Unlike Asbjorn, Ketil had stone walls for he had adapted a Roman fort. He was a rock for me. He knew the lands close to his home and protected us from both the men of Strathclyde and any Saxons who chose to disobey their Prince.
“I believe that Prince Athelstan is at Caer Ufra. It is an old royal palace on the southern headland of the Tinea.”
“He is not at Din Guardi?”
He smiled, “The prince is young and the king is old. He can indulge himself away from his father’s prying eyes and besides the climate is more clement there. If you wish to see him then you will find it an easier journey.”
“Good. I did not relish a journey through the high lands. We have been lucky, hitherto, but I see clouds are gathering.”
“Aye. I will have my men guide you over the pass of Alston. The Roman Road is still a good guide but it is hard to find beneath the snow and ice.”
“Good. You will need to be on the watch for enemies. Aiden cannot, as yet, fully divine my dream but even I know that it involves a witch and Danes. Be wary of all such strangers. I would even suspect Norse you do not know.”
He nodded, “We will keep a good watch. We are vigilant. Since the peace we have become closer to the Saxons. Many of my men have taken Saxon women.” He chuckled, “Your warriors slew their husbands and fathers. If they want a man they choose a warrior who can defend them.”
We left the next morning with Arne Sharp Eyes and Erik Long Walking, Ketil’s two scouts, who took us as far as the pass of the standing rocks. We reached the col on a clear, cold day. We could see the land of the Saxons stretching away to the east. Our two guides left us and we headed north east once more. Had this been the summer I would have worried more but the cold and the snow would keep most people indoors. Our wisdom in taking horses had been vindicated as we approached the col for the drifts of snow reached our feet. On the eastern side, however, it was colder but the snow had not yet drifted as deeply.