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Full text of "Eric Brighteyes. With numerous illus. by Lancelot Speed"

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You have graciously conveyed to me the in- 
telligence that during the weary weeks spent far from 
his home in alternate hope and fear, in suffering and 
mortal trial a Prince whose memory all men must 
reverence, the Emperor Frederick, found pleasure in 
the reading of my stories : that ' they interested and 
fascinated him.' 

While the ivorld was watching daily at the bedside 
of your Majesty's Imperial husband, while many were 
endeavouring to learn courage in our supremest need 
from the spectacle ~of that heroic patience, a distant 
writer little knew that it had been his fortune to bring 
to such a sufferer an hour's forgetfulness of sorroiu and 

This knowledge, to an author, is far dearer than any 
praise, and it is in gratitude that, with your Majesty's 
permission, I venture to dedicate to you the tale of Eric 

The late Emperor, at heart a lover of peace, tliough 
luty a soldier of soldiers, might perhaps have cared 


to interest himself in a warrior of long ago, a hero of 
our Northern stock, whose days were spent in strife, 
and whose latest desire ivas Best. But it may not be ; 
like the Golden Eric of this Saga, and after a nobler 
fashion, he has passed through the Hundred Gates into 
the Valhalla of Eenown. 

To you then, Madam, I dedicate this bock, a token, 
however slight and unworthy, of profound respect and 

I am, Madam, 
Your Majesty's most obedient servant, 

November 27, 1889. 

To H.I.M. VICTORIA, Empress Frederick of Germany. 


* EKIC BBIGHTEYES ' is a romance founded on the Icelandic 
Sagas. ' What is a saga ? ' ' Is it a fable or a true story ? ' The 
answer is not altogether simple. For such sagas as those of 
Burnt Njal and Grettir the Strong partake both of truth and 
fiction : historians dispute as to the proportions. This 
was the manner of the saga's growth: In the early days of 
the Iceland community that republic of aristocrats say, be- 
tween the dates 900 and 1100 of our era, a quarrel would arise 
between two great families. As in the case of the Njal Saga, its 
cause, probably, was the ill doings of some noble woman. This 
quarrel would lead to manslaughter. Then blood called for 
blood, and a vendetta was set on foot that ended only with 
the death by violence of a majority of the actors in the drama 
and of large numbers of their adherents. In the course of 
the feud, men of heroic strength and mould would come to the 
front and perform deeds worthy of the iron age which bore 
them. Women also would help to fashion the tale, for good or 
ill, according to their natural gifts and characters. At last the 
tragedy was covered up by death and time, leaving only a few 
dinted shields and haunted cairns to tell of those who had 
played its leading parts. 

But its fame lived on in the minds of men. From genera- 
tion to generation skalds wandered through the winter snows, 
much as Homer may have wandered in his day across the 
Grecian vales and mountains, to find a welcome at every stead, 


because of the old-time story they had to tell. Here, night 
after night, they would sit in the ingle and while away the 
weariness of the dayless dark with histories of the times 
when men carried their lives in their hands, and thought 
them well lost if there might be a song in the ears of 
folk to come. To alter the tale was one of the greatest of 
crimes : the skald must repeat it as it came to him ; but by 
degrees undoubtedly the sagas did suffer alteration. The facts 
remained the same indeed, but around them gathered a mist of 
miraculous occurrences and legends. To take a single instance : 
the account of the burning of Bergthorsknoll in the Njal Saga 
is not only a piece of descriptive writing that for vivid, simple 
force and insight is scarcely to be matched out of Homer and 
the Bible, it is also obviously true. We feel as we read, that 
no man could have invented that story, though some great 
skald threw it into shape. That the tale is true, the writer of 
1 Eric ' can testify, for, saga in hand, he has followed every act 
of the drama on its very site. There he who digs beneath the 
surface of the lonely mound that looks across plain and sea to 
Westman Isles may still find traces of the burning, and see 
what appears to be the black sand with which the hands of 
Bergthora and her women strewed the earthen floor some nine 
hundred years ago, and even the greasy and clotted remains 
of the whey that they threw upon the flame to quench it. 
He may discover the places where Flosi drew up his men, 
where Skarphedinn died, singing while his legs were burnt 
from off him, where Kari leapt from the flaming ruin, and 
the dell in which he laid down to rest at every step, in 
short, the truth of the narrative becomes more obvious. And 
yet the tale has been added to, for, unless we may believe that 
some human beings are gifted with second sight, we cannot 
accept as true the prophetic vision that came to Kunolf, 
Thorstein's son ; or that of Njal who, on the evening of the 
onslaught, like Theoclymenus in the Odyssey, saw the whole 
board and the meats upon it ' one gore of blood.' 

Thus, in the Norse romance now offered to the reader, the 
tale of Eric and his deeds would be true ; but the dream of 
Asmund, the witchcraft of Swanhild, the incident of the 


speaking head, and the visions of Eric and Skallagrim, would 
owe their origin to the imagination of successive generations of 
skalds ; and, finally, in the fifteenth or sixteenth century, the 
story would have been written down with all its supernatural 

The tendency of the human mind and more especially of 
the Norse mind is to supply uncommon and extraordinary 
reasons for actions and facts that are to be amply accounted for 
by the working of natural forces. Swanhild would have needed 
no ' familiar ' to instruct her in her evil schemes ; Eric would 
have wanted no love-draught to bring about his overthrow. 
Our common experience of mankind as it is, in opposition to 
mankind as we fable it to be, is sufficient to teach us that the 
passion of the one and the human weakness of the other would 
suffice to these ends. The natural magic, the beauty and 
inherent power of such a woman as Swanhild, are things more 
forceful than any spell magicians have invented, or any 
demon they are supposed to have summoned to their aid. But 
no saga would be complete without the intervention of such 
extraneous forces : the need of them was always felt, in 
order to throw up the acts of heroes and heroines, and to invest 
their persons with an added importance. Even Homer felt 
this need, and did not scruple to introduce not only second 
sight, but gods and goddesses, and to bring their supernatural 
agency to bear directly on the personages of his chant, and 
that far more freely than any Norse sagaman. A word may 
be added in explanation of the appearances of ' familiars ' in 
the shapes of animals, an instance of which will be found in 
this story. It was believed in Iceland, as now by the Finns and 
Eskimo, that the passions and desires of sorcerers took visible 
form in such creatures as wolves or rats. These were called 
' sendings,' and there are many allusions to them in the Sagas. 

Another peculiarity that may be briefly alluded to as em- 
inently characteristic of the Sagas is their fatefulness. As we 
read we seem to hear the voice of Doom speaking continually. 
1 Things will happen as they are fated : ' that is the keynote 
of them all. The Norse mind had little belief in free will, less 
even than we have to-day. Men and women were born with 


certain characters and tendencies, given to them in order that 
their lives should run in appointed channels, and their acts 
bring about an appointed end. They do not these things o* 
their own desire, though their desires prompt them to the deeds 
they do them because they must. The Norns, as they nam 
Fate, have mapped out their path long and long ago ; their fee 
are set therein, and they must tread it to the end. Such wa 
the conclusion of our Scandinavian ancestors a belief forceo 
upon them by their intense realisation of the futility of human 
hopes and schemings, of the terror and the tragedy of life, the 
vanity of its desires, and the untra veiled gloom or sleep, 
dreamless or dreamful, which lies beyond its end. 

Though the Sagas are entrancing, both as examples o, 
literature of which there is but little in the world and because 
of their living interest, they are scarcely known to the English- 
speaking public. This is easy to account for : it is hard to 
persuade the nineteenth century world to interest itself in 
people who lived and events that happened a thousand years 
ago. Moreover, the Sagas are undoubtedly difficult reading. 
The archaic nature of the work, even in a translation ; the 
multitude of its actors ; the Norse sagaman's habit of inter- 
weaving endless side-plots, and the persistence with' which he 
introduces the genealogy and adventures of the ancestors of 
every unimportant character, are none of them to the taste 
of the modern reader. 

' Eric Brighteyes ' therefore, is clipped of these peculiarities, 
and, to some extent, is cast in the form of the romance of our 
own day, archaisms being avoided as much as possible. The 
author will be gratified should he succeed in exciting interest 
in the Doubled lives of our Norse forefathers, and still more 
so if his difficult experiment brings readers to the Sagas to 
the prose epics of our own race. Too ample, too prolix, too 
crowded with detail, they cannot indeed vie in art with the 
epics of Greece ; but in their pictures of life, simple and heroic, 
they fall beneath no literature in the world, save the Iliad and 
the Odyssey alone. 





ON COLDBACK ........ 9 





THE BARESARK .... . . . . GO 












DAUGHTER ........ 105 















HE FOUND . . . ... . . . 







































































HERE lived a man in the south, before 
Thangbrand, Wilibald's son, preached 
the White Christ in Iceland. He was 
named Eric Brighteyes, Thorgrimur's 
son, and in those days there was no 
man like him for strength, beauty and 
4 daring, for in all these things he was the first. 

But he was not the first in good-luck. 
Two women lived in the south, not far from 
where the Westman Islands stand above the sea. 
Gudruda the Fair was the name of the one, and Swanhild, 
called the Fatherless, Groa's daughter, was the other. They 
were half-sisters, and there were none like them in those days, 
for they were the fairest of all women, though they had nothing 
in common except their blood and hate. 

Now of Eric Brighteyes, of Gudruda the Fair, and of 
Swanhild the Fatherless, there is a tale to tell. 

These two fair women saw the light in the self-same hour. 
But Eric Brighteyes was their elder by five years. The 
father of Eric was Thorgrimur Iron- Toe. He had been a 
mighty man ; but in fighting with a Baresark, 1 who fell upon 

1 The Bai'esarks were men on whom a passing fury of battle came ; 
they were usually outlawed. 


him as he came up from sowing his wheat, his foot was hewn 
from him, so that afterwards he went upon a wooden leg 
shod with iron. Still, he slew the Baresark, standing on one 
leg and leaning against a rock, and for that deed people 
honoured him much. Thorgrimur was a wealthy yeoman, 
slow to wrath, just, and rich in friends. Somewhat late in life 
he took to wife Saevuna, Thorod's daughter. She was the best 
of women, strong in mind and second-sighted, and she could 
cover herself in her hair. But these two never loved each 
other overmuch, and they had but one child, Eric, who was born 
when Saevuna was well on in years. 

The father of Gudruda was Asmund Asmundson, the 
Priest of Middalhof. He was the wisest and the wealthiest 
of all men who lived in the south of Iceland in those days, 
owning many farms and, also, two ships of merchandise and 
one long ship of war, and having much money out at interest. 
He had won his wealth by viking's work, robbing the English 
coasts, and black tales were told of his doings in his youth on 
the sea, for he was a 'red-hand ' viking. Asmund was a hand- 
some man, with blue eyes and a large beard, and, moreover, was 
very skilled in matters of law. He loved money much, and 
was feared of all. Still, he had many friends, for as he aged 
he. grew more kindly. He had in marriage Gudruda, 
the daughter of Bjorn, who was very sweet and kindly of 
nature, so that they called her Gudruda the Gentle. Of this 
marriage there were two children, Bjorn and Gudruda the 
Fair ; but Bjorn grew up like his father in his youth, strong 
and hard, and greedy of gain, while, except for her wonderful 
beauty, Gud,ruda was her mother's child alone. 

The mother of Swanhild the Fatherless was Groa the 
Witch. She was a Finn, and it is told of her that the ship 
on which she sailed, trying to run under the lee of the West- 
man Isles in a great gale from the north-east, was dashed to 
pieces on a rock, and all those on board of her were caught in 
the net of Ran l and drowned, except Groa herself, who was saved 
by her magic art. This at the least is true, that, as Asmund 
the Priest rode down by the sea-shore on the morning after 
1 The Norse goddess of the sea, 

'At her feet in a pool \v*as a dead man.' 


the gale, seeking for some strayed horses, he found a beautiful 
woman, who wore a purple cloak and a great girdle of gold, 
seated on a rock, combing her black hair and singing the 
while ; and, at her feet, washing to and fro in a pool, was a 
dead man. He asked whence she came, and she answered : 

1 Out of the Swan's Bath.' 

Next he asked her where were her kin. But, pointing to 
the dead man, she said that this alone was left of them. 

' Who was the man, then ? ' said Asmund the Priest. 

She laughed again and sang this song : 

Groa sails up from the Swan's Bath, 

Death Gods grip the Dead Man's hand. 
Look where lies her luckless husband, 

Bolder sea-king ne'er swung sword ! 
Asmund, keep the kirtle-wearer, 

For last night the Norns were crying, 
And Groa thought they told of thee : 

Yea, told of thee and babes unborn. 

' How knowest thou my name ? ' asked Asmund. 

' The sea-mews cried it as the ship sank, thine and others 
and they shall be heard in story.' 

' Then that is the best of luck,' quoth Asmund ; ' but 
I think that thou art fey.' 1 

' Ay,' she answered, ' fey and fair.' 

* True enough thou art fair. What shall we do with this 
dead man ? ' 

4 Leave him in the arms of Ran. So may all husbands lie.' 

They spoke no more with her at that time, seeing that 
she was a witchwoman. But Asmund took her up to Mid- 
dalhof, and gave her a farm, and she lived there alone, and 

(profited much by her wisdom. 
Now it chanced that Gudruda the Gentle was with child, 
d when her time came she gave a daughter birth a very 
lair girl, with dark eyes. On the same day, Groa the witch- 

Kinan brought forth a girl-child, and men wondered who 
1 I.e. subject to supernatural presentiments, generally connected with 
reaching doom. 


was its father, for Groa was no man's wife. It was women's 
talk that Asmund the Priest was the father of this child 
also ; but when he heard it he was angry, and said that 
no witchwoman should bear a bairn of his, howsoever fair 
she was. Nevertheless, it was still said that the child was 
his, and it is certain that he loved it as a man loves his 
own ; but of all things, this is the hardest to know. When 
.Groa was questioned she laughed darkly, as was her fashion, 
and said that she knew nothing of it, never having seen 
the face of the child's father, who rose out of the sea at 
night. And for this cause some thought him to have been a 
wizard or the wraith of her dead husband ; but others said 
that Groa lied, as many women have done on such matters. 
But of all this talk the child alone remained and she was 
named Swanhild. 

Now, but an hour before the child of Gudruda the Gentle 
was born, Asmund went up from his house to the Temple, to 
tend the holy fire that burned night and day upon the altar. 
When he had tended the fire he sat down upon the cross- 
benches before the shrine, and, gazing on the image of the 
Goddess Freya, he fell asleep and dreamed a very evil dream. 

He dreamed that Gudruda the Gentle bore a dove most 
beautiful to see, for all its feathers were of silver ; but that 
Groa the Witch bore a golden snake. And the snake and 
the dove dwelt together, and ever the snake sought to slay 
the dove. At length there came a great white swan flying 
over Coldback Fell, and its tongue was a sharp sword. Now 
the swan saw the dove and loved it, and the dove loved the 
swan ; but the snake reared itself, and hissed, and sought to 
kill the dove. But the swan covered her with his wings, and 
beat the snake away. Then he, Asmund, came out and 
drove away the swan, as the swan had driven the snake, and 
it wheeled high into the air and flew south, and the snake swam 
away also through the sea. But the dove drooped and now 
it was blind. Then an eagle came from the north, and would 
have taken the dove, but it fled round and round, crying, and 
always the eagle drew nearer to it. At length, from the 
south the swan came back, flying heavily, and about its neck 


was twined the golden snake, and with it came a raven. And 
it saw the eagle and loud it trumpeted, and shook the snake 
from it so that it fell like a gleam of gold into the sea. Then 
the eagle and the swan met in battle, and the swan drove 
the eagle down and broke it with his wings, and, flying to the 
dove, comforted it. But those in the house ran out and shot 
at the swan with bows and drove it away, but now he, 
Asmund, was not with them. And once more the dove drooped. 
Again the swan came back, and with it the raven, and a great 
host were gathered against them, and, among them, all 
Asmund's kith and kin, and the men of his quarter and some of 
his priesthood, and many whom he did not know by face. 
And the swan flew at Bjorn his son, and shot out the sword 
of its tongue and slew him, and many a man it slew thus. 
And the raven, with a beak and claws of steel, slew also many 
a man, so that Asmund's kindred fled and the swan slept by 
the dove. But as it slept the golden snake crawled out of 
the sea, and hissed in the ears of men, and they rose up to 
follow it. It came to the swan and twined itself about its 
neck. It struck at the dove and slew it. Then the swan 
awoke and the raven awoke, and they did battle till all 
who remained of Asmund's kindred and people were dead. 
But still the snake clung about the swan's neck, and presently 
snake and swan fell into the sea, and far out on the sea there 
burned a flame of fire. And Asmund awoke trembling and 
left the Temple. 

Now as he went, a woman came running, and weeping as 
she ran. 

' Haste, haste ! ' she cried ; ' a daughter is born to thee, and 

P^ 1 "druda thy wife is dying ! ' 
' Is it so ? ' said Asmund ; ' after ill dreams ill tidings.' 
Now in the bed-closet off the great hall of Middalhof lay 
Gudruda the Gentle and she was d)ing. 
' Art tliou there, husband ? ' she said. 
' Even so, wife.' 

' Thou comest in an evil hour, for it is my last. Now 
hearken. Take thou the new-born babe within thine arms and 
kiss it, and pour water over it, and name it with my name.' 


This Asmund did. 

' Hearken, my husband. I have been a good wife to thee, 
though thou hast not been all good to me. But thus slialt 
thou atone : thou shalt swear that, though she is a girl, thou 
wilt not cast this bairn forth to perish, but wilt cherish and 
nurture her.' 

' I swear it,' he said. 

1 And thou shalt swear that thou wilt not take the witch- 
woman Groa to wife, nor have anything to do with her, and this 
for thine own sake : for, if thou dost, she will be thy death. 
Dost thou swear ? ' 

* I swear it,' he said. 

1 It is well ; but, husband, if thou dost break thine oath, 
either in the words or in the spirit of the words, evil shall over- 
take thee and all thy house. Now bid me farewell, for I die.' 

He bent over her and kissed her, and it is said that Asmund 
wept in that hour, for after his fashion he loved his wife. 

' Give me the babe,' she said, ' that it may lie once upon 
my breast.' 

They gave her the babe and she looked upon its dark eyes 
and said : 

' Fairest of women shalt thou be, Gudruda fair as no 
woman in Iceland ever was before thee ; and thou shalt love 
with a mighty love and thou slialt lose and, losing, thou 
shalt find again.' 

Now, it is said that, as she spoke these words, her face grew 
bright as a spirit's, and, having spoken them, she fell back 
dead. And they laid her in earth, but Asmund mourned her 

But, when all was over and done, the dream that he had 
dreamed lay heavy on him. Now of all diviners of dreams 
Groa was the most skilled, and when Gudruda had been in 
earth seven full days, Asmund went to Groa, though doubtfully, 
because of his oath. 

He came to the house and entered. On a couch in the 
chamber lay Groa, and her babe was on her breast and she 
was very fair to see. 

1 Greeting, lord ! ' she said. ' What wouldest thou here ? 


1 1 have dreamed a dream, and thou alone canst read it.' 
' That is as it may be,' she answered. * It is true that I 
have some skill in dreams. At the least I will hear it.' 
Then he unfolded it to her every word. 
' What wilt thou give me if I read thy dream ? ' she said. 
' What dost thou ask ? Methinks I have given thee much.' 

* Yea, lord,' and she looked at the babe upon her breast. 
' I ask but a little thing : that thou shalt take this bairn in thy 
arms, pour water over it and name it.' 

' Men will talk if I do this, for it is the father's part.' 

* It is a little thing what men say : talk goes by as the wind. 
Moreover, thou shalt give them the lie in the child's name, for 
it shall be Swanhild the Fatherless. Nevertheless that is my 
price. Pay it if thou wilt.' 

* Read me the dream and I will name the child.' 

' Nay, first name thou the babe : for then no harm shall 
come to her at thy hands.' 

So Asmund took the child, poured water over her, and 
named her. 

Then Groa spoke : * This, lord, is the reading of thy dream, 
else my wisdom is at fault : The silver dove is thy daughter 
Gudruda, the golden snake is my daughter Swanhild, and 
these two shall hate one the other and strive against each 
other. But the swan is a mighty man whom both shall love, 
and, if he love not both, yet he shall belong to both. And thou 
shalt send him away ; but he shall return and bring bad luck 
to thee and thy house, and thy daughter shall be blind with 
love of him. And in the end he shall slay the eagle, a great 
lord from the north who shall seek to wed thy daughter, and 
many another shall he slay, by the help of that raven with 
the bill of steel who shall be with him. But Swanhild shall 
triumph over thy daughter Gudruda, and this man, and the 
two of them, shall die at her hands, and, for the rest, who can 
say ? But this is true that the mighty man shall bring all 
y race to an end. See now, I have read thy rede.' 

Then Asmund was very wroth. ' Thou wast wise to be- 
ile me to name thy bastard brat,' he said ; ' else had I 
been its death within this hour.' 


1 This thou canst not do, lord, seeing that thou hast held it 
in thy arms,' Groa answered, laughing. ' Go rather and 
lay out Gudruda the Fair on Coldback Hill ; so shalt thou make 
an end of the evil, for Gudruda shall be its very root. Learn 
this, moreover : that thy dream does not tell all, seeing that 
thou thyself must play a part in the fate. Go, send forth the 
babe Gudruda, and be at rest.' 

' That cannot be, for I have sworn to cherish it, and with 
an oath that may not be broken.' 

' It is well,' laughed Groa. * Things will befall as they 
are fated ; let them befall in their season. There is space for 
cairns on Coldback and the sea can shroud its dead ! ' 

And Asmund went thence, angered at heart. 





NOW, it must 
be told that, 
five } ears be- 
fore the day 
of the death 
of Gudruda the Gentle, 
the wife of 
Thorgrimur Iron-Toe, 
birth to a son, at 
Coldback in the Marsh, 
on Ran River, and when 
his father came to look 
upon the child he called 
out aloud : 

' Here we have a 
wondrous bairn, for his 
hair is yellow like gold 
and his eyes shine 


bright as stars.' And Thorgrimur named him Eric Bright- 

Now, Coldback is but an hour's ride from Middalhof, and 
it chanced, in after years, that Thorgrimur went up to Mid- 
dalof, to keep the Yule feast and worship in the Temple, for he.; 
was in the priesthood of Asmund Asmundson, bringing the 
boy Eric with him. There also was Groa with Swanhild, for 
now she dwelt at Middalhof ; and the three fair children were ! 
set together in the hall to play, and men thought it ,^n 
sport to see them. Now, Gudruda had a horse of wood \\ 
would ride it while Eric pushed the horse along. But Swanx. 
hild smote her from the horse and called to Eric to make it 
move ; but he comforted Gudruda and would not, and at that 
Swanhild was angry and lisped out : 

1 Push thou must, if I will it, Eric.' 

Then he pushed sideways and with such good will that 
Swanhild fell almost into the fire of the hearth, and, leaping 
up, she snatched a brand and threw it at Gudruda, firing 
her clothes. Men laughed at this ; but Groa, standing apart, 
frowned and muttered witch- words. 

1 Why lookest thou so darkly, housekeeper ? ' said Asmund ; 
' the boy is bonny and high of heart.' 

' Ah, he is bonny as no child is, and he shall be bonny all 
his life-days. Nevertheless, he shall not stand against his ill 
luck. This I prophesy of him : that women shall bring him 
to his end, and he shall die a hero's death, but not at the 
hand of his foes.' 

And now the years went by peacefully. Groa dwelt with 
her daughter Swanhild up at Middalhof and was the love 
of Asmund Asmundson. But, though he forgot his oath thus 
far, yet he would never take her to wife. The witchwife 
was angered at this, and she schemed and plotted much to 
bring it about that Asmund should wed her. But still he 
would not, though in all things else she led him as it were by 
a halter. 

Twenty full years had gone by since Gudruda the Gentle 


was laid in earth ; and now Gudruda the Fair and Swanhild the 
Fatherless were women grown. Eric, too, was a man of five- 
and- twenty years, and no such man had lived in Iceland. For 
he was strong and great of stature, his hair was yellow as 
jold, and his grey eyes shone with the light of swords. He 
was gentle and loving as a woman, and even as a lad his 
strength was the strength of two men ; and there were none 
in all the quarter who could leap or swim or wrestle against 
; c Brighteyes. Men held him in honour and spoke well of 
i, though as yet he had done no deeds, but lived at home 
. a Coldback, managing the farm, for now Thorgrimur Iron- 
Toe, his father, was dead. But women loved him much, and that 
was his bane for of all women he loved but one, Gudruda the 
Fair, Asmund's daughter. He loved her from a child, and 
her alone till his day of death, and she, too, loved him and 
him only. For now Gudruda was a maid of maids, most 
beautiful to see and sweet to hear. Her hair, like the hair 
of Eric, was golden, and she was white as the snow on 
Hecla ; but her eyes were large and dark, and black lashes 
drooped above them. For the rest she was tall and strong 
and comely, merry of face, yet tender, and the most witty of 

Swanhild also was very fair ; she was slender, small of 
limb, and dark of hue, having eyes blue as the deep sea, and 
brown curling hair, enough to veil her to the knees, and a 
mind of which none knew the end, for, though she was open 
in her talk, her thoughts were dark and secret. This was her 
joy : to draw the hearts of men to her and then to mock them. 
She beguiled many in this fashion, for she was the cunningest 
girl in matters of love, and she knew well the arts of women, 
with which they bring men to nothing. Nevertheless she 
was cold at heart, and desired power and wealth greatly, and 
she studied magic much, of which her mother Groa also had 
a store. But Swanhild, too, loved a man, and that was the joint 
in her harness by which the shaft of Fate entered her heart, for 
that man was Eric Brighteyes, who loved her not. But she 
desired him so sorely that, without him, all the world was dark 
to her, and her soul but as a ship driven rudderless upon a 



winter night. Therefore she put out all her strength to win 
him, and bent her witcheries upon him, and they were not few 
nor small. Nevertheless they went by him like the wind, for 
he dreamed ever of Gudruda alone, and he saw no eyes but 
hers, though as yet they spoke no word of love one to the 

But Swanhild in her wrath took counsel with her mother 
Groa, though there was little liking between them ; and, when 
she had heard the maiden's tale, Groa laughed aloud : 

1 Dost think me blind, girl ? ' she said ; ' all of this I have 
seen, yea and foreseen, and I tell thee thou art mad. Let 
this yeoman Eric go and I will find thee finer fowl to fly at.' 

' Nay, that I will not,' quoth Swanhild : ' for I love this man 
alone, and I would win him ; and Gudruda I hate, and I would 
overthrow her. Give me of thy counsel.' 

Groa laughed again. * Things must be as they are fated. 
This now is my rede : Asmund would turn Gudruda' s beauty 
to account, and that man must be rich in friends and money 
who gets her to wife, and in this matter the mind of Bjorn is 
as the mind of his father. Now we will watch, and, when a 
good time chances, we will bear tales of Gudruda to Asmund 
and to her brother Bjorn, and swear that she oversteps her 
modesty with Eric. Then shall Asmund be wroth and drive 
Eric from Gudruda's side. Meanwhile, I will do this : In the 
north there dwells a man mighty in all things and blown up 
with pride. He is named Ospakar Blacktooth. His wife is 
but lately dead, and he has given out that he will wed the fairest 
maid in Iceland. Now, it is in my mind to send Koll the Half- 
witted, my thrall, whom Asmund gave to me, to Ospakar as 
though by chance. He is a great talker and very clever, for 
in his half-wits is more cunning than in the brains of most ; 
and he shall so bepraise Gudruda's beauty that Ospakar will 
come hither to ask her in marriage ; and in this fashion, if 
things go well, thou shalt be rid of thy rival, and I of one who 
looks scornfully upon me. But, if this fail, then there are two 
roads left on which strong feet may travel to their end ; and 
of these, one is that thou shouldest win Eric away with thine 
own beauty, and that is not little. All men are frail, and I 


have a draught that will make the heart as wax ; but yet the 
other path is surer.' 

' And what is that path, my mother ? ' 

' It runs through blood to blackness. By thy side is a 
knife and in Gudruda's bosom beats a heart. Dead women 
are unmeet for love ! ' 

Swanhild tossed her head and looked upon the dark face 
of Groa her mother. 

* Methinks, with such an end to win, I should not fear to 
tread that path, if there be need, my mother.' 

' Now I see thou art indeed my daughter. Happiness is to 
the bold. To each it comes in uncertain shape. Some love 
power, some wealth, and some a man. Take that which thou 
lovest I say, cut thy path to it and take it ; else shall thy life 
be but a weariness : for what does it serve to win the wealth and 
power when thou lovest a man alone, or the man when thou 
dost desire gold and the pride of place ? This is wisdom : to 
satisfy the longing of thy youth ; for age creeps on apace and 
beyond is darkness. Therefore, if thou seekest this man, and 
Gudruda blocks thy path, slay her, girl by witchcraft or by 
steel and take him, and in his arms forget that thine own are 
red. But first let us try the easier plan. Daughter, I too hate 
this proud girl, who scorns me as her father's light -of -love. 
I too long to see that bright head of hers dull with the dust of 
death, or, at the least, those proud eyes weeping tears of shame 
as the man she hates leads her hence a bride. Were it not for 
her I should be Asmund's wife, and, when she is gone, with 
thy help for he loves thee much and has cause to love thee 
this I may be yet. So in this matter, if in no other, let us go 
hand in hand and match our wit against her innocence.' 

* So be it,' said Swanhild ; * fail me not and fear not that I 
shall fail thee.' 

Now, Koll the Half-witted went upon his errand, and the 
time passed till it lacked but a month to Yule, and men sat 
indoors, for the season was dark and much snow fell. At 
length came frost, and with it a clear sky, and Gudruda, ceas- 
ing from her spinning in the hall, went to 'the women's porch, 



and, looking out, saw that the snow was hard, and a great 
longing came upon her to breathe the fresh air, for there was 
still an hour of daylight. So she threw a cloak about her and 
walked forth, taking the road towards Coldback in the Marsh 
that is by Kan River. But Swanhild watched her till she was 
over the hill. Then she also took a cloak and followed on 
that path, for she always watched Gudruda. 

Gudruda walked on for the half of an hour or so, when she 
became aware that clouds gathered in the sky, and that the 
air was heavy with snow to come. Seeing this she turned 
homewards, and Swanhild hid herself to let her pass. Now 
flakes floated down as big and soft as fifa flowers. Quicker and 
more quick they came till all the plain was one white maze of 
mist, but through it Gudruda walked on, and after her crept 
Swanhild, like a shadow. And now the darkness gathered 
and the snow fell thick and fast, covering up the track of her 
footsteps and she wandered from the path, and after her 
wandered Swanhild, being loath to show herself. For an hour 
or more Gudruda wandered and then she called aloud and her 
voice fell heavily against the cloak of snow. At the last she 
grew weary and frightened, and sat down upon a shelving rock 
whence the snow had slipped away. Now, a little way behind 
was another rock and there Swanhild sat, for she wished to 
be unseen of Gudruda. So some time passed, and Swanhild 
grew heavy as though with sleep, when of a sudden a moving 
thing loomed upon the snowy darkness. Then Gudruda leapt 
to her feet and called. A man's voice answered : 

1 Who passes there ? ' 

' I, Gudruda, Asmund's daughter.' 

The form came nearer; now Swanhild could hear the 
snorting of a horse, and now a man leapt from it, and that 
man was Eric Brighteyes. 

' Is it thou indeed, Gudruda ! ' he said with a laugh, and 
his great shape showed darkly on the snow mist. 

' Oh, is it thou, Eric ? ' she answered. < T was never more 
joyed to see thee ; for of a truth thou dost come in a good 
hour. A little while and I had seen thee no more, for my 
eyes grow heavy with the death-sleep.' 


' Nay, say not so. Art lost, then ? Why, so am I. I 
came out to seek three horses that are strayed, and was over- 
taken by the snow. May they dwell in Odin's stables, for 
they have led me to thee. Art thou cold, Gudruda ? ' 

1 But a little, Eric. Yea, there is place for thee here on 
the rock.' 

So he sat down by her on the stone, and Swanhild crept 
nearer; for now all weariness had left her. But still the 
snow fell thick. 

1 It comes into my mind that we two shall die here,' said 
Gudruda presently, 

' Thinkest thou so ? ' he answered. ' Well, I will say this, 
that I ask no better end.' 

' It is a bad end for thee, Eric : to be choked in snow, and 
with all thy deeds to do.' 

' It is a good end, Gudruda, to die at thy side, for so I shall 
die happy ; but I grieve for thee.' 

' Grieve not for me, Brighteyes, worse things might befall.' 

He drew nearer to her, and now he put his arm about her 
and clasped her to his bosom ; nor did she say him nay. 
Swanhild saw and lifted herself up behind them, but for a 
while she heard nothing but the beating of her heart.' 

* Listen, Gudruda,' Eric said at last. ' Death draws near to 
us, and before it comes I would speak to thee, if speak I may.' 

' Speak on,' she whispers from his breast. 

' This I would say, then : that I love thee, and that I ask 
no better fate than to die in thy arms.' 

' First shalt thou see me die in thine, Eric.' 

' Be sure, if that is so, I shall not tarry for long. Oh ! 
Gudruda, since I was a child I have loved thee with a mighty 
love, and now thou art all to me. Better to die thus than to 
live without thee. Speak, then, while there is time.' 

I will not hide from thee, Eric, that thy words are sweet 
ly ears.' 

And now Gudruda sobs and the tears fall fast from her dark 


' Nay, weep not. Dost thou, then, love me ? ' 

' Ay, sure enough, Eric,' 


'Then kiss me before we pass. A man should not die 
thus, and yet men have died worse.' 

And so these two kissed, for the first time, out in the snow 
on Coldback, and that first kiss was long and sweet. 

Swanhild heard and her blood seethed within her as water 
seethes in a boiling spring when the fires wake beneath. She 
put her hand to her kirtle and gripped the knife at her side. 
She half drew it, then drove it back. 

' Cold kills as sure as steel,' she said in her heart. ' If I 
slay her I cannot save myself or him. Let us die in peace, and let 
the snow cover up our troubling.' And once more she listened. 

' Ah, sweet,' said Eric, ' even in the midst of death there 
is hope of life. Swear to me, then, that if by chance we live 
thou wilt love me always as thou lovest me now.' 

' Ay, Eric, I swear that and readily.' 

' And swear, come what may, that thou wilt wed no man 
but me.' 

' I swear, if thou dost remain true to me, that I will wed 
none but thee, Eric.' 

' Then I am sure of thee.' 

1 Boast not overmuch, Eric : if thou dost live thy days are 
all before thee, and with times come trials.' 

Now the snow whirled down faster and more thick, till these 
two, clasped heart to heart, were but a heap of white, and all 
white was the horse, and Swanhild was nearly buried. 

'Where go we when we die, Eric?' said Gudruda; 'in 
Odin's house there is no place for maids, and how shall my 
feet fare without thee ? ' 

' Nay, sweet, my May, Valhalla shuts its gates to me, a 
deedless man ; up Bifrost's rainbow bridge I may not travel, 
for I do not die with byrnie on breast and sword aloft. To 
Hela shall we go, and hand in hand.' 

' Art thou sure, Eric, that men find these abodes ? To say 
sooth, at times I misdoubt me of them.' 

' I am not so sure but that I also doubt. Still, I know this : 
that where thou goest there I shall be, Gudruda.' 

' Then things are well, and well work the Norns. 1 Still, 
1 The Northern Fates. 


Eric, of a sudden I grow fey : for it comes upon me that I shall 
not die to-night, but that, nevertheless, I shall die with thy 
arms about me, and at thy side. There, I see it on the 
snow ! I lie by thee, sleeping, and one comes with hands 
outstretched and sleep falls from them like a mist by Freya, 
it is Swanhild's self ! Oh ! it is gone.' 

' It was nothing, Gudruda, but a vision of the snow an un- 
timely dream that comes before the sleep. I grow cold and 
my eyes are heavy ; kiss me once again.' 

' It was no dream, Eric, and ever I doubt me of Swanhild, 
for I think she loves thee also, and she is fair and my enemy,' 
says Gudruda, laying her snow-cold lips on his lips. ' Oh, Eric, 
awake ! awake ! See, the snow is done.' 

He stumbled to his feet and looked forth. Lo ! out across 
the sky flared the wild Northern fires, throwing light upon the 

4 Now it seems that I know the land,' said Eric. ' Look : 
yonder are Golden Falls, though we did not hear them because 
of the snow ; and there, out at sea, loom the Westmans ; and 
that dark thing is the Temple Hof, and behind it stands the 
stead. We are saved, Gudruda, and thus far indeed thou 
wast fey. Now rise, ere thy limbs stiffen, and I will set thee 
on the horse, if he still can run, and lead thee down to Mid- 
dalhof before the witchlights fail us.' 

4 So it shall be, Eric.' 

Now he led Gudruda to the horse that, seeing its master, 
snorted and shook the snow from its coat, for it was not 
frozen and set her on the saddle, and put his arm about 
her waist, and they passed slowly through the deep snow. 
And Swanhild, too, crept from her place, for her burning 
rage had kept the life in her, and followed after them. Many 
times she fell, and once she was nearly swallowed in a drift of 
snow and cried out in her fear. 

' Who called aloud ? ' said Eric, turning ; ' I thought 1 
heard a voice.' 

' Nay,' answers Gudruda, ' it was but a night-hawk 

I Now Swanhild lay quiet in the drift, but she said in her heart : 


1 Ay, a night-hawk that shall tear out those dark eyes of 
thine, my enemy ! ' 

The two go on and at length they come to the banked 
roadway that runs past the Temple to Asmund's hall. Here 
Swanhild leaves them, and, climbing over the turf -wall into 
the home meadow, passes round the hall by the outbuildings 
and so comes to the west end of the house, and enters by the 
men's door unnoticed of any. For all the people, seeing a 
horse coming and a woman seated on it, were gathered in 
front of the hall. But Swanhild ran to that shut bed where 
she slept, and, closing the curtain, threw off her garments, shook 
the snow from her hair, and put on a linen kirtle. Then she 
rested a while, for she was weary, and, going to the kitchen, 
warmed herself at the fire. 

Meanwhile Eric and Gudruda came to the house and 
there Asmund greeted them well, for he was troubled in his 
heart about his daughter, and very glad to know her living, 
seeing that men had but now begun to search for her, because 
of the snow and the darkness. 

Now Gudruda told her tale, but not all of it, and Asmund 
bade Eric to the house. Then one asked about Swanhild, and 
Eric said that he had seen nothing of her, and Asmund was 
sad at this, for he loved Swanhild. But as he told all men to 
go and search, an old wife came and said that Swanhild was 
in the kitchen, and while the carline spoke she came into the 
hall, dressed in white, very pale and with shining eyes and 
fair to see. 

' Where hast thou been, Swanhild ? ' said Asmund. ' I 
thought certainly thou wast perishing with Gudruda in the 
snow, and now all men go to seek thee while the witchlights 

1 Nay, foster-father, I have been to the Temple,' she an- 
swered, lying. ' So Gudruda has but narrowly escaped the 
snow, thanks be to Brighteyes yonder! Surely I am glad 
of it, for we could ill spare our sweet sister,' and, going up 
to her, she kissed her. But Gudruda saw that her eyes 
burned like fire and felt that her lips were cold as ice, and 
shrank back wondering. 




|iOW it was supper- time and men 
sat at meat while the women 
waited upon them. But as 
she went to and fro, Gudruda 
always looked at Eric, and 
Swanhild watched them both. 
Supper being over, people 
gathered round the hearth, 
and, having finished her ser- 
vice, Gudruda came and sat by 
Eric, so that her sleeve might 
touch his arm. They spoke no 
word, but there they sat and 
were happy. Swanhild saw 
and bit her lip. Now, she was 
seated by Asmund and Bjorn 
his son. 

' Look, foster-father,' she said ; ' yonder sit a pretty pair ! ' 
' That cannot be denied,' answered Asmund. ' One may 
ride many days to see such another man as Eric Brighteyes, 
and no such maid as Gudruda flowers between Middalhof and 
London town, unless it be thou, Swanhild. Well, so her 
mother said that it should be, and without doubt she was 
ioresighted at her death.' 

' Nay, name me not with Gudruda, foster-father ; I am 
but a grey goose by thy white swan. But these shall be well 
vred and that will be a good match for Eric.' 




' Let not thy tongue ran on so fast,' said Asmund sharply. 
' Who told thee that Eric should have Gudruda ? ' 

* None told me, but in truth, having eyes and ears, I grew 
certain of it,' said Swanhild. ' Look at them now : surely 
lovers wear such faces.' 

Now it chanced that Gudruda had rested her chin on her 
hand, and was gazing into Eric's eyes beneath the shadow of 
her hair. 

' Methinks my sister will look higher than to wed a simple 
yeoman, though he is large as two other men,' said Bjorn 
with a sneer. Now Bjorn was jealous of Eric's strength and 
beauty, and did not love him. 

* Trust nothing that thou seest and little that thou nearest, 
girl,' said Asmund, raising himself from thought : ' so shall 
thy guesses be good. Eric, come here and tell us how thou 
didst chance on Gudruda in the snow.' 

' I was not so ill seated but that I could bear to stay,' 
grumbled Eric beneath his breath ; but Gudruda said * Go.' 

So he went and told his tale ; but not all of it, for he in- 
tended to ask Gudruda in marriage on the morrow, though 
his heart prophesied no luck in the matter, and therefore he 
was not overswift with it. 

' In this thing thou hast done me and mine good service,' 
said Asmund coldly, searching Eric's face with his blue eyes. 
' It had been sad if my fair daughter had perished in the snow, 
for, know this : I would set her high in marriage, for her honour 
and the honour of my house, and so some rich and noble man 
had lost great joy. But take thou this gift in memory 
of the deed, and Gudruda's husband shall give thee another 
such upon the day that he makes her wife,' and he drew a 
gold ring off his arm. 

Now Eric's knees trembled as he heard, and his heart 
grew faint as though with fear. But he answered clear and 
straight : 

' Thy gift had been better without thy words, ring-giver - r 
but I pray thee to take it back, for I have done nothing to win 
it, though perhaps the time will come when I shall ask thee 
for a richer.' 


'My gifts have never been put away before,' said Asmund, 
growing angry. 

' This wealthy farmer holds the good gold of little worth. 
It is foolish to take fish to the sea, my father,' sneered 

4 Nay, Bjorn, not so,' Eric answered : ' but, as thou sayest, 
I am but a farmer, and since my father, Thorgrimur Iron-Toe, 
died things have not, gone too well on Ran River. But at 
the least I am a free man, and I will take no gifts that I 
cannot repay worth for worth. Therefore I will not have the 

' As thou wilt,' said Asmund. t Pride is a good horse if 
thou ridest wisely,' and he thrust the ring back upon his 

Then people go to rest ; but Swanhild seeks her mother, and 
tells her all that has befallen her, nor does Groa fail to 

' Now I will make a plan,' she says, ' for these things have 
chanced well and Asmund is in a ripe humour. Eric shall 
come no more to Middalhof till Gudruda is gone hence, led 
by Ospakar Blacktooth.' 

* And if Eric does not come here, how shall I see his face ? 
for, mother, I long for the sight of it.' 

' That is thy matter, thou lovesick fool. Know this : that 
if Eric comes hither and gets speech with Gudruda, there is 
an end of thy hopes ; for, fair as thou art, she is too fair for 
thee, and, strong as thou art, in a way she is too strong. Thou 
hast heard how these two love, and such loves mock at the 
will of fathers. Eric will win his desire or die beneath the 
swords of Asmund and Bjorn, if such men can prevail against his 
might. Nay, the wolf Eric must be fenced from the lamb till 
he grows hungry. Then let him search the fold and make 
spoil of thee, for, when the best is gone, he will desire the 

* So be it, mother. As I sat crouched behind Gudruda in 
the snow at Coldback I had half a mind to end her love- 
words with this knife, for so I should have been free of 



' Yes, and fact in the doom-ring, thou wildcat. The gods 
help this Eric, if thou winnest him. Nay, choose thy time and, 
if thou must strike, strike secretly and home. Remember also 
that cunning is mightier than strength, that lies pierce further 
than swords, and that witchcraft wins where honesty must 
fail. Now I will go to Asmund, and he shall be an angry man 
before to-morrow comes.' 

Then Groa went to the shut bed where Asmund the 
Priest slept He was sitting on the bed and asked her why 
she came. 

* For love of thee, Asmund, and thy house, though thou 
dost treat me ill, who hast profited so much by me and my 
foresight. Say now : wilt thou that this daughter of thine, 
Gudruda the Fair, should be the light May of yonder long- 
legged yeoman ? ' 

'That is not in my mind,' said Asmund, stroking his 

' Knowest thou, then, that this very day your white 
Gudruda sat on Eric's lap in the snow, while he fondled her 
to his heart's content ? ' 

' Most likely it was for warmth. Men do not dream on love 
in the hour of death. Who saw this ? ' 

' Swanhild, who was behind, and hid herself for shame, 
and therefore she held that these two must soon be wed ! 
Ah, thou art foolish now, Asmund. Young blood makes 
light of cold or death. Art thou blind, or dost thou not see 
that these two turn to each other like birds at nesting- time ? ' 

' They might do worse,' said Asmund, ' for they are a 
proper pair, and it seems to me that each was born for 

' Then all goes well. Still, it is a pity to see so fair a maid 
cast like rotten bait upon the waters to hook this troutlet 
of a yeoman. Thou hast enemies, Asmund ; thou art too 
prosperous, and there are many who hate thee for thy state 
and wealth. Were it not wise to use this girl of thine to build 
a wall about thee against the evil day ? ' 

' I have been more wont, housekeeper, to trust to my 
own arm than to bought friends. But tell me, for at the least 


thou art far-seeing, how may this be done ? As things are, 
though I spoke roughly to him this night, I am inclined to let 
Eric Brighteyes take Gudruda. I have always loved the lad, 
and he will go far.' 

* Listen, Asmund ! Surely thou hast heard of Ospakar 
Blacktooth the priest who dwells in the north ? ' 

* Ay, I have heard of him, and I know him ; there is no 
man like him for ugliness, or strength, or wealth and power. 
We sailed together on a viking cruise many years ago, and 
he did things at which my blood turned, and in those days I 
had no chicken heart.' 

' With time men change their temper. Unless I am mis- 
taken, this Ospakar wishes above all to have Gudruda in 
marriage, for, now that everything is his, this alone is left for 
him to ask the fairest woman in Iceland as a housewife. 
Think then, with Ospakar for a son-in-law, who is there that 
can stand against thee ? ' 

' I am not so sure of this matter, nor do I altogether trust 
thee, Groa. Of a truth it seems to me that thou hast some 
stake upon the race. This Ospakar is evil and hideous. It 
were a shame to give Gudruda over to him when she looks else- 
where. Knowest thou that I swore to love and cherish her, 
and how runs this with my oath ? If Eric is not too rich, 
yet he is of good birth and kin, and, moreover, a man of men. 
If he take her good will come of it.' 

' It is like thee, Asmund, always to mistrust those who spend 
their days in plotting for thy weal. Do as thou wilt : let 
Eric take this treasure of thine for whom earls would give 
their state and live to rue it. But I say this : if he 
have thy leave to roam here with his dove the matter will 
soon grow, for these two sicken each to each, and young 
blood is hot and ill at waiting, and it is not always 
snow-time. So betroth her or let him go. And now I have 

' Thy tongue runs too fast. The man is quite unproved and 
I will try him. To-morrow I will warn him from my door ; 
then things shall go as they arc fated. And now peace, for I 
weary of thy talk, and, moreover, it is false ; for thou lackest 


one thing a little honesty to season all thy craft. What 
fee has Ospakar paid thee, I wonder. Thou at least hadst 
never refused the gold ring to-night, for thou wouldst do 
much for gold.' 

'And more for love, and most of all for hate,' Groa said, 
and laughed aloud ; nor did they speak more on this matter 
that night. 

Now, early in the morning Asmund rose, and, going to the 
hall, awoke Eric, who slept by the centre hearth, saying that 
he would talk with him without. Then Eric followed him 
to the back of the hall. 

' Say now, Eric,' he said, when they stood in the grey 
light outside the house, ' who was it taught thee that kisses 
keep out the cold on snowy days ? ' 

Now Eric reddened to his yellow hair, but he answered : 
* Who was it told thee, lord, that I tried this medicine ? ' 

' The snow hides much, but there are eyes that can pierce 
the snow. Nay, more, thou wast seen, and there's an end. 
Now know this I like thee well, but Gudruda is not for thee ; 
she is far above thee, who art but a deedless yeoman.' 

* Then I love to no end,' said Eric ; ' I long for one 
thing only, and that is Gudruda. It was in my mind to ask 
her in marriage of thee to-day.' 

' Then, lad, thou hast thy answer before thou askest. 
Be sure of one thing : if but once again I find thee alone 
with Gudruda, it is my axe shall kiss thee and not her 

* That may yet be put to the proof, lord,' said Eric, 
and turned to seek his horse, when suddenly Gudruda came 
and stood between them, and his heart leapt at the sight of 

' Listen, Gudruda,' Eric said. ' This is thy father's word : 
that we two speak together no more.' 

' Then it is an ill saying for us,' said Gudruda, laying her 
hand upon her breast. 

' Saying good or ill, so it surely is, girl,' answered Asmund. 
' No more sliajt thou go a-kissing, in the snow or in the 

Eric and Skallagrim boarding the ' Haven/ 


' Now I seem to hear Swanhild's voice,' she said. ' Well, 
such things have happened to better folk, and a father's wish 
is to a maid what the wind is to the grass. Still, the sun is 
behind the cloud and it will shine again some day. Till then, 
Eric, fare thee well ! ' 

' It is not thy will, lord,' said Eric, ' that I should come to 
thy Yule-feast as thou hast asked me these ten years gone ? ' 

Now Asmund grew wroth, and pointed with his hand to- 
wards the great Golden Falls that thunder down the mountain 
named Stonefell that is behind Middalhof, and there are no 
greater water-falls in Iceland. 

' A man may take two roads, Eric, from Coldback to 
Middalhof, one by the bridle-path over Coldback and the other 
down Golden Falls ; but I never knew traveller to choose this 
way. Now, I bid thee to my feast by the path over Golden Falls ; 
and, if thou comest that way, I promise thee this : if thou livest 
I will greet thee well, and if I find thee dead in the great pool I 
will bind on thy Hell-shoes and lay thee to earth neighbourly 
fashion. But if thou comest by any other path, then my thralls 
shall cut thee down at my door.' And he stroked his beard 
and laughed. 

Now Asmund spoke thus mockingly because he did not 
think it possible that any man should try the path of the Golden 

Eric smiled and said, ' I hold thee to thy word, lord ; per- 
haps I shall be thy guest at Yule.' 

But Gudruda heard the thunder of the mighty Falls as the 
wind turned, and cried ' Nay, nay it were thy death ! ' 

Then Eric finds his horse and rides away across the 

Now it must be told of Roll the Half-witted that at length 
he came to Swinefell in the north, having journeyed hard across 
the snow. Here Ospakar Blacktooth had his great hall, in 
which day by day a hundred men sat down to meat. Now 
Koll entered the hall when Ospakar was at supper, and looked 
at him with big eyes, for he had never seen so wonderful a 
He was huge in stature his hair was black, and black 


his beard, and on his lower lip there lay a great black fang. 
His eyes were small and narrow, but his cheekbones were set 
wide apart and high, like those of a horse. Koll thought him 
an ill man to deal with and half a troll, 1 and grew afraid of his 
errand, since in Roll's half-wittedness there was much cunning 

for it was a cloak in which he wrapped himself. J>ut 

as Ospakar sat in the high seat, clothed in a purple robe, with 
his sword Whitefire on his knee, he saw Koll, and called 
out in a great voice : 

' Who is this red fox that creeps into my earth ? ' 

For, to look at, Koll was very like a fox. 

' My name is Koll the Half-witted, Groa's thrall, lord. 
Am I welcome here ? ' he answered. 

' That is as it may be. Why do they call thee half-witted ? ' 

' Because I love not work overmuch, lord.' 

1 Then all my thralls are fellow to thee. Say, what brings 
thee here ? ' 

' This, lord. It was told among men down in the south that 
thou wouldst give a good gift to him who should discover to 
thee the fairest maid in Iceland. So I asked leave of my 
mistress to come on a journey and tell thee of her.' 

' Then a lie was told thee. Still, I love to hear of fair 
maids, and seek one for a wife if she be but fair enough. So 
speak on, Koll the Fox, and lie not to me, I warn thee, else 
I will knock what wits are left there from that red head of 

So Koll took up the tale and greatly bepraised Gudruda's 
beauty ; nor in truth, for all his talk, could he praise it too 
much. He told of her dark eyes and the whiteness of her skin, 
of the nobleness of her shape and the gold of her hair, of her 
wit and gentleness, till at length Ospakar grew afire to see 
this flower of maids. 

'By Thor, thou Koll,' he said, < if the girl be but half of 
what thou sayest, her luck is good, for she shall be wife to 
Ospakar. But if thou hast lied to me about her, beware ! for 
soon there shall be a knave the less in Iceland.' 

Now a man rose in the hall and said that Koll spoke truth, for 
1 An able-bodied Goblin. 


he had seen Gudruda the Fair, Asmund's daughter, and there 
was no maid like her in Iceland. 

' I will do this now,' said Blacktooth. ' To-morrow 1 will 
send a messenger to Middalhof, saying to Asmund the Priest 
that I purpose to visit him at the time of the Yule-feast ; then 
I shall see if the girl pleases me. Meanwhile, Koll, take thou 
a seat among the thralls, and here is something for thy pains,' 
and he took off the purple cloak and threw it to him. 

' Thanks to thee, Gold-scatterer,' said Koll. ' It is wise to 
go soon to Middalhof, for such a bloom as this maid does not 
lack a bee. There is a youngling in the south, named Eric 
Brighteyes, who loves Gudruda, and she, I think, loves him, 
though he is but a yeoman of small wealth and is only twenty- 
five years old.' 

* Ho ! ho ! ' laughed great Ospakar, ' and I am forty-five. 
But let not this suckling cross my desire, lest men call him 
Eric Hollo weyes ! ' 

Now the messenger of Ospakar came to Middalhof, and his 
words pleased Asmund and he made ready a great feast. 
And Swanhild smiled, but Gudruda was afraid. 




NOW Ospakar rode up to Middalhof on the day be- 
fore the Yule-feast. He was splendidly apparelled, 
and with him came his two sons, Gizur the Law- 
man and Mord, young men of promise, and many 
armed thralls and servants. Gudruda, watching at 
the women's door, saw his face in the moonlight and loathed 

' What thinkest thou of him who comes to seek thee 
in marriage, foster-sister ? ' asked Swanhild, watching at her 

' I think he is like a troll, and that, seek as he will, he 
shall not find me. I had rather lie in the pool beneath 
Golden Falls than in Ospakar 's hall.' 

' That shall be proved,' said Swanhild. * At the least he 
is rich and noble, and the greatest of men in size. It would 
go hard with Eric were those arms about him.' 

' I am not so sure of that,' said Gudruda ; ' but it is not 
likely to be known.' 

' Comes Eric to the feast by the road of Golden Falls, 
Gudruda ? ' 

' Nay, no man may try that path and live.' 

' Then he will die, for Eric will risk it.' 

Now Gudruda thought, and a great fire burned in her 
heart and shone through her eyes. ' If Eric dies,' she said, 
' on thee be his blood, Swanhild on thee and that dark mother 
of thine, for ye have plotted to bring this evil on us. How 




have I harmed thee 
that thoushouldst deal 
thus with me '? ' 

Swanhild turned 
white and wicked - 
looking, for passion 
mastered her, and she 
gazed into Gudruda's 
face and answered : 
1 How hast thou 
harmed me ? Surely 
I will tell thee. Thy 
beauty has robbed me 
of Eric's love.' 

* It would be better 
to prate of Eric's love 
when he had told it 
thee, Swanhild.' 

* Thou hast robbed 
me and therefore I 
hate thee, and there- 
fore I will deliver thee 
to Ospakar, whom 
thou dost loath ay 
and yet win Bright- 
eyes to myself. Am 
I not also fair and can 
I not also love, and 
shall I see thee snatch 
my j oy ? By the Gods, 
never ! I will see thee 

ead, and Eric with 
ee, ere it shall be so ! 
ut first I will see thee 
shamed ! ' 

' Thy words are ill- 
ited to a maiden's 
lips, Swanhild ! But of this be sure : I fear thee not, and shall 



never fear thee. And one thing I know well that, whether thou 
or I prevail, in the end thou shalt harvest the greatest shame, 
and in times to come men shall speak of thee with hatred and 
name thee by ill names. Moreover, Eric shall never love 
thee ; from year to year he shall hate thee with a deeper hate, 
though it may well be that thou wilt bring ruin on him. And 
now I thank thee that thou hast told me all thy mind, show- 
ing me what indeed thou art ! ' And Gudruda turned scornfully 
upon her heel and walked away. 

Now Asmund the Priest went out into the courtyard, and 
meeting Ospakar Blacktooth, greeted him heartily, though he 
did not like his looks, and took him by the hand and led him 
to the hall, that was bravely decked with tapestries, and seated 
him by his side on the high seat. And Ospakar's thralls 
brought good gifts for Asmund, who thanked the giver well. 

Now it was supper time, and Gudruda came in, and after 
her walked Swanhild. Ospakar gazed hard at Gudruda and a 
great desire entered into him to make her his wife. But she 
passed coldly by, nor looked on him at all. 

' This, then, is that maid of thine of whom I have heard 
tell, Asmund ? I will say this : fairer was never born of 

Then men ate and Ospakar drank much ale, but all the 
while he stared at Gudruda and listened for her voice. But 
as yet he said nothing of what he came to seek, though all 
knew his errand. And his two sons, Gizur and Mord, stared 
also at Gudruda, for they thought her most wonderfully fair. 
But Gizur found Swanhild also fair. 

And so the night wore on till it was time to sleep. 

On this same day Eric rode up from his farm on Ban 
River and took his road along the brow of Coldback till he 
came to Stonefell. Now all along Coldback and Stonefell 
is a steep cliff facing to the south, that grows ever higher till 
it comes to that point where Golden River falls over it and, 
parting its waters below, runs east and west the branch to 
the east being called Ran River and that to the west Laxa 
for these two streams girdle round the rich plain of Middalhof, 


bill at length they reach the sea. But in the midst of Golden 
River, on the edge of the cliff, a mass of rock juts up called 
Sheep-saddle, dividing the waters of the fall, and over this the 
spray flies, and in winter the ice gathers, but the river does not 
cover it. The great fall is thirty fathoms deep, and shaped like a 
horseshoe, of which the points lie towards Middalhof. Yet if he 
could but gain the Sheep -saddle rock that divides the midst of 
the waters, a strong and hardy man might climb down some 
fifteen fathoms of this depth and scarcely wet his feet. 

Now here at the foot of Sheep- saddle rock the double 
arches of waters meet, and fall in one torrent into the bottom- 
less pool below. But, some three fathoms from this point of 
the meeting waters, and beneath it, just where the curve is 
deepest, a single crag, as large as a drinking-table and no 
larger, juts through the foam, and, if a man could reach 
it, he might leap from it some twelve fathoms, sheer into the 
spray-hidden pit beneath, there to sink or swim as it might 
befall. This crag is called Wolf's Fang. 

Now Eric stood for a long while on the edge of the fall 
and looked, measuring every thing with his eye. Then he 
went up above, where the river swirls down to the precipice, 
and looked again, for it is from this bank that the dividing 
island-rock Sheep- saddle must be reached. 

' A man may hardly do this thing ; yet I will try it,' he said 
to himself at last. ' My honour shall be great for the feat, if I 
chance to live, and if I die well, there is an end of troubling 
after maids and all other things.' 

So he went home and sat silent that evening. Now, since 
Thorgriinur Iron-Toe's death, his housewife, Saevuna, Eric's 
moth or, had grown dim of sight, and, though she peered and 
peered again from her seat in the ingle nook, she could not see 

K'ace of her son. 
What ails thee, Eric, that thou sittest so silent ? Was 
the meat, then, to thy mind at supper ? ' 
;' Yes, mother, the meat was well enough, though a little 
inder smoked.' 
' Now I see that thou art not thyself, son, for thou hadst 
10 meat, but only stock-fish - and I never knew a man forget 



his supper on the night of its eating, except he was distraughl 
or deep in love.' 

' Was it so ? ' said Brighteyes. 

' What troubles thee, Eric ? that sweet lass yonder ? ' 

' Ay, somewhat, mother.' 

' What more, then ? ' 

' This, that I go down Golden Falls to-morrow, and I do noi 
know how I may come from Sheep-saddle rock to Wolf's Faii 
crag and keep my life whole in me ; and now, I pray thee 
weary me not with words, for my brain is slow, and I mus 
use it.' 

When she heard this Saevuna screamed aloud, and threv 
herself before Eric, praying him to forego his mad venture 
But he would not listen to her, for he was slow to make uj 
his mind, but, that being made up, nothing could change it 
Then, when she learned that it was to get sight of Gudrud* 
that he purposed thus to throw his life away, she was verj 
angry and cursed her and all her kith and kin. 

' It is likely enough that thou wilt have cause to use sucl 
words before all this tale is told,' said Eric; 'nevertheless 
mother, forbear to curse Gudruda, who is in no way to blara< 
for these matters.' 

' Thou art a faithless son,' Saevuna said, ' who wilt sla^ 
thyself striving to win speech with thy May, and leave thj 
mother childless.' 

Eric said that it seemed so indeed, but he was plighted t< 
it and the feat must be tried. Then he kissed her, and sh< 
sought her bed, weeping. 

Now it was the day of the Yule-feast, and there was no sui 
till one hour before noon. But Eric, having kissed his mothe: 
and bidden her farewell, called a thrall, Jon by name, am 
giving him a sealskin bag full of his best apparel, bade hin 
ride to Middalhof and tell Asmund the Priest that Eri< 
Brighteyes would come down Golden Falls an hour after mid 
day, to join his feast ; and thence go to the foot of the Golder 
Falls, to await him there. And the man went, wondering, fo] 
he thought his master mad. 


Then Eric took a good rope and a staff tipped with iron, 
and, so soon as the light served, mounted his horse, forded Ran 
River, and rode along Coldback till he came to the lip of Golden 
Falls. Here he stayed a while till at length he saw many 
people streaming up the snow from Middalhof far beneath, and, 
among them, two women who by their stature should be Gud- 
ruda and Swanhild, and, near to them, a great man whom he 
did not know. Then he showed himself for a space on the 
brink of the gulf and turned his horse up stream. The sun 
shone bright upon the edge of the sky, but the frost bit like a 
sword. Still, he must strip off his garments, so that nothing 
remained on him except his sheepskin shoes, shirt and hose, and 
take the water. Now here the river runs mightily, and he 
must cross full thirty fathoms of the swirling water before he 
can reach Sheep-saddle, and woe to him if his foot slip on the 
boulders, for certainly he must be swept over the brink. 

Eric rested the staff against the stony bottom and, leaning 
his weight on it, took the stream, and he was so strong that 
it could not prevail against him till at length he was rather 
more than half-way across and the water swept above his 
shoulders. Now he was lifted from his feet and, letting the 
staff float, he swam for his life, and with such mighty strokes 
that he felt little of that icy cold. Down he was swept now 
the lip of the fall was but three fathoms 'away on his left, 
and already the green water boiled beneath him. A fathom 
from him was the corner of Sheep-saddle. If he may grasp 

Kis well ; if not, he dies, 
bree great strokes and he held it. His feet were swept 
>ver the brink of the fall, but he clung on grimly, and 
by the strength of his arms drew himself on to the rock and 
rested a while. Presently he stood up, for the cold began to nip 
him, and the people below became aware that he had swum the 
river above the fall and raised a shout, for the deed was great. 
Now Eric must begin to clamber down Sheep -saddle, and this 
was no easy task, for the rock is almost sheer, and slippery 
with ice, and on either side the waters rushed and thundered, 
throwing their blinding spray about him as they leapt to 
| the depths beneath. He looked down, studying the rock ; 



then, feeling that he grew afraid, made an end of doubt and, 
grasping a point with both hands, swung himself down his 
own length and more. Now for many minutes he climbed 
down Sheep-saddle, and the task was hard, for he was be- 
wildered with the booming of the waters that bent out on either 
side of him like the arc of a bow, and the rock was very steep 
and slippery. Still, he came down all those fifteen fathoms 
and fell not, though twice he was near to falling, and the 
watchers below marvelled greatly at his hardihood. 

1 He will be dashed to pieces where the waters meet,' said 
Ospakar, ' he can never gain Wolf's Fang crag beneath ; and, 
if so it be that he come there and leaps to the pool, the weight 
of water will drive him down and drown him. 1 

' It is certainly so,' quoth Asmund. ' and it grieves me 
much ; for it was my jest that drove him to this perilous 
adventure, and we cannot spare such a man as Eric Brighteyes.' 

Now Swanhild turned white as death ; but Gudruda said : 
1 If great heart and strength and skill may avail at all, then 
Eric shall come safely down the waters.' 

' Thou fool ! ' whispered Swanhild in her ear, ' how can 
these help him ? No troll could live in yonder cauldron. 
Dead is Eric, and thou art the bait that lured him to his 
death ! ' 

' Spare thy words,' she answered ; ' as the Noras have 
ordered so it shall be.' 

Now Eric stood at the foot of Sheep -saddle, and within 
an arm's length the mighty waters met, tossing their yellow 
waves and seething furiously as they leapt to the mist-hid 
gulf beneath. He bent over and looked through the spray. 
Three fathoms under him the rock Wolf's Fang split the 
waters, and thence, if he can come thither, he may leap sheer 
into the pool below. Now he unwound the rope that was 
about his middle, and made one end fast to a knob of rock 
and this was difficult, for his hands were stiff with cold and 
the other end he passed through his leathern girdle. Then Eric 
looked again, and his heart sank within him. How might he 
give himself to this boiling flood and not be shattered ? But 
as he looked, lo ! a rainbow grew upon the face of the water, 




me end of it lit upon him, and the other, like a glory from 
the Gods, fell full upon Gudruda as she stood a little way 

I apart, watching at the foot of Golden Falls. 
' Seest thou that,' said Asmund to Groa, who was at his 


side, ' the Gods build their Bifrost bridge between these two. 
Who now shall keep them asunder ? ' 

1 Bead the portent thus,' she answered : ' they shall be 
united, but not here. Yon is a Spirit bridge, and, see : the 
waters of Death foam and fall between them ! ' 

Eric, too, saw the omen and it seemed good to him, 
and all fear left his heart. Round about him the waters 
thundered, but amidst their roar he dreamed that he heard a 
voice calling : 

* Be of good cheer, Eric Brighteyes ; for thou shalt live to 
do mightier deeds than this, and in guerdon thou shalt win 

So he paused no longer, but, shortening up the rope, pulled 
on it with all his strength, and then leapt out upon the arch 
of waters. They struck him and he was dashed out like a 
stone from a sling ; again he fell against them and again was 
dashed away, so that his girdle burst. Eric felt it go and clung 
wildly to the rope and lo ! with the inward swing, he fell on 
Wolf's Fang, where never a man has stood before and never a 
man shall stand again. Eric lay a little while on the rock till 
his breath came back to him, and he listened to the roar of 
the waters. Then, rising on his hands and knees, he crept to 
its point, for he could scarcely stand because of the trembling 
of the stone beneath the shock of the fall ; and when the 
people below saw that he was not dead, they raised a great 
shout, and the sound of their voices came to him through the 
noise of the waters. 

Now, twelve fathoms beneath him was the surface of the 
pool ; but he could not see it because of the wreaths of spray. 
Nevertheless, he must leap and that swiftly, for he grew cold. 
So of a sudden Eric stood up to his full height, and, with a loud 
cry and a mighty spring, bounded out from the point of Wolf's 
Fang far into the air, beyond the reach of the falling flood, and 
rushed headlong towards the gulf beneath. Now all men watch- 
ing held their breath as his body travelled, and so great is the 
place and so high the leap that through the mist Eric seemed 
but as a big white stone hurled down the face of the arching 


He was gone, and the watchers rushed down to the foot of 
the pool, for there, if he rose at all, he must pass to the 
shallows. Swanhild could look no more, but sank upon the 
ground. The face of Gudruda was set like a stone with doubt 
and anguish. Ospakar saw and read the meaning, and he 
said to himself: 'Now Odin grant that this youngling rise 
not again ! for the maid loves him dearly, and he is too much 
a man to be lightly swept aside.' 

Eric struck the pool. Down he sank, and down and down 
for the water falling from so far must almost reach the 
bottom of the pool before it can rise again and he with it. 
Now he touched the bottom, but very gently, and slowly began 
to rise, and, as he rose, was carried along by the stream. But 
it was long before he could breathe, and it seemed to him that 
his* lungs would burst. Still, he struggled up, striking great 
strokes with his legs. 

1 Farewell to Eric,' said Asmund, ' he will rise no more 

But just as he spoke Gudruda pointed to something that 
gleamed, white and golden, beneath the surface of the current, 
and lo ! the bright hair of Eric rose from the water, and he 
drew a great breath, shaking his head like a seal, and, though 
but feebly, struck out for the shallows that are at the foot of 
the pool. Now he found footing, but was swept over by the 
fierce current, and cut his forehead, and he carried that scar 
till his death. Again he rose, and with a rush gained the 

K u ""ik unaided and fell upon the snow. 
Now people gathered about him in silence and wondering, 
none had known so great a deed. And presently Eric 
o I ici led his eyes and looked up, and found the eyes of Gudruda 
fixed on his, and there was that in them which made him 
he had dared the path of Golden Falls. 




OW Asmund the priest bent down, 
and Eric saw him and spoke : 

' Thou badest me to thy 
Yule-feast, lord, by yonder slip- 
pery road and I have come. Dost 
thou welcome me well ? ' 

* No man better,' quoth As- 
mund. * Thou art a gallant man, 
though foolhardy ; and thou hast 
done a deed that shall be told of 
while skalds sing and men live 
in Iceland.' 

'Make place, my father,' said 
Gudruda, * for Eric bleeds.' And 
she loosed the kerchief from her 
neck and bound it about his 
wounded brow, and, taking the 
rich cloak from her body, threw it on his shoulders, and no 
man said her nay. 

Then they led him to the hall, where Eric clothed him- 
self and rested, and he sent back the thrall Jon to Cold- 
back, bidding him tell Saevuna, Eric's mother, that he was 
safe. But he was somewhat weak all that day, and the sound 
of waters roared in his ears. 

Now Ospakar and Groa were ill pleased at the turn things 
had taken ; but all the others rejoiced much, for Eric was well 
loved of men and they had grieved if the waters had prevailed 



against his might. But Swanhild brooded bitterly, for Eric 
never turned to look on her. 

The hour of the feast drew on and, according to custom, 
it was held in the Temple, and thither went all men. When 
they were seated in the nave of the Hof, the fat ox that had 
been made ready for sacrifice was led in and dragged before the 
altar on which the holy fire burned. Now Asmund the Priest 
slew it, amid silence, before the figures of the Gods, and, catching 
its blood in the blood-bowl, sprinkled the altar and all the 
worshippers with the blood- twigs. Then the ox was cut up, 
and the figures of the almighty Gods were anointed with its 
molten fat and wiped with fair linen. Next the flesh was 
boiled in the cauldrons that were hung over fires lighted all 
down the nave, and the feast began. 

Now men ate, and drank much ale and mead, and all were 
merry. But Ospakar Blacktooth grew not glad, though he 
drank much, for he saw that the eyes of Gudruda ever watched 
Eric's face and that they smiled on each other. He was wroth at 
this, for he knew that the bait must be good and the line strong 
that should win this fair fish to his angle, and as he sat, un- 
knowingly his fingers loosed the peace- strings of his sword 
Whitefire, and he half drew it, so that its brightness flamed in 
the firelight. 

* Thou hast a wondrous blade there, Ospakar! ' said Asmund, 
* though this is no place to draw it. Whence came it ? Me- 
thinks no such swords are fashioned now.' 

' Ay, Asmund, a wondrous blade indeed. There is no other 
such in the world, for the dwarfs forged it of old, and he shall 
be unconquered who holds it aloft. This was King Odin's 
sword, and it is named Whitefire. Ralph the Bed took it from 
King Eric's cairn in Norway, and he strove long with the 
Barrow-Dweller 1 before he wrenched it from his grasp. But 
my father won it and slew Ralph, though he had never done 
this had Whitefire been aloft against him. But Ralph the 
Red, being in drink when the ships met in battle, fought with an 
axe, and was slain by my father, and since then Whitefire has 

The ghost in the cairn. 


been the last light that many a chiefs eyes have seen. Look 
at it, Asmund.' 

Now he drew the great sword, and men were astonished as 
it flashed aloft. Its hilt was of gold, and blue stones were 
set therein. It measured two ells and a half from cross- 
bar to point, and so bright was the broad blade that no 
one could look on it for long, and all down its length ran 


' A wondrous weapon, truly ! ' said Asmund. * How read the 

runes ? ' 

' I know not, nor any man they are ancient.' 

'Let me look at them,' said Groa, 'I am skilled in runes.' 
Now she took the sword, and heaved it up, and looked at the 
runes and said, ' A strange writing truly.' 

' How runs it, housekeeper ? ' said Asmund. 

' Thus, lord, if my skill is not at fault : 

Whitefire is my name Dwarf-folk forged me 

Odin's sword was I Eric's sword was I Eric's sword shall I be 

And where I fall there he must follow me.' 

Now Gudruda looked at Eric Brighteyes wonderingly, and 
Ospakar saw it and became very angry. 

'Look not so, maiden,' he said, ' for it shall be another Eric 
than yon flapper-duck who holds Whitefire aloft, though it 
may well chance that he shall feel its edge.' 

Now Gudruda bit her lip, and Eric burned red to the brow 
and spoke : 

' It is ill, lord, to throw taunts like an angry woman. 
Thou art great and strong, yet I may dare a deed with thee.' 

' Peace, boy ! Thou canst climb a waterfall well, I gainsay 
it not; but beware ere thou settest up thyself against my 
strength. Say now, what game wilt thou play with Ospakar ? ' 

4 I will go on holmgang with thee, byrnie-clad or bare- 
sark, 1 and fight thee with axe or sword, or I will wrestle with 
thee, and Whitefire yonder shall be the winner's prize.' 

'Nay, I will have no bloodshed here at Middalhof,' said 

1 To a duel, usually fought, in mail or without it, on an island' holm ' 
within a circle of hazel-twigs. 


Asmund sternly. 'Make play with fists, or wrestle if ye 
will, for that were great sport to see ; but weapons shall not 
be drawn.' 

Now Ospakar grew mad with anger and drink and he 
grinned like a dog, till men saw the red gums beneath his 

' Thou wilt wrestle with me, youngling with me, whom no 
man has ever so much as lifted from my feet ? Good ! I will 
lay thee on thy face and whip thee, and Whitefire shall be the 
stake I swear it on the holy altar-ring ; but what hast thou to 
set against the precious sword ? Thy poor hovel and its lot of 
land shall be all too little.' 

1 1 set my life on it ; if I lose Whitefire let Whitefire slay 
me,' said Eric. 

' Nay, that I will not have, and I am master here in this 
Temple,' said Asmund. * Bethink thee of some other stake, 
Ospakar, or let the game be off.' 

Now Ospakar gnawed his lip with his black fang and 
thought. Then he laughed aloud and spoke : 

* Bright is Whitefire and thou art named Brighteyes. See 
now : I set the great sword against thy right eye, and, if I win 
the match, it shall be mine to tear it out. Wilt thou play 
this game with me ? If thy heart fails thee, let it go ; but I 
will set no other stake against my good sword.' 

4 Eyes and limbs are a poor man's wealth,' said Eric : ' so 
be it. I stake my right eye against the sword Whitefire, and 
we will try the match to-morrow.' 

* And to-morrow night thou shalt be called Eric One-eye,' 
Ospakar at which some few of his thralls laughed. 

lut most of the men did not laugh, for they thought this an 

bme and a worse jest. 
Now the feast went on, and Asmund rose from his high 
seat in the centre of the nave, on the left hand looking down 
from the altar, and gave out the holy toasts. First men drank 
a full horn to Odin, praying for triumph on their foes. Then 
they drank to Frey, asking for plenty ; to Thor, for strength in 
battle ; to Freya, Goddess of Love (and to her Pjric drank 
heartily) ; to the memory of the dead ; and, last of all, to Bragi, 


God of all delight. When this cup was drunk, Asmund rose 
again, according to custom, and asked if none had an oath to 
swear as to some deed that should be done. 

For a while there was no answer, but presently Eric Bright- 
eyes stood up. 

1 Lord,' he said, ' I would swear an oath.' 

' Set forth the matter, then,' said Asmund. 

' It is this,' quoth Eric. ' On Mosfell mountain, over by 
Hecla, dwells a Baresark of whom all men have ill knowledge, 
for there are few whom he has not harmed. His name is 
Skallagrim ; he is a mighty man and he has wrought much 
mischief in the south country, and brought many to their 
deaths and robbed more of their goods : for none can prevail 
against him. Still, I swear this, that, when the days lengthen, 
I will go up alone against him and challenge him to battle, 
and conquer him or fall.' 

' Then, thou yellow-headed puppy-dog, thou shalt go with 
one eye against a Baresark with two,' growled Ospakar. 

Men took no heed of his words, but shouted aloud, for Skal- 
lagrim had plagued them long, and there were none who dared 
to fight with him any more. Only Gudruda looked askance, 
for it seemed to her that Eric swore too fast. Nevertheless he 
went up to the altar, and, taking hold of the holy ring, he set 
his foot on the holy stone and swore his oath, while the feasters 
applauded, striking their cups upon the board. 

And after that the feast went merrily, till all men were 
drunk, except Asmund and Eric. 

Now Eric went to rest, but first he rubbed his limbs with 
the fat of seals, for he was still sore with the beating of the 
waters, and they must needs be supple on the morrow if he 
would keep his eye. Then he slept sound, and rose strong and 
well, and going to the stream behind the stead, bathed, and 
anointed his limbs afresh. But Ospakar did not sleep well, 
because of the ale that he had drunk. Now as Eric came back 
from bathing, in the dark of the morning, he met Gudruda, 
who watched for his coming, and, there being none to see, he 
kissed her often ; but she chided him because of the match 
that he had made with Ospakar and the oath that he had sworn. 


' Surely/ she said, ' thou wilt lose thine eye, for this 
Ospakar is a giant, and strong as a troll ; also he is merciless. 
Still, thou art a mighty man, and I shall love thee as well with 
one eye as with two. Oh ! Eric, methought I should have 
died yesterday when thou didst leap from Wolf's Fang ! My 
heart seemed to stop within me.' 

1 Yet I came safely to shore, sweetheart, and well does this 
kiss pay for all I did. And as for Ospakar, if but once I get 
these arms about him, I fear him little, or any man, and I 
covet that sword of his greatly. But we can talk more 
certainly of these things to-morrow.' 

Now Gudruda clung to him and told him all that had be- 
fallen, and of the doings and words of Swanhild. 

' She honours me beyond my worth,' he said, ' who am in 
no way set on her, but on thee only, Gudruda.' 

' Art thou so sure of that, Eric ? Swanhild is fair and wise.' 

' Ay and evil. When I love Swanhild, then thou mayst 
love Ospakar.' 

'It is a bargain,' she said, laughing. ' Good luck go with 
thee in the wrestling,' and with a kiss she left him, fearing lest 
she should be seen. 

Eric went back to the hall, and sat down by the centre 
hearth, for all men slept, being still heavy with drink, and 
presently Swanhild glided up to him, and greeted him. 

' Thou art greedy of deeds, Eric,' she said. ' Yesterday 
thou earnest here by a path that no man has travelled, to-day 
thou dost wrestle with a giant for thine eye, and presently 
thou goest up against Skallagrim ! ' 

' It seems that this is true,' said Eric. 

' Now all this thou doest for a woman who is the betrothed 
of another man.' 

'All this I do for fame's sake, Swanhild. Moreover, 
Gudruda is betrothed to none.' 

' Before another Yule-feast is spread, Gudruda shall be 
the wife of Ospakar.' 

* That is yet to be seen, Swanhild.' 

Now Swanhild stood silent for a while and then spoke : 
1 Thou art a fool, Eric yes, drunk with folly. Nothing but evil 


shall come to thee from this madness of thine. Forget it and 
pluck that which lies to thine hand,' and she looked sweetly 

at him. 

They call thee Swanhild the Fatherless,' he answered, 
' but I think that Loki, the God of Guile, was thy father, for 
there is none to match thee in craft and evil-doing, and in 
beauty one only. I know thy plots well and all the sorrow 
that thou hast brought upon us. Still, each seeks honour 
after his own manner, so seek thou as thou wilt ; but thou 
shalt find bitterness and empty days, and thy plots shall come 
back on thine own head yes, even though they bring Gudruda 
and me to sorrow and death.' 

Swanhild laughed. * A day shall dawn, Eric, when thou 
who dost hate me shalt hold me dear, and this I promise thee. 
Another thing I promise thee also : that Gudruda shall never 
call thee husband.' 

But Eric did not answer, fearing lest in his anger he should 
say words that were better unspoken. 

Now men rose and sat down to meat, and all talked of the 
wrestling that should be. But in the morning Ospakar re- 
pented of the match, for it is truly said that ale is another 
man, and men do not like that in the morning which seemed 
well enough on yester eve. He remembered that he held 
Whitefire dear above all things, and that Eric's eye had no 
worth to him, except that the loss of it would spoil his beauty, 
so that perhaps Gudruda would turn from him. It would be 
very ill if he should chance to lose the play though of this 
he had no fear, for he was held the strongest man in Iceland 
and the most skilled in all feats of strength and, at the 
best, no fame is to be won from the overthrow of a deedless 
man, and the plucking out of his eye. Thus it came to pass 
that when he saw Eric he called to him in a big voice : 

' Hearken, thou Eric.' 

'I hear thee, thou Ospakar,' said Eric, mocking him, 
and people laughed ; while Ospakar grinned angrily and 
said, * Thou must learn manners, puppy. Still, I shall find 
no honour in teaching thee in this wise. Last night we made a 
match in our cups, and I staked my great sword Whitefire and 


thou thine eye. It would be bad that either of us should lose 
sword or eye ; therefore, what sayest thou, shall we let it pass ? ' 

' Ay, Blacktooth, if thou fearest ; but first pay thou forfeit 
of the sword.' 

Now Ospakar grew very mad and shouted, ' Thou wilt in- 
deed stand against me in the ring ! I will break thy back anon, 
youngster, and afterwards tear out thine eye before thou diest.' 

' It may so befall,' answered Eric, ' but big words do not 
make big deeds.' 

Presently the light came and thralls went out with spades 
and cleared away the snow in a circle two rods across, and 
brought dry sand and sprinkled it on the frozen turf, so that 
the wrestlers should not slip. And they piled the snow in a 
wall around the ring. 

But Groa came up to Ospakar and spoke to him apart. 

' Knowest thou, lord,' she said, * that my heart bodes ill of 
this match ? Eric is a mighty man, and, great though thou 
art, I think that thou shalt lout low before him.' 

' It will be a bad business if I am overthrown by an untried 
man,' said Ospakar, and was troubled in his mind, ' and it would 
be evil moreover to lose the sword. For no price would I 
have it so.' 

' What wilt thou give me, lord, if I bring thee victory ? ' 

* I will give thee two hundred in silver.' 

' Ask no questions and it shall be so,' said Groa. 

Now Eric was without, taking note of the ground in the 
ring, and presently Groa called to her the thrall Koll the Half- 
d, whom she had sent to Swinefell. 

See,' she said, ' yonder by the wall stand the wrestling 
of Eric Brighteyes. Haste thee now and take grease, and 
rub the soles with it, then hold them in the heat of the fire, so 
that the fat sinks in. Do this swiftly and secretly, and I will 
thee twenty pennies.' 
oil grinned, and did as he was bid, setting back the shoes 

as they were before. Scarcely was the deed done when Eric 
came in, and made himself ready for the game, binding the 
greased shoes upon his feet, for he feared no trick. 

Now everybody went out to the ring, and Ospakar and Eric 


stripped for wrestling. They were clad in tight woollen j erkins 
and hose, and sheep-skin shoes were on their feet. 

They named Asmund master of the game, and his word 
must be law to both of them. Eric claimed that Asmund 
should hold the sword Whitefire that was at stake, but Ospakar 
gainsaid him, saying that if he gave Whitefire into Asmund's 
keeping, Eric must also give his eye and about this they de- 
bated hotly. Now the matter was brought before Asmund as 
umpire, and he gave judgment for Eric, * for,' he said, 'if Eric 
yield up his eye into my hand, I can return it to his head 
no more if he should win ; but if Ospakar gives me the good 
sword and conquers, it is easy for me to pass it back to 
him unharmed.' 

Men said that this was a good judgment. 

Thus then was the arm-game set. Ospakar and Eric 
must wrestle thrice, and between each bout there would be a 
space while men could count a thousand. They might strike 
no blow at one another with hand, or head, or elbow, foot 
or knee ; and it should be counted no fall if the haunch and 
the head of the fallen were not on the ground at the self- same 
time. He who suffered two falls should be adjudged con- 
quered and lose his stake. 

Asmund called these rules aloud in the presence of wit- 
nesses, and Ospakar and Eric said that should bind them. 

Ospakar drew a small knife and gave it to his son Gizur 
to hold. 

' Thou shalt soon know, youngling, how steel tastes in the 
eyeball,' he said. 

' We shall soon know many things,' Eric answered. 

Now they threw off their cloaks and stood in the ring. 
Ospakar was great beyond the bigness of men and his arms 
were clothed with black hair like the limbs of a goat. Beneath 
the shoulder joint they were almost as thick as a girl's thigh. 
His legs also were mighty, and the muscles stood out upon him 
in knotty lumps. He seemed a very giant, and fierce as a Bare- 
sark, but still somewhat round about the body and heavy in 

From him men looked at Eric. 


' Lo ! Baldur and the Troll ! ' said Swanhild, and every- 
body laughed, since so it was indeed; for, if Ospakar was 
black and hideous as a troll, Eric was beautiful as Baldur, the 
loveliest of the Gods. He was taller than Ospakar by the half 
of a hand and as broad in the chest. Still, he was not yet 
come to his greatest strength, and, though his limbs we re well 
knit, they seemed but as a child's against the limbs of Ospakar. 
But he was quick as a cat and lithe, his neck and arms were 
white as whey, and beneath his golden hair his bright eyes 
shone like spears. 

Now they stood face to face, with arms outstretched, waiting 
the word of Asmund. He gave it and they circled round each 
other with arms held low. Presently Ospakar made a rush 
and, seizing Eric about the middle, tried to lift him, but with no 
avail. Thrice he strove and failed, then Eric moved his foot 
and lo ! it slipped upon the sanded turf. Again Eric moved 
and again he slipped, a third time and he slipped a third time, 
and before he could recover himself he was full on his back 
and fairly thrown. 

Gudruda saw and was sad at heart, and those around her 
said that it was easy to know how the game would end. 

1 What said I ? ' quoth Swanhild, ' that it would go badly 
with Eric were Ospakar's arms about him.' 

' All is not done yet,' answered Gudruda. * Methinks Eric's 

slipped most strangely, as though he stood on ice.' 
ut Eric was very sore at heart and could make nothing of 
matter for he was not overthrown by strength. 

He sat on the snow and Ospakar and his sons mocked him. 
But Gudruda drew near and whispered to him to be of good 
cheer, for fortune might yet change. 

' I think that I am bewitched,' said Eric sadly : ' my feet 
have no hold of the ground.' 

Gudruda covered her eyes with her hand and thought. 
Presently she looked up quickly. * I seem to see guile here,' 

I she said. * Now look narrowly on thy shoes.' 
He heard, and, loosening his shoe-string, drew a shoe from 
his foot and looked at the sole. The cold of the snow had 
dened the fat, and there it was, all white upon the leather. 


Now Eric rose in wrath. * Methought,' he cried, ' that 
I dealt with men of honourable mind, not with cheating trick- 
sters. See now ! it is little wonder that I slipped, for grease 
has been set upon my shoes and, by Thor ! I will cleave 'the 
man who did it to the chin,' and as he said it his eyes blazed 
so dreadfully that folk fell back from him. Asmund took the 
shoes and looked at them. Then he spoke : 

1 Brighteyes tells the truth, and we have a sorry knave 

among us. Ospakar, canst thou clear thyself of this ill deed ? ' 

4 I will swear on the holy ring that I know nothing of it, 

and if any man in my company has had a hand therein he 

shall die,' said Ospakar. 

' That we will swear also,' cried his sons Gizur and Mord. 
' This is more like a woman's work,' said Gudruda, and she 
looked at Swanhild. 

' It is no work of mine,' quoth Swanhild. 
' Then go and ask thy mother of it,' answered Gudruda. 
Now all men cried aloud that this was the greatest shame, 
and that the match must be set afresh ; only Ospakar bethought 
him of that two hundred in silver which he had promised to 
Groa, and looked around, but she was not there. Still, he 
gainsaid Eric in the matter of the match being set afresh. 

Then Eric cried out in his anger that he would let the 
game stand as it was, since Ospakar swore himself free of the 
shameful deed. Men thought this a mad saying, but Asmund 
said it should be so. Still, he swore in his keart that, even if 
he were worsted, Eric should not lose his eye no not if 
swords were held aloft to take it. For of all tricks this seemed 
to him the very worst. 

Now Ospakar and Eric faced each other again in the 
ring, but this time the feet of Eric were bare. 

Ospakar rushed to get the upper hold, but Erie was too 
swift for him and sprang aside. Again he rushed, but Eric 
dropped and gripped him round the middle. Now they were 
face to face, hugging each other like bears, but moving little. 
For a time things went thus, while Ospakar strove to lift 
Eric, but in nowise could he stir him. Then of a sudden Eric 
put out his strength, and they staggered round the ring, tear- 
ing at each other till their jerkins were rent from them, leaving 



them almost bare to the waist. Suddenly, Eric seemed to LUVC, 
and Ospakar put out his foot to trip him. But Br.ighu.-yis 
was watching. He caught the foot in the crook of his left k-g, 
and threw his weight forward on the chest of Blacktooth. 
Backward he went, falling with the thud of a tree on snow, and 
there he lay on the ground, and Eric over him. 

Then men shouted ' A fall ! a fair fall ! ' and were very 
glad, for the fight seemed most uneven to them, and the 
wrestlers rolled asunder, breathing heavily. 

Gudruda threw a cloak over Eric's naked shoulders. 

' That was well done, Brighteyes,' she said. 

1 The game is still to play, sweet,' he gasped, ' and 
Ospakar is a mighty man. I threw him by skill, not by 
strength. Next time it must be by strength or not at all.' 

Now breathing- time was done, and once more the two 
were face to face. Thrice Ospakar rushed, and thrice did 
Eric slip away, for he would waste Blacktooth's strength. 
Again Ospakar rushed, roaring like a bear, and fire seemed to 
come from his eyes, and the steam went up from him and 
hung upon the frosty air like the steam of a horse. This 
time Eric could not get away, but was swept up into that 
great grip, for Ospakar had the lower hold. 

' Now there is an end of Eric,' said Swanhild. 

' The arrow is yet on the bow,' answered Gudruda. 

Blacktooth put out his might and reeled round and round 
the ring, dragging Eric with him. This way and that he 
twisted, and time on time Eric's leg was lifted from the 
ground, but so he might not be thrown. Now they stood 
almost still, while men shouted madly, for no such wrestling 
had been known in the southlands. Grimly they hugged and 
strove : forsooth it was a mighty sight to see. Grimly they 
hugged, and their muscles strained and cracked, but they could 
stir each other no inch. 

Ospakar grew fearful, for he could make no play with this 
oungling. Black rage swelled in his heart. He ground his 
fangs, and thought on guile. By his foot gleamed the naked 
foot of Eric. Suddenly he stamped on it so fiercely that the 
kin burst. 


< 111 done ! ill done ! ' folk cried ; but in his pain Eric 
moved his foot. 

Lo ! he was down, but not altogether down, for he did but 
sit upon his haunches, and still he clung to Blacktooth's 
thighs, and twined his legs about his ankles. Now with all 
his strength Ospakar strove to force the head of Brighteyes 
to the ground, but still he could not, for Eric clung to him 
like a creeper to a tree. 

'A losing game for Eric,' said Asmund, and as he spoke 
Brighteyes was pressed back till his yellow hair almost swept 
the sand. 

Then the folk of Ospakar shouted in triumph, but Gudruda 
cried aloud : 

' Be not overthrown, Eric ; loose thee and spring aside.' 

Eric heard, and of a sudden loosed all his grip. He fell 
on his outspread hand, then, with a swing sideways and a 
bound, once more he stood upon his feet. Ospakar came at him 
like a bull made mad with goading, but he could no longer 
roar aloud. They closed and this time Eric had the better 
hold. For a while they struggled round and round till their 
feet tore the frozen turf, then once more they stood face to 
face. Now the two were almost spent ; yet Blacktooth gathered 
up his strength and swung Eric from his feet, but he found 
them again. He grew mad with rage, and hugged him till 
Brighteyes was nearly pressed to death, and black bruises 
sprang upon the whiteness of his flesh. Ospakar grew mad, 
and madder yet, till at length in his fury he fixed his fangs in 
Eric's shoulder and bit till the blood spurted. 

' 111 kissed, thou rat ! ' gasped Eric, and with the pain and 
rush of blood, his strength came back to him. He shifted his 
grip swiftly, now his right hand was beneath the fork of Black- 
tooth's thigh and his left on the hollow of Blacktooth's back. 
Twice he lifted twice the bulk of Ospakar rose from the ground 
"a third mighty lift so mighty that the wrapping on Eric's 
forehead burst, and the blood streamed down his face and lo ! 
great Blacktooth flew in air. Up he flew, and backward he fell 
into the bank of snow, and was buried there almost to the knees, 

'A mighty lift 




a moment there was silence, for all that company was 
wonderstruck at the greatness of the deed. Then they cheered 
and cheered again, and to Eric it seemed that he slept, and 
the sound of shouting reached him but faintly, as though he 
heard through snow. Suddenly he woke and saw a man rush 
at him with axe aloft. It was Mord, Ospakar's son, mad at his 
father's overthrow. Eric sprang aside, or the blow had been 
his bane, and, as he sprang, smote with his fist, and it struck 
heavily on the head of Mord above the ear, so that the axe 
flew from his hand, and he fell senseless on his father in the 

Now swords flashed out, and men ringed round Eric to guard 
him, and it came near to the spilling of blood, for the people 
of Ospakar gnashed their teeth to see so great a hero over- 
thrown by a youngling, while the southern folk of Middalhof 
and Ran River rejoiced loudly, for Eric was dear to their 

* Down swords,' cried Asmund the priest, 'and haul yon 
carcass from the snow.' 

This then they did, and Ospakar sat up, breathing in great 
gasps, the blood running from his mouth and ears, and he 
was an evil sight to see, for what with blood and snow and rage 
his face was like the face of the Swinefell Goblin. 

But Swanhild spoke in the ear of Gudruda : 

* Here,' she said, looking at Eric, ' we two have a man 

Ih loving, foster-sister.' 
Ay,' answered Gudruda, ' worth and well worth ! ' 


Now Asmund drew near and before all men kissed Eric 
Brighteyes on the brow. 

' In sooth,' he said, ' thou art a mighty man, Eric, and 
the glory of the south. This I prophesy of thee : that thou 
shalt do deeds such as have not been done in Iceland. Thou 
hast been ill served, for a knave unknown greased thy 
shoes. Yon swarthy Ospakar, the most mighty of all men in 
Iceland, could not overthrow thee, though, like a wolf, he 
fastened his fangs in thee, and, like a coward, stamped upon 
thy naked foot. Take thou the great sword that thou hast won 
and wear it worthily.' 

Now Eric took snow and wiped the blood from his brow. 
Then he grasped Whitefire and drew it from the scabbard, 
and high aloft flashed the war-blade. Thrice he wheeled it 
round his head, then sang aloud : 

Fast, yestermorn, down Golden Falls, 
Fared young Eric to thy feast, 
Asmund, father of Gudruda 
Maid whom much he longs to clasp. 
But to-day on Giant Blacktooth 
Hath he done a needful deed : 
Hurling him in heaped -up snowdrift ; 
Winning Whitefire for his wage. 

And again he sang : 

Lord, if in very truth thou thinkest 
Brighteyes is a man midst men, 
Swear to him, the stalwart suitor, 
Handsel of thy sweet maid's hand : 
Whom, long loved, to win, down Goldfoss 
Swift he sped through frost and foam ; 
Whom to win, to troll-like Ogre, 
He, 'gainst Whitefire, waged his eye. 

Men thought this well sung, and turned to hear Asniund's 
answer, nor must they wait long. 

' Eric,' he said, 'I will promise thee this, that if thou goest 
on as thou hast begun, I will give Gudruda in marriage to no 
other man.' 

' That is good tidings, lord,' said Eric. 


* This I say further : in a year I will give thee full answer 
according as to how thou dost bear thyself between now 
and then, for this is no light gift thou askest ; also that, if ye 
will it, you twain may now plight troth, for the blame shall be 
yours if it is broken, and not mine, and I give thee my hand 
on it.' 

Eric took his hand, and Gudruda heard her father's words 
and happiness shone in her dark eyes, and she grew faint for 
very joy. And now Eric turned to her, all torn and bloody 
from the fray, the great sword in his hand, and he spoke 
thus : 

' Thou hast heard thy father's words, Gudruda ? Now it 
seems that there is no great need of troth -plighting between us 
two. Still, here before all men I ask thee, if thou dost love me 
and art willing to take me to husband ? ' 

Gudruda looked up into his face, and answered in a sweet, 
clear voice that could be heard by all : 

'Eric, I say to thee now, what I have said before, that I 
love thee alone of men, and, if it be my father's wish, I will 
wed no other whilst thou dost remain true to me and hold 
me dear.' 

' Those are good words,' said Eric. ' Now, in pledge of 
them, swear this troth of thine upon my sword that I have 

Gudruda smiled, and, taking great Whitefire in her hand, 
she said the words again, and, in pledge of them, kissed the 
bright blade. 

Then Eric took back the war- sword and spoke thus : ' I 
swear that I will love thee, and thee only, Gudruda the Fair, 
Asmund's daughter, whom I have desired all my days ; and, if 
I fail of this my oath, then our troth is at an end, and thou 
mayst wed whom thou wilt,' and in turn he put his lips upon 
the sword, while Swanhild watched them do the oath. 

Now Ospakar was recovered from the fight, and he sat 
there upon the snow, with bowed head, for he knew well that 
he had won the greatest shame, and had lost both wife and 
sword. Black rage filled his heart as he listened, and he 
sprang to his feet. 


1 1 came hither, Asmund,' he said, ' to ask this maid of 
thine in marriage, and methinks that had been a good match 
for her and thee. But I have been overthrown by witchcraft 
of this man in a wrestling-bout, and thereby lost my good 
word ; and now I must seem to hear him betrothed to the 
maid before me.' 

' Thou hast heard aright, Ospakar,' said Asmund, ' and 
thy wooing is soon sped. Get thee back whence thou earnest 
and seek a wife in thine own quarter, for thou art unfit in 
age and aspect to have so sweet a maid. Moreover, here in 
the south we hold men of small account, however great and 
rich they be, who do not shame to seek to overcome a foe 
by foul means. With my own eyes I saw thee stamp on the 
naked foot of Eric, Thorgrimur's son ; with my own eyes I 
saw thee, like a wolf, fasten that black fang of thine upon 
him there is the mark of it ; and, as for the matter of the 
greased shoes, thou knowest best what hand thou hadst 
in it.' 

' I had no hand. If any did this thing, it was Groa the 
Witch, thy Finnish bedmate. For the rest, I was mad and 
know not what I did. But hearken, Asmund : ill shall 
befall thee and thy house, and I will ever be thy foe. More- 
over, I will yet wed this maid of thine. And now, thou 
Eric, hearken also : I will have another game with thee. 
This one was but the sport of boys ; when we meet again 
and the time shall not be long swords shall be aloft, and 
thou shalt learn the play of men. I tell thee that I will slay 
thee, and tear Gudruda, shrieking, from thy arms to be my 
wife ! I tell thee that, with yonder good sword Whitefire, 
I will yet hew off thy head ! 'and he choked and stopped. 

' Thou art much foam and little water,' said Eric. * These 
things are easily put to proof. If thou wiliest it, to-morrow 
I will come with thee to a holmgang, and there we may 
set the twigs and finish what we have begun to-day.' 

' I cannot do that, for thou hast my sword ; and, till I am 
suited with another weapon, I may fight no holmgang. Still, 
fear not : we shall soon meet with weapons aloft and byrnie on 


' Never too soon can the hour come, Blacktooth,' said 
Eric, and, turning on his heel, he limped to the hall to clothe 
himself afresh. On the threshold of the men's door he met 
Groa the Witch. 

4 Thou didst put grease upon my shoes, caiiine and witch- 
hag that thou art,' he said. 

' It is not true, Brighteyes.' 

' There thou liest, and for all this I will repay thee. Thou 
art not yet the wife of Asmund, nor shalt be, for a plan 
comes into my head about it.' 

Groa looked at him strangely. ' If thou speakest so, take 
heed to thy meat and drink,' she said. ' I was not born among 
the Finns for nothing ; and know, I am still minded to wed 
Asmund. For thy shoes, I would to the Gods that they were 
Hell-shoon, and that I was now binding them on thy dead feet.' 

* Oh ! the cat begins to spit,' said Eric. ' But know this : 
thou mayest grease my shoes fit work for a carline ! 
but thou mayest never bind them on. Thou art a witch, and 
wilt come to the end of witches ; and what thy daughter is, 
that I will not say,' and he pushed past her and entered the 

Presently Asmund came to seek Eric there, and prayed him 
to be gone to his stead on Ran Eiver. The horses of Ospakar 
had strayed, and he must stop at Middalhof till they were 
found; but, if these two should abide under the same roof, 
bloodshed would come of it, and that Asmund knew. 

Eric said yea to this, and, when he had rested a while, he 
kissed Gudruda, and, taking a horse, rode away to Coldback, 
bearing the sword Whitefire with him, and for a time he saw 
no more of Ospakar. 

When he came there, his mother Saevuna greeted him 

as one risen from the dead, and hung about his neck. Then 

he told her all that had come to pass, and she thought it a 

marvellous story, and sorrowed that Thorgrimur, her husband, 

ras not alive to know it. But Eric mused a while, and spoke. 

1 Mother,' he said, *now my uncle Thorod of Greenfell 
dead, and his daughter, my cousin Unna, has no home, 
te is a fair woman and skilled in all things. It comes 


into my mind that we should bid her here to dwell with 


'Why, I thought thou wast betrothed to Gudruda the 
Fair,' said Saevuna. ' Wherefore, then, wouldst thou bring 
Unna hither ? ' 

' For this cause,' said Eric : ' because it seems that Asmund 
the Priest wearies of Groa the Witch, and would take another 
wife, and I wish to draw the bands between us tighter, if it 
may befall so.' 

' Groa will take it ill,' said Saevuna. 

' Things cannot be worse between us than they are now, 
therefore I do not fear Groa,' he answered. 

It shall be as thou wilt, son ; to-morrow we will send to 
Unna and bid her here, if it pleases her to come.' 

Now Ospakar stayed three more days at Middalhof, till his 
horses were found, and he was fit to travel, for Eric had shaken 
him sorely. But he had no words with Gudruda and few 
with Asmund. Still, he saw Swanhild, and she bid him to 
be of good cheer, for he should yet have Gudruda. For 
now that the maid had passed from him the mind of 
Ospakar was set on winning her. Bjorn also, Asmund's 
son, spoke words of good comfort to him, for he envied Eric 
his great fame, and he thought the match with Blacktooth 
would be good. And so at length Ospakar rode away to 
Swinefell with all his company ; but Gizur, his son, left his 
heart behind. 

For Swanhild had not been idle this while. Her heart was 
soro, but she must follow her ill-nature, and so she had put 
out her woman's strength and beguiled Gizur into loving her. 
But she did not love him at all, and the temper of Asmund the 
Priest was so angry that Gizur dared not ask her in marriage. 
So nothing was said of the matter. 

Now Unna came to Coldback,to dwell with Saevuna, Eric's 
mother, and she was a fair and buxom woman. She had been 
once wedded, but within a month of her marriage her husband 
was lost at sea, this two years gone. At first Gudruda was 
somowhat jealous of this coming of Unna to Coldback ; but 


Eric showed her what was in his mind, and she fell into the 
plan, for she hated and feared Groa greatly, and desired to be 
rid of her. 

Since this matter of the greasing of Eric's wrestling- shoes 
great loathing of Groa had come into Asmund's mind, and 
he bethought him often of those words that his wife Gudruda 
the Gentle spoke as she lay dying, and grieved that the oath 
which he swore then had in part been broken. He would 
have no more to do with Groa now, but he could not be rid of 
her ; and, notwithstanding her evil doings, he still loved 
Swanhild. But Groa grew thin with spite and rage, and 
wandered about the place glaring with her great black eyes, 
and people hated her more and more. 

Now Asmund went to visit at Coldback, and there he saw 
Unna, and was pleased with her, for she was a blithe woman 
and a bonny. The end of it was that he asked her in marriage 
of Eric ; at which Brighteyes was glad, but said that he must 
know Unna's mind. Unna hearkened, and did not say no, for 
though Asmund was somewhat gone in years, still he was an 
upstanding man, wealthy in lands, goods, and moneys out at 
interest, and having many friends. So they plighted troth, 
and the wedding-feast was to be in the autumn after hay- 
harvest. Now Asmund rode back to Middalhof somewhat 
troubled at heart, for these tidings must be told to Groa, and 
he feared her and her witchcraft. In the hall he found her, 
standing alone. 

' Where hast thou been, lord ? ' she asked. 

' At Coldback,' he answered. 

' To see Unna, Eric's cousin, perchance ? ' 

' That is so.' 

' What is Unna to thee, then, lord ? ' 

' This much, that after hay-harvest she will be my wife, 
id that is ill news for thee, Groa.' 

Now Groa turned and grasped fiercely at the air with her 
iin hands. Her eyes started out, foam was on her lips, 
and she shook in her fury like a birch-tree in the wind, look- 

K'ng so evil that Asmund drew back a little way, saying : 
' Now a veil is lifted from thee and I see thee as thou art. 


Thou hast cast a glamour over me these many years, Groa, 
and it is gone.' 

' Mayhap, Asmund Asmundson mayhap thou knowest 
me ; but I tell thee that thou shalt see me in a worse guise 
before thou weddest Unna. What ! have I borne the greatest 
shame, lying by thy side these many years, and shall I live to 
see a rival, young and fair, creep into my place with honour ? 
That I will not while runes have power and spells can conjure 
the evil thing upon thee. I call down ruin on thee and thine 
yea and on Brighteyes also, for he has brought this thing to 
pass. Death take ye all ! May thy blood no longer run in mortal 
veins anywhere on the earth ! Go down to Hela, Asmund, 
and be forgotten ! ' and she began to mutter runes swiftly. 

Now Asmund turned white with wrath. ' Cease thy evil 
talk,' he said, ' or thou shalt be hurled as a witch into Goldfoss 

' Into Goldfoss pool ? yea, there I may lie. I see it ! I 
seem to see this shape of mine rolling where the waters boil 
fiercest but thine eyes shall never see it ! Thy eyes are shut, 
and shut are the eyes of Unna, for ye have gone before ! I do 
but follow after,' and thrice Groa shrieked aloud, throwing up 
her arms, then fell foaming on the sanded floor. 

' An evil woman and a fey ! ' said Asmund as he called people 
to her. ' It had been better for me if I had never seen her 
dark face.' 

Now it is to be told that Groa lay beside herself for ten full 
days, and Swanhild nursed her. Then she found her sense 
again, and craved to see Asmund, and spoke thus to him : 

' It seems to me, lord, if indeed it be aught but a vision of 
my dreams, that before this sickness struck me I spoke mad 
and angry words against thee, because thou hast plighted troth 
to Unna, Thorod's daughter.' 

' That is so, in truth,' said Asmund. 

' I have to say this, then, lord : that most humbly I crave 
thy pardon for my ill words, and ask thee to put them away 
from thy mind. Sore heart makes sour speech, and thou 
knowest well that, howsoever great my faults, at least I have 
always loved thee and laboured for thee, and methinks that in 


some fashion thy fortunes are the debtor to my wisdom. There- 
fore when my ears heard that thou hadst of a truth put me 
away, and that another woman comes an honoured wife to rule 
in Middalhof, my tongue forgot its courtesy, and I spoke words 
that are of all words the farthest from my mind. For I know 
well that I grow old, and have put off that beauty with which I 
was adorned of yore, and that held thee to me. " Carline" Eric 
Brighteyes named me, and " carline" I am an old hag, no 
more ! Now, forgive me, and, in memory of all that has been be- 
tween us, let me creep to my place in the ingle and still watch 
and serve thee and thine till my service is outworn. Out of 
Ban's net I came to thee, and, if thou drivest me hence, I tell 
thee that I will lie down and die upon thy threshold, and when 
thousinkest into eld surely the memory of it shall grieve thee.' 

Thus she spoke and wept much, till Asmund's heart softened 
in him, and, though with a doubting mind, he said it should 
be as she willed. 

So Groa stayed on at Middalhof, and was lowly in her 
bearing and soft of speech. 






OW Atli the Good, earl of the 
Orkneys, comes into the story. 

It chanced that Atli had sailed 
to Iceland in the autumn 011 a 
business about certain lands that 
had fallen to him in right of his 
mother Helga, who was an Ice- 
lander, and he had wintered west 
of Eeyjanes. Spring being come, 
he wished to sail home, and, when 
his ship was bound, he put to sea 
full early in the year. But it chanced that bad weather came up 
from the south-east, with mist and rain, so he must needs beach 
his ship in a creek under shelter of the Westman Islands. 

Now Atli asked what people dwelt in these parts, and, when 
he heard the name of Asmund Asmundson the Priest, he was 
glad, for in old days he and Asmund had gone many a viking 
cruise together. 

' We will leave the ship here,' he said, ' till the weather 
clears, and go up to Middalhof to stay with Asmund.' 

So they made the ship snug, and left- men to watch her ; 
but two of the company, with Earl Atli, rode up to Middalhof. 
It must be told of Atli that he was the best of the earls 
who lived in those days, and he ruled the Orkneys so well 
that men gave him a by-name and called him Atli the Good. 
It was said of him that he had never turned a poor man away 
unsuccoured, nor bowed his head before a strong man, nor 


drawn his sword without cause, nor refused peace to him who 
prayed it. He was sixty years old, but age had left few marks on 
him, except that of his long white beard. He was keen-eyed, 
and well fashioned of form and face, a great warrior and the 
strongest of men. His wife was dead, leaving him no children, 
and this was a sorrow to him ; but as yet he had taken no 
other wife, for he would say : ' Love makes an old man blind,' 
and' 4 When age runs with youth, both shall fall,' and again, 
' Mix grey locks and .golden and spoil two heads.' For this 
earl was a man of many wise sayings. 

Now Atli came to Middalhof just as men sat down to meat 
and, hearing the clatter of arms, all sprang to their feet, think- 
ing that perhaps Ospakar was come again as he had 
promised. But when Asmund saw Atli he knew him at once, 
tliough they had not met for nearly thirty years, and he 
greeted him lovingly, and put him in the high seat, and gave 
place to his men upon the cross-benches. Atli told all his 
story, and Asmund bade him rest a while at Middalhof till the 
weather grew clearer. 

Now the Earl saw Swanhild and thought the maid wondrous 
fair, and so indeed she was, as she moved scornfully to and fro 
in her kirtle of white. Soft was her curling hair and deep were 
her dark blue eyes, and bent were her red lips as is a bow 
above her dimpled chin, and her teeth shone like pearls. 

* Is that fair maid thy daughter, Asmund ? ' asked Atli. 

' She is named Swanhild the Fatherless,' he answered, 
turning his face away. 

Well,' said Atli, looking sharply on him, ' were the maid 
sprung from me, she would not long be called the " Fatherless," 
for few have such a daughter.' 

' She is fair enough,' said Asmund, * in all save in temper, 
and that is bad to cross.' 

' In every sword a flaw,' answers Atli ; ' but what has an 
old man to do with young maids and their beauty ? ' and he 

' I have known younger men who would seem less brisk at 
bridals,' said Asmund, and for that time they talked no more 
of the matter. 


Now, Swanhild heard something of this speech, and she 
guessed more ; and it came into her mind that it would be the 
best of sport to make this old man love her, and then to mock 
him and say him nay. So she set herself to the task, as it ever 
was her wont, and she found it easy. For all day long, with 
downcast eyes and gentle looks, she waited upon the Earl, and 
now, at his bidding, she sang to him in a voice soft and low, 
and now she talked so wisely well that Atli thought no such 
maid had trod the earth before. But he checked himself with 
many learned saws, and on a day when the weather had grown 
fair, and they sat alone, he told her that his ship was bound 
for Orkney Isles. 

Then, as though by chance, Swanhild laid her white hand 
in his, and on a sudden looked deep into his eyes, and said with 
trembling lips, ' Ah, go not yet, lord ! I pray thee, go not 
yet ! ' and, turning, she fled away. 

But Atli was much moved, and he said to himself : ' Now 
a strange thing is come to pass : a fair maid loves an old man ; 
and yet, methinks, he who looks into those eyes sees deep 
waters,' and he beat his brow and thought. 

But Swanhild in her chamber laughed till the tears ran 
from those same eyes, for she saw that the great fish was 
hooked and now the time had come to play him. 

For she did not know that it was otherwise fated. 

Gudruda, too, saw all these things and knew not how to read 
them, for she was of an honest mind, and could not under- 
stand how a woman may love a man as Swanhild loved Eric 
and yet make such play with other men, and that of her free 
will. For she guessed little of Swanhild's guilefulness, nor of 
the coldness of her heart to all save Eric ; nor of how this was 
the only joy left to her : to make a sport of men and put them 
to grief and shame. Atli said to himself that he would watch 
this maid well before he uttered a word to Asmund, and he 
deemed himself very cunning, for he was wondrous cautious after 
the fashion of those about to fall. So he set himself to watching, 
and Swanhild set herself to smiling, and he told her tales of 
warfare and of daring, and she clasped her hands and said : 

1 Was there ever such a man since Odin trod the earth ? ' 


And so it went on, till the serving-women laughed at the old 
man in love and the wit of her that mocked him. 

Now upon a day, Eric having made an end of sowing his 
corn, bethought him of his vow to go up alone against Skalla- 
grim the Baresark in his den on Mosfell over by Hecla. Now, 
this was a heavy task : for Skallagrim was held so mighty 
among men that none went up against him any more ; and at 
times Eric thought of Gudruda, and sighed, for it was likely 
that she would be a widow before she was made a wife. Still, 
his oath must be fulfilled, and, moreover, of late Skallagrim, 
having heard that a youngling named Eric Brighteyes had 
vowed to slay him single-handed, had made a mock of him in 
this fashion. For Skallagrim rode down to Coldback on Ean 
Eiver and at night-time took a lamb from the fold. Holding 
the lamb beneath his arm, he drew near to the house and smote 
thrice on the door with his battle-axe, and they were thundering 
knocks. Then he leapt on to his horse and rode off a space and 
waited. Presently Eric came out, but half clad, a shield in 
one hand and Whitefire in the other, and, looking, by the bright 
moonlight he saw a huge black-bearded man seated on a horse, 
having a great axe in one hand and the lamb beneath his arm. 

' Who art thou ? ' roared Eric. 

' I am called Skallagrim, youngling,' answered the man on 
the horse. ' Many men have seen me once, none have wished 
to see me twice, and some few have never seen aught again. 
Now, it has been echoed in my ears that thou hast vowed a 
vow to go up Mosfell against Skallagrim the Baresark, and I 
am come hither to say that I will make thee right welcome. 
See,' and with his axe he cut off the lamb's tail on the pommel 
of his saddle : ' of the flesh of this lamb of thine I will brew 
broth and of his skin I will make me a vest. Take thou this 
tail and when thou fittest it on to the skin again, Skallagrim 
will own a lord,' and he hurled the tail towards him. 

' Bide thou there till I can come to thee,' shouted Eric ; 
v it will spare me a ride to Mosfell.' 

* Nay, nay. It is good for lads to take the mountain air,' 
and Skallagrim turned his horse away, laughing. 


Eric watched Skallagrim vanish over the knoll, and then, 
though he was very angry, laughed also and went in. But 
first he picked up the tail, and on the morrow he skinned it. 

Now the time was come when the matter must be tried, and 
Eric bade farewell to Saevuna his mother, and Unna his 
cousin, and girt Whitefire round him and set upon his head a 
golden helm with wings on it. Then he found the byrnie 
which his father Thorgrimur had stripped, together with the 
helm, from that Baresark who cut off his leg and this was a 
good piece, forged of the Welshmen and he put it on his breast, 
and taking a stout shield of bull's hide studded with nails, 
rode away with one thrall, the strong carle named Jon. 

But the women misdoubted them much of this venture ; 
nevertheless Eric might not be gainsayed. 

Now, the road to Mosfell runs past Middalhof and thither 
he came. Atli, standing at the men's door, saw him and cried 
aloud : * Ho ! a mighty man comes here.' 

Swanhild looked out and saw Eric, and he was a goodly 
sight in his war-gear. For now, week by week, he seemed to 
grow more fair and great, as the full strength of his manhood 
rose in him, like sap in the spring grass, and Gudruda was 
very proud of her lover. That night Eric stayed at Middalhof, 
and sat hand in hand with Gudruda and talked with Earl Atli. 
Now the heart of the old viking went out to Eric, and he took 
great delight in him and in his strength and deeds, and he 
longed much that the Gods had given him such a son. 

'I prophesy this of thee, Brighteyes,' he cried: * that it shall 
go ill with this Baresark thou seekest yes, and with all men 
who come within sweep of that great sword of thine. Bui 
remember this, lad : guard thy head with thy buckler, cut lo\\ 
beneath his shield, if he carries one, and mow the legs from 
him : for ever a Baresark rushes on, shield up.' 

Eric thanked him for his good words and went to rest, 
But, before it was light, he rose, and Gudruda rose also and 
came into the hall, and buckled his harness on him with hei 
own hands. 

1 This is a sad task for me, Eric ! ' she sighed, for how do ." 
know that Baresark's hands shall not loose this helm of thine? 


' That is as it may be, sweet,' he said ; * but I fear not the 
Baresark or any man. How goes it with Swanhild now ? ' 

' I know not. She makes herself sweet to that old Earl 
and he is fain of her, and that is beyond my sight.' 

' I have seen as much,' said Eric. ' It will be well for us 
if he should wed her.' 

' Ay, and ill for him ; but it is to be doubted if that is in her 

Now Eric kissed her soft and sweet, and went away, bidding 
her look for his return on the day after the morrow. 

Gudruda bore up bravely against her fears till he was gone, 
but then she wept a little. 

Now it is to be told that Eric and his thrall Jon rode hard 
up Stonefell and across the mountains and over the black sand, 
till, two hours before sunset, they came to the foot of Mosfell, 
having Hecla on their right. It is a grim mountain, grey 
with moss, standing alone in the desert plain ; but between it 
and Hecla there is good grassland. 

* Here is the fox's earth. Now to start him,' said Eric. 

He knows something of the path by which this fortress can 
be climbed from the south, and horses may be ridden up it for a 
space. So on they go, till at length they come to a flat place 
where water runs down the black rocks, and here Eric drank 
of the water, ate food, and washed- his face and hands. 
This done, he bid Jon tend the horses for hereabouts there is 
a little grass and be watchful till he returned, since he must 
go up against Skallagrim alone. And there with a doubtful 
heart Jon stayed all that night. For of all that came to pass 
he saw but one thing, and that was the light of Whitefire as it 
flashed out high above him on the brow of the mountain when 
first Brighteyes smote at foe. 

Eric went warily up the Baresark path, for he would keep 
his breath in him, and the light shone redly on his golden 
helm. High he went, till at length he came to a pass narrow 
and dark and hedged on either side with sheer cliffs, such as 
two armed men might hold against a score. He peered down 
this path, but he saw no Baresark, though it was worn by 


Baresark feet. He crept along its length, moving like a sun- 
beam through the darkness of the pass, for the light gathered 
on his helm and sword, till suddenly the path turned and he 
was on the brink of a gulf that seemed to have no bottom, 
and, looking across and down, he could see Jon and the horses 
more than a hundred fathoms beneath. Now Eric must stop, 
for this path leads but into the black gulf. Also he was 
perplexed to know where Skallagrim had his lair. He crept 
to the brink and gazed. Then he saw that a point of rock 
jutted from the sheer face of the cliff and that the point was 
worn with the mark of feet. 

1 Where Baresark passes, there may yeoman follow,' said 
Eric and, sheathing Whitefire, without more ado, though he 
liked the task little, he grasped the overhanging rock and 
stepped down on to the point below. Now he was perched like 
an eagle over the dizzy gulf and his brain swam. Backward 
he feared to go, and forward he might not, for there was nothing 
but air. Beside him, growing from the face of the cliff, was a 
birch-bush. He grasped it to steady himself. It bent beneath 
his clutch, and then he saw, behind it, a hole in the rock 
through which a man could creep, and down this hole ran foot- 

' First through air like a bird ; now through earth like a 
fox,' said Eric and entered the hole. Doubling his body till his 
helm almost touched his knee he took three paces and lo ! he 
stood on a great platform of rock, so large that a hall might 
be built on it, which, curving inwards, cannot be seen fronf 
the narrow pass. This platform, that is backed by the sheer 
cliff, looks straight to the south, and from it he could search 
the plain and the path that he had travelled, and there once 
more he saw Jon and the horses far below him. 

'A strong place, truly, and well chosen,' said Eric and 
looked around. On the floor of the rock and some paces from 
him a turf fire still smouldered, and by it were sheep's bones, 
and beyond, in the face of the overhanging precipice, was the 
mouth of a cave. 

' The wolf is at home, or was but lately,' said Eric ; ' now 
for his lair ; ' and with that he walked warily to the mouth of 


the cave and peered in. He could see nothing yet a while, but 
surely he heard a sound of snoring ? 

Then he crept in, and, presently, by the red light of the 
burning embers, he saw a great black-bearded man stretched 
at length upon a rug of sheepskins, and by his side an axe. 

' Now it would be easy to make an end of this cave-dweller,' 
thought Eric ; ' but that is a deed I will not do no, not even 
to a Baresark to slay him in his sleep,' and therewith he 
stepped lightly to the side of Skallagrim, a-nd was about to 
prick him with the point of Whitefire, when ! as he did so, 
another man sat up 
behind Skallagrim. 

' By Thor ! for two 
I did not bargain,' said 
Eric, and sprang from 
the cave. 

Then, with a grunt 
of rage, that Baresark 
who was behind Skal- 
lagrim came out like 
a she-bear robbed of 
her whelps, and ran 
straight at Eric, sword 
aloft. Eric gives before 
him right to the edge 
of the cliff. Then the 
Baresark smites at him 

and Brighteyes catches the blow on his shield, and smites in 
turn so well and truly, that the head of the Baresark flies from 
his shoulders and spins along the ground, but his body, with 
outstretched arms yet gripping at the air, falls over the edge of 
the gulf sheer into the water, a hundred fathoms down. It 
was the flash that Whitefire made as it circled ere it smote 
that Jon saw while he waited in the dell upon the mountain 
side. But of the Baresark he saw nothing, for he passed down 
into the great fire-riven cleft and was never seen more, save 
once only, in a strange fashion that shall be told. This was 
the first man whom Brighteyes slew. 



Now the old tale tells that Eric cried aloud : ' Little 
chance had this one,' and that then a wonderful thing came to 
pass. For the head on the rock opened its eyes and answered : 

'Little chance indeed against thee, Eric Brighteyes. 
Still, I tell thee this : that where my body fell there thou shalt 
fall, and where it lies there thou shalt lie also.' 

Now Eric was afraid, for he thought it a strange thing 
that a severed head should speak to him. 

1 Here it seems I have to deal with trolls,' he said ; ' but 
at the least, though he speak, this one shall strike no more,' 
and he looked at the head, but it answered nothing. 

Now Skallagrim slept through it all and the light grew 
so dim that Eric thought it time to make an end this way or 
that. Therefore, he took the head of the slain man, though 
he feared to touch it, and rolled it swiftly into the cave, saying, 
'Now, being so glib of speech, go tell thy mate that Eric 
Brighteyes knocks at his door.' 

Then came sounds as of a man rising, and presently 
Skallagrim rushed forth with axe aloft and his fellow's head 
in his left hand. He was clothed in nothing but a shirt and 
the skin of Eric's lamb was bound on his chest. 

' Where now is my mate ? ' he said. Then he saw Eric 
leaning on Whitefire, his golden helm ablaze with the glory 
of the passing sun. 

' It seems that thou boldest somewhat of him in thine 
hand, Skallagrim, and for the rest, go seek it in yonder rift.' 

' Who art thou ? roared Skallagrim. 

' Thou mayest know me by this token,' said Eric, and he 
threw towards him the skin of that lamb's tail which Skalla-- 
grim had lifted from Coldback. 

Now Skallagrim knew him and the Baresark fit came on. 
His eyes rolled, foam flew from his lips, his mouth grinned, 
and he was awesome to see. He let fall the head, and, swinging 
the great axe aloft, rushed at Eric. But Brighteyes is too 
swift for him. It would not be well to let that stroke fall, and 
it must go hard with aught it struck. He springs forward, 
he louts low and sweeps upwards with Whitefire. Skallagrim 
sees the sword flare and drops almost to his knee, guarding his 

Eric encounters Skallagrim. 


head with the axe ; but Whitefire strikes on the iron haft 
of the axe and shears it in two, so that the axe-head falls to 
earth. Now the Baresark is weaponless but unharmed, and it 
would be an easy task to slay him as he rushes by. But it came 
into Eric's mind that it is an unworthy deed to slay a swordless 
man, and this came into his mind also, that he desired to match 
his naked might against a Baresark in his rage. So, in the 
hardihood of his youth and strength, he cast Whitefire aside, 
and crying Come, try a fall with me, Baresark,' rushed on 

' Thou art mad,' yells the Baresark, and they are at it 
hard. Now they grip and rend and tear. Ospakar was strong, 
but the Baresark strength of Skallagrim is more than the 
strength of Ospakar, and soon Brighteyes thinks longingly on 
Whitefire that he has cast aside. Eric is mighty beyond the 
might of men, but he can scarcely hold his own against this mad 
man, and very soon he knows that only one chance is left to him, 
and that is to cling to Skallagrim till the Baresark fit be passed 
and he is once more like other men. But this is easier to tell 
of than to do, and presently, strive as he will, Eric is on his 
back, and Skallagrim on him. But still he holds the Baresark 
as with bands of iron, and Skallagrim may not free his arms, 
though he strive furiously. Now they roll over and over on the 
rock, and the gloom gathers fast about them till presently 
Eric sees that they draw near to the brink of that mighty rift 
down which the severed head of the cave-dweller has foretold 
his fall. 

' Then we go together,' says Eric, but the Baresark does not 
heed. Now they are on the very brink, and here as it chances, 
or as the Norns decree, a little rock juts up and this keeps them 
from falling. Eric is uppermost, and, strive as he will, Skalla- 
grim may not turn him on his back again. Still, Brighteyes' 
strength may not endure very long, for he grows faint, and his 
legs slip slowly over the side of the rift till now he clings, 
as it were, by his ribs and shoulder-blades alone, that rub 
against the little rock. The light dies away, and Eric thinks 
on sweet Gudruda and makes ready to die also, when suddenly 
last ray from the sun falls on the fierce face of Skalla- 


grim, and lo ! Brighteyes sees it change, for the madness goes 
out of it, and in a moment the Baresark becomes but as a 
child in his mighty grip. 

* Hold ! ' said Skallagrim, ' I crave peace ' and he loosed his 


' Not too soon, then,' gasped Eric as, drawing his legs from 
over the brink of the rift, he gained his feet and, staggering to 
his sword, grasped it very thankfully. 

' I am fordone ! ' said Skallagrim ; ' come, drag me from 
this place, for I fall ; or, if thou wilt, hew off my head.' 

' I will not serve thee thus,' said Eric. ' Thou art a gallant 
foe,' and he put out his hand and drew him into safety. 

For a while Skallagrim lay panting, then he gained his 
hands and knees and crawled to where Eric leaned against the 

' Lord,' he said, * give me thy hand.' 

Eric stretched forth his left hand, wondering and Skalla- 
grim took it. He did not stretch out his right, for, fearing guile, 
he gripped Whitefire in it. 

' Lord,' Skallagrim said again, ' of all men who ever were, 
thou art the mightiest. Five other men had not stood before 
me in my rage, but, scorning thy weapon, thou didst overcome 
me in the noblest fashion, and by thy naked strength alone. 
Now hearken. Thou hast given me my life, and it is thine from 
this hour to the end. Here I swear fealty to thee. Slay me if 
thou wilt, or use me if thou wilt, but I think it will be better 
for thee to do this rather than that, for there is but one who has 
mastered me, and thou art he, and it is borne in upon my mind 
that thou wilt have need of my strength, and that shortly.' 

' That may well be, Skallagrim,' said Eric, * yet I put little 
trust in outlaws and cave-dwellers. How do I know, if I take 
thee to me, that thou wilt not murder me in my sleep, as it 
would have been easy for me to do by thee but now ? ' 

' What is it that runs from thy arm,' asked Skallagrim. 

1 Blood,' said Eric. 

* Stretch out thine arm, lord.' 

Eric did so, and the Baresark put his lips to the scratch 
and sucked the blood, then said : 


4 In this blood of thine I pledge thee, Eric Brighteyes ! May 
Valhalla refuse me and Hela take me ; may I be hunted like a fox 
from earth to earth ; may trolls torment me and wizards sport 
with me o' nights ; may my limbs shrivel and my heart turn to 
water ; may my foes overtake me, and my bones be crushed 
across the doom-stone if I fail in one jot from this my oath that 
I have sworn ! I will guard thy back, I will smite thy enemies, 
thy hearthstone shall be my temple, thy honour my honour. 
Thrall am I of thine, and thrall I will be, and whiles thou wilt 
we will live one life, and, in the end, we will die one death.' 

' It seems that in going to seek a foe I have found a friend,' 
said Eric, ' and it is likely enough that I shall need one. Skalla- 
grim, Baresark and outlaw as thou art, I take thee at thy word. 
Henceforth, we are master and man and we will do many a 
deed side by side, and in token of it I lengthen thy name and 
call thee Skallagrim Lambstail. Now, if thou hast it, give 
me food and drink, for I am faint from that hug of thine, old 




Now Skallagrim led Eric to his cave and fed the fire and gave 
him flesh to eat and ale to drink. When he had eaten his 
fill Eric looked at the Baresark. He had black hair streaked 
with grey that hung down upon his shoulders. His nose was 
hooked like an eagle's beak, his beard was wild and his sunken 
eyes were keen as a hawk's. He was somewhat bent and not 
over tall, but of a mighty make, for his shoulders must pass 
many a door sideways. 

' Thou art a great man,' said Eric, * and it is something to 
have overcome thee. Now tell me what turned thee Baresark.' 

' A shameful deed that was done against me, lord. Ten 
years ago I was a yeoman of small wealth in the north. I had 
but one good thing, and that was the fairest housewife in those 
parts Thorunna by name and I loved her much, but we had 
no children. Now, not far from my stead is a place called 
Swinefell, and there dwells a mighty chief named Ospakar 
Blacktooth ; he is an evil man and a strong ' 

Eric started at the name and then bade Skallagrim take 
up the tale. 

'It chanced that Ospakar saw my wife Thorunna and 
would take her, but at first she did not listen. Then he pro- 
mised her wealth and all good things, and she was weary of 
our hard way of life and hearkened. Still, she would not go 
away openly, for that had brought shame on her, but plotted 
with Ospakar that he should come and take her as though by 
force. So it came about, as I lay heavily asleep one night 


at Thorunna's side, having drunk somewhat too deeply of the 
autumn ale, that armed men seized me, bound me, and haled 
me from my bed. There were eight of them, and with them 
was Ospakar. Then Blacktooth bid Thorunna rise, clothe 
herself and come to be his May, and she made pretence to weep 
at this, but fell to it readily enough. Now she bound her 
girdle round her and to it a knife hung. 

'"Kill thyself, sweet," I cried: "death is better than 

1 " Not so, husband," she answered. "It is true that I love 
but thee ; yet a woman may find another love, but not another 
life," and I saw her laugh through her mock tears. Now 
Ospakar rode in hot haste away to Swinefell and with him 
went Thorunna, but his men stayed a while and drank my ale, 
and, as they drank, they mocked me who was bound before 
them, and little by little all the truth was told of the doings of 
Ospakar and Thorunna my housewife, and I learned that it was 
she who had planned this sport. Then my eyes grew dark and 
I drew near to death from very shame and bitterness. But of 
a sudden something leaped up in my heart, fire raged before 
my eyes and voices in my ears called on to war and vengeance. 

was Baresark and like hay bands I burst my cords. My 
hung on the wainscot. I snatched it thence, and of what 

jfell I know this alone, that, when the madness passed, eight 

ien lay stretched out before me, and all the place was but a 

)re of blood. 
' Then I drew the dead together and piled drinking -tables 

rer them, and benches, and turf, and anything else that would 
)urn, and put cod's oil on the pile, and fired the stead above 

lem, so that the tale went abroad that all these men were 
mrned in their cups, and I wHh them. 

But I took the name of Skallagrim and swore an oath 

jainst all men, ay, and women too, and away I went to the 

rood-folk and worked much mischief, for I spared few, and so on 
Mosfell. Here I have stayed these five years, awaiting the 
;ime when I shall find Ospakar and Thorunna the harlot, 

id I have fought many men, but, till thou earnest up against 

le, none could stand before my might.' 


' A strange tale, truly,' said Eric ; 'but now hearken thou 
to a stranger, for of a truth it seems that we have not come 
together by chance,' and he told him of Gudruda and the 
wrestling and of the overthrow of Blacktooth, and showed him 
Whitefire which he won out of the hand of Ospakar. 

Skallagrim listened and laughed aloud. * Surely,' he said, 
this is the work of the Norns. See, lord, thou and I will yet 
smite this Ospakar. He has taken my wife and he would take 
thy betrothed. Let it be ! Let it be ! Ah, would that I had 
been there to see the wrestling Ospakar had never risen from 
his snow-bed. But there is time left to us, and I shall yet see 
his head roll along the dust. Thou hast his goodly sword 
and with it thou shalt sweep Blacktooth 's head from his 
shoulders or perchance that shall be my lot,' and with this 
Skallagrim sprang up, gnashing his teeth and clutching at 
the air. 

' Peace,' said Eric. ' Blacktooth is not here. Save thy 
rage until it can run along thy sword and strike him.' 

' Nay, not here, nor yet so far off, lord. Hearken : I know 
this Ospakar. If he has set eyes of longing on Gudruda, 
Asmund's daughter, he will not rest one hour till he have her or 
is slain ; and if he has set eyes of hate on thee then take 
heed to thy going and spy down every path before thy feet 
tread it. Soon shall the matter come on for judgment and 
even now Odin's Valkyries 1 choose their own.' 

'It is well, then,' said Eric. 

* Yea, lord, it is well, for we two have little to fear from 
any six men, if so be that they fall on us in fair fight. But I do 
not altogether like thy tale. Too many women are mixed 
up in it, and women stab in the back. A man may deal with 
swords aloft, but not with tricks, and lies, and false women's 
witchery. It was a woman who greased thy wrestling soles ; 
mayhap it will be a woman that binds on thy Hell-shoes 
when all is done ay ! and who makes them ready for thy 

1 The corse-choosing sisters ' who were bidden by Odin to single out 
those warriors whose hour had come to die in battle and win Valhalla. 


'Of women, as of men,' answered Eric, ' there is this to be 
said, that some are good and some evil.' 

' Yes, lord, and this also, that the evil ones plot the ill 
of their evil, but the good do it of their blind foolishness. 
Forswear women and so shalt thou live happy and die in 
honour cherish them and live in wretchedness and die an 

' Thy talk is foolish,' said Eric. ' Birds must to the air, 
the sea to the shore, and man must to woman. As things are 
so let them be, for they will soon seem as though they had 
never been. I had rather kiss my dear and die, if so it pleases 
me to do, than kiss her not and live, for at the last the end will 
be one end, and kisses are sweet ! ' 

' That is a good saying,' said Skallagrim, and they fell 
asleep side by side and Eric had no fear. 

Now they awoke and the light was already full, for they 
were weary and their sleep had been heavy. 

Hard by the mouth of the cave is a little well of water that 
gathers there from the rocks above and in this Eric washed 
himself. Then Skallagrim showed him the cave and the 
goodly store of arms that he had won from those whom he 
slain and robbed. 

1 A wondrous place, truly,' said Eric, ' and well fitted to the 
uses of such a chapman l as thou art ; but, say, how didst 

u find it ? ' 
' I followed him who was here before me and gave him 
ice to go, or to fight for the stronghold. But he needs 
must fight and that was his bane, for I slew him.' 

t' Who was that, then,' asked Eric, 'whose head lies 
* A cave-dweller, lord, whom I took to me because of the 
. . ssomeness of the winter tide. He was an evil man, for 
though it is good to be Baresark from time to time, yet to 
dwell with one who is always Baresark is not good, and thou 
didst a needful deed in smiting his head from him and now 
let it go to find its trunk,' and he rolled it over the edge of the 
great rift. 

1 Merchant. 





' Knowest thou, Skallagrim, that this head spoke to me 
after it had left the man's shoulders, saying that where its 
body fell there I should fall, and where it lay there I should 
lie also ? ' 

' Then, lord, that is likely to be thy doom, for this man was 
foresighted, and, but the night before last, as we rode out to 
seek sheep, he felt his head, and said that, before the sun 
sank again, a hundred fathoms of air should link it to his 

* It may be so,' answered Eric. ' I thought as I lay in thy 
grip yonder that the fate was near. And now arm thyself, 
and take such goods as thou needest, and let us hence, for 
that thrall of mine who waits me yonder will think thou hast 
been too mighty for me.' 

Skallagrim went to the edge of the rift and searched the 
plain with his hawk eyes. 

' No need to hasten, lord,' he said. ' See yonder rides thy 
thrall across the black sand, and with him goes thy horse. 
Surely he thought thou earnest no more down the path by 
which thou wentest up, and it is not thrall's work to seek 
Skallagrim in his lair and ask for tidings.' 

' Wolves take him for a fool ! ' said Eric in anger. ' He will 
ride to Middalhof and sing my death- song, and that will sound 
sadly in some ears.' 

' It is pleasant, lord,' said Skallagrim, * when good tidings 
dog the heels of bad, and womenfolk can spare some tears 
and be little poorer. I have horses in a secret dell that I will 
show thee, and on them we will ride hence to Middalhof and 
there thou must claim peace for me.' 

' It is well,' said Eric ; ' now arm thyself, for if thou goest 
with me thou must make an end of thy Baresark ways, or 
keep them for the hour of battle.' 

' I will do thy bidding, lord,' said Skallagrim. Then he 
entered the cave and set a plain black steel helm upon his 
black locks, and a black chain byrnie about his breast. He 
took the great axe-head also and fitted to it the haft of another 
axe that lay among the weapons. Then he drew out a purse of 
money and a store of golden rings, and set them in a bag of 


otter skin, and buckled it about him. But the other goods 
he wrapped up in skins and hid behind some stones which 
were at the bottom of the cave purposing to come another 
time and fetch them. 

Then they went forth by that same perilous path which 
Eric had trod, and Skallagrim showed him how he might pass 
the rock in safety. 

' A rough road this,' said Eric as he gained the deep cleft. 

' Yea, lord, and, till thou earnest, one that none but wood- 
folk have trodden.' 

' I would tread it no more,' said Eric again, * and yet that 
fellow thief of thine said that I should die here,' and for a while 
his heart was heavy. 

Now Skallagrim Lambstail led him by secret paths to a 
dell rich in grass, that is hid in the round of the mountain, 
and here three good horses were at feed. Then, going to 
a certain rock, he brought out bits and saddles, and they 
caught the horses, and mounting them, rode away from 

Now Eric and his henchman Skallagrim the Baresark 
rode four hours and saw nobody, till at length they came to 
the brow of a hill that is named Horse-Head Heights, and, 
crossing it, found themselves almost in the midst of a score of 
armed men who were about to mount their horses. 

' Now we have company,' said Skallagrim. 

' Yes and bad company,' answered Eric, * for yonder I spy 
Ospakar Blacktooth, and Gizur and Mord his sons, ay and 
others. Down, and back to back, for they will show us little 

tThen they sprang to earth and took their stand upon a 
imd of rising ground and the men rode towards them. 
* I shall soon know what thy fellowship is worth,' said 
* Fear not, lord,' answered Skallagrim. ' Hold thou thy 
,d and I will hold thy back. We are met in a good 

' Good or ill, it is likely to be a short one. Hearken thou ; 




if thou must turn Baresark when swords begin to flash, at 
the least stand and be Baresark where thou art, for if thou 
rushest on the foe, my back will be naked and I must soon be 

' It shall be as thou sayest, lord.' 

Now men rode round them, but at first they did not 
know Eric, because of the golden helm that hid his face in 

' Who are ye ? ' called Ospakar. 

* I think that thou shouldst know me, Blacktooth,' 
Eric answered, ' for I set thee heels up in the snow but lately 
or, at the least, thou wilt know this,' and he drew great 

' Thou mayest know me also, Ospakar,' cried the Baresark. 
' Skallagrim men called me, Lambstail, Eric Brighteyes calls 
me, but once thou didst call me Ounound. Say, lord, what 
tidings of Thorunna ? ' 

Now Ospakar shook his sword, laughing. ' I came out 
to seek one foe, and I have found two,' he cried. ' Hearken, 
Eric : when thou art slain I go hence to burn and kill at 
Middalhof. Shall I bear thy head as keepsake from thee to 
Gudruda ? For thee, Ounound, I thought thee dead ; but, 
being yet alive, Thorunna, my sweet love, sends thee this,' and 
he hurled a spear at him with all his might. 

' But Skallagrim catches the spear as it flies and hurls it 
back. It strikes right on the shield of Ospakar and pierces it, 
ay and the byrnie, and the shoulder that is beneath the byrnie, 
so that Blacktooth was made unmeet for fight, and howled 
with pain and rage. 

1 Go, bid Thorunna draw that splinter forth,' says Skalla- 
grim, ' and heal the hole with kisses.' 

Now Ospakar, writhing with his hurt, shouts to his men to 
slay the two of them, and then the fight begins. 

One rushes at Eric and smites at him with an axe. 
The blow falls on his shield, and shears off the side of it, then 
strikes the byrnie beneath, but lightly. In answer Eric sweeps 
low at him with Whitefire, and cuts his leg from under him 
between knee and thigh, and he falls and dies. 


Another rushes in. Down flashes Whitefire before he can 
smite, and the carle's shield is cloven through. Then he 
chooses to draw back and fights no more that day. 

Skallagrim slays a man, and wounds another sore. A tall 
chief with a red scar on his face comes at Brighteyes. Twice 
he feints at the head while Eric watches, then lowers the sword 
beneath the cover of his shield, and sweeps suddenly at Eric's 
legs. Brighteyes leaps high into the air, smiting downward with 
Whitefire as he leaps, and presently that chief is dead, shorn 
through shoulder to breast. 

Now Skallagrim slays another man and grows Baresark. 
He looks so fierce that men fall back from him. 

Two rush on Eric, one from either side. The sword of 
him on the right falls on his shield and sinks in, but Bright- 
eyes twists the shorn shield so strongly that the sword is 
wrenched from the smiter's hand. Now the other sword is aloft 
above him, and that had been Eric's bane, but Skallagrim glances 
round and sees it about to fall. He has no time to turn, but 
he dashes the hammer of his axe backward. It falls full on 
the swordsman's head, and the head is shattered. 

' That was well done,' says Eric as the sword goes down. 

* Not so ill but it might be worse,' growls Skallagrim. 

Presently all men drew back from these two, for they have 
enough of Whitefire and the Baresark's axe. 

Ospakar sits on his horse, his shield pinned to his shoulder 
curses aloud. 

1 Close in, you cowards ! ' he yells, ' close in and cut them 

r n ! ' but no man stirs. 

Then Eric mocks them. ' There are but two of us,' he 

5, ' will no man try a game with me ? Let it not be sung 

it twenty were overcome of two.' 

Now Ospakar' s son Mord hears, and he grows mad with 
rage. He holds his shield aloft and rushes on. But Gizur 

13 Lawman does not come, for Gizur was a coward. 
Skallagrim turns to meet Mord, but Eric says : 
1 This one for me, comrade,' and steps forward. 
Mord strikes a mighty blow. Eric's shield is all shattered 
d cannot stay it. It crashes through and falls full on the 


golden helm, beating Brighteyes to his knee. Now he is up 
again and blows fall thick and fast. Mord is a strong man, 
unwearied, and skilled in war, and Eric's arms grow faint and 
his strength sinks low. Mord smites again and wounds him 
somewhat on the shoulder. 

Eric throws aside his cloven shield and, shouting, plies 
Whitefire with both arms. Mord gives before him, then 
rushes and smites ; Eric leaps aside. Again he rushes and 
lo! Brighteyes has dropped his point, and it stands a full 
span through the back of Mord, and instantly that was his 

Now men run to their horses, mount in hot haste and ride 
away, crying that these are trolls whom they have to do with 
here, not men. Skallagrim sees, and the Baresark fit takes 
him sore. With axe aloft he charges after them, screaming 
as he comes. There is one man, the same whom he had 
wounded. He cannot mount easily, and when the Baresark 
comes he still lies on the neck of his horse. The great axe 
wheels on high and falls, and it is told of this stroke that it 
was so mighty that man and horse sank dead beneath it, 
cloven through and through. Then the fit leaves Skallagrim 
and he walks back, and they are alone with the dead and 

Eric leans on Whitefire and speaks : 

1 Get thee gone, Skallagrim Lambstail ! ' he said ; * get thee 
gone ! ' 

'It shall be as thou wilt, lord,' answered the Baresark; 
' but I have not befriended thee so ill that thou shouldst fear 
for blows to come.' 

' I will keep no man with me who puts my word aside, 
Skallagrim. What did I bid "thee ? Was it not that thou 
shouldst have done with the Baresark ways, and where thou 
stoodest there thou shouldst bide ? and see : thou didst 
forget my word swiftly ! Now get thee gone ! ' 

* It is true, lord,' he said. * He who serves must serve 
wholly,' and Skallagrim turned to seek his horse. 

' Stay,' said Eric ; ' thou art a gallant man and I forgive 
thee : but cross my will no more. We have slain seven men and 



Ospakar goes hence wounded. We have got honour, and they 
loss and the greatest Nshame. Nevertheless, ill shall come of 
this to me, for Ospakar has many friends and will set a law -suit 
on foot against me at the Althing, 1 and thou didst draw the 
first blood.' 

* Would that the spear had gone more home,' said Skalla- 

' Ospakar's time is not yet,' answered Eric ; ' still, he has 
something by which to bear us in mind.' 

1 The annual assembly of free men which, in Iceland, performed the 
functions of a Parliament and Supreme Court of law. 




)W Jon, Eric's thrall, watched 
all night on Mosfell, but saw 
nothing except the light of 
Whitefire as it smote the 
Baresark's head from his 
shoulders. He stayed there 
till daylight, much afraid ; 
then, making sure that Eric 
was slain, Jon rode hard and 
fast for Middalhof, whither 
he came at evening. 

Gudruda was watching 
by the women's door. She 
strained her eyes towards 
Mosfell to catch the light 
gleaming on Eric's golden 
helm, and presently it 
gleamed indeed, white not red. 

' See,' said Swanhild at her side, ' Eric comes ! ' 
* Not Eric, but his thrall,' answered Gudruda, * to tell us 
that Eric is sped.' 

They waited in silence while Jon galloped towards them. 
' What news of Brighteyes ? ' cried Swanhild. 
'Little need to ask,' said Gudruda, 'look at his face.' 
Now Jon told his tale and Gudruda listened, clinging to 
the door-post. But Swanhild cursed him for a coward, so 
that he shrank before her eyes. 


Gudruda turned and walked into the hall and her face was 
like the face of death. Men saw her, and Asmund asked why 
she wore so strange a mien. Then Gudruda sang this song : 

Up to Mosfell, battle eager, 
Kode helmed Brighteyen to the fray. 
Back from Mosfell, battle shunning, 
Slunk yon coward thrall I ween. 
Now shall maid Gudruda never 
Know a husband's dear embrace ; 
Widowed is she sunk in sorrow, 
Eric treads Valhalla's halls ! 

And with this she walked from the stead, looking neither 
to the right nor to the left. 

'Let the maid be,' said Atli the Earl. ' Grief fares best 
alone. But my heart is sore for Eric. It should go ill with 
that Baresark if I might get a grip of him.' 

' That I will have before summer is gone,' said Asmund, 
for the death of Eric seemed to him the worst of sorrows. 

Gudruda walked far, and, crossing Laxa by the stepping 
stones, climbed Stonefell till she came to the head of Golden 
Falls, for, like a stricken thing, she desired to be alone 
in her grief. But Swanlrild saw her and followed, coming 
on her as she sat watching the water thunder down the 
mighty cleft. Presently Swanhild's shadow fell athwart her, 
and Gudruda looked up. 

* What wouldst thou with me, Swanhild ? ' she asked". ' Art 
thou come to mock my grief ? ' 

* Nay, foster-sister, for then I must mock my own. I 
come to mix my tears with thine. See, we loved Eric, thou 
and I, and Eric is dead. Let our hate be buried in his grave, 
whence neither may draw him back.' 

Gudruda looked upon her coldly, for nothing could stir her 

' Get thee gone,' she said. * Weep thine own tears and 
leave me to weep mine. Not with thee will I mourn Eric.' 

Swanhild frowned and bit upon her lip. ' I will not come to 
thee with words of peace a second time, my rival,' she said. ' Eric 

6 2 


is dead, but my hate that was born of Eric's love for thee lives 
on and grows, and its flower shall be thy death, Gudruda ! ' 

' Now that Brighteyes is dead, I would fain follow on his 
path: so, if thou listest, throw the gates wide,' Gudruda 
answered, and heeded her no more. 

Swanhild went, but not far. On the further side of a knoll 
of grass she flung herself to earth and grieved as her fierce 
heart might. She shed no tears, but sat silently, looking with 
empty eyes adown the past, and onward to the future, and 
finding no good therein. 

But Gudruda wept as the weight of her loss pressed in 
upon her wept heavy silent tears and cried in her heart to 
Eric who was gone cried to death to come upon her and 
bring her sleep or Eric. 

So she sat and so she grieved till, quite outworn with sor- 
row, sleep stole upon her and she dreamed. Gudruda dreamed 
that she was dead and that she sat nigh to the golden door 
that is in Odin's house at Valhalla, by which the warriors pass 
and repass for ever. There she sat from age to age, listening 
to the thunder of ten thousand thousand tramping feet, and 
watching the fierce faces of the chosen as they marched out 
in armies to do battle in the meads. And as she sat, at length 
a one-eyed man, clad in gleaming garments, drew near and 
spoke to her. He was glorious to look on, and old, and she 
knew him for Odin the Allfather. 

' Whom seekest thou, maid Gudruda ? ' he asked, and the 
voice he spoke with was the voice of waters. 

'I seek Eric Brighteyes,' she answered, 'who passed 
hither a thousand years ago, and for love of whom I am 

* Eric Brighteyes, Thorgrimur's son ? ' quoth Odin ' I know 
him well ; no brisker warrior enters at Valhalla's doors, and 
none shall do more service at the coming of grey wolf Fenrir. 1 
Pass on and leave him to his glory and his God.' 

Then, in her dream, she wept sore, and prayed of. Odin by the 
name of Freya that he would give Eric to her for a little space. 
1 What wilt thou pay, then, maid Gudruda ? ' said Odin. 
1 The foe destined to bring destruction on the Norse gods. 


' My life,' she answered. 

* Good,' he said ; ' for a night Eric shall be thine. Then 
die, and let thy death be his cause of death.' And Odin sang 

this song : 

Now, corse- choosing Daughters, hearken 

To the dread Allfather's word : 

When the gale of spears' breath gathers 

Count not Eric midst the slain, 

Till Brighteyen once hath slumbered, 

Wedded, at Gudruda's side 

Then, Maidens, scream your battle call ; 

Whelmed with foes, let Eric fall ! 

And Gudruda awoke, but in her ears the mighty waters 
still seemed to speak with Odin's voice, saying : 

Then, Maidens, scream your battle call ; 
Whelmed with foes, let Eric fall ! 

She awoke from that fey sleep and looked upwards, and 
lo ! before her, with shattered shield and all besmeared with 
war's red rain, stood gold-helmed Eric. There he stood, 
great and beautiful to see, and she looked on him trembling 
and amazed. 

1 Is it indeed thou, Eric, or is it yet my dream ? ' she 

' I am no dream, surely,' said Eric ; ' but why lookest thou 
thus on me, Gudruda ? ' 

She rose slowly. ' Methought,' she said, ' methought that 
thou wast dead at the hand of Skallagrim.' And with a 
great cry she fell into his arms and lay there sobbing. 

^It was a sweet sight thus to see Gudruda the Fair, her 
ad of gold pillowed on Eric's war-stained byrnie, her dark 
eyes afloat with tears of joy; but not so thought Swanhild, 
watching. She shook in jealous rage, then crept away, and 
hid herself where she could see no more, lest she should be 
smitten with madness. 

* Whence earnest thou ? ah ! whence earnest thou ? ' said 
Gudruda. 'I thought thee dead, my love; but now I 
dreamed that I prayed Odin, and he spared thee to me for a 



' Well, and that he hath, though hardly,' and he told her 
all that had happened, and how, as he rode with Skallagrim, 
who yet sat yonder on his horse, he caught sight of a woman 
seated on the grass and knew the colour Of the cloak. 

Then Gudruda kissed him for very joy, and they were 
happy each with each for of all things that are sweet on 
earth, there is nothing more sweet than this : to find him 
we loved, and thought dead and cold, alive and at our 

And so they talked and were very glad with the gladness of 
youth and love, till Eric said he must on to Middalhof before 
the light failed, for he could not come on horseback the way 
that Gudruda took, but must ride round the shoulder of the 
hill ; and, moreover, he was spent with toil and hunger, and 
Skallagrim grew weary of waiting. 

' Go ! ' said Gudruda ; ' I will be there presently ! ' 

So he kissed her and went, and Swanhild saw the kiss and 
saw him go. 

' Well, lord,' said Skallagrim, ' hast thou had thy fill of 
kissing ? ' 

' Not altogether,' answered Eric. 

They rode a while in silence. 

' I thought the maid seemed very fair ! ' said Skalla- 

' There are women less favoured, Skallagrim.' 

' Rich bait for mighty fish ! ' said Skallagrim. ' This I tell 
thee : that, strive as thou mayest against thy fate, that maid 
will be thy bane and mine also.' 

' Things foredoomed will happen,' said Eric ; ' but if 
thou fearest a maid, the cure is easy : depart from my 

' Who was the other ? ' asked the Baresark ' she who 
crept and peered, listened, then crept back again, hid her face 
in her hands, and talked with a grey wolf that came to her 
like a dog ? ' 

' That must have been Swanhild,' said Eric, ' but I did not 
see her. Ever does she hide like a rat in the thatch, and as for 


the wolf, he must be her Familiar ; for, like Groa, her mother, 
Swanhild plays much with witchcraft. Now I will away 
back to Gudruda, for my heart misdoubts me of this matter. 
Stay thou here till I come, Lambstail ! ' And Eric turns and 
gallops back to the head of Goldfoss. 

When Eric left her, Gudruda drew yet nearer to the edge 
of the mighty falls, and seated herself on their very brink. 
Her breast was full of joy, and there she sat and let the splen- 
dour of the sight and the greatness of the rushing sounds 
sink into her heart. Yonder shone the setting sun, poised, as 
it were, on Westman's distant peaks, and here sped the waters, 
and by that path Eric had come back to her. Yea, and there 
on Sheep -saddle was the road that he had trod down Gold- 
foss ; and but now he had slain one Baresark and won another 
to be his thrall, and they two alone had smitten the company 
of Ospakar, and come thence with honour and but little harmed. 
Surely no such man as Eric had ever lived none so fair and 
strong and tender ; and she was right happy in his love ! She 
stretched out her arms towards him whom but an hour gone 
she had ''thought dead, but who had lived to come back to her 
with honour, and blessed his beloved name, and laughed aloud 
in her joyousness of heart, calling : 

' Eric I Eric I ' 

But Swanhild, creeping behind her, did not laugh. She 
heard Gudruda's voice and guessed Gudruda's gladness, and 
jealousy arose within her and rent her. Should this fair rival 
live to take her joy from her ? 

' Grey Wolf, Grey Wolf ! what sayest thou ? ' 

See, now, if Gudruda were gone, if she rolled a corpse in 
those boiling waters, Eric might yet be hers ; or, if he was not 
hers, yet Gudruda's he could never be. 

* Grey Wolf, Grey Wolf ! ivhat is thy counsel ? ' 

Right on the brink of the great gulf sat Gudruda. One 
stroke and all would be ended. Eric had gone ; there was 
no eye to see none save the Grey Wolfs ; there was no 
tongue to tell the deed that might be done. Who could call 
her to account ? The Gods ! Who were the Gods ? What 



were the Gods ? Were they not dreams ? There were no 
Gods save the Gods of Evil the Gods she knew and com- 
muned with. 

' Grey Wolf, Grey Wolf I what is thy rede ? ' 

There sat Gudruda, laughing in the triumph of her joy, with 
the sunset-glow shining on her beauty, and there, behind her, 
Swanhild crept crept like a fox upon his sleeping prey. 

Now she is there 

' I hear thee, Grey Wolf! Back to my breast* Grey 
Wolf-! ' 


Surely Gudruda heard something ? She half turned her 
head, then again fell to calling aloud to the waters : 

'Eric! beloved Eric! -ah! is there ever a light like the 
light of thine eyes is there ever a joy like the joy of thy kiss ? ' 

Swanhild heard, and her springs of mercy froze. Hate 
and fury entered into her. She rose upon her knees and 
gathered up her strength : 

' Seek, then, thy joy in Goldfoss,' she cried aloud, and with 
all her force she thrust. 

Gudruda fell a fathom or more, then, with a cry, she 

'There she hun, her feet resting on the shelving bank.' 


clutched wildly at a little ledge of rock, and hung there, 
her feet resting on the shelving bank. Thirty fathoms down, 
swirled and poured and rolled the waters of the Golden 
Falls. A fathom above, red in the red light of evening, lowered 
the pitiless face of Swanhild. Gudruda looked beneath her 
and saw. Pale with agony she looked up and saw, but she 
said naught. 

' Let go, my rival ; let go ! ' cried Swanhild : * there is 
none to help thee, and none to tell thy tale. Let go, I say, and 
seek thy marriage-bed in Goldfoss ! ' 

But Gudruda clung on and gazed upwards with white face 
and piteous eyes. 

' What ! art thou so fain of a moment's life ? ' said Swanhild. 
'Then I will save thee from thyself, for it must be ill to 
suffer thus ! ' and she ran to seek a rock. Now she finds 
one and, staggering beneath its weight to the brink of the gulf, 
peers over. Still Gudruda hangs. Space yawns beneath her, 
the waters roar in her ears, the red sky glows above. She sees 
Swanhild come and shrieks aloud. 

Eric is there, though Swanhild hears him not, for the sound 
of his horse's galloping feet is lost in the roar of waters. But 
that cry comes to his ears, he sees the poised rock, and all 
grows clear to him. He leaps from his horse, and even as 
she looses the stone, clutches Swanhild's kirtle and hurls her 
back. The rock bounds sideways and presently is lost in the 

Eric looks over. He sees Gudruda 's white face gleaming 
in the gloom. Down he leaps upon the ledge, though this is 

(easy thing. 
' Hold fast ! I come ; hold fast ! ' he cries. 
' I can no more,' gasps Gudruda, and one hand slips. 
Eric grasps the rock and, stretching downward, grips her 
st ; just as her hold loosens he grips it, and she swings loose, 
weight hanging on his arm. 
Now he must needs lift her up and that with one hand, for 
me ledge is narrow and he dare not loose his hold of the rock 
tve. She swings over the great gulf and she is senseless as 
dead. He gathers all his mighty strength and lifts. His 




feet slip a little, then catch, and once more Gudruda swings. 
The sweat bursts out upon his forehead and his blood drums 
through him. Now it must be, or not at all. Again he lifts 
and his muscles strain and crack, and she lies beside him on 
the narrow ledge ! 

All is not yet done. The brink of the cleft is the height of 
a man above him. There he must lay her, for he may not 
leave her to find aid, lest she should wake and roll into the 
chasm. Loosing his hold of the cliff, he turns, facing the rock, 
and, bending over Gudruda, twists his hands in her kirtle below 
the breast and above the knee. Then once more Eric puts out 
his might and draws her up to the level of his breast, and rests. 
Again with all his force he lifts her above the crest of his helm 
and throws her forward, so that now she lies upon the brink 
of the great cliff. He almost falls backward at the effort, but, 
clutching the rock, he saves himself, and with a struggle gains 
her side, and lies there, panting like a wearied hound of chase. 

Of all trials of strength that ever were put upon his might, 
Eric was wont to say, this lifting of Gudruda was the greatest ; 
for she was no light woman, and there was little to stand on 
and almost nothing to cling to. 

Presently Brighteyes rose and peered at Gudruda through 
the gloom. She still swooned. Then he gazed about him 
but Swanhild, the witchgirl, was gone. 

Then he took Gudruda in his arms, and, leading the horse, 
stumbled through the darkness, calling on Skallagrim. The 
Baresark answered, and presently his large form was seen loom- 
ing in the gloom. 

Eric told his tale in few words. 

' The ways of womankind are evil,' said Skallagrim ; ' but 
of all the deeds that I have known done at their hands, this 
is the worst. It had been well to hurl the wolf- witch from 
the cliff.' 

' Ay, well,' said Eric ; ' but that song must yet be sung.' 

Now dimly lighted of the rising moon by turns they bore 
Gudruda down the mountain side, till at length, utterly for- 
done, >they saw the fires of Middalhof. 




I \| OW as the days went, though Atli's ship was bound 
for sea, she did not sail, and it came about that 
the Earl sank ever deeper in the toils of Swanhild. He called 
to mind many wise saws, but these availed him little : for 
when Love rises like the sun, wisdom melts like the mists. 
So at length it came to this, that on the day of Eric's coming 
back, Atli went to Asmund the Priest, and asked him for the 
hand of Swanhild the Fatherless in marriage. Asmund heard 
and was glad, for he knew well that things went badly between 
Swanhild and Gudruda, and it seemed good to him that seas 
should be set between them. Nevertheless, he thought it honest 
to warn the Earl that Swanhild was apart from other women. 
' Thou dost great honour, earl, to my foster-daughter and 
my house,' he said. ' Still, it behoves me to move gently in 
this matter. Swanhild is fair, and she shall not go hence a 
wife undowered. But I must tell thee this : that her ways are 
dark and secret, and strange and fiery are her moods, and I 
think that she will bring evil on the man who weds her. Now, 
I love thee, Atli, were it only for our youth's sake, and thou 


art not altogether fit to mate with such a maid, for age 
has met thee on thy way. For, as thou wouldst say, youth 
draws to youth as the tide to the shore, and falls away from 
eld as the wave from the rock. Think, then : is it well that 
thou shouldst take her, Atli ? ' 

' I have thought much and overmuch,' answered the Earl, 
stroking his grey beard ; ' but ships old and new drive before 
a gale.' 

' Ay, Atli, and the new ship rides, where the old one 

' A true rede, a heavy rede, Asmund ; yet I am minded to 
sail this sea, and, if it sink me well, I have known fair weather! 
Great longing has got hold of me, and I think the maid 
looks gently on me, and that things may yet go well between 
us. I have many things to give such as women love. At the 
least, if thou givest me thy good word, I will risk it, Asmund : 
for the bold thrower sometimes wins the stake. Only I say 
this, that, if Swanhild is unwilling, let there be an end of my 
wooing, for I do not wish to take a bride who turns from my 
grey hairs.' 

Asmund said that it should be so, and they made an end 
of talking just as the light failed. 

Now Asmund went out seeking Swanhild, and presently 
he met her near the stead. He could not see her face, and 
that was well, for it was not good to look on, but her mien was 
wondrous wild. 

' Where hast thou been, Swanhild ? ' he asked. 

' Mourning Eric Brighteyes,' she made answer. 

'It is meeter for Gudruda to mourn over Eric than for 
thee, for her loss is heavy,' Asmund said sternly. * What hast 
thou to do with Eric ? ' 

'Little, or much, or all read it as thou wilt, foster- 
father. Still, all wept for are not lost, nor all who are lost 
wept for.' 

'Little do I know of thy dark redes,' said Asmund. 
' Where is Gudruda now ? ' 

' High is she or low, sleeping or perchance awakened : 
naught reck I. She also mourned for Eric, and we went nigh 


to mingling tears near together were brown curls and 
golden,' and she laughed aloud. 

' Thou art surely fey, thou evil girl ! ' said Asmund. 

' Ay, foster-father, fey : yet is this but the first of my fey- 
dom. Here starts the road that I must travel, and my feet 
shall be red ere ever the journey's done.' 

' Leave thy dark talk,' said Asmund, * for to me it is as the 
wind's song, and listen : a good thing has befallen thee ay, 
good beyond thy deserving.' 

1 Is it so ? Well, I stand greatly in need of good. What 
is thy tidings, foster-father ? ' 

* This : Atli the Earl asks thee in marriage, and he is a 
mighty man, well honoured in his own land, and set higher, 
moreover, than I had looked for thee.' 

'Ay,' answered Swanhild, 'set like the snow above the 
fells, set in the years that long are dead. Nay, foster-father, 
this white-bearded dotard is no mate for me. What ! shall I 
mix my fire with his frost, my breathing youth with the creep- 
ing palsy of his age ? Never ! If Swanhild weds she weds 
not so, for it is better to go maiden to the grave than thus 
to shrink and wither at the touch of eld. Now is Atli's woo- 
ing sped, and there's an end.' 

Asmund heard and grew wroth, for the matter seemed 
strange to him ; nor are maidens wont thus to put aside the 
word of those set over them. 

' There is no end,' he said ; 'I will not be answered thus by 
a girl who lives upon my bounty. It is my rede that thou 
weddest Atli, or else thou goest hence. I have loved thee, and 
for that love's sake I have borne thy wickedness, thy dark 
secret ways, and evil words ; but I will be crossed no more by 
thee, Swanhild.' 

' Thou wouldst drive me hence with Groa my mother, 
though perchance thou hast yet more reason to hold me dear, 
foster-father. Fear not : I will go perhaps further {han thou 
thinkest,' and once more Swanhild laughed, and passed from 
him into the darkness. 

But Asmund stood looking after her. ' Truly,' he said in 
his heart, ' ill- deeds are arrows that pierce him who shot them. 


I have sowed evilly, and now I reap the harvest. What means 
she with her talk of Gudruda and the rest ? ' 

Now as he thought, he saw men and horses draw near, and 
one man, whose helm gleamed in the moonlight, bore some- 
thing in his arms. 

' Who passes ? ' he called, 

* Eric Brighteyes, Skallagrim Lambstail, and Gudruda, 
Asmund's daughter,' answered a voice ; ' who art thou ? ' 

Then Asmund the Priest sprang forward, most glad at 
heart, for he never thought to see Eric again. 

'Welcome, and thrice welcome art thou, Eric,' he cried; 
' for, know, we deemed thee dead.' 

' I have lately gone near to death, lord,' said Eric, for he 
knew the voice ; * but I am hale and whole, though somewhat 

' What has come to pass, then ? ' asked Asmund, ' and why 
boldest thou Gudruda in thy arms ? Is the maid dead ? ' 

' Nay, she does but swoon. See, even now she stirs,' and 
as he spake Gudruda awoke, shuddering, and with a little cry 
threw her arms about the neck of Eric. 

He set her down and comforted her, then once more turned 
to Asmund : 

* Three things have come about,' he said. ' First, I 
have slain one Baresark, and won another to be my thrall, and 
for him I crave thy peace, for he has served me well. Next, 
we two were set on by Ospakar Blacktooth and his fellow- 
ship, and, fighting for our hands, have wounded Ospakar, slain 
Mord his son, and six other men of his following.' 

' That is good news and bad,' said Asmund, ' since Ospakar 
will ask a great weregild l for these men, and thou wilt be 
outlawed, Eric.' 

* That may happen, lord. There is time enough to think 
of it. Now there are other tidings to tell. Coming to the 
head of Goldfoss I found Gudruda, my betrothed, mourning 
my death and spoke with her. Afterwards I left her, and 
presently returned again, to see her hanging over the gulf, and 
Swanhild hurling rocks upon her to crush her.' 

1 The penalty for manslaying. 


* These are tidings in truth,' said Asmund' such tidings as 
my heart feared ! Is this true, Gudruda ? ' 

' It is true, my father,' answered Gudruda, trembling. ' As 
I sat on the brink of Goldfoss, Swanhild crept behind me and 
thrust me into the gulf. There I clung above the waters, and 
she brought a rock to hurl upon me, when suddenly I saw 
Eric's face, and after that my mind left me and I can tell 
no more.' 

Now Asmund grew as one mad. He plucked at his beard 
and stamped on the ground. ' Maid though she be,' he cried, 
* yet shall Swanhild's back be broken on the Stone of Doom for 
a witch and a murderess, and her body hurled into the pool of 
faithless women, and the earth will be well rid of her ! ' 

Now Gudruda looked up and smiled : ' It would be ill to 
wreak such a vengeance on her, father,' she said ; * and this 
would also bring the greatest shame on thee, and all our house. 
I am saved, by the mercy of the Gods and the might of Eric's 
arm, and this is my counsel : that nothing be told of this tale, 
but that Swanhild be sent away where she can harm us no 

' She must be sent to the grave, then,' said Asmund, and 
fell to thinking. Presently he spoke again : ' Bid yon man 
fall back, I would speak with you twain,' and Skallagrim went 

* Hearken now, Eric and Gudruda : only an hour ago hath 
tli the Good asked Swanhild of me in marriage. But now 

I met Swanhild here, and her mien was wild. Still, I spoke 
of the matter to her, and she would have none of it. Now, 
this is my counsel : that choice be given to Swanhild, either 
that she go hence Atli's wife, or take her trial in the Doom- 

' That will be bad for the Earl then,' said Eric. ' Methinks 
is too good a man to be played on thus.' 
' Bairn first, then friend,' answered Asmund. 
'Now I will tell thee something that, till this hour, I 
iiu,ve hidden from all, for it is my shame. This Swanhild is 
my daughter, and therefore I have loved her and put away 
her evil deeds, and she is half-sister to thee, Gudruda. See, 



then, how sore is my strait, who must avenge daughter upon 

1 Knows thy son Bjorn of this ? ' asked Eric. 

* None knew it till this hour, except Groa and I.' 

' Yet I have feared it long, father,' said Gudruda, * and 
therefore I have also borne with Swanhild, though she 
hates me much and has striven hard to draw my be- 
trothed from me. Now thou canst only take one counsel, and 
it is : to give choice to Swanhild of these two things, though 
it is unworthy that Atli should be deceived, and at the best 
little good can come of it.' 

' Yet it must be done, for honour is often slain of heavy 
need,' said Asmund. ' But we must first swear this Baresark 
thrall of thine, though little faith lives in Baresark's breast.' 

Now Eric called to Skallagrim and charged him strictly 
that he should tell nothing of Swanhild, and of the wolf that 
he saw by her, and of how Gudruda was found hanging over 
the gulf. 

' Fear not,' growled the Baresark, ' my tongue is now my 
master's. What is it to me if women do their wickedness one 
on another ? Let them work magic, hate and slay by stealth, 
so shall evil be lessened in the world.' 

* Peace ! ' said Eric ; ' if anything of this passes thy lips thou 
art no longer a thrall of mine, and I give thee up to the men 
of thy quarter.' 

' And I cleave that wolf's head of thine down to thy hawk's 
eyes ; but, otherwise, I give thee peace, and will hold thee from 
harm, wood-dweller as thou art,' said Asmund. 

The Baresark laughed : ' My hands will hold my head 
against ten such mannikins as thou art, Priest. There was 
never but one man who might overcome me in fair fight and 
there he stands, and his bidding is my law. So waste no 
words and make not niddering threats against greater folk,' 
and he slouched back to his horse. 

'A mighty man and a rough,' said Asmund, looking after 
him ; * I like his looks little.' 

4 Natheless a strong in battle,' quoth Eric ; ' had he not been 
at my back some six hours gone, by now the ravens had torn 


out these eyes of mine. Therefore, for my sake, bear with 

Asmund said it should be so, and then they passed on to the 

Here Eric stripped off his harness, washed, and bound 
up his wounds. Then, followed by Skallagrim, axe in hand, 
he came into the hall as men made ready to sit at meat. Now 
the tale of the mighty deeds that he had done, except that of 
the saving of Gudruda, had gone abroad, and as Brighteyes 
came all men rose and with one voice shouted till the roof of 
the great hall rocked : 

1 Welcome, Eric Brighteyes, tliou glory of the south ! ' 

Only Bjorn, Asmund's son, bit his hand, and did not shout, 
for he hated Eric because of the fame that he had won. 

Brighteyes stood still till the clamour died, then said : 

' Much noise for little deeds, brethren. It is true that I 
overthrew the Mosfell Baresarks. See, here is one,' and he 
turned to Skallagrim ; ' I strangled him in my arms on Mos- 
fell' s brink, and that was something of a deed. Then he swore 
fealty to me, and we are blood-brethren now, and therefore I 
ask peace for him, comrades even from those whom he has 
wronged or whose kin he has slain. I know this, that when 
thereafter we stood back to back and met the company of 
Ospakar Blacktooth, who came to slay us ay, and Asmund 
also, and bear away Gudruda to be his wife he warred right 
gallantly, till seven of their band lay stiff on Horse-Head Heights, 
overthrown of us, and among them Mord, Blacktooth 's son ; and 
Ospakar himself went thence sore smitten of this Skallagrim. 
Therefore, for my sake, do no harm to this man who was 
Baresark, but now is my thrall ; and, moreover, I beg the aid 
and friendship of all men of this quarter in those suits that 
will be laid against me at the Althing for these slayings, 
which I hereby give out as done by my hand, and by the hand 
of Skallagrim Larnbstail, the Baresark.' 

At these words all men shouted again ; but Atli the 
Earl sprang from the high seat where Asmund had placed 
him, and, coming to Eric, kissed him, and, drawing a gold chain 
from his neck, flung it about the neck of Eric, crying : 


Thou art a glorious man, Eric Brighteyes. I thought the 
world had no more of such a breed. Listen to my bidding : 
come thou to my earldom in Orkneys and be a son to me, and 
I will give thee all good gifts, and, when I die, thou shalt sit 
in my seat after me.' 

But Eric thought of Swanhild, who must go from Iceland 
as wife to Atli, and answered : 

* Thou doest me great honour, Earl, but this may not be. 
Where the fir is planted, there it must grow and fall. Iceland 
I love, and I will stay here among my own people till I arn 
driven away.' 

' That may well happen, then,' said Atli, ' for be sure Os- 
pakar and his kin will not let the matter of these slayings rest, 
and I think that it will not avail thee much that thou sniotest 
for thine own hand. Then, come thou and be my man.' 

' Where the Norns lead there I must follow,' said Eric, and 

sat down to meat. Skallagrim sat down also at the side-bench ; 

but men shrank from him, and he glowered on them in answer. 

Presently Gudruda entered, and she seemed pale and faint. 

When he had done eating, Eric drew Gudruda on to his 

knee, and she sat there, resting her golden head upon his 

breast. But Swanhild did not come into the hall, though ever 

Earl Atli sought her dark face and lovely eyes of blue, and he 

wondered greatly how his wooing had sped. Still, at this time 

he spoke no more of it to Asmund. 

Now Skallagrim drank much ale, and glared about him 
fiercely ; for he had this fault, that at times he was drunken. 
In front of him sat two thralls of Asmund's ; they were brothers, 
and large-made men, and they watched Asmund's sheep upon 
the fells in winter. These two also grew drunk and jeered at 
Skallagrim, asking him what atonement he would make for 
those ewes of Asmund's that he had stolen last Yule, and how 
it came to pass that he, a Baresark, had been overthrown of 
an unarmed man. 

Skallagrim bore their gibes for a space as he drank on, but 
suddenly he rose and rushed at them, and, seizing a man's 
throat in either hand, thrust them to the ground beneath him 
and nearly choked them there. 



Then Eric ran down the hall, and, putting out his strength, 
tore the Baresark from them. 

'This then is thy peacefulness, thou wolf!' Eric cried. 
1 Thou art drunk ! ' 

* Ay,' growled Skallagrim, ' ale is many a man's doom.' 

' Have a care that it is not thine and mine, then ! ' said Eric. 
* Go, sleep ; and know that, if I see thee thus once more, I see 
thee not again.' 

But after this men jeered no more at Skallagrim Lambs - 
tail, Eric's thrall. 






Now all this while Asmund sat deep in thought ; but when, at 
length, men were sunk in sleep, he took a candle of fat and 
passed to the shut bed where Swanhild slept alone. She lay 
on her bed, and her curling hair was all about her. She was 
awake, for the light gleamed in her blue eyes, and on a naked 
knife that was on the bed beside her, half hidden by her hair. 

' What wouldst thou, foster-father ? ' she asked, rising in 
the couch. Asmund closed the curtains, then looked at her 
sternly and spoke in a low voice : 

' Thou art fair to be so vile a thing, Swanhild,' he said. 
' Who now would have dreamed that heart of thine could talk 
with goblins and with were-wolves that those eyes of thine 
could bear to look on murder and those white hands find 
strength to do the sin ? ' 

She held up her shapely arms and, looking on them, laughed. 
' Would that they had been fashioned in a stronger mould,' 
she said. ' May they wither in their woman's weakness ! else 
had the deed been done outright. Now my crime is as heavy 
on me and nothing gained by it. Say what fate for me, 
foster-father the Stone of Doom and the pool where faithless 
women lie ? Ah, then might Gudruda laugh indeed, and I will 
not live to hear that laugh. See,' and she gripped the dagger 
at her side : along this bright edge runs the path to peace 
and freedom, and, if need be, I will tread it.' 

* Be silent,' said Asmund. * This Gudruda, my daughter, 
whom thou wouldst have foully done to death, is thine own 


sister, and it is she who, pitying thee, hath pleaded for thy 

* I will naught of her pity who have no pity,' she answered ; 
* and this I say to thee who art my father : shame be on thee 
who hast not dared to own thy child ! ' 

1 Hadst thou not been my child, Swanhild, and had I not 
loved thee secretly as my child, be sure of this, I had long since 
driven thee hence ; for my eyes have been open to much that 
I have not seemed to see. But at length thy wickedness has 
overcome my love, and I will see thy face no more. Listen : 
none have heard of this shameful deed of thine save those who 
saw it, and their tongues are sealed. Now I give thee choice : 
wed Atli and go, or stand in the Doom-ring and take thy fate.' 

' Have I not said, father, while death may be sought other- 
wise, that I will never do this last ? Nor will I do the first. 
I am not all of the tame breed of you Iceland folk other and 
quicker blood runs in my veins ; nor will I be sold in marriage 
to a dotard as a mare is sold at a market. I have answered.' 

' Fool ! think again, for I go not back upon iny word. Wed 
Atli or die by thy own hand, if thou wilt there I will not 
gainsay thee ; or, if thou fearest this, then anon in the Doom- 

Now Swanhild covered her eyes with her hands and shook 
the long hair about her face, and she seemed wondrous fair to 
Asmund the Priest who watched. And as she sat thus, it came 
into her mind that marriage is not the end of a young maid's 
life that old husbands have been known to die, and that she 
might rule this Atli and his earldom and become a rich and 
honoured woman, setting her sails in such fashion that when 
the wind turned it would fill them. Otherwise she must die 
ay, die shamed and leave Gudruda with her love. 

Suddenly she slipped from the bed to the floor of the 
chamber, and, clasping the knees of Asmund, looked up through 
the meshes of her hair, while tears streamed from her beautiful 
eyes : 

* I have sinned,' she sobbed * I have sinned greatly against 
thee and my sister. Hearken : I was mad with love of Eric, 
whom from a child I have turned to, and Gudruda is fairer than 


I and she took him from me. Most of all was I mad this night 
when I wrought the deed of shame, for ill things counselled me 
things that I did not call ; and oh, I thank the Gods if 
there are Gods that Gudruda died not at my hand. See now, 
father, J put this evil from me and tear Eric from my heart,' 
and she made as though she rent her bosom * I will wed 
Atli, and be a good housewife to him, and I crave but this of 
Gudruda : that she forgive me her wrong ; for it was not 
done of my will, but of my madness, and of the driving of 
those whom my mother taught me to know.' 

Asmund listened and the springs of his love thawed within 
him. ' Now thou dost take good counsel,' he said, ' and of this 
be sure, that so long as thou art in that mood none shall 
harm thee ; and for Gudruda, she is the most gentle of women, 
and it may well be that she will put away thy sin. So weep 
no more, and have no more dealings with thy Finnish witch- 
craft, but sleep ; and to-morrow I will bear thy word to Atli, for 
his ship is bound and thou must swiftly be made a wife.' 

He went out, bearing the light with him ; but Swanhild 
rose from the ground and sat on the edge of the bed, staring 
into the darkness and shuddering from time to time. 

'I shall soon be made his wife,' she murmured, 'who 
would be but one man's wife and methinks I shall soon be 
made a widow also. Thou wilt have me, dotard take me 
and thy fate ! Well, well ; better to wed an Earl than to be 
shamed and stretched across the Doom-stone. Oh, weak arms 
that failed me at my need, no more will I put trust in 
you ! When next I wound, it shall be with the tongue ; when 
next I strive to slay, it shall be by another's hand. Curses 
on thee, thou ill counsellor of darkness, who didst betray me 
at the last ! Is it for this that I worshipped thee and swore 
the oath ? ' 

The morning came, and at the first light Asmund sought the 
Earl. His heart was heavy because of the guile that his 
tongue must practise, and his face was dark as a winter dawn. 

* What news, Asmund ? ' asked Atli. ' Early tidings are 
bad tidings, so runs the saw, and thy looks give weight to it. 


' Not altogether bad, Earl. Swanhild gives herself to thee.' 

' Of her own will, Asmund ? ' 

' Ay, of her own will. But I have warned thee of her 

' Her temper ! Little hangs to a maid's temper. Once a 
wife and it will melt in softness like the snow when summer 
comes. These are glad tidings, comrade, and methinks I grow 
young again beneath the breath of them. Why art thou so 
glum then ? ' 

* There is something that must yet be told of Swanhild,' 
said Asmund. ' She is called the Fatherless, but, if thou 
wilt have the truth, why here it is for thee she is my daughter, 
born out of wedlock, and I know not how that will please thee,' 

Atli laughed aloud, and his bright eyes shone in his wrinkled 
face. ' It pleases me well, Asmund, for then the maid is sprung 
from a sound stock. The name of the Priest of Middalhof 
is famous far south of Iceland ; and never hath Iceland bred a 
comelier girl. Is that all ? ' 

* One more thing, Earl. This I charge thee : watch thy 
wife, and hold her back from witchcraft and from dealings 
with evil things and trolls of darkness. She is of Finnish blood 
and the women of the Finns are much given to such wicked 

' I set little store by witch work, goblins and their kin,' 
said Atli. ' I doubt me much of their power, and I shall soon 
wean Swanhild from such ways, if indeed she practise them.' 

Then they fell to talking of Swanhild' s dower, and that was 
not small. Afterwards Asmund sought Eric and Gudruda, and 
told them what had come to pass, and they were glad at the 
news, though they grieved for Atli the Earl. And when Swanhild 
met Gudruda, she came to her humbly, and humbly kissed her 
hand, and with tears craved pardon of her evil doing, saying 
that she had bi><m mad ; nor did Gudruda withhold it, for of 
all women she was the gentlest and the most forgiving. But to 
Eric, Swanhild said nothing. 

The wed dino- feast must be held on the third day from this, 
for Atli would sail on that same day, since his people wearied of 
waiting and his ship might lie bound no longer. Blithe was 



Atli the Earl, and Swanhild was all changed, for now she seemed 
the gentlest of maids, and, as befitted one about to be made a 
wife, moved through the house with soft words and downcast 
eyes. But Skallagrim, watching her, bethought him of the 
grey wolf that he had seen by Goldfoss, and this seemed not 
well to him. 

' It would be bad now,' he said to Eric, as they rode to Cold- 
back, ' to stand in yon old earl's shoes. This woman's weather 
has changed too fast, and after such a calm there'll come a 
storm indeed. I am now minded of Thorunna, for she went 
just so the day before she gave herself to Ospakar, and me 
to shame and bonds.' 

* Talk not of the raven till you hear his croak,' said Eric. 

' He is on the wing, lord,' answered Skallagrim. 

Now Eric came to Coldback in the Marsh, and Saevuna his 
mother and Unna, Thorod's daughter, the betrothed of Asmund, 
were glad to welcome him ; for the tidings of his mighty deeds 
and of the overthrow of Ospakar and the slaying of Mord 
were noised far and wide. But at Skallagrim Lanibstail they 
looked askance. Still, when they heard of those things that he 
had wrought on Horse- Head Heights, they welcomed him for 
his deeds' sake. 

Eric sat two nights at Coldback, and on the second day 
Saevuna his mother and Unna rode thence with their servants 
to the wedding-feast of Swanhild the Fatherless. But Eric 
stopped at Coldback that night, saying that he would be at 
Middalhof within two hours of sunrise, for he must talk with 
a shepherd who came from the fells. 

Saevuna and her company came to Middalhof and was 
asked, first by Gudruda, then by Swanhild, why Brighteyes 
tarried. She answered that he would be there early on the 
morrow. Next morning, before it was light, Eric girded on 
Whitefire, took horse and rode from Coldback alone, for he 
would not bring Skallagrim, fearing lest he should get 
drunk at the feast and shed some man's blood. 

It was Swanhild's wedding-day; but she greeted it with 
little lightsomeness of heart, and her eyes knew no sleep that 
night, though they were heavy with tears. 


At the first light she rose, and, gliding from the house, 
walked through the heavy dew down the path by which 
Eric must draw near, for she desired to speak with him. 
Gudruda also rose a while after, though she did not know this, 
and followed on the same path, for she would greet her lover 
at his coming. 

Now three furlongs or more from the stead stood a vetch 
stack, and Swanhild waited on the further side of this stack. 
Presently she heard a sound of singing come from behind the 
shoulder of the fell and of the tramp of a horse's hoofs. Then 
she saw the golden wings of Eric's helm all ablaze with the 
sunlight as he rode merrily along, and great bitterness laid 
hold of her that Eric could be of such a joyous mood on 
the day when she who loved him must be made the wife of 
another man. 

Presently he was before her, and Swanhild stepped from 
the shadow of the stack and laid her hand upon his horse's 

* Eric,' she said humbly and with bowed head, 'Gudruda 
sleeps yet. Canst thou, then, find time to hearken to my 
words ? ' 

lie frowned and said : ' Methinks, Swanhild, it would be 
better if thou gavest thy words to him who is thy lord.' 

She let the bridle-rein drop from her hands. * I am 
jwered,' she said ; 'ride on.' 

Now pity stirred in Eric's heart, for Swanhild's mien was 
lost heavy, and he leaped down from his horse. 'Nay,' he 
id, ' speak on, if thou hast anything to tell me.' 

* I have this to tell thee, Eric : that now, before we part for 
rer, I am come to ask thy pardon for my ill-doing ay, and 

wish all joy to thee and thy fair love,' and she sobbed and 

Speak no more of it, Swanhild,' he said, ' but let thy 
>d deeds cover up the ill, which are not small ; so thou shalt 
She looked at him strangely, and her face was white with 

' How then are we so differently fashioned that thou, 


Eric, canst prate to me of happiness when my heart is racked 
with grief ? Oh, Eric, I blame thee not, for thou hast not 
wrought this evil on me willingly ; but I say this : that my 
heart is dead, as I would that I were dead. See those 
flowers : they smell sweet for me they have no odour. Look 
on the light leaping from Coldback to the sea, from the 
sea to Westman Isles, and from the Westman crown of rocks 
far into the wide heavens above. It is beautiful, is it not ? 
Yet I tell thee, Eric, that now to my eyes howling winter 
darkness is every whit as fair. Joy is dead within me, music's 
but a jangled madness in my ears, food hath no savour on 
my tongue, my youth is sped ere my dawn is day. Nothing 
is left to me, Eric, save this fair body that thou didst scorn, 
and the dreams which I may gather from my hours of scanty 
sleep, and such shame as befalls a loveless bride.' 

' Speak not so, Swanhild,' he said, and clasped her by the 
hand, for, though he loathed her wickedness, being soft-hearted 
and but young, it grieved him to hear her words and see the 
anguish of her mind. For it is so with men, that they are 
easily moved by the pleading of a fair woman who loves them, 
even though they love her not. 

' Yea, I will speak out all my mind before I seal it up for 
ever. See, Eric, this is my state and thou hast set this crown 
of sorrow on my brows : and thou comest singing down the fell, 
and I go weeping o'er the sea ! I am not all so ill at heart. 
It was love of thee that drove me down to sin, as love of thee 
might otherwise have lifted me to holiness. But, loving thee 
as thou seest, this day I wed a dotard, and go his chattel and 
his bride across the sea, and leave thee singing on the fell, 
and by thy side her who is my foe. Thou hast done great 
deeds, Brighteyes, and still greater shalt thou do ; yet but as 
echoes they shall reach my ears. Thou wilt be to me as 
one dead, for it is Gudruda's to bind the byrnie on thy 
breast when thou goest forth to war, and hers to loose the 
winged helm from thy brow when thou returnest, battle-worn 
and conquering.' 

Now Swanhild ceased, and choked with grief; then spoke 
again : 

Eric and Swanhild saw her not.* 


' So now farewell ; doubtless I weary thee, and Gudruda 
waits. Nay, look not on my foolish tears : they are the 
heritage of woman, of naught else is she sure ! While I 
live, Eric, morn by morn the thought of thee shall come to 
wake me as the sun wakes yon snowy peak, and night by night 
thy memory shall pass as at eve he passes from the valleys, but 
to dawn again in dreams. For, Eric, 'tis thee I wed to-day 
at heart I am thy bride, thine and thine only ; and when shalt 
thou find a wife who holds thee so dear as that Swanhild whom 
once thou knewest ? So now farewell ! Yes, this time thou 
shalt kiss away my tears ; then let them stream for ever. Thus, 
Eric ! and thus ! and thus ! do I take farewell of thee.' 

And now she clung about his neck, gazing on him with 
great dewy eyes till things grew strange and dim, and he must 
kiss her if only for her love and tender beauty's sake. And 
so he kissed, and it chanced that as they clung thus, Gudruda, 
passing by this path to give her betrothed greeting, came upon 
them and stood astonished. Then she turned and, putting 
her hands to her head, fled back swiftly to the stead, and 
waited there, great anger burning in her heart ; for Gudruda 
had this fault, that she was very jealous. 

Now Eric and Swanhild did not see her, and presently they 
parted, and Swanhild wiped her eyes and glided thence. 

As she drew near the stead she found Gudruda watching. 

' Where hast thou been, Swanhild ? ' she said. 

* To bid farewell to Brighteyes, Gudruda.' 

1 Then thou art foolish, for doubtless he thrust thee from 

'Nay, Gudruda, he drew me to him. Hearken, I say, 
thou sister. Vex me not, for I go my ways and thou goest 
thine. Thou art strong and fair, and hitherto thou hast 
overcome me. But I am also fair, and, if I find space to strike 
in, I also have a show of strength. Pray thou that I find not 
space, Gudruda. Now is Eric thine. Perchance one day he 
may be mine. It lies in the lap of the Norns.' 

* Fair words from Atli's bride,' mocked Gudruda. 

' Ay, Atli's bride, but never Atli's love ! ' said Swanhild, 
and swept on. 


A while after Eric rode up. He was shamefaced and 
vexed at heart, because he had yielded thus to Swanhild's 
beauty, and been melted by her tender words and kissed her. 
Then he saw Gudruda, and at the sight of her all thought of 
Swanhild passed from him, for he loved Gudruda and her 
alone. He leapt down from his horse and ran to her. But, 
drawn to her full height, she stood with dark flashing eyes 
and fair face set in anger. 

Still, he would have greeted her loverwise ; but she lifted 
her hand and waved him back, and fear took hold of him. 

' What now, Gudruda ? ' he asked, faltering. 

' What now, Eric ? ' she answered, faltering not. * Hast 
seen Swanhild ? ' 

' Yea, I have seen Swanhild. She came to bid farewell to 
me. What of it ? ' 

' What of it ? Why " thus ! and thus ! and thus ! " didst 
thou bid farewell to Atli's bride. Ay, " thus and thus," with 
clinging lips and twined arms. Warm and soft was thy fare- 
well kiss to her who would have slain me, Brighteyes ! ' 

' Gudruda, thou speakest truth, though how thou sawest I 
know not. Think no ill of it, and scourge me not with 
words, for, sooth to say, I was melted by her grief and the 
music of her talk.' 

' It is shame to thee so to speak of her whom but now thou 
heldest in thine arms. By the grief and the music of the 
talk of her who would have murdered me thou wast melted 
into kisses, Eric ! for I saw it with these eyes. Knowest 
thou what I am minded to say to thee ? It is this : " Go 
hence and see me no more ; " for I have little wish to cleave 
to such a feather-man, to one so blown about by the first 
breath of woman's tempting.' 

'Yet, methinks, Gudruda, I have withstood some such 
winds. I tell thee that, hadst thou been in my place, thyself 
hadst yielded to Swanhild and kissed her in farewell, for she 
was more than woman in that hour.' 

' Nay, Eric, I am no weak man to be led astray thus. Yet 
she is more than woman troll is she also, that I know ; but 
less than man art thou, Eric, thus to fall before her who 


hates me. Time may come when she shall woo thee after a 
stronger sort, and what wilt thou say to her then, thou who 
art so ready with thy kisses ? ' 

' I will withstand her, Gudruda, for I love thee only, and 
this is well known to thee.' 

' Truly I know thou lovest me, Eric ; but tell me of what 
worth is this love of man that eyes of beauty and tongue 
of craft may so readily bewray ? I doubt me of thee, Eric ! ' 

' Nay, doubt me not, Gudruda. I love thee alone, but I 
grew soft as wax beneath her pleading. My heart consented 
not, yet I did consent. I have no more to say.' 

Now Gudruda looked on him long and steadfastly. ' Thy 
plight is sorry, Eric,' she said, ' and this once I forgive thee. 
Look to it that thou givest me no more cause to doubt thee, 
for then I shall remember how thou didst bid farewell to 

' I will give none,' he answered, and would have embraced 
her ; but this she would not suffer then, nor for many days after, 
for she was angry with him. But with Swanhild she was 
still more angry, though she said nothing of it. That Swan- 
hild had tried to murder her, Gudruda could forgive, for there 
she had failed ; but not that she had won Eric to kiss her, for 
in this she had succeeded well. 






\ I OW the marriage-feast went on, and Swanhild, 
\| draped in white and girt about with gold, sat 
by Atli's side upon the high seat. He was 
fain of her and drew her to him, but she looked at him with 
cold calm eyes in which hate lurked. The feast was done, and 
all the company rode to the sea strand, where the Earl's ship 
lay at anchor. They came there, and Swanhild kissed Asmund, 
and talked a while with Groa, her mother, and bade fare well -to 
all men. But she bade no farewell to Eric and to Gudruda. 

* Why sayest thou no word to these two ? ' asked Atli, her 


* For this reason, Earl,' she answered, ' because ere long 
we three shall meet again ; but I shall see Asmund, my 
father, and Groa, my mother, no more.' 

' That is an ill saying, wife,' said Atli. ' Methinks thou 
dost foretell their doom.' 

' Mayhap ! And now I will add to my redes, for I foretell 
thy doom also : it is not yet, but it draws on.' 

Then Atli bethought him of many wise saws, but spoke no 
more, for it seemed to him this was a strange bride that he 
had wed. 

They hauled the anchor home, shook out the great sail, 
and passed away into the evening light. But while land 
could still be seen, Swanhild stood near the helm, gazing with 
her blue eyes upon the lessening coast. Then she passed to 
the hold, and shut herself in alone, and there she stayed, saying 
that she was sick, till at length, after a fair voyage of twenty 
days, they made the Orkney Islands. 

But all this pleased Atli wondrous ill, yet he dared not 
cross her mood. 

Now, in Iceland the time drew on when men must ride to 
the Althing, and notice was given to Eric Brighteyes of many 
suits that were laid against him, in that he had brought 
Mord, Ospakar's son, to his death, dealing him a brain or a 
body or a marrow wound, and others of that company. But 
no suits were laid against Skallagrim, for he was already out- 
law. Therefore he must go in hiding, for men were out to 
slay him, and this he did unwillingly, at Eric's bidding. 
Asmund took up Eric's case, for he was the most famous of 
all lawmen in that day, and when thirteen full weeks of summer 
were done, they two rode to the Thing, and with them a great 
mpany of men of their quarter. 

Now, men go up to the Logberg, and there came Ospakur, 
though he was not yet healed of his wound, and all his com- 
pany, and laid their suits against Eric by the mouth of Gizur 
the Lawman, Ospakar's son. The pleadings were long and 
cunning on either side ; but the end of it was that Ospakar 
brought it about, by the help of his friends and of these he had 




many that Eric must go into outlawry for three years. But 
no weregild was to be paid to Ospakar and his men for those 
who had been killed, and no atonement for the great wound 
that Skallagrim Lambstail gave him, or for the death of 
Mord, his son, inasmuch as Eric fought for his own hand to 
save his life. 

The party of Ospakar were ill pleased at this finding, and 
Eric was not over glad, for it was little to his mind that he 
should sail a-warring across the seas, while Gudruda sat at 
home in Iceland. Still, there was no help for the matter. 

Now Ospakar spoke with his company, and the end of it 
was that he called on them to take their weapons and avenge 
themselves by their own might. Asmund and Eric, seeing 
this, mustered their array of free-men and thralls. There 
were one hundred and five of them, all stout men ; but Ospakar 
Blacktooth's band numbered a hundred and thirty-three, and 
they stood with their backs to the Eaven's Rift. 

'Now I would that Skallagrim was here to guard my 
back,' said Eric, ' for before this fight is done few will be left 
standing to tell its tale.' 

' It is a sad thing,' said Asmund, ' that so many men must 
die because some men are now dead.' 

* A very sad thing,' said Eric, and took this counsel. He 
stalked alone towards the ranks of Ospakar and called in a 
loud voice, saying : 

' It would be grievous that so many warriors should fall in 
such a matter. Now hearken, you company of Ospakar Black- 
tooth ! If there be any two among you who will dare to 
match their might against my single sword in holmgang, 
here I, Eric Brighteyes, stand and wait them. It is better 
that one man, or perchance three men, should fall, than that 
anon so many should roll in the dust. What say ye ? ' 

Now all those who watched called out that this was a good 
offer and a manly one, though it might turn out ill for Eric ; 
but Ospakar answered : 

' Were I but well of my wound I alone would cut that 
golden comb of thine, thou braggart ; as it is, be sure that 
two shall be found.' 


1 Who is the braggart ? ' answered Eric. ' He who twice 
has learned the weight of this arm and yet boasts his strength, 
or I who stand craving that two should come against me ? 
Get thee hence, Ospakar ; get thee home and bid Thorunna, 
thy leman, whom thou didst beguile from that Ounound who 
now is named Skallagrim Lambstail the Baresark, nurse thee 
whole of the wound her husband gave thee. Be sure we shall 
yet stand face to face, and that combs shall be cut then, combs 
black or golden. Nurse thee ! nurse thee ! cease thy prating 
get thee home, and bid Thorunna nurse thee ; but first name 
thou the two who shall stand against me in holmgang in 
Oxara's stream.' 

Folk laughed aloud while Eric mocked, but Ospakar gnashed 
his teeth with rage. Still, he named the two mightiest men 
in his company, bidding them take up their swords against 
JU'ighteyes. This, indeed, they were loth to do ; still, because 
of the shame that they must get if they hung back, and for 
fear of the wrath of Ospakar, they made ready to obey his 

Then all men passed down to the bank of Oxara, and, on 
the other side, people came from their booths and sat upon 
the slope of All Man's Raft, for it was a new thing that one 
man should fight two in holmgang. 

Now Eric crossed to the island where holmgangs are 
fought to this day, and after him came the two chosen, 
flourishing their swords bravely, and taking counsel how one 
should rush at his face, while the other passed behind his back 
and spitted him, as woodfolk spit a lamb. Eric drew White- 
fire and leaned on it, waiting for the word, and all the 
women held him to be wondrous fair as, clad in his byrnie 
and his golden helm, he leaned thus on Whitefire. Presently 
the word was given, and Eric, standing not to defend him- 
self as they deemed he surely would, whirled Whitefire round 
his helm and rushed headlong on his foes, shield aloft. 

The great carles saw the light that played on Whitefire's 
edge and the other light that burned in Eric's eyes, and terror 
got hold of them. Now he was almost come, and Whitefire 
sprang aloft like a tongue of flame. Then they stayed no more, 


but, running one this way and one that, cast themselves into 
the flood and swam for the river- edge. Now from either bank 
rose up a roar of laughter, that grew and grew, till it echoed 
against the lava rifts and scared the ravens from their nests. 

Eric, too, stopped his charge and laughed aloud ; then 
walked back to where 'Asmund stood, unarmed, to second him 
in the holmgang. 

' I can get little honour from such champions as these,' he 

' Nay,' answered Asmund, ' thou hast got the greatest 
honour, and they, and Ospakar, such shame as may not be 
wiped out.' 

Now when Blacktooth saw what had come to pass, he well- 
nigh choked, and fell from his horse in fury. Still, he could 
find no stomach for fighting, but, mustering his company, rode 
straightway from the Thing home again to Swinetell. But 
he caused those two whom he had put up to do battle with 
Eric to be set upon with staves and driven from his following, 
and the end of it was that they might stay no more in Ice- 
land, but took ship and sailed south, and now they are out of 
the story. 

On the next day, Asmund, and with him Eric and all their 
men, rode back to Middalhof . Gudruda greeted Eric well, and 
for the first time since Swanhild went away she kissed him. 
Moreover, she wept bitterly when she learned that he must 
go into outlawry, while she must bide at home. 

' How shall the days pass by, Eric ? ' she said, ' when thou 
art far, and I know not where thou art, nor how it goes with 
thee, nor if thou livest or art already dead ? ' 

' In sooth I cannot say, sweet,' he answered ; * but of this 
I am sure that, wheresoever I am, yet more weary shall be my 
hours.' * 

' Three years,' she went on ' three long, cold years, and no 
sight of thee, and perchance no tidings from thee, till mayhap 
I learn that thou art in that land whence tidings cannot come. 
Oh, it would be better to die than to part thus.' 

' Well I wot that it is better to die than to live, and better 
never to have been born than to live and die,' answered Eric 


sadly. ' Here, it would seem, is nothing but hate and strife, 
weariness and bitter envy to fret away our strength, and at 
last, if we come so far, sorrowful age and death, and thereafter 
we know not what. Little of good do we find to our hands, 
and much of evil ; nor know I for what ill-doing these burdens 
are laid upon us. Yet must we needs breathe such an air as is 
blown about us, Gudruda, clasping at that happiness which 
is given, though we may not hold it. At the worst, the game 
will soon be played, and others will stand where we have 
stood, and strive as we have striven, and fail as we have 
failed, and so on, till man has worked out his doom, and the 
Gods cease from their wrath, or Kagnarrok come 'upon them, 
and they too are lost in the jaws of grey wolf Fenrir.' 

' Men may win one good thing, and that is fame, Eric.' 

' Nay, Gudruda, what is it to win fame ? Is it not to 
raise up foes, as it were, from the very soil, who, mad with 
secret hate, seek to stab us in the back ? Is it not to lose 
peace, and toil on from height to height only to be hurled 
down at last ? Happy, then, is the man whom fame flies from, 
for hers is a deadly gift.' 

' Yet there is one thing left that thou hast not num- 
bered, Eric, and it is love for love is to our life what the sun 
is to the world, and, though it seems to set in death, yet it 
may rise again. We are happy, then, in our love, for there are 
many who live their lives and do not find it.' 

So these two, Eric Brighteyes and Gudruda the Fair, talked 
sadly, for their hearts were heavy, and on them lay the shadow 
of sorrows that were to come. 

' Say, sweet,' said Eric at length, l wilt thou that I go not 
into banishment ? Then I must fall into outlawry, and my life 
will be in the hands of him who may take it ; yet I think that 
my foes will find it hard to come by while my strength re- 
mains, and at the worst I do but turn to meet the fate that 
dogs me.' 

' Nay, that I will not suffer, Brighteyes. Now we will go to 
my father, and he shall give thee his dragon of war she is a 
good vessel and thou shalt man her with the briskest men of 
our quarter : for there are many who will be glad to fare abroad 


with thee, Eric. Soon she shall be bound and thou shalt sail 
at once, Eric : for the sooner thou art gone the sooner the 
three years will be sped, and thou shalt come back to me. 
But, oh ! that I might go with thee.' 

Now Gudruda and Eric went to Asmund and spoke of this 

'I desired,' he answered, 'that thou, Eric, shouldst 
bide here in Iceland till after harvest, for it is then that I 
would take Unna, Thorod's daughter, to wife, and it was 
meet that thou shouldst sit at the wedding-feast and give her 
to me.' 

'Nay, father, let Eric go,' said Gudruda, 'for well begun is, 
surely, half done. He must remain three years in outlawry : 
add thou no day to them, for, if he stays here for long, I know 
this : that I shall find no heart to let him go, and, if go he 
must, then I shall go with him.' 

' That may never be,' said Asmund ; ' thou art too young 
and fair to sail a-viking down the sea-path. Hearken, Eric : I 
give thee the good ship, and now we will go about to find stout 
men to man her.' 

' That is a good gift,' said Eric ; and afterwards they rode 
to the seashore and overhauled the vessel as she lay in her 
shed. She was a great dragon of war, long and slender, and 
standing high at stem and prow. She was fashioned of oak, 
all bolted together with iron, and at her prow was a gilded 
dragon most wonderfully carved. 

Eric looked on her and his eyes brightened. 

' Here rests a wave-horse that shall bear a viking well,' he 

' Ay,' answered Asmund, ' of all the things I own this ship 
is the very best. She is so swift that none may catch her, and 
she can almost go about in her own length. That gale must 
be heavy that shall fill her, with thee to steer ; yet I give her to 
thee freely, Eric, and thou shalt do great deeds with this my 
gift, and, if things go well, she shall come back to this shore at 
last, and thou in her.' 

'Now I will name this war-gift with a new name,' 
said Eric. '"Gudruda,"! name her: for, as Gudruda here 


the fairest of all women, so is this the fairest of all war- 

' So be it,' said Asmund. 

Then they rode back to Middalhof, and now Eric Bright- 
res let it be known that he needed men to sail the seas with 
him. Nor did he ask in vain, for, when it was told that Eric 
went a-viking, so great was his fame grown, that many a stout 
yeoman and many a great-limbed carle reached down sword 
and shield and came up to Middalhof to put their hands in 
his. For mate, he took a certain man named Hall of Lithdale, 
and this because Bjorn asked it, for Hall was a friend to Bjorn, 
and he had, moreover, great skill in all manner of seamanship, 
and had often sailed the Northern Seas ay, and round England 
to the coast of France. 

But when Gudruda saw this man, she did not like him, be- 
cause of his sharp face, uncanny eyes, and smooth tongue, and 
she prayed Eric to have nothing to do with him. 

' It is too late now to talk of that,' said Eric. ' Hall is a 
well-skilled man, and, for the rest, fear not : I will watch him.' 

' Then evil will come of it,' said Gudruda. 

Skallagrim also liked Hall little, nor did Hall love Skalla- 
grim and his great axe. 

At length all were gathered ; they were fifty in number 
and it is said that no such band of men ever took ship from 

Now the great dragon was bound and her faring goods were 
aboard of her, for Eric must sail on the morrow, if the wind 
should be fair. All day long he stalked to and fro among his 
men ; he would trust nothing to others, and there was no sword 
or shield in his company but he himself had proved it. All 
day long he stalked, and at his back went Skallagrim Lambs- 
tail, axe on shoulder, for he would never leave Eric if he had 
his' will, and they were a mighty pair. 

At length all was ready and men sat down to the faring- 
feast in the hall at Middalhof, and that was a great feast. 
Eric's folk were gathered on the side-benches, and by the high 
seat at Asmund' s side sat Brightcyes, and near to him were 
Bjorn, Asmund's son, Gudruda, Unna, Asmund's betrothed, 


and Saevuna, Eric's mother. For this had been settled 
between Asmund and Eric, that his mother Saevuna, who was 
now somewhat sunk in age, should flit from Coldback and come 
with Unna to dwell at Middalhof. But Eric set a trusty 
grieve to dwell at Coldback and mind the farm. 

When the faring- toasts had been drunk, Eric spoke to 
Asmund and said : ' I fear one thing, lord, and it is that when 
I am gone Ospakar will trouble thee. Now, I pray you all to 
beware of Blacktooth, for, though the hound is whipped, he 
can still bite, and it seems that he has not yet put Gudruda 
from his mind.' 

Now Bjorn had sat silently, thinking much and drinking 
more, for he loved Eric less than ever on this day when he 
saw how all men did him honour and mourned his going, and 
his father not the least of them. 

' Methinks it is thou, Eric,' he said, l whom Ospakar hates, 
and thee on whom he would work his vengeance, and that for 
no light cause.'- 

' When bad fortune sits in thy neighbour's house, she knocks 
upon thy door, Bjorn. Gudruda, thy sister, is my betrothed, and 
thou art a party to this feud,' said Eric. ' Therefore it becomes 
thee better to hold her honour and thy own against this 
Northlander, than to gird at me for that in which I have no 

Bjorn grew wroth at these words. ' Prate not to me,' he 
said. ' Thou art an upstart who wouldst teach their duty to 
thy betters ay, puffed up with light- won fame, like a feather 
on the breeze. But I say this : the breeze shall fail, and thou 
shalt fall upon the goose's back once more. And I say this also, 
that, had I my will, Gudruda should wed Ospakar : for he is a 
mighty chief, and not a long-legged carle, outlawed for 
man -slaying.' 

Now Eric sprang from his seat and laid hand upon the hilt 
of Whitefire, while men murmured in the hall, for they held 
this an ill speech of Bjorn's. 

' In thee, it seems, I have no friend,' said Eric, ' and hadst 
thou been any other man than Gudruda's brother, forsooth 
thou shouldst answer for thy mocking words. This I tell 


thee, Bjorn, that, wert thou twice her brother, if thou plottest 
with Ospakar when I am gone, thou shalt pay dearly for it 
when I come back again. 1 know thy heart well : it is cunning 
and greedy of gain, and filled with envy as a cask with ale ; 
yet, if thou lovest to feel it beating in thy breast, strive not to 
work me mischief and to put Gudruda from me.' 

Now Bjorn sprang up also and drew his sword, for he was 
white with rage ; but Asmund his father cried, ' Peace ! ' in a 
great voice. 

' Peace ! ' he said. * Be seated, Eric, and take no heed of 
this foolish talk. And for thee, Bjorn, art thou the Priest of 
Middalhof, and Gudruda's father, or am I ? It has pleased 
me to betroth Brighteyes to Gudruda, and it pleased me not 
to betroth her to Ospakar, and that is enough for thee. For 
the rest, Ospakar would have slain Eric, not he Ospakar, 
therefore Eric's hands are clean. Though thou art my son, I 
say this, that, if thou workest ill to Eric when he is over sea, 
thou shalt rightly learn the weight of Whitefire : it is a nidder- 
ing deed to plot against an absent man.' 

Eric sat down, but Bjorn strode scowling from the hall, 
and, taking horse, rode south ; nor did he and Eric meet again 
till three years were come and gone, and then they met but 

' Maggots shall be bred of that fly, nor shall they lack flesh 
to feed on,' said Skallagrim in Eric's ears as he watched Bjorn 
pass. But Eric bade him be silent, and turned to Gudruda. 

' Look not so sad, sweet,' he said, ' for hasty words rise 
like the foam on mead and pass as soon. It vexes Bjorn 
that thy father has given me the good ship : but his anger 
will soon pass, or, at the very worst, I fear him not while thou 
art true to me.' 

' Then thou hast little to fear, Eric,' she answered. ' Look 
now on thy hair : it grows long as a woman's, and that is ill, 
for at sea the salt will hang to it. Say, shall I cut it for 
thee ? ' 

' Yes, Gudruda.' 

So she cut his yellow locks, and one of them lay upon her 
heart for many a day. 


1 Now thou shalt swear to me,' she whispered in his ear, 
' that no other man or woman shall cut thy hair till thou 
comest back to me and I clip it again.' 

' That I swear, and readily,' he answered. * I will go 
long-haired like a girl for thy sake, Gudruda.' 

He spoke low, but Koll the Half-witted, Groa's thrall, 
heard this oath and kept it in his mind. 

Very early on the morrow all men rose, and, taking horse, 
rode once more to the seaside, till they came to that shed where 
the Gudruda lay. 

Then, when the tide was high, Eric's company took hold of 
the black ship's thwarts, and at his word dragged her with might 
and main. She ran down the greased blocks and sped on 
quivering to the sea, and as her dragon-prow dipped in the 
water people cheered aloud. 

Now Eric must bid farewell to all, and this he did with a 
brave heart till at the last he came to Saevuna, his mother, 
and Gudruda, his dear love. 

1 Farewell, son,' said the old dame ; * I have little hope 
that these eyes shall look again upon that bonny face of 
thine, yet I am well paid for thy birth-pains, for few have 
borne such a man as thou. Think of me at times, for without 
me thou hadst never been. Be not led astray of women, nor 
lead them astray, or ill shall overtake thee. Be not quarrel- 
some because of thy great might, for there is a stronger than 
the strongest. Spare a fallen foe, and take not a poor man's 
goods or a brave man's sword ; but, when thou smitest, smite 
home. So shalt thou win honour, and, at the last, peace, that 
is more than honour. 

Eric thanked her for her counsel and kissed her, then 
turned to Gudruda, who stood, white and still, plucking at her 
golden girdle. 

1 What can I say to thee ? ' he asked. 

' Say nothing, but go,' she answered : ' go before I weep.' 

' Weep not, Gudruda, or thou wilt unman me. Say, thou 
wilt think on. me ? ' 

' Ay, Eric, by day and by night.' 


* And thou wilt be true to me ? ' 

' Ay, till death and after, for so long as thou cleavest to 
me I will cleave to thee. I will first die rather than betray 
thee. But of thee I am not so sure. Perchance thou mayst 
find SwanMLd in thy journeyings and crave more kisses of 

1 Anger me not, Gudruda ! thou knowest well that I hate 
Swanhild more than any woman. When I kiss her again, then 
thou mayst wed Ospakar.' 

' Speak not so rashly, Eric,' she said, and as she spoke 
Skallagrim drew near. 

1 If thou lingerest here, lord, the tide will serve us little 
round Westmans,' he said, eyeing Gudruda as it were with 

' I come,' said Eric. ' Gudruda, fare thee well ! ' 

She kissed him and clung to him, but did not answer, for 
she could not speak. 





UDRUDA bent her head like 
a drooping flower, and pre- 
sently sank to earth, for her 
knees would bear her weight 
.no more ; but Eric marched to the lip of the 
sea, his head held high and laughing merrily 
to hide his pain of heart. Here stood Asmund, who gripped 
him by both hands, and kissed him on the brow, bidding him 
good luck. 

' I know not whether we shall meet again,' he said ; ' but, 
if my hours be sped before thou returnest, this I charge thee : 
that thou mindest Gudruda well, for she is the sweetest of 
all women that I have known, and I hold her the most dear.' 

' Fear not for that, lord,' said Eric ; ' and I pray tfiee this, 
that, if I come back no more, as well may happen, do not force 
Gudruda into marriage, if she wills it not, and I think she 


vill have little leaning that way. And I say this also : do not 
>unt overmuch on Bjorn thy son, for he has no loyal heart ; 
id beware of Groa, who was thy housekeeper, for she loves not 
lat Unna should take her place and more. And now I thank 
lee for many good things, and farewell.' 

'Farewell, my son,' said Asmund, 'for in this hour thou 
jmest as a son to me.' 

Eric turned to enter the sea and wade to the vessel, but 
>kallagrim caught him in his arms as though he were but 
a child, and, wading into the surf till the water covered his 
waistbelt, bore him to the vessel and lifted him up so that Eric 
reached the bulwarks with his hands. 

Then they loosed the cable and got out the oars and soon 
were dancing over the sea. Presently the breeze caught them, 
and they set the great sail and sped away like a gull towards 
the Westman Isles. But Gudruda sat on the shore watching 
till, at length, the light faded from Eric's golden helm as he 
stood upon the poop, and the world grew dark to her. 

Now Ospakar Blacktooth had news of this sailing and 
took counsel of Gizur his son, and the end of it was that they 
made ready two great ships, dragons of war, and, placing 
sixty fighting men in each of them, sailed round the Iceland 
coast to the Westmans and waited there to waylay Eric. 
They had spies on the land, and from them they learned of 
Brighteyes' coming, and sailed out to meet him in the channel 
between the greater and the lesser islands, where they knew 
that he must pass. 

Now it drew towards evening when Eric rowed down this 
channel, for the wind had fallen and he desired to be clear at 
sea. Presently, as the Gudruda came near to the mouth of 
the channel, that had high cliffs on either hand, Eric saw two 
long dragons of war for their bulwarks were shield-hung 
glide from the cover of the island and take their station side by 
side between him and the open sea. 

' Now here are vikings,' said Eric to Skallagrim. 

' Now here is Ospakar Blacktooth,' answered Skallagrim, 
1 for well I know that raven banner of his. This is a good 


voyage, for we must seek but a little while before we come to 

Eric bade the men lay on their oars, and spoke : 
' Before us is Ospakar Blacktooth with two great dragons, 
and he is here to cut us off. Now two choices are left to us : 
one is to bout ship and run before him, and the other to row on 
and give him battle. What say ye, comrades ? ' 
Hall of Lithdale, the mate, answered, saying : 

* Let us go back, lest we die. The odds are too great, 

But a man among the crew cried out, ' When thou 
didst go on holmgang at Thingvalla, Eric, Ospakar 's two 
chosen champions stood before thee, yet at Whitefire's flash 
they skurried through the water like startled ducks. It was an 
omen, for so shall his great ships fly when we swoop on them.' 
lihen the others shouted : 

* Ay, ay ! Never let it be said that we fled from Ospakar 
fie on thy woman's talk, Hall ! ' 

' Then we are all of one mind, save Hall only,' said Eric. 
'Let us put Ospakar to the proof.' And while men shouted 
* Yea ! ! he turned to speak with Skallagrim. The Baresark was 
gone, for, wasting no breath in words, already he was fixing 
the long shields on the bulwark rail. 

The men busked on their harness and made them fit for 
fight, and, when all was ready, Eric mounted the poop, and 
with him Skallagrim, and bade the rowers give way. The 
Gudruda leapt forward and rushed on towards Ospakar 's 
ships. Now they saw that these were bound together with a 
cable and yet they must go betwixt them. 

Eric ran forward to the prow, and with him Skallagrim, 
ailrl called aloud to a- great man who stood upon the ship to 
starboard, wearing a black helm with raven's wings : 

1 Who art thou that bars the seas against me ? ' 

'I am named Ospakar Blacktooth,' answered the great 

' And what must we lose at thy hands, Ospakar ? ' 

* But one thing your lives ! ' answered Blacktooth. 

' Thrice have we stood face to face, Ospakar,' said Eric, 


' and it seems that hitherto thou hast won no great glory. 
Now it shall be proved if thy luck has bettered.' 

' Art yet healed, lord, of that prick in the shoulder which 
thou earnest 'by on Horse-Head Heights ? ' roared Skallagrim. 

For answer, Oskapar seized a spear and hurled it straight 
at Eric, and it had been his death had he not caught it in 
his hand as it flew. Then he cast it back, and that so mightily 
that it sped right through the shield of Ospakar and was the 
bane of a man who stood beside him. 

' A gift for a gift ! ' laughed Eric. On rushed the Gudruda, 
but now the cable was strained six fathoms from her bow that 
held together the ships of Ospakar and it was too strong for 
breaking. Eric looked and saw. Then he drew Whitenre, 
and while all men wondered, leaped over the prow of the ship 
and, clasping the golden dragon's head with his arm, set his 
feet upon its claws and waited. On sped the ship and spears 
flew thick and fast about him, but there Brighteyes hung. 
Now the Gudruda's bow caught the great rope and strained 
it taut and, as it rose beneath her weight, Eric smote swift and 
strong with Whitenre and clove it in two, so that the severed 
ends fell with a splash into the quiet water. 

Eric sprang back to deck while stones and spears hissed 
about him. 

' That was well done, lord,' said Skallagrim; 'now we 
shall be snugly berthed.' 

P.n oars and out grappling-irons,' shouted Eric, 
p rose the rowers, and their war-gear rattled as they rose. 
They drew in the long oars, and not before it was time, for 
now the Gudruda forced her way between the two dragons of 
Ospakar and lay with her bow to their sterns. Then with a 
shout Eric's men cast the irons and soon the ships were locked 
fast and the fight began. The spears flew thick, and on either 
side some got their death before them. Then the men of that 
vessel, named the Raven, which was to larboard of the Gudruda 
made ready to board. On they came with a rush, and were 
driven back, though hardly, for they were many, and those 
who stood against them few. Again they came, scrambling 
over the bulwarks, and this time a score of them leapt aboard. 


Eric turned from the fight against the dragon of Ospakar and 
saw it. Then, with Skallagrim, he rushed to meet the boarders 
as they swarmed along the hold, and naught might they 
withstand the axe and sword. 

Through and through them swept the mighty pair, now 
Whitefire flashed, and now the great axe fell, and at every 
stroke a man lay dead or wounded. Six of the boarders 
turned to fly, but just then the grappling-iron broke, and their 
ship drifted out with the tide towards the open sea, and pre- 
sently no man of that twenty was left alive. 

Now the men of the ship of Ospakar and of the Gudruda 
pressed each other hard. Thrice did Ospakar strive to come 
aboard and thrice he was pushed back. Eric was ever where 
he was most needed, and with him Skallagrim, for these two 
threw themselves about from side to side, and were now here 
and now there, so that it seemed as though there were not 
one golden helm and one black, but rather four on board the 

Eric looked and saw that the other ship was drawing round, 
though somewhat slowly, to come alongside of them once more. 

* Now we must make an end of Ospakar, else our hands 
will be overfull,' he said, and therewith sprang up upon the 
bulwarks and after him many men. Once they were driven 
back, but came on again, and now they thrust all Ospakar's men 
before them and passed up his ship on both boards. By the 
mast stood Ospakar and with him Gizur his son, and Eric 
strove to come at him. But many men were between them, 
and he could not do this. 

Presently, while the fight yet went on hotly and men fell 
fast, Brighteyes felt the dragon of Ospakar strike, and, looking, 
saw that they had drifted with the send of the tide on to the 
rocks of the island. There was a great hole in the hull amid- 
ships and the water rushed in fast. 

' Back ! men ; back ! ' he cried, and all his folk that were 
unhurt, ran, and leapt on board the Gudruda ; but Ospakar and 
his men sprang into the sea and swam for the shore. Then 
Skallagrim cut loose the grappling-irons with his axe, and that 
not too soon, for, scarcely had they pushed clear with great 


toil when the long warship slipped from the rock and foundered, 
taking many dead and wounded men with her. 

Now Ospakar and some of his people stood safe upon the 
rocks, and Eric called to him in mockery, bidding him come 
aboard the Gudruda. 

Ospakar made no answer, but stood gnawing his hand, 
while the water ran from him. Only Gizur his son cursed 
them aloud. 

Eric was greatly minded to follow them, and land and fight 
them there ; but he might not do this, because of the rocks and 
of the other dragon, that hung about them, fearing to come 
on and yet not willing to go back. 

' We will have her, at the least, said Eric, and bade the 
rowers get out their oars. 

Now, when the men on board the other ship saw the 
Gudruda drawing on, they took to their oars at once and 
rowed swiftly for the sea, and at this a great roar of laughter 
went down Eric's ship. 

' They shall not slip from us so easily,' said Eric ; ' give 
way, comrades, and after them.' 

But the men were much wearied with fighting, and the decks 
were all cumbered with dead and wounded, so that by the time 
that the Gudruda had put about, and come to the mouth of the 
waterway, Ospakar's vessel had shaken out her sails and caught 
the wind, that now blew strong off shore, and sped away six 
furlongs or more from Eric's prow. 

' Now we shall see how the Gudruda sails,' said Eric, and 
they spread their canvas and gave chase. 

Then Eric bade men clear the decks of the dead, and tend 
the wounded. He had lost seven men slain outright, and three 
were wounded, one to death. But on board the ship there lay 
of Ospakar's force twenty and three dead men. 

When all were cast into the sea, men ate and rested. 

' We have not done so badly,' said Eric to Skallagrim. 

' We shall do better yet,' said Skallagrim to Eric ; ' rather 
had I seen Ospakar's head lying in the scuppers than those of 
all his carles ; for he may get more men, but never another 
head ! ' 


Now the wind freshened till by midnight it blew strongly. 
The mate Hall came to Eric and said : 

* The Gudruda dips her nose deep in Ean's cup. Say, 
Eric, shall we shorten sail ? ' 

' Nay,' answered Eric, ' keep her full and bail. Where yon- 
der Eaven flies, my Sea-stag must follow,' and he pointed to 
the warship that rode the waves before them. 

After midnight clouds came up, with rain, and hid the face 
of the night-sun and the ship they sought. The wind blew 
ever harder, till at length, when the rain had passed and the 
clouds lifted, there was much water in the hold and the bailers 
could hardly stand at their work. 

Men murmured, and Hall the mate murmured most of all ; 
but still Eric held on, for there, not two furlongs ahead of 
them, rode the dragon of Ospakar. But now, being afraid of 
the wind and sea, she had lowered her sail somewhat, and 
made as though she would put about and run for Iceland. 

' That she may not do,' called Eric to Skallagrim, * if once 
she rolls side on to those seas Ban has her, for she must fill 
and sink.' 

1 So they hold, lord,' answered Skallagrim ; ' see, once more 
she runs ! ' 

' Ay, but we run faster she is outsailed. Up, men, up : for 
presently the fight begins ' 

'It is bad to join battle in such a sea,' quoth Hall. 

* Good or bad,' growled Skallagrim, * do thou thy lord's 
bidding,' and he half lifted up his axe. 

The mate said no more, for he misdoubted him of Skalla- 
grim Lambstail and his axe. 

Then men made ready for the fray as best they might, 
and stood, sword in hand and drenched with foam, clinging to 
the bulwarks of the Gudruda as she wallowed through the seas. 

Eric went aft to the helm and seized it. Now but a length 
ahead Ospakar's ship laboured on beneath her small sail, but 
the Gudruda rushed towards her with all canvas set and at 
every leap plunged her golden dragon beneath the surf and 
shook the water from her foredeck. 

' Make ready the grapnel ! ' shouted Eric through the storm. 


Skallagrim seized the iron and stood by. Now the Gudruda 
rushed alongside the Raven, and Eric steered so skilfully that 
there was a fathom space, and no more, between the ships. 

Skallagrim cast the iron well and truly, so that it hooked 
and held. On sped the Gudruda and the cable tautened now 
her stern kissed the bow of Ospakar's ship, as though she was 
towing her, and thus for a space they travelled through the seas. 

Eric's folk shouted and strove to cast spears ; but they did 
this but ill, because of the rocking of the vessel. As for 
Ospakar's men, they clung to the bulwarks and did nothing, for 
all the heart was out of them between fear of Eric and terror 
of the sea. Eric called to a man to hold the helm, and Skalla- 
grim crept aft to where he stood. 

* What counsel shall we take now ? ' said Eric, and as he 
spoke a sea broke over them for the gale was strong. 

'Board them and make an end,' answered Skallagrim. 

' Rough work ; still, we will try it,' said Eric, * for we may 
not lie thus for long, and I am loath to leave them.' 

Then Eric called for men to follow him, and many 
answered, creeping as best they might to where he stood. 

' Thou art mad, Eric,' said Hall the mate ; ' cut loose and 
let us drive, else we shall both founder, and that is a poor talp 
to tell.' 

Eric took no heed, but, watching his chance, leapt on to the 
bows of the Raven, and after him leapt Skallagrim. Even as 
he did so, a great sea came and swept past and over them, so 
that half the ship was hid for foam. Now, Hall the mate 
stood near to the grapnel cable, and, fearing lest they should 
sink, out of the cowardice of his heart, he let his axe fall upon 
the chain, and severed it so swiftly that no man saw him, 
except Skallagrim only. Forward sprang the Gudruda, freed 
from her burden, and rushed away before the wind, leaving 
Eric and Skallagrim alone upon the Raven's prow. 

* Now we are in evil plight,' said Eric, ' the cable has 
parted ! ' 

* Ay,' answered Skallagrim, ' and that losel Hall hath 
parted it ! I saw his axe fall.' 





Now, when the men of Ospakar, who were gathered on the 
poop of the Raven, saw what had come about, they shouted 
aloud and made ready to slay the pair. But Eric and Skalla- 
grim clambered to the mast and got their backs against it, 
and swiftly made themselves fast with a rope, so that they 
might not fall with the rolling of the ship. Then the people 
of Ospakar came on to cut them down. 

But this was no easy task, for they might scarcely stand, 
and they could not shoot with the bow. Moreover, Eric and 
Skallagrim, being bound to the mast, had the use of both hands 
and were minded to die hard. Therefore Ospakar 's folks got 
but one thing by their onslaught, and that was death, for 
three of their number fell beneath the long sweep of Whitefire, 
and one bowed before the axe of Skallagrim. Then they drew 
back and strove to throw spears at these two, but they flew 
wide because of the rolling of the vessel. One spear struck the 
mast near the head of Skallagrim. He drew it out, and, 
waiting till the ship steadied herself in the trough of the sea, 
hurled it at a knot of Ospakar's thralls, and a man got his 
death from it. After that they threw no more spears. 

Then once more the crew came on with swords and axes, 
but faint-heartedly, and the end of it was that they lost some 
more men dead and wounded and fell back again. 

Skallagrim mocked at them with bitter words, and one of 
them, made mad by his scoffing, cast a heavy ballast-stone at 
him. It fell upon his shoulder and numbed him. 


' Now I am unmeet for fight, lord,' said Skallagrim, c for my 
right arm is dead and I can scarcely hold my axe.' 

' That is ill, then,' said Eric, ' for we have little help, except 
from each other, and I, too, am well-nigh spent. Well, we have 
done a great deed and now it is time to rest.' 

' My left arm is yet whole, lord, and I can make shift for 
a while with it. Cut loose the cord before they bait us to 
death, and let us rush upon these wolves and fall fighting.' 

4 A good counsel,' said Eric, ' and a quick end ; but stay 
a while : what plan have they now ? ' 

Now the men of Ospakar, having little heart left in them 
for such work as this, had taken thought together. 

' We have got great hurt, and little honour,' said the 
mate. ' There are but nineteen of us left alive, and that is 
scarcely enough to work the ship, and it seems that we shall 
be fewer before Eric Brighteyes and Skallagrim Lambstail lie 
quiet by yonder mast. They are mighty men, indeed, and it 
would be better, methinks, to deal with them by craft, rather 
than by force.' 

The sailors said that this was a good word, for they were 
weary of the sight of Whitefire as he flamed on high and the 
sound of the axe of Skallagrim as it crashed through helm 
and byrnie ; and as fear crept in valour fled out. 

' This is my rede, then,' said the mate : * that we go to them 
and give them peace, and lay them in bonds, swearing that we 
will put them ashore when we are come back to Iceland. But 
when we have them fast, as they sleep at night, we will creep 
on them and hurl them into the sea, and afterwards we will say 
that we slew them fighting.' 

' A shameful deed ! ' said a man. 

' Then go thou up against them,' answered the mate. ' If 
we slay them not, then shall this tale be told against us through- 
out Iceland : that a ship's company were worsted by two men, 
and we may not live beneath that dishonour.' 

The man held his peace, and the mate, laying down his 
arms, crept forward alone, towards the mast, just as Eric and 
Skallagrim were about to cut themselves loose and rush on 


1 What wouldest thou ? ' shouted Eric. ' Has it gone so 
well with you with arms that ye are minded to come up against 
us bearing none ? ' 

' It has gone ill, Eric,' said the mate, 'for ye twain are too 
mighty for us. We have lost many men, and we shall lose 
more ere ye are laid low. Therefore we make you this offer : 
thatyoulay down your weapons and suffer yourselves to be bound 
till such time as we touch land, where we will set you ashore, 
and give you your arms again. Meanwhile, we will deal with 
you in friendly fashion, giving you of the best we have ; nor 
will we set on foot any suit against you for those of our number 
whom ye two have slain.' 

' Wherefore then should we be bound ? ' said Eric. 

' For this reason only : that we dare not leave you free 
within our ship, Now choose, and, if ye will, take peace, which 
we swear by all the Gods we will keep towards you, and, if ye 
will not, then we will bear you down with beams and sails and 
stones, and slay you.' ( 

' What thinkest thou, Skallagrim ? ' said Eric beneath his 

' I think that I find little faith in yon carle's face,' answered 
Skallagrim. ' Still, I am unfit to fight, and thy strength is 
spent, so it seems that we must lie low if we would rise 
again. They can scarcely be so base as to do murder having 
handselled peace to us.' 

' I am not so sure of that,' said Eric ; ' still, starving 
beggars must eat bones. Hearken thou : we take the terms, 
trusting to your honour ; and I say this : that ye shall get 
shame and death if ye depart from them to harm us.' 

* Have no fear, lord,' said the mate, * we are true men.' 

' That we shall look to your deeds to learn,' said Eric, lay- 
ing down his sword and shield. 

Skallagrim did likewise, though with no good grace. Then 
men came with strong cords and bound them fast hand and 
foot, handling them fearsomely as men handle a live bear in a 
net. Then they led them forward to the prow. 

As they went Eric looked up. Yonder, twenty furlongs and 
more away, sailed the Gudruda. 


' This is good fellowship,' said Skallagrim, ' thus to leave 
in the trap.' 

* Nay,' answered Eric. ' They cannot put about in such 
a sea, and doubtless also they think us dead. Nevertheless, 
if ever it comes about that Hall and I stand face to face again, 
there will be need for me to think of gentleness.' 

' I shall think little thereon,' growled Skallagrim. 

Now they were come to the prow, and there was a half 
deck under which they were set, out of reach of the wind and 
water. In the deck was a stout iron ring, and the men made 
them fast with ropes to it, so that they might move but little, 
and they set their helms and weapons behind them in such 
fashion that they could not come at them. Then they 
flung cloaks about them, and brought them food and drink, 
of which they stood much in need, and treated them well in 
every way. But for all this Skallagrim trusted them no 

' We are new-hooked, lord,' he said, ' and they give us line. 
Presently they will haul in.' 

'Evil comes soon enough,' answered Eric, 'no need to 
run to greet it,' and he fell to thinking of Gudruda, and of the 
day's deeds, till presently he dropped asleep, for he was very 

Now it chanced that as Eric slept he dreamed a dream 
so strong and strange that it seemed to live within him. He 
dreamed that he slept there beneath the Raven's deck, and 
that a rat came and whispered spells into his ear. Then he 
dreamed that Swanhild glided towards him, walking on the 
stormy seas. He saw her afar, and she came swiftly, and 
ever the sea grew smooth before her feet, nor did the wind so 
much as stir her hair. Presently she stood by him in the 
ship, and, bending over him, touched him on the shoulder, 
saying : 

* Awake, Eric Brighteyes ! Awake ! awake ! ' 

It seemed to him that he awoke and said ' What tidings, 
Swanhild ? ' and that she answered : 

'111 tidings, Eric so ill that I am come hither from 


Straumey l to tell of them ay, come walking on the seas. Had 
Gudruda done as much, thinkest thou ? ' 

' Gudruda is no witch,' he said in his dream. 

* Nay, but I am a witch, and it is well for thee, Eric. Ay, 
I am a witch. Now do I seem to sleep at Atli's side, and lo ! 
here I stand by thine, and I must journey back again many a 
league before another day be born ay, many a league, and all 
for love of thee, Eric ! Hearken, for not long may the spell 
endure. I have seen this by my magic : that these men who 
bound thee come even now to take thee, sleeping, and cast thee 
and thy thrall into the deep, there to drown.' 

1 If it is fated it will befall,' he said in his dream. 

'Nay, it shall not befall. Put forth all thy might and 
burst thy bonds. Then fetch Whitefire ; cut away the bonds 
of Skallagrim, and give him his axe and shield. This done, 
cover yourselves with your cloaks, and wait till ye hear the 
murderers come. Then rise and rush on them, the two of 
you, and they shall melt before your might. I have journeyed 
over the great deep to tell thee this, Eric ! Had Gudruda done 
as much, thinkest thou ? ' 

And it seemed to him that the wraith of Swanhild kissed 
him on the brow, sighed and vanished, bearing the rat in her 

Eric awoke suddenly, just as though he had never slept, 
and looked around. He knew by the lowness of the sun that 
it was far into the night, and that he had slept for many 
hours. They were alone beneath the deck, and far aft, beyond 
the mast, as the vessel rose upon the waves for the sea was 
still rough, though the wind had fallen Eric saw the mate of 
the Raven talking earnestly with some men of his crew. 
Skallagrim snored beside him. 

' Awake ! ' Eric said in his ear, ' awake and listen ! ' 

He yawned and roused himself. ' What now, lord ? ' he 

' This,' said Eric, and he told him the dream that he had 

1 Stroma, the southernmost of the Orkneys. 


' That was a fey dream,' said Skallagrim, * and now wo 
must do as the wraith hade thee.' 

' Easy to say, but hard to do,' quoth Eric ; ' this is a great 
rope that holds us, and a strong.' 

' Yes, it is great and strong ; still, we must hurst it.' 

Now Eric and Skallagrim were made fast in this fashion : 
their hands were bound behind them, and their legs were 
lashed above the feet and above the knae. Moreover, a thick 
cord was fixed about the waist of each, and this cord was 
passed through the iron ring and knotted there. But it 
chanced that beneath the hollows of their knees ran an oaken 
beam, which held the forepart of the dragon together. 

' We may try this,' said Eric: ' to set our feet against the 
beam, and strain with all our strength upon the rope ; though 
I think that no two men can part it.' 

' We shall know that presently,' said Skallagrim, gathering 
up his legs. 

Then they set their feet against the beam and pulled till 
it groaned ; but, though the rope gave somewhat, it would not 
break. They rested a while, then strained again till the sweat 
burst out upon them and the rope cut into their flesh, but 
still it would not part. 

' Now we have found our match,' said Eric. 

1 That is not altogether proved yet,' answered the Baresark. 
' Many a shield is riven at the third stroke.' 

So once again they set their feet against the beam, and put 
out all their strength. 

' The ring bends,' gasped Eric. ' Now, when the roll of 
le ship throws our weight to leeward, in the name of Thor 
rail ! ' ' 

They waited, then put out their might, and lo ! though 
le rope did not break, the iron ring burst asunder and they 
)lled upon the deck. 

Well pulled, truly,' said Skallagrim as he struggled to 
lis haunches : * I am marked about the middle with rope- 
twists for many a day to come, that I will swear. What next, 
lord ? ' 

; Whitefire,' answered Eric. 


Now, their arms were piled a fathom or more from where 
they sat, and right in the prow of the ship. Hither, then, 
they must crawl upon their knees, and this was weary work, 
for ever as the ship rolled they fell, and could in no wiso 
save themselves from hurt. Eric was bleeding at the brow, 
and bloody was the hooked nose of Skallagrim, before they 
came to where Whitefire was. At length they reached the 
sword, and pushed aside the bucklers that were over it with 
their heads. The great war-blade was sheathed, and Eric 
must needs lie upon his breast and draw the weapon somewhat 
with his teeth. 

' This is an ill razor to shave with,' he said, rising, for the 
keen blade had cut his chin. 

' So some have thought and perchance more shall think,' 
answered Skallagrim. ' Now set the rope on the edge and 

This they did, and presently the thick cord that bound 
them was in two. Then Eric knelt upon the deck and pressed 
the bonds that bound his legs upon the blade, and after him 
Skallagrim. They were free now, except for their hands, and 
it was no easy thing to cut away the bonds upon their wrists. 
It was done thus : Skallagrim sat upon the deck, and Eric 
pushed the sword between his fingers with his feet. Then 
the Baresark rose, holding the sword, and Eric, turning back 
to back with him, fretted the cords upon his wrists against 
the blade. Twice he cut himself, but the third time the 
cord parted and he was free. He stretched his arms, for they 
were stiff ; then took Whitefire and cut away the bonds of 

1 How goes it with that hurt of thine ? ' he asked. 

Better than I had thought,' answered Skallagrim ; ' the 
soreness has come out with the bruise.' 

' That is good news,' said Eric, ' for methinks, unless Swan- 
hild walked the seas for nothing, thou wilt soon need thine 

' They have never failed me yet,' said Skallagrim and took 
his axe and shield. ' What counsel now ? ' 

* This, Skallagrim : that we lie down as we were, and put the 


cloaks about us as though we were yet in bonds. Then, if these 
knaves come, we can take them unawares as they think to 
take us.' 

So they went again to where they had been bound, and 
lay down upon their shields and weapons, drawing cloaks over 
them. Scarcely had they done this and rested a while, when 
they saw the mate and all the crew coming along both boards 
towards them. They bore no weapons in their hands. 

' None too soon did Swanhild walk,' said Eric ; ' now we 
shall learn their purpose. Be thou ready to leap forth when 
I give the word.' 

* Ay, lord,' answered Skallagrim as he worked his stiff 
arm to and fro. ' In such matters few have thought me 

' What news, friends ? ' cried Eric as the men drew near. 

'Bad news for thee, Brighteyes,' answered the mate, 
' and that Baresark thrall of thine, for we must loose your 

' That is good news, then,' said Eric, * for our limbs are 
numb and dead because of the nipping of the cords. Is 
land in sight ? ' 

1 Nay, nor will be for thee, Eric.' 

1 How now, friend ? how now ? Sure, having hand- 
selled peace to us, ye mean no harm towards two unarmed 
men ? ' 

* We swore to do you no harm, nor will we, Eric ; this only 
will we do : deliver you, bound, to Ban, and leave her to deal 
with you as deal she may.' 

4 Bethink you, sirs,' said Eric : ' this is a cruel deed and 
most unmanly. We yielded to you in faith will ye break 
your troth ? ' 

' War has no troth,' he answered, ' ye are too great to let 
slip between our fingers. Shall it be said of us that two men 
overcame us all ? ' 

* Mayhap ! ' murmured Skallagrim beneath his breath. 

' Oh, sirs, I beseech you,' said Eric ; ' I am young, and there 
is a maid who waits me out in Iceland, and it is hard to die,' 
and he made as though he wept, while Skallagrim laughed 


within his sleeve, for it was strange to see Eric feigning 

But the men mocked aloud. 

* This is the great man,' they cried, * this is that Eric of 
whose deeds folk sing ! Look ! he weeps like a child when he 
sees the water. Drag him forth and away with him into the 
sea ! ' 

1 Little need for that,' cried Eric, and lo ! the cloaks 
about him and Skallagrim flew aside. Out they came with a 
roar ; they came out as a she -bear from her cave, and high 
above Brighteyes' golden curls Whitefire shone in the pale 
light, and nigh to it shone the axe of Skallagrim. Whitefire 
flared aloft, then down he fell and sought the false heart of 
the mate. The great axe of Skallagrim shone and was lost in 
the breast of the carle who stood before him. 

' Trolls ! ' shrieked one. ' Here are trolls ! ' and turned to 
fly. But again Whitefire was up and that man flew not far 
one pace, no more. Then they fled screaming and after them 
came axe and sword. They fled, they fell, they leaped into 
the sea, till none were left to fall and leap, for they had no 
time or heart to find or draw their weapons, and presently Eric 
Brighteyes and Skallagrim Lambstail stood alone upon the 
deck alone with the dead. 

' Swanhild is a wise witch,' gasped Eric, ' and, whatever 
ill she has done, I will remember this to her honour.' 

' Little good comes of witchcraft,' answered Skallagrim, 
wiping his brow : * to-day it works for our hands, to-morrow it 
shall work against them.' 

* To the helm,' said Eric ; ' the ship yaws and comes side on 
to the seas.' 

Skallagrim sprang to the tiller and put his strength on it, 
and but just in time, for one big sea came aboard them and 
left much water in the hold. 

'.We owe this to thy Baresark ways,' said Eric. ' Hadst 
thou not slain the steersman we had not filled with water.' 

' True, lord,' answered Skallagrim ; ' but when once my 
axe is aloft, it seems to fly of itself, till nothing is left before 
it. What course now ? ' 


' The same on which the Gudruda was laid. Perhaps, if 
we may endure till we come to the Farey Isles, 1 we shall find 
her in harbour there.' 

' There is not much chance of that,' said Skallagrim ; ' still, 
the wind is fair and we fly fast before it.' 

Then they lashed the tiller and set to bailing. They 
bailed long, and it was heavy work, but they rid the ship of 
much water. After that they ate food, for it was now morn- 
ing, and it came on to blow yet more strongly. 

For three days and three nights it blew thus, and the Raven 
fled along before the gale. All this time, turn and turn about, 
Eric and Skallagrim stood at the helm and tended the sails. 
They had little time to eat, and none to sleep. They were so 
hard pressed also, and must harbour their strength so closely, 
that the bodies of the dead men yet cumbered the hold. Thus 
they grew very weary and like to fall from faintness, but still 
they held the Eaven on her course. In the beginning of the 
fourth night a great sea struck the good ship so that she 
quivered from stem to stern. 

' Methinks I hear water bubbling up,' said Skallagrim in 
a hoarse voice. 

Eric climbed down into the well and lifted the bottom 
lanks, and there beneath them was a leak through which the 
iter spouted in a thin stream. He stopped up the rent as 
est he might with garments from the dead men, and placed 
ballast stones upon them, then clambered on to deck again. 

Our hours are short now,' he said, * the water rushes in 

' Well, it is time to rest,' said Skallagrim ; ' but see, lord ! ' 
nd he pointed ahead. ' What land is that ? ' 

It must be the Fareys,' answered Eric; 'now, if we 
n but keep afloat for three hours more, we may yet die 

After this the wind began to fall, but still there was enough 
to drive the Raven on swiftly. 

And ever the water gained in the hold. 
Now they were not far from land, for ahead of them the 
1 The Faroerf, 

ct II 



bleak hills towered up, shining in the faint midnight light, 
and between the hills was a cleft that seemed to be a fjord. 
Another hour passed, and they were no more than ten fur- 
longs from the mouth of the fjord, when suddenly the 
wind fell, and they were in calm water under shelter of the 
land. They went amidships and looked. The hold was 
half full of water, and in it floated the bodies of Ospakar's 

' She has not long to live,' said Skallagrim, * but we may 
still be saved if the boat is not broken.' 

Now aft, near the tiller, a small boat was bound on the 
half deck of the Kaven. They went to it and looked ; it was 
whole, with oars lashed in it, but half full of water, which they 
must bail out. This they did as swiftly as they might ; then 
they cut the little boat loose, and, having made it fast with a 
rope, lifted it over the side -rail and let it fall into the sea, and 
that was no great way, for the Kaven had sunk deep. It fell 
on an even keel, and Eric let himself down the rope into it 
and called to Skallagrim to follow. 

* Bide a while, lord,' he answered ; ' there is that which I 
would bring with me,' and he went. 

For a space Eric waited and then called aloud, ' Swift ! 
thou fool ; swift ! the ship sinks ! ' 

And as he called, Skallagrim came, and his arms were full of 
swords and byrnies, and red rings of gold that he had found 
time to gather from the dead and out of the cabin. 

* Throw all aside and come,' said Eric, laying on to the 
oars, for the Haven wallowed before she sank. 

' There is yet time, lord, and the gear is good,' answered 
Skallagrim, and one by one he threw pieces down into the 
boat. As the last fell the Raven sank to her bulwarks. Then 
Skallagrim stepped from the sinking deck into the boat, and 
cut the cord, not too soon. 

Eric gave way with all his strength, and, as he pulled, when 
he was no more than five fathoms from her, the Raven vanished 
with a huge swirl. 

' Hold still,' he said, ' or we shall follow.' 

Round spun the boat in the eddy, she was sucked down 


till the water trickled over her gunwale, and for a moment they 
knew not if they were lost or saved. Eric held his breath and 
watched, then slowly the boat lifted her nose, and they were 
safe from the whirlpool of the lost dragon. 

' Greed is many a man's bane,' said Eric, ' and it was 
nearly thine and mine, Skallagrim.' 

' I had no heart to leave the good gear,' he answered ; 
' and tliou seest, lord, it is safe and we with it.' 

Then they got the boat's head round slowly into the mouth 
of the fjord, pausing now and again to rest, for their strength 
was spent. For two hours they rowed down a gulf, as it 
were, and on either side of them were barren hills. At length 
the water-way opened out into a great basin, and there, on the 
further side of the basin, they saw green slopes running down 
to the water's edge, strewn with white stock-fish set to dry in 
the wind and sun, and above the slopes a large hall, and about 
it booths. Moreover, they saw a long dragon of war at anchor 
near the shore. For a while they rowed on, easing now and 
again. Then Eric spoke to Skallagrim. 

' What thinkest tliou of yonder ship, Lambstail ? ' 

4 1 think this, lord : that she is fashioned wondrous like to 
the Gudruda.' 

1 That is in my mind also,' said Eric, ' and our fortune is 
good if it is she.' 

They rowed on again, and presently a ray from the sun 
came over the hills for now it was three hours past midnight 
and, the ship having swung a little with the tide, lit upon 
her prow, and lo ! there gleamed the golden dragon of the 

* This is a strange thing,' said Eric. 

* Ay, lord, a strange and a merry, for now I shall talk with 
Hall the mate,' and the Baresark smiled grimly. 

'Thou shalt do no hurt to Hall,' said Eric. ' I am lord 
here, and I must judge.' 

' Thy will is my will,' said Skallagrim ; ' but if my will were 
thine, he should hang on the mast till sea-birds nested amidst 
his bones.' 

Now they were close to the ship, but they could see no 


man. Skallagrim would have called aloud, but Eric bade him 
hold his peace. 

' Either they are dead, and thy calling cannot wake them, 
or perchance they sleep and will wake of themselves. We will 
row under the stern, and, having made fast, climb aboard and 
see with our own eyes.' 

This, then, they did as silently as might be, and saw that the 
Gudruda had not been handled gently by the winds and waves, 
for her shield-rail was washed away. This they found also, that 
all men lay deep in sleep. Now, amidships a fire still burned, 
and by it was food. They came there and ate of the food, of 
which they had great need. Then they took two cloaks that 
lay on the deck, and, throwing them about them, warmed them- 
selves over the fire : for they were cold and wet, ay, and utterly 

As they sat thus warming themselves, a man of the crew 
awoke and saw them, a.nd, being amazed, at once called to his 
fellows, saying that two giants were aboard, warming them- 
selves at the fire. Now men sprang up, and, seizing their 
weapons, ran towards them, and among them was Hall the 

Then suddenly Eric Brighteyes and Skallagrim Lambstail 
threw aside the cloaks and stood up. They were gaunt and 
grim to see. Their cheeks were hollow and their eyes stared 
wide with want of sleep. Thick was their harness with brine, 
and open wounds gaped upon their faces and their hands. Men 
saw and fell back in fear, for they held them to be wizards 
risen from the sea in the shapes of Eric and the Baresark. 

Then Eric sang this song : 

Swift and sure across the Swan's Bath 
Sped Sea-stag on Raven's track, 
Heav'd Ban's breast in raging billows, 
Stream'd gale-banners through the sky ! 
Yet did Eric the war-eager 
Leap with Baresark-mate aboard, 
Fierce their onset on the foemen ! 
Wherefore brake the grapnel-chain? 

Hall heard and slunk back, for now he saw that these were 


indeed Eric and Skallagrim come up alive from the sea, and 
that they knew his baseness. 

Eric looked at him and sang again : 

Swift away sped ship Gudruda, 
Left her lord in foeman's ring ; 
Brighteyes back to back with Baresark 
Held his head 'gainst mighty odds. 
Down amidst the ballast tumbling, 
Ospakar's shield-carles were rolled. 
Holy peace at length they handselled, 
Eric must in bonds be laid 1 

Came the Grey Eat, came the Earl's wife, 

Came the witch -word from afar ; 

Cag'd wolves roused them, and with struggling 

Tore their fetter from its hold. 

Now they watch upon their weapons ; 

Now they weep and pray for life ; 

Now they leap forth like a torrent 

Swept away is foeman's strength ! 

Then alone upon the Eaven 
Three long days they steer and sail, 
Till the waters, welling upwards, 
Wash dead men about their feet. 
Fails the gale and sinks the dragon, 
Barely may they win the boat : 
Safe they stand on ship Gudruda 
Say, who cut the grapnel-chain ? 





stood astonished, but 
Hall the mate slunk 

' Hold, comrade,' said 
Eric, * I have something 
to say that songs cannot carry. 
Hearken, my shield-mates : 
we swore to be true to each 
other, even to death : is it 
not so ? What then shall 
be said of that man who cut 
loose the Gudruda and left 
us two to die at the foeman's 
hand ? ' 

' Who was the man ? ' 
asked a voice. 

* That man was Hall of Lithdale,' said Eric. 

* It is false ! ' said Hall, gathering up his courage ; ' the 
cable parted beneath the straining of the ship, and afterwards 
we could not put about because of the great sea.' 

1 Thou art false ! ' roared Skallagrim. ' With my eyes I 
saw thee let thine axe fall upon the cable. Liar art thou 
and dastard ! Thou art jealous also of Brighteyes thy lord, and 
this was in thy mind : to let him die upon the Raven and 
then to bind his shoes upon thy cowardly feet. Though none 
else saw, I saw ; and I say this : that if I may have my will, 


I will string thee, living, to the prow in that same cable till 
gulls tear out thy fox-heart ! ' 

Now Hall grew very white and his knees trembled beneath 
him. * It is true,' he said, * that I cut the chain, but not from 
any thought of evil. Had I not cut it the vessel must have 
sunk and all been lost.' 

' Did we not swear, Hall,' said Eric sternly, ' together to 
fight and together to fall together to fare and, if need be, 
together to cease from faring, and dost thou read the oath 
thus ? Say, mates, what reward shall be paid to this man 


for his good fellowship to us and his tenderness for your 
lives ? ' 

As with one voice the men answered ' Death ! ' 

* Thou nearest, Hall ? ' said Eric. ' Yet I would deal 
more gently with one to whom I swore fellowship so lately. 
Get thee gone from our company, and let us see thy cur's 
face no more. Get thee gone, I say, before I repent of my 

Then amidst a loud hooting, Hall took his weapons and 
without a word slunk into the boat of the Raven that lay 
astern, and rowed ashore ; nor did Eric see his face for many 

1 Thou hast done foolishly, lord, to let that weasel go,' 
said Skallagrim, ' for he will live to nip thy hand.' 



1 For good or ill, he is gone,' said Eric, ' and now I am 
worn out and desire to sleep.' 

After this Eric and Skallagrim rested three full days, and 
they were so weary that they were awake for little of this time. 
But on the third day they rose up, strong and well, except for 
their hurts and soreness. Then they told the men of that which 
had corne to pass, and all wondered at their might and hardi- 
hood. To them indeed Eric seemed as a God, for few such 
deeds as his had been told of since the God-kind were on earth. 

But Brighteyes thought little of his deeds, and much of 
Gudruda. At times also he thought of Swanhild, and of that 
witch-dream she sent him : for it was wonderful to him that 
she should have saved him thus from Rail's net. 

Eric was heartily welcomed by the Earl of the Farey Isles, 
for, when he heard his deeds, he made a feast in his honour, 
and set him in the high seat. It was a great feast, but 
Skallagrim became drunk at it and ran down the chamber, 
axe aloft, roaring for Hall of Lithdale. 

This angered Eric much and he would scarcely speak to 
Skallagrim for many days, though the great Baresark slunk 
about after him like his shadow, or a whipped hound at its 
master's heel, and at length humbled his pride so far as to 
ask pardon for his fault. 

' I grant it for thy deeds' sake,' said Eric shortly; 'but this 
is upon my mind : that thou wilt err thus again, and it shall 
be my cause of death ay, and that of many more.' 

' First may my bones be white,' said Skallagrim. 

'* They shall be white thereafter,' answered Eric. 

At Fareys Eric shipped twelve good men and true, to 
take the seats of those who had been slain by Ospakar's folk. 
Afterwards, when the wounded were well of their hurts (except 
one man who died), and the Gudruda was made fit to take 
the sea again, Brighteyes bade farewell to the Earl of thjse 
Isles, who gave him a good cloak and a gold ring at parting, 
and sailed away. 

Now, it were too long to tell of all the deeds that Eric and his 


men did. Never, so scalds sing, was there a viking like him 
for strength and skill and hardihood, and, in those days, 
no such war- dragon as the Gudruda had been known upon the 
sea. Wherever Eric joined battle, and that was in many places, 
he conquered, for none prevailed against him, till at last foes 
would fly before the terror of his name, and earls and kings 
would send from far craving the aid of his hands. Withal he 
was the best and gentlest of men. It is said of Eric that in 
all his days he did no base deed, nor hurt the weak, nor 
refused peace to him who prayed it, nor lifted sword against 
prisoner or wounded foe. From traders he would take a toll 
of their merchandise only and let them go, and whatever 
gains he won he would share equally, asking no larger part 
than the meanest of his band. All men loved Eric, and even 
his foes gave him honour and spoke well of him. Now that 
Hall of Lithdale was gone, there was no man among his 
mates who would not have passed to death for him, for they 
held him dearer than their lives. Women, too, loved him 
much ; but his heart was set upon Gudruda, and he seldom 
turned to look on them. 

The first summer of his outlawry Eric warred along the 
coast of Ireland, but in the winter he came to Dublin, and for 
a while served in the body-guard of the king of that town, 
who held him in honour, and would have had him stay 
there. But Eric would not bide there, and next spring, 
the Gudruda being ready for sea, he sailed for the shores of 
England. There he gave battle to two vikings' ships of war, 
and took them after a hard fight. It was in this fight that 
Skallagrim Lambstail was wounded almost to death. For when, 
having taken one ship, Eric boarded the other with but few 
men, he was driven back and fell over a beam, and would 
have been slain, had not Skallagrim thrown himself across 
his body, taking on his own back that blow of a battle-axe 
which was aimed at Eric's head. This was a great wound, for 
the axe shore through the steel of the byrnie and sank into 
the flesh. But when Eric's men saw their lord down, and 
Skallagrim, as they deemed, dead athwart him, they made 
so fierce a rush that the foemen fell before them like leaves 


before a winter gale, and the end of it was that the vikings 
prayed peace of Eric. Skallagrim lay sick for many duys. 
but he was hard to kill, and Eric nursed him back to life. 
After this these two loved each other as brother loves twin 
brother, and they could scarcely bear to be apart. But other 
people did not love Skallagrim, nor he them. 

Eric sailed on up the Thames to London, bringing the 
viking ships with him, and he delivered their captains bound 
to Edmund, Edward's son, the king who was called Edmund 
the Magnificent. These captains the King hung, for they 
had wrought damage to his ships. 

Eric found much favour with the King, and, indeed, his 
fame had gone before him. So when he came into the court, 
bravely clad, with Skallagrim at his back, who was now almost 
recovered of his wound, the King called out to him to draw 
near, saying that he desired to look on the bravest viking and 
most beauteous man who sailed the seas, arid on that fierce 
Baresark whom men called ' Eric's Death-shadow.' 

So Eric came forward up the long hall that was adorned 
with things more splendid than ever his eyes had seen, and 
stood before the King. With him came Skallagrim, driving 
the two captive viking chiefs before him with his axe, as a 
flesher drives lambs. Now, during these many months 
Brighteyes had grown yet more great in girth and glorious to 
look on than he was before. Moreover, his hair was now 
so long that it flowed like a flood of gold down towards his 
girdle, for since Gudruda trimmed it no shears had come near 
his head, and his locks grew fast as a woman's. The King 
looked at him and was astonished. 

' Of a truth,' he said, ' men have not lied about thee, Ice- 
lander, nor concerning that great wolf-hound of thine,' and 
he pointed at Skallagrim with his sword of state. ' Never 
saw I such a man ; ' and he bade all the mightiest men of 
his body-guard stand forward that he might measure them 
against Eric. But Brighteyes was an inch taller than the 
tallest, and measured half a span more round the chest than 
the biggest. 

' What wouldst thou of me, Icelander ? ' asked the King. 


' This, lord,' said Eric : ' to serve thee a while, and all my 
men with me.' 

' That is an offer that few would turn from,' answered the 
King. ' Thou shalt go into my body-guard, and, if I have my 
will, thou shalt be near me in battle, and thy wolf-dog also.' 

Eric said that he asked no better, and thereafter he went 
up with Edmund the King to make war on the Danes of 
Mercia, and he and Skallagrim did great deeds before the eyes 
of the Englishmen. 

That winter Eric and his company came back to London, 
and abode with the King in much state and honour. Now, there 
was a certain lady of the court named Elfrida. She was both 
fair and wealthy, the sweetest of women, and of royal blood 
by her mother's side. So soon as her eyes fell on Eric she 
loved him, and no one thing did she desire more than to be 
his wife. But Brighteyes kept aloof from her, for he loved 
Gudruda alone ; and so the winter wore away, and in the 
spring he went away warring, nor did he come back till autumn 
was at hand. 

The Lady Elfrida sat at a window when Eric rode 
through London Town in the King's following, and as he 
passed she threw him a wreath of flowers. The King saw it 
and laughed. 

' My cold kinswoman seems to melt before those bright 
eyes of thine, Icelander,' he said, ' as my foes melt before 
Whitefire's flame. Well, I could wish her a worse mate,' and 
he looked on him strangely. 

Eric bowed, but made no answer. 

That night, as they sat at meat in the palace, the Lady 
Elfrida, being bidden in jest of Edmund the King to fill the 
cup of the bravest, passed down the board, and, before all men, 
poured wine into Eric's cup, and, as she did so, welcomed him 
back with short sweet words. 

Eric grew red as dawn, and thanked her graciously ; but 
after the feast he spoke with Skallagrim, asking him of the 
(ludnida, and when she could be ready to take the sea. 

'In ten days, lord,' said Skallagrim; 'but stay we not 
here with the King this winter ? It is late to sail.' 


1 Nay,' said Eric, ' we bide not here. I would winter this 
year in Fareys, for they are the nighest place to Iceland that 
I may reach. Next summer my three years of outlawry are 
over, and I would fare back homewards.' 

'Now, I see the shadow of a woman's hand,' said Skalla- 
grim. ' It is very late to face the northern seas, and we may 
sail to Iceland from London in the spring.' 

' It is my will that we should sail,' answered Eric. 

' Past Orkneys runs the road to Fareys,' said Skallagrim, 
' and in Orkneys sits a hawk to whom the Lady Elfrida is but 
a dove. In faring from ill we may hap on worse.' 

'It is my will that we sail,' said Eric stubbornly. 

' As thou wilt, and as the King wills,' answered Skalla- 

On the morrow Eric went in before the King, and craved 
a boon. 

' There is little that thou canst ask, Brighteyes,' said the 
King, ' that I will not give thee, for, by my troth, I hold thee 

' I am come to seek no great thing, lord,' answered Eric, 
' but this only : leave to bid thee farewell. I would wend 

' Say, Eric,' said the King, ' have I not dealt well with 
thee ? ' 

' Well, and overwell, lord.' 

' Why, then, wouldst thou leave me ? I have this in my 
mind to bring thee to great honour. See, now, there is a 
fair lady in this court, and in her veins runs blood that even 
an Iceland viking might be proud to mate with. She has 
great lands, and, mayhap, she shall have more. Canst thou 
not find a home on them, thinkest thou, Brighteyes ? ' 

' In Iceland only I am at home, lord,' said Eric. 

Then the King was wroth, and bade him begone when it 
pleased him, and Eric bowed before him and went out. 

Two days afterwards, while Eric was walking in the Palace 
gardens he met the Lady Elfrida face to face. She held 
white flowers in her hand, and she was fair to see and pale as 
the flowers she bore. 


He greeted her, and, after a while, she spoke to him in a 
gentle voice : ' They say that thou goest from England, Bright- 
eyes ? ' she said. 

' Yes, lady ; I go,' he answered. 

She looked on him once and twice and then burst out 
weeping. ' Why goest thou hence to that cold land of thine ? ' 
she sobbed * that hateful land of snow and ice ! Is not 
England good enough for thee ? ' 

' I am at home there, lady, and there my mother waits 

' " There thy mother waits thee," Eric ? say, does a maid 
called Gudruda the Fair wait thee there also ? ' 

' There is such a maid in Iceland,' said Eric. 

* Yes ; I know it I know it all,' she answered, drying 
her tears, and of a sudden growing cold and proud : * Eric, 
thou art betrothed to this Gudruda ; and, for thy welfare, 
somewhat overfaithful to thy troth. For hearken, Eric 
Brighteyes. I know this : that little luck shall come to thee 
from the maid Gudruda. It would become me ill to say 
more ; nevertheless, this is true that here, in England, good 
fortune waits thy hand, and there in Iceland such fortune as 
men mete to their foes. Rnowest thou this ? ' 

Eric looked at her and answered : ' Lady,' he said, 
' men are not born of their own will, they live and do little 
that they will, they die and go, perchance, whither they would 
not. Yet it may happen to a man that one meets him whose 
hand he fain would hold, if it be but for an hour's travel over 
cy ways ; and it is better to hold that hand for this short hour 
to wend his life through at a stranger's side.' 

* Perhaps there is wisdom in thy folly,' said the Lady Elfrida. 
' Still, I tell thee this : that no good luck waits thee there in 

* It well may be,' said Eric : * my days have been stormy, 
and the gale is still brewing. But it is a poor heart that fears 
the storm. Better to sink ; for, coward or hero, all must sink 
at last.' 

' Say, Eric,' said the lady, ' if that hand thou dost desire 
to hold is lost to thee, what then ? ' 

icy w 

i oi:r 



'If that hand is cold in death, then henceforth I wend my 
ways alone.' 

' And if it be held of another hand than thine ? ' 

' Then I will journey back to England, lady, and here in 
this fair garden I may crave speech of thee again.' 

They looked one on another. * Fare thee well, Eric ! ' said 
the Lady Elfrida. * Here in this garden we may talk again ; 
and, if we talk no more why, fare thee well ! Days come and 
go ; the swallow takes flight at winter, and lo ! at spring it 
twitters round the eaves. And if it come not again, then fare- 
well to that swallow. The world is a great house, Eric, and 
there is room for many swallows. But alas ! for her who is left 
desolate alas, alas ! ' And she turned and went. 

It is told of this Lady Elfrida that she became very wealthy 
and was much honoured for her gentleness and wisdom, and 
that, when she was old, she built a great church and named it 
Ericskirk. It is also told that, though many sought her in 
marriage, she wedded none. 






ITHIN two days afterwards, the 
Gudruda being bound for sea, Eric 
went up to bid farewell to the King. 
But Edmund was so angry with him 
because of his going that he would 
not see him. Thereon Eric took horse 
and rode down sadly from the Palace to the river-bank where 
the Gudruda lay. But when he was about to give the word to 
get out the oars, the King himself rode up, and with him men 
bearing costly gifts. Eric went ashore to speak with him. 

* I am angry with thee, Brighteyes,' said Edmund, ' yet it 
is not in my heart to let thee go without words and gifts of 
farewell. This only I ask of thee now, that, if things go 
not well with thee there, out in Iceland, thou wilt come back 
to me.' 


1 1 will that I promise thee, King,' said Eric, ' for I shall 
never find a better lord.' 

' Nor I a braver servant,' said the King. Then he gave 
him the gifts and kissed him before all men. To Skallagrim 
also he gave a good byrnie of Welsh steel coloured black. 

Then Eric went aboard again and dropped down the river 
with the tide. 

For five days all went well with them, the sea being calm 
and the winds light and favourable. But on the fifth night, as 
they sailed slowly along the coasts of East Anglia over against 
Yarmouth sands, the moon rose red and ringed and the sea 
fell dead calm. 

'Yonder hangs a storm-lamp, lord,' said Skallagrim, 
pointing to the angry moon. ' We shall soon be bailing, for 
the autumn gales draw near.' 

1 Wait till they come, then speak,' said Eric. ' Thou croak- 
est ever like a raven.' 

' And ravens croak before foul weather,' answered Skalla- 
grim, and just as he spoke a sudden gust of wind came up 
from the south east and laid the Gudruda over. After this 
it came on to blow, and so fiercely that for whole days and 
nights their clothes were scarcely dry. They ran northwards 
before the storm and still northward, sighting no land and 
seeing no stars. And ever as they scudded on the gale grew 
fiercer, till at length the men were worn out with bailing 
and starved with wet and cold. Three of their number 
also were washed away by the seas, and all were in sorry 

It was the fourth night of the gale. Eric stood at the helm, 
and by him Skallagrim. They were alone, for their comrades 
were spent and lay beneath decks, waiting for death. The 
ship was half full of water, but they had no more strength to 
bail. Eric seemed grim and gaunt in the white light of the 
moon, and his long hair streamed about him wildly. Grimmer 
yet was Skallagrim as he clung to the shield-rail and stared 
across the deep. 

* She rolls heavily, lord,' he shouted, ' and the water gains 


1 Can the men bail no more ? ' asked Eric. 

' Nay, they are outworn and wait for death.' 

' They need not wait long,' said Eric. ' What do they say 
of me ? ' 

' Nothing.' 

Then Eric groaned aloud. ' It was my stubbornness that 
brought us to this pass,' he said ; ' I care little for myself, but 
it is ill that all should die for one man's folly.' 

' Grieve not, lord,' answered Skallagrim, ' that is the world's 
way, and there are worse things than to drown. Listen ! 
methinks I hear the roar of breakers yonder,' and he pointed 
to the left. 

' Breakers they surely are,' said Eric. * Now the end is 
near. But see, is not that land looming up on the right, or 
is it cloud ? ' 

1 It is land,' said Skallagrim, ' and I am sure of this, that 
we run into a firth. Look, the seas boil like a hot spring. 
Hold on thy course, lord, perchance we may yet steer between 
rocks and land. Already the wind falls and the current 
lessens the seas.' 

'Ay,' said Eric, 'already the fog and rain come up,' and 
he pointed ahead where dense clouds gathered in the shape of 
a giant, whose head reached to the skies and moved towards 
them, hiding the moon. 

Skallagrim looked, then spoke : * Now here, it seems, is 
witchwork. Say, lord, hast thou ever seen mist travel against 
wind as it travels now ? ' 

' Never before,' said Eric, and as he spoke the light of the 
moon went out. 

Swanhild, Atli's wife, sat in beauty in her bower on 
Straumey Isle and looked with wide eyes towards the sea. 
It was midnight. None stirred in Atli's hall, but still Swan- 
hild looked out towards the sea. 

Now she turned and spoke into the darkness, for there 
was no light in the bower save the light of her great eyes. 

' Art thou there ? ' she said. ' I have summoned thee thrice 
in the words thou knowest. Say, Toad, art there ? ' 


' Ay, Swanhild the Fatherless ! Swanhild, Groa's daughter ! 
Witch-mother's witch-child ! I am here. What is thy will 
with me ? ' piped a thin voice like the voice of a dying 

Swanhild shuddered a little and her eyes grew brighter 
as bright as the eyes of a cat. 

' This first,' she said : ' that thou show thyself. Hideous as 
thou art, I had rather see thee, than speak with thee seeing 
thee not.' 

' Mock not my form, lady,' answered the thin voice, ' for it 
is as thou dost fashion it in thy thought. To the good I am 
fair as day ; to the evil, foul as their heart. Toad thou didst 
call me : look, now I come as a toad ! ' 

Swanhild looked, and behold ! a ring of the darkness grew 
white with light, and in it crouched a thing hideous to see. 
It was shaped as a great spotted toad, and on it was set a hag's 
face, with white locks hanging down on either side. Its eyes 
were blood-red and sunken, black were its fangs, and its skin 
was dead yellow. It grinned horribly as Swanhild shrank 
from it, then spoke again : 

1 Grey Wolf thou didst call me once, Swanhild, when thou 
wouldst have thrust Gudruda down Goldfoss gulf, and as a 
grey wolf I came, and gave thee counsel that thou tookest 
but ill. Eat didst thou call me once, when thou wouldst 
save Brighteyes from the carles of Ospakar, and as a rat 
I came and in thy shape I walked the seas. Toad thou 
callest me now, and as a toad I creep about thy feet. Name 
thy will, Swanhild, and I will name my price. But -be swift, 
for there are other fair ladies whose wish I must do ere 

' Thou art hideous to look on ! ' said Swanhild, placing her 
hand before her eyes. 

' Say not so, lady ; say not so. Look at this face of mine. 
Knowest thou it not ? It is thy mother's dead Groa lent it 
me. I took it from where she lies ; and my toad's skin I drew 
from thy spotted heart, Swanhild, and more hideous than I 
am shalt thou be in a day to come, as once I was more fair 
than thou art to-day.' 


Swanhild opened her lips to shriek, but no sound came. 

4 Troll,' she whispered, 'mock me not with lies, but hearken 
to my bidding : where sails Eric now ? ' 

' Look out into the night, lady, and thou shalt see.' 

Swanhild looked, and the ways of the darkness opened be- 
fore her witch-sight. There at the mouth of Pentland Firth 
the Gudruda laboured heavily in the great seas, and by the 
tiller stood Eric, and with him Skallagrim. 

' Seest thou thy love ? ' asked the Familiar. 

' Yea,' she answered, ' full clearly ; he is worn with wind 
and sea, but more glorious than aforetime, and his hair is long. 
Say, what shall befall him if thou aidest not ? ' 

' This, that he shall safely pass the Firth, for the gale falls, 
and come safely to Fareys, and from Fareys isles to Gudruda's 

' And what canst thou do, Goblin ? ' 

* This : I can lure Eric's ship to wreck, and give his com- 
rades, all save Skallagrim, to Ban's net, and bring him to thy 
arms, Swanhild, witch-mother's witch-child ! ' 

She hearkened. Her breast heaved and her eyes 

' And thy price, Toad ? ' 

' Thou art the price, lady,' piped the goblin. ' Thou shalt 
give thyself to me when thy day is done, and merrily will we 
sisters dwell in Hela's halls, and merrily for ever will we fare 
about the earth o' nights, doing such tasks as this task of thine, 
Swanhild, and working wicked woe till the last woe is worked 

us. Art thou content ? ' 

Swanhild thought. Twice her breath went from her lips 
great sighs. Then she stood, pale and silent. 

* Safely shall he sail the Firth,' piped the thin voice, 
fely shall he sit in Fareys. Safely shall he lie in white 

rudruda's arms hee ! hee ! Think of it, lady ! ' 
Then Swanhild shook like a birch-tree in the gale, and her 
grew ashen. 

1 1 am content,' she said. 
' Hee ! hee ! Brave lady ! She is content. Ah, we sisters 

lall be merry. Hearken : if I aid thee thus I may do no 


more. Thrice has the night-owl come at thy call now it 
must wing away. Yet things will be as I have said ; thine 
own wisdom shall guide the rest. Ere morn Brighteyes shall 
stand in Atli's hall, ere spring he will he thy love, and ere 
autumn Gudruda shall sit on the high seat in the hall of Mid- 
dalhof the bride of Ospakar. Draw nigh, give me thine arm, 
sister, that blood may seal our bargain.' 

Swanhild drew near the toad, and, shuddering, stretched out 
her arm, and then and there the red blood ran, and there they 
sealed their sisterhood. And as the nameless deed was wrought, 
it seemed to Swanhild as though fire shot through her veins, 
and fire surged before her eyes, and in the fire a shape passed 
up weeping. 

' It is done, Blood-sister,' piped the voice ; ' now I must 
away in thy form to be about thy tasks. Seat thee here 
before me so. Now lay thy brow upon my brow fear not, 
it was thy mother's life on death! curling locks on corpse 
hair ! See, so we change we change. Now thou art the 
Death-toad and I am Swanhild, Atli's wife, who shall be Eric's 

Then Swanhild knew that her beauty had entered into 
the foulness of the toad, and the foulness of the toad into her 
beauty, for there before her stood her own shape and here she 
crouched a toad upon the floor. 

' Away to work, away ! ' said a soft low voice, her own 
voice speaking from her own body that stood before her, and 
io ! it was gone. 

But Swanhild crouched, in the shape of a hag-headed toad, 
upon the ground in her bower of Atli's hall, and felt wickedness 
and evil longings and hate boil and seethe within her heart. 
She looked out through her sunken horny eyes and she seemed 
to see strange sights. She saw Atli, her lord, dead upon the 
grass. She saw a woman asleep, and above her flashed a sword. 
She saw the hall of Middalhof red with blood. She saw a great 
gulf in a mountain's heart, and men fell down it. And, last, 
she saw a war-ship sailing fast out on the sea, afire, and vanish 


Now the witch-hag who wore Swanhild's loveliness stood 
upon the cliffs of Straumey and tossed her white arms towards 
the north. 

' Come, fog ! come, sleet ! ' she cried. ' Come, fog ! come, 
sleet ! Put out the moon and blind the eyes of Eric ! ' And 
as she called, the fog rose up like a giant and stretched his 
arms from shore to shore. 

' Move, fog ! beat, rain ! ' she cried. * Move and beat 
against the gale, and blind the eyes of Eric ! ' 

And the fog moved on against the wind, and with it sleet 
and rain. 

' Now I am afeared,' said Eric to Skallagrim, as they stood 
in darkness upon the ship : ' the gale blows fi\ m behind us, 
and yet the mist drives fast in our faces. What comes now ? ' 

' This is witch-work, lord,' answered Skallagrim, ' and in 
such things no counsel can avail. Hold the tiller straight 
and drive on, say I. Methinks the gale lessens more and 

So they did for a little while, and all around them sounded 
the roar of breakers. Darker grew the sky and darker yet, 
till at the last, though they stood side by side, they could not 
see each other's shapes. 

' This is strange sailing,' said Eric. ' I hear the roar of 
breakers as it were beneath the prow.' 

KLash the helm, lord, and let us go forward. If there are 
kers, perhaps we shall see their foam through the black- 
ness,' said Skallagrim. 

Eric did so, and they crept forward on the starboard board 
right to the prow of the ship, and there Skallagrim peered 
into the fog and sleet. 

' Lord,' he whispered presently, and his voice shook 
strangely, * what is that yonder on the waters ? Seest thou 
aught ? ' 

Eric stared and said, * By Odin ! I see a shape of light 
like to the shape of a woman ; it walks upon the waters 
towards us and the mist melts before it, and the sea grows 
calm beneath its feet.' 



1 1 see that also ! ' said Skallagrim. 

' She comes nigh ! ' gasped Eric. ' See how swift she 
comes ! By the dead, it is Swanhild's shape ! Look, Skalla- 
grim ! look how her eyes flame ! look how her hair streams 
upon the wind ! ' 

* It is Swanhild and we are fey ! ' quoth Skallagrim, and 
they ran back to the helm, where Skallagrim sank upon the 
deck in fear. 

' See, Skallagrim, she glides before the Gudruda's beak ! 
she glides backwards and she points yonder there to the 
right ! Shall I put the helm down and follow her ? ' 

' Nay, lord, nay ; set no faith in witchcraft or evil will 
befall us.' 

As he spoke a great gust of wind shook the ship, the 
music of the breakers roared in their eyes, and the gleaming 
shape upon the waters tossed its arms wildly and pointed to 
the right. 

4 The breakers call ahead,' said Eric. ' The Shape points 
yonder, where I hear no sound of sea. Once before, thou 
mindest, Swanhild walked the waves to warn us and thereby 
saved us from the men of Ospakar. Ever she swore she 
loved me ; now she is surely come in love to save us and all 
our comrades. Say, shall I put about ? Look : once more 
she waves her arms and points,' and as he spoke he gripped 
the helm. 

' I have no rede, lord,' said Skallagrim, ' and I love not 
witch-work. We can die but once, and death is all around ; 
be it as thou wilt.' 

Eric put down the helm with all his might. The good 
ship answered, and her timbers groaned loudly, as though in 
woe, when the strain of the sea struck her abeam. Then once 
more she flew fast across the waters, and fast before her 
glided the wraith of Swanhild. Now it pointed here and 
now there, and as it pointed so Eric shaped his course. 
For a while the noise of breakers lessened, but now again 
came a thunder, like the thunder of waves smiting on a cliff, 
and about the sides of the Gudruda the waters hissed like 

Swanhild walks the seas. 


Suddenly the Shape threw up its arms and seemed to 
sink beneath the waves, while a sound like the sound of a great 
laugh went up from sea to sky. 

' Now here is the end,' said Skallagrim, * and we are lured 
to doom.' 

Ere ever the words had passed his lips the ship struck, 
and so fiercely that they were rolled upon the deck. Suddenly 
the sky grew clear, the moon shone out, and before them 
were cliffs and rocks, and behind them a great wave rushed 
on. From the hold of the ship there came a cry, for now 
their comrades were awake and they knew that death was 

Eric gripped Skallagrim round the middle and looked 
aft. On rushed the wave, no such wave had he ever seen. 
Now it struck and the Gudruda burst asunder beneath the 

Blit Eric Brighteyes and Skallagrim Lambstail were lifted 
on its crest and knew no more. 

Swanhild, crouching in hideous guise upon the ground in 
the bower of Atli's hall, looked upon the visions that passed 
before her. Suddenly a woman's shape, her own shape, was 

It is done, Blood- sister,' said a voice, her own voice, 
errily I walked the waves, and oh, merry was the cry of 
ric's folk when Ran caught them in her net ! Be thyself, 
again, Blood- sister be fair as thou art foul ; then arise, wake 
Atli thy lord, and go down to the sea's lip by the southern 
cliffs and see what thou shalt find. We shall meet no more 
till all this game is played and another game is set,' and the 
shape of Swanhild crouched upon the floor before the hag- 
headed toad muttering ' Pass ! pass ! ' 

Then Swanhild felt her flesh come back to her, and as it 
grew upon her so the shape of the Death-headed toad faded 

1 Farewell, Blood-sister ! ' piped a voice ; * make merry as 
thou mayest, but merrier shall be our nights when thou hast 
gone a- sailing with Eric on the sea. Farewell ! farewell ! 





Were-ivolf thou didst call me once, and as a wolf I came. 
Eat thou didst call me once, and as a rat I came. Toad didst 
thou call me once, and as a toad I came. Say, at the last, 
what wilt thou call me and in what shape shall I come, Blood- 
sister ? Till then farewell ! ' 

And all was gone and all was still. 




Now the story goes back to Iceland. 

When Brighteyes was gone, for a while Gudruda the Fair 
moved sadly about the stead, like one new-widowed. Then 
came tidings. Men told how Ospakar Blacktooth had way- 
laid Eric on the seas with two long ships, dragons of war, and 
how Eric had given him battle and sunk one dragon with 
great loss to Ospakar. They told also how Blacktooth 's 
other dragon, the Raven, had sailed away before the wind, and 
Eric had sailed after it in a rising gale. But of what befell 
these ships no news came for many a month, and it was 
rumoured that this had befallen them that both had sunk in 
the gale, and that Eric was dead. 

;But Gudruda would not believe this. When Asmund the 
Bst, her father, asked her why she did not believe it, she 
wered that, had Eric been dead, her heart would surely have 
ken to her of it. To this Asmund said that it might be so. 
Hay-harvest being done, Asmund made ready for his 
Iding with Unna, Thorod's daughter and Eric's cousin. 
Now it was agreed that the marriage-feast should be held 
at Middalhof ; for Asmund wished to ask a great company 
to the wedding, and there was no place at Coldback to hold 
so many. Also some of the kin of Thorod, Unna's father, 
were bidden to the feast from the east and north. At length 
all was prepared and the guests came in great companies, 
for no such feast had been made in this quarter for many 


On the eve of the marriage Asmund spoke with Groa. The 
witch-wife had borne herself humbly since she was recovered 
from her sickness. She passed about the stead like a rat at 
night, speaking few words and with downcast eyes. She was 
busy also making all things ready for the feasting. 

Now as Asmund went up the hall seeing that everything 
was in order, Groa drew near to him and touched him gently 
on the shoulder. 

' Are things to thy mind, lord ? ' she said. 
' Yes, Groa,' he answered, * more to my mind than to 
thine I fear.' 

' Fear not, lord ; thy will is my will.' 
' Say, Groa, is it thy wish to bide here in Middalhof when 
Unna is my housewife ? ' 

'It is my wish to serve thee as aforetime,' she answered 
softly, ' if so be that Unna wills it.' 

' That is her desire,' said Asmund and went his ways. 
But Groa stood looking after him and her face was fierce 
and evil. 

' While bane has virtue, while runes have power, and 
while hand has cunning, never, Unna, shalt thou take my 
place at Asmund's side ! Out of the water I came to thee, 
Asmund ; into the water I go again. Unquiet shall I lie there- 
unquiet shall I wend through Hela's halls ; but Unna shall 
rest at Asmund's side in Asmund's cairn ! ' 

Then again she moved about the hall, making all things 
ready for the feast. But at midnight, when the light was 
low and folk slept, Groa rose, and, veiled in a black robe, with 
a basket in her hand, passed like a shadow through the hall 
out upon the meads. Thence she glided into the mists that 
hang about the river's edge, and in silence, always looking be- 
hind her, like one who fears a hidden foe, culled flowers of the 
noisome plants that grow in the marsh. Her basket being 
filled, she passed round the stead to a hidden dell upon 
the mountain side. Here a man stood waiting, and near him 
burned a fire of turf. In his hand he held an iron-pot. It 
was Roll the Half-witted, Groa's thrall. 
' Arc all things ready, Koll ? ' she said. 



' Yes,' he answered ; ' but I like not these tasks of thine, 
mistress. Say now, what wouldst thou with the fire and the 

1 This, then, Koll. I would brew a love-potion for Asmund 
the Priest as he has bidden me to do.' 

' 1 have done many an ill deed for thee, mistress, but of all 
of them I love this the least,' said the thrall, doubtfully. 

' I have done many a good deed for thee, Koll. It was I 
who saved thee from 
the Doom-stone, seem- 
ing to prove thee inno- 
cent ay, even when 
thy back was stretched 
on it, because thou 
hadst slain a man in 
his sleep. Is it not so ? ' 

* Yea, mistress.' 

* And yet thou wast 
guilty, Koll. And I 
have given thee many 
good gifts, is it not so ? ' 

' Yes, it is so.' 

'Listen then: serve 
me this once and I will 
give thee one last gift 
thy freedom, and with 
it two hundred in sil- 

Roll's eyes glistened. * What must I do, mistress ? ' 

' To-day at the wedding-feast it will be thy part to pour 
the cups while Asmund calls the toasts. Last of all, when 
men are merry, thou wilt mix that cup in which Asmund shall 
pledge Unna his wife and Unna must pledge Asmund. Now, 
when thou hast poured, thou shalt pass the cup to me, as I 
stand at the foot of the high seat, waiting to give the bride 
greeting on behalf of the serving-women of the household. Thou 
shalt hand the cup to me as though in error, and that is but a 
little thing to ask of thee.' 



' A little thing indeed,' said Roll, staring at her, and pulling 
with his hand at his red hair, ' yet I like it not. What if I say 
no, mistress ? ' 

' Say no or speak of this and I will promise thee one thing 
only, thou knave, and it is, before winter conies, that the crows 
shall pick thy bones ! Now, brave me, if thou darest,' and 
straightway Groa began to mutter witch-words. 

'Nay,' said Koll, holding up his hand as though to ward 
away a blow. ' Curse me not : I will do as thou wilt. But 
when shall I touch the two hundred in silver ? ' 

' I will give thee half before the feast begins, and half when 
it is ended, and with it freedom to go where thou wilt. And 
now leave me, and on thy life see that thou fail me not.' 

'I have never failed thee yet,' said Koll, and went his 

Now Groa set the pot upon the fire, and, placing in it 
the herbs that she had gathered, poured water on them. Pre- 
sently they began to boil and as they boiled she stirred them with 
a peeled stick and muttered spells over them. For long she 
sat in that dim and lonely place stirring the pot and muttering 
spells, till at length the brew was done. 

She lifted the pot from the fire and smelt at it. Then 
drawing a phial from her robe she poured out the liquor and 
held it to the sky. The witch-water was white as milk, but 
presently it grew clear. She looked at it, then smiled evilly. 

' Here is a love-draught for a queen ah, a love-draught 
for a queen ! ' she said, and, still smiling, she placed the phial 
in her breast. 

Then, having scattered the fire with her foot, Groa took the 
pot and threw it into a deep pool of water, where it could not 
be found readily, and crept back to the stead before men were 

Now the day wore on and all the company were gathered 
at the marriage-feast to the number of nearly two hundred. 
Unna sat in the high seat, and men thought her a bonny bride, 
and by her side sat Asmund the Priest. He was a hale, strong 
man to look on, though he had seen some three-score winters ; 




but his mien was sad, and his heart heavy. He drank cup 
after cup to cheer him, but all without avail. For his 
thought sped back across the years and once more he seemed 
to see the face of Gudruda the Gentle as she lay dying, 
and to hear her voice when she foretold evil to him if he had 
aught to do with Groa the Witch-wife. And now it seemed 
to him that the evil was at hand, though whence it should 
come he knew not. He looked up. There Groa moved along 
the hall, ministering to the guests ; but he saw as she moved 
that her eyes were always fixed, now on him and now on 
Unna. He remembered that curse also which Groa had called 
down upon him when he had told her that he was betrothed 
to Unna, and his heart grew cold with fear. 'Now I will 
change my counsel,' Asmund said to himself : ' Groa shall not 
stay here in this stead, for I will look no longer on that dark 
face of hers. She goes hence to-morrow.' 

Not far from Asmund sat Bjorn, his son. As Gudruda the 
Fair, his sister, brought him mead he caught her by the sleeve, 
whispering in her ear. ' Methinks our father is sad. What 
weighs upon his heart ? ' 

I know not,' said Gudruda, but as she spoke she looked 
t on Asmund, then at Groa. 

' It is ill that Groa should stop here,' whispered Bjorn 

* It is ill,' answered Gudruda, and glided away. 
Asmund saw their talk and guessed its purport. Rousing 
mself he laughed aloud and called to Koll the Half-witted to 
pour the cups that he might name the toasts. 

Koll filled, and, as Asmund called the toasts one by one, 
oil handed the cups to him. Asmund drank deep of each, 
till at length his sorrow passed from him, and, together with all 
ho sat there, he grew merry. 

Last of all came the toast of the bride's cup. But before 
Asmund called it, the women of the household drew near 
he high seat to welcome Unna, when she should have drunk, 
udruda stood foremost, and Groa was next to her. 

Now Koll filled as before, and it was a great cup of gold 
at he filled. 



Asmund rose to call the toast, and with him all. who were 
in the hall. Koll brought up the cup, and handed it, not to 
Asmund, but to Groa ; but there were few who noted this, for 
all were listening to Asmund's toast and most of the guests 
were somewhat drunken. 

1 The cup,' cried Asmund ' give me the cup that I may 

Then Groa started forward, and as she did so she seemed to 
stumble, so that for a moment her robe covered up the great 
bride-cup. Then she gathered herself together slowly, and, 
smiling, passed up the cup. 

Asmund lifted it to his lips and drank deep. Then he 
turned and gave it to Unna his wife, but before she drank he 
kissed her on the lips. 

Now while all men shouted such a welcome that the hall 
shook, and as Unna, smiling, drank from the cup, the eyes of 
Asmund fell upon Groa who stood beneath him, and lo ! her 
eyes seemed to flame and her face was hideous as the face of 
a troll. 

Asmund grew white and put his hand to his head, as though 
to think, then cried aloud : 

' Drink, not, Unna ! the draught is drugged ! ' and he struck 
at the vessel with his hand. 

He smote it indeed, and so hard that it flew from her hand 
far down the hall. 

But Unna had already drunk deep. 

' The draught is drugged ! ' Asmund cried, and pointed to 
Groa, while all men stood silent, not knowing what to do. 

* The draught is drugged ! ' he cried a third time, ' and 
that witch has drugged it ! ' And he began to tear at his 

Then Groa laughed so shrilly that men trembled to 
hear her. 

' Yea, lord,' she screamed, ' the draught is drugged, and 
Groa the Witch-wife hath drugged it ! Ay, tear thy heart out, 
Asmund, and, Unna, grow thou white as snow soon, if my 
medicine has virtue, thou shalt be whiter yet ! Hearken all 
men. Asmund the Priest is Swanhild's father, and for many 


a year I have been Asmund's mate. What did I tell thee, 
lord ? that I would see the two of you dead ere Unna should 
take my place ! ay, and on Gudruda the Fair, thy daughter, and 
Bjorn thy son, and Eric Brighteyes, Gudruda'slove, and many 
another man on them too shall my curse fall ! Tear thy 
heart out, Asmund ! Unna, grow thou white as snow ! The 
draught is drugged and Groa, Kan's gift ! Groa the witch-wife ! 
Groa, Asmund's love ! hath drugged it ! ' 

And ere ever a man might lift a hand to stay her Groa 
glided past the high seat and was gone. 

For a space all stood silent. Asmund ceased clutching at 
his breast. Rising he spoke heavily : 

'Now I learn that sin is a stone to smite him who 
hurled it. Gudruda the Gentle spoke sooth when she warned 
me against this woman. New wed, new dead ! Unna, fare 
thee well ! ' 

And straightway Asmund fell down and died there by the 
high seat in his own hall. 

Unna gazed at him with ashen face. Then, plucking at her 
bosom she sprang from the dais and rushed along the hall, 
screaming. Men made way for her, and at the door she also 
fell dead. 

This then was the end of Asmund Asmundson the Priest, 
and Unna, Thorod's daughter, Eric's cousin, his new-made 

For a moment there was silence in the hall. But before the 
jhoes of Unna's screams had died away, Bjorn called aloud : 

' The witch ! where is the witch ? ' 

Then with a yell of rage, men leaped to their feet, seizing 
leir weapons, and rushed from the stead. Out they ran. 
'here, on the hill-side far above them, a black shape climbed 
id leapt swiftly. They gave tongue like dogs set upon a 
rolf and sped up the hill. 

They gained the crest of the hill, and now they were at 
roldfoss brink. Lo ! the witch-wife had crossed the bed of 
te torrent, for little rain had fallen and the river was low. 


She stood on Sheep-saddle, the water running from her robes. 
On Sheep-saddle she stood and cursed them. 

Bjorn took a bow and set a shaft upon the string. He drew 
it and the arrow sung through the air and smote her, speeding 
through her heart. With a cry Groa threw up her arms. 

Then down she plunged. She fell on Wolf's Fang, where 
Eric once had stood and, bounding thence, rushed to the 
boiling deeps below and was no more seen for ever. 

Thus, then, did Asmund the Priest wed Unna, Thorod's 
daughter, and this was the end of the feasting. 

Thereafter Bjorn, Asmund's son, ruled at Middalhof, and 
was Priest in his place. He sought for Koll the Half-witted 
to kill him, but Koll took to the fells, and after many months 
he found passage in a ship that was bound for Scotland. 

Now Bjorn was a hard man and a greedy. He was no 
friend to Eric Brighteyes, and always pressed it on Gudruda 
that she should wed Ospakar Blacktooth. But to this counsel 
Gudruda would not listen, for day and night she thought upon 
her love. Next summer there came tidings that Eric was safe 
in Ireland, and men spoke of his deeds, and of how he and 
Skallagrim had swept the ship of Ospakar single-handed. 
Now after these tidings, for a while Gudruda walked singing 
through the meads, and no flower that grew in them was half 
so fair as she. 

That summer also Ospakar Blacktooth met Bjorn, 
Asmund's son, at the Thing, and they talked much together in 

Right through her heart it sped.' 




WANHILD, robed in 
white, as though new 
risen from sleep, stood, 
candle in hand, hy the 
bed of Atli the Earl, her 
lord, crying ' Awake ! ' 

' What passes now ? ' 
said Atli, lifting himself 
upon his arm. ' What 
passes, Swanhild, and why 

dost thou ever wander alone at nights, looking so strangely ? 
I love not thy dark witch- ways, Swanhild, and I was wed to 
thee in an ill hour, wife who art no wife.' 

' In an ill hour indeed, Earl Atli,' she answered, * an ill hour 
for thee and me, for, as thou hast said, eld and youth are strange 



yokefellows and pull different paths. Arise now, Earl, for I 
have dreamed a dream.' 

* Tell it to me on the morrow, then,' quoth Atli ; * there is 
small joyousness in thy dreams, that always point to evil, and 
I must bear enough evil of late.' 

' Nay, lord, my rede may not be put aside so. Listen now : 
I have dreamed that a great dragon of war has been cast away 
upon Straumey's south-western rocks. The cries of those who 
drowned rang in my ears. But I thought that some came 
living to the shore, and lie there senseless, to perish of the 
cold. Arise, therefore, take men and go down to the rocks.' 

* I will go at daybreak,' said Atli, letting his head fall upon 
the pillow. ' I have little faith in such visions, and it is too 
late for long ships of war to try the passage of the Firth.' 

* Arise, I say,' answered Swanhild sternly, ' and do niy 
bidding, else I will myself go to search the rocks.' 

Then Atli rose grumbling, and shook the heavy sleep from 
his eyes : for of all living folk he most feared Swanhild his wife. 
He donned his garments, threw a thick cloak about him, and, 
going to the hall where men snored around the dying fires, for 
the night was bitter, he awoke some of them. Now among 
those men whom he called was Hall of Lithdale, Hall the 
mate who had cut the grapnel-chain. For this Hall, fearing 
to return to Iceland, had come hither saying that he had been 
wounded off Fareys, in the great fight between Eric and 
Ospakar's men, and left there to grow well of his hurt or die. 
Then Atli, not knowing that the carle lied, had bid him wel- 
come for Eric's sake, for he still loved Eric above all men. 

But Hall loved not labour and nightfarings to search for 
shipwrecked men of whom the Lady Swanhild had chanced 
to dream. So he turned himself upon his side and slept again. 
Still, certain of Atli's folk rose at his bidding, and they went 
together down to the south-western rocks. 

But Swanhild, a cloak thrown over her night- gear, sat her- 
self down in the high seat of the hall and fixing her eyes, 
now upon the dying fires and now upon the blood-marks in 
her arm, waited in silence. The night was cold and windy, 
but the moon shone bright, and by its light Atli and his people 


made their way to the south-western rocks, on which the sea 
beat madly. 

1 What lies yonder ? ' said Atli, pointing to some black thing 
that lay beneath them upon the rock, cast there by the waves. 
A man climbed down the cliff's side that is here as though it 
were cut in steps, and then cried aloud : 

1 A ship's mast, new broken, lord.' 

' It seems that Swanhild dreams true,' muttered Atli ; 
' but I am sure of this : that none have come ashore alive in 
such a sea.' 

Presently the man who searched the rocks below cried 
aloud again : 

1 Here lie two great men, locked in each other's arms. 
They seem to be dead.' 

Now all the men climb down the slippery rocks as best they 
may, though the spray wets them, and with them goes Atli. The 
Earl is a brisk man, though old in years, and he comes first to 
where the two lie. He who was undermost lay upon his back, but 
his face was hid by the thick golden hair that flowed across it. 

1 Man's body indeed, but woman's locks,' said Atli as he 
put out his hand and drew the hair away, so that the light of 
the moon fell on the face beneath. 

He looked, then staggered back against the rock. 

* By Thor ! ' he cried, ' here lies the corpse of Eric Bright- 
eyes ! ' and Atli wrung his hands and wept, for he loved Eric 

1 Be not so sure that the men are dead, Earl,' said one, 
' I thought I saw yon great carle move but now.' 

' He is Skallagrim Lambstail, Eric's Death-shadow,' said 
Atli again. ' Up with them, lads see, yonder lies a plank and 
away to the hall. I will give twenty in silver to each of you 
if Eric lives,' and he unclasped his cloak and threw it over 
both of them. 

Then with much labour they loosed the grip of the two 
men one from the other, and they set Skallagrim on the plank. 
Jut eight men bore Eric up the cliff between them, and the 
3k was not light, though the Earl held his head, from which 

golden hair hung like seaweed from a rock. 


At length they came to the hall and carried them in. Swan- 
hild, seeing them come, moved down from the high seat. 

* Bring lamps, and pile up the fires,' cried Atli. ' A strange 
thing has come to pass, Swanhild, and thou dost dream 
wisely, indeed, for here we have Eric Brighteyes and Skallagrim 
Lambstail. They were locked like lovers in each other's arms, 
but I know not if they are dead or living.' 

Now Swanhild started and came on swiftly. Had the 
Familiar tricked her and had she paid the price for nothing ? 
Was Eric taken from Gudruda and given to her indeed but 
given dead ? She bent over him, gazing keenly on his face. 
Then she spoke. 

'He is not dead but senseless. Bring dry cloths, and 
make water hot,' and, kneeling down, she loosed Eric's helm 
and harness and ungirded Whitefire from his side. 

For long Swanhild and Atli tended Eric at one fire, and the 
serving women tended Skallagrim at the other. Presently there 
came a cry that Skallagrim stirred, and Atli with others ran to 
see. At this moment also the eyes of Eric were unsealed, and 
Swanhild saw them looking at her dimly from beneath. Then, 
moved to it by her passion and her joy that he yet lived, Swan- 
hild let her face fall till his was hidden in her unbound hair, 
and kissed him upon the lips. Eric shut his eyes again, sighing 
heavily, and presently he was asleep. They bore him to a bed 
and heaped warm wrappings upon him. At daybreak he 
woke, and Atli, who sat watching at his side, gave him hot 
mead to drink. 

' Do I dream ? ' said Eric, ' or is it Earl Atli who tends me, 
and did I but now see the face of Swanhild bending over me ? ' 

' It is no dream, Eric, but the truth. Thou hast been cast 
away here on my isle of Straumey.' 

' And Skallagrim where is Skallagrim ? ' 

' Skallagrim lives fear not ! ' 

' And my comrades, how went it with them ? ' 

' But ill, Eric. Ran has them all. Now sleep !' 

Eric groaned aloud. ' I had rather died also than live to 
hear such heavy tidings,' he said. ' Witch-work ! witch-work ! 
and that fair witch-face wrought it.' And once again he slept, 


nor did he wake till the sun was high. But Atli could make 
nothing of his words. 

When Swanhild left the side of Eric she met Hall of Lith- 
dale face to face and his looks were troubled. 

' Say, lady,' he asked, ' will Brighteyes live ? ' 

' Grieve not, Hall,' she answered, 'Eric will surely live and 
he will be glad to find a messmate here to greet him, having 
left so many yonder,' and she pointed to the sea. 

' 1 shall not be glad,' said Hall', letting his eyes fall. 

' Why not, Hall ? Fearest thou Skallagrim ? or hast 
thou done ill by Eric ? ' 

' Ay, lady, I fear Skallagrim, for he swore to slay me, and 
that kind of promise he ever keeps. Also, if the truth must 
out, I have not dealt altogether well with Eric, and of all men 
I least wish to talk with him.' 

' Speak on,' she said. 

Then, being forced to it, Hall told her something of the tale 
of the cutting of the cable, being careful to put another colour 
on it. 

' Now it seems that thou art a coward, Hall,' Swanhild said 
when he had done, ' and I scarcely looked for that in thee,' for 
she had not been deceived by the glozing of his speech. ' It 
will be bad for thee to meet Eric suul Skallagrim, and this is 
my counsel : that thou goest hence before they wake, for they 
will sit this winter here in Atli's hall.' 

' And whither shall I go, lady ? ' 

Swanhild gazed on him, and as she did so a dark thought 

e into her heart : here was a knave who might serve her 

' Hall,' she said, ' thou art an Icelander, and I have known 
of thee from a child, and therefore I wish to serve thee in 
thy strait, though thou deservest it little. See now, Atli 
the Earl has a farm on the mainland not two hours' ridu from 
the sea. Thither thou shalt go, if thou art wise, and thou 
shalt sit there this winter and be hidden from Eric and Skalla- 
grim. Nay, thank me not, but listen : it may chance that I 
shall have a service for thee to do before spring is come.' 




1 Lady, I shall wait upon thy word,' said Hall. 

' Good. Now, so soon as it is light, I will find a man to 
sail with thee across the Firth, for the sea falls, and bear my 
message to the steward at Atli's farm. Also if thou needest 
faring-money thou shalt have it. Farewell.' 

Thus then did Hall fly before Eric and Skallagrim. 

On the morrow Eric and Skallagrim arose, sick and bruised 
indeed, but not at all harmed, and went down to the shore. 
There they found many dead men of their company, but never 
a one in whom the breath of life remained. 

Skallagrim looked at Eric and spoke : ' Last night the 
mist came up against the wind : last night we saw Swauhild's 
wraith upon the waves, and there is the path it showed, and 
there ' and he pointed to the dead men ' is the witch -seed's 
flower. Now to-day we sit in Atli's hall and here we must 
stay this winter at Swanhild's side, and in all this lies a riddle 
that I cannot read.' 

But Eric shook his head, making no answer. Then, leaving 
Skallagrim with the dead, he turned, and striding back alone 
towards the hall, sat down on a rock in the home meadows 
and, covering his face with his hands, wept for his comrades. 

As he wept Swanhild came to him, for she had seen him 
from afar, and touched him gently on the arm. 

' Why weepest thou, Eric ? ' she said. 

' 1 weep for the dead, Swanhild,' he answered. 

' Weep not for the dead they are at peace ; if thou must 
weep, weep for the living. Nay, weep not at all ; rejoice rather 
that thou art here to mourn. Hast thou no word of greeting 
for me who have not heard thy voice these many months ? ' 

1 How shall I greet thee, Swanhild, who would never have 
seen thy face again if I might have had my will ? Knowest 
thou that yesternight, as we laboured in yonder Firth, we saw 
a shape walking the waters to lead us to our doom ? How 
shall I greet thee, Swanhild, who art a witch and evil ? ' 

' And knowest thou, Eric, that yesternight I woke from 
sleep, having dreamed that thou didst lie upon the shore, anc 
thus I saved thee alive, as perchance I have saved thee afon 


time ? If thou didst see a shape walking the waters it 
was that shape which led thee here. Hadst thou sailed on, 
not only those thou mournest, but Skallagrim and thou thyself 
had now been numbered with the lost.' 

'Better so than thus,' said Brighteyes. * Knowest thou 
also, Swanhild, that when last night my life came back again 
in Atli's hall, methought that Atli's wife leaned over me and 
kissed me on the lips ? That was an ill dream, Swanhild.' 

' Some had found it none so ill, Eric,' she made answer, 
looking on him strangely. ' Still, it was but a dream. Thou 
didst dream that Atli's wife breathed back the breath of life 
into thy pale lips be sure of it thou didst but dream. Ah, 
Eric, fear me no more ; forget the evil that I have wrought in 
the blindness and folly of my youth. Now things are other- 
wise with me. Now I am a wedded wife and faithful hearted 
to my lord. Now, if I still love thee, it is with a sister's love. 
Therefore forget my sins, remember only that as children we 
played upon the Iceland fells. Remember that, as boy and girl, 
we rode along the marshes, while the sea-mews clamoured 
round our heads. The world is cold, Eric, and few are the friends 
we find in it ; many are already gone, and soon the friend- 
less dark draws near. So put me not away, my brother and 
my friend ; but, for a little space, whilst thou art here in Atli's 
hall, let us walk hand in hand as we walked long years ago 
in Iceland, gathering the fifa-bloom, and watching the mid- 
night shadows creep up the icy jokul's crests.' 

Thus Swanhild spoke to him most sweetly, in a low voice 
of music, while the tears gathered in her -eyes, talking ever 
of Iceland that he loved, and of days long dead, till Eric's 
heart softened in him. 

' Almost do I believe thee, Swanhild,' he said, stretching 
out his hand ; ' but I know this : that thou art never twice in 
the same mood, and that is beyond my measuring. Thou 
hast done much evil and thou hast striven to do more ; also 
I love not those who seem to walk the seas o' nights. Still, 
hold thou to this last saying of thine and there shall be 
peace between us while I bide here.' 

She touched his hand humbly and turned to go. But as 



she went Eric spoke again : ' Say, Swanliild, hast thou tidings 
from Iceland yonder ? I have heard no word of Asmund or 
of Gudruda for two long years and more.' 

She stood still, and a dark shadow that he could not see 
flitted across her face. 

*I have few tidings, Eric,' she said, turning, 'and those 
few, if I may trust them, bad enough. For this is the rumour 
that I have heard : that Asmund the Priest, my father, is dead ; 
that Groa my mother is dead how, I know not ; and, lastly, 
that Gudruda the Fair, thy love, is betrothed to Ospakar Black- 
tooth and weds him in the spring.' 

Now Eric sprang up with an oath and grasped the hilt of 
Whitefire. Then he sat down again upon the stone and 
covered his face with his hands. 

1 Grieve not, Eric,' she said gently ; ' I put no faith in 
this news, for rumour, like the black-backed gull, often 
changes colour in its flight across the seas. Also I had it 
but at fifth hand. I am sure of this, at least, that Gudruda 
will never forsake thee without a cause.' 

' It shall go ill with Ospakar if this be true,' said Eric, 
smiling grimly, * for Whitefire is yet left me and with it one 
true friend.' 

' Run not to meet the evil, Eric. Thou shalt come to Ice- 
land with the summer flowers and find Gudruda faithful and 
yet fairer than of yore. Knowest thou that Hall of Lithdale, 
who was thy mate, has sat here these two months ? He is 
gone but this morning, I know not whither, leaving a message 
that he returns no more.' 

1 He did well to go,' said Eric, and he told her how Hall 
had cut the cable. 

' Ay, well indeed,' answered Swanhild. ' Had Atli known 
this he would have scourged Hall hence with rods of seaweed. 
And now, Eric, I desire to ask thee one more thing : why 
wearest thou thy hair long like a woman's? Indeed, few 
women have such hair as thine is now.' 

1 For this cause, Swanhild : I swore to Gudruda that none 
should cut my hair till she cut it once more. It is a great bur- 
den to me surely, for never did hair grow so fast and strong as 


mine, and once in a fray I was held fast by it and went near 
to the losing of my life. Still, I will keep the oath even if it 
grows on to my feet,' and he laughed a little and shook back 
his golden locks. 

Swanhild smiled also and, turning, went. But when her 
face was hidden from him she smiled no more. 

' As I live,' she said in her heart, * before spring rains fall 
again I will cause thee to break this oath, Eric. Ay, I will 
cut a lock of that bright hair of thine and send it for a love- 
token to Gudruda.' 

But Eric still sat upon the rock thinking. Swanhild had set 
an evil seed of doubt in his heart, and already it put forth roots. 
What if the tale were true ? What if Gudruda had given her- 
self to Ospakar ? Well, if so she should soon be a widow, that 
he swore. 

Then he rose, and stalked grimly towards the hall. 





:ESENTLY as Eric 

walked he met Atli the 
Earl seeking him. Atli 
greeted him. 

' I have seen strange 
things happen, Eric,' he 
said, 'but none more 
strange than this coming 
of thine and the manner 
of it. Swanhild is fore- 
sighted, and that was a 
doom-dream of hers.' 

' I think her fore- 
sighted also,' said Eric. * And now, Earl, knowest thou this : 
that little good can come to thee at the hands of one whom 
thou hast saved from the sea.' 

' I set no faith in such old wives' tales,' answered Atli. 
' Here thou art come, and it is my will that thou shouldest sit 
here. At the least, I will give thee no help to go hence.' 

1 Then we must bide in Straumey, it seems,' said Eric: 
'for of all my goods and gear this alone is left me,' and he 
looked at Whitefire. 

1 Thou hast still a gold ring or two upon thy arm,' an- 
swered the Earl, laughing. * But surely, Eric, thou wouldst 
not begone ? ' 

4 1 know not, Earl. Listen : it is well that I should be 



plain with thee. Once, before thou didst wed Swanhild, she 
had another mind.' 

' I have heard something of that, and I have guessed more, 
Brighteyes ; but methinks Swanhild is little given to gadding 
now. She is as cold as ice, and no good wife for any man,' 
and Atli sighed, ' " Snow melts not if sun shines not," so runs 
the saw. Thou art an honest man, Eric, and no whisperer 
in the ears of others' wives.' 

'I am not minded indeed to do thee such harm, Earl, 
but this thou knowest : that woman's guile and beauty are 
swords few shields can brook. Now I have spoken and -they 
are hard words to speak be it as thou wilt.' 

' It is my will that thou shouldest sit here this winter, 
Eric. Had I my way, indeed, never wouldest thou sit else- 
where. Listen : things have not gone well with me of late. 
Age hath a grip of me, and foes rise up against one who has 
no sons. That was an ill marriage, too, which I made with 
Swanhild yonder : for she loves me not, and 1 have found 
no luck since first I saw her face. Moreover, it is in my 
mind that my days are almost sped. Swanhild has 
already foretold my death, and, as thou knowest well, she is 
foresighted. So I pray thee, Eric, bide thou here while 
thou mayest, for I would have thee at my side.' 

' It shall be as thou wilt, Earl,' said Eric. 

So Eric Brighteyes and Skallagrim Lambstail sat that 
winter in the hall of Atli the Earl at Straumey. For many 
weeks all things went well and Eric forgot his fears. Swanhild 
was gentle to him and kindly. She loved much to talk with 
him, even of Gudruda her rival ; but no word of love passed 
her lips. Nevertheless, she did but bide her time, for when 
she struck she determined to strike home. Atli and Eric 
were ever side by side, and Eric gave the Earl much good 
counsel. He promised to do this also, for now, being simple- 
minded, his doubts had passed and he had no more fear of 
Swanhild. On the mainland lived a certain chief who had 
seized large lands of Atli's, and held them for a year or more. 
Now Eric gave his word that, before he sailed for Iceland in 


the early summer, he would go up against this man and 
drive him from the lands, if he could. For Brighteyes might 
not come to Iceland till hard upon midsummer, when his 
three years of outlawry were spent. 

The winter wore away and the spring came. Then Atli 
gathered his men and went with Eric in boats to where the 
chief dwelt who held his lands. There they fell on him and 
that was a fierce fight. But in the end the man was slain by 
Skallagrim, and Eric did great deeds, as was his wont. Now 
in this fray Eric was wounded in the foot by a spear, so that 
he must be borne back to Straumey, and he lay there in the 
hall for many days. Swanhild nursed him, and most days 
he sat talking with her in her bower. 

When Eric was nearly healed of his hurt, the Earl went 
with all his people to a certain island of the Orkneys to gather 
scat l that was unpaid, and Skallagrim went with him. But 
Eric did not go, because of his hurt, fearing lest the wound 
should open if he walked overmuch. Thus it came to pass 
that, except for some women, he was left almost alone with 

Now, when Atli had been gone three days, it chanced on an 
afternoon that Swanhild heard how a man from Iceland 
sought speech with her. She bade them bring him in to 
where she was alone in her bower, for Eric was not there, 
having gone down to the sea to fish. 

The man came and she knew him at once for Koll the 
Half-witted, who had been her mother Groa's thrall. On his 
shoulders was the cloak that Ospakar Blacktooth had given 
him ; it was much torn now, and he had a worn and hungry 

' Whence comest thou, Koll ? ' she asked, ' and what are 
thy tidings ? ' 

' From Scotland last, lady, where I sat this winter ; before 
that, from Iceland. As for my tidings, they are heavy, if thou 
hast not heard them. Asmund the Priest is dead, and dead 
is Unna his wife, poisoned by thy mother, Groa, at their mar- 
riage-feast. Dead, too, is thy mother, Groa. Bjorn, Asmund's 
1 Tribute. 


son, shot her with an arrow, and she lies in Goldfoss 

Now Swanhild hid her face for a while in her hands. 
Then she lifted it and it was white to see. ' Speakest thou 
truth, fox ? If thou liest, this I swear to thee thy tongue 
shall be dragged from thee by the roots ! ' 

' I speak the truth, lady,' he answered. But still he spoke 
not all the truth, for he said nothing of the part which he had 
played in the deaths of Asmund and Unna. Then he told 
her of the manner of their end. 

Swanhild listened silently then said : 

' What news of Gudruda, Asmund's daughter ? Is she 
wed ? ' 

'Nay, lady. Folk spoke of her and Ospakar, that was 

* Hearken, Koll,' said Swanhild, 'bearing such heavy tidings, 
canst thou not weight the ship a little more ? Eric Brighteyes 
is here. Canst thou not swear to him that, when thou didst 
leave Iceland it was said without question that Gudruda had 
betrothed herself to Ospakar, and that the wedding-feast was 
set for this last Yule ? Thou hast a hungry look, Koll, and 
methinks that things have not gone altogether well with thee 
of late. Now, if thou canst so charge thy memory, thou shalt 
lose little by it. But, if thou canst not, then thou goest hence 
from Straumey with never a luck-penny in thy purse, and 
never a sup to stay thy stomach with.' 

Now of all things Koll least desired to be sent from 
Straumey ; for, though Swanhild did not know it, he was 
sought for on the mainland as a thief. 

'That I may do, lady,' he said, looking at her cunningly. 
' Now I remember that Gudruda the Fair charged me with 
certain message for Eric Brighteyes, if I should chance to 
e him as I journeyed.' 

Then Swanhild, Atli's wife, and Koll the Half-witted talked 
ng and earnestly together. 

At nightfall Eric came in from his fishing. His heart 
light, for the time drew near when he should sail for 


home, and he did not think on evil. For now he feared 
Swanhild no longer, and, no fresh tidings having come from 
Iceland about Ospakar and Gudruda, he had almost put the 
matter from his mind. On he walked to the hall, limping 
somewhat from his wound, but singing as he came, and bearing 
his fish slung upon a pole. 

At the men's door of the hall a woman stood waiting. 
She told Eric that the lady Swanhild would speak with him 
in her bower. Thither he went and knocked. Getting no 
answer he knocked again, then entered. 

Swanhild sat on a couch. She was weeping, and her hair 
fell about her face. 

1 What now, Swanhild ? ' he said. 

She looked up heavily. ' 111 news for thee and me, Eric. 
Koll, who was my mother's thrall, has come hither from Ice- 
land, and these are his tidings : that Asmund is dead, and 
Unna, thy cousin, Thorod of Greenfell's daughter, is dead, and 
my mother Groa is dead also.' 

1 Heavy tidings, truly ! ' said Eric ; * and what of Gudruda, 
is she also dead ? ' 

1 Nay, Eric, she is wed wed to Ospakar.' 
Now Eric reeled against the wall, clutching it, and for a 
space all things swam round him. ' Where is this Koll ? ' he 
gasped. ' Send me Koll hither.' 

Presently he came, and Eric questioned him coldly and 
calmly. But Koll could lie full well. It is said that in his 
day there was no one in Iceland who could lie so well as Koll 
the Half-witted. He told Eric how it was said that Gudruda 
was plighted to Ospakar, and how the match had been agreed 
on at the Althing in the summer that was gone (and indeed 
there had been some such talk), and how that the feast was 
to be at Middalhof on last Yule Day. 

' Is that all thy tidings ? ' said Eric. ' If so, I give no 
heed to them : for ever, Koll, I have known thee for a liar ! ' 
' Nay, Eric, it is not all,' answered Koll. c As it chanced, 
two days before the ship in which I sailed was bound, I saw 
Gudruda the Fair. Then she asked me whither I was going, 
and I told her that I would journey to London, where men 


said thoti wert, and asked her if she would send a message. 
Then she alighted from her horse, Blackmane, and spoke 
with me apart. ' Roll,' she said, ' it well may happen that thou 
wilt see Eric Brighteyes in London town. Now, if thou seest 
him, I charge thee straightly tell him this. Tell him that 
my father is dead, and my brother Bjorn, who rules in his 
place, is a hard man, and has ever urged me on to wed Ospakar, 
till at last, having no choice, I have consented to it. And say 
to Eric that I grieve much and sorely, and that, though we 
twain should never meet more, yet I shall always hold his 
memory dear.' 

* It is not like Gudrtida to speak thus,' said Eric : * she 
had ever a stout heart and these are craven words. Koll, I 
hold that thou liest ; and, if indeed I find it so, I'll wring the 
head from off thee ! ' 

' Nay, Eric, I lie not. "Wherefore should I lie ? Hearken : 
thou hast not heard all my tale. When the lady Gudruda had 
made an end of speaking she drew something from her breast 
and gave it me, saying : " Give this to Eric, in witness of my 

* Show me the token,' said Eric. 

Now, many years ago, when they were yet boy and girl, it 
chanced that Eric had given to Gudruda the half of an ancient 
gold piece that he had found upon the shore. He had given 
her half, and half he had kept, wearing it next his heart. 
But he knew not this, for she feared to tell him, that Gudruda 
ad lost her half. Nor indeed had she lost it, for Swanhild 
taken the love-token and hidden it away. Now she 
rought it forth for Koll to build his lies upon. 

Then Koll drew out the half piece from a leather purse 
and passed it to him. Eric plunged his hand into his breast 

Ed found his half. He placed the two side by side, while 
^anhild watched him. Lo ! they fitted well. 
Then Eric laughed aloud, a hard and bitter laugh. There 
11 be slaying,' he cried, ' before all this tale is told, 
ike thy fee and begone, thou messenger of ill,' and he cast 
e broken piece at Koll. ' For once thou hast spoken the 


Koll stooped, found the gold and went, leaving Brighteyes 
and Swanhild face to face. 

He hid his brow in his arms and groaned aloud. Softly 
Swanhild crept up to him softly she drew his hands away, 
holding them between her own. 

' Heavy tidings, Eric,' she said, ' heavy tidings for thee 
and me ! She is a murderess who gave me birth and she has 
slain my own father my father and thy cousin Unna also. 
Gudruda is a traitress, a traitress fair and false. I did ill to 
be born of such a woman ; thou didst ill to put thy faith in 
such a woman. Together let us weep, for our woe is equal.' 

'Ay, let us weep together,' Eric answered. 'Nay, why 
should we weep ? Together let us be merry, for we 
know the worst. All words are said all hopes are sped ! Let 
us be merry, then, for now we have no more tidings to fear.' 

' Ay,' Swanhild answered, looking on him darkly, ' we 
will be merry and laugh our sorrows down. Ah ! thou foolish 
Eric, under what unlucky star w r ast thou born that thou 
knewest not true from false ? ' and she called the serving- 
women, bidding them bring food and wine. 

Now Eric sat alone with Swanhild in her bower and 
made pretence to eat. But he could eat little, though he 
drank deep of the southern wine. Close beside him sat 
Swanhild, filling his cup. She was wondrous fair that 
night, and it seemed to Eric that her eyes gleamed like stars. 
Sweetly she spoke also and wisely. She told strange tales 
and she sang strange songs, and ever her eyes shone more 
and more, and ever she crept closer to him. Eric's brain was 
afire, though his heart was cold and dead. He laughed loud 
and mightily, he told great tales of deeds that he had done, 
growing boastful in his folly, and still Swanhild's eyes shone 
more and more, and still she crept closer, wooing him in 
many ways. 

Now of a sudden Eric thought of his friend, Earl Atli, 
and his mind grew clear. 

' This may not be, Swanhild,' he said. 'Yet I would that 
I had loved thee from the first, and not the false Gudruda : 
for, with all thy dark ways, at least thou art better than she.' 


' Thou speakest wisely, Eric,' Swanhild answered, though 
she meant not that he should go. * The Norns have appointed 
us an evil fate, giving me as wife to an old man whom I do 
not love, and thee for a lover to a woman who has betrayed 
thee. Ah, Eric Brighteyes, thou foolish Eric ! why knewest 
thou not the false from the true while yet there was time ? 
Now are all words said and all things done nor can they be 
undone. Go hence, Eric, ere ill come of it ; but, before thou 
goest, drink one cup of parting, and then farewell.' 

And she slipped from him and filled the cup, mixing in it 
a certain love-potion that she had made ready. 

' Give it me that I may swear an oath on it,' said 

Swanhild gave him the cup and stood before him, watching 

' Hearken/ he said : ' I swear this, that before snow falls 
again in Iceland I will see Ospakar dead at my feet or lie dead 
at the feet of Ospakar.' 

' Well spoken, Eric,' Swanhild answered. ' Now, before 
thou drinkest, grant me one little boon. It is but a woman's 
fancy, and thou canst scarce deny me. The years will be 
long when thou art gone, for from this night it is best that we 
should meet no more, and I would keep something of thee to 
call back thy memory and the memories of our youth when 
thou hast passed away and I grow old.' 

' What wouldst have then, Swanhild ? I have nothing left 
give, except Whitefire alone.' 

' I do not ask Whitefire, Eric, though Whitefire shall kiss 
ie gift. I ask nothing but one tress of that golden hair of 

' Once I swore that none should touch my hair again ex- 
pt Gudruda's self.' 

'It will grow long, then, Eric, for now Gudruda tends 
(lack locks and thinks little on golden. Broken are all 

tEric groaned. ' All oaths are broken in sooth,' he said. 
Eave then thy will ; ' and, loosing the peace -strings, he drew 
hitefire from its sheath and gave her the great war- sword. 


Swanhild took it by the hilt, and, lifting a tress of Eric's 
yellow hair, she shore through it deftly with Whitefire's razor- 
edge, smiling as she shore. With the same war-blade on 
which Eric and Gudruda had pledged their troth, did Swan- 
hild cut the locks that Eric had sworn no hand should clip 
except Gudruda's. 

He took back the sword and sheathed it, and, knotting the 
long tress, Swanhild hid it in her bosom. 

' Now drink the cup, Eric,' she said 'pledge me and go.' 

Eric drank to the dregs and cast the cup down, and lo ! all 
things changed to him, for his blood was afire, and seas seemed 
to roll within his brain. Only before him stood Swanhild like 
a shape of light and glory, and he thought that she sang softly 
over him, always drawing nearer, and that with her came a 
scent of flowers like the scent of the Iceland meads in May. 

* All oaths are broken, Eric,' she murmured, ' all oaths are 
broken indeed, and now must new oaths be sworn. For cut 
is thy golden hair, Brighteyes, and not by Gudruda's hand ! ' 

'Swanhild shore through it with Whitefire's razor-edge.' 






RIG dreamed. He dreamed that 
Gudruda stood by him looking 
at him with soft, sad eyes, while 
with her hand she pointed to 
his hair, and spake. 

' Thou hast done ill, Eric,' 
she seemed to say. ' Thou hast 
done ill to doubt me ; and now 
thou art for ever shamed, for 
thou hast betrayed Atli, thy 
friend. Thou hast broken thy 
oath, and therefore hast thou 
fallen into this pit ; for when 
Swanhild shore that lock of 
thine, my watching Spirit 
passed, leaving thee to Swan- 
hild and thy fate. Now, I tell 

thee this : that shame shall lead to shame, and many lives 
shall pay forfeit for thy sin, Eric.' 

Eric awoke, thinking that this was indeed an evil dream 
which he had dreamed. Ho woke, and lo ! by him was 
Swanhild, Atli's wife. He looked upon her beauty, and fear 
and shame crept into his heart, for now he knew that it was no 
dream, but he was lost indeed. He looked again at Swanhild, 
and hatred and loathing of her shook him. She had over- 
come him by her arts ; that cup was drugged which he had 
drunk, and he was mad with grief. Yes, she had played upon 


his woe like a harper on a harp, and now he was shamed 
now he had betrayed his friend who loved him ! Had White- 
fire been to his hand at that moment, Eric had surely slain 
himself. But the great sword was not there, for it hung in 
Swanhild's bower. Eric groaned aloud, and Swanhild turned 
at the sound. But he sprang away and stood over her, cursing 

* Thou witch ! ' he cried, ' what hast thou done ? What 
didst thou mix in that cup yestre'en ? Thou hast brought me 
to this that I have betrayed Atli, my friend Atli, thy lord, 
who left thee in my keeping ! ' 

He seemed so terrible in his woe and rage that Swanhild 
shrank from him, and, throwing her hair about her face, peeped 
at him through its meshes as once she had peeped at Asmund. 

'It is like a man,' she said, gathering up her courage and 
her wit ; ' 'tis like a man, having won my love, now to turn 
upon me and upbraid me. Fie upon thee, Eric ! thou hast 
dealt ill with me to bring me to this.' 

Now Eric ceased his raving, and spoke more calmly. 

* Well thou knowest the truth, Swanhild.' he said. 
'Hearken, Eric,' she answered. 'Let this be secret between 

us. Atli is old, and methinks that not for long shall he bide 
here in Straumey. Soon he will die ; it is upon my mind that 
he soon will die, and, being childless, his lands and goods pass 
to me. Then, Eric, thou shalt sit in Atli's hall, and in all 
honour shall Atli's wife become thy bride.' 

Eric listened coldly. ' I can well believe,' he said, ' that 
thou hast it in thy mind to slay thy lord, for all evil is in thy 
heart, Swanhild. Now know this : that if in honour or dis- 
honour my lips touch that fair face of thine again, may the 
limbs rot from my trunk, and may I lie a log for ever in 
the halls of Hela ! If ever my eyes of their own will look 
again upon thy beauty, may I go blind and beg my meat from 
homestead to homestead ! If ever my tongue whisper word of 
love into thy ears, may dumbness seize it, and may it wither 
to the root ! ' 

Swanhild heard and sank upon the ground before him, 
her head bowed almost to her feet. 


'Now, Swanhild, fare thee well,' said Eric. 'Living or 
dead, may I never see thy face again ! ' 

She gazed up through her falling hair ; her face was wild 
and white, and her eyes glowed in it as live embers glow in the 
ashes of burnt wood. 

' We are not so easily parted, Eric,' she said. ' Not for 
this came I to witchcraft and to sin. Thou fool ! hast thou 
never heard that, of all the foes a man may have, none is so 
terrible as the woman he has scorned? Thou shalt learn 
this lesson, Eric Brighteyes, Thorgrimur's son : for here we 
have but the beginning of the tale. For its end, I will write 
it in runes of blood.' 

' Write on,' said Eric. ' Thou canst do no worse than 
thou hast done,' and he passed thence. 

For a while Swanhild crouched upon the ground, brooding 
in silence. Then she rose , and, throwing up her arms, wept aloud. 

' Is it for this that I have sold my soul to the Hell-hag ? ' 
she cried. ' Is it for this that I have become a witch, and 
sunk so low as I sank last night to be scorned, to be hated, 
to be betrayed ? Now Eric will go to Atli and tell this tale. 
Nay, there I will be beforehand with him, and with another 
story an ancient wile of women truly, but one that never 
yet has failed them, nor ever will. And then for vengeance ! 
I will see thee dead, Eric, and dead will I see Gudruda at 
thy side ! Afterwards let darkness come ay, though the 
horror rides it ! Swift ! I must be swift ! ' 

it t 

passed into Swanhild's bower, and finding Whitefire 
it thence. On the table was food. He took it. Then, 
going to the place where he was wont to sleep, he armed 
himself, girding his byrnie on his breast and his golden helm 
upon his head, and taking shield and spear in his hand. 
Then he passed out. By the men's door he found some 
women spreading fish in the sun. Eric greeted them, 
saying that when the Earl came back, for he was to come on 
that morning, he would find him on the south-western rocks 
nigh to where the Gudruda sank. This he begged of them 
to tell Atli, for he desired speech with him. 


The women wondered that Brighteyes should go forth thus 
and fully armed, but, holding that he had some deed to do, 
they said nothing. 

Eric came to the rocks, and there he sat all day long 
looking on the sea, and grieving so bitterly that he thought 
his heart would burst within him. For of all the days of 
Eric's life this was the heaviest, except one other only. 

But Swanhild, going to her bower, caused Koll the Half- 
witted .to be summoned. To him she spoke long and 
earnestly, and they made a shameful plot together. Then 
she bade Koll watch for Atli's coming and, when he saw the 
Earl leave his boats, to run to him and say that she would 
speak with him. 

After this Swanhild sent a man across the firth to the 
stead where Hall of Lithdale sat, bidding him come to her 
at speed. 

When the afternoon grew towards the evening, Koll, 
watching, saw the boats of Atli draw to the landing-place. 
Then he went down, and, going to the Earl, bowed before him : 

' What wouldst thou, fellow, and who art thou ? ' asked 

' I am a man from Iceland ; perchance, lord, thou sawest 
me in Asmund's hall at Middalhof. I am sent here by the 
Lady Swanhild to say that she desires speech with thee, and 
that at once.' Then, seeing Skallagrim, Koll fled back to the 
house, for he feared Skallagrim. 

Now Atli was uneasy in his mind, and, saying nothing, he 
hurried up to the hall, and through it into Swanhild's bower. 

There she sat on a couch, her eyes red with weeping, and 
her curling hair unbound. 

' What now, Swanhild ? ' he asked. ' Why lookest thou 
thus ? ' 

' Why look I thus, my lord ? ' she answered heavily. 
' Because I 'have to tell thee that which I cannot find words 
to fit,' and she ceased. 

' Speak on,' he said. ' Is aught wrong with Eric ? ' 

Then Swanhild drew near and told him a false tale. 

When it was done for a moment or so Atli stood still, and 


grew white beneath his ruddy skin, white as his beard. Then 
he staggered back against the wainscotting of the bower. 

1 Woman, thou liest ! ' he said. ' Never will I believe so 
vile a thing of Eric Brighteyes, whom I have loved.' 

* Would that I could not believe it ! ' she answered. ' Would 
that I could think it was but an evil dream ! But alas ! it is 
no dream. That which I tell thee, this man has done. 
Nay, I will prove it. Suffer that I summon Roll, the Ice- 
lander, who was my mother's thrall Groa who now is dead, 
for I have that tidings also. He saw something of this thing, 
and he will bear me witness.' 

' Call the man,' said Atli sternly. 

So Koll was summoned, and told his lies with a bold face. 
He was so well taught, and so closely did his story tally with 
that of Swanhild, that Atli could find no flaw in it. 

' Now I am sure, Swanhild, that thou speakest truth,' said 
the Earl when Koll had gone. ' And now also I have somo- 
what to say to this Eric. For thee, rest thyself; that which 
cannot be mended must be borne,' and he went out. 

Now, when Skallagrim came to the house he asked, for 
Eric. The women told him that Brighteyes had gone down to 
the sea, fully armed, in the morning, and had not returned. 

' Then there must be fighting toward, and that I am loth 
to miss,' said Skallagrim, and, axe aloft, he started for the 
south-western rocks at a run. Skallagrim came to the rocks. 
There he found Eric, sitting in his harness, looking out across 
(.ho sea. The evening was wet and windy ; the rain beat 
upon him as he sat, but Eric took no heed. 

' What seokost thou, lord ? ' asked the Baresark. 

' I lest,' said Eric, * and I find none.' 

' Thou seekost rest helm on head and sword in hand ? 
This is a strange thing, truly ! ' 

' S tran gor things have been, Skallagrim. Wouldst thou 
hear a tale ? ' and he told him all. 

' What said I ? ' asked Skallagrim. ' We had fared better 
in London town. Flying from the dove thou hast found the 



'I have found the falcon, comrade, and she has pecked 
out my eyes. Now I would speak with Atli, and then I go 

'Hence go the twain of us, lord. The Earl will be here 
presently and rough words will fly in this rough weather. 
Is Whitefire sharp, Brighteyes ? ' 

' Whitefire was sharp enough to shear my hair, Skalla- 
grim ; but if Atli would strike let him lay on. Whitefire 
will not be aloft for him.' 

1 That we shall see,' said Skallagrim. ' At least, if thou 
art harmed because of this loose quean, my axe will be aloft.' 

'Keep thou thine axe in its place,' said Eric, and as he 
spoke Atli came, and with him many men. 

Eric rose and turned to meet the Earl, looking on him 
with sad eyes. For Atli, his face was as the face of a trapped 
wolf, for he was mad with rage at the shame that had been 
put upon him and the ill tale that Swanhild had told of Eric's 
dealings with her. 

'It seems that the Earl has heard of these tidings,' said 

' Then I shall be spared the telling of them,' answered 

Now they stood face to face ; Atli leaned upon his drawn 
sword, and his wrath was so fierce that for a while he could 
not speak. At length he found words. 

' See ye that man, comrades ? ' he said, pointing at Eric 
with the sword. ' He has been my guest these many months. 
He has sat in my hall and eaten of my bread, and I have 
loved him as a son. And wot ye how he has repaid me ? 
He has put me to the greatest shame, me and my wife the 
Lady Swanhild, whom I left in his guard to such shame, 
indeed, that I cannot speak it.' 

' True words, Earl,' said Eric, while folk murmured and 
handled their swords. 

' True, but not all the truth,' growled Skallagrim. ' Me- 
thinks the Earl has heard a garbled tale.' 

' True words, thyself thou sayest it,' went on Atli, ' thou 
hound that I saved from the sea ! " Kan's gift, Hela's gift," so 


runs the saw, and now from Ban to Hela shalt tliou go, thou 
misliandler of defenceless women ! ' 

4 Here is somewhat of which I know nothing,' said 

4 And here is something of which thou shalt know,' 
answered Atli, and he shook his sword before Eric's eyes. 
' G uard thyself ! ' 

* Nay, Earl ; thou art old, and I have done the wrong I 
may not fight with thee.' 

* Art thou a coward also ? ' said the Earl. 

' Some have deemed otherwise,' said Eric, ' but it is true 
that heavy heart makes weak hand. Nevertheless this is my 
rede. With thee are ten men. Stand thou aside and let 
them fall on me till I am slain.' 

' The odds are too heavy even for thee,' said Skallagrim. 
'Back to back, lord, as we have stood aforetime, and let 
us play this game together.' 

' Not so,' cried Atli, ' this shame is mine, and I have 
sworn to Swanhild that I will wipe it out in Eric's blood. 
Stand thou before me and draw ! ' 

Then Eric drew Whitefire and raised his shield. Atli the 
Earl rushed at him and smote a great two-handed blow. Eric 
caught it on his shield and suffered no harm ; but he would 
not smite back. 

Atli dropped his point. ' Niddering art thou, and coward 
to the last ! ' he cried. * See, men, Eric Brighteyes fears to 
fight. I am not come to this that I will cut down a man who 
is too faint-hearted to give blow for blow. This is my word : 
take ye your spear-shafts and push this coward to the shore. 
Then put him in a boat and drive him hence.' 

Now Eric grew red as the red light of sunset, for his man- 
hood might not bear this. 

' Take shield,' he said, ' and, Earl, on thine own head be 
thy blood, for none shall live to call Eric Diddering and 

Atli laughed in his folly and his rage. He took a shield, 
and, once more springing on Brighteyes, struck a great blow. 

Eric parried, then whirled Whitefire on high and smote 


once and once only ! Down rushed the bright blade like a 
star through the night. Sword and shield did Atli lift to 
catch the blow. Through shield it sheared, and arm that 
held the shield, through byrnie mail and deep into Earl Atli's 
side. He fell prone to earth, while men held their breath, 
wondering at the greatness of that stroke. 

But Eric leaned on Whitefire and looked at the old Earl 
upon the rock. 

* Now, Atli, thou hast had thy way,' he said, ' and 
methinks things are worse than they were before. But I will 
say this : would that I lay there and thou stoodest to watch 
me die, for as lief would I have slain my father as thee, Earl 
Atli. There lies Swanhild's work ! ' 

Atli gazed upwards into Eric's sad eyes and, while he 
gazed so, his rage left him, and of a sudden a light brake 
upon his mind, as even then the light of the setting sun brake 
through the driving mist. 

' Eric,' he said, * draw near and speak with me ere I am 
sped. Methinks that I have been beguiled and that thou didst 
not do this thing that Bwanhild said and Koll bore witness 

1 What did Swanhild say, then, Earl Atli ? ' 

The Earl told him. 

' It was to be looked for from her,' said Eric, ' though I 
never thought of it. Now hearken ! ' and he told him all. 

Atli groaned aloud. ' I know this now, Eric,' he said : 
1 that thou speakest truth, and once more I have been de- 
ceived. Eric, I forgive thee all, for no man may fight against 
woman's witchcraft and witch's wine. Swanhild is evil to 
the heart. Yet, Eric, I lay this doom upon thee I do not 
lay it of my own will, for I would not harm thee, whom I love, 
but because of the words that the Norns put in my mouth, 
for now I am fey in this the hour of my death. Thou hast 
sinned, and that thou didst sin against thy will shall avail 
thee nothing, for of thy sin fate shall fashion a handle to the 
spear which pierces thee. Henceforth thou art accursed. For 
I tell thee that this wicked woman Swanhild shall drag thee 
down to death, and worse than death, and with thee those 


thou lovest. By witchcraft she brought thee to Straumey, 
by lies she laid me here before thee. Now by hate and 
might and cruel deeds shall she bring thee to lie more low 
than I do. For, Eric, thou art bound to her, and thou shalt 
never loose the bond ! ' 

Atli eeased a while, then spoke again more faintly : 

' Hearken, comrades,' he cried ; ' my strength is well-nigh 
spent. Ye shall swear four things to me that ye will give 
Eric Brighteyes and Skallagrim Lambstail safe passage from 
Straumey. That ye will tell Swanhild the Fatherless, Groa's 
daughter and Atli's wife, that, at last, I know her for what 
she is a murderess, a harlot, a witch and a liar ; and that 
I forgive Eric whom she tricked, but that her I hate and spit 
upon. That ye will slay Roll the Half-witted, Groa's thrall, 
who came hither two days gone, since by his lies he hath 
set an edge upon this sword of falsehood. That ye will raise 
no blood-feud against Eric for this my slaying, for I goaded 
him to the deed. Do ye swear ? ' 

' We swear,' said the men. 

' Then, farewell ! And to thee farewell, also, Eric Bright - 
eyes ! Now take my hand and hold it while I die. Behold ! I 
give thee a new name, and by that name thou shalt be called 
in story. I name thee Eric the Unlucky. Of all tales that 
are told, thine shall be the greatest. A mighty stroke that 
was of thine a mighty stroke ! Farewell ! ' 

Then his head fell back upon the rock and Earl Atli died. 
And as he died the last rays of light went out of the sky. 





OW on the same 
night that Atli 
died at the hand 
of Eric, Swan- 
hild spake with 
Hall of Lith- 
dale, whom she 
had summoned 
from the main- 
land. She bade 
him do this : 
take passage in 
a certain ship 
that should sail 
for Iceland on 
the morrow 
from the island 
that is called 
Westra, and 
there tell all 
these tidings of 
the ill-doings 
of Eric and of 

the slaying of Atli by his hand. 
' Thou shalt say this,' she 
went on, ' that Eric had been 
my love for long, but that at 
length the matter came to the 


ears of Atli, the Earl. Then, holding this the greatest shame, 
ha went on holmgang with Eric and was slain by him. This 
shalt thou add to thy tale also, that presently Eric and I will 
wed, and that Eric shall rule as Earl in Orkneys. Now these 
tidings must soon come to the ears of Gudruda the Fair, and 
she will send for thee, and question thee straightly concern- 
ing them, and thou shalt tell her the tale as thou toldest it 
at first. Then thou shalt give Gudruda this packet, which I 
send her as a gift, saying, that I bade her remember a certain 
oath which Eric took as to the cutting of his hair. And when 
she sees that which is within the packet is somewhat stained, 
tell her that it is but the blood of Atli that is upon it, as his 
blood is upon Eric's hands. Now remember thou this, Hall, 
that if thou fail in the errand thy life shall pay forfeit, for 
presently I will also come to Iceland and hear how thou hast 

Then Swanhild gave him faring-money and gifts of wadmal 
and gold rings, promising that he should have so much again 
when she came to Iceland. 

Hall said that he would do all these things, and went at 
once ; nor did he fail in his tasks. 


Atli being dead, Eric loosed his hand and called to the 
men to take up his body and bear it to the hall. This they did. 
Eric stood and watched them till they were lost in the darkness. 
' Whither now, lord ? ' said Skallagrim. 
* It matters little,' said Eric. * What is thy counsel ? ' 
' This is my counsel. That we take ship and sail back to 
e King in London. There we will tell all this tale. It is 
a far cry from Straumey to London town, and there we shall 
sit in peace, for the King will think little of the slaying of an 
rlmey Earl in a brawl about a woman. Mayhap, too, the 
y Elfrida will not set great store by it. Therefore, I say, 
t us fare back to London.' 

' In but one place am I at home, and that is Iceland,' 
d Eric. * Thither I will go, Skallagrim, though it be but to 
iss friend from stead and bride from bed. At the least I 
all find Ospakar there.' 


1 Listen, lord ! ' said Skallagrim. ' Was it not my rede 
that we should bide this winter through in London ? Thou 
wouldest none of it, and what came about? Our ship is 
sunk, gone are our comrades, thine honour is tarnished, and 
dead is thy host at thine own hand. Yet I say all is not lost. 
Let us hence south, and see no more of Swanhild, of Gudruda, 
of Bjorn and Ospakar. So shall we break the spell. But if 
thou goest to Iceland, I am sure of this : that the evil fate 
which Atli foretold will fall on thee, and the days to come shall 
be even more unlucky than the days that have been.' 

' It may be so,' said Eric. ' Methinks, indeed, it will be 
so. Henceforth I am Eric the Unlucky. Yet I will go back to 
Iceland and there play out the game. I care little if I live 
or am slain I have no more joy in my life. I stand alone, 
like a fir upon a mountain -top, and every wind from heaven 
and every storm of hail and snow beats upon my head. But 
I say to thee, Skallagrim : go thy road, and leave a luckless 
man to his ill fate. Otherwise it shall be thine also. Good 
friend hast thou been to me ; now let us part and wend south 
and north. The King will be glad to greet thee yonder in 
London, Lambstail.' 

' But one severing shall we know, lord,' said Skallagrim, 
' and that shall be sword's work, nor will it be for long. It 
is ill to speak such words as these of the parting of lord and 
thrall. Bethink thee of the oath I swore on Mosfell. Let us 
go north, since it is thy will : in fifty years it will count for 
little which way we wended from the Isles.' 

So they went together down to the shore, and, finding a 
boat and men who as yet knew nothing of what had chanced 
to Atli, they sailed across the firth at the rising of the moon. 

Two days afterwards they found a ship at Wick that was 
bound for Fareys, and sailed in her, Eric buying a passage 
with the half of a gold ring that the King had given him in 

Here at Fareys they sat a month or more ; but not in the 
Earl's hall as when Eric came with honour in the Gudruda, 
but in a farmer's stead. For the tale of Eric's dealings with 
Atli and Atli's wife had reached Fareys, and the Earl there 


had been a friend of Atli's. Moreover, Eric was now a poor 
man, having neither ship nor goods, nor friends. There- 
fore all looked coldly on him, though they wondered at his 
beauty and his might. Still, they dared not to speak ill or 
make a mock of him ; for, two men having done so, were 
nearly slain of Skallagrim, who seized the twain by the 
throat, one in either hand, and dashed their heads together. 
After that men said little. 

They sat there a month, till at length a chapman put in 
at Fareys, bound for Iceland, and they took passage with 
him, Eric paying the other half of his gold ring for ship-room. 
The chapman was not willing to give them place at first, for 
he, too, had heard the tale ; but Skallagrim offered him choice, 
either to do so or to go on holmgang with him. Then the 
chapman gave them passage. 

Now it is told that when his thralls and house- carles bore 
the corpse of Atli the Earl to his hall in Strauiney, Swanhild 
met it and wept over it. And when the spokesman among 
them stood forward and told her those words that Atli 
had bidden them to say to her, sparing none, she spoke 
thus : 

' My lord was distraught and weak with loss of blood 
when he spoke thus. The tale I told him was true, and now 
Eric has added to his sin by shedding the blood of him whom 
he wronged so sorely.' 

And thereafter she spoke so sweetly and with so much 
gentleness, craft, and wisdom that, though they still doubted 
them, all men held her words weighty. For Swanhild had 
this art, that she could make the false sound true in the ears 
of men and the true sound false. 

Still, being mindful of their oath, they hunted for Koll 
and found him. And when the thrall knew that they would 
slay him he ran thence screaming. Nor did Swanhild lift a 
hand to save his life, for she desired that Koll should die, 
lest he should bear witness against her. Away he ran towards 
the cliffs, and after him sped Atli's house-carles, till he finnc 
to the great cliffs that edge in the sea. Now they were close 


upon him and their swords were aloft. Then, sooner than 
know the kiss of steel, the liar leapt from the cliffs and was 
crushed, dying miserably on the rocks below. This was the 
end of Koll the Half-witted, Groa's thrall. 

Swanhild sat in Straumey for a while, and took all Atli's 
heritage into her keeping, for he had no male kin ; nor did any 
say her nay. Also she called in the moneys that he had 
out at interest, and that was a great sum, for Atli was a 
careful and a wealthy man. Then Swanhild made ready to 
go to Iceland. Atli had a great dragon of war, and she 
manned that ship and filled it with stores and all things needful. 
This done, she set stewards and grieves over the Orkney lands 
and farms, and, when the Earl was six weeks dead, she 
sailed for Iceland, giving out that she went thither to set a 
blood-suit on foot against Eric for the death of Atli, her lord. 
There she came in safety just as folk rode to the Thing. 

Now Hall of Lithdale came to Iceland and told his tale of 
the doings of Eric and the death of Atli. Oft and loud he 
told it, and soon people gossiped of it in field and fair and 
stead. Bjorn, Asmund's son, heard this talk and sent for 
Hall. To him also Hall told the tale. 

' Now,' said Bjorn, ' we will go to my sister Gudruda the 
Fair, and learn how she takes these tidings.' 

So they went in to where Gudruda sat spinning in the 
hall, singing as she span. 

' Greeting, Gudruda,' said Bjorn ; ' say, hast thou tidings 
of Eric Brighteyes, thy betrothed ? ' 

' I have no tidings,' said Gudruda. 

' Then here is one who brings them.' 

Now for the first time Gudruda the Fair saw Hall of 
Lithdale. Up she sprang. ' Thou hast tidings of Eric, Hall ? 
Ah ! thou art welcome, for no tidings have come of him 
for many a month. Speak on,' and she pressed her hand 
against her heart and leaned towards him. 

' My tidings are ill, lady.' 

' Is Eric dead ? Say not my love is dead ! ' 

' He is worse than dead,' said Hall. ' He is shamed.' 


' There thou liest, Hall,' she answered. ' Shame and 
Eric are things apart.' 

' Mayst thou think so when thou hast heard my tale, 
lady,' said Hall, ' for I am sad at heart to speak it of one who 
was my mate.' 

' Speak on, I say,' answered Gudruda, in such a voice 
that Hall shrank from her. ' Speak on ; but of this I warn 
thee : that if in one word thou liest, that shall be thy death 
when Eric comes.' 

Now Hall was afraid, thinking of the axe of Skallagrim. 
Still, he might not go back upon his word. So he began at 
the beginning, telling the story of how he was wounded in the 
fight with Ospakar's ships and left at Farey isles, and how he 
came thence to Scotland and sat in Atli's hall on Orkneys. 
Then he told how the Gudruda was wrecked on Straumey, 
and, of all aboard, Eric and Skallagrim alone were saved be- 
cause of Swanhild's dream. 

* Herein I see witch-work,' said Gudruda. 

Then Hall told that Eric became Swanhild's love, but of 
the other tale which Swanhild had whispered to Atli he said 
nothing. For he knew that Gudruda would not believe this, 
and, moreover, if it were so, Swanhild had not sent the token 
which he should give. 

' It well may be,' said Gudruda, proudly ; ' Swanhild is 
fair and light of mind. Perchance she led Brighteyes into 
this snare.' But, though she spoke thus, bitter jealousy and 
anger burned in her breast and she remembered the sight 
which she had seen when Eric and Swanhild met on the 
morn of Atli's wedding. 

Then Hall told of the slaying of Atli the Good by Eric, 
but he said nothing of the Earl's dying words, nor of how he 
goaded Brighteyes with his bitter words. 

1 It was an ill deed in sooth,' said Gudruda, * for Eric to 
slay an old man whom he had wronged. Still, it may chance 
that he was driven to it for his own life's sake.' 

Then Hall said that he had seen Swanhild after Atli's 
slaying, and that she had told him that she and Eric should 
wed shortly, and that Eric would rule in Orkneys by her side. 


Gudruda asked if that was all his tale. 

'Yes, lady,' answered Hall, 'that is all my tale, for 
after that I sailed and know not what happened. But I 
am charged to give something to thee, and that by the Lady 
Swanhild. She bade me say this also : that, when thou 
lookest on the gift, thou shouldst think on a certain oath which 
Eric took as to the cutting of his hair.' And he drew a 
linen packet from his breast and gave it to her. 

Thrice Gudruda looked on it, fearing to open it. Then, 
seeing the smile of mockery on Bjorn's cold face, she took the 
shears that hung at her side and cut the thread with them. 
And as she cut, a lock of golden hair rose from the packet, 
untwisting itself like a living snake. The lock was long, and 
its end was caked with gore. 

'Whose hair is this?' said Gudruda, though she knew 
the hair well. 

' Eric's hair,' said Hall, ' that Swanhild cut from his head 
with Eric's sword.' 

Now Gudruda put her hand to her bosom. She drew out 
a satchel, and from the satchel a lock of yellow hair. Side 
by side she placed the locks, looking first at one and then 
at the other. 

' This is Eric's hair in sooth,' she said ' Eric's hair that 
he swore none but I should cut ! Eric's hair that Swanhild 
shore with Whitefire from Eric's head Whitefire whereon 
we plighted troth ! Say now, whose blood is this that stains 
the hair of Eric ? ' 

' It is Atli's blood, whom Eric first dishonoured and then 
slew with his own hand,' answered Hall. 

Now there burned a fire on the hearth, for the day was 
cold. Gudruda the Fair stood over the fire and with either 
hand she let the two locks of Eric's hair fall upon the 
embers. Slowly they twisted Tip and burned. She watched 
them burn, then she threw up her hands and with a great 
cry fled from the hall. 

Bjorn and Hall of Lithdale looked on eadh other. 

' Thou hadst best go hence ! ' said Bjorn ; ' and of this I 
warn thee, Hall, though I hold thy tidings good, that, if thou 


hast spoken one false word, that will be thy death. For then 
it would be better for thee to face all the wolves in Iceland 
than to stand before Eric in his rage. 7 

Again Hall bethought him of the axe of Skallagrim, and 
he went out heavily. 

That day a messenger came from Gudruda to Bjorn, 
saying that she would speak with him. He went to where 
she sat alone upon her bed. Her face was white as death, 
and her dark eyes glowed. 

' Eric has dealt badly with thee, sister, to bring thee to this 
sorrow,' said Bjorn. 

' Speak no ill of Eric to me,' Gudruda answered. ' The 
evil that he has done will be paid back to him ; there is little 
need for thee to heap words upon his head. Hearken, Bjorn 
my brother : is it yet thy will that I should wed Ospakar 
Blacktooth ? ' 

1 That is my will, surely. There is no such match in 
Iceland as this Ospakar, and I should win many friends 
by it.' 

1 Do this then, Bjorn. Send messengers to Swinefell and 
say to Ospakar that if he would still wed Gudruda the Fair, 
Asmund's daughter, let him come to Middalhof when folk 
ride from the Thing and he shall not go hence alone. Nay, 
I have done. Now, I pray thee speak no more to me of 
Eric or of Ospakar. Of the one I have seen and heard 
enough, and of the other I shall hear and see enough in the 
years that are to come. 




WANHILD made a good 
passage from the Ork- 
neys, and was in Iceland 
thirty-five days before 
Eric and Skallagrim set 
foot there. But she did 
not land by Westman 
Isles, for she had no wish 
to face Gudruda at that time, but by Reyjaness. Now she 
rode thence with her company to Tliingvalla, for here all men 
were gathered for the Thing. At first people hung aloof 
from her, notwithstanding her wealth and beauty ; but Swan- 
hild knew well how to win the hearts of men. For now she 
told the same story of Eric that she had told to Atli, and 
there were none to say her nay. So it came to pass that she 
was believed, and Eric Brighteyes held to be shamed indeed. 
Now, too, she set a suit on foot against Eric for the death of 
Atli at his hand, claiming that sentence of the greater 
outlawry should be passed against him, and that his lands at 
Coldback in the Marsh on Ran River should be given, half 
to her in atonement for the Earl's death, and half to the men 
of Eric's quarter. 

On the day of the opening of the Thing Ospakar Black- 
tooth came from the north, and with him his son Gi^ui: and 
a great company of men. Ospakar was blithe, for from the 
Thing he should ride to Middalhof, there to wed Gudruda the 
Fair. Then Swanhild clad herself in beautiful attire, and, 
taking men with her, went to the booth of Ospakar, 


Blacktooth sat in his booth and by him sat Gizur his son 
the Lawman. When he saw a beauteous lady, very richly clad, 
enter the booth he did not know who it might be. But Gizur 
knew her well, for he could never put Swanhild from his mind. 

* Lo ! here comes Swanhild the Fatherless, Atli's widow,' 
said Gizur, flushing red with joy at the sight of her. 

Then Ospakar greeted her heartily, and made place for her 
by him at the top of the booth. 

' Ospakar Blacktooth,' she said, ' I am come to ask this of 
thee : that thou shalt befriend me in the suit which I have 
against Eric Brighteyes for the slaying of Earl Atli, my 

' Thou couldst have come to no man who is more willing,' 
said Ospakar, ' for, if thou hast something against Eric, I have 
yet more.' 

' I would ask this, too, Ospakar : that thy son Gizur should 
take up my suit and plead it ; for I know well that he is the 
most skilful of all lawmen.' 

* I will do that,' said Gizur, his eyes yet fixed upon her face. 
' I looked for no less from thee,' said Swanhild, ' and be 

sure, of this, that thou shalt not plead for nothing, 1 and she 
glanced at him meaningly. Then she set out her case with 
a lying tongue, and afterwards went back to her booth, glad at 
heart. For now she learned that Hall had not failed in his 
errand, seeing that Gudruda was about to wed Ospakar. 

Gi/Air gave warning of the blood- suit, and the end of it 
was that, though he had 110 notice and was not there to answer 
to the charge, against all right and custom Eric was declared 
outlaw and his lands were given, half to Swanhild and half to 
the men of his quarter. For now all held that Swanhild 's 
was a true tale, and Eric the most shameful of men, and 
therefore they were willing to stretch the law against him. 
Also, being absent, he had few friends, and those men of small 
account ; whereas Ospakar, who backed Swanhild' s suit, was 
the most powerful of the northern chiefs, as Gizur was the 
most skilled lawman in Iceland. Moreover, Bjorn the Priest, 
Asmund's son, was among the judges, and, though Swan- 
hild 's tale seemed strange to him after that which he had heard 

210 ^'A'/C 1 BRIGHTEYES 

from Hall of Lithdale, he loved Eric little. He feared also 
that if Eric came a free man to Iceland before Gudruda was 
wed to Ospakar, her love would conquer her anger, for he 
could see well that she still loved Brighteyes. Therefore he 
strove with might and main that Eric should be brought in 
guilty, nor did he fail in this. 

So the end of it was that Eric Brighteyes was outlawed, 
his lands declared forfeit, and his head a wolf's head, to be 
taken by him who might, should he set foot in Iceland. 

Thereafter, the Althing being ended, Bjorn, Gizur, and 
Ospakar, with all their company, rode away to Middalhof 
to sit at the marriage- feast. But Swanhild and her folk went 
by sea in the long war-ship to Westmans. For this was her 
plan : to seize on Coldback and to sit there for a while, till she 
saw if Eric came ouk to Iceland. Also she desired to see the 
wedding of Ospakar and Gudruda, for she had been bidden to 
it by Bjorn, her half-brother. 

Now Ospakar came to Middalhof, and found Gudruda 
waiting his coming. 

She stood in the great hall, pale and cold as April snow, 
and greeted him courteously. But when he would have 
kissed her, she shrank from him, for now he was more hideous 
in her sight than he had ever been, and she loathed him in 
her heart. 

That night there was feasting in the hall, and at the feast 
Gudruda heard that Eric had been made outlaw. Then she 
spoke : 

' This is an ill deed, thus to judge an absent man.' 

1 Say, Gudruda,' said Bjorn in her ear, ' hast thou not 
also judged Eric who is absent ? ' 

She turned her head and spoke no more of Eric ; but 
Bjorn's words fixed themselves in her heart like arrows. 
The tale was strange to her, for it seemed that Eric had been 
made outlaw at Swanhild's suit, and yet Eric was Swanhild's 
love : for Swanhild's self had sent the lock of Brighteyes' hair 
by Hall, saying that he was her love and soon would wed her. 
How, then, did Swanhild bring a suit against him who should 
be her husband ? Moreover, she, heard that Swanhild sailed 


down to Coldback, and was bidden to the marriage -feast, that 
should be on the third day from now. Could it be, then, when 
all was said and done, that Eric was less faithless than she 
deemed ? Gudruda's heart stood still and the blood rushed to 
her brow when she thought on it. Also, even if it were so, it 
was now too late. And surely it was not so, for had not Eric 
been made outlaw ? Men were not made outlaw for a little 
thing. Nay, she would meet her fate, and ask no more of 
Eric and his doings. 

On the morrow, as Gudruda sat in her chamber, it was 
told her that Saevuna, Thorgrimur's widow and Eric's mother, 
had come from Coldback to speak with her. For, after the 
death of Asmund and of Unna, Saevuna had moved back to 
Coldback in the Marsh. 

' Nay, how can this be ? ' said Gudruda astonished, for she 
knew well that Saevuna was now both blind and bed-ridden. 

' She has been borne here in a chair,' said the woman 
who told her, ' and that is a strange sight to see,' 

At first Gudruda was minded to say her nay ; but her heart 
softened, and she bade them bring Saevuna in. Presently she 
came, being set in a chair upon the shoulders of four men. 
She was white to see, for sickness had aged her much, arid 
she stared about her with sightless eyes. But she was still 
tall and straight, and her face was stern to look on. To 
Gudruda it seemed like that of Eric when he was angered. 

' Am I nigh to Gudruda the Fair, Asmund's daughter ? ' 
asked Saevuna. ' Methinks I hear her breathe.' 

'I am here, mother,' said Gudruda. 'What is thy will 
with me ? ' 

* Set down, carles, and begone ! ' quoth Saevuna ; ' that 
which I have to say I would say alone. When I summon 
you, come.' 

The carles set down the chair upon the floor and went. 

' Gudruda,' said the dame, ' I am risen from my death- 
bed, and I have caused myself to be borne on my last 
journey here across the meads, that I may speak with tlicc :md 
warn thee. I hear that thou hast put away my son, Kric 
Brighteyes, to whom thou art sworn in marriage, and art 

p 2 


about to give thyself to Ospakar Blacktooth. I hear also that 
thou hast done this deed because a certain man, Hall of 
Lithdale whom from his youth up I have known for a liar 
and a knave, and whom thou thyself didst mistrust in years 
gone by has come hither to Iceland from Orkneys, bearing 
a tale of Eric's dealings with thy half-sister Bwanhild. This 
I hear, further : that Swanhild, Atli's widow, hath come out 
to Iceland and laid a suit against Eric for the slaying of Atli 
the Earl, her husband, and that Eric has been outlawed and 
his lands at Coldback are forfeit. Tell me now, Gudruda, 
Asmund's daughter, if these tales be true ? ' 

' The tales are true, mother,' said Gudruda. 

' Then hearken to me, girl. Eric sprang from my womb, 
who of all living men is the best and first, as he is the bravest 
and most strong. I have reared this Eric from a babe and 
I know his heart well. Now I tell thee this, that, whatever 
Eric has done or left undone, naught of dishonour is on his 
hands. Mayhap Swanhild hath deceived him thou art a 
woman, and thou knowest well the arts which women have, 
and the strength that Freya gives them. Well thou knowest, 
also, of what breed this Swanhild came ; and perchance thou 
canst remember how she dealt with thee, and with what mind 
she looked on Eric. Perchance thou canst remember how 
she plotted against thee and Eric ay, how she thrust thee 
from Goldfoss brink. Say, then, wilt thou take her word ? 
Wilt thou take the word of this witch-daughter of a witch ? 
Wilt thou not think on Groa, her mother, and of Groa's deal- 
ings with thy father, and with Unna my kinswoman ? As the 
mother is, so shall the daughter be. Wilt thou cast Eric aside, 
and that unheard ? ' 

1 There is no more room for doubt, mother,' said Gudruda. 
* I have proof of this : that Eric has forsaken me.' 

' So thou thinkest, child ; but I tell thee that thou art 
wrong ! Eric loves thee now as he loved thee aforetime, raid 
will love thee always.' 

* Would that I could believe it ! ' said Gudruda. ' If I could 
believe that Eric still loved me ay, even though he had been 
faithless to me I would die ere I wed Ospakar ! ' 


' Thou art foolish, Gudruda, and thou shalt rue thy folly 
bitterly. I am outworn, and death draws near to me far from 
me now are hates and loves, hopes and fears ; but 1 know 
this : that woman is mad who, loving a man, weds where she 
loves not. Shame shall be her portion and bitterness her 
bread. Unhappy shall she live, and when she comes to die, 
but as a wilderness -but as the desolate winter snow, shall 
be the record of her days ! ' 

Now Gudruda wept aloud. ' What is done is done,' she 
cried : ' the bridegroom sits within the hall the bride awaits 
him in the bower. What is done is done I may hope no 
more to be saved from Ospakar.' 

' What is done is done, yet it can be brought to nothing ; 
but soon that shall be done which may never be undone ! 
Gudruda, fare thee well ! Never shall I listen to thy voice again . 
I hold thee shameless, thou unfaithful woman, who in thy 
foolish jealousy art ready to sell thyself to the arms of one 
thou hatest ! Ho ! carles ; come hither. Bear me hence ! ' 

Now the men came in and took up Saevuna's chair. 
Gudruda watched them bear her forth. Then suddenly she 
sprang from her seat and ran after her into the hall, weeping 

Now as Saevuna, Eric's mother, was carried out she was 
met by Ospakar and Bjorn. 

' Stay,' said Bjorn. * What does this carline here ? and 
why weeps Gudruda, my sister ? ' 

The men halted. ' Who calls me " carline " ? ' said Saevuna. 
' Is the voice I hear the voice of Bjorn. Asmund's son ? ' 

' It is my voice, truly,' said Bjorn, ' and I would know this 
and this would Ospakar, who stands at my side, know also 
why thou comest here, carline ? and why Gudruda weeps ? ' 

' Gudruda weeps because she has good cause to weep, 
Bjorn. She weeps because she has betrayed her love, Kric 
Brighteyes, my son, and is about to be sold in marriage to 
be sold to thee, Ospakar Blacktooth, like a heifer at a 

Then Bjorn grew angry and cursed Saovuna, nor did 
Ospakar spare to add to his ill words. But the old dame sat 


in her chair, listening silently till all their curses were 

4 Ye are evil, the twain of you,' she said, ' and ye have told 
lies of Eric, my son ; and ye have taken his bride for lust and 
greed, playing on the jealous folly of a maid like harpers on a 
harp. Now I tell you this, Bjorn and Ospakar! My blind 
eyes are opened and I see this hall of Middalhof, and lo ! it is 
but a gore of blood ! Blood flows upon the board blood 
streams along the floor, and ye ye twain ! lie dead thereon, 
and about your shapes are shrouds, and on your feet are Hell- 
shoon ! Eric comes and Whitefire is aloft, and no more shall 
ye stand before him whom ye have slandered than stands 
the birch before the lightning stroke ! Eric comes ! I see 
his angry eyes I see his helm flash in the door-place ! Red 
was that marriage-feast at which sat Unna, my kinswoman, 
and Asmund, thy father redder shall be the feast where sit 
Gudruda, thy sister, and Ospakar ! The wolf howls at thy 
door, Bjorn ! the grave-worm opens his mouth ! trolls run to 
and fro upon thy threshold, and the ghosts of men speed 
Hellwards ! Ill were the deeds of Groa worse shall be the 
deeds of Groa's daughter ! Red is thy hall with blood, Bjorn ! 
for Whitefire is aloft and I tell thee Eric comes ! ' and 
with one great cry she fell back dead. 

Now they stood amazed, and trembling in their fear. 

* Saevuna hath spoken strange words,' said Bjorn. 

' Shall we be frightened by a dead hag ? ' quoth Ospakar, 
drawing his breath again. ' Fellows, bear this carrion forth, 
or we fling it to the dogs.' 

Then the men tied the body of Saevuna, Thorgrimur's 
widow, Eric's mother, fast in the chair and bore it thence. 
But when at length they came to Coldback, they found that 
Swanhild was there with all her following, and had driven 
Eric's grieve and his folk to the fells. But one old carline, 
who had been nurse to Eric, was left there, and she sat 
wailing in an outhouse, being too weak to move. 

Then the men set down the corpse of Saevuna in the 
outhouse, and, having told all their tale to the carline, they 
fled also. 


That night passed, and passed the morrow ; but on the 
next day at dawn Eric Brighteyes and Skallagriin Lambstail 
landed near Westman Isles. They had made a bad passage 
from Fareys, having been beat about by contrary winds ; but 
at length they came safe and well to land. 

Now this was the day of the marriage-feast of Gudruda 
the Fair and Ospakar ; but Eric knew nothing of these tidings. 

' Where to now, lord ? ' said Skallagrim. 

' To Coldback first, to see my mother, if she yet lives, and 
to learn tidings of Gudruda. Then as it may chance.' 

Near to the beach was a yeoman's house. Thither they 
went to hire horses ;' but none were in the house, for all 
had gone to Gudruda 's marriage-feast. In the home meadow 
ran two good horses, and in the outhouses were saddles and 
bridles. They caught the horses, saddled them and rode for 
Coldback. When they had ridden for something over an hour 
they came to the crest of a height whence they could see 
Coldback in the Marsh. 

Eric drew rein and looked, and his heart swelled within 
him at the sight of the place where he was born. But as 
he looked he saw a great train of people ride away from 
Coldback towards Middalhof and in the company a woman 
wearing a purple cloak. 

' Now what may this mean ? ' said Eric. 

' Ride on and we shall learn,' answered Skallagrim. 

So they rode on, and as they rode Eric's breast grew 
heavy with fear. Now they passed up the banked way 
through the home meadows of the house, but they could see no 
one ; and now they were at the door. Down sprang Eric and 
walked into the hall. But none were there to greet him, 
though a fire yet burned upon the hearth. Only a gaunt hound 
wandered about the hall, and, seeing him, sprang towards him, 
growling. Eric knew him for his old wolf-hound, and called 
him by his name. The dog listened, then ran up and suit 1 ]), 
his hands, and straightway howled with joy and leapt upon 
him. For a while he leapt thus, while Eric stared around 
him wondering and sad at heart. Then the dog ran to the 
door and stopped, whining. Eric followed after him. The 


hound passed through the entrance, and across the yard till he 
came to an outhouse. Here the dog stopped and scratched at 
the door, still whining. Eric thrust it open. Lo ! there before 
him sat Saevuna, his mother, dead in a chair, and at her feet 
crouched the carline she who had been Eric's nurse. 

Now he grasped the door-posts to steady himself, and his 
shadow fell upon the white face of his mother and the old 
carline at her feet. 






KIC looked, but said nothing. 

' Who art thou ? ' whined the 
carline, gazing up at him .with 
tear-blinded eyes. But Eric's 
face was in the shadow, and she 
only saw the glint of his golden 
hair and the flash of the golden 
helm. For Eric could not speak 
yet a while. 

' Art thou one of Swanliild's 
folk, come to drive me hence 
with the rest? Good sir, I 
cannot go to the fells, my limbs 
are too weak. Slay me, if thou 
wilt, but drive me not from this,' 
and she pointed to the corpse. 
' Say now, wilt thou not help me to give it burial ? It is 
unmeet that she who in her time had husband, and goods, 
and son, should lie unburied like a dead cow on the fells. I 
have still a hundred in silver, if I might but come at it. It 
is hidden, sir, and I will pay thee if thou wilt help me to bury 
her. These old hands are too feeble to dig a grave, nor could 
I bear her there alone if it were dug. Thou wilt not help 
me? then may thine own mother's bones lie uncovered, and 
be picked of gulls and ravens. Oh, that Eric Brighteyes 
would come home again ! Oh, that Eric was here ! There is 
work to do and never a man to do it.' 



Now Eric gave a great sob and cried, ' Nurse, nurse ! 
knowest thou me not ? I am Eric Brighteyes.' 

She uttered a loud cry, and, clasping him by the knees, 
looked up into his face. 

'Thanks be to Odin! Thou art Eric Eric come home 
again ! But alas, thou hast come too late ! ' 

' What has happened, then ? ' said Eric. 

' What has happened ? All evil things. Thou art outlawed, 
Eric, at the suit of Swanhild for the slaying of Atli the Ea.rl. 
Swanhild sits here in Coldback, for she hath seized thy lands. 
Saevuna, thy mother, died two days ago in the hall of 
Middalhof, whither she went to speak with Gudruda.' 

' Gudruda ! what of Gudruda ? ' cried Eric. 

' This, Brighteyes : to-day she weds Ospakar Black- 

Eric covered his face with his hand. Presently he lifted it. 

1 Thou art rich in evil tidings, nurse, though, it would seem, 
poor in all besides. Tell me at what hour is the wedding- 
feast ? ' 

' An hour after noon, Eric ; but now Swanhild has ridden 
thither with her company.' 

' Then room must be found at Middalhof for one more guest,' 
said Eric, and laughed aloud. ' Go on ! pour out thy evil news 
and spare me not ! for nothing has any more power to harm 
me now ! Come hither, Skallagrim, and see and hearken.' 

Skallagrim came and looked on the face of dead Saevuna. 

' I am outlawed at Swanhild's suit, Lambstail. My life lies 
in thy hand, if so be thou wouldst take it ! Hew off my head, if 
thou wilt, and bear it to Gudruda the Fair she will thank thee 
for the gift. Lay on, Lambstail ; lay on with that axe of thine.' 

4 Child's talk ! ' said Skallagrim. 

' Child's talk, but man's work ! Thou hast not heard the 
tale out. Swanhild hath seized my lands and sits here at Cold- 
back ! And what thinkest thou, Skallagrim ? but now she 
has ridden a-guesting to the marriage-feast of Ospakar 
Blacktooth with Gudruda the Fair ! Swanhild at Gudruda' s 
wedding! the eagle in the wild swan's nest ! But there will 
be another guest,' and again he laughed aloud. 


1 Two other guests,' said Skallagrim. 

' More of thy tale, old nurse ! more of thy tale ! ' quoth 
Eric. ' No better didst thou ever tell me when, as a lad, I 
sat by thee, in the ingle o' winter nights and the company is 
fitting to the tale ! ' and he pointed to dead Saevuna. 

Then the carline told on. She told how Hall of Lithdale 
had come out to Iceland, and of the story that he bore to 
Gudruda, and of the giving of the lock of hair. 

' What did I say, lord ? ' broke in Skallagrim ' that in 
Hall thou hadst let a weasel go who would live to nip thee ? ' 

' Him I will surely live to shorten by a head,' quoth Eric. 

1 Nay, lord, this one for me Ospakar for thee, Hall for 
me ! ' 

'As thou wilt, Baresark. Among so many there is room 
to pick and choose. Tell on, nurse ! ' 

Then she told how Swanhild came out to Iceland, and, 
having won Ospakar Blacktooth and Gizur to her side, had laid 
a suit against Eric at the Thing, and there bore false witness 
against him, so that Brighteyes was declared outlaw, being 
absent. She told, too, how Gudruda had betrothed herself to 
Ospakar, and how Swanhild had moved down to Coldback 
and seized the lands. Lastly she told of the rising of Saevuna 
from her deathbed, of her going to Middalhof, of the words 
she spoke to Bjorn and Ospakar, and of her death in the hall 
at Middalhof. 

When all was told, Eric stooped and kissed the cold brow 
of his mother. 

' There is little time to bury thee now, my mother,' he 
said, ' and perchance before six hours are sped there will be 
one to bury at thy side. Nevertheless, thou shalt sit in a 
better place than this.' 

Then he cut loose the cords that bound the body of 
Saevuna to the chair, and, lifting it in his arms, bore it to 
the hall. There he set the corpse in the high seat of the hall. 

'We need not start yet a while, Skallagrim,' said Eric, ' if 
indeed thou wouldst go a-guesting with me to Middalhof. 
Therefore let us eat and drink, for there are deeds to do this 



So they found meat and mead and ate and drank. Then 
Eric washed himself, combed out his golden locks, and looked 
well to his harness and to Whitefire's edge. Skallagrim also 
ground his great axe upon the whetstone in tlio yard, singing 
as he ground. When all was ready, the horses were caught, 
and Eric spoke to the carline : 

' Hearken, nurse. If it may be that thou canst, find any 
of our folk and perchance now that they see that SwanhiU 
has ridden to Middalhof some one of them will come down 

to spy thou shalt say this to 
them. Thou shalt say that, if 
Eric Brighteyes yet lives, he 
will be at the foot of Mosfell 
to-morrow before midday, and 
if, for the sake of old days and 
fellowship, they are minded to 
befriend a friendless man, let 
them come thither with food, 
for by then food will be needed, 
and I will speak with them. 
And now farewell,' and Eric 
kissed her and went, leaving 
her weeping. 

As it chanced, before an- 
other hour was sped, Jon, Eric's 
thrall, who had stayed at home 
in Iceland, seeing Coldback 
empty, crept down from the 

fells and looked in. The carline saw him, and told him 
these tidings. Then he went thence to find the other men. 
Having found them he told them Eric's words, and a great 
gladness came upon them when they learned that Brighteyes 
still lived and was in Iceland. Then they gathered food and 
gear, and rode away to the foot of Mosfell that is now called 

onorxn ms AXE. 

Ospakar sat in the hall at Middalhof, near to the high seat. 
He was fully armed, and a black helm with a raven's crest 


was on his head. For, though he said nothing of it, not a little 
did he fear that Saevuna spoke sooth that her words would 
come true, and, before this day was done, he and Eric should 
once more stand face to face. At Ins side sat Gudruda the 
Fair, robed in white, a worked headdress on her head, golden 
clasps upon her breast and golden rings about her arms. 
Never had she been more beautiful to see ; but her face was 
whiter than her robes. She looked with loathing on Black- 
tooth at her side, rough like a bear, and hideous as a troll. 
But he looked on her with longing, and laughed from side to 
side of his great mouth when he thought that at last he had 
got her for his own. 

* Ah, if Eric would but come, faithless though he be ! if 
Eric would but come ! ' thought Gudruda ; but no Eric camo 
to save her. The guests gathered fast, and presently Swanhild 
swept in with all her company, wrapped about in her purple 
cloak. She came up to the high seat where Gudruda sat, and 
bent the knee before her, looking on her with lovely mocking 
face and hate in her blue eyes. 

' Greeting, Gudruda, my sister ! ' she said. ' When last we 
met I sat, Atli's bride, where to-day thou sittest the bride of 
Ospakar. Then Eric Brighteyes held thy hand, and little 
thou didst think of wedding Ospakar. Now Eric is afar so 
strangely do things come about and Blacktooth, Brighteyes' 
foe, holds that fair hand of thine.' 

Gudruda looked on her and turned whiter yet in her pain, 
.t she answered never a word. 

What ! no word for me, sister ? ' said Swanhild. ' And 
yet it is through me that thou comest to this glad hour. It is 
through me that thou art rid of Eric, and it is I who have 
given thee to the arms of mighty Ospakar. No word of 
thanks for so great a service ! fie on thee, Gudruda ! lie ! ' 

Then Gudruda spoke : ' Strange tales are told of thuo 
and Eric, Groa's daughter! I have done with Eric, but I 
have done with thee also. Thou hast thrust thyself here 
against my will, and, if I may, I would see thy face no moiv.' 

' Wouldst thou see Eric's face, Gudruda ? say, wouldst 
Eric's face ? I tell thee it is fair ! ' 

_ __i 


But Gudruda answered nothing, and Swanhild fell back, 

Now the feast began, and men waxed merry. But ever 
Gudruda's heart grew heavier, for in it echoed those words 
that Saevuna had spoken. Her eyes were dim, and she seemed 
to see naught but the face of Eric as it had looked when he 
came back to her that day on the brink of Goldfoss Falls and 
she had thought him dead. Oh ! what if he still loved her 
and were yet true at heart ? Swanhild mocked her! what 
if this was a plot of Swanhild's? Had not Swanhild 
plotted aforetime, and could a wolf cease from ravening or 
a witch from witch -work ? Nay, she had seen Eric's hair 
that he had sworn none save she should touch ! Perchance 
he had been drugged, and the hair shorn from him in his 
sleep ? Too late to think ! Of what use was thought ? beside 
her sat Ospakar, in one short hour she would be his. Ah ! 
that she could see him dead the troll who had trafficked 
her to shame, the foe she had summoned in her wrath and 
jealousy ! She had done ill -she had fallen into Swanhild's 
snare, and now Swanhild came to mock her ! 

The feast went on cup followed cup. Now they poured 
the bride-cup! Before her heart beat two hundred times 
she would be the wife of Ospakar ! 

Blacktooth took the cup pledged her in it, and drank 
deep. Then he turned and strove to kiss her. But Gudruda 
shrank from him with horror in her eyes, and all men 
wondered. Still she must drink the bridal cup. She took 
it. Dimly she saw the upturned faces, faintly she heard the 
murmur of a hundred voices. 

What was that voice she caught above them all there 
without the hall ? 

Holding the cup in her hand, Gudruda bent forward, staring 
down the skali. Then she cried aloud, pointing to the door, 
and the cup fell clattering from her hand and rolled along the 

Men turned and looked. They saw this : there on the 
threshold stood a man, glorious to look at, and from his 
winged helm of gold the rays of light flashed through the 



dusky hall. The man was great and beautiful to see. He 
had long yellow hair bound in about his girdle, and in his left 
hand he held a pointed shield, in his right a spear, and at his 
thigh there hung a mighty sword. Nor was he alone, for by 
his side, a broad axe on his shoulder and shield in hand, stood 
another man, clad in black-hued mail a man well-nigh as 
broad and big, with hawk's eyes, eagle beak, and black hair 
streaked with grey. 

For a moment there was silence. Then a voice spoke : 

' Lo ! here be the Gods Baldur and Thor ! come from 
Valhalla to grace the marriage-feast ! ' 

Then the man with golden hair cried aloud in a voice that 
made the rafters ring : 

'Here are Eric Brighteyes and Skallagrim Lambstail, 
his thrall, come from over sea to grace the feast, indeed ! ' 

'I could have looked for no worse guests,' said Bjorn 
beneath his breath, and rose to bid men thrust them out. 
But before he could speak, lo ! gold-helmed Eric and black- 
helmed Skallagrim were stalking up the length of that great 
ball. Side by side they stalked, with faces fierce and cold ; 
nor stayed they till they stood before the high seat. Eric 
looked up and round, and the light of his eyes was as the light 
of a sword. Men marvelled at his greatness and his wonderful 
beauty, and to Gudruda he seemed like a God. 

' Here I see faces that are known to me,' said Eric. 

ting, comrades ! ' 
Greeting, Brighteyes ! ' shouted the Middalhof folk and 

company of Swanhild ; but the carles of Ospakar laid hand 
on sword they too knew Eric. For still all men loved Eric, 
and the people of his quarter were proud of the deeds he had 

K3 oversea,. 
Greeting, Bjorn, Asmund's son ! ' quoth Eric. ' Greeting, 
, ikar Blacktooth! Greeting, Swanhild the Fatherless, 
Atli's witch-wife- Groa's witch-bairn ! Greeting, Hall of 
Lithdale, Hall the liar Hall who cut the grapnel-chain ! And 
to thee, sweet Bride, to thee Gudruda the Fair, greeting ! ' 

Now Bjorn spoke : ' I will take no greeting from a shamed 
and outlawed man. Get thee gone, Eric Brighteyes, and 


take thy wolf-hound with thee, lest thou bidest here stiff and 

* Squeak not so loud, rat, lest hound's fang worry thee ! ' 
growled Skallagrim. 

But Eric laughed aloud and cried 

1 Words must be said, and perchance men shall die, ere 
ever I leave this hall, Bjorn ! ' 






iEARKEN all men ! ' said Eric. 
' Thrust him out ! ' quoth 

' Nay, cut him down ! ' 
said Ospakar, ' he is an out- 
lawed man.' 

' Words first, then 
deeds,' answered Skalla- 
Thou shalt have thy fill of 
both, Blacktooth, before day is done.' 
'Let Eric say his say,' said 
Gudruda, lifting her head . ' He has 
been doomed unheard, and it is my 
will that he sliall say his say.' 
' What hast thou to do with Eric ? ' snarled Ospakar. 
' The bride-cup is not yet drunk, lord,' she answered., 
' To thee, then, I will speak, lady,' quoth Eric. ' How 
comes it that, being betrothed to me, thou dost sit there the 
bride of Ospakar ? ' 

' Ask of Swanhild,' said Gudruda in a low voice. ' Ask 
also of Hall of Lithdale yonder, who brought me Swanhild's 
gift from Straumey.' 

' I must ask much of Hall and he must answer much,' 
said Eric. ' What tale, then, did he bring thee from 
Straumey ? ' 

' He said this, Eric,' Gudruda answered : ' that thou wast 
Swanhild's love ; that for Swanhild's sake thou hadst basely 



killed Atli the Good, and that thou wast about to wed Swan- 
hild's self and take the Earl's seat in Orkneys.' 

' And for what cause w r as I made outlaw at the Althing ? ' 

' For this cause, Eric,' said Bjorn, ' that thou hadst dealt 
evilly with Swanhild, bringing her to shame against her will, 
and thereafter that thou hadst slain the Earl, her husband.' 

' Which, then, of these tales is true ? for both cannot be 
true,' said Brighteyes. ' Speak, Swanhild.' 

4 Thou knowest well that the last is true,' said Swanhild 

I How then comes it that thou didst charge Hall with that 
message to Gudruda ? How then comes it that thou didst 
send her the lock of hair which thou didst cozen me to 
give thee ? ' 

I 1 charged Hall with no message, and I sent no lock of 
hair,' Swanhild answered. 

' Stand thou forward, Hall ! ' said Eric, ' and liar and 
coward though thou art, dare not to speak other than the 
truth ! Nay, look not at the door : for, if thou stirrest, this 
spear shall find thee before thou hast gone a pace ! ' 

Now Hall stood forward, trembling with fear, for he saw 
the eye of Skallagrim watching him close, and while 
Lambstail watched, his fingers toyed with the handle of his 

' It is true, lord, that Swanhild charged me with that 
message which I gave to the Lady Gudruda. Also she bade 
me give the lock of hair.' 

' And for this service thou didst take money, Hall ? ' 

' Ay, lord, she gave me money for my faring.' 

' And all the while thou knewest the tidings false ? ' 

Hall made no reply. 

' Answer ! thundered Eric ' answer the truth, knave, or 
by every God that passes the hundred gates I will not spare 
thee twice ! ' 

It is so, lord,' said Hall. 

'Thou liest, fox ! ' cried Swanhild, white with wrath and 
casting a fierce look upon Hall. But men took no heed of 
Swanhild' s words, for all eyes were bent on Eric. 


' Is it now your pleasure, comrades, that I should tell 
you the truth ? ' said Brighteyes. 

The most part of the company shouted ' Yea ! ' but the men 
of Ospakar stood silent. 

* Speak on, Eric,' quoth Gudruda. 

* This is the truth, then : Swanhild the Fatherless, Atli's 
wife, has always sought my love, and she has ever hated 
Gudruda whom I loved. From a child she has striven to 
work mischief between us. Ay, and she did this, though till 
now it has been hidden : she strove to murder Gudruda ; it 
was on the day that Skallagrim and I overcame Ospakar and 
his band on Horse -Head Heights. She thrust Gudruda from 
the brink of Golden Falls while she sat looking on the waters, 
and as she hung there I dragged her back. Is it not so, 
Gudruda ? ' 

' It is so,' said Gudruda. 

Now men murmured and looked at Swanhild. But she 
shrank back, plucking at her purple cloak. 

'It was for this cause,' said Eric, 'that Asmund, Swa.n- 
hild's father, gave her choice to wed Atli the Earl and pass 
aver sea or to take her trial in the Doom-Ring. She wedded 
Atli and went away. Afterwards, by witchcraft, she brought 
my ship to wreck on Straumey's Isle ay, she walked the 
waters like a shape of light and lured us on to ruin, so that 
all were drowned except Skallagrim and myself. Is it not 
so, Skallagrim '? ' 

' It is so, lord. I saw her with my eyes.' 

Again folk murmured. 

' Then we must sit in Atli's hall,' said Eric, ' and there 
we dwelt last winter. For a while Swanhild did no harm, till I 
feared her no more. But some three months ago, I was left 
with her : and a man called Roll, Groa's thrall, of whom ye 
know, came out from Iceland, bringing news of the death 
of Asmund the priest, of Unna my cousin, and of Groa the 
witch. To these ill-tidings Swanhild bribed him to add some- 
thing. She bribed him to add this : that thou, Gudruda, wast 
betrothed to Ospakar, and wouldst wed him on last Yule Day. 
Moreover, he gave me a certain message from thee, (ludnuhi, 



and, in token of its truth, the half of that coin which I broke 
with thee long years ago. Say now, lady, didst thou send 
the coin ? ' 

* Nay, never ! ' cried Gudruda ; ' many years ago 1 lost 
the half thou gavest me, though I feared to tell thee.' 

* Perchance one stands there who found it,' said Eric, 
pointing with his spear at Swanhild. * At the least I was 
deceived by it. Now the tale is short. Swanhild mourned 
with me, and in my sorrow I mourned bitterly. Then it 
was she asked a boon, that lock of mine, Gudruda, and, 
thinking thee faithless, I gave it, holding all oaths broken. 
Then too, when I would have left her, she drugged me with a 
witch-draught ay, she drugged me, and I woke to find myself 
false to my oath, false to Atli, and false to thee, Gudruda. I 
cursed her and I left her, waiting for the Earl, to tell him all. 
But Swanhild outwitted me. She told him that other tale of 
shame that ye have heard, and brought Koll to him as witness 
of the tale. Atli was deceived by her, and not until I had cut 
him down in anger at the bitter words he spoke, calling 
me coward and niddering, did he know the truth. But 
before he died he knew it ; and he died, holding my hand and 
bidding those about him find Koll and slay him. Is it not 
so, ye who were Atli's men ? ' 

' It is so, Eric ! ' they cried ; ' we heard it with our own 
ears, and we slew Koll. But afterwards Swanhild brought 
us to believe that Earl Atli w r as distraught when he spoke 
thus, and that things were indeed as she had said.' 

Again men murmured, and a strange light shone in 
Gudruda's eyes. 

' Now, Gudruda, thou hast heard all my story,' said Eric. 
' Say, dost thou believe me ? ' 

' I believe thee, Eric.' 

4 Say then, wilt thou still wed yon Ospakar ? ' 

Gudruda looked on Blacktooth, then she looked at golden 
Eric and opened her lips to speak. But before a word could pass 
them Ospakar rose in wrath, laying his hand upon his sword. 

'Thinkest thou thus to lure away my dove, outlaw? 
First I will see thee food for crown-' 


4 Well spoken, Blacktooth,' laughed Eric. ' I waited for such 
words from thee. Thrice have we striven together once out 
yonder in the snow, once on Horse-Head Heights, and once by 
Westman Isles and still we live to tell the tale. Come 
down, Ospakar ; come down from that soft seat of thine and 
here and now let ns put it to the proof who is the better man. 
When we met before, the stake was Whitefire set against 
my eye. Now the stake is our lives and fair Gudruda's hand. 
Talk no more, Ospakar, but fall to it.' 

' Gudruda shall never wed thee, while I live ! ' said Bjorn ; 
' thou art a landless loon, a brawler, and an outlaw. Get 
thee gone, Eric, with thy wolf-hound ! ' 

' Squeak not so loud, rat squeak not so loud, lest hound's 
fang worry thee ! ' said Skallagrim. 

' Whether I wed Gudruda or whether I wed her not is a 
matter that shall be known in its season,' said Eric. 'For 
thy words, I say this : that it is risky to hurl names at such as 
I am, Bjorn, lest perchance I answer them with spear- thrusts. 
'1 hy answer, Ospakar ! What need to wait ? Thy answer ! ' 

Now Ospakar looked at Brighteyes and grew afraid. He was 
a mighty man, but he knew the weight of Eric's arm. 

'1 will not fight with thee, carle,' he said, 'who hast 
naught to lose.' 

' Then thou art coward and ruddering ! ' said Eric. ' Ospakar 
Niddering I name thee here before all men ! What ! thou 
couldst plot against me thou couldst waylay me, ten to one 
and two ships to one, but face to face with me alone thou dost 
not dare to stand ? Comrades, look on your lord ! look at 
Ospakar the Niddering ! ' 

Now the swarthy brow of Blacktooth grew red with rage, 
and his breath came in great gasps. ' Ho, men ! ' he cried, 
' drive this knave away. Strip his harness off him and whip 
him hence with rods.' 

' Let but a man stir towards me and this spear flies through 
thy heart, Niddering,' cried Eric. ' Gudruda, what thinkest 
thou of thy lord ? ' 

' I know this,' said Gudruda, ' that I will not wed a man who 
is named " Niddering " in the face of all and lifts no sword.' 


Gudruda spoke thus, because she was mad with love and 
fear and shame, and she desired that Eric should stand face 
to face with Ospakar Blacktooth, for thus, alone, she might 
perhaps be rid of Ospakar. 

' Such words do not come well from gentle lips,' said Bjorn. 

' Is it to be borne, brother,' answered Gudruda, ' that the 
man who would call me wife should be named Ospakar the 
Niddering ? When that shame is washed away, and then only, 
can I think on marriage. I will never be Niddering's bride ! ' 

* Thou nearest, Ospakar Niddering ? ' said Eric. Then he 
gave the spear in his hand to Skallagrim, and, gripping 
Whitefire's hilt, he burst the peace -strings, and tore it from 
the scabbard. 

Now the great sword shone on high like lightning leaping 
from a cloud, and as it shone men shouted, ' Ospakar ! Ospa- 
kar Niddering ! Come, win back Whitefire from Eric's hand, 
or be for ever shamed ! ' 

Blacktooth could endure this no more. He snatched 
sword and shield, and, like a bear from a cave, like a wolf from 
his lair, rushed roaring from his seat. On he came, and the 
ground shook beneath his bulk. 

' At last, Niddering ! ' cried Eric, and sprang to meet him. 

' Back ! all men, back ! ' shouted Skallagrim, * now we shall 
see blows.' 

As he spoke the great swords flashed aloft and clanged 
upon the iron shields. So heavy were the blows that fire 
leapt out from them. Ospakar reeled back beneath the shock, 
and Eric was beaten to his knee. Now he was up, but 
as he rushed, Ospakar struck again and swept away half 
of Brighteyen's pointed shield so that it fell upon the floor. 
Eric smote also, but Ospakar dropped his knee to earth and 
the sword hissed over him. Blacktooth cut at Eric's legs ; 
but Brighteyes sprang from the ground and took no harm. 

Now some cried, ' Eric ! Eric ! ' and some cried ' Ospakar ! 
Ospakar ! ' for no one knew how the fight would go. 

Gudruda sat watching in the high seat, and as blows fell 
her colour came and went. 

Swanhild drew near, watching also, and she desired in 


her fierce heart to see Eric brought to shame and death, for, 
should he win, then Gudruda would be rid of Ospakar. Now, 
by her side stood Gizur, Ospakar's son, and near to her was 
Bjorn. These two held their breath, for, if Eric conquered, 
all their plans were brought to nothing. 

Even as he sprang into the air, Eric smote down with all 
his strength. The blow fell on Ospakar's shield. It shore 
through the shield and struck on the shoulder beneath. But 
Blacktooth's byrnie was good, nor did the sword bite on it. 
Still the stroke was so heavy that Ospakar staggered back four 
paces beneath it, then fell upon the ground. 

Now folk raised a shout of ' Eric ! Eric ! ' for it seemed 
that Ospakar was sped. Brighteyes, too, cried aloud, then 
rushed forward. Now, as he came, Swanhild whispered an 
eager word into the ear of Bjorn. By Bjorn's foot lay that 
half of Eric's shield that had been shorn away by the 
sword of Ospakar. Gudruda, watching, saw Bjorn push it 
with his shoe so that it slid before the feet of Brighteyes. 
His right foot caught on it, he stumbled heavily stumbled 
again, then fell prone on his face, and, as he fell, stretched 
out his sword-hand to save himself, so that Whitefire flew 
from his grasp. The blade struck its hilt against the 
ground, then circled in the air and fixed itself, point down- 
wards, in the clay of the flooring. The hand of Ospakar 
rising from the ground smote against the hilt of Whitefire. 
He saw it, with a shout he cast his own sword away and 
clasped Whitefire. 

Away circled the sword of Ospakar; and of that cast 
this strange thing is told, false or true. Far in the corner 
of the hall lurked Thorunna, she who had betrayed Skallagrim 
when he was named Ounound. She had come with a heavy 
heart to Middalhof in the company of Ospakar ; but when she 
saw Skallagrim, her husband whom she had betrayed, and 
who had turned Baresark because of her wickedness shame 
smote her, and she crept away and hid herself behind the 
hangings of the hall. The sword sped along point first, it 
rushed like a spear through the air. It fell on the hangings, 
piercing them, piercing the heart of Thorunna, who cowered 


behind them, so that with one cry she sank dead to earth, 
slain by her lover's hand. 

Now when men saw that Ospakar once more held White- 
fire in his hand Whitefire that Brighteyes had won from 
him they called aloud that it was an omen. The sword of 
Blacktooth had come back to Blacktooth and now Eric would 
surely be slain of it ! 

Eric sprang from the ground. He heard the shouts and 
saw Whitefire blazing in Ospakar's hand. 

1 Now thou art weaponless, fly ! Brighteyes ; fly ! ' cried 

Gudruda's cheek grew white with fear, and for a moment 
Eric's heart failed him. 

' Fly not ! ' roared Skallagrim. * Bjorn tripped thee. 
Yet hast thou half a shield ! ' 

Ospakar rushed on, and Whitefire flickered over Eric's 
helm. Down it came and shore one wing from the helm. 
Again it shone and fell, but Brighteyes caught the blow 
on his broken shield. 

Then, while men waited to see him slain, Eric gave a great 
war-shout and sprang forward. 

' Thou art mad ! ' shouted the folk. 

' Ye shall see ! Ye shall see ! ' screamed Skallagrim. 

Again Ospakar smote, and again Eric caught the blow ; 
and behold ! he struck back, thrusting with the point of the 
shorn shield straight at the face of Ospakar. 

' Peck ! Eagle ; peck ! ' cried Skallagrim. 

Once more Whitefire shone above him. Eric rushed in 
beneath the sword, and with all his mighty strength thrust 
the buckler-point at Blacktooth's face. It struck fair and 
full, and lo ! the helm of Ospakar burst asunder. He threw 
wide his giant arms, then fell as a pine falls upon the 
mountain edge. He fell back, and he lay still. 

But Eric, stooping over him, took Whitefire from his 





PI OR a moment there was 
silence in the hall, for 
men had known no such 
fight as this. 

'Why, then, do yo 
gape?' laughed Skal- 
lagrim, pointing with 
the spear. 'Dead is 
Ospakar ! slain by a 
swordless man ! Kric 
Brighteyes hath slain Ospakar Blacktootli ! ' 

Then there went up such a shout as never was heard in 
the hall of Middalhof. 

Now when Gudruda knew that Ospakar was sped, she 
looked at Eric as lie rested, leaning on his sword, and her 
heart was filled with awe and love. She sprang from her 
seat, a-nd, coming to where Brighteyes stood, she greeted him. 
' Welcome to Iceland, Eric ! ' she said. ' Welcome, thou 
glory of the south ! ' 

Now Swanhild grew wild, for she saw that Eric was about 
to take Gudruda in his arms and kiss her before all men. 

' Say, Bjorn,' she cried : 'wilt thou suffer that this outlaw, 
having slain Ospakar, should lead Gudruda hence as wife ? ' 

'He shall never do so while I live,' cried Bjorn, nearly 
mad with rage. ' This is my command, sister : that thou dost 
see Eric no more.' 

' Say, Bjorn,' answered Gudruda, ' did I dream, or did I 



indeed see thee thrust the broken buckler before Eric's feet, 
so that he stumbled on ii; and fell ? ' 

' That thou sawest, lady,' said Skallagrim ; ' for I saw it 

Now Bjorn grew white in his anger. He did not answer 
Gudruda, but called aloud to his men to slay Eric and 
Skallagrim. Gizur called also to the folk of Ospakar, and 
Swanhild to those who came with her. 

Then Gudruda fled back to her seat. 

But Eric cried aloud also : ' Ye who love me, cleave to me. 
Suffer it not that Brighteyes be cut down of northerners and 
outland men. Hear me, Atli's folk; hear me, carles of Cold- 
back and of Middalhof ! ' 

And so greatly did many love Eric that half of the thralls of 
Bjorn, and almost all of the company of Swanhild who had 
been Atli's shield-men and Brighteyes' comrades, drew swords, 
shouting ' Eric ! Eric ! ' But the carles of Ospakar came on 
to make an end of him. 

Bjorn saw, and, drawing sword, smote at Brighteyes, taking 
him unawares. But Skallagrim caught the blow upon his 
axe, and before Bjorn could smite again Whitefire was aloft 
and down fell Bjorn, dead ! 

This was the end of Bjorn, Asmund's son. 

' Thou hast squeaked thy last, rat ! What did I tell thee ? ' 
cried Skallagrim. ' Take Bjorn's shield and back to back, lord, 
for here come foes.' 

' There goes one,' answered Eric, pointing to the door. 

Now Hall of Lithdale slunk through the doorway Hall, 
the liar, who cut the grapnel-chain for he wished to see the 
last of Skallagrim. But the Baresark still held Eric's spear 
in his hand. He whirled it aloft, and it hissed through 
the air. The aim was good, for, as he crept away, the spear 
struck Hall between neck and shoulder, pinning him to the 
doorpost, and there the liar died. 

' Now the weasel is nailed to the beam,' said Skallagrim. 
' Hall of Lithdale, what did I promise thee ? ' 

* Guard thy head and my back,' quoth Eric ; ' blows fall ! ' 

Now men smote at Eric and Skallagrim, nor did they 



spare to smite in turn. And as foes fell before him, Eric 
stepped one pace forward towards the door, and Skallagrim, 
who, back to back with him, held off those who pressed 
behind, took one step rearwards. Thus, a foe for every step, 
they won their way down the long hall. Fierce raged the 
fray around them, for, mad with hate and drink and the lust 
of fight, Swanhild's folk Eric's friends remembering the 
words of Atli, fell on Ospakar's ; and the people of Bjorn 
fell on each other, brother on brother, and father on son 
nor might the fray be stayed. The boards were overthrown, 
dead men lay among the meats and mead, and the blood of 
freeman, lord and thrall ran adown the floor. Everywhere 
through the dusky hall glittered the sheen of flashing swords 
and rose the clang of war. Darts clove the air like tongues 
of flame, and the clamour of battle beat against the roof. 

Blinded of the Norns who brought these things to pass, 
men sought no mercy and they gave none, but smote and slew 
till few were left to slay. 

And still Gudruda sat in her bride-seat, and, with eyes 
fixed in horror, watched the waxing of the war. Near to 
her stood Swanhild, marking all things with fierce- set face, 
and calling down curses on her folk, who one and all cried 
' Eric ! Eric ! ' and swept the thralls of Ospakar as corn is 
swept of the sickle. 

And there, nigh to the door, pale of face and beautiful to 
see, golden Eric clove his way, and with him went black 
Skallagrim. Terrible was the flare of Whitefire as he flickered 
aloft like the levin in the cloud. Terrible was the flare of 
Whitefire ; but more terrible was the light of Eric's eyes, for 
they seemed to flame in his head, and wherever that fire fell il, 
lighted men the way to death. Whitefire sung and flickered, 
and crashed the axe of Skallagrim, and still through the 
press of war they won their way. Now Gizur stands before 
them, spear aloft, and Whitefire leaps up to meet him. Lo ! 
he turns and flies. The coward son of Ospakar does not sock 
the fate of Ospakar ! 

The door is won. They stand without but little harmed, 
while women wail aloud. 


1 To horse ! ' cried Skallagrim ; ' to horse, ore our luck 
fail us ! ' 

' There is no luck in this,' gasped Eric ; ' for I have 
slain many men, and among them is Bjorn, the brother of her 
whom I would make my bride.' 

' Better one such fight than many brides,' said Skallagrim, 
shaking his red axe. ' We have won great glory this day, 
Brighteyes, and Ospakar is dead slain by a swordless 
man ! ' 

NowEricand Skallagrim ran to their horses, none hindering 
them, and, mounting, rode towards Mosfell. 

All that evening and all the night they rode, and at 
morning they came across the black sand to Mosfell slopes 
that are by the Hecla. Here they rested, and, taking off their 
armour, washed themselves in the stream : for they were very 
weary and foul with blood and wounds. When they had 
finished washing and had buckled on their harness again, 
Skallagrim, peering across the plain with his hawk's eyes, 
saw men riding fast towards them. 

' Foes are soon afoot, lord,' he said. ' I thought we had 
stayed their hunger for a while.' 

' Would that I might stay mine,' quoth Eric. ' I am weary, 
and unfit for fight.' 

'I have still strength for one or two,' said Skallagrim, 
* and then good- night ! But these are no foes. They are of 
the Coldback folk. The carline has kept her word.' 

Then Eric was glad, and presently six men, headed by Jon 
his thrall, the same man who had watched on Mosfell when 
Eric went up to slay the Baresark, rode to them and greeted 
them. ' Beggar women,' said Jon, ' whom they met at Ran 
River, had told them of the death of Ospakar, and of the great 
slaying at Middalhof, and they would know if the tidings 
were true.' 

4 It is true, Jon,' said Eric ; ' but first give us food, if ye 
have it, for we are hungered and spent. When we have eaten 
we will speak.' 

So they led up a pack-horse and from it took stockfish and 


smoked meat, of which Eric and Skallagrim eat heartily, till 
their strength came back to them. 

Then Eric spoke. ' Comrades,' he said, ' I am an outlawed 
man, and, though I have not sought it, much blood is on my 
head. Atli is dead at my hand ; Ospakar is dead at my hand ; 
Bjorn the Priest, Asmund's son, is dead at my hand, and 
with them many another man. Nor may the matter stay 
here, for Gizur, Blacktooth's son, yet lives, and Bjorn has 
kin in the south, and Swanhild will buy friends with gold, 
and all of these will set on me to slay me, so that at the last 
I die by the sword.' 

* No need for that,' said Skallagrim. ' Our vengeance is 
wrought, and now, as before, the sea is open, and I think 
that a welcome awaits us in London.' 

' Now Gudruda is widowed before she was fully wed,' said 
Eric, 'therefore I bide an outlawed man here in Iceland. 
I go hence no more, though it be death to stay, unless indeed 
Gudruda the Fair goes with me.' 

' It will be death, then,' said Skallagrim, ' and the swords 
are forged that we shall feel. The odds are too heavy, lord.' 

' Mayhap,' answered Eric. ' No man may flee his fate, 
and I shall not altogether grieve when mine finds me. 
Hearken, comrades : I go up Mosfell height, and there I stay, 
till those be found who can drag me from my hole. But this 
is my counsel to you : that ye leave me to my doom, for I am 
an unlucky man who always chooses the wrong road.' 

' That will not I,' said Skallagrim. 

' Nor we,' said Eric's folk ; ' Swanhild holds Coldback, and 
we are driven to the fells. To the fells then we will go with 
thee, Eric Brighteyes, and become cave-dwellers and outlnws 
for thy sake. Fear not, thou shalt still find many friends.' 

'I did not look for such a thing at your hands,' said 
Eric ; ' but stormy waters shew how the boat is built. May 
no bad luck come to you from your good fellowship. And now 
let us to our nest.' 

Then they caught the horses, and rode with Brighteyes up 
the steep side of Mosfell, till at length they came to that secret 
dell which Skallagrim had once shown to Eric. Here they 


turned the horses loose to feed, and, going forward on foot, 
reached the dark and narrow pass that Brighteyes had 
trod when he sought for the Baresark foe. Skallagrim led the 
way along it, then came Eric and the rest. One by one they 
stepped on to the giddy point of rock, and, catching at the 
birch-bush, entered the hole. So they gained the platform 
and the great cave beyond; and they found that no man 
had set foot there since the day when Eric had striven with 
Skallagrim. For there on the rock, rotten with the weather, 
lay that haft of wood which Brighteyes had hewed from the 
axe of Skallagrim, and in the cave were many things beside 
as the Baresark had left them. 

So they took up their dwelling in the cave, Eric, Skalla- 
grim, and the six Coldback men, and there they dwelt many 
months. But Eric sent out men, one at a time, and got 
together food and a store of sheepskins, arid other needful 
things. For he knew this well : that Gizur and Swanhild 
would before long come up against them, and, if they could 
not take them by force, would set themselves to watch the 
niountain-path and starve them out. 

When Eric and Skallagrim rode away from Middalhof the 
fight still raged fiercely in the hall, and nothing but death 
might stay it. The minds of men were mad, and they smote 
one another, and slew each other, till at length of all that 
marriage company few were left unharmed, except Gizur, 
Swanhild, and Gudruda. For the serving thralls and women- 
folk had fled the hall, and with them some peaceful men. 

Then Gudruda spoke as one in a dream. 

' Saevuna's prophecy was true,' she said, 'red was the 
marriage-feast of Asmund my father, redder has been the 
marriage -feast of Ospakar ! She saw the hall of Middalhof 
one gore of blood, and lo ! it is so. Look upon thy work, 
Swanhild,' and she pointed to the piled-up dead ' look upon 
thy work, witch -sister, and grow fearful : for all this death is 
on thy head ! ' 

Swanhild laughed aloud. 'I think it a merry sight,' she 
cried. ' The marriage-feast of Asmund our father was red, 


and thy marriage-feast, Gudruda, has been redder. Would that 
thy blood and the blood of Eric ran with the blood of Bjorn 
and Ospakar ! That tale must yet be told, Gudruda. There 
shall be binding on of Hell-shoes at Middalhof, but I bind 
them not. My task is still to come : for I will live to fasten the 
Hell- shoes on the feet of Eric, and on thy feet, Gudruda ! At 
the least, I have brought about this much, that thou canst 
scarcely wed Eric the outlaw : for with his own hand he slew 
Bjorn our brother, and because of this I count all that 
death as nothing. Thou canst not mate with Brighteyes, lest 
the wide wounds of Bjorn thy brother should take tongues 
and cry thy shame from sea to sea ! ' 

Gudruda made no answer, but sat as one carved in stone. 
Then Swanhild spoke again : 

' Let us away to the north, Gizur ; there to gather strength 
to make an end of Eric. Say, wilt thou help us, Gudruda ? 
The blood-feud for the death of Bjorn. is thine.' 

* Ye are enough to bring about the fall of one unfriended 
man,' Gudruda said. ' Go, and leave me with my sorrow and 
the dead. Nay ! before thou goest, listen, Swanhild, for there 
is that in my heart which tells me I shall never look again 
upon thy face. From evil to evil thou hast ever gone, Swan- 
hild, and from evil to evil thou wilt go. It well may chance 
that thy wickedness will win. It may well chance that thou 
wilt crown thy crimes with my slaying and the slaying of the 
man who loves me. But I tell thee this, traitress murderess, 
as thou art that here the tale ends not. Not by death, 
Swanhild, shalt thou escape the deeds of life ! There they 
shall rise up against thee, and there every shame that thou 
hast worked, every sin that thou hast sinned, and every soul 
that thou hast brought to Hela's halls, shall come to haunt 
thee and to drive thee on from age to age ! That witch- 
craft which thou lovest shall mesh thee. Shadows slia.ll 
bewilder thee ; from the bowl of empty longing thou shalt 
drink and drink, and not be satisfied. Yea ! lusts shall 
mock and madden thee. Thou shalt ride the winds, thou 
shalt sail the seas, but thou shalt find no harbour, ;md 
never shalt thou set foot upon a shore of peace. 


1 Go on, Swanhild dye those hands in blood wade 
through the river of shame ! Seek thy desire, and finding, lose ! 
Work thy evil, and winning, fail ! I yet shall triumph I yet 
shall trample thee ; and, in a place to come, with Eric at 
my side, I shall make a mock of Swanhild the murderess ! 
Swanhild the liar, and the wanton, and the witch ! Now get 
thee gone ! ' 

Swanhild heard. She looked up at Gudruda's face and 
it was alight as with a fire. She strove to answer, but no 
words came. Then Groa's daughter turned and went, and 
with her went Gizur. 

Now women and thralls came in and drew out the wounded 
and those who still breathed from among the dead, taking them 
to the temple. They bore away the body of Ospakar also, but 
they left the rest. 

All night long Gudruda sat in the bride's seat. There 
she sat in the silver summer midnight, looking on the slain 
who were strewn about the great hall. All night she sat 
alone in the bride's seat thinking ever thinking. 

How, then, would it end ? There her brother Bjorn lay 
a-cold Bjorn the justly slain of Brighteyes ; yet how could 
she wed the man who slew her brother ? From Ospakar she 
was divorced by death ; from Eric she was divorced by the 
blood of Bjorn her brother ! How might she unravel this 
tangled skein and float to weal upon this sea of death '? All 
things went amiss ! The doom was on her ! She had lived to 
an ill purpose her love had wrought evil ! What availed it 
to have been born to be fair among women and to have 
desired that which might not be ? And she herself had brought 
these things to pass she had loosed the rock which crushed 
her ! Why had she hearkened to that false tale ? 

Gudruda sat on high in the bride's seat, asking wisdom of 
the piled- up dead, while the cold blue shadows of the nigh tless 
night gathered over her and them gathered, and waned, and 
grew at last to the glare of day. 

'All night long Gudruda sat in B Seat, 





CIZUR went north to Swine- 
fell, and Swanhild went with 
him. For now that Ospakar 
was dead at Eric's hand. 
Gizur ruled in his place at 
Swinefell, and was the 
greatest lord in all the north. 
He loved Swanhild, and de- 
but she played with him, talking 
Swanhild was not minded to be 
the wife of any man, except of Eric ; to all others she was 
cold as the winter earth. Still, she fooled Gizur as she had 
fooled Atli the Good, and he grew blind with love of her. For 
still the beauty of Swanhild waxed as the moon waxes in the 
sky, and her wicked eyes shone as the stars shine when the 
moon has set. 

Now they came to Swinefell, and there Gizur buried 
Ospakar Blacktooth, his father, with much state. He set him 
in a chamber of rock and timbers on a mountain- top, whence 
he might see all the lands that once were his, and built up a 
great mound of earth above him. To this day people tell that 
here on Yule night black Ospakar bursts out, and golden 
Eric rides down the blast to meet him. Then como tlio 
clang of swords, and groans, and the sound of riven helms, 


sired to make her his wife 
darkly of what might be. 


till presently Brighteyes passes southward on the wind, bearing 
in his hand the half of a cloven shield. 

So Gizur bound the Hell-shoes on his father, and swore that 
he would neither rest nor stay till Eric Brighteyes was dead 
and dead was Skallagrim Lambstail. Then he gathered a 
great force of men and rode south to Coldback, to the slaying 
of Eric, and with him went Swanhild. 

Gudruda sat alone in the haunted hall of Middalhof and 
brooded on her love and on her fate. Eric, too, sat in Mosfell 
cave and brooded on his evil chance. His heart was sick with 
sorrow, and there was little that he could do except think 
about the past. He would not go to foray, after the fashion 
of outlaws, and there was no need of this. For the talk of 
his mighty deeds spread through the land, so that people spoke 
of little else. And the men of his quarter were so proud of 
these deeds of Eric's that, though some of their kin had fallen 
at his hands in the great fight of Middalhof and some at the 
hands of Skallagrim, yet they spoke of him as men speak of a 
God. Moreover they brought him gifts of food and clothing 
and arms, as many as his people could carry away, and laid 
them in a booth that is on the plain near the foot of Mosfell, 
which thenceforth was named Ericsfell. Further, they bade 
his thralls tell him that, if he wished it, they would find a good 
ship of war to take him from Iceland ay, and man it with 
loyal men and true. 

Eric thanked them through Jon his thrall, but answered 
that he wished to die here in Iceland. 

Now, when Eric had sat two months and more in Mosfell 
cave and autumn was coming, he learned that Gizur and 
Swanhild had moved down to Coldback, and with them a 
great company of men who were sworn to slay him. He 
asked if Gudruda the Fair had also gathered men for his 
slaying. They told him no ; that Gudruda stayed with her 
thralls and women at Middalhof, mourning for Bjorn her 
brother. From these tidings Eric took some heart of hope : at 
the least Gudruda laid no blood-feud against him. For 


he waited, thinking, if indeed she yet loved him, that Gudruda 
would send him some word or token of her love. But no 
word came, since between them ran the blood of Bjorn. On 
the morrow of these tidings Skallagrim spoke to Eric. 

' This is my counsel, lord,' he said, ' that we ride out by 
night and fall on the folk of Gizur at Coldback, and burn the 
stead over them, putting them to the sword. I am weary of 
sitting here like an eagle in a cage.' 

' Such is no counsel of mine, Skallagrim,' answered Bright- 
eyes. ' I am weary of sitting here, indeed ; but I am yet more 
weary of bringing men to their death. I will shed no more 
blood, unless it is to save my own head. When the people of 
Gizur come to seek me on Mosfell, they shall find me here ; 
but I will not go to them.' 

' Thy heart is out of thee, lord,' said Skallagrim ; ' tliou 
wast not wont to speak thus.' 

' Ay, Skallagrim,' said Eric, ' the heart is out of me. Yet 
I ride from Mosfell to -day.' 

' Whither, lord ? ' 

' To Middalhof, to have speech with Gudruda the Fair.' 

' Like enough, then, thou wilt be silent thereafter.' 

' It well may be,' said Eric. ' Yet I will ride. I can 
bear this doubt no longer.' 

' Then I shall come with thee,' said Skallagrim. 

' As thou wilt,' answered Eric. 

So at midday Eric and Skallagrim rode away from Mosfell 
in a storm of rain. The rain was so heavy that those of 
Gizur's spies who watched the mountain did not see them. All 
that day they rode and all the night, till by morning they came 
to Middalhof. Eric told Skallagrim to stay with the horses and 
let them feed, while he went on foot to see if by chance he 
might get speech with Gudruda. This the Baresark did, 
though he grumbled at the task, fearing lest Eric should he 
done to death and he not there to die with him. 

Now Eric walked to within two bowshots of tiie house, then 
sat down in a dell by the river, from the edge of which he 
could see those who passed in and out. Presently his heart 
ve a leap, for there came out from the women's door 



a lady tall and beautiful to see, and with golden hair that 
flowed about her breast. It was Gudruda, and he saw that 
she bore a napkin in her hand. Then Eric knew, according to 
her custom on the warm mornings, that she came alone to 
bathe in the river, as she had always done from a child. It 
was her habit to bathe here in this place : for at the bottom of 
the dell was a spot where reeds and bushes grew thick, and 
the water lay in a basin of rock and was clear and still. 
For at this spot a hot spring ran into the river. 

Eric went down the dell, hid himself close in the bushes 
and waited, for he feared to speak with Gudruda in the open 
field. A while passed, and presently the shadow of the lady 
crept over the edge of the dell, then she came herself in that 
beauty which since her day has not been known in Iceland. 
Her face was sad and sweet, her dark and lovely eyes 
were sad. On she came, till she stood within a spear's 
length of where Eric lay, crouched in the bush, and looking at 
her through the hedge of reeds. Here a flat rock overhung the 
water, and Gudruda sat herself on this rock, and, shaking off 
her shoes, dipped her white feet in the water. Then suddenly 
she threw aside her cloak, baring her arms, and, gazing 
upon the shadow of her beauty in the mirror of the water, 
sighed and sighed again, while Eric looked at her with a 
bursting heart, for as yet he could find no words to say. 

Now she spoke aloud. ' Of what use to be so fair ? ' she 
said. ' Oh, wherefore was I born so fair to bring death to 
many and sorrow on myself and him I love ? ' And she shook 
her golden hair about her arms of snow, and, holding the 
napkin to her eyes, wept softly. But it seemed to Eric that 
between her sobs she called upon his name. 

Now Eric could no longer bear the sight of Gudruda 
weeping. While she wept, hiding her eyes, he rose from be- 
hind the screen of reeds and stood beside her in such fashion 
that his shadow fell upon her. She felt the sunlight pass and 
looked up. Lo ! it was no cloud, but the shape of Eric, and 
the sun glittered on his golden helm and hair. 

4 Eric ! ' Gudruda cried ; ' Eric ! ' Then, remembering how 
she was attired, snatching her cloak, she threw it about her 


arms and thrust her wet feet into her shoes. ' Out upon 
thee ! ' she said ; ' is it not enough, then, that thou shouldst 
break thy troth for Swanhild's sake, that thou shouldst slay 
my brother and turn my hall to shambles ? Wouldst now 
steal upon me thus ! ' 

' Methought that thou didst weep and call upon my 
name, Gudruda,' he said humbly. 

' By what right art thou here to hearken to my words ? ' 
she answered. ' Is it, then, strange that I should speak the 
name of him who slew my brother ? Is it strange that I should 
weep over that brother whom thou didst slay ? Get thee gone, 
Brighteyes, before I call my folk to kill thee ! ' 

' Call on, Gudruda. I set little price upon my life. I 
laid it in the hands of chance when I came from Mosfell 
to speak with thee, and now I will pay it down if so it 
pleases thee. Fear not, thy thralls shall have an easy task : 
for I shall scarcely care to hold my own. Say, shall I call for 
thee ? ' 

* Hush ! Speak not so loud ! Folk may hear thee, Eric, 
and then thou wilt be in danger I would say that, then 
shall ill things be told of me, because I am found with him 
who slew my brother ? ' 

* I slew Ospakar also, Gudruda. Surely the death of him 
by whose side thou didst sit as wife is more to thee than the 
death of Bjorn ? ' 

' The bride- cup was not yet drunk, Eric ; therefore I 
have no blood-feud for Ospakar.' 

' Is it, then, thy will that I should go, lady ? ' 

* Yes, go ! go ! Never let me see thy face again ! 
Brighteyes turned without a word. He took three paces 

and Gudruda watched him as he went. 

' Eric ! ' she called. ' Eric ! thou mayest not go yet : for 
at this hour the thralls bring down the kiiie to milk, and they 
will see thee. Lie thou hid here. I I will go. For though, 
indeed, thou dost deserve to die, I am not willing to bring 
thee to thy end because of old friendship I am not willing ! ' 

' If thou goest I will go also,' said Eric. ' Thralls or no 
thralls, I \yill go, Gudruda.' 


1 Thou art cruel to drive me to such a choice, and I have 
a mind to give thee to thy fate.' 

' As thouwilt,' said Eric ; but she made as though she did 
not hear his words. 

' Now,' she said, ' if we must stay here, it is better that we 
hide where thou didst hide, lest some come upon thee.' And 
she passed through the screen of rushes and sat down in 
a grassy place beyond, and spoke again. 

' Nay, sit not near me ; sit yonder. I would not touch 
thee, nor look upon thee, who wast Swanhild's love, and didst 
slay Bjorn my brother.' 

' Say, Gudruda,' said Eric, ' did I not tell thee of the 
magic arts of Swanhild? Did I not tell thee before all 
men yonder in the hall, and didst thou not say that thou 
didst believe my words ? Speak.' 

' That is true,' said Gudruda. 

' Wherefore, then, dost thou taunt me with being Swan- 
hild's love with being the love of her whom of all alive I 
hate the most and whose wicked guile has brought these 
sorrows on us ? ' 

But Gudruda did not answer. 

'And for this matter of the death of Bjorn at my hands, 
think, Gudruda : was I to blame in it ? Did not Bjorn 
thrust the cloven shield before my feet, and thus give me 
into the hand of Ospakar ? Did he not afterwards smite at 
me from behind, and would he not have slain me if Skalla- 
grim had not caught the blow? Was I, then, to blame if I 
smote back and if the sword flew home ? Wilt thou let the 
needful deed rise up against our love ? Speak, Gudruda ! ' 

' Talk no more of love to me, Eric,' she answered ; * the 
blood of Bjorn has blotted out our love : it cries to me for 
vengeance. How may I speak of love with him who slew 
my brother ? Listen ! ' she went on, looking on him side- 
long, as one who wished to look and yet not seem to see : 
' here thou must hide an hour, and, since thou wilt not sit in 
silence, speak no tender words to me, for it is not fitting ; but 
tell me of those deeds thou didst in the south lands over sea, 
before thou wentcst to woo SwanhiM and cnmest hither to 


kill my brother. For till then thou wast mine till then I 
loved thee who now love thee not. Therefore I would 
hear of the deeds of that Eric whom once I loved, before he 
became as one dead to me.' 

1 Heavy words, lady,' said Eric ' words to make death 

' Speak not so,' she said ; ' it is unmanly thus to work upon 
my fears. Tell me those tidings of which I ask.' 

So Eric told her all his deeds, though he showed small 
boastfulness about them. He told her how he had smitten 
the war-dragons of Ospakar, how he had boarded the Eaven 
and with Skallagrim slain those who sailed in her. He told 
her also of his deeds in Ireland, and of how he took the viking 
ships and came to London town. 

And as he told, Gudruda listened as one who hung upon 
her lover's dying words, and there was but one light in the 
world for her, the light of Eric's eyes, and there was but one 
music, the music of his voice. Now she looked upon him 
sidelong no longer, but with open eyes and parted lips she 
drank in his words, and always, though she knew it not her- 
self, she crept closer to his side. 

Then he told her how he had been greatly honoured of 
the King of England, and of the battles he had fought in at 
his side. Lastly, Eric told her how the King would have given 
him a certain great lady of royal blood in marriage, and how 
Edmund had been angered because he would not stay in 

' Tell me of this lady/ said Gudruda, quickly. * Is she 
fair, and how is she named ? ' 

1 She is fair, and her name is Elfrida,' said Eric. 

' And didst thou have speech with her on this matter ? ' 

' Somewhat.' 

Now Gudruda drew herself away from Eric's side. 

' What was the purport of thy speech ? ' she said, looking 
down. ' Speak truly, Eric.' 

'It came to little,' he answered. ' I told her that there 
was one in Iceland to whom I was betrothed, and to Iceland I 
must go.' 


' And what said this Elfrida, then ? ' 

' She said that I should get little luck at the hands of 
Gudruda the Fair. Moreover, she asked, should my betrothed 
be faithless to me, or put me from her, if I should come again 
to England.' 

Now Gudruda looked him in the face and spoke. ' Say, 
Eric, is it in thy mind to sail for England in the spring, if 
thou canst escape thy foes so long ? ' 

Now Eric took counsel with himself, and in his love and 
doubt grew guileful as he had never been before. For he 
knew well that Gudruda had this weakness she was a jealous 

' Since thou dost put me from thee, that is in my mind, 
lady,' he answered. 

Gudruda heard. She thought on the great and beauteous 
Lady Elfrida, far away in England, and of Eric walking at 
her side, and sorrow took hold of her. She said no word, but 
fixed her dark eyes on Brighteyes' face, and lo ! they filled 
with tears. 

Eric might not bear this sight, for his heart beat within 
him as though it would burst the byrnie over it. Suddenly 
he stretched out his arms and swept her to his breast. Soft 
and sweet he kissed her, again and yet again, and she struggled 
not, though she wept a little. 

' It is small blame to me,' she whispered, ' if thou dost 
hold me on thy breast and kiss me, for thou art more strong 
than I. Bjorn must know this if his dead eyes see aught. 
Yet for thee, Eric, it is the greatest shame of all thy shames.' 

4 Talk not, my sweet ; talk not,' said Eric, ' but kiss thou 
me : for thou knowest well that thou lovest me yet as I love 

Now the end of it was that Gudruda yielded and kissed 
him whom she had not kissed for many years. 

1 Loose me, Eric,' she said ; ' I would speak with thee,' 
and he loosed her, though unwillingly. 

' Hearken,' she went on, hiding her fair face in her hands : 
' it is true that for life and death I love thee now as ever how 
much thou mayest never know. Though Bjorn be dead at 


thy hands, yet I love thee ; but how I may wed thee and not 
win the greatest shame, that I know not. I am sure of one 
thing, that we may not bide here in Iceland. Now if, indeed, 
thou lovest me, listen to my rede. Get thee back to Mosfell, 
Eric, and sit there in safety through this winter, for they may 
not come at thee yonder on Mosfell. Then, if thou art willing, 
in the spring I will make ready a ship, for I have no ship now, 
and, moreover, it is too late to sail. Then, perchance, leav- 
ing all my lands and goods, I will take thy hand, Eric, and wo 
will fare together to England, seeking such fortune as the 
Norns may give us. What sayest thou ? ' 

' I say it is a good rede, and would that the spring were 

' Ay, Eric, would that the spring were come. Our lot has 
been hard, and I doubt much if things will go well with us 
at the last. And now thou must hence, for presently the 
serving-women will come to seek me. Guard thyself, Eric, as 
thou lovest me guard thyself, and beware of Swanhild ! ' 
Then once more they kissed soft and long, and Eric went. 

But Gudruda sat a while behind the screen of reeds, and 
was very happy for a space. For it was as though the winter 
were past and summer shone upon her heart again. 




ERIC walked warily till he came to the dell where he had left 
Skallagrim and the horses. It was the same dell in which 
Groa had brewed the poison-draught for Asmund the Priest 
andUnna, Thorod's daughter. 

' What news, lord ? ' said Skallagrim. ' Thou wast gone 
so long that I thought of seeking thee. Hast thou seen 

' Ay,' said Eric, ' and this is the upshot of it, that in the 
spring we sail for England and bid farewell to Iceland and 
our ill luck.' 

k Would, then, that it were spring,' said Skallagrim, speak- 
ing Brighteyes' own words. ' Why not sail now and make an 
end ? ' 

' Gudruda has no ship and it is. late to take the sea. Also 
I think that she would let a time go by because of the blood- 
feud which she has against me for the death of Bjorn.' 

' I would rather risk these things than stay the winter 
through in Iceland,' said Skallagrim, ' it is long from now to 
spring, and yon wolf's den is cold-lying in the dark months, as 
I know well.' 

' There is light beyond the darkness,' said Eric, and they 
rode away. Everything went well with them till late at 
night they came to the slopes of Mosfell. They were half 
asleep on their horses, being weary with much riding, and 
the horses were weary also. Suddenly Skallagrim, looking up, 
caught the faint gleam of light from swords hidden behind 
some stones. 



' Awake, lord ! ' he cried, ' here are foes ahead.' 

Gizur's folk behind the stones heard his voice and came 
out from their ambush. There were six of them, and they 
formed in line before the pair. They were watching the moun- 
tain, for a rumour had reached them that Eric was abroad, 
and, seeing him, they had hidden hastily behind the stones. 

' Now what counsel shall we take ? ' said Eric, drawing 

' We have often stood against more men than six, and 
sometimes we have left more me*n than six to mark where we 
had stood,' answered Skallagrim. ' It is my counsel that wo 
ride at them ! ' 

4 So be it,' said Eric, and spurred his weary horse with his 
heels. Now when the six saw Eric and Skallagrim charge 
on them boldly, they wavered, and the end of it was that they 
broke and fled to either side before a blow was struck. For it 
had come to this pass, so great was the terror of the names of 
Eric Brighteyes and Skallagrim Lambstail, that no six men 
dared to stand before them in open fight. 

So the path being clear they rode on up the slope. But 
when they had gone a little way, Skallagrim turned his horse, 
and mocked those who had lain in ambush, saying : 

' Ye fight well, ye carles of Gizur, Ospakar's son ! Ye are 
heroes, surely ! Say now, mighty men, will ye stand there if 
I come down alone against you ? ' 

At these words the men grew mad with wrath, and flung 
their spears. Skallagrim caught one on his shield and it fell 
the earth, but another passed over his head and struck Eric 
on the left shoulder, near the neck, making a deep wound. 
Feeling the spear fast in him, Eric grasped it with his right 
hand, drew it forth and, turning, hurled it so hard, that the 
man before it got his death from the blow, for his shield did 
not serve to stay it. Then the rest fled. 

Skallagrim bound up Eric's wound as well as he could, 
and they went on to the cave. But when Eric's folk, 
watching above, saw the fight they ran down and met him. 
Now the hurt was bad and Eric bled much ; still, within 
ten days it healed up for the time. 


But a little while after Eric's wound was skinned over, 
the snows set in on Mosfell, and the days grew short and the 
nights long. Once Gizur's men to the number of fifty came 
half way up the mountain to take it ; but, when they saw how 
strong the place was, they feared, and went back, and after 
that returned no more, though they always watched the fell. 

It was very dark and lonesome there upon the fell. For 
a while Eric kept in good heart, but as the days went by he 
grew troubled. For since he was wounded this had come upon 
him, that he feared the dark, and the death of Atli at his 
hand and Atli's words weighed more and more upon his 
mind. They had no candles on the fell, yet, rather than stay in 
the blackness of the cave, Eric would wrap sheepskins about 
him and sit by the edge of that gulf down which the head of 
the Baresark had foretold his fall, and look out at the wide 
plains and fells and ice-mountains, gleaming in the silver 
shine of the Northern lights or in the white beams of the 

It chanced that Eric had bidden the men who stayed 
with him to build a stone hut upon the flat space of rock 
before the cave, and to roof it with turves. He had done this 
that work might keep them in heart, also that they might 
have a place to store such goods as they had gathered. Now 
there was one stone lying near that no two men of their 
number could move, except Skallagrim and one other. One 
day, while it was light, Eric watched these two rolling the 
stone along to where it must stand, and it was slow work. 
Presently they stayed to rest. Then Eric came and putting 
his hands beneath the stone, lifted, and while men wondered, 
he rolled the mass alone, to where it should be set as the corner 
stone of the hut. 

' Ye are all children,' he said, and laughed merrily. 

* Ay, when we set our strength against thine, lord,' answered 
Skallagrim ; ' but look : the blood runs from thy neck the 
spear-wound has broken out afresh.' 

' So it is, surely,' said Eric. Then he washed the wound 
and bound it up, thinking little of the matter. 

But that night, according to his custom, Eric sat on the 


edge of the gulf and looked at the winter lights as they played 
over Hecla's snows. He was sad and heavy at heart, for he 
thought of Gudruda and wondered much if they should live to 
wed. Remembering Atli's words, he had little faith in his good 
luck. Now as Eric sat and thought, the bandage on his neck 
slipped, so that the hurt bled, and the frost got hold of the 
wound and froze it, and froze his long hair to it also, in such 
fashion that when he went to the cave where all men slept, 
he could not loose his hair from the sore, but lay down 
with it frozen to him. On the morrow the hair was caked so 
fast about his neck that it could only be freed by shearing 
it. But this Eric would not suffer. None, he said, should 
shear his hair, except Gudruda. Thus he had sworn, and 
when he broke the oath misfortune had come of it. He would 
break that vow no more, if it cost him his life. For sorrow and 
his ill luck had taken so great a hold of Eric's mind that in 
some ways he was scarcely himself. 

So it came to pass that he fell more and more sick, till 
at length he could not rise from his bed in the cave, but 
lay there all day and night, staring at the little light which 
pierced the gloom. Still, he would not suffer that anyone 
should touch his hair. And when one stole upon him sleeping, 
thinking so to cut it before he woke, and come at the wound, 
suddenly he sat up and dealt the man such a buffet on the 
head that he went near to death from it. 

Then Skallagrim spoke. 

' On this matter,' he said, ' it seems that Brighteyes is 
mad. He will not suffer that any touch his hair, except 
Gudruda, and yet, if his hair is not shorn, he must die, for the 
wound will fester under it. Nor may we cut it by strength, 
for then he will kill himself in struggling. It is come to this 
then : either Gudruda must be brought hither or Eric w r ill 
shortly die.' 

' That may not be,' they answered. ' How can the lady 
Gudruda come here across the snows, even if she will come ? 

'Come she can, if she has the heart,' said Skallagrim, 
' though I put little trust in women's hearts. Still, I ride down 
to Middalhof, and thou, Jon, shalt go with me. For the rest, 


I charge you watch your lord ; for, if I come back and find 
anything amiss, that shall be the death of some, and if I do 
not come back but perish on the road, yet I will haunt you.' 

Now Jon liked not this task ; still, for love of Eric ji.r.d 
fear of Skallagrim he set out with the Baresark. They had 
a hard journey through the snow-drifts and the dark, but on 
the third day they came to Middalhof, knocked upon the door 
and entered. 

Now it was supper-time, and people, sitting at meat, saw 
a great black man, covered with snow and rime, stalk up the 
hall, and after him another smaller man, who groaned with 
the cold, and they wondered at the sight. Gudruda sat on the 
high seat and the firelight beat upon her face. 

* Who comes here ? ' she said. 

' One who would speak with thee, lady,' answered 

' Here is Skallagrim the Baresark,' said a man. * He is 
an outlaw, let us kill him ! ' 

' Ay, it is Skallagrim,' he answered, ' and if there is kill- 
ing to be done, why here's that which shall do it,' and he 
drew out his axe and smiled grimly. 

Then all held their peace, for they feared the axe of 

'Lady,' he said, * I do not come for slaying or such child's 
play, I come to speak a word in thine ear but first I ask a 
cup of mead and a morsel of food, for we have spent three 
days in the snows.' 

So they ate and drank. Then Gudruda bade the Baresark 
draw near and tell her his tale, 

'Lady,' said he, 'Eric, my lord, lies dying on Mosfell.' 

Gudruda turned white as the snow. 

'Dying? Eric lies dying?' she said. 'Why, then, art 
them here ? ' 

' For this cause, lady : I think that them canst save him, if 
he is not already sped.' And he told her all the tale. 

Now Gudruda thought a while. 

' This is a hard journey,' she said, 'and it does not become 
a maid to visit outlaws in their caves. Yet I am come to this, 



that I will die before I shrink from anything that may save 
tho life of Eric. When must we ride, Bkallagrim ? ' 

' This night,' said the Baresark. 'This night while men 
sleep, for now night and day are almost the same. The snow 
is deep and we have no time to lose if we would find Bright- 
eyes living.' 

1 Then we will ride to-night,' answered Gudruda. 

Afterwards, when people slept, Gudruda the Fair sum- 
moned her women, and bade them say to all who asked for 
her that she lay sick in bed. But she called three trusty thralls, 
bidding them bring two pack-horses laden with hay, food, 
drugs, candles made of sheep's fat, and other goods, and ride 


with her. Then, all being ready, they rode away secretly up 
Stonefell, Gudruda on her horse Blackmane, and the others 
on good geldings that had been hay-fed in the yard, and by 
daylight they passed up Horse-Head Heights. They slept 
two nights in the snow, and on the second night almost 
perished there, for much soft snow fell. But afterwards 
came frost and a bitter northerly wind and they passed on. 
Gudruda was a strong woman and great of heart and will, 
and so it came about that on the third day she reached 
Mosfell, weary but little harmed, though the fingers of her left 
hand were frostbitten. They climbed the mountain, and when 
they came to the dell where tho horses were kept, certain of 
Eric's men met them and their faces were sad. 

4 How goes it now with Brighteyes ? ' said Skallagrim, for 


Gudruda could scarcely speak because of doubt and cold. ' Is 
he dead, then ? ' 

* Nay,' they answered, ' but like to die, for he is beside 
himself and raves wildly.' 

' Push on,' quoth Gudruda ; ' push on, lest it be too late.' 

So they climbed the mountain on foot, won the pass and 
came to that giddy point of rock where he must tread who 
would reach the platform that is before the cave. Now since 
she had hung by her hands over Goldfoss gulf, Gudruda 
had feared to tread upon a height with nothing to hold 
to. Skallagrim went first, then called to her to follow. 
Thrice she looked, and turned away, trembling, for the place 
was awful and the fall bottomless. Then she spoke aloud to 
herself : 

' Eric did not fear to risk his life to save me when I hung 
over Golden Falls; less, then, should I fear to risk mine 
to save him,' and she stepped boldly down upon the point. 
But when she stood there, over the giddy height, shivers ran 
along her body, and her mind grew dark. She clutched at 
the rock, gave one low cry and began to fall. Indeed she 
would have fallen and been lost, had not Skallagrim, lying on 
his breast in the narrow hole, stretched out his 'arms, caught 
her by the cloak and kirtle and dragged her to him. Presently 
her senses came back. 

' I am safe ! ' she gasped, ' but by a very little. Methinka 
that here in this place I must live and die, for I can never 
tread yonder rock again.' 

' Thou shalt pass it safe enough, lady, with a rope round 
thee,' said Skallagrim, and led the way to the cave. 

Gudruda entered, forgetting all things in her love of Eric. 
A great fire of turf burned in the mouth of the cave to temper 
the bitter wind and frost, and by its light Gudruda saw her 
love through the smoke -reek. He lay upon a bed of skins at 
the far end of the cave and his bright grey eyes were wild, 
his wan face was white, and now of a sudden it grew red with 
fever, and then was white again. He had thrown the sheep- 
skins from his mighty chest, the bones of which stood out 
grimly. His long arms were thrust through the locks of 


his golden hair, and on one side of his neck the hair clung to 
him and it was but a black mass. 

He raved loudly in his madness. * Touch me not, carles, 
touch me not ; ye think me spent and weak, but, by Thor ! if ye 
touch my hair, I will loosen the knees of some. Gudruda 
alone shall shear my hair : I have sworn and I will keep the 
oath that I once broke. Give me snow ! snow ! my throat 
burns ! Heap snow on my head, I bid you. Ye will not ? Ye 
mock me, thinking me weak ! Where, then, is Whitefire ? 
I have yet a deed to do ! Who comes yonder ? Is it a woman's 
shape or is it but a smoke-wraith '? 'Tis Swanhild the Father- 
less who walks the waters. Begone, Swanhild, thou witch ! 
thou hast worked evil enough upon me. Nay, it is not Swan- 
hild, it is Elfrida; lady, here in England I may not stay. In 
Iceland I am at home. Yea, yea, things go crossly ; perchance 
in this garden we may speak again ! ' 

Now Gudruda could bear his words no longer, but ran to 
him and knelt beside him. 

* Peace, Eric! ' she whispered. ' Peace ! I 4 is I, thy love. 
It is Gudruda, who am come to thee.' 

He turned his head and looked upon her strangely. 

'No, no,' he said, ' it is not Gudruda the Fair. She will 
have little to do with outlaws, and this is too rough a place 
for her to come to. It is dark also and Atli speaks in the 
darkness. If thou art Gudruda, give me a sign. Why comest 
thou here and where is Skallagrim? Ah! that was a good 


Down amongst the ballast tumbling 
Ospakar's shield-carles were rolled. 

But he should never have slain the steersman. The axe 
goes first and Skallagrim follows after. Ha, ha! Ay, 
Swanhild, we'll mingle tears ! Give me the cup. Why, 
what is this ? Thou art afire, a glory glows about thee, and 
from thee floats a scent like the scent of the Iceland meads 
in May.' 

' Kric ! Eric! ' cried Gudruda, ' I am come to shear thy 
hair, as thou didst swear that I alone should do.' 

* Now I know that thou art Gudruda,' said the cra/rd 



man. ' Cut, cut ; but let not those knaves touch my head, 
lest I should slay them.' 

Then Gudruda drew out her shears, and without more 
ado shore off Brighteyes' golden locks. It was no easy 
task, for they were thick as a horse's mane, and glued 
to the wound. Yet when she had cut them, she loosened 
the hair from the flesh with water which she heated upon the 
fire. The wound was in a bad state and blue, still Eric never 
winced while she dragged the hair from it. Then she washed 
the sore clean, and put sweet ointment on it and covered 
it with napkins. 

This done, she gave Eric broth and he drank. Then, 
laying her hand upon his head, she looked into his eyes and 
bade him sleep. And presently he slept which he had 
scarcely done for many days slept like a little child. 

Eric slept for a day and a night. But at that same hour 
of the evening, when he had fallen asleep, Gudruda, watching 
him by the light of a taper that was set upon a rock, saw 
him smile in his' dreams. Presently he opened his eyes and 
stared at the fire which glowed in the mouth of the cave, 
and the great shadows that fell upon the rocks. 

4 Strange ! ' she heard him murmur, it is very strange ! but 
I dreamed I slept, and that Gudruda the Fair leaned over me as 
I slept. Where, then, is Skallagrim ? Perhaps I am dead 
and that is Hela's fire,' and he tried to lift himself upon his 
arm, but fell back from faintness, for he was very weak. 
Then Gudruda took his hand, and, leaning over him, spoke : 

' Hush, Eric ! ' she said ; ' that was no dream, for I am here. 
Thou hast been sick to death, Eric ; but now, if thou wilt 
rest, things shall go well with thee.' 

' Thou art here ? ' said Erip, turning his white face 
towards her. ' Do I still dream, or how earnest thou here to 
Mosfell, Gudruda ? ' 

' I came through the snows, Eric, to cut thy hair, which 
clung to the festering wound, for in thy madness thou wouldst 
not suffer anyone to touch it.' 

' Thou earnest through the snows over the snows to 
nurse me, Gudruda ? Thou must love me much then,' and 

Drew forth her shears.' 


he was so weak that, as he spoke, the tears rolled down 
Eric's cheeks. 

Then Gudruda kissed him, weeping also, and, laying her 
face by his, bade him be at peace, for she was there to watch 





Now Eric's strength came back to him and his heart opened 
in the light of Gudruda's eyes like a flower in the sunshine. 
For all day long she sat at his side, holding his hand and 
talking to him, and they found much to say. 

But on the fifth day from the day of his awakening she 
spoke thus : 

' Eric, now I must go back to Middalhof. Thou art safe 
and it is not well that I should stay here.' 

1 Not yet, Gudruda,' he said ; ' leave me not yet.' 

' Yes, love, I must leave thee. The moon is bright, the 
sky has cleared, and the snow is hard with frost and fit for 
the hoofs of horses. I must go before more storms come. 
Listen now : in the second week of spring, if all is well, I 
will send thee a messenger with words of token, then shalt 
thou come down secretly to Middalhof, arkl there, Eric, we 
will be wed. Then, on the next day, we will sail for England 
in a trading- ship that I shall get ready, to seek our fortune 

' It will be a good fortune if thou art by my^slde,' said 
Eric, ' so good that I doubt greatly if I may find it, for I am 
Eric the Unlucky. Swanhild must yet be reckoned with, 
Gudruda. Yes, thou art right : thou must go hence, Gud- 
ruda, and swiftly, though it grieves me much to part with 

Then Eric called Skallagrim and bade him make things 
ready to ride down to Middalhof with the Lady Gudruda. 


This Skallagrim did swiftly, and afterwards Eric and Gud- 
ruda kissed and parted, and they were sad at heart to part. 

Now on the fifth day after the going of Gudruda, Skalla- 
grim came back to Mosfell somewhat cold and weary. And 
he told Eric, who could now walk and grew strong again, 
that he and Jon had ridden with Gudruda the Fair to 
Horse-Head Heights, seeing no man, and had left her there 
to go on with her thralls. He had come back also seeing no 
one, for the weather was too cold for the men of Gizur to 
watch the fell in the snows. 

Now Gudruda came safely to Middalhof, having been 
eleven days gone, and found that few had visited the house, 
and that these had been told that she lay sick abed. Her 
secret had been well kept, and, though Swanhild had no lack 
of spies, many days went by before she learned that Gud- 
ruda had gone up to Mosfell to nurse Eric. 

After this Gudruda began to make ready for her flight 
from Iceland. She called in the moneys that she had out at 
interest, and with them bought from a certain chapman a 
good trading- ship which lay in its shed under the shelter of 
Westmaii Isles. This ship she began to make ready for sea so 
soon as the heart of the winter was broken, putting it about 
that she intended to send her on a trading voyage to Scot- 
land in the spring. And to give colour to this tale she bought 
many pelts and other goods, such as chapmen deal in. 

Thus the days passed on not so badly for Gudruda, who 
strove to fill their emptiness in making ready for the full and 
happy time ; but for Eric in his cave they were very heavy, 
for he could find nothing to do except to sleep and eat, and 
think of Gudruda, whom he might not see. 

For Swanhild also, sitting at Coldback, the days did not 
go well. She was weary of the courting of Gizur, whom she 
played with as a cat plays with a rat, and her heart was 
sick with love, hate, and jealousy. For she well know that 
Gudruda and Eric still clung to each other and found UK 'in is 
of greeting, if not of speech. At that time slu; wished to 
kill Eric if she could, though she would rather kill Gudruda 


if she dared. Still, she could not come at Eric, for her men 
feared to try the narrow way of Mosfell, and when they met 
him in the open they fled before him. 

Presently it came to her ears that Gudruda made a ship 
ready to sail to Scotland on a trading voyage, and she 
was perplexed by this tale, for she knew that Gudruda had 
no love of trading and never thought of gain. So she set 
spies to watch the ship. Still, the slow days drew on, and at 
length the air grew soft with spring, and flowers showed 
through the snow. 

Eric sat in his mountain nest waiting for tidings, and 
watched the nesting eagles wheel about the cliffs. At length 
news came. For one morning, as he rose, Skallagrim told 
him that a man wished to speak with him. He had come to 
the mountain in the darkness, and had lain in a dell till the 
breaking of the light, for, now that the snows were melting, 
the men of Gizur and Swanhild watched the pathways. 

Eric bade them bring the man to him. When he saw 
him he knew that he was a thrall of Gudruda's, and welcomed 
him heartily. 

' What tidings ? ' he asked. 

* This, lord,' said the thrall : ' Gudruda the Fair bids me 
say that she is well and that the snows melt on the roof of 

Now this was the signal word that had been agreed upon 
between Eric and Gudruda, that she should send him when 
all was ready. 

' Good,' said Eric, ' ride back to Gudruda the Fair and 
say that Eric Brighteyes is well, but on Hecla the snows 
melt not.' 

By tins answer he meant that he would be with her pre- 
sently, though the thrall could make nothing of it. Then Skal- 
lagrim asked tidings of the man, and learned that Swanhild 
was still at Middalhof, and with her Gizur, and that they 
gave out that they wished to make an end of waiting and 
slay Eric. 

' First snare your bird, then wring his neck,' laughed 


Then Eric did this : among his men were some who he 
knew were not willing to sail from Iceland, and Jon, his 
thrall, was of them, for Jon did not love the angry sea. He 
bade these bide a while on Mosfell and make fires nightly on 
the platform of rock which is in front of the cave, that the spies 
of Gizur and Swanhild might be deceived by them, and think 
that Eric was still on the fell. Then, when they heard that he 
had sailed, they were to come down and hide themselves 
with friends till Gizur and his following rode north. But he 
told two of the men who would sail with him to make ready. 

That night before the moon rose Eric said farewell 
to Jon and the others who stayed on Mosfell, and rode 
away with Skallagrim and the two who went with him. 
They passed the plain of black sand in safety, and so on to 
Horse-Head Heights. Now at length, as the afternoon drew 
on to evening, from Stonefell's crest they saw the Hall of 
Middalhof before them, and Eric's heart swelled in his breast. 
Yet they must wait till darkness fell before they dared enter 
the place, lest they should be seen and notice of their 
coming should be carried to Gizur and Swanhild. And this 
came into the mind of Eric, that of all the hours of his life 
that hour of waiting was the longest. Scarcely, indeed, could 
Skallagrim hold him back from going down the mountain 
side, he was so set on coming to Gudruda whom he should 
wed that night. 

At length the darkness fell, and they went on. Eric rode 
swiftly down the rough mountain path, while Skallagrim and 
the two men followed grumbling, for they feared that their 
horses would fall. At length they came to the place, and 
riding into the yard, Eric sprang from his horse and strode to 
the women's door. Now Gudruda stood in the porch, listening ; 
and while he was yet some way off, she heard the clang of 
Biighteyen's harness, and the colour came and went upon 
her cheek. Then she turned and fled to the high seat of 
the hall, and sat down there. Only two women were left 
in Middalhof with her, and some thralls who tended the 
kine and horses. But these slept, not in the hall, but in an 
outhouse. Gudruda had sent the rest of her people down to 


the ship to help in the lading, for it was given out that 
the vessel sailed on the morrow. She had done this that 
there might be no talk of the coming of Eric to Middalhof. 

Now Brighteyes came to the porch, and, finding the door 
wide, walked in. But Skallagrim and the men stayed without 
a while, and tended the horses. A fire burned upon the 
centre hearth in the hall, and threw shadows on the panel- 
ing. Eric walked on by its light, looking to left and right, 
but seeing neither man nor woman. Then a great fear took 
him lest Gudruda should be gone, or perhaps slain of Swan- 
hild, Groa's daughter, and he trembled at the thought. 
He stood by the fire, and Gudruda, watching from the 
shadow of the high seat, saw the dull light glow upon his 
golden helm, and a sigh of joy broke from her lips. Eric 
heard the sigh and looked, and as he looked a stick of pitchy 
drift-wood fell into the fire and flared up fiercely. Then he 
saw. There, in the carved high seat, robed all in bridal white, 
sat Gudruda the Fair, his love. Her golden hair flowed about 
her breast, her white arms were stretched towards him, and on 
her sweet face shone such a look of love as he had never seen. 

' Eric ! ' she whispered softly, and the breath of her voice 
ran down the empty paneled hall, that from all sides seemed 
to answer, ' Eric.' 

Slowly he drew near to her. He saw nothing but the 
glory of Gudruda's face and the light shining on Gudnula's 
hair ; he heard nothing save the sighing of her breath ; he 
knew nothing except that before him sat his fair bride, won 
after many years. 

Now he had climbed the high seat, and now, wrapped in 
each other's arms, they sat and gazed into each other's eyes, 
and lo ! the air of the great hall rolled round them a sea of 
glory, and sweet voices whispered in their ears. Now Freya 
smiled upon them and led them through her gates of love, 
and they were glad that they had been born. 

Thus then they were wed. 

Now the story tells that Swanhild spoke with Gizur, 
Ospakar's son, in the house at Coldback. 


' I tire of this slow play,' she said. * We have tarried here 
for many weeks, and Atli's blood yet cries out for vengeance, 
and cries for vengeance the blood of black Ospakar, thy 
father, and the blood of many another, dead at great Eric's 

' I tire also,' said Gizur, ' and I am much needed in the 
north. I say this to thee, Swanhild, that, hadst thou not so 
strictly laid it on me that Eric must die ere thouweddest me, 
I had flitted back to Swinefell before now, and there bided 
my time to bring Brighteyes to his end.' 

' I will never wed thee, Gizur, till Eric is dead,' said 
Swanhild fiercely. 

' How shall we come at him then ? ' he answered. ' We 
may not go up that mountain path, for two men can hold it 
against all our strength, and folk do not love to meet Eric and 
Skallagrim in a narrow way.' 

' The place has been badly watched,' said Swanhild. ' I am 
sure of this, that Eric has been down to Middalhof and seen 
Giidriula, my half-sister. She is shameless, who still holds 
commune with him who slew her brother and my husband. 
Death should be her reward, and I am minded to slay 
her because of the shame that she has brought upon our 

* That is a deed which thou wilt do alone, then,' said Gizur, 
' for I will have no hand in the murder of that fair maid no 
nor will any who live in Iceland ! ' 

Swanhild glanced at him strangely. ' Hearken, Gizur ! ' 
she said : ' Gudruda makes a ship ready to sail Avith goods to 
Scotland and bring a cargo thence before winter comes ti^uin. 
Now I find this strange, for never before did I know Gudruda 
turn her thoughts to trading. I think that she has it in 
her mind to sail from Iceland with this outlaw Eric, and seek 
a home over seas, and that I will not bear.' 

' It may be,' said Gizur, ' and I should not be sorry to 
see the last of Brighteyes, for I think that more men will 
die at his hand before he stiffens in his barrow.' 

' Thou art cowardly-hearted, thou son of Ospakar ! ' Swan- 
hild said. * Thou sayest thou lovest me and wouldest win me to 


wife : I tell thee that there is but one road to my arms, and 
it leads over the corpse of Eric. Now this is my counsel : 
that we send the most of our men to watch that ship of Gud- 
ruda's, and, when she lifts anchor, to board her and search, 
for she is already bound for sea. Also among the people here 
I have a carle who was born near Hecla, and he swears 
this to me, that, when he was a lad, searching for an eagle's 
eyrie, he found a path by which Mosfell might be climbed 
from the north, and that in the end he came to a large flat 
place, and, looking over, saw that platform where Eric dwells 
with his thralls. But he could not see the cave, because of the 
overhanging brow of the rock. Now we will do this : thou and 
I, and the carle alone no more, for I do not wish that our 
search should be noised abroad to-morrow at the dawn we 
will ride away for Mosfell, and, passing under Hecla, come 
round the mountain and see if this path may still be scaled. 
For, if so, we will return with men and make an end of 

This plan pleased Gizur, and he said that it should be so. 

So very early on the following morning Swanhild, having 
sent many men to watch Gudruda's ship, rode away secretly 
with Gizur and the thrall, and before it was again dawn they 
were on the northern slopes of Mosfell. It was on this same 
night that Eric went down from the mountain to wed Gud- 

For a while the climbing was easy, but at length they 
came to a great wall of rock, a hundred fathoms high, 
on which no fox might find a foothold, nor anything that had 
not wings. 

' Here now is an end of our journey,' said Gizur, ' and I 
only pray this, that Eric may not ride round the mountain 
before we are down again.' For he did not know that Bright- 
eyes already rode hard for Middalhof. 

'Not so,' said the thrall, 'if only I can find the place 
by which, some thirty summers ago, I won yonder rift, and 
through it the crest of the fell,' and he pointed to a narrow 
cleft in the face of the rock high above their heads, that was 
clothed with grey moss. 


Then he moved to the right and searched, peering behind 
stones and birch-bushes, till presently he held up his hand 
and whistled. They passed along the slope and found him 
standing by a little stream of water which welled from beneath 
a great rock. 

' Here is the place,' the man said. 

4 1 see no place,' answered Swanhild. 

' Still, it is there, lady,' and he climbed on to the rock, 
drawing her after him. At the back of it was a hole, al- 
most overgrown with moss. ' Here is the path,' he said 

' Then it is one that I have no mind to follow,' answered 
Swanhild. ' Gizur, go thou with the man and see if his tale 
is true. I will stay here till ye come back.' 

Then the thrall let himself down into the hole and Gizur 
went after him. But Swanhild sat there in the shadow of 
the rock, her chin resting on her hand, and waited. Presently, 
as she sat, she saw two men ride round the base of the fell, 
and strike off to the right towards a turf -booth which stood the 
half of an hour's ride away. Now Swanhild was the keenest- 
sighted of all women of her day in Iceland, and when she 
looked at these two men she knew one of them for Jon, Eric's 
thrall, and she knew the horse also it was a white horse with 
black patches, that Jon had ridden for many years. She 
watched them go till they came to the booth, and it seemed 
to her that they left their horses there and entered. 

Swanhild waited upon the side of the fell for nearly two 
hours in all. Then, hearing a noise above her, she looked up, 
and there, black with dirt and wet with water, was Gizur, and 
with him was the thrall. 

' What luck, Gizur ? ' she asked. 

' This, Swanhild : Eric may hold Mosfell no more, for we 
have found a way to bolt the fox.' 

' That is good news, then,' said Swanhild. ' Say on.' 

' Yonder hole, Swanhild, leads to the cleft above, having 
been cut through the cliff by fire, or perhaps by water. Now up 
that cleft a man may climb, though hardly, as by a diflicult 
stair, till he comes to the flat crest of the fell. Then, crossing 


the crest, on the further side, perhaps six fathoms below 
him, he sees that space of rock where is Eric's cave ; but ho 
cannot see the cave itself, because the brow of the cliff hangs 
over. And so it is that, if any come from the cave on to the 
space of rock, it will be an easy matter to roll stones upon 
them from above and crush them.' 

Now when Swanhild heard this she laughed aloud. 

' Eric shall mock us no more,' she said, ' and his might 
can avail nothing against rocks rolled on him from above. 
Let us go back to Coldback and summon men to make an end 
of Brighteyes.' 

So they went on down the mountain till they came to the 
place where they had hidden their horses. Then Swanhild 
remembered Jon and the other man whom she had seen 
riding to the booth, and she told Gizur of them. 

' Now,' she said, ' we will snare these birds, and perchance 
they will twitter tidings when we squeeze them.' 

So they turned and rode for the booth, and drawing near, 
they saw the two horses grazing without. Now they got off 
their horses, and creeping up to the booth, looked in through 
the door which was ajar. And they saw this, that one man sat 
on the ground with his back io^ the door, eating stock-fish, 
while Jon made bundles of fish and meal ready to tie on the 
horses. For it was here that those of his quarter who loved 
Eric brought food to be carried by his men to the cave on 

Now Swanhild touched Gizur on the arm, pointing first to 
the man who sat eating the fish and then to the spear in 
Gizur's hand. Gizur thought a while, for he shrank from this 

Then Swanhild whispered in his ear, ' Slay the man and 
seize the other ; I would learn tidings from him. 1 

So Gizur cast the spear, and it passed through the man's 
heart, and he was dead at once. Then he and the thrall 
leapt into the booth and threw themselves on Jon, hurling 
him to the ground, and holding swords over him. Now Jon 
was a man of small heart, and when he saw his plight and 
his fellow dead he was afraid, and prayed for mercy. 


' If I spare thee, knave,' said Swanhild, ' tliou shalt do 
this : thou shalt lead me up Mosfell to speak with Eric.' 

' I may not do that, lady,' groaned Jon ; * for Eric is not 
on Mosfell.' 

' Where is he, then ? ' asked Swanhild. 

Now Jon saw that he had said an unlucky thing, and 
answered : 

* Nay, I know not. Last night he rode from Mosfell with 
Skallagrim Lambstail.' 

' Thou liest, knave,' said Swanhild. ' Speak, or thou 
shalt be slain.' 

' Slay on,' groaned Jon, glancing at the swords above 
him, and shutting his eyes. For, though he feared much to 
die, he had no will to make known Eric's plans. 

' Look not at the swords ; thou shalt not die so easily. 
Hearken : speak, and speak truly, or thou shalt seek Hela's 
lap after this fashion,' and, bending down, she whispered in 
his ear, then laughed aloud. 

Now Jon grew faint with fear ; his lips turned blue, and 
his teeth chattered at the thought of how he should be made 
to die. Still, he would say nothing. 

Then Swanhild spoke to Gizur and the thrall, and bade 
them bind him with a rope, tear the garments from him, and 
bring snow. They did this, and pushed the matter to the 
drawing of knives. But when he saw the steel Jon cried 
aloud that he would tell all. 

' Now thou takest good counsel,' said Swanhild. 

Then in his fear Jon told how Eric had gone down to 
Middalhof to wed Gudruda, and thence to fly with her to 

Now Swanhild was mad with wrath, for she had sooner 
died than that this should come about. 

'Let us away,' she said to Gizur. 'But first kill this 

' Nay,' said Gizur, ' I will not do that. He has told 
his tidings ; let him go free.' 

'Thou art chicken-hearted,' said Swanhild, who, after tho 
fashion of witches, had no mercy in her. * At the least, he 



shall not go hence to warn Eric and Gudruda of our coming. 
If thou wilt not kill him, then bind him and leave him.' 

So Jon was bound, and there in the booth he sat two 
days before anyone came to loose him. 

' Whither away ? ' said Gizur to Swanhild. 

' To Middalhof first,' Swanhild answered. 






OW Eric and Gud- 
ruda sat silent in 
the high seat of the 
hall at Middalhof 
till they heard Skal- 
lagrim enter by the 
women's door. Then 
they came down 
from the high seat, 
and stood hand in 
hand by the fire on 
the hearth. Skalla- 
grim greeted Gud- 
ruda, looking 
at her askance, 
for Skallagrim 
stood in fear of 
women alone. 
' What counsel now, lord ? ' said the Baresark. 
' Tell us thy plans, Gudruda,' said Eric, for as yet no 
word had passed between them of what they should do. 

' This is my plan, Eric,' she answered. ' First, that we 
eat; then that thy men take horse and ride hence through 
the night to where the ship lies, bearing word that we will be 
there at dawn when the tide serves, and bidding the mate 
make everything ready for sailing. But thou and I and 
Skallagrim will stay here till to-morrow is three hours old, 


and this because I have tidings that Gizur's folk will search 
the ship to-night- Now, when they search and do not find us, 
they will go away. Then, at the dawning, them and I and 
Skallagrim will row on board the ship as she lies at anchor, 
and, slipping the cable, put to sea before they know we are 
there, and so bid farewell to Swanhild and our woes.' 

* Yet it is a risk for us to sleep here alone,' said Eric. 

' There is little danger,' said Gudruda. ' Nearly all of 
Gizur's men watch the ship ; and I have learned this from a 
spy, that, two days ago, Gizur, Swanhild, and one thrall rode 
from Coldback towards Mosfell, and they have not come back 
yet. Moreover, the place is strong, and thou and Skallagrim 
are here to guard it.' 

' So be it, then,' answered Eric, for indeed he had little 
thought left for anything, except Gudruda. 

After this the women came in and set meat on the board, 
and all ate. 

Now, when they had eaten, Eric bade Skallagrim fill a 
cup, and bring it to him as he sat on the high seat with 
Gudruda. Skallagrim did so ; and then, looking deep into 
each other's eyes, Eric Brighteyes and Gudruda the Fair, 
Asmund's daughter, drank the bride's cup. 

' There are few guests to grace our marriage-feast, 
husband,' said Gudruda. 

' Yet shall our vows hold true, wife,' said Eric. 

' Ay, Brighteyes,' she answered, ' in life and in death, now 
and for ever ! ' and they kissed. 

' It is time for us to be going, methinks,' growled Skalla- 
grim to those about him. ' We are not wanted here.' 

Then the men who were to go on to the ship rose, fetched 
their horses, and rode away. Also they caught the horses of 
Skallagrim, Eric, and Gudruda, saddled them, and, slipping 
their bridles, made them fast in a shed in the yard, giving 
them hay to eat. Afterwards Skallagrim barred the men's 
door and the women's door, and, going to Gudruda, asked 
where he should stay the night till it was time to ride for the 

' In the store-chamber,' she answered, ' for there is a 


shutter of which the latch has gone. See that thou watch it 
well, Skallagrim ; though I think none will come to trouble 

' I know the place. It shall go badly with tke head that 
looks through yonder hole,' said Skallagrim, glancing at his 

Now Gudruda forgot this, that in the store-chamber were 
casks of strong ale. 

Then Gudruda told him to wake them when the morrow 
was two hours old, for Eric had neither eyes nor words except 
for Gudruda alone, and Skallagrim went. 

The women went also to their shut bed at the end of the 
hall, leaving Brighteyes and Gudruda alone. Eric looked 
at her. 

' Where do I sleep to-night ? ' he asked. 

' Thou sleepest with me, husband,' she answered soft, for 
nothing, except Death, shall come between us any more.' 

Now Skallagrim went to the store-room, and sat down 
with his back against a cask. His heart was heavy in him, for 
he boded no good of this marriage. Moreover, he was jealous. 
Skallagrim loved but one thing in the world truly, and that 
was Eric Brighteyes, his lord. Now he knew that henceforth 
he must take a second place, and that for one thought which 
Eric gave to him, he would give ten to Gudruda. Therefore 
Skallagrim was very sad at heart. 

' A pest upon the women ! ' he said to himself, * for from 
them comes all evil. Brighteyes ow r es his ill luck to Swanhild 
and this fair wife of his, and that is scarcely done with 
yet. Well, well, 'tis nature ; but would that we were safe 
at sea ! Had I my will, we had not slept here to-night. 
But they are newly wed, and well, 'tis nature ! Better 
the bride loves to lie abed than to ride the cold wolds and 
seek the common deck.' 

Now, as Skallagrim grumbled, fear gathered in his heart, 
he knew not of what. He began to think on trolls and goblins. 
It was dark in the store-room, except for a little line of light 
that crept through the crack of the shutter. At length he could 


bear the darkness and his thoughts no longer, but, rising, 
threw the shutter wide and let the bright moonlight pour 
into the chamber, whence he could see the hillside behind, 
and watch the shadows of the clouds as they floated across 
it. Again Skallagrim sat down against his cask, and 
as he sat it moved, and he heard the wash of ale in- 
side it. 

' That is a good sound,' said Skallagrim, and he turned 
and smelt at the cask ; ' aye, and a good smell, too ! We 
tasted little ale yonder on Mosfell, and we shall find less at 
sea.' Again he looked at the cask. There was a spigot in it, 
and lo ! on the shelf stood horn cups. 

' It surely is on draught,' he said ; * and now it will stand 
till it goes sour. 'Tis a pity ; but I will not drink. I fear ale 
ale is another man ! No, I will not drink,' and all the while 
his hand went up to the cups upon the shelf. ' Eric is better 
laid yonder in Gudruda's chamber than I am here alone with 
evil thoughts and trolls,' he said. ' Why, what fish was that 
we ate at supper ? My throat is cracked with thirst ! If there 
were water now I'd drink it, but I see none. Well, one cup 
to wish them joy ! There is no harm in a cup of ale,' and 
he drew the spigot from the cask and watched the brown 
drink flow into the cup. Then he lifted it to his lips and 
drank, saying ' Skoll ! skoll ! ' l nor did he cease till the 
horn was drained. ' This is wondrous good ale,' said Skalla- 
grim as he wiped his grizzled beard. ' One more cup, and evil 
thoughts shall cease to haunt me.' 

Again he filled, drank, sat down, and for a while was 
merry. But presently the black thoughts came back into his 
mind. He rose, looked through the shutter-hole to the hill- 
side. He could see nothing on it except the shadows of the 

' Trolls walk the winds to-night,' he said. ' I feel them 
pulling at my beard. One more cup to frighten them.' 

He drank another draught of ale and grew merry. Then ale 
called for ale, and Skallagrim drained cup on cup, singing as 

1 'Health! health 1 ' 


he drained, till at last heavy sleep overcame him, and he sank 
drunken on the ground there by the barrel, while the brown 
ale trickled round him. 

Now Eric Brighteyes and Gudruda the Fair slept side by 
side, locked in each other's arms. Presently Gudruda was 
wide awake. 

' Bouse thee, Eric,' she said, ' I have dreamed an evil 

He awoke and kissed her. 

' What, then, was thy dream, sweet ? ' he said. ' This is no 
hour for bad dreams.' 

' No hour for bad dreams, truly, husband ; yet dreams do not 
weigh the hour of their coming. I dreamed this : that I lay 
dead beside thee and thou knewest it not, while Swanhild 
looked at thee and mocked.' 

I An evil dream, truly,' said Eric ; ' but see, thou art 
not dead. Thou hast thought too much on Swanhild of 

Now they slept once more, till presently Eric was wide- 

' House thee, Gudruda,' he said, ' I too have dreamed a 
dream, and it is full of evil.' 

' What, then, was thy dream, husband ? ' she asked. 

I 1 dreamed that Atli the Earl, whom I slew, stood by the 
bed. His face was white, and white as snow was his beard, 
and blood from his great wound ran down his byrnie. " Eric 
Brighteyes," he said, " I am he whom thou didst slay, and I 
come to tell thee this : that before the moon is young again 
thou shalt lie stiff, with Hell-shoon on thy feet. Thou art 
Eric the Unlucky ! Take thy joy and say thy say to her who 
lies at thy side, for wet and cold is the bed that waits theo 
and soon shall thy white lips be dumb." Then he was gone, 
and lo ! in his place stood Asmund, thy father, and he also 
spoke to me, saying, " Thou who dost lie in my bed and at 
my daughter's side, know this : the words of Atli are true ; 
but I add these to them : ye shall die, yet is death but the 
gate of life and love and rest," and he was gone.' 



Now Gudruda shivered with fear, and crept closer to Eric's 

' We are surely fey, for the Norns speak with the voices of 
Atli and of Asmund,' she said. * Oh, Eric ! Eric ! whither 
go we when we die ? Will Valhalla take thee, being so 
mighty a man, and must I away to Hela's halls, where thou 
art not ? Oh ! that would be death indeed ! Say, Eric, 
whither do we go ? ' 

* What said the voice of Asmund ? ' answered Brighteyes. 
' That death is but the gate of life and love and rest. 
Hearken, Gudruda, my May ! Odin does not reign over all 
the world, for when I sat out yonder in England, a certain 
holy man taught me of another God a God who loves not 
slaughter, a God who died that men might live for ever in 
peace with those they lov^\ 

' How is this God named, Eric ? ' 

' They name Him the White Christ, and there are many 
who cling to Him.' 

* Would that I knew this Christ, Eric. I am weary of 
death and blood and evil deeds, such as are pleasing to 
our Gods. Oh, Eric, if I am taken from thee, swear this to 
me : that thou wilt slay no more, save for thy life's sake only.' 

' I swear that, sweet,' he made answer. ' For I too 
am weary of death and blood, and desire peace most of all 
things. The world is sad, and sad have been our days. Yet 
it is well to have lived, for through many heavy days we 
have wandered to this happy night.' 

' Yea, Eric, it is well to have lived ; though I think that 
death draws on. Now this is my counsel : that we rise, and 
that thou dost put on thy harness and summon Skallagrim, so 
that, if evil comes, thou mayst meet it armed. Surely I 
thought I heard a sound yonder in the hall ! ' 

' There is little use in that,' said Eric, ' for things will 
befall as they are fated. We may do nothing of our own 
will, I am sure of this, and it is no good to struggle with 
the Norns. Yet I will rise.' 

So he kissed her, and made ready to leave the bed, when 
suddenly, as he lingered, a great heaviness seized him. 



' Gudruda,' he said, ' I am pressed down with sleep.' 

* That I am also, Eric,' she said. ' My eyes shut of them- 
selves and I can scarcely stir my limbs. Ah, Eric, we are fey 
indeed, and this is death that comes ! ' 

' Perchance ! ' he said, speaking heavily. 

' Eric ! wake, Eric ! Thou canst not move ? Yet hearken 
to me ah ! this weight of sleep ! Thou lovest me, Eric ! is 
it not so ? ' 

1 Yea,' he answered. 

1 Now and for ever thou lovest me and wilt cleave to me 
always wherever we go ? ' 

' Surely, sweet. Oh, sweet, farewell ! ' he said, and his voice 
sounded like the voice of one who speaks across the water. 

' Farewell, Eric Brighteyes ! my love my love, farewell ! ' 
she answered very slowly, and together they sank into a sleep 
that was heavy as death. 

Now Gizur, Ospakar's son, and Swanhild, Atli's widow, rode 
fast and hard from Mosfell, giving no rest to their horses, 
and with them rode that thrall who had showed the secret 
path to Gizur. They stayed a while on Horse-Head Heights 
till the moon rose. Now one path led hence to the shore that 
is against the Westmans, where Gudruda's ship lay hound. 
Then Swanhild turned to the thrall. Her beautiful face was 
fierce and she had said few words all this while, but in her 
heart raged a fire of hate and jealousy which shone through 
her blue eyes. 

'Listen,' she said to the thrall. * Thou shalt ride hence 
to the bay where the ship of Gudruda the Fair lies at anchor. 
Thou knowest where our folk are in hiding. Thou sluilt 
speak thus to them. Before it is dawn they must take boats 
and board Gudruda's ship and search her. And, if they find 
Kric, the outlaw, aboard, they shall slay him, if they may.' 

' That will be no easy task,' said the thrall. 

' And if they find Gudruda they shall keep her prison or. 
But, if they find neither the one nor the other, they shall do 
this : they shall drive the crew ashore, killing as few as may 
be, and burn the ship.' 


' It is an ill deed thus to burn another's ship,' said 

' Good or ill, it shall be done,' answered Swanhild fiercely. 
* Thou art a lawman, and well canst thou meet the suit ; 
moreover Gudruda has wedded an outlaw and shall suffer for 
her sin. Now go, and see thou tarry not, or thy back shall 
pay the price.' 

The man rode away swiftly. Then Gizur turned to 
Swanhild, asking : ' Whither, then, go we ? ' 

' I have said to Middalhof.' 

'That is into- the wolfs den, if Eric and Skallagrim are 
there,' he answered : ' I have little chance against the two of 

' Nay, nor against the^ one, Gizur. Why, if Eric's right 
hand were hewn from him, and he stood unarmed, he would 
still slay thee with his left, as, swordless, he slew Ospakar thy 
father. Yet I shall find a way to come at him, if he is 

Then they rode on, and Gizur's heart was heavy for fear 
of Eric and Skallagrim the Baresark. So fiercely did they 
ride that, within one hour after midnight, they were at the 
stead of Middalhof. 

' We will leave the horses here in the field,' said 

So they leaped to earth and, tying the reins of the horses 
together, left them to feed on the growing grass. Then they 
crept into the yard and listened. Presently there came a 
sound of horses stamping in the far corner of the yard. 
They went thither, and there they found a horse and two 
geldings saddled, but with the bits slipped, and on the horse 
was such a saddle as women use. 

'Eric Brighteyes, Skallagrim Lambstail, and Gudruda 
the Fair,' whispered Swanhild, naming the horses and 
laughing evilly ' the birds are within ! Now to snare 

' Were it not best to meet them by the ship ? ' asked 

* Nay, thou fool ; if once Eric and Skallagrim are back to 


back, and Whitefire is aloft, how many shall be dead before 
they are down, thinkest thou ? We shall not find them sleeping 

' It is shameful to slay sleeping men,' said Gizur. 

' They are outlaws,' she answered. ' Hearken, Ospakar's 
son. Thou sayest thou dost love me and wouldst wed me : 
know this, that if thou dost fail me now, I will never look 
upon thy face again, but will name thee Niddering in all 
men's ears.' 

Now Gizur loved Swanhild much, for she had thrown her 
glamour on him as once she did on Atli, and he thought of 
her day and night. For there was this strange thing about 
Swanhild, that, though she was a witch and wicked, being 
both fair and gentle she could lead all men, except Eric, to love 

But of men she loved Eric alone. 

Then Gizur held his peace ; but Swanhild spoke again : 

' It will be of no use to try the doors, for they are strong. 
Yet when I was a child before now I have passed in and out 
the house at night by the store-room casement. Follow me, 
Gizur.' Then she crept along in the shadow of the wall, for 
she knew its every stone, till she came to the store-room, and 
lo! the shutter stood open, and through it the moonlight 
poured into the chamber. Swanhild lifted her head above 
the sill and looked, then started back. 

' Hush ! ' she said, ' Skallagrim lies asleep within.' 

' Pray the Gods he wake not ! ' said Gizur beneath his 
breath, and turned to go. But Swanhild caught him by the 
arm ; then gently raised her head and looked again, long and 
steadily. Presently she turned and laughed softly. 

* Things go well for us,' she said ; ' the sot lies drunk. We 
have nothing to fear from him. He lies drunk in a pool 
of ale.' 

Then Gizur looked. The moonlight poured into the little 
room, and by it he saw the great shape of Skallagrim. His 
head was thrown back, his mouth was wide. He snored 
loudly in his drunken sleep, and all about him ran the brown 
ale, for the spigot of the cask lay upon the floor. In his 


left hand was a horn cup, but in his right he still grasped 
his axe. 

' Now we must enter,' said Swanhild. Gizur hung back, 
but she sprang upon the sill lightly as a fox, and slid thence 
into the store-room. Then Gizur must follow, and presently 
he stood beside her in the room, and at their feet lay drunken 
Skallagrim. Gizur looked first at his sword, then on the 
Baresark, and lastly at Swanhild. 

1 Nay,' she whispered, ' touch him not. Perchance he would 
cry out and we seek higher game. He has that within 
him which will hold him fast a while. Follow where I shall 

She took his hand and, gliding through the doorway, 
passed along the passage till she came to the great hall. Swan- 
hild could see well in the dark, and moreover she knew the 
road. Presently they stood in the empty hall. The fire had 
burnt down, but two embers yet glowed upon the hearth, like 
red and angry eyes. 

For a while Swanhild stood still listening, but there was 
nothing to hear. Then she drew near to the shut bed where 
Gudruda slept, and, with her ear to the curtain, listened once 
more. Gizur came with her, and as he came his foot struck 
against a bench and stirred it. Now Swanhild heard mur- 
mured words and the sound of kisses. She started back, and 
fury filled her heart. Gizur also heard the voice of Eric, 
saying : ' I will rise.' Then he would have fled, but Swanhild 
caught him by the arm. 

1 Fear not,' she whispered, ' they shall soon sleep 

He felt her stretch out her arms and presently he saw 
this wonderful thing : the eyes of Swanhild glowing in the 
darkness as the embers glowed upon the hearth. Now they 
glowed brightly, so brightly that he could see the out- 
stretched arms and the hard white face beneath them, 
and now they grew dim, of a sudden to shine bright again. 
And all the while she hissed words through her clenched 

Thus she hissed, fierce and low : 

She took his hand/ 


Gudruda, Sister mine, hearken and sleep ! 
By the bond of blood I bid thee sleep ! 
By the strength that is in me I bid thee sleep ! 
Sleep ! sleep sound ! 

Eric Brighteyes, hearken and sleep ! 
By the bond of sin I charge thee sleep ! 
By the blood of Atli I charge thee, sleep ! 
Sleep ! sleep sound ! 

Then thrice she tossed her hands aloft, saying : 

From love to sleep ! 

From sleep to death ! 

From death to Hela ! 

Say, lovers, where shall ye kiss again ? 

Then the light went out of her eyes and she laughed low. 
And ever as she whispered, the spoken words of the two in 
the shut bed grew fainter and more faint, till at length they 
died away, and a silence fell upon the place. 

' Thou hast no cause to fear the sword of Eric, Gizur,' she 
said. ' Nothing will wake him now till daylight comes.' 

' Thou art awesome ! ' answered Gizur, for he shook with 
fear. ' Look not on me with tho'se flaming eyes, I pray thee ! ' 

* Fear not,' she said, ' the fire is out. Now to the work.' 
' What must we do, then ? ' 

' Thou must do this. Thou must enter and slay Eric.' 

* That I can not that I will not ! ' said Gizur. 

She turned and looked at him, and lo ! her eyes began to 
flame again upon his eyes they seemed to burn. 

' Thou wilt do as I bid thee,' she said. ' With Eric's sword 
thou shalt slay Eric, else I will curse thee where thou art, and 
bring such evil on thee as thou knowest not of.' 

' Look not so, Swanhild,' he said. ' Lead on I come.' 

Now they creep into the shut chamber of Gudruda. It is 
so dark that they can see nothing, and nothing can they ln-;ir 
except the heavy breathing of the sleepers. 

This is to be told, that at this time Swanhild had it in her 
mind to kill, not Eric but Gudruda, for thus she would smito 
the heart of Brighteyes. Moreover, she loved Eric, and while he 
lived she might yet win him ; but Eric dead must be Eric 


lost. But on Gudruda she would be bitterly avenged 
Gudruda, who, for all her scheming, had yet been a wife to 

Now they stand by the bed. Swanhild puts out her hand, 
draws down the clothes, and feels the breast of Gudruda be- 
neath, for Gudruda slept on the outside of the bed. 

Then she searches by the head of the bed -and finds 
Whitefire which hung there, and draws the sword. 

1 Here lies Eric, on the outside,' she says to Gizur, ' and 
here is Whitefire. Strike and strike home, leaving Whitefire 
in the wound.' 

Gizur takes the sword and lifts it. He is sore at heart 
that he must do such a coward deed ; but the spell of 
Swanhild is upon him, and he may not flinch from it. 
Then a thought takes him and he also puts down his hand to 
feel. It lights upon Gudruda's golden hair, that hangs about 
her breast and falls from the bed to the ground. 

' Here is woman's hair,' he whispers. 

4 No,' Swanhild answers, ' it is Eric's hair. The hair of 
Eric is long, as thou hast seen.' 

Now neither of them knows that Gudruda cut Eric's 
locks when he lay sick on Mosfell, though Swanhild knows well 
that it is not Brighteyes whom she bids Gizur slay. 

Then Gizur, Ospakar's son, lifts the sword, and the faint 
starlight struggling into the chamber gathers and gleams 
upon the blade. Thrice he lifts it, and thrice he draws it 
back. Then with an oath he strikes and drives it home with 
all his strength ! 

From the bed beneath there comes one long sigh and a sound 
as of limbs trembling against the bed-gear. Then all is still. 

' It is done ! ' he says faintly. 

Swanhild puts down her hand once more. Lo ! it is wet 
and warm. Then she bends herself and looks, and behold ! the 
dead eyes of Gudruda glare up into her eyes. She can see 
them plainly, but none know what she read there. At the 
least it was something that she loved not, for she reels back 
against the paneling, then falls upon the floor. 

Presently, while Gizur stands as one in a dream, she rises, 


saying : ' I am avenged of the death of Atli. Let us hence ! 
ah ! let us hence swiftly ! Give ine thy hand, Gizur, for I ain 
faint ! ' 

So Gizur gives her his hand and they pass thence. Pre- 
sently they stand in the store-room, and there lies Skallagrim, 
still plunged in his drunken sleep. 

4 Must I do more murder ? ' asks Gizur hoarsely. 

'Nay,' Swanhild says. 'I am sick with blood. Leave 
the knave.' 

They pass out by the casement into the yard and so on till 
they find their horses. 

* Lift me, Gizur; I can no more,' says Swanhild. 
He lifts her to the saddle. 

' Whither away ? ' he asks. 

* To Coldback, Gizur, and thence to cold Death.' 

Thus did Gudruda, Eric's bride and Asmund's daughter, the 
fairest woman who ever lived in Iceland, die on her marriage 
night by the hand of Gizur, Ospakar's son, and through the 
hate and witchcraft of Swanhild the Fatherless, her half-sister. 





'HE dawn broke over Middalhof. 
Slowly the light gathered in the 
empty hall, it crept slowly into 
the little chamber where Eric 
slept, and Gudruda slept also with a 
deeper sleep. 

Now the two women came from 
their chamber at the far end of the 
hall, and drew near the hearth, shiver- 
ing, for the air was cold. They knelt 
by the fire, blowing at the embers till 
the sticks they cast upon them crackled 
to a blaze. 

' It seems that Gudruda is not yet gone,' said one to the 
other. * I thought she should ride away with Eric before 
the dawn.' 

' Newly wed lie long abed ! ' laughed the other. 
' I am glad to see the blessed light,' said the first woman, 
1 for last night I dreamed that once again this hall ran red 
with blood, as at the marriage-feast of Ospakar.' 

' Ah,' answered the other, ' it will be well for the south 
when Eric Brighteyes and Gudruda are gone over sea, for 
their loves have brought much bloodshed upon the land.' 

' Well, indeed ! ' sighed the first. ' Had Asmund the Priest 
never found Groa, Ran's gift, singing by the sea, Valhalla 
had not been so full to-day. Mindestthou the day he brought 
her here ? ' 



I remember it well,' she answered, ' though I was but a 
girl at the time. Still, when I saw those dark eyes of hers- 
just such eyes as Swanliild's ! I knew her for a witch, as all 
Finn women are. It is an evil world : my husband is dead by 
the sword ; dead are both my sons, fighting for Eric ; dead is 
Unna, Tliorod's daughter ; Asmund, my lord, is dead, and dead 
is Bjorn ; and now Gudruda the Fair, whom I have rocked 
to sleep, leaves us to go over sea. I may not go with her, 
for my daughter's sake ; yet I almost wish that I too were 

4 That will come soon enough,' said the other, who was 
young and fair. 

Now the witch- sleep began to roll from Eric's heart, 
though his eyes were not yet open. But the talk of the women 
echoed in his ears, and the words ' dead ! ' ' dead ! ' ' dead ! ' 
fell heavily on his slumbering sense. At length he opened 
his eyes, only to shut them again, because of a bright gleam of 
light that ran up and down something at his side. Heavily 
he wondered what this might be, that shone so keen and 
bright that shone like a naked sword. 

' Now he looked again. Yes, it was a sword which stood 
by him upon the bed, and the golden hilt was like the hilt 
of Whitefire. He lifted up his hand to touch it, thinking that 
he dreamed. Lo ! his hand and arm were red ! 

Then he remembered, and the thought of Gudruda flashed 
through his heart. He sat up, gazing down into the shadow at 
his side. 

Presently the women at the fire heard a sound as of a great 
man falling to earth. 

' What is that noise ? ' said one. 

* Eric leaping from his bed,' answered the other. ' lie 
has slept too long, as we have also.' 

As they spoke the curtain of the shut bed was pushed 
away, and through it staggered Eric in his ni^ht 
and lo ! the left side of it was red. His eyes were wide 
with horror, his mouth was open, and his face was white 
as ice. 


He stopped, looking at them, made as though to speak, 
and could not. Then, while they shrank from him in 
terror, he turned, and, walking like a drunken man, staggered 
from the hall down that passage which led to the store- 
chamber. The door stood wide, the shutter was wide, and 
on the floor, soaked in the dregs of ale, Skallagrim yet lay 
snoring, his axe in one hand and a cup in the other. 

Eric looked and understood. 

' Awake, drunkard ! ' he cried, in so terrible a voice that 
the room shook. ' Awake, and look upon thy work ! ' 

Skallagrim sat up, yawning. 

* Forsooth, my head swims,' he said. ' Give me ale, I am 

' Never wilt thou look on ale again, Skallagrim, whenthou 
hast seen that which I have to show ! ' said Eric, in the same 
dread voice. 

Then Skallagrim rose to his feet and gaped upon him. 

' What means this, lord ? Is it time to ride ? and say ! 
why is thy shirt red with blood ? ' 

' Follow me, drunkard, and look upon thy work!' Eric 
said again. 

Then Skallagrim grew altogether sober, and grasping his 
axe, followed after Brighteyes, sore afraid of what he might 

They went down the passage, past the high seat of the 
hall, till they came to the curtain of the shut bed ; and after 
them followed the women. Eric seized the curtain in his 
hand, rent it from its fastenings, and cast it on the ground. 
Now the light flowed in and struck upon the bed. It fell 
upon the bed, it fell upon Whitefire's hilt and ran along 
the blade, it gleamed on a woman's snowy breast and golden 
hair, and shone in her staring eyes a woman who lay 
stiff and cold upon the bed, the great sword fixed within 
her heart ! 

4 Look upon thy work, drunkard ! ' Eric cried again, while 
the women who peeped behind sent their long wail of woe 
echoing down the paneled hall. 

' Hearken ! ' said Eric : ' while thou didst lie wallowing in 

'"J_/cok upon thy work, drunkard! 


thy swine's sleep, foes crept in across thy carcase, and this is 

their handiwork: yonder she lies who was my bride! 

now is Gudruda the Fair a death-wife who last night was my 
bride ! This is thy work, drunkard ! and now what meed for 
thee ? ' 

Skallagrim looked. Then he spoke in a hoarse slow voice : 

' What meed, lord ? But one death ! ' 

Then with one hand he covered his eyes and with the 
other held out his axe to Eric Brighteyes. 

Eric took the axe, and while the women ran thence 
screaming, he whirled it thrice about his head. Then he 
smote down towards the skull of Skallagrim, but as he 
smote it seemed to him that a voice whispered in his ear : 
4 Thy oath ! ' and he remembered that he had sworn to slay 
no more, save for his life's sake. 

The mighty blow was falling and he might only do this 
loose the axe before it clove Skallagrim in twain. He loosed 
and away the great axe flew. It passed over the head of Skalla- 
grim, and sped like light across the wide hall, till it crashed 
through the paneling on the further side, and buried itself to 
the haft in the wall beyond. 

' It is not for me to kill thee, drunkard ! Go, die in thy 
drink ! ' 

' Then I will kill myself! ' cried the Baresark, and, rushing 
across the hall he tore the great axe from its bed. 

' Hold ! ' said Eric ; ' perhaps there is yet a deed for thee 
to do. Then thou mayst die, if it pleases thee.' 

'Ay,' said Skallagrim coming back, 'perchance then 1 is 
still a deed to do ! ' 

And, flinging down the axe, Skallagrim Lambstail the 
Baresark fell upon the floor and wept. 

But Eric did not weep. Only he drew Wliitcfire from 
the heart of Gudruda and looked at it. 

'Thou art a strange sword, "Whik'fhv,' lie said, 'who 
slayest both friend and foe! Shame on thee, NVhitefire ! 
We swore our oath on thee, Whiteflre, and thou hast cut its 
chain! Now I am minded to shatter thee.' And as Krir. 
looked on the great blade, lo ! it hummed strangely in answer. 


' " First must tliou be the death of some," thou sayest ? 
Well, maybe, Whitefire ! ]Jut never yet didst thou drink 
so sweet a life as hers who now lies dead, nor ever shalt 

Then he sheathed the sword, but neither then nor after- 
wards did he wipe the blood of Gudruda from its blade. 

* Last night a-marrying to-day a-burying,' said Eric, and 
he called to the women to bring spades. Then, having 
clothed himself, he went to the centre of the ball, and, brushing 
away the sand, broke the hard clay-flooring, dealing great 
blowa on it with an axe. Now Skallagrim, seeing his purpose, 
came to him and took one of the spades, and together they 
laboured in silence till they had dug a grave a fathom 

' Here,' said Eric, ' here, in thine own hall where thou 
wast born and lived, Gudruda the Fair, thou shalt sleep at the 
last. And of Middalhof I say this : that none shall live there 
henceforth. It shall be haunted and accursed till the rafters 
rot and the walls fall in, making thy barrow, Gudruda.' 

Now this indeed came to pass, for none have lived at Mid- 
dalhof since the days of Gudruda the Fair, Asmund's daughter. 
It has been ruined these many years, and now it is but a pile 
of stones. 

When the grave was dug, Eric washed himself and ate 
some food. Then he went into where Gudruda lay dead, and 
bade the women make her ready for burial. This they did. 
When she was washed and clad in a clean white robe, Eric 
came to her, and with his own hand bound the Hell- shoes on 
her feet and closed her eyes. 

It was just then that a man came who said that the people of 
Gizur and of Swanhild had burned Gudruda's ship, driving 
the crew ashore. 

* It is well,' said Eric. ' We need the ship no more ; now 
hath she whom it should bear wings with which to fly.' Then 
he went in and sat down on the bed by the body of Gudruda, 
while Skallagrim crouched on the ground without, tearing at 
his beard and muttering. For the fierce heart of Skallagriin 


was broken because of that evil which his drunkenness had 
brought about. 

All day long Eric sat thus, looking on his dead love's face, 
till the hour came round when he and Gudruda had drunk 
the bride-cup. Then he rose and kissed dead Gudruda on tho 
lips, saying : 

' I did not look to part with thee thus, sweet ! It is sad 
that thou shouldst have gone and left me here. Natheless, 
I shall soon follow on thy path.' 

Then he called aloud : 

' Art sober, drunkard ? ' 

Skallagrim came and stood before him, saying nothing. 

' Take thou the feet of her whom thou didst bring to death, 
and I will take her head.' 

So they lifted up Gudruda and bore her to the grave. 
Then Eric 'stood near the grave, and, taking dead Gudruda in 
his arms, looked upon her face by the light of the fire and of 
the candles that were set about. 

He looked thrice, then sang aloud : 

Long ago, when swept the snow-blast, 

Close we clung and plighted troth. 

Many a year, through storm and sword-song, 

Sore I strove to win thee, sweet! 

But last night I held thee, Fairest, 

Lock'd, a wife, in lover's arms. 

Now, Gudruda, in thy death-rest, 

Sleep thou soft till Eric come ! 

Hence I go to wreak thy murder. 
Hissing fire of flaming stead, 
Groan of spear-carles, wail of women, 
Soon shall startle through the night. 
Then on Mosfell, Kirtle- Wearer, 
Eric waits the face of Death. 
Freed from weary life and sorrow, 
Soon we'll kiss in Hela's halls ! 

Then he laid her in the grave, and, having shrouded a 
sheet over her, they filled it in together, hiding Gudnida the 
Fair from the sight of men for ever. 

Afterwards Eric armed himself, and this Skallngrim did 



also. Then he strode from the hall, and Skallagrim followed 
him. In the yard those horses were still tied that should have 
carried them to the ship, and on one was the saddle of Gudruda. 
She had ridden on this horse for many years, and loved it 
much, for it would follow her like a dog. Eric looked at him, 
then said aloud : 

' Gudruda may need thee where she is, "Hlaekmane,' for 
so was the horse named. ' At the least, none shall n'do (lice 
more ! ' And he snatched the axe from the hand of Skallngrim 
and slew the horse at a blow. 

Then they rode away, heading for Coldback. The night was 
wild and windy, and the sky dark with scudding clouds, 
through which the moon peeped out at times. Eric looked 
up, then spoke to Skallagrim : 

' A good night for burning, drunkard ! ' 

' Ay, lord ; the flames will fly briskly,' answered Skallagrim. 

'How many, thinkest thou, walked over thee, drunkard, 
when thou didst lie yonder in the ale ? ' 

4 1 know r not,' groaned Skallagrim ; ' but I found this in 
the soft earth without : the print of a man's and a woman's feet ; 
and this on the hill side : the track of two horses ridden 

1 Gizur and Swanhild, drunkard,' said Eric. ' Swanhild 
cast us into deep sleep by witchcraft, and Gizur dealt the 
blow. Better for him that he had never been born than 
that he has lived to deal that coward's blow ! ' 

Then they rode on, and when midnight was a little while 
gone they came to the stead at Coldback. Now this house was 
roofed with turves, and the windows were barred so that none 
could pass through them. Also in the yard were faggots of 
birch and a stack of hay. 

Eric and Skallagrim tied their horses in a dell that is to the 
north of the stead and crept up to the house. All was still ; 
but a fire burnt in the hall, and, looking through a crack, 
Eric could see many men sleeping about it. Then he made 
signs to Skallagrim and together, very silently, they fetched 
hay and faggots, piling them against the north door of the 


house, for the wind blew from the north. Now Eric spoke to 
Skallagrim, bidding him stand, axe in hand, by the south 
door, and slay those who came out when the reek began to 
smart them : but he went himself to fire the pile. 

WhenBrighteyes had made all things ready for the burning, 
it came into his mind that, perhaps, (li/ur and SWMII- 
hild were not in the house. But he would not hold his 
hand for this, for he was mad with grid' ;md rag-. So once, 
more he prepared for the deed, when :igain ho heard a voice 
in his ear the voice of (ludruda, and it seemed to say : 

' Thine oath, Eric ! remember Iliinr with ! ' 

Then he turned and the rage went out of his heart. 

4 Let them seek me on Mosi'ell,' he said, M will not slay them 
secretly and by reek, the innocent and the guilty together.' 
And he strode round the house to where Skallagrim stood at 
the south door, axe aloft and watching. 

'Does the fire burn, lord? I see no smoke,' whispered 

' Nay, I have made none. I will shed no more blood, except 
to save my life. I leave vengeance to the Norns.' 

Now Skallagrim thought that Brighteycs was niad, but he 
dared say nothing. So they went to their horses, and when 
they found them, Eric rode back to the house. Presently 
they drew near, and Eric told Skallagrim to stay where he was, 
and riding on to the house, smote heavy blows upon the 
door, just as Skallagrim once had smitten, before Eric, went 
up to Mosfell. 

Now Swanhild lay in her shut bed ; but she could not sleep, 
because of what she saw in. the eyes of (ludruda. Little may 
she sleep ever again, for when she shuts her eyes once moro 
she sees that which was written in the dead eyes of (ludruda. 
So, as she lay, she heard the blows upon the door, and 
sprang frightened from her bed. Now there was tumult in 
the % hall, for every man rose to his feet in fear, searching for 
his weapons. Again the loud knocks came. 

'It is the ghost of Eric ! ' cried one, for (Ji/ur had given 
out that Eric was dead at his hand in fair fight. 

4 Open ! ' said Gizur, and they opened, and there, a little 



way from the door, sat Brighteyes on a liovso, groat and 
shadowy to sec, and behind him was Skallagrim the Baresark. 

' It is the ghost of Eric ! ' they cried again. 

'I am no ghost,' said Brighteyes. 'I am no ghost, ye 
men of Swanliild. Tell me : is Gizur, the son of Ospakar, 
among you ? ' 

' Gizur is here,' said a voice ; ' but he swore he slew thee 
last night.' 

* Then he lied,' quoth Eric. ' Gi/ur did not slay me 
he murdered Gudruda the Fair as she lay asleep at my side. 
See ! ' and he drew Whitcfirc from its scabbard and held it 
in the rays of the moon that now shone out between the cloud 
rifts. ' Whitefire is red with Gudruda' s blood Gudruda 
slaughtered in her sleep by Gizur's coward hand ! ' 

Now men murmured, for this seemed to them the most 
shameful of all deeds. But Gizur, hearing, shrank back 

' Listen again ! ' said Eric. * I was minded but now 
to burn you all as ye slept ay, the firing is piled against the 
door. Still, I held my hand, for I have sworn to slsiy no 
more, except to save my life. NOW T I ride hence to Mosfoll. 
Thither let Gizur come, Gizur the murderer, and Swanliild 
the witch, and with them all who will. There I will give 
them greeting, and wipe away the blood of Gudruda from 
Whitefire's blade.' 

' Fear not, Eric,' cried Swanhild, ' I will come, and there 
thou mayst kill me, if thou canst.' 

' Against thee, Swanhild,' said Eric, ' I lift no hand. 
Do thy worst, I leave thee to thy fate and the vengeance 
of the Norns. I am no woman-slayer. But to Gizur the 
murderer I say, come.' 

Then he turned and went, and Skallagrim went with him. 

' Up, men, and cut Eric down ! ' cried Gizur, seeking to 
cover his sliame. 

But no man stirred. 





OW Eric and Skallagrim came to 
Mosfell in safety, and during all 
that ride Brightens spoke no 
word. He rode in silence, and 
in silence Skallagrim rode after 
him. The heart of Skallagrim 
was broken because of the 
sorrow which his drunkenness 
had brought about, and the heart 
of Eric was buried in Gudruda's 

On Mosfell Eric found four 
of his own men, two of whom 
had been among those Unit the 
people of (ii/ur and Swanhild 
had driven from (Jmlruda's ship 
before they fired her. For no 

fight had been made on the ship. There also he found -Ion, 
who had been loosed from his bands in the booth by one 
who heard his cries as he rode past. Now when Jon s;i\\ 
Brighteyes, he told him all, and fell at Eric's feet and wept 
because he had betrayed him in his fear. 

But Eric spoke no angry word to him. Stooping down 
he raised him, saying, 'Thou wast never oversiout of heart, 
Jon, and them art scarcely to be blnnied because tliou didst 
speak' rather than die in torment, though perhaps some h;id 
chosen so to die and not to speak. Now 1 am a luckless man, 


and all things happen as they are fated, and the words of 
Atli come true, as was to be looked for. The Norns, against 
whom none may stand, did but work their will through thy 
mouth, Jon ; so grieve no more for that which cannot be 

Then he turned away, but Jon wept long and loudly. 

That night Eric slept well and dreamed no dreams. But 
on the morrow he woke at dawn, and clothed himself and 
ate. Then he called his men together, and with them 8kalla- 
grim. They came and stood before him, and Eric, drawing 
Whitefire, leaned upon it and spoke : 

' Hearken, mates,' he said : ' I know this, that my hours 
are short and death draws on. My years have been few 
and evil, and I cannot read the purpose of my life. She 
whom I loved has been slain by the witchcraft of Bwanhild 
and the coward hand of Gizur the murderer, and I go to seek 
her where she waits. I am very glad to go, for now I 
have no more joy in life, being but a luckless man ; it is an 
ill world, friends, and all the ways are red with blood. 1 have 
shod much blood, though but one life haunts me now at the 
last, and that is the life of Atli the Earl, for he was no match 
for my might and he is dead, because of my sin. With 
my own blood I will wash away the blood of Atli, and then I 
seek another place, leaving nothing but a tale to be told in the 
ingle when fall the winter snows. For to this end we all 
come at the last, and it matters little if it find us at midday 
or at nightfall. We live in sorrow, we die in pain and 
darkness : for this is the curse that the Gods have laid upon 
men and each must taste it in his season. But I liave sworn 
that no more men shall die for me. I will fight the last 
great fight alone ; for I know this : I shall not easily be over- 
come, and with my fallen foes I will tread on Bifrost Bridge. 
Therefore, farewell ! When the bones of Eric Brighteyes lie 
ki their barrow, or are picked by ravens on the mountain-side, 
Gizur will not trouble to hunt out those who clung to him, if 
indeed Gizur shall live to tell the tale. Nor need ye fear the 
hate of Swanhild, for she aims her spears at me alone. Go, 
therefore, and, when I am dead, do not forget me, and do not 




eek to avenge me, for Death the avenger of all will find them 

Now Eric's men heard and groaned aloud, saying that they 
ould die with him, for they loved Eric one and all. Only 
Skallagrim said nothing. 

Then Brighteyes spoke again : ' Hear me, comrades. If 
ye will not go, my blood be on your heads, for I will ride out 
alone, and meet the men of Gizur in the plain and fall there 

Then one by one they crept away to seek their horses 
in the dell. And each man as he went came to Eric and 
kissed his hand, then passed thence weeping. Jon was the 
last to go, except Skallagrim only, and he was so moved that 
he could not speak at all. 

It was this Jon who, in after years, when he was grown 
very old, wandered from stead to stead telling the deeds of 
Eric Brighteyes, and always finding a welcome because of his 
tale, till at length, as he journeyed, he was overtaken by a 
snowstorm and buried in a drift. For Jon, who lacked much, 
had this gift : he had a skald's tongue. Men have always held 
that it was to the honour of Jon that he told the tale thus, 
hiding nothing, seeing that some of it is against himself. 

Now when all had gone, Eric looked at Skallagrim, who 
still stood near him, axe in hand. 

* Wherefore goest thou not, drunkard ? ' he said. ' Surely 
thou wilt find ale and mead in the vales or oversea. Herts 
there is none. Hasten ! I would be alone ! ' 

Now the great body of Skallagrim .shook with grief and 
shame, and the red blood poured up beneath his dark skin. 
Then he spoke in a thick voice : 

' I did not think to live to hear such words from the lips 
of Eric Brighteyes. They am well earned, yd it is unmanly 
of thee, lord, thus to taunt one who loves tliee. I would 
sooner die as Swanhild said yonder thrall should die than 
live to listen to such words. I have sinned against thee, 
indeed, and because of my sin my heart is broken. I last 
thou, then, never sinned that thou wouldst tear it living from 


my breast as eagles tear a foundered horse ? Think on thine 
own sins, Eric, and pity mine ! Taunt me thus once more 
or bid me go once more and I will go indeed ! I will go 
thus on the edge of yonder gulf thou didst overcome me by 
thy naked might, and there I swore fealty to thee, Eric 
Brighteyes. Many a year have we wandered side by side, and, 
standing back to back, have struck many a blow. I am minded 
to do this : to stand by thee in the last great fight that 
draws on and to die there with thee. I have loved no other 
man save thee, and I am too old to seek new lords. Yet, if 
still thou biddest me, I will go thus. Where I swore my oath 
to thee, there I will end it. For I will lay me down on the 
brink of yonder gulf, as once I lay when thy hand was at my 
throat, and call out that thou art 110 more my lord and I am 
no more thy thrall. Then I will roll into the depths beneath, 
and by this death of shame thou shult be freed of me, Eric 

Eric looked at the great man he looked long and sadly. 
Then he spoke : 

* Skallagrim Lambstail, thou hast a true heart. I too 
have sinned, and now I put away thy sin, although Gudruda 
is dead through theo and I must die because of thee. Stay by 
me if thou wilt and let us fall together.' 

Then Skallagrim came to Eric, and, kneeling before him, 
took his hands and kissed them. 

'Now I am once more a man,' he said, 'and I know 
this : we two shall die such a great death that it will 
be well to have lived to die it ! ' and he arose and 
shouted : 

A ! hai ! A ! hai ! I see foes pass in pride ! 
A ! hai ! A ! hai ! Valkyries ride the wind ! 

Hear the song of the sword 1 

Whitefire is aloft aloft ! 

Bare is the axe of the Baresark ! 

Croak, ye nesting ravens ; 

Flap your wings, ye eagles, 

For bright is Mosfell's cave with blood ! 

Lap ! lap ! thou Grey Wolf, 

Laugh aloud, Odin ! 


Laugh till shake the golden doors ; 
Heroes' feet are set on Bifrost, 
Open, ye hundred gates 1 

A ! hai ! A ! hai ! red runs the fray ! 

A ! hai ! A ! hai ! Valkyries ride the wind ! 

Then Skallagrim turned and went to clean his harness and 
the golden helm of Eric. 

Now at Coldback Gizur spoke with Swanhild. 

' Thou hast brought the greatest shame upon me,' he 
said, ' for thou hast caused me to slay a sleeping woman. 
Knowest thou that my own men will scarcely speak with me? 
I have come to this evil pass, through love of thee, that 1 have 
slain a sleeping woman ! ' 

'It was not my fault that thou didst kill Gudruda,' 
answered Swanhild ; ' surely I thought it was Eric whom thy 
sword pierced ! I have not sought thy love, Gizur, and J say 
this to thee : go, if thou wilt, and leave me alone ! ' 

Now Gizur looked at her, and was minded to go ; but, as 
Swanhild knew well, she held him too fast in the net of her 

* I would go, if I might go ! ' answered Gizur ; ' but I am 
bound to thee for good or evil, since it is fated that 1 shall 
wed thee.' 

' Thou wilt never wed me while Eric lives,' said Swanhild. 

Now she spoke thus truthfully, and by chance, as it were, 
not as driving Gizur on to slay Eric for, now that (iudruda 
was dead, she was in two minds as to this matter, since, if she 
might, she still desired to take Eric to herself but mea.ning 
that while Eric lived she would wed no other man. I Jut 
Gizur took it otherwise. 

'Eric shall certainly die if I may bring it about,' he 
answered, and went to speak with his men. 

Now all were gathered in the yard at Coldback, and that 
was a great company. But their looks were heavy because of 
the shame that Gizur, Ospakar's son, had brought upon them 
by the murder of Gudruda in her sleep. 

' Hearken, comrades! ' said Gizur : 'great shame is come 


upon me because of a deed that I have done unwittingly, 
for I aimed at the eagle Eric and I have slain the swan 

Then a certain old viking in the company, named Hotel, 
whom Gizur had hired for the slaying of Eric, spoke : 

' Man or woman, it is a ruddering deed to kill folk in their 
sleep, Gizur ! 'It is murder, and no less, and small luck can 
be hoped for from the stroke.' 

Now Gizur felt that his people looked on him askance and 
heavily, and knew that it would be hard to show them that 
he was driven to this deed against his will, and by the 
witchcraft of Swanhild. So, as was his nature, he turned to 
guile for shelter, like a fox to his hole, and spoke to them 
with the tongue of a lawman ; for Gizur had great skill in 

' That tale was not all true which Eric Brighteyes told 
you,' he said. 'He was mad with grief, and moreover it 
scums that he slept, and only woke to find Gudruda dead. 
It came about thus : I stood with the lady Swanhild, and 
was about to call aloud on Eric to arm himself and come 
forth and meet me face to face 

' Then, lord, methiiiks thou hadst never met another foe,' 
quoth the viking Ketel who had spoken first. 

'When of a sudden,' went on Gizur, taking no note of 
Hotel's words, ' one clothed in white sprang from the bed and 
rushed on me. Then I, thinking 'that it was Eric, lifted 
sword, not to smite, but to ward him away; but the 'linen- 
wearer met the sword and fell down dead. Then I fled, 
fearing lest men should wake and trap us, and that is all 
the tale. It was no fault of mine if Gudruda died upon the 

Thus he spoke, but still men looked doubtfully upon him, 
for his eye was the eye of a liar and Eric, as they knew, did 
not lie. 

' It is hard to find the truth between lawman's brain and 
tongue,' said the old viking Ketel. ' Eric is no lawman, but 
a true man, and he sang another song. I would slay Eric 
indeed, for between him and me there is a blood-feud, since 


ly brother died at his hand whon, with Whiteiire for a crook, 
Brighteyes drove armed men like sheep down the hall of Mid- 
dalhof ay and swordless, slew Ospakar. Yet I say thai Eric 
is a true man, and, whether or no thou art true, Gizur the Law- 
man, that thou knowest best thou and Swanhild the Kather- 
less, Groa's daughter. If thou didst slay Gudruda as thou 
tellest, say, how came Gudruda's blood on Wlritdire's blade '? 
How did it chance, Gizur, that thou heldest Whitenre in thy 
hand and not thine own sword ? Now I tell thee this : either 
thou shalt go up against Eric and clear thyself by blows, or I 
leave thee; and methinks there are others among this company 
who will do the same, for we have no wish to be partners with 
murderers and their wickedness.' 

' Ay, a good word ! ' said many who stood by. ' Let (1 i/ur 
go up with us to Mosfell, and there stand face to face with 
Eric and clear himself by blows.' 

4 1 ask no more,' said Gizur ; 'we will ride tb-night.' 
' But much more shalt thou get, liar,' quoth Ketel to 
himself, ' for that hour when thou lookest once again on 
Whitenre shall be thy last ! ' 

So Gizur and Swanhild made ready to go up against Eric. 
That day they rode away with a great company, a hundred 
and one in all, and this was their plan. They sent six men with 
that thrall who had shown them the secret path, bidding 
him guide them to the mountain-top. Then, when they win 
come thither, and heard the shouts of those who sought to gain 
the platform from the south, they were to watch till Eric and 
his folk came out from the cave, and shoot them with arrows 
from above or crush them with stones. JJut if perchance Krir 
left the platform and came to meet his foes in the narrow 
then they must let themselves down with ropes from the 
height above, and, creeping after him round the rock, must 
smite him in the back. Moreover, in secret, Gizur promised 
a great reward of ten hundreds in silver to him who should 
kill Krir, for he did not long to stand fare to face with 
him alone. Swanhild also in secret made promise of reward 


to those who should bring Eric to her, bound, but living ; and 
she bade them do this to bear him down with shields and tie 
him with ropes. 

So they rode away, the seven who should climb the moun- 
tain from behind going first, and on the morrow morning they 
crossed the sand and came to Mosfell. 





^" - OW the night came down 

upon Mosfell, and of 
all nights this was the 
. strangest. The air was 
quiet and heavy, yet no 
rain fell. It was so 
silent, moreover, that, 
did a stone slip upon 
the mountain side or a 
horse neigh far off on 
the plains, the sound of 
it crept up the fell and was 
echoed from the crags. 

Eric and Bkallagrim sat to- 
gether on the open space of rock 
that is before the cave, and great 
heaviness and fear came into 
their hearts, so that they had no 
desire to sleep. 

' Methinks the night is ghost-ridden,' said Eric, ' and I am 
fey, for I grow cold, and it seems to me that one strokes my 

' It is ghost-ridden, lord,' answered Skallagrim. ' Trolls 
are abroad, and the God-kind gather to see Eric die.' 

For a while they sat in silence, then suddenly the moun- 
tain heaved up gently beneath them. Thrice it seemed to 
heave like a woman's breast, and left them frightened. 

* Now the dwarf- folk come from their caves, 1 quoth 



Skallagrim, ' and great deeds may be looked for, since they are 
not drawn to the upper earth by a little thing.' 

Then once more they sat silent ; and thick darkness came 
down upon the mountain, hiding the stars. 

' Look,' said Eric of a sudden, and he pointed to Hecla. 

Skallagrim looked, and lo ! the snowy dome of Hecla was 
aglow with a rosy flame like the light of dawn. 

' Winter lights,' said Lambstail, shuddering. 

* Death lights ! ' answered Eric. ' Look again ! ' 

They looked, and behold ! in the rosy glow there sat three 
giant forms of fire, and their shapes were the shapes of women. 
Before them was a loom of blackness that stretched from earth 
to sky, and they wove at it with threads of flame. They 
were splendid and terrible to see. Their hair streamed 
behind them like meteor flames, their eyes shone like light- 
ning, and their breasts gleamed like the polished bucklers 
of the gods. They wove fiercely at the loom of blackness, 
and as they wove they sang. The voice of the one was as 
the wind whistling through the pines ; the voice of the other 
was as the sound of rain hissing on deep waters ; and the voice 
of the third was as the moan" of the sea. They wove fearfully 
and they sang loudly, but what they sang might not be known. 
Now the web grew and the woof grew, and a picture came 
upon the loom a great picture written in fire. 

Behold ! it was the semblance of a storm-awakened sea, and 
a giant ship fled before the gale a dragon of war, and in the 
ship were piled the corses of men, and on these lay another 
corse, as one lies upon a bed. They looked, and the face of the 
corse grew bright. It was the face of Eric, and his head rested 
upon the dead heart of Skallagrim. 

Clinging to each other, Eric and Skallagrim saw the sight 
of fear that was written on the loom of the Norns. They 
saw it for a breath. Then, with a laugh like the wail of wolves, 
the shapes of fire sprang up and rent the web asunder. Then 
the first passed upward to the sky, the second southward 
towards Middalhof, but the third swept over Mosfell, so 
that the brightness of her flaming form shone on the rock 
where they sat by the cave, and the lightning of her eyes was 


mirrored in the byrnie of Skallagrim and on Eric's golden 
helm. She swept past, pointing downwards as she went, 
and lo ! she was gone, and once more darkness and silence' 
lay upon the earth. 

Now this sight was seen of Jon the thrall also, and ho told 
it in his story of the deeds of Eric. For Jon lay hid m ;l 
secret place on Mosfell, waiting for tidings of what came to 

For a while Eric and Skallagrim clung to each other. 
Then Skallagrim spoke. 

' We have seen the Valkyries,' he said. 

' Nay,' answered Eric, ' we have seen the Norns who are 
come to warn us of our doom ! We shall die to-morrow.' 

' At the least,' said Skallagrim, * we shall not die alone : we 
had a goodly bed on yonder goblin ship, and all of our own 
slaying methinks. It is not so ill to die thus, lord ! ' 

' Not so ill ! ' said Eric ; ' and yet I am weary of blood and 
war, of glory and of my strength. Now I desire rest alone. 
Light fire I can bear this darkness no longer ; the marrow 
freezes in my bones.' 

' Fire can be seen of foes,' said Skallagrim. 

* It matters little now,' said Eric, * we are feyfolk.' 

So Skallagrim lighted the fire, piling much brushwood and 
dry turf over it, till presently it burnt up brightly, throwing 
light on all the space of rock, and heavy shadows against the cliff 
behind. They sat thus awhile in the light of the (lames, 
looking towards the deep gulf, till suddenly there came ;i sound 
as of one who climbed the gulf. 

' Who comes now, climbing where no man may pass ? ' 
cried Erie, seizing Whitefire and springing to his feet. Pre- 
sently he sank down again with white face and staring eyes, and 
pointed at the edge of the cliff. And as he pointed, the neck 
of a man rose in the shadow above the brink, and the hands of a 
man grasped the rock. But there was no head on the neck. 
The shape of the headless man drew itself slowly over the 
brink, it walked slowly into the light towards the lire, then 
sat itself down in the glare of the flames, which shrank away 


from it as from a draught of wind. Pale with terror, Eric and 
Skallagrim looked on the headless thing and knew it. It was 
the wraith of the Baresark that Brighteyes had slain the 
first of all the men he slew. 

' It is my mate, Eric, whom thou di-dst kill years ago and 
whose severed head spoke with thee ! ' gasped Skallagrim. 

' It is he, sure enough ! ' said Eric ; ' but where may his 
head be ? ' 

' Perchance the head will come,' answered Skallagrim. ' He 
is an evil sight to see, surely. Say, lord, shall I fall upon 
him, though I love not the task ? ' 

' Nay, Skallagrim, let him bide ; he does but come to warn 
us of our fate. Moreover, ghosts can only be laid in one way 
by the hewing off of the head and the laying of it at the 
thigh. But this one has no head to hew.' 

Now as he spoke the headless man turned his neck as 
though to look. Once more there came the sound of feet and 
lo ! men inarched in from the darkness on either side. Eric and 
Skallagrim looked up and knew them. They were those of 
Ospakar's folk whom they had slain on Horse-Head Heights ; 
all their wounds were on them and in front of them marched 
Mord, Ospakar's son. The ghosts gazed upon Eric and 
Skallagrim with cold dead eyes, then they too sat down by the 
fire. Now once more there came the sound of feet, and from 
every side men poured in who had died at the hands of Eric 
and of Skallagrim. First came those who fell on that ship 
of Ospakar's which Eric sank by Westmans ; then the crew of 
the Raven who had perished upon the sea-path. Even as 
the man died, so did each ghost come. Some had been drowned 
and behold their harness dripped water ! Some had died of 
spear-thrusts and the spears were yet fixed in their breasts ! 
Some had fallen beneath the flash of Whitefire and the weight 
of the axe of Skallagrim, and there they sat, looking on their 
wide wounds ! 

Then came more and more. There were those whom Eric 
and Skallagrim had slain upon the seas, those who had fallen 
before them in the English wars, and all that company who had 
been drowned in the waters of the Pentland Firth when the 

'Her "white robe was red with blood ; a great sword was set in her heart, ' 


dtchcraft of Swaiikild had brought the Gudruda to her 

' Now here we have a goodly crew,' said Eric at length. ' Is 
it done, thmkest thou, or will Mosfell send forth more dm.d :' ' 

As he spoke the wraith of a grey-headed man drew 
near. He had but one arm, for the other was hewn from him, 
and the byrnie on his left side was red with blood. 

' Welcome, Earl Atli ! ' cried Eric. ' Sit thou over against 
me, who to-morrow shall be with thee.' 

The ghost of the Earl seated itself and looked on Eric 
with sad eyes, but it spake never a word. 

Then came another company, and at their head stalked 
black Ospakar. 

'These be they who died at Middalhof,' cried Eric. 
1 Welcome, Ospakar ! that marriage-feast of thine went ill ! ' 

' Now methinks we are overdone with trolls,' said Skalla- 
grim ; ' but see ! here come more.' 

As he spoke, Hall of Lithdale came, and with him Koll 
the Half-witted, and others. And so it went 011 till all the 
men whom Eric and Skallagrim had slain, or who had died 
because of them, or at their side, were gathered in deep ranks 
before them. 

' Now it is surely done,' said Eric. 

' There is yet a space,' said Skallagrim, pointing to the 
other side of the fire, * and Hell holds many dead.' 

Even as the words left his lips there came a noise of the 
galloping of horse's hoofs, and one clad in white rode up. 
It was a woman, for her golden hair flowed down about her 
white arms. Then she slid from the horse and stood in the 
light of the fire, and behold! her white robe was red with 
blood, a great sword was set in her heart, and tin- I';KV jmd 
eyes were the face and eyes of Giidriidii the Fair, and the 
horse she rode was Ulackmane, that Eric had slain. 

Now when Brighteyes saw her he gave a great cry. 

' Greeting, sweet ! ' he said. 'I am no longer afraid, 
since thou comest to bear me company. Thou art dear to my 
sight ay even in yon death-sheet. Greeting, sweet, my 
May 1 I laid thee stiff and cold in the earth at Middalhof, 



but, like a loving wife, them hast burst thy bonds, and art 
come to save me from the grip of trolls. Thou art welcome, 
Gudruda, Asmund's daughter ! Come, wife, sit thou at my 

The ghost of Gudruda spake no word. She walked 
through the fire towards him, and the flames went out beneath 
her feet, to burn up again when she had passed. Then she 
sat down over against Eric and looked on him with wide and 
tender eyes. Thrice he stretched out his arms to clasp her, 
but thriee their strength left them and they fell back to his side. 
It was as though they struck a wall of ice and were numbed 
by the bitter cold. 

'Look, here are more,' groaned Skallagrim. 

Then Eric looked, and lo ! the empty space to the left of 
the fire was filled with shadowy shapes like shapes of mist. 
Amongst them was Gizur, Ospakar's son, and many a man 
of his company. There, too, was Swanhild, Groa's daughter, 
and a toad nestled in her breast. She looked with wide eyes 
upon the eyes of dead Gudruda's ghost, that seemed not to 
see her, and a stare of fear was set on her lovely face. Nor 
was this all ; for there, before that shadowy throng, stood two 
great shapes clad in their harness, and one was the shape of 
Eric and one the shape of Skallagrim. 

Thus, being yet alive, did these two look upon their own 
wraiths ! 

Tkeii Eric and Skallagrim cried out aloud and their 
brains swam and their senses left them, so that they swooned. 

When they opened their eyes and life came back to them 
the fire was dead, and it was day. Nor was there any sign of 
that company which had been gathered on the rock before them. 

' Skallagrim,' quoth Eric, ' it seems that I have dreamed 
a strange dream a most strange dream of Norns and trolls ! ' 

' Tell me thy dream, lord,' said Skallagrim. 

So Eric told all the vision, and the Baresark listened in 

' It was no dream, lord,' said Skallagrim, ' for I myself 
have seen the same things. Now this is in my mind, that 


yonder sun is the last that we shall see, for we have beheld the 
death-shadows. All those who were gathered here last m'-lit 
wait to welcome us on Bifrost Bridge. And the mist shapes 
who sat there, amongst whom our wraiths were numbered, 
are the shapes of those who shall die in the great right to-day. 
For days are fled and we are sped ! ' 

' I would not have it otherwise,' said Eric. ' We have 
been greatly honoured of the Gods, and of the ghost-kind that 
are around us and above us. Now let us make ready to die 
as becomes men who have never turned back to blow, for 
the end of the story should fit the beginning, and of us there 
is a tale to tell.' 

' A good word, lord,' answered Skallagrim : ' I have struck 
few strokes to be ashamed of, and I do not fear to tread 
Bifrost Bridge in thy company. Now we will wash ourselvc \s 
and eat, so that our strength may be whole in us.' 

So they washed themselves with water, and ate heartily, 
and for the first time for many months Eric was merry. For 
now that the end was at hand his heart grew light within 
him. And when they had put the desire of food from them, 
and buckled on their harness, they looked out from their 
mountain height, and saw a cloud of dust rise in the desert 
plain of black sand beneath, and through it the sheen of 

' Here come those of whom, if there is truth in visions, 
some few shall never go back again,' said Kric. k Now. what 
counsel hast thou, Skallagrim ? Where shall we meet them '.' 
Here on the space of rock, or yonder in the deep way of the 

' My counsel is that we meet them here,' said Skal la-rim, 
' and cut them down one by one as they try to turn the 
rock. They can scarcely come at us to slay us here so long 
as our arms have strength to smite.' 

'Yet they will come, though I know not how,' answered 
Eric, ' for I am sure of this, that our death lies before us. 
Here, then, we will meet them.' 

Now the cloud of dust drew nearer, and they saw that 
this was a great company which came up against them. 

x -2 


At the foot of tke fell the men stayed and rested a while, 
and it was not till afternoon that they began to climb the 

' Night will be at hand before this game is played,' 
said Skallagrim. * See, they climb slowly, saving their 
strength, and yonder among them is Swanhild in a purple 

' Ay, night will be at hand, Skallagrim a last long night ! 
A hundred to two the odds are heavy ; yet some shall wish 
them heavier. Now let us bind on our helms.' 

Meanwhile Gizur and his folk crept up the paths from 
below. Now that thrall who knew the secret way had gone 
011 with six chosen men, and already they climbed the water- 
course and drew near to the flat crest of the fell. JJut 
Eric and Skallagrim knew nothing of this. So they sat 
down by the turning place that is over the gulf MI id 
waited, singing of the taking of the Raven and of the slaying 
in the stead at Middalhof, and telling tales of deeds that they 
had done. And the thrall and his six men climbed on till 
at length they gained the crest of the fell, and, looking over, 
saw Eric and Skallagrim beneath them. 

' The birds are in the snare, and hark ! they sing,' said the 
thrall ; * now bring rocks and be silent.' 

JJut (iizur and his people, having learned that Eric and 
Skallagrim were alone upon the mountain, pushed on. 

4 We have not much to fear from two men,' said (Jizur. 

' That we shall learn presently,' answered Swanhild. ' I 
tell thee this, that I saw strange sights last night, though I 
did not sleep. I may sleep little now that Gudruda is dead, 
for that which I saw in her eyes haunts me.' 

Then they went on, and the face of Gizur grew white 
with fear, 





OWtho thrall and those with him 
on the crest of the fell heard the 
murmur of the company of (li/ur 
and Swanhild as they won the, 
mountain side, though they could 
not see them because of the 

' Now it is time to begin and 
knock these birds from their 
perch,' said the thru 11, ' for thai, 
is an awkward corner for our folk 
to turn with AYhifefire and the 
axe of Skallagrim waiting on the 
further side.' 

So he balanced a great stone, 
as heavy as three men could lift, 
on the brow of the rock, and 

aimed it. Then he pushed and lot it go. It smote the plat- 
form beneath with a crash, two fathoms behind the spot 
where Eric and Skallagrim sat. Then it flew into the air, 
and, just as Brighteyes turned at the sound, it struck tin- 
wings of his helm, and, bursting the straps, tore the golden 
helm-piece from his head and carried it away into the gulf 

Skallagrim looked up and saw what had come about. 
'They have gained the crest of the Jell/ he crii-d. ' Now 


we must fly into the cave or down the narrow way and 
hold it.' 

' Down the narrow way, then,' said Eric, and while rocks, 
spears mid arrows rushed between and ;i round them, they 
stepped on to the stone and won the path beyond. It was 
clear. Cor ( ii/ur's folk had not yet come, and they ran nearly to 
the mouth of it, where there was a bend in the way, and 
stood there side by side. 

1 Thou wast at death's door then, lord ! ' said Skallagrim. 

1 Head-piece is not head,' answered Eric ; * but I wonder 
how they won the crest of the fell. I have never heard 
tell of any path by which it might be gained.' 

' There they are at the least,' said Skallagrim. ' Now this 
is my will, that thou shouldst take my helm. I am Baresark 
and put little trust in harness, but rather in my axe and 
strength alone.' 

'I will not do that,' said Eric. 'Listen: I hear them 

Presently the tumult of voices and the tramp of feet grew 
clearer, and after a while (li/ur, Bwanhild, and the men of their 
following turned the corner of the narrow \vay, and lo ! there 
before thorn ay within three paces of them stood Eric and 
Skallagrim shoulder to shoulder, and the light poured down 
upon them from above. 

They wore terrible to see, and the light shone brightly on 
Eric's golden hair and Whitefire's Hashing blade, and the 
shadows lay dark on the black helm of Skallagrim and in the 
fierce black eyes beneath. 

Back surged Gizur and those with him. Skallagrim 
would have sprung upon them, but Eric caught him by the 
arm, saying : ' A truce to thy Baresark ways. Rush not and 
move not ! Let us stand here till they overwhelm us.' 

Now those behind Gizur cried out to know what ailed 
them that they pushed back. 

1 Only this,' said Gizur, ' that Eric Brighteyes and Skalla- 
grim Lambstail stand like two grey wolves and hold the nar- 
row way.' 

'Now we shall have fighting worth the telling of,' quoth 


[etel the viking. ' On, Gizur, Ospakar's son, ami cut them 
down ! ' 

' Hold ! ' said Swanhild ; ' I will speak with Erie first,' and, 
together with Gizur and Ketel, she passed round the corner 
of the path and came face to face with those who stood at 
bay there. 

' Now yield, Eric,' she cried. ' Foes are behind and bofmv 
thee. Thou art trapped, and hast little chance of life. Yield 
thee, I say, with thy black wolf-hound, so perchance thou 
mayest find mercy even at the hands of her whose husband 
thou didst wrong and slay.' 

' It is not my way to yield, lady,' answered Eric, ' and still 
less perchance is it the way of Skallagrim. Least of all will 
we yield to thee who, after working many ills, didst throw me 
in a witch-sleep, and to him who slew the wife sleeping at my 
side. Hearken, Swanhild: here we stand, awaiting death, 
nor will we take mercy from thy hand. For know this, we 
shall not die alone. Last night as we sat on Mosfell we saw 
the Norns weave our web of late upon their loom of darkness. 
They sat on ITecla's dome and wove their pictures in living 
flame, then rent the web and flew upward and southward and 
westward, crying our doom to sky and earth and sea,. l.;i:t 
night as we sat by the lire on Mosfell all the company of the 
dead were gathered round us ay ! and all the company of 
those who shall die to-day. Thou wast there, Gizur the 
murderer, Ospakar's son ! thou wast there, Swanhild the 
witch, Groa's daughter ! thou wast there, Ketel Viking ! 
with many another man ; and there were we two also. Val- 
kyries have kissed us and death draws near. Therefore, tit Ik 
no more, but come and make an end. Greeting, Gizur, thou 
woman-murderer ! Draw nigh ! draw nigh ! Out sword ! 
up shield ! and on, thou son of Ospakar ! ' 

Swanhild spoke no more, and Gizur had no word. 

' On, Gizur ! Eric calls thee,' quoth Ketel Viking ; but 
Gizur slunk back, not forward. 

Then Ketel grew mad with rage and shame. lie called to 
the men, and they drew near, as many as might, and looked 
doubtfully at the pair who stood before them like rocks upon 


a plain. Eric laughed aloud and Skallagrim gnawed the 
edge of his shield. Eric laughed aloud and the sound of his 
laughter rang up the rocks. 

1 We are but two,' he cried, ' and ye are many ! Is there 
never a pair among you who will stand face to face with a 
I.jirosark ;m<l a holmless man-? ' and he tossed Whitefiro high 
into the air and caught it by the hilt. 

Then Ketcl and another man of his following sprang for- 
ward with an oath, and their axes thundered loud on the 
shields of Eric nnd of Skallagrim. But Whitefire flickered up 
and the axe of Skallagrim crashed, and at once their knees 
were loosened, so that they sank down dead. 

' More men ! more men ! ' cried Eric. * These were brave, 
but their might was little. More men for the Grey Wolfs 
maw ! ' 

Then Swanhild lashed the folk with bitter words, and two 
of them sprang on. They sprang on like hounds upon a deer 
at bay, and they rolled back as gored hounds roll from the 
deer's horns. 

1 More men ! more men ! ' cried Eric. * Here lie but four 
and a hundred press behind. Now he shall win great honour 
who lays Brighteyes low and brings down the helm of 

Again two came on, but they found no luck, for presently 
they also were down upon the bodies of those who went 
before. Now none could be found to come up against the 
pair, for they fought like Baldur and Thor, and none could 
touch them, and no harness might withstand the weight of 
their blows that shore through shield and helm and byrnie, 
deep to the bone beneath. Then Eric and Skallagrim leaned 
upon their weapons and mocked their foes, while Ihese cursed 
and tore their beards with rage and shame. 

Now it is to be told that when the thrall and those with 
him saw that Eric and Skallagrim had escaped their rocks 
and spears, they took counsel, and the end of it was that 
they slid down a rope to the platform that is under the 
crest of the fell. Thence, though they could see nothing, 
they could hear the clang of blows and the shouts of those 


who fought and fell ay ! and the mocking of Eric and of 

' Now it goes thus,' said the thrall, who was a cunning 
man: 'Eric and Skallagrim hold the narrow way ;m<l HOIK- 
can stand against them. This, them, is my redo: that we 
turn the rock and take them in the back.' 

His fellows thought this a good saying, and one by one 
they stood upon the little rock and won the narrow way. 
They crept along this till they were near to Eric and Skalla- 
grim. Now Swanhild, looking up, saw them and started. 
Skallagrim noted this and glanced over his shoulder, and that 
not too soon, for, as he looked, the thrall lifted sword to 
smite the head of Eric. 

With a shout of ' Back to hack ! ' the Baresark swung round 
and ere ever the sword might fall his axe was buried deep in 
the thrall's breast. 

' Now We must cut our path through them,' said Skalla- 
grim, ' and, if it maybe, win the space that is before the cave. 
Keep them off in front, lord, and I will mind these manni- 

Now Gizur's folk, seeing what had come about, took 
heart and fell upon Eric with a rush, and those who were 
with the dead thrall rushed at Skallagrim, and there began 
such a fight as has not been known in Iceland. But the way 
was so narrow that scarce more than one man could come to 
each of them at a time. And so fierce and true were the 
blows of Eric and Skallagrim that of those who came on few 
went back. Down they fell, and where they fell they died, 
and for every man who died Eric and Skallagrim won a pace 
toward the point of rock. Whitcfire flamed so swift, and 
swept so wide that it seemed to Swanhild, watching, as 
though three swords were aloft at once, and the B 
Skallagrim thundered down like the axe of a woodman 
against a tree, and those groaned on whom it fell as 
groans a falling tree. Now the shields of these twain were 
hewn through and through, and cast away, and their blond 
ran from many wounds. Still, their life; was whole in them 
and they plied axe and sword with both hands. And ever 


men fell, and ever, fighting hard, they drew nearer to the 
point of rock. 

Now it was won, and now all tho company that came 
with the thrall from over the mountain brow were dead or 
sorely wounded at the hands of black Skallagrim. Lo ! one 
springs on Eric, and Gizur creeps behind him. Whitefire 
leaps to meet the man and does not leap in vain ; but Gizur 
smites a coward blow at Eric's uncovered head, and wounds 
him sorely, so that he falls to his knee. 

' Now I am smitten to the death, Skallagrim,' cries Eric. 
' Win the rock and leave me.' Yet he rises from his 

Then Skallagrim turns, red with blood and terrible to 

' 'Tis but a scratch. Climb thou the rock I follow,' he 
says, and, screaming like a horse, with weapon aloft he leaps 
alone upon the foe. They break before the Baresark rush ; 
they break, they fall they are clovon by Piarrsark uxe and 
trodden of Baresark feet ! They roll back, leaving the way 
clear save for the dead. Then Skallagrim follows Bright- 
eyes to the rock. 

Now Eric wipes the gore from his eyes and sees. Then, 
slowly and with a reeling brain, he steps down upon the giddy 
point. Ho goes near to falling, vet does not fall, for now he 
lies upon the open space, and creeps on hands and knees to 
the rock-wall that is by the cave, and sits resting his back 
against it, Whitefire on his knee. 

Before he is there, Skallagrim staggers to his side with a 

4 Now we have time to breathe, lord,' he gasps. ' See, 
here is water,' and he takes a pitcher that stands by, and 
gives Eric to drink from the pool, then drinks himself and 
pours the rest of the water on Eric's wound. Then new 
life conies to them, and they both stand upon their feet and 
win back their breath. 

' We have not done so badly ! ' says Skallagrim, ' and we 
are still a match for one or two. See, they come ! Say, 
where shall we meet them, lord ? ' 


'Here,' quoth Eric; <I cannot stand well upon my le^s 
without the help of the rock. Now I am all unmeet for fight.' 

' Yot shall this last stand of thine he sung of ! ' says 

Now finding none to stay them, the men of Gizur climb 
one by one upon the rock and win the space that is beyond. 
SAvanhild goes first of all, because she knows well that Krir 
will not harm her, and after her come Gizur and the 
others. But many do not come, for they will lift sword no 

Now Swanhild draws near and looks on Eric and mocks 
him in the fierceness of her heart and the rage of her wolf- 

' Now,' she says, ' now are Brighteyes dim eyes ! What ! 
weepest thou, Eric ? ' 

' Ay, Swanhild,' he answered, ' I weep tears of blood for 
those whom thou hast brought to doom.' 

She draws nearer and speaks low to him : * Hearken, 
Eric. Yield thee ! Thou hast done enough for honour, ;m<l 
thou art not smitten to the death of yonder cowardly hound. 
Yield and I will nurse thee back to health and bear thee 
hence, and together we will forgot our bate and woes.' 

'Not twice may a man lie in a witch's bod,' snid F.ric, 
'and my troth is plighted to other than thee, Swanhild.' 

' She is dead,' says Swanhild. 

' Y T es, she is dead, Swanhild ; and I go to seek her amongst 
the dead I go to seek her and to find her ! ' 

But the face of Swanhild grew fierce as the winter sea. 

' Thou hast put me away for the last time, Eric ! Now thou 
shalt die, as I have promised thee and as I promised Gudruda 
the Fair ! ' 

' So shall I the more quickly find Gudruda and lose sight 
of thy evil face, Swanhild the harlot ! Swanhild the murderess ! 
Swanhild the witch! For I know this: thou shalt not escape ! 
thy doom draws on also! and haunted and accursed shalt 
thou be for ever! Fare thee well, Swanhild ; we shall meet 
no more, and the hour comes when thou shalt grieve that thou 
wast ever born ! J 


Now Swanhild turned and called to the folk : ' Come, cut 
down these outlaw rogues and make an end. Come, cut them 
down, for night draws on.' 

Then once more the men of Gizur closed in upon them. 
Eric smote thrice and thrice the hlow went home, then he 
could smite no more, for his strength was spent with toil and 
wounds, and he sank upon the ground. For a while Skallagri m 
stood over him like a she-hear o'er her young and held the 
mob at hay. Then Gizur, watching, cast a spear at Eric. It 
entered his side through a cleft in his byrnie and pierced him 

* I am spod, Skallagrim Lambstail,' cried Eric in a loud 
voice, and all men drew hack to see giant Brighteyes die. 
Now his head fell against the rock and his eyes closed. 

Then Skallagrim, stooping, drew out the spear and kissed 
Eric on the forehead. 

* Farewell, Eric Brighteyes ! ' he said. ' Iceland shall never 
see such another man, and few have died so great a death. 
Tarry a while, lord ; tarry a while I come I come ! ' 

Then crying ' Eric ! Eric ! ' the Baresark fit took him, and 
once more and for the last time Skallagrim rushed screaming 
upon the foe, and once more they rolled to earth before him. 
To and fro he rushed, dealing great blows, and ever as he wont 
they stabbed and cut and thrust at his side and back, for they 
dared not stand before him, till he bled from a hundred wounds. 
Now, having slain three more men, and wounded two others, 
Skallagrim might no more. He stood a moment swaying 
to and fro, then he let his axe drop, threw his arms high 
above him, and with one loud cry of * Eric ! ' fell as a rock 
falls dead upon the dead. 

But Eric was not yet gone. He opened his eyes and saw 
the death of Skallagrim and smiled. 

' Well ended, Lambstail ! ' he said in a faint voice. 

' Lo ! ' cried Gizur, ' yon outlawed hound still lives ! Now 
I will do a needful task and make an end of him, and so shall 
Ospakar's sword come back to Ospakar's son.' 

' Thou art wondrous brave now that the bear lies dying ! ' 
said Swanhild. 

The death of Eric 


Now it seemed that Eric heard the words, for suddenly 
ds might came back to him, and he, staggered to Jus knees 

md thence to his feet. Then, as folk fall from him, with ;ill 
his strength he whirls Whitefire round his head till it sliim-s 
like a wheel of lire. ' Thy service is done and thoti ;irt clean 
of Gudruda's blood go back to those who forged thee! 1 
Brighteyes cries, and casts Whitefire from him towards tin- 

Away speeds the great blade, flashing like lightning thruu-h 
the rays of the setting sun, and behold! as men watch it 
is gone gone in mid- air! 

Since that day 110 such sword as Whitefire has been known 
in Iceland. 

'Now slay thou me, Gizur,' says the dying Eric. 

Gizur comes on with little eagerness, and Eric cries 
aloud : 

' Swordless I slew thy father ! swordless, shieldless, and 
wounded to the death I will yet slay tlicc, Gizur the Mur- 
derer ! ' and with a loud cry he staggered toward him. 

Gizur smites him with his sword, but Ericdoes not stay, and 
while men wait and wonder Brighteyes sweeps him into It is 
great arms ay, sweeps him up, lifts him from the ground 
and reels on. 

Eric reels on to the brink of the gulf. Gi/ur 8668 his pur- 
pose, struggles and shrieks aloud. But the strength of tin: 
dying Eric is more than the strength of (li/.ur. Now liright- 
eyes stands on the di//.y edge and the light of the pa 
sun flames about his head. And now, bearing (li/.ur with 
him, he hurls himself out into the gulf, and lo ! the sun 
sinks ! 

Men stand wondering, but Swanhild cries aloud : 

' Nobly done, Eric ! nobly done ! So 1 would have 
thee die who of all men wast the first ! ' 

This then was the end of Eric Brighteyes the Unlucky, who 
of all warriors that have lived in Iceland was the mi-' 
the goodliest, and the best beloved of women and of those who 
clung to him. 


Now, on the morrow, Swanhild caused the body of Eric 
to be searched for in the cleft, and there they found it, 
floating in water and with the dead (jizur yet clasped in 
its bear-grip. Then she cleansed it and clothed it iiguin 
in its rent armour, and bound on the Hell-shoes, and it 
was carried on horses to the sea-side, and with it were borne 
the bodies of Skallagrim Lambstail the Baresark, Eric's thrall, 
and of all those men whom they had slain in the last great 
fight on Mosfell, that is now named Ericsfell. 

Then Swanhild drew her long dragon of war, in which she 
had come from Orkneys, from its shed over against Westrnan 
Isles, and, in the centre of the ship, she piled the bodies of 
the slain in the shape of a bed, and lashed them fast. And 
on this bed she laid the corpse of Eric Brighteyes, and the 
breast of black Skallagrim the Baresark was his pillow, and 
the breast of Gizur, Ospakar's son, was his foot-rest. 

Then she caused the sails to be hoisted, and went alone 
aboard the long ship, the rails of which were hung with the 
shields of the dead men. 

And when at evening the breeze freshened to a gale that 
blew from the land, she cut the cable with her own hand, and 
the ship leapt forward like a thing alive, and rushed out in 
the red light of the sunset towards the open sea. 

Now ever the gale freshened and folk, standing on West- 
man Heights, saw the long ship plunge past, dipping her 
prow beneath the waves and sending the water in a rain of 
spray over the living Swanhild, over the dead Eric and those 
he lay upon. 

And by the head of Eric Brighteyes, her hair streaming 
on the wind, stood Swanhild the Witch, clad in her purple 
cloak, and with rings of gold about her throat and arms. She 
stood by Eric's head^swaying with the rush of the ship, 
and singing so sweet and wild a song that men grew weak who 
heard it. 

Now, as the people watched, two white swans came down 
from the clouds and sped on wide wings side by side over the 
vessel's mast. 

The ship rushed on through the glow of the sunset into 


the gathering night. On sped the- ship, but still Swanhild 
sung, and still the swans Hew over her. 

The gale grew fierce, and fiercer yet. The darkness 
gathered deep upon the raging sea. 

Now that ship was seen no more, and the death-song of 
Swanhild as she passed to doom was never heard again. 

For swans and ship, and Swanhild, and dead Eric and his 
dead foes, were lost in the wind and the night. 

But far out on the sea a great name of fire leapt up towards 
the sky. 

Now this is the tale of Eric Brighteyes, Thorgrimur's .son ; 
of Gudruda the Fair, Asmimd's daughter ; of Swanhild the 
Fatherless, Atli's wife, and of Ounound, named Skallagrim 
Lambstail, the Baresark, Eric's thrall, all of whom lived and 
died before Thangbrand, Wilibald's son, preached the \Vlii to 
Christ in Iceland. 



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