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The Legendary Fire
- Main article: Legendary Fire
Espella lived much of her early life in a small town that had been founded by her father, Arthur Cantabella, and his friend Newton Belduke. Newton also had a daughter named Eve and Espella became close friends with her.
During an expedition, Arthur and Newton discovered a large, silver bell and constructed a bell tower in the town for it. They designed the tower so that even the young Espella and Eve could ring the bell if they wanted to, and designed a set of special keys for it that the girls wore as pendants. Arthur and Newton intended to ring the bell for the first time after the annual Fire Festival held in the town, but Espella wanted to sound the bell herself first. In an attempt to discourage her, Arthur told her a cautionary tale about Bezella, the mythical great witch who was honoured at the Fire Festival, and explained that she might possess Espella if she heard the bell ring. Undeterred, Espella sneaked into the bell tower with Eve on the night of the festival. Once there, however, she began to worry about what her father had said and, despite goading from Eve, was unwilling to ring the bell. She decided to watch the festival from atop the tower instead, when she suddenly lost consciousness, hearing the sound of a bell ringing before passing out. When she eventually awoke, the entire town was on fire. From her position lying on the floor, Espella saw the blaze through a dragon fretwork in the tower and believed it to be an actual dragon, coming to the conclusion that she really had summoned Bezella. The shock of what she saw caused her to pass out again.
By the time Espella recovered, Arthur and Newton, who had been on another expedition at the time, were standing above her, asking what had happened, whilst Eve tearfully told them not to be mad at her friend. The entire town had been destroyed and Espella, Eve, Arthur, and Newton were the only survivors. The event left Espella emotionally scarred and she began to believe not only that she'd rung the bell, but that she had been possessed by Bezella. She spent the rest of the following day in her room, refusing to speak or even eat. Desperate to help his daughter and with nothing else working, Arthur decided to write a story about Bezella sending witches to do her bidding and how they in turn were banished by the townsfolk. He read this to Espella and explained that Bezella, witches, and magic truly existed, but came from outside the town and that everything he wrote came true. Seeing that this had gotten a positive response out of Espella, he wrote another story and asked Newton and Eve, who themselves had been trying to come to terms with what had happened, to act it out. After seeing this, Espella smiled and whispered to herself "It wasn't me". Realising this was working, Arthur continued to write stories and paid more people to help act them out, as well as renovate the town. The renovated town eventually became known as "Labyrinthia". Eve became the first Shade: individuals responsible for creating what appeared to be the "magic" being cast by witches. She also became the town's "High Inquisitor" to battle the "witches", and took the new name of "Darklaw" in order to prevent Espella from remembering her past. Arthur became the town's ruler and took the pseudonym of "the Storyteller", while Newton became an "alchemist"/doctor.
Meeting Layton and Wright
Return to Labyrinthia
Accused of being the Great Witch
The story's end
Espella Cantabella is kind, gentle, and well-intentioned. She places a great deal of trust in others and is willing to sacrifice herself if it means putting an end to the suffering of other people.
Before her trial as the Great Witch Bezella, Cantabella had many suppressed memories, particularly concerning the so-called "Legendary Fire". When presented with any duress related to her being "Bezella", she would enter a trance-like state where her gaze becoming unfocused and distant. In this state, she was susceptible to suggestion, and it was believed that if pushed even farther she would reach an almost catatonic state. This condition persisted from childhood until the interference of Layton and Phoenix Wright allowed her to confront and make sense of her memories of the Legendary Fire that was the source of her trauma. Upon discovering that Labyrinthia was created for her sake, she blamed herself for the suffering everyone has endured and became so distressed that she attempted to commit suicide, despite her father's pleas, although her attempt was interrupted.
- Her Japanese surname "Katarucia" (カタルーシア) is a play on "kataru" (語る), which means "narrate".
- Her Japanese given name "Mahoney" (マホーネ) is probably derived from the word "mahō" (魔法), meaning "magic".
- Her English given name could come from the Italian verb "espellere", which means "to expel". It could also be a play on "spell". Additionally, it could be a reference to "cantrip", meaning a witches' spell or trick.
- "Cantabella" is derived from her original Japanese surname as well as from the Italian for "sings" (canta) and "beauty" (bella).
- "Aria", her given name in both the French and Spanish localization, is the Italian word for "air", as well as a term for a piece of music usually performed by one singer.
- Her French surname "Novella" comes from the Italian word for "story".
- Her German given name "Sophie" comes from the Ancient Greek word for "wisdom". Her surname "de Narrateur" is French for "of narrator". This is likely meant to be a hint to her relationship with the Storyteller.
- Her Spanish surname "Fable" comes from the English word for a story with a moral or lesson (e.g., Aesop's Fables). Combined with the end of her given name, her surname also sounds somewhat like the Spanish word "afable" ("affable" in English), which means "friendly" or "good-natured".
- Her given Italian name "Luna" comes from the Latin/Italian word for "moon", which is sometimes associated with witchcraft. Her surname "Minstrel" refers to a type of medieval traveling entertainer, and continues the singing theme prevalent in the other localizations.
- Her Dutch given name "Maeve" is of Irish origin and means "she who intoxicates". In Irish mythology the name is rooted in the legend of Queen Maeve, but is also the name of a fairy queen mentioned in William Shakespeare's play Romeo and Juliet.
- Espella Cantabella's Japanese voice actress, Aoi Yūki, would later go on to voice Maya Fey in the Japanese version of Ace Attorney anime adaptation.
- Espella Cantabella is tied for second place in terms of being a defendant in court, appearing three times, tying her with Phoenix Wright and potentially Maggey Byrde across the Ace Attorney series canon.