Sagas & Legends
Journey to Vermaland.
Egil with three comrades made him ready for the journey. They had horses and sledges, and so had the king's men. There was then deep snow, and all the roads were effaced. They betook them to their journey when they were ready, and sledged up the land; and when they came eastwards near Eida, it happened one night that so much fresh snow fell that they could not see the way. On the morrow they traveled slowly, because there were snowdrifts directly one left the track. And as the day wore on they stopped to bait their horses; this was near a wooded ridge. Then spoke the king's men with Egil: 'Here now the roads divide; forward below the ridge dwells a landowner named Arnold, our friend; we with our party will go and lodge there. But you shall go yonder up the ridge, and when you come over it you will soon have before you a large house where you are sure of lodging. A wealthy man dwells there, Armod Beard by name. But to-morrow early we will again join company and go on the next evening to Eida-wood. There dwells a worthy landowner named Thorfinn.'
Upon this they separated, Egil and his men going up the ridge. But of the king's men this is to be told, that no sooner were they and Egil out of sight of each other, than they took their snow-shoes (which they had brought with them) and put them on; then they retraced their way as fast as they could. Night and day they travelled, and turned toward Upland, thence north by the Dovre-fell, nor stayed they till they came before king Hacon, and told him of their journey, how it had sped.
Egil and his comrades crossed the ridge that evening. To be brief, so soon as they left the main road and got upon the ridge, they found deep snow, steep rocks, tangled copsewood. Now and again in the snow the horses so plunged and lay that they had to be pulled up out of it, and over rocks and crags was a hard struggle. Much ado had they with the horses; but the walking for the men was of the heaviest, and sorely wearied were they when they came off the ridge and saw before them a large house, for which they made.
And when they came to the enclosure, they saw men standing outside, Armod and some of his household. They exchanged words and asked each other's tidings, and when Armod knew that they were messengers of the king, he offered them lodging. This they accepted. Armod's house-carles took their horses and harness; but the master bade Egil go into the hall, and they did so.
Armod made Egil sit in the high seat on the lower bench, and his comrades outside him. They spoke much of what a toilsome way they had come that evening, but the house-carles thought it a great marvel that they had won through it at all; it was, they said, no road for man even were it free of snow.
Then said Armod: 'Think ye not this were the best hospitality, that a table should be set for you and supper given you now, and then you should sleep? This will best rest you.'
'We should like this right well,' said Egil.
So Armod had a table set for them, whereon were placed large bowls full of curds. Then said Armod that he was sorry he had no beer to give them. Egil and his men were very thirsty from weariness; they took up the bowls and drank the curds eagerly, Egil drinking far the most. No other food was brought.
The household was numerous. The mistress sat on the cross-bench, and beside her the other women. The master's daughter, ten or eleven years old, was running about the hall-floor. The mistress called her to her side, and spoke in her ear. Then the girl went out to where Egil sat, and recited a verse:
'To thee with this message
My mother doth send me,
To bear word that Egil
Be wary and wait.
"So temper thy stomach,"
Thus sayeth our lady,
"With fare far more worthy
Soon feed we our guests."'
Armod struck the girl, and bade her hold her tongue: 'You are always,' said he, 'saying what least suits.'
The girl went away; but Egil threw down the curd-bowl, which was now nearly empty. The bowls were then removed from them.
And now the household took their seats, and tables were set all round the hall, and food served; dishes of meat were brought in and set before Egil and the rest. After this ale was borne in, beer of the strongest. Soon they began to drink bumpers, each man was to drink off the horn; and especial care was taken that Egil and his companions should drink hard. Egil drank without shirking a drop for a long while, but when his companions were become helpless, then he drank for them what they could not. So matters went on till the tables were removed, and by then all in the room were well drunk.
But before each cup that he drank Armod said: 'I drink to you, Egil,' and the house-carles drank to Egil's companions with the same preface. A man was appointed to bear every cup to Egil's party, and he urged them to drink it off quick. Egil told his companions to drink no more, but himself drank for them what they could not avoid.
Egil soon found that it would not do for him to go on so. Wherefore he stood up, went across the floor to where Armod sat, took him with his hands by the shoulders, and forced him back against the inner posts, and spat in his face. There was an outcry and uproar, but Egil went back to his place, sate him down, and bade them serve him drink.
Armod leapt up and ran out; Egil continued to drink for a while, as did some others in the hall; but there was little merriment. Soon Egil and his men stood up, and took their weapons from the wall where they had hung them up; they then went to the granary in which their horse were, and laid themselves down in the straw, and slept through the night.
Next: CHAPTER LXXV. Parting of Egil and Armod.