July 2000
Dorchester
ISBN 0843947365


Bastard daughter to the king, Rosamunde was raised in a convent and wholly prepared to take the veil... until the good King Henry showed up with the reluctant husband in tow for her. Suddenly, she found herself promising to love, honor, and obey Aric... But Rosamunde's eduction had not covered a wedding night, and the stables were a poor example for an untried girl. Would Aric bite her neck like the animals did their mates? The virile warrior seemed capable of such animal passion, but his eyes promised something sweeter. And Rosamunde soon learned that while she may have trouble with obeying him, it would not be hard to love her new husband forever.


History was what gave me the idea for this story. I was reading all about King Henry II and his wife Eleanor and how she turned their children against him. Then I discovered the tales of Henry's mistress, Rosamunde. Well, the next thing I knew I was rewriting history in my head. Henry had one good child who did not turn from him. Rosamunde, named after her mother, took me on an adventure that included a murderous madman and farting horses. What a ride!


Chapter One

Lady Adela, Abbess of Godstow frowned down the length of the table at the nuns all seated for the nooning meal. Sister Clarice, Sister Eustice, and Lady Rosamunde were missing. It was not unusual for Sister Clarice to be late. The woman was late for everything for one reason or another. Most like she had forgotten to fetch the incense for the mass that would take place after the meal, and had gone to rectify the situation. Sister Clarice always forgot the incense. As for Sister Eustice and Lady Rosamunde, however, they were both most punctual as a rule. However, they had not been at the morning meal either. Come to that, they had not been at Matins, Lauds, or Prime. It generally took an emergency to keep a nun from mass, and this was no exception. Sister Eustice and Lady Rosamunde had been in the stables through the night and well into the morning, working over a laboring mare who was having difficulty birthing her foal.

But surely they were not still at that, she fretted, then glanced sharply toward Sister Beatrice when she stumbled over the passage she was reading. Seeing that she, along with all the other women were peering up the table at her, Lady Adela arched an eyebrow questioningly, then glanced to Sister Margaret, the nun seated on her right as she made a motion with her hands. Sister was holding one hand up, the fingers fisted but for the baby finger which hung down like the udder of a cow. With her other hand, she was imitating the motion of milking.

Adela blinked at her briefly, then realized that she had picked up the pitcher of milk and then held onto it thoughtlessly as she worried over the women missing from the meal.

Passing the pitcher of milk to Sister Margaret, the Abbess gestured to the others to continue with their meal, then rose and moved toward the door. She had barely stepped into the hall when she spotted Sister Clarice hurrying down the corridor, a slightly guilty flush to her face. Unable to speak during meal time, Lady Adela once again arched an eyebrow, demanding an explanation of the woman.

Sighing, Clarice raised her hand and propped two fingers upward until they were inserted in her nostrils, somehow managing an apologetic look as she did.

The action was pantomime to announce that she had forgotten to provide incense for mass as Adela had suspected. Shaking her head at the other woman, she gestured for her to continue on to her meal, then made her way out to the stables.

The building was silent but for the faint rustle of hay as various animals shifted and glanced curiously toward her as the Abbess entered. Gathering the hem of her skirt close to avoid it trailing through anything unpleasant, Adela made her way down the rows of stalls until she reached the last one where Sister Eustice and Lady Rosamunde were kneeling by a panting mare. She stood there for a moment, peering affectionately at their bent backs as they toiled over the laboring animal, then her mouth dropped with dismay as Sister Eustice shifted and she could see exactly how Lady Rosamunde was toiling.

"What in God's name are you doing?!"

Rosamunde stiffened at that horrified exclamation from behind, her head whipping briefly around to see the Abbess gaping at her with dismay. Then she swiftly whirled back to soothe the mare as the animal whinnied, her muscles shifting around her hands.

Leaping to her feet, Eustice ushered the horrified woman a few steps away, babbling explanations as they moved. "The mare was having difficulty. She labored for hours before we realized that the foal was backward. Lady Rosamunde is trying to help."

"She has her hands inside the mare!" Adela pointed out with horror.

"She is trying to turn the foal," Eustice explained quickly.

"But-"

"Is it not the nooning hour?" Rosamunde asked with exasperation, removing the hand she had been holding the foal's feet with to pat the mare's rump soothingly. The animal was becoming distressed by the tone of voice the Abbess was using.

"This is an emergency. God will forgive our breaking our silence during meal time if 'tis an emergency," Adela responded promptly.

"Aye, well, let us hope the mare does," Rosamunde muttered, shifting swiftly out of the way as the horse began kicking her legs in a panicked attempt to regain her feet.

Sister Eustice moved at once, hurrying to the horses head and grabbing it to hold it still while murmuring soothing coos at the frightened animal.

Worry tugging at her brow now, Adela managed to contain herself as Rosamunde dropped back to her knees at the rear of the reclining horse. Unlike Sister Eustice, who was garbed in the plain gown of a nun, the girl was decked out in a stable boy's pants and overlarge top, the billowing sleeves rolled back to leave her arms bare. It was the costume the girl usually wore when working in the stables. She felt it much more appropriate and Adela, despite her better judgment, had done little to sway her from wearing the outlandish garb. There was no one of import around to disapprove anyway. However, she had already explained to the child that she would have to shed the stable boy's clothes for good, along with many other things, once she took the veil and became a nun.

Adela's thoughts fled, her face twisting into a half grimace, half wince as Rosamunde once again eased her hands into the mare, reaching to grasp the foal and try to turn it to ease it's way into the world.

"Thank the Good Lord's graces that your father, the King, is not here to see this," Adela murmured, remembering to keep her voice calm lest she frighten the horse again.

"To see what?"

All three women stiffened at that deep baritone. Eustice's eyes widened in horror as she peered past the Abbess toward the entrance to the stables. Her expression was enough to tell Adela that she had correctly recognized that voice. The Lord, it seemed, was not feeling particularly gracious today. The King had come in time to see what his daughter got up to under her care.

Straightening her shoulders, Adela turned resignedly toward the King, hardly noticing the men with him as she forced a smile of greeting to her face. "My Liege. Welcome."

Henry II nodded at the Abbess, but his attention was on his daughter as she glanced over her shoulder at him, a bright smile replacing the anxiety on her face.

"Papa!"

Henry started to smile, then frowned instead as he took in the sight of her. "What the Devil are you doing in the stables, girl? And all dressed up like a stable lad too." He frowned beetle-eyed at Adela. "Do I not pay you people enough to hire a stable boy? Do you spite me by putting my daughter to work with the animals?"

"Oh Papa," Rosamunde laughed, unconcerned by his apparent temper. "You know that it is my choice. We must all work at something and I prefer the stables to scrubbing the convent floors." The last of her statement was a distracted mutter as she turned back to whatever it was she was doing.

Henry's curiosity drew him forward. "What are you doing?"

Rosamunde glanced up, a scowl of anxiety on her face. "The mare has been in labor for more than a day now. She is losing strength. I fear she shall die if we do not help her along, but I can not get the foal out."

His brows drawn together, he peered to where her arms disappeared into the mare at the elbows and horror covered his face. "Why you- What- You-"

Sighing at his dismayed stammering, she calmly explained, "The foal is backward. I am trying to turn it, but I can not find the foal's head."

His brows rose at that. "Will it not hurt the mare having you dig about inside her like that?"

"I do not know," she muttered distractedly, reaching further into the animal. "But both mother and foal shall surely die if something is not done."

"Aye...Well..." Frowning at her back, he said, "Leave that for...er..." He arched a questioning eyebrow toward the nun now moving back toward Rosamunde and the mare.

"Sister Eustice," Lady Adela supplied helpfully.

"Aye. Sister Eustice. Leave it to the sister to deal with, daughter. I do not have long here and-"

"Oh, I could not do that, Papa. It would ruin the sleeves of Sister Eustice's gown. This will not take long, I am sure, and then-"

"I do not give a damn about Sister's sleeves," Henry snapped, starting forward to drag her away bodily if need be, but a pleading glance from his daughter made him halt. She did look so like her mother. Henry had found it impossible to refuse the mother anything. Why should their daughter be different?

Sighing, he removed his cloak and handed it to Eustice, then shrugged out of his short surcoat and handed that over as well.

"Who taught you to do this?" he asked gruffly, bending to kneel beside her in the straw.

"No one," she admitted, flashing him a smile that warmed his heart and immediately made him let go of his impatience and anger. "It just seemed to be the thing to do when I saw the problem. She will die otherwise."

Nodding, he shifted as close to her as he could get and reached his hands inside the mare to help her. "It is the head you can not find?"

Rosamunde nodded. "I have his rear legs, but I can not-"

"Ah ha! I have it... It is caught on something. There we go."

Rosamunde felt the back legs slip from her grip and shift away. She just managed to tug her hands free of the mare as her father turned the animal within it's mother until it's head was at the right angle.

"The mare is too weak. You will have to-" Even as the words left her mouth, her father tugged on the foal's head and front legs. Seconds later it slid out onto the straw.

"Ohhh," Rosamunde breathed, peering over the spindly legged creature as it wriggled on the straw. "Is it not adorable?"

"Aye," Henry agreed gruffly, then cleared his throat, grabbed her arm and urged her to her feet. "Come. Time is short. 'Sides, 'tis not fitting for a girl of your position to be participating in such things."

"Oh Papa." Laughing, Rosamunde turned and threw herself into his arms as she had when she was a child. Henry quickly closed his arms around her and gave up the reprimand as she knew he would.

"So that is the King's daughter."

Aric shifted on his feet, his gaze leaving the girl the King was embracing, to glance at his friend. "It would seem so."

"She is lovely."

"Quite," Aric agreed quietly. "Unless my memory fails me, she appears almost a copy of the Fair Rosamunde."

"Your memory fails you not. She is an exact likeness of her mother," Shrewsbury agreed, adding with a small smile, "Except for the hair. That is wholly her father's. Let us hope she did not inherit his quick temper along with it."

"She has been raised right, my Lord Bishop. With all discipline and goodness, and the disobedience beat out of her," The Abbess announced staunchly, glaring at Shrewsbury for the very suggestion that she might not have been. Then, seeming to regain herself, she forced a smile and in a much more pious tone murmured, "It is most gratifying that his majesty received my message. We feared when we heard that he was in Normandy that he might not receive the news in time to make it back for the ceremony."

Aric exchanged a glance with Robert, then asked carefully, "What ceremony?"

"What ceremony?" Adela echoed with amazement. "Why Lady Rosamunde takes the veil tomorrow."

There was dead silence for a moment after that announcement, then Robert murmured, "The King will no doubt be a bit surprised by that knowledge."

"WHAT!!!" Henry's roar drew their attention.

"I believe he just learned," Aric muttered. Henrys a sight to see. His face bore a furious scowl and was so red as to seem almost purple. Even his graying hair seemed to have picked up some of the fire of his temper and shone more red than gray as he stormed angrily toward them, hands and teeth clenched.

His daughter was hard on his heels, a startled and somewhat bewildered expression on her face. "I thought you knew, Papa. I thought you had received my message and come to witness-" Her words came to an abrupt halt when her father paused in his stride and swung on her in a fury.

"It shall not happen! Do you hear me? You are not, I repeat NOT going to be a nun."

"But-"

"Your mother - God rest her soul - insisted on the same thing ere she died and I could do naught about it. But I can and will do something now. I am your father, and I will not allow you to throw your life away by becoming a nun."

Rosamunde looked briefly stunned at those words, then seeing the stiff expression on the Abbess face at the insult in his words, she allowed her temper loose. "It is not throwing my life away! 'Tis perfectly acceptable to become a bride of God! I-"

"Will God see you blessed with children?" Henry spat, interrupting her curt words.

She looked taken aback briefly at that, then regained herself to snap, "Mayhap. He saw Mary blessed with Jesus."

"Jesus?" For a moment it looked as though he might explode, or have a heart attack. His face was so red as to be almost purple with his rage.

It was the Bishop who intervened, drawing his attention with the gentle words, "Your Majesty, it is a great honor to become a bride of God. If Rosamunde truly has a calling, it is not well done to force her to-"

"YOU!" Henry turned on the man. "I will not hear your religious drivel. Thanks to your dilly dallying, we nearly did not arrive here in time. MY GOD! If I hadn't chanced to hear of Aric's broken betrothal and saved a day's riding by choosing him to groom, instead of Rosshuen, we would have been too late!" Whirling on the Abbess, he roared, "Why was I not informed of these plans?!"

The Abbess blinked at him, taken aback. "We- I thought you knew, my Liege. It was Rosamunde's mother's wish that she follow in her footsteps and become a nun. She said so on her death bed. And you have never arranged a betrothal, I thought you agreed."

"I do not agree," he snapped, then added, "And I have been making arrangements. But what I meant was, why was I not informed of the upcoming ceremony for her to take the veil?"

"Well...I do not know your majesty. I did send word. Some time ago in fact. It should have reached you in plenty of time for you to attend. We hoped you might."

The King turned on Shrewsbury again at that news, eyes narrowed and accusing, but the Bishop merely shrugged and murmured, "We have been moving around quite a bit, my Liege. Le Mans then Chinon.... Mayhap it arrived after we left. I shall, of course, look into it the moment we return."

Henry glared at him briefly, then turned on his daughter. "You are not taking the veil. You will marry. You are the only child of mine who has not turned against me. I will see grandchildren from you."

"John has never turned against you."

"Not according to the gossips."

"That is just gossip," she argued with disdain.

"And if 'tis true?"

Her mouth thinned at the possibility. For truly no man in history had suffered so by betrayal as her father. Every one of his legitimate son's, her half brothers, had come to turn on him under the influence of their mother, the Queen Eleanor. "Then there are still William and Geoffrey," she whispered, mentioning Henry's other two bastard children.

His expression turned solemn at that and he reached out to clasp her by the shoulders. "But they were not born of my Fair Rosamunde. The love of my life. I am a selfish old man, child. I would see the fruit of our love grow and bloom and cast it's seeds across the land, not be stifled and die here in this convent."

Rosamunde sighed at that, her shoulders slumping in defeat. "And so I shall marry. Who is my groom?"

Aric stiffened as the King suddenly turned toward him.

"Burkhart." The King gestured for him to step forward and Aric unconsciously straightened his shoulders as he did so. "My daughter, Rosamunde. Daughter, your husband, Aric of Burkhart."

"How do you do, my Lord?" she murmured politely, extending her hand. Then, grimacing apologetically as she saw it's less than pristine condition, she retracted it and dropped a quick curtsy instead. "I regret my apparel, but we were not expecting company today."

Before Aric could even murmur a polite greeting in response, the King announced, "You should change."

Her head whipped around. "Change?"

"Aye. You will not wish to be wed looking so."

"The wedding is to take place now?" Dismay was the only word to describe her reaction and Aric could actually sympathize with her on that. It was all a bit dismaying to him as well.

"As soon as you are changed. I must return to Chinon."

"But-"

"See her changed," the King ordered Sister Eustice, then snatched up Adela's arm and urged her out of the building. "I would have a word with the Abbess."

Rosamunde gaped after them, then glanced to Eustice with a start when the sister took her arm and urged her to follow. "I am to be married."

"Aye." Eustice glanced worriedly at the girl as they stepped out of the stables. The child was unnaturally pale.

"I thought I was going to be a nun like you."

"Everything will be fine," Eustice murmured reassuringly, directing her through the convent doors and down the hallway to the left. King Henry and Adela were already out of sight.

"Aye," Rosamunde agreed, drawing herself up slightly. "All will be well." Then her shoulders slumped, and she whispered bewilderedly, "But I was to be a nun."

"It would seem you were not to be after all."

"Oh, but I was," Rosamunde paused to assure her quickly. "I knew from long ago that I was to be a nun. My mother wished it so. She told the Abbess. And my father never arranged a betrothal. I was raised to be a nun."

"It would seem not," Eustice corrected gently.

"But what if the Lord wants me to be a nun? What if he is angered that I am not to be one?"

"'Tis more likely the Good Lord has his own plans for you, Rosamunde. Else he would have stopped your father arriving until after it was done. Would he not?"

Frowning, Rosamunde tilted her head to consider that and Sister Eustice continued, "It seems to me that it must have been God himself who lead your father here in time to prevent your taking the veil. Were he even a day later in arriving, the ceremony would have been done by now."

"Aye," Rosamunde murmured uncertainly. "But why would God wish me to marry when there is so much good I might do as a nun?"

"Mayhap He has something more important for you to do as wife that you could not accomplish as a nun."

"Mayhap," she murmured, but it was obvious by her tone that she was having trouble fathoming that possibility.

Sighing to herself, Eustice urged her into moving along the hall again, managing to get her to the small cell that had been Rosamunde's room since childhood. Ushering the still stunned girl inside, she urged her to sit on the side of her tiny, hard bed, then turned to search through her small chest for the white gown the girl had made for taking the veil the next day. Coming up empty handed, she whirled to frown at Rosamunde. "Where is your white gown?"

Rosamunde glanced up distractedly. "White gown? Oh, Sister Margaret offered to hang it for me for tomorrow to let out any wrinkles."

"Ah." Nodding, Eustice turned toward the door. "Wait here. I shall return directly."

Rosamunde watched the door close behind her friend and mentor, then sank back on the bed with a sigh. She was having difficulty absorbing what was happening. Just that morning, her life had been set, her path a comfortable secure one. Now, events seemed to have careened out of control, changing the course of her life, and she was not sure it was in a direction which she wished to go. It looked like she had little choice however. Her father's decisions were law. For everyone.

So, she would be married.

To a man she had never met before and had got only a fleeting glimpse of but moments ago when her father had introduced them. She could have looked at him longer, but had found herself suddenly shy. Rosamunde had never experienced shyness before. But then she had had very little occasion to be in the presence of men during her life. The only men she had ever even met were her father, his servant and constant companion Bishop Shrewsbury, and Father Abernott, the priest who ministered the Sunday mass at the Abbey. The reverend mother did the mass the rest of the week.

There had been that stable boy when she was younger. But he had not been around long. A week perhaps, then he had cornered her in a stall, and pressed his lips against hers. Too startled to react at first, Rosamunde had just stood there, then by the time she had got over her surprise, curiosity and the beginnings of a surprised sort of shivery pleasure had kept her from protesting. Much to her shame, she hadn't even stopped him when he had covered one of her budding breasts with his hand.

Rosamunde had considered stopping him, knowing that anything that felt that wickedly interesting had to be a sin, for surely everything fun did seem to be sinful according to the sisters. But she would never know if she would have stopped him on her own, for Eustice had stopped him for her. One minute she had been wrapped in his enthusiastic embrace, and the next he'd been dragged away from her and was having his ears boxed by the good sister. Then she had dragged Rosamunde off to lecture her that she must never let a man kiss and touch her so again. It was evil. Lips were for speaking, and breasts for milking and that was that.

The Abbess had sent the stable boy back home that very day.

***

"She did not look pleased at the news of her upcoming marriage," Robert murmured.

Shifting on the bench seat where the nuns had presented a meal for the men to consume as they waited, Aric turned his gaze from the food he was unable to eat - despite how delicious it looked - and peered at his friend. "Nay," he agreed dismally.

"Well, mayhap 'tis just a result of surprise."

"Hmm." Aric nodded with little conviction.

"She is quite lovely."

"Hmmm." He looked far from happy about that fact and Robert sighed.

"Surely you do not fear she will be unfaithful? She was raised in a convent, man. She could not have learned the lying cheating ways of a faithless wife."

Aric was silent for a moment, then shifted his position at the table and murmured, "Do you recall my cousin, Clothilde?"

"Clothilde?" He thought briefly, then nodded. "Oh aye. The girl who's mother would not allow her sweets, lest she grow in size, or lose all her teeth ere she married."

"Aye." Aric grimaced. "Not a single sweet passed her lips ere her marriage, but they had a great tray of them at her wedding feast."

"Aye." Robert laughed as he recalled the event. "She quite liked sweets once she tried them. As I recall, she near ate the whole tray all on her own."

"Aye. She still likes them. Perhaps more so because she was deprived them for so long. In the two years since her marriage, she has grown to six times her original size, and lost three teeth at last count."

Robert winced at the picture that created in his head, then frowned. "Do not tell me you fear your wife will grow over large and lose her teeth?"

Aric rolled his eyes at his friend's lack of perception, then sighed. "What is missing in a convent?"

"Well, I realize they can be strict in these places, still I am sure they have the occasional sweet or-"

"Forget the blasted sweets!" Aric snapped impatiently. "It is men. Men are missing in convents."

"Aye, well, but that is the very reason behind their existence and- Oh!" A chagrined look on his face, he shook his head. "I think I see. You fear that having been deprived of the company of men all these years, your wife will find herself over fond of their company on leaving."

Aric muttered under his breath and turned away with mild disgust at the length of time it had taken to get his point across. Surely his friend had not always been so dense?

"Aric. Friend. I would not allow Delia's behavior to color your views. She was raised by her Uncle, Lord Stratam, the most notorious reprobate in the land."

"My mother was not."

"Ah," he sighed.

"She was raised most strictly."

"Ah ha."

"And she could not contain her passions."

Robert shook his head. "I can see you will not be easily reassured, but 'tis not as bad as all that. If you fear she will become over fond of the company of men, you merely have to keep her away from court and the affairs and intrigues that occur there. Keep her in the country where the only men she may meet are peasants and serfs. Surely she was brought up with enough honor not to dally with one of them," he pointed out in an effort to encourage his friend.

"Oh aye, the King would most like be very pleased does he not see his daughter again," Aric muttered sarcastically and Robert frowned.

"Aye, there is that. He will most like wish her at court on occasion."

"Most like," Aric agreed dryly.

"He appears to hold great affection for her." His frown deepened as he thought on that. "That could be a problem, could it not? Jesu! A King for father-in-law," he marveled now in horror as he realized the full significance of it. "Do you not make her happy, he could still have you drawn and quartered. What a spot to be in!"

"Robert."

"Aye?"

"Stop trying to make me feel better."

***

Rosamunde's fretting ended abruptly at the opening of the door. Sighing, she pushed herself to a sitting position as Sister Eustice re-entered, the gown she had fetched lying carefully over her arm to avoid creasing it.

"The creases are all gone, fortunately enough," Sister informed her and started to push the cell door closed, only to pause when the Abbess called out from the hallway. By the time she arrived at the door, both women were waiting curiously. Adela took one look at Rosamunde's telling expression and hurried forward.

"Oh, my dear child," she murmured soothingly, seating herself on the cot beside the girl to embrace her briefly. "All will be well. You will see. God has a special path for you to follow and you must trust in him."

"Aye, 'tis what Sister Eustice said," Rosamunde whispered as tears welled in her eyes. Oddly enough the small droplets of liquid had not threatened until the very moment that the Abbess offered her comfort. It had always been that way. While both Eustice and the Abbess had taken the place of her mother on that beautiful woman's death, it was the Abbess who Rosamunde had turned to to bandage her banged up knees, and soothe her hurts. And it never failed that Rosamunde could stand absolutely anything with a stiff upper lip and grim smile until the Abbess came around, then she handed over her burden and broke down.

"Oh now, shh my child. Do not cry. You must have faith in the Lord. He chose this path for you. Surely there is a reason."

"I am not crying out of fear of what is to come. Well," she corrected honestly. "Mostly I am not. Mostly I am crying for what is ending."

Expression bewildered, the Abbess shook her head slightly. "For what is ending?"

"I will have to leave you all. The only family I have ever known. Aside from my father," she added loyally.

Eustice and Adela shared a dismayed look, their own eyes quickly filling with tears at the realization that they had been too distracted to face until then.

"Well..." Sister Eustice glanced desperately around, everywhere but at the sweet child who had been her student in the stables since a small child. Young Rosamunde had latched onto Eustice's voluminous skirts and trailed her around the moment she had gained her feet and been able to walk. In truth, the nun had come to feel much like a surrogate mother to the girl herself over the years, and quite enjoyed passing on her own knowledge as well as learning from the child. The idea of losing her now was untenable.

"Aye," Adela murmured unhappily, her watery gaze on the floor as she considered her own loss in all of this. She had been taken with Rosamunde from her birth. Her red curls and sweet smile had melted her heart as only a child could. Contrary to tradition, she herself had overseen the girl's lessons in the school room. Spending hour after hour feeding her expanding mind, encouraging patience, and curbing the temper that seemed always to come with red-heads. The reward for her effort had been great. She too had gained a daughter. A physical pain, as if a tearing of her heart in half brought her abruptly to her feet.

"Every bird must leave the nest one day," she said practically and moved to the door, only to pause and glance back uncertainly. "I never thought you would leave us. There was no betrothal." She sighed unhappily. "Thinking you would not need the knowledge, there was much I neglected to teach you about marriage and the marital bed."

"The marital bed?" Rosamunde frowned worriedly as she noted the sudden stain of embarrassment on the older woman's cheeks.

The Abbess stared at her at a loss for a moment, then turned abruptly away. "Sister Eustice shall enlighten you," she muttered. Then she opened the door and slipped out of the room, pausing to turn back and add, "But quickly sister. The King is most impatient to have this business done."

The door closed then, leaving Eustice staring at it rather blankly.

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