Sagas & Legends
Of Egil's journeyings.
Egil went on southwards to Hordaland, taking for this journey a rowing vessel, and thereon thirty men. They came on a day to Askr on Fenhring island. Egil went up to the house with twenty men, while ten guarded the ship.
Atli the Short was there with some men. Egil bade him be called out and told that Egil Skallagrimsson had an errand with him. Atli took his weapons, as did all the fighting men that were there, and then they went out.
Egil spoke: 'I am told, Atli, that you hold in keeping that property which of right belongs to me and my wife Asgerdr. You will belike have heard it talked of ere now how I claimed the inheritance of Bjorn Yeoman, which Bergonund your brother kept from me. I am now come to look after that property, lands and chattels, and to beg you to give it up and pay it into my hands.'
Said Atli: 'Long have we heard, Egil, that you are a most unjust man, but now I shall come to prove it, if you mean to claim at my hands this property, which king Eric adjudged to Bergonund my brother. King Eric had then power to bid and ban in this land. I was thinking now, Egil, that you would be come here for this end, to offer me a fine for my brothers whose lives you took, and that you would pay atonement for the pillage committed by you here at Askr. I would make answer to this proposal, if you should plead this errand; but here to this other I can make none.'
'I shall then,' said Egil, 'offer you, as I offered Onund, that Gula-thing laws decide our cause. Your brothers I declare to have fallen without claim for fine and through their own wrong deeds, because they had first plundered me of law and land-right, and taken my property by force of arms. I have the king's leave herein to try the law with you in this cause. I summon you to the Gula-thing, there to have lawful decision on this matter.'
'To the Gula-thing,' said Atli, 'I will come, and we can there speak of this matter.'
Hereupon Egil with his comrades went away. He went north to Sogn, then into Aurland to Thord, his wife's kinsman, and there he stayed till the Gula-thing. And when men came to the Thing, then came Egil thither. Atli the Short was also there. They began to declare their cause, and pleaded it before those who were to judge. Egil made his demand of money due, but Atli offered against it as a lawful defence the oath of twelve men that he, Atli, had in keeping no money that belonged to Egil. And when Atli went before the court with his twelve who would swear, then went Egil to meet him, and said that he would not accept Atli's oaths for his own property. 'I will offer you other law, that we do battle here at the Thing, and he shall have the property who wins the victory.'
This was also law, that Egil proposed, and ancient custom, that any man had a right to challenge another to wager of battle, whether he were defendant in a cause or prosecutor.
Atli said that he would not refuse this to do battle with Egil. 'For,' said he, 'you propose what I ought to have proposed, seeing that I have enough loss to avenge on you. You have done to death my two brothers, and far shall I be from upholding the right if I yield to you mine own possessions unlawfully rather than fight with you when you offer me this choice.'
So then Atli and Egil joined hands and pledged them to do battle, the victor to own the lands for which they had been disputing.
After this they arrayed them for combat. Egil came forward with helm on head, and shield before him, and halberd in hand, but his sword Dragvandill he suspended from his right arm. It was the custom with those who fought in single combats so to arrange that the sword should need no drawing during the fight, but be attached to the arm, to be ready at once when the combatant willed. Atli had the same arming as Egil. He was experienced in single combats, was a strong man, and of a good courage. To the field was led forth a bull, large and old—'sacrificial beast' such was termed—to be slain by him who won the victory. Sometimes there was one such ox, sometimes each combatant had his own led forth.
And when they were ready for the combat, then ran they each at the other, and first they threw their halberds, neither of which stood fast in the foeman's shield, but both struck in the ground. Then took they both to their swords, and went at it with a will, blow upon blow. Atli gave no ground. They smote fast and hard, and full soon their shields were becoming useless. And when Atli's shield was of no use, then he cast it from him, and, grasping his sword with both hands, dealt blows as quickly as possible. Egil fetched him a blow on the shoulder, but the sword bit not. He dealt another, and a third. It was now easy to find parts in Atli that he could strike, since he had no cover; and Egil brandished and brought down his sword with all his might, yet it bit not, strike he where he might. Then Egil saw that nothing would be done this way, for his shield was now rendered useless. So Egil let drop both sword and shield, and bounding on Atli, gripped him with his hands. Then the difference of strength was seen, and Atli fell right back, but Egil went down prone upon him and bit through his throat. There Atli died.
Egil leapt up at once and ran to where the victim stood; with one hand he gripped his lips, with the other his horn, and gave him such a wrench, that his feet slipped up and his neck was broken; after which Egil went where his comrades stood, and then he sang:
'I bared blue Dragvandill,
Who bit not the buckler,
Atli the Short so blunted
All edge by his spells.
Straining my strength I grappled,
Staggered the wordy foeman;
My tooth I bade bite him,
Best of swords at need.'
Then Egil got possession of all those lands for which he had contended and claimed as rightfully coming to his wife Asgerdr from her father. Nothing is told of further tidings at that Thing. Egil then went first into Sogn and arranged about those lands that he now got into his own power. He remained there for a great part of the spring. Afterwards he went with his comrades eastwards to Vik, then to seek Thorstein, and was there for awhile.
Next: CHAPTER LXIX. Egil comes out to Iceland.