Lady Aethelflaed in Paddington

LadyAethelflaedInPaddington

(Maciek M [CC / Flickr])

I saw Aethelflaed in Paddington Station.

I know what you’re thinking, but this isn’t like that time I thought the red-haired woman in the Starbucks queue was Guinevere. That was silly, Guinevere’s just a story. Never really existed.

Now Aethelflaed on the other hand, she definitely lived. And I saw her getting off the train from Worcester, which was the capital of Mercia in her time. That proves it, doesn’t it?

No, of course she wasn’t a ghost. There’s no such thing as ghosts. She’s a spirit anchored to a place and Aethelflaed’s place was half of England when you add Wessex and Mercia together. She must have been delighted when trains were invented. Imagine a thousand years with nothing faster than a horse-drawn carriage to get around in.

Don’t roll your eyes. This isn’t like the time I asked that woman sunbathing in Hyde Park if she was Queen Mab. I was thinking about something else and when I saw that long red hair of hers… well, I apologised and she was very gracious about it.

I’m talking about Aethelflaed. She was wearing this purple dress that set off her pale skin. Couldn’t have looked more regal if she’d been wearing her torque. And did I mention her flaming red hair?

No one else noticed her. That was the clincher. No one who had actually seen her could have thought for a moment that she was just one more woman getting off a train, but they were all bustling past her like she wasn’t there. Spirits are like that. They see us all the time, but it’s only once in a while that one of us is lucky enough to see them.

If she was looking for someone who keeps our heritage in our hearts, she’d found him. I waited for her to come through the gates and got down on one knee before her. My lady of Mercia, I said to her, your servant.

She stopped and her blue eyes widened. Not a lot of people who have heard of her, and most who have think she must have been a queen given that she effectively ruled Mercia and Wessex.

She looked amazed to be addressed by her proper title, but she didn’t say anything. She stayed as composed as any true queen ever could. I told her I was hers to command in case she was so used to not being seen that she wasn’t sure what I was getting at.

I meant it, too. There was a bunch of blonde teenagers looking Scandinavian by the Café Nero kiosk and at one word from her, I’d have put and end to their Viking and driven them back across the Watling where they belong. I know we can’t be sure where exactly the Watling was, but I’m sure it was east of Paddington Station.

She didn’t looked like she’d noticed them. Her attention was all on me.

She took a couple of steps back, which made me very conscious of what I don’t know about Saxon etiquette. I was probably too close for a commoner. She’s the daughter of King Alfred the Great himself after all, and blood doesn’t get any more royal than that.

I said I was hers unto death, in case she still hadn’t got my point.

She didn’t say a word. Just turned around and strode into the Lush shop with her long red hair dancing over her shoulders. I guess the novelty of bath bombs might take another century or two to wear off.

I could see I’d failed to convince her of my fealty. Perhaps she expects full prostration from a true servant. All I can do is spend every spare moment in Paddington Station until I see her again and when I do, I’ll fall on my face in front of her. I hope that will get a different reaction from her.

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