Beauty, Beast, and Blood - An Urban Retelling



“I have a plan.”

“And is it, by chance, a good plan?”

Fleur paused. “…..I have a plan.”

Emmeric sighed, absently combing his fingers through his hair. It was a gesture he performed whenever he was irritated by the human race, which, given the usual state of Emmeric and the usual state of the human race, meant his fingers were almost perpetually tangled in his hair. Fleur was sure he’d been born smacking his head with his hand, already fed up with the foibles and flaws of the world and the people in it.

“Well, then,” he said, pulling his hand away from his hair, “what is this fabulous, genius, positively miraculous plan you happen to be proposing?”

Fleur winced. “We open every door we come across until we find him?”

Emmeric sighed heavily and embedded his fingers once again in his curls.

“Do you have a better plan?” Fleur snapped. “Let us hear it, O Wise Emmeric!”

“My plan,” groaned Emmeric, “was to follow your plan.”

“Well, there we have it.” Fleur cocked one of her pistols and started moving towards the first doorway.

“Doesn’t mean it’s a good plan,” Emmeric muttered under his breath, following.

They made no noise as they glided over the floor, moving like ghosts of death. But in reality, they were just a couple of amateur gangsters, raised in the Hand since they were children. Compared to real ghosts, Emmeric and Fleur were like stage actors with face paint who went “ooooooh”. As much as they liked to fancy themselves the real thing, they weren’t.

Long gone were Emmeric’s parents, killed in a street fight when he was four. Fleur’s mother had suffered the same fate, death from childbirth – only Fleur’s father remained. He’d worked in the gang his whole life because there was no other way, no other place to turn to for old men on the street. He loathed the Hand and everything it stood for, but Fleur – Fleur had embraced it, the quick kills and gunshots in the dark.

Currently, though, Fleur’s father was not safe in his closet-sized office at the headquarters - he was captured by the leader of a rival gang. The book he was currently reading was still open to the last page he’d been on; his prize-winning petunias at home were beginning to wilt. His absence was a knife stuck into Fleur’s chest and twisted, pulling blood and pain from her with every breath.

He was definitely to be tortured for information, the Hand’s leader had lazily informed her, but no worries, he was an old man with low pain tolerance. They’d accidentally kill him before they learned anything useful, and Fleur! Don’t look like that, sweetheart, you know how low-level his role always was. Almost a janitor, barely a secretary. If they do make him scream, he won’t have much to tell.

Fleur shook with rage just remembering it. It had taken two days just to find this place, and the thought of what they could have done already physically sickened her. She would have vomited right then, right there, except she had already emptied her last few days’ food on the floor of Emmeric’s car.

They called the Black Rose’s leader the Beast – she was sure he had a real name, but nobody knew it. What people did know about was his raving temper and passion for cruelty. Fleur had almost expected to hear screams echoing from the basement of his home, to see barren walls and doorways trimmed with skulls. But instead, her shoes glossed softly over a pristine marble floor, and she heard only a warm night breeze gently rustling the lace curtains. She was surrounded by mahogany carved doors and rich, vibrant art, and she was 69% sure she was in the wrong place.

“Fleur – hey.” Emmeric’s voice broke into her thoughts. “There’s another door through here.”

Fleur nodded, moving silently over to where Emmeric stood. He gestured through a carved chestnut doorway.

Fleur’s breath caught in her throat.

Stretched out before her was an immense, regal paradise, a library of the sort she’d never dared to dream would exist. The walls were crammed with floor-to-ceiling shelves, and the ceiling was painted with stars and constellations. As she moved wonderingly through the room, almost in a trance, Emmeric gently guiding her, she took extra caution to not trip over the piles of books sprinkling the room. She let herself caress the occasional spine or cover in passing, imprinting the gold lettering and velvet texture into her memory. For a moment, she could almost forget where she was, who she was – but, no, she could not! For her father’s sake, she could not let herself forget. She was not some beauty in the castle of a king, she was a criminal in the lair of a beast.

Across the room a set of carved double doors were set into the wall, and she approached them with caution. Emmeric reached out and lightly pushed the handle, testing to see if it was unlocked – it was. Likely no one was in there, but it would still be good to check.

Emmeric pushed firmly on the handle and let the door swing open, then froze.

A dark chamber lay before them, lit only by a few bare bulbs casting weak, sputtering light. But the light was enough for Fleur to see the tools lying casually against the wall, and the glint of the light on pools of liquid on the floor, and the figure of her father, stretched out and barely breathing.

Fleur gasped and fell back against the doorway, her entire world ripped from her, whirling around her in a blinding, choking storm. She vaguely felt Emmeric’s arms steadying her. She pushed him away.

“Who the hell is there?” she shouted, stumbling jerkily into the room. “Who the hell is-”

“….fleur….” A tiny, shriveled voice from the floor.

Fleur’s legs gave way, and she hit the ground. Pain shocked up her legs and arms but she ignored it, desperately scramble-crawling towards the prone figure. His hair and face were caked in blood, but frantic clawing at him revealed he was just weakened from blood loss; there were no torn muscles or broken bones. Fleur pulled his face close to her chest and sobbed into his hair, clinging to his head, rocking it back and forth. Her eyes stung and face burned, and she was relieved and enraged and grieving beyond belief all at the same time, and –

“Well, well. Look at this. Someone’s come to join us – Mr. Aster, do you know this person?”

Fleur shot up into a standing position, her head spinning. Blurred vision just managed to make out the shape of a red figure standing at the other end of the room. “You can stop with the sophisticated-gangman talk,” she spat. “No one actually speaks like that.” Her vision was slowly sharpening, filling out the image of a young blond man in a red suit. He gave a mock bow.

“Miss Aster.”

She said nothing.

“Our dearest guest’s only daughter. And, look! A sidekick as well. Two more people who have to die – shedding unnecessary blood, really, I hate it.”

“You’re not going to live to shed another drop.” Fleur’s arm shot up and fired her pistol. In a blur – one she was pretty sure had not been caused by her headache – the man dodged.

“Commendable effort,” he said, admiring her gun from a distance. “Good shot. Could work on technique.”

Except Fleur was 90% sure the miss had nothing to do with her technique and 90% sure magic didn’t exist, which added up to a grand total of 100% confusion. She said nothing.

“Me, on the other hand – my technique is impeccable.”

In a motion too fast to track, a bullet was fired from a gun and blazed through the air. It buried itself in Fleur’s father’s shoulder, ripping through blood vessels and shattering bone.

He arched his back and emitted an inhuman scream.

It shot through Fleur’s head and tore her soul; she was sure she released a similar scream.

“No, no!” she shrieked. “Stop, stop, goddammit, stop it!” But she knew she could not stop it, not this, not her death, not Emmeric’s. She had nothing, absolutely nothing, no information, no contacts, no anything to offer this man – wait –

“And what-”

“Me.” Fleur squared her trembling shoulders and drew a slow, shaking breath. “Me. You have me. I mean, you will. You could.”

“Fleur!” shouted Emmeric.

The man, for his part, looked stunned. Then thoughtfulness slowly spread across his face - then wickedness. “Yes, you.” He looked her up and down. “Miss Aster. And in the prime of your youth, too, how generous.”

“Fleur,” warned Emmeric, his voice shaking and weak.

Fleur knew her beauty; she knew she was sought after as a “companion” by many members of the Hand, including the leader himself. She knew it had taken a great sacrifice on her father’s part to keep that from happening. She knew what she was getting into, yet if her plan went well she would only be in it for a few days. “Yes.”

“For an indefinite period of time.”

“For a week.”

“An indefinite period of time.”

“A month.”

“An indefinite, to-be-specified period of time.”

“Fleur,” managed her father, “don-”

“Fine,” said Fleur.

The man cracked a smile. But it was an evil smile, and it did not touch his eyes. “Your companion here, he will bring your father to the hospital, then back to his house, nurse him to health, etc. You, on the other hand –” He stepped forward, black shoes clicking on the floor. “My name is Alistair,” he said. “I expect we’ll be getting to know each other shortly.” He offered his hand. Fleur coldly ignored it.

“My name is Fleur,” she said, lifting her chin high.

“Well, Fleur, you’re quite the enchanting beauty.”

“And you, Alistair, are a cold-hearted beast.”

---

Just something I cobbled together for Kathryn's Fantasy Literature Camp. :) It's not my best, but I had fun writing it! Remember that you are all very beautiful pickles, and have a lovely rest of your day. <3

Namarië,
Ellie

14 comments:

  1. This was really nice, I really liked reading it! It's an interesting re-telling. Will you be writing more of this? :D

    the-emo-wolverine-writes.blogspot.com

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    1. Ahhh thank you!
      If I do continue it, it probably won't be for a while - although I enjoyed writing this, I don't have nearly as much passion for it as I do for my other stories. But maybe I'll eventually turn it into a novella or novel!

      - Ellie

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  2. Wow! You know, I'm not usually very impressed with fantasy retellings, but this one? Blew me away. I love Fleur already (does Fleur mean beauty in French? Or is it a flower?) and I have this deep, inner urge to kick Alistair. Is that bad?

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    1. Ahhhh thank you so much!! I usually don't like retellings either, so I get where you're coming from with that.
      I honestly don't know what it means - I just picked it because it sounded like a Beauty-esque name, you know? Something that fit the feel of the original story more than "Veronica" or "Jessica" or most modern names.
      Nah, I wrote him as pretty unlikable here, so you can kick him all you want.

      - Ellie

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  3. I loved this! The little we saw of Emmeric made me like him, I think it was his general disdain for the state of humanity :) And is it bad that I sort of liked Alistair... Oops why do I like villains who are evil, use magic for the sake of evil, and enjoy the heck out of it? Also I liked how Fleur is presented at first as your general awesome heroine but turns out she gets utterly distracted by the awesomeness of books (and that library...who wouldn't adore that library?)
    Great imagery, I think that's something you really do well. I especially liked the way you used the ghost metaphor. :)

    -ashley

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    1. Ahhh, thank you so much! Nah, I'm a villain-lover too, I get it.

      - Ellie

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  4. There's a chemistry between these characters that comes across really well in the dialogue. Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tells, so I'm always up for a retelling. :) Are you planning to continue this?

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    1. Thank you! :) If I do, it likely won't be for a while - I have several other projects I'm focusing on at the moment. But I might eventually, who knows!

      - Ellie

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  5. Such a neat retelling- I love your spin on it! So intense, and I LOVE the character names (where do you come up with these I need them!)
    -Vivian

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    1. Thank you very much! I raid Pinterest, mostly ;)

      - Ellie

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  6. This is BEAUTIFUL. It may have been short but it was intense, your writing blows me away everytime Ellie, I hope your team wins the competition. <3

    ~Noor

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    1. Oh my god, thank you so much! <3

      - Ellie

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  7. This is amazing! I have a soft spot for fairytale re-tellings, and this one is wonderful ♥
    Amy xx

    Little Moon Dragon

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