Dear readers, tonight with us is the heir to the Throne of Men — but that doesn’t matter anymore since all humans have been enslaved. She is here to tell us about the immortal overlords, about drug addiction, and about fighting to save the world her addiction makes her susceptible to every evil enchantment.

Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I didn’t get out much. Well, not that I didn’t try. Anastasia was always trying to find ways of keeping me occupied in our little forest cabin. She did have a point there. When you’re supposed to be dead it’s best not to draw attention to yourself, but why not interact a little with your people, even if they’re all slaves?

Where was I? Oh, I grew up in the forests around the Freand estate, a sort of mini village owned by one family and the home of hundreds of slaves and their Curae guards. It wasn’t the most exciting childhood, but the occasional visit to the slave tavern for cards and a drink (maybe don’t mention that bit to Anastasia – she’s my guardian – please?) made things a bit more interesting. I always had to pretend to be a slave to blend in, which was no fun at all, but it was for my own safety.

Did you have any favorite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Anastasia worked hard to provide me with little toys here and there, but that didn’t happen often. I would make dolls out of grass – that sounds pathetic now that I say it out loud.

But I suppose … it was nice when Anastasia would brush my hair in the evening. I always complained, but I also always slept better when I’d let her do it.

What do you do now?

I’ve wanted to travel since I was a child. I know it isn’t safe, but I can’t help it. I devoured any books Anastasia ever had the chance to get me, but geography was always my favorite. There’s a whole world out there, and now that Prince Ewan has come to find me and is taking me to Ephaniest? I mean, that’s the main port city for all Verdania! Though, I hope the smell of fish isn’t as bad as the travel accounts claim …

Though, if I were to answer more seriously, I’m scared. I only agreed to this expedition because my companions know I’m scared and that I might not decide to rise to my throne. Asking someone to pick a fight not even their parents’ could win is a big request. Ewan’s told me repeatedly that it’s my choice … I just hope I don’t choose wrong.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

We haven’t gone very far yet. I never knew a forest could be so large. Though, we did come across a Curae outpost the other day and … I can’t help but shudder thinking about it. I’d really rather not describe what happened, if you don’t mind. Suffice it to say it left me sick and even more terrified than I was before. Time will tell if going on this journey was a mistake.

What did you first think when Ewan approached you?

The short answer is that I passed out.

The only times of my life that’s ever happened is when I got particularly drunk or took a bad beating. But when Ewan gave me that letter from his father … I just couldn’t believe it. How could he ask me to challenge the high king? He’s in charge for a reason, mostly because he has magic and murdered Ewan’s and my parents and the rest of our family. This mission is probably suicide, but when Ewan talks about it … I want to believe him. He’s so confident and it’s contagious.

What was the scariest thing in your adventures?

The whole damn business is scary, thank you very much. Though I didn’t particularly like being attacked and then magically healed by a torture spell. Anastasia promised I’d be all right, but if she’s wrong … let’s change the subject, please?

What is the worst thing about joining Ewan?

I know I said I was excited to travel, and I am, but the process so far has been less than fun. My feet ache constantly from walking hours on end, and the heat has been dreadful. Ewan promised it will be cool when we reach Lake Tresbeaux, and when we get to Mansantha, he said we’ll get horses and I’ll learn to ride!

What is the best thing about it?

I feel like my life is finally starting. I get to see beyond my own little home for the first time ever. It’s exhilarating!

Tell us a little about your friends.

Anastasia Terthsemane, former warrior of King Alexander of Verdania, Ewan’s father. I know that makes it sound all official, but if you asked her, you’d be lucky for her open up at all. I’ve spent years trying to figure out who she was before she took charge of me as a three-month-old infant, but she won’t say anything except that her family is dead and she promised to take care of me. I know it’s unkind to keep asking, after all, the memories must be pretty bad to not want to share them with anyone, but sometimes I feel like I don’t know her at all. If a stranger started telling me things about her, I’d have no way of knowing if they were true.

The other slaves in the village talk to me sometimes, especially the tavern keeper, Bernard, but it’s hard to open up when I can’t tell them who I really am. Not that I ever wanted to. I don’t want to imagine the look on their faces if they knew they were playing cards with the Princess of Men.

I guess Ewan and I are friends now. We have a similar past, and he’s been so kind to me, even though I’ve been nothing but trouble since he found me. I wish I could remember something of our first encounter, though I probably never will, I was the worse for beer at the time. I hope we’ll get to know each other better as the days continue.

Then there’s Gabriel, Ewan’s manservant. We’re not friends, I can tell he hates me. I’m probably a huge disappoint of a lost princess, but that’s hardly my fault. No one told me what would happen one day. I just try to avoid him as much as possible, though it’s annoying the way he tries to flirt with Anastasia. Actually, it’s sort of pathetic.

Any romantic involvement?

I kissed a boy or two while at the tavern. Just because they were slaves doesn’t mean they couldn’t be handsome!

Why do you ask? I mean, I can’t deny Ewan is handsome, but there’s bigger things going on here! Can we move on, please?

Whom (or what) do you really hate?

Leopold Ischis. The name frightened me since before I can remember. He was Alexander’s army commander, and the only Curae even close in age to him, over 800 years old. Now, Ewan tells me he’s different, like his body’s there, but his soul has been replaced entirely by magic. I don’t understand it, and I’m hoping I never have to.

What’s your favourite drink, colour, and relaxing pastime?

I read a lot, play cards etc. Ewan can draw, I wish I could! Maybe someday I’ll ask him to draw me.

What does the future hold for you?

Ephaniest, I hope. If I can summon the courage, I’ll formally join this little rebellion. After that … I can’t think so far ahead. I suppose on one hand I could find myself Queen of Men, but then again, I could also die.

Can you share a secret with us, which you’ve never told anyone else?

Only if you swear you’ll never ever ever ever tell Anastasia or Ewan. They can’t know. Well, not that there’s anything to know really … it isn’t a big deal!

I’ve used temeo. It’s this little green plant that helps relieve headaches and soothes you when you’re stressed. It really isn’t bad for you, the slaves do it all the time! I’ve only smoked it once or twice. Anastasia always acts scared or angry when it’s brought up in conversation, but she doesn’t know the good uses of it. Ewan did tell me it’s a key ingredient in magical spells, though I’m sure that’s just a problem if you do it constantly. Just to be safe, I’m stopping now, so it’s hardly a secret anymore. Not that you need to tell them, all right?

Margaret Gaffney is an American writer who specializes in stories that deal in the intrepidity of the human spirit. Her work draws on her love of history as well as myth. She has been writing since she was a child. Her first work, Of Slaves and Exiles, was accepted by All Things That Matter Press in 2020.

You can find Constance on the pages of Of Slaves and Exiles.

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