Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Telling Tales 206

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A Brief Dialogue Concerning Discrepancies Between Past and Present

“A victim, you say?”

“Indeed, mademoiselle,” explained the steward Entendtout, “Lord Conomor is equally a victim to the palace’s enchantment as the rest of us, though we are all bound in different and unique ways, proper to our roles. The true master of this place decided long ago that servants and children should be seen and not heard, and so it is that I am the only one among my fellows capable of speech. They all understand perfectly well, naturally, otherwise they would not be very accomplished in their tasks, and believe me, mademoiselle, we are the best that there is.”

“And Lord Conomor…” suggested Belle.

“He is what you might call the lord-in-residence. He fills the role of the all powerful and unquestioned ruler.”

“Has his power corrupted him? Is that why he is so violent?” Although she had yet to meet her future husband, her father had not shied away from telling her all he knew on their trip to the palace.

“I did not know the lord before his time here. He was already in residence when I arrived. I cannot say what his condition was. Nevertheless, I can say that he is as bound to this place as we are. As to your own circumstances, I must leave the explanation of them to him. As his future bride, it falls to him to explain the situation.”

“My father told me all about the laws of hospitality here,” she answered. She was not very successful at keeping the acrimony from her voice.

“What was true for him is not true for you,” said Entendtout. “He was a guest. You will be the lady of the house. The only similarity is that there will be two sets of rules. One that have to do with the palace itself and the enchantment placed upon it, and another that have to do with the Lord Conomor himself.

“Can you tell me about him?”

“No, mademoiselle. I would violate the terms of my service and incur the weight of the curse upon me.”

“Can you tell me about the curse on you?”

The old man considered. “Yes. Yes, I believe I can.” He guided her through the palace grounds at her request, beginning in the farthest of the fields and grounds and working their way in a slow spiral toward where the building itself sat. It was as marvelous as every fantasy her father had described. “I entered service with the palace of my own volition. I am a servant, mademoiselle, and I have ever been so. It is what I know. I have had masters of various stripes, better and worse, and while I am the steward of the palace and Conomor is its lord, you would be mistaken to think that he is my master.” He waved her question away about who the true master was. “To that I cannot speak so long as you are ignorant of the subject. Please do not ask again.” He waved instead at the bejeweled fruits hanging from trees and invited her to taste anything and everything. “You are under Lord Conomor’s protection and the laws of hospitality that apply to him apply to you. You may take of anything you see.”

“Because I cannot leave?”

“As you say. As to me, I am bound by the sorts of regulations one would expect of any in my position, save that, even were I unscrupulous, I could not avail myself of advantages. We all must fulfill the letter and spirit of our work, and to that end there are safeguards.”

“Safeguards?”

“The curses, mademoiselle.”

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