Once Upon A World Away

Once upon a world away, the gypsy swore her life to stay. Grasp the rose but not the thorn, the poison is your burden borne.

In this Beauty and the Beast story, Josephine and the band of gypsies she calls family are professionals--hunting legends and claiming the prize to share as they find fit. But the rose garden of a cursed castle turns out to be too much, and Josephine's will is put to the test when she gives her life over to the lord, a horrible beast with more secrets than the castle can hide.


2. Once Upon A Hungry Veil

Marble floors that never seemed to dirty, extravagant gowns that vanished once I was finished with them, candles that would illuminate any space I so much as glanced at. Needless to say, three days was far from enough time to adjust. Of course, I had seen our fortune tellers' predictions unfold and our witches' spells bind their victims, but this...This was a realm of sorcery that none of us could ever have imagined.

Nor could I imagine that the enchantress in the mirror was myself, my hair pinned and combed by the magic that haunted this place. Her auburn hair glistened in the candlelight, brown eyes bright and cheeks rosy. Her expression could have been one of anticipation or excitement. Instead, anger and terror churned deep in my chest. Her looks were too shapely, too ladylike to ever have been me. But then, I suppose this was the most believable part of this tale.

Taking a deep breath, I turned from the mirror and left my room, the swish of the gown and pitter pat of my feet the only company on my long journey to the dining room. I still only joined in meals for formalities, since I hadn't eaten a morsel since my arrival. How could I trust this food? What if, like the rest of the castle, it was nothing but magic?

As it had been the last three days, the Beast was sitting in his place at one end of the table, my seat set at the opposite end. He stood when I approached the table, but by now he knew to let me seat myself. The heavy, high-backed chair scraped against the marble floor loudly as I scooted it closer to the table, staring at a point on a far wall. Anything but the food or the monster that seemed the only living soul here.

“You look lovely this evening,” said the Beast conversationally.

I nodded curtly. “Thank you.”

He waited a moment before giving in and serving first himself, then me. I accepted the portions but ignored them as soon as they reached my plate. The scrape of his knife and fork went on for a few minutes, the only sounds breaking our awkward silence. Every few moments his eyes would dart to my face, as if my mood would have changed in those brief seconds. I noticed, though, that no matter how I may imagine it, his eyes held no aspect of humanity. Though his face mimicked a soul behind it, those eyes...They looked exactly as an animal's, down to the strange colorations of orange and green flecked with chocolate.

“Ah, ma belle...” he sighed longingly, desperate to end this silence, staring across the table's distance at me and my untouched food. Resting what I presumed to be an elbow on the arm of his high-backed chair, he then leaned his horrible face against his hand. “You torment me. It has been three days since you arrived, yet I have not seen you eat a crumb or drink a drop. Relieve my worry and care for yourself, please.”

I didn't dare glance at the food that created the aroma, thinking that may be too much for my starving body. “How do I know they aren't poisoned?”

He seemed to chuckle, startling me because it sounded so very much like deep, rumbling growls. “If there was, it would only be to keep you from starving to death instead. Would it comfort you, though, if we switched glasses and plates?”

My answering frown turned him to stone while I considered his offer. I was skeptical. “And what would happen, if you thought this may occur, and poisoned that plate instead? Or, worse yet, both of them?”

“Then you're paranoid, my dear, and there is nothing I can do to ease your overactive imagination,” he replied wryly. I thought he was grinning, though it looked as if he may have been about to kill something with his bared fangs. I recoiled against my greater efforts to remain calm and polite. He sighed so quietly I thought he might be only be breathing heavier. “Oh, my apologies, belle. I have become far too accustomed to this face of mine. I forget sometimes that I am not... Regardless, I will be more considerate of you in the future.”

I nodded slowly. “Why do you keep calling me that?”

His eyes moved downward, to the polished table. “You refuse to tell me your name, so I hope it is of no bother to you that I call you instead what I see and think of you, and that is beauty.”

“Please, excuse me.”

“But, of course,” he replied, standing as I stood and left the table. He did not follow me. I would have heard his distinct claws scraping against the stone floor. Instead, my pattering footsteps were the only things I heard, echoing back in quite a lonely manner.

I made it to my room swifter than I intended, staring around the empty room. A hollow yearning filled my soul, guiding me to the sweeping windows that looked out over the gardens. Every color imaginable bloomed two floors beneath where I stood, leaning against the heavy velvet drapes. Slowly, the cold from the window crept along my skin and I shivered.

I turned from the window with a sigh. “I can't stand the sight of those roses!”

There was a gentle sound of cloth, and when I looked the drapes had closed themselves. I shifted uncomfortably, uncertain of what to make of this. Like the candles, the drapes made me feel as though some invisible being were watching me constantly. That they waited on my beck and call only unnerved me further.

“I have to get out of here!” I hissed to myself, trying to find some way around this. My stomach clawed at me insistently. Well, I certainly wouldn't make it far without food. Which meant my returning to the Beast's supper feast and indulging his whims, at least once. And a plan began to form in my mind, to lull my captor and prepare my supplies. Bracing myself, I turned to the door to return to the Beast, and the door swung open noiselessly.

The Beast stood there, obviously abashed that he had been caught standing outside my door. He gave the wall a quick glare, confirming my suspicions about this castle's soul, clearing his throat loudly. “I came to apologize, belle.”

I crossed my arms. “Whatever would you need to apologize for?”

He narrowed his eyes, defensive. “I felt it unfair to expect you to dine with me, and trust whatever was placed before you. From here on, you may prepare your own meals to your liking, and neglect what little company you may have had the pleasure of knowing.”

I was stunned, unsure of whether to applaud this turn of events or demand he take his words back. “Well. I was actually on my way to dinner.”

Now it was his turn to appear shocked, although he was a good bit more flustered than I had managed. “Oh. I see. Well. May I join you?”

I nodded, smiled, and continued my rouse of companionship.

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