[Gentle Readers: This week’s blog is a short work of fiction for a rare change. I have started a writing class and hope to provide the next new and improved normal nonfiction entries, after receiving instruction and feedback. Meanwhile, one class suggestion for this week was to reimagine a fairy tale, and I thought you might get a kick out of my submission. As always, I welcome YOUR feedback as well. ]
The Grand Ball was the big event of the season, a chance for the duchesses and baronesses to display their most extravagant gowns and jewels to trap the eye of eligible bachelors. Silk brocade swished through the air as the dancers whirled through the intricate steps of Empire waltzes. The music swelled as the violins approached a crescendo, propelling the whirling dancers into their fastest turns, and drowning out the sound as the poisoned darts hit home.
The night was hot and the room stuffy, so young women swooning in heavy gowns did not appear unusual. As their partners carried them onto the balconies for the night air, a dark figure was present to dispatch each male dancer as well. Bodies crumpled along the palace row of French doors, almost in time to the music.
C crouched behind the heavy oak on her veranda as a young beauty in pearls and white organdy stepped across the window to look up at the moon. THWOCK! That’s going to stain, she thought, Glad I don’t have to launder that. If all went well, she wouldn’t launder clothes ever again, wouldn’t scrub floors or sweep fireplaces. No more, “Cinderella, the kitchen needs you. Cinderella, my gown has a tear. Cinderella, my chamber pot needs emptying.”
The Resistance had planned this for months, years even. Get the right person in, someone with charms irresistible to the Imperial Family, but unknown to them and immune to the inbred cruelty that had built the oppressive social hierarchy. Security was tight; heavily armed guards lined the exterior gates on the ground floor to keep the riffraff out. Anyone already upstairs would have an open field. The Prince was notoriously fond of blondes. And notoriously stupid.
Another dancer down. They had to be careful. Only ingénues and debutantes were to be taken out. They wouldn’t touch women who were older, married, or widowed, the ones the Prince had already passed over. They only had to take out the competition.
The walkie-talkie spat, a voice low but urgent, “How’s it goin’ up there, C? Are you in yet?”
C punched the button. “What’s up, Rafe?” she said. We were told to stay off the com unless—“
“They’re coming, C. You’ve gotta get in and do the meet up. Fairy Godmother Central says the empire’s heavy artillery is on its way and will be here by 24:00.”
“Copy that. I think there’s just two left. Maybe a little extra help?…” The com went silent.
Another young woman stepped through the doorway as she turned back towards the Grand Hall. “What do you think you’re doing? “ The thin voice dripped with privilege and outrage. C spied her dartgun, just out of reach behind the dancer. WHACK! She reached out to catch the slumping figure. Nothing like a good old-fashioned thump on the head.
It was close to time. She reached into the pack nestled in the corner and fluffed out her huge skirt. She had sewn on row after row of black and silver sequins by hand. She unpinned her hair and let the long golden tresses flow down her back. Now for the final touch. She pulled off her hunting boots and slipped into her diamond-glass slippers. This would have to work because there would be no climbing ladders or escaping through the sewers in these. She turned back and saw the last of the debutantes, her stepsister, Drizella.
Drizella’s crimson gown had a floral pattern augmented with rubies. Her auburn hair was piled high to allow cascades of thick ringlets to flow down her white neck. C had designed the coiffure herself, had spent hours weaving together the extra hair that kept the crown of curls steady. As she admired her handiwork, she suddenly realized Drizella’s green eyes had locked with hers. A spiteful smile crept across her stepsister’s heavily powdered face. Drizella turned to get her dance partner’s attention, but a crash at the punchbowl caused all eyes to turn. Thanks Rafe, C muttered in a silent benediction.
Before Drizella could speak, C embraced her in a mockery of what they’d shared as “sisters.” She punched in the dart to work its deadly magic. Red blossomed underneath Drizella’s tawny hair. Spatters on the silk enlarged the ruby flowers, like blooms opening. She laid the figure next to the others.
With a deep breath, C stepped into the glow of the chandeliers, steadying herself on her glass heels, reminding herself to take small, ladylike steps. Ten years of scrubbing, step, step. Ten years of target practice, mince, mince. Ten years of servitude to her stepsisters and stepmother, tiptoe, tiptoe. All over. The Prince turned as she approached, his snow-white jacket covered with diamonds. Hundreds of imperial slaves had died in the mines to gather those gems. He was so handsome, liquid brown eyes and square chin matching the dynastic portraits in the palace hallways. His eyes, vacant with wonder as he looked at her and … just vacant. She blushed on cue, smiled and curtsied.
“Good evening, your majesty,” she said.