Quartz sits in a chair which is floating in midair, allowing to look straight in the eye of the sleek, immaculate figure dressed in a well-tailor black frockcoat over a frilly dress-shirt with a maroon cravat, dark hair queued back with a little maroon ribbon, black breeches hugging slender thighs, white stockings covering taut calves, feet hidden in a pair of maroon slippers.
Quartz: Right. I’m not sure about this whole floating thing, even if this chair fits better than any I’ve ever sat in.
Nimmie Nott (disembodied voice coming from the mist) You’re welcome!
Claude starts at Nimmie Nott’s voice for it is Claude, servant of the Lady Ariella and her mother before her from At Her Service…
Claude: I beg your pardon, sir. I thought Quartz and I were here alone?
Nimmie Nott (now his voice comes from right behind Claude) You wish. Don’t think of putting any moves on my dwarf with your seductive servile ways.
Claude: (starting again, recovering their composure, making a bow to where they think the voice is coming from) I wouldn’t dream of it, sir. I’m here to rant and rave. I understand this is the place where secondary characters come to do so? (turning back to Quartz)
Quartz: (raising his eyebrows for you couldn’t imagine a more unlikely person to rant and rave than Claude) Aye. What’s troubling you?
Claude: My mistress. My prince. Both of them.
Quartz: What’ve they done?
Claude: Driven me mad. My mistress with her tricks. My prince with his…(Claude pauses, their cheeks turning a deep rose) I don’t know what my Lady Ariella was up to but she drugged the punch bowl at the bowl. With my help.
Quartz: Did she now?
Claude: Indeed. The prince fed me a hearty dose himself.
Quartz: Wait, the prince fed you this drugged punch? Were you serving your mistress at the ball? Or were you with the prince?
Claude: I was serving my mistress but I was with the prince. The entire time. (looks away)
Quartz: Huh. I’m sure that Cinders told Christopher in one of his conversations that she danced with the prince at the ball the entire time she was there.
Claude: And I can assure you the prince was otherwise occupied, sir. (They flush even more)
Quartz: Was he now?
Claude: (whose face is crimson) I wasn’t the only one, ah, occupying him. Although I’m fairly certain I engaged his attention completely.
Quartz: Did you, heh? Good for you. Looks like Cinders wasn’t the only belle of the ball.
Claude: I did catch a glimpse of the cinders girl. She did look lovely. I wouldn’t have recognized her. She seemed every bit the lady my late mistress feared capable of seducing her daughter along with the prince.
Quartz: Right. Your late mistress never got over that fear.
Claude: No, she didn’t, sir. I decided to lay those fears to rest and hopefully my late mistress’s shade. (They bow their head.)
Claude: (refusing to look up) By seducing the prince myself sir.
Nimmie Nott: (cackling, invisible) O ho ho ho! Claude, you’re a sly one!
Claude: (lifting their head) Don’t mock me sir. I never would have done if the prince or my Lady Ariella had shown the slightest interest in each other.
Nimmie Nott: Oh, I’m not mocking, Claude, not at all, oh no! I’m impressed, yes I am! You’re ever bit as seductive as I suspected you are, yes! Don’t even think of putting the moves on my dwarf.
Quartz: Ignore him. Seems like you found a way of distracting the prince from Cinders. Hope you and the prince both enjoyed it.
Claude: He has a very beautiful body, sir. Not hard and muscular, but soft and fleshy. The prince in turn loved mine; the smoothness of my chest, my womanly parts below. This was beyond enjoyment for me, but I never would have done it if the Lady Ariella wished to have any sort of a romance with the prince. I’ve been trying so hard to woo the prince on my mistress’s behalf, but I think I’ve been the one falling for him. (flushes again)
Quartz: So you’ve fallen for this prince. What are you going to do about it?
Claude: I don’t know, sir. The drugged punch made it all seem like a dream. Perhaps that’s why I was bolder. After we, err, coupled, we both passed out. I awoke in the prince’s arms. No one else was there. The prince was still asleep.
Quartz: What did you do?
Claude: I got up, got dressed as quickly as I could, and returned to my mistress’s chateaux.
Quartz: You left him without saying goodbye.
Claude: I wasn’t sure if he wanted goodbyes or any kind of a fuss. He never has from any of the ladies he’s spent the night with. I was a little surprised I was the only one in his bed, but anyone else who’d been with him could have departed.
Quartz: Think you might have been part of an orgy, eh?
Claude: I’m not sure, sir. I don’t remember anyone but the prince when matters became…intimate. (flushes again) There were other ladies around when the prince fed me the drugged punch.
Quartz: Just why did you drink that punch?
Claude: Whatever effects my mistress intended for my prince to suffer, I wished to suffer as well. A foolish sentiment perhaps but it drove me at the time.
Quartz: What do you think your mistress was trying to do, by drugging that punch?
Claude: I don’t know, sir, but I’m certain it concerns the cinders girl. When I arrived at the chateaux, the Lady Ariella and Cinders were about to go to the palace.
Quartz: Why did they say they were going?
Claude: To search for one of those ridiculous glass slippers my mistress insists upon wearing even though they don’t fit. Lady Ariella says the cinders girl is determined to find it, but I don’t believe it. There’s more to this and my lady is behind it.
Quartz: What do you think they’re up to?
Claude: I’m uncertain, sir, except that the cinders girl was dressed as a footman. She’s never done that before, sir. Not that I’ve seen her in a gown like she was at the ball either, not in a long time. It’s been all cinders and rags.
Quartz: Huh, wonder why the dress changes?
Claude: Once again I’m uncertain, sir. For all my late mistress’s fear of the cinders girl being the descendent of thieves and scoundrels, I’ve never seen that in Cinders herself. She almost painfully guileless. Whatever scheme is afoot, it’s the Lady Ariella’s. This is one of the reasons I’m accompanying them back to the palace.
Quartz: What if you meet the prince?
Claude: (flushing again) I can only hope to avoid him, sir.
Quartz: Is that your plan? To keep avoiding him?
Claude: I don’t know, sir.
Nimmie Nott: If you see him, kiss him, Claude! That will shut everyone up. And while you’re at it, convince Quartz to kiss me.
Quartz: (now it’s his turn to flush) Shut up.