And at last I knew him. It was that man of ours whose neck had been twisted by the way in which he had been hauled on board at the time of the wreck, and had afterwards gone to Ethelwald’s court. One would say that this Mord had prospered exceedingly, for he was plainly a man of some consequence in the princess’s household. He did not know me, though it happened that he looked right at me for a moment; but I did not expect him to do so after twelve years, seeing that I was but a boy when we parted. I thought that I would seek him presently.
Then I saw Griffin, the Welsh thane, and I did not like the looks of him at all. He was a black-haired man, clean shaven, so that the cruel thinness of his lips was not hidden, and his black eyes were restless, and never stayed anywhere, unless he looked at Ragnar for a moment, and then that was a look of deadly hatred. He wore his armour well, and had a steady seat on his horse; but, if all that I had heard of him was true, his looks did not belie him. Men had much to say of him here, for, being some far-off kin to Alsi’s Welsh mother, he was always about the court, and was hated. He had gone to Dover to fetch the princess before we came here, but it happened that I had once or twice seen him at other times when I was in Lincoln, so that I knew him now.
There was great feasting that night in the king’s hall, as one may suppose, and I sat with the housecarls at the cross tables beyond the fire, and I could see the Lady Goldberga at Alsi’s side. Tired she was with her long journey, and she did not remain long at the table; but I had never seen so wondrously beautiful a lady. Griffin sat next to her on the king’s right hand, for Ragnar was at the king’s left, in the seat of next honour; and I saw that the lady had no love for the Welsh thane. But I also thought that I saw how he would give his all for a kindly glance from her; and if, as Alsi had seemed to hint, Ragnar was a favoured lover, I did not wonder that Griffin had been ready to do him a bad turn. I had rather that the thane was my friend than my foe, for he would be no open enemy.
I left the feast when the first change of guard went out, for I saw that the ale cup was passing faster than we Danes think fitting, being less given to it than the English. And when the guard was set I waited alone in the guardroom of the old gate, for Eglaf was yet at the hall, and would be there all night maybe. And presently Earl Ragnar came in and sat down with me.
He was silent for a while, and I waited for him to speak, until he looked up at me with a little laugh, and said, “I told you that I had to fight Griffin tomorrow?”
“You did, earl. Is that matter settled otherwise?”
“Not at all,” he answered. “I believe now that he was acting under orders, but I have said things to him which he cannot pass over. I called him ‘nidring’ to his face, and that I still mean; for though I thought of cowardice at the time, he is none the less so if he has plotted against the princess. So naught but the sword will end the feud.”