Chapter 71 – Egil’s sadness.
Egil after Yule-tide was taken with much sadness that he spake not a word. And when Arinbjorn perceived this he began to talk with Egil, and asked what this sadness meant. ‘I wish,’ said he, ‘you would let me know whether you are sick, or anything ails you, that I may find a remedy.’
Egil said: ‘Sickness of body I have none; but I have much anxiety about this, how I shall get that property which I won when I slew Ljot the Pale northwards in Mæra. I am told that the king’s stewards have taken up all that property, and claimed ownership thereof for the king. Now I would fain have your help in the recovery of this.’
Arinbjorn: ‘I do not think your claim to the ownership of that property is against the law of the land; yet methinks the property is now come into strong keeping. The king’s treasury hath a wide entrance, but a narrow exit. We have urged many arduous claims of money against powerful persons, but we were in more confidence with the king than now; for the friendship between me and king Hacon is shallow; yet must I act after the old saw: He must tend the oak who is to dwell beneath it.’
‘Yet,’ said Egil, ‘my mind is that, if we have law to show, we should try. Maybe the king will grant us right in this, for I am told that the king is just, and keeps well to the laws which he has made here in the land. I am rather minded to go seek the king and try the matter with him.’
Arinbjorn said that he did not desire this. ‘I think, Egil, that these things will be hard to reconcile, your eagerness and daring, and the king’s temper and power. For I deem him to be no friend of yours, and for good reason as he thinks. I would rather that we let this matter drop, and did not take it up. But if you wish it, Egil, I will rather myself go to the king and moot the question.’
Egil said that he thanked him heartily, and would choose it to be so.
Hacon was then in Rogaland, but at times in Hordaland; there was no difficulty in finding him. And not long after this talk Arinbjorn made ready for his journey. It was then publicly known that he purposed to seek the king. He manned with his house-carles a twenty-oared galley that he had. Egil was to stay at home; Arinbjorn would not have him go. Arinbjorn started when ready, and his journey went well; he found king Hacon, and was well received.
And when he had been there a little while, he declared his errand before the king, and said that Egil Skallagrimsson was come there in the land, and thought he had a claim to all that property that had belonged to Ljot the Pale. ‘We are told, O king, that Egil pleads but law in this; but your stewards have taken up the property, and claimed ownership for you. I would pray you, my lord, that Egil may get law herein.’
The king was slow to speak, but at length answered: ‘I know not, Arinbjorn, why thou comest with such pleading for Egil. He came once before me, and I told him that I would not have him sojourn here in the land, for reasons which ye already know. Now Egil must not set up such claim before me ad he did before my brother Eric. And to thee, Arinbjorn, I have this to say, that thou mayest be here in the land only so long as thou preferrest not foreigners before me and my word; for I know that thy heart is with Harold son of Eric, thy foster-son; and this is thy best choice, to go to those brothers and be with them; for I strongly suspect that men like thee will be ill to trust to, if I and Eric’s sons ever have to try conclusions.’
And when the king had so spoken, Arinbjorn saw that it would not do to plead this cause any further with him; so he prepared to return home. The king was rather sullen and gloomy towards Arinbjorn after he knew his errand; but Arinbjorn was not in the mood to humble himself before the king about this matter. And so they parted.
Arinbjorn went home and told Egil the issue of his errand. ‘I will not,’ said he, ‘again plead such a cause to the king.’
Egil at this report frowned much; he thought he had lost much wealth, and wrongfully. A few days after, early one morning when Arinbjorn was in his chamber and few men were present, he had Egil called thither; and when he came, then Arinbjorn had a chest opened, and weighed out forty marks of silver, adding these words: ‘This money I pay you, Egil, for those lands which belonged to Ljot the Pale. I deem it just that you should have this reward from me and my kinsman Fridgeir for saving his life from Ljot; for I know that you did this for love of me. I therefore am bound not to let you be cheated of your lawful right in this matter.’
Egil took the money, and thanked Arinbjorn. Then Egil again became quite cheerful.
Chapter 72 – Of Arinbjorn’s harrying.
Arinbjorn stayed at home on his estate that winter, but in the next spring he let it be known that he meant to go a-freebooting. Arinbjorn had good choice of ships. He made ready in the spring three war-ships, all large, and he had three hundred men. His house-carles he had on his own ship, which was excellently equipt; he had also with him many landowners’ sons. Egil settled to go with him; he steered a ship, and with him went many of the comrades whom he brought from Iceland. But the merchant-ship which he brought from Iceland he caused to be moved eastwards to Vik, getting some men there to dispose of the cargo.
But Arinbjorn and Egil with the war-ships held a southward course along the coast; then took their force still southwards to Saxland, where they harried in the summer and got wealth. As autumn came on they came back northward harrying, and lay off Friesland. One night when the weather was calm they went up a large river-mouth, where was bad harbourage, and the ebb of the tide was great. There up on land were wide flats with woods hard by. The fields were soaked because there had been much rain. They resolved to go up there, and left behind a third of their force to guard the ships. They followed up the river, keeping between it and the woods. Soon they came to a hamlet where dwelt several peasants. The people ran out of the hamlet into the fields, such as could do so, when they perceived the enemy, but the freebooters pursued them. Then they came to a second village, and a third; all the people fled before them. The land was level, flat fields everywhere, intersected by dykes full of water. By these the corn-lands or meadows were enclosed; in some places large stakes were set, and over the dyke, where men should go, were bridges and planks laid. The country folk fled to the forest. But when the freebooters had gone far into the settled parts, the Frisians gathered them in the woods, and when they had assembled three hundred men, they went against the freebooters resolved to give them battle. There was then some hard fighting; but the end was that the Frisians fled and the freebooters pursued the fugitives. The peasants that escaped were scattered far and wide, and so were their pursuers. Thus it happened that on either side few kept together.
Egil was hotly pursuing, and a few with him, after a numerous company that fled. The Frisians came to a dyke, over which they went, and then drew away the bridge. Then came up Egil and his men on the other bank. Egil at once went at the dyke and leapt it, but it was no leap for other men, and no one tried it. But when the Frisians saw that but one man was following, they turned back and attacked him, but he defended himself well, and used the dyke to cover him behind so that they could not attack him on all sides. Eleven men set on him, but the end of their encounter was that he slew them all. After that Egil pushed out the bridge over the dyke, and crossed it back again. He then saw that all his people had turned back to the ships. He was then near the wood, and he now went along the wood towards the ships so that he had the choice of the wood if he needed its shelter. The freebooters had brought down to the shore much booty and cattle. And when they came to the ships, some slaughtered the cattle, some carried out the plunder to the ships, some stood higher up and formed a shield-burgh; for the Frisians were come down in great force and were shooting at them, being also in battle array. And when Egil came down and saw how matters stood, he ran at full speed right at the throng. His halberd he held before him grasped in both hands, and slung his shield behind his back. He thrust forward his halberd, and all before him started aside, and so gat he a passage right through their ranks. Thus he dashed down to his men, who looked on him as recovered from the dead.
Then they went on ship-board, and loosed from land. They sailed then to Denmark. And when they came to Lima-firth and lay at Hals, Arinbjorn held a meeting of his men, and laid before them his plans. ‘Now will I,’ said he, ‘go seek Eric’s sons with such force as will follow me. I have now learnt that the brothers are in Denmark here, and maintain a large following, and spend the summers in harrying, but for the winters abide here in Denmark. I now give leave to all to go to Norway who would rather do that than follow me. For you, Egil, methinks, the best counsel is that, as soon as we part, you return to Norway, and then on with all speed to Iceland.’
Then the men separated to their several ships. Those who wished to go back to Norway joined Egil, but by far the larger part of the force followed Arinbjorn. Arinbjorn and Egil parted in love and friendship. Arinbjorn went to seek Eric’s sons, and joined the company of Harold Gray-fell his foster-son, and was with him henceforth so long as they both lived.
Egil went northwards to Vik, and into Osloar-firth. There was his merchant ship which he had caused to be moved thither in the spring. There were also his cargo and the men who had gone with the ship. Thorstein Thora’s son came to seek Egil, and asked him and such men as he would bring to stay with him that winter. Egil accepted the offer, had his ship set up and the cargo safely bestowed. Of his followers some got quarters there, some went to their several homes in the north. Egil in a company of ten or twelve went to Thorstein’s, and remained there for the winter an honoured guest.
Chapter 73 – Mission to Vermaland.
King Harold Fairhair had subdued Vermaland eastwards as far as Lake Wener. Vermaland had first been cleared and tilled by Olaf Tree-cutter, father of Halfdan Whitebone, who first of his family was king in Norway; and from him on the father’s side was king Harold descended, and all his forefathers had ruled over Vermaland and taken tribute therefrom, and set men in charge over the land. But when Harold was grown old, then was an earl named Arnvid governor of Vermaland. It happened there, as elsewhere, that the tribute was worse paid now than when Harold was in the vigour of life. So also was it when Harold’s sons strove for the rule in Norway, the outlying tributary lands were little looked after. But when Hacon sat in peace, then enquired he after all the empire that his father Harold had had. King Hacon had sent eastwards to Vermaland a company of twelve men. These had received the tribute from the earl. But as they were going back to Eida-wood, robbers set upon them and slew them all. The same hap befell yet other messengers sent by king Hacon eastwards to Vermaland; the men were slain, and no money was brought back. Then was it said by some that earl Arnvid belike set men of his own to slay the king’s men, while he kept the tribute for himself. Whereupon king Hacon sent yet a third company.
He was then in Throndheim; the messengers were to go to Vik and seek Thorstein Thora’s son with these words, that he should go eastwards to Vermaland and gather in the tribute for the king, or else he must leave the land. For the king had heard that Arinbjorn Thorstein’s mother’s brother was gone southwards to Denmark and was with Eric’s sons, and further that they had a large following and spent the summer in harrying. King Hacon mistrusted the loyalty of all this company, expecting as he did hostilities from Eric’s sons if they had but strength to raise rebellion against him. And to Arinbjorn’s kinsmen and friends he showed great dislike, putting some to death, driving some from the land, or laying on them other hard conditions. And so it was that before Thorstein the king put this choice.
The man who bore this message was named Kol; he was a man of all lands; he had been long in Denmark and in Sweden, and knew all about ways and men there. In Norway too he had travelled widely. And when he brought this proposal to Thorstein Thora’s son, then Thorstein told Egil upon what errand these men came, and asked how he should answer them; he said that it seemed a hard thing for him to lose his possessions and be driven out of the land.
Egil said: ‘It is to me quite clear what this message means; the king will have you out of the land like others of Arinbjorn’s kin, for I call sending a man of your nobleness on such errand a sending to certain death. My advice is that you call the king’s messengers to conference with you, and I will be present at your talk, and we will see what come of it.’
Thorstein did as he bade; he held conference with them. The messengers told all the truth of their errand and of the king’s message, that Thorstein must go on this mission or else be outlawed.
Egil said: ‘I see clearly about your errand, that if Thorstein refuses to go, then you will have to go and gather the in the tribute.’ The messengers said that he guessed rightly. Said Egil: ‘Thorstein shall not go on this journey; for he is in nowise bound thereto, a man of his renown, to go on such mean missions. Thorstein will do that whereto he is bound, to wit, attend the king within the land or without, if the king demands it. Also, if ye want to have some men from hence for this journey, this will be granted you, and all such furtherance of your journey as ye may name to Thorstein.’
Then the messengers talked among themselves, and agreed that they would accept these terms, if Egil would go with them on the journey. ‘The king,’ they said, ‘bears him great ill-will, and he will think our journey a right good one if we bring it about that Egil be slain. He can then drive Thorstein out of the land if he pleases.’ So they told Thorstein that they would be content if Egil went and Thorstein stayed at home.
‘So shall it be,’ said Egil. ‘I will release Thorstein from this journey. But how many men think ye that ye need to take from hence?’
‘We are eight,’ said they; ‘we would fain have four men go from hence; then are we twelve.’
Egil said it should be so. Aunund Sjoni and some of Egil’s company had gone out to sea, to look after their ship and another cargo which they had given into safe keeping in the autumn, and they had not yet returned. Egil thought this a great pity, but the king’s men were impatient to be gone, and would not wait.
Chapter 74 – Journey to Vermaland.
Egil with three comrades made him ready for the journey. They had horses and sledges, and so had the king’s men. There was then deep snow, and all the roads were effaced. They betook them to their journey when they were ready, and sledged up the land; and when they came eastwards near Eida, it happened one night that so much fresh snow fell that they could not see the way. On the morrow they traveled slowly, because there were snowdrifts directly one left the track. And as the day wore on they stopped to bait their horses; this was near a wooded ridge. Then spoke the king’s men with Egil: ‘Here now the roads divide; forward below the ridge dwells a landowner named Arnold, our friend; we with our party will go and lodge there. But you shall go yonder up the ridge, and when you come over it you will soon have before you a large house where you are sure of lodging. A wealthy man dwells there, Armod Beard by name. But to-morrow early we will again join company and go on the next evening to Eida-wood. There dwells a worthy landowner named Thorfinn.’
Upon this they separated, Egil and his men going up the ridge. But of the king’s men this is to be told, that no sooner were they and Egil out of sight of each other, than they took their snow-shoes (which they had brought with them) and put them on; then they retraced their way as fast as they could. Night and day they travelled, and turned toward Upland, thence north by the Dovre-fell, nor stayed they till they came before king Hacon, and told him of their journey, how it had sped.
Egil and his comrades crossed the ridge that evening. To be brief, so soon as they left the main road and got upon the ridge, they found deep snow, steep rocks, tangled copsewood. Now and again in the snow the horses so plunged and lay that they had to be pulled up out of it, and over rocks and crags was a hard struggle. Much ado had they with the horses; but the walking for the men was of the heaviest, and sorely wearied were they when they came off the ridge and saw before them a large house, for which they made.
And when they came to the enclosure, they saw men standing outside, Armod and some of his household. They exchanged words and asked each other’s tidings, and when Armod knew that they were messengers of the king, he offered them lodging. This they accepted. Armod’s house-carles took their horses and harness; but the master bade Egil go into the hall, and they did so.
Armod made Egil sit in the high seat on the lower bench, and his comrades outside him. They spoke much of what a toilsome way they had come that evening, but the house-carles thought it a great marvel that they had won through it at all; it was, they said, no road for man even were it free of snow.
Then said Armod: ‘Think ye not this were the best hospitality, that a table should be set for you and supper given you now, and then you should sleep? This will best rest you.’
‘We should like this right well,’ said Egil.
So Armod had a table set for them, whereon were placed large bowls full of curds. Then said Armod that he was sorry he had no beer to give them. Egil and his men were very thirsty from weariness; they took up the bowls and drank the curds eagerly, Egil drinking far the most. No other food was brought.
The household was numerous. The mistress sat on the cross-bench, and beside her the other women. The master’s daughter, ten or eleven years old, was running about the hall-floor. The mistress called her to her side, and spoke in her ear. Then the girl went out to where Egil sat, and recited a verse:
‘To thee with this message
My mother doth send me,
To bear word that Egil
Be wary and wait.
“So temper thy stomach,”
Thus sayeth our lady,
“With fare far more worthy
Soon feed we our guests.”‘
Armod struck the girl, and bade her hold her tongue: ‘You are always,’ said he, ‘saying what least suits.’
The girl went away; but Egil threw down the curd-bowl, which was now nearly empty. The bowls were then removed from them.
And now the household took their seats, and tables were set all round the hall, and food served; dishes of meat were brought in and set before Egil and the rest. After this ale was borne in, beer of the strongest. Soon they began to drink bumpers, each man was to drink off the horn; and especial care was taken that Egil and his companions should drink hard. Egil drank without shirking a drop for a long while, but when his companions were become helpless, then he drank for them what they could not. So matters went on till the tables were removed, and by then all in the room were well drunk.
But before each cup that he drank Armod said: ‘I drink to you, Egil,’ and the house-carles drank to Egil’s companions with the same preface. A man was appointed to bear every cup to Egil’s party, and he urged them to drink it off quick. Egil told his companions to drink no more, but himself drank for them what they could not avoid.
Egil soon found that it would not do for him to go on so. Wherefore he stood up, went across the floor to where Armod sat, took him with his hands by the shoulders, and forced him back against the inner posts, and spat in his face. There was an outcry and uproar, but Egil went back to his place, sate him down, and bade them serve him drink.
Armod leapt up and ran out; Egil continued to drink for a while, as did some others in the hall; but there was little merriment. Soon Egil and his men stood up, and took their weapons from the wall where they had hung them up; they then went to the granary in which their horse were, and laid themselves down in the straw, and slept through the night.
Chapter 75 – Parting of Egil and Armod.
Egil rose up in the morning as soon as it was day. He and his made them ready, and when ready went at once to the house to seek Armod. And when they came to the apartments where slept Armod and his wife and daughter, then Egil burst open the door and approached Armod’s bed. He then drew his sword, but with the other hand grasped the beard of Armod, and forced him forward to the edge of the bed. But Armod’s wife and daughter leapt up and prayed Egil not to slay Armod. Egil said he would spare him for their sakes; ‘For,’ said he, ‘this is but meet; yet has he deserved to die.’
After this Egil cut off his beard close to his chin, and put out one of his eyes. Then he went out to his companions.
They went on their way and came a day-meal-time to the house of Thorfinn. He dwelt by Eida-wood. Of him they craved a day-meal and to bait their horses. Thorfinn granted this, and Egil with his men went into the hall. Egil asked if Thorfinn had seen anything of the rest of his party.
‘We appointed,’ he said, ‘to meet here.’
Thorfinn said: ‘Here passed six men together a little before day; and they were well armed.’
Then said a house-carle: ‘I was driving a sledge in the night to fetch wood, and I came upon six men on the road; they were house-carles of Armod; but that was long before day. Now I am not sure whether these will be the same as the six of whom you spoke.’
Thorfinn said that the six men whom he had met had passed after the house-carle came back with the load of wood.
While they sat at meat Egil saw that a woman lay sick on the daïs at the ends of the hall. He asked who was that woman in such sad case. Thorfinn said she was named Helga, and was his daughter; she had long been ill; her complaint was a pining sickness; she got no sleep at night, and was as one possessed.
‘Has anything,’ asked Egil, ‘been tried for her ailment?’
‘Runes have been graven,’ said Thorfinn; ‘a landowner’s son hard by did this; and she is since much worse than before. But can you, Egil, do anything for such ailments?’
Egil said: ‘Maybe no harm will be done by my taking it in hand.’
And when Egil had finished his meal, he went where the woman lay and spoke with her. Then he bade them lift her from her place and lay clean clothes under her, and they did so. Next he searched the bed in which she had lain, and there he found a piece of whalebone whereon were runes. Egil read them, then cut the runes and scraped them off into the fire. He burned the whole piece of whalebone, and had the bed-clothes that she had used hung out to air. Then Egil sang:
‘Runes none should grave ever
Who knows not to read them;
Of dark spell full many
The meaning may miss.
Ten spell-words writ wrongly
On whale-bone were graven:
Whence to leek-tending maiden,
Long sorrow and pain.’
Egil then graved runes, and laid them under the bolster of the bed where the woman lay. She seemed as if she waked out of sleep, and said she now felt well, but she was weak. But her father and mother were overjoyed. And Thorfinn offered to Egil all the furtherance that he might think needful.
Chapter 76 – Egil comes to landowner Alf.
Egil said to his comrades that he would go on his way and abide no longer. Thorfinn had a son named Helgi, a valiant man. Father and son offered Egil their company through the wood. They said they knew for a fact that Armod Beard had put six men into the wood to lie in wait for them, and it was likely that there would be more ambushed in the wood in case the first should fail. There were with Thorfinn four that offered to go. Then Egil sang a stave:
‘If four with me follow,
Thou findest not six men
With us bloody sword-blows
To barter in fight.
And if he with eight go,
Undaunted in courage
On twelve black-browed Egil
The battle will dare.’
Thorfinn and his men decided to go into the wood with Egil: thus they were eight in all. And when they came where the ambush was set, they saw men there. But these house-carles of Armod who were in ambush, on seeing that the travellers were eight in number, thought they were overmatched, and hid them away in the wood. And when Egil’s party came where the liers-in-wait had been, they saw that all was not peaceful. And now Egil said that Thorfinn and his men should go back, but they offered to go further. However Egil would not have it, and bade them go home; so they did so and turned back.
But Egil and his men went on forward, being now four. And as the day wore on they perceived that there were six men in the wood, and they were pretty sure that these also were house-carles of Armod. Up leapt the liers-in-wait and made at them, and they met their charge: and the encounter ended in Egil’s slaying two and the rest running back into the wood.
Then Egil’s company went on their way, and nothing more happened till they got out of the wood and found lodging near the wood with a landowner named Alf, who was called Alf the wealthy. He was an old man, wealthy in money, of a strange temper, so that he could keep but few in his household. A good reception Egil found there, and with him Alf was talkative. Egil asked many questions, and Alf told him what he asked. They spoke much about the earl and the king of Norway’s messengers, who had before gone eastward to gather the tribute. Alf in his talk was no friend to the earl.
Chapter 77 – Egil gathers tribute.
Egil made him ready early next morning to continue his journey, as did his comrades, but at parting Egil gave Alf a fur cloak. Alf took the gift with thanks, saying, ‘A good mantle have I here.’ And he bade Egil visit him on the way back. They parted friends; and Egil going on his way came on the evening of a day to earl Arnvid’s court, where he found a good reception. He and his comrades were placed next to the sitter in the seat opposite the earl.
When Egil had been there for a night, he declared his errand with the earl, and the message of the king from Norway, and said that he wished to have all that tribute from Vermaland that had been owing since Arnvid had been set over the land. The earl said that he had paid out of hand all the tribute, and delivered it into the hands of the king’s messengers. ‘But I know not,’ he said, ‘what they have since done with it, whether they brought it to the king or ran away with it out of the land. However, as ye bear sure tokens that the king has sent you, I will pay all the tribute to which he has a right, and deliver it into your hands: but I will not be answerable afterwards for how you fare with it.’ Egil and his men remained there for awhile. But before Egil went away the earl paid them the tribute. Part was in silver, part in gray fur.
And when Egil’s party were ready they started to return. At their parting Egil said to the earl: ‘Now we will bear to the king this tribute which we have received. But know, earl, that this is much less money than the king deems to be his due here; and that too without counting that, as he thinks, thou oughtest to pay atonement for the messengers whom common rumour says thou didst cause to be slain.’ The earl said that that was not true. With this they parted.
Now when Egil was gone, the earl called to him his two brothers, each of whom was named Ulf, and spoke thus: ‘That big fellow Egil, who was here for awhile, will, I expect, do us an ill turn when he comes to the king. We may by this mark how he will bear our matter before the king, that he threw in our face such a charge, the taking the life of the king’s men. Now must ye two go after their party and slay them all, and let none bear this slander before the king. Methinks the wisest plan were to lie in wait for them in Eida-wood. Take with you so many men as to make sure that not one of them escape, while ye get no less of men from them.’
Then did the brothers make them ready for their journey, and they took thirty men. They went to the wood, of which they knew every path: then they watched for Egil’s coming. There were two roads through the wood. One led over a certain ridge, and there was a steep cliff, and only a path for one; this was the shorter road. The other led round the edge of the ridge, over wide bogs, across which hewn wood was laid, there too making a causeway for but one to pass. And they lay in wait fifteen in either place.
Chapter 78 – Egil and his band slay twenty-five men.
Egil went till he came to Alf’s, and was there for the night in good quarters. Next morning he rose before day and made ready for his journey. And while they sat over their morning meal, Alf the master came in. He said: ‘You are making a start betimes, Egil; but my counsel would be that you hurry not your journey, but rather look before you, for I think there be liers-in-wait for you in the wood. I have no men to give you as escort who would be any strength to you: but this I offer, that ye tarry here with me till I can report to you that the wood is safe.’ Egil said: ‘That will be mere nonsense. I will go on my way as I before meant to do.’
So he and his men made ready to go, while Alf tried to stop them, and bade them come back, if they saw that the way was trodden: ‘None,’ he said, ‘have passed the wood from the east since you, Egil, went eastward, except these, who, as I suspect, have gone wishing to encounter you.’ Egil said, ‘How many will they be, think you, if it is as you say? We have not lost the game, though there be some odds against us.’ Alf said: ‘I with my house-carles had gone to the wood, and we came on men’s footprints; the trail led into the wood, and there must have been many in all. But if you do not believe this that I say, go and see for yourself the trail, and then turn back, if it seems as I tell you.’ Egil went his way, and when they came where the road entered the wood, they saw there the tracks both of men and horses. Egil’s comrades then advised that they should turn back. ‘We will go on,’ said Egil: ‘methinks ’tis no wonder that men have gone through Eida-wood, for it is a public road.’ So they went on, and the footmarks continued, being of a numerous company. And when they came there where the roads forked, then the trail also forked, and was equally strong either way.
Then said Egil: ‘Now I think that maybe Alf has told the truth. We will now make us ready as expecting an encounter.’ So then Egil and his men doffed their cloaks and all their loose clothing, and laid these on the sledge. Egil had brought in his sledge a very long cord of bast, for it is the wont of those who take long sledging journeys to have with them some spare cord in case the harness need mending. Egil took a large flat stone, and laid it before his breast and stomach. Then he bent thereon the cord, and wound it round and round him, and so encased him right up to the shoulders.
Eida-wood is of this kind: there is reaching to the cultivated land on either side dense forest, but in the middle is a wide space of shrubs and thin copse, with some parts quite bare of wood. Egil and his company turned by the shorter way, which lay over the ridge. They all had shields and helms, and weapons both to cut and thrust. Egil walked first. And when they came to the ridge, there was wood at the foot of it, but above on the rock it was bare. But when they came up to the rock, then seven men leapt out of the wood and up to the cliff after them, and shot at them. Egil and his men turned and stood abreast across the path. Then came other men against them from above on the crag’s brow, and cast stones at them, and this was by far the greater danger. Then said Egil, ‘Now must you step back and close to the cliff, and cover yourselves as best ye may; but I will try to win the summit.’ They did so. And when Egil got past the rock out on the top, there were in front eight men, who all at once set upon him. Of their exchange of blows nought is there to tell: the end was that Egil slew them all. Then he went forward to the verge of the summit and hurled over stones, that none could withstand; and thereafter three of the Vermians fell, but four gat them into the wood sore wounded and bruised.
Then Egil and his men took their horses and went on their way till they came over the ridge. But the Vermians who had escaped brought news of this to their fellows, who were by the bog. They then advanced by the lower road and so beset the way in front of Egil. Ulf said to his comrades: ‘We must now go cunningly to work with them, and so manage that none get away. This,’ said he, ‘is the nature of the ground: the road skirts the ridge, close to the foot of which runs the bog, while a rocky brow is above, and the passage lies between these and is no broader than a footpath. Now some of us shall go forward round the brow to withstand them if they advance; but some shall hide here in the wood, and leap out at their back when they have got on before us. And take we such heed that none escape.’ They did as Ulf bade: Ulf went forward round the brow and ten men with him.
Egil and his men went on their way knowing nought of this plan till they came into the narrow path. Then out leapt men behind them, and drove at them with weapons. They faced about and defended themselves. Now also dashed at them those who were in front of the rocky brow; and when Egil saw that, he turned to meet them. Quick were the blows exchanged between them; and Egil smote down some in the narrow pass, but some turned back to where there was more level space. Egil dashed after them. There fell Ulf. And in the end Egil slew there single-handed eleven men. Then he went where his comrades were keeping the pass before eight men: there were some wounded on either side. But when Egil came, then at once the Vermians fled to the wood hard by. Five escaped, all sore wounded, but three fell there. Egil had many wounds, but none serious.
They then continued their journey. He bound his comrades’ wounds, none of which were mortal. They sat in the sledge, and drove for the rest of the day.
But the Vermians who escaped took their horses, and dragged themselves from the wood eastwards to inhabited parts. There they got their wounds bound. Procuring companions, they made their way to the earl, and told him of their misadventure. They told how both the Ulfs had fallen, twenty-five men were dead, and but five escaped with life, and they all wounded and bruised. The earl then asked what were the tidings of Egil and his comrades. They answered: ‘We know not for sure how much they were wounded; but full boldly did they set on us when we were eight and they four; then we fled. Five reached the wood, but three perished; yet, for all we could see, Egil and his men were as fresh as ever.’
The earl said that their journey had been as bad as could be. ‘I could have been content we should have great loss of life, had ye but slain these Northmen; but now when they come west from the wood and tell these tidings to Norway’s king, then may we expect from him the very hardest terms.’
Chapter 79 – Egil comes to Thorfinn’s. The harrying of king Hacon.
Egil traveled on till he came westward out of the wood. They made for Thorfinn’s that evening, where they were well received: their wounds were bound up, and they stayed there several nights. Helga, the master’s daughter, was now on her feet, and whole of her ailment. For this she and all the family thanked Egil. He and his rested there themselves and their beasts.
The man who had graved the runes for Helga dwelt not far off. It now came out that he had asked her to wife, but Thorfinn would not give her. Then this landowner’s son would fain beguile her, but she would not consent. So he thought to grave for her love-runes, but he did not understand them aright, and graved that wherefrom she took her sickness.
And when Egil was ready to depart, Thorfinn and his son escorted them on the road: they being thus ten or twelve in company. They went with them all that day as a guard against Armod and his house-carles. But when the tidings were heard how Egil’s band had fought against overwhelming odds in the wood and conquered, then Armod thought it hopeless to raise shield against Egil: wherefore he with all his men sat at home. Egil and Thorfinn exchanged gifts at parting, and pledged themselves to friendship. Then Egil and his men went their way, and no tidings are told of their journey before they came to Thorstein’s.
There their wounds were healed. Egil stayed there till spring. But Thorstein sent messengers to king Hacon to bring him the tribute for which Egil had gone to Vermaland. Who, when they came before the king, told him the tidings of what had been done in Egil’s journey, and brought him the tribute. The king was now sure that what he had before suspected was true, namely, that earl Arnvid had caused the slaying of the two companies of messengers sent eastwards by him. The king said that Thorstein should have leave to dwell in the land, and should be reconciled to him. Then the messengers returned home; and on coming to Thorstein’s told him that the king was well pleased with this Vermaland journey, and that Thorstein was now to have reconciliation and friendship with the king.
King Hacon in the summer went eastwards to Vik: whence he journeyed still eastwards to Vermaland with a large force. Earl Arnvid fled away; but the king took large fines from those landowners whom he thought guilty against him according to the report of those who went after the tribute. He set over the land another earl, taking hostages of him and of the landowners. In this expedition Hacon went far and wide about western Gautland and subdued it, as is told in his Saga, and is found in the poems composed about him. It is also told that he went to Denmark, and harried there far and wide. Then was it that with two ships he disabled twelve ships of the Danes, and gave to Tryggva, son of his brother Olaf, the name of king and the rule over Vik eastwards.
Egil in the summer made ready his merchant-ship and got thereto a crew. But the long-ship that he had brought from Denmark in the autumn he gave to Thorstein at parting. Thorstein gave Egil good gifts, and they pledged them to close friendship. Egil sent messengers to Thord, his wife’s kinsman, at Aurland, and gave him charge to arrange for those lands that Egil owned in Sogn and Hordaland, bidding him sell them if there were a buyer. And when Egil was ready for his voyage, they sailed out along the bay, and then northwards along the Norway coast, and afterwards out into the main. They had a fairly good breeze, and came from the main into Borgar-firth; and Egil steered his ship up the firth to the haven close to his own house. He had his cargo conveyed home, and his ship set up on wooden props. Egil went home to his house: fain were folk to see him; and there he stayed for that winter.
Chapter 80 – Of the marriages of Egil’s daughters.
By the time that Egil came out to Iceland from this journey, the whole district was settled. All the original land-takers were dead, but their sons or sons’ sons were living, and dwelt there in the district. There was a man named Grim, son of Sverting; he dwelt at Moss-fell below the heath; rich was he and of good family; his sister was Rannveig whom Thorod, the priest in Olvos, had to wife; their son was Skapti the lawman. Grim was also afterwards lawman. He asked to wife Thordis daughter of Thorolf Egil’s brother, and stepdaughter of Egil. Egil loved Thordis no whit less than his own children. She was a very beautiful woman. And since Egil knew that Grim was a wealthy man and the match was a good one, it was so settled, and Thordis was given to Grim. Then Egil paid over to her her father’s heritage, and she went home with Grim, and the pair dwelt long at Moss-fell.
There was a man named Olaf, son of Hauskuld Dale-koll’s son and Melkorka daughter of Myrkjartan king of the Irish. Olaf dwelt at Hjardarholt in Lax-river-dale, westward in Broad-firth dales. Olaf was very wealthy, the handsomest man in Iceland of his time, of a noble character. He asked to wife Thorgerdr, Egil’s daughter. Thorgerdr was comely, tall above woman’s wont, wise, rather proud-spirited, but in daily life gentle. Egil was well acquainted with Olaf, and knew that the match was a worthy one, wherefore Thorgerdr was given to Olaf. She went home with him to Hjardarholt.
Auzur, Eyvind’s son, brother of Thorod in Olvos, had to wife Egil’s daughter Bera.