Dressed in plain ragged cloth, olive complexion darkened by the city's filth and the shadow of a beard beginning to form on his face, Prince Leopold Augustus Faramond IV resembled more a farmer's son rather than the heir to Phareasia's throne.
It was a disguise of course, yet one he preferred to his royal silks and satins. The disguise enabled him to move about the city more freely without the stigma attached to aristocracy and, more importantly, without being torn to pieces by a mob of disgruntled peasants forced into poverty under his father's ruling.
Nevertheless, he still carried around enough coins to make the brothel owners' and innkeepers' suspect a high social standing; but they had seen many noblemen come and go, spawning more bastards than legitimate children, and had learned that silence was a gold mine. Each time the prince entered one of their establishments their eyes would twinkle, and in a hushed voice offer him the finest room and beverages.
This time he was in a brothel deep inside the city. He had rented a private room for the evening and was sprawled out on a mattress beside a whore who her owner had shamelessly bragged was the most skilled in all five kingdoms. Prince Leopold knew better than to trust a man who ran a shady business and saw Leopold as an overflowing bag of gold, but still she was one of his favourites and no doubt extremely beautiful.
Mæja, she had said her name was. Or was Marrika? Leopold could never remember the names of whores.
Rays of the setting sun crept through a gap in the curtains and glinted off her silvery hair, causing her to sparkle like a diamond. He traced a finger along her bare arm, so pale that he could sometimes see indigo veins running just beneath the surface of her skin.
"As white as the day I bought her in the Northern lands," her owner had proclaimed proudly when he had first shown her to him. Leopold could understand the unspoken implication in his voice, that when she wasn't with a customer she was confined in the dark cellar below the brothel.
Leopold was repulsed by the pompous brothel owner who's breath always reeked with the heavy scent of tobacco, but cared little for the treatment of the whore who lay next to him.
Never get too attached to a working wench, he had once overheard a lord say as a young boy, or you will end up paying for a bastard you are not certain is yours. Leopold wasn't sure if or how many bastards he had fathered in his nineteen years.
He felt soft fingers brush against his cheekbones. "So sharp," he heard the whore say in an accented voice untouched by the years of living in the south. "Like glass." Her hands moved upwards so that her thumb could glide over his dark brows. "And your eyes... just like emeralds."
There was a pause. He had hoped that was her done talking, so that her mouth was free to do other things, but she continued. "Are you Slythonian, m'lord? I once served a man from there and he had eyes as green as yours, and the same thick black hair."
"My mother's family was," he said truthfully; he saw no point in lying unless necessary. "I was born here."
He had meant for their conversation to end there, but like most whores she didn't know when to stop talking. "You must look like your mother then. What was she like?"
He pulled her hand away by her wrist, disentangled his legs from hers and sat up.
"Have I done something to displease you, m'lord?" She asked, her voice was steady but there was a subtle undertone of dread. If she had done anything to upset her master's high paying customer she would be punished, even if it meant temporarily blemishing her flawless skin.
Before Leopold could respond, the door swung open and a knight stepped into the room. The lion emblazoned on his armour and garnet cloak identified him as one of the king's guard. Leopold cursed, grabbed his nearby discarded clothes and tried to escape through the room's only window.
"Halt young prince," commanded the knight, seizing Leopold by the arm.
"Unhand me this instant!" He yelled at the knight, yanking his arm from the knight's grip. More knights entered the room, all of them part of the king's guard.
"You are required in court at once on a matter of urgent business," the first knight spoke again, his voice no less forceful.
"Very well. Now leave this room and I shall follow you out in a minute." When the knights hesitated he added,"so that I may dress in peace."
The king's guard exited the room, leaving him alone with the whore. "You're Prince Leopold Faramond," she said, staring at him incredulously.
"Prince Leopold Augustus Faramond IV," he corrected her, pulling on his clothes as fast as he could.
"I slept with the prince," she muttered to herself, gathering up the bedsheets to hide her naked body.
"Little use in covering yourself," he told, now fully clothed. "Nothing I have not seen before." She blushed and with that he walked out of the room.