A retelling of Beauty and the Beast.
|Beauty stood on the balcony outside of her chamber, overlooking the sea. It was late summer and the evening breeze blew warm against her cheeks, drying her tears. Just this evening, Beauty's father, the Lord of the Crag, had informed her of her engagement. The Crag drowned in so much debt that it had been years since Beauty had even been allowed a decent gown. She had a duty to her people and, if it involved marrying advantageously, so be it. Beauty understood this and was determined to do right by her kin, but this acceptance did nothing to lighten the heavy burden that now weighed on her heart.
"My Lady?" came a familiar voice from her chamber. Beauty wiped her eyes on the frayed sleeve of her gown and turned to face her old nanny, white haired and stooped with age, but a beloved sight all the same.
"Yes, Nan. I'm here." Beauty called, surprised at the steadiness of her voice. Nan poked her head between the old weather beaten doors that stood between her balcony and chamber and frowned.
"You best get in here My Lady, you are like as not to catch your death out in that salt air, just like your poor mother, rest her soul." Beauty retreated inside, to humor Nan whose love for her Beauty was even greater than for Beauty's mother who Nan had raised before her. Nan then spent the better part of an hour dressing her for bed and fussing over her as was the old nanny's habit.
When Beauty was finally settled in bed and Nan sat by the fire mending another of Beauty's many old ragged gowns, Beauty finally found the courage to ask about her betrothed.
"What have you heard of Lord Brendan, Nan? Father refuses to tell me anything other than the fact that he is the richest man in the kingdom, other than the King himself of course."
Beauty could see Nan stiffen in the glow from the fire. Nan sat in silence for a long time until Beauty had almost given up getting an answer.
"My dear, dear girl. What I know is only servant's gossip but it is enough to break your old Nan's heart. Now go to sleep in peace while I can watch over you and ask me no more."
Beauty rolled over, to face away from her Nan. She tried to do as the old woman said, but it was many an hour before the silent tears stopped streaming down her cheeks and Beauty drifted into an exhausted, dreamless sleep.
A noise, harsh, like the roar of some terrible beast pulled Beauty from a deep sleep. She sat straight up in bed, glassy-eyed and tired, unsure of the time or even where she was. Then the noise came again, loud and dissonant, she realized that there were many similar calls coming from the same direction, the sea.
Beauty jumped from her bed, pulling her robe around her shoulders as she made her way to the balcony. There! On the horizon she could see the lights from at least a dozen ships moving with the wind towards her. The call came again, ringing in her ears and she thought it impossible that anyone within a league might still be asleep.
She stepped back into her chamber and was startled to find Nan still in her chair, snoring away, oblivious to the terrible racket that had torn Beauty from sleep.
"Nan! Nan! Get up and help me dress." she said, shaking the old woman awake.
Nan stood up, nearly as disconcerted as Beauty had been. Once apprised of the approaching ships, Nan frantically searched through Beauty's wardrobe for something befitting a Lord's daughter and the betrothed of one of the most powerful men in the kingdom.
"This was my mother's wedding gown!" Beauty quarreled as Nan tried to wrestle her into the fine, if antiquated dress.
"Yes, my lady, but if that out there is who I think it is, its best you wear the finest gown you have." Nan said. Beauty stood still, out of more shock then agreement as Nan tied up her laces.
"Its him." She said
"Oh yes, my dear one, I've heard talk for days that Lord Brendan of Highhammer was on his way, though I never imagined he'd make such good time." Nan explained.