Here's my revised pitch and 500 words! Thank you so much for hosting this event, it has been a huge help <3
Pitch: Fat and freckled, Ember finds an unexpected friend in Prince Rian. But he is slowly dying, and Ember doesn't trust the mysterious woman who dances with him at midnight of every ball. Cinderella retold/subverted.
500 words: When the knock came at the front door, the future Duchess of Mellyn was standing in the drawing room fireplace, trying to clear some of the soot from the chimney. Mostly she had managed to cover herself in ashes and spiderwebs. The knock came again, booming through the empty rooms of the house. Ember struggled out of the fireplace. No one had used the front door in more than a year, and it took both hands to drag it open before she could poke her head out into the bright winter day.
A boy of about thirteen stood on the steps, dressed in a red coat so new that it almost sparkled. His crisp posture drooped a little when he saw her.
"I would like to speak to the butler, girl," the boy said stiffly.
"I'm not a girl," Ember said. "I'm at least four years old than you. And there isn't a butler. What do you want?"
"I have a message for Lady Elliana, future Duchess of Mellyn."
"Well, then give it to me."
His eyes flicked over her disdainfully, taking in her disheveled appearance. Streaks of ash obscured Ember's heavy freckles, while the worn dress she wore did nothing to minimize her plump, heavy figure. " You'll get it dirty! If there isn't a butler then I'll only give this message to the lady herself!" He stuck out a hairless chin defiantly.
"You can still give it to me," Ember said. "I am the lady herself."
He snorted. "You aren't! I won't move from this spot until you go and fetch a proper upstairs servant, one with clean hands."
"What's going on?" Annie demanded, coming out of the hallway that led to the kitchens. "Why are you letting in such a draft?"
Ember shoved the door open wider, so that her stepsister could see the boy. "This is a royal messenger, with a message for future Duchess of Mellyn. Maybe you can get him to give it to you."
"Why won't he give it to you?" Annie asked, but the messenger was already interrupting.
"I won't give it to her either! She's covered in flour! And this invitation has real gold leaf on the edges!" He sounded close to tears.
"Then give it to me."
Ember turned to see her stepmother come stiffly down the last few steps of the grand staircase, ivory cane rapping hard on the marble floor.
"Mother, you shouldn't be up--" Annie began, but Lady Catherine raised a blue-veined hand.
"Well, boy?" she snapped.The courier looked relieved to have someone condescending to him. He saluted. "A royal message, my lady, for the Lady Elliana of Mellyn. It comes from the hand of the king, my lady, for a ball to celebrate the prince's coming of age, and all young nobles are commanded to attend, and it's to be held tomorrow!" This information spilled out on one breath, and the boy held up a card that glittered magnificently around the edges.