Tantris II

Now when news of this event circulated among the ladies, such distress and apprehension as no one had seen in them before afflicted all of them together. The sweet maiden, the lovely Isolt, felt as though her heart was dead. She had never lived so grim a day. Her mother Isolt consoled her, "now, daughter, don't despair, don't let his affect you so. For whether there's any truth in this, or it's no more than malicious lies, we can surely handle it, and God will give us his protection. No, my daughter, no more tears. never should your lovely eyes be clouded or grow red when the trouble is so minor." "But, mother," wailed the lovely girl, "your Royal Highness—don't dishonor your noble birth or your person— before I'll ever submit to this, I'll drive a knife right through my heart! Before he'll have his way with me, I'd rather take my own life. Never shall he have as woman, or lady either, this Isolt, unless he's ready to have me dead!" "Now, now, daughter, calm down. No matter what he or others claim, all of it will come to naught. And were the whole world his witness, never shall he be your husband."
When it was time to retire, the sagacious queen consulted the secret arts she controlled 9300 and could invoke to work marvels about her daughter's predicament. By these she learned in a dream that none of it had taken place the way the seneschal described it. And at the first light of dawn she called Isolt to tell her. "Dearest daughter, are you awake?" "Yes, My Lady . . . mother," she stammered. "Put all your grief and fears behind you— I can tell you some great news. That liar didn't kill the dragon. The man who did it is a stranger, brought here by some chance or other. Get up, there's no time to lose— we need to see this for ourselves! Brangaene, are you up? Go quietly to Paranis, tell him to saddle up for us. We must go, the four of us, I and my daughter, you and he. He needs to get those horses ready just as quickly as possible, there at the secret gate that leads from the orchard out onto the fields!"
As soon as this was done, the little band mounted and rode in the direction of where they heard that the dragon had been slain. And having soon found the horse, they began to take special notice of its tack and trappings. It didn't take them long to realize that they had never seen its like anywhere in Irlant, and from this they drew the conclusion that the man, whoever he was, who had been riding that horse was the one who killed the dragon. They rode on a little farther and came on the dragon's carcass. This consort of the very Devil was such a monstrosity as to turn radiant ladies as colorless as death from fright at the mere sight of it. The mother was the first to speak. "Oh, yes, now I'm sure of it. Never would that seneschal 9350 have dared stand up to such a thing! We can forget all those worries. And somehow, daughter, surely— this man, whether alive or dead— something leads me to believe he's lying hidden somewhere here. It's just a feeling that I have. Let's start right here—don't you think? We need to make a search. Maybe God will grant that wherever he is, we'll find him, and if we do, put an end to all this bottomless dread that threatens us like death itself." At once they all agreed to this and put this idea into action. all four of these companions rode off in different directions, some searching here, others there.
It happened—it was so ordained just as destiny would have it— that the young princess Isolt was the first among them to lay eyes on her life and death, her delight and suffering. A gleam of light from his helmet made his presence known to her. When she saw it was a helmet, she turned and called to her mother, "My lady, hurry! Over here! There's something shiny, I don't know what— it looks a lot like a helmet, if my eyes don't deceive me." "I think you're right," said her mother, "that's how it looks to me, also. God is going to favor us— I believe we have found the one we were looking for." At once they called the other two and all together rode to see. When they had drawn close enough to see him lying in the water, their first thought was, he must be dead. "He's dead," cried both of the Isolts, "and all our hopes dead with him. It was that wicked seneschal— he killed him—murdered him in cold blood, and then threw him in this marsh!"
They all jumped down off their mounts and with all possible haste 9400 pulled him out onto the land. They unbuckled the helmet and got it off, and loosened the cape under it. The wise Isolt looked closely and could see that he still lived, although he clung to that life by no more that a hair. "No, he's alive," she exclaimed. "Quickly, get his armor off! If I am blessed with such luck that he doesn't have a mortal wound, this could still turn out all right." The trio of these lovelies, the radiant company, in working to disarm with their snow-white hands the unfortunate sojourner, discovered the dragon's tongue. "Wait, look," said the queen, "what in the world can this thing be? Brangaene, niece, what do you think?" "It looks like a tongue," the girl said. "Brangaene, you're right," the queen agreed. "And furthermore, I'm almost sure, it must have come out of the dragon— what a piece of good fortune! Dearest daughter, lovely Isolt, now I'm absolutely sure we're on the right track at last. It's this tongue that must have stunned him— took his strength and his senses."
They anxiously finished disarming him and having failed to find anywhere any sign of blows or wounds, they felt a great sense of relief. The wise queen used theriac, cunning physician as she was, administering a dose sufficient to cause her patient to perspire. "He will recover," she pronounced. "When this drives the vapors off that the tongue suffused him with, he'll come to and be able to speak." This predicition soon proved true. He lay there only a little longer, then opened his eyes and looked around. On first seeing the heavenly trio hovering over him at his side, he rendered silent thanks in prayer-- "Oh, benevolent Lord God, 9450 thou hast not forgotten me. Three lustrous beings have possessed me, the loveliest in all the world, the joy and mainstay of many a heart, the delight of many an eye— Isolt the shining sun, and also her mother Isolt, the happy light of dawn, and the proud Brangaene, the luminous full moon!" --although he didn't speak the names, only groaning weakly, "ahh, who are you, and where am I?" "Oh, sir, you can speak? Yes! We'll help you in your need," the knowing Isolt encouraged him. "Oh, sweet lady, blessed woman, how my body has failed and all my strength is gone, so suddenly, I know not."
The young Isolt looked closely at him. "This," she announced, "is Tantris, the minstrel, if I ever saw him!" "Yes," the other two agreed, "it seems so to us also." The wise Isolt then asked: "Are you Tantris?" "My lady, I am." "Then tell me," she further inquired, "Where did you come from, or for what purpose are you here?" "Oh, most blessed of women, I don't believe I'm strong enough either in body or senses to tell you such a long story and be sure of all the details. Please have me moved or taken, I pray you for God's sake, where someone can care for me at least this day and tonight. Then if I can regain my strength, it's only right that I should do whatever you please or may request." And so the four of them took up Tristan in their hands, lifted him onto a horse, and carried him away with them.
They brought him unobtrusively back in through the hidden gate, so that no one in the palace knew anything of their expedition, 9500 and there they gave him aid and comfort. The tongue (as I described it earlier), his battle gear and other equipment, all of this they brought back with them, both the man and all he had, leaving not a lace or ring. When the following day came, the queen took him by the hand. "Now, Tantris, you must tell me, by the favor I have shown you on this occasion and before, coming twice to your rescue— which of course I did gladly— as you would tell your own wife, when did you arrive in Irlant? How did you kill that dragon?" "My lady, of course I'll tell you. It has been quite recently, no more than three days ago, that I and other traders sailed into the harbor here. A band of robbers attacked us, although why, I'm not sure. Had I not bought them off with our valuable goods, they would have killed us all. This is usual in our trade. Often we must make ourselves homes and a living in foreign lands. There we know not whom to trust, since we're often treated roughly. From this I have learned the lesson that it's always to my advantage to make myself know abroad by whatever means I can. The merchant makes his profit by being known in foreign lands. So, my lady, considering this, since I have long known the story of the serpent infesting your country, that's the whole reason I killed it, in the sincere hope and belief that I would gain by so doing the favor of your countrymen."
"Favor indeed," replied Isolt, you shall have here, for life, and with it everlasting honor. It was most fortunate for you and for us that you came here. Now think: what is your heart's desire? 9550 Say the word, it shall be done. My lords and I are at your service." "Mercy, my lady, I surrender my vessel and my own person into your further keeping. You have only to see to it that I needn't regret having put my life and property in your trust." "Nay, Tantris, think not of that. Have no further concerns whatever for your own life or goods. By my oath and my honor, see, I assure you with my hand, that as long as I shall live, no harm can come to you in Irlant. Now you must grant me one request. Give me your advice and counsel in a matter on which depends all my honor and salvation." She told him, as I have related, how the arrogant seneschal was laying claim to the deed, how insistently he was pressing his rights as suitor for Isolt, and how he threatened to defend all his lies and monstrous deception by offering to meet in combat anyone who should presume to take it on himself to challenge. "Blessed lady," replied Tristan, "do not concern yourself for this. You have twice restored to me my very life, with God's help. It's only just that I pledge it to your cause in this contest and in any other dangers, so long as it remains to me." "God reward you, dear Tantris, I gladly accept your support, but let me assure you of one thing— if this debacle comes to pass, both of us, I and Isolt will ever suffer living death." "Nay, my lady, leave off such talk. Being under your protection and having entrusted my life and property to your honor, I urge you, my lady, have no concern. Only help me to recover and I can straighten all this out. 9600 But tell me first, do you know— that tongue I had when you found me— where is it? Did you leave it there?" "By no means. I have it here with all your other belongings. I and Isolt, my lovely daughter, together we brought everything."
"Good," he said. "We have what we need. Now, my fortunate queen, abandon all your worries and help me to regain my health. Then all of this can be put right." The two royal women, both sharing equally, then took him in their care, and whatever skills they knew that might further his recovery to full health and vigor they applied unsparingly. But his crew, on board his ship, were growing ever more anxious. Many of them in fact despaired entirely of their own safety. None expected to escape, since it had been two days now that they had heard nothing of him. They too had heard the dreadful cry of the dragon in its agony, and a story had been going around of a knight who had met his end, and the partial horse still lying there. None of them could help but think, "surely that must have been Tristan, for there can be no doubt of this, if he hadn't met disaster, he'd certainly be back by now." So they held a conference and decided to send Curvenal to have a look at the horse. This he did. Arriving there, he found and recognized the horse. Then riding on a little farther, he soon found the dragon's remains. But nothing else could he discover, there being none of Tristan's things, no remnants of his dress or armor. This left him in the greatest doubt. "Ah," he thought, "my master Tristan, are you still alive or not? Alas, alas," he groaned, "Isolt, 9650 alas that your name and fame ever should have come to Curnewal! Was all your beauty and nobility directed to the doom of one most highly endowed in the calling marked by lance's escutcheon, one whom you pleased too well?"
He returned to the vessel lamenting and in tears, and reported to the company the scene as he had found it. Hearing this information, many were downhearted, although not all of them. These woeful tidings were not woeful to some. Not a few bore them lightly. But one could easily see that many were dismayed, and they were the majority. Thus their thoughts and their intentions were a patchwork of pro and con. In this lack of unity the divided ship's complement fell to trading talk and whispers. The twenty landed barons felt no anxious qualms at the announced uncertainty. They saw it as good reason to wait no longer, but depart, and they voted unanimously (I mean the twenty barons) and advocated strongly that they make sail at once. But many of the others argued that they should remain longer to find out in full detail what had happened to Tristan. And so they wrangled among themselves— these who wanted to depart, those who intended to remain. At last they reached a compromise. Since there was no certainty or plain evidence of his death, they would stay there and continue to investigate and inquire at least for two more days. This brought the barons little pleasure.
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