Chapter Seventeen (part II)

917 124 60

It was a love poem... It was a love poem...! The words filled my hours til I saw Edgar again. I tried to remember when he had recited the poem for me -- had it been before Midsummer? Had he loved me for so long? Certainly, it was before I'd loved him. That thought made me feel both giddy and guilty. He'd loved me, and I hadn't even noticed.

But more and more, as the sun fell and stretched the shadows long, I turned to doubting if Edgar had really said those words with any great significance. A love poem didn't mean he loved me, and even if it did, it didn't mean anything could come of it. I grew dreadfully nervous. I washed my face and my hands, took off my dress and brushed it, took down my hair and combed it and braided it up again... And all the while, my heart leapt at every sound outside, every voice, every passing footfall...

By evening, I was twitchy as a hare. When, at last, a knock came at the door, I almost jumped out of my skin. Queen Wulfrad braced her hands on her knees, but I was already out of my seat. I said, "I'll get it," and she eased herself back down.

Dread churned in my guts as I opened the door, but then I saw Edgar, smiling down at me shyly, his ears glowing pink, and I felt very foolish. It was a love poem.

Edgar offered me a cup of ewe's milk, saying, "This is for the Mother of All," and then he held up a duck, plucked and dressed. "And this is for you."

"Oh... Thank you." I took the duck by the neck, holding it at arm's length and trying to not frown. I had no idea what to do with it.

"I'm going to the shrine now," Edgar said. "Will you go with me?"

"Oh..." I cast a glance over my shoulder. My hostess was feeding new logs to the fire, very studiously ignoring us. "Let me fetch my cloak."

I left him at the door and went to Queen Wulfrad. "I'm going with Wulfsig to make my offering now."

"Very well, Eadgyth Æðeling. I shall see you when I see you again."

"And... Wulfsig brought this." I held up the duck, shrugging at it. "Dinner tomorrow?"

Queen Wulfrad glanced up from her work, one silvery eyebrow raised. "If you wish," she said, nearly whispering. "But surely Wulfsig hopes to share it with you."

I murmured, "I see," though I didn't quite.

"You may leave it here in the meantime." She straightened, wiping her hands on her apron, and fetched down an unglazed bowl.

I left her with my thanks and the duck, washed my hands, pinned on my cloak, gathered my offerings, and joined Edgar at the door again.

"Who are we now?" I shut the door behind me and pulled my shawl up over my head.

"Edgar and Eadie?" He shrugged. "It doesn't matter tonight. But tomorrow, we must be Wulfsig and Fridric."

"Very well."

Edgar led me to the hedge. All round us, people were stepping out of their cottages and trickling along the lane. Some were young, some old, some had torches, some lanterns, but all were quiet.

Edgar smirked, nodding to the east. "The shrine is this way."

"Somehow, I knew that..."

"Have you thought on what you'll say tomorrow?"

"A bit. I'm not sure there is much to say, really. Hello. My name is Eadgyth of Fridric. The king was my father..." I shrugged. "Please don't kill me..."

Edgar chuckled. "That should do."

"Mostly I've been busy with my offering."

"Oh?" Edgar glanced down at me, his eyes keen and curious.

Miss Shaw's OccupationWhere stories live. Discover now