The Story of Burnt Njal
Part 11: Sections 147 - 158
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #11
147. KARI COMES TO BJORN'S HOUSE IN THE MARK Thorgeir Craggeir rode home from the peace meeting, and Kari asked whether the atonement had come about. Thorgeir said that they now fully atoned. Then Kari took his horse and was for riding away. "Thou hast no need to ride away," says Thorgeir, "for it was laid down in our atonement that thou shouldst be here as before if thou chosest." "It shall not be so, cousin, for as soon as ever I slay a man they will be sure to say that thou wert in the plot with me, and I will not have that! But I wish this, that thou wouldst let me hand over in trust to thee my goods, and the estates of me and my wife Helga Njal's daughter, and my three daughters, and then they will not be seized by those adversaries of mine." Thorgeir agreed to what Kari wished to ask of him, and then Thorgeir had Kari's goods handed over to him in trust. After that Kari rode away. He had two horses and his weapons and outer clothing, and some ready money in gold and silver. Now Kari rode west by Selialandsmull and up along Markfleet, and so on up into Thorsmark. There there are three farms all called "Mark." At the midmost farm dwelt that man whose name was Bjorn, and his surname was Bjorn the White; he was the son of Kadal, the son of Bjalfi. Bjalfi had been the freedman of Asgerda, the mother of Njal and Holt-Thorir; Bjorn had to wife Valgerda, she was the daughter of Thorbrand, the son of Asbrand. Her mother's name was Gudlauga, she was a sister of Hamond, the father of Gunnar of Lithend; she was given away to Bjorn for his money's sake, and she did not love him much, but yet they had children together, and they had enough and to spare in the house. Bjorn was a man who was always boasting and praising himself, but his housewife thought that bad. He was sharpsighted and swift of foot. Thither Kari turned in as a guest, and they took him by both hands, and he was there that night. But the next morning Kari said to Bjom, "I wish thou wouldst take me in, for I should think myself well housed here with thee. I would too that thou shouldst be with me in my journeyings, as thou art a sharpsighted, swiftfooted man, and besides I think thou wouldst be dauntless in an onslaught." "I can't blame myself," says Bjorn, "for wanting either sharp sight, or dash, or any other bravery; but no doubt thou camest hither because all thy other earths are stopped. Still at thy prayer, Kari, I will not look on thee as an everyday man; I will surely help thee in all that thou askest." "The trolls take thy boasting and bragging," said his housewife, "and thou shouldst not utter such stuff and silliness to any one than thyself. As for me, I will willingly give Kari meat and other good things, which I know will be useful to him; but on Bjom's hardihood, Kari, thou shalt not trust, for I am afraid that thou wilt find it quite otherwise than he says." "Often hast thou thrown blame upon me," said Bjorn, "but for all that I put so much faith in myself that though I am put to the trial I will never give way to any man; and the best proof of it is this, that few try a tussle with me because none dare to do so." Kari was there some while in hiding, and few men knew of it. Now men think that Kari must have ridden to the north country to see Gudmund the Powerful, for Kari made Bjorn tell his neighbours that he had met Kari on the beaten track, and that he rode thence up into Godaland, and so north to Goose-sand, and then north to Gudmund the Powerful at Modruvale. So that story was spread over all the country. 148. OF FLOSI AND THE BURNERS Now Flosi spoke to the burners, his companions, "It will no longer serve our turn to sit still, for now we shall have to think of our going abroad and of our fines, and of fulfilling our atonement as bravely as we can, and let us take a passage wherever it seems most likely to get one." They bade him see to all that. Then Flosi said, "We will ride east to Hornfirth; for there that ship is laid up, which is owned by Eyjolf Nosy, a man from Drontheim, but he wants to take to him a wife here, and he will not get the match made unless he settles himself down here. We will buy the ship of him, for we shall have many men and little freight. The ship is big and will take us all." Then they ceased talking of it. But a little after they rode east, and did not stop before they came east to Bjornness in Homfirth, and there they found Eyjolf, for he had been there as a guest that winter. There Flosi and his men had a hearty welcome, and they were there the night. Next morning Flosi dealt with the captain for the ship, but he said he would not be hard to sell the ship if he could get what he wanted for her. Flosi asked him in what coin he wished to be paid for her; the Easterling says he wanted land for her near where he then was. Then Eyjolf told Flosi all about his dealings with his host, and Flosi says he will pull an oar with him, so that his marriage bargain might be struck, and buy the ship of him afterwards. The Easterling was glad at that. Flosi offered him land at Borgarhaven, and now the Easterling holds on with his suit to his host when Flosi was by, and Flosi threw in a helping word, so that the bargain was brought about between them. Flosi made over the land at Borgarhaven to the Easterling, but shook hands on the bargain for the ship. He got also from the Easterling twenty hundreds in wares, and that was also in their bargain for the land. Now Flosi rode back home. He was so beloved by his men that their wares stood free to him to take either on loan or gift, just as he chose. He rode home to Swinefell, and was at home a while. Then Flosi sent Kol Thorstein's son and Gunnar Lambi's son east to Hornfirth. They were to be there by the ship, and to fit her out, and set up booths, and sack the wares, and get all things together that were needful. Now we must tell of the sons of Sigfus how they say to Flosi that they will ride west to Fleetlithe to set their houses in order, and get wares thence, and such other things as they needed. "Kari is not there now to be guarded against," they say, "if he is in the north country as is said." "I know not," answers Flosi, "as to such stories, whether there be any truth in what is said of Kari's journeyings; methinks, we have often been wrong in believing things which are nearer to learn than this. My counsel is that ye go many of you together, and part as little as ye can, and be as wary of yourselves as ye may. Thou, too, Kettle of the Mark shalt bear in mind that dream which I told thee, and which thou prayedst me to hide; for many are those in thy company who were then called." "All must come to pass as to man's life," said Kettle, "as it is foredoomed; but good go with thee for thy warning." Now they spoke no more about it. After that the sons of Sigfus busked them and those men with them who were meant to go with them. They were eight in all, and then they rode away, and ere they went they kissed Flosi, and he bade them farewell, and said he and some of those who rode away would not see each other more. But they would not let themselves be hindered. They rode now on their way, and Flosi said that they should take his wares in Middleland, and carry them east, and do the same in Landsbreach and Woodcombe. After that they rode to Skaptartongue, and so on the fell, and north of Eyjafell Jokul, and down into Godaland, and so down into the woods in Thorsmark. Bjorn of the Mark caught sight of them coming, and went at once to meet them. Then they greeted each other well, and the sons of Sigfus asked after Kari Solmund's son. "I met Kari," said Bjorn, "and that is now very long since; he rode hence north on Goose-sand, and meant to go to Gudmund the Powerful, and methought if he were here now, he would stand in awe of you, for he seemed to be left all alone." Grani Gunnar's son said, "He shall stand more in awe of us yet before we have done with him, and he shall learn that as soon as ever he comes within spearthrow of us; but as for us, we do not fear him at all, now that he is all alone." Kettle of the Mark bade them be still, and bring out no big words. Bjorn asked when they would be coming back. "We shall stay near a week in Fleetlithe," said they, and so they told him when they should be riding back on the fell. With that they parted. Now the sons of Sigfus rode to their homes, and their households were glad to see them. They were there near a week. Now Bjorn comes home and sees Kari, and told him all about the doings of the sons of Sigfus, and their purpose. Kari said he had shown in this great faithfulness to him, and Bjorn said, "I should have thought there was more risk of any other man's failing in that than of me if I had pledged my help or care to any one." "Ah," said his mistress, "but you may still be bad and yet not be so bad as to be a traitor to thy master." Kari stayed there six nights after that. 149. OF KARI AND BJORN Now Kari talks to Bjorn and says, "We shall ride east across the fell and down into Skaptartongue, and fare stealthily over Flosi's country, for I have it in my mind to get myself carried abroad east in Alftafirth." "This is a very riskful journey," said Bjorn, "and few would have the heart to take it save thou and I." "If thou backest Kari ill," said his housewife, "know this, that thou shalt never come afterwards into my bed, and my kinsmen shall share our goods between us." "It is likelier, mistress," said he, "that thou wilt have to look out for something else than this if thou hast a mind to part from me: for I will bear my own witness to myself what a champion and daredevil I am when weapons clash." Now they rode that day east on the fell to the north of the Jokul, but never on the highway, and so down into Skaptartongue, and above all the homesteads to Skaptarwater, and led their horses into a dell, but they themselves were on the look-out, and had so placed themselves that they could not be seen. Then Kari said to Bjorn, "What shall we do now if they ride down upon us here from the fell?" "Are there not but two things to be done," said Bjorn; "one to ride away from them north under the crags, and so let them ride by us, or to wait and see if any of them lag behind, and then to fall on them." They talked much about this, and one while Bjorn was for flying as fast as he could in every word he spoke, and at another for staying and fighting it out with them, and Kari thought this the greatest sport. The sons of Sigfus rode from their homes the same day that they had named to Bjorn. They came to the Mark and knocked at the door there, and wanted to see Bjorn; but his mistress went to the door and greeted them. They asked at once for Bjorn, and she said he had ridden away down under Eyjafell, and so east under Selialandsmull, and on east to Holt, "for he has some money to call in thereabouts," she said. They believed this, for they knew that Bjorn had money out at call there. After that they rode east on the fell, and did not stop before they came to Skaptartongue, and so rode down along Skaptarwater, and baited their horses just where Kari had thought they would. Then they split their band. Kettle of the Mark rode east into Middleland, and eight men with him, but the others laid them down to sleep, and were not ware of aught until Kari and Bjorn came up to them. A little ness ran out there into the river; into it Kari went and took his stand, and bade Bjorn stand back to back with him, and not to put himself too forward, "but give me all the help thou canst." "Well," says Bjorn, "I never had it in my head that any man should stand before me as a shield, but still as things are thou must have thy way; but for all that, with my gift of wit and my swiftness I may be of some use to thee, and not harmless to our foes." Now they all rose up and ran at them, and Modolf Kettle's son was quickest of them, and thrust at Kari with his spear. Kari had his shield before him, and the blow fell on it, and the spear stuck fast in the shield. Then Kari twists the shield so smartly, that the spear snapped short off, and then he drew his sword and smote at Modolf; but Modolf made a cut at him too, and Kari's sword fell on Modolf's hilt, and glanced off it on to Modolf's wrist, and took the arm off, and down it fell, and the sword too. Then Kari's sword passed on into Modolf's side, and between his ribs, and so Modolf fell down and was dead on the spot. Grani Gunnar's son snatched up a spear and hurled it at Kari, but Kari thrust down his shield so hard that the point stood fast in the ground, but with his left hand he caught the spear in the air, and hurled it back at Grani, and caught up his shield again at once with his left hand. Grani had his shield before him, and the spear came on the shield and passed right through it, and into Grani's thigh just below the small guts, and through the limb, and so on, pinning him to the ground, and he could not get rid of the spear before his fellows drew him off it, and carried him away on their shields, and laid him down in a dell. There was a man who ran up to Kari's side, and meant to cut off his leg, but Bjorn cut off that man's arm, and sprang back again behind Kari, and they could not do him any hurt. Kari made a sweep at that same man with his sword, and cut him asunder at the waist. Then Lambi Sigfus' son rushed at Kari, and hewed at him with his sword. Kari caught the blow sideways on his shield, and the sword would not bite; then Kari thrust at Lambi with his sword just below the breast, so that the point came out between his shoulders, and that was his deathblow. Then Thorstein Geirleif's son rushed at Kari, and thought to take him in flank, but Kari caught sight of him, and swept at him with his sword across the shoulders, so that the man was cleft asunder at the chine. A little while after he gave Gunnar of Skal, a good man and true, his deathblow. As for Bjorn, he had wounded three men who had tried to give Kari wounds, and yet he was never so far forward that he was in the least danger, nor was he wounded, nor was either of those companions hurt in that fight, but all those that got away were wounded. Then they ran for their horses, and galloped them off across Skaptarwater as hard as they could, and they were so scared that they stopped at no house, nor did they dare to stay and tell the tidings anywhere. Kari and Bjorn hooted and shouted after them as they galloped off. So they rode east to Woodcombe, and did not draw bridle till they came to Swinefell. Flosi was not at home when they came thither, and that was why no hue and cry was made thence after Kari. This journey of theirs was thought most shameful by all men. Kari rode to Skal, and gave notice of these manslayings as done by his hand; there, too, he told them of the death of their master and five others, and of Grani's wound, and said it would be better to bear him to the house if he were to live. Bjorn said he could not bear to slay him, though he said he was worthy of death; but those who answered him said they were sure few had bitten the dust before him. But Bjorn told them he had it now in his power to make as many of the Sidemen as he chose bite the dust; to which they said it was a bad look out. Then Kari and Bjorn ride away from the house. 150. MORE OF KARI AND BJORN Then Kari asked Bjorn, "What counsel shall we take now? Now I will try what thy wit is worth." "Dost thou think now," answered Bjorn, "that much lies on our being as wise as ever we can?" "Ay," said Kari, "I think so surely." "Then our counsel is soon taken," says Bjorn. "We will cheat them all as though they were giants; and now we will make as though we were riding north on the fell, but as soon as ever we are out of sight behind the brae, we will turn down along Skaptarwater, and hide us there where we think handiest, so long as the hue and cry is hottest, if they ride after us." "So will we do," said Kari; "and this I had meant to do all along." "And so you may put it to the proof," said Bjorn, "that I am no more of an every-day body in wit than I am in bravery." Now Kari and his companion rode as they had purposed down along Skaptarwater, till they came where a branch of the stream ran away to the south-east; then they turned down along the middle branch, and did not draw bridle till they came into Middleland, and on that moor which is called Kringlemire; it has a stream of lava all around it. Then Kari said to Bjorn that he must watch their horses, and keep a good look-out; "But as for me," he says, "I am heavy with sleep." So Bjorn watched the horses, but Kari lay him down, and slept but a very short while ere Bjorn waked him up again, and he had already led their horses together, and they were by their side. Then Bjorn said to Kari, "Thou standest in much need of me though! A man might easily have run away from thee if he had not been as brave-hearted as I am; for now thy foes are riding upon thee, and so thou must up and be doing." Then Kari went away under a jutting crag, and Bjorn said, "Where shall I stand now?" "Well!" answers Kari, "now there are two choices before thee; one is, that thou standest at my back and have my shield to cover thyself with, if it can be of any use to thee; and the other is, to get on thy horse and ride away as fast as thou canst." "Nay," says Bjorn, "I will not do that, and there are many things against it; first of all, may be, if I ride away, some spiteful tongues might begin to say that I ran away from thee for faint- heartedness; and another thing is, that I well know what game they will think there is in me, and so they will ride after me, two or three of them, and then I should be of no use or help to thee after all. No! I will rather stand by thee and keep them off so long as it is fated." Then they had not long to wait ere horses with packsaddles were driven by them over the moor, and with them went three men. Then Kari said, "These men see us not." "Then let us suffer them to ride on," said Bjorn. So those three rode on past them; but the six others then came riding right up to them, and they all leapt off their horses straightway in a body, and turned on Kari and his companion. First, Glum Hildir's son rushed at them, and thrust at Kari with a spear; Kari turned short round on his heel, and Glum missed him, and the blow fell against the rock. Bjorn sees that and hewed at once the head off Glum's spear. Kari leant on one side and smote at Glum with his sword, and the blow fell on his thigh, and took off the limb high up in the thigh, and Glum died at once. Then Vebrand and Asbrand the sons of Thorbrand ran up to Kari, but Kari flew at Vebrand and thrust his sword through him, but afterwards he hewed off both of Asbrand's feet from under him. In this bout both Kari and Bjorn were wounded. Then Kettle of the Mark rushed at Kari, and thrust at him with his spear. Kari threw up his leg, and the spear stuck in the ground, and Kari leapt on the spear-shaft, and snapped it in sunder. Then Kari grasped Kettle in his arms, and Bjorn ran up just then, and wanted to slay him, but Kari said, "Be still now. I will give Kettle peace; for though it may be that Kettle's life is in my power, still I will never slay him." Kettle answers never a word, but rode away after his companions, and told those the tidings who did not know them already. They told also these tidings to the men of the Hundred, and they gathered together at once a great force of armed men, and went straightway up all the water-courses, and so far up on the fell that they were three days in the chase; but after that they turned back to their own homes, but Kettle and his companions rode east to Swinefell, and told the tidings these. Flosi was little stirred at what had befallen them, but said, "No one could tell whether things would stop there, for there is no man like Kari of all that are now left in Iceland." 151. OF KARI AND BJORN AND THORGEIR Now we must tell of Bjorn and Kari that they ride down on the Sand, and lead their horses under the banks where the wild oats grew, and cut the oats for them, that they might not die of hunger. Kari made such a near guess, that he rode away thence at the very time that they gave over seeking for him. He rode by night up through the Hundred, and after that he took to the fell; and so on all the same way as they had followed when they rode east, and did not stop till they came at Midmark. Then Bjorn said to Kari, "Now shalt thou be my great friend before my mistress, for she will never believe one word of what I say; but everything lies on what you do, so now repay me for the good following which I have yielded to thee." "So it shall be; never fear," says Kari. After that they ride up to the homestead, and then the mistress asked them what tidings, and greeted them well. "Our troubles have rather grown greater, old lass!" She answered little, and laughed; and then the mistress went on to ask, "How did Bjorn behave to thee, Kari?" "Bare is back," he answers, "without brother behind it, and Bjorn behaved well to me. He wounded three men, and, besides, he is wounded himself, and he stuck as close to me as he could in everything." They were three nights there, and after that they rode to Holt to Thorgeir, and told him alone these tidings, for those tidings had not yet been heard there. Thorgeir thanked him, and it was quite plain that he was glad at what he heard. He asked Kari what now was undone which he meant to do. "I mean," answers Kari, "to kill Gunnar Lambi's son and Kol Thorstein's son, if I can get a chance. Then we have slain fifteen men, reckoning those five whom we two slew together. But one boon I will now ask of thee." Thorgeir said he would grant him whatever he asked. "I wish, then, that thou wilt take under thy safeguard this man whose name is Bjorn, and who has been in these slayings with me, and that thou wilt change farms with him, and give him a farm ready stocked here close by thee, and so hold thy hand over him that no-vengeance may befall him; but all this will be an easy matter for thee who art such a chief." "So it shall be," says Thorgeir. Then he gave Bjorn a ready-stocked farm at Asolfskal, but he took the farm in the Mark into his own hands. Thorgeir flitted all Bjorn's household stuff and goods to Asolfskal, and all his live stock; and Thorgeir settled all Bjorn's quarrels for him, and he was reconciled to them with a full atonement. So Bjorn was thought to be much more of a man than he had been before. Then Kari rode away, and did not draw rein till he came west to Tongue to Asgrim Ellidagrim's son. He gave Kari a most hearty welcome, and Kari told him of all the tidings that had happened in these slayings. Asgrim was well pleased at them, and asked what Kari meant to do next. "I mean," said Kari, "to fare abroad after them, and so dog their footsteps and slay them, if I can get at them." Asgrim said there was no man like him for bravery and hardihood. He was there some nights, and after that he rode to Gizur the White, and he took him by both hands. Kari stayed there somme while, and then he told Gizur that he wished to ride down to Eyrar. Gizur gave Kari a good sword at parting. Now he rode down to Eyrar, and took him a passage with Kolbein the Black; he was an Orkneyman and an old friend of Kari, and he was the most forward and brisk of men. He took Kari by both hands, and said that one fate should befall both of them. 152. FLOSI GOES ABROAD Now Flosi rides east to Hornfirth, and most of the men in his Thing followed him, and bore his wares east, as well as all his stores and baggage which he had to take with him. After that they busked them for their voyage, and fitted out their ship. Now Flosi stayed by the ship until they were "boun." But as soon as ever they got a fair wind they put out to sea. They had it long passage and hard weather. Then they quite lost their reckoning, and sailed on and on, and all at once three great waves broke over their ship, one after the other. Then Flosi said they must be near some land, and that this was a ground-swell. A great mist was on them, but the wind rose so that a great gale overtook them, and they scarce knew where they were before they were dashed on shore at dead of night, and the men were saved, but the ship was dashed all to pieces, and they could not save their goods. Then they had to look for shelter and warmth for themselves, and the day after they went up on a height. The weather was then good. Flosi asked if any man knew this land, and there were two men of their crew who had fared thither before, and said they were quite sure they knew it, and, say they, "We are come to Hrossey in the Orkneys." "Then we might have made a better landing," said Flosi, "for Grim and Helgi, Njal's sons, whom I slew, were both of them of Earl Sigurd Hlodver's son's bodyguard." Then they sought for a hiding-place and spread moss over themselves, and so lay for a while, but not for long, ere Flosi spoke and said, "We will not lie here any longer until the landsmen are ware of us." Then they arose, and took counsel, and then Flosi said to his men, "We will go all of us and give ourselves up to the earl; for there is naught else to do, and the earl has our lives at his pleasure if he chooses to seek for them." Then they all went away thence, and Flosi said that they must tell no man any tidings of their voyage, or what manner of men they were, before he told them to the earl. Then they walked on until they met men who showed them to the town, and then they went in before the earl, and Flosi and all the others hailed him. The earl asked what men they might be, and Flosi told his name, and said out of what part of Iceland he was. The earl had already heard of the burning, and so be knew the men at once, and then the earl asked Flosi, "What hast thou to tell me about Helgi Njal's son, my henchman." "This," said Flosi, "that I hewed off his head." "Take them all," said the earl. Then that was done, and just then in came Thorstein, son of Hall of the Side. Flosi had to wife Steinvora, Thorstein's sister. Thorstein was one of Earl Sigurd's bodyguard, but when be saw Flosi seized and held, he went in before the earl, and offered for Flosi all the goods he had. The earl was very wroth a long time, but at last the end of it was, by the prayer of good men and true, joined to those of Thorstein, for he was well backed by friends, and many threw in their word with his, that the earl took an atonement from them, and gave Flosi and all the rest of them peace. The earl held to that custom of mighty men that Flosi took that place in his service which Helgi Njal's son had filled. So Flosi was made Earl Sigurd's henchman, and he soon won his way to great love with the earl. 153. KARI GOES ABROAD Those messmates Kari and Kolbein the Black put out to sea from Eyrar half a month later than Flosi and his companions from Hornfirth. They got a fine fair wind, and were but a short time out. The first land they made was the Fair Isle, it lies between Shetland and the Orkneys. There that man whose name was David the White took Kari into his house, and he told him all that he had heard for certain about the doings of the burners. He was one of Kari's greatest friends, and Kari stayed with him for the winter. There they heard tidings from the west out of the Orkneys of all that was done there. Earl Sigurd bade to his feast at Yule Earl Gilli, his brother- in-law, out of the Southern isles; he had to wife Swanlauga, Earl Sigurd's sister; and then, too, came to see Earl Sigurd that king from Ireland whose name was Sigtrygg. He was a son of Olaf Rattle, but his mother's name was Kormlada; she was the fairest of all women, and best gifted in everything that was not in her own power, but it was the talk of men that she did all things ill over which she had any power. Brian was the name of the king who first had her to wife, but they were then parted. He was the best-natured of all kings. He had his seat in Connaught, in Ireland; his brother's name was Wolf the Quarrelsome, the greatest champion and warrior; Brian's foster-child's name was Kerthialfad. He was the son of King Kylfi, who had many wars with King Brian, and fled away out of the land before him, and became a hermit; but when King Brian went south on a pilgrimage, then he met King Kylfi, and then they were atoned, and King Brian took his son Kerthialfad to him, and loved him more than his own sons. He was then full grown when these things happened, and was the boldest of all men. Duncan was the name of the first of King Brian's sons; the second was Margad; the third, Takt, whom we call Tann, he was the youngest of them; but the elder sons of King Brian were full grown, and the briskest of men. Kormlada was not the mother of King Brian's children, and so grim was she against King Brian after their parting, that she would gladly have him dead. King Brian thrice forgave all his outlaws the same fault, but if they misbehaved themselves oftener, then he let them be judged by the law; and from this one may mark what a king he must have been. Kormlada egged on her son Sigtrygg very much to kill King Brian, and she now sent him to Earl Sigurd to beg for help. King Sigtrygg came before Yule to the Orkneys, and there, too, came Earl Gilli, as was written before. The men were so placed that King Sigtrygg sat in a high seat in the middle, but on either side of the king sat one of the earls. The men of King Sigtrygg and Earl Gilli sate on the inner side away from him, but on the outer side away from Earl Sigurd, sate Flosi and Thorstein, son of Hall of the Side, and the whole hall was full. Now King Sigtrygg and Earl Gilli wished to hear of these tidings which had happened at the burning, and so, also, what had befallen since. Then Gunnar Lambi's son was got to tell the tale, and a stool was set for him to sit upon. 154. GUNNAR LAMBI'S SON'S SLAYING Just at that very time Kari and Kolbein and David the White came to Hrossey unawares to all men. They went straightway up on land, but a few men watched their ship. Kari and his fellows went straight to the earl's homestead, and came to the hall about drinking time. It so happened that just then Gunnar was telling the story of the burning, but they were listening to him meanwhile outside. This was on Yule-day itself. Now King Sigtrygg asked, "How did Skarphedinn bear the burning?" "Well at first for a long time," said Gunnar, "but still the end of it was that he wept." And so he went on giving an unfair leaning in his story, but every now and then he laughed out loud. Kari could not stand this, and then he ran in with his sword drawn, and sang this song: "Men of might, in battle eager, Boast of burning Njal's abode, Have the Princes heard how sturdy Seahorse racers sought revenge? Hath not since, on foemen holding High the shield's broad orb aloft, All that wrong been fully wroken? Raw flesh ravens got to tear." So he ran in up the hall, and smote Gunnar Lambi's son on the neck with such a sharp blow, that his head spun off on to the board before the king and the earls, and the board was all one gore of blood, and the earl's clothing too. Earl Sigurd knew the man that had done the deed, and called out, "Seize Kari and kill him." Kari had been one of Earl Sigurd's bodyguard, and he was of all men most beloved by his friends; and no man stood up a whit more for the earl's speech. "Many would say, Lord," said Kari, "that I have done this deed on your behalf, to avenge your henchman." Then Flosi said, "Kari hath not done this without a cause; he is in no atonement with us, and he only did what he had a right to do." So Kari walked away, and there was no hue and cry after him. Kari fared to his ship, and his fellows with him. The weather was then good, and they sailed off at once south to Caithness, and went on shore at Thraswick to the house of a worthy man whose name was Skeggi, and with him they stayed a very long while. Those behind in the Orkneys cleansed the board, and bore out the dead man. The earl was told that they had set sail south for Scotland, and King Sigtrygg said, "This was a mighty bold fellow, who dealt his stroke so stoutly, and never thought twice about it!" Then Earl Sigurd answered, "There is no man like Kari for dash and daring." Now Flosi undertook to tell the story of the burning, and he was fair to all; and therefore what he said was believed. Then King Sigtrygg stirred in his business with Earl Sigurd, and bade him go to the war with him against King Brian. The earl was long steadfast, but the end of it was that he let the king have his way, but said he must have his mother's hand for his help, and be king in Ireland, if they slew Brian. But all his men besought Earl Sigurd not to go into the war, but it was all no good. So they parted on the understanding that Earl Sigurd gave his word to go; but King Sigtrygg promised him his mother and the kingdom. It was so settled that Earl Sigurd was to come with all his host to Dublin by Palm Sunday. Then King Sigtrygg fared south to Ireland, and told his mother Kormlada that the earl had undertaken to come, and also what he had pledged himself to grant him. She showed herself well pleased at that, but said they must gather greater force still. Sigtrygg asked whence this was to be looked for? She said there were two vikings lying off the west of Man; and that they had thirty ships, and, she went on, "They are men of such hardihood that nothing can withstand them. The one's name is Ospak, and the other's Brodir. Thou shalt fare to find them, and spare nothing to get them into thy quarrel, whatever price they ask." Now King Sigtrygg fares and seeks the vikings, and found them lying outside off Man; King Sigtrygg brings forward his errand at once, but Brodir shrank from helping him until he, King Sigtrygg, promised him the kingdom and his mother, and they were to keep this such a secret that Earl Sigurd should know nothing about it; Brodir too was to come to Dublin on Palm Sunday. So King Sigtrygg fared home to his mother, and told her how things stood. After that those brothers, Ospak and Brodir, talked together, and then Brodir told Ospak all that he and Sigtrygg had spoken of, and bade him fare to battle with him against King Brian, and said he set much store on his going. But Ospak said he would not fight against so good a king. Then they were both wroth, and sundered their band at once. Ospak had ten ships and Brodir twenty. Ospak was a heathen, and the wisest of all men. He laid his ships inside in a sound, but Brodir lay outside him. Brodir had been a Christian man and a mass-deacon by consecration, but he had thrown off his faith and become God's dastard, and now worshipped heathen fiends, and he was of all men most skilled in sorcery. He had that coat of mail on which no steel would bite. He was both tall and strong, and had such long locks that he tucked them under his belt. His hair was black. 155. OF SIGNS AND WONDERS It so happened one night that a great din passed over Brodir and his men, so that they all woke, and sprang up and put on their clothes. Along with that came a shower of boiling blood. Then they covered themselves with their shields, but for all that many were scalded. This wonder lasted all till day, and a man had died on board every ship. Then they slept during the day, but the second night there was again a din, and again they all sprang up. Then swords leapt out of their sheaths, and axes and spears flew about in the air and fought. The weapons pressed them so hard that they had to shield themselves, but still many were wounded, and again a man died out of every ship. This wonder lasted all till day. Then they slept again the day after. But the third night there was a din of the same kind, and then ravens flew at them, and it seemed to them as though their beaks and claws were of iron. The ravens pressed them so hard that they had to keep them off with their swords, and covered themselves with their shields, and so this went on again till day, and then another man had died in every ship. Then they went to sleep first of all, but when Brodir woke up, he drew his breath painfully, and bade them put off the boat. "For," he said, "I will go to see Ospak." Then he got into the boat and some men with him, but when he found Ospak he told him of the wonders which had befallen them, and bade him say what he thought they bodcd. Ospak would not tell him before he pledged him peace, and Brodir promised him peace, but Ospak still shrank from telling him till night fell. Then Ospak spoke and said, "When blood rained on you, therefore shall ye shed many men's blood, both of your own and others. But when ye heard a great din, then ye must have been shown the crack of doom, and ye shall all die speedily. But when weapons fought against you, that must forebode a battle; but when ravens pressed you, that marks the devils which ye put faith in, and who will drag you all down to the pains of hell." Then Brodir was so wroth that he could answer never a word, but he went at once to his men, and made them lay his ships in a line across the sound, and moor them by bearing their cables on shore at either end of the line, and meant to slay them all next morning. Ospak saw all their plan, and then he vowed to take the true faith, and to go to King Brian, and follow him till his death- day. Then he took that counsel to lay his ships in a line, and punt them along the shore with poles, and cut the cables of Brodir's ships. Then the ships of Brodir's men began to fall aboard of one another when they were all fast asleep; and so Ospak and his men got out of the firth, and so west to Ireland, and came to Connaught. Then Ospak told King Brian all that he had learnt, and took baptism, and gave himself over into the king's hand. After that King Brian made them gather force over all his realm, and the whole host was to come to Dublin in the week before Palm Sunday. 156. BRIAN'S BATTLE Earl Sigurd Hlodver's son busked him from the Orkneys, and Flosi offered to go with him. The earl would not have that, since he had his pilgrimage to fulfil. Flosi offered fifteen men of his band to go on the voyage, and the earl accepted them, but Flosi fared with Earl Gilli to the Southern isles. Thorstein, the son of Hall of the Side, went along with Earl Sigurd, and Hrafn the Red, and Erling of Straumey. He would not that Hareck should go, but said he would be sure to be the first to tell him the tidings of his voyage. The earl came with all his host on Palm Sunday to Dublin, and there too was come Brodir with all his host. Brodir tried by sorcery how the fight would go, but the answer ran thus, that if the fight were on Good-Friday King Brian would fall but win the day; but if they fought before, they would all fall who were against him. Then Brodir said that they must not fight before the Friday. On the fifth day of the week a man rode up to Kormlada and her company on an apple-grey horse, and in his hand he held a halberd; he talked long with them. King Brian came with all his host to the Burg, and on the Friday the host fared out of the Burg, and both armies were drawn up in array. Brodir was on one wing of the battle, but King Sigtrygg on the other. Earl Sigurd was in the mid battle. Now it must be told of King Brian that he would not fight on the fast-day, and so a shieldburg (1) was thrown round him, and his host was drawn up in array in front of it. Wolf the Quarrelsome was on that wing of the battle against which Brodir stood; but on the other wing, where Sigtrygg stood against them, were Ospak and his sons. But in mid battle was Kerthialfad, and before him the banners were home. Now the wings fall on one another, and there was a very hard fight. Brodir went through the host of the foe, and felled all the foremost that stood there, but no steel would bite on his mail. Wolf the Quarrelsome turned then to meet him, and thrust at him thrice so hard that Brodir fell before him at each thrust, and was well-nigh not getting on his feet again; but as soon as ever he found his feet, he fled away into the wood at once. Earl Sigurd had a hard battle against Kerthialfad, and Kerthialfad came on so fast that he laid low all who were in the front rank, and he broke the array of Earl Sigurd right up to his banner, and slew the banner-bearer. Then he got another man to bear the banner, and there was again a hard fight. Kerthialfad smote this man too his death blow at once, and so on one after the other all who stood near him. Then Earl Sigurd called on Thorstein the son of Hall of the Side, to bear the banner, and Thorstein was just about to lift the banner, but then Asmund the White said, "Don't bear the banner! For all they who bear it get their death." "Hrafn the Red!" called out Earl Sigurd, "bear thou the banner." "Bear thine own devil thyself," answered Hrafn. Then the earl said, "`Tis fittest that the beggar should bear the bag;'" and with that he took the banner from the staff and put it under his cloak. A little after Asmund the White was slain, and then the earl was pierced through with a spear. Ospak had gone through all the battle on his wing, he had been sore wounded, and lost both his sons ere King Sigtrygg fled before him. Then flight broke out throughout all the host. Thorstein Hall of the Side's son stood still while all the others fled, and tied his shoe-string. Then Kerthialfad asked why he ran not as the others. "Because," said Thorstein, "I can't get home to-night, since I am at home out in Iceland." Kerthialfad gave him peace. Hrafn the Red was chased out into a certain river; he thought he saw there the pains of hell down below him, and he thought the devils wanted to drag him to them. Then Hrafn said, "Thy dog (2), Apostle Peter! hath run twice to Rome, and he would run the third time if thou gavest him leave." Then the devils let him loose, and Hrafn got across the river. Now Brodir saw that King Brian's men were chasing the fleers, and that there were few men by the shieldburg. Then he rushed out of the wood, and broke through the shieldburg, and hewed at the king. The lad Takt threw his arm in the way, and the stroke took it off and the king's head too, but the king's blood came on the lad's stump, and the stump was healed by it on the spot. Then Brodir called out with a loud voice, "Now let man tell man that Brodir felled Brian." Then men ran after those who were chasing the fleers, and they were told that King Brian had fallen, and then they turned back straightway, both Wolf the Quarrelsome and Kerthialfad. Then they threw a ring round Brodir and his men, and threw branches of trees upon them, and so Brodir was taken alive. Wolf the Quarrelsome cut open his belly, and led him round and round the trunk of a tree, and so wound all his entrails out of him, and he did not die before they were all drawn out of him. Brodir's men were slain to a man. After that they took King Brian's body and laid it out. The king's head had grown fast to the trunk. Fifteen men of the burners fell in Brian's battle, and there, too, fell Halldor the son of Gudmund the Powerful, and Erling of Straumey. On Good-Friday that event happened in Caithness that a man whose name was Daurrud went out. He saw folk riding twelve together to a bower, and there they were all lost to his sight. He went to that bower and looked in through a window slit that was in it, and saw that there were women inside, and they had set up a loom. Men's heads were the weights, but men's entrails were the warp and weft, a sword was the shuttle, and the reels were arrows. They sang these songs, and he learnt them by heart: THE WOOF OF WAR. "See! warp is stretched For warriors' fall, Lo! weft in loom 'Tis wet with blood; Now fight foreboding, 'Neath friends' swift fingers, Our grey woof waxeth With war's alarms, Our warp bloodred, Our weft corseblue. "This woof is y-woven With entrails of men, This warp is hardweighted With heads of the slain, Spears blood-besprinkled For spindles we use, Our loom ironbound, And arrows our reels; With swords for our shuttles This war-woof we work; So weave we, weird sisters, Our warwinning woof. "Now Warwinner walketh To weave in her turn, Now Swordswinger steppeth, Now Swiftstroke, now Storm; When they speed the shuttle How spearheads shall flash! Shields crash, and helmgnawer (3) On harness bite hard! "Wind we, wind swiftly Our warwinning woof Woof erst for king youthful Foredoomed as his own, Forth now we will ride, Then through the ranks rushing Be busy where friends Blows blithe give and take. "Wind we, wind swiftly Our warwinning woof, After that let us steadfastly Stand by the brave king; Then men shall mark mournful Their shields red with gore, How Swordstroke and Spearthrust Stood stout by the prince. "Wind we, wind swiftly Our warwinning woof. When sword-bearing rovers To banners rush on, Mind, maidens, we spare not One life in the fray! We corse-choosing sisters Have charge of the slain. "Now new-coming nations That island shall rule, Who on outlying headlands Abode ere the fight; I say that King mighty To death now is done, Now low before spearpoint That Earl bows his head. "Soon over all Ersemen Sharp sorrow shall fall, That woe to those warriors Shall wane nevermore; Our woof now is woven. Now battlefield waste, O'er land and o'er water War tidings shall leap. "Now surely 'tis gruesome To gaze all around. When bloodred through heaven Drives cloudrack o'er head; Air soon shall be deep hued With dying men's blood When this our spaedom Comes speedy to pass. "So cheerily chant we Charms for the young king, Come maidens lift loudly His warwinning lay; Let him who now listens Learn well with his ears And gladden brave swordsmen With bursts of war's song. "Now mount we our horses, Now bare we our brands, Now haste we hard, maidens, Hence far, far, away." Then they plucked down the Woof and tore it asunder, and each kept what she had hold of. Now Daurrud goes away from the Slit, and home; but they got on their steeds and rode six to the south, and the other six to the north. A like event befell Brand Gneisti's son in the Faroe Isles. At Swinefell, in Iceland, blood came on the priest's stole on Good-Friday, so that he had to put it off. At Thvattwater the priest thought he saw on Good-Friday a long deep of the sea hard by the altar, and there he saw many awful sights, and it was long ere he could sing the prayers. This event happened in the Orkneys, that Hareck thought he saw Earl Sigurd, and some men with him. Then Hareck took his horse and rode to meet the earl. Men saw that they met and rode under a brae, but they were never seen again, and not a scrap was ever found of Hareck. Earl Gilli in the Southern isles dreamed that a man came to him and said his name was Hostfinn, and told him he was come from Ireland. The earl thought he asked him for tidings thence, and then he sang this song: "I have been where warriors wrestled, High in Erin sang the sword, Boss to boss met many bucklers, Steel rung sharp on rattling helm; I can tell of all their struggle; Sigurd fell in flight of spears; Brian fell, but kept his kingdom Ere he lost one drop of blood." Those two, Flosi and the earl, talked much of this dream. A week after, Hrafn the Red came thither, and told them all the tidings of Brian's battle, the fall of the king, and of Earl Sigurd, and Brodir, and all the Vikings. "What," said Flosi, "hast thou to tell me of my men? "They all fell there," says Hrafn, "but thy brother-in-law Thorstein took peace from Kerthialfad, and is now with him." Flosi told the earl that he would now go away, "For we have our pilgrimage south to fulfil." The earl bade him go as he wished, and gave him a ship and all else that he needed, and much silver. Then they sailed to Wales, and stayed there a while. ENDNOTES: (1) "Shieldburg," that is, a ring of men holding their shields locked together. (2) "Thy dog," etc. Meaning that he would go a third time on a pilgrimage to Rome if St. Peter helped him out of this strait. (3) "Helmgnawer," the sword that bites helmets. 157. THE SLAYING OF KOL THORSTEIN'S SON Kari Solmund's son told master Skeggi that he wished he would get him a ship. So master Skeggi gave Kari a longship, fully trimmed and manned, and on board it went Kari, and David the White, and Kolbein the Black. Now Kari and his fellows sailed south through Scotland's firths, and there they found men from the Southern isles. They told Kari the tidings from Ireland, and also that Flosi was gone to Wales, and his men with him. But when Kari heard that, he told his messmates that he would hold on south to Wales, to fall in with Flosi and his band. So he bade them then to part from his company, if they liked it better, and said that he would not wish to beguile any man into mischief, because he thought he had not yet had revenge enough on Flosi and his band. All chose to go with him; and then he sails south to Wales, and there they lay in hiding in a creek out of the way. That morning Kol Thorstein's son went into the town to buy silver. He of all the burners had used the bitterest words. Kol had talked much with a mighty dame, and he had so knocked the nail on the head, that it was all but fixed that he was to have her, and settle down there. That same morning Kari went also into the town. He came where Kol was telling the silver. Kari knew him at once, and ran at him with his drawn sword and smote him on the neck; but he still went on telling the silver, and his head counted "ten" just as it spun off his body. Then Kari said, "Go and tell this to Flosi, that Kari Solmund's son hath slain Kol Thorstein's son. I give notice of this slaying as done by my hand." Then Kari went to his ship, and told his shipmates of the manslaughter. Then they sailed north to Beruwick, and laid up their ship, and fared up into Whitherne in Scotland, and were with Earl Malcolm that year. But when Flosi heard of Kol's slaying, he laid out his body, and bestowed much money on his burial. Flosi never uttered any wrathful words against Kari. Thence Flosi fared south across the sea and began his pilgrimage, and went on south, and did not stop till he came to Rome. There he got so great honour that he took absolution from the Pope himself, and for that he gave a great sum of money. Then he fared back again by the east road, and stayed long in towns, and went in before mighty men, and had from them great honour. He was in Norway the winter after, and was with Earl Eric till he was ready to sail, and the earl gave him much meal, and many other men behaved handsomely to him. Now he sailed out to Iceland, and ran into Hornfirth, and thence fared home to Swinefell. He had then fulfilled all the terms of his atonement, both in fines and foreign travel. 158. OF FLOSI AND KARI Now it is to be told of Kari that the summer after he went down to his ship and sailed south across the sea, and began his pilgrimage in Normandy, and so went south and got absolution and fared back by the western way, and took his ship again in Normandy, and sailed in her north across the sea to Dover in England. Thence he sailed west, round Wales, and so north, through Scotland's firths, and did not stay his course till he came to Thraswick in Caithness, to master Skeggi's house. There he gave over the ship of burden to Kolbein and David, and Kolbein sailed in that ship to Norway, but David stayed behind in the Fair Isle. Kari was that winter in Caithness. In this winter his housewife died out in Iceland. The next summer Kari busked him for Iceland. Skeggi gave him a ship of burden, and there were eighteen of them on board her. They were rather late "boun," but still they put to sea, and had a long passage, but at last they made Ingolf's Head. There their ship was dashed all to pieces, but the men's lives were saved. Then, too, a gale of wind came on them. Now they ask Kari what counsel was to be taken; but he said their best plan was to go to Swinefell and put Flosi's manhood to the proof. So they went right up to Swinefell in the storm. Flosi was in the sitting-room. He knew Kari as soon as ever he came into the room, and sprang up to meet him, and kissed him, and sate him down in the high seat by his side. Flosi asked Kari to be there that winter, and Kari took his offer. Then they were atoned with a full atonement. Then Flosi gave away his brother's daughter Hildigunna, whom Hauskuld the priest of Whiteness had had to wife to Kari, and they dwelt first of all at Broadwater. Men say that the end of Flosi's life was, that he fared abroad, when he had grown old, to seek for timber to build him a hall; and he was in Norway that winter, but the next summer he was late "boun"; and men told him that his ship was not seaworthy. Flosi said she was quite good enough for an old and deathdoomed man, and bore his goods on shipboard and put out to sea. But of that ship no tidings were ever heard. These were the children of Kari Solmund's son and Helga Njal's daughter -- Thorgerda and Ragneida, Valgerda, and Thord who was burnt in Njal's house. But the children of Hildigunna and Kari, were these, Starkad, and Thord, and Flosi. The son of Burning-Flosi was Kolbein, who has been the most famous man of any of that stock. And here we end the STORY of BURNT NJAL.