A/N: All right, I know this must've crossed about every single Zutarian's mind, but I hope it's still original. It's my own version of the story, so don't expect it to be exactly like the movie - at all, seriously. Just the big lines. More comments at the bottom of the page.
Disclaimer: Still don't own Avatar. Nor do I own Beauty and the Beast. Actually, I don't even own the computer I typed this on.
The Beauty and the Beast
There was, without a doubt, not a single person in the entire village who hadn't heard of the young lady Katara.
First and foremost, this was because of her father. Hakoda was a very eccentric man, after all, and often the center of discussion. He was a scientist: In his younger days, he spent his time developing weapons – mostly bombs – for the navy, but after he came to their village he started working on other things as well. People had seen him creating the most peculiar objects: Tiny little things to help create a flame (which he had called 'lighters'), a machine to help doing the laundry and something that was supposed to chop wood but didn't quite work yet. Many villagers called him mad, but most believed him to be harmless.
Then there was the matter of her older brother. Sokka had worked in the nearby castle, but had disappeared years ago. The villagers had thought this most suspicious at first; after all, boys didn't just disappear into nothing. But then it became obvious that not only Sokka, but everyone inside the castle had vanished, and his sole disappearance became less interesting. There were rumours of a dangerous beast invading the castle and having killed everyone present there. Hardly anyone believed this, but of one thing everyone was sure: Sokka, nor any of the others working at the castle, would ever come back.
And lastly, there was Katara herself. People were never really sure what to think of her. On one side, she was a really sweet and kind girl, always caring and willing to give a hand. On the other side, she was odd and peculiar, preferring books over a human conversation and always talking about making something more of her life. One thing everyone had to agree upon: She was stunningly beautiful. With her long, dark-brown hair, bright blue eyes and tanned skin, she was quite likely to be the prettiest girl in the village – though of course, many refused to admit it. Yet the villagers weren't too fond of her: She was a strange girl and that was something neither her beauty, nor anything else about her, could hide.
Katara, in turn, didn't think too much of the village. Not that the life wasn't peaceful, nor that the people weren't kind; she just felt there had to be more in the world than this kind of life. It was one of the many reasons she had resorted to reading. The books told her beautiful stories about people in countries far, far away, who had the most interesting adventures. When she asked Hakoda about them, he would always smile and promise her that once he had the money, they would move away and find her an adventure like those as well, but his voice would sound uncertain; Katara knew he didn't really want to leave the village. Part of her was reluctant of doing so as well. Deep down, she still believed that maybe someday, Sokka would return home, and she knew that if she left the village, there would definitely be no change of seeing him ever again. Then again, maybe it was worth it – if only not to see certain other people ever again.
The young man grinned. "Hello there, Katara." He carelessly brushed his brown hair out of his face.
Katara forced a smile at him. "Good morning, Jet."
"Reading again, I see?" Jet pointed at the open book in her hands.
"Well, yes," Katara nodded, unable to stop her eyes from straying back to the pages. The story in the book interested her far more than Jet possibly could, no matter how handsome and great he was considered to be by all the other girls in the village.
"What's it about?" he wanted to know.
Katara shrugged without looking up. "Just another story."
"Another story, huh?" Jet glanced at the pages, though, Katara knew, he couldn't read a word. "I see." He smirked and looked down at her in what he must've believed was a very charming way. "Did I tell you you look gorgeous today?" he asked in a low voice.
Katara sighed heavily under her breath. Here we go again. "Why, thank you, Jet," she said, giving him a fake smile. "That's very kind of you."
"Don't thank me," Jet sighed smoothly; "it's simply the truth." He sat down next to her on the edge of the fountain and put a hand on her shoulder. Katara felt her muscles tense. "You know, there's a story telling night in the tavern today," he said. "How would you like to go there with me?"
"No thanks," Katara replied immediately. She snapped her book shut and got up, brushing the dust from her blue dress. "I'm not interested in hunting tales and gossip."
"Then you can come and tell us some of your stories." Jet got up as well. "You must know some great tales."
"Thank you Jet," Katara smiled tiredly. "But the answer's still no." She prepared to leave, but Jet stopped her.
"Come on, beautiful," he persisted. "It won't be any fun without you." He put his hand on her shoulder again, and Katara resisted the urge to throw him off.
"Well…" She gave him a doubtful look. He wasn't going to give up any time soon; she knew him too well to believe that. "I'll think about it," she decided. "If dad doesn't need me tonight, and I've finished my chores… Maybe I will come. But I'm not promising you anything," she added.
Jet didn't seem to care. "That's great!" he beamed. "I'll look out for you tonight, darling."
Katara snorted. "I wouldn't get my hopes up too high if I were you," she said. "Good day, Jet." She swung her braid over her shoulder, throwing off his hand, and strode away from him.
"As good as you could've hoped for, I think," a raspy voice said behind him.
Jet turned around. "I guess you're right," he said, eyeing the girl who had just spoken up. "I suppose you won't be coming tonight, either, Smellerbee?"
The girl shrugged. "I might," she said slowly. "What do you say, Longshot?" She glanced up at the tall, silent guy next to her, who merely nodded.
"Good," Jet said, pleased. "Katara'll be there, too. I'll go pick her up and drag her along if necessary. It'll be a good night."
"You might want to reconsider that plan, Jet," Smellerbee said darkly. "She's a strange girl, that Katara, and she's not quite as charmed by you as the rest of the girls around here. If you want to marry her…"
"Don't worry about it," Jet waved his hand dismissingly. "I have it all worked out in my head. Once I pop the question, there's no way she'll refuse."
Longshot gave him a piercing look.
"That's okay," Jet nodded. "I'll win her over tonight. You'll see."
Hakoda looked up in surprise. "Already?" he asked as Katara closed the door behind her. "I didn't think you'd leave until you finished reading that new book of yours. Or did you finish it already?"
"No, not yet," Katara chuckled. She carefully put her book down and walked over to kiss her father on the cheek. "I ran into that Jet again. You know, that handsome guy every girl in town is gushing about?"
"Every girl except you, by the sound of it." Hakoda frowned at the blueprint in front of him.
Katara sighed. "Well, I guess he's not all bad," she said, "and I'm sure he means well. But he's not really my type." She got up and walked to the kitchen. "Besides…" She poured herself some tea from earlier that morning. It wasn't exactly hot anymore, but it was good enough. "He only wants me for my looks. Not for who I really am." She looked down, a slightly sad look in her eyes. "That goes for pretty much everyone here, really."
Hakoda smiled encouragingly at her and made a few adjustments to his blueprint. "Don't let it worry you, Katara," he said, shaking his head. "If he doesn't appreciate the wonderful person you are, then he's obviously not worthy of you – and neither are any of those other guys. One day, you will find a man who can truly love you for who you are on the inside. I know you will. So don't you dare worry about it. Okay?" He put his arm around her and gave her a gentle squeeze.
Katara giggled softly. "I won't," she promised, smiling back at him. "Thanks, dad." She hugged her father, picked up the book again and started reading again.
"Good, good." Hakoda pushed back his chair. Carefully, he rolled up the blueprints and put them away in the drawer behind him. "I'm afraid I will have to make a small trip today," he announced, getting up and stretching his limbs. "I've run out of some necessities for my new invention and I can only get those in the city. Don't worry," he added as he saw Katara's face fall. "I'll be back again tomorrow, and the weather will be good; everyone says so."
"As long as you promise me you'll be careful," Katara sighed. She didn't like the road leading to the city at all; the villagers told the strangest stories about it, and she didn't think they could all be lies.
"I promise," Hakoda laughed, ruffling her hair. "I'll be back first thing tomorrow morning."
Not quite at ease but feeling she should be encouraging, Katara smiled and nodded. "All right then. I trust you."
"I'm glad." Hakoda walked towards the door. "Would you mind fetching my lunch for me? It's on the counter."
Katara nodded. "Yes, of course." She closed her book and hurried into the kitchen. There were indeed some loose sandwiches spread over the counter and a small bottle of water in the sink. She smiled and shook her head. How very typical. She wrapped the sandwiches neatly in a piece of cloth. She hesitated, then added a few apples as well. Satisfied, she bundled the lunch package and ran outside to the stable. Her father was already there.
"Easy, Philippe, calm…" Hakoda shushed the horse as he saddled and untied him. "It'll only be a short trip. You can handle that, can't you?"
The horse snorted and whinnied softly, now standing still.
Hakoda patted him on the back. "Good boy." He turned around to face Katara. "Ah, my lunch!"
"I wrapped it for you," she said, handing him the package. "You left them all loose on the counter."
"I did?" Hakoda furrowed his eyebrows. "I might have, yes," he then admitted. He climbed up on the horse's back and smiled down at Katara. "Now, be a good girl while I'm gone, won't you?"
Katara raised an eyebrow and grinned. "Don't open the door and don't talk to strangers, you mean?" she chortled. "Don't worry, dad."
"I don't." Hakoda laughed warmly at her. "Well, take care, girl. Go on, Philippe!" He spurred on the horse and stormed off.
Katara waved after him. "Be careful!" she yelled. Sighing, she lowered her hand. By the looks of it, she would be home alone for the rest of the day. Not that she wasn't used to it – quite the contrary. Her father travelled a lot to get his supplies. But she'd miss talking to him in the evening, sitting comfortably by the fire together and laughing at all the things they told each other. She only still had her father, after all. It wasn't like there was anyone else around to talk to.
Slowly, she walked back inside. She looked at the book she'd borrowed earlier that day. Maybe, if she finished it before the evening, she'd look in on the tavern for the story night. It wasn't really her kind of thing, but she didn't feel like staying home alone. Who knew; she might actually hear something interesting.
The tavern was warm and crowded that night. The weather had turned for the worse; Rain was pouring down and the wind howled through the streets. Many villagers had turned up just to avoid being alone at home in this cold autumn weather. They all gathered around the fireplace, where the stories were being told.
Jet grinned widely as he saw the last person entering the tavern. "Katara!" He rushed to take her coat. "You came!"
"I had nothing better to do," Katara replied, shrugging. She allowed Jet to pull her towards the fireplace.
"Of course you hadn't," Jet said briskly. "This is the best there is to do." He offered her a chair and ran off to buy her a drink at the bar.
Katara sighed and sat down. The main reason she had come to the tavern at all was to get her father out of her head. The weather was horrible and she was worried. What if he hadn't reached the city before the storm broke loose? She groaned and shook her head. Don't you think about that, Katara! She turned her attention to the old man who had stood up to tell his story in front of the roaring fire.
"Years ago," he began in a loud voice, "a king, a queen and their son lived in a castle in the forest. It were good times, in which nobody had to worry about anything at all, and the king provided us with work and safety. But then, one cold winter's night, everything went wrong."
Several people leaned forward in their chair. Everyone knew this story by heart; yet they all loved hearing it again and again.
"That night, a beast entered the castle," the man continued in a lower tone. "A beast so evil and hideous, he could not even bear the daylight. He demanded the king give him the castle, or he would kill him and take it by force. But the king was brave and refused the beast."
The villagers gasped; some clasped their hands over their mouths as if they heard the tale for the first time.
The man's voice had now dropped to a husky whisper. "The beast then killed the king. Then he devoured him and every single man, woman or child in the castle, until there was no one left. They say…" People had to lean forward to hear what he was telling now, as his voice was hardly audible anymore. "They say that the beast still lives inside the castle, waiting for anyone stupid or desperate enough to enter that cursed place. And-"
"That will be enough, now."
The crowd turned their heads, looking either disturbed or surprised. A tall, older man with dark hair and large sideburns had gotten up from his table in the far corner of the tavern. Katara recognised him as the retired admiral Zhao, now prison keeper in their village; not the most pleasant man she had ever met.
"This is no time to be telling fairy tales," he said, a cool grin apparent on his features. "Our story night is supposed to be for true tales; no lies."
The old man gave him a defiant look. "The tale of the beast is a true tale, Zhao," he said, teeth clenched.
The tavern suddenly roared with laughter. "It's a myth!" Jet shouted, handing Katara a glass and sitting down next to her. "An old legend! There is no beast inside the castle, nor was there ever." There were several shouts of agreement.
"It is no legend," the man said loudly.
Zhao shook his head as if he felt sorry for the old man, but Katara saw the grin on his face hadn't disappeared. "The castle had been searched thoroughly several times since the disappearances," he said, "and no beast, nor any sign of one, has ever been found."
"My father has seen it!" the old man bellowed. "My father saw the beast!"
But the crowd only laughed harder. Katara felt sorry for the man; she didn't really believe him, either, but this kind of reaction was just cruel.
"Did he now?" Zhao sneered. "Well, well… And we thought that Hakoda was the worst lunatic in town…"
There was a loud BONK when Katara smacked her glass down on the table. The laughter suddenly stopped. "My father is not a lunatic," she said, her blue eyes gleaming dangerously.
Zhao turned to her, the corner of his mouth curling slightly. "I beg to differ with you," he said coldly. "From what I've heard and seen, he's not quite, eh… normal would be the most polite way to place it."
Katara flushed. "How dare you?" she shouted. "My father's a genius – he's brilliant!"
The crowd burst with laughter. Zhao smiled coolly. "I find that hard to believe," he said airily. "Especially after those, ah, accidents in your basement."
Katara gritted her teeth. Every now and then, something would go wrong with an experiment and cause a small explosion. But that was only natural. "Don't challenge me, Zhao," she hissed.
Several men looked apprehensive; as beautiful a girl as she might be, Katara certainly fought like a man.
Zhao, however, looked unabashed. "Silly little girl," he snorted, shaking his head. "Do you actually think you could beat me?"
Katara glared at him, her fists clenched tightly. "Yes, I do."
"Katara, don't be ridiculous," Jet said impatiently, trying to push her back into her chair. "He'll have you beaten in – "
How soon he would have beaten her they never knew, as Katara hit him full across the face before he could even finish his sentence. Multiple girls gasped or screamed in shock as he stumbled backwards, looking up at her with big eyes.
"Keep your hands off me, Jet," Katara said shrilly, her face screwed up with anger. Without another word, she stalked to the exit, grabbed her coat and slammed the door shut behind her. She felt her face glowing. How dare he?! Of course she knew how people called her father behind their backs, and that was bad enough. But to say it right to her face?
She hardly even noticed the storm had subdued as she stalked through the dark village. That horrible bastard… She kicked hard against a rock, sending it flying into a puddle on the street. No respect for others… That cruel, vicious… He was more of a beast than whatever had entered that blasted castle could possibly have been!
Fuming, she crossed the bridge over the river. She could now make out her house in the darkness… and something else. Her heart nearly skipped a beat as she slowed to a stop. "Philippe…?" she whispered.
The horse was running around like mad, rearing up and whinnying loudly.
Katara felt her anger evaporate, making place for a horrible feeling of dread. She glanced at the house; the windows were dark. Her mouth suddenly felt dry. "No…"
Slowly, she approached Philippe. The horse looked terrified at her through his big, brown eyes. Katara grabbed hold of the dangling reins. "Philippe…" she whispered hoarsely, now shaking all over her body. "Where's dad?"
A/N: There. I hope it was okay - I'm not really sure about this one. Not that I don't like writing it, because I really do, but I'm not sure if I'm going to continue it all the way. I don't write to get reviews, but I do hope you'll give me some this time; tell me what you think. Should I keep writing?
Okay, uncertainty aside. This story will follow the main lines of the movie (which I assume most of you have seen), but things will also be different. That means characters, plot lines, stuff like that. I think that's reasonable - and above all, necessary to keep everyone in character. I'll post a list of characters after I finished chapter 2 or something, I have to see about that.
I hope you've enjoyed it, and helpful reviews are - as always - really appreciated!