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A Mankind Witch: Chapter Seventeen

       Last updated: Monday, May 30, 2005 10:15 EDT



Kingshall, Telemark

    Vortenbras came stalking into the room with a letter in his hand. Signy was glad of any interruption. It might just stem her stepmother's flow. Even her step-brother, looking as if he was about to tear someone's head off was welcome.

    "The Holy Roman Emperor is sending some of his knights and a team of his damned Christian diviners here to 'help' us find the arm-ring, Mother."

    Albruna raised her eyebrows. "Tell them no. This is our -- your Kingdom, Vortenbras."

    "I can't", he snarled his huge hands crumpling the parchment. "Not in terms of the treaty. Not until after Yuletide."

    Albruna looked down her nose at him -- no mean feat as he was standing and she was seated at the tambour frame. "Then we must accede with good grace and help them to find out that Sverre's witch has stolen it."

    Signy started. Sverre, the grim king of Altmark to the north had been an ally of her father's. To the north-west of him lay Trondheim, captured by the Danes fifty years before. If Sverre had turned against them then indeed the treaty must be reaffirmed, no matter how much it galled Vortenbras. He was a fool. They'd be in a pincer...

    "The messenger from Emperor Charles Fredrik is waiting for a reply."

    Albruna sighed. "I suppose you want me to help you draft one. Very well. We'll be delighted to have them and their assistants. In fact we'll provide a vessel, safe-conduct..." she looked up and Signy. "Signy my dear, you look a little peaked. Why don't you go and take some fresh air. Vortenbras and I will be busy for some time."

    It wasn't an opportunity that came often, and Signy seized it with both hands. Still, she would have loved to know more. All she knew was that the priests of Odin were near their wits end. As she ran up the passage as quickly as she could she heard the queen saying. "Provide a ship to Copenhagen..."

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