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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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JabberJock14

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Eadward worked at his buttons with a frown, “Or the last breath before a death rattle.”

Eadward says what we all think. (of course we have the advantage of knowing the end date of this part of the trilogy).

She offered a loving scratch at the back of his neck before turning to the door, “I be not the bitter one, sir. There is another that may feel that sting. Thankful I am, and so...shall we go down?

Methinks the Lady is enjoying Madrun's eventual loss of her county.

Judith once more shows herself to be a fine partner to Eadward. He is clearly the most fortunate brother when it comes to wives, both smart, loyal and an heiress. No wonder Beo looks at him with such envy.
 

stnylan

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Judith has steel in her bones, for all appears demure. There is a curious strength to her that comes through ever scene she graces - and grace the scenes she is in she does. She reminds me, in more ways than one, of Hextilda. The other woman who often appear - Madrun, Wulfrun - even Uhtræd's half-forgetten wife in Meissen - are many things, but possessed of the strength of grace ... that they are not.

When all is said and done the mightiest women of the lot may be the one who appears most meek.
 

Specialist290

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Judith in this scene reminds me somewhat of the archtypal "Southern belle" -- gracious in word and deed, generous in heart, keen of wit, and does not take overmuch pleasure in the downfall of a rival -- in public ;)

But in all seriousness, I have to echo @stnylan once again: She is indeed a rare woman among women, one who "clothes steel in silk," so to speak.

If there is a consistent theme to the last few chapters, it is vulnerability -- the idea that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Uhtræd has long been a linchpin, holding together not merely his kingdom but even his family, and we are starting to see what happens when that linchpin starts to buckle under the weight it's been carrying for so long.
 

Asantahene

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I’m just going to pose a question that’s been niggling at me @coz1 and it concerns the psychology of the affair. Would Eadward be so loving, so sensual with his lady when he has Madrun? Does he love them both equally? Is that realistic from an emotional perspective? My experience as a counsellor in relationships is that when engaged in an affair it tends to pull the affection one way or another with not a lot left for the other. It’s just a thought. I wonder if you’ve not played Eadward too straight here...
 

Bullfilter

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I’m just going to pose a question that’s been niggling at me @coz1 and it concerns the psychology of the affair. Would Eadward be so loving, so sensual with his lady when he has Madrun? Does he love them both equally? Is that realistic from an emotional perspective? My experience as a counsellor in relationships is that when engaged in an affair it tends to pull the affection one way or another with not a lot left for the other. It’s just a thought. I wonder if you’ve not played Eadward too straight here...
Interesting and thought-provoking observation. There’s the added complication of which lens of cultural sensibility one might be viewing it through - or indeed attributing to the characters: 21st century Western broadly applied a thousand years back? Or a non-conquered Anglo-Saxon magnate of the period (largely unknowable) so we will naturally tend to write about what we know or can readily imagine? Then there may be game factors an authAAR may be trying to apply. Hmmm ... :confused:
 

Nikolai

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I’m just going to pose a question that’s been niggling at me @coz1 and it concerns the psychology of the affair. Would Eadward be so loving, so sensual with his lady when he has Madrun? Does he love them both equally? Is that realistic from an emotional perspective? My experience as a counsellor in relationships is that when engaged in an affair it tends to pull the affection one way or another with not a lot left for the other. It’s just a thought. I wonder if you’ve not played Eadward too straight here...
From experience from my own family, I can but say that some men do - at least in their own mind - love two equally. It's not easy for anyone though! One has got a vow after all. Judith does seem like a remarkable woman.
 

coz1

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Fb-fb:

Eadward says what we all think. (of course we have the advantage of knowing the end date of this part of the trilogy).



Methinks the Lady is enjoying Madrun's eventual loss of her county.

Judith once more shows herself to be a fine partner to Eadward. He is clearly the most fortunate brother when it comes to wives, both smart, loyal and an heiress. No wonder Beo looks at him with such envy.
I thought that line might catch a few eyes. And indeed, Eadward is quite lucky, especially when it comes to his brothers. Some might even say that he does not deserve it. (Also yes - Judith have a little too much joy at having her husband by her side at the moment.)

Judith has steel in her bones, for all appears demure. There is a curious strength to her that comes through ever scene she graces - and grace the scenes she is in she does. She reminds me, in more ways than one, of Hextilda. The other woman who often appear - Madrun, Wulfrun - even Uhtræd's half-forgetten wife in Meissen - are many things, but possessed of the strength of grace ... that they are not.

When all is said and done the mightiest women of the lot may be the one who appears most meek.
That is a good comparison for her, though even Hextilda had a harder exterior in some ways. Judith has come quite a long way for the rather meek wife that presented herself at the end of The Rightful King.

Judith in this scene reminds me somewhat of the archtypal "Southern belle" -- gracious in word and deed, generous in heart, keen of wit, and does not take overmuch pleasure in the downfall of a rival -- in public ;)

But in all seriousness, I have to echo @stnylan once again: She is indeed a rare woman among women, one who "clothes steel in silk," so to speak.

If there is a consistent theme to the last few chapters, it is vulnerability -- the idea that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Uhtræd has long been a linchpin, holding together not merely his kingdom but even his family, and we are starting to see what happens when that linchpin starts to buckle under the weight it's been carrying for so long.
The weight indeed. Keep note of that word. ;) I would admit, I was not necessarily targeting the theme of vulnerability, but I will not deny that it may show forth from the various ways I have been looking at things. As for Judith, we might even go so far as to say she is entirely her father's daughter. :)

I’m just going to pose a question that’s been niggling at me @coz1 and it concerns the psychology of the affair. Would Eadward be so loving, so sensual with his lady when he has Madrun? Does he love them both equally? Is that realistic from an emotional perspective? My experience as a counsellor in relationships is that when engaged in an affair it tends to pull the affection one way or another with not a lot left for the other. It’s just a thought. I wonder if you’ve not played Eadward too straight here...
An interesting thought, and I of course understand how you might come to that conclusion given what you do, but I might suggest that I have done rather the opposite of that. For many years, while Eadward carried on the affair, he was very much absent from his wife and family. You may remember two key scenes in all of this - one, in which Judith confronts Eadward and they seem to reconcile, and the second in which the affair with Madrun would appear inexorably broken when she realizes war is upon her (though even there, Eadward has a hard time containing himself.) I have been moving slowly trying to take Eadward away from Madrun and over to Judith which has been hard to do because they are secondary characters and do not get a lot of "screen time" but the underlying action was there if perhaps not suggested well enough.

However, I might also suggest that in some ways, there is a different attraction to each of the women in Eadward's life - put too simply, they are lust vs. love. It may just be occurring to Eadward that he does not need Madrun as much anymore the more he sees the true strengths within Judith. My two ducats, anyway and much the way I have tried to write it out. :)

Interesting and thought-provoking observation. There’s the added complication of which lens of cultural sensibility one might be viewing it through - or indeed attributing to the characters: 21st century Western broadly applied a thousand years back? Or a non-conquered Anglo-Saxon magnate of the period (largely unknowable) so we will naturally tend to write about what we know or can readily imagine? Then there may be game factors an authAAR may be trying to apply. Hmmm ... :confused:
I will say that no game actions dictate this. The affair with Madrun was made up out of whole cloth to spice things up. I think it has worked. ;) However, there may be something to modern vs. 12th century sensibility as well. One might argue that emotionally, there may not be too much difference but rather the difference in is how it is viewed. Either way, as I mentioned above, I have worked to show that Eadward is slowly moving back to Judith and away from Madrun.

From experience from my own family, I can but say that some men do - at least in their own mind - love two equally. It's not easy for anyone though! One has got a vow after all. Judith does seem like a remarkable woman.
Something true there - people are different, though I think @Asantahene is talking from a general point of view, which he would know well given his profession. I don't think is wrong so much as maybe has not seen some of what I intended to build (perhaps too behind the scenes.) However, true - Judith does have the marriage vow. And yes - is quite remarkable. :D


To all - As usual, some great comments and discussion. I always love the ways you folks come at the work, even if I may disagree or think something might have been missed. And one of the more remarkable things about each comment is that in many ways, they seem to anticipate what is to follow in certain ways. I cannot so how right this minute, but some thoughts are rather key. Specifically the discussion on Madrun will play rather heavily in the next scene that follows. I was going to wait until tomorrow to post it but as the last scene was so short and this next has some impact given this discussion, I thought it might be appropriate. As well, it kind of works for my timing this weekend as it puts the follow on scene to Sunday which is easier on me (and boy, am I looking forward to the reaction to that!)

Thanks for bearing with me as we move rather swiftly forward and thank you so much for your excellent comments along the way!
 

coz1

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The Bold Prince


Gainsborough, England - October 1128


Her reception at the court at Gainsborough was very different than the last time she traveled there. Where once Madrun was subjected to the withering eye of the great magnates of England and forced to swear to the victorious King Eadgar, now she was ushered into a hall devoid of anyone save Uhtræd himself and his brother standing beside the seated King. In all of it, she remained proud and as her guards released her, she stood tall, free of chains and strong just as she had done before. The King did not say a word but kept his gaze to her with a sharp eye until she finally offered him a deep bow and then stood with a smile.

“Do you find us well met, my Lady?” Uhtræd asked with a grin as he huddled in his fine chair.

Madrun kept her smile, “Having not met you before, I would say that I do not. I expected a greater presence.”

Uhtræd offered a slight laugh, “Not quite the picture of my father, I suspect.”

“In a word...” Madrun allowed a grin, “...no. Do you be unwell...again?”

“I have seen better days, my Lady,” Uhtræd suggested, “And yet I would not miss this moment with you.”

“Then I am doubly wounded,” Madrun replied, “Not only have I been bested but by a sickly King. I am mortified.”

The two kept their eyes locked on one another as Uhtræd laughed once more, “I may gather what others see in you, my Lady. You have a wit and goodly spirit. I believe that I like it well.”

Madrun dipped her head, “Your father said much the same when I had the pleasure of his audience. Others too have found me...desirable.”

Uhtræd turned briefly to Eadward before looking to her once more, “Your Lord husband of Kildare, to be certain.”

“He is one...” she smiled in her reply, “...among many. My Lord does still smart at his defeat at Burgh and I must commend you for your great bravery at that place.”

“Was he there? For I did not see him,” Uhtræd questioned.

Madrun took on a slight frown, “Likely not. Poor that was as he should have tasted your steel as his men were caused to do.”

“Indeed a shame,” Uhtræd suggested with a grin, “If he is half as charming as you, I would have liked to take his measure.”

“He is not,” Madrun returned the grin, “So you will have to do with mine.”

Uhtræd laughed again, “That is a fair trade. And I do hope that your progress to this place was not terribly a burden.”

“I do not think to call it a progress...Your Grace. More a forced march.”

“I would see you one way or the other, my Lady,” Uhtræd continued to smile.

Madrun allowed a nod, “Indeed you would. Come all the way to call on me at my home.”

“You were not easy to track down,” Uhtræd suggested, “And yet Bangor Fawr found you, my Lady, and so we found Bangor Fawr.”

“And I wished that I might say that it was my pleasure that you did so...but you know that it is not,” Madrun dropped her smile as she allowed a brief look to Eadward.

“So...” Uhtræd shifted in his chair, “...what shall we do here?”

Madrun stood tall once more, “I should think that you would name your terms for I am bested and at your mercy...Your Grace.”

Uhtræd raised a brow, “It need not have been this way, Lady Madrun. I do believe that my brother here did offer you a safer road to travel.”

She looked at Eadward again, “A forked tongue does offer two routes and I be happy with the one of my choosing.”

“Either way...” Uhtræd smiled once more, “...it brings you here to me.”

Madrun returned the smile, “Indeed...all roads do lead to England it would seem.”

Uhtræd struggled to stand but made his way down the few steps and took her hand, “My terms would remain the same, my Lady. I would hold you as my Lord in Gwynedd as you have been. I did not wish this hardship upon you. I hold great affection for you as does my brother.”

“He does indeed,” Madrun stared at Eadward.

“So I would ask of you now...” Uhtræd gripped her hand tightly, “Do you accept?”

Madrun kept an icy stare towards Eadward before looking back to the King with a smile and bending to a knee. She clasped her hands together before him and lowered her head, “I would have little choice but to become yours if you would have me, Your Grace.”


Uhtræd placed his own hands upon hers, “Then rise, my Lady of Gwynedd and count me as your liege Lord and true benefactor in every way.”

“You are the King of Wales, Your Grace...I could do no other,” Madrun stood and smiled to the King before looking to Eadward once more with a sharp eye, “Yet...am I to answer to him?”

“My brother?” the King allowed his own smile to her before moving back to his raised chair, “Of course, for he is the Chancellor of the realm and my most trusted confident. Yet...I think to keep you for myself.”

Eadward was shocked but did not say a word. Madrun saw the look and found a great grin, “It would be my honor to be your personal vassal, Your Grace. I can think of no other that I would rather serve.”

“That is very good to hear,” Uhtræd answered as he took some pains to sit once more, “I would have you now fly free back to your lands and know that you are comforted in our love.”

Madrun offered a deep bow, “I would know that at least one member of the House of Wessex has great love for me, Your Grace. I thank you.”

Uhtræd squared her face and gave a nod, “You may now go, my Lady. Peace be with you.”

“And also with you, Your Grace,” Madrun replied as she backed from the hall.

When she was gone, Uhtræd turned to his brother, “So tell me of Glamorgan...this Earl Cadwgan...how soon may we move?”

Eadward remained in shock, “This was not what we planned!”

The King craned his neck with some pain to give question, “Whatever do you mean? I had wish to gain Gwynedd and have now done so. I would see Glamorgan as well. You know this, brother.”

“I was to be her Lord,” Eadward answered quickly.

Uhtræd struggled to stand but found some purchase as he leaned against his chair, “Brother...get off of that. I believe that you have had plenty of her in your many years. It is time for this Lady to find a new champion and you have many other duties at the now.”

The Prince lowered his head, “Of course I do.”

The King reached out and grabbed at his brother’s coat, “Eadward...I do not know what time I have left. I must needs see this thing come. You will help me and not sulk!”

Eadward stuffed down his rage and tried to smile, “So it is Glamorgan. I will do what I am able.”

“Do more than that, sir.” Uhtræd answered him as he started to shuffle from the hall, “I would see it...and soon.”

The Prince watched his brother walk away, clearly in pain. He felt lied to and was incensed by it. He would likely never have the same relationship with Madrun as before, but he knew well that she had left him already. Yet, he had held out some hope. And then there was his wife. Judith would surely be happy with this outcome. She was the strong one and their relationship had grown better. Perhaps it was for the best. It was only after much deep thought that Eadward finally looked down and realized that he was sitting in the King’s chair.

 

JabberJock14

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Well, that was fun! Madrun is a treasure. Her verbal sparring is always amusing, and even more so with the House of Wessex that isn't Eadward. Hopefully, we have not seen the last of her.

As for Eadward, it was to be expected from everyone but him, I imagine. Uhtræd does a wise thing here - Eadward's relationship with Madrun warrants a shake of the head now, but would be rather... unseemly... if she were his lover and his vassal. And while their relationship was broken before, there was nothing saying Eadward wouldn't have tried to repair it, and given those power dynamics... yeah it's best Uhtræd took her as his vassal.

And the last line. Well, we're all kind of thinking it - he's likely the only one who can hold the realm together. We'll see if it actually happens.
 

Nikolai

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Sitting in the king’s chair. Heh, yes. Perhaps he will never be king, but it seems likely he will soon sit there, if things progresses. I no longer think he will become king in reality though, neither does he really wish to. See, I’ve progressed in my thinking of him @coz1 :D
 

stnylan

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Oh Uhtræd that was a smooth move - one way to establish continued dominance of Eadwerd in a not-too nasty a fashion.

And win a little loyalty, perhaps, from Madrun.

But he is getting desperate.
 

Bullfilter

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Looks like he urgently seeks to paint over that one little piece of Wales that remains outside the unified kingdom ... before, well you know what :(. That’s right, a new cryptically ambitious Book the Third title! :D

Really looking forward to what happens in the near future: all that succession tension, years of relative stability turned on their head, new kings, pretenders, rebellious magnates, adventurers, plots, disgruntled and proud uncles tempted to stray once the direct brotherly link is broken and some young foreign whelp no one has ever met is thrust on the English throne:

“My Lord, this young German is no English King. Eadgar’s blood runs truer and purer in you than he. Our enemies gather like mangy dogs to tear at our sides. Lord Robert would seek to succeed (in all its meanings) where his father could not. We need a strong king, my Prince (insert either brother’s name here), who knows the realm and has served it well and loyally his whole life. The Lords of England know this new ‘king’ no better than his father did, which is not at all. Claim what is yours by right and for the good of the realm! Declare your hand for the crown and I will pledge my loyalty to your cause!” Kneels and awaits the word to gather his forces for the xxxx war for the English crown.

Etc etc. :D
 

coz1

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“My Lord, this young German is no English King. Eadgar’s blood runs truer and purer in you than he. Our enemies gather like mangy dogs to tear at our sides. Lord Robert would seek to succeed (in all its meanings) where his father could not. We need a strong king, my Prince (insert either brother’s name here), who knows the realm and has served it well and loyally his whole life. The Lords of England know this new ‘king’ no better than his father did, which is not at all. Claim what is yours by right and for the good of the realm! Declare your hand for the crown and I will pledge my loyalty to your cause!” Kneels and awaits the word to gather his forces for the xxxx war for the English crown.
I will certainly do proper fb-fb tomorrow, but I just want to give great kudos to @Bullfilter here! I, of course, cannot say that this is how it plays out...but you may not be wrong. :D

In truth...you may be surprised. :p

However, as reward for your creativity, I will divulge the title of the new work here and now (as I am nearing 50 pages in document in the writing already)...look forward (hopefully) to -

The Heavy Crown
 

Specialist290

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As with the others, I can't help but see some symbolism (and perhaps a hint of foreshadowing) in Eadward unconsciously finding himself on the king's throne. For all that I've defended him as something more than an opportunistic schemer over the narrative-years, I also think that there's some small voice in the back of his mind that he's never been able to silence, whispering in his ear about how much better things would be if he were the one sitting in that chair rather than his father or his brother. Again, I don't think that he would move directly against one of his brothers -- their bond is far too tight for that -- but a nephew he hardly knows and who in turn knows even less of English ways might be another matter entirely, especially if he can convince himself (or be convinced by some third party) that the good of the realm demands it...

Admittedly, he could also play out the role of Dutiful Son / Brother to the very end, especially of someone else beats him to the punch in launching the inevitable rebellion. Eadward has always been one of those people who seems to have two contrary natures warring for control; the love triangle between Madrun and Judith is just the most visible manifestation of that.
 

Idhrendur

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Foreshadowing? A character highlight? Either way, I'm really curious to see where this now goes.
 

Asantahene

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However, I might also suggest that in some ways, there is a different attraction to each of the women in Eadward's life - put too simply, they are lust vs. love. It may just be occurring to Eadward that he does not need Madrun as much anymore the more he sees the true strengths within Judith. My two ducats, anyway and much the way I have tried to write it out. :)
I’ll take that :)
 

Asantahene

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A chapter heavy with symbolism...that is all
 

Bullfilter

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I will certainly do proper fb-fb tomorrow, but I just want to give great kudos to @Bullfilter here! I, of course, cannot say that this is how it plays out...but you may not be wrong. :D

In truth...you may be surprised. :p

However, as reward for your creativity, I will divulge the title of the new work here and now (as I am nearing 50 pages in document in the writing already)...look forward (hopefully) to -

The Heavy Crown
Many thanks for this great honour, My Liege! [bows low in courtly fashion]. A Heavy Crown - but on whose head(s)? ;):confused:
 

coz1

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Fb-fb:

Well, that was fun! Madrun is a treasure. Her verbal sparring is always amusing, and even more so with the House of Wessex that isn't Eadward. Hopefully, we have not seen the last of her.

As for Eadward, it was to be expected from everyone but him, I imagine. Uhtræd does a wise thing here - Eadward's relationship with Madrun warrants a shake of the head now, but would be rather... unseemly... if she were his lover and his vassal. And while their relationship was broken before, there was nothing saying Eadward wouldn't have tried to repair it, and given those power dynamics... yeah it's best Uhtræd took her as his vassal.

And the last line. Well, we're all kind of thinking it - he's likely the only one who can hold the realm together. We'll see if it actually happens.
I always have a lot of fun when I write for Madrun, and this scene was especially fun as I had to go back and make sure I had all my own facts straight about the last time she was hauled before the English King. And indeed, as I noted before, this was always going to be a de jure war - I was not fighting it for Eadward, though the narrative did suggest it. It's funny, when I was playing this part of the game, I had no idea I would invent the affair with Eadward and Madrun. That only came later as I looked through my notes coming up during Rightful King. Story wise, it is the right move, I agree.

Sitting in the king’s chair. Heh, yes. Perhaps he will never be king, but it seems likely he will soon sit there, if things progresses. I no longer think he will become king in reality though, neither does he really wish to. See, I’ve progressed in my thinking of him @coz1 :D
Unfortunately, Eadward may keep you guessing. As suggested, that was no mere coincidence that I ended the scene as I did. There are many leagues left on this road, however, so time will only tell.

Oh Uhtræd that was a smooth move - one way to establish continued dominance of Eadwerd in a not-too nasty a fashion.

And win a little loyalty, perhaps, from Madrun.

But he is getting desperate.
Uhtræd is getting desperate, no doubt. He does not know how long he has left and his goal remains unfulfilled. No time like the present to keep on moving down that road, if he can.

Looks like he urgently seeks to paint over that one little piece of Wales that remains outside the unified kingdom ... before, well you know what :(. That’s right, a new cryptically ambitious Book the Third title! :D

Really looking forward to what happens in the near future: all that succession tension, years of relative stability turned on their head, new kings, pretenders, rebellious magnates, adventurers, plots, disgruntled and proud uncles tempted to stray once the direct brotherly link is broken and some young foreign whelp no one has ever met is thrust on the English throne:

“My Lord, this young German is no English King. Eadgar’s blood runs truer and purer in you than he. Our enemies gather like mangy dogs to tear at our sides. Lord Robert would seek to succeed (in all its meanings) where his father could not. We need a strong king, my Prince (insert either brother’s name here), who knows the realm and has served it well and loyally his whole life. The Lords of England know this new ‘king’ no better than his father did, which is not at all. Claim what is yours by right and for the good of the realm! Declare your hand for the crown and I will pledge my loyalty to your cause!” Kneels and awaits the word to gather his forces for the xxxx war for the English crown.

Etc etc. :D
Well, you got your third book title and your thoughts and what will happen may not be far off. Or they may. :p However, there is no doubt that Uhtræd wants that last bit of Wales before he goes. Is it a race against time? We shall see. :D (And again - an excellent bit there!)

As with the others, I can't help but see some symbolism (and perhaps a hint of foreshadowing) in Eadward unconsciously finding himself on the king's throne. For all that I've defended him as something more than an opportunistic schemer over the narrative-years, I also think that there's some small voice in the back of his mind that he's never been able to silence, whispering in his ear about how much better things would be if he were the one sitting in that chair rather than his father or his brother. Again, I don't think that he would move directly against one of his brothers -- their bond is far too tight for that -- but a nephew he hardly knows and who in turn knows even less of English ways might be another matter entirely, especially if he can convince himself (or be convinced by some third party) that the good of the realm demands it...

Admittedly, he could also play out the role of Dutiful Son / Brother to the very end, especially of someone else beats him to the punch in launching the inevitable rebellion. Eadward has always been one of those people who seems to have two contrary natures warring for control; the love triangle between Madrun and Judith is just the most visible manifestation of that.
Excellent thoughts all. I must continue to make Eadward a bit of a shadow to rightly paint what his future will be, but regardless of what happens, I think you are right - he will struggle with his choices. In many ways, Eadward may be the most complex character in the entire story. Possibly.

Foreshadowing? A character highlight? Either way, I'm really curious to see where this now goes.
Excellent! :D And it could be a bit of both.

I’ll take that :)

A chapter heavy with symbolism...that is all
Glad my previous explanation made sense. And indeed, this last ended with quite a bomb. It has not exploded yet, however, so we have time to watch it tick away. :D

Many thanks for this great honour, My Liege! [bows low in courtly fashion]. A Heavy Crown - but on whose head(s)? ;):confused:
Quite welcome, sir. See below for a bit more on the new title.


To all - As you can imagine, I have been waiting to post the above scene for a few weeks now and was very excited to finally get some reaction to it. The end of the war was inevitable with the King the victor, but I thought there were a few highlights sprinkled in to make it really quite fun. And you may all thank @Bullfilter for finally getting me to reveal the name of the new work.

As mentioned, it will be called The Heavy Crown. I actually struggled quite a bit on what I would call it, going back and forth on a few possibilities. One I quite liked was "The Weighted Crown" but was finally convinced it did not quite work, so I stuck with the theme of it even though I lose something else that was intended by it. I think the final name is cleaner and more fitting overall. Many thanks to both @Director and @stnylan for their help, as always! We three have been close friends for quite a long time and have been passing our ideas by each other for well over a decade. Their assistance is invaluable to me and often, they likely deserve a partial story credit, or at least consulting credit. :D

We are quite close to it as well, folks. The next scene arrives tomorrow and as mentioned, it is a corker. In truth, there are quite a few of them coming up but many of them will have to wait for the third book. However, you are in luck as I plan to move just as swiftly once this finishes in launching book 3. I'll probably get a couple or three scenes up before I am away for a week so you can stew over those in the meantime.

And as always, your words and following are so very important to me. I was just speaking to my father the other day and telling him that when we go on the ski trip, that will be the first time since October of 2016 that I did not write at least every other day, if not every single day. Even if it was 500 only words. Every single day I have worked in some fashion on this now rather long story, either planning, plotting or to do the real work of writing the scenes. It will be weird. Thankfully, I'll have the family to keep me company. :) All of that is to say that I'm not sure how much of that I would have been able to accomplish with your support. I truly cannot thank you all enough!
 

coz1

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The Bold Prince


Wareham, England - February 1129


Godwine sat at the high table in his hall and chewed at the bone with irritation. There was not much meat left to it, but he would get every part. The crowd before him was small as many of his courtiers had found reason not to show and between that and his anger at the King, the Duke pulled with fierceness at the last bites that he could find.

“My Lord husband,” Mathilda leaned over and whispered, “You should slow down.”

“I would not,” he answered and moved to pull another piece to his mouth, “And I would thank you not to correct me.”

Mathilda looked to him with concern, “What has come over you, my Lord?”

The Duke chewed with some fury and spoke with meat falling from his lips, “Must I explain it once more? How many times would your brother...the King...put me into my place?”

“How has he offended you, my Lord?” she asked.

His answer came between bites, “He would not see me for one...I may gain no audience even though he is content to spend time with the Lady in Mercia or that fool in York. Even the Norman may find his way into the King’s presence, but I am shut out.”

Mathilda attempted to soothe his emotions, “His Grace has found need due to his war in Gwynedd to see these Lords, husband. I be certain that it is no slight.”

“No?” Godwine looked to her with some scorn and then washed his food down with a great gulp of ale, “He has been back to Gainsborough since this summer past and not once am I invited to the council chamber. He would continue to see his ledgers but never in my viewing. There was nary a whisper when I asked permission to return to Wareham for the season. He has your brother the Chancellor come to tell me a yea with a smile. It is almost as if they both wish me gone.”

“I be certain that this is not true, husband,” Mathilda replied with sympathy.

Godwine reached for another large piece of meat as he answered with irritation, “Truth? You wish for truth? I tell you that in two years, I have rarely set eyes upon the King.”

Mathilda raised a brow at this but still found explanation, “Much of that time, His Grace was not in residence at the court for he be at Burgh in Cumberland. You know well that story.”

“Hmm,” the Duke snorted before taking another large pull of meat off the bone, “Yes...everyone knows. How very brave.”

“My Lord, it was brave,” Mathilda began to scold before Godwine looked to her with a sharp eye.

“Speak not to me of your brother’s heroics, wife, for I wish not to hear of it.”

“Hear it or no,” she suggested, “There be no reason for the King to wish you set aside...unless you have done something to offend him and have not told me.”

Godwine threw an empty bone to his trencher and held up his cup for more ale, “I have done no thing! I have only done exactly what you suggest...I have been loyal and true and done my part to be within the King’s inner circle. Yet how can I be when he gives me no chance?”

“It would take time,” his wife tried to be understanding, “As it was for your Lord father before you.”

He raised the now full cup to his lips and drank it down before demanding another, “There is no time to be had! I cannot be within earshot nor eyesight of the King. Even your nephew gains more presence as his ward than I, his Steward, might gain.”


Mathilda grew worried, “Then you must travel back to Gainsborough and double your efforts, husband.”

“Double my efforts indeed,” Godwine answered with sarcasm before picking at another bone, “In truth, I believe him to replace me with another.”

“Has he indicated this?” Mathilda truly grew concerned, “Or Eadward?”

“I do not need to be told when something is there before me, wife,” Godwine chewed with anger, “I have seen that Norman skulking around the keep at Gainsborough. I think he would replace me with ease and the King would not think twice about it.”

“Surely not!” Mathilda replied with some shock.

“God’s balls!” Godwine exclaimed, “You and your family are quite the work, I tell you. Your great brother the King...that toady of his brother...even the young one, so brave and battle tested...”

The scorn dripped from his lips along with grease from the meat, “...Even your disgraced sister...once a Queen and look where she be now, eh?”

“My Lord husband,” Mathilda tried to calm him, “You must not say too much...”

“I must not?!” Godwine shouted to her as he pulled another piece of meat to his mouth and chewed with fierceness as he continued to harangue her, “You would continue to scold me?! If I be in a foul mood, it be because your family does nothing else...”

Mathilda was about to respond until she saw her husband’s face grow shocked. He quit speaking and suddenly seemed to gasp for air. Holding his hands to his throat, she tried to help, “My Lord...what is it?!”

Waving an arm around Godwine attempted to use his other to bring his cup of ale to him and spilled it in the process. His wife seemed helpless as she did not know what to do. The Duke continued to gasp and finally dropped from his chair to the floor. The few courtiers in the hall moved to assist but by the time they reached him, Godwine was silent. His eyes bulged out and his face was blue.

A courtier felt at his chest and then with sorrowful eyes looked at the crying Duchess, “My Lady...the Duke is...no more.”


Nearly hysterical, Mathilda screamed, “That cannot be!!!”

Everyone lowered their heads and the courtier made pains to respond, “I am sorry to say it, my Lady. The Duke gains no breath and is lost.”

“No!” she started crying even more, “No, no...no, no, no!!”

A few of her ladies moved to help and comfort her and one looked to her with great concern, “My Lady...we must see to your son.”

Mathilda looked up with shock in her eyes, “Eadweald? Yes...bring him to me...at the now!”

The mistress flew from the hall and Mathilda sat on the floor cradling her husband’s head. She remained in shock and could not bring herself to understand what had occurred. And yet, at only age thirty nine, the wily Duke Godwine II of Bedford was dead, choked by his voracious appetite and constant spite and now replaced by a boy hardly twelve summers old. If the King had truly wished to replace Godwine as Steward, he now had every opportunity.