Thorleif’s men had sought every corner of her by that time, and had some store of silver money to show for their long chase, and were satisfied. As for the shipmen of their prize, I think they were well enough content to be let go in peace, and had little to say on the matter. Ecgbert was for giving them the gold ring which he had promised them as passage money, that being the only thing of value he had beyond his weapons; but Thorleif would not suffer him to do so, saying that his Danes would but take it from them straightway.
So the great trader lumbered off southward, and I and the atheling sat with Thrond and Thorleif, and told and heard all the story of the raid on Weymouth until the stars came out. And I was well content; for no Saxon can ask aught better than to serve his lord, whether in wealth or distress.
Now I might make a long story of that voyage with Thorleif, for there were landings such as had been made at Weymouth, and once just such another fight. And ever the lands where we touched grew more strange to me, until we came to the low shores of the Rhine mouths, hardly showing above the gray waves of the sea which washed their sad-coloured sand dunes. And there Thorleif landed us at a fishing village, among whose huts rose the walls of a building which promised us shelter at least.
Terribly frightened were the poor folk at our coming, but they took us, with the guard Thorleif sent ashore with us, to the building, and it turned out to be a monastery, where we were most welcome. And there we bid farewell to the Danes, not without regret, for we had been good comrades on the voyage. There was a great difference between these crews of men from one village under their own chief, and the terrible swarms of men, gathered none knows whence, and with little heed to their leaders save in battle, which came in after years. We saw the Dane at his best.
Now after that the good abbot of the place passed us on from town to town until at last we came to Herulstad, where Carl the mighty lay with his army, still watching and fighting the heathen Saxons of the Rhinelands. And there Ecgbert was welcomed in all friendliness, and our wanderings were at an end. Even the arm of Quendritha could not reach the atheling here, though Carl and Offa were friendly, and messengers came and went between the two courts from time to time.
In that way I had messages sent home at last, and my mind was at rest. It was, however, nearly a year before my folk heard of me, as I learned afterward. But close on five years of warfare lay before me ere I should set foot on English ground again.