Well, I can’t help myself. When an idea hits me, I need to go with it. So that being said, I’m upping the ante on my web series and bringing you something a bit more outside my normal genre. As I did with The Negative Man, I’m taking a dark road with this story. I can’t promise you a happy ending, but this story hopefully will be a fun ride…
(This will be taking the place of Jimmy Blades this year. Jimmy will be back, one day…)
Issue #1 – First Blood
It was a sad time at the main house, the lord of the manor had passed leaving only his Mistress, Lady Tremaine in charge. God, what a reprehensible woman! The only thing worse than her were her two incompetent daughters Drisella and Anastasia. They treated the staff so poorly that most of us considered poisoning them in their sleep. Now with the lord gone, our protection left with it.
The only salvation to our struggle would be his daughter, Ella. A strong, yet fair lady almost of age, she would be the one to take control of the land when she turned eighteen. Unfortunately, that was more than a year away. Would we survive that long under Tremaine to see it?
I didn’t give you a proper introduction. The name’s John and I’m one of the stable boys. I turned sixteen this year, with just two more years to go on my apprenticeship. Depending on how Master Cruxley thinks I’m doing, I might be able to enlist in the realm’s knights when I turn eighteen.
I digress. This story’s not about me, but about our situation. In dire straits we are! As I made my way back out to the stables, I could only wonder what darkness would fall over our land…
“John, there ye be! I was getting’ worried about ye son.”
Cruxley was standing by the first stall, looking a bit on the disheveled side. “Sorry, I took a turn through the forest to clear my head.”
“Don’t do that!” He grabbed me by the hand and lowered his voice. “Tremaine is already up to no good. She fired half the kitchen staff before me Lord’s body ever touched the dirt.”
Half the staff?! “She already worked those poor girls to the bone! How will the rest go on?”
His eyes were twitching left and right. “It’d be none of our concern. Clean out Comet’s stable and keep yer head down. It’d be the best thing ye can do.”
Comet was the youngest and least behaved of the horses we kept. “I just cleaned his muck yesterday. Why am I doing it again?”
“If yer shoveling excrement, chances are they’d be leavin’ you alone.”
I took his advice under consideration. The old man was a smart one. Chuckling, “You’re probably right.”
So there I was, cleaning out a stable that was pretty well done. It was miserable work, but Cruxley was right. No sooner than did I get my first shovel full into the bucket did Tremaine and the ugly redheaded one (Anastasia I think) walk in.
She looked over at me just for a moment. The smell pushed her away, turning her nose up at the lowly boy shoveling it. Instead she strode over to where Cruxley was tending to Viking’s shoe. The large chestnut colored horse whinnied angrily as she got close.
With the voice of a viper, “I pay you to keep these creatures under control. I expected better Cruxley.”
Viking wasn’t calming down, no matter how hard Cruxley tried. He was the horse of the former Lord and probably smelled treachery on the old witch. My master tried his best to diffuse the situation. “Old Viking just needs some fresh air. He’d be kept in the stables for too long.”
“I need not excuses, but better employees. I am sorry to say that you are no longer needed at this manor Cruxley. Take the worthless rat over there on your way out with you.”
Cruxley looked dumbfounded at the sharp words Tremaine just laid out. “My lady, I understand firin’ me, but leave the boy here. He’d be the best stable hand we ever had!”
Cruxley’s words of pride made me beam just for a second. Anastasia looked back at me and had a few yacking noises. “My God mother, they look and smell like animals. Can we leave now?”
She gave her daughter a pat on the shoulder. “Yes, I think our work here is done.” As she turned to go, Cruxley reached out with his hand to her shoulder. I think he wanted to plead his case, but the moment he touched her, the lady spun around and put something into his chest. “How dare you touch me animal?”
It all happened so fast. Red began showing on his dirty white shirt and Tremaine pulled out a dagger from his chest. Cruxley fell to the ground, his eyes wide open in horror. He gasped for breathe, but life left his body too quickly.
Then I realized something, I just witnessed a murder. Tremaine came to the same conclusion and started walking over to the stable I was working in. Her small knife dripping red with Cruxley’s blood.
I had one choice. Forcing myself to move, I jumped on the back of Comet. The horse was far from tame, but maybe in that moment he realized my peril. He bucked forward a few times and plowed through the stable door. Without even turning around, I urged him on into the dark forest that surrounded the manor…
The Tragic Tale of Cinderella will be a new feature each Monday. Come back next week for Ghosts in the Forest…
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