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Monday, October 4, 2010

The Troubadours and Summer's Last Performance

The wagons creaked on the uneven road as our band of troubadours journeyed home to the Shire. Lazy clouds of white and gray took their turn hiding the sun from view. The coming night cooled the warm autumn afternoon. I pulled my cloak closer for warmth. Our company would soon be settling into the castle for the short days and long nights of winter.

It was a good summer’s season. Our last performance was on Friday in a hamlet who’s name is already forgotten. Lady Emily and her company of well rehearsed troubadours performed, giving our troupes of travelling story merchants and musicians an evening of rest before the journey home. The night air overflowed with joy, laughter, music and screams. I watched from a distance, hidden by the canvas of my tent, taking joy in the knowledge that this company of troubadours had the skill and training to carry a performance without my direction.

In the midst of what someone who happened to stumble unawares behind stage would perceive as chaos, stood our Lady Emily, giving direction to both actor and musician. Each direction was accepted and implemented with skill, making what appeared to the assembled villagers a seamless tale of heroism and daring.

And then, surprise. Our troubadours did something not seen on our stages for over fifteen years. They directed the performance out of the tent and into the village itself. I was reminded of the times when, as a young troubadour, I did the same for one, perhaps two seasons then stopped. I don’t remember the reasons.

At the end, the villagers awarded our troubadours with applause. True thanks were given for an evening never to be forgotten. After the hamlet settled into their beds for a long night, our company took down the tent, put away the instruments and costumes and gathered around the fire for dinner and talk.
“Didest Thou see the cat that crossed our path so boldly?” Master Wyatt spoke. The golden orange of the fire colored his face and the faces of his fellows. “The owner was not to be found.”

“And what dids’t thou do? Thou tookest the animal as thine own.” Several laughed at Master Adam’s words.
“Wyatt, is this true, the words I hear?” I asked from the shadows. I moved into the firelight and found a log to rest my weary self upon.
“Tis true Master,” he announced with a pride so true as to paint a blush across a maiden’s face. “And I care not who hears!”

“I care, so guard thy tongue in the telling of your tales,” I cautioned while pointing to the younger members of our troupe. There was shock in their faces that I would take offense in the telling of such an innocent tale. I let my countenance darken the mood for a moment, then broke into laughter, bringing relief and cheers from our circle of comrades.

“And that is a Master at work,” Lady Emily said. “He draws you one direction, only to turn the tale unexpectedly towards another.”

The ladies Aleta, Lorriane and Shiela prepared meat for our last night as wanderers. It was an unexpected respit from our daily diet of bread with butter with porridge. A meal filling yet makes for poor company.

“Our last night under the stars needed to be marked with a feast,” Lady Aleta exclaimed . “It was to be fish, but a farmer bought his tickets with chickens.” The youngest in our troupe sat around the cook fire and watched the chickens roast. The smell was rich for the nostrils and brought moistness to the mouth.

“Back ye rats of the Forest deep. Back into the shadows from whenst thou came,” Lady Shiela appeared from the darkness with broom in hand sending the youngsters scattering in all directions.

It was a night of good food, good company and little sleep.

And now we have been several hours on the dusty road. I looked behind my wagon into the faces of our troupe as they walked steadily onward in the direction of the setting sun. Twenty paces behind the slowest of the troupe walked Lady Emily hand in hand with Master Skyler. In a fortnight’s time the two will wed. The Lord of the Manor has ever so graciously given permission for the use of the Great Hall for the feast afterwords.

The celebration of a wedding marked the passage of time as our youngest performers grew each day in the cycles of the sun and moon. And then, as if stirred from a short sleep, I awake to find a child who just a moment ago was learning to pull a curtain and sing a simple song, now grown and tasting love’s sweet wine.

The sun rises and sets taking us ever onward through the seasons of life. It is a good life we live, troubadours in the service of our shire bringing joy and happiness into the lives of the people we serve.

“The castle!” a young voice shouted. I looked up and into the distance. A tower with flag was in sight. Soon we would be reintroduced to our long neglected beds.
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