Outside, in the torn apart garden, Cindy laid out her master caper while Gran sat on the bench, smiling sweetly.
“Okay. I’ll need a crowbar, a carriage, a sturdy rope and a balaclava.”
Gran tilts her head.
“Is the rope for him dear?”
“Wha- No! I mean, not yet…” She coughed, “I need it for climbing!”
“Oh, okay-okay. Coming right up, dear.”
With a grand gesture her wand popped into her hand, then with a flick of her wrist Gran’s wand launched a spark into the ground. The ground warped and deformed; the dirt turned black and shaped into a long iron rebar with four hooks at the top. She waved her wand at the grass and hay. As it passed them they started crawling together like caterpillars, piling together to form a thick heavy rope. With another flick, she shot a spark into the air, exploding ten feet above them. The spark fell like rain as they morphed, turning into a golden color, quickly shaping into a deep fried Turkish pastry.
“I said balaclava, not baklava!” screamed Cindy.
“Oh, I’m sorry, sweetie.”
Gran looked down at her delicious mistake.
“Wait.” She whispered. “I can make this work.”
One visit to the fairy-signature forger later and the two were on the road to the castle with four crates of baklava in the back.
“Exactly how do you know that man?” Cindy asked, thinking about the seven foot tall, heavily scarred man with tiny butterfly wings that had suddenly poofed into the house.
“Oh, Granny’s had a life dear, don’t worry about it.”
The wagon Cindy had used for her daily chores had been quickly modified, and now it looked like a giant teapot with a light purple tea-cozy draped over it. Gran turned to Cindy inside the carriage.
“Try to hook your way to the tallest tower, that’s where he’s most likely to be, darling.”
“Right!” shouted Cindy, as she looked straight into the distance with fire in her eyes.
“Also take a blanket from the back with you won’t you dear? It’ll be freezing up there.”
“Right.” Cindy sighed, tying the blanket around her waist.
At the main gate a guard stops them from atop a security tower.
“Gift from the Tremaine estate in thanks for the ball!” Gran yelled. The guard glared at them for a moment, then stated:
“Enter and wait for the lieutenants inspection.” The gates opened as the wagon moved into a clearing with a horde of guards.
The guards inspected the wagon and its cargo as the lieutenant interrogated Gran.
“Papers look clean, no issues with the delivery. Everything checks out. We’ll load it all out now.” Gran turned to face the guards inspecting the back.
“May I interest you boys in some? There’s plenty for all of you.”
They looked up at her, stunned, then turned to the lieutenant with puppy dog eyes. He gave an exasperated breath.
“All right, fine.” The guards took a crate off the wagon and started passing around its contents.
“Are you sure this is all right?” One asks.
“Of course, dear. I would store some at home, but they're just too big for me.”
“That’s what she said.” Another guard chirped.
“She never said that to you, dear.”
As Gran kept the guard’s attention, Cindy crept out of the wagon and made her way to a wall hidden behind the garden. She took out the rope and grappling hook, gave it a quick twirl and threw it right into a window. Damn it! She wound up for another throw, this time it slipped from her hand and pulled her backwards. One more! With one big twirl and a yell, the hook flew into the air, before plummeting right back down onto her head. She fell flat on her rear and cursed out loud.
“Would you like some help there, miss?” Said a dry voice from behind her. She gasped, jolted up and spun to face it. The hook wrapped around her waist and slapped her in the leg. As she bent over in pain, she looked at the speaker; a tall man in a purple and red uniform with a floral-patterned chest piece.
“I’m not sure how a grappling hook would help you climb a one hundred and eighty-three feet, polished marble castle, but I applaud the effort.” He said, deadpan. As Cindy stood up to look at him, his eyes suddenly shot open. He grabbed her chin and lifted it, forcing them to meet eye to eye. Cindy let out a sharp breath, freezing in place. A bright smile crept onto his face.
“Aah. You’re with the old lady delivering for the Tremaine’s aren’t you?” He intoned with a raised eyebrow. Cindy stared, mouth agape, eyes wide.
“Well then, as captain of the guard it is my duty to make sure you deliver to everyone.” His smile grew wider as he faced Cindy in the towers direction.
“Everyone.” He whispered as he gave her an arm to latch onto and guided her into the castle.
As the two finally reached the last hallway before the top, a man dressed in a blue military uniform stomped towards them.
“Ah, bloody hell, the Duke.”
“Captain, stop there!” they slowly turn to face him.
“What’s this I hear about someone handing out ski masks?”
The captain took a deep breath.
“Don’t really know what you’re talking abou-” The captain started, but the Duke raised a hand and spoke over him.
“Hang on a second…”
He looked over the two of them, squinting. Cindy bit her lower lip and cursed under her breath.
“Good god! That’s her! The shoe assassin! Guards! Guards! Get her!”
“Fourth door on the left then top of the stairs.” The captain whispered before drawing his sword and bellowing, “Stop right there, blonde menace!”
As Cindy rushed up the staircase, she wondered if ‘shoe assassin’ was what they used for her bounty poster.
She could hear dozens of footsteps coming from the bottom of the stairs as she reached the top.
“First door on the left. There!” She ran towards it when suddenly a guard’s hand grabbed her shoulder.
“Who the hell are you?” He shouted. She grabbed the guard’s head, reached into her pockets and shoved a load of Baklava into his mouth. As the guard reeled backwards, coughing and spluttering, Cindy bolted for the door. The guard made a blind lunge towards her as she went to force the door open.
She slammed the door behind her, listening as it impacted against the guard. She took a deep breath and surveyed the room. The only light was coming from the lanterns by the front door, and a window at the back. Colorful tapestries hung from each wall, trying to hide the stone and iron behind them. At the back of the room, on top of a Persian rug that stretched from Cindy to the edge of the room was a large white bed with a floral pattern sewed onto it. Next to it, the prince looking out the window, silhouetted by the moon’s light. She rushed towards him as he stood, grabbing him by the shoulders and throwing him on the bed. In the light they saw each other’s face. His eyes widened as her features become clearer.
Before a surprised, desperate smile came across his face, she clamped a hand on his mouth.
“My name is Cinderella. I live in the Tremaine estate next to the marketplace, my father died before I was six, I am not a noblewoman and I snuck into your ball on a pumpkin that a strange, but very sweet old lady turned into a carriage.” She took a deep breath before yelling, “And I am genuinely sorry about the slipper!”
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