“It’s one of our winter crops?”

“Yes, I believe they were harvested two days ago.”

“Winter Red…I will make note of that for the next winter. Any new activity I should be made aware of?”

“Some of the men took inventory of the beehives today. Most of the bees survived the winter,” Gilbert said. “One of the horses lost a shoe today when cultivating. The blacksmith already gave him a new one.”

Cinderella nodded. “How much did it cost?”

“The account is waiting for you on your dressing table.”

“Excellent. Thank you.”

“My pleasure, mademoiselle,” Gilbert said, folding at the waist in a bow.

“A buyer has approached us. He is interested in a specific painting,” Jeanne said.

“One of the ones I have listed for sale?” Cinderella asked.

Jeanne hesitated. “No, Mademoiselle”

“If you will excuse me, Mademoiselle,” Gilbert said, bowing again before he took his leave from the kitchen.

“Good evening, Gilbert,” Cinderella called after him before turning back to his daughter. “Which painting?”

“If it pleases you, I will show you, Mademoiselle.”

“Yes, please.”

Jeanne led Cinderella through the dark Chateau, navigating by the thin slices of sunlight shed by the setting sun. Light meant candles and firewood, both of which were costly or labor intensive. To save funds, Cinderella and the servants resisted using either whenever possible.

Jeanne led the way to Cinderella’s private quarters. She dropped a curtsey before entering the room, which was a shadow of luxury and beauty. Once upon a time, Cinderella’s room was crowded with paintings, bottles of costly perfumes and oils, gold jewelry boxes, the finest crafted furniture, and sculptures.

The few reminders of those lavish times were the beautiful murals painted on the walls, and a single, ornately framed painting.

The painting was a portrait of Cinderella, finished before the war. Before Erlauf. It showed Cinderella in a beautiful, elaborate—and uncomfortable, as Cinderella remembered—ivory dress that complimented her fair skin and made the dusting of freckles on her nose and cheeks look charming rather than untidy. Her hair was piled elaborately on the top of her head, and pearls and rubies hung from her neck, wrists, and ears. She was surrounded by pink flowers, which made her gray eyes stark in the light-hued image. Cinderella smiled in the portrait. She remembered her father had asked her to be solemn for the occasion, but Cinderella couldn’t help it, so the painter had given her a wide smile.

It was a personal painting, not one meant for wide-spread admiration.

“The buyer requested the portrait of your likeness.”

“This? They want this?” Cinderella said, thrusting a finger at the painting.

“Yes, Mademoiselle,” Jeanne said.

Cinderella blinked. “Why?” she said.

She hadn’t bothered listing the painting for sale because she very much doubted anyone would actually want it.

“I am not certain, but the buyer requested it,” Jeanne said. “The offer is a tidy sum.”

Cinderella would have sold it if someone would take a few copper coins for it. “Does the buyer know the frame cannot be salvaged? I tried having the portrait removed to sell the frame alone, but the art dealer said the frame would have to be broken irreparably to get the painting out.”

“They are aware,” Jeanne said.

“Who is it?” Cinderella asked.

“I do not know the buyer’s name. He or she is making the inquiry through an Erlauf broker—the one that has bought a number of chateau belongings.”

“Von Beiler? Hm,” Cinderella said, studying the portrait. She reached out to caress the corner of the frame.

It was the last reminder she had of the lady she used to be, and of the opulence she once lived in. “But keeping everyone fed and employed is more important than a vain reminder,” Cinderella said.

“I beg your pardon, Mademoiselle?”

“It’s nothing. Try to drive the price up, if you can, but take whatever they are willing to give you for it,” Cinderella said.

“Are you certain?

Cinderella looked once more at the girl in the portrait. Back then she was nothing but a silly girl who trusted her father to look out for her in all things. She couldn’t go back to that life, not with her father dead.

“I am positive. Thank you, Jeanne,” Cinderella said, leaving her room and heading back to the kitchen. She didn’t want to see the young housekeeper remove the portrait from her room.

Cinderella watched another Erlauf patrol squad pass through the market. “It seems to me they are patrolling more frequently.”