Chapter Five and the Axe-Wielding Maniac by Marie Sexton by Marie Sexton - Read Online

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Chapter Five and the Axe-Wielding Maniac - Marie Sexton

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Cinder

Once upon a time there was a beautiful maiden who fell madly in love with a handsome young knight. They had a magical, whirlwind romance, and then the knight swept his lady off to a far-away land and married her.

But they did not live happily ever after.

Ten years to the day after their wedding, they were killed in a fire, leaving me, their only son, behind to be raised by my mother's twin sister. Aunt Cecile was recently widowed with twin daughters of her own. It was bad enough my mother had run off with a knight rather than marrying a proper gentleman, thereby leaving a black mark on the family name, but she had now left me with no money or inheritance of my own. Aunt Cecile already harbored a great deal of resentment. Being saddled with me didn't improve her disposition. And if I sometimes thought fate had been a bit unfair, it was a matter I chose not to dwell on.

The day I met the prince started like any other. I rose early to do chores—stoking the fire, collecting eggs, feeding the animals, and then helping our old cook Deidre prepare a late breakfast for the family. My cousins, Jessalyn and Penelope, were more agitated than normal.

I'm telling you, mother, Penelope said, the servants are all talking about it.

Jessalyn glanced pointedly in my direction and rolled her eyes. Servants? she said with obvious disdain. What do they know?

Sometimes, quite a bit, Aunt Cecile answered. Servants hear things. They see things others don't. She turned to look at me. Cinder, what have you heard?

They rarely bothered to talk to me at all, unless it was to give me orders. Cecile's question brought me up short. They'd certainly never asked my opinion on anything. I cleared my throat. Well, I heard the same things Penelope heard—that the prince is in town. But I also heard there's a group of diamond-hoarding dwarves living in the woods, and that the king from the next country over is burning every spinning wheel in his land because he's afraid of spindles, and that Bella's maid kissed a frog and it turned into a duke. I shrugged. Servants gossip a lot. I don't believe most of what I hear.

You see? Jessalyn said to her sister. They were twins, but not quite identical. Both had long, beautiful dark hair and pleasing faces, but what was pretty on Penelope was ravishing on Jessalyn. Everything about her seemed to shine. Unfortunately, her personality didn't exactly match her lovely exterior. She looked at me with disgust. Nothing but lies and rumors.

But Aunt Cecile wasn't ready to dismiss it. Who says the prince is here? she asked me.

"Well, I heard it from Tomas who heard it from Anne, who heard it from Tabby. Tabby's maid heard it from her brother. He works at the stable at the inn down the road. He told her