He returned to Didlington thoughtfully, guiding the horse over Cranburne’s rolling hills where the path across the grassy common land was still marked by white-painted stones. The tumuli stood as silent reminders of an age long past, sheep not fearing to awaken the sleeping spirits within.
Owen’s wife had surprised everyone by giving birth to a healthy boy child, a cause of great celebration as it had been thought that she was barren. Although their courtship had been brief she now revelled in her position of authority at the new manor and held her head high on the regular visits to Wymburne where she had previously been an object of pity.
It was into this cycle of seasonal activity at the start of a new year, nine hundred and twenty four years after the death of the Lord Jesus that the dramatic news of King Edward’s death was brought by messenger to Wymburne. All men of thegn status or landowners were to proceed to Winchester with all speed. Udda and Udric were stricken with grief, each having received favours from the dead king. Now his legitimate son, Aelfweard, was to be crowned as successor. First the funeral and then the crowning, attended by the highest and the lowest in the land, some of his slaves hoping for freedom in the time honoured way.
They left together wearing the best clothes Galena had hastily prepared. Fur lined cloaks would double as bedcovers for there was no doubt that accommodation would be in short supply. Udric knew from experience that the king’s hall was not as snug as his father’s house or his own with its braziers.
In contrast to the purpose of their visit the sun blazed from a clear sky as if the world rejoiced. In the distance a few feathers of cloud caused momentary shadows on the rich pasture. It was not warm but fine weather lightens the heart. Udric hoped that he would no longer be the subject of tittle-tattle. There had been no opportunity to discuss the matter with Prince Aethelstan who had been elated over his new appointment. To a certain extent Udric knew he had allowed the matter to fester, but this would not be the occasion to allow his hurt and anger to surface.
from "The King's Chalice" historical novel by Janet K.L. Seal.