tagSci-Fi & FantasyBeauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast

byintriguess©

Dominic was a prosperous merchant widower with three daughters. Farrah, the oldest, was as fair as her name in appearance. She resembled her mother with raven dark hair and porcelain skin. Grace, the middle daughter, was graceful as well as lovely taking after her father in coloring. Her golden complexion and auburn hair were the envy of many young women in town. His youngest daughter was named Rose and she was not as well suited to her name as her sisters. Her appearance was an odd mixture of her parents, with an uneven complexion and thick unruly dark brown hair. She was Dominic's favorite daughter, for her disposition was warm as the sun, in that way she took after her mother. Rose was the one who had cared for the house and her mother while sickness stole her mother's vitality. To this day she continued to cook and clean, despite having recently turned eighteen he had no fear of her marrying and leaving him all alone. Although she was beautiful inside the outward beauty of her two older sisters blinded any potential suitor. Those young men were equally blind to the selfishness and vanity of her sisters.

Dominic was preparing to go on his last sales trip of the winter. He was saying good bye to his daughters, and sighing as the older two begged for exotic gifts. This was one of many times when he wished his elder daughters would finally marry and move out.

Farrah asked for a necklace of rare black pearls that would suit her dark hair and pale skin. He wished she would settle on a suitor, all were from good families, but Farrah always had a reason that she couldn't make up her mind. He listened as she rattled on about the specifications for the necklace. How many pearls should be in the strand, that each one should be hand knotted, and each pearl should not only be perfect in size and shape but there should be little to no variation in color between them.

Eventually Grace got bored of listening to her sister and jumped in to tell him what she wanted. A necklace of exotic green Jade, and not to be outdone by her older sister she was equally specific about color and design. Grace had as many suitors as her older sister and while they were close in age no man had been foolish enough to court them both. She enjoyed having her suitors fight for her affections. Their only jealousy was extended to their younger sister, who despite having no suitors was clearly their father's favorite.

Rose found their antics amusing when their suitors came to call as she was forced into the role of servant and offered refreshments. She was very nearsighted, and therefore didn't put much stock into how others looked and instead saw others as they really were. Her poor vision also made her quite clumsy and her sisters used this to cause her to trip and fall more often. So that her skin was often marked with bruises. Everyone had hoped she would grow into her name and eventually blossom into a beauty like her sisters. Her sisters had teased her relentlessly as a child, and continued to do so whenever they thought they could get away with it, typically while their father was away on business.

So when her father asked if there was anything she wanted, she just asked for him to return safely. When her sisters threw a fit and pestered her to ask for something, she finally gave in and asked for a single rose. He kissed her gently on the nose before he left, promising to find her a dozen perfect roses. She missed him even before the door shut as her sisters immediately tripped her and laughed about her request. The bruises would fade long before her father would return and she quietly accepted the torture.

Her sisters continued to pick on her for asking for a flower and made her father's trip seem to take forever. They taunted her about how the rose would be wilted by the time he returned. Their various suitors all tried to use the time without their father around to their advantage. Rose had never felt more alone, especially as she did the lion's share of the household chores. Little did she know that her simple request would put her father's life in danger and drastically change her own life.

Winter weather was rapidly worsening when Dominic was caught in a bad storm. He saw a light in the distance and guided his horse towards it in hopes that it meant shelter for the night. The house seemed a little run down, but considering the weather, he didn't have much of a choice. His horse was unnaturally skittish and after calming the animal he took a careful look around. The lights were on, but nobody seemed to be at home. There were beautiful crystalline roses growing wild at the entrance that caught his attention. He had managed to acquire both the jade and black pearl necklaces his older daughters had asked for, but as winter approached he had more trouble locating a rose of any sort. These roses were amazingly beautiful, they seemed to be made of ice, the petals appearing translucent. He reached out to pick one, and was surprised by how cold it felt. He wondered if they had frosted over or something as cold thorns pricked his palm. The wind seemed stronger and suddenly he was confronted by a tall man in a long dark cloak that concealed his face and form. He was so startled that he dropped the rose he had worked so hard to pick and watched it shatter like ice on the ground.

"What do you think you are doing?" the stranger's voice was a deep menacing growl that seemed to echo the fury of the storm.

He stammered his reply, "I'm picking a rose for my daughter."

The stranger was silent and the wind suddenly died down. He reached out his gloved hand and plucked a perfectly formed bloom. He handed it to the man and invited him inside to wait out the storm. Hope flickered for a brief moment inside his cold heart and he wondered what strange trick of fate had brought this man to his home.

Dominic's hand shook as he took the rose and reluctantly accepted the stranger's hospitality. Once inside he saw there were several servants scurrying around. It did not seem much warmer, but at least he was out of the icy wind. He was holding tightly onto the icy rose as servants ushered him to a chair in front of a fire and offered him hot food and drink. Dominic felt as if he were being inspected as he drank and ate, glad for the warm food. He suddenly realized his horse had been taken from him and that he was trapped for the night.

The master of the house was pacing, wondering what this unwelcome visitor might mean. The manor hadn't had a visitor since before he was cursed and the appearance of a visitor now, who had picked a rose, it had to be a sign. It was an opportunity he could not afford to turn away. He made sure his servants would take care of his guest and the horse, while he thought about the rose further. It seemed so long ago that he had been cursed to live this cold and lonely existence. His curse had spread outward from his cold heart to transform his body into an icy form. His servants were spared the chill of his curse, but were trapped with him to his land. His icy curse had spread to the perfect roses the man had picked for his daughter. They were a painful reminder of the curse, for he had failed to see the beauty in something as simple as a rose. If this man's daughter had asked for a rose, well then perhaps she was the one who could break the curse. He waited until the man had finished eating before approaching him. He made sure his cloak continued to conceal his icy form.

"Tell me about your daughter," frost forming with every word from his icy lips.

Dominic hesitated, feeling as if he were trapped no matter what he said. "I have three lovely daughters." He took a drink of steamy tea, attempting to see more of his host's face. The firelight failed to reveal anything.

"Which one wanted the rose?"

Dominic felt as if an ice had wrapped around his heart. He almost wished he was still in the storm, or better yet at home warmed by Rose's smile. "My youngest," he swore that the man was sucking the heat out of the room somehow. "She asks for so little, all she wanted was my safe return, but when pressed asked for a perfect rose." He slowly sipped the tea, trying to regain the warm feeling he had just moments ago.

"The rose won't survive for long outside the manor and once your daughter accepts it she will be compelled to return here." The fire held no warmth for him, the dancing flames seemed to mock him. He had walked through fire in the beginning as he had longed for a flicker of heat. The flames had reflected off his body, the result beautiful and horrifying as he had not been destroyed or warmed. It was a desperate act and after that, his servants had further withdrawn as his melancholy had increased.

Dominic could not imagine his life without his beloved youngest daughter. He quickly decided he would not offer her the rose, better for her to be disappointed than to leave him. "And if she does not accept?" he timidly asked.

"Then you will return in her place."

Dominic felt the icy grip tighten around his heart. "If I do not take the rose?" he asked one last feeble attempt to save his daughter and himself. His host laughed and for an instant his crystalline profile was revealed. Dominic was horrified at thought of Rose ending up with a creature so cold as to appear to be made of ice.

The man laughed, and shed his cloak revealing his icy form, tattered frosted pants hanging from his slender hips. "Then you shall never leave." His grim cold laugh echoed in the hall long after he had left.

Dominic realized he was gripping the rose tightly in his left hand. He opened his hand and noticed the icy thorns were embedded in his palm through his gloves. He tried to remove the thorns, but eventually fatigue overcame him and he fell asleep in front of the fire. He woke up to find a hot breakfast laid out beside him. The rose clutched in his hand was no longer icy white, but a glassy blush pink, as if it had taken his blood into itself. If not for the rose he could have convinced himself that his icy host was a delusion brought about by a fever of some sort. His host and the servants had vanished and Dominic found his own way outside. The storm had abated and his horse was ready and waiting for him. All of the icy roses were a glassy blush pink, and he saw his doom reflected in the many perfect petals.

He made good time from there on, the rose cold in his hand as he reached his home. His youngest daughter flung herself at him the instant he was out of the saddle. He cried at thought of being away from her again. He broke the hug long enough to look at her sweet face, and felt the icy pain in his heart grow.

Rose spotted the gorgeous rose in her father's hand and her face glowed with joy. "Papa, it's lovely. Thank you." She plucked it easily from his hand, her warm breath infusing the flower with life.

He watched stunned as the rose left his hand and transformed from an icy bloom to a real rose. He tried to conceal the horror on his face as he realized what her acceptance of the rose meant. It was made easier by his other daughters clambering for their gifts. He almost forgot the stranger's horrific warning as he unpacked his goods. It wasn't until much later when his daughters were safely in bed and he was staring into the fire that he recalled the cold promise. His lovely daughter was going to be compelled to return to that cold place and be with that monster. He had not asked for how long, as he had feared the answer. Now as he watched the fire die, he wished he had asked.

Every moment he had left with her was precious and every day he feared she would pack up and leave. His other daughters sensed something was wrong and even their plethora of suitors could not cheer them up. Every time he looked at the rose he was filled with dread. The rose that was frozen in time, the lush petals just as perfect as the moment she took it from his hand.

"Papa, where did you find it?" Rose asked a few days later. She loved the rose in all its beautiful perfection. It smelled divine, the petals were velvety soft, and the color was a sweet baby pink.

He had been hoping to avoid this conversation. "It was growing wild along the path on my way home," he casually said. The icy fingers around his heart tightened, and he knew he would continue to feel ill until he told the truth and let her go. He vowed to himself to keep the location a secret and save his daughter from a fate he feared would be worse than his death.

Rose sensed her father was being evasive, but figured he had smuggled the rose, or something else that would somehow tarnish the gift. The rose seemed surreal, and as her father grew sicker, her sisters grew more jealous. As the single perfect bloom garnered more attention and interest than their flashy jewelry. They only cared about their father's health to the point that he provided for them. If he died they would be forced to choose a husband and neither of them was ready to give up the power of not making that choice.

Rose cared for her father and watched as he grew worse and the petals seemed to vanish from her rose. Little did she know the two were linked, or that it was her ill intentioned sisters that were pulling the petals from her rose and in doing so were killing their father. Rose was beginning to have strange dreams, filled with roses, and a icy cold manor house. She revealed her dreams to her father one day, hoping to get a smile out of him.

Dominic stared into his Rose's pretty hazel eyes and knew he had to tell her the truth. In gasping breaths he told her of where he found the rose and the warning of the icy lord of the manor.

"Papa, why didn't you tell me?" tears fell from her cute upturned nose. She brought the rose over to him, the few remaining petals forming a small perfect bud. She listened as he finally told her everything. She packed a few things and took the rose with her, leaving a short note for her sisters and hoped his health would improve once she left. She took the same horse he had, and prayed for a swift journey.

Winter was in full bloom by then and she struggled against the icy wind as she felt pulled in the right direction. It was exactly as she had seen in her dreams. The roses framing the entryway were like glass as she got off her horse. Tears froze as they rolled down her face as she faced a cold and lonely future. Rose led her horse inside and was surprised as servants quickly took her horse and bags. It was as if they had known exactly when she would arrive.

He had been expecting her since her father left, he was a little surprised at how long it had taken. He was also surprised by the girl, he was expecting a beautiful young woman, and instead she was gangly, with uneven skin, and course hair. He watched her from afar wondering how he could have been so very wrong about her. How could she be the one to break the curse he thought. He would wait and see, he had to hold out the hope that she was the one. He watched her from a distance as he wasn't sure how to reveal himself. It had been so long since he had interacted with anyone outside his household. Then he had been human and powerful, he had taken what he wanted. This girl, he would not have looked at twice, other than to perhaps idly wonder about what she might look like naked and writhing underneath him.

The servants were silent and she felt as if she was being watched as she ventured into the house. It was a large place and she felt more than a little lost as she sat down to eat her evening meal alone. The food was good and the silence added to the chilly atmosphere of the house. She was shown to a spacious bedroom and she tried to settle in. Everything seemed so cold, so impersonal, and she wondered when her monstrous host would appear.

She unpacked the few things she had brought with her, laying the eternal rose on the nightstand. Rose opened the curtains and watched the setting sun. The blur of colors comforted her, as she hoped her father was watching the same sunset. She sat down at an ornate dresser and started to brush her coarse brown hair. Rose undressed quickly and rushed to the bed, cuddling under layers of blankets. It was the largest bed she'd ever slept in, as the youngest child she'd slept in the smallest bed farthest from the warmth of a fire. It all seemed like a dream now, and home and her family seemed so very far away. The main reminder was bruises in all stages of healing up and down her legs from being tripped while her father was away.

He snuck into her room as she slept, getting a closer look at his new guest. She looked so peaceful in sleep, her full lips a delicate shade of dark rose, and her upturned nose with smattering of freckles was almost cute. Her eyes were closed, but he had already memorized their strange mix of green and brown. He had no idea what to do next, and his gaze was drawn to the rose on the night stand. He picked it up, surprised that it was no longer the cold crystalline flower he had plucked just a few weeks ago. He could feel the warmth of the flower and he dropped it stunned. It had been so long since he'd felt anything warm.

She stirred in her sleep, she felt so cold, as her eyelids barely fluttered open. "Is someone there?"

He growled and left her bedroom, his cape swirling around him just enough to briefly define the location of his body. He wasn't ready to talk to her just yet and was upset she had discovered his presence. He'd been alone for so long that having another person in his home was an intrusion he had not been ready for. He felt strange and it troubled him as he watched over her the next couple of days. He was startled by the change in his servants, they were more lively and animated then they had been since before the curse. He felt the stirrings of hope grow as this strange young woman infused life into his household. He used his knowledge of the secret passages to get to her room without her spotting him and to arrive before her. He picked a shadowy corner to watch her from, vowing not to get caught as he watched her get ready for bed night after night.

Rose had made the best of things, and the servants were very nice to her. They were reluctant to talk about their master, and considering how her father had described him, she could understand why. They seemed down trodden at first, but she had them laughing and smiling before a week had passed. She even had convinced the cook to let her use the kitchen. Rose was not used to having things done for her, and briefly thought of how envious her sisters would be of this place. She returned to her room late that night, tired and curious as to what secrets the manor held. She stirred the fire, watching the flames flicker to life under her touch. Something seemed off, but she dismissed it as she didn't exactly know what normal was anymore. She slipped off her shoes, enjoying the luxurious feel of the carpet in her room. She quickly undid her hair, brushed it , and braided the stubborn brown locks. Rose washed her face, and shivered. She looked carefully around, and seeing nothing out of place, pulled back the covers on her bed. She took off her dress, carefully placing it over the chair, and quickly removed her corset. She took a deep breath enjoying the freedom of movement, before sliding into bed in her undergarments.

He watched her and once she was sleeping he was draw to her in the bed. He could almost feel the warmth of her body radiating outward. His hand reached out to touch her cheek and he was rewarded by feeling the heat of her body. It shocked him, that anything should feel warm anymore, it was a miracle he thought would never come. He brushed back a stray strand of dark hair and leaned over and was compelled to brush his lips lightly against her forehead. He pulled away as she stirred and left before she could respond. He was troubled by his reaction to her, he was drawn to her like a moth to the flame and he wondered if like the moth he would be destroyed by the contact.

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byintriguess© 9 comments/ 19409 views/ 16 favorites

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