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Medieval and Classical Library


Of Egil The Strong.

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #33

Now goodman Thorbrand had a thrall who was called Egil the Strong, the biggest and strongest of men, and he thought his life ill in that he was no free man, and would oft pray Thorbrand and his sons to give him his freedom, and offered to do therefor any such work as he might. So one evening Egil went with his sheep out to Burgdale in Swanfirth, and as the evening grew late, he saw an erne fly from the west over the firth. Now a great deerhound was with Egil, (1) and lo, the erne swooped on the hound, and took him up in her claws, and flew back west over the firth straight for the howe of Thorolf Haltfroot, and vanished there, under the mountain; and a foreboding of tidings Thorbrand deemed this.

Now it was the wont of the Broadwickers in autumn, about the time of winter-nights, to have ball-play under the shoulder south of Cnear, and the place thereafter was called the Playhall-meads, and men betook themselves thither from all the countryside, and great play-halls were made there, wherein men abode and dwelt there a half month or more. Many chosen men there were as then in the countryside, and it was thickly peopled. Most of the young men were at the plays, except Thord Wall-eye; but he might not deal therein because of his too great eagerness, though he was not so strong that he might not play for that cause. So he sat on a chair and looked on the play. Those brethren withal, Biorn and Arnbiorn, were not deemed meet to play because of their strength, unless they played one against the other.

That same autumn Thorbrand's sons fell to talk with Egil that he should go to the ball-play and slay some one of the Broadwickers, either Biorn or Thord or Arnbiorn, in some wise, and that he should have his freedom after therefor; and some men say that that was done by Snorri's rede, and that he had so counselled that the thrall should try if he might get into the hall by stealth, and thence whereas he lurked do somewhat for the wounding of men; and he bade him go down the pass which is above Playhalls, and go down thence when the meal-fires were kindled; for he said it was mostly the way of the weather that a wind would blow off the lava in the evening and drive the smoke up into the pass. So he bade him abide his time to go down till the pass should be full of smoke.

Egil betook himself to this journey, and went first west over the firths, and asked after the sheep of the Swanfirthers, and made as if he were going a sheep-gleaning.

Now whilst he was on his way, Freystein Rascal was to watch the sheep in Swanfirth. So in the evening, when Egil had gone from home, Freystein went west over the river to the sheep, and when he came to that scree which is called Geirvor, and which goes down west of the river, he saw a man's head lying trunkless there and uncovered, and the head sang this stave:

     "With man's blood Geirvor
     Is reddened over,
     The skulls of men-folk
     Shall she cover."