“He is not,” one answered. “He had nought to slay him. Here be three flesh wounds only.”
Then I began to come to myself, for water was being poured on my face, and I opened my eyes and saw Thrand of Colchester looking at me. My head was on his knee, and he had a helm full of water in his hand. His own head and arm were bandaged, and the man who spoke to him was passing on, seeking elsewhere. All that had happened came back to me in a moment then, and my ears woke to the sounds round me. I knew them only too well, for they were the awesome sounds of the time after battle.
“Where is the king?” I said.
“Safe enough, they say,” Thrand answered. “Is it well with you, master?”
I sat up, and the maze passed from me. I had but been stunned by the fall from my horse, and now seemed little the worse, save for sickness and dull weight of weariness. I had been an hour or two thus, as it would seem, for now the Danish host was gone, and only a few men sought for friends on that hillside, as Thrand had sought for me. My horse was dead, slain by the spear thrust that made him rear. It was that one which Earl Wulfnoth gave me when I left him.
“I shall be myself again directly,” I said. “How has it all ended? I thought I saw you slain.”
“The Danes are chasing our men towards yon village,” he said grimly pointing towards Hockley. “They will not catch the king, however. They smote me badly enough when I tried to be revenged on Streone, and they slew Guthorm; but they only stunned me.”
“Go hence before Streone catches you,” said I.
“Not I,” said Thrand. “He knows me not, and I shall wait for another chance. The Danes think me a Mercian, and so I bide with you. Can you fly now, master?”
I tried to rise, but I was weak and shaken, and sank down again. I was not fit for walking even yet.
“I must wait,” I said.
“There are stray horses enough down yonder,” Thrand said, looking over the meadows below us. “I will go and catch one. We must go soon, or the Danes will be back.”
“No use,” said I. “They are between us and safety. I must wait and take my chance.”
With that I missed the sword that I loved, for I had thought of selling my life dearly if the Danes would slay me.
“Where is sword Foe’s Bane?” I cried.
Thrand looked round about me, but could see it not. Then he turned over one or two of the slain men who lay thickly in the place where our last stand was made. But he could not find it, until a wounded man of ours asked what he sought. Thrand told him. Then I noted how few wounded there were. The sun, nigh to setting now, broke out and shone athwart the hillside; and it sparkled like the ice heaps on the long banks that a winter’s tide has left by the river, for everywhere were the mail-clad slain. But the sparkles were steady, as on the ice, not as on a host that is marching. Ice cold were those who would need mail no more on Ashingdon hill.