Before the merchants packed up their wares the following morning, I quickly walked through the aisles, finding a mix of smartly-dressed persons and soothsayer types, and spied a healer selling remedies. With long dark hair, she stood beneath a red-brown tent, fanning herself in the heat. Always eager to find new uses for herbs, I side-stepped uncertainly to her booth and studied her jars and pots for sale.
“Hello, Madam, did ye come up with your remedies?”
“Nay, me mother passed them down to me and her mother passed them to her. Is there something yer looking for in particular?”
I noticed a ragged book sitting towards the back.
“Is the book for sale?”
“Oh no, ye wouldn’t want that. It’s me old herb book with samples stuck in the pages,” she said dismissively, but then looked back at it furtively and then at me as though I might take it.
“Thank ye, Madam.” I walked away wondering if other herb books existed.
“Did ye find anything?” Isolde asked me as I returned to sit beside her in the garden.
“Nay, I didn’t…have ye ever heard of herb books, Isolde?”
“Nay, my mother committed all of her recipes to memory. Perhaps you’d find that kind of book among brethren. Why?”
“It’s no matter, my lady.”
At the castle, we were settling back into our daily routine, which was a relief. Patterns and familiarity brought comfort.
I cut some pink peonies and brought them into the royal chamber for good cheer and looked out the window to see Isolde talking to Tristan. Even though I knew Isolde’s life was not easy, I felt wistful. I belonged to her and could never leave her side. I was her closest companion, but she was not mine. At least my herbs kept my hands and mind busy, and I believed that was worthwhile.
I saw Cecily head into the castle with a couple books in hand. Books! Where had they come from? I left the bedchamber and followed to see where she went.
She stopped in front of a small, bolted door and opened it. Beyond her, I could see more books on a shelf. She must have set them in there–she closed the door behind her after she entered so I couldn’t tell where. I watched her bar the room again as she left.
Why were books kept in a locked room? I felt foolishly jealous of Cecily. She could touch books and smell them and gander at the pages. But I didn’t think she could read nor would she have interest in peeking at them. Could I find a way to see one, up close?