Disclaimer: This is actually based upon a myriad of fairy tales, so I do not know if I truly owe anybody credit. This is not quite any particular version of the Cinderella story, but just in case, I salute the good Grimm Brothers, Charles Perrault, and any other story-teller who regaled crowds with the rags to riches dream…

"You say you love me," she teased. "How can this be if you do not even know me?"

"I do know you, I swear it! I have met you before, certainly!" the Prince responded. "Ah.. if only you would tell me your name…!"

Her laughter chimed over the violins as they danced past the orchestral ensemble.

"Very well, I shall put a test before you. If you can answer my riddle, I will consider…"

OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO

Emma de Winter had been the first and only child of Lord Maximilian de Winter and the Lady Elizabeth. The Lady sadly died in labour and the Lord went into mourning for a year. When he emerged from his sorrowful state and shed the black robes of the widower, he gazed upon his newborn child and was delighted to see that she bore a resemblance to her mother.

Lord de Winter doted upon his lovely daughter and found every comfort and solace in knowing that his wife had given her life in order to bring this delightful creature into the world. Emma was a willful girl and gave many of the servants trouble, but was never reprimanded by her father, who was far too fond of his daughter to fault her in any way.

Emma became spoiled by her father's constant attention and was rather shocked when he remarried shortly after her thirteenth birthday. In truth, Lord de Winter had not wanted to marry, but had been forced into the marriage through financial and familial circumstances. His presence at court had become undesired and he was seen by many as a foolish and ignorant man. His father, a man who saw only what was reflected in the eyes of the courtiers, was only too pleased to present his son with a second wife.

The Duchess of Westbourne was a widow, with one child from her first marriage. This was a pretty, but rather foolish girl, called Maria. Lord de Winter did not understand her reasoning in marrying beneath her title, but later learned that this was also out of necessity. The woman was intolerable and simply put, nobody else would take her.

She had spoiled Maria even more than de Winter had spoiled Emma, which resulted in a great deal of argument between the two girls. Maria became accustomed to the idea that she was better than most people, and her greatest pleasure was in reciting the details of her lineage to Emma, who would fume silently, while tolerating this celebration of ego.

The truth was, Emma was afraid of these two women who had come from nowhere and invaded her household. She had never before been faced with competition for her father's attention. While de Winter would gladly have devoted all of his time and life to his daughter, rather than spending time with his intolerable wife, he found himself bound up by obligations which seemed to appear hourly at the whim of the Duchess. Emma was intimidated by the power which this woman exercised over her father and feared for her own future at the hands of this woman. Tragically, she would not have to wait long before it was unleashed entirely upon her…

A/N: Yes, rather short, but, then again, I do not have a great deal of patience when I start stories. If I receive any sort of response, I will continue. There are a great many ideas brewing!

Titania