ur pathetic royal wedding entourage trudges through the forest. It has been raining. Magge rides her horse beside mine. Pale and feverish, she remains hooded like grim death in those damp riding clothes. Le Capitaine de Notre Garde rides back beside Magge and looks at her. Magge forces herself up straight and offers a pained grin. She is transparent with illness. The Captain Of Our Guard looks to me questioningly.
He is young and awkward. To me it occurs that my wedding entourage is but a minor assignment that has been given to a new recruit. I speak too sharply, saying ~ How do you like being Le Capitaine de Notre Garde thus far? ~
He furrows his brow in embarrassment at my tone. He looks at the tear~shaped ~6~ I have carved under my eye in protest of Magge’s six lashings. He says to me, ~ How do you like being a Princess thus far? ~
So, my situation is well known. He does not look away. He says to me, now kindly, ~ I am Etienne, your highness. They were unfairly harsh to your tutor ~
I reply bitterly, ~ Yes. We make up civilization as we go along. ~
Etienne offers softly, ~ It will not be much farther to Le Monastère de l’Incorruptables ~
I am not comforted. I am to reside in the Monastery of the Incorruptibles where the barbarian Hrolf The Walker will convert to Christianity. Then Hrolf and I are to be married as a political bargain. In the meantime, I am to be instructed in the Ways of Men by the monks of the abbey.
Suddenly a figure emerges from the forest and waddles hastily towards us. Startled, I do see that it is a deformed old woman. Her nest of hair holds a twisted face that looks as if it has been cooked twice. She bears only one eye in the center of her forehead. She is clothed in bark that she must have stitched with her own hair as thread.
The old woman grins crookedly and claps her hands and cries, ~ Le Grand Guerrier! The Great Warrior! ~
The mounted guards reel toward her with their swords drawn.
I cry, ~ Stop! ~
Etienne yells, ~ Stay your swords! ~
The old woman now dances, saying, ~ The Great Warrior! The Great Warrior! ~
The mounted guards halt and glance back at Etienne. He glances at me and he nervously clears his throat and then commands, ~ Give her food and leave her be.~
I watch Etienne sit up proudly and ride back to his position in the entourage.
And yet have I the feeling that the poor old witch was speaking to me.
<for previous chapters, search “whisper” on my blog>
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