Disclaimer: I do not own the legend of Tristan and Iseult. Yes, this is based on the legend in Sir Thomas Malory's Le Morte d'Athur and not the movie!
My name is Tristan, and I am an orphaned child. I never knew who my parents were, but they must have had a tragic death. This I know, because my name means "child of sorrow."
I am seventeen years old, and I have been training to be a knight ever since I was seven. Cornwall, the kingdom in which I live, is in great danger. The ruler of the kingdom, King Mark, was once a just ruler; that is, until his wife, Queen Iseult, disappeared one day and never returned. No one knows exactly why. Some say that his wife went to a distant land and never returned, while others say that she died from drinking poison.
Sometimes, I wish that I could approach the King of Cornwall and speak with him. He has inflicted so much danger upon our kingdom. For example, his guards roam the street, ready to punish anyone who insults the king, peasants have inadequate homes and starve in the winter, and he calls on many battles, which tears apart the entire city.
I cannot approach the king with my status as a squire. The king will not let an orphan who has no idea of who his parents were speak with him. Even though I am going to be a knight, the king would push me from his castle. I am tall at 5' 10", but am also very thin. I have thick curly black hair, and pale skin. Although I may look weak, I am actually one of the strongest knights in my school, so says my master.
The story begins as I am finishing the last stages of becoming a knight, and I meet with my master, Sir Matthew.
"Tristan, most men don't finish their training as a knight until they are eighteen years of age. Ever since I met you when you were just a boy of seven, I knew you had the greatest potential to become a noble knight. As a result, you passed through your tests quickly, and here you are now, seventeen and preparing to be dubbed," Sir Matthew said.
"I know. But, I still haven't completed my final test," I said.
"No, you have not. For you, I've thought of something," he said.
"What might that be?" I asked.
"Every squire is given a task that seems almost nearly impossible to complete as his final test. As your final test, I want you to learn the truth of Queen Iseult. I know that this is difficult, but you seem to be the kind of man that will succeed," Sir Matthew said.
I sat back and sighed.
"How will I ever succeed with that mission?" I desperately wanted to become a knight, and it would be very foolish to turn down the mission. But how could I begin this task without knowing where to begin? I took a deep breath.
"I accept the challenge," I said.
"Very well, Tristan. Meet me here tomorrow morning and I will give you your instructions. Tomorrow is the day you will begin," the knight said. He then opened the door for me to leave.
"Wait. . .I'm leaving tomorrow?" I asked.
"Yes. A true knight never lingers. I'm giving you enough time to say your final goodbyes this evening. Good day," he said as he pushed me out the door.
I decided to take the long route through the village on the way back to my stall. This was my last chance to walk through the town, and I wanted to say goodbye to a few people. I greeted everyone I knew as I walked through the village.
"Good day to you, Tristan. Do you need any fresh fruit?" the woman selling fruit said.
"No, but I thank you," I said as I bowed.
"Oh, isn't he such a gentleman? He has been taught well," the fruit woman said to another woman.
"I think that he is naturally kind. Any young maiden would be lucky to meet him, for he is the ideal knight and husband I assure you," the woman said.
I smiled as I walked away. Most of the elderly woman in the town said this about me. As I continued walking, I saw the person that I was looking for.
"Rosetta," I said softly as I walked behind her. The young maiden looked up, and her face brightened.
"Tristan! How was your meeting with Sir Matthew?" she asked. Rosetta linked her arm in mine, and we began to walk.
I met Rosetta a very long time ago, back when I began my training as a page, when I was seven. We used to talk to each other and play games in the street when Sir Matthew sent me to the village to buy food. Rosetta and I became instant friends, but it wasn't until recently that I actually fell in love with her. This was when I asked if I could be her knightly protection and she accepted.
There was only one problem; I loved Rosetta, but I wasn't sure if she loved me. I feared that she merely thought me as a very good friend instead of her knight. For the longest time, I have wanted to propose to her, but I had to wait until I had more money after I became I knight. I would be a foolish knight if I married and didn't have the money I needed to support a family.
I sighed and said, "Very good. I need to go on a mission to complete my knightly training," I said.
"What kind of a mission is it?" Rosetta asked. Her beautiful blue eyes seemed to pierce through my heart every time she spoke.
"I have to learn the truth of what became of Queen Iseult," I said. I heard her catch her breath.
"When will you be leaving?" she asked. We had arrived at her front door.
"I better leave you here now," I said.
"No, my family can wait. Let us a take a walk through the woods," she said.
"Yes, if you insist," I said.
As we walked, I told her everything Sir Matthew had told me.
"Oh Tristan, I can't believe that you're going to be dubbed already! It doesn't seem that long ago when you first came here to be a page," Rosetta said.
I sighed. I remembered all the years we had spent together, and I would have to leave for a long time. Rosetta leaned her head against my shoulder as we gazed at the sunset.
"Rosetta, there is only one problem. I don't know where I'm supposed to being with this mission," I said.
"Well, you must speak with Sir Matthew. Surely he will tell you exactly what you must do," Rosetta said.
"Easier said than done. Besides, this isn't the mission I want to embark on," I said.
"What is it that you seek?" she asked.
Her voice sounded so sweet and innocent, but she already knew my answer.
"You know, Rosetta. I seek to learn the truth of my parents. I don't have the slightest idea of who they were. By my name, I have guessed that they are dead, and they must have been noble, since I am becoming a knight," I said.
"If that is what you wish, then you must be the one to fulfill it, Tristan. You must retrace your steps from when you first came here. Where did you live before you became a page?" she asked.
"I lived in a monastery ten miles from this village," I said.
"Really? Was it the monastery of Benedictine monks?" she asked.
"Yes. They raised me until I was sent away," I said.
"I've been there before. My family and I took a pilgrimage a few years ago. Did you ever ask them how you arrived?" Rosetta asked.
I thought for a moment. "Since I was young, they never told me the exact truth. They would always say that God sent me to the doorstep one cold night. However, someone must have brought me," I said.
"Tristan, you are a man now. You must return to the monastery and ask the monks of your past, and who brought you to them. It is the only way you'll find who your parents were. Before you leave tomorrow, ask Sir Matthew if you can speak with the monks. It may be your last chance," Rosetta said. She was now looking into my eyes.
"I know, Rosetta," I said. She placed her hand in mine.
"I know you're not thrilled about this quest, but this is probably the best time to embark on it," she said.
"Why?" I asked.
"King Mark is more desperate then ever wanting to know what happened to his wife, Queen Iseult. He has a great reward of money ready for anyone who finds the evidence for him. Perhaps if he knows the truth, Cornwall will be a safer place," Rosetta said.
"Knowing the truth or not won't make Cornwall any safer. King Mark is a bloodthirsty tyrant," I said.
"Tristan, according to the villagers, King Mark was once a kind and generous ruler before his wife mysteriously left. Unfortunately, we've only known the bloodthirsty King Mark," she said.
I snorted. I still wasn't convinced, even though Rosetta tried to cheer me up. Rosetta sat on the ground, and I took a seat next to her. She then rested her head on my shoulder.
"I hope you're to gone too long. I'll miss you, Tristan," she said.
"I'll come back for you. I've always kept my promises, haven't I?" I asked.
She nodded. I then realized that this was the perfect opportunity to tell her about my feelings for her.
"There is something that I've been meaning to tell you, Rosetta," I said.
She looked frightened at first. I could tell by the look in her face that she knew what I was going to ask. Rosetta simply wasn't ready for me to speak of marriage.
"Yes, what is it, Tristan?" she asked.
"We have known each other for ten years. Every year, I feel as if we have become closer. But it wasn't until I asked to be your knight when my feelings changed," I said.
She was beginning to sweat. "Yes?" she asked weakly.
"I'm afraid that I may never see you again after my journey. Since I must embark soon, I want you to know that I love you-"
"Tristan! Stop!" Rosetta yelled. She stood up.
"Have I hurt you in any way?" I asked.
"No, it's just that, I'm not ready for this. My parents tell me continuously that I am sixteen and am not married. My father has even arranged for me to meet suitors he has chosen. They don't understand that I don't want to marry right now," Rosetta said.
"What is it that you seek?" I asked.
"I've always wanted to go on an adventure of some sort. I've always wanted to change the mind of King Mark. I would love to be the one to learn the truth of his wife. Unlike yourself, I have an idea of what may have happened to her," she said.
"What?" I asked.
"A few years ago, my father hired a scribe named Balrid to work for him. When I was cleaning the house one day, I found a sheet of parchment he accidentally left behind. It said that the queen had returned to her home of Brittany after her marriage, and wasn't seen for a long time after. This could be a clue to what happened to her," Rosetta said.
"Brittany? That means you'd have to travel to France, Rosetta. Tell me, did this scribe seem trustworthy? How would he know more about the queen's disappearance than King Mark himself?" I asked.
"Tristan, Balrid is very trustworthy. I had asked him questions, and I came to learn that he was always right. I have thought of what I read about Queen Iseult for a long time. There is a theory I have come up with," Rosetta said.
"What might that be?" I asked.
"I believe that King Mark does know what happened to Queen Iseult. I know that he loved her, but his grief is probably over her death," she said.
"If that were the case, then it doesn't make any sense. Let's say that King Mark truly knows. Why would he want people to go on a mission to find the truth and reward them?" I asked.
"Oh Tristan! Why must you always ask questions like these?" Rosetta asked. I was only being realistic, and she would always get upset when I wanted the truth.
"There is one thing that the king does not know, and this I know for sure," Rosetta said.
"Now, what is that?" I asked.
"During her marriage, something terrible happened to Queen Iseult. No one knows, but she always seemed attracted to another man, although she loved King Mark. It is said that she had an affair with one of his knights, and she had a child. This union wasn't her fault, or the knight's, either. They were both under some sort of spell it seemed. King Mark wants to find the child, Tristan. This is the mission," Rosetta said.
"It's starting to sound better than before. I believe that you know much about the queen, Rosetta, and you can succeed. But, it is improper for a young maiden like you to travel alone. You must have an escort," I said.
"Even though you're my knight, I cannot go until you finish your final training," she said.
"I know. Going on a mission like that would be dangerous for you, Rosetta. I just want you to be safe. After I become I knight, we will have many adventures together," I said.
She nodded her head. "Yes, that is fair enough," she said.
"Then, I must prepare for my mission tomorrow. Come, I will walk you back home," I said.
Again, she linked her arm in mine, and we walked away. Once I brought her to her home, I looked at her for a moment. Even though it was dark, I could still see her fair white skin and brown hair. Like always, her blue eyes could pierce through any darkness. She was much shorter than I, her head barely reaching my shoulder. No matter, I still thought she was beautiful, especially tonight, one of the last times I would see her for a period of time.
She stepped away from me for a moment and held the folds of her skirt.
"So, is this when we must say goodbye?" Rosetta asked.
"Yes. I will see you as soon as I can, Rosetta. But now, goodbye, and good luck with everything. I hope all goes well when you meet your suitors," I said.
She sighed. "Tristan, I don't even want to think of that," she said.
"Just remember, I'll always be your knight," I said.
"Tristan, if I have a really bad suitor, will you be able to send a dragon after him?" she asked.
I laughed. "No, I'm afraid I can't do that but I wish that I could," I said. We laughed for a while, but sighed again.
Rosetta's eyes filled with tears, as she hugged for what seemed to be the last time.
"Goodbye, Tristan. I hope you will succeed in learning the truth of the Queen," Rosetta said.
"I hope I can, too," I said. I kissed her cheek, and she slowly pulled away from me.
"I must go, Tristan," she said.
"And I, too," I said. I saw her blush and touch her cheek as she walked away. Maybe I had frightened her, trying to tell her of my affections. But I still cared for her, and I would finish telling her of my feelings eventually. She would be more mature after my journey. Even after my journey, I will be a knight, and it would be easier to propose to Rosetta because of my social status.