This is a story of gay romance. I'm a romantic at heart, and this tail doesn't have any sex in it, at least not graphically so. If that’s all you're looking for, do read my other stories, they have lots, but this one, well, for this story it just seemed better to leave those details up to your imagination.
I would also like to thank Rogers and Hammerstein. I'm not going to tell you why, but I'd like to know if anyone could guess exactly which Cinderella story inspired this. In fact, if you're the first person to guess, I may even do something for you. Good luck ;-)
The market place of the Capital bustled like it always did on a bright and warm day. The largest market in two kingdoms ride, the market place was always busy. The marketplace was always full of furs, buying, selling, and trading whatever they wanted. But today, today they took the time to watch the many street performers, or dance in the spring air to the sound of musicians. They did anything and everything they wanted, with out a care in the world. For this was the first true day of spring, and everyone was happy in the market streets of the Capital. The whole Kingdom sighed and enjoyed the first flowers as they bloomed across the land.
Well, most the Kingdom did. There are always a few people unable to enjoy the simplest pleasures of life. On this fine first day of spring day, one such fox could be found running through the market place, carrying a pile of huge packages in his arms, barley giving any notice to anyone at all, save those right in front of him. All of the people who worked in the market place knew who he was; and more importantly, who all those packages he carried were for. But few of them actually knew his real name, and fewer still knew how much he would have loved to be enjoying this day.
His given name was Alexander Tyburn, but of course no one called him that. In fact, no one had ever called the fox Alex except for his father; who the fox had dearly loved. But when he was eleven years old his father passed away. Since that day when the proud, but awfully kind man named General Tyburn died, everyone called his son Cinderwolf. That’s what everyone thought his name was. After all that’s what "She" called him.
You see; Cinderwolf's father was wealthy beyond the dreams of all but kings and the highest of the nobility. This meant that in his passing, he left a great deal of money behind, which was inherited by his second wife, a beautiful tigress, who he had married a few months before he was cut down by bandits near the emerald mountains. Such a huge excess of wealth left the beautiful tigress, now simply called "Lady Tyburn," with no reason to lift a finger to make any money, and all the time in the world to spend it on her daughters. Shopping was her lifeblood, her meat and drink, the only thing she ever did or thought about. Except perhaps getting her daughters married to some poor fool of a man. But on this particular day, she and her daughters were busy shopping.
The deer that ran the finest hat shop in the market place hated these days. Rebecca Bern dreaded the very sight of sleek stripes, all because of the tiger that now modeled her fourteenth hat before her. It was one of the most beautiful days of the year, and if it weren’t for Lady Tyburn, she would have closed her shop and been enjoying the market long ago. Rebecca wanted to throw the irritating, spoiled tigress out on her ear, but a shopkeeper can’t just turn away her highest paying customer, even if she does take forever to choose just one hat.
Not that the selection had changed from the day before, or the day before that. Of course, that hardly stopped Lady Tyburn and her daughters, Calico and Minerva, from stopping by and spending hours trying on every hat in the shop. Calico, a beautiful tiger like her mother, fancied a red-feathered number in the corner while her sister, a slightly heavyset panther, eyed her enviously. Rebecca watched, as if on cue, Minivirva snatched the hat from her sister, and placed it on her head and modeled it in the mirrors. Thus ensued the classic battle the two always fought, one that eventually led to twin cries of "Mother!" and a heated debate between all three felines.
Rebecca sighed, and wondered just how other shopkeepers dealt with her. Of course, every other shopkeeper would know who She was if Rebecca asked them. No one escaped Lady Tyburn’s attention for long. No butcher, no cobbler, no one owned a business and avoided her. She, with her entourage of children, could visit every single shop in the market in a single day. She always paid, usually a much higher price then anyone else would, but everyone dreaded her. She was rude, picky, choosy, pushy, had two of the most annoying girls in the whole kingdom if not the entire land for daughters, and to top it all off, she was rich. And all without lifting a finger. If you could please her, she would pay you two or three times what anyone else would, but it was the first part that was the trick. Her late husband had provided quite well for his family. It was unlikely such a financial and military genius had lived in all the lands since King Ezekiel had founded the current lines of kings and queens that had ruled the land with justice and peace for the last two hundred years.
Not that peace or justice ruled the land when Lady Tyburn entered a shop.
As three bickered amongst themselves, the bell above the door rang as a young fox dashed into the shop, panting. He set down a pile of packages, looked briefly into Rebecca’s eyes then around the room, and finally sprang to Lady Tyburn’s side to get his instructions. His eyes had said everything he had wanted to tell her. Something was wrong, and he was going to pay for it. Rebecca had seen that look on the poor fox’s face before, and it always preceded something Lady Tyburn was not going to like. "Well, what is it Cinderwolf? Where is the ham I sent you for?" Cinderwolf began to talk to Lady Tyburn quite quickly, and Rebecca tuned them out. She just watched the young fox and his stepmother. He was shorter then the tigress, but his sleek body belied his strength. His muscles did show through the arms of his shirt, in fact Rebecca thought, that shirt is far too tight for him. It's so ragged he had probably been wearing it for years. But it did give a very good view of the young fox’s frame. Sleek and slightly on the short side, he was muscular but not overly so. His legs were far more developed, but that was because the running he did. Rebecca watched Cinderwolf speak with Lady Tyburn, then as fast as he had come; he left again, the bell registering that he was rushing off to his next errand, tail tucked low between his legs.
Lady Tyburn rather visibly fumed as she modeled her hat. "Rebecca can you believe that boy, he didn’t even get the ham I ordered from Ricky, the butcher on Golden Pines? How could he have forgotten something like that? He probably went off to play with some useless friend of his. I mean really, Ricky always has a ham for me on Thursday. Why wouldn’t he have one today? Cinderwolf should know better then to make up such a story. Really Rebecca, can you believe the nerve of the boy?" Lady Tyburn turned half way round, batting her eyes beneath the feathered hat she wore. "Well, what do you think, Rebecca?"
Rebecca thought for just a moment, and smiled wickedly at the tigress’s back. "Oh, don’t be to hard on the boy, after all he is telling the truth." Lady Tyburn twirled to look at Rebecca with piercing eyes, her tail lashing. "What did you say?" Rebecca continued to smile, "Oh, don’t you know Lady Tyburn? Every butcher and baker in the city is running short today; the Palace Guards bought up everything that they possibly could." Rebecca suppressed her smile as she watched the gears turn in lady Tyburn's head. "They bought the very best of everything, paid in full, and carted it away to the palace early this morning." Rebecca watched as Lady Tyburn seethed before the full-length mirror, angry that Rebecca had known something she hadn’t. Not that her voice betrayed that fact. "And how, my dear, did you discover this little tidbit?" "Why, they bought my finest men’s hat while they were scouring the Market, and the Lord Chamberlain himself told me about it. The poor raccoon seemed very flustered."
"Well, did he say who he was buying it for?" "No, but it was that wide brim fedora you were admiring two weeks ago." Rebecca wanted to giggle in utter delight as Lady Tyburn realized just which hat she was talking about. The hat had been a black fedora, with a feather made out of pure silver, trimmed in a silver design by Rebecca own hand, a design handed down in her family for ages, and set with a single, small diamond on the front point. It had been made of the finest silk and felt, and had been worth more them the rest of Rebecca’s store put together. And that meant that someone in the royal family had bought it. Rebecca smiled as Lady Tyburn began desperately searching the store for something, anything that would match the hat she was now convinced the royal family owned. Rebecca just slipped the only hat that matched it under her counter, and watched.
Along the street out side the hat shop of one Rebecca Bern wandered an extremely handsome wolf. He was tall, with broad shoulders and his coat was a dark gray. His well-developed muscles rippled beneath his fur as he walked, peering into each shop, stopping at almost every booth and cart he pasted. He walked with a slow, steady pace as he wandered the market place, watching and smiling to everyone who passed him. He smiled as he walked, enjoying himself greatly even though no one seemed to notice him. Though that may just have been why he was smiling. He drifted aimlessly down the lane, stopping at the corner to just look across the small intersection there. He watched as a huge, royal purple carriage came down the lane at a trot. People dodged the carriage, knowing full well that it was unlikely the royal carriage would stop. The carriage was almost past the wolf when he saw a fox come racing towards the intersection across the street from him. His arms were full of packages, and the wolf’s heart jumped to his throat as he realized the fox couldn't see the carriage. He almost shouted as the fox slid on the cobblestones, trying desperately to avoid the carriage that he had just noticed. He tripped slightly, losing hold of all his packages. The carriage raced past, and trampling several of the boxes, but narrowly missed the fox.
Cinderwolf sat slightly stunned on the curb. He sighed, started picking up the packages, several of which were destroyed. "Are you okay?" A deep, male voice asked as someone came rushing across the street. Cinderwolf nodded slightly, and began to pickup the ruined pieces of the boxes. The person next to him began to help as he said, "Just like those royals, huh? Never watching where they’re going, not caring who gets in their way." Cinderwolf replied "Oh, it wasn’t their fault, I wasn’t watching where I…."
Cinderwolf trailed off as his eyes meet the big blue eyes of the wolf kneeling next to him. They were wide and filled with a spark of life that Cinderwolf had seen in so few people. His muzzle was just the perfect size for a wolf, not to long, and square in the jaw. A smile spread over the big wolf’s face, and Cinderwolf blushed as he stood up. He was thankful his bright red fur hid that fact as the wolf stood up, nearly a foot taller then he was. The wolf handed the boxes he had to Cinderwolf without a word as he just stared into Cinderwolf’s eyes. The wolf’s scent was powerful, and slightly exotic, which only made Cinderwolf more uncomfortable. The wolf was wearing only a vest and pants, and the vest revealed far too much for Cinderwolf’s liking. Cinderwolf stammered, "Um, thanks for helping me up, that was nice of you." He turned around, hoping to escape the big wolf’s gaze. "Wait, I don’t know your name." Cinderwolf turned a little, and the big wolf said, "I’d like to at least like to know who you are."
The fox stopped a few steps away from him. "Cinderwolf." The wolf looked puzzled, "Beg your pardon?" "Cinderwolf." The fox mumbled as he turned to look at the wolf. "When I sit by the fire to read, the cinders smug my fur, and I look like a wolf." The big wolf smiled, "Oh, Cinder, Wolf. That’s kind of nice, I like it." Cinderwolf blushed all over again, and tried to keep walking. As he did, he big wolf bounded past him and started walking backwards. "Tell me Cinderwolf, do you like the Market?" "I suppose so, everyone is nice enough." "What would it take for you to show someone one around?" "Who wants me to?" The wolf smiled, and Cinderwolf wondered where he got such a beautiful smile. "Let’s just say, a charming stranger." Cinderwolf swallowed, "Well, that would depend on how much they wanted me to." "Oh, they’d like that very much." Suddenly, the big wolf found out why most people don’t walk backwards. They tend to hit things. Cinderwolf jumped as the wolf backed right into a cart that was selling flowers, but luckily he didn’t knock it over.
The wolf looked totally shocked as he realized what he had done. Cinderwolf paused for a moment and stared at him, and then kept walking "I don’t think I want to meet this stranger, I'm not sure if I would like him. Besides, I couldn’t help him, even though I'd like to." The wolf was following him now, as he said, "And why not? You haven’t even met him yet. How do you know if you’ll like him?" Cinderwolf turned around, "It doesn’t matter if I like him or not. I have responsibilities, I can’t help him, no matter how much I might want to." The wolf blinked at the fox, "You’re not like most people, are you?" Cinderwolf felt himself loss his composure, and he knew the wolf could see the shock on his face as his black ears swiveled back and laid down on his red head fur. "What do you mean?" "I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to offend you." Cinderwolf shook his head, "No, it’s alright, its just that most people wouldn’t give me the time of day much less want to do something with me." The wolf looked rather shocked, "I’m sorry, I didn’t know." Cinderwolf shook his head, and turned away, towards the hat shop. "It’s okay. The people in the markets are not nearly as beautiful as the Market itself." Cinderwolf stopped dead as the wolf said, "But you’re very beautiful." Cinderwolf turned around, mouth barely open. Had the wolf actually said that? A hopeful look, if somewhat desperately so, graced the big wolf muzzle. Cinderwolf just stared at him, and stuttered, "Tha... thank you." The big wolf’s face lit up and he almost said something when the sharp voice of Lady Tyburn cut him off. "Cinderwolf! What have I told you about talking to strangers?"
The wolf jumped at the shrill voice of the tigress. Cinderwolf winced, and turned towards a tigress that was wearing so much fine clothing and jewelry that she looked like she had just stepped out of the royal court. Flanking her was a female panther and another tigress; both dressed just as lavishly. "I’m sorry stepmother." The big wolf started backing away, deciding that discretion was the better part of valor. "I hope I meet you again, Cinderwolf." Cinderwolf stared at the wolf as he backed slowly away from him, and then finally turned away. He glanced back every few steps to look at Cinderwolf though. Lady Tyburn glared at the fox before her as he watched the wolf leave, saying, "Well, hurry up with those packages, what do think, we have all day? Come along."
Cinderwolf watch the wolf for a few seconds, then raced after his stepmother. Had he stayed for only a few seconds longer, he would have been quite shocked as the wolf walked up to the Royal Carriage, the footman opened the door, and the big wolf got inside. The Royal Coachman then snapped the reins, and the carriage was off towards the palace.
A short while later, the wolf walked down a grand hall, a raccoon desperately trying to get him into a nice silk shirt. "Your highness, you have got to stop doing this. Disappearing into the town for hours at a time is simply far to dangerous." The big wolf, the crown Prince Christopher, stopped in the hallway as the royal chamberlain fumbled with the buttons on his shirt. "I was perfectly safe Lynal, and I had a wonderful time. I meet some of the most enchanting people…" The short, middle-aged raccoon finished buttoning the prince’s shirt and started on his sleeves. "I wasn’t talking about you, I was referring to me. I cannot keep lying to your mother; they have laws against that. Christopher just grinned as he passed the raccoon on his way to his parent’s chambers. Lynal rolled his eyes and muttered, "If he wants to kill me, why does he not trample me with his carriage and get it over with.
Tucking in his silk shirt, the Prince pushed past the purple curtain into his parent’s outer room, what they commonly called their 'Sun room'. "You wanted to see me mother" The Queen looked up from the chess match she and the King were playing, and in the sweetest voice anyone could possibly use said, "Christopher, darling were have you been, we were just talking about you." The Queen was a perfect chocolate brown wolf, with a slim figure and beautiful blue eyes. She was a stunningly beautiful wolf only just past her prime and looking forward to a long life of aging gracefully. The king, a slightly older wolf with gray fur didn’t look up from the chess game before him. "Your mother was talking, I was listening."
The queen shot him a look and stood up to hug her son. "We were just talking about how long it’s been since there has been anything happening around here, and I was saying you should do something with the people. Something were you could talk to your people, perhaps even meet some eligible young ladies." Christopher sighed. "Mother, we’ve been over this before." The Queen smiled, handing Christopher a scroll that said guest list on it. "Yes I know darling, but this time it will be different." She kept right on talking as Chris opened the scroll, "Just a few close friends, some acquaintances," Chris rolled the scroll out, letting it drop to the floor, watching in horror as it bounced several feet away before it stopped, "and every available girl in the kingdom." "Mother! You can not keep doing this to me!" The Queen turned to her son, and jumped slightly at the look on his face. The wolf handsome face had a mean glare on it. Chris was more then a little annoyed. "What? Max, what’s he saying?" The King looked up, and said, "I think he’s saying he doesn’t want to have another ball."
The queen waved her hand dismissively. "No, that’s not what he’s saying." She looked back at her son. Chris just glared. The Queen looked at her son with a slight frown, "Oh come on Christopher darling, one day soon you’ll be the ruler of the entire kingdom," The king muttered, "Not that soon, and it’s your move dear," under his breath, and the Queen glared back at him. She walked over and moved one piece. "Checkmate dear." The king blinked and put his head on his paw with a sigh. "Christopher darling, you are the Prince. You are going to have to get married sometime." Chris rolled his eyes, turned away and threw up his arms, "But I want to get married for love!" He looked back at them with a smile. "Like you did." The King stood up and hugged his wife, and they stared into each other’s eyes. You know the look they shared, the look of total happiness that passes between two people who have been with each other forever and still love it. The Queen looked at her son loving. "We know dear, but there’s nothing saying you can’t fall in love at a ball…" She trailed off and began shuffling through papers on her desk as the Prince sighed and stared at the sky. "They haven’t heard a word I’ve said." The Queen smiled at him. "Yes we have dear, but it’s hard to stop the ball once it's rolling." The king chuckled as the Queen laughed at her own joke.
Chris stared at them, "Mother, what do you mean?" The queen smiled sweetly at her son, "Well, I‘ve all ready announced the ball and bought everything for it. You weren’t here, so I couldn’t ask you. Besides, what would we say to the people?" The Prince growled, "You’ll say that you went behind my back, and your are very ashamed of yourselves." The King looked at his son with a stern but calm glare. "I’ve never been ashamed of anything in my life, and I’m not about to start now." Chris paced back and forth, totally annoyed. "But father," Lynal slowly slipped through the curtain, and said, "Um, excuse me, your majesties." "What?" The Royal family answered the raccoon as one, and Lynal jumped. "I couldn’t help but over hear, and I think I may have an answer."
The royal family all turned expectantly to the raccoon, who fidgeted slightly as the room full of wolves leveled their rather practiced glares at him to listen to what he had to say. The chamberlain might not be the biggest, bravest, or smartest person in the castle, but he did have fairly good ideas every once in a while. The raccoon cleared his throat and squirmed a bit. "Suppose the Prince does go to the ball," Christopher looked away. Lynal paused, coughing, and then said, "And suppose he does fall in love, then everything works out, but if he does not…" The Prince looked back at Lynal and blinked a bit, realizing what the raccoon meant with a smile. "Lynal, you’re a genius." He turned to his mother and smiled, "Mother, I’ll go to the ball, but if I don’t find who I’m looking for, then you let me look for love in my own way, without any interference." The Queen started to object with, "But, but…"
The King took her shoulders and said. "It does have a ring of fairness to it. All right son, but you’d better be ready for the ball tonight." Chris hugged his father and mother saying, "Thank you, I love you both." The Prince dashed off into the castle, and Lynal said, "Don’t worry your majesties, he’ll find some one tonight. I can feel it in my bones." The Queen glared at him, "He had better, or else." She tossed a pillow at him and the King and Queen shared a laugh as the heart shaped pillow with a hole in the center ringed itself around the raccoon’s neck.
Cinderwolf almost collapsed into the chair when he sat down. The very moment Lady Tyburn had got home the preparations had begun. They were going to the Prince's ball, and no expense had been spared, no corners had been cut. All the stops were being pulled out. His stepsisters, who stood in the foyer just outside the kitchen, were doing their final checks of every part of their outfits. They radiated beauty and temptation. Their coats almost glowed; their scents were perfectly accented by Lady Tyburn’s expertise with perfume, and their dresses… No one at the ball would be able to out shine them. Lady Tyburn herself was just as radiant, almost more so then her daughters. She was lecturing them one last time before they got into the carriage. "No remember girls, the Prince is looking for his wife tonight, and is very likely to choose someone he dances with, so Minerva, be sure not to step on his toes, and Calico, be very careful you don’t become to nervous. It would be a disaster if you were to sweat too much. It could ruin the scents I’ve made for you, and it might make your coat gloss run, and that would be horrifyingly embarrassing. Now, is everything ready?" Calico and Minerva looked each other over carefully, as Cinderwolf crept up behind Lady Tyburn.
"Umm, Mother?" Lady Tyburn sighed deeply and didn’t turn around. "If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times, Cinderwolf, you are to call me Lady Tyburn, even if no one is around, do you understand?" Cinderwolf mumbled, "Yes, my Lady." "Now what is it that you want now?" With a flourish she turned around to face Cinderwolf. "Well, well, well, what do we have here? Has the servant boy been playing dress up?" Cinderwolf blushed under Lady Tyburn’s wicked grin. "No My lady, I was just wondering if I could, umm, well, go with you this evening to the ball." The tigress smiled "Oh, Cinderwolf that’s almost sweet. Girls, look at your step brother." Minerva and Calico turned to look at their stepbrother. Cinderwolf had dressed himself in a beautiful suit and coat that had once been his father’s, and actually looked quite good in it. It was a dark black suit, and had the word "Tyburn" embroidered in beautiful silver letters on the right breast. "Oh, Minerva, look." Calico purred, "Look at the little fox boy, all dressed up like that." Minerva smiled wickedly. "Yes, his is, isn’t he?" Minerva purred, "But Cinderwolf," Minerva slide up behind him, and Cinderwolf felt a wave of fear wash over him. Minerva only purred like that when she had some evil plan. "Shouldn’t you be wearing a belt with this?" Cinderwolf nearly leaped out of his skin when he heard the tear. Minerva had taken her claws and ripped the top of his pants down to the hole for his tail, and Cinderwolf had to grab them to keep them from falling down. "And sister look," Calico purred, "there’s a thread loose here." Calico grabbed his shoulder, and Cinderwolf felt her twist her hand, hers claws tearing the jacket, and the sleeve of the jacket almost came off. "Wait, what are you doing, this…" "It is a lovely outfit Cinderwolf, but this shirt!" Minerva mock lamented, "Look at these tears here along the bottom!" As Minerva un-tucked Cinderwolf’s shirt, her claws ripped ten long gashes in the front his shirt, and Cinderwolf almost screamed as she did it, and jumped back from his stepsisters. As he did, Lady Tyburn reached out her claws, hooked into them into the jacket collar and pulled him sharply to the side, tearing it badly as Cinderwolf fell, tripped by his pants as he lost hold of them.
Cinderwolf’s fall took him entirely out of his father’s jacket, and he fell on his side onto the hard marble floor. The laughter of his stepsisters and stepmother made his face burn in shame, and he began to whimper as Lady Tyburn bent down to him. "Now, now, Cinderwolf, don’t cry." Her voice dripped with false sympathy as she crooned, "It’s not that bad, after all, your sisters are right, you can’t possibly go to the party wearing such rags. But don’t worry, there was no reason for you to go to the ball anyway." She patted his rump, and Cinderwolf’s tail tried to bury itself between his legs, now devoid of pants as his stepmother dropped his father's ruined suit coat on over his face. "After all, the Prince just isn’t interested in your type, anyway."
Cinderwolf lay there trembling in shame as the three laughed uproariously, their beautiful gowns swirling around them as they turned, leaving the house for their waiting carriage and their magnificent ball.
When they were gone, Cinderwolf crawled on his knees into the kitchen nearly in tears, lying against the warm stones of the old fireplace his father had built when he had first built this house, all those years ago. Cinderwolf clutched his father’s jacket, now in tatters, to his face, weeping softly to himself. "Why? Why do they hate me father? Why did you make me promise to stay with them? To take care of them? Why? Why did you leave me? Why? WHY!" Cinderwolf’s words broke down into sobs as he began to truly cry. The cinders from the fire and the soot from the mantle mixed with his tears, leaving dark black streaks across his fur, and then onto the once beautiful coat his father had left him. When Cinderwolf saw the stains his soot soaked tears were leaving, he began to cry even harder.
"What makes you think he left you?"
The voice made Cinderwolf stop crying, sniffling as he listened. The words had sounded as if they had been made by a thousand whispered voices. Cinderwolf looked up slowly, to see a man, an actual human, leaning down next to him. With a startled yip, Cinderwolf tried to scramble away from the stranger, but tripped, and fell to the floor again. Cinderwolf put his head in his hands and began to cry all over again. The man closed his eyes, sighing as he gathered the crying fox into his arms.
"Hush Cinderwolf. It’ll be all right. I PROMISE".
Cinderwolf buried his head into the man's chest, and burst into tears all over again, crying hard for the first time in a long while. The man, who’s perfectly white suit remain untouched by the black soot covering Cinderwolf’s fur, just held the trembling fox and whispered soft words of comfort to him. Eventually, Cinderwolf’s tears slowed, and he began to look at the man who held him. His arms were strong, and he held him comfortingly, but like a friend would. His skin was flawless, his light brown hair the only real color on him besides his deep blue eyes.
"Done?" Cinderwolf nodded numbly. "Good. It wouldn’t do at all to have you miss the ball because you were crying now, would it?" Cinderwolf blinked absently. "Ball? But, Who are you?" The man smiled, and let Cinderwolf go so he could stand. "Can’t you tell? He held up his hand, and specks of light and shadow rushed to his out stretched hand, turning into a beautiful black hat, a felt and silk fedora with a single feather made out of silver, trimmed in a silver design and set with a single diamond on the front point. Cinderwolf gasped, covering his mouth with his paws. "Oh my god. How did you do that?" The man smiled broadly. "Practice." He said it as a normal man would, with just a normal voice, and a broad smile. "Now come on." He reached down and helped Cinderwolf stand. "You have a ball to go to." Cinderwolf numbly stammered. "A ball? How am I supposed to go to the ball? And who are you?" The man walked a few steps away, and turned with a flourish as he placed the hat on his head. "Why, I’m your fairy god father silly." Cinderwolf blinked. "Fairy Godfather? But, I thought you were supposed to have a fairy Godmother." The man smiled, patting Cinderwolf's paw as he took it, leading him towards a chair, "Oh come now; don’t be so sexist. There are a lot of dreamers like you out their Cinderwolf. There just aren’t enough matronly old women to go around. Now, tell me, why were you crying?" Cinderwolf looked down at his torn and tattered suit and sniffed a little. "Because I’ve ruined my father’s favorite suit, and…" "Stop right there, mister." The man pointed a finger at Cinderwolf, and his features had grown stern. "You didn’t ruin anything. Your stepsisters did that, and you step mother helped them. You didn’t do anything wrong." The man sighed and pulled out a chair and said, "You never have," as he sat heavily down.
Cinderwolf stood rather stunned by the odd man before him. Looking straight at him was difficult, because his suit wasn’t really white, it shimmered with all the colors of the rainbow; it just did so brightly it looked like a brilliant white. Only the black hat and his smiling face were easy on the eyes. "What do you mean?"
With a chuckled the man said, "Why Cinderwolf, do you really think I haven't been watching you your whole life? I’ve watched you grow up, bounce on your fathers knee, learn to ride beside him on the young horse he gave to you, laugh in joy at his wedding, only to cry at his funeral. I’ve watched your step mother abuse you, sell your fathers gift horse and all you hold dear, giving away everything your father left for you, and slap you around and order you about like a servant." Cinderwolf hung his head in shame, tucking his tail between his legs. Suddenly, the man’s hands were on his shoulders, shaking his slightly as he said. "Stop it Cinderwolf. You’ve done nothing wrong. You were trying your hardest to please a woman who could never be pleased, who could never be satisfied. She did this to you, and you have no reason to be ashamed." A single tear worked its way down Cinderwolf’s cheek. "But why? Why did she do it?" The man smiled a sly smile. "Maybe she couldn’t stand how much better you were then her own daughters, or how much better your mother was then she is." Cinderwolf shook his head, and wiped the tear from his eye. "But I’m not better then they are." "Sure you are Cinderwolf. You always have been. Everyone who knows you thinks so." The man smiled softly again, "But telling you that is not why I’m here." Cinderwolf looked up at him confused. "What, what are you here for then?" the fox whispered softly. The man smiled, holding up one finger, "To make one dream come true. Now come on, the ball will be starting soon, and we have much work to do before it starts."
Cinderwolf yipped a bit as the man pulled him towards the main door, so quick and light on his feet Cinderwolf almost couldn't keep up. Once outside, Cinderwolf gasped in shock, his hands coming up to his muzzle as he stared at a horse that stood in the courtyard. The huge, chestnut colored mare was a gigantic Clydesdale horse. On it, was a brilliantly polished silver saddle, a beautiful sword hanging beside it, a large griffon shaped hand on the sword marking it as the sword once wielded by the lands greatest general, General Andrew Tyburn. Cinderwolf felt his eyes tear up, and he reached out to touch the horse, which looked exactly like the one his father had ridden as long as he could remember. "She's Mary, your very own foal. The one your father gave to you all those years ago, remember? The one your mother sold when he died, even though she didn't need the money. And yes, it is his sword." Cinderwolf stuttered as he pulled his soot covered paw back from the saddle, a single black paw print pressed into the saddle's side like a stamp. "But, but it was…" "Lost when he died, stolen into the night by the thieves who cut him down, I know. But you my boy should have wielded it after him, though I doubt you will ever draw it. Its just not in your blood."
Cinderwolf turned around, staring at the smiling man behind him. "How, why…" the man smiled, clapping his hands "As I said my boy, I am here to make a dream come true." He twirled his fingers, "Now, don't make me do everything, spin around for me." Cinderwolf ducked his a bit and turned in a small circle, gasping in amazement as his suit began to sparkle, the soot and ash disappearing, the tears and rents his sister's had torn disappearing, the silver embroidery returning to its former glory in an instant. Cinderwolf stared down at himself. The once solid black jacket was now black and embroidered perfectly with silver stitching, his entire outfit gleaming so beautifully against his bright, groomed red fur he almost glowed like his fairy godfather. Cinderwolf smiled as he stared at where the name Tyburn had once been. A beautiful crest, that of a griffon with sword and shield was stitched in beautiful gold and silver thread, and on the inside of his jacket, simple silver letters spelled "Alexander "Cinderwolf" Tyburn, beloved son of General Andrew Tyburn", where no eyes but his own could see.
"This, this is too wonderful to be true…" The man stood in front of him, pulling off the beautiful hat and pressing it between the fox's ears, where it rested perfectly, as if completing everything. "But it is, and you deserve it too. Now go, the ball, and the rest of your life, awaits you." The man smiled brightly, and his voice seemed to come from everywhere at once, a thousand tiny whispers. "And remember Cinderwolf, dreams are what you make of them." Cinderwolf gasped as the man broke into a million sparkling bits of light, fading to nothing, only a glimmering of magic lights remaining. Cinderwolf smiled, his soft clean paw patting Mary's side. The horse whinnied and nudged him slightly. Cinderwolf smiled, and climbed onto the horse, riding of like a prince into the night towards the castle.
When he arrived, servants took his horse, and Cinderwolf could hear the music playing in the inner courtyard, a happy waltz that would have the Prince dancing with some beautiful girl for sure. Indeed, the line to dance with the Prince almost stretched all the way out the grand archway but stopped just short. Cinderwolf heart sank. The girls were all bumping each other to move up, insulting and waving their fans, dancing a courtly dance all their own as they waited their turn. Cinderwolf sighed, walking past the girls towards the dance floor. He didn’t know anyone, he couldn't think of anyone to talk to, and if he stayed his stepmother would surly find out, and then he would be done for. Cinderwolf sighed, and looked up at the sky, dominated by the huge palace he had looked up to all his life. His dreams had all been for not. The castle could hold no happiness within its walls, at least not for him. He slowly turned to leave.
"Excuse me my lord. My lord?" Cinderwolf looked up a bit startled to find a raccoon standing beside him, dressed in the garb of the Lord Chamberlain. "The main dance is about to begin sir, you need to take your place please." The raccoon stared at him for a moment, and Cinderwolf realized it didn't matter. He out shone all the men, and many of the ladies in his beautiful suit and fur, and everyone would simply assume he was supposed to be here. After all, he looked like a Prince with the crest on his lapel. The fox smiled. He had come all this way; the least he could do was dance just once.
Cinderwolf took his first partner's hand, amazed at the fact that he actual knew how to dance this dance. The men danced in a pattern, and the ladies worked their way through the pattern, switching partners till they danced with the man in the center, the most important men falling later in the rotation. In this case, the prince was in the center. Cinderwolf smiled brightly at his first partner. They had placed him right before the Prince; in fact, he was in the center circle with the Prince himself. The music started, and the entire room began to move in unison, each movement calculated and fluid. Cinderwolf smiled, watching the tigress dancing with him stealing glances at the prince behind him. He tried not to chuckle as she almost flew from his grasp during a dip to get to look at the wolf. The dance dragged on, girl after beautiful girl dancing with him, barely noticing him at all. Cinderwolf wanted to laugh so hard he couldn't stand it.
Cinderwolf sighed, watching the bunny he was waltzing with stare over his shoulder, her emotions clear on her face. Cinderwolf smiled to himself, knowing full well the girl wasn't looking at him. She, like all the others, was feeling a mixture of lust, giddy delight, and pure terror. "You know, if you wanted to look at him, you could just ask." The bunny Cinderwolf was dancing with gasped and blushed as she looked back at his face. "I'm sorry, we're dancing, I shouldn't' be…" Cinderwolf raised his eyebrow and smiled. "Staring at a the handsome Prince dancing beside me?" The bunny just blushed a bit more. "Don't worry, you're at least not stepping on my feet to do it, like SOME of you girls have been." The bunny giggled, smiling for once. Cinderwolf smiled softly, "Now there we go, finally, a smile. To think I got all dressed up and hardly anyone has even looked at me." The bunny giggled again, "Well, you ARE dancing next to the prince. And the two of you do make an excellent center for the dance too. The prince in his sparkling white suit and black fur, you in this gorgeous black suit and fiery red fur, its almost to much. You both look like a matched set." Cinderwolf chuckled and smiled. "Why thank you." The bunny giggled and smiled, raising her head. "Though you must tell me how you got your fur to look that good" Cinderwolf flashed her a sweet smile "Practice." and they danced on.
The queen perked up suddenly as she watched the prince from the thrones that had been set up in the grand hall. "Did I just see him smile?" "No dear," the king replied dryly, "He winced." The queen looked at her husband and perked her ears, her eyes big. "A tiny little smile?" The gray wolf smiled at his wife, and nose bumped her. "Wishful thinking dear." The queen sighed, her face almost brooding as she watched the prince dance. "With so many beautiful girls here tonight, he has to find the one he wants." The king smiled and patted his wife's paw on the armrest they shared. "And if he doesn't?" The queen looked at her husband with a glare that slowly melted into a smile at the sight of his charming smile. She chuckled as her nose bumped her mate. "Then this ball will never end." The king chuckled and stretched his legs, his white suit shifting around him as he stretched out and got comfortable in his throne. "Then I don't think we bought enough food dear." Both rulers laughed heartily, much to the confusion of those near them.
Christopher carefully covered his yawn as he grasped the hand of the next lady he was to dance with. The wolf took the first step in the dance pattern, his shoe making a resounding clap as it hit the floor in time with every other man there. The wolf wanted to scream as he turned to the next doe eyed, sweet-faced girl, a bunny in a red dress, who smiled up at him and took his hands to dance. The bunny introduce herself, another name in the hundreds he had heard so far. The prince felt trapped, his suit itself feeling like a cage, as all the dancers ringed around him, every lady staring at him with hungry eyes. Chris repressed a sigh as the bunny complimented him on the suit, twirling with him just like all the others had. The prince closed his eyes for just a moment as she circled him, and he wanted it all to just end right then and there.
What he got was his foot stepped on. The prince winced, and sucked in his breath, gritting his teeth. "Oh you highness!" The bunny hissed through her teeth, trying desperately not to call attention to her mistake. "I'm so sorry! I, I, are you all right?" The prince nodded, "Yes, I am, but why…." The bunny blushed and dipped a bit in time with the dance. "I'm sorry, I was looking at the fox behind you. I really should have been watching you." Christ stared at her for a moment as she giggled behind her hand. "And here I just said those words to him about you. To think, I'm dancing with the Prince, just like I always dreamed I would, and I'm watching someone else." The prince's muzzle broke into a smile and he glanced up over her head as the fox whirled past behind her. Chris couldn't tell who the man was. He wasn't very tall, but foxes weren't generally, but he was absolutely beautiful, the black suit he was wearing perfectly tailored to his body, his fur a crimson fire as he danced, and his smile bright as he spoke to the girl dancing with him.
"My lord, do you know who he is?" Chris looked down at the rabbit dancing with him, her head turned so she could see the fox, her blue eyes flashing in the light as she stared at him. Chris swallowed, hoping his own eyes didn't look like that, "No, no I've never seen him before…" The girl looked back at him in surprise. "But you must! He has to be a courtier." The wolf nodded as the bunny gasped and smiled, covering her mouth with her hand. "Do you think he's a another prince? Come from one of the other kingdoms?" Chris nodded and looked over her shoulder at the fox, "He could be…" The Prince trailed off, his eyes draw by the grace the fox moved with, the simple way he danced, tailoring his steps to his partner's ability. The bunny giggled again, "A foreign prince in disguise, here to seek his own bride. How romantic." Chris nodded and smiled. "Yes, it rather is a romantic idea." The bunny smiled up at the prince. "Are you a romantic my lord?" Their arms rose between them, and the bunny twirled in time with the dance. "I would like to think so." "Then you must think this is so strange. Hoping to meet your true love tonight, not know who or where she might be. It must be strange, to be on the other side of this dance from all of us." The bunny made a sweeping motion with her hand to all the girls in line to dance. Chris smiled slightly. "Actually, I feel rather hunted." The bunny chuckled. "Yes, I suppose you would. Well, you can be assured, at least one of us isn't dreaming about you being their prince anymore." The bunny smiled as she looked at the fox, and Chris stared at her as she moved aside for the next girl. Chris looked right at the fox as he passed him, and almost missed the girl's hand watching his smile.
The dance went on for what seemed like forever, and Cinderwolf began to enjoy it more and more as the girls started to talk to him more. The ball was turning out to be quite fun. The prince however, wasn't enjoying himself in the slightest. Now, almost every girl wanted to look at the fox next to him. Chris sighed, his partner not even noticing. He was delighted to be out of the spotlight, he also couldn't stand not knowing who the fox was. There was just something about him, how he moved; like he was really enjoying himself, his luscious tail waving as he danced. The prince whined softly, staring at the fox as one of the girls began to fawn over him, and he rolled his eyes, trying not to think about the fox as he danced.
Cinderwolf grinned as the dancers shifted partners and an all to familiar face smiled at him, bowed, and took his hands. Rebecca looked absolutely radiant in her blue dress, her dark brown fur perfectly groomed. The deer was beautiful and a wonderful change from all the young girls who were even shorter then he was. "Hello my lord, my name is Rebecca." The deer smiled brightly at him, and Cinderwolf smiled back as he realized she didn't recognize him. "Well, I'm Alex my lady." The deer smiled. "What a lovely name, and such a lovely suit on a young man like yourself. This must be hand tailored." Cinderwolf nodded slightly and smiled. Rebecca chuckled and smiled "Sorry, I'm a tailor of sorts, I can never resist good craftsmanship." Cinderwolf chuckled a bit and smiled. "Its alright, at least you noticed, no one else has really paid attention to me tonight." Rebecca chuckled. "They're all watching the Prince I imagine. Shame, you're twice as handsome as he is." Cinderwolf chuckled and smiled. "Why thank you, though if you don't mind me saying so, aren't you a bit old to be courting the Prince?" Rebecca chuckled and smiled. "Far to old my boy, far to old. I'm just fulfilling an old dream. Call it a girlhood fantasy." The fox chuckled. "Well, dreams do come true they say."
Rebecca smiled at the shorter fox, enjoying herself. Every other young man had been so totally polite it was almost embarrassing. They all treated her like she was their mother. Rebecca chuckled. She was old enough to be their mothers she supposed. She stared at the fox before her as a look of pure terror crossed his features. "What's wrong?" The fox looked up at her, "It's… oh no…" He stared to the side, following someone with her eyes. Rebecca followed his gaze. The next girl in line was Lady Tyburn's panther daughter, Minivirva. Rebecca's smiled turned to an angry frown. The panther had defiantly NOT been behind her in line before. " Oh no, its one of THEM." The fox looked up at her. "You know her?" "Yes, all to well. It's one of Lady Tyrant's spoiled, useless daughters. You know them?"
Cinderwolf nodded nervously, and he could tell his face was a mask of fear. "Please, I can't dance with her, will you…" Rebecca grinned broadly, a slight twinkle in her eye. "Well then, we'll just have to escape." Rebecca turned and took the lead in the dance, their step carrying them effortlessly through the rings of dancers, away from his sister. Cinderwolf relaxed as they left the dance floor, and into a crowd of people.
Rebecca watched the dancers for a moment, smiling brightly as she stood beside the fox. The young fox looked up at her. "I thought you wanted to dance with the Prince." Rebecca smiled at him, patting his hand. "One prince is good enough for a life time I think." The fox chuckled, blushing and smiling at her. Silence hung for a moment, and then he spoke, a soft sparkling look in his eyes. "You know, I don't think I've ever seen you wear a hat." Rebecca stared at him for a moment as the fox continued. "In all the years I've know you, not once has one of your beautiful creations graced your head." The doe blinked at him for a moment. "Have we met before tonight?" Cinderwolf smiled again as he let go of her hand. "Many times my lady, many times, though I doubt we will again. I'm sure you will hear of my departure sooner then you think." Rebecca smiled as the fox turned away, his bright red tail held high, flicking back and forth like a great red streamer as he moved through the crowd, people parting before him like he was royalty.
Chris smiled, his heart skipping a beat as he heard the cords that signaled the changing of partners. Every time he switches dance partners, he got a good, long look at the fox that had for nearly an hour made him smile. The wolf's heart fell however when he turned and found his partner in the center ring was gone, and he was the only one dancing in the center now. He stared blankly as a beautiful, but slightly plump panther took his hand and began to dance with him. His eyes darted about, and his hands began to sweat. Where had he gone? Two hours of dancing right beside him, and now, nothing! Chris suppressed a growl as the panther danced close to him, rather blatantly holding her body against his own. His eyes searched the crowd, while he tried not to ignore his dance partner. Suddenly Chris spotted Lynal. The poor raccoon was fending off a lavishly dressed tiger's advances. With a quick motion of his hand as the panther turn away for a moment in the dance, he signaled to Lynal to somehow come closer. Lynal fought his way through the dancers, and he barely avoided being stepped on several times.
Lynal panted as he reached the prince, the dance partners just about to change. "Yes, your highness?" "Lynal, signal the band to stop playing, I…" Chris smiled as he hit on the perfect excuse. "I'd like to have dinner served." Lynal opened his mouth, shut it, opened it again, shut it, and then stuttered, "but, but you're majesty, dinner isn't to be served for another hour." "I'm aware of that Lynal, just DO it." Lynal jumped a bit, and bowed, moving off muttering about being youthful.
Cinderwolf chuckled and made his way through the crowd. The palace was nothing like he had dreamed. The people all eyed each other with a gentle rivalry, rather openly at times. It was nothing like the happy life he had dreamed of. The king and queen seemed different somehow, above all the courtly backstabbing and happier then most, but still. Cinderwolf turned his head a bit, finding himself at an exit to the great hall, on that seemed to lead to some gardens. He turned and walked through the arch, strangely curious, and in an instant, his breath was taken from him.
The beauty of the royal gardens was astounding. Huge rose bushes, beautiful trees, sculpted plants, and a dazzling array of fountains that glowed, even in the darkness, lay before him like a wonderland. The garden was beautiful, a maze plants, fountains, and intricate pieces of art that dotted the landscape that ended in a large stonewall. It was magnificent, beautiful, and above all, tasteful. Cinderwolf wandered through the garden in silent awe at the beauty around him. This was what he had dreamed of, the perfection he had expected of the royal palace. Indeed, the castle itself was wonderful, but nothing could stand before the garden he now wandered through. Cinderwolf ran his hand around the edge of a particularly large fountain to the side of the archway back to the ball. Slowly, he realized that the edge was carved into a mural, one that told if the rise of the queen’s ancestors to nobility and then Queen Constantinna’s marriage to Maxwell. The birth of Prince Christopher was the last stone picture, but there was enough room left for one more. The final stone had a small plague, stating simply "The Marriage Of Christopher and."
Cinderwolf closed is eyes, wondering just who the prince would fall for. He didn’t seem to be very happy to be at the ball. Cinderwolf had enjoyed the dance, but it left so much lacking. At first the girls had all been to done up and snobbish, too much like his stepsisters, not wiling to waste a second on him. Well, at least at first. Then, they slowly became nicer and willing to talk to him. He supposed it was because they were commoners, but still, few seemed to care about anything but the Prince. It had been two hours of irritating girls stepping on his toes, looking over his shoulder, and a few brief moments of respite in the storm. But this garden, this beautiful garden made up for it all. Cinderwolf turned and watched the tiny stream that ran through the garden, right into the castle wall. The little brook was fast, maybe a foot deep, and sparkled in the moonlight. Cinderwolf smiled as he noticed the tiny plaque on the wall were the stream emerged. It read, "Queen Constantinna’s Garden. Responsibility and Shoes Optional."
Cinderwolf smiled as he slipped off his new shoes, and marveled at how soft the grass was against his pads, and how smooth the path stones were. He giggled that the thought that the queen might actually walk barefoot through here. Looking at the stream, it was perfect if you just wanted to sit and dangle your feet in. "Dreams are what you make of them," his fairy godfather had said, and if the people in the castle were anything like what he dreamed of, this was the place they sat and read. So, without a care in the world, Cinderwolf sat himself down, and dangled his feet in the water. It was ice cold, but wonderful, and Cinderwolf sat quite content there, staring out into the garden, wondering what secrets lay in the maze of wonders before him.
Christopher put his hand on the arch towards to the garden. On of the ladies had said the fox had gone through it into his mother's garden. Chris breathed a heavy sigh, wondering if he would be able to find the fox before he moved on. He leaned against the wall, staring out across his mother’s garden. It was her childhood home, her favorite place, and a lifetime’s worth of work. But it was the most beautiful garden in all the land. He began to walk the tiny paths of smooth stones that formed the countless paths in the garden. Perhaps his mother had not grown every flower or planted every tree, but she had designed this place. Christopher paused as he caught sight of the strange fox. He was crouched next to the stream, next to the wall that encircled the garden. His tail twitched softly in the moonlight, the white tip almost glowing, and his eyes drank the garden's beauty, his fur nearly glowing in the moonlight. Christopher knew the small smile on his face all to well. He had worn it for so many years in his childhood as he explored the gardens. Christopher walked up behind him, saying, "Not much fun of a ball, is it?"
Christopher jumped as the small fox yipped in surprise, and jumped rather badly and with a slash, grabbed onto the wolf to keep himself from falling in entirely into the stream. Christopher quickly reached down and helped him stand, pulling him out of the small stream. The fox stood and looked up at him, standing so close that they were pressed against each other, and Chris felt a shiver run through him as the fox clung to him for a moment. The fox looked into Christopher's eyes, and Chris felt his whole body tingle. The fox's eyes were emerald green and he smiled as the Prince mumbled, "Are you all right? I didn’t mean to scare you." The fox nodded, "Yes your highness, I’m fine. You, you just startled me a bit." Silence hung for a moment, and then they both nervously stepped back. Chris rubbing the back of his head and ruffled the slight mane of head fur he had. "Umm… I didn't ruin your suit did I?" The fox chuckled and looked down at his legs, the pant cuffs just barely wet, though his paws were quite wet. "No, its fine. It'll be dry soon I'm sure." The wolf smiled, staring at the fox silently for a moment. Chris watched the fox look at him, his gaze following the fox's broad smile and slender muzzle to the tuft of white fur between the lapels of his jacket. "Well your highness, what did you need?" Chris wanted to panic, and his throat closed u, "Ummm… actually I was just wondering who you were… I feel like I've seen you somewhere, but I can't remember where…" The fox smiled, and Chris felt his knees go weak. "I doubt we've meet your majesty, I would have remembered that." Chris nodded nervously. "Well then, shall I show you around the garden, I mean, at least until you dry off a bit?" The fox smiled. "Certainly."
Cinderwolf began to walk beside the Prince, his shoes held behind his back. The prince walked a short way and said, "Well… this garden is my mother's… she started it when she was very young, when she was eight in fact. She helped the gardeners plant the first tress, well; at least she tried to anyway. She's put her whole heart into it, trying to make each and every plant special…" Chris paused for a moment, and the fox whispered, "It very beautiful." Chris stopped, turning to the sleek fox beside him. "You're very beautiful." The fox blinked for a second, and then smiled. "Do you say that to everyone you meet?" The wolf blushed and smiled. "No, no I don't say it much at all, I… I just couldn't let the chance pass by," Chris saw the fox's smile fade a bit, and he began to panic. The fox didn't feel the same way he did, "and I know what you must be thinking, that were both males, and I'm a prince, how could I possibly…" The fox looked away from him. His face was still and his eyes were closed, like he was trying to decide something, and then the fox took a small step towards the wolf, "You know what I was thinking?" Chris stopped babbling and stared into the smaller fox's eyes as he turned his head and looked up into his eyes. "I was thinking you look beautiful in the moon light."
The kiss just happened. Chris felt the fox's lips on his own, and his heart exploded in his chest, and he closed his eyes, feeling like that second lasted forever as the fox leaned up awkwardly, resting his paws lightly on his chest and kissed him gently. Chris let out a shuddering sigh, his lips begging for the fox's to stay as he pulled back and turned away a bit. Chris stared at him and whispered, "that was…" The fox turned, opening his eyes slowly, the green orbs flashing as he smiled. "Wonderful." Chris stared at him, smiling wider then he had ever before. Silence hung for a long moment, before the fox asked what kind of roses those pink ones were. Chris smiled, and the moment seemed to pass, but he knew something deep in his heart. The fox felt the same way he did, no matter what.
Chris stared over the balcony, watching the people below dance in the same pattern he had earlier. He was leaning against the railing next to the fox, talking to him about nothing. Words were being said, but they were nothings, and Chris could tell the fox knew it too. The fox couldn't say what he wanted too, not here, not now, and neither could Chris. Around them, people danced or talked in small groups. When they first got there, the girls had crowded around them, but they had just as quickly dispersed, as if they knew they didn't want to be disturbed. The prince could barely stand being this close to the fox, especially now that he knew. Chris wanted to grab the fox and kiss him deeply, show him how much he wanted him, right then and there, in front of everyone. But he couldn't. Chris tightened his fist and smiled at the fox as he asked silly, pointless questions just so they could keep talking. Chris leaned against the railing, close as he could to the fox, putting his hand against the fox's. His heart jumped as the fox put his hand on his.
His whole body jumped as his father said, "So, this is where you've run off to. Hiding up here amongst all the courtiers eh?" Chris blushed and turned to face his father. "No father, I was just talking to my new friend…" The queen smiled, "Really? Then you won't mind if I steal him for a dance then." The fox smiled as the queen took his hand and lead him to dance for a bit.
"Tell me young man, how did you meet my son?" Cinderwolf smiled as he danced with the queen. "I got stuck in line for the dances right before him." The queen smiled and rolled her eyes. "Oh you poor boy! If I had known I wouldn't have asked you to dance. I remember what it's like being in that spot. Everyone looking over your shoulder…" Cinderwolf smiled, "and stepping on your feet." The queen laughed merrily, "Yes, oh heavens yes." Cinderwolf smiled "Though when did a lady like yourself get stuck in second place?" The queen smiled softly. "I was in a neighboring kingdom, and it was this same sort of ball, save it was for a princess." Cinderwolf smiled. "Well I'm sorry you had to go through it too." The queen smiled, glancing across the room to where the king and prince were standing. "Oh, don't be, it's how I met Maxwell."
"I'm going to stop her…" The king put a hand on his son's shoulder "Oh, let your mother have her fun. Besides, aren’t you supposed to be looking for someone?" Chris rolled his eyes "Father… please…" Chris stopped when he saw his father's smirk and realized he was joking. "I think your mother is finally realizing she can't keep doing this to you." Chris chuckled, but his eyes followed his mother as he danced just a few feet away with the fox. "What's she saying to him?" The king looked at his son for a moment, "What does it matter? She's probably just prying into who your friends are anyway." The king chuckled a bit as Chris said, "I only just met him…" "But you seem to be getting along so well." "I hope so…" King Maxwell stared at his son's face for a second, wondering.
"Oh how silly of me," the Queen said, putting her hand to her neck "I don't think we've been formally introduced. I am Queen Constantinna, and you are?" Cinderwolf chuckled. The queen was good; she was spying on her son's friends and being perfectly polite about it. "I'm Alexander." The queen raised her eyebrow. "Not Prince Alexander?" Cinderwolf laughed heartily, "Oh no, nothing so glorious. Just a general's son." The queen smiled as they danced, "Well that's nothing to sneeze at young man, though you must have really charmed the ladies tonight, they're all convinced you're a foreign prince." Cinderwolf chuckled and just grinned. The queen smiled as she danced. "Do I know your father?" Cinderwolf shook his head sadly. "I'm afraid you wouldn't your majesty, he's no longer alive…" The queen's face feel, "Oh I'm so sorry." Cinderwolf smiled softly. "Its alright, I keep his memory close. To my heart." The queen nodded and smiled softly. "Then what about your mother dear?" Cinderwolf glanced over the Queen's shoulder, pure dread washing over him as he spotted his stepmother heading straight for them. Cinderwolf felt his eyes dart back and forth as he looked for an escape, and took one. "I'm sorry your majesty, if you'll excuse me…" The queen gasped, a strange little squeak as the fox dashed from her side. The prince ran up to her. "What did you say to him?" The queen squeaked again as the prince dashed off after the fox. The king trotted up to his wife, taking her hand. "What happened?" The queen squeaked, and then said, "I don't know he just ran off." The king glanced after the two. "Well, he seems rather nice." The queen nodded, "Yes, perhaps a bit high strung." The king smiled, "Perhaps, but he seems to have left you without some to dance with." The Queen smiled. "I believe that’s how we first met." The king chuckled as he took his wife's hands. "Remind me to thank prince Forney for that someday." The royal coupled chuckled to themselves and smiled.
The Prince found the fox just down a corridor, just past the area designated for the ball. "Please, wait!" He called out, and the fox stopped, turning to him. "Please, whatever my mother said to you, I apologize, she's always…" "Oh no! She was wonderful, much better then my own is." Chris smiled, "I want to meet your mother, your whole family." The fox stared at him, a look of pure terror flashing in his eyes. "No, no you don't" Chris chuckled. "That bad eh?" The fox nodded, "Worse. I hope you never meet them." Chris blinked a bit. "Really?" The fox nodded. "Alright, but just as long as I get to keep seeing you." The fox smiled. "I wouldn't have it any other way." Chris turned, taking the fox's paw in his own large one. "Come on, let me show you around the castle, some place where no one will bother us." The fox smiled and almost bounced as he walked beside the wolf.
Cinderwolf watched the Prince's face light up. "You like books?" He said astonished. "No one else but my father ever goes into our library." The fox chuckled beside him. "I don't know why, its so big. There must be something there for everyone." The Prince chuckled. "Well, I think that’s most of the castle, I mean, well besides…" The wolf trailed, and Cinderwolf took both his hands. "Besides?" The prince swallowed and licked his lips nervously. "Well, besides my room that is." Cinderwolf smiled. "Well, will you show it to me?" The prince smiled. "I, I guess so."
Cinderwolf swallowed a bit nervously as he entered the prince's room. Was he really doing this? He looked up at the wolf beside him, his blue eyes sparkling in the lamplight. Did this beautiful male really, really love him? Cinderwolf licked his lips. "It’s a beautiful room." "Its nothing compared to you." Cinderwolf smiled a bit and ducked his head slightly, his ears circling backwards and lying down against his head. "You're just saying that." Cinderwolf mumbled and Chris just smiled. He had never seen anything so cute. The prince put his hand on the fox's chin, raising it so Cinderwolf looked him in the eyes. "No, no I'm not, I, I think you're the most beautiful person I've ever seen." Chris smiled and Cinderwolf put his paws on the wolf's chest softly, his black paws standing out against his white suit. Slowly, the fox leaned up and the wolf pulled him close, there lips meeting gently, the kiss short and tender at first, but neither pulled back, and so that simple kiss went on forever, and deepened just like their love.
For a moment, I am afraid I must put aside my tale, and speak to you plainly. Other tales and stories will tell you what happens next, but this one will not. You may envision waving drapes and grasping hands, and two bodies pressed close together all you like, but you will find none with in this tale, at least not so vividly described as it could be. This is because there is now real way to tell you what those to lovers shared that night. No way to describe the feeling of actually being with someone who loves you so much they would throw their whole life away to be with you, and still be happier for it. There is no way to describe that warm feeling of being wrapped in a lovers strong arms and held tight in the after glow of a mating so pure and heart felt that makes you wonder if it were all a dream. A feeling of perfect completeness as they kiss you, holding your body tightly against their own, or the sure knowledge that you will be forever safe in their arms. I simply do not have the words to tell you what passed between those two lovers, I can only hope one day you will know it yourself.
Christopher sighed, staring in wonder at the creature beside him. The candles around his room flickered as he lay in his bed, watching the male beside him, who he had just made love to so many times he couldn’t count. The fox lay beside him in his bed, his head resting on one of Chris's pillows, his arms pulled up against his chest. His white chest fur was ruffled, his eyes closed gently, his breathing was slow and steady. His black-socked paws rested against his chin, his bright red fur glistening. Chris smiled, just watching him. The wolf's brow furrowed as the fox began to twitch, his sleek body shivering as if cold. Chris's heart tightened as the fox's eyes tightened and he whined in fear. Chris slide closer to him, putting an arm around the fox as he squirmed in his sleep. Chris watched as the fox began to shake in his arms, as something he was dreaming of attacked him. Chris wrapped the fox in his arms, and he heard him gasp in fear. He felt the fox's short claws grip him, his whole body tense. Chris sighed as the fox began to relax, his eyes slowly opening as he leaned against his chest. The fox sighed, sliding his arm around the wolf's midsection. "Bad dream?" Chris whispered softly. The fox swallowed, pulling himself closer, cuddling into the wolf's arms. "Yeah…" Silence hung for a moment as Chris's hand rested on the fox's back. "What was it about?" Cinderwolf tightened his grip on the Prince's chest. "I… my family mostly…" Cinderwolf felt his heart warm even more as the prince hugged him, his nose nuzzling against Cinderwolf's neck. "You're safe now." Cinderwolf closed his eyes, burying his face into the wolf's chest fur. "I know."
Cinderwolf stared into the prince's eyes for a long time. He had rolled the wolf on to his back, lying on his chest as it rose and fell steadily as he slept. The wolf was… so very different. He had held him like a lover, and… Cinderwolf shivered as he though about how it had felt to have the wolf inside him, his body pressed close as he howled in pleasure. Cinderwolf wanted to smile, wanted the wolf to hold him against his body forever.
His eyes flicked to the window across the room, the sky slowly brightening. He shifted his weight off the prince's body, kneeling on the bed, his naked body swathed in the silks sheets of the prince's bed. He stared at the male who lay before him, a smile plastered across his face as he slept. Cinderwolf crossed his arms over his chest, trying to ward of the morning chill. He could feel the wolf's warmth as his leg pressed against his own, and Cinderwolf trembled as he fought the urge to caress the male and wake him. Cinderwolf closed his eyes, his heart aching. This was a dream he didn't want to wake from. He would do anything to be able to lie back down and stay there forever. But he couldn't. Like all dreams, this one had to end. He was going to have to leave.
The Prince loved him, Cinderwolf thought, he really did. He wouldn't care who he really was, a peasant boy who washed the soot from his fur and dressed up nice… but his parents would. Christopher was a prince, and had to marry a beautiful girl and have children, be a king with his queen. And Cinderwolf didn’t fit that bill. He hung his head; his red fur still shining like the prince everyone thought he was. Cinderwolf wanted to stay, here beside the one he loved, but he knew he couldn't. And if he didn't leave now, things would only become worse.
Slowly, Cinderwolf slide off the bed, gathering his clothes without a sound. He had to leave now, before the prince awoke. He didn't want to hear the prince beg him to stay, asking him to do the one thing no one else in the world would allow, and the one thing Cinderwolf wanted more then anything else. He pulled on his suit pants and the silk shirt, trying to find his jacket. He looked around the room frantically, unable to find it. His heart raced, and he felt his fears begin to rise. If someone discovered him here with the prince… but he couldn't leave his father jacket. He stared at the rising sun, at the wolf stirring in his sleep, and bolted when he heard a servant moving around outside the prince's room.
The prince woke with a start as Lynal opened his door and said, "Rise and shine your highness! You had better hurry to; your parents are none to pleased with your disappearing act last night. I… are you alright my lord?" Chris glanced at the Raccoon, his eyes desperately searching the room. The fox was gone. Just, GONE! Only his scent hung in the room, like he had just left. Chris pulled the fox's jacket from under his pillow, where it had been stuffed in their haste to be in each other arms the night before. Chris stared at Lynal, his eyes burning into the started coon. "Lynal, did a fox just run by you?" The raccoon blinked a bit, "Yes your majesty, but, I don't…" Lynal closed his eyes as the prince leapt naked from his bed. "Oh my…" he muttered, and he jumped and turned around as he felt the wolf rush past him, sighing a little as he realized the prince had taken the time to put on pants and a loose white shirt.
Christopher ran down the hall; glancing down every corridor he passed in utter desperation. Where could he have gone! The sound of a horse whinnying caught the wolf's ears, and his heart sank. Chris dashed to a balcony, looking out over the castle entrance to see a beautiful white horse, with the bright red of a fox on its back, ride through the castle gates. Chris's heart tightened and he balled the jacket and held it to his chest, trying to force himself to breathe. The fox had left. Just, LEFT! How could he have left! Chris heard the fox's words echo in his ears. "I love you." He had said those words with a look of pure joy in his eyes as Chris had held him in his arms, face to face, as they had lain knotted together in the afterglow of their mating. Those words had not been a lie, they had been spoken from the fox's heart and Chris knew they were true. Chris let out a shuddering breath, and he sobbed once before he heard Lynal come running up behind him. "You, Your majesty, I don’t understand, why did you run off? What is wrong?" Chris didn't turn to face him. "Where are my parents Lynal." Lynal jumped at the low, sharp tone of the prince's question. The raccoon stuttered, "They're in their sun room having breakfast…"
The prince stormed past Lynal, who dived out of the way to avoid being run down.
The king looked up from his plate as the prince raced into the room, and the queen was already on her feet. "Chris darling! Where have you been?" She voice only barely betrayed the worry she had been in when the prince had raced off the night before. "You know son, it's really not a good idea to worry your mother like this..." The prince just stared at his father, and Maxwell realized the prince was barely half dressed as he stared at the Queen. "WHERE is he? What did you do mother." The queen jumped at the anger in the prince's voice. "Chris? Are you all right? What happened…" The prince's voice was suddenly desperate, "What did you say to him!" The queen jumped badly. "What are you talking about Christopher?" she whispered as the prince tried to visibly calm himself. "Where did you send him, where is he?" The queen stared at her son as he took her hands. He looked like he was on the verge of breaking. "Please mother, just tell me, please, I need to find him…" "Do you mean Alex sweetheart?" The king watched as his son visibly stiffened, and tears began to form in his eyes.
Chris felt his whole body stiffen, and he watched his mothers face as he slowly began to cry. He realized he hadn't even known the fox's, no, Alex's name till that moment. Names hadn't mattered, not last night. Things had been too perfect, too wonderful for anything so small as a name to be important. Chris felt his chest tighten as he realized why everything had seemed so wonderful. He hadn't been a desperate prince searching for someone to fulfill his hopes and dreams. When he had seen Alex for that first time, they already had been. Chris's voice broke as he whispered, "Yes…" The queen put her hand on his shoulder, watching her son closely. "I haven't seen him since last night…" "But, but he's gone…" The queen looked down at her son's hands, taking the jacket from him. The price stared at his mothers face as it softened to her normal passive face, and he felt his heart tighten, his hands suddenly empty of the only thing he had to prove the fox was real. He watched the queen slowly fold Alex's jacket gently, handing it back to him. The prince shook a bit as she nodded, her face passive as she set the coat, lapel open in his arms, her paw patting the silent answer that lay there for him. With a whisper, she smiled at her son, "Then you had better go find him." A smile slowly broke over the Prince's face, and he stared into his mother's eyes, trying to find some words to thank her. In the end, all her could do was hug her.
The king watched the queen smile as the prince dashed from the room, almost bounding through the door. The queen turned and returned to her seat, smiling ever so slightly. "What was that dear?" The king asked as the queen began to eat again. She looked up at him and smiled sweetly as if nothing had happened. "Just our son dear." The large gray wolf took a bite of his toast, acting uninterested. "Oh? And what did he have to say?" The queen kept eating slowly, the servants around the king and queen slowly moving about their duties, waiting the explosion they just absolutely knew was coming. "He wanted to know where that charming fox he met last night was." The king took another bite. "Oh? Why's that?" The queen smiled behind her tea, "Because he greatly enjoyed his company last night." The king and queen chewed their food for a long moment, and the servants all froze as the king said, "In other words, he slept with him?" A loud crash made the king raise his eyebrows and looked sideways at a servant girl who had dropped a plate. "Yes dear." The Queen replied. "Well, I hope he makes Chris happy." The queen smiled as the servants all scurried out of the sunroom in a desperate sort of fear. "I think he has dear." The king and queen locked eyes with each other, slow smiles creeping over their regal muzzles as the king's finger gently tapped on the table, counting to five, at which point they burst into uproarious laughter together.
Cinderwolf slunk through the kitchen, gathering a bag of his things. He felt rather bad that of all the things his stepmother had bought over the years, most of which was utterly useless. He didn't care about anything but the things that reminded him of his father, very little of which still remained. He took everything to the stables, where he had hidden his mare after riding home in tears.
Lady Tyburn grumbled, seething as she stamped her way to the door. That fool of a stepson had disappeared, too ashamed to show his foolish face the entire morning. The tigress growled, but as she turned the knob and opened the door, her low growl turned into a beautiful purr. "Your highness," she bowed low, her slinky dress shimmering, "to what do I owe the pleasure of having your presence in my home?" The Prince smiled weakly. "I am on a search my lady, and I would greatly appreciate a moment of your time." The tigress led him into her home, cooing and purring as she introduced her two lovely daughters. Chris nodded, smiling politely till he saw an opening in Lady Tyburn's unending stream of talking, setting down the tea she had produced from somewhere, he still wasn't quite sure where it had come from.
"Actually Lady Tyburn, I was looking for someone. Is Alex around?" Chris's fur tingled as he felt all three women raise their hackles. Lady Tyburn pressed her hands against her dress and turned up her nose a bit. "My lord, I'm afraid I don't know who you are talking about. The only "Alex" who has ever lived here, passed away… Several years before my husband did." Lady Tyburn smiled inside as she watched the wolf droop. "Thank... thank you lady Tyburn." Chris stood, walking out the door slowly. He closed his eyes as the door closed behind him. He wanted to cry. He sucked in a deep breath, steeling himself. This wasn't the end; the "Alexander Tyburn" he had met was real. He raised his head and sighed deeply, leaning against a pillar. His heart felt like it was going to break.
The whinny of a horse made him turn his head, and Christopher smiled warmly. He had only a few such moments in his life, picture perfect moments where time seem to slow and everything was right in the world, and he knew each one by heart. As he watched Alex struggle with a huge horse, which had been startled by the royal carriage, he felt his heart warm as he called, "Just like those royals, never watching where they're going." Chris watched the fox cringe, his ears flattening as he turned, backing up into his horse as the wolf walked towards him. Chris smiled down at Cinderwolf, who closed his eyes, tightening his grip on the reins of the horse beside him.
"What was your name again?" Chris smiled as he stood next to the fox. "Cinderwolf" the fox whispered softly. "I like it." Chris whispered as he cupped his hand across Cinderwolf's muzzle, pulling him close. He felt the fox sob softly, "Your highness please, I can explain…" Chris hugged Cinderwolf as he began to sob gently. " Cinderwolf, it doesn't matter, what ever it was, it doesn't matter. You're safe now." Cinderwolf shook his head, "No, no, you're parents…" "Sent me to find you. Now come on, they'll be expecting me to formally introduce you to them." The small fox's ears slowly started to rise, and he looked up into his love's eyes. "You're serious?" Chris nodded, and Cinderwolf hugged him so tight he had to pry him off to breathe. "Come on love, let's go home." Cinderwolf smiled as he climbed onto his horse, the Prince following him up; holding the fox around the waist as they rode into the distance and did as so many couples do, lived happily ever after.