Lanz & Gwenhevre: Love Against the Tide

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Chapter XII: Fin’Amor

"Impleta sunt omnia, quae prophetice dicta sunt,
Ne viam remeantes aliam ne delatores
Tanti regis puniendi eritis. O regem coeli.
Te deum laudamus. Delusus es domine,
Magi viam redierunt aliam."

"Accomplished are the things said by the prophet.
But you return by another way,
Unless you inform the King of heaven, you'll be greatly punished. O Heavenly King!
We praise you! You are deceived, Master,
The Magi will return by another route."

Excerpt from the liturgical drama Infantem vidimus

At the approach of the harshest winter, it’s natural to emphasize fire and the wood that feeds it. Thus, in Waule, the Yule Log draws its origins from a rite linked to the celebration of the winter solstice. For Christmas at Saint-Coulomb, before leaving for Scotland on a sea voyage to Iceland, Lanz, Gwenhevre and their little daughter, Esperance, burn a large log which was to be consumed very slowly – for at least three days, but if possible, and ideally, until the Epiphany! This reminds Gwenhevre of that distant evening during Beletaine at Alain’s dapper cottage. At Saint-Coulomb, it’s an opportunity to bring together around the fireplace the three runaways.

In Waule, some rites associated with the Yule Log bring happiness for the coming year:

“If it be cut before sunrise and decorated with leaves and ribbons;”

“If it be blessed with a branch of boxwood kept since Palm Sunday;”

“If it produce many sparks in the fireplace, then it promises good harvests for the summer to follow;”

“If its ashes be kept year-round in the house, this protects against lightning, or even certain diseases.”

This reunion at the fireplace had followed an unusual quarrel between Gwenhevre and Lanz. Shortly after midnight, Gwenhevre returned to the rented chamber at the inn, her cheeks red, having hurried on foot through the snow in the village, and, on account of the passionate conversation she had had with the Scottish mariner about the freedoms of Icelandic women. Suddenly, from the shadows, Lanz appeared, holding Esperance tenderly, and the wooden baby-bottle he had warmed up.

Lanz pats the baby’s bottom, while passing her to Gwenhevre:

“Seignour Dieu, I’m glad thou art back at last.” he yawns, wriggling his shoulders like a man who had been carrying around a boulder.”

“Say, Gwen, the first thing in the morning, before we leave by boat, if it pleaseth thee, finish sewing my woolen shirt, I’d like…”

“Non!” interrupted Gwenhevre, placing the child on the bed, rejecting Lanz’s request. Then facing him, she straightened her shoulders.

“What’s bothering thee, Gwen – something thou heardest tonight in the village?”

Gwen detects a paternalistic tone. Rather than answer him, she turns her eyes away to avoid those of Lanz. Overwhelmed by the mess she was in – her rushed marriage with a pacifist man and her unwanted pregnancy, Gwenhevre beats her right fist against her thigh.

“Thou couldst at least have the decency to answer me,” said Lanz, “I do more than my share of tasks, so thou canst take part in thine external interests – and these damned meetings with the sailor make thee bitter and dissatisfied…”

Gwenhevre looks at Lanz, he could read anger in her tense pose. That makes Gwenhevre feel closer to Lanz. She stops beating her thigh.

“Lanz, dost thou remember the love story of Tristan and Isolde? I quote:”

‘Admittedly, I’m not cut from bad cloth, but lack self-control – weak, light-hearted, ill-advised, in fact, I’m downright impulsive, what a curse! Ah! Woman is bold to cover her shame…’

“Let me also quote this wicked perspective on Isolde,” interrupted Lanz:

‘There’s no bolder creature to do evil than a woman. She’s restive as a mule and loseth her senses when controlled by fear or desire!’

They both laughed and ended up kissing. Then, in the arms of Lanz, to have the last word, Gwenhevre adds:

“Love, I don’t want to sew before the cock croweth, I’d need to get up so early. Thou hast in travel bags two others from Alain’s wardrobe that will fit thee. Frankly, thou dost not like my going to these meetings so late – thou wantest to punish me for not giving the family all my time. Too bad, in the early morning, I’ll not sew thy shirt.”

In an angry tone, Lanz releases her and adds:

“What’s going on, Gwen? Thou art impossible, more concerned about politics in Iceland than caring for the family!” While drawing attention to the baby who began to moan, Lanz’s face flushes.

“Whom dost thou want to impress with thine ideas?”

“And thou, runaway pacifist!” she retorts. “Whom dost thou want to impress?”

“Come now, Gwen, we have an environment to maintain for Esperance!” Glancing at the child, Lanz continues:

“Thou dost nothing here in Saint-Coulomb to make our lives more harmonious. What dost thou want?”

Unattended in bed, Esperance starts bawling. Gwenhevre sighs, purses her lips, looking straight into the eyes of Lanz, the same way she did two years ago, telling the abbey nun she was leaving to lead an independent life. The nun had slapped her so hard that Gwenhevre fell to the ground, bruising the left cheek, her face numb three days, the mother superior calling her ‘imbecile’ for such ideas, before threatening her:

“Thou wilt end up a dirty whore at fifteen with no future. Stay at the abbey. Without parents, thou must remain cloistered. Learn to be more respectful and obey my orders!”

This Christmas before the flaming log, Gwenhevre sighs again. Then grimacing into the steel blue eyes of Lanz, she prepares for the slap imagined each time she opposes her husband, a reflex since the slap by the nun at Fontevraud.

Lanz picks up Esperance and rocks her, the baby calming down. Gwenhevre watches Lanz, unable to find the words to say.

“We’re unable to talk without quarrel,” says Lanz. “All we do is accuse each other. Thou art becoming more and more distant, but I still love thee madly.” Then, after a pause, “Dost thou love me, Gwen?”

“I’m tired of thy pacifism,” she replies, without emotion.

“Thou art tired.” said Lanz, trying to hide the pain caused by her remark. In order to cover the wound, Lanz conveys silently his passion for her:

“Scent of the other soul
Passes through moist skin of dew.
Just watching
Teases me into a rage –
Passion of a satyr.
Bare bodies on wet grass
Merge into one mass,
Radiant light of terrestrial stars.”

“To bed together, Gwen. At least blink, let me make you wiggle, my love doll. Up to the ferrule, my javelin is not used to make war but is ready to make love!”

“Thou wouldst like that,” she replied angrily, “wouldst rather have a doll – a wife without all her faculties.”

“Again? Canst thou cease to find fault with every word that leaveth my mouth?”

Gwenhevre turns away and leaves the room snell. Once outside, she feels a great weight removed, her heart beating very hard. Sitting indoors, Lanz cradles the child, smiling at her sleepy eyes:

“I’ll take care of my angel. One day thou wilt be somebody – I’m already proud of thee!”

My dear readers, what were they about, those conversations in the village with the Scotsman? Actually, Gwenhevre didn’t want to abandon her lucrative business in Waule, but Iceland tempted her – a new society without equal – but what’s the point of going there with a pacifist? Is he a real man – this defrocked monk? Without question, Lanz is the most loyal Amorous in the world, and his scent alone makes her head spin, but, after all, he’s only a crazy pacifist! She would make an effort – for a husband so handsome and faithful who can no longer talk to anyone else – without his voice – also to give all her love to Esperance, but especially for her chance to shine in the Republic.

The Scot in the village told her that the Alðing in Iceland is an open-air assembly on the Þingvellir plains in this unique nation – without a king, without a hereditary ruling class. Throughout Europe, no kingdom resembles this Republic! Since 930, the Alðing is a general assembly where the most powerful leaders come together to make legal decisions and do justice. With the passage of time, all free Icelanders can attend the assemblies which have become the main event of the year, pulling large crowds of peasants and their families, as well as parties involved in legal disputes, including merchants, artisans, minstrels and travelers.

Gwenhevre already imagines herself a star among the most powerful leaders in legal matters. Those attending the sessions stay in temporary camps called Búðir. The center of this meeting is the Lögberg, which means in Norse the ‘Law Rock’, a large stone on which the ‘Proclaimer of the Law’ takes his seat as the official president of the Assembly, and his responsibilities involve the reciting of laws and proclaming aloud procedural law to the participants.

My dear English readers, there are similar judicial assemblies in Waule, but they’re not on that level of equality. In Waule, this branch of government – called the parlement – is divided into thirteen regions. The thirteen parlements are purely judicial, sharing this power with the monarchy according to superior courts of justice, with three specialized chambers – the Grand Chamber; the Chamber of Queries; the Chamber of Inquiries. These parlements in Waule handle all matters of national interest, such as commercial worries and guild conflicts, as well as political issues. At times, with the support of the people, these parlements oppose the wishes of the kings of France, but more and more their kings want to regain the imperial power of Rome, while Iceland has already set up a republic that serves the people, without the privileges of a king. What pioneers in favor of the common people of Europe! Is it possible to believe such a republic really exists?

For example, at the Alðing, on this island less populous than the kingdom of France, both their legislature and judicial system operate in the open air. The Lögrétta, the legislative section of the assembly, is the most powerful institution, composed of thirty-nine leaders from the administrative districts, nine additional members, as well as the Proclaimer of the Law.

As the legislative branch of the Alðing, the Lögrétta takes a stand on legal conflicts, adopts new laws and grants exemptions to existing laws. But the Alðing also performs a judicial function and hears legal disputes, in addition to the spring assemblies held in each district. After the division of the country into four districts around 965, a court of thirty-six judges, called in Norse fjórðungsdómur, was established for each of the districts at the Alðing.

Another court was also founded at the beginning of the eleventh century, serving as a Supreme Court, taking on the function of hearing cases not resolved by other courts. This Supreme Court in Iceland consists of forty-eight judges appointed by the leaders of the Lögrétta.

Dear readers, what’s the political future of Europe – this republican model from Iceland or the imperial monarchy of France – an egalitarian, Icelandic society or a French-styled, bellicose oligarchy?

We shall see, we shall see…

Gradually, the Wauleis are becoming more and more Romanized Frenchmen; on the other hand, they’re less and less druidic and Germanic. The Roman Revolution is advancing fiercely across this continent, reinforcing an irresistible imperialist identity! What a pity!

As a reliable chronicler, to whom should I pledge allegiance, while completing this narrative about our two Amorous – either to the formerly tribal Waule, so close to Mother Nature, or to this new France, so urbanized and imperialistic? Who runs after two hares at the same time, catches none. So, I confess that my long sojourns in Bretaigne and Bourgogne opened my eyes to the mysteries of the universe – materially and spiritually. Since my return to Colchester, no doubt, I have become a changed man. I believe in the very obvious magic in Brec’h-Elian and in the Morvand. I saw with my own eyes the power of fairies that absolutely influence the destiny of man. My dear readers, seeing is believing!

To be forever fleeing, isn’t that the condition of everyone persecuted across the land? Escaping from thamoric terror, with Gwenhevre and Esperance, our defrocked monk imagined himself the weakest link in Christendom. These verses constantly tormented him, identifying himself with Judas, having betrayed his master Columban:

“Twelve men at his side,
Crossing the desert for his belief.

Who really shares his footsteps?
How many will go mad without relief?
But all are chosen with Love.
In the same way, they stumble,

Repelling each other.
– O, Judas!
We all run the risk.
It doth not matter who’s chosen.

A full purse may justify
New visions, a new beginning.
Survival is relative when Love nourisheth only the spirit.

Lips puckered against a cheek and
The Embrace of the Amorous
Will make him blush with shame;
His black lips, a kiss of death,
Smothering the dream of dreams.”

Before returning to the maritime departure from Saint-Coulomb to Iceland, allow me to explain the wonderful use of Lanz’s magic wands, including the two still to be used – thanks to Alain’s intervention across the courtine. Let’s not forget that Lanz used the first one immediately to cure his own throat and that of Gwenhevre, while he lost his voice with that one, in order to be silent during their flight. As for the second wand, if we return to the city of Avallon, we shall no longer see the castle of the past. It exists no more today – no trace of it – because of Alain’s enchantment.

Dear readers, imagine the difference, all night-time pleasures of Avallon’s bel monde no longer exist, where each evening, board games were played with such gaiety that one forgot the darkness of the serpentine. Young and old sires loved to play dice, la mine, chess and checkers. In this sumptuous room, the ceiling adorned with golden studs and beautiful paintings, there were magnificent planks on the floor with ivory-carved pieces – the bishop with his miter, the knight fighting a dragon. In this great hall, one passed from one game to another without hurrying, without jostling – courtesy obliged!

Then, the second wand put an end to these leisure activities. In the forest, while in a trance, the Amorous d’Avallon had thrown the second into the flowing serpentine, intercepted by Bele at the Dragon bridge, from which she transported it straight into Roussel’s hand, he, asleep in the Estree d’Avallon, she, depositing the wand, along with the three stolen bougetes from the treasury of Bevres. Do they still love each other – these two – yes, madly!

When Roussel awoke, having dreamed of Bele, he scribbled with the wand on the dusty cobblestones – “I love thee more than my life!” At the same moment as this avowal of Love, the Castel d’Avallon disappeared with its occupants. Some witnesses say that Merlin intervened, while others insist that it was Alain. Those who believe that it was the magic of Merlin claim that Thamory and his minions now occupy the former palace of Viviane at the Val-sans-Retour in Brec’h-Elian, but those who claim that it was Alain, they believe that Thamory and his Knights are prisoners for eternity in the depths of the Baulme-des-Wauldins.

These druidic relationships between Bourgogne and Bretaigne are undeniable with Merlin’s intervention in these two countries. Since his return from the Morvand, the Enchanter lives in the forest of Brec’h-Elian with Viviane la Fee. To make their passion grow, Viviane no longer locks him in a stone prison, but rather they dwell in an enormous lodge without exit. It will be a game for the two to free themselves from this hut, but they joyfully accept this captivity together.

And how about – the third enchanted wand? Let’s go back to Lanz and Gwenhevre’s sea voyage – this will explain the magic power of the third wand.

At the moment when the fugitives reached the coast of Scotland, they had traveled a long time, and their provisions had diminished to nothing. At that moment, there was no foreshore in sight, nothing but sheer cliffs in gigantic splinters of rock. Lanz broke the third and last wand in two, holding one of the two pieces in his right hand, waving it vigorously, his eyes closed. The sails of the boat began to swell with a gust sent from the other side of the curtain, accompanied by a superhuman voice:

Aballo, aballo, aballo!

Three days and nights, the Scottish mariner continued to skirt the coast, finding no safe landing to look for food, but by the third morning, a cluster of apples had already grown on the broken butt of the wand, and these apples sufficed to feed the crew, so that they could leave Escoce, cross the sea, and reach Islande.

During the blast of wind, Lanz and Gwenhevre recognized Alain’s voice:

“Come listen through the tear
Melting wider
That separates us.
May conjugal joy bless you,
Burning brightly
With your smiles.
The touch between you
More alive than lingering looks.”

Here, once again, Alain’s intervention to the rescue of our Amorous!

Like the herring rushing to the lure, suspecting nothing till its capture, Lanz hastened to love Gwenhevre, and, likewise, Gwenhevre fell head over heals for the wild woodsman. Do they not flame hotter than the Yule Log, unable to free their spirits from Love, who detains them and enchains them?

At last, our Amorous arrive safe and sound in Iceland!

What a land of paradoxes and novelties – icebergs, deserts, volcanoes, hot springs – with remarkable creatures, such as the noble gyrfalcon and the comic puffin, with his clown’s beak, resembling a penguin, but he can fly! On this island of fire and ice, situated between Greenland and Europe, volcanoes erupt under glaciers and black deserts surround fields so green.

Legend has it that a magician swam to Iceland in the shape of a whale, hoping to put the island under his magical spell, but when he reached its rocky shores, he abandoned his plan once he discovered the island inhabited by spirits ready to defend their precious green meadows, ice caps, and high mountains.

On account of the mountainous lava desert and glacial terrain of the interior, almost all Icelanders live on the coast. Iceland is located geographically north-west of Scotland, settled around 870 – there, where a legislature of free men was established in 930. Settlers from Europe in the ninth century were surprised to find a landscape of lava flows, steaming vents, roaring waterfalls – a scene more lunar than terrestrial, more rugged than la montaigne in Bretaigne – the whole island a battlefield of Nordic gods. Sometimes the Icelandic mountains breathe fire and belch smoke, as happens at Mount Lakagigas, smothering farm animals with toxic clouds, and, with so much ash in the air, dark skies last weeks and weeks.

Dear readers, you know that I like words and geysir derives from a spring in the southwest of the island, where the ground water, heated to extreme temperature, explodes in jets of water to several hundred feet!

On the island, volcanic fire competes with glacial forces. Glaciers abound in steep masses that make their tracks by carving deep and narrow valleys, and after being dug, these valleys were flooded by the sea. The largest glacier is called the Vatnajokull. Icelanders also boast of a very powerful waterfall – the Gullfoss, or in English, the ‘Golden Falls’.

Even dwellings differ from those in Waule. The Icelandic turf house has a base of flat stones, on which one builds a wooden frame that holds the load of turf. Turf blocks go up around the frame, often with a second layer in herringbone style, quite the fashion. The only wood used in the outer part of the house is the door, often decorative, leading to one room with its large central fire, serving as heating and lighting. Then, the floor of the dwelling is often a wooden floor, sometimes of stone or simply dirt.

Lanz was very impressed to find in these houses thermal baths, in large groupings with toilets, which pleased greatly Lanz who loves to bathe. No prompting is necessary for our ‘Bourbon’ to get naked shamelessly in a communal bath! On the other hand, in Waule, even if bathrooms are not inside the house, the Wauleis have the habit of bathing. For example, there are public baths – in Avallon as in Paris – where people often take two baths a day. So, in Iceland, Lanz already felt at ease and at home – despite the cold!

It took more time for Gwenhevre to adapt to the Nordic setting. She missed Waule’s climate and urban life. Knowing this, Lanz conveyed his thoughts to her without speaking, while trying to seduce her:

“Flat on thy back, far from voices,
Wait till caresses of wind lift thee
One moment from the gravity of being
A biped who playeth badly at country life.
Far from haggard faces,
Wait for clouds to separate

To make a marbled sky, full of sunshine,

Lighting thy smile as it scattereth aloft.
Far from the usual sight
Of a city full of cruel deeds,
Thou risest as usual,

Seeing stars.
In this pasture, thou, well shod,
Wait till thou canst break the spell
To walk back into a crowd,
Amazed thou likest best this procession.”

Where, then, will Lanz and Gwenhevre settle in Iceland? Here’s a hint.

Sailors have always been guided by light signals on hills. Raising the level of the fire improves visibility. Therefore, placing fires onto platforms became a practice that led to the development of the ‘lighthouse’. Lighthouses function as an entry marker to ports for guiding ships.

Similar to the French word guide or its variant wide, a ‘lighthouse’ in Norse is called ‘viti’ from which comes the term girwete or wirewete for the device in Normandy that indicates the wind direction. The Vikings in Normandy spoke Norse from generation to generation, enriching the French language with more expressions of Norse origin – acre; bidon; bigot; bitte; braise; crike; dalle; eslaguer; eskiper; flaner; gaber; wiket; hanter; harneis; heler; houle; joli; mare; marsouin; navrer; kille (nautical); regret; rogue; sigler; targe; vague; varech; windas and much more than that!

Lanz and Gwenhevre decided not to stay in the village, despite the friendly community, but rather to remain near the relative warmth of the harbor, where an old abandoned – but still robust – lighthouse stood. The tower attracted them like a beacon of hope from the first visit.

That day, they remained in sight of the sea on the path to the lighthouse. Then Lanz shouted:

“Look over there – fog on the horizon!”

Lanz was the first to notice the ocean shrinking towards the harbor as a sea wall approached at a rapid pace, until only its grey face could be seen rolling along the coast, dissolving all objects – boats; cliffs; trees; turf houses – into fading images of an afternoon reverie. Crackling gravel underfoot softened as this wall hit them on the right side – all sounds reduced to whispers.

Lanz touched his sun-warmed left shoulder, still hot, though the sun had vanished. Then he felt his right shoulder cooling in the swiftly-moving damp air of the fog. All these rapid changes in weather agitated Lanz’s imagination and clouded his mind. Standing in this indeterminate state, between sunlight and hazy mist, Lanz, shivering, seized his wife’s hand:

“Art thou cold, ma chere?”

“Non, but where is it? It’s strange to hear waves crashing and not see the sea.”

Lanz let go of Gwenhevre’s hand and added:

“There it is!”

His face was shining as he saw the half-visible tower, and when he reached it, he pressed his palms against its smooth, damp stones, still warm to the touch. Lanz found it solitary and reliable, beautiful and generous.

Finding their new home together made two hearts beat faster. In this fog they opened wide eyes and their ears straightened, taking deliberate and cautious steps. The lighthouse offered them solace and shelter. It’s at the lighthouse, at that moment, that Lanz took the rest of Alain’s wand and planted it next to the tower. At this tower, Lanz and Gwenhevre would rebuild their married life and a more peaceful future for Esperance.

Opening the door to inspect the interior, Lanz says to Gwenhevre:

“Neither the sun nor the sea looks at me in the face. If I have to choose between honorable duty and our pleasure, I opt for my dishonor.”

“Bel sire, thou art the least coherent pacifist of all. I have only one desire – thou – from head to foot. Lanzelot – baise-moi!”

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