Most people can live their entire lives never go farther than a days travel of the place where they were born they were born in, and I guess I was quickly turning into one of those people. At thirty three, I had only ever been two places – the city where I spent the first fifteen years of my life, and Cendrillion, where I lived since then.
I was born into an upper class family, the only son of a successful merchant and a dressmaker who had designed the gowns for her fellow ladies of leisure. After her death from the plague that swept our kingdom, my father shortly remarried my stepmother, Marge, and brought with her my stepsister Anna, with my half sister Celia born not long after. Though my father stressed that he wanted me to be a merchant like himself, I took to tailoring and designing like my mother, and that led to no short amount of fights with my father.
When he passed away while out on a trade route, I had inherited his title his land, and most importantly, his debts. As it turned out, while we were considered to be upper class, there was a reason why my mother had kept busy designing dresses my entire childhood -
My father had been shit with money and far too proud to do anything about it.
Luckily for us, I wasn’t.
I was blessed with a cousin who was willing to pay good money for our land. Not only that, but he had been willing to take on our debt so I could pay him when at all possible as opposed to juggling more than a dozen creditors that all seemed to need to be paid immediately.
The one thing my cousin insisted that I keep was the title of Viscount, since he married the daughter of a Duke from another kingdom, and taking the title himself would cause him a headache he did not want.
So while I was still Elliot, Viscount of Evergreen, here in Cendrillion, I was simply The Tailor.
If anyone asked, the Viscount of Evergreen stilled lived on the estate that had been in his family for many years, but the plague had left him badly scared and so he had decided to become a recluse and tend to his lands while being cared for by his cousin.
No one asked much for me though, and those that did were dealt with by my cousin, who ran the estate and ran it well.
His intent to keep it was up in the air – there was civil war in our neighboring kingdom where his father in law was duke, which is why he and his wife came to our kingdom to wait until things settled. Best case scenario, the king the supported would take the crown and my cousin’s family would return to his wife’s home with her own father serving as the new kings right hand man. Worst case scenario...her father’s body would be sent back in piece’s to Evergreen for them to bury in their permanent home there.
If that happened and my cousin’s wife was no longer set to inherit the title of duchess, which would have been passed to their only son, Phillip, then Phillip would instead become my heir and inherit my title when the Viscount of Evergreen died, leaving me to continue living as just a tailor.
It was a lot of drama, and I was frankly glad to be outside of it.
Drama, though entertaining, was very dangerous.
Men died for simple dramas, and I had to stay alive and well to take care of my family.
After selling our land to my cousin, it cleared enough of our debt that I was able to buy a business in the town my stepmother was raised in, here in Cendrillion. She had social connections here and figured that would make it easier to get on our feet, a theory that proved to be true.
At that time, I was seventeen and hungry when I purchases my business, and now not only was my business doing very well, but I was able to buy the building next door so my stepmother and my sisters could have their own store – a hat shop, one that was doing well for itself as well. We were very blessed.
It took a lot of work to ensure our blessings remained, but we lived a comfortable live.
Or, at least, I thought we lived comfortably.
But both my sisters hungered for much, much more.
Anna, my stepsister that was as dear to me as any sister, had been old enough to remember having lived an upper class lifestyle when her mother married my father, but she had been to young to remember the pains I and our stepmother had to endure to ensure we lived as nicely as we did now. We shielded my sisters from it. I ensured that we were never hungry, never to cold to get ill, and when there was something to celebrate, we could afford to buy a nice bottle of wine and a present to remember it.
But we were not upper class.
We would likely never again be upper class.
We were solidly in the middle class, working to afford our lifestyle, and if we were going to move up in society, then one of us would have to marry very well.
In the stores we owned, the second floors had been joined and served as our living quarters. The girls shared the larger room, stepmother had the room with the view of the town, and I had the room with access to the stairs so if anyone broke in, they would have to go past me first. Also, if I was working late as I often did, I wouldn’t disturb the girls if I came in to late.
All my money went to ensuring we maintained the lifestyle we had now while all extra money either when straight into paying off Father’s debts or into savings for the girls. If stepmother had a good month selling her hats, which happened once or twice a year when the big races happened, she would hire a local girl to come help her in the kitchen to lighten her load, but otherwise she cooked and cleaned everything herself with my sisters and myself helping with what we could.
We were okay.
If you asked me, we were doing well, very well.
But my sisters both wanted to return to the upper class lifestyle that only one could remember vaguely and the other recalled as well as any toddler could, both fantasizing and talking endlessly about. Their dream had always been to marry extremely well, and while anyone should aspire to marry better than their station...
I just wish they were a little bit more subtle about it.
I chewed on the end of the needle between my teeth as I eyed my sisters for a brief second before returning to my task, fitting a customer for a riding coat. The Duchess of Silvercreek was a usual customer of mine, one of several customers that my mother had worked for as well, and she was everything my sisters wanted to be.
Beautiful, elegant, born into a middle class family but married spectacularly well. She had a carriage that was a gift from the Queen Olivia, who she served as a bridesmaid to when she married the King fifteen years ago, and her horses were some of the most sought after mares in the kingdom to breed with. When the society pages were printed, her name was always mentioned at least once, and whomever she invited for tea was considered to be ‘in’ with the upper class.
And so my sisters were all over her every time they were aware she came in.
It wasn’t subtle either, and that was where I grew tired of their antics.
I loved my sisters, but they both completely lacked the refined manners of the aristocratic women I serviced. They were loud, aggressive, and as one of my customers said with a mixture of wistfulness and scorn -
But I knew the Duchess was one of few customers of mine that didn’t mind my sisters’ antics, so while I usually sent them off to help Marge, this time I stayed quiet as I worked. As long as they sat in their chairs, they were allowed to twitter away all they liked, and as that was exactly what they were doing – sitting, twittering, picking at the lopsided sewing they were working on – than they were fine.
I stood and took a step back, pulling the needle from between my lips as I looked over the Duchess. “Your Grace, if you would please,” I said with a twirl of my finger, the Duchess turning slowly so I could see her. “Quick walk to the window?” I asked, watching as she stepped down off the platform and walked to the window of my store, turning to come back toward me. After a critical once over, I flashed her a smile. “It’s done.”
As my sisters helped me package the Duchess’s coat, two very important dresses I would be making for the Duchess came up – the one she would be wearing to the ball being thrown for the Crown Prince’s birthday that was coming up in the next few weeks, and the one later in the year for the Queen’s birthday. There were other balls, but most of those dresses were already made and none were quite as important as the two that would be worn at these two particular balls.
We were not a massive kingdom – to our east, there was a much grander kingdom that we frequently allied with and relied on for protection, our kingdom’s big important value being that we were a key place for trade between the four great kingdoms of our realm. The only thing that saved us from being absorbed into the other kingdoms was the fact that our royal family was frequently blessed by the fairyfolk that lived in the mountains, only coming down when there was a significant event – usually the birth of a new baby, who would receive a blessing.
But with every great blessing came with an equal drawback.
Our King’s bless was fortune, and so our kingdom had seen considerable growth in wealth in his lifetime, but he was terribly unlucky in that he lost the love of his life early and his eldest son – the only son he had with his beloved - was a bit of a cunt.
Our Crown Prince’s blessing was great intelligence, but he tended to be emotionally unintelligent.
The new Prince was given the most unique blessing of them all – the blessing of magic, which came with the drawback of a complete lack of creativity, but no one much cared about that because magic was power, even if it meant their king would have a painfully boring personality.
The kingdom had rejoiced, but it also had caused us some unease.
The gifts of the princes, as it was, should have been switched. The eldest should have been given the gift of magic – a gift of true power that enabled him to protect his kingdom, and his younger should have been given intelligence so he could help his older brother rule.
And so the Crown Prince was put in a rather difficult position. One would think he would step aside to allow his brother to have the title, but our prince was not the type to do that at all.
What complicated things even further was that he was the only son of a very beloved queen, who died when he was young. The King remarried and had his second son with his new queen, and so the kingdom was a bit divided in their opinions of how the kingdom should move forward.
Instead, we did what we always did -
We focused on balls.
The fairyfolk loved big parties, and so it was ingrained into our culture to want to party to please them. We sat right between the four great kingdoms, often called The Heart of The Realm, and so whenever there was an important holiday and solstices, anyone who mattered in the realm would be attending the ball our kingdom would throw.
The biggest social events of the year were the birthdays of the prince and the Queen Consort, Queen Olivia. The King’s birthday had the misfortune of almost always falling on the day of the summer solstice, so that wasn’t usually celebrated on such a large scale in our kingdom as he was almost always up in the mountains celebrating with the fairyfolk, but for the Queen and Prince, balls were always thrown and they were always grand.
And then there was the crown prince, Viktor.
Up until the birth of his brother, it had been Viktor’s birthday that had been the most important social event as he was the heir to the kingdom, but since the little prince was born, focused had shifted and his party became more of an event for his peers.
But I always wondered if he preferred that.
He was not what one would call a people person.