THE STORY OF THE ERE-DWELLERS

CHAPTER XXIX
Of Thorod Scat-Catcher And
Of Biorn Asbrandson, And
Of The Slaying Of
The Sons Of Thorir Wooden-Leg.


There was a man called Thorod, who was of the Midfell-strand kindred. He was a trustworthy man and a great seafarer, and had a ship afloat. Thorod had sailed on a trading voyage west to Ireland and Dublin.

At that time Sigurd Lodverson, Earl of the Orkneys, had harried in the South-isles, and all the way west to Man. He had laid a tribute on the dwellers in Man; and when peace was made, the Earl left men to wait for the scat (and the more part thereof was paid up in burned silver), but he himself sailed away north to the Orkneys.

Now when they who had awaited the scat were ready to sail, the wind blew from the south-west, but when they had been at sea a while, it shifted to the south-east and east, and blew a great gale, and drove them north of Ireland. Their ship was broken to pieces on an unpeopled island there; and when they were in this plight there bore down on them Thorod the Icelander, late come from Dublin. The Earl's men hailed the chapmen for help, and Thorod put out a boat and went therein himself; and when they met, the Earl's men prayed him for aid, and promised him money to bring them home to the Orkneys to Earl Sigurd. But Thorod deemed he might not do that, since he was already bound for Iceland. But they prayed him hard, because they deemed that their wealth and their lives lay on their not being taken prisoners in Ireland or the South-isles, where they had harried erst. So the end of it was that he sold them his boat from his big ship, and took therefor a good share of the scat; and thereon they laid their boat for the Orkneys, but Thorod sailed boatless for Iceland.

He came upon the south coast of the land, and stretched west along the shore, and sailed into Broadfirth, and came safe and sound to Daymeal-ness, and in the autumn went to dwell with Snorri the Priest at Holyfell, and ever after was he called Thorod Scat-catcher.

Now this was a little after the slaying of Thorbiorn the Thick. And that winter was Thurid, the sister of Snorri the Priest, whom Thorbiorn the Thick had had to wife, abiding at Holyfell. A little while after his coming back to Iceland Thorod put forth the word and prayed Snorri to give him his sister Thurid; and seeing that he was wealthy of money, and that Snorri knew his conditions well, and that he saw that she needed much some good care, with all this it seemed good to Snorri to give him the woman; and he held their wedding in the winter there at Holyfell. But the spring after Thorod betook himself to keeping house at Frodis-water, and he became a good bonder and a trustworthy.

But so soon as Thurid came to Frodis-water Biorn Asbrandson got coming thither, and it was the talk of all men that there was fooling betwixt him and Thurid, and Thorod began to blame Biorn for his comings, yet that mended matters in no-wise.

At that time dwelt Thorir Wooden-leg at Ernknoll, and his sons Ern and Val were grown up by then, and were the hopefullest of men. Now they laid reproach on Thorod in that he bore with Biorn such shame as he dealt him, and they offered to follow Thorod if he would put an end to Biorn's comings and goings.

On a time Biorn came to Frodis-water and sat talking with Thurid. And Thorod was ever wont to be within doors when Biorn was there; but now they saw him nowhere. Then Thurid said: "Take thou heed to thy faring, Biorn; whereas I deem that Thorod is minded to put an end to thy coming hither; and I guess that they have gone to waylay thee; and he will be minded that ye two shall not meet with an equal band."

Then Biorn sang this song:

     "O ground of the golden strings, might we but gain it
     To make this day's wearing of all days the longest
     That ever yet hung twixt earth's woodland and heaven --
     Yea, whiles yet I tarried the hours in their waning --
     For, O fir of the worm that about the arm windeth,
     This night amongst all nights, 'tis I and no other
     Must turn me to grief now, and drink out the grave-ales
     Of the joys of our life-days, full often a-dying."

Thereafter Biorn took his weapons and went away, and was minded for home, but when he came up beyond Bigmull, five men sprang up before him, and there was Thorod and two of his house-carles and the sons of Thorir Wooden-leg. They set on Biorn, but he defended himself well and manly. The sons of Thorir set on the hardest, and gat him wounded, but he was the bane of them both. Then Thorod with his housecarles fled away, and he was but little wounded, and they not at all.

Biorn went his way till he came home, and went into the chamber; and the goodwife called on a handmaid to serve him. And when she came into the chamber with a light, she saw that he was all covered with blood. Then she went forth and told Asbrand his father that Biorn had come home all bloody.

Then Asbrand went into the chamber and asked Biorn why he was bloody. "Perchance ye have met, thou and Thorod?" Biorn answered and said that so it was. Asbrand asked him in what wise their dealings had turned out. Biorn sang:

     "I ween for the wight one, the waster of warflame,
     Nought skills it in one way to wage war upon me --
     Yea, we brought it about that we bore down in battle,
     And slaughtered the warriors the wight sons of Woodleg.
     Let him fight not, that stirrer of storm of the battle,
     As if stroking the goddess, the guard of the linen;
     That soft one, the scat-catching bow-bender, never
     Shall drag out of battle the treasure of Draupnir."

Then Asbrand bound his wounds and he grew whole again.

But Thorod sought of Snorri the Priest that he would take up the blood-suit for the slaying of the sons of Thorir, and so he let Snorri set on foot the suit for the Thorsness Thing. But the sons of Thorlak of Ere backed the Broadwickers in this suit. And the end of the matter was such that Asbrand gave handsel for Biorn his son, and paid up money-boot for the slayings; but Biorn was outlawed and banished for three winters, and he went out that same summer.

That same summer withal Thurid of Frodis-water gave birth to a man-child, who was called Kiartan; he grew up at home at Frodis-water, and was early a big lad and a hopeful.

But when Biorn came out over the sea, he went south to Denmark, and then south further to Joinsburg, and in those days was Palnatoki captain of the Jomsburg vikings. Biorn entered into covenant with them, and was called a champion there. He was in Jomsburg when Styrbiorn the Strong won it, (1) and he went to Sweden when they of Jomsburg gave aid to Styrbiorn, and was withal at the battle at Fyrisfield where Styrbiorn fell, and fled thence to the woods with the other Jomsburg vikings. And while Palnatoki was alive was Biorn with him, and was deemed the best of men and the bravest in all deeds that try a man.


Go to Chapter XXX



ENDNOTES:

(1)  "He was in Jomsburg when Styrbiorn the Strong won it."  This
     passage, together with its context, must refer to a lost
     saga of Biorn the Broadwickers' champion.  The capture of
     Jomsburg by the Swedish prince Biorn, generally known as
     Styrbiorn, with the surnames of "Svia kappi" (Swedes:
     champion), or "Sterki" (the Strong), is set forth in the
     fragmentary record known as "Thattr Styrbjarnar Svia kappa"
     (Fornmannasogur, v, 245-51).  As to the chronology relative
     to Biorn's banishment, it is difficult to make it agree
     quite with that of Styrbiorn's life, and his death at the
     battle of Fyrisfield.  Kiartan of Frodis-water was born the
     same year that Biorn went abroad (p. 75), and in the year,
     when Christianity was made law of the land, he is stated to
     have been thirteen or fourteen winters old, and other
     recensions of our saga give his age as fifteen.  Accordingly
     Biorn ought to have gone abroad A.D. 986, 987, or 988.  But
     the very uncertainty evinced by the various recensions of
     the saga as to Kiartan's age A.D. 1OOO, shows that that
     statement is not of binding importance.  Now, reliable
     records relating to Styrbiorn and King Eric the Victorious
     of Sweden, state that the latter died ten years after the
     fall of the former; datable events prove that the year of
     the king's death was 995, Styrbiorn's, consequently, 985,
     which thus becomes the very last year that Biorn could have
     gone abroad to be able to join Styrbiorn at Fyrisfield.  No
     sojourn with Palnatoki or the Jomsburg vikings of any
     considerable duration could have taken place, for by the
     utmost stretch the year of Biorn's going abroad cannot be
     put earlier than 984.