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A Disney crossover - The Last Beginning

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Art by Alice Oseman:

Clove was walking through the market square one day, running errands for her master, the evil Lord of Tring (who not only paid her minimum wage but also made her fetch all the groceries and sleep with only one eiderdown pillow).

"Do you think I'll have time to visit Miss Perriwinkle?" she asked Spart, her pony, who trailed along behind her with bags of flour strapped to his back.

"Probably not," he intoned miserably. "There's a lot of traffic on the crossroads, you might be late home."

Clove looked over to the far side of the square, where three carts were at a standstill. One of them was overturned, with apples spilling across the ground.

"Ugh, this town's infrastructure is the worst," Clove said. "You'd think the evil Lord of Tring would install traffic lights so there were less collisions. Anyway, I think I'll be fine. You can get past them."

"It's your funeral," Spart said, and huffed a sigh so strong that it sent her hair flying in all directions.

"I want to borrow some more books," Clove said. "I'm stuck on a transfiguration spell and I think Miss Perriwinkle has another 'How to ... for Dummies' which might help."

"One of these days the evil Lord will find out you're training with the local hedgewitch and there'll be hell to pay. He'll probably make you wash up by hand instead of using the magic dishwasher."

Just as she was building up to a crescendo, several voices said "STOP HER!" at the top of their lungs. She broke off, thinking for a second that they were talking about her solo.

Then she caught sight of a girl, running at full speed across the market square from the direction of the overturned carts, her wide skirts lifted in both hands. She knocked over the baker with his basket of pastries and galloped through a whole border of flowers who trilled out their disapproval, turning from pink to an angry red.

"Who on earth is that?" Clove asked, stunned. The girl was being chased by three of the evil Lord of Tring's guards.

"Trouble," Spart said, and bent his head to pluck a dandelion from the cracks between the cobblestones, chewing on it thoughtfully.

The girl swerved around a farmer herding half a dozen sheep to the barbers. She was close enough now that Clove could see her panicked expression – all pink cheeks and frowny eyebrows. When she caught sight of Clove, her eyes lit up.

For a second, Clove was flustered – the girl was very pretty, with a mess of blonde hair. It only took her a second to realise that the girl wasn't looking at Clove at all, but Spart. In a running jump, the girl jumped onto Spart's back. He spat out a mouthful of yellow dandelion petals and gave a surprised whinny, skipped forward a step or two.

"Hey!" Clove and Spart both said, miffed.

"Hop on if you want your horse back," the girl hissed, watching the guards navigate the chaos she'd left in her wake. Black ink edging her eyes in the style of the neighbouring country, Clove noticed. They had those kind of luxuries there, not like here in Tring, where you could barely find a decent lip balm. "They'll catch up any second and I can't wait for you."

Clove couldn't see any other choice. She couldn't lose Spart – he was her only friend! – and she couldn't exactly leave this girl to the fate of the guards either, not without knowing what she'd done. She'd seen the state of the evil Lord's dungeons, and the prisoners only got the stalest croissants, and no cream for their porridge, only milk. Nothing the girl could have done deserved that horrible fate.

She jumped up behind the girl, and within seconds they were galloping across the market square, leaving a trail of angry guards and shopkeepers in their wake.

"Who are you?" Clove gasped, grabbing onto the girl's shoulders awkwardly as they jolted down the main road and out into the countryside.

"Ella Walker, professional investigator. Pleased to make your acquaintance," the girl said, reaching around to shake Clove's hand, then wrapping Clove's arms more securely around her waist. "Hold on properly – you're going to fall off."

"What did you do?" Clove craned around to see if the guards were still following them. Ella made Spart jump a stile into a field, galloping through the corn until they reached the river.

They pulled to a stop. Spart dropped his head, panting. He hadn't had this much exercise in years. Ella twisted down, dropping to the ground. Tied to a willow tree, bobbing in the water, was a small sailing boat.

"I stole a scroll, nothing important," Ella said, flicking her hand carelessly. "It was barely worth all that drama."

Clove dismounted and smoothed down her hair, which had gone a little windswept during their getaway. She found herself looking down, just to check which of her dresses she was wearing. She realised with relief it was the pink one – the nicest of Lady Tring's old cast-offs. She only gave her silk gowns to Clove when they were a month out of fashion, which was terrible of course, but Clove hoped that Ella hadn't noticed that.

"What kind of scroll?" she asked.

Ella tucked her skirts into of her undergarments, tied up her hair with a black ribbon and jumped down into the boat. She started unravelling the sail as Clove tried not to look at her bloomers.

"Just the Tring country records," she said, "Really, nothing major. I think they thought I was after the jewels!"

"Jewels! Why would you want some old records if there were jewels?"

Clove thought that now Ella was safely away from the evil Lord's guards she could probably leave, but there was something captivating about her. Besides, she told herself, Spart needed a rest. She rubbed his neck reassuringly. "You deserve three carrots, later," she whispered. He flicked his ear at her, still panting too hard to reply.

"I've been asked by King Matthew and Queen Katherine of the neighbouring kingdom to search for the long lost Princess. I'm the only member of court who can speak your language," Ella said, preening a little proudly as she said it. "But your evil Lord's evil accountant refused to give up the Tring citizen records without months of paperwork, so I thought 'Evil bureaucracy isn't going to stop me!' and I stole them."

"Tring is the worst," Clove agreed. "Did you know the public library only lets you take out books for five days at a time, and then you have to go back and renew them in person?"

"Oh my God," Ella said, her eyes tight with horror. There was a moment of silence as they both contemplated the foul state of the country. "Anyway, I'll bring the records back in a day or two if I find no trace of the Princess. It'll be fine."

"The Princess? What, the one with the silly name? Princess Anise?" Clove asked, confused. "I thought she was long dead!"

"Oh, no! She's been missing for years, but they have never given up hope of finding her. The prophecy says that when she's found, the evil Lord of this land will finally be overthrown, and peace and five-temperature shower settings will rule again. I would tell you about it in a song, but I've got a terrible singing voice and no time for a flashback."

"How on earth are you going to track this princess down?" Clove asked. "She was barely a year old when she fell into Prince Thomas' potion cauldron and disappeared. She must be my age by now!"

"She had a locket with her when the dreadful accident happened," Ella said, as she started untying the boat from its mooring. "They are hoping that wherever she was transported to, she still has it." She jumped into the boat. "Thanks for helping me, by the way. You're a life-saver, I would never have got away from those guards without you. Look me up if you're ever in the citadel. I'll buy you a flaming sea witch."

A spike of cold had been trickling its way down Clove's spine as Ella spoke. "What kind of a locket?" she asked, voice cracking with hope. "Did it – did it look anything like this?"

Clove pulled her mysterious locket out from her neckline and held it up for Ella to see.

Ella, who had been pushing the boat away from the bank, looked up. Her eyes widened. She spluttered, tried to grab onto a clump of bulrushes to stop the boat from drifting downstream, and abruptly flailed into the river with an enormous splash.

Clove looked down at the water, and then across at Spart, who was chewing on a stem of cow parsley.

"You should probably go in after her," he said, glumly. "You'll never overthrow the evil Lord and regain your throne if she drowns in two inches of water first, and she seems the type."