Solstice is the longest night of the year—a time when men fear Darkness will swallow Light for all time. Warriors, ready to fight at the slightest insult, nervously glance into the twilight. The night is bitter cold, and the thanes readily enter the King’s Hall. King Edwin has invited his chiefs to the Witan. Each comes with his closest advisors, the men pressing and squeezing into the Hall’s warmth. Coifi arrives with a retinue of priests. They know what’s coming. They know I will speak of the one true God, and they have nothing to say against me. Woden will fail them, as surely as Baal failed his priests in the contest with Elijah.
I stand by the king, wearing my finest robes and a mitre on my head. Coifi also stands by the king. His large golden neck torc reflects the torchlight, giving his face an iridescent glow. Edwin wears the golden tunic Pope Boniface sent him and a fur cloak.
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