Her turn came to rush by King Atle. She saw how he raised himself and bent for a spring to be sure of the matter and catch her. In her extreme need she felt that if she only could decide to give in the next day, he would not have the power to catch her, but she could not.—She came last, and she was swung so violently that she was more dragged and jerked forward than running herself, and it was hard for her to keep from falling. And although she passed at lightning speed, the old warrior was too quick for her. The heavy arms sank down over her, the stone hands seized her, she was drawn into the silvery harness of that breast. The agony of death took more and more hold of her, but she knew to the very last that it was because she had not been able to conquer the stone king in her own heart that Atle had power over her.
It was the end of the dancing and merriment. Jofrid lay dying. In the violence of their mad rout, she had been thrown against the king’s cairn and received her death-blow on its stones.
A peasant who had murdered a monk took to the woods and was made an outlaw. He found there before him in the wilderness another outlaw, a fisherman from the outermost islands, who had been accused of stealing a herring net. They joined together, lived in a cave, set snares, sharpened darts, baked bread on a granite rock and guarded one another’s lives. The peasant never left the woods, but the fisherman, who had not committed such an abominable crime, sometimes loaded game on his shoulders and stole down among men. There he got in exchange for black-cocks, for long-eared hares and fine-limbed red deer, milk and butter, arrow-heads and clothes. These helped the outlaws to sustain life.
The cave where they lived was dug in the side of a hill. Broad stones and thorny sloe-bushes hid the entrance. Above it stood a thick growing pine-tree. At its roots was the vent-hole of the cave. The rising smoke filtered through the tree’s thick branches and vanished into space. The men used to go to and from their dwelling-place, wading in the mountain stream, which ran down the hill. No-one looked for their tracks under the merry, bubbling water.
At first they were hunted like wild beasts. The peasants gathered as if for a chase of bear or wolf. The wood was surrounded by men with bows and arrows. Men with spears went through it and left no dark crevice, no bushy thicket unexplored. While the noisy battue hunted through the wood, the outlaws lay in their dark hole, listening breathlessly, panting with terror. The fisherman held out a whole day, but he who had murdered was driven by unbearable fear out into the open, where he could see his enemy. He was seen and hunted, but it seemed to him seven times better than to lie still in helpless inactivity. He fled from his pursuers, slid down precipices, sprang over streams, climbed up perpendicular mountain walls.