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Njal's Saga

Part 9 out of 9

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every ship.

Then they slept during the day, but the second night there was
again a din, and again they all sprang up. Then swords leapt out
of their sheaths, and axes and spears flew about in the air and

The weapons pressed them so hard that they had to shield
themselves, but still many were wounded, and again a man died out
of every ship.

This wonder lasted all till day.

Then they slept again the day after.

But the third night there was a din of the same kind, and then
ravens flew at them, and it seemed to them as though their beaks
and claws were of iron.

The ravens pressed them so hard that they had to keep them off
with their swords, and covered themselves with their shields, and
so this went on again till day, and then another man had died in
every ship.

Then they went to sleep first of all, but when Brodir woke up, he
drew his breath painfully, and bade them put off the boat.
"For," he said, "I will go to see Ospak."

Then he got into the boat and some men with him, but when he
found Ospak he told him of the wonders which had befallen them,
and bade him say what he thought they bodcd.

Ospak would not tell him before he pledged him peace, and Brodir
promised him peace, but Ospak still shrank from telling him till
night fell.

Then Ospak spoke and said, "When blood rained on you, therefore
shall ye shed many men's blood, both of your own and others. But
when ye heard a great din, then ye must have been shown the crack
of doom, and ye shall all die speedily. But when weapons fought
against you, that must forebode a battle; but when ravens pressed
you, that marks the devils which ye put faith in, and who will
drag you all down to the pains of hell."

Then Brodir was so wroth that he could answer never a word, but
he went at once to his men, and made them lay his ships in a line
across the sound, and moor them by bearing their cables on shore
at either end of the line, and meant to slay them all next

Ospak saw all their plan, and then he vowed to take the true
faith, and to go to King Brian, and follow him till his death-

Then he took that counsel to lay his ships in a line, and punt
them along the shore with poles, and cut the cables of Brodir's
ships. Then the ships of Brodir's men began to fall aboard of
one another when they were all fast asleep; and so Ospak and his
men got out of the firth, and so west to Ireland, and came to

Then Ospak told King Brian all that he had learnt, and took
baptism, and gave himself over into the king's hand.

After that King Brian made them gather force over all his realm,
and the whole host was to come to Dublin in the week before Palm


Earl Sigurd Hlodver's son busked him from the Orkneys, and Flosi
offered to go with him.

The earl would not have that, since he had his pilgrimage to

Flosi offered fifteen men of his band to go on the voyage, and
the earl accepted them, but Flosi fared with Earl Gilli to the
Southern isles.

Thorstein, the son of Hall of the Side, went along with Earl
Sigurd, and Hrafn the Red, and Erling of Straumey.

He would not that Hareck should go, but said he would be sure to
be the first to tell him the tidings of his voyage.

The earl came with all his host on Palm Sunday to Dublin, and
there too was come Brodir with all his host.

Brodir tried by sorcery how the fight would go, but the answer
ran thus, that if the fight were on Good-Friday King Brian would
fall but win the day; but if they fought before, they would all
fall who were against him.

Then Brodir said that they must not fight before the Friday.

On the fifth day of the week a man rode up to Kormlada and her
company on an apple-grey horse, and in his hand he held a
halberd; he talked long with them.

King Brian came with all his host to the Burg, and on the Friday
the host fared out of the Burg, and both armies were drawn up in

Brodir was on one wing of the battle, but King Sigtrygg on the

Earl Sigurd was in the mid battle.

Now it must be told of King Brian that he would not fight on the
fast-day, and so a shieldburg (1) was thrown round him, and his
host was drawn up in array in front of it.

Wolf the Quarrelsome was on that wing of the battle against which
Brodir stood; but on the other wing, where Sigtrygg stood against
them, were Ospak and his sons.

But in mid battle was Kerthialfad, and before him the banners
were home.

Now the wings fall on one another, and there was a very hard
fight. Brodir went through the host of the foe, and felled all
the foremost that stood there, but no steel would bite on his

Wolf the Quarrelsome turned then to meet him, and thrust at him
thrice so hard that Brodir fell before him at each thrust, and
was well-nigh not getting on his feet again; but as soon as ever
he found his feet, he fled away into the wood at once.

Earl Sigurd had a hard battle against Kerthialfad, and
Kerthialfad came on so fast that he laid low all who were in the
front rank, and he broke the array of Earl Sigurd right up to his
banner, and slew the banner-bearer.

Then he got another man to bear the banner, and there was again a
hard fight.

Kerthialfad smote this man too his death blow at once, and so on
one after the other all who stood near him.

Then Earl Sigurd called on Thorstein the son of Hall of the Side,
to bear the banner, and Thorstein was just about to lift the
banner, but then Asmund the White said, "Don't bear the banner!
For all they who bear it get their death."

"Hrafn the Red!" called out Earl Sigurd, "bear thou the banner."

"Bear thine own devil thyself," answered Hrafn.

Then the earl said, "`Tis fittest that the beggar should bear the
bag;'" and with that he took the banner from the staff and put it
under his cloak.

A little after Asmund the White was slain, and then the earl was
pierced through with a spear.

Ospak had gone through all the battle on his wing, he had been
sore wounded, and lost both his sons ere King Sigtrygg fled
before him.

Then flight broke out throughout all the host.

Thorstein Hall of the Side's son stood still while all the others
fled, and tied his shoe-string. Then Kerthialfad asked why he
ran not as the others.

"Because," said Thorstein, "I can't get home to-night, since I
am at home out in Iceland."

Kerthialfad gave him peace.

Hrafn the Red was chased out into a certain river; he thought he
saw there the pains of hell down below him, and he thought the
devils wanted to drag him to them.

Then Hrafn said, "Thy dog (2), Apostle Peter! hath run twice to
Rome, and he would run the third time if thou gavest him leave."

Then the devils let him loose, and Hrafn got across the river.

Now Brodir saw that King Brian's men were chasing the fleers, and
that there were few men by the shieldburg.

Then he rushed out of the wood, and broke through the shieldburg,
and hewed at the king.

The lad Takt threw his arm in the way, and the stroke took it off
and the king's head too, but the king's blood came on the lad's
stump, and the stump was healed by it on the spot.

Then Brodir called out with a loud voice, "Now let man tell man
that Brodir felled Brian."

Then men ran after those who were chasing the fleers, and they
were told that King Brian had fallen, and then they turned back
straightway, both Wolf the Quarrelsome and Kerthialfad.

Then they threw a ring round Brodir and his men, and threw
branches of trees upon them, and so Brodir was taken alive.

Wolf the Quarrelsome cut open his belly, and led him round and
round the trunk of a tree, and so wound all his entrails out of
him, and he did not die before they were all drawn out of him.

Brodir's men were slain to a man.

After that they took King Brian's body and laid it out. The
king's head had grown fast to the trunk.

Fifteen men of the burners fell in Brian's battle, and there,
too, fell Halldor the son of Gudmund the Powerful, and Erling
of Straumey.

On Good-Friday that event happened in Caithness that a man whose
name was Daurrud went out. He saw folk riding twelve together to
a bower, and there they were all lost to his sight. He went to
that bower and looked in through a window slit that was in it,
and saw that there were women inside, and they had set up a loom.
Men's heads were the weights, but men's entrails were the warp
and weft, a sword was the shuttle, and the reels were arrows.

They sang these songs, and he learnt them by heart:


"See! warp is stretched
For warriors' fall,
Lo! weft in loom
'Tis wet with blood;
Now fight foreboding,
'Neath friends' swift fingers,
Our grey woof waxeth
With war's alarms,
Our warp bloodred,
Our weft corseblue.

"This woof is y-woven
With entrails of men,
This warp is hardweighted
With heads of the slain,
Spears blood-besprinkled
For spindles we use,
Our loom ironbound,
And arrows our reels;
With swords for our shuttles
This war-woof we work;
So weave we, weird sisters,
Our warwinning woof.

"Now Warwinner walketh
To weave in her turn,
Now Swordswinger steppeth,
Now Swiftstroke, now Storm;
When they speed the shuttle
How spearheads shall flash!
Shields crash, and helmgnawer (3)
On harness bite hard!

"Wind we, wind swiftly
Our warwinning woof
Woof erst for king youthful
Foredoomed as his own,
Forth now we will ride,
Then through the ranks rushing
Be busy where friends
Blows blithe give and take.

"Wind we, wind swiftly
Our warwinning woof,
After that let us steadfastly
Stand by the brave king;
Then men shall mark mournful
Their shields red with gore,
How Swordstroke and Spearthrust
Stood stout by the prince.

"Wind we, wind swiftly
Our warwinning woof.
When sword-bearing rovers
To banners rush on,
Mind, maidens, we spare not
One life in the fray!
We corse-choosing sisters
Have charge of the slain.

"Now new-coming nations
That island shall rule,
Who on outlying headlands
Abode ere the fight;
I say that King mighty
To death now is done,
Now low before spearpoint
That Earl bows his head.

"Soon over all Ersemen
Sharp sorrow shall fall,
That woe to those warriors
Shall wane nevermore;
Our woof now is woven.
Now battlefield waste,
O'er land and o'er water
War tidings shall leap.

"Now surely 'tis gruesome
To gaze all around.
When bloodred through heaven
Drives cloudrack o'er head;
Air soon shall be deep hued
With dying men's blood
When this our spaedom
Comes speedy to pass.

"So cheerily chant we
Charms for the young king,
Come maidens lift loudly
His warwinning lay;
Let him who now listens
Learn well with his ears
And gladden brave swordsmen
With bursts of war's song.

"Now mount we our horses,
Now bare we our brands,
Now haste we hard, maidens,
Hence far, far, away."

Then they plucked down the Woof and tore it asunder, and each
kept what she had hold of.

Now Daurrud goes away from the Slit, and home; but they got on
their steeds and rode six to the south, and the other six to the

A like event befell Brand Gneisti's son in the Faroe Isles.

At Swinefell, in Iceland, blood came on the priest's stole on
Good-Friday, so that he had to put it off.

At Thvattwater the priest thought he saw on Good-Friday a long
deep of the sea hard by the altar, and there he saw many awful
sights, and it was long ere he could sing the prayers.

This event happened in the Orkneys, that Hareck thought he saw
Earl Sigurd, and some men with him. Then Hareck took his horse
and rode to meet the earl. Men saw that they met and rode under
a brae, but they were never seen again, and not a scrap was ever
found of Hareck.

Earl Gilli in the Southern isles dreamed that a man came to him
and said his name was Hostfinn, and told him he was come from

The earl thought he asked him for tidings thence, and then he
sang this song:

"I have been where warriors wrestled,
High in Erin sang the sword,
Boss to boss met many bucklers,
Steel rung sharp on rattling helm;
I can tell of all their struggle;
Sigurd fell in flight of spears;
Brian fell, but kept his kingdom
Ere he lost one drop of blood."

Those two, Flosi and the earl, talked much of this dream. A week
after, Hrafn the Red came thither, and told them all the tidings
of Brian's battle, the fall of the king, and of Earl Sigurd, and
Brodir, and all the Vikings.

"What," said Flosi, "hast thou to tell me of my men?

"They all fell there," says Hrafn, "but thy brother-in-law
Thorstein took peace from Kerthialfad, and is now with him."

Flosi told the earl that he would now go away, "For we have our
pilgrimage south to fulfil."

The earl bade him go as he wished, and gave him a ship and all
else that he needed, and much silver.

Then they sailed to Wales, and stayed there a while.


(1) "Shieldburg," that is, a ring of men holding their shields
locked together.
(2) "Thy dog," etc. Meaning that he would go a third time on a
pilgrimage to Rome if St. Peter helped him out of this
(3) "Helmgnawer," the sword that bites helmets.


Kari Solmund's son told master Skeggi that he wished he would get
him a ship. So master Skeggi gave Kari a longship, fully trimmed
and manned, and on board it went Kari, and David the White, and
Kolbein the Black.

Now Kari and his fellows sailed south through Scotland's firths,
and there they found men from the Southern isles. They told Kari
the tidings from Ireland, and also that Flosi was gone to Wales,
and his men with him.

But when Kari heard that, he told his messmates that he would
hold on south to Wales, to fall in with Flosi and his band. So
he bade them then to part from his company, if they liked it
better, and said that he would not wish to beguile any man into
mischief, because he thought he had not yet had revenge enough on
Flosi and his band.

All chose to go with him; and then he sails south to Wales, and
there they lay in hiding in a creek out of the way.

That morning Kol Thorstein's son went into the town to buy
silver. He of all the burners had used the bitterest words. Kol
had talked much with a mighty dame, and he had so knocked the
nail on the head, that it was all but fixed that he was to have
her, and settle down there.

That same morning Kari went also into the town. He came where
Kol was telling the silver.

Kari knew him at once, and ran at him with his drawn sword and
smote him on the neck; but he still went on telling the silver,
and his head counted "ten" just as it spun off his body.

Then Kari said, "Go and tell this to Flosi, that Kari Solmund's
son hath slain Kol Thorstein's son. I give notice of this
slaying as done by my hand."

Then Kari went to his ship, and told his shipmates of the

Then they sailed north to Beruwick, and laid up their ship, and
fared up into Whitherne in Scotland, and were with Earl Malcolm
that year.

But when Flosi heard of Kol's slaying, he laid out his body, and
bestowed much money on his burial.

Flosi never uttered any wrathful words against Kari.

Thence Flosi fared south across the sea and began his pilgrimage,
and went on south, and did not stop till he came to Rome. There
he got so great honour that he took absolution from the Pope
himself, and for that he gave a great sum of money.

Then he fared back again by the east road, and stayed long in
towns, and went in before mighty men, and had from them great

He was in Norway the winter after, and was with Earl Eric till he
was ready to sail, and the earl gave him much meal, and many
other men behaved handsomely to him.

Now he sailed out to Iceland, and ran into Hornfirth, and thence
fared home to Swinefell. He had then fulfilled all the terms of
his atonement, both in fines and foreign travel.


Now it is to be told of Kari that the summer after he went down
to his ship and sailed south across the sea, and began his
pilgrimage in Normandy, and so went south and got absolution and
fared back by the western way, and took his ship again in
Normandy, and sailed in her north across the sea to Dover in

Thence he sailed west, round Wales, and so north, through
Scotland's firths, and did not stay his course till he came to
Thraswick in Caithness, to master Skeggi's house.

There he gave over the ship of burden to Kolbein and David, and
Kolbein sailed in that ship to Norway, but David stayed behind in
the Fair Isle.

Kari was that winter in Caithness. In this winter his housewife
died out in Iceland.

The next summer Kari busked him for Iceland. Skeggi gave him a
ship of burden, and there were eighteen of them on board her.

They were rather late "boun," but still they put to sea, and had
a long passage, but at last they made Ingolf's Head. There their
ship was dashed all to pieces, but the men's lives were saved.
Then, too, a gale of wind came on them.

Now they ask Kari what counsel was to be taken; but he said their
best plan was to go to Swinefell and put Flosi's manhood to the

So they went right up to Swinefell in the storm. Flosi was in
the sitting-room. He knew Kari as soon as ever he came into the
room, and sprang up to meet him, and kissed him, and sate him
down in the high seat by his side.

Flosi asked Kari to be there that winter, and Kari took his
offer. Then they were atoned with a full atonement.

Then Flosi gave away his brother's daughter Hildigunna, whom
Hauskuld the priest of Whiteness had had to wife to Kari, and
they dwelt first of all at Broadwater.

Men say that the end of Flosi's life was, that he fared abroad,
when he had grown old, to seek for timber to build him a hall;
and he was in Norway that winter, but the next summer he was late
"boun"; and men told him that his ship was not seaworthy.

Flosi said she was quite good enough for an old and deathdoomed
man, and bore his goods on shipboard and put out to sea. But of
that ship no tidings were ever heard.

These were the children of Kari Solmund's son and Helga Njal's
daughter -- Thorgerda and Ragneida, Valgerda, and Thord who was
burnt in Njal's house. But the children of Hildigunna and Kari,
were these, Starkad, and Thord, and Flosi.

The son of Burning-Flosi was Kolbein, who has been the most
famous man of any of that stock.

And here we end the STORY of BURNT NJAL.

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