Princesses are always supposed to be rescued by a prince. That’s how the story always goes. And it goes that way for a reason, yes? No one wants to see the princess end up with some ugly bandit or frumpy innkeeper. Princes are ideal. They’re daring, brave, strong, and future kings. If nothing else, they can secure a good future for their princess bride. Everyone wants the princess to end up with the charming prince.
Especially the princess.
Believe me, I’d know.
I’m the princess, after all.
At least, in this tale I am.
Though, I never would’ve suspected I’d end up with a wolf.
Honestly, I don’t understand it. Still, to this very day, it baffles me.
How on earth did this wolf get past the dragon?
If I had known he was a wolf, I wouldn’t have escaped with him. But the cheeky bastard kept his helmet over his head and his tail tucked into his pants the whole time.
“You seem putout princess,” he said as we settled into camp for the night.
“I am,” I replied instantly.
“Oh? Then tell me, what ails you?”
His tone was genuine enough, but he was still a wolf.
“I’m supposed to be rescued by a prince, not a wolf,” I told him flatly.
My words didn’t wound him in the slightest. It was maddening. Instead, he’d merely smiled at me, like how one would smile at a pouting child.
“Oh, but princess, I am a prince. I am Kopa, Prince to the Wolves of the Sorrow Wood, the largest wolf pack in known existence,” he announced grandly.
As if any of that would have meaning for me.
“Yes, well, prince you may be to your kind, but to my kind, you are nothing more than a wolf,” I told him factually.
The wolf actually had the gall to throw his head back and laugh, genuinely amused.
When he was done, he smiled at me, still clearly enjoying himself. “Well Princess Rhea, I don’t think it much matters, as the deal went: whoever rescues the princess gets to claim her. Frankly, you’re lucky it wasn’t a skunk that saved you. Or a snake.” He made a face as if the thought disgusted him.
I wondered: if he looks this human, would the snake? The only telling signs that Kopa was something other than human were his wolf ears and his wolf tail. Other than that, he looked like a human man.
If I was being honest, I’d say he looked like a rather attractive human man. Actually, if it weren’t for the wolf factor, he might even make a fine suitor.
“How did you get past the dragon?” I asked again.
He shrugged in response.
“If you don’t tell me, I’ll think you cheated,” I warned.
He laughed again, that wry grin sticking to his face. “Even if I do tell you, you’ll think I cheated. Nothing I say will convince you. That’s why I won’t tell you. Until I’ve shown you who I am, I’ll keep you in the dark.”
Frustrated, I said, “That’s not very fair.”
Chuckling under his breath, he said, “Most things aren’t. Being judged for being a wolf for example. Just because I’m a wolf, that automatically cancels out any chance of me being a good man? Of making an excellent prince? Don’t you think that’s rather unfair, Princess Rhea?”
Put out, I simply made a noise that conveyed my frustration. Kopa merely smiled gently in return.
Looking back, I’m not quite sure why he put up with me. Frankly, I’m not sure why he still does.
That night, we’d fallen asleep in the mouth of a cave. Kopa insisted we go no further inward as a bear was hibernating. Though the beast most likely wouldn’t mind us using the front of its home peaceably, it’d be rather upset if woken up.
Sometime in the night, I woke up after having a nightmare.
Surprisingly, I found myself alone.
“Kopa?” I called quietly, but tentatively, into the night.
After calling a few more times without response, I realized:
This was my chance.
I remembered which way we’d come…
I could go back. I could go back to my tower and await a real prince’s rescue. I could go and pretend this never happened. I wouldn’t have to marry a wolf.
Renewed, I quickly gathered a few things and took off into the night.
It wasn’t long before I came across a group of bandits.
It would be improper to repeat all of what they said, so I’ll just say their intentions were not good. What they planned to do was pretty terrifying, and then, when they were done with me, they were planning on selling me off.
I turned to run, only to be stopped by a man.
Looking up, I saw it was no ordinary man.
It was a half-beast.
Fur covered the face. Glowing orange eyes spoke of rage and disgust. Hairy, clawed hands rose up to steady me as I bounced off the massive muscles underneath the creatures clothes.
Wait. Are these… KOPA’S CLOTHES?
Yes. They were.
The beast before me was a wolf.
Settling his gaze on the men, he snarled, lifting his lips to reveal rows of maliciously sharp teeth. I’d never seen anything quite so menacing.
“Who dares lay such a rough hand on such a precious creature?” he snapped.
The bandits all began backing away, drawing their weapons.
A rumbling grew in Kopa’s chest. Rising, it filled the air and wholeheartedly took over the atmosphere.
“Reach for her again and you’ll lose more than you’ll gain, understand?”
The bandits all nodded.
Roaring thunderously, Kopa boomed, “LEAVE MY WOODS,” and the men fled into the night.
And that was it.
It was over.
The men vanished.
It was silent in the woods. So silent that all I could hear was my pounding heart and Kopa’s heavy breathing.
“Princess, are you alright?” he asked once we’d both quieted some.
Cautiously, I nodded.
“I… I didn’t mean to scare you…” his voice trailed off. He cleared it and said, “They’re gone now. And I won’t harm you. You’re safe.”
When I looked back up at him, his face was normal. Human-like. The only traces of the beast were his ears and tail again.
Clearing his throat once more, he stepped back, giving me space. Though his hands were still a bit outstretched, ready to catch me if I felt faint.
“Who… who were those men?” I asked.
Kopa’s eyes followed after the invisible trail the men had taken. “Suitors, I think. I saw them outside of the dragon’s lair the night I rescued you.”
The information shocked me. In fact, it frightened me. To think that such cruel men were intending to rescue me.
My legs went weak.
Instantly, Kopa’s arms went out, steadying me. “Rhea, are you alright?”
His voice was filled with nothing but concern.
I nodded. “I will be.”
Once he was certain I could stand alone, he dropped his arms to his side.
I can’t help but feel that something changed in his expression as he did. It wasn’t the type of expression he usually wore, I knew that for sure. All day, his face was light, uplifted, amused. Something positive. But I saw none of that in his face when he let go of me.
“Right,” he murmured. “I suppose I should take you back then.”
“Take me back?”
“To your castle. The dragon will keep you safe from those types of men, I assure you. He is a noble dragon, a smart one. A truly good judge of character. He will not let you be taken by those sorts of monsters.”
His words confused me. Dumbfounded, I asked, “But… why?”
Kopa’s eyebrows knit together a moment, confused as well.
He tilted his head–rather doglike–and said, “You just saw my wolfish form. The most monstrous side of me. I don’t think I’m horrifying in this form, nor in my wolf form. But my half-beast visage is quite appalling. I should think that the idea of being married to me disgusts you now more than ever. Most people don’t get over such an encounter.” His voice was so sad as he spoke. Completely hopeless. Honestly, it hurt to hear such words spoken with such conviction. But he wasn’t done speaking.
“My intent was to get you to see my good side before you saw my bad. Perhaps then you wouldn’t have minded my wolfish side. It seems fate had other plans though, and it must be because fate has other plans for the both of us. I won’t marry someone who doesn’t have the capacity to love or respect me. It would be a rather disagreeable arrangement for both of us. But, I don’t intend to leave you here alone. As I said, the dragon will take care of you, so I will leave you to him.”
I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.
Kopa was being deadly serious.
Here he was, the man–er, well, wolf–who rescued me twice in a fortnight and he was suddenly abandoning me for such a silly reason? For such a frivolous insecurity?
I wouldn’t have it.
Not from the man who saved me from beasts.
As I wound up to tell him off, to inform him I would be going nowhere near that old castle, to warn him of what kind of suffering would await him if he thought I could be swayed by something so trivial, to explain how ridiculous that notion was, I realized it.
Perhaps I liked this wolf.
This wolf who was also a prince. This wolf who was actually more prince than wolf. More man than beast.
Perhaps I was wrong.
What kind of prince does a wolf make, I wonder?
What fate awaits me with this wolf prince?
I had no clue, but I intended to find out.