‘No, he will not escape that way,’ Leofwine said, as with his mantle flowing behind him he furiously hurried after the bishop. ‘He will be boiled alive in a sauce of his choosing and you, my lord Bishop, will never be trusted again.’ Leofwine raged at Bishop Erwald until they heard a door slamming heavily outside in the courtyard and it stopped. ‘That was a church door,’ Thea said.
‘We cannot prove Erwald’s guilt,’ Gytha said. ‘But, I promise, if he has turned Norman sympathiser and a murderer, he will pay. There are always ways to deal with treacherous monks.’
Aldgyth raised her eyebrows and looked over at Thea. When she smiled, Thea found herself returning her smile. Grandmother Gytha could be trusted to loyally guard her son’s interests and Bishop Erwald would not escape her wrath. Yet, whilst close to death, her father had whispered comforting words to her and she knew that in his heart that he still loved her mother. Excusing herself, she wandered from the stuffy, foul-smelling chamber out into the abbey cloisters in search of sweeter air. Although her beloved father was safely delivered from a terrible fate, what would happen if he died and would the Witan ever accept her brother as his father’s successor?
The night sky was lit up. A collection of monks stood outside staring up at a bright new star that had appeared as if summoned by a sorcerer. Some were praying. Others were pointing up as they clutched each other’s robes. Through the gaps in the pillars, Thea glimpsed the courtyard where her father’s attendants had gathered. For a moment, she thought she noticed Earl Waltheof amongst them. She shook her head. Her thoughts were no longer for him. Rather, they had settled firmly upon the importance of her father’s survival to the kingdom. She looked upwards into the sky to where everyone else was peering at an enormous star with a dragon-like tail that hovered above the abbey church. Uncle Leofwine stepped beside her. ‘They say such a long-tailed star indicates great change in a kingdom. Let us hope it means that your father is to be promised a long and peaceful reign.’
‘Amen,’ Thea said softly. ‘May God protect all of us – my father, his queen and our people from the evil that lies across the Narrow Sea.’
‘And from the treachery of Norman-loving bishops,’ Leofwine said with not a little hint of cynicism.