“Presently I freed myself from the gag and the bonds, and tried to beat down the end of the house, but I could not. I took an axe from the wall, feeling for it in the darkness, but I waxed faint and breathless, and the roof is low and I could not use it. I mind that I set it back; and that is all until I woke here to see, as I thought, Thor with his hammer and Freyr beside him, and so—”
That was all; and it was enough. Only Dalfin had one question to ask.
“I wonder this evil Arnkel parted with the treasure so lightly.”
“My folk would not have let him lay hands on it in any case,” she answered plainly. “And they would keep it from Heidrek.”
“That is how the men of Heidrek fell on us,” I said. “He must have landed his men beyond your sight, but not far off.”
“There were two ships seen passing north in the storm,” she said. “They will have been his, and he must have berthed them in some near fjord. There he would hear of this that was to be, and of the treasure which the old king took with him to his grave.”
Then Bertric said thoughtfully enough:
“It may well be that the fight has gone hardly for Heidrek, else I think that he would have put off to follow the ship before this. After all, it may be that we can sail back to your fjord and tell this tale to your folk, and so make an end of Arnkel and his misdeeds. Now, lady—for as yet we do not know your name—we will rig the forward awning for you, and there you shall sleep. Here is this bed, and if there is aught else—”
“My name is Gerda,” she answered, smiling. “I forgot that you could not know it. Yes, I am weary, and what you will do is most kind. See, there is one chest there which I would have with me. It holds the gear that was my grandmother’s, and I may surely use it in my need. I had never to ask my grandsire for aught but he would give it me.”
We had all ready in very little time, and there we left her, and she smiled at us and thanked us again, and so let fall the awning curtains and was gone. Then we three went aft and sat down and looked at one another. We had a new care thrust on us, and a heavy one.
Chapter 5: Vision And Pursuit.
Bertric walked backward and forward, as a seaman ever will, across the deck, whistling softly to himself, and looking eastward.