Long ago there was a Prince. To rule over his fathers Kingdom, he would have to marry. But, so vain and headstrong was the young Prince, that he vowed only to marry the most beautiful girl in all the land.
Of course, this was impossible. He had his guards search over the Kingdom for any girl that bore beauty. Every girl that was seen as beautiful was invited to a Ball. In hope that the young Prince would find a wife.
"She will not do, Henry." Said the Prince to one of his men that stood at his side, looking down to the people dancing and talking, as the two men stood in a balcony. The Prince was pointing to a young lady in a pale blue dress. "I can not have her. Which other girls have you found me?" he asked.
"I have found… Lady Isabelle." Henry said, pointing down to a girl with long black hair and dressed finely in a maroon dress that touched the floor.
"That's it?" the Prince asked, shaking his head. "I do not want a girl that chooses to wear such an ugly colour…" he sighed. Shaking his head and turning from the balcony. "I guess I must go down there though. Dance with these ugly girls… You disappoint me, Henry."
"I am sorry, My Lord." Henry said and bowed his head to his Prince. When he was sure the Prince was gone, he looked back down to the people, sighing to himself.
The Prince made his way on, looking at the ladies as he past them, but he held a vulgar look at them, as if they shouldn't even be near him. He approached his mother and father as they sat in matching golden thrones that where placed high above the dance floor. "Mother, Father." He said clearly, running his fingers through his own short, thick brown hair. "This Ball isn't going to work, I have looked over every girl, and there is nothing here I wish to take any further."
"Jarrett… it has only been an hour, my boy." his father said, shaking his head. "The Ball will go on. You must find a wife before your twentieth birthday to clam the throne, you know this."
"I know this, Father, but, I asked for the most beautiful girl and, she isn't here."
The large, tall white doors opened and fog crept in to the dance floor. The candles that had lit up the Ballroom beautifully were blown out as a cold chill filled the air. "Lords and Ladies… Prince Jarrett is right. The most beautiful girl in all the land is not here. How can he be forced to marry a fake woman?" Came an old, shaky, but strong voice.
The Prince raised his head, standing himself tall to look over to the doors, but, the fog made it unclear. "Who goes there?" he demanded to know, touching the swords helm upon his belt. "Answer me." he ordered after a few moments past by and no sound came to him.
"I am Esta." said the old voice and the people in the Ballroom fell quite.
"Witch!" The Princes father yelled and stood up. "You are banished from my lands. How dare you show your face here!" he said madly.
"I am, I know full well I am." Esta replied. "But, I am here to help your son, Peter, so, do take a seat." she said calmly. A tapping came as the old witch was seen, the tapping was from an old twisted staff that she leant on. The Prince turned his nose at the sight of the haggard woman. Her back was bent over and her skin was wrinkled and cracked. A few warts were darted about her face, and she had a large nose.
"Help me?" the Prince laughed. "Help me? How about you help yourself by removing yourself from my sight?" he asked.
Esta's beady little, sunken in eyes looked over the Prince, "Jarrett." she started. "Wicked… wicked tongue you have and an evil mind." she added. "Such a shame this has happened to such a young man." she sighed.
"Young man?" he questioned. "I am nineteen, Witch. Now, remove yourself from my fathers Kingdom, before I release my dogs on you."
Esta merely raised an eyebrow. "Don't you dare talk to me this this, Child. I was there when trees grew upon the land. I was there when mountains rose. I was there when Beauty was born."
"Beauty was born?" the Prince laughed. "And, where is Beauty. For she is not here. My men searched the Kingdom for Beauty, and she has not shown her face."
"Then your men are as blind as you." Esta replied.
"Enough!" the King shouted. "Witch, leave, now!" he ordered. "We wish not to hear your words." he said and waved a hand. At the sight of the wave, all of the guards aimed their arrows at Esta, waiting on the Kings command to fire.
Esta looked to the bows and arrows and sighed. "And I am the cold hearted one?" she asked, banging the end of her staff on the floor three times. "Amaranthus." she said in a deep voice. Slowly, the bows became lose vines, and the arrows burst to become long hanging red flowers. The guards took a step back, unsure.
"Witchcraft." the Prince frowned. "Take your black magic away."
"Jarrett." Esta's voice boomed over his own. "I can offer you beauty if that's what you want. You promised never to marry until you found the most beautiful girl in the land, yes?" she asked.
The Prince sighed, "Yes…"
"Then, young Jarrett. You must learn to love beauty. For, money can not buy her heart." Esta said, walking closer. People moved away from her as she made her way to the Prince.
"I do not understand." the Prince said, raising an eyebrow. "I must learn to love beauty?" he questioned. "How so?" he asked. "All girls love gifts."
"That is true. But, gifts that cost no money."
"That's ridiculous!" he stated, glaring down at her, looking at her warts. "How can you by gifts without money?!" he shouted at her.
"Prince Jarrett. Do not raise your voice to me." Esta said, shaking her head. Her greasy black hair fixed to her face though. "It's fairly simple." she added. "All you have to do is see beauty from the inside." she said.
Prince Jarrett looked confused. "Beauty from the inside." he sighed, lost at her words. "I do not understand… How can I see that?"
"I will tell you if you agree allow me to teach you." Esta replied. She held out her hand to him. "I will allow you to have the most beautiful woman in all the land, if you learn to love beauty." she said.
Jarrett thought about this. He looked to his parents for guidance. His father shook his head. "But, father…" Jarrett muttered. "Nothing bad will happen. If I do not find love, then I return the same as always." he said, "Yes?" he asked, looking to Esta.
"You may return to your vile ways if you wish it." Esta said calmly, hunching over her staff a little.
Jarrett frowned at her, but looked to his father. "Father, she will show me the most beautiful lady in the land. That is what I want." he said. "I will go and find this woman."
"But, when will you return?" his father asked. Both the King and Prince looked to Esta.
"I normally would say, 'How long is a piece of string.' although. As you know, he must marry before he is twenty to calm his fathers Kingdom. So, I guess…" she stopped to think. Her small eyes looked forwards as she questioned it over in her mind.
The Prince watched her, she hadn't moved for a long time now. "… Witch." he said, nudging her arm.
Esta snapped her staff around, smacking Jarrett in the shin. "Don't touch me." she ordered.
Jarrett moved away from her quickly, looking down to his left leg. He was amazed that a woman that didn't even come to his hip height could hit so hard.
"About a week." Esta said. "Give me yourself for seven days." she answered. "You are twenty in twelve days. And, if you find beauty on the inside in seven days. Win her heart and learn to love. Then the most beautiful lady in all the lands will be yours." she said. "Come, now." she told him, turning and hobbling towards the doors.
"I will return with a wife, mother, father." Jarrett told his parents and followed on after Esta. Out of the castle and out of the castle grounds to the village.
Nor Jarrett or Esta spoke to one another. Walking down the quiet night streets through the village. Jarrett looked grumpy to be walking. He in fact didn't even think he had walked through the village before. He had always been sat upon his fair, white horse.
Esta lead the Prince out of the village, where she untied a rope that was attached to the collar of a skinny brown cow. Pulling herself up, she sat just behind the cows shoulders and held onto the rope. The cow walked on and Jarrett raised an eyebrow, but followed.
"I thought witches rode broomsticks?" he asked.
"I ride a cow." Esta replied, her eyes looking forwards. "Her name is Garnet." she told him as the cow walked on along to the forest.
It had taken a long time to leave the Kingdom. Of course, as the King had pointed out before, Esta was banished from his land. When the sun was rising, they came to a run down hut with a thatched roof. Mole hills covered the uncared for ground, where weeds grew wild and rats chased each other through the brambles and thorns.
"It's hideous." Jarrett told her. "Completely ugly…"
"It's my home, thank you." Esta said, dismounting from the cow and slowly undoing the rope, "There you go, Garnet." she said, patting the cow on the shoulder before walking on to the hut. "Come, young Jarrett." she said simply, pushing through an old wooden door.
Jarrett was slightly unsure now, looking as she disappeared through the door. But, maybe the girl was inside, he asked himself, questions running into his mind. After thinking over this, he stepped towards the door. "Right, Witch… tell me where is beauty?"
"I have already answered that." Esta sighed. "Beauty is on the inside."
"But how do I see the inside." Jarrett questioned.
Esta tapped her staff on the floor. "Now I will teach you." she said. The door closed by itself behind Jarrett. And Esta was chanting under her breath quietly, whispering quickly. Her staff still tapping on the ground. The top of the staff had a bright red light starting to glow on it. "Sometimes you see better when you see nothing at all." she said. And with that, she froze and a light left Jarrett's dark eyes. Falling to the red light.
Jarrett gasped, blinking a few times. "Witch!" he shouted, his arms going out fast. "I can't see!" he called.
"Then learn to." Esta replied simply. Her staff sucked in the red light and she watched as Jarrett felt around, blind. She raised her staff. "You'll see again, once you have found beauty." she said, after her words, she hit Jarrett over the head, knocking him out on the spot.
Early the next afternoon, Jarrett awoke, moaning. "Witch?" he asked, but saw nothing as he looked around.
"Witch?" came a females voice. "… I'm afraid not." she replied.
"Who are you?!" Jarrett shouted, lost, he sat up, his hands touching where he had been laying, he worked out that he was on a bed.
"My name is Carissa." she said and smiled a little, placing a damp cloth on his forehead. Jarrett froze, feeling the cloth, he jumped a little, touching it. "I found you not long ago in the forest by the lake. What were you looking for?" she asked.
"Lake?" Jarrett asked and sighed. "I don' know…" he said, then thought. "I was looking for beauty." he answered. "That's what I was doing." he told her.
Carissa smiled. "Have you found her?" she questioned and stroked his hair.
"Alas, no." Jarrett said and sat up now, pulling the cloth from his head, "Now, Carissa, I must go." he said, moving from her. "I can not be seen with a peasant ." he said, standing a feeling around himself.
Her eyes watched him oddly. "… Why are you feeling around like that?"
"Witch took my eye sight." he told her, "I can't see anything." he said, shaking his head. "Where's the door?"
"You're blind…" she said quietly. "I can not let you go yet." she said, standing and walking close to Jarrett, she held his arm and lead him back to the bed. Jarrett frowned and pushed her away from him.
"Leave me." he ordered, hitting her away as she took his hand again. "I do not want a dirty peasants help!"
Carissa looked hurt by his words. She let him go and felt her cheek where he had hurt her. She watched as Jarrett moved around, throwing her things around, trying to find the door. But she said nothing to help him out. He found the door within a few minutes and stormed out of the small home.
Marching blindly through the forest, feeling around for trees and tripping now and then on an over grown root. Jarrett cursed and muttered to himself. He had wondered around lost for a good four hours, before he settled down, thinking that it might be dark now and unwise to continue his search.
But over the next three days, Prince Jarrett only walked further and further into the forest, losing himself until he finally fell limp to the ground. Passing out from lack of food and water. Though, when he awoke, he was laying on something sofa and he was warm. He could here a fire crackling and the sound of a woman's humming, "I have found beauty?" he whispered.
"If you wish to call me beauty." Came a reply from Carissa.
Jarrett sighed, "You again?"
She laughed softly. "There aren't many others around." she told him. "I didn't think you'd have made it back to the village."
"Why do you live so far away from the village?" he asked her.
"I like it here." she replied quietly. "It's nice here."
"Then you can not be beauty. For beauty has to return to the castle with me."
"Love changes people." Carissa said and knelt to his bedside, unsure what he meant by 'castle'. "Sit up." she said, watching him as he leant up on the wall, she placed a bowl of soup into his lap and put a spoon in his hand. "You better eat." she said softly.
"Eat?" Jarrett said. "A peasants food…?" he muttered.
"It's soup. And, you better eat it, you're awfully pale." she said and stood up. "I gave you my share as well as you don't look like you've seen a meal in a while." she told him. "I have to go out for a little, but, I'll return within the hour." she said, leaving the small home and leaving Jarrett to ear what was left of her soup.
Jarrett felt a twinge in his chest, unsure what it was as he started to slowly eat the soup. He thought maybe it was the kindness that she had just shown, or maybe it was just the hot soup burning inside of him, whatever it was, the feeling lasted until he thought of his mother and father and questioned himself about what they might be doing.
When Carissa returned home, she found that Jarrett had tried to wash up his bowl and spoon. She smiled at his attempt, but the bowl was still half dirty and the spoon had fallen to the floor. She walked closer and looked down to the sleeping Prince. Her fingers brushed through his hair. And another small smile came to her lips as she pulled the handmade bed covers to his shoulders. Then she walked to the fire and sat in an old rocking chair.
Two days went by, and in these days Carissa had let Jarrett stay in bed all day. She told him that he could leave her when she was sure he'd be okay. Jarrett agreed to this. Though on the second day, Carissa had taken Jarrett for a long walk in the forest. While on their walk, they had picked blackberries and Carissa had taken him to where there were some apple trees. That evening, the two made pies. Even though Jarrett was blind, he took part in this and found it great fun, even when Carissa pulled his hand from his mouth when he tried to eat the odd blackberry.
Though when the sixth day came, Jarrett got out of bed and took five steps forwards, reaching out his hand, he smiled, placing his hand on Carissa's shoulder as she sat asleep in the rocking chair. He took to steps to the side and picked up her hair brush. Then ran the brush through her hair gently.
Carissa opened her eyes and looked up to him, smiling. "If only you could see my smile…" she said and sighed softly when Jarrett stroked her cheek.
He smiled kindly to her. "Where do we go today?" he asked.
"I was thinking of taking you to the shore. For… I think that you are fine to leave tomorrow, Jarrett." she said. "You are strong again, and you know your way around a lot better, you can take care of yourself." she told him.
Jarrett was unsure what to make of her words. "I am?" he asked.
"You are. And… you can continue to search for beauty." she added.
These words oddly seemed to hurt Jarrett, he reached out and stroked Carissa's hair. "Oh." he muttered simply. Tilting his head, he leant his face close to hers and stroked over her cheek. "Search for beauty…" he said quietly.
"Yes, Jarrett." she said, looking to him as he touched her cheek. She stood up and took his hand. "Lets go for our last walk." she offered, without a word, Jarrett only nodded and the two left the home, making their way through the forest. Neither of them hardly spoke until golden sand was under their feet. "I wish you could see this." she said, looking to his blank eyes.
"As do I." Jarrett said softly, holding her hand and walking slowly at her side as she lead him down to the sea and he smiled to hear the waves roll on and off of the shore. Jarrett and Carissa spent the whole day on the bench alone. Finding sea shells and walking out into the sea and back again quickly, laughing at each other. Although Jarrett couldn't see Carissa, he knew she was happy and that she was smiling. Her laughter made him smile warmly and once again, he got the odd feelings in his chest.
When the sun was setting, Carissa sat on the sand and watched Jarrett by the water as he felt in the wet sand for sea shells. Her eyes them looked to the sun as it looked like it was disappearing into the sea. "Jarrett… we should go home." she said quietly, pulling herself to her feet and walking to him. "We have enough sea shells." she laughed, tugging on his arm as they left, laughing to each other and gently pushing each other around.
Morning came and Jarrett woke in the bed to the smell of something baking. "Pie?"
"Corn cakes." Carissa's voice came. "For your journey. I have made you a few things… so hopefully you won't pass out again." she teased, but there was a slight sadness in her voice. She wrapped the cakes in a cloth for him and placing them in a sack that she had put in apples and a few slices of pie.
"Oh." he said, sitting up from the bed. "Well…" he started. "At least you get your bed back…" he said as he stood behind her, touching her shoulder gently to make sure she was in front on him.
She laughed softly and smiled, "That's true."
Jarrett hugged her around the waist and Carissa froze at his arms, looking at them, then up to him, resting her back on his chest as he hugged her tighter. "I do not think I have to search any longer."
"What do you mean?"
"I have found beauty." he replied, kissing her cheek, then moving her around to face him, he traced his fingers down her throat and kissed her on the lips. When he had kissed her, the front door of Carissa's home opened and in hobbled Esta.
"Learnt to love and found beauty within seven days." she said.
"Witch…" Jarrett muttered. "Yes. I have found beauty, now give me my eyesight back."
"First…" Esta started. "Tell me what love you have found on the inside."
"I have found that Carissa is the most caring person I know." Jarrett answered. "Her kindness is amazing, nothing nor no-one will ever match her. I want her to be my wife. For she has looked after me for the past seven days… I don't want to lose her. I love her." he replied.
"Remember your words." Esta said, tapping her staff on the ground.
The red light appeared on top of her staff again, but this time, it smashed and a pale light flew to Jarrett's eyes, the light sank in to his blank eyes. Though now, he saw once again. He blinked hard and smiled, looking around himself, he saw Esta, then turned his head to see a young woman in front of him. But, shocked was he… to find that the woman in front of him was far from what he had pictured in his mind. She was long in the face and had a slight crooked nose. Her hair was dry and filled with split-ends. And her eyes seemed a little too big for her.
Jarrett gasped and raised an eyebrow quickly. "Where is Carissa?" he asked.
"… I am Carissa." the young lady in front of him answered. "… It's me, Jarrett…"
Jarrett stared at her. "No… how could I love you?" he asked.
"Jarrett." Esta cut in. "I said that I would bring you to the most beautiful girl in all the land, and this is her. Have you learnt nothing?" she asked. "Are looks all that matter to you?"
Jarrett thought about this, shaking his head in disbelieve. "No, Witch… look at her…"
"I have." Esta said calmly and looked at Carissa, her face full of sadness. "And, so have you. You have looked at love from the inside. And, you have seen true beauty, you Prince…Repeat what you said about Carissa not long ago…" Esta ordered.
"Carissa… Carissa is a very… kind, caring person." Jarrett answered, looking to Carissa in the eyes. Within her eyes, he saw the warmth in her heart and he remembered all of the kindness she had given him, the love and time she had given him. He knew that he had never been so happy in all of his life when they were out together. "A loving person with a beautiful heart." he added. "Such an amazing lady that I wish to spend my entire life with."