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The priests’ wailing: I could stab them in the eyes. Arguing over letters and spellings and the choices of words, as though inkstains on vellum can describe the measure of a man, or a woman, or in your case a queen twice over – once with a good friend and once with me.

He had the rank.

And to see you standing at the altar with him as those priests moaned in their bastard language, your breasts and hips and throat and nape, the softest parts of you, and the secret smile you gave me as you glided past, hand in hand. It filled me with ambition.

I knew you’d be with me when I deserved you, and deserving meant acting like the man who would be king, and being that man too, and if that meant burning the hall with him and his fifty inside, our spears stood, our unsheathed blades glittering against the firelight as men turned to screaming candles, melting down to child-bones and the stench of scorched grease, and if that’s all it took to win you, then that’s all I did, and I deserved you.

And you me.

But the stories the bard told when he used my name (but not yours) to weave a tale to impress himself on a lesser king, those stories described the darkness we shared, the passion we held for each other, but not the light, the love that carried us through the long nights of winter, beneath the wool, heat welding our flesh into one.

And the bard no better than any keening priest. Just scribbles. Marks on a page.

Those marks don’t describe your shape. They don’t measure the heat of your womb, the span of your slender hands, the soft curve of your thighs, the barbed tenderness of your bed, the secret smile as I whispered your name as you glided past.

There was no dagger.

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