Ospakar grew fearful, for he could make no play with this youngling. Black rage swelled in his heart. He ground his fangs, and thought on guile. By his foot gleamed the naked foot of Eric. Suddenly he stamped on it so fiercely that the skin burst.
“Ill done! ill done!” folk cried; but in his pain Eric moved his foot.
Lo! he was down, but not altogether down, for he did but sit upon his haunches, and still he clung to Blacktooth’s thighs, and twined his legs about his ankles. Now with all his strength Ospakar strove to force the head of Brighteyes to the ground, but still he could not, for Eric clung to him like a creeper to a tree.
“A losing game for Eric,” said Asmund, and as he spoke Brighteyes was pressed back till his yellow hair almost swept the sand.
Then the folk of Ospakar shouted in triumph, but Gudruda cried aloud:
“Be not overthrown, Eric; loose thee and spring aside.”
Eric heard, and of a sudden loosed all his grip. He fell on his outspread hand, then, with a swing sideways and a bound, once more he stood upon his feet. Ospakar came at him like a bull made mad with goading, but he could no longer roar aloud. They closed and this time Eric had the better hold. For a while they struggled round and round till their feet tore the frozen turf, then once more they stood face to face. Now the two were almost spent; yet Blacktooth gathered up his strength and swung Eric from his feet, but he found them again. He grew mad with rage, and hugged him till Brighteyes was nearly pressed to death, and black bruises sprang upon the whiteness of his flesh. Ospakar grew mad, and madder yet, till at length in his fury he fixed his fangs in Eric’s shoulder and bit till the blood spurted.
“Ill kissed, thou rat!” gasped Eric, and with the pain and rush of blood, his strength came back to him. He shifted his grip swiftly, now his right hand was beneath the fork of Blacktooth’s thigh and his left on the hollow of Blacktooth’s back. Twice he lifted—twice the bulk of Ospakar rose from the ground—a third mighty lift—so mighty that the wrapping on Eric’s forehead burst, and the blood streamed down his face—and lo! great Blacktooth flew in air. Up he flew, and backward he fell into the bank of snow, and was buried there almost to the knees.
HOW ASMUND THE PRIEST WAS BETROTHED TO UNNA
For a moment there was silence, for all that company was wonderstruck at the greatness of the deed. Then they cheered and cheered again, and to Eric it seemed that he slept, and the sound of shouting reached him but faintly, as though he heard through snow. Suddenly he woke and saw a man rush at him with axe aloft. It was Mord, Ospakar’s son, mad at his father’s overthrow. Eric sprang aside, or the blow had been his bane, and, as he sprang, smote with his fist, and it struck heavily on the head of Mord above the ear, so that the axe flew from his hand, and he fell senseless on his father in the snow.