Now, the most of those present thought this a wise saying and were ready to abide by it. Yet, unluckily enough, it was made of no account by what had slipped from my lips at its end. Although many held me strange and fey, all men loved me because I had a kind heart and gentleness, also because of the wrongs that I had suffered and for something which they saw in me, which they believed would one day make of me a great skald and a wise leader. When she heard me announce thus publicly that I was determined to leave them, Thora, my mother, whispered in the ears of Thorvald, my father, and Ragnar and others also said to each other that this might not be. It was Ragnar, the headlong, who sprang up and spoke the first.
“Is my brother to be driven from us and his home like a thrall caught in theft because a traitor and a false woman have put him to shame?” he said. “I say that I ask Athalbrand’s blood to wash away that stain, not his gold, and that if need be I will seek it alone and die upon his spears. Also I say that if Olaf, my brother, turns his back upon this vengeance, I name him niddering.”
“No man shall name me that,” I said, flushing, “and least of all Ragnar.”
So, amidst shouts, for there had been long peace in the land, and all the fighting men sighed for battle, it was agreed that war should be declared on Athalbrand, those present pledging themselves and their dependents to follow it to the end.
“Go back to the troth-breaker, Athalbrand,” said my father to the messengers. “Tell him that we will not accept his fine of gold, who come to take all his wealth, and with it his land and his life. Tell him also that the young lord Olaf refuses his daughter, Iduna, since it has not been the fashion of our House to wed with drabs. Tell Steinar, the woman-thief, that he would do well to slay himself, or to be sure that he is killed in battle, since if we take him living he shall be cast into a pit of vipers or sacrificed to Odin, the god of honour. Begone!”
“We go,” answered the spokesman of the messengers; “yet before we go, Thorvald, we would say to you that you and your folk are mad. Some wrong has been done to your son, though perhaps not so much as you may think. For that wrong full atonement has been offered, and with it the hand of friendship on which you spit. Know then that the mighty lord Athalbrand does not fear war, since for every man you can gather he numbers two, all pledged to him until the death. Also he has consulted the oracle, and its answer is that if you fight with him, but one of your House will be left living.”
“Begone!” thundered my father, “lest presently you should stay here dead.”
So they went.
That day my heart was very heavy, and I sought Freydisa to take counsel with her.
“Trouble hovers over me like a croaking raven,” I said. “I do not like this war for a woman who is worth nothing, although she has hurt me sorely. I fear the future, that it may prove even worse than the past has been.”