by Alexandra Faye Carcich
The animals hushed as the foreign princess entered the cathedral. They whispered, “What will the court do with this flesh eater on its throne? Can any animal be safe again?”
She was a wolf princess from the kingdom of carnivores.
The King, a white bull goat, waited at the altar. His red, silk cape draped over his back and tail, pooling on the mosaic floor under hoof. A Raven perched on one of the King’s gilded, curling horns. As advisor to the crown he was against the treaty which tied prey to predator in matrimony. But the King desired a lasting peace between their lands, and, with little forethought arranged to take the princess to wife.
The Queen-to-be dragged a train embroidered with a lion and unicorn intertwined; their respective nations’ symbols united in an embrace. Three little dogs carried the train in their mouths. Chosen for their size — none larger than the Raven — they accompanied the princess as her handmaids. Throughout the wedding ceremony, the Raven rode the King’s horn, playing the third party to the King’s marriage.
Princess and King stood side by side at the altar where the Bishop Ox asked if this goat would take this wolf to wife. Bride and Groom faced each other as the Bishop passed the ribbon around their forelegs, tying them in marriage. The Wolf stood silent and erect. There was about her the ominous stillness of the hunter waiting in the forest, biding her time. The Goat’s chin whiskers wagged as he chewed the cud, come back up from breakfast. He disgusted her, but she terrified him.
The marriage banquet was served in feeding troughs in the great hall. Now Queen, the Wolf nosed through dandelions and kale. She smelled the rabbit who had brought the greens to table and salivated, longing for that meat instead. Beside her, the King chewed with a sideways motion, grinding his teeth across each other in passing. The Queen’s stomach growled. Reluctantly, she licked up the grass and swallowed. Later during the dancing, while the bull cow stomped his feet, the Queen vomited in the corner. The Raven croaked, bringing her to the King’s attention. Watching, the King was disgusted that she did not follow his example, chewing his food and swallowing it again.
Every day the Queen hungered. She watched the mice that made her bed, the horses as they practiced their arming battles, the monkeys while they cleaned the royal residence. Her handmaids were more successful, showing no ill effects of their vegetarian diet. At court, they ran between hoofs and under bellies without bothering any animal but the rodents. Their mistress, on the other hand, retained the lurking presence of a predator and moved as if she was stalking her next meal. On one occasion, the gentry collectively startled when they realized a wolf had sneaked in among them. A gazelle sprang over the heads of the company, while birds flew up in a cloud of feathers. A rabbit, kicked in the head and caught behind, let out its death scream. The Raven did not startle; he never startled. Blinking twice, he tilted his head and watched the chaos before stabbing at insects between the stone tiles.
After the Advisor squawked in the King’s ear, the latter summoned his wife. Appearing before her husband, the wolf salivated, as she often did, considering his tender, sedentary flesh. King Goat — advisor on horn — told the Wolf that her presence at court intimidated the other lords. To help them forget their fears and not think of her as a danger, she should give up her grey fur coat. For the sake of the treaty between their realms, he hoped she would comply.
Stripped of her fur, the Queen was cold as well as hungry. Her husband bestowed her with silk and satin in all colors, while her fur lined his royal mantle. Bald, her grey skin became dry and wrinkled like a rhinoceros. The little dogs huddled around their mistress at night to keep her warm.
The Queen conceived. Her hunger increased as her belly swelled with new life. In the morning, she licked her lips when the curtains were pulled back. The mice startled when they saw their historic enemies, the dogs. Her handmaids lost control over their instincts when the mice fled. They ran, yapping, after them. One little dog caught a mouse in its mouth and shook it back and forth until its neck broke. Blood dripped from her chin. The Wolf Queen curled her lip, exposing her teeth, and growled long and low. Both mice and dogs scattered. The little dog dropped its victim on the floor. The mice went directly to the King’s Advisor.
There were two consequences to the incident. The Queen had to give up her own teeth, to prove she would never harm any of her subjects. Her meals were stewed so she could lap them up like an elderly beast. The other consequence was that her handmaids disappeared. When the Queen went to inquire of the Raven in his tower, he wore her teeth on a string around his neck and pulled the meat off the bone of a small creature. There were two more skeletons in the corner.
“These were already dead,” he explained, “Trampled. . . And no, I do not know where your handmaids are. We sent them home to your kingdom some time ago.”
Soon after, the Queen whelped a cub. As she licked him clean, his spots became clear. The leopard cub began to suckle. The court fretted that the prince was not one of them, but such can be the result when creatures of different kinds join together. The King came to see his son, chewing, as ever. He lowered his head to sniff the cub. His Advisor fluttered from horn to the goat’s back side, farther from the mother wolf. The Leopard Prince yawned, exposing his little pointed teeth. The King’s eyes bulged off either side of his bony face. A kangaroo attendant came forward to take the prince to be nursed by a surrogate, but the Queen curled around her cub, flattened her ears, and growled. None of which had the same effect without teeth or fur. Hopping back, the kangaroo looked to the King. He conceded that for now it was healthy for a cub to be nursed by his mother.
As they left the chamber the Raven said, “The Prince of herbivores cannot be raised by a carnivore for long. Give him to me, so that I may tutor him in our ways.”
The Queen brought the Prince to court five weeks after the birth. The Leopard Prince trotted beside his mother looking around at the host of creatures gathered. The court stirred around them. All the animals whispered that a carnivore must not be crown prince and heir to the realm. A predator could never be king of the herbivores. But what good would it do to have him suckled by the cow? Even if the prince’s claws as well as his teeth were removed, he would still think like a carnivore. As evidence to all, the cub pounced on his mother’s tail and bit it with his tiny teeth. The Wolf shook her tail free and rolled the cub under her feet onto his back. She licked his belly before lifting him to stand. The eyes of the horse rolled back. The deer’s white tail raised, ready to flee. A bull stamped his warning.
As the Prince was presented to his father, the Raven squawked into the King’s ear that the cub was his mother’s child.
“This is your son,” said the Queen to the King.
She pushed the prince forward with her nose. The Prince looked up with amber eyes and fixed on the Raven flapping from one of the Goat’s horns to the other.
The Raven reasoned that there was nothing more to be done, even a carnivore without coat or teeth still desired flesh. There was nothing even the King could do. Were not they all flesh and blood to such as these? The Queen should not be allowed to remain; she never should have come. Take the prince away. Give him to the Raven to raise up into the next king.
In truth the Wolf was very hungry.
The Leopard Prince’s eyes followed the Raven.
“Mama,” he said, “Is it to eat?”
The Raven shrieked his outrage while all the court gasped.
Defurred and defanged the Wolf had been singled out as villain, as the sole representative of her kind. Now she had a son who could not yet defend himself, who, despite all protests, was heir to the throne.
Mother Wolf sunk down low, close to the ground, her eyes locked on the Raven. She hung her head as she stalked to the throne. The Raven dropped down to the edge of the dais to scream his imprecations in the Wolf’s face. His necklace of teeth chattered around his neck. Then the Wolf sprang forward and caught the Raven in her mouth. He was slow to take flight, glutted with dog meat and overconfident. She shook him back and forth, biting down again and again. The Raven flapped and struggled with his feet clawing the air. He stabbed toward her face, grazing her nose. The Wolf shook him back and forth until she heard his bones crack. Throwing the Raven to the floor, she reclaimed her teeth, while the Prince began to eat his first meat.
The King Goat lost his cud. The court of prey animals panicked. Even though they outnumbered her, she was a wolf in their midst. They fled in every direction, running over each other. The Goat leaped forward off the dais, but his fur lined mantle caught on arms of the throne. He bit at the clasp, but before he could free himself, the Wolf caught him by the throat and brought him down to the ground. She lifted the crown in blood drenched teeth and placed the crown on her son’s head.
Together, mother and son ascended to take the throne and ruled the united animal kingdom.
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About the Author
Alexandra Faye Carcich lives in New York and works as a cake decorator. She loves combining her passion for history, fairy tales, and her pet dog into fiction. Her work has been featured in Timeless Tales, Ariel Chart, Enchanted Conversations, Gingerbread House Lit Mag, and most recently here in Zooscape.
You can read her poetry and follow her writing progress on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/