The Story of Grettir the Strong, by William Morris

Chap. lxxxix.

How the Short-Sword was the easier known when sought for by reason of the notch in the blade.

Thorstein Dromund was a mighty man, and of the greatest account; and now he heard that Thorbiorn Angle had got him gone from the land out to Micklegarth; speedy were his doings thereon, he gave over his lands into his kinsmen's hands, and betook himself to journeying and to search for Angle; and ever he followed after whereas Angle had gone afore, nor was Angle ware of his goings.

So Thorstein Dromund came out to Micklegarth a little after Angle, and was fain above all things to slay him, but neither knew the other. Now had they will to be taken into the company of the Varangians, and the matter went well as soon as the Varangians knew that they were Northmen; and in those days was Michael Katalak king over Micklegarth.

Thorstein Dromund watched for Angle, if in some wise he might know him, but won not the game because of the many people there; and ever would he lie awake, ill-content with his lot, and thinking how great was his loss.

Now hereupon it befell that the Varangians were to go on certain warfare, and free the land from harrying; and their manner and law it was before they went from home to hold a weapon-show, and so it was now done; and when the weapon-show was established, then were all Varangians to come there, and those withal who were minded to fall into their company, and they were to show forth their weapons.

Thither came both Thorstein and Angle; but Thorbiorn Angle showed forth his weapons first; and he had the short-sword, Grettir's-loom; but when he showed it many praised it and said that it was an exceeding good weapon, but that it was a great blemish, that notch in the edge thereof; and asked him withal what had brought that to pass.

Angle said it was a thing worthy to be told of, "For this is the next thing to be said," says he, "that out in Iceland I slew that champion who was called Grettir the Strong, and who was the greatest warrior and the stoutest-hearted of all men of that land, for him could no man vanquish till I came forth for that end; and whereas I had the good hap to win him, I took his life; though indeed he had my strength many times over; then I drave this short-sword into his head, and thereby was a shard broken from out its edge."

So those who stood nigh said, that he must have been hard of head then, and each showed the short-sword to the other; but hereby Thorstein deemed he knew now who this man was, and he prayed withal to see the short-sword even as the others; then Angle gave it up with good will, for all were praising his bravery and that daring onset, and even in such wise did he think this one would do; and in no wise did he misdoubt him that Thorstein was there, or that the man was akin to Grettir.

Then Dromund took the short-sword, and raised it aloft, and hewed at Angle and smote him on the head, and so great was the stroke that it stayed but at the jaw-teeth, and Thorbiorn Angle fell to earth dead and dishonoured.

Thereat all men became hushed; but the Chancellor of the town seized Thorstein straightway, and asked for what cause he did such an ill-deed there at the hallowed Thing.

Thorstein said that he was the brother of Grettir the Strong, and that withal he had never been able to bring vengeance to pass till then; so thereupon many put in their word, and said that the strong man must needs have been of great might and nobleness, in that Thorstein had fared so far forth into the world to avenge him: the rulers of the city deemed that like enough; but whereas there was none there to bear witness in aught to Thorstein's word, that law of theirs prevailed, that whosoever slew a man should lose nought but his life.

So then speedy doom and hard enow did Thorstein get; for in a dark chamber of a dungeon should he be cast and there abide his death, if none redeemed him therefrom with money. But when Thorstein came into the dungeon, there was a man there already, who had come to death's door from misery; and both foul and cold was that abode; Thorstein spake to that man and said,

"How deemest thou of thy life?"

He answered, "As of a right evil life, for of nought can I be holpen, nor have I kinsmen to redeem me."

Thorstein said, "Nought is of less avail in such matters than lack of good rede; let us be merry then, and do somewhat that will be glee and game to us."

The man said that he might have no glee of aught.

"Nay, then, but let us try it," said Thorstein. And therewithal he fell to singing; and he was a man of such goodly voice that scarcely might his like be found therefor, nor did he now spare himself.

Now the highway was but a little way from the dungeon, and Thorstein sang so loud and clear that the walls resounded therewith, and great game this seemed to him who had been half-dead erst; and in such wise did Thorstein keep it going till the evening.

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