Her eyes soften. "Cyng Oswulf is a most generous man, and kind to me," she says quickly. "The tincture is for me."
"For you?" I ask incredulously. "In all my long years of life, this is the first I have ever heard such a request. How shall I believe it?"
"By clear thoughts," she replies. "You see, I am with child."
"Yes..." I nod, still not understanding what the one has to do with the other. The explaination may take some time, I realize. "Cwen Cyneswith, I find that I understand more readily when warm and in comfort..."
"Oh!" The young cwen starts, shaken out of her thoughts. "Your age and wisdom demand that you seat yourself if you desire, Waerthyrth. I shall stand, but please..." She waves a hand back toward my bed. I clamber up in, wrap myself well with the blankets, and return my gaze to her.
"I am pleased to hear my son may have an heir," I tell her. "I hope it goes well with you."
She nods nervously; she is thin and pale and is obviously already dreading the childbed. "I... I want peace between our peoples."
"That is a good thing," I say drily, "for a peace-weaver to want."
"Not so much for myself," she continues, "but for my children. But... Waerthyrth, I will undo it all, I know it. I will teach my sons to hate their father and love their uncles, and the day will come when they will seek bloody vengeance for the wrongs visited on their mother."
"The wrongs?" I ask. "What wrongs? He treats you well, better than you deserve for speaking such!"
She looks at me with deadly anger in her eyes, and I belatedly realize I should not have spoken such to the cwen whom my son loves. "He killed my father." She growls it at me.
"Of course he did." I dismiss it. "It was a war, cwen. Your father had killed his - my husband," I add, raising my eyebrows. "So he took command in his turn, and we fought until two old and strong cyngs were dead, and their sons realized it was time to stop. And how else should the peace be sealed, except by a wife? All acted as they must. He did nothing that was to harm you."
"But it does harm me!" she cries loudly. She is Mercian, I recall, and they say that the fathers dote on their daughters almost as much as they do upon their sons there. "I am not blind, Waerthyrth, to the honors he gives me, nor to his affection. But they do not blot out the urgings of my father's ghost! His sons do not seek redress for his death, so he haunts his daughter." She crosses to my bedside and seeks my hand among the blankets. "So, the tincture."
I had almost forgotten her reason for coming! "Ha?"
"If I love him, instead of hating him... then I can pass no bad counsel to my sons, either through word or example. I am trying to act as I must, as you said, so that my children will not raise themselves up against their cousins and slay their own kin. I do not want that. But I fear it may come to pass. Unless..."
"Unless I provide," I sigh, understanding at last. "I believe you now, cwen. I may have something to aid you, if you can be patient. All my best plants are dead in the winter."
She clasps my hand, under the blankets, and thanks me warmly. She looks relieved, and I see a flush of color in her cheeks. She takes her leave, heading back to her quarters through the rain and wind. I rise to see her to the door, and then return to bed again.
I drift back to sleep, different aids to love passing through my mind. I remind myself none may be necessary; unless she starts gaining weight, she will probably not survive bearing the children she fears for. Some problems solve themselves...