Candice and the Beast

by

Lady Gato, Gentillefille, Candylyna, and CandyTerry

    This is a tale, like many that you know, starts in a place and a land of somewhat long ago...when princes still ruled lands, when maidens were expected to be fair of face and dependent of men, and where evil witches make other people's lives hell. But this story is a little different...this story is about a Beauty and the Beast...



    Once upon a time, in Renaissance Europe, there lived a mighty (as in mighty rich and mighty good looking) prince. He had inherited the title at a very young age, when his father died in a coach accident with his "mother". All his life had been marked with loneliness and sorrow, truly a sad existence, because he had been the fruit of an illicit love affair between his father, the Prince of Grantchester and one of his ladies of his court, a countess named Elinore Beacquer. The Countess was in charge of the plays and masques given in the Prince's great hall for his court and visiting dignitaries. The countess had even started to stage plays by a William Shakespeare and sometimes acted in them, despite that this was taboo for women.

    The Prince's wife, the Princess Consort Porcine was not amused...but she had been unable to give the Prince an heir and the young prince Terrence was now the Prince Royal. Unfortunately, shortly after the birth, the Countess had been banished from the kingdom, so she never got to see her son grow up. All this scandal and strife, coupled with the pressures of being brought up as a Prince Royal made for a lonely childhood for young Prince Terrence, and the death of his father in his early teens did nothing to help his mood. He was irascible, moody and angry at the world.

    Fortunately, or unfortunately for this prince, he had been blessed with an irresistible charisma that attracted all sorts of women to him, yet, he didn't want anything to do with him...he had seen what love had done to his parents and as far as he was concerned, he wasn't going to marry, much less marry for duty.

    One day as he was doing his favorite activity, horseback riding, he came to a dead stop in the woods. A slip of a girl suddenly crossed his path and fell under his mare Theodora's legs. There prostrate on the ground, she was crying that she couldn't feel her leg. Worried, Prince Terrence got off his mount. What he didn't know was that the slip of the girl, so innocent looking, had the hots for him and was determined to make the Prince hers...for you see, this was no innocent damsel in distress, this was Suzanne the Lame, an evil witch with equally evil powers...she had fallen for the Prince, hard and decided to entrap him.

"My lady, art you hurt? Can I do something for you?" he asked, concerned.

"Oh, yes your Highness...now that you have asked...for you see, it is custom in my country to take in to your home anybody you have hurt...I can be your wife now..." she mooned, with ready tears in her eyes.

"What trickery is this? I will have nothing of the sort!" the Prince bellowed, feeling cheated and most certainly angry at the ruse.

"IF YOU WILL NOT HAVE ME, NO ONE WILL!!" cursed the Suzie-Witch.

A loud cry rang out in the forest, a deep cry of unfathomable pain.

    In a neighboring country, lived a young girl of pure heart, mind and soul, independent, outspoken in spite of being a female. She possessed a radiant and petite yet quirky loveliness, manifested in her large emerald colored eyes, a dash of freckles on her nose and beautiful hair. She was lost in her thoughts in a garden of roses.



    Candice White, for that was her name, lived in the estate of the richest merchant of all of Europe, taken in when her father, the caretaker of the estate had died. The estate belonged to a William Andrew, who had just inherited from his own recently deceased father. The Andrew estate was home to his great aunt, Elroy who unofficially ran the house, and to his orphaned nieces and nephews, Anthony, Alistear, Archibald and Eliza and Neil. He had always felt a kinship to the young Candice White, who was always smiling, sunny and loving to all. When she was left alone in the world, he adopted her as his heir. This served to enrage Eliza, who thought she should be the only 'princess' on the Andrew estate. She and her brother along in cahoots with Elroy sought to make young Candice's life miserable, something easily done since William was always out on long trips and rarely seen, but Anthony, Archie and Alistear defended her...Anthony in particular felt his heart lost to the lovely Candice. He was the keeper of the rose garden of the Estate and even created special roses for other great gardens upon commission. A private connoisseur had secretly asked him for one of the special roses, for his own garden. Anthony's inspiration had been Candice, and he kept one for the garden and proudly presented it to Candice, who to his delight, had corresponded his tender affections.

"One day, Candice, you and I will marry and be very happy..." he promised to her, kissing her hand as she admired his handiwork, which he called Sweet Candy...a pure white rose with a hint of green in the middle.

Alas, their happiness was short lived...Anthony died in a riding accident, leaving Candice bereft with grief.

William Andrew had come back for the funeral and prepared to make a short journey. As usual, he asked all of them what sort of gifts they would like upon his return.

"I want the biggest pearl You...you can get me, uncle William!!! shrieked the greedy Eliza.

"I want a copy of Da Vinci's flight machine plans, so that I may make one myself," Alistear asked.

"I want a set the finest cravats you can find," Archie requested.

"I want you to commission Botticelli for a nude of Venus..." Neil the lecher asked.

"Absolutely not!! If you truly appreciated art, I wouldn't hesitate, but knowing you..." William scolded. He watched Candice in the garden, where they were assembled, gazing out into infinity with sad regard.

"And you, my dearest Candice...what treasure can I bring you?"

"Oh William," she murmured, for she loved him like a brother. "Just bring me a rose from the most beautiful Garden of the lands you are going to..." she quietly said.

William smiled. "Thou art true Beauty indeed, Candice...you will be the most precious rose in a lucky man's garden, for your true love's garden, one day..." he said gently. "Thy worth is in the deepness of your heart, the sincerity of your intentions and the strong will of your nature...and it is more valuable than any jewel or riches that I have..."

But Candice only thought of Anthony and knew that she could never love again.

Never again. Why was she allowed to love and be loved only for her love to be taken away from her so brutally?

William left for his trip and the routine continued. Candice was doing her chores, without complaining and serving Eliza, Neil and Elroy. Archibald, who had a thing for her, didn’t like his cousins’ attitude. He told Candice about it.

"You don’t have to obey them you know!"

"I’m very grateful I’m allowed to stay here…" said Candice.

"How are you?"

"You mean if I miss Anthony? Oh I miss him so much, you have no idea… he wanted to marry me… we would’ve had a family together..."

"Candice, life goes on… you’ll find love again some day."

"No, I will never love another man…"

Archie felt a little hurt. He knew she was grieving, but he had hoped that she would start to get over the death of her beloved. He couldn’t tell her anything, she was still grieving, it would be insensitive. He went to his brother to talk to him. Alistear was trying to invent an airplane without the plan he had asked William for…and it was kind of a mess. He was in a little warehouse on the estate.

"Alistear, she’s still thinking about Anthony…"

"Who?" said Alistear, distracted.

"Candice! Are you listening to me?"

"Oh…well she loved him a lot, she might be grieving her whole life…"

"Come on! She wasn’t married to him, it’s not like she has to wear black for the rest of her life!!! Life goes on!"

"You mean you want her to continue her life with you?"

"Why not? I love her to death, and I will be a good husband for her."

"Oh I wished I was her husband too, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen…"

"What? You too…?"

"I look, and I don’t touch…I’m reasonable. You know the probability of her falling for me?"

"You did a math formula and you just gave up on her?"

"The odds are against me, so why bother?"

"Oh Alistear…."

He was looking at Candice in the garden of Roses, she was so beautiful.

Another pair of eyes was looking at the beautiful girl and her roses. The mean Neil…he was lusting after her. He was pretending to be mean to her in front of his sister, but in reality, he loved her…

Candice finished taking care of the rose and she wanted to go and rest in her bedroom for a little while. While she was in the hallway leading to her bedroom, she saw Neil…

"Can I do something for you Neil," she asked coldly.

"I… wanted to speak to you…"

"About what? We have nothing to say to each other…"

"Don’t be so sure…" said Neil, "I might be your saviour…"

"My saviour from what?"

"From the misery my sister is putting me through…"

"Just your sister? What about you?"

"Well I actually kind of like you…"

"You like me? So you make my life miserable?"

"Well…"

"You’re afraid to show your feelings in front of your sister…"

"What a coward…!" she thought.

"She won’t understand… I’m coming of age to be married. I want to ask William for you hand in marriage…"

"What?"

"Yes, I want to marry you…"

"I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last man on this earth!"

"Think about it, my sister won’t have anything on you anymore.  You’re going to be family…"

"I’m tired, Neil, I’m going to take a nap…"

"I can come with you if you want, and I will show you that I’m not so bad…"

He approached her and he wanted to take her into his arms.

"Don’t you dare touch me!" said Candice, getting away from him and getting into her room.

    She locked the door behind her. She was still a little upset. The nerve!!! Neil wanted to marry her? No way in hell!!! How could he even think that she would consider it? She’d rather suffer the torture from Eliza, than marry Neil. She went on her bed big canopy bed and thought about Anthony.  He was so nice, so perfect, why did he have to die? She closed her eyes and cried in silence before falling asleep.

    Candice woke up from her nap feeling a little better. She was still thinking about Anthony. She got ready to go to the market to buy some vegetables for supper. She went out of the estate with a basket. She walked in the village and the people were greeting her all the way. She was so nice to everybody and everybody loved her. She was the belle of the town; she was beautiful inside and outside. There was a young soldier, named Michael who loved Candice. He would always be there for her, and he was there that day to help her with her basket.

"Candice," said Michael, "Hi!"

"Hello Michael…"

"How are you today?"

"I’m fine Michael…"

"You still don’t want to marry me?"

'Michael, I need to be in love to marry someone. I don’t want to settle for anything else."

"You don’t love me?"

"I’m not in love with you…but I do love you a lot."

"Coming from you, I’m not even upset to hear that…let me carry your basket…"

    Michael, was her friend and every time she went to the market, he would walk with her. He used to see her and admire from afar. One day she wanted to help a little girl get her kitty cat back.  It had climbed too far on a big tree. Candice didn’t hesitate for a second to get the cat from such a big tree. People were screaming to her to be careful. Michael got his way in.  He went to help her come down the tree. He was able to touch her for the first time and the feeling was priceless for him. She smelled so good like roses…So he went from observing her to being her friend and talking to her. He would ask her to marry him everyday, and every day she would turn him down. It was like a game for them.

    They got to the market and Michael carried the basket heavy with the vegetables inside and he walked her back to the estate. They were talking and laughing while they were walking. Archie was in bedroom looking at them a little jealous. Neil was looking at her and got angry. He was in one of the living rooms so he decided to go out and greet Candice.

Candice was still talking to Michael when Neil arrived.

"So that’s why it takes you forever to go to the market! You’re flirting with the soldier..."

"Neil…" said Candice.

"I was just helping her with the basket which is kind of heavy for a beautiful girl like Candice to carry," said Michael.

"Aren't you the knight and shinning armour!?" said Neil ironically. "I’ll take it from here..."

He went and took the basket from Michael’s hands. It was heavy and he was a big lazy, but he wanted to look good in front of Candice.

"Candice, next time, tell me when you go to the market, I’ll come with you and help you carry the basket…"

Candice looked at him surprised. She turned to Michael and she smiled.

"Thank you Michael for helping me …"

"The pleasure was all mine Candice," said Michael, "...have a good evening Candice, goodbye."

"Goodbye Michael," said Candice with a smile.

Michael looked at her and he turned around and left. Neil was looking at the scene jealous. She never smiled like that for him!

"You love the soldier?" asked Neil, irritated.

"He’s my friend…." said Candice.

"He wants you…"

"Oh… and you don’t want me?" she said ironically.

"Yes, but…"

"Neil I told you. I wouldn’t marry you if you were the last man on this earth!"

"You’re going to change your mind."

"No, I won’t…"

They walked to the kitchen and Neil put the basket of vegetables on the counter.

"Think about it… you won’t need to be in the kitchen anymore…"

"But I would have to suffer your presence all day and in bed on top of that? I’d rather die!"

"Candice…"

They were interrupted by a voice.

"Neil! What in the world are you doing? Talking to the help?" said Eliza.

"Eliza, leave me alone."

"You can’t socialise with her…"

"Yes I do… I love her."

"You what?"

"I love her, I want to marry her."

"I don’t believe it! You seduced my brother, like you seduced Anthony!!! You little tramp!" she said to Candice.

Candice was washing the vegetables with cook. She turned to Eliza and said, "I’m trying to work here. Can you and your brother find another place to argue? You don’t want you dinner to be late do you?"

"How dare you talk to me like that…"

"Eliza, let’s go!" said Neil.

"But…"

"I said let’s go, and leave Candice alone!"

    It was the first time Neil stood up to his sister. It was because he had seen Candice with the soldier and he was jealous. He realised for the first time that he had competition. Eliza was fuming and cursing Candice. She was a disease, first Anthony, now her brother… she will find a way to get rid of that disease…

    William Andrew had been gone over a month and was on his way home. It had been a very fruitful trip and he had closed a few deals that increased his family's wealth almost tenfold. Yet he always believed in giving back. Whenever he saw destitute poor houses or farms, he would give very generously. Sometimes he wished that he could travel the world, see exotic lands and live like a peasant...but he had all his nieces and nephews to care for and sure he left them a legacy, and of course, now that Candice was his legal daughter, he had to make absolutely sure she would never want for anything again. When he traveled on the road, accompanied by his faithful consigliere, George, they always dressed like squires, so as not to attract attention from robbers. Of course, when William met the powerful merchants, bankers, kings and princes, he would clean up very nicely.

They were coming back into his country through a different route, because they had heard that their regular road had a band of thieves and knaves that were even robbing from the poor, when he noticed a dark looking castle upon the hill by the side of the river.

"I don't seem to recall that landmark..." he said to Georges. "What prince lives in that castle?"

"I don't know, Sir William..." Georges said. "I think it used to be the Principality of Grantchester...but the Prince died and the new Prince has neither been seen or heard...it used to be one of the most glorious courts to visit...your father did a lot of business there....it possessed the loveliest garden of all this area..."

"Really? Even nicer than dear Anthony's?" William's interest was piqued.

"I believe so, sir..." Georges replied.

"I need to have a look..." William declared and he changed direction.

He did not have to go far, because the garden had horribly overgrown onto the walls of the castle and there was a profusion of roses of all colors and types. Tea roses, Eglantines, hybrids of all sorts. Then, a particular rose caught his eye.

"Why, this one looks like the one Anthony created...what a coincidence!" he murmured.

Georges eyes shifted nervously. "Sir, I have a funny feeling about this place...we should go.." he advised. Up close, the castle even looked more foreboding

"Nonsense...you know what, I have forgotten to get Candice something...she will appreciate this rose, for sure..." William picked off a perfect bloom when all of a sudden they were both startled by an outerwordly, bloodcurdling roar.

Georges, panicked tried to protect William but he was knocked out.

Candice was out feeding the chickens when she heard Archibald approach. She knew it was Archibald because even when he walked he made his feet sound elegant.

"Just in time...want to help me collect the eggs?" Candice asked, smiling.

Archibald's heart jumped a bit, but the thought of collecting freshly laid eggs didn't appeal to him.

"No, but I'll hold the basket..." he offered.

"You are so prim!" Candy mocked.

"I don't know why you do chores, you are the Andrew heiress and we have plenty of servants..."

"But I like doing it, Archibald, and there is no harm in that...I don't want to sit and preen all day like Eliza does...all she can hatch are plots against me..."

"Candice...I could help you alleviate that problem..." Archibald whispered.

She looked at him quizzically, for a minute not understanding what he meant then realizing what he meant, when all of sudden there was a commotion in the house.

Candy felt a dread spear in her heart...she dropped what she was doing and ran in, Archibald following her.

There in the great hall, Georges was sobbing...Candice and all of them were surprised...Georges was always a cool customer, he NEVER got flustered over anything! The Great Aunt Elroy was lying faint in Neil's arms. Eliza trying to revive her by fanning her.

"Good Heavens...what's going on?" Alistear asked, as Candy and Archibald arrived.

"Georges...where's William?!" Candy cried, dreadfully.

"Oh Miss Candy...something terrible has happened...he was trying to get a gift for you from the gardens of the old Grantchester castle and a...a...forsooth, I can't even describe it...Sir William is in great trouble...it was a Beast of some sort that seemed enraged at our trespass..."

"And you're sniveling mincemeat! Why didn't you do anything?" Archibald cried, his blood boiling.

"I was knocked out, Master Archibald...believe me it all happened so fast...when I awoke, I was slumped over on my horse and close to the gates here..."

The Great Aunt finally came to. "Georges! You are an inept lousy n'er do well!! I should send the boys over to rescue William!!"

"Game! I'm ready for a fight...a Beast!! I'll hang his head in our great hall!!" Archibald vowed.

"STOP IT!!" Candy almost yelled, holding back her tears. "I'll do it...it sounds like William is in trouble because of me!"

"Are you crazy?" Alistear and Archibald exclaimed. Even Neil was shocked at the girl's bravado.

Eliza pounced on that gladly.

"Yes, why don't you, Candice...this is your fault, after all...plus, you DO have a way with animals..."

"I'm going..." Candice declared, turning and running out. The brothers tried to run and stop her but she was on Georges horse and galloping out before anybody could stop her.

Eliza smiled wickedly, barely containing her glee. Stupid, impetuous, Candice!! But at least she would be rid of her! And, if William was rid of too, even better...she would make sure she got the Andrew Estate!!

William came to and looked around at the dungeon he had been thrown into. He was disoriented as if he was in a dream then realized it was no fancy. He got up and went to the bars and called out, "Hello! Hello there!!"

He heard a growl and in the dim light could see a pair of deep blue eyes glow with menace.

Astounded, but keeping himself centered, he continued, "I mean no harm...I apologize if I took too much liberty in taking the rose from your garden..."

"YOU ARE A KNAVE AND A THIEF!!" came a loud, deep voice, like a roar of a big cat.

"I am neither, I can prove it...the rose was in fact on the outside of the wall, but in hindsight, perhaps I should have asked first...it was only meant as a gift..."

"A gift for WHOM!!!"

"A creature of the heavens...an angel..." William continued, calmly.

Suddenly, he saw for the first time who he was talking to. It was a large, mansized Lion, dressed in the richest robes he had ever seen. Yet as he peered into the Lion's eyes, there was such unfathomable, despondent sadness that William knew this was a tortured soul.

"YOU DO NOT FLINCH IN FRONT OF THE Beast?!" the creature demanded.

"Have I reason to?" William said softly. Although all he knew should have made him tremble in fear, William knew there was something wrong here.

Then another voice pierced through the dungeon.

"William!! William!!" Candice's voice rang out, desperately.

'WHAT'S THIS NOW!!" the Beast roared, indignant at yet another intrusion.

He turned around and saw the tiny girl there. For a moment he was taken aback.

She felt her breath cut off...what was this? Yet...the eyes....that was all she could see...

"Candice! What are you doing here?" William cried, unsettled...this was the last thing he expected!

"She's your's?" the Beast grabbed her arm and violently pushed her towards William's cell.

"She's my family...let her be!"

"AH! NOW I UNDERSTAND...IT WAS SHE WHO WAS TO RECEIVE THE GIFT!! I HAVE A BETTER BARGAIN...I LET YOU GO...SHE STAYS!!!" the Beast thundered.

"Absolutely not!!" William refused...there was no way he was dragging his beloved Candice into this mess of his making.

Suddenly, Candice said "William!! You have to think of the others!! You are the head of the family!! You have to think of them! I can stay!!"

"IT SHALL BE DONE, THEN!!" the Beast exulted "SHE STAYS, BY HER OWN CHOOSING!! AND DON'T EVEN THINK OF COMING BACK HERE TO TRY TO SAVE HER!!" he brusquely took William out of the cell and put Candice in.

"But..." William gasped, as the Beast threw him over his shoulder and the tore out of the dungeon, three steps at a time.

"William!!!" Candice cried, astounded at how quickly the Beast had moved...he didn't even let her give a proper goodbye!!

    Candice was crying in her jail. William… he was gone, she was in for good to stay with that…that…Beast! What did she got herself into? Everything happened so fast, she came to William’s rescue without thinking and now she was a prisoner for good. She was going to spend the rest of the life in the cell. She continued crying for a while when she heard some noise at the door. It was opened wide, all of a sudden, then the Beast appeared. Candice couldn’t help being startled when she saw him.

"Get out of the cell!" he yelled.

"What?" she said, surprised.

"I said get out of the cell!!!!" he yelled again.

"Why?"

"Why? You’d rather stay inside?"

"Is that how you treat people, by yelling at them?"

"Are you going to obey me? Or not?"

"Certainly not! If you’re going to yell at me like that!"

'What?!"

"If I’m going to spend the rest of my life with you here in this castle, you’re going to talk to me without yelling. You’re trying to scare me? You’re face is enough to scare me! You don’t need to yell on the top of that!"

The Beast looked at Candice, she looked so fragile, but she was feisty and he liked that. She wasn’t a scared maiden…And she was his for the rest of his life… She was sulking, waiting for his apology, she had guts. The Beast was impressed by Candice and her courage.

"Candice, please accept my apologies for my yelling. I was really rude. Would you please come out to the cell and go to the bedroom I arranged for you?"

Candice looked at him. She looked into his eyes...they were blue, they were beautiful....the Beast looked away.  He couldn’t stand to look into her beautiful green eyes.

"I accept your apologies, please show me to my room…" said Candice.

"Follow me…"

She followed the Beast down the stairs to the long hallway to the door of the bedroom. The bedroom door opened by itself as if by magic.

"Here’s your bedroom," he said.  "You will have dinner with me in a couple of hours…"

"No…"

"What…?!"

"I don’t want to have dinner with you..."

"Why not?" asked the Beast, surprised.

"Because you didn’t let me say goodbye to William..."

"He trespassed on my property and stole one of my roses!"

"That was for me. I asked him to bring me a rose…"

"He had to pay for stealing…"

"Well I’m paying the price now…and I won’t have dinner with you tonight!"

"All right! You won’t eat either, then! Either you eat with me, or you don’t eat at all!" said the Beast angrily.

"You’re yelling at me again! Good night Beast!" said Candice.

The Beast left the room angry and the bedroom door closed automatically. Candice went on the bed to lye down and to cry. She felt so lost… William…Archie, Alistear…she missed them. But Eliza, Neil and Elroy, she didn’t miss then at all! In fact she’d rather be with the Beast than with them!

"Oh my God, what am I thinking?" said Candice.

"Yes, what are you thinking?" said a voice.

"Who said that?"

"I did," said the voice.

Candice stood up and followed the sound of the voice; it was a brush on the dresser...

"Yes my pretty one, this castle is enchanted…" said the brush.

Candice looked at the brush that jumped and stayed in mid-air to brush her very beautiful blond hair.

"Let’s take care of your beautiful hair," said the brush.

"And I’ve got a beautiful gown inside me," said a voice.

It was the cupboard talking… Candice couldn’t breathe a word. Well why was she surprised? She was a prisoner in a castle owned by a Beast!

    The enchanted room, the whole castle was enchanted! She didn’t have to do a thing. Her hair was being brushed and put in a bun. There was a bathroom and she heard the water filling up the bathtub. She went there and saw a lot of foam in the big tub. She took her clothes off and got inside the bath. She loved the smell of the aroma; it smelled like roses… Roses… she thought about Anthony, how much he loved roses… how much she loved him. He was gone now and she will never love again. She was glad she didn’t have anybody in her life, because she was now the Beast’s prisoner forever…

    She finished her bath and she used a towel to wipe herself. She went to the bedroom and she found a very nice night gown on the bed. It was light pink and made of silk. She put it on.  It had a robe, she also put it on. She heard some knocks on her door.

"Yes?" she said.

"It’s a tray with your food," said a voice.

"Come in!" said Candy.

The door opened and the voice was a tray carried by a talking teapot.

"I thought the Beast said I wasn’t suppose to eat," said Candice.

"Oh don’t listen to that grumpy old Beast," said the teapot.  "There’s no way we were going to let our newest guest starve to death…there my child, you must be hungry, eat now. It’s alright."

"What if the Beast gets angry with you?"

"You’re very generous, thinking about my well being… I’m going to be fine. I’ll send my little boy to get the tray once you’re done, his name is Chip. Enjoy your meal."

The teapot left. Candy was looking at the tray. She was hungry.  It was roasted chicken with potatoes and vegetables. She started to eat with appetite.  There was a glass of fruit juice and she drank it.

She kept thinking about the life she left behind. Michael, who asked her to marry him every single day…maybe she should’ve accepted and then, she wouldn’t have asked William to bring her a rose and she wouldn’t be the prisoner of the Beast. Chip came to get the tray. He was a cup…so cute.

"Well hello!" said Candy, laughing.

"Hi Miss! You’re very beautiful…"

"Thank you…"

"I’ll see you tomorrow then, good night!"

He took the tray and left the bed room. The brush came back to brush her hair and she went to bed. She woke up in the morning and got ready, but she stayed in her room.

The Beast was hoping that Candy would come down for breakfast. She was angry with him. He was kind of mean, not letting her say goodbye. He had to do something for her… He went upstairs to her bedroom door.

"Candice?" he said.

Candice was startled to hear the Beast at her door. She was expecting it, but still, his voice was a little frightening.

"Yes?"

"Can I come in?" he asked.

"Why?"

"Please, let me in…"

"Go away!"

"Please…"

He was begging, the Beast was begging…

"Alright, come in!" she said at last.

The Beast came in. Even though she knew what he looked like, she was still a little afraid every time she saw him.

"This… William…" said the Beast.  "Do you…love him?"

"Yes, I do," said Candice.

"Were you going to marry him?"

"No, no…he adopted me after my parents died. I owe him everything…He’s like a father to me…"

"Father… he described you as an angel…"

"An angel?"

"Yes, he’s quite fond of you…"

"And I’m fond of him… I will never see him again and you didn’t even let me say goodbye!!!"

"I apologise…I have something for you…"

"Something for me?"

"Yes, it’s a mirror.  All you have to do, say what you want to see, and it will show you…"

He gave her the mirror and she took it. All she had to do is say what she wanted to see.

"Show me William…" she said.

The mirror became smoky and then it showed him William on his bed, saying her name:

"Candice…Candice…"

"Oh… William…" she said with tears in her eyes.  "I’m fine…oh you can’t hear me…"

The Beast looked at her.  She loved that William fellow a lot.

"Thank you Beast," she said, moved.

"You’re welcome. Now are you going to come downstairs and have breakfast with me now…"

"Yes, I will," said Candice. "Go ahead, I’ll be there in a minute."

"All right…"

The Beast left the room. Candice was looking at the mirror and she was able to see the people she cared about: Alistear, Archie, Michael, William…

    Later that evening, the Beast paced back and forth in his room, tenuously holding back his frustration. The day felt like a total disaster, starting with the morning's breakfast. He had felt uneasy and awkward in her presence and she must have sensed it because she had stayed in her room throughout the day. This young woman Candice was so brave and beautiful… she didn’t deserve to be his captive. To his relief, she didn't seem to fear him. In fact he found himself respecting and admiring her show of defiance! Still, her hostile and angry looks disturbed and perplexed him. He wanted to change that, but would she ever be able to look at him without feeling revulsion or animosity for what he had done? He could hear the shrieking voice of the witch, Suzanne the Lame ringing in his ears:

"Only the love a pure heart can set you free!"

With a groan, he tore back the heavy drapes of the wall in his dark chamber and gazed at a worn-out portrait of himself… his human self. Tentatively, he touched the face of the oil portrait, inwardly yearning that he could return to his human form… maybe then, Candice would…

"No!!!" His cry sounded like a roar as he ripped through his portrait with his claws. "How could she love me the way I am? I’m hideous!!" His shoulders slumped in defeat as he covered his face with his coarse paws.

An urgent knock on his door caught his attention.

"Who is it?" he barked, feeling irritated at the intrusion.

"Master…" The voice of his personal valet, Nigel called out from the behind the door. "I have some urgent news to tell you."

"WHAT?!!" The Beast yanked the door open and peered down at the talking candelabra, one of his many servants who was also caught in the witch’s terrible spell.

"I’m afraid the young lady Candice has escaped the castle," the candelabra explained anxiously.

"SHE ESCAPED?!!" the Beast roared. "What do you mean she escaped?!! She’s not allowed to leave the castle!"

"I know Master, but she somehow she found a way to distract us and… " his voice faded as he watched his master bolt down the winding staircase in a few leaps.

The Beast could hear the pounding of his heart in his ears. He was furious that she dared to escape, but more than that, he was greatly worried about her. The forest was dangerous place for an unaccompanied young woman, especially at night! When he heard the fierce howls of the wolves, fear clutched at his heart.

"Please Candice, be safe…" he muttered to himself as he tore open the iron gates and blindly searched through the woods.

Suddenly he heard the scream of a woman. His ears perked and he tried to discern the location of the woman’s cry.

"Leave me alone!!"

There! Farther ahead to the right! He was sure it was her voice, his Candice, and she sounded like she was in danger! With renewed force, he lunged further into the darkness of the forest, winding through the thick brushes. He was determined to save her, even if it would cost him his life...

"I said, LEAVE ME ALONE!" Candice cried out fiercely as the band of thieves surrounded her.

"What's a lovely lass like you doing out so late?" One of the thieves with a missing tooth and haggard appearance approached her. He wreaked of alcohol and lacked a good bath. "It's been a long time since we've seen such a rare beauty!"

Another thief came from behind and grabbed the reins of her horse, preventing her from leaving. "Come off that horse little Miss," he ordered. "You got something we want!" He laughed at his own snide remark.

Candy tried to pull the reins away from the thief but he overpowered her and forced her to the ground. The other thieves laughed as he covered Candice with his body to restrain her. Candice pushed against him and struggled in vain.

"Let me go!!" she screamed, her heart pounding in fear. Inwardly, she wished she was back in the safe haven of the castle. Oh why did I leave?

The roar of an animal blared through the night like an alarm. The band of thieves stood dumbstruck with awe and terror at the sight before them. Emerging through the thick forest was a huge beast that resembled a lion and it was advancing towards them with a vengeance.

The Beast growled menacingly, hoping that his presence would scare them away. Some of the thieves cried out in fear and ran into the woods. Two remained and one held a shotgun aimed precariously at the Beast.

"Shoot him!" The thief holding Candice ordered. "Shoot him now!"

"No!! Don't shoot!!" Candice cried out, suddenly more fearful for the Beast than herself.

The Beast stood on his hind feet and towered over the thief with the shotgun. A single shot blasted through the air and a bloodcurdling cry echoed through the thick darkness of the night....

When the clouds moved and brought the full moon out again, there lay the thieves, either dead or close to it, but also the Beast, slumped over in agony.

"Beast!! Beast!!" Candice wailed, anxiously.

"I'm alright..." the Beast muttered, a bit weak. Candice then saw his tawny fur and part of his rich cape stained crimson from the wound.

"Oh, Beast, you are hurt...let me help you..." she said, and she helped him to get up. As she walked slowly with him back towards the castle, the earlier events of the day ran through her mind...

The morning had started innocently enough...the Beast had invited her to breakfast, and she had accepted. But she lingered so much looking into the magical mirror at what they were doing in Andrew House...William had told them what happened...Archibald and Alistear were enraged, Neil was beside himself, Elroy was puzzled and Eliza could barely hide her smug satisfaction. Archibald was the most furious, demanding to know why William had allowed the bargain.

William had said: "As strange as it may sound, I think Candice is what the Beast needs...it pains my heart to leave her there, but in some way, I know she will not be harmed by him...please trust me on this..."

A longing tear had rolled out of Candice's eye...what had she gotten herself into? She was out of her mind...but the enchanted castle, even though it was dark and foreboding, was beautiful...and the enchanted objects seemed so happy to have her there...even the dresser assured her that she was now the mistress of the castle, and would have the rank and right of Princess...that had been the Beast's order.

She glumly had gone done to breakfast, something that was not unnoticed by the Beast. He was rough around the edges, clumsy and he seemed to have a sardonic, bitter streak in him. Still, she put her best face forward and tried to be nice and sunny, her usual self...but all she could think of was of Andrew Estate and the loved ones she left behind...after the meal, she had gone to her room but felt as if she could escape she would...night had fallen...she had gone to the stables and took a horse...and now...

Limping slowly, the Beast collapsed on the floor of his great sitting room. The candelabra and the teapot came running to see what was amiss.

"My Lady, wot's happened?" Nigel asked.

"Oh Nigel, he’s been shot!" Candice explained with frantic worry. "He needs our help!"

The Beast groaned in pain as he clutched at his side. He was still bleeding profusely and he could feel his body getting weaker by the minute.

"Let me see your wound," Candice said gently as she knelt down beside him.

"No!! Leave me, I’ll be fine!" The Beast felt suddenly embarrassed at exposing his body. He didn’t want Candice to see him that way.

"But you’re hurt! If the bullet is still there, we need to remove it!" Candice insisted. She couldn’t understand why the Beast was being so stubborn and didn’t want to be treated.

"She’s right, Master," the teapot agreed. "If we don’t take it out, you’ll catch a terrible infection…"

"Or worse…" the candelabra concurred.

"That’s three against one. Please, won’t you let us help you?" Candice pleaded softly.

Her gentle, caring words softened his heart. He glanced hesitantly at Candice then grudgingly exposed the wound near his abdomen.

"Oh dear!" the teapot cried out and let out a whistling steam. "It looks worse than I thought. I’m going to heat up some water and get some fresh towels."

Candice and Nigel examined the bullet wound closer.

"It looks deep," Candice bit her lower lip with concern. "Can we remove it?"

"Yes, we have to remove it at once," Nigel agreed. "I use to work as the Royal Physician’s assistant and I’ve seen how the procedure’s done. But as you can see…" he made a comical gesture at his physical stature, "I’m not exactly in any position to perform surgery…"

"Then I’ll remove it," Candice said promptly.

"WHAT?!!" The Beast and the candelabra echoed at the same time.

"I’m the only one here with a pair of hands to extract the bullet," Candice explained logically. She turned to Nigel with a sense of determination. "You’ll have to guide me through the procedure."

"Alright then," Nigel nodded and hopped to the fireplace. "We have no time to waste. We must start immediately."

"Candice…" The Beast murmured weakly. He could feel his strength depleting rapidly. "Are you sure?"

"Hush, you’ll be just fine," Candice tried to reassure him. She gently touched his face and smiled. It felt soft and warm, a great contrast to his gruff exterior. The Beast closed his eyes and leaned into her hand. If he were to die now, he would pass away with a smile in his heart, he thought to himself.

Inwardly, Candice combated her doubts and prayed that she would be successful in saving the Beast. She turned, puzzled at seeing Nigel dragging a short, thin log. "What’s that for?"

Nigel made a quirky smile and turned to the Beast. "Open wide, Master," he instructed. "You shall be needing this when we remove the bullet."

The teapot suddenly arrived with a tray full of clean towels and hot water. "Are we ready?"

"Did you bring a bottle of rum?" Nigel asked.

"Good heavens, this is no time to be drinking cocktails!" the teapot admonished.

"We can use it as an antiseptic," the chandelier explained dryly. He turned to Candice who sat calmly beside the Beast lying on floor. Were his eyes deceiving him, or was she actually softening her attitude towards his Master? She’s the one! He told himself. She can free us all from this curse! He cleared his throat and said quietly, "My lady, are you ready?"

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