“No man has dared to go near that doorway till you came, Ranald Vemundsson,” Kolgrim answered. “Now I fear that he plans to lure you into the mound, and slay you there without light to help you. Go no further, maybe you will be closed up with the ghost.”
That was not pleasant to think of, but I had seen nought to make me fear to go in. There was no such unearthly light shining within the mound as I had heard of in many tales of those who sought to speak with dead chiefs.
“Well, I am going in,” I said stoutly; “but do you hide here, and make some noise that I may know you are near me. It is the silence that frays me.
“What can I do?” he said. “I know no runes that are of avail. It would be ill to disturb this place with idle sounds.”
That seemed right, but I thought I could not bear the silence—silence of the grave. I must know that he was close at hand. Then a thought came to me, and I unfastened the silver-mounted whetstone that hung from my belt and gave it him.
“Whet your sword edge sharply,” I said. “That is a sound a hero loves, for it speaks of deeds to be done.”
“Ay, that is no idle sound,” he said, and drew his sword gladly. The haft of the well-known blade brought the light into his eyes again. I drew my own sword also.
“If you need me, call, and I think I shall not fail you,” he whispered. “It shall not be said that I failed you in peril.”
“I know it,” I answered, putting my hand on his shoulder.
Then I went boldly, and stepped into the passage. The whetstone sang shrill on the sword edge as it kissed the steel behind me, and the sound was good to hear as I went into darkness with my weapon ready.
I half feared that my first step would be my last, but it was made in safety. Very black seemed the low stone-walled passage before me, and I had to stoop as I went on, feeling with my left hand along the wall. The way was so narrow that little light could pass my body, and therefore it seemed to grow darker as I went deeper into the mound’s heart.
Five steps I took, and then my outstretched hand was on the post that ended the passage, and beyond that I felt nothing. I had come to the inner doorway, and before me was the place where Sigurd lay. Yet no fiery eyes glared on me, and nothing stirred. The air was heavy with a scent as of peat, and the sound of the whetstone seemed loud as I stood peering into the darkness.
I moved forward, and somewhat rattled under my foot, and I started. Then my fear left me altogether, for I had trodden on dry bones, and shuddered at the first touch of them in that place. I had faced fear, and had overcome it; maybe it was desperation that made me cool then, for it was certain now that I must be slain or else victor over I knew not what.
So I took one pace forward into the chamber, and stood aside from the doorway; and the grey light from the passage came in and filled all the place, so that it fell first on him whom I had come to seek—Jarl Sigurd of Orkney.