Chapter 11: Glass Slipper

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The Shoemaker bowed so fast his neck snapped backwards. "Princess," he said before dropping down for a second bow. "I'm honored."

"I don't tend to shop locally," she said, gliding into the store. Without looking, she waved away three members of the red-uniformed palace guard who had begun to follow her through the door. "Wait outside, boys. No, I favor a real city when I need to refresh my wardrobe."

She passed by the work table full of basic browns and lit upon the high shelf with the fancy footwear. "Shoes are a problem, however. They wear out so quickly, and it's tedious to discover you don't like the fit after returning home. I have a pair of slippers whose looks I simply adore, but I can't bear to put them on. The soles are so hard and slick, they might as well be made of glass. So here I am, Shoemaker."

"Yes, milady," the Shoemaker said.

"This one." She picked up one of the pointed black shoes Rob had noticed earlier. "You made this?"

"Yes, I—"

"Elves!" the grandfather interjected.

The Shoemaker tugged nervously at his tunic. "Son, take your grandfather into the back while I tend the Princess."

"Elves!" he rasped again as the boy steered him through the door that led to the rest of the house. "Elves!"

The Princess picked up another shoe. "Are the rumors true, then?" she said once the old man's hoarse call could no longer be heard. "Elves make your shoes?"

"I apologize, milady. My father—he's not been himself."

"Indeed. But your shop is named the Elven Shoemaker, or am I mistaken?"

"Yes, milady. I mean, no, milady. That is the name that's been passed down for many generations of shoemakers, but I craft the shoes, as my father did before me, and as my son will do after I've laid down my tools."

"I think I liked it better when I thought your shoes were been made by elves. Can we pretend?" she purred.

"Yes, milady."

She held out the slipper. "What do you think of this one?" she asked of the room. Zev was the first to reply.

"On you? Smokin', Princess," he said.

Rob elbowed him in the ribs. "Cool it," he murmured. "A princess, glass shoes? I don't think you know who you're talking to."

"Sure I do," Zev said. "She's Cynda. Married to that charming dude, you know? The Prince."

"You," the Princess said, casually letting go of the shoe and allowing it to fall to the floor. "I know you as well, though I failed to recognize your face in the street. You played at the market, with those other musicians."

Zev pointed both thumbs at his chest. "Wolf at the Door, that's our band! I play bass lute, do some vocals."

"The songs were foreign to our ears, but we appreciated your enthusiasm. Will you be playing tonight?"

"We don't have a gig, so I think we're just going to jam, see if we can make it through Freebird without stopping."

"You're teaching them to play Freebird?" Rob said.

"We're coming along. I mean, it's not perfect or anything, but—"

The Princess sidled up to Zev while the Shoemaker scurried to pick up the dropped shoe. "Is this one a musician as well?" she asked Zev, pointing at Rob.

"Nah, my cousin's too smart for that. He's a doc."

"Doctor!" Cynda's face lit up, her eyes sparkled, and while Rob wouldn't swear to it, her bosom seemed to puff out against the confines of her tunic. "At last we meet."

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