Sigefrith and Brede return

August 16, 1079

'Shall we send for someone?'

Long after supper, long after most of the inhabitants of the castle had retired to their chambers, Sirs Sigefrith and Brede came into the hall, each accompanied by his young squire. They were still boisterous from their long and hilarious journey – or so they had found it, although it was likely the four young men would have found anything short of torture hilarious as long as they were together and unaccompanied.

“Shall we send for someone?” Sigefrith asked upon finding the hall unoccupied, “or shall we sneak up and surprise them?”

Brede did not have time to answer, for Caedwulf had heard them from outside in the cloistered court and came running in.

“Sigefrith! Brede! Sigefrith! Brede!” He danced around them like a giddy pup.

'Sigefrith!  Brede!  Sigefrith!  Brede!'

“Caedwulf ankle-​​nipper! Caedwulf ankle-​​nipper!” Sigefrith chanted in reply and began to dance with him. “Oh! Sigefrith!” He opened his arms as the King came in behind his son.

He expected an identical greeting and a hug, but the King looked past him to Brede.

“Praise God! And never again shall I doubt the power of prayer. You,” he said, pointing to Brede, “hie you upstairs to your wife!”

“My wife?” Brede gasped.

'My wife?'

“Where have you been roving all these weeks? You said you would be home by now!”

“By – but I – but she said September! Has she – ” Brede was livid with a sudden terror. Sigefrith knew precisely how he felt.

“She lies in childbed since the night before last, and you are no closer to being a father now than you were then. It’s exhausting the ladies only to attend her, so I shall allow you to imagine what it’s doing to her. And night and day she is asking for ‘Brede, Brede,’ and what may I tell her? That you – ”

Brede did not wait to hear him finish.

Now he runs!” the King sighed.

'Now he runs.'

“Ohhhh, don’t look at me like that!” Sigefrith warned. “He told me September! And it’s mid-​​August!”

“I shall hold him fully responsible, since it was his idea to leave in the first place. I see you picked up a few barnacles while lying in port,” he said, nodding at the two young men hanging back behind Sigefrith.

“Barnacles!” Sigefrith laughed. “More like bloodsucking lampreys! The pretty one is Brede’s mother’s brother’s son, Stein, son of Gamle; and the tall one is Hilda’s brother, Eirik, which you might have guessed by the resemblance.”

'The tall one is Hilda's brother, Eirik.'

“I just got rid of one Norseman, and so you bring me two?” the King cried. “Is Tryggvason planning a conquest by slow, blond invasion?”

Sigefrith laughed again, and the boys with him.

“If his name is Eirik, then I can at least dust off my old store of Eirik-​​related insults, but I shall have to get to work on pretty little Gamlesson here. A name like Stein has potential. Do you two speak any English, at least, or shall I be wasting my breath?”

“We speak some,” Eirik said.

“Brede has been working with Stein,” Sigefrith said, “but I’ve been lazy with Eirik, haven’t I, runt?”

'Ah!  It does me good to hear that you have begun runting your inferiors.'

“Ah! It does me good to hear that you have begun runting your inferiors,” the King laughed. “How is it that Tryggvason felt he could spare you, runt? Aren’t you his second son?”

“I am, but so, he said I go with Sigefrith because Eirik did take our cousin Tryggve, and Brede did take Stein, and so, Sigefrith had nobody.”

“Poor Sigefrith! And so he was lonely and wanted a runt of his own!”

“He need a squire like men have here.”

“Oh, is that it? So he means to keep you? Shall we have another Squire Eirik?”

“That’s so,” Eirik said proudly. “But I fight also!”

'But I fight also!'

“That I don’t doubt. And I suppose your sword is taller than you?”


The King laughed. “Well, you and it are welcome, and all the Haakonsons you can muster. What about you, my fair one?” he asked Stein. “Does your cousin mean to keep you?”

“He says I may stay,” the shorter boy said. “My father died in this spring, and so, my brother says I may go with my cousin Brede to Whitehand.”

'My brother says I may go with my cousin Brede to Whitehand.'

“Oh!” Sigefrith winced.

“And where is Whitehand?” the King asked.

“In the isles, in his kingdom,” Stein said proudly.

“Whose kingdom? What?” The King looked to Sigefrith for an explanation, and Sigefrith thought he must have looked particularly guilty, for the King’s expression was immediately suspicious. “What’s this, runt?”

'What's this, runt?'

“Oh – Sigefrith – you see…” Sigefrith stammered. “Brede was supposed to explain!”

“I see! You’ve been in trouble and you need your clever companion to make it sound like a lark!”

“We weren’t in trouble…”

“Whose idea was it? His, I suppose?”

“It wasn’t trouble!” Eirik interrupted. “It was good fighting!”

'It wasn't trouble!'

“Fighting! Then I should wager it wasn’t Brede’s idea!”

“In fact, it was Eirik’s idea…” Sigefrith said sheepishly. “Not this Eirik! The other one.”

“Eirik! God help us. What now?”

“But we got much silver!” Eirik protested. “For me and for Stein, too. So!”


“Eirik, hush!” Sigefrith pleaded.

'Eirik, hush!'

“Sigefrith?” the King smiled.

“Well – first tell me, how are Hilda and my children and my sister and my – ”

“Everyone is very well, all but Estrid, as you know. And you shall see at least some of them tonight – but not before you have revealed to me what the subtle Sir Brede was supposed to have obscured.”

'Not before you have revealed to me what the subtle Sir Brede was supposed to have obscured.'