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NOW it was said that, when spring came, Bork fared to the Thing at Thorskafirth with many men and planned to meet his friends there. Gest fared from the west from Bordastrand, and Thorkel, Sour's son, also. Each of them came in his own ship.
And when Gest was all ready, there came to him two boys, ill-clad and carrying staffs in their hands. Of this, men were certain, that Gest had secret talk with the boys; and more certain of this, that they asked passage of him and that he gave it to them. So they sailed with him to the Thing. There they went ashore and journeyed as the way led them to the Thing-stead at Thorskafirth.
There was a man named Hallbiorn Cap. He was a beggar and went about the countryside not with a few men but with ten or twelve. He had pitched his booth at the Thing. Thither the boys made their way and asked of him lodgings in the booth, saying they were beggars. He said he gave booth-room to anyone who should chance to wish and ask for it. "I have been here many springs," said he, "and I know all the powerful men and chiefs."
The boys said they would agree to his superintendence and rely on his judgment. "Great curiosity is ours to look at the mighty men about whom such great tales are told."
Hallbiorn said he would go down to the shore and spot each ship at once as it hove in sight and explain to tlzem who owned it. They offered him thanks for his friendliness.
They then all went down to the water's edge and looked out to sea. They saw a ship making for the land. Then spoke the older of the two boys: "To whom belongs that ship which is now sailing nearest hither?"
Hallbiorn said it belonged to Bork the Fat. "And whose is the next one?"
"Gest's the Wise," said Hallbiorn.
"And what men come next who are heading their ship for the creek at the head of the firth?"
"That is Thorkel, Sour's son," he replied. They saw how Thorkel came ashore and sat down at a spot while his men carried the goods up from the ship far enough so that they should not fall under water at high tide. Bork pitched their booths. Thorkel had a Russian hat on his head and a gray cloak fastened with a gold pin across his shoulders. He had a sword in his hand.
Hallbiorn went, the two boys with him, to the place where Thorkel was sitting. Then spoke one of the boys, the older one: "Who is the distinguished man who sits here? Never have I seen one so fair to behold; nor one more lordly."
"Well, indeed, words come to thee," he answered. "I am called Thorkel."
The boy replied, "Very costly must be that sword which thou hast in thy hands. Wouldst thou let me look at it?"
Thorkel answered: "Very strangely thou behavest about it; however I shall grant thee thy wish." And he handed it over to him.
The boy took the sword and stepped back a little and, unfastening the peace-bonds,29 drew it forth. And when Thorkel saw that, he said, "Not at all did I give thee leave to do that, to take it from its sheath."
"For that I did not ask thy leave," said the swain, and he raised it aloft and brought it down upon the neck of Thorkel so that it took off his head.
Forthwith when this happened, Hallbiorn, the beggar, leaped up, but the boy threw down the sword, all bloody, and grabbed his staff. The two brothers ran among those with Hallbiorn, and the beggars were almost mad with terror. They ran up near the booth which Bork had set up. Men drifted then to the place where Thorkel was lying and seemed not to know who had done the work. Bork asked what the din and uproar over around Thorkel was all about.
When the men with Hallbiorn ran up near the booth there were fifteen vagrants in all and when Bork made inquiries, then answered the young boy named Helgi (the one was called Berg who had done the murder): "Not at all do I know what they are talking about, but this it is I think they are wrangling over, whether Vestan left behind a daughter, or whether he had had a son."
Hallbiorn rushed into the booth, but the boys jumped into the woods which were near, and could nowhere be found.
Men now ran into Hallbiorn's booth and asked what the trouble was, and the beggars answered that two young boys had come into their company and
that the deed had taken them by surprise, for the boys had not given them an inkling of what they were going to do. The beggars then described the boys' looks and spoke of their speech, of what sort and kind it had been.
Bork seemed now to know from the words which Helgi had spoken that they might have been sons of Vestan, and thereafter he went to meet Gest and took counsel with him about it, what course should now be taken. Bork said to him: "To me of all men is the obligation the greatest to take up the case of Thorkel, my brother-in-law. It seems to me not unlikely that the sons of Vestan might have done the murder because we have no knowledge of other men but them, who have had dealings with Thorkel. It can be that they came here from their home at this time. Give now thy idea of how the suit shall be taken up."
Gest made answer: "A plan I would know of if I had slain the man, to wit, to resort to the device of giving myself another name than that by which I am called so that the case might come to nought if it were pressed against me." And he advised strongly that the suit be dropped.
This men have had for truth, that Gest had been in counsel with the boys because he was bound to them in kinship.
Bork and Gest ended their talk, and the charges were never brought. Thorkel was buried according to the ancient custom, and thereafter men fared home from the Thing. No more tidings are to tell of what happened there.
Bork was ill pleased with his journey, which, however, was, by this time, not an unusual experience, and had here, as matters stood, more disgrace and dishonor from this suit.
The two young brothers wended their way until they came to Geirthjofshrth. They had been ten days out in the open. They came now to Aud. Gisli was there before them. It was night when they arrived, and they knocked on the door. Aud answered and hailed them and asked tidings. Gisli was lying in his bed. There was an earth-house underneath, and she was wont at once to raise her voice if he needed to be on his guard.
The boys told Aud of the death of Thorkel and about the guile they had used. They told her, too, how long they had been without food.
"I shall send you," said Aud, "over the ridge to Mosdale to the sons of Bjartmar and get you food, and give you a token that they may give shelter to you. This I do for the reason that I am not minded to ask of Gisli food and sheltering under the same roof with you."
They then went into the woods, where they could not be seen, and ate, for they had long been without food. And when they had eaten their fill, they lay down and slept, for they were very sleepy. Now is it to say of Aud that she went in to Gisli and said to him: "Much it concerns me, to see how thou wilt bring thyself to make thy love and honor for me greater than I deserve, from what I have now to say to thee."
He took it upon himself to reply at once and said, "I know that thou wilt tell me of the death of Thorkel, my brother."
"So is it as thou hast guessed," answered Aud. "Two boys came here and willed that ye should all be hidden here together. They thought they had no other means of help or sheltering but that."
He answered, "Never could I have stood it, to see my
brother's slayers or to be shut up here with them." And he thereupon
leaped up and would draw his sword. Then he made a verse:
Who knows or can say that this Gisli will not
Draw his battle-ice sharp from its carving of wood--
Man's staunch friend is still able to hold up his head--
Now that men from the Thing bring the swordwielder word,
That Thorkel his brother is slain? Deeds of might
And of valor I'll do until death overtake me.
When he had finished, Aud said, "They are gone understanding enough I had of this, not to risk having them here."
Gisli said that this way was of all the best, that they should never meet. And of a sudden, he was soothed, and for a while all the news was quiet.
28. The figure for woman here is unusable but very poetical. She is referred to as a 'prop, etc., of gold.' 'Gold' is the 'fire' (caused by the sun's glancing rays) of the 'snow-drifts' (white caps of the waves) of the 'blue-earth' (the sea).
29. Straps wound around the sheath and fastened to a ring in the hilt. They were always worn during the Thing, though this is not the first time they were hostilely unfastened in such a place.