Sir Cinders

Ethan was born into a noble family with a lot of money and plenty of time on their hands. His older brother was all grown up and married and moved away before Ethan started school, and his parents weren’t very interested in returning to child-raising. They’d found ways to fill their time that didn’t include a noisy child. So, Ethan spent a lot of time at home alone, reading.

Unfortunately, Ethan’s mother passed away in a boating accident one day while he was away at school. Almost immediately, the widow who lived nearby began to invite Ethan’s father to come and hunt in the woods on her land.

Ethan’s father loved hunting. Ethan could see the writing on the wall. The widow would become his stepmother, and her two terrible sons that were Ethan’s age would be his new stepbrothers.

Fortunately, this didn’t happen. Unfortunately, this was because Ethan’s father died in a hunting accident not long after his mother’s death. And he died without leaving a will.

Ethan’s older brother moved back home. He reassured the concerned relatives that he’d set up a trust for Ethan and let him live at home until he was old enough to move out on his own. What he didn’t tell them was that the trust was small and Ethan was now living in the servant quarters.

The taxes on the estate after their father’s death were heavy, and Ethan’s brother had decided to cut corners. He’d closed all the extra rooms in the house, and started giving Ethan a huge list of chores. “Your room is so big, so my boys will share it. You don’t mind do you? We all have to make sacrifices. They’re too young for chores, so you have extra to do for now, but that will all change when they are older.”

But it didn’t. Ethan was stuck with a large list of chores and a tiny bedroom. The worst chore was cleaning out the fireplaces. It left him covered in soot, and the stains remained even after he scrubbed his hands and face. He was seldom allowed in the library any more, and his nephews called him “Sir Cinders,” adding insult to injury. He began to wonder if life would have been better with a wicked stepmother.

One day, the palace issued an invitation to all the noble families. The princess was holding a ball. Everyone knew that it was most likely meant as a matchmaking attempt. The house was abuzz with excitement. “I bet they have great food,” one nephew said.

“Do you think there will be cake?” the other asked.

“Can I come too?” Ethan asked.

“Does Sir Cinders want to dance with the princess?” his older nephew jeered.

“I don’t think there’s room in the carriage,” his brother said.

And so they went to the ball without him. After they left, Ethan settled into the library. It would be nice to read without someone checking to see if his hands were really clean every few minutes.

Just as he’d settled into a comfortable chair and opened up his favorite book for a quick reread, a tiny man appeared in the air in front of him. The man was dressed all in black, and wore tiny black sunglasses. Black bat wings sprang from behind his shoulders. “Ethan,” the little man said. “I heard you wanted to go to the ball and your family left you behind.”

“Who are you?” Ethan asked.

“I’m your fairy godfather. Do you want me to make your family disappear? You’d have land and a title, and then you could marry the princess.”

Ethan shrugged. “I don’t know the princess. And my brother isn’t so bad. I’m just tired of all the chores. Especially cleaning out the fireplaces. Could you make them self-cleaning?”

“Until midnight,” the fairy godfather said.

“That’s not much help.”

The fairy godfather glared. “Work with me here. I’m supposed keep you safe and happy, and you’re making it difficult.”

“Could you get me a job as a palace librarian?” Ethan asked. “I think I’d like that.”

The little man sighed and adjusted his sunglasses. “I’ll set you up with an interview for tomorrow. I’ll even dress you up in a nice suit. Just be aware that the suit will disappear at midnight.”

Ethan smiled. “That’s okay. I go to bed at eight o’clock.”

“Don’t you want to meet the princess? I hear she’s pretty. You might change your mind about the disappearing thing,” the fairy god father said.

“I’m sure. I don’t know anything about managing an estate, and I love books.”

“Just checking.”

The next day, the fairy godfather dressed him all in black and sent him to his interview in a black carriage made from a transformed pebble, drawn by black horses that were once little black mice. The intimidated head librarian asked him if he previously worked as a smuggler or an undertaker.

But, after that awkward start, the two were soon chatting about books, and continued talking long after the interview was supposed to conclude. However, Ethan still got home by his eight o’clock bedtime. And he got the job.

He moved out a week later. “See you later, Sir Cinders,” his nephews called out in chorus as his hired coach drove away. But he was Sir Cinders no longer. Ethan was a librarian. He eventually became head librarian when the previous head librarian retired. He lived happily ever after.

“That was the most boring job ever,” the fairy godfather later remarked. “Now the guy that needed help smuggling dragons? That was an interesting job.” But that was another story.