Once upon a time, in a faraway land, a prince lived in a shining castle. Although he had everything his heart desired, the prince was spoiled, selfish, and unkind. But then, one winter's night, an old beggar woman came to the castle and offered him a single rose in return for shelter from the bitter cold.
Repulsed by her haggard appearance, the prince sneered at the gift and turned the old woman away, but she warned him not to be deceived by appearances, for beauty is found within. And when he dismissed her again, the old woman's ugliness melted away to reveal a beautiful enchantress.
The prince tried to apologize, but it was too late, for she had seen that there was no love in his heart, and as punishment, she transformed him into a deformed hideous beast and placed a powerful spell on the castle, and all who lived there. Ashamed of his monstrous form, the beast concealed himself inside his castle, with a magic mirror as his only window to the outside world.
The rose she had offered was truly an enchanted rose, which would bloom until his 31st year. If he could learn to love another and earn her love in return by the time the last petal fell, then the spell would be broken. If not, he would be doomed to remain a beast for all time. As the years passed, he fell into despair, and lost all hope, for who could ever learn to love a beast?
In the nice small town of Rouen, a bright new day had started for all. The town, not too big and consisting of small cottages and two-storey houses, some of them packed together. Stands and small shops were at the bottom, selling and serving local products.
The streets of the town were paved by limestone rock, giving it a nice crème-yellow appearance. It matched most of the houses and lead people all around the city as it forked into roads and alleys.
In one of the houses at the outskirts of the town, a true beauty lived once with her father. Her name was Christine Daee, daughter of a Swedish violinist who retreated into the small town for both health but also escape.
Christine exited the house, her curly brown hair bouncing with each of her steps while she gave a white pearly smile to the people.
She had many hobbies, one of them was singing and found her songs accompanying her lonely life. Fuelling the fire of adventure she so much wanted.
"Little town, it's a quiet village. Every day, like the one before. Little town, full of little people Waking up to say…"
She walked her brown woven basket at her right hand and waved at her fellow townsfolk.
"There goes the baker with his tray like always. The same old bread and rolls to sell. Every morning just the same. Since the morning that we came to this poor provincial town"
The Baker noticed her and smiled. "Good morning, Christine"
She returned her smile and jumped over to him. "Morning, monsieur!"
"Where are you off to?"
"The bookshop! I just finished the most wonderful story, about a beanstalk and an ogre and…"
He ignored her happy talk and turned his attention inside. "That's nice…Marie, the baguettes! Hurry up!"
She shook her head but kept her smile. Unlike everyone else, Christine had a love for books. It was her retreat into mystical adventures she could never have, and all started when her father would spend hours telling her stories and legends of the north.
It was rare for a woman to be educated, especially with books but she was an exception. She never felt ashamed for it and followed her heart which yearned for a change, for something new but knew she would never have.
"Look there she goes, that girl is strange no question. Dazed and distracted, can't you tell?" a woman gossiped, leaning to her friend.
"Never part of any crowd."
"Cause her head's up on some cloud" the Barber joined, overhearing them from his shop.
"No denying she's a funny girl, that Christine"
The smiley woman ignored them, not really caring about what they thought of her. Perhaps she did have her head in the clouds, but things were so much better up there than down below. Once getting some bread, she jumped on the back of the wagon that rides through town.
Everyone greeted and smiled at each other, starting small discussion; they were a small community after al. Everyone knew everyone and gossip travelled faster than wildfire.
Christine left out a sigh and jumped down once she had reached her stop, the book shop. "There must be more than this provincial life!"
She entered the small shop, overcrowded with dozens of books of all genres. Too bad she had read all of them and no one seemed interested in their content other than her.
"Ah, Christine" the bookseller greeted her, a smile on his face from seeing his favourite customer.
She smiled, feeling a relief once being inside the shop. The short man was the only one who never judged her for her love of books and needs for adventure. He was her supporter from the very first day along with her father.
"Good morning. I've come to return the book I borrowed" she said and handed him the book which she had inside her basket.
"Finished already?" the man asked, slightly impressed since it had been only a few days.
"Oh, I couldn't put it down! Have you got anything new?"
He laughed and shook his head before placing the book back on the self "Not since yesterday"
Christine was unfazed by the news and she quickly climbed the ladder, going to the 4th self. Her eyes scanned the titles. "That's all right. I'll borrow… this one"
"That one? But you've read it twice!"
She chuckled. "Well it's my favourite!" she explained as she swung off side of the ladder, rolling down its track. "Far off places, daring swordfights, magic spells, a prince in disguise!"
Her mind replayed the scenes, a feeling of excitement to read the story all over again and let herself be submerged into the adventures it held. She walked towards him with the book and the man smiled.
"Well, if you like it all that much, it's yours!"
She was taken back; such an act of generosity was too much for her. "But sir!"
She quickly hugged the man, finding it hard to express in words how she felt. She released him and gave him one of her most sweet smiles, her brown eyes sparkling with happiness.
"Well thank you. Thank you very much!"
She then left the bookshop, skipping a step once in a while. A small change in her routine fixed everything and she daydreamed the adventures of her book while her townsfolk judging her from the background.
She zoomed everyone out, keeping locked inside her thoughts and emotions. Her imagination running wild while the need to be the heroine of that book kept growing.
"Look there she goes That girl is so peculiar! I wonder if she's feeling well!"
"With a dreamy far-off look!"
"And her nose stuck in a book!"
"What a puzzle to the rest of us is Christine!"
She found her way to the small fountain in the middle of the town. It was her favourite place when she needed an escape and often, she had company; the local sheep. She would sing and talk to them, being her true friends that listened without judging.
"Oh! Isn't this amazing! It's my favourite part because you'll see! Here's where she meets Prince Charming… But she won't discover that it's him 'til chapter 3!" she sang and petted the sheep closer to her.
"Now it's no wonder that everyone called her a 'beauty' Her looks have got no parallel!" a woman in the background sang, observing the peculiar brunette from afar.
"But behind that fair facade, I'm afraid she's rather odd Very different from the rest of us…"
"She's nothing like the rest of us. Yes, different from the rest of us is Christine!"
Not too far away, closer to a more open area of the town a Geeze hunt was taking place. The majestic birds flew across the blue sky, only for one to be shot down. It fell on the ground, not alive any longer and a slightly tanned man walked towards it.
He had a slightly exotic complex and stood out due to the red fez on top of his head. He was skinny and not that tall, but his green eyes showed some intelligence. He walked over and quickly put the dead animal into a bag before turning to the shooter.
"Wow! You didn't miss a shot, Raoul! You're the greatest hunter in the whole world!"
Raoul De Changy was a charismatic man with short light brown hair and stunning blue eyes. His body was trained, and his clothing showed the wealth of his family, along with the insignia sewed on his jacket.
He let his gun down, a smug smirk of pride on his cupid shaped lips. "I know"
"Huh. No beast alive stands a chance against you…and no girl for that matter!"
"It's true, Nadir and I've got my sights set on that one!" he said and pointed at the faint figure of Christine by the fountain.
He knew her since they were children but as they grew older, they also grew apart. She became distant and buried her nose into old books, preferring an imaginary world than the real one. He grew responsible, carrying on his family name and focusing on skills he needed.
"The violinist's daughter?" Nadir asked as he joined his side, and both watched the young woman.
He gave a nod. "She's the one! The lucky girl I'm going to marry"
Ignoring him, Raoul continued. "The most beautiful girl in town"
"And that makes her the best. And don't I deserve the best?"
"Well, of course, I mean you do, but I mean…"
Once again, poor Nadir was interrupted. The man by his side too caught up in his own world to listen.
"Right from the moment when I met her, saw her. I said she's gorgeous and I fell. Here in town, there's only she, who is beautiful as me. So I'm making plans to woo and marry Christine"
He started walking towards her, earning the attention of any other woman in the town and most specifically, the young women.
"Look there he goes, isn't he dreamy? Monsieur Raoul, oh he's so cute! Be still my heart, I'm hardly breathing! He's such a tall, strong and handsome Vicomte!" One woman sang, talking to her friend and trying her best not to faint.
Christine by now she was walking back to her house, easily passing through the crowd. Raoul tried to follow but struggled to catch up.
"Scuse me!" he tried while people chatted and continued with their day. "Please let me through!" he was once again ignored. "Just watch I'm going to make Christine my wife!"
At last, she managed to catch up with her.