The castle shines brightly, lit by a thousand candles. It is bright and cheerful, with people bustling around, beautifying the place. Servants sang while they cleaned, cooks hummed in the kitchens, stewards had a little bounce in their steps as they moved across from place to place.
Even the villages are filled with colourful flags of a majestic beast, each one proudly hanging from their houses and shops. People on the streets greet each other with delightful grins, and children run and play merrily.
It is the first anniversary of a new reign, when their beastly prince had been changed back into a human by a fair maiden, who is now their Queen.
Everyone was contented with their peaceful lives in the kingdom, which is flourishing with prosperity.
All except one.
At the darkest part of the woods, the old witch cackles softly at the festive music from the village that reaches her ears. She stands before a broken- down cottage, hidden by the canopy of trees surrounding it. Her eyes travel up to the sky, which is clear and sunny, and waited. Through the fluffy clouds came a speck of black. It grows bigger and bigger, forming a silhouette of a large bird, flapping towards the cottage, straight for the old witch.
She smiles a toothy grin.
The bird soon shows its appearance as an enormous raven. In its beak clamp a single, black rose. The raven landed on the old witch’s outstretched arm.
“Well done, Nyx. Just in time and perfect for the occasion.” The old witch coo at the raven, plucking the rose from its beak. She turns and makes her way towards the cottage, the floorboards creaking under her weight. Nyx flutters onto her shoulder, its beady eyes watchful and evil.
A bubbling sound gets louder deeper the pair got into the cottage. Nyx fidgets in excitement. In the darkest corner of the cottage, dark red light spills into the dim hallway, leading into a den. The old witch bathes in the red light as she enters, Nyx attention solely on the crimson bubbling liquid in the center of the den, boiling in a rusty cauldron.
The black rose in the old witch’s hand is flung into the cauldron; but it doesn’t land on the liquid. As if it was repelled by the boiling potion, the black rose hovers above, the smoke rising and surrounding it. Slowly, the smoke melts into the black rose, which steadily starts to turn a beautiful shade of red.
Despite the fire beneath the cauldron still going strong, the potion stopped bubbling and the smoke ceased. The black rose has turned into a lava red rose; exquisite and beyond the beauty of any other flower.
Bony, wrinkled fingers wrap around the stalk of the thorny flower, to be returned back to its original captor. Nyx’s beak clamps tightly onto the healthy greens of the rose.
“Send my gift, Nyx.”
The raven transforms into a handsome phoenix and flies into the sky, this time, heading straight for the castle, with the witch’s cackles echoing after it.
“Happy anniversary, King and Queen.” She laughs, for she knows one thing that nobody wants to think about.
How long can a Beast be subdued?