Eric took no heed, but, watching his chance, leapt on to the bows of the Raven, and after him leapt Skallagrim. Even as he did so, a great sea came and swept past and over them, so that half the ship was hid for foam. Now, Hall the mate stood near to the grapnel cable, and, fearing lest they should sink, out of the cowardice of his heart, he let his axe fall upon the chain, and severed it so swiftly that no man saw him, except Skallagrim only. Forward sprang the Gudruda, freed from her burden, and rushed away before the wind, leaving Eric and Skallagrim alone upon the Raven’s prow.
“Now we are in an evil plight,” said Eric, “the cable has parted!”
“Ay,” answered Skallagrim, “and that losel Hall hath parted it! I saw his axe fall.”
HOW ERIC DREAMED A DREAM
Now, when the men of Ospakar, who were gathered on the poop of the Raven, saw what had come about, they shouted aloud and made ready to slay the pair. But Eric and Skallagrim clambered to the mast and got their backs against it, and swiftly made themselves fast with a rope, so that they might not fall with the rolling of the ship. Then the people of Ospakar came on to cut them down.
But this was no easy task, for they might scarcely stand, and they could not shoot with the bow. Moreover, Eric and Skallagrim, being bound to the mast, had the use of both hands and were minded to die hard. Therefore Ospakar’s folks got but one thing by their onslaught, and that was death, for three of their number fell beneath the long sweep of Whitefire, and one bowed before the axe of Skallagrim. Then they drew back and strove to throw spears at these two, but they flew wide because of the rolling of the vessel. One spear struck the mast near the head of Skallagrim. He drew it out, and, waiting till the ship steadied herself in the trough of the sea, hurled it at a knot of Ospakar’s thralls, and a man got his death from it. After that they threw no more spears.
Thence once more the crew came on with swords and axes, but faint-heartedly, and the end of it was that they lost some more men dead and wounded and fell back again.
Skallagrim mocked at them with bitter words, and one of them, made mad by his scoffing, cast a heavy ballast-stone at him. It fell upon his shoulder and numbed him.
“Now I am unmeet for fight, lord,” said Skallagrim, “for my right arm is dead and I can scarcely hold my axe.”
“That is ill, then,” said Eric, “for we have little help, except from each other, and I, too, am well-nigh spent. Well, we have done a great deed and now it is time to rest.”
“My left arm is yet whole, lord, and I can make shift for a while with it. Cut loose the cord before they bait us to death, and let us rush upon these wolves and fall fighting.”
“A good counsel,” said Eric, “and a quick end; but stay a while: what plan have they now?”