by Mari Ness
The lion never speaks about his past. This has led, naturally, to considerable gossip. The lion, many insist, is not really a lion--after all, real lions can't talk. No, he must be a transformed prince, in love with a princess. Or--given the way the lion watches the prince, a transformed princess, in love with the prince. No, a transformed prince in love with the prince. Or a transformed prince who once fell in love with a lion. Or a princess seeking revenge on the prince, or a prince seeking revenge on the king. These things are said to happen, after all, if only in implausible fairy tales told to children.
Then again, they have all seen the implausible: a talking lion.
Those against these conjectures point to the lion's unquestionably terrible table manners. Surely, they insist, anyone born human, royal or not, would not tear so viciously, so messily into the meat thrown at him from a careful distance. No: those are the manners of a wild lion. Besides, there's the issue of his mangled speech. Oh, yes, he talks--which is not, in anyone's experience, usual for lions--but hardly clearly. He can move his tongue, but struggles with moving the rest of his mouth; he has never been heard to make the sounds of b or p. At least, not successfully. Surely, that suggests that he must be a lion, since a human would have learned how to make such sounds, though others argue that it must mean the opposite: surely a born lion would know how to move every muscle in his body? No. The lion must be a human, still struggling to adjust to the transformation.