The Fics of R.M. Slater
Perceived Perceptions
Book I in the Eye of the Beholder Series


Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived a beautiful princess in an enchanted castle. Such is the way that all fairy tales begin. However, the life of Princess Constance, the youngest member of the royal daemon family of Trovilla, was far from a fairy tale existence. The story of this unfortunate noble does take place once upon a time, as most things do, but in this particular instance far, far away is an unhappy little kingdom deep in the northern forests of the First Daemon Realm. Within this kingdom there is a castle, for where else would a princess be found, although in truth it is not really so very enchanted. And, most importantly, the beautiful princess who resides in said castle isn't truly a princess at all, but rather a prince being forced to masquerade as a member of the fairer sex by his father, the king.

Now, the king felt that he had a very good reason for forcing his son to live such a lie, and no amount of reasoning from anyone, including his eldest son, could convince him otherwise. Although, things had not always been this way. The lovely Princess Constance, whose given name was Prince Constantine, had been born the second son of King Samuel the Fierce and his wife Queen Ophelia. Despite the fact that she had two beautiful sons the queen never seemed to take much of an interest in either her children or her husband, and shortly after her eldest son Cristopher turned seventeen and came of age Queen Ophelia disappeared into one of the other daemon realms without so much as a word to her sons, her husband, or anyone else. Her departure was of no great surprise to the king, as theirs had been a political marriage and neither he nor his wife had been happy together from the beginning. Truth be told, the king had always preferred the company of attractive young males over that of his wife, and as such was glad to see her go. However, this left the king with a bit of a problem because in his kingdom the old ways ruled supreme, and it had always been a tradition that there be a lady of the house to handle all of the social commitments involved in upper-class society. The king knew that his nobles would look down upon his household if he remained long without a proper female to hold court in his castle, but being without either daughters or nieces, and having no wish to take another bride, he was decidedly short on options. Then an idea struck the king like a bolt of lightning... his son! Had he himself not remarked often enough that his youngest son was as soft and dainty as a little girl? Had he not often joked that when the boy came of age he would have young princes, not eligible maidens, vying for his hand? If the child was already being mistaken for a girl then why not take advantage of the opportunity that had presented itself? And so the king decided that his youngest son would instead become his daughter.

Soon after this grand epiphany the king went about instituting his plan. First he let it be known that his supposedly immortal wife had suddenly taken ill and died from a very rare and incurable disease. Most who heard this story were hard-pressed to believe it, but none dared to question their king, and so the kingdom was sent into mourning for their supposedly deceased monarch. Then the king went about dealing with his sons. The king knew that his youngest child was terrified of him, often trembling at the mere sight of his father, and the king used this to his advantage when discussing the matter with the boy. After a relatively short discussion that consisted mostly of bullying and thinly veiled threats by the king, and of terrified nods and barely restrained tears from the prince, the king soon had his youngest son off to the tailor's salon to be fitted for a gown with nary a protest from the boy. Dealing with his eldest son proved to be somewhat more difficult, but in the end there was nothing that either boy could do to stop their father, and they were eventually forced to bow to his wishes.

The kingdom of Trovilla was a powerful one, all things considered, but even though the king ruled over a vast amount of land and many daemon subjects, the heart of his kingdom was still a very isolated place. King Samuel ruled from an ancient castle that was surrounded by a small village, all of which was surrounded by thick forests. He dealt with his regents by way of mystical mirrors, giving his orders from afar and expecting them to be followed to the letter, which they always were. In fact, it was an exceedingly rare occurrence that anyone had to ask an audience of the king in person. It was this very isolated nature that helped aid in the king’s deception, and before very long he began to believe that his plan might just work. Many who fell under the king’s rule were not even aware that the exceedingly private daemon had two sons to begin with, so they did not take notice when one went missing, or when a daughter appeared in his place. The few who were aware of Prince Constantine’s birth were sent intentionally vague royal notices that spoke of the boy’s death and attributed it to the same illness that had supposedly taken his mother. If anyone questioned any of this, the strange coincidence that left two immortals dead and a previously unheard of princess as the lady of the royal home, then they wisely remained silent. The king ordered everyone within his lands to never speak of the young prince's existence again and all of the servants were sworn to secrecy. Those who refused were sentenced to death immediately.

Lastly, the young prince was outfitted in the finest velvets and silks, his small and delicate frame aiding in the illusion of a feminine form. His heart-shaped face, well defined cheek bones and full, pouting lips, while already as pretty as many a well-bred maiden, were accentuated further by a multitude of skillfully applied cosmetics in an arduous daily routine that was the bane of the young daemon’s mornings. When he was not painted and decorated, his father required him to wear a veil to cover his pretty face. His father even ordered that he allow his silky, golden brown hair to be grown out until it finally fell down well past his waist. All of this combined made it inevitable that before too very long Prince Constantine was all but forgotten, having been completely replaced by the Princess Constance.

The king congratulated himself on his brilliance, which had left him free to live the life that he desired, and the day after once upon a time continued on as though everything were normal in the daemon kingdom that was far, far away. They had a princess in their not quite enchanted castle, and their king was once again happy, which meant that life could go on for the people of Trovilla. What else could they possibly need for a fairy tale life?


Life in the kingdom of Trovilla returned to normal after the young Princess Constance was introduced to the nobles, and for a time the castle was at peace. The servants went about their business as if there had always been a daughter in the house, and the new princess was slowly taught his role as the lady of the castle. There were classes on etiquette, far more than were required when he was to be the second prince of Trovilla, as well as lessons on a number of more womanly arts. He was taught ladylike pursuits such as flower arranging and piano playing, as well as how to curtsy, to delicately shield his face with his fan, and how to defer to the males of the household in a most shy and feminine manner. It was all very traditional, if not more than a little old fashioned and outdated, and within no time at all the princess was certain to be the belle of every ball. The king demanded that his new daughter be the most elegant, demure and graceful maiden in all of the realms, and as such he oversaw all of the princess' lessons with a critical eye and an iron fist.

Constantine, meanwhile, took all of this in stride. He submitted to the daily regimen of being dressed and made-up, he attempted to excel at all of his lessons, and he endeavored to obey his father's every command. Although he had no desire to be his kingdom's princess, he also knew that it would be futile to try to go against his father's wishes. In Trovilla the king was the be all and end all, and he had not received the name of Samuel the Fierce by accident.

The eldest prince did not take things quite as well. Prince Cristopher felt that his mother had been right to try and escape from his father, but he didn't think that his younger brother should be forced to take her place. At first he had tried to reason with his father, telling him that his plan would never work, and that even if it would work it still wasn't right. His father ignored him. Then he tried to convince him to change his mind by offering him what he believed to be several very reasonable alternatives. He offered to find a well-bred noblewoman who could be adopted into the family, or to search out an orphan that they could pass off as the late queen's daughter, but the king would hear none of it. He even offered to chose a bride and marry, thus bringing a suitable woman into the family as his wife and the official princess, but the king vehemently forbade such an action. If his son were to marry then by Trovillan law the prince would become his legitimate heir, and the king feared that such a thing would induce his oldest child to attempt to overthrow him and take his throne from him. The king would never allow himself to be dethroned by one of his children. Never. Over time the prince gave up on persuading his father, instead concentrating on protecting his younger sibling as best he could, but his feelings on the matter never changed. And it was to those feelings that the king attributed his current problems.

'My liege, are you certain that it is safe for you to be out right now?'

'Yes, my lord, it could be dangerous to go about without your guard. Where are they?'

Nigel and Alfridi, the identical twin brothers that served as the king's closest advisors, were always found to be bowing, scraping, and generally making a fuss about their monarch, so the extremist attitudes that they were displaying seemed somewhat commonplace within the walls of the castle. However, for once they were right to be worried, because only the night before there had been an attempt on the king's life. And it wasn't the first time either.

'Forget about it,' the king said, answering their concerns with an absentminded wave of his hand. 'He won't try again for at least a month. That's been his pattern all along, now hasn't it?'

Upon seeing the matching looks of concern in their obsidian eyes, the king attempted again to make light of the situation. Having an assassin steal his way into his bedroom in the dead of night had put him in a foul mood and he didn't particularly feel like being mothered by his advisors today. 'I've cheated death six times now, so what's one more attempt on my life? I am immortal after all.'

'Yes, my king, I know that... but still, even an immortal can be killed if one tries hard enough.'

'So,' the king asked with a haughty expression on his face, one dark brow raised in question, 'is the reality that you don't think that I can defend myself? Is that it, Nigel?'

'No! Of course not my king,' and he bowed deeply, touching his hand to the black, sun shaped markings on his forehead as he was want to do when nervous.

'You are a most capable warrior, my lord. No one meant to question your abilities. Please forgive us,' Alfridi finished for his brother, also bowing as he attempted to diffuse his king's sudden anger. The king was on edge enough as of late, and no one, not even those closest to him, dared to further agitate him without fear for the consequences.

King Samuel merely huffed and motioned for his advisors to rise, not really caring what they had to say but enjoying their posturing all the same. He liked to assert his dominance whenever possible, and the way that they had jumped at the mere hint of his anger pleased the king greatly. The ill mood that the assassin's presence had caused in him was suddenly lightened and he knew that he had the silver haired twins to thank for it.

'You are forgiven.'

'Thank you, your majesty,' the brothers said in unison, pleased that they hadn't earned the king's wrath. As Nigel had said earlier, there were ways to kill even those who were supposedly immortal, and he did not want the king using him or his sibling to test those words.

All three of them were then distracted by the sounds of swords clashing in the courtyard below. Glancing over the ledge of the balcony the king could clearly see his eldest child squaring off against his long time instructor, the two sparing aggressively back and forth in the early morning light. They had obviously been at it for some time, as Cristopher's clothes clung to him wetly, soaked through by his hard earned sweat, and his dark brown locks were plastered to his face and along his back where they had fallen out of their bindings. The young prince had a look of deep concentration on his face, and his normally warm brown eyes were filled with anger and frustration, although it clearly wasn't aimed at his current opponent.

The king watched his son for some time in quiet contemplation. The young daemon should have been his doppelganger; they both had the same dark chestnut brown hair, the same deep brown eyes, the same golden skin, and the same tall frames and lean muscles. The same handsome features and noble bearing. The markings on the boy’s forehead, gold instead of black, should have been the only real difference between them. Yet he knew that no one would ever mistake him for the boy, or the boy for a king. Even as he fought there was something different about the younger immortal, a kindness that showed when he held his hand instead of striking a more painful blow, a concern that showed even through the heat of his anger. He was, in the king’s opinion, soft. And that made him weak. A weakness that showed in everything that he said and did. That, the king thought, was the real difference between them.

'Well, my son certainly seems disappointed, doesn't he? It must be wearing on his patience that his plans keep failing so spectacularly.' He took a moment to laugh as he watched his son allow his anger to get the better of him, a sloppy strike nearly causing him to lose his balance and giving his father further reason for mirth. 'Poor boy.'

'So you still believe that the prince is the one responsible for the attempts on your life?'

'Without a doubt.'

'Then why haven't you...'

'Dealt with him,' he asked with a look of amusement still clear on his face, continuing to watch the object of their discussion as he fought in the grass below. 'He is my son, after all... I still have hopes of taming him some day. He's a smart boy and we could be good allies if he'd only stop with these foolish acts of disobedience.'

'But he persists in sending assassins after you. Are you sure that it's safe to continue to let this go on?'

'It would make no difference even if I did have him executed, truly, because I still wouldn't know who he's been in league with. I want to know who all of his co-conspirators are. I want to know who would dare to go against me.' Looking away from the sight in the courtyard, the king finally turned to fully face his advisors. The expression he wore was not a very pleasant one. 'Since Liam and the rest of my guard have been next to useless in finding these traitors, I'll just have to take a different approach. I only hope that the boy knows that anything that happens as a result is entirely his fault.'

'He needs to learn his lesson, your highness,' agreed Nigel, nodding vehemently at his monarch.

'Yes, majesty, he most certainly does.”

“Besides,” the king was forced to admit, “I’m still not one-hundred percent certain that Cristopher is at fault. And, if it is in fact one of my other enemies that seeks my head then I will not have them succeed in forcing my hand in this matter. My son may give me great difficulty at times, but he is still of my blood, and I will not allow any but myself to weaken the royal family with his death.”

“Very wise,” Alfridi was quick to agree, “Trovilla must look without as well as within when searching for enemies.”

“The western tribes have been very vocal as of late,” Nigel offered, his brother finishing for him, “They did not take well to your latest decree on the restriction of trade with the outer kingdoms.”

“And the arzu in Morta City,” once begun, the list of men, women, people, and clans who were unhappy with their king grew quickly, “were none too happy when you requested that they send their high healer to you as a birthday gift last fall.”

“The fact that she chose to take her own life certainly did not help matters,” Nigel conceded.

“The cities in the north are protesting the most recent raise in the tax rate,” Alfridi reminded them, “They might seek retribution for the sanctions you placed upon them when they refused to give your majesty his due.”

“The Octavian clan did not seem to understand the recent need for the execution of some of their warriors at the hands of the royal executioner,” Nigel could, he admitted to himself, understand the last enemy and their possible thirst for vengeance. They were a small clan, and the loss of so many of their men was a great blow to their strength, something that they had suffered for no reason other than the fact that their clan leader had angered the king. Even his closest advisors had not seen fit to back King Samuel’s decision where the Octavians had been concerned, even if they had remained silent and done nothing to stop him.

“Paaragora is still bothered by the fact that the majority of their shipping routes remain under our control.”

“And there is unrest in the Santrovia mountain range.”

“There is, of course-“

“Enough,” the king suddenly called for silence, tiring of the seemingly endless list of enemies who might want him dead, “We’ve gone over all of this before. If you have nothing new to add then hold your tongues.”

The unspoken threat that followed the king’s words, hold your tongues or I will do it for you, was understood by both daemons.

“Are you still planning on going through with your plan?' A distraction was in order, so a change of subject seemed wise. When the king’s countenance brightened considerably at this question, his mood instantly changing, Nigel looked over to his brother and smiled, two pairs of coal eyes meeting as they silently congratulated themselves on avoiding the king’s wrath yet again. After over one-hundred years at his side they had, as an act of self preservation if nothing else, learned how to deal with the often temperamental monarch quite well.

'To marry off my darling daughter to a warrior who will be able to take out these assassins for me,' he asked with a wicked quirk to his lips, a cruel sort of chuckle already forming from deep within the barrel of his chest. 'Yes, of course I'm going through with it... it's about time that I found some new uses for her, after all.'

Even his long time advisors were a bit uncomfortable hearing their king speak of his child in such a callous manner, as if he were nothing more than a prize animal to be sold to the highest bidder, but they didn't dare question his choices. Neither had ever been much of a friend to the princess, and if it meant helping their king then they didn't really care what happened to Constantine in the end.

'But… won't her suitors realize that she isn't really a woman? Especially after one of them wins her hand?'

'Oh, I've thought of that already,' said the king, obviously very proud of himself for his ingenuity. 'I'll simply have them all swear an oath and seal it with a powerful magick. That way whoever wins will have to use all of their abilities and resources to protect their new father-in-law, namely me, and it won't matter if they like their prize or not. Besides, they'll be richly compensated for their efforts.'

'Yes, but...'

'Have you looked at my Constance lately? Honestly, if she weren't my child...'

'True, she is very lovely, but what about Prince Cristopher?” Nigel’s eyes darted nervously down towards the still dueling men in the courtyard below. “He's always been so very protective of his younger sister, and if he finds out then he'll be furious.'

'I'm counting on it, actually.'


'Cristopher will undoubtedly be furious with me. And, once he's angry he'll most likely try to step up his attempts on my life, putting him off balance and hopefully causing him to make a mistake. One that will prove fatal to him and any foolish enough to follow him.'

Both of his advisors suddenly broke into twin grins, practically beaming at the dark haired man before them. 'Brilliant,' they said in unison before the king continued to lay out the details of his plan.

'Of course it's brilliant,' he said with a dismissive gesture. 'Now, did you send out the invitations like I asked?'

'Yes, my liege,' Alfridi told him, drawing out his notes from the satchel that he habitually wore across his shoulder. 'We sent word to every major mercenary clan in the kingdom, as well as the sorcerers, mages, and warriors that were on your list. They all responded favorably, save for Lord Vincent.'

'Oh, really?'

'Yes, it seems that he's taken up with some little strumpet that he found in a brothel down south.'

'Really,' the king questioned with a wicked and knowing grin.

'Yes. I've heard that he's caught himself quite a pretty little bunny.” Nigel and Alfridi shared a look between them, the silent communication of twins leaving them both snickering quietly. “And we all know how easy it is to become taken with a lapian.'

'A shame really, he's a very dangerous man and he would have been a good choice to take out our assassins.' Then, with a chuckle, he added, 'Probably wouldn't have minded Constance's little secret either.'

They all shared a hardy laugh at that thought before the king took the papers form Nigel and began to review them, looking over the list of mercenaries and assassins with an approving nod.

'All of the rest are coming then?'

'Yes sir.'

'Perfect. At least one of these men should be able to take care of my son's little friends. Perhaps they can even teach my guard a thing or two.' Then, with a smile still on his face, the king turned towards the nearest doorway and made to leave his advisors. 'Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go and tell my daughter the good news.'


The king could hear the gentle strains of a melodic tune long before he reached the doors to the music room, and he silently congratulated himself on his choice of instructors as he passed over the threshold. Despite the fact that the king had never given either of his children a lesson in his life, he still somehow saw the princess' accomplishments as being his doing, and so he felt that the self-satisfied smirk that he wore was not only appropriate, but completely justified.

'Bravo,' said the king, bringing his hands together a few times to applaud, suddenly interrupting the flow of music as he approached his child and put a hand on his delicate shoulder. His deep voice echoed slightly in the now silent room, and he felt a secret thrill as the boy seated in front of him tensed under his touch. At least one of his children still knew well enough to fear him.

As the king made to sit down on the bench beside his child, the princess' instructor immediately got up and left the room, knowing without a word that their lesson was now over. Although he was exceedingly fond of his pupil, and proud of how well the princess preformed for him during every lesson, he still had no wish to come between the king and his goals. He simply wasn't that brave or that stupid. And it was very obvious to him that right now the king's goal was Constantine.

Both daemons sat silently while the instructor bowed and made good his escape, Constantine silently begging the man not to leave, yet knowing that it was for the best. He did not need to lose another teacher at the hands of his father’s anger.

The princess waited patiently for his father to explain the reason for his presence, his head bowed, his hands clasped demurely in his lap as he had been taught to do. Constantine tried hard to remain clam, to wait quietly for his father to speak, but as the silence stretched on Constantine found himself growing more and more nervous. The king usually didn't search him out unless there was a specific reason, and in Constantine's experience a visit from his father rarely resulted in happy memories. It was best to just wait for the man to speak and to hope that it would be over soon.

'Such a pretty child,' said the king, reaching out and running a hand through the silent boy's satiny sable hair. He let the strands run through his fingers repeatedly, marveling at the way that the golden highlights shimmered as they caught the light filtering in from the open windows. 'Always so very pretty.'

It was not the first time that Constantine had been called pretty, by either his father or any number of other daemons, the praises in no way unjustified. Constantine had grown into a stunning young man, even masked as he was under the veil of femininity, and even the pervading sense of sadness that usually surrounded him could not hide that fact. He had long brown hair, as fine as any silk, that was streaked through with strands of gold that glittered by candlelight. His form was lean and delicate, every movement graceful, every gesture elegant. Even behind the veils that his father insisted that he wear a stunning face could be glimpsed, all high cheek bones and perfect alabaster skin, with cupid’s bow lips that could bring a tear to a grown daemon’s eyes when they smiled. But, as stunning as everything about the princess was, it was his eyes that most noticed first when he wore his less concealing half-veils. They were a pure emerald green, flecked through with bits of gold that matched the golden markings on his forehead, ringed in a dark fringe of lashes. It was not the color that most took note of, but how expressive they could be, showing a world of feeling from deep within their glittering depths. When he smiled they lit up brighter than any sun, filling with joy from the depths of his heart, and when he cried they rivaled an uncontrollable tempest.

Sitting across from his father, waiting for him to speak and not knowing what was to come, the princess’ expressive eyes were downcast and guarded. He endeavored to remain as still as he possibly could. His father seemed to be in a very odd mood, and he wasn't quite sure what to make of his strange behavior. His father was more unpredictable than a wild skanlier on the hunt, and every bit as poisonous, so the princess did not want to get bitten.

'It's a shame that I'll have to share you soon.'

'Father,' this caught the princess off guard, the words not making much sense to him, and he turned confused eyes towards the king. Share? He couldn't understand what his father could possibly mean by his unusual choice of words and he felt a cold, uncomfortable feeling beginning to form in the pit of his stomach as the implications began to form at the back of his troubled mind. He was suddenly becoming very worried about the reasons behind his father's visit.

'Yes, my sweet child, I'll soon have to share you with another man.” The king saw no reason to beat around the bush. It wasn’t as though he had to sugarcoat anything for the princess’ benefit; the boy had no choice in the matter, and so his opinions and reactions mattered very little. “I've decided that you are to be wed.'


'That's what I said, now isn't it?' The king was quickly losing his previous good humor. He didn't like it when his children, or anyone else for that matter, questioned him; and although he had begun to expect it from his eldest he rarely encountered any sort of resistance from his younger child. Speaking back, shouting at that, was unacceptable. Such things could not be tolerated. 'Are you questioning my judgment?'

'Of course not, Father,' Constantine replied immediately, both out of obedience and habit. He had learned early on in his life not to disobey his father in anything. And questioning his choices was even worse. The consequences could be extreme, to say the least.

'Good,' said the king with a satisfied smirk. He was pleased to see that he wasn't losing his hold over the princess. It would make things go so much more smoothly over the next months. 'Now, as I was saying, I've decided that you are to marry. I've already sent out the invitations and your potential suitors will be arriving within the week.'

'Suitors,' the already pale Constantine was getting paler by the minute, and he was quite certain that the room had begun to spin at some point during the conversation.

'Yes. You've no doubt already heard that there was another assassination attempt last night, and my guard still has had no luck at catching the attackers, or even of discovering the source of these attacks. I've decided that I need to bring in a powerful mercenary to take care of our problems, someone crueler and more deadly than our city-bred court guards, someone just as dirty and underhanded as my enemies are. As such I've agreed to present the most competent candidate with not only the riches of our kingdom, but the hand of my only daughter, in exchange for capturing and executing these traitors.'

'...But, Father...'


'Surely, even if one of them were to agree to marry me, they would eventually find out...'

'What? About the circumstances of your birth?” The way that he worded it, the way that he always spoke about Constantine’s early life, always made it sound as though the boy were somehow at fault for not having been born a female. Although, at the moment, he did not seem very bothered by his child’s sex, even if it did seemingly throw a wrench into his newest plan. That alone told Constantine that there was very little hope of talking the king out of going through with the wedding that he was apparently planning. “Yes, I've thought of that.'


'All of the potential suitors will be forced to take a magickally enforced blood-oath agreeing to protect me with their lives before I will allow them to compete for you hand.” The king sounded so proud of himself as he told Constantine the details of his plan. Constantine, however, was not nearly as proud as the king wanted him to be. “Then there will be another, stronger, ceremony on the night of the first full moon after the wedding. Hopefully, if the timing is right, it will take place before they are given a chance to take you to your wedding bed. That way it won't matter what they think once they find out what you are.'

'...But...' Constantine was unable to give further voice to his concerns, however, because the king suddenly grabbed hold of his delicately pointed chin and held him firmly in place as they locked eyes.

'You will do as you're told, child. Do you understand me?' He waited until Constantine had nodded weakly before continuing in a low, rumbling voice that immediately sent a streak of fear shooting down the princess' back. 'Good. I'm glad that we understand each other.'

With that said the king got to his feet and stood, towering above his offspring, looking down at the frightened and confused child. He wore the same self-satisfied expression that he’d had when entering the room, and he felt a great sense of pride as he saw all of the fight leave Constantine's mournful eyes. It had almost been too easy to break him, as expected, but the king wasn't complaining in the least. He was most pleased to see that he still had complete control over his princess.

“Don’t worry, dearest,” the king said in his best fatherly voice, “this won’t be nearly so bad as you fear. I am, after all, giving you the ultimate choice of who your new husband will be. Feel free to choose from any of the suitors that I have provided you with. Pick whomever your heart tells you to.”

Constantine only looked at him numbly, nodding when it seemed appropriate, obviously lost in his own inner turmoil.

'As I said before, they will be arriving soon, so make sure that you're prepared. I want them fighting to compete for you. After all, only the best will do for my daughter.' The king allowed a cruel smile to form on his lips as he said this. He honestly couldn’t care less if the man that he chose for his child was a good man or not, or if he would treat the princess well once he found out the truth; he only wanted someone ruthless and cunning enough to destroy his enemies for him. Nothing else mattered. Nothing.

This included the silent tears that he failed to see as he turned his back and strode confidently out of the room, a song on his lips and a feeling of triumph in his heart.


The king was true to his word, and within the span of a few days there were more than two dozen mercenaries within the castle, each of them hoping to win the hand of the king's daughter... and his riches with her. None of them knew that their assumptions, namely that the princess that they were competing for was in fact female, were incorrect because none of them had yet seen said princess. From the point of the first suitor's arrival the princess had been secreted away in his rooms, his father having forbidden him to allow himself to be seen until the night of the full moon. On that night all of the suitors would be present and the king planned to present his daughter at that evening's dinner party. Until that happened Constantine could only remain in his rooms, every earthly comfort being seen to but his mental well being and piece of mind ignored completely, begging the servants for any information that they could give him.

'Some of them really aren't so bad, Majesty.'

'Not so bad?!' Constantine wailed, becoming more despondent by the moment. Although he had accepted years ago that his life was not his own, conforming to the role that his father had set for him without much in the way of complaint or conflict, he still felt that this was simply too cruel.

'Yes, Princess,” his maid tried in vain to allay some of his fears. “Why, some of them even appear to be completely respectable young gentlemen. I'm certain that you'll find one of them to be to your liking.'

'Respectable young gentlemen?' Constantine knew that the maid was only trying to reassure him, but somehow he just couldn't bring himself to have any hope towards the subject. He had learned long ago that hope only ended up hurting you in the end. 'I don't think that my father is exactly looking for a respectable gentleman. They are mercenaries, after all.'

'Well, yes, I suppose they are mercenaries...'

'Mercenaries aren't exactly known for being polished and refined.'

'Some of them do appear to be a little rough around the edges, but still...'

'And what do you think those kinds of men will do to me when they find out what I am? He'll think that he's getting a princess, a blushing young maiden as pure as the driven snow, a delicate blossom ripe for the plucking. Then when he gets me alone he'll find out...'

'Yes, well... it's much too early to worry about such things right now.' She really didn't want him to finish with his train of thought because, despite the fact that all of the servants knew of the princess' true nature, the maid still didn't want to be accused of breaking the ban on speaking of it. The king was strict enough in enforcing the rule under normal circumstances, but with all of the strangers currently in the castle he was certain to be even less understanding of slip-ups than he usually was.

'Oh? Then when would be a good time to worry about it?” It was rare that Constantine lost his temper, but ever since his father had announced his impending marriage his nerves had become frayed and he was in a constant state of worry. He’d feel bad about yelling at the maid later, but for now it felt good to be able to vent on someone, even if they weren’t entirely deserving of being on the receiving end of his rant. “Maybe when my new husband is choking the life out of me after he’s found out that his princess is actually a-'

'Come now, best not to entertain such depressing thoughts.' He was really making it hard for her to avoid the forbidden subject, and the maid was becoming desperate to end the conversation as quickly as possible. She had served his family for the entirety of Constantine’s life, she’d had plenty of time to learn, but in all of that time she had never been able to get the hang of referring to him as a she. Despite the fact that he was very pretty, it was still apparent after any amount of time spent with him that he was, in fact, a male. If it weren't for the veils that he usually wore... and then a thought occurred to her. 'I nearly forgot! Tabitha gave me your new veil.'

'My new veil?'

'Yes, your father had her make it for you. He told me to tell you that you must never be seen without it while the courting is going on. So don't forget.'

'Oh, yeah. I'd nearly forgotten that I'd have to wear one again.” One last thing to make his misery complete. “He hasn’t made me do it in a while.'

'That's because you haven't had to entertain any of the nobles in quite some time, you don’t really need to wear it when it’s just family, but this is much more important than usual,” she admonished sternly, “Don't forget.'

'I won't,' he promised, picking up the lacy piece of cloth and letting it run through his fingers. Out of all of the things that he was forced to do to keep up his feminine appearance, he hated the veils the most. To him it represented the lie that he lived every single day of his life.

'Will I ever be able to give up this lie?'

There was no answer, the maid having slipped out of the door while Constantine had been examining the hated piece of clothing. Truthfully, he didn't mind. He hadn't really been expecting an answer anyway. And he feared any answer that he might have been given.

Even if it would hurt him in the end, he wanted to hope for just a little while longer.


The night of the full moon quickly arrived, and soon Constantine found himself standing just outside of the doors to the dinning hall, pacing back and forth nervously as he waited to enter. His long golden gown swished loudly as he moved from side to side in the narrow hallway, and the heels of his shoes clipped along even more noisily as they collided with the bare stones of the floor. Liam, the captain of the royal guard, could barely hear the low muttering issuing form the young princess over the sounds of his garments, but he knew without asking that Constantine was more nervous than he had ever been in his entire life. Not that he could really blame the boy. After all, it wasn't every day that one waited to be presented to a room filled with over two dozen mercenaries. Mercenaries who also happened to be candidates for an impending marriage. Yes, he could definitely understand the young man's nervousness, but still...

'Constance, would you please stop pacing like that?” He tried to keep his voice calm and even. It wouldn’t do to unnerve the princess anymore than he already was. “You're giving me a headache.'

'A headache,' Constantine asked, pausing for a moment as he turned towards the captain of the guard, blinking owlishly at him over the gilded edge of the thin olive colored veil as though he’d only just seen the other man. 'Oh, I've had one of those since I woke up this morning.' Then he went back to his pacing as if they'd never spoken.

If the situation were something less upsetting he might have laughed, but as it was Liam just watched through the curtain of dark purple hair that fell over his eyes as the nervous boy continued to make his rotations across the hall.

Back and forth he went until the taller man felt himself getting dizzy once again, and no matter how therapeutic it might be for Constantine, he was forced to hastily reach out one well muscled forearm to physically still the agitated royal. He had known Constantine since his birth, and he hated to see his normally calm and even-tempered soul in such a state. He hated it even more that the boy’s own father was the cause of such turmoil.

'I'm sorry, Conn,' the older man said as he put his arms around the princess, reaching a hand up to rub at the tip of one of his sharply pointed ears in a manner that had calmed the boy since early childhood. He tried to hold back the growl that threatened to break free as he felt how tense the younger daemon was, his own sharp fangs digging into his bottom lip as he fought to control his anger. He felt helpless to ease Constantine’s pain, and it hurt him more than any physical blow that he had ever received on the battlefield. 'I'm so sorry. If I'd been able to apprehend these assassins sooner then your father wouldn't-'

'No,' Constantine said, stepping away from the comforting embrace and looking up into the deep amethyst eyes of one of the few people in the world that he could call a friend. He shook his head and smiled reassuringly. 'It's not your fault. I'm the king's daughter. If my father wishes to marry me off to a mercenary then I'll be married to a mercenary. That's just how it is.'

Although the small princess seemed to be confident in his words, Liam knew that the boy was simply trying to put up a strong front for his sake. It was something that he often did when he felt uncertain, comforting others when he could do nothing for himself, and the Captain wasn't about to fall for the act. He knew Constantine too well for that.

'Conn, listen, I...'

'Just tell me that some of them aren't so bad. That just one of them might make a decent husband. That one of them might not hate me when they find out what I really am,” he begged. “Please Liam.'

The quiet desperation that he heard in that plea tore at the swordsman's heart, and he wanted desperately to reassure the young daemon in front of him, but he didn't think that he could do it without lying to him. For the past week he had been watching the suitors that were entering the castle, trying extremely hard to gather any information that he could on them. It hadn't been easy to find information on most of them, mercenaries were by nature secretive, and what he did find hadn't made him think well of the men. To tell Constantine that any of them would make a decent husband would be a bold faced lie in his opinion. But how to tell the nervous princess that without worrying him further?

Seeing the conflict in his friend's dark eyes Constantine gave a short, humorless laugh and shook his head in defeat. 'It's all right Liam, you don't have to say anything. I'm not stupid; I know that they're mercenaries. I know that Father is looking for someone who's dangerous, and ruthless, and deadly enough to take out these assassins. I know that.'

'Conn, I'm sorry.” He ran his hand through the shorter locks at the back of his head, rubbing his fingers through the purple strands in frustration. He didn’t know what to say. “Really, some of them are...'

'No,' Constantine said, raising his hand to ask for silence. He took a deep breath, smoothed his hands down his satiny gown, and reached up to straighten his veil. He could hear the approaching footsteps of the steward coming to open the doors for them, and he knew that his father wouldn't approve if he entered the dinning hall looking disheveled. He knew that he needed to look his best when he was presented to his suitors, and it didn't matter if he felt like a mess inside because his father would only care that he looked perfect on the outside. Although there was nothing that he could do about his internal problems, he could at least do something about his outer appearance. He would give his father and his suitors no reason to disapprove.

'It's okay Liam. I just wanted to pretend for a little while, that's all. I'm sorry that I tried to drag you into it.” It was like seeing a completely different person when Constantine at last looked back at Liam. All sense of agitation and nerves were gone, and a strong and steady princess was left in place of the jittery child that had been there mere moments before. “Forgive me?'

Liam had to smile. For once Constantine's ability to hide away all of his emotions was coming in handy, because the princess suddenly looked to be the picture of serenity. His gown was pristine, every hair was in place, his breathing was calm and even, and the light trembling in his hands had stopped completely. One never would have suspected that only moments before he had been a regular basket case.

'I'm sure that one of them is a veritable prince in frog's clothing.'

This earned him a soft smile from the now composed princess, and he could just make out the shape of his lips forming a silent thank you behind the shadow of his veil before they were engulfed by the lights and sounds of the bustling dinning hall as the doors swung open to admit them.


As Constantine took his seat beside his father he felt his composure begin to falter as his worst fears were realized. The men seated around him were not exactly the types of men that he was used to keeping company with, and he suddenly wondered if he truly had been kidding himself when he had asked that at least one of his suitors be a decent man. The men at the surrounding tables were everything that one would expect from a mercenary; they were dark and dangerous looking, covered in various scars, coarse in dress, appearance, and language, their sharpened fangs exposed as they drank, shouted, and argued loudly across the tables. Several were even cleaning their claws with their daggers as they awaited the evening's main course. Constantine had never seen anything like it, it was like something out of a nightmare, and as all eyes turned towards him he felt a shiver of fear run up his spine. Although he tried, for obvious reasons, to remember never to judge on appearances alone, he still didn't like the looks of the men seated around him. They were even worse than he had imagined.

Then his eyes turned towards the two men closest to him, on either side of his father and brother. Beside his father he was grateful to see someone who apparently knew a thing or two about attending a royal event. The man had curly, shoulder length golden hair that was shining and well-groomed, a contrast to the haphazard ponytails that most of the men sported, and his fine suit appeared to be well tailored and was perfectly matched to the dark blue starburst markings on his forehead. His glittering golden eyes lit congenially as he smiled briefly at the princess before once again returning his attention to the king, and this small gesture from this obviously cultured man lifted Constantine's spirits immensely.

The man sitting beside his brother was not nearly so courtly looking, but there was still something intriguing about him. He had shorter, wispy white hair that fell into his slanted obsidian eyes, and smooth, pale honey colored skin that stretched over sharply handsome features. His silver, diamond shaped markings were almost an exact match for Constantine's golden ones, except that where the princess had gently curling side markings around his diamond the attractive mercenary had a bolder straight edged pattern that seemed to suit his harsher visage. His loose fitting white shirt and tight dark leather pants also seemed equally suited to him, and even though he wasn't as well attired as the man to the king's right, he still seemed to stand apart from the uncouth men that surrounded them both. He instantly fascinated the young royal, despite the dismissive look that Constantine received when their eyes finally met.

When Cristopher saw his brother looking at the man to his left he raised a questioning eyebrow. He hadn't expected the man to be to his younger sibling’s liking, and he wasn’t at all certain that he approved, but he dare not speak of it at the moment. Not with their father and so many strangers so close at hand. It would have to wait.

Despite his sudden interest in the two attractive men, Constantine was still grateful for the distraction that their dinner's arrival presented. The sight of the more than two dozen fearsome looking mercenaries had provided quite a shock to his system and he didn't think that he was quite ready to engage any of the men in conversation just yet. He was silently hoping that his father would allow him to be excused after they had finished their meal, but he sincerely doubted that that would happen.

When dessert was served Constantine began to unconsciously lean into the warmth of his elder brother beside him. He knew that his brother would not be able to prevent what was coming, but all the same he wanted to feel that comforting presence for as long as possible. The gentle touch of his sibling had always been a calming influence to him, and that hadn't changed as they'd grown older. He was infinitely grateful for that fact, because right about then he felt as if his brother's presence was the only thing keeping him form bolting from the room in a last ditch effort to escape his fate. That, he knew, would not please his father. At the moment he wasn't sure which frightened him more... being given to a room full of mercenaries or facing his father's wrath. Neither really seemed like a very good way to spend the evening.

The stewards at last came to take away the remainder of their dishes, and Constantine saw his opening. He rose quietly from his seat and began to back away towards the door through which he had entered. If he could only make it out unnoticed then he could try later to convince his father that he had left because he was feeling ill… which wasn't entirely untrue. He did feel as if his heart had suddenly lodged itself in his throat while a pack of butterflies had simultaneously taken up residence in his stomach. Ill didn’t even begin to cover it.

'Where are you going, my sweet,” a low voice uttered from somewhere over his left shoulder. How his father had gotten behind him without his noticing was a mystery to the startled princess, but it managed to instantly dash any and all hopes that he'd had of a quick escape.

'Father,' he said, turning as he attempted to still his fiercely beating heart. 'I was just heading out to the balcony for some fresh air. I'm really not feeling all that well and I, um...'

'Of course you're not feeling well, my poor child. You're meeting your suitors for the first time tonight, knowing full well that your future husband is in this very room right now, and that would make anyone a little nervous.' The king said all of this with a smile on his face as he took his daughter by the arm and began to steer him towards the throng of people that had begun to form at the other end of the room. 'Now, since you wouldn't say a word during dinner, you're going to go and talk to your men for a while.'

Seeing that Constantine was attempting to drag his feet, and knowing that the boy was desperately trying to figure a way out of greeting their guests, his father turned and smiled coldly down at his child. It did nothing to reassure him.

'Trust me... it'll be fun.'

The nervous princess didn’t believe him for an instant.


Constantine did not think that the dinner party was going very well. Not only had his meal left his stomach a churning mess of pain, but he had now spent the better part of an hour trying desperately to avoid his many suitors. The groups of men milling about the dinning hall reminded the nervous royal of the feral packs of jarvelians that were known to roam the forests around the castle, and he was not eager to find out which were more dangerous. He strongly suspected that it wasn't the animals.

He tried twice more to escape, but each time his father found him before he could make it to an exit. When he had tried the third time, he’d found a guard stationed at the door, the man silently shaking his head when the princess got too near. That was when Constantine knew that he was well and truly trapped.

Then one of the mercenaries started throwing knives at a tapestry, hitting the smiling woman in the portrait right between the eyes each time with frightening accuracy. After that Constantine began to suspect that he would be better off facing the wrath of his father rather than the ardor of his suitors, and he began to look for an alternate escape route. If the doors were guarded then he’d go out a window if he had to.

'Going somewhere, sweetheart?'

Constantine had been slowly backing away into a hidden alcove that would have led him to a servant's hallway and out of the dinning hall and its accompanying ballroom altogether, but he had been so intent on keeping a watch on the various occupants of the room that he had failed to notice what was behind him. Now that he felt a solid, unyielding wall of flesh against his back, he greatly regretted such carelessness.

'I... Well, I was just... You see, I...'

'You were just trying to escape unnoticed by slipping out the back way,' the low voice behind him asked with just a hint of humor. 'Hey, don't let me stop you. By all means, be my guest.'

As the man behind him stepped back to allow him to continue his retreat, Constantine was shocked to see that it was the handsome, obsidian eyed man with the honeyed skin that he had been watching at dinner. Up close he seemed even more imposing, and more handsome, and the princess took a moment to simply stare at his tall, broad shouldered form and his sharp, angular features. He really was quite attractive, albeit in a slightly wild and untamed sort of way. He wasn't exactly the type of man that Constantine would have expected himself to be drawn towards, but as he continued to stare up at the ivory haired mercenary he had to admit that the attraction was undeniable.

'I wasn't trying to escape, m'lord,” Constantine lied. “I was only hoping to get a little fresh air is all.'

'Then you're not as smart as you look. 'Cause if it were me, and those bastards were eyeing me like that,' he raised one strong, yet graceful looking hand and waved it in the general direction of the assembled mercenaries, 'I'd sure as hell turn tail and run as soon as I damn well could. But maybe that's just me?'

Constantine couldn't deny having thought something along those very lines, and so he only smiled sweetly before giving a nervous little tittering laugh. He'd been caught red handed, but at least it had been by one of the few men that he had been hoping to talk with. Perhaps the evening wasn't going to turn out to be entirely bad after all.

'Thought so,' he said, raising one pale brow as he looked down at the guilty royal. 'Although, maybe you're just trying to keep them from seeing you up close?'

'Pardon me?'

'I mean, it's not that you're not cute or anything... but when they said we'd be competing for the princess' hand I guess that we all just assumed that you'd be a girl.” He shrugged a set of broad shoulders, frowning slightly as he looked at Constantine with an appraising eye. “That's generally how it works with princesses, after all.'

All traces of the laughter that had been building within him quickly fled from Constantine. His heart took up a frantic, racing beat within his breast, his breath catching in this throat. Assumed that you'd be a girl? Had they already discovered the truth? He hadn't expected them to uncover his secret so quickly. Constantine couldn’t understand it. People were usually fooled by his disguise, and even those who eventually discovered his secret usually took longer than this. But, the man was a mercenary after all, and his kind often used deceit and deception in their line of work, so maybe he'd recognized the same when it was used against him?

He knew that he had to tell his father right away, although Constantine wasn't looking forward to the anger that he would face once he told him. He knew that somehow the king would blame him for this mishap, and he only hoped that such thoughts wouldn't lead his father to involve him in an even more dangerous scheme as a result.

'Hey, I was only joking, Princess. So you look a little boyish? Most girls have a bit more curves on them by your age, is all. So what? I take it back, you don't look like a boy, okay? Sorry.' Obviously the daemon had finally caught on to Constantine's distress, although his apology was somewhat lessened by the fact that he was now laughing uproariously at the tormented royal. 'Shesh, can't even take a joke. You nobles are all alike.'

A joke, thought Constantine. It had only been a joke? He was suddenly feeling very faint, and he felt torn between falling to the ground in relief and slapping the still laughing man in front of him. He thought that perhaps that he ought to do both, and was about to say so to the other man, when a new voice spoke up from behind them both.

'Blaise, what exactly do you think that you're doing, monopolizing the lovely princess?” The question was asked mostly in jest, but there was a certain coldness to the voice all the same. And Constantine didn’t think that it had anything to do with him. He was grateful for the distraction though, no matter if it had less to do with him than it did with some past between the two men. He didn’t think that he could take any more jokes just yet. “Attempting to steal her away before any of the rest of us even has a chance, huh?'

Constantine turned around to find, to his surprise, the other man that had occupied his thoughts over dinner. The one with the golden hair and the dark blue starburst markings who had smiled so kindly at him while talking with the king. He could think of no better rescuer from the other mercenary's ill attempts at humor. He only hoped that this new man wouldn't be as bad for his nerves as the first one had turned out to be.

'She's all yours,' Blaise said before walking away, glaring at the other man with a distasteful sneer on his handsome face as he passed.

'Really, Princess, I must apologize for my cousin's terrible behavior. He has no idea how to act around those with class,' and the golden eyed man turned fully to Constantine and bowed gracefully, as if to demonstrate that, unlike his cousin, he did know how to behave around royalty. Constantine was instantly grateful for the small gesture, and he returned it with an elegant curtsey befitting both his station and the situation.

'There is no need to apologize, good sir, your cousin's words simply caught me by surprise,” he lied. “It was nothing.'

'Yes, he does often speak before thinking,' he said with a small chuckle. 'I'm certain that you'll find this out for yourself if you are forced to spend any amount of time with him. Although, if you don't mind my saying so, I do hope that you'll be spending much too much time with me and as a result won't have any time left to worry about that barbarian.'

Constantine finally felt like laughing from true happiness for the first time in the entirety of the night. Here was a man that would make a suitable companion for the princess of the royal Trovillan kingdom. Here was a man who knew how to speak, not to mention behave, like a civilized percurian. Not to mention the fact that he was the only man in attendance who actually seemed to fit in with the assembled royals. Constantine was finally beginning to feel like the night wouldn't turn out to be a total disaster, which left hope for his father’s plan to succeed without ruining his life in the process, and as a result he felt his nerves finally beginning to settle just a little.

'How rude of me, m'lady,' the obviously cultured man in front of him suddenly said. 'I've yet to introduce myself. My name is Danne of the Carvarian Clan. It is a pleasure to meet you, Princess Constance.' He gave another courtly bow as he said all of this, and Constantine couldn't resist the smile that spread across his face as he returned the gesture of greeting again.

The rest of the evening was spent in pleasant conversation with the handsome Danne, the both of them having fled to the outer courtyards in order to escape the uncouth mercenaries that were watching their every move inside of the dinning hall and the ballroom. The men had been growing increasingly drunk as the night progressed, and Constantine had been grateful to be aided in his escape. Danne entertained the lovely princess with fascinating tales of his adventures outside of the kingdom, telling him of all of the wonderful places that he had traveled to and all of the sights that he had seen there. The princess, never having gone beyond the castle walls, was captivated by his words, and by the end of the night Constantine was completely enthralled by the well spoken and seemingly kind-hearted mercenary.

When they finally parted for the evening, Danne having generously offered to escort the princess back to his rooms in order to ensure that he was not accosted by any of his more unsavory suitors, Constantine was somewhat reluctant to separate from his new found companion. He was also more than eager to see the other man again in the morning. Despite the various, and mostly well-founded misgivings that he had begun the day with, Constantine was now very glad to have attended the dinner party. He had a very good feeling about the cultured, golden eyed percurian. Very good indeed.

As he settled into his rooms for the night he was pleased to admit, even if there was no one to hear him say it, that in the end...