Beauty and the Beast

Chapter Ten – Journey to the Past

The cry of a siren can bring a man to his knees, bend his iron will, and ultimately lead to an untimely but deserved demise. No one – man or woman – is truly protected from their sinful nature, though one’s will can sometimes extend the time between listening, corruption, and death. Lurking in the heart of raven rose woods, a siren is said to roam the trees, calling out and crying for you to follow. Though no one seems to be able to paint a clear picture of the creature, her voice is described as light, airy, and feminine. Roughly fifty people have disappeared in those woods, all presumed dead but no bodies to confirm. Supernatural beings are known to lurk in the shadows, and no one seems to come out of the woods unscathed, be it mental or physical. In particular, a small cabin at the edge of the woods is said to be the siren’s home, though many travelers tend to take refuge there on nights when the moon isn’t full.

Odette sighed as the turned to the next page. In the history section of the library, she had found a book describing the history of the forest she had been through. The area was much more infamous than she had initially thought, and for good reason – she couldn’t have been the first one to experience something strange in those woods. As the days passed after the incident, Odette had been able to remember bits and pieces of the night. Combined with the strange voice she had heard earlier that initially led her to the castle, Odette knew something sinister was going on.

She just didn’t know what.

The previous night, she had dreamed of a green light encasing her entire body, it’s buzzing sound deafening. So far, nothing of that sort had been described in the book she had been reading, and no mention of it was in the other ten books she had already flipped through.

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Odette sighed again and tossed the book into the pile of failures. She was running out of ideas, not to mention patience. She gave up for the night, promising to start fresh the next morning. Between teaching Jacqueline and doing her own research, Odette had little time for anything else. Escape was always at the back of her mind, but now exploration took precedent.

Odette considered all she had learned as she meandered back to her bedroom. As she went, a huge crash came from the parlor.

“Son of a-”

Odette peaked in to find Casimir bent over a table, wooden game piece in hand. She covered her mouth and laughed as Casimir noticed her presence.

“Of a…very nice lady!” He finished lamely.

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Odette laughed harder as she walked into the room and observed the demolished game. She bent down to pick up an extra piece as Casimir began to set it up again.

“What are you laughing at?” Casimir asked indignantly.

“Nothing,” Odette said as she shook with laughter. “It’s just, I think you offended really nice ladies everywhere.”

“As opposed to plainly nice ladies?”

“Exactly.”

Odette sat opposite Casimir and the two began to play. Casimir whooped as he successfully pulled a stick from the stack.

“What are you looking for?” Casimir eventually asked.

Odette furrowed her brows as she looked up at him. “A good spot to pull a stick from?”

“No,” Casimir said, lightly laughing. “I mean what are you looking for in the library? You’ve been in there all week.”

“Oh. Nothing.”

“Come on,” Casimir said, urging her to go on. “You can tell me.”

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“If I tell you, will you answer one of my questions?”

Casimir grunted. “That’s not fair.”

“How is that not fair?” Odette asked incredulously. “You don’t even know what my question is!”

“It’ll be something invasive,” Casimir grumbled.

“Oh, hush. Just tell me why you wear the gloves.”

“I knew it!” Casimir said, clapping his hands together. “I knew it would be something I don’t want to answer.”

“I can ask you something even more personal, if you’d prefer.”

“No, no.” Casimir said, waving her off. He inhaled deeply. “I made…a mistake. A long time ago. And a woman – if you could call her that – cursed me.” As Casimir continued, he began to loosen the gloves finger by finger. “And just one of the parts of that curse was this.”

Odette gasped involuntarily as she tried to rear back, but there was nowhere to go in the small parlor. She had stumbled out of the chair and barely registered it’s clatter as it fell to the ground. When Casimir tried to reach for the gloves to put them back on, Odette snatched them away.

“Why would she do that?” Odette asked, breathing heavily.

Casimir looked down at his skeleton hands and then clenched them behind his back. “A reminder, I think. Of what’s inside.”

Odette took a deep breath to calm herself as she picked up the chair. Emboldened by the table between them, she continued her questioning. “How do you break the curse?”

“You said one question!” Casimir fired back.

“Humor me.”

Casimir averted his gaze. “At this point, I’m not sure it can be broken. You’ve seen the castle. I was a vain man, and now I have no mirrors to gaze upon. No windows to promote my wealth. No light to glisten off the chandeliers.”

Understanding dawned on Odette, and she felt a wash of regret crash over her. All those spats about opening the blinds, letting light in, being upset that the mirrors weren’t visible.

“I’m…sorry.” Odette said simply.

Casimir shrugged as nonchalantly as he could. “It’s not your fault. Now, why are you holed up in the library?”

Now it was Odette’s turn to shrug. “When I was searching for my father, a strange voice led me to the castle. And then that time I…”

“Made a break for it?” Casimir finished.

Odette smiled slightly. “Sure, let’s call it that. Point being, I was outside and then I just wasn’t. I was back in this place.”

“The woods are a strange place,” Casimir conceded.

Odette nodded and toed the floor. “So I’ve been researching the woods, seeing if I could find some answers.”

“Any luck?”

Odette shook her head. “Nothing to note so far. There was a paragraph on a siren in the woods, but that was just a theory, and a far-fetched one at that.”

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“The woods are a strange place, I’ll agree. I’ve seen my fair share of…disturbing things.”

Odette perked up. “You have? Will you tell me about them? Maybe it will help me make sense of all this.”

Casimir shook his head. “I can’t-”

“Why not?”

“I just can’t.” Casimir said as he moved to leave the room. “And it’s best if you leave it all alone. Nothing good lurks in the woods, and if you go searching, you won’t like what you’ll find.”

“How will I know if I don’t try?” Odette shouted as Casimir strode from the room. The only response she got was his echoing footsteps.

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