“Then come to learn it, Olaf, for what is known need no more be feared.”
“I am not so sure of that,” I said. “But how can the future be learned?”
“Through the voice of the god, Olaf. Am I not one of Odin’s virgins, who know something of the mysteries? Yonder in his temple mayhap he will speak through me, if you dare to listen.”
“Aye, I dare. I should like to hear the god speak, true words or false.”
“Then come and hear them, Olaf.”
So we went up to the temple, and Freydisa, who had the right of entry, unlocked its door. We passed in and lit a lamp in front of the seated wooden image of Odin, that for unnumbered generations had rested there behind the altar. I stood by the altar and Freydisa crouched herself before the image, her forehead laid upon its feet, and muttered runes. After a while she grew silent, and fear took hold of me. The place was large, and the feeble light of the lamp scarcely reached to the arched roof; all about me were great formless shadows. I felt that there were two worlds, one of the flesh and one of the spirit, and that I stood between the two. Freydisa seemed to go to sleep; I could no longer hear her breathing. Then she sighed heavily and turned her head, and by the light of the lamp I noted that her face was white and ghastly.
“What do you seek?” her lips asked, for I saw them moving. Yet the voice that issued from them was not her own voice, but that of a deep-throated man, who spoke with a strange accent.
Next came the answer in the voice of Freydisa.
“I, your virgin, seek to know the fate of him who stands by the altar, one whom I love.”
For a while there was quiet; then the first voice spoke, still through the lips of Freydisa. Of this I was sure, for those of the statue remained immovable. It was what it had always been—a thing of wood.
“Olaf, the son of Thorvald,” said the deep voice, “is an enemy of us the gods, as was his forefather whose grave he robbed. As his forefather’s fate was, so shall his be, for in both of them dwells the same spirit. He shall worship that which is upon the hilt of the sword he stole from the dead, and in this sign shall conquer, since it prevails against us and makes our curse of none effect. Great sorrow shall he taste, and great joy. He shall throw away a sceptre for a woman’s kiss, and yet gain a greater sceptre. Olaf, whom we curse, shall be Olaf the Blessed. Yet in the end shall we prevail against his flesh and that of those who cling to him preaching that which is upon the sword but not with the sword, among whom thou shalt be numbered, woman—thou, and another, who hast done him wrong.”
The voice died away, and was followed by a silence so deep that at length I could bear it no more.
“Ask of the war,” I said, “and of what shall happen.”
“It is too late,” answered the voice of Freydisa. “I sought to know of you, Olaf, and you alone, and now the spirit has left me.”