The Saga of Halfdan Eysteinsson
11: Ulfketill Claims the Kingdom
Now we shall begin to speak of how Ulfkell was in the north, in Alaborg, with his wife, Ingigerd. They got news now of the death of King Eystein, and the risks that had been created. Ingigerd then spoke with Ulfkell, about whether he would lay claim to the kingdom left by King Hergeir, her father. He said that he was quite ready to do so. After that, they began their journey and did not stop until they came to Aldeigjuborg. Sigmund was there with his queen. Ulfkell and his wife laid claim to the kingdom in the name of the queen, but she said that they had enough territory, so that they should not wish for any more than they already had, and should be satisfied if they kept it. Threats were hurled among them. Ulfkell then went home and gathered an army.
Sigmund then went north then after him, and they met at a place called Krakunes. Then they battled, and it ended up that Ulfkell took flight in one ship with his wife. First they sailed north to Norway, and there found Ulfarr, his brother, and told him how they had parted from Sigmund, and all the news that had happened in Austurvegi. He asked now that Ulfarr should give up the realm to his power, and said that Halfdan had even more territory in Austurvegi. Ulfarr bade him not to talk to him in such a cowardly manner, that he should betray his master, and bade him rather make his army more powerful and seek by force that realm which he thought he had in Austurvegi, and said that he would support him in doing that. Ulfkell declared that would not suffice, and they got into a dispute, and it ended up, that Ulfkell killed Ulfarr, his brother, and took control of all the land, and made himself chieftain over it. People thought that that was the worst crime, and because of that, he was disliked by everyone.
12: The Battle Between Halfdan and Ulfkell
Since Ulfkell had taken the realm for himself, he drew together an army and ships, and proceeded to Austurvegi. He had thirty long ships and a dragon ship of seventy sets of oars. He had vikings and outlaws with him, and whatever sort of scoundrels that he could get. The dragon ship was steered by a man named Ivar Small-bag. He was a great berserk, and the greatest scoundrel. His brother was named Hrafnkell. He was the standard-bearer of Ulfkell, and was the strongest of men. He had many other large and strong men with him. They were not peaceful in their travels, and harried in every land they came to, and took to raiding unsparingly on the coast.
They had come now east to Hlynskoga, to a place called Klyfandanes. From there it is not long to Bjarmaland. Ten ships sailed against them. They were all manned by sturdy men, and Halfdan, son of King Eysteinn, had come there, and he had learned of all of Ulfkell's travels. When they recognized one another, Halfdan asked why Ulfkell had acted basely toward his brother, and taken his realm. Ulfkell said that Halfdan had taken more of the kingdom in Austurvegi, which actually belonged to him. Halfdan said that he did not expect that Ulfkell could lay claim to any good territory.
Then they brandished their weapons, and began to battle. But since the odds were great, there was soon a great loss of men in Halfdan's troops. There was a man called Svidi, who had great influence on Halfdan. He was a strong man. He spoke of how the ships should be fastened together, and he placed them together so cleverly, that Ulfkell could not approach with all his ships, even though some lay within shooting range. A hard battle now followed. Halfdan cleared the way. He realized that they could not fight to the point of exhaustion, so he ordered going up on Ulfkell's dragon ship, along with Svidi. The first to come against them was Ivar Small-bag, and they had a harsh exchange of weapons. Ivar struck at Halfdan, and came down on the outer part of the helmet, and took off that which it touched, which was a dome over the head, and raked away the top of Halfdan's head. He struck back at Ivar and cut off his hand up by the shoulder, and broke asunder the standard pole. Svidi killed Ulfkell's forecastle man, who was named Egil. Then Ulfkell turned on Halfdan, striking him without warning against the shield and byrnie, so that the spear ran out under the hand. He was wounded in the side, and three ribs were broken. Svidi made for Ivar Small-bag, and struck him in the eye, and that was his death. Halfdan struck at Ulfkell, but he turned away and the sword stuck in the deck, and took off Ulfkatli's big toe on the right foot. Ulfkell then lunged at Halfdan with a halberd. It stuck up over the windlass. The halberd came into the latch hole. Halfdan ran to the shaft and broke it apart. Svidi then struck at Ulfkell across the shoulders, and the blow was so great that Ulfkell fell on both knees. Then came a stone blow at Svidi's breast, so that he was flung out from the dragon ship and came into the boat, floating on the side of the ship. With that, Hrafnkell struck Halfdan such a great blow with the club that he fell overboard. Svidi was nearby, and grabbed the boat hook and dragged Halfdan up from his dive. By now Halfdan had gotten six wounds and was unconscious and unable to fight.
13: Unexpected Help Is Brought to Halfdan
Now there was a lot going on at the same time. Twenty-five ships could be seen running before the headland. They were all large, and filled with men who were clothed for battle. A well-grown man stood by the sail on one ship, and with an armless silken jacket, and a fine byrnie. He asked, who her was involved in such an uneven game. Svidi answered honestly, and also described where things had come to.
"Does Halfdan wish to get troops from us?"
Svidi asked who he was. He told him that he would not answer that. Svidi said that he would gladly get troops from them. There was then a second battle, and now more fierce than before. Ulfkell's men suffered many injuries. The largest man on the dragon ship attacked Ulfkell's dragon ship, but Svidi attacked the smaller ships, and soon they were cleared. Ulfkell's troops now began to experience the loss of men.
The large man rode to the gangplank of the dragon ship. Ulfkell came against him first, and their combat was hard and long. The large man struck a great blow at him, and clove all of his shield before him, and the sword came to his foot and took off three toes. Ulfkell struck back, and struck the helmet, and the sword was struck to pieces at the hilt. Ulfkell then saw that there was no choice but to save his life. He then leaped into the ship that was closest to him, and fled. Hrafnkell shot two halberds together at the large man, but he grabbed both of them in the air and shot them back, and each struck a man. Then he attacked Hrafnkell on the shield and both arms with his halberd and heaved him up and cast him out to sea. Then they went so hard against Ulfkell's men, that they were forced to beg for mercy. It was given to all those who asked, but the large man did not wish to have their service, and so they were driven naked up into the land.
Ulfdan fled on one ship, and his wife with him, but the victors took all of the ships and booty, and those of Halfdan's men who survived went under the power of the large man.
14. Halfdan's Wounds Cared For
The large man came there where Halfdan lay with gaping wounds. He spoke to Svidi: "It seems to me that Halfdan's wounds, might be cared for, if he gets to a good doctor, but I do not intend for him to be moved on a sea journey, and so I must send him by land up to my friend, who is named Hrifling. His wife is named Arghyrna. They are good healers, but are very poor and earn a living by their labor, and so it is called hand to mouth life. Now Halfdan will not survive, if they can't help him, and so they must come to us."
He now got his trusted men to carry Halfdan up by land, and gave them a hundred marks of silver, and bade them say to the old man, that they should take such pains and intent to care for him themselves, as if he himself came to them, and should tell him precisely where to find him, once he was fully cared for. They now went to find the man and woman and told them what was asked, and brought them the treasure, but they both said that it was only their duty. The messengers went away, and Hrifling and his wife started to tend to him. He lay eighteen weeks with wounds, but was, however, nursed to health. He was there for twelve months, before he regained his strength, and it seemed like a long time to him, since he was always thinking of the beautiful hand, and the gold and glove that he had lost.
15. Of the Doings of Ulfkell
We now take up the story where Ulfkell the Heroic left the battle. He came to land with fifteen men, but lost all of his other troops. He now asked where Ulf, his brother, might be, and was told that he was in Bjarmaland. He then went to meet him. The king who ruled there was named Harek. His daughter was named Edny. Ulf had proposed to her, but the king did not want to give her in marriage. Then Ulf harried his lands. Now when the brothers met, they conferred together, and decided that they should go to a meeting with King Harek. They had sixty ships. But when they came to the harbor, which lay before the hall of the king, Ulfkell the Hero went to meet the king, and spoke to him honorably. The king asked what man he was. He answered truthfully.
The king asked who commanded the great army, which had come there. Ulfkell said, that Ulf the Evil commanded it, -- "but we are brothers. Thus I came to your meeting, since we wish to ask to be your men. If you will give Ulf the hand of your daughter, then I will hand over Alaborg and Aldeigjuborg, and all of the realm, which accompanies it, since it is my own. I expect, that you would be much stronger with us brothers on your side, and escape would seem pretty tight to many people, if we start going after the evil-doers."
The king asked him to delay until he had a conference with his men. Ulfkell granted that. The king asked his daughter, what she had to say. She said, that she thought it would be a difficult task, due to the past plundering of the brothers, "but if the kingdom would be secure, that would seem to me worthy of consideration." But she said that at any rate, there was no evil that they would stop at, if they were refused, and so it ended up, that Ulf married Edny, and the brothers became guardians of Bjarmaland.
Ulfkell asked who had fought against him, when he and Halfdan battled. King Harek said to him that it was Grim, -- "who rules to the east in Kirjalabotnum, and has forced his way to power there, and men do not know where his origins are. His foster-daughter follows him, such a beautiful maiden, that no one has heard of anyone as fair as she."
"There is a man there," said Ulfkell,. "that I would like to take vengeance on, if possible, and I would like your strength and assistance to do that."
The king said: "We may be able to agree on that, since she is the maiden, that I intend to ask for myself."
They both said that they would stand by him, and said that it seemed like a good idea to them. They agreed that they would travel there, when summer came, and not leave until Grim was dead and the king had gotten the hand of the maiden. They then went to rest.
When spring came, they prepared their ships. They had unlimited troops. With them were two Finnish kings. One was Fidr, and the other Floki. They were wizards. They then went east to Kirjalabotn, and found Grim. There is nothing to report of the matter. They offered Grim the choice: a battle, or that he yield to their power and give all the realm to the king, as well as his foster-daughter.
Grim said, that there was more, -- "the king does not have any business with us, but you, Ulfkell, will travel a worse journey."
They then slept peacefully for the night, but in the morning Grim went out of the stronghold with all his troops, and there was a fierce battle, and the fighting went on until evening. Grim had lost many men. He then went back to the castle. In the morning they resumed the battle, but there were no men left in the stronghold who could bear arms.
16. Hrifling Tells Halfdan the Way
Now the situation pertaining to Halfdan, the king's son, is that his wounds had healed, and he had gotten back all of his strength. He came to speak to the man and woman, and said that he wanted to go away from there, and asked afterward, who the man was, who had sent him there to be healed, and to whom he owed the gift of his life.
Hrifling answered: "Since I trusted you as a gentleman, I must tell you who he is. The man is called Grim, who rules to the east in Kirjalabotn. He is a great warrior. He sent you here to me. You should now repay him for your life-gift, since he has a great need for good men. King Harek has now come from Bjarmaland with Ulf the Evil and Ulfkell the Heroic, and they wish to avenge their dishonor, which they got from their dealings with you. They have now come on the way, with their army, and it is told to me, that King Harek wishes to marry the foster daughter of Grim, who is called Ingigerd, and who is the most beautiful of all maidens."
"You speak well, my friend," said Halfdan, "although there is something else that seems to me no less important: that you must tell me who killed my father."
"I can clearly tell you that," said the man, "That man is called Skuli, and if I shall tell you the truth and not lie to you, that is the same Grim, who has given you life, and now it will say a lot about your character when you meet. But Skuli is such a great champion, that every man who engages in single combat with him will be fully occupied."
"Can you tell me something about the shortest way," said Halfdan, "since I want to get there as soon as possible?"
"Most of the routes here are difficult," said Hrifling, "By ship it is not possible to travel in less than five weeks, and it is the most dangerous due to vikings and troops. Another way lies to the east, but there are mountains and desolate plains there, and that is a long way, and difficult, and it is not clear if you would get there. The third way is the shortest, if all goes well, since by that route the travel is three weeks, but there are many obstacles there. First, the forest, which is called Kolsskog, is twenty leagues long. There is a robber there, who is called Kol, and his daughter, who is called Gullkula. No one who they find can hope for life. A short distance from there is another forest, which is called Klifskog, twenty four leagues. There is a robber there, who is called Hallgeir. With him is a wild boar, which is worse to deal with than twelve men. Next comes the forest, which is called Kalfarskog, sixteen leagues and twenty. There is no food there except berries and tree sap. There is a robber there called Sel, and with him a dog as big as a cow. He has the intellect of a man, and is better at fighting than twelve men. But once you come out of the forests, the river flows to the east from Kjol. No one knows where it originates. It can only be swum by the best swimmers, but from there it is not long to the castle, which Skuli rules over. If nothing delays you, you will be near your goal, and you will get to where the battle is supposed to be." Halfdan bade him prepare for his journey.
In the morning, Halfdan got under way. He went to the woman and bade her live well. The woman spoke many fair words over him. She then took her rag-bag from under the head of the bed. She took a sword out of it. It was as fine as a mirror. It seemed to him that poison was dripping from its edges. She said to him, that whoever bore it would have many victories, and it would never fail if well handled. She took a stone necklace, bound it around his neck, and told him that it should never be moved from its place. Afterward he kissed the woman. Her husband went on the way with him, and told him, which direction to take. He gave him his lap dog and bade him follow it wherever it went, and never to travel a road that it did not wish to, and said that it knew how to avoid the towns of the evil-doers.
Halfdan said that no robber would kill him, -- "but if you become poor, then go to the huts, for I won't be carrying anything with me, though I may cripple some of them."
Then he and the man parted, and they bade one another well.
17. Halfdan Kills the Hut-dwellers
Halfdan now turned to the forest, and when he had traveled for two days, he saw a secret path. The dog wished to take the path, but Halfdan went along the road, until he found a hut. The door was shut. Halfdan pushed it open, and went in. Gullkula, the daughter of Kol, was there before him. She struck him on the neck with a sharp short sword. But the woman's necklace was under there, and the sword broke apart with a loud noise. Halfdan picked her up, and pushed her down violently, and then grabbed her other foot, and tore her apart from one end to the other, and then cast her out of the door. Kol came home at nightfall, and when he stooped down in the doorway, Halfdan set his sword on his neck and that was his death.
But at night, when Halfdan was asleep, they both came in, Kol and his daughter, and both attacked Halfdan. The dog leaped up, and tore Gullkula's corpse at the groin, and tore the guts from it. Halfdan lunged at the hut dweller, and they wrestled for a long time, and it ended up, that Halfdan felled him and broke his neck. Then he took fire and burned them both. He was there for two nights.
Afterward he proceeded and did not stop until he came to Klifskog. There he found a large hut and the door was so heavy, that he tried with all his might before it opened up. He saw a bed . It was two ells longer than he. He saw a lair as big as if it was a stall in a barn. It was getting to be dusk. He heard a roar outside, and heard a hog bellow, making an unpleasant sound. Halfdan then went out of the hut. The dog leaped at the hog, barking, but the hog turned away. Halfdan struck at it, and cut off its tail. The hog turned around, and stuck its snout between Halfdan's feet, and tossed him aloft, so that he lost the sword, although he came down on his feet. The hut dweller, came toward him, and struck at Halfdan with a spiked club, but he turned away from the blow, although he could not reach the sword. He grabbed at the hog's feet, and quickly drew it towards him. The blow came between the hog's ears, and broke its skull. Halfdan tore the feet from under the hog, and struck at the scoundrel's ear, so that he fell on his knees. Halfdan then ran toward him, and knocked him down. He grasped at Halfdan, and wrestled, so that at times each was on top, and each was underneath. Then the dog, which the old man had given him, charged at the hut-dweller and bit the nose of the hut-dweller, and tore it off. Then Halfdan was able to get hold of the sword, and cut off the head of the hut dweller, and burned him up in a bonfire. By then he was then stiff and tired. He stayed the night there.
Afterward he came to Kalfarskog and came to the hut of Sel. The door was half shut. He ran at the door three times, before it gave way. He settled in the bed of the hut dweller. He had an oaken stick in his hand, and carved it sharp on both ends, and singed it in the fire. Outside of the door he saw that the hut dweller was coming, with his dog running in front of him. Halfdan's dog was startled, and ran up onto the crossbeam. Halfdan went out to meet the farmer, and when the dog saw him, he ran to meet him with gaping mouth and howled quite savagely. Halfdan stuck his hand into its jaw, and twisted the stick, so that one end disappeared up in the gums, and the other down, so that the dog could not close his mouth. Sel came up at that point, with a bear on his shoulders, and a young whale in front.
18. The Death of the Giant Sel
Sel cast down his burden, and lunged with a bear-hunting knife toward Halfdan, who struck against him with a sword, and cut off the handle of the cutlass and all of the fingers of the other hand. Sel grabbed a stone and threw it toward Halfdan. He avoided it, and was so near to Sel, that he grabbed him by his tooth, which protruded from his snout. He turned so strongly, that the tooth was pulled out. Halfdan struck Sel on the nose, and broke it, and the whole row of teeth, and the giant resembled no-one else, except himself. He grabbed at Halfdan and squeezed his side so hard, that blood came out of his eyes and nostrils. Halfdan then hit Sel with a knee-crook, and he fell backwards. His tooth caught on the stone necklace and broke one of the stones. Halfdan could not move at all now. The old man's dog then ran before Sel's nose and clawed out both of his eyes. Then Halfdan became free, and cut off Sel's head and cast him out into a large river, which was nearby.
He then went to the dog and said to him: "You'll never get that stick out of your jaw, unless you are just as faithful to me as you were to Sel."
The dog crept up to him and turned his stomach up to him. Halfdan took the stick out of his jaw. The dog was so happy, that tears ran over its snout. Halfdan got himself some food, and then went to sleep. In the morning he set off, and went on until he came to a lake. The dog Selsnautr ran along the water, until he found a heap of moss. He scraped the heap apart with his feet, and there was a boat there. Halfdan took it, and proceeded over the lake, and then walked the whole day, until it was evening.