Forrest Cameranesi, Geek of All Trades

Princess Destiny

A deconstruction, reconstruction, and general zig-zagging of "Disney Princess" genre tropes.

Destiny is a girl living in an expy of modern-day Santa Barbara: a generic small but affluent city in the coastal mountains of southern California, where it's warm and sunny with light ocean breezes 360 days a year. She is 17 years old and being raised alone by her stepmother Eleanor, who she affably loathes for perfectly ordinary family dynamics reasons ("you're not my real mom!") despite Eleanor being perfectly caring and reasonable, if a bit strict and pragmatic. Eleanor is a hard-nosed business lawyer who makes a very respectable living and can afford to take good care of Destiny in this incredibly expensive town, yet despite the commanding strength of personality such a career demands, she is still evidently a kind and loving mother to Destiny.

Destiny is a traditionally beautiful young woman with long strawberry-blonde hair and sparkling multicolored eyes dappled with gold, green, and blue, with a lovely singing voice and a penchant for fabulous flowing dresses. She has grown up with "Princess Movies" her entire life and intentionally adopts their tropes into her personal idiom, believing deep in her heart that despite all appearances the world really is a wondrous magical place where good people always get their happy endings, and not a cold apathetic machine that habitually inflicts bad things on good people who don't deserve it. Most everyone else around her is much more jaded and finds such optimism naive and a bit sad at worst, or quaint and quirky and kinda cute at best.

Her two best friends are a goth girl ("Charlotte") who on the surface is even more jaded and cynical than their average peers, who claims to hang out with Destiny "for the irony", but who under it all seems to be an idealist not unlike Destiny herself, just hiding behind a protective veil of cynicism; and a nerdy but intrepid boy working for the student newspaper ("Carlos"), who took to following Destiny around because unusual and newsworthy things always seem to happen around her, and later simply became her friend, as well as developing a "secret" crush on Charlotte (who knows full well about it and likes him back enough but is just waiting to see how long it takes him to work up the balls to ask her out one of these days).

This background is established in a selection of scenes of the first day of her senior year of high school, as she gets out of bed and looks out on yet another boring beautiful day, skulks dismissively around her doting stepmom while grabbing her breakfast on the way out the door, riding to school on her motorscooter, and finally meeting up with her friends, all while singing for the audience in the style of a traditional princess "I want more" song. This is lampshaded when she finally meets up with her friends at school, and Charlotte asks sarcastically "Oh, this is a singing day again? Is that what we're doing this morning, singing?"

After non-musically following Destiny and friends through an ordinary first day of school (during which a boy passing through the background seems to notice Destiny, and she later notices him, but neither notice the other noticing them), we are treated to an intermittent reprise of the "more" song, intercut with a montage of the first few weeks of school, and Destiny's ordinary life at home with Eleanor and after school with her friends. During these scenes we learn that Eleanor does pro-bono work for local charities, that Carlos lives happily if modestly with his loving single father of moderate means, and that Charlotte is a latchkey kid alternating between the separate homes of two lackluster parents she tries her best to avoid being around.

The plot begins when one day Destiny locks eyes in the hall with the new guy in town ("Rick"), the one who she didn't quite run into on the first day of school. No words are said as they pass each other, but both instantly and intensely notice each other. Rick is snapped out of it by his new guy friends drawing him back into their conversation, and we linger on Destiny and her two besties commenting on her sudden infatuation as she stares after him longingly. Destiny expresses that she thinks she has finally found her true love at first sight. Charlotte scoffs cynically at the idea and remarks that yeah the guy is hot but she knows nothing about him and if she did she probably wouldn't like him so much. Destiny asks why, and Charlotte explains that he's some richie-rich kid from a rich family going back for generations, who had life handed to him on a silver platter and gets everything he wants without any effort. Destiny points out defensively that she too is from a pretty well-off family, even if her actual family isn't around to share it with her anymore (tacitly discounting Eleanor as "family").

Carlos chimes in that Rick is one of those popular jock guys: he's already wound up the star quarterback of the Knights (the school football team), and as they've just seen he's quickly becoming the center of attention in the upper echelons of the school's social circles. Destiny asks what's inherently wrong with being popular. Is the guy some kind of jerk or something who doesn't deserve all that life has given to him so easily? Charlotte and Carlos both remark embarrassedly that they don't actually know all that much about him personally and haven't really met the guy, they've just heard things about him and he just seems to fit the trope of the kind of guy who's usually a total jerk that thinks he's got it better than everyone because he is better than everyone, and that he can take whatever he wants from anyone because of that. Destiny insists that they give him a fair trial and let him prove himself to be the charming fellow she feels in her heart that he must be.

Later after class, Destiny and Rick actually get to meet in person when they literally bump into each other in a hall. Their meeting is awkward but charming as they shyly flirt and realize that the other feels as they feel toward each other. They both have a free period right now and simultaneously invite each other to hang out during it. Out on the school lawn, Destiny talks about living with her stepmom and how that came to be: her bio-mom divorced her father over money-related matters (she wanted to keep it to themselves, he wanted to give more of it away to charities he was building), left her with her dad who she loved, but dad remarried Eleanor (who Destiny calls her "evil stepmom"), and then died in a freak car accident when a flash-flood washed out the road as dad was coming over the mountains on his way back from a business trip, leaving Destiny with nobody but her stepmom. Destiny talks about wanting something more out of life, something great and grand and magical, and sings a capella a single phrase of her "more" song to underscore that pining. Rick remarks on her beautiful singing voice, and Destiny bashfully brushes of the compliment, describing the song as "just something I made up the other week". He relates his sympathies to her hardships as best he can, but contrasts his own life, which has been one worry free success ride: everything he's ever wanted has come to him so easily, and he is on the fast track to a life of fortune and fame. He's been pre-accepted to the university here, which is why his family just moved here. He is going to be a star college football player for a while, and then start his own company, retire early on the proceeds, and spend the rest of his life travelling the world for fun. Destiny seems to find Rick's bright and hopeful future an alluring potential escape from the (self-assessed) banality of her own life.

As the free period ends, Destiny invites Rick out with her friends to a thing they like to do: "there's an old castle up on top of the mountains — well, people call it a castle at least, but it's supposedly just the ruins of a big old house from one of the early settlers of this area, that burned down and left these cool-looking ruins behind, but I like to imagine that it really is the ruins of a real old castle, like in a fairy tale — and it's got unobstructed views to the horizon in both the east and the west, so when the sun sets on the day of a full moon you can see these spectacular views of the sunset and the moonrise at the same time and this magnificent glow around the whole horizon and it's so romantic and I've always dreamed of taking the right guy up there and kis... *ahem* Anyway would you like to come up there with us and picnic in the sunset? This next full moon is also on the fall equinox, so it should be extra magical!"

Rick agrees, and on the evening of the equinox he, Destiny, Charlotte, and Carlos all drive up to the "castle" in Carlos's modest starter car. (Destiny only has her motorscooter, Charlotte can't afford a car, and Rick offers to take them up in his truck but there's only room for two in the cab, and Charlotte is vehemently not riding in the flatbed on those kinds of roads). On the road up there — the same road her father died on, Destiny wistfully notes — they pass the "painted cave", a sacred Native American site preserved as a part of the national forest, and Carlos relates to Rick the local urban legend about a mysterious cloaked man who has lived in the cave since the days of the earliest settlers here, who never grows old and never roams far but is sometimes seen walking along the road, looking down on the city below or gazing up at the ruins of the "castle" above.

Destiny says that she likes to think that the mystery man is the prince who once lived in the castle they're going to, until an evil witch burned it down and cursed him somehow, and now he's waiting for something to bring his happily ever after. Charlotte opines that homeless people just like to camp out in the cave up here where the cops won't bother patrolling and there's at least prettier views than street corners downtown. Carlos says it's just a silly urban legend one way or another, nobody lives in that cave, it's barred off and you can't get inside. Charlotte says it's not that hard to pick the lock on the gate and sneak in. Destiny chides her for desecrating a sacred and preserved place... and then eagerly asks what was in there. Charlotte says it's nothing, just a stupid cave with some old Indian paintings, some trash that stupid people throw through the bars, and then a boring dead end not far after the light cuts out. Destiny seems disappointed.

They arrive at the "castle" and have a little picnic with crackers and cheese and apple slices and sparkling cider, and look down over the city bathed in golden light. As they watch the sun setting, Carlos tries to work up the nerve to put some kind of moves on Charlotte, without much success (in the "try" department, not the reception of said efforts), while Destiny and Rick hold hands sitting on a west-facing wall together, lean against each other, and then turn to each other, close their eyes, and — right as the sun sets before them, and the moon rises behind them — they share their first kiss.

Sparks literally fly from their lips, glittering magic-like between them, though neither can see it because their eyes are closed, and Carlos and Charlotte are looking elsewhere at the rising moon. When they pull back from the kiss, Destiny smiles a ginormous smile, leaps to her feet, and starts singing out loud. Charlotte stands next to Rick and tells him dryly "she does this sometimes", but Rick seems enthralled with her performance, and at an opportune moment joins in on the duet. The two sing about how magical it is that they've finally found each other, in a troperific homage to every Disney Princess love duet ever, while Charlotte and Carlos play commentary in the background: Charlotte dryly quipping "oh no, it's contagious", and Carlos remarking that "they're actually pretty good... really good if they're just improvising all of this", and pulling out his phone to write notes and take pictures for a news article.

As the song and dance routine goes on, they dance out over the perilous archways of the "castle" ruins, cold white moonbeams shining down from the east as the orange glow of the sunset slowly fades below them in the west, and the twinkling lights of the city sparkle into life down the mountainside. Birds join in their ensemble, and other animals come out of the woodwork, as the musical spectacular swings into full gear. Charlotte remarks uncomfortably that "this is getting really weird, even for her" and Carlos furiously snaps pictures and taps out notes on his phone while commenting that this is why he started hanging out with her originally, amazing improbable things just seem to happen wherever she goes, animals do weird things, crazy unexplained coincidences occur, "...stuff like this happens. Well, not quite like this."

The song winds down to its conclusion, Destiny and Rick kissing again just west of an east-west-facing stone archway, a beam of moonlight shining through it and across them. As their kiss ends and the (presumably inaudible except to the audience) music fades, the dust suspended in the beam of moonlight coalesces into the ghost-like figure of a beautiful but eerie woman in old-timey royal-looking clothes, like a fairy tale queen. From a distance Charlotte and Carlos are shocked to see this apparition, and try to take photos of it on their phones, but nothing but dust in moonlight will turn out in the pictures.

The apparition speaks to Destiny and Rick, claiming to be their fairy godmother, and says that she has been waiting for them for a very long time to find this place and claim their destiny together. Destiny is super excited that she was right all along and magic is real and she has a fairy godmother and a destiny — and it's with Rick, he's her prince charming!? The apparition affirms that they were destined for each other from a time long long ago, and more than that, that they are destined to return magic to the world, and claim their rightful place as its king and queen. Rick is super excited at that last part, but Destiny is more excited about "return magic to the world", and asks them how they're supposed to do that.

The apparition tells them that down the mountainside is a cave, within which lives an evil wizard who long ago stole all the magic in the world and secreted it away within a gemstone, which he still guards there to this day. At this point Charlotte interrupts, still highly skeptical (over Carlos's stuttered attempts to protest, lest she scare off whatever it is they're seeing), and tells the "weird spirit lady" that she's been in that cave and there's no giant magic crystal hiding in there awaiting anybody's destiny, just some old Indian sketches and some garbage and some rocks. The apparition tells them that the world's magic is hidden away, like she just said, not just in a cave, but magically; but it has been awaiting its rightful bearers since long before they were born, it has been guiding their destinies there across history, and that it will reveal itself to them when they approach it, just as True Love's Kiss has revealed her to them now. The apparition bids them to go now, that their destiny awaits them — and then it vanishes into dust in the moonlight.

All four of the kids have various reactions along the lines of "that was unbelievable". Destiny is most loudly enthused about magic and destiny and true love. In the background, Rick seems to be letting the "king of the world" thing sink in. Carlos has no idea what that really was but he will call it as he saw it and this is going to make an amazing story one way or another. Charlotte meanwhile is skeptical about the whole thing still — she can't deny that something very "magical" just happened, but she doesn't believe what the apparition said, because something about this whole thing just doesn't smell right, it seems... too good to be true. "Schmuck bait" she calls it. But Destiny begs her and Carlos to take them down the mountain to the cave and break them in and at least just see what happens. Carlos is perfectly happy to drive them down there and tag along to watch. Charlotte is visibly reluctant, but as Destiny begs, she caves in and agrees to pick the lock, but cautions her to "remember I warned you."

They drive down the road and reach the cave. They have to walk to its entrance with flashlights as only sparse beams of moonlight reach down through the canopy of trees on this part of the mountain. They reach the barred-off entrance to the cave, and Charlotte removes a hair pin and begins to pick the lock. Successfully unlocking it in short order, she gestures for the others to enter first; Rick offers to take point "in case that creepy homeless guy is here, or the evil wizard or whatever"; Destiny follows close behind him, and Carlos stops to let Charlotte go before him, on a flimsy chivalrous pretense of "ladies first" and "I'll cover the rear", which Charlotte seems to think is simultaneously amusingly stupid and kind of awkwardly cute.

They reach the back of the cave, and Rick touches and pounds a fist on the rock, which seems solid enough. But when Rick and Destiny both touch it at the same time, it dissolves into thin air and a further, much larger cavern, decorated like an old and sophisticated house, is revealed behind it, illuminated by a large glowing crystal at the center of it. The four of them spread out through the cavern, marveling at the many fascinating antiques that decorate it. Destiny in particular is drawn to a glass coffin in the back, inside of which lies a beautiful woman, either dead or asleep. Rick is drawn directly to the large crystal at the center of the room, and as he reaches out to touch it, a strange man's voice calls out from the mouth of the cave "No! Don't!"

The four all turn to face the stranger, who steps into the light, tall and hooded in an old, worn cloak that covers his entire body and shadows his face. But he drops back his hood, and removes the cloak, and reveals himself to be young and handsome, the spitting image of a fairy tale Prince Charming.

Rick quickly accuses him of being the evil wizard that the apparition warned them of, and seems ready to fight him, standing defensively between him and Destiny. But Destiny talks him down and says he doesn't seem like an evil wizard to her. Rick claims it is some kind of disguise, a ruse to throw them off. The stranger affirms to both of them that they have been deceived, but not by himself. He introduces himself as Beau, and warns them that they have been lead here to this moment for their entire lives by malevolent forces, and they must realize the truth now or else be ensnared into an evil plot to unmake the world as they know it. Rick doesn't want to hear any of the stranger's lies, but Destiny pleads with him to at least listen, and Charlotte and Carlos both back Destiny: Carlos wants to hear both sides of the story for his report he's writing — at the mention of which Beau alarmedly insists that they can tell no one of any of this or else all will be lost — and Charlotte doesn't trust this guy either, but thinks they have the best chance of figuring out the truth if they compare two competing lies, so she wants to hear what Beau's story is too. Rick stands down, hesitantly, and Beau begins to tell them.

A long time ago, the world was ruled by powerful magic users, who reigned over their respective lands with a power that none but another sorcerer-king or -queen could challenge. Over time these kingdoms consolidated their powers through marriage or conquest, and magic was concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. But that era came to an end when an evil witch named Aveline made her bid for power. (We the audience see in flashbacks that Aveline looks just like the apparition that showed up at the castle earlier). A magically powerless but wealthy woman of a formerly noble family which had sold its magic away in marriage a generation ago, she lusted for the power her ancestors had held. To reclaim it, Aveline secretly arranged for the queen of her kingdom to be slain by "highwaymen", and then married herself to the king in due time. She then arranged for the king's death as well, and took control of his entire kingdom, including the magic which he commanded as the "rightful" ruler of that land. With that power she mounted a campaign of conquest to kill all the other magic-users and take their magic for her own, becoming the sole holder of all the world's magic, and thus completely indomitable.

But Beau had been betrothed to the evil queen's step-daughter, Bella, as the son of another king with whom that kingdom was to be merged before the evil queen's interference. Being themselves rightful heirs to the magic, they alone besides Aveline were in a position to wield it. Quickly marrying in a private ceremony to further secure their claim, Beau fought to help his princess free her kingdom from the evil queen, as well as avenging his own father's death at Aveline's hands. During that conflict Aveline put Bella under a sleeping spell, to weaken the overpowering combination of their joint claim to the magic. But though she slept, Bella still dreamt of her true love, and through that connection empowered Beau with her share of the magic, allowing him to overpower and destroy the Queen in a cataclysmic battle of unprecedented magical prowess. (In the flashbacks seen as this is recounted, we witness Aveline take on the form of a great black winged dragon, ala Maleficent of Sleeping Beauty).

Beau then found himself the sole bearer of the gem containing all the world's magic. But he realized that nobody should wield such concentrated power, that the world had grown a darker and darker place as magic was transformed from a natural force of good fortune, which guided the destinies of everyone and made sure that bad things didn't happen to good people, into a tool for tyrants to shape their own fortunes and twist the laws of nature in ways they were never meant to be twisted, all at the expense of those who had had their own happy endings stripped from them. He realized that if he used this power to his own ends, even ones he deemed benevolent ones, it would taint him and corrupt his intentions and use him to reign, in the end, just as terribly as Aveline would have.

So instead of using the magic to free his enchanted love, and reign as a benevolent king of the world, he chose to turn this unparalleled force of magic against itself, and rewrite the very history of the whole world so that magic had never existed, and to transport the castle of the evil queen — once his beloved's family's castle, and now his own inheritance — and this gem containing all the world's magic, to a far off land where people still lived in harmony with nature, and nobody had yet thought to take this force of good fortune and pervert it as had happened in the Old World.

He lived alone in solitude in the castle on this mountain for many ages, keeping the gem secret, and keeping his enchanted love by his side, still asleep in her glass casket, until the day that people from the Old World finally found this new world. Then he moved the gem and his beloved into this cave, and let the castle fall to ruin, and has hidden here ever since, using the magic only to keep anyone else from ever finding it.

But power like this not only seeks to concentrate itself further, but it seeks to find someone to wield it, someone it thinks is the "rightful" heir of the power, based on the imprint of those who wielded and concentrated it in the past. And so it has reached out silently to shape the destinies of the living heirs of those old witch-queens and wizard-kings, guiding families together, bringing them good fortune when they live up to its power-seeking ways, and misfortune when they turn against that path, resulting ultimately in Rick, from a line of those who embraced the good fortune and exploited it; and Destiny, with her tragic familial story both because her father tried to turn against the perverse values of this corrupted magic, and because it was instrumental in driving her into Rick's arms.

Destiny replies remorsefully that the world has become a horrible place without magic: bad things happen to good people all the time, hardly anybody gets their happy endings, evil people are in charge of everything, and there's nothing to stop that all from happening! If there is supposed to be a force of good fortune which makes all those things turn out better, it has to be restored. She understands Beau's choices but has to disagree with them, and believes that magic must be returned to the world, although in a way that keeps it from bolstering the power of evil people like Aveline.

Rick on the other hand doesn't like this story at all, and claims that it's a deception by the evil wizard who stole magic from the world. He turns to pick up the gem of magic, but it glows more brilliant and a beam of light shines past him to Beau's outstretched hand, where a gleaming sword materializes from thin air. "I cannot let you leave here with it!" Beau declares. Rick steps forward, hands up in a fighting stance, and replies "And I can't let you keep it!" The other three kids call Rick crazy and tell him not to do something stupid, but Rick fakes a lunge at Beau, who in turn moves to counter the impending attack, when with a swipe of Rick's empty hand, the gem of magic glows brighter again, and a large rock suddenly dislodges itself from the ceiling of the cave and cracks across Beau's head, leaving him unconscious on the floor, his sword vanishing from his hand back into a mist of light.

Rick grabs the gem and says "Come on, lets get out of here!" Everyone follows after him out of the cave, back to the road, where Rick commands that they head back to the castle, and Carlos nervously complies. On the drive up Charlotte asks what the hell just happened. Rick explains that Beau just said he could fight Aveline back in the day because he too had a rightful claim to the magic, and also that Destiny and Rick himself were the ones that the magic itself had deemed its rightful heirs, so it only made sense that Rick should be able to use magic as well. When Destiny asks how he could figure out how to use it so quickly, Rick proudly shrugs that everything has always come to him easily.

When they reach the castle ruins again, Rick carries the gem into the center of the place, and the others follow. He tells Destiny that the "evil wizard" will be coming for them soon, that he didn't kill him, but they will need to be safe from him, and what place is safer than a castle? Besides which, this is their castle; it was meant for them, they are its rightful heirs, and it's time that they reclaimed it. But it is in ruins and will be no defense against Beau unless they can rebuild it. Charlotte scoffs at the suggestion that they start rebuilding a castle by themselves with no equipment on a mountaintop in the middle of the night before some crazy guy with a glowing sword can run up there and kill them all. But Rick points out that they don't need equipment, and they don't even need much time, because they've got something much better — magic.

He has Destiny sit with him and place her hands on the gem, and walks her through feeling the magic, describing how natural its use seems to come to them. She closes her eyes, concentrates, then smiles and exclaims that yes she can feel it. She opens her eyes again and stands up from the gem, her eyes and hands glowing with it now, and begins to sing about the wonder of magic, while directing flowers to bloom in the cracks between the old stones, and vines to grow up the columns and archways. Rick soon joins in the song, and sings about the power of magic, as he raises fallen keystones back into place, and casts sand from the ground back into panes of glass in the long-shattered windows of their castle. Carlos and Charlotte merely look on in amazement, as Rick and Destiny rebuild the castle together: Rick doing the heavy lifting, and Destiny making it gorgeous again. The magic couple sing about the great new world of possibilities open to them now that magic is in their lives, and their lines complement and contrast: Rick sings about all the villains that can be defeated, Destiny sings about all the beauty that can be created, and at the crescendo of the song, as the capstone of the tallest tower is set into place and the gleaming gem of magic floats up into its high arches, their song ends on mismatched lines about how they'll "save" or "rule" the world.

The song suddenly ends, and Destiny says that she doesn't want to rule the world. Rick tries to blow that off as a "I don't want that responsibility" thing, and assures her that he will handle most of the actual ruling, and she can just be his queen and live a fantastic life like she's always dreamt of. But she corrects him that she meant she doesn't want anybody to rule the world; that's not right, we don't do things like that any more, we've learned that there are better ways — ways that have their own problems, true, but nobody gets to be the unchallenged king of the known world anymore, and that's an improvement over how things used to be! That's what Beau hid magic away from the world to prevent from ever happening again!

Rick can't believe she actually buys that old wizards's story, when their own fairy godmother told them straight that it was their destiny to restore magic and rule the world together as its benevolent king and queen. Destiny says that she believes Beau that the gem of magic is manipulating them into believing just that, but that it's not the right thing to do — hiding magic away from the world isn't the right thing either, but they have no right to rule over anyone — and she voices her suspicion of what the audience has already seen, that the "fairy godmother" that appeared to them was an echo of Aveline lingering on in the gem of magic that she created, carrying out her evil will even long after her death.

As their argument continues, Charlotte says to Carlos that they've got to do something, this is getting out of hand, they're arguing about whether to take over the world or not, and it looks like they might actually be able to do it if they decide to. Carlos steps up to try to help the situation, and mustering with great difficulty all the confidence he can, says that he's not going to be a part of this anymore, and that anyone who wants a ride back down the mountain had better come with him now, no magic gems allowed in the car. Charlotte quickly jumps in the car. Destiny looks between Carlos and Rick for a bit, and says that she's not staying up here alone with someone who wants to conquer the world. Finally, Rick calls Carlos' bluff, and says with magic he doesn't need a stupid car any more; the others, not knowing what else to do, leave Rick with the magic gem and drive away, as Rick flies up to a tower of the castle and sings a reprise of the last song, about the great things he will do with the power at his command now, and how Destiny will see how great he can be and how then "she'll have to come back to me".

As they drive away, Carlos explains that he didn't expect Rick to call his bluff like that but didn't know how to back out once he had made that ultimatum, and now they've left Rick alone with all the magic in the world and he didn't really have a plan past this point. Charlotte suggests they regroup to Beau's cave and ask him what they can do about this. Carlos agrees that that's a good idea. Destiny seems too distracted to comment, looking back up the road, with the hurt and angry and longing expression of someone who just had a fight with their love and wishes they would come around so everything could be good again.

They reach the cave, and find Beau nursing a nasty head contusion, washing it with an old cloth and water from a brass basin in his cavern. He reacts defensively when the kids reenter the cavern, but Destiny assures him that they're not there to hurt him, and they're really sorry about what Rick did, and they need Beau's help to stop him now, because he plans on taking over the world! She digresses into a tangent about how it's really all for noble intentions though and he's not a bad guy and this is really all Aveline's fault for misleading and manipulating them and also Beau's fault for not doing something better with the magic when he had it to himself in the first place...

As she digresses through that point, Beau admits that it is indeed partly his fault, and he suspects that the gem of magic, imprinted with Aveline's will as its creator, used the very thing that defeated it — the power of love — as its tool for its vengeance, inverting the circumstances in which Aveline was defeated to assure that it would not be defeated again. Beau was a heroic prince who fought for his princess against her evil stepmother, combining their powers in love to defeat her; so now the magic has used the stepmother trope to spur a princess into creating a new villain out of a prince, and combining their powers together in love so that nobody could defeat them.

But there is still hope yet, if Destiny would side with Beau. They can't just take back the gem now — now that Rick knows it exists. And with the light show they've been putting on, the whole town below knows magic exists as well, and could tear itself apart trying to seize it for various self-interested parties. Beau thinks the only solution is to kill Rick, take the gem, and disappear with it again; maybe erase this whole city from history before the news can travel any further, so nobody will know that any of this happened, and the magicless status quo will be restored.

None of the kids think that that is an acceptable solution at all, for obvious reasons. Charlotte instead asks what would happen if they destroyed the gem. Beau says that would release the magic back into the world again, and everything world start all over; anyone could start syphoning it up and concentrating power and a new age of evil sorcerers would be ushered in again! Destiny contests that that might happen again eventually, and in the mean time the magic that once brought everyone happy endings and kept bad things from happening to good people would be restored; the world would get subtly more wondrous and beautiful, small miracles would start happening every day, and everything would just get better for everyone. There would be time enough to devise safeguards against that power being subverted again.

Beau contests that it's too dangerous, and besides which the only thing which has kept him alive all this time is that magic gem; if it's destroyed he will become mortal again and die like an ordinary man long before any kind of safeguards can be erected! Charlotte quips that "we've all gotta go some time, why should you be the one exception?" Beau angrily retorts "Because I saved the world! And sacrificed everything I ever wanted...!" — he turns sad and looks into Bella's coffin — "...everyone I ever loved, I lost everything..." — he turns angry again — "...to save you wretched people who can't ever even know what I have given you! Because I've had to hide in a cave for centuries and I will not let all of that be for nothing! I won't have not saved her... for nothing...." He cries angrily on Bella's coffin, and Destiny quietly says to Charlotte and Carlos that Beau isn't going to be of any help to them, and they should go.

They leave again, drive back to the city, and regroup in a parking lot by the beach, watching the tranquil waves break and sparkle in the full moon light, with the added glow of the magic castle now shining above them on the mountaintops. Destiny tries to push Carlos into being their new champion, as she reasons someone has to fight their way back up there, without killing Rick, and destroy the gem and release the magic back into the world before Rick takes it over or Beau kills him to stop that and then erases the whole city from time. But Carlos doesn't want that job; he's a writer, not a fighter, and he asks why is it his job to go charging in on his "mighty steed" — at which point he pats his old clunker of a car they're sitting on — "Just because I'm the only guy here? Why do I have to be the hero?"

In a moment of insight, Charlotte suggests that they go to Destiny's stepmother about this. She's smart and resourceful and well-connected to all the powerful people in town. Bring in the adults and see what they can do about it. Destiny balks at the notion of turning to her "evil" stepmother, but Charlotte scolds Destiny in detail about how "totally not evil" Eleanor is, drawing comparison to her own mom who is "way not as cool", and points out how Destiny has been manipulated by this magic force her entire life to see things in terms of fairy tale tropes like this "evil stepmother" thing, and that that is the enemy right now. They can't fight the tropes with the tropes they're trying to fight. Carlos is not going to charge in like a knight in shining armor and save the day, and the "evil stepmother" is their best hope.

As this sinks in, Destiny realizes something herself which takes her to the same conclusion. Beau had said that the magic had created an inversion of the circumstances in which it was defeated before: a prince empowered by the love of his princess defeated her evil stepmother back then, and now the prince was the villain instead... so the one to defeat him must be the stepmother, empowered by the love of her daughter the princess!

Charlotte takes that line of reasoning to be a little too... fictional... to consider sound, but as it leads to the same conclusion she was already advocating, they agree, and drive to Destiny's house.

Eleanor greets them calmly and amiably and asks how the sunset picnic went, completely unaware of anything that had happened. Destiny gravely tells her stepmom that they need to sit down and tell her something. Eleanor immediately drops everything she was doing and gives the kids her full attention, asking if "that boy did something". Destiny brushes those more mundane worries off with a dismissive "no", then corrects herself "well, sort of... he's trying to do something, and I need your help to stop him, but... it's complicated. God, I don't even know where to begin..."

Carlos offers a helpful suggestion: he has been taking pictures and writing on all the events that have unfolded thus far for the news report he's going to write about it, and offers his phone to Eleanor to read and view them, while the three kids explain questionable details. Eleanor quite understandably has a hard time believing all of this, and says exactly that when she is done. Charlotte sympathizes that ordinarily she would be the last one to believe any of this, but she just lived through it and whatever it is that's happening, something has to be done about it, and Eleanor is a reasonable authority figure who might be able to help somehow. Carlos adds that he can't offer any kind of sane explanation for the things recounted in his report, but that those are the things he saw tonight, recorded as he saw them, and he likewise would like some kind of experienced guidance in figuring out what to do from here. Destiny seems withdrawn to the conclusion that Eleanor won't believe them, saying that "you've never believe me". Eleanor takes her hand, smiles lovingly at Destiny, and says "I've always believed in you, and if you need my help with something now, whatever it is, I'm there for you."

She calls the police first thing, with whom she, as a lawyer, is on a first-name basis, to tell them that Rick is up at the old "castle" in the mountains doing... something, she's not sure what exactly... but it quite possibly involves explosives of some kind from the light show she's seeing from down here. The police say that they are already aware of the problem and have dispatched units to deal with it, and to stay away from the area for now. Destiny pleads that they have to go up there themselves, but Eleanor tells the police that she will comply... then hangs up and tells the kids to get in the car, they're going up there themselves.

When they get near the painted cave, they find a police roadblock telling them to turn around. Eleanor tries to argue with the police that her daughter's friend is up there and that they may be able to help deescalate the situation, whatever the situation actually is; but the police insist that the road is closed until further notice and no civillian vehicles will be allowed up. Destiny looks up the mountain to see the castle glowing upon its ridge, and some kind of show of flashing lights and fire taking place in the sky around it. What looks to be a police helicopter approaches, is engulfed in a burst of flames from something else in the sky, and crashes down to the distant mountainside in a dramatic fireball of its own.

Steeling her resolve, Destiny focuses her eyes on the gem of magic visible in the castle's highest tower, which glows in response to her. Her eyes glow in turn, as do her hands as she raises them, and then the car begins to lift from the ground as Destiny magically levitates it over the police barricade, and flies it low above the tree line, following the curves of the road up the mountainside. She tells Eleanor to turn off the headlights, to which Eleanor can only repeatedly stammer in surprise "We're flying. We're flying. Honey, how are we flying?" Charlotte sarcastically asks Eleanor "Hasn't she told you? She's a magic princess. I thought everyone knew that by now." Eleanor is speechless, but finally manages to turn off the headlights at least.

By the time they near the castle it has begun to sink in to Eleanor that what the kids told her earlier was all literally true, and she says as much just as Destiny sets the car back down on the road, and tells her "You need to drive the rest of the way from here, you saw what happened to that helicopter when it flew in." Eleanor drives the rest of the way, with no headlights but with the mountaintop road illuminated by the light of the full moon, by now high in the sky.

When they arrive at the castle, they find police cars overturned and on fire everywhere amidst burning chaparral along the roadside, and wounded and injured police officers hiding behind their cars or lying half-unconscious on the ground. Eleanor runs to one she recognizes who is conscious enough to speak but can't walk; she and the kids drag him to safety and ask him what did this. He manages to moan only "You wouldn't believe me", before a huge blue dragon soars up over the mountain ridge, pursued shortly by a red dragon breathing fire after it. The blue dragon lands and perches on the castle, scratching tiles off its newly-rebuilt roof, and roars at the red dragon before a bolt of electric blue lightning shoots out of its mouth and flashes across the night sky, missing its target, the red dragon.

As Eleanor stares stunned and mouths "Oh my god", Carlos starts filming the whole thing on his phone, and Charlotte clutches her head and seems weak in the knees with shock, Destiny runs forward and screams at the dragons, "Stop it! Stop it both of you! Beau, you can't kill him! Rick... augh, which one of you is which!?"

The blue dragon leads the pursuit back across over their heads, rolls to face its pursuer, and breaths a bolt of blue lightning straight at the red dragon's face, causing it to careen off past the mountain ridge and crash and tumble down the mountainside. The blue dragon meanwhile falls from its non-aerodynamic pose straight toward Destiny, but as it falls it transforms and shrinks down into Rick again, who crashes and rolls to Destiny's feet, then stands as though it's nothing really and he's got to get back to the fight. He tells her to run, all of them run, that Beau is trying to kill them all, but that he will protect them. Destiny explains that they came up there to protect him — and also to stop him, she adds with a bit of stutter, but either way they're not going anywhere until they're done here.

The red dragon, Beau, climbs back up the ridge, spots Rick and Destiny and the rest, and inhales a deep breath before exhaling a deluge of flames toward them. Rick turns toward the attack and quickly transforms back into a dragon himself, blocking the flames with his massive body as the others scramble for safety under his huge feet. Rick deflects Beau's dragon-head skyward, illuminating the night in flames. The two wrestle and roll across the mountain-ridge road, until Beau is pinned on his back by Rick, who has him by the throat — but his head is facing down the road in the direction of the others. As Beau inhales, time seems to slow for Eleanor, as she gazes up at the glowing gem of magic in the castle's tower, has a look of realization pass across her face, followed by a look of resolve as she accept these things as they've been presented to her and decides on a course of action. The gem and her eyes glint with the light of magic, and as Beau begins to exhale a flame deluge directly at Destiny, Eleanor storms up behind her fiercely, commands "No you don't!", and with a two-handed gesture invokes a great wind which extinguishes the flames coming from Beau's dragon-mouth before they can reach anyone.

Both dragons and all the humans seems momentarily stunned by this unexpected turn of events. As if to answer everyone's unspoken question, Eleanor declares to Destiny, "You say you are the heir to this magic because you are your father's daughter. Well I am his widow and now head of his estate, so I have every bit as much claim to the inheritance of this hoodoo-voodoo as anyone." The dragons untangle themselves from each other as Eleanor strides confidently toward them, seeming almost afraid of the surprising force of will coming from this tiny woman who seems now wholly unafraid of them. Destiny asks "But mom, how did you..." and Eleanor cuts her off with a scoffing "Please. I decipher contracts more complicated than this hocus-pocus every day before breakfast." She addresses the dragons again, and tells them "Your move, boys."

Rick backs away, unwilling to attack his beloved's mother, but Beau seems further resolved to eliminate this threat, and moves to breath fire on Eleanor again. Rick sees that coming and tackles Beau off the road and down the mountainside again. Eleanor shrugs and says that at least they're not attacking them anymore. Destiny runs up to hug her from behind and says "Mom, that was amazing!" Eleanor begins to thank her and shrug off the compliment, but then realizes, "You just called me 'mom'. Twice. You never call me 'mom'."

Destiny says "I know, and I'm sorry, I just... all of this has made me realize that I've been looking at you all wrong for my whole life, and I... I want to talk with you more about it but there's something really important we have to do while they're busy. We need to destroy the gem of magic and put an end to all of this at last." Eleanor says "Lead the way", and as she follows Destiny off toward the castle, she tells the other two kids "You two take cover and stay out of sight! Don't do anything stupid like try to be a hero!"

Inside the castle, which is crumbling from the damage it has taken from the fight, Destiny magically lowers the gem of magic to the floor of the great hall below the highest tower, and tells Eleanor that they've got to figure out a way to destroy it. But as Eleanor is asking how they need to do that, the castle shakes and trembles as both dragons land upon it and speak, in deep distorted dragon-voices, that they cannot release magic back into the world, reiterating their respective reasons: that the power must be safely hidden away from everyone, or that it must be wielded only by those who are worthy of it to stop those who would abuse other powers! Either way, to let it just exist everywhere, flowing through everyone, is madness!

Eleanor declares to the dragons outside that she doesn't know all the details of what's going on here, but that she trusts her daughter implicitly to do the right thing no matter what, and that she can at least make sure that she is given the space to do whatever that is. As the dragons begin to tear open the great hall to get at them inside, Eleanor stands in the center of it ready to do whatever it takes to protect Destiny. She says "Do whatever you have to do, sweetie. I'll protect you." Destiny replies, "I love you, mom." A happy tear rolls down Eleanor's cheek, which she quickly chokes back, and as the dragons finish tearing open the roof, the gem of magic glows and Eleanor erupts into an enormous gleaming white dragon-phoenix chimera, shattering the great hall of the castle from the inside and sending the two dragons flying, as glistening white-hot flames dance across her feathered, leathery wings, and charred bits of castle careen down the mountainside in every direction. She looks down at her feet to confirm that Destiny is safely between them beneath her and unharmed by her transformation; Destiny smiles up at the beautiful and powerful magical creature her mother has become, and nods as though to say "thank you".

Eleanor floats into the sky without even flapping her wings, and surveys the landscape for the two dragons, then takes off in pursuit of them, as they flee her in terror. Destiny meanwhile is trying to figure out what to do to destroy the gem. She picks up a rocky bit of castle debris from the floor nearby, and tries smashing the gem with it, but the rock shatters before the gem will. She tries another but with only the same result. As that second rock shatters, Charlotte and Carlos come running through the ruins of the castle, completely amazed, and ask "What was that!?" Destiny replies "That... was my mom."

The other kids ask Destiny what they need to do now, and she says they need to figure out some way to destroy the gem of magic, but smashing it doesn't seem to do the trick. Carlos says he has an idea, and tells them to follow him back to the road. There they find an injured police officer, and Carlos asks him if they have any C4 or other explosives with them anywhere. The officer says they usually wouldn't but given the strange reports they were responding to, the overturned van over there is full of all kinds of extraordinary ordinances, including some C4. They ask the officer who here knows how to use it; he identifies another wounded officer elsewhere, who they help to his feet and convince to take the C4 and bring it into the ruined castle.

There, the injured police — taking these kids at their word here because hey, there's dragons and weird phoenix-chimeras fighting in the night sky right now, anything goes in these circumstances — load up the gem with C4, then get themselves and the kids to a safe distance and behind cover, and prepare to blow it. Meanwhile in the sky, Eleanor realizes what is about to happen, and stops merely chasing the two dragons around and grabs them each by the neck, slamming them into the mountainside opposite the castle just as the explosives are detonated.

The powdered dust of the gem shoots upward amidst the explosive's fireball, transforming at it does so into a beam of light into the night sky, which then stops and is followed by a shockwave of magic light sweeping across the landscape, blowing out the fires on the mountain ridge, and continuing down over the city, out across the ocean, past the islands, and to the horizon. As it passes over Eleanor and the dragons, their enlarged forms seem to dissolve into glittering dust as they shrink back to human form. When the transformation ends, Eleanor is still kneeling over both Rick and Beau, holding them by their throats, and though both of them are now once again larger and stronger than her, the glare of righteous protective fury in her eyes intimidates them into not struggling back, even though they now could.

Destiny, trailed by her friends and further behind them the police, come running down the hillside where Eleanor has Rick and Beau pinned, just in time to hear her speak to them. She glares first at Beau and says threateningly "You tried to kill my daughter". Beau uncomfortably attempts to speak with dignity despite the circumstances and replies "I, madam, tried to save the world." Eleanor then glares at Rick and says "And you wanted to take it over." Rick squirms, unable to honestly deny the accusations, as Eleanor adds "But you also fought to protect Destiny." Rick nervously accepts the credit for that at least.

Eleanor then notices the police, injured as they are, following behind the kids looking on on all this, and tells the two guys she's got by the throats that she and the police will sort all of this out somehow once someone sorts out what the hell actually just happened here tonight, but for now those two are both going into custody. "Right Bob?" she asks one of the cops she knows, and Officer Bob resignedly agrees that someone is going to have to answer for something about all of this and he'll make sure these two don't cause any trouble until that happens, provided she can assure him they're not going to start breathing fire in the back of the patrol car. Eleanor looks to Destiny to confirm that that's the case, and Destiny affirms "Nobody will be doing anything like that for a long time; or ever again, if I can help it."

The police radio for more support. Ambulances come and take the injured, fire trucks make sure that the brush fires are really all out, and a paddy wagon takes Rick and Beau down to the station, which Eleanor and the kids follow to give full statements on the night's events. But on the way back down the road, passing the painted cave, Beau exclaims that he must be allowed to see what has become of his Bella now that magic is no more! He must be allowed to say goodbye to her one last time at least. Rick affirms that there was a "dead woman" he was keeping in that cave with him, and that is enough for the police to stop and investigate. When they enter the cave, they find a disoriented but alive and awake Bella, out of her casket and pawing her way around in the darkness of the cavern. They lead her out, and have a following car take her down to the station along with everyone else.

At the station, full reports are taken from everyone involved. Beau and Bella are allowed a reunion before he is put in a holding cell. Destiny likewise speaks to Rick in his cell, and makes clear, in case it wasn't already, that she's done with him. The police speak with Eleanor and say that they're going to try to put together a case that will fly in court, but that with as crazy as all of this sounds, it's likely to be dismissed as ludicrous nonsense by any judge or jury who weren't there, witnesses and photographs be damned — in the eyes of the common man, mass delusions, arson, and photo tampering are a more likely explanation than magical fire-breathing dragons — and there's a good chance that no charges will stick once the whole legal process has run through. Eleanor agrees that that is likely, but that if what her daughter has told her is true — and at this point she's ready to believe almost anything — something about the world has changed now, and even if the charges don't stick, they will get whatever they are due somehow, and everything will turn out for the best somehow.

As Eleanor and the kids leave the station, she asks what will become her Destiny's Happily Ever After now that Rick isn't her One True Love anymore. Teasingly she suggests that maybe she knows some other guy that might be her One True Love, maybe one that follows her around everywhere she goes... someone like Carlos. The three kids react simultaneously: Destiny seems surprised by the suggestion as though she'd never even thought to consider Carlos that way, and begins to rattle on about being over the whole One True Love thing now anyway; Carlos tries nervously to explain that they're just friends and he has no intentions like that toward her daughter; and Charlotte claims something to the extent that "he's mine". Both Destiny and Carlos react to that in turn with "He is?"/"I am?", and Charlotte explains to Carlos that he's obviously been trying to figure out how to ask her out for ages and that while it's cute to watch him try, she's tired of waiting, and if this adventure has taught them anything it's that fairy-tale traditions aren't any kind of rules to live your life by, so she's gonna make the first move instead. She then asks him out for coffee sometime, which he gladly accepts, and she confirms with a nonchalant "Cool."

As the car drives off into the sunrise, they settle on plans for coffee this morning, as it's a school day and they've been out all night and are going to need the pick-me-up anyway. As they chatter on about that, Destiny says to Eleanor, "Thanks again, Mom. For everything."