Dinner and Diatribes
It had taken them two days to reach the border from Northumbria to Mercia, and an extra three to locate and reach Queen Emma's land holdings in Wessex.
After much arguing and acting, they finally managed to get an audience with Emma and King Æthelred under the belief Maggie and Kalen where traders from Normandy.
"Just remember, let me do the talking."
Maggie said to Kalen as they stood at the large wooden double doors of the throne room in which the King and Queen sat waiting.
"If you say the right things, fine." Kalen said, righting his tunic, which was slightly too big for him.
The doors swung open and Maggie and Kalen were shoved into the dimly lit room. The sun shone brightly outside, but the windows of the keep were extremely small, letting little light in.
Maggie bowed low and Kalen followed.
"Your Majesties, it's an honour. Thank you for allowing us an audience." Maggie stated as clearly as she could speak. Kalen suppressed a smirk at hearing Maggie speak so proper.
"Well, we hear you bring trade from my homeland." The Queen spoke up first as Maggie expected. Emma, or Ælfgifu as she was sometimes referred to, was a bold political figure in the public eye, even after her last husband died.
"What is your name, girl?" The Queen asked, watching her carefully.
"Milritha, Your grace. And my brother, Alwin. " Maggie thought it safer to use more common names than their own.
"Can the boy not speak for himself, girl?" The King interjected.
"Forgive her, my sister is... disturbed these days." Kalen said.
"Disturbed?" Emma questioned. "What is the matter, Milritha?"
"Our sisters, your grace. They were captured by Northmen when they raided our camp just a few days ago, we cannot barter their safe return."
"Them Heathens!" The king bellowed. "We made an alliance. They have crossed me too many times, Ælfgifu." Æthelred said facing the Queen.
"Then we must handle it." She responded, calm but stern. It was then that Maggie truly took in the view before her. Emma was beautiful, her dark green dress elegantly hung from her body and her long brown hair was tied back, surrounded by gold ribbon and carefully placed gemstones that twinkled when they caught what little light came from the windows. A rose surrounded by thorns.
"We will send an emissary right away." She said, nodding towards a young guard stood by the door, who left without a word.
"In the meantime, dine with us." The king went to object to the idea, but one glance at his wife and he simply sighed and ordered for the table to be set in the great hall.
It wasn't grand, but it was certainly lavish for the time. Torches burned in every corner of the room and the long table stretched from one end of the room to the other.
"Milritha, take a seat near me, won't you?"
The queen said, sitting at the head of the table, her husband on the other end.
Maggie took a seat to the left of Emma and Kalen sat to Maggie's right.
The other remaining seats were taken up by, what Maggie presumed were council members of the court and the King and Queens children; Alfred Aetheling, Godgifu, and Edward the Confessor. They were all young here, from the current date, perhaps ten to twelve.
"Now, do tell me" Emma began "where in Normandy are you from?"
Maggie was silent for a moment, raking her brain for the name of the city from her history trip.
"Is it difficult to remember, girl?" Æthelred sneered from where he sat.
"No sir, we simply travel so much, my home is no longer Normandy. It is where ever my heart is, and my heart is with my siblings."
"A sentiment I hope does not extend to the Danes."
"Of course not your Majesty, however, I cannot fault them for wanting to find a home. We all look for a place to belong."
The King barked a laugh, along with his friends.
"I completely understand" The Queen said sipping wine from a goblet, her eyes fixed on Maggie as a smirk crept onto her face. The King fell silent and stared at her.
"I think, perhaps the wine is getting to you, my love."
"I think you're mistaken." To anyone else, Maggie probably sounded naive and stupid. But to Emma, a visionary. Although she loved England, it was obvious she missed her homeland. After all, she only married Æthelred for peaceful ties to Normandy, which was a Dukedom under the control of the Vikings.
"Do not take that tone with me, wife." Maggie rose her eyebrows and sat straighter in her chair. Kalen glared at the smirking council members, who found much humour in the situation. The children were silent, Maggie presumed they'd probably had many dinner conversations like this one before and knew better than to speak up.
"If I were you, husband, I would be extremely careful with how you talk to me, especially around our guests." She responded in calm fury.
After a silent stare-off between the King and Queen, the conversation soon picked up again.
"Do you have a husband, Milritha?"
Kalen coughed from where he sat, trying not to choke on his food.
"No, I don't your grace."
"And you, Alwin? I'm sure you have many women lined up waiting to take your hand."
"I'm afraid not, we're both waiting for the right one, as naive as it may sound." Kalen responded, a shy smile on his lips.
"Well, whoever you marry, will certainly be happy. I can tell." She gave a quick smile to her children. Godgifu was sat directly opposite Maggie, to the Queen's right. Her eldest brother, Alfred, sat next to her, and Edward next to Kalen. She leant close to Maggie.
"I can only hope my children find happiness, however, the lifestyle we have requires sacrifice. They know that of course, but a mother can wish."
"Something tells me, they'll all be more than happy."
"I hope you are right, my dear."
After a few long minutes of eating and discussing a rescue plan, Maggie and Kalen were sent to their own rooms. The food was nice but very different from what she was used to.
When she reached her room, she took in the sight before her. The bed was simple, wooden with fur and off- colour blankets.
The window was small and the glass murky. Maggie couldn't help but feel guilty. She was going to sleep with a full belly and a reasonably warm bed whilst her friends were going through god knows what. She had to be hopeful, this time tomorrow, she'd have her friends back.