Queen Maud woke from her nap as the sound of her husband’s voice rang up from the hall below. From the lemony sunlight that slanted in through the new glass windows she could see that it was still early in the afternoon. Sigefrith rarely made it home before nightfall in the winter, as he spent his days riding over his little kingdom with Cenwulf, inspecting and planning until it was too dark to see. 

Planning! Maud had never known anyone with a mind as busy as Sigefrith’s. He already had enough plans for several lifetimes. He was eager for the baby prince to grow up so he could bring him on his rides and fill the boy’s head with the plans that would have to be executed in Caedwulf’s lifetime.

Maud gingerly sat up

Maud gingerly sat up, waiting for the heaving in her stomach to subside. She was sick and exhausted, exhausted and sick, and it was time she admitted to herself what that meant. Caedwulf was only six months old, but she was already pregnant again. And Caedwulf hadn’t even been christened yet! What would her mother have said to that?

Maud thought she had better go down to her husband before he came looking for her and found her in bed, queasy and bleary-​​eyed. Her maid helped her back into her gown and she went down into the hall.

She was pleased to find that Sigefrith was alone but for the servants – usually the Earl was with him on those few afternoons when he was at home, and she could obtain little more than an affectionate greeting from either of them before they turned back to whatever earnest conversation she had interrupted.

“Maud, dearest!” he called, opening his arms to her, radiant with optimism and enthusiasm. “Let me tell you about my new idea!”

Maud smiled and nodded politely

After he had embraced her, Maud smiled and nodded politely as he held forth on pastures and retaining walls and goldsmiths, until he chanced to mention the Earl’s name, and then she pounced.

“Sigefrith – ” she interrupted. The King graciously paused. “That reminds me: Has Colburga heard from her brother yet?”

“Why – no,” he said, realizing that this was one of his plans that had not gone quite as expected. “You know, we had to send word by sea, of course, all the way around the coast, and it’s a long trip up the Rhine to Paderborn, and with the winter weather…”

“I know all that, Sigefrith… Oh, if only we could be sure that he was coming! Suppose we wait until spring, only to learn that he can’t come after all. I’m afraid our next baby will be born even before we have christened Caedwulf.”

Sigefrith laughed. “Don’t worry, my darling – if I must, I shall take a vow of celibacy and become a priest myself and I shall christen your son in plenty of time. Of course, if I did that, we wouldn’t end up in that situation to begin with,” he chuckled, pinching her playfully.

“It’s already too late,” she said softly, looking up at him through her dark lashes.

Are you trying to tell me something, O most mysterious Maud?

“Are you trying to tell me something, O most mysterious Maud?”

Maud smiled.


“The end of summer.”

Sigefrith whistled. “That doesn’t leave much time. But never you mind, dearest, you shall have a priest to baptize your boy, if I have to carry that cranky old uncle of yours down into the valley and chain him to the altar.”