Of portents at Bergthorsknoll
Now we must take up the story, and turn to Bergthorsknoll, and say that Grim and Helgi go to Holar. They had children out at foster there, and they told their mother that they should not come home that evening. They were in Holar all the day, and there came some poor women and said they had come from far. Those brothers asked them for tidings, and they said they had no tidings to tell, “but still we might tell you one bit of news”.
They asked what that might be, and bade them not hide it. They said so it should be.
“We came down out of Fleetlithe, and we saw all the sons of Sigfus riding fully armed – they made for Threecorner ridge, and were fifteen in company. We saw, too, Grani Gunnar’s son and Gunnar Lambi’s son, and they were five in all. They took the same road, and one may say now that the whole country-side is faring and flitting about.”
“Then,” said Helgi Njal’s son, “Flosi must have come from the east, and they must have all gone to meet him, and we two, Grim, should be where Skarphedinn is.”
Grim said so it ought to be, and they fared home.
That same evening Bergthora spoke to her household, and said, “Now shall ye choose your meat to-night, so that each may have what he likes best; for this evening is the last that I shall set meat before my household”.
“That shall not be,” they said.
“It will be though,” she says, “and I could tell you much more if I would, but this shall be a token, that Grim and Helgi will be home ere men have eaten their full to-night; and if this turns out so, then the rest that I say will happen too.”
After that she set meat on the board, and Njal said, “Wondrously now it seems to me. Methinks I see all round the room, and it seems as though the gable wall were thrown down, but the whole board and the meat on it is one gore of blood.”
All thought this strange but Skarphedinn, he bade men not be downcast, nor to utter other unseemly sounds, so that men might make a story out of them.
“For it befits us surely more than other men to bear us well, and it is only what is looked for from us.”
Grim and Helgi came home ere the board was cleared, and men were much struck at that. Njal asked why they had returned so quickly, but they told what they had heard.
Njal bade no man go to sleep, but to beware of themselves.
The onslaught on Bergthorsknoll
Now Flosi speaks to his men -
“Now we will ride to Bergthorsknoll, and come thither before supper-time.”
They do so. There was a dell in the knoll, and they rode thither, and tethered their horses there, and stayed there till the evening was far spent.
Then Flosi said, “Now we will go straight up to the house, and keep close, and walk slow, and see what counsel they will take”.
Njal stood out of doors, and his sons, and Kari and all the serving-men, and they stood in array to meet them in the yard, and they were near thirty of them.
Flosi halted and said – “Now we shall see what counsel they take, for it seems to me, if they stand out of doors to meet us, as though we should never get the mastery over them”.
“Then is our journey bad,” says Grani Gunnar’s son, “if we are not to dare to fall on them.”
“Nor shall that be,” says Flosi; “for we will fall on them though they stand out of doors; but we shall pay that penalty, that many will not go away to tell which side won the day.”
Njal said to his men, “See ye now what a great band of men they have”.
“They have both a great and well-knit band,” says Skarphedinn; “but this is why they make a halt now, because they think it will be a hard struggle to master us.”
“That cannot be why they halt,” says Njal; “and my will is that our men go indoors, for they had hard work to master Gunnar of Lithend, though he was alone to meet them; but here is a strong house as there was there, and they will be slow to come to close quarters.”
“This is not to be settled in that wise,” says Skarphedinn, “for those chiefs fell on Gunnar’s house, who were so noble-minded, that they would rather turn back than burn him, house and all; but these will fall on us at once with fire, if they cannot get at us in any other way, for they will leave no stone unturned to get the better of us; and no doubt they think, as is not unlikely, that it will be their deaths if we escape out of their hands. Besides, I am unwilling to let myself be stifled indoors like a fox in his earth.”
“Now,” said Njal, “as often it happens, my sons, ye set my counsel at naught, and show me no honour, but when ye were younger ye did not so, and then your plans were better furthered.”
“Let us do,” said Helgi, “as our father wills; that will be best for us.”
“I am not so sure of that,” says Skarphedinn, “for now he is ‘fey’; but still I may well humour my father in this, by being burnt indoors along with him, for I am not afraid of my death.”
Then he said to Kari, “Let us stand by one another well, brother-in-law, so that neither parts from the other”.
“That I have made up my mind to do,” says Kari; “but if it should be otherwise doomed, – well! then it must be as it must be, and I shall not be able to fight against it.”
“Avenge us, and we will avenge thee,” says Skarphedinn, “if we live after thee.”
Kari said so it should be.
Then they all went in, and stood in array at the door.
“Now are they all ‘fey,’” said Flosi, “since they have gone indoors, and we will go right up to them as quickly as we can, and throng as close as we can before the door, and give heed that none of them, neither Kari nor Njal’s sons, get away; for that were our bane.”
So Flosi and his men came up to the house, and set men to watch round the house, if there were any secret doors in it. But Flosi went up to the front of the house with his men.
Then Hroald Auzur’s son ran up to where Skarphedinn stood, and thrust at him. Skarphedinn hewed the spearhead off the shaft as he held it, and made another stroke at him, and the axe fell on the top of the shield, and dashed back the whole shield on Hroald’s body, but the upper horn of the axe caught him on the brow, and he fell at full length on his back, and was dead at once.
“Little chance had that one with thee, Skarphedinn,” said Kari, “and thou art our boldest.”
“I’m not so sure of that,” says Skarphedinn, and he drew up his lips and smiled.
Kari, and Grim, and Helgi, threw out many spears, and wounded many men; but Flosi and his men could do nothing.
At last Flosi said, “We have already gotten great manscathe in our men; many are wounded, and he slain whom we would choose last of all. It is now clear that we shall never master them with weapons; many now there be who are not so forward in fight as they boasted, and yet they were those who goaded us on most. I say this most to Grani Gunnar’s son, and Gunnar Lambi’s son, who were the least willing to spare their foes. But still we shall have to take to some other plan for ourselves, and now there are but two choices left, and neither of them good. One is to turn away, and that is our death; the other, to set fire to the house, and burn them inside it; and that is a deed which we shall have to answer for heavily before God, since we are Christian men ourselves; but still we must take to that counsel.”
Now they took fire, and made a great pile before the doors. Then Skarphedinn said.
“What, lads! are ye lighting a fire, or are ye taking to cooking?”
“So it shall be,” answered Grani Gunnar’s son; “and thou shalt not need to be better done.”
“Thou repayest me,” said Skarphedinn, “as one may look for from the man that thou art. I avenged thy father, and thou settest most store by that duty which is farthest from thee.”
Then the women threw whey on the fire, and quenched it as fast as they lit it. Some, too, brought water, or slops.
Then Kol Thorstein’s son said to Flosi -
“A plan comes into my mind; I have seen a loft over the hall among the crosstrees, and we will put the fire in there, and light it with the vetch-stack that stands just above the house.”
Then they took the vetch-stack and set fire to it, and they who were inside were not aware of it till the whole hall was ablaze over their heads.
Then Flosi and his men made a great pile before each of the doors, and then the women folk who were inside began to weep and to wail.
Njal spoke to them and said, “Keep up your hearts, nor utter shrieks, for this is but a passing storm, and it will be long before ye have another such; and put your faith in God, and believe that He is so merciful that He will not let us burn both in this world and the next.”
Such words of comfort had he for them all, and others still more strong.
Now the whole house began to blaze. Then Njal went to the door and said -
“Is Flosi so near that he can hear my voice?”
Flosi said that he could hear it.
“Wilt thou,” said Njal, “take an atonement from my sons, or allow any men to go out?”
“I will not,” answers Flosi, “take any atonement from thy sons, and now our dealings shall come to an end once for all, and I will not stir from this spot till they are all dead; but I will allow the women and children and house-carles to go out.”
Then Njal went into the house, and said to the folk -
“Now all those must go out to whom leave is given, and so go thou out Thorhalla Asgrim’s daughter, and all the people also with thee who may.”
Then Thorhalla said -
“This is another parting between me and Helgi than I thought of a while ago; but still I will egg on my father and brothers to avenge this manscathe which is wrought here.”
“Go, and good go with thee,” said Njal, “for thou art a brave woman.”
After that she went out and much folk with her.
Then Astrid of Deepback said to Helgi Njal’s son -
“Come thou out with me, and I will throw a woman’s cloak over thee, and tire thy head with a kerchief.”
He spoke against it at first, but at last he did so at the prayer of others.
So Astrid wrapped the kerchief round Helgi’s head, but Thorhilda, Skarphedinn’s wife, threw the cloak over him, and he went out between them, and then Thorgerda Njal’s daughter, and Helga her sister, and many other folk went out too.
But when Helgi came out Flosi said -
“That is a tall woman and broad across the shoulders that went yonder, take her and hold her.”
But when Helgi heard that, he cast away the cloak. He had got his sword under his arm, and hewed at a man, and the blow fell on his shield and cut off the point of it, and the man’s leg as well. Then Flosi came up and hewed at Helgi’s neck, and took off his head at a stroke.
Then Flosi went to the door and called out to Njal, and said he would speak with him and Bergthora.
Now Njal does so, and Flosi said -
“I will offer thee, master Njal, leave to go out, for it is unworthy that thou shouldst burn indoors.”
“I will not go out,” said Njal, “for I am an old man, and little fitted to avenge my sons, but I will not live in shame.”
Then Flosi said to Bergthora -
“Come thou out, housewife, for I will for no sake burn thee indoors.”
“I was given away to Njal young,” said Bergthora, “and I have promised him this, that we would both share the same fate.”
After that they both went back into the house.
“What counsel shall we now take?” said Bergthora.
“We will go to our bed,” says Njal, “and lay us down; I have long been eager for rest.”
Then she said to the boy Thord, Kari’s son -
“Thee will I take out, and thou shalt not burn in here.”
“Thou hast promised me this, grandmother,” says the boy, “that we should never part so long as I wished to be with thee; but methinks it is much better to die with thee and Njal than to live after you.”
Then she bore the boy to her bed, and Njal spoke to his steward and said -
“Now shalt thou see where we lay us down, and how I lay us out, for I mean not to stir an inch hence, whether reek or burning smart me, and so thou wilt be able to guess where to look for our bones.”
He said he would do so.
There had been an ox slaughtered and the hide lay there. Njal told the steward to spread the hide over them, and he did so.
So there they lay down both of them in their bed, and put the boy between them. Then they signed themselves and the boy with the cross, and gave over their souls into God’s hand, and that was the last word that men heard them utter.
Then the steward took the hide and spread it over them, and went out afterwards. Kettle of the Mark caught hold of him, and dragged him out, he asked carefully after his father-in-law Njal, but the steward told him the whole truth. Then Kettle said -
“Great grief hath been sent on us, when we have had to share such ill-luck together.”
Skarphedinn saw how his father laid him down, and how he laid himself out, and then he said -
“Our father goes early to bed, and that is what was to be looked for, for he is an old man.”
Then Skarphedinn, and Kari, and Grim, caught the brands as fast as they dropped down, and hurled them out at them, and so it went on a while. Then they hurled spears in at them, but they caught them all as they flew, and sent them back again.
Then Flosi bade them cease shooting, “for all feats of arms will go hard with us when we deal with them; ye may well wait till the fire overcomes them”.
So they do that, and shoot no more.
Then the great beams out of the roof began to fall, and Skarphedinn said -
“Now must my father be dead, and I have neither heard groan nor cough from him.”
Then they went to the end of the hall, and there had fallen down a cross-beam inside which was much burnt in the middle.
Kari spoke to Skarphedinn, and said – “Leap thou out here, and I will help thee to do so, and I will leap out after thee, and then we shall both get away if we set about it so, for hitherward blows all the smoke.”
“Thou shalt leap first,” said Skarphedinn; “but I will leap straightway on thy heels.”
“That is not wise,” says Kari, “for I can get out well enough elsewhere, though it does not come about here.”
“I will not do that,” says Skarphedinn; “leap thou out first, but I will leap after thee at once.”
“It is bidden to every man,” says Kari, “to seek to save his life while he has a choice, and I will do so now; but still this parting of ours will be in such wise that we shall never see one another more; for if I leap out of the fire, I shall have no mind to leap back into the fire to thee, and then each of us will have to fare his own way.”
“It joys me, brother-in-law,” says Skarphedinn, “to think that if thou gettest away thou wilt avenge me.”
Then Kari took up a blazing bench in his hand, and runs up along the cross-beam, then he hurls the bench out at the roof, and it fell among those who were outside.
Then they ran away, and by that time all Kari’s upper-clothing and his hair were ablaze, then he threw himself down from the roof, and so crept along with the smoke.
Then one man said who was nearest -
“Was that a man that leapt out at the roof?”
“Far from it,” says another; “more likely it was Skarphedinn who hurled a firebrand at us.”
After that they had no more mistrust.
Kari ran till he came to a stream, and then, he threw himself down into it, and so quenched the fire on him.
After that he ran along under shelter of the smoke into a hollow, and rested him there, and that has since been called Kari’s Hollow.
Now it is to be told of Skarphedinn that he runs out on the cross-beam straight after Kari, but when he came to where the beam was most burnt, then it broke down under him. Skarphedinn came down on his feet, and tried again the second time, and climbs up the wall with a run, then down on him came the wall-plate, and he toppled down again inside.
Then Skarphedinn said – “Now one can see what will come;” and then he went along the side wall. Gunnar Lambi’s son leapt up on the wall and sees Skarphedinn; he spoke thus -
“Weepest thou now, Skarphedinn?”
“Not so,” says Skarphedinn, “but true it is that the smoke makes one’s eyes smart, but is it as it seems to me, dost thou laugh?”
“So it is surely,” says Gunnar, “and I have never laughed since thou slewest Thrain on Markfleet.”
Then Skarphedinn said – “He now is a keepsake for thee;” and with that he took out of his purse the jaw-tooth which he had hewn out of Thrain, and threw it at Gunnar, and struck him in the eye, so that it started out and lay on his cheek.
Then Gunnar fell down from the roof.
Skarphedinn then went to his brother Grim, and they held one another by the hand and trode the fire; but when they came to the middle of the hall Grim fell down dead.
Then Skarphedinn went to the end of the house, and then there was a great crash, and down fell the roof. Skarphedinn was then shut in between it and the gable, and so he could not stir a step thence.
Flosi and his band stayed by the fire until it was broad daylight; then came a man riding up to them. Flosi asked him for his name, but he said his name was Geirmund, and that he was a kinsman of the sons of Sigfus.
“Ye have done a mighty deed,” he says.
“Men,” says Flosi, “will call it both a mighty deed and an ill deed, but that can’t be helped now.”
“How many men have lost their lives here?” asks Geirmund.
“Here have died,” says Flosi, “Njal and Bergthora and all their sons, Thord Kari’s son, Kari Solmund’s son, but besides these we cannot say for a surety, because we know not their names.”
“Thou tellest him now dead,” said Geirmund, “with whom we have gossipped this morning.”
“Who is that?” says Flosi.
“We two,” says Geirmund, “I and my neighbour Bard, met Kari Solmund’s son, and Bard gave him his horse, and his hair and his upper clothes were burned off him.”
“Had he any weapons?” asks Flosi.
“He had the sword ‘Life-luller,’” says Geirmund, “and one edge of it was blue with fire, and Bard and I said that it must have become soft, but he answered thus, that he would harden it in the blood of the sons of Sigfus or the other Burners.”
“What said he of Skarphedinn?” said Flosi.
“He said both he and Grim were alive,” answers Geirmund, “when they parted; but he said that now they must be dead.”
“Thou hast told us a tale,” said Flosi, “which bodes us no idle peace, for that man hath now got away who comes next to Gunnar of Lithend in all things; and now, ye sons of Sigfus, and ye other Burners, know this, that such a great blood feud, and hue and cry will be made about this burning, that it will make many a man headless, but some will lose all their goods. Now I doubt much whether any man of you, ye sons of Sigfus, will dare to stay in his house; and that is not to be wondered at; and so I will bid you all to come and stay with me in the east, and let us all share one fate.”
They thanked him for his offer, and said they would be glad to take it.
Then Modolf Kettle’s son sang a song.
But one prop of Njal’s house liveth,
All the rest inside are burnt,
All but one, – those bounteous spenders,
Sigfus’ stalwart sons wrought this;
Son of Gollnirö now is glutted
Vengeance for brave Hauskuld’s death,
Brisk flew fire through thy dwelling,
Bright flames blazed above thy roof.
“We shall have to boast of something else than that Njal has been burnt in his house,” says Flosi, “for there is no glory in that.”
Then he went up on the gable, and Glum Hilldir’s son, and some other men. Then Glum said, “Is Skarphedinn dead, indeed?” But the others said he must have been dead long ago.
The fire sometimes blazed up fitfully and sometimes burned low, and then they heard down in the fire beneath them that this song was sung -
Deep, I ween, ye Ogre offspring!
Devilish brood of giant birth,
Would ye groan with gloomy visage
Had the fight gone to my mind;
But my very soul it gladdens
That my friendsö who now boast high,
Wrought not this foul deed, their glory,
Save with footsteps filled with gore.
“Can Skarphedinn, think ye, have sung this song dead or alive?” said Grani Gunnar’s son.
“I will go into no guesses about that,” says Flosi.
“We will look for Skarphedinn,” says Grani, “and the other men who have been here burnt inside the house.”
“That shall not be,” says Flosi, “it is just like such foolish men as thou art, now that men will be gathering force all over the country; and when they do come, I trow the very same man who now lingers will be so scared that he will not know which way to run; and now my counsel is that we all ride away as quickly as ever we can.”
Then Flosi went hastily to his horse and all his men.
Then Flosi said to Geirmund -
“Is Ingialld, thinkest thou, at home, at the Springs?”
Geirmund said he thought he must be at home.
“There now is a man,” says Flosi, “who has broken his oath with us and all good faith.”
Then Flosi said to the sons of Sigfus – “What course will ye now take with Ingialld; will ye forgive him, or shall we now fall on him and slay him?”
They all answered that they would rather fall on him and slay him.
Then Flosi jumped on his horse, and all the others, and they rode away. Flosi rode first, and shaped his course for Rangriver, and up along the river bank.
Then he saw a man riding down on the other bank of the river, and he knew that there was Ingialld of the Springs. Flosi calls out to him. Ingialld halted and turned down to the river bank; and Flosi said to him -
“Thou hast broken faith with us, and hast forfeited life and goods. Here now are the sons of Sigfus, who are eager to slay thee; but methinks thou hast fallen into a strait, and I will give thee thy life if thou will hand over to me the right to make my own award.”
“I will sooner ride to meet Kari,” said Ingialld, “than grant thee the right to utter thine own award, and my answer to the sons of Sigfus is this, that I shall be no whit more afraid of them than they are of me.”
“Bide thou there,” says Flosi, “if thou art not a coward, for I will send thee a gift.”
“I will bide of a surety,” says Ingialld.
Thorstein Kolbein’s son, Flosi’s brother’s son, rode up by his side and had a spear in his hand, he was one of the bravest of men, and the most worthy of those who were with Flosi.
Flosi snatched the spear from him, and launched it at Ingialld, and it fell on his left side, and passed through the shield just below the handle, and clove it all asunder, but the spear passed on into his thigh just above the knee-pan, and so on into the saddle-tree, and there stood fast.
Then Flosi said to Ingialld -
“Did it touch thee?”
“It touched me sure enough,” says Ingialld, “but I call this a scratch and not a wound.”
Then Ingialld plucked the spear out of the wound, and said to Flosi -
“Now bide thou, if thou art not a milksop.”
Then he launched the spear back over the river. Flosi sees that the spear is coming straight for his middle, and then he backs his horse out of the way, but the spear flew in front of Flosi’s horse, and missed him, but it struck Thorstein’s middle, and down he fell at once dead off his horse.
Now Ingialld tuns for the wood, and they could not get at him.
Then Flosi said to his men -
“Now have we gotten manscathe, and now we may know, when such things befall us, into what a luckless state we have got. Now it is my counsel that we ride up to Threecorner ridge; thence we shall be able to see where men ride all over the country, for by this time they will have gathered together a great band, and they will think that we have ridden east to Fleetlithe from Threecorner ridge; and thence they will think that we are riding north up on the fell, and so east to our own country, and thither the greater part of the folk will ride after us; but some will ride the coast road east to Selialandsmull, and yet they will think there is less hope of finding us thitherward, but I will now take counsel for all of us, and my plan is to ride up into Threecorner-fell, and bide there till three suns have risen and set in heaven.”
Of Kari Solmund’s son
Now it is to be told of Kari Solmund’s son that he fared away from that hollow in which he had rested himself until he met Bard, and those words passed between them which Geirmund had told.
Thence Kari rode to Mord, and told him the tidings, and he was greatly grieved.
Kari said there were other things more befitting a man than to weep for them dead, and bade him rather gather folk and come to Holtford.
After that he rode into Thursodale to Hjallti Skeggi’s son, and as he went along Thurso water, he sees a man riding fast behind him. Kari waited for the man, and knows that he was Ingialld of the Springs. He sees that he is very bloody about the thigh; and Kari asked Ingialld who had wounded him, and he told him.
“Where met ye two?” says Kari.
“By Rangwater side,” says Ingialld, “and he threw a spear over at me.”
“Didst thou aught for it?” asks Kari.
“I threw the spear back,” says Ingialld, “and they said that it met a man, and he was dead at once.”
“Knowest thou not,” said Kari, “who the man was?”
“Methought he was like Thorstein Flosi’s brother’s son,” says Ingialld.
“Good luck go with thy hand,” says Kari.
After that they rode both together to see Hjallti Skeggi’s son, and told him the tidings. He took these deeds ill, and said there was the greatest need to ride after them and slay them all.
After that he gathered men and roused the whole country; now he and Kari and Ingialld ride with this band to meet Mord Valgard’s son, and they found him at Holtford, and Mord was there waiting for them with a very great company. Then they parted the hue and cry; some fared the straight road by the east coast to Selialandsmull, but some went up to Fleetlithe, and other-some the higher road thence to Threecorner ridge, and so down into Godaland. Thence they rode north to Sand. Some too rode as far as Fishwaters, and there turned back. Some the coast road east to Holt, and told Thorgeir the tidings, and asked whether they had not ridden by there.
“This is how it is,” said Thorgeir, “though I am not a mighty chief, yet Flosi would take other counsel than to ride under my eyes, when he has slain Njal, my father’s brother, and my cousins; and there is nothing left for any of you but e’en to turn back again, for ye should have hunted longer nearer home; but tell this to Kari, that he must ride hither to me and be here with me if he will; but though he will not come hither east, still I will look after his farm at Dyrholms if he will, but tell him too that I will stand by him and ride with him to the Althing. And he shall also know this, that we brothers are the next of kin to follow up the feud, and we mean so to take up the suit, that outlawry shall follow and after that revenge, man for man, if we can bring it about; but I do not go with you now, because I know naught will come of it, and they will now be as wary as they can of themselves.”
Now they ride back, and all met at Hof and talked there among themselves, and said that they had gotten disgrace since they had not found them. Mord said that was not so. Then many men were eager that they should fare to Fleetlithe, and pull down the homesteads of all those who had been at those deeds, but still they listened for Mord’s utterance.
“That,” he said, “would be the greatest folly.” They asked why he said that.
“Because,” he said, “if their houses stand, they will be sure to visit them to see their wives; and then, as time rolls on, we may hunt them down there; and now ye shall none of you doubt that I will be true to thee Kari, and to all of you, and in all counsel, for I have to answer for myself.”
Hjallti bade him do as he said. Then Hjallti bade Kari to come and stay with him; he said he would ride thither first. They told him what Thorgeir had offered him, and he said he would make use of that offer afterwards, but said his heart told him it would be well if there were many such.
After that the whole band broke up.
Flosi and his men saw all these tidings from where they were on the fell; and Flosi said -
“Now we will take our horses and ride away, for now it will be some good.”
The sons of Sigfus asked whether it would be worth while to get to their homes and tell the news.
“It must be Mord’s meaning,” says Flosi, “that ye will visit your wives; and my guess is, that his plan is to let your houses stand unsacked; but my plan is that not a man shall part from the other, but all ride east with me.”
So every man took that counsel, and then they all rode east and north of the Jokul, and so on till they came to Swinefell.
Flosi sent at once men out to get in stores, so that nothing might fall short.
Flosi never spoke about the deed, but no fear was found in him, and he was at home the whole winter till Yule was over.
Njal’s and Bergthora’s bones found
Kari bade Hjallti to go and search for Njal’s bones, “for all will believe in what thou sayest and thinkest about them”.
Hjallti said he would be most willing to bear Njal’s bones to church; so they rode thence fifteen men. They rode east over Thurso-water, and called on men there to come with them till they had one hundred men, reckoning Njal’s neighbours.
They came to Bergthorsknoll at mid-day.
Hjallti asked Kari under what part of the house Njal might be lying, but Kari showed them to the spot, and there was a great heap of ashes to dig away. There they found the hide underneath, and it was as though it were shrivelled with the fire. They raised up the hide, and lo! they were unburnt under it. All praised God for that, and thought it was a great token.
Then the boy was taken up who had lain between them, and of him a finger was burnt off which he had stretched out from under the hide.
Njal was borne out, and so was Bergthora, and then all men went to see their bodies.
Then Hjallti said – “What like look to you these bodies?”
They answered, “We will wait for thy utterance”.
Then Hjallti said, “I shall speak what I say with all freedom of speech. The body of Bergthora looks as it was likely she would look, and still fair; but Njal’s body and visage seem to me so bright that I have never seen any dead man’s body so bright as this.”
They all said they thought so too.
Then they sought for Skarphedinn, and the men of the household showed them to the spot where Flosi and his men heard the song sung, and there the roof had fallen down by the gable, and there Hjallti said that they should look. Then they did so, and found Skarphedinn’s body there, and he had stood up hard by the gable-wall, and his legs were burnt off him right up to the knees, but all the rest of him was unburnt. He had bitten through his under lip, his eyes were wide open and not swollen nor starting out of his head; he had driven his axe into the gable-wall so hard that it had gone in up to the middle of the blade, and that was why it was not softened.
After that the axe was broken out of the wall, and Hjallti took up the axe, and said -
“This is a rare weapon, and few would be able to wield it.”
“I see a man,” said Kari, “who shall bear the axe.”
“Who is that?” says Hjallti.
“Thorgeir Craggeir,” says Kari, “he whom I now think to be the greatest man in all their family.”
Then Skarphedinn was stripped of his clothes, for they were unburnt; he had laid his hands in a cross, and the right hand uppermost. They found marks on him; one between his shoulders and the other on his chest, and both were branded in the shape of a cross, and men thought that he must have burnt them in himself.
All men said that they thought that it was better to be near Skarphedinn dead than they weened, for no man was afraid of him.
They sought for the bones of Grim, and found them in the midst of the hall. They found, too, there, right over-against him under the side wall, Thord Freedmanson; but in the weaving-room they found Saevuna the carline, and three men more. In all they found there the bones of nine souls. Now they carried the bodies to the church, and then Hjallti rode home and Kari with him. A swelling came on Ingialld’s leg, and then he fared to Hjallti, and was healed there, but still he limped ever afterwards.
Kari rode to Tongue to Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son. By that time Thorhalla was come home, and she had already told the tidings. Asgrim took Kari by both hands, and bade him be there all that year. Kari said so it should be.
Asgrim asked besides all the folk who had been in the house at Bergthorsknoll to stay with him. Kari said that was well offered, and said he would take it on their behalf.
Then all the folk were flitted thither.
Thorhall Asgrim’s son was so startled when he was told that his foster-father Njal was dead, and that he had been burnt in his house, that he swelled all over, and a stream of blood burst out of both his ears, and could not be staunched, and he fell into a swoon, and then it was staunched.
After that he stood up, and said he had behaved like a coward, “but I would that I might be able to avenge this which has befallen me on some of those who burnt him”.
But when others said that no one would think this a shame to him, he said he could not stop the mouths of the people from talking about it.
Asgrim asked Kari what trust and help he thought he might look for from those east of the rivers. Kari said that Mord Valgard’s son, and Hjallti, Skeggi’s son, would yield him all the help they could, and so, too, would Thorgeir Craggeir, and all those brothers.
Asgrim said that was great strength.
“What strength shall we have from thee?” says Kari.
“All that I can give,” says Asgrim, “and I will lay down my life on it.”
“So do,” says Kari.
“I have also,” says Asgrim, “brought Gizur the white into the suit, and have asked his advice how we shall set about it.”
“What advice did he give?” asks Kari.
“He counselled,” answers Asgrim, “‘that we should hold us quite still till spring, but then ride east and set the suit on foot against Flosi for the manslaughter of Helgi, and summon the neighbours from their homes, and give due notice at the Thing of the suits for the burning, and summon the same neighbours there too on the inquest before the court. I asked Gizur who should plead the suit for manslaughter, but he said that Mord should plead it whether he liked it or not, and now,’ he went on, ‘it shall fall most heavily on him that up to this time all the suits he has undertaken have had the worst ending. Kari shall also be wroth whenever he meets Mord, and so, if he be made to fear on one side, and has to look to me on the other, then he will undertake the duty.’”
Then Kari said, “We will follow thy counsel as long as we can, and thou shalt lead us”.
It is to be told of Kari that he could not sleep of nights. Asgrim woke up one night and heard that Kari was awake, and Asgrim said – “Is it that thou canst not sleep at night?”
Then Kari sang this song -
Bender of the bow of battle,
Sleep will not my eyelids seal,
Still my murdered messmates’ bidding
Haunts my mind the livelong night;
Since the men their brands abusing
Burned last autumn guileless Njal,
Burned him house and home together,
Mindful am I of my hurt.
Kari spoke of no men so often as of Njal and Skarphedinn, and Bergthora and Helgi. He never abused his foes, and never threatened them.
One night it so happened that Flosi struggled much in his sleep. Glum Hilldir’s son woke him up, and then Flosi said -
“Call me Kettle of the Mark.”
Kettle came thither, and Flosi said, “I will tell thee my dream”.
“I am ready to hear it,” says Kettle.
“I dreamt,” says Flosi, “that methought I stood below Loom-nip, and went out and looked up to the Nip, and all at once it opened, and a man came out of the Nip, and he was clad in goatskins, and had an iron staff in his hand. He called, as he walked, on many of my men, some sooner and some later, and named them by name. First he called Grim the Red my kinsman, and Arni Kol’s son. Then methought something strange followed, methought he called Eyjolf Bolverk’s son, and Ljot son of Hall of the Side, and some six men more. Then he held his peace awhile. After that he called five men of our band, and among them were the sons of Sigfus, thy brothers; then he called other six men, and among them were Lambi, and Modolf, and Glum. Then he called three men. Last of all he called Gunnar Lambi’s son, and Kol Thorstein’s son. After that he came up to me; I asked him ‘what news’. He said he had tidings enough to tell. Then I asked him for his name, but he called himself Irongrim. I asked him whither he was going; he said he had to fare to the Althing. ‘What shalt thou do there?’ I said. ‘First I shall challenge the inquest,’ he answers, ‘and then the courts, then clear the field for fighters.’ After that he sang this song -
“‘Soon a man death’s snake-strokes dealing
High shall lift his head on earth,
Here amid the dust low rolling
Battered brainpans men shall see:
Now upon the hills in hurly
Buds the blue steel’s harvest bright;
Soon the bloody dew of battle
Thigh-deep through the ranks shall rise.’
“Then he shouted with such a mighty shout that methought everything near shook, and dashed down his staff, and there was a mighty crash. Then he went back into the fell, but fear clung to me; and now I wish thee to tell me what thou thinkest this dream is.”
“It is my foreboding,” says Kettle, “that all those who were called must be ‘fey’. It seems to me good counsel that we tell this dream to no man just now.”
Flosi said so it should be. Now the winter passes away till Yule was over. Then Flosi said to his men -
“Now I mean that we should fare from home, for methinks we shall not be able to have an idle peace. Now we shall fare to pray for help, and now that will come true which I told you, that we should have to bow the knee to many ere this quarrel were ended.”
Of Flosi’s journey and his asking for help
After that they busked them from home all together. Flosi was in long-hose because he meant to go on foot, and then he knew that it would seem less hard to the others to walk.
Then they fared from home to Knappvale, but the evening after to Broadwater, and then to Calffell, thence by Bjornness to Hornfirth, thence to Staffell in Lon, and then to Thvattwater to Hall of the Side.
Flosi had to wife Steinvora, his daughter.
Hall gave them a very hearty welcome, and Flosi said to Hall -
“I will ask thee, father-in-law, that thou wouldst ride to the Thing with me with all thy Thingmen.”
“Now,” answered Hall, “it has turned out as the saw says, ‘but a short while is hand fain of blow’; and yet it is one and the same man in thy band who now hangs his head, and who then goaded thee on to the worst of deeds when it was still undone. But my help I am bound to lend thee in all such places as I may.”
“What counsel dost thou give me,” said Flosi, “in the strait in which I now am?”
“Thou shalt fare,” said Hall, “north, right up to Weaponfirth, and ask all the chiefs for aid, and thou wilt yet need it all before the Thing is over.”
Flosi stayed there three nights, and rested him, and fared thence east to Geitahellna, and so to Berufirth; there they were the night. Thence they fared east to Broaddale in Haydale. There Hallbjorn the strong dwelt. He had to wife Oddny the sister of Saurli Broddhelgi’s son, and Flosi had a hearty welcome there.
Hallbjorn asked how far north among the firths Flosi meant to go. He said he meant to go as far as Weaponfirth. Then Flosi took a purse of money from his belt, and said he would give it to Hallbjorn. He took the money, but yet said he had no claim on Flosi for gifts, but still I would be glad to know in what thou wilt that I repay thee.
“I have no need of money,” says Flosi, “but I wish thou wouldst ride to the Thing with me, and stand by me in my quarrel, but still I have no ties or kinship to tell towards thee.”
“I will grant thee that,” said Hallbjorn, “to ride to the Thing with thee, and to stand by thee in thy quarrel as I would by my brother.”
Flosi thanked him, and Hallbjorn asked much about the Burning, but they told him all about it at length.
Thence Flosi fared to Broaddale’s heath, and so to Hrafnkelstede, there dwelt Hrafnkell, the son of Thorir, the son of Hrafnkell Raum. Flosi had a hearty welcome there, and sought for help and a promise to ride to the Thing from Hrafnkell, but he stood out a long while, though the end of it was that he gave his word that his son Thorir should ride with all their Thingmen, and yield him such help as the other priests of the same district.
Flosi thanked him and fared away to Bersastede. There Holmstein son of Bersi the wise dwelt, and he gave Flosi a very hearty welcome. Flosi begged him for help. Holmstein said he had been long in his debt for help.
Thence they fared to Waltheofstede – there Saurli Broddhelgi’s son, Bjarni’s brother, dwelt. He had to wife Thordisa, a daughter of Gudmund the powerful, of Modruvale. They had a hearty welcome there. But next morning Flosi raised the question with Saurli that he should ride to the Althing with him, and bid him money for it.
“I cannot tell about that,” says Saurli, “so long as I do not know on which side my father-in-law Gudmund the powerful stands, for I mean to stand by him on whichever side he stands.”
“Oh!” said Flosi, “I see by thy answer that a woman rules in this house.”
Then Flosi stood up and bade his men take their upper clothing and weapons, and then they fared away, and got no help there. So they fared below Lagarfleet and over the heath to Njardwick; there two brothers dwelt, Thorkel the allwise, and Thorwalld his brother; they were sons of Kettle, the son of Thidrandi the wise, the son of Kettle rumble, son of Thorir Thidrandi. The mother of Thorkel the allwise and Thorwalld was Yngvillda, daughter of Thorkel the wise. Flosi got a hearty welcome there; he told those brothers plainly of his errand, and asked for their help; but they put him off until he gave three marks of silver to each of them for their aid; then they agreed to stand by Flosi.
Their mother Yngvillda was by when they gave their words to ride to the Althing, and wept. Thorkel asked why she wept; and she answered -
“I dreamt that thy brother Thorwalld was clad in a red kirtle, and methought it was so tight as though it were sewn on him; methought too that he wore red hose on his legs and feet, and bad shoethongs were twisted round them; methought it ill to see when I knew he was so uncomfortable, but I could do naught for him.”
They laughed and told her she had lost her wits, and said her babble should not stand in the way of their ride to the Thing.
Flosi thanked them kindly, and fared thence to Weaponfirth and came to Hof. There dwelt Bjarni Broddhelgi’s son. Bjarni took Flosi by both hands, and Flosi bade Bjarni money for his help.
“Never,” says Bjarni, “have I sold my manhood or help for bribes, but now that thou art in need of help, I will do thee a good turn for friendship’s sake, and ride to the Thing with thee, and stand by thee as I would by my brother.”
“Then thou hast thrown a great load of debt on my hands,” said Flosi, “but still I looked for as much from thee.”
Thence Flosi and his men fared to Crosswick. Thorkel Geiti’s son was a great friend of his. Flosi told him his errand, and Thorkel said it was but his duty to stand by him in every way in his power, and not to part from his quarrel. Thorkel gave Flosi good gifts at parting.
Thence they fared north to Weaponfirth and up into the Fleetdale country, and turned in as guests at Holmstein’s, the son of Bersi the wise. Flosi told him that all had backed him in his need and business well, save Saurli Broddhelgi’s son. Holmstein said the reason of that was that he was not a man of strife. Holmstein gave Flosi good gifts.
Flosi fared up Fleetdale, and thence south on the fell across Oxenlava and down Swinehorndale, and so out by Alftafirth to the west, and did not stop till he came to Thvattwater to his father-in-law Hall’s house. There he stayed half a month, and his men with him and rested him.
Flosi asked Hall what counsel he would now give him, and what he should do next, and whether he should change his plans.
“My counsel,” said Hall, “is this, that thou goest home to thy house, and the sons of Sigfus with thee, but that they send men to set their homesteads in order. But first of all fare home, and when ye ride to the Thing, ride all together, and do not scatter your band. Then let the sons of Sigfus go to see their wives on the way. I too will ride to the Thing, and Ljot my son with all our Thingmen, and stand by thee with such force as I can gather to me.”
Flosi thanked him, and Hall gave him good gifts at parting.
Then Flosi went away from Thvattwater, and nothing is to be told of his journey till he comes home to Swinefell. There he stayed at home the rest of the winter, and all the summer right up to the Thing.
Of Thorhall and Kari
Thorhall Asgrim’s son, and Kari Solmund’s son, rode one day to Mossfell to see Gizur the white; he took them with both hands, and there they were at his house a very long while. Once it happened as they and Gizur talked of Njal’s burning, that Gizur said it was very great luck that Kari had got away. Then a song came into Kari’s mouth.
I who whetted helmet-hewer,ö
I who oft have burnished brand,
From the fray went all unwilling
When Njal’s rooftree crackling roared;
Out I leapt when bands of spearmen
Lighted there a blaze of flame!
Listen men unto my moaning,
Mark the telling of my grief.
Then Gizur said, “It must be forgiven thee that thou art mindful, and so we will talk no more about it just now”.
Kari says that he will ride home; and Gizur said “I will now make a clean breast of my counsel to thee. Thou shalt not ride home, but still thou shalt ride away, and east under Eyjafell, to see Thorgeir Craggeir, and Thorleif crow. They shall ride from the east with thee. They are the next of kin in the suit, and with them shall ride Thorgrim the big, their brother. Ye shall ride to Mord Valgard’s son’s house, and tell him this message from me, that he shall take up the suit for manslaughter for Helgi Njal’s son against Flosi. But if he utters any words against this, then shalt thou make thyself most wrathful, and make believe as though thou wouldst let thy axe fall on his head; and in the second place, thou shalt assure him of my wrath if he shows any ill will. Along with that shalt thou say, that I will send and fetch away my daughter Thorkatla, and make her come home to me; but that he will not abide, for he loves her as the very eyes in his head.”
Kari thanked him for his counsel. Kari spoke nothing of help to him, for he thought he would show himself his good friend in this as in other things.
Thence Kari rode east over the rivers, and so to Fleetlithe, and east across Markfleet, and so on to Selialandsmull. So they ride east to Holt.
Thorgeir welcomed them with the greatest kindliness. He told them of Flosi’s journey, and how great help he had got in the east firths.
Kari said it was no wonder that he, who had to answer for so much, should ask for help for himself.
Then Thorgeir said, “The better things go for them, the worse it shall be for them; we will only follow them up so much the harder”.
Kari told Thorgeir of Gizur’s advice. After that they ride from the east to Rangrivervale to Mord Valgard’s son’s house. He gave them a hearty welcome. Kari told him the message of Gizur his father-in-law. He was slow to take the duty on him, and said it was harder to go to law with Flosi than with any other ten men.
“Thou behavest now as he [Gizur] thought,” said Kari; “for thou art a bad bargain in every way; thou art both a coward and heartless, but the end of this shall be as is fitting, that Thorkatla shall fare home to her father.”
She busked her at once, and said she had long been “boun” to part from Mord. Then he changed his mood and his words quickly, and begged off their wrath, and took the suit upon him at once.
“Now,” said Kari, “thou hast taken the suit upon thee, see that thou pleadest it without fear, for thy life lies on it.”
Mord said he would lay his whole heart on it to do this well and manfully.
After that Mord summoned to him nine neighbours – they were all near neighbours to the spot where the deed was done. Then Mord took Thorgeir by the hand and named two witnesses to bear witness, “that Thorgeir Thorir’s son hands me over a suit for manslaughter against Flosi Thord’s son, to plead it for the slaying of Helgi Njal’s son, with all those proofs which have to follow the suit. Thou handest over to me this suit to plead and to settle, and to enjoy all rights in it, as though I were the rightful next of kin. Thou handest it over to me by law, and I take it from thee by law.”
A second time Mord named his witnesses, “to bear witness,” said he, “that I give notice of an assault laid down by law against Flosi Thord’s son, for that he dealt Helgi Njal’s son a brain, or a body, or a marrow wound, which proved a death wound; and from which Helgi got his death. I give notice of this before five witnesses” – here he named them all by name – “I give this lawful notice, I give notice of a suit which Thorgeir Thorir’s son has handed over to me.”
Again he named witnesses to “bear witness that I give notice of a brain, of a body, or a marrow wound against Flosi Thord’s son, for that wound which proved a death wound, but Helgi got his death therefrom on such and such a spot, when Flosi Thord’s son first rushed on Helgi Njal’s son with an assault laid down by law. I give notice of this before five neighbours ” – then he named them all by name – “I give this lawful notice. I give notice of a suit which Thorgeir Thorir’s son has handed over to me.”
Then Mord named his witnesses again “to bear witness,” said he, “that I summon these nine neighbours who dwell nearest the spot” – here he named them all by name – “to ride to the Althing, and to sit on the inquest to find whether Flosi Thord’s son rushed with an assault laid down by law on Helgi Njal’s son, on that spot where Flosi Thord’s son dealt Helgi Njal’s son a brain, or a body, or a marrow wound, which proved a death wound, and from which Helgi got his death. I call on you to utter all those words which ye are bound to find by law, and which I shall call on you to utter before the court, and which belong to this suit; I call upon you by a lawful summons – I call on you so that ye may yourselves hear – I call on you in the suit which Thorgeir Thorir’s son has handed over to me.”
Again Mord named his witnesses, “to bear witness, that I summon these nine neighbours who dwell nearest to the spot to ride to the Althing, and to sit on an inquest to find whether Flosi Thord’s son wounded Helgi Njal’s son with a brain, or body, or marrow wound, which proved a death wound, and from which Helgi got his death, on that spot where Flosi Thord’s son first rushed on Helgi Njal’s son with an assault laid down by law. I call on you to utter all those words which ye are bound to find by law, and which I shall call on you to utter before the court, and which belong to this suit I call upon you by a lawful summons – I call on you so that ye may yourselves hear – I call on you in the suit which Thorgeir Thorir’s son has handed over to me.”
Then Mord said -
“Now is the suit set on foot as ye asked, and now I will pray thee, Thorgeir Craggeir, to come to me when thou ridest to the Thing, and then let us both ride together, each with our band, and keep as close as we can together, for my band shall be ready by the very beginning of the Thing, and I will be true to you in all things.”
They showed themselves well pleased at that, and this was fast bound by oaths, that no man should sunder himself from another till Kari willed it, and that each of them should lay down his life for the other’s life. Now they parted with friendship, and settled to meet again at the Thing.
Now Thorgeir rides back east, but Kari rides west over the rivers till he came to Tongue, to Asgrim’s house. He welcomed them wonderfully well, and Kari told Asgrim all Gizur the white’s plan, and of the setting on foot of the suit.
“I looked for as much from him,” says Asgrim, “that he would behave well, and now he has shown it.”
Then Asgrim went on -
“What heardest thou from the east of Flosi?”
“He went east all the way to Weaponfirth,” answers Kari, “and nearly all the chiefs have promised to ride with him to the Althing, and to help him. They look, too, for help from the Reykdalesmen, and the men of Lightwater, and the Axefirthers.”
Then they talked much about it, and so the time passes away up to the Althing.
Thorhall Asgrim’s son took such a hurt in his leg that the foot above the ankle was as big and swollen as a woman’s thigh, and he could not walk save with a staff. He was a man tall in growth, and strong and powerful, dark of hue in hair and skin, measured and guarded in his speech, and yet hot and hasty tempered. He was the third greatest lawyer in all Iceland.
Now the time comes that men should ride from home to the Thing, Asgrim said to Kari -
“Thou shalt ride at the very beginning of the Thing, and fit up our booths, and my son Thorhall with thee. Thou wilt treat him best and kindest, as he is footlame, but we shall stand in the greatest need of him at this Thing. With you two, twenty men more shall ride.”
After that they made ready for their journey, and then they rode to the Thing, and set up their booths, and fitted them out well.
Of Flosi and the burners
Flosi rode from the east and those hundred and twenty men who had been at the Burning with him. They rode till they came to Fleetlithe. Then the sons of Sigfus looked after their homesteads and tarried there that day, but at even they rode west over Thurso-water, and slept there that night. But next morning early they saddled their horses and rode off on their way.
Then Flosi said to his men -
“Now will we ride to Tongue to Asgrim to breakfast, and trample down his pride a little.”
They said that were well done. They rode till they had a short way to Tongue. Asgrim stood out of doors, and some men with him. They see the band as soon as ever they could do so from the house. Then Asgrim’s men said -
“There must be Thorgeir Craggeir.”
“Not he,” said Asgrim. “I think so all the more because these men fare with laughter and wantonness; but such kinsmen of Njal as Thorgeir is would not smile before some vengeance is taken for the Burning, and I will make another guess, and maybe ye will think that unlikely. My meaning is, that it must be Flosi and the Burners with him, and they must mean to humble us with insults, and we will now go indoors all of us.”
Now they do so, and Asgrim made them sweep the house and put up the hangings, and set the boards and put meat on them. He made them place stools along each bench all down the room.
Flosi rode into the “town,” and bade men alight from their horses and go in. They did so, and Flosi and his men went into the hall, Asgrim sate on the cross-bench on the dais. Flosi looked at the benches and saw that all was made ready that men needed to have. Asgrim gave them no greeting, but said to Flosi -
“The boards are set, so that meat may be free to those that need it.”
Flosi sat down to the board, and all his men; but they laid their arms up against the wainscot. They sat on the stools who found no room on the benches; but four men stood with weapons just before where Flosi sat while they ate.
Asgrim kept his peace during the meat, but was as red to look on as blood.
But when they were full, some women cleared away the boards, while others brought in water to wash their hands. Flosi was in no greater hurry than if he had been at home. There lay a pole-axe in the corner of the dais. Asgrim caught it up with both hands, and ran up to the rail at the edge of the dais, and made a blow at Flosi’s head. Glum Hilldir’s son happened to see what he was about to do, and sprang up at once, and got hold of the axe above Asgrim’s hands, and turned the edge at once on Asgrim; for Glum was very strong. Then many more men ran up and seized Asgrim, but Flosi said that no man was to do Asgrim any harm, “for we put him to too hard a trial, and he only did what he ought, and showed in that that he had a big heart”.
Then Flosi said to Asgrim, “Here, now, we shall part safe and sound, and meet at the Thing, and there begin our quarrel over again”.
“So it will be,” says Asgrim; “and I would wish that, ere this Thing be over, ye should have to take in some of your sails.”
Flosi answered him never a word, and then they went out, and mounted their horses, and rode away. They rode till they came to Laugarwater, and were there that night; but next morning they rode on to Baitvale, and baited their horses there, and there many bands rode to meet them. There was Hall of the Side, and all the Eastfirthers. Flosi greeted them well, and told them of his journeys and dealings with Asgrim. Many praised him for that, and said such things were bravely done.
Then Hall said, “I look on this in another way than ye do, for methinks it was a foolish prank; they were sure to bear in mind their griefs, even though they were not reminded of them anew; but those men who try others so heavily must look for all evil”.
It was seen from Hall’s way that he thought this deed far too strong. They rode thence all together, till they came to the Upper Field, and there they set their men in array, and rode down on the Thing.
Flosi had made them fit out Byrgir’s booth ere he rode to the Thing; but the Eastfirthers rode to their own booths.
Of Thorgeir Craggeir
Thorgeir Craggeir rode from the east with much people. His brothers were with him, Thorleif crow and Thorgrim the big. They came to Hof, to Mord Valgard’s son’s house, and bided there till he was ready. Mord had gathered every man who could bear arms, and they could see nothing about him but that he was most steadfast in everything, and now they rode until they came west across the rivers. Then they waited for Hjallti Skeggi’s son. He came after they had waited a short while, and they greeted him well, and rode afterwards all together till they came to Reykia in Bishop’s-tongue, and bided there for Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son, and he came to meet them there. Then they rode west across Bridgewater. Then Asgrim told them all that had passed between him and Flosi; and Thorgeir said -
“I would that we might try their bravery ere the Thing closes.”
They rode until they came to Baitvale. There Gizur the white came to meet them with a very great company, and they fell to talking together. Then they rode to the Upper Field, and drew up all their men in array there, and so rode to the Thing.
Flosi and his men all took to their arms, and it was within an ace that they would fall to blows. But Asgrim and his friends and their followers would have no hand in it, and rode to their booths; and now all was quiet that day, so that they had naught to do with one another. Thither were come chiefs from all the Quarters of the land; there had never been such a crowded Thing before, that men could call to mind.
Of Eyjolf Bolverk’s son
There was a man named Eyjolf. He was the son of Bolverk, the son of Eyjolf the guileful, of Otterdale. Eyjolf was a man of great rank, and best skilled in law of all men, so that some said he was the third best lawyer in Iceland. He was the fairest in face of all men, tall and strong, and there was the making of a great chief in him. He was greedy of money, like the rest of his kinsfolk.
One day Flosi went to the booth of Bjarni Broddhelgi’s son. Bjarni took him by both hands, and sat Flosi down by his side. They talked about many things, and at last Flosi said to Bjarni -
“What counsel shall we now take?”
“I think,” answered Bjarni, “that it is now hard to say what to do, but the wisest thing seems to me to go round and ask for help, since they are drawing strength together against you. I will also ask thee, Flosi, whether there be any very good lawyer in your band; for now there are but two courses left; one to ask if they will take an atonement, and that is not a bad choice, but the other is to defend the suit at law, if there be any defence to it, though that will seem to be a bold course; and this is why I think this last ought to be chosen, because ye have hitherto fared high and mightily, and it is unseemly now to take a lower course.”
“As to thy asking about lawyers,” said Flosi, “I will answer thee at once that there is no such man in our band; nor do I know where to look for one except it be Thorkel Geiti’s son, thy kinsman.”
“We must not reckon on him,” said Bjarni, “for though he knows something of law, he is far too wary, and no man need hope to have him as his shield; but he will back thee as well as any man who backs thee best, for he has a stout heart; besides, I must tell thee that it will be that man’s bane who undertakes the defence in this suit for the Burning, but I have no mind that this should befall my kinsman Thorkel, so ye must turn your eyes elsewhither.”
Flosi said he knew nothing about who were the best lawyers.
“There is a man named Eyjolf,” said Bjarni; “he is Bolverk’s son, and he is the best lawyer in the Westfirther’s Quarter; but you will need to give him much money if you are to bring him into the suit, but still we must not stop at that. We must also go with our arms to all law business, and be most wary of ourselves, but not meddle with them before we are forced to fight for our lives. And now I will go with thee, and set out at once on our begging for help, for now methinks the peace will be kept but a little while longer.”
After that they go out of the booth, and to the booths of the Axefirthers. Then Bjarni talks with Lyting and Bleing, and Hroi Arnstein’s son, and he got speedily whatever he asked of them. Then they fared to see Kol, the son of Killing-Skuti, and Eyvind Thorkel’s son, the son of Askel the priest, and asked them for their help; but they stood out a long while, but the end of it was that they took three marks of silver for it, and so went into the suit with them.
Then they went to the booths of the men of Lightwater, and stayed there some time. Flosi begged the men of Lightwater for help, but they were stubborn and hard to win over, and then Flosi said, with much wrath, “Ye are ill-behaved! ye are grasping and wrongful at home in your own country, and ye will not help men at the Thing, though they need it. No doubt you will be held up to reproach at the Thing, and very great blame will be laid on you if ye bare not in mind that scorn and those biting words which Skarphedinn hurled at you men of Lightwater.”
But on the other hand, Flosi dealt secretly with them, and bade them money for their help, and so coaxed them over with fair words, until it came about that they promised him their aid, and then became so steadfast that they said they would fight for Flosi, if need were.
Then Bjarni said to Flosi -
“Well done! well done! Thou art a mighty chief, and a bold outspoken man, and reckest little what thou sayest to men.”
After that they fared away west across the river, and so to the Hladbooth. They saw many men outside before the booth. There was one man who had a scarlet cloak over his shoulders, and a gold band round his head, and an axe studded with silver in his hand.
“This is just right,” said Bjarni, “here now is the man I spoke of, Eyjolf Bolverk’s son, if thou wilt see him, Flosi.”
Then they went to meet Eyjolf, and hailed him. Eyjolf knew Bjarni at once, and greeted him well. Bjarni took Eyjolf by the hand, and led him up into the “Great Rift”. Flosi’s and Bjarni’s men followed after, and Eyjolf’s men went also with him. They bade them stay upon the lower brink of the Rift, and look about them, but Flosi, and Bjarni, and Eyjolf went on till they came to where the path leads down from the upper brink of the Rift.
Flosi said it was a good spot to sit down there, for they could see around them far and wide. Then they sat them down there. They were four of them together, and no more.
Then Bjarni spoke to Eyjolf, and said -
“Thee, friend, have we come to see, for we much need thy help in every way.”
“Now,” said Eyjolf, “there is good choice of men here at the Thing, and ye will not find it hard to fall on those who will be a much greater strength to you than I can be.”
“Not so,” said Bjarni, “Thou hast many things which show that there is no greater man than thou at the Thing; first of all, that thou art so well-born, as all those men are who are sprung from Ragnar hairybreeks; thy forefathers, too, have always stood first in great suits, both here at the Thing, and at home in their own country, and they have always had the best of it; we think, therefore, it is likely that thou wilt be lucky in winning suits, like thy kinsfolk.”
“Thou speakest well, Bjarni,” said Eyjolf; “but I think that I have small share in all this that thou sayest.”
Then Flosi said -
“There is no need beating about the bush as to what we have in mind. We wish to ask for thy help, Eyjolf, and that thou wilt stand by us in our suits, and go to the court with us, and undertake the defence, if there be any, and plead it for us, and stand by us in all things that may happen at this Thing.”
Eyjolf jumped up in wrath, and said that no man had any right to think that he could make a catspaw of him, or drag him on if he had no mind to go himself.
“I see, too, now,” he says, “what has led you to utter all those fair words with which ye began to speak to me.”
Then Hallbjorn the strong caught hold of him and sate him down by his side, between him and Bjarni, and said -
“No tree falls at the first stroke, friend, but sit here awhile by us.”
Then Flosi drew a gold ring off his arm.
“This ring will I give thee, Eyjolf, for thy help and friendship, and so show thee that I will not befool thee. It will be best for thee to take the ring, for there is no man here at the Thing to whom I have ever given such a gift.”
The ring was such a good one, and so well made, that it was worth twelve hundred yards of russet stuff.
Hallbjorn drew the ring on Eyjolf’s arm; and Eyjolf said -
“It is now most fitting that I should take the ring, since thou behavest so handsomely; and now thou mayest make up thy mind that I will undertake the defence, and do all things needful.”
“Now,” said Bjarni, “ye behave handsomely on both sides, and here are men well fitted to be witnesses, since I and Hallbjorn are here, that thou hast undertaken the suit.”
Then Eyjolf arose, and Flosi too, and they took one another by the hand; and so Eyjolf undertook the whole defence of the suit off Flosi’s hands, and so, too, if any suit arose out of the defence, for it often happens that what is a defence in one suit, is a plaintiff’s plea in another. So he took upon him all the proofs and proceedings which belonged to those suits, whether they were to be pleaded before the Quarter Court or the Fifth Court. Flosi handed them over in lawful form, and Eyjolf took them in lawful form, and then he said to Flosi and Bjarni.
“Now I have undertaken this defence just as ye asked, but my wish it is that ye should still keep it secret at first; but if the matter comes into the Fifth Court, then be most careful not to say that ye have given goods for my help.”
Then Flosi went home to his booth, and Bjarni with him, but Eyjolf went to the booth of Snorri the priest, and sate down by him, and they talked much together.
Snorri the priest caught hold of Eyjolf’s arm, and turned up the sleeve, and sees that he had a great ring of gold on his arm. Then Snorri the priest said -
“Pray, was this ring bought or given?”
Eyjolf was put out about it, and had never a word to say. Then Snorri said -
“I see plainly that thou must have taken it as a gift, and may this ring not be thy death!”
Eyjolf jumped up and went away, and would not speak about it; and Snorri said, as Eyjolf arose -
“It is very likely that thou wilt know what kind of gift thou hast taken by the time this Thing is ended.”
Then Eyjolf went to his booth.
Of Asgrim, and Gizur, and Kari
Now Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son talks to Gizur the white, and Kari Solmund’s son, and to Hjallti Skeggi’s son, Mord Valgard’s son, and Thorgeir Craggeir, and says -
“There is no need to have any secrets here, for only those men are by who know all our counsel. Now I will ask you if ye know anything of their plans, for if you do, it seems to me that we must take fresh counsel about our own plans.”
“Snorri the priest,” answers Gizur the white, “sent a man to me, and bade him tell me that Flosi had gotten great help from the Northlanders; but that Eyjolf Bolverk’s son, his kinsman, had had a gold ring given him by some one, and made a secret of it, and Snorri said it was his meaning that Eyjolf Bolverk’s son must be meant to defend the suit at law, and that the ring must have been given him for that.”
They were all agreed that it must be so. Then Gizur spoke to them -
“Now has Mord Valgard’s son, my son-in-law, undertaken a suit, which all must think most hard, to prosecute Flosi; and now my wish is that ye share the other suits amongst you, for now it will soon be time to give notice of the suits at the Hill of Laws. We shall need also to ask for more help.”
Asgrim said so it should be, “but we will beg thee to go round with us when we ask for help”. Gizur said he would be ready to do that.
After that Gizur picked out all the wisest men of their company to go with him as his backers. There was Hjallti Skeggi’s son, and Asgrim, and Kari, and Thorgeir Craggeir.
Then Gizur the white said -
“Now will we first go to the booth of Skapti Thorod’s son,” and they do so. Gizur the white went first, then Hjallti, then Kari, then Asgrim, then Thorgeir Craggeir, and then his brothers.
They went into the booth. Skapti sat on the cross-bench on the dais, and when he saw Gizur the white he rose up to meet him, and greeted him and all of them well, and bade Gizur to sit down by him, and he does so. Then Gizur said to Asgrim -
“Now shalt thou first raise the question of help with Skapti, but I will throw in what I think good.”
“We are come hither,” said Asgrim, “for this sake, Skapti, to seek help and aid at thy hand.”
“I was thought to be hard to win the last time,” said Skapti, “when I would not take the burden of your trouble on me.”
“It is quite another matter now,” said Gizur. “Now the feud is for master Njal and mistress Bergthora, who were burnt in their own house without a cause, and for Njal’s three sons, and many other worthy men, and thou wilt surely never be willing to yield no help to men, or to stand by thy kinsmen and connections.”
“It was in my mind,” answers Skapti, “when Skarphedinn told me that I had myself borne tar on my own head, and cut up a sod of turf and crept under it, and when he said that I had been so afraid that Thorolf Lopt’s son of Eyrar bore me abroad in his ship among his meal-sacks, and so carried me to Iceland, that I would never share in the blood feud for his death.”
“Now there is no need to bear such things in mind,” said Gizur the white, “for he is dead who said that, and thou wilt surely grant me this, though thou wouldst not do it for other men’s sake.”
“This quarrel,” says Skapti, “is no business of thine, except thou choosest to be entangled in it along with them.”
Then Gizur was very wrath, and said -
“Thou art unlike thy father, though he was thought not to be quite clean-handed; yet was he ever helpful to men when they needed him most.”
“We are unlike in temper,” said Skapti. “Ye two, Asgrim and thou, think that ye have had the lead in mighty deeds; thou, Gizur the white, because thou overcamest Gunnar of Lithend; but Asgrim, for that he slew Gauk, his foster-brother.”
“Few,” said Asgrim, “bring forward the better if they know the worse, but many would say that I slew not Gauk ere I was driven to it. There is some excuse for thee for not helping us, but none for heaping reproaches on us; and I only wish before this Thing is out that thou mayest get from this suit the greatest disgrace, and that there may be none to make thy shame good.”
Then Gizur and his men stood up all of them, and went out, and so on to the booth of Snorri the priest.
Snorri sat on the cross-bench in his booth; they went into the booth, and he knew the men at once, and stood up to meet them, and bade them all welcome, and made room for them to sit by him.
After that, they asked one another the news of the day.
Then Asgrim spoke to Snorri, and said -
“For that am I and my kinsman Gizur come hither, to ask thee for thy help.”
“Thou speakest of what thou mayest always be forgiven for asking, for help in the blood-feud after such connections as thou hadst. We, too, got many wholesome counsels from Njal, though few now bear that in mind; but as yet I know not of what ye think ye stand most in need.”
“We stand most in need,” answers Asgrim, “of brisk lads and good weapons, if we fight them here at the Thing.”
“True it is,” said Snorri, “that much lies on that, and it is likeliest that ye will press them home with daring, and that they will defend themselves so in likewise, and neither of you will allow the other’s right. Then ye will not bear with them and fall on them, and that will be the only way left; for then they will seek to pay you off with shame for manscathe, and with dishonour for loss of kin.”
It was easy to see that he goaded them on in everything.
Then Gizur the white said -
“Thou speakest well, Snorri, and thou behavest ever most like a chief when most lies at stake.”
“I wish to know,” said Asgrim, “in what way thou wilt stand by us if things turn out as thou sayest.”
“I will show thee those marks of friendship,” said Snorri, “on which all your honour will hang, but I will not go with you to the court. But if ye fight here on the Thing, do not fall on them at all unless ye are all most steadfast and dauntless, for you have great champions against you. But if ye are over-matched, ye must let yourselves be driven hither towards us, for I shall then have drawn up my men in array hereabouts, and shall be ready to stand by you. But if it falls out otherwise, and they give way before you, my meaning is that they will try to run for a stronghold in the ‘Great Rift’. But if they come thither, then ye will never get the better of them. Now I will take that on my hands, to draw up my men there, and guard the pass to the stronghold, but we will not follow them whether they turn north or south along the river. And when you have slain out of their band about as many as I think ye will be able to pay blood-fines for, and yet keep your priesthoods and abodes, then I will run up with all my men and part you. Then ye shall promise to do us I bid you, and stop the battle, if I on my part do what I have now promised.”
Gizur thanked him kindly, and said that what he had said was just what they all needed, and then they all went out.
“Whither shall we go now?” said Gizur.
“To the Northlanders’ booth,” said Asgrim.
Then they fared thither.
Of Asgrim and Gudmund
And when they came into the booth then they saw where Gudmund the powerful sate and talked with Einer Conal’s son, his foster-child; he was a wise man.
Then they come before him, and Gudmund welcomed them very heartily, and made them clear the booth for them, that they might all be able to sit down.
Then they asked what tidings, and Asgrim said -
“There is no need to mutter what I have to say. We wish, Gudmund, to ask for thy steadfast help.”
“Have ye seen any other chiefs before?” said Gudmund.
They said they had been to see Skapti Thorod’s son and Snorri the priest, and told him quietly how they had fared with each of them.
Then Gudmund said -
“Last time I behaved badly and meanly to you. Then I was stubborn, but now ye shall drive your bargain with me all the more quickly because I was more stubborn then, and now I will go myself with you to the court with all my Thingmen, and stand by you in all such things as I can, and fight for you though this be needed, and lay down my life for your lives. I will also pay Skapti out in this way, that Thorstein gapemouth his son shall be in the battle on our side, for he will not dare to do aught else than I will, since he has Jodisa my daughter to wife, and then Skapti will try to part us.”
They thanked him, and talked with him long and low afterwards, so that no other men could hear.
Then Gudmund bade them not to go before the knees of any other chiefs, for he said that would be little-hearted.
“We will now run the risk with the force that we have. Ye must go with your weapons to all law-business, but not fight as things stand.”
Then they went all of them home to their booths, and all this was at first with few men’s knowledge.
So now the Thing goes on.
Of the declarations of the suits
It was one day that men went to the Hill of Laws, and the chiefs were so placed that Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son, and Gizur the white, and Gudmund the powerful, and Snorri the priest, were on the upper hand by the Hill of Laws; but the Eastfirthers stood down below.
Mord Valgard’s son stood next to Gizur his father-in-law; he was of all men the readiest-tongued.
Gizur told him that he ought to give notice of the suit for manslaughter, and bade him speak up, so that all might hear him well.
Then Mord took witness and said – “I take witness to this that I give notice of an assault laid down by law against Flosi Thord’s son, for that he rushed at Helgi Njal’s son and dealt him a brain, or a body, or a marrow wound, which proved a death-wound, and from which Helgi got his death. I say that in this suit he ought to be made a guilty man, an outlaw, not to be fed, not to be forwarded, not to be helped or harboured in any need. I say that all his goods are forfeited, half to me, and half to the men of the Quarter, who have a right by law to take his forfeited goods. I give notice of this suit for manslaughter in the Quarter Court into which this suit ought by law to come. I give notice of this lawful notice; I give notice in the hearing of all men on the Hill of Laws; I give notice of this suit to be pleaded this summer, and of full outlawry against Flosi Thord’s son; I give notice of a suit which Thorgeir Thorir’s son has handed over to me.”
Then a great shout was uttered at the Hill of Laws, that Mord spoke well and boldly.
Then Mord begun to speak a second time.
“I take you to witness to this,” says he, “that I give notice of a suit against Flosi Thord’s son, I give notice for that he wounded Helgi Njal’s son with a brain, or a body, or a marrow wound, which proved a death-wound, and from which Helgi got his death on that spot where Flosi Thord’s son had first rushed on Helgi Njal’s son with an assault laid down by law. I say that thou, Flosi, ought to be made in this suit a guilty man, an outlaw, not to be fed, not to be forwarded, not to he helped or harboured in any need. I say that all thy goods are forfeited, half to me and half to the men of the Quarter, who have a right by law to take the goods which have been forfeited by thee. I give notice of this suit in the Quarter Court into which it ought by law to come; I give notice of this lawful notice; I give notice of it in the hearing of all men on the Hill of Laws; I give notice of this suit to be pleaded this summer, and of full outlawry against Flosi Thord’s son, I give notice of the suit which Thorgeir Thorir’s son hath handed over to me.”
After that Mord sat him down.
Flosi listened carefully, but said never a word the while.
Then Thorgeir Craggeir stood up and took witness, and said – “I take witness to this, that I give notice of a suit against Glum Hilldir’s son, in that he took firing and lit it, and bore it to the house at Bergthorsknoll, when they were burned inside it, to wit, Njal Thorgeir’s son, and Bergthora Skarphedinn’s daughter, and all those other men who were burned inside it there and then. I say that in this suit he ought to be made a guilty man, an outlaw, not to be fed, not to be forwarded, not to be helped or harboured in any need. I say that all his goods are forfeited, half to me, and half to the men of the Quarter, who have a right by law to take his forfeited goods; I give notice of this suit in the Quarter Court into which it ought by law to come. I give notice in the hearing of all men on the Hill of Laws. I give notice of this suit to be pleaded this summer, and of full outlawry against Glum Hilldir’s son.”
Kari Solmund’s son declared his suits against Kol Thorstein’s son, and Gunnar Lambi’s son, and Grani Gunnar’s son, and it was the common talk of men that he spoke wondrous well.
Thorleif crow declared his suit against all the sons of Sigfus, but Thorgrim the big, his brother, against Modolf Kettle’s son, and Lambi Sigurd’s son, and Hroar Hamond’s son, brother of Leidolf the strong.
Asgrim Ellidagrim’s son declared his suit against Leidolf and Thorstein Geirleif’s son. Arni Kol’s son, and Grim the red.
And they all spoke well.
After that other men gave notice of their suits, and it was far on in the day that it went on so.
Then men fared home to their booths.
Eyjolf Bolverk’s son went to his booth with Flosi; they passed east around the booth, and Flosi said to Eyjolf -
“See’st thou any defence in these suits?”
“None,” says Eyjolf.
“What counsel is now to be taken?” says Flosi.
“I will give thee a piece of advice,” said Eyjolf. “Now thou shalt hand over thy priesthood to thy brother Thorgeir, but declare that thou hast joined the Thing of Askel the priest the son of Thorkettle, north away in Reykiardale; but if they do not know this, then may be that this will harm them, for they will be sure to plead their suit in the Eastfirther’s court, but they ought to plead it in the Northlanders’ court, and they will overlook that, and it is a Fifth Court matter against them if they plead their suit in another court than that in which they ought, and then we will take that suit up, but not until we have no other choice left.”
“May be,” said Flosi, “that we shall get the worth of the ring.”
“I don’t know that,” says Eyjolf; “but I will stand by thee at law, so that men shall say that there never was a better defence. Now, we must send for Askel, but Thorgeir shall come to thee at once, and a man with him.”
A little while after Thorgeir came, and then he took on him Flosi’s leadership and priesthood.
By that time Askel was come thither too, and then Flosi declared that he had joined his Thing, and this was with no man’s knowledge save theirs.
Now all is quiet till the day when the courts were to go out to try suits.