Now there was great talk about this quarrel of theirs, and all seemed to know that it would not settle down peacefully.
Runolf, the son of Wolf Aurpriest, east in the Dale, was a great friend of Thrain's, and had asked Thrain to come and see him, and it was settled that he should come east when about three weeks or a month were wanting to winter.
Thrain bade Hrapp, and Grani, and Gunnar Lambi's son, and Lambi Sigurd's son, and Lodinn, and Tjorvi, eight of them in all, to go on this journey with him. Hallgerda and Thorgerda were to go too. At the same time Thrain gave it out that he meant to stay in the Mark with his brother Kettle, and said how many nights he meant to be away from home.
They all of them had full arms. So they rode east across Markfleet, and found there some gangrel women, and they begged them to put them across the Fleet west on their horses, and they did so.
Then they rode into the Dale, and had a hearty welcome; there Kettle of the Mark met them, and there they sate two nights.
Both Runolf and Kettle besought Thrain that he would make up his quarrel with Njal's sons; but he said he would never pay any money, and answered crossly, for he said he thought himself quite a match for Njal's sons wherever they met.
"So it may be," says Runolf; "but so far as I can see, no man has been their match since Gunnar of Lithend died and it is likelier that ye will both drag one another down to death."
Thrain said that was not to be dreaded.
Then Thrain fared up into the Mark, and was there two nights more; after that he rode down into the Dale, and was sent away from both houses with fitting gifts.
Now the Markfleet was then flowing between sheets of ice on both sides, and there were tongues of ice bridging it across every here and there.
Thrain said that he meant to ride home that evening, but Runolf said that he ought not to ride home; he said, too, that it would be more wary not to fare back as he had said he would before he left home.
"That is fear, and I will none of it," answers Thrain.
Now those gangrel women whom they had put across the Fleet came to Bergthorsknoll, and Bergthora asked whence they came, but they answered, "Away east under Eyjafell."
"Then, who put you across Markfleet?" said Bergthora.
"Those," said they, "who were the most boastful and bravest clad of men."
"Who?" asked Bergthora.
"Thrain Sigfus' son," said they, "and his company, but we thought it best to tell thee that they were so full-tonged towards this house, against thy husband and his sons."
"Listeners do not often hear good of themselves," says Bergthora. After that they went their way, and Bergthora gave them gifts on their going, and asked them when Thrain might be coming home.
They said that he would be from home four or five nights.
After that Bergthora told her sons and her son-in-law Kari, and they talked long and low about the matter.
But that same morning when Thrain and his men rode from the east, Njal woke up early and heard how Skarphedinn's axe came against the panel.
Then Njal rises up, and goes out, and sees that his sons are all there with their weapons, and Kari, his son-in-law too. Skarphedinn was foremost. He was in a blue cape, and had a targe, and his axe aloft on his shoulder. Next to him went Helgi; he was in a red kirtle, had a helm on his head, and a red shield, on which a hart was marked. Next to him went Kari; he had on a silken jerkin, a gilded helm and shield, and on it was drawn a lion. They were all in bright holiday clothes.
Njal called out to Skarphedinn, "Whither art thou going, kinsman?"
"On a sheep hunt," he said.
"So it was once before," said Njal, "but then ye hunted men."
Skarphedinn laughed at that, and said, "Hear ye what the old man says? He is not without his doubts."
"When was it that thou spokest thus before," asks Kari.
"When I slew Sigmund the White," says Skarphedinn, "Gunnar of Lithend's kinsman."
"For what?" asks Kari.
"He had slain Thord Freedmanson, my foster-father."
Njal went home, but they fared up into the Redslips, and bided there; thence they could see the others as soon as ever they rode from the east out of the Dale.
There was sunshine that day and bright weather.
Now Thrain and his men ride down out of the Dale along the river bank.
Lambi Sigurd's son said, "Shields gleam away yonder in the Redslips when the sun shines on them, and there must be some men lying in wait there."
"Then," says Thrain, "we will turn our way lower down the Fleet, and then they will come to meet us if they have any business with us."
So they turn down the Fleet. "Now they have caughtsight of us," said Skarphedinn, "for lo! they turn their path elsewhither, and now we have no other choice than to run down and meet them."
"Many men," said Kari, "would rather not lie in wait if the balance of force were not more on their side than it is on ours; they are eight, but we are five."
Now they turn down along the Fleet, and see a tongue of ice bridging the stream lower down and mean to cross there.
Thrain and his men take their stand upon the ice away from the tongue, and Thrain said, "What can these men want? They are five, and we are eight."
"I guess," said Lambi Sigurd's son, "that they would still run the risk though more men stood against them."
Thrain throws off his cloak, and takes off his helm.
Now it happened to Skarphedinn, as they ran down along the Fleet, that his shoe-string snapped asunder, and he stayed behind.
"Why so slow, Skarphedinn?" quoth Grim.
"I am tying my shoe," he says.
"Let us get on ahead," says Kari; "methinks he will not be slower than we."
So they turn off to the tongue, and run as fast as they can. Skarphedinn sprang up as soon as he was ready, and had lifted his axe, "the ogress of war," aloft, and runs right down to the Fleet. But the Fleet was so deep that there was no fording it for a long way up or down.
A great sheet of ice had been thrown up by the flood on the other side of the Fleet as smooth and slippery as glass, and there Thrain and his men stood in the midst of the sheet.
Skarphedinn takes a spring into the air, and leaps over the stream between the icebanks, and does not check his course, but rushes still onwards with a slide. The sheet of ice was very slippery, and so he went as fast as a bird flies. Thrain was just about to put his helm on his head; and now Skarphedinn bore down on them, and hews at Thrain with his axe, "the ogress of war," and smote him on the head, and clove him down to the teeth, so that his jaw-teeth fell out on the ice. This feat was done with such a quick sleight that no one could get a blow at him; he glided away from them at once at full speed. Tjorvi, indeed, threw his shield before him on the ice, but he leapt over it, and still kept his feet, and slid quite to the end of the sheet of ice.
There Kari and his brothers came to meet him.
"This was done like a man," says Kari.
"Your share is still left," says Skarphedinn, and sang a song:
"To the strife of swords not slower,
After all, I came than you,
For with ready stroke the sturdy
Squanderer of wealth I felled;
But since Grim's and Helgi's sea-stag (1)
Norway's Earl erst took and stripped,
Now 'tis time for sea-fire bearers (2)
Such dishonour to avenge."
And this other song he sang:
"Swiftly down I dashed my weapon,
Gashing giant, byrnie-breacher (3),
She, the noisy ogre's namesake (4),
Soon with flesh the ravens glutted;
Now your words to Hrapp remember,
On broad ice now rouse the storm,
With dull crash war's eager ogress
Battle's earliest note hath sung."
"That befits us well, and we will do it well," says Helgi.
Then they turn up towards them. Both Grim and Helgi see where Hrapp is, and they turned on him at once. Hrapp hews at Grim there and then with his axe; Helgi sees this and cuts at Hrapp's arm, and cut it off, and down fell the axe.
"In this," says Hrapp, "thou hast done a most needful work, for this hand hath wrought harm and death to many a man."
"And so here an end shall be put to it," says Grim; and with that he ran him through with a spear, and then Hrapp fell down dead.
Tjorvi turns against Kari and hurls a spear at him. Kari leapt up in the air, and the spear flew below his feet. Then Kari rushes at him, and hews at him on the breast with his sword, and the blow passed at once into his chest, and he got his death there and then.
Then Skarphedinn seizes both Gunnar Lambi's son, and Grani Gunnar's son, and said, "Here have I caught two whelps! but what shall we do with them?
"It is in thy power," says Helgi, "to slay both or either of them, if you wish them dead."
"I cannot find it in my heart to do both--help Hogni and slay his brother," says Skarphedinn.
"Then the day will once come," says Helgi, "when thou wilt wish that thou hadst slain him, for never will he be true to thee, nor will any one of the others who are now here."
"I shall not fear them," answers Skarphedinn.
After that they gave peace to Grani Gunnar's son, and Gunnar Lambi's son, and Lambi Sigurd's son, and Lodinn.
After that they went down to the Fleet where Skarphedinn had leapt over it, and Kari and the others measured the length of the leap with their spear-shafts, and it was twelve ells (5).
Then they turned homewards, and Njal asked what tidings. They told him all just as it had happened, and Njal said, "These are great tidings, and it is more likely that hence will come the death of one of my sons, if not more evil."
Gunnar Lambi's son bore the body of Thrain with him to Gritwater, and he was laid in a cairn there.
(1) "Sea-stag," periphrasis for ship.
(2) "Sea-fire bearers," the bearers of gold, men, that is, Helgi and Grim.
(3) "Byrnie-breacher," piercer of coats of mail.
(4) "Noisy ogre's namesake," an allusion to the name of Skarp hedinn's axe, "the ogress of war."
(5) Twelve ells, about twenty-four feet (the Norse ell being something more than two feet), a good jump, but not beyond the power of man. Comp. "Orkn. Saga", ch. 113, new ed., vol. i., 457, where Earl Harold leaps nine ells over a dike.