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Brother Cadfael 18: The Summer of the Danes

Brother Cadfael 18: The Summer of the Danes

Titel: Brother Cadfael 18: The Summer of the Danes
Autoren: Ellis Peters
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transferred, protesting but obedient, to his mother's arms.
    "Go safely, and return safely!" said Aline, her primrose head pale and bright as the child's, the gloss of spring on her face and the burnish of sunlight in her smile. And she signed a little cross on the air between them before she wheeled her jennet into the lefthand track.
    Delivered of the baggage and the womenfolk, they rode on at a brisker pace the few miles to Whittington, where they halted under the walls of the small timber keep. Oswestry itself lay to their left, on Hugh's route homeward. Mark and Cadfael must go on northward still, but here they were on the very borderland, country which had been alternately Welsh and English for centuries before ever the Normans came, where the names of hamlets and of men were more likely to be Welsh than English. Hugh lived between the two great dykes the princes of Mercia had constructed long ago, to mark where their holding and writ began, so that no force should easily encroach, and no man who crossed from one side to the other should be in any doubt under which law he stood. The lower barrier lay just to the east of the manor, much battered and levelled now; the greater one had been raised to the west, when Mercian power had been able to thrust further into Wales.
    "Here I must leave you," said Hugh, looking back along the way they had come, and westward towards the town and the castle. "A pity! I could gladly have ridden as far as Saint Asaph with you in such weather, but the king's officers had best stay out of Church business and avoid the crossfire. I should be loth to tread on Owain's toes."
    "You have brought us as far as Bishop Gilbert's writ, at any rate," said Brother Mark, smiling. "Both this church and yours of Saint Oswald are now in the see of Saint Asaph. Did you realise that? Lichfield has lost a great swathe of parishes here in the northwest. I think it must be Canterbury policy to spread the diocese both sides the border, so that the line between Welsh and English can count for nothing."
    "Owain will have something to say to that, too." Hugh saluted them with a raised hand, and began to wheel his horse towards the road home. "Go with God, and a good journey! We'll look to see you again in ten days or so." And he was some yards distant when he looked back over his shoulder and called after them: "Keep him out of mischief! If you can!" But there was no indication to which of them the plea was addressed, or to which of them the misgiving applied. They could share it between them.
    Chapter Two
    "I am too old," Brother Cadfael observed complacently, "to embark on such adventures as this."
    "I notice," said Mark, eyeing him sidelong, "you say nothing of the kind until we're well clear of Shrewsbury, and there's no one to take you at your word, poor aged soul, and bid you stay at home."
    "What a fool I should have been!" Cadfael willingly agreed.
    "Whenever you begin pleading your age, I know what I have to deal with. A horse full of oats, just let out of his stall, and with the bit between his teeth. We have to do with bishops and canons," said Mark severely, "and they can be trouble enough. Pray to be spared any worse encounters." But he did not sound too convinced. The ride had brought colour to his thin, pale face and a sparkle to his eyes. Mark had been raised with farm horses, slaving for the uncle who grudged him house-room and food, and he still rode farm fashion, inelegant but durable, now that the bishop's stable had provided him a fine tall gelding in place of a plodding farm drudge. The beast was nut brown, with a lustrous copper sheen to his coat, and buoyantly lively under such a light weight.
    They had halted at the crest of the ridge overlooking the lush green valley of the Dee. The sun was westering, and had mellowed from the noon gold into a softer amber light, gleaming down the stream, where the coils of the river alternately glimmered and vanished among its fringes of woodland. Still an upland river here, dancing over a rocky bed and conjuring rainbows out of its sunlit spray. Somewhere down there they would find a night's lodging.
    They set off companionably side by side, down the grassy track wide enough for two. "For all that," said Cadfael, "I never expected, at my age, to be recruited into such an expedition as this. I owe you more than you know. Shrewsbury is home, and I would not leave it for any place on earth, beyond a visit, but every now and then my feet itch. It's a
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