I’d been inside the palace before, several times, but certainly not like this. Mara marched my body with a certainty in her stride I’d never had, and instead of holding the arm of another Maid, I could see where I was going perfectly. I’d never realized the floor was a mosaic showing the first queen bringing the tribes together, never seen the tapestries on the walls depicting the Thunder Hawk fighting the Serpent of the Caves or the Mother of Witches and her daughter the Rainbow.

I didn’t particularly study any of them, because Mara’s attention was on one thing only – King Adalric, at the far end of the room. She strode past the guards without a glance from them; clearly this had been expected.

My body gave the barest bow to the king and I knew Mara was smiling as she did it. I had a second of fear that King Adalric would be offended, but Mara stopped the feeling cold.

And then the king sank to his knees and bowed prostrate before me.

-I know it’s new to you, but don’t fear. This is all ritual,- Mara assured me. -He knows what’s going on.-

King Adalric pushed himself up from the floor and hugged my knees, laughing a little. When he stood and embraced me properly, I realized his face bore the trails of tears.


-Ritual can be personal as well as prescribed,- she said to me, and out loud, “I take it you approve, my king.”

“I’d almost begun to wonder how the day could finally come, or if it would be what I wished it would be.”

“And is it?”

Adalric – for she thought of him that way, without titles, with so much fondness, and it was so easy to let her influence me – laughed again. “Better, my love. Better.”

-I thought the relationship of the King and Queen was…- I hesitated, even in thought.

-Formal?- she suggested. -It can be. Your lands have been loyal and generous to me since your people were first united, and often I choose someone who simply asks as a priest or priestess. It’s a position and a title. But Adalric, he is special to me.-

When I looked at my king, it was with my goddess’s sight, so it is little surprise that I soon felt the same way.

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