Kissed by a Rose
Disclaimer: I don't own Beauty and the Beast. I can dream, sure, but that's about it.
Author's Note: *Please read before continuing!* This story is rated M due to the adult nature of its content. There is rape involved in the storyline. I am telling you this now so it will not come as a surprise later, not to turn you off. However, in exchange for your understanding, as the author I promise to be as tasteful as possible. I can tell you now you will never read the actual rape scene. This story is concerns the results, not the act itself.
Once upon a time, in a small province in France, a young prince lived in a shining castle. As his parents' only and much-loved child, he had everything his heart desired. He grew up surrounded by servants and toys, and had every reason to be spoiled, selfish, and unkind. However, his father, who was a son of the King of France and a prince himself, was a good and fair ruler and did his best in what little time he could spare to see that his heir was brought up with a keen sense of justice. From a young age, the boy was given the strictest tutors, and had to spend one day a week watching his father govern disputes that his subjects brought to him for judgment. In this way, he hoped his son might grow up to carry on his legacy as an honest and impartial ruler.
The young prince disliked studying, as many active children do, but he feared to disappoint his father. So he worked hard with his tutors and lived for the few words of praise his father might bestow if he happened to hear his son was doing well. As a result, the prince had few friends his own age and little idea of the world outside his classroom, except for the petitions brought before his father.
The prince's mother was a lovely, cheerful woman who was much younger than her husband. Their marriage had been arranged, but it seemed a companionable one. Indeed, the prince's father depended a great deal upon his wife for her council in many matters of state. He trusted her above all his other advisors, and it was often upon her knee that the young prince sat when his father held court.
Unfortunately, this seeming idyll did not last. When the young prince was nine years old, it was discovered that his mother had had an adulterous affair with one of the palace grooms early on in her marriage. Though it had ended long before their son was born, and he could easily have shown leniency, her husband felt so betrayed by the woman he had loved and trusted that he decreed that both she and her former lover must die by beheading.
The day of the execution was a warm day in early autumn, but the young prince was as cold and numb as if it were the dead of winter. His father had insisted that he attend, "so that he could see that justice had been done," but the young prince had never cared less about justice. All he saw was his dear mother, dressed in rags and stripped of all trappings of royalty, standing on a scaffold begging her husband for her life. But he refused to be moved, and gestured that the execution be carried out.
The young prince looked away as the headsman raised his axe. He buried his head in the ample skirts of his former nurse, Mrs. Potts, who had since moved on to become one of the castle cooks but had steadfastly attached herself to his side the moment his mother had been arrested. Her presence had been a great comfort to him, marred only by the fact that she was expecting a child. Her obviously impending motherhood only served as a reminder that he was soon to be deprived of his own mother. Now, Mrs. Potts wisely put her hands over her charge's ears so that he would be spared hearing the swish of the axe as it came down. He clung to her even tighter, pressing himself against her so hard that he could feel the kicking of the child within her. He squeezed his eyes shut. Even so, he knew when the axe landed. His heart gave a great thump that did not mask the sound the axe made when it buried itself in the wooden block his mother had placed her neck upon. He did not dare look again. Mrs. Potts led him inside and up to his room with his face still buried in her skirt.
In the months that followed, it was observed that the young prince's father was no longer the same man he had been when his wife was alive. He still went about his duties at first, but there was no sparkle in his eyes. He steadily began to refuse to eat and to lock himself in his rooms in the West Wing of the castle for hours, and then days, at a time. When he did appear, he was pale as a ghost and perpetually wore a look of exhaustion. The servants whispered he had realized his mistake in executing his beloved wife and was pining away for regret and love of her.
During this time, everyone seemed to have briefly forgotten about the young prince. He heard all the gossip, many times without the servants realizing he was present. He still attended his lessons in the hope that his father might hear of some small success and perhaps feel better because of it. However, nothing changed. The castle, which had once seemed bright and shining while his mother was alive, now hovered in a perpetual state of grayish twilight. Everyone seemed to be waiting, though for what, he had no idea.
And then one day, nearly a year after his mother's death, he heard a new rumor: that his father was ill, dreadfully so, and no doctor could discover a cure. The servant upon whom the young prince was eavesdropping stated confidently that a cure was unlikely to be found, for the cure for heartbreak had yet to be divined.
All happened as the servant had predicted. Within a month of the day the prince had first heard that his father might die, Mrs. Potts came into his room, carrying her infant son, to tell him that he was now the Master of the castle and all its lands. The young prince did not speak again for days. He could not even find the voice to protest when his things were moved to his parents' former suite in the West Wing.
The afternoon of his father's funeral, the prince found himself kneeling beside the freshly turned earth that the gravediggers had just finished filling in. He felt his heart growing full of the icy cold that had numbed him at his mother's death. His parents' love for each other hadn't been able to save his mother from her fate, and his father was now dead because of that love. This cold around his heart was safer. With it in place, he hardly felt the impulse to care about anything.
From that day on, the prince was ungovernable. The quiet, studious, goodhearted boy vanished, replaced by an angry, demanding young man who shouted at the slightest hint of his will being crossed. He frustrated so many tutors that by his twelfth birthday Cogsworth, the head of the household, simply stopped hiring them. No matter how any of the servants threatened or cajoled, even the recently widowed Mrs. Potts, the prince did as he pleased. The servants themselves dared not directly contradict him, because he was now their ruler and held their lives and livelihoods within his hands. It was fortunate that a regent council had been set up to handle all of the official business until the prince came of age, or the province might have been ruined by neglect.
And so it went, until the winter after the prince turned fourteen. On Christmas Eve, an old beggar woman appeared at the castle doors and offered a single rose to the master of the house in exchange for shelter from the bitter cold. She insisted upon presenting her gift personally, so the guards led her inside to the throne room. The prince was repulsed by her haggard appearance. Everything in his small world was always clean and looked its best, and he found the beggar woman's dirty clothing and skin disgusting. Nor was he in need of a rose; he had many more expensive and beautiful Christmas presents. He therefore sneered at the old woman's humble gift and turned her away.
Before the guards could lead her out, the old woman warned the prince that he was allowing appearances to deceive him and that true beauty was found within, not without. The prince could not imagine how she had come to know his thoughts so closely, but he was unable to make sense of her words. He himself felt almost nothing inside, least of all beautiful. And he looked at others and saw all he needed to see. To know someone any deeper risked the pain he'd felt at his parents' deaths again. He scoffed at the crone's warning and dismissed her again.
Immediately, the old woman's ugliness melted away. A beautiful enchantress in gorgeous green robes stood in her place. She seemed almost sad as explained that she had looked into his future and seen the misery for all involved if things continued as they were now. She had resolved to do something to change that future, but first she had come to offer him one final test, to see if anything yet remained of his human feeling. He had failed.
The prince tried to apologize, the first time he had done so in years, but it was far too late. The enchantress had seen for herself that he felt no love in his heart. She touched him with her wand, and he was instantly transformed into a hideous beast. The enchantress explained that his outward appearance now matched what was inside him. He had but one chance to alter his fate: he had to learn to love another, and earn her love in return. The rose the enchantress had offered was bespelled to mark the years, and if he failed by the time the last petal fell, in his twenty-fifth year, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time.
The enchantress then turned to the servants and cast another spell on them, and upon the castle itself, so that they matched how the prince had perceived them since his father's death. The servants became nothing more than walking, talking household objects. The castle ceased to be its shining self and became dark and foreboding, full of gargoyles and nightmare shadows. If the prince achieved his goal and found love in the next ten years, everything would be restored to the way it had been before. If not, then the household and castle would remain trapped in their new forms as well.
The enchantress offered one gift to the former prince: a magic mirror, which would show anything it was asked. Then she vanished, leaving the castle's inhabitants to attempt to come to terms with their new state.
Ashamed of his monstrous form, the prince, now calling himself the Beast, concealed himself inside the castle. It seemed that the Enchantress had anticipated even this, for the magic mirror became his only, and infrequently used, window to the outside world.
The rose was placed carefully under a bell jar to prevent as many petals from falling as possible. It remained in the Beast's rooms in the West Wing, a silent, glowing reminder of the passage of time in a castle that had, for all other intents and purposes, become frozen at the moment the enchantress had disappeared.
And time did pass. As days became months, and months became years, the creature who had once been a prince slowly fell into despair, and lost all hope. For who could ever learn to love a Beast?
Author's Note: It's me again. The last note was just an impersonal warning. I have a few things I want to say as this story gets started. The first is that this story is named for the song "Kiss from a Rose" by Seal, which of course I don't own.
I've often wondered about motivations for the characters in Beauty and the Beast. Sure, we're told the prince is spoiled, selfish, and unkind, but how did he get that way? Other fanfic authors have offered theories, usually having to do with the deaths of his parents and the inability of the servants to discipline him as he grew. I took a variant on this.
I've also wondered about why the Enchantress chose to show up at the castle in the first place. Was she watching the prince for years and decided things weren't going to change unless something drastic happened? Was she afraid for what would happen to his subjects under such an unfeeling man? Or was she simply wandering by and decided to randomly test the local ruler for her own amusement? This is an important question, especially since the prince was so young when the curse was put on him.
Which brings me to another issue. I've decided to slightly alter Disney canon here, because if you do the math, the prince was eleven when he was cursed. Cursing an eleven-year-old for being unable to love? Yikes. Never mind that he looks older than eleven in the opening sequence of stained glass windows, his portrait on the wall of the West Wing, and the flashback in The Enchanted Christmas. I decided to move up his age so that he's almost fifteen when he's cursed and has until twenty-five to break it. The interval is still ten years, and it seems much more reasonable to be able to find love in this time period rather than eleven to twenty-one.
I think that's all I wanted to say. Hope you stick around for more!