The Story of Grettir the Strong, by William Morris

Chap. xxxi.

How Grettir met Bardi, the Son of Gudmund, as he came back from the Heath-slayings.

Bardi, the son of Gudmund, and his brothers, rode home to Asbiornsness after their parting with Grettir.

They were the sons of Gudmund, the son of Solmund. The mother of Solmund was Thorlaug, the daughter of Saemund, the South-Island man, the foster-brother of Ingimund the Old, and Bardi was a very noble man.

Now soon he rode to find Thorarin the Wise, his foster-father. He welcomed Bardi well, and asked what gain he had got of followers and aid, for they had before taken counsel over Bardi's journey. Bardi answered that he had got the aid of that man to his fellow, whose aid he deemed better than that of any other twain. Thorarin got silent thereat, and then said,

"That man will be Grettir Asmundson."

"Sooth is the sage's guess," said Bardi; "that is the very man, foster-father."

Thorarin answered, "True it is, that Grettir is much before any other man of those who are to choose in our land, and late will he be won with weapons, if he be hale, yet it misdoubts me how far he will bring thee luck; but of thy following all must not be luckless, and enough ye will do, though he fare not with thee: nowise shall he go if I may have my will."

"This I could not have deemed, foster-father," said he, "that thou wouldst grudge me the aid of the bravest of men, if my need should be hard. A man cannot foresee all things when he is driven on as methinks I am."

"Thou wilt do well," said Thorarin; "though thou abidest by my foresight."

Now thus must things be, even as Thorarin would, that no word more was sent to Grettir, but Bardi fared south to Burgfirth, and then befell the Heath-slayings.

Grettir was at Biarg when he heard that Bardi had ridden south; he started up in anger for that no word had been sent to him, and said that not thus should they part. He had news of them when they were looked for coming from the south, and thereat he rode down to Thorey's-peak, for the waylaying of Bardi's folk as they came back from the south: he fared from the homestead up on to the hill-side, and abode there. That same day rode Bardi and his men north over Twodaysway, from the Heath-slayings; they were six in all, and every man sore wounded; and when they came forth by the homestead, then said Bardi —

"A man there is up on the hill-side; a big man, armed. What man do ye take him to be?"

They said that they wotted not who he was.

Bardi said, "Methinks there," quoth he, "is Grettir Asmundson; and if so it is, there will he meet us. I deem that it has misliked him that he fared not with us, but methinks we are not in good case, if he be bent on doing us harm. I now shall send after men to Thorey's-peak, and stake nought on the chance of his ill-will."

They said this was a good rede, and so was it done.

Thereafter Bardi and his folk rode on their way. Grettir saw where they fared, and went in the way before them, and when they met, either greeted other.

Grettir asked for tidings, but Bardi told them fearlessly, even as they were. Grettir asked what men were in that journey with him. Bardi said that there were his brothers, and Eyulf his brother-in-law.

"Thou hast now cleared thyself from all blame," said Grettir; "but now is it best that we try between us who is of most might here."

Said Bardi, "Too nigh to my garth have deeds of hard need been, than that I should fight with thee without a cause, and well methinks have I thrust these from me."

"Thou growest soft, methinks, Bardi," said Grettir, "since thou durst not fight with me."

"Call that what thou wilt," said Bardi; "but in some other stead would I that thou wreak thine high-handedness than here on me; and that is like enough, for now does thy rashness pass all bounds."

Grettir thought ill of his spaedom, and now doubted within himself whether he should set on one or other of them; but it seemed rash to him, as they were six and he one: and in that nick of time came up the men from Thorey's-peak to the aid of Bardi and his folk; then Grettir drew off from them, and turned aside to his horse. But Bardi and his fellows went on their way, nor were there farewells between them at parting.

No further dealings between Bardi and Grettir are told of after these things betid.

Now so has Grettir said that he deemed himself well matched to fight with most men, though they were three together, but he would have no mind to flee before four, without trying it; but against more would he fight only if he must needs defend his hand, as is said in this stave —

"My life trust I 'gainst three

Skilled in Mist's mystery;

Whatso in Hilda's weather

Shall bring the swords together;

If over four they are

My wayfaring that bar

No gale of swords will I

Wake with them willingly."

After his parting with Bardi, Grettir fared to Biarg, and very ill he it thought that he might nowhere try his strength, and searched all about if anywhere might be somewhat wherewith he might contend.

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