, with this book, to go and speak with Cinderella. She might be the only one who knows how to stop Manford, even if she has been dead for two-hundred years.
The next night, Amina suggests they perform a divination, that it may illuminate their path. As she and Constance bicker, a noise in the woods catches their attention and Amina tells Sophia and Constance to hide in a cubby under the floorboards. Sophia and Constance can overhear the conversation and realize it’s Manford! He wants the girl, but Amina tells him to leave, and he does so after he mocks her. When the girls emerge, she tells Sophia to take care, she can see her story being turned into a cautionary tale.
A few nights pass as they wait for the full moon so they may perform the divination. Constance is so distrustful of Amina she is on high alert all the time and speaks less and less. In the dead of night, they head to a pool where the moon shines down clearly. Drinking some very earthy tea, they take turns going into the pool. Amina goes first and seems resigned. She sees her death. Constance is trembling and seems filled with sadness, she sees herself sitting, reading the Cinderella tale. Sophia sees Manford pull her close then transform into a rotting dead thing with white-hot light erupting between them.
The day has come for them to travel to Cinderella’s grave. They walk a clear path through the White Wood but it feels off and smells rotten. When they emerge, there are a couple of encounters. Amina takes care of two guards with a sleeping powder that causes haunting nightmares and a bothersome man with Belladonna slipped into his hip flask. It is after their second encounter when they are talking about the tale of a queen in another country driven mad by her magic mirror that Constance shows them a book she carries with her, a collection of fairy stories including Cinderella’s. Not long after, they reach Cinderella’s Mausoleum, enter, and open the lid of the sarcophagus.
Cinderella does not look right. She died at age 38 and has been a corpse for 200 years, so they expect the worst, but she lies as if sleeping. She hasn’t decayed, but her hair is white, her skin paper thin and pallid gray, hands withered, nails yellowed. She looks just like Liv. Regardless, they need to carry out the spell. Sophia watches Amina with the Necromancy book, which is bound in human skin, and sees the illustrations, the list of ingredients and the handwritten notations ”The conjurer is bound to the raised corpse until death.” They complete the spell and Cinderella, with milky pale eyes sits up and, in a strange voice, speaks. Cinderella’s corpse tells them there is something very, very wrong, her memory is faded, she remembers she tried to give Gabrielle a journal then she starts to scream “Stop him … stop him … STOP HIM!” She accuses “him” of doing this to her, always taking from her, always giving sadness. After severing the spell, they decide to regroup and come up with a plan at Cinderella’s old family cottage. Later that night after Amina has returned from a walk which gave Sophia and Constance some time to get to know each other better (wink), she shows them a flyer plastered all over the town. There is to be a midwinter solstice cotillion and every girl in the kingdom must attend. This could be the chance they need.
They stay in the cottage while they formulate their plan. One evening Amina asks to see Constance’s book of fairy tales, and shows them that the drawings are nearly the exact same as the palace-approved illustrations, but there is something a little different in each one. Constance's book contains the real story, and the last illustration of Cinderella and Prince Charming in a passionless embrace is the same as Sophia’s vision. Constance confronts Amina, she must know more, but Sophia tells them to stop arguing, it’s close to the cotillion and they need to think and plan. Sophia decides she must get close to Manford and put a knife through his throat. Queue knife skills training montage.
A few days before the cotillion, Sophia sneaks into town. She visits Liv’s parents who are happy to see her and welcome her into their home. They are scared and riddled with grief and worry as they have two more daughters. Neither want to live under Manford’s rule and fully support Sophia in whatever, but don’t tell us for plausible deniability reasons, she is planning to do. Sophia also has a chance to see Erin. Their conversation is cold and hard. Erin has no kind words, only resentment, embarrassment and loneliness. She has no one and lashes out at Sophia. Her pipe dreams are sure to get her killed.
It snowed the day of the cotillion and Amina has managed to steal an invitation from a mailman. It’s time to get ready so the group goes outside to the giant tree. Amina instructs Sophia to ask it for whatever she needs. She did the same thing, at the same spot, with Cinderella. Sophia receives a dress and slippers and her hair is neatly arranged. Amina hands her a dagger with a quartz stone embedded in the hilt, the same one given to Cinderella the night of the ball. Sophia steps into a magical coach being pulled by two stags and Amina changes into a little man in a tie and coattails who will accompany her while Constance will make her own way to the palace.
They have no trouble gaining entry into the palace, and it is much like the ball, the girls are terrified, the guards push them around and the trumpets blast announcing the men entering the ballroom followed by King Manford. King Manford loves a monologue and can’t resist telling everyone that they are subject to his whim, they are beholden to him, that they will follow his new tradition of a winter cotillion in addition to the ball. There will be two choosing ceremonies and anyone not chosen will be automatically forfeit. He then tells all girls chosen at the ball they must leave. When the music begins, King Manford selects Sophia for a dance. This isn’t coincidence, he had already spotted her in the crowd. As they waltz, Sophia leans in and whispers that she knows what he is; he stops dancing and walks away from her. This is wrong. He comes back and takes Sophia on a tour of the castle. In the palace hallways, Sophia takes the opportunity to thrust her dagger into Manford’s neck. He staggers, pulls the blade out and laughs. Manford does not bleed, there are no groans of pain or sputtering. Just his laughter.
A flurry of guards erupt into the hallway and haul Sophia away to a cold, damp cell. Oh no! He is not locking her away. Sophia shouts and the same voice from her ballroom escape tells her to be quiet. The person has been here a few weeks, ever since she blew up the Colossus, it’s Émile, a friend of Constance! Sophia explains the situation and what she did, the knife in the throat is apparently a signature Constance maneuver. Émile says there are seven other girls in the cells next to them, and possibly more in the lower levels of the palace. Manford siphons their life and uses the ball as a reaping, a way for the monster to feast.
Sophia begins to search the cell for a way out. Nothing in the cell, but she is still in her magical cotillion clothes. She takes a butterfly pin out of her hair and is able to use it as a key to unlock her cell. She promises to come back for Émile as the pin breaks when trying to open her cell. Sophia soon finds a decaying spiral staircase. Carefully making her way up, it takes her into an equally neglected bedroom - Cinderella’s bedroom - her gilded cage. The journal she tried to give Gabrielle! It must be in here! Sophia begins to search and finds it hidden away. Cinderella writes about the love spell breaking, Charming becoming crueler, and her soul being taken from her slowly. A sound outside the door stops Sophia, and hiding the journal in her corset, she grabs a large heavy candlestick and brings it down on the head of a guard as he enters, then she escapes down another staircase. At the bottom, she finds more cells including one containing Luke. Another guard interrupts her, he also gets a candlestick to the head, but this guard has a ring of keys for the cells on his belt, so Sophia is able to free the prisoners, enlist their help to free others, and escape down the main road. She has unfinished business with the king.
Running back into the palace, Sophia easily finds Manford. He tries to bait her, to say her situation is hopeless, but Sophia doesn’t believe any of his lies. She taunts him in return, reminding him how Cinderella never loved him and was never truly controlled by him. When Sophia tells him Cinderella came to the ball to kill him, his stunned silence tells her he never knew that! He threatens to kill her, to take her soul and leave her in a ditch, which Sophia begs him to do as it will save her from his insufferable ranting. Manford grabs her, leans down and kisses her. This is not passion, he is killing her. As the world begins to dim and go hazy, Sophia hears a noise and is then yanked backward. A familiar figure is standing in the center of the room, Constance.
A few seconds after Sophia realizes who her savior is, Amina enters too. Amina goes to Manford and reminds him of their discussion. Manford looks to Amina and remarks, “Oh, Mother, you never were a very good liar.” Constance, of course, knew there was something wrong about Amina but Sophia is stunned. Constance remembers that a picture of a boy in Amina’s house was familiar and then the words in the grimoire, ”The conjurer is bound to the raised corpse until death," come to her. It all makes sense. She was saved from the pyre by Manford, she was out there after, bringing him back to life. Their life forces are joined together. Manford is a corpse! Amina runs at Sophia with Cinderella’s dagger, Sophia instinctively grabs it, but it is the force of Constance plunging her own dagger into Amina’s back, killing her, that stops Amina. The sustainable life force connection to Manford has been cut. A pulse sends Sophia and Constance in opposite directions. Manford is still going, though he is deteriorating. Sophia runs but he catches up. If he is going to die, she is going to die with him. He tries to pull her life force but Sophia notices the ball of light it creates and thrusts Cinderella’s dagger into it. Manford falls to his knees, finally dead. In all the commotion, a fire has started and the palace is burning. Sophia goes to free the other prisoners, but she is weak. She can’t make it out, but hopefully Constance has arrived!
Constance, who takes no nonsense, is shouting at Sophia to get up, Constance manages to get her outside. Standing up, Sophia tells the crowd the king is dead, and his laws will die with him. Cinderella’s story is fiction, it was a manipulation used against the people. She has Cinderella’s true story as she has her journal. After punching a very rude man in the face, Constance backs Sophia up and tells the crowd she is descended from Gabrielle, Cinderella's sister, and that the king was a monster. There is disbelief, reluctance, but also hope in the crowd. They need a new leader, not another dictator.
There is a new text printed, the people’s-approved story of Cinderella and her family, and this time, it’s the truth. Constance, being the only family of Cinderella, is the rightful heir to the throne. She set up a council of six that would look after the safety and well-being of the people of Mersaille. Every single one of Manford’s laws were abolished, and new rules were put into place that made the people equal and made men able to be held accountable for their abuses. There was resistance, there was push back, but the will of the people has spoken, and they will no longer be silenced.