The Story of Grettir the Strong, by William Morris

Chap. xxix.

Of the Horse-fight at Longfit.

That summer was settled to be a great horse-fight at Longfit, below Reeks. Thither came many men. Atli of Biarg had a good horse, a black-maned roan of Keingala's kin, and father and son had great love for that horse. The brothers, Kormak and Thorgils of Meal, had a brown horse, trusty in fight. These were to fight their horse against Atli of Biarg. And many other good horses were there.

Odd, the Foundling-skald, of Kormak's kin, was to follow the horse of his kinsman through the day. Odd was then growing a big man, and bragged much of himself, and was untameable and reckless. Grettir asked of Atli his brother, who should follow his horse.

"I am not so clear about that," said he.

"Wilt thou that I stand by it?" said Grettir.

"Be thou then very peaceable, kinsman," said Atli, "for here have we to deal with overbearing men."

"Well, let them pay for their own insolence," said Grettir, "if they know not how to hold it back."

Now are the horses led out, but all stood forth on the river-bank tied together. There was a deep hollow in the river down below the bank. The horses bit well at each other, and the greatest sport it was.

Odd drave on his horse with all his might, but Grettir held back, and seized the tail with one hand, and the staff wherewith he goaded the horse he held in the other. Odd stood far before his horse, nor was it so sure that he did not goad Atli's horse from his hold. Grettir made as if he saw it not. Now the horses bore forth towards the river. Then Odd drave his staff at Grettir, and smote the shoulder-blade, for that Grettir turned the shoulder towards him: that was so mighty a stroke, that the flesh shrank from under it, but Grettir was little scratched.

Now in that nick of time the horses reared up high, and Grettir ran under his horse's hocks, and thrust his staff so hard at the side of Odd that three ribs brake in him, but he was hurled out into deep water, together with his horse and all the horses that were tied together. Then men swam out to him and dragged him out of the river; then was a great hooting made thereat; Kormak's folk ran to their weapons, as did the men of Biarg in another place. But when the Ramfirthers and the men of Waterness saw that, they went betwixt them, and they were parted and went home, but both sides had ill-will one with the other, though they sat peacefully at home for a while.

Atli was sparing of speech over this, but Grettir was right unsparing, and said that they would meet another time if his will came to pass.

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