Hopper Croakington was terrified. Living part of his life as a frog, Hopper knew what fear was. The world seemed as if it could crush you in an instant, and no matter how much of a front you put on, you knew deep down, you were still scared.
But he always found comfort in the fact that he would return to his human form, and he would be safe again. That was his constant, the one thing that helped him sleep at night when the lakes outside his bed became restless, and the cranes refused to settle. He was safe.
But now…after Legacy Day…that fear came flooding back like swamp water. How could Raven have done something so…horrible? Did she not know how many people depended on their destiny? To them, it was the only thing that kept them together.
Hopper knew his story by heart. Every night his father would come into his room, his shirt flowing like moonlight on the lake, sit down onto his bed, and ruffle his hair.
"You are one handsome prince." He would smile "Even as a frog my boy." And then, ever so lightly, the king would kiss Hopper on his forehead.
A kiss to break the curse.
His father said he was handsome. Hopper wished he could believe him. Unlike his father, who oozed grace and charm, Hopper had never been able to woo anyone. In his frog form, he was charming and eloquent, but ugly to behold, in his human form he was handsome and debonair, but his words flowed from him like syrup on a street corner.
No matter which form he was in, in one way or another, he was ugly.
But that story. His story, gave him comfort. The idea of one girl, a princess who lost her golden ball, would be able to see past his ugliness and love him unconditionally.
"What wasn't nice about that?"
He remembered Briar. He remembered her satin eyes and her brown hair that fell to her shoulders. He remembered her pink lip gloss that shimmered from her face. He remembered how he tried to impress her with his words, how he returned to his frog form in the moonlight…
And how disgusted she was when his other form came to light. A frog who spoke of poetry.
Hopper boarded his coach and began his journey home. Past the towns and forests and into the kingdom his father ruled. Hopper looked out the windows of his carriage and stared in awe of the townspeople who took notice of his arrival.
"Prince Hopper, you have returned!" He heard someone shout.
"Your majesty, welcome home." Another called
He sunk into his seat, he wasn't used to that kind of attention. There were royals at school who simply glowed when others commented on their status, but Hopper was not one of them. His carriage made its way to his home, and the horses finally trotted to a stop.
"Welcome home your majesty."
He hopped off and walked his red carpet to the front door.
What was he supposed to tell his father? His destiny was in danger all because Raven Queen did not like what her role was. That was unheard of!
Hopper heart began to crash against his chest. If Raven could choose not to be evil, didn't that mean someone could choose not to love? What if the princess from his story, the one thing that gave him the courage to face each day, did not love him either?
His father always told him that someday he'd meet a girl who would love him for who he was, not for how he looked…but what if he was wrong? Thanks to Raven's actions, anyone could choose to be anything they wanted. What if the one person who would smile at the sight of his long tongue and green skin, and the one person who would kiss him despite his lack of eloquence…chose not to?
Had those stories his father told him, about love regardless of looks, all been a lie? Ever since Legacy Day, he felt as if he were stuck as a frog and the entire world was now some dangerous trap, waiting for him to hop out of his hiding place and into its jaws.
"Hopper my son? What has you so down?"
Hopper looked up, through his own wandering he found himself in his father's throne room, the place that would one day be his.
King Croakington smiled and ruffled his son's hair. "How has your Legacy Day been? You must tell me all about it."
Hopper tried to open his mouth, to explain all that had happened. Raven. Choice. The fears that kept him up at night.
But his tongue was tied. What kind of a prince couldn't even speak? What kind of a ruler was too shy to even walk up to a girl and kneel to her? His father told him he was handsome. The prince who defeated the spell and became as dashing as anyone could imagine. So, why didn't he feel that way? When the girls looked his way, he wanted to hide into his room, as if they were cranes ready to devour him.
His father only smiled. "Worry not my son. We shall speak of those matters another time. Come, you must be famished. I've had the servants prepare a meal for us." The king began to turn away-
"Father?" Hopper began, his throat beginning to clear. He rubbed his arm with his hand. "Do you really think I'm handsome?"
A kiss. That's all that was needed to break the spell. His father told him that truth every night.
The king walked over to his son, and placed his hand onto his shoulder. "My handsome little frog prince." The king bent down and lightly kissed his son on his forehead, just like he used to when Hopper was small.
A kiss to break the curse and drive the darkness away.
"You are the most handsome prince there is. Your story even proves it. A princess will kiss you and all will be well." The king smiled and ruffled his son's hair. "Believe me."
Hopper sighed and felt his body grow numb. He wished he could.