Seer of Destiny, Spinner of Dreams

Born a Seer, Belle's Visions make her an outcast and feared in her village. Born lame and the bastard son of the village coward, Rumple is also taunted and mocked. But he possesses the uncanny ability to spin any material, even straw. Can these two childhood friends spin their own fate and weave a destiny other than pariahs and discover a love that shall endure despite everything? Rumbelle AU!

1

A Gift Beyond Price

Hearthstone village

The Enchanted Forest:

Maurice Avignon, eccentric mathematician and inventor of several ingenious devices to count money and sheaves of wheat and move large loads with the aids of levers and fulcrums, huddled miserably in a chair and listened to the groans and cries of his beloved wife, Elena, as she struggled to bear their first child. He was a man in his mid-thirties, with flyaway brown hair and a look of perpetual curiosity upon his round face. He almost always had some kind of oil stain or food stain upon his tunic, as he forgot to use an apron when he worked in his shop or ate his lunch, he was too busy calculating angles and parameters and other things.

His wife, gentle Elena, six years his junior, who was once handmaid to the noble Jeanette of the House of Moreaux, had been in labor for almost sixteen hours now and he feared something was gravely wrong. He had paced up and down their well-appointed cottage, nearly wearing a hole in the floorboards from his anxiety. He had called their neighbor, Barbara, to come and help Elena when her pains had come upon her, and the cheery woman who was the village baker and had six sons and daughters, had happily come to assist, assuring Maurice that the baby would arrive in no time.

But that had not been the case and now he feared something was dreadfully wrong.

Sure enough, Barbara came through the bedroom door a moment later, wiping her hands on a cloth and looking grave, her dark hair tucked up beneath her linen cap. The baker was sweating profusely, and said, "Maurice, I believe the babe is turned the wrong way, and I cannot help her . . . I don't know how to turn it around, and if I don't . . .you could lose them both!"

"No!" he howled, fear and grief etching lines in his face. "That cannot be! There must be a way to save them!"

"Your only hope may be the wise women spinsters—Lauren, Aimee, and Claudette, who live on the edge of the village. They're known for their herbal remedies and their fine thread. And some say . . they are sorceresses as well," she whispered that last for in this part of the kingdom, those who practiced magic were feared and regarded with disdain. But the sisters were well respected as spinners and herbalists, and ran a shop selling their thread and simples.

"I shall go to them. Perhaps they may know of a way to save my wife and child!" Maurice said, and he grabbed his cloak and hurried out the door.

As he passed the village blacksmith, whose pounding on his anvil echoed in the chill evening air, the blacksmith's son, five-year-old Gaston, a sturdy lad with black hair and a cunning smile, raced around a corner of the forge, waving his toy bow and arrow. "Look! It's crazy old Maurice!" he shrilled, aiming his toy arrow at the inventor's backside.

Maurice spun before the little hickory shaft could hit its target and snapped, "Mind where you shoot that, young one, before I tan your hide for your insolence!"

Gaston backed away, still clutching his bow. "You'd not dare! My papa would pound you into the ground!"

"Then tell him to teach you respect for your elders!" the inventor snorted, and hurried on his way. He couldn't take the time now to teach the brat any manners, he had to get to the spinsters.

Soon he reached the small shop and cottage where they lived. It was a pretty little place with larkspur and meadowsweet around the dooryard and the shop bore a simple illustrated sign of a mortar and pestle and an herb bundle and some thread, since most of the villagers couldn't read, though Maurice could and so could Elena, and it was rumored the sisters could also. It was said they had once been prosperous merchant's daughters whose father had lost everything in a hand of cards and so they had moved here to Hearthstone, leaving behind all they had known in the city of Broceliande, where the King Leopold's palace was. That also included their suitors, who abandoned them now that their fortunes had been reversed, and so the three had never married, preferring to remain alone rather than cater to the whims of fickle men.

The thatch gleamed like spun gold in the light of the setting sun, and he came to the painted blue door and knocked upon it, noting the walls needed a new coat of whitewash.

Inside he heard the fretful wail of a baby, and it was then he recalled that the spinsters had taken in Julietta Marchand's baby when she had died giving birth to him a fortnight past. She had named the boy's father as Malcolm Kerr, though Malcolm was denying the boy was his, as they had ot been married and it was said Malcolm would have had to be in his cups to sleep with poor shy Julietta, whose only redeeming quality was her face and her weaving. "Mouse" was her nickname among the villagers and it had been a great scandal when it was discovered she was with child. Only seventeen, her papa had thrown her out, calling her a tart and a whore, though she swore the father of her babe had said he would marry her and then had slept with her to seal his pledge. Julietta had gone to live with the spinsters, for they alone bore her no censure and indeed felt sorry for her.

But now she was passed on, in the Blessed Realms, and only her babe was left. Julietta, whose head had been filled with dreams and tales, had named her son after a famous spinner in a folk tale who could spin straw into gold. His name—Rumplestiltskin.

Baby Rumple wailed louder as Maurice pounded upon the door, calling, "For the love of mercy and the goddess Artemesia, open the door! It is I, Maurice!"

The door was opened and a small woman with brown hair and a pleasant face dressed in a green dress and blue apron peered out. "Maurice! What brings you here this eve?" It was Claudette, the youngest sister.

"Please, I beg you to help me! Elena's time is nigh and she . . .is having difficulty . . ." he told her what Barbara had said. "Please . . .if there is anything you can do . . ."

"I shall get my bag," Claudette said. She was the one who had trained with old Lenore, the midwife some years back.

As she disappeared inside the cottage, Maurice heard the baby's cries ebb as a soft voice crooned, "Shh, little Rumple, now drink some warmed milk. Sally gave it special for you, dearie! She's a good little goat, gives us milk and cheese and hair to spin . . ."

He peered into the cottage and saw a tall woman with reddish hair holding a wee baby in her arms and feeding him a bottle as she walked up and down by the hearth. This was Lauren, the eldest of the sisters, wearing a brown wool dress and yellow apron stained with herbal tinctures.

The smell of applewood logs and the astringent scent of herbs and wool greeted his nostrils.

Soon Claudette came back with her black bag of simples and potions and together they hurried back to Maurice's house.

Half an hour later, the lusty wail of a newborn filled his cottage, and Maurice stood by the bed of his exhausted but proud wife and held her hand, tears of joy and relief in his eyes. Claudette had given Elena an herbal concoction to ease her labor and had managed to turn the babe around properly using techniques she'd learned on goats and ewes during lambing time.

Now she carefully washed off the infant, a healthy little girl with a fuzz of dark auburn hair and alert blue eyes that seemed to track upon her already, though the baby was only minutes old. "What do your eyes see, little one?" chuckled Claudette. "Hmm, dearie?" The baby had been born with a caul over her head, and such was often a sign of those with the Gift of Foreknowing.

Once she had washed off the baby, she brought the child over to her mother and father and said, "A healthy baby girl for you, Mistress Elena and Master Maurice." She handed the child to her father, since a father's acknowledgement of a child made it legitimate.

Maurice took the baby in his arms, rocking her lovingly. "A beautiful little girl, Elena! I think we should call her—Belle Avignon, for she is a little beauty!"

"Yes. Belle is a fine name," agreed Elena. She smiled lovingly at her daughter, and Maurice placed her in his wife's arms.

Elena kissed her little head and murmured, "Tis a miracle I was able to bear her."

"Yes. I almost lost you and her," Maurice agreed. He looked at Claudette. "You have given me a gift beyond price, Mistress. And now I owe you a debt I can never repay."

Baby Belle cooed and reached out a hand to grab her mama's hair, and Elena laughed. "Sweet child, how about this instead?" and she gave the baby the platinum chain of her locket, which Maurice had bought her long ago when he was courting her.

Claudette smiled. "All that I ask, Maurice, is that you remember that your daughter is special—she was born with a caul over her face and such indicates that she shall have the Sight. And that gift can be both a blessing and a curse."

The new parents gasped. "Are you sure?" Elena asked.

Claudette nodded. "Yes. If she doesn't develop the Gift as a child she shall when she reaches womanhood. Send her to me and I shall guide her in it. I am, after all, a wise woman."

"All right, we shall," agreed Maurice. He would have agreed to betroth Belle to a monster in order to repay the spinster for her deeds tonight.

"Good. For when all others mock her for being odd and different, she shall always have refuge with me and my sisters, as well as in her own home." Claudette smiled. "Now, rest and enjoy your new daughter. Good evening to you all."

Then she slipped out of the cottage, leaving the new parents to exclaim and hug their new arrival, and returned to her cottage, where she found Lauren spinning and rocking the cradle with a sleeping baby Rumple with her foot, while Aimee hummed an old song while kneading dough sprinkled with rosemary for tomorrow's bread, her round face with its curly brown hair speckled with flour.

"How did it go?" she asked her sister.

"I saved both the babe and the mother . . .though the child shall find a hard lot in life as she too is a Seer like I am . . .and you know well the price a Seer pays for her foreknowing," Claudette sighed.

Aimee nodded. "I know, Claude. Poor baby!"

The Foreknowing was a gift, but not everyone saw it that way, especially when your predictions were not what someone was expecting.

"But I have offered her refuge here, and have volunteered to train her when she is old enough," Claudette said.

"She can be a friend for Rumple, for he too shall find it difficult to make friends," murmured Lauren. "Not only does he have a twisted foot, but he's a bastard too."

Aimee clucked her tongue. "Poor little scrap! People are silly and stupid! 'Tis not his fault he was born lame or a bastard."

"Aye, dearie, but people believe what they want to believe and don't use the brains they were born with," snorted Lauren. "And they teach their children the same."

"I suppose we're lucky that with our knowledge and such they did not label us witches and run us out of town!" Aimee said.

"They'd not have dared," said Claudette. "They need us too much, even if they do think we're terribly odd." She hung her cloak on a peg beside the door and removed her shoes.

Then she came and poured herself a cup of tea and sipped it slowly while she sat next to Lauren and read a book on herbal preparations she had bought off of a traveling peddler.

The soothing whirring of the wheel as Lauren spun and the yeasty smell of bread dough filled the cottage, and in his cradle beneath a pretty woven blue striped blanket, wee Rumple slept, peacefully sucking on his thumb, unaware that destiny had stepped in and spun a new fate whose thread would one day entwine with his own.