Liz Williams — Milk

Whiteshadow had brought her wealth with her down from the north, a herd of cattle as pale as the moon, with ears that sunlight shone through. Sea had watched them file in through the gate of the fortress, their hocks black with winter mud. It was not an auspicious time for a betrothal, but neither the Bear nor Whiteshadow’s father had been willing to wait. At the fort, the talk had been of nothing else for half a year, with the oak men and the lords debating this merit and that, sealing the dowry between this, the summer country, and Bennaic’s northern kingdom.

Grain had not been pleased. The Bear was her son; she should, she hissed, have had more of a say in matters. But she said this to Sea, who was only a daughter, and Sea knew, but did not say, that Grain was only a woman.

So Sea had heard a great deal about Whiteshadow before she even arrived: about her beauty, about her blue northern eyes and her white northern skin. The new Queen had raider blood, so it was said, and when she set eyes on Whiteshadow, Sea could easily believe it. The Queen rode tall on her pony, with her braids falling down to her waist, and her bridle was filled with totems and charms. Sea recognised the beak and feet of an owl, the Queen’s symbol.

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