Spies in the North
Winter began in earnest in November that year, howling westerly gales, blowing over trees and tearing off the roofs of exposed buildings, it rained heavily for a month; roads impassable as rivers burst their banks, whole towns and villages devastated by floods. There wasn’t a town or village in the Country that had not been affected in some way or other, trade and movement of livestock was at a standstill, the worst floods in living memory, dark rain-sodden clouds raced overhead day after day. Farmers struggled to provide for their animals, moving them to higher ground away from the raging rivers, the people did the best they could during these desperate days, and still the rain fell unendingly .
These same westerly gales also prevented the long ship from approaching the English coastline. The ship had been forced back day after day; seven times during November the North Sea crossing had been attempted and seven times the Norse long ship had been forced to return to harbour. On the last attempt the ship had nearly foundered on the rocky coast of Norway. The Captain of the long ship, an excellent seaman, refused to endanger his ship and crew any further, and told his single passenger he needed time in port to repair his damaged mast and rigging.
Learmouth accepted this news with silence as he departed the long ship for his accommodation onshore. He shook the rainwater from his white blond hair and pulled up his sodden cloak over his shoulders, he hadn’t spoken a word to any of the crew save the Captain, then only to tell him the landfall in England. Once he had gained the shelter of the small stone-built grass-roofed hut he settled down to wait. Learmouth was good at waiting, he had been waiting twenty years since he escaped from England, following Blackmorns treasonous attempt upon the King’s life.
He was a thin man with white blond hair grown long to his shoulders; his eyebrows were so fair that they were almost invisible, as were his pale ginger white eyelashes. He had a thin pointed nose and a chin so weak receding from his pale lips; Learmouth’s black rimmed eyes, sunk in their sockets, were a pale emotionless grey.
He left his miserable damp hut only once every day to check the progress of the repairs to the ship. Every day at noon regardless of the wind and rain he would watch for an hour silently, standing stock still shrouded in his travelling cloak with the hood up. Learmouth would stand overlooking the ship for thirteen consecutive days, until the repairs were finished and the winds were favourable, he joined the ship in silence just as he had on the very first occasion.