OF HALDEN, III
by Robin Gordon
Robin Gordon 2006
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There was a man called Odd Fart. He was the son of
the Boaster and the son-in-law of King Haakon Bloodhand.
sons were Saemund the Weasel and Eirik. When King Haakon was
murdered by his sons Odd threw in his lot with Harald and invited his
other brothers-in-law to his house to divide their father's
inheritance. While they were drinking after the meal Harald's men came
in with drawn swords and killed them all. Afterwards Harald
became King of Norway, and Odd Fart was always at his side.
Harald killed as many of his kinsfolk as he could, to prevent
anyone else claiming the throne, and then he decided to make friends
with his father's enemies. When Odd Fart heard that Sigurd
Terrible had made himself Earl of Swardale he laughed and thought it a
great joke, but when he heard how much wealth Sigurd had gained from
his raiding and trading, and that the soil in Swardale made good
farming, he offered to go himself to seek a reconciliation.
Odd had it in mind to marry one of his daughters to one of
Sigurd's sons. He was wealthy enough to offer any settlement
Sigurd might ask, because the new King had rewarded him with property
confiscated from a number of men whom he had killed or banned as
outlaws, but he thought that the alliance would please the Earl as much
as the King, and did not expect to have to give much of a
He wanted to use some of the money he had with him to buy farmland in
Swardale in case he ever had to flee from Norway.
So Odd set sail for Swardale, taking with him his son
the hold of his ship he had gifts from King Harald to Sigurd: pelts
from Finnmark, an ivory-handled knife from Byzantium, and a fine
drinking-horn that had once been given to Thorgrim Frey's-Priest by
Odd Fart sailed north of Orkney then round the Scottish
coast. There was heavy weather and the winds were against
but they managed to tack southward almost as far as Swardale when a
strong gale suddenly arose and blew them so far off course that they
were obliged to take shelter in Ireland. There they stayed
several days until the storm had blown itself out.
It was this same storm that wrecked Sweyne's ship when he
back across the Western Ocean. A man called Bjorn Bodvarsson,
was out looking for driftwood, found a sword marked with
He took it to Hal¬đan and gave it to Earl Sigurd.
When Sigurd held the sword and saw the runes he made this
lament for the loss of his son.
crashed the curled sea.
sorrow for my son. Sweyne's drowned.
Wormbane comes back,
from the deep, the dragon-killer.
help can I hope for, though hard-pressed.
friends may fail our kin.
shield and safeguard has sailed away
the bounds of the bitter world.
This was the only poem that Earl Sigurd the Terrible ever
Soon after, Saemund the Weasel arrived in Halđan.
straight to Sigurd and claimed hospitality for himself and his
father. Odd came from his ship and flattered Sigurd, which he
well able to do.
"Harald is now King of Norway," he said, "and he has sworn to
take vengeance on all his father's enemies who won't make a treaty of
friendship. When he heard how well you are doing over here,
wanted to send a fleet to take Swardale from you, but I told him that a
strong friend is better than a bitter foe, and persuaded him to let me
come and make friends. What I want to do is this. I
King's brother-in-law and my daughters are his nieces. If you
agree, let us marry my daughter Rannveig to your son Sweyne.
man needs powerful friends these days."
Afterwards Sigurd talked it over with Ketil Greybeard, his
mother's brother's son.
"If Odd Fart's sword was as sharp as his nose," said Sigurd,
“if his boldness was as great as his boasting, and if he were
long-winded in fighting as in talking, then he would be a great man
indeed. If Sweyne were alive I should have no need of Odd or his King,
but Thorkel will never be the man his brother was, and I shan't last
"It's a wise man that knows his own weakness," answered Ketil.
Sigurd then went to where Thorkel was sleeping and shook him
"You heard what Odd Eyvindsson suggested," said the
"How would you like to marry the King's niece?"
As he expected, Thorkel agreed at once.
Next morning Sigurd took Odd Fart aside. "My eldest
Sweyne, was drowned in the storm," he said. "Thorkel will
all my power. If you agree, Rannveig can marry him.”
Odd was only too eager to conclude the business.
hands on it there and then. Saemund set off for Norway the
day to bring back his sister, Rannveig, but Odd stayed on in Swardale
for the winter.
Odd could see that his skill in flattery did not greatly
Earl Sigurd, but he found that Thorkel could be easily manipulated.
"It is clear," he said, "that Swardale will be a very
place when you are in charge, for I've never met a more capable and
energetic man. Not even King Harald is your equal."
Thorkel lapped this up and was always ready to listen to Odd.
"It's very fortunate," said Odd, "that your brother was
for you are obviously the better man of the two, and it's only your
father's blind prejudice that stops everyone realising it.
obvious that, now you are his heir, you should have all the land that
your brother owned, but your father is keeping it for
That's nothing but foolishness. He's an old man, and the
can cheat him as much as they like. If you want to claim the
farms, I'll support you. An old man like that won't be able
stand up to both of us, no matter how stubborn he is. In
all I want you to do is help me to obtain some of the other good
farmland that's to be had in Swardale. I inherited a small
last year, and I mean to invest it wisely to keep me in my old age, and
it seems to me that farmland in Swardale is the best thing a man can
Thorkel agreed readily enough. Odd Fart went
where Sigurd was instructing his men which trees to fell in a wood that
belonged to him two miles north-east of Halđan, and told him that he
thought Thorkel should have Sweyne's farmland made over to him on his
"It wouldn't do to hand it over to him straightaway," said
Odd. "People will expect you to observe a due period of
for Sweyne, so I would advise you not to be too rash, however much you
want to ensure that Thorkel is your successor. But no-one
take it amiss if you were to hand over the farms on Thorkel's wedding
day. That way he will have all the power that his brother had without
anyone enviously comparing him to Sweyne, and perhaps your
grandchildren will be more like you than he is."
Odd spoke for a long time in this vein, until Sigurd agreed
to all that he asked.
"It would be as well," said Odd, "to let everyone know that
mean to give the farms to Thorkel, or it may be said that you are
treating him shabbily.”
When Thorkel heard that Odd Eyvindsson had persuaded Sigurd
give him Sweyne's farms on his wedding day, he was very pleased to have
such a powerful friend. Thorkel and Odd visited the farms and
took as much as they liked of the harvest. Sweyne's tenants
got tired of being pushed around, so they left and went off to seek for
work elsewhere. Thorkel put his own henchmen in to run the
even though they would not be his until Rannveig came over in spring.
The lands that Thorkel took in this way were Swenby, where
had built his house, Geddonby, and Thorsby, which was on the other side
of the Alebeck marshes. Some other farmers round about soon
that Thorkel's henchmen were poor neighbours, and Odd Fart was able to
buy their land cheaply. Soon Odd and Thorkel together owned
land than anyone else in Swardale. They did not farm it
themselves, but left it to their henchmen, whom they provided with
slaves taken from the British villages in the fells. Each day
they rode out hunting for deer or other game, or for slaves.
No-one was safe from them, from the mouth of Derwydd's Dale to the
marshes round the estuary of the Swar.
There was a woman named Walburga who lived in the marshes on
coast. She was the wife of that Ædwin the Christian
whom Sweyne had crucified. Walburga and her daughter,
Ædwitha, escaped in the confusion and fled into the
marshes. They knew the safe paths well because they often
there to gather mallows and mosses, for Walburga was skilled in making
medicines from plants, and she had taught Ædwitha almost all
They had found shelter in a clump of alders on an island and
able to live by eating berries and roots and catching small fish that
got trapped in the tidal pools. It was poor fare but it kept
When Sweyne was cast ashore on the coast of Swardale he lay
senseless at the edge of the marsh and would have drowned at the next
tide if these two women had not found him. They dragged him
their island and began to wash him and to tend to his wounds.
carried their husband's killer,
father's foe. Fate gave them
hostage in hand for hope of blood price,
life for a life, to lie in their grove.
the herdsman heed his beasts
keep his sword swift to his hand.
warrior who sleeps and watches not
his body's blood to loss.
the fighter sleep with his spear at hand,
reach of his arm let his axe be kept,
the weaponless warrior's
Sweyne's spear and shield were broken, and his sword was lost
the storm and swallowed by the Midgard Serpent in its wrath.
cunning alone remained. When he came to his senses he kept
eyes half-closed, looking stealthily through their lowered lids, and
listening to what the women said. He soon knew who they were
saw that his only hope lay in flight.
He waited until the women had fallen asleep, then he tried to
stand up, but he fell heavily and aroused them.
"Why don't you kill me now?" said Sweyne. "Or have
other revenge planned? My father will give you full
for the men I killed. You can ransom me for enough refined
to pay your passage to wherever you wish to go."
The women replied that they would take him back to his father
when he was fit to be moved.
When Sweyne heard this he thought they meant to wait until he
almost well, then torture him, and that his dead body would be sent to
Halđan. His strength soon began to return, but he fooled the
women into thinking he was still very weak. Each night, while
they went out into the marsh for food, he got up and exercised his
body, but when they came back they found him lying limply on his bed.
One night Sweyne broke off a straight pole from one of the
trees. When the women were asleep he got up quietly, found
branch, and set off. The marsh was not wide, but very
treacherous. Sweyne did not know the safe paths, and had to
every inch of the way with his staff. There was a thick mist, as often
happens in late autumn around the mouth of the Swar, and he could
scarcely see in front of him. The women soon found he had
and he heard them calling his name, but the fog which hampered his
progress hid him from them.
Walburga and Ædwitha went different ways to cover
ground. There were two paths which led from their alders to firm land.
Walburga took the more direct way along a spit of solid earth close to
the shore, and Ædwitha followed the one that wound around the
treacherous bogs to the north-east. It was she who found
Ædwitha came up to him quietly and told him it was
come back. Sweyne refused, and she told him that, now they
seen how well he was, they would take him to Halđan next morning.
Sweyne laughed bitterly when he heard this.
"I know what you mean by sending me home," he said, "and I'm
so foolish as to think that I'll reach my father's house in one piece."
He would not listen when Ædwitha told him the women
not out for revenge, and, when she said they were acting out of
Christian love, he laughed again.
"I know about your Christ," he said. "If he had
sayings of the High One, he would not have let himself be taken
unprepared. What sort of a man leaves his followers to go
in a garden when his enemies are on his tail? Only one of
was a man. He kept his weapon ready and went for his leader's
foes. But what did your Christ do? He stopped
wouldn't fight! What sort of a man is that?"
"A better man than you," replied the woman.
"I'll show you what sort of a man I am," answered
"For weeks I've lain in your hut, watching you and curbing my lust to
seem weak. But now that you know I am strong again, I have no
need to pretend."
He seized Ædwitha, bore her to the ground, and
had his will with her, but Walburga, coming back from the firm ground
by the longer path, seized his staff, swung it with all her might, and
hit him on the head. Sweyne fell as if dead.
held Sweyne helpless in thrall.
spawn lurked in wait
drag to death the doomed warrior.
sank through sleepless nightmares.
When Sweyne awoke he was back in the shelter in the alder
grove. He saw the familiar branches, heard the talk of the
saw them move towards him, and fell again into a black swoon.
faithful care of the women brought him back to life again, but how long
he had lain helpless he could not tell. At first he saw but
blearily. To move at all cost him immense effort, and the
had to feed him by pouring spoonfuls of potions into his
It was many days before he could raise his hand to his face, and when
he did he found his beard gone.
"Why have you shaved me?" he asked, and was told that the
had not shaved him. When he tried to rape Ædwitha
Walburga knocked him out, the women had fled, leaving him for dead,
but, fearing that the Vikings might find him and then search for his
killers, they had gone back to drag his body away and sink it in a bog.
Finding him alive that had carried him back to their shelter.
Then, without thinking out what to do, they had, more or less by force
of habit started caring for him again. His flight and his new
wound must have undermined him. In spite of all they did for
he seemed to grow weaker and weaker. His muscular frame had
withered away. His beard had fallen out and his fine head of
had become lank and lifeless. Even his voice, when he called out in his
nightmares, had lost its manly force and become thin and reedy like
that of a half-grown boy or an old man in his second childhood.
Sweyne's return to consciousness began his
he regained the use of his body. Ædwitha would have
his constant companion. While her mother gathered herbs and
foodstuffs she stayed with Sweyne, helping him to walk a few laboured
steps at a time around the grove, and bringing him the message of
salvation. The next we hear of him is in some scraps of
anti-Christian alliterative poetry now in the Icelandic National
was Sven, Sigurd's son.
call on Christ and claim his help,
lily-livered little coward
would not fight for freedom or life.
let himself be killed, your Christ almighty.
was hanged high,
hope of Heaven.
was taken in thrall like a thief at night.
was bound with bonds like a branded slave.
soldiers ripped his garments,
scourged him with whips, whining like a cur.
follow a faith fit only for women.
men were maids. Merry the Viking
finds such sport and speeds them to hell.
souls are strong, stronger our gods.
horns give drink, death our swords.
bodies are bathed
beer and blood.
It would seem that Sweyne recovered enough to walk about
but that his body remained weak. In this state, with his
cracking like a half-grown boy's and his beard refusing to grow except
perhaps as wispy down or lank patches, he probably chose to stay in
hiding with the women rather than show himself in Halden, doubtless
remembering one of the sayings of the High One, Odin.
kinsfolk die, and even to ourselves death will come. One
know will never die: the fame that we leave behind on our death."
to be remembered as the heroic Viking leader who perished in the storm
when he was bringing back plunder from across the Western Ocean, than
to be seen as a puny weakling. Seen he was, however, as we
in this fragmentary manuscript in the Babylon Library, Auksford.
There was a man called Nils, the son of Ulf who used to farm
Skåne until the King burned his house and sold his
Ulf fled to join Sigurd in Swardale. He took an Irish woman
wife and had one son, Nils, who was called Nils the Tall because he was
scarcely higher than a table.
Nils had two close friends, Holger the Handsome, who was so
that he might have been one of the spawn of Loki and the giantess, and
Fritjoff the Goldgiver, who kept his purse sewn up tightly in his
One day, while Thorkel Sigurdsson and his men were out
Nils Ulfsson and his friends rode off by themselves and lost the main
group. They came to a village and wanted to buy ale, but they
"We all know," said Nils, "that Fritjoff carries a purse full
silver in his breeches. Surely he will pay to save his
from dying of thirst."
"You have a sharp tongue, Nils," said Fritjoff, "but you
remember that no good comes of stealing someone else's money."
"Still, I'd very much like to have a try," said Nils, "since
Holger and I have might on our side, even if the law is on yours."
When Fritjoff saw what was in their minds he turned his pony
raced off as fast as he could. Nils and Holger followed at
heels, eager for plunder. Fritjoff made for the
his bid to escape he rode out into the marsh and followed a narrow
path, with the other two close behind him. Suddenly they came
a clump of alders, with a rough hut between the trees. Two
roused from sleep by their shouts, came out, followed by a puny man.
"We can sell these women as slaves," said Fritjoff, "but
will buy the man. He's too weak for work. We may as
The man called out , "Wait! Don't you know
Sweyne Sigurdsson who set sail across the grey ocean. The
Serpent swallowed up my ship, but I was cast ashore and these women
tended my wounds.”
friends laughed when they heard the puny, bent, little man claiming to
be the Earl's son, but Sweyne said, "If I were not Sweyne how would I
know your names, Nils, Holger and Fritjoff?"
"Everybody knows of us," said Nils. "Our fame has
throughout Swardale. Even the peasants tell of our heroic
"Thorkel Sigurdsson will laugh when we show him your body and
tell him you claimed to be his brother," said Holger.
"Is Thorkel here?" cried Sweyne. Bring him to me!"
"Let's fetch Thorkel," said Fritjoff. "If this joke
make Earl Sigurd smile, perhaps Thorkel will reward us."
Nils laughed. "Fritjoff has so much gold and silver
breeches that he can hardly walk," he said, "yet he wants to add to the
weight he carries. Well, if Thorkel gives us a reward, at
we shall be able to buy beer."
When Thorkel came, Sweyne tried to embrace his brother, but
Earl's son threw off the wizened little fellow and drew his sword. Nils
Ulfsson and his friends held him back.
"Don't kill him," they said. "He's mad.
he is your brother, Sweyne. We thought it might make Earl
"I'll prove I'm Sweyne," cried the puny little man in his
voice. If you'll bend your head I’ll whisper to you
secret name that Odin wrote on Sweyne's sword."
"Everyone knows that the sword is called Wormbane," said
scornfully. “You could have heard that anywhere in
where people speak of my brother's deeds."
"Cattle die, kinsfolk die, even to ourselves will death
said Sweyne. "One thing I know will never die: the fame that
leave behind on our death. It is better that Sweyne should
died at sea. I am not Sweyne. I am a foolish
madman. Let me
"Not so," said Thorkel. “Earl Sigurd has
smiled nor laughed since his son was lost. We'll see how he
this new son!"
So Sweyne and the women were brought to Halđan
Earl Sigurd and his men were gathered in their longhouse,
drinking and talking over their memories, when Thorkel arrived.
"Here's entertainment for you, Father," he said, and pushed
Sweyne into the middle of the room.
"What foolishness is this?" cried Sigurd. "What
entertainment can we expect from a broken-down old peasant?"
"Tell the Earl who you are!" said Thorkel to
Sweyne. "Surely you know your own father!"
"I am a poor madman," said Sweyne. "I live with my
and sister by the sea-shore and listen to the sound of the
When I hear the storms blow, I dream I'm a Viking warrior. I
to dream I was Sweyne, because he was the best and bravest of all, but
Sweyne is dead, and Thorkel has taught me that madmen must be modest."
"He has grown cunning," said Thorkel. "Listen,
found this wizened, bent, old fellow living in the swamp with two
women, one old, one young. He says one is his mother and the
other his sister, which may be true, but he is such a strange little
fellow that sometimes he looks old enough to be his mother's father,
and sometimes he seems young enough to be his sister's son.
"When Nils Ulfsson and his friends, Holger the Handsome and
Fritjoff the Goldgiver, found him, he called them by name and told them
he was Sweyne, long-lost son of Earl Sigurd. They spared his
life, and we brought him to you, hoping that the sight of this puny
little mannikin, puffing himself up like a frog and claiming to be your
son, would make you laugh."
Nils, Holger and Fritjoff assured Sigurd that it was so, and
that, when they had grabbed hold of the little worm, he had squirmed
and squealed and cried out that he was Sweyne Sigurdsson, the favourite
of Odin, the ravisher of half the world.
When the Vikings heard this and saw Sweyne lying on the floor
if he hadn't the strength to get up, they began to laugh.
booted him in the backside so that he fell flat on his face, then
picked him up by the scruff of the neck and held him hanging like a
There was a man called Thorolf, the son of Bjorn the Beserk
had killed two sons of King Olaf at Ostrarfiord. This Thorolf
a boastful fellow and had often quarrelled with Sweyne, though he was a
close crony of Thorkel's. Now Thorolf came forward and peered
closely at the limp little fellow hanging in Thorkel's grip.
"Remember me, Sweyne?" he said. You and I have one
unsettled scores. Well, I'm ready to fight you, and any man
can witness to your kin that you fell in fair fight."
When Thorkel's theigns heard this they began to call for a
to be cleared. Thorolf drew his broadsword, but Thorkel
"Don't kill him yet," he said. "There's still a lot
of fun to be had out of him."
Don't worry," replied Thorolf. "My father may have
been a berserk, but I know exactly what I'm doing."
Nils Ulfsson gave Sweyne his sword, which was half the size
normal man's, but even so Sweyne could scarcely lift it.
They stood facing one another. Thorolf was a
man with a red face and yellow beard. His arms were as strong
iron and his muscles like forged steel. He stood with his
raised, ready to strike. Sweyne looked like a puny,
boy stricken suddenly with old age. His sword hung down and
rested on the floor. His arms were weak and his head drooped
his chest. His legs trembled with the effort of standing, and
looked ready to fall into a limp heap.
Sigurd gave the signal to begin. Sweyne heaved at
sword, hoping to parry Thorolf's thrust. Thorolf gently
Sweyne's sword aside, and the sick man stumbled and almost fell.
Thorolf's sword flashed and came to rest against Sweyne's
"You'll have to do better than that," said Thorolf.
"I could have split your head in two."
"You always were a boaster and a bully," said
don't you finish me off? You could tell your grandchildren it
you who slew Sweyne of Swardale. What a hero you'd be!"
Earl Sigurd burst out laughing at this sally, and Thorolf
have put an end to Sweyne's life without further ado if Thorkel and his
henchmen hadn't hustled him aside.
"First strike to little Sweyne," laughed the Earl.
you other champions to carry on the sport, Thorkel?"
"Gunnar the One-Eyed will take up the challenge," replied
This Gunnar was a swarthy fellow. His mother had
captured in the south by Egil the son of Thorfinn Eriksson and bought
by Hallvard the Hard-Fighter with money he had stolen from the
Brynjolfssons. Afterwards Hallvard was ambushed at
Grim and Gudmund Brynjolfsson.
Gunnar faced Sweyne and dared him to strike, while Thorkel's
laughed and egged him on. Sweyne let his sword hang limp and
answered Gunnar in verse.
son did not seek
father's killers. He closed one eye,
Grim and Gudmund go free,
earned his nickname, one-eyed Gunnar.
when he meets a puny madman
both his eyes open wide.
can see well enough to kill a weakling,
blind in one eye to the Brynjolfssons' crime."
Sigurd laughed heartily when he heard this, and Gunnar would
killed Sweyne on the spot if Thorkel and his henchmen hadn't hustled
"This won't do," thought Thorkel. "I brought this
here to make sport of him, but he answers my men with as much boldness
as if he were Sweyne himself, and even my own father takes his part. I
can see that I shall have to take a hand myself."
So Thorkel stepped forward with his sword in his hand and
challenged Sweyne to fight.
"Unless you are afraid of killing your own brother," he
added, which delighted his men.
"I don't suppose there's anything you can say against me,"
Thorkel, "unless you want to let everyone know how we fought at our
Sweyne remained silent.
"Perhaps you know some of Sigurd's secrets," said
"I'm sure he'd be pleased to hear a poem about himself."
Sweyne lowered his head on to his chest again and said
Thorkel grew angry at the failure of the joke he had planned.
"I see that you are nothing more than a crazy old madman
all," he said. My friends spared you when you said you were
Sweyne. If you're not Sweyne, you might as well die."
Sweyne said nothing.
Thorkel looked around angrily, and his eye lighted on a sword
hung in a place of honour near Sigurd's chair. With two
he seized it from its place and brought it to Sweyne.
"Here's a more fitting weapon for you, Brother," he
said. “Here's your own sword, Wormbane!"
Earl Sigurd looked angry at this, but the hunched little
began to run his finger round the runes on the sword's hilt with such
loving care that no-one could help laughing.
"Tell me how Wormbane came to be here," said
I last saw it, it was in the jaws of the Midgard Serpent."
This made the Vikings laugh even louder. Thorkel
things were going his way, so he called, "Tell us about your fight with
the Serpent, Brother!"
But Sweyne saw they were making a fool of him and kept silent.
This did not suit Thorkel at all.
"My brother is too modest," he said. "He wants to
no-one can accuse him of boasting. After all we all know his
record. We all remember how, when he was still a boy, he
his mother and his younger brothers and sisters from the King's
henchmen, who would have cut them down as they fled to the
I was there, and, when I look at my brother, I can still see him
standing there defying the King's warriors. Do you remember,
Sweyne? Why don't you tell us what happened?"
Sweyne sank to the floor and sat unmoving. He spoke
no word. He said nothing.
Thorkel began to get impatient. "Aren't you going
us how you helped Sigurd take Swardale?" he asked. "Aren't
going to tell us about the Viking raids you led? What about
men you killed? What about the farms you burned?
you took? The slaves? The women?"
When Thorkel saw that his words could not goad the madman
answering him he grew angry. He seized Sweyne by the scruff
the neck and hauled him up. Sweyne hung from his brother's
like a dead rabbit.
"So, you claim to be Sweyne, eh?" said Thorkel.
to be the best-known raider and fighter in Swardale, the eldest son of
Earl Sigurd? I suppose you’ve come to take back
as the next Earl, eh? To drive me out? Well, you're
much of a fighter, and I don't think you're much of a man at
Why don't you show us just what you can do, eh? Here's this
you've been living with down on the shore -- and don't say she's your
sister because we won't believe you. A pretty girl like that
never had the same parents as an ugly little worm like you.
my fine fellow, if you want to save your skin, you'd best show us your
mettle and let's see what sort of child you can father!"
With that he tore down Sweyne's breeches and thrust him at
Sweyne wriggled and squirmed and kicked, but he could not
free from his brother's grasp. Thorkel held him by the scruff
the neck until he grew tired and hung even limper than
Then Thorkel tore open Ædwitha's dress and pushed Sweyne
"Come on, little Sweyne" he jeered. "Show us if you
are a man, or, if you won't, I will!"
Then he threw Sweyne aside, pulled down his own breeches, and
sprang on the woman.
This was too much for Sweyne. Without a second
flung himself on Thorkel and tried to pull him away. With an
angry grunt the Viking picked up the weakling and hurled him across the
floor. Then Thorkel turned again to Ædwitha, only
startled by a warning cry from Sigurd. The madman had picked
the sword, Wormbane, and was staggering towards him, holding the sword
above his head with both hands. Thorkel's own sword lay close
hand. He snatched it up and swung at Sweyne.
have killed his brother, but as he stepped forward he stumbled on his
breeches and fell heavily. Sweyne swung at Thorkel, but fell
his own breeches.
The two men hauled themselves to their feet and stood facing
another. Thorkel stooped to hoist his breeches and Sweyne
at him. Thorkel stepped back and stumbled. Sweyne
pull up his own breeches, which bound his feet, and Thorkel swung his
sword. Neither could free himself from his breeches without
giving the other a chance to strike. Neither could strike
Sigurd saw that his son was safe and had no objection to
Thorkel look a fool, so he called on his men not to come between them
but to let them fight it out to the end. Thorkel
The puny weakling had somehow found the strength to swing the sword he
hadn't been able to lift before, but he would soon tire.
left his breeches where they were and swung and thrust at Sweyne, but,
instead of tiring, Sweyne seemed to grow stronger. He felt
arms fill out and his muscles grow strong. He held the sword
lightly as he had before the breath of the Serpent had withered his
body. His head raised itself proudly on his neck, and his
searched Thorkel's guard keenly, seeking a chink for the point of his
Thorkel felt Sweyne's strength growing. He lunged
berserk, trying to throw the madman off balance long enough for him to
kick his breeches away and free his feet, but always Sweyne met his
blows and made him stumble.
choked at the onlookers' chuckles.
swung his sword, cutting at Sweyne.
Earl's son stepped aside.
weapon whirled and whipped Thorkel's away.
Sigurd saw his son weaponless
snatched up a sword. Shieldless he came.
bewitched warrior's weapon sank.
a finger will I cut of my father's hand.
a hair of his head shall be harmed by me."
words worried the Earl.
son spoke thus," he said dully.
do not whimper like the whelp you were.
speak like a man mighty in war,
in strife like a honed blade.
the sea's ploughman proudly you stand,
sails swelling, your spars firm.
think you my boy were you but bearded,
long-lost son, whom I loved as a father."
face burned, his blood seethed.
he rued the loss of his beard.
in His goodness gave him his manhood:
grew his beard, ruddy and full.
his beard, bursting forth,
face's forest, firmly anchored.
maned in his manhood's crest,
like a lion he leaned on his sword.
grew his beard, great was the wonder.
father first found words.
son is alive! Sweyne is back!
is his beard and bold his eye."
The Swardalers' Saga
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