"The witch said we had to give her our first-born daughter."

"But we can't. You heard what the wizard said. Wait… what'd he say again?"

"He said if we give the witch our daughter, we'll never be able to have children again."

"Oh, right."

A short hallway. Frederic hobbled on his inexperienced young legs past the door where his parents were discussing their predicament.

"What are we going to do," his father whispered.

"Well, what about Frederic? We could give him to her."

"But he's a boy! What would an evil hag do with a boy as useless as Frederic? He can't even properly speak yet."

"But I don't care what we do with him, just as long as my little Katrina is safe. You know I've always wanted a little girl."

Frederic was curious. He hobbled into the room, startling his parents. Their faces were invisible in shadows of the dark room as they turned towards him. His sister's face, however, was as clear as a bell, her blonde locks and bright blue eyes glowing almost ethereally from the corner in which she sat, playing with her china doll with eyes and hair to match.

"The deadline is in just a few weeks," his mother said. "What do we do?"

A long pause followed.

"Give her the boy," the father replied gravely.

"But I've already told you, she won't want him. She said she wants our first-born daughter to pay our debts."

"…But she won't know he's a boy."


Frederic's eyelids quivered in the morning light peeking through the pink curtains on the window. He awoke to the sound of chirping birds on his windowsill, or rather, the windowsill; technically, it wasn't rightfully his. Frederic sat up on his elbows and looked around at his unfamiliar surroundings, as he remembered why it was that he was in an unfamiliar environment.

Prince Ulrich was the culprit of it all. He was the one that had stolen him away from the Damsel's Chamber of the castle of the great Evelyn von de Hagg. He was the one that had dragged him across Rosalia for six hours and landed him at a filthy motel in the Densely Wooded Woods. He was the reason that Frederic was now wearing a frilly pink nightgown and lying in a heart-shaped bed, wondering where his life had gone.

Speaking of the devil himself… where was he off to? Frederic noticed the unusual silence that surrounded him; had Prince Ulrich been in the room, Frederic would have expected an overly-cheerful "Good morning, my lady!", followed by various screwball antics on the Prince's part. So where was his so-called savior now?

As he sat up, he noticed that his clothes from the previous day were nowhere to be found. Where were his pants? And his shirt? He shuddered to think that the Prince was wearing them, yet with him, he couldn't really be sure…

In his searching, Frederic found a voluminous pink dress hung from a hook on the closet door. Horridly enough, it was the only article of clothing to be found in the room, save for the nightgown he was currently wearing.

"What the…"

Frederic got out of the bed, careful not to touch the huge comforter with his hands, and walked over to the dress glinting in the morning light almost ethereally. Attached to the dress's hanger with a pink silk ribbon was a note addressed to him. In order to get a better look at it, Frederic untied the ribbon and held the note up to read it:

My lovely lady, this dress was handcrafted especially for you while you slept. It was sewn by the most skilled magical dwarves and helpful animals of the forest in all of Rosalia. I am almost positive that this dress which so beautifully suits your exquisite splendor will serve as a major step towards breaking the curse placed upon you. Please wear it and think only of our eternal love.

Sincerely,

Your dashing Prince Ulrich Von Royal

"Made especially for me, eh?" Frederic muttered to himself, and stared at the dress. It would have been flattering, in any other situation such as this, to have an outfit tailored specifically for him. Yet he would have rather liked that particular outfit to have been a smart-looking suit or something of the nature, not a big pink marshmallow of a dress.

"This dress which so beautifully suits your exquisite splendor"… part of him was flattered by this statement. It was a statement that any other princess or damsel in distress would be elated to hear. It made the dress a special present, at par with buying one's sweetheart a bouquet of their favorite flowers – only more expensive, of course, in Frederic's case. Yet while it should have been flattering to have one's dress handcrafted from dwarves and forest creatures, Frederic was more than slightly annoyed by it, not to mention wary of the sort of diseases this dress was possibly carrying after being handled by animals.

Frederic tossed the note over his shoulder, and bent down on the floor, making sure not to touch the carpet with his bare knees. "Now, where are my clothes..?"

The window of the motel room swung open, and there was a sound of little scurrying feet and excited twittering and the fluttering of wings. A chorus of chirping birds was serenading Frederic from outside the window, at first, and then the noise entered the room.

Oh Lord… Frederic stood up and spun around. Sure enough, the entire forest was in Frederic's room. Raccoons, squirrels, sparrows, badgers, deer (which he wasn't quite so sure about, seeing as how their room was on the second floor), nearly every animal of the Densely Wooded Woods was there, and Frederic was less than thrilled. Either Snow White was paying him another visit, or his worst nightmares had finally come true and the forest was beginning its grand uprising against its suppressors.

Just as he expected, two sparrows lunged at him, twittering their happy tune away. Frederic gasped. "Wait! No!" Was all he had time for, and he turned and ducked his head, covering his face with his arms in order to keep the vile beasts with wings from pecking his eyes out. He had delayed it for now, but he knew it would come; the animals of the forest would find a way to finish him in time.

But surprisingly enough, the sparrows didn't go for his eyes. Frederic felt their little feet gently grab at the shoulders of his night gown and tug up in unison.

"Hey, what the–" Frederic moved his arms to look at the birds and was about to bat them away when a huge buck with a six-point rack began circling him, causing Frederic to lift his arms to prevent them from being impaled by his horns.

"What is going on he–" Frederic spun with the buck's head, trying to ask him in particular why he was being mauled by animals, as though he could answer his question. As he spun, so did the sparrows, and soon Frederic's nightgown was lifted over his head and off of his body, until he was bare in the cold of the motel room, surrounded by disease-ridden animals – yet another one of his worst fears.

Frederic gasped. These animals weren't only going to kill him; they were going to humiliate him as well! They were going to attack him in his birthday suit, then leave his mangled remains on the floor of the room for the gum-smacking brat at the counter to find! Photographs of his odd and humiliating death would be splashed across the cover of the Once Upon a Times, and everyone in Rosalia would know Frederic Von Dammsel as the first casualty of the Densely Wooded Woods' uprising…

Before Frederic quite knew what was happening, the animals had garbed him in the correct undergarments, slid a sea of petticoats over his shoulders and onto his waist, slid silken pink evening gloves onto his delicate forearms, and trapped him in the frilly pink dress hanging on the hook on the door. A pair of squirrels scurried up his back, and Frederic felt them tugging a brush through the hair behind his head. By that time, of course, Frederic had regained his senses, and swatted behind his head at the furry pests, and felt them run back down his back.

"Why you little–" Frederic looked down and watched the squirrels scurrying away from him, and attempted to give them a swift kick to the fuzzy rear. Just as he lifted his foot, a badger grabbed his ankle and held his foot still while another badger slid his foot into a frilly pink heel that matched his dress (must've missed those, he thought wearily). Frederic kicked that foot again, and released it from the badger's grasp, but the second he had set his heeled foot down his other foot was lifted off of the ground and shoved into another pink heel.

"Getoff of me!" he shouted, and kicked his foot again. The smaller animals cleared the area around him, except for a doe who forcibly nudged Frederic towards the now-opened door of the motel room, into the hallway.

"No!No! Stop it!" It was no use. The doe wouldn't stop. Frederic stumbled forward (he had considerably little experience walking in heels, as was safe to say) and nearly fell face-first into the hallway. Thankfully, he had fairly quick reflexes, and was able to save himself by grabbing onto the doorframe before buckling onto the floor. Eyes downcast as he paused for a moment and tried to regain composure, Frederic noticed an even more horrifying sight on the hallway floor (as if the sight of an entire forest leaping through one's window wasn't bad enough).

Two rabbits were hopping on opposite sides of the hall, down a trail of white magnolia petals that had been scattered leading from his room, down the stairs. More animals were waiting along the path of petals, beckoning to Frederic with twitters and chirps and squeaks galore. The doe behind Frederic was persistent; she nudged him in the back, propelling him forward into the hall.

"Hey! Where're you taking me, you mangy mongrels?" Frederic pleaded, as he was nudged stumbling down the hall towards the stairs. Perhaps they were taking him to the leader of the uprising, possibly a giant speaking turtle in a cave somewhere. But why would there be a trail of flower petals leading to their exalted leader; wouldn't that just make it easier for the humans to crush the uprising? And why would he be wearing Prince Ulrich's dress, unless it was to further the humiliation in his dea–

That was it. "ULRICH!"

Frederic was livid. He hoisted up the dress hem that was skirting the ground and marched down the hall, still stumbling awkwardly in his pink heels. Prince Ulrich wasn't in their room. The motel wasn't big enough for him to hide forever. Frederic would find him, and when he did…

"Thatjerk," he grumbled, descending the stairs in a huff. "Thatenormous, empty-headed, self-righteous, senseless jerk! Wait 'til I find him…"

Frederic followed the petals strewn across the floor through the main lobby, past the front desk. The last thing he would have wished for, yet the first thing he would have expected at this point, the same girl from the previous night was there, as if she had never moved from her spot. He saw her look up, give him a blank stare, then saw the corner of her mouth curl into a sort of "Oh Lord, what am I seeing?" smirk as she let out a faint snort.

"WHERE IS HE?" Frederic couldn't concentrate on his humiliation now. He was in a rage, and when Frederic was in a rage, it was hard for him to snap out of it until the job had been done… whatever that job was.

"You mean your idiot?" she said condescendingly, and nudged her head forward, towards the entrance. "Follow the pretty petal path,Princess."

Follow the pretty petal path… Frederic followed the pretty petals, and marched out the door. He expected Prince Ulrich to be standing there, that stupid grin on his face, ready to whisk him away to his kingdom of more-than-likely people just like their bumbling ruler…

Whoa…

A magnificent carriage was parked outside of the hotel, just yards away from the front door. It was huge beyond belief, a sparkling pearly white in the morning sun, with pink curtains that matched Frederic's dress visible on the insides of the windows. A young cabby in a fine riding ensemble as blue as the sky sat at the top of the carriage, slouched over the reigns of four dashing white horses with pink and white decorative paraphernalia attached to their heads.

Wow, what a magnificent carriage, Frederic thought. Whoever gets to ride in this thing's one very lucky damsel. Oh wait… oh no… no, no, it couldn't possibly be…

Sure enough, the carriage door opened, and out came the infamous Prince Ulrich Von Royal. He saw the prince's eyes light up upon seeing Frederic in his dress, the dress made especially for him (against his will, of course). Strangely, though, he was less bumbling than Frederic had seen him the day before, and in his snow-white princely regalia, he seemed even more a dashing prince than he had since that fateful morning. He didn't look absurdly princely today – in fact, truth be told, Frederic thought Prince Ulrich finally looked the part of a debonair ruler and rescuer of distressed princesses. In some faraway corner of Frederic's mind, there was even a part of him that thought he looked quite… handsome

Frederic, mystified, staggered towards Prince Ulrich with brows wrinkled. His temper was smothered for the moment by his sense of baffled disbelief. Was this whole production really on his behalf?

"My lady," Prince Ulrich said, a charming smile exposing his teeth pearly-white to match his clothes, "your dress fits you like a dream."

Frederic glared up at Ulrich, still silently simmering. He wanted to stranglePrince Ulrich, to force him to give his old clothes back right now and burn this dress and anyone else who might have seen him in it…But this was all for him… it was all part of Prince Ulrich's delusional fantasy. And as much as Frederic wanted to make things right, to prove to Prince Ulrich that this would never, ever, in the lengthy history of damsels and princes, work… there was that gleam in his eye, that heartbreaking gleam that told Frederic that he was truly happy in his little fantasy world.

Ulrich held out his hand in offering to Frederic. "Shall we depart for the castle, my lady?"

Frederic stared at Ulrich's hand for a long while. If he took his hand, it would mean more time spent suffering under the guise of a maiden cursed with the body of a man. More of Prince Ulrich's princely antics. Possibly more dresses. And it all had to end at some point, of course, which meant that his heart must be broken eventually. It was unavoidable.

After much hesitation, Frederic gave a loud huff, dropped the hem of the dress, and took Prince Ulrich's hand. No point in breaking his heart now, not when he looked so happy.

This was going to be a very long weekend.