Disclaimer: Standard disclaimers apply.
Beauty and the Beast
Chaos. The villagers were blinded by their more vicious of emotions, and guided by overpowering doses of adrenaline. They were manipulated and brainwashed, simply there to be the pawns that would punish the nobles, and ultimately bring Quinze to complete victory. Flames swallowed the once peaceful town of Cinq; black ash and tragedy dirtied the streets like an evil plague, and maddening mantras of the lower-class mixed in the desperate cries of loss filled the atmosphere. It was a bitter symphony to hear.
This was the civil revolt, and death was everywhere.
The men were scavenging the Kushrenda manor for valuables. All the Marquisette could do was watch as they massacred her dwellings for her husband had already been killed in cold-blood – Treize was the first to ignite all the other deaths. Though lamenting over his demise was all Lady wanted to do, there had been no time for that. She had a child to protect.
Her daughter, a pretty red-head, hid behind her Mother's skirts, peeking to view the strangers. One man, in particular, grabbed hold of Marimeia's favorite possession: a porcelain doll especially made for her all the way from France.
"Mi' daughter will be mighty glad to be gettin' such a treasure!" he boasted to his comrades.
Marimeia wouldn't have any of that. On impulse, the Hagan child appeared from her hiding place and exclaimed, "You can't do that – that's stealing! Charly is mine!"
"Marie, don't!" Lady tried to intervene, but it was too late.
The sound caused Lady to flinch. When she opened her eyes, Marimeia… her beloved Marie was lifeless on the floor.
"No…" the parent croaked helplessly.
The man who shot her stared down at the body, speaking to it as he held the doll. "Now longer yours, li'l miss, now that ye dead!"
Angry eyes belonging snapped at the killer. "You MONSTER! She was only eight years old." The Marquisette stared at the pistol, and was even more appalled by the realization that the peasant used her husband's gun to take away Marimeia's life.
"Aye, sorry 'bout that," the man said, not at all sincerely. "You ain't got to cry though, Mrs. Marquisette. You'll be with yer brat soon."
Before another breath could escape her, a bullet collided with her forehead.
Uncle Vlad was dead.
Catherine stared her guardian's still body, at the man who brought her up all these years. She tried to convince herself that what her eyes saw were not real, and blinked several times, but the mirage would not vanish.
She began to panic.
'It can't be. Uncle Vlad is still alive and will come back for me,' she emptily assured herself. Catherine fought her tears – if she cried, it meant all of it was part of reality.
Her Uncle's murderer moved closer to Catherine, and it was then she remembered the man's presence. Catherine recognized him as the buffoon apprentice of the local smith, and was even more familiar with the hungry look in his eyes. Of course, it was not until that time did she ever come to fear him; the smith's apprentice was now much too close for comfort.
He leaned in close to her, a nauseating waft of coal and whiskey invading her nostrils. "Ye don't know how long I've been wantin' to get mi' hands on you, Countess."
She wanted to vomit.
It happened quickly. His calloused, ungentlemanly hands seized her and he had his way with her, ignoring the resisting yells and her writhing body. In fact, it only seemed to goad him on even more.
When he was all done, he collapsed on top of her, breathing heavily. Catherine lay beneath him, finally letting her tears pour down from her eyes. For the first time in her life, she knew what real shame was.
Why did they do this? It was simply incomprehensible -- they were good people! Andrew was the purest man to have ever walked. Grandfather, her sister-in-laws, and their baby Emmy… slaughtered without so much of a second thought. Why? Because the common people were jealous of their blessings?
Dorothy shuddered, feeling death slowly taking over her limbs. Her quivering hand grasped the motionless fingers of her husband of only a few months.
"Quatre… Quatre," she murmured, hoping for a response.
It didn't come.
His face was so pale. There were multiple stab wounds on his chest, similar to the ones on her side. Dorothy sobbed, though it hurt immensely to just breathe.
"I love y-you," she murmured to Quatre.
Then she closed her eyes for a final time, an image of Quatre's tender face forever planted in the darkness.
Sally was well-educated, read voraciously, and studied medicine with a passion. Her upbringing was liberal, and it helped that her family was well-off. She practiced as if she were a real doctor (although no one would ever call her as such), and tried to help the people but wasn't always successful in saving each life. That was her crime.
They called her a witch, heated and heartbroken that she could not save their loved ones. They believed her medicines were biased and only worked on the wealthy (this was not so, of course; the wealthy just kept better hygiene and therefore had less serious infections). Sally could understand that and refused to hold a grudge against the lot, even as they tied her to a solid, wooden pillar surrounded by dry grass and fags.
She pitied them, and felt it truly wasn't their fault that they were so boundless in their hate and contempt. The peasants were uneducated. They honestly didn't know any better.
They burned her alive that night, the embers at first merely singing her skin at first, but the fire forged its way nearer and began to mercilessly eat away at her flesh. Sally could not help herself as she threw her head back and screamed a scream that could be heard for many miles away.
A minute before the old grandfather clock ticked midnight, Lucrezia Noin Peacecraft had lost every member of her family. Milliardo, her spouse, a respected and honored knight, fought hard to prevent any harm to come to his family. It was a wasted attempt, however, as Sir Milliardo was ganged up on right before his coup de grace in the sword duel between the leader of the bunch.
Their eldest son, Lucas, had witnessed his Father's fall – a man he had always thought to be invincible. Not a second later, Lucas jumped to mimic Milliardo's defenses, with great intents to save his Mother and unborn baby sister or brother. Alas, despite Lucas' courage, the eight-year old didn't have much of a chance.
A poor, middle-aged farmer crept up from behind and stabbed the youth in the back.
Lucas turned away from his other opponents, as Lucrezia shrieked in pure sorrow, and whispered directly to his executioner, "You played dirty." He then fell limp into his Mother's arms.
Apparently, the farmers had felt they spilt enough blood that night and thereafter departed the Peacecraft estate, bringing with them the Peacecrafts' cows and chickens for their own. They left a weeping woman in her forever-damaged home.
Loyalty to the king cost Lucrezia's family all of their happiness. She refused to bring another child into a world of such infinite woe. By 12:01, Lucrezia had strangled herself in the same room where her slain husband and son lay. To the afterlife, she brought the small dear still in her bulging stomach.
"Lee," his Mother whispered in a dire tone. "Listen. Whatever you see or hear tonight, do not leave the cellar… Not until Papa or I come to get you, understand?" The five-year old nodded. He didn't entirely understand why, just that he should as told.
Meiran planted a kiss on young Lee's forehead and hugged him tightly, tighter than she had ever had before. "I love you, Lee," the parent murmured. "Papa and I…" she trailed off.
"Mama, is something bad going to happen?"
Meiran could not bear to tell her only child the truth. "No, of course not," she lied. "We're just making sure the store is safe."
In truth, the lower-class citizens were hunting down Wufei and her. They, the Changs, were successful merchants on friendly terms with the high societal people. The peasants called them traitors – disgusting social climbers.
"You don't have to worry," Meiran continued to tell her youngster.
"Okay," Lee responded with ease.
It hurt to let go of Lee, but he had to survive. If she, Meiran, lived, the mob would surely track her down and kill Lee as well if he was alongside her. Reluctantly, Meiran arose and climbed up the cellar steps. She glanced back at her son, firmly believing he would live after this night, even if she and Wufei wouldn't be there to see it.
"Remember what I told you, Lee," she reminded. The last thing Meiran would tell her small child was, "Be safe and be good."
It became very noisy minutes after Meiran shut the cellar doors. It frightened Lee, yet he kept quiet and did what his Mother told. Another string of minutes passed, and the noise ceased. Lee could hear footsteps of the angry, gaggle of peoples moving away.
He fidgeted, as little boys do, but managed to obediently wait for his parents to come for him. But no one came.
Eventually, he fell asleep and was awoken hours later, when the sun had yet to peak from its own hiding place. His slumber had been interrupted by familiar voices – though not ones that belonged to his parents.
Death was a lingering and distinct smell left from the eve before. Only a few people dared to walk the eerie, barely recognizable streets and two of them were cleverly disguised, surviving aristocrats who had just exited the remains of the Chang Shop.
"There might still be hope, Trowa," a hushed female voice spoke from behind the tattered scarf. "Lee's body… it wasn't with Meiran's and Wufei's."
"Do you think the revolutionaries may have taken him?" her male companion replied.
"I'm not sure… we ought to check around the area first before we come to that verdict."
"Where do you suppose we look?"
The cellar doors caught the dame's gaze and wordlessly, she walked to it. She opened it, struggling so much that Trowa had to lend his own strength. Together, they unlatched the doors and were met with a pair of large and innocent brown eyes.
"Lee!" Trowa exclaimed quietly, clearly relieved to find the child.
The girl bent down to pick up Lee in her arms. "Are you okay, Lee?"
The little boy nodded. "I'm alright, Auntie Midii." He looked up at his parents' old friends up and down, surveying their garb. "Why are you dressed like that?"
"Oh… it's a lot to explain," Midii said, hurriedly. "Uncle Trowa and I… we're playing pretend. We're acting like the poor. Will you play along?"
"Sure!" Lee cried happily.
"Good," Trowa said. To Midii, he pointed out, "We should get going. The sun is to dawn in less than an hour."
Lee glanced up in puzzlement. "Where are we going?"
Midii looked away sadly. "Away from here, Lee."
"But, I promised Mama I'd wait in the cellar 'til she comes back."
"Oh, Lee…" She looked like she was about to cry. "She won't be coming."
"Well, how 'bout Papa?"
Lee shook her head 'no.' "Nor he."
Trowa stepped in, sensing that Midii would burst if she were to answer the inquiry. "We can't really tell you right now, Lee. You'll just have to trust us, okay? We're going to go somewhere safe. Will you be a good boy and come with your Auntie and me?"
The memory of Meiran last words echoed through Lee's young mind. Suddenly, it became clear to the small one what happened to his parents. Lee nodded once without any hesitation. He grabbed the offered hand and followed automatically.
As the trio moved further and further out of Cinq, Lee spared one last glimpse of his once-beloved town, feeling an overwhelming sense of violent sadness – a much too big emotion for a mere five-year old to know. The village was now nothing more than a burning graveyard.
Beyond the thick, gray smoke emitting from the ruined homes, Quinze, the leader of the revolution, sat on Satan's throne himself. He smiled in great, malicious satisfaction.