He’d written their story every way but the way it actually happened and now with a fifth century without her slipping away into another millennium, Talesin, teller of tales, decided to tell the truth.
The misdirecting ballads and epic romances full of adventure and magic began innocently, born as it was from a need to conceal their strange near immortality, a gift that was less a liability in the beginning than it was now. She had loved the names he chose for her. Grainne. Isolde. Guinevere. But she wearied of the distortion of the facts in short order and the way Talesin fused their love to the ideals of the era and area until it was twisted and wrung out of shape.
In particular she loathed the round table and Camelot, story elements of which he was particularly proud.
“Lancelot?” she raged. “Was he that foppish priest in Calais? The one who leered at me over a consecrated host no less? He’s the best model of virtue you can manage? Robbie’s head would explode if he knew, and still had a head, and was ever all that virtuous. Sometimes your inspirations leave me to wonder if we share the same memories at all.”
She’d refused his bed for weeks after she’d finished reading the orginal draft, but Talesin refused to change a word. It was his first book. He’d never seen a book, but the bible. His own tale, penned finely and bound in a soft leather with his name on it was not something he would forego for anyone. Even her. A real book that acknowledged him as storyteller
“It’s not even your real real name,” she’d reminded him, but he didn’t care.
The book placed them in good stead in the French court and garnered the admiration of the Queen, who took them with her when she finally left Francois. The time they’d spent with the Duchess in her native Aquitaine proved Talesin’s most fertile writing period, but she scoffed at the shallowness of it all.
“When was I ever rendered wet to the knees by bad poetry sung off key?” she said with that snicker-like giggle and a toss of her thick red mane.
He shared her views of the Duchess’s ideas about men and women but needed the patronage, and it wasn’t safe for them to return to Britain. There were still others. They were too well remembered.
She had the last laugh when the Duchess ran off to the soggy isle with that rakish Plantagenet heir.
“She’ll get precious little adoration and devotion from that one,” she said.
Talesin said nothing. He liked Duchess and hoped young Duke could fashion a grown woman out of someone so determined to be a maid, in spirit if not in fact. It had long since occurred to him that his Lady’s infatuation with chaste love was yet another method humans used to slow time or turn it back. And when the romance fizzled so famously, she had said,
“It must bring Eleanor no end of joy to be the living embodiment of one of her insipidly tragic ballads.”
She left the century after. Talesin was in prison when she was taken ill and missed her passing. Imprisonment was a writer’s fate from time to time in those days. He envied her freedom. While his was a corporeal body almost without end, hers was a soul that repeated intact from one body to the next.
To make it easy for him to find her, she would select the region – sometimes even the family – of her next incarnation well in advance of her death, and he would wait for her to be reborn and mature again. During her absences he would spin their union and adventures into fanciful stories that only she would recognize as true.
But she had not returned to him, or at all as far as he could tell. Even those rare times when death had snatched her unexpectedly with reunion plans not yet made, Talesin had been able to find her. She’d warned that she would not join him again unless he told their story. The truth with all its secrets and pain and plainness. But he had refused. She’d always come back to him.
“We’re quits then,” she whispered into his ear the last time he saw her. ” I want to hear the truth from your inky tongue. Read it on a page in your words. I am done with the recycling of lies.”
The screen was blank. The keyboard silky under his finger pads as they drew absent circles waiting for his words. He wondered what to call their story. A story that only by accident came to include her, he had pointed out once, and he should be able to recount it as he liked.
“Always the magician, eh, Merlin?” she questioned. “Illusions and sleights are the tools of wizards and writers?”
“The feelings are always true,” he’d said in his own defense.
“Weighted like kittens in a sack,” was her reply.
“I’m a storyteller,” he said.
“That’s for certain.”
Talesin caressed the qwerty and began.