Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Telling Tales 211



A Planted Scream

Over the following weeks, as she stalled her husband-to-be and sabotaged her own wedding clothes and watched his rage grow, her stomach swelled and her cheeks thinned. As delicious and succulent as it was, the taste of the marvelous foods of the palace became as ashes in her mouth. The scream grew, as though it fed upon her very body.

The steward found her one day as she walked with pain down one of the long, brilliant green corridors. “Lunch will be served in the garden today, mademoiselle.”

“I cannot, Entendtout. I swear I can put nothing past my lips. This place will be death of me.”

“I certainly hope that will not be the case,” he said with a chuckle that he meant to be comforting and warm, and because he was the way he was, the chuckle was exactly as he intended. “Of course, I may not insist, but I would implore you. Would you trust me?”

The curious phrasing did not strike Belle in her current condition, which was also the steward’s intent. It did, however, place a burden upon her – trust, of course, and its siblings, honor and propriety. With a grimace, she allowed him to slip his arm by hers and to guide her through the palace. In the distance, Conomor’s anger shook the walls and Belle trembled along with them. She did not let her fear appear on her face, but she could not stop the scream in her belly from moving, and its violence rippled throughout her body.

Entendtout, true to his perfect training and his curse, pretended not to notice. Instead, he told her an amusing and fantastical story about two brothers, one of whom lost his temper – quite literally! As though seeing herself from outside her body, Belle felt that in another life, even one a few short weeks ago, she would have laughed. As it was, she gave him a wan smile at all of the right moments. She knew he was only trying to make her feel better and that he was bound by his enchantment to speak no ill of the lord. He told more stories, the most memorable being one of a giant who had replaced his heart with a wasp’s nest. He was eventually slain by a young boy whom he had tricked earlier in the story. “How could he have removed his heart?” she asked as they emerged into the grounds.

He shrugged and told her about a hunter he had traveled with who banished his fear in a similar way. “He would plant it in the earth and through those means he would remove it from his own person. Perhaps the giant did something similar?” He looked around. “Ah, me. I have brought you too early. Please have a seat and I shall fetch the food.”

Entendtout sat her at a table next to a freshly dug patch of earth where the gardeners had been working that morning and assured her he would return at once with food she would surely find acceptable.

Conomor swept past, gave her a stiff bow, and left as quickly as he had appeared. His rank smell lingered in the garden, overcoming for a time even the scents of the grounds.

And quite suddenly, Belle believed she understood Entendtout’s intent. He could not say a critical word, but he could leave instructions in plain sight.

When he returned with a small plate of dried fruits, he found her calmer, her belly smaller. Behind her in the garden was a small, freshly packed down section of earth.

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