I remembered how Isolde and I used to spin in the fields below potbelly blue skies and fall down dizzy. We discovered the trick to preventing disorientation was to pick one point and focus on it, so that each time we spun, we looked at that one spot to guide us.
The book covered and safely stowed in its nook, I set my candle on a knob-shelf of the tree, and said a silent prayer, closing my eyes a moment. I took a deep breath and looked straight into the luminous eyes of an owl. He was my spot. I spun thrice, each time looking into the owl’s eyes, but on the fourth turn, he flew off and I fell down, my head craning to watch where he went. I grasped the candle and scrabbled (carefully) to follow him. He landed in a new tree not too far away, then didn’t budge.
The moss growing on the trees caught my eye. I knew it covered the north side. I heard gurgling to my right and raised my candle that way. A stream picked up here, heading south. (All tributaries I had seen near Cornwall meandered south.) I hesitated. The owl blinked at me. Should I head in that direction? That was what my gut told me (perhaps thanks to the owl).
I bustled, trying not to trip on roots or brush. How much time did I have before the candle snuffed out? It was a little wider than the width of my thumb, and I had been gone an hour or so? I had been foolish to go out at night. There could be unkind persons roaming. And I had been arrogant in speaking of the Adventurous Ford as though I had it all figured out. This is what happens, I stomped slightly in rhythm, when books are forbidden–I find myself wandering in dark wilderness, blaming the king. I hoped my absence had not yet been noticed. I needed to get back right away.
The stream widened slightly as I continued passing mossy bark faces. Their green color, vibrant during the day, held secret depths at night. I did not to stare at them too much and focused on the end of my journey–reaching the light of the castle.
An hour later, judging by the slumping height of the candle, the trees thinned out until I came upon the orchard. I slowed and looked carefully to see if anyone was watching. I brushed my head to loosen any twigs, straightened my dress, and tiptoed towards the great hall.
Indoors, Isolde saw me, and said,
“Brangien, did ye make the ginger remedy I asked ye for?”
“Yes,” I nodded, “I just made a batch.”
She ushered me to the bed chamber before anyone could ask questions.
“How long was I gone?” I asked her.
“Yes, weren’t ye covering for me? I must have left hours ago.”
“No, Brangien. It’s been half an hour, an hour at most.”
I glanced at my candle. It had burned down almost to a stub.