Marie left in the morning to voyage to the next English court, I supposed, although she did not say where.
“I hope ye have a safe journey, Marie,” I told her cordially and gave her a container of dried lavender for its soothing properties.
Isolde embraced her warmly, still without knowledge that Marie had pressed me to uncover her relationship with Tristan.
I studied Marie unobtrusively. Her eyes held a fierce light, which she had unveiled while storytelling. But in this moment, she seemed discreet and unthreatening, and her restraint intimidated me. And I still did not understand how she could travel alone. Perhaps she had someone waiting for her?
Marie vanished between the trees, and I shivered. An autumn chill reposed in the air. I would soon need to move the book inside, for the tree nook in which I kept it would not prove sufficient in winter. Perhaps I could find a new spot within my herb cottage, under a rock. But not now. I would wait until deep blue blanketed the sky. I headed to the hawthorn simply to work more on deciphering my precious book.
As I angled towards the treeline, Isolde followed. We padded softly on top of friends’ discarded verdant and umber wares, veering off in a slightly different direction.
“Brangien, what do ye do for so many hours here?” Isolde gestured around us. “Read? Gather herbs?”
The tone of her words struck me as accusatory.
“My lady, this forest provides a sole freedom I am not allowed elsewhere. Ye know about that, too, I believe,” I replied, trying not to react. From where did this perceptible irritation stem?
We arrived at a hut in front of which an elderly monk, garbed in what appeared to be remnants of various fabrics, prayed kneeling on the ground. When he looked up, he spotted us.
“I keep ye and Tristan in my prayers, my queen. Be mindful of your path,” he emphasized, his eyes intense and his hand gestures erratic.
“Do not judge me, Brother. While ye abode in the wilderness, my path was decided for me amongst people.” Isolde’s hair flew behind her as she turned and wove back through the trees we had passed.
I ran to reach her despite her quick stride.
“My lady, are ye alright? Perhaps ye spoke a bit harshly to the brother. Do not let his judgement weigh on ye. God knows truths that human minds do not hold.”
Isolde halted, fighting tears and leaned into me. I wrapped my arms around her.
“There, there my lady. Let’s leave the trees behind us for now and bask in the sunshine by my garden. Ye can tell me stories from our childhood while I tend to my herbs and gather what is ready to be collected.”
We drifted slowly in silence on our return. Well, rather Isolde refrained from words, and I followed her lead.