Once upon a time, there lived a king and queen in a castle, since this is where kings and queens tend to live. Their home lay in the very center of the town, so that everyone could look out their windows come morning or night, or look up at any time of day, wherever they may have been, and see the home of their beloved king, queen, and princesses, and could smile and say "How kind/benevolent/charming our rulers are." This was actually done quite often, since the king and queen were all three of these.

However, tragedy befell the kingdom one night, when their beloved queen passed away from the fever that wiped out half of the other kingdoms. The people and the royals were broken-hearted, and the people spent the entire month in mourning. It was rumored that the king spent even longer, and did his best to protect his beloved princesses at any cost, unable to bear the thought of losing one of them too.

The king's servants, realizing that if the king spent all of his time with his princesses, he would neglect the kingdom and possibly lose it, hired a kind young man to watch over the princesses while the king handled the affairs of the kingdom. The young man arrived a week later, bringing his own young daughter with him, revealing he had lost her mother to the sickness, and so could not leave her all alone.

Everyone accepted this, and life went on. The king helped his kingdom prosper even more than ever, and the servant and his daughter took care of the royal princesses; all three of them.

The servant's young daughter, who was the same age as the middle princess, took a liking to her, and the pair spent all day together, until some small children got confused and said there were four princesses, rather than three.

The girl's name was Elissa. She had red hair that hung straight down her back, and green eyes that did not sparkle, as they should, but looked more faded. She also had the tendency to freckle, which was perfectly fine for a servant, but caused the same confused children to remember that she was not a princess, but a servant who had befriended the princess, Diana.

As the years passed more, and Diana and Elissa were about 14 years of age, the eldest princess, named Hera (the king and queen had named each of their daughters after a foreign goddess) walked in on them sitting on the floor, red and black locks of hair all around them. She let out such a scream that the servants and king thought an assassination attempt had occurred.

It turned out that the out-spoken; quicker-to-act-than-think Elissa had convinced the princess Diana to cut her long, shining black hair, while she herself cut her own locks of red. The princess's hair had been cut to her shoulders, but Elissa's hair now looked like boy's.

The two received a heavy scolding from the king and Elissa's father. That night, they stayed up after bed-time to chat.

"I wish Hera hadn't shown up," muttered Elissa, tugging on a lock of her friend's hair.

Diana swatted the hand away. "Elissa, Father would have been even angrier if my hair was the same length as yours. And anyway," she said, looking more closely at her friend. "Now people who don't know any better will mistake you for a man in dresses!" She turned red, clapping her hands onto her cheeks and laughing at the thought. "Oh dear…" she laughed.

Elissa turned red herself, but with some anger, rather than a giggling fit. "I don't think it's very funny," she muttered, turning away from her friend.

"Oh please, don't," laughed Diana, trying to console her friend, but still giggling in the way that only a princess can do without being annoying. "I didn't mean anything by it, really…"

Diana's hair grew in the next year, until it was the same length as it originally was, and then longer. But Elissa continued to cut her hair to be like a boy's. "I think it rather suits me, don't you?" she asked, turning around to see the back of her hair in the mirror. The two had become even closer than ever, and it was rumored that they were more than friends…

Diana laughed. "If you believe so, my dear friend."

But they had no time to be gossiping, or giggling after dark, or playing cards like they used to. And they found out quite by accident.

One day, the two were shopping in the market, unaware of the stares directed at them; of the whispering behind their backs. Elissa noticed it later, however, and nudged her companion in the ribs. "They're whispering and pointing at us. Shall I hit them?" she asked.

"Oh, don't do that!" cried Diana. "You'll get in trouble."

"Alright…but I am quite tempted."

As they admired a necklace (or rather, Diana admired it, Elissa just stood aside looking bored. She had no business with "girly, feminine trinkets."), they realized why so many people whispered about the princess.

"So, you gonna wear that to wedding?" asked the boy behind the counter.

Both girls started. "Wh…what?" asked Diana, flushing red.

"Yeah, what she said!"

The boy blinked, and then looked embarrassed. "I didn't know you didn't know…" he mumbled, looking away. "But I can't speak of these things. You best ask your father."

Diana's mouth quivered, as she imagined her father arranging a marriage for her without telling. Elissa punched her palm. "I'm going to get to the bottom of this, don't worry!" she said, running ahead of her.

"My friend, no!" cried Diana, reaching forward. But her friend, boyish and spending her whole life dodging the other servants after a terribly messy practical joke, was much faster, and soon swallowed up by the crowd.

Diana moved forward without her, heading toward the castle, trying to ignore the stares and whispers of the villagers.

PBPBPBPBPBPBPBPB

Diana stood before her father, curtseying gracefully, while her older sister and her younger sister (Aphie) watched on. "I thought you knew that," whispered Hera.

Diana refused to look at her father's face as he confessed. "I didn't want you to find out like this, my dear. But the fact is, you are nearing your sixteenth birthday, and you must get married. A princess can only take the throne if she is married, you know. Cough, cough."

"You didn't make Hera get married!" cried the girl, sweeping her arm toward her sister, then curtseying again as she realized she had not acted in a princess-ly manner.

"Yes, well cough, cough, Hera is not suited to be a queen. She tends to over-react. You remember when you cough, cough, cough cut your tresses. Such a manner is not right for a queen. And, cough I cannot wait for your little sister, little Aphie, because she is too young." (Aphie was eleven years old at the time.)

Diana held back her tears while she listened to more and more of her father's explanations, or as Elissa would say, excuses. After it was all over, she gave a farewell curtsy and backed out of the room with a swishing of her long skirts.

That night Elissa did not arrive. Diana lay in her bed, staring at the ceiling, seeing the depictions of fantastical creatures that she and Elissa had painted together, which had caused Hera to scream in horror again and bring the guards running.

PBPBPBPBPBPBPBPB

Elissa did not make an appearance the next morning, either. Diana had asked around the village, until she was told that someone had seen her dragged off into the shadows.

Diana followed the directions and saw a few scraps of Elissa's clothing, as well as a tiny dagger she had carried, on the ground. Diana gasped and stepped backwards, eyes over-flowing with her tears, realizing that Elissa must have been violated and killed.

Diana refused to come out of her room for the next few days, until her little sister, Aphie, begged her to come swimming with her.

PBPBPBPBPBPBPBPB

Diana did not swim, however, and went for a walk, tossing a gift that Elissa had given her in the air. "Here, Diana," she had said, as the sparkling sphere had passed from her hands to the other's. "This was my favorite toy. I want you to have it now."

"Oh, Elissa, I couldn't!" protested Diana.

Elissa had shaken her head and pressed it further into her hands. "No, you'll have tons of fun with this. I promise. You throw it into the air, and it catches the sunshine and throws it all around. It sparkles, it shimmers, it's absolutely beautiful! A beautiful princess should have a beautiful toy, don't you agree?" she asked, winking.

Diana blushed and thanked her again and again.

And she thought of Elissa as she tossed and caught the ball again. "My dear friend," she whispered sadly, tears shining in her eyes. But her tears clouded her vision, and she didn't see too well as the ball landed, missing her fingers, in the water.

"Oh!" Diana reached out to grab it, but the ball was heavier than it looked, and sank into the depths. "No! No, no, no…" she whimpered, covering her cheeks as tears ran down them. She had lost her friend, and now her friend's toy, as well…"Noooo!" she sobbed, bending over.

"What's the matter?" asked a voice.

Diana looked up. "Who…Who's there?" she whispered fearfully. She had heard things about people who hid in forests to prey on girls with the right bodies and ages.

"Me. Down here below you."

Diana looked down and noted with surprise that the voice could only have come from the frog below her. "Oh…"

The frog, a lovely green one with golden, unblinking eyes, stared her down. "What's the matter?" it croaked.

"I…I…"

"Yes…?" it prompted, looking impatient.

Diana swallowed. "My ball…" she finally whispered. "I dropped my ball in the water. It's my favorite toy, and it's all I have left of my beloved friend!"

The frog seemed to think a moment. "I'll tell you what," it said. "I'll get your toy. But I request a favor in return."

"Anything if you get it back!"

"I want to go home to the castle with you."

Diana though this was a strange request for a frog to make. But she wanted her toy so much… "It's a deal."

"Alright, hang on." The frog hopped of the lily pad it was and dove below the water. Diana waited impatiently, digging her nails into the soft dirt banks.

Finally, the frog popped out of the water, the sparkling toy in its mouth. "Ah gah ih!" it cried, words muffled by the ball. "Ptoo!" The ball was spat out and landed safe and sound by the princess's feet.

"Oh, Kermie, thank you!" cried the princess, picking the name out of the air.

The frog looked a bit miffed at the new name. "Erm…princess, we have a deal?"

"Oh, of course!" cried Diana, bending down and picking up the frog in one hand. "You're little," she remarked cheerfully.

"Of course I am, I'm a frog," it croaked angrily.

PBPBPBPBPBPBPBPB

"Sister, what is that?" asked Aphie, peering out of the cool waters.

"It's a frog. I've called it Kermie," meekly answered Diana.

"It's ugly! Throw it back in the lake!"

"No!" cried Diana. "I made a promise to him, and a princess must keep any promises she makes!"

Aphie and Diana argued, with the frog idly waiting, until Aphie got out of the water, dried off, put her dress back on, and stormed back home. "Fine, keep your stupid froggie," she grunted. "But I bet a prince won't appreciate it!"

Diana's heart sank as she heard this. "Oh dear…"

"What's all this about a prince?" asked the frog.

"My father wants me to be married once I turn sixteen," explained Diana sadly. "I wish Elissa was here. She would at least make a marriage tolerable."

"And who's she?"

"A dear friend of mine who's been gone for a few days now…" whispered the saddened princess.

PBPBPBPBPBPBPBPB

Hera sided with Diana, saying that a princess should keep her promises. The king required much more persuasion, but in the end he agreed, on the condition that the frog be kept in Diana's room at all times.

Kermie hopped up onto the princess's pillow the instant she had put him on the floor. "Well, this is a welcome change from the pond scum," it said, glancing around.

Diana shuddered involuntarily, imaginining her face being on the spot where the frog had sat.

"Oh, don't be like that, princess…just put the pillow on the floor and use that pillow over there," the frog said, lifting a little foot to gesture toward the pillow on Elissa's bed.

Diana slowly shook her head, imagining herself going to the bed and removing her friend's pillow, without asking. She knew Elissa would never return, but she felt as though she were stealing, to remove this item without permission. It was hard for her to explain, but she felt like she had to ask for permission from Elissa's spirit, wherever it may be. (She had hoped it would go on to Heaven, but Hera seemed to think it owuld go to Hell. She still hadn't forgiven her about the hair and the painting of the ceiling.)

"I'm sure your friend would be pleased to have you share her pillow," said Kermie, as though he knew exactly what she was thinking.

Diana looked to the frog again, staring into his golden eyes. Something in them seemd warm and inviting, and she felt as if she could tell him all her troubles...and most of all, she felt he knew what he was talking about. She inhaled a slow, shaky breath. "Alright," she whispered, gently laying her own pillow on the floor, the frog giving her a slight nod, as though this were a secret between friends. She took Elissa's pillow and placed it on her own bed and, a little uncomfortable, lay down to sleep.

The night passed by slowly. Diana watched the clouds move across the sky, hoping it would lull her to sleep. But she only slept when she felt the frog hop onto the bed and nestle above her head.

PBPBPBPBPBPBPBPB

The next morning, Diana awoke to find the frog's funny little face perring right into her eyes. She let out a startled scream, bolting upright. The frog scrambled for cover under the blanket. "Forgive me, princess," it croaked. "But you just looked so cute, sleeping like that..."

Diana had a hand over her breast, feeling her heart pounding beneath it. She struggled to catch her breath, feeling that if she had been sleepy before, she was certainly wide awake now. "Th-That's alright..." she wheezed.

"I seem to have scared you pretty badly," said the frog, a hint of laughter in his voice.

Diana gave the frog a look that clearly said "You should know that." The frog only smiled a little froggy smile.

In the mornings that followed, Diana carried the frog on her shoulder as she made her way to breakfast. Her sisters gave her a strange look, but the frog whispered her to "Just ignore them."

Diana ate her meal in complete silence when it came to her own family, but to her new friend the frog, she made jokes and excellent conversation. The frog proved the be a witty companion.

Diana's sisters started to worry about her, believing she was getting too caught up in her frog friend and starting to care less and less about the upcoming marriage proposals. Finally, Hera cleared her throat. "Diana," she said, finally causing her sister to look up.

"Yes?"

"I hope you remember what happens tomorrow."

Diana gave her a blank look.

Hera looked to their father, who sighed. "Diana, I have told you time and time again, but evidently you were too caught up in your frog friend here-" He glanced sharply at the frog, who stuck out its tongue. "...to listen." He turned his attention back to Diana. "But tomorrow, there will be a few princes here to ask for your hand in a marriage."

Diana blanched. "But-"

"Be grateful I am giving you the option of choosing for yourself."

"Don't worry about a thing," whispered the frog the next day, as Diana was about to enter the room where the princes waited. "I'll tell you what to do..."

"You can help me?" whispered Diana right back.

The frog seemed to smile again. "Listen," he said. "I need you to do me a favor. Kiss my forehead and throw me out that window," he said, pointing with a tiny little webbed foot.

Diana gasped, horrified. "But that'd kill you!"

"Not too badly," said the frog, strange as that sentence sounded.

Diana swallowed, nervous. "You're one of my best friends, and I love you," she said.

"Then you'll obey this one final request I make of you in this lifetime," the frog replied. He looked so solemn and honest that Diana felt she had to obey. She smiled a teary smile.

"I love you," she whispered, kissing his little frog head. She then closed her eyes so she wouldn't see anything horrible, summoned her strength, and threw the frog out the window. She only opened her eyes to make sure she had done it, rather than dash her friend against the wall. There was no sign of teh frog anywhere, and such a tiny body wouldn't mkae na audible thump, so she oculd only assume her friend was alive. Or at least pray...

"Diana, dearest, come in," the king called. Diana inahled deeply, straightened up, and walked into the room. Three or four princes, each dressed more lavishly than the last, stood ina row, smiling at her like they were taught. None of them really cared for her...just the idea of a marriage and an alliance, and definitely the babies that would follow.

Diana was about to resign herself to fate and select the one who looked the least threatening, when the door opened again. "Please forgive my lateness," a voice said, as its owner strode into the room. Diana saw the prince who had arrived, dressed in green and gold, a sword at his hip, a smile on his face. "I had some trouble on the way up."

The king faltered, not remembering inviting this particular prince, but quickly regained his composure. "Alright then...please, take your place in line."

The new prince gave Diana a wink as he walked to the end, the other princes turning up their noses. He smelled of swamps...

Diana could only stare at this new prince...he seemed to be the only sincere one of the whole group, and...she felt warmth in her breast as she looked up on him. Her heart seemed to speed up and her face flushed, breathing quickening slightly. And then she realized... "I...I choose this one," she announced, making her way to the prince, allowing her hands to be taken in his. "Please..."

She could barely hear her father as he dismissed the other princes. She could only look into the faded green eyes that held so much love, feel the soft red hair, and count the freckles upon the face of "Prince Ellis."

"We'll keep this or secret, okay?" whispered Elissa, drawing Diana close.

Diana smiled, feeling whole for the first time in weeks.

I realize this one could have been better, but it was a first for me, alright? Now, if anyone has a fairytale they'd like me to shojo-ai-ify, let me know in review.

New stories will not come regurlarly, as this is a little side thing. But even so, bear with me.