tagSci-Fi & FantasyCinderlove Ch. 01

Cinderlove Ch. 01


Author's Note: Kita and I decided that we needed to give the "Cinderella" fairy tale one more try. This time we both are enjoying writing it and we hope you enjoy it too.

King Guiseppe Regalsky sat on his throne and pondered the empty throne room. His only child and heir would be returning from her trip to the outlying provinces. She was his pride and joy, yet she was so lonely. He looked up when the door opened. He hid a grimace when Khan'strou entered. "Lord Chancellor?"

Khan'strou bowed and held his it for a number of seconds before standing back up in an upright posture. "The welcoming guard are arranged and ready for the princess' return to the castle. We expect her arrival within the next hour and I assure you, your majesty, that everything is ready to make the princess' homecoming...as pleasant as possible." Khan'strou bowed his head before looking at the king with a wide grin. "Is there anything else your majesty requires?" Khan'strou asked as he continued his wide grin.

The King detested his Lord Chancellor but the man was good, very good at many things. He let the man's ingratiation pass. "Good, good. I want to throw a ball in my daughter's honor. We will make it for a month hence. See to the preparations."

Khan'strou continued to smile. "Of course, your majesty." Khan'strou bowed at his waist as low as he could go before turning and slinking out of the throne room, closing the doors behind him.

A guard hurried up to him. "Sir, you have a visitor waiting for you."

Khan'strou looked at the guard with a serious grimace. "Where?" Khan'strou replied, as though words were too good for the guard.

"In the grand library, my lord."

Khan'strou turned on his heel and headed off toward the library at a methodical pace. When he finally arrived, he stopped at the doors to the room where the two guards stood and waved them to open the doors. Khan'strou stepped inside, the doors closing behind him.

A man slunk from the shadows, covered in a black cloak. "My lord, I bring news from your gathering army."

"And?" Khan'strou asked, waiting for his courier's news.

"We are now up to five thousand strong. There is much discontent. The people and the ruling families want change and your promises have made them eager to follow you."

Khan'strou nodded. "I see." Khan'strou then quickly lashed out and punched his messenger. "And never allow the guards to tie your presence to me again. If you have news, wait in my quarters!" he snarled.

The man fell to his knees with a gasp. "Yes, my lord."

Khan'strou turned his back to the man and headed towards one of the large chairs. "Go and do not return until you have more news!"

"Yes, my lord." With a few more bows, the man faded back into the shadows.

Khan'strou sat down and closed his eyes. "It's so hard to find good help these days." he sighed.

* * *

Near the outskirts of town, at the far end of a lane stood a large, imposing brick house. Unlike its neighbors, this house had a more rundown look to it. General upkeeping had not been done in a while and the grass was starting to grow tall.

Nineteen-year-old Antoni sat in the basement pouring over his manuscripts. He was busy trying to translate them, mumbling under his breath as he moved from text to blank page, trying to copy them down.

"Damn!" Antoni cursed through his teeth, as he scratched out the incorrect translation he had written and tried again. "Dammit!" he swore, again scratching out his translation error.

Jatin and Kyros stood outside the basement door that led to Antoni's room. "Oh, he's going to get it. Mother told him to get vegetables from the garden and he hasn't been outside to do it yet," chortled Jatin as he scratched at his portly belly.

Kyros snorted, his eyes cold and calculating. He loved tormenting his stepbrother. "Time to have some fun." He knocked hard on the door. "Antoni! Get your lazy ass out here!"

Antoni jumped, almost falling out of his seat. Ink began to run over the pages as he quickly moved to save his texts. "I'll...I'll be right out!" he said as he managed to move the books to safety and started cleaning up the mess.

"Now, dumb servant!" Jatin hollered for extra measure.

Kyros thumped the door again, harder.

Antoni cleaned up what he was able to and tried to get what ink he could off his hands. He hurried to the door and opened it.

"There's the lazybones now," taunted Jatin.

Kyros sneered at Antoni's appearance. "Mother wants to speak with you in the study."

"Y-yes, I understand." Antoni replied meekly as he tried to get by his older stepbrothers to go up the stairs.

Kyros moved out the way but then stuck out his foot and tripped Antoni. He laughed loudly as he watched Antoni fall. "Jatin, our brother is so clumsy today!"

Jatin brayed like a donkey and poked Antoni with the toe of his boot.

Antoni slowly got to his feet. He continued up the stairs trying to ignore his stepbrothers.

Kyros and Jatin followed behind him, taunting him about his looks and his education. They saw no need to read. Why should they? There mother had some class rank and had ambitions that one of her sons would become a Prince some day.

The three young men reached the top of the stairs and headed for the receiving room.

"You know what, Cinderfool, you reek. Mother's going to beat you again for not taking a bath."

Jatin chuckled and stared pointedly at Antoni's dirty face.

Antoni knocked on the door, trying to ignore his stepbrothers. "Mother, did you wish to see me?" he asked quietly.


Jatin and Kyros shoved by Antoni and pushed the door open. Inside the opulence of the room was staggering. It, couldn't however, disguise the disgusted look of Marchioness Denimael Bowsaksy as she gazed at Antoni.

Jatin and Kyros strutted to their mother's side and took up flanking positions beside her.

"Why are you so filthy, Antoni?" Her tone lashed out harsh and condemning.

Antoni lowered his head. "I'm sorry mother. I was working in the basement when you summoned me," he replied softly.

"The basement," she mimicked. Her eyes swept him from head to toe. "Why are you not out in the garden getting vegetables for dinner?" She tapped her cane up and down, watching him like a hawk.

"My apologies, mother. I shall gather them right away." Antoni bowed and started backing his way out towards the door.

"I did not dismiss you, Antoni." Her voice was pleasant.

Antoni gulped slightly. "My apologies, mother. You are correct. Shall I go and collect the vegetables, now?" he asked, his head still bowed.

Denimael stared at him a moment longer and then with an imperious wave of her fat hand spoke again. "You may go. But Antoni, if you do not have dinner prepared in an hour, you will be punished."

Jinan and Kyros chuckled at the prospect of Antoni getting in trouble. They enjoyed such sessions.

Antoni bowed. "Yes, mother." He turned and hurried from the room and out of the house towards the garden.

Antoni dug through the garden pulling out a variety of vegetables to throw together for dinner. He quickly washed them off and headed inside to the kitchen. Antoni sat the vegetables on the counter and hurried over to the pantry. He began to panic. There was no bread or meats left in storage. He quickly headed out to the market.

A large crowd had gathered in the market place as the residents talked excitedly. The Princess was finally home from her travels and there was much rejoicing for she was well liked by the populace.

At the meat stand the butcher, a skinny man with a loud voice, laughed at the suggestion that the Princess was home to stay. "You are being foolish. She is a young lady, full of spirit. It will take a miracle to keep her in one place," he sagely told his avid listeners.

Antoni wandered through the busy market and noticed the crowd that gathered around the butcher's stand. He didn't really want to deal with all those people, but he needed to purchase some meats. Antoni maneuvered his way through the crowd.

"...I'm telling you they say she's grown even lovelier. I wonder if the King and Queen will marry her off?" gossiped one older lady.

"Who knows? Wouldn't it be grand if they invited us to the event," another tittered.

They all laughed and the butcher deftly took their coin and handed them their purchases. He spotted Antoni and frowned. "Can I help you, boy?"

Antoni nodded. "I need some slices of beef back quarters," he said softly as he tried to stay out of the way of everyone else.

The butcher shook his head and quickly cut the requested meat. "That's ten silvers, boy."

Antoni pulled out his change bag and opened it up. He slowly rifled through until he finally managed to come up with ten pieces of silver, barely. "Here you go, sir." Antoni said, setting the money on the counter.

He forced the change bag back in his pocket and picked up his purchase and attempted to make his way back out of the crowd. Now, he had to figure out how he was going to purchase enough bread for dinner with insufficient funds.

A group of pampered young gentlemen stood together in a group watching the marketplace shoppers. They were known around the area as troublemakers but nothing was done to them because many came from rich merchant families or were the younger sons from the royal court. Their leader, Brayan, enjoyed bullying the poorer boys and men who crossed his path.

He watched Antoni, jerked his head in the younger man's direction and silently Brayan's followers melted in the crowd to follow their target.

Antoni finally made his way out of the crowd surrounding the butcher's stand and looked around for the stands in the bakery section of the market. He made his way over to the stands and looked at each one. He pulled out his change bag and began rifling through it to see what he could afford to get, if at all.

A loud trumpet call sounded and the marketplace slowly grew quiet as the whispered words, "She's here," rippled from person to person.

* * *

Princess Grazia Regalsky sat on her white stallion and gazed at the waiting crowd. She gripped the reins tightly and kept her composure. She had hoped to avoid such a thing. She was tired, sweaty and wanted only to seek the comfort of a nice hot bath and a comfortable bed. To her left rode her maidservant and best friend Mikona. Both girls had turned eighteen during their journey to see the world. To her right, and at the moment on foot, was Mikona's older brother, Leywis. He was part of her royal guard and also a friend. He sometimes acted more mature than his twenty-two years allowed. She saw him tilt his head and she gave a gentle cough to let him know she was ready to face the people.

She started down the cobblestone street, flanked by Mikona and her guards who numbered twelve in all. At first there was an awed silence and then slowly but with increasing volume, the gathered bystanders began to chant her name and cheer.

She felt trapped but she put up her hand and waved as they continued the walk down the street.

* * *

Antoni heard the commotion and turned for a second to see what was going on. He saw the royal entourage and sighed. He turned back towards the bakery stands and saw that the owners were now busy watching the event as it happened. "Par-pardon me. Can I get a loaf of bread?" Antoni asked the distracted standkeeper.

"What?" The woman gave him an irritated glare which turned into a calculating look as she glanced at his clothes. "The cheapest bread I have for sale is 20 silvers."

"Twenty sil.....nevermind." Antoni responded with a sigh. He turned around and looked for a way through the market without having to deal with the crowd.

Standing in his way was Brayan. "Well, well. If it isn't a little street mouse." He towered over Antoni by a good foot and his smile was one of menace. "Hey boys, what do we do when the mice come out to play in our streets?"

A weasel-faced young man with a missing tooth grinned at Antoni as Brayan's flunkies surrounded him. "We clean up our streets, milord."

"That's right. We can't have trash making our beautiful kingdom look bad, now can we?" Brayan advanced, violence in his eyes and posture.

Antoni looked at Brayan and the other men surrounding him. "Now fellows, I don't want any trouble. Can't you just let me be on my way?" Antoni asked politely.

"Oh, a polite mouse," chuckled the weasel-faced boy. "Milord, maybe it needs more manners."

"I think so too." Brayan suddenly reached forward and shoved Antoni.

Antoni stumbled back a couple of steps before catching himself. He took a breath and then charged at Brayan. Before he threw a punch however, he looked behind Brayan. "Hello, your majesty." Antoni said quickly. He made use of his distraction to race past Brayan.

"Get him!" Brayan ordered.

The boys dove into the crowds, ignoring the angry mutterings of those they trampled in their haste to get to Antoni. They ran after him, past the bakery and toward the clothing stalls.

"There he is!" Weasel-face shouted and the group converged on Antoni.

Antoni couldn't seem to gain any distance and ducked to the side of a cart. He kicked the block out from under the cart allowing the contents to spill out into the market walkways. He then turned and continued to try to get more space between him and his pursuers.

Shouts of frustration came from Brayan's gang but Brayan didn't care. He took a side street that ran parallel to the market. No street urchin ever got away from him. He was going to teach this one a lesson. He picked up speed and burst out from the side, barreling into Antoni and sending the younger man careening into the crowd and out into the street.

Antoni stumbled before falling to the ground. The meat he had purchased was now all over the road and he could feel a stabbing pain in his shoulder. He looked at his arm, seeing that he had dislocated the shoulder from apparently colliding with the cobblestone street. He attempted to scramble to his feet to get away.

There were screams and shouts and the shrill neighing of a horse.

Above Antoni, the princess' stallion was rearing and pawing the air. Royal guards rushed around her and formed a loose circle as Leywis tried to calm the frightened horse.

Leywis pulled hard on the reins and forced the stallion down. "You all right?" he demanded. Grazia nodded and gave him a shaky smile. Assured she was all right, Leywis stomped through the guards and to the source of the problem.

One of the guards, a giant burly man grabbed Antoni roughly by the shoulder and hauled him up to his feet.

Antoni winced and let loose a shout of pain. He looked at those around him and gulped. "My apologies. I-I'm just trying to ge-get my purchase and....go." His words tumbled forth as his eyes connected with Princess Grazia sitting upon her stallion.

Grazia stared down at the young man and she couldn't look away. True he was dirty but those violet eyes. She couldn't turn from them. And right now they were full of pain. She watched Leywis stalk over to the man and get in his face. She frowned, suddenly feeling protective. She heard Mikona move her horse closer.

"Your highness, shall I help him?"

"Yes. He's hurt." Grazia straightened abruptly when she heard the slap. Her temper flared. "Release him!" she ordered. She saw Mikona slid down from her horse and hurry toward Leywis and the guard who held the hurt man in place.

"But your highness!" The guard protested.

"I said, release him, now." Her icy gaze bored into the guard until the man dropped his head.

"As you wish, your highness." The guard stepped back.

Grazia ignored Leywis' contemplative stare. "Mikona, help him."

Mikona grinned and hurried over to the man's side. She touched Antoni's hand. "Are you hurt?"

Antoni blushed slightly and pulled his hand back. "I'm...I'm fine." he responded, before looking at Mikona and then back to Grazia. "Not that I don't appreciate it," he added quickly.

Antoni took a quick look around, but his eyes once again focused on Princess Grazia. He bowed, wincing as he felt the pain emanating from his shoulder and hurried out as quickly as his feet could carry him.

He didn't get far. Leywis stepped into his path. "You have not been released from her highness' presence. Stand still. Mikona, come, fix this man so that we may get to the castle on time."

Mikona smiled serenely and came to stand beside Antoni. "You will be fine," she told him, her dark blue eyes becoming hypnotic and snaring him in her gaze. She placed her hand on the injured shoulder and with a steady stream of healing energy, repaired the damage. It took mere seconds and she was finished. Still smiling, she stepped back and returned to her horse. "My lady."

Grazia looked amused and nodded to Leywis.

Leywis shook Antoni once and sternly ordered, "Next time watch where you are going."

Antoni nodded. "Yes, sir." He slowly backed up, one step at a time, his eyes remaining on the royal traveling party.

Grazia watched him disappear into the crowd. She looked down at the ground and saw the scattered meat. She grew thoughtful and glanced at the crowd from where he'd came from. "Captain, a word with you."

Leywis bowed and came back over. "Your highness?"

Grazia bent low and whispered in his ear, "Buy some meat to replace the ones that were damaged. Find out where he lives and hand deliver it to him. I would hate for one of my subjects to go hungry because of an accident. And thank him for me, for his politeness."

"Your highness," he hissed but then Grazia put her hand on his shoulder. "Please?"

Leywis' resistance crumbled. The Princess had that effect on people. Such sincerity undid even the strongest of men. "As you wish. I will hand deliver it."

"Thank you, Captain. Come, let's go!" she kneed her stallion which broke into a startled canter. She ignored the roar of the crowd, her one thought was making it home.

Leywis watched Princess Grazia ride away but he didn't worry. His sister, Mikona, was trained in the art of combat and would keep the princess safe. He ignored the dispersing citizens. He picked up the meat, took a whiff and frowned. It was pretty much scraps. He sighed. The princess would insist that the poor boy they'd almost killed be given better than what he lost. "She's going to bankrupt the monarchy," he grumbled as he went toward the nearest meat stand.

* * *

Antoni hurried back to the house, his heart racing and his breath ragged. Part was from his recent encounter and part was from running all the way back. He ran into the kitchen but stopped in his tracks. He had forgotten the meat. It was bad enough that he couldn't afford the bread, but he had forgotten to bring his one purchase back with him. He knew that things were sure to turn ugly.

The door to the kitchen swung open and Kyros entered. "Well, well. Look what the cat dragged in. Someone's in trouble, Cinderboy." He advanced on Antoni and flexed his muscles. "Isn't that right, Jatin?"

Jatin gave an ugly laugh and came through door. Both came from opposite directions, effectively cutting off any escape exits.

Antoni looked at them with confused looks. How could they already know he had forgotten the meat? Then he realized the amount of time that had lapsed. "I..I...." Antoni fought for words, but was unable to come up with any to explain his situation, or at least any that would do him any good.

"Stupid Cinderboy, you were off in your head daydreaming again. Mother's pissed at you," Kyros stated calmly and then he was in motion, his beefy hand wrapping around Antoni's arm. "She wants to see you right now."

Antoni didn't even try to struggle since he knew it wouldn't help him. He was not anxious to experience his stepmother's wrath.

Jatin took his other arm and the two brothers force-marched Antoni to the receiving room. They entered and paused a few feet from the high-back velvet red chair where Denimael sat. She had changed out of the dark red dress from earlier and sat clothed in a light gray gown that pulled tight against her voluptuous figure. Her beady brown eyes focused on Antoni.

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