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Sunday, June 7, 2009

The Troubadours Prepare for Tomorrow's Performances

Tis the Sabbath and the rains are upon us. Church bells are heard in the far distance calling all to mass. Clouds hang low over the Shire’s fields. The mountain tops are obscure and the temperatures speak of fall even though it is summer’s eve. Our merry band of troubadours share a lunch of crispy bread, veal and a warm soup beside a crackling fire. Lady Aleta pours, filling our wooden bowls to the brim. Master Kyle wasn’t mindful of his steps. His lunch spilled from his bowl into the fire causing a great cloud of steam and a hissing reminding us of a snake with a sour temperament. “Perhaps one should be mindful of one’s steps when carrying a fully charged bowl of Aleta’s fine cooking,” I reminded him. His look in response to my kind reminder was not gentle.

All laughed. Lady Megan placed another log on the fire to restore it to its previous strength. “Move along...... move along,” I said to Kyle pointing him back to the boiling pot. “Lady Aleta will fill your bowl and your stomach as long as you swear an oath to be mindful of your step,”
“Take no notice of him,” Aleta said with a beckoning hand welcoming him to the front of the line. Our younger troubadours, in unison, took a step back to allow this much older and wiser member of our troupe to return.

I took pleasure in watching the faces of our youngest at the back of the meal line. Masters Adam and Benjamin seemed concerned the pot would empty before their bowls could be filled. A look of starvation was present in their expression. After all, it had been four hours since their morning meal. They are growing boys and worked diligently pitching the tents and stages set for the first of the season’s performances on the morrow.

Lady Sheila followed my gaze and saw the same concern on their faces.
“My, wasn’t that a delicious meal,” she called out over the fire and heads of our fellows. The volume of her voice, unnecessary due to the proximity of the gathered company, drew our attention to her and away from the fire and contents of our bowls. “Tis a pity it is nearly gone. Dear Aleta, Lady Lorraine and I did warn you of such a turn of events. We offered our services to help in this meal’s preparation after our tent was pitched and wooden benches and tables in place but you refused. Now we see the result of your stubbornness. So many mouths yet to be feed with so little with which to feed them.”

Ladies Aleta and Lorraine both queried Sheila’s remarks. Neither remembered the morning’s events the way she just described them. Before they could object to her obviously faulty memory Sheila stood and held a hand to quiet them. “Masters Adam and Benjamin. Come from the line and sit with me. There is perchance, a drop or two of nourishment in my bowl which I humbly offer to satisfy your hunger.”

Anger replaced starvation in the boys' expressions. A storm was coming. I could see the humor in Sheila’s tale and thought it best to let it continue for a moment longer. The troupe needed merriment at this mealtime and Sheila was providing it . “Boys, why this look of anger? Did I not offer my bowl’s contents to you? Do you feel it not enough? I beg to differ. Why look." Sheila drew her spoon from the bowl. “Look boys, a slice of carrot still warm and whole. I swear my teeth have not disfigured it in any way. Come and let us split it. There is plenty here.”

Master Adam spoke first. “We have pitched the tents and set the tables. We have set the stages and hung curtains. We have cared for the horses and tended to the wagons all through this cold and wet morning. We have done your bidding without a wisp of complaint and what thanks are given? An empty stomach. That is payment for a half day’s labor?”
Benjamin nodded in agreement with and spoke, “We will retire to our tents and not be seen again unless and until a call comes forth beckoning us to this tent to satisfy our hunger and exorcise our foul mood.”

With that both boys turned to leave the meal tent. Lady Aleta spoke out. “Masters Adam and Benjamin. Lady Sheila speaks nonsense. There is plenty in this pot. She is having you on and I’m afraid you surrendered to her wit..” The tent erupted in laughter. I felt it my turn to speak. “Boys, your work is legend with us. All gathered are indebted to you for without your service we could not entertain the people from the surrounding villages and hamlets. Forgive Lady Sheila this moment of merriment. She is an old woman and her mind, once as sharp as the blade of an ax carried into battle, is now a suspect of dementia. Can you not see this levity was sorely needed? Come boys, move hither to the front of this line. None will object. Come and eat .”

All was forgiven. Masters Adam and Benjamin filled their stomachs with return trips to the pot. All present laughed and talked of old times and our hopes for this new summer of 1309. Our five stages were ready. Our plays written and practiced into memory. Our music scored to produced emotion fit the quality of our tales of heroism in the face of overwhelming odds. For a moment in time all was perfect.

I sat closer to the fire. My old bones needed the warmth. I listened as conversations danced around the troupe in circles of memory and prose. Our younger members were learning the trade from the older and wiser as this merry group of Troubadours bring light and magic to the people of the Kingdom. I was once again reminded of something told to me long ago. This band of fine souls I share the fire with are the finest troupe of Troubadours in the kingdom.

The sun reminded us that noon was passed. Master Alex rose from his stool and offered his thanks to Lady Aleta for preparing a meal fit for King and Pope. All stood in agreement. A cheer traveled from our hearts, over and around our tents and into the dark forest surrounding the clearing. Lady Aleta bowed in acceptance and, using her large ladle, pointed the way to the exit. There was still much to do before we slept.
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