Mirror, Mirr- A Twisted Tale (Disney Twisted Tales) - Jen Calonita

The castle looked different from the outside.

It was the first thing the princess thought of when she saw it again. It felt like years since she had laid eyes on it, but in reality, it had only been a few weeks. Now, as she stared at the monstrosity looming high on the hilltop, she felt her breath catch in her throat. Those walls were filled with so many ghosts and memories of the life she’d lost.

But they didn’t have to be.

If they could do what they’d set out to, they could change all that. The castle and those who sat upon its throne could be a beacon for the kingdom again. But that meant not running away from what the princess knew she’d find inside that castle, even if every inch of her body wanted her to.

“We should hurry,” Anne said as she slashed at the brambles to make her own path, which would lead them right to the village outside the castle without being seen. “We haven’t much time before the celebration begins.”

The princess quickened her pace, following her friend.

She was going home.

It didn’t feel like home. It hadn’t for a long time, but technically that’s what the castle was. Or had been once upon a time.

If she concentrated hard enough, she could picture the castle the way it had been when she was a child. In her mind’s eye, the kingdom was beloved and beautiful, with a castle the people took pride in. (After all, they were the ones who had placed every stone to build it.) Overgrown ivy didn’t trail across the gray stone walls. Every bush, every tree, every flower was manicured. The aviary was brimming with the songs of birds. Windows gleamed. The lake at the base of the hill glimmered with hope as visitors frequently came from other shores. The gates to the castle were almost always open, and it wasn’t uncommon for parties to spring up at a moment’s notice.

But now things were different. The windows appeared dark and the curtains were always drawn up tight, giving the castle an abandoned appearance. The waters surrounding the castle looked like glass, for no ship dared cross into their kingdom’s borders. The gates, rusted and leaning, were locked. The grounds were, except for a few faithful guards, deserted. Her kingdom’s renaissance was long gone.

When King Georg and Queen Katherine had sat upon the throne, they had looked benevolently upon their province. The land’s soil had been rich enough for farming, and held a thriving diamond mine beneath the earth. The pair celebrated the province’s growth by throwing frequent festivals in the castle’s courtyard, where subjects from every walk of life were welcome. When she closed her eyes, she could see herself being swung through the air as a fiddle played and people danced. But the memory quickly vanished, replaced by the sound of Anne splintering more tree branches.

For too long, she had spent her days and nights inside that fortress wishing someone would break her free. She’d lived without love in that castle for so long, with little laughter or company to bolster her spirits. Maybe that was why, despite the castle’s splendor, it had always felt tainted and tarnished. The princess had accepted her fate in an effort to make the best of things, but she refused to do so any longer.

It wasn’t till she was outside those walls that she’d realized the truth: the only one who could truly break her free was herself. That’s why she was back. To claim what was truly hers. Not just the castle, but the province and its throne. Not just for her own happiness, but also for that of her people.

Now was the time to strike. It was why she had traveled so far, risked so much, and found strength within herself that she hadn’t known she possessed. Queen Ingrid’s popularity had never been strong, but in the last few years, the kingdom had gone from indifference to downright terror. She couldn’t allow her people to suffer this way any longer. It was time.

“There!” Anne had slashed through the last of the branches, and sunlight was now shining through the shadows. “We’ve reached the road. It’s just a little bit further down, and then we can slip through the castle gates near the butcher’s shop unseen. The queen has demanded everyone be at the celebration, so there should be crowds near the gates today.”

She hugged the brown cloak Anne had made her tightly. It was quickly becoming