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p. 77


AOCH'S extraordinary execution, with the particulars of King Olave's steadfast courage and escape, soon became the topic of conversation far and wide, and was the theme of many a travelling minstrel's song. In time the news reached the shores of Norway and the city of Drontheim, where it came at last to the ears of Loan Maclibhuin, the swarthy smith of that ilk.

When he heard of the stratagem and weird device adopted by the Manx witches, and submitted to by the king to thwart the efficacy of his chef d'œuvre, the great sword Macabuin, he stormed and raged with frantic fury, uttering curses and denunciations on the king, on the witches, and on the whole Manx people. He summoned his confidential servant and chief hammerman, an old cripple named HIALLUS-NAN-URD, and bid him start at once to the Isle of Man, and go to the court of King Olave Goddardson, at Peel Castle, with a message he imparted to him in secret.

Hiallus-nan-urd had only one leg, having lost the other in the service

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of his master while assisting that wonderful smith in the manufacture of the great sword Macabuin. Swords, however, were not the only articles manufactured in the Drontheim smithy, and Loan Maclibhuin had cunningly contrived for his crippled servant an artificial limb, which, though not worked either by steam or clockwork and springs, like the leg of Mynheer von Clam, was a very curious piece of mechanism, and, unlike that of the Dutchman, though it "never got tired," was under the perfect control of its owner.

The hammerman started off, and in due time reached Peel Castle, where he demanded to be admitted to an audience with his Majesty of Man. On being ushered into the royal presence, he then and there taunted the king with unknightly conduct in having offered insult to his own good sword--the great sword Macabuin, which had been made expressly for and presented to him by the dark smith, Loan Maclibhuin of Drontheim, and he concluded with challenging the king to walk with him from Peel Castle to the smithy at Drontheim.

Such a challenge, publicly given before his whole court, coupled with so grave an accusation, could not be refused without ineffable disgrace and a total loss of caste. The honour of Olave Goddardson was at stake, and he had no alternative but to accept the challenge of the offended Loan Maclibhuin. This he did in spite of a solemn warning given to him by Oda the witch, who, scenting the arrival of the strange one-legged ambassador from Norway, and auguring no good from his visit, had hastened to the court at Peel Castle, and was present at the meeting between him and he king.

She privately informed Olave Goddardson that the challenge was only a ruse to decoy him to his destruction, for the dark smith was at that very time engaged upon the construction of another magic sword, which was to possess even more wonderful powers than the once celebrated, but now dishonoured, Macabuin, in his Majesty's possession. She also informed him that news had been brought to her by a raven, with three white spots on its breast, that had arrived the night previous direct from Norway, of its having been prophesied by Haco-Norjid, a noted wizard of that country,

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that the new sword now being made by Loan Maclibhuin, the dark smith of Drontheim, would be a wonderful success, and possessed of supernatural and invincible powers far beyond that of Macabuin, or of any other weapon ever yet produced in the world; but that in order to insure this success it was necessary that the steel should be tempered in live royal blood.

Oda at once divined that it was the dark smith's intention to entrap King Olave Goddardson into visiting his smithy at Drontheim for the sole purpose of making him the victim whose royal blood should give the required temper and miraculous powers to the great sword he was now engaged upon.

On hearing Oda's communication the king thanked her for the warning, but told her it was too late to withdraw from the challenge.

Followed by the good wishes and prayers of all his people, King Olave started off on his journey to walk with Hiallus-nan-urd, the one-legged hammerman of Loan Maclibhuin, from Peel Castle to the smithy at Drontheim. No sooner had they started than a large black raven, with three white spots upon its breast, was seen to rise into the air, and, after three flights round the towers of Peel Castle, to take the same course as the travellers, keeping steadily over the king's head. Oda, the Manx witch, was determined that King Olave should, in case of need, receive due warning of any danger or treachery that might threaten his safety while away, and that raven was intrusted by her with a special mission for that with strict instructions ever to keep a close watch on the one-legged hammerman, and on no account to allow him to arrive at the smithy at Drontheim before the king.


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