This is the story of a man with a curse and a servant girl.
There was once a great man who ruled over a great country with a firm but kind hand. His subjects adored him and his rivals admired him. He had no enemies and was loved by all who knew him. The king's land was peaceful and prosperous. He kept busy every hour of every day and never had any time to pay attention to the many women who tried to catch his eye. He was far too busy to be selfish about finding love. He was young and figured it could wait.
This king also had a younger brother who had lived in the king's great shadow his whole life. He was just as good of a man and was respected just as much as his brother, but he had always felt overlooked. He was desperate for any chance to prove himself to be just as great as his elder brother. He was smart and advised his brother often. He was strong. He ventured out on hundreds of quests, saving beautiful damsels from terrifying monsters along the way.
One day, a great dragon attacked the village surrounding the king's castle. While the king tried to find a way to peacefully resolve the attack, the king's brother sought to slay the dragon.
"Henry, we cannot simply attack it! There must be a way to peacefully resolve this. You'll get killed!" The young king paced his throne room, his brother standing before him.
"Nobody else is brave enough. You know I can do this. How many more villagers will be killed or injured because of this dragon? We must do something about it. It isn't just a matter of talking to it," Prince Henry said. "We must take control of the situation, James."
"That's exactly what I'm trying to do. Don't you see that? Dragons don't just live wild and alone. Usually someone is in control over it. Right now we're trying to figure out exactly who it is that is controlling this dragon." King James ran a hand through his raven hair then looked to his brother with sorrowful gray eyes. "I know I cannot stop you, but the whole kingdom will mourn if you perish."
Henry stood tall, his confidence making his chiseled face and golden locks glow. "I will not die. I promise you that." Before anything else could be said, he ran from the throne room. The king shook his head and convened again with his royal advisors and mages. They continued to try to find another way to resolve their dragon problem.
Meanwhile, Henry donned his armor and collected his sword. His bravery was unwavering as he set out to slay the dragon that had plagued his village for far too long.
After a great struggle, the prince succeeded in his quest to slay the monster. The king was overjoyed that his brother did not perish and succeeded in saving the village from even more destruction. A great feast was held in Henry's honor. He was declared a hero by the villagers and in that moment, he was respected far more than the king.
As everyone rejoiced and celebrated, an enchantress heard of the dragon's demise. The dragon was her own beloved pet and mourned the loss deeply. She grew angry with the prince. She needed payment for what had been done.
Right in the middle of the festivities, she appeared out of nowhere in front of the king and prince.
"Which one of you killed my beloved dragon?" she demanded of them.
The prince stood without any hesitation. "It was I," he answered.
The enchantress glared at him. "You took the life of my dragon and now you must pay. You shall die for your crimes!"
The king stood, angered by her words. "No! Do not kill him. He was only doing what was best for his people! Your dragon would have destroyed the village and killed everyone living there. Who knows what else it might have done after that if you had continued to keep it out of your sight. Do not punish him for what he thought was best for his country. Please, take me instead. The kingdom now needs him more than they need me."
The enchantress was moved by the king's words and selflessness. She did not say anything at first while she tried to find a suitable solution to her own problem. Finally, she said to him, "Your quickness to sacrifice yourself for love of your brother and kingdom is admirable. Because of this, I shall kill no one today. Your actions demand recognition. I will bless this land with prosperity and peace until the end of time. No misfortune will ever befall the land or its people.
"However, your brother's actions still demand justice. Since you so willingly offered your life to spare his, you will receive a curse that will no longer make you so beloved. People will run in fear at the mere sight of you. I will banish you to a land far away, where no one knows your story. Just like my dragon, you will be feared and unwanted. You will become a beast, a monster. You will live alone for eternity. You shall never die."
She studied the king for a moment. The hall was silent as she stared at the king. "Pray tell, good king, why haven't you married?"
He was startled by the odd, seemingly off-topic question. "I was busy ruling my kingdom. I am young. I assumed it could wait several more years."
"Then consider this a gift." She raised her hands and the room darkened. "Your curse can only be broken by true love. When you can make a woman love you for your ugly façade, your curse will fade. When you can make a woman marry you, your curse will be broken. Now you finally have the time to focus on finding yourself a wife."
Then a dark smoke surrounded the king. The enchantress waved an arm and the smoke vanished. The king had disappeared leaving behind nothing but his crown.
The enchantress laughed and snapped her fingers. She was gone in an instant, leaving the subjects mourning the loss of their king and Henry to assume the throne.
The enchantress sent James to a far off land, just as she promised. His appearance was indeed frightful. He was transformed into a beast with sharp teeth and razor-like claws. Dark, unruly fur covered his whole body. His voice became more of a growl.
His mind stayed as human as it had ever been, though, and he clung to his sanity at first. He tried desperately to keep the beast from entering his kind soul. But as the years passed, he grew lonely. The enchantress had given him servants, but they feared him just as much as anyone else might. Occasionally lost travelers would wander onto the grounds of his sprawling estate, but as soon as they saw a glimpse of him, they ran. The king lost hope and slowly he became mad from the loneliness. Eventually the beast took over his mind and nothing was left of his human self.
After many years had gone by, his own servants had forgotten that he was ever a human. A different tale was spun with each generation of servants. Stories began to spread throughout the countryside of the frightening beast that lived in the castle among the hills. Soon not even lost travelers would happen upon the castle, leaving the only human contact the beast had was with his servants.
The servants themselves had a curse of their own. In some way or another, they had all angered the enchantress. As their punishment, they were banished to the castle to live out their lives in servitude to the beast. At first, the enchantress didn't allow them to bring their children with them, but eventually couldn't bear to see the children parted from their parents. So she allowed them a choice: the children could be left behind or they could accompany their parents to the castle until their eighteenth birthday.
Upon their eighteenth birthday, the children were given their own choice: leave the castle immediately or stay behind to live out the rest of their lives in service to the beast.
This is the story of one of those children and how she saved the beast from himself.