“I must settle this matter,” the king says abruptly. “Your priest says your god is stronger than Woden. I suggest a test. Send for your priest.”
Paulinus arrives so quickly, I wonder if he was listening at the door. The king motions for him to come forward.
“Paulinus, I have a proposition for you.”
“Yes, Your Grace?” Paulinus gives a low bow.
The king stands and looks down on my bishop. “Do you still declare your god is stronger than Woden?”
Paulinus takes a step forward. “If he wasn’t, Your Majesty, you wouldn’t have survived the assassin’s dagger.”
The king narrows his eyes. For a moment he looks as if he has two options in his mind. He makes his decision and turns toward me. “After we open the campaign season, my warriors and I go to Wessex. I shall kill the treacherous King Cwichelm and take his land. If I’m successful, as I know I will be, I shall grant the pope’s request and renounce Woden. Would that please you, my queen?”
I hide my surprise. “My lord, I can think of nothing to please me more. We shall stand together before God, who will make you a mightier king than you already are. Is this not wonderful, Bishop Paulinus?”
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