So Wulfnoth went quickly down the ranks and noted all things as a chief such as he will. But now and then he waxed moody, and growled in his thick beard, “Scatt, forsooth!”
So presently he asked Olaf to bring two ship’s crews—about eight-score men in all—against the outlaws. Fifty of his own housecarles would go, and Relf’s twenty. And they were to be ready two hours before dawn, as he meant to surprise the outlaws in the village at the first light.
Then he praised the men, and had ale brought out for them, and so recovered his good temper, and at last he said to Olaf with a great laugh:
“Verily you may go away and boast that you are the first man who has brought his armed followers inside Pevensea walls without leave, since the days when OElla and Cissa forced the Welsh to let them in. Now I wot that Ethelred has a friend who must be reckoned with.”
“Nay, but you would see the men,” said Olaf.
“Aye, and I have seen them,” answered the earl grimly.
When we sat down in the hall that night I was next to the maiden Sexberga, Relf’s daughter, at the high table. She was very different from the great ladies of the court, who were all that I knew. I tried to assure her that her home would be safe, and I promised her many things in order to see her smile, and to please her.
Yet when I went down to the ships presently, for none of us slept within Wulfnoth’s walls, I was glad that there was no light of burning houses over Penhurst woods, as yet.
It was very dark when we marched from Pevensea. We followed the earl’s men, and save for remembering the muddy torchlit causeway to firm ground from the castle, and after that dim hill and dale passed in turn, and a long causeway and bridge that spanned the mouth of a narrow valley that opened into the great Pevensea level, I knew not much of what country we went through. After passing that causeway we came into forest land, going along a track for awhile, and then turning inland across rolling hills till we began to go down again. And as the first streaks of dawn began to show above the woods, the word was passed for silence, and then that we should lie down and rest in the fern on the edge of a steep slope below which shone the faint gleam of water.
Then came Wulfnoth and spoke to Olaf, and said that he and his men would go beyond the village so as to take the outlaws from the rear. He would send a man to us who would show us all that was needed.
After that we lay and waited, and as the sun rose and the light grew stronger, I thought that I had never seen a more beautiful place.