We sent the fleet southward into the Wash, that it might wait for us at the port of the Fossdyke, on what men call the Frieston shore; and then we left Saltfleet and marched across country to the wolds, and southward and westward along them, that we might draw Alsi from Lincoln. And all the way men joined us for the sake of Curan, whom they knew, and of Goldberga, of whom they had heard, so that in numbers at least our host was a great one. Ragged it might be, as one may say, with the wild marshmen, who had no sort of training and no chiefs to keep them in hand; but I knew that no host Alsi could get together had any such trained force in it as we had in the fifteen hundred Vikings, for they had seen many fights, and the ways of the sea teach men to hold together and to obey orders at once and without hesitating.
So we went until we came to Tetford, above Horncastle town; and there is a great camp on a hilltop, made by the British, no doubt, in the days when they fought with Rome. There we stayed, for Alsi was upon us. We saw the fires of his camp in the village and on the hillsides across the valley, but a mile or two from us that night; and it seemed that his host was greater than ours, as we thought it would be, but not so much so as to cause dread of the battle that was to come.
Now there were two men who came to us that night, and we thought that they had brought some message from Alsi at first. But all that they wanted was to join Havelok, and we were glad of them. They were those two seconds of Griffin’s, Cadwal and the other, whose name was Idrys, and with them was David the priest, who had fled to us.
“We know that Havelok is one who is worth fighting for,” they said, “for we have proved it already. We are not Alsi’s men, and our fathers fought for his mother’s Welsh kin against the English long ago. Let us fight for the rights of Goldberga, at least.”
Havelok welcomed them in all friendliness, though he asked them if they had no grudge against him for the slaying of Griffin.
“As to that,” they said, “after the duel we think that he deserved all that has befallen him. We were ashamed to be his seconds.”
Now these two took in hand to lead the marshmen, and set to work with them at once, for they were ready to follow them as known thanes of the British. And that was something gained.
We slept on our arms that night, and all night long David woke and prayed for our success, and I think that his prayers were not lost.
CHAPTER XXIII. BY TETFORD STREAM.
In the early morning Alsi set his men in order in the valley, and seemed to wait for us to come down to him, for it was of no use to try to take the strong camp which sheltered us. And so, after council held, we did not keep him waiting, but left the hill and marched on him. We had the camp to fall back on if things went the wrong way, and beyond that the road to the sea and the ships was open, with a chance of meeting Ragnar on the way, moreover.