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The Chronicles of Claudia Labelle -- Part XX
By
ZMahnke

The Chronicles of Claudia Labelle -- Part XX

Claudia meets someone new, and questions her own life's choices.

Entry XXVII –

As of late, I have been rereading my father's letter, the one that was delivered to me well over a month ago. It may be no surprise that I have reviewed every word quite carefully, and have come to notice something about the overall tone of the letter:

It is as if he is not at all writing to his own daughter, but to a business associate of some kind. The way he so desperately wishes to fuse the French and English economies, in order to “bolster our combined military forces” within the Holy Land; it is as though he believes me some sort of Commander in the Crusade.

As I was leaving the Library earlier this evening (I had been researching the preternatural, and my obvious relation to it), I heard the glorified chanting of the monks deep in the Chapel. This is not necessarily unique, as there are many a day I hear them practicing their poetics. But what grabbed my attention was the addition of a woman's voice among the men's. She was vastly louder than the rest, with a light and harmonious soprano that graced my ears.

I sat in a pew far in the back of the Chapel and watched the minstrels perform, hoping that my presence would not disrupt the practice of their art. To my surprise, the voice of the woman that I had heard was actually that of a girl. A girl that I initially came to suspect was only slightly older than I. They all sang together in Latin, and as I listened to the words, I discovered it was the Lord's Prayer they were reciting. While all of the monks were fantastic, and their voices chiming throughout the stone walls of the Chapel, hers was the most outstanding. It put my mind at ease and into a peaceful state; something I have not been able to achieve since I arrived at the Priory.

I had become so enthralled by her majestic young voice that I felt an overwhelming need to introduce myself to her, and for me to tell her just how beautiful her talent is. Of course, in my sense of awe at the beauty of her majesty, I was hit with the reality that she may not even speak the same language as me. Nevertheless, I had to try, and at the very least, attempt to express my love of the talented young woman's voice.

As they finished their practice of the evening, one by one each of the minstrels stepped off of the chancel and through the aisle to the chapel doors. The young woman was the final person to step down, and just as she passed the pew where I had been sitting, I stood up and called to her. “That was a great performance,” I said, unsure if she could understand me.

She paused and turned to me, smiling as she replied, “Thank you. I am glad to hear that you enjoyed it.” Her voice was distinctly Scandinavian as she spoke, but from which part of Scandinavia, I could not distinguish. However, it was quite a relief knowing that she could comprehend the French language.

“I am Claudia Labelle, daughter of Antoine and Madeleine Labelle, hailing from the Kingdom of France.”

“Ah, a noblewoman,” she said, and curtsy bowed in her black lecture robes. “It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance.”

“The pleasure is all mine, Miss . . . ?”

“Gala. Gala Lindberg, and I come from the village of Skara, here in the Kingdom of Sweden. You have traveled a long way from home to be here, Miss Claudia. It makes the three-day journey from Skara seem like such a short distance.”

“As someone from such a small village,” I said, “I am surprised you know the French language so fluently. You are one of the few throughout this entire Priory by which I am able to communicate.”

“During my first few years attending this institution, I was required to learn multiple languages. It was a sort of . . . prerequisite, set by Prior Anders, to becoming the first female minstrel in Saint Ansgar Priory history. And I must say it was well worth the wait and the experience; when I finish with the training, I will be employable in several kingdoms throughout Europe.”

“This is your first year training as a minstrel?” I asked. “You have gained such a proficient skill in such a short amount of time?”

“Oh, how I wish it were that easy!” She laughed quietly, placing a hand over her mouth as she did. “My mother taught me to sing when I was a child, and I would practice with her every day. Singing became a true passion of mine, and I will always be thankful for the exposure to such a fine art.”

“She must be very proud of everything you have accomplished thus far,” I said.

“I hope so. Wherever she may be. After her death some time ago, I promised myself to forever sing in her honor. My father, bless his heart, the gifted craftsman that he is, does not earn much money selling the beaded jewelry he creates; but he has spent a fortune on my education, so that I may pursue my passion and my own life's work in honoring my mother through music.”

I was at a loss for words at the moment after she spoke. “I am sorry to hear that,” I said, as I tried to gather together my thoughts. “Perhaps I should not have asked anything.”

“It is quite all right. My philosophy in this life is to forgive the past and to always keep my eyes toward a future of new horizons. And in my future, I see myself as the skald of Inge the Elder, or perhaps the bard of William the Red of England! Or maybe my time will be spent as a traveling minstrel across the French and Germanic countrysides? The future holds so much potential! Would you not agree, Miss Claudia?”

“Of course!” I lied.

Her words have left me questioning my own life and my own choices, even now as I write this entry. I have paced through my living quarters, thinking to myself: What kind of future do I want? What is it that I want out of my life? What talents can I bring to the world? How would I truly enjoy spending my so limited time on this earth?

I have taken my interest in the preternatural to a level that I can only describe as an obsession. To the point where I am now wondering if I actually want to enter into an arranged marriage with Henry Beauclerc. That future is so uncertain; I do not even know the man! How do I know he will make a good husband? Simply because he is the to-be King of England? Marrying into royalty does not equate to happiness.

Recently, my obsession with the preternatural has become a great source of pleasure. It is a priority above all other studies, and slowly, above all else. The more knowledge I gain on the subject of death, the more my fascination grows. I have come to notice, too, that as I study death and its secrets, the images of death itself do not haunt me or my dreams. This has only solidified my belief that if I master the subject, it will forever be in my control.

And perhaps that control will allow me to forge my own path in life. One where I am not bound by the path another has set before me, as I am locked in the chains of servitude by the will of a forced marriage. I am no business associate.

If I am to truly be happy in this short life, I must do what brings me joy. I must not fulfill those who use me as a tool for their own gain. I must not follow those who lead to certain slavery. I must not acknowledge those who do not listen. I will do what I please with the life I have been given, be it blessed or cursed.

 

Claudia Labelle

12th of December 1097

 

 

 

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Copyright © 2017 ― Zachary W Mahnke

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