The Saga of the People of Hrútafjörður

Session 5 - First Spring

Arinbjorn's Death, Ottar's Feast, the Þing

With the Spring planting underway, and there being peace and prosperity in the Hrútafjörður after the long, hard winter, Ottar Hrafnsson invited all the peoples of the community to his longhouse for a feast a week hence.

After a long absence from Hrútafjörður, Volgard Leifurdottir returned to the lands with the two thralls she had taken from Orm Vailisson’s farm. She returned to the hof of Heimsgir Nirnsson, her son, who had killed Orm, her betrothed.

To her son Volgard said, “Heimsgir, though you have killed my betrothed and burned his longhouse, the White Christ is a God that commands that we be at peace with our neighbors. You are my son, and we cannot be parted by this.” And with that she placed her hand on Heimsgir’s head and forgave him for his murder. And so Volgard asked that Heimsgir, the wise goði that he is, forgive her for disowning him, for it was said in anger, and she wished him to be her son. With this, Heimsgir forgave his mother.

At the longhouse of Ulf Heggsson, dead these past two seasons now, Moeid Nirnsdottir worked the fields with her last slave. Though this was man’s work she plowed the lands, for her husband was in the ground. Along the path came a stranger, and he hailed her and asked if this was Ulf’s home. And Moeid said, “yes, sir, but you will not find him here. Ulf has been dead since winter, and I am his widow.”

The stranger proclaimed, “I am Koll Heggsson, brother of Ulf, and I am saddened by my brother’s death. Tell me, what killed my kin?” Moeid told Koll that it was Grim the Black that slew Ulf. Koll said, “you are my brother’s widow, and thus like a sister to me and my brothers. We are new to this land, and do not know Grim or where he lives. Tell us, and we shall take our vengeance upon him, then provide for you, as you have no husband to protect and feed you, and all will want your lands.”

Moeid denied this to Koll. “Grim the Black is more family to me than any son of Hegg, for Ulf laid hands upon me, and it was right that he be killed.” And Koll admitted that Ulf was a violent and boorish man, little loved among his brothers, “but he was my brother, and honor demands that I bring vengeance upon his killer.” With this Moeid and Koll parted, for they could not come to terms.

With the sons of Hegg had come a skald with the name of Sigurd of the Fjord. He had gone a viking with the brothers in Ireland, recording their deeds in verse and telling great tails of heroes past. He came to Iceland, and Skum Heggsson told him of a wealthy man, Ottar, who was holding a great feast and would have use of such a poet.

Coming upon the longhouse of Ottar, Sigurd saw a tall, strong man, with many tattoos and marks of battle. This was Arinbjorn the Ironarm, huscarl of Ottar, and the best of all the warriors in Hrútafjörður. Sigurd asked to see Ottar, but Arinbjorn had no regard for the skinny stranger, and made fun of Sigurd and his quill. Ottar emerged from his home, and Sigurd told a story of Thor, and with his words wove the lands of Ottar and his many flocks into the tale. Ottar was greatly impressed and invited the skald to stay with him, but Arinbjorn was angered, and threw his dane axe at Sigurd. The skald slid aside, and brushed the axe with his quill, and thus shamed Arinbjorn.

From here Arinbjorn traveled to the smithy of Thorolf Bjornsson, for Ottar had asked Thorolf to make him many tools for his farm. While looking upon the tools, Arinbjorn saw Thorolf’s flock, and recognized a scarred sheep, which Arinbjorn himself had shorn and marked so. Crying out, Arinbjorn declared Thorolf a thief, and without honor. He left, and said Ottar would hear of the theft.

Thorolf went to his wife, Beara Nightwolf, who had taken the sheep while she was a viking, and they spoke of what to do. Beara, who was a shield-maiden and skilled with a sword, said that she would kill Arinbjorn to protect her husband’s honor, but Thorolf said that they would take the last two sheep and one of their thralls, the Celt named Connor, as recompense for Ottar.

Coming upon Ottar’s longhouse, Arinbjorn stood outside, his huge dane axe nearby. Arinbjorn shouted, “be gone thief. You have no honor, and thus no place here,” and this drew the attention of Sigurd, who began to watch. Thorolf stood his ground, and asked to see Ottar, who he wanted to repay for the theft. Again Arinbjorn called out that Thorolf was a thief, and should be gone, but now took up his axe. A third time Thorolf asked to see Ottar, but now with seax in hand, and a third time Arinbjorn denied him, but now the warrior charged Thorolf and Beara.

Arinbjorn swung wildly with his axe, and it struck Thorolf, taking off his ear. Arinbjorn stood back, but with his seax, Thorolf sprung up and tried to stab the huscarl. They wrestled, but Thorolf was pushed aside, a knife in his gut. The smith was alive, but needed caring to. Thorolf was in pain, but said that his wife should slay Arinbjorn, and she tool up her sword and shield, and with one strike took Arinbjorn’s head off. SIgurd had seen this, and saw Beara as a valkyrie, and asked their names for his tale. When Ottar found his man dead, the skald told him the tale of the brave farmer and his wife against the foul Arinbjorn.

It was many days later, and it was the day of Ottar’s feast. Heimsgir, goði to the people of Hrútafjörður came first, and Ottar asked his help to bring suit against Thorolf for the murder of Arinbjorn. Heimsgir would think upon it, but Ottar asked what to do if Thorolf came to the feast, for it was the funeral of Arinbjorn, and it was not good for his killer to be there. Heimsgir ruled that it was a day of celebration, and all invited were to be welcomed, and that the next day, Ottar could move against Thorolf, and Ottar agreed that this was a wise course.

Moedi and Volgard both arrived, and Moedi brought drink after drink to Ottar’s hand, for she wished to get him drunk. Moedi and Heimsgir both thought that Ottar had killed their father, Nirn Aransson, when coming over from Norway, but they could not prove it.

Finally, Thorolf arrived, for he moved slowly with his wound. He had brought the sheep and slave again, but Ottar knew not of the theft, only of the killing, and Thorolf sent them home. Ottar declared that on this night, they would all drink to the spirit of Arinbjorn in Valhalla, and that tomorrow he would bring suit upon Thorolf for the murder.

The feast was good, and all the people of the Hrútafjörður were there, such as Skum Heggsson, Olaf Sirtson, and Osk Gunnardottir. Volgard, finally seeing her daughter after many months, came over to her, and begged her forgiveness for the harsh words that were spoken on the terrible night so many months ago. And this argument grew heated, and many began to listen, and Heimsgir came and gave council to save family matters for another time.

With Moeid serving him, Ottar became very drunk, and he stood, and came to Heimsgir’s side, proclaiming him the wisest of goði. Then Ottar spoke to all, slurring his words, and told all of how great his own self was, and how he should be goði, for he was the wisest in the fjord. Heimsgir tried to stop Ottar, for Ottar was very drunk, but Ottar vomited on the floor, and all laughed at him.

Then Moeid, who knew of Ottar and Osk’s affair, whispered to Ottar, “I, Osk, am leaving with my true husband. You will never have me, for you are a drunk and a fool.” With this Ottar rose to his feet and shouted, “Osk, you will come into my bed, for I am your lover, and your husband is not worthy of you.” And with this the people grew silent.

Olaf demanded to know if this was true, and Ottar repeated it. Olaf, who could have killed Ottar while he was in his cups, instead asked Heimsgir for a Thing, for all the men of the fjord were at the feast, and they could pass judgement on Ottar. Heimsgir took all the men, and had them swear upon their rings to the god Thor to tell the truth, and he took the holy oath of judgement.

Olaf asked who else had heard Ottar proclaim his unjust sex with Osk, and Thorolf said that he had heard it. Olaf asked that Ottar be branded a lesser outlaw, and leave Iceland for three years. In this time Olaf would watch over his lands, and return them when Ottar came back to the island. Heimsgir judged this a harsh penalty for laying with a man’s wife, and proclaimed the penalty six marks of silver. Olaf and Ottar both agreed to the fine.

Thorolf, however, proclaimed that six marks was no just fine for an adulterer, and Olaf had not protected his wife or his honor properly. Olaf replied, “I have brought this crime before the justice of our people, the Thing, for this is right and our tradition. Would you have me kill Ottar for his crime? Apologize, Thorolf, for your uncalled for insult, and I will forgive you.” But again Thorolf insulted Olaf for not pressing the matter against Ottar more, and this time Olaf could not bear the shame, and demanded a hólmganga from Thorolf the next day. Thorolf, wounded as he was, stood, and announced that he would fight right then, but this show of strength tore his wound, and he began to bleed from his side.

The room was cleared, and Thorolf and Olaf were given their three shields. Once, they sparred, and Thorolf kicked Olaf’s legs from under him and cleaved his shield. He won the bout, but was booed by the crowd for his dishonorable move. Again, they sparred, and Thorolf struck Olaf’s side with a fist and forced him out of the ring. Again, he won, but again he was booed by the crowd, for a man does not fight like this. Lastly, they sparred, and Thorolf took his shield and brought it down on Olaf’s knee, so that he would not walk again. Thorolf had won, but had lost honor in the eyes of all there.

Olaf lay down, and asked Thorolf to end his life, as Olaf could never hope of reaching Valhalla now with a shattered knee. Thorolf put the sword to Olaf’s neck, but pulled it away, taunting the fallen warrior. With this insult, Olaf stabbed his sword into Thorolf’s bloody side, and gravely wounded Thorolf. Heimsgir declared the duel over.

Then Ottar demanded the Thing continue, for Thorolf had killed Arinbjorn, as Sigurd had seen. Heimsgir agreed, but Moeid, helping Thorolf, pressed upon his wound, and he cried out and spit blood. The goði, seeing the man in such pain, declared the proceedings over, and Ottar swore to bring suit against Thorolf at the next Thing.

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