Burnt Njal Saga Page 2
SIGMUND COMES OUT TO ICELAND
There was a man whose name was Sigmund. He was the son of Lambi, the son of Sighvat the Red. He was a great voyager, and a comely and a courteous man; tall too, and strong. He was a man of proud spirit, and a good skald, and well trained in most feats of strength. He was noisy and boisterous, and given to jibes and mocking. He made the land east in Homfirth. Skiolld was the name of his fellow-traveller; he was a Swedish man, and ill to do with. They took horse and rode from the east out of Hornfirth, and did not draw bridle before they came to Lithend, in the Fleetlithe. Gunnar gave them a hearty welcome, for the bonds of kinship were close between them. Gunnar begged Sigmund to stay there that winter, and Sigmund said he would take the offer if Skiolld his fellow might be there too.
“Well, I have been so told about him,” said Gunnar, “that he is no betterer of thy temper; but as it is, thou rather needest to have it bettered. This, too, is a bad house to stay at, and I would just give both of you a bit of advice, my kinsman, not to fire up at the egging on of my wife Hallgerda; for she takes much in hand that is far from my will.”
“His hands are clean who warns another,” says Sigmund.
“Then mind the advice given thee,” says Gunnar, “for thou art sure to be sore tried; and go along always with me, and lean upon my counsel.”
After that they were in Gunnar’s company. Hallgerda was good to Sigmund; and it soon came about that things grew so warm that she loaded him with money, and tended him no worse than her own husband; and many talked about that, and did not know what lay under it.
One day Hallgerda said to Gunnar, “It is not good to be content with that hundred in silver which thou tookest for my kinsman Brynjolf. I shall avenue him if I may,” she says.
Gunnar said he had no mind to bandy words with her, and went away. He met Kolskegg, and said to him, “Go and see Njal; and tell him that Thord must be ware of himself though peace has been made for, methinks, there is faithlessness somewhere.”
He rode off and told Njal, but Njal told Thord, and Kolskegg rode home, and Njal thanked them for their faithfulness.
Once on a time they two were out in the “town,” Njal and Thord; a he-goat was wont to go up and down in the “town,” and no one was allowed to drive him away. Then Thord spoke and said, “Well,
this is a wondrous thing!”
“What is it that thou see’st that seems after a wondrous fashion?” says Njal.
“Methinks the goat lies here in the hollow, and he is all one gore of blood.”
Njal said that there was no goat there, nor anything else.
“What is it then?” says Thord.
“Thou must be a `fey’ man,” says Njal, “and thou must have seen the fetch that follows thee, and now be ware of thyself.”
“That will stand me in no stead,” says Thord, “if death is doomed for me.”
Then Hallgerda came to talk with Thrain Sigfus’ son, and said, “I would think thee my son-in-law indeed,” she says, “if thou slayest Thord Freedmanson.”
“I will not do that,” he says, “for then I shall have the wrath of my kinsman Gunnar; and besides, great things hang on this deed, for this slaying would soon be avenged.”
“Who will avenge it?” she asks; “is it the beardless carle?”
“Not so,” says he, “his sons will avenge it.”
After that they talked long and low, and no man knew what counsel they took together.
Once it happened that Gunnar was not at home, but those companions were. Thrain had come in from Gritwater, and then he and they and Hallgerda sat out of doors and talked. Then Hallgerda said, “This have ye two brothers in arms, Sigmund and Skiolld, promised to slay Thord Freedmanson; but Thrain thou hast promised me that thou wouldst stand by them when they did the deed.”
They all acknowledged that they had given her this promise.
“Now I will counsel you how to do it,” she says: “Ye shall ride east into Homfirth after your goods, and come home about the beginning of the Thing, but if ye are at home before it begins, Gunnar will wish that ye should ride to the Thing with him. Njal will be at the Thing and his sons and Gunnar, but then ye two shall slay Thord.”
They all agreed that this plan should be carried out. After that they busked them east to the Firth, and Gunnar was not aware of what they were about, and Gunnar rode to the Thing. Njal sent Thord Freedmanson away east under Eyjafell, and bade him be away there one night. So he went east, but he could not get back from the east, for the Fleet had risen so high that it could not be crossed on horseback ever so far up. Njal waited for him one night, for he had meant him to have ridden with him; and Njal said to Bregthora that she must send Thord to the Thing as soon as ever he came home. Two nights after, Thord came from the east, and Bergthora told him that he must ride to the Thing, “But first thou shalt ride up into Thorolfsfell and see about the farm there, and do not be there longer than one or two nights.”
THE SLAYING OF THORD FREEDMANSON
Then Sigmund came from the east and those companions. Hallgerda told them that Thord was at home, but that he was to ride straightway to the Thing after a few nights’ space. “Now ye will have a fair chance at him,” she says, “but if this goes off, ye will never get nigh him.” Men came to Lithend from Thorolfsfell, and told Hallgerda that Thord was there. Hallgerda went to Thrain Sigfus’ son, and his companions, and said to him, “Now is Thord on Thorolfsfell, and now your best plan is to fall on him and kill him as he goes home.”
“That we will do,” says Sigmund. So they went out, and took their weapons and horses and rode on the way to meet him. Sigmund said to Thrain, “Now thou shalt have nothing to do with it; for we shall not need all of us.”
“Very well, so I will,” says he.
Then Thord rode up to them a little while after, and Sigmund said to him, “Give thyself up,” he says, “for now shalt thou die.”
“That shall not be,” says Thord, “come thou to single combat with me.”
“That shall not be either,” says Sigmund; “we will make the most of our numbers; but it is not strange that Skarphedinn is strong, for it is said that a fourth of a foster-child’s strength comes from the foster-father.
“Thou wilt feel the force of that,” says Thord, “for Skarphedinn will avenge me.”
After that they fall on him, and he breaks a spear of each of them, so well did he guard himself. Then Skiolld cut off his hand, and he still kept them off with his other hand for some time, till Sigmund thrust him through. Then he fell dead to earth. They drew over him turf and stones; and Thrain said, “We have won an ill work, and Njal’s sons will take this slaying ill when they hear of it.”
They ride home and tell Hallgerda. She was glad to hear of the slaying, but Rannveig, Gunnar’s mother, said, “It is said `but a short while is hand fain of blow,’ and so it will be here; but still Gunnar will set thee free from this matter. But if Hallgerda makes thee take another fly in thy mouth, then that will be thy bane.”
Hallgerda sent a man to Bergthorsknoll, to tell the slaying, and another man to the Thing, to tell it to Gunnar. Bergthora said she would not fight against Hallgerda with ill words about such a matter; “That,” quoth she, “would be no revenge for so great a quarrel.”
NJAL AND GUNNAR MAKE PEACE FOR THE SLAYING OF THORD
But when the messenger came to the Thing to tell Gunnar of the slaying, then Gunnar said, “This has happened ill, and no tidings could come to my ears which I should think worse; but yet we will now go at once and see Njal. I still hope he may take it well, though he be sorely tried.”
So they went to see Njal, and called him to come out and talk to them. He went out at once to meet Gunnar, and they talked, nor were there any more men by at first than Kolskegg.
“Hard tidings have I to tell thee,” says Gunnar; “the slaying of Thord Freedmanson, and I wish to offer thee selfdoom for the slaying.”
Njal held his peace some while, and then said, “That is well offered, and I will take it; but yet it is to be looked for that I shall have blame from my wife or from my sons for that, for it will mislike them much; but still I will run the risk, for I know that I have to deal with a good man and true; nor do I wish that any breach should arise in our friendship on my part.
“Wilt thou let thy sons be by, pray?” says Gunnar.
“I will not,” says Njal, “for they will not break the peace which I make, but if they stand by while we make it they will not pull well together with us.”
“So it shall be,” says Gunnar. “See thou to it alone.”
Then they shook one another by the hand, and made peace well and quickly.
Then Njal said, “The award that I make is two hundred in silver, and that thou wilt think much.”
“I do not think it too much,” says Gunnar, and went home to his booth.
Njal’s sons came home, and Skarphedinn asked whence that great sum of money came, which his father held in his hand.
Njal said, “I tell you of your foster-father’s Thord’s slaying, and we two, Gunnar and I, have now made peace in the matter, and he has paid an atonement for him as for two men.”
“Who slew him?” says Skarphedinn.
“Sigmund and Skiolld, but Thrain was standing near too,” says Njal.
“They thought they had need of much strength,” says Skarphedinn, and sang a song —
“Bold in deeds of derring-do,
Burdeners of ocean’s steeds,
Strength enough it seems they needed
A11 to slay a single man;
When shall we our hands uplift?
We who brandish burnished steel —
Famous men erst reddened weapons,
When? if now we quiet sit?”
“Yes! when shall the day come when we shall lift our hands?”
“That will not be long off,” says Njal, “and then thou shalt not be baulked; but still, methinks, I set great store on your not breaking this peace that I have made.”
“Then we will not break it,” says Skarphedinn, “but if anything arises between us, then we will bear in mind the old feud.”
“Then I will ask you to spare no one,” says Njal.
SIGMUND MOCKS NJAL AND HIS SONS
Now men ride home from the Thing; and when Gunnar came home, he said to Sigmund, “Thou art a more unlucky man than I thought, and turnest thy good gifts to thine own ill. But still I have made peace for thee with Njal and his sons; and now, take care that thou dost not let another fly come into thy mouth. Thou art not at all after my mind, thou goest about with jibes and jeers, with scorn and mocking; but that is not my turn of mind. That is why thou gettest on so well with Hallgerda, because ye two have your minds more alike.”
Gunnar scolded him a long time, and he answered him well, and said he would follow his counsel more for the time to come than he had followed it hitherto. Gunnar told him then they might get on together. Gunnar and Njal kept up their friendship though the rest of their people saw little of one another. It happened once that some gangrel women came to Lithend from Bergthorsknoll; they were great gossips and rather spiteful tongued. Hallgerda had a bower, and sate often in it, and there sate with her her daughter Thorgerda, and there too were Thrain and Sigmund, and a crowd of women. Gunnar was not there, nor Kolskegg. These gangrel women went into the bower, and Hallgerda greeted them, and made room for them; then she asked them for news, but they had none to tell. Hallgerda asked where they had been overnight; they said at Bergthorsknoll.
“What was Njal doing?” she says.
“He was hard at work sitting still,” they said.
“What were Njal’s sons doing?” she says; “they think themselves men at any rate.”
“Tall men they are in growth,” they say, “but as yet they are all untried; Skarphedinn whetted an axe, Gim fitted a spearhead to the shaft, Helgi riveted a hilt on a sword, Hauskuld strengthened the handle of a shield.”
“They must be bent on some great deed,” says Hallgerda.
“We do not know that,” they say.
“What were Njal’s house-carles doing?” she asks.
“We don’t know what some of them were doing, but one was carting dung up the hill-side.”
“What good was there in doing that?” she asks.
“He said it made the swathe better there than anywhere else,” they reply. “Witless now is Njal,” says Hallgerda, “though he knows how to give counsel on everything.”
“How so?” they ask.
“I will only bring forward what is true to prove it,” says she; “why doesn’t he make them cart dung over his beard that he may be like other men? Let us call him `the Beardless Carle’: but his sons we will call `Dung-beardlings’; and now do pray give some stave about them, Sigmund, and let us get some good by thy gift of song.”
“I am quite ready to do that,” says he, and sang these verses:
“Lady proud with hawk in hand,
Prithee why should dungbeard boys,
Reft of reason, dare to hammer
Handle fast on battle shield?
For these lads of loathly feature —
Lady scattering swanbath’s beams —
Shaft not shun this ditty shameful
Which I shape upon them now.
He the beardless carle shall listen
While I lash him with abuse,
Loon at whom our stomachs sicken,
Soon shall bear these words of scorn;
Far too nice for such base fellows
Is the name my bounty gives,
Een my muse her help refuses,
Making mirth of dungbeard boys.
Here I find a nickname fitting
For those noisome dungbeard boys, —
Loath am I to break my bargain
Linked with such a noble man —
Knit we all our taunts together —
Known to me is mind of man —
Call we now with outburst common,
Him, that churl, the beardless carle.”
Thou art a jewel indeed,” says Hallgerda; ” how yielding thou art to what I ask!”
Just then Gunnar came in. He had been standing outside the door of the bower, and heard all the words that had passed. They were in a great fright when they saw him come in, and then all held their peace, but before there had been bursts of laughter.
Gunnar was very wroth, and said to Sigmund, “Thou art a foolish man, and one that cannot keep to good advice, and thou revilest Njal’s sons, and Njal himself who is most worth of all; and this thou doest in spite of what thou hast already done. Mind, this will be thy death. But if any man repeats these words that thou hast spoken, or these verses that thou hast made, that man shall be sent away at once, and have my wrath beside.”
But they were all so sore afraid of him, that no one dared to repeat those words. After that he went away, but the gangrel women talked among themselves, and said that they would get a reward from Bergthora if they told her all this.
They went then away afterwards down thither, and took Bergthora aside and told her the whole story of their own free will.
Bergthora spoke and said, when men sate down to the board, “Gifts have been given to all of you, father and sons, and ye will be no true men unless ye repay them somehow.”
“What gifts are these? ” asks Skarphedinn.
“You, my sons,” says Bergthora, “have got one gift between you all. Ye are nicknamed `Dungbeardlings,’ but my husband `the Beardless Carle.'”
“Ours is no woman’s nature,” says Skarphedinn, “that we should fly into a rage at every little thing.”
“And yet Gunnar was wroth for your sakes,” says she, “and he is thought to be good-tempered. But if ye do not take vengeance for this wrong, ye will avenge no shame.”
“The carline, our mother, thinks this fine sport,” says Skarphedinn, and smiled scornfully as he spoke, but still the sweat burst out upon his brow, and red flecks came over his checks, but that was not his wont. Grim was silent and bit his lip. Helgi made no sign, and he said never a word. Hauskuld went off with Bergthora; she came into the room again, and fretted and foamed much.
Njal spoke and said, “`Slow and sure,’ says the proverb, mistress! and so it is with many things, though they try men’s tempers, that there are always two sides to a story, even when vengeance is taken.”
But at even when Njal was come into his bed, he heard that an axe came against the panel and rang loudly, but there was another shut bed, and there the shields were hung up, and he sees that they are away. He said, “Who have taken down our shields?”
“Thy sons went out with them,” says Bergthora.
Njal pulled his shoes on his feet, and went out at once, and round to the other side of the house, and sees that they were taking their course right up the slope; he said, “Whither away, Skarphedinn?”
“To look after thy sheep,” he answers.
“You would not then be armed,” said Njal, “if you meant that, and your errand must be something else.”
Then Skarphedinn sang a song,
“Squanderer of hoarded wealth,
Some there are that own rich treasure,
Ore of sea that clasps the earth,
And yet care to count their sheep;
Those who forge sharp songs of mocking,
Death songs, scarcely can possess
Sense of sheep that crop the grass;
Such as these I seek in fight;”
and said afterwards, “We shall fish for salmon, father.”
“‘Twould be well then if it turned out so that the prey does not get away from you.”
They went their way, but Njal went to his bed, and he said to Bergthora, “Thy sons were out of doors all of them, with arms, and now thou must have egged them on to something.”
“I will give them my heartfelt thanks,” said Bergthora, “if they tell me the slaying of Sigmund.”
THE SLAYING OF SIGMUND AND SKIOLLD
Now they, Njal’s sons, fare up to Fleetlithe, and were that night under the Lithe, and when the day began to break, they came near to Lithend. That same morning both Sigmund and Skiolld rose up and meant to go to the studhorses; they had bits with them, and caught the horses that were in the “town” and rode away on them. They found the stud-horses between two brooks. Skarphedinn caught sight of them, for Sigmund was in bright clothing. Skarphedinn said, “See you now the red elf yonder, lads?” They looked that way, and said they saw him.
Skarphedinn spoke again: “Thou, Hauskuld, shalt have nothing to do with it, for thou wilt often be sent about alone without due heed; but I mean Sigmund for myself; methinks that is like a man; but Grim and Helgi, they shall try to slay Skiolld.”
Hauskuld sat him down, but they went until they came up to them. Skarphedinn said to Sigmund, “Take thy weapons and defend thyself; that is more needful now than to make mocking songs on me and my brothers.”
Sigmund took up his weapons, but Skarphedinn waited the while. Skiolld turned against Grim and Helgi, and they fell hotly to fight. Sigmund had a helm on his head, and a shield at his side, and was girt with a sword, his spear was in his hand; now he turns against Skarphedinn, and thrusts at once at him with his spear, and the thrust came on his shield. Skarphedinn dashes the spearhaft in two, and lifts up his axe and hews at Sigmund, and cleaves his shield down to below the handle. Sigmund drew his sword and cut at Skarphedinn, and the sword cuts into his shield, so that it stuck fast. Skarphedinn gave the shield such a quick twist, that Sigmund let go his sword. Then Skarphedinn hews at Sigmund with his axe; the “Ogress of war.” Sigmund had on a corselet, the axe came on his shoulder. Skarphedinn cleft the shoulder-blade right through, and at the same time pulled the axe towards him. Sigmund fell down on both knees, but sprang up again at once.
“Thou hast lilted low to me already,” says Skarphedinn, “but still thou shalt fall upon thy mother’s bosom ere we two part.”
“III is that then,” says Sigmund.
Skarphedinn gave him a blow on his helm, and after that dealt Sigmund his death-blow.
Grim cut off Skiolld’s foot at the ankle-joint, but Helgi thrust him through with his spear, and he got his death there and then.
Skarphedinn saw Hallgerda’s shepherd, just as he had hewn off Sigmund’s head; he handed the head to the shepherd, and bade him bear it to Hallgerda, and said she would know whether that head had made jeering songs about them, and with that he sang a song —
“Here! this head shalt thou, that heapest
Hoards from ocean-caverns won,
Bear to Hallgerd with my greeting,
Her that hurries men to fight;
Sure am I, O firewood splitter!
That yon spendthrift knows it well,
And will answer if it ever
Uttered mocking songs on us.”
The shepherd casts the head down as soon as ever they parted, for he dared not do so while their eyes were on him. They fared along till they met some men down by Markfleet, and told them the tidings. Skarphedinn gave himself out as the slayer of Sigmund and Grim and Helgi as the slayers of Skiolld; then they fared home and told Njal the tidings. He answers them, “Good luck to your hands I Here no self-doom will come to pass as things stand.”
Now we must take up the story, and say that the shepherd came home to Lithend. He told Hallgerda the tidings.
“Skarphedinn put Sigmund’s head into my hands,” he says, “and bade me bring it thee; but I dared not do it, for I knew not how thou wouldst like that.”
“‘Twas ill that thou didst not do that,” she says; “I would have brought it to Gunnar, and then he would have avenged his kinsman, or have to bear every man’s blame.”
After that she went to Gunnar and said, “I tell thee of thy kinsman Sigmund’s slaying: Skarphedinn slew him, and wanted them to bring me the head.”
“Just what might be looked for to befall him,” says Gunnar, “for ill redes bring ill luck, and both you and Skarphedinn have often done one another spiteful turns.”
Then Gunnar went away; he let no steps be taken towards a suit for manslaughter, and did nothing about it. Hallgerda often put him in mind of it, and kept saying that Sigmund had fallen unatoned. Gunnar gave no heed to that.
Now three Things passed away, at each of which men thought that he would follow up the suit; then a knotty point came on Gunnar’s hands, which he knew not how to set about, and then he rode to find Njal. He gave Gunnar a hearty welcome. Gunnar said to Njal, “I am come to seek a bit of good counsel at thy hands about a knotty point.”
“Thou art worthy of it,” says Njal, and gave him counsel what to do. Then Gunnar stood up and thanked him. Njal then spoke, and said, and took Gunnar by the hand, “Over long hath thy kinsman
Sigmund been unatoned.”
“He has been long ago atoned,” says Gunnar, “but still I will not fling back the honour offered me.”
Gunnar had never spoken an ill word of Njal’s sons. Njal would have nothing else than that Gunnar should make his own award in the matter. He awarded two hundred in silver, but let Skiolld fall without a price. They paid down all the money at once.
Gunnar declared this their atonement at the Thingskala Thing, when most men were at it, and laid great weight on the way in which they (Njal and his sons) had behaved; he told too those bad words which cost Sigmund his life, and no man was to repeat them or sing the verses, but if any sung them, the man who uttered them was to fall without atonement.
Both Gunnar and Njal gave each other their words that no such matters should ever happen that they would not settle among themselves; and this pledge was well kept ever after, and they were always friends.
OF GIZUR THE WHITE AND GEIR THE PRIEST
There was a man named Gizur the White; he was Teit’s son; Kettlebjorn the Old’s son, of Mossfell. Bishop Isleif was Gizur’s son. Gizur the White kept house at Mossfell, and was a great chief. That man is also named in this story whose name was Geir the Priest; his mother was Thorkatla, another daughter of Kettlebjorn the Old of Mossfell. Geir kept house at Lithe. He and Gizur backed one another in every matter. At that time Mord Valgard’s son kept house at Hof on the Rangrivervales; he was crafty and spiteful. Valgard his father was then abroad, but his mother was dead. He was very envious of Gunnar of Lithend. He was wealthy, so far as goods went, but had not many friends.
OF OTKELL IN KIRKBY
There was a man named Otkell; he was the son of Skarf, the son of Hallkell, who fought with Grim of Grimsness, and felled him on the holm. This Hallkell and Kettlebjorn the Old were brothers.
Otkell kept house at Kirkby; his wife’s name was Thorgerda; she was a daughter of Mar, the son of Runolf, the son of Naddad of the Faroe Isles. Otkell was wealthy in goods. His son’s name was Thorgeir; he was young in years, and a bold dashing man.
Skamkell was the name of another man; he kept house at another farm called Hof; he was well off for money, but he was a spiteful man and a liar; quarrelsome too, and ill to deal with. He was Otkell’s friend. Hallkell was the name of Otkell’s brother; he was a tall strong man, and lived there with Otkell; their brother’s name was Hallbjorn the White; he brought out to Iceland a thrall, whose name was Malcolm; he was Irish, and had not many friends.
Hallbjorn went to stay with Otkell, and so did his thrall Malcolm. The thrall was always saying that he should think himself happy if Otkell owned him. Otkell was kind to him, and gave him a knife and belt, and a full suit of clothes, but the thrall turned his hand to any work that Otkell wished.
Otkell wanted to make a bargain with his brother for the thrall; he said he would give him the thrall, but said, too, that he was a worse treasure than he thought. But as soon as Otkell owned the thrall, then he did less and less work. Otkell often said outright to Hallbjorn, that he thought the thrall did little work; and he told Otkell that there was worse in him yet to come.
At that time came a great scarcity, so that men fell short both of meat and hay, and that spread over all parts of Iceland. Gunnar shared his hay and meat with many men; and all got them who came thither, so long as his stores lasted. At last it came about that Gunnar himself fell short both of hay and meat. Then Gunnar called on Kolskegg to go along with him; he called too on Thrain Sigfus’ son, and Lambi Sigurd’s son. They fared to Kirkby, and called Otkell out. He greeted them, and Gunnar said, “It so happens that I am come to deal with thee for hay and meat, if there be any left.”
Otkell answers, “There is store of both, but I will sell thee neither.”
“Wilt thou give me them then,” says Gunnar, “and run the risk of my paying thee back somehow?”
“I will not do that either,” says Otkell.
Skamkell all the while was giving him bad counsel.
Then Thrain Sigfus’ son, said, “It would serve him right if we take both hay and meat and lay down the worth of them instead.”
Skamkell answered, “All the men of Mossfell must be dead and gone then, if ye, sons of Sigfus, are to come and rob them.”
“I will have no hand in any robbery,” says Gunnar.
“Wilt thou buy a thrall of me?” says Otkell.
“I’ll not spare to do that,” says Gunnar. After that Gunnar bought the thrall, and fared away as things stood.
Njal hears of this, and said, “Such things are ill done, to refuse to let Gunnar buy; and it is not a good outlook for others if such men as he cannot get what they want.”
“What’s the good of thy talking so much about such a little matter,” says Bergthora; “far more like a man would it be to let him have both meat and hay, when thou lackest neither of them.”
“That is clear as day,” says Njal, “and I will of a surety supply his need somewhat.”
Then he fared up to Thorolfsfell, and his sons with him, and they bound hay on fifteen horses; but on five horses they had meat. Njal came to Lithend, and called Gunnar out. He greeted them kindly.
“Here is hay and meat,” said Njal, “which I will give thee; and my wish is, that thou shouldst never look to any one else than to me if thou standest in need of anything.”
“Good are thy gifts,” says Gunnar, “but methinks thy friendship is still more worth, and that of thy sons.”
After that Njal fared home, and now the spring passes away.
HOW HALLGERDA MAKES MALCOLM STEAL FROM KIRKBY
Now Gunnar is about to ride to the Thing, but a great crowd of men from the Side east turned in as guests at his house.
Gunnar bade them come and be his guests again, as they rode back from the Thing; and they said they would do so.
Now they ride to the Thing, and Njal and his sons were there. That Thing was still and quiet.
Now we must take up the story, and say that Hallgerda comes to talk with Malcolm the thrall.
“I have thought of an errand to send thee on,” she says; “thou shalt go to Kirkby.”
“And what shall I do there?” he says.
“Thou shalt steal from thence food enough to load two horses, and mind and have butter and cheese; but thou shalt lay fire in the storehouse, and all will think that it has arisen out of heedlessness, but no one will think that there has been theft.”
“Bad have I been,” said the thrall, “but never have I been a thief.”
“Hear a wonder!” says Hallgerda, “thou makest thyself good, thou that hast been both thief and murderer; but thou shalt not dare to do aught else than go, else will I let thee be slain.”
He thought he knew enough of her to be sure that she would so do if he went not; so he took at night two horses and laid packsaddles on them, and went his way to Kirkby. The house-dog knew him and did not bark at him, and ran and fawned on him. After that he went to the storehouse and loaded the two horses with food out of it, but the storehouse he burnt, and the dog he slew.
He went up along by Rangriver, and his shoe-thong snapped; so he takes his knife and makes the shoe right, but he leaves the knife and belt lying there behind him.
He fares till he comes to Lithend; then he misses the knife, but dares not to go back.
Now he brings Hallgerda the food, and she showed herself well pleased at it.
Next morning when men came out of doors at Kirkby there they saw great scathe. Then a man was sent to the Thing to tell Otkell; he bore the loss well, and said it must have happened because the kitchen was next to the storehouse; and all thought that that was how it happened.
Now men ride home from the Thing, and many rode to Lithend. Hallgerda set food on the board, and in came cheese and butter. Gunnar knew that such food was not to be looked for in his house, and asked Hallgerda whence it came?
“Thence,” she says; “whence thou mightest well eat of it; besides, it is no man’s business to trouble himself with housekeeping.”
Gunner got wroth and said, “Ill indeed is it if I am a partaker with thieves;” and with that he gave her a slap on the cheek.
She said she would bear that slap in mind and repay it if she could.
So she went off and he went with her, and then all that was on the board was cleared away, but flesh-meat was brought in instead, and all thought that was because the flesh was thought to have been got in a better way.
Now the men who had been at the Thing fare away.
OF SKAMKELL’S EVIL COUNSEL
Now we must tell of Skamkell. He rides after some sheep up along Rangriver, and he sees something shining in the path. He finds a knife and belt, and thinks he knows both of them. He fares with them to Kirkby; Otkell was out of doors when Skamkell came. He spoke to him and said, “Knowest thou aught of these pretty things?”
“Of a surety,” says Otkell, “I know them.”
“Who owns them?” asks Skamkell.
“Malcolm the thrall,” says Otkell.
“Then more shall see and know them than we two,” says Skamkell, “for true will I be to thee in counsel.”
They showed them to many men, and all knew them. Then Skamkell said, “What counsel wilt thou now take?”
“We shall go and see Mord Valgard’s son,” answers Otkell, “and seek counsel of him.”
So they went to Hof, and showed the pretty things to Mord, and asked him if he knew them?
He said he knew them well enough, but what was there in that? “Do you think you have a right to look for anything at Lithend?”
“We think it hard for us,” says Skamkell, “to know what to do, when such mighty men have a hand in it.”
“That is so, sure enough,” says Mord, “but yet I will get to know those things, out of Gunnar’s household, which none of you will every know.”
“We would give thee money,” they say, “if thou wouldst search out this thing.”
“That money I shall buy full dear,” answered Mord, “but still, perhaps, it may be that I will look at the matter.”
They gave him three marks of silver for lending them his help.
Then he gave them this counsel, that women should go about from house to house with small ware, and give them to the housewives, and mark what was given them in return.
“For,” he says, “’tis the turn of mind of all men first to give away what has been stolen, if they have it in their keeping, and so it will be here also, if this hath-happened by the hand of man. Ye shall then come and show me what has been given to each in each house, and I shall then be free from farther share in this matter, if the truth comes to light.”
To this they agreed, and went home afterwards.
Mord sends women about the country, and they were away half a month. Then they came back, and had big bundles. Mord asked where they had most given them?
They said that at Lithend most was given them, and Hallgerda had been most bountiful to them.
He asked what was given them there.
“Cheese,” say they.
He begged to see it, and they showed it to him, and it was in great slices. These he took and kept.
A little after, Mord fared to see Otkell, and bade that he would bring Thorgerda’s cheese-mould; and when that was done, he laid the slices down in it, and lo! they fitted the mould in every way.
Then they saw, too, that a whole cheese had been given to them.
Then Mord said, “Now may ye see that Hallgerda must have stolen the cheese;” and they all passed the same judgment; and then Mord said, that now he thought he was free of this matter.
After that they parted.
Shortly after Kolskegg fell to talking with Gunnar and said, “III is it to tell, but the story is in every man’s mouth, that Hallgerda must have stolen, and that she was at the bottom of all that great scathe that befell at Kirkby.”
Gunner said that he too thought that must be so. “But what is to be done now?”
Kolskegg answered, “Thou wilt think it thy most bounden duty to make atonement for thy wife’s wrong, and methinks it were best that tbou farest to see Otkell, and makest him a handsome offer.”
“This is well spoken,” says Gunnar, “and so it shall be.”
A little after Gunnar sent after Thrain Sigfus’ son and Lambi Sigurd’s son, and they came at once.
Gunnar told them whither he meant to go, and they were well pleased. Gunnar rode with eleven men to Kirkby, and called Otkell out. Skamkell was there too, and said, “I will go out with thee, and it will be best now to have the balance of wit on thy side. And I would wish to stand closest by thee when thou needest it most, and now this will be put to the proof. Methinks it were best that thou puttest on an air of great weight.”
Then they, Otkell and Skamkell, and Hallkell, and Hallbjorn, went out all of them.
They greeted Gunnar, and he took their greeting well. Otkell asks whither he meant to go?
“No farther than here,” says Gunnar, “and my errand hither is to tell thee about that bad mishap, how it arose from the plotting of my wife and that thrall whom I bought from thee.”
“‘Tis only what was to be looked for,” says Hallbjorn.
“Now I will make thee a good offer,” says Gunnar, “and the offer is this, that the best men here in the country round settle the matter.”
“This is a fair-sounding offer,” said Skamkell, “but an unfair and uneven one. Thou art a man who has many friends among the householders, but Otkell has not many friends.”
“Well,” says Gunnar, “then I will offer thee that I shall make an award, and utter it here on this spot, and so we will settle the matter, and my good-will shall follow the settlement. But I will make thee an atonement by paying twice the worth of what was lost.”
“This choice shalt thou not take,” said Skamkell; “and it is unworthy to give up to him the right to make his own award, when thou oughtest to have kept it for thyself.”
So Otkell said, “I will not give up to thee, Gunnar, the right to make thine own award.”
“I see plainly,” said Gunnar, “the help of men who will be paid off for it one day, I daresay; but come now, utter an award for thyself.”
Otkell leant toward Skamkell and said, “What shall I answer now?”
“This thou shalt call a good offer, but still put thy suit into the hands of Gizur the White, and Geir the Priest, and then many will say this, that thou behavest like Hallkell, thy grandfather, who was the greatest of champions.”
“Well offered is this, Gunnar,” said Otkell, “but still my will is thou wouldst give me time to see Gizur the White.”
“Do now whatever thou likest in the matter,” said Gunnar; “but men will say this, that thou couldst not see thine own honour when thou wouldst have none of the choices I offer thee.”
Then Gunnar rode home, and when he had gone away, Hallbjorn said, “Here I see how much man differs from man. Gunnar made thee good offers, but thou wouldst take none of them; or how dost thou think to strive with Gunnar in a quarrel, when no one is his match in fight. But now he is still so kind-hearted a man that it may be he will let these offers stand, though thou art only ready to take them afterwards. Methinks it were best that thou farest to see Gizur the White and Geir the Priest now this very hour.”
Otkell let them catch his horse, and made ready in every way. Otkell was not sharpsighted, and Skamkell walked on the way along with him, and said to Otkell, “Methought it strange that thy brother would not take this toil from thee, and now I will make thee an offer to fare instead of thee, for I know that the journey is irksome to thee.”
“I will take that offer,” says Otkell, “but mind and be as truthful as ever thou canst.”
“So it shall be,” says Skamkell.
Then Skamkell took his horse and cloak, but Otkell walks home.
Hallbjorn was out of doors, and said to Otkell, “Ill is it to have a thrall for one’s bosom friend, and we shall rue this for ever that thou hast turned back, and it is an unwise step to send the greatest liar on an errand, of which one may so speak that men’s lives hang on it.”
“Thou wouldst be sore afraid,” says Otkell, “if Gunnar had his bill aloft, when thou art so scared now.”
“No one knows who will be most afraid then,” said Hallbjorn; “but this thou wilt have to own, that Gunnar does not lose much time in brandishing his bill when he is wroth.”
“Ah!” said Otkell, “ye are all of you for yielding but Skamkell.”
And then they were both wroth.
OF SKAMKELL’S LYING
Skamkell came to Mossfell, and repeated all the offers to Gizur.
“It so seems to me,” says Gizur, “as though these have been bravely offered; but why took he not these offers?”
“The chief cause was,” answers Skamkell, “that all wished to show thee honour, and that was why he waited for thy utterance; besides, that is best for all.”
So Skamkell stayed there the night over, but Gizur sent a man to fetch Geir the Priest; and he came there early. Then Gizur told him the story and said, “What course is to be taken now?”
“As thou no doubt hast already made up thy mind — to make the best of the business for both sides.”
“Now we will let Skamkell tell his tale a second time, and see how he repeats it.”
So they did that, and Gizur said, “Thou must have told this story right; but still I have seen thee to be the wickedest of men, and there is no faith in faces if thou turnest out well.”
Skamkell fared home, and rides first to Kirkby and calls Otkell out. He greets Skamkell well, and Skamkell brought him the greeting of Gizur and Geir.
“But about this matter of the suit,” be says, “there is no need to speak softly, how that it is the will of both Gizur and Geir that this suit should not be settled in a friendly way. They gave that counsel that a summons should be set on foot, and that Gunnar should be summoned for having partaken of the goods, but Hallgerda for stealing them.”
“It shall be done,” said Otkell, “in everything as they have given counsel.”
“They thought most of this,” says Skamkell, “that thou hadst behaved so proudly; but as for me, I made as great a man of thee in everything as I could.”
Now Otkell tells all this to his brothers, and Hallbjorn said, “This must be the biggest lie.”
Now the time goes on until the last of the summoning days before the Althing came.
Then Otkell called on his brothers and Skamkell to ride on the business of the summons to Lithend.
Hallbjorn said he would go, but said also that they would rue this summoning as time went on.
Now they rode twelve of them together to Lithend, but when they came into the “town,” there was Gunnar out of doors, and knew naught of their coming till they had ridden right up to the house.
He did not go in-doors then, and Otkell thundered out the summons there and then; but when they had made an end of the summoning Skamkell said, “Is it all right, master?”
“Ye know that best;” says Gunnar, “but I will put thee in mind of this journey one of these days, and of thy good help.”
“That will not harm us,” says Skamkell, “if thy bill be not aloft.”
Gunnar was very wroth and went in-doors, and told Kolskegg, and Kolskegg said, “Ill was it that we were not out of doors; they should have come here on the most shameful journey, if we had been by.”
“Everything bides its time,” says Gunnar; “but this journey will not turn out to their honour.”
A little after Gunnar went and told Njal.
“Let it not worry thee a jot,” said Njal, “for this will be the greatest honour to thee, ere this Thing comes to an end. As for us, we will all back thee with counsel and force.”
Gunnar thanked him and rode home.
Otkell rides to the Thing, and his brothers with him and Skamkell.
Gunnar rode to the Thing and all the sons of Sigfus; Njal and his sons too, they all went with Gunnar; and it was said that no band was so well knit and hardy as theirs.
Gunnar went one day to the booth of the Dalemen; Hrut was by the booth and Hauskuld, and they greeted Gunnar well. Now Gunnar tells them the whole story of the suit up to that time.
“What counsel gives Njal?” asks Hrut.
“He bade me seek you brothers,” says Gunnar, “and said he was sure that he and you would look at the matter in the same light.”
“He wishes then,” says Hrut, “that I should say what I think for kinship’s sake; and so it shall be. Thou shalt challenge Gizur the White to combat on the island, if they do not leave the whole award to thee; but Kolskegg shall challenge Geir the Priest. As for Otkell and his crew, men must be got ready to fall on them; and now we have such great strength all of us together, that thou mayst carry out whatever thou wilt.”
Gunnar went home to his booth and told Njal.
“Just what I looked for,” said Njal.
Wolf Aurpriest got wind of this plan, and told Gizur, and Gizur said to Otkell, “Who gave thee that counsel that thou shouldst summon Gunnar?”
“Skamkell told me that was the counsel of both Geir the Priest and thyself.”
“But where is that scoundrel?” says Gizur, “who has thus lied.”
“He lies sick up at our booth,” says Otkell.
“May he never rise from his bed,” says Gizur. “Now we must all go to see Gunnar, and offer him the right to make his own award; but I know not whether he will take that now.”
Many men spoke ill of Skamkell, and he lay sick all through the Thing.
Gizur and his friends went to Gunnar’s booth; their coming was known, and Gunnar was told as he sat in his booth, and then they all went out and stood in array.
Gizur the White came first, and after a while he spoke and said, “This is our offer — that thou, Gunnar, makest thine own award in this suit.”
“Then,” says Gunnar, “it was no doubt far from thy counsel that I was summoned.”
“I gave no such counsel,” says Gizur, “neither I nor Geir.”
“Then thou must clear thyself of this charge by fitting proof.”
“What proof dost thou ask?” says Gizur.
“That thou takest an oath,” says Gunnar.
“That I will do,” says Gizur, “if thou wilt take the award into thine own hands.”
“That was the offer I made a while ago,” says Gunnar; “but now, methinks, I have a greater matter to pass judgment on.”
“It will not be right to refuse to make thine own award,” said Njal; “for the greater the matter, the greater the honour in making it.”
“Well,” said Gunnar, “I will do this to please my friends, and utter my award; but I give Otkell this bit of advice, never to give me cause for quarrel hereafter.”
Then Hrut and Hauskuld were sent for, and they came thither, and then Gizur the White and Gier the Priest took their oaths; but Gunnar made his award, and spoke with no man about it, and afterwards he uttered it as follows:
“This is my award,” he says; “first, I lay it down that the storehouse must be paid for, and the food that was therein; but for the thrall, I will pay thee no fine, for that thou hiddest his faults; but I award him back to thee; for as the saying is, `Birds of a feather flock most together.’ Then, on the other hand, I see that thou hast summoned me in scorn and mockery, and for that I award to myself no less a sum than what the house that was burnt and the stores in it were worth; but if ye think it better that we be not set at one again, then I will let you have your choice of that, but if so I have already made up my mind what I shall do, and then I will fulfil my purpose.”
“What we ask,” said Gizur, “is that thou shouldst not be hard on Otkell, but we beg this of thee, on the other hand, that thou wouldst be his friend.”
“That shall never be,” said Gunnar, “so long as I live; but he shall have Skamkell’s friendship; on that he has long leant.”
“Well,” answers Gizur, “we will close with thee in this matter, though thou alone layest down the terms.”
Then all this atonement was made and hands were shaken on it, and Gunnar said to Otkell, “It were wiser to go away to thy kinsfolk; but if thou wilt be here in this country, mind that thou givest me no cause of quarrel.”
“That is wholesome counsel,” said Gizur; “and so he shall do.”
So Gunnar had the greatest honour from that suit, and afterwards men rode home from the Thing.
Now Gunnar sits in his house at home, and so things are quiet for a while.
OF RUNOLF, THE SON OF WOLF AURPRIEST
There was a man named Runolf, the son of Wolf Aurpriest, he kept house at the Dale, east of Markfleet. He was Otkell’s guest once when he rode from the Thing. Otkell gave him an ox, all black, without a spot of white, nine winters old. Runolf thanked him for the gift, and bade him come and see him at home whenever he chose to go; and this bidding stood over for some while, so that he had not paid the visit. Runolf often sent men to him and put him in mind that he ought to come; and he always said he would come, but never went.
Now Otkell had two horses, dun coloured, with a black stripe down the back; they were the best steeds to ride in all the country round, and so fond of each other that whenever one went before the other ran after him.
There was an Easterling staying with Otkell, whose name was Audulf; he had set his heart on Signy, Otkell’s daughter. Audulf was a tall man in growth, and strong.
HOW OTKELL RODE OVER GUNNAR
It happened next spring that Otkell said that they would ride east to the Dale, to pay Runolf a visit, and all showed themselves well pleased at that. Skamkell and his two brothers, and Audulf and three men more, went along with Otkell. Otkell rode one of the dun horses, but the other ran loose by his side. They shaped their course east towards Markfleet; and now Otkell gallops ahead, and now the horses race against each other, and they break away from the path up towards the Fleetlithe.
Now, Otkell goes faster than he wished, and it happened that Gunnar had gone away from home out of his house all alone; and he had a corn-sieve in one hand, but in the other a hand-axe. He goes down to his seed field and sows his corn there, and had laid his cloak of fine stuff and his axe down by his side, and so he sows the corn a while.
Now, it must be told how Otkell rides faster than he would. He had spurs on his feet, and so he gallops down over the ploughed field, and neither of them sees the other; and just as Gunnar stands upright, Otkell rides down upon him and drives one of the spurs into Gunnar’s ear, and gives him a great gash, and it bleeds at once much.
Just then Otkell’s companions rode up.
“Ye may see, all of you,” says Gunnar, “that thou hast drawn my blood, and it is unworthy to go on so. First thou hast summoned me, but now thou treadest me under foot, and ridest over me.”
Skamkell said, “Well it was no worse, master, but thou wast not one whit less wroth at the Thing, when thou tookest the selfdoom and clutchedst thy bill.”
Gunnar said, “When we two next meet thou shalt see the bill.” After that they part thus, and Skamkell shouted out and said, “Ye ride hard, lads!”
Gunnar went home, and said never a word to any one about what had happened, and no one thought that this wound could have come by man’s doing.
It happened, though, one day, that he told it to his brother Kolskegg, and Kolskegg said, “This thou shalt tell to more men, so that it may not be said that thou layest blame on dead men; for it will be gainsaid if witnesses do not know beforehand what has passed between you.”
Then Gunnar told it to his neighbours, and there was little talk about it at first.
Otkell comes east to the Dale, and they get a hearty welcome there, and sit there a week.
Skamkell told Runolf all about their meeting with Gunnar, and how it had gone off; and one man happened to ask how Gunnar behaved.
“Why,” said Skamkell, “if it were a low-born man it would have been said that he had wept.”
“Such things are ill spoken,” says Runolf, “and when ye two next meet, thou wilt have to own that there is no voice of weeping in his frame of mind; and it will be well if better men have not to pay for thy spite. Now it seems to me best when ye wish to go home that I should go with you, for Gunnar will do me no harm.”
“I will not have that,” says Otkell; “but I will ride across the Fleet lower down.”
Runolf gave Otkell good gifts, and said they should not see one another again.
Otkell bade him then to bear his sons in mind if things turned out so.
THE FIGHT AT RANGRIVER
Now we must take up the story, and say that Gunnar was out of doors at Lithend, and sees his shepherd galloping up to the yard. The shepherd rode straight into the “town; and Gunnar said, “Why ridest thou so hard?”
“I would be faithful to thee,” said the man; “I saw men riding down along Markfleet, eight of them together, and four of them were in coloured clothes.”
Gunnar said, “That must be Otkell.”
The lad said, “I have often heard many temper-trying words of Skamkell’s; for Skamkell spoke away there east at Dale, and said that thou sheddest tears when they rode over thee; but I tell it thee because I cannot bear to listen to such speeches of worthless men.”
“We must not be word-sick,” says Gunnar, “but from this day forth thou shall do no other work than what thou choosest for thyself.”
“Shall I say aught of this to Kolskegg thy brother?” asked the shepherd.
“Go thou and sleep,” says Gunnar; “I will tell Kolskegg.”
The lad laid him down and fell asleep at once, but Gunnar took the shepherd’s horse and laid his saddle on him; he took his shield, and girded him with his sword, Oliver’s gift; he sets his helm on his head; takes his bill, and something sung loud in it, and his mother, Rannveig, heard it. She went up to him and said “Wrathful art thou now, my son, and never saw I thee thus before.”
Gunnar goes out, and drives the butt of his spear into the earth, and throws himself into the saddle, and rides away,
His mother, Rannveig, went into the sitting-room, where there was a great noise of talking.
“Ye speak loud,” she says, “but yet the bill gave a louder sound when Gunnar went out.”
Kolskegg heard what she said, and spoke, “This betokens no small tidings.
“That is well,” says Hallgerda, “now they will soon prove whether he goes away from them weeping.”
Kolskegg takes his weapons and seeks him a horse, and rides after Gunnar as fast as he could.
Gunnar rides across Acretongue, and so to Geilastofna and thence to Rangriver, and down the stream to the ford at Hof. There were some women at the milking-post there. Gunnar jumped off his horse and tied him up. By this time the others were riding up towards him; there were flat stones covered with mud in the path that led down to the ford.
Gunnar called out to them and said, “Now is the time to guard yourselves; here now is the bill, and here now ye will put it to the proof whether I shed one tear for all of you.”
Then they all of them sprang off their horses’ backs and made towards Gunnar. Hallbjorn was the foremost.
“Do not thou come on,” says Gunnar; “thee last of all would I harm; but I will spare no one if I have to fight for my life.”
“That I cannot do,” says Hallbjorn; “thou wilt strive to kill my brother for all that, and it is a shame if I sit idly by.” And as he said this he thrust at Gunnar with a great spear which he held in both hands.
Gunnar threw his shield before the blow, but Hallbjorn pierced the shield through. Gunnar thrust the shield down so hard that it stood fast in the earth, but he brandished his sword so quickly that no eye could follow it, and he made a blow with the sword, and it fell on Hallbjorn’s arm above the writs, so that it cut it off.
Skamkell ran behind Gunnar’s back and makes a blow at him with a great axe. Gunnar turned short round upon him and parries the blow with the bill, and caught the axe under one of its horns with such a wrench that it flew out of Skamkell’s hand away into the river.
Then Gunnar sang a song:
“Once thou askedst, foolish fellow,
Of this man, this seahorse racer,
When as fast as feet could foot it
Forth ye fled from farm of mine,
Whether that were rightly summoned?
Now with gore the spear we redden,
Battle-eager, and avenge us
Thus on thee, vile source of strife.”
Gunnar gives another thrust with his bill, and through Skamkell, and lifts him up and casts him down in the muddy path on his head.
Audulf the Easterling snatches up a spear and launches it at Gunnar. Gunnar caught the spear with his hand in the air, and hurled it back at once, and it flew through the shield and the Easterling too, and so down into the earth.
Otkell smites at Gunnar with his sword, and aims at his leg just below the knee, but Gunnar leapt up into the air and he misses him. Then Gunnar thrusts at him the bill and the blow goes through him.
Then Kolskegg comes up, and rushes at once at Hallkell and dealt him his death-blow with his short sword. There and then they slay eight men.
A woman who saw all this, ran home and told Mord, and besought him to part them.
“They alone will be there,” he says, “of whom I care not though they slay one another.”
“Thou canst not mean to say that,” she says, “for thy kinsman Gunnar, and thy friend Otkell will be there.”
“Baggage, that thou art,” he says, “thou art always chattering,” and so he lay still in-doors while they fought.
Gunnar and Kolskegg rode home after this work, and they rode hard up along the river bank, and Gunnar leapt off his horse and came down on his feet.
Then Kolskegg said, “Hard now thou ridest, brother!”
“Ay,” said Gunnar, “that was what Skamkell said when he uttered those very words when they rode over me.”
“Well, thou hast avenged that now,” says Kolskegg.
“I would like to know,” says Gunnar, “whether I am by so much the less brisk and bold than other men, because I think more of killing men than they?”
NJAL’S ADVICE TO GUNNAR
Now those tidings are heard far and wide, and many said that they thought they had not happened before it was likely. Gunnar rode to Bergthorsknoll and told Njal of these deeds.
Njal said, “Thou hast done great things, but thou hast been sorely tried.”
“How will it now go henceforth?” says Gunnar.
“Wilt thou that I tell thee what hath not yet come to pass?” asks Njal. “Thou wilt ride to the Thing, and thou wilt abide by my counsel and get the greatest honour from this matter. This will be the beginning of thy manslayings.”
“But give me some cunning counsel,” says Gunnar.
“I will do that,” says Njal, “never slay more than one man in the same stock, and never break the peace which good men and true make between thee and others, and least of all in such a matter as this.”
Gunnar said, “I should have thought there was more risk of that with others than with me.”
“Like enough,” says Njal, “but still thou shalt so think of thy quarrels, that if that should come to pass of which I have warned thee, then thou wilt have but a little while to live; but otherwise, thou wilt come to be an old man.”
Gunnar said, “Dost thou know what will be thine own death?”
“I know it,” says Njal.
“What?” asks Gunnar.
“That,” says Njal, “which all would be the last to think.”
After that Gunnar rode home.
A man was sent to Gizur the White and Geir the Priest, for they had the blood-feud after Otkell. Then they had a meeting, and had a talk about what was to be done; and they were of one mind that the quarrel should be followed up at law. Then some one was sought who would take the suit up, but no one was ready to do that.
“It seems to me,” says Gizur, “that now there are only two courses, that one of us two undertakes the suit, and then we shall have to draw lots who it shall be, or else the man will be unatoned. We may make up our minds, too, that this will be a heavy suit to touch; Gunnar has many kinsmen and is much beloved; but that one of us who does not draw the lot, shall ride to the Thing and never leave it until the suit comes to an end.”
After that they drew lots, and Geir the Priest drew the lot to take up the suit.
A little after, they rode from the west over the river, and came to the spot where the meeting had been by Rangriver, and dug up the bodies, and took witness to the wounds. After that they gave lawful notice and summoned nine neighbours to bear witness in the suit.
They were told that Gunnar was at home with about thirty men; then Geir the Priest asked whether Gizur would ride against him with one hundred men.
“I will not do that,” says he, “though the balance of force is great on our side.”
After that they rode back home. The news that the suit was set on foot was spread all over the country, and the saying ran that the Thing would be very noisy and stormy.
GUNNAR AND GEIR THE PRIEST STRIVE AT THE THING
There was a man named Skapti. He was the son of Thorod. That father and son were great chiefs, and very well skilled in law. Thorod was thought to be rather crafty and guileful. They stood by Gizur the White in every quarrel.
As for the Lithemen and the dwellers by Rangriver, they came in a great body to the Thing. Gunnar was so beloved that all said with one voice that they would back him.
Now they all come to the Thing and fit up their booths. In company with Gizur the White were these chiefs: Skapti Thorod’s son, Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son, Oddi of Kidberg, and Halldor Ornolf’s son.
Now one day men went to the Hill of Laws, and then Geir the Priest stood up and gave notice that he had a suit of manslaughter against Gunnar for the slaying of Otkell. Another suit of manslaughter he brought against Gunnar for the slaying of Halljborn the White; then, too, he went on in the same way as to the slaying of Audulf, and so, too, as to the slaying of Skamkell. Then, too, he laid a suit of manslaughter against Kolskegg for the slaying of Hallkell.
And when he had given due notice of all his suits of manslaughter it was said that he spoke well. He asked, too, in what Quarter court the suits lay, and in what house in the district the defendants dwelt. After that men went away from the Hill of Laws, and so the Thing goes on till the day when the courts were to be set to try suits. Then either side gathered their men together in great strength.
Geir the Priest and Gizur the White stood at the court of the men of Rangriver looking north, and Gunnar and Njal stood looking south towards the court.
Geir the Priest bade Gunnar to listen to his oath, and then he took the oath, and afterwards declared his suit.
Then he let men bear witness of the notice given by the suit; then he called upon the neighbours who were to form the inquest to take their seats; then he called on Gunnar to challenge the inquest; and then he called on the inquest to utter their finding. Then the neighbours who were summoned on the inquest went to the court and took witness, and said that there was a bar to their finding in the suit as to Audulf’s slaying, because the next of kin who ought to follow it up was in Norway, and so they had nothing to do with that suit.
After that they uttered their finding in the suit as to Otkell, and brought in Gunnar as truly guilty of killing him.
Then Geir the Priest called on Gunnar for his defence, and took witness of all the steps in the suit which had been proved.
Then Gunnar, in his turn, called on Geir the Priest to listen to his oath, and to the defence which he was about to bring forward in the suit. Then he took the oath and said, “This defence I make to this suit, that I took witness and outlawed Otkell before my neighbours for that bloody wound which I got when Otkell gave me a hurt with his spur; but thee, Geir the Priest, I forbid by a lawful protest made before a priest, to pursue this suit, and so, too, I forbid the judges to hear it; and with this I make all the steps hitherto taken in this suit void and of none-effect. I forbid thee by a lawful protest, a full, fair, and binding protest, as I have a right to forbid thee by the common custom of the Thing and by the law of the land.
“Besides, I will tell thee something else which I mean to do,” says Gunnar.
“What!” says Geir, “wilt thou challenge me to the island as thou art wont, and not bear the law?”
“Not that,” says Gunnar; “I shall summon thee at the Hill of Laws for that thou calledst those men on the inquest who had no right to deal with Audulf’s slaying, and I will declare thee for that guilty of outlawry.”
Then Njal said, “Things must not take this turn, for the only end of it will be that this strife will be carried to the uttermost. Each of you, as it seems to me, has much on his side. There are some of these manslaughters, Gunnar, about which thou canst say nothing to hinder the court from finding thee guilty; but thou hast set on foot a suit against Geir, in which he, too, must be found guilty. Thou too, Geir the Priest, shalt know that this suit of outlawry which hangs over thee shall not fall to the ground if thou wilt not listen to my words.”
Thorod the Priest said, “It seems to us as though the most peaceful way would be that a settlement and atonement were come to in the suit. But why sayest thou so little, Gizur the White?”
“It seems to me,” says Gizur, “as though we shall need to have strong props for our suit; we may see, too, that Gunnar’s friends stand near him, and so the best turn for us that things can take will be that good men and true should utter an award on the suit, if Gunnar so wills it.”
“I have ever been willing to make matters up,” says Gunnar; “and besides, ye have much wrong to follow up, but still I think I was hard driven to do as I did.”
And now the end of those suits was, by the counsel of the wisest men, that all the suits were put to arbitration; six men were to make this award, and it was uttered there and then at the Thing.
The award was that Skamkell should be unatoned. The blood money for Otkell’s death was to be set off against the hurt Gunnar got from the spur; and as for the rest of the manslaughters, they were paid for after the worth of the men, and Gunnar’s kinsmen gave money so that all the fines might be paid up at the Thing.
Then Geir the Priest and Gizur the White went up and gave Gunnar pledges that they would keep the peace in good faith.
Gunnar rode home from the Thing, and thanked men for their help, and gave gifts to many, and got the greatest honour from the suit.
Now Gunnar sits at home in his honour.
OF STARKAD AND HIS SONS
There was a man named Starkad; he was a son of Bork the Waxy-toothed-blade, the son of Thorkell Clubfoot, who took the land round about Threecorner as the first settler. His wife’s name was Hallbera. The sons of Starkad and Hallbera were these: Thorgeir and Bork and Thorkell. Hildigunna the Leech was their sister.
They were very proud men in temper, hard-hearted and unkind. They treated men wrongfully.
There was a man named Egil; he was a son of Kol, who took land as a settler between Storlek and Reydwater. The brother of Egil was Aunund of Witchwood, father of Hall the Strong, who was at the slaying of Holt-Thorir with the sons of Kettle the Smooth-tongued.
Egil kept house at Sandgil; his sons were these: Kol, and Ottar, and Hauk. Their mother’s name was Steinvor; she was Starkad’s sister.
Egil’s sons were tall and strifeful; they were most unfair men. They were always on one side with Starkad’s sons. Their sister was Gudruna Nightsun, and she was the bestbred of women.
Egil had taken into his house two Easterlings; the one’s name was Thorir and the other’s Thorgrim. They were not long come out hither for the first time, and were wealthy and beloved by their friends; they were well skilled in arms, too, and dauntless in everything.
Starkad had a good horse of chesnut hue, and it was thought that no horse was his match in fight. Once it happened that these brothers from Sandgil were away under the Threecorner. They had much gossip about all the householders in the Fleetlithe, and they fell at last to asking whether there was any one that would fight a horse against them.
But there were some men there who spoke so as to flatter and honour them, that not only was there no one who would dare do that, but that there was no one that had such a horse.
Then Hildigunna answered, “I know that man who will dare to fight horses with you.”
“Name him,” they say.
“Gunnar has a brown horse,” she says, “and he will dare to fight his horse against you, and against any one else.”
“As for you women,” they say, “you think no one can be Gunnar’s match; but though Geir the Priest or Gizur the White have come off with shame from before him, still it is not settled that we shall fare in the same way.”
“Ye will fare much worse,” she says: and so there arose out of this the greatest strife between them. Then Starkad said, “My will is that ye try your hands on Gunnar last of all; for ye will find it hard work to go against his good luck.”
“Thou wilt give us leave, though, to offer him a horsefight?”
“I will give you leave, if ye play him no trick.”
They said they would be sure to do what their father said.
Now they rode to Lithend; Gunnar was at home, and went out, and Kolskegg and Hjort went with him, and they gave them a hearty welcome, and asked whither they meant to go?
“No farther than hither,” they say. “We are told that thou hast a good horse, and we wish to challenge thee to a horse-fight.”
“Small stories can go about my horse,” says Gunnar; “he is young and untried in every way.”
“But still thou wilt be good enough to have the fight, for Hildigunna guessed that thou wouldest be easy in matching thy horse.”
“How came ye to talk about that?” says Gunnar.
“There were some men,” say they, “who were sure that no one would dare to fight his horse with ours.”
“I would dare to fight him,” says Gunnar; “but I think that was spitefully said.”
“Shall we look upon the match as made, then?” they asked.
“Well, your journey will seem to you better if ye have your way in this; but still I will beg this of you, that we so fight our horses that we make sport for each other, but that no quarrel may arise from it, and that ye put no shame upon me; but if ye do to me as ye do to others, then there will be no help for it but that I shall give you such a buffet as it will seem hard to you to put up with. In a word, I shall do then just as ye do first.”
Then they ride home. Starkad asked how their journey had gone off; they said that Gunnar had made their going good.
“He gave his word to fight his horse, and we settled when and where the horse-fight should be; but it was plain in everything that he thought he fell short of us, and he begged and prayed to get off.”
“It will often be found,” says Hildigunna, “that Gunnar is slow to be drawn into quarrels, but a hard hitter if he cannot avoid them.”
Gunnar rode to see Njal, and told him of the horse-fight, and what words had passed between them, “But how dost thou think the horse-fight will turn out?”
“Thou wilt be uppermost,” says Njal, “but yet many a man’s bane will arise out of this fight.”
“Will my bane perhaps come out of it?” asks Gunnar.
“Not out of this,” says Njal; “but still they will bear in mind both the old and the new feud who fare against thee, and thou wilt have naught left for it but to yield.”
Then Gunnar rode home.
HOW GUNNAR’S HORSE FOUGHT
Just then Gunnar heard of the death of his father-in-law Hauskuld; a few nights after, Thorgerda, Thrain’s wife, was delivered at Gritwater, and gave birth to a boy child. Then she sent a man to her mother, and bade her choose whether it should be called Glum or Hauskuld. She bade call it Hauskuld. So that name was given to the boy.
Gunnar and Hallgerda had two sons, the one’s name was Hogni and the other’s Grani. Hogni was a brave man of few words, distrustful and slow to believe, but truthful.
Now men ride to the horse-fight, and a very great crowd is gathered together there. Gunnar was there and his brothers, and the sons of Sigfus. Njal and all his sons. There too was come Starkad and his sons, and Egil and his sons, and they said to Gunnar that now they would lead the horses together.
Gunnar said, “That was well.”
Skarphedinn said, “Wilt thou that I drive thy horse, kinsman Gunnar?”
“I will not have that,” says Gunnar.
“It wouldn’t be amiss though,” says Skarphedinn; “we are hot-headed on both sides.”
“Ye would say or do little,” says Gunnar, “before a quarrel would spring up; but with me it will take longer, though it will be all the same in the end.”
After that the horses were led together; Gunnar busked him to drive his horse, but Skarphedinn led him out. Gunnar was in a red kirtle, and had about his loins a broad belt, and a great riding-rod in his hand.
Then the horses ran at one another, and bit each other long, so that there was no need for any one to touch them, and that was the greatest sport.
Then Thorgeir and Kol made up their minds that they would push their horse forward just as the horses rushed together, and see if Gunnar would fall before him.
Now the horses ran at one another again, and both Thorgeir and Kol ran alongside their horses’ flank.
Gunnar pushes his horse against them, and what happened in a trice was this, that Thorgeir and his brother fall down flat on their backs, and their horse a-top of them.
Then they spring up and rush at Gunnar. Gunnar swings himself free and seizes Kol, casts him down on the field, so that he lies senseless. Thorgeir Starkad’s son smote Gunnar’s horse such a blow that one of his eyes started out. Gunnar smote Thorgeir with his riding-rod, and down falls Thorgeir senseless; but Gunnar goes to his horse, and said to Kolskegg, “Cut off the horse’s head; he shall not live a maimed and blemished beast.”
So Kolskegg cut the head off the horse.
Then Thorgeir got on his feet and took his weapons, and wanted to fly at Gunnar, but that was stopped, and there was a great throng and crush.
Skarphedinn said, “This crowd wearies me, and it is far more manly that men should fight it out with weapons; and so he sang a song:
“At the Thing there is a throng;
Past all bounds the crowding comes;
Hard ’twill be to patch up peace
‘Twixt the men. This wearies me;
Worthier is it far for men
Weapons red with gore to stain;
I for one would sooner tame
Hunger huge of cub of wolf.”
Gunnar was still, so that one man held him, and spoke no ill words.
Njal tried to bring about a settlement, or to get pledges of peace; but Thorgeir said he would neither give nor take peace; far rather, he said, would he see Gunnar dead for the blow.
Kolskegg said, “Gunnar has before now stood too fast, than that he should have fallen for words alone, and so it will be again.”
Now men ride away from the horse-field, every one to his home. They make no attack on Gunnar, and so that halfyear passed away. At the Thing, the summer after, Gunnar met Olaf the peacock, his cousin, and he asked him to come and see him, but yet bade him be ware of himself; “For,” says he, “they will do us all the harm they can, and mind and fare always with many men at thy back.”
He gave him much good counsel beside, and they agreed that there should be the greatest friendship between them.
OF ASGRIM AND WOLF UGGIS’ SON
Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son had a suit to follow up at the Thing against Wolf Uggis’ son. It was a matter of inheritance. Asgrim took it up in such a way as was seldom his wont; for there was a bar to his suit, and the bar was this, that he had summoned five neighbours to bear witness, when he ought to have summoned nine. And now they have this as their bar.
Then Gunnar spoke and said,”I will challenge thee to single combat on the island, Wolf Uggis’ son, if men are not to get their rights by law; and Njal and my friend Helgi would like that I should take some share in defending thy cause, Asgrim, if they were not here themselves.”
“But,” says Wolf, “this quarrel is not one between thee and me.”
“Still it shall be as good as though it were,” says Gunnar.
And the end of the suit was, that Wolf had to pay down all the money.
Then Asgrim said to Gunnar, “I will ask thee to come and see me this summer, and I will ever be with thee in lawsuits, and never against thee.”
Gunnar rides home from the Thing, and a little while after he and Njal met. Njal besought Gunnar to be ware of himself, and said he had been told that those away under the Threecorner meant to fall on him, and bade him never go about with a small company, and always to have his weapons with him. Gunnar said so it should be, and told him that Asgrim had asked him to pay him a visit, “and I mean to go now this harvest.”
“Let no men know before thou farest how long thou wilt be away,” said Njal; “but, besides, I beg thee to let my sons ride with thee, and then no attack will be made on thee.”
So they settled that among themselves.
Now the summer wears away till it was eight weeks to winter, and then Gunnar says to Kolskegg, “Make thee ready to ride, for we shall ride to a feast at Tongue.”
“Shall we say anything about it to Njal’s sons?” said Kolskegg.
“No,” says Gunnar; “they shall fall into no quarrels for me.”
AN ATTACK AGAINST GUNNAR AGREED ON
They rode three together, Gunnar and his brothers. Gunnar had the bill and his sword, Oliver’s gift; but Kolskegg had his short sword; Hjort, too, had proper weapons.
Now they rode to Tongue, and Asgrim gave them a hearty welcome, and they were there some while. At last they gave it out that they meant to go home there and then. Asgrim gave them good gifts, and offered to ride east with them, but Gunnar said there was no need of any such thing; and so he did not go.
Sigurd Swinehead was the name of a man who dwelt by Thurso water. He came to the farm under the Threecorner, for he had given his word to keep watch on Gunnar’s doings, and so he went and told them of his journey home; “and,” quoth he, “there could never be a finer chance than just now, when he has only two men with him.”
“How many men shall we need to have to lie in wait for him?” says Starkad.
“Weak men shall be as nothing before him,” he says; “and it is not safe to have fewer than thirty men.”
“Where shall we lie in wait?”
“By Knafaholes,” he says; “there he will not see us before he comes on us.”
“Go thou to Sandgil and tell Egil that fifteen of them must busk themselves thence, and now other fifteen will go hence to Knafaholes.”
Thorgeir said to Hildigunna, “This hand shall show thee Gunnar dead this very night.”
“Nay, but I guess,” says she, “that thou wilt hang thy head after ye two meet.”
So those four, father and sons, fare away from the Threecorner, and eleven men besides, and they fared to Knafaholes, and lay in wait there.
Sigurd Swinehead came to Sandgil and said, “Hither am I sent by Starkad and his sons to tell thee, Egil, that ye, father and sons, must fare to Knafaholes to lie in wait for Gunnar.”
“How many shall we fare in all?” says Egil.
“Fifteen, reckoning me,” he says.
Kol said, “Now I mean to try my hand on Kolskegg.”
“Then I think thou meanest to have a good deal on thy hands,” says Sigurd.
Egil begged his Easterlings to fare with him. They said they had no quarrel with Gunnar; “and besides,” says Thorir, “ye seem to need much help here, when a crowd of men shall go against three men.”
Then Egil went away and was wroth.
Then the mistress of the house said to the Easterling, “In an evil hour hath my daughter Gudruna humbled herself, and broken the point of her maidenly pride, and lain by thy side as thy wife, when thou wilt not dare to follow thy father-in-law, and thou must be a coward,” she says.
“I will go,” he says, “with thy husband, and neither of us two shall come back.”
After that he went to Thorgrim his messmate, and said, “Take thou now the keys of my chests; for I shall never unlock them again. I bid thee take for thine own whatever of our goods thou wilt; but sail away from Iceland, and do not think of revenge for me. But if thou dost not leave the land, it will be thy death.”
So the Easterling joined himself to their band.
Now we must go back and say that Gunnar rides east over Thurso water, but when he had gone a little way from the river, he grew very drowsy, and bade them lie down and rest there.
They did so. He fell fast asleep, and struggled much as he slumbered.
Then Kolskegg said, “Gunnar dreams now.” But Hjort said, “I would like to wake him.”
“That shall not be,” said Kolskegg, “but he shall dream his dream out.”
Gunnar lay, a very long while, and threw off his shield from him, and he grew very warm. Kolskegg said, “What hast thou dreamt, kinsman?”
“That have I dreamt,” says Gunnar, “which if I had dreamt it there, I would never have ridden with so few men from Tongue.”
“Tell us thy dream,” says Kolskegg.
Then Gunnar sang a song:
“Chief, that chargest foes in fight!
Now I fear that I have ridden
Short of men from Tongue, this harvest;
Raven’s fast I sure shall break.
Lord, that scatters Ocean’s fire!
This, at least, I long to say,
Kite with wolf shall fight for marrow
Ill I dreamt with wandering thought.”
“I dreamt, methought, that I was riding on by Knafaholes, and there I thought I saw many wolves, and they all made at me; but I turned away from them straight towards Rangriver, and then methought they pressed hard on me on all sides, but I kept them at bay, and shot all those that were foremost, till they came so close to me that I could not use my bow against them. Then I took my sword, and I smote with it with one hand, but thrust at them with my bill with the other. Shield myself then I did not, and methought then I knew not what shielded me. Then I slew many wolves, and thou, too, Kolskegg; but Hjort methought they pulled down, and tore open his breast, and one methought had his heart in his maw; but I grew so wroth that I hewed that wolf asunder just below the brisket, and after that methought the wolves turned and fled. Now my counsel is, brother Hjort, that thou ridest back west to Tongue.”
“I will not do that,” says Hjort; “though I know my death is sure, I will stand by thee still.”
Then they rode and came east by Knafaholes, and Kolskegg said, “Seest thou, kinsman! Many spears stand up by the holes, and men with weapons.”
“It does not take me unawares,” says Gunnar, “that my dream comes true.”
“What is best to be done now?” says Kolskegg; “I guess thou wilt not run away from them.”
“They shall not have that to jeer about,” says Gunnar, “but we will ride on down to the ness by Rangriver; there is some vantage ground there.”
Now they rode on to the ness, and made them ready there, and as they rode on past them, Kol called out and said, “Whither art thou running to now, Gunnar?”
But Kolskegg said, “Say the same thing farther on when this day has come to an end.”
THE SLAYING OF HJORT AND FOURTEEN MEN
After that Starkad egged on his men, and then they turn down upon them into the ness. Sigurd Swinehead came first and had a red targe, but in his other hand he held a cutlass. Gunnar sees him and shoots an arrow at him from his bow; he held the shield up aloft when he saw the arrow flying high, and the shaft passes through the shield and into his eye, and so came out at the nape of his neck, and that was the first man slain.
A second arrow Gunnar shot at Ulfhedinn, one of Starkad’s men, and that struck him about the middle and he fell at the feet of a yeoman, and the yeoman over him. Kolskegg cast a stone and struck the yeoman on the head, and that was his deathblow.
Then Starkad said, “‘Twill never answer our end that he should use his bow, but let us come on well and stoutly.” Then each man egged on the other, and Gunnar guarded himself with his bow and arrows as long as he could; after that he throws them down, and then he takes his bill and sword and fights with both hands. There is long the hardest fight, but still Gunnar and Kolskegg slew man after man.
Then Thorgeir, Starkad’s son, said, “I vowed to bring Hildigunna thy head, Gunnar.”
Then Gunnar sang a song:
“Thou, that battle-sleet down bringeth,
Scarce I trow thou speakest truth;
She, the girl with golden armlets,
Cannot care for such a gift;
But, O serpent’s hoard despoiler!
If the maid must have my head —
Maid whose wrist Rhine’s fire wreatheth,
Closer come to crash of spear.”
“She will not think that so much worth having,” says Gunnar; “but still to get it thou wilt have to come nearer!”
Thorgeir said to his brothers, “Let us run all of us upon him at once; he has no shield and we shall have his life in our hands.”
So Bork and Thorkel both ran forward and were quicker than Thorgeir. Bork made a blow at Gunnar, and Gunnar threw his bill so hard in the way, that the sword flew out of Bork’s hand; then he sees Thorkel standing on his other hand within stroke of sword. Gunnar was standing with his body swayed a little on one side, and he makes a sweep with his sword, and caught Thorkel on the neck, and off flew his head.
Kol Egil’s son, said, “Let me get at Kolskegg,” and turning to Kolskegg he said, “This I have often said, that we two would be just about an even match in fight.”
“That we can soon prove,” says Kolskegg.
Kol thrust at him with his spear; Kolskegg had just slain a man and had his hands full, and so he could not throw his shield before the blow, and the thrust came upon his thigh, on the outside of the limb and went through it.
Kolskegg turned sharp round, and strode towards him, and smote him with his short sword on the thigh, and cut off his leg, and said, “Did it touch thee or not?”
“Now,” says Kol, “I pay for being bare of my shield.”
So he stood a while on his other leg and looked at the stump.
“Thou needest not to look at it,” said Kolskegg; “’tis even as thou seest, the leg is off.”
Then Kol fell down dead.
But when Egil sees this, he runs at Gunnar and makes a cut at him; Gunnar thrusts at him with the bill and struck him in the middle, and Gunnar hoists him up on the bill and hurls him out into Rangriver.
Then Starkad said, “Wretch that thou art indeed,” Thorir Easterling, “when thou sittest by; but thy host, and father-in-law Egil, is slain.”
Then the Easterling sprung up and was very wroth. Hjort had been the death of two men, and the Easterling leapt on him and smote him full on the breast. Then Hjort fell down dead on the spot.
Gunnar sees this and was swift to smite at the Easterling, and cuts him asunder at the waist.
A little while after Gunnar hurls the bill at Bork, and struck him in the middle, and the bill went through him and stuck in the ground.
Then Kolskegg cut off Hauk Egil’s son’s head, and Gunnar smites off Otter’s hand at the elbow-joint. Then Starkad said, “Let us fly now. We have not to do with men!”
Gunnar said, “Ye two will think it a sad story if there is naught on you to show that ye have both been in the battle.”
Then Gunnar ran after Starkad and Thorgeir, and gave them each a wound. After that they parted; and Gunnar and his brothers had then wounded many men who got away from the field, but fourteen lost their lives, and Hjort the fifteenth.
Gunnar brought Hjort home, laid out on his shield, and he was buried in a cairn there. Many men grieved for him, for he had many dear friends.
Starkad came home, too, and Hildigunna dressed his wounds and Thorgeir’s, and said, “Ye would have given a great deal not to have fallen out with Gunnar.”
“So we would,” says Starkad.
NJAL’S COUNSEL TO GUNNAR
Steinvor, at Sandgil, besought Thorgrim the Easterling to take in hand the care of her goods, and not to sail away from Iceland, and so to keep in mind the death of his messmate and kinsman.
“My messmate Thorir,” said he, “foretold that I should fall by Gunnar’s hand if I stayed here in the land, and he must have foreseen that when he foreknew his own death.”
“I will give thee,” she says, “Gudruna my daughter to wife, and all my goods into the bargain.”
“I knew not,” he said, “that thou wouldest pay such a long price.”
After that they struck the bargain that he shall have her, and the wedding feast was to be the next summer.
Now Gunnar rides to Bergthorsknoll, and Kolskegg with him. Njal was out of doors and his sons, and they went to meet Gunnar and gave them a hearty welcome. After that they fell a-talking, and Gunnar said, “Hither am I come to seek good counsel and help at thy hand.”
“That is thy due,” said Njal.
“I have fallen into a great strait,” says Gunnar, “and slain many men, and I wish to know what thou wilt make of the matter?”
“Many will say this,” said Njal, “that thou hast been driven into it much against thy will; but now thou shalt give me time to take counsel with myself.”
Then Njal went away all by himself, and thought over a plan, and came back and said, “Now have I thought over the matter somewhat, and it seems to me as though this must be carried through – if it be carried through at all — with hardihood and daring. Thorgeir has got my kinswoman Thorfinna with child, and I will hand over to thee the suit for seduction. Another suit of outlawry against Starkad I hand over also to thee, for having hewn trees in my wood on the Threecorner ridge. Both these suits shalt thou take up. Thou shalt fare too, to the spot where ye fought, and dig up the dead, and name witnesses to the wounds, and make all the dead outlaws, for that they came against thee with that mind to give thee and thy brothers wounds or swift death. But if this be tried at the Thing, and it be brought up against thee that thou first gave Thorgeir a blow, and so mayst neither plead thine own cause nor that of others, then I will answer in that matter, and say that I gave thee back thy rights at the Thingskala-Thing, so that thou shouldest be able to plead thine own suit as well as that of others, and then there will be an answer to that point. Thou shalt also go to see Tyrfing of Berianess, and he must hand over to thee a suit against Aunund of Witchwood, who has the blood feud after his brother Egil.”
Then first of all Gunnar rode home; but a few nights after Njal’s sons and Gunnar rode thither where the bodies were, and dug them up that were buried there. Then Gunnar summoned them all as outlaws for assault and treachery, and rode home after that.
OF VALGARD AND MORD
That same harvest Valgard the Guileful came out to Iceland, and fared home to Hof. Then Thorgeir went to see Valgard and Mord, and told them what a strait they were in if Gunnar were to be allowed to make all those men outlaws whom he had slain.
Valgard said that must be Njal’s counsel, and yet everything had not come out yet which he was likely to have taught him.
Then Thorgeir begged those kinsmen for help and backing, but they held out a long while, and at last asked for, and got a large sum of money.
That, too, was part of their plan, that Mord should ask for Thorkatla, Gizur the White’s daughter, and Thorgeir was to ride at once west across the river with Valgard and Mord.
So the day after they rode twelve of them together and came to Mossfell. There they were heartily welcomed, and they put the question to Gizur about the wooing, and the end of it was that the match should be made, and the wedding feast was to be in half a month’s space at Mossfell.
They ride home, and after that they ride to the wedding and there was a crowd of guests to meet them, and it went off well. Thorkatla went home with Mord and took the housekeeping in hand, but Valgard went abroad again the next summer.
Now Mord eggs on Thorgeir to set his suit on foot against Gunnar, and Thorgeir went to find Aunund; he bids him now to begin a suit for manslaughter for his brother Egil and his sons; “but I will begin one for the manslaughter of my brothers, and for the wounds of myself and my father.”
He said he was quite ready to do that, and then they set out, and give notice of the manslaughter, and summon nine neighbours who dwelt nearest to the spot where the deed was done. This beginning of the suit was heard of at Lithend; and then Gunnar rides to see Njal, and told him, and asked what he wished them to do next.
“Now,” says Njal, “thou shalt summon those who dwell next to the spot, and thy neighbours; and call men to witness before the neighbours, and choose out Kol as the slayer in the manslaughter of Hjort thy brother: for that is lawful and right; then thou shalt give notice of the suit for manslaughter at Kol’s hand, though he be dead. Then shalt thou call men to witness, and summon the neighbours to ride to the Allthing to bear witness of the fact, whether they, Kol and his companions, were on the spot, and in onslaught when Hjort was slain. Thou shalt also summon Thorgeir for the suit of seduction, and Aunund at the suit of Tyrfing.”
Gunnar now did in everything as Njal gave him counsel. This men thought a strange beginning of suits, and now these matters come before the Thing. Gunnar rides to the Thing, and Njal’s sons and the sons of Sigfus. Gunnar had sent messengers to his cousins and kinsmen, that they should ride to the Thing, and come with as many men as they could, and told them that this matter would lead to much strife. So they gathered together in a great band from the west.
Mord rode to the Thing and Runolf of the DaIe, and those under the Threecorner, and Aunund of Witchwood. But when they come to the Thing, they join them in one company with Gizur the White and Geir the Priest.
OF FINES AND ATONEMENTS
Gunnar, and the sons of Sigfus, and Njal’s sons, went altogether in one band, and they marched so swiftly and closely that men who came in their way had to take heed lest they should get a fall; and nothing was so often spoken about over the whole Thing as these great lawsuits.
Gunnar went to meet his cousins, and Olaf and his men greeted him well. They asked Gunnar about the fight, but he told them all about it, and was just in all he said; he told them, too, what steps he had taken since.
Then Olaf said,”‘Tis worth much to see how close Njal stands by thee in all counsel.”
Gunnar said he should never be able to repay that, but then he begged them for help; and they said that was his due.
Now the suits on both sides came before the court, and each pleads his cause.
Mord asked, “How it was that a man could have the right to set a suit on foot who, like Gunnar, had already made himself an outlaw by striking Thorgeir a blow?”
“Wast thou,” answered Njal, “at Thingskala-Thing last autumn?”
“Surely I was,” says Mord.
“Heardest thou,” asks Njal, “how Gunnar offered him full atonement? Then I gave back Gunnar his right to do all lawful deeds.”
“That is right and good law,” says Mord, “but how does the matter stand if Gunnar has laid the slaying of Hjort at Kol’s door, when it was the Easterling that slew him?”
“That was right and lawful,” says Njal, “when he chose him as the slayer before witnesses.”
“That was lawful and right, no doubt,” says Mord; “but for what did Gunnar summon them all as outlaws?”
“Thou needest not to ask about that,” says Njal, “when they went out to deal wounds and manslaughter.”
“Yes,” says Mord, “but neither befell Gunnar.”
“Gunnar’s brothers,” said Njal, “Kolskegg and Hjort, were there, and one of them got his death and the other a flesh wound.”
“Thou speakest nothing but what is law,” says Mord, “though it is hard to abide by it.”
Then Hiallti Skeggi’s son of Thursodale, stood forth and said. “I have had no share in any of your lawsuits; but I wish to know whether thou wilt do something, Gunnar, for the sake of my words and friendship.”
“What askest thou?” says Gunnar.
“This,” he says, “that ye lay down the whole suit to the award and judgment of good men and true.”
“If I do so,” said Gunnar, “then thou shalt never be against me, whatever men I may have to deal with.”
“I will give my word to that,” says Hjallti.
After that he tried his best with Gunnar’s adversaries, and brought it about that they were all set at one again. And after that each side gave the other pledges of peace; but for Thorgeir’s wound came the suit for seduction, and for the hewing in the wood, Starkad’s wound. Thorgeir’s brothers were atoned for by half fines, but half fell away for the onslaught on Gunnar. Egil’s slaying and Tyrfing’s lawsuit were set off against each other. For Hjort’s slaying, the slaying of Kol and of the Easterling were to come, and as for all the rest, they were atoned for with half fines.
Njal was in this award, and Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son, and Hjallti Skeggi’s son.
Njal had much money out at interest with Starkad, and at Sandgil too, and he gave it all to Gunnar to make up these fines.
So many friends had Gunnar at the Thing, that he not only paid up there and then all the fines on the spot, but gave besides gifts to many chiefs who had lent him help; and he had the greatest honour from the suit; and all were agreed in this, that no man was his match in all the South Quarter.
So Gunnar rides home from the Thing and sits there in peace, but still his adversaries envied him much for his honour.
OF THORGEIR OTKELL’S SON
Now we must tell of Thorgeir Otkell’s son; he grew up to be a tall strong man, true-hearted and guileless, but rather too ready to listen to fair words. He had many friends among the best men, and was much beloved by his kinsmen.
Once on a time Thorgeir Starkad’s son had been to see his kinsman Mord.
“I can ill brook,” he says, “that settlement of matters which we and Gunnar had, but I have bought thy help so long as we two are above ground; I wish thou wouldest think out some plan and lay it deep; this is why I say it right out, because I know that thou art Gunnar’s greatest foe, and he too thine. I will much increase thine honour if thou takest pains in this matter.”
“It will always seem as though I were greedy of gain, but so it must be. Yet it will be hard to take care that thou mayest not seem to be a truce-breaker, or peace-breaker, and yet carry out thy point. But now I have been told that Kolskegg means to try a suit, and regain a fourth part of Moeidsknoll, which was paid to thy father as an atonement for his son. He has taken up this suit for his mother, but this too is Gunnar’s counsel, to pay in goods and not to let the land go. We must wait till this comes about, and then declare that he has broken the settlement made with you. He has also taken a cornfield from Thorgeir Otkell’s son, and so broken the settlement with him too. Thou shalt go to see Thorgeir Otkell’s son, and bring him into the matter with thee, and then fall on Gunnar; but if ye fail in aught of this, and cannot get him hunted down, still ye shall set on him over and over again. I must tell thee that Njal has “spaed” his fortune, and foretold about his life, if he slays more than once in the same stock, that it would lead him to his death, if it so fell out that he broke the settlement made after the deed. Therefore shalt thou bring Thorgeir into the suit, because he has already slain his father; and now, if ye two are together in an affray, thou shalt shield thyself; but he will go boldly on, and then Gunnar will slay him. Then he has slain twice in the same stock, but thou shalt fly from the fight. And if this is to drag him to his death he will break the settlement afterwards, and so we may wait till then.”
After that Thorgeir goes home and tells his father secretly. Then they agreed among themselves that they should work out this plot by stealth.
OF THORGEIR STARKAD’S SON
Sometime after Thorgeir Starkad’s son fared to Kirkby to see his namesake, and they went aside to speak, and talked secretly all day; but at the end Thorgeir Starkad’s son gave his namesake a spear inlaid with gold, and rode home afterwards; they made the greatest friendship the one with the other.
At the Thingskala-Thing in the autumn, Kolskegg laid claim to the land at Moeidsknoll, but Gunnar took witness, and offered ready money, or another piece of land at a lawful price to those under the Threecorner.
Thorgeir took witness also, that Gunnar was breaking the settlement made between them.
After that the Thing was broken up, and so the next year wore away.
Those namesakes were always meeting, and there was the greatest friendship between them. Kolskegg spoke to Gunnar and said, “I am told that there is great friendship between those namesakes, and it is the talk of many men that they will prove untrue, and I would that thou wouldst be ware of thyself.”
“Death will come to me when it will come,” says Gunnar, “wherever I may be, if that is my fate.”
Then they left off talking about it.
About autumn, Gunnar gave out that they would work one week there at home, and the next down in the isles, and so make an end of their hay-making. At the same time, he let it be known that every man would have to leave the house, save himself and the women.
Thorgeir under Threecorner goes to see his namesake, but as soon as they met they began to talk after their wont, and Thorgeir Starkad’s son, said, “I would that we could harden our hearts and fall on Gunnar.”
“Well,” says Thorgeir Otkell’s son, “every struggle with Gunnar has had but one end, that few have gained the day; besides, methinks it sounds ill to be called a peace-breaker.”
“They have broken the peace, not we,” says Thorgeir Starkad’s son. “Gunnar took away from thee thy cornfield; and he has taken Moeidsknoll from my father and me.”
And so they settle it between them to fall on Gunnar; and then Thorgeir said that Gunnar would be all alone at home in a few nights’ space, “and then thou shalt come to meet me with eleven men, but I will have as many.”
After that Thorgeir rode home.
OF NJAL AND THOSE NAMESAKES
Now when Kolskegg and the house-carles had been three nights in the isles, Thorgeir Starkad’s son had news of that, and sends word to his namesake that he should come to meet him on Threecorner ridge.
After that Thorgeir of the Threecorner busked him with eleven men; he rides up on the ridge and there waits for his namesake.
And now Gunnar is at home in his house, and those namesakes ride into a wood hard by. There such a drowsiness came over them that they could do naught else but sleep. So they hung their shields up in the boughs, and tethered their horses, and laid their weapons by their sides.
Njal was that night up in Thorolfsfell, and could not sleep at all, but went out and in by turns.
Thorhilda asked Njal why he could not sleep?
“Many things now flit before my eyes,” said he; “I see many fetches of Gunnar’s bitter foes, and what is very strange is this, they seem to be mad with rage, and yet they fare without plan or purpose.”
A little after, a man rode up to the door and got off his horse’s back and went in, and there was come the shepherd of Thorhilda and her husband.
“Didst thou find the sheep?” she asked.
“I found what might be more worth,” said he.
“What was that?” asked Njal.
“I found twenty-four men up in the wood yonder; they had tethered their horses, but slept themselves. Their shields they had hung up in the boughs.”
But so closely had he looked at them that he told of all their weapons and war gear and clothes, and then Njal knew plainly who each of them must have been, and said to him, “‘Twere good hiring if there were many such shepherds; and this shall ever stand to thy good; but still I will send thee on an errand.”
He said at once he would go.
“Thou shalt go,” says Njal, “to Lithend and tell Gunnar that he must fare to Gritwater, and then send after men; but I will go to meet with those who are in the wood and scare them away. This thing hath well come to pass, so that they shall gain nothing by this journey, but lose much.”
The shepherd set off and told Gunnar as plainly as he could the whole story. Then Gunnar rode to Gritwater and summoned men to him.
Now it is to be told of Njal how he rides to meet these namesakes.
“Unwarily ye lie here,” he says, “or for what end shall this journey have been made? And Gunnar is not a man to be trifled with. But if the truth must be told then, this is the greatest treason. Ye shall also know this, that Gunnar is gathering force, and he will come here in the twinkling of an eye, and slay you all, unless ye ride away home.”
They bestirred them at once, for they were in great fear, and took their weapons, and mounted their horses and galloped home under the Threecorner.
Njal fared to meet Gunnar and bade him not to break up his company.
“But I will go and seek for an atonement; now they will be finely frightened; but for this treason no less a sum shall be paid when one has to deal with all of them, than shall be paid for the slaying of one or other of those namesakes, though such a thing should come to pass. This money I will take into my keeping, and so lay it out that it may be ready to thy hand when thou hast need of it.”