|Cinders and Shards
Author: Stephie Callagher PM
Every myth has a base of truth, every fairy tale a sad reality. This reality lay with Cynthia Ellerone. Slave to her Stepmother and wanted by a Prince-anyway he could have her- Cindy was determined to make her own fate, even if it meant accepting the help from an unlikely source. Could the Captain of the kings guard help her in her goal? Or would he only serve to hinder?Rated: Fiction M - English - Romance/Hurt/Comfort - Chapters: 17 - Words: 59,491 - Reviews: 29 - Favs: 11 - Follows: 19 - Updated: 11-17-12 - Published: 08-28-12 - id: 3053941
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Im so sorry it took so long to upload, and its slightly shorter.
yeah, just heaps going on. But I really hope you enjoy this chapter :)
Read and review!
Jimmy collected her the following morning, blush and all. She was dressed and ready when he arrived, the sun already high in the sky, but still his cheeks blossomed deep red as he gave her a shy smile.
"Good Morning miss, I'm to accompany you today," Cindy smiled at him, opening the door wider.
"Come in, I just need to gather my things," His jaw fairly dropped in horror as he took a hurried step back. The idea of being in her room seemed to shock him to the core.
"N-no miss, I'll wait out here," Arching an eyebrow she looked him over in amusement, his eyes settling anyplace that wasn't her face and she fought back a laugh.
"Very well," Shutting the door on him she collected the velvet coin pouch on her bed, tucking it into her bodice, hesitating as her eyes fell on the opened envelope. Sitting on the bed again, she picked the envelope up staring at it as she remembered the words inside. The note for her had been short, to the point, but it was the 4 letters that accompanied it that had captured her curiosity. Cocking her head at the door she made the decision quickly, reopening the envelope and pulling out the unread letters.
Any guilt that she felt at prying into her Stepmothers business was fleeting as she lay out the letters, her eyes quickly scanning over each scripted verse. The first three were meaningless to her, two insipid letters to woman addressed as Martha Pethra and Hillary Yertzan; and a shopping list of objects of undoubtedly unnecessary trinkets for her step sisters. Frustrated she turned to the last letter, what she searched for unknown, but her heart had leapt to her throat as her eyes began to take in the words.
Mr Jordan Zanies,
My dearest Brother, my late husband death has thrown our plans into disarray. The Prince has taken affection with the foul daughter of his, leaving the promise my husband made me upon our engagement unfulfilled. You are well aware of the prerequisite of my match to the dismal man, for one of my girls to make a match with the Prince, so I write you for guidance. The girl that carries this letter to you is the daughter in question, lovely to look at for some but I assure you that is where her gifts end. If you know of-A timid knock on the door brought her head up sharply, quickly tucking the letters back into the envelope and into her bodice. Jimmy's ever pink face peeked round the opening door, glancing around nervously.
"Is everything alright Miss Ellerone?" she nodded, standing and smoothing her skirts.
"Of course Jimmy, I'm ready now," His eyes were still touched with concern but he nodded.
"Lead the way Miss,"
As they walked around the village Cindy greedily took in her surroundings, making up for the lost day. She noted with a pang of disappointment how similar Barkston was to Draemstone in lay out, the cobbled streets snaking around a centre fountain in a similar fashion. Tufts of grasses fought through gaps in the cobbles, vines creepy over the stone walls between buildings and trees speckled the village around them. Jimmy had taken her too the fountain first as a starting point for their venture and Cindy had admired the smooth marble statue, portraying a king long past- showing the town for the older settlement it was. The atmosphere of Barkston was quieter, a smaller town, Cindy knew that many had migrated from such older towns to Draemstone upon completion of the castle, making Draemstone one of the bigger villages in the kingdom. Moving lithely through the still substantial throng of people, Cindy studied each face she passed, unsure why she was surprised at their familiarity. For her first trip out of her home village, Cindy felt no homesickness, for Barkston could have been a section of Draemstone she'd never explored, for all its difference. Despite her thoughts she kept up an easy chatter with Jimmy.
"You are young for a guard," Cindy pointed out, working up to her statement after a good deal of mindless chatter. The boy seemed to swell with pride, the smile he gave her ever-growing with confidence. His blushes had become less, and she was glad he seemed more at ease around her.
"Aye miss, I joined the guard when I was 10," She raised an eyebrow up at him as the continued to walk through the crowd in the narrow street, he sticking close to her side.
"10? I thought you had to be at least 15 to start official training?" She queried and his smile faltered, the most serious expression she'd seen from the young man crossing his face, aging him somehow.
"Yes miss, but I was an orphaned boy, the king took pity on me when I had nowhere to go," Pity touched her heart as she reached up to touch his sleeve; he glanced down at her then away, blushing lightly.
"I'm very sorry Jimmy," He swallowed, nodding before risking a look back down at her.
"Aye miss, me too," His eyes did not grace her for long and moved back to scanning the crowd, young he may be but she could not question his vigilance. She withheld a sigh, his constant search for danger unsettled her and she found her own eyes casting out around them for any hint on peril. Shaking her head she settled on a quick change of topic.
"Do you know where we are headed Jimmy?" She asked softly and he glanced back down at her, his features regaining their boyish innocence.
"Aye, I'm familiar with the house the merchant described," Cindy nodded, satisfied with his assurance. At the fountain they had found a temporary stall, selling trinkets from fake jewels to parchment and quills. Giving the names the Merchant had quickly given them directions, his sleazy charm turned cold when he'd discounted them as potential buyers.
Jimmy's sombre thoughtfulness lingered after long after the mention of his past and any conversation Cindy attempted was stunted, met with short half-hearted answers. Leaving to his thoughts Cindy turned her attention back to her immediate surroundings. Half closing her eyes she felt the suns kiss on her skin, warming her through in the absence of wind. The weather the past weeks had been hot and dry, the storm at its end would be something to contend with. Cindy studied the buildings they passed, mostly homes built from wood or stone. But as they passed through to a cluster of shops Cindy stared about herself in wonder. While there were many of the normal shops of Draemstone, such as the butchers, grocers, millers, smiths, carpenters, weavers and mason's, Cindy spied a large band of merchant beckoning each passer-by toward their stalls. Jimmy came out of his reverie to note her fascination and looked about himself.
"We seem to have caught the fair miss," Cindy took in the scene greedily; each merchant dressed finely, their voices raised to battle over their competitor's. The stalls at their back, set up hastily in the small square clearing amongst the buildings, each sported their own exotic finery. Cindy found herself in amongst the crowd, moving from stall to stall as she lost herself in the sheer delight of the finest silks and carpets. Jimmy faded away from her notice as she gasped over the price of the extravagant items. A stall of quills caught her attention and she studied the colourful feathers in awe, their hues of green and blues beyond anything she had set eyes on before. Chatting to many merchants desperate for a sale, finding herself in conversation with regular town's woman who shared her longing for a length of material that caught their fancy, Cindy emerged herself in the joy of it all; a strolling minstrel playing a backing tune. Finally, Jimmy touched Cindy lightly on the arm, smiling as she jumped in fright. "Miss, we should move on," With regret Cindy nodded casting one last glance at the stalls and in doing so freezing. Reaching for his withdrawing arm, she never took her eyes off the item.
"Jimmy, may I please have one more moment?" She pleaded and she could have sworn she heard him sigh before answering.
"As you wish Miss," Almost stumbling forward in her eagerness, Cindy approached the stall that had caught her attention.
"Good day Madam," A smooth voice greeted her and she looked up into the face of the merchant, blushing slightly as he met his eye. White teeth shone from a tanned complexion and his dark brown eyes flashed down at her, handsome in an exotic way, the merchants voice ran over her like silk.
"Good day sir," She returned politely, dropping her gaze. The objects that had attracted her sat before her, nestled on a velvet cushion to emphasise its high value. Her fingers itched to touch them so wrapping her hands in her skirts; she allowed her eyes to take them in greedily. A pair of slippers, the lace that covered them startling white, so pure they could have been carved from ivory. What had her so captivated was the bow that adorned them and, on closer inspection, the heel.
"Marvellous are they not?" The sensuous voice floated around her once more, his fingers trailing down her arm and she found herself captivated by the handsome man, nodding.
"The bow and heel, how…?" She trailed of, flushing at her inability to phrase the question sensibly but he just gifted another smile.
"Crystal my lady, the finest in the kingdom. With such a strength that a charming woman such as yourself could dance throughout the night without a thought," She tightened her grip on her skirts as the temptation to run her fingers over the bows grew.
"They look so fragile," Her voice was doubtful and the merchants charm laid on all the thicker.
"My sweet lady, I would not adorn your feet with glass slippers," Cindy smiled slightly at the thought, the notion of dancing in glass ridiculous. Staring at the dainty slippers with longing, Cindy sighed. Once she would have begged of her father for the coin to buy these, and her father would have indulged without second thought. But no more… Turning resolutely away, she saw the flash of disappointment in the handsome merchant's eye and offered a smile.
"I am sorry sir, but I have not the coin for such extravagance," His eyes raked over her dress as his lips pressed firm in acceptance.
"Well my lady, then I must forgo the pleasure of selling to you, but must I forgo the pleasure of your company…?" He trailed of suggestively, eyes glinting wickedly and she swallowed, feeling her face flame. A loud clearing of the throat had Cindy turning quickly, finding Jimmy just beside her, arms crossed fixing the merchant with a baleful glare, his intimidating demeanour compromised by his high colour. The Merchant simply raised his eyebrow at him.
"Miss Ellerone, I believe it is time we departed, the Prince will be looking for you," he threw and the Merchants face immediately fell, with a quick nod he turned away, not sparing a second glance at Cindy. Furious she turned to Jimmy, even as he grabbed her arm to drag her away.
"The Prince will not be looking for us!" She hissed and he ignored her until they were well out of sight of the fair.
"Would you like to return to be ravished by that man?" He was angry, something she had thought beyond the shy blushing boys capability.
"Of course not! But-"
"That's fine then," He cut in, ignoring her glare and nodding at the building he came to a stop in front of. "We're here," Staring up; she took in the double story wooden building, 'Zanies Alehouse," Displayed in splintered letter across the brown building. Any other thought vanished from Cindy's mind, they had already dropped the other two letters off and they now stood before a tavern owned by Jordan Zanies, her Stepmothers brother.
The taste of fermented wine and cheap perfume formed the first line of an attack on her senses, her ears fairly ringing with the volume of gaudy music. Dank and dark she found herself squinting to adjust her eyes, her cheeks burning as her surroundings came into focus. On the stage in the corner were a group of scantily clad woman, dancing jauntily for the beady eyed males that had gathered to watch. A stair case in the corner led up to the rooms upstairs and the room was scattered with tables filled with drinking men. Ripping her gaze away she wound her way through the tables, carefully avoiding the puddles of vomit and other unexplained liquids, flinching away from the grabbing hands of the taverns few patrons. The presence of Jimmy close behind her deterred and close encounters but Cindy could not close her ears to the drunken catcalls and – by the time she'd reached the bar- her face was sufficiently infused with colour. Behind the bar was a hulk of a man, only slightly taller than her own height, but with a large girth. His white t-shirt was stretched and stained, a black waist coat torn to the point of non-existence. As they approached he looked up from his task, a large rusted kitchen knife hovering over the potatoes he was chopping. When they came to a stop the barkeep set the knife down, crossing his arms over his stomach and fixing her with a suspicious glare, his eyes turning downright hostile as it slid past to settle on Jimmy.
"What do you want?" His voice was gruff and Cindy narrowed her eyes, pulling the letter from her dress.
"I bear a letter for Jordan Zanies," She stated and his bushy eyebrow rose, thick black like his full crop of hair.
"Aye, that's me, hand it over," He held out a large hand, layered with the same fat that bulged his torso. Hesitating she handed it over, turning to leave when he stopped her. "Ain't you gonna wait for a reply?" Cindy paused, unwilling to linger in the tavern, conscious of the eyes that were trained on her from all sides.
"Will it be long?" He shook his head, shoulder length hair flinging back and forth. With a slight sigh she nodded, looking around for a seat, settling for standing. She bit back a smile as she noticed Jimmy's eyes trailing towards the dancers. "If you'd like to go watch I'm sure I'd be fine," She said wryly and he bloomed the deepest red she'd seen yet, clearing his throat hastily.
"No miss, I'm fine thank you," Cindy couldn't help but laugh at the squeak in his voice and he scowled down at her. The exchange was enough to distract her attention from Jordan, so when he froze and his eyes rose from the letter to study her darkly, it was beyond her notice.
"You're my stepsister's brat then?" His voice was low, measured and Cindy's heart fairly stopped as he saw the calculating look he was giving Jimmy. Throughout the day she had forgotten the letter, but now she desperately brought the words back to mind. 'Our plans into disarray' and 'One of my girls to make a match with the prince…' both stood out sharply in her memory and she realised with a panic that she hadn't had time to finish the letter, what had her Stepmother asked him to do? Cindy swallowed, lifting her chin in an attempt at bravery. She shouldn't jump to conclusions, he was not her Stepmother.
"Yes sir, my names Cynthia Ellerone," His eyes lingered over her and her mouth dried.
"Hmmmm, shame," His tone of regret was lost in a flurry of movement, reaching back his hand found a glass bottle, swiftly bringing it down to smash against the bar. Launching himself over the bar with a surprisingly litheness, he threw himself onto Jimmy as Cindy stumbled backwards, her own screaming ringing through the abruptly silent tavern. Looking wildly about for a weapon while Jimmy grappled with the huge man, shorter but with a girth that far outweighed the guards. Cindy settled for a picking up a nearby stool and crashing it down over Jordan's back. As the stool smashed, Jordan whirled around with a snarl of rage. Backing her up against the bar, Jordan's eyes raked over her, his smirk pure greed. "I have half a mind to take my time with you," He rasped and the tavern jerked to life, drunken men stumbling to their feet, the dancers wailing screams tearing through the horrified silence. Cindy fought to stop her voice from shaking as she eyed the blood dripping from the broken glass Jordan wielded, flicking her eyes to Jimmy still on the ground, Jordan's body blocking her from seeing how he fared.
"You'll be caught, hanged for this," She threatened, her trembling voice marring any attempt at courage. The bartender just laughed, his yellow stained teeth sneering at her.
"For my sister, anything," True terror hit Cindy, this man had no value for his own life, there would be no reasoning with him. Yet still she tried, as her hand groped out behind her in desperate search of a weapon. No one had interfered, choosing to flee the scene and leaving them alone.
"Why would you risk your life for her? That doesn't make sense," The man raised an eyebrow, his stance relaxing somewhat.
"For my niece to be Queen, plenty of people would give their life for that, you for one," With his words he swung his weapon back up towards her chest. Her fingers closing round the hilt of a blade- the one Jordan had been using when they'd arrived. Closing her eyes she flinched back away from his attack, swinging the knife forward with all her strength. She felt the tip dig in and slide through something, his curse combined with the shattering of glass, and Cindy looked to see him scowling blackly at her, his hand pressed to a cut on the arm that had gripped the bottle that now lay in shards at their feet. Pausing for only a second, a cry of rage ripped from his throat and he pressed his attack, easily dodging Cindy's next hazardous stab. Within seconds he was upon her and his stench choked her as she fought viciously against him. His hand had closed around her knife wielding wrist, trying to unarm her as she kicked and scratch with her free hand. Jerking the knife she sliced his arm again, his stomach, her own stomach and even her palm. He was easily overpowering her as her adrenalin faded, and she realised that unless she had help, she was rapidly losing.
With a twisting wrench, the knife was pulled from her grasp, and his hand closed around her throat.
"Now shall I finish this now, or should I have a little fun?" She started to gag, bile rising rapidly in her throat, stopping as his hand closed tighter. Pushing her backwards onto the bench top, her breasts were pushed up for his beady eyes. With a smirk that betrayed his decision he placed the knife down on the bench top, out of her reach. Bucking wildly she felt the lack of oxygen taking effect, blackness creeped the edges of her vision and she began to feel lightheaded. Vomit in her throat, the first tears leaked over as his hands travelled over her body. And suddenly his hand was gone and she turned her head to vomit over the bar and drawing in precious oxygen, the blackness gradually reducing. Her head came up to see his greedy eyes frozen in shock, a weeping red grin across his throat, his lifeblood gushing out as he crumpled to the floor. Behind him Jimmy swayed, one hand clutching the bleeding hole in his abdomen, the other a large shard of glass. Blinking wordlessly at her Jimmy fell to join the bartender.
With a cry, Cindy knelt in the puddle of blood, capturing Jimmy up in her arms, pulling him onto her lap as the youth coughed up yet more blood. She saw her tears as they fell to run down his face, clutching him tighter she found herself rocking him.
"No, please, Jimmy stay with me, it'll be okay," She begged, the youth shook his head, his face ashen.
"I'm sorry Miss" his voice was little more than a whisper and she shook her head, trying to smile at him.
"You saved my life Jimmy, thank you," An answering smile ghosted his face and he nodded, sighing slightly as his lids fluttered closed. Pulling him closer, her head bent over his cooling face, she wept without abandon for Jimmy who died to protect her, for her father who she'd clutched in a similar fashion as he'd lain dying and for herself who now had to contend with her Stepmothers treachery. Eventually she'd been found; sooner or later she couldn't be sure. Hands had tried to pull her away from Jimmy but she'd clung tighter, holding onto the dead boy's body for dear life. The unfamiliar village guards voices were joined by the more familiar voices of the guards she'd travelled with, but her head stayed bowed, hands firm around Jimmy. She was pulled away finally by a pair of strong arms, screaming and kicking she'd been separated from her fallen saviour. A soft voice murmured in her ear, holding her tighter, consoling her to the point of a dreamless reprieve.