Sagas & Legends
Egil buries Thorolf.
While his men still pursued the fugitives, king Athelstan left the battle-field, and rode back to the town, nor stayed he for the night before he came thither. But Egil pursued the flying foe, and followed them far, slaying every man whom he overtook. At length, sated with pursuit, he with his followers turned back, and came where the battle had been, and found there the dead body of his brother Thorolf. He took it up, washed it, and performed such other offices as were the wont of the time. They dug a grave there, and laid Thorolf therein with all his weapons and raiment. Then Egil clasped a gold bracelet on either wrist before he parted from him; this done they heaped on stones and cast in mould. Then Egil sang a stave:
'Dauntless the doughty champion
Dashed on, the earl's bold slayer:
In stormy stress of battle
Stout-hearted Thorolf fell.
Green grows on soil of Vin-heath
Grass o'er my noble brother:
But we our woe—a sorrow
Worse than death-pang—must bear.'
And again he further sang:
'With warriors slain round standard
The western field I burdened;
Adils with my blue Adder
Assailed mid snow of war.
Olaf, young prince, encountered
England in battle thunder:
Hring stood not stour of weapons,
Starved not the ravens' maw.'
Then went Egil and those about him to seek king Athelstan, and at once went before the king, where he sat at the drinking. There was much noise of merriment. And when the king saw that Egil was come in, he bade the lower bench be cleared for them, and that Egil should sit in the high-seat facing the king. Egil sat down there, and cast his shield before his feet. He had his helm on his head, and laid his sword across his knees; and now and again he half drew it, then clashed it back into the sheath. He sat upright, but with head bent forward.
Egil was large-featured, broad of forehead, with large eyebrows, a nose not long but very thick, lips wide and long, chin exceeding broad, as was all about the jaws; thick-necked was he, and big-shouldered beyond other men, hard-featured, and grim when angry. He was well-made, more than commonly tall, had hair wolf-gray and thick, but became early bald. He was black-eyed and brown-skinned,
But as he sat (as was before written), he drew one eye-brow down towards the cheek, the other up to the roots of the hair. He would not drink now, though the horn was borne to him, but alternately twitched his brows up and down. King Athelstan sat in the upper high-seat. He too laid his sword across his knees. When they had sat there for a time, then the king drew his sword from the sheath, and took from his arm a gold ring large and good, and placing it upon the sword-point he stood up, and went across the floor, and reached it over the fire to Egil. Egil stood up and drew his sword, and went across the floor. He stuck the sword-point within the round of the ring, and drew it to him; then he went back to his place. The king sate him again in his high-seat. But when Egil was set down, he drew the ring on his arm, and then his brows went back to their place. He now laid down sword and helm, took the horn that they bare to him, and drank it off. Then sang he:
'Mailed monarch, god of battle,
Maketh the tinkling circlet
Hang, his own arm forsaking,
On hawk-trod wrist of mine.
I bear on arm brand-wielding
Bracelet of red gold gladly.
War-falcon's feeder meetly
Findeth such meed of praise.'
Thereafter Egil drank his share, and talked with others. Presently the king caused to be borne in two chests; two men bare each. Both were full of silver.
The king said: 'These chests, Egil, thou shalt have, and, if thou comest to Iceland, shalt carry this money to thy father; as payment for a son I send it to him: but some of the money thou shalt divide among such kinsmen of thyself and Thorolf as thou thinkest most honourable. But thou shalt take here payment for a brother with me, land or chattels, which thou wilt. And if thou wilt abide with me long, then will I give thee honour and dignity such as thyself mayst name.'
Egil took the money, and thanked the king for his gifts and friendly words. Thenceforward Egil began to be cheerful; and then he sang:
'In sorrow sadly drooping
Sank my brows close-knitted;
Then found I one who furrows
Of forehead could smooth.
Fierce-frowning cliffs that shaded
My face a king hath lifted
With gleam of golden armlet:
Gloom leaveth my eyes.'
Then those men were healed whose wounds left hop of life. Egil abode with king Athelstan for the next winter after Thorolf's death, and had very great honour from the king. With Egil was then all that force which had followed the two brothers, and come alive out of the battle. Egil now made a poem about king Athelstan, and in it is this stave:
Low now this scion royal
Earls three hath laid. To Ella
Earth must obedient bow.
Lavish of gold, kin-glorious,
Great Athelstan victorious,
Surely, I swear, all humbled
To such high monarch yields.'
But this is the burden in the poem:
'Reindeer-trod hills obey
Bold Athelstan's high sway.'
Then gave Athelstan further to Egil as poet's meed two gold rings, each weighing a mark, and therewith a costly cloak that the king himself had formerly worn.
But when spring came Egil signified to the king this, that he purposed to go away in the summer to Norway, and to learn 'how matters stand with Asgerdr, my late brother Thorolf's wife. A large property is there in all; but I know not whether there be children of theirs living. I am bound to look after them, if they live; but I am heir to all, if Thorolf died childless.'
The king answered, 'This will be, Egil, for you to arrange, to go away hence, if you think you have an errand of duty; but I think 'twere the best way that you should settle down here with me on such terms as you like to ask.'
Egil thanked the king for his words.
'I will,' he said, 'now first go, as I am in duty bound to do; but it is likely that I shall return hither to see after this promise so soon as I can.'
The king bade him do so.
Whereupon Egil made him ready to depart with his men; but of these many remained behind with the king. Egil had one large war-ship, and on board thereof a hundred men or thereabouts. And when he was ready for his voyage, and a fair wind blew, he put out to sea. He and king Athelstan parted with great friendship: the king begged Egil to return as soon as possible. This Egil promised to do.
Then Egil stood for Norway, and when he came to land sailed with all speed into the Firths. He heard these tidings, that lord Thorir was dead, and Arinbjorn had taken inheritance after him, and was made a baron. Egil went to Arinbjorn and got there a good welcome. Arinbjorn asked him to stay there. Egil accepted this, had his ship set up, and his crew lodged. But Arinbjorn received Egil and twelve men; they stayed with him through the winter.
Next: CHAPTER LVI. Marriage of Egil.