Sagas & Legends
Slaying of Thrand.
One morning Thorstein rose with the sun, and went up on the hill. He saw where Steinar's cattle were. Then went Thorstein out on the moor till he came to the cattle. There stands a wood-clad rock by Hafs-brook: upon this Thrand was lying asleep, having put off his shoes. Thorstein mounted the rock: he had in his hand a small axe, and no other weapon. With the shaft of the axe he poked Thrand, and bade him wake. Up he jumped swiftly and suddenly, gripped his axe with both hands and raised it aloft, and asked Thorstein what he wanted. He replied, 'I wish to tell you that this land is mine; yours is the pasture beyond the brook. It is no wonder if you do not yet know the landmarks here.' Said Thrand, 'It makes no odds to me who owns the land: I shall let the cattle be where they please.' ''Tis likely,' said Thorstein, 'that I shall wish myself, and not Steinar's thralls, to rule my own land.' Said Thrand, 'You are a far more foolish man, Thorstein, than I judged you to be, if you will take night-quarters under my axe, and for this risk your honours. Methinks, from what I see, I have twice your strength; nor lack I courage: better weaponed am I also than you.' Thorstein replied: 'That risk I shall run, if you do not as I say about the pasture. I hope that our good fortune may differ much, as does the justice of our cause.' Thrand said: 'Now shall you see, Thorstein, whether I at all fear your threats.' And with that Thrand sat down and tied on his shoe. But Thorstein raised his axe swiftly, and smote on Thrand's neck so that his head fell forward on his breast. Then Thorstein heaped some stones over him and covered his body, which done, he went home to Borg.
On that day Steinar's cattle were late in coming home; and when there seemed no hope of their coming, Steinar took his horse and saddled it, and fully armed himself. He then rode to Borg. And when he came there he found men to speak to, and asked where Thorstein was. It was told him that he was sitting within. Then Steinar asked that he should come out; he had (he said) an errand with him. Which when Thorstein heard, he took his weapons and went out to the door. Then he asked Steinar what was his errand. 'Have you slain Thrand my thrall?' said Steinar. 'Truly I have,' said Thorstein; 'you need not put that upon any other man.' 'Then I see,' said Steinar, 'that you mean to guard your land with the strong hand, since you have slain my two thralls: yet methinks this is no great exploit. Now will I offer you in this a far better choice, if you wish to guard your land by force: I shall not trust other men with the driving of my cattle, but be you sure of this, the cattle shall be on your land both night and day.' 'So it is,' said Thorstein, 'that I slew last summer your thrall, whom you set to feed cattle on my land, but afterwards let you have the feed as you would up to the winter. Now have I slain another thrall of yours, for the same fault as the former. Again you shall have the feed from now through the summer, as you will. But next summer, if you feed on my land, and set men to drive your cattle thither, then will I go on slaying for you every man that tends them, though it be yourself. I will act this every summer while you hold to the manner of grazing that you have begun.'
Then Steinar rode away and home to Brekka. And a little while after Steinar rode up to Stafar-holt, where Einar then dwelt. He was a priest. Steinar asked his help, and offered him money. Einar said, 'You will gain little by my help, unless more men of honour back you in this cause.' After that Steinar rode up to Reykjar-dale to see Tongue-Odd, and asked his help and offered him money. Odd took the money, and promised his help; he was to strengthen Steinar to take the law of Thorstein. Then Steinar rode home.
But in the spring Odd and Einar went with Steinar on the journey of summons, taking a large company. Steinar summoned Thorstein for thrall-slaying, and claimed lesser outlawry as the penalty of each slaying. For this was the law, when thralls of anyone were slain, and the fine for the thrall was not brought to the owner before the third sunrise. But two charges of lesser outlawry were equivalent to one of full outlawry. Thorstein brought no counter-summons on any charge.
And soon after he sent men southwards to Ness, who came to Grim as Moss-fell and there told these tidings. Egil did not show much interest about it, but he quietly learned by the questions what had passed between Thorstein and Steinar, as also about those who had strengthened Steinar in this cause. Then the messengers went home, and Thorstein appeared well pleased with their journey.
Thorstein Egil's son took a numerous company to the spring-tide Thing: he came there one night before other men, and they roofed their booths, he and the Thingmen who had booths there. And when they had made all arrangements, then Thorstein bade his Thingmen set to work, and they built there large booth-walls. Then he had roofed in a far larger booth than the other that were there. In this booth were no men.
Steinar rode to the Thing also with a numerous company, as did Tongue-Odd, and Einar from Stafar-holt; they roofed their booths. The Thing was a very full one. Men pleaded their causes. Thorstein offered no atonement for himself, but to those who advised atonement made answer, that he meant to abide by judgment. He said that he thought the cause which Steinar came, about the slaying of his thralls, was little worth; Steinar's thralls, he argued, had done enough to deserve death. Steinar was high and mighty about his cause: he had, as he thought, charges good in law, and helpers strong enough to win his rights. So he was most impetuous in his cause.
That day men went to the Thing-brink and spoke their pleadings; but in the evening the judges were to go out to try suits. Thorstein was there with his train; he had there chief authority as to the rules of the Thing, for so it had been while Egil held priesthood and headship. Both parties were fully armed.
And now it was seen from the Thing that a troop of men was riding down along Cleave-river with gleaming shields. And when they rode into the Thing, there rode foremost a man in a blue mantle. He had on his head a gilded helm, by his side a gold-decked shield, in his hand a barbed spear whose socket was overlaid with gold, and a sword at his girdle. Thither had come Egil Skallagrim's son with eighty men, all well-weaponed, as if arrayed for battle. A choice company it was: Egil had brought with him the best landowners' sons from the southern Nesses, those whom he thought the most warlike. With this troop Egil rode to the booth which Thorstein had had roofed, a booth hitherto empty. They dismounted. And when Thorstein perceived his father's coming, he with all his troop went to meet him, and bade him welcome. Egil and his force had their travelling gear carried into the booth, and their horses turned out to pasture. This done, Egil and Thorstein with the whole troop went up to the Thing-brink, and sat them down where they were wont to sit.
Then Egil stood up and spoke with loud voice: 'Is Aunund Sjoni here on the Thing-brink?' Aunund replied that he was there. And he said, 'I am glad, Egil, that you are come. This will set right all the dispute here between these men.' 'Is it by your counsel,' said Egil, 'that your son Steinar brings a charge against my son Thorstein, and has gathered much people to this end, to make Thorstein an outcast?' 'Of this I am not the cause,' said Aunund, 'that they are quarrelling. I have spend many a word and begged Steinar to be reconciled with Thorstein; for in any case I would have spared your son Thorstein disgrace: and good cause for this is the loving friendship of old that has been between us two, Egil, since we grew up here as next-door neighbours.' 'It will soon be clear,' said Egil, 'whether you speak this as truth or vain words; though I think this latter can hardly be. I remember the day when either of us had deemed it incredible that one should be accusing the other, or that we should not control our sons from going on with such folly as I hear this is like to prove. To me this seems right counsel, while we both live and are so nearly concerned with their quarrel, that we take this cause into our own hands and quash it, and let not Tongue-Odd and Einar match our sons together like fighting horses. Let them henceforth find some other way than this of making money.'
Then stood up Aunund and spoke: 'Rightly say you, Egil; and it ill-beseems us to be at a Thing where our sons quarrel. Never shall that shame be ours, that we lacked the manhood to reconcile them. Now, Steinar, I will that you give this cause into my hands, and let me deal with it as I please.'
'I am not sure,' said Steinar, 'that I will so abandon my cause; for I have already sought me the help of great men. I will now only bring my cause to such an issue as shall content Odd and Einar.' Then Odd and Steinar talked together. Odd said, 'I will give you, Steinar, the help that I promised towards getting law, or for such issue of the cause as you may consent to accept. You will be mainly answerable for how your cause goes, if Egil is to be judge therein.'
Whereupon Aunund said: 'I need not leave this matter to the tongue of Odd. Of him I have had neither good or bad; but Egil has done to me much that is very good. I trust him far more than others; and I shall have my way in this. It will be for your advantage not to have all of us on your hands. I have hitherto ruled for us both, and will do so still.' Steinar said, 'You are right eager about this cause, father; but I think we shall oft rue this.'
After this Steinar made over the cause to Aunund to prosecute or compromise according to law. And no sooner had Aunund the management of this cause, than he went to seek the father and son, Thorstein and Egil. Then said Aunund: 'Now I will, Egil, that you alone shape and shear in this matter as you will, for I trust you best to deal with this my cause as with all others.'
Then Thorstein and Aunund took hands, and named them witnesses, declaring withal that Egil Skallagrimsson should along judge this cause, as he would, without appeal, then and there at the Thing. And so ended this suit.
Now men went home to their booths. Thorstein had three oxen led to Egil's booth and slaughtered for the Thing banquet.
And when Tongue-Odd and Steinar came home to their booth, Odd said: 'Now have you, Steinar, and your father ruled the issue of your suit. I now declare myself free of debt to you, Steinar, in regard of that help which I promised you; for it was agreed between us that I should help you in carrying through your suit, or to such issue as should content you; free am I, I say, whatever may be the terms adjudged you by Egil.' Steinar said that Odd had helped him well and manfully, and their friendship should be closer than before. 'I pronounce you,' he said, 'free of debt to me in regard of that whereto you were bound.'
In the evening the judges went out; but nothing happened that needs to be told.
Next: CHAPTER LXXXVII. Of Egil and Aunund Sjoni.