To Tame the Tarasque

Author's Note: The following story is based on the myth of St. Martha and the Tarasque.

Fanchon was fast asleep in her bed when the Northmen attacked her village. She was not aware of the screams from the villagers as they saw the large wooden ships dock at the harbor of Camargue. She did not hear the sounds of metal clanking against metal as the Northmen skirmished the town, raiding it, and attacking all who stood in their way, both young and old. All the while, Fanchon lay in her bed, sound asleep.

At the age of 16, Fanchon was at the cusp of womanhood. She had spent the previous year of her life living in a church as a handmaiden for the clerics. She slept in her bed dressed in her day robes as the Northmen drew closer to her church. She eventually stirred from her sleep, letting out a low moan in response to a dream she could not remember. She crawled out of bed, careful not to step on the mops and buckets that lay around her feet. She fumbled in the dark, reaching for her chamber pot. It was not until after she used it did she hear the sounds of pistol fire. The noise of battle outside was growing very close but in her sleep-addled mind, she was unable to detect any danger. Curious, Fanchon quietly exited from the church's basement where she slept and stepped into the main antitheater to see what was happening.

Bang! Bang! There was a loud crack as the doors to the church were forced open. In the dim light, Fanchon could see four large men dressed in armor and pointed helmets that gave their silhouettes the appearance of metallic demons. Terrified, Fanchon ducked behind a podium. Hanging around her neck was a cross with a circle in its center. She kneeled there, quietly praying for her safety while clutching the cross with one hand. With the church doors wide open, she could hear the sounds of battle outside and the four men knocking over furniture, looking for anything of value to steal.

While they were preoccupied with their search, Fanchon stayed hidden in the shadows as she slipped toward the exit. However, before she could reach her escape, she bumped into a table with a loud thud. Without confirming if she had been heard, she dashed toward the door. She heard the whoosh of pistol balls flying passed her as they struck the walls.

She was about to reach the door when the Northmen stepped in front of her, blocking her exit and leveling their pistols to her face. Fanchon was surrounded by the dark figures. She stared at them, her eyes wide with fright as she was backed against the wall, helpless to do anything. She wanted to reach for her cross and beg for God to save her, but her salvation was closer than she realized when she heard the soft sound of a bell ringing. From outside of the open door, Fanchon could see the shadowy figure of a woman holding a bronze bell that she rang with one hand. Although she could not see the woman's face in the dark, she recognized the sound of Saint Martha's magic bells. Upon hearing its enchanted ring, the Northmen stood mesmerized with their pistols slowly drooping to the floor by their lax arms. Fanchon ran passed the men and out into the open to see all of Camargue in flames. All around her was chaos as people scurried like rabbits only to either be gunned down or hacked with axes or swords. Smoke choked her throat, causing her to cough.

"Fanchon, this way," said Saint Martha, beckoning her to follow.

Fanchon followed Saint Martha toward the Rhône River where they found a single unmanned fishing boat tied to a dock. She leaped into the boat and struggled to get the rope undone as Saint Martha climbed in after her. In the dim light of the rising sun, she could barely see the knot as her fingers fumbled to untie it. Eventually, the rope came loose and the boat was free to be dragged along by the slow current. Saint Martha grabbed the two oars that were in the boat and she slowly rode away from the shore. Fanchon watched the flames light up Camarque. The smell of smoke hurt her lungs and the cries of agony hurt her ears and her heart. She could see a lone figure running toward them. For a brief moment, Fanchon thought it was another survivor until she saw the flash of light from his firearm followed by the clank of metal against wood, scraping the side of her boat. She ducked under the rim of the boat, expecting another shot but none came.

Saint Martha quickened her pace as she rowed away from Camargue. She rowed faster and faster as she headed north up the river. Neither of them knew what to do or where to go, they just rowed away into the night.

#

The sun was high in the sky by the time Fanchon's and Saint Martha's arms grew tired from the strain of rowing despite taking shifts. As she sat there in the boat letting the current carry them away, Fanchon curled into a feeble position with her face firmly buried in her curled legs and her tired arms clasping her knees. The memories of seeing her village destroyed by the Northmen plagued her thoughts. She could just imagine the people she had known for months, dying at the end of a sword or burned alive fleeing from their homes. Her empty stomach twitched with revulsions.

Saint Martha sat beside her, reaching out her hand and stroking Fanchon's back. "Do not be saddened."

With her face still buried in her knees, Fanchon grabbed the cross around her neck with one hand. "But all those people were..."

Saint Martha smiled. "Don't mourn the dead. Even in heaven, God has plans for them. For now, we should think about ourselves." She put her arm around Fanchon. "Never forget, our only hope for a better future is our actions in the present."

Saint Martha quietly hummed a comforting tune into Fanchon's ear as if she was rocking a child to sleep. There was a jolt as the boat stopped, running onto the shore of the river where a large stone hill loomed over them. A single dirt-caked protrusion was dipped into the water where the boat was hooked.

"What was that?" asked Fanchon as she uncurled out of her feeble position.

"We ran aground." Martha used an oar to prod the boat free. She slowly tapped and stabbed into the water with the paddle end of the oar. When the boat refused to dislodge, she shoved the oar deeper into the crevices of the dirt. There was a loud roar of irritation followed by the earthen protrusion lifting out of the water and kicking the boat away with a loud splash. The boat slid back into the water, nearly knocking Saint Martha and Fanchon out of the boat. They gaped in amazement as the object they had run aground on was not a rock or a clump of dirt. It was instead a giant paw that twitched to life, fanning out its claws.

Fanchon sat paralyzed in the boat, watching with fright as the object she thought was a hill rose up on four large legs. What she saw was actually a tortoise shell bearing all the textures and colors of a lump of granite. Sliding out into view from one end of the tortoise shell was a long red scorpion tail bent over the shell with its stinger poised to strike. From out the other end of the shell, a head slid out and turned to stare at the two women. Its head looked like a lion head with whiskers longer than the height of any man and fur matching the color of dried blood. The creature was so large that it blotted out the morning sun, casting its shadow upon the boat.

While Fanchon cowered in fright at the creature, Saint Martha stood before it as still and as fearless as a statue.

"O great and ancient beast," she said, spreading her arms wide, "we are sorry for running into you and we mean you no harm."

The monster made no aggressive moves toward them. It just stood there like a cat looking at mice, wondering if it should eat or play with it prey. After a drawn out and tense wait, the monster turned around and retreated toward the rocky hills.

Fanchon let out a sigh of relief as soon as she saw it disappear into the rocky hills. Once she relaxed, she noticed that the boat had once again run aground, this time on the other side of the river. She hastily grabbed the oar, wanting to free the boat and paddle away as fast as she could. As she stood up, she could see in the distance, passed all the trees and the hills, were homes and buildings.

"Saint Martha," cried Fanchon, excited, "I see a town straight ahead."

"Then do not sit there gawking like a gargoyle," said Saint Martha, playfully as if she did not recently have a close encounter with a giant monster. "Let us make haste."

Fanchon pushed the boat free from the shore, grabbed the second oar, and rowed along the Rhône River toward the town. "Why didn't that beast attack us?" she asked as she paddled.

"Because we were no threat to her," said Saint Martha."

"Her?" asked Fanchon, confused. "What convinced you it was female, and for that matter, why would a beast be male or female at all?"

Saint Martha chuckled. "You have much to learn, my dear. That beast is just as much God's creation as we are. If you took the time to listen and observe, you would realize that the beast is no different than you or me."

"That does not explain how you knew it was female."

"That detail, I only surmised."

Fanchon was too preoccupied with rowing the boat to think of a response. It did not take long before they came across two fishermen who hunched over the river with their nets and knives. The two men looked up at the women with their scared mouths agape.

"Oye, what 're two women doin' on the river by ya selves," one man said with a slurred and unsophisticated accent.

"We were run out of our town by the Northmen," said Saint Martha.

"The Northmen?" said the other. "Yous don't think they be comin' here?"

"It is possible," said Saint Martha. "What is the name of the town nearby?"

"That be Nerluc," said the other fisherman.

"Then take me to see your mayor," said Saint Martha.

#

With the threat of the Northmen at their doorstep, the fishermen obliged Saint Martha and Fanchon. However, while the fishermen were quick to believe her, the Mayor (Fanchon never learned his name) was less than forthcoming. Rather than grant their request with haste, the Mayor kept them waiting until he eventually allowed them inside his small office and gave them a seat in two wooden chairs. He just sat there with a surly scowl on his face as Saint Martha told her story.

It was not until the story finished did the Mayor finally speak, and when he did, his voice was low like a frog's chirp. "And you really think the Northmen are coming here?"

"Yes, and they will destroy Nerluc just like Camargue."

"Hmmm, very well, you have my gratitude for warning me," he said in a flat voice. "Now if you will excuse me, I must prepare the town for battle."

Saint Martha let out a gasp of alarm. "But you cannot defeat the Northman. You must abandon Nerluc."

"We have nowhere to retreat to," said the Mayor, firmly. "We already have several refuges from other towns destroyed by the Northmen. If we run, we eventually will have nowhere to run to. Furthermore, we are not completely defenseless. We are armed and prepared to fight for our land."

"Untrained villagers armed with tools are unmatched against the Northmen."

"That just shows how little you know about Nerluc. After all, it is our strength of arms that has helped us to survive bandits and the Tarasque."

Fanchon gawked at the Mayor, confused. "What is a...Tarasque."

"It is what we call that beast who lives outside of our town."

Fanchon shivered as she remembered the monster she saw along the Rhône River. She hoped not to hear any more about the Tarasque but then Saint Martha continued to talk.

"Have you had many conflicts with the Tarasque?" she asked, intrigued.

"Fortunately, the beast has left us alone for the most part. It will steal our cattle occasionally or chase away anyone who is too close to its lair but it has no interest in us otherwise."

"Then perhaps we could use this monster to scare away the Northmen."

The Mayor let out a long and drawn out laugh. "I never knew that saints could also be comedians."

"It is no jest for I have the means of controlling the Tarasque," said Saint Martha. She reached into her bag and pulled out the bell. "This bell can sooth violent men and even savage beasts. I can tame the Tarasque with this tool and bring it to fight against the Northmen."

"What is this, some sort of Christian sorcery?" asked the Mayor.

"I know not where it originated but I do know that it was forged long before the birth of Christ."

"I don't want to hear any more of this nonsense. Be gone with you."

"But sir, I must—"

"I SAID LEAVE." The mayor pointed a fat finger at the door.

Saint Martha paused in thought before calmly saying, "Come, Fanchon, we should go."

But Fanchon, rather than get up, scowled at the Mayor. "Why do you doubt your God?"

The Mayor glared at Fanchon, annoyed by her impudence. "Because there are already too many gods to count. One more concerns me not. Now, get out before I throw you out myself."

"But our God is the real one because He has given me His blessing. Look!" Fanchon stood up and turned around. She pointed to a black symbol on the back of her neck. The symbol looked like three elongated leaves that fanned out in three directions, each located where the points of a triangle would be. A single circle passed through the center of each of these leaves.

"What is that on your neck?" asked the Mayor.

"It is a sign that appeared on my neck when I was born. The clerics tell me it is a symbol of protection."

"Protection from what?" asked the Mayor.

"It's a sign of God's protection over me," said Fanchon. "Have you ever heard the story of Jonah?"

The Mayor rocked in his chair in thought. "I have heard the name from some Hebrew myth but I fail to see the relevance."

"Jonah is no myth. He had an identical symbol on the back of his neck, indicating his protection granted by God."

"Bah, more Christian nonsense. Just leave me."

Fanchon wanted to retaliate but Saint Martha took Fanchon's hand and gave it a soft tug, signaling her to follow.

"Thank you for your time and may God bless you," she said to the Mayor

The Mayor let out a grunt of irritation.

Saint Martha and Fanchon exited the building where carriages, horses, and people on foot crowded the dirt roads, traveling in every direction.

Fanchon put a hand to the back of her neck, feeling the symbol there and wondering.

"What is on your mind?"

"I was wondering why the man was so hostile toward God."

"It was not God he was hostile to but the threat of change. For so long, people clung to the Hebrew or Pagan beliefs that their forefathers had taught them and they do not appreciate the idea of a new faith replacing it."

"But the other clerics have always told me that we are always to trust the bible and never question it. They told me that all the old religions were false."

"Don't think lightly of the old traditions," said Saint Martha, smiling cheerfully as if Fanchon was a girl making a naïve comment, "because the old ways are the foundations for the new ways and should be appreciated. After all, the bells I used to save your life this morning were most likely forged by Pagan hands and have done good for other people as well."

"But why would people follow old traditions when there's a new and better religion?"

Saint Martha paused in thought. "I suppose they see no need to change. God may be guiding us but in the end, the good and evil deeds of man are always man's fault and no one else. That truth never changes, no matter what god you worship."

"I do not understand."

"It will become clear in time. Right now, we should worry about how to find the Tarasque."

Fanchon turned to Saint Martha, horrified. "Are you really going to try to tame that beast?"

"I must! I cannot stand idly by while all of Nerluc is destroyed like Camargue, especially when I have a way of doing something about it."

Fanchon felt her stomach growl. "We should eat first."

"Are you genuinely hungry," said Saint Martha with a knowing smile, "or are you afraid to help me face the Tarasque?"

"Uh...both..."

"Then I say we eat first. No sense facing a monster while slowed by a hungry belly."

#

After a quick meal, Fanchon reluctantly followed Saint Martha toward the hills where the Tarasque was hiding. She kept herself behind her mentor, nervously hiding out of sight. Saint Martha held the bell out before her, watching for any signs of life. The area was covered in barren rocks and flattened trees. It was dead silent without a single chirp from the birds or the barks of animals.

Saint Martha came to an abrupt stop. For a fleeting moment, Fanchon thought that Saint Martha was going to give up and turn around until she cupped her hands over her mouth and shouted, "O mighty beast, come out and see us."

Fanchon ducked behind Saint Martha, expecting the Tarasque to come running out. She wrapped her arms around herself and kept her head lowered as she if that was enough to save herself from a charging beast.

Realizing Fanchon's distress, Saint Martha turned grabbed Fanchon's hand.

"Don't be afraid. In the end, everything will be fine."

Fanchon squeezed Saint Martha's hand like a frightened child holding onto her mother. She slowly moved out beside Saint Martha but her knees twitched with every step, wanting desperately to go back into hiding.

Saint Martha shouted again. "O mighty beast, come out and see us."

There was a deafening silence followed by the sound of rocks crumbling in the hills. The ground vibrated as something large and heavy approached them.

From out of the rocks, the Tarasque loomed out into the open, curiously sniffing the air before lowering its head down to look at its visitors. It slowly approached them, baring its teeth and letting out a warning growl. Fanchon could feel the vibrations with every step.

Fanchon ducked behind Saint Martha, too afraid to even look at the beast.

Without showing the slightest hint of fear, Saint Martha held up the bell and rang it with one hand. The Tarasque stopped, more curious than alarmed. She continued to ring the bell in a slow rhythm. She watched as the Tarasque stood there, still and mesmerized.

Fanchon nervously looked over Saint Martha's shoulder. "I-It is working."

"It is just as I expected," said Saint Martha with a smile. "Now I shall bring it to Nerluc and show them there is nothing to fear."

Saint Martha beckoned the Tarasque to follow her, ringing the bell as she did, with Fanchon hovering by Saint Martha's back. It followed her toward Nerluc, moving obediently through the battered trees and barren dirt.

By the time they got the Tarasque near Nerluc, men came running out of their homes into the open to meet it. Fanchon could see the men standing in a crowd, watching as the beast approached them. They all twitched as if preparing to run, clearly afraid but curiosity kept them from leaving.

"Fear not, for I have tamed the Tarasque," shouted Saint Martha to the crowd. "Now you all have nothing to fear from this beast or the Northmen."

Despite Saint Martha's words of reassurance, she could see people scurrying into their homes in panic.

"There is no need to run. The beast is harmless and—"

A single arrow flew toward the Tarasque and struck harmlessly against its hard shell with a clatter.

"No, please stop!" Saint Martha could only watch helplessly as arrows soared overhead. While archers pelted the Tarasque with arrows, other men rolled in culverins, which they hastily loaded with shells and gunpowder.

"No, do not shoot," shouted Fanchon, clasping Saint Martha's arm.

The culverins fired fist-sized metal shells toward the Tarasque. The shells soared through the air, bouncing off of its carapace and a few hitting the Tarasque on its exposed cheek, gouging cuts. The Tarasque let out a cry of alarm, snapping out of its trance. It roared with anger as it charged toward the men who fled from their culverins. It scooped some of the men up into its giant maw and swallowed them whole.

Saint Martha tried ringing the bell again, hoping that she could calm the beast, but the Tarasque instead glared at her in blind rage. It charged toward her, its mouth wide open to engulf her.

Fanchon ran in the other direction, not waiting for Saint Martha to follow her. She could hear Saint Martha cry out as the Tarasque swallowed her whole with a loud smack of its jaws. Fanchon ran toward the trees, hoping it would slow it down, but before she could reach them, she saw the jaws of the Tarasque as it closed down around her. She was surrounded in darkness and warm saliva. All she could do was let out a cry of anguish as she was swallowed alive.

#

Fanchon could not see but she could feel the walls of the beast's gizzard rubbing against her body. The stench of stomach acid and the flesh of the dead and dying wafted into her nose. She silently prayed for her soul as she resigned herself to death but it never came. Normally, one in her position would assume that he or she would die quickly, if not by the beast's jaws, crushed in the esophagus, or from the stomach acid, then the victim would die from the lack of air at least, but even as she lay in the pit of the beast's stomach, death would not take her. She just sat there, neither feeling the pain of the acid nor feeling the slightest bit of discomfort from the lack of air. As her bored mind wondered through her memory for something to do, she remembered her talk with the Mayor of Nerluc. She could remember every word they exchanged, how he reacted to Saint Martha's idea to tame the Tarasque, the way he laughed at them, how he reacted when he saw the symbol on the back of Fanchon's neck...That was when she remembered in the story of Jonah, he sat in the belly of a fish for three days and three nights but survived thanks to God's blessing. If she had the same mark that Jonah had, did it mean that she too was being punished by sitting alive in the belly of a monster? Before she could pander on this idea, she felt the walls of the gizzard contract. All at once, Fanchon and the stomach contents flew up through the esophagus like the water in a bucket being dumped out. She was violently erupted from the Tarasque's gut and onto solid ground.

Fanchon spat out irritably as she pulled herself up onto her feet, covered in filth. "I am...alive?" She tried opening her eyes but the bright sun forced them shut. As her eyes adjusted to the sunlight, she looked up and cried out in alarm as she saw the Tarasque looming over her, watching her with the same cat-like curiosity as before.

She could hear the scurrying sounds of little paws nearby. She spun around to see little tarasques, each one the size of dogs, gathering around the regurgitated offering and lapping it up. Fanchon could feel her stomach twitch with revolution as she saw the putrid blob of green goop that covered her body and the ground. It stank up the air with the stench of decay and she could even make out several half rotted human bones around her.

None of the offspring made any attempt to attack her, preferring to instead lap up what was already dead. She looked about to see herself surrounded by canyon walls with no visible exit.

"Am I meant to be offerings for its young?" she said to no one. She waited in silence, hoping for a response.

From out of the canyon walls came a low rumbling voice, "No...they are too young for meat."

"Is that you, God?" asked Fanchon, looking about in surprise. "Please, you have spared my life for a reason. Tell me what I am supposed to do."

There was a low growl. "Stop talking to the sky and see what is in front of you."

Fanchon slowly turned around to see the Tarasque looming over her. She could see the Tarasque's mouth move in a malformed attempt to form words.

"Are you afraid?" asked the Tarasque.

Fanchon stared with her wide-eyes, her mouth agape. "Y-You can talk? I mean...you can understand the language of man."

"Or perhaps mankind understands the language of beasts," said the Tarasque.

"How can...but...you..." Fanchon stuttered as her mind slowly comprehended what was happening. "Why would man speak the language of a beast?"

"What other reason is there for you to understand me?" asked the Tarasque, calmly lying down before Fanchon. The Tarasque curled its...her tail around her young in a protective gesture.

"Because God only granted the power of speech to man."

The Tarasque let out an annoyed grunt. "And what is this God you speak of?"

"You don't know?" asked Fanchon, surprised. "God created the world, He created heaven and all life, and He has spared my life."

"Why you?"

"I...I do not know." Fanchon wiped a tear away from her eye. She clasped her cross and quietly whispered, "Please God, tell me what to do. Why am I here? Why did you take Saint Martha away from me?" She anxiously waited for a response but none came.

"Saint Martha?" said the Tarasque, repeating the name. "Is that the name of the woman who was with you?"

"Yes!"

"God did not take her. I was the one who ate her, remember?"

"No, God is master of everything."

"Was it God who attacked me?"

"No...that was the fault of the villagers."

"And was it God who tried to enchant me with that bell?"

"No, that was Saint Martha, but..."

"And was it God who made those weapons or the bell?"

"No, they were manmade."

"Precisely!" The Tarasque noticed Saint Martha's bell lying among the predigested remains. She lifted her claw over the bell and angrily smashed it flat. "I punish man for their actions, not God."

Fanchon opened her mouth to speak but she was not sure of what to say. She wanted to blame the Tarasque but knew that the beast was merely defending herself and her young like any one would. She wanted to say it was God's will, but how can she explain away the actions of man as the work of God to a beast...or anyone for that matter? She grabbed her cross around her neck, wanting to pray for answers, but she stopped herself because she already knew what to do: She was going to try persuasion.

Fanchon got down on her knees and bowed to the Tarasque. "O mighty beast, we are so sorry for what we did to you. We just wanted you to save us from the Northmen and we were going to bring you to Nerluc to prove to the villagers that you can be tamed and can help us. Even now, the Northmen march upon Nerluc and we could use your power to save it."

The Tarasque let out a low growl. "Why would I fight for man?"

"Because the Northmen are on their way here and if they take Nerluc, they could harm your young next."

"No army can threaten me or my young."

"But you cannot guard them while you are hunting. While you leave them alone, the Northmen, the people of Nerluc, or wondering bandits could cause harm to your young. If you can make peace with the people of Nerluc, they could help protect your young or possibly offer food."

"Would they truly be so altruistic just for saving them from the Northmen?"

"If you can save them from the Northmen, they will hail you for years to come."

The Tarasque paused in thought. "Can you give me your word that you will keep the people of Nerluc away from me and my young?"

"I swear on my life I will."

"Very well, in the interest of peace, I shall protect Nerluc."

Fanchon grabbed the cross around her neck and whispered, "Saint Martha, I hope I made you proud."

#

Fanchon tried her best to wash the gunk off her cloths and herself, but after swimming in the nearby river, all she could do was dull the stench of vomit and replace it with the stench of damp fabrics. She spent the rest of the day with the Tarasque and her young, living off of the plants she could find.

By early morning as the Tarasque got out to watch for signs of trouble, she sat on top of the Tarasque and looked out toward the horizon. In the distance, she could make out the Northmen as they marched toward Nerluc.

"Are you sure they will listen to you?" asked the Tarasque.

"So long as you do not get too close to Nerluc until I call you, they will listen but will you survive the Northmen?"

"My shell is harder than rock and my hide can withstand their pistol fire."

"Then let us proceed."

The Tarasque lumbered forward, her shell rocking slightly with ever step, forcing Fanchon to cling to the shell so she would not fall off. Once the Tarasque positioned herself in the path of the Northmen, Fanchon carefully climbed off of the Tarasque's shell and walked toward Nerluc.

By the time she reached Nerluc, she could see rows of people gathered outside of the village, fully armed with every weapon they could find from pistols, culverins, swords, and tools. Many of them were paralyzed with fright as they watched the Northmen and the Tarasque in the distance.

When she was within earshot, Fanchon shouted a request to see the Mayor. She had to talk to several of the villagers before one was rational enough to oblige her and summon the Mayor.

When Mayor saw her, his eyes were wide with surprise. "Your god must be powerful if you could survive being eaten alive."

"How I survived is irrelevant. What is important is that you and the rest of the villagers stay away from the fight."

"Why would we do that?"

"Because the Tarasque is not some mindless beast. She is actually quite intelligent."

"She?"

"And," said Fanchon, sternly, ignoring the Mayor's question, "she is willing to save Nerluc from the Northmen if you and the other villagers agree to drop your weapons and to negotiate a peaceful agreement."

"Even if I wanted to believe that it can understand human speech, why would a beast want to help man?"

"Because even a beast can understand peace. If you want proof of that, then look before you and watch the Northmen driven away."

As Fanchon said she would, the Tarasque charged toward the Northmen. Even from over half a mile away, the villagers could see the Tarasque batting way the Northmen like a cat batting away harmless mice. Pistols and culverins were fired but nothing could kill her or slow her down as she ripped a hole through their flanks. It was not long before the Northmen retreated, screaming in fright.

The Mayor watched the battle with awe. "I cannot believe what I just witnessed. We are saved thanks to the Tarasque."

"Will you now tell the villagers to drop their weapons?" asked Fanchon with a sly smile.

"Y-Yes, of course." The Mayor gave the order for all the villagers to put away their weapons. Many villagers took time to calm down, too afraid to take their eyes away from the Tarasque. Eventually, the Mayor had to herd the villagers back into their homes.

Once all was clear, Fanchon let out a loud whistle. Tarasque lumbered toward Nerluc, approaching Fanchon and the Mayor. She loomed over them, awaiting a response.

"Uh," stammered the Mayor, feeling very vulnerable. "Fanchon told me that you wanted to negotiate peace."

In a low voice, the Tarasque said, "I am listening."

#

From then on, the people of Nerluc agreed to leave the Tarasque and her young alone in exchange for the Tarasque's protection. In time, the people became so enamored by the beast that they renamed Nerluc as Tarascon.

As for Fanchon, she lived in Tarasonn, occasionally acting as a liaison between the Tarasque and the people of Tarascon, but she mostly spent her time living as a handmaiden for the mayor. Although she no longer prayed on a preordained basis or granted blessings, she lived a happy life as a servant, keeping her cross around her neck to keep herself reminded of her God.