***The Cursed ONE****

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    The dwarf stumbled out the doorway of the house, clutching a golden hourglass in his hands.

    He was still in shock. Only moments before, he had been tall, handsome, powerful – a state he had always taken for granted. He had been certain that the Beast would die, and that he would marry Belle. Everything was going his way, just as it always did.

    But now, thanks to the Enchantress, the Beast had become a prince, and Belle would soon become a princess.

    And here was Gaston: a bald, ugly dwarf.

    Everything around him looked so strange. He was used to being high off the ground, in charge of all he surveyed. Now he felt small, the ground too close. In the twilight, trees and houses seemed to loom over him like menacing giants.

    Even walking felt different. He was accustomed to striding confidently through the world, his long legs quickly moving him wherever he wished to go. But now his stubby limbs seemed to take forever to go a short distance. It was maddening.

    His initial shock was quickly giving way to pure rage. How dare the Enchantress do this to him – to him, of all people? He was Gaston! The celebrated hero! It was simply unthinkable.

    This has gone far enough, he thought angrily. That Enchantress doesn’t know who she’s dealing with. He would find a way to change back immediately, and then he’d deal with that traitorous witch.

    She had told him how to break the spell: all he had to do was find a girl to love him. Well, that was easy enough. The village was FULL of girls who loved him. All he had to do was pick one.

    He spied the blonde triplets – Bambi, Bunny and Bubbles – gossipping by the fountain. Perfect. He’d be back to his magnificent self within 30 seconds.

    He set the hourglass down next to the fountain. “Bonsoir, ladies,” he greeted them confidently. He flashed them a wide grin, not realizing that his perfect, pearly white teeth had been replaced by crooked yellow ones.

    They stared in astonishment at the tiny dwarf before them, then burst into giggles.

    He was taken aback. “It’s me – Gaston!” he said, and waited for their signature swooning.

    They looked puzzled. “No, it’s not!” said Bambi. “Gaston is 6 foot four…”

    “…with gorgeous black hair,” mused Bubbles.

    “…and rippling muscles,” sighed Bunny dreamily. They forgot all about the little stranger, lost in thoughts of their idol.

    It suddenly hit Gaston that all they saw was the ugly, puny form of the dwarf. He was so used to their adoration, it hadn’t even occurred to him that they wouldn’t recognize him. He felt a moment of blind panic. What would he do now? Think, think…Okay. He would explain what had happened, and then they would worship him again. Problem solved.

    “I know you’re confused,” he said reassuringly. “But I am Gaston. Really. An enchantress put a spell on me. It can only be broken by true love.” He smiled charmingly, or so he thought. “So, which one of you lucky ladies will kiss me, so I can turn back into myself?”

    They just looked at him, then at each other. Bunny cleared her throat. “Um, I’m sorry…Gaston, but we-we have to go home now. Right, girls?” She stood up quickly.

    “Oh, yes,” said Bambi hastily. “We have to go. Au revoir…Gaston.” They hurried away, trying hard not to laugh.

    But before they were quite out of earshot, they burst out giggling. Gaston could hear them whispering to each other. “Oh my God, have you ever heard anything so funny?” Bubbles said in a low tone. “‘Kiss me and I’ll turn into Gaston!’ Does he really think any girl would fall for that?”

    Bambi nodded. “Imagine kissing that?” she said, shuddering. “He looks like an ugly little doll!” Her sisters tittered.

    Gaston glared after them, outraged. Just this morning they had followed him around, flirting with him, practically begging for his attention. Now they were laughing at him like he was a joke. Sure, he looked different. But he was still Gaston – wasn’t it obvious? How could they not know?

    Just wait till I change back, he thought darkly. They’d be sorry they ever insulted him.

    In a vengeful mood, he stormed into the tavern and spotted LeFou at a table in the corner. He went over and grabbed LeFou’s arm. “Get up,” he ordered imperiously. “We’ve no time to lose.”

    But LeFou didn’t jump up as usual. He shook his arm free. “Who are you?” he asked in confusion.

    “Gaston,” the other replied impatiently. Then, remembering the triplets’ reaction, he added quickly, “A witch put a spell on me – that’s why I look like this.”

    LeFou looked the little dwarf up and down, then grinned, taking it as a joke. “Right, you’re Gaston! Under a spell! That’s a good one.” Still chuckling with amusement, he went back to his drink.

    Gaston couldn’t believe it. The impertinent little worm! He cuffed LeFou sharply on the head. “It’s the truth. Now get moving, you fool!” he ordered.

    LeFou’s eyes narrowed. He stood up angrily, rubbing the back of his head. He was used to Gaston manhandling him – that was just how Gaston was – but there was no way LeFou was going to allow some puny little stranger to push him around. “Pretty big talk for such a little man,” he sneered, all affability gone. He shoved Gaston. The dwarf lost his balance and fell to the floor, knocking over a glass as he did.

    The glass shattered loudly. Suddenly all the chatter in the tavern went silent as all eyes turned toward the sound.

    Gaston was mortified. His cheeks burned. To be knocked down by LeFou, of all people! His immediate instinct was to beat the little man senseless, but it was gradually dawning on Gaston that he no longer had the upper hand here. LeFou himself was only five feet tall, but that was still four inches taller than Gaston in his current state. Gaston was horrified to realize that tiny LeFou actually towered over him. How…wrong.

    Still flat on his back on the floor, he looked up to see all the men staring at him – the men who used to admire and envy him. He’d never felt so utterly humiliated in his whole life.

    “Hey, LeFou,” said Francois, a burly, red-haired bearded man. “You finally found someone smaller than you!” The men laughed.

    “Who is that little guy?” said Claude, a skinny blonde man with one tooth sticking out. “I’ve never seen him before.”

    “He says he’s Gaston,” said LeFou sarcastically. “Says he’s under a magic spell or something.”

    The villagers roared with laughter at that. “Gaston? This guy’s even crazier than Maurice!” Francois snickered.

    Gaston gritted his teeth. He wasn’t used to being laughed at. He pushed himself up angrily. “I can prove it,” he said defiantly.

    Francois grinned. “Go ahead then,” he dared.

    Gaston confidently walked over to a long bench, grabbed one leg of it, and tried to lift it. To his surprise, it didn’t budge. Yesterday he’d easily hoisted it up with one hand, and that was with three girls sitting on it. He grasped it with both hands and struggled as hard as he could, but it wouldn’t move. The thing was heavy.

    Francois folded his arms. “We’re waiting,” he said in amusement.

    Gaston cursed under his breath. Of course this tiny, pathetic body wouldn’t have the power of his own mighty frame. He should have realized that. But lifting heavy objects was as natural as breathing to him – he hadn’t thought about it.

    He quickly tried to think of some other feat he could do that didn’t require massive strength. “Get me a bow and arrows,” he commanded.

    The men looked at each other, raising their eyebrows. Claude shrugged and brought Gaston a bow and arrows. They all watched expectantly. This was the most entertainment the sleepy village had seen since Monsieur D’Arque had tried to drag Maurice away to the looney bin.

    Gaston picked up a mug, walked to the far side of the room, and set it on a counter. “I’ll hit that mug,” he said with certainty, and walked back the length of the room to the opposite wall. All eyes were on him.

    He hefted the bow, but found to his chagrin that it felt awkward, uncomfortable. Normally it fitted to his arm easily, and he used it as effortlessly as another limb. But this body lacked the grace and coordination he was used to. He notched the arrow and raised the bow, his eyes seeking the target. But his keen eyesight was diminished too. He could just about make out the mug from here, but it seemed distant, fuzzy. His reflexes, his balance, his unerring instinct that told him the precise moment to let the arrow fly – it was all gone.

    He was shaken. What had that witch done to him?

    The men were getting impatient. Gaston aimed as best he could, and released the arrow. It flew erratically through the air, then clattered to the floor, far short of the target. The tavern rocked with jeering laughter.

    Francois swaggered over to Gaston. “Either you’re crazy, or you think we’re fools,” he said belligerently. “Which is it?” He poked Gaston in the chest repeatedly for emphasis.

    “Get your hands off me,” hissed Gaston. He was furious. Francois would never have dared speak so insolently to him before. Gaston longed to give the lout a sound thrashing and teach him a lesson. If he’d been himself…

    But he wasn’t himself. And that was really the point, wasn’t it?

    “Make me,” challenged Francois. He grabbed Gaston’s shirt collar and hauled him right off the floor, his legs dangling, and taunted, “Let’s see if you can fight like Gaston.” He drew back his fist and punched Gaston in the jaw so hard the little man flew through the air, crashed into the wall and slid to the floor.

    Gaston was taken aback by how much it hurt. Ordinarily he could shrug off a punch like that as though it were nothing. But worse than the pain was the humiliation. Francois was grinning nastily, an evil glint in his eye, and the other men were gathering around eagerly. Normally Gaston could have mopped the floor with the lot of them, but not now. He realized uneasily that things could get very ugly, very fast.

    LeFou said gleefully, “Boy, just wait till Gaston hears that you’ve been going around saying you’re him. You’ll be in real trouble then!”

    That got Francois’ attention. “Yeah, where is Gaston, anyway? He should be in on this,” he said, looking around.

    At that moment, the tavern door flew open, and a villager named Pierre burst in, wild-eyed. “Guys, we’ve got trouble!” he said in a panicked voice. He drew a shaky breath. “The Beast has escaped!”

    There was a collective gasp. “What do you mean, escaped?” demanded Francois.

    “I stopped by Gaston’s house to remind him about the card game tonight,” Pierre explained anxiously. “The door was wide open. I didn’t see him, so I went downstairs to see if he was with the Beast. The cage was open, and the Beast was gone! And I couldn’t find Gaston!”

    The villagers exchanged terrified looks. They still believed the Beast was a murderous monster, just as Gaston had told them. “Did – did the Beast kill Gaston?” asked LeFou fearfully.

    “I don’t know,” Pierre answered worriedly. “There was no blood, and no sign of a fight. The place was just…empty.”

    “The Beast must have escaped, and Gaston went after it!” said Francois decisively. “Hurry, men! We have to track them down!”

    There was a flurry of activity as the men grabbed their swords, arrows and other weapons and raced out to search the woods. The dwarf was forgotten in all the commotion.


    #999673 Reply
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    #999678 Reply
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    Ride on..

    #999686 Reply
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    nice piece man
    bring it on

    #999691 Reply
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    seated …… i love this continuation…… @itzshaxee

    #999733 Reply
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    loving this already… ride on

    #999734 Reply
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    Ride on

    #999763 Reply
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    Gaston picked himself up slowly, rubbing his throbbing jaw. Still reeling from the humiliation, but relieved at his lucky escape, he went outside and retrieved the magic hourglass.

    He thought quickly. He must find the Enchantress and somehow force her to change him back. She must not be at his house anymore, or Pierre would have seen her. But there had to be another way to find her.

    His head snapped up. Of course – the magic mirror! It could show him where she was. Feeling triumphant, Gaston ran back to his house, hurried down the stairs, and went to the table where he had kept the mirror.

    But it was gone. His heart sank. The Enchantress must have taken it with her, or else Belle and the Prince had. Either way, the mirror was nowhere to be found.

    No way of finding the witch, then. Gaston felt a rising wave of panic, but forced it down. He wouldnot be defeated this easily.

    One thing was clear: he had to leave town. He couldn’t bear to stay here where everyone had known him as the mighty hunter and hero. He had to go elsewhere, where he could stay anonymous until he could break the curse.

    And break it he would. No one got the best of Gaston. Not even a traitorous Enchantress.

    He located the big rucksack he used for overnight hunting trips. He put the hourglass in first. Then he added whatever food was in the house, and filled some skins with water. He took his life’s savings, putting the bags of gold in the rucksack and some money into his jacket. Then he went through the house, looking for anything else that might prove useful in his travels.

    He paused at his weapons chest. He realized with a pang that most of its contents were useless to him now. He touched his sword, which had served him so well on so many occasions, and the bow and arrows that had brought him such fame. Now the sword was too heavy for him to even lift, and he couldn’t see or aim well enough to use the bow. No strength, no skills, no gorgeous looks…The Enchantress had robbed him of everything that made him who he was.

    No. He shook his head fiercely. He was still Gaston, and he would always win in the end, and get revenge on all who had wronged him. Enough pointless thinking. He was a man of action, and it was time to act.

    He noticed his hunting knife in the chest, and slipped it into his belt. It was small enough for him to use. He could also use his rifle to defend himself at close range, he decided, even if his impressive long-range shots were a thing of the past.

    Closing the rucksack, he left the house and went to saddle up his horse – a spirited black stallion named Tristan, the fastest steed in the county. But as he approached the stall, the horse backed away. When Gaston reached out to touch him, he reared, whinnying shrilly.

    His horse didn’t know him. The realization stung. He had broken the fiery-tempered stallion himself. No other man could ride him, only Gaston. But now Tristan eyed him with distrust, as though he were a stranger.

    Reluctantly, Gaston backed off. He knew that in this tiny, weak body, he would never be able to control the powerful horse. It was just one more thing that had been taken from him, he thought bitterly.

    He would have to walk. Resolutely, he shouldered the rucksack. He took one last look at the house that had been his home for his entire life.

    Then he slipped unnoticed into the night.

    He walked for hours, avoiding the tiny villages that clustered around his home town of Molyneaux. He wanted to get far away from anyone who knew him. It was slow going – the pack was heavy, and this body clearly wasn’t made for long walking. It frustrated him. By midnight, he was exhausted and his leg throbbed painfully. He knew he would have to stop.

    He was approaching Clermont-Ferrand, a large town. Gaston knew it well; he went there once or twice a year to pick up supplies. He was somewhat well-known there, but nowhere near the celebrity he was in Molyneaux and the surrounding villages. It would do.

    The wide cobblestone streets were deserted at this time of night, for which he was grateful. The elderly innkeeper was irritable at being awakened, but a few gold coins mollified him. He showed Gaston to a sparsely-furnished room, containing only a bed and a dresser with a washbasin. A small mirror hung above the dresser. Gaston closed the door with relief.

    He was weary, and wanted nothing more than sleep. But he had to think, to plan. He must find a way to outwit the Enchantress.

    If she had to curse him, she could at least have given him the same curse as the prince, he thought bitterly. As a Beast, he would have been powerful and fearsome. He could have threatened the Enchantress with his deadly claws to make her change him back, or forced all the villages of the kingdom to send their girls to him until he found the one who could break the spell.

    He paced restlessly, trying to scheme. As he passed the dresser, he suddenly caught sight of his reflection in the mirror. He stopped cold, horrified at the sight. He had seen himself only briefly when the Enchantress put the spell on him. Now he stared long and hard at the repulsive image, taking in every detail: the bald head, the big hooked nose, the mottled skin, the craggy yellow teeth, the small frail body and stubby limbs. Could this horrid, feeble creature really be him? The flawless, magnificent Gaston?

    With sudden fury, he slammed his fist into the mirror, shattering the hated reflection to pieces. His hand was bleeding from the broken glass, but he didn’t even notice. He was too shaken by the sight of the wretched, pathetic thing he had become. What if he had to stay like this? The terrifying thought chilled him to the very bone.

    He couldn’t deal with it. He focused instead on what he would do to the Enchantress if he ever found her. He scowled darkly, remembering how she had lied to him and tricked him. She had told him she would use her magic to make Belle fall madly in love with him. But at the last moment – with victory so close he could taste it – the two-faced witch had betrayed him, calling him selfish and conceited and saying he needed to learn a lesson. She’d done this terrible thing to him, while that vile Beast got to turn into a prince and ride off with Belle – his Belle!

    Belle. It all came back to her. Gaston’s fists clenched. All he had wanted was to marry her. What was wrong with that? Any other girl would have been thrilled by his proposal. But not Belle. He had gone through so much effort and trouble to win her – and in return, she had ruined his life. He pictured her in her shining castle with her handsome prince, rejoicing over their happy fairy-tale ending. While Gaston sat here, an outcast, trapped in this hideous form, unable to return to the home where he had been idolized. He seethed with resentment.

    They would pay for this, he vowed. Somehow, he would triumph over this curse, and make them regret what they’d done to him.

    Imagining vengeful scenarios, he finally drifted into an exhausted, uneasy sleep. In his dreams, he was a terrifying Beast, and Belle, the prince, and the Enchantress all cowered before his ferocious might.

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