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THE summer passed by, and the winter nights came. It was the custom of many men at that time to like the winter, for they had feasts then, and winter sacrifices. But Gisli had broken off the sacrifices since the time when he was at Vebjorg in Denmark; he still held, though, to his feasts and generosity.
So he made ready a great feasting, when a certain time had passed, as before had been his wont. And he bade thither the two men named Thorkel, Ericson and Wealthy, and his brother-in-law, Bjartmar's son, and many other friends and comrades. And that day when men came to his bidding, Aud said to Gisli: "Now is it truth to say that it seems to me there is now only one man lacking who I wish were here."
"Who is that?" asked Gisli.
"It is Vestan, my brother. Him would I choose to enjoy good cheer here with us."
Gisli made answer: "Quite otherwise is the thought thereon that is given to me, because I would gladly give anything in order that he come not here at this time."
And there ended their talk.
There was a man named Thorgrim. He was nicknamed Nose. He dwelt at Nefstod [Nosestead] inland on Hawkdale river. He was steeped in knowledge of sorcery and the black arts. He was even such a wizard as the greatest might be. Thorgrim and Thorkel invited him, because they, too, were holding a feast at their house. Thorgrim was handy with iron. And it is told that they went to the smithy, the two Thorgrims and Thorkel, and closed the door behind them. Then they took the fragments of Graysides, which Thorkel had got from the sharing of the two brothers, and Thorgrim made thereof a spear. At eventide it was all done. Runes, too, were on it, and it could be fastened to the haft the depth of a span.
Further it was said that Onund of Medaldale came to the bidding of Gisli and had private talk with him and said that Vestan had come back, out to Iceland "and his intentions are hither."
Gisli acted quickly and called to him his house servants, Hallvard and Havard, and bade them fare north to Onundarfirth to meet Vestan and bear to him "my greeting, and this with it, that he abide at home till I seek him there and come not to the gathering in Hawkdale." And he gave into their hands a cloth tied into a knot, and there was in it the half coin as a token, if he trusted not their words otherwise.
Then they sped off. They took a boat from Hawkdale and rowed into the mouth of the Lcekja and there came to land and went to the landholder who lived near by at Bessistead. His name likewise was Bessi. They delivered to him Gisli's words, that he lend them two horses which he owned. They were called Bandvettir and were the swiftest about the firth. He lent them the horses, and they rode hard till they came to Mosvellir and thence below Hest.
Now Vestan had already ridden from his home and held his way below the edge of the plain near Mosvellir, and the brothers rode along the ridge, so they passed without meeting.
There was a man named Thorvard, who lived at Holt. Two of his men quarreled over their work and struck at each other with scythes, and both of them were hurt. Vestan came there and brought it about that peace was made between them. Then he rode away to Dyrafirth in the company of two Norwegians.
Now when Hallvard and Havard came to Hest and asked and learned of Vestan's journeying hence, they rode after him as fast as they could. And when they had come to Mosvellir, they saw the riding of men in the middle of the dale. There was a hill between them, and they rode on to Bjarnadale and came to Arnkelsbrek. There both horses broke down. They ran from the horses and shouted. Vestan and the others heard the calling. They had reached Gemlufalls-meadow, and they waited there till the brothers came up. Then Gisli's men delivered their message and brought forth the coin which he had sent to Vestan. He took forth from his money bag another coin, and much he reddened when he looked at them together.
"Truth alone ye speak," said he. "I might have turned back, if ye two had met me before. All the waters from above are now pouring down into Dyrafirth, yet shall I ride thither, so eager I am for the journey. The Eastmen shall turn back, but ye two shall get into your boat and tell Gisli and my sister of my coming thither."
So they hastened home and told Gisli. He answered, "Even thus it must be.
Vestan fared to Lambadale to the house of Luta, his kinswoman, and she had him ferried over the firth and said to him: "Be thou on thy guard, Vestan. Thou wilt have need of it."
He was taken over to Thingeyr. There lived a man who was called Thorvald Spark. Vestan went to his house, and Thorvald gave him the use of his horse. Vestan rode off with a jingling bridle, but had his own saddle harness. Thorvald went with him as far as Sandaöss and offered to go all the way to Gisli's home, but Vestan said there was no need for it. "Many things have changed in Hawkdale, " warned Thorvald. "Be thou wary of thyself."
Then they parted. Vestan rode on until he came to Hawkdale. It was clear weather, and the moon was shining. At Thorgrim's place, they were letting in the animals, Geirmund and his wife, whose name was Rannveig. She was steering the animals into the stalls, while he drove them in to her from outside.
Vestan rode across the field, and Geirmund met him and said: "Come thou not here to Sabol, but fare to Gisli, and be wary of thyself."
Rannveig had come out of the cowhouse. She looked at the man and seemed to know him. And when the animals were all let in, they wrangled about who the man was. Thereafter they went home.
Thorgrim and the rest were sitting by the fire, and Thorgrim asked first whether they had seen anything of men or met anyone, and secondly wherefore they had quarreled.
"I seemed to feel that Vestan had come here," said Rannveig. "He was in a black, hooded cloak. There was a spear in his hand, and his bridle rattled as he rode."
"And what sayest thou, Geirmund?"
"I did not have a good look at him. I thought him a man of Onund's from Medaldale. He was wearing Gisli's cloak and had Onund's saddle-harness. In his hands he carried a fishing spear with something hanging from it." 14
"One or the other of you must be lying," said Thorgrim. "Go thou to Hol, Rannveig, and see if aught has happened there."
So she went and came to the doorway. The men had come to their drinking. Gisli was outside by the door and greeted her. He invited her to be there, but she said she ought to go home: "I wish only to see Gudrid, the young girl."
Gisli called out for Gudrid, but nobody came at his call.
"Where is Aud, thy wife?" she asked. "She is here," said Gisli.
Aud went outside and asked what Rannveig wanted. She replied that her errand was small, and nothing came up in their talk. Gisli asked her to do either thing she wished, to stay there or go home. She went home and was more stupid, if possible, than before, and knew nothing at all to tell them.
The next morning, Vestan had two bags brought to him, in which were goods and wares. The brothers, Hallvard and Havard, had been entrusted with their keeping. Vestan took therefrom hangings, sixty fathoms long, and a head kerchief two ells in length, brocaded in three stripes of gold, and three basins, all gilded. All these he took from the sack and intended to give them to his sister, Gisli, and Thorkel, his sworn-brother, if he would have them.
Then Gisli went with the two Thorkels to Sabol to his brother, Thorkel, and told him that Vestan had come to his house and had given them both costly gifts; and he showed him and bade him to take of them whatsoever he liked.
Thorkel made answer: "Still wouldst thou be in the right, and deserving, though thou receive them all. I will not take the costly gifts. Not at all like these will be the return and reward to him." And Thorkel would thus have none of them.
So Gisli thereafter went his way homeward, and it seemed to him that everything pointed in but one direction.
Now there happened a strange thing at Hol in that Gisli was restless in his sleep two nights together, and men asked whereof he had dreamed, but he would tell nothing of them. Then came a third night, and men went to their beds. And when they had been sleeping awhile, there came a great gust of wind and took off all the roof on one side of the house. And following this, rain fell from the heavens so hard as never before to have been equaled. The house took to leaking as might be expected when the thatch of the roof began to give way.
Gisli sprang up quickly and called to his men that they put back the shelter. There was a thrall with Gisli who was called Thord. He was nicknamed Faint-hearted. He had grown into a man nearly as big as Gisli. The thrall was in his own quarters. Gisli went out for hay, and nearly all the men with him to help. Vestan offered to go, too, but Gisli willed it not.
And when the house took to leaking very badly, the brother and sister turned their beds lengthwise along the sides. All the people had now gone away out of the house except those two. Then, a while before dawn, someone came in silently to the place where Vestan was lying asleep. He was waked but knew nothing before he was struck with a spear full in the breast so that it stood through him. When he felt the blow, he said, "That was a thrust!" And straightway the stranger went out. Vestan tried to rise, and with that fell down dead before the bedboard.15
Aud awoke straightway and called Thord Fainthearted and asked him to take the weapon out of the wound. Always was it said that he was bound to the avenging who drew weapon from the wound; and moreover that it was called but secret manslaughter and not murder when men left their weapons behind them in the wound. Thord was so afraid of a dead body that he dared not go near it at all. Just then Gisli came in and saw how matters stood and bade Thord be quiet. He himself took the spear from the wound and cast it all bloody into a chest and let no man see it. Then he sat down on the bed-board.
After a while he had the body arranged after the custom which was in that day. Much mourned was Vestan both by Gisli and other men.
Gisli said to Gudrid, his foster-daughter: "Thou shalt go to Sabol and find out what the men there are doing. For this reason send I thee, that I trust thee best of all in this as well as in other things. Mark all well, to tell me what the men are doing there."
She went her way and came to Sabol. The men there were already up and sat with their weapons, the two Thorgrims and Thorkel. And when she came in, they were slow in their welcome, for kinsfolk are ever most chary of words in each other's greeting.
At last Thorgrim asked her tidings.
She told him of the manslaughter, or rather, of the murder of Vestan.
Thorkel made answer: "Time was when these would have been tidings indeed."
"That man is there laid low," said Thorgrim, "to whom we are all bound to show honor by making his outgoing as fitting as possible and by laying him away in a mound. True this is to say, that there is great loss in his death. You may say this to Gisli, that we shall come there today."
She went home and told Gisli that Thorgrim sat there with helmet and sword and all his war gear while Thorgrim Nose had a wood-axe in his hand and Thorkel a sword partly drawn, the length of a span, from its sheath--"and all the men there had risen from their sleep, some holding their weapons." "Such was to be expected," remarked Gisli.
He and all his household now made ready to bury Vestan in the sandbank which stood opposite to the sedge tarn below Sabol. And when Gisli had taken his way thither, Thorgrim and the others came with many men to the piling-up of the stones. When they all had so far shown Vestan burial in accordance with the wont of those days, Thorgrim went up to Gisli. "A custom it is," said he, "to bind hell-shoes upon men when they set out for Valhalla, and that I shall do for Vestan." And when he had so done, he said, "Not at all do I know how to bind shoes for the dead if ever these loosen."
After that they all sat down beyond the mound and talked together and said that very unlikely it was that anyone should find out who had done the deed.
Thorkel asked of Gisli: "How bears Aud up over her brother's death? Much is she given to weeping?"
"Thou mightest know thyself the answer," said Gisli. "She bears all well, but it goes near to her heart. A dream I had, " he continued, "last night and the night before and though I myself do not wish to say out and out who did the manslaughter, things point no silent, uncertain way in dreams. This I dreamed the earlier night, that from a house a viper crawled and struck Vestan to his death; and the later night, that a wolf ran from the selfsame stead and gave him mortal bites. Neither dream have I spoken of ere now for the reason that I hoped that they should never be fulfilled."
Then spoke Gisli a verse:
May never come a third such dream!
Ye drawers of the spits that wound,
Lief would I backward hark in mind
To times like those, when slow from sleep
Awoke refreshed, Vestan and I;
Or when we sat in Sigrhad's hall
Made glad with mead and flowing wine.
Between us two, none ever sat.
Thorkel asked yet again: "How bears Aud up over her brother's death? Grieves she much?"
"Often it is thou askest me this, kinsman," said Gisli, "and curious thou art to know it."
Further answered he in verse:
Gefn, goddess of gold, the couch of the serpent16
Hides her giantess feelings, concealed 'neath a veil;
And alone in her sleep from the well of her eyes
She secretly gathers the rain on her cheeks.
And this woman so gentle, in strength like the leek,
With both of her hands, the high seats of the spear,
Wipes the dew from her eyebrows; and, silent as brass,
Is the peace that consoles for the death of her brother!
Still another strophe he gave them:
Ever Gno, arm-ring goddess,17 lets fall from her lap
Glistening nuts from the forests her eyelids have made,
For all laughter is banned in the heart of the woman.
This Thogn, famed Valkyr of field of the serpent,
Gathers nuts, sorrow born, from her hazelwood eyes
And seeks solace of soul in the maker of song.
Then the brothers went home after that, both together. Thorkel was first to speak: "Great things are these that have happened here, and to thee they will become more than to us happenings of sorrow. None the less every man must fare longest with himself. I wish that thou wouldst not let thyself take it too much to heart, so that for that reason men come under suspicion. My wish it is that we take up the [burial] games, and that it be now as well with us as when things between us were the best."
"That is well said," answered Gisli, "and according to my wish, but with this condition, that, if anything should chance to happen in thy lifetime of such moment that it seems to thee equally as great as this appears to me, thou shouldst then promise me this, to act with the same resraint as thou now askest of me."
Thorkel agreed. Then they went to Gisli's home, where was drunk the funeral ale for Vestan. When that had been done, each fared to his own house, and all was now quiet awhile.
14. The Icelandic word is unknown. Conveniently here, `something' fits in with the meaning very well, as Geirmund's evasiveness and indefiniteness show where his heart lies.
15. A slightly raised board running lengthwise of the bed.
16. 'Gefn, goddess of gold' = woman, here Aud; below, 'oak (strength) of the leek' also = woman, i.e., Aud; 'high seats of the spear' = kenning for hands.
17. 'Gno, arm-ring goddess' = woman, here Aud; below, `Thogn, famed Valkyr of field of the serpent [i.e., gold]' = woman, also Aud; `maker of song' is Gisli, her husband.