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Unread 28th of March, 2011, 13:54
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Vampire Lord [Epic Admin]

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Join Date: Jan 2002
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Location: Castle Greyskull
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Nicos gazed into the fire at the request for a story, seeing what only he knew within the flickering depths, reaching back into his memory for a classical tale to tell, one that seemed fitting for their haunted journey through the forest.

The bard cleared his throat and began speaking. He told a tale of a Merchant, a man who was well off without being wealthy, a man who worked hard but treasured his Daughter more than any coin or jewel in the world. A man who whenever he set out on a journey, would always ask her what gift or boon he she wished him to bring back for her.

“’Just a rose’” Nicos said, pitching his voice up to carry feminine overtones. “Always she would reply ‘Just a rose,’ valuing her Father’s thoughtful care and safe return more than any treasure.”

While on a journey the Merchant was caught in a fearsome storm, driven to take shelter in an ancient and seemingly abandoned castle. When he explored his temporary shelter, the Merchant found a freshly cooked meal laid out, as well as dry blankets and a warm fire, but no sign of any inhabitants.

Feasting upon the food – and sleeping within the dry blankets before the warm fire – the Merchant spent the night in comfort. Waking the next morning, he discovered the evening’s meal had been cleaned away and an enticing breakfast awaiting. He feasted once more, growing used to the strange ways of the castle and with the storm having passed during the night, prepared to resume his journey. It was when the Merchant was setting out that he saw a rose garden for the first time. Remembering the promise he made to his Daughter, he plucked the most beautiful of the roses and tucked it within his coat

Sooner than the disturbed petals had floated to the ground, the lord of the eerie castle arose from the shadows and revealed himself as a terrible and mighty creature, more Beast than man and filled with fury.

“I fed you!” Nicos proclaimed, throwing his head back and casting his voice low so that it had a guttural, angry edge. “I gave you my hospitality free and thankless when you intruded upon my home, you repay me with theft? No, you will repay me with your life!”

The Merchant fell to his terrified knees, begging forgiveness, saying that he had merely taken the rose as a token for his Daughter. Considering this, the Beast relented but the width of a hair, consenting not to slay the Merchant, suggesting instead that he would hold the man prisoner. Again the Merchant pleaded for mercy, saying that this would leave his Daughter alone and unguarded in the word, and again the Beast relented, giving the Merchant leave to depart and put his affairs in order, but only so long as he returned within a week, upon pain of death.

The Merchant left and swiftly returned home to began making the needed preparations. His Daughter, ever a wise girl, saw that something was amiss and needled her father with questions until he broke down and revealed to her the truth of the castle, the rose and the Beast.

Horrified at the thought of her father being held captive by the fearsome monster, his Daughter waited until night fell and snuck away, making her way to the castle to wonder the abandoned corridors calling upon the Beast to reveal himself. When he did, she recoiled in disgust, for the Beast was frightful to look upon beyond her imaginings. Remembering her father whom she loved dearly, his Daughter steeled herself, begging the Beast to allow her to take the Merchant’s place, reasoning that as the rose was taken for her, she should be the one to serve the punishment. The Beast agreed and took the Daughter prisoner.

Time passed for the Daughter and she found her stay more pleasant than expected. The Beast, for all that his appearance frightened her, was gruff and quick to anger, had another side that was gentle, wise and sad beyond measure, and took pains to treat her well. Eventually, the last of her fears faded and she grew fond of the creature until they became close friends.

A month after she had placed herself in the Beast’s custody, the creature asked her to marry him. She refused, for all that she had warmed to the Beast, the thought of marring herself to someone with as horrifying a visage as he possessed filled her with revulsion. Unwilling to the tell her capturer and tenuous friend the truth, she proclaimed that she could never marry someone she knew nothing about, for the Beast had guarded his history and secrets well.

That night the Daughter dreamed of a handsome Prince who came to her bedchamber and told her a tale. He told her of a young Noble who was betrothed in a political alliance, to a neighbouring Countess. The Countess was a nice girl, but the young Noble didn’t love her and only entered into the betrothal contract with reluctance. The night before he was due to marry, the young Noble and his companions set out to grow intoxicated and enjoy the company of women who's virtue had a negotiable value.

So late did his carousing take him, that the next day he slept through the appointed time of the wedding, leaving his intended wife abandoned and humiliated. The Countess’s rage was awesome to behold, and she revealed herself as a powerful sorceress. She cast a spell and laid a mighty curse upon the young Noble. He was to be crippled, stricken with weakness yet unable to die. Stuck forever in the grips of the spell until he either found true love to free him, or had his heart broken unto death.

Daily the Daughter would dine with the Beast, discuss philosophy and religion, walking the lawns or working on his endeared rose gardens together. Each day the Beast would ask her to marry him, and each day the Daughter would refuse, conjuring ever more spurious reasons for the rejection, too ashamed to voice that she could not, would not love him due to his dreadful appearance.

Nightly the handsome Prince would come to her sleeping mind, would woo her with fanciful tales and flattery until, despite herself, she began to fall in love with a man she knew to be nothing but an insubstantial dream.

The seasons passed and The Daughter grew melancholy, torn between the waking world and a Beast who desired her, and the dreamtime with her Prince she loved but could never have. One day the Beast asked her to marry him, and she again declined her consent, stating that she could never be married without the presence of her father the Merchant. The Beast looked at her with his terrible and sad eyes, and offered to release her. If she but agreed to wed him, she could return to her father and fetch him to the castle where they could all live in opulence together. The only condition he placed upon her, was to return within the week, or consequences too fearful to name would befall.

Weathered and worn from her endless ordeal, the Daughter finally agreed and set out to return home that very day, carrying with her a mirror that allowed her to see the castle, and a ring that would transport her back if she turned it three times.

At the first sight of the Daughter’s return, the Merchant was overcome with joy, thinking that she has escaped. But when she told him of her agreement to marry the monstrous creature, and the two were to return at once for the wedding, he became he was horrified and afraid.

He delayed their return, at first pretending commitment and appointments that could not be broken, later feigning sickness, until as time ticked past and they were on their final day, he confronted the Daughter and demanded to know if she loved the Beast. The Daughter remembering her dream Prince, answered with truth and woe that she did not and the Merchant admonished her not to enter into a loveless marriage, that she had escaped and should not so easily throw away her freshly regained freedom.

With great reluctance, the Daughter agreed and went to bed, sleeping for the first time in many months without her Prince.

In the morning she woke, feeling an unsettled and surging guilty regret at having abandoned the Beast. Being careful that the Merchant did not see her, the Daughter gazed into the magical mirror and commanded it to show her the castle. Cast onto the polished surface was revealed the Beast, sprawled upon the ground and motionless in his favoured garden, surrounded by withered and dead roses. With a cry of alarm the Daughter at once grasped her ring, twisting it thrice until she was returned to the castle and her Beast’s side.

She gathered the creature in her arms, crying for him to arise, that she was sorry and had returned as promised. Her tears, heavy with regret and grief fell upon her Beast and under that gentle shower he began to transform. The monstrous features which had once so terrified her faded away, revealing the form of her dream Prince. She cried anew as she gazed upon the features of her beloved, remembering the tale he had first told her and lamenting that she had come so close to having her true love only to have thrown it away.

“Even as the prince returned to his true form, the worst of the curse revealed itself,” Nicos said, his voice flat and hollow, allowing the pathos of the tale carry itself. “The Daughter began to change, to transform her beauty into something bestial, inhuman and loathsome to behold. The spell, originally cast upon the Prince out of love torn asunder, transferred to her, marking her forever as a traitor to the heart and destroyer of faith. Her fate settled upon her and she became the Beast unredeemed.”

The story concluded and Nicos gazed out into the night in silence, the crackling of flames and shallow hiss of breath filling the sudden void left by the conclusion of the tale.
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