The Saga of the People of Hrútafjörður

Session 3 - First Winter

Friendship of Farmers, Death of Orm

Heimsgir Nirnsson, having heard from Thurid Vailisdottir that his mother, Volgard, had forsaken the gods and was worshiping the White Christ, was conflicted as to what to do. Heimsgir asked Thor, the most awesome of the gods, if Thor approved of what Volgard had done, but the thunder spoke that Thor was against the new god. Heimsgir asked Thor for strength, but had no sacrifice for the mighty one.

Thusly Heimsgir and his sister, the widow Moeid Nirnsdottir set out from the hof to their mother’s longhouse.

At the longhouse of Orm Vailisson, Thurid the shield maiden returned from a hunt with a few hares. Volgard, who was now betrothed of Orm and had moved in with her lover, presented Thurid with a gift of a hare-fur wrap, to keep warm.

Volgard asked Thurid if she had considered the White Christ during this, their first winter together. Thurid said that the new god was not her god, and she gave praise to the old gods of the ancestors. Thurid told Orm that their family had always followed the old gods, and he should not forsake them, but this angered Orm. Orm declared that he had listed to Volgard, and she spoke the truth that the old gods brought war upon Norway, and that the White Christ would bring peace to the lands. He spoke that, come spring, he would go to Reykjavik, the largest town in Iceland, to find a priest to baptize him. Then he and Volgard could be wed before the new God.

During the winter, Thorolf Bjornsson had met his new neighbor, Skum Heggsson, who was a brother of Ulf Heggsson, who Skum knew to live nearby. Neither Thorolf nor Skum had heard that Ulf, the eldest son of Hegg, had died.

Skum had invited Thorolf, his wife Beara Nightwolf, and his child Jornunn Thorolfsson to a dinner, as it was right to be hospitable to your neighbors. Skum killed a chicken for the meal, and they feasted on meat and mead long into the night. Skum revealed that his family, the Sons of Hegg, were coming to Iceland when the ice melted and the ships could pass. They would bring the spoils of their viking raids, including slaves. Skum could sell slaves to Thorolf for a good price.

Thorolf said that two slaves would be good for his farm, but Beara asked her husband for three slaves, as she was with child and would need the help. Skum said that three slaves would cost three handfuls of silver, but that if Thorolf paid two handfuls of silver now, Skum would still give him three slaves. Skum knew that his brothers would honor the deal come Spring.

Thorolf wanted the slaves for his lands and his wife, but said that he did not have the silver to pay Skum now, in the winter. Skum said that Thorolf, who had many sheep and goats, could pay him one handful of silver and three sheep for the slaves. Thorolf agreed for this was a good deal, and they clasped hands and swore this agreement upon their rings and the gods.

Looking for their mother Volgard, Heimsgir and Moeid arrived at her longhouse, but they found it cold and empty. Heimsgir still was not sure what to do with his mother, but Moeid convinced him that it was not right for her to worship the White Christ, and that it brought shame upon their family. They set out to Orm’s longhouse to find their mother.

At the longhouse of Orm, Heimsgir came into the house without invite. He demanded his mother tell him the truth about her worship. Moeid stood in the door and watched the fight.

Orm stood, telling his betrothed to be silent. Orm declared that Heimsgir, the goði, had violated the old traditions by coming into Orm’s home uninvited, and that he had no honor. It was plain for all to see that Orm was correct, and the goði had ignored the laws that all knew to be right. Heimsgir would not apologize, and demanded to speak with his mother. Thurid, who had eyes for Heimsgir, brought her brother to the back of the longhouse, to let the family of Nirn speak amongst themselves.

Volgard spoke truly, that she had accepted the White Christ as her God. Moeid and Heimsgir were angry, and they said that Volgard brought shame upon the family or Nirn. Volgard grew angry with her children, as her son, though a goði, had no wife and no lands of his own, and all he did was tend to the hof. Her daughter was with a husband for two years, and yet had no children. Volgard, who was to be wed to Orm, was the only person in the family of Nirn who was going to continue the family line. Under the old traditions, it was Moeid and Heimsgir who were bringing shame on the family. There was much shouting, and Volgard said that Moeid and Heimsgir were no longer her children.

Orm then said that he would never follow Heimsgir again, as a goði who did not follow the old traditions was not worthy of praise. Heimsgir heard this, and it put a great anger in him. His eyes filled with blood and he became a berserk, for he grabbed Orm and plunged his head into the hearth, holding it there until Orm was killed. There was much screaming from Volgard and the slaves, and Thurid kicked Heimsgir, but her brother was still dead. The flames began to burn the house, and the slaves grabbed hold of Volgard and dragged her from that place. The children of Nirn and Thurid ran from the house, and all of Orm’s wealth and livestock perished in the fire, but for two pigs.

For the rest of the winter, when people came to give comfort to Thurid, she said that she did not know how the fire had started. Moeid and Heimsgir spoke not of the murder to anyone, but Heimsgir’s hand was badly burned.


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