After chapel, Paulinus follows me to my hall and kneels before me, his face divided between hope and despair. I invite him to join me as I break my fast. Before I swallow my first bite, the bishop speaks to me without being asked.
“When will the king keep his vow?” he asks. “When will the baptism take place? Easter is most appropriate for postulants to enter the church, but I can bring the ceremony forward. Perhaps at Christmas? I couldn’t catechize the king before then.”
“The king has forgotten his vow,” I say flatly.
“That cannot be. He pledged his daughter.”
“I don’t know how you can be here so long and still misjudge the king. He’s Bretwalda of England by the strength of his arm and Woden’s luck. The scops sing of ravens circling the battlefield. Warriors await their rewards. He will not turn away from the source of his victory.”
“But, Your Grace,” the bishop sputters, “the king made a vow.”
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