The moment Belle heard Gaston's voice, she started running up the stairs as fast as her wound would allow. To her great shock, she saw prison cells. And Gaston was locked in one of them! "Gaston?" she gasped.
"Belle, get me out of here!" he yelled.
He sounded incredibly angry, his voice resonating through the tower. She had to hold on to the wall. She began to feel the pain of her wound; if she wasn't careful she would collapse. The pain increased rapidly. Not now… "Gaston!" she panted as she grasped the bars of his cell door "What happened?"
"My hands are like ice! Get me out of here!"
Belle tried to understand what had happened after her wedding. She remembered the church, the ceremony... How had they ended up here? Gaston's wedding suit was ruined. Through all the mud stains, it was hard to tell that his pants had been white once. His red overcoat was torn. His hair was no longer pulled back neatly, but was now wild and loose. It was clear he had been fighting. But why? Had she done something to get sent back to the Maison? Had he fought the caretakers to keep her out? It didn't make sense…
"I thought Monsieur D'Arque was a good friend of yours?" she said.
"Paul?" Gaston asked, astonished. "What has he got to do with this?" Had Paul betrayed him? His friend hadn't been at the wedding. Had it been Paul who had given that noble the directions to his house? He had wondered how that man had found his house… Who else but Paul D'Arque? If I get my hands on that man! I should have known that a man who's always surrounded by lunatics couldn't be trusted!
"We are in the asylum, are we not?" Belle asked, confused. "Who did this to you?"
"What are you talking about? Don't you remember?" Gaston hadn't expected this, but it could work out in his favor. If Belle didn't remember that noble showing up at his house, then things weren't lost yet.
"Not much. I remember the wedding, and I can tell that you have been fighting," she said. With her hand she went over her bandages. "How did I get injured?"
This was good - she didn't remember! "Oh, my poor darling," Gaston said sympathetically as he reached through the bars. He smiled at her. "It was a horrible fight. As your husband, I tried my best to defend you."
Belle nodded. The fight was obvious. But Gaston defending her… why was that part missing from her memory? If he had defended her… then why was she wounded, while he seemed to be unharmed? "How did I get stabbed?" she asked. Gaston didn't say anything. "Gaston?"
He had to think fast. If she didn't believe his story, he would lose her. He had to convince her that wounding her was the only way to save their marriage. "You don't know how scared I was," he finally said. "I was so afraid that I would lose you."
"Lose me?" she said.
He nodded. "I only took that knife to scare off that noble, when he tried to take you away."
"That noble…?" Belle tried to remember. The memory was blurry, but she did remember something. "You mean that man…" His eyes! That was…
Gaston suddenly grabbed her hand which was holding her side. The sudden movement caused her side to flare up with intense pain, making it hard to think. Tears came to her eyes. She felt as if she could faint any moment.
"Belle, I know it's a lot to take in, but you must believe me: I tried to defend your honor!"
"My honor?" she asked, confused. Had Gaston been the one who had stabbed her? How could he stab her when he was defending her? "Why?" she said as she slowly backed away.
Gaston turned away from her. "I can't even say it!"
"That noble, that evil noble… he wanted to have his droit de seigneur."
"What is that?"
Gaston turned back and smiled at her. "My sweet little wife, you are still so innocent." He reached out through the bars again and put her hair behind her ear. "Some noblemen believe they have the right to have the first night with a bride who lives on their land."
Belle fell silent. She had so much to think about. It couldn't be Adam. Adam would never harm her. No one had ever been as sweet to her as Adam. Besides her husband, of course… And Adam didn't exist. But he had been there, at the wedding party, had he not? Only her Adam was a Beast, while the man at her wedding was, well, a man. How could a Beast and a man be the same person? They couldn't...yet they sounded the same...
More memories of her wedding came back. The man had kissed her hand. He had been gentle and kind….like Adam. In no way he behaved like Gaston made it sound.
She tried to think what had happened before she had opened her eyes and found herself in that luxurious bedroom. She had mistaken it for the Maison, but she was in a castle. She couldn't recall anything about how she came to be there. All she felt was the throbbing pain in her side… where Gaston had stabbed her!
"What's wrong, honey?" Gaston asked. He sounded sincerely worried. "Did he lay his hands on you? He didn't touch you, did he?"
"No, I don't think so…" she said slowly.
"That's not good enough! You need to know for sure!" he yelled all of a sudden. "Any bruises? Are you sore between your legs?"
"No!" Belle said, shocked. Gaston's sudden mood swing was as scary as the thought that he had attacked her. For her own good. To defend her from someone who would never attack her.
"Good." Gaston smiled, gently caressing her cheek. "I could never forgive you if you were no longer untouched." His smile faded for a second. "You are mine. Never forget that! You are my wife."
Belle didn't say anything. She was slowly beginning to understand that she might have made a mistake. The gaps in her memory were getting smaller, and things were becoming clearer. If Adam was real, then why had she believed otherwise? Why had she agreed to marry Gaston, when Adam was NOT a figment of her imagination?
She looked up into Gaston's eyes. The look in his eyes had changed, become hard and almost threatening, and it frightened her. "Yes, Gaston," she said almost inaudibly.
"No matter what others may tell you, we are married till death do us part!" The grip on her wrist tightened. "Do you understand?"
He emphasized each word. And with each word, she became slightly more terrified, even though he was behind bars. Who knew what he was up to...what he was capable of?
"I do," she assured him, nodding.
Adam had to hear it from her own lips. How could she say have said 'I do' to a man who clearly didn't love her? The girl he once knew would never marry a man like that. The conditions of the spell were clear: he could only become human again if someone learned to love him. How and why had she loved him if she was engaged to someone else?
He wouldn't rest until he knew why. He would never find peace otherwise.
He stood in front of the door of Belle's room, but hesitated. He didn't want to go in. He needed to know the answers...yet now that he was here, something within him was afraid to hear the truth. If there was only a way to avoid this.
He looked around and saw a servant girl dusting the hallway. She curtseyed deeply when she saw him looking at her. He sighed and straightened his back. He realized that he was human again and the prince. He couldn't walk away from his problems anymore. He had to face them and solve them.
Without making a sound he opened the door. "Belle?" He opened the door further and stepped into the room. He didn't hear anything or anyone. He also didn't see anyone! The bed was empty! He looked around the room, but there was absolutely no one there! The only sign of Belle was the bloody dress piled up in a corner of the room. She was gone!
"Belle!" he yelled as he ran out of the room. "Where is she?!" he yelled to the servant girl. "Where did she go?"
"Who?" the girl asked, trembling.
"Belle! Who took her?" Adam yelled. "I ordered you to stay here!" He took another step in her direction, grabbed her by the shoulders and shook her. "Tell me, girl! Where did she go?"
The girls started crying. "I didn't see anyone!"
"Then why is she gone?! She couldn't fly out the window!"
Lumière came running up the stairs, quickly followed by the priest. "My prince, what is wrong?"
"Belle is gone!"
"I only left this hall for a few minutes!" the girl sobbed. "I'm sorry! It's all my fault!"
For a moment Adam thought that he was going crazy. His mind was racing. He had lost her, then found her, and now he had lost her again? Where could she be? Would she remember the castle? it looked so different now from when she was here before.
How did she get out of this room? Adam fretted. She was badly injured. She couldn't have gone out by herself! I should have never left her side! I should have had guards at the door! Why did I let the doctor leave the room? Then a chilling possibility occurred to him. That man… could it be? No, the cells in the tower are impossible to escape! No, it couldn't be him!
But he had to be sure. "Is the prisoner still in the tower?" he asked.
The priest nodded. "I just left him. We had a good conversation about God and forgiveness, but he didn't-"
Adam didn't want to hear all that. "Did you let him out of his cell?" he interrupted.
"Of course not!" the priest said, slightly offended. "The guards opened his cell, I went in. We talked. The guards let me out when I was done."
"And you are sure they locked the cell door when you left?"
"I didn't see it, Your Majesty. I had already gone downstairs," the priest said with an apologetic shrug "It could be-"
"Never mind!" Adam yelled as he ran through the hallways to the tower. There was only one way to find out, and that was to go there himself!
"Now, you have to get me out of here," Gaston said as he let go of Belle.
Belle didn't want to admit it, but she wasn't sure if she wanted Gaston to get out. Her husband had locked her away in an insane asylum, claiming It was for her own good. After she had done everything he told her to to get out,, she had married him...and somehow she had ended up getting stabbed.
She looked at the bars. The entire cell looked very solid. She would need a key to get him out, but she didn't have one. "How am I-"
Gaston's perfect hearing picked up some sounds in the distance. "Someone is coming!" he suddenly said. "He cannot find you here! Go hide behind the door and don't make a sound!"
She did hide behind the door, but not just because Gaston told her so. She wasn't entirely sure if she was right that the nobleman at her wedding, the one Gaston said he had protected her from, truly was Adam. What if Gaston was right?
She leaned against the stone wall behind the door. She closed her eyes and hoped that she was right about Adam – that somehow, he really was her beloved Beast. If she was wrong, she couldn't be found here.
"Where is she?" she heard a voice yell.
It sounded like Adam. How he had banged on her door and ordered her to come to dinner…
"Who?" Gaston asked innocently.
"Don't play dumb with me!" the other voice continued. "Where is Belle?"
"I should be asking you that question – you took her away from me!" Gaston pointed out. "Where is my wife?"
"She's not in her bedroom!" Adam snapped.
"So where is she? What did you do to her?" Gaston snapped back.
The conversation stopped, but Belle couldn't make out what happened. She heard the sound of metal against metal, but couldn't identify exactly what it was. It wasn't the cell door, but it wasn't swords either. Neither man spoke further. Then she heard footsteps echo down the stairs.
The nobleman had sounded angry...but also concerned. And his voice resembled Adam's so much, there was hardly any doubt in her mind. Maybe she was delirious from the pain, but now she couldn't come to any other conclusion than that Adam and this man were the same! That meant… that Adam was real!
The realization filled her with relief. If Adam was real, then the Beast, the castle, everything was real. She was in Adam's castle! Which meant that she wasn't crazy! No matter how impossible it sounded, she had been staying with a Beast in a castle. There had been no reason to go to the asylum. No reason to try to get out of the asylum. No reason to marry Gaston! If he hadn't locked her away…
That's why he did it, she thought, suddenly feeling cold all over. It was all just another scheme to make me his wife...
Gaston's voice interrupted her thoughts. "You hear now what he is after. He wants you," Gaston said. "And he will stop at nothing."
And neither will you, Belle thought grimly. No one was more determined than Gaston to get his way. She had known that Gaston had wanted her, but that he would go this far…
"Belle, you can come out now!"
Her heart started pounding in her throat. She knew she was safe from him - he was in his cell and there was no way he could get out. But with Gaston, you never knew what could happen. She came out from behind the door, but stayed as far from his cell as possible.
"You have to go back to the village, Belle." Gaston said. He paced up and down his cell like a caged animal. "Get the mayor! Get someone to get me out of here!"
Belle didn't speak.
"Didn't you hear what I said?" he hissed through his teeth. " I am your husband!" He reached through the bars for her, but she was too far away for him to get hold of her. "You will do as I say!"
Belle instinctively backed away, bumping into the wall.
In an instant, Gaston's voice changed. "I'm sorry, honey," he said, his voice soft and sincere. But she knew know it was all an act. "Come here," he said.
"What's wrong? You're not afraid of your own husband, are you?" he let out a soft laugh. "I said: come here."
Not knowing what he could do, she slowly approached him. He took her hands again through the bars and looked at her. His lips smiled, but his eyes didn't.
"Belle, I want you to be strong," he said. He caressed her cheek. "You heard him. That man is very angry with me for threatening him. He has sentenced me to death."
Belle couldn't help it - she had to raise her eyebrows at this. Everything that happened was beyond anything she could ever imagine, but Adam sentencing a man to death? No. Not her Adam. He had a temper, but he would never… No… it was impossible.
Gaston was lying to her. He needed her to get him out. He was manipulating her. Like he had done in the asylum.
"If you don't get me out of here, I will be dead tomorrow morning!" Gaston insisted.
Adam would never… But still… "I have to talk to him," she thought out loud.
"You are not going anywhere near that man!" Gaston interrupted her thoughts. "Make sure you get out of the castle, unseen, and get help."
Yes, she would get help. And she knew exactly where to get it.
Adam had retreated into the West Wing and didn't look up when he heard the door. He was looking out the window, his eyes fixed on the courtyard. That was the place where they used to do the executions, years and years ago. He felt shivers go down his spine as he watched the executioner getting everything ready.
In all his life, his father had only executed a prisoner once. Adam had been seven or eight years old. At the time, and he had not been allowed to watch it from up close. His father had ordered him to stay in his room. Both his parents had agreed that it wasn't something he should see at such a young age. His parents had not realized that he could see everything from the windows in his room.
He didn't remember what the prisoner had done. But his parents argued about it. His mother was against the execution; she thought a lifetime in prison or hard labor was a better punishment. His father argued that he wanted to get rid of the danger. The man was a threat to the kingdom. He had to die. It was the only right thing to do.
And so was this.
He finally turned around. To his disappointment, he didn't see Belle. The only ones standing there were Cogsworth, Lumière, the priest, and several soldiers. "Any sign of her yet?"
"No, Your Majesty." Cogsworth shook his head. He didn't move from the doorway. "We have searched everywhere, but found no trace of her."
Adam let out a growl of frustration. "Well, keep looking!" he yelled as he paced up and down the room. "Leave no chamber unsearched, no garden unexplored. Let no one in this castle sleep until she's safe!"
"Yes, sire," Cogsworth answered. He ushered the guards out of the room, but he himself stayed.
Adam went over to the glass bell jar with the golden Rose. Where was that Enchantress when he needed her? If only he had a way to summon her. Even without the magic mirror, there must be other ways to find Belle.
"Everyone is looking. We will find her, my prince," Lumière broke the silence. "She cannot be far."
"If only I could believe that, Lumière!" Adam said cynically. "If we cannot find her, she could be anywhere! What if that man had help?"
"Impossible, my prince," Cogsworth disagreed. "Everyone who wants to get in has to get past the guards."
If everyone has to pass the guards to get in… then so does everyone who wants to get out. "That means she still has to be in the castle," Adam muttered. "Double the guards at every entrance and at the gates!"
"As you command, my prince," Lumière said as he left the room.
Adam looked out of the window. He tried to get things straight. That man was in the castle, and so was Belle. If Belle was still in the castle and the danger was still in the castle, he had to remove the danger. He shouldn't wait till tomorrow.
"We'd better get this over with. Is everything ready for the execution?" Nobody spoke. Immediately Adam started to feel irritated. He turned around and saw Cogsworth and the priest look at each other. "Now what?"
Cogsworth softly coughed. "Ehm… your Grace, it is customary in circumstances like this, when a convict is from low birth, a peasant if you will, and not someone from high birth, such as a nobleman, that the death sentence is-"
Adam sighed. "Cogsworth, stop babbling! What is the problem?"
"The death sentence should be death by hanging, but-"
"But what?!" Adam yelled.
Cogsworth looked at the priest, who still didn't speak. "The wooden beams of the gallows are completely rotten," he finally explained. "During the cursed years we were not able to keep up the maintenance."
"And your point?"
"It will never hold the prisoner's weight. It will collapse immediately. We cannot proceed with the execution."
Adam shrugged. "Then do it a different way. I don't care."
"Your Highness!" the priest finally spoke. He was in shock. "Life and death is not something to think lightly of! Life is a precious thing."
"Don't talk to me about how precious life is!" Adam snapped immediately. "That man took a life, so I can take his!"
"But he didn't succeed in taking the life of the mademoiselle," the priest pointed out.
"Luckily he didn't!" Adam muttered. "Thank the Lord she is still alive. Thanks to her, you all walk on two legs again!"
Cogsworth and the priest didn't speak. Adam took their silence as agreement that he was right. Everything going on at this moment was thanks to Belle.
"I agree," the priest answered after a few moments. "And we are forever in her debt. But the prisoner didn't take her life. Do you have the right to take his?"
"You saw that man, you spoke to him. Didn't you, Father?"
"Yes I did, a few hours ago."
"No remorse," the priest admitted. "He refused the last rites. He says he will not die tomorrow."
"We'll see about that," Adam said with a smirk. He looked out the window again. The executioner seemed to be practicing his swing with his axe. "Did he really refuse last rites?"
The priest nodded. "He didn't want to have a last confession, let alone prepare his soul for the last journey."
"Then what did you do when you were there?" Adam asked.
"Listen. Some people need to talk in their last moments on Earth, and some people are more forthcoming and willing to talk without an official confession."
Adam didn't say anything.
"He is an interesting man," the priest went on. "I have never met anyone so convinced of his own truth. He truly believes the mademoiselle needed to go the asylum to find her place in life at his side.. He said he knew she belonged to him ever since he spotted her the first time."
"I don't want to hear this." Adam waved his hand dismissively. "Please go looking for her."
The two men left. Adam watched the executioner sharpening his axe. The death of the prisoner would be quick and painless. Part of him wanted to torture this man as long as possible, but what good would that do? Better to get it over with quickly. Neither he nor Belle would ever be free as long as this man was still alive. It was the only right thing to do.
He heard the door open again.
"You may only come in if you have found Belle,," he said without looking.
"I have found her," a familiar female voice said.
Adam closed his eyes. For a moment he was convinced he was dreaming.
"Belle…" he said breathlessly as he turned around.