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                Raven Queen, age fifteen, sat in glum silence as she was bounced and jostled along a cobblestone road leading through the woods towards the village of Book End. Every now and then, she could see through a gap in the trees the pristine alabaster towers of Ever After High growing larger as she drew closer. Privately, she’d wished for another incident of a Giant using the school building as an armchair, or perhaps a Dragon eating the entirety of the establishment. That of course could never really happen, but she wished for it anyways.

                All the wishing in the world did nothing to settle the twisting knots in her gut, however. The closer the towers of school drew, the worse it got until she was nearly frozen by the anxieties that had been building over the last two weeks of summer. Her father reassured her over and over again that there was nothing to be afraid of, but she had still been rendered unable to enjoy the last weeks of her summer vacation.

                Across from her in the old carriage sat Cedar Wood- sanding away at a stiff joint and humming quietly. Cedar was a unique girl- carved from the wood of an enchanted tree and granted life by the mysterious Blue Fairy. She grew as slowly as a tree would in the woods, and had long outlived her father, the previous holder of the Pinocchio-turned-Geppetto role. She’d been Raven’s babysitter, tutor, and friend ever since she’d been brought to the castle Raven called home so very long ago. The only difference that could be seen in the wooden girl was the length of her vinelike hair- which she usually kept maintained in an elaborate series of curls and braids, and trimmed back every decade or so.

                There was another jolt that sent Raven crashing into the floor of the carriage, and she let out a brief cry of pain before dragging herself back up into the seat. Most Royal families had long abandoned the uncomfortable horse-drawn models in favor of the trendier self-driving magic carriages; but those cost money, and the Queen family had been long out of such funds.

                “Are you alright in there, Raven dear?” The voice of the Good King called out from up front. “Sorry, I don’t think they’ve been maintaining this particular road all that well…”

                “I’m fine, dad… Just a bump. Don’t worry about me!” Raven put on a fake smile, even though her father probably wouldn’t be able to see her face.

                Cedar raised her head slowly, looking at Raven with that distant expression she usually sported. “There’s a slight swelling on your arm, it will probably become a bruise if you don’t apply a cold press or salve, Raven…” She always spoke with a slight monotone, and a strangely formal air. “There should still be some in my bag…”

                Raven nodded, reaching for Cedar’s purse, which was always stuffed with odd concoctions ranging from plant-based salves and tinctures to paints and oils. She dug about for a minute before finding a round tin that held a creamy, mint-scented paste, which she then smeared across the bump in question. After a moment, a sweeping cooling sensation covered the spot and Raven placed the tin back and returned to her previous position of staring out the window. Ever After High was visible most of the time now, and the knots of anxiety began to tie back up inside her.

 


 

                Apple White was perfectly prepared to make her grand exit, as always. Hair brushed one hundred times until it shone like pure spun gold, Nails trimmed and filed to elegant rounded points with a deep blood red varnish, Makeup both at once subtly applied and yet enticing while enhancing her near-perfect features. The only remaining problem was… What would she wear that best exemplified her exalted position as the one and only Heiress to the Snow White name?

                She’d gone back and forth seven or eight times since she’d first risen with sunrise, but now the time to leave was upon her and she still couldn’t decide if the red bodice was too daring, or just daring enough to be fashionable. It matched her purse (apple-shaped and encrusted with blood rubies), and shoes (classic red-and-gold pumps with delicate bows and apple detailing), but something seemed lacking. And it wouldn’t do to be seen as anything less than perfect, especially not today.

                A brief tune jingled out of her purse and she opened it to see the light flashing on her MirrorPhone. Briar was texting her for updates to when she would arrive- there was a party that needed planning and the Future Sleeping Beauty needed Apple’s help in making sure it would be a banger to remember. Apple took a quick mirror selfie to ask for Briar’s fashion advice regarding her Book-to-School look, then strode over to her vanity and opened the secret drawer hidden behind what looked to be a decorative bit of scrollwork.

                Inside the drawer was a pair of drab, thick spectacles. Apple threw them on before she began to tap out her proper reply to Briar’s initial message. She would have hardly been able to see the letters otherwise.

                Unfortunately, Apple White was not perfect. She had needed the glasses since she was very small, much to her parent’s dismay. They were furious that she hadn’t come out with the correct hair colour to begin with; needing such thick, ugly glasses on top of that was tantamount to a mortal sin in their eyes. She was Flawed. Imperfect. Apple White was an Inferior heiress to her Mother’s legacy. But with no further potential heirs being produced, Apple was groomed to hide her blemishes at all costs, and only to ever be seen as the absolute pinnacle of perfection. Her parents would reward her good work every now and again by providing her further ways to hide these problems- and as long as she maintained this high standard through her Pledging to the Book… This could be the last year she would need these awful glasses.

                The phone chimed again as Briar replied with a suggestion- that quilted Bolero she’d given Apple for her last birthday. It was luxuriously soft, made of the finest woven silk and delicately stitched with golden threads- it would fit perfectly with the outfit, would it not? Apple sent back a flurry of cheerful emotes before dashing to her still-open trunk and digging the piece out, pulling it over her shoulders and straightening the lapels before looking herself over in the mirror once more with a grin. She looked perfect.

                She finished the last-minute packing and tucked her glasses away into an unassuming pouch in her bag. Then, she made a final check of herself in the mirror, making sure not a single golden hair was out of place. Once she was satisfied, she pulled a golden cord, which in turn rang a distant bell downstairs to alert the palace staff to come collect her things, and set off down the stairs from her tower room.

                As she passed various servants and workers, she made sure to smile and greet all whom she passed. A queen must be gracious and kind in all manners, and treat even lowly scullery maids and messenger boys with the respect they are due. She would exchange a pleasant “Good Morning!” or a cheerful “How are you?” to everyone she met, giving the palace staff’s children a candy or two when she spotted them.

                Downstairs, she kept her head held high a she stepped outside, passing the adoring crowd of well-wishers as she strode down the ruby-red carpet that ended at the Royal Carriage. The tale of Snow White was one of the most vital fables, and as such whenever a new White Princess was embarking on her Legacy Year, she could expect to be seen off by fans and admirers. She waved, cheerfully thanking her supporters as she walked down to the carriage, turning one last time to express her gratitude with a blown kiss to the crowd before taking her seat.

                As soon as the door had shut, her shoulders slumped and her face fell for a moment. Smiling so much would hurt after a little while. She could only ever be seen as the perfect daughter and Heir to her mother’s story. It would not do to be seen as anything less.

                “Sit up straight, Apple.” Her mother’s harsh reprimand shook Apple out of her brief daze. “Bad posture is unfit for someone of your social stature.” Queen Snow White wore a pristine white gown covered in elegant gold and silver stitched patterns of apples and roses, and as always, held a fan covering the lower half of her face. The upper half, however, scowled at her daughter with the familiar expression of mild disgust that Apple knew all too well.

                “Yes Mother.” Apple corrected her posture and painted her face with a neutral expression. “I’m sorry, Mother.”

                “Your father extends his condolences, but he will be unable to join us today.” The carriage lurched slightly as the enchanted wheels began to turn, the magic propelling it forwards. “He is very busy with his royal duties, as always.”

                Apple saw her father five times a year. During the annual Snow White Memorial Gala, her mother’s birthday, her own birthday, his birthday, and during whatever ceremony her school held to commemorate or reflect on her family lineage. If she saw him at all any other time, it would be during photo-ops, family interviews, and at most in passing in the castle hallways. During those times, she would exchange three words at most in greeting. Father was incredibly busy, ruling the kingdom and presiding over the various relations with the other kingdoms of Ever After.

                “Will Father be attending Legacy Day?” Apple asked after an extended silence.

                “Of course he will be. This is a monumental year- so many stories are re-pledging themselves. It would be unseemly for him to be absent.” Queen Snow sighed, rolling her eyes. “Now, as for you, it is of utmost importance that absolutely nothing happens that can foul up the future of our story. Am I understood?”

                Apple nodded, knowing exactly what her mother meant. This year, not only would Apple be pledging, but so would her future nemesis- Raven Queen. Many years ago, when Apple was very young, The Evil Queen had led a revolt against Destiny. Those who felt unfairly spurned by their fates had united under one banner- branding themselves Rebels. The revolt hadn’t lasted very long- the Master Storyteller and Headmaster of Ever After High himself, Milton Grimm, had stepped in and destroyed the attempt at a revolution with a single stroke of his pen. The Rebels had been tried, found guilty, and sentenced before the year was out. Most were thrown into Mirror Prison; their homes, lands, heirlooms, and titles stripped away. The descendants of those Rebels would only be allowed to return to their ancestral homes to re-tell their stories, and then they would be escorted out once more.

                Raven’s pledging to her story would signify the death of the Rebel Ideals, and Apple would only be able to have her Happily Ever After when that happened. She needed that- to be a perfect queen and finally make her family proud of her. She couldn’t allow anything to get in her way of her future happy ending. Not Raven, not Rebel ideas, not even herself. Apple squared her shoulders and kept her chin lifted, ignoring the sinking feeling that had plagued her since the day she was born.

Chapter Text

                All of Book End was abuzz with activity. All of the residents of the sleepy town had turned out to watch the train of visiting royalty as it made its way up the steep mountainside towards the dazzling academy that watched over the small town that had sprung up to support it.

                Carriages had been steadily arriving all week, but now with less than three days to the official start to school, it had become a constant stream, almost a parade. People turned out to watch, hoping to see a glimpse of their favorite royals as they escorted their children and protégés up to the illustrious institute.

                And above this all, stood one man. Milton Grimm watched the procession below as carriage after carriage made its way into the expansive courtyard, disembarking royal families before quietly pulling away to offload luggage that would be whisked away to student’s dormitories. Every year, stories would re-pledge themselves into the Book of Legends, and Grimm’s strength as a tale-spinner would increase. Storytellers were the most powerful when their tales were told and re-told, imagined over and over again in the minds of others. Reworked, reimagined, restored, rewritten. Every telling added to the legends, and in turn, grew the teller’s power. And Grimm’s stories had been cycled so many times already, growing his power exponentially each time. He truly was the envy of his peers.

                But something weighed on his mind. A tickling little question growing in the back of his brain, pushing harder and harder as the school year drew closer. Several children set to pledge this year had been descended of those pesky Rebels, and if they carried their parent’s ideals… That could spell trouble. All sorts of trouble. Especially since the daughter of the ringleader was to make her pledge alongside her counterpart.

                Perhaps it was nothing. Perhaps it was everything. Milton carefully weighed his options, glancing away from his large windows to see the hefty Book of Legends sitting on his desk. Every year, new tales would be pledged or re-pledged to it, binding their destinies to his power. But something wasn’t right. At first, he had assumed nothing more than stress brought on by having to wipe the Rebels out. But the longer he’d looked at the Book, the longer he began to suspect something about it had changed. Nothing that he could see or feel was different, though.

                But no matter. So long as his tales pledged, his power would grow. He already had enough to worry about without this sneaking suspicion towards his beloved book.

                Behind a curtain, there was a brief flash. Milton crossed the room and pulled it aside, revealing a glowing mirror. He pressed his hand to it and the glow cleared, revealing a grinning face of a particular madman. Milton sighed, trying not to let his annoyance be seen.

                “Herr Drosselmeyer, how good it is to hear from you… so close to the beginning of the school year. What do you need?”

                “Master Grimm! I was hoping you would answer!” Drosselmeyer was a madman among storytellers. Notorious for writing his characters into awful endings just for kicks, keeping his tales trapped in endless cycles of agony, the works. Needless to say, he thought he was beloved by his peers, despite that he was far from that. “Would you mind taking on some of my tales for a few years?”

                “I’m sorry, what?” Milton blinked incredulously. “Herr Drosselmeyer, my school year starts far too soon for us to make arrangements for transfers. I’m sorry, but my answer is a firm No.”

                The grinning man’s face drew closer to the mirror until Milton could clearly see up his nose. “I thought you would say that, so they’re already there. Toodles!” The mirror returned to its previous reflective surface, showing only a confused Headmaster Grimm standing alone in his office.               


 

               Down in Book End, amidst all the bustle of the returning students and families, sat a cozy little tea shop-slash-haberdashery. The proprietor of which was currently running around with full trays on each arm and atop his head, serving the massive influx of customers the new school year always brought. He threw cups and saucers with surgeon-like precision, each one spinning through the air like discuses and landing before their respective customers.

                “That’s three cups of Chamomile with one spoon sugar each and dash cream, a raspberry scone, cucumber sandwich, and one grey-blue porkpie for table fifteen!” The Mad Hatter called out as he tossed another order to its table before dodging back into the kitchen. “Madeline! Is the cream back to normal yet?”

                Maddie was busy attempting to tame a monster made of clotted cream back into its pot using a chair in one hand and a cookbook in the other. The beast roared, and the teal-haired girl roared back, brandishing the chair like a professional lion tamer.

                “Keep at it, girl! We’ll have that beast potted back in no time!” the Hatter grabbed a new set of orders from the countertop. “Keep your chin up, Madeline!”

                Madeline Hatter charged while the beast was distracted, swinging the cookbook with every ounce of force she had, splattering a strange appendage against the kitchen wall. In retaliation, the beast smashed a table top , sending an array of dishes and cups flying. Maddie dropped her book and chair, and dove for the flying ceramics. Time seemed to slow for just a moment as she grabbed, carefully sliding each one across the floor and out of harm’s way, all of them landing without even a chip.

                As long as she didn’t know something was impossible, she could do it. Grabbing two dozen pieces of flying ceramics and gliding them to safety was impossible, but she didn’t even think about that as she roared at the beast again, grabbing a jar of raspberry jam and chucking it at what she assumed to be its head.

                All in a totally normal day in the Book End Tea Shoppe and Haberdashery.

 


 

                “Ashlynn, dear, are you sure everything is going to be okay? I mean, it’s just such a big year for you…”

                “Don’t you worry, Mama. Everything’s going to be just fine, like it always is!” Ashlynn Ella beamed at her mother. “I’ll be with my friends, they’ll take good care of me like they always do. And I’m working at the Glass Slipper again, you know they always look after me too.”

                “I know, dearie… But as your mother, I think I’m always going to be allowed to worry. Right?” Madame Cynder gave her daughter a sad smile from where she stood in the dormitory doorway. “Especially with a big year like this… You’re sure you’re ready? It’s a big step, pledging.”

                Ashlynn’s face fell for a moment, but she forced a smile as she stood up off her new bed and crossed the room to go give her mother a hug. “I know, Mama… But don’t worry about me… When I… When I sign the book we’ll… We’ll still have at least three years before… Before you…” She choked, unable to hide her tears anymore as she squeezed her mother tight, crying softly.

                Madame Cynder held her daughter closer. “I know how hard it is, dear… I truly do. I wish I could take this horrible burden from you but I can’t… We just have to take our fate and become stronger from the hardship.”

                “But Mama… What will happen to me after… It happens? With Papa gone there’s no wicked stepmother and… What if the whole story is ruined and it all goes wrong?”

                “Don’t you worry, my dear. I’m meeting with Headmaster Grimm this afternoon and he said we can figure out what to do about that.” Madame Cynder gently pet the back of her daughter’s head. “Ash, know that I will always love you. There is absolutely nothing in the world that could ever change that fact. You’re growing up into such a fine young lady, and I couldn’t be prouder of you. Promise you’ll MirrorPhone often, okay? I want to hear about how your school year is going…”

                “Of course, Mama.” Ashlynn smiled up at her mother. “I love you.”

                “I love you too, dearest. Now go show the world how bright and wonderful you are.” Madame Cynder squeezed her daughter one last time before leaving her alone in her dorm.

Chapter Text

 

                “Alright, that seems to be the last of your things. Do you need any help unpacking, Raven?” The Good King smiled at his daughter. He was a tired-looking man, with soft lines around his eyes and a slightly sad expression most of the time.

                “No, dad, I think I’m good. I don’t really have too much to unpack, anyways… I can hang my clothes up whenever I like.” Raven hugged her father and smiled. “I’ll be fine, really.”

                “I know, but this is such a big year for you. Your mother…” He trailed off with a sigh. “Just know that whatever happens, I still love you, and so does she.”

                “I know dad. I know.” Raven forced herself to keep smiling as the dark memory of the day her mother was taken crossed her mind. The Evil Queen, cornered and driven back by the power of The Storyteller, had tried to fortify her castle, ordering her husband and daughter to be safely locked away in a far tower until they could be escorted to safety. The escort never came, and the Queen was defeated. At the trial, she declared that her family had nothing to do with her plan, and she had locked them away to keep them from interfering. Grimm had bought it, and only sentenced her to suffer for her crimes. Raven and her father got to keep the castle, but nearly every piece of magic had been stripped from it’s walls.

                The last memory Raven had of that time was her mother’s arms being ripped away from her as she was thrown screaming into Mirror Prison. The Evil Queen was guilty of leading a Rebellion, poisoning the world of Wonderland, corrupting countless innocent tales, and turning against her Storyteller. For these crimes, she would be forced to wander the never-ending mirror labyrinth forever.

                “I suppose I should get going then… Are you sure you don’t need anything else while I’m here?” The Good King’s question shook Raven out of her reverie. “I know, you’re probably wanting to go see Maddie, right?”

                “Yeah, I am.” Raven chuckled. She desperately needed to see her best friend forever-after. “I’ll be fine, dad. I’m always fine, remember?”

                “Okay, but if you need anything, just know I’m always a mirror-call away. I might still remember a thing or two from when I went here… Hopefully Crownculus hasn’t changed too much since then!” He laughed, patting Raven’s shoulder before leaving.

                Raven giggled, turning to look at her room. The standard dorms of Ever After high were usually shared between two students- room assignments were decided at the beginning of First Year and would largely remain unchanged through graduation. Raven had been paired off with Madeline Hatter last year, and despite a slightly awkward start, the two had become the closest of friends within a matter of weeks.

                This year, their shared room was situated in the Second-years’ tower, overlooking the enchanted forest that surrounded the school and village of Book End. It had a small common area, and two beds tucked into nooks that could easily be curtained off to provide some privacy. Raven would get around to decorating her side later. Right now, she felt like getting some tea and seeing her best friend.

 


 

                Book end was packed with students and parents all preparing to return to the illustrious halls of Ever After High once more. It was easy enough to tell the ages of students just from their expressions- First-years were wide eyed and nervous, Seconds were either overjoyed or filled with dread towards the coming Legacy Day, Thirds had a slightly dead expression- the courseload expected of them clearly weighing on their minds, and Fourths seemed so much more relaxed and carefree regarding their final year.

                Raven watched as students and families all streamed to the school; the Royalty coming in their magical carriages, the Common walking or taking simpler family carts. The divide in this school, and in all of Ever After, was clear. She stepped aside as the makeshift parade suddenly was overtaken by a fleet of matching blue carriages- the Charming Clan descending once more upon the school.

                The Charmings consisted of three main families, each one constantly adding more to its ranks by birth or marriage. Charming Children would be expected to fill out the ranks of Princes or Princesses who rescued or were rescued themselves, often considered secondary to whomever their story was about. There were three Charmings in Raven’s year from the main Charming family- Daring, Dexter, and Darling.

                Raven was on friendly enough terms with Dexter and his twin sister, but Daring annoyed her to no end. Due to the nature of being a ‘Prince Charming’, nobody could be completely sure as to which Charming Child would fill which needed role, at least not until Legacy Day. But it was assumed that such a handsome, talented, good-looking, capable, beautiful, diligent, and attractive son such as Daring would surely become the next Prince Charming for the Tale of Snow White.

                Once the blue train had passed, Raven crossed the street before more carriages could crowd it. She continued further into Book End, eyes lighting up when she saw the hanging wooden sign for a familiar Tea shop.

                “Welcome to the Mad Hatter’s Haberdashery and tea shop! Take a seat wherever you- Raven!” Maddie’s father spun more cups and hats to tables with a grin. “Madeline’s in the kitchen- we seem to be having a bit of a problem with the clotted cream, could you lend her a hand?”

                “No problem, Mr. Hatter!” Raven jogged back to the kitchen, where she was met with the sight of a massive cream-beast doing battle with an upside-down Maddie.

                “Raven! Come help me put this monstrosity back in his jar!” Maddie was suspended from the ceiling, beating back sweet tentacles with a massive wooden spoon.

                “How did you get up there, Maddie?” Raven laughed, grabbing a toppled clay jar and starting to scoop up bits off the cream monster.

                “Raspberry jam on the bottom of my shoes, writing-desk!” Maddie charged the beast, smashing it’s head down a few times with the spoon. “Extra sticky- just what I needed to get up these pesky walls!”

                Raven bit her tongue and continued scooping. If she told Maddie sticking to walls with only jam was impossible, the fall could seriously hurt her best friend. She focused on getting the bits of the monster back into the clay jar until all that was left were the smears of cream all over the walls of the kitchen.

                “Raven, it does appear that I’m stuck.” Maddie attempted to hop down from her spot on the ceiling, but failed. “Yes, quite stuck indeed.”

                “Oh, here, hold on…” Raven looked around for something suitably soft for her friend to land on. “Maddie, what’s a good cushion? I don’t want you to get hurt…”

                “Try the sponge cake, we haven’t sold any all day so nobody will notice if it’s gone.” Maddie pointed to a towering plate of yellow sponges decorated like cakes.

                “Alright, here you go… Maddie, It’s impossible to stick to the ceiling with only jam on your shoes!” Raven called out once the soft landing was in place.

                “Alley-oop!” Maddie cried out as she suddenly dropped, leaving only two sticky shoeprints in her wake. She landed on the sponge cakes with a soft squeak, and bounced up to give her friend a tight hug.

                “Glad to see you haven’t changed a bit, Maddie.” Raven laughed, hugging her back. “Are you already packed up? I can help you carry your things up to school…”

                “All ready to go, I just needed to make sure dad didn’t need anymore help before I set off!” Maddie began picking up the mess the cream beast had left behind. “How are you feeling, Writing-desk?”

                The question gave Raven pause. She could hide her trepidation easily enough from her father, but Maddie had an uncanny ability to know exactly what was on her mind. Perhaps a bit of honesty would be good for untying these knots in her gut,

                “I’m a little worried, actually. This is the big year for us, isn’t it? I have to pledge to become… Well, you know.” She sighed. “But I was thinking… What if I don’t want to be the greatest Evil Ever After’s ever known? All it got my mom was… Well…”

                “Cheese and crackers, Raven! You really are worried about this, aren’t you?” Maddie stared off into the middle distance for a moment. “Golly gosh, even the Narrator won’t stop talking about how sick you feel over this whole Legacy Day problem. I know exactly what will fix you right up!” Maddie bounced off for a moment to the stove, pulling an enchanted pink kettle off and pouring something into a teal teacup before handing the cup to her best friend.

                “Thanks, Maddie, but I really don’t know if this is something tea will make go away…”

                “Nonsense, tea fixes everything!” Maddie bounced on her toes a few times. “And besides, the Narrator won’t let us leave until you drink it anyways.” Maddie often referred to her imaginary friend known only as ‘The Narrator’ from time to time, but she insisted to this day that they were in fact, real. Maddie was just the only person who could hear them.

                “I would very much appreciate it if you would lighten up on my best friend, Sir or Madam or Other Narrator!” Maddie’s head whipped up suddenly and she talked into the air as Raven slowly drank the tea. “Just because you tag this story ‘Dark’ doesn’t give you an excuse to be mean to everyone!”

                The Narrator then got very uncomfortable because she realized Maddie would have been self-aware enough to realize this was a fanfiction, and having a self-aware character breaking the fourth wall in fanfiction was gauche in this modern era (and would most assuredly betray the Narrator’s past of writing terrible self-inserts and having extended ‘lolsorandom’ conversations in the author notes).

                Maddie looked very pleased with herself as she turned back to Raven, who had now finished the tea. “The Narrator says they’re very sorry but she does what she has to do to tell a good story.”

                Raven laughed, sitting the cup down on the counter near where the dishes happily washed themselves clean. “Alright, whatever you say, Maddie. Shall we go?”

                “Of course, Writing-desk.” Maddie grabbed her best friend’s arm and the two left, heading back up the steep slope towards Ever After High.

Chapter Text

                “Gooooooooooood Morning, Ever after! I’m Blondie Lockes, and you’re watching Just Right!” Blondie beamed up from hundreds of MirrorPhones across Ever After High, feeding the incoming students the hottest gossip and latest trending news. “Is everyone ready for another school year to begin? I sure am!”

                Blondie’s show had surged in popularity over the summer when she broke the story of Daring Charming’s not-so-secret dates with the future princess Two-Eye. At least until her cousins put a stop to that whole affair, citing the whole story as a sham Blondie cooked up to cover her ass after she was caught shuffling through Cerise Hood’s MirrorPhone. The whole mess had spiked her viewership, both from genuine gossip hounds and hate-watchers.

                “As I’m sure you all already know, this is shaping up to be the biggest Legacy Year Ever After has ever seen! Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, so many tales will be pledged this year at the annual Legacy Day ceremony! With this, the greater Fairytale canon will have been properly solidified in a way it hasn’t been since the stories were first told by our beloved Headmaster Grimm!” Blondie beamed up at her viewers. “I’m here with an exclusive interview from the one and only Apple White, voted Top Princess four years in a row!”

                “Oh, Blondie, you really don’t need to speak so highly of me!” Apple was visible behind Blondie, giggling like the Princess she was. “I’m only doing my absolute best for everyone else’s sake.”

                “Nonsense, Apple! You’re not only the most beautiful, you’re the sweetest, kindest soul in all of Ever After!” Blondie shoved the microphone in her face, and screens all across the school filled with the brilliant crystal-blue eyes of Princess White. “Even without the right hair, you’re clearly the best Snow White to ever grace our fair halls!”

                Only the most perceptive viewers, the ones that knew Apple the best, would see the microsecond of doubt crossing her face before she beamed again, laughing her delicate laugh without seemingly a care in the world.

                “I’m only trying my best to be the very best Princess I can be, Blondie! As Tales, our role is to be upstanding examples that shine for all eternity. And I can only hope that someday, I will be one of those Tales retold through the ages and forever.” Apple White was the very picture of charm, grace, and perfection. Anyone could see it.

 


 

                Briar was woken up in a pile of semi-clean dresses by the alert of the broadcast on her MirrorPhone. She watched it, lazily sighing as she spotted the brief change in Apple’s expression. The poor girl was already under enough pressure as it is. Blondie being Blondie wasn’t helping one bit.

                The sleepy Princess rose, stretching with a yawn before crossing the minefield of her bedroom floor and throwing open the curtained window, blinking as the burning midday sun destroyed her vision for a minute. As the spots finally cleared, she could see down the side of her tower that the thorns had begun growing again. Any time she slept they would become active and try to encircle her tower bedroom, but thankfully, the magic was still too weak.

                There was a knock on her bedroom door before it was swung open and Nanny came in, clicking her tongue at the mess. “Briar, you really ought to keep this place cleaner…”

                “I know, Nanny… Sorry.” Briar grinned sheepishly. “I fell asleep again.”

                “Oh, I’m sorry dear. Go ahead and get dressed, I’ll have the staff get your things packed up for school. Do I need to call the gardeners to come trim the thorns down again?” Nanny peered down the side of the tower and sighed. “Your family is waiting downstairs, dear… They were getting worried about you.”

                “Oh, beanstalks! Today’s the day?” Briar ran to her closet and began yanking down her pre-planned outfit, texting out an emergency call for Apple to help her party-plan later.

                “Briar! Language!” Nanny chided, going to pick up various outfit parts that were strewn across the room. “Get on down to breakfast, dear. I’ll make sure your things are all packed up proper.”

                Briar all but flew out of her room, twisting a cute flower braid up into her hair as she hopped onto the banister and slid her way down the tower steps, leaping over a small sea of her brothers’ strewn toys, and finally skidding to a halt in the family dining room.

                The Beauty family consisted of Briar’s parents, Briar, and her eight siblings. All eight of her younger brothers were busy flinging scrambled eggs at each other or dueling with forks over the jam jar- all in all a typical breakfast. Briar’s mother was delicately sleeping at the head of the table, and her father was sitting at the opposite end, drinking his coffee and reading a newspaper, completely unfazed by the usual chaos.

                “Hi! Sorry, three days this time!” Briar kissed her father’s cheek as she ran by, grabbing herself some food before Gallantry could steal it off her plate. She ate quickly, not wanting to leave Nanny to pick up her mess all on her own.

 


 

                The illustrious halls of Ever After were beginning to fill with students once more, reuniting friends and rivals of all kinds. The staff was bustling, making sure everyone found their dorm rooms, got schedules, and had signed up for extracurriculars again.

                As Apple was picking up her schedule, the fairy godmother at the desk got her attention again with a wave. “Miss White, one more thing… Headmaster Grimm wanted to see you before you got too distracted today.”

                “Oh… Whatever-after could he need from me…?” Apple tucked her schedule into her bag and straightened her crown, heading up to the Administration wing, and from there, the Headmaster’s tower.

                Grimm’s office was always so cold, but the shift in temperature always felt so subtle that it was constantly surprising students that were called up. As Apple ascended the stairs, she pulled her bolero a bit tighter to preemptively ward off the chill. She knew she hadn’t done anything out of line, and Headmaster Grimm had always told her the year before that she was one of his prized students. Perhaps this was just a check in? Making sure the next Queen of Ever After was happy with her room assignment? Maybe Royal Student Council business had suddenly come up, that might be it.

                Apple knocked on the heavy door and waited to be called in. After a minute, it creaked open and Apple was face-to-face with the Headmaster, who smiled down on her.

                “Right, perfect timing as always, Miss White. Come on in and take a seat, I’m just wrapping up.” Grimm held open the door with a nod, closing it behind Apple and going back up to his desk, where he was currently finishing a meeting with the woman Apple recognized as Madame Cynder, Ashlynn’s mom.

                “Alright, my next appointment for the day is here, so let’s just return to this topic later. You can give me your answer in say… two or three weeks? That should be more than enough time, I think.” Grimm handed a stack of papers over the table, smiling widely. “As long as it’s before I get too wrapped up in the Legacy Day preparations, we should have enough time. Please make sure to review all of those and let me know what your plan is. Have a wonderful rest of your day, Madame Cynder.”

                Madame Cynder’s expression looked a bit off, but she hurried out of the office with hardly a word to Apple. This must have been to do with her husband’s sudden passing two years prior. Poor Ashlynn had been an absolute wreck for weeks- she was so close to both of her parents that suddenly losing her father, especially so far before his time in her story, was devastating.

                “Right, Apple, come on and have a seat. I’ve got an important request to make of you.” Grimm beckoned to his imposing desk. “But I think you are more that the perfect candidate for the job.”

                “What is it, Headmaster Grimm?” Apple smiled. It would not do for a princess to turn down such an important-sounding task, especially from her own Storyteller. “I’m always happy to help make this school as great as it can be!”

                “That’s just what I wanted to hear… Could you do me a favor and keep an eye on Miss Raven Queen? I know you and her aren’t always in the same social circles…”

                “Keep an eye? Whatever-after for?” Apple’s head tilted as she thought it over. Raven and her shared important roles in their Destiny, but they were barely more than classmates that knew each other’s names at this point.

                “I’m just worried, is all. She’s her mother’s daughter, after all… I don’t want anything to happen that could put any of my beloved stories in jeopardy, especially with so many being pledged this year.” Grimm’s expression became very somber as he spoke, eyes drifting upward. “Her mother’s petty little rebellion already destabilized a lot of the balance I’ve spent so long building. It would be absolutely chaos should any of those ideals still be in Raven.”

                “Oh my! Headmaster, I hadn’t even thought of that!” Apple gasped, covering her mouth as the thought seeped its way in. “Do you really think that might happen? Doesn’t she know that she risks… vanishing?”

                “I’m sure she believes at least in part that stories vanishing is a myth. But I have seen firsthand what happens should tales not circle themselves around into the next generation.” Grimm sighed. “I was a young and foolish man once, and my mistakes before founding Ever After High will haunt me forever. So many tales dissolving away, fading from legend never to be resurrected again. If only I could go back and warn myself of what I know now…” He wiped a single tear from his eye.

                “I won’t let that happen again, Headmaster Grimm!” Apple stood with fierce determination burning in her eyes. “I promise you I will make sure not one story fades ever again! There’s simply too much at stake!”

                “Oh, Apple, I knew I could count on you. You’re such a wise young girl. I know you truly will be the most perfect queen Ever After could ever ask for…”

Chapter Text

 

            “…Founded over five hundred years ago, Ever After exists as a testament to the enduring power of Fables and Fablekind…” Milton’s annual speech droned on. It was the same speech every year, and the students knew it.

                Raven shifted herself on the rough wooden bench in the dim auditorium. She could be sitting up on the royal balcony with the other royal students. But the commoners weren’t allowed up there unless they were part of a royal entourage- so she would have been sitting completely alone, surrounded by the holier-than-thou members of Ever After’s elite. Not her idea of a good time.

                Next to her, Maddie sat playing with a dormouse she’d found. The creature already was sporting an adorable blue top hat and a purple bow Maddie had pulled from seemingly nowhere. The mouse would dive into her soft teal hair, and pop out somewhere else with a treasure. Raven wasn’t sure where any of the things were really coming from- and she wasn’t going to say anything about it until it got out of hand. Sometimes it was better to let her best friend believe the impossible.

                Up on the balcony, Apple sat on a special gold throne with a luxurious red cushion, watching the annual ceremony and trying to look interested. Around her sat other royals on their own thrones, each one an heirloom from their tales. She tried very hard not to squint, even though this meant she had no chance of being able to see the Headmaster as he gave his speech.

                On her immediate left sat her best friend forever-after, Briar, who was happily ignoring the ceremony and tapping away on her MirrorPhone. As soon as Milton had begun speaking, nearly every other royal student had mentally clocked out- some were talking quietly, most were chatting on their phones. Apple, being the perfect student, had to make sure she set a good example. But even she could admit, this was a rather boring affair…

                She looked down at the commoner students. Her blurry vision obscured most of their identities, but she spotted a somewhat familiar teal cloud down below- and next to it was an even more familiar violet head. Raven… She’d spoken with her on a few occasions, and they shared a few classes, but they weren’t particularly close. But Headmaster Grimm had asked her to keep an eye on her future poisoner…

                Raven’s mother had led a rebellion that nearly tore all of Ever After asunder. There was fighting in the streets, ogres and trolls attempting to storm palaces, making their way to the heart of Ever After. Apple had only the faintest memories of that terrifying time, but the day the Evil Queen had been defeated had brought a sense of relief to the land. Rebelling against destiny would only bring on pain and hardship. And now Raven might share some of those ideals… The thought sent a shiver down Apple’s spine. Raven was such a sweet, pretty, elegant princess… She may have a flair for the overdramatic and a penchant for dark magic but she was still a princess, just the same as Apple!

                Apple straightened herself back up, trying to chase the thoughts out of her head and focus on the speech. Headmaster Grimm seemed to be wrapping up, and there was a restless energy spreading through the students.

                “Now, I would like to formally introduce this year’s classes! Year of Acceptance, please rise…” At Milton’s words, the first-years all stood, and their upperclassmen clapped. First years always looked so nervous, having been accepted to such a prestigious school… They would soon feel at home, just as much as their seniors.

                “Year of Legacy, please rise!” The cheers became louder, as Apple and the rest of her classmates stood, basking in the adoration. This year of Legacy had so many stories being pledged. Truly, a monumental occasion.

                “Year of Preparation!” Milton’s tone began to escalate, hyping the students as the third years stood, all already carrying the heavy weights of their pledged destinies but not quite ready to grasp them.

                “And finally… YEAR! OF! DESTINY!” The cheers overtook the auditorium as the fourth-years stood- all closest to the stage- and bowed. They were relieved to be nearing the time for their tales, each clearly beaming with pride at their coming accomplishment.

                The whole school cheered, and the new school year had officially begun.

 


 

Quiet_n_Crimson : Was that a total cringe or what?

SlasherSmile: totally

SlasherSmile: want 2 get boba?

Quiet_n_Crimson: U read my mind.

SlasherSmile: not @ Hocus tho

Quiet_n_Crimson: I think there’s a new place.

Quiet_n_Crimson: Cauldron Bubble Tea?

SlasherSmile:  C U then <3


 

               “Alright, all we need to do now is get Melody’s gear set up and this party is all but started!” Briar tapped away furiously at her MirrorPhone as she walked, wading through the crowd of students with practiced ease. “And I made sure to swear Blondie to not broadcast the whole thing this time. The second she is in the door I’m taking all of her devices until she leaves.”

                “Uh-huh…” Apple followed her friend closely, but her mind was a million miles away at this point, filled with what Grimm had asked her earlier. Raven barely even looked her way, and when she did, the slightest crease of worry appeared on her brow every time. Her eyes were such a deep, soft violet… Apple had only just started observing her closely but already she kept going back to that look. Why would Raven ever even think to rebel against her destiny? She certainly was pretty enough to be the beauty-obsessed Evil Queen…

                “EVER AFTER TO APPLE!”Briar suddenly shouted in Apple’s ear, causing her to jump suddenly. “Are you even listening to me?”

                “Sorry, Briar… I’m just thinking about a lot of things right now. Legacy year, you know?” Apple offered a weak smile.

                “Uh-huh, sure thing girl.” Briar’s eyes narrowed slightly before she moved on. “I was asking if you wanted me to invite anyone else from Royal classes. There’s a few transfer students this year and you’re usually first to roll out the welcome wagon…”

                “Oh, gigngersnaps.” Apple muttered to herself, ignoring her bestie’s raised eyebrow to the sudden cursing. “I completely forgot, didn’t I? Let’s just go ahead and invite them all and call it a day. I need to get off my feet for a bit before the party starts.”

                “That’s fine, girl. Come on, I need your input on my outfit anyways.” Briar grabbed Apple’s hand and tugged her along up to her dorm room.

                Apple just hoped she could get Raven out of her head for a bit. This school year was going to be hard enough without having to also get closer to her future enemy…

Chapter Text

 

                “And they lived Happily… Ever… After?” Holly giggled to herself as she wrote the question mark at the bottom of the page. This was surely her best work yet- she just needed to clean it up tonight before she posted it to her blog- Fairytale Fangirl dot net. The tale of a mysterious Rose Princess saved by a noble young prince would surely be a tale for the ages. It had everything- Daring swordfights, a secret organization, myths becoming real… Holly sighed in bliss as she closed the notebook, smiling to herself as she mused over how this would be received by her beloved readers.

                The halls of Ever After were packed with students trying to make it to their next classes- and more than a few of those faces were all too familiar to Holly. Not that she actually knew anybody. She’d written all about them on her fanfiction blog, though, and she knew every fairy tale by heart.

                There was a sudden surge of students as the first-years all streamed in from their shared lunch period. The wave of bodies crashed into Holly and she was sent flying, her books all scattering across the polished marble floor. She scrambled up, panicking as she tried to grab them all before they were stepped on and ruined. She grabbed them all up one by one, not even caring that her currently knee-length hair was getting trod on. She would just regrow it all by tomorrow anyways- but her fanfiction notebook was still just out of reach, and miraculously untrampled.

                That is, until a single delicate shoe came down on the cover, and spun on its toe, completely shredding the cover and several irreplaceable pages. Then the shoe was replaced by its mate, which repeated the same process, destroying over half the notebook in the time it took Holly to dive for it, whimpering as her hard work was destroyed.

                She looked up, tears in her eyes, saying nothing as Duchess Swan pirouetted away, cackling madly. The entire first half of her latest work was gone, shreds of paper drifting away with the crowd of students.


 

                Duchess Swan was by and far the strangest Royal student at Ever After. Future Swan Princesses always were, but she seemed to be determined to be the oddest of the bunch.

                Raven watched with shock as Duchess delicately trampled Holly’s notebook before twirling away. She was clear across the hall, with no way to intervene until it was far too late. In a flash, Raven saw red, and pointed a single finger at the back of the giggling head and fired off a nasty green bolt of magic at her.

                The future Swan Princess went flying, crashing into a wall of students who all immediately backed off. Magic wasn’t an uncommon occurrence, but to deliberately attack another student would be the talk of the whole school by the end of the hour. Duchess stood up, crying big crocodile tears as her hair began to slowly turn green from the tips.

                “RAVEN QUEEN! HEADMASTER’S OFFICE RIGHT NOW!” The familiar voice of Professor Baba Yaga spiked into Raven’s ears, causing her to flinch.

                “Fine.” Raven grumbled as she about-faced and began to stomp her way to the Headmaster’s tower. As she passed, the students parted like the sea, giving her at least three feet on either side of space. Seemed even the first-years had begun to hear stories of the future Evil Queen.


 

                “Fighting, casting dark magic against a fellow student, causing possibly irreparable harm to her! In all my centuries as headmaster of this school, I have never once even heard of such misbehavior!” Headmaster Grimm glowered down at his wayward student. “I’ve half a mind to expel you here and now, Miss Queen. In fact, your only saving grace is the importance of your future.”

                Raven tried to keep her face expressionless, but there was still a shadow of fear as she was being chewed out. She’d been so good last year about staying under the faculty’s radar- but apparently not good enough to keep it that way in the new school year.

                “I’ve got the perfect punishment in mind for you, Miss Queen. Maybe this will squash that nasty streak you’ve inherited. I’m having you removed from your Muse-ic elective, and instead, you will now be participating in mandatory volunteer work around the school during that class period, overseen by Professor Baba Yaga or myself.”

                “What? That’s not fair!” Raven finally spoke. “You haven’t even asked me what my side of the story is! Duchess was-“

                “I don’t want to hear another word out of you, Miss Queen. The facts of the matter are that you attacked Miss Swan unprovoked using a haywire magic spell that could have had disastrous consequences. I’ve seen your grades in Magicology and Science and Sorcery. You barely have a handle on your powers, and that spell could have gone wrong in a myriad of ways. My decision is final. The End.” Headmaster Grimm crossed his arms and glared down at Raven. “And report to detention after school for the rest of the week, while we’re at it. And if you even breathe in Miss Swan’s direction again, I will hear about it.”

Before Raven could rise from the chair she was in, there was a flurry of knocking on the door. The Headmaster stood, crossing the room to open it.

                “Headmaster Grimm! I came as soon as I’d heard what happened!” Apple White’s voice reached Raven’s ears, causing her to turn to look at the Princess. “I am so sorry I couldn’t do anything to stop her!”

                “Now, now, Miss White. Please calm yourself.” Grimm was all smiles and reassurances as he placed a hand on Apple’s shoulder, pulling her into the room and shutting the door behind her. “I can’t expect you to skip your classes all day on the off chance something awful like this happens.”

                “I know, sir, I just…” Apple looked more upset than Raven had, lip quivering as she looked up at the Headmaster. “She’s supposed to be instrumental in my story and I can’t have my happily ever after without her!”

                “I completely understand, Miss White. But you mustn’t over-concern yourself with these things, you will still have your tale, I promise. Miss Queen isn’t going to be expelled.”

                Apple visibly sighed with relief before turning to beam at Raven. “Oh, that’s wonderful news! I’m so hexcited to hear that!”

                “Was there something more pressing you needed to speak with me about, Miss White?” Grimm patted her shoulder again.

                “Ah! Yes, since she isn’t going to be expelled, I thought…” Apple smiled, clapping her hands together. “Maybe this is just the sign I needed that this was a good idea. Headmaster, I would like to formally change my room assignment so that I may share the same dorm as Raven!”

                “EXCUSE ME?” Raven stood suddenly, knocking the chair she’d been sitting in over. “You can’t be serious!”

                “Oh, that’s a wonderful idea, Miss White!” Grimm smiled at Raven, but it was a very intimidating smile. “I’ll make the arrangements and you two will be moved in together by the end of the week! Maybe this will help keep you in line, Miss Queen. An outstanding influence such as Miss White is just the thing you need to straighten out your attitude.”

                “Oh, it’s going to be just perfect!” Apple bounced slightly. “And this way we’ll already know each other better when our destinies begin!”

                All Raven could do was stare, dumbfounded as the two congratulated themselves on such an outstanding idea.


 

                Detention was held down in the dungeons, overseen today by Professor Badwolf. He glowered down at Raven as she entered, pointing to the rows of desks. “No talking. Take a seat and keep yourself occupied with homework or something. I’ll let you know when you are allowed to go.”

                The only other students currently occupying detention were Sparrow Hood, who was clearly napping; and Prudence Step, who was trying to paint her nails behind a book. Raven took a seat in the back and pulled out her hextbook to start working on her Magicology report. It was going to be a long three hours. She’d barely had time to tell Maddie what was happening before she had to run down to detention- and she hated that she wouldn’t even be able to help her best friend forever-after pack for the room swap. Apparently, this was causing quite a few room reshuffles- there were hardly any Royal students who would dare to think about rooming with such an eccentric commoner as Maddie.

                Raven was busily writing away at her report- analyzing the difference between a Hex and a Curse- when the note drifted across her desk. She glanced up to see Prudence quickly turning back around and acting as if she hadn’t done anything. Raven unfolded the note and sighed.

                Is it true you magicked Duchess Swan into a goblin?

                It seemed the rumor mill had already spun the story out of control. Raven looked Prudence dead in the eyes, and ripped the note in half. She didn’t have time for this.

Chapter Text

Word traveled fast around Ever After High, and before too long, Raven’s lunchtable was empty except for Maddie and Cedar. She could feel stares on her back when she walked by, and crowds began to part themselves for her. Students feared being on the wrong end of her magic now. She was remarkably okay with this, though. The amount of times she had to roll her eyes at a snide comment had decreased significantly.

This made it much, much harder, however, for anyone to approach her without being seen and judged. Especially if you were a Royal student. The Royals mostly loathed Duchess Swan, but any affront against one of their own resulted in the whole group closing rank and strategically pushing out those that were not worthy of their time. And Duchess, nasty as she was, was still a loyal Royal- unlike the notedly treacherous Raven Queen, who fraternized with Commoners more than her own class.

Of course, when nobody was looking, things were easier to get away with. Such as in Science and Sorcery class three days after the incident, when Holly O’Hair quietly sat next to Raven and cleared her throat low enough not to be overheard.

“Thank you, Raven.” Holly’s voice was soft. “I’m sorry I didn’t stick up for you when Headmaster was…”

“It’s fine, Holly. I know how frightening he is.” Raven sighed. She didn’t know Holly all that well, as the princess had been homeschooled until last year. “Besides, he didn’t even bother listening to me, I doubt he would give you the time of day either.”

“If there’s anything I can do for you, just let me know, okay?” Holly beamed.

“You don’t happen to know how to get Apple out of my room, do you?”


“Hello new roomie!” Apple cheered when Raven came back from her last day of detention. “I am just so happy that we get to live together now! Just think of how much closer we’ll be come the day our destinies arrive!”

“…Why exactly did you want this, Apple?” Raven groaned, throwing her bookbag onto her violet bedspread. Wait… Something was off. “…Did you… Re-arrange my room?”

“Uh-huh! Now it’s just absolutely perfect for a future Evil Queen! Dark and gloomy, just like you! I even convinced Headmaster Grimm to let me display your ancestral crown!  …Provided it stays locked in this case so you can’t use the evil magic to pull anything like your mother did.” Apple’s grin was nearing mania as she showed Raven around her newly-redecorated side of the room. “I even got a basket of fresh apples from the castleteria in case you want to get a head start on you know… Poisoning me?”

Raven stared, slightly aghast at the changes made. She tended to favor darker palettes, yes; she would even take more edgy options over typical princess styles- but this was just… a bad pastiche of who she really was. She looked back to where Apple stood, eagerly awaiting approval. She had no idea just how badly she had missed the mark.

Raven grabbed her bookbag back up and stomped out of the room. Maybe Maddie and her new roommate would be okay with her spending the night. She needed someone to vent to that wouldn’t judge her right now.

She didn’t see how hard Apple’s face fell when she left without a word.


“So how’s living with the greatest Evil Ever After’s ever known’s heiress going?” Briar’s tone was utterly dripping with sarcasm as she touched up her lipgloss in her locker mirror. “You’re not dead, or in a coma in a glass coffin, so I assume it was worth switching everyone around?”

“Briar, I’m sorry.” Apple snipped. “But sometimes we have to take a more active role in our destiny as Royals. I’m simply setting a good example as a future Queen.” She pushed her locker shut with force, then turned and strode off, head held high. Briar’s comments had been increasingly pointed since the swap was decided.

There was a groan, then the familiar clicking of Briar’s heels against the floor as she jogged to catch up to Apple. “Look, I’m just trying to look out for you! You’re putting everything on yourself this year and it’s not healthy!”

“Briar, I’m fine. I just need to make it to Legacy Day and then everything will be perfect.” Apple’s tone wavered slightly as she kept her eyes forward and her head high. “I need to just take my Happily Ever After and not worry about anything else.”

“Apple.” Briar grabbed her friend’s shoulder and spun her around. “You’re going to work yourself into an early grave. Learn to relax already! The sky isn’t going to start falling if you skip a class for once!”

Apple just shook her head and turned back around. “I’m going to be the perfect princess everyone expects me to be, and my reward will be worth all of this work. It has to be.”


At 12 o’clock sharp, the school bells chimed, and the class of second-years streamed out of the main campus, and into the open-air charmitorium. Legacy day was fast approaching, and the students needed to prepare their speeches for the big event. It was traditional for a student pledging to make a personal oath once signing was complete- the whole day was steeped in traditions dating back to the founding of the school.

Headmaster Grimm stood up at the podium, with a heavy book under his arm. He smiled down to the students all sitting in the first few rows of stone benches, and laid the book in front of him before clearing his throat.

“Second-year students, it is so good to see you all once more. As I’m sure you are well aware, Ever After High traditionally has it’s annual pledge of destinies in this year, when all of you are at the time of your most potential.” He clasped his hands, radiating gentle authority in his smile. “This tradition is one of our oldest, dating back to the times when I would journey out into the various divided kingdoms to ensure that the truest tales would be remembered. And now, it is your turn to take this monumental first step into your adulthoods- Pledging your Destiny into the Storybook of Legends.”

There was a smattering of polite applause from the students. There were more than a few with their heads suspiciously down, looking at something in their laps as they messaged back and forth on silenced MirrorPhones. Grimm ignored them- They would all pledge without question.

“Now, in order to ensure that the ceremony goes off without a hitch, we have the next month and a half of various practices, traditions, and celebrations leading up to the big night itself. All of you will become closer to your paths, understanding the history you stand to inherit until you are truly prepared. And then, Legacy Day will come and you will have taken your first steps on the road to your shining futures!” He began to slowly pace the stage, smiling at his beloved students. “Now, let us officially kick off Legacy season with the rehearsal ceremony!”

There was more applause this time, and Grimm saw that the more inattentive members of the audience were starting to put down their phones. That was exactly what he wanted. He began to direct the students, forming them into a line with the help of Professor Yaga.

Once everyone was in position, Grimm opened his suit coat and removed a large brass key. “Now, on the eve of the actual ceremony, you will be in the presence of the true Storybook of Legends, which shall grant you your own key according to your story, which you will use to open the Book to its proper page. However, it is too dangerous to let it leave my office until the event begins, so we will be practicing with this manual of school rules instead.” He handed the key to the first student in line, and waved her across to the podium.

The girl had short, curly lavender hair with distinctive pink streaks. She wore a dress that while designed simply in creams and browns, poofed out at the skirt to an extreme degree. She smiled, placing the key in the lock and giving it a quarter-turn before stopping and looking over at the Headmaster sheepishly.

“Sorry, I forgot to say the oath, didn’t I?” She flushed a soft pink, re-locking the book and clearing her throat. “My name is Lita Lindorn, and I am ready to pledge my Destiny.” She re-turned the key, opening the book to a random page before pausing again.

“Very well, Miss Lindorn. At this point you would be given the visions of your future in the enchanted mirrors, followed by the glimpse of you at your Destiny’s end. Then  the book will create your unique quill, you will sign on your page, and once the book has been closed you will give a short speech.” Grimm seemed slightly annoyed at his student’s lack of preparation, but that is what this rehearsal was for. “Please close the book and re-lock it, and take your seat. Next?”

Next in line was the turquoise-haired Regina Zwei, the future Two-eyes princess. And the line was slowly whittled down with each student practicing saying their oath, turning the key, and a few offering a half-finished speech before locking the book back up for the next in line. All under the watchful Eye of Grimm.

Near the middle of the line, Apple White strode forward, beaming as if it were Legacy Day already. She took the key, looking out over the half-empty charmitorium before making her brief oath and turning the key. She could just imagine the future she knew was hers. “I’m still writing my acceptance speech, but I think speaking about how glad I am to be inheriting such an important Legacy would be appropriate, right Headmaster?”

Grimm Nodded with a smile. “Just the level of excellence I expect from you, Miss White. Please continue.” He turned to wave the next student across the stage, and sighed. “Try not to muck this one up, Miss Queen.”

Raven crossed her arms and kept her head down. Her anxiety had been rising all day, and she felt as if she were about to faint, or worse. She picked up the key, which Apple had so helpfully left next to the book, and squeezed it tightly. “M-my name is Raven Queen… And I am ready to pledgemydestiny.” Her voice grew soft as she sped through the oath, inserting the key in the lock and turning it to open the book. It flopped open, and she looked up, eyes sweeping the students that had already gone. Maddie waved up at her, she was more than pleased to sign to inherit her dad’s playful madness.

The squirming feeling in her gut was suddenly too much, and she bolted, running off the stage and out the back door, trying to hold herself together long enough to make it to the woods that surrounded the campus. Once she was finally out of sight, she dropped to her knees, shaking and crying.

She didn’t want to sign the book.

She didn’t want to poison one of her classmates.

She didn’t want to be the Evil Queen.

Chapter Text

                The assignment is as follows: Write a short summary of your Legacy, and then interview your Fairytale parent (if possible) about how they lived the tale when they accepted their destiny. Compile the packet with a short essay containing your thoughts on how you might live out your destiny and hand in within two weeks.

                Briar’s heels clicked up the marble stairs of her family home as she looked for her mother. It was the weekend, and she had decided to get a jump on the essay assignment for her Princessology class. If she knocked that out now, that meant she would have nothing stopping her from going to Sparrow’s killer party (and maybe getting to flirt at Scottington Dee).

                Her mother’s tower bedroom was the highest point of the family castle, overlooking the whole of the Enchanted Wood, and off in the distance, the outline of Ever After High could be seen from the large bay windows that Briar had spent many childhood days looking out of. The side effect of sudden enchanted sleep would take her mother randomly, which led to many long stretches of young Briar in her mother’s room, waiting for her to wake back up. Thankfully, it seemed the Queen Beauty was finally awake again.

                “Mom? You up?” Briar looked around the brightly-lit room. It was as It always had been- stone floor covered with silk cushions and thick rugs, the large four-poster bed across from the windows, and the creep of rosebush thorns beginning to dapple the light slightly. “Nanny said you’d finally woken up…”

                There was a sudden shift of movement and then Briar was enveloped in a hug. Sleeping Beauty patted her daughter’s hair and held her close for a minute. “Brer, dahling… I miss’d ye…” Her mother’s thick accent was comforting. “Wah brings ye hoome so soun?”

                “I’ve got an assignment and I needed you to be awake so I could ask you some questions.” Briar smiled at her mother, holding up her notebook for Princessology.

                “Whael, I’ll make sohme tea an’ we can ‘ave a chat.” Queen Beauty led her daughter across the room to her little alcove, separated by a light silk curtain from the rest of the room. Within, a low table sat with teacups and an enchanted kettle, always ready with hot water for tea. The queen poured herself and her daughter a cup, lightly blowing across the top before taking a sip and smiling. “Nawe, Brer… whot aez it ye naed ta know?”

                “Well, I have to write about my Legacy and what my thoughts on it are, and I need to talk to you about how you lived yours back when you were my age. Were you scared of falling asleep? What were things like way back then?” Briar took a sip of her own tea. It was rich, and slightly bitter. “I’m actually a little nervous just thinking about it, mom.”

                Sleeping beauty paused, looking her daughter over before slowly nodding. “Ah… I say… Whael… Ah, ye be old enough to know by nawe…” She took another drink, wincing as she burned her tongue. “Ah was scared… Bu’ Ah did whot Ah had to. Ah knew that Ah would awake in a new woorl… An’ no one o’ me friends ‘er family would be alive anymoore... Bu’ Ah had to. Else Ah would vahnish.”

                Briar nodded, writing as her mother spoke. “What about dad? I know we’re supposed to only be woken by our true Prince Charming… Did you worry about that? Having to trust that someone who wasn’t even born yet would save you?”

                Her mother was silent for a long moment before folding her hands on the table. The diamonds on her rings sparkled in the midday light. “Brer… Ye father be a good man. ‘E be good to all of us. I ‘ave naever once doubted ‘im.”

                Briar was confused, putting down her pocket quill and looking at her mom. “What does that have to do with it, mom? He’s your Prince Charming, right?”

                “Brer… Ye mus understand meh… sometimes ye ‘ave to accept parts of ye’s tale that might be… Less than whot ye like. But that is juss a part of ye story. Sometimes ye juss ‘ave to accept that ye’ll awake alone ‘ith a babe suckling ye finger an’ a ‘usband ye’ve never met before. But that’s juss fine as long as ‘e swears tah take care of ye an’ give ye e’rrythin ye desire.”


                The bell on the door jangled as the customers exited The Glass Slipper, and Ashlyyn immediately picked up the broom behind the counter to begin sweeping again. Aurea Miller’s quest for the perfect pair of shoes had left a bit of a mess, with loose straw always seeming to be stuck in her hair or clothes. But, now that the shop was empty again, Ashlyyn could clean it up in peace.

                The Glass Slipper was owned and operated by the Goose family, and had served as Book End’s premier shoe store for centuries now. Ashlyyn’s mother had worked there when she was in school, as had her mother before her, going back as long as could be remembered. It was considered good practice for the future to hold down a simple job such as this. She quite enjoyed the task, sorting new shoe shipments, running the checkout, even minor cleaning brought her a sense of contentment.

                Mid-afternoon light illuminated the lazy dust drifting through the air as she finished sweeping up the last of the loose straw and dumping it in the trash. It was a pleasant day all around, and looking out the window she could see that Book End was enjoying itself a lazy afternoon.

                There was a soft knock on the back door, and her eyebrows shot up as a grin broke across her face, running to the back room to throw the door open and grab Hunter Huntsman in a hug. He laughed, returning the affection.

                “Here, brought you something.” He held out a steaming cup of tea for Ashlyyn. “Thought you’d be pretty bored here all on your own.”

                “Oh my godmother, thank you, Hunter!” Ashlyyn squealed, taking a sip and beaming up at him. “It’s so quiet today I thought I’d lose my mind!”

                “Well, I don’t have anything else I have to do today, let me come keep you some company.” Hunter smiled. “I’ll just pretend I’m looking at some new workboots if anyone comes in.”

                Ashlyyn and Hunter had only been seeing each other since the beginning of the summer. Dating outside of one’s fairytale was bad enough, but for Ashlyyn to be stepping so low on the social pyramid… Neither of them could afford to be seen acting against their roles so severely.

                Hunter had been taken the moment he’d seen Ash in the woods that day. She’d been walking, and stopped in a clearing to pick flowers. The forest creatures had followed her through the trees, and in that moment Hunter felt as if he’d seen something divine. The two of them had kept this relationship secret easily enough during the summer, but now that school had begun again, and with this being their legacy year… It was getting harder to see one another.

                “I’m thinking about trying out for the Bookball team this year.” Hunter sat on one of the seats scattered through the store, pretending to look at a pair of boots on the wall. “Think I’ve got a chance?”

                “Probably, you’re nearly fast enough to keep up with Cerise.” Ashlyyn began pretending to sort through some of the special order forms. “I’d come cheer you on if you did.”

                The two of them whiled away the afternoon with idle chatter, Hunter occasionally ducking to hide in the back if too many people came in at once.  Finally, it was time for Ashlyyn to close up and head home for the evening. She laced her fingers into Hunter’s, leaning against him in the shadows of the trees, out of sight of anyone who might pass them by.


                “Raven, darling, I need you to promise something to mommy.” The voice is trying to sound gentle, but there is a definite stressed tone to it. “You need to be a big girl while mommy’s away, okay? Be good for your father, and Cedar, and everyone left at home, alright?”

                “Yes, Mommy… Where are we going?” Raven is holding a well-worn stuffed dragon in her arms as she’s carried. “Daddy’s coming too, right?”

                “I’m sorry, little bird, but mommy will have to go away for a while. Promise me you’ll be a good girl until I… Until I get back.” The movement paused, and Raven was set down, shivering as her sock feet touched the cold stone of the tower. “Let me see Nevermore a moment, sweetie… is his leg still coming off?”

                Raven held up the black-and-purple stuffed dragon. One leg dangled weakly from its threads. The Evil Queen took him, removing a small violet brooch from her jewelry. She tugged the weak threads until the leg popped off, much to her daughter’s dismay. She then took the brooch and shoved it deep into the stuffing of the toy. “Don’t tell anyone this is in here. It’s our little secret, okay? What do you say if anyone asks you if I gave you anything before I left?” She waved her hands over the toy and the leg magically re-attached itself.

                “I didn’t get anything from you. Nothing at all.” Raven’s eyes glinted with wisdom beyond her years. “What is it, mommy?”

                “It’s a little trinket that will let me find you again some day when this is all over. It was given to me by my mother, and now I give it to you. Take good care of it, and remember, it’s our secret.”

 

                Raven awoke with a gasp in her room. The pale streaks of early sunlight filtered through the curtains, illuminating the empty bed of her roommate. Apple had absconded for the weekend  to her family’s castle to work on her Legacy Essay, which Raven was partially exempted from.

                She sat up, rubbing her eyes to clear the sleepyness away. For once, she had a day completely to herself. She thought about going down to Book End, maybe getting herself something nice with her allowance she’d been saving. Or maybe she could sneak down to the muse-ic room and practice her piano while nobody was looking.

                After getting dressed in something more casual than her typical school wear, she began to walk downstairs to the castleteria. She passed Goldie on her way down, and dodged the ever-present camera with practiced ease.

                This early in the morning, the only students were those unfortunate enough to be stuck in club activities on weekends. Raven looked forward to the peace as she slowly ate her morning peas porridge hot. As she ate, her fingers slowly traced around the gem on her brooch she always wore- a small violet gem set in delicate filigree. Something had been weighing on her mind more than it had before. Maybe a secret trip to the Muse-ic classroom was just what she needed.

                Raven slid herself into the bench, lifting the cover off the keys with a smile. She’d always loved music, even though it wasn’t really in her whole ‘evil’ wheelhouse. But since there was nobody around to rat her out to Grimm… Well, she would just have to enjoy this time to herself.

G

                F#

                                B

                                                 E

                                                                 D

G

                 C

                                 B

                                                 E

                                                                 A

                                                                                 D

 

                The notes came back to her easily, and a smile slowly crept its way across her face. She’d been so excited to be able to take Muse-ic class again… But now she had to practice in secret just for standing up to Duchess and her awful attitude. She asked herself why the Royal students were all so mean for no real reason… But an answer never came. And so, Raven played away at the piano, smiling to herself and her private little secret.

Chapter Text

                “Welcome back everyone to another Hexciting episode of Just right!” Blondie cheered into her microphone. “Today I’m coming to you with not only an extra-exclusive interview, but later on, we’ll be running a special segment all about your favorite school legends! Stay tuned!”

                The image of Blondie’s ever-present manic grin dominated the screen of the mirrorpad as reactions and comments began to fill the small chatbox of the broadcast. When the image changed to one of Apple White and Prince Daring Charming sitting together, the speed of the text accelerated wildly.

                “I have with me today Apple White, the future Snow White, and the shoo-in candidate for her future Prince Charming- Daring Charming! How are you both this fine day?”

                Apple waved, smiling sweetly and blowing a kiss to the screen. Daring flashed a blinding smile that caused the image to go completely white for a second or two. Together, they were the image of a fairytale couple, in every sense of the word.

                “Apple! Daring! How are you two’s preparations for Legacy Day coming along? Are your outfits sewn? What kind of crowns will you both be wearing? Do you intend to match for the event? Daring- Any truth to the rumors of you dating another princess in secret? Apple- How is your roommate situation looking? Talk to the Mirror!”

                “Oh, Blondie, you simply must slow down! I hardly caught any of that!” Apple giggled delicately. “ While my dear Daring is the most likely to be named my Prince, until Legacy Day arrives we simply won’t know for certain! So I harbor no ill feelings for him practicing to sweep me off my feet some day! After all, we have the rest of our lives to be together…” Her dreamy smile incited a wave of heart-eyed reactions from the viewers of the broadcast.

                Daring gave a hearty laugh. “Nothing less than absolute perfection from Princess White, as always! As for my outfit, I have been given the traditional attire of Prince Charmings passed down in my family going all the way back to the original Himself! Myself and my siblings are all prepared to honor our family by following our Destiny as it was intended!”

                “Thank you for that wonderful thought, Daring. Yes, honoring one’s Destiny is the most important thing we should be thinking of right now! That’s why I wanted the room switch, because I feel that if I know more about my future Evil Queen now, I will be able to truly live my story the way it was meant to be.” Raven’s annoyed tone of voice when Apple encouraged her to poison those cafeteria apples, Queen Snow’s harsh reprimands if Apple allowed herself to be less than perfect, The smell of Raven’s perfume in the early morning as the two girls got ready for the day, Headmaster Grimm’s stern gaze as he reminded Apple just how much everyone looked up to her, Raven singing softly to herself as she folded her laundry away, the-

                Daring was still going on about his latest victories in both Bookball and Advanced Wooing class, with Blondie eating it all up, bewitched by the infamous Charming Smile. Apple’s mind coiled more around her thoughts of Raven, and the pressing matter of their destinies being so closely intertwined. At least, that’s what she told herself.


                Maddie bounced her way down the stacks of books in the lifairy, humming softly as she pushed individual tomes back into the place she thought they were best suited for. Nobody asked her to do this, she just thought it would be fun to try re-arranging the shelves a bit.

                As she passed a rather large display of priceless heirloom books seized in the Rebel Uprising, there was a distinct sound of a knock on the wall. She turned, cocking an eyebrow before approaching where the knock came from. There was a beat of silence, then the knock moved slightly to the left. Maddie returned with a knock of her own further to the left of that.

                She traded moving knocks back and forth for a bit, her previous quest abandoned for this new entertainment. They moved up the stairs, through the winding stacks, all the way to a large stone carving of a much younger Headmaster Grimm, posed holding the Storybook of Legends, quill aloft. Maddie looked up at the statue and frowned. She never liked unfinished things. But she just couldn’t put a finger on what about it was unfinished.

                The knock rapidly tapped the wall behind the statue, and Maddie climbed up to chase after it some more. She knocked along with it, but it had stopped moving. She crossed her arms, pouting a bit, until she noticed something rather odd. There was some sort of gap in the floor. The white brick column and wooden wall both seemed normal, but there was a tiny gap in the carpet below one specific panel of wall. She crouched, trying to look through, but it was far too narrow to see anything except darkness.

                The knock came again, this time behind a specific detail on the wallpaper. Maddie stared at it until her eyes crossed, and then it hit her.

                “It’s a Keyhole!” She cheered, only to be met by a harsh shushing from the downstairs front desk.

                She covered her mouth, then knocked on the pattern that formed something akin to a keyhole. The knock replied, then there was some kind of strange dragging sound with it. Maddie listened carefully, reaching up a single finger to follow the sound, tracing a new shape that she had lost in the tangle of the design, somehow.

                “It’s because I read ahead, you know.” She remarked to the Narrator (again!), her finger tracing out the glowing outline of a quill.

                A faint shimmering mist encircled her, and she felt herself being pulled through the wall, and deposited in a very dark, musty room. Before her stood a wild-eyed man with a very familiar face.

                “Feathers and friends, together alone!”


                “Hey, Raven? Can we talk?” A familiar voice spoke from behind her and Raven turned, seeing Cerise looking around nervously. “I uh… I heard you might know how to help…”

                Raven had a friendly acquaintanship with Cerise Hood, but nothing more. She knew the future Red Riding Hood was currently rooming with Cedar, but they had never exchanged more than a friendly nod or a question about homework.

                “Yeah, what’s up?” Raven closed her locker, having finished putting her schoolbooks back in order for the day. “Is it about Mr. Rumplestiltskin’s test tomorrow? I think there’s a study party for it tonight…”

                “Not it’s… It’s not that. I heard from Cedar that you’re…” She looked around a bit more before dropping her voice to just above a whisper. “…That you’re thinking about not signing the book?”

                Raven mentally facepalmed. She had just been thinking out loud to Cedar, but the girl couldn’t lie, and was even compelled to blurt out the truth at the most inopportune times. “Can you not go spreading that around? I’m already in enough trouble from Grimm…”

                “No it’s not that! I would never tell on you! The truth is… I’m a little scared to too… But I thought we were the only ones…”

                “Why would you be? Your story still gets a happy ending, even if it’s scary in the middle… What do you mean by ‘we’, though?”

                Cerise grabbed Raven’s hand and suddenly bolted, dragging Miss Queen along behind her at impossible speed. Raven had no idea where they were going until she suddenly slammed into Cerise’s back and slumped to the side, legs shaking as she blinked the tears out of her eyes.

                “Isn’t this the Wonderland grove? Maddie’s told me about this place…” Raven looked up at the tip-top of the hedges that surrounded the grove. Only Wonderlanders could let someone in, as the hedges kept the more wild magic at bay.

                “I’m here! And… I brought her with me!” Cerise stepped forward, placing a hand on the hedge. Beneath it, an outline drew around her hand and expanded into a smile, opening the path into the grove. “Come on, if the gate gets left open too long Grimm will get suspicious.” She tugged Raven in and the bushes closed behind them.

                In the grove, the trees all grew in curling shapes, beginning to turn purple and blue in their roots. In the center, rested a long white table with an array of mismatched chairs, and just beyond that, a simple stone well that glowed softly in a rainbow of light.

                “Since when do you get let in, Cerise?” Raven slowly looked around her at the strange clearing. The longer she stared, the more maddening it became- grass curled around her feet, there was a distinct scent in the air of shortbread, and it almost seemed as if the trees were… Giggling? “I thought only the wonderland refugees were allowed?”

                “Normally they are but I let Cerise hide out in here when Duchess is being particularly… Nasty.” Another voice came down from the trees, and suddenly Kitty Cheshire was hanging upside down from a branch- except for her head, that was still right-side up. “Have you been in before, Writing-desk?”

                Raven jumped with a yell at the sight, toppling back onto the grass. It bounced her slightly, cushioning the fall. “Jinx it all, Kitty! You scared me half to death!”

                Kitty giggled, rotating her body around her head so she was back to her regular self. “I’d apologize, but your face was just too perfect. Mom’ll love this.” She reached a hand out to help Raven up. “Since Madeline trusts you, we figured you would be safe to ask about the whole… Well, Legacy day signing and you not wanting to bit.”

                “I should have just kept my mouth shut around Cedar…” Raven sighed, dusting herself off. “When will I ever remember…”

                “If it makes it any better, I think she didn’t even realize she’d said it until after the fact… and it wasn’t to anyone else as far as we know.” Cerise smiled. “But… It’s true, isn’t it? You don’t want to follow after your mom?”

                Raven sighed again, and nodded. “I just… I know that before she signed, my mom wasn’t the greatest Evil Ever After’s ever known… And even after, when I was little… She wasn’t so bad… She didn’t like mirrors, or apples, or a lot of things. But she was always acting sad… or angry at something I didn’t really understand then.” She hugged herself, remembering her mother’s enragement when confronted with any mirror larger than the one on Raven’s brooch. “And the rebellion… She… I don’t think she wanted to destroy anything.”

                Kitty and Cerise looked at each other and nodded. “Well… I know for a fact that there’s actually quite a few other students that are hesitant about signing… They’re just too scared of Grimm to go through with it.” Kitty purred softly, pawing at a loose lock of Cerise’s hair. “But if someone gave them something to believe in…”

                “Wait, hold on, hold everything.” Raven put her hands up. “Are you two seriously trying to tell me to risk my neck on the off chance that it will start another crazy attempt at a revolution? What if my story goes poof? What if I disappear? What if I convince everyone who follows me, and they go poof too?”

                “Raven, I don’t know how much you notice but… Something’s up with our stories lately… Cedar can’t lie, even though that’s the one thing she’s supposed to do… Apple’s the first White Princess to not have black hair… You have magic but it’s crazy and weak… No offense.” Cerise shrugged. “And… Well…” She glanced to Kitty, who nodded. She then tugged her hood down, revealing two small, furred wolf ears where hers should have been.

                Raven realized in this moment that she’d never seen Cerise with her hood down before. She stared, openmouthed in shock until a puff of Wonderland pollen forced her into a coughing fit and she had to close her eyes. When she opened them again, the ears were still there. “H-how??”

                “Well… My parents aren’t exactly… Supposed to be together…” Cerise looked away shyly. “We’re lucky Hoods are usually pretty solitary to begin with…”

                “Wait… If Professor Badwolf is your dad… That means Ramona is your older sister?” Raven began connecting dots. Ramona Badwolf had pledged the year before, but due to her increasingly antagonistic attitude, the rumor was that she’d been sent to Fairy Tale Reform School this year.

                “Yeah. She does a pretty good job of acting like she hates me, right? Everyone’s so scared of her they haven’t figured out how similar we look…” Cerise smiled, pulling her hood back up and tucking her hair back into place to cover the ears. “Well… It’s like we’ve been saying… The Tales are changing and now everything is… Different.”

                “And you think if I refuse to sign… That will force things to change? Grimm could just punish me like he did to my mom…”

                “Raven, I think you might have an easier time of it… If you don’t poof, when all this time Grimm says you will, that will make people stop believing him. And if he can’t rally tales behind him, if people agree with you…” Kitty smiled mischievously. “Could you think about it, at least?”


                Raven left the Wonderland Grove with a head filled of fog. Cerise and Kitty had made such an important point but she just couldn’t figure out if this could really happen…

                There was a faint buzz in her pocket of her MirrorPhone. She took it out, and smiled, accepting the call and putting it up to her ear.

                “Hey, dad… You just called me at the perfect time… What’s up?”