Once upon a time in a far away kingdom, there lived a beautiful princess called Dakota. You could say she was a lucky girl, she had everything she wanted. Except one little thing, she had no friends. No real friends.
For all her life she had been kept away from all the people, just because of a curse. Her parents had wished for a baby, and their wish was granted, but on the christening feast a wicked fairy cast a spell on her. On her sixteenth birthday she should prick herself on a spindle and die. Luckily one of her guardian fairy’s had been late and was able to prevent her faith of an early death. Thanks to her, Dakota would only sleep for a hundred years. But where was the use if she kept sleeping for a hundred years? All her friends would be dead. Well, that wasn’t a real problem, rather all the people she knew would have died long ago.
With a sigh she returned to the garden to go for a walk. Here in this castle, she had everything she needed and would get everything she wanted. But the only humans here were the servants. Not even her parents wanted to stay here, short after her fifteenth birthday they had returned to their main castle. And then her mother had died and her father had married again.
She had only a few weeks left until her birthday.
With a sad smile she continued her way through the castle gardens and enjoyed the nice sun on her face. It had been raining for days, but now the sun had finally broken through the clouds. Dakota sighed and turned towards the forest. Nobody would miss her, right? With a glance over her shoulder she quickly disappeared into the woods and was gone from the sight of the servants of the castle.
For a while she ran as fast as she could to get away from her home, her prison, deeper into the dark woods. After a while she stopped and looked around, where exactly was she? Slowly she walked on, now interested in her surroundings, the dark wood, the dark green above her head and on the ground and the few rays of sunlight on the ground and in the leaves.
When the forest got darker, the trees spread and the path grew wider until she reached an open meadow with a wooden cottage. Curiously she knocked on the door and a tall, handsome, young man opened the door. Inside were more men, one was sitting on a wooden chair, reading, another one was carving and another one was cooking. “Can I help you?” the man in the door asked curious with a smile.
The sun was about to set and Dakota wanted to get out of the dark forest, so she smiled friendly and said, “I’m travelling and there is no other house for a few miles, is it possible if I could stay here for the night, Sir?” The man in the door looked at his companions and nodded finally, “Certainly, young lady, you should not stay out in the dark all by your self! There are dangerous animals out when the night falls!” The other men laughed and stood up to introduce them selves, “My name is Falcon!” “I am Caspian!” said the one that had been cooking. The man next to the door said, “And my name is Caleb. Our cousins are sleeping. Their names are James, William Herald and Edmund. You don’t have to fear them, we all are very mannerly and respect a fair lady as you are, milady!” He bent down and kissed her hand, “You may come in, I’ll prepare a bed for you and Caspian will surely give you some dinner.” Carefully she stepped into the cottage and sat down at the table, watching Falcon and Caspian interestedly as they returned to their tasks. Soon she saw that Falcon was carving arrows. Maybe those men were huntsmen?
Seven men in a small cottage, surely they didn’t live here all the time. Their skin was soft and their manners were too decent for poor huntsmen. With a relieved sigh she finally relaxed again and gratefully thanked Caspian, who handed her a bowl with a vegetable soup with chicken. He placed more bowls and spoons on the table and disappeared in the next room. Falcon cleaned up his carving stuff and sat down at the table. The princess didn’t dare to just start eating, so she waited for all men to sit down at the table. Caleb sat next to her.
Her heart started to beat a bit faster, as his shoulder stroke hers by chance, when he sat down. He was by far a very handsome man, would her father approve if she asked to marry a man like him? But she wouldn’t have a long marriage; she knew that, so she quickly banished that thought out of her mind.
“What’s your name, milady?” Caleb asked after dinner, when Herald and Edmund cleaned the dishes. “My name is Dakota!” she quickly introduced herself and hoped they wouldn’t know about her. “A beautiful name for a beautiful lady seems to be appropriate.” Caleb said charming with a smile, “We’ll be going on a hunt in the night, milady, so don’t be afraid, you can lock the door for the night and we’ll be back in the morning.” After cleaning up Dakota was left alone in the cottage, so she locked the door and went to bed.
When she woke up the next morning, she felt free for the first time in her life. With a happy smile she stood up and went into the kitchen to prepare a breakfast for the men. Surely they would return soon. After she had some breakfast herself, she curiously looked around the cottage.
Everything looked so simple; it was so different from the castle, but Dakota loved it very much. At home in the castle, apart from the servants, only her stepmother came by once in a while, but surely only to check if Dakota was still alive.
By the time the men came back Dakota was ready to go on, further away from home. “Were will you go from here, Dakota?” William asked curious and sat down for his breakfast. “I don’t know yet!” Dakota said, “I just want to go and explore the world. It must seem strange for a girl like me to want that, but I’ve been locked up all my life and all I want is to be free.” “We heard a rumour that a princess got missing yesterday.” Caleb said with a suspecting expression in his face, “Why did you run away from the castle, princess Dakota of Chatsworth!”
The princess’s eyes opened wide when she heard her name. Quickly she looked down to the ground, and whispered, “Please don’t make me go back. I don’t want to stay there! I don’t want to be locked up all by myself again!” “Stand up, princess!” Caleb said calmly, “A princess should not fall to the floor to beg! We shall not make you go back, dear princess, but shouldn’t you think of your family and your position as a princess?” Caleb held out his hand and Dakota reached out for it, he pulled her up and said, “We would be honoured if you would visit us, we are here during the day, so you could come and visit us any time. But think of your responsibilities, milady!” Although she didn’t want to admit it, he was right, curse or no curse, he was right, she had responsibilities! She couldn’t just run away! She was unknown, but she was the princess of Chatsworth Forest!
“I apologize, you are right; I should not run away from my responsibility.” Dakota said with a serious face, “I really shouldn’t have run from the castle.” “No worries young princess, if you wait until dawn, we’ll get you a horse to take you back.” Herald said with a kind expression. “Watch your mouth Herald!” Caspian scolded and slapped his head, “But he is right, you should not wander around these woods by yourself, princess.” “That won’t be necessary, I enjoy the nature, and if I head off now, I shall be back at the castle within a few hours. But I really appreciate your offer, Herald!” she said with a polite smile and a graceful curtsy. “No,” Caleb said seriously, “they are right, a lady should not wander through the woods by herself. There are dangerous men and creatures out there. There won’t be another discussion, you’ll wait for the night fall, and you’ll be accompanied by the Herald’s horse. Falcon, Caspian, William and James you’ll know what to do.” All of them nodded, even Edmund whose name wasn’t even mentioned. For a second she wondered if Caleb was something like their leader. The princess nodded, not able to talk back to Caleb’s words. “Well then,” she said with a smile again, “Is there anything I could do for you? Anything a lady could do for gentlemen like you?” The men laughed, “Forgive us, milady, but I hardly think we could have a lady like your self work for us, now, could we?” “Of course you can, I am a lady of honour, I really should repay the favour of letting me stay for the night and showing me the way back to my rightful path!” she said, straightening her back.
“There’s no need to, missy!” the ginger haired man, named James said with a smile and turned to the door, “I shall go out for a bit, be good to the missy!” “How about we all go for a little walk through the garden, maybe we can find some berries?” Edmund, the man with the gold blond hair and the dark eyes suggested. “That’s a splendid idea!” William said and his blond curls and brown eyes were glistening in the light of the sun.
So the eight of them went outside, walking through the woods and chatted about what ever came to their mind. “So how did you end up running away?” Herald asked curiously. “I didn’t like being locked up in a castle all by my self, away from my father and his wife, and being all by my self. And I figured nobody would actually miss me, after all, nobody ever comes to visit me there.” Dakota explained with a sad smile. “Why were you locked up over there anyway?” Falcon asked curious now as well. “Well,” she said, not willing to say the truth, “I guess my parents didn’t really need me anymore after my little brother was born.”
“Wow what a horrible thing!” Edmund said worried, “Maybe we should keep her here after all!” “It’s not too bad, actually, so I think I should go back after all. I can come to visit again after all, can’t I?” she asked nervously. “Of course you can, come over every day, come over tomorrow!” James suggested, “Come over tomorrow and we’ll have a special dinner for you!” Everyone agreed happily and said she should really come over again, so the princess agreed. “And if you’re not coming, we’ll come and rescue you!” James said enthusiastically and the others cheered for him as well.
“And why are you over here in the middle of the forest?” she asked curious as well. Why would the men live in such a small cottage in the woods? “I guess we’re just enjoying our last year of freedom by going for a long hunting trip.” Herald explained and shrugged his shoulders. “Did your parents arrange a marriage for you?” Dakota asked sadly. “Yes. Or at least, they are planning to. So we still have almost a full year left until they decide what’s going to happen. What about you? You’re a princess after all; shouldn’t you get married soon too?” William asked. “I presume I’m not important enough to get involved into the decision of whom I’m going to get married to. But I guess I will get married to a prince of a surrounding kingdom or county.” Suddenly the faces of the men lit up and they cheered up even more, even Caleb’s mood suddenly brightened up and he finally joined in our conversation.
Unfortunately the night came too quickly and the men said their goodbyes and left for their hunt. Soon after that a horse stood in front of the cottage and looked through the window. When Dakota went out to see the horse, she stopped in amazement, seeing the black mustang stallion with the straight black mane and tail. The beautiful stallion lowered his head and bent down to make it easier for her to mount it. With a last glance to the cottage, she rode off towards her castle, sending the stallion back home as soon as they had arrived.
With a sigh she watched the stallion disappear in the woods. Still happily she turned around and walked back into the castle, towards her room. “What were you doing?” a strict voice behind her shouted. Shocked she spun around, facing her step mother’s angry face. “I… I got lost in the woods.” Dakota replied quickly. “Not even my great grandmother would believe that, my dear child!” her step mother said with an evil smile, “Where were you?” “I went for a walk and I got lost! The forest was so dark and everything looked the same and I was so scared!” she winged and pressed out a few tears.
“Safe your tears princess!” her step mother said and grabbed her arm, “I’ll make sure you won’t get lost anymore!” “Let go, you’re hurting me!” Dakota protested as her step mother dragged her up the narrow winding staircase to her room in the highest tower of the castle. She pushed Dakota through the door to her quarters, shut the door and locked it from outside. “Let me out!” Dakota shouted and pounded on the door, “Let me out!!!!” But no matter how long she pounded, nobody answered her calling and shouting. After a while she lay down on her bed and went to sleep.
After she woke up she continued pounding on the door, kept screaming for help. As the sun set, she sat down at the window sill and looked out over the forest and into the sunset. How would she ever get out of her room?
As the darkness embraced the castle, she was about to lie down on her bed, as she saw the bird float in front of her window. Its majestic wings kept it steady, while it seemed to watch her.
Scared she backed away from the window again. Did her stepmother send this creature to control her? Or maybe even to murder her? Dakota sighed, somehow this bird seemed familiar. But had she ever been so close to a falcon? As she watched him she thought he looked like he was waiting for her, waiting for her to follow. “I can’t go with you!” she said desperate to follow him to where ever he went, “I’m locked up and can’t leave this room!”
The falcon turned around and flew away, back into the forest and disappeared from her sight. She would have loved to have someone to get her out of there, but it seemed that she would be stuck there until her life was over. Well, that wouldn’t have to wait for that long! Even if she would get food, she would still die on her next birthday; at least for the next hundred years. The sun had set long ago and so Dakota lay down on her bed and went to sleep.
The next morning she woke up to a horrible sound. Wood was crashing and there were people shouting. Scared she hid in the corner behind her door and beside her wardrobe. When the door was opened nobody would see her, but she could peak out through the narrow space between the door and the wall. She still had two weeks to live; she didn’t want her life to end like this!
Lots of heavy boots stomped up the stairs to her room. Dakota’s heart started to beat faster. Was this her end? Her door started to shake. Whispers. Dakota started to shiver as fear took control over her. Then something heavy was thrown against the door, pushed more likely. Whispers. Again and again did she hear the noise of something hard crashing against her door until the solid wood broke and the other pieces were ripped and kicked out, until the hole was big enough for the first of the men to enter!
Quickly thinking she grabbed one of the boards on the floor and held it up over her head, ready to hit it onto the first intruders head. Dark, wavy hair pushed through the opening and before he could turn and look at her, she hit him with the board. Following the hit, the head sank lower and someone pulled him back. Whispers again. A bigger bit of the door was taken apart and a ginger head peaked around the corner, smiling widely at her, “It’s alright, it’s our princess!”
“James!” she called out in delight and quickly dropped her weapon. “You got us quite worried and I guess Caleb has quite a headache now!” James said still smiling, with a glance behind the door, “May we enter or do you wish to stay in this room alone?” “No!” she said quickly and kicked the board away from her, “Come in, please! I am so sorry! I did not expect anyone to enter the castle in such a violent way! I am glad though!” James smiled and climbed in first, helping the dizzy looking Caleb and the others followed. All seven men stood in her room, looking around smiling at her.
“I’m glad you’re ok, milady!” William said and bowed his head slightly, “When you didn’t come by our cottage we got worried and it seems as if our worries were justified.” Falcon nodded, “We came to your rescue!”
For the first time in ages Dakota laughed because she felt like it. She knew these men were good friends, real friends to her. “We were wondering if you would fancy joining us for a walk through the forest.” Edmund asked with another bow. “I would love to!” she said enthusiastic and put on her shoes. “Very well, let us leave then!” Caspian said and offered her a hand to climb through the hole to get out after Falcon and William.
“Where is my stepmother?” Dakota asked, suddenly worried, “She will not be happy to find me gone!” “Well…” Herald said with a glance at the others, “She will not bother you anymore…” “Did you…” Dakota asked horrified and looked at the men, “Is she…” “She wanted to let you starve! She had ordered all servants to leave the castle! Only that witch stayed behind to make sure no one would return to feed you! She is not dead yet, but we have her as a prisoner!” Caspian said with a fierce expression on his face. “We will not hesitate to take her life for her crimes, unless you wish differently. It is your right to request her life for what she has done to you!” Falcon said with a sigh, “That witch deserves no better for her treason!”
“Where is she right now?” Dakota asked scared. “She is locked up and tied over there in that chamber.” Caleb said with a smile and rubbed his head, “You a rather strong, dear princess!” The others started to laugh and pat his shoulder as they walked on by, to open the door of her stepmothers’ provisional prison. She looked at him with horror, “I have to apologize, I didn’t mean you any harm, I was just afraid!” Caleb bowed his head, “Do not worry princess, a blow like that still should not take out a grown man! I am your humble servant and do not deserve your apology, especially since we did intrude your private rooms!”
Caleb’s ice blue eyes sparkled in the sunlight as he looked up at Dakota again, his dark brown, wavy hair surrounded his oval face, since it was opened and Dakota couldn’t look away until James called her over to face her stepmother and judge her punishment. After all, she had imprisoned and tried to murder the princess of Chatsworth Forest!
“Your majesty, this is the witch!” William said and bowed in front of her, as Falcon opened the door. Her fathers’ new wife stared at her with hateful eyes, but couldn’t talk, since her mouth was bond.
Dakota felt all her hatred for that woman rise up in her, but then another feeling of sorrow and pity. “Mother!” she said and looked at her, “I should request your life for what you did!” Her stepmothers eyes widened with fear; fear of her own end. “But I am not a cruel person such as your self and I won’t take your life, neither will my friends. But only if you swear to not harm anyone ever again! Not me, not my brother, not my father, nor our subjects or anyone at all! If you don’t swear I’ll take the blade myself to fulfil the duties of a princess to protect her subjects from any kind of evil, even if I have to sacrifice my own purity! I will not hesitate!” Dakota said with a deep breath.
“Why should I swear anything to you!” she hissed arrogantly, “You are not my daughter nor do you mean anything to me! And neither does anyone in the palace! Why should I swear anything but to get rid of you, you spoilt brat!” “Wait!” Dakota shouted as the men wanted to make her take that back. Dakota pulled out James’ hunting knife and held it in her shivering hands.
“Miss Dakota!” Caspian gasped and stared at her, “Put down that knife! She is not worth it!” “My people are worth it!” she replied and held her hands firmly towards her stepmother, “For my people I would do anything!” Dakota stared at her, waited for a sign of a change of mind, but there was nothing. “This is your last chance, mother!” Dakota said strongly and steadied her hands again. The only thing she saw in her fathers’ wife was hatred. The moment when she tried to spit at her, Dakota placed the knife in front her chest. “Are you sure you’re not going to change your mind?” Dakota asked a last time but she only stared at her, “Never in my life, you ungrateful child!” In that moment Dakota decided it was time to protect her subjects, her father and her brother from that evil witch, so she pushed the blade into her heart!
The men’s eyes flew open, as they watched Dakota. It was not exactly Lady-Like to plunge a knife into somebody’s heart, and it was nothing Dakota could deal with. As soon as her fathers wife dropped to the ground, drenching the ground with her blood, the princess dropped the knife and had to be brought back into her room to rest, while Herald, William, Edmund and Falcon disposed of the queens corpse, Caleb, Caspian and James accompanied the princess to her chamber and tried to calm her down again.
Since Dakota was in no state to travel back to the cottage, they decided to stay a night and return to the cottage the next day. But with the sun, the huntsmen disappeared and only returned after sunrise, but that gave her time to pull her self together, after all, her time was almost over and Dakota was still not sure how to survive one hundred years, let alone the entire time without nutrition. Dakota didn’t really care anymore; she had done her duty to protect her people, if she was to die now, than so be it!
On the morning before her birthday, Dakota found a scroll on the nightstand beside her bed. Excited she opened it and found an invitation to a ball for quite a while, so she was eager to go, since it would be her last. After telling the huntsmen that she had received and that she was planning on going, all seven were even more happy than usually, especially Caleb, whom she found watching her a lot more often than usual! With a sigh Dakota shrugged off her thought and joined the men for a walk through the woods.
It was a long day, but Dakota enjoyed every minute, knowing she would not really be able to live through the next day. After tonight there was no real tomorrow! With a silent sigh, I got ready for the ball, chose a dress and shoes and a tiara and tied up my hair in an exquisite hairdo. The huntsmen had left me to get ready and I had said my goodbyes, since I doubted to ever see them again after tonight.
A coach waited for her in front of the castle and brought her to the palace, where the ball was going to take place. Excitedly did she wait in her seat, watched the lights grow bigger as she approached the castle of the seven huntsmen. This would be her first and last real ball, knowing that only made it more special to her.
Finally did the coach halt in front of a castle majestic castle, at least five times the size of her own, but probably a little smaller than her father’s castle. A young boy helped her out of the coach and bowed, sending her coach away to make space for the next, while the princess walked off towards the grand entrance.
The princess walked up the stairs with a mixture of trained and natural elegance, not realising people were staring at her. Of course rumours had spread already, rumours about the lone princess, being locked away by her evil stepmother. Her appearance at the ball, after not appearing for almost all of her life made everyone stare and believe the rumours.
Excitedly she entered the building, giving her name to a funny looking man, who announced her with his loud voice. Poised, with her head held high, she smiled into the crowd, as the man called, “Princess Dakota of Chatsworth, heiress to the throne of Chatsworth!”
In the great hall the people stared at her again, still unnoticed though since the princess had spotted a group of men, standing across the room. One of them seemed even more handsome than before. They were all wearing fine gowns and were all simply stunning. Gracefully she almost floated to their side and smiled, “Good evening, good Sir’s!” “Milady!” they all said at the same time, bowing. “It is a great honour that the princess graces us with her presence!” Caleb said and gently kissed her hand.
Caspian followed his example and his loose black curls tickled her hand. “It is also an honour to be invited to such an exquisite ball as this one!” Dakota said and finally took her eyes off of Caleb’s blue, sparkling eyes and his charming smile.
“Why is everyone staring at me?” she asked worried that she might look inappropriate for a ball. “Because your highness, you are such a beautiful flower tonight!” William suggested, making the princess blush. “Would you care for a dance, your highness?” Caspian asked, offering his hand.
“It would be my pleasure,” Dakota replied, she would enjoy this night, since it would be her last. She couldn’t even remember the last time she had been dancing.
“I heard tomorrow was your birthday, my princess,” Caspian said with his charming voice, “May I fulfil one of your birthday wishes, anything for my princess!” “That is very kind of you, Caspian, but I greatly doubt that anyone could grant my wish.” Dakota gave him a grateful smile, knowing she would have enjoyed the seven men’s company. “You could try us, princess,” he continued, swirling her through the room, “Maybe one of us may be able to fulfil our princesses wish?”
“Very well, I shall share my greatest desire with you,” she said quietly, “I wish for my sixteenth birthday to never come!” “Why would you wish for something like that, princess?” Caspian asked, manoeuvring her around other dancers. “This is not the time or place to explain this matter, Caspian I’m truly sorry, maybe another time!” she quickly added when she saw the hurt in his eyes. “Unfortunately I have to admit that neither of us can prevent tomorrow from coming, the only thing I can promise you as a nobleman is that we could pretend tomorrow would be just a normal day.” Dakota smiled, knowing the curse wouldn’t be tricked by something like that.
When the melody came to an end, Falcon bowed in front of the princess, “May I have the next dance, Milady?” With a smile she nodded, hoping to dance with all of her friends at least once before her time was up. “Who are you to attend a ball in this castle?” she asked the tall man with the light brown hair and the slim face, “You never said anything about who you are!”
Falcon smiled, “You never asked, princess. We are no common huntsmen, although we often wished to be. We are the king’s nephews. Well, except Caleb, he’s the prince and our dear cousin.” “Really?” Dakota asked a little happy. Somehow she imagined Caleb asking her father for her hand in marriage. He would probably be very pleased with the connection. “It is very nice that you are so close to each other,” she said with a happy smile.
The evening grew older and the seven princes looked at each other worried and apologized, telling the princess they had to leave. Before she even had the time to reply, they were gone and the worried princess hurried after them. It wasn’t long before she caught up to them, stopping to catch her breath as they had reached the edge of the forest. Quickly they took off their clothes. The princess turned around, blushing horribly and hid behind a tree. Only seconds had passed, when their backs arched and their bodies started to transform.
In Falcons place now sat a big bird, it looked like the one that had come to visit her when she had been locked up. Next to it stood a black panther and a fox, it’s fur had the same colour as James’ hair. Next she saw a deer with beautiful antlers and the horse Herald had told her to take home. Beside them stood a lion, majestic and big where Edmunds clothes lay. Last did she see a wolf where Caleb had been, dark brown fur and icy blue eyes that had immediately spotted her.
Terrified by what she had seen, she ran away, back towards her castle, but stopped eventually as she realised the animals were jogging at her pace, right beside her, even the wild and dangerous looking lion and the wolf. They seemed more like pets than beasts the longer she looked at them. The lion slowly approached her, leaning his big head against her, like a normal cat would to get stroked.
Carefully she pet his big head and heard him purr in the silent forest. The falcon landed beside her, on the deer’s antlers and looked at her as if to request she should pet him too, the princess chuckled and pet his feathery body. Slowly the other animals came closer as well, requesting her to pet them too.
“Are you Falcon?” she asked the big bird, moving on to the deer, “And you are William, am I right?” The beautiful animal lifted its head as if to nod. When she watched the other animals, she recognized James’ reddish hair in the fox’s fur, Heralds dark eyes in the mustang, Caspian’s intelligent but cheeky eyes in the panther and Edmunds blond hair on the lion.
“And you are Caleb!” she said, staring into ice blue eyes in a wolf’s face, its fur had the same dark brown colour as Caleb’s hair and just by looking at him closely, she was sure to look at Caleb.
The princess smiled and sighed in relief, these animals were no dangerous beasts, but gentlemen, suffering under a curse just like her self! But before Dakota could do or say anything else, she heard the bells in the chapel, high up on the hill, ring exactly twelve times. Just when the last chime ebbed away, the princess dropped to the ground, sleeping a deep and eternal sleep.
Lost as of what to do, the animals watched over the sleeping beauty after trying to wake her.
Before the morning had come, Falcon had returned from retrieving their clothes and when the first rays of sunlight met their bodies, they returned to their human forms and quickly got dressed again. “What’s wrong with the princess?” Caleb asked, lifting her up in his arms, “Why won’t she wake up?” But his cousins were as much at a loss as he was. “Let’s just return her home for now,” William suggested worried and so they sat off to the princess’ tower.
Days passed and so the seven prince’s set of to seek her fathers advice. “Forget about my daughter,” he only said, “for she suffers under a horrible curse and won’t awaken within our lifetime. My poor daughter was said to sleep for a hundred years!” The men recognized the sadness in his eyes and quickly returned to the princess’ side.
Days turned into weeks, weeks turned into months and months turned into years.
Caleb ordered a few maids to keep the castle tidy and ready for the princess to awake. But the hundredth year passed without a change and slowly Dakota and her castle sank into oblivion. Soon the castle was covered in dust and the flora took back what she could, steadily growing a hedge around the forgotten castle and the sleeping princess.
Philipp smiled at the girls in the club, all of them barely dressed and more than beautiful, since the exclusive club only allowed beautiful women into the VIP section where Philipp, duke of Sherwood Forest, and his friends spent most of their free time. His friends had just brought another round of vodka and they were all in a good mood, enjoying the music and the girls. An all too willing one sat on his lap and just shook her whole body from the strength of the alcohol.
“Oh, Phil! How can you drink that stuff?” she complained and looked at him seductively. She was ready for him to take her home, but he had another one in mind; a tall blond one with a tight black dress.
“Just swallow it and enjoy!” he said jokingly to the one on his lap, “Let’s go on the dance floor!” She followed him willingly, pressing her hot body against his, making him feel dizzy at times, especially when she pressed and rubbed her butt against him. By the end of the song, he couldn’t care less which of the girls went home with him, maybe even both of them! But a vibrating sensation at his leg reminded him of the time. Phil dismissed the alarm on his phone and stormed out of the club, took his motorbike and raced out of town and into the woods where he just dropped the machine and lost his consciousness.
He turned into a wolf and sprinted off to hunt, that’s what he always did during the hour after midnight when he turned.
Philipp woke up with a horrible headache, alone in his bed. Was there no cure for that damn curse? Maybe it would help to drink a little less, so that he could remember where to go once he turned human again. In the club, the girls wouldn’t know whether he would have been gone for five minutes or an hour.
With a sigh he took a shower and got dressed to check up on his father who lived in a cottage in Philipp’s garden. His father wasn’t that old, probably, although he had been last in his family to get a child, he was still only sixty-seven years old, but diseased and not capable to fully care for himself. That made him a bitter old man though.
“How are you, father?” he asked the old man in the wheelchair with a sigh, “You haven’t taken your medication yet.” “Why should I?” he asked grumpily, “They are only trying to poison me, son! That amateur of a doctor doesn’t know what he’s doing! And now you ask me, how I am? I am dying Philipp and these doctors are draining the juice out of me!”
“They are only trying to help you,” he said calmly and crushed the tablet into tiny pieces, mixing them under his fathers yoghurt, “At least ear your yoghurt, you’ll feel better after eating something!”
He knew the discussion with his dad all too well, he’d been talking to the doctors countless times about it, but there was nothing they could do anymore. All they could do for him was to make him comfortable.
That night he met up with his friends at the club again, angry about his father for being so headstrong and refusing the medication that would prolong his life by a few years at least! It was probably stupid to drown his sorrows in vodka and beer, again, but he did it anyway.
This time he went straight for a sexy blond woman, flirting and chatting her up, while dancing close to each other on the stuffed dance floor. He forgot about his worries and was all too happy to find out about her sexy friends.
Totally drunk as he was, it took him longer than usual to turn off the alarm on his phone and he still stayed quite a while longer, until he felt the familiar itching and pulling sensation only minutes before transforming into a beast!
Quickly he kissed the girl in his arms one last time and took off into the night. Breathing heavily he hid his clothes and transformed into a black wolf with light blue eyes, just as Philipp’s and raced off, missing a few trees as his wolf form tried to cope with the unusual high alcohol level in his blood. The wolf climbed and jumped up and over a hedge, aimlessly walking through empty corridors and broken doors until he saw a bed. The poor drunk wolf pulled the thin blanket off and cuddled up underneath the duvet.
Philipp’s head was pounding even worse than the morning before an so he opened his eyes to get an aspirin for his head. “Where the heck am I?” he asked quietly, realising this was not his bedroom and there was a beautiful girl on the bed next to him.
The room was made of stone and the wooden wardrobe to his left seemed to be at least a thousand years old! He turned back to the girl and looked at her beautiful features. Her hair lay there around her head perfectly, as if someone had arranged it as soon as she had fallen asleep.
“Hey,” he said and pushed her shoulder a little to wake her, “Hey, you, wake up already!” But the girl didn’t move. “Hey!” he asked again, “Are you dead or what?” Panic rose within him, had he killed that girl in his wolf form? He had never done anything like that but maybe the beast inside of him had finally showed his true form? He couldn’t even call an ambulance, since his phone was with his clothes and he had no idea where he was! “Ok,” I said quietly and took a deep breath, “Calm down, first check her vital signs!”
Carefully he lowered his head towards her, but couldn’t let his gaze stray from her eyes and her lips. Just like in trance he approached her beautiful face, he felt her weak, but steady breath on his lips. Although he knew she was alive, he couldn’t move away, instead he kissed her lips gently. Surprised by his own action, he shrugged back, staring at her, when she suddenly took a deep breath, her eyes flung open and she sat up in shock.
Philipp almost fell out of bed. When the girl turned around, seeing the naked man under her covers, she started to scream. Now he really did fall out of bed, covering his ears. “Chill out!” he said, trying to sit up without exposing his best parts. “I beg your pardon?” she asked confused, pulling the blanket close to her chin, although she was fully dressed, too much for his taste, but at least had she stopped screaming.
“Hi, my name is Philipp,” he said, tying the thin blanket around his hip like a towel, “Who are you?” “My name is princess Dakota of Chatsworth,” she introduced herself, looking rather confused and unsure where to look, “Would you please mind to cover yourself, Sir?”
“Cover myself? Sir? Princess? What kind of film are you from?” he asked, “Haven’t you ever seen a naked man before? And I am covered enough for now. I have no idea where my clothes are… I have a heck of a hangover!” He shook his head, “The only princess’ I would know of would are the ones from Sweden or Norway, but you don’t sound like a foreigner, although you do talk strange!” “Who are you, Philipp?” she asked, ignoring what he had said, “You speak in strange tongues!”
“You should listen to your self,” he mumbled, before telling her his full name, “My name is duke Philipp of Sherwood Forest!” Nowadays nobody care about his title anymore. “Duke of Sherwood Forest you say?” she asked, suddenly smiling, “I know the prince of Sherwood Forest and his cousins!” Prince? Philipp chuckled amused, „We didn’t have a prince or a king besides the royal family in London for many years! Can I call you Dakota?”
“Of course,” she said confused, “What do you mean? What year is it?” “Two-thousand-fourteen?” he asked and stood up, “Why do you ask?” “Two-thousand-fourteen?” she asked, “It is not a thousand-four-hundred-fifty-eight past Christ’s death?” “No?” Phil chuckled and looked out of the window, surprised to see a huge hedge outside, too high to climb for him as a man, “’Course not! Where are we here anyways?”
“In a province about a hundred and fifty miles north of London,” she said, turning pale. Philipp turned to her just in time to see her faint and sighed annoyed, hoping she wouldn’t be out for too long. It was probably a bad time but he was starting to feel hungry. But he seemed to bin in luck, since Dakota opened her eyes again after only a few minutes, and sighed, “I presume this is not a peculiar dream after all!” “I guess not,” Phil said and looked at her, “Do you happen to have a kitchen?”
“We do, indeed, if you would follow me I shall show you the path!” she said and rose from the bed, walking past him with a bright red face. “What’s wrong with you? Have you never seen a half naked man?” Philipp asked almost shocked, when the blanket got loose, almost exposing all his glory, “Or swimming?” “I haven’t, it is not appropriate for a princess to expose her body like that to other people other than her husband!” she explained and turned around, “May I help you?”
“Sure,” he agreed and handed her the corners of the blanket, “Go ahead!” Although she tried to not look at his exposed body, she wrapped and tied it around his neck skilfully. With her being so close, touching his naked skin, his blood started to boil, reminding him of the first kiss that had apparently woken her, although she didn’t seem to know. While doing that, she came really close and Philipp just had to bend down a bit. He followed his male instincts, pressed his lips onto hers, pulling her even closer against his body and kissed her.
Shocked by his action, the princess tried to push him away, hit his chest and finally gave up. Philipp was surprised at how much she seemed to enjoy a simple kiss, as he felt her weight in his arms as she had lost her strength, holding on to his shoulders.
“Thanks for tying the blanket,” he whispered into her lips, “We shouldn’t stay here, Dakota, this place kind of sucks! First lets find the kitchen and second lets find the exit!” Still all wobbly in her knees and gooey in her head, Philipp had to carry her into the direction she pointed to. But the old fashioned kitchen was empty, totally foodless!
Disappointed he put her back on her feet, giving Dakota the time to think straight again. When she realised what he had done to her she slapped him, fighting her tears from falling. “Why’d you do that?” he asked, rubbing his cheek. “Why did you do that to me?” she asked in return, ignoring the fact that she had really liked what he had done, “Who would marry a princess that has been kissed before?”
Annoyed he rolled his eyes, “Nobody cares! People kiss all the time, some aren’t even in a relationship and some just kiss within a normal friendship! Kissing, making out and even sex is no big deal, remember that! And most guys don’t care if the woman is a virgin or not as well as long as they like her!” The princess’ face was all red, nobody had ever used words like those in front of her and neither did anyone speak like that in her presence! “I shall try to remember!” she said quietly, “Philipp, in your time, is it normal for men to walk around without their gowns?”
Phil burst out laughing, imagining all men going naked, so he quickly shook his head, still laughing, “No, I just lost them, maybe I should go and get them. Where is the exit? I can take you to my place. You can have something to eat and a proper bed to sleep and all, you must be hungry!” Before the princess replied, she pushed open the door, shrugging back in surprise to see a huge hedge, surrounding the castle! “What happened to the castle grounds?” she wondered, “How did you get in here? Is there a passage somewhere in the hedge?” “I think I climbed, but since I was really drunk, I can’t remember!” Phil said, leaving out the part where he had turned into a wolf.
“How will we get out of here?” Dakota asked feeling scared. For some reason had she survived a few hundred years, but now they were both going to die very slow, since they had no food or water. “Relax, I’ll find a way out! Maybe there is a secret passage or a hole in the hedge or something!” he suggested and so they went outside to look for a path through the hedge. For some reason she felt calmer already, although she just didn’t know what to think of the duke, he looked so strange, so different and the way he spoke was even more peculiar. He even had a little something on his lip, it looked like a ring, but it went through his flesh!
After circling the entire castle was unsuccessful, they continued with the castle and when ever they found a hidden passage, would Dakota wait, while Philipp explored the tunnel and returned to her. But none of them led out of the castle.
“You’re surprisingly good at walking, Dakota!” he said with a smile as the sun began to set. “I used to spend my free time in the woods; I had friends in a cottage a few miles east, towards Sherwood Forest. We spent most of our time wandering through the woods, because they were huntsmen, no, they were actually the kings son and his cousins.”
“Sounds good,” he said without real interest, those guys were probably made up anyway and smiled, “Do you have a lamp or something like that? It’s getting dark soon!” “Oh, you mean torches?” she asked and took one from the wall, „I just don’t know where we kept the firestones…” Philipp placed his palm on his face and sighed, “Let’s go back to your room, you should rest a while!” Torches? Seriously? That was ridicules! On the other hand, he had heard about a legend about a princess, sleeping for eternity. Some had said a hundred years, but well… a hundred years ago we were in the middle of the First World War and not fairy tale land! But 556 years was not eternity either!
Philipp shrugged those thoughts off, wondering about a big hole in her door. “What happened?” he asked, pointing to the door. The princess chuckled, “I was locked up by my stepmother, who tried to murder me, when my friends came to safe me! They couldn’t unlock it, so they had to break it. I was so scared, not knowing who tried to enter my chamber that I hit the prince, who was the first to enter, on his head, using a piece of the door!” “With the door?” he asked, holding his stomach from laughing so bad, “You’re really something!”
After chatting for a while, Phil sent the princess to sleep, he knew he would turn by midnight and didn’t want the princess to know! He was lucky though and the princess really was exhausted, “What are you going to do?” “I’ll try climbing over the hedge to get you out of here. I’ll be back before the morning!” he said and wondered about his choice of words. He started to talk like her!
Once the princess was fast asleep he went outside, on the other side of the castle and dropped his Toga. He felt his body transform, and once he had changed, he felt better than ever. The wolf jumped up over roofs until he was high enough to jump over the hedge. With one last glance he jumped down and returned to his bike after a quick hunt. As a man, he got dressed and drove back home to get a chainsaw, a fresh set of clothes for himself, something to wear for Dakota that his last girlfriend had forgotten. He also packed some food, jumped into his jeep and drove back to the castle. It was only four in the morning when he had reached the castle.
First he took the ace and worked on the hedge for a while until the sun rose over the treetops. Phil turned off the cars light and pulled out the chainsaw, which was loud, but more effective and by the time the princess had reached the source of the noise, Phil had created a new gate to the castle.
“Good morning!” she called and watched his work with admiration, “This is amazing! How could you do something like this so quickly?” “Chainsaw?” he asked and lifted the monstrous machine he was just about to put back into the four wheeled vehicle. “I’ve brought you something to wear; I don’t want you to stand out too much!” Philipp continued, “We’ll go shopping on the way home though.”
He handed her the pile of clothes, to get changed in the castle and pulled out his phone, calling his office, “I’m not coming in today, Jenny, cancel or move my appointments please. I’ve gotten something else to do, something urgent. Don’t forget to send out the gift baskets!”
“What is this?” she asked and looked at the vehicle in front of her. “This is a jeep, it’s just like a carriage, only faster and more comfortable!” he explained and showed her his phone, “This is a mobile phone; it allows you to talk to almost anyone on earth, only if they have some kind of these phones!” Dakota nodded excitedly, “This device sounds very convenient, everyone should have one of these phones!” “Yes!” Phil chuckled and shook his head, “Would you mind changing?”
Well, everyone had at least one mobile phone these days! While she had returned into the castle, Phil tried to arrange the branches in a way to make them look natural, hiding the entrance from thieving idiots. Once Dakota returned he closed up the rest as well, wondering if they could just build a gate to lock the hedge again. But first he should get some proper food for his guest, who wasn’t like a zombie at all.
Phil stopped at an expensive looking store, he knew women liked that kind of stuff! So he asked the shop assistant to help Dakota choose a few outfits, while he just randomly browsed through the hangers, not really looking for anything.
“Would you like to hear another opinion, miss?” he heard the shop assistant ask, sounding close. “Are you sure this is something I can wear in company?” Dakota asked insecure. Philipp turned around and his mouth dropped. The young woman wore brown strappy sandals, a light pink, knee long skirt, and a lace t-shirt with a black collar and black buttons. Her hair hung openly over her shoulders. It was actually kind of simple, but she looked very lovely, even prettier than when he had first set eyes on her!
“See?” Dakota said with a bright red face, “Even Duke Philipp of Sherwood Forest finds these strange robes unsuitable!” She was about to disappear behind the curtains of the fitting room, when Philipp grabbed her hand, “Wait, no, it’s not strange at all! You look very beautiful… I was just mesmerized!” The princess blushed and shyly averted her eyes, “Thank you!” “Oh, and stop calling me duke and all that, Philipp or even Phil is enough!” he said and rolled his eyes, “Nobody really cares about titles nowadays!”
“Nobody cares?” she asked surprised, “But aren’t there any kings and dukes to rule the lands?” “Well, we do have a queen, but she’s more of a public figure than a ruler. We have a parliament, working with the queen to make the decisions and all. But besides her the other titles don’t really count anymore. Only the ones that are directly related to her family.”