Welcome to Beauty’s Beast, book 3 in the Black Trans Fairy Tales series. This novel­la is releas­ing one chapter/week on the blog ahead of publication. 

This chap­ter will only be up for one week. If you miss a chap­ter or would like to sup­port projects like this, join my Patreon.

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Unfortunately, this chap­ter was only up for one week and you’ve missed the win­dow! If you’d like to catch up or sup­port oth­er projects like this, please join my Patreon.

Quinn’s long legs ate the tow­er stairs two at a time. Belle lift­ed her skirts with both hands and marched after them, deter­mined not to be left behind even though her calves were burn­ing and she pant­ed for air.
The stone steps here were worn in the center—as if thou­sands and thou­sands of peo­ple had once walked up and down—and the spi­ral­ing stair­case was free of dust, cob­webs, and the grime that comes with neglect over time.


No car­pets lined these stairs, unlike the rest of the cas­tle, so it couldn’t have been a sig­nif­i­cant tow­er for the fam­i­ly that used to live here, but clear­ly it meant a lot to Quinn. Even when the rest of the build­ing had fall­en into dis­re­pair, this tow­er had been cared for.


The door at the top of the stairs, made from dark wood and band­ed in iron, opened on silent hinges. Its latch clicked smooth­ly. And evening sun­light washed over Belle like a warm hug.


Quinn held the door open for Belle with a slight bow of their head, antlers span­ning the door like a tree’s branch­es. She smiled as she stepped out onto the sun-heat­ed stone, turn­ing her face into the light with a delight­ed sigh.


The cas­tle wasn’t unwel­com­ing, but Belle had missed walk­ing into town in the morn­ings, hum­ming in the light of dawn, eager to share her lat­est book adven­ture with Lukas. Her heart lift­ed as she took a deep breath of fresh for­est air touched with the sweet scent of quince blooms from the courtyard.


When she final­ly opened her eyes, Quinn had closed the cas­tle door and stood at the edge of the tow­er where a low stone wall bare­ly came up to their hips. Belle joined them—resting her hands on the wall at her chest—and looked out over the for­est and the val­ley beyond. Her father’s house was lost in the trees some­where, small enough for both the roof and the gar­den to hide in the woods. Belle spot­ted a divide in the trees that wound like a snake toward the valley—the riv­er. She fol­lowed that mark until she spot­ted the tallest build­ing in town, the church, whos bell tow­er poked up over the trees with a red tile roof.


The rest of the vil­lage build­ings were too small to make out indi­vid­u­al­ly, but Belle thought she rec­og­nized the emp­ty space where the mar­ket was held each week and in the dis­tance she saw the qui­et shine of the bay, glit­ter­ing under the evening sun like diamonds.


Seeing the town from this height gave Belle an entire­ly dif­fer­ent feel. Down on the cob­ble­stones when she walked from the bak­ery to the book­store, the town was too big to con­tain in a sin­gle glance. Her wor­ries with Gaston felt larg­er than life and impos­si­ble to escape. But from here the town was dwarfed by the for­est and sur­round­ing moun­tains, so small that she could miss it at a glance. Gaston was a big influ­ence in that town. But the world was so much bigger.


Belle took anoth­er deep breath of wild for­est air and felt a thread of ten­sion, like a wire wrapped around her heart, untan­gle and fall away. She felt free for the first time in a long time. Her fear that Gaston might kid­nap her or assault her father melt­ed in the warmth of the set­ting sun. Her anx­i­ety about being away from town set­tled until she could smile again. The tow­er­ing per­spec­tive of the cas­tle gave her space. Gaston and the town weren’t her entire world anymore.


Belle threw her arms out as if she could embrace the for­est and laughed with delight.


She was on her own adven­ture, now, just like the women in the books she read.


Belle couldn’t wait to see where it took her.


Quinn’s goat-like ears perked up at her laugh­ter and they looked down at her, sur­prised and curi­ous. Belle con­tained her­self to some gig­gles, then point­ed to the bay behind the vil­lage. “What’s the sign for water?”


Quinn held up their hand and tapped their chin with three fin­gers extend­ed. Belle tried to copy the ges­ture, but Quinn point­ed to her oth­er hand. She cor­rect­ed. When she got it right, Quinn nod­ded.
Belle mut­tered to her­self as she repeat­ed the gesture.


Quinn knelt on the stone and picked up a small rock. They placed it in Belle’s hand, then made a ges­ture with two fists.


Stone?” Belle asked. “Pebble maybe?”


Quinn made the rock ges­ture again, then expand­ed it with both hands like a ball. When Belle shook her head they point­ed over her shoul­der… at the moun­tain behind her.


Oh! A big rock! The mountain!”


Quinn nod­ded, ears strained for­ward and eyes bright.


Belle asked for more words and Quinn pro­vid­ed: for­est, vil­lage, cas­tle, door—until the sun dipped too low to see their hands any­more. She repeat­ed them all, com­mit­ting their con­cepts to mem­o­ry and prac­tice so that tomor­row she could under­stand even more of what Quinn had to say.


Belle shiv­ered as the night wind picked up, rub­bing her hands on her arms. Quinn stepped close behind her, block­ing the breeze and envelop­ing her in a soft, fur-lined hug that imme­di­ate­ly drove off the cold.
Belle leaned into them, cozy and com­fort­able, all trace of her fear this morn­ing wiped away by the view and Quinn’s gen­tle hands on hers.


She sighed with plea­sure. “This would be a great place to curl up with a book dur­ing the day.”
Belle felt Quinn nod their head.


Maybe they already did that. Belle was still miss­ing a book. Had Quinn brought it up here to read?


She looked up. Through the branch­ing points of Quinn’s antlers, Belle could see the first stars just begin­ning to twin­kle in the dark sky over­head. Quinn’s long face and mane were a shad­ow on the night. They tilt­ed their head and one gleam­ing dark eye met Belle’s. Soft and intel­li­gent. Warm. She smiled and set­tled deep­er in Quinn’s arms, enjoy­ing the qui­et night.


Belle couldn’t cure Quinn’s ills or make them see what they didn’t believe, but she could be here, a friend, ready to talk or learn or just sit so that Quinn wasn’t alone. She could show them this cas­tle wasn’t a prison or the lim­it of their world.