Excerpt – Travels in Lyonesse by Julian le Chanteur circa 845
In the library there exist a series of works by a bard from Gryphons lands, who documented his travels through Estragales and Lyonesse. There are many tales of playing to crowded inns and taverns, and gracing the halls of many lords with songs, but it is this passage which stands out…
“…which led me to the inn at a small village near Rouen. Finding the summer air to be most pleasant, I thought to stay here a night or two at my leisure, before moving on to Strasbourg. Seeking out the inn owner, I sought to play for board, and span him a song which melted his heart, and a tale which brought a tear from his eye. He was gratified to host such a bard under his eaves, and offered me room and board for so long as I required it.
Sitting by the fire and supping a glass of the local red wine, a farmer from nearby who had stopped to sup spoke to me of my tale. He told me he had enjoyed it heartily, but that it was not the tallest he had heard, and recommended the next day I take a walk down to his farm to meet one of his field hands, for I would hear a tale that would indeed delight me.
The next day, after breaking my fast, I did head to this man’s farm, and there I was given a cup of sweetened milk, and asked to play for the workers. I sang them a rousing song in order to set them up well for the day’s work. After this the farmer took me to meet his stable boy – he was a tanned youth with arms like coiled rope – a sure sign of a hard life in the fields. His hands were coarse and rough from work, and his mop of dirty blonde hair was similar in colour to the straw in the bales with which he worked.
The farmer asked the boy to come speak with me, “If it would please Your Majesty,” – this I queried. The farmer told me that the boy was an orphan whom he had taken in to work – his parents had died when he was young, and the boy had wandered the area stealing from the farms to survive. The farmer showed him pity and fed him for his work, and let him bed down in the stable.
The boy scowled and called the man a liar. At this the farmer laughed, mussed the boy’s hair, and begged leave to check on the cows.
I asked the boy to tell me his tale – and this is what I learned – the boy said the nickname was a cruel one. They called him Your Majesty as a joke, because none believed his true origin. He was the true heir to a throne across the seas, in a green and pleasant land, where there were golden lions and golden dragons. He claimed his parents died on a ship, and the boy washed ashore, and was raised on the farms in the area.
I asked him how he knew this, and his reply was he was told by a witch in the woods to the east. I asked if he had any memory of his parents or this kingdom of lions – he claimed his earliest memories were of the sea, but he knew – in his heart – that he was a true king. He said that he knew he was meant not for hay bales and sickles but for thrones and golden rods. I left him to his work, and sought out the farmer.
The farmer told me that the boy was indeed an orphan, and that the time on his own in the wilds had affected his mind. He said he was harmless, a sweet boy really, but melancholy – his awful life had given him a thirst for things that were better – and the farmer did not mind his tales really, for he felt a great sadness at the lot the boy had been given in life. To lose his parents so young was a great tragedy.
He blamed the fantasy on the old healer woman who lives on the edge of the woods – dead now, alas, two winters past – a shame, for she had been a talented healer, the farmer had said. She had pitied the young lad, and filled his head with stories of other lands, and of knights in shining armour, of magical swords, and hidden boy kings. The young lad had taken it to heart when he had been told that the old King of Albion across the sea and his family had been shipwrecked. He had become convinced, said the farmer, that he was washed up in that shipwreck, as all he could recall from this childhood was the sea.
The farmer didn’t have the heart to tell the boy that his mother and father were probably netmakers for the local fishing fleet.
Such a sad tale, but one worth remarking upon. The next day, I followed the east road to Strasbourg, and passed a small, empty cottage, beneath the eaves of the great wood.”