Gisborne cont’d…

To those who’ve been reading Gisborne as it appeared on the blog, I thought you might like to see how its changing as it travels through its first edit. The first thing to notice is that the story now begins right when Ysabel first meets Guy of Gisborne at the time she receives news of her mother’s death. That convoluted back and forth style of previously has now been replaced by a plain linear narrative.

By way of comparison, I also include the opening of the rough draft.

Which do you like best?

 The first edit of the second draft:

‘I dwell by dale and downe,’ quoth Guye,

and I have done many a curst turne;

and he that calles me by my right name

Calles me Guye of good Gysborne.’ Child Ballad #118


‘And all shall be well, and all shall be well,

and all manner of thing shall be well.’ Julian of Norwich


Chapter One


 The parchment rolled back upon itself. Looking down at it, it reminded me of the Death Rolls so beloved of our troubadours. Even last evening, before this packet of doom had arrived to change my life beyond measure, Passebru of Sologne had plucked a name from his roll and had sung the virtues of the deceased knight written thereon. Not to be outdone, Linnette de Grismond, the trovairitz they call The Linnet, sang of Isolde of Nevers, a woman whose attributes had the men sighing and the women crying. As I stared at the hateful piece of parchment I wish they had chosen the name Alaïs de Montrachet, a beauty who was my mother, a cousin twice removed from Eleanor of Aquitaine. The Lady Alaïs deserved to be lauded by the troubadours across the land because Eleanor had thought her a jewel beyond measure and had not been happy to give the hand of one of her favourite ladies to my father. He was Joffrey of Moncrieff, an English baron and the man who had sent the parchment which lay before me.

It was my family’s habit from when I was born, to make the arduous journey to Aquitaine once yearly so that Alaïs could enjoy the southern climes and renew her interest in the arts and the troubadour traditions which were so well developed in the domain. And of course to meet with our Montrachet cousins.

Joffrey loved Aquitaine and would sink himself deep in the mountainous society of his wife’s family. I sometimes wonder if he preferred it to Moncrieff which is far northeast of London, as flat as a trencher of bread and surrounded by the blurred edges of the fens and marshes.  On the slightly higher ground, Moncrieff had valuable pasture and its forests were sought after for reputable hunting. Moncrieff Castle itself was considered a well-appointed place and my mother filled it with acquisitions from Aquitaine, my father’s purse strings always open. He was a loved man… ingenuous but loved.

When I turned twelve, my mother sent me to Aquitaine to join the slightly fractured courts that existed between Queen Eleanor’s frequent imprisonments. Everyone knows what she suffered with King Henry’s tantrums; it is more than idle gossip. For myself, in Aquitaine I enjoyed the Montrachet atmosphere and whilst I became sophisticated and educated in the courtly style which was what my mother intended, I missed the pale colours of my home – the mystic trees and reed-frilled fens, the forests that wrapped around me and whispered legends in my ear.

Despite such longings, at fifteen I was ‘finished’ and becoming objectionable. By twenty, and still in Aquitaine, I was bored. Worse, I was unmarried. No man would have me because I was sharp, opinionated and as accomplished as all of them at hawking, archery, poetry . . . even gambling. I was every man’s best friend but most definitely not their lover.

Each year Alaïs would arrive at the beginning of the English winter and she would find her daughter a little more polished. At eighteen, I was concerned when an ague kept her at Moncrieff. At nineteen, I fretted that a further ailment kept her from Aquitaine. At twenty, a messenger’s packet informed me my lady mother, Alaïs of Moncrieff, had died.

That solitary piece of parchment crackled when I opened it and I angled it to the light at the window. ‘To Ysabel, Lady Moncrieff, my daughter,’ it read. ‘It is with sadness that I inform you of the death of your loved and adored mother, Alaïs de Montrachet-Moncrieff. It was signed in my father’s name with his seal and dated eight weeks previous. As the writing blurred and I held hard to the stone window sill, some rational part of my mind thought that in eight weeks my mother had died, been buried and had a mass said for her soul every day whilst I sang, danced, hunted and gamed with my Montrachet cousins and friends. My heart ached with the tawdriness of it all and I found I was weeping, the tears leaving blots upon the green cut velvet of my kirtle. I glanced at the packet again, in the hope there would be more words… something, anything. But my father had sent no message of comfort or orders for my future and I was bereft. I drifted around the Montrachet demesnes in a dark and distant mood because I adored my beautiful mother and had lost my way with no one to show me the path back…

The rough first draft:

Chapter one

My knees hurt.  The floor was overly large, stretching too far in four directions before my eyes.  Why did it need washing?  I had swept it, concentrating on the corners where the dust would lie and I had wiped away the footprints left by a pair of boots worn in the wet.

But it was an imperative… the floor must be clean. So I collected the cloths, filled the bucket with warm water and began at the furthest corner.  As I worked, I allowed my head to drift to better things.  Walking in a leafy wood with two dogs at my heels, listening to the birds, free from care and worry.

My knees pained and I pushed myself up for a moment to ease them and in so doing knocked the bucket of water which spread across the floor in a dirty stain and I could almost hear the shouted comment. ‘Stupid.  Clean it up.  Now!’

I began again and resolved to eat my dinner off the floor because surely it would be clean enough.  I reversed on my knees to the kitchen door, dragging the cloths and the pail, swearing under my breath, raising a hand to push falling hair away from a sweaty forehead.

A  deep voice spoke.  ’You do not answer your door, Lady?’

I crawled around like some invalid to face my interlocutor.  He looked down at me, his wild hair lying on his collar, his black leather tunic and hose the mark of a greater house than the one in which I currently sat on my haunches.

I stood.  My heart beat enough to make the fabric in my shirt tremble I was sure.  ‘Sir?’ I looked down at his toes rather than at his face… (The rest of this first rough draft is posted on the Gisborne page if you wish to read it there)

*** Would love your comments about the two openings and thank you…

(Images all from BBC/Tiger Aspect Productions.)