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.


7. Once Upon The Gypsy's Grace


When I came to supper the next evening, I was surprised to find I had company. Averting my gaze and minding my business, I took my usual place at the opposite chair from his at the table. He was silent, respecting my neglect towards him. Sitting in silence, neither of us dared touch the delicious banquet laid out before us, for fear of disrupting this icy social water.

In spite of myself, I could not resist glancing at the first company I had had in months. I found my eyes craving the sight, sneaking in glances of that face to fill the gnawing hunger that I had only just discovered clawing at my soul. Oh, and to have a conversation! To speak, to hear the voice of someone other than myself...

But the Beast seemed troubled, brows knitted together firmly in an animal's scowl. His elbows found the table's surface and he templed his fingers, thinking. Finally, he took a deep breath and spoke quietly, “Your freedom is yours, gypsy. I release you from your debt.”

The words seemed to take an eternity to reach my ears, and another eternity more for me to understand. The result was my staring at him dazedly for several minutes, certainly looking quite dumb. But I did not know how to reply, nor if my voice would hold long enough for any words to leave me. I swallowed thickly, lips suddenly dry and my throat parched.

Taking a sip of water first, I managed to look the Beast in the eye, but what came out surprised me. “What made you change your mind?”

He was quiet for a moment, lacing his fingers together. He appeared such a thoughtful, intelligent man behind those features, I had been so deprived of company. “I suppose I simply realized that beauty is best left unchained.”

I found myself blushing, letting my hair fall to cover my face instead. “Thank you, Beast.”

“Am I too late?” His voice was grieving, but when I glanced up his expression said he had not spoken at all. I understood the question, however, and I feared whether he may have been right.

I bit back my desperate need for company, steeling myself against his proposal. I was too torn and needing of attention to think clearly in his presence. So I stood quite stiffly, silently taking to the halls and listening to the sounds of my sweeping gown against the floor. I had long since accustomed to the dancing candles and thoughtful doors, staring out my window before I realized I had arrived already.

A rose. All of this had started over a rose. And there I stood, staring at those gardens for their beauty. A knot wound its way into my throat, and I choked on its presence. In the depths of the castle, the organ had started again, playing an anthem of grace and freedom that only confused me further. Oh, how that creature dreamed so sincerely, how it yearned so purely! But I could not throw away my freedom, my life, to this hellish castle and the devil that ruled here. That would be madness.

But just as I had found myself in an unbearable position of need, I knew that whatever crazes that Beast had were likely driven by those same overwhelming needs. My eyes shed rain across my face, that anthem too hollow to ever satisfy. Who would I be to accept this escape? What honor could I possibly claim to flee and leave this creature to suffer?

After awhile, I laid myself down to rest, the organ still playing. My eyes fluttered and I drifted for a time. Torn by indecision, my sleep was restless and terrifying. All of my dreams were haunted by that ghostly organ's tune, with a choir of tormented screams of a Beast.


Waking the next morning, my resolve had at last found one place to stand, and it stood firm. Cleaning myself and changing appropriately, I made my way to breakfast. There waiting for me was the Beast, obviously surprised but pleasantly so, and he smiled when I took my seat. A genuine smile of relief and gratitude, and we found some satisfaction in each other's company.

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