Self-aware. Self conscious. Self induced.

Telling Tales 218

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The Business at Hand

If Entendtout’s explanations of the silversmith’s accented words slowed their telling, Belle did not find that reason enough to complain. The man’s speech was as rough as his hands, but from what she gathered from the steward, he was as observant as any ambassador.

“It was the wizard that made him blue?” she asked.

“Ach, no. One af tem fairies, she was a Pict, tought te blue was pretty. Tat blue is one a te blessins.” He raised his hands and shrugged his shoulders. “Can’t understand’em, fairies.”

“So there are other curses on him besides that one fairy’s, that’s what you’re saying?”

“Ah wouldn’t know about tat. Ah told ye everyting Ah know about his boyhood. He was a good lad in tose days. Hard workin. Respectful of his elders and betters and a born killer trough and trough. Now, afore he gets wind Ah been talkin about him at all, what is it Ah can craft fer ye? An anniversary present, no doubt?”

Before Belle could correct him, the gentle smile on her lips, Entendtout was already shaking his head. “No, indeed, good sir. Whatever reports you have heard on the subject are mistaken. Lord Conomor and Lady Belle have been married but a few weeks. The work that we require is from the housekeeping staff, though of course anything that the Lady wishes to add to your list…” He trailed off, returning the line of speech to Belle.

“Oh, no. I hadn’t considered… I mean… We want for nothing here. The palace and the grounds provide. It’s true that we have no metal,” the words stumbled out of her confusion, “but we don’t need it.”

The silversmith waited.

Entendtout smiled, gentle. “It is not a question of want, milady, though what you say is absolutely true. Nevertheless, we occasionally call upon the services of our good master smith here for things that are desirable. Perhaps you have noticed the starlight that gleams through the walls in the Great Hall?”

“Some af my best work,” said the smith with a smile of his own.

“Silver threads,” Entendtout explained. “The plants grow up and around them and the staff prunes them to make sure that only enough metal shows through to respond to the light of candles and fires. The silver makes the reflection seem cold, starlight from above.” He turned to the smith. “In fact, I was hoping to extend the stars along some new walls that we may be constructing.”

“Not in a hurry, are ye? Ye ken Ah can’t make tose treads quick-time!”

From there, the two men’s conversation became much more about negotiation of timelines and fees, though Entendtout asked twice more if Belle didn’t want to order anything for herself.

The whole encounter had her wondering what Entendtout’s purpose could have been in introducing her to the smith and what the hidden message could be. Not a scream, but a cold, silver-colored, starlit fear popped into her belly. “My husband and I did not exchange rings. He does not like them,” she explained. “I would like something to commemorate our marriage. For myself. Whatever you think suitable.”

“Af course,” said the smith, and went back to his business with the steward.

Belle considered. On the one hand, she had grown to love her husband. She knew the good inside him. On the other, she did truly fear him and buried screams almost daily.

The blank, accepting look on the smith’s face when Entendtout corrected him about the anniversary nagged at her. It was the same look she adopted every day with Conomor.

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