Icelandic Sagas Vol. 3
26. Rognvald Brusi's son sailed west to the Orkneys, and fared first to those homesteads which his father had owned; then he sent a message to earl Thorfinn his kinsman, and begged to have that trithing of the isles which his father had owned. He made them also tell Thorfinn that king Magnus gave him in fief that trithing of the lands which king Olaf had owned. He begged to have those two lots of the lands at his will of his kinsman Thorfinn. But at that time earl Thorfinn had great quarrels with the Southislanders and the Irish; he thought he had much need of help in men, and he made these answers to Rognvald's messengers, that he shall take of a surety that trithing of the isles which he owned by right, "but that trithing which Magnus claims as his, then we yielded in that to king Olaf, more for that we were come within his grasp, than because we thought it right; and so we and our kinsman Rognvald will agree all the more if we two talk little to each other about that trithing of the lands; it has long been a cause of quarrel. But if Rognvald will be a trusty kinsman and strengthener to me, then methinks my realm will be well bestowed if he has that trithing as a pastime for himself and a strength for both of us. In short, his help is worth more to me than the scatts which I get from it." After that the messengers fared back, and said to Rognvald that Thorfinn had yielded to him two lots of the lands, if he will be his strengthener, as ought to be for kinship's sake. Rognvald says that he had only laid claim to what he thought he owned. But for that Thorfinn gave the lands up so readily, he said he would of a surety be willing to lend him help and to be his entire friend, just as their kinship bound them. Now Rognvald took under him two lots of the lands, and so things stood that winter. But very early in the spring earl Thorfinn sent word to his kinsman Rognvald, and begs him to fare a-roving with him, and to bring as many men as he could get with him. And when these words came to Rognvald, he got ready at once and drew a host together, and gathered to himself all the ships he could get; and when that host was boun, he fared to meet earl Thorfinn; then Thorfinn had also got his host boun; and he gave his kinsman Rognvald a good welcome, and then they went into fellowship together.
27. Those kinsmen Thorfinn and Rognvald harried that summer over the Southern isles and Ireland, and far and wide about Scotland's firths. Thorfinn laid the land under him wherever they fared. In the summer they had a great fight in the place called Waterfirth; (11) there was a great loss of men. They took to battle speedily, and those kinsmen won a bright victory. Of this battle Arnor earlskald makes mention in Thorfinn's ode: He was there in the battle.
"There was I where Waterfirth
place is hight in mickle risk,
my Lord the friend of man,
his works I know the tokens;
the ships the warriors speedy
the shieldburg, Friday morning
I saw the gray wolf gaping
wounded corse of many a man."
After this battle they turned back to the Orkneys, and sate still through that winter. And so eight winters went by that Rognvald had two lots of the isles, so that earl Thorfinn made no complaint about it. But every summer they were a-roving, sometimes both together, but sometimes each of them by himself, as Arnor says:
"He who loved was often working,
Ireland's offspring fell before him,
When he fell on British races,
Fire flew o'er Scotland's realm."
28. With those kinsmen everything went always well when they met; but if bad (worse) men went between them (tale-bearing) the disputes were always talked out. Earl Thorfinn sate long in Caithness, and Rognvald in the isles. It fell out one summer that earl Thorfinn harried in the Southern isles and about the West Coast of Scotland. He lay at the place called Galloway, there Scotland and England meet. He had sent away from him a force south to England to land and seize and slaughter cattle, for there where he lay with his force all the folk had fled away, and all the cattle were driven away from him. But when the Englishmen were ware of the Vikings, they gathered themselves together and fell upon them, and took from them all the cattle, but slew of them all the men who were fit for anything, but sent back some runagates, and bade them tell earl Thorfinn how they made Vikings sick of wrong and robbery; and they had besides about it many scornful words. So they fared to find earl Thorfinn, and told him how ill they had fared. He took it ill that his men were lost, but said he could not help it; but this he said he was well able to do, and that was to pay off the Englishmen for all the gibes and jeers which they made out of the matter; and he said he must first of all part from them for a while, but if he were safe and sound next summer he said he and they should meet.
29. At that time Hardicanute was (king) over England and Denmark. After that earl Thorfinn fared to the Orkneys and sate there that winter. Early in the spring he called out his levies over all his realm; then he sent a message to his kinsman Rognvald, and Rognvald agrees to it. Rognvald had a levy over all his realm. Earl Thorfinn drew together a host from the Orkneys and Caithness; he had also a mighty host from Scotland and Ireland, and from all the Southern isles people flocked to him. He held on with all that host to England just as he had promised them the autumn before. Hardicanute was in Denmark when these tidings happened. But as soon as ever the earls came to England they began to harry and waste; but those chiefs who were set there to watch the land fared against them with force, and there was a great and hard battle, and the earls got the victory. After that they fared far and wide over England, and harried, slew men, and burned the farms wherever they went. This Arnor mentions in Thorfinn's ode:
there was that Angles mind
of spears, nor evermore
the lord of rings come thither
a greater force to battle.
Thin-ground swords bit sturdy people,
the child of ancient Rognvald
Rushed beneath his buckler thither,
from Man across the main.
English native land his banner
the earl, and often reddened
Tongue of eagles, troops to carry
Ensigns onward still he ordered,
waxed and homes were blazing,
the army chased the fleers,
Flames spread fast, and near to heaven
the glare of forest's foeman. (12)
blasts of horns were blowing,
Through the burgs when bold to battle
Rushed the ruler, while his banner
Fluttered bravely in the breeze.
on a rainy Friday morning,
the day scarce beamed for battle,
the foeman fierce he scattered;
Weapons flew and wolves were fattened."
Earl Thorfinn had two pitched battles in England, but on the other hand he gave them many defeats and man-slayings. He lay there almost all the summer through, but at autumn he fared hom to the Orkneys, and was there that winter.
30. At this time Kalf Arni's son fled out of the land before king Magnus. He fared west across the sea to his nephew-in-law earl Thorfinn. Thorfinn had then to wife Ingibiorg earlsmother, the daughter of earl Finn Arni's son. Then Kalf was in great love with earl Thorfinn. He held about him a great following of men; that was very costly to the earl. There were many, too, then who said out before him that he should not let Rognvald have two lots of the isles, when he had to spend so much money himself. And after that earl Thorfinn sent men out into the isles, and asked for that trithing from earl Rognvald, which earl Einar wrymouth had owned. But when that message came, the earl brought it before his friends and counsellors. After that he calls thither earl Thorfinn's messengers. Rognvald says, that as for that lot of the isles which they claim, he had taken it in fief from king Magnus, and that the king called it his father's heritage. Now he said king Magnus had power to say which of them should own that lot; but he said he would not let it go if it were the king's will that he should have it. On this the messengers fared away, and tell earl Thorfinn those words. They said, too, it was surely to be looked for that this would not be got without a struggle. But when earl Thorfinn heard that, he grew very wrath, and said it was a likely story that king Magnus was to have his brother's heritage. He said, too, that had been agreed to more because he and earl Brusi were then come into king Olaf's grasp than because it was a fair and rightful sharing of the inheritance. "Now methinks Rognvald doth not repay me well when I have now let him have that realm in freedom for a while, if I shall not now come near the heritage my brother has left me unless I fight for it." Earl Thorfinn was so wrath at this, that no long time after he sends men into the Southern isles, and up into Scotland, and drew a force together. He gave it out too, that he meant to come to blows with earl Rognvald, and then take that without forbearance which he could not get when he sought for it in peace. And now, when this is told to earl Rognvald, that earl Thorfinn was gathering a force against him, he summoned his friends about him, and moots this with them, that earl Thorfinn his kinsman means to come to blows with him with a host and strife. He asked then what force they will furnish him with, and says he is not willing to lose his own without one trial of strength. But when he begged for their judgment on this matter then men gave it in very different ways. Some spoke after earl Rognvald, and said it was to be forgiven him that he did not wish to share his realm; but there were some who said it was to be forgiven to Thorfinn that he wished to have the realm for a while, when Rognvald had already had that lot which earl Einar had owned. They said, too, it was bad counsel that Rognvald should lay himself out to fight against Thorfinn with that force which he could get from two lots of the isles, when Thorfinn had a trithing and Caithness, and a great share of Scotland and all the Southern isles. There were men, too, who spoke and said that a peaceful settlement must be sought, who beg that Rognvald would offer earl Thorfinn a half of the isles, and so in that way their kinship might still be saved. But when Rognval found that each had a way of his own, but all were against his resisting, then he laid bare his will, and said that he will not cut his realm asunder by any settlement; that he would far rather give up the realm at once, and go to seek king Magnus his fosterbrother, and look after what strength the king will give him to hold his realm. After that he makes ready for his voyage, and fares east to Norway, nor does he slacken his course before he comes into the presence of king Magnus. And when he is come thither, he tells the king the whole story. The king made earl Rognvald good cheer, and bade him be with him so long as he liked, and to take a fief of him so large that he could well maintain himself and his people; but earl Rognvald told the king that he wished he would give him strength enough to seek back his realm. King Magnus said of a surety he would aid him with strength to get what he asked. Rognvald stayed a short time in Norway ere he began his voyage west to the Orkneys. He had then many picked men whom king Magnus had granted him. And this went with him too; he (the king) sent word to Kalf Arni's son, that he should have his lands and leave to live in Norway, if he would stand by earl Rognvald in this quarrel between him and earl Thorfinn.
11. A firth in the Isle of Skye. [Back]
12. forest's foeman; fire. [Back]