Beauty and the Beast
~ A “Tock the Gnome” fairy tale, of the Brogh – the badger-folk. ~
Extra Happy and Grateful Seven Years of Tock, everyone!
I’m very excited to share this with you, and hope you enjoy it as much as I appreciate your readership.
Fairy tales are obviously a big part of the story, inspiring Tock herself to go on her quest – and the further we get, the more we’re going to see versions of certain fairy tales (that we humans are familiar with) pop up in Tock’s world.
So here’s the first, as a special treat! Hope you all look forward to more of these as much as I do (and as for how they’re going to pop up? Shhhh not telling!).
Thank you again, dear readers. Tock’s journey would not have gotten this far without you.
~ Beauty and the Beast ~
Long ago there lived a fair maiden, with her father and two sisters, in a sett much farther down the shoreline than here. Her mother had vanished before her babes were even walking, leaving their father to raise the girls alone. Still, they brightened his life, and he worked hard at trade with the neighboring setts and other nearby peoples – in order to provide for them a good and prosperous life.
As they grew, the three sisters reacted to life in different ways. Like all Brogh children, they learned of their connection to nature and the strong, deep Faerie forces that were woven into the very fabric of everything. The maiden – Beauty, as she was called for her kind heart – grew to love and respect all things, to care for others and take life easily and gratefully. Her sisters, though as respectful as they could be, found themselves dazzled by the wealth their father brought home from far off lands and grew to be more material than spiritual beings.
Despite their differences, Beauty and her sisters got along well enough. Beauty loved them and her father so much that she didn’t mind caring for their small household, and hardly ever wondered about her mother at all.
Sometimes, Beauty knew and saw things that other of her folk did not. She knew the changes of the weather before those changes came to pass. She knew stories, tales of battles and loss, of visits from strange creatures that no one had ever heard before. In time her kin came to value her knowledge, and trust it, but she often felt misunderstood and different. Still, life went on, and it was not her nature to remain unhappy. As her sisters reached adulthood they chose to seek marriage and a life path in their people’s politics. Beauty chose to prepare for Priestesshood, and a life alone in her love.
One day, as he often did, Father set out on a journey to trade with a nearby Orc tribe. Dealing with the Orcs was always dangerous, but as they moved around so much – and visited so many places he did not, that he always deemed the risk worth it. That day, as he often did, he asked each of his daughters what they would like him to bring back as gifts for them.
Her sisters each asked for new dresses, and jewelry from the neighboring culture. Beauty asked for a single rose, as those only grew far away, and they were her favorite among the flowers.
He agreed to their requests, and promised to return, then kissed them all goodbye and started out on his way.
All was well until some days had passed, and the merchant caught news that the Orc Tribe was moving on sooner than he’d thought. In haste and worry, he pushed on, travelling late into the night. This may not have been a challenge closer to home, but he had never been within these woods before. He quickly found himself lost, and alone.
Days and nights went quickly by as he hurried along. Soon, he lost the road. He did not know where to turn even to give up and go back home.
Then, when he was starving and nearly mad with hopelessness, he stumbled upon a bright grove.
These trees seemed….different, somehow, than the others. The grove they surrounded was spacious and lit with glowing orbs, like floating stars. In the middle stood a castle made of the trees themselves, gnarled and curled in all sorts of gorgeous knotwork to form walls, turrets and terraces. All manner of the forest’s creatures grazed and rested around it, and a single path led inside.
Beauty’s father was about to turn away, mindful of tales of people lost to Faerie-essence in places like this.
But then he smelled food. His hunger led him inside before he could think any further.
Within, all was silent and vacant, but decorated lavishly with the finest goods from any culture he had ever encountered or imagined. The walls were lit with more of the star-like forms that had floated in the grove, and the hallway led in winding steps to a large dining room, warmed with a welcoming, fire-lit hearth. He did not pause to consider how any of this was possible – at the sight of a large banquet table, brimming with baked vegetables and breads and sweet water, he fell upon the food and filled his starving body until he could barely move.
For a while he lay before the hearth, and rested, but after some time his senses returned and he realized the oddity of this place – and more, the trespass he might be making. Quickly he sat up and spoke a prayer of thanks to whomever had rulership of the strange castle. Then he stood, and strode back into the hallway, hoping to leave and continue his journey.
To his dismay, the winding and twisting of the hallways had confused him, and he found he was unable to find the castle’s single entrance. Instead, the path took him out behind the grove, opening into an enormous flower garden.
Every type imaginable was there, in full bloom. Including roses.
Still unsure if he would be able to make it to the Orcs, he thought, at least, he could return with Beauty’s rose.
Trying to be as quiet – and swift – as possible, the merchant plucked a single bloom from the group of them. Surely, he thought, one flower would not be missed.
No sooner has he taken the flower than a terrifying roar split the air all around him. He fell back, stunned into silence, as the shadows around him took form. A creature strode toward him – tall, imposing in height and energy. It looked like a green stag with dark hair and beard like a man’s, standing on its hind legs and robed in flowing, thin garments. As it moved, it’s motions seemed more feminine, and it’s sad eyes were decorated with swirls and jeweled dots. An air of death and loss surrounded it.
Confused by its strange beauty despite the terror it’s whole being struck in his heart, the merchant tried to stand, but found himself motionless, prostrate, at the mercy of the Beast. It leaned down and snatched up the front of his garments with a hand that was more like a hoof, pulling him up and holding him at arms length, feet dangling.
“Mercy!” he gasped, finally. “I meant no harm!”
“I have given you shelter – offered you food, warmth, and this is how you repay me?!” it – they – shouted, it’s mouth small but its features clearly enraged.
“I meant no harm!” he gasped again, insistent. “I was lost on my way to trade, and my daughters requested gifts, I thought the least I could do would be to honor one of their wishes. Please don’t hurt me.”
“A wish? For a rose?”
The Beast dropped him unceremoniously, stepped back to consider him anew. “….I would have you imprisoned for this theft. This insult.”
Beauty’s father fell upon their robes. “Please, no,” he begged. “My daughters – their mother is gone, I am all they have left. They need me.”
“If they are grown, surely they can take care of themselves.”
“I cannot leave them alone. Please! I’ll do anything, give you anything.”
A small, sad smile graced the creature’s lips. “On your word?”
“Send me the daughter who asked for the rose.”
He blanched, struck to the very core of his heart. “Surely you cannot mean that.”
“I would have you imprisoned for this theft. This insult. It is fitting that the daughter who caused it take your place.”
He fell upon them again, desperate, but he knew in his heart that it was too late. “Please – no! I take it back. Take me instead.”
“What’s done is done,” said the Beast, stepping back from him and beginning to fade back into the shadows. “The new moon is but three weeks away. Return home, and send her to me then. If you fail to honor your agreement, I will take your life instead.” And then they were gone.
The merchant sat in silence and despair for minutes, or hours, but then slowly got up and headed back into the castle, strikingly less eager to be on his way. Eventually he found his path again to the front door as if he had never been confused, and left the grove to return home to his fate.
Or rather, Beauty’s fate. Her rose hung limply in his hand.
Some days later he arrived back on his own doorstep, cart empty, exhausted. He fell from his steed, and found that Beauty had rushed out to meet him. She caught him as the rose fell into the dust.
“My daughter….I have sold you.”
The small family gathered inside their burrow, Beauty’s sisters summoning blankets and soup for their weary father. He thanked them, but felt exhaustion deep within his soul, unable to be cured. Beauty sat before him, silent and waiting.
Somehow still, she trusted that there was a tale to be told, and a kindness to be worked.
Slowly and sadly, he recounted the story of his hurry, losing his way in the strange wood and finding the even stranger castle. He told them of the shelter he was offered, and the insult he had unconsciously cast upon his host. He told them of that host, and the bargain he had been fool enough to strike.
Beauty grasped absent-mindedly at the rose in her lap.
Her sisters scoffed at the Beast’s demands and insisted that the bargain could not be kept. They would speak to the elders and summon the whole of their people’s strength to keep this Beast away. Yes, the creature had strange magic, but so did the Brogh – surely it could stand up to one such being.
Beauty said nothing.
Her sisters put their father to bed, left Beauty sitting in contemplation before their fire, and headed out to speak to the leaders of their tribe at once. As soon as they were gone, she stood, crept past her father’s bedroom to make sure he was asleep, and then hurried back into her own. To prepare.
Her strange knowing of things assured her that this was a bargain not easily broken. Worse could come of it, even though it seemed awful enough already. She loved her father, and forgave him immediately, despite her own fear. She would not doom him by breaking his word.
She packed quickly, only the few belongings she could not bear to be parted from and some food and water. The rose she tucked behind one ear as she lifted her cloak over her head, trying her best to pull magic about her in order to shroud her further, untrained as she was. Then she set out on foot, calmly and steadily toward the Beast’s castle. She knew, somehow, that the rose would guide her there.
As she had hoped, no one followed her. Her father’s journey took him quite a number of days, but she found herself entering the grove after only three. Choosing not to question this, or any of the other oddities she was sure she would face, she summoned her courage and walked into the castle.
She found the banquet hall, as he had, and a feast laid out for her as well. She sat, and ate and drank her fill, and waited.
After some time had passed, and she was nearly drifting off to sleep, a bit of movement caught her eye and she pulled herself back to attention. The shadows were moving, just as her father had described. Suddenly the Beast was before her, looking surprised, and almost impressed.
“You were to come on the New Moon,” they said simply.
“Greetings to you too, Your Grace,” she replied. “And I know this, and offer apologies for not following your bargain to the letter. I will not be your bride, but I AM here.”
They grunted, but still seemed pleased. “I understand. You may consider the bargain kept.”
She nodded, relief flooding her heart at her father’s safety. She waited for the Beast to say something more, but instead, they sat in silence. She was surprised to find it almost companionable.
Finally, she grew restless and her fear began to return. “What would you have me do here, Your Grace?”
They looked startled, as if she had broken them out of their own thoughts, and she almost laughed. She could feel the aura of death and loss around them, as her father had described, but it was hard to feel that keenly when they reacted so….normally. She could sense, too, a deep sorrow underneath that countenance. She wondered, without wishing for it, what loss that feeling came from.
“This is your home now, so you may move throughout it and do as you please. You may not leave the grove, but all your other needs and wants will be provided for. Simply think of what you wish, and it will appear.”
“I don’t suppose that will work with people.”
“No. You cannot summon your family here.” They chuckled. “And even if you could, the bargain would bind them here just as you are bound.”
“I see.” She frowned, her curiosity about the creature once again quelled by frustration.
They stood to rise, and she stood too, out of respect. For a moment, it seemed as if they would come closer to her. But the moment passed, and they simply nodded their head. “Welcome, Beauty. And good night. I will see you again tomorrow.”
With that, they vanished, leaving Beauty once again alone before the hearth. She sighed, wondering what to do next but determined to remain in good spirits. She had not expected to be here, of course, but she knew there were worse sentences.
She looked back toward the entrance of the room, and found that the lights along the wall had moved, leading her down a second hallway she hadn’t noticed before. Suddenly tired, she got up and followed them, marveling at the magic that was threaded throughout the entire place.
The hall led her to a comfortably small bedchamber, about the size of her own at home. It was furnished beautifully, but simply, as she would have chosen herself. Relieved and grateful, she lay down in the bed and fell into a deep sleep.
In dreaming, she found herself again in the castle grove, but the castle itself and the animals that had spent their time there were gone. Instead, a sacred well sat at the center of the space, lit by moonlight as well as the starry orbs that were there before.
She walked towards the well. She looked down into it, and beheld a face in the water. It was not her own – instead, it changed, first a handsome Brogh youth then shifting into all manner of animal and other faerie creatures. Finally it settled on something between badger and stag, and it said, “Welcome, Beauty. Do not be afraid. Take heart, and have faith that all will be well.”
“What do you mean?” she asked.
“Do not linger on the fears in your heart, that you have lost your family. In freeing me, you will free yourself. Just trust your heart, not your eyes. Please, do not desert me.”
“I don’t understand,” she called again, but before the vision could answer a bright light struck behind her, and she turned around to behold a floating form, about the size of her own and nearly the same shape. But the light was so bright she could not make out any other features – were there wings? Fine robes or armor? She did not know.
The light-form spoke to her, a clear voice like a bell ringing through her head.
“Beauty – you have my pride and my magic. I will be here for you if you but trust the strength of your spirit and all that made you special in the world you’ve left behind. Embrace your destiny, and be grateful. You will find the Light in the darkest places.”
Beauty tried to speak again, to ask this visitor what they meant, but found herself too struck to speak. Tears rolled down her cheeks and she did not know why. As she lifted one hand to wipe them away, she felt the dream fade away and opened her eyes to find herself back in her room at the Beast’s castle.
As they had promised, the Beast left Beauty alone to do as she wished.
The first day, she explored the castle, finding huge libraries, ballrooms, planetariums – anything she could think of for a grand estate to have, she found it. Though it was odd for her badger-form to be living above ground, she found that anytime she felt discomfort at the light, the limbs and vines that formed the windows closed up at the barest of her thoughts. If she was hungry, or thirsty, a small table would appear beside her with exactly what she needed. If she was tired, pillows for her rest would manifest at her feet. If she wanted to know something, a book or scroll would appear at her side with the information. That is, all except anything about the castle’s strange master.
After her supper, she wandered back out into the gardens behind the castle, with a book of tales from cultures she hadn’t even known about. Though it pained her heart to look at them, she settled beneath the roses. Somehow, still, they comforted her.
The Beast found her there, approaching already formed instead of manifesting out of shadows as they had before. She looked up and smiled, despite the fear that still reared up inside at them sight of them.
“Good evening, Beauty.”
“Good evening, Beast.”
They sat down beside her, and asked what she was reading. She told them, and about her day, her fear giving way to her marvel at their home. They seemed pleased at her amazement.
“Are you happy here, then?” they asked once she had finished recounting her adventures.
She hesitated, again aware of the fearsome situation she was in. “….As much as I can be, Your Grace.”
“You don’t need to call me that.”
“You would rather I call you a Beast instead?”
They chuckled. “No. I have a name.”
“Oh….” As kind-hearted as she believed herself to be, Beauty felt ashamed that she had not thought of that before. “May I have it, then?”
“Yes. My name is Cruthaigh.”
She composed herself, and nodded her head in respect, smiling again. “It is nice to meet you, Cruthaigh.”
The sadness returned to their face, their posture slumping. “Is it?”
Beauty sat back, unsure of how to respond. The Beast stood, sighing, their eyes still locked sadly on hers. “I would have you be honest with me, Beauty. I may be keeping you here, but you came willingly, and I want to see you for who you are.”
“….All right, Cruthaigh. I will not lie to you.”
“All right,” they accepted, and turned to go. At the edge of the roses’ hedge, they turned back to look at her again. “I must ask one more thing.”
She stood too, wishing suddenly to be on her feet as well. “Yes?”
“You came here before the new moon because you did not wish to be my bride.”
“That is correct.”
“Has that changed? Would you consent to marry me now?”
She nearly sputtered, so surprised, but quickly composed herself again. The thought of marrying her captor – though she found herself less afraid than she had been upon arrival – still struck terror into her heart. “….No,” she said, shaking but true to her promise.
They simply nodded, and departed, leaving Beauty alone again.
Time passed, as it will. The following days and weeks and months were much the same. Beauty spent her time exploring the castle, and its grounds, making music and art from the rich goods she found in so many of the rooms, learning more about the world from the books in the libraries, studying the stars. She spent time with the animals that lived outside the castle. She took up gardening. She tested her own magics, thinking that being in such a mystical place would enhance her own skills – and happily finding that it did.
Each evening, the Beast – Cruthaigh, as she tried to think of them – came to visit her after she dined. Each evening, they asked her to marry them. Each evening she said no.
In dreams she often returned to the well at the grove, and saw the same shifting creature reflected in it. Sometimes she saw it in other places, other scenes throughout the world. Sometimes it spoke to her, and asked her why she doubted, still. But mostly, they were silent with each other. She did not see the light-form that had spoken to her again.
Against her better judgement, she found herself growing warmer toward her captor. Although she was trapped within the grove’s boundaries, they treated her more like a guest than a prisoner. More and more liked a friend. Calling them by their name came easier, and their conversations never seemed to dull. Indeed, they had more in common than she would ever have expected. Though it seemed they came from a very different past than Beauty herself, and shared very few details about that past, they way they felt about life was very much the same. Beauty had always felt outside her people, loved but misunderstood. Cruthaigh knew that within themself,too.
Occasionally, she would push her magic, her knowing and seeing of strange things, to try to see her family. It never worked, and only left her sadder than before. If the Beast would ask her, now, if she was happy here – she would have said yes. But that one sadness, she felt, would always live in her.
One night, after Cruthaigh had come to her as accustomed, her mind was so set on this sadness that it was impossible to keep herself in good spirits. As they spoke together about their interests and the changeable nature of all things, she sighed and stared off into the hearth’s fire, distracted.
“What is troubling you, Beauty?” the Beast finally asked. They sounded as if they already knew the answer.
She fixed her eyes with theirs. “I’m sorry. I try not to, but I find myself missing my father and my sisters.”
Sadness filled their eyes. “Are you not happy here, Beauty?”
“I am happy, Cruthaigh.”
“Then why would you wish to hurt me by leaving here? This palace, in which you are Queen?”
“Queen in all things except my own freedom!” Beauty stood abruptly, her sadness giving way to anger. “Yes, I came here of my own will, and yes, I care for you, Cruthaigh, but I am still your prisoner!”
They remained where they sat, the same deep sadness on their features. “I love you and I would never wish to cause you pain, my Beauty.”
She sighed, and sat back down, embarrassed of her outburst. Of course they cared for her, too, and of course they didn’t wish to hurt her. “I know,” she said, after a long silence. “And I will remain loyal to our bargain. But I cannot help missing my family.”
Silence awkwardly returned; neither of them seemed to know what to say. After an even longer pause, the Beast stood, regarding their prisoner with sorrow and acceptance all at once. “Then I release you. You may return to your family, and take your belongings and gifts. But please, know this – if you do not return to me in two months you will find things here forever changed, if you ever come back at all.”
“Cruthaigh…” Blissful, shocking relief filled Beauty’s heart. She reached for them in gratitude, but they turned away, their features twisted in anguish. Without another word, they disappeared back into the shadows as they had often done so long ago.
The relief in her heart faded instantly at this departure. Beauty felt as if she had done a serious wrong. She felt cold, and more alone than she had felt even before coming to the castle.
Still, the promise of seeing her family again rang within her, and she hurried quickly to her room to pack her things. Her time in the castle had provided her with many new, fine garments, which she bundled up carefully in order to take home and share with her sisters. She packed some of the jewels and precious trinkets, and books, that had become dear to her here. Still, she tried to be sparing, to not insult her friend’s generosity with greed. And when it came to her old things, that which she had brought with her from her old home, she left behind one of the brooches she had worn when she arrived. She hoped, at least, that Cruthaigh would take that as a comfort, a sign that she would return. She did intend to.
She tried to ignore the sadness she felt all throughout the castle, all throughout the grove itself, as she left the castle and headed back into the forest. The stolen rose, placed behind her ear as before, guided her again – within only a few days, she found herself back at the doorstep of her family sett.
Unexpectedly uncomfortable, she knocked. Soon three bright faces greeted her, shocked and relieved and delighted all at once, and a little bit afraid. Through that fear they still welcomed her in with open arms. At their worry, she did reassure them that she would not be followed by the Beast. She was free.
She told them her story, all about the time she had spent in the mysterious grove and about her friendship with the Beast – though for Cruthaigh’s safety, she would not share their name. Her family clearly did not believe she had simply been released. After her father and sisters were as sure as they could be that she was truly, safely there with them, they shared with her too, about her father’s increasing success and both her sisters’ new careers within their dear community. It was as if some special magic had fallen on the household with Beauty’s sacrifice, one that blessed their every endeavor.
She felt relieved, but foolishly jealous, that they were doing so well without her.
Still, it did not take long for her to fall back into the routine of her life with them. That, at least, was the same, and her sisters were indeed grateful for her help around their home. She noticed, though, that it really felt like their’s – not hers – anymore.
She missed the castle. She missed Cruthaigh.
Unable to truly admit this in her heart, she forced her usual happy demeanor and stayed with her family for the full two months. As the days passed, not as quickly as she would like, she found her dreams of the sacred well in the grove returning. She searched in its waters for the shifting face that had been there before, but it did not appear. She called out for the light-form she had seen that first time, but it did not come.
She felt a loss, but she did not now why.
Then, one night, her dreams took her into a darkness in that same space. All the star-like lights were gone, only a pale haze of moonlight came through darkened clouds above the well. And laying before it, pale and clearly dying, was Cruthaigh.
She rushed to them, gathering their head up in her lap carefully and stroking their hair as – she found, suddenly – she had wanted to do before. “What’s happened?” she cried. “Have you been attacked?”
They coughed, and looked forlornly up into her eyes. “No, my Beauty. I am afflicted only by my own greed and arrogance….but now it is too late.”
“What do you mean?”
Their eyes rolled back and she cried out again. As she did, a bright light flashed above them both, filling the darkened grove. Beauty tore her eyes away from her companion’s nearly lifeless form, only to behold the light-form she had seen on her first dream visit, looking down at her with equal sadness.
“You are nearly too late,” it stated. “If you delay any further, they will surely perish. Remember what I told you, and trust your heart.”
The light flashed again, and Beauty’s eyes snapped open, finding herself once again in her room at home. But it wasn’t home, not anymore; and though she valued the time she had been given, she understood that she had made a grave mistake.
At once she rose and dressed, and packed her things, leaving all but one of her new gowns for her sisters to keep. She wrote a hasty note of goodbye to her sleeping family, tucked the rose behind her ear again, mounted her father’s swiftest steed and set off into the night.
It seemed the rose transported her faster than ever before. Still, she feared it was not fast enough. She rode through the night and into the next day and night beyond that, sliding to her feet as soon as she entered the grove and taking off toward the castle on foot.
It lay in ruins. The trees, hedges, vines that had given it shape had withered and died. Had it really only been two months? She didn’t dwell on it, just pushing in through the decay to try and find its master.
“Cruthaigh!” she called, fear rising in her. No one, nothing, replied. She checked all the rooms she could think of – where had they spent their days, before they visited her each night? At last she had exhausted all her options, every place.
Except the garden.
Her heart sank as she hurried through the awnings and terraces, bare bones of the life that had flourished there before. This was the only option left. What if they were gone? What if she was too late?
She found them laying near death, just as in her dream, below the place where once the roses bloomed. As in her dream, she rushed to their side and gathered their head into her lap, stroking their hair. For a moment all was silent – heart beating out of her chest and still all at once- but suddenly they coughed, and rolled over, grasping her hand in theirs.
She was so relieved that she laughed, leaning down to kiss their head softly. “Thank goodness,” she cried, softly, her tears falling onto their face. “I thought I had lost you.”
They just blinked up at her, surprised. “….You came back.”
“Of course I came back! I love you. I didn’t know how much until just now, when I thought…” She sobbed, and hardly noticed as Cruthaigh revived enough to sit up in her arms and wrap their own around her, too. She melted into them, relieved in ways she never had imagined.
Life returning to their form, Cruthaigh leaned down and kissed Beauty. She pulled them closer, finally unafraid.
There was a sudden burst of light, like in her dreams, and she sat back as shadows wrapped around Cruthaigh’s form and lifted them to their feet. She shouted, reaching out to follow and pull them free, but found herself held back by two familiar, glowing hands.
Behind her, the light-form smiled down at her. It was more solid now – a Brogh woman, like her, but somehow smoother of fur and sporting bright shining wings from her shoulders. She beamed down at Beauty with wisdom and happiness.
“What is happening?” she demanded, looking back at her enchanted love. During her distraction, the shadows had shifted into a bright light, just like the being behind her shone.
“You have freed them,” the woman explained. “Your Beast was never as they seemed. Long ago, in their youth, Cruthaigh grew haughty in their power and held themselves above all other things, beginning to cause harm in their selfishness. As punishment, the heart of Faerie – from which we all are born – cursed them to live in one single, doom-embodying form, trapped in this grove and this castle until they could learn to love and be loved again. Only when that bond was formed and promised in ceremony would they be free again to shift in shape and move throughout the world, throughout magic, as they had been able to before.”
Beauty stared into the light around Cruthaigh, trying to make sense of it. The light wasn’t letting them go…
She looked up at the faerie woman again. “Promised in ceremony?” she repeated.
The woman nodded, and released her grip on her shoulders.
Beauty stepped forward, inching closer to the light was wrapped around her love, certain but cautious. She reached into it with both hands, and gasped as two hands found her own. She squeezed.
“Cruthaigh. Will you marry me?”
The light burst, and when her vision returned, she found herself staring at her former captor much as they looked before – only brighter, inside, and without the air of death and loss that had so long hung around them. Still holding her hands, they closed their eyes, and before Beauty could even speak they shifted forms in front of her. One after the other, each familiar to her from the well in her dream.
The two of them burst into relieved laughter together, Cruthaigh settling into a form halfway between badger and stag as they leaned down to kiss her again.
After a moment, Beauty turned to the light woman, who had walked back into the center of the fallen castle. As they followed her, together, they noticed that a well had been restored there. The well from the dream.
The woman held out her hand to Beauty, and she rushed forward to take it, her skill of knowing rushing forth to solve one final mystery.
“You’re my mother,” she declared.
“Yes, my child,” said the faerie. “I loved your father dearly, but life for someone like me and life for someone like him…. I could not stay, though it pained me to leave you all. I have been with you as best I could, in your father’s fortunes and your sisters’ ambitions. And with you, here, in your trial with your own Fae nature.”
Beauty looked at Cruthaigh, who only smiled at her, trusting. “….Does this mean that I cannot live with my love, either?”
Her mother shook her head. “You, Beauty, are unique in your family. Along with your kind heart and your ability to see things others cannot, you have more connection to the realm of magic than your siblings. You can move between our worlds.”
Relieved, she embraced them both again, and once Beauty’s mother had summoned a chariot to take them away the three of them gathered Beauty’s father’s steed and glided quickly back to the sett. The carriage was laden with much of the wealth the castle had held, and after another warm reunion with her family, Beauty gave all the gold and jewels, delicate and rare crafts and fabrics, gems, everything there to her sisters, to build their happy homes as their father had blessedly worked to build his.
A sadness visited their joining in the news that Beauty’s mother, the faerie, could not truly stay, but it passed as they felt relief and satisfaction in the breaking of their family’s sorrow, the breaking of the curse.
Beauty promised to visit them as often as she could, but quickly she and Cruthaigh grew restless of being in one place, and set to travelling together. After a turn of the seasons, they returned and had their marriage in the scared grove, before the sacred well, surrounded by their loved ones. They built several homes together as they connected with many different peoples, all over the world – Beauty using her Knowing to help others without worrying what they thought of her, and Cruthaigh ever seeking to understand and care for all beings. In this way they lived to the end of their days – many more than any of us will see – in happiness and peace.
Sometimes still, when the moon is new and marriages are being celebrated, if you listen closely – you can hear them laughing, delighted and ever serene in their love.