Presently there were flying men of the Welsh who could be seen on the open hillsides, and some few came even up to this camp, and we took them, and from them heard how the battle had gone. It had been a terrible battle, from their account, but they knew little more than that, and that they were beaten. I suppose that Ina thought it best for us to hold this camp for the night, for here we bided, chafing somewhat; and but for what we took from the Welsh, hungry, until early morning. Then at last a mounted messenger came to us, and we went to Norton.
There, indeed, was high praise waiting for us from Ina, for it seemed that our work had checked the advance of Gerent, and had given time for full gathering of the levies before he was over the border. But now I learnt that there was another Welsh army in the field, beyond the Tone River, and until we heard how it fared with the Dorset levies in that direction it was doubtful if we might hold that all was well yet. Gerent had not set everything on this one attack, but had also marched on Langport across the Blackdown hills. Thither Nunna had led what men he could be spared, and was to meet the Dorset levies, whose ealdorman, Sigebald, had sent word to Glastonbury, soon after I left there, to tell of this attack.
In the late evening there were beacon fires on the Blackdown hills, and a great one on the camp at Neroche which crowns and guards the hills in that direction. And so presently through the dusk one rode into Norton with word of the greatest battle that Wessex had fought since men could remember, for Nunna had met the foe on the way to Langport, and at last, after a mighty struggle which had long seemed doubtful, had swept them back across the hills whence they came, in full flight homeward. So there was full victory for Wessex, but we had to pay a heavy price therefor. Nunna had fallen in the hour of triumph, and Sigebald, the ealdorman, was lost to Dorset also.
Presently we laid Nunna in his mound on the Blackdown hills where he had fallen. There he bides as the foremost of Saxon leaders in the new land we had won, and I do not think that it is an unfitting place for such a one as he. It is certain that so long as a Wessex man who minds the deeds of his fathers is left the name of Nunna will be held in honour with that of the king; his kinsman.
CHAPTER XVI. OF MATTERS OF RANSOM, AND OF FORGIVENESS ASKED AND GRANTED.
Now I must needs tell somewhat of the way in which Ina won Norton, for that had so much to do with my fortunes as it turned out, seeing that all went well by reason of our holding the hill fort, in which matter, indeed, Thorgils must have his full share of praise.