This week's challenge was to write about a random character. I got "A seasoned trobiaritz is trying to get a date". After some browsing via Wikipedia I discovered a trobiaritz was a female troubadour, in the 12th and 13th century, in Occitan. Which is, and was both a region and a language in southern France, as well as part of Spain and Italy. I decided at that time'seasoned' would be any unmarried woman over 25, and dating, being pre-Tinder, pre any social media, might be a challenge. Mine took a while to get going on, but is okay. It's 995 words, just under the limit of 1000.
Maria felt doomed to be single forever. She sighed as she helped her younger sister try on her wedding dress.
"Sophia, in ten years it will be the 13th century, you will have children, and I will still be moping around father’s court, boring people with my poetry."
Her sister laughed. "Maria, everyone loves your work, you are the best trobairitz in all of Occidan. Your love songs and poems are famous as far as Paris and Madrid. As for being single, you need to come to more of my parties and meet people. You will charm the best of them."
Maria had to admit she could charm if she wanted. But with many men off on the Pope’s Holy Wars, there were few men around Avignon that met her definition of being eligible, of being worth the effort. She was pretty, but most of them saw her as owning land, healthy enough at 26 to raise many sons, and with a quaint writing hobby.
"I’ll try," she said. "But your wedding, and your 15th birthday, are only months away. I’d at least like to meet up with someone, just myself and him, and do something romantic together. I feel smothered with all those men buzzing around like flies in my vineyards."
She repeated the same story to Guido that afternoon as they worked at trimming vines. They had grown up together on the estate, working in the vineyards, playing in the forest, and swimming in the nearby Mediterranean. Now she was at the court, and he managed the property, but they remained good friends. Just friends, she reminded herself, as he rinsed off with a dipper of cool water.
"I don’t think you need to be casting that wide a net," he said. "At least be more selective. Use your poetry to entice someone, it’s one of your best features. Aim at your prey."
She smiled. "Great idea. As always, a friend with benefits—you’re a muse for my poetry too." She blushed at the idea of other benefits. "I’d, ah, I’d better get back to the chateau and start writing."
After only a few days, she’d almost finished her poem, a conversation between a man and a woman on what they wanted in a relationship. She hoped a discerning suitor would see below the surface. Guido was a big help in helping her polish the phrases, so that it would tease and amuse, and remain subtle.
"It’s ready," he said. "Stop fussing and present it at Sophia’s party tomorrow. Let me know if you hook anything."
At the party, Sophia accompanied her on the lute, and watched the crowd carefully.
"There were the usuals, some appreciative, some bored because it wasn’t about them. But one or two seemed to be particularly interested."
The next day Maria received an invitation from a Francois, Count of Aquaine, for a walk in the garden. It was phrased as a poem, and praised her own work in detail, admiring its subtlety, wit, and directness. She considered replying in turn with a poem, but decided face to face was better.
Their first meeting went so well, she immediately reported success to Guido.
"Great idea, my friend," she said. "We will see each other again tomorrow. He is quite handsome and charming. I quite enjoy his flattery of my work, too. I’m so glad we share a literary interest."
Guido gave a small smile. "Well done, Maria. Best of luck."
On their next meeting, a stroll through the farmers’ market, things did not go so well. Maria was working on another poem, and hoped her new friend could help her with it.
"It’s as a debate," she said. "After a suitor has wooed a woman, and she has accepted his plea, should he now be her equal or does he continue to act as servant to her?"
"There’s nothing to debate," he said. "She obviously would be subservient to him, now that his wooing is over and done with. It’s served its purpose."
Maria just stopped and stared at him. "But there still could be debate between people on this. That’s why I write, not just to amuse and entertain people, but to encourage them to think."
"After we are married, it won’t matter anyway," he said. "No more time for silliness. I’ll be busy here managing our vineyards. And you will be too busy raising a family to indulge in this cute little pastime."
He cupped her chin in his hand, but she pulled away. "I’d like to finish my shopping myself. Ask my father to send a horse for me."
"Will you be safe?" said Francois. "Here with all these farmers?" His lip curled. "These common tradespeople?"
"Some of my best friends are commoners, as you call them," she said. "Please, leave me."
When she returned to the chateau, Francois was not there.
"Are you okay?" asked Sophia. "Francois stormed in like a thundecloud, ordered his servants to pack, and was gone within the hour. He said he’d made a mistake, that he was too good for you. Idiot. Have you told Guido yet?"
"I can’t, he’ll just tease me for being an old fool."
Sophia laid a hand on Maria’s arm. "You know better than that. He’s always been there for you. Go."
Sophia was right. Guido listened carefully, then hugged her. She was surprised when she put her head on his shoulder and started to cry. "I’m sorry," she said. She tried to pull away. "It just all fell apart. What’s wrong with me?"
He continued to hold her, stroking her hair. "Don’t worry, Maria, it’s not you. I asked around. One of his servants, that quiet older one, is apparently a bit of a poet. He’s the author of that response to your poem. Francois has fallen on hard times and was attracted to your vineyards more than anything."
She looked up. "Really? Oh, I feel a bit better now. That scoundrel." She paused, then stroked his shoulder. "But they are really our vineyards, Guido."