All Things Are Lights – Day 7 of 200

He looked at Diane, her green eyes shining in the candlelight. He took a deep breath and began to sing. His fingers moved on the lute of their own accord. His soprano voice vibrated in his throat. He let his gaze sweep the room, but he sang for Diane alone.

“The trees on the mountains in summer are green
But are stripped of their robes in the fall.
When the snow shrouds the hills,
Then the whole world seems dead,
But the pines remain green through it all.”

It was a short song, only three verses, and even as he sang them he felt he could hear with Cardenal’s ears the echoes of other tunes, the trite lyrics. But when he thought he could not go on, he looked at Diane and felt better about his song.

The applause and cheers were louder and longer than he had expected. They are kind to me because am Arnaut’s son, he told himself. He bowed deeply.

He left the lute and plectrum on the table. He was too embarrassed to face even Guacelm. People were starting to talk to one another again. Mercifully, his song was forgotten.

He hurried through a side door and up a spiral stair to a battlemented lookout tower two stories above the main hall. There he went out and breathed deeply of the cool air, scented of the sea whose shore was not far from Chateau de Combret. He leaned against the hard edge of a merlon.

The oak door creaked behind him. A broad figure appeared in the starlight.

“Well, what the devil did you rush off like that for, boy? Think yourself too good for us?”

Roland shrank inside. “I could never be as good as you, Master Peire. “

“To the devil with comparisons. I do not know how good I am, and neither do you. The thing is to know yourself good enough to be a troubadour.”

“But how can I know that?”

Cardenal’s face came close to Roland’s, and Roland smelled the wine on his breath. “You know you are because I tell you, and it takes a troubadour to recognize another troubadour.”

The stocky man clapped him on the shoulder. The heavy blow hurt, but it made him think of the moment when, at the touch of his seigneur’s sword, a squire becomes a knight.

“I could be a troubadour?” Roland felt light-headed, as if he were floating above the balcony, drifting toward the stars.

Cardenal snorted. “Do not be so quickly overjoyed, boy. It is not an easy life. Singing for your supper, that is what it comes down to.”

“Yes,” said Roland in a small voice, wanting to disagree but afraid to.

“There is something more important to a troubadour than singing and playing,” Cardenal went on.

“What is that?”

“Love. Even before he is a maker of songs, a troubadour is a man in love. You are too young to know love. But you will, and your love will be as vast as the ocean. Sometimes it will hurt worse than the torments of the damned. Love unlocks the deepest places of the heart. You need a lady, a goddess, to inspire you. Without her, you will be nothing.”

Roland had heard countless love songs, had sung them himself. He had some sense of what it was that drew men and women to each other. But this talk of Cardenal’s confused him. He said nothing.

“In love is the highest happiness known to man,” Cardenal said. “And it is given to troubadours, of all men, to see deepest into this mystery whose laws have been in the keeping of women since time out of memory. Remember what I say, but think no more about it for now. Your father will tell you when you are ready.”

Moments later, Roland wandered through the darkened great hall on his way to bed, his head a melee of thoughts, frightening and joyful. I must love always, he thought. Yes, I understand that much. A troubadour is a man in love.

He saw in his mind a girl-child with red hair and transparent skin looking at him and saying, “You will be wonderful!”

Yes, he thought. It is Diane. I may be too young, but I love her even now, and when we are older I will tell her. I will be her troubadour, and I will love her for all of my life.

But now Diane had taken herself from him, had chosen to become one with those who lived between this world and heaven. Her choice was the consolamentum, not the song of the troubadour. And as he watched her moving among the last of the wounded, he realized how much finer her goal was. He had no right to feel any claim upon her now.

His attention was draw to the bishop, who had finished his ministrations and returned to his chair. Spreading out his arms, he beckoned the men and women who were the flower of his church.

“My children, this battle we have lost tonight must be our last. The time for fighting has past, if ever there was such a time. Our people should never have taken up arms. It only provoked our enemies to greater violence. Now I intend to order our knights to surrender. “

From everywhere around him Roland heard sighs, groans, quiet weeping. But he heard no protest. They have accepted their fate, he thought. Perhaps they even welcome it.

With a sad smile Bishop Bertran looked about the hall. “Diane. Please come to me, my child.”

She approached, lovely and stately, and Roland felt the breath stop in his throat. She bowed her head, her flame-red hair glowing.

“Diane,” he said softly, “perhaps God has sent this brave man for a purpose. There are messages we must send to the outside world. We have hidden much of the wealth of our church, and word of the hiding place must be carried to our brethren who will survive us. You must carry it, Diane.”

Diane opened her mouth to protest, but Bishop Bertran silenced her with a gentle wave of his hand. “You will also take with you our Holy Vessel and the ancient books that were brought to us from the East. Prepare to leave, my child.”

Diane again bent her head. “Your will must prevail over mine, good bishop. But I envy you your martyrdom. And perhaps because I envy you I am not worthy of dying with you.”

But Roland’s heart gave a mighty leap. Diane would be coming with him.

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