Sometimes there is no knight in shining armor coming to rescue the damsel. Sometimes the damsel has to be the hero. Craving Beauty is yet another adaptation of the beloved fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast, with a darker twist. Elements of Gothic romance and high fantasy flesh out this retelling. I have always wanted to read a high fantasy retelling of my favorite fairy tale, so I decided to write one.
My story is different from other retellings because it focuses less on romance and more on the journey of Vynasha. She is not outwardly beautiful like the classic heroine but is instead scarred both inside and out. In this adaptation, Vynasha does not trade places with her father like Beauty, but is desperate to save her nephew’s life. In order to do this, she must travel to the cursed castle in search of the source of ancient majik. Instead of one beastly prince, Vynasha finds several monsters waiting for her inside the castle. Yet much like Beauty, Vynasha does not go looking to find true love, instead, it finds her. Craving Beauty is not just a love story, but about a journey to self-discovery and how once we focus on the things that matter most in life, love will find us.
Meet Vynasha, a girl of nineteen, who is scarred both inside and out by the tragedy that took her family. Her only comfort comes from tending her mother’s roses and her caring for her nephew Wyll. She sells her roses in the village and fights each winter to save Wyll from the cusp of death. His health continues to fade and she fears this winter will be his last.
Most of the village sees her and Wyll as cursed, monsters living on the outskirts, near the Wylder Mountains. She does not care for the fact she is no longer beautiful. Her only reason for living is keeping Wyll alive.
She cares for Wyll out of her love for him and as penance for failing to save the others. She blames herself for the fire. By now she has accepted she will never have a normal life. Yet deep down, she is still a girl who craves beauty. Vynasha is not brave, but she does not hesitate to do everything in her power to save her nephew’s life, even if that means venturing into the forbidden Wylder Mountains in search of a cure to his illness. She never thought to find love along the way. Instead, it finds her.
At night, the Beast prowls the castle in search of something his nature instinctively longs for. He has not known happiness in the centuries since his imprisonment, and he is not the only monster to lurk the ancient halls. One night he discovers a stranger wandering his domain and something changes inside of him. He chases her, at first out of anger. Upon capturing her, however, he recognizes that she is the one he has been searching for. In spite of the risks, he chooses to keep her safe from the castle’s other inhabitants. Vynasha’s presence in his life gives him a reason to fight his brutal beastly nature for the first time.
Whistleande, a small village nestled in a valley on the edge of a tiny kingdom, on the northern border between the Azure and Wylder Mountains. The kingdom was once prosperous, because of the diamond mines to the south. Until a larger, coastal kingdom further south started a war with Whistleande. Most of the young men left and lost their lives. What few returned were left to scrape out a hard living.
Long ago, Vynasha’s family ruled over the valley, last of the great North Lords. Yet their manor was swallowed by the forest and over time, no one dared to travel the north road leading into the Wylder Mountains. It is a range of high, jagged peaks and endless winter, where some claim legendary beasts still dwell. Yet none from Vynasha’s village believes in the majik that guards this forgotten realm.
Deep in the heart of the Wylder Mountains lies a castle that was so grand it was once called a city. To reach it, one must dare travel the long silver road, between cliffs and high peaks. The castle rests past a great gate and only those who possess the ancient blood are allowed to pass through. Inside the great doors lies a labyrinth of dark corridors lined by tapestries that whisper. High Gothic arches provide ample shadow and hint of endless levels above. Towers overlook the cliffs that border most of the castle’s walls. Yet this cursed place is far from abandoned. Unseen eyes seem to watch the living and beasts prowl the underbelly of this once grand palace. What beauty might have been designed here has faded. Now the castle is consumed by its curse.