Summary: In which her majesty, Princess Iseult Teagan Nessa Deirdre Amalie Clarisse Siobhan Isabeau de Kimanch'e of Kimanch'e muses on her beauty, her money, and how to get more of both and decides that capturing Prince Caspar's heart is a good way to go about the last one. Unfortunately, Prince Caspar, the stereotypically handsome, slightly cynical, tough, angry prince is looking elsewhere-- to Kimber, the stereotypically beautiful, vulnerable, melodious, spunky, young, happy, highly magical princess has caught his eye. Iseult's got a foolproof plan, though-- well, she does if Caspar and Kimber's grossly overused behaviour doesn't kill her before she can even speak two words to the prince.

Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful princess named Kimber. Her hair was darker than the darkest night, her skin paler and smoother than porcelain, her piercing blue eyes breathtaking. She was vulnerable, spunky, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And once upon the same time, there was a beautiful princess named Adelaide who's fine, white blonde hair shone like the moon and her changeable grey-green eyes were like the sea (I find this oft-repeated statement quite odd as, upon every sighting of the sea, it seems to be blue, not a misty green) and, oh god, her singing voice was orgasmic and she was really a very kind, modest, tough girl kind of girl. Basically, they were both Celia from the previous chapter. They were Jasmine and Belle and Ariel, and I really didn't care. In her spare time, I believe that Kimber saved perfectly well-fed puppies from perfectly warm, normal homes but everyone made a big deal anyway, and I do think I heard that Adelaide's pastime was fighting horrible villains and giving small children candy—healthy, spunky candy.

Not for the first time, I mulled over the homicidal urges I often felt towards my father. As we already realized (re: Princess Iseult Teagan Nessa Deirdre Amalie Clarisse Siobhan Isabeau de Kimanch'e of Kimanch'e), my father is not exactly the driest log in the fire. He had done many stupid things in my lifetime, but this one trumped all:

My father had gone and put me in a competition for the love of a prince. Not just any prince, either—Prince Caspar, the brooding, cynical prince of Syrran. Well, I suppose he didn't so much put me in the contest as consent to my being in it—the king of Syrran had requested my presence in this contest. Don't quite understand? Let me explain it with a bit more tact and clarity.

Now, there is such a thing as war. This is when two countries have a large fight of sorts with each other, often killing and/ or maiming half of the men in the two plus countries participating in said war. Even after the wars end, the countries are not on very good terms (though really, if someone killed half of your occupants, I doubt you'd want to ravish their naked bodies either). Now, for political and economical reasons, countries like to be on good terms with each other—especially rich countries, like Kimanch'e and Syrran. The best way to secure a good—or at least neutral—relationship with another country is through marriage, the legal union of two people who are supposedly in love (this last aspect is rarely true among royalty—or anyone else, for that matter).

Kimanch'e, Syrran, Tristiona, and Lindeau, the four most powerful countries, the ones that have conquered almost all the other ones (so I suppose that they are actually empires), have never been on very good terms. So the king of Syrran made a plan to form an alliance with at least one of the countries—marrying his son, Caspar, future king, to one of the daughters of Kimanch'e, Tristiona, or Lindeau, for each of these empires have a princess (or, in Tristiona's case, had—in vaguely tragic mishap, Princess Tuliya of Tristiona fell off of a horse and died) —Adelaide of Syrran, Kimber of Lindeau, and, naturally, me. The king of Syrran realized that, if he were to marry Caspar to either Kimber or me, an alliance would be formed. His small brain then went even further—quite possibly the farthest it's ever reached—and realized that, were both princesses to befriend his daughter, Adelaide, two alliances would be formed. He could have completed his plan by sending Princess Adelaide to marry the prince of Tristiona, but the King had completely worn out his brain and could not even think hard enough to brush his hair (though it's possible that this was a usual occurrence).

And that is how I ended up in Syrran, wearing a corseted, midnight blue dress, in an immense, airy hall, and attempting to ignore the other two princesses as they kindly (but with spunk!) introduced themselves (as if we all didn't know who the others were, honestly!).

"…so, I guess that means that you must be Iseult?" Adelaide inquired with a pretty (but spunky!) grin. Kimber smiled softly, her gentle exterior hiding a tough, unafraid interior. Oh yes. How original!

"Princess Iseult Teagan Nessa Deirdre Amalie Clarisse Siobhan Isabeau de Kimanch'e of Kimanch'e, actually," I murmured politely, my hands folded demurely in my lap. In all honestly, I had just said that to be annoying. Adelaide did something much like a snort but prettier and more melodious and spunkier. And I do believe that Kimber rolled her eyes.

"Well, we're all friends here, so can we just call you Iseult?" I stared blankly at Adelaide, thinking that, were she to be involved in this competition, she would be the first to go. Her hair only reached her past her chest, and everyone knows that princesses must have absolutely spectacular hair. Like mine. I flipped my own long tresses proudly.

"No, thank you. I'd really you rather called me by my full name." Please note that there seems to be another contestant. Her name is Awkward Silence, and I don't think that Adelaide knows how to deal with her and her wordless beauty.

"You don't need to be so rude, Iseult," Kimber calmly defended the slightly put-out looking Adelaide. I did my best to look bashful and embarrassed—and, if I'm going to be honest, my best was pretty goddamn wondrous.

"I-I'm sorry… I just, I'm bad at dealing with… well, with meeting new people. I get a bit… defensive." I smiled modestly, blushing, and dropped my gaze to my lap. Adelaide smiled sympathetically—the kindness! The spunk!—and the corner's of Kimber's mouth twitched in a very slight upward direction.

Oh. So she was that kind of princess—the mysterious/ beautiful/ hardcore/ kind/ vulnerable/ dangerous/ dark one. How annoying. I tapped the pinky finger of my right hand smoothly. Immediately, Kimber began to hiccough violently. I fought the urge to smirk and instead looked at the other, less pretty princess with wide, concerned eyes.

"Are you alright, Kimber?" I cooed. Adelaide's expression and body language mirrored mine, though hers was five hundred twenty-two percent more sincere than my own. Ah, well—what's a gorgeous, magical, slightly villainesque girl to do?

Kimber glared at us in what I'm sure she—and possibly Adelaide as well—found to be a very enigmatic fashion.

"I'm"—violent hiccough—"fine!" she snapped with a defiant toss of her long, black locks. What she had to be defiant about, I cannot say. Adelaide patted Kimber's dainty, shuddering shoulder pathetically. Er, I meant sympathetically. Of course. Oh, and I forgot to mention that every movement was absolutely packed with spunk. In fact, Adelaide positively reeked of spunk. However, I am sure that it is quite clear to you now that Adelaide enthused even her breaths with spunk, that spunk oozed from her pores, so I will now stop mentioning this. Just remember that it is, if Adelaide is mentioned, spunk is implied. I will now only use the words 'spunk' and 'Adelaide' in close context if she outdoes even herself in the spunk category.

"Now, now, Kimber, you should really try to control those. Caspar should be coming in soon, and you'll want to make a good impression on him… for the marriage and all…" Kimber narrowed her eyes rather haughtily at Adelaide and, once more, shook her hair. While I myself am quite proud of my hair, that must be painful—Kimber had almost as much hair as I, and that much hair is, well… it's quite heavy. And all that tossing and shaking must have been killing the girl's neck. I made a mental note to make Kimber defiantly shake her head—rather like an angry horse, I mused—as often as I could.

"Why should I care what Prince Caspar thinks of me? I don't even wish to be here!" she declared with great pride. Well, gee. I think that the best way to make friends with a princess just might be declaring that her elder brother is worthless. Adelaide frowned.

"Caspar is an amazing person, Kimber! He's not your stereotypical, spoiled, charming prince!" Oh, really? Do tell us more, Adelaide! "He's kind! He loves animals! Although he can sometimes be angry and cynical, behind his tough exterior, he is a soft-hearted young man! And he's very, very handsome! So don't you dare insult my brother!"

Oh, no, dearest Adelaide. The way that you described him made him sound like quite the unique individual.

Meanwhile, the magic-induced hiccoughs wracking Kimber's body continued to interrupt her somewhat mysterious aura. This coupled with the fact that I was obviously the most beautiful girl in the room made me feel content, especially if I ignored the twinges of annoyance that Kimber and Adelaide caused me to feel. Rather like water dripping from a faucet in another room when you're trying to read a book (or, in my case, lavish yourself with compliments in front of a mirror).

I was doing precisely this (that is, ignoring Adelaide's ongoing, unjustified defense of her brother and wondering at my impressive magical abilities) when Prince Caspar strolled into the room.

His tousled dark hair, shimmering somewhere between brown and black, fell into his face, and he absentmindedly pushed his hand through it. His skin was flawless; his eyes an intense, piercing grey. He was tall and muscled, though not grotesquely. He was undeniably handsome, and, to be quite honest, I wanted to gag.

Actually, I'm quite sure that I did gag. Fortunately, this went unnoticed as Adelaide was too busy defending her brother (still!) and Kimber and Caspar were far too busy… well, connecting.

Not that I was at all surprised.

I stormed angrily into the room. How dare my father force me to marry? Sure, these princesses might have been beautiful, but they were all the same—fake bimbos who just want to sink their spineless claws into me for my money and, yes, my looks. I wasn't vain, but that didn't mean that I didn't know that I was handsome. It was my stormy grey eyes, or so I'd heard.

I pushed a hand through my hair, sighing resignedly. I didn't want to be here—I simply wanted to come in and politely turn down the princesses.

And then I saw her. She was undeniably gorgeous—the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen. Her grey blue eyes were focused angrily on the other girl. She tossed her shimmering, long hair with pride, her pale chin raised. Her eyes slid over to me quickly, meeting mine for just a moment.

There was a spark behind those eyes, one that showed she was more than just a pretty face—a prideful, clever spark.

It wasn't love at first sight. In fact, a feeling of irritation swelled up in my chest.

So, as I said, it wasn't love at first sight—I'm not a stupid romantic: I know that such a frivolous thing doesn't exist—but, oh gods, she fascinated me. She fascinated me like no one I'd ever met.

No matter how much I may have wanted to, I couldn't look away.

A/N So… I'd like to thank my two reviewers, and I'd also like to thank all those other adored lurkers who are reading this story. I don't think there are many of you guys, but I wouldn't be where I am right now if I didn't have you.

And yes, for those who were wondering, I did just watch the Oscar's. Otherwise, this author's note may not exist. Though I am quite sure that my undying love for you, much like Buttercup's love for Wesley, will prevail.

Yes. I am aware of the length… or lack thereof… of this chapter, and I'm sorry. It's longer than the first, though, and that's just how it will happen—sort of like the tortoise: slowly but surely, I will win the race/ write long chapters.

Lurve,

a.k.a.