Burnt Njal Saga Page 4
THE SLAYING OF HAUSKULD, THE PRIEST OF WHITENESS
About that time Hauskuld, the Priest of Whiteness, awoke; he put on his clothes, and threw over him his cloak, Flosi’s gift. He took his corn-sieve, and had his sword in his other hand, and walks towards the fence, and sows the corn as he goes.
Skarphedinn and his band had agreed that they would all give him a wound. Skarphedinn sprang up from behind the fence, but when Hauskuld saw him he wanted to turn away, then Skarphedinn ran up to him and said, “Don’t try to turn on thy heel, Whiteness priest,” and hews at him, and the blow came on his head, and he fell on his knees. Hauskuld said these words when he fell, “God help me, and forgive you!”
Then they all ran up to him and gave him wounds.
After that Mord said, “A plan comes into my mind.”
“What is that?” says Skarphedinn.
“That I shall fare home as soon as I can, but after that I will fare up to Gritwater, and tell them the tidings, and say ’tis an ill deed; but I know surely that Thorgerda will ask me to give notice of the slaying, and I will do that, for that will be the surest way to spoil their suit. I will also send a man to Ossaby and know how soon they take any counsel in the matter, and that man will learn all these tidings thence, and I will make believe that I have heard them from him.”
“Do so by all means,” says Skarphedinn.
Those brothers fared home, and Kari with them, and when they came home they told Njal the tidings.
“Sorrowful tidings are these,” says Njal, “and such are ill to hear, for sooth to say this grief touches me so nearly, that methinks it were better to have lost two of my sons and that Hauskuld lived.”
“It is some excuse for thee,” says Skarphedinn, “that thou art an old man, and it is to be looked for that this touches thee nearly.”
“But this,” says Njal, “no less than old age, is why I grieve, that I know better than thou what will come after.”
“What will come after?” says Skarphedinn.
“My death,” says Njal, “and the death of my wife and of all my sons.”
“What dost thou foretell for me?” says Kari.
“They will have hard work to go against thy good fortune, for thou wilt be more than a match for all of them.”
This one thing touched Njal so nearly that he could never speak of it without shedding tears.
OF HILDIGNNA AND MORD VALGARD’S SON
Hildigunna woke up and found that Hauskuld was away out of his bed.
“Hard have been my dreams,” she said, “and not good; but go and search for him, Hauskuld.”
So they searched for him about the homestead and found him not.
By that time she had dressed herself; then she goes and two men with her, to the fence, and there they find Hauskuld slain.
Just then, too, came up Mord Valgard’s son’s shepherd, and told her that Njal’s sons had gone down thence, “and,” he said, “Skarphedinn called out to me and gave notice of the slaying as done by him.”
“It were a manly deed,” she says, “if one man had been at it.”
She took the cloak and wiped off all the blood with it, and wrapped the gouts of gore up in it, and so folded it together and laid it up in her chest.
Now she sent a man up to Gritwater to tell the tidings thither, but Mord was there before him, and had already told the tidings. There, too, was come Kettle of the Mark.
Thorgerda said to Kettle, “Now is Hauskuld dead as we know, and now bear in mind what thou promisedst to do when thou tookest him for thy fosterchild.”
“It may well be,” says Kettle, “that I promised very many things then, for I thought not that these days would ever befall us that have now come to pass; but yet I am come into a strait, for `nose
is next of kin to eyes,’ since I have Njal’s daughter to wife.”
“Art thou willing, then,” says Thorgerda, “that Mord should give notice of the suit for the slaying?”
“I know not that,” says Kettle, “for me ill comes from him more often than good.”
But as soon as ever Mord began to speak to Kettle he fared the same as others, in that he thought as though Mord would be true to him, and so the end of their counsel was that Mord should give notice of the slaying, and get ready the suit in every way before the Thing.
Then Mord fared down to Ossaby, and thither came nine neighbours who dwelt nearest the spot.
Mord had ten men with him. He shows the neighbours Hauskuld’s wounds, and takes witness to the hurts, and names a man as the dealer of every wound save one; that he made as though he knew not who had dealt it, but that wound he had dealt himself. But the slaying he gave notice of at Skarphedinn’s hand, and the wounds at his brothers’ and Kari’s.
After that he called on nine neighbours who dwelt nearest the spot to ride away from home to the Althing on the inquest.
After that he rode home. He scarce ever met Njal’s sons, and when he did meet them, he was cross, and that was part of their plan.
The slaying of Hauskuld was heard over all the land, and was ill-spoken of. Njal’s sons went to see Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son, and asked him for aid.
“Ye very well know that ye may look that I shall help you in all great suits, but still my heart is heavy about this suit, for there are many who have the blood feud, and this slaying is ill-spoken of over all the land.”
Now Njal’s sons fare home.
THE PEDIGREE OF GUDMUND THE POWERFUL
There was a man named Gudmund the Powerful, who dwelt at Modruvale in Eyjafirth. He was the son of Eyjolf the son of Einar. Gudmund was a mighty chief, wealthy in goods; he had in his house a hundred hired servants. He overbore in rank and weight all the chiefs in the north country, so that some left their homesteads, but some he put to death, and some gave up their priesthoods for his sake, and from him are come the greatest part of all the picked and famous families in the land, such as “the Pointdwellers” and the “Sturlungs” and the “Hvamdwellers,” and the “Fleetmen,” and Kettle the Bishop, and many of the greatest men.
Gudmund was a friend of Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son, and so he hoped to get his help.
OF SNORRI THE PRIEST, AND HIS STOCK
There was a man named Snorri, who was surnamed the Priest. He dwelt at Helgafell before Gudruna Oswif’s daughter bought the land of him, and dwelt there till she died of old age; but Snorri then went and dwelt at Hvamsfirth on Saelingdale’s tongue. Thorgrim was the name of Snorri’s father, and he was a son of Thorstein codcatcher. Snorri was a great friend of Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son, and he looked for help there also. Snorri was the wisest and shrewdest of all these men in Iceland who had not the gift of foresight. He was good to his friends, but grim to his foes.
At that time there was a great riding to the Thing out of all the Quarters, and men had many suits set on foot.
OF FLOSI THORD’S SON
Flosi hears of Hauskuld’s slaying, and that brings him much grief and wrath, but still he kept his feelings well in hand. He was told how the suit had been set on foot, as has been said, for Hauskuld’s slaying, and he said little about it. He sent word to Hall of the Side, his father-in-law, and to Ljot his son, that they must gather in a great company at the Thing. Ljot was thought the most hopeful man for a chief away there east. It had been foretold that if he could ride three summers running to the Thing, and come safe and sound home, that then he would be the greatest chief in all his family, and the oldest man. He had then ridden one summer to the Thing, and now he meant to ride the second time.
Flosi sent word to Kol Thorstein’s son, and Glum the son of Hilldir the Old, the son of Gerleif, the son of Aunund Wallet-back, and to Modolf Kettle’s son, and they all rode to meet Flosi.
Hall gave his word, too, to gather a great company, and Flosi rode till he came to Kirkby, to Surt Asbjorn’s son. Then Flosi sent after Kolbein Egil’s son, his brother’s son, and he came to him there. Thence he rode to Headbrink. There dwelt Thorgrim the Showy, the son of Thorkel the Fair. Flosi begged him to ride to the Althing with him, and he said yea to the journey, and spoke thus to Flosi, “Often hast thou been more glad, master, than thou art now, but thou hast some right to be so.”
“Of a truth,” said Flosi, “that hath now come on my hands, which I would give all my goods that it had never happened. Ill seed has been sown, and so an ill crop will spring from it.”
Thence he rode over Amstacksheath, and so to Solheim that evening. There dwelt Lodmund Wolf’s son, but he was a great friend of Flosi, and there he stayed that night, and next morning Lodmund rode with him into the Dale.
There dwelt RunoIf, the son of Wolf Aurpriest.
Flosi said to Runolf, “Here we shall have true stories as to the slaying of Hauskuld, the Priest of Whiteness. Thou art a truthful man, and hast got at the truth by asking, and I will trust to all that thou tellest me as to what was the cause of quarrel between them.”
“There is no good in mincing the matter,” said Runolf, “but we must say outright that he has been slain for less than no cause; and his death is a great grief to all men. No one thinks it so much a loss as Njal, his foster-father.”
“Then they will be ill off for help from men,” says Flosi; “and they will find no one to speak up for them.”
“So it will be,” says Runolf, “unless it be otherwise foredoomed.”
“What has been done in the suit?” says Flosi.
“Now the neighbours have been summoned on the inquest,” says Runolf, “and due notice given of the suit for manslaughter.”
“Who took that step?” asks Flosi.
“Mord Valgard’s son,” says Runolf.
“How far is that to be trusted?” says Flosi.
“He is of my kin,” says Runolf; “but still if I tell the truth of him, I must say that more men reap ill than good from him. But this one thing I will ask of thee, Flosi, that thou givest rest to thy wrath, and takest the matter up in such a way as may lead to the least trouble. For Njal will make a good offer, and so will others of the best men.”
“Ride thou then to the Thing, Runolf,” said Flosi, “and thy words shall have much weight with me, unless things turn out worse than they should.”
After that they cease speaking about it, and Runolf promised to go to the Thing.
Runolf sent word to Hafr the Wise, his kinsman, and he rode thither at once.
Thence Flosi rode to Ossaby.
OF FLOSI AND HILDIGUNNA
Hildigunna was out of doors, and said, “Now shall all the men of my household be out of doors when Flosi rides into the yard; but the women shall sweep the house and deck it with hangings, and make ready the high seat for Flosi.”
Then Flosi rode into the town, and Hildigunna turned to him and said, “Come in safe and sound and happy kinsman, and my heart is fain at thy coming hither.”
“Here,” says Flosi, “we will break our fast, and then we will ride on.”
Then their horses were tethered, and Flosi went into the sitting-room and sat him down, and spurned the high seat away from him on the dais, and said, “I am neither king nor earl, and there is no need to make a high seat for me to sit on, nor is there any need to make a mock of me.”
Hildigunna was standing close by, and said, “It is ill if it mislikes thee, for this we did with a whole heart.”
“If thy heart is whole towards me, then what I do will praise itself if it be well done, but it will blame itself if it be ill done.”
Hildigunna laughed a cold laugh, and said, “There is nothing new in that, we will go nearer yet ere we have done.”
She sat her down by Flosi, and they talked long and low.
After that the board was laid, and Flosi and his band washed their hands. Flosi looked hard at the towel and saw that it was all in rags, and had one end torn off. He threw it down on the bench and would not wipe himself with it, but tore off a piece of the tablecloth, and wiped himself with that, and then threw it to his men.
After that Flosi sat down to the board and bade men eat.
Then Hildigunna came into the room and went before Flosi, and threw her hair off her eyes and wept.
“Heavy-hearted art thou now, kinswoman,” said Flosi, “when thou weepest, but still it is well that thou shouldst weep for a good husband.”
“What vengeance or help shall I have of thee?” she says.
“I will follow up thy suit,” said Flosi, “to the utmost limit of the law, or strive for that atonement which good men and true shall say that we ought to have as full amends.”
“Hauskuld would avenge thee,” she said, “if he had the blood-feud after thee.”
“Thou lackest not grimness,” answered Flosi, “and what thou wantest is plain.”
“Arnor Ornolf’s son, of Forswaterwood,” said Hildigunna, “had done less wrong towards Thord Frey’s priest thy father; and yet thy brothers Kolbein and Egil slew him at Skaptarfells-Thing.”
Then Hildigunna went back into the hall and unlocked her chest, and then she took out the cloak, Flosi’s gift, and in it Hauskuld had been slain, and there she had kept it, blood and all. Then she went back into the sitting-room with the Cloak; she went up silently to Flosi. Flosi had just then eaten his full, and the board was cleared. Hildigunna threw the cloak over Flosi, and the gore rattled down all over him.
Then she spoke and said, “This cloak, Flosi, thou gavest to Hauskuld, and now I will give it back to thee; he was slain in it, and I call God and all good men to witness, that I abjure thee, by all the might of thy Christ, and by thy manhood and bravery, to take vengeance for all those wounds which he had on his dead body, or else to be called every man’s dastard.”
Flosi threw the cloak off him and hurled it into her lap, and said, “Thou art the greatest hell-hag, and thou wishest that we should take that course which will be the worst for all of us. But `women’s counsel is ever cruel.'”
Flosi was so stirred at this, that sometimes he was bloodred in the face, and sometimes ashy pale as withered grass, and sometimes blue as death.
Flosi and his men rode away; he rode to Holtford, and there waits for the sons of Sigfus and other of his men.
Ingialld dwelt at the Springs; he was the brother of Rodny, Hauskuld Njal’s son’s mother. Ingialld had to wife Thraslauga, the daughter of Egil, the son of Thord Frey’s priest. Flosi sent word to Ingialld to come to him, and Ingialld went at once, with fourteen men. They were all of his household. Ingialld was a tall man and a strong, and slow to meddle with other men’s business, one of the bravest of men, and very bountiful to his friends.
Flosi greeted him well, and said to him, “Great trouble hath now come on me and my brothers-in-law, and it is hard to see our way out of it; I beseech thee not to part from my suit until this trouble is past and gone.”
“I am come into a strait myself,” said Ingialld, “for the sake of the ties that there are between me and Njal and his sons, and other great matters which stand in the way.”
“I thought,” said Flosi, “when I gave away my brother’s daughter to thee, that thou gavest me thy word to stand by me in every suit.”
“It is most likely,” says Ingialld, “that I shall do so, but still I will now, first of all, ride home, and thence to the Thing.”
OF FLOSI AND MORD AND THE SONS OF SIGFUS
The sons of Sigfus heard how Flosi was at Holtford, and they rode thither to meet him, and there were Kettle of the Mark, and Lambi his brother, Thorkell and Mord, the sons of Sigfus, Sigmund their brother, and Lambi Sigurd’s son, and Gunnar Lambi’s son, and Grani Gunnar’s son, and Vebrand Hamond’s son.
Flosi stood up to meet them, and greeted them gladly. So they went down the river. Flosi had the whole story from them about the slaying, and there was no difference between them and Kettle of the Mark’s story.
Flosi spoke to Kettle of the Mark, and said, “This now I ask of thee; how tightly are your hearts knit as to this suit, thou and the other sons of Sigfus?”
“My wish is,” said Kettle, “that there should be peace between us, but yet I have sworn an oath not to part from this suit till it has been brought somehow to an end; and to lay my life on it.”
“Thou art a good man and true,” said Flosi, “and it is well to have such men with one.”
Then Grani Gunnar’s son and Lambi Sigurd’s son both spoke together, and said, “We wish for outlawry and death.”
“It is not given us,” said Flosi, “both to share and choose, we must take what we can get.”
“I have had it in my heart,” says Grani, “ever since they slew Thrain by Markfleet, and after that his son Hauskuld, never to be atoned with them by a lasting peace, for I would willingly stand by when they were all slain, every man of them.”
“Thou hast stood so near to them,” said Flosi, “that thou mightest have avenged these things hadst thou had the heart and manhood. Methinks thou and many others now ask for what ye would give much money hereafter never to have had a share in. I see this clearly, that though we slay Njal or his sons, still they are men of so great worth, and of such good family, that there will be such a blood feud and hue and cry after them, that we shall have to fall on our knees before many a man, and beg for help, ere we get an atonement and find our way out of this strait. Ye may make up your minds, then, that many will become poor who before had great goods, but some of vou will lose both goods and life.”
Mord Valgard’s son rode to meet Flosi, and said he would ride to the Thing with him with all his men. Flosi took that well, and raised a matter of a wedding with him, that he should give away Rannveiga his daughter to Starkad Flosi’s brother’s son, who dwelt at Staffell. Flosi did this because he thouoht he would so make sure both of his faithfulness and force.
Mord took the wedding kindly, but handed the matter over to Gizur the White, and bade him talk about it at the Thing.
Mord had to wife Thorkatla, Gizur the White’s daughter.
They two, Mord and Flosi, rode both together to the Thing, and talked the whole day, and no man knew aught of their counsel.
NJAL AND SKARPHEDINN TALK TOGETHER
Now, we must say how Njal said to Skarphedinn.
“What plan have ye laid down for yourselves, thou and thy brothers and Kari?”
“Little reck we of dreams in most matters,” said Skarphedinn; “but if thou must know, we shall ride to Tongue to Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son, and thence to the Thing; but, what meanest thou to do about thine own journey, father?”
“I shall ride to the Thing,” says Njal, “for it belongs to my honour not to be severed from your suit so long as I live. I ween that many men will have good words to say of me, and so I shall stand you in good stead, and do you no harm.”
There, too, was Thorhall Asgrim’s son, and Njal’s fosterson. The sons of Njal laughed at him because he was clad in a coat of russet, and asked how long he meant to wear that?
“I shall have thrown it off,” he said, “when I have to follow up the blood-feud for my foster-father.”
“There will ever be most good in thee,” said Njal, “when there is most need of it.”
So they all busked them to ride away from home, and were nigh thirty men in all, and rode till they came to Thursowater. Then came after them Njal’s kinsmen, Thorleif Crow, and Thorgrim the Big; they were Holt-Thorir’s sons, and offered their help and following to Njal’s sons, and they took that gladly.
So they rode altogether across Thursowater, until they came on Laxwater bank, and took a rest and baited their horses there, and there Hjallti Skeggi’s son came to meet them, and Njal’s sons fell to talking with him, and they talked long and low.
“Now, I will show,” said Hjallti, “that I am not blackhearted; Njal has asked me for help, and I have agreed to it, and given my word to aid him; he has often given me and many others the worth of it in cunning counsel.”
Hjallti tells Njal all about Flosi’s doings. They sent Thorhall on to Tongue to tell Asgrim that they would be there that evening; and Asgrim made ready at once, and was out of doors to meet them when Njal rode into the town.”
Njal was clad in a blue cape, and had a felt hat on his head, and a small axe in his hand. Asgrim helped Njal off his horse, and led him and sate him down in his own seat. After that they all went in, Njal’s sons and Kari. Then Asgrim went out.
Hjallti wished to turn away, and thought there were too many there; but Asgrim caught hold of his reins, and said he should never have his way in riding off, and made men unsaddle their horses, and led Hjallti in and sate him down by Njal’s side; but Thorleif and his brother sat on the other bench and their men with them.
Asgrim sate him down on a stool before Njal, and asked, “What says thy heart about our matter?”
“It speaks rather heavily,” says Njal, “for I am afraid that we shall have no lucky men with us in the suit; but I would, friend, that thou shouldest send after all the men who belong to thy Thing, and ride to the Althing with me.”
“I have always meant to do that,” says Asgrim; “and this I will promise thee at the same time, that I will never leave thy cause while I can get any men to follow me.”
But all those who were in the house thanked him, and said that was bravely spoken. They were there that night, but the day after all Asgrim’s band came thither.
And after that they all rode together till they come up on the Thing-field, and fit up their booths.
ASGRIM AND NJAL’S SONS PRAY MEN FOR HELP
By that time Flosi had come to the Thing, and filled all his booths. Runolf filled the Dale-dwellers’ booths, and Mord the booths of the men from Rangriver. Hall of the Side had long since come from the east, but scarce any of the other men; but still Hall of the Side had come with a great band, and joined this at once to Flosi’s company, and begged him to take an atonement and to make peace.
Hall was a wise man and good-hearted. Flosi answered him well in everything, but gave way in nothing.
Hall asked what men had promised him help? Flosi named Mord Valgard’s son, and said he had asked for his daughter at the hand of his kinsman Starkad.
Hall said she was a good match, but it was ill dealing with Mord, “And that thou wilt put to the proof ere this Thing be over.”
After that they ceased talking.
One day Njal and Asgrim had a long talk in secret.
Then all at once Asgrim sprang up and said to Njal’s sons, “We must set about seeking friends, that we may not be overborne by force; for this suit will be followed up boldly.”
Then Asgrim went out, and Helgi Njal’s son next; then Kari Solmund’s son; then Grim Njal’s son; then Skarphedinn; then Thorhall; then Thorgrim the Big; then Thorleif Crow.
They went to the booth of Gizur the White and inside it. Gizur stood up to meet them, and bade them sit down and drink.
“Not thitherward,” says Asgrim, “tends our way, and we will speak our errand out loud, and not mutter and mouth about it. What help shall I have from thee, as thou art my kinsman?”
“Jorunn, my sister,” said Gizur, “would wish that I should not shrink from standing by thee; and so it shall be now and hereafter, that we will both of us have the same fate.”
Asgrim thanked him, and went away afterwards.
Then Skarphedinn asked, “Whither shall we go now?”
“To the booths of the men of Olfus,” says Asgrim.
So they went thither, and Asgrim asked whether Skapti Thorod’s son were in the booth? He was told that he was. Then they went inside the booth.
Skapti sate on the cross-bench, and greeted Asgrim, and he took the greeting well.
Skapti offered Asgrim a seat by his side, but Asgrim said he should only stay there a little while, “But still we have an errand to thee.”
“Let me hear it?” says Skapti.
“I wish to beg thee for thy help, that thou wilt stand by us in our suit.”
“One thing I had hoped,” says Skapti, “and that is, that neither you nor your troubles would ever come into my dwelling.”
“Such things are ill-spoken,” says Asgrim, “when a man is the last to help others, when most lies on his aid.”
“Who is yon man,” says Skapti, “before whom four men walk, a big burly man, and pale-faced, unlucky-looking, well-knit, and troll-like?”
“My name is Skarphedinn,” he answers, “and thou hast often seen me at the Thing; but in this I am wiser than you, that I have no need to ask what thy name is. Thy name is Skapti Thorod’s son, but before thou calledst thyself `Bristlepoll,’ after thou hadst slain Kettle of Elda; then thou shavedst thy poll, and puttedst pitch on thy head, and then thou hiredst thralls to cut up a sod of turf, and thou creptest underneath it to spend the night. After that thou wentest to Thorolf Lopt’s son of Eyrar, and he took thee on board, and bore thee out here in his meal sacks.”
After that Asgrim and his band went out, and Skarphedinn asked, “Whither shall we go now?”
“To Snorri the Priest’s booth,” says Asgrim.
Then they went to Snorri’s booth. There was a man outside before the booth, and Asgrim asked whether Snorri were in the booth.
The man said he was.
Asgrim went into the booth, and all the others. Snorri was sitting on the cross-bench, and Asgrim went and stood before him, and hailed him well.
Snorri took his greeting blithely, and bade him sit down.
Asgrim said he should be only a short time there, “But we have an errand with thee.”
Snorri bade him tell it.
“I would,” said Asgrim, “that thou wouldst come with me to the court, and stand by me with thy help, for thou art a wise man, and a great man of business.”
“Suits fall heavy on us now,” says Snorri the Priest, “and now many men push forward against us, and so we are slow to take up the troublesome suits of other men from other quarters.”
“Thou mayest stand excused,” says Asgrim “for thou art not in our debt for any service.”
“I know,” says Snorri, “that thou art a good man and true, and I will promise thee this, that I will not be against thee, and not yield help to thy foes.”
Asgrim thanked him, and Snorri the Priest asked, “Who is that man before whom four go, pale-faced, and sharp-featured, and who shows his front teeth, and has his axe aloft on his shoulder.”
“My name is Hedinn,” he says, “but some men call me Skarphedinn by my full name; but what more hast thou to say to me.”
“This,” said Snorri the Priest, “that methinks thou art a well-knit, ready-handed man, but yet I guess that the best part of thy good fortune is past, and I ween thou hast now not long to live.”
“That is well,” says Skarphedinn, “for that is a debt we all have to pay, but still it were more needful to avenge thy father than to foretell my fate in this way.”
“Many have said that before,” says Snorri, “and I will not be angry at such words.”
After that they went out, and got no help there. Then they fared to the booths of the men of Skagafirth. There Hafr the Wealthy had his booth. The mother of Hafr was named Thoruna, she was a daughter of Asbjorn Baldpate of Myrka, the son of Hrosbjorn.
Asgrim and his band went into the booth, and Hafr sate in the midst of it, and was talking to a man.
Asgrim went up to him, and bailed him well; he took it kindly, and bade him sit down.
“This I would ask of thee,” said Asgrim, “that thou wouldst grant me and my sons-in-law help.
Hafr answered sharp and quick, and said he would have nothing to do with their troubles.
“But still I must ask who that pale-faced man is before whom four men go, so ill-looking, as though he had come out of the sea-crags.”
“Never mind, milksop that thou art!” said Skarphedinn, “who I am, for I will dare to go forward wherever thou standest before me, and little would I fear though such striplings were in my path. ‘Twere rather thy duty, too, to get back thy sister Swanlauga, whom Eydis Ironsword and his messmate Stediakoll took away out of thy house, but thou didst not dare to do aught against them.”
“Let us go out,” said Asgrim, “there is no hope of help here.”
Then they went out to the booths of men of Modruvale, and asked whether Gudmund the Powerful were in the booth, but they were told he was.
Then they went into the booth. There was a high seat in the midst of it, and there sate Gudmund the Powerful.
Asgrim went and stood before him, and hailed him.
Gudmund took his greeting well, and asked him to sit down.
“I will not sit,” said Asgrim, “but I wish to pray thee for help, for thou art a bold man and a mighty chief.”
“I will not be against thee,” said Gudmund, “but if I see fit to yield thee help, we may well talk of that afterwards,” and so he treated them well and kindly in every way.
Asgrim thanked him for his words, and Gudmund said, “There is one man in your band at whom I have gazed for a while, and he seems to me more terrible than most men that I have seen.”
“Which is he?” says Asgrim.
“Four go before him,” says Gudmund; “dark brown is his hair, and pale is his face; tall of growth and sturdy. So quick and shifty in his manliness that I would rather have his following than that of ten other men; but yet the man is unlucky-looking.”
“I know,” said Skarphedinn, “that thou speakest at me, but it does not go in the same way as to luck with me and thee. I have blame, indeed, from the slaying of Hauskuld, the Whiteness Priest, as is fair and right; but both Thorkel Foulmouth and Thorir Helgi’s son spread abroad bad stories about thee, and that has tried thy temper very much.”
Then they went out, and Skarphedinn said, “Whither shall we go now?”
“To the booths of the men of Lightwater,” said Asgrim.
There Thorkel Foulmouth had set up his booth.
Thorkel Foulmouth had been abroad and worked his way to fame in other lands. He had slain a robber east in Jemtland’s wood, and then he fared on east into Sweden, and was a messmate of Saurkvir the Churl, and they harried eastward ho; but to the east of Baltic side Thorkel had to fetch water for them one evening; then he met a wild man of the woods, and struggled against him long; but the end of it was that he slew the wild man. Thence he fared east into Adalsyssla, and there he slew a flying fire-drake. After that he fared back to Sweden, and thence to Norway, and so out to Iceland, and let these deeds of derring do be carved over his shut bed, and on the stool before his high seat. He fought, too, on Lightwater way with his brothers against Gudmund the Powerful, and the men of Lightwater won the day. He and Thorir Helgi’s son spread abroad bad stories about Gudmund. Thorkel said there was no man in Iceland with whom he would not fight in single combat, or yield an inch to, if need were. He was called Thorkel Foulmouth, because he spared no one with whom he had to do either in word or deed.
OF SKARPHEDINN AND THORKEL FOULMOUTH
Asgrim and his fellows went to Thorkel Foulmouth’s booth, and Asgrim said then to his companions, “This booth Thorkel Foulmouth owns, a great champion, and it were worth much to us to get his-help. We must here take heed in everything, for he is self-willed and bad tempered; and now I will beg thee, Skarphedinn, not to let thyself be led into our talk.”
Skarphedinn smiled at that. He was so clad, he had on a blue kirtle and grey breeks, and black shoes on his feet, coming high up his leg; he had a silver belt about him, and that same axe in his hand with which he slew Thrain, and which he called the “ogress of war,” a round buckler, and a silken band round his brow, and his hair brushed back behind his ears. He was the most soldier-like of men, and by that all men knew him. He went in his appointed place, and neither before nor behind.
Now they went into the booth and into its inner chamber. Thorkel sate in the middle of the cross-bench, and his men away from him on all sides. Asgrim hailed him, and Thorkel took the greeting well, and Asgrim said to him, “For this have we come hither, to ask help of thee, and that thou wouldst come to the Court with us.”
“What need can ye have of my help,” said Thorkel, “when ye have already gone to Gudmund; he must surely have promised thee his help?”
“We could not get his help,” says Asgrim.
“Then Gudmund thought the suit likely to make him foes,” said Thorkel; “and so no doubt it will be, for such deeds are the worst that have ever been done; nor do I know what can have driven you to come hither to me, and to think that I should be easier to undertake your suit than Gudmund, or that I would back a wrongful quarrel.”
Then Asgrim held his peace, and thought it would be hard work to win him over.
Then Thorkel went on and said, “Who is that big and ugly fellow, before whom four men go, pale-faced and sharp featured, and unlucky-looking, and cross-grained?”
“My name is Skarphedinn,” said Skarphedinn, “and thou hast no right to pick me out, a guiltless man, for thy railing. It never has befallen me to make my father bow down before me, or to have fought against him, as thou didst with thy father. Thou hast ridden little to the Althing, or toiled in quarrels at it, and no doubt it is handier for thee to mind thy milking pails at home than to be here at Axewater in idleness. But stay, it were as well if thou pickedst out from thy teeth that steak of mare’s rump which thou atest ere thou rodest to the Thing while thy shepherd looked on all the while, and wondered that thou couldst work such filthiness!”
Then Thorkel sprang up in mickle wrath, and clutched his short sword and said, “This sword I got in Sweden when I slew the greatest champion, but since then I have slain many a man with it, and as soon as ever I reach thee I will drive it through thee, and thou shalt take that for thy bitter words.”
Skarphedinn stood with his axe aloft, and smiled scornfully and said, “This axe I had in my hand when I leapt twelve ells across Markfleet and slew Thrain Sigfus’ son, and eight of them stood before me, and none of them could touch me. Never have I aimed weapon at man that I have not smitten him.”
And with that he tore himself from his brothers, and Kari his brother-in-law, and strode forward to Thorkel.
Then Skarphedinn said, “Now, Thorkel Foulmouth, do one of these two things: sheathe thy sword and sit thee down, or I drive the axe into thy head and cleave thee down to the chine.”
Then Thorkel sate him down and sheathed the sword, and such a thing never happened to him either before or since.
Then Asgrim and his band go out, and Skarphedinn said, “Whither shall we now go?”
“Home to our booths,” answered Asgrim.
“Then we fare back to our booths wearied of begging,” says Skarphedinn.
“In many places,” said Asgrim, “hast thou been rather sharp-tongued, but here now, in what Thorkel had a share methinks thou hast only treated him as is fitting,”
Then they went home to their booths, and told Njal, word for word, all that had been done.
“Things,” he said, “draw on to what must be.”
Now Gudmund the Powerful heard what has passed between Thorkel and Skarphedinn, and said, “Ye all know how things fared between us and the men of Lightwater, but I have never suffered such scorn and mocking at their hands as has befallen Thorkel from Skarphedinn, and this is just as it should be.”
Then he said to Einar of Thvera, his brother, “Thou shalt go with all my band, and stand by Njal’s sons when the courts go out to try suits; but if they need help next summer, then I myself will yield them help.”
Einar agreed to that, and sent and told Asgrim, and Asgrim said, “There is no man like Gudmund for nobleness of mind,” and then he told it to Njal.
OF THE PLEADING OF THE SUIT
The next day Asgrim, and Gizur the White, and Hjallti Skeggi’s son, and Einar of Thvera, met together. There, too, was Mord Valgard’s son; he had then let the suit fall from his hand, and given it over to the sons of Sigfus.
Then Asgrim spoke.
“Thee first I speak to about this matter, Gizur the White and thee Hjallti, and thee Einar, that I may tell you how the suit stands. It will be known to all of you that Mord took up the suit, but the truth of the matter is, that Mord was at Hauskuld’s slaying, and wounded him with that wound, for giving which no man was named. It seems to me, then, that this suit must come to naught by reason of a lawful flaw.”
“Then we will plead it at once,” says Hjallti.
“It is not good counsel,” said Thorhall Asgrim’s son, “that this should not be hidden until the courts are set.”
“How so?” asks Hjallti.
“If,” said Thorhall, “they knew now at once that the suit has been wrongly set on foot, then they may still save the suit by sending a man home from the Thing, and summoning the neighbours from home over again, and calling on them to ride to the Thing, and then the suit will be lawfully set on foot.”
“Thou art a wise man, Thorhall,” say they, “and we will take thy counsel.”
After that each man went to his booth.
The sons of Sigfus gave notice of their suits at the Hill of Laws, and asked in what Quarter Courts they lay, and in what house in the district the defendants dwelt. But on the Friday night the courts were to go out to try suits, and so the Thing was quiet up to that day.
Many sought to bring about an atonement between them, but Flosi was steadfast; but others were still more wordy, and things looked ill.
Now the time comes when the courts were to go out, on the Friday evening. Then the whole body of men at the Thing went to the courts. Flosi stood south at the court of the men of Rangriver, and his band with him. There with him was Hall of the Side, and Runolf of the Dale, Wolf Aurpriest’s son, and those other men who had promised Flosi help.
But north of the court of the men of Rangriver stood Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son, and Gizur the White, Hjallti Skeggi’s son, and Einar of Thvera. But Njal’s sons were at home at their booth, and Kari and Thorleif Crow, and Thorgeir Craggeir, and Thorgrim the Big. They sate all with their weapons, and their band looked safe from onslaught.
Njal had already prayed the judges to go into the court, and now the sons of Sigfus plead their suit. They took witness and bade Njal’s sons to listen to their oath; after that they took their oath, and then they declared their suit; then they brought forward witness of the notice, then they bade the neighbours on the inquest to take their seats, then they called on Njal’s sons to challenge the inquest.
Then up stood Thorhall Asgrim’s son, and took witness, and forbade the inquest by a protest to utter their finding; and his ground was, that he who had given notice of the suit was truly under the ban of the law, and was himself an outlaw.
“Of whom speakest thou this?” says Flosi.
“Mord Valgard’s son,” said Thorhall, “fared to Hauskuld’s slaying with Njal’s sons, and wounded him with that wound for which no man was named when witness was taken to the death-wounds; and ye can say nothing against this, and so the suit comes to naught.”
OF THE AWARD OF ATONEMENT BETWEEN FLOSI AND NJAL
Then Njal stood up and said, “This I pray, Hall of the Side, and Flosi, and all the sons of Sigfus, and all our men, too, that ye will not go away but listen to my words.”
They did so, and then he spoke thus: “It seems to me as though this suit were come to naught, and it is likely it should, for it hath sprung from an ill root. I will let you all know that I loved Hauskuld more than my own sons, and when I heard that he was slain, methought the sweetest light of my eyes was quenched, and I would rather have lost all my sons, and that he were alive. Now I ask thee, Hall of the Side, and thee Runolf of the Dale, and thee Hjallti Skeggi’s son, and thee Einar of Thvera, and thee Hafr the Wise, that I may be allowed to make an atonement for the slaying of Hauskuld on my son’s behalf; and I wish that those men who are best fitted to do so shall utter the award.”
Gizur, and Hafr, and Einar, spoke each on their own part, and prayed Flosi to take an atonement, and promised him their friendship in return.
Flosi answered them well in all things, but still did not give his word.
Then Hall of the Side said to Flosi, “Wilt thou now keep thy word, and grant me my boon which thou hast already promised me, when I put beyond sea Thorgrim, the son of Kettle the Fat, thy kinsman, when he had slain Halli the Red.”
“I will grant it thee, father-in-law,” said Flosi, “for that alone wilt thou ask which will make my honour greater than it erewhile was.”
“Then,” said Hall, “my wish is that thou shouldst be quickly atoned, and lettest good men and true make an award, and so buy the friendship of good and worthy men.”
“I will let you all know,” said Flosi, “that I will do according to the word of Hall, my father-in-law, and other of the worthiest men, that he and others of the best men on each side, lawfully named, shall make this award. Methinks Njal is worthy that I should grant him this.”
Njal thanked him and all of them, and others who were by thanked them too, and said that Flosi had behaved well.
Then Flosi said, “Now will I name my daysmen: First, I name Hall, my father-in-law; Auzur from Broadwater; Surt Asbjorn’s son of Kirkby; Modolf Kettle’s son,” — he dwelt then at Asar –“Hafr the Wise; and Runoff of the Dale; and it is scarce worth while to say that these are the fittest men out of all my company.”
Now he bade Njal to name his daysmen, and then Njal stood up, and said, “First of these I name, Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son; and Hjallti Skeggi’s son; Gizur the White; Einar of Thvera; Snorri the Priest; and Gudmund the Powerful.”
After that Njal and Flosi, and the sons of Sigfus shook hands, and Njal pledged his hand on behalf of all his sons, and of Kari, his son-in-law, that they would hold to what those twelve men doomed; and one might say that the whole body of men at the Thing was glad at that.
Then men were sent after Snorri and Gudmund, for they were in their booths.
Then it was given out that the judges in this award would sit in the Court of Laws, but all the others were to go away.
OF THE JUDGES
Then Snorri the Priest spoke thus, “Now are we here twelve judges to whom these suits are handed over, now I will beg you all that we may have no stumbling blocks in these suits, so that they may not be atoned.”
“Will ye,” said Gudmund, “award either the lesser or the greater outlawry? Shall they be banished from the district, or from the whole land?”
“Neither of them,” says Snorri, “for those banishments are often ill fulfilled, and men have been slain for that sake, and atonements broken, but I will award so great a money fine that no man shall have had a higher price here in the land than Hauskuld.”
They all spoke well of his words.
Then they talked over the matter, and could not agree which should first utter how great he thought the fine ought to be, and so the end of it was that they cast lots, and the lot fell on Snorri to utter it.
Then Snorri said, “I will not sit long over this, I will now tell you what my utterance is, I will let Hauskuld be atoned for with triple manfines, but that is six hundred in silver. Now ye shall change it, if ye think it too much or too little.”
They said that they would change it in nothing.
“This too shall be added,” he said, “that all the money shall be paid down here at the Thing.”
Then Gizur the White spoke and said, “Methinks that can hardly be, for they will not have enough money to pay their fines.”
“I know what Snorri wishes,” said Gudmund the Powerful, “he wants that all we daysmen should give such a sum as our bounty will bestow, and then many will do as we do.”
Hall of the Side thanked him, and said he would willingly give as much as any one else gave, and then all the other daysmen agreed to that.
After that they went away, and settled between them that Hall should utter the award at the Hill of Laws.
So the bell was rung, and all men went to the Hill of Laws, and Hall of the Side stood up and spoke, “In this suit, in which we have come to an award, we have been all well agreed, and we have awarded six hundred in silver, and half this sum we the daysmen will pay, but it must all be paid up here at the Thing. But it is my prayer to all the people that each man will give something for God’s sake.”
All answered well to that, and then Hall took witness to the award, that no one should be able to break it.
Njal thanked them for their award, but Skarphedinn stood by, and held his peace, and smiled scornfully.
Then men went from the Hill of Laws and to their booths, but the daysmen gathered together in the freemen’s churchyard the money which they had promised to give.
Njal’s sons handed over that money which they had by them, and Kari did the same, and that came to a hundred in silver.
Njal took out that money which he had with him, and that was another hundred in silver.
So this money was all brought before the Hill of Laws, and then men gave so much, that not a penny was wanting.
Then Njal took a silken scarf and a pair of boots and laid them on the top of the heap.
After that, Hall said to Njal, that he should go to fetch his sons, “But I will go for Flosi, and now each must give the other pledges of peace.”
Then Njal went home to his booth, and spoke to his sons and said, “Now are our suits come into a fair way of settlement, now are we men atoned, for all the money has been brought together in one place; and now either side is to go and grant the other peace and pledges of good faith. I will therefore ask you this, my sons, not to spoil these things in any way.”
Skarphedinn stroked his brow, and smiled scornfully. So they all go to the Court of Laws.
Hall went to meet Flosi and said, “Go thou now to the Court of Laws, for now all the money has been bravely paid down, and it has been brought together in one place.”
Then Flosi bade the sons of Sigfus to go up with him, and they all went out of their booths. They came from the east, but Njal went from the west to the Court of Laws, and his sons with him.
Skarphedinn went to the middle bench and stood there.
Flosi went into the Court of Laws to look closely at the money, and said, “This money is both great and good, and well paid down, as was to be looked for.”
After that he took up the scarf, and waved it, and asked, “Who may have given this?”
But no man answered him.
A second time he waved the scarf, and asked, “Who may have given this?” and laughed, but no man answered him.
Then Flosi said, “How is it that none of you knows who has owned this gear, or is it that none dares to tell me?”
“Who?” said Skarphedinn, “dost thou think, has given it?”
“If thou must know,” said Flosi, “then I will tell thee; I think that thy father the `Beardless Carle’ must have given it, for many know not who look at him whether he is more a man than a woman.”
“Such words are ill-spoken,” said Skarphedinn, “to make game of him, an old man, and no man of any worth has ever done so before. Ye may know, too, that he is a man, for he has had sons by his wife, and few of our kinsfolk have fallen unatoned by our house, so that we have not had vengeance for them.”
Then Skarphedinn took to himself the silken scarf, but threw a pair of blue breeks to Flosi, and said he would need them more.
“Why,” said Flosi, “should I need these more?”
“Because,” said Skarphedinn, “thou art the sweetheart of the Swinefell’s goblin, if, as men say, he does indeed turn thee into a woman every ninth night.”
Then Flosi spurned the money, and said he would not touch a penny of it, and then he said he would only have one of two things: either that Hauskuld should fall unatoned, or they would have vengeance for him.
Then Flosi would neither give nor take peace, and he said to the sons of Sigfus, “Go we now home; one fate shall befall us all.”
Then they went home to their booth, and Hall said, “Here most unlucky men have a share in this suit.”
Njal and his sons went home to their booth, and Njal said, “Now comes to pass what my heart told me long ago, that this suit would fall heavy on us.”
“Not so,” says Skarphedinn; “they can never pursue us by the laws of the land.”
“Then that will happen,” says Njal, “which will be worse for all of us.”
Those men who had given the money spoke about it, and said that they should take it back; but Gudmund the Powerful said, “That shame I will never choose for myself, to take back what I have given away, either here or elsewhere.”
“That is well spoken,” they said; and then no one would take it back.
Then Snorri the Priest said, “My counsel is, that Gizur the White and Hjallti Skeggi’s son keep the money till the next Althing; my heart tells me that no long time will pass ere there may be need to touch this money.”
Hjallti took half the money and kept it safe, but Gizur took the rest.
Then men went home to their booths.
AN ATTACK PLANNED ON NJAL AND HIS SONS
Flosi summoned all his men up to the “Great Rift,” and went thither himself.
So when all his men were come, there were one hundred and twenty of them.
Then Flosi spake thus to the sons of Sigfus, “In what way shall I stand by you in this quarrel, which will be most to your minds?”
“Nothing will please us,” said Gunnar Lambi’s son, “until those brothers, Njal’s sons, are all slain.”
“This,” said Flosi, “will I promise to you, ye sons of Sigfus, not to part from this quarrel before one of us bites the dust before the other. I will also know whether there be any man here who will not stand by us in this quarrel.”
But they all said they would stand by him.
Then Flosi said, “Come now all to me, and swear an oath that no man will shrink from this quarrel.”
Then all went up to Flosi and swore oaths to him; and then Flosi said, “We will all of us shake hands on this, that he shall have forfeited life and land who quits this quarrel ere it be over.”
These were the chiefs who were with Flosi: — Kol the son of Thorstein Broadpaunch, the brother’s son of Hall of the Side, Hroald Auzur’s son from Broadwater, Auzur son of Aunund Wallet-back, Thorstein the Fair, the son of Gerleif, Glum Hildir’s son, Modolf Kettle’s son, Thorir the son of Thord Illugi’s son of Mauratongue, Kolbein and Egil Flosi’s kinsmen, Kettle Sigfus’ son, and Mord his brother, Ingialld of the Springs, Thorkel and Lambi, Grani Gunnar’s son, Gunnar Lambi’s son, and Sigmund Sigfus’ son, and Hroar from Hromundstede.
Then Flosi said to the sons of Sigfus, “Choose ye now a leader, whomsoever ye think best fitted; for some one man must needs be chief over the quarrel”
Then Kettle of the Mark answered, “If the choice is to be left with us brothers, then we will soon choose that this duty should fall on thee; there are many things which lead to this. Thou art a man of great birth, and a mighty chief, stout of heart, and strong of body, and wise withal, and so we think it best that thou shouldst see to all that is needful in the quarrel.”
“It is most fitting,” said Flosi, “that I should agree to undertake this as your prayer asks; and now I will lay down the course which we shall follow, and my counsel is, that each man ride home from the Thing, and look after his household during the summer, so long as men’s haymaking lasts. I, too, will ride home, and be at home this summer; but when that Lord’s day comes on which winter is eight weeks off, then I will let them sing me a mass at home, and afterwards ride west across Loomnips Sand; each of our men shall have two horses. I will not swell our company beyond those which have now taken the oath, for we have enough and to spare if all keep true tryst. I will ride all the Lord’s day and the night as well, but at even on the second day of the week, I shall ride up to Threecorner ridge about mid-even. There shall ye then be all come who have sworn an oath in this matter. But if there be any one who has not come, and who has joined us in this quarrel, then that man shall lose nothing save his life, if we may have our way.”
“How does that hang together,” said Kettle, “that thou canst ride from home on the Lord’s day, and come the second day of the week to Threecorner ridge?”
“I will ride,” said Flosi “up from Skaptartongue, and north of the Eyjafell Jokul, and so down into Godaland, and it may be done if I ride fast. And now I will tell you my whole purpose, that when we meet there all together, we shall ride to Bergthorsknoll with all our band, and fall on Njal’s sons with fire and sword, and not turn away before they are all dead. Ye shall hide this plan, for our lives lie on it. And now we will take to our horses and ride home.”
Then they all went to their booths.
After that Flosi made them saddle his horses, and they waited for no man, and rode home.
Flosi would not stay to meet Hall his father-in-law, for he knew of a surety that Hall would set his face against all strong deeds.
Njal rode home from the Thing and his sons. They were at home that summcr. Njal asked Kari his son-in-law whether he thought at all of riding east to Dyrholms to his own house.
“I will not ride east,” answered Kari, “for one fate shall befall me and thy sons.
Njal thanked him, and said that was only what was likely from him. There were nearly thirty fighting men in Njal’s house, reckoning the house-carles.
One day it happened that Rodny Hauskuld’s daughter, the mother of Hauskuld Njal’s son, came to the Springs. Her brother Ingialld greeted her well, but she would not take his greeting, but yet bade him go out with her. Ingialld did so, and went out with her; and so they walked away from the farm-yard both together. Then she clutched hold of him and they both sat down, and Rodny said, “Is it true that thou hast sworn an oath to fall on Njal, and slay him and his sons?”
“True it is,” said he.
“A very great dastard art thou,” she says, “thou, whom Njal hath thrice saved from outlawry.”
“Still it hath come to this,” says Ingialld, “that my life lies on it if I do not this?”
“Not so,” says she, “thou shalt live all the same, and be called a better man, if thou betrayest not him to whom thou oughtest to behave best.”
Then she took a linen hood out of her bag, it was clotted with blood all over, and torn and tattered, and said, “This hood, Hauskuld Njal’s son, and thy sister’s son, had on his head when they slew him; methinks, then, it is ill doing to stand by those from whom this mischief sprang.”
“Well!” answers Ingialld, “so it shall be that I will not be against Njal whatever follows after, but still I know that they will turn and throw trouble on me.”
“Now mightest thou,” said Rodny, “yield Njal and his sons great help, if thou tellest him all these plans.”
“That I will not do,” says Ingialld, “for then I am every man’s dastard if I tell what was trusted to me in good faith; but it is a manly deed to sunder myself from this quarrel when I know that there is a sure looking for of vengeance but tell Njal and his sons to be ware of themselves all this summer, for that will be good counsel, and to keep many men about them.”
Then she fared to Bergthoknoll, and told Njal all this talk; and Njal thanked her, and said she had done well, “For there would be more wickedness in his falling on me than of all men else.”
She fared home, but he told this to his sons.
There was a carline at Bergthorsknoll, whose name was Saevuna. She was wise in many things, and foresighted; but she was then very old, and Njal’s sons called her an old dotard, when she talked so much, but still some things which she said came to pass. It fell one day that she took a cudgel in her hand, and went up above the house to a stack of vetches. She beat the stack of vetches with her cudgel, and wished it might never thrive, “Wretch that it was!”
Skarphedinn laughed at her, and asked why she was so angry with the vetch stack.
“This stack of vetches,” said the carline, “will be taken and lighted with fire when Njal my master is burnt, house and all, and Bergthorn my foster-child. Take it away to the water, or burn it up as quick as you can.”
“We will not do that,” says Skarphedinn, “for something else will be got to light a fire with, if that were foredoomed, though this stack were not here.”
The carline babbled the whole summer about the vetchstack that it should be got indoors, but something always hindered it.
At Reykium on Skeid dwelt one Runolf Thorstein’s son. His son’s name was Hildiglum. He went out on the night of the Lord’s day, when nine weeks were still to winter; he heard a great crash, so that he thought both heaven and earth shook. Then he looked into the west “airt,” and he thought he saw thereabouts a ring of fiery hue, and within the ring a man on a grey horse. He passed quickly by him, and rode hard. He had a flaming firebrand in his hand, and he rode so close to him that he could see him plainly. He was as black as pitch, and he sung this song with a mighty voice:
“Here I ride swift steed,
His Bank flecked with rime,
Rain from his mane drips,
Horse mighty for harm;
Flames flare at each end,
Gall glows in the midst,
So fares it with Flosi’s redes
As this flaming brand flies;
And so fares it with Flosi’s redes
As this flaming brand flies.”
Then he thought he hurled the firebrand east towards the fells before him, and such a blaze of fire leapt up to meet it that he could not see the fells for the blaze. It seemed as though that man rode east among the flames and vanished there.
After that he went to his bed, and was senseless a long time, but at last he came to himself. He bore in mind all that had happened, and told his father, but he bade him tell it to Hjallti Skeggi’s son. So he went and told Hjallti, but he said he had seen “`the Wolf’s ride,’ and that comes ever before great tidings.”
FLOSI’S JOURNEY FROM HOME
Flosi busked him from the east when two months were still to winter, and summoned to him all his men who had promised him help and company. Each of them had two horses and good weapons, and they all came to Swinefell, and were there that night.
Flosi made them say prayers betimes on the Lord’s day, and afterwards they sate down to meat. He spoke to his household, and told them what work each was to do while he was away. After that he went to his horses.
Flosi and his men rode first west on the Sand. Flosi bade them not to ride too hard at first; but said they would do well enough at that pace, and he bade all to wait for the others if any of them had need to stop. They rode west to Woodcombe, and came to Kirkby. Flosi there bade all men to come into the church, and pray to God, and men did so.
After that they mounted their horses, and rode on the fell, and so to Fishwaters, and rode a little to the west of the lakes, and so struck down west on to the Sand. Then they left Eyjafell Jokul on their left hand, and so came down into Godaland, and so on to Markfleet, and came about nones on the second day of the week to Threecorner ridge, and waited till mid-even. Then all had came thither save Ingialld of the Springs.
The sons of Sigfus spoke much ill of him, but Flosi bade them not blame Ingialld when he was not by, “But we will pay him for this hereafter.”
OF PORTENTS AT BERGTHORSKNOLL
Now we must take up the story, and turn to Bergthorsknoll, and say that Grim and Helgi go to Holar. They had children out at foster there, and they told their mother that they should not come home that evening. They were in Holar all the day, and there came some poor women and said they had come from far. Those brothers asked them for tidings, and they said they had no tidings to tell, “But still we might tell you one bit of news.”
They asked what that might be, and bade them not hide it. They said so it should be.
“We came down out of Fleetlithe, and we saw all the sons of Sigfus riding fully armed — they made for Threecorner ridge, and were fifteen in company. We saw too Grani Gunnar’s son and Gunnar Lambi’s son, and they were five in all. They took the same road, and one may say now that the whole country-side is faring and flitting about.”
“Then,” said Helgi Njal’s son, “Flosi must have come from the east, and they must have all gone to meet him, and we two, Grim, should be where Skarphedinn is.”
Grim said so it ought to be, and they fared home.
That same evening Bergthora spoke to her household, and said, “Now shall ye choose your meat to-night, so that each may have what he likes best; for this evening is the last that I shall set meat before my household.”
“That shall not be,” they said.
“It will be though,” she says, “and I could tell you much more if I would, but this shall be a token, that Grim and Helgi will be home ere men have eaten their full to-night; and if this turns out so, then the rest that I say will happen too.”
After that she set meat on the board, and Njal said “Wondrously now it seems to me. Methinks I see all round the room, and it seems as though the gable wall were thrown down, but the whole board and the meat on it is one gore of blood.”
All thought this strange but Skarphedinn, he bade men not be downcast, nor to utter other unseemly sounds, so that men might make a story out of them.
“For it befits us surely more than other men to bear us well, and it is only what is looked for from us.”
Grim and Helgi came home ere the board was cleared, and men were much struck at that. Njal asked why they had returned so quickly but they told what they had heard.
Njal bade no man go to sleep, but to be ware of themselves.
THE ONSLAUGHT ON BERGTHORSKNOLL
Now Flosi speaks to his men, “Now we will ride to Bergthorsknoll, and come thither before supper-time.”
They do so. There was a dell in the knoll, and they rode thither, and tethered their horses there, and stayed there till the evening was far spent.
Then Flosi said, “Now we will go straight up to the house, and keep close, and walk slow, and see what counsel they will take.”
Njal stood out of doors, and his sons, and Kari and all the serving-men, and they stood in array to meet them in the yard, and they were near thirty of them.
Flosi halted and said, “Now we shall see what counsel they take, for it seems to me, if they stand out of doors to meet us, as though we should never get the mastery over them.”
“Then is our journey bad,” says Grani Gunnar’s son, “if we are not to dare to fall on them.”
“Nor shall that be,” says Flosi; “for we will fall on them though they stand out of doors; but we shall pay that penalty, that many will not go away to tell which side won the day.”
Njal said to his men, “See ye now what a great band of men they have.”
“They have both a great and well-knit band,” says Skarphedinn; “but this is why they make a halt now, because they think it will be a hard struggle to master us.”
“That cannot be why they halt,” says Njal; “and my will is that our men go indoors, for they had hard work to master Gunnar of Lithend, though he was alone to meet them; but here is a strong house as there was there, and they will be slow to come to close quarters.”
“This is not to be settled in that wise,” says Skarphedinn, “for those chiefs fell on Gunnar’s house, who were so nobleminded, that they would rather turn back than burn him, house and all; but these will fall on us at once with fire, if they cannot get at us in any other way, for they will leave no stone unturned to get the better of us; and no doubt they think, as is not unlikely, that it will be their deaths if we escape out of their hands. Besides, I am unwilling to let myself be stifled indoors like a fox in his earth.”
“Now,” said Njal, “as often it happens, my sons, ye set my counsel at naught, and show me no honour, but when ye were younger ye did not so, and then your plans were better furthered.”
“Let us do,” said Helgi, “as our father wills; that will be best for us.”
“I am not so sure of that,” says Skarphedinn, “for now he is `fey’; but still I may well humour my father in this, by being burnt indoors along with him, for I am not afraid of my death.”
Then he said to Kari, “Let us stand by one another well, brother-in-law, so that neither parts from the other.”
“That I have made up my mind to do,” says Kari; “but if it should be otherwise doomed, — well! then it must be as it must be, and I shall not be able to fight against it.”
“Avenge us, and we will avenge thee,” says Skarphedinn, “if we live after thee.”
Kari said so it should be.
Then they all went in, and stood in array at the door.
“Now are they all `fey,'” said Flosi, “since they have gone indoors, and we will go right up to them as quickly as we can, and throng as close as we can before the door, and give heed that none of them, neither Kari nor Njal’s sons, get away; for that were our bane.”
So Flosi and his men came up to the house, and set men to watch round the house, if there were any secret doors in it. But Flosi went up to the front of the house with his men.
Then Hroald Auzur’s son ran up to where Skarphedinn stood, and thrust at him. Skarphedinn hewed the spearhead off the shaft as he held it, and made another stroke at him, and the axe fell on the top of the shield, and dashed back the whole shield on Hroald’s body, but the upper horn of the axe caught him on the brow, and he fell at full length on his back, and was dead at once.
“Little chance had that one with thee, Skarphedinn,” said Kari, “and thou art our boldest.”
“I’m not so sure of that,” says Skarphedinn, and he drew up his lips and smiled.
Kari, and Grim, and Helgi, threw out many spears, and wounded many men; but Flosi and his men could do nothing.
At last Flosi said, “We have already gotten great manscathe in our men; many are wounded, and he slain whom we would choose last of all. It is now clear that we shall never master them with weapons; many now there be who are not so forward in fight as they boasted, and yet they were those who goaded us on most. I say this most to Grani Gunnar’s son, and Gunnar Lambi’s son, who were the least willing to spare their foes. But still we shall have to take to some other plan for ourselves, and now there are but two choices left, and neither of them good. One is to turn away, and that is our death; the other, to set fire to the house, and burn them inside it; and that is a deed which we shall have to answer for heavily before God, since we are Christian men ourselves; but still we must take to that counsel.”
Now they took fire, and made a great pile before the doors. Then Skarphedinn said, “What, lads! are ye lighting a fire, or are ye taking to cooking?”
“So it shall be,” answered Grani Gunnar’s son; “and thou shalt not need to be better done.”
“Thou repayest me,” said Skarphedinn, “as one may look for from the man that thou art. I avenged thy father, and thou settest most store by that duty which is farthest from thee.”
Then the women threw whey on the fire, and quenched it as fast as they lit it. Some, too, brought water, or slops.
Then Kol Thorstein’s son said to Flosi, “A plan comes into my mind; I have seen a loft over the hall among the crosstrees, and we will put the fire in there, and light it with the vetch-stack that stands just above the house.”
Then they took the vetch-stack and set fire to it, and they who were inside were not aware of it till the whole hall was a-blaze over their heads.
Then Flosi and his men made a great pile before each of the doors, and then the women folk who were inside began to weep and to wail.
Njal spoke to them and said, “Keep up your hearts, nor utter shrieks, for this is but a passing storm, and it will be long before ye have another such; and put your faith in God, and believe that he is so merciful that he will not let us burn both in this world and the next.”
Such words of comfort had he for them all, and others still more strong.
Now the whole house began to blaze. Then Njal went to the door and said, “Is Flosi so near that he can hear my voice.”
Flosi said that he could hear it.
“Wilt thou,” said Njal, “take an atonement from my sons, or allow any men to go out.”
“I will not,” answers Flosi, “take any atonement from thy sons, and now our dealings shall come to an end once for all, and I will not stir from this spot till they are all dead; but I will allow the women and children and house-carles to go out.”
Then Njal went into the house, and said to the fold, “Now all those must go out to whom leave is given, and so go thou out Thorhalla Asgrim’s daughter, and all the people also with thee who may.”
Then Thorhalla said, “This is another parting between me and Helgi than I thought of a while ago; but still I will egg on my father and brothers to avenge this manscathe which is wrought here.”
“Go, and good go with thee,” said Njal, “for thou art a brave woman.”
After that she went out and much folk with her.
Then Astrid of Deepback said to Helgi Njal’s son, “Come thou out with me, and I will throw a woman’s cloak over thee, and tie thy head with a kerchief.”
He spoke against it at first, but at last he did so at the prayer of others.
So Astrid wrapped the kerchief round Helgi’s head, but Thorhilda, Skarphedinn’s wife, threw the cloak over him, and he went out between them, and then Thorgerda Njal’s daughter, and Helga her sister, and many other folk went out too.
But when Helgi came out Flosi said, “That is a tall woman and broad across the shoulders that went yonder, take her and hold her.”
But when Helgi heard that, he cast away the cloak. He had got his sword under his arm, and hewed at a man, and the blow fell on his shield and cut off the point of it, and the man’s leg as well. Then Flosi came up and hewed at Helgi’s neck, and took off his head at a stroke.
Then Flosi went to the door and called out to Njal, and said he would speak with him and Bergthora.
Now Njal does so, and Flosi said, “I will offer thee, master Njal, leave to go out, for it is unworthy that thou shouldst burn indoors.”
“I will not go out,” said Njal, “for I am an old man, and little fitted to avenge my sons, but I will not live in shame.”
Then Flosi said to Bergthora, “Come thou out, housewife, for I will for no sake burn thee indoors.”
“I was given away to Njal young,” said Bergthora, “and I have promised him this, that we would both share the same fate.”
After that they both went back into the house.
“What counsel shall we now take,” said Bergthora.
“We will go to our bed,” says Njal, “and lay us down; I have long been eager for rest.”
Then she said to the boy Thord, Kari’s son, “Thee will I take out, and thou shalt not burn in here.”
“Thou hast promised me this, grandmother,” says the boy, “that we should never part so long as I wished to be with thee; but methinks it is much better to die with thee and Njal than to live after you.”
Then she bore the boy to her bed, and Njal spoke to his steward and said, “Now thou shalt see where we lay us down, and how I lay us out, for I mean not to stir an inch hence, whether reek or burning smart me, and so thou wilt be able to guess where to look for our bones,”
He said he would do so.
There had been an ox slaughtered and the hide lay there. Njal told the steward to spread the hide over them, and he did so.
So there they lay down both of them in their bed, and put the boy between them. Then they signed themselves and the boy with the cross, and gave over their souls into God’s hand, and that was the last word that men heard them utter.
Then the steward took the hide and spread it over them, and went out afterwards. Kettle of the Mark caught hold of him, and dragged him out, he asked carefully after his father-in-law Njal, but the steward told him the whole truth. Then Kettle said, “Great grief hath been sent on us, when we have had to share such ill-luck together.”
Skarphedinn saw how his father laid him down, and how he laid himself out, and then he said, “Our father goes early to bed, and that is what was to be looked for, for he is an old man.”
Then Skarphedinn, and Kari, and Grim, caught the brands as fast as they dropped down, and hurled them out at them, and so it went on awhile. Then they hurled spears in at them, but they caught them all as they flew, and sent them back again.
Then Flosi bade them cease shooting, “for all feats of arms will go hard with us when we deal with them; ye may well wait till the fire overcomes them.”
So they do that, and shoot no more.
Then the great beams out of the roof began to fall, and Skarphedinn said, “Now must my father be dead, and I have neither heard groan nor cough from him.”
Then they went to the end of the hall, and there had fallen down a cross-beam inside which was much burnt in the middle.
Kari spoke to Skarphedinn, and said, “Leap thou out here, and I will help thee to do so, and I will leap out after thee, and then we shall both get away if we set about it so, for hitherward blows all the smoke.”
“Thou shalt leap first,” said Skarphedinn; “but I will leap straightway on thy heels.”
“That is not wise,” says Kari, “for I can get out well enough elsewhere, though it does not come about here.”
“I will not do that,” says Skarphedinn; “leap thou out first, but I will leap after thee at once.”
“It is bidden to every man,” says Kari, “to seek to save his life while he has a choice, and I will do so now; but still this parting of ours will be in such wise that we shall never see one another more; for if I leap out of the fire, I shall have no mind to leap back into the fire to thee, and then each of us will have to fare his own way.”
“It joys me, brother-in-law,” says Skarphedinn, “to think that if thou gettest away thou wilt avenge me.”
Then Kari took up a blazing bench in his hand, and runs up along the cross-beam, then he hurls the bench out at the roof, and it fell among those who were outside.
Then they ran away, and by that time all Kari’s upper clothing and his hair were a-b1aze, then he threw himself down from the roof, and so crept along with the smoke.
Then one man said who was nearest, “Was that a man that leapt out at the roof?”
“Far from it,” says another; “more likely it was Skarphedinn who hurled a firebrand at us.”
After that they had no more mistrust.
Kari ran till he came to a stream, and then he threw himself down into it, and so quenched the fire on him.
After that he ran along under shelter of the smoke into a hollow, and rested him there, and that has since been called Kari’s Hollow.
Now it is to be told of Skarphedinn that he runs out on the cross-beam straight after Kari, but when he came to where the beam was most burnt, then it broke down under him. Skarphedinn came down on his feet, and tried again the second time, and climbs up the wall with a run, then down on him came the wall-plate, and he toppled down again inside.
Then Skarphedinn said, “Now one can see what will come;” and then he went along the side wall. Gunnar Lambi’s son leapt up on the wall and sees Skarphedinn, he spoke thus, “Weepest thou now, Skarphedinn?”
“Not so,” says Skarphedinn; “but true it is that the smoke makes one’s eyes smart, but is it as it seems to me, dost thou laugh?”
“So it is surely,” says Gunnar, “and I have never laughed since thou slewest Thrain on Markfleet.”
Then Skarphedinn said, “Here now is a keepsake for thee;” and with that he took out of his purse the jaw-tooth which he had hewn out of Thrain, and threw it at Gunnar, and struck him in the eye, so that it started out and lay on his cheek.
Then Gunnar fell down from the roof.
Skarphedinn then went to his brother Grim, and they held one another by the hand and trode the fire; but when they came to the middle of the hall Grim fell down dead.
Then Skarphedinn went to the end of the house, and then there was a great crash, and down fell the roof. Skarphedinn was then shut in between it and the gable, and so he could not stir a step thence.
Flosi and his band stayed by the fire until it was broad daylight; then came a man riding up to them. Flosi asked him for his name, but he said his name was Geirmund, and that he was a kinsman of the sons of Sigfus.
“Ye have done a mighty deed,” he says.
“Men,” said Flosi, “will call it both a mighty deed and an ill deed, but that can’t be helped now.”
“How many men have lost their lives here?” asks Geirmund.
“Here have died,” says Flosi, “Njal and Bergthora and all their sons, Thord Kari’s son, Kari Solmund’s son, but besides these we cannot say for a surety, because we know not their names.”
“Thou tellest him now dead,” said Geirmund, “with whom we have gossiped this morning.”
“Who is that?” says Flosi.
“We two,” says Geirmund, “I and my neighbour Skald, met Kari Solmund’s son, and Skald gave him his horse, and his hair and his upper clothes were burned off him!”
“Had he any weapons?” asks Flosi.
“He had the sword `Life-luller,'” says Geirmund, “and one edge of it was blue with fire, and Skald and I said that it must have become soft, but he answered thus, that he would harden it in the blood of the sons of Sigfus or the other Burners.”
“What said he of Skarphedinn?” said Flosi.
“He said both he and Grim were alive,” answers Geirmund, “when they parted; but he said that now they must be dead.”
“Thou hast told us a tale,” said Flosi, “which bodes us no idle peace, for that man hath now got away who comes next to Gunnar of Lithend in all things; and now, ye sons of Sigfus, and ye other burners, know this, that such a great blood feud, and hue and cry will be made about this burning, that it will make many a man headless, but some will lose all their goods. Now I doubt much whether any man of you, ye sons of Sigfus, will dare to stay in his house; and that is not to be wondered at; and so I will bid you all to come and stay with me in the east, and let us all share one fate.”
They thanked him for his offer, and said they would be glad to take it.
Then Modolf Kettle’s son, sang a song:
“But one prop of Njal’s house liveth,
All the rest inside are burnt,
All but one — those bounteous spenders,
Sigfus’ stalwart sons wrought this;
Son of Gollnir now is glutted
Vengeance for brave Hauskuld’s death,
Brisk flew fire through thy dwelling,
Bright flames blazed above thy roof.”
“We shall have to boast of something else than that Njal has been burnt in his house,” says Flosi, “for there is no glory in that.”
Then he went up on the gable, and Glum Hilldir’s son, and some other men. Then Glum said, “Is Skarphedinn dead, indeed?” But the others said he must have been dead long ago.
The fire sometimes blazed up fitfully and sometimes burned low, and then they heard down in the fire beneath them that this song was sung:
“Deep, I ween, ye Ogre offspring
Devilish brood of giant birth,
Would ye groan with gloomy visage
Had the fight gone to my mind;
But my very soul it gladdens
That my friends I who now boast high,
Wrought not this foul deed, their glory,
Save with footsteps filled with gore.”
“Can Skarphedinn, think ye, have sung this song dead or alive?” said Grani Gunnar’s son.
“I will go into no guesses about that,” says Flosi.
“We will look for Skarphedinn,” says Grani, “and the other men who have been here burnt inside the house.”
“That shall not be,” says Flosi, “it is just like such foolish men as thou art, now that men will be gathering force all over the country; and when they do come, I trow the very same man who now lingers will be so scared that he will not know which way to run; and now my counsel is that we all ride away as quickly as ever we can.”
Then Flosi went hastily to his horse and all his men.
Then Flosi said to Geirmund, “Is Ingialld, thinkest thou, at home at the Springs?”
Geirmund said he thought he must be at home.
“There now is a man,” says Flosi, “who has broken his oath with us and all good faith.”
Then Flosi said to the sons of Sigfus, “What course will ye now take with Ingialld; will ye forgive him, or shall we now fall on him and slay him?”
They all answered that they would rather fall on him and slay him.
Then Flosi jumped on his horse, and all the others, and they rode away. Flosi rode first, and shaped his course for Rangriver, and up along the river bank.
Then he saw a man riding down on the other bank of the river and he knew that there was Ingialld of the Springs. Flosi calls out to him. Ingialld halted and turned down to the river bank; and Flosi said to him, “Thou hast broken faith with us, and hast forfeited life and goods. Here now are the sons of Sigfus, who are eager to slay thee; but methinks thou hast fallen into a strait, and I will give thee thy life if thou will hand over to me the right to make my own award.”
“I will sooner ride to meet Kari,” said Ingialld, “than grant thee the right to utter thine own award, and my answer to the sons of Sigfus is this, that I shall be no whit more afraid of them than they are of me.”
“Bide thou there,” says Flosi, “if thou art not a coward, for I will send thee a gift.”
“I will bide of a surety,” says Ingialld.
Thorstein Kolbein’s son, Flosi’s brother’s son, rode up by his side and had a spear in his hand, he was one of the bravest of men, and the most worthy of those who were with Flosi.
Flosi snatched the spear from him, and launched it at Ingialld, and it fell on his left side, and passed through the shield just below the handle, and clove it all asunder, but the spear passed on into his thigh just above the knee-pan, and so on into the saddle-tree, and there stood fast.
Then Flosi said to Ingialld, “Did it touch thee?
“It touched me sure enough,” says Ingialld, “but I call this a scratch and not a wound.”
Then Ingialld plucked the spear out of the wound, and said to Flosi, “Now bide thou, if thou art not a milksop.”
Then he launched the spear back over the river. Flosi sees that the spear is coming straight for his middle, and then he backs his horse out of the way, but the spear flew in front of Flosi’s horse, and missed him, but it struck Thorstein’s middle, and down he fell at once dead off his horse.
Now Ingialld runs for the wood, and they could not get at him.
Then Flosi said to his men, “Now have we gotten manscathe, and now we may know, when such things befall us, into what a luckless state we have got. Now it is my counsel that we ride up to Threecorner Ridge; thence we shall be able to see where men ride all over the country, for by this time they will have gathered together a great band, and they will think that we have ridden east to Fleetlithe from Threecorner Ridge; and thence they will think that we are riding north up on the fell, and so east to our own country, and thither the greater part of the folk will ride after us; but some will ride the coast road east to Selialandsmull, and yet they will think there is less hope of finding us thitherward, but I will now take counsel for all of us, and my plan is to ride up into Threecorner-fell, and bide there till three suns have risen and set in heaven.”
OF KARI SOLMUND’S SON
Now it is to be told of Kari Solmund’s son that he fared away from that hollow in which he had rested himself until he met Skald, and those words passed between them which Geirmund had told.
Thence Kari rode to Mord, and told him the tidings, and he was greatly grieved.
Kari said there were other things more befitting a man than to weep for them dead, and bade him rather gather folk and come to Holtford.
After that he rode into Thurso-dale to Hjallti Skeggi’s son, and as he went along Thurso water, he sees a man riding fast behind him. Kari waited for the man, and knows that he was Ingialld of the Springs. He sees that he is very bloody about the thigh; and Kari asked Ingialld who had wounded him, and he told him.
“Where met ye two?” says Kari.
“By Rangwater side,” says Ingialld, “and he threw a spear over at me.”
“Didst thou aught for it?” asks Kari.
“I threw the spear back,” says Ingialld, “and they said that it met a man, and he was dead at once.”
“Knowest thou not,” said Kari, “who the man was?”
“Methought he was like Thorstein Flosi’s brother’s son,” says Ingialld.
“Good luck go with thy hand,” says Kari.
After that they rode both together to see Hjallti Skeggi’s son, and told him the tidings. He took these deeds ill, and said there was the greatest need to ride after them and slay them all.
After that he gathered men and roused the whole country; now he and Kari and Ingialld ride with this band to meet Mord Valgard’s son, and they found him at Holtford, and Mord was there waiting for them with a very great company. Then they parted the hue and cry; some fared the straight road by the east coast to Selialandsmull, but some went up to Fleetlithe, and other-some the higher road thence to Threecorner Ridge, and so down into Godaland. Thence they rode north to Sand. Some too rode as far as Fishwaters, and there turned back. Some the coast road east to Holt, and told Thorgeir the tidings, and asked whether they had not ridden by there.
“This is how it is,” said Thorgeir, “though I am not a mighty chief, yet Flosi would take other counsel than to ride under my eyes, when he has slain Njal, my father’s brother, and my cousins; and there is nothing left for any of you but e’en to turn back again, for ye should have hunted longer nearer home; but tell this to Kari, that he must ride hither to me and be here with me if he will; but though he will not come hither east, still I will look after his farm at Dyrholms if he will, but tell him too that I will stand by him and ride with him to the Althing. And he shall also know this, that we brothers are the next of kin to follow up the feud, and we mean so to take up the suit, that outlawry shall follow and after that revenge, man for man, if we can bring it about; but I do not go with you now, because I know naught will come of it, and they will now be as wary as they can of themselves.”
Now they ride back, and all met at Hof and talked there among themselves, and said that they had gotten disgrace since they had not found them. Alord said that was not so. Then many men were eager that they should fare to Fleetlithe, and pull down the homesteads of all those who had been at those deeds, but still they listened for Mord’s utterance.
“That,” he said, “would be the greatest folly.” They asked why he said that.
“Because,” he said, “if their houses stand, they will be sure to visit them to see their wives; and then, as time rolls on, we may hunt them down there; and now ye shall none of you doubt that I will be true to thee Kari, and to all of you, and in all counsel, for I have to answer for myself.”
Hjallti bade him do as he said. Then Hjallti bade Kari to come and stay with him, he said he would ride thither first. They told him what Thorgeir had offered him, and he said he would make use of that offer afterwards, but said his heart told him it would be well if there were many such.
After that the whole band broke up.
Flosi and his men saw all these tidings from where they were on the fell; and Flosi said, “Now we will take our horses and ride away, for now it will be some good.”
The sons of Sigfus asked whether it would be worth while to get to their homes and tell the news.
“It must be Mord’s meaning,” says Flosi, “that ye will visit your wives; and my guess is, that his plan is to let your houses stand unsacked; but my plan is that not a man shall part from the other, but all ride east with me.”
So every man took that counsel, and then they all rode east and north of the Jokul, and so on till they came to Swinefell.
Flosi sent at once men out to get in stores, so that nothing might fall short.
Folsi never spoke about the deed, but no fear was found in him, and he was at home the whole winter till Yule was over.
NJAL’S AND BERGTHORA’S BONES FOUND
Kari bade Hjallti to go and search for Njal’s bones, “For all will believe in what thou sayest and thinkest about them.”
Hjallti said he would be most willing to bear Njal’s bones to church; so they rode thence fifteen men. They rode east over Thurso-water, and called on men there to come with them till they had one hundred men, reckoning Njal’s neighbours.
They came to Bergthorsknoll at mid-day.
Hjallti asked Kari under what part of the house Njal might be lying, but Kari showed them to the spot, and there was a great heap of ashes to dig away. There they found the hide underneath, and it was as though it were shrivelled with the fire. They raised up the hide, and lo! they were unburnt under it. All praised God for that, and thought it was a great token.
Then the boy was taken up who had lain between them, and of him a finger was burnt off which he had stretched out from under the hide.
Njal was home out, and so was Bergthora, and then all men went to see their bodies.
Then Hjallti said, “What like look to you these bodies?”
They answered, “We will wait for thy utterance.”
Then Hjallti said, “I shall speak what I say with all freedom of speech. The body of Bergthora looks as it was likely she would look, and still fair; but Njal’s body and visage seem to me so bright that I have never seen any dead man’s body so bright as this.”
They all said they thought so too.
Then they sought for Skarphedinn, and the men of the household showed them to the spot where Flosi and his men heard the song sung, and there the roof had fallen down by the gable, and there Hjallti said that they should look. Then they did so, and found Skarphedinn’s body there, and he had stood up hard by the gable-wall, and his legs were burnt off him right up to the knees, but all the rest of him was unburnt. He had bitten through his under lip, his eyes were wide open and not swollen nor starting out of his head; he had driven his axe into the gable-wall so hard that it had gone in up to the middle of the blade, and that was why it was not softened.
After that the axe was broken out of the wall, and Hjallti took up the axe, and said, “This is a rare weapon, and few would be able to wield it.”
“I see a man,” said Kari, “who shall bear the axe.”
“Who is that?” says Hjallti.
“Thorgeir Craggeir,” says Kari, “he whom I now think to be the greatest man in all their family.”
Then Skarphedinn was stripped of his clothes, for they were unburnt, he had laid his hands in a cross, and the right hand uppermost. They found marks on him; one between his shoulders and the other on his chest, and both were branded in the shape of a cross, and men thought that he must have burnt them in himself.
All men said that they thought that it was better to be near Skarphedinn dead than they weened, for no man was afraid of him.
They sought for the bones of Grim, and found them in the midst of the hall. They found, too, there, right over against him under the side wall, Thord Freedmanson; but in the weaving-room they found Saevuna the carline, and three men more. In all they found there the bones of nine souls. Now they carried the bodies to the church, and then Hjallti rode home and Kari with him. A swelling came on Ingialld’s leg, and then he fared to Hjallti, and was healed there, but still he limped ever afterwards.
Kari rode to Tongue to Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son. By that time Thorhalla was come home, and she had already told the tidings. Asgrim took Kari by both hands, and bade him be there all that year. Kari said so it should be.
Asgrim asked besides all the folk who had been in the house at Bergthorsknoll to stay with him. Kari said that was well offered, and said he would take it on their behalf.
Then all the folk were flitted thither.
Thorhall Asgrim’s son was so startled when he was told that his foster-father Njal was dead, and that he had been burnt in his house, that he swelled all over, and a stream of blood burst out of both his ears, and could not be staunched, and he fell into a swoon, and then it was staunched.
After that he stood up, and said he had behaved like a coward, “But I would that I might be able to avenge this which has befallen me on some of those who burnt him.”
But when others said that no one would think this a shame to him, he said he could not stop the mouths of the people from talking about it.
Asgrim asked Kari what trust and help he thought he might look for from those east of the rivers. Kari said that Mord Valgard’s son, and Hjallti Skeggi’s son, would yield him all the help they could, and so, too, would Thorgeir Craggeir and all those brothers.
Asgrim said that was great strength.
“What strength shall we have from thee?” says Kari.
“All that I can give,” says Asgrim, “and I will lay down my life on it.”
“So do,” says Kari.
“I have also,” says Asgrim, “brought Gizur the White into the suit, and have asked his advice how we shall set about it.”
“What advice did he give?” asks Kari.
“He counselled,” answers Asgrim, “`that we should hold us quite still till spring, but then ride east and set the suit on foot against Flosi for the manslaughter of Helgi, and summon the neighbours from their homes, and give due notice at the Thing of the suits for the burning, and summon the same neighbours there too on the inquest before the court. I asked Gizur who should plead the suit for manslaughter, but he said that Mord should plead it whether he liked it or not, and now,’ he went on, `it shall fall most heavily on him that up to this time all the suits he has undertaken have had the worst ending. Kari shall also be wroth whenever he meets Mord, and so, if he be made to fear on one side, and has to look to me on the other, then he will undertake the duty.'”
Then Kari said, “We will follow thy counsel as long as we can, and thou shalt lead us.”
It is to be told of Kari that he could not sleep of nights. Asgrim woke up one night and heard that Kari was awake, and Asgrim said, “Is it that thou canst not sleep at night?”
Then Kari sang this song:
“Bender of the bow of battle,
Sleep will not my eyelids seal,
Still my murdered messmates’ bidding
Haunts my mind the livelong night;
Since the men their brands abusing
Burned last autumn guileless Njal,
Burned him house and home together,
Mindful am I of my hurt.”
Kari spoke of no men so often as of Njal and Skarphedinn, and Bergthora and Helgi. He never abused his foes, and never threatened them.
One night it so happened that Flosi struggled much in his sleep. Glum Hildir’s son woke him up, and then Flosi said, “Call me Kettle of the Mark.”
Kettle came thither, and Flosi said, “I will tell thee my dream.”
“I am ready to hear it,” says Kettle.
“I dreamt,” says Flosi, “that methought I stood below Loom-nip, and went out and looked up to the Nip, and all at once it opened, and a man came out of the Nip, and he was clad in goatskins, and had an iron staff in his hand. He called, as he walked, on many of my men, some sooner and some later, and named them by name. First he called Grim the Red my kinsman, and Ami Kol’s son. Then methought something strange followed, methought he called Eyjolf Bolverk’s son, and Ljot son of Hall of the Side, and some six men more. Then he held his peace awhile. After that he called five men of our band, and among them were the sons of Sigfus, thy brothers; then he called other six men, and among them were Lambi, and Modolf, and Glum. Then he called three men. Last of all he called Gunnar Lambi’s son, and Kol Tborstein’s son. After that he came up to me; I asked him `What news?’ He said he had tidings enough to tell. Then I asked him for his name, but he called himself Irongrim. I asked him whither he was going; he said he had to fare to the Althing. `What shalt thou do there?’ I said. `First I shall challenge the inquest,’ he answers, `and then the courts, then clear the field for fighters.’ After that he sang this song:
“Soon a man death’s snake-strokes dealing
High shall lift his head on earth,
Here amid the dust low rolling
Battered brainpans men shall see;
Now upon the hills in hurly
Buds the blue steel’s harvest bright;
Soon the bloody dew of battle
Thigh-deep through the ranks shall rise.”
“Then he shouted with such a mighty shout that methought everything near shook, and dashed down his staff, and there was a mighty crash. Then he went back into the fell, but fear clung to me; and now I wish thee to tell me what thou thinkest this dream is.”
“It is my foreboding,” says Kettle, “that all those who were called must be `fey.’ It seems to me good counsel that we tell this dream to no man just now.”
Flosi said so it should be. Now the winter passes away till Yule was over. Then Flosi said to his men, “Now I mean that we should fare from home, for methinks we shall not be able to have an idle peace. Now we shall fare to pray for help, and now that will come true which I told you, that we should have to bow the knee to many ere this quarrel were ended.”
OF FLOSI’S JOURNEY AND HIS ASKING FOR HELP
After that they busked them from home all together. Flosi was in long-hose because he meant to go on foot, and then he knew that it would seem less hard to the others to walk.
Then they fared from home to Knappvale, but the evening after to Broadwater, and then to Calffell, thence by Bjornness to Hornfirth, thence to Staffell in Lon, and then to Thvattwater to Hall of the Side.
Flosi had to wife Steinvora, his daughter.
Hall gave them a very hearty welcome, and Flosi said to Hall, “I will ask thee, father-in-law, that thou wouldst ride to the Thing with me with all thy Thingmen.”
“Now,” answered Hall, “it has turned out as the saw says, `but a short while is hand fain of blow’; and yet it is one and the same man in thy band who now hangs his head, and who then goaded thee on to the worst of deeds when it was still undone. But my help I am bound to lend thee in all such places as I may.”
“What counsel dost thou give me,” said Flosi, “in the strait in which I now am.”
“Thou shalt fare,” said Hall, “north, right up to Weaponfirth, and ask all the chiefs for aid, and thou wilt yet need it all before the Thing is over.”
Flosi stayed there three nights, and rested him, and fared thence east to Geitahellna, and so to Berufirth; there they were the night. Thence they fared east to Broaddale in Haydale. There Hallbjorn the Strong dwelt. He had to wife Oddny the sister of Saurli Broddhelgi’s son, and Flosi had a hearty welcome there.
Hallbjorn asked how far north among the firths Flosi meant to go. He said he meant to go as far as Weaponfirth. Then Flosi took a purse of money from his belt, and said he would give it to Hallbjorn. He took the money, but yet said he had no claim on Flosi for gifts, “But still I would be glad to know in what thou wilt that I repay thee.”
“I have no need of money,” says Flosi, “but I wish thou wouldst ride to the Thing with me, and stand by me in my quarrel, but still I have no ties or kinship to tell towards thee.”
“I will grant thee that,” said Hallbjorn, “to ride to the Thing with thee, and to stand by thee in thy quarrel as I would by my brother.”
Flosi thanked him, and Hallbjorn asked much about the burning, but they told him all about it at length.
Thence Flosi fared to Broaddale’s heath, and so to Hrafnkelstede, there dwelt Hrafnkell, the son of Thorir, the son of Hrafnkell Raum. Flosi had a hearty welcome there, and sought for help and a promise to ride to the Thing from Hrafnkell, but he stood out a long while, though the end of it was that he gave his word that his son Thorir should ride with all their Thingmen, and yield him such help as the other priests of the same district.
Flosi thanked him and fared away to Bersastede. There Holmstein son of Bersi the Wise dwelt, and he gave Flosi a very hearty welcome. Flosi begged him for help. Holmstein said he had been long in his debt for help.
Thence they fared to Waltheofstede — there Saurli Broddhelgi’s son, Bjarni’s brother, dwelt. He had to wife Thordisa, a daughter of Gudmund the Powerful, of Modruvale. They had a hearty welcome there. But next morning Flosi raised the question with Saurli that he should ride to the Althing with him, and bid him money for it.
“I cannot tell about that,” says Saurli, “so long as I do not know on which side my father-in-law Gudmund the Powerful stands, for I mean to stand by him on whichever side he stands.”
“Oh!” said Flosi, “I see by thy answer that a woman rules in this house.”
Then Flosi stood up and bade his men take their upper clothing and weapons, and then they fared away, and got no help there. So they fared below Lagarfleet and over the heath to Njardwick; there two brothers dwelt, Thorkel the Allwise, and Thorwalld his brother; they were sons of Kettle, the son of Thidrandi the Wise, the son of Kettle Rumble, son of Thorir Thidrandi. The mother of Thorkel the Allwise and Thorwalld was Yngvillda, daughter of Thorkel the Wise. Flosi got a hearty welcome there, he told those brothers plainly of his errand, and asked for their help; but they put him off until he gave three marks of silver to each of them for their aid; then they agreed to stand by Flosi.
Their mother Yngvillda was by when they gave their words to ride to the Althing, and wept. Thorkel asked why she wept; and she answered, “I dreamt that thy brother Thorwalld was clad in a red kirtle, and methought it was so tight as though it were sewn on him; methought too that he wore red hose on his legs and feet, and bad shoethongs were twisted round them; methought it ill to see when I knew he was so uncomfortable, but I could do naught for him.”
They laughed and told her she had lost her wits, and said her babble should not stand in the way of their ride to the Thing.
Flosi thanked them kindly, and fared thence to Weaponfirth and came to Hof. There dwelt Bjarni Broddhelgi’s son. Bjarni took Flosi by both hands, and Flosi bade Bjarni money for his help.
“Never,” said Bjarni, “have I sold my manhood or help for bribes, but now that thou art in need of help, I will do thee a good turn for friendship’s sake, and ride to the Thing with thee, and stand by thee as I would by my brother.”
“Then thou hast thrown a great load of debt on my hands,” said Flosi, “but still I looked for as much from thee.”
Thence Flosi and his men fared to Crosswick. Thorkell Geitis’ son was a great friend of his. Flosi told him his errand, and Thorkel said it was but his duty to stand by him in every way in his power, and not to part from his quarrel. Thorkel gave Flosi good gifts at parting.
Thence they fared north to Weaponfirth and up into the Fleetdale country, and turned in as guests at Holmstein’s, the son of Bersi the Wise. Flosi told him that all had backed him in his need and business well, save Saurli Broddhelgi’s son. Holmstein said the reason of that was that he was not a man of strife. Holmstein gave Flosi good gifts.
Flosi fared up Fleetdale, and thence south on the fell across Oxenlaya and down Swinehorndale, and so out by Alftafirth to the west, and did not stop till he came to Thvattwater to his father-in-law Hall’s house. There he stayed half a month, and his men with him and rested him.
Flosi asked Hall what counsel he would now give him, and what he should do next, and whether he should change his plans.
“My counsel,” said Hall, “is this, that thou goest home to thy house, and the sons of Sigfus with thee, but that they send men to set their homesteads in order. But first of all fare home, and when ye ride to the Thing, ride all together, and do not scatter your band. Then let the sons of Sigfus go to see their wives on the way. I too will ride to the Thing, and Ljot my son with all our Thing-men, and stand by thee with such force as I can gather to me.”
Flosi thanked him, and Hall gave him good gifts at parting.
Then Flosi went away from Thvattwater, and nothing is to be told of his journey till he comes home to Swinefell. There he stayed at home the rest of the winter, and all the summer right up to the Thing.
OF THORHALL AND KARI
Thorhall Asgrim’s son, and Kari Solmund’s son, rode one day to Mossfell to see Gizur the White; he took them with both hands, and there they were at his house a very long while. Once it happened as they and Gizur talked of Njal’s burning, that Gizur said it was very great luck that Kari had got away. Then a song came into Kari’s mouth.
“I who whetted helmet-hewer,
I who oft have burnished brand,
From the fray went all unwilling
When Njal’s rooftree crackling roared;
Out I leapt when bands of spearmen
Lighted there a blaze of flame!
Listen men unto my moaning,
Mark the telling of my grief.”
Then Gizur said, “It must be forgiven thee that thou art mindful, and so we will talk no more about it just now.”
Kari says that he will ride home; and Gizur said, “I will now make a clean breast of my counsel to thee. Thou shalt not ride home, but still thou shalt ride away, and east under Eyjafell, to see Thorgeir Craggeir, and Thorleif Crow. They shall ride from the east with thee. They are the next of kin in the suit, and with them shall ride Thorgrim the Big, their brother. Ye shall ride to Mord Valgard’s son’s house, and tell him this message from me, that he shall take up the suit for manslaughter for Helgi Njal’s son against Flosi. But if he utters any words against this, then shalt thou make thy self most wrathful, and make believe as though thou wouldst let thy axe fall on his head; and in the second place, thou shalt assure him of my wrath if he shows any ill will. Along with that shalt thou say, that I will send and fetch away my daughter Thorkatla, and make her come home to me; but that he will not abide, for he loves her as the very eyes in his head.”
Kari thanked him for his counsel. Kari spoke nothing of help to him, for he thought he would show himself his good friend in this as in other things.
Thence Kari rode east over the rivers, and so to Fleetlithe, and east across Markfleet, and so on to Selialandsmull. So they ride east to Holt.
Thorgeir welcomed them with the greatest kindliness. He told them of Flosi’s journey, and how great help he had got in the east firths.
Kari said it was no wonder that he, who had to answer for so much, should ask for help for himself.
Then Thorgeir said, “The better things go for them, the worse it shall be for them; we will only follow them up so much the harder.”
Kari told Thorgeir of Gizur’s advice. After that they ride from the east to Rangrivervale to Mord Valgard’s son’s house. He gave them a hearty welcome. Kari told him the message of Gizur his father-in-law. He was slow to take the duty on him, and said it was harder to go to law with Flosi than with any other ten men.
“Thou behavest now as he thought,” said Kari; “for thou art a bad bargain in every way; thou art both a coward and heartless, but the end of this shall be as is fitting, that Thorkatla shall fare home to her father.”
She busked her at once, and said she had long been “boun” to part from Mord. Then he changed his mood and his words quickly, and begged off their wrath, and took the suit upon him at once.
“Now,” said Kari, “thou has taken the suit upon thee, see that thou pleadest it without fear, for thy life lies on it.”
Mord said he would lay his whole heart on it to do this well and manfully.
After that Mord summoned to him nine neighbours, they were all near neighbours to the spot where the deed was done. Then Mord took Thorgeir by the hand and named two witnesses to bear witness, “That Thorgeir Thorir’s son hands me over a suit for manslaughter against Flosi Thord’s son, to plead it for the slaying of Helgi Njal’s son, with all those proofs which have to follow the suit. Thou handest over to me this suit to plead and to settle, and to enjoy all rights in it, as though I were the rightful next of kin. Thou handest it over to me by law, and I take it from thee by law.”
A second time Mord named his witnesses, “To bear witness,” said he, “that I give notice of an assault laid down by law against Flosi Thord’s son, for that he dealt Helgi Njal’s son a brain, or a body, or a marrow wound, which proved a death wound; and from which Helgi got his death. I give notice of this before five witnesses” — here he named them all by name — “I give this lawful notice. I give notice of a suit which Thorgeir Thorir’s son has handed over to me.”
Again he named witnesses “To bear witness that I give notice of a brain, or a body, or a marrow wound against Flosi Thord’s son, for that wound which proved a death wound, but Helgi got his death therefrom on such and such a spot, when Flosi Thord’s son first rushed on Helgi Njal’s son with an assault laid down by law. I give notice of this before five neighbours” — then he named them all by name — “I give this lawful notice. I give notice of a suit which Thorgeir Thorir’s son has handed over to me.”
Then Mord named his witnesses again “To bear witness,” said he, “that I summon these nine neighbours who dwell nearest the spot” — here he named them all by name — “to ride to the Althing, and to sit on the inquest to find whether Flosi Thord’s son rushed with an assault laid down by law on Helgi Njal’s son, on that spot where Flosi Thord’s son dealt Helgi Njal’s son a brain, or a body, or a marrow wound, which proved a death wound, and from which Helgi got his death. I call on you to utter all those words which ye are bound to find by law, and which I shall call on you to utter before the court, and which belong to this suit; I call upon you by a lawful summons — I call on you so that ye may yourselves hear — I call on you in the suit which Thorgeir Thorir’s son has handed over to me.”
Again Mord named his witnesses “To bear witness, that I summon these nine neighbours who dwell nearest to the spot to ride to the Althing, and to sit on an inquest to find whether Flosi Thord’s son wounded Helgi Njal’s son with a brain, or body, or marrow wound, which proved a death wound, and from which Helgi got his death, on that spot where Flosi Thord’s son first rushed on Helgi Njal’s son with an assault laid down by law. I call on you to utter all those words which ye are bound to find by law, and which I shall call on you to utter before the court, and which belong to this suit. I call upon you by a lawful summons — I call on you so that ye may yourselves hear — I call on you in the suit which Thorgeir Thorir’s son has handed over to me.”
Then Mord said, “Now is the suit set on foot as ye asked, and now I will pray thee, Thorgeir Craggeir, to come to me when thou ridest to the Thing, and then let us both ride together, each with our band, and keep as close as we can together, for my band shall be ready by the very beginning of the Thing, and I will be true to you in all things.”
They showed themselves well pleased at that, and this was fast bound by oaths, that no man should sunder himself from another till Kari willed it, and that each of them should lay down his life for the other’s life. Now they parted with friendship, and settled to meet again at the Thing.
Now Thorgeir rides back east, but Kari rides west over the rivers till he came to Tongue, to Asgrim’s house. He welcomed them wonderfully well, and Kari told Asgrim all Gizur the White’s plan, and of the setting on foot of the suit.
“I looked for as much from him,” says Asgrim, “that he would behave well, and now he has shown it.”
Then Asgrim went on, “What heardest thou from the east of Flosi?”
“He went east all the way to Weaponfirth,” answers Kari, “and nearly all the chiefs have promised to ride with him to the Althing, and to help him. They look, too, for help from the Reykdalesmen, and the men of Lightwater, and the Axefirthers.”
Then they talked much about it, and so the time passes away up to the Althing.
Thorhall Asgrim’s son took such a hurt in his leg that the foot above the ankle was as big and swollen as a woman’s thigh, and he could not walk save with a staff. He was a man tall in growth, and strong and powerful, dark of hue in hair and skin, measured and guarded in his speech, and yet hot and hasty tempered. He was the third greatest lawyer in all Iceland.
Now the time comes that men should ride from home to the Thing, Asgrim said to Kari, “Thou shalt ride at the very beginning of the Thing, and fit up our booths, and my son Thorhall with thee. Thou wilt treat him best and kindest, as he is footlame, but we shall stand in the greatest need of him at this Thing. With you two, twenty men more shall ride.”
After that they made ready for their journey, and then they rode to the Thing, and set up their booths, and fitted them out well.