Chapter Seventeen (part I)

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I hope these words find you well, my dear brother, and help put your heart at ease.

Our children are hale and happy and beautiful, just as when you left us. Eadgar has been a joy, and so good with the little ones. He is a dear boy, my brother. You are rightly proud.

Eadgyth is quite taken with him. She wants nothing but to be at his side and play at house and hold his hand all day. Poor Eadmar is quite left out! But Eadgar is always patient with her, and very gentle, and he has very pretty words for her hair. By the by, brother, I think we may have a poet in him. It's been very good for Eadgyth, to hear someone else thinks her beautiful. She always has been shy about being different from us.

Eadgar cries for you sometimes, but he knows you are King, and not his father only, and he knows he is left here with us for his safety. He is quite fearful of meeting his mother and asks about her often. I wonder what have you told him...? What would you have me tell him?

He sends his love to you, and asks that you send him some words if you are able. And so do I. Know that we are well, dear brother. And if you happen to see my husband, tell him we want for nothing but him.

(letter from Eadlufe, Queen of Aethelwulf to Eadmund, King of Wulfsig, 18th Grassmonth, 513 CR)


Nothing much in particular happened the next few days. Every morning, I put on the severe black dress and braided up my hair, since I was so very officially Baelgast again. Together, Queen Wulfrad and I ate a breakfast of hard cheese and dried apricots while dough was left rising by the fire, and then I would struggle through a Wufric history, as slowly and hopelessly as a young child just learning her letters -- Queen Wulfrad had a great many books, but they were in the Wulfspraec, alas -- while the queen was dressed.

Queen Wulfrad lived alone, but her granddaughter would come in the mornings to make sure the pantry and the water jugs and the woodpile were all well stocked. Her name was Sigrun, and she was about twenty-five, tall and dark, of course, with rather probing brown eyes. Sometimes she brought baskets, sometimes she brought buckets, sometimes she brought her husband, but every morning, once her work was done, she served Queen Wulfrad like a lady's maid.

A gilt hand mirror was got out, and a comb of gleaming black horn, and a chest of clothes, and a casket of jewels. The queen was washed and perfumed and dressed in layer over layer of fine linen and silk and gold and warm amber, and then Sigrun combed her long hair, pinning it up at the nape of her neck.

Queen Wulfrad, looking very queenly indeed, would survey herself in the mirror a long while, and then she would tie on an apron and do her day's baking. And dear Godrun, indeed... Whatever she made, be it rolls or buns or little loaves, it was always wonderful -- and it tempted Edgar in to sit with us.

The first morning, he'd come by only to tell us Luthwig had left for Hythebury, which he did in a very sober and business-like manner, though little Eadsig was trying to climb like a tree.

"He took a horse," he said, struggling to keep his balance, "so with any luck, he should be back before Modorsniht."

I murmured, "Modors-" before my brains caught up. "Mothersnight."

"Just so." Edgar nodded, down once and back up, and then he flung out an arm and caught hold of Eadsig, who'd suddenly pitched backward. He laughed and chided the boy in their own tongue, and then he flung him over his shoulder like a sack of barley, giving his little rump a good pat. Eadsig shrieked giggles all the while.

Iron clanked against iron behind me, and Queen Wulfrad called, "Will you join us, Wulfsig?"

Edgar shook his head, his lips parting, but then a sweet, yeasty scent wafted past us, and his dark eyebrows bobbed up. "Oh... For a bit, perhaps. I thank you."

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