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Beast and the Beauty
The white stretched on for miles, an endless mass of snow and ice. Beast peered into the distance. He scanned the horizon for any sign of movement. He saw a small flick a couple meters ahead to his left, a white rabbit, almost impossible to shoot; it blended into all the snow. Nevertheless, he aimed his small hunting bow, and took an unsteady shot. It fell about a foot away from the rabbit, and he scampered off into the distance. Beast groaned;that had been the first rabbit he had seen in months. Something strange was going on around their village. For the past few weeks, the prey had been scarce; you needed to travel miles away from the village to find any decent food.
Beast had a whole family to support. His father had been maimed a year before in a bear hunt. He had two younger sisters, Abela and Eirdis, both talented weavers, but they couldn’t live on the threads, no matter how beautiful. He never knew his mother; she had died when he was just four, and now he was in charge of hunting or buying food for every meal.
The wind howled as he trudged through the foot deep snow to retrieve his arrow. His cheeks burned from the cold; he had forgotten his scarf. He whistled for his horse, Hafey, and she trotted over, silent in the soft snow. He leaped on, and led her towards the dark black smoke.
Their village kept huge fires going all day, sprinkling a substance called Eyrun , which made the smoke dark black. The smoke trailed for miles, and you could easily follow it back to the village.
Emma stared at the approaching horseman from inside the baker’s hut. It was Beast! She ran out, a smile lighting her face. She waved him over, and as he dismounted, embraced him.
“Any luck hunting?” she asked curiously.
“No,” he said glumly.
“No matter. Tonight, your family comes to our house for dinner. We have plenty of fish.” She said quickly. “I insist.”
“Thank you, we’re honored,” he said, bowing playfully.
“I’ve got to go cook, then,” she said, beaming. “See you tonight!”
She left Beast smiling foolishly after her, wondering what it would be like to constantly have food. Many nights he went hungry to feed his sisters and father.
He mounted Hafey again, and rode on, to their house. It was small, made of wood, insulated well with animal skins.
Abela ran out to greet him, grinning.
“Oh, Beast, Father is using his cane again!” she said excitedly.
Beast’s face morphed into a childish look of awe.
“What?!?” he exclaimed, jumping off Hafey and quickly stabling her in the small pen beside the house.
He ran into the house to behold a wonderful sight. Eirdis was lightly supporting his father while he stood, supported by his daughter and cane. His face was lit up with a huge smile, which they hadn’t seen in months.
His father, Geir, turned to him, smiling, showing off his new strength. One of his legs stood strong, while the other bent to the side limply.
Father and son embraced for the first time in months, and Geir whispered in his son’s ear, “My son, you have done way too much for me. Thank you.”
These simple words, these small simple words sunk down to Beast’s heart, All his sleepless nights. Every meal he had skipped. Every day he had faced the cold to provide food. Every tree he had chopped to sell firewood. Every day of the past year was worth it, when his father said those simple words.
“We’re going to Emma’s for dinner.” he announced.
“No cooking or dishes!” Eirdis yelped, returning to her father’s side for extra support.
Beast smiled at his father knowingly, and they shared that moment together happily, knowing everything would be fine.
The next morning, full from a delightful dinner, Beast groaned as he stood warily. He needed to go out hunting again. He took a deep breath, and changed quickly into his warmest clothes. He started a quick fire in the fireplace, and set off again into the cold.
Hunting was going well this morning. He had brought his fishing equipment, and had successfully caught three fish. Now he was riding out far from the village, where all the animals had fled. He kept his bow ready, resting against Hafey’s side as he guided the horse with his knees.
He lost himself in the steady rhythm of the trot, and the miles went by quickly. He thought about Geir. Would he be able to hunt anytime soon? With his son?
Hafey snorted in confusion, for in the horizon was what looked like a tall pillar of ice. He looked behind him, sighting the black smoke. He rode toward the pillar.
While it looked close, it took him hours to even get close. The sun was just reaching its highest point. He could see it was a castle, far in the distance. He urged Hafey into a canter, eager to see who might live in place like this. He finally reached the gates. Being curious, he opens it slowly, wincing at the loud creak.
He knocked the huge knocker. Strangely, the doorknocker had the head of a ugly ogre.
No one answered. He pushed, and it swung open. Curious, he stepped in, shutting the door behind him. A grand entry hall awaited him, a enormous marble staircase, with golden chandeliers, and warm shaggy red and gold carpet. Fascinated, wondering if it was really deserted, he stepped into an hall to the side. He thought he saw a huge shadow run into a side room, but he dismissed it as his imagination.
He stepped softly into the room, holding his breath. It was an dainty tea room, with china cabinets covering all the walls, filled with thousands of teacups and saucers. He smiled, Eirdis and Abela would love this! He reached out to touch the display glass, and he was instantly knocked to the ground by an huge, bony hand.
He slowly awoke, to find his hands tied behind his back, and feet tied to the chair he was sitting on.
He was sitting under an window, which beamed down on him only, a small circle of concentrated light.
“Who are you?” a voice said from the darkness.
He leaned forward, straining to see. “My name is... Beast.” he said sheepishly.
“How did you find me?”
Beast was confused. “Who are you? Step into the light!” he commanded.
The creature shuffled into the light. Beast gasped, it was a ogress! His face showed utter horror.
The creature was frowning, as if ashamed of herself.
“You have found me... Beast. I cannot let you go now, so you will stay here, with me.”
“No!” Beast shouted. “You must let me go! My sisters! And my father, I am the one who feeds them! They will starve.”
“Surely not. Your father will hunt for you.”
“He’s.. He can’t walk! He got hurt last year, I must help them!” The reality of this was sinking in. She wanted to keep him here! “I can’t stay here, you must let me go!”
“I am Blaer, and my attendants will lead you to your room. You will join me for dinner tonight.”
Five men stepped out of the shadows, and untied him, leading him away.
The men deposited him in the room, and he immediately banged viciously on the thick wooden doors, only to hear them lock from the outside. He sank to the floor, muttering in frustration. Why had he ever rode toward the mysterious ice? Where was Hafey? Why exactly was he being held here? Who was Blaer?
Despite his circumstances, he was exhausted, and he made good use of the soft, warm bed. Right as he fell asleep, he thought about sleeping in an bed like this every night, such a light, feathery bliss.
Beast was awoken by the sound of his door unlocking.
One of the ogress’s attendants stood there, and recited formally. “Blaer expects you to be dressed for dinner in an couple minutes. I will come to get you shortly.”
Beast jumped up. He was getting an chance to talk to his captor, he needed to be presentable. He opened the wardrobe, to find a array of clothes. Hundreds of colors, and designs.
He quickly chose grey pants, an blue shirt, and put an grey jacket over the shirt. He found an small table with an comb, but realized he’d probably break it trying to comb his unruly, curly hair. The attendant arrived, and he was escorted down long halls, mindboggling turns, and past beautiful tapestries.
He arrived in the dining room. His jaw dropped. The room was painted an royal blue, accented with gaudy gold decorations. The most surprising thing, was the dishes and silverware. They were moving! AN chair pulled back for him to sit on. He sat, his back stiff, heart racing. Where was Blaer?
The door opened, and Blaer entered, in an dark blue dress that fit her well, it almost seemed to hide her bulky form, making it look more human.
Beast, brought up as an gentleman, stood, and offered her an chair.
Blaer accepted cautiously, as if many men had done it before.
Beast returned to his seat and looked at Blaer expectantly.
“You realize I can’t let you go.”
“Truthfully, no,” he snapped, frustrated that she kept up the pretense of her not being able to let him go. “I actually have people I care about there!”
Blaer frowned. “And couldn’t you care about me, at least while you’re here?”
Beast snorted. “CARE about you!?! No! I can’t, you can’t expect me too...”
Her eyes portrayed utter sadness, and his heart softened an bit. But still, she was, she was a OGRE! He stood quickly, and stalked out of the room, deeply upset. She was holding him hostage! If she would just let him go... At that moment, he decided. He would escape. As soon as possible.
He was escorted back to his room, and locked in again. He immediately set to work. Thinking. Beast was smart, but he had been taught in ways of truth, honesty, and love. He had never needed to escape before.
He recalled that in stories the captive would tie sheets and blankets together to make an rope, and climb out the window. He walked over to the window, examining it. It was large, definitely big enough for him to fit through. He was on the third floor, and the drop was terrifying, but he decided it would be the easiest.
He set to work, stripping his bed of the sheets first, and tying them together quickly.
He tied one end to his wardrobe, double and triple knotting it. He looked around the room. Such an grand place. He would miss the comfortable bed, but that was it.
Throwing the long bundle of tied blankets out the window, he grasped the first sheet, and started his descent. It was easier than he had thought. The sky was darkening ever so slightly, but from the outside the castle was abandoned, no-one would notice.
Planting his foot firmly in the snow, he whistled for Hafey, who trotted up at the sound. He mounted her, relieved, and set off briskly, proud of his cleverness. It all seemed like it had never happened. He was safe now. He saw the black smoke, guiding him home. He would see his father and sisters, reassure them. Once the castle was out of sight, he decided it never existed, and he would tell everyone he had simply gotten lost. He had even started to convince himself, when he heard an deep growling.
Beast looked around uncertainly. There was an large snow drift ahead, anything could be hiding behind it.
Suddenly, two large polar bears leapt from behind the drift. In a instant, they lumbered after him in an full run, howling. He spun around Hafey, and urged her into an full gallop. They didn’t pull ahead, but maintained the same speed as the huge monsters. But Hafey was tiring quickly. She was not built for these long stretches of speed. The bears started to gain.
Hafey stumbled in the snow, and fell to her side, terrified. Beast flew off, yelping with shock. Instantly, the bears were upon them. They loomed over Beast, when all of an sudden, an huge hand pushed them aside, not hurting them, merely distracting, and moving them aside for an moment.
Astonished, Beast looked up to see Blaer, rage on her face, taking on the bears. He was bewildered. He had just insulted her beyond imagine, and ran away from her, and still she was attempting to save him? Blaer kicked at one of them, and it fell away, but the other attacked from behind, raking its claws down her back. She roared in pain, and threw the bear far off. It landed, and did not move. The other lunged at her, and she hit it aside, and it also lay still.
She groaned again, and fell to the ground, wounded badly. Beast scrambled to his feet, running to her.
He knelt at her side. Her eyes were closed, but she was breathing heavily. His eyes filled with tears. She had saved his life, and might die from doing it. He slung her over Hafey’s back, and pushed the poor horse to walk through the snow. He didn’t even consider leaving her here to die. Hafey snorted in protest, but Beast needed to get her back to the castle. The sun disappeared completely, but he pressed on. The air grew even colder, and the wind howled around the trio.
Finally, he saw welcoming torchlight on the castle walls. He had been walking next to Hafey for the past few hours, and he nearly fell with fatigue. Arriving at the door, he yelled out, surely one of Blaer’s men would assist him. Three came running, and they transported her to an warm room inside. Beast refused to leave her side, waiting for her to wake, hoping for her to continue her steady breathing. With the attendant’s help, he had bandaged her back, so the bleeding had stopped.
“I’m sorry...” he said, leaning over her slightly. “You have taught me an great lesson. You loved me, even when I had sinned against you, ran away, and insulted you.”
Her big, brown eyes opened, and she gasped. “Beast?”
He nodded slightly. “I’m so sorry Blaer, I...”
Blaer sat in her bed, an amazed look on her face. “You didn’t leave me out to die?” she said, incredulous.
“You saved my life!” Beast exclaimed, and he looked into her eyes, not with love, but admiration. She had shown utter selflessness, true kindness. She may not be beautiful, but she had given him something worth far more than an pretty face.
“I hoped you would help me.”
“Of course...” Beast said, before realizing his actions had portrayed otherwise. “I’m so sorry, please forgive me.” he said humbly.
She laughed. “No matter, I forgive you. Furthermore, you have helped me so greatly, I have decided that I will allow you to leave this place. At first I was worried you were an thief, or that you would bring an army back., but now I trust my secret is safe with you. You are free to leave, although I would enjoy your company, however long you would stay.”
Beast smiled sadly. “Thank you... I will never tell. But...”
“What is it?”
“I’d like to come back soon...” he said sheepishly.
“Of course. It does get awfully lonely here.” she said solemnly.
A small part of him wanted to stay here, he was welcome, and he could live in comfort, care free. But his family needed him.
“Stay for the night at least.” She beseeched.
“I would love to,” Beast said, truthfully.
“Goodnight, Beast,” she said as he left the room.
“Goodnight,” he replied simply, gently closing the door.
The next morning, Beast sat up, and stretched. Today he would see his sisters, Emma, and his father. He missed them greatly, and they must be mourning his apparent death by now.
He stepped out of his room, to find Blaer. He found her standing around the corner, a small package in her hands. She beamed, and held it out to him.
He took it, touched by her kindness. He opened it slowly. Inside, was a pin of an ogeress, resembling her. It was ugly, and distorted, but he didn’t care. She had taught him to look past the face, to the heart. He choked up, ashamed he hadn’t prepared something for her.
“Here,” he said, pulling a gold necklace off his neck. It had been his mother’s.
“Thank you,” she whispered, smiling at the beautiful jewelry.
Riding away on Hafey, Beast turned back to see Blaer watching him leave, and saw an glint on her neck, the sunlight hitting the necklace he had given her. He touched her pin, safely attached to his shirt. He would return.