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Eyes of a Monster, Tears of a Man

A Retelling of "The Beauty and the Beast"

By Brynne NelsonPublished 7 months ago 5 min read
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I did not curse my godson as retribution. I cast it as his cure.

He, Prince Liam, was beloved, but never satisfied; never fulfilled. He chased continual validation without weighing its worth. Moreover, he never held praise long enough to digest it. I watched, approaching alarm, as his body matured, but his heart decayed. I could not watch impotently while he worsened. A year before Liam’s coronation, I charted a harsher course.

Determined to amputate before decay spread, I cursed my prince. Liam screamed as his teeth curved into fangs, wept when his skin sprouted coarse blond fur. His nails shredded flesh, distending into claws; his spine crackled while twisting, and his azure eyes recolored, blood red. As he stared, bewildered by betrayal, I swore his disfigurements would fade—once he embraced love.

“But why curse him?” the queen implored after the procedure. Her tears poured. “He needs to love, but—shouldn’t that mean letting some wretch into his heart?”

“Faith, Majesty,” I assured her. “He will not suffer forever, or needlessly. Go; rule from the summer palace. As Liam’s godmother, helping him excise damage from his soul is my duty.”

***

By now, many people have heard of this. There is truth in most tellings, though my personage is slandered. Yes, a merchant arrived, lost and starving. And yes, he had a daughter, named Niri. The merchant was banished, but the daughter was detained for Liam’s sake. My prince gifted her a suite, ordered servants to attend her whims, then sulked long months in solitude.

Niri, however, was not all that storytellers recount. She was remarkable: gentle, patient, and—eventually—forgiving. But she was not perfect, not some piece carved to complete the puzzling prince. For quite awhile, her abhorrence of Liam, her disgust with confinement, caused her to withhold aid.

Obviously, the prince shared culpability; he persisted in brutishness, refusing to admit any wrongs. Meanwhile, the girl hid, repulsed by his demands for her love.

“Try honesty,” I advised Liam, following an attempt at discharging me. He refused to forgive my administration of the curse, though I had plainly presented the justifications. “Demonstrate your humanity.”

“Naturally,” Liam growled, rolling crimson eyes. “Telling her that I’m valuable somewhere inside my mountainous offenses will change anything—after we took her prisoner. She’ll gratefully excavate the goodness within?”

“Perhaps not,” I allowed, dismissing prickling doubts. “Still, you’ll never recuperate without loving. The curse is essential in routing your emotional cancer, but only if you attempt change! The girl’s a waste unless you win her over.”

Perhaps only to abandon my counsel, he stomped to Niri’s tower. I followed.

“Girl!” He pounded the door. “Come out! I will not hurt you.”

“No!” She replied.

Liam tapped a claw against the doorknob, waiting for more. Silence.

“That’s… it? ‘No’?” He asked.

“Correct.”

“But—why not?”

Her response was wintery.

You are a beast.”

Liam sputtered.

“I am inescapably aware of my appearance. But—”

“No! Not that. I wouldn’t care if you had—oh—toad’s warts and spider’s eyes. I mean you are rotted through.”

Liam drooped.

“I know.” Soft, sorrowful words.

At last, the lock clicked. I concealed myself as she peeked out.

“Was that ‘I know’?” she asked, her tone an arrow nocked to defend. “You know you’re a wretched person?

Liam sat down hard.

“I am many things, most of them valueless. But—at least I am not ignorant. I am too thickly veined with wicked attributes; no one should waste effort burning away all my dross.”

She considered Liam, eyes pitying, then knelt to listen. He continued in a whisper.

“I despise being…this, but I am.

“It’s shameful, I know. But—I haven’t bothered learning your name. This is my true nature, and I loathe it. I am worth less than dirt.” He chuckled. “Dirt, at least, fosters growth. And I’m to become some prized king of legend?”

Red eyes streamed ordinary human tears.

As Liam wiped at his wet cheeks, Niri eased a hand against his fur.

“You aren’t the scorpion,” she murmured.

“The what?”

“It’s a fable. The scorpion tries to cross water riding a frog, but it poisons the frog halfway, and they drown together. The scorpion refuses to change, and it kills him.

“You are no scorpion. Choose. Change your nature.”

A long, long pause.

“...How?”

“Forgive yourself—and start. My name is Niri.” She extended her hand. Liam brushed cautious claws against her fingers and nodded.

“Charmed, Niri.”

“As am I.”

***

The days raced along, feeling reckless with hurry. Niri guided Liam, illuminating patterns for his growth. She read with him, teaching patience in turning delicate pages with claws; they curried horses together, Niri forestalling outbursts over snarls with meditative breathing. Though the curse still choked him, he turned slowly away from his past self. Niri radiated nourishing warmth upon Liam, neither scorching nor parching.

Goodness grew over him, unblemished and tender.

At last, his heart began to gain wobbling independence; his callous disregard had been scrubbed to tender compassion, his malignancy ebbed. He admitted begrudging appreciation of my care. After months of Niri’s patient support, my curse yielded results.

Liam and Niri were trading affectionate jibes.

“Well, you,” Niri insisted through breathless giggles, “are an overgrown sewer rat!”

“Hey, now!” Liam objected, partly sincere. “Unfair. Beneath my admittedly stony crust, I’m a golden lode.”

“True.” Niri smiled fondly.

Then she froze, gaping.

“What’s wrong?” the prince asked, preparing to protect her.

“Your eyes! They’ve—they’re blue!”

“What?”

Liam seized a candlestick and scrutinized his distorted reflection. “Impossible!”

Pride swelled in my heart as I grew certain.

I revealed myself.

“Godmother!—why—how?” Eagerness undermined his articulation. I filled the emptiness.

“This was always the wellness I foresaw for you.

“This girl is not the cure, not required to be your love. She served as an effective splint, but you are well on your way to recovery. You were never meant to be repaired through coupling, nor courtship. The person you needed to love was always you.”

Short StoryFantasy
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About the Creator

Brynne Nelson

I'm a writer. I'm a wife and a mom. I'm a human.

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