A/N: Shoutout to actress4him for looking over an earlier draft of this story and endless gratitude to Goddess of Cliffhangers for all her hard work as a beta reader!

The story starts with a direct quote from the book in italics.

Copyright Disclaimer: Ella Enchanted is the work of Gail Carson Levine. All rights go to her. Also, the song "Burn" from Hamilton, which inspired this story, belongs to Lin Manuel Miranda. I own nothing. Please don't sue.


These are the first words I ever penned as a married lady. You know him, but I shall not write his name, only that he is very old and very rich and lives far from Frell. And he is fool enough to make me his bride. Someday, and the day may not be long coming, I shall be sole mistress of a vast estate. I shall not write again, but look for me. When my husband dies, I shall visit Frell. Should you spy a carriage that surpasses all others, peer inside. You will find me within, smiling at my jewels and laughing at the world-

I chucked the note onto my desk, incapable of looking at it any longer. This had to be a joke or a trick or a dream. Whatever it was, it could not be the truth. Ella, humble and unpretentious Ella, willingly throw herself into marriage for wealth? Preposterous!

There just had to be something I had missed. Ella must have written an extra message explaining this conundrum. Maybe it was one of her charming little jests. Yes, that had to be it! I would find another letter, in Ella's hand, saying that it was all lies. She had just wanted to play a little trick on me before she said yes; she loved me and wanted to marry me instead of the ancient gentleman. I grabbed the envelope and searched it for the extra slip of paper that would save me.

I put my hand in the envelope and groped around, hoping I'd grasp something in between my fingers. My fingers remained empty.

I held the opening of the envelope up to my eyes, peering carefully within. I didn't see a note.

Where could it be? I turned the envelope upside down and shook it vigorously. "Please, please let something fall onto the table," I thought.


I picked up Ella's note for another reading. Maybe she had written a secret message in the margins. I ran my finger over the paper, trying to find a secret message written in invisible ink. But no such message appeared.

I grabbed the other note, the one that Ella's stepsister had written. There had to be an answer there. There just had to. What if Hattie had tricked me? Every time I had spoken with her, she had simpered at me, probably in a pitiful attempt to charm me. She might have been smitten with me or at least smitten with my title. Perhaps she had found my letter to Ella and grown sick with envy. She must have written these horrid lies about her stepsister, laughing wickedly as she misspelled words.

My nostrils flared. That aggravating little coquette! I longed to ride my horse to Frell and come barging into their manor so I could admonish Hattie for her deceit. How dare she play such a vile trick on Ella? Did she really think she could manipulate me so easily? Why was she invading Ella's privacy by reading her personal letters? How could she, with her dim mind, come up with such a trick?

I stopped. I doubted that anyone could capture Ella's signature wit and way with words. And why would Hattie do this? Yes, she may have had the selfish wish that I had asked for her hand instead of Ella's. But if she was after wealth and power, surely she must realize that she would gain near-royal status as sister to the queen.

My heartbeat sped up. It seemed so convenient to blame Hattie, but I was beginning to doubt that she did it. Who else could it be? There was Mandy, the cook. No, that seemed implausible. Why would a woman as straightforward and honest as Mandy plot against someone she was almost a mother towards? Then it must have been the other servants, yes, it must have been them! I scoured my head, trying to identify the guilty one. But I didn't even know the other servant's names. It wasn't fair for me to blame one of them.

This unsolved mystery left me unsteady. I had nowhere else to search for an answer.

Unless I had been looking in all the wrong places. Maybe no one was scheming against Ella and copying her script. Maybe-maybe she had been the one that sent it.

I gulped. This seemed impossible. How could Ella be a fraud? I felt like someone had poked a hole in my chest and deflated the air from it. I thought of all the times we had spent together: of comforting her at her mother's funeral, seeing her impersonate a centaur, and talking ogres out of eating her. Had everything I know of her been a lie? If so, it was a sweet lie that I never wanted to let go of. I wanted to hold onto her, as I had when we danced in the old palace. I closed my eyes, thinking about how my heart pounded as she twirled in her glass slippers...

I stopped myself. Father had always told me, "A king mustn't dwell on the past." Ella was in the past, so I couldn't dwell on her.

But in spite of Father's advice, I couldn't let go of the girl I had fallen in love with, at least not yet. Even when the words spelled out that she had betrayed me, the formation of each individual letter in her familiar scrawl reminded me of all the jokes and ideas and stories and secrets she had shared. I thought of the letters I had read again and again, and of how comforting it felt to have a friend in this quiet Ayorthian court. But maybe that friendship had been a sham. Had I been a fool for trusting her as a friend, and an even bigger one for wanting more than friendship?

Yes, I decided, I had been foolish. She had flirted with me to get what she wanted. Only, Ella's flirtations were never the insincere smiles and artificial giggles I saw from all those stuffy courtiers in Frell. No, Ella had seemed so real. I had never met a person as unique as her. Who else would tease me about the proper way to hold a mutton fork? Her distinct charm could never be taught at a finishing school.

I had longed to hold her, to dance with her, to talk to her, hear her jokes and perhaps even make her laugh myself. Thoughts of her had lifted my head up to the clouds and distracted me from my duties all day. But through my nights, I was free to dream of her. I could dream of a girl who was not only funny but had long raven hair, bewitching green eyes, and a musical lilt to her voice. But that voice had robbed me of my good sense. It reminded me of fairytales I had heard as a boy, of sirens who had lured sailors from their ships. Ella was no magical creature of the deep, but she had tempted and bewitched me, and I had so gullibly fallen for her charms.

My muscles tensed. What I'd like to say to that siren! I'd tell her she had no right to trick me into thinking I mattered to her, only to marry some old man for his money. I tried to imagine this husband of hers. It nauseated me. The thought of a fifteen-year-old maiden stuck in a marriage to some wrinkled whitebeard! For a second, I wished I could find a way to rescue her from this ancient lecher of a husband.

But no, it had been her choice. She had happily married him, knowing he would die soon and leave her fabulously wealthy. Oh, if only I knew his name. Perhaps I could find a way to denounce his titles, were he a noble. That would serve Ella right! She had no right to seduce me with her silly little jokes.

But had I only fallen for those quips? No, there was more to it, more to her. It was Ella's letters that captured my heart. I had saved every letter she wrote me. When I read them, I had no reason to believe she wasn't good-hearted. Ella told me of her friendship with her cook and her adventures with her mother. So simple, yet so evident of her character. She asked me questions about my childhood, and they were not about the finery of royal life. I had been touched by her curiosity about who I was as a person. She seemed so kind.

If only I could go back in time and make myself listen! When I had told my sister Cecilia about Ella, she had teased me endlessly, as sisters do. But she had also had her suspicions. She mentioned all the Kyrrians she had heard complaining about Sir Peter tricking them in a trade. I'd brushed off her concerns, saying that someone's family reputation was no reason to mistrust them. Yes, I had grown frustrated with the conniving merchant, but I'd always assumed his daughter did not share his greed and guile.

But, just as he had lied to his customers, saying a piece of Elven pottery was a genuine Agulen, Ella had tricked me. I thought that this conniving little minx was a genuine friend. But no, she never cared about me; she had only been after jewels, money, and power.

A warm Ayorthian breeze came in through the open window in front of my desk, blowing Ella's note off the desk. Before it could fall on the floor, I grabbed it and ripped it in two. There! I'd destroyed the power of her magically bewitching words.

Her words...

Though the words in this letter felt like a punch to the stomach during military training, not all of them had that effect. Her other letters had left me elated. For the past six months, I had been starved for conversation. I had longed to share my thoughts and hear more of a response than "by your leave." I might have gone mad from all the silence, if not for her. Every night I would sit at my desk, reading Ella's letters by candlelight. I laughed at her jokes and smiled at her stories, all while falling more deeply in love with her. Ella and her words had flooded my senses. Her sentences left me defenseless. She built me palaces out of paragraphs, she built cathedrals…

But even after I had put the letters away in my desk and blown out the candle, I was still under her spell. When I curled up underneath my bedcovers, I dreamt of Ella until the light of the morning. But I hadn't just wanted to spend my nights with her. No, I had wanted to be with her forever and beyond. But when could I know if she returned my feelings? She always said she was too young to marry, and I assumed that it was just teasing. Perhaps she was even flirting with me. Or maybe she wasn't ready for marriage just yet. Perhaps Mandy told her she couldn't marry until she was 16 or 17. Or maybe…or maybe she just didn't love me. It would hurt if she didn't, but I could face it. What I couldn't face was the uncertainty of not knowing if she loved me or not. It made me unsteady, constantly having that question hanging over my head.

Well, now that I had my answer, I longed to go back to not knowing.

Perhaps I didn't know the whole truth just yet. Ella's other letters might reveal the truth. I pulled open the top drawer on the right side of my desk, the special place for her letters. Carefully, I picked up the most recent one, trying not to disturb the pile I had so carefully stacked. I read it, searching and scanning for answers in every line, for some kind of sign. I wanted to see if the girls of my dreams had ever existed.

Although you've revealed your shortcomings to me, I feel compelled to no such frankness. You must discover my faults for yourself. And although you've said it goes against the grain, you must find a way to forgive them.

A mirthless laugh escaped my lips. I had discovered her faults for myself. And I would find no way to forgive them!

I crumpled the letter into a ball and released it from my hand. It fell onto the desk. Marks of perspiration from my hands had stained the parchment. I glared at it, nonsensically thinking that my gaze could make Ella realize that she hurt me.

I had loved her and trusted her, but she had been nothing but a phony. If Ella had been a fraud, would I ever find another girl I could trust? Or did all of them, even the ones that seemed sincere, have a hidden agenda? Father still expected me to find a bride, but he wanted me to find one suitable to rule as queen. He would hate to see me marry a girl like Ella, one who would look down on her subjects because she was too busy smiling at her jewels and laughing at the world. Yes, it'd be better to rule alone than curse the kingdom with a harpy like Ella for a queen.

I took a deep breath. I'd be a bachelor until the day I died.

I knew it was for the best, but I hated the thought of such loneliness. Father's kingly responsibilities may overwhelm him sometimes, but he always had his wife and children to keep him company. I had my parents and siblings, but when it was my turn to be king, Mother and Father would be gone and my siblings would have already married and moved out of the palace. I would be all alone.

Ella and I would never walk through our lives hand in hand. I would walk alone, and she would hold hands with an ancient old gentleman. In my mind, I had built a future for us. When I was at my loneliest, I could imagine that world. I looked at the crumpled up letter on the desk. Once upon a time, looking at it would remind me of that future of happiness. But now, I could no longer imagine her whispering little jokes to me during tedious court dinners or stuffy nobles looking scandalized after she impersonated a centaur.

That world seemed to burn.

I had lost nothing, I told myself. She had deceived me. I had poured my heart out in my letters, telling her my flaws because I wanted her to see all of me. But she'd showed off the letters I wrote her. She had shown her stepfamily how I let her see all of my flaws. In flaunting my name, she had broken my trust. Those letters had been private, especially the one where I told her I loved her. No one else had a right to see them, least of all Hattie and Olive.

I remembered the unpleasant hours I had spent stuck in Dame Olga's sitting room, listening to Hattie's mindless chatter and Olive's questions about riches. All the while Ella had been confined to her room. Or had she? Perhaps it had been another one of her tricks. But what use was there in trying to contemplate the actions of this temptress? As Hattie had written, "Think no more of the minx, because she has already forgotten you." The best advice can come from the most unlikely places.

I closed my eyes. Ella's rabbit-faced stepsister had been right. I must think no more of her. I slammed the notes from Hattie and Ella on top of the stack of letters. There was no use sitting here and feeling sorry for myself. I had to act. Snatching up the pile, I gripped my hands around the papers I had once handled so tenderly. With my other hand, I grabbed the matchbox that sat on the corner of my desk. I stood up, hurrying from my chair to the fireplace a few yards away. Given the heat of early summer, there had been no need to start a fire. Until now.

My knees slammed on the floor as I knelt down. A stack of logs already sat in the corner of the fireplace. Gripping them tightly, I arranged them inside the furnace. Then, I balled up each letter and put them above the logs, as tinder. I hesitated before I lit a match, seeing Ella in my mind's eye. She tossed her long black hair, imitating a centaur. She had been so clever, so unique, that I didn't want to believe…

Stop, Char. Burn the letters. Let go of her.

I lit the match. One crumpled up letter on top caught fire first. I grabbed a fire poker and stroked the flame. I was erasing myself from her narrative. She could laugh about how she had been friends with the prince, but I would erase all evidence that I'd corresponded with this monster. It would be as if we'd never met. Ella's stepfamily could wonder how Prince Charmont reacted when she broke his heart.

I stuck my fire poker in again, the flames crackling as I did. The rush of adrenaline that swept through me allowed me to forget how numb Ella's betrayal made me feel. I had lost my most trusted friend, but that meant nothing. Our friendship meant nothing. She had torn it all apart. I was watching it burn.

Watching it burn.

My only regret was that I could not burn the letters I had sent Ella. She still had them, still had the freedom to show them to her callers-or her husband. I shuddered. I didn't even know his name, but I could see that man in my mind's eye. I bet that he spent his days lazing about his sitting room, in a chair that he liked to imagine was a throne. Now he'd have Ella, lively and energetic Ella, stuck by his side all day. He would never appreciate her jokes, but he'd laugh when she read my letters to him. "Look at what the prince said! Did you know he used to care for me?" she would crow.

My nose twitched, and I sniffed the faint odor of smoke that filled the room. The world had no right to my heart; my letters had no right to be read!

"They don't get to know what I said!" I told myself as I burned the memories, burned the letters that might have redeemed her.

I choked back tears, trying not to regret my decision. Yes, I would never speak of her again. My knights wouldn't hear another word about the clever lass who spoke Gnomic, the one they were so sure I'd marry someday. Well, they were wrong! Ella had forfeited her place in my heart, had forfeited the right to my pen. I'd never write her a letter again! She'd have only the memories of when we were friends.

As I watched the dancing flames, one thought echoed through my head.

I hope that she burns.