I followed Cecily from a distance as she headed to the kitchen in order to see where she kept the book room key. Before I entered the kitchen, from my skirts I took out fastidiously-wrapped, dried herbs over which one could pour hot water to make a tisane. I had noticed Marie the cook coughing of late and had made it in advance for an opportune time. While watching Cecily out of the corner of my left eye, I looked forward, waiting for Marie to notice my presence. Cecily still had not hung or placed the key anywhere! As Marie turned towards me, I greeted her,
“Marie, here is a tisane powder to make a tea to soothe your throat.”
Cecily left the room. Did she still have the key?
Marie gave me a snide look, her lips pressed and her nose turned up, but took the herbs anyway.
I wondered if Isolde knew anything about this book room? I found her yawning as she gazed out the window with an embroidery project in her lap.
“Isolde, did ye know that the king has a locked room of books?”
Isolde raised her eyebrows.
“I did not know that. That is odd.”
We heard a horse galloping nearby, and we both looked out the window. A messenger?
Isolde and I rushed downstairs to see what he brought, walking more sedately once we arrived in the great hall, and stood towards the back with other women.
The messenger had a letter! He carried it to the king who then handed it to Father Pryor, the chaplain. Father Pryor broke the seal and unfolded the letter. He whispered the contents to King Marc who nodded his head, inviting the chaplain to read it aloud, and the king drew his barons around him. Father Pryor quieted his peculiar pretension for the moment, planted himself in front of the king, and read out loud in a clear voice.
The letter was from the Earl of Brittany, and he was requesting an audience with the king for a particular reason he did not name.
King Marc said to his court,
“I am your king and ye are my marquis. If ye have a good piece of advice to share, speak.”
All of the barons agreed to welcome the earl’s visit, and the king dictated a response that Father Pryor wrote tidily on parchment.
Isolde raised her eyebrow at me, and we walked outside to the garden.
“My lady, why were ye raising your eyebrow at me?”
“Brangien, the king must not be able to read and that’s why he needs a chaplain to read and write for him. And he locks up the books so no one can read since he can’t.”
“That is what I thought, too, my lady. It’s a shame we have nothing to read here. And by God’s bones, Cecily of all people has the key to the locked room of books. I followed her to see where she keeps the key, but I didn’t see where she put it.”
“Brangien, do ye remember when we snuck books into the field, and I taught myself to read and then you, too? We learned before my cousin Flann, and he was so mad!…I wonder if any of the books have maps in them. My father liked to study maps.”
“I’m going to follow Cecily until I figure out where she keeps the key so I can look at the books. Wondering what they contain is pure madness.”
“Nay, Brangien! What if ye are caught? Is it worth it?”