Sagas & Legends
Marriage of Egil.
Bergonund son of Thorgeir Thornfoot had then married Gunnhilda daughter of Bjorn Yeoman. She had come to keep house with him at Askr. But Asgerdr, whom Thorolf Skallagrimsson had had to wife, was then with Arinbjorn, her kinsman. Thorolf and she had a daughter named Thordis, and the girl was there with her mother. Egil told Asgerdr of Thorolf's death, and offered her his guardianship. Asgerdr was much grieved at the tidings; she answered Egil's words well, saying however but little one way or the other.
But, at autumn wore on, Egil began to be very gloomy and drank little, and often say with his head drooping in his cloak. One time Arinbjorn went to him and asked what meant his gloom.
'Though now you have had a great loss in your brother, yet 'tis manly to bear up well; man must overlive man. Come, what verse are you now repeating? Let me hear.'
Egil said he had just made this verse:
'Unfriendly, who was friend,
Fair goddess seems. Of old
Bold with uplifted brow
Beheld I woman's face.
Now one (whose name I veil)
No sooner to the skald
Occurs, than shyly sinks
Screen'd in his cloak his head.'
Arinbjorn asked who was the woman about whom he composed such love-song. 'Have you hidden her name in this stave?'
Then Egil recited:
'Sorrow shows not, but hides
The saddening thought within.
Names in my poesy
Not oft I use to veil.
For Odin's warrior wights
Will surely searching find
In war-god's wine of song
What poet deep hath plunged.'
'Here,' said Egil, 'will the old saw be found true. All should be told to a friend. I will tell you that which you ask, about what woman I compose verse. ''Tis Asgerdr your kinswoman; and I would fain have your furtherance to secure this match.'
Arinbjorn said that he deemed it well thought of. 'I will,' said he, 'surely give my good word that this match may be made.'
Then Egil laid this matter before Asgerdr, but she referred it to the decision of her father and her kinsman Arinbjorn. Arinbjorn talked with Asgerdr, and she made the same answer. Arinbjorn was desirous of this match. After this Arinbjorn and Egil went together to Bjorn, and then Egil made his suit and asked to wife Asgerdr Bjorn's daughter. Bjorn took this matter well, and said that Arinbjorn should chiefly decide this. Arinbjorn greatly desired it; and the end of the matter was that Egil and Asgerdr were betrothed, and the wedding was to be at Arinbjorn's.
And when the appointed time came, there was a very grand feast at Egil's marriage. He was then very cheerful for the remaining part of the winter. In the spring he made ready a merchant-ship for a voyage to Iceland. Arinbjorn advised him not to settle in Norway while Gunnhilda's power was so great. 'For she is very wroth with you,' said Arinbjorn; 'and this has been made much worse by your encounter with Eyvind near Jutland.'
But when Egil was ready, and a fair wind blew, he sailed out to sea, and his voyage sped well. He came in the autumn to Iceland, and stood into Borgar-firth. He had now been out twelve winters. Skallagrim was an old man by this time. Full glad was he when Egil came home. Egil went to lodge at Borg, and with him Thofid Strong and many of their company; and they were there with Skallagrim for the winter. Egil had immense store of wealth; but it is not told that Egil shared that silver which king Athelstan had given him either with Skallagrim or others. That winter Thorfid married Sæunn, Skallagrim's daughter; and in the following spring Skallagrim gave them a homestead at Long-river-foss, and the land inwards from Leiru-brook between Long-river and Swan-river, even up to the fell. Daughter of Thorfid and Sæunn was Thordis wife to Arngeir in Holm, the son of Bersi Godless. Their son was Bjorn, Hitadale's champion.
Egil abode there with Skallagrim several winters. He took upon him the management of the property and farm no less than Skallagrim. Egil became more and more bald. The country-side began now to be settled far and wide. Hromund, brother of Grim the Halogalander, settled at this time in Cross-river-lithe with his shipmates. Hromund was father of Gunnlaug, the father of Thuridr Dylla, mother of Illugi the Swarthy.
Egil had now been several winters at Borg with his father, when one summer a ship from Norway to Iceland with these tidings from the east, that Bjorn Yeoman was dead. Further, it was told that all the property owned by Bjorn had been taken up by Bergonund, his son-in-law, who had moved to his own home all loose chattels, letting out the lands, and securing to himself all the rents. He had also got possession of all the farms occupied of late by Bjorn. This when Egil heard, he inquired carefully whether Bjorn had acted on his own counsel in this matter, or had the support of others more powerful. It was told him that Onund was become a close friend of king Eric, but was on even more intimate terms with Gunnhilda.
Egil let the matter rest for this autumn; but when winter was past and spring came, then Egil bade them draw out his ship, which had stood in the shed at Long-river-foss. This ship he made ready for sea, and got a crew thereto. Asgerdr his wife was to go with him, but Thordis Thorolf's daughter remained behind. Egil sailed out to sea when he was ready, and of his voyage there is nothing to tell before he came to Norway. He at once, as soon as he could, went to seek Arinbjorn. Arinbjorn received him well, and asked Egil to stay with him; this offer he took. So both he and Asgerdr went thither and several men with them.
Egil very soon spoke with Arinbjorn about those claims on money that he thought he had there in the land.
Arinbjorn said, 'That matter seems to me unpromising. Bergonund is hard, ill to deal with, unjust, covetous; and he has now much support from the king and the queen. Gunnhilda is your bitter enemy, as you know already, and she will not desire Onund to put the case right.'
Egil said, 'The king will let us get law and justice in this matter, and with your help it seems no great thing in my eyes to take the law of Bergonund.'
They resolved on this, that Egil should equip a swift cutter, whereon they embarked some twenty men, and went south to Hordaland and on to Askr. There they go to the house and find Onund. Egil declares his business, and demands of Onund s sharing of the heritage of Bjorn. He says that Bjorn's daughters were by law both alike his heirs, 'Though methinks,' says Egil, 'Asgerdr will be deemed more nobly born than your wife Gunnhilda.'
Then says Onund in high-pitched voice, 'A wondrous bold man are you, Egil, the outlaw of king Eric, who come hither to his land and think here to attack his men and friends. You are to know, Egil, that I have overthrown men as good as you for less cause than methinks this is, when you claim heritage in right of your wife; for this is well known to all, that she is born of a bondwoman.'
Onund was furious in language for a time; but when Egil saw that Onund would do no right in this matter, then he summoned him to court, and referred the matter to the law of the Gula-thing.
Onund said, 'To the Gula-thing I will come, and my will is that you should not come away thence with a whole skin.'
Egil said he would risk coming to the Thing all the same: 'There let come what come may to end our matter.'
Egil then went away with his company, and when he came home told Arinbjorn of his journey and of Onund's answer. Arinbjorn was very angry that Thora his father's sister had been called a bondwoman. Arinbjorn went to king Eric, and declared this matter before him.'
The king took his words rather sullenly, and said that Arinbjorn had long advocated Egil's cause: 'He has had this grace through thee, that I have let him be here in the land; but now shall I think it too much to bear if thou back him in his assaults on my friends.'
Arinbjorn said, 'Thou wilt let us get law in this case.'
The king was rather peevish in this talk, but Arinbjorn could see that the queen was much worse-willed.
Arinbjorn went back and said that things looked rather unpromising. Then winter wore away, and the time came when men should go to the Gula-thing. Arinbjorn took to the Thing a numerous company, among them went Egil.
Next: CHAPTER LVII. Suit between Egil and Onund.