Ashes


In this dark twist on an old classic, Cinderella goes clockpunk!

Rebecca Tremaine's world revolves around time.
The clock people believe that we are on this earth for a reason and we only have so much time on earth to find that purpose. To the clock people, time is God. That god's name is Khronos, and he is not forgiving.

When Rebecca's mother, Lilly, dies while working at The Corporation, a dubious factory owned by the Royal Family, Rebecca starts looking for answers. She finds them in a small group of vigilantes whose single purpose is to assassinate the royal family.

Will Rebecca follow through when she meets Prince Charming, even though a life sentence in prison is more severe than death?



COMING JANUARY 2015!

Excerpt:
  Rebecca stood solemnly as Lilly’s casket was lowered in to the ground. They had dug the grave near Lilly’s favorite spot in the apple grove overlooking the cottage. Sunshine cascaded on to a golden meadow just a few feet away at the edge of the tree line. Lilly’s wooden coffin had been encased in copper and embellished with cogs and gears all intertwined amongst each other. A gentle early summer breeze rustled the leafy tree tops. Birds sang cheerfully. A rough hand slipped in to Rebecca’s. She looked down at the large hand and followed the attached arm upwards. Her father smiled down at her. Rebecca’s eyes flashed and she pulled her hands from his. Preacher’s graveside dedication passed in and out of Rebecca’s ears as though her ears had been stuffed with cotton or water was lodge in them from swimming in the pond. "…Of things come to pass in justice or unjust, not Khronos the Maker of all can make the end unaccomplished."
Rebecca shut her eyes as a tear slipped down her cheek. She recalled helping prepare her mother’s body for this moment. Lilly’s wrists and feet had been delicately bound with silk ribbon in her favorite color. Sprigs of rosemary and forget-me-nots had been placed over and around her, and Rebecca had braided poppies in to her dark blonde hair for the time of the Ever Sleep. A single lilly blossom had been slid between her pale, stiff hands. They had dressed her in a simple silver gown, trimmed in copper.
Rebecca opened her eyes and looked to those who surrounded the grave. Everyone still living in the hamlet had come. Preacher led them now in prayer. Their heads were bent, each member clad in a deep purple that was nearly black. Farmer & Mrs. Diggory, Dr. Proctor and his wife, nearly everyone from church, and of course the Bartlebys. They had a son about Lilly’s age with shaggy brown hair who kept opening one eye to gaze upon her. He offered a smiled, but was met only with Rebecca’s emotionless gaze. Mounds of dirt began to heap upon Lilly’s casket and each member of the congregation tossed in a small cog or gear. They lined up to give their condolences to Rebecca and her father. Robert smiled and shook every hand and hugged every woman who wept upon his broad shoulders. He assured them all would be well. Rebecca grit her teeth against the bile rising in her throat. She watched them all go. Mrs. Diggory had generously invited them back to the farm for tea and brunch. Robert looked down at her. Rebecca glared back at him. “Where were you?” Rebecca demanded.
Robert dropped to one knee as though to look a young child in the face. “I came as soon as I heard.”
“You should have been here,” Rebecca seethed.
Robert bowed his head and nodded. “I know.”
“Why weren’t you here?”
Robert glanced up. “I have been trying to sell our wares in places where Andrus has no authority.”
Rebecca clenched her fists and backed away. “I needed you. She needed you!”
Robert rose and pulled a small, fat coin purse tied to his hip. “I can provide for you, Rebecca. We will be on our feet and running again soon.”
Rebecca shook her head fiercely. “I don’t need you now, Robert Tremaine. You failed. You failed your daughter and you failed your wife.”
“It is unacceptable, I know, but what choice did we have?”
Rebecca turned her back on him. “There is always a choice.” She began marching toward the cottage. The hens scattered before the angry flutter of her petticoat and gown.
“That’s absolutely right, Rebecca,” she heard Robert call after her. “There is a choice, and my choice was to do right by my family and make sure they wanted for nothing.”
Rebecca rounded on the heel of her shoe. “We wanted you!”
Robert leaned back as though the force of the words sent him reeling.
Rebecca stormed toward him, stabbing a finger in to his chest. “You did not provide the one thing we needed. You failed. I have worked this estate single handedly for the last fortnight. I have been robbed of my last spring as a child. I may never know where I fit in The Great Wheel because I am stuck here working non stop to keep us afloat. I do what is necessary, not what is right.”
Robert sniffed. The muscles in his jaw flexed. “As have I.”
“Mark me Robert Tremaine,” Rebecca growled, “as Lady of this estate, I will not have a man who fails me. Leave.”
Robert lowered his voice. “You want to play the little woman, then? So be it. It is my estate. You may never have ownership of it. It is unlawful for the fairer sex to do so.”
Rebecca grit her teeth as she tried to stifle a roar. The look they exchanged in that moment was hotter than Robert’s forge. Rebecca turned once more. A new fire burned in her heart. Unlawful or not, the estate was now hers in her own eyes. Robert had not been there to work it, to tend it, to love it. Thus he had no right to it any more than Gregory Diggory did to the truffles in the yard. If he wanted to keep the place running with his coin, so be it, but Rebecca would not allow his shadow to so much as cross the kitchen floor.
“We make our own destinies, Rebecca,” Robert called. “It’s not some magical song on the air or voice on the wind. We choose our path. If we do not, The Great Wheel does it for us.”
Rebecca slammed the cottage door.
*** *** ***


“Do you remember that day, Father?” A steady drip pinged against the stoney prison floor. The last of the sunlight streamed through the single barred window upon Rebecca’s unkempt hair. Her back was to Lord Tremaine. “Do you remember the day we buried my mother?”
Lord Tremaine was slow to answer. “I… I do.”
“Do you remember what happened next?”
Lord Tremaine adjusted his wig and shifted his weight. “About when do they bring the supper?”
Rebecca’s line of sight immediately shot over her shoulder to him. Though they were dull, they flashed with contempt.
Lord Tremaine avoided her eyes and moved to a bench in the corner. He leaned forward with his arms against his legs and doffed his wig. His brown hair was very short with patches and streaks of white and grey.
“That was the last time I saw you, Robert Tremaine.”
Lord Tremaine shook his wig, the black ribbon that tied it in to a tail brushed against the cold floor. He looked up with his mouth parted, running his tongue over his lower lip as he stared upward. “They do bring supper, don’t they?”
Rebecca clenched her fists and looked back out the window as the last light of day slipped behind the clouds, igniting the sky with shades of pink and orange.
“You left me alone. For two years not a word. Only a coin purse in Henrietta’s brood nest once a month.”
“That was Farmer Diggory.”
”Yes, I’m sure it was,” Rebecca said coldly.
Outside the cell door, they could hear the guards lighting the torches. Metal cups began to rack against iron, demanding food and water.
“At the end of my fourteenth summer, young men began calling. They all said the same thing. It was not right for a lady to be alone. A man needed to be about the place to run things. Part of me agreed. The other part hated you so much that no man was welcome. I grew a good arm that summer.”
Robert was on his feet, trying to peek out of the peep hole in the cell door. “How do you mean?”
“If the mud clods didn’t scare them off, the rocks eventually did.”
Lord Tremaine looked over his shoulder. “Rebecca,” he scowled.
“What would you have had me do? Invite them in? Serve them tea? Ask them to marry me? You said yourself the estate was not mine to give. I was part of that estate, and the estate became part of me. The way the sun rose over the orchard and duck pond. How the soil responded to my touch or the sound of the hens and the chicks each morning as they searched out the grubs. No one knew it better than I. Save for Lilly.”
The sound of a metal plate scraping under the door rang their attention. Lord Tremaine paced around it. He chewed on his wig momentarily before asking. “Do you plan on eating that?”
Rebecca frowned at him.
Lord Tremaine dove for the plate. He sat against the wall and tore in to it as though he had not eaten in days.
He chewed enthusiastically, occasionally wiping his mustache on the edge of his ruffled cuff. “This is very good. Not only for prison food, but overall.”
“It is food fit for royalty. They want me to stay alive. Have you forgotten already? A life sentence in prison is a fate worse than death. They want me to know what I’m missing. It’s why they gave me a window to the outside world. To sit idly by…”
Lord Tremaine raised his hand to stop her from speaking. “Please. I am eating.”
Rebecca raised her own hand until Lord Tremaine’s head fit between her finger tips across the cell, as she had done to Andrus as she passed him the night Lilly had died. She pinched her fingers together until Robert’s head disappeared behind them. His hands continued to move over the plate of food in his lap eagerly. It reminded Rebecca of a headless chicken.
“Two years I was alone, until they showed up.”
*** *** ***

Fifteen-year-old Rebecca stooped sadly over the lifeless body of Petunia. A fox had gotten her in the night, but apparently been scared off by a larger creature before it could make a meal of her. Rebecca stroked her feathers, smoothing over each silky vane. Behind the barren forge, she was sure she could make out what had scared off the fox. Familiar grunts and squeals echoed against the building. Rebecca scooped up Petunia and marched toward Gregory Diggory. He had gotten fatter over the years and his eyesight was terrible now. He’d come to respect Rebecca and she merely had to talk to him to get him to follow her. The corn she kept in her apron pocket didn’t hurt either. “Come on you unctuous son of a sow.”
Gregory Diggory wrinkled his snout at her cheerfully and began trotting up the road to the Diggory’s farm. Rebecca continued to stroke Petunia’s lifeless body. She had given Rebecca several good clutches of chicks and served well. She only had one last purpose to fill, and that is why Rebecca chose to bring her.
Gregory Diggory bumped in to one of the posts of his pen and grunted as he fell back on his behind. Rebecca nudged him in the direction of the open gate with her hip. The old boar oinked almost gratefully and ambled in. Rebecca latched the gate and pointed a finger at him, telling him firmly, “Stay.”
Rebecca climbed the stoop of the Diggory’s farm house and rapped on the door. Mrs. Diggory opened it up, wiping her floured hands on her apron.
“Lady Tremaine, what a pleasure.”
Rebecca thrust Petunia toward her. “I need you to clean this.”
Mrs. Diggory’s eyebrows raised. “Now, Rebecca, you’re a grown lady. You know how to prepare that bird.”
Rebecca held Petunia by her ankles. “I also know you purposely let your pig out to wander on my property. It’s high time you do me a favor for once. Now am I going to make rashers of that old boar or are you going to clean me a chicken?”
Mrs. Diggory smiled slowly. A carefully took the bird.
Rebecca backed down the steps, pointing her finger at the old farmer’s wife. “I loved that mule-brained old bird.”
Mrs. Diggory nodded. “I’ll treat her with the utmost respect.”
“I would hope so.”

As Rebecca strolled back down the road toward the cottage, she noticed a carriage, pulled by fine black horses, had pulled up. Footmen were unloading crates and cases. Rebecca’s pace quickened until the rustle of her petticoat was like the beat of owl’s wings on night. By the time she reached the cottage, she had to grab the front doorway to stop her self from running. She swung around inside from the force of it and saw two young women, not much older than she, gawking at the kitchen.
They wore fine gowns over stylish petticoats and embroidered stays. When they saw Rebecca, they both jumped with a squeal and placed their hands over their expertly laced, bodiced stomachs. “You gave us quite a fright.”
“Indeed!”
“Oh, mother! Look who’s here.”
Rebecca looked between the girls. They wore too much makeup and not enough self control as they roamed about picking up Rebecca’s things and inspecting them with looks of great judgement. One was as red headed as the dawn, and the other fair skinned and black of hair. Footsteps took each stair with a certain level of gravity to draw one’s attention. Rebecca looked over to see an older woman even more dolled up that the girls. She pursed her lip and looked Rebecca up and down. “Oh, good. We do have servants, girls. For a moment I was afraid we’d be living in this hovel like peasants.”
Rebecca’s fingers dug in to the wood of the door frame. “I’m sorry. Who are you?”
“I am Lady Hesperia Tremaine.”
Rebecca blinked and choked. “I don’t think I caught that. Could you repeat it?”
The red haired young woman leaned toward the elder and murmured with her hand beside her mouth. “I think she might be a tad dumb, mother.”
“Tremaine,” the woman repeated. “Lady of the estate. Did Robert not mention we’d be arriving?”
The room began to spin. Rebecca gripped the door way even tighter to steady herself. “I’m afraid I did not receive the letter.”
“Well then,” Hesperia clasped her hands together, “Now you know. Here we are. We will be taking dinner as soon as we assess the accommodations.” She motioned to the red head beside her. “This is my eldest, Cassandra.” They both looked at the black haired girl. “And this,” Hesperia said with a certain air of dismay, “Is Cassandra’s sister, Brunhilda.”
Brunhilda turned and waved her fingers cheerfully at Rebecca. “How do you do?”
Hesperia rolled her eyes and sighed exasperately. Cassandra shook her head. “Oh, Hilda, how many times must we remind you that you don’t need to go out of your way to be polite to the help? They’re like animals. She doesn’t know about manners.”
Brunhilda blushed apologetically.
Rebecca felt heat rising in her chest.
“Don’t you see, Hilda?” Cassandra said, “you’re embarrassing her.”
“Tell me, servant,” Hesperia said calmly, “do you plan to stand there all day or are you going to go about your business? Are you deaf as well as dumb? I said we shall be taking our dinner shortly.”
Rebecca blinked. She curtsied politely. The room hadn’t stopped completely spinning yet. She staggered outside and wilted against the side of the cottage. Her hands went to her stomach as she tried to catch her breath. She had been Lady Tremaine for over two years now and now this imposter waltzes in here and simply takes it away. How dare she! And those two ninnies who called themselves girls… Rebecca’s heart pounded against her rib cage. She leaned her head back and looked up at the sky. No, no, perhaps she was wrong. Perhaps she was being too quick to judge. They didn’t know any better. What reason did Robert Tremaine have to mention his first born to them after the way Rebecca had treated him when last they met? He wouldn’t have wanted to scare off a potential mate with stories of a proud girl gone rogue. Rebecca smoothed out her apron and tried to make her self look a little more presentable by glimpsing her reflection in the window glass. Her hair was a bit unkempt, and there was a smudge of dirt on her cheek which she licked off with the rub of her thumb. No wonder they mistook her for the maid! She would go in back there and make right with them. She had often daydreamed of what it would be like to have sisters close to her age. Now was the time to find out. With a little work, they could be a family. Perhaps even a happy one. Having a new lady of the house would be a huge relief to Rebecca. She would welcome a slower pace. Perhaps her father would even come home now that he had a better reason to. She could come to forgive him over time. Rebecca squared her shoulders and went back inside. Heavy shoes clomped on the floor above. Rebecca made her way upstairs to see Cassandra and Brunhilda tearing her dresser apart. Rebecca pressed her self against the wall as one of her petticoats was flung across the room.
“Rags. Moth balls. Rags.” Cassandra grunted.
Brunhilda was busy ambushing Rebecca’s pillow. “Are these chicken feathers?”
Rebecca sidled by them toward her mother’s room where an equal amount of noise was being made. Hesperia stood in the center of the room directing footmen about. “Take down those hideous curtains. Move the night stand over there, the bureau here. That goes over there.”
Rebecca stood with her eyes wide and mouth ajar. Everything that reminded her of Lilly in this room was being stripped away. Rebecca’s voice had never felt weaker. “Stop.”
“And that bed smells as though something died in it. Bring up my spare from the old guest room back home.”
Rebecca clenched her fists. “Stop.”
Hesperia did not seem to hear her, nor did the servants. “Now that… that has to go.”
“That was my mother’s!” Rebecca cried.
Hesperia rounded. “Servants sleeping in the house? Well. I knew Robert was an eccentric man, but even that is a bit much.”
“Lilly was not—”
Hesperia clasped her hands and looked at Rebecca placidly.
Cassandra and Brunhilda stumbled in holding up Rebecca’s clothes against themselves. “Mother look at how quaint these rags are. Aren’t they adorable? So countryish. Do we own pigs? I should like to dress a pig in one and call it Countess Tremaine,” said Brunhilda.
Rebecca grabbed her clothes from them, yanking them away. “Those are mine!”
“Why would a servant’s clothes be in the main quarters?” Cassandra asked.
Rebecca’s chest heaved. “I live here. Didn’t Robert tell you? I’m—”
“Sleeping in the servant’s quarters across the yard from now on,” Hesperia murmured, waving toward Robert’s forge. “You may go now.”
“But—” Rebecca objected as footmen pushed her toward the door.
The corner of Hesperia’s mouth turned upward ever so slightly. “You are excused.”
Brunhilda turned to her mother and smiled excitedly. “Oh, Mother, let’s give her a name.”
“I have a name!” Rebecca growled. She struggled against the footmen until they gave up and merely kept her at bay near the landing at the top of the stairs.
“Can we give her a name? We always gave new servants names back home.”
Hesperia kept her eyes on Rebecca, her mouth turned in that dark smile. “You may.”
Brunhilda looked at Rebecca giddily. “Let’s call her Ella. Doesn’t she look like an Ella?”
Cassandra stepped in front of her sister with the same smile as her mother. “No. Cinders. She’s so dirty. Can’t you see? Dirty, dirty, dirty. Like the cinders in the hearth.”
Hesperia raised her hand to shush them. “Her name shall be Girl. There will be no confusion that way.” Hesperia crossed to Rebecca slowly. She placed the tip of her finger underneath Rebecca’s chin and raised it gently. Rebecca locked eyes with her. “When I say ‘Come, Girl.’ You will come. When I tell you ‘Girl, go and fetch me this’ or ‘Girl, go and fetch me that’ you will fetch it. When you are told to do anything, Girl, you will do it without question or regard to your self. Do I make myself clear?”
Rebecca’s nostrils expanded and contracted with her racing breath. She wanted to spit in Hesperia’s eye. To drive her heel through the woman’s toes. Lilly had raised a better girl, though. Lilly had raised a lady. A lady knew when to leave.
Rebecca backed down the stairs, never breaking eye contact with Hesperia until she reached the door. The girls gathered beside their mother, clasping their hands just like her with their pursed lips and sharp noses and judging eyes.
“That girl is a wild one,” Hesperia said just loud enough for Rebecca to hear her. “But do not worry, my pets, we will break her like the unruly filly that she is.”

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