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The yard was becoming crowded as word had spread from mouth to mouth, and Aedward, a young Saxon of eighteen summers, rode into their midst. His eyes quickly sought out Lillyth, and they smiled their welcome to each other as he handed his tired mount over to a serf from the stables. "What tidings, Aedward?" she asked breathlessly, her eyes going wide in momentary fear.

"No invaders, if that's your meaning. However, I have news that touches you more closely," he confided, his eyes momentarily clouding. "Come, your mother will be anxious for these letters I carry from your father. You will hear all soon enough!'

The Lady Alison, Lillyth's mother, awaited them at the door as they entered the hall together.

"Bring Aedward a horn of ale, my dear," directed Lady Alison to a young serving girl. He handed the packet of letters to the older woman, and as he did so he marveled at the stately appearance she presented. She was small, dark and plump and not nearly so beautiful as her daughter, but she was almost regal in her bearing and always wore an air of serene authority that could set one quaking with a glance if she were displeased. Aedward avoided Lillyth's questioning eyes and watched Lady Alison's hands, adorned with many beautiful rings, open the sealed packet. She scanned the pages quickly, while Aedward drank his ale before he could put the drinking horn down. Fashioned from hollowed bulls' horns, the drinking horns had a crescent shape that made it impossible to set them down before they were empty.

"My Lord Athelstan complains this watch they keep is but another folly of King Harold's," Lady Alison told Lillyth. "No invaders sighted all these long weeks, and their supplies are near run out. Your father says they will keep watch only one more week and then return for the harvest. I think pressing business here at home occupies his thoughts more than rumors of invasions." She was slightly shaken that Athelstan had directed her to make preparations for Lillyth's marriage to Aedward's elder brother, Wulfric, who was patrolling with him on the coast at the moment.

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