Belle watched her father worriedly. King Maurice studied a map, his advisors behind him. Her fiancee, Gaston, was also looking at the map intently, his bushy brown brows furrowed together.
"The ogres are coming closer, Your Majesty," Maurice's top advisor stated. "Do you think we can hold them off?"
"Ogres are not men," said Maurice, wearily.
"If only he had come," Gaston's voice had no hope in it. Belle knew very well who he was talking about. Rumpelstiltskin...the Dark One...the most powerful man in all of this land. The only person who could help them because of his power.
"Well, he didn't," Maurice's voice was full of hate for the one creature who could have helped him, but didn't. He sat on his throne and buried his face in his hands.
Belle's heart went out to her father; she desperately wanted to make him feel better. Women were supposed to be seen and not heard, just like children, but she was a daring young woman. She knelt down at her father's feet and voiced her thoughts aloud, a little timidly.
"He could be on his way right now, Papa."
Maurice lifted hs head up to look at his beloved brunette daughter. He looked straight into her lovely blue eyes, and opened his mouth to tell her the desperate truth. No use hiding it from her.
"It's just too late, Belle." His voice was weary. "It's just...too late." He raised out a hand to stroke her head to try to comfort her for the last time.
Suddenly, a great banging broke out, as if someone were trying to break the door down by knocking on it. Everyone jumped, Belle and Maurice to their feet.
Belle's blue eyes filled with hope. "It must be him! It HAS to be!"
Gaston, however, was not convinced. "How could he get past the walls?" he marvelled.
"Open the doors!" Maurice commanded. They all drew near as two knights removed a wooden piece from the door which had been put in place to protect the royals. Gaston drew out his sword.
The knights threw the doors open. Standing there was...no one. One of the advisors started to cry out, "Whaa...?" and then stopped himself. Belle looked at her father as if to ask him the question that was on everyone's minds: Who could have been at the door who would have gone away right afterwards?
"Well, that was a bit of let-down," came a voice from behind them.
Everyone swivelled around. Sitting on Maurice's throne was a freak-ish-looking man. His hair almost looked as if it were made of snakes, his skin looked like the rough skin of a toad with gold specks on it. His jacket was made of red leather, the collar standing straight up. The shirt underneath was made of a silver and black design.
It was Rumpelstiltskin himself.
They were all still gaping at this creature, so Rumpelstiltskin went on.
"You sent me a message?" he prodded. "Something about 'Help, help! We're dying! Can you save us?' " he mimicked in a way that would have been almost funny if the situation weren't so dark.
Gaston had pointed his sword towards the creature, and now Rumpelstiltskin stood up towards it.
"And my answer is..." He slapped at the flat of Gaston's sword to make the young man lower it. "...Yes."
Belle suddenly realized she had been holding her breath. It came out now in a woosh.
"Yes, I can protect your little kingdom," Rumpelstiltskin assured them with a devilish grin on his face. He stalked a little farther down the room, and then turned around and faced the king and his daughter. "For a price."
"We sent you a promise of gold," King Maurice took a brave step towards the creature. His plump face was pleading.
"Ah...but you see, I make gold." Rumpelstiltskin winked at the king. "So that obviously wouldn't be worth anything to me. What I want is something a bit more special."
To Belle's horror, the face of a devil looked right at her and an all-powerful finger pointed at her. "What I want - is her."
"No!" King Maurice looked at Rumpelstiltksin with a look of disgust on his face.
Gaston put a protective arm on Belle's shoulder. "The young lady is engaged....to me."
"I wasn't asking if she was engaged," Rumpelstiltskin mimicked Gaston's deep voice. "I wasn't asking for her...love," he added, the last word coming out in a tone of almost disgust. He crossed the little group again and then turned and faced them.
"I'm looking for a caretaker, for my rather large estate." He made a flourish with his hands. "It's her...or no deal."
"Get out," the king hissed. When Rumpelstiltskin made no move, the king shouted, "Leave!"
Belle could feel nothing but horror. This creature wanted her as a servant - the only thing she could think about on that matter was disgust. But this was the only chance from saving her family and friends from becoming ogre food. The only thing standing in between life or death for them was her.
"Wait!" she almost shrieked the words in her anxiety and desperation to make this foul creature stay and hear her words.
Rumpelstiltskin paused in mid-stride.
Belle ducked from underneath Gaston's arm and hurried towards him. "I..." the words caught in her throat, but she needed to get them out. HAD to get them out. "...I will go with you."
His eyebrows lifted in almost surprise. "It's for forever, dearie."
Belle had to take a good grip on her almost-failing courage in order not to scream or faint or do anything of the sort. "My family..." She tried to hide the hesitation in her voice. "My friends...they will all live?"
The vile creature made another flourish with his hands. It irritated Belle very much. "You have my word."
"Then you have mine," Belle said, quietly. She hated the words coming out of her own mouth, but relished them also a little bit in the back of her mind. Now that this was over with, she felt a little bit like one of the heroes in her books. Well, they were always men, of course, but, well...
|Rumple's "mock horror" face|
Belle stroked her father's arm with love. "Father...Gaston...it's been decided," she told the two men with a firmness in her voice that almost surprised her.
"You know...she's right." Belle was filled with disgust to realize that Rumpelstitlskin's voice was coming from a place right behind her.
Belle was sure that everyone in the room was feeling the same final-ness as she as Rumpelstiltskin said the words that ended the conversation.
"The deal...is struck."
Originally from: http://www.quibblo.com/quiz/iw4Zrne/An-Empty-Heart-a-Chipped-Cup?story_chapter=2