We rowed the boat for three miles through slicing seas. The sea surged over the laden keel and we were forced to bale out the freezing water with our cupped hands. Finally, just as our strength was deserting us, we saw a spit of land to the north and a deep inlet to one side of it.
‘Let’s make for there,’ Athelstan yelled.
We had little strength for the task but fortunately the tide and the growing wind from off the sea seemed intent on driving us there. Siward Barn and Merleswein leapt into the waters and dragged the two boats up the beach.
A hill lay above the beach. I jumped out of the boat and climbed up the hill to get see if we were being followed.
Godwin hurried after me.
‘Can you see them?’ he called.
I shook my head. ‘The sky is full of storm clouds. I can’t see that far.’
Godwin held his hand above his eyes, shielding them from an invisible sun. ‘Do you think he will follow?’
‘What do you think?’
‘Then we had better get a move on.’
We hurried back down to the beach. Willard and his men were guarding the three fishermen. Athelstan, Merleswein and Siward Barn huddled together in anxious debate.
‘Did you see anything?’ Athelstan asked when I joined them.
‘It’s too far. I couldn’t even see the headland.’
Merleswein turned to the east. ‘We were a long time rowing. Fast horsemen might make it here at anytime.’
‘Then we must go at once,’ said Siward Barn.
Athelstan glanced at the women, as if weighing up their strength.
I gazed south towards the headland where we had formed the shield-wall.
‘The headland was by the mouth of a large river,’ I said. ‘I wonder if it’s big enough to delay them.’
‘Let’s find out,’ said Willard, sweeping out a knife and holding it against the throat of one of the fishermen. ‘Tell me about the river where we found you,’ he said. ‘How wide is it? Could horsemen cross it?’
The fisherman’s eyes grew wide in terror. ‘It’s theTees,’ he said. ‘It’s the biggest river in the world.’
Willard pressed the blade harder against the man’s throat. ‘But how wide is it? Could horsemen cross it?’
‘Not below Yarm, not at this time of year. The river is too wide and too fast.’
‘How far is Yarm from the headland?’
‘A winter’s day walk.’
‘And how far is Yarm from here?’
The fisherman looked around. ‘I don’t know. I never been to here before.’
‘I have,’ said one of the other fishermen. ‘Yarm must be as far from here as from the headland.’
‘A winter’s day walk?’ said Willard.
‘I think so.’
‘I know so. I walked it once when I was a lad.’
Willard sheathed his knife and turned to me with a satisfied grin.
‘So we’ve got a day and a half,’ I said.
Athelstan’s eyes strayed once again to the women.
‘Freya and I are fine,’ Anna said. ‘We can leave immediately.’
‘What about them?’ Willard asked, indicating the fishermen.
‘Let them go,’ I said.
‘They’ll tell the Normans about us,’ Willard said.
I strode up to the fishermen. ‘My name is Edgar,’ I said. ‘I am your king. The blood of Alfred and Ironside runs in my veins.’
The men looked at me, their eyes full of doubt and suspicion.
‘I am sorry that I killed your friend,’ I said. I opened my purse and gave them six silver pennies. ‘That is his wergild.’
The men looked astonished at this wealth but quickly pocketed it.
‘You could get far more by telling the Normans who I am,’ I continued. ‘But if you do that you will be a traitor to your kin and the curses of all Englishmen will harry you to hell.’
The men threw themselves to their knees.
‘We will not betray you, Lord,’ one mumbled.
I placed my hand upon each of their heads. ‘I hold you to this,’ I said. ‘Now go and keep silent.’
- WASTELAND BOOK 2 OF THE LOST KING SERIES #samplesunday #amwriting (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)
- The Lost King: Wasteland. #SampleSunday #Kindle (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)