Part 1 out of 3
THE STORY OF THE GLITTERING PLAIN OR THE LAND OF LIVING MEN
by William Morris
CHAPTER I: OF THOSE THREE WHO CAME TO THE HOUSE OF THE RAVEN
It has been told that there was once a young man of free kindred and
whose name was Hallblithe: he was fair, strong, and not untried in
battle; he was of the House of the Raven of old time.
This man loved an exceeding fair damsel called the Hostage, who was
of the House of the Rose, wherein it was right and due that the men
of the Raven should wed.
She loved him no less, and no man of the kindred gainsaid their love,
and they were to be wedded on Midsummer Night.
But one day of early spring, when the days were yet short and the
nights long, Hallblithe sat before the porch of the house smoothing
an ash stave for his spear, and he heard the sound of horse-hoofs
drawing nigh, and he looked up and saw folk riding toward the house,
and so presently they rode through the garth gate; and there was no
man but he about the house, so he rose up and went to meet them, and
he saw that they were but three in company: they had weapons with
them, and their horses were of the best; but they were no fellowship
for a man to be afraid of; for two of them were old and feeble, and
the third was dark and sad, and drooping of aspect: it seemed as if
they had ridden far and fast, for their spurs were bloody and their
horses all a-sweat.
Hallblithe hailed them kindly and said: "Ye are way-worn, and maybe
ye have to ride further; so light down and come into the house, and
take bite and sup, and hay and corn also for your horses; and then if
ye needs must ride on your way, depart when ye are rested; or else if
ye may, then abide here night-long, and go your ways to-morrow, and
meantime that which is ours shall be yours, and all shall be free to
Then spake the oldest of the elders in a high piping voice and said:
"Young man, we thank thee; but though the days of the springtide are
waxing, the hours of our lives are waning; nor may we abide unless
thou canst truly tell us that this is the Land of the Glittering
Plain: and if that be so, then delay not, lead us to thy lord, and
perhaps he will make us content."
Spake he who was somewhat less stricken in years than the first:
"Thanks have thou! but we need something more than meat and drink, to
wit the Land of Living Men. And Oh! but the time presses."
Spake the sad and sorry carle: "We seek the Land where the days are
many: so many that he who hath forgotten how to laugh, may learn the
craft again, and forget the days of Sorrow."
Then they all three cried aloud and said:
"Is this the Land? Is this the Land?"
But Hallblithe wondered, and he laughed and said: "Wayfarers, look
under the sun down the plain which lieth betwixt the mountains and
the sea, and ye shall behold the meadows all gleaming with the spring
lilies; yet do we not call this the Glittering Plain, but Cleveland
by the Sea. Here men die when their hour comes, nor know I if the
days of their life be long enough for the forgetting of sorrow; for I
am young and not yet a yokefellow of sorrow; but this I know, that
they are long enough for the doing of deeds that shall not die. And
as for Lord, I know not this word, for here dwell we, the sons of the
Raven, in good fellowship, with our wives that we have wedded, and
our mothers who have borne us, and our sisters who serve us. Again I
bid you light down off your horses, and eat and drink, and be merry;
and depart when ye will, to seek what land ye will."
They scarce looked on him, but cried out together mournfully:
"This is not the Land! This is not the Land!"
No more than that they said, but turned about their horses and rode
out through the garth gate, and went clattering up the road that led
to the pass of the mountains. But Hallblithe hearkened wondering,
till the sound of their horse-hoofs died away, and then turned back
to his work: and it was then two hours after high-noon.
CHAPTER II: EVIL TIDINGS COME TO HAND AT CLEVELAND
Not long had he worked ere he heard the sound of horsehoofs once
more, and he looked not up, but said to himself, "It is but the lads
bringing back the teams from the acres, and riding fast and driving
hard for joy of heart and in wantonness of youth."
But the sound grew nearer and he looked up and saw over the turf wall
of the garth the flutter of white raiment; and he said:
"Nay, it is the maidens coming back from the seashore and the
gathering of wrack."
So he set himself the harder to his work, and laughed, all alone as
he was, and said: "She is with them: now I will not look up again
till they have ridden into the garth, and she has come from among
them, and leapt off her horse, and cast her arms about my neck as her
wont is; and it will rejoice her then to mock me with hard words and
kind voice and longing heart; and I shall long for her and kiss her,
and sweet shall the coming days seem to us: and the daughters of our
folk shall look on and be kind and blithe with us."
Therewith rode the maidens into the garth, but he heard no sound of
laughter or merriment amongst them, which was contrary to their wont;
and his heart fell, and it was as if instead of the maidens' laughter
the voices of those wayfarers came back upon the wind crying out, "Is
this the Land? Is this the Land?"
Then he looked up hastily, and saw the maidens drawing near, ten of
the House of the Raven, and three of the House of the Rose; and he
beheld them that their faces were pale and woe-begone, and their
raiment rent, and there was no joy in them. Hallblithe stood aghast
while one who had gotten off her horse (and she was the daughter of
his own mother) ran past him into the hall, looking not at him, as if
she durst not: and another rode off swiftly to the horse-stalls.
But the others, leaving their horses, drew round about him, and for a
while none durst utter a word; and he stood gazing at them, with the
spoke-shave in his hand, he also silent; for he saw that the Hostage
was not with them, and he knew that now he was the yokefellow of
At last he spoke gently and in a kind voice, and said: "Tell me,
sisters, what evil hath befallen us, even if it be the death of a
dear friend, and the thing that may not be amended."
Then spoke a fair woman of the Rose, whose name was Brightling, and
said: "Hallblithe, it is not of death that we have to tell, but of
sundering, which may yet be amended. We were on the sand of the sea
nigh the Ship-stead and the Rollers of the Raven, and we were
gathering the wrack and playing together; and we saw a round-ship
nigh to shore lying with her sheet slack, and her sail beating the
mast; but we deemed it to be none other than some bark of the Fish-
biters, and thought no harm thereof, but went on running and playing
amidst the little waves that fell on the sand, and the ripples that
curled around our feet. At last there came a small boat from the
side of the round-ship, and rowed in toward shore, and still we
feared not, though we drew a little aback from the surf and let fall
our gown-hems. But the crew of that boat beached her close to where
we stood, and came hastily wading the surf towards us; and we saw
that they were twelve weaponed men, great, and grim, and all clad in
black raiment. Then indeed were we afraid, and we turned about and
fled up the beach; but now it was too late, for the tide was at more
than half ebb and long was the way over the sand to the place where
we had left our horses tied among the tamarisk-bushes. Nevertheless
we ran, and had gotten up to the pebble-beach before they ran in
amongst us: and they caught us, and cast us down on to the hard
"Then they made us sit in a row on a ridge of the pebbles; and we
were sore afraid, yet more for defilement at their hands than for
death; for they were evil-looking men exceeding foul of favour. Then
said one of them: 'Which of all you maidens is the Hostage of the
House of the Rose?'
"Then all we kept silence, for we would not betray her. But the evil
man spake again: 'Choose ye then whether we shall take one, or all
of you across the waters in our black ship.' Yet still we others
spake not, till arose thy beloved, O Hallblithe, and said:
"'Let it be one then, and not all; for I am the Hostage.'
"'How shalt thou make us sure thereof?' said the evil carle.
"She looked on him proudly and said: 'Because I say it.'
"'Wilt thou swear it?' said he.
"'Yea,' said she, 'I swear it by the token of the House wherein I
shall wed; by the wings of the Fowl that seeketh the Field of
"'It is enough,' said the man, 'come thou with us. And ye maidens
sit ye there, and move not till we have made way on our ship, unless
ye would feel the point of the arrow. For ye are within bowshot of
the ship, and we have shot weapons aboard.'
"So the Hostage departed with them, and she unweeping, but we wept
sorely. And we saw the small boat come up to the side of the round-
ship, and the Hostage going over the gunwale along with those evil
men, and we heard the hale and how of the mariners as they drew up
the anchor and sheeted home; and then the sweeps came out and the
ship began to move over the sea. And one of those evil-minded men
bent his bow and shot a shaft at us, but it fell far short of where
we sat, and the laugh of those runagates came over the sands to us.
So we crept up the beach trembling, and then rose to our feet and got
to our horses, and rode hither speedily, and our hearts are broken
for thy sorrow."
At that word came Hallblithe's own sister out from the hall; and she
bore weapons with her, to wit Hallblithe's sword and shield and helm
and hauberk. As for him he turned back silently to his work, and set
the steel of the spear on the new ashen shaft, and took the hammer
and smote the nail in, and laid the weapon on a round pebble that was
thereby, and clenched the nail on the other side. Then he looked
about, and saw that the other damsel had brought him his coal-black
war-horse ready saddled and bridled; then he did on his armour, and
girt his sword to his side and leapt into the saddle, and took his
new-shafted spear in hand and shook the rein. But none of all those
damsels durst say a word to him or ask him whither he went, for they
feared his face, and the sorrow of his heart. So he got him out of
the garth and turned toward the sea-shore, and they saw the glitter
of his spear-point a minute over the turf-wall, and heard the clatter
of his horse-hoofs as he galloped over the hard way; and thus he
CHAPTER III: THE WARRIORS OF THE RAVEN SEARCH THE SEAS
Then the women bethought them, and they spake a word or two together,
and then they sundered and went one this way and one that, to gather
together the warriors of the Raven who were a-field, or on the way,
nigh unto the house, that they might follow Hallblithe down to the
sea-shore and help him; after a while they came back again by one and
two and three, bringing with them the wrathful young men; and when
there was upward of a score gathered in the garth armed and horsed,
they rode their ways to the sea, being minded to thrust a long-ship
of the Ravens out over the Rollers into the sea, and follow the
strong-thieves of the waters and bring a-back the Hostage, so that
they might end the sorrow at once, and establish joy once more in the
House of the Raven and the House of the Rose. But they had with them
three lads of fifteen winters or thereabouts to lead their horses
back home again, when they should have gone up on to the Horse of the
Thus then they departed, and the maidens stood in the garth-gate till
they lost sight of them behind the sandhills, and then turned back
sorrowfully into the house, and sat there talking low of their
sorrow. And many a time they had to tell their tale anew, as folk
came into the hall one after another from field and fell. But the
young men came down to the sea, and found Hallblithe's black horse
straying about amongst the tamarisk-bushes above the beach; and they
looked thence over the sand, and saw neither Hallblithe nor any man:
and they gazed out seaward, and saw neither ship nor sail on the
barren brine. Then they went down on to the sand, and sundered their
fellowship, and went half one way, half the other, betwixt the
sandhills and the surf, where now the tide was flowing, till the
nesses of the east and the west, the horns of the bay, stayed them.
Then they met together again by the Rollers, when the sun was within
an hour of setting. There and then they laid hand to that ship which
is called the Seamew, and they ran her down over the Rollers into the
waves, and leapt aboard and hoisted sail, and ran out the oars and
put to sea; and a little wind was blowing seaward from the gates of
the mountains behind them.
So they quartered the sea-plain, as the kestrel doth the water-
meadows, till the night fell on them, and was cloudy, though whiles
the wading moon shone out; and they had seen nothing, neither sail
nor ship, nor aught else on the barren brine, save the washing of
waves and the hovering of sea-fowl. So they lay-to outside the horns
of the bay and awaited the dawning. And when morning was come they
made way again, and searched the sea, and sailed to the out-skerries,
and searched them with care; then they sailed into the main and fared
hither and thither and up and down: and this they did for eight
days, and in all that time they saw no ship nor sail, save three
barks of the Fish-biters nigh to the Skerry which is called Mew-
So they fared home to the Raven Bay, and laid their keel on the
Rollers, and so went their ways sadly, home to the House of the
Raven: and they deemed that for this time they could do no more in
seeking their valiant kinsman and his fair damsel. And they were
very sorry; for these two were well-beloved of all men. But since
they might not amend it, they abode in peace, awaiting what the
change of days might bring them.
CHAPTER IV: NOW HALLBLITHE TAKETH THE SEA
Now must it be told of Hallblithe that he rode fiercely down to the
sea-shore, and from the top of the beach he gazed about him, and
there below him was the Ship-stead and Rollers of his kindred,
whereon lay the three long-ships, the Seamew, and the Osprey and the
Erne. Heavy and huge they seemed to him as they lay there, black-
sided, icy-cold with the washing of the March waves, their golden
dragon-heads looking seaward wistfully. But first had he looked out
into the offing, and it was only when he had let his eyes come back
from where the sea and sky met, and they had beheld nothing but the
waste of waters, that he beheld the Ship-stead closely; and therewith
he saw where a little to the west of it lay a skiff, which the low
wave of the tide lifted and let fall from time to time. It had a
mast, and a black sail hoisted thereon and flapping with slackened
sheet. A man sat in the boat clad in black raiment, and the sun
smote a gleam from the helm on his head. Then Hallblithe leapt off
his horse, and strode down the sands shouldering his spear; and when
he came near to the man in the boat he poised his spear and shook it
and cried out: "Man, art thou friend or foe?"
Said the man: "Thou art a fair young man: but there is grief in thy
voice along with wrath. Cast not till thou hast heard me, and mayst
deem whether I may do aught to heal thy grief."
"What mayst thou do?" said Hallblithe; "art thou not a robber of the
sea, a harrier of the folks that dwell in peace?"
The man laughed: "Yea," said he, "my craft is thieving and carrying
off the daughters of folk, so that we may have a ransom for them.
Wilt thou come over the waters with me?"
Hallblithe said wrathfully:
"Nay, rather, come thou ashore here! Thou seemest a big man, and
belike shall be good of thine hands. Come and fight with me; and
then he of us who is vanquished, if he be unslain, shall serve the
other for a year, and then shalt thou do my business in the
The man in the boat laughed again, and that so scornfully that he
angered Hallblithe beyond measure: then he arose in the boat and
stood on his feet swaying from side to side as he laughed. He was
passing big, long-armed and big-headed, and long hair came from under
his helm like the tail of a red horse; his eyes were grey and
gleaming, and his mouth wide.
In a while he stayed his laughter and said: "O Warrior of the Raven,
this were a simple game for thee to play; though it is not far from
my mind, for fighting when I needs must win is no dull work. Look
you, if I slay or vanquish thee, then all is said; and if by some
chance stroke thou slayest me, then is thine only helper in this
matter gone from thee. Now to be short, I bid thee come aboard to me
if thou wouldst ever hear another word of thy damsel betrothed. And
moreover this need not hinder thee to fight with me if thou hast a
mind to it thereafter; for we shall soon come to a land big enough
for two to stand on. Or if thou listest to fight in a boat rocking
on the waves, I see not but there may be manhood in that also."
Now was the hot wrath somewhat run off Hallblithe, nor durst he lose
any chance to hear a word of his beloved; so he said: "Big man, I
will come aboard. But look thou to it, if thou hast a mind to bewray
me; for the sons of the Raven die hard."
"Well," said the big man, "I have heard that their minstrels are of
many words, and think that they have tales to tell. Come aboard and
loiter not." Then Hallblithe waded the surf and lightly strode over
the gunwale of the skiff and sat him down. The big man thrust out
into the deep and haled home the sheet; but there was but little
Then said Hallblithe: "Wilt thou have me row, for I wot not
whitherward to steer?"
Said the red carle: "Maybe thou art not in a hurry; I am not: do as
thou wilt." So Hallblithe took the oars and rowed mightily, while
the alien steered, and they went swiftly and lightly over the sea,
and the waves were little.
CHAPTER V: THEY COME UNTO THE ISLE OF RANSOM
So the sun grew low, and it set; the stars and the moon shone a while
and then it clouded over. Hallblithe still rowed and rested not,
though he was weary; and the big man sat and steered, and held his
peace. But when the night was grown old and it was not far from the
dawn, the alien said: "Youngling of the Ravens, now shalt thou sleep
and I will row."
Hallblithe was exceeding weary; so he gave the oars to the alien and
lay down in the stern and slept. And in his sleep he dreamed that he
was lying in the House of the Raven, and his sisters came to him and
said, "Rise up now, Hallblithe! wilt thou be a sluggard on the day of
thy wedding? Come thou with us to the House of the Rose that we may
bear away the Hostage." Then he dreamed that they departed, and he
arose and clad himself: but when he would have gone out of the hall,
then was it no longer daylight, but moonlight, and he dreamed that he
had dreamed: nevertheless he would have gone abroad, but might not
find the door; so he said he would go out by a window; but the wall
was high and smooth (quite other than in the House of the Raven,
where were low windows all along one aisle), nor was there any way to
come at them. But he dreamed that he was so abashed thereat, and had
such a weakness on him, that he wept for pity of himself: and he
went to his bed to lie down; and lo! there was no bed and no hall;
nought but a heath, wild and wide, and empty under the moon. And
still he wept in his dream, and his manhood seemed departed from him,
and he heard a voice crying out, "Is this the Land? Is this the
Therewithal he awoke, and as his eyes cleared he beheld the big man
rowing and the black sail flapping against the mast; for the wind had
fallen dead and they were faring on over a long smooth swell of the
sea. It was broad daylight, but round about them was a thick mist,
which seemed none the less as if the sun were ready to shine through
As Hallblithe caught the red man's eye, he smiled and nodded on him
and said: "Now has the time come for thee first to eat and then to
row. But tell me what is that upon thy cheeks?"
Hallblithe, reddening somewhat, said: "The night dew hath fallen on
Quoth the sea-rover, "It is no shame for thee a youngling to remember
thy betrothed in thy sleep, and to weep because thou lackest her.
But now bestir thee, for it is later than thou mayest deem."
Therewith the big man drew in the oars and came to the afterpart of
the boat, and drew meat and drink out of a locker thereby; and they
ate and drank together, and Hallblithe grew strong and somewhat less
downcast; and he went forward and gat the oars into his hands.
Then the big red man stood up and looked over his left shoulder and
said: "Soon shall we have a breeze and bright weather."
Then he looked into the midmost of the sail and fell a-whistling such
a tune as the fiddles play to dancing men and maids at Yule-tide, and
his eyes gleamed and glittered therewithal, and exceeding big he
looked. Then Hallblithe felt a little air on his cheek, and the mist
grew thinner, and the sail began to fill with wind till the sheet
tightened: then, lo! the mist rising from the face of the sea, and
the sea's face rippling gaily under a bright sun. Then the wind
increased, and the wall of mist departed and a few light clouds sped
over the sky, and the sail swelled and the boat heeled over, and the
seas fell white from the prow, and they sped fast over the face of
Then laughed the red-haired man, and said: "O croaker on the dead
branch, now is the wind such that no rowing of thine may catch up
with it: so in with the oars now, and turn about, and thou shalt see
whitherward we are going."
Then Hallblithe turned about on the thwart and looked across the sea,
and lo! before them the high cliffs and crags and mountains of a new
land which seemed to be an isle, and they were deep blue under the
sun, which now shone aloft in the mid heaven. He said nought at all,
but sat looking and wondering what land it might be; but the big man
said: "O tomb of warriors, is it not as if the blueness of the deep
sea had heaved itself up aloft, and turned from coloured air into
rock and stone, so wondrous blue it is? But that is because those
crags and mountains are so far away, and as we draw nigher to them,
thou shalt see them as they verily are, that they are coal-black; and
yonder land is an isle, and is called the Isle of Ransom. Therein
shall be the market for thee where thou mayst cheapen thy betrothed.
There mayst thou take her by the hand and lead her away thence, when
thou hast dealt with the chapman of maidens and hast pledged thee by
the fowl of battle, and the edge of the fallow blade to pay that
which he will have of thee."
As the big man spoke there was a mocking in his voice and his face
and in his whole huge body, which made the sword of Hallblithe uneasy
in his scabbard; but he refrained his wrath, and said: "Big man, the
longer I look, the less I can think how we are to come up on to
yonder island; for I can see nought but a huge cliff, and great
mountains rising beyond it."
"Thou shalt the more wonder," said the alien, "the nigher thou
drawest thereto; for it is not because we are far away that thou
canst see no beach or strand, or sloping of the land seaward, but
because there is nought of all these things. Yet fear not! am I not
with thee? thou shalt come ashore on the Isle of Ransom."
Then Hallblithe held his peace, and the other spake not for a while,
but gave a short laugh once or twice; and said at last in a big
voice, "Little Carrion-biter, why dost thou not ask me of my name?"
Now Hallblithe was a tall man and a fell fighter; but he said:
"Because I was thinking of other things and not of thee."
"Well," said the big man, in a voice still louder, "when I am at home
men call me the Puny Fox."
Then Hallblithe said: "Art thou a Fox? It may well be that thou
shalt beguile me as such beasts will but look to it, that if thou
dost I shall know how to avenge me."
Then rose up the big man from the helm, and straddled wide in the
boat, and cried out in a great roaring voice: "Crag-nester, I am one
of seven brethren, and the smallest and weakest of them. Art thou
"No," said Hallblithe, "for the six others are not here. Wilt thou
fight here in boat, O Fox?"
"Nay," said Fox, "rather we will drink a cup of wine together."
So he opened the locker again and drew out thence a great horn of
some huge neat of the outlands, which was girthed and stopped with
silver, and also a golden cup, and he filled the cup from the horn
and gave it into Hallblithe's hand and said: "Drink, O black-fledged
nestling! But call a health over the cup if thou wilt." So
Hallblithe raised the cup aloft and cried: "Health to the House of
the Raven and to them that love it! an ill day to its foemen!" Then
he set his lips to the cup and drank; and that wine seemed to him
better and stronger than any he had ever tasted. But when he had
given the cup back again to Fox, that red one filled it again, and
cried over it, "The Treasure of the Sea! and the King that dieth
not!" Then he drank, and filled again for Hallblithe, and steered
with his knees meanwhile; and thus they drank three cups each, and
Fox smiled and was peaceful and said but little, but Hallblithe sat
wondering how the world was changed for him since yesterday.
But now was the sky blown all clear of clouds and the wind piped
shrill behind them, and the great waves rose and fell about them, and
the sun glittered on them in many colours. Fast flew the boat before
the wind as though it would never stop, and the day was waning, and
the wind still rising; and now the Isle of Ransom uphove huge before
them, and coal-black, and no beach and no haven was to be seen
therein; and still they ran before the wind towards that black cliff-
wall, against which the sea washed for ever, and no keel ever built
by man might live for one moment 'twixt the surf and the cliff of
that grim land. The sun grew low, and sank red under the sea, and
that world of stone swallowed up half the heavens before them, for
they were now come very nigh thereto; nor could Hallblithe see aught
for it, but that they must be dashed against the cliff and perish in
a moment of time.
Still the boat flew on; but now when the twilight was come, and they
had just opened up along reach of the cliff that lay beyond a high
ness, Hallblithe thought he saw down by the edge of the sea something
darker than the face of the rock-wall, and he deemed it was a cave:
they came a little nearer and he saw it was a great cave high enough
to let a round-ship go in with all her sails set.
"Son of the Raven," quoth Fox, "hearken, for thy heart is not little.
Yonder is the gate into the Isle of Ransom, and if thou wilt, thou
mayst go through it. Yet it may be that if thou goest ashore on to
the Isle something grievous shall befall thee, a trouble more than
thou canst bear: a shame it may be. Now there are two choices for
thee: either to go up on to the Isle and face all; or to die here by
my hand having done nothing unmanly or shameful: What sayest thou?"
"Thou art of many words when time so presses, Fox," said Hallblithe.
"Why should I not choose to go up on to the Island to deliver my
trothplight maiden? For the rest, slay me if thou canst, if we come
alive out of this cauldron of waters."
Said the big red man: "Look on then, and note Fox how he steereth,
as it were through a needle's eye."
Now were they underneath the black shadow of the black cliff and
amidst the twilight the surf was tossed about like white fire. In
the lower heavens the stars were beginning to twinkle and the moon
was bright and yellow, and aloft all was peaceful, for no cloud
sullied the sky. One moment Hallblithe saw all this hanging above
the turmoil of thundering water and dripping rock and the next he was
in the darkness of the cave, the roaring wind and the waves still
making thunder about him, though of a different voice from the harsh
hubbub without. Then he heard Fox say: "Sit down now and take the
oars, for presently shall we be at home at the landing place."
So Hallblithe took the oars and rowed, and as they went up the cave
the sea fell, and the wind died out into the aimless gustiness of
hollow places; and for a little while was all as dark as dark might
be. Then Hallblithe saw that the darkness grew a little greyer, and
he looked over his shoulder and saw a star of light before the bows
of the boat, and Fox cried out: "Yea, it is like day; bright will
the moon be for such as needs must be wayfaring to-night! Cease
rowing, O Son of the coal-blue fowl, for there is way enough on her."
Then Hallblithe lay on his oars, and in a minute the bows smote the
land; then he turned about and saw a steep stair of stone, and up the
sloping shaft thereof the moonlit sky and the bright stars. Then Fox
arose and came forward and leapt out of the boat and moored her to a
big stone: then he leapt back again and said: "Bear a hand with the
victuals; we must bring them out of the boat unless thou wilt sleep
supperless, as I will not. For to-night must we be guests to
ourselves, since it is far to the dwelling of my people, and the old
man is said to be a skin-changer, a flit-by-night. And as to this
cave, it is deemed to be nowise safe to sleep therein, unless the
sleeper have a double share of luck. And thy luck, meseemeth, O Son
of the Raven, is as now somewhat less than a single share. So to-
night we shall sleep under the naked heaven."
Hallblithe yea-said this, and they took the meat and drink, such as
they needed, from out the boat, and climbed the steep stair no little
way, and so came out on to a plain place, which seemed to Hallblithe
bare and waste so far as he saw it by the moonlight; for the twilight
was gone now, and nought was left of the light of day save a glimmer
in the west.
This Hallblithe deemed wonderful, that no less out on the open heath
and brow of the land than in the shut-in cave, all that tumult of the
wind had fallen, and the cloudless night was calm, and with a little
air blowing from the south and the landward.
Therewithal was Fox done with his loud-voiced braggart mood, and
spoke gently and peaceably like to a wayfarer, who hath business of
his to look to as other men. Now he pointed to certain rocks or low
crags that a little way off rose like a reef out of the treeless
plain; then said he: "Shipmate, underneath yonder rocks is our
resting-place for to-night; and I pray thee not to deem me churlish
that I give thee no better harbour. But I have a charge over thee to
bring thee safe thus far on thy quest; and thou wouldst find it hard
to live among such housemates as thou wouldst find up yonder amongst
our folks to-night. But tomorrow shalt thou come to speech with him
who will deal with thee concerning the ransom."
"It is enough," said Hallblithe, "and I thank thee for thy leading:
and as for thy rough and uncomely words which thou hast given me, I
pardon thee for them: for I am none the worse of them: forsooth, if
I had been, my sword would have had a voice in the matter."
"I am well content as it is, Son of the Raven," quoth Fox; "I have
done my bidding and all is well."
"Tell me then who it is hath bidden thee bring me hither?"
"I may not tell thee," said Fox; "thou art here, be content, as I
And he spake no more till they had come to the reef aforesaid, which
was some two furlongs from the place where they had come from out of
the cave. There then they set forth their supper on the stones, and
ate what they would, and drank of that good strong wine while the
horn bare out. And now was Fox of few words, and when Hallblithe
asked him concerning that land, he had little to say. And at last
when Hallblithe asked him of that so perilous house and those who
manned it, he said to him:
"Son of the Raven, it avails not asking of these matters; for if I
tell thee aught concerning them I shall tell thee lies. Once again
let it be enough for thee that thou hast passed over the sea safely
on thy quest; and a more perilous sea it is forsooth than thou
deemest. But now let us have an end of vain words, and make our bed
amidst these stones as best we may; for we should be stirring betimes
in the morning." Hallblithe said little in answer, and they arrayed
their sleeping places cunningly, as the hare doth her form, and like
men well used to lying abroad.
Hallblithe was very weary and he soon fell asleep; and as he lay
there, he dreamed a dream, or maybe saw a vision; whether he were
asleep when he saw it, or between sleeping and waking, I know not.
But this was his dream or his vision; that the Hostage was standing
over him, and she as he had seen her but yesterday, bright-haired and
ruddy-cheeked and white-skinned, kind of hand and soft of voice, and
she said to him: "Hallblithe, look on me and hearken, for I have a
message for thee." And he looked and longed for her, and his soul
was ravished by the sweetness of his longing, and he would have leapt
up and cast his arms about her, but sleep and the dream bound him,
and he might not. Then the image smiled on him and said: "Nay, my
love, lie still, for thou mayst not touch me: here is but the image
of the body which thou desirest. Hearken then. I am in evil plight,
in the hands of strong-thieves of the sea, nor know I what they will
do with me, and I have no will to be shamed; to be sold for a price
from one hand to another, yet to be bedded without a price, and to
lie beside some foe-man of our folk, and he to cast his arms about
me, will I, will I not: this is a hard case. Therefore to-morrow
morning at daybreak while men sleep, I think to steal forth to the
gunwale of the black ship and give myself to the gods, that they and
not these runagates may be masters of my life and my soul, and may do
with me as they will: for indeed they know that I may not bear the
strange kinless house, and the love and caressing of the alien house-
master, and the mocking and stripes of the alien house-mistress.
Therefore let the Hoary One of the sea take me and look to my
matters, and carry me to life or death, which-so he will. Thin now
grows the night, but lie still a little yet, while I speak another
"Maybe we shall meet alive again, and maybe not: and if not, though
we have never yet lain in one bed together, yet I would have thee
remember me: yet not so that my image shall come between thee and
thy speech-friend and bed-fellow of the kindred, that shall lie where
I was to have lain. Yet again, if I live and thou livest, I have
been told and have heard that by one way or other I am like to come
to the Glittering Plain, and the Land of Living Men. O my beloved,
if by any way thou mightest come thither also, and we might meet
there, and we two alive, how good it were! Seek that land then,
beloved! seek it, whether or no we once more behold the House of the
Rose, or tread the floor of the Raven dwelling. And now must even
this image of me sunder from thee. Farewell!"
Therewith was the dream done and the vision departed; and Hallblithe
sat up full of anguish and longing; and he looked about him over the
dreary land, and it was somewhat light and the sky was grown grey and
cloudy, and he deemed that the dawn was come. So he leapt to his
feet and stooped down over Fox, and took him by the shoulder, and
shook him and said: "Faring-fellow, awake! the dawn is come, and we
have much to do."
Fox sat up and growled like a dog, and rubbed his eyes and looked
about him and said: "Thou hast waked me for nought: it is the false
dawn of the moon that shineth now behind the clouds and casteth no
shadow; it is but an hour after midnight. Go to sleep again, and let
me be, else will I not be a guide to thee when the day comes." And
he lay down and was asleep at once. Then Hallblithe went and lay
down again full of sorrow: Yet so weary was he that he presently
fell asleep, and dreamed no more.
CHAPTER VI: OF A DWELLING OF MAN ON THE ISLE OF RANSOM
When he awoke again the sun shone on him, and the morning was calm
and windless. He sat up and looked about him, but could see no signs
of Fox save the lair wherein he had lain. So he arose to his feet
and sought for him about the crannies of the rocks, and found him
not; and he shouted for him, and had no answer. Then he said,
"Belike he has gone down to the boat to put a thing in, or take a
thing out." So he went his ways to the stair down into the water-
cave, and he called on Fox from the top of the stair, and had no
So he went down that long stair with a misgiving in his heart, and
when he came to the last step there was neither man nor boat, nor
aught else save the water and the living rock. Then was he exceeding
wroth, for he knew that he had been beguiled, and he was in an evil
case, left alone on an Isle that he knew not, a waste and desolate
land, where it seemed most like he should die of famine.
He wasted no breath or might now in crying out for Fox, or seeking
him; for he said to himself: "I might well have known that he was
false and a liar, whereas he could scarce refrain his joy at my folly
and his guile. Now is it for me to strive for life against death."
Then he turned and went slowly up the stair, and came out on to the
open face of that Isle, and he saw that it was waste indeed, and
dreadful: a wilderness of black sand and stones and ice-borne rocks,
with here and there a little grass growing in the hollows, and here
and there a dreary mire where the white-tufted rushes shook in the
wind, and here and there stretches of moss blended with red-blossomed
sengreen; and otherwhere nought but the wind-bitten creeping willow
clinging to the black sand, with a white bleached stick and a leaf or
two, and again a stick and a leaf. In the offing looking landward
were great mountains, some very great and snow-capped, some bare to
the tops; and all that was far away, save the snow, was deep-blue in
the sunny morning. But about him on the heath were scattered rocks
like the reef beneath which he had slept the last night, and peaks,
and hammers, and knolls of uncouth shapes.
Then he went to the edge of the cliffs and looked down on the sea
which lay wrinkled and rippling on toward the shore far below him,
and long he gazed thereon and all about, but could see neither ship
nor sail, nor aught else save the washing of waves and the hovering
of sea fowl.
Then he said: "Were it not well if I were to seek that house-master
of whom Fox spake? Might he not flit me at least to the Land of the
Glittering Plain? Woe is me! now am I of that woful company, and I
also must needs cry out, Where is the land? Where is the land?"
Therewith he turned toward the reef above their lair, but as he went
he thought and said: "Nay, but was not this Stead a lie like the
rest of Fox's tale? and am I not alone in this sea-girt wilderness?
Yea, and even that image of my Beloved which I saw in the dream,
perchance that also was a mere beguiling; for now I see that the Puny
Fox was in all ways wiser than is meet and comely." Yet again he
said: "At least I will seek on, and find out whether there be
another man dwelling on this hapless Isle, and then the worst of it
will be battle with him, and death by point and edge rather than by
hunger; or at the best we may become friends and fellows and deliver
each other." Therewith he came to the reef, and with much ado
climbed to the topmost of its rocks and looked down thence landward:
and betwixt him and the mountains, and by seeming not very far off,
he saw smoke arising: but no house he saw, nor any other token of a
dwelling. So he came down from the stone and turned his back upon
the sea and went toward that smoke with his sword in its sheath, and
his spear over his shoulder. Rough and toilsome was the way: three
little dales he crossed amidst the mountain necks, each one narrow
and bare, with a stream of water amidst, running seaward, and whether
in dale or on ridge, he went ever amidst sand and stones, and the
weeds of the wilderness, and saw no man, or man-tended beast.
At last, after he had been four hours on the way, but had not gone
very far, he topped a stony bent, and from the brow thereof beheld a
wide valley grass-grown for the more part, with a river running
through it, and sheep and kine and horses feeding up and down it.
And amidst this dale by the stream-side, was a dwelling of men, a
long hall and other houses about it builded of stone.
Then was Hallblithe glad, and he strode down the bent speedily, his
war-gear clashing upon him: and as he came to the foot thereof and
on to the grass of the dale, he got amongst the pasturing horses, and
passed close by the horse-herd and a woman that was with him. They
scowled at him as he went by, but meddled not with him in any way.
Although they were giant-like of stature and fierce of face, they
were not ill-favoured: they were red-haired, and the woman as white
as cream where the sun had not burned her skin; they had no weapons
that Hallblithe might see save the goad in the hand of the carle.
So Hallblithe passed on and came to the biggest house, the hall
aforesaid: it was very long, and low as for its length, not over
shapely of fashion, a mere gabled heap of stones. Low and strait was
the door thereinto, and as Hallblithe entered stooping lowly, and the
fire of the steel of his spear that he held before him was quenched
in the mirk of the hall, he smiled and said to himself: "Now if
there were one anigh who would not have me enter alive, and he with a
weapon in his hand, soon were all the tale told." But he got into
the hall unsmitten, and stood on the floor thereof, and spake: "The
sele of the day to whomsoever is herein! Will any man speak to the
But none answered or gave him greeting; and as his eyes got used to
the dusk of the hall, he looked about him, and neither on the floor
or the high seat nor in any ingle could he see a man; and there was
silence there, save for the crackling of the flickering flame on the
hearth amidmost, and the running of the rats behind the panelling of
On one side of the hall was a row of shut-beds, and Hallblithe deemed
that there might be men therein; but since none had greeted him he
refrained him from searching them for fear of a trap, and he thought,
"I will abide amidst the floor, and if there be any that would deal
with me, friend or foe, let him come hither to me."
So he fell to walking up and down the hall from buttery to dais, and
his war-gear rattled upon him. At last as he walked he thought he
heard a small thin peevish voice, which yet was too husky for the
squeak of a rat. So he stayed his walk and stood still, and said:
"Will any man speak to Hallblithe, a newcomer, and a stranger in this
Then that small voice made a word and said: "Why paceth the fool up
and down our hall, doing nothing, even as the Ravens flap croaking
about the crags, abiding the war-mote and the clash of the fallow
Said Hallblithe, and his voice sounded big in the hall: "Who calleth
Hallblithe a fool and mocketh at the sons of the Raven?"
Spake the voice: "Why cometh not the fool to the man that may not go
Then Hallblithe bent forward to hearken, and he deemed that the voice
came from one of the shut-beds, so he leaned his spear against a
pillar, and went into the shut-bed he had noted, and saw where there
lay along in it a man exceeding old by seeming, sore wasted, with
long hair as white as snow lying over the bed-clothes.
When the elder saw Hallblithe, he laughed a thin cracked laugh as if
in mockery and said: "Hail newcomer! wilt thou eat?"
"Yea," said Hallblithe.
"Go thou into the buttery then," said the old carle, "and there shalt
thou find on the cupboard cakes and curds and cheese: eat thy fill,
and when thou hast done, look in the ingle, and thou shalt see a cask
of mead exceeding good, and a stoup thereby, and two silver cups;
fill the stoup and bring it hither with the cups; and then may we
talk amidst of drinking, which is good for an old carle. Hasten
thou! or I shall deem thee a double fool who will not fare to fetch
his meat, though he be hungry."
Then Hallblithe laughed, and went down the hall into the buttery and
found the meat, and ate his fill, and came away with the drink back
to the Long-hoary man, who chuckled as he came and said: "Fill up
now for thee and for me, and call a health to me and wish me
"I wish thee luck," said Hallblithe, and drank. Said the elder:
"And I wish thee more wits; is luck all that thou mayst wish me?
What luck may an outworn elder have?"
"Well then," quoth Hallblithe, "what shall I wish thee? Wouldst thou
have me wish thee youth?"
"Yea, certes," said the Long-hoary, "that and nought else."
"Youth then I wish thee, if it may avail thee aught," said
Hallblithe, and he drank again therewith.
"Nay, nay," said the old carle peevishly, "take a third cup, and wish
me youth with no idle words tacked thereto."
Said Hallblithe raising the cup: "Herewith I wish thee youth!" and
"Good is the wish," said the elder; "now ask thou the old carle
whatso thou wilt."
Said Hallblithe: "What is this land called?"
"Son," said the other, "hast thou heard it called the Isle of
"Yea," said Hallblithe, "but what wilt thou call it?"
"By no other name," said the hoary carle.
"It is far from other lands?" said Hallblithe.
"Yea," said the carle, "when the light winds blow, and the ships sail
"What do ye who live here?" said Hallblithe. "How do ye live, what
work win ye?"
"We win diverse work," said the elder, "but the gainfullest is
robbing men by the high hand."
"Is it ye who have stolen from me the Hostage of the Rose?" said
Said the Long-hoary, "Maybe; I wot not; in diverse ways my kinsmen
traffic, and they visit many lands. Why should they not have come to
"Is she in this Isle, thou old runagate?" said Hallblithe.
"She is not, thou young fool," said the elder. Then Hallblithe
flushed red and spake: "Knowest thou the Puny Fox?"
"How should I not?" said the carle, "since he is the son of one of my
"Dost thou call him a liar and a rogue?" said Hallblithe.
The elder laughed; "Else were I a fool," said he; "there are few
bigger liars or bigger rogues than the Puny Fox!"
"Is he here in this Isle?" said Hallblithe; "may I see him?"
The old man laughed again, and said: "Nay, he is not here, unless he
hath turned fool since yesterday: why should he abide thy sword,
since he hath done what he would and brought thee hither?"
Then he laughed, as a hen cackles a long while, and then said: "What
more wilt thou ask me?"
But Hallblithe was very wroth: "It availeth nought to ask," he said;
"and now I am in two minds whether I shall slay thee or not."
"That were a meet deed for a Raven, but not for a man," said the
carle, "and thou that hast wished me luck! Ask, ask!"
But Hallblithe was silent a long while. Then the carle said,
"Another cup for the longer after youth!"
Hallblithe filled, and gave to him, and the old man drank and said:
"Thou deemest us all liars in the Isle of Ransom because of thy
beguiling by the Puny Fox: but therein thou errest. The Puny Fox is
our chiefest liar, and doth for us the more part of such work as we
need: therefore, why should we others lie. Ask, ask!"
"Well then," said Hallblithe, "why did the Puny Fox bewray me, and at
Said the elder: "I know, but I will not tell thee. Is this a lie?"
"Nay, I deem it not," said Hallblithe: "But, tell me, is it verily
true that my trothplight is not here, that I may ransom her?"
Said the Long-hoary: "I swear it by the Treasure of the Sea, that
she is not here: the tale was but a lie of the Puny Fox."
CHAPTER VII: A FEAST IN THE ISLE OF RANSOM
Hallblithe pondered his answer awhile with downcast eyes and said at
last: "Have ye a mind to ransom me, now that I have walked into the
"There is no need to talk of ransom," said the elder; "thou mayst go
out of this house when thou wilt, nor will any meddle with thee if
thou strayest about the Isle, when I have set a mark on thee and
given thee a token: nor wilt thou be hindered if thou hast a mind to
leave the Isle, if thou canst find means thereto; moreover as long as
thou art in the Isle, in this house mayst thou abide, eating and
drinking and resting with us."
"How then may I leave this Isle?" said Hallblithe.
The elder laughed: "In a ship," said he.
"And when," said Hallblithe, "shall I find a ship that shall carry
Said the old carle, "Whither wouldest thou my son?" Hallblithe was
silent a while, thinking what answer he should make; then he said:
"I would go to the land of the Glittering Plain."
"Son, a ship shall not be lacking thee for that voyage," said the
elder. "Thou mayst go to-morrow morn. And I bid thee abide here to-
night, and thy cheer shall not be ill. Yet if thou wilt believe my
word, it will be well for thee to say as little as thou mayst to any
man here, and that little as little proud as maybe: for our folk are
short of temper and thou knowest there is no might against many.
Indeed it is not unlike that they will not speak one word to thee,
and if that be so, thou hast no need to open thy mouth to them. And
now I will tell thee that it is good that thou hast chosen to go to
the Glittering Plain. For if thou wert otherwise minded, I wot not
how thou wouldest get thee a keel to carry thee, and the wings have
not yet begun to sprout on thy shoulders, raven though thou be. Now
I am glad that thou art going thy ways to the Glittering Plain to-
morrow; for thou wilt be good company to me on the way: and I deem
that thou wilt be no churl when thou art glad."
"What," said Hallblithe, "art thou wending thither, thou old man?"
"Yea," said he, "nor shall any other be on the ship save thou and I,
and the mariners that waft us; and they forsooth shall not go aland
there. Why should not I go, since there are men to bear me aboard?"
Said Hallblithe, "And when thou art come aland there, what wilt thou
"Thou shalt see, my son," said the Long-hoary. "It may be that thy
good wishes shall be of avail to me. But now since all this may only
be if I live through this night, and since my heart hath been warmed
by the good mead, and thy fellowship, and whereas I am somewhat
sleepy, and it is long past noon, go forth into the hall, and leave
me to sleep, that I may be as sound as eld will let me to-morrow.
And as for thee, folk, both men and women, shall presently come into
the hall, and I deem not that any shall meddle with thee; but if so
be that any challenge thee, whatsoever may be his words, answer thou
to him, 'THE HOUSE OF THE UNDYING,' and there will be an end of it.
Only look thou to it that no naked steel cometh out of thy scabbard.
Go now, and if thou wilt, go out of doors; yet art thou safer within
doors and nigher unto me."
So Hallblithe went back into the main hall, and the sun had gotten
round now, and was shining into the hall, through the clerestory
windows, so that he saw clearly all that was therein. And he deemed
the hall fairer within than without; and especially over the shut-
beds were many stories carven in the panelling, and Hallblithe beheld
them gladly. But of one thing he marvelled, that whereas he was in
an island of the strong-thieves of the waters, and in their very home
and chiefest habitation, there were no ships or seas pictured in that
imagery, but fair groves and gardens, with flowery grass and fruited
trees all about. And there were fair women abiding therein, and
lovely young men, and warriors, and strange beasts and many marvels,
and the ending of wrath and beginning of pleasure and the crowning of
love. And amidst these was pictured oft and again a mighty king with
a sword by his side and a crown on his head; and ever was he smiling
and joyous, so that Hallblithe, when he looked on him, felt of better
heart and smiled back on the carven image.
So while Hallblithe looked on these things, and pondered his case
carefully, all alone as he was in that alien hall, he heard a noise
without of talking and laughter, and presently the pattering of feet
therewith, and then women came into the hall, a score or more, some
young, some old, some fair enough, and some hard-featured and
uncomely, but all above the stature of the women whom he had seen in
his own land.
So he stood amidst the hall-floor and abided them; and they saw him
and his shining war-gear, and ceased their talking and laughter, and
drew round about him, and gazed at him; but none said aught till an
old crone came forth from the ring, and said "Who art thou, standing
under weapons in our hall?"
He knew not what to answer, and held his peace; and she spake again:
"Whither wouldest thou, what seekest thou?"
Then answered Hallblithe: "THE HOUSE OF THE UNDYING."
None answered, and the other women all fell away from him at once,
and went about their business hither and thither through the hall.
But the old crone took him by the hand, and led him up to the dais,
and set him next to the midmost high-seat. Then she made as if she
would do off his war-gear, and he would not gainsay her, though he
deemed that foes might be anear; for in sooth he trusted in the old
carle that he would not bewray him, and moreover he deemed it would
be unmanly not to take the risks of the guesting, according to the
custom of that country.
So she took his armour and his weapons and bore them off to a shut-
bed next to that wherein lay the ancient man, and she laid the gear
within it, all save the spear, which she laid on the wall-pins above;
and she made signs to him that therein he was to lie; but she spake
no word to him. Then she brought him the hand-washing water in a
basin of latten, and a goodly towel therewith, and when he had washed
she went away from him, but not far.
This while the other women were busy about the hall; some swept the
floor down, and when it was swept strawed thereon rushes and handfuls
of wild thyme: some went into the buttery and bore forth the boards
and the trestles: some went to the chests and brought out the rich
hangings, the goodly bankers and dorsars, and did them on the walls:
some bore in the stoups and horns and beakers, and some went their
ways and came not back a while, for they were busied about the
cooking. But whatever they did, none hailed him, or heeded him more
than if he had been an image, as he sat there looking on. None save
the old woman who brought him the fore-supper, to wit a great horn of
mead, and cakes and dried fish.
So was the hall arrayed for the feast very fairly, and Hallblithe sat
there while the sun westered and the house grew dim, and dark at
last, and they lighted the candles up and down the hall. But a
little after these were lit, a great horn was winded close without,
and thereafter came the clatter of arms about the door, and exceeding
tall weaponed men came in, one score and five, and strode two by two
up to the foot of the dais, and stood there in a row. And Hallblithe
deemed their war-gear exceeding good; they were all clad in ring-
locked byrnies, and had steel helms on their heads with garlands of
gold wrought about them and they bore spears in their hands, and
white shields hung at their backs. Now came the women to them and
unarmed them; and under their armour their raiment was black; but
they had gold rings on their arms, and golden collars about their
necks. So they strode up to the dais and took their places on the
high-seat, not heeding Hallblithe any more than if he were an image
of wood. Nevertheless that man sat next to him who was the chieftain
of all and sat in the midmost high-seat; and he bore his sheathed
sword in his hand and laid it on the board before him, and he was the
only man of those chieftains who had a weapon.
But when these were set down there was again a noise without, and
there came in a throng of men armed and unarmed who took their places
on the end-long benches up and down the hall; with these came women
also, who most of them sat amongst the men, but some busied them with
the serving: all these men were great of stature, but none so big as
the chieftains on the high-seat.
Now came the women in from the kitchen bearing the meat, whereof no
little was flesh-meat, and all was of the best. Hallblithe was duly
served like the others, but still none spake to him or even looked on
him; though amongst themselves they spoke in big, rough voices so
that the rafters of the hall rang again.
When they had eaten their fill the women filled round the cups and
the horns to them, and those vessels were both great and goodly. But
ere they fell to drinking uprose the chieftain who sat furthest from
the midmost high-seat on the right and cried a health: "THE TREASURE
OF THE SEA!" Then they all stood up and shouted, women as well as
men, and emptied their horns and cups to that health. Then stood up
the man furthest on the left and cried out, "Drink a health to the
Undying King!" And again all men rose up and shouted ere they drank.
Other healths they drank, as the "Cold Keel," the "Windworn Sail,"
the "Quivering Ash" and the "Furrowed Beach." And the wine and mead
flowed like rivers in that hall of the Wild Men. As for Hallblithe,
he drank what he would but stood not up, nor raised his cup to his
lips when a health was drunk; for he knew not whether these men were
his friends or his foes, and he deemed it would be little-minded to
drink to their healths, lest he might be drinking death and confusion
to his own kindred.
But when men had drunk a while, again a horn blew at the nether end
of the hall, and straightway folk arose from the endlong tables, and
took away the boards and trestles, and cleared the floor and stood
against the wall; then the big chieftain beside Hallblithe arose and
cried out: "Now let man dance with maid, and be we merry! Music,
strike up!" Then flew the fiddle-bows and twanged the harps, and the
carles and queens stood forth on the floor; and all the women were
clad in black raiment, albeit embroidered with knots and wreaths of
flowers. A while they danced and then suddenly the music fell, and
they all went back to their places. Then the chieftain in the high-
seat arose and took a horn from his side, and blew a great blast on
it that filled the hall; then he cried in a loud voice: "Be we
merry! Let the champions come forth!"
Men shouted gleefully thereat, and straightway ran into the hall from
out the screens three tall men clad all in black armour with naked
swords in their hands, and stood amidst the hall-floor, somewhat on
one side, and clashed their swords on their shields and cried out:
"Come forth ye Champions of the Raven!"
Then leapt Hallblithe from his seat and set his hand to his left
side, but no sword was there; so he sat down again, remembering the
warning of the Elder, and none heeded him.
Then there came into the hall slowly and mournfully three men-at-
arms, clad and weaponed like the warriors of his folk, with the image
of the Raven on their helms and shields. So Hallblithe refrained
him, for besides that this seemed like to be a fair battle of three
against three, he doubted some snare, and he determined to look on
So the champions fell to laying on strokes that were no child's play,
though Hallblithe doubted if the edges bit, and it was but a little
while before the Champions of the Raven fell one after another before
the Wild Men, and folk drew them by the heels out into the buttery.
Then arose great laughter and jeering, and exceeding wroth was
Hallblithe; howbeit he refrained him because he remembered all he had
to do. But the three Champions of the Sea strode round the hall,
tossing up their swords and catching them as they fell, while the
horns blew up behind them.
After a while the hall grew hushed, and the chieftain arose and
cried: "Bring in now some sheaves of the harvest we win, we lads of
the oar and the arrow!" Then was there a stir at the screen doors,
and folk pressed forward to see, and, lo, there came forward a string
of women, led in by two weaponed carles; and the women were a score
in number, and they were barefoot and their hair hung loose and their
gowns were ungirt, and they were chained together wrist to wrist; yet
had they gold at arm and neck: there was silence in the hall when
they stood amidst of the floor.
Then indeed Hallblithe could not refrain himself, and he leapt from
his seat and on to the board, and over it, and ran down the hall, and
came to those women and looked them in the face one by one, while no
man spake in the hall. But the Hostage was not amongst them; nay
forsooth, they none of them favoured of the daughters of his people,
though they were comely and fair; so that again Hallblithe doubted if
this were aught but a feast-hall play done to anger him; whereas
there was but little grief in the faces of those damsels, and more
than one of them smiled wantonly in his face as he looked on them.
So he turned about and went back to his seat, having said no word,
and behind him arose much mocking and jeering; but it angered him
little now; for he remembered the rede of the elder and how that he
had done according to his bidding, so that he deemed the gain was
his. So sprang up talk in the hall betwixt man and man, and folk
drank about and were merry, till the chieftain arose again and smote
the board with the flat of his sword, and cried out in a loud and
angry voice, so that all could hear: "Now let there be music and
minstrelsy ere we wend bedward!"
Therewith fell the hubbub of voices, and there came forth three men
with great harps, and a fourth man with them, who was the minstrel;
and the harpers smote their harps so that the roof rang therewith,
and the noise, though it was great, was tuneable, and when they had
played thus a little while, they abated their loudness somewhat, and
the minstrel lifted his voice and sang:
The land lies black
With winter's lack,
The wind blows cold
Round field and fold;
All folk are within,
And but weaving they win.
Where from finger to finger the shuttle flies fast,
And the eyes of the singer look fain on the cast,
As he singeth the story of summer undone
And the barley sheaves hoary ripe under the sun.
Then the maidens stay
The light-hung sley,
And the shuttles bide
By the blue web's side,
While hand in hand
With the carles they stand.
But ere to the measure the fiddles strike up,
And the elders yet treasure the last of the cup,
There stand they a-hearkening the blast from the lift,
And e'en night is a-darkening more under the drift.
There safe in the hall
They bless the wall,
And the roof o'er head,
Of the valiant stead;
And the hands they praise
Of the olden days.
Then through the storm's roaring the fiddles break out,
And they think not of warring, but cast away doubt,
And, man before maiden, their feet tread the floor,
And their hearts are unladen of all that they bore.
But what winds are o'er-cold
For the heart of the bold?
What seas are o'er-high
For the undoomed to die?
Dark night and dread wind,
But the haven we find.
Then ashore mid the flurry of stone-washing surf!
Cloud-hounds the moon worry, but light lies the turf;
Lo the long dale before us! the lights at the end,
Though the night darkens o'er us, bid whither to wend.
Who beateth the door
By the foot-smitten floor?
What guests are these
From over the seas?
Take shield and sword
For their greeting-word.
Lo, lo, the dance ended! Lo, midst of the hall
The fallow blades blended! Lo, blood on the wall!
Who liveth, who dieth? O men of the sea,
For peace the folk crieth; our masters are ye.
Now the dale lies grey
At the dawn of day;
And fair feet pass
O'er the wind-worn grass;
And they turn back to gaze
On the roof of old days.
Come tread ye the oaken-floored hall of the sea!
Be your hearts yet unbroken; so fair as ye be,
That kings are abiding unwedded to gain
The news of our riding the steeds of the main.
Much shouting and laughter arose at the song's end; and men sprang up
and waved their swords above the cups, while Hallblithe sat scowling
down on their merriment. Lastly arose the chieftain and called out
loudly for the good-night cup, and it went round and all men drank.
Then the horn blew for bed, and the chieftains went to their
chambers, and the others went to the out-bowers or laid them down on
the hall-floor, and in a little while none stood upright thereon. So
Hallblithe arose, and went to the shut-bed appointed for him, and
laid him down and slept dreamlessly till the morning.
CHAPTER VIII: HALLBLITHE TAKETH SHIP AGAIN AWAY FROM THE ISLE OF
When he awoke, the sun shone into the hall by the windows above the
buttery, and there were but few folk left therein. But so soon as
Hallblithe was clad, the old woman came to him, and took him by the
hand, and led him to the board, and signed to him to eat of what was
thereon; and he did so; and by then he was done, came folk who went
into the shut-bed where lay the Long-hoary, and they brought him
forth bed and all and bare him out a-doors. Then the crone brought
Hallblithe his arms and he did on byrny and helm, girt his sword to
his side, took his spear in his hand and went out a-doors; and there
close by the porch lay the Long-hoary upon a horse-litter. So
Hallblithe came up to him and gave him the sele of the day: and the
elder said: "Good morrow, son, I am glad to see thee. Did they try
thee hard last night?"
And Hallblithe saw two of the carles that had borne out the elder,
that they were talking together, and they looked on him and laughed
mockingly; so he said to the elder: "Even fools may try a wise man,
and so it befell last night. Yet, as thou seest, mumming hath not
Said the old man: "What thou sawest was not all mumming; it was done
according to our customs; and well nigh all of it had been done, even
hadst thou not been there. Nay, I will tell thee; at some of our
feasts it is not lawful to eat either for the chieftains or the
carles, till a champion hath given forth a challenge, and been
answered and met, and the battle fought to an end. But ye men, what
hindereth you to go to the horses' heads and speed on the road the
chieftain who is no longer way-worthy?"
So they ran to the horses and set down the dale by the riverside, and
just as Hallblithe was going to follow afoot, there came a swain from
behind the house leading a red horse which he brought to Hallblithe
as one who bids mount. So Hallblithe leapt into the saddle and at
once caught up with the litter of the Long-hoary down along the
river. They passed by no other house, save here and there a cot
beside some fold or byre; they went easily, for the way was smooth by
the river-side; so in less than two hours they came where the said
river ran into the sea. There was no beach there, for the water was
ten fathom deep close up to the lip of the land; but there was a
great haven land-locked all but a narrow outgate betwixt the sheer
black cliffs. Many a great ship might have lain in that haven; but
as now there was but one lying there, a round-ship not very great,
but exceeding trim and meet for the sea.
There without more ado the carles took the elder from the litter and
bore him aboard, and Hallblithe followed him as if he had been so
appointed. They laid the old man adown on the poop under a tilt of
precious web, and so went aback by the way that they had come; and
Hallblithe went and sat down beside the Long-hoary, who spake to him
and said: "Seest thou, son, how easy it is for us twain to be
shipped for the land whither we would go? But as easy as it is for
thee to go thither whereas we are going, just so hard had it been for
thee to go elsewhere. Moreover I must tell thee that though many an
one of the Isle of Ransom desireth to go this voyage, there shall
none else go, till the world is a year older, and he who shall go
then shall be likest to me in all ways, both in eld and in
feebleness, and in gibing speech, and all else; and now that I am
gone, his name shall be the same as that whereby ye may call me to-
day, and that is Grandfather. Art thou glad or sorry, Hallblithe?"
"Grandfather," said Hallblithe, "I can scarce tell thee: I move as
one who hath no will to wend one way or other. Meseems I am drawn to
go thither whereas we are going; therefore I deem that I shall find
my beloved on the Glittering Plain: and whatever befalleth
afterward, let it be as it will!"
"Tell me, my son," said the Grandfather, "how many women are there in
"How may I tell thee?" said Hallblithe.
"Well, then," said the elder, "how many exceeding fair women are
Said Hallblithe, "Indeed I wot not."
"How many of such hast thou seen?" said the Grandfather.
"Many," said Hallblithe; "the daughters of my folk are fair, and
there will be many other such amongst the aliens."
Then laughed the elder, and said: "Yet, my son, he who had been thy
fellow since thy sundering from thy beloved, would have said that in
thy deeming there is but one woman in the world; or at least one fair
woman: is it not so?"
Then Hallblithe reddened at first, as though he were angry; then he
said: "Yea, it is so."
Said the Grandfather in a musing way: "I wonder if before long I
shall think of it as thou dost."
Then Hallblithe gazed at him marvelling, and studied to see wherein
lay the gibe against himself; and the Grandfather beheld him, and
laughed as well as he might, and said: "Son, son; didst thou not
wish me youth?"
"Yea," said Hallblithe, "but what ails thee to laugh so? What is it
I have said or done?"
"Nought, nought," said the elder, laughing still more, "only thou
lookest so mazed. And who knoweth what thy wish may bring forth?"
Thereat was Hallblithe sore puzzled; but while he set himself to
consider what the old carle might mean, uprose the hale and how of
the mariners; they cast off the hawsers from the shore, ran out the
sweeps, and drave the ship through the haven-gates. It was a bright
sunny day; within, the green water was oily-smooth, without the
rippling waves danced merrily under a light breeze, and Hallblithe
deemed the wind to be fair; for the mariners shouted joyously and
made all sail on the ship; and she lay over and sped through the
waves, casting off the seas from her black bows. Soon were they
clear of those swart cliffs, and it was but a little afterwards that
the Isle of Ransom was grown deep blue behind them and far away.
CHAPTER IX: THEY COME TO THE LAND OF THE GLITTERING PLAIN
As in the hall, so in the ship, Hallblithe noted that the folk were
merry and of many words one with another, while to him no man cast a
word save the Grandfather. As to Hallblithe, though he wondered much
what all this betokened, and what the land was whereto he was
wending, he was no man to fear an unboded peril; and he said to
himself that whatever else betid, he should meet the Hostage on the
Glittering Plain; so his heart rose and he was of good cheer, and as
the Grandfather had foretold, he was a merry faring-fellow to him.
Many a gibe the old man cast at him, and whiles Hallblithe gave him
back as good as he took, and whiles he laughed as the stroke went
home and silenced him; and whiles he understood nought of what the
elder said. So wore the day and still the wind held fair, though it
was light; and the sun set in a sky nigh cloudless, and there was
nowhere any forecast of peril. But when night was come, Hallblithe
lay down on a fair bed, which was dight for him in the poop, and he
soon fell asleep and dreamed not save such dreams as are but made up
of bygone memories, and betoken nought, and are not remembered.
When he awoke, day lay broad on the sea, and the waves were little,
the sky had but few clouds, the sun shone bright, and the air was
warm and sweet-breathed.
He looked aside and saw the old man sitting up in his bed, as ghastly
as a dead man dug up again: his bushy eyebrows were wrinkled over
his bleared old eyes, the long white hair dangled forlorn from his
gaunt head: yet was his face smiling and he looked as happy as the
soul within him could make the half-dead body. He turned now to
Hallblithe and said:
"Thou art late awake: hadst thou been waking earlier, the sooner had
thine heart been gladdened. Go forward now, and gaze thy fill and
come and tell me thereof."
"Thou art happy, Grandfather," said Hallblithe, "what good tidings
hath morn brought us?"
"The Land! the Land!" said the Long-hoary; "there are no longer tears
in this old body, else should I be weeping for joy."
Said Hallblithe: "Art thou going to meet some one who shall make
thee glad before thou diest, old man?"
"Some one?" said the elder; "what one? Are they not all gone?
burned, and drowned, and slain and died abed? Some one, young man?
Yea, forsooth some one indeed! Yea, the great warrior of the Wasters
of the Shore; the Sea-eagle who bore the sword and the torch and the
terror of the Ravagers over the coal-blue sea. It is myself, MYSELF
that I shall find on the Land of the Glittering Plain, O young
Hallblithe looked on him wondering as he raised his wasted arms
towards the bows of the ship pitching down the slope of the sunlit
sea, or climbing up it. Then again the old man fell back on his bed
and muttered: "What fool's work is this! that thou wilt draw me on
to talk loud, and waste my body with lack of patience. I will talk
with thee no more, lest my heart swell and break, and quench the
little spark of life within me."
Then Hallblithe arose to his feet, and stood looking at him,
wondering so much at his words, that for a while he forgat the land
which they were nearing, though he had caught glimpses of it, as the
bows of the round-ship fell downward into the hollow of the sea. The
wind was but light, as hath been said, and the waves little under it,
but there was still a smooth swell of the sea which came of breezes
now dead, and the ship wallowed thereon and sailed but slowly.
In a while the old man opened his eyes again, and said in a low
peevish voice: "Why standest thou staring at me? why hast thou not
gone forward to look upon the land? True it is that ye Ravens are
short of wits."
Said Hallblithe: "Be not wrath, chieftain; I was wondering at thy
words, which are exceeding marvellous; tell me more of this land of
the Glittering Plain."
Said the Grandfather: "Why should I tell it thee? ask of the
mariners. They all know more than thou dost."
"Thou knowest," said Hallblithe, "that these men speak not to me, and
take no more heed of me than if I were an image which they were
carrying to sell to the next mighty man they may hap on. Or tell me,
thou old man," said he fiercely, "is it perchance a thrall-market
whereto they are bringing me? Have they sold her there, and will
they sell me also in the same place, but into other hands."
"Tush!" said the Grandfather somewhat feebly, "this last word of
thine is folly; there is no buying or selling in the land whereto we
are bound. As to thine other word, that these men have no fellowship
with thee, it is true: thou art my fellow and the fellow of none
else aboard. Therefore if I feel might in me, maybe I will tell thee
Then he raised his head a little and said: "The sun grows hot, the
wind faileth us, and slow and slow are we sailing."
Even as he spoke there was a stir amidships, and Hallblithe looked
and beheld the mariners handling the sweeps, and settling themselves
on the rowing-benches. Said the elder: "There is noise amidships,
what are they doing?"
The old man raised himself a little again, and cried out in his
shrill voice: "Good lads! brave lads! Thus would we do in the old
time when we drew anear some shore, and the beacons were sending up
smoke by day, and flame benights; and the shore-abiders did on their
helms and trembled. Thrust her through, lads! Thrust her along!"
Then he fell back again, and said in a weak voice: "Make no more
delay, guest, but go forward and look upon the land, and come back
and tell me thereof, and then the tale may flow from me. Haste,
haste!" So Hallblithe went down from the poop, and in to the waist,
where now the rowers were bending to their oars, and crying out
fiercely as they tugged at the quivering ash; and he clomb on to the
forecastle and went forward right to the dragon-head, and gazed long
upon the land, while the dashing of the oar-blades made the semblance
of a gale about the ship's black sides. Then he came back again to
the Sea-eagle, who said to him: "Son, what hast thou seen?"
"Right ahead lieth the land, and it is still a good way off. High
rise the mountains there, but by seeming there is no snow on them;
and though they be blue they are not blue like the mountains of the
Isle of Ransom. Also it seemed to me as if fair slopes of woodland
and meadow come down to the edge of the sea. But it is yet far
"Yea," said the elder, "is it so? Then will I not wear myself with
making words for thee. I will rest rather, and gather might. Come
again when an hour hath worn, and tell me what thou seest; and may
happen then thou shalt have my tale!" And he laid him down therewith
and seemed to be asleep at once. And Hallblithe might not amend it;
so he waited patiently till the hour had worn, and then went forward
again, and looked long and carefully, and came back and said to the
Sea-eagle, "The hour is worn."
The old chieftain turned himself about and said "What hast thou seen?
Said Hallblithe: "The mountains are pale and high, and below them
are hills dark with wood, and betwixt them and the sea is a fair
space of meadowland, and methought it was wide."
Said the old man: "Sawest thou a rocky skerry rising high out of the
sea anigh the shore?"
"Nay," said Hallblithe, "if there be, it is all blended with the
meadows and the hills."
Said the Sea-eagle: "Abide the wearing of another hour, and come and
tell me again, and then I may have a gainful word for thee." And he
fell asleep again. But Hallblithe abided, and when the hour was
worn, he went forward and stood on the forecastle. And this was the
third shift of the rowers, and the stoutest men in the ship now held
the oars in their hands, and the ship shook through all her length
and breadth as they drave her over the waters.
So Hallblithe came aft to the old man and found him asleep; so he
took him by the shoulder, and shook him and said: "Awake, faring-
fellow, for the land is a-nigh."
So the old man sat up and said: "What hast thou seen?"
Said Hallblithe: "I have seen the peaks and cliffs of the far-off
mountains; and below them are hills green with grass and dark with
woods, and thence stretch soft green meadows down to the sea-strand,
which is fair and smooth, and yellow."
"Sawest thou the skerry?" said the Sea-eagle.
"Yea, I saw it," said Hallblithe, "and it rises sheer from out the
sea about a mile from the yellow strand; but its rocks are black,
like the rocks of the Isle of Ransom."
"Son," said the elder, "give me thine hands and raise me up a
little." So Hallblithe took him and raised him up, so that he sat
leaning against the pillows; and he looked not on Hallblithe, but on
the bows of the ship, which now pitched but a little up and down, for
the sea was laid quiet now. Then he cried in his shrill, piping
voice: "It is the Land! It is the Land!"
But after a little while he turned to Hallblithe and spake: "Short
is the tale to tell: thou hast wished me youth, and thy wish hath
thriven; for to-day, ere the sun goes down, thou shalt see me as I
was in the days when I reaped the harvest of the sea with sharp sword
and hardy heart. For this is the land of the Undying King, who is
our lord and our gift-giver; and to some he giveth the gift of youth
renewed, and life that shall abide here the Gloom of the Gods. But
none of us all may come to the Glittering Plain and the King Undying
without turning the back for the last time on the Isle of Ransom:
nor may any men of the Isle come hither save those who are of the
House of the Sea-eagle, and few of those, save the chieftains of the
House, such as are they who sat by thee on the high-seat that even.
Of these once in a while is chosen one of us, who is old and spent
and past battle, and is borne to this land and the gift of the
Undying. Forsooth some of us have no will to take the gift, for they
say they are liefer to go to where they shall meet more of our
kindred than dwell on the Glittering Plain and the Acre of the
Undying; but as for me I was ever an overbearing and masterful man,
and meseemeth it is well that I meet as few of our kindred as may be:
for they are a strifeful race."
Hereat Hallblithe marvelled exceedingly, and he said: "And what am I
in all this story? Why am I come hither with thy furtherance?"
Said the Sea-eagle: "We had a charge from the Undying King
concerning thee, that we should bring thee hither alive and well, if
so be thou camest to the Isle of Ransom. For what cause we had the
charge, I know not, nor do I greatly heed."
Said Hallblithe: "And shall I also have that gift of undying youth,
and life while the world of men and gods endureth?"
"I must needs deem so," said the Sea-eagle, "so long as thou abidest
on the Glittering Plain; and I see not how thou mayst ever escape
Now Hallblithe heard him, how he said "escape," and thereat he was
somewhat ill at ease, and stood and pondered a little. At last he
said: "Is this then all that thou hast to tell me concerning the
"By the Treasure of the Sea!" said the elder, "I know no more of it.
The living shall learn. But I suppose that thou mayst seek thy
troth-plight maiden there all thou wilt. Or thou mayst pray the
Undying King to have her thither to thee. What know I? At least, it
is like that there shall be no lack of fair women there: or else the
promise of youth renewed is nought and vain. Shall this not be
enough for thee?"
"Nay," said Hallblithe.
"What," said the elder, "must it be one woman only?"
"One only," said Hallblithe.
The old man laughed his thin mocking laugh, and said: "I will not
assure thee but that the land of the Glittering Plain shall change
all that for thee so soon as it touches the soles of thy feet."
Hallblithe looked at him steadily and smiled, and said: "Well is it
then that I shall find the Hostage there; for then shall we be of one
mind, either to sunder or to cleave together. It is well with me
"And with me it shall be well ere long," said the Sea-eagle.
But now the rowers ceased rowing and lay on their oars, and the
shipmen cast anchor; for they were but a bowshot from the shore, and
the ship swung with the tide and lay side-long to the shore. Then
said the Sea-eagle: "Look forth, shipmate, and tell me of the land."
And Hallblithe looked and said: "The yellow beach is sandy and
shell-strewn, as I deem, and there is no great space of it betwixt
the sea and the flowery grass; and a bowshot from the strand I see a
little wood amidst which are fair trees blossoming."
"Seest thou any folk on the shore?" said the old man. "Yea," said
Hallblithe, "close to the edge of the sea go four; and by seeming
three are women, for their long gowns flutter in the wind. And one
of these is clad in saffron colour, and another in white, and another
in watchet; but the carle is clad in dark red; and their raiment is
all glistening as with gold and gems; and by seeming they are looking
at our ship as though they expected somewhat."
Said the Sea-eagle: "Why now do the shipmen tarry and have not made
ready the skiff? Swillers and belly-gods they be; slothful swine
that forget their chieftain."
But even as he spake came four of the shipmen, and without more ado
took him up, bed and all, and bore him down into the waist of the
ship, whereunder lay the skiff with four strong rowers lying on their
oars. These men made no sign to Hallblithe, nor took any heed of
him; but he caught up his spear, and followed them and stood by as
they lowered the old man into the boat. Then he set his foot on the
gunwale of the ship and leapt down lightly into the boat, and none
hindered or helped him; and he stood upright in the boat, a goodly
image of battle with the sun flashing back from his bright helm, his
spear in his hand, his white shield at his back, and thereon the
image of the Raven; but if he had been but a salt-boiling carle of
the sea-side none would have heeded him less.
CHAPTER X: THEY HOLD CONVERSE WITH FOLK OF THE GLITTERING PLAIN
Now the rowers lifted the ash-blades, and fell to rowing towards
shore: and almost with the first of their strokes, the Sea-eagle
"Would we were there, oh, would we were there! Cold groweth eld
about my heart. Raven's Son, thou art standing up; tell me if thou
canst see what these folk of the land are doing, and if any others
have come thither?"
Said Hallblithe: "There are none others come, but kine and horses
are feeding down the meadows. As to what those four are doing, the
women are putting off their shoon, and girding up their raiment, as
if they would wade the water toward us; and the carle, who was
barefoot before, wendeth straight towards the sea, and there he
standeth, for very little are the waves become."
The old man answered nothing, and did but groan for lack of patience;
but presently when the water was yet waist deep the rowers stayed the
skiff, and two of them slipped over the gunwale into the sea, and
between them all they took up the chieftain on his bed and got him
forth from the boat and went toward the strand with him; and the
landsfolk met them where the water was shallower, and took him from
their hands and bore him forth on to the yellow sand, and laid him
down out of reach of the creeping ripple of the tide. Hallblithe
withal slipped lightly out of the boat and waded the water after
them. But the shipmen rowed back again to their ship, and presently
Hallblithe heard the hale and how, as they got up their anchor.
But when Hallblithe was come ashore, and was drawn near the folk of
the land, the women looked at him askance, and they laughed and said:
"Welcome to thee also, O young man!" And he beheld them, and saw
that they were of the stature of the maidens of his own land; they
were exceeding fair of skin and shapely of fashion, so that the
nakedness of their limbs under their girded gowns, and all glistening
with the sea, was most lovely and dainty to behold. But Hallblithe
knelt by the Sea-eagle to note how he fared, and said: "How is it
with thee, O chieftain?"
The old man answered not a word, and he seemed to be asleep, and
Hallblithe deemed that his cheeks were ruddier and his skin less
wasted and wrinkled than aforetime. Then spake one of those women:
"Fear not, young man; he is well and will soon be better." Her voice
was as sweet as a spring bird in the morning; she was white-skinned
and dark-haired, and full sweetly fashioned; and she laughed on
Hallblithe, but not mockingly; and her fellows also laughed, as
though it was strange for him to be there. Then they did on their
shoon again, and with the carle laid their hands to the bed whereon
the old man lay, and lifted him up, and bore him forth on to the
grass, turning their faces toward the flowery wood aforesaid; and
they went a little way and then laid him down again and rested; and
so on little by little, till they had brought him to the edge of the
wood, and still he seemed to be asleep. Then the damsel who had
spoken before, she with the dark hair, said to Hallblithe, "Although
we have gazed on thee as if with wonder, this is not because we did
not look to meet thee, but because thou art so fair and goodly a man:
so abide thou here till we come back to thee from out of the wood."
Therewith she stroked his hand, and with her fellows lifted the old
man once more, and they bore him out of sight into the thicket.
But Hallblithe went to and fro a dozen paces from the wood, and
looked across the flowery meads and deemed he had never seen any so
fair. And afar off toward the hills he saw a great roof arising, and
thought he could see men also; and nigher to him were kine pasturing,
and horses also, whereof some drew anear him and stretched out their
necks and gazed at him; and they were goodly after their kind; and a
fair stream of water came round the corner out of the wood and down
the meadows to the sea; and Hallblithe went thereto and could see
that there was but little ebb and flow of the tide on that shore; for
the water of the stream was clear as glass, and the grass and flowers
grew right down to its water; so he put off his helm and drank of the
stream and washed his face and his hands therein, and then did on his
helm again and turned back again toward the wood, feeling very strong
and merry; and he looked out seaward and saw the Ship of the Isle of
Ransom lessening fast; for a little land wind had arisen and they had
spread their sails to it; and he laid down on the grass till the four
folk of the country came out of the wood again, after they had been
gone somewhat less than an hour, but the Sea-eagle was not with them:
and Hallblithe rose up and turned to them, and the carle saluted him
and departed, going straight toward that far-away roof he had seen;
and the women were left with Hallblithe, and they looked at him and
he at them as he stood leaning on his spear.
Then said the black-haired damsel: "True it is, O Spearman, that if
we did not know of thee, our wonder would be great that a man so
young and lucky-looking should have sought hither."
"I wot not why thou shouldest wonder," said Hallblithe; "I will tell
thee presently wherefore I come hither. But tell me, is this the
Land of the Glittering Plain?"
"Even so," said the damsel, "dost thou not see how the sun shineth on
it? Just so it shineth in the season that other folks call winter."
"Some such marvel I thought to hear of," said he; "for I have been
told that the land is marvellous; and fair though these meadows be,
they are not marvellous to look on now: they are like other lands,
though it maybe, fairer."
"That may be," she said; "we have nought but hearsay of other lands.
If we ever knew them we have forgotten them."
Said Hallblithe, "Is this land called also the Acre of the Undying?"
As he spake the words the smile faded from the damsel's face; she and
her fellows grew pale, and she said: "Hold thy peace of such words!
They are not lawful for any man to utter here. Yet mayst thou call
it the Land of the Living."
He said: "I crave pardon for the rash word."
Then they smiled again, and drew near to him, and caressed him with
their hands, and looked on him lovingly; but he drew a little aback
from them and said: "I have come hither seeking something which I
have lost, the lack whereof grieveth me."
Quoth the damsel, drawing nearer to him again, "Mayst thou find it,
thou lovely man, and whatsoever else thou desirest."
Then he said: "Hath a woman named the Hostage been brought hither of
late days? A fair woman, bright-haired and grey-eyed, kind of
countenance, soft of speech, yet outspoken and nought timorous; tall
according to our stature, but very goodly of fashion; a woman of the
House of the Rose, and my troth-plight maiden."
They looked on each other and shook their heads, and the black-haired
damsel spake: "We know of no such a woman, nor of the kindred which
Then his countenance fell, and became piteous with desire and grief,
and he bent his brows upon them, for they seemed to him light-minded
and careless, though they were lovely.
But they shrank from him trembling, and drew aback; for they had all
been standing close to him, beholding him with love, and she who had
spoken most had been holding his left hand fondly. But now she said:
"Nay, look not on us so bitterly! If the woman be not in the land,
this cometh not of our malice. Yet maybe she is here. For such as
come hither keep not their old names, and soon forget them what they
were. Thou shalt go with us to the King, and he shall do for thee
what thou wilt; for he is exceeding mighty."
Then was Hallblithe appeased somewhat; and he said: "Are there many
women in the land?"
"Yea, many," said that damsel.
"And many that are as fair as ye be?" said he. Then they laughed and
were glad, and drew near to him again and took his hands and kissed
them; and the black-haired damsel said: "Yea, yea, there be many as
fair as we be, and some fairer," and she laughed.
"And that King of yours," said he, "how do ye name him?"
"He is the King," said the damsel.
"Hath he no other name?" said Hallblithe.
"We may not utter it," she said; "but thou shalt see him soon, that
there is nought but good in him and mightiness."
CHAPTER XI: THE SEA-EAGLE RENEWETH HIS LIFE
But while they spake together thus, came a man from out of the wood
very tall of stature, red-bearded and black-haired, ruddy-cheeked,
full-limbed, most joyous of aspect; a man by seeming of five and
thirty winters. He strode straight up to Hallblithe, and cast his
arms about him, and kissed his cheek, as if he had been an old and
dear friend newly come from over seas.
Hallblithe wondered and laughed, and said: "Who art thou that
deemest me so dear?"
Said the man: "Short is thy memory, Son of the Raven, that thou in
so little space hast forgotten thy shipmate and thy faring-fellow;
who gave thee meat and drink and good rede in the Hall of the
Ravagers." Therewith he laughed joyously and turned about to the
three maidens and took them by the hands and kissed their lips, while
they fawned upon him lovingly.
Then said Hallblithe: "Hast thou verily gotten thy youth again,
which thou badest me wish thee?"
"Yea, in good sooth," said the red-bearded man; "I am the Sea-eagle
of old days; and I have gotten my youth, and love therewithal, and
somewhat to love moreover."
Therewith he turned to the fairest of the damsels, and she was white-
skinned and fragrant as the lily, rose-cheeked and slender, and the
wind played with the long locks of her golden hair, which hung down
below her knees; so he cast his arms about her and strained her to
his bosom, and kissed her face many times, and she nothing loth, but
caressing him with lips and hand. But the other two damsels stood by
smiling and joyous: and they clapped their hands together and kissed
each other for joy of the new lover; and at last fell to dancing and
skipping about them like young lambs in the meadows of Spring-tide.
But amongst them all, stood up Hallblithe leaning on his spear with
smiling lips and knitted brow; for he was pondering in his mind in
what wise he might further his quest.
But after they had danced a while the Sea-eagle left his love that he
had chosen and took a hand of either of the two damsels, and led them
tripping up to Hallblithe, and cried out: "Choose thou, Raven's
baby, which of these twain thou wilt have to thy mate; for scarcely
shalt thou see better or fairer."
But Hallblithe looked on them proudly and sternly, and the black-
haired damsel hung down her head before him and said softly: "Nay,
nay, sea-warrior; this one is too lovely to be our mate. Sweeter
love abides him, and lips more longed for."
Then stirred Hallblithe's heart within him and he said: "O Eagle of
the Sea, thou hast thy youth again: what then wilt thou do with it?
Wilt thou not weary for the moonlit main, and the washing of waves
and the dashing of spray, and thy fellows all glistening with the
brine? Where now shall be the alien shores before thee, and the
landing for fame, and departure for the gain of goods? Wilt thou
forget the ship's black side, and the dripping of the windward oars,
as the squall falleth on when the sun hath arisen, and the sail
tuggeth hard on the sheet, and the ship lieth over and the lads shout
against the whistle of the wind? Has the spear fallen from thine
hand, and hast thou buried the sword of thy fathers in the grave from
which thy body hath escaped? What art thou, O Warrior, in the land
of the alien and the King? Who shall heed thee or tell the tale of
thy glory, which thou hast covered over with the hand of a light
woman, whom thy kindred knoweth not, and who was not born in a house
wherefrom it hath been appointed thee from of old to take the
pleasure of woman? Whose thrall art thou now, thou lifter of the
spoil, thou scarer of the freeborn? The bidding of what lord or King
wilt thou do, O Chieftain, that thou mayst eat thy meat in the
morning and lie soft in thy bed in the evening?"
"O Warrior of the Ravagers, here stand I, Hallblithe of the Raven,
and I am come into an alien land beset with marvels to seek mine own,
and find that which is dearest to mine heart; to wit, my troth-plight
maiden the Hostage of the Rose, the fair woman who shall lie in my
bed, and bear me children, and stand by me in field and fold, by
thwart and gunwale, before the bow and the spear, by the flickering
of the cooking-fire, and amidst the blaze of the burning hall, and
beside the bale-fire of the warrior of the Raven. O Sea-eagle, my
guester amongst the foemen, my fellow-farer and shipmate, say now
once for all whether thou wilt help me in my quest, or fall off from
me as a dastard?"
Again the maidens shrank before his clear and high-raised voice, and
they trembled and grew pale.
But the Sea-eagle laughed from a countenance kind with joy, and said:
"Child of the Raven, thy words are good and manly: but it availeth
nought in this land, and I wot not how thou wilt fare, or why thou
hast been sent amongst us. What wilt thou do? Hadst thou spoken
these words to the Long-hoary, the Grandfather, yesterday, his ears
would have been deaf to them; and now that thou speakest them to the
Sea-eagle, this joyous man on the Glittering Plain, he cannot do
according to them, for there is no other land than this which can
hold him. Here he is strong and stark, and full of joy and love; but
otherwhere he would be but a gibbering ghost drifting down the wind
of night. Therefore in whatsoever thou mayst do within this land I
will stand by thee and help thee; but not one inch beyond it may my
foot go, whether it be down into the brine of the sea, or up into the
clefts of the mountains which are the wall of this goodly land.
"Thou hast been my shipmate and I love thee, I am thy friend; but
here in this land must needs be the love and the friendship. For no
ghost can love thee, no ghost may help thee. And as to what thou
sayest concerning the days gone past and our joys upon the tumbling
sea, true it is that those days were good and lovely; but they are
dead and gone like the lads who sat on the thwart beside us, and the
maidens who took our hands in the hall to lead us to the chamber.
Other days have come in their stead, and other friends shall cherish
us. What then? Shall we wound the living to pleasure the dead, who
cannot heed it? Shall we curse the Yuletide, and cast foul water on
the Holy Hearth of the winter feast, because the summer once was fair
and the days flit and the times change? Now let us be glad! For
Therewith he turned about to his damsel and kissed her on the mouth.
But Hallblithe's face was grown sad and stern, and he spake slowly
and heavily: "So is it, shipmate, that whereas thou sayest that the
days flit, for thee they shall flit no more; and the day may come for
thee when thou shalt be weary, and know it, and long for the lost
which thou hast forgotten. But hereof it availeth nought for me to
speak any longer, for thine ears are deaf to these words, and thou
wilt not hear them. Therefore I say no more save that I thank thee
for thy help whatsoever it may be; and I will take it, for the day's
work lieth before me, and I begin to think that it may be heavy