Sigefrith was uncharacteristically silent, for he was listening to his son.

Sigefrith was uncharacteristically silent, for he was listening to his son.

The boy was fifteen, he reminded himself, and not quite a boy any longer. At fifteen, Sigefrith had already been lord in his castle for years. At fifteen, he had already led knights into battle. However, he was not certain that at fifteen he would have had the cunning to read the hidden meaning of these letters.

The three letters had arrived the previous evening from Denmark, seeming on the face but the plea of a fifteen-​​year-​​old Yware to see his father again. This was accompanied by similar, less ardent wishes from King Harold’s sons Magnus and Godwine, who themselves relayed the same from other nobles currently at the Danish court. So much for the warm regards of friends and relations.

Caedwulf had immediately noted.

However, as Caedwulf had immediately noted, if Yware was “traveling with the king to the king’s hall on the Gaut,” then each use of the word “king” referred to a different man, for the Gaut River was still most certainly in Norway, not in Denmark.

Furthermore, while this could have been a hint of war between the two countries, the presence of ladies indicated a peaceful intent on the part of the Danish king. Indeed, Yware mentioned that his “regal lady” was accompanying them, and this was most likely the Queen herself. This was proven in Magnus’s letter, wherein this lady was said to be going there to meet her father, who, she was certain, would be delighted to see his cousin Leofric again, as well as Leofric’s two nephews. This could only have been the Count of Flanders.

Thus the Kings of Denmark and Norway, the Count of Flanders, and the sons of the former King of England were coming together. Moreover, Godwine seemed to have developed a sudden, striking fondness for young Eirik and begged to be remembered to him, which marked a subtle invitation for a representative of King Godred of the Isles as well.

All these men were coming together in peace.

All these men were coming together in peace, but they could only be meeting to talk of war. And if Sigefrith hurried to reach Eirik, and if Godred Whitehand could be convinced to send Eirik in his ships, then there would be time enough to make it up the Gaut by Easter for Alred to see Yware, and for Eirik to see Godwine and Magnus, and for Leofric to see Robert of Flanders, and for Sigefrith to see the Kings of Denmark and Norway.

The only thing that Caedwulf did not correctly deduce was that he himself would be staying behind. The trip would surely have been educational, but Sigefrith would soon be too old for such voyages, and perhaps the next time Caedwulf would go alone.

Caedwulf was old enough to be a king.

More importantly, Caedwulf was old enough to be a king. Listening to him speak now, Sigefrith realized for the first time that all would not be lost if he were to be killed abroad. His kingdom was more stable than it had ever been, but at times it still seemed a creation of his own will – almost a part of his own body. Now there was a strong will and a young body that could keep it alive without him.

Also, such a meeting of kings and counts would be an excellent opportunity to find Caedwulf a wife, and that was the one thing he did not trust Caedwulf to manage alone.

“What are you cackling about, old lady?” Alred asked him.

'What are you cackling about, old lady?'

“Listening to the runt talk, I have this sudden urge to play matchmaker.”

“He’s a pretty young thing,” Alred shrugged, “and I thank you, but I had other ideas for Yware. Owww!” he whined, for Sigefrith had kicked him under the table.

“Wasn’t me,” Sigefrith grunted. “Was the runt over here.”

'It was not!'

“It was not!” Caedwulf protested.

“So you’re saying you want to marry Yware?”


'So you're saying you want to marry Yware?'

Cenwulf rolled his eyes. “Could we – thank God!” he cried, for someone had knocked at the door.

“Let us indeed thank God,” Sigefrith smiled, “and then let us see whom God has sent to save you from our foolishness.”

God had sent the King’s steward Ralf, and nor was it the first time He had chosen this soft-​​spoken instiller of gravity to put an end to the King’s antics.

“Hark! what glad tidings are you come to tell?” Sigefrith asked him, still grinning.

“Malcolm is here to see Your Majesty – that is, Sir Malcolm’s cousin Malcolm. That is, Lord Colban’s cousin.”

'That is, Lord Colban's cousin.'

“That is,” Alred frowned, “Magog.”

“If I may presume.”

“Magog?” Sigefrith repeated. His voice was still hearty, but already his smile was creaking. “Alone?”


“Alone, sire.”

“No sign of Cubby?”


“My father?” Malcolm asked.



“Well.” Sigefrith planted his hands on the table, preparatory to pushing himself to his feet. The last shards of smile fell away. “Better show him in here. If he comes alone, he may want to speak with me alone.”

'Better show him in here.'