“Brede!” Estrid whispered.

Brede sat up in his bed. “Estrid! What the – ”

“Oh, you poor dear!” she cooed at the sight of the bruise on his cheek.

'Oh, you poor dear!'

“Well you might say! What are you doing in here? If your brother finds you with me, it’s not his shield I’ll be taking in the face, but his sword!”

“I came to see what he did to you.”

“Went home crowing about it did he?” Brede snarled.

'Went home crowing about it did he?'

“No! Sigefrith told me. How do you feel?”

“I feel as if I was just slammed in the face with the edge of a shield, what do you suppose? Estrid, please, you must leave,” he said, trying to herd her towards the door.

“No, Brede, no!” she whimpered, throwing her arms around his neck.

“Estrid! For God’s sake!”

'But, Brede!  I miss you!'

“But, Brede! I miss you!”

Brede sighed.

“Kiss me!” she begged, trying to pull his head down towards hers.

“Oh, no!” he said, shoving her away. “Are you trying to get me killed? I’m still hoping that what happened today was only an accident.”

'Oh, no!'

“He doesn’t know I’m here!”

“How did he know last time? That’s what I should like to know. There have been times when I have wondered whether the whole thing was not a little joke you and Hilda decided to play on me.”

'That's what I should like to know.'

“What?” she gasped. “Why?”

“Jealous, perhaps?”

“What? Of Eadgith?”


“What?” she cried. “I knew it! You love her more than me, don’t you? Don’t you?”

'Don't you?'

“I don’t – ” He was about to say that he didn’t love anyone, but decided in time that it would be rather undiplomatic. After all…

“You don’t what?”

“I don’t. Anyway, she is to marry the King.”

“Oh, if that’s the only reason why…!” she huffed.

“For God’s sake…”

'For God's sake...'

“But, Brede! I have tried for weeks and weeks, and you don’t even look at me! It’s no joke! You think I don’t care, but I do. So! I let you kiss me, and touch me, and – so!”

She was beginning to cry. That was trouble. The girl herself was trouble. “Estrid, you must go. I wish I could allow you to stay, but I – ”

“You do?”

“Do what?”

“Wish I could stay?”

'Wish I could stay?'

“Of course, but your brother would – ”

“But I can stay! Look! So!” She began fumbling at the hooks on the front of her gown.

“Estrid…” he warned, but he watched her shaking hands.



She snatched at his hand and stuffed it into her gown, beneath her shift. He could feel her heart pounding, and she was as soft and warm as a kitten – but it was Eirik who called her kitten. He winced at that thought, but he did not draw his hand away.

Estrid laughed a little hysterically. “So! This time you touch, next time you look!” She yanked his hand out and began fastening up her gown.

'This time you touch, next time you look!'

“Estrid…” He took a step towards her, but she backed away.

“So! Now I go like you say. But you see? It’s no joke.”

“Estrid, you will get me in trouble…” He had backed her up nearly to the wall.

“No trouble! I go like you say.” She still laughed breathlessly, but her eyes were panicked. She had frightened herself.

“Stay a moment.”

'Stay a moment.'

“No no!” She ducked under his arm and laid a hand on the door. “Next time, you will kiss me too?”

“This time, if you stay a moment.”

“No!” she whispered. “You tell me to go, so I go. Next time!”

She opened the door and slipped outside. He dared not call after her.

Brede sighed and went to lay his aching head back on his pillow. If Eirik could nearly bash in his skull accidentally, of what might not he be capable intentionally?

'Brede sighed and went to lay his aching head back on his pillow.'