The Chronicles of Claudia Labelle -- Part XIX
Entry XXV –
Today I have found myself in a difficult state of mind. Of course, I will not lie and write as though I do not know what is causing my sorrow. For I know full well what. It began earlier this morning when Mr. Vukan informed me that the faculty of Saint Ansgar Priory would be observing the 12 days of leisure, in celebration of the Christmas season. Apparently, from the 13th to the 25th of December, there will be no lectures held throughout all of the Priory, and it will be a time of Church services, relaxation, and feasting for everyone here. All students may move freely, and even leave the grounds without faculty permission. Some are returning to their homes for the short break.
Do not have the wrong impression, dearest Reader, for I very much enjoy this time of year. However, it will be the first year of my life that I will not be spending this celebration with my family, and it is because of this realization that I was stricken with grief. I so desperately miss the grassy plains, colorful vineyards, and jagged mountain peaks of the French countryside. I miss the fine clothes, the fleur-de-lis, and the elegant blue tapestry. I miss the chateau of Paris, the servants and minstrels employed by my family, my father's unending politics, and my mother's enduring compassion.
But perhaps this is a good thing. It will give me some time away from the commitments of study, and allow me to reflect on myself and my gift. But that only leaves me wondering what I must do to avoid raising suspicion from the other students. Shall I lock myself away to the security of my living quarters? Shall I disappear into the comfort of nature?
If I may speak honestly, I am curious to know what Mr. Vukan will do with his time in leisure. It is much too far to travel back to the Kingdom of Serbia, so it is doubtful that he will return home. I wonder what Serbia is like, and if it is as beautiful as France? Perhaps I should allow myself to be influenced by Mr. Vukan; if I am to become the Queen of England, need I learn all there is to know of the rival Kingdoms of Europe?
Oh my, as I write that thought down, it seems like an awful lot of study.
. . . And what of Prior Anders? How will he spend his time of leisure? Will he yet again try to contact me? Will he take it upon himself to visit me personally? Or will he shut away in his own study, as he did during our excursion to Sigtuna? God only knows what his intentions are.
8th of December 1097
Entry XXVI –
I had arrived later than expected to my lecture on English Culture this morning, finding that Father Belhorn was about to begin his speech just as I walked through the doorway into the Hall. He paused and allowed me to sit down before he finally began.
Mr. Vukan was there waiting for me as he always is; sitting at the third long table near the edge of the far right side, leaving just enough space for me to sit down next to him at the edge. He smiled at me as a silent hello, as I opened my lecture book and uncapped my inkwell.
“There is something I wished to ask you yesterday,” Mr. Vukan whispered, “a proposition more or less. But you disappeared before the chance was given.”
“I did apologize for my actions yesterday. I did not intend to be offensive or rude in any way. I just . . . needed to be alone for a moment. That is all.”
“It is forgiven, Claudia. Do not worry. No, what I had hoped to ask you is quite simple, actually. Would you be willing to accompany me on an exploration of the forests that dominate the Swedish countryside?”
“To what end?” I asked.
He shrugged his shoulders and smiled as he whispered, “Simple curiosity. A craving of new sights and beautiful landscapes that spark the human imagination. Need there be anything more?”
“Well, no. But I could never suspect that a man of the political realm with such power and prestige would spare even the shortest moment of attention for the aesthetics of the common taiga masked in tundra.”
“It seems there is much of the royal life for you to learn, my dear Claudia,” he said, as he laughed quietly under his breath. “And I intend to teach it to you.”
It was not that I was offended by his words, more that I was surprised he would say something such as that. I did not understand why he felt the need to teach me anything. I am of noble birth, and I well aware of manners in a royal court. What I said next was almost like a reflex. “And there is much I can teach you, Mr. Vukan.”
“Is that so?” he asked. “What is it that you can teach me?”
“Death,” I murmured.
“What? What did you say?”
I caught myself from saying anything further. I was not to tell him my secret out of a moment of baseless spite. “Nothing. But if I am to answer your question: Will I accompany you on an exploration of the surrounding forests? . . . Yes. Yes, I will join you. It may be good to have some time away from the cold stone walls of the Priory.”
“Great!” he cheered in a quiet whisper, a long smile forming from his lips. “I will give you more of the details later this evening after lectures are done. Shall we meet in the Library, just after evening meal?” It was only then that he uncapped his own inkwell, and dipped his feathered quill into the black liquid.
“Sure. I will be there.” I glanced to Father Belhorn; his voice echoing through the Hall as he spoke in Latin, his hands raised as though he was preaching to a mass of hundreds. “You know,” I whispered to Mr. Vukan as I looked back to him, “we have missed much of this lecture already. You are quite the distracting character.”
He laughed quietly to himself. “What is a bit of missed information? Especially of the English; a culture and people that could not build an empire beyond their own shores.”
“You truly do hold a passionate hatred of the English, Mr. Vukan.”
“Well, since I have discovered that you are to give your hand in marriage to the future King of England, I have every reason to hold such a grudge. The beautiful young woman that you are deserves to rule an empire that will last for the centuries to come.”
I chuckled quietly. “You flatter me. But how can you be so sure that the Kingdom of Serbia will survive in the coming centuries? That far ahead in the future is so uncertain.”
“I can guarantee that in a thousand years it will be the Serbian Empire that is the most powerful in all the world. And I am sure the English will be a long forgotten memory by then; what kind of empire could they possibly build?”
It would seem as though there is some political tension between Mr. Vukan and me, for at times I do wonder what exactly he thinks of the Kingdom of France. His opinion will more than likely be negative, as his Serbian patriotism and superiority complex makes him incapable of believing that Serbia is indeed not the most powerful kingdom in Europe. We shall not engage in any further conversation of politics. Doing so could lead to armed conflicts throughout the continent of Europe.
9th of December 1097
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