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.

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4. Once Upon A Mirrored Soul

 

When I woke the next morning, my face was clean and bandaged, my soaked outer layer of clothing removed so that I had slept in my dry underclothes. Flashes of last night assaulted my mind, but I pushed that aside as I dressed carefully and made my way to breakfast. My face still looked terrible, and I felt as though I had been beaten quite fiercely, but I was my father's daughter. No man, beast or law would ever break me.

So when I arrived to find an empty table, devoid of even my captor, I was somewhat stunned. Had something happened? Perhaps the castle had been attacked, or was still under attack? I froze and listened for a moment, scowling when I heard nothing but my own breath.

From a room very nearby, I heard a sudden crash that made me jump and stifle a scream. I glanced around urgently. “Beast?”

I heard a groan and more crashing and followed the sound eagerly. I paused at the door of a room I had never been shown nor ventured into before, abruptly wary. Was the beast still in a rage? Or perhaps we truly were under attack, and he was fending off one of the enemy! Well, gown or no I would never permit him to paint me a damsel in distress and command all of the glory.

I opened the door, prepared to leap into a fray, startled when I found the beast slumped against a wall. The table and chairs that once were in the middle of the room were rotted and in wreck, pieces scattered about and freshly broken. The door squeaked at my entry, and he looked over at me tiredly. He groaned, struggling to stand on his own and failing, falling back against the wall.

“What are you trying to do?” I asked, coming over to watch him struggle. In spite of myself, I felt pity for him.

“Reach the bandages,” he gasped, eyes fixed on a high shelf that, were he not hunched and crippled in pain, would have otherwise been easily within his grasp.

“Ah.” I found a stool that was barely fighting to survive time, set it against the wall and reached the bandages he spoke of easily. I hopped down from the stool, eyeing him carefully. “Why do you need these so desperately?”

He sighed and groaned, reaching out a shaking hand to take what I held. “The bleeding still hasn't stopped. I need those bandages.”

Frowning, I looked at the floor, noticing for the first time the trail of blood that led to the beast. I resisted the urge to smack him for his stupidity. “Come now, let me help you back to your room to rest.”

“Rest will not help anything!” he growled, a whimper of pain escaping him quietly. “Not this last night, not this morning. I need the wraps.”

“Yes, as well as medical attention,” I agreed. “Perhaps if you have a doctor, then he can command you. For the moment, however, you must stuff your pride and agree to rely on me.”

He growled again, but his eyes seemed to be relenting. “Fine.”

Borrowing a rotting chair from what once was its table, I grabbed the bandages with ease, returning my feet to the floor before the chair collapsed on itself. I turned to the Beast, curled in on himself with pain, and felt pity again. How had he helped me last night, injured on my behalf, when I had shown no sincere courtesies since my arrival? After he had agreed to spare my father's life. My life, too, even if it was to continue on in this prison, he had tried.

I softened both my voice and my expression with this new realization, placing a gentle hand on his arm. He looked up at me, face twisted with pain but his eyes were clear, hopeful and shocked. “Where is your room, Beast?”

He composed himself quickly, muttering, “I have none. Anywhere is fine.”

My heart twisted, but I simply helped him limp from the room and to the nearest chaise, just a hall away. He did his best not to touch me—barely leaning against me, not resting his hand on me, not gripping me but the wall if he stumbled. When he eased himself onto the chaise, then, it was with an exhausted sigh of relief. He leaned back, careless of the blood that spilled across the silk coverings.

“Oh, thank you. I can--”

He stopped short as I silently pulled back the cloak he wore, which did me very little good in assessing how to treat the damage. I found a soaked, matted patch of fur, dark with blood. Now, how did I care for it? With a quiet sigh, forced him to lay back.

“Stay here,” I told him firmly, and the amusement I saw on his face told me he would obey. We were already conveniently in the sewing room, which meant most of my supplies were there already. So I found the kitchen, gasping in wonder when I saw how grand it was. Rows of countertops, two stoves, three large ovens taking up one wall. It took me a moment, but I finally found two large bowls and the water pump, pumping water until both bowls were full. Then, bowls carefully balanced on my hips, I made my way back to the Beast as swiftly as I dared.

His eyes watched me carefully at my return, following my hands working to prepare needle, thread, clean cloths and warm water. When I dared sneak a glance, I saw confusion mingling with the mistrust on his face. At last I was ready, clearing my throat as my nerves finally realized what I intended to do.

“Now, this is going to hurt,” I warned him, grabbing a cloth and dabbing at the bloodied fur. He hissed sharply, and my eyes met his in an instant. What I saw there only confused me, throwing my captivity into shades too gray to distinguish anymore. Gazing back at me were not the eyes of a monster nor man, simply that of a soul in pain, just the same as me.

“Please,” he said quietly, voice free of any agony I knew well he felt, “Perform your magic, gypsy.”

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