Sagas & Legends
The slaying of Bergonund and Rognvald the king's son.
Egil sailed out to sea for the night, as was written above. And when morning came the wind fell and there was a calm. They then lay drifting, letting the ship ride free for some nights. But when a sea-breeze came on, Egil said to his shipmen, 'We will now sail to land, for I do not quite know, should the sea-wind come to blow hard, where we could make land, 'tis a dangerous-looking coast in most places.' The rowers bade Egil rule their course.
So then they made sail, and sailed into the waters about Herdla. There they found a good haven, and spread the tent over their ship, and lay there for the night. They had on the ship a little boat, into which went Egil with three men. They rowed into Herdla, and sent a man up into the island to learn tidings; and when he came down to the ship, he said that there at the farm was Rognvald, the king's son, and his men. 'They sate there a-drinking,' said he. 'I lit on one of the house-carles; he was ale-mad, and said that here they must not drink less than was drunk at Bergonund's, though Frodi was feasting there with a party of five. He said that no more were there than the house-hold, save Frodi and his men.'
Whereupon Egil rowed back to the ship, and bade the men rise and take their weapons. They did so. The ship they put out from the shore and anchored. Egil left twelve men to guard the ship, but himself went on the ship's boat, they being eighteen in all; they then rowed in along the sound. They so regulated their pace that they came to Fenhring at eventide, and put into a hidden creek there. Then said Egil: 'Now will I go up into the island and spy out what I can get to know; but you shall await me here.'
Egil had his weapons that he was wont to have, a helm and shield, a sword at his girdle, a halberd in his hand. He went up into the island and along the border of a wood. He had now drawn a hood over his helm. He came where there were some lads, and with them large sheep-dogs. And when they began to exchange words, he asked whence they were, and why they were there, and had such big dogs. They said: 'You must be a very silly fellow; have you not heard that a bear goes about the island here, a great pest? He kills both men and sheep, and a price is set upon his head. We watch here at Askr every night over our flocks that are penned in the fold. By why go you at night thus armed?'
He answered: 'I, too, am afraid of the bear; and few, methinks, now go weaponless. He has long pursued me to-night. See there now, where he is in the skirt of the wood! Are all asleep at this farmhouse?'
The boy said that Bergonund and Frodi would be drinking still; 'they sit at it every night.'
'Then tell them,' said Egil, 'where the bear is; but I will hasten home.'
So he went away; but the boy ran home to the farmhouse, and into the room where they were drinking. All had gone to sleep save these three, Onund, Frodi, and Hadd. The boy told them where the bear was. They took their weapons which hung there by them, and at once ran out and up to the wood.
From the main forest ran out a spur of wood with scattered bushes. The boy told them where the bear had been in the bushes. Then they saw that the branches moved, whence they guessed that the bear would be there. Then Bergonund advised that Hadd and Frodi should run forward between the shrubs and the main forest, and stop the bear from gaining the wood. Bergonund ran forward to the bushes. He had helm and shield, a sword at his girdle, a halberd in his hand. Egil was there before him in the bushes, but no bear.
And when he saw where Bergonund was, he unsheathed his sword, and, taking the coil of cord attached to the hilt, would it round his arm, and so let the sword hang. In his hand he grasped his halberd, and then ran forward to meet Bergonund. Which when Bergonund saw, he quickened his pace and cast his shield before him, and ere they met each hurled his halberd at the other.
Egil opposed the halberd with shield held aslant, so that the halberd with a cut tore out of the shield and flew into the ground. But Egil's weapon came full on the middle of the shield, and went right through it far up the blade, and the weapon was fast in the shield. Onund's shield was thus cumbersome. Then quickly did Egil grasp his sword-hilt. Onund also began to draw his sword; but ere it was half drawn Egil pierced him with a thrust. Onund reeled at the blow; but Egil suddenly snatched back his sword, and made a cut at Onund, well-nigh taking off his head. Then Egil took his halberd out of the shield.
Now Hadd and Frodi saw Bergonund's fall, and ran thither. Egil turned to meet them. At Frodi he threw his halberd, which, piercing the shield, went into his breast and out at his back. At once he fell back dead. Then, taking his sword, Egil turned against Hadd, and they exchanged but few blows ere Hadd fell. Just then the herd-boys chanced to come up. Egil said to them: 'Watch you here by Onund your master and his friends, that no beast or bird tear their bodies.'
Egil then went his way, and before long eleven of his comrades met him, six staying to watch the ship. They asked him what success he had had. Whereupon he sang:
'Long did we losers sit,
Losers through him who took
With greed the gold that once
To guard I better knew:
Till now Bergonund's bane
My blade with wounds hath wrought,
And hidden earth in veil
Of Hadd's and Frodi's blood.'
Then Egil said: 'We will now turn back to the farm, and act in warlike-wise, slaying all the men we can, and taking all the booty we can come by.'
They went to the farm, rushed into the house, and slew there fifteen or sixteen men. Some escaped by running away. They plundered the place, destroying what they could not take with them. The cattle they drove to the shore and slaughtered, putting on board as much as the boat would hold; then they rowed out by the sound between the islands. Egil was now furious, so that there was no speaking with him. He sat at the boat's helm.
And when they got further out in the firth towards Herdla, then came rowing out towards them Rognvald the king's son with twelve more on the painted pinnace. They had now learnt that Egil's ship lay in Herdla-water, and they meant to take to Onund news of Egil's whereabouts. And when Egil saw the boat, he knew it at once. Straight for it he steered; and when the boats came together, the beak of the cutter struck the side of the pinnace's bow, which so heeled over that the water poured in on one side and the boat filled. Egil leapt aboard, grasping his halberd, and cried to his men to let no one in the pinnace escape with life. This was easy, for there was no defence. All were slain as they swam, none escaped. Thirteen there perished, Rognvald and his comrades. Then Egil and his men rowed to Herdla island, and Egil sang a stave:
'I fought, nor feared vengeance;
Falchion there reddened
Blood of son of Bloodaxe,
Bold king, and his queen.
Perish'd on one pinnace
Prince with twelve his liege-men,
Such stress of stern battle
Against them I stirred.'
And when Egil and his men came to Herdla, at once fully armed they ran up to the farm buildings. But when Thorir and his household saw that, they at once ran away and saved themselves, all that could go, men and women. Egil's party plundered the place of all they could lay hands on; then they rowed out to their ship. Nor had they long to wait ere a breeze blew off the land. They made ready to sail.
And when all was ready for sailing, Egil went up into the island. He took in his hand a hazel-pole, and went to a rocky eminence that looked inward to the mainland. Then he took a horse's head and fixed it on the pole. After that, in solemn form of curse, he thus spake: 'Here set I up a curse-pole, and this curse I turn on king Eric and queen Gunnhilda. (Here he turned the horse's head landwards.) This curse I turn also on the guardian-spirits who dwell in this land, that they may all wander astray, nor reach or find their home till they have driven out of the land king Eric and Gunnhilda.'
This spoken, he planted the pole down in a rift of the rock, and let it stand there. The horse's head he turned inwards to the mainland; but on the pole he cut runes, expressing the whole form of curse.
After this Egil went aboard the ship. They made sail, and sailed out to sea. Soon the breeze freshened, and blew strong from a good quarter; so the ship ran on apace. Then sang Egil:
'Forest-foe, fiercely blowing,
Flogs hard and unceasing
With sharp storm the sea-way
That ship's stern doth plow.
The wind, willow-render,
With icy gust ruthless
Our sea-swan doth buffet
O'er bowsprit and beak.'
Their voyage sped well; from the main they came into Borgar-firth, brought their ship into the haven, carried their baggage on shore. Egil then went home to Borg; but his crew found them lodging. Skallagrim was now old and weak with age. Egil took the management of the property and care of the house.
Next: CHAPTER LXI. Death of Skallagrim.