This story is not intended for those individuals under the age of eighteen, or for those individuals who are unusually sensitive to adult or sexually oriented materials. For the rest of you, enjoy.
For such a glorious time in the kingdom, when the Prince was engaged to a beautiful maiden of unsurpassed virtue, everyone save three found joy at the thought of the forthcoming nuptials.
Al-mêta and her daughters Grizelda and Hope (the young maiden’s stepmother and
two stepsisters) were filled with naught but trepidation. The air was sweet
with the scent of honeysuckle, and everywhere, everyone was filled with joy.
However, those aforementioned abject three stood quaking in the throne room
dressed in the filthy, tattered remains of their hand-me-down, ball room
gowns awaiting judgment from the Prince.
“Again, I ask, is there anyone here who would speak well of the prisoners?”
Although the throne room was filled with dozens of visiting dignitaries and courtiers and other guests, each of whom paid rapt attention to the deep mellifluous baritone Prince’s every spoken word, no one ventured so much as a single kind word on behalf of the convicted threesome. Of course, until just recently, although the three had affected the most pretentious airs, in fact they were well beneath the notice of even the lowest born of those assembled in the throne room. In fact, as to those villagers who actually knew the three, no one had come forward on their behalf despite the rare opportunity to appear with full honors at the Court.
“I ask a third and final time. Is there anyone here who would speak well of the prisoners?”
Once more, and for the final time, silence rang out throughout the room. Had one arrived late, one might have expected any of the three to turn and plead for a single kind word from the young maiden whom they had wronged most grievously. Surely, despite their foul transgressions, she would have interceded on their behalf. However, they previously sought her intercession without leave of the Prince to speak, and were informed that any such further exclamations without the Prince’s express leave would result in a delay of the proceedings sufficient to remove the tongue of the offender. Accordingly, the three could only plead with their eyes. Unfortunately, as chance would have it, their sole potential savior was not looking in their direction, but rather was fully occupied in the selection of a treat from a tray of fine berries and grapes.
The Prince shook his head. “It seems that none will speak on your behalf before I pronounce my sentence. Therefore,” the Prince thundered, pausing for effect, “I will now allow each of you a brief moment to speak in your own defense, beginning with the eldest and continuing to the youngest. Al-mêta, widow of Joseph the Smith of West Southampton, mother of Grizelda and Hope and stepmother of Cinderella Smith, step forward and tell the Court one thing that you ever did for the benefit and welfare of my beloved Cinderella.”
Having been found guilty of high treason for their conspiracy to prevent the Prince from finding his one true love in an expedited but eminently fair trial, a death sentence was a foregone conclusion. While there are relatively quick and easy ways to die, there are also other less pleasant means as well, such as the inadvertent consumption of a Devil’s Fire mushroom, which burns right through one’s stomach (a fate which befell Cinderella’s poor father a mere fortnight after his remarriage to the now convicted prisoner who just happened to inherit his house, successful smithy, a mule, three goats, and a newly penurious stepdaughter). The Prince was bending as far towards leniency as possible by giving the condemned woman an opportunity to earn a simple beheading or hanging. This was, in truth, only because he had not yet come to terms with the entirety of the facts as presented. As a paragon of virtue, the Prince continued to cling fervently to the hope and belief that in the last twelve years while the woman had raised Cinderella, there were many instances of step-motherly beneficence, at least one of which would ease his tortured soul.
Step Mother slowly took two small steps forward, then shifted her feet and cleared her throat several times to buy a few more precious seconds to think. “By your leave, Milord, I, um, I. Why, Milord, there are just so many. It is very hard to pick a particular instance.”
The Prince took a deep breath, and then exhaled slowly. Even a paragon of virtue’s patience is not infinite. “Choose one, or step back and I will inquire of your daughters.”
“Of course, Milord, I… I… I taught her always to tell the truth.”
Cinderella daintily wiped a bit of strawberry from the corner of her mouth, and smiled. Indeed, she had always told the truth. Always! But more often than not she was beaten for it.
The Prince nodded, and took a moment to consider the woman’s response. “Step back. Grizelda, step forward. As the eldest sister in the house, surely you had experience that would benefit your younger siblings. Tell the Court of one lesson that you shared with my beloved Cinderella.”
“By your leave, Milord, um…um...
er. I taught her, uh,
to…uh, respect other people’s things! That’s it! I taught her to respect other
Cinderella smiled again. Curiously, respect for other people’s things was not the first thing that jumped to the forefront of her mind when she thought of the many lessons that her elder stepsister had taught her. In fact, respect for other people’s things was well down on the list behind avarice, duplicity, and self
However, Cinderella had to admit that it was still a lesson well learned, taught
through her stepsister’s incessant tattling and her stepmother’s immediate
“Step back. Hope, step forward. Tell the Court of one time when you did something kind for my darling Cinderella.”
The younger stepsister stepped forward slowly. Her eyes remained downcast. Her voice, though soft, was firm and certain. “I gave her bread, Milord.”
“You gave her bread?”
“Yes, Milord. When Cinderella was sent to bed without her supper, I would try to sneak her a crust or two. Sometimes, I even brought her soup.”
“And how often did this occur that my poor angel was sent to her bed without supper?”
“Often enough, Milord. Perhaps once a fortnight.”
“And did you bring her food each time?”
“No, Milord. Only sometimes when I thought I would not be seen.”
Cinderella did not smile this time. Rather, her eyes began to glisten. The younger stepsister was only a year older than Cinderella, and while it would be a significant overstatement to say that they were friends, Cinderella had experienced certain kindnesses at times from the girl. Up until this moment, she had looked forward to seeing her stepmother and stepsisters hanging with the other ornaments in the Great Hall at her wedding reception. Only now, Cinderella was less certain of her feelings. Given her uncertainty, Cinderella’s virtue compelled her to intercede.
“Milord?” Cinderella asked, her intonation rising tentatively to ask for leave.
“Yes, my darling?”
“Thrice you asked whether anyone would speak on behalf of the accused. And thrice I remained silent, for there was naught save ill that came to my mind. However, there is plain truth in what she says. Indeed, though it takes some fine sifting, there is some small grain of truth in what each of them has said. As is true whenever any truths are revealed, what was once assumed or believed must give way to new assumptions and beliefs. Though I once believed that only a painful death could justly reward my step relations for their past misdeeds, now I am beset with doubts. This is a time of miraculous changes and wonderment. How else could I have found you, my beloved?” Cinderella paused, and fixed her gaze on the Prince’s steel grey eyes. “So, I crave a boon, Milord.”
“But speak, and it is granted, Milady.”
Cinderella took the Prince’s huge left hand in both of her own.
“What you would give me solely out of love, Milord, in this instance I cannot accept. You must first hear my request. Then, if in the name of justice, as Prince and Lord of the Realm, you deem my request reasonable, I would ask you to grant me this favor.”
“Then as Prince and Lord of the Realm, I will hear your petition, Milady.”
“Thank you, Milord. I beg you, Milord, to stay the delivery of any sentence on the prisoners for one year, until a fortnight prior to our first anniversary. During this coming year, commend my step relations to my keeping so that I can better surmise whether I may speak well on their behalves prior to sentencing.”
“Your request is in accordance with the dictates of justice, and pleases the Prince and Lord of the Realm. Therefore, for the next year, I commend the prisoners to the keeping and tender mercies of Cinderella.”
The younger stepsister curtsied, but did not raise her eyes. The stepmother and elder stepsister almost cried out in relief, but were able to bite their respective tongues before they lost them. Cinderella smiled, and reached behind her, retrieving a small wooden box.
“Milord, may I address the prisoners?”
“Milady, they are no longer before the Court. They have been commended to your keeping. They are your chattel. You may address them at any time and in any manner you deem fit.”
“Thank you, Milord. Henceforth, for the time you are in my keeping, you shall be known only as Step Mother, and Elder and Younger. Younger, when is the last time you ate?”
Without raising her eyes, Younger replied softly, “Two days past, Milady, at dusk.”
“Are you hungry, Younger?”
“Yes, Milady, frightfully so.”
“Step forward, Younger, and take one of these fine strawberries, gifts from our great friends King Randolph and the fine people of the Silver Plains.”
“Thank you, Milady.”
“You are most welcome, Younger. There now, is that not wonderful?”
“It is most wonderful, Milady.”
“When you finish that one, you may take another and then step back for a moment. I would like to have a word with Step Mother and Elder.”
Younger curtsied, then took a second large bite out of her strawberry. Juice trickled down her chin. Cinderella smiled, and wiped Younger’s chin with her own hand towel. Younger curtsied a second time, then took a strawberry the size of her fist and withdrew. As Cinderella called Step Mother and Elder forward, it was all they could do to keep themselves from dashing up to the tray of strawberries.
“Now then, Step Mother. You told the Prince that you taught me always to tell the truth. Do you value the truth, Step Mother?”
“Of course, Milady.”
“Then what happens to naughty girls who do not tell the truth?”
“I suppose they are punished.”
“Elder. Elder!” Cinderella’s voice was a bit more strident than she had intended. It took her barely a moment to recognize the tone as one which she had heard countless times as a prelude to a prolonged tongue lashing. Cinderella promised herself that regardless of the provocation, she would never use that tone again.
Elder, also recognizing the tone, snapped to attention, abandoning her fixation on the dwindling remains of Younger’s second strawberry.
“You seem distracted. Am I boring you?”
“No, Milady, I was just, uh, just, sorry Milady!”
“Ah, I see. You were interested in Younger’s strawberry. Perhaps you were recalling one of the many lessons that you taught me regarding the importance of respecting other people’s things. A lesson involving strawberries, perhaps? As I recall, there once was a bowl of strawberries in the kitchen of the house my father built that we shared after his death. They were woodland strawberries, nowhere near as glorious as these fine berries from King Randolph, but sweet and pleasant enough.
Mother forbade anyone from taking any of the berries until after dinner. Yet
when dinner came, half of the berries were gone. Do you recall the incident,
Cinderella crossed her arms. “Hmm, vaguely. Well, let me help you recall it then. Step Mother was quite angry. Do you recall the incident, Step Mother?”
Step Mother recalled the incident, and did not like the direction the conversation was turning. “Yes, Milady.”
“Step Mother, you summoned Younger, Elder, and myself to the kitchen. You demanded to know what happened to the missing berries. Younger and I both denied knowing what had happened.” Cinderella turned back to Elder to make sure she was still paying attention. “Then, Step Mother asked you, Elder, to tell her what happened. And you did. You told her how you saw me in the kitchen reaching for the berries. You told her how you warned me that it was wrong to take things that do not belong to you, and how as soon as you turned your back, I went right after the strawberries. Now do you remember the incident, Elder?”
“Step Mother, what did you do when Elder told you that I took the strawberries?”
“I asked you whether you took the strawberries, Milady.”
“And when I denied taking them, what did you do, Step Mother?”
“I slapped you, Milady, and promised to teach you a lesson for lying and stealing.”
Cinderella popped a cherry into her mouth and thoroughly chewed it, allowing the Court a moment to recover from its collective gasp, and giving her a moment to compose herself before continuing with the inquisition. “Then what actions did you take, Step Mother, to teach me this fine lesson more fully?”
“I made you undress and stand naked before me, Milady.”
“Please do not stand on ceremony, Step Mother. Tell us all that transpired that evening.”
“When you stood naked before me, Milady, I lectured you about the evils of lying and stealing. Then I sent you to fetch my hairbrush.”
Cinderella paused, considering her response. She opened the small box on her lap and withdrew a fine ebony hairbrush made of Black Justice wood, a wood so hard that no man-made blade could ever cut it. The wood could only be shaped by elves, and even then only with the wood’s consent for a just and proper reason. Since the time of the Prince’s great-great-grandfather, all gallows in the kingdom were made of Black Justice wood as a form of final appeal. The trap door on a gallows made of Black Justice wood simply will not open to allow the hanging of an innocent man or woman.
Cinderella held the brush high for all to see. “Do you mean this Black Justice wooden hairbrush that was given to my father for his only daughter in thanks for risking his life to save an elfin child during the Great Flood?”
“Why yes, my hair, I mean your hairbrush that I was keeping for you until you reached an age where you could take care of such a treasure properly.”
“And once I retrieved the brush, what did you do with it, Step Mother?”
“I turned you over my knee, and gave you several gentle swats with the brush to teach you a lesson. As I recall, Milady, it did not even make you cry out.”
Cinderella’s smile tightened, but her voice remained calm. “On that last count, our memories are in accord. But as I recall, you flailed me with all of your might several dozen times. I did not cry out solely because the Black Justice wood would inflict no pain where none was warranted. When you finally realized that the brush would cause me no harm, you took the oaken spoon from the bowl of strawberries, and beat me severely. Then I did cry out, begging you to stop when I could draw enough air between my wails. But as was your wont, you ignored my pleas. You did not stop until the spoon broke. You then sent me straight to bed to sob myself to sleep with no supper. Are our memories of this incident consistent, Step Mother?”
“I suppose, Milady.”
“You suppose? Wherein is there a variance, Step Mother?”
“There is none, Milady.”
Cinderella turned her attention back to Elder. “Who took the strawberries, Elder?”
Elder, who mistakenly thought she saw a light at the end of the tunnel when Cinderella turned her attentions to Step Mother, realized that the light was just the flames from an oncoming dragon. “I, uh, I did, Milady.”
“Did you lie when Step Mother asked what happened to the strawberries?”
“Yes, Milady, I lied.”
“And what happens to naughty girls who lie and steal?”
“They are punished, Milady.”
“Step Mother, do your duty.”
“My duty, Milady?”
“Elder has admitted to lying and stealing. You know what has to be done for her moral edification.”
“Her moral… oh. Of course, Milady. Elder, remove your gown and undergarments.”
“Mother!” Elder crossed her arms, and pouted.
“Now, Elder! Remove your clothes!” Elder and a full two thirds of the Court flinched at the booming baritone command. The Prince rose from his throne. “When Cinderella gives a command, she speaks with my voice. She has directed Step Mother to see to your moral edification. Would you question further?”
Her knees shaking, and fearful that at any moment she might pee down her leg, Elder was barely able to squeak out, “N-no, Milord. M-most certainly not, Milord.”
The Prince turned to Cinderella. “I apologize, Milady. I know that you had the situation well in hand, and did not need my help. Please forgive the intrusion.”
“Most certainly, Milord.” Cinderella lifted her hand. The Prince took her hand and kissed it gently, taking a moment to linger, allowing his tongue to give it a brief caress. The Prince took his seat. Cinderella brought the back of her hand to her lips, then turned her attentions back to Elder.
“You may proceed.”
Elder’s cheeks flamed, foreshadowing near future events. Elder slowly undid the first hook on her dress. She cast a silent appeal to Cinderella, which summarily was denied. With a tiny sob, Elder finished unhooking her dress, and let it fall to her feet. She reached behind her and fumbled with her corset.
“Younger, please help your sister.”
Younger allowed herself a smile as she undid and removed Elder’s corset and girdle. In short order, Elder stood before the Court clad in nothing more than the fineries of her birthday suit. The nipples on her pendulous breasts hardened in the cool breeze coming from the fans by the Prince’s throne. Although the cast had changed, Step Mother easily fell into her role, placing herself in front of Elder, and slapping her.
“You wicked girl! Stealing and lying! (Slap!) What were you thinking? (Slap!)”
Elder burst into tears. Step Mother, who had never once before struck either Elder or Younger, was not far behind. Step Mother paused and took a deep breath allowing the love and tenderness to drain from her eyes, then turned to Cinderella.
“There, Milady. I am certain that Elder has learned a valuable lesson.”
Cinderella did not say a word. Instead, she turned and selected a stem of champagne grapes. Holding the stem in front of her, she carefully selected one of the tiny delicacies, plucked it from the stem, kissed it, and then popped it into the Prince’s mouth.
selecting another grape for herself, she set the stem down to pick up the Black
Justice hairbrush. She gently tapped the back of the brush on her palm, and
waited. How many times had Step Mother stood in front of her without saying a
word, just tapping the back of a brush, rod, or strap on her palm?
The Prince alone could see the slightest quiver of her lower lip and the whiteness of her knuckles clenching the brush. Only his tremendous strength of will prevented him from gathering Cinderella in his arms to comfort her. This was her battle. The Prince remained seated, the knuckles on both hands blanching as he crushed the throne’s velvet arms.
A small bead of sweat formed on Step Mother’s left brow, then slid half
way down her cheek.
“Oh. Obviously, Milady, under different circumstances, I would have… I mean,
Elder would have deserved a sound spanking over my knee. But, Elder is a grown
well, I have nowhere to sit.”
Cinderella stopped tapping the hairbrush on her palm, and smiled sweetly. “That is not a problem, Step Mother. Younger, get down on your hands and knees. Keep your back straight.”
Cinderella was certain that Younger was disappointed. She would not be able to see what happened next. Of course, Younger knew that matters could have been worse. It could have been Elder on her hands and knees. Younger swiftly went down on all fours. Without further instruction and bowing to the inevitable, Step Mother sat down on Younger’s back.
“Elder, fetch my…er, Milady’s hairbrush.”
The blush that colored Elder’s cheeks extended back to her ears as Elder slowly crossed over to Cinderella’s throne. Cinderella extended the brush, but held it out of Elder’s reach. Cinderella pointed to the floor. Unsure of quite where to place her hands in the absence of a dress or gown, Elder curtsied clumsily. As she squatted, she loudly broke wind to the roaring bemusement of the Court. Traitorous tears began to escape from the corners of her eyes as she took the brush from Cinderella and returned to Step Mother. She handed the brush to Step Mother, then clumsily placed herself over Step Mother’s lap. Elder sobbed softly as Step Mother placed the cool hard back of the ebony brush on Elder’s trembling virginal posterior. Her bottom clenched as Step Mother raised the brush.
“You naughty, wicked girl!”
Elder screamed. Step Mother raised the brush again, and brought it down with another resounding crack. Whack! Crack! Smack! Elder screamed again and again. The Black Justice wood brush, which would give no pain where none was warranted, left another pulsating, rubescent weal with every smack. CRACK!
“How dare you lie about your sister? Have you no shame?”
Whack! Smack! Crack!
If Elder had earlier vowed to keep her modesty, as the fire in her nether cheeks rivaled and then surpassed the blaze that lit her visage, such vows were forsaken as she kicked and squirmed so that everyone in the lower right gallery was treated to a fine view of all her treasures. Crack! Crack! Crack! Step Mother carefully painted every portion of Elder’s ample orbs, then continued down the back of her thighs for good measure. Younger, who could only observe the agony in Elder’s face and an occasional flash of her right breast swinging as she jerked, caught her sister’s eye and turned her head away. Whack! Smack! Whack! Several wind chimes vibrated in resonance to Elder’s keening. CRACK!
“That will do, Step Mother.”
With a final resounding crack, Step Mother pushed Elder off her lap. The well
collapsed in a sobbing heap at Step Mother’s feet. Step Mother, though,
remained seated on Younger’s back.
A triumphant Cinderella popped another grape into the Prince’s mouth, then took another for herself. She waived to the Captain of the Guard, who approached and bowed. The Prince finally released his death grip on the arms of the thrown.
“Please prepare three separate cells for them. See that Younger is well fed and bathed. Step Mother may have some bread crusts and water tonight. However, tie Elder over a railing by the door so that our guests may examine her. When all of the guests have left, place her in her cell. She gets no supper tonight.”
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