“How’s that, Lord?” asked Steinar absently, for he was looking at Iduna.
“Thus, Steinar: These men”—and he pointed to the three messengers—“have but just arrived from Agger with the news that your father, Hakon, and your half-brothers are all drowned. They say also that the folk of Agger have named you Hakon’s heir, as, indeed, you are by right of blood.”
“Is that so?” exclaimed Steinar, bewildered. “Well, as I never saw my father or my brothers, and they treated me but ill, I cannot weep for them.”
“Hakon!” broke in Athalbrand. “Why, I knew him well, for in my youth we were comrades in war. He was the wealthiest man in Jutland in cattle, lands, thralls and stored gold. Young friend, your luck is great,” and he stared first at Steinar, then at Iduna, pulling his forked beard and muttering words to himself that I could not catch.
“Steinar gets the fortune he deserves,” I exclaimed, embracing him. “Not for nothing did I save you from the bear, Steinar. Come, wish my foster-brother joy, Iduna.”
“Aye, that I do with all my heart,” she said. “Joy and long life to you, and with them rule and greatness, Steinar, Lord of Agger,” and she curtsied to him, her blue eyes fixed upon his face.
But Steinar turned away, making no answer. Only Ragnar, who stood by, burst into a loud laugh. Then, putting his arm through mine, he led me into the hall, saying:
“This wind is over cold for you, Olaf. Nay, trouble not about Iduna. Steinar, Lord of Agger, will care for her, I think.”
That night there was a feast at Aar, and I sat at it with Iduna by my side. Beautiful she was indeed in her garment of blue, over which streamed her yellow hair, bright as the gold rings that tinkled on her rounded arms. She was kind to me also, and bade me tell her the story of the slaying of the bear, which I did as best I could, though afterwards Ragnar told it otherwise, and more fully. Only Steinar said little or nothing, for he seemed to be lost in dreams.
I thought that this was because he felt sad at the news of the death of his father and brethren, since, although he had never known them, blood still calls to blood; and so, I believe, did most there present. At any rate my father and mother tried to cheer him and in the end bade the men of Agger draw near to tell him the tale of his heritage.
They obeyed, and set out all their case, of which the sum was that Steinar must now be one of the wealthiest and most powerful men of the northern lands.
“It seems that we should all take off our caps to you, young lord,” said Athalbrand when he heard this tale of rule and riches. “Why did you not ask me for my fair daughter?” he added with a half-drunken laugh, for all the liquor he had swallowed had got a hold of his brain. Recovering himself, he went on: “It is my will, Thorvald, that Iduna and this snipe of an Olaf of yours should be wed as soon as possible. I say that they shall be wed as soon as possible, since otherwise I know not what may happen.”