The Story of Grettir the Strong, by William Morris

Chap. xxvii.

The Suit for the Slaying of Thorgils Makson.

A man hight Thorgils abode at Reek-knolls in those days, he was the son of Ari, the son of Mar, the son of Atli the Red, the son of Ulf the Squinter, who settled at Reekness; the mother of Thorgils Arisen was Thorgerd, the daughter of Alf a-Dales; another daughter of Alf was Thorelf, mother of Thorgeir Havarson. There had Thorgeir good kinship to trust in, for Thorgils was the greatest chief in the Westfirthers' quarter. He was a man of such bountifulness, that he gave food to any free-born man as long as he would have it, and therefore there was at all times a throng of people at Reek-knolls; thus had Thorgils much renown of his house-keeping. He was a man withal of good will and foreknowledge. Thorgeir was with Thorgils in winter, but went to the Strands in summer.

After the slaying of Thorgils Makson, Thorgeir went to Reek-knolls and told Thorgils Arisen these tidings; Thorgils said that he was ready to give him harbour with him, "But, methinks," he says, "that they will be heavy in the suit, and I am loth to eke out the troubles. Now I shall send a man to Thorstein and bid weregild for the slaying of Thorgils; but if he will not take atonement I shall not defend the case stiffly."

Thorgeir said he would trust to his foresight. In autumn Thorgils sent a man to Thorstein Kuggson to try settling the case, but he was cross-grained to deal with as to the taking money for the blood-suit of Thorgils Makson; but about the other man-slayings, he said he would do as wise men should urge him. Now when Thorgils heard this, he called Thorgeir to him for a talk, and asked him what kind of aid he now deemed meetest for him; Thorgeir said that it was most to his mind to go abroad if he should be outlawed. Thorgils said that should be tried. A ship lay up Northriver in Burgfirth; in that keel Thorgils secretly paid faring for the foster-brothers, and thus the winter passed. Thorgils heard that Asmund and Thorstein drew together many men to the Althing, and sat in Liarskogar. He drew out the time of riding from home, for he would that Asmund and Thorstein should have ridden by before him to the south, when he came from the west; and so it fell out. Thorgils rode south, and with him rode the foster-brothers. In this ride Thorgeir killed Bundle-Torfi of Marswell, and Skuf withal, and Biarni in Dog-dale; thus says Thormod in Thorgeir's-Drapa —

"Mighty strife the warrior made,

When to earth was Makson laid,

Well the sword-shower wrought he there,

Flesh the ravens got to tear;

Then when Skuf and Biarni fell,

He was there the tale to tell;

Sea-steed's rider took his way

Through the thickest of the fray."

Thorgils settled the peace for the slaying of Skuf and Biarni then and there in the Dale, and delayed no longer than his will was before; Thorgeir went to ship, but Thorgils to the Althing, and came not thither until men were going to the courts.

Then Asmund the Greyhaired challenged the defence for the blood-suit on the slaying of Thorgils Makson. Thorgils went to the court and offered weregild for the slaying, if thereby Thorgeir might become free of guilt; he put forth for defence in the suit whether they had not free catch on all common foreshores. The lawman was asked if this was a lawful defence. Skapti was the lawman, and backed Asmund for the sake of their kinship. He said this was law if they were equal men, but said that bonders had a right to take before batchelors. Asmund said that Thorgils had offered an even sharing to the foster-brothers in so much of the whale as was uncut when they came thereto; and therewith that way of defence was closed against them. Now Thorstein and his kin followed up the suit with much eagerness, and nought was good to them but that Thorgeir should be made guilty.

Thorgils saw that one of two things was to be done, either to set on with many men, not knowing what might be gained thereby, or to suffer them to go on as they would; and, whereas Thorgeir had been got on board ship, Thorgils let the suit go on unheeded.

Thorgeir was outlawed, but for Thormod was taken weregild, and he to be quit. By this blood-suit Thorstein and Asmund were deemed to have waxed much. And now men ride home from the Thing.

Some men would hold talk that Thorgils had lightly backed the case, but he heeded their talk little, and let any one say thereon what he would.

But when Thorgeir heard of this outlawry, he said —

"Fain am I that those who have made me an outlaw should have full pay for this, ere all be over."

There was a man called Gaut Sleitason, who was akin to Thorgils Makson. Gaut had made ready to go in this same ship wherein Thorgeir was to sail. He bristled up against Thorgeir, and showed mighty ill-will against him and went about scowling; when the chapmen found this out, they thought it far from safe that both should sail in one ship. Thorgeir said he heeded not how much soever Gaut would bend his brows on him; still it was agreed that Gaut should take himself off from the ship, whereupon he went north into the upper settlements, and that time nought happed between him and Thorgeir, but out of this sprang up between them ill blood, as matters showed after.

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Last updated Thursday, March 6, 2014 at 22:07