Chapter Nineteen (part I)

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Be not contented by her mere willingness, nor satisfied by your own satisfaction. She is your wife, your children's mother, your people's queen; pleasure is her due and your duty to her. Be serious in your study of her; learn her as you learn letters and law, for no man can hope to do well by his people if he cannot do well by his own dear beloved.

(excerpt, For My Son, Eadgang, King of Wulfsig)


Edgar was at the cottage door almost impolitely early the next morning -- indeed, he was so early, I wasn't even fully dressed. My clothes were on, but my hair hung loose. I divided it quickly and hurried to the door, still braiding it.

He greeted me with a bow and a low dip of his head. It was a slow and elegant gesture, tragically undermined by his grinning.

"A good morning to you, Eadie."

"Seems like it already is..."

"I've good reason to hope so."

Edgar held out a dish of small, bright orange berries. "This is for you." Smiling shyly, he added, "It's all I could find, this time of year," as if that explained anything.

"Oh..." I plucked up one of the berries, trying to not frown at it. It didn't look like the sort of berry that was very good to eat. "What are they for?"

"Ah, well..." Edgar shrugged and said, "You can eat them..." in a tone of voice that suggested he wouldn't. "They make a passable tea."

I reckoned they'd probably make a better dye. I said, "Ah. Well. Thank you," though with no great enthusiasm -- I was dreadfully confused.

I took the dish from his hands, wondering who would know about the berries as a dye, and what mordant could be used, and just overall why... Edgar watched me keenly, his eyes uncertain and hopeful.

Half-forgotten words stirred in the dark corners of my memory -- meat, and honey sweet, and berries wild... I frowned.



"Are you... Are you courting me?"

"I was trying to." Edgar made a wry face, chuckling nervously. "Am I succeeding?"

"I am..." I nodded stupidly. My heart was suddenly full and overfull, overflowing and bursting at the seams... "I am favorably inclined. Toward your attentions."

Edgar beamed down at me, warm and bright as the sun. He stretched out a hand, asking, "Will you walk with me?"

I took his hand and let him tuck me in close at his side. A bit too late, I remembered to say my goodbyes to Queen Wulfrad -- and much too late, I remembered that my hair was only sort of braided.

Edgar led me through the garden, past the rosemary, down the quiet lanes... It was so early, almost no one was about. We passed a man chopping wood, and a girl fetching water, and then we were out of the village, past the walnuts, and into the pastures.

Edgar stroked his thumb over my knuckles. "You're quiet."

"Ach! Where do I begin...?" I peeped up at him, his black hair, his pretty mouth... "Do you really mean it?"


"Courting courting...? A wedding? And living together, and getting a baby? Courting...?"

Edgar chuckled, his eyes warm and gentle. He squeezed my fingers, and said, "Yes."

I grinned back at him, but I still couldn't quite believe it.

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