Sagas & Legends
Suit between Egil and Onund.
King Eric was there numerously attended. Bergonund was among his train, as were his brothers; there was a large following. But when the meeting was to be held about men's lawsuits, both the parties went where the court was set, to plead their proofs. Then was Onund full of big words. Now where the court sate was a level plot, with hazel-poles planted in a ring, and outside were twisted ropes all around. This was called, 'the precincts.' Within the ring sate twelve judges of the Firth-folk, twelve of the Sogn-folk, twelve of the Horda-folk. These three twelves were to judge all the suits. Arinbjorn ruled who should be judges from the Firth-folk, Thord of Aurland who should be so from the Sogn-folk. All these were of one party. Arinbjorn had brought thither a long-ship full equipt, also many small craft and store-ships. King Eric had six or seven long-ships all well equipt; a great number of landowners were also there.
Egil began his cause thus: he craved the judges to give him lawful judgement in the suit between him and Onund. He then set forth what proofs he held of his claim on the property that had belonged to Bjorn Brynjolf's son. He said that Asgerdr daughter of Bjorn, own wife of him Egil, was rightful heiress, born noble, of landed gentry, even of titled family further back. And he craved of the judges this, to adjudge to Asgerdr half of Bjorn's inheritance, whether land or chattels.
And when he ceased speaking, then Bergonund took the word and spoke thus: 'Gunnhilda my wife is the daughter of Bjorn and Alof, the wife whom Bjorn lawfully married. Gunnhilda is rightful heiress of Bjorn. I for this reason took possession of all the property left by Bjorn, because I knew that that other daughter of Bjorn had no right to inherit. Her mother was a captive of war, afterwards taken as concubine, without her kinsmen's consent, and carried from land to land. But thou, Egil, thinkest to go on here, as everywhere else, with thy fierceness and wrongful dealing. This will not avail thee now; for king Eric and queen Gunnhilda have promised me that I shall have right in every cause within the bounds of their dominion. I will produce true evidence before the king and the judges that Thora Lace-hand, Asgerdr's mother, was taken captive from the house of Thorir her brother, and a second time from Brynjolf's house at Aurland. Then she went away out of the land with freebooters, and was outlawed from Norway, and in this outlawry Bjorn and she had born to them this girl Asgerdr. A great wonder now is this in Egil, that he thinks to make void all the words of king Eric. First, Egil, thou art here in the land after Eric made thee an outlaw; secondly—which is worse—though thou hast a bondwoman to thy wife, thou claimest for her right of heritage. I demand this of the judges, that they adjudge the inheritance to Gunnhilda, but adjudge Asgerdr to be the bondwoman of the king, because she was begotten when her father and mother were outlawed by the king.'
Right wroth was Arinbjorn when he heard Thora Lace-hand called a bondwoman; and he stood up, and would no longer hold his peace, but looked around on either side, and took the word:
'Evidence we will bring, sir king, in this matter, and oaths we will add, that this was in the reconciliation of my father and Bjorn Yeoman expressly provided, that Asgerdr daughter of Bjorn and Thora was to have right of inheriting after Bjorn her father; as also this, which thyself, O king, dost know, that thou restoredst Bjorn to his rights in Norway, and so everything was settled which had before stood in the way of their reconciliation.'
To these words the king found no ready answer. Then sang Egil a stave:
'Bondwoman born this knave
My brooch-decked lady calls.
Shameless in selfish greed
Such dealing Onund loves:
Braggart! my bride is one
Born heiress, jewell'd dame.
Our oaths, great king, accept,
Oaths that are meet and true.'
Then Arinbjorn produced witnesses, twelve men, and all well chosen. These all had heard, being present, the reconciliation of Thorir and Bjorn, and they offered to the king and judges to swear to it. The judges were willing to accept their oath if the king forbade it not.
Then did queen Gunnhilda take the word:
'Great wonder is this, sir king, that thou lettest this big Egil make such a coil of the whole cause before thee. Wouldst thou find nought to say against him, though he should claim at thy hand thy very kingdom? Now though thou wilt give no decision that may help Onund, yet will not I brook this, that Egil tread under foot our friends and wrongfully take the property from Onund. Where is Alf my brother? Go thou, Alf, with thy following, where the judges are, and let them not give this wrong judgment.'
Then he and his men went thither, and cut in sunder the precinct-ropes and tore down the poles, and scattered the judges. Great uproar was there in the Thing; but men there were all weaponless.
Then spake Egil: 'Can Bergonund hear my words?'
'I hear,' said Onund.
'Then do I challenge thee to combat, and be our fight here at the Thing. Let him of us twain have this property, both lands and chattels, who wins the victory. But be thou every man's dastard if thou darest not.'
Whereupon king Eric made answer: 'If thou, Egil, art strongly set on fighting, then will we grant thee this forthwith.'
Egil replied: 'I will not fight with king's power and overwhelming force; but before equal numbers I will not flee, if this be given me. Nor will I then make any distinction of persons, titled or untitled.'
Then spake Arinbjorn: 'Go we away, Egil; we shall not here effect to-day anything that will be to our gain.'
And with this Arinbjorn and all his people turned to depart.
But Egil turned him and cried aloud: 'This do I protest before thee, Arinbjorn, and thee, Thord, and all men that now can hear my word, barons and lawmen and all people, that I ban all those lands that belonged to Bjorn Brynjolfsson, from building and tillage, and from all gain therefrom to be gotten. I ban them to thee, Bergonund, and to all others, natives and foreigners, high and low; and anyone who shall herein offend I denounce as a law-breaker, a peace breaker, and accursed.'
After which Egil went away with Arinbjorn.
They then went to their ships; and there was a rise in the ground of some extent to pass over, so that the ships were not visible from the Thing-field. Egil was very wroth. And when they came to the ships, Arinbjorn spoke before his people and said:
'All men know what has been the issue of the Thing here, that we have not got law; but the king is much in wrath, so that I expect our men will get hard measure from him if he can bring it about. I will now that every man embark on his ship and go home. Let none wait for other.'
Then Arinbjorn went on board his own ship, and to Egil he said: 'Now go you with your comrades on board the cutter that lies here outside the long-ship, and get you away at once. Travel by night so much as you may, and not by day, and be on your guard, for the king will seek to meet with you. Come and find me afterwards, when all this is ended, whatever may have chanced between you and the king.'
Egil did as Arinbjorn said; they went aboard the cutter, about thirty men, and rowed with all their might. The vessel was remarkably fast. Then rowed out of the haven many other ships of Arinbjorn's people, cutters and row-boats; but the long-ship which Arinbjorn steered went last, for it was the heaviest under oars. Egil's cutter, which he steered, soon outstripped the rest. Then Egil sang a stave:
'My heritage he steals,
The money-grasping heir
Of Thornfoot. But his threats,
Though fierce, I boldly meet.
For land we sought the law:
Land-grabbing loon is he!
But robbery of my right
Ere long he shall repay.'
Next: CHAPTER LVIII. Of king Eric and Egil.