Hog tended to Siward Barn and Godwin while Willard and his men jointed the stag. Godwin was on his feet after a little while, complaining about a headache while helping Freya to light a fire and skewer the venison on sharp sticks.
Siward Barn was more badly injured. He had been severely gashed on his chest and arms and Hog used all the cloth he had to staunch the wounds. The smell of roasting venison revived his spirits but he struggled to eat more than a mouthful.
Athelstan drew me to one side. ‘Hog says that Siward will not be able to walk for several days,’ he said.
‘We cannot leave him here,’ I said.
‘Then we will have to find somewhere to hide.’ Athelstan looked towards the south. ‘I feel sure that William still pursues us.’
‘I will ask Willard to find a place to hide in the morning,’ I said. My heart grew heavy even as I said it. The longer we remained here the more likely we were to be found by Norman soldiers.
The next morning, Siward Barn grew angry at the suggestion that we delayed our journey.
‘I can walk,’ he said.
I stepped back. ‘Go on then,’ I said.
He clambered to his feet and took a few steps before doubling up in pain.
‘I’ll need a stick,’ he said. ‘But I can make it.’
I shook my head. ‘You will harm yourself and slow us down.’
He stared at me for long moments and then nodded his head. ‘You’re right, Edgar. Let Willard find a place for me to hide and I’ll wait until I’ve regained my strength.’
‘I will not leave you,’ I said.
‘But you cannot stay here. Delay will prove deadly.’
‘The you shall have to ride on the donkey,’ I said.
Siward Barn turned to the donkey and shook his head. ‘I shall kill the little beast,’ he said.
‘Better than killing yourself,’ I answered.
Later that day we helped him onto the beast. We laughed at the sight, for his long legs almost touched the ground on either side. He cursed us at first and then joined in the laughter. So it was with lighter spirits that we began the slow trek north to safety.
We had to go further than we hoped for Malcolm was wintering in one of his fortresses at Dunfermline north of the Firth of Forth. We crossed the choppy waters in a couple of wide bellied boats which wallowed so much we thought we would capsize.
We reached the shore at last and hired horses to take us the final five miles to Dunfermline.
It was with mixed feelings that I rode through the gate.
A guard told us that Malcolm was waiting in his hall and wished to see me immediately.
I told the others to wait while Athelstan, Godwin and I followed the guard.
‘Be careful what you tell Malcolm,’ Athelstan said.
I frowned. ‘Why?’
‘When you left his court there were high hopes that you would win back the English throne,’ he said. ‘Malcolm has learnt otherwise. I think you can still trust him. But perhaps not as much as before.’
I nodded and led the way into the hall, followed at a few paces by Athelstan and Godwin.
King Malcolm was waiting for us on his throne. As soon as he saw me, he rose and stepped forward to embrace me, bending from his great height like a sapling.
‘I am glad to see you safe, brother.’
‘I am glad to see you,’ I said.
My sister rose from the throne beside him and clasped me tight. She had never been a great one for affection but now I felt like a little child again.
When she pulled back to look at my face there were tears in her eyes.
‘We have heard such terrible things,’ she said.
‘Whatever you heard would not compare to what took place.’
‘Tell us,’ Malcolm said. Servants hurried over with chairs.
‘Blood of Ironside’ is the third novel in The Lost King series. All of the books are available on Kindle for $3.08, £1.97 or €2.68. You can buy by clicking on the links below, by clicking on the covers to the right (for the UK) or through Amazon outlets in your own country.
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- Blood of Ironside (martinlakewriting.wordpress.com)