Second part of a retelling of Beauty and the Beast, told from the Beast's perspective.
|The sun was just peeking over the horizon as Lord Brendan's ship docked at Grim Landing. He could see how the port earned such a name. Open to the sea on only one side, the harbor was surrounded by sheer cliffs, impossible to scale. Lord Brendan's destination, Saltcliff Keep, home of the ancient house Seaford, Lords of the Crag, jutted out from the highest cliff like an albatross nest. Carved from the cliff itself, Lord Brendan had many times heard it called a wonder of the world. The ingenuity of the ancient men who built such a place impressed him but little else about this depressing land did. He imagined his betrothed would bless her lucky stars and call him savior for taking her from such a place.
Brendan often wondered how such a poor family had held onto their title and lands for so many generations. Seeing the Crag for the first time he was sure that no army could possibly scale the cliffs that protected the castle. Even if they could, why would they? The Crag was a barren land, pounded each year by terrible sea storms which hindered the only riches they had, shipping and fishing.
"What say you, Collins? You think the port is worth the trouble?" Brendan said. He turned to his right hand man and trusted adviser. Collin's was a hard man, not prone to emotion or fancy. He was one of very few that had Lord Brendan's respect.
"Oh yes, My Lord. It may not look like much now, in the stormy season, but just you wait. Come winter we will move cargo by the tons for a fraction of the price to ship from Black Beach. Though I'm still not certain a deal such as this cannot be sealed with coin alone. It seems unnecessary that you should tie yourself to such a low house."
Brendan clapped the old man on the shoulder, "Nonsense, my man. You live too much in the moment and fail to grasp the big picture. Lord Seaford has no son and I hear his new wife is barren, just like this godforsaken place. My son will be Lord of Highhammer and the Crag. I'd wager the old man won't live another decade. Then all you see shall be mine." He said with a grand gesture at the gray, dreary place.
Lord Brendan looked up again at the castle which loomed above him and squared his shoulders as if ready for a fight. "Well, see to the arrangements here. I'm off to fetch the girl."
Lord Brendan's home was situated in the mountains, so he was accustomed to a fair bit of difficulty in travel. However, the narrowest mountain path could never have prepared him for the harrowing ordeal that was his climb to Saltcliff Keep.
The path up the cliff was smooth and wet from the near constant ocean spray. Slippery moss grew everywhere in patches that threatened the already shoddy footing. To make matters worse, in some places there was nothing to separate him from the dizzying height of the precipitous cliff side falling away below him.
When he arrived to the keep, soaked from the spray and exhausted by the difficult climb, he was in a particularly foul temper. The steward of the keep attempted to welcome him and the few men who had accompanied him with grace and hospitality, but Lord Brendan's barked orders for Lord Seaford and food and wine for him and his men, sent the little man scurrying like a mouse.
While waiting for his orders to be carried out, Lord Brendan wandered about the castle, admiring the architectural difficulties involved in its construction and the clever ways those early ancient builders had overcome them, when he found himself at the opening to a great terrace that had been turned into a sort of makeshift garden. Rows of planters filled the space with exotic vegetation that could never survive in the poor soil natural to The Crag. Brendan once again found himself admiring the ingenuity of the great Lords Seaford of the past when a movement caught his eye.
He saw a glimmer of sparkling white fabric move through the curtain of greenery before him. He followed the movement and realized it was a young woman. She was strikingly beautiful, with long dark hair that rested in waves down her back, a petite, feminine build and flawless ivory skin. Her dress was of decent quality but dreadfully out of fashion. He knew her for what she was immediately. A lady's maid to his betrothed.
He stood still and silent, watching her through the cover of greenery. She bent down to pick a rose, exposing the deep plunge of her gown and her supple, white breasts. Brendan couldn't help the jolt that ran right to his groin as he imagined undoing the laces of her bodice one by one.
"My Lord," called a voice behind him. Geoffrey, one of his men, damn him. The girl stood up and backed away, startled. Brendan moved from his hiding place, in full view of both Geoffrey and the delicious little maid.
"Yes, what is it?" He snapped.
"My Lord, your refreshments are here, as is Lord Seaford." the man said weakly, eyes downcast in the proper respect due to his better.
"He can wait." Brendan spat as he waved Geoffrey away.
He turned towards his prey, pleased to see she hadn't taken advantage of his momentary distraction and run off. He crossed to her in a few sure steps and took her hand and placed it to his lips. It was cold and trembled in his grasp.
"I trust you will serve me as faithfully as your mistress. Nay, more as I am your Lord now." He said. Her brow furrowed and she looked up at him with large, brown doe eyes but did not pull away. He boldly grasped her waist and pulled her against him.
"You will come to me, I will make sure that the Lady does not leave you behind. Your beauty is far too great to waste away in this dismal place."
Her face reddened and with eyes downcast she said, "But you are to marry, does that mean nothing?" Brendan laughed at her sweet naivety.
"Oh no my sweet. A business transaction, little more. I suspect you are much more of a prize than she." Her cheeks flamed even brighter and she pushed him away with a strength that surprised him. He reached to pull her back into his arms but was stopped by the sudden transformation of her pretty features into a look of shock and utter disdain.
"Well, thank you for ridding me of any unrealistic expectations of our union being a happy one. At least I already know how little your marriage vows will mean." She said, turning on her heel and marching away from him without a look back. He stood, dumbfounded and feeling like an utter fool until Lord Seaford himself came onto the terrace to greet him.