In the first Spring of this saga, it was known that many people’s crops would not grow as in the years of the past. The winter had been hard, and the ground took many months to thaw.
Thorolf Bjornsson, who had been wounded in his battle with Arinbjorn the Ironarm, and further harmed in the hólmganga with Olaf Sirtson, could not leave his bed for many months. His wife, Beara Nightwolf, was heavy with child, and could do little work on the farm. His son, Jornunn Thorolfsson, was young, and could do only his chores. And his slaves, celts all, could not do the work that needed to be done without their master at their sides. His land stood idle, and there would be little food come the winter.
Moeid Nirnsdottir, whose husband Ulf Heggsson was dead, and who only had one thrall, was a woman who knew little of the hard work of farming, for she had tended the house while here husband was in the fields. She worked hard to plant food and raise animals, but she too would be hungry in winter.
It was known that only the lands of Thurid Vailisdottir were well planted. These lands, that had belonged to her brother Orm Vailisson, were fertile, but the ground had not thawed. It was only with Arinbjorn the Ironarm’s strong arms and a heavy plow that she broke the soil to plant, for this was before Arinbjorn was slain by the maiden Beara.
And so with the coming of Summer, knowing that the crops did poorly and the herds were skinny, the goði of Hrútafjörður, Heimsgir Nirnsson, called all the able bodied men to his hof, so they could speak of going a viking in the summer.
Knowing there would be a raid, Jornunn, son of Thorolf, adopted when his parents had died in the sailing from Norway, came to his father and said, “honored father, though I am only 10 Summers, I know that you are wounded, and my mother is heavy with a child. I wish to go a viking with the other men, and bring back spoils so that our family may live through the next winter.” And while it was not unknown for a boy of this age to take up the sword, Jornunn was small, and was not yet trained to fight.
Thorolf took the sword of this father, Bjorn, who had been a great warrior and fought in the war against Harald Fairhair. Placing it in Jornunn’s hand, the boy could not lift it but with both arms. “Son, you honor me with your words, that you wish to provide for our family in these hard times. But you are young, and do not know what it is to go a viking. When you can wield this sword with grace and skill, you may come on a raid, but for now I cannot say yes.”
And so the men of the fjord came to Heimsgir’s hof. There was Ottar Hrafnsson. richest of the community. There were the sons of Hegg, Skum Heggsson, the farmer; Koll Heggsson, who owed Thorolf his life; Hrafn Heggsson, the silent; and Sigurd Heggsson, who was like his brother Ulf Heggsson and known for his anger. Thurid Vailisdottir, of the Shattersword clan came, for she was of a line of berserkers, and was a skilled warrior. All brought sacrifices for a blót, so that Thor would bless a raid with good winds and strong arms.
Finally, Thorolf came with his family. And though times were hard, and all had brought small things for the blót, Thorolf brought one of his goats, which was a great sacrifice to the red god. Though Thorolf had shamed himself in the duel with Olaf those months past, his gift to the gods brought him honor in the eyes of those there, and they did not shun him, but embraced him as a brother.
Heimsgir spoke, “brothers! Our crops this year have been few, and our herds eat little and do not grow fat. We cannot survive a winter on what will come of our Spring plantings. But, the fjord can go a viking, and bring back spoils, and slaves, and livestock. With those, we can survive, and thrive!” All knew that this was a good plan, for Heimsgir was wise in many things.
Sigurd’s voice arose, “yes Heimsgir, this is a good plan. But who shall build and lead a longship. You are wise, but young, and have not led a raid before. I, Sigurd, have been on many a raid before I came to Iceland. I would be the natural choice to lead this voyage.” Heimsgir knew there was truth in what SIgurd said, but Sigurd was new to the fjord, and was unknown by many. Heimsgir told all that he would organize the community to build a longship, and would lead the raid. Thorolf, friend of Skum and Koll, the brothers of Sigurn, raised his voice, and said that Heimsgir would be a good choice for all to follow. Sigurn agreed that if Heimsgir could build the ship, he would follow the young goði.
With this, Ottar made himself known, “but how shall we divide the spoils. For I am the wealthiest man in our lands. Would I not be expected to provide the most to build our ship? Should I not then reap the most from our spoils? Why should I not build my own ship, and leave you all to your own attempt?” But Heimsgir, wise as he was, knew that Ottar had been shamed by his drunken and lecherous ways at the feast in the spring, and had been brought low in the eyes of the people. The goði spoke, “Ottar, of course all men would be expected to provide an equal share to our ship, and thus would have an equal share of the spoils. Do you not wish to be a valued and equal member of our community? It would be wrong to not help our community now it it’s time of need.” And this shamed Ottar, and he was quick to agree that he would help build the ship, and all men’s spoils would be equal.
When all the men of the fjord joined their hands to pledge a bond to each other, Thurid put her hand it. Sigurn turned and said, “a woman cannot pledge a sacred oath to Thor. Those who cannot make such a vow of brotherhood cannot take a place upon the longship.” But Thurid replied, "would you, son of Hegg, deny the strongest arm in our lands to this venture.
“Nay, I would not deny a strong arm in our raid, but no woman has a stronger arm than Sigurn.”
With this Thurid challenged Sigurn to a duel, to prove her strength and skill, and they agreed that if Thurid won she would come a viking with the men, but if Sigurn won Thurid would wed him, for he was looking for a wife and preferred women of passion.
In the first bout Sigurn’s sword rang true, and split Thurid’s shield in two. Again they exchanged insults and blows, but Thurid’s blood boiled and she charged Sigurn with a berserk rage, throwing him from the ring. A third time they clashed, and with a crash, Thurid’s blade shattered, but she took the hilt drove it through Sigurn’s shield, cutting his arm, and winning another bout. With this she had won twice and he once.
In the final bout, Thurid had no sword, and charged Sigurn with reckless rage, swinging her shield like a club. With a crack, both their shields burst to splinters, and she had won the duel. Sigurn had done her many wounds though, and she lay there bleeding. All were worried that she would not stand, and those many cuts would be her death, but the Norns had not said that she would die this day.
Thorolf turned to his wife and said, “Beara, though your family and the Shatterswords have fought for many generations, we cannot leave the shield-maiden Thurid here to die, for she will if none tend to her. Would that we take her to her lands and you tend to her wounds.” Beara agreed, but only if Thurid were to pay for the aid, for Thorolf’s family could not afford to care for Thurid and not work the fields.
Skum, the brother of Sigurn, came, and said that he would care for Vailisdottir, for she had shown great skill and courage in fighting his brother, and Skum wanted this maiden with them on their voyage. And so they took Thurid to the longhouse of Skum, where he bound and dressed her wounds. But he did not look upon her bosom, for he was a man with great honor, and would not take advantage of an ailing woman.
As Thurid awoke, she knew not where she was. “What manner of afterlife is this?”
Said Skum, “no afterlife. You are in the longhouse of Skum, and I am the brother of Sigurn, who harmed you so. I am sorry that my brother hurt you, and you may stay as long as you need to heal, and then you shall come a viking with us, for you won the duel, and it is right to honor the terms.” And so Thurid stayed a week at Skum’s home, and they had great respect for each other, but did not lay as man and woman.
After the meeting at the hof, Thorolf grew worried about his friend Grim the Black, for he had not been seen in many months. Thorolf traveled to Grim’s house, in a small wood inland. Seeing there was no smoke from the hearth, Thorolf grew worried, and hurried into the longhouse. There was a great stench, and Thorolf’s eyes fell upon the body of Grim, dead for many months. His body had the look of one who had died in battle, and Thorolf knew that his friend was in Valhalla. With Jornunn, Thorolf collected wood, and lay Grim upon his bed. Thorolf set Grim’s sword and shield with the old woodsman, and lit a fire. And all who looked into the night’s sky and saw the smoke knew that a great warrior had died.
Later, those men who would go a viking met to discuss the longship. Thorolf told Heimsgir about the death of Grim the black, but they had not evidence of who had killed him, so there was little they could do. Heimsgir stood and spoke, “we must build a longship before we can go a viking. The hull, the mast, the sail, and the anchor will all be made by the people of the fjord, and we will know that we have put our blood into this ship, and all will contribute to it. Thorolf, the smith, shall build the anchor. The wives and daughters of our men will sew the sail. The sons of Hegg shall craft the hull and mast. Thorolf has agreed that we may use his wood, for Grim the black is dead.”
With this news no one stirred, but Sigurn again made his thoughts known. “Why should Thorolf have the lands of Grim the Black. They were not family. Grim had no family and was kind to no man. This land should belong to all the people of the fjord, for we all have need of wood.”
Thorolf disagreed, “Grim was like a father to me, for he fought in the war against Harald Fairhair with my father, and we came to Iceland together. I burned Grim’s body, and took his tools and his land as my own, for it is right that his memory be honored in this way.” With this, all turned to Heimsgir for his decision.
Heimsgir knew that there were many sons of Hegg, and the safest path was to make the woods a land for all of the fjord. Heimsgir also knew, though, that the path of honor was to split the land for Thorolf and the fjord. And he declared, "the woods surrounding Grim’s home shall be Thorolf’s land, but the woods further away, these shall be lands for all the people of Hrútafjörður. And all agreed that this was a fair decision.
And so the men went out and made the longship. The sons of Hegg built the hull and the mast, but there were few tall trees in Iceland, and they could only build a small longship, which would be hard to sail in the rough waves of the northern seas. Thorolf made a masterful anchor, but he had searched his bog for many miles, and dug all of the iron from its peat, and the bog, cleared of trees as it was, would be of no more use to him.
And so it was that the longship was prepared, and the men of the raid were to gather a week hence to sail.