The lake’s light blinded him. Motion burned unseen. He caught a swan stealing across the waves. The swan became a woman: Isolde, elegant and fair, drifting on aërial currents. He followed her wanderings over the watery plain, saw her slip into the bosom of the lake. He recalled the swan he had slain here years previously, and the woman he had left to learn the ways of war. Heart’s sorrow held him. Last token of a mother’s blessing.
‘Amfortas’, he whispered, ‘the wound.’
He passed off into the thick wood. Through such woods he had wandered late and far, out of earshot of his mother’s cries. He was strong enough. Beast and brigand he faced alone, under God’s protection. He had waxed without her. Yet without him, she had wasted. Her own son had done it – he, Parsifal, had done it. King and fool. Herzeleide died.
Shielded on soft moss from all the violent world, he grew. How heart’s sorrow held him. Loved, protected, led to strength and courage. Courage to take the arms that she had kept from him. Strength to fight where she had counselled quietness. No wisdom, except by bitter pain and error. Woods trackless, dangers numberless. Ah, Herzeleide. How he had sinned against her.
He was by the lake again, among meadows flush with flowers.
‘And this happened to their god? Their human god?’
‘So their stories say.’
The women sat cocooned in grass.
‘My family has done much ill, but I am glad they kept to the old ways. Year on year, more of the people wandered, but we were firm. My father gave no audience to such fanatics’.
‘You speak of the Gospel?’
Brangane was embarrassed; Isolde was not.
‘Yes, that is what we are speaking of, your good news’.
‘I am glad.’
‘My sister turned to them’, Brangane ventured finally.
‘Oh? How interesting. What happened?’
‘She was – well, different. Changed’.
‘Changed for better or for worse?’
Brangane shook her head. ‘Just different’.
Isolde’s eyes flickered.
‘Well my friends, I leave you to the peace of the lake shore’.