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THIS summer passed by while Gisli stayed in his earth-house, ever on his guard. He intended never to go away again. It seemed to him that all places of shelter and refuge were snowed up, closed to him. Now, too, were passed all the seven years of which he had been told in his dreams.
It happened again one night in the summer that Gisli was restless in his sleep, and when he awoke, Aud asked him what he had dreamed. He said that there came to him the dream-wife, the worse one, and said to him, "Now shall I change all that, about which the better dream-wife spoke to thee. And of this shall I be interpreter to thee, that all that shall avail thee nought, all that which she has told thee of." Then he spoke this strophe:
"Ye two shall ne'er be together," said she,
Who bears round the vessel the ale-cups to fill;
"The poison of love, to your grief, God has given,
To both of you great sorrow-longing. For thee
The ruler all powerful destines to go
Alone to this house, an exile from home."
"And further I dreamed," said Gisli, "that this woman came to me and fastened a bloody cap upon my head, though before she had bathed my head and put stallion's blood all over me, so that I was all bloody."
Then he spoke a strophe:
Still I dreamed that this Thrudr, goddess of riches,
Washed my hair, red already from foam of the sword,
Blood let loose from the well that the thrust freely made;
And that dipped in the rain of the wounds was her arm,
Resting place of the falcon. My hair, stiff and rough,
Lava-field of my cap, was all-reddened of blood.
Another said he:
And Gondol, preserver of gore from the battle,
Set a cap on my head, and like stubbles of straw
Stood erect all my hair, rusty, stiffened from blood.
Her hands were well bathed in the rain of the sword.
Here woke Saga, Sewer,31 me from my dream.
At these times Gisli began to make so much of his dreams and he grew so afraid of the darkness that he dared not be alone by himself, and as soon as he had closed his eyes, there appeared to him the same evil dream-wife. There was one night again when he tossed in his sleep and Aud asked him what rose before him.
"This dreamed I," answered Gisli, "that men came against me. Eyjolf was in the party, along with many other men, and we met, and I saw that fighting took place between us. One of the men, Spying Helgi, a great bellowing fellow, came first against me, and I seemed to hew him asunder in the middle. Methought there was a wolf's head on his shoulders. Then many men rushed upon me. I appeared to have a shield in my hand, and it seemed that long I defended myself against them."
There he ended and made a strophe:
And soon in my dream, the foe stood before me
Opposing in battle, though soon they should know
That my life was not ended. Too few were my helpers.
Thine own fairest arms reddened fresh in my blood.
Came atonement in slain to delight of the ravens.
Untouched by the swords that yelled loud in their glee
Was the shield of the poet. Great fending it gave
'Gainst the down-cutting stroke. Stout heart was mine
Ere those who would limit my time that was destined
Brought force overwhelming against me.
The gnashing of swords made a din loud to hear.
Of their number the one I paid thoroughly back
Before other warriors o'erwhelmed me with wounds,
Those men who console oft the dawn-flying ravens.
I gave to the bird like the blood-eager hawk,
The fodder of Muni, the raven of Odin;
Self-willed my sword cut his leg quite in two.
Despoiler of rings that is man missed his foot.
By such deeds is enlarged the true worth of a man.
The autumn passed and the dreams lessened not but rather increased. There was another night when Gisli stirred uneasily in his sleep, and Aud asked again what he had seen.
He answered her in verse:
I thought, O wife, the wide wounds' flood
Bathed both my sides. Hard work it was!
As soon as once I fell asleep
E'en such I dreamt, mild, golden Lofn.
No outlaw was I then against
The crowd of men. The storm of shafts
I fearless bided.
Again he spoke a strophe:
In my dream saw I Regin, the master of Gno,
Valkyr of the shield, the net of the sword.
From both of my shoulders he made blood to flow
With his keenness of sword, Goddess HIM of the altar."
Gray grew from this stroke the hopes of my life
That once were so glorious, O Vor of the leek.31
But I from my labor shall thus soon have soothing.
And swingers of axes, stark terror of shields
I dreamt that they took from me both of my hands
With stroke of the sword, the scourge of the byrnie.
Great woundings were mine. I saw, too, my head
The helmet's own staff, with flesh parted wide,
New mouth made by sword, Goddess Syn of the flax."
From the crown of my head the weapon stood gaping.
I dreamt in my sleep, with hair silver-banded
That Sjofn,31 a goddess, stood off from me weeping.
This Gerda, well clothed, with tear-moistened eyebrows,
Bound straightway my wounds, this one likest Sjoron,
Of waves golden fire illustrious goddess.
And what, thinkest thou, this portends to me-ward? Gisli was at home all that summer, and all was now quiet. Then came the last night of the summer season. It is said that Gisli could not sleep, nor anyone of the three, Gisli, Aud, and Gudrid. The weather had so passed that there was exceeding calm, and there fell a great hoar-frost. Gisli said that he wished to go from the house to his hiding place to the south under the cliffs to see if he might sleep better.
Thither they fared, all of them. The two women were wearing kirtles, and their tunics brushed the dew and left tracks behind. Gisli was carrying a stick and cut runes upon it, and the chips fell to the ground.
At last they came to the hiding place. Gisli lay down and would know whether he could sleep, and the two women watched wakeful beside him. There came upon him great heaviness of sleep, and he dreamed that birds flew into the house and struck at him very stealthily. They were larger than cockptarmigans. Awful and hideous was the sound they made, and from the looks of them it seemed as if they had wallowed in blood and gore.
Aud then asked him what he had dreamed: "Again these were not good dreams thou hast just had?"
Gisli answered in a strophe:
To my ears came a sound in the house that was erstwhile
My home by the river, the blood of the earth,
Such time as we left, O Bil, goddess of weaving.31
Then verses I made, wonted drink of the dwarfs
When I, stalwart tree of the sword-speaking battle,
Heard flutter of birds, two male-angered partridge.
The rain of the bow, the battle will be
Soon centered around me, who ne'er was found flinching.
When he had spoken this, they all heard voices of men. Eyjolf had come there and fourteen men with him. He had first gone to the house and saw the tracks in the dew as plainly as if someone had shown them the way. And when Gisli, Aud, and Gudrid became aware of the men, they went up on the cliff where was the best vantage ground. Each of the women had a great club in her hands. Eyjolf and his men came beneath them. He called up to Gisli on the cliff: "It is now my advice to thee that thou no longer refuse meeting and let thyself no more be chased about like a faint-hearted man, for thou art called a man the most fearless. Not short has been the time between our meetings, and it is our wish that this be the last."
Gisli made answer: "Come on like men because I shall no longer seek to avoid thee. Thy duty it is, Eyjolf, to come at me first thyself, because thou hast business with me greater than other men here in thy party."
"I shall not leave it to thy judgment," said Eyjolf, "how I shall divide my strength." "This was also rather likely, thou cowardly bitch," said Gisli, "that thou wouldst not dare thyself to trade weapons with me."
Eyjolf then said to Spying Helgi: "Great renown would be thine if thou shouldst rush first up the cliff at Gisli. The deed would live long to thy fame."
"Oft have I this proven," replied Helgi, "that thou wilt have others ahead of thee oftenest where there is some trial of courage; but for this reason, that thou urgest me so eagerly, I shall take thy counsel. But see to it that thou follow me bravely and go next after me, if thou hast not entirely a woman's heart in thee."
Helgi then moved to the attack where it seemed most likely and favorable. He had a great ax in his hands.
Gisli was fitted out thus: he had an ax in his hands and was girded with a sword and a shield at his side; he was dressed in a gray, cowled cloak, which was tied tightly to him by a rope.
Helgi took a run and ran up the cliff toward Gisli. Gisli turned quickly toward him, and raising his sword in the air, drove it down to his loins, so that it cleft him apart in the middle, and he fell in two parts down over the cliff.
Eyjolf came up at another place. Aud went there against him and struck him on the hand with her club, so that his hand lost all its grip and power, and he reeled over backwards.
Then said Gisli: "This have I known a long time, that I was well married, but I knew not that I was so well mated as I am. But less help thou hast shown to me now than thou wishest or hast intended, though great was thy daring, because both Helgi and Eyjolf might have by now fared the same journey."
Two men now went to hold Aud and Gudrid fast, and they thought they had enough to do. The other twelve went after Gisli and came up the sides
of the cliff, but he so warded himself both with stones and weapons that great was the fame of his deed thereafter.
A companion of Eyjolf ran forward alone and called to Gisli: "Give up to me thy weapons, the good ones thou art bearing, all of them together, and with them Aud, thy wife."
Gisli answered: "Come and get them undaunted, for by no means suit thee the weapons which I have owned, nor such a woman."
Eyjolf hurled a spear at Gisli, but Gisli in turn cleft the spear from the handle, and the blow was so great that the ax struck on a flat stone and the head broke. Then he threw away the ax and seized his sword and fought with it and warded himself with his shield. The men attacked with fury, but he defended himself well and with great valor. They came on hard and fast, and Gisli slew two more of them. That made four who had been killed.
Eyjolf now urged his men to press on their boldest. "Not easy are we getting off," said he, "and of little worth would it be to our fame, even if good ending were the reward of our labors."
When it was least expected, Gisli turned from them and leaped from the cliff up to a crag which is called Einhamar. There he turned at bay. This move came to them unawares. Now seemed their situation less comfortable to them with four men slain and they, the rest, wounded and weary. So there was a lull in the attack. Afterwards Eyjolf urged them on hard and made them fair promises if they should lay hold of Gisli.
Eyjolf had a body of men with him picked for their valor and hardihood. There was one man named Svein. He was the first to run up the crag against Gisli. Gisli hewed at him and split him down to the slioulders and threw him over the precipice. Then seemed they not to know when the deaths at the hands of this man would come to an end.
Gisli then shouted to Eyjolf: "These three things would I have as my wish, that thou shalt have most dearly bought the three hundred silver which thou hast taken for my head; that thou wouldst be willing to add to it another three hundred that we two had never met; and that thou wilt carry away with thee disgrace and shame for the loss of life."
Eyjolf and the rest now took counsel and decided not to turn back even if it should cost them their lives. They set upon Gisli from two sides, and following foremost upon Eyjolf's heels were two kinsmen of his. One of them was called Thorir and the other, Thord. They were the most fearless of men. The onslaught grew hard and fierce, and they were able to bring upon him some wounds from spearthrusts. Still he kept them off with great daring and valor, and they had such hard treatment from him with stones and mighty strokes that none was unwounded who came at him.
Eyjolf and his two kinsmen pressed on hard, for they saw that therein lay their honor and reputation. They set upon him with spears so that his bowels fell out, but he gathered them up in his kirtle and fastened it behind with rope. Then he said to them that they should abide a little "Ye shall soon have to this the end ye have been seeking."
Then he spoke a verse:
My Fulla,31 fair faced, the goddess of stones
Who gladdens me much, shall hear of her friend
Standing straight, unafraid in the rain of the spears,
Calm courage showing. My mind is at rest
Though raised high aloft the sword edges bite me.
Such prowess my father gave to his son.
This was the last strophe by Gisli, and as soon as he had uttered it, he straightway leaped down from the crag and brought his sword down upon the head of Thord, Eyjolf's kinsman, so that he forthwith came by his death. There Gisli, too, fell on top of him and breathed his last. They were all sorely wounded, the companions of Eyjolf.
Gisli himself lost his life from so many deep gashes that it seemed a strange and wonderful thing he could have so long endured them. Thus did his enemies speak of him, that he took not a step backward; nor did they see that his strokes were weaker, the last than the first. Here closes the life of Gisli and it is commonly said that he was a most valiant man, though not in every way a lucky one.
They turned his body over and took his sword from him. Then they buried him there in the stones and went down to the sea. There at the water's edge a sixth man died of his wounds.
Eyjolf asked Aud to go away with him, but she would not. After that, he and the rest fared home to Otradale. And the same night a seventh man died of his wounds and the eighth lay ill twelve months, when death took him. The others became well again, those who had been wounded, though they lived not down the disgrace.
And it is spoken by all men that never had there been here in Iceland so famous a stand made by one man alone, so far as men know for truth.