Kynan gave some orders to his men, and they took our horses, leading them to a far corner of the camp. After that we were set down to a great supper, and the tale of the flight and the raid was told and retold. Then at last one fetched a little gilded harp, and Kynan ap Huwal, the raider of cattle, set the whole story into song, and did it well and sweetly.
After that was done came a white-haired priest, and we knelt for the vespers; and then the watch was set under the moonlight, and Erling and I stood in the gateway of the fort, and looked out on the quiet land below us. It was no very great hill, but the place was strong. How old it may be I cannot say, perhaps no man knows; but since Offa drove the Welsh to the Wye it had been set in order, with a stockade halfway down the steep earthwork round the hill crest, so that men on its top could use their weapons on those who were trying to scale it. The dry ditch was deep and steep sided, and, so far as I could see in the moonlight, on this side at least it would need a strong force to take it by storm, were it fairly manned by say two hundred men. The gate had been made afresh of heavy timber, narrow, and flanked on either side by overhanging mounds, whence men could rain javelins on those who tried to force it; and outside the gate were slight fences, which bent in wide half circles, inside which the cattle we had driven in were penned. Peaceful enough it all was, and the stillness of this hilltop after the long unrest seemed as of a very haven after storm.
Presently Jefan and his brother came back after posting their men, and then for half an hour I sat with Sighard and Hilda in the hut. The thane had indeed had a narrow escape from the burning hall, and had been left for dead by his pursuers. However, he had been but stunned by the blow which felled him from his horse, and presently recovering, had managed to get across the river and to some Welshman’s hut, whence Jefan took him.
As for those who had burnt the hall, he was sure that they were led by Gymbert, and that they were no housecarls of Offa’s. They had slain Witred and another of the Mercian thanes who had fled with him.
Then I asked him of himself and of his hurt.
“I am old to have the senses knocked out of me, and a blow that you might think little of is enough to keep me quiet for a time. However, that is all. Now that Hilda and you are safe, and the king is found and honoured, I have naught to do but to get well. Trouble not for me.”
It seemed to me that there was no need for me to trouble about aught either, and out in the open air, by one of the fires, I slept till the dawn woke me, without so much as stirring.