The Online 
Medieval and Classical Library


The Battle In Swanfirth.

Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #33

Snorri the Priest had sent word to his neighbours that they should bring their boats under Redwick-head; and he went thither with his home-men as soon as Steinthor's messenger was gone; and he went not before, because he thought he saw that the man had been sent to spy over his doings. So Snorri went up Swanfirth, and had nigh fifty men with three keels, and came to Karstead before Steinthor and his men. But when folk saw the coming of Steinthor and his men, the sons of Thorbrand cried out to go meet them, "and let them not get entry into the home-field, for that we have both a great company and a goodly."

Now they who were there were eighty men. But Snorri said: "Nay, we will not ward the homestead from them, and Steinthor shall have the law, for peaceably and wisely will he fare in his redes. So I will that all men abide within, and let no man cast any vain words at them in such wise as that the troubles of men be eked thereby."

With that all men went into the chamber, and men sat on the benches. But the sons of Thorbrand walked up and down the floor.

Now Steinthor and his folk rode up to the door; and for him it is said that he was in a red kirtle, and had pulled up the front skirts through his belt. A fair shield he had, and a helm, and was girt with a sword that was cunningly wrought; the hilts were white with silver, and the grip wrapped round with the same, but the strings thereof were gilded.

Steinthor and his folk leapt off their horses, and he went up to the door, and made fast to the doorpost a purse wherein were twelve ounces of silver. (1) Then he named witnesses to the thrall's-gild being brought home according to law. The door was open, and a certain handmaid stood thereby, and heard the naming of the witnesses. Then she went into the chamber and said:

"Yea, both things are true, that Steinthor of Ere is a manly man, and moreover that he spoke well when he brought the thrall's- gild."

But when Thorleif Kimbi heard that, he ran out with the other sons of Thorbrand, and then all went forth who were in the chamber. Thorleif came first to the door, and saw where Thord Walleye stood before the doorway with his shield; but even therewith Steinthor went forth into the homefield. Thorleif took a spear which stood there in the doorway, and thrust it at Thord Wall-eye, and the thrust smote his shield and glanced off it unto the shoulder, and that was a great wound. After this men ran out and there was battle in the home-mead, and Steinthor was of the eagerest, and smote on either hand of him. But when Snorri the Priest came out he bade men stay the unpeace, and bade Steinthor ride away from the homestead, and said that he would not suffer men to ride after them. So Steinthor and his folks fared adown the mead, and men parted in such wise.

But when Snorri the Priest came back to the door, there stood Thorod his son with a great wound in his shoulder, and he was then twelve winters old. Snorri asked who had brought that about.

"Steinthor of Ere," said he.

And Thorleif Kimbi answered and said: "Now has he rewarded thee in meet wise, for that thou wouldst not have us chase him; but my rede it is that we part not thus."

"Yea, so shall it be now," said Snorri, "that we shall have more dealings with them." And he bade Thorleif withal tell the men to follow after them.

Now Steinthor and his folk were come down from the field when they saw the chase, and therewith they crossed the river and turned up on to the scree Geirvor, and made them ready for a stand; for a good fighting-stead was that because of the stones. But as Snorri's company came up the scree, Steinthor cast a spear over Snorri's folk for his good luck, according to ancient custom; (2) but the spear sought a mark for itself, and in its way was Mar, the kinsman of Snorri, who was straightway put out of the fight. So when that was told Snorri the Priest, he answered: "It is well that men should see," says he, "that he is not always in the best case that goeth the last."

So then befell a great battle, and Steinthor was at the head of his own folk, and smote on either hand of him; but the fair- wrought sword bit not whenas it smote armour, (3) and oft he must straighten it under his foot. He made most for the place whereas was Snorri the Priest.

Stir Thorgrimson set on fiercely with Steinthor his kinsman, and his first hap was that he slew a man of the fo1k of Snorri the Priest, his son-in-law; but when Snorri saw that he cried to Stir:

"Thus, forsooth, thou avengest Thorod, the son of thy daughter, whom Steinthor of Ere has brought unto death; the greatest of dastards art thou."

Stir looked on him and said: "Speedily I may atone for that;" and he shifted his shield withal, and turned to the side of Snorri the Priest, and slew another man, but this time a man of Steinthor's band.

Now even herewith came up from Longdale the father and son, Aslak and Illugi the Red, and sought to go between them. Thirty men they had with them, and to that company joined himself Vermund the Slender.

So then they prayed Snorri the Priest to let stay the slaughter of men, and Snorri bade the Ere-dwellers come up and make a truce. Then Aslak, he and his, bade Steinthor take truce for his men. So Steinthor bade Snorri reach forth his hand, and he did so; but therewith Steinthor raised his sword aloft and cut at Snorri's arm, and great was the clatter of the stroke, for it smote the stall-ring, and well-nigh struck it asunder, but Snorri was nowise wounded.

Then cried out Thorod Thorbrandson: "No truce will they have! Well then, let us set on, and stay not till all the sons of Thorlak are slain."

But Snorri the Priest answered: "Turmoil enow it would bring to the countryside if all sons of Thorlak were slain, and the truce shall be holden to if Steinthor will, after the word aforesaid."

Then all bade Steinthor take the truce; and things went so far, that a truce was declared betwixt man and man until such time as they came back each one to his home.

Now it is to be told of the Broadwick folk that they knew how Snorri the Priest had fared with a flock to Swanfirth. So they take their horses and ride after Steinthor at their swiftest, and they were on Ulfar's-fell-neck whiles the fight was on the scree; and some men say that Snorri the Priest saw Biorn and his folk as they came up on the hill's brow, whenas he happened to turn and face them, and that for that cause he was so easy in the terms of the truce with Steinthor and his men.

So when Biorn and Steinthor met at Orligstead, Biorn said that matters had gone even after his guessing. "And my rede it is," said he, "that ye turn back now, and drive them hard."

But Steinthor said: "Nay, I will hold to the truce I have made with Snorri the Priest, in whatso ways matters may go betwixt us hereafter."

Thereafter they ride each to his own home, but Thord Wall-Eye lay wounded at Ere. In the fight at Swanfirth five men had fallen of Steinthor's company, and two of Snorri the Priest; but many were wounded on either side, for the fight had been of the hardest. So says Thorrood Trefilson in his Raven-lay:

     "The feeder of swans
     Of wound-wave, in Swanfirth
     Made the erne full
     With feeding of wolfs' meat.
     There then, let Snorri
     Of five men the life-days
     Cut off in sword-storm:
     Such way shall foes pay."