'...The Face of Carrion Beau. Said to have made thousands of women fall to their knees. Begging for his attention, just to catch a glimpse of it. They wanted it. They needed it. It was their goal. To be able to claim it, to claim him, the most handsome man in all the realms. There had never been a man like him before and for the sake of the world, there never will be again. Such eternal youth and beauty should be locked up and thrown away in the deepest and darkest parts of the earth, never to see the light of day ever again. Man cannot tame such power given to him and Carrion Beau paid the price. Everything that he once knew...scattered to the winds. Everything he once loved shattered into dust. And he was never heard of again, his secrets hidden within the writings of time...His palace made from glittered iron crystals crumbled down to the hill it reigned upon and not a soul mentioned his name ever again, his name blasphemous and uttered only to warn children of one thing and one thing only..."
Carina snaps the book shut and looks at the crowd of children gathered around her, their beady eyes looking right back at her, timid and skittish. Their palms clenched together, their brow sweaty and their lips quivering. The impact of the pages shutting makes them jump a little and heave. Some of them giggle nervously as she places the book down on her lap.
"That...that wasn't a scary story!" one of the children complains.
"It is scary to me," Carina responds softly, "the idea of losing everything. It's very scary."
"What...what happened to him?" A child asks, "Why did he lose everything?"
"Please read the whole story, Miss Bellamy! I want to know what happened to Carrion Beau."
The children all riot to hear more of what they had just heard. Carina holds back a giggle as she brushes a golden strand of hair away from her face.
"I don't think you would like the story and how it ends," she tells them while looking at the setting sun, "I know I didn't..."
"We already know that he loses everything, I mean...the start of the story foreshadows it," a child speaks, "we just want to know how and why."
She slips the book into her small leather satchel.
"Sometimes you think you have it all," she says, "but in reality you hold nothing. Just because you have a golden seat at the top of the mountain and you have everyone falling at your feet doesn't mean your heart is full. All things have a price."
"So why did he lose everything?"
Carina stays silent for a moment, retelling herself the story of how the Prince gave up his soul to acquire eternal beauty just to impress the one woman that he deeply loved. The innocent woman that stole his heart without even realising that she did. After acquiring his beauty, it was too much to even comprehend that it mysteriously killed her, making her slip into a blissful eternal sleep, never to be woken again. The woman was so engrossed by that perfect mental imagery, that Face of Carrion Beau that it was just too much for her imperfect mortal mind. Carina remembered her mother telling her this very story every night before she slept, telling her that the whole point was to never explore those dark desires, those tempting longings lurking in the back of your mind, no matter how alluring it may be, no matter how enticing or captivating they may be, because there are always consequences. Consequences that anchor the heart and turn it into stone, becoming stiff and cold. To lose your soul is a fate worse than death.
Carina looks down at the children and shrugs in a whimsical way.
"It's just how life goes, isn't it?" she responds, "I'll read the full story to you another day."
She stands up and slings her satchel across her shoulder, prepared to leave. The children all moan and groan, begging her to stay.
"You can't leave now!" They all say, "You can't leave a story untold!"
"You're so mean, Miss Bellamy. That is unfair!"
She laughs and pulls away from their grasp.
"I have to go home and you're parents are waiting for you too," She tells them, "it's going to get dark soon."
They all pout and grumble as they say their goodbyes and meet their mothers and fathers. Carina crosses her arms and sigh at the sight of happy families, almost feeling a tinge of jealousy in her tepid heart. She spins around and heads home alone, like always.
She passes by the village market, the stalls closing up before it gets dark. She crosses paths with another villager's dog, kneeling down to ruffle it's head.
"Good evening, Carina," the villager greets, "on your way home?"
"Yes, but I'll have to stop by a stall to get some food for dinner," she responds, "how was your day, sir?"
The villager laughs heartily.
"Busy as usual," he answers, "but all that excitement has died down now. The holidays are over so things will go back to normal. Thankfully."
The dog barks happily and Carina nuzzles her nose against his.
"That is good to hear," she whispers.
"Well, it is all thanks to you," the man says, "you're becoming quite popular in all the realms. This town used to be so empty that you would be begging for customers and now it just feels like you have too many customers."
"I wouldn't say that my role is...anything big. I haven't really done anything."
"Oh, but you have and everyone appreciates you for what you have done. Especially the children. And one day it will all pay off, I promise you. But for now, just keep up the good work."
The man tips his hat and walks away, his dog following him. She waves at them as they disappear into the crowd. Carina slumps her shoulders and rubs her hands together to warm them up a little. It is always nice to see the town growing and becoming more and more lively but there is that daunting feeling that clouds over Carina. How long will this last? How long will it take before people realise that all these grand gestures and obsessive behaviours don't mean anything to her? Will the new businesses then pack away their things and abandon the town, making it revert back into what it once was or will they flourish and outlast her?
Carina takes only a few steps, these thoughts dancing around in her mind before she encounters Martha, a middle aged woman, who calls out to her from her stall.
"Oh, hello Carina," she greets warmly, "you're looking as gorgeous as ever."
"Thank you, madam," she smiles back at Martha.
The woman hands her a bag of fruits and vegetables.
"Here, have this," she urges, "my treat."
Carina gasps and places a hand on her chest, looking down at the luscious greens.
"But...but I can't!" she reaches into her pockets for any coins, "You do this everyday, I have to at least pay you for your kindness..."
Martha places a warm hand on Carina's soft cheeks.
"Don't worry, my dear," she says, "these are just leftovers from today. I don't mind. It is always a treat to see your beautiful face, my dear. And for all the work you do with the children. My granddaughter can't stop talking about you. She truly adores you. Have you ever considered opening a school in this town?"
Carina sighs lightly and tilts her head to the side.
"You know I could never," she responds, "you know how my family is, especially my stepmother, with all the marriage proposals and gifts from foreign princes, they want me to marry quickly, hopefully to a very rich family. My family is extremely poor and I am doing all I can to help but it's still not enough."
"Have you tried telling those step-sisters of yours to go and get a job instead of lazing around all day?" Martha scoffs and discreetly rolls her eyes.
Carina smiles and turns away.
"Unfortunately, I can't say that to them..." she giggles.
"Well, someone has to tell them! All they do is complain and eat and complain some more if they can piece some more words together. It's a surprise to me how they even got married in the first place. They both look like-"
"I'm not going to even let you finish that sentence, they may not be related by blood but they are still my sisters."
"And they're going to drive you into an early grave one day if this keeps carrying on. That's the thing with you. You're too pure to even see the evil in others."
Carina heaves and grins softly. Then at that moment, she feels a slight tug on her satchel. She looks down to see a ragged child trying to inexpertly steal her purse. The little child gasps as he notices his failed attempt. He tries to run away but Carina calls out to him.
"You don't have to run away," she calls out, "I have some change I can give to you."
The child stops, suspicious of her intentions. Carina pulls out her loose change and walks over to the child slowly and to avoid looking intimidating. She grabs the child's hand and drops the loose change in his rough palms.
"It's not much...but it's all I have to offer," she whispers softly, "go and buy yourself something to eat tonight, okay?"
She smiles softly. The child looks down at the coins then back at her, quite confused.
"Thank...thank you, I guess," the child utters.
"Do you have parents to go back to?" Carina asks.
The boy nods.
"They're at work...but they'll come back home a bit later..." he mutters.
"Then make sure you go home, and wait for them," she says, "it's getting dark now and it won't be safe to stay on the streets."
The ruffles his hair and stands straight, walking back to Martha.
"That was kind of you," she comments, "not everyone would give away all their money to the same person who tried to rob them."
Carina closes her satchel shut.
"He is just a little child, there are many others in his position," she sighs, "this town is desperate and now that business is drastically increasing, the children are left alone with little attention. And it doesn't help that people are still struggling around here too because they weren't educated in the past."
Martha raises a brow and Carina sighs at the revelation.
"Now you see you've walked yourself into a circle," Martha comments, "these children need guidance and a place away from home. If no one is going to do it, who will?"
"But...but am I even qualified?" Carina questions, "I am barely educated myself."
"Well someone needs to do something to get these kids off the streets and resorting to a life of crime just because they are bored. You don't have to teach them complicated things...just teach them what you know about life. Just start with that and I'm sure there will be others who will want to volunteer. People already look up to you, there will be others who will want to help."
Carina thinks about this for a moment before folding her arms.
"Just take some time to think about it, okay dear?" Martha rubs Carina's shoulders.
"I will," she responds.
Carina continues her journey home. This is the life of Carina Bellamy. The most gorgeous of them all. The belle of the small town of Furstenling and people would travel from far and wide just to see her face, to gasp and marvel, just like some exhibition.
The Face of Carina Bellamy made men and even women daydream, drooling like fools just at the very thought of her and in the night fantasise about her. There was something about her, something that made her stand out the way she did. Something somewhat romantic yet tragic. The way she tilted her head to the side in a gesture of passionate boredom, her plump dark rose lips in an eternal forlorn pout. Her glittery blue eyes gazed out to the night sky, twinkling and shimmering like a lone lake frozen in the cold winter mist. The way her dark brow lifted in such an uninterested manner and the way that her slim and smooth fingers wrapped around her perfectly sculpted cheeks made her look like a work of art created by the greatest sculptor, the way she sought for pleasure like Eve seeking for the forbidden yet she was so disinterested in her surroundings filled with gifts of sweet perfume and glittering diamonds. She would give her suitors a second glance and quickly turn away with a lack of attentiveness, shattering their hearts to the extent that they could love no other, going on noxious quests to make her love them.
The streets become more and more quiet as Carina makes her way home. The lights of the small houses light up as she walks by them, instantly filled with the sounds of laughter of happy families. She continues down the lonely and cold path towards her house, near the outskirts of the town, where Klaus, the shoemaker, lived.
The house is already dimly lit but there is no laughter of cheers. No smoke from the chimney or the sound of fire crackling or the sweet aroma of cooked food. It is quite silent and dull, but Carina isn't surprised. It is always like this now. But it didn't used to be.
She skips over the various gifts left over by the visitors and fumbles through her pockets for her key. From the corner of her eyes, she sees a little white bird, pecking at one of the gifts lounging around. Carina drops her arms and walks over to the bird. She sees the gift and realises the bird's intentions. She reaches over and opens the bag, filled with sweet treats. She lays them out for the bird and it happily chirrups. A large group of birds appear behind the first bird, feasting on the treats. Carina softly giggles but her fun is interrupted by the harsh opening of the front door.
"Urgh, she's finally back," her older stepsister, Arabella, scoffs as she looks down at Carina, "what are you doing?"
Carina heaves and stands up.
"I dropped the keys," she huffs sarcastically.
She walks past Arabella and into the house. Her sister, Theodora, rolls her eyes in scorn as she comes down the stairs, the steps eerily creaking behind her.
"What do you even do all day wasting time with those brainless menaces," she grunts, "what do they call them? Children?"
"The ones in this town are so dirty and dumb, just like their parents," Arabella hisses with spite, "you ought to get a job or even better, get a husband. Then maybe you can finally make yourself useful. Hanging around those dirty and dumb children will make you...well dirty and dumb."
"Isn't she already? I mean, she grew up here didn't she?"
The sisters snigger between themselves as Carina tries her best to ignore them.
"Well, hello to you too," she mumbles under her breath.
"Speaking of making yourself useful," Theodora snaps her fingers, "go prepare a meal for us. We're all hungry and our mother and husbands will be back soon."
Carina rolls her eyes, dropping her bag by the door and walking into the kitchen. She passes by the coat rack and realises that her father's coat isn't hung up. She turns back to her step sisters, Arabella who is busy reading a book, with great disinterest while Theodora brushes her rough and dry hair with her hairbrush, groaning with pain under her breath.
"Have any of you seen my father?" Carina asks, "He should have been back by now."
She looks around the room but they both ignore her.
"Who cares?" Arabella huffs, "he's not my father."
"But you live in his house," Carina responds.
"So? If that old man wants to stay out late then who am I to care? He's a grown man not a child."
Carina scoffs and stomps into the kitchen, immediately met by the smell of rubbish piling up in the corner and the mountain of unwashed dishes. She sighs and places a hand on her hip, assessing the mess. It looks like a treasure horde for a trash goblin. She looks back at her stepsisters and tip her head back in near frustration. She takes a minute to compose herself before she rolls up her sleeves and ties her hair back, prepared to cook the meals for her supposed 'family'. At that moment, the front door opens and shuts harshly. Carina looks up to see who it is but sighs in disappointment. It is only Devon and Harris, her sister's husbands, back from their work, and her step mother, Maeve, returning from wherever she came from. Arabella and Theodora greet them with awkward warmth and love but their husbands return it stiffly. That is what happens when two people with no chemistry or interest in each other get married. Devon and Harris were former suitors of Carina who settled for her sisters in order to be around her while the sisters were desperate. They were much older than Carina, products of her father's wife's previous marriage, and very eager to make Carina's life as miserable as possible, just like their mother was.
"There's a large flock of birds outside," Maeve grunts, "someone better not have fed them, you know they always come back and cause a ruckus."
"It was probably Carina," Theodora sighs, "you know how she loves animals."
The three enter the house, fending away the small birds pecking on their clothes. Harris slams the door shut, the soft taps still continuing.
"Good evening, Carina," Devon greets her from afar, desperate for her attention.
Carina nods and smiles lightly as she walks back into the kitchen. She had other things to do. She starts to take the trash out to the back so that she can sort them out the next day when there is daylight but a family of large rats scurries across her feet, startling her. She shrieks and jumps backwards, onto the kitchen counter as the rodents make their way out through the back door. Both Devon and Harris push themselves into the kitchen to see what happened.
"What happened?" Harris asks her, "Is anything the matter, Carina?"
Carina looks down at the rats that disappear into the night and places a soft hand on her vibrating chest, her heart pulsing with a rapid pace. She never did like surprises.
"Just...just some rats..." she heaves.
Her stepmother shoves past the men and into the kitchen.
"What is all this ruckus?" she snarls as she looks around the kitchen in shock, "What the...this place is a mess? What do you do all day to allow this to happen?"
Carina steps down from the counter, gently placing her legs on the floor, Devon and Harris helping to steady her.
"It's fine...I'll clean it all up..." she breathes unsteadily, her body quivering violently, "I have to cook dinner."
"Carina, you clearly aren't in any condition," Devon points out, "look at you, you're shaking from head to toe. Go and lie down."
"Because she was spooked by some little rodents?" Theodora scoffs, "I know she's a spineless girl but she can take a few small animals. She pets them on the streets as if she's trying to catch flees. Trust me, she's trying to get out of having to cook."
Devon glares at Theodora before leading Carina to a couch in the sitting room.
"Since you're free why don't you make something?" he says, gently laying Carina down.
"Because I'm busy. Why don't you ask your wife, Arabella?"
"When did this become about me?" Arabella grunts.
"I'm sorry, isn't everything?"
"Busy? What do the both of you do all day besides lazing, eating and complaining?" Devon says.
Arabella looks at him in shock.
"You can't talk to me that way!" She gasps, "You're my husband!"
"What, I can't tell you the truth just because we happened to be married?" Devon groans.
"You're always protecting this witch, why can you ever be on my side for once?"
"Stop it!" the stepmother intercedes, "Making a meal isn't that hard. I'll do it today. No need to argue over it."
The stepmother dismisses them all as the stepsisters snarl at Carina's direction like a predator looking at it's prey. They walk up the stairs and into their respective rooms. Carina sighs and cuddles herself.
"Thank you," she says in gratitude to Devon and Harris, "but I'm also sorry the trouble I caused..."
Devon sighs and shakes his head.
"It's no trouble," he utters, "it was bound to be said. You don't have to put up with it."
After an hour or so, Klaus returns home. Carina quickly stands up to greet him.
"What's with the birds outside?" he grunts, "They're quite menacing for their size."
He pulls off his coat and hangs it up on a hook.
"Father!" she runs up to him, "You're late today. It's dark outside, I was worried."
Carina grimaces as she smells the bitter alcohol lingering under his breath as he grumbles.
"I'm a grown man, aren't I?" he uttered, "I can go wherever I want and come back whenever. You're not my mother."
Carina crosses her arms in sadness.
"But I am your daughter," she expresses, "I have every right to care about your wellbeing..."
Klaus pushes her away and walks towards the dining table. Carina and Klaus are usually close. Well, they used to be. Things changed when Carina's mother passed years ago. Klaus buried himself in work, casually came back home late usually drunk or grumpy, most of the times drunk and grumpy, trying to forget about everything that was directly linked to his late wife. Especially Carina who was an exact image of her. He was in a never-ending state of mourning and he felt a certain pain that Carina couldn't really understand. She was quite young when her mother died and that maternal figure was almost instantly replaced with someone so malevolent and ill-natured that she couldn't really process her loss properly. But she knew what she lost, she had always known. Life used to be so much easier, so much simpler. And now it was just hard and complex. It is like a puzzle with no solution.
"I thought you normally make the food," he mutters, "if you're here, who's making the food?"
"I am, dear," Maeve comes out of the kitchen, "your daughter was doing her usual characteristic woe-is-me act and now she's getting all the attention in the world."
Klaus quickly glances at his daughter.
"What's wrong with you?" he questions in a bitter tone.
Carina nervously looks down at the ground, almost embarrassed.
"I...I just felt...light-headed," She stutters.
Klaus strains to hear her but Maeve answers for her.
"She was scared of some rats and she almost fainted," she scoffs, "and such fine acting too. The shivering and that fear in your eyes. If you can't get a job here you might as well join a circus."
Klaus randomly bursts out into laughter, his cackles echoing around the awkward atmosphere. Devon and Harris both roll their eyes as they sit at the dinner table. Maeve sets the table for everyone and calls her daughters down for dinner. Carina rubs her elbows and makes her way to the table but is immediately shoved by Arabella and Theodora. By the time everyone sat down, there is no space for Carina, as usual, so she pulls up a chair beside her father. The air around the table is so tense, so awkward. This is a family that is so divided and confused about what they want that it is so unsettling.
Maeve starts to dish out the food, leaving only little for Carina of course. Carina ignores this gesture and tries to break the tension.
"So...how was everyone's day?" She asks timidly.
Her stepmother and sisters all roll their eyes in disgust, knowing that they haven't done anything that day. No one on the table answers until Harris steps up.
"Well, business is normal as usual," he responds, "a little quiet but it's...nice."
Carina gives him a thankful look.
"That's nice to hear," she says, "I hope the success continues in your favour."
"The business is also growing too," Devon adds, "there's talk of moving to Calaren. To expand. A man came to us and offered us the opportunity last week."
Carina's eyes light up. Her earlier worries were nothing but just pessimistic thoughts.
"That's wonderful!" She beams, "I hear that is a good place."
Arabella perks up suddenly.
"Last week?" she says, "And you decide to bring it up today? Why didn't you discuss this with me?"
"Because I wasn't even thinking about Calaren until Harris convinced me yesterday," Devon utters.
"Still, this is big news. This is Calaren. Anyone would jump at the chance to move there. It isn't something you just decline. We can finally get out of this dead-end town, have more room! Not stuck in this small hut you call a house!"
Devon heaves and leans against the table.
"I was thinking that we all move to Calaren," Harris interrupts, "more opportunities, more civilised. It's a good kingdom."
"We?" Theodora scoffs, "What do you mean by we?"
Harris looks around the table, his eyes landing on Carina. She avoids his gaze and looks down at her food.
"I think it will be good for all of us...for Klaus, your mother and even Carina," Harris explains.
"Oh no, I'm fine staying here," Carina says.
"And do what exactly?" Klaus deeply grumbles.
"If she wants to stay in this poor town then let her," Maeve snarls, "why should the universe revolve around her?"
"This town isn't poor...we're doing better than before," she utters, "and I was thinking of staying here to start a school."
Everyone on the table stops eating to look at her.
"A...a school?" Theodora repeats, "Why on earth would you do that?"
"It's what everyone has been telling me recently," she says, "the town is growing and more parents are trying to grow a business and the children are just left alone doing nothing really and some of them have become quite delinquent. If everyone is too busy to even care then I have to be the one that cares."
Maeve raises a brow at Carina's dramatic but passionate speech.
"So...who will pay you?" she questions.
"It's not..." Carina stammers.
"Can you afford to build a school?"
"Are you even qualified to look after those younger than you when you can't even look after yourself?"
Carina sits back, knowing she has been defeated. She shrivel back, staying silent.
"Carina, you're a pretty girl, very pretty indeed," Maeve says, "but the thing about pretty girls are that you don't think properly. It's all this fantasy and romance nonsense with you. You're too naïve. And that is the fault of your mother. She was too ambitious and look where that landed her. But you have me now to guide you back into reality..."
Carina looks over at her father who ignores the whole conversation. She looks back at her stepmother, who steeples her fingers and leans forward.
"That is why I invited Prince...Urgh...what was his name?" she turns to a bored Theodora, "the stupid rich one with the ugly smile."
Theodora frowns in confusion.
"Mother, that's all of them," she answers mockingly.
"Yes, I know but he...oh it was Tovius," she finally concludes, "Prince Tovius from Morguard. He expressed great interest you the last time you met. Even after you...rudely shouted in his face."
"You mean when I politely told him off because he nearly chopped my head off with an axe at the Winter festival," Carina corrects her.
"Oh don't be dramatic, you are still alive aren't you?"
Carina rolls her eyes wistfully.
"He's coming in the next few days to offer his hand in marriage," Maeve finishes, "all you have to say is yes."
Carina looks up at her with doubt as Devon almost chokes on his food. His coughs ring around the room as his wife pats him on the back to calm him down.
"What?" Carina gasps, "Why wasn't I told about this?"
"Oh, you're not surprised about the fact that he's offering you his hand?" Theodora mutters as she continues eating.
Carina ignores her stepsister's snide remarks.
"That man is selfish, obnoxious and rude, I would never marry a man like him!" Carina scoffs, "He is a threat to all of mankind, I'm surprised he's even next in line to whatever line he comes from."
"Carina dear, don't be dramatic, he's a mature and very masculine man," Maeve says in a cool voice, "he is a man that knows what he wants and now he wants you. He already paid the dowry to the family. You just have to and will have to say yes."
"So you just decided to sell your daughter to a random man? You can't do that!"
Carina glances at her father.
"Father, she can't do that, can she?" she gasps frantically.
Her father turns away from her as he continues eating his meal.
"Come on, we all now that it's about time that you got married and left the house," Maeve says, "this house is getting a little too crowded."
"But Arabella and Theodora are married but they still live here," Carina mentions.
"Don't mention us as if our lives are terrible!" Arabella hisses at the mention of her name.
"What I'm trying to get here is...I'm not going to marry someone who I don't love."
The whole table dips into silence, not a word uttered after. Maeve slams a hand on the table.
"You think we marry for love?" she dangerously whispers, "You think we get all this...because of love? Do you know how ungrateful you are to constantly be in the centre of everyone's attention only to dismiss them straight away? Maybe you don't realise this because you live inside your perfect bubble but not everyone is as lucky as you. Not everything has a happy ending. You need to be more appreciative of what you currently have and stop these selfish ideologies because they aren't going to keep food on the table."
Cold tears stroll down Carina's cheeks as she stands up, knocking her chair down and running up the stairs, locking herself in her room. Klaus turns away from the scene, feeling a tinge of guilt deep inside. Maybe he let things go too far.
Carina throws herself on her rough bed, weeping into her pillow. She didn't know what angered her more, her stepmother going behind her back or her father not even stepping in. They always pushed her into a corner and she never knew what to do next. She didn't know what her heart yearned for, was this all to help her family or help her home town? Was she in any position to help others when she was so lost herself?
Freedom is unachievable. Not when you have the Face of Carina Bellamy. Everyone seems like an enemy. It is hard to trust when you are cursed, cursed with such poisonous beauty for the rest of eternity.