The beast was furious with the strange man for plucking one of the roses left behind by the enchantress. They were a taunting reminder of the single rose his body was magically tied to. So, in his rage, the beast locked up the thief he found trying to sneak into his castle.
Night passed and daylight broke. A young female rode up to the castle, demanding to seemingly empty halls that her father be freed. The beast, running out of petals on his enchanted rose, spied an opportunity. He offered the girl a deal; she could live out her father's imprisonment in his place. Determined to save her father, no matter the cost, the girl agreed, much to her father's despair.
Once her father had left, the girl was escorted from a dungeon cell to a guest bedroom, by a mysterious talking candlestick and clock duo. They tried to keep her spirits up, with the help of a talking teapot and her child teacups.
Over time, the girl grew to like her new companions and become more tolerable of the beast. The beast began to care for the girl in return. Something akin to love evolved between them. The curse could've been broken.
But, with the help of an enchanted mirror, the girl learnt of her father being ridiculed for claiming that she'd been imprisoned by a beast in a castle. She knew if she could use the magic mirror to show everyone that the beast was real, then she could help her father. The beast gave her permission to leave, knowing that if she didn't return, his curse could never be broken.
My vision cleared to reveal daytime. I figured out I must be in the town square, with a shining waterfall in the centre and welcoming shops all around. But the crowd in front of me was not welcoming. They appeared to be trying to lock someone up in a wooden wagon, shouting for and applauding the arrest. It took me a few seconds to realise it was Belle's father.
Then I spotted Belle, riding up on a horse I didn't recognise.
"Stop!" She screamed over the crowd. Everyone turned to stare at her.
"Belle." A strong-looking man with a handsome face greeted her. Gaston. "Your father told us you were kidnapped by a beast who lives in a castle." He said in a gentle but mocking tone. "I'm sure you can understand that we need to lock him up for his own protection."
"No. My father is not crazy! There really is a beast in a castle. But he's not a real beast, he's a prince who was cursed."
"You were kidnapped by a prince?" He laughed.
"Yes. And I can prove it." Belle held up a mirror. The slim frame looked like it was decorated by a pattern of metal flowers and vines. "Magic mirror, show me the beast." The town's reflection disappeared, replaced by an image of the beast stood on a balcony, looking down at the woods and beyond.
"There really is a beast." Gaston said in disbelief. Then his face hardened. "Kill the beast!"
"Kill the beast!" The crowd echoed.
"No! You can't do that! He's harmless. He won't hurt anyone." Belle insisted.
"Maybe you need to be locked up with your father too. Just until the beast is dead." Gaston said. I realised where this was heading and what I had to do. I struggled to keep my mouth shut against the instinct to stand up for Belle. She kicked and screamed, but was coerced into the wagon with her father.
The crowds chanted on and on about killing the beast. They grabbed whatever weapons they could find and started a procession, led by Gaston, into the woods. Flames of crimson and amber lit their way and warned of the danger they were taking with them. I watched their burning trail of deadly promise as it left the town behind.
Then I rushed over to the wagon. I pulled a grip out of my hair and picked the lock of the wagon.
"Gracie!" Belle exclaimed. "Thank you again for your help."
"I wanted to help earlier, but if I'd been caught too then we'd all be trapped." I replied. "We have to get to the castle."
"You take the beast's horse. I'll get my father back home and meet you at the castle."
"What's going on?" Belle's father asked.
"We have to save the beast. He's a good person." Belle said to him, before turning to me. "Go, Gracie. We'll be fine."
"See you soon." I mounted the beast's horse and urged it towards the castle. We galloped. I could only hope a sole rider could reach the beast before a large procession.
Luckily, I did manage to beat the crowds. I burst through the main door of the castle, panicked and feeling as if I was against the clock.
"There's an angry mob on its way to kill the beast!" I shouted to the hidden inhabitants I knew would hear me. "Get ready to defend him!"
"Who are you?" The beast demanded, storming into the room.
"A friend of Belle's. She's on her way too. When she showed the townspeople you in the mirror, they thought you were a threat and decided to come here with weapons. I came to warn you while Belle makes sure her father's okay." I explained.
"Why would you think that when no one else does?" The beast's voice was a lot calmer than before, more inquisitive than taken aback.
"Because I had to curse you to get you and Belle to meet." I paused as he roared. "I'm sorry, but it was the only way to get you two together. And if you win this fight, you will be able to break the curse." I hope, I didn't add.
"Then I shall fight, for Belle's heart. Lumiere, Cogsworth," He called out to the talking candlestick and clock. "Prepare to defend the castle." The castle became bustling with living objects and furniture. Weapons were rounded up. Barricades were built to block up the doors, designed to let Belle in and close quickly again.
Then the flaming procession arrived. They attacked the castle, but our defences held up. Weapons were used as people attempted to break in, but no one got hurt. Belle arrived, and the mob parted to avoid being trampled under Phillipe's lightning-fast hooves. The parted mob allowed for us to get Belle into the castle easier than planned. Unfortunately, Gaston followed before we could shut the door again.
He drew his sword and aimed it at the beast. He was ready to charge when Belle ran in front of the beast.
"No!" She cried. "You will not hurt him."
"Belle, get away from that monster. He's dangerous." Gaston used a patronising tone, as if Belle couldn't see the beast's sharp fangs and claws.
"He's not dangerous." Belle insisted.
"Stupid girl." Gaston slapped her across the face so hard that it knocked her to the floor.
"You hurt her!" The beast roared.
"A talking monster." Gaston said. "What an abomination." He attacked the beast, and I had to look away from the brawl that ensured. Swords and claws clashed and slashed. I wished I could be of more use. But I had no skill with weapons so I couldn't get in the middle of the fight. And what else could I do?
I helped Belle up as the battle moved out of the entrance and through the halls of the castle. Her hand cradled her red cheek that was sure to bruise. "We can't let Gaston kill the beast." She said.
I thought about the story I knew from my childhood. About the beast pulling back a killing blow. About Gaston trying again to kill the beast, despite being spared. About Gaston falling to his death in that moment of blind hatred.
"He won't." I insisted, reassuring Belle. "The beast has more worth fighting for, and that will be what decides the winner."
"I can't take any chances." She took a sword from a nearby statue of a knight and ran off to join the fight. I tailed her, weaponless and worried about what she might do.
We reached the beast and Gaston just in time to see Gaston slip off the rooftop, sword still aiming at the beast.
"Beast!" Belle called.
"Belle!" He turned to see us on the nearest balcony. He came over to us. But, as he drew nearer, it became clear that he was struggling to walk. An abundance of bloody marks decorated his body.
"Beast!" Belle screamed as he slumped onto the balcony.
"I love you." Were the last words he said before his eyes fluttered closed.
"No." She whispered, crouching down by him.
"True love's kiss." I stated. "It's said that true love's kiss can save a person's life."
"I love you too." Belle whispered, before kissing the beast.
I didn't know whether it was the utterance of three very important words, or whether it was the kiss I suggested, but the beast's form was suddenly surrounded by golden light. His form shifted, growing smaller, slimmer, until a human body took the place of the beast. The golden light disappeared, and I recognised the young boy I'd cursed, even in his adult body.
Belle kissed the prince again. Relieved tears fell down her face. She turned back to me. "I could never thank you enough."
My world blurred and bent once more.