Eric Brighteyes eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 320 pages of information about Eric Brighteyes.

Now they stand by the bed.  Swanhild puts out her hand, draws down the clothes, and feels the breast of Gudruda beneath, for Gudruda slept on the outside of the bed.

Then she searches by the head of the bed and finds Whitefire which hung there, and draws the sword.

“Here lies Eric, on the outside,” she says to Gizur, “and here is Whitefire.  Strike and strike home, leaving Whitefire in the wound.”

Gizur takes the sword and lifts it.  He is sore at heart that he must do such a coward deed; but the spell of Swanhild is upon him, and he may not flinch from it.  Then a thought takes him and he also puts down his hand to feel.  It lights upon Gudruda’s golden hair, that hangs about her breast and falls from the bed to the ground.

“Here is woman’s hair,” he whispers.

“No,” Swanhild answers, “it is Eric’s hair.  The hair of Eric is long, as thou hast seen.”

Now neither of them knows that Gudruda cut Eric’s locks when he lay sick on Mosfell, though Swanhild knows well that it is not Brighteyes whom she bids Gizur slay.

Then Gizur, Ospakar’s son, lifts the sword, and the faint starlight struggling into the chamber gathers and gleams upon the blade.  Thrice he lifts it, and thrice it draws it back.  Then with an oath he strikes—­and drives it home with all his strength!

From the bed beneath there comes one long sigh and a sound as of limbs trembling against the bed-gear.  Then all is still.

“It is done!” he says faintly.

Swanhild puts down her hand once more.  Lo! it is wet and warm.  Then she bends herself and looks, and behold! the dead eyes of Gudruda glare up into her eyes.  She can see them plainly, but none know what she read there.  At the least it was something that she loved not, for she reels back against the panelling, then falls upon the floor.

Presently, while Gizur stands as one in a dream, she rises, saying:  “I am avenged of the death of Atli.  Let us hence!—­ah! let us hence swiftly!  Give me thy hand, Gizur, for I am faint!”

So Gizur gives her his hand and they pass thence.  Presently they stand in the store-room, and there lies Skallagrim, still plunged in his drunken sleep.

“Must I do more murder?” asks Gizur hoarsely.

“Nay,” Swanhild says.  “I am sick with blood.  Leave the knave.”

They pass out by the casement into the yard and so on till they find their horses.

“Lift me, Gizur; I can no more,” says Swanhild.

He lifts her to the saddle.

“Whither away?” he asks.

“To Coldback, Gizur, and thence to cold Death.”

Thus did Gudruda, Eric’s bride and Asmund’s daughter, the fairest woman who ever lived in Iceland, die on her marriage night by the hand of Gizur, Ospakar’s son, and through the hate and witchcraft of Swanhild the Fatherless, her half-sister.

XXX

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Project Gutenberg
Eric Brighteyes from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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