Chapter Seventeen (part I)

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He put Eadsig on his own feet, and soon they were both sniffing round the table. Queen Wulfrad gave Edgar a roll, and Edgar gave half a roll to Eadsig, then he tore off little pieces for himself -- one mouthful at a time -- and ate them slowly, savoringly, quietly humming his little happy moans.

The next morning, Edgar and Eadsig brought over a pair of stockings I'd left behind and then stayed for apple buns. The next morning, it was a bit of wool I'd been combing, and after that, the man's cap, which I'd left blocking. Edgar put it in my hands, and Eadsig said, "You left this!"

"Actually..." I offered the cap back to Edgar. "This was for you. If you wanted it."

"Oh..." Edgar took it and turned it over a few times, fingering the ribs and cables.

"I said I'd make you one."

"So you did." He gave me a small smile, telling me, "It's beautiful. I thank you," and then he pulled the cap on his head. His ears had turned bright pink.

On the last day of Midwinter, while the day's rolls were still baking, Edgar came without Eadsig. Sigrun met him at the door, and he asked her, "Will Fridric Æðeling see me?"

I laughed to hear it -- I was sitting at the table in plain sight, hardly more five feet from him. "She already sees you."

Edgar smiled -- a small thing, but warm and amused. "Then will Fridric Æðeling walk with me?"

"She will. Just a moment." I marked my place in the book and fetched my cloak. Sigrun pinned it on. Edgar hovered just outside the door all the while, his hands folded behind his back.

I was soon out the door. He dipped his head. "A good morning to you."

"And a good morning to you. Are you Edgar or Wulfsig today?"

"Hmm... With any luck, there should be time for both."

"Well, then. Let's get on with it, Wulfsig. I've an engagement with a friend later."

Edgar nodded toward the pastures, and we set off, wending our way round mud puddles. The night before had been wet, but now the sky above was bright and blue -- a good morning, indeed.

"Luthgar returned last night," Edgar said. "Your letters were posted without incident."

"Ah, good."

"And it is Midwinter tomorrow. We shall meet with the Drihtrafn at midday and renew our lease, as it were. We would ask you to come with us."

"Of course."

"You should have a few words prepared. Some statement of your intent to claim the throne. And..." Edgar swallowed and tucked his hands in his cloak. He spoke his next words so slowly, so carefully, so grimly, each one fell like a drop of ice in my guts. "And you should know the Drihtrafn will show you no deference, nor even any courtesy of the sort you're used to. They will likely call you Wyrm, and I would ask you to tolerate it."

"Wyrm...!" I laughed, warm relief washing over me -- I'd had no idea what to fear, but I feared it would be something far worse than a mere word.

"Please. My people live here at their mercy."

"Ach..." I laid a hand on my breast, and shook my head dolefully, though I was still laughing. "You ask much of me, Wulfsig... A true Baelgast must burn, I tell ye true!"

Edgar smirked, huffing a little chuckle. "Surely, there are other ways."

"Aye, and surely there are." I smirked back at him and fluttered my eyelashes. "Your friend... Rothgar, nay? He was a well-made man..."

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