In The Garden of the Beast: prologue

    The only things she could ever remember of her mother were roses. But it wasn't really a memory, more of an association of the smell of roses, with her mother. Her brother always told of her beautiful golden hair, that was long and like silk, or her pale skin and bright blue eyes. He almost made it seem as if she was an angel. Perhaps she was now.
    Her mother had died only a few years after she was born. Leaving broken wisps of warm embraces and rose perfumes on her mind. Her father had sunk into a deep depression after, and soon, he too joined her mother as an angel in the clouds.
At the time, a great cultural revolution was happening in the country, and their parents had held much power. But, changes happen quickly, and without notice.
    They had been taken in by a band of gypsies, and raised for some years. Then, when her brother came of age, they left their extensive foster family, and made a life for their own.
    Coming to a small cottage uninhabited by anyone for years, they took it as their own after confirming with the locals that such was alright, and wouldn't cause trouble to anyone.
    So in a cottage called Rose Petite Maison, on the outskirts of the town of Douilletette Petite Ville, they lived in peace.
    "There you go my roses," the young girl with honey blond hair smiled at the bushes of flowers in her garden.
    "Talking to the flowers again Relena?"
    "Yes, Milliardo. It helps them grow, thank you." She caught a glance of her brother in the corner of her eye. He leant against the wall of the cottage, long pale hair flowing in the light breeze. He grinned at her.
    "Whatever you say dear soeur. I'm going into town. Do you need anything?"
    She tapped her chin in thought for a moment. Ah yes. "Thread. To tie the vines together, so they don't eat the whole of our house. Oh yes, and some vegetable seeds if possible. Whatever you find is alright." She knelt down to examine the roots of the bushes.
    "Of course my soeur. I should return by dusk."
    "Take care frere."
    "I shall dear soeur."
    No flour anywhere in the house. How did anyone expect her to bake a cake for Market Day, with there being no flour? And when did she use all of it up? She didn't remember using it. Ah yes. Milliardo had lent some to that lady-friend of his. What was her name...Lucrezia. Yes, that's it. The daughter of the Italian merchant. Her brother had come to take quite a shine to her. In her opinion, they looked as different as night and day. But, she seemed nice enough.
    "Oh, where did Milliardo put the eggs?" She mumbled to herself in a perturbed tone. She knelt down to the lowest part of the pantry, and still found nothing. "I guess I'll have to go see if either of the hens have some they could lend me." She puffed, and stood up.
    Outside, the air was a brisk chill, and she gave a slight shiver, before wrapping her arms around herself. The sky was beginning to darken, and her brother hadn't returned home as of yet. Perhaps, he had stayed to talk to Miss Noin. Going to the side of the cottage, beside the garden, she stepped into the small area for the chickens, and goat. Her brother had made it out of a dead tree trunk near the cottage. The dark wood gave suspicion it had been hit by lightening during a storm. She bent down to inspect the chickens, certainly violating their personal space in the fashion of which she did it.
    "Ah, there we go." She smiled at the two white ovals she held in her palms. "And thank you very much hens."
    Back inside, she set the eggs next o the other ingredients, but didn't proceed to begin mixing the batter. Instead, she went about making a fire, and letting the cats in. They yawned at her with their usual air of indifference, and laid down on the chair and scattered pillows. The fluffy white dog looked up from the rug near the hearth, and went back to sleep.
    "Lazy pets." She scoffed disapprovingly, and set her attention to the cake.
    Shouldn't have stopped to talk to Lucrezia. Milliardo chastised himself. It was already becoming dark, and he was thoroughly lost. I've walked this trail dozens of times, why have I gotten lost now. Makes no sense. The dense forest gave him no help either. It looked the same from all sides, and only the small path he steered the pony on was his only point of reference in the place. It was becoming cold too.
T    hey bounded along for some time after that, when curiously, the trees and vegetation began to thin, and soon, he came to the edge of the forest, and the beginning of something magnificent.
    He dismounted the pony, and stepped onto the gray gravel that outlined the sections between fountains, steps, and concrete pathways that led to a large gray palace on a terrace. It gave an ominous feeling around it, and dark clouds hovered above it's tall steeples. If Milliardo had been any other man, he would have walked along, away from the palace. But Milliardo was not just any man. That's right, he was a brave man. A very brave, yet extremely dense young man.
    But most peculiar of this place, it was quiet. Oddly quiet. In fact, back in the forest, a good few thirty paces before the edge, he hadn't heard a sound, except that of himself and the pony, or seen an animal, save his horse companion.
    Coming to the door, even Milliardo felt a bit intimidated. They seemed more for just one man to open by himself. And the carvings were beautiful. A lovely lady holding a rose, of bronze, was imbedded into the wooden doors, carvings of roses, vines, and fairies around the sides, farming the extraordinary centerpiece. Two knockers, also of bronze, were centered in each of the doors, ghastly monsters holding the rings in their mouths.
    Gripping in the cold metal, Milliardo knocked twice, before letting the ring fall to it's place.
    The door creaked open...
    "Allo? Anyone here?" Milliardo yelled into the empty space of the grand hall. It was dark, but still light enough for him to discern shapes, and some values.
    His pony whinnied, and nuzzled his shoulder, giving away her nervousness of this place, but obedient enough to stay with her master, instead of bending to her instincts and running strait for the forest, and never coming back.
    He rubbed the bridge of her long nose, and continued, pacing forward a bit at a time. "I'm terribly sorry for imposing into your house like this, but, well, the door just opened." The door creaked shut behind him, with a loud bang that unnerved him in just the slightest bit. "We're lost, and wondering if you had any directions for us, or perhaps a warm bed, to sleep the night, and a stable for my pony. If it isn't too much trouble, of course." He coughed nervously.
    A low rumble alerted him to a figure at the top of the grand stairs. Only the silhouette was visible, but his jostled Milliardo's courage even more.
    "You may do as you like. But keep in mind, monsieur, this is my house." He gruffed in a monotonous voice, and stalked off, leaving a very scared Milliardo.
    "Now, monsieur, this way if you would please." That, made him jump, a voice out of no where. Spooky
    "W-who was that?" He struggled to not let fear sound apparent in his voice. Even the pony was unnerved.
    "Servants, monsieur, servants. We're are invisible to the average, human eye. You may call me Duo, if you would like. Come along, I'll lead you to the den." And a small tug at his sleeve, directed him towards the left, and a small room.
    The reigns to his pony were carefully taken from his hands, and she was led outside, most likely to the stables.
    "Now monsieur. Have as much food as you like. If you need anything, just ask for it, and it shall appear for you. Take care monsieur." And he felt suddenly, alone.
    Milliardo ate his dinner alone in the silence of the den. Fire crackled in the fireplace, and created dancing shadows across the walls, playing on Milliardo's imagination, and deepest fears.
    He slept soundly, and comfortably in a small bed in the corner of the room, warm under the wool and cotton. He awoke rested the next morning, refreshed, and great alacrity to leave as soon as possible. But, in the corner of his eye,something crimson flashed brightly, drawing his attention. He had not noticed the night before, but on the mantle piece, a single rose, of the most brilliant red, was held in a plain, white vase.
    Rele loves rosesHe thought wistfully. And she would especially love one of this caliber. He could just imagine the smile on her face, and how her eyes would light up if he brought her home this rose. And it wouldn't hurt that she might forget about him not returning home last night.
    The petals were smooth he noted as he lifted the rose carefully out of the vase, trying to protect its delicate existence.
A loud roar filled the palace that rattled Milliardo down to his bone. The large figure from the night before bounded into the room, furious, and puffing it's breaths furiously.
    "You dare to take my rose?" The Beast roared. "After I have given you shelter, food, and warmth, you repay me with stealing my rose!"
    "I- I'm sorry. It was for my sister. She loves roses a- and, her's haven't been blooming well lately-"
    "No excuse," the Beast cut him off sharply, his tone quiet, but conveying the disgust.
    "I'm sorry truly. B-but, Relena hasn't been herself lately, a-and, I thought it would make her very happy." Milliardo finished, and looked at the Beast. He seemed to be contemplating something. He stood there for many moments silent, and it grated Milliardo's nerves more than he could handle, and more than once thought he would faint. Except, of course, he's an extremely brave, but extremely dense young man.
    "Your sister" He said finally. "Very well. In payment for your crime, your sister shall come and live with me."
    "My sister? No, monsieur! You shall not have my sister!" Milliardo found his anger. He looked back at his earlier fear with shame, and was disgusted at himself for such weakness.
    "You shouldn't have tried to steal my rose. And now you pay the price. Your sister."
    His anger flared with more intensity. "No monsieur."
    "May I say something to the monsieur, maitre?" The voice of Duo resounded through the tension.
    "Speak Duo." He eyed him warily.
    "Monsieur, the mademoiselle would be well taken care of, and no harm would come to her. I would urge you to reconsider, for it would be a shame to see one of the only visitors we've had in many years die at my master's hands."
Milliardo considered this for a moment. It was absurd, but Relena didn't have anything for herself in the town. No potential suitors, and no craft to follow. He sighed in defeat. "Give your word she shall come of no harm, and be well taken care of." He met the Beast's eyes, and for the first time, he noticed how extraordinary they were. Of striking prussian blue, they gave a hardness to his gaze.
    "My word."
    With one last glance, Milliardo averted his eyes, and stood straight. "She'll come soon." And he walked past, shoulder's slumped, and deepening with each step.
    "Milliardo! Where have you been! I was about ready to gather a search party for you! But I should've known better. You're careless." Relena chastised her brother, while fussing over him as he stepped through the door. "Why, you're freezing! Come sit down by the fire frere." She led him to the wooden chair covered by a bearskin they bought a few years back on market day.
    Sounds of banging near the hearth, and bubbling stew made him almost think he was hungry. But his stomach churned with nausea by what his deed had done. He would no longer have his dear seour. He was thoroughly disgusted with himself.
    "Hmm, Milli?"
    "I've done wrong."
    "Relena" He sighed, and told the whole story of his prolonged return, the palace, and the Beast.
    Afterwards, she only gave a little gasp, and was quiet contemplating this new development.
    "Well, I suppose I should pack and leave tomorrow."
    "You're not going seour." He looked her straight in the eye, willful and strong.
    "But I must frere. He gave his word. I must."
    "But you can't."
    "But I must."
    "Rele" He whispered
    "Milli" She returned, giving a half-sob, which she hastily tried to mask
    A single tear slid down her cheek, which he tenderly wiped away with his index finger.
    "Moi amour tu, frere." She sobbed, and wrapped her arms around her brother's neck.
    "Moi amour tu, seour." She wept also, clutching her back, and stroking her hair for the last time her ever would.
    "Au revoir Milli."
    "Au revoir Rele."
    She clutched the reigns of the pony, and steered ahead onto the path. Looking back at her brother, cats, and puppy, her heart sank. But it broke when she gazed at Rose Petite Maison. One of the only homes she ever knew, and she was leaving it; just like every other home she had ever known.
    Wiping away the rebellious tears on her cheeks, she walked on, and off the path through the forest, on search for the palace of a Beast.