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Lilia and the Wolf
Once upon a time, in a small village in the woods, there lived a beautiful girl by the name of Lilia. Lilia had just turned seventeen, and while she was very beautiful, she was also very sad. She had met and fallen in love with a handsome prince named Gian, but before they could marry a wicked forest witch had appeared and took Gian with her as reparations for some damage done to the witch by Gian’s father, the king. Since then, he had never been seen, and Lilia felt in her heavy heart that she would never see Gian again for as long as she lived.
One day, sad Lilia was walking through the woods near the village, cautiously, for she had often been warned of the wolves and witches that made their homes among the twisted branches and dark paths there. Since she was young, she had always been told that, should a wolf approach her and wish to speak to her, she should tell it to go, and leave her be, and then run away as fast as her legs could carry her.
At one point as she was walking, she bent over near the edge of the path to pick a few flowers that were growing there, and as she was doing so she heard a voice ask behind her, “What are you doing there, girl?”
Lilia whirled around. Standing behind her on two horribly crooked legs, staring at her with sickly yellow eyes, was a wolf. He had a hungry look on his face, and was lean and terrible-looking.
She said, taking a step back, “I was just picking some flowers for my dinner table. What were you doing?”
“Searching,” he replied, and his wretched mouth curled up, showing ugly teeth.
“For what?” she challenged, letting the flowers fall back to the path, crushed.
“I found it,” was all the wolf would say, and Lilia turned and prepared to flee.
“Wait!” the wolf implored her, and reluctantly she turned around. “Don’t you know me?”
It was clearly a trick to make her hesitate for the one moment he would need to pounce on and devour her, one she refused to give him, so she replied harshly, “No, I know no wolves who run around the forest preying on innocent young girls. Now go, and leave me be.”
With that, Lilia turned and fled, leaving the creeping wolf behind her. She heard him let loose a mighty howl that shook the very forest and chilled Lilia. It was the howl of an angry, starved wolf who was now on the hunt.
That night was one of the worst of Lilia’s short life, as she knew that the wolf now had her scent and was certainly on her trail, for wolves did their best hunting at night. She did her best to bar the door and kept candles burning all night, and as dawn neared she thought she might collapse. Each twist of a branch, each whisper of the wind, was the wolf scratching slowly at her door, trying to get in. She did not want to live the rest of her life in fear, and so she vowed that the next time she had to wander through the woods she would arm herself, and choose her paths more carefully.
As it happened, the next day, Lilia had to go to market for food and cloth, and to get there she would have to go through the woods again; she drew her black cloak tightly around her and pocketed a dagger to fend off the wolf if they happened to meet again. She was scared of him and what he might be aiming to do to her, and she had never had cause to use the dagger before, but it seemed better to be carry it than be completely helpless against the creature.
The way to market was quick, and lit by sun. She made it there easily, without seeing a single hair on the wolf from the day before. All seemed safe until she began to make for home, shadows falling and stretching out all around her. Just as she began to think that she would be able to make it home unmolested, the wolf stepped out from the growing darkness, cutting her path off, as he had jumped out in front of her.
“Hello, Lilia,” he said, and his rough voice was not as strong this time. His eyes were watching her more carefully, though, as if wondering what she might do. “I see you’re out wandering the woods again. You must be careful. Nothing is safe, you know.”
Leila clutched her dagger underneath her cloak, wondering if she would have to use it and how on earth the wolf had known her name, when she had never spoken it before. Out loud, as she quaked with fear in her mind, she said, “It is not safe for wolves, either, if a wolf should chance to do a bad thing.”
“Lilia,” he said, and she began to tremble. “Lilia, look upon me. What do you see? Answer me honestly,” and he flicked the ground with his long gray tail, pushing dirt and leaves around.
“I see an animal on two legs and I will look no longer. Now go, and leave me be,” she replied, and turned and fled, going the wrong way in her haste. She heard him crashing through the branches after her and she ran so fast her legs burned, accidentally dropping her dagger when a branch cut her hand with its thorns. She heard him calling out her name and howling, and she quickened her pace.
Lilia ran until she reached a cottage, and once she reached it, all she could do for a moment was stop and stare in amazement. It was wood, like any other, but was glowing purple of all shades, and glimmering purple stones were set into the ground around it. Purple sparks flew out the chimney. Moving closer, she saw a design scratched into the door: a large triangle, with two small circles at the top and a smaller triangle under those, a triangle on each side as limbs, and odd shapes below as feet. She smiled when she saw it, for it was a penguin, and that was the mark of Sheila the good fairy.
The door opened before Lilia could knock and there stood Sheila, with her magic penguin Sidney by her side. Sheila looked at her and asked, “What is troubling you, young one?”
“There is a wolf chasing me,” Lilia replied breathlessly. “He has been bothering me since yesterday, and I have told him twice to go and leave me be, but he has not.”
Sheila nodded and told her to come in, promising to take care of the wolf for her. They did not wait very long for the animal to show himself, for he showed up several moments later. When he saw Sheila he said, “Good fairy, may I talk to you for a moment?”
In return, Sheila demanded, “Why have you been bothering this girl?”
He shook his head, replying, “I mean her no harm. Please, let me explain.”
So they went off together, leaving Lilia with Sidney. A few moments passed and then there was a burst of bright purple light and then the two returned, but it was not the wolf walking back with Sheila but Gian. Lilia could hardly believe her eyes. She rushed out and embraced him, nearly flying across the ground that separated them. “But how?” she wondered aloud. Gian smiled, lifting her sad heart.
“The witch, when she took me from the palace, cursed me to be a wolf and wander the forest forever, unless I found somebody who could free me. The spell she cast forbade me from telling you who I was, even if I came upon you in the forest. I was trying to make you see, though, who I had been when I met you in the forest, not trying to devour you. You could not see, though; you were blinded by fear, and you told me to leave you be, and fled.
“I thought that you might be able to guess if you saw me longer and further, but all you did was see the monster I had been cursed to be, not the man I still was trapped inside, and told me to leave you be, and fled. I thought I might never see you again in the woods, so I followed you here, so that perhaps you could guess that I was your true love. That was why I was chasing you, not to harm you. When I saw that you had run to the good fairy’s cottage, though, I realized that there was a loophole in the witch’s curse: I could not tell you that I was the prince, but I could tell Sheila, and she managed to break the curse upon me.”
“I am glad that you are back with me, Gian,” Lilia exclaimed happily, “and from now on I am only going to judge things by what they truly are, and not by what they seem to be. I almost lost you forever because I judged you by how you appeared. I will never do that again.”
Gian kissed her, and happily they set off through the woods, which were lit by the bright light of day, guided home by Sidney. A month later, Gian and Lilia were wed in the royal palace, with the fairy Sheila and her magic penguin Sidney in attendance, and they all lived happily ever after.