Then they went on, and the face of Gizur grew white with fear.
HOW ERIC AND SKALLAGRIM FOUGHT THEIR LAST GREAT FIGHT
Now the thrall and those with him on the crest of the fell heard the murmur of the company of Gizur and Swanhild as they won the mountain side, though they could not see them because of the rocks.
“Now it is time to begin and knock these birds from their perch,” said the thrall, “for that is an awkward corner for our folk to turn with Whitefire and the axe of Skallagrim waiting on the farther side.”
So he balanced a great stone, as heavy as three men could lift, on the brow of the rock, and aimed it. Then he pushed and let it go. It smote the platform beneath with a crash, two fathoms behind the spot where Eric and Skallagrim sat. Then it flew into the air, and, just as Brighteyes turned at the sound, it struck the wings of his helm, and, bursting the straps, tore the golden helm-piece from his head and carried it away into the gulf beneath.
Skallagrim looked up and saw what had come about.
“They have gained the crest of the fell,” he cried. “Now we must fly into the cave or down the narrow way and hold it.”
“Down the narrow way, then,” said Eric, and while rocks, spears and arrows rushed between and around them, they stepped on to the stone and won the path beyond. It was clear, for Gizur’s folk had not yet come, and they ran nearly to the mouth of it, where there was a bend in the way, and stood there side by side.
“Thou wast at death’s door then, lord!” said Skallagrim.
“Head-piece is not head,” answered Eric; “but I wonder how they won the crest of the fell. I have never heard tell of any path by which it might be gained.”
“There they are at the least,” said Skallagrim. “Now this is my will, that thou shouldst take my helm. I am Baresark and put little trust in harness, but rather in my axe and strength alone.”
“I will not do that,” said Eric. “Listen: I hear them come.”
Presently the tumult of voices and the tramp of feet grew clearer, and after a while Gizur, Swanhild, and the men of their following turned the corner of the narrow way, and lo! there before them—ay within three paces of them—stood Eric and Skallagrim shoulder to shoulder, and the light poured down upon them from above.
They were terrible to see, and the light shone brightly on Eric’s golden hair and Whitefire’s flashing blade, and the shadows lay dark on the black helm of Skallagrim and in the fierce black eyes beneath.
Back surged Gizur and those with him. Skallagrim would have sprung upon them, but Eric caught him by the arm, saying: “A truce to thy Baresark ways. Rush not and move not! Let us stand here till they overwhelm us.”
Now those behind Gizur cried out to know what ailed them that they pushed back.