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The Chronicles of Claudia Labelle -- Part XXX
By
ZMahnke

The Chronicles of Claudia Labelle -- Part XXX

Entry XXXVIII –

At midday, all of the remaining students and faculty that had not left the Priory gathered within the Chapel, for an hour or two of song and prayer in celebration of Christmas. Miss Lindberg was among the minstrels, the only female in an ensemble of male vocalists, and, as it always had, her soprano voice reigned supreme above them all. I could not help but feel a sense of pride as I watched her perform; she had worked and trained so hard to join the choir of Saint Ansgar Priory, and now she was giving her first real performance to the students and faculty. The smile upon her lips throughout every song delighted my eyes. It is a shame not all students were here to witness such magnificence.

Prior Anders lead the prayers, assisted by Sister Agnes, where which all students closed their eyes, and repeated the Prior's words. I would occasionally peek around the Chapel in an attempt to spot where Mr. Vukan was sitting, but I had no such luck in finding him between the crowded pews. I began to believe he did not attend prayer at all.

By the end of the session, Prior Anders took to the front alone and quieted the masses. He then gave a speech which I shall record here to the best of my memory. “While we are here to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,” he said, “I would like to take this opportunity to say something that I believe the future leaders and masters of our world need to hear. So, please, listen well as I indulge in this philosophy. Every night each of us prays for peace on Earth, and goodwill to all men, women, and children. We wish for protection, good health, and bliss within our lives. But, as we all must admit, our actions throughout each day fall short of this very wish. How quickly do we take up arms against those we condemn as our enemies? How often do we hoard the basic necessities, and feed our greed by demanding more from those that have already given all their strength? Why must we entitle our own life and steal the happiness from others? No one person within this Chapel is a saint. Not me. Not you. It is an unending cycle, like the wheel of a watermill, we carry the hatred and the bigotry with us, and we spread it unto others. It mocks the peace we pray for. To end this cycle of overwhelming disgrace, we must learn to release our personal sense of entitlement and realize that though we may not understand the struggles of others, we can show common human decency through kindness. Let the wrongs we have committed for so long fail and the right in which we have long neglected prevail. And so, I ask the leaders and masters, aristocrats and peasants alike, for this Christmas request: Know your faults and remove them from your life. Be kind to all, no matter what cruel acts they may have done unto you.”

After our dismissal from the Chapel, we all gathered together in the Great Hall to dine on a grand Christmas feast. It was reminiscent of suppers back home at the chateau. The wide varieties of ham, bacon, beef, poultry, fish, eggs, bread, wine, and much more, filled me with the nostalgia of Parisian life as I gazed upon it all. I covered my plate with bacon, beef, eggs, bread, and filled a cup with red wine.

I sat with Miss Lindberg at the end of a long table in the farthest corner of the Hall and admired her fantastic performance. She was shy about it, admitting she believed she could have done better. Of course, I could not allow her to think that way, and with some success, I managed to convince that her voice was perhaps the greatest sound my ears have ever had the pleasure of hearing.

As we conversed and ate our large portions of food, I held a sense of being observed. As though foreign eyes were gazing upon my bare flesh. I looked around the Hall, and for only a moment breaking my attention away from Miss Lindberg. Although the paranoia was unsubstantiated, as it was Prior Anders who stared from the faculty table at the very back of the Hall. He shuffled his eyes between me, and another area of the large room. I was unsure if I could spot what he was looking at; but it was that I did not have to search, as it was already staring back at me.

Mr. Vukan's brown eyes were lingering several tables away. He was accompanied by a few other women, a couple of which were younger than me, and of Hungarian and Polish lineage. He interacted with them occasionally, but for the most part, his eyes were fixated on me. I looked back to the Prior, and he was again looking back. It seemed as if he knew that Mr. Vukan and I had chosen to end our friendship. Despite the awkward tension between the three of us, I continued to eat the food on my plate, and concentrate my attention on Miss Lindberg.

I could not finish the plate of food and left over half of each portioned item. The bacon was best, in my own humble opinion, even though it had been boiled. Miss Lindberg dragged on, the slow eater she is, taking small bites between intervals of long chatter. Fortunately, she could not finish her plate either, and so, with slight guilt in our hearts, we threw away our remainders of food into one of the several barrels that would later turn it into some sort of fertilizer. When we left the Great Hall, she and I departed from one another to return to our own living quarters. What I had not known of Miss Lindberg, is that she bunked with several other students in the female-only bedchamber. I hold much respect for her ability to cope with strangers. I value my privacy too much for that sort of arrangement, and I certainly would not be spared the opportunity to write in this diary.

Upon returning to my living quarters, I settled in by changing out of my lecture robes and into a set of wool linen robes. The temperature plummeted just before the sun began to fall today, as I watched a winter storm rage from outside the window. I lit a few candles and sat down at the desk to write in this journal. I uncapped the inkwell and placed the quill inside to soak. I opened this book, but a series of several knocks at my door forced me to pause further actions. I glared at the door, noticing that I had forgotten to lock the hatch. Whoever it was could have walked in to see that I was in possession of personal property—not to mention, the passages describing my gift. A moment before I stood up, I thought of the overwhelming amount of evidence found within these pages that could be used against me if I were charged with the crime of witchcraft.

I slid the door open slowly, expecting to see the Prior waiting ever so patiently to be acknowledged. I could not have been more wrong, as I soon made contact with the all too familiar brown eyes of Mr. Vukan. A smirk grew on his lips when we looked at each other, as he said, “Hello, Claudia.”

“Hello,” I replied, and held the door close to my body. My nerves clenched, waiting for an opportunity (if I needed to, of course) to slam the door shut and lock it. I kept my composure, sparing only a few minutes of my time for his words.

“I know we have not spoken in several days, but I have come to make amends. If I am to speak truthfully, the Prior's speech during today's morning sermon has influenced my thinking. I know it must be impossible for you to believe me, but I must say to you, that I am deeply sorry for my atrocious words during our short journey. I am sorry for my actions in the Library. I see the error in my ways, and I am willing to prove that I shall be a different man for the better. Please, if you will honor my one request: What shall I do to prove myself, and to earn your gracious forgiveness?” He had a difficult time admitting his guilt; his eyes flickering between my own and the stone floor. However, I could hear the passion in his voice, and the urgency for pardon.

I was unsure, at first, whether to take up the offer or to continue the burden of a grudge. But I too remembered the Prior's speech and his comparison of the cycle of hatred to the wheel of a watermill. I took a deep breath and released whatever anger I still held for the Grand Prince. “Very well, Mr. Vukan, I shall accept your request. I will forgive you, so long as you give a reasonable and sincere apology to Miss Lindberg, and honor your word of humbleness here on out. If I hear of your completion of this task from Miss Lindberg herself, I shall offer forgiveness.”

A smile grew upon his lips, and his brown eyes widened and brightened. “Yes, consider this quest done. Thank you, thank you so very much.”

“And thank you,” I said, and returned a smile. I began to close the wooden door. “I must tend to my own matters now. Merry Christmas, Mr. Vukan.”

He bowed his head, the smile gracing his face receded into a coy and gentle smirk. “Merry Christmas to you, Claudia.” I do believe his search for forgiveness is genuine, and he will do all that is necessary to earn it. I must remain patient and wait for the news of his success.

And so here I am now, coming to the end of this entry, written within the gold light of a candle, as a blizzard swirls beyond the window in front of me. Despite my loneliness, and the distance between my family and me (by God, how much I miss them), I cannot write that I am unhappy. For once, I am at peace, absent of the stress from the world around me. It has been a wonderful, and simple, winter holiday.

Merry Christmas, dearest Reader.

 

Claudia Labelle

25th of December 1097

 

 

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Copyright © 2017 ― Zachary W Mahnke

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