'What is it, Maud?'

“What is it, Maud?” Matilda asked, slightly annoyed, as the Queen came into the hall. “Cenwulf told me you wouldn’t see him and you insisted on seeing me.”

Matilda had been disciplining a groom who had allowed one of her mares to walk around all day with a stone in her foot, and she was afraid that with this interruption the groom had gotten off far too lightly. She certainly hoped Maud hadn’t summoned her here to show “how Baby pulls off her socks all by herself” like last week.

“Oh, Matilda,” Maud began, her voice quavering, “I’m so afraid: I had a terrible dream.”

'I had a terrible dream.'

A dream!

“I saw terrible, terrible things,” she continued, shaking her head. “I saw – I saw Sigefrith – and the men had him – ” She began to cry. “And – oh Matilda! They held him down and cut off his head with a sword! And Alred, too, and everybody – ”

'Oh, Maud!'

“Oh, Maud!” Matilda cried, exasperated. “A dream! Stop this blubbering! First of all, you don’t cut a head off with a sword, it’s much too difficult. You use an axe. Now – ”

Maud shrieked.

'How dare you say such things to me?'

“How dare you say such things to me! Oh, Sigefrith!” she wailed.

“Maud, I simply want to show you that your dream isn’t real.”

“Then why haven’t they come home? Why haven’t they sent word?”

'Maud, they're on the other side of the island!'

“Maud, they’re on the other side of the island! It would take weeks for a messenger to reach us, even if they could afford to send a man away. And a messenger might not even arrive here safely – ”

“Then Sigefrith might not arrive safely either.”

Matilda sighed. “Maud, no one knows what has happened at Ely, not even the Baron, from what Theobald has told me. Not only have no messengers from Sigefrith and Alred arrived here, neither has any news from that bastard William’s court. I think that nothing has happened yet, and Sigefrith and Alred are sitting around getting chewed up by mosquitoes and singing filthy songs, nothing more. They’re soldiers, Maud. They’ve probably never been happier.”

'They're soldiers, Maud.'

Matilda stared steadily at Maud, willing her to believe, trying to hide her own fears. “Now why don’t you call for Cenwulf and go over the day’s news. Forget about your dream. You’re just being a silly girl.”

“Oh, Cenwulf!” Maud cried. “I hope I never see Cenwulf again! I hope I never hear the words ‘wheat’ or ‘horse’ or ‘harvest’ again! What care I for all of that!”

“Some Queen! How ashamed Sigefrith would be if he saw you now!”

Maud’s pretty face contracted into a look of cold anger.

'I think you're sorry you're not queen, Matilda.'

“I think you’re sorry you’re not queen, Matilda,” Maud said quietly. “You certainly don’t let anyone forget you’re the real royalty here. Indeed, I think you’re quite pleased that Alred’s away – perhaps you don’t even care whether he comes back. It gives you the opportunity to play the lord, and parade around in front of everybody with your darling Egelric Wodehead! How ashamed Alred would be if he saw you now!” She laughed ironically.

What was this? 

'Have you gone mad?'

“Have you gone mad? If you were a man I would slap your lying mouth.”

“Would you slap your Queen?” Maud asked with a mock haughtiness.

Matilda glared at her. “When Sigefrith returns and takes you back to Wessex, you will be Lady Hwala. I would slap Lady Hwala. Therefore I suggest you take back what you have just said before then.”

Matilda turned and left the hall, fuming. Where did Maud even get such ideas? Let her try to send for her again – Matilda would not see Maud until she had come to Nothelm and begged her pardon.