The Story of Burnt Njal
Part 5: Sections 72 - 86
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #11
72. OF THE SUITS FOR MANSLAUGHTER AT THE THING These tidings were spread far and wide, and Thorgeir's death was a great grief to many a man. Gizur the White and his men rode to the spot and gave notice of the manslaughter, and called the neighbours on the inquest to the Thing. Then they rode home west. Njal and Gunnar met and talked about the battle. Then Njal said to Gunnar, "Now be ware of thyself. Now hast thou slain twice in the same stock; and so now take heed to thy behaviour, and think that it is as much as thy life is worth, if thou dost not hold to the settlement that is made." "Nor do I mean to break it in any way," says Gunnar, "but still I shall need thy help at the Thing." "I will hold to my faithfulness to thee," said Njal, "till my death day." Then Gunnar rides home. Now the Thing draws near; and each side gather a great company; and it is a matter of much talk at the Thing how these suits will end. Those two, Gizur the White, and Geir the Priest, talked with each other as to who should give notice of the suit of manslaughter after Thorgeir, and the end of it was that Gizur took the suit on his hand, and gave notice of it at the Hill of Laws, and spoke in these words: -- "I gave notice of a suit for assault laid down by law against Gunnar Hamond's son; for that he rushed with an onslaught laid down by law on Thorgeir Otkell's son, and wounded him with a body wound, which proved a death wound, so that Thorgeir got his death. "I say on this charge he ought to become a convicted outlaw, not to be fed, not to be forwarded, not to be helped or harboured in any need. "I say that his goods are forfeited, half to me and half to the men of the Quarter, whose right it is by law to seize the goods of outlaws. "I give notice of this charge in the Quarter Court, into which this suit ought by law to come. "I give this lawful notice in the hearing of all men at the Hill of Laws. "I give notice now of this suit, and of full forfeiture and outlawry against Gunnar Hamond's son." A second time Gizur took witness, and gave notice of a suit against Gunnar Hamond's son, for that he had wounded Thorgeir Otkell's son with a body wound which was a death wound, and from which Thorgeir got his death, on such and such a spot when Gunnar first sprang on Thorgeir with an onslaught, laid down by law. After that he gave notice of this declaration as he had done of the first. Then he asked in what Quarter Court the suit lay, and in what house in the district the defendant dwelt. When that was over, men left the Hill of Laws, and all said that he spoke well. Gunnar kept himself well in hand and said little or nothing. Now the Thing wears away till the day when the courts were to be set. Then Gunnar stood looking south by the court of the men of Rangriver, and his men with him. Gizur stood looking north, and calls his witnesses, and bade Gunnar to listen to his oath, and to his declaration of the suit, and to all the steps and proofs which he meant to bring forward. After that he took his oath, and then he brought forward the suit in the same shape before the court, as he had given notice of it before. Then he made them bring forward witness of the notice, then he bade the neighbours on the inquest to take their seats, and called upon Gunnar to challenge the inquest. 73. OF THE ATONEMENT Then Njal spoke and said, "Now I can no longer sit still and take no part. Let us go to where the neighbours sit on the inquest." They went thither and challenged four neighbours out of the inquest, but they called on the five that were left to answer the following question in Gunnar's favour, "Whether those namesakes had gone out with that mind to the place of meeting to do Gunnar a mischief if they could?" But all bore witness at once that so it was. Then Njal called this a lawful defence to the suit, and said he would bring forward proof of it unless they gave over the suit to arbitration. Then many chiefs joined in praying for an atonement, and so it was brought about that twelve men should utter an award in the matter. Then either side went and handselled this settlement to the other. Afterwards the award was made, and the sum to be paid settled, and it was all to be paid down then and there at the Thing. But besides, Gunnar was to go abroad and Kolskegg with him, and they were to be away three winters; but if Gunnar did not go abroad when he had a chance of a passage, then he was to be slain by the kinsmen of those whom he had killed. Gunnar made no sign, as though he thought the terms of atonement were not good. He asked Njal for that money which he had handed over to him to keep. Njal had laid the money out at interest and paid it down all at once, and it just came to what Gunnar had to pay for himself. Now they ride home. Gunnar and Njal rode both together from the Thing, and then Njal said to Gunnar, "Take good care, messmate, that thou keepest to this atonement, and bear in mind what we have spoken about; for though thy former journey abroad brought thee to great honour, this will be a far greater honour to thee. Thou wilt come back with great glory, and live to be an old man, and no man here will then tread on thy heel; but if thou dost not fare away, and so breakest thy atonement, then thou wilt be slain here in the land, and that is ill knowing for those who are thy friends." Gunnar said he had no mind to break the atonement, and he rides home and told them of the settlement. Rannveig said it was well that he fared abroad, for then they must find some one else to quarrel with. 74. KOLSKEGG GOES ABROAD Thrain Sigfus' son said to his wife that he meant to fare abroad that summer. She said that was well. So he took his passage with Hogni the White. Gunnar took his passage with Arnfin of the Bay; and Kolskegg was to go with him. Grim and Helgi, Njal's sons, asked their father's leave to go abroad too, and Njal said, "This foreign voyage ye will find hard work, so hard that it will be doubtful whether ye keep your lives; but still ye two will get some honour and glory, but it is not unlikely that a quarrel will arise out of your journey when ye come back." Still they kept on asking their father to let them go, and the end of it was that he bade them go if they chose. Then they got them a passage with Bard the Black, and Olof Kettle's son of Elda; and it is the talk of the whole country that all the better men in that district were leaving it. By this time Gunnar's sons, Hogni and Grani, were grown up; they were men of very different turn of mind. Grani had much of his mother's temper, but Hogni was kind and good. Gunnar made men bear down the wares of his brother and himself to the ship, and when all Gunnar's baggage had come down, and the ship was all but "boun," then Gunnar rides to Bergthorsknoll, and to other homesteads to see men, and thanked them all for the help they had given him. The day after he gets ready early for his journey to the ship, and told all his people that he would ride away for good and all, and men took that much to heart, but still they said that they looked to his coming back afterwards. Gunnar threw his arms round each of the household when he was "boun," and every one of them went out of doors with him; he leans on the butt of his spear and leaps into the saddle, and he and Kolskegg ride away. They ride down along Markfleet, and just then Gunnar's horse tripped and threw him off. He turned with his face up towards the Lithe and the homestead at Lithend, and said, "Fair is the Lithe; so fair that it has never seemed to me so fair; the corn fields are white to harvest and the home mead is mown; and now I will ride back home, and not fare abroad at all." "Do not this joy to thy foes," says Kolskegg, "by breaking thy atonement, for no man could think thou wouldst do thus, and thou mayst be sure that all will happen as Njal has said." "I will not go away any whither," said Gunnar, "and so I would thou shouldest do too." "That shall not be," says Kolskegg; "I will never do a base thing in this, nor in any thing else which is left to my good faith; and this is that one thing that could tear us asunder; but tell this to my kinsman and to my mother that I never mean to see Iceland again, for I shall soon learn that thou art dead, brother, and then there will be nothing left to bring me back." So they parted there and then. Gunnar rides home to Lithend, but Kolskegg rides to the ship, and goes abroad. Hallgerda was glad to see Gunnar when he came home, but his mother said little or nothing. How Gunnar sits at home that fall and winter, and had not many men with him. Now the winter leaves the farmyard. Olaf the Peacock asked Gunnar and Hallgerda to come and stay with him; but as for the farm, to put it into the hands of his mother and his son Hogni. Gunnar thought that a good thing at first, and agreed to it, but when it came to the point he would not do it. But at the Thing next summer, Gizur the White, and Geir the Priest, gave notice of Gunnar's outlawry at the Hill of Laws; and before the Thing broke up Gizur summoned all Gunnar's foes to meet in the "Great Rift." (1) He summoned Starkad under the Threecorner, and Thorgeir his son; Mord and Valgard the Guileful; Geir the Priest and Hjalti Skeggi's son; Thorbrand and Asbrand, Thorleik's sons; Eyjulf, and Aunund his son. Aunund of Witchwood and Thorgrim the Easterling of Sandgil. The Gizur spoke and said, "I will make you all this offer, that we go out against Gunnar this summer and slay him." "I gave my word to Gunnar," said Hjalti, "here at the Thing, when he showed himself most willing to yield to my prayer, that I would never be in any attack upon him; and so it shall be." Then Hjalti went away, but those who were left behind made up their minds to make an onslaught on Gunnar, and shook hands on the bargain, and laid a fine on any one that left the undertaking. Mord was to keep watch and spy out when there was the best chance of falling on him, and they were forty men in this league, and they thought it would be a light thing for them to hunt down Gunnar, now that Kolskegg was away, and Thrain and many other of Gunnar's friends. Men ride from the Thing, and Njal went to see Gunnar, and told him of his outlawry, and how an onslaught was planned against him. "Methinks thou art the best of friends," says Gunnar; "thou makest me aware of what is meant." "Now," says Njal, "I would that Skarphedinn should come to thy house, and my son Hauskuld; they will lay down their lives for thy life." "I will not," says Gunnar, "that thy sons should be slain for my sake, and thou hast a right to look for other things from me." "All thy care will come to nothing," says Njal; "quarrels will turn thitherward where my sons are as soon as thou art dead and gone." "That is not unlikely," says Gunnar, "but still it would mislike me that they fell into them for me; but this one thing I will ask of thee, that ye see after my son Hogni, but I say naught of Grani, for he does not behave himself much after my mind." Njal rode home, and gave his word to do that. It is said that Gunnar rode to all meetings of men, and to all lawful Things, and his foes never dared to fall on him. And so some time went on that he went about as a free and guiltless man. ENDNOTES: (1) "Great Rift," Almannagja -- The great volcanic rift, or "geo," as it would be called in Orkney and Shetland, which bounds the plain of the Allthing on one side. 75. THE RIDING TO LITHEND Next autumn Mord Valgard's son sent word that Gunnar would be all alone at home, but all his people would be down in the isles to make an end of their haymaking. Then Gizur the White and Geir the Priest rode east over the rivers as soon as ever they heard that, and so east across the sands to Hof. Then they sent word to Starkad under the Threecorner, and there they all met who were to fall on Gunnar, and took counsel how they might best bring it about. Mord said that they could not come on Gunnar unawares, unless they seized the farmer who dwelt at the next homestead, whose name was Thorkell, and made him go against his will with them to lay hands on the hound Sam, and unless he went before them to the homestead to do this. Then they set out east for Lithend, but sent to fetch Thorkell. They seized him and bound him, and gave him two choices -- one that they would slay him, or else he must lay hands on the hound; but he chooses rather to save his life, and went with them. There was a beaten sunk road, between fences, above the farm yard at Lithend, and there they halted with their band. Master Thorkell went up to the homestead, and the tyke lay on the top of the house, and he entices the dog away with him into a deep hollow in the path. Just then the hound sees that there are men before them, and he leaps on Thorkell and tears his belly open. Aunund of Witchwood smote the hound on the head with his axe, so that the blade sunk into the brain. The hound gave such a great howl that they thought it passing strange, and he fell down dead. 76. GUNNAR'S SLAYING Gunnar woke up in his hall and said, "Thou hast been sorely treated, Sam, my fosterling, and this warning is so meant that our two deaths will not be far apart." Gunnar's hall was made all of wood, and roofed with beams above, and there were window-slits under the beams that carried the roof, and they were fitted with shutters. Gunnar slept in a loft above the hall, and so did Hallgerda and his mother. Now when they were come near to the house they knew not whether Gunnar were at home, and bade that some one would go straight up to the house and see if he could find out. But the rest sat them down on the ground. Thorgrim the Easterling went and began to climb up on the hall; Gunnar sees that a red kirtle passed before the windowslit, and thrusts out the bill, and smote him on the middle. Thorgrim's feet slipped from under him, and he dropped his shield, and down he toppled from the roof. Then he goes to Gizur and his band as they sat on the ground. Gizur looked at him and said, "Well, is Gunnar at home? "Find that out for yourselves," said Thorgrim; "but this I am sure of, that his bill is at home," and with that he fell down dead. Then they made for the buildings. Gunnar shot out arrows at them, and made a stout defence, and they could get nothing done. Then some of them got into the out houses and tried to attack him thence, but Gunnar found them out with his arrows there also, and still they could get nothing done. So it went on for a while, then they took a rest, and made a second onslaught. Gunnar still shot out at them, and they could do nothing, and fell off the second time. Then Gizur the White said, "Let us press on harder; nothing comes of our onslaught." Then they made a third bout of it, and were long at it, and then they fell off again. Gunnar said, "There lies an arrow outside on the wall, and it is one of their shafts; I will shoot at them with it, and it will be a shame to them if they get a hurt from their own weapons." His mother said, "Do not so, my son; nor rouse them again when they have already fallen off from the attack." But Gunnar caught up the arrow and shot it after them, and struck Eylif Aunund's son, and he got a great wound; he was standing all by himself, and they knew not that he was wounded. "Out came an arm yonder," says Gizur, "and there was a gold ring on it, and took an arrow from the roof, and they would not look outside for shafts if there were enough in doors; and now ye shall made a fresh onslaught." "Let us burn him house and all," said Mord. "That shall never be," says Gizur, "though I knew that my life lay on it; but it is easy for thee to find out some plan, such a cunning man as thou art said to be." Some ropes lay there on the ground, and they were often used to strengthen the roof. Then Mord said, "Let us take the ropes and throw one end over the end of the carrying beams, but let us fasten the other end to these rocks and twist them tight with levers, and so pull the roof off the hall." So they took the ropes and all lent a hand to carry this out, and before Gunnar was aware of it, they had pulled the whole roof off the hall. Then Gunnar still shoots with his bow so that they could never come nigh him. Then Mord said again that they must burn the house over Gunnar's head. But Gizur said, "I know not why thou wilt speak of that which no one else wishes, and that shall never be." Just then Thorbrand Thorleik's son, sprang up on the roof, and cuts asunder Gunnar's bowstring. Gunnar clutches the bill with both hands, and turns on him quickly and drives it through him, and hurls him down on the ground. Then up sprung Asbrand his brother. Gunnar thrusts at him with his bill, and he threw his shield before the blow, but the bill passed clean through the shield and broke both his arms, and down he fell from the wall. Gunnar had already wounded eight men and slain those twain (1). By that time Gunnar had got two wounds, and all men said that he never once winced either at wounds or death. Then Gunnar said to Hallgerda, "Give me two locks of thy hair, and ye two, my mother and thou, twist them together into a bowstring for me." "Does aught lie on it?" she says. "My life lies on it;" he said; "for they will never come to close quarters with me if I can keep them off with my bow." "Well!" she says, "now I will call to thy mind that slap on the face which thou gavest me; and I care never a whit whether thou holdest out a long while or a short." Then Gunnar sang a song: "Each who hurts the gory javelin Hath some honour of his own, Now my helpmeet wimple-hooded Hurries all my fame to earth. No one owner of a war-ship Often asks for little things, Woman, fond of Frodi's flour (2), Wends her hand as she is wont." "Every one has something to boast of," says Gunnar, "and I will ask thee no more for this." "Thou behavest ill," said Rannveig, "andthis shame shall long be had in mind." Gunnar made a stout and bold defence, and now wounds other eight men with such sore wounds that many lay at death's door. Gunnar keeps them all off until he fell worn out with toil. Then they wounded him with many and great wounds, but still he got away out of their hands, and held his own against them a while longer, but at last it came about that they slew him. Of this defence of his, Thorkell the Skald of Gota-Elf sang in the verses which follow -- "We have heard how south in Iceland Gunnar guarded well himself, Boldly battle's thunder wielding, Fiercest foeman on the wave; Hero of the golden collar, Sixteen with the sword he wounded; In the shock that Odin loveth, Two before him tasted death." But this is what Thormod Olaf's son sang -- "None that scattered sea's bright sunbeams (3), Won more glorious fame than Gunnar, So runs fame of old in Iceland, Fitting fame of heathen men; Lord of fight when helms were crashing, Lives of foeman twain he took, Wielding bitter steel he sorely Wounded twelve, and four besides." Then Gizur spoke and said, "We have now laid low to earth a mighty chief, and hard work has it been, and the fame of this defence of his shall last as long as men live in this land." After that he went to see Rannveig and said, "Wilt thou grant us earth here for two of our men who are dead, that they may lie in a cairn here?" "All the more willingly for two," she says, "because I wish with all my heart I had to grant it to all of you." "It must be forgiven thee," he says, "to speak thus, for thou hast had a great loss." Then he gave orders that no man should spoil or rob anything there. After that they went away. Then Thorgeir Starkad's son said, "We may not be in our house at home for the sons of Sigfus, unless thou Gizur or thou Geir be here south some little while." "This shall be so," says Gizur, and they cast lots, and the lot fell on Geir to stay behind. After that he came to the Point, and set up his house there; he had a son whose name was Hroald; he was base born, and his mother's name was Biartey (4); he boasted that he had given Gunnar his death blow. Hroald was at the Point with his father. Thorgeir Starkad's son boasted of another wound which he had given to Gunnar. Gizur sat at home at Mossfell. Gunnar's slaying was heard of, and ill spoken of throughout the whole country, and his death was a great grief to many a man. ENDNOTES: (1) Thorgrim Easterling and Thorbrand. (2) "Frodi's flour," a periphrasis for "gold." (3) "Sea's bright sunbeams," a periphrasis for "gold." (4) She was a sister of Thorwald the Scurvy, who was slain at Horsebeck in Grimsness. 77. GUNNAR SINGS A SONG DEAD Njal could ill brook Gunnar's death, nor could the sons of Sigfus brook it either. They asked whether Njal thought they had any right to give notice of a suit of manslaughter for Gunnar, or to set the suit on foot. He said that could not be done, as the man had been outlawed; but said it would be better worth trying to do something to wound their glory, by slaying some men in vengeance after him. They cast a cairn over Gunnar, and made him sit upright in the cairn. Rannveig would not hear of his bill being buried in the cairn, but said he alone should have it as his own, who was ready to avenge Gunnar. So no one took the bill. She was so hard on Hallgerda, that she was on the point of killing her; and she said that she had been the cause of her son's slaying. Then Hallgerda fled away to Gritwater, and her son Grani with her, and they shared the goods between them; Hogni was to have the land at Lithend and the homestead on it, but Grani was to have the land let out on lease. Now this token happened at Lithend, that the neat-herd and the serving-maid were driving cattle by Gunnar's cairn. They thought that he was merry, and that he was singing inside the cairn. They went home and told Rannveig, Gunnar's mother, of this token, but she bade them go and tell Njal. Then they went over to Bergthorsknoll and told Njal, but he made them tell it three times over. After that, he had a long talk all alone with Skarphedinn; and Skarphedinn took his weapons and goes with them to Lithend. Rannveig and Hogni gave him a hearty welcome, and were very glad to see him. Rannveig asked him to stay there some time, and he said he would. He and Hogni were always together, at home and abroad. Hogni was a brisk, brave man, well-bred and well-trained in mind and body, but distrustful and slow to believe what he was told, and that was why they dared not tell him of the token. Now those two, Skarphedinn and Hogni, were out of doors one evening by Gunnar's cairn on the south side. The moon and stars were shining clear and bright, but every now and then the clouds drove over them. Then all at once they thought they saw the cairn standing open, and lo! Gunnar had turned himself in the cairn and looked at the moon. They thought they saw four lights burning in the cairn, and none of them threw a shadow. They saw that Gunnar was merry, and he wore a joyful face. He sang a song, and so loud, that it might have been heard though they had been further off. "He that lavished rings in largesse, When the fights' red rain-drips fell, Bright of face, with heart-strings hardy, Hogni's father met his fate; Then his brow with helmet shrouding, Bearing battle-shield, he spake, `I will die the prop of battle, Sooner die than yield an inch, Yes, sooner die than yield an inch." After that the cairn was shut up again. "Wouldst thou believe these tokens if Njal or I told them to thee?" says Skarphedinn. "I would believe them," he says, "if Njal told them, for it is said he never lies." "Such tokens as these mean much," says Skarphedinn, "when he shows himself to us, he who would sooner die than yield to his foes; and see how he has taught us what we ought to do." "I shall be able to bring nothing to pass," says Hogni, "unless thou wilt stand by me." "Now," says Skarphedinn, "will I bear in mind how Gunnar behaved after the slaying of your kinsman Sigmund; now I will yield you such help as I may. My father gave his word to Gunnar to do that whenever thou or thy mother had need of it." After that they go home to Lithend. 78. GUNNAR OF LITHEND AVENGED "Now we shall set off at once," says Skarphedinn, "this very night; for if they learn that I am here, they will be more wary of themselves." "I will fulfil thy counsel," says Hogni. After that they took their weapons when all men were in their beds. Hogni takes down the bill, and it gave a sharp ringing sound. Rannveig sprang up in great wrath and said, "Who touches the bill, when I forbade every one to lay hand on it?" "I mean," says Hogni, "to bring it to my father, that he may bear it with him to Valhalla, and have it with him when the warriors meet." "Rather shalt thou now bear it," she answered, "and avenge thy father; for the bill has spoken of one man's death or more." Then Hogni went out, and told Skarphedinn all the words that his grandmother had spoken. After that they fare to the Point, and two ravens flew along with them all the way. They came to the Point while it was still night. Then they drove the flock before them up to the house, and then Hroald and Tjorfi ran out and drove the flock up the hollow path, and had their weapons with them. Skarphedinn sprang up and said, "Thou needest not to stand and think if it be really as it seems. Men are here." Then Skarphedinn smites Tjorfi his deathblow. Hroald had a spear in his hand, and Hogni rushes at him; Hroald thrusts at him, but Hogni hewed asunder the spear-shaft with his bill, and drives the bill through him. After that they left them there dead, and turn away thence under the Threecorner. Skarphedinn jumps up on the house and plucks the grass, and those who were inside the house thought it was cattle that had come on the roof. Starkad and Thorgeir took their weapons and upper clothing, and went out and round about the fence of the yard. But when Starkad sees Skarphedinn he was afraid, and wanted to turn back. Skarphedinn cut him down by the fence. Then Hogni comes against Thorgeir and slays him with the bill. Thence they went to Hof, and Mord was outside in the field, and begged for mercy, and offered them full atonement. Skarphedinn told Mord the slaying of those four men, and sang a song: "Four who wielded warlike weapons We have slain, all men of worth, Them at once, gold-greedy fellow, Thou shalt follow on the spot; Let us press this pinch-purse so, Pouring fear into his heart; Wretch! reach out to Gunnar's son Right to settle all disputes." "And the like journey," says Skarphedinn, "shalt thou also fare, or hand over to Hogni the right to make his own award, if he will take these terms." Hogni said his mind had been made up not to come to any terms with the slayers of his father; but still at last he took the right to make his own award from Mord. 79. HOGNI TAKES AN ATONEMENT FOR GUNNAR'S DEATH Njal took a share in bringing those who had the blood-feud after Starkad and Thorgeir to take an atonement, and a district meeting was called together, and men were chosen to make the award, and every matter was taken into account, even the attack on Gunnar, though he was an outlaw; but such a fine as was awarded, all that Mord paid; for they did not close their award against him before the other matter was already settled, and then they set off one award against the other. Then they were all set at one again, but at the Thing there was great talk, and the end of it was, that Geir the Priest and Hogni were set at one again, and that atonement they held to ever afterwards. Geir the Priest dwelt in the Lithe till his deathday, and he is out of the story. Njal asked as a wife for Hogni Alfeida the daughter of Weatherlid the Skald, and she was given away to him. Their son was Ari, who sailed for Shetland, and took him a wife there; from him is come Einar the Shetlander, one of the briskest and boldest of men. Hogni kept up his friendship with Njal, and he is now out of the story. 80. OF KOLSKEGG: HOW HE WAS BAPTIZED Now it is to be told of Kolskegg how he comes to Norway, and is in the Bay east that winter. But the summer after he fares east to Denmark, and bound himself to Sweyn Forkbeard the Dane-king, and there he had great honour. One night he dreamt that a man came to him; he was bright and glistening, and he thought he woke him up. He spoke, and said to him, "Stand up and come with me." "What wilt thou with me?" he asks. "I will get thee a bride, and thou shalt be my knight." He thought he said yea to that, and after that he woke up. Then he went to a wizard and told him the dream, but he read it so that he should fare to southern lands and become God's knight. Kolskegg was baptized in Denmark, but still he could not rest there, but fared east to Russia, and was there one winter. Then he fared thence out to Micklegarth (1), and there took service with the Emperor. The last that was heard of him was, that he wedded a wife there, and was captain over the Varangians, and stayed there till his deathday; and he, too, is out of this story. ENDNOTES: (1) Constantinople. 81. OF THRAIN: HOW HE SLEW KOL Now we must take up the story, and say how Thrain Sigfus' son came to Norway. They made the land north in Helgeland, and held on south to Drontheim, and so to Hlada (1). But as soon as Earl Hacon heard of that, he sent men to them, and would know what men were in the ship. They came back and told him who the men were. Then the earl sent for Thrain Sigfus' son, and he went to see him. The earl asked of what stock he might be. He said that he was Gunnar of Lithend's near kinsman. The earl said, "That shall stand thee in good stead; for I have seen many men from Iceland, but none his match." "Lord," said Thrain, "is it your will that I should be with you this winter?" The earl took to him, and Thrain was there that winter, and was thought much of. There was a man named Kol, he was a great sea-rover. He was the son of Asmund Ashside, east out of Smoland. He lay east in the Gota-Elf, and had five ships, and much force. Thence Kol steered his course out of the river to Norway and landed at Fold (2), in the bight of the "Bay," and came on Hallvard Soti unawares, and found him in a loft. He kept them off bravely till they set fire to the house, then he gave himself up; but they slew him, and took there much goods, and sailed thence to Lodese (3). Earl Hacon heard these tidings, and made them make Kol an outlaw over all his realm, and set a price upon his head. Once on a time it so happened that the earl began to speak thus, "Too far off from us now is Gunnar of Lithend. He would slay my outlaw if he were here; but now the Icelanders will slay him, and it is ill that he hath not fared to us." Then Thrain Sigfus' son answered, "I am not Gunnar, but still I am near akin to him, and I will undertake this voyage." The earl said, "I should be glad of that, and thou shalt be very well fitted out for the journey." After that his son Eric began to speak, and said, "Your word, father, is good to many men, but fulfilling it is quite another thing. This is the hardest undertaking; for this sea-rover is tough and ill to deal with, wherefore thou wilt need to take great pains, both as to men and ships for this voyage." Thrain said, "I will set out on this voyage, though it looks ugly." After that the earl gave him five ships, and all well trimmed and manned. Along with Thrain was Gunnar Lambi's son, and Lambi Sigurd's son. Gunnar was Thrain's brother's son, and had come to him young, and each loved the other much. Eric, the earl's son, went heartily along with them, and looked after strength for them, both in men and weapons and made such changes in them as he thought were needful. After they were "boun," Eric got them a pilot. Then they sailed south along the land; but wherever they came to land, the earl allowed them to deal with whatever they needed as their own. So they held on east to Lodese, and then they heard that Kol was gone to Denmark. Then they shaped their course south thither; but when they came south to Helsingborg, they met men in a boat who said that Kol was there just before them, and would be staying there for a while. One day when the weather was good, Kol saw the ships as they sailed up towards him, and said he had dreamt of Earl Hacon the night before, and told his people he was sure these must be his men, and bade them all to take their weapons. After that they busked them, and a fight arose; and they fought long, so that neither side had the mastery. Then Kol sprang up on Thrain's ship, and cleared the gangways fast, and slays many men. He had a gilded helm. Now Thrain sees that this is no good, and now he eggs on his men to go along with him, but he himself goes first and meets Kol. Kol hews at him, and the blow fell on Thrain's shield, and cleft it down from top to bottom. Then Kol got a blow on the arm, from a stone and then down fell his sword. Thrain hews at Kol, and the stroke came on his leg so that it cut it off. After that they slew Kol, and Thrain cut off his head, and they threw the trunk overboard, but kept his head. They took much spoil, and then they held on north to Drontheim, and go to see the earl. The earl gave Thrain a hearty welcome, and he shewed the earl Kol's head, but the earl thanked him for that deed. Eric said it was worth more than words alone, and the earl said so it was, and bade them come along with him. They went thither, where the earl had made them make a good ship that was not made like a common long-ship. It had a vulture's head, and was much carved and painted. "Thou art a great man for show, Thrain," said the earl, "and so have both of you, kinsmen, been, Gunnar and thou; and now I will give thee this ship, but it is called the Vulture. Along with it shall go my friendship; and my will is that thou stayest with me as long as thou wilt." He thanked him for his goodness, and said he had no longing to go to Iceland just yet. The earl had a journey to make to the marches of the land to meet the Swede-king. Thrain went with him that summer, and was a shipmaster and steered the Vulture, and sailed so fast that few could keep up with him, and he was much envied. But it always came out that the earl laid great store on Gunnar, for he set down sternly all who tried Thrain's temper. So Thrain was all that winter with the earl, but next spring the earl asked Thrain whether he would stay there or fare to Iceland; but Thrain said he had not yet made up his mind, and said that he wished first to know tidings from Iceland. The earl said that so it should be as he thought it suited him best; and Thrain was with the earl. Then those tidings were heard from Iceland, which many thought great news, the death of Gunnar of Lithend. Then the earl would not that Thrain should fare out of Iceland, and so there he stayed with him. ENDNOTES: (1) Hlada or Lada, and sometimes in the plural Ladir, was the old capital of Drontheim, before Nidaros -- the present Drontheim -- was founded. Drontheim was originally the name of the country round the firth of the same name, and is not used in the old sagas for a town. (2) The country round the Christiania Firth, at the top of "the Bay." (3) A town in Sweden on the Gota-Elf. 82. NJAL'S SONS SAIL ABROAD Now it must be told how Njal's sons, Grim and Helgi, left Iceland the same summer that Thrain and his fellows went away; and in the ship with them were Olaf Kettle's son of Elda, and Bard the Black. They got so strong a wind from the north that they were driven south into the main; and so thick a mist came over them that they could not tell whither they were driving, and they were out a long while. At last they came to where was a great ground sea, and thought then they must be near land. So then Njal's sons asked Bard if he could tell at all to what land they were likely to be nearest. "Many lands there are," said he, "which we might hit with the weather we have had -- the Orkneys, or Scotland, or Ireland." Two nights after, they saw land on both boards, and a great surf running up in the firth. They cast anchor outside the breakers, and the wind began to fall; and next morning it was calm. Then they see thirteen ships coming out to them. Then Bard spoke and said, "What counsel shall we take now, for these men are going to make an onslaught on us?" So they took counsel whether they should defend themselves or yield, but before they could make up their minds, the Vikings were upon them. Then each side asked the other their names, and what their leaders were called. So the leaders of the chapmen told their names, and asked back who led that host. One called himself Gritgard, and the other Snowcolf, sons of Moldan of Duncansby in Scotland, kinsmen of Malcolm the Scot king. "And now," says Gritgard, "we have laid down two choices, one that ye go on shore, and we will take your goods; the other is, that we fall on you and slay every man that we can catch." "The will of the chapmen," answers Helgi, "is to defend themselves." But the chapmen called out, "Wretch that thou art to speak thus! What defence can we make? Lading is less than life." But Grim, he fell upon a plan to shout out to the Vikings, and would not let them hear the bad choice of the chapmen. Then Bard and Olaf said, "Think ye not that these Icelanders will make game of you sluggards; take rather your weapons and guard your goods." So they all seized their weapons, and bound themselves, one with another, never to give up so long as they had strength to fight. 83. OF KARI SOLMUND'S SON Then the Vikings shot at them and the fight began, and the chapmen guard themselves well. Snowcolf sprang aboard and at Olaf, and thrust his spear through his body, but Grim thrust at Snowcolf with his spear, and so stoutly, that he fell overboard. Then Helgi turned to meet Grim, and they two drove down all the Vikings as they tried to board, and Njal's sons were ever where there was most need. Then the Vikings called out to the chapmen and bade them give up, but they said they would never yield. Just then some one looked seaward, and there they see ships coming from the south round the Ness, and they were not fewer than ten, and they row hard and steer thitherwards. Along their sides were shield on shield, but on that ship that came first stood a man by the mast, who was clad in a silken kirtle, and had a gilded helm, and his hair was both fair and thick; that man had a spear inlaid with gold in his hand. He asked, "Who have here such an uneven game?" Helgi tells his name, and said that against them are Gritgard and Snowcolf. "But who are your captains?" he asks. Helgi answered, "Bard the Black, who lives, but the other, who is dead and gone, was called Olaf." "Are ye men from Iceland?" says he. "Sure enough we are," Helgi answers. He asked whose sons they were, and they told him, then he knew them and said, "Well known names have ye all, father and sons both. "Who art thou?" asks Helgi. "My name is Kari, and I am Solmund's son." "Whence comest thou?" says Helgi. "From the Southern Isles." "Then thou art welcome," says Helgi, "if thou wilt give us a little help." "I'll give ye all the help ye need," says Kari; "but what do ye ask?" "To fall on them," says Helgi. Kari says that so it shall be. So they pulled up to them, and then the battle began the second time; but when they had fought a little while, Kari springs up on Snowcolf's ship; he turns to meet him and smites at him with his sword. Kari leaps nimbly backwards over a beam that lay athwart the ship, and Snowcolf smote the beam so that both edges of the sword were hidden. Then Kari smites at him, and the sword fell on his shoulder, and the stroke was so mighty that he cleft in twain shoulder, arm, and all, and Snowcolf got his death there and then. Gritgard hurled a spear at Kari, but Kari saw it and sprang up aloft, and the spear missed him. Just then Helgi and Grim came up both to meet Kari, and Helgi springs on Gritgard and thrusts his spear through him, and that was his death blow; after that they went round the whole ship on both boards, and then men begged for mercy. So they gave them all peace, but took all their goods. After that they ran all the ships out under the islands. 84. OF EARL SIGURD Sigurd was the name of an earl who ruled over the Orkneys; he was the son of Hlodver, the son of Thorfinn the skullsplitter, the son of Turf-Einar, the son of Rognvald, Earl of Moeren, the son of Eystein the Noisy. Kari was one of Earl Sigurd's body-guard, and had just been gathering scatts in the Southern Isles from Earl Gilli. Now Kari asks them to go to Hrossey (1), and said the earl would take to them well. They agreed to that, and went with Kari and came to Hrossey. Kari led them to see the earl, and said what men they were. "How came they," says the earl, "to fall upon thee?" "I found them," says Kari, "in Scotland's firths, and they were fighting with the sons of Earl Moldan, and held their own so well that they threw themselves about between the bulwarks, from side to side, and were always there where the trial was greatest, and now I ask you to give them quarters among your body-guard." "It shall be as thou choosest," says the earl, "thou hast already taken them so much by the hand." Then they were there with the earl that winter, and were worthily treated, but Helgi was silent as the winter wore on. The earl could not tell what was at the bottom of that, and asked why he was so silent, and what was on his mind. "Thinkest thou it not good to be here?" "Good, methinks, it is here," he says. "Then what art thou thinking about?" asks the earl. "Hast thou any realm to guard in Scotland?" asks Helgi. "So we think," says the earl, "but what makes thee think about that, or what is the matter with it?" "The Scots," says Helgi, "must have taken your steward's life, and stopped all the messengers, that none should cross the Pentland Firth." "Hast thou the second sight?" said the earl. "That has been little proved," answers Helgi. "Well," says the earl, "I will increase thy honour if this be so, otherwise thou shalt smart for it." "Nay," says Kari, "Helgi is not that kind of man, and like enough his words are sooth, for his father has the second sight." After that the earl sent men south to Straumey (2) to Arnljot, his steward there, and after that Arnljot sent them across the Pentland Firth, and they spied out and learnt that Earl Hundi and Earl Melsnati had taken the life of Havard in Thraswick, Earl Sigurd's brother-in-law. So Arnljot sent word to Earl Sigurd to come south with a great host and drive those earls out of his realm, and as soon as the earl heard that, he gathered together a mighty host from all the isles. ENDNOTES: (1) The mainland of Orkney, now Pomona. (2) Now Stroma, in the Pentland Firth. 85. THE BATTLE WITH THE EARLS After that the earl set out south with his host, and Kari went with him, and Njal's sons too. They came south to Caithness. The earl had these realms in Scotland, Ross and Moray, Sutherland, and the Dales. There came to meet them men from those realms, and said that the earls were a short way off with a great host. Then Earl Sigurd turns his host thither, and the name of that place is Duncansness above which they met, and it came to a great battle between them. Now the Scots had let some of their host go free from the main battle, and these took the earl's men in flank, and many men fell there till Njal's sons turned against the foe, and fought with them and put them to flight; but still it was a hard fight, and then Njal's sons turned back to the front by the earl's standard, and fought well. Now Kari turns to meet Earl Melsnati, and Melsnati hurled a spear at him, but Kari caught the spear and threw it back and through the earl. Then Earl Hundi fled, but they chased the fleers until they learnt that Malcolm was gathering a host at Duncansby. Then the earl took counsel with his men, and it seemed to all the best plan to turn back, and not to fight with such a mighty land force; so they turned back. But when the earl came to Staumey they shared the battle-spoil. After that he went north to Hrossey, and Njal's sons and Kari followed him. Then the earl made a great feast, and at that feast he gave Kari a good sword, and a spear inlaid with gold; but he gave Helgi a gold ring and a mantle, and Grim a shield and sword. After that he took Helgi and Grim into his body-guard, and thanked them for their good help. They were with the earl that winter and the summer after, till Kari went sea-roving; then they went with him, and harried far and wide that summer, and everywhere won the victory. They fought against Godred, King of Man, and conquered him; and after that they fared back, and had gotten much goods. Next winter they were still with the earl, and when the spring came Njal's sons asked leave to go to Norway. The earl said they should go or not as they pleased, and he gave them a good ship and smart men. As for Kari, he said he must come that summer to Norway with Earl Hacon's scatts, and then they would meet; and so it fell out that they gave each other their word to meet. After that Njal's sons put out to sea and sailed for Norway, and made the land north near Drontheim. 86. HRAPP'S VOYAGE FROM ICELAND There was a man named Kolbein, and his surname was Arnljot's son; he was a man from Drontheim; he sailed out to Iceland that same summer in which Kolskegg and Njal's sons went abroad. He was that winter east in Broaddale; but the spring after, he made his ship ready for sea in Gautawick; and when men were almost "boun," a man rowed up to them in a boat, and made the boat fast to the ship, and afterwards he went on board the ship to see Kolbein. Kolbein asked that man for his name. "My name is Hrapp," says he. "What wilt thou with me?" says Kolbein. "I wish to ask thee to put me across the Iceland main." "Whose son art thou?" asks Kolbein. "I am a son of Aurgunleid, the son of Geirolf the Fighter." "What need lies on thee," asked Kolbein, "to drive thee abroad?" "I have slain a man," says Hrapp. "What manslaughter was that," says Kolbein, "and what men have the blood-feud?" "The men of Weaponfirth," says Hrapp, "but the man I slew was Aurlyg, the son of Aurlyg, the son of Roger the White." "I guess this," says Kolbein, "that he will have the worst of it who bears thee abroad." "I am the friend of my friend," said Hrapp, "but when ill is done to me I repay it. Nor am I short of money to lay down for my passage." Then Kolbein took Hrapp on board, and a little while after a fair breeze sprung up, and they sailed away on the sea. Hrapp ran short of food at sea and then he sate him down at the mess of those who were nearest to him. They sprang up with ill words, and so it was that they came to blows, and Hrapp, in a trice, has two men under him. Then Kolbein was told, and he bade Hrapp to come and share his mess, and he accepted that. Now they come off the sea, and lie outside off Agdirness. Then Kolbein asked where that money was which he had offered to pay for his fare? "It is out in Iceland," answers Hrapp. "Thou wilt beguile more men than me, I fear," says Kolbein; "but now I will forgive thee all the fare." Hrapp bade him have thanks for that. "But what counsel dost thou give as to what I ought to do?" "That first of all," he says, "that thou goest from the ship as soon as ever thou canst, for all Easterlings will bear thee bad witness; but there is yet another bit of good counsel which I will give thee, and that is, never to cheat thy master." Then Hrapp went on shore with his weapons, and he had a great axe with an iron-bound haft in his hand. He fares on and on till he comes to Gudbrand of the Dale. He was the greatest friend of Earl Hacon. They two had a shrine between them, and it was never opened but when the earl came thither. That was the second greatest shrine in Norway, but the other was at Hlada. Thrand was the name of Gudbrand's son, but his daughter's name was Gudruna. Hrapp went in before Gudbrand, and hailed him well. He asked whence he came and what was his name. Hrapp told him about himself, and how he had sailed abroad from Iceland. After that he asks Gudbrand to take him into his household as a guest. "It does not seem," said Gudbrand, "to look on thee, as thou wert a man to bring good luck." "Methinks, then," says Hrapp, "that all I have heard about thee has been great lies; for it is said that thou takest every one into thy house that asks thee; and that no man is thy match for goodness and kindness, far or near; but now I shall have to speak against that saying, if thou dost not take me in." "Well, thou shalt stay here," said Gudbrand. "To what seat wilt thou shew me?" says Hrapp. "To one on the lower bench, over against my high seat." Then Hrapp went and took his seat. He was able to tell of many things, and so it was at first that Gudbrand and many thought it sport to listen to him; but still it came about that most men thought him too much given to mocking, and the end of it was that he took to talking alone with Gudruna, so that many said that he meant to beguile her. But when Gudbrand was aware of that, he scolded her much for daring to talk alone with him, and bade her beware of speaking aught to him if the whole household did not hear it. She gave her word to be good at first, but still it was soon the old story over again as to their talk. Then Gudbrand got Asvard, his overseer, to go about with her, out of doors and in, and to be with her wherever she went. One day it happened that she begged for leave to go into the nutwood for a pastime, and Asvard went along with her. Hrapp goes to seek for them and found them, and took her by the hand, and led her away alone. Then Asvard went to look for her, and found them both together stretched on the grass in a thicket. He rushes at them, axe in air, and smote at Hrapp's leg, but Hrapp gave himself a sudden turn, and he missed him. Hrapp springs on his feet as quick as he can, and caught up his axe. Then Asvard wished to turn and get away, but Hrapp hewed asunder his back-bone. Then Gudruna said, "Now hast thou done that deed which will hinder thy stay any longer with my father; but still there is something behind which he will like still less, for I go with child." "He shall not learn this from others," says Hrapp, "but I will go home and tell him both these tidings." "Then," she says, "thou wilt not come away with thy life." "I will run the risk of that," he says. After that he sees her back to the other women, but he went home. Gudbrand sat in his high seat, and there were few men in the room. Hrapp went in before him, and bore his axe high. "Why is thine axe bloody?" asks Gudbrand. "I made it so by doing a piece of work on thy overseer Asvard's back," says Hrapp. "That can be no good work," says Gudbrand; "thou must have slain him." "So it is, be sure," says Hrapp. "What did ye fall out about?" asks Gudbrand. "Oh!" says Hrapp, "what you would think small cause enough. He wanted to hew off my leg." "What hadst thou done first?" asked Gudbrand. "What he had no right to meddle with," says Hrapp. "Still thou wilt tell me what it was." "Well!" said Hrapp, "if thou must know, I lay by thy daughter's side, and he thought that bad." "Up men!" cried Gudbrand, "and take him. He shall be slain out of hand." "Very little good wilt thou let me reap of my son-in-lawship," says Hrapp, "but thou hast not so many men at thy back as to do that speedily." Up they rose, but he sprang out of doors. They run after him, but he got away to the wood, and they could not lay hold of him. Then Gudbrand gathers people, and lets the wood be searched; but they find him not, for the wood was great and thick. Hrapp fares through the wood till he came to a clearing; there he found a house, and saw a man outside cleaving wood. He asked that man for his name, and he said his name was Tofi. Tofi asked him for his name in turn, and Hrapp told him his true name. Hrapp asked why the householder had set up his abode so far from other men? "For that here," he says, "I think I am less likely to have brawls with other men." "It is strange how we beat about the bush in our talk," says Hrapp, "but I will first tell thee who I am. I have been with Gudbrand of the Dale, but I ran away thence because I slew his overseer; but now I know that we are both of us bad men; for thou wouldst not have come hither away from other men unless thou wert some man's outlaw. And now I give thee two choices, either that I will tell where thou art, or that we two have between us, share and share alike, all that is here." "This is even as thou savest," said the householder; "I seized and carried off this woman who is here with me, and many men have sought for me." Then he led Hrapp in with him; there was a small house there, but well built. The master of the house told his mistress that he had taken Hrapp into his company. "Most men will get ill luck from this man," she says; "but thou wilt have thy way." So Hrapp was there after that. He was a great wanderer, and was never at home. He still brings about meetings with Gudruna; her father and brother, Thrand and Gudbrand, lay in wait for him, but they could never get nigh him, and so all that year passed away. Gudbrand sent and told Earl Hacon what trouble he had had with Hrapp, and the earl let him be made an outlaw, and laid a price upon his head. He said, too, that he would go himself to look after him; but that passed off, and the earl thought it easy enough for them to catch him when he went about so unwarily.