• Claire II - B.E.A.S.T.

    Mrs. Kennie ran the kitchens of The Sword and The Rose. "A high class dining establishment." she always called it. And it was true. Hers was certainly not the biggest restaurant/party room, nor the fanciest. But the food was certainly the best. And even though it was nearly on the edge of the Silver District, the Upper Class flocked to it every night. She even catered for those Upper Class noblemen and women that were too timid to come anywhere near the common area. Even though the common area was an entire district away.

    Her secret? Love. She poured her heart into her establishment, into her food. Now, many will mutter and say that the Upper Class have forgotten such concepts like love. But while most no longer feel it, they do enjoy the taste of it.

    And Mrs. Kennie loved her establishment dearly. She was always the first to arrive each afternoon, and the last one to leave in the early pre-dawn hours. She not only cooked, but she cleaned as well, sometimes taking on the most dificult chores all on her own. And she was no longer as young as she once was, either.

    But it was such good fortune that she did devote herself to The Sword and The Rose so deeply. For if she was lazier or more indifferent, then she would not be hauling the garbage bags out to the dumpster that early morning that they arrived.

    She was on the very last bag when she saw him turn the corner. He walked slowly, but steadily. He was hunched over and deformed under his cloak. Her heart went out to the man, for to her in her age he looked quite young to be so burdened. She was in the habit of feeding those less fortunates that wandered by, for she could never leave a souls in need. But she did always make sure that no destitutes were around when her customers were in house. Or else she would have no customers the next day. Being in the Silver District, she very rarely saw a destitute anyway. They were mainly in the Stone District and the junk yards, and the Copper District was in between. But occasionally, one would wander in. Like today.

    "Do you need any help?" She asked kindly, stepping up to the man.

    "No." The man replied in a voice like dust and stillness. "But she needs food, and rest."

    Mrs. Kennie looked at him questioningly. But then he stepped into the light and she saw that what she had mistaken for a deformity was really a small child, clinging to the man's back.

    "Her hands are tied. I cannot free her."

    Mrs. Kennie hurried over. The man did have a deformity. He had no arms. The poor child was tied to him by the hands. She quickly pulled out a knife from her belt and sliced the straps binding the girl. She had her knife away before the girl even started to slide off the man's back. He was hunched over to prevent her from sliding off of him, for she was unconscious and could not hold on with her own power. She caught the girl as she slid off his back. She was light, much too light.

    "You had better come inside." Mrs. Kinnie said to the man. She turned and carried the child through the back door of the Sword and the Rose.


    He watched as the older woman looked over Claire. They were in a small room with a cot against one wall. It's purpose he could not guess. Other than the cot there was only a metal cabinet and some cleaning supplies on a shelf.

    The woman tsked to herself as she inspected Claire's face. Brown and crusty blood went in a messy line from the side of her head and over one eye and down her cheek. She set to work cleaning Claire's wound right away. "It's not infected, thank heavens. But I am worried that she hasn't woken up." She directed her talk to him. "How long has she been like this?"

    "She fell asleep seven sunsets ago." He replied.

    The woman looked at him in alarm. "Dear me." She whispered. She quickly cleaned Claire's wound and bandaged it. "Let's see if some food will rouse her." She said, getting up and walking out the door.

    She returned quickly, bearing two large steaming bowls. She also had a folding table under one arm. She held both bowls with one arm and set up the table with a snap. Then she set both bowls down.

    She dipped a spoon into one bowl and dribbled a little of the thick liquid between Claire's lips. Claire swallowed, then gave a great shuddering sigh. She opened her mouth slightly, so the woman fed her some more.

    This went on for several minutes, the woman slowly giving Claire nourishment. Finally, Claire's eyes slowly opened. She winced at the harsh overhead light. "Whur-am-I?" She mumbled.

    "Hush. You're safe now, child." The woman smoothed Claire's dark and tangled hair back from her face. "Here, eat." And she offered more food. She didn't stop until the bowl was completely empty and Claire let out a contented sigh, her eyes fluttered sleepily. "You rest now dear." The woman said kindly. Claire nodded and drifted off.

    Then the woman turned to him. "Will you need any help eating?" She asked politely.

    "I am fine." He said. He watched Claire breathing slowly and rythmically.

    "Hmmm." The woman said. But she left his bowl on the table and took the empty one away. "I will check on you two in a few hours." She said. "Just stay here until then."

    She closed the door behind her, and he heard a click after it was closed. He sat on the floor as still as stone and continued watching Claire breath.


    Claire woke and stretched. She didn't stretch too hard, all her muscles protested every movement she made. Her hands and her head hurt the worst. She sat up slowly,looking at her hands in her lap. The straps had bitten cruelly into them and they were bruised and swollen.

    She looked up and around at her surroundings. She spotted the body sitting on the floor across from the cot she was laying on. "I still don't know what to call you." She said to herself. "Where are we?" She asked him.

    "The Sword and the Rose." He answered.

    The name meant nothing to her. More questions sprang into her mind. She settled on the most important one. "Why are we here?"

    "I brought you here after you fell unconscious."

    She thought about this for a moment, then said "But, why?" She looked at him with serious eyes.

    "That, I do not know."

    Claire sighed. It was a heavy, world weary sigh. Her shoulders sagged under the weight of it.

    Then the door clicked and was opened. A short plump woman walked in balancing a heavy tray expertly with one hand. Her eyes widened when she saw Claire sitting up. Claire saw that she was happily surprised and found her heart warmed by it. She even smiled just a little.

    The woman smiled back at her, a big warm smile. "Food or shower?" She asked kindly.

    Claire's brow furrowed. "What's a shower?" She asked.

    Now the woman's eye widened in a bad kind of surprised. "Let's get you to The Bathhouse right now." She said. She tsked as she helped Claire off of the cot and to the door. Her companion stood silently and followed.


    He followed behind Claire like a shadow, quiet and unnoticed. The woman chatted merrily with Claire as they walked. Soon they had exchanged names. The woman didn't ask about him, though he noticed that she looked back at him several times. Her expression was fiercer when turned on him. Once or twice Claire turned to him as well, she would smile at him quickly and turn back to her chatting.

    "Here we are." Mrs Kennie said as they approached a wooden building. It was low, only one story, but long. This was the outer edge of the silver circle, where buildings in general were smaller, but this was the only one that was just one story tall.

    A tall thin woman was standing in front, right next to two large double doors behind a large metal gate. She was unlocking a metal box besides the doors. Inside was a glowing keypad and screen. She yawned hugely as she punched in a few numbers quickly.

    Mrs. Kennie hailed her merrily. The woman looked at her startled. "Mary! What are you doing here at this hour? I've barely opened!" She looked over the strange group. "Besides, you have an excellent bath at your place." She had black hair tied back into a tight bun. Her features were sharp, her noise pointed and her mouth a thin line. Her eyes glinted black.

    Mrs. Kennie laughed heartily. "I doubt my facilities are qualified in this case." She put a hand on Claire's shoulder. "This is a very special case." Claire looked at the thin woman shyly, with wide eyes.

    The woman looked over the group again, her black eyes settled on him for a bit and she frowned. But then she shrugged. "All right, come on in." She said as the gate rolled up with a clattering noise.

    "When are you going to get yourself an energy gate?" Mary chided her. "This thing is ancient."

    The woman sniffed. "It's saved me from many a bandit in it's day. I don't trust those E-gates one bit. One power outage and you're vulnerable to looters and thieves."

    Mary chuckled as they walked into a small lobby. "Meredith, we haven't had a power outage in forty years."

    "My point still stands." The thin woman said, stepping behind the counter. "That will be four-fifty." She said.

    Mrs. Kennie reached for her purse. "The young man too." She said. She pulled out a silver card.

    The thin woman shrugged again. "Fine." She pointed behind her. "Men's baths are down the hall."

    Claire looked up at Mrs. Kennie. "I don't want to go in without him." She said firmly.

    Msr. Kennie smiled down at her. "Sweetie, that's not how it works." She said. "I'll go in with you, you won't be alone."

    Claire shook her head. "No, you stay here. He needs to come with me. He'll need my help."

    Mrs. Kennie exchanged a look with the owner of the baths. "It's fine with me." Meredith said. "The baths are always empty at this time anyway, so no one will complain." She drummed her fingers on the counter.

    "At least let me help you wash your hair." Mrs. Kennie said to Claire.

    Claire relented. The three of them entered the baths.


    Claire's eyes widened at the large space they entered. Everything was empty and very, very white. There was an area for removing clothing. Mrs. Kennie helped her out of her rags and unbound her feet. She had no shoes, so her feet were bound up in rags. The body merely stood in a corner, his eyes moved over the entire space steadily. Claire wondered if he was perhaps uncomfortable in large spaces, where he couldn't watch everything at once.

    In the next area water sprayed on her from the ceiling. She kept her eyes closed tightly as the water ran over her head and body. After a while she opened her eyes. She stared as the water and bubbles streamed off of her and hit the stark, clean white tile floor. The drain was metal and very shiny. The water that ran off of her was gray. She reached out her hands and let the water from the ceiling pool in them. She had never seen something so clear and pure before. She watched intently as she opened her hands and the fat clear drops hit the tile.

    Soon she was scrubbed clean. Mrs. Kennie exclaimed as she washed Claire's hair. "I had no idea!" A long red lock of hair fell across her eyes. Claire looked up at her through her red, wet hair with her head tilted to one side.

    Mrs. Kennie smiled. "You have very pretty hair." She said. "Once it's washed and all the tangles are out. Now, time to soak." She pointed to the large pools of clear water that occupied half of the building. She gathered up Claire's clothes and headed for the door. She paused at the body standing still as stone, leaning in the corner. "Just make sure she doesn't drown herself, okay?" Then she was gone.

    Claire sat on the edge of the bathing pool, trailing her feet in the water. Her hair was out now and it draped over her back and over her shoulders. She lifted one red lock up between two fingers, inspecting it closely. It was very different than her scraggly brown hair. Except this was her real hair, under the dirt.

    She caught a movement in the corner of her eyes. It was just the body, moving closer to the pool and where she was. He just stood there, saying nothing. There was something wrong with him, she decided. "You're still dressed." She told him flatly, giving him a look.

    "Yes." He agreed.

    She narrowed her eyes, giving him a sideways look. She stood up and walked over to him.

    He watched her as she stood right in front of him, looking up at him. Her skin was a glowing white, her hair was dark red and fell straight as a pin. Her blue eyes stood out more on her pale face scrubbed free of grime. They were a bright blue, glowing themselves under the harsh white lights that flooded the pure white bath room.

    His own sharp yellow eyes were on hers. They stood that way for a long while. Her, with her hands on her hips. Him, merely looking down at her.

    "Come on." She said at last, very firmly. "You need to get clean too." She tugged on his cloak with both hands.

    Still he looked down at her. He saw how dark his cloak was against her skin. Her hands would be dirty again just from touching it. Finally, he bent down onto his knees. Even then he was still taller than her, who was still standing her full height. His head was bent down as well.

    She put her hands to the sides of his face and looked at him intently. Again, there was a long pause, before she broke the silence again. "It feels pretty good to be clean." She said to him. She dropped her hands and pulled at the neck of his cloak, finding out how it closed. "Besides, I want to see what else you are hiding under here." She said to him. She found a clasp behind his neck and pressed it. The cloak dropped away from his body, bunching up on the bright tile floor.

    He turned his head slightly in her direction, his yellow eyes were very bright just then. "Are you sure?" He asked. His voice was still without emotion, just as dead as dust. But she looked at those eyes and felt herself shiver slightly in the warm damp air.

    She looked away quickly. "yes." She said firmly. She found a row of buckles going down his spine. She fumbled with them a bit before she steadied herself and tried again. They were unusual to her. There was a place she could press to unlock them, but it took a few minutes to find it, and discover just how to press it.

    Finally she had them undone and his back was bare before her. The skin there was unmarked by dirt and was a smooth, cold gray. She frowned. There were strange black markings on his skin, across his back. She ran her fingers over them. There was no difference in touch, so this was his skin, and not just dirt. She slowly traced the markings. She had seen something like this before. She tried to remember as she continued to trace the marks.

    1 . 8 . 3 . 4 . 8 . 7 .

    "Do you know how to read?" Claire asked.

    "Yes." Was her answer.

    "Can you read this?" She traced the symbols on the tile with the soap. She forgot to add the dots, and the letters were kind of squished together, but she thought well of her first attempt. 18 E4 s7

    He examined her writing. "Beast." He said.

    "What does it mean?" She asked.

    "It's another word for monster."

    She frowned. "Is it your name?" She asked.


    She walked around him so she could look at his face. He turned his head and his eyes followed her. "What is your name?" She asked him, looking him right in his strangely bright eyes.

    "Nightmare." He answered.

    She shivered again, but couldn't look away from him. "Is it really?"

    "I was called that, by someone, a long time ago." He said.

    "But that's not your name." She said slowly. "Beast sounds better. I'll call you that instead."

    "If you wish." He said. He turned his eyes away from her, looking at the door.

    She turned as well, but didn't see anything. She turned back to him, he was still looking at the door. "Let's get you clean." She said.

    She helped him undress. She had some difficulty. The metal bars binding his shoulders were bolted into his body, through the black shirt he wore. It was of a strange, stretchy material, but she couldn't get it free of the straps. She pulled hard, but it didn't even tear. Finally, and after much fumbling, there was a click and it fell away. She picked up the shirt and frowned at it intently. The metal rings set into the shoulders looked so simple now.

    The boots and pants came off much easier by comparison. His skin was unmarked and hairless. She frowned at him. "My father had hair on his chest." She said to him.

    "Most do." He said.

    She gave him a queer look, wondering if he was making fun of her. Then she pushed him under the shower and washed his hair. There was no transformation in color this time. His hair remained black as coal, though she did wash a good bit of dirt from him. It was then she noticed something else. "You are dirty. but you don't stink." She said to him. It was true. After she had washed away the smell of garbage, she found that he didn't smell like sweat. She wondered if he did sweat, or if he did and it just smelled different than most people.

    "Your hair is shiny now." She told him.

    "It's wet." He said.

    "Hmph." She pushed him into the bathing pool and scrubbed him all over. She found a bucket and rinsed him off.

    He looked at her through dripping clumps of hair. His eyes were nearly fierce. "Is this necessary?" He asked in his deathly still voice.

    "Yes." She said, and poured another bucket full of water over him.

    She took a step back and slipped. The bucket flew from her hands and landed on the tile with a clatter. She grabbed him around the shoulders to steady herself. He didn't waver, still as immovable as a rock. She wondered how she had managed to push him before.

    It was then that Mrs. Kennie walked in. She saw them in the bath, with Claire's arms around the body and let out a high gasp and dropped her bundles.

    Claire turned to her. Beast had already turned his head before the door had opened. Claire smiled brightly, stepping out of the bath. She walked quickly to Mrs. Kennie. She was careful not to run so she wouldn't slip again.

    "Are you all right?" Claire asked, smiling at her.

    "Yes, child." Mrs. Kennie said, collecting her bundles from the wet tile floor. Her eyes were narrowed on Beast. He merely gave her a dull blank stare back. She humphed under her breath and turned her attention back to Claire. "Your, uh, clothes, were unsalvageable, so I brought you a few things from the restaurant."

    Claire looked at her curiously, then peered at the packages hopefully.

    "It's always good to wear something. To cover up." Mrs. Kennie said. "It's called modesty."

    Claire nodded. "Except for the bath, right?"

    Mrs. Kennie hesitated. Her eyes darted over to Beast for a sceond. "uh, right." She smiled at Claire. "And having nice clothes makes one feel nice as well." She unwrapped her bundles, pulling out a cute black dress. She helped Claire into it and buttoned the front up for her.

    Claire twirled, watching as the skirt swished lightly. It lay pretty straight on her normally, but it did flare out slightly. And it wasn't entirely black. There was a lace collar and a white square on the front going up to the collar. She fondled the smooth black buttons, smiling.

    Next were a pair of shiny black shoes. Claire gasped. She had never ever owned shoes before. "These are mine?" She asked.

    "Until you outgrow them." Mrs. Kennie said, smiling. "This style of shoe is called Mary Jane."

    Claire oohed and ahhed in appreciation. "Thank you." She said. "Do you have anything for Beast?" She asked.

    "Uh." Mrs. Kennie was taken aback. She looked over at Beast. "I'm afraid I don't have any men's clothes." She said.

    Claire grinned at Beast. "Looks like you will have to wear your old things." She said.

    "I don't need new clothing." Beast said. He stood up and stepped out of the bathing pool.

    Claire noticed that Mrs. Kennie was looking at the ceiling. "What's wrong?"

    Mrs. Kennie hesitated again. "I don't know, er, Beast very well. It's not polite to see him undressed." She said.

    Claire thought about this for a bit. "I don't know much about him either, but he can't undress himself." She gave Mrs. Kennie a wise look. "Boys are different than girls, you know." She said. "My mother told me."

    Poor Mrs. Kennie was quite flustered by now, and did not know what to say to that.

    Claire misunderstood Mrs. Kennie's discomfort. "You see, boys have-"

    "I think I will just wait outside." Mrs. Kennie said loudly, getting up and leaving quickly. "Just hurry along before another customer comes in." Her voice followed her out the door.

    Claire shrugged and ran back to Beast. He was knelt besides his clothing. She bent and picked up his pants. She looked up into his face. "Are you uncomfortable?" She asked.

    "Not around you." He answered.

    "OK." She said. "Let's hurry and go." She held up his pants.