Beauty and the Beast
Disney owns Beauty and the Beast and its characters.
Chapter 1- Aftermath
Rain poured through the night in the early hours of this day in March of 1770, in the mountainous eastern region of France. The spires of a tall castle were silhouetted against the dark sky, as lightning continued to strike.
In the deep forest underbrush, four weapons- two muskets, an arrow, and a sword- were moving on their own, enchanted by magic, toward the direction of the castle.
Even more peculiar was the fact that voices, hard to hear in the storm, but audible- were issuing from the four weapons.
"Did you hear that?"
"Oui, I just heard it! People screaming at the castle- a terrible commotion! What is going on?"
"Well something is going on, mon frere, and we are going to be in big trouble if we aren't there to help!"
The four weapons were supposed to be guarding the perimeter of the castle. But, as they often did, they had wandered deeper into the forest, hunting animals. They "hunted" by literally throwing themselves, or firing at, unsuspecting creatures for their own amusement, as well as to help provide the raw meat that the Master had developed a taste for.
Upon hearing the sounds of an uproar back home, they sped up as fast as they could in the direction of the castle. After several minutes of dodging soaked undergrowth and evergreen branches, they reached the clearing and the outer border of the castle grounds. Rain continued to drench the rooftops and stone gargoyle statues of the immense palace.
The four objects possessed faces with tiny eyes, and a moment later they were blinded by a streak of light that soared upwards from one of the highest balconies and exploded in multicolored fireworks in the sky.
In a matter of seconds, the fireworks rained down upon the earth, and the four sentient weapons were showered with golden sparks. In an instant, they were levitated up for a moment and then fell, each of them hitting the muddy, cold ground with a heavy thud.
They immediately felt themselves much bigger and heavier than they were moments before. The sword looked before him and saw a pair of human arms and hands spread out in front of him. They were his own.
"What is going on, Noel? I- I'm a person again!" he heard a few meters away.
The former sword's name was Noel, and the exclamation he just heard mirrored his own surprised thoughts. It was his brother's voice who'd just called out to him in the darkness, a voice which for long years had been attached to an enchanted arrow. Noel looked down to his torso and legs, and sure enough- he was human again.
His brother, Luc, came running up to him.
"Noel! It's you! You look a lot older, mon frere!"
Noel struggled to lift himself to his shaky feet. In an instant, his weight had gone from just a pound or so to about two hundred pounds. He sensed that he now stood over six feet tall, no longer the young adolescent boy he'd been before the curse. He also felt cold and wet from the pouring rain, which had not bothered him before but now was most uncomfortable. He gazed at his brother in shock.
"You are no child yourself, either, Luc! Look at you!" Luc's wavy blonde hair and blue eyes were recognizable, but his body was that of a man's, not a twelve year old boy's. The brothers ran to each other, embracing.
Two other men approached. The muskets had also transformed into human beings. One was nearly as tall as the brothers, with short dark hair and a slim build. The other was squat and of husky build, with bushy brown hair and a beard.
"Jean! Yann! Mon dieu, this is incredible!" exclaimed Luc. He was about to run to his colleagues and embrace them, but Yann, the bearded man, was anxious to rush toward the palace grounds.
"No time for celebrations, men. Something big is going on at the castle, and we need to hurry and find out what it is! Let's go!" he commanded.
They hadn't gone very far from exiting the forest and running on unsteady feet toward the grounds when they spotted a form in a ravine pit, at the foot of a mountain near a corner of the castle. Noel, Luc, Jean, and Yann could see it was the form of a person, lying sprawled in a shallow stream of water created by melted snow.
The four men lumbered to the figure on the ground, and stared at it in shock.
It was a dead man.
His hulking body was in an awkward position, flat on his back but twisted and his limbs looking broken. Torchlights on the side of the castle dimly illuminated the details of the corpse. His face was bloodless white, and his pale blue eyes stared upwards at the sky; sightless, unblinking, as rain poured into them. He wore a red tunic soaked with blood, and one foot was missing a black boot. A pool of blood was beneath the head, matting his soaked, shiny black hair, mixing with the stream of cold rainwater and seeping into the patches of melting snow, turning the slushy ground a macabre shade of pink.
The four royal servants looked at one another. "Who was this?" asked Luc incredulously. "I don't recognize him from before.. I would have remembered this fellow, he's huge!"
Truly, the dead man was Herculean in his physique. Even with the twisted, broken limbs, he obviously had been even taller than Luc and Noel were now, and his muscular arms were almost as big around as Jean's and Luc's torsos.
"We will find out later," replied Yann, the oldest of the four. "First thing we need to do is go into the castle and find out what in heaven's name is going on tonight!"
The four ran as fast as they could around to the front entrance of the castle, slipping and sliding up the long staircase on unsteady feet. In the sudden breaking light of morning, they could see that the staircase, and the castle's architecture, had changed. The gargoyle statues had changed back into cherub angels. The two huge wooden doors were flung wide open, and when they entered, everything was in disarray. Small objects were scattered about, yet there was a feeling of peace and light in the main foyer which had not been there before.
"Your Grace! Are you here?" Yann called out to the Master. His main concern was that nothing had happened to the Master. It was his and the three others' responsibility as the official castle guards.
A group of people came running down the stairs. They were all very familiar to the guards, even though they hadn't seen them as humans for so many years. Cogsworth, Mrs. Potts, Lumiere, and the small boy known as Chip descended on the main foyer.
Dozens of other people came running in from both the West Wing and the East Wing, all babbling and shouting with excitement. Madame de La Grande Bouche, the armoire, was now a tall, large-built lady in a green dress. The coat rack was now a tall man in his thirties in a green top hat. The iron cookstove was now a portly, bushy-eyebrowed older man in a chef's hat. Two armchairs with heart-shaped backs were now young women; the former pink one was a short, buxom blonde, the former olive-green one a willowy brunette.
"The spell! It is finally broken!" Lumiere was proclaiming loudly.
"The Master is coming down as of this moment," said Cogsworth, trying hard to hide his giddiness and eager to take control of the situation.
The guards gazed up at the staircase and gasped.
The Master- he was human! Prince Adam was now a tall, well-built, handsome young man in his early twenties with long, light chestnut-gold hair and chiseled features. On his arm was the beautiful girl, Belle, who he had been keeping as prisoner since last autumn. He was holding her close as they descended the stairs, and both were glowing with happiness. It was obvious now that they were in love.
"Congratulations, Your Grace," greeted Yann, bowing. "We need to speak with you for a moment, however. There is a problem- can you step outside with us?"
Adam had trouble remembering the faces of the four men, but quickly realized their identity as having been the weapon-guards. He didn't recall much about them before, since they had been youths before the transformation, not much older than he was.
"There has been a casualty, Your Grace. A man has been found dead on the castle grounds. Near the southwest corner. We have no idea who he was."
Adam's face turned grim, a shadow of anger on his now-handsome young visage. "Gentlemen, I ask that you do the duty of taking the man's body to the village, where he came from. Follow the path down the valley and through the northern woods, it goes directly to a village called Molyneux. Belle informed me there is a church in the village. Take the body there. Do not tell anyone you meet there where you are from. Just say you were travelers. Then come back here immediately. That is an order!"
The four men descended the steps and headed to the horse stables, to procure a horse and wagon.
Belle, coming up to Adam's side, was beginning to become distraught again. "Now I feel as if I will never be able to return to my old home again... and neither can Papa. He will be ostracized even more now. May he stay with us from now on?"
He softened as he looked to his lady love. "He certainly may. I owe him an apology for the way I had treated him in the past. I want to make it up to him now, any way I can. But you, Belle- I never want you to set foot in that village again."
"What? Adam-" she was now getting used to using his true name- "I need to get all of our things together in our cottage and even say goodbye to some people! I don't want there to be ill will between us and the people outside the palace walls forever. I will need to go back soon!" She looked up at him indignantly.
Prince Adam sighed and looked down at his sweetheart. "Very well, then. It's just that...I worry about you and want you to be happy with me. I do not wish to make enemies. It is just that my impression of your townspeople is...not very good right now. I want to protect you." He embraced her close.
Belle embraced him back and remembered something that the bookstore owner had told her almost a year before, when she had just moved to Molyneux, a lonely nineteen year old girl with her aging widowed father. He had told her the tale of the royal palace in the mountains, just a short distance away and beyond the woods, which he said had been the home of an aristocratic couple who had both died in an epidemic. They had a young son, but he was never confirmed dead or alive, and no one had ever seen or heard from him for years. It was assumed by the locals that the 'lost Prince' had been taken in by other relatives, shunted off to the grander cities of France.
The castle, the bookseller had told Belle, was empty and abandoned. People who ventured near it thought it looked fearsome and foreboding, and no one had dared to enter it. Until that one fateful night last fall, when her Papa was desperate for shelter.
Belle came to the realization that the 'lost Prince,' who had been assumed to be living elsewhere, could be warmly welcomed by the villagers if given a chance to meet him. How wonderful it could be if she could introduce everyone to the man she loved. A prince in disguise... her favorite storybook had become her destiny. She knew the townspeople back home could never believe her. But she felt the need to make peace with her old home, even if it meant only telling half the truth.
Still early that morning, a wagon circled into the small town as it was still sleeping. It was much more likely to stay quiet this day than most days, for the fact that so many of the able-bodied, adult male population of the town were suffering from mild to severe injuries. Their wives, parents or neighbors had taken care of them and sent them to bed; and the only doctor in the village was rushing to and fro, trying to tend to the most severe cases. As the doctor disappeared into one of the cottages, bag of bandages and bucket of warm water in hand, the village now empty of people on the streets, the wagon stopped in front of the white clapboard church.
The driver of the wagon approached the parsonage on the side of the church, and knocked on the door. A older man dressed in the collar and garb of a priest answered.
"Bonjour! What can I help you with so early this morning?"
"Pardon us, but there has been a fatality near your village. It was near the huge castle we were passing by. We discovered a man's body, and we need to have him identified. He may be one of your own."
The priest, Pere Gerard-Emile, followed the driver, the palace guard Yann, to the back of the wagon. Jean, Noel, and Luc removed the wool blanket from a large wooden box. The clergyman gasped, his face going pale.
"Non! It cannot be! This man is one of ours, and he was the strongest man in our community! The pillar of our town!" He put both hands to his temples in worry. Molyneux was not going to take this news very well.
"Gaston de Soleil," he whispered.