Chapter 1

In Which a Prince Laments His Situation

Once upon a time, Elise thought as she straightened her back after a particularly heavy sack of potatoes, life was much more interesting. She held out her hands to the man who probably found this moment the highlight of his week and thought, Well, at least it's fun for someone.

"So you live at the palace, huh?" Maurice asked, ignoring her waiting hands and craning his neck back so he could fully take the ostentatious building before him.

Elise almost pitied him for envying her. He probably thought that living at the palace would be a pretty cushy job with stability, but he didn't understand that working at the palace didn't just mean serving the royals, it meant serving every other snooty noble that was present for the season. All of them with their own little demands, Elise thought with some contempt.

Someone jostled past her to grab something from another farmer and bustle back inside, away from the harsh heat of day and into the stiff cold of the palace. Now she didn't understand why they didn't want to take a moment to enjoy the few times a month they could be outside.

"Must be nice," he whistled and stuck his thumbs through a cord that belted his waist.

Elise laughed and gestured to the palace, "It's not that great. You're always running around for something ridiculous, like calling the shoemaker because some fancy lady's shoe that was never meant to be walked in because it was so delicate got ripped to shreds a few days after it was made. Who wants shoes like that?"

"Maybe," the farmer furrowed his bushy red brows in thought, as if the concept of such a shoe was beyond his imagination. Then again, he only bought shoes once a year and only wore them if he really had to. "But don't you get to eat whatever the royals don't eat? I mean, I hear that there's always this huge feast laid out every night for just a few people."

Which is more of a useless effort on our part, not to mention wasteful. Elise only half listened as Maurice went on to describe the countless other rumors he had heard about the palace. Why is it that everyone seems so obsessed with the royals, even outside of the palace? There must be better things to talk about.

It wasn't enough that all the servants ever talked about was their woes with those inside the palace, the entire kingdom had to too. Considering that there was an impending war and an evil witch going around, Elise did not find gossip these days quite so interesting.

"…and I also hear that Prince Marcus is refusing to marry that Telethian princess or other," Maurice said.

He's not just refusing, he's being outright childish, Elise thought. Still, she wouldn't want to marry a complete stranger either, but it wasn't like the fate of the kingdom depended on her marriage. She did not have a war hanging over her altar. "Well, you know. Royals are unreasonable like that," she shrugged, trying not to provoke him into saying more on the topic. "Now if you excuse me, I need to get this stuff inside so that my mother won't yell at me."

"Well all right then," Maurice looked disappointed, "See you next time, I suppose."

"Good luck on your harvest!" Elise said, "Say hello to Getrude for me!"

Maurice raised his hand in farewell and turned around to hike himself up onto his wagon. "I will, don't you worry about that."

Elise nodded and watched him go. Gertrude had been her closest friend in the palace, but last spring she had married Maurice and moved out to his farm. It was like looking into the future. Elise's future. Only she might still be here when she got married, at least until she had children, because she would most likely marry a servant in the palace. The only reason Maurice fell in love with Gertrude was because she got to be the one who visited the florist every week and actually leave the palace for a short amount of time. Now it was Stephanie who did that, so she would probably be leaving soon.

"Elise, Mama is calling for you," Fred said as he passed by her, a sack on both his shoulders.

Her mother would probably have her head for dawdling around so much. She never liked wasting time, that woman. I don't think she's ever taken a rest day, Elise thought with some disbelief as she re-entered the kitchen.

"Come here, Elise!" Cara yelled over the din of the kitchen at its busiest time of day. She was, at the moment, stirring a pot while shouting instructions to Elise, and chopping carrots all at once. Not only did she not like to waste time, she did not like doing only one thing at a time. Because that would waste time.

"Yes Mama," Elise nodded dutifully. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and nearly skipped to the pastry chef, who was looking nervously at an endless amounts of empty crusts ready to be filled with custard and fruit. He was probably worrying about what kind of arrangement of berries would most please the king's eye. Too bad the only kind of fruit arrangements the king would be looking at would be on Madam Seville's chest.

"I think that the strawberry should be sliced finely and arranged like a fan," a voice said from behind her.

The chef jumped slightly and turned around to face the owner of the voice, Prince Marcus, before bowing slightly and wringing his hands with worry. The chef glanced nervously at the baskets and baskets of fruit, and then back to the prince who was looking a bit bored already. Shortest attention span ever, Elise thought, Our kingdom is doomed. Marcus ran a hand through his unruly hair and grinned at Elise, much to her displeasure.

"Lawrence, I'm sure the king will love whatever you make," she told him, putting a hand on his shoulder.

"Oh I wouldn't know about that. Father's been testy lately," Marcus shrugged nonchalantly, "Bad dessert might throw him over the edge."

Lawrence tensed up again so Elise cut in, "But nothing you make is bad, so don't worry about it."

"Elise, you shouldn't sugar up the truth to protect someone's feelings," Marcus grabbed her hand, leading her away. "It'll eventually catch up to them."

She wrested her hand away from him, "There's a difference between sugaring up reality and telling them outright lies. You shouldn't scare him like that, he's nervous enough as it is." From the corner of her eye, she noticed Lawrence edging away from them, but she was distracted when Marcus spoke again.

"But it was funny," Marcus defended himself, chuckling.

"It was not funny and you know it," she pointed an accusing finger in his face, "Now if you'll excuse me, I have some work to do—unlike some people."

As she started to move away from him, he grabbed her hand again and pulled her back, chiding, "No, no, no, dear Elise. You seem to have forgotten who your future monarch is." He smiled devilishly at her, looking very much a handsome, dashing prince. It was just too bad that he knew that and used it for evil

"Your Highness," she said through gritted teeth, "Surely you must remember the code of conduct between royalty and commoners?"

Marcus frowned, releasing her wrist, "You know that doesn't count between us."

"Be careful. Keep talking like that and people will think I'm your mistress," Elise laughed and poked his chest. Actually, a lot of people already thought that, but there was no point in bringing it up with Marcus. All he would do would be to throw a very loud tantrum in the middle of court and that certainly would not accomplish anything. The big baby. "Aren't you going to get married or something soon? I hope you do, then you'll stop bothering me."

"That's the thing," Marcus groaned, flailing his arms about, "I just received a portrait of her today and I need you to tell me what you think about her. You're a good judge of character, right?"

"It's not good to judge by covers, your Highness."

"She also sent me a fifteen page letter."

"…Fine. I'll take a look."

Fred sucked on his teeth as he watched the two lovebirds leave. It always boggled his mind why the prince chose his sister over all the maidens in the palace. The prince certainly did not know what was good for him, as Elise was probably the most stubborn, loud, big-mouthed, girl who was prejudiced against the upper class.

"He sure knows how to pick them," Fred chuckled.

His mother appeared next to him, beating a bowl of eggs. "I told the prince to stay away from her. Only end up with a bunch of crying fools when it comes time for him to marry."

Fred sighed. "Well, they don't seemed worried about that. They've just gone upstairs to analyze his betrothed."

"That sounds like an odd activity for two people in love." Cara tapped her wooden spoon on the edge of the bowl. "That boy is just not quite right."

"Just a little bit."

They stood there for a moment and contemplated the two in silence. Cara blinked, remembering things she still had to do, and turned on her son. "Fred, where are those potatoes I gave you to peel?" Cara's voice rose an octave, boxing his ear with a free hand.

"Ow, ow, ow! Mama!"

Cara pulled his ear so he would lean down to her level, "What did I tell you about dawdling?"

Fred pouted and wildly gestured to the door. "How come Elise always gets to skip work?"

"Elise," Cara punctuated, "Is going to end up in a nice little estate some day thanks to the prince." She raised a brow at him. "So don't you worry about her."

"It's not fair," Fred said. "I almost wish the prince picked me instead."

In Elise's opinion, the prince's room was much too large for one person. It was at least the size of the entire servants quarters and only he slept in it. Quite unfair really. Then again, he was the one who had to marry the stranger for the sake of the kingdom, so maybe it was a bit of a tradeoff. Though she didn't come in here often, that would just add fuel to the rumors about her and the prince, it never failed to amaze her the difference in their lifestyles.

"That's her over there," Marcus pointed carelessly towards and enormous portrait propped up against the wall.

Her eyes followed to where his finger led and she let out an involuntary snort. The thing was ridiculous! Elise didn't know how he slept at night with that monstrosity staring back at him. For one, the huge canvas was framed by a carved golden frame that looked as though it was a mass of curls and leaves that caught light and glared it back at the viewer. The subject of the portrait probably looked lovely enough in real life, and maybe she really did look this way, but to Elise the Telethian princess's eyes looked far too large to be human. Her eyes were a clear blue that sparkled and were this not a portrait, Elise would be scared of some unholy power they had. The princess was surrounded by flowers that looked like they had simply burst out of their buds in fat colors and were about to sing. As for her face, it was flushed with strategically placed blushes on her cheeks and lips as if she had run out to the meadow and gathered all of these flowers herself. If Elise had been running around, she knew that her face would be beet red, not prettily glowing.

"Dear Lord," was the only thing she could utter. She was frozen to her spot, fascinated by the horrifically luscious image.

Marcus threw a sheet over it muttering, "All right, that's quite enough of that."

For a moment, Elise felt a stab of sympathy for him. Something she did not feel quite often because most of the time, Marcus was the biggest thorn in her life. Elise sat on a footstool and watched him stalk off to rummage through his things. Hopefully, it was the king of Telethia that ordered this, not the princess. Because if it was the latter, Marcus would be in for a long and frightening marriage.

"Ah, here it is," Marcus said. He dropped a rather thick stack of paper with thousands of lines in tiny, looped script on her lap.

Elise stared at the rather heavy letter and commented, "Well, it looks like she's pretty interested in you. None of the others have even bothered to write." She leaned over and examined the letter.

"I'd really rather have not had the others send me letters," Marcus sighed. He flopped down on his bed and propped his hands behind his head. "I get enough letters already."

"Which you don't read anyway," Elise rolled her eyes. Every literate girl in the kingdom who could afford ink and paper wrote to him. After the initial gloating, Marcus had grown bored with them and stopped receiving them all together. There was a huge pile in the kitchen that was used for kindling. I would pity them, if they were not so empty headed as to swoon over Marcus, Elise thought.

Elise's gaze drifted towards Marcus, who was now doing his best impression of a log. His eyes were closed and that insufferable expression of arrogance had melted away, leaving him looking quite pleasant. Thick, dark lashes lay curled against his high cheekbones, hiding clear gray eyes behind them. By many standards, he would be considered handsome. Why do some people just have it all? She sighed.

Deciding to ignore the cruel joke on humanity, Elise turned her attention back to the letter from an obviously dedicated princess. The first couple of pages didn't seem to bad, actually. Georgina, the princess, talked about the duty to their kingdoms and the tragedies of war. She seemed to understand enough that it was her duty and was mature enough to accept that. Then it was downhill from there. The rest of the letter seemed to be talking about her own beauty and how well it would match with his and how they would create the most beautiful royal family in the history of beautiful royal families. Elise had the sneaking suspicion that the portrait was the princess's doing. Well, I feel a little bit sorry for him now, she conceded. Elise looked to Marcus again, only to be surprised by him staring right back at her in a disconcerting manner.

"What?" she asked, trying to still her heart.

Marcus shrugged, "Nothing." He flopped back down on his bed. "Well, what do you think of her so far?"


"And you wanted me to marry her."

Elise put the letter down on a nearby table to cross the room. She seated herself at the edge of his bed. Marcus turned to his side, propping one hand behind his head so he could see her better. "Well?"

"Oh I don't know," Elise finally said. "I just keep hearing that there's going to be a war if you two don't marry."

"See, that's just that thing," Marcus said. "Why can't we solve this without marriage? I mean, is that little piece of land really worth it to compromise my happiness?"

Elise arched a brow, "Your Highness, I am but a lowly servant. What do I know of politics?"

"You're no help."

"On the contrary, I am the help," Elise giggled.

Author's Note: Well, here it is. My retelling of the Little Mermaid, but not the Disney version of it. It's like a twisted version of the original. I'm really excited about this and I hope that people will find it interesting. I haven't really seen retellings of the Little Mermaid, well, I have once, but that was it. But mostly I see Cinderella. Why does she always get the spotlight? Elise is actually a character from the original story that I've warped into something else. She's actually the character you hated because she stood in the way of the prince and the mermaid. The character of the mermaid comes in a little bit later and I really like her despite being…well…you'll see. She's not mean or anything, don't worry. I really do appreciate reviews, they make me happy and want to write more because of the feedback I get. Always looking for a beta. As you can clearly see, I am only an amateur. I'll try to be frequent with updates to the best of my ability. Thank you!