Conteuse [Storyteller]

I couldn’t find an opportunity to speak privately with Isolde about Marie but kept a wary eye on her and stared forebodingly at Isolde.

“Why are ye giving me foul looks, Brangien?” Isolde asked, puzzled as we sat in the garden, embroidering. A waft of mint caught my nose.

I glanced at Marie a few feet away. She had not pushed further about Tristan and Isolde, merely planting herself and keeping watch of castle ongoings.

In the evening, we gathered in the great hall, everyone from the king and queen to perhaps the mice looking for crumbs from the table. Marie sat to play a melody on the harp, a tune that flew above like a dove and aligthed on the heart. She paused, pulling her hands from the strings and said to us all in clear yet hushed tones,

“I am going to share with you a story that took place in Brittany a long time ago.

Hoël reigned in a land that knew war as often as it did peace. Amongst his barons, one named Oridial, a courageous knight, was his favorite, and he had a son named Guigemar who became a handsome and valiant knight himself…”

I glanced around the hall, and saw how every man, woman, and child sat still with their eyes locked on Marie.

Marie continued her tale, saying that Guigemar was indifferent to love. He became injured and boarded a ship that took him to the garden of a lady imprisoned by her much older husband. She and her companion healed Guigemar. And his heart, like a battlefield, was struck with love for her. Although she tested his sincerity, she fell in love with him, too. But a chamberlain discovered them together. Guigemar had to leave. By the end of the story, Guigemar must lay siege to the land of a lord keeping his lady (who has traveled to find him) and prevailed.

Marie shared other tales, too–ones that contained exquisite fairies, magical animals, and painful hardship that led to joy, or human love that transcended.

When she finished, we quietly exhaled out the anticipation we had contained in our chests. Marie bowed her head in thanks and rose to sit back down at the table. The peaceful ambiance fled the room as soon as a baron led us in rowdy song. I glanced at Marie, but I could not read her face. I had misjudged her keen observation. It was not malice that drove her but a persistent thirst for stories, and perhaps marvelous hope she had not yet tasted?

4 thoughts on “Conteuse [Storyteller]

    1. Yes, indeed! And in real life, there is a lay about Tristan and Isolde supposedly written by Marie de France, the poet on which I based “Marie.” In my tale, I wonder how she would acquire this story?

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  1. Meara, I have been reading to catch up on all the posts I missed (have not been on WordPress for a while). Your story is enthralling and I finished wanting more. You have a talent for transporting your readers – me – to that time and place. Looking forward to the next instalment.

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