The Rose

Ever since her mother died and her father disappeared, Belle has been waiting for this moment. Her daggers at the ready, her heart steeled with confidence, she faced him.

The beast.

Veangeace is a mocking thing.

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5. Chapter IV

   We walked the hallways of this palace. The walls were lined with paintings, faded with age, but still beautiful. The beast was holding a lit candlestick, and though the ceilings were of huge height, the light seemed to hit every crevice of the area we walked.

   ‘Where are we going?’ I asked, my voice coming out quieter than intended. I still had the uneasy feeling I was being led to my death. I could never overpower this great beast. He was much too large, and his teeth were definitely capable of ripping out my throat. But perhaps if I could get some sort of clever advantage I could bargain with him.

   ‘You’ll find out soon enough.’ He answered ominously. We pushed through door after door which led to hallway after hallway. If I couldn’t find my way out of here… No. Never mind all that. I had studied the castle as much as I could, and maybe that was enough.

   Finally, we came to a staircase, which we promptly descended. At the end, a cavernous hall greeted us, so dark you couldn’t see the end.

   And the walls were lined with cells.

   My heart jumped to my throat. If my father was down here, he would surely be close to dying. It was freezing, and a beast such as the one standing in front of me didn’t seem like the sort that would feed their priosners.

   I held my breath as I inspected the cells with caution. I didn’t stand too close, should the beast get the idea to open one and shove me inside go rot.

   Oh god. What if my poor father was rotting down here?

   The thought made me sick. I swallowed down the bile that had sprung to my mouth. I continued down the line of cells, becoming more anxious as it go colder and my father was nowhere to be seen.

   A wail echoed through the dungeon.

   I scrambled to the cell the sound had come from. Sure enough, my father was leaning against the bars of the cell, staring at the beast with hollow brown eyes. His face seemed sunken in, every bone jutting out so intensely, like they were going to break through the skin. He was pale, wearing ripped and faded clothes.

   My heart ached.

   I bent down in front of him. ‘Hello.’ I whispered. ‘It’s me, it’s Belle.’

   My father turned his attention towards me. He let out a sob, clutching his hand to him mouth.

   ‘Belle! Sweet Belle, what are you doing here?’ He reached out a skinny hand, and I grabbed it gently, afraid of breaking bone if I clutched too tightly.

   He had started to weep. ‘Belle, you must get out of here, the beast will-’

   ‘Enough.’ A growl came from behind me, where the beast stood. His face was unreadable.

   ‘You must free him.’ I pleaded. ‘Can’t you see? He’s ill! He’s starving. How cruel are you?’ Tears were stinging my eyes. I blinked them away.

   ‘I can’t free him.’ The beast was staring at my hand, still intertwined with my father’s hand.

   ‘Why not?’ I shouted. My whole body shook with anger. And frustration.

   ‘He… He trespassed! He must learn his lesson!’ The beast was hiding something. No man or beast could ever be so cruel.

   ‘He has learned his lesson. He’s going to die if he stays down here any longer!’ I cried. I looked down at my trembling father. He was clearly ill. My lovely, protective, stubborn, creative father, reduced to this. My voice came weak, but I was sure I could be heard when I said, ‘I will take his place.’

    This stirred a reaction from the beast. His eyes became almost kind. ‘You would do that? You would be here forever.’

   ‘Yes. You have my word.’ I gulped down the fear, the protests of my head. I had to do this. For my father.

   ‘Belle, you can’t! Let me stay here, I’m old, I’ve lived. You can’t-’ The beast tore open the cell, grabbed my father by the scruff of his neck, and hoisted him over his shoulder.

   ‘Wait, stop! Let me say goodbye!’ I cried, racing after the beast who was charging up the stairs. The beast was faster racing down the halls to the front door, throwing my father to the ground.

   ‘Find your way to the village. Never darken my door again.’ He roared. My father began to protest, but the door was slammed shut.

   Locking me inside with a monster.

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