The House of the Wolfings
Part 4 out of 5
Then Thorbiorn reddened and was wroth; but Arinbiorn spake:
"What is this to-do? Let the War-duke rule as is but right: but I
am now become a man of Thiodolf's company; and he bade me haste on
before to help all I might. Do thou as thou wilt, Otter: for
Thiodolf shall be here in an hour's space, and if much diking shall
be done in an hour, yet little slaying, forsooth, shall be done, and
that especially if the foe is all armed and slayeth women and
children. Yea if the Bearing women be all slain, yet shall not Tyr
make us new ones out of the stones of the waste to wed with the
Galtings and the fish-eating Houses?--this is easy to be done
forsooth. Yea, easier than fighting the Romans and overcoming them!"
And he was very wrath, and turned away; and again there was a murmur
and a hum about him. But while these had been speaking aloud,
Sweinbiorn had been talking softly to some of the younger men, and
now he shook his naked sword in the air and spake aloud and sang:
"Ye tarry, Bears of Battle! ye linger, Sons of the Worm!
Ye crouch adown, O kindreds, from the gathering of the storm!
Ye say, it shall soon pass over and we shall fare afield
And reap the wheat with the war-sword and winnow in the shield.
But where shall be the corner wherein ye then shall abide,
And where shall be the woodland where the whelps of the bears shall
When 'twixt the snowy mountains and the edges of the sea
These men have swept the wild-wood and the fields where men may be
Of every living sword-blade, and every quivering spear,
And in the southland cities the yoke of slaves ye bear?
Lo ye! whoever follows I fare to sow the seed
Of the days to be hereafter and the deed that comes of deed."
Therewith he waved his sword over his head, and made as if he would
spur onward. But Arinbiorn thrust through the press and outwent him
and cried out:
"None goeth before Arinbiorn the Old when the battle is pitched in
the meadows of the kindred. Come, ye sons of the Bear, ye children
of the Worm! And come ye, whosoever hath a will to see stout men
Then on he rode nor looked behind him, and the riders of the Bearings
and the Wormings drew themselves out of the throng, and followed him,
and rode clattering over the meadow towards Wolfstead. A few of the
others rode with them, and yet but a few. For they remembered the
holy Folk-mote and the oath of the War-duke, and how they had chosen
Otter to be their leader. Howbeit, man looked askance at man, as if
in shame to be left behind.
But Otter bethought him in the flash of a moment, "If these men ride
alone, they shall die and do nothing; and if we ride with them it may
be that we shall overthrow the Romans, and if we be vanquished, it
shall go hard but we shall slay many of them, so that it shall be the
easier for Thiodolf to deal with them."
Then he spake hastily, and bade certain men abide at the ford for a
guard; then he drew his sword and rode to the front of his folk, and
cried out aloud to them:
"Now at last has come the time to die, and let them of the Markmen
who live hereafter lay us in howe. Set on, Sons of Tyr, and give not
your lives away, but let them be dearly earned of our foemen."
Then all shouted loudly and gladly; nor were they otherwise than
exceeding glad; for now had they forgotten all other joys of life
save the joy of fighting for the kindred and the days to be.
So Otter led them forth, and when he heard the whole company
clattering and thundering on the earth behind him and felt their
might enter into him, his brow cleared, and the anxious lines in the
face of the old man smoothed themselves out, and as he rode along the
soul so stirred within him that he sang out aloud:
"Time was when hot was the summer and I was young on the earth,
And I grudged me every moment that lacked its share of mirth.
I woke in the morn and was merry and all the world methought
For me and my heart's deliverance that hour was newly wrought.
I have passed through the halls of manhood, I have reached the doors
And I have been glad and sorry, but ever have upheld
My heart against all trouble that none might call me sad,
But ne'er came such remembrance of how my heart was glad
In the afternoon of summer 'neath the still unwearied sun
Of the days when I was little and all deeds were hopes to be won,
As now at last it cometh when e'en in such-like tide,
For the freeing of my trouble o'er the fathers' field I ride."
Many men perceived that he sang, and saw that he was merry, howbeit
few heard his very words, and yet all were glad of him.
Fast they rode, being wishful to catch up with the Bearings and the
Wormings, and soon they came anigh them, and they, hearing the
thunder of the horse-hoofs, looked and saw that it was the company of
Otter, and so slacked their speed till they were all joined together
with joyous shouting and laughter. So then they ordered the ranks
anew and so set forward in great joy without haste or turmoil toward
Wolfstead and the Romans. For now the bitterness of their fury and
the sourness of their abiding wrath were turned into the mere joy of
battle; even as the clear red and sweet wine comes of the ugly
ferment and rough trouble of the must.
CHAPTER XXIII--THIODOLF MEETETH THE ROMANS IN THE WOLFING MEADOW
It was scarce an hour after this that the footmen of Thiodolf came
out of the thicket road on to the meadow of the Bearings; there saw
they men gathered on a rising ground, and they came up to them and
saw how some of them were looking with troubled faces towards the
ford and what lay beyond it, and some toward the wood and the coming
of Thiodolf. But these were they whom Otter had bidden abide
Thiodolf there, and he had sent two messengers to them for Thiodolf's
behoof that he might have due tidings so soon as he came out of the
thicket: the first told how Otter had been compelled in a manner to
fall on the Romans along with the riders of the Bearings and the
Wormings, and the second who had but just then come, told how the
Markmen had been worsted by the Romans, and had given back from the
Wolfing dwellings, and were making a stand against the foemen in the
meadow betwixt the ford and Wolfstead.
Now when Thiodolf heard of these tidings he stayed not to ask long
questions, but led the whole host straightway down to the ford, lest
the remnant of Otter's men should be driven down there, and the
Romans should hold the western bank against him.
At the ford there was none to withstand them, nor indeed any man at
all; for the men whom Otter had set there, when they heard that the
battle had gone against their kindred, had ridden their ways to join
them. So Thiodolf crossed over the ford, he and his in good order
all afoot, he like to the others; but for him he was clad in the
Dwarf-wrought Hauberk, but was unhelmeted and bare no shield.
Throng-plough was naked in his hand as he came up all dripping on to
the bank and stood in the meadow of the Wolfings; his face was stern
and set as he gazed straight onward to the place of the fray, but he
did not look as joyous as his wont was in going down to the battle.
Now they had gone but a short way from the ford before the noise of
the fight and the blowing of horns came down the wind to them, but it
was a little way further before they saw the fray with their eyes;
because the ground fell away from the river somewhat at first, and
then rose and fell again before it went up in one slope toward the
But when they were come to the top of the next swelling of the
ground, they beheld from thence what they had to deal with; for there
round about a ground of vantage was the field black with the Roman
host, and in the midst of it was a tangle of struggling men and
tossing spears, and glittering swords.
So when they beheld the battle of their kindred they gave a great
shout and hastened onward the faster; and they were ordered into the
wedge-array and Thiodolf led them, as meet it was. And now even as
they who were on the outward edge of the array and could see what was
toward were looking on the battle with eager eyes, there came an
answering shout down the wind, which they knew for the voice of the
Goths amid the foemen, and then they saw how the ring of the Romans
shook and parted, and their array fell back, and lo the company of
the Markmen standing stoutly together, though sorely minished; and
sure it was that they had not fled or been scattered, but were ready
to fall one over another in one band, for there were no men
straggling towards the ford, though many masterless horses ran here
and there about the meadow. Now, therefore, none doubted but that
they would deliver their friends from the Romans, and overthrow the
But now befel a wonder, a strange thing to tell of. The Romans soon
perceived what was adoing, whereupon the half of them turned about to
face the new comers, while the other half still withstood the company
of Otter: the wedge-array of Thiodolf drew nearer and nearer till it
was hard on the place where it should spread itself out to storm down
on the foe, and the Goths beset by the Romans made them ready to fall
on from their side. There was Thiodolf leading his host, and all men
looking for the token and sign to fall on; but even as he lifted up
Throng-plough to give that sign, a cloud came over his eyes and he
saw nought of all that was before him, and he staggered back as one
who hath gotten a deadly stroke, and so fell swooning to the earth,
though none had smitten him. Then stayed was the wedge-array even at
the very point of onset, and the hearts of the Goths sank, for they
deemed that their leader was slain, and those who were nearest to him
raised him up and bore him hastily aback out of the battle; and the
Romans also had beheld him fall, and they also deemed him dead or
sore hurt, and shouted for joy and loitered not, but stormed forth on
the wedge-array like valiant men; for it must be told that they, who
erst out-numbered the company of Otter, were now much out-numbered,
but they deemed it might well be that they could dismay the Goths
since they had been stayed by the fall of their leader; and Otter's
company were wearied with sore fighting against a great host.
Nevertheless these last, who had not seen the fall of Thiodolf (for
the Romans were thick between him and them) fell on with such
exceeding fury that they drove the Romans who faced them back on
those who had set on the wedge-array, which also stood fast
undismayed; for he who stood next to Thiodolf, a man big of body, and
stout of heart, bight Thorolf, hove up a great axe and cried out
"Here is the next man to Thiodolf! here is one who will not fall till
some one thrusts him over, here is Thorolf of the Wolfings! Stand
fast and shield you, and smite, though Thiodolf be gone untimely to
So none gave back a foot, and fierce was the fight about the wedge-
array; and the men of Otter--but there was no Otter there, and many
another man was gone, and Arinbiorn the Old led them--these stormed
on so fiercely that they cleft their way through all and joined
themselves to their kindred, and the battle was renewed in the
Wolfing meadow. But the Romans had this gain, that Thiodolf's men
had let go their occasion for falling on the Romans with their line
spread out so that every man might use his weapons; yet were the
Goths strong both in valiancy and in numbers, nor might the Romans
break into their array, and as aforesaid the Romans were the fewer,
for it was less than half of their host that had pursued the Goths
when they had been thrust back from their fierce onset: nor did more
than the half seem needed, so many of them had fallen along with
Otter the War-duke and Sweinbiorn of the Bearings, that they seemed
to the Romans but a feeble band easy to overcome.
So fought they in the Wolfing meadow in the fifth hour after high-
noon, and neither yielded to the other: but while these things were
a-doing, men laid Thiodolf adown aloof from the battle under a
doddered oak half a furlong from where the fight was a-doing, round
whose bole clung flocks of wool from the sheep that drew around it in
the hot summer-tide and rubbed themselves against it, and the ground
was trodden bare of grass round the bole, and close to the trunk was
worn into a kind of trench. There then they laid Thiodolf, and they
wondered that no blood came from him, and that there was no sign of a
shot-weapon in his body.
But as for him, when he fell, all memory of the battle and what had
gone before it faded from his mind, and he passed into sweet and
pleasant dreams wherein he was a lad again in the days before he had
fought with the three Hun-Kings in the hazelled field. And in these
dreams he was doing after the manner of young lads, sporting in the
meadows, backing unbroken colts, swimming in the river, going a-
hunting with the elder carles. And especially he deemed that he was
in the company of one old man who had taught him both wood-craft and
the handling of weapons: and fair at first was his dream of his
doings with this man; he was with him in the forge smithying a sword-
blade, and hammering into its steel the thin golden wires; and
fishing with an angle along with him by the eddies of Mirkwood-water;
and sitting with him in an ingle of the Hall, the old man telling a
tale of an ancient warrior of the Wolfings hight Thiodolf also: then
suddenly and without going there, they were in a little clearing of
the woods resting after hunting, a roe-deer with an arrow in her
lying at their feet, and the old man was talking, and telling
Thiodolf in what wise it was best to go about to get the wind of a
hart; but all the while there was going on the thunder of a great
gale of wind through the woodland boughs, even as the drone of a bag-
pipe cleaves to the tune. Presently Thiodolf arose and would go
about his hunting again, and stooped to take up his spear, and even
therewith the old man's speech stayed, and Thiodolf looked up, and
lo, his face was white like stone, and he touched him, and he was
hard as flint, and like the image of an ancient god as to his face
and hands, though the wind stirred his hair and his raiment, as they
did before. Therewith a great pang smote Thiodolf in his dream, and
he felt as if he also were stiffening into stone, and he strove and
struggled, and lo, the wild-wood was gone, and a white light empty of
all vision was before him, and as he moved his head this became the
Wolfing meadow, as he had known it so long, and thereat a soft
pleasure and joy took hold of him, till again he looked, and saw
there no longer the kine and sheep, and the herd-women tending them,
but the rush and turmoil of that fierce battle, the confused
thundering noise of which was going up to the heavens; for indeed he
was now fully awake again.
So he stood up and looked about; and around him was a ring of the
sorrowful faces of the warriors, who had deemed that he was hurt
deadly, though no hurt could they find upon him. But the Dwarf-
wrought Hauberk lay upon the ground beside him; for they had taken it
off him to look for his hurts.
So he looked into their faces and said: "What aileth you, ye men? I
am alive and unhurt; what hath betided?"
And one said: "Art thou verily alive, or a man come back from the
dead? We saw thee fall as thou wentest leading us against the foe as
if thou hadst been smitten by a thunder-bolt, and we deemed thee dead
or grievously hurt. Now the carles are fighting stoutly, and all is
well since thou livest yet."
So he said: "Give me the point and edges that I know, that I may
smite myself therewith and not the foemen; for I have feared and
blenched from the battle."
Said an old warrior: "If that be so, Thiodolf, wilt thou blench
twice? Is not once enough? Now let us go back to the hard handplay,
and if thou wilt, smite thyself after the battle, when we have once
more had a man's help of thee."
Therewith he held out Throng-plough to him by the point, and Thiodolf
took hold of the hilts and handled it and said: "Let us hasten,
while the Gods will have it so, and while they are still suffering me
to strike a stroke for the kindred."
And therewith he brandished Throng-plough, and went forth toward the
battle, and the heart grew hot within him, and the joy of waking life
came back to him, the joy which but erewhile he had given to a mere
But the old man who had rebuked him stooped down and lifted the
Hauberk from the ground, and cried out after him, "O Thiodolf, and
wilt thou go naked into so strong a fight? and thou with this so
Thiodolf stayed a moment, and even therewith they looked, and lo! the
Romans giving back before the Goths and the Goths following up the
chase, but slowly and steadily. Then Thiodolf heeded nothing save
the battle, but ran forward hastily, and those warriors followed him,
the old man last of all holding the Hauberk in his hand, and
"So fares hot blood to the glooming and the world beneath the grass;
And the fruit of the Wolfings' orchard in a flash from the world must
Men say that the tree shall blossom in the garden of the folk,
And the new twig thrust him forward from the place where the old one
And all be well as aforetime: but old and old I grow,
And I doubt me if such another the folk to come shall know."
And he still hurried forward as fast as his old body might go, so
that he might wrap the safeguard of the Hauberk round Thiodolf's
CHAPTER XXIV--THE GOTHS ARE OVERTHROWN BY THE ROMANS
Now rose up a mighty shout when Thiodolf came back to the battle of
the kindreds, for many thought he had been slain; and they gathered
round about him, and cried out to him joyously out of their hearts of
good-fellowship, and the old man who had rebuked Thiodolf, and who
was Jorund of the Wolfings, came up to him and reached out to him the
Hauberk, and he did it on scarce heeding; for all his heart and soul
was turned toward the battle of the Romans and what they were a-
doing; and he saw that they were falling back in good order, as men
out-numbered, but undismayed. So he gathered all his men together
and ordered them afresh; for they were somewhat disarrayed with the
fray and the chase: and now he no longer ordered them in the wedge
array, but in a line here three deep, here five deep, or more, for
the foes were hard at hand, and outnumbered, and so far overcome,
that he and all men deemed it a little matter to give these their
last overthrow, and then onward to Wolf-stead to storm on what was
left there and purge the house of the foemen. Howbeit Thiodolf
bethought him that succour might come to the Romans from their main-
battle, as they needed not many men there, since there was nought to
fear behind them: but the thought was dim within him, for once more
since he had gotten the Hauberk on him the earth was wavering and
dream-like: he looked about him, and nowise was he as in past days
of battle when he saw nought but the foe before him, and hoped for
nothing save the victory. But now indeed the Wood-Sun seemed to him
to be beside him, and not against his will, as one besetting and
hindering him, but as though his own longing had drawn her thither
and would not let her depart; and whiles it seemed to him that her
beauty was clearer to be seen than the bodies of the warriors round
about him. For the rest he seemed to be in a dream indeed, and, as
men do in dreams, to be for ever striving to be doing something of
more moment than anything which he did, but which he must ever leave
undone. And as the dream gathered and thickened about him the foe
before him changed to his eyes, and seemed no longer the stern brown-
skinned smooth-faced men under their crested iron helms with their
iron-covered shields before them, but rather, big-headed men, small
of stature, long-bearded, swart, crooked of body, exceeding foul of
aspect. And he looked on and did nothing for a while, and his head
whirled as though he had been grievously smitten.
Thus tarried the kindreds awhile, and they were bewildered and their
hearts fell because Thiodolf did not fly on the foemen like a falcon
on the quarry, as his wont was. But as for the Romans, they had now
stayed, and were facing their foes again, and that on a vantage-
ground, since the field sloped up toward the Wolfing dwelling; and
they gathered heart when they saw that the Goths tarried and forbore
them. But the sun was sinking, and the evening was hard at hand.
So at last Thiodolf led forward with Throng-plough held aloft in his
right hand; but his left hand he held out by his side, as though he
were leading someone along. And as he went, he muttered: "When will
these accursed sons of the nether earth leave the way clear to us,
that we may be alone and take pleasure each in each amidst of the
flowers and the sun?"
Now as the two hosts drew near to one another, again came the sound
of trumpets afar off, and men knew that this would be succour coming
to the Romans from their main-battle, and the Romans thereon shouted
for joy, and the host of the kindreds might no longer forbear, but
rushed on fiercely against them; and for Thiodolf it was now come to
this, that so entangled was he in his dream that he rather went with
his men than led them. Yet had he Throng-plough in his right hand,
and he muttered in his beard as he went, "Smite before! smite behind!
and smite on the right hand! but never on the left!"
Thus then they met, and as before, neither might the Goths sweep the
Romans away, nor the Romans break the Goths into flight; yet were
many of the kindred anxious and troubled, since they knew that aid
was coming to the Romans, and they heard the trumpets sounding nearer
and more joyous; and at last, as the men of the kindreds were growing
a-wearied with fighting, they heard those horns as it were in their
very ears, and the thunder of the tramp of footmen, and they knew
that a fresh host of men was upon them; then those they had been
fighting with opened before them, falling aside to the right and the
left, and the fresh men passing between them, fell on the Goths like
the waters of a river when a sluice-gate is opened. They came on in
very good order, never breaking their ranks, but swift withal,
smiting and pushing before them, and so brake through the array of
the Goth-folk, and drave them this way and that way down the slopes.
Yet still fought the warriors of the kindred most valiantly, making
stand and facing the foe again and again in knots of a score or two
score, or maybe ten score; and though many a man was slain, yet
scarce any one before he had slain or hurt a Roman; and some there
were, and they the oldest, who fought as if they and the few about
them were all the host that was left to the folk, and heeded not that
others were driven back, or that the Romans gathered about them,
cutting them off from all succour and aid, but went on smiting till
they were felled with many strokes.
Howbeit the array of the Goths was broken and many were slain, and
perforce they must give back, and it seemed as if they would be
driven into the river and all be lost.
But for Thiodolf, this befell him: that at first, when those fresh
men fell on, he seemed, as it were, to wake unto himself again, and
he cried aloud the cry of the Wolf, and thrust into the thickest of
the fray, and slew many and was hurt of none, and for a moment of
time there was an empty space round about him, such fear he cast even
into the valiant hearts of the foemen. But those who had time to see
him as they stood by him noted that he was as pale as a dead man, and
his eyes set and staring; and so of a sudden, while he stood thus
threatening the ring of doubtful foemen, the weakness took him again,
Throng-plough tumbled from his hand, and he fell to earth as one
Then of those who saw him some deemed that he had been striving
against some secret hurt till he could do no more; and some that
there was a curse abroad that had fallen upon him and upon all the
kindreds of the Mark; some thought him dead and some swooning. But,
dead or alive, the warriors would not leave their War-duke among the
foemen, so they lifted him, and gathered about him a goodly band that
held its own against all comers, and fought through the turmoil
stoutly and steadily; and others gathered to them, till they began to
be something like a host again, and the Romans might not break them
into knots of desperate men any more.
Thus they fought their way, Arinbiorn of the Bearings leading them
now, with a mind to make a stand for life or death on some vantage-
ground; and so, often turning upon the Romans, they came in array
ever growing more solid to the rising ground looking one way over the
ford and the other to the slopes where the battle had just been.
There they faced the foe as men who may be slain, but will be driven
no further; and what bowmen they had got spread out from their flanks
and shot on the Romans, who had with them no light-armed, or slingers
or bowmen, for they had left them at Wolf-stead. So the Romans stood
a while, and gave breathing-space to the Markmen, which indeed was
the saving of them: for if they had fallen on hotly and held to it
steadily, it is like that they would have passed over all the bodies
of the Markmen: for these had lost their leader, either slain, as
some thought, or, as others thought, banned from leadership by the
Gods; and their host was heavy-hearted; and though it is like that
they would have stood there till each had fallen over other, yet was
their hope grown dim, and the whole folk brought to a perilous and
fearful pass, for if these were slain or scattered there were no more
but they, and nought between fire and the sword and the people of the
But once again the faint-heart folly of the Roman Captain saved his
foes: for whereas he once thought that the whole power of the
Markmen lay in Otter and his company, and deemed them too little to
meddle with, so now he ran his head into the other hedge, and deemed
that Thiodolf's company was but a part of the succour that was at
hand for the Goths, and that they were over-big for him to meddle
True it is also that now dark night was coming on, and the land was
unknown to the Romans, who moreover trusted not wholly to the
dastards of the Goths who were their guides and scouts: furthermore
the wood was at hand, and they knew not what it held; and with all
this and above it all, it is to be said that over them also had
fallen a dread of some doom anear; for those habitations amidst of
the wild-woods were terrible to them as they were dear to the Goths;
and the Gods of their foemen seemed to be lying in wait to fall upon
them, even if they should slay every man of the kindreds.
So now having driven back the Goths to that height over the ford,
which indeed was no stronghold, no mountain, scarce a hill even,
nought but a gentle swelling of the earth, they forebore them; and
raising up the whoop of victory drew slowly aback, picking up their
own dead and wounded, and slaying the wounded Markmen. They had with
them also some few captives, but not many; for the fighting had been
to the death between man and man on the Wolfing Meadow.
CHAPTER XXV--THE HOST OF THE MARKMEN COMETH INTO THE WILD-WOOD
Yet though the Romans were gone, the Goth-folk were very hard bested.
They had been overthrown, not sorely maybe if they had been in an
alien land, and free to come and go as they would; yet sorely as
things were, because the foeman was sitting in their own House, and
they must needs drag him out of it or perish: and to many the days
seemed evil, and the Gods fighting against them, and both the
Wolfings and the other kindreds bethought them of the Hall-Sun and
her wisdom and longed to hear of tidings concerning her.
But now the word ran through the host that Thiodolf was certainly not
slain. Slowly he had come to himself, and yet was not himself, for
he sat among his men gloomy and silent, clean contrary to his wont;
for hitherto he had been a merry man, and a joyous fellow.
Amidst of the ridge whereon the Markmen now abode, there was a ring
made of the chief warriors and captains and wise men who had not been
slain or grievously hurt in the fray, and amidst them all sat
Thiodolf on the ground, his chin sunken on his breast, looking more
like a captive than the leader of a host amidst of his men; and that
the more as his scabbard was empty; for when Throng-plough had fallen
from his hand, it had been trodden under foot, and lost in the
turmoil. There he sat, and the others in that ring of men looked
sadly upon him; such as Arinbiorn of the Bearings, and Wolfkettle and
Thorolf of his own House, and Hiarandi of the Elkings, and Geirbald
the Shielding, the messenger of the woods, and Fox who had seen the
Roman Garth, and many others. It was night now, and men had lighted
fires about the host, for they said that the Romans knew where to
find them if they listed to seek; and about those fires were men
eating and drinking what they might come at, but amidmost of that
ring was the biggest fire, and men turned them towards it for counsel
and help, for elsewhere none said, "What do we?" for they were heavy-
hearted and redeless, since the Gods had taken the victory out of
their hands just when they seemed at point to win it.
But amidst all this there was a little stir outside that biggest
ring, and men parted, and through them came a swain amongst the
chiefs, and said, "Who will lead me to the War-duke?"
Thiodolf, who was close beside the lad, answered never a word; but
Arinbiorn said; "This man here sitting is the War-duke: speak to
him, for he may hearken to thee: but first who art thou?"
Said the lad; "My name is Ali the son of Grey, and I come with a
message from the Hall-Sun and the stay-at-homes who are in the
Now when he named the Hall-Sun Thiodolf started and looked up, and
turning to his left-hand said, "And what sayeth thy daughter?"
Men did not heed that he said THY daughter, but deemed that he said
MY daughter, since he was wont as her would-be foster-father to call
her so. But Ali spake:
"War-duke and ye chieftains, thus saith the Hall-Sun: 'I know that
by this time Otter hath been slain and many another, and ye have been
overthrown and chased by the Romans, and that now there is little
counsel in you except to abide the foe where ye are and there to die
valiantly. But now do my bidding and as I am bidden, and then
whosoever dieth or liveth, the kindreds shall vanquish that they may
live and grow greater. Do ye thus: the Romans think no otherwise
but to find you here to-morrow or else departed across the water as
broken men, and they will fall upon you with their whole host, and
then make a war-garth after their manner at Wolf-stead and carry fire
and the sword and the chains of thralldom into every House of the
Mark. Now therefore fetch a compass and come into the wood on the
north-west of the houses and make your way to the Thing-stead of the
Mid-mark. For who knoweth but that to-morrow we may fall upon these
thieves again? Of this shall ye hear more when we may speak together
and take counsel face to face; for we stay-at-homes know somewhat
closely of the ways of these Romans. Haste then! let not the grass
grow over your feet!
"'But to thee, Thiodolf, have I a word to say when we meet; for I wot
that as now thou canst not hearken to my word.' Thus saith the Hall-
"Wilt thou speak, War-duke?" said Arinbiorn. But Thiodolf shook his
head. Then said Arinbiorn; "Shall I speak for thee?" and Thiodolf
nodded yea. Then said Arinbiorn: "Ali son of Grey, art thou going
back to her that sent thee?"
"Yea," said the lad, "but in your company, for ye will be coming
straightway and I know all the ways closely; and there is need for a
guide through the dark night as ye will see presently."
Then stood up Arinbiorn and said: "Chiefs and captains, go ye
speedily and array your men for departure: bid them leave all the
fires burning and come their ways as silently as maybe; for now will
we wend this same hour before moonrise into the Wild-wood and the
Thing-stead of Mid-mark; thus saith the War-duke."
But when they were gone, and Arinbiorn and Thiodolf were left alone,
Thiodolf lifted up his head and spake slowly and painfully:
"Arinbiorn, I thank thee: and thou dost well to lead this folk:
since as for me that is somewhat that weighs me down, and I know not
whether it be life or death; therefore I may no longer be your
captain, for twice now have I blenched from the battle. Yet command
me, and I will obey, set a sword in my hand and I will smite, till
the God snatches it out of my hand, as he did Throng-plough to-day."
"And that is well," said Arinbiorn, "it may be that ye shall meet
that God to-morrow, and heave up sword against him, and either
overcome him or go to thy fathers a proud and valiant man."
So they spake, and Thiodolf stood up and seemed of better cheer. But
presently the whole host was afoot, and they went their ways warily
with little noise, and wound little by little about the Wolfing
meadow and about the acres towards the wood at the back of the
Houses; and they met nothing by the way except an out-guard of the
Romans, whom they slew there nigh silently, and bore away their
bodies, twelve in number, lest the Romans when they sent to change
the guard, should find the slain and have an inkling of the way the
Goths were gone; but now they deemed that the Romans might think
their guard fled, or perchance that they had been carried away by the
Gods of the woodland folk.
So came they into the wood, and Arinbiorn and the chiefs were for
striking the All-men's road to the Thing-stead and so coming thither;
but the lad Ali when he heard it laughed and said:
"If ye would sleep to-night ye shall wend another way. For the Hall-
Sun hath had us at work cumbering it against the foe with great trees
felled with limbs, branches, and all. And indeed ye shall find the
Thing-stead fenced like a castle, and the in-gate hard to find; yet
will I bring you thither."
So did he without delay, and presently they came anigh the Thing-
stead; and the place was fenced cunningly, so that if men would enter
they must go by a narrow way that had a fence of tree-trunks on each
side wending inward like the maze in a pleasance. Thereby now wended
the host all afoot, since it was a holy place and no beast must set
foot therein, so that the horses were left without it: so slowly and
right quietly once more they came into the garth of the Thing-stead;
and lo, a many folk there, of the Wolfings and the Bearings and other
kindreds, who had gathered thereto; and albeit these were not
warriors in their prime, yet were there none save the young children
and the weaker of the women but had weapons of some kind; and they
were well ordered, standing or sitting in ranks like folk awaiting
battle. There were booths of boughs and rushes set up for shelter of
the feebler women and the old men and children along the edges of the
fence, for the Hall-Sun had bidden them keep the space clear round
about the Doom-ring and the Hill-of-Speech as if for a mighty folk-
mote, so that the warriors might have room to muster there and order
their array. There were some cooking-fires lighted about the
aforesaid booths, but neither many nor great, and they were screened
with wattle from the side that lay toward the Romans; for the Hall-
Sun would not that they should hold up lanterns for their foemen to
find them by. Little noise there was in that stronghold, moreover,
for the hearts of all who knew their right hands from their left were
set on battle and the destruction of the foe that would destroy the
Anigh the Speech-Hill, on its eastern side, had the bole of a slender
beech tree been set up, and at the top of it a cross-beam was nailed
on, and therefrom hung the wondrous lamp, the Hall-Sun, glimmering
from on high, and though its light was but a glimmer amongst the
mighty wood, yet was it also screened on three sides from the sight
of the chance wanderer by wings of thin plank. But beneath her
namesake as beforetime in the Hall sat the Hall-Sun, the maiden, on a
heap of faggots, and she was wrapped in a dark blue cloak from under
which gleamed the folds of the fair golden-broidered gown she was
wont to wear at folk-motes, and her right hand rested on a naked
sword that lay across her knees: beside her sat the old man Sorli,
the Wise in War, and about her were slim lads and sturdy maidens and
old carles of the thralls or freedmen ready to bear the commands that
came from her mouth; for she and Sorli were the captains of the stay-
Now came Thiodolf and Arinbiorn and other leaders into the ring of
men before her, and she greeted them kindly and said:
"Hail, Sons of Tyr! now that I behold you again it seemeth to me as
if all were already won: the time of waiting hath been weary, and we
have borne the burden of fear every day from morn till even, and in
the waking hour we presently remembered it. But now ye are come,
even if this Thing-stead were lighted by the flames of the Wolfing
Roof instead of by these moonbeams; even if we had to begin again and
seek new dwellings, and another water and other meadows, yet great
should grow the kindreds of the Men who have dwelt in the Mark, and
nought should overshadow them: and though the beasts and the Romans
were dwelling in their old places, yet should these kindreds make new
clearings in the Wild-wood; and they with their deeds should cause
other waters to be famous, that as yet have known no deeds of man;
and they should compel the Earth to bear increase round about their
dwelling-places for the welfare of the kindreds. O Sons of Tyr,
friendly are your faces, and undismayed, and the Terror of the
Nations has not made you afraid any more than would the onrush of the
bisons that feed adown the grass hills. Happy is the eve, O children
of the Goths, yet shall to-morrow morn be happier."
Many heard what she spake, and a murmur of joy ran through the ranks
of men: for they deemed her words to forecast victory.
And now amidst her speaking, the moon, which had arisen on Mid-mark,
when the host first entered into the wood, had overtopped the tall
trees that stood like a green wall round about the Thing-stead, and
shone down on that assembly, and flashed coldly back from the arms of
the warriors. And the Hall-Sun cast off her dark blue cloak and
stood up in her golden-broidered raiment, which flashed back the grey
light like as it had been an icicle hanging from the roof of some
hall in the midnight of Yule, when the feast is high within, and
without the world is silent with the night of the ten-weeks' frost.
Then she spake again: "O War-duke, thy mouth is silent; speak to
this warrior of the Bearings that he bid the host what to do; for
wise are ye both, and dear are the minutes of this night and should
not be wasted; since they bring about the salvation of the Wolfings,
and the vengeance of the Bearings, and the hope renewed of all the
Then Thiodolf abode a while with his head down cast; his bosom
heaved, and he set his left hand to his swordless scabbard, and his
right to his throat, as though he were sore troubled with something
he might not tell of: but at last he lifted up his head and spoke to
Arinbiorn, but slowly and painfully, as he had spoken before:
"Chief of the Bearings, go up on to the Hill of Speech, and speak to
the folk out of thy wisdom, and let them know that to-morrow early
before the sun-rising those that may, and are not bound by the Gods
against it, shall do deeds according to their might, and win rest for
themselves, and new days of deeds for the kindreds."
Therewith he ceased, and let his head fall again, and the Hall-Sun
looked at him askance. But Arinbiorn clomb the Speech-Hill and said:
"Men of the kindreds, it is now a few days since we first met the
Romans and fought with them; and whiles we have had the better, and
whiles the worse in our dealings, as oft in war befalleth: for they
are men, and we no less than men. But now look to it what ye will
do; for we may no longer endure these outlanders in our houses, and
we must either die or get our own again: and that is not merely a
few wares stored up for use, nor a few head of neat, nor certain
timbers piled up into a dwelling, but the life we have made in the
land we have made. I show you no choice, for no choice there is.
Here are we bare of everything in the wild-wood: for the most part
our children are crying for us at home, our wives are longing for us
in our houses, and if we come not to them in kindness, the Romans
shall come to them in grimness. Down yonder in the plain, moreover,
is our wain-burg slowly drawing near to us, and with it is much
livelihood of ours, which is a little thing, for we may get more; but
also there are our banners of battle and the tokens of the kindred,
which is a great thing. And between all this and us there lieth but
little; nought but a band of valiant men, and a few swords and
spears, and a few wounds, and the hope of death amidst the praise of
the people; and this ye have to set out to wend across within two or
three hours. I will not ask if ye will do so, for I wot that even so
ye will; therefore when I have done, shout not, nor clash sword on
shield, for we are no great way off that house of ours wherein dwells
the foe that would destroy us. Let each man rest as he may, and
sleep if he may with his war-gear on him and his weapons by his side,
and when he is next awakened by the captains and the leaders of
hundreds and scores, let him not think that it is night, but let him
betake himself to his place among his kindred and be ready to go
through the wood with as little noise as may be. Now all is said
that the War-duke would have me say, and to-morrow shall those see
him who are foremost in falling upon the foemen, for he longeth
sorely for his seat on the days of the Wolfing Hall."
So he spake, and even as he bade them, they made no sound save a
joyous murmur; and straightway the more part of them betook
themselves to sleep as men who must busy themselves about a weighty
matter; for they were wise in the ways of war. So sank all the host
to the ground save those who were appointed as watchers of the night,
and Arinbiorn and Thiodolf and the Hall-Sun; they three yet stood
together; and Arinbiorn said:
"Now it seems to me not so much as if we had vanquished the foe and
were safe and at rest, but rather as if we had no foemen and never
have had. Deep peace is on me, though hitherto I have been deemed a
wrathful man, and it is to me as if the kindreds that I love had
filled the whole earth, and left no room for foemen: even so it may
really be one day. To-night it is well, yet to-morrow it shall be
better. What thine errand may be, Thiodolf, I scarce know; for
something hath changed in thee, and thou art become strange to us.
But as for mine errand, I will tell it thee; it is that I am seeking
Otter of the Laxings, my friend and fellow, whose wisdom my
foolishness drave under the point and edge of the Romans, so that he
is no longer here; I am seeking him, and to-morrow I think I shall
find him, for he hath not had time to travel far, and we shall be
blithe and merry together. And now will I sleep; for I have bidden
the watchers awaken me if any need be. Sleep thou also, Thiodolf!
and wake up thine old self when the moon is low." Therewith he laid
himself down under the lee of the pile of faggots, and was presently
CHAPTER XXVI--THIODOLF TALKETH WITH THE WOOD-SUN
Now were Thiodolf and the Hall-Sun left alone together standing by
the Speech-Hill; and the moon was risen high in the heavens above the
tree-tops of the wild-wood. Thiodolf scarce stirred, and he still
held his head bent down as one lost in thought.
Then said the Hall-Sun, speaking softly amidst the hush of the camp:
"I have said that the minutes of this night are dear, and they are
passing swiftly; and it may be that thou wilt have much to say and to
do before the host is astir with the dawning. So come thou with me a
little way, that thou mayst hear of new tidings, and think what were
best to do amidst them."
And without more ado she took him by the hand and led him forth, and
he went as he was led, not saying a word. They passed out of the
camp into the wood, none hindering, and went a long way where under
the beech-leaves there was but a glimmer of the moonlight, and
presently Thiodolf's feet went as it were of themselves; for they had
hit a path that he knew well and over-well.
So came they to that little wood-lawn where first in this tale
Thiodolf met the Wood-Sun; and the stone seat there was not empty now
any more than it was then; for thereon sat the Wood-Sun, clad once
more in her glittering raiment. Her head was sunken down, her face
hidden by her hands; neither did she look up when she heard their
feet on the grass, for she knew who they were.
Thiodolf lingered not; for a moment it was to him as if all that past
time had never been, and its battles and hurry and hopes and fears
but mere shows, and the unspoken words of a dream. He went straight
up to her and sat down by her side and put his arm about her
shoulders, and strove to take her hand to caress it; but she moved
but little, and it was as if she heeded him not. And the Hall-Sun
stood before them and looked at them for a little while; and then she
fell to speech; but at the first sound of her voice, it seemed that
the Wood-Sun trembled, but still she hid her face. Said the Hall-
"Two griefs I see before me in mighty hearts grown great;
And to change both these into gladness out-goes the power of fate.
Yet I, a lonely maiden, have might to vanquish one
Till it melt as the mist of the morning before the summer sun.
O Wood-Sun, thou hast borne me, and I were fain indeed
To give thee back thy gladness; but thou com'st of the Godhead's
And herein my might avails not; because I can but show
Unto these wedded sorrows the truth that the heart should know
Ere the will hath wielded the hand; and for thee, I can tell thee
That thou hast not known this long while; thy will and thine hand
And the man that thou lovest shall live in despite of Gods and of
If yet thy will endureth. But what shall it profit thee then
That after the fashion of Godhead thou hast gotten thee a thrall
To be thine and never another's, whatso in the world may befall?
Lo! yesterday this was a man, and to-morrow it might have been
The very joy of the people, though never again it were seen;
Yet a part of all they hoped for through all the lapse of years,
To make their laughter happy and dull the sting of tears;
To quicken all remembrance of deeds that never die,
And death that maketh eager to live as the days go by.
Yea, many a deed had he done as he lay in the dark of the mound;
As the seed-wheat plotteth of spring, laid under the face of the
That the foot of the husbandman treadeth, that the wind of the winter
That the turbid cold flood hideth from the constant hope of the
This man that should leave in his death his life unto many an one
Wilt thou make him a God of the fearful who live lone under the sun?
And then shalt thou have what thou wouldedst when amidst of the
Thou kissed'st the mouth of the helper, and the hand of the people's
Shalt thou have the thing that thou wouldedst when thou broughtest me
And I, the soul of the Wolfings, began to look on earth?
Wilt thou play the God, O mother, and make a man anew,
A joyless thing and a fearful? Then I betwixt you two,
'Twixt your longing and your sorrow will cast the sundering word,
And tell out all the story of that rampart of the sword!
I shall bid my mighty father make choice of death in life,
Or life in death victorious and the crowned end of strife."
Ere she had ended, the Wood-Sun let her hands fall down, and showed
her face, which for all its unpaled beauty looked wearied and
anxious; and she took Thiodolf's hand in hers, while she looked with
eyes of love upon the Hall-Sun, and Thiodolf laid his cheek to her
cheek, and though he smiled not, yet he seemed as one who is happy.
At last the Wood-Sun spoke and said:
"Thou sayest sooth, O daughter: I am no God of might,
Yet I am of their race, and I think with their thoughts and see with
And the threat of the doom did I know of, and yet spared not to lie:
For I thought that the fate foreboded might touch and pass us by,
As the sword that heweth the war-helm and cleaveth a cantle away,
And the cunning smith shall mend it and it goeth again to the fray;
If my hand might have held for a moment, yea, even against his will,
The life of my beloved! But Weird is the master still:
And this man's love of my body and his love of the ancient kin
Were matters o'er mighty to deal with and the game withal to win.
Woe's me for the waning of all things, and my hope that needs must
As the fruitless sun of summer on the waste where nought is made!
And now farewell, O daughter, thou mayst not see the kiss
Of the hapless and the death-doomed when I have told of this;
Yet once again shalt thou see him, though I no more again,
Fair with the joy that hopeth and dieth not in vain."
Then came the Hall-Sun close to her, and knelt down by her, and laid
her head upon her knees and wept for love of her mother, who kissed
her oft and caressed her; and Thiodolf's hand strayed, as it were, on
to his daughter's head, and he looked kindly on her, though scarce
now as if he knew her. Then she arose when she had kissed her mother
once more, and went her ways from that wood-lawn into the woods
again, and so to the Folk-mote of her people.
But when those twain were all alone again, the Wood-Sun spoke: "O
Thiodolf canst thou hear me and understand?"
"Yea," he said, "when thou speakest of certain matters, as of our
love together, and of our daughter that came of our love."
"Thiodolf," she said, "How long shall our love last?"
"As long as our life," he said.
"And if thou diest to-day, where then shall our love be?" said the
He said, "I must now say, I wot not; though time was I had said, It
shall abide with the soul of the Wolfing Kindred."
She said: "And when that soul dieth, and the kindred is no more?"
"Time agone," quoth he, "I had said, it shall abide with the Kindreds
of the Earth; but now again I say, I wot not."
"Will the Earth hide it," said she, "when thou diest and art borne to
"Even so didst thou say when we spake together that other night,"
said he; "and now I may say nought against thy word."
"Art thou happy, O Folk-Wolf?" she said.
"Why dost thou ask me?" said he; "I know not; we were sundered and I
longed for thee; thou art here; it is enough."
"And the people of thy Kindred?" she said, "dost thou not long for
He said; "Didst thou not say that I was not of them? Yet were they
my friends, and needed me, and I loved them: but by this evening
they will need me no more, or but little; for they will be victorious
over their foes: so hath the Hall-Sun foretold. What then! shall I
take all from thee to give little to them?"
"Thou art wise," she said; "Wilt thou go to battle to-day?"
"So it seemeth," said he.
She said: "And wilt thou bear the Dwarf-wrought Hauberk? for if thou
dost, thou wilt live, and if thou dost not, thou wilt die."
"I will bear it," said he, "that I may live to love thee."
"Thinkest thou that any evil goes with it?" said she.
There came into his face a flash of his ancient boldness as he
answered: "So it seemed to me yesterday, when I fought clad in it
the first time; and I fell unsmitten on the meadow, and was shamed,
and would have slain myself but for thee. And yet it is not so that
any evil goes with it; for thou thyself didst say that past night
that there was no evil weird in it."
She said: "How then if I lied that night?"
Said he; "It is the wont of the Gods to lie, and be unashamed, and
men-folk must bear with it."
"Ah! how wise thou art!" she said; and was silent for a while, and
drew away from him a little, and clasped her hands together and wrung
them for grief and anger. Then she grew calm again, and said:
"Wouldest thou die at my bidding?"
"Yea," said he, "not because thou art of the Gods, but because thou
hast become a woman to me, and I love thee."
Then was she silent some while, and at last she said, "Thiodolf, wilt
thou do off the Hauberk if I bid thee?"
"Yea, yea," said he, "and let us depart from the Wolfings, and their
strife, for they need us not."
She was silent once more for a longer while still, and at last she
said in a cold voice; "Thiodolf, I bid thee arise, and put off the
Hauberk from thee."
He looked at her wondering, not at her words, but at the voice
wherewith she spake them; but he arose from the stone nevertheless,
and stood stark in the moonlight; he set his hand to the collar of
the war-coat, and undid its clasps, which were of gold and blue
stones, and presently he did the coat from off him and let it slide
to the ground where it lay in a little grey heap that looked but a
handful. Then he sat down on the stone again, and took her hand and
kissed her and caressed her fondly, and she him again, and they spake
no word for a while: but at the last he spake in measure and rhyme
in a low voice, but so sweet and clear that it might have been heard
far in the hush of the last hour of the night:
"Dear now are this dawn-dusk's moments as is the last of the light
When the foemen's ranks are wavering, and the victory feareth night;
And of all the time I have loved thee of these am I most fain,
When I know not what shall betide me, nor what shall be my gain.
But dear as they are, they are waning, and at last the time is come
When no more shall I behold thee till I wend to Odin's Home.
Now is the time so little that once hath been so long
That I fain would ask thee pardon wherein I have done thee wrong,
That thy longing might be softer, and thy love more sweet to have.
But in nothing have I wronged thee, there is nought that I may crave.
Strange too! as the minutes fail me, so do my speech-words fail,
Yet strong is the joy within me for this hour that crowns the tale."
Therewith he clipped her and caressed her, and she spake nothing for
a while; and he said; "Thy face is fair and bright; art thou not
joyous of these minutes?"
She said: "Thy words are sweet; but they pierce my heart like a
sharp knife; for they tell me of thy death and the ending of our
Said he; "I tell thee nothing, beloved, that thou hast not known: is
it not for this that we have met here once more?"
She answered after a while; "Yea, yea; yet mightest thou have lived."
He laughed, but not scornfully or bitterly and said:
"So thought I in time past: but hearken, beloved; If I fall to-day,
shall there not yet be a minute after the stroke hath fallen on me,
wherein I shall know that the day is won and see the foemen fleeing,
and wherein I shall once again deem I shall never die, whatever may
betide afterwards, and though the sword lieth deep in my breast? And
shall I not see then and know that our love hath no end?"
Bitter grief was in her face as she heard him. But she spake and
said: "Lo here the Hauberk which thou hast done off thee, that thy
breast might be the nearer to mine! Wilt thou not wear it in the
fight for my sake?"
He knit his brows somewhat, and said:
"Nay, it may not be: true it is that thou saidest that no evil weird
went with it, but hearken! Yesterday I bore it in the fight, and ere
I mingled with the foe, before I might give the token of onset, a
cloud came before my eyes and thick darkness wrapped me around, and I
fell to the earth unsmitten; and so was I borne out of the fight, and
evil dreams beset me of evil things, and the dwarfs that hate
mankind. Then I came to myself, and the Hauberk was off me, and I
rose up and beheld the battle, that the kindreds were pressing on the
foe, and I thought not then of any past time, but of the minutes that
were passing; and I ran into the fight straightway: but one followed
me with that Hauberk, and I did it on, thinking of nought but the
battle. Fierce then was the fray, yet I faltered in it; till the
fresh men of the Romans came in upon us and broke up our array. Then
my heart almost broke within me, and I faltered no more, but rushed
on as of old, and smote great strokes all round about: no hurt I
got, but once more came that ugly mist over my eyes, and again I fell
unsmitten, and they bore me out of battle: then the men of our folk
gave back and were overcome; and when I awoke from my evil dreams, we
had gotten away from the fight and the Wolfing dwellings, and were on
the mounds above the ford cowering down like beaten men. There then
I sat shamed among the men who had chosen me for their best man at
the Holy Thing, and lo I was their worst! Then befell that which
never till then had befallen me, that life seemed empty and worthless
and I longed to die and be done with it, and but for the thought of
thy love I had slain myself then and there.
"Thereafter I went with the host to the assembly of the stay-at-homes
and fleers, and sat before the Hall-Sun our daughter, and said the
words which were put into my mouth. But now must I tell thee a hard
and evil thing; that I loved them not, and was not of them, and
outside myself there was nothing: within me was the world and nought
without me. Nay, as for thee, I was not sundered from thee, but thou
wert a part of me; whereas for the others, yea, even for our
daughter, thine and mine, they were but images and shows of men, and
I longed to depart from them, and to see thy body and to feel thine
heart beating. And by then so evil was I grown that my very shame
had fallen from me, and my will to die: nay, I longed to live, thou
and I, and death seemed hateful to me, and the deeds before death
vain and foolish.
"Where then was my glory and my happy life, and the hope of the days
fresh born every day, though never dying? Where then was life, and
Thiodolf that once had lived?
"But now all is changed once more; I loved thee never so well as now,
and great is my grief that we must sunder, and the pain of farewell
wrings my heart. Yet since I am once more Thiodolf the Mighty, in my
heart there is room for joy also. Look at me, O Wood-Sun, look at
me, O beloved! tell me, am I not fair with the fairness of the
warrior and the helper of the folk? Is not my voice kind, do not my
lips smile, and mine eyes shine? See how steady is mine hand, the
friend of the folk! For mine eyes are cleared again, and I can see
the kindreds as they are, and their desire of life and scorn of
death, and this is what they have made me myself. Now therefore
shall they and I together earn the merry days to come, the winter
hunting and the spring sowing, the summer haysel, the ingathering of
harvest, the happy rest of midwinter, and Yuletide with the memory of
the Fathers, wedded to the hope of the days to be. Well may they bid
me help them who have holpen me! Well may they bid me die who have
made me live!
"For whereas thou sayest that I am not of their blood, nor of their
adoption, once more I heed it not. For I have lived with them, and
eaten and drunken with them, and toiled with them, and led them in
battle and the place of wounds and slaughter; they are mine and I am
theirs; and through them am I of the whole earth, and all the
kindreds of it; yea, even of the foemen, whom this day the edges in
mine hand shall smite.
"Therefore I will bear the Hauberk no more in battle; and belike my
body but once more: so shall I have lived and death shall not have
"Lo thou, is not this the Thiodolf whom thou hast loved? no
changeling of the Gods, but the man in whom men have trusted, the
friend of Earth, the giver of life, the vanquisher of death?"
And he cast himself upon her, and strained her to his bosom and
kissed her, and caressed her, and awoke the bitter-sweet joy within
her, as he cried out:
"O remember this, and this, when at last I am gone from thee!"
But when they sundered her face was bright, but the tears were on it,
and she said: "O Thiodolf, thou wert fain hadst thou done a wrong to
me so that I might forgive thee; now wilt thou forgive me the wrong I
have done thee?"
"Yea," he said, "Even so would I do, were we both to live, and how
much more if this be the dawn of our sundering day! What hast thou
She said: "I lied to thee concerning the Hauberk when I said that no
evil weird went with it: and this I did for the saving of thy life."
He laid his hand fondly on her head, and spake smiling: "Such is the
wont of the God-kin, because they know not the hearts of men. Tell
me all the truth of it now at last."
"Hear then the tale of the Hauberk and the truth there is to tell:
There was a maid of the God-kin, and she loved a man right well,
Who unto the battle was wending; and she of her wisdom knew
That thence to the folk-hall threshold should come back but a very
And she feared for her love, for she doubted that of these he should
So she wended the wilds lamenting, as I have lamented for thee;
And many wise she pondered, how to bring her will to pass
(E'en as I for thee have pondered), as her feet led over the grass,
Till she lifted her eyes in the wild-wood, and lo! she stood before
The Hall of the Hollow-places; and the Dwarf-lord stood in the door
And held in his hand the Hauberk, whereon the hammer's blow
The last of all had been smitten, and the sword should be hammer now.
Then the Dwarf beheld her fairness, and the wild-wood many-leaved
Before his eyes was reeling at the hope his heart conceived;
So sorely he longed for her body; and he laughed before her and
'O Lady of the Disir, thou farest wandering wide
Lamenting thy beloved and the folkmote of the spear,
But if amidst of the battle this child of the hammer he bear
He shall laugh at the foemen's edges and come back to thy lily breast
And of all the days of his life-time shall his coming years be best.'
Then she bowed adown her godhead and sore for the Hauberk she prayed;
But his greedy eyes devoured her as he stood in the door and said;
'Come lie in mine arms! Come hither, and we twain the night to wake!
And then as a gift of the morning the Hauberk shall ye take.'
So she humbled herself before him, and entered into the cave,
The dusky, the deep-gleaming, the gem-strewn golden grave.
But he saw not her girdle loosened, or her bosom gleam on his love,
For she set the sleep-thorn in him, that he saw, but might not move,
Though the bitter salt tears burned him for the anguish of his greed;
And she took the hammer's offspring, her unearned morning meed,
And went her ways from the rock-hall and was glad for her warrior's
But behind her dull speech followed, and the voice of the hollow
'Thou hast left me bound in anguish, and hast gained thine heart's
Now I would that the dewy night-grass might be to thy feet as the
And shrivel thy raiment about thee, and leave thee bare to the flame,
And no way but a fiery furnace for the road whereby ye came!
But since the folk of God-home we may not slay nor smite,
And that fool of the folk that thou lovest, thou hast saved in my
Take with thee, thief of God-home, this other word I say:
Since the safeguard wrought in the ring-mail I may not do away
I lay this curse upon it, that whoso weareth the same,
Shall save his life in the battle, and have the battle's shame;
He shall live through wrack and ruin, and ever have the worse,
And drag adown his kindred, and bear the people's curse.'
"Lo, this the tale of the Hauberk, and I knew it for the truth:
And little I thought of the kindreds; of their day I had no ruth;
For I said, They are doomed to departure; in a little while must they
And nought it helpeth or hindreth if I hold my hand or refrain.
Yea, thou wert become the kindred, both thine and mine; and thy birth
To me was the roofing of heaven, and the building up of earth.
I have loved, and I must sorrow; thou hast lived, and thou must die;
Ah, wherefore were there others in the world than thou and I?"
He turned round to her and clasped her strongly in his arms again,
and kissed her many times and said:
"Lo, here art thou forgiven; and here I say farewell!
Here the token of my wonder which my words may never tell;
The wonder past all thinking, that my love and thine should blend;
That thus our lives should mingle, and sunder in the end!
Lo, this, for the last remembrance of the mighty man I was,
Of thy love and thy forbearing, and all that came to pass!
Night wanes, and heaven dights her for the kiss of sun and earth;
Look up, look last upon me on this morn of the kindreds' mirth!"
Therewith he arose and lingered no minute longer, but departed, going
as straight towards the Thing-stead and the Folk-mote of his kindred
as the swallow goes to her nest in the hall-porch. He looked not
once behind him, though a bitter wailing rang through the woods and
filled his heart with the bitterness of her woe and the anguish of
the hour of sundering.
CHAPTER XXVII--THEY WEND TO THE MORNING BATTLE
Now when Thiodolf came back to the camp the signs of dawn were plain
in the sky, the moon was low and sinking behind the trees, and he saw
at once that the men were stirring and getting ready for departure.
He looked gladly and blithely at the men he fell in with, and they at
him, and scarce could they refrain a shout when they beheld his face
and the brightness of it. He went straight up to where the Hall-Sun
was yet sitting under her namesake, with Arinbiorn standing before
her amidst of a ring of leaders of hundreds and scores: but old
Sorli sat by her side clad in all his war-gear.
When Thiodolf first came into that ring of men they looked doubtfully
at him, as if they dreaded somewhat, but when they had well beheld
him their faces cleared, and they became joyous.
He went straight up to Arinbiorn and kissed the old warrior, and said
to him, "I give thee good morrow, O leader of the Bearings! Here now
is come the War-duke! and meseems that we should get to work as
speedily as may be, for lo the dawning!"
"Hail to thine hand, War-duke!" said Arinbiorn joyously; "there is no
more to do but to take thy word concerning the order wherein we shall
wend; for all men are armed and ready."
Said Thiodolf; "Lo ye, I lack war-gear and weapons! Is there a good
sword hereby, a helm, a byrny and a shield? For hard will be the
battle, and we must fence ourselves all we may."
"Hard by," said Arinbiorn, "is the war-gear of Ivar of our House, who
is dead in the night of his hurts gotten in yesterday's battle: thou
and he are alike in stature, and with a good will doth he give them
to thee, and they are goodly things, for he comes of smithying blood.
Yet is it a pity of Throng-plough that he lieth on the field of the
But Thiodolf smiled and said: "Nay, Ivar's blade shall serve my turn
to-day; and thereafter shall it be seen to, for then will be time for
So they went to fetch him the weapons; but he said to Arinbiorn,
"Hast thou numbered the host? What are the gleanings of the Roman
Said Arinbiorn: "Here have we more than three thousand three hundred
warriors of the host fit for battle: and besides this here are
gathered eighteen hundred of the Wolfings and the Bearings, and of
the other Houses, mostly from over the water, and of these nigh upon
seven hundred may bear sword or shoot shaft; neither shall ye hinder
them from so doing if the battle be joined."
Then said Thiodolf: "We shall order us into three battles; the
Wolfings and the Bearings to lead the first, for this is our
business; but others of the smaller Houses this side the water to be
with us; and the Elkings and Galtings and the other Houses of the
Mid-mark on the further side of the water to be in the second, and
with them the more part of the Nether-mark; but the men of Up-mark to
be in the third, and the stay-at-homes to follow on with them: and
this third battle to let the wood cover them till they be needed,
which may not be till the day of fight draws to an end, when all
shall be needed: for no Roman man must be left alive or untaken by
this even, or else must we all go to the Gods together. Hearken,
Arinbiorn. I am not called fore-sighted, and yet meseems I see
somewhat how this day shall go; and it is not to be hidden that I
shall not see another battle until the last of all battles is at
hand. But be of good cheer, for I shall not die till the end of the
fight, and once more I shall be a man's help unto you. Now the first
of the Romans we meet shall not be able to stand before us, for they
shall be unready, and when their men are gotten ready and are
fighting with us grimly, ye of the second battle shall hear the war-
token, and shall fall on, and they shall be dismayed when they see so
many fresh men come into the fight; yet shall they stand stoutly; for
they are valiant men, and shall not all be taken unawares. Then, if
they withstand us long enough, shall the third battle come forth from
the wood, and fall on either flank of them, and the day shall be won.
But I think not that they shall withstand us so long, but that the
men of Up-mark and the stay-at-homes shall have the chasing of them.
Now get me my war-gear, and let the first battle get them to the
outgate of the garth."
So they brought him his arms; and meanwhile the Hall-Sun spake to one
of the Captains, and he turned and went away a little space, and then
came back, having with him three strong warriors of the Wolfings, and
he brought them before the Hall-Sun, who said to them:
"Ye three, Steinulf, Athalulf, and Grani the Grey, I have sent for
you because ye are men both mighty in battle and deft wood-wrights
and house-smiths; ye shall follow Thiodolf closely, when he winneth
into the Roman garth, yet shall ye fight wisely, so that ye be not
slain, or at least not all; ye shall enter the Hall with Thiodolf,
and when ye are therein, if need be, ye shall run down the Hall at
your swiftest, and mount up into the loft betwixt the Middle-hearth
and the Women's-Chamber, and there shall ye find good store of water
in vats and tubs, and this ye shall use for quenching the fire of the
Hall if the foemen fire it, as is not unlike to be."
Then Grani spoke for the others and said he would pay all heed to her
words, and they departed to join their company.
Now was Thiodolf armed; and Arinbiorn, turning about before he went
to his place, beheld him and knit his brow, and said: "What is this,
Thiodolf? Didst thou not swear to the Gods not to bear helm or
shield in the battles of this strife? yet hast thou Ivar's helm on
thine head and his shield ready beside thee: wilt thou forswear
thyself? so doing shalt thou bring woe upon the House."
"Arinbiorn," said Thiodolf, "where didst thou hear tell of me that I
had made myself the thrall of the Gods? The oath that I sware was
sworn when mine heart was not whole towards our people; and now will
I break it that I may keep what of good intent there was in it, and
cast away the rest. Long is the story; but if we journey together
to-night I will tell it thee. Likewise I will tell it to the Gods if
they look sourly upon me when I see them, and all shall be well."
He smiled as he spoke, and Arinbiorn smiled on him in turn and went
his ways to array the host. But when he was gone Thiodolf was alone
in that place with the Hall-Sun, and he turned to her, and kissed
her, and caressed her fondly, and spake and said:
"So fare we, O my daughter, to the sundering of the ways;
Short is my journey henceforth to the door that ends my days,
And long the road that lieth as yet before thy feet.
How fain were I that thy journey from day to day were sweet
With peace to thee and pleasure; that a noble warrior's hand
In its early days might lead thee adown the flowery land,
And thy children in its noon-tide cling round about thy gown,
And the wise that thy womb has carried when the sun is going down,
Be thy happy fellow-farers to tell the tale of Earth,
But I wot that for no such sweetness did we bring thee unto birth,
But to be the soul of the Wolfings till the other days should come,
And the fruit of the kindreds' harvest with thee is garnered home.
Yet if for no blithe faring thy life-day is ordained,
Yet peace that long endureth maybe thy soul hath gained;
And thy sorrow of this even thy latest grief shall be,
The grief wherewith thou singest the death-song over me."
She looked up at him and smiled, though the tears were on her face;
then she said:
"Though to-day the grief beginneth yet the bitterness is done.
Though my body wendeth barren 'neath the beams of the quickening sun,
Yet remembrance still abideth, and long after the days of my life
Shall I live in the tale of the morning, when they tell of the ending
And the deeds of this little hand, and the thought conceived in my
And never again henceforward from the folk shall I fare apart.
And if of the Earth, my father, thou hast tidings in thy place
Thou shalt hear how they call me the Ransom and the Mother of happy
Then she wept outright for a brief space, and thereafter she said:
"Keep this in thine heart, O father, that I shall remember all
Since thou liftedst the she-wolf's nursling in the oak-tree's leafy
Yea, every time I remember when hand in hand we went
Amidst the shafts of the beech-trees, and down to the youngling bent
The Folk-wolf in his glory when the eve of fight drew nigh;
And every time I remember when we wandered joyfully
Adown the sunny meadow and lived a while of life
'Midst the herbs and the beasts and the waters so free from fear and
That thy years and thy might and thy wisdom, I had no part therein;
But thou wert as the twin-born brother of the maiden slim and thin,
The maiden shy in the feast-hall and blithe in wood and field.
Thus have we fared, my father; and e'en now when thou bearest shield,
On the last of thy days of mid-earth, twixt us 'tis even so
That the heart of my like-aged brother is the heart of thee that I
Then the bitterness of tears stayed her speech, and he spake no word
more, but took her in his arms a while and soothed her and fondled
her, and then they parted, and he went with great strides towards the
outgoing of the Thing-stead.
There he found the warriors of his House and of the Bearings and the
lesser Houses of Mid-mark, all duly ordered for wending through the
wood. The dawn was coming on apace, but the wood was yet dark. But
whereas the Wolfings led, and each man of them knew the wood like his
own hand, there was no straying or disarray, and in less than a half-
hour's space Thiodolf and the first battle were come to the wood
behind the hazel-trees at the back of the hall, and before them was
the dawning round about the Roof of the Kindred; the eastern heavens
were brightening, and they could see all things clear without the
CHAPTER XXVIII--OF THE STORM OF DAWNING
Then Thiodolf bade Fox and two others steal forward, and see what of
foemen was before them; so they fell to creeping on towards the open:
but scarcely had they started, before all men could hear the tramp of
men drawing nigh; then Thiodolf himself took with him a score of his
House and went quietly toward the wood-edge till they were barely
within the shadow of the beechwood; and he looked forth and saw men
coming straight towards their lurking-place. And those he saw were a
good many, and they were mostly of the dastards of the Goths; but
with them was a Captain of an Hundred of the Romans, and some others
of his kindred; and Thiodolf deemed that the Goths had been bidden to
gather up some of the night-watchers and enter the wood and fall on
the stay-at-homes. So he bade his men get them aback, and he himself
abode still at the very wood's edge listening intently with his sword
bare in his hand. And he noted that those men of the foe stayed in
the daylight outside the wood, but a few yards from it, and, by
command as it seemed, fell silent and spake no word; and the morn was
very still, and when the sound of their tramp over the grass had
ceased, Thiodolf could hear the tramp of more men behind them. And
then he had another thought, to wit that the Romans had sent scouts
to see if the Goths yet abided on the vantage-ground by the ford, and
that when they had found them gone, they were minded to fall on them
unawares in the refuge of the Thing-stead and were about to do so by
the counsel and leading of the dastard Goths; and that this was one
body of the host led by those dastards, who knew somewhat of the
woods. So he drew aback speedily, and catching hold of Fox by the
shoulder (for he had taken him alone with him) he bade him creep
along through the wood toward the Thing-stead, and bring back speedy
word whether there were any more foemen near the wood thereaway; and
he himself came to his men, and ordered them for onset, drawing them
up in a shallow half moon, with the bowmen at the horns thereof, with
the word to loose at the Romans as soon as they heard the war-horn
blow: and all this was done speedily and with little noise, for they
were well nigh so arrayed already.
Thus then they waited, and there was more than a glimmer of light
even under the beechen leaves, and the eastern sky was yellowing to
sunrise. The other warriors were like hounds in the leash eager to
be slipped; but Thiodolf stood calm and high-hearted turning over the
memory of past days, and the time he thought of seemed long to him,
Scarce had a score of minutes passed, and the Romans before them, who
were now gathered thick behind those dastards of the Goths, had not
moved, when back comes Fox and tells how he has come upon a great
company of the Romans led by their thralls of the Goths who were just
entering the wood, away there towards the Thing-stead.
"But, War-duke," says he, "I came also across our own folk of the
second battle duly ordered in the wood ready to meet them; and they
shall be well dealt with, and the sun shall rise for us and not for
Then turns Thiodolf round to those nighest to him and says, but still
"Hear ye a word, O people, of the wisdom of the foe!
Before us thick they gather, and unto the death they go.
They fare as lads with their cur-dogs who have stopped a fox's earth,
And standing round the spinny, now chuckle in their mirth,
Till one puts by the leafage and trembling stands astare
At the sight of the Wood wolf's father arising in his lair -
They have come for our wives and our children, and our sword-edge
shall they meet;
And which of them is happy save he of the swiftest feet?"
Speedily then went that word along the ranks of the Kindred, and men
were merry with the restless joy of battle: but scarce had two
minutes passed ere suddenly the stillness of the dawn was broken by
clamour and uproar; by shouts and shrieks, and the clashing of
weapons from the wood on their left hand; and over all arose the roar
of the Markmen's horn, for the battle was joined with the second
company of the Kindreds. But a rumour and murmur went from the
foemen before Thiodolf's men; and then sprang forth the loud sharp
word of the captains commanding and rebuking, as if the men were
doubtful which way they should take.
Amidst all which Thiodolf brandished his sword, and cried out in a
"Now, now, ye War-sons!
Now the Wolf waketh!
Lo how the Wood-beast
Wendeth in onset.
E'en as his feet fare
Fall on and follow!"
And he led forth joyously, and terrible rang the long refrained
gathered shout of his battle as his folk rushed on together devouring
the little space between their ambush and the hazel-beset green-
In the twinkling of an eye the half-moon had lapped around the Roman-
Goths and those that were with them; and the dastards made no stand
but turned about at once, crying out that the Gods of the Kindreds
were come to aid and none could withstand them. But these fleers
thrust against the band of Romans who were next to them, and bore
them aback, and great was the turmoil; and when Thiodolf's storm fell
full upon them, as it failed not to do, so close were they driven
together that scarce could any man raise his hand for a stroke. For
behind them stood a great company of those valiant spearmen of the
Romans, who would not give way if anywise they might hold it out:
and their ranks were closely serried, shield nigh touching shield,
and their faces turned toward the foe; and so arrayed, though they
might die, they scarce knew how to flee. As they might these thrust
and hewed at the fleers, and gave fierce words but few to the Roman-
Goths, driving them back against their foemen: but the fleers had
lost the cunning of their right hands, and they had cast away their
shields and could not defend their very bodies against the wrath of
the kindreds; and when they strove to flee to the right hand or to
the left, they were met by the horns of the half-moon, and the arrows
began to rain in upon them, and from so close were they shot at that
no shaft failed to smite home.
There then were the dastards slain; and their bodies served for a
rampart against the onrush of the Markmen to those Romans who had
stood fast. To them were gathering more and more every minute, and
they faced the Goths steadily with their hard brown visages and
gleaming eyes above their iron-plated shields; not casting their
spears, but standing closely together, silent, but fierce. The light
was spread now over all the earth; the eastern heavens were grown
golden-red, flecked here and there with little crimson clouds: this
battle was fallen near silent, but to the North was great uproar of
shouts and cries, and the roaring of the war-horns, and the shrill
blasts of the brazen trumpets.
Now Thiodolf, as his wont was when he saw that all was going well,
had refrained himself of hand-strokes, but was here and there and
everywhere giving heart to his folk, and keeping them in due order,
and close array, lest the Romans should yet come among them. But he
watched the ranks of the foe, and saw how presently they began to
spread out beyond his, and might, if it were not looked to, take them
in flank; and he was about to order his men anew to meet them, when
he looked on his left hand and saw how Roman men were pouring thick
from the wood out of all array, followed by a close throng of the
kindreds: for on this side the Romans were outnumbered and had
stumbled unawares into the ambush of the Markmen, who had fallen on
them straightway and disarrayed them from the first. This flight of
their folk the Romans saw also, and held their men together,
refraining from the onset, as men who deem that they will have enough
to do to stand fast.
But the second battle of the Markmen, (who were of the Nether-mark,
mingled with the Mid-mark) fought wisely, for they swept those fleers
from before them, slaying many and driving the rest scattering, yet
held the chase for no long way, but wheeling about came sidelong on
toward the battle of the Romans and Thiodolf. And when Thiodolf saw
that, he set up the whoop of victory, he and his, and fell fiercely
on the Romans, casting everything that would fly, as they rushed on
to the handplay; so that there was many a Roman slain with the Roman
spears that those who had fallen had left among their foemen.
Now the Roman captains perceived that it availed not to tarry till
the men of the Mid and Nether-marks fell upon their flank; so they
gave command, and their ranks gave back little by little, facing
their foes, and striving to draw themselves within the dike and
garth, which, after their custom, they had already cast up about the
Wolfing Roof, their stronghold.
Now as fierce as was the onset of the Markmen, the main body of the
Romans could not be hindered from doing this much before the men of
the second battle were upon them; but Thiodolf and Arinbiorn with
some of the mightiest brake their array in two places and entered in
amongst them. And wrath so seized upon the soul of Arinbiorn for the
slaying of Otter, and his own fault towards him, that he cast away
his shield, and heeding no strokes, first brake his sword in the
press, and then, getting hold of a great axe, smote at all before him
as though none smote at him in turn; yea, as though he were smiting
down tree-boles for a match against some other mighty man; and all
the while amidst the hurry, strokes of swords and spears rained on
him, some falling flatwise and some glancing sideways, but some true
and square, so that his helm was smitten off and his hauberk rent
adown, and point and edge reached his living flesh; and he had thrust
himself so far amidst the foe that none could follow to shield him,
so that at last he fell shattered and rent at the foot of the new
clayey wall cast up by the Romans, even as Thiodolf and a band with
him came cleaving the press, and the Romans closed the barriers
against friend and foe, and cast great beams adown, and masses of
iron and lead and copper taken from the smithying-booths of the
Wolfings, to stay them if it were but a little.
Then Thiodolf bestrode the fallen warrior, and men of his House were
close behind him, for wisely had he fought, cleaving the press like a
wedge, helping his friends that they might help him, so that they all
went forward together. But when he saw Arinbiorn fall he cried out:
"Woe's me, Arinbiorn! that thou wouldest not wait for me; for the day
is young yet, and over-young!"
There then they cleared the space outside the gate, and lifted up the
Bearing Warrior, and bare him back from the rampart. For so fierce
had been the fight and so eager the storm of those that had followed
after him that they must needs order their battle afresh, since
Thiodolf's wedge which he had driven into the Roman host was but of a
few and the foe had been many and the rampart and the shot-weapons
were close anigh. Wise therefore it seemed to abide them of the
second battle and join with them to swarm over the new-built slippery
wall in the teeth of the Roman shot.
In this, the first onset of the Morning Battle, some of the Markmen
had fallen, but not many, since but a few had entered outright into
the Roman ranks; and when they first rushed on from the wood but
three of them were slain, and the slaughter was all of the dastards
and the Romans; and afterwards not a few of the Romans were slain,
what by Arinbiorn, what by the others; for they were fighting
fleeing, and before their eyes was the image of the garth-gate which
was behind them; and they stumbled against each other as they were
driven sideways against the onrush of the Goths, nor were they now
standing fair and square to them, and they were hurried and confused
with the dread of the onset of them of the two Marks.
As yet Thiodolf had gotten no great hurt, so that when he heard that
Arinbiorn's soul had passed away he smiled and said:
"Yea, yea, Arinbiorn might have abided the end, for ere then shall
the battle be hard."
So now the Wolfings and the Bearings met joyously the kindreds of the
Nether Mark and the others of the second battle, and they sang the
song of victory arrayed in good order hard by the Roman rampart,
while bowstrings twanged and arrows whistled, and sling-stones hummed
from this side and from that.
And of their song of victory thus much the tale telleth:
"Now hearken and hear
Of the day-dawn of fear,
And how up rose the sun
On the battle begun.
All night lay a-hiding,
Our anger abiding,
Dark down in the wood
The sharp seekers of blood;
But ere red grew the heaven we bore them all bare,
For against us undriven the foemen must fare;
They sought and they found us, and sorrowed to find,
For the tree-boles around us the story shall mind,
How fast from the glooming they fled to the light,
Yeasaying the dooming of Tyr of the fight.
"Hearken yet and again
How the night gan to wane,
And the twilight stole on
Till the world was well won!
E'en in such wise was wending
A great host for our ending;
On our life-days e'en so
Stole the host of the foe;
Till the heavens grew lighter, and light grew the world,
And the storm of the fighter upon them was hurled,
Then some fled the stroke, and some died and some stood,
Till the worst of the storm broke right out from the wood,
And the war-shafts were singing the carol of fear,
The tale of the bringing the sharp swords anear.
"Come gather we now,
For the day doth grow.
Come, gather, ye bold,
Lest the day wax old;
Lest not till to-morrow
We slake our sorrow,
And heap the ground
With many a mound.
Come, war-children, gather, and clear we the land!
In the tide of War-father the deed is to hand.
Clad in gear that we gilded they shrink from our sword;
In the House that we builded they sit at the board;
Come, war-children, gather, come swarm o'er the wall
For the feast of War-father to sweep out the Hall!"
Now amidst of their singing the sun rose upon the earth, and gleamed
in the arms of men, and lit the faces of the singing warriors as they
stood turned toward the east.
In this first onset of battle but twenty and three Markmen were slain
in all, besides Arinbiorn; for, as aforesaid, they had the foe at a
disadvantage. And this onset is called in the tale the Storm of
CHAPTER XXI--OF THIODOLF'S STORM
The Goths tarried not over their victory; they shot with all the
bowmen that they had against the Romans on the wall, and therewith
arrayed themselves to fall on once more. And Thiodolf, now that the
foe were covered by a wall, though it was but a little one, sent a
message to the men of the third battle, them of Up-mark to wit, to
come forward in good array and help to make a ring around the Wolfing
Stead, wherein they should now take the Romans as a beast is taken in
a trap. Meanwhile, until they came, he sent other men to the wood to
bring tree-boles to batter the gate, and to make bridges whereby to
swarm over the wall, which was but breast-high on the Roman side,
though they had worked at it ceaselessly since yesterday morning.
In a long half-hour, therefore, the horns of the men of Up-mark
sounded, and they came forth from the wood a very great company, for
with them also were the men of the stay-at-homes and the homeless,
such of them as were fit to bear arms. Amongst these went the Hall-
Sun surrounded by a band of the warriors of Up-mark; and before her
was borne her namesake the Lamp as a sign of assured victory. But
these stay-at-homes with the Hall-Sun were stayed by the command of
Thiodolf on the crown of the slope above the dwellings, and stood
round about the Speech-Hill, on the topmost of which stood the Hall-
Sun, and the wondrous Lamp, and the men who warded her and it.
When the Romans saw the new host come forth from the wood, they might
well think that they would have work enough to do that day; but when
they saw the Hall-Sun take her stand on the Speech-Hill with the men-
at-arms about her, and the Lamp before her, then dread of the Gods
fell upon them, and they knew that the doom had gone forth against
them. Nevertheless they were not men to faint and die because the
Gods were become their foes, but they were resolved rather to fight
it out to the end against whatsoever might come against them, as was
well seen afterwards.
Now they had made four gates to their garth according to their
custom, and at each gate within was there a company of their
mightiest men, and each was beset by the best of the Markmen.
Thiodolf and his men beset the western gate where they had made that
fierce onset. And the northern gate was beset by the Elkings and
some of the kindreds of the Nether-mark; and the eastern gate by the
rest of the men of Nether-mark; and the southern gate by the kindreds
All this the Romans noted, and they saw how that the Markmen were now
very many, and they knew that they were men no less valiant than
themselves, and they perceived that Thiodolf was a wise Captain; and
in less than two hours' space from the Storm of Dawning they saw
those men coming from the wood with plenteous store of tree-trunks to
bridge their ditch and rampart; and they considered how the day was
yet very young, so that they might look for no shelter from the
night-tide; and as for any aid from their own folk at the war-garth
aforesaid, they hoped not for it, nor had they sent any messenger to
the Captain of the garth; nor did they know as yet of his overthrow
on the Ridge.
Now therefore there seemed to be but two choices before them; either
to abide within the rampart they had cast up, or to break out like
valiant men, and either die in the storm, or cleave a way through,
whereby they might come to their kindred and their stronghold south-
east of the Mark.
This last way then they chose; or, to say the truth, it was their
chief captain who chose it for them, though they were nothing loth
thereto: for this man was a mocker, yet hot-headed, unstable, and
nought wise in war, and heretofore had his greed minished his
courage; yet now, being driven into a corner, he had courage enough
and to spare, but utterly lacked patience; for it had been better for
the Romans to have abided one or two onsets from the Goths, whereby
they who should make the onslaught would at the least have lost more
men than they on whom they should fall, before they within stormed
forth on them; but their pride took away from the Romans their last
chance. But their captain, now that he perceived, as he thought,
that the game was lost and his life come to its last hour wherein he
would have to leave his treasure and pleasure behind him, grew
desperate and therewith most fierce and cruel. So all the captives
whom they had taken (they were but two score and two, for the wounded
men they had slain) he caused to be bound on the chairs of the high-
seat clad in their war-gear with their swords or spears made fast to
their right hands, and their shields to their left hands; and he said
that the Goths should now hold a Thing wherein they should at last
take counsel wisely, and abstain from folly. For he caused store of
faggots and small wood smeared with grease and oil to be cast into
the hall that it might be fired, so that it and the captives should
burn up altogether; "So," said he, "shall we have a fair torch for
our funeral fire;" for it was the custom of the Romans to burn their
Thus, then, he did; and then he caused men to do away the barriers
and open all the four gates of the new-made garth, after he had
manned the wall with the slingers and bowmen, and slain the horses,
so that the woodland folk should have no gain of them. Then he
arrayed his men at the gates and about them duly and wisely, and bade
those valiant footmen fall on the Goths who were getting ready to
fall on them, and to do their best. But he himself armed at all
points took his stand at the Man's-door of the Hall, and swore by all
the Gods of his kindred that he would not move a foot's length from
thence either for fire or for steel.
So fiercely on that fair morning burned the hatred of men about the
dwellings of the children of the Wolf of the Goths, wherein the
children of the Wolf of Rome were shut up as in a penfold of
Meanwhile the Hall-Sun standing on the Hill of Speech beheld it all,
looking down into the garth of war; for the new wall was no hindrance
to her sight, because the Speech-Hill was high and but a little way
from the Great Roof; and indeed she was within shot of the Roman
bowmen, though they were not very deft in shooting.
So now she lifted up her voice and sang so that many heard her; for
at this moment of time there was a lull in the clamour of battle both
within the garth and without; even as it happens when the thunder-
storm is just about to break on the world, that the wind drops dead,
and the voice of the leaves is hushed before the first great and near
flash of lightening glares over the fields.
So she sang:
"Now the latest hour cometh and the ending of the strife;
And to-morrow and to-morrow shall we take the hand of life,
And wend adown the meadows, and skirt the darkling wood,
And reap the waving acres, and gather in the good.
I see a wall before me built up of steel and fire,
And hurts and heart-sick striving, and the war-wright's fierce
But there-amidst a door is, and windows are therein;
And the fair sun-litten meadows and the Houses of the kin
Smile on me through the terror my trembling life to stay,
That at my mouth now flutters, as fain to flee away.
Lo e'en as the little hammer and the blow-pipe of the wright
About the flickering fire deals with the silver white,
And the cup and its beauty groweth that shall be for the people's
And all men are glad to see it from the greatest to the least;
E'en so is the tale now fashioned, that many a time and oft
Shall be told on the acre's edges, when the summer eve is soft;
Shall be hearkened round the hall-blaze when the mid-winter night
The kindreds' mirth besetteth, and quickeneth man's delight,
And we that have lived in the story shall be born again and again
As men feast on the bread of our earning, and praise the grief-born
As she made an end of singing, those about her understood her words,
that she was foretelling victory, and the peace of the Mark, and for
joy they raised a shrill cry; and the warriors who were nighest to
her took it up, and it spread through the whole host round about the
garth, and went up into the breath of the summer morning and went
down the wind along the meadow of the Wolfings, so that they of the
wain-burg, who were now drawing somewhat near to Wolf-stead heard it
and were glad.
But the Romans when they heard it knew that the heart of the battle
was reached, and they cast back that shout wrathfully and fiercely,
and made toward the foe.
Therewithal those mighty men fell on each other in the narrow passes
of the garth; for fear was dead and buried in that Battle of the
On the North gate Hiarandi of the Elkings was the point of the
Markmen's wedge, and first clave the Roman press. In the Eastern
gate it was Valtyr, Otter's brother's son, a young man and most
mighty. In the South gate it was Geirbald of the Shieldings, the
In the west gate Thiodolf the War-duke gave one mighty cry like the
roar of an angry lion, and cleared a space before him for the
wielding of Ivar's blade; for at that moment he had looked up to the
Roof of the Kindred and had beheld a little stream of smoke curling
blue out of a window thereof, and he knew what had betided, and how
short was the time before them. But his wrathful cry was taken up by
some who had beheld that same sight, and by others who saw nought but
the Roman press, and terribly it rang over the swaying struggling
Then fell the first rank of the Romans before those stark men and
mighty warriors; and they fell even where they stood, for on neither
side could any give back but for a little space, so close the press
was, and the men so eager to smite. Neither did any crave peace if
he were hurt or disarmed; for to the Goths it was but a little thing
to fall in hot blood in that hour of love of the kindred, and longing
for the days to be. And for the Romans, they had had no mercy, and
now looked for none: and they remembered their dealings with the
Goths, and saw before them, as it were, once more, yea, as in a
picture, their slayings and quellings, and lashings, and cold
mockings which they had dealt out to the conquered foemen without
mercy, and now they longed sore for the quiet of the dark, when their
hard lives should be over, and all these deeds forgotten, and they
and their bitter foes should be at rest for ever.
Most valiantly they fought; but the fury of their despair could not
deal with the fearless hope of the Goths, and as rank after rank of
them took the place of those who were hewn down by Thiodolf and the
Kindred, they fell in their turn, and slowly the Goths cleared a
space within the gates, and then began to spread along the wall
within, and grew thicker and thicker. Nor did they fight only at the
gates; but made them bridges of those tree-trunks, and fell to
swarming over the rampart, till they had cleared it of the bowmen and
slingers, and then they leaped down and fell upon the flanks of the
Romans; and the host of the dead grew, and the host of the living
Moreover the stay-at-homes round about the Speech-Hill, and that band
of the warriors of Up-mark who were with them, beheld the Great Roof
and saw the smoke come gushing out of the windows, and at last saw
the red flames creep out amidst it and waver round the window jambs
like little banners of scarlet cloth. Then they could no longer
refrain themselves, but ran down from the Speech-Hill and the slope
about it with great and fierce cries, and clomb the wall where it was
unmanned, helping each other with hand and back, both stark warriors,
and old men and lads and women: and thus they gat them into the
garth and fell upon the lessening band of the Romans, who now began
to give way hither and thither about the garth, as they best might.
Thus it befell at the West-gate, but at the other gates it was no
worser, for there was no diversity of valour between the Houses; nay,
whereas the more part and the best part of the Romans faced the onset
of Thiodolf, which seemed to them the main onset, they were somewhat
easier to deal with elsewhere than at the West gate; and at the East
gate was the place first won, so that Valtyr and his folk were the
first to clear a space within the gate, and to tell the tale shortly
(for can this that and the other sword-stroke be told of in such a
medley?) they drew the death-ring around the Romans that were before
them, and slew them all to the last man, and then fell fiercely on
the rearward of them of the North gate, who still stood before
Hiarandi's onset. There again was no long tale to tell of, for
Hiarandi was just winning the gate, and the wall was cleared of the
Roman shot-fighters, and the Markmen were standing on the top
thereof, and casting down on the Romans spears and baulks of wood and
whatsoever would fly. There again were the Romans all slain or put
out of the fight, and the two bands of the kindred joined together,
and with what voices the battle-rage had left them cried out for joy
and fared on together to help to bind the sheaves of war which
Thiodolf's sickle had reaped. And now it was mere slaying, and the
Romans, though they still fought in knots of less than a score, yet
fought on and hewed and thrust without more thought or will than the
stone has when it leaps adown the hill-side after it has first been
But now the garth was fairly won and Thiodolf saw that there was no
hope for the Romans drawing together again; so while the kindreds
were busied in hewing down those knots of desperate men, he gathered
to him some of the wisest of his warriors, amongst whom were Steinulf
and Grani the Grey, the deft wood-wrights (but Athalulf had been
grievously hurt by a spear and was out of the battle), and drave a
way through the confused turmoil which still boiled in the garth
there, and made straight for the Man's-door of the Hall. Soon he was
close thereto, having hewn away all fleers that hindered him, and the
doorway was before him. But on the threshold, the fire and flames of
the kindled hall behind him, stood the Roman Captain clad in gold-
adorned armour and surcoat of sea-born purple; the man was cool and
calm and proud, and a mocking smile was on his face: and he bore his
bright blade unbloodied in his hand.
Thiodolf stayed a moment of time, and their eyes met; it had gone
hard with the War-duke, and those eyes glittered in his pale face,
and his teeth were close set together; though he had fought wisely,
and for life, as he who is most valiant ever will do, till he is
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