11921219 Improper Songs in Holy Halls
|Improper Songs in Holy Halls|
It is a late morning, the light of the sun filters through the window panes of stained-glass, providing a cheerful almost otherworldly atmosphere. While most brothers of the Order are outside, practicing their martial skills in the yard or running errands making their way through the city, a small group of Hospitallers has formed at the far side of the hall, their cheerful laughter and the sounds of a lute indicating that some not so pious entertainment is about to commence - a rather bold and possibly inappropriate undertaking given the close proximity to the small chapel.
Three men enter the hall from the direction of the actual hospital, although only one of them wears the tunic of the Knights Hospitaller. One wears the sober garments of an actual medic, including a greyish-white apron bearing several dark-red or brown blood stains. The third wears civilian garb, brown leather pants and a richly dyed green shirt as well as a red-orange silk scarf that can be wrapped around the head for protection from the sun. The lyre he carries reveals him to be a minstrel. Not just any minstrel either, but young Raimon des Baux, who has made quite a name for himself. The knight, who's still slightly limping, is his cousin, the valiant Adhemar des Baux who fought at Jaffa and received a grievous wound. The three are chatting about something or other, the doctor apparently grateful to Raimon for services rendered.
Their entrance does obviously go unnoticed by the little gathering. Neither are curious gazes shot in their direction, nor is there any effort to subdue their cheerful laughter. A voice, deep and pleasing in its calm and slightly amused tone, however manages to calm the racket at least momentarily. "So... what songs would you like to hear, now that I finally have tuned my instrument?" Tristan inquires, letting his fingers wander over the strings of his old lute, emphasizing his question with a chord. "Oh... what about the Battle of Arsuf, Tris?" a Hospitaller of a pale complexion and thin stature suggests. Another much more healthy looking fellow has another proposal. "We've heard that one already much too often. No... what about something for the heart...?" the man grins, rolling his eyes while the smirk on his face suggests he's isn't referring to pure ballads, rather songs of a bawdier kind.
"Hmm," the Hospitaller with the lute contemplates, raising one of his hands to scratch that beard of his, below that impressive scar on one of his cheeks. It is then that his grey-blue eyes lighten up as they glimpse the new arrivals. "As much as I would love to follow your suggestion, Abe. I think we have guests." 'Guests' meaning intruders into their confidential complicity of seeking pleasures of a more worldly nature. Putting his lute to the side, Tristan de Fontaineuax rises from the table, where he had casually seated himself on and offers a polite greeting by inclining his head to the three. "A good morn to you."
The three turn towards the approaching Hospitaller who seems to cause the doctor to take flight. "I must return to my patients. Thank you again, young man.", he smiles at Raimon, nods a greeting to Tristan and departs. The two Provencal cousins look at Tristan and past him towards the gathering and Raimon grins when he notes the lute. "Making some music, good Sir?", he asks politely, "I think I may be interested in listening while sharing a cup of wine with my dear cousin. What do you think?", he turns to Adhemar, who nods. "Why not. You might pick up a new song or two, coz.", he grins at Raimon, then turns to Tristan. "Please, Sir. We did not wish to interrupt. Carry on."
Tristan's eyes follow the medic as he departs so hurriedly, and his lips twist into an amused smile. "Hmm, I hope I didn't drive him off...?" he remarks his gaze returning to his brother of the Order and the minstrel. "Music is what keeps us going, is it not, young Raimon?". But it is the request of Sir Adhemar which has him lower his head with a smirk. "Very well, Sir Adhemar. You know enough of my reputation already, so if you think my songs are adequate for one such as capable and... pure as your young cousin here..." Chuckling softly Tristan returns to his spot by the table, leaning against it while grabbing his lute.
His fingers run along the strings of his lute most skillfully, weaving a melody that soon turns into a filigran net, accompanying his song most adequately. Tristan raises his voice - surprisingly clear and devoid of the usual raspy sound that comes from regular drinking and bellowing of war songs. A ballad it is, but a very sensual one. The Hospitaller sings about a beauty he seeks and never finds. Breathtaking and slightly depressing in its beauty, the ever returning part of it is:
"She carries her fruit in a cloth of blue silk
Wrapped up so tightly their forms are revealed.
And yes, they look tempting, I'd like to have a taste
Of the Beauty of the Sandy Wastes..."
His companions listen in silence, wide-eyed and obviously entertained. As soon as he's finished they applaud and cheer.
Raimon and Adhemar find a table nearby where they can watch and listen, while enjoying the wine that is being brought to them by a servant. While neither exactly cheers towards the end of the song, they do clap politely. "Did you write this yourself, Sir?", Raimon finally asks Tristan, when he manages to catch the knight's attention, "Or is it an adaptation perhaps from Saracen songs?"
It takes Tristan a moment to escape the sombre mood of his own song. But finally he looks up, the smile from before returned. "Aye... my own humble efforts, Raimon." he admits scratching his head. "Being no minstrel myself... One would think a sworn brother as I would not know much about these matters, but you know, the sun and the heat in these lands leave us suffering like in the fires of the purgatory - which is not too different from the pains and misery that love can bring..." A feeble attempt to cloak Tristan's long list of affairs with denial. "Alas, it wasn't a very cheerful song, was it...? I am sure you could delight us poor Hospitaller knights with lighter fare. Another song I've written about the Battle of Arsuf. But... it's not very subtle. The brothers like to hear it now and then, though..."
"Of course, music is a good way to commemorate past events.", Raimon agrees lightly, "And it was a rather nice song, albeit it must be depressing to dream forever of a taste denied to you." The young minstrel keeps an entire straight face as he says so. Either he is rather innocent or he acts as well as he sings. "Normally I would be very happy to delight you with a song or two, but I am afraid I must rest my voice a little just now. Upon my brother's request I came to sing for some of the patients in the hospitals and their their dark days up with songs of their homelands, reminding them that they must heal, so they can return to their beloved shores.", the troubadour explains, "Do you know any songs of Saracen origin, Sir Tristan?"
Tristan chuckles softly at Raimon's remark about denied tastes and shakes his head. "Not depressing, Raimon. A welcome distraction from our days of religious contemplation and war. Does not the dream of Heaven lower the burden on the sinner's soul, even if he's already roasting in Hell?" A strange analogy, but that doesn't seem to trouble the Hospitaller overly much. "So your voice needs rest?" Brows are raised in obvious regret. "Well, it will be on me then to continue the entertainment of my brothers. And the answer to your question is: no. I do not speak their tongue, and have never been fortunate enough to hear any of their songs - if they have any."
"Heaven waits in another life though, my dear friend.", Adhemar points out, "The pleasures of the flesh do not. So it's now or never, I suppose. But what do I know?" The elder knight chuckles and leans back to enjoy his wine and leave the conservation to his younger cousin. "I am sure the Saracens have plenty of songs - as do the Moors of Al-Andalus. If the music of Ziryab spread from Al-Andalus across Barbary, I am sure it reached the Eastern shores of the Mediterranean as well. Did you know that your instrument's name -" He nods towards the lute, "Comes from the Arab word 'oud' and that it was originally Moorish? As was the guitar, which the Moors call qithara. I translated a few noubas into Spanish and Provencal myself in Al-Andalus. I would hope to find originally Saracen music here... perhaps brought here from the courts of Baghdad and Isfahan or from the Egypt of the Pharaos..." He sighs a little wistfully.
Adhemar's remark has Tristan's eyes widen for a short moment - as he probably did not expect to hear such words from an elder knight and brother. But then a smirk finds its way back onto his scarred face. "Aye, that's what I always keep telling myself, Sir." He listens to Raimon's lecture about the lute and its Saracen origin with mild interest. "They have culture, obviously." he comments looking not too enthused. "Alas, the only culture I've been confronted so far is Saladin's way of fighting battles. Still... your thorough knowledge in these things is quite impressive, I mean the history and geography..." Areas that never have cought Tristan's interest obviously. "But I have no objections to play an instrument that hails from Saracen culture... As long as I'll be allowed to play my songs on it."
The Hospitaller's last words are met with a cheer from the neglected brothers close by. "Yes, a song. Another song, Tris. Arsuf! Come on."
Raimon looks pleased by the older man's compliments and nods. "It is my greatest interest to collect music.", he explains, "Some day I shall travel along the Silk Road to the furthest Eastern end of the world in Cathay." "If your Dad won't be dragging you home before you crossed the Euphrates", Adhemar snorts dryly and earns a glare from his younger cousin. Flushing slightly, Raimon is glad to turn the attention back to Tristan: "Yes, another song, please, Sir, I'm keen to hear it!"
Tristan takes his time. Returning not too swiftly to his place at the table he picks up the lute - an old and plain instrument that shows signs of wear, scratches and even some signs of repair here and there - truely an old friend and companion. Finally inclining his head to silence the cheers and shouts from his friends he starts playing another tune, this time of a fiercer character. Chords that are driving rather than resting in the moment. And with a slightly edgier sound to his voice he intones:
"The Lionheart told us to wait for his sign
Six trumpet blasts till we were to break our line
With arrows they showered us again and again
Obeying the order to remain where we stand
The holy wrath came over us at last
When we charged at the Saracens with a blast
My heart jumped with joy, I'll never forget
When before my feet rolled a Saracen's head
"St. John!" we of the Hospital cried.
We killed every Saracen in our sight.
"Allah!" they muttered but did it help?
Us being the wolfs and they just whelps.
Despite them being thrice as strong,
God granted us bravery for many a song,
My heart jumped with joy, I'll never forget
When before my feet rolled a Saracen's head"
While Adhemar grins happily and joins into the other men's cheerful roars - apparently he's heard this song before and more than once - Raimon seems to be listening politely without showing much emotion of any sort. "I am sure it was a great morale booster.", he finally smiles, "Clearly it will be heard on the battlefields for a long time to come. Another one of your own creation, Sir Tristan?", he asks before sipping more wine. "I wish I could have seen the Lionheart with my own eyes..."
Not impervious to the uplifting character of his own song, Tristan's face has brightened up as soon as he started intoning the first verses - the thoughtful shadow in his eyes lifted, at least for the moment. "Aye, I have to admit, my own writing. It doesn't take great lyrics to write a popular song, as long as it manages to grip the audience, don't you think? Alas, I am aware of a few shortcomings in the writing,... There might come a day when I'll choose to forget about it and write a completely new one." And with this remark he puts his lute finally to the side. His attentive grey-blue eyes narrow a touch as they have already glimpsed a pair of two Hospitallers in conversation who are entering the Grand Hall through the door. It takes the Fontaineaux a short moment to digest the distraction and turn his attention back on Raimon. "Aye, the Lionheart. An impressive King he is indeed. I have really believed that he could pull it off - reconquer Jerusalem. But not this time. I only hope his business back in England will not keep him long. After all he has announced he will return."
Was there a short disapproving glance in Tristan's direction from the two Hospitallers who have just entered? Their conversation suddenly stops as they approach slowly, studying the faces of those present before they give the lute a curious glance.
"It is easier to rouse the spirit of five hundred warriors than to warm the heart of a beautiful lady.", Raimon agrees with a sigh. He listens to the tales of the Lionheart quite curiously, though the impending return of the great king is nothing new to him of course. "Next time he will.", Adhemar agrees with Tristan, until they are all distracted by the new arrivals. Raimon looks at Tristan curiously to see if an explanation is forthcoming about them.
Sensing Raimon's inquiring eyes on him, Tristan leaves the support of the table against which he has been leaning. But before he can open his mouth for any statement, one of the new arrivals already gives a greeting. "Sir Tristan de Fontaineaux, if I'm not mistaken?" the man inquires, studying the scarred knight with cold light blue eyes. His gaze dropping to the old lute and then locking onto Tristan's eyes, he adds with a sneer: "What are you up to? Bawdy songs in a chapel? Not the conduct that would befit one of your family. And certainly not this holy place." The other knight stays silent for now, but the frown on his face clearly shows his dispproval, as does the nod he offers in support of his companion's reproachful remark. While the rest of the Hospitallers have fallen silent, eager not to give offence to the new arrivals, many eyes turn to Tristan, curious for his reaction.
"This certainly is not the chapel, sirs. We are a few steps away from the chapel, *before* it but certainly not *inside* of it." Tristan clarifies firmly but with a bit of caution. Turning to Raimon he gives the proper introductions, albeit with little enthusiasm. "Raimon de Baux. May I introduce to you Sir François de Montbard and Sir Gilbert de Saulieu, both good friends of my brother Hugues, of Burgundy as myself." Then towards the two Hospitallers he adds: "Raimon des Baux, cousin to our brother Sir Adhemar."
Adhemar just nods to the arrivals in greeting, looking perhaps a little sheepishly that he did nothing to stop the singing. Raimon meanwhile bows deeply to the elders. "A honor to meet you, valiant knights.", he says politely, "I heard the tales of your valiant noble work here and on the battlefield. Please do not admonish the noble Sir Tristan, if he broke your rules, he did so on my behest. Please see fit to punish me for forcing his hand instead." He bows again, awaiting their response.
Sir François gives a dry chuckle at Tristan's counter. "Don't haggle with me like a woman from the bazaar," is his cold reprimand. "We all understand perfectly well that this Hall is not the place to show off your lack of propriety... The chapel gives this place the Lord's Blessing, our meals, our prayers. It will not be tainted with heresy. And certainly not with bawdy songs..." His amusement seems to grow as he hears Raimon's brave words of intervention. "Easy now, young lad. You're not a sworn brother of the Order as Sir Tristan here. It is one thing to request improper behaviour out of ignorance - another to follow it, fully aware that it is not allowed."
Straightening Tristan looks at de Montbard through narrowed eyes, crossing his arms before him. "I am not aware of any improper conduct. Sir. If you are so convinced of my failings, why do you not go to the Grand Master and give him your complaints?" he inquires with a voice that shakes slightly with impatience and hardly subdued anger. And he grabs his lute, admitting with this gesture that it is his, and cants his head to the side, ready to leave, although giving Sir François a moment for a reply.
While Francois and Tristan are talking, Adhemar gently nudges Raimon's side, indicating that they better make their departure as well. "It's been a pleasure, gentlemen.", Adhemar announces in a slightly fake-cheerful voice, "We should be on our way though, we are expected for dinner at home." He bows deeply and Raimon follows suit... then they flee.
Icy blue eyes follow the minstrel and his Hospitaller cousin as they depart so hurriedly. "A pleasure indeed." Sir François remarks coldly in response to Adhemar's words of farewell, yet there is remarkably little pleasure present in his expression and bearing. Turning back to Tristan, he continues in a tone that appears to be devoid of any emotion: "So you truely want me to report this to Sir Garnier de Nablus? Rest assured that I will follow your advice, Sir Tristan. Although it pains me to think about the consequences. Your folly at Arsuf will not save you forever. And it will be foolish to rely on your so-called past merits, when it comes to tainting our Holy Halls with your scandalous ways." His companion, Sir Gilbert, still prefers to remain silent. Although that hand on the pommel of his sword and the menacing glare he offers perhaps have more eloquence than any words.
"I care little about what you think, Sir François.", Tristan replies with a light shrug. "I am aware that you don't think highly of me. But in the end it's the Grand Master's opinion that matters, isn't it?" Carrying his lute along, the Fontaineaux moves out of the Grand Hall, leaving it through the doors that lead outside to the yard. Not to his cell, were a few hours of contemplation might have offered enlightenment.