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The Slaying Of Ulfar;
Thorbrand's Sons Claim The Heritage.

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #33

So it is said that this happened next to be told of, that Orlig of Orligstead fell sick, and when his sickness grew heavy on him, Ulfar his brother sat ever by him. Now of that sickness he died; but when he was dead, Ulfar sent forthwith for Arnkel, who went straightway to Orligstead, and he and Ulfar took to them all the goods that lay together there. (1) But when Thorbrand's sons knew of the death of Orlig, they went to Orligstead, and laid claim to those same goods that there lay together, and claimed as their own what their freedman had had; but Ulfar said that it was his due to take the heritage after his brother. They asked what part Arnkel would take in this matter. Arnkel said that Ulfar should not be robbed of any man while their fellowship lasted and he might have his will.

Then Thorbrand's sons fare away, and first out to Holyfell, and told this to Snorri the Priest, and prayed him for his help in the case; but he said that he would not thrust into strife with Arnkel for this case, whereas they had done their part so slippery, that Arnkel and Ulfar had first laid hands on the goods. Then Thorbrand's sons said that he would rule there no longer if he did not heed such things as this.

The next autumn Arnkel had a great autumn feast in his house, and ever his wont was to ask Ulfar his friend to all biddings, and to see him off with gifts.

Now the day that men should depart from the feast at Lairstead, Thorolf Halt-foot rode from home, and went to see his friend Cunning-Gils, who dwelt at Thorswater-dale at (2) Cunning-Gils- stead, and bade him ride with him east to Ulfar's-fell-neck, and a thrall of Thorolf's went with him, and when they came on to the neck Thorolf said:

"There will be Ulfar going from the feast, and belike he will journey with seemly gifts about him. Now would I, Cunning-Gils," said he, "that thou go meet him and waylay him under the garth (3) at Ulfar's-fell, and slay him, and therefor will I give thee three marks of silver, and pay all weregild for the slaying; and then, when thou hast slain Ulfar, thou wilt have of him those good things which he has had of Arnkel. Then shalt thou run along Ulfar's-fell out to Crowness, and if any pursue thee let the wood cover thee, and then come and see me, and I shall see to thee that thou shalt take no harm."

Now whereas Cunning-Gils was a man of many children and very poor, he took the bait and went out under the towngarth at Ulfar's-fell, and there he saw how Ulfar came up from below with a good shield and a fair-dight sword that Arnkel had given him. So when they met, Cunning-Gils prayed to see the sword, and flattered Ulfar much, and said he was a great man, since he was deemed worthy to have such seemly gifts from chiefs. Ulfar wagged his beard, and handed to him the sword and shield. Cunning-Gils straightway drew the sword and thrust Ulfar through, and then took to his heels and ran out along Ulfar's-fell to Crowness.

Arnkel was out a-doors and saw how a man ran bearing a shield, and thought he should know the shield, and it came into his mind that Ulfar would not have given it up of his own good will. Then Arnkel called to his folk to run after the man; "and therewith," says he, "if this has befallen by my father's redes, and this man is Ulfar's banesman, then shall ye slay him, whoso he is, and not let him come before my eyes."

Then went Arnkel up to Ulfar's-fell, and there they found Ulfar dead. Thorolf Halt-foot saw Cunning-Gils run out along Ulfar's-fell with the shield, and thought he knew how it had fared between him and Ulfar. Then said he to his thrall that followed him: "Now shalt thou go to Karstead, and tell Thorbrand's sons to fare in to Ulfar's-fell, and not let themselves be robbed this time of their freedman's heritage as before; because Ulfar is now slain." So thereafter Thorolf rode home, and deemed he had done a good piece of business.

But those who ran after Cunning-Gils took him beneath a cliff which leads up from the sea. There they had a true tale out of him, and when he had told them all as it was, they slew him, and thrust him into earth beneath the cliff, but took his spoil and brought it to Arnkel.

Now the thrall of Thorolf came to Karstead, and told Thorbrand's sons the message of Thorolf, and so they went in to Ulfar's-fell; but when they came there, lo, there was Arnkel before them and many men with him. Then Thorbrand's sons gave out their claim to the goods that Ulfar had owned; but Arnkel brought forward against it the witness of those who were near at the handsel Ulfar had given him, and said that he would uphold it, because he said it had never been lawfully called in question, and bade them make no claim to the money; for he said he would hold to it, even as if it were his father's heritage.

Then Thorbrand's sons saw no choice but to come away, and they went once more out to Holyfell and found Snorri the Priest, and told him how things had befallen, and prayed for his help. Snorri said things had gone as before, that they had been one move too late in the game for Arnkel; "and ye shall not," said he, "grip out of Arnkel's hands aught of these goods, seeing that he has already got the chattels to him; and as to the lands, they lie about as near to one as to the other, and he will have them who has the strongest hand. And this is to be looked for herein that Arnkel will have the greater share of that, as in other dealings with you; and to tell truth, ye may well bear what many endure, because Arnkel rules now over every man's fortune in this countryside, and will do while he lives, whether that be longer or shorter."

Thorleif Kimbi answered: "True say'st thou, Snorri, and I deem it is to be excused in thee, though thou dost not set our matter with Arnkel right, since thou hast never held thine own against him in any due case that ye have had to do with together."

Thereafter Thorbrand's sons fared home, and took these things right heavily.

(1)  "(Arnkel and Ulfar) took to them all the goods (of Orlig)
     that lay together there."  Orlig was the freedman of
     Thorbrand of Swanfirth, and so was Ulfar.  The law relating
     to a freedman's heritage, as it is preserved in Gragas,
     provides: "A man shall take heritage after his freedman, and
     after his freedwoman, unless to them has been born a son or
     a daughter; if the children be legitimate, the heritage
     falls to the son; if there be no son, then it falls to the
     daughter.  But should they (freedm. or freedw.) die without
     issue, their goods shall return back to him who gave them
     their freedom.  Should the children of a freed person die
     without issue, their goods have still to revert to the giver
     of the freedom, as much thereof, to wit, as the freed
     persons owned when they died, but should their goods amount
     to more, then that (the excess) fails to the kinsmen of the
     freed persons' children," etc., i. a. 227, and elsewhere to
     the same effect.  It is clear that a brother, being a
     freedman, could not in law inherit a brother who also was a
     freedman.  Thorbrand of Swanfirth was therefore in his
     right, for he was still alive, in claiming the goods of
     Orlig, to which Ulfar had no title.  Arnkel's interference
     here was lawless and selfish, seeing that all Ulfar's goods
     were handselled to him (Chapter XXXI) in a manner that, at
     least by Thorbrand, was not regarded as good in law.

(2)  "at", read in.

(3)  "Under the garth" = under the wall surrounding the
     homefield, tungarthr.