The Price of a Rose

By Natalia Lopez

Author's Note:
Beauty and the Beast has always been my favorite fairy tales, and I loved the rendition done by Jean Cocteau. He captured the essence of my favorite fairy-tale, so I'd like to start my story off the same way he started his beautifully exquisite movie:

"Children believe what we tell them, they have complete faith in us. They believe that a rose plucked from a garden can bring drama to a family. They believe that the hands of a human beast will smoke when he slays a victim, and that this beast will be ashamed when confronted by a young girl. they believe a thousand other simple things. I ask of you a little of this childlike simplicity, and to bring us luck, let me speak four truly magic words, childhood's Open Sesame... 'Once upon a time....' "
--Jean Cocteau


Prologue

Long ago I should have seen,
All the things I could have been.
Careless and unthinking I moved onward


Gabriel stood motionless, his bow taut and ready. He had been stalking his prey for over an hour, but to him it seemed like mere minutes. The young prince was caught up in the thrill of the hunt, his instincts fed by a rush of adrenaline. Gabriel had opted to chase the stag on foot; for fear that the heavy strides of his steed, Storm Runner, would scare his prey off. The stag was sure that it had lost its pursuers, but the prince had stayed close behind the creature, never losing it from sight. Finally the stag let down its guard and stopped by a small stream to take a drink from the cool, clear water. Gabriel took aim and after a moments pause, let loose the arrow. It flew to its target like quicksilver and struck the stag, going in through one eye and out the other. The creature fell dead to the ground.

"Well, done boy!" came a booming voice from behind, shattering the quite of the forest. Gabriel nearly jumped out of his skin, but he his surprise well. He whirled around and glared at a tall blond man who was grinning from ear to ear and leaning casually against a tree.

I'm glad you approve Renner." Gabriel snarled sarcastically. Once again Renner had managed to sneak up on him, ruining Gabriel's illusions that he was the better hunter. The young prince leaned over to pull the arrow from the stag's head, as his tutor whistled for the squires, who had been left behind with the rest of the hunting party, to gather Gabriel's kill.

The young prince watched Renner out of the corner of his eye with envy. Renner was built like an oak tree, tall and solid, with the ability to move as silently as a shadow through the woods. With his rugged good looks and long blond mane, he was reminiscent of some Pagan Forest God, which was probably why all the women at the castle flocked after Renner's affections.

Renner organized the squire's as they carted off the stag back to the castle. He turned to Gabriel with a grin on his face. "That was a good kill Gabe. It'll be perfect for tonight's grand feast."

Gabriel groaned, "Ye Gods! Not another one?!? That's the sixth one this month!"

Renner chuckled, "It's all a part of your royal responsibility Gabe. Anyhow, the feasts aren't all that bad. Good food and lovely ladies are always a plus." Renner's appetite for food and women were legendary.

The young prince snorted in disgust. In all of his nine years upon the earth he had determined that the only things worth doing was either riding Storm Runner or hunting. Everything else was an unneeded distraction and inconvenience. Renner looked at Gabriel's sullen expression and knew that he had better act now to prevent any rebellious attempts his young charge might make.

"Gabe, remember your father wouldn't approve if you missed this feast. He's still a bit upset over the incident with the Mud Worms in the duchess's plate."

Gabriel grinned at the memory, but quickly changed his expression after glancing at Renner's serious face.

"Do I have to go now Renner? Can't I stay out for a few more hours, while the daylights still good?"

Renner pondered this for a moment and finally gave his assent with a sigh.

"Alright, just make sure your home in time to get dressed for the feast. And remember no tricks on the lesser royalty, alright?"

Gabriel rolled his eyes, and replied in an exasperated tone, "Alright I promise.. Can I go now?"

Renner just looked at Gabriel for a moment, the let out a weary sigh and shook his head. "Yes.. Do you want to take Storm Runner with you?"

"Mmm.. No, I can make better time through here by foot." Gabriel placed his arrow back into the quiver attached to his back and slung his bow over his shoulder. He bounded into the dense brush, off to find new adventure.

* * * * *


Gabriel wandered through the Black Forest, looking for any promising tracks along the way. After a while he began seeing ruins of stonewalls covered in lichen and ivy, scattered among the trees and bushes. After more wandering, he stumbled into a clearing with what appeared to be the remains of a stone gazebo. He wandered closer to investigate, his curiosity piqued. The gazebo itself was near ruins, coved with thorny vines. In the center of the structure was a single, perfect rose. It was a deep intense red, the color of heart's blood. Gabriel stared at the bloom, awed by it's beauty. He had to have it. Gabriel walked towards the rose, almost as if in a trance. The rose, his rose was calling to him. He managed to climb over the crumbling pillars avoiding the sharp thorns. Finally he stood before the rose. Underneath it was a plaque, whose writing was covered with moss. Gabriel cleared it off and peered at the now visible script. It read : Can you afford to pay the price..? Gabriel dismissed the plaque with a shrug, and reached out for the rose, intending to cut it from its thorny prison. One of the thorns seemed to jump of it's own accord, and impale itself upon his finger.
"Oww!" he yelped as he drew his hand away. A fat drop of his blood splattered on the plaque.
He cursed softly as he grabbed the rose again, being careful to avoid the thorns this time. He quickly cut the rose with a dagger. He then tore a scrap of material off of his tunic and wrapped the rose with it. Gabriel then climbed off the gazebo; taking no heed of the plant life he killed along the way, and headed back to the castle, making sure to place his prize securely in his tunic.
A few moments after Gabriel had left, a large brown hawk flew lazily into the clearing. It circled around the gazebo for a moment before it landed on the pillar that the rose had once occupied. It looked down at the plaque, where the blood had fallen. The droplet instantly solidified into a single ruby attached to a fine gold chain. The hawk picked it up with its sharp beak and glided down to the earth. As it reached the ground it began to change, taking on the form of a man. His wings spread into a long feathery cloak that unfolded about him. He was dressed in black leather and his long brown hair hung braided down his back. His orangey amber eyes sparkled with demonic glee. He took the necklace from between sharp, white teeth with a gloved hand and held it up so that it sparkled in the light. He smiled a predatory grin as he looked into the ruby made from the prince's blood.
"This is going to be quite amusing," he chuckled.