Chapter 15: The Torque And Its Wearer.
The roar of that unseen battle came across the still water to us without cease for well nigh half an hour. The first surety we had that it was over was in the dying away of the noise and the coming back to the shore of men from the front who were unwounded. After that we could see the black mass of Irish climbing the hill to the camp quietly, as if to tell their king that they had conquered. There was much shouting thence shortly after they had passed within the earthworks.
Then out of the gate of the camp, which was toward the river, came a train of men, the leaders of which were mounted, and after them swarmed the levies again. Dalfin was bringing his father to see the place of the fight, and to welcome us as friends. It was not altogether a new thing that Norseman and Dane should be known as foes to one another here on the Irish coast, which both wasted. The folk called us the “white” and the Danes the “black” Lochlannoch, and I cannot say which they feared the most, though the Danes were the most hated. But the Irish kings were not slow to take advantage of our rivalries when they could.
Asbiorn came to me as I stood and watched the king coming out of the camp. His face was white and drawn, but he was calm enough.
“Who was the tall, young chief on the red horse?” he asked me.
“Dalfin of Maghera, whom you let go with me,” I answered.
“So I thought. Now, I think that he has avenged that doing on the Caithness shore for you. It is not likely that my father has not fallen; he was the leader of the wedge. There is no feud now between you and me.”
“There is not,” I answered. “I do not know that I had ever thought of one as possible.”
“There would have been had Hakon slain Heidrek,” he said.
The old law of the blood feud had its full meaning to him.
“If Heidrek had stayed his men to meet us, Hakon would have given him terms rather than that this should have been the end,” I said.
“I know it, for I heard him say so. But there was a touch of the berserk in my father since his troubles came. This is not the first time he has tried to fall fighting against odds. He would not have listened to Hakon.”
He sighed heavily, and then shook himself, so that his mail rattled. I took his sword from the bottom of a boat on deck in which I had set it, and gave it back to him, and he girt it on.
“So that is the end,” he said. “And now I am my own man. Well, it was a better end than might have been had Hakon waited to see if we came raiding to Norway, as we most certainly should. Now I can follow Hakon with a light heart, and maybe come to be known as an honest man once more.”
He said no other word, but turned and went forward. Bertric looked after him and smiled.
“Hakon has a good follower there,” he said. “I will see that he is not overlooked. Heidrek was the son of a king in Jutland, and the good blood will show itself at last.”