“Didn’t we bring a dozen bushels?” Cinderella asked.

“Aye. Cook up at the castle bought ‘em, but he needs help transporting ‘em. Someone needs to mind the stall while Vitore ‘n me deliver the potatoes,” Florian said.

Cinderella almost clapped her hands in glee. All the potatoes were sold out? And it was still moderately early in the day. What good luck!

“Of course we can return,” Cinderella said.

“Are you going refuse to give me my money’s worth, then?” the Colonel asked, his voice lazy.

Cinderella winced. She had forgotten him. “No, of course not, sir.”

In Cinderella’s hesitation the housemaid stepped forward. “I will go will go with young Florian.”

Cinderella’s sense of decorum briefly fought with her great desire for money. “Are you sure you do not mind?” Cinderella asked as the housemaid stalked closer.

“If you will pardon me, Mademoiselle, I will send someone from the market to watch you. The Tanner’s wife, perhaps,” the maid said, whispering to Cinderella.

Cinderella smiled in relief. “Very well. That sounds excellent, thank you.”

The shepherd and maid bobbed in a bow and a curtsey before they scrambled in the direction of the market.

Cinderella watched them go before she continued on her course, heading through the historical district.

“Where are we going?” the Colonel asked.

“To the Ruins of Alsace,” she said, naming a historic Trieux building that Erlauf had torn down.

“We’ve already visited Alsace. Twice.”

“Yes, but I did not tell you all there is to know of it,” Cinderella said.

“I can hardly wait to hear more,” the Colonel said, his voice lacking enthusiasm.

Cinderella glanced over her shoulder. The bored Colonel stared at her, and behind him walked the five soldiers from the gardens. “I am sure,” Cinderella said.

“When will you desist playing tour guide?” the Colonel said.

“I should think never. It is the greatest aspiration of my life to give historic tours,” Cinderella lied as they approached the toppled building. The grounds surrounding it were a wreckage of rubble and stone.

The Colonel snorted. “I see. I suppose those of Trieux have a different, perhaps inferior, sort of aspiration they shoot for.”

Cinderella stopped and swung around to face him. She was about to blast him with some sharp words she would regret later but was silenced by the sight of the five Erlauf guards.

They followed Cinderella and the Colonel all the way to the ruins, an area rarely patrolled, and even less often frequented by normal citizens.

“…Cinderella?” the Colonel said.

Cinderella tilted her head as she studied the soldiers.

The Colonel briefly turned to see what Cinderella gawked at. “Pay them no mind,” he said, returning his attention to Cinderella.

Cinderella ignored his advice. There was something off about the soldiers. Cinderella watched as one of the men swung a quiver off his back. Her heart stopped when she realized what it was.

The soldiers were dressed in Erlauf burgundy and gray, but their quivers held arrows fletched with feathers dyed Trieux lavender, and their swords were the ornate, beautiful kind Trieux nobles used to use.

They were not Erlauf soldiers.

They were assassins.

Cinderella shifted her gaze from the assailants to the Colonel. He stared back at her with boredom.

He didn’t know.

Cinderella could make an excuse and dart off, and he would be killed. One despicable Erlauf officer would be wiped from the world, and one of her problems would be solved.

She could be wrong. Maybe they weren’t here to kill him, but no one would blame her if she didn’t speak up, right?

The Colonel blinked his dark eye at her. “Cinderella? Are you finally done?”

All she had to do was leave.

The assailants spread out in a formation, giving her the opportunity to turn her back.

But she couldn’t.

Cinderella scrunched her nose up. “Blast,” she said before grabbing the Colonel’s hand. “Come on.”

“What?” the Colonel said, sounding amused as Cinderella dragged him into the ruins.

“Don’t slouch along, run,” Cinderella hissed, jumping a fallen support beam. She pulled him behind a crumbling wall. “Stay down,” she ordered before she peeked around the wall, looking for the men.

“What has gotten into you?”

“Those weren’t Erlauf soldiers,” Cinderella said.

“What are you talking about? Of course they were.”

“Then why did they carry Trieux weapons?” Cinderella asked, glancing at the crouching colonel.

“What?” he said.

“They were obviously hired to kill you,” Cinderella whispered, spotting a soldier who was headed into the stone maze of the ruins.

“Impossible,” the Colonel scoffed.

Cinderella ducked, avoiding an arrow that clipped the wall.

“Impossible, you say,” Cinderella said, her voice dead.