Jacques de Plume in Scandinavia

My encourageable protege, Jacques de Plume, commissioned the following work to impress a lady he was pursuing romantically.

To her Royal Highness Marieke van de Dal,
Queen of the East, from Jacques de Plume,
By the hand and pen of another

I would greet you and send you gifts
From my long journey, tell you the tale
Of my traveling, but I am no skald,
No poet to play pleasing games with rhyme
When I left your court I went emptyhanded
No thought of my road or my return
Save I should find some greater purpose
Save I should do some noble deed
Worthy to give to so great a queen
I thought perhaps to come to the end of myself
Or the end of the world
But the fates that rule us are not gentle
They weave as they will, we are but threads
To be pulled onwards or cut off
Fate that would not consent to kill me
Drove me onwards to the eastern sea
Through storms that made blades of the frozen air
The smell of salt and sea and ice
My sorrow for my queen, my love, my home

From the water’s edge I set out on the whale road
Sailed till I came to a northern island
Cold rock rising out of the colder sea
But warm enough to break my journey
My landing brought sentries down
From the clifftops calling challenges

“We have seen your arrival, your weapons,
Your armor, now tell us, brave warrior
Who are you, who is thy father
Why have you travelled so far from your home?”

“I am Jacques de Plume,” I boldly answered
“I have no father, no family, but travel, questing
For a purpose to solace my loneliness
Or a deed worthy of the woman I love.”

The knights conferred their horses stamping
Snorting steam in the cold air
Till one stood forth, spoke for them all
“We are guardians of this land, and brothers
Warriors should be bound by kinship
Only a traitor would wander alone
None to watch his back or guard
His sleeping. We’ve no sympathy for exiles,
Nor for lovers. Surely you’ve heard
Onela’s story - the Swedes’ King
Turned to a beast, punished for his love
For his Queen. You may stay
This one night, but come no further
Watch close by your ship and leave
With the dawn.”

Again I answered, “I am no traitor
I have betrayed no oath, no person
Nor allowed suffering to come from
My hand. If they were here
My companions would speak for me
Since I am alone, I accept your terms
Demanding only a fire to warm me
I’ll ask no more and in the morning
I’ll be gone.”

The night passed slowly, I watched
The sky. Stars fell from the heavens
Ignited auroras, whose singing woke me
The darkness that had reached to consume me
Was vanquished by sunrise when I sailed
Pointed my ship’s prow for Sweden, planning
To follow the sentry’s story, aid
Onela and his queen. Many days I traveled
Across the fierce ocean. Storms
My despair would have welcomed to drown in
Tried me and shattered upon my resolve
Hurried me to the Swedish shore
Harbors sheltered and welcomed my coming
The sentries met me, courteous and brave
I told them my name and my reason for coming
They answered me as best they could
“You have come far and we’re glad and grateful,
But only the Queen knows the truth
Yrs keeps her own council, will tell know one
What has happened, who has ensorcelled
Her husband, the wisest and best of kings.
She bade us keep watch and pray for help
If you would aid us, we’ll take you to her
Watch your ship and weapons as our own.”
I left behind my sword and armor
Set out to see the Queen, Brave
Yrs greeted me in her hall, lovely and
Shadowed, worn thin by her burden
“Stranger,” she greeted me, “You’ve travelled far
And I hope you’ll save us. Promise me
If you mean to try, not to tell me your name
Or your country. Should you succeed
I will hear them gladly, give you rewards as is
Mete for a hero. The spell that binds
My love is fashioned to give me no hope
Of it’s breaking. Until you promise to take
The quest, I cannot explain.”

“Noble Queen, I kneel before you,
A nameless stranger at your command
I’ve hard that Onela is curse, punished
For loving his consort, I too have felt
The pain of love and I will help you if I can.”
Yrs stood and ordered the court be emptied
Brought me wine with her own hands
“Since you accept it, I’ll tell you my story
I came here a child, betrothed by my father
Haelfdane who chose my husband wisely
But I was young and afraid of my fate
All one year, Onela wooed me, and won me
His love awaking my answering passion
In all my life I do not remember
A day more joyful than our wedding
Or greater sorrow than that night
In Onela’s youth, a demon loved him
Though he spurned her, she followed, invisible
Sure that in time he would yield
Love her in return for her devotion
Angered by our love for each other
She swore that Onela would never enjoy me
Cursed our marriage - her failure would not be
My triumph if she could keep the King and I apart
Onela became, in our bed, a monster
Lost his mind, and fled, ashamed,
The demon promised he’s never return
Unless a stranger took pity upon me
Tracked the beast and cut off its’ head
Within a year and a day of the transformation
She warned me to guard this secret
Tell it only to one other
Lest the spell be never broken
You’ve promised to help me and I’ve told you
The secret I’ve kept to myself so long
Onela’s been gone for nearly a twelvemonth
Seven days remain of his time
But the curse that transformed him touches
Me also. I’ll wait seven days
On the eighth I’ll mourn you both
On the ninth I’ll die.”

When I left the Queen, the sun was setting
Yielding the sky to a hunter’s moon
Three days and three nights
I tracked the monster, nearly to the kingdom’s
Borders. The beast that had once been Onela
Never tired, led unceasingly
Onwards, till at last I found him
Cornered between the sea and the mountains
Trapped by the cliffs above and the fearsome
Waves below. We fought each other from dawn
To sunset, the beast’s horns always
Meeting my sword. My last strength
Brought me victory, parted the monster’s
Head from its’ shoulders. I fell also
Beside my enemy. Fearing that the demon
Lied, led me on to kill a monarch
Darkness was too fast upon us to let me see
What I had done

When next I woke, the day had risen
Bringing the tide to wash at my feet
Reaching to drown me, bring a useless
End to my quest. The light revealed
My new companion - Onela resotred
I meant to return him to Queen and kingdom
Four days remained to bring him home
I took from the beach, from the rising water
My sword, the beast’s head and the Swedish King
The first day’s journey was the lightest
Brought us nearly halfway home, the camp
We made was my first warm rest since
I left my ship. We did not stay long
Our fire was visited by the spiteful demon
Who’d not surrender, Her first spell broken
Her power weakened, unable to reach us
Except at night. Her magic set the trees
Against us, branches reaching to tear us apart
We could not fight the earth that shook
Twisted underneath our feet, nor hide
From the wind that carried her laughter, shrieking
Into our deafened ears. The dawn
Silencer her, stilled the cataclysm around us
Left us farther from our goal than when we first
Fled for our lives. We walked, each day
Towards Yrs, and each night ran,
Hoping to survive and lose no ground
On the dawn of the ninth day since
My leaving, we came at last to our hard-won goal -
Onela’s stronghold hung with mourning, sad tears
For a King thought lost and a dying Queen

Do not think her weak because she was dying
The wounded are strong thought their limbs
Will not bear them. Yrs’ heart bore
A grievous wound. Only will held off her doom
As best it could, kept her heart beating
Long enough to see Onela’s face
The King’s restoration was not a miracle, but
Yrs breathed though her pulse had stopped
Calling her life back into her lungs
With all her battered heart greeted her love

Onela was true to Yrs’ promise
Offered me gifts of jewels and armor
I refused, could take no repayment
For deeds I did in my Queen’s fair name
I send the token of my quest
Reward enough if it should please you