I hurried towards the great hall in the wake of the rider, my herbal brew in hand and my skirts whooshing around me. Inside, I paused as the herald bowed before King Marc.
“My lord King Marc, I come from the Earl of Brittany’s court. He would like me to share his regrets that he could not come in person. There is a particular matter he has asked me to settle. A certain knight of Brittany passed away during your recent tournament. The earl would like his coat of arms and horse to be returned for they belong to his lord the earl.”
“My condolences to ye and your earl. Yes, ye may retrieve the coat of arms and horse. And ye must be tired from your journey. Please stay at our hearth and in our hall for as long as you need before ye return to Brittany.”
It was generous of King Marc to return this property, considering. The herald bowed and shared his thanks on behalf of the earl.
I skirted around the crowd, finding Isolde who looked not quite awake as of yet, and handed her the remedy.
“A ginger tea, my lady, as requested,” I offered.
“Thank ye, Brangien, but my stomach is not ill of humour today,” Isolde proclaimed, holding the drink uncertainly.
“Ye may need it…soon. The stomach turns at the likes of him,” I said, observing the herald leering at all of the women.
“Let’s retire to my chamber,” Isolde said, as I watched Perinis usher the Breton away, likely to the stables to see the earl’s horse.
That was easy for Isolde to say. The herald would not dare approach the queen. Although as lady-in-waiting, I had some protection, most of the female servants were at risk with such a lecher in close proximity. I felt sorry especially for Cecily. Still young, she would not be protected, even though the cook also slept in the kitchen.
“My lady, I have a proposition. Could we not ask Perinis to sleep in the hall to protect the female servants? Ye know Cecily has not been kind to us, but I feel sorry for her and others who will be vulnerable to this stranger, as they sleep separately from the king’s chamber.”
Isolde paused, thinking.
“Ye are right, Brangien. Let me drink this down, and we will speak to Perinis.” She drank the beverage with swift determination and set down the cup then linked arms with me. We set off to find Perinis.
Tristan, still present in the hall, watched us pass and followed. I did not doubt he had observed the lewd messenger.
We took the a roundabout path so as not to meet the herald on his way back from the stables.
Tristan caught up to us.
“My fair ladies, where are ye going?”
“Tristan, we are going to ask Perinis to stay with the female servants in the hall to protect them from this Breton whose eye roves in a sinister fashion,” Isolde informed him.
“Let me pass along this message. I do not think it wise for ye to wander by the woods during his visit, though noblewomen ye may be. Please promise to stay close to the castle at all hours. That means no early morning visits to your garden, Brangien,” he stated in a beseeching manner.
He was right of course, but my heart fell at the idea of not being able to tend my garden and make herbs freely nor visit the forest as I wanted. How long would this fellow be at foot?
Tristan escorted us back to the castle, and on the way, we crossed paths with the herald. The visit to the stables had not taken long.
“Good day,” he said, his eyes raking Isolde and I. Did he not know she was the queen?
“Ye are speaking to the queen and her noble lady. Address them with care, herald,” Tristan said coldly. He did not mention our names. I wondered if he did not want him to know.
“My apologies, mesdames,” he bowed with a flourish.
Isolde and I scowled at him as Tristan escorted us past. It looked like we would be cooped up for however long this visitor decided to stay. Isolde tended to get grumpy with prolonged contact with the same people.
But then, what if we helped him leave earlier? A twinkle of mischief appeared in my eye.
Isolde was thinking along other lines.
“Why would an earl send a messenger all the way from Brittany simply to retrieve a horse and coat of arms?” She wondered aloud quietly so only Tristan and I could hear.