The Ballad of Tobias Marchand

Author's Note: Standard fanfic disclaimer that wouldn't last ten seconds in a court of law: Tobias and Lena Marchand and Lita Darvalis aren't my characters and Valdemar isn't my setting. Based on characters and settings from Mercedes Lackey's novel Intrigues, p. 35-50. Jerrin's ballad should be sung to the tune of "Greensleeves." Yes, I know the scansion is off and the rhyme scheme is forced. It's supposed to be. Think of "My Lady's Eyes." Oh, and "Rose Petals" – what little of it there is – should be sung to the tune of Leslie Fish's "Jack the Slob."

The Ballad of Tobias Marchand

by Susan M. M

based on characters and situations created by Mercedes Lackey

Tobias Marchand walked through the palace gardens, seeking inspiration in nature. Baroness Campella would swoon into his arms if he wrote a ballad comparing her to roses. And since the baron had died, her arms ... and her bed ... had been empty.

Marchand was a man in the prime of life. An embodiment of the cliche "tall, dark, and handsome," he looked like what he was: King of Bards and Bard to Kings. His robes were the bright crimson of a Master Bard. The color complimented his complexion perfectly. His face had been making maidens sigh for years. His dark hair now had just a hint of gray at the temples, just enough to make him look distinguished and emphasize that he was a man of experience, not a beardless boy.

Marchand sat on a stone bench. He inhaled deeply, but the rosebuds were too new to have much scent. As always, his posture was perfect. Which was a good thing, as if he leaned back he would lean into a decades-old hedge of rosebushes grown together into a thorny wall.

"Rose petals soft, rose petals fair, are not more lovely than her hair." That might do for a beginning, Marchand thought. As he mused on a possible next line, he heard voices behind him. Young voices.

"Just listen for a minute, Dalith. I know it's not ready to perform for Master Marilessa yet. Just listen and give me some construction criticism," a teenaged boy's voice pleaded.

Marchand heard a lute being tuned from the other side of the rosebush hedge.

"All right, Jerrin, but there had better not be thirty-seven verses," Dalith warned. "I have other things to do today."

"A bard there was of high degree, whose silver tongue sung songs so sweet.

Sapphire his eyes and hair like coal. To hear him sing was such a treat."

Marchand didn't quite flinch. The boy's voice was good, but his lyrics –

"Proud was this bard of his great skill, for he was great and so said all.

Himself he said the selfsame thing. Alas! Pride goes before a fall."

Marchand nodded. Ah, this was meant to be a parody. That made the lyrics in the first verse forgivable.

"Trainees he did mistake, alas, mistake for pages in the hall.

Orders he gave for errands run, and not a word of thanks did call."

Marchand frowned. He'd thought Lita had been exaggerating when she complained about him sending trainees on a perfectly reasonable errand. Apparently others shared her opinion, although of course, these were Bardic students. Naturally they'd sympathize with a fellow student. As the old axiom said, thou must not expect to sup ere thou hast waited at table.

"So great his pride, so vain was he, their faces he looked not upon.

He did not look, he did not guess, his daughter –" Jerrin interrupted himself. "I need a rhyme for upon."

"Bon, con, don, fon, gon," Dalith recited. "You'd do better changing the lines."

His daughter? Marchand froze.

"How about this," Dalith offered. "So great his pride, so vain was he, He did not look, he did not guess, the trainee who before him stood, his daughter he did sore distress." He sighed."It really needs a chorus, Jerrin. And I don't know which Master Marilessa will scold you about more: the rhyme scheme being forced or you daring to write a song criticizing the great Tobias Marchand."

"After what he did to Lena, he deserves it," Jerrin retorted. "You know what Master Zephan says: Never annoy a bard, for his revenge will be sung off-key by the town drunk years after you are dead."

Lena? That had been his daughter?

"But you're right that a chorus would improve it. Any suggestions?" Jerrin asked.

On the other side of the rose-hedge, Tobias Marchand sat silently.