“Captive! Why captive? Oh, I understand; that he may lie on Odin’s altar. Friends, swear to me that Steinar shall lie on Odin’s altar, Steinar, the bride-thief, Seiner the traitor. Swear it, for I do not trust this brother of mine, who has woman’s milk in his breasts. By Thor, he might spare him if he had his way. Swear it, or I’ll haunt your beds o’ nights and bring the other heroes with me. Swift now, while my ears are open.”
Then from both ships rose the cry of
“We swear! Fear not, Ragnar, we swear.”
“That’s well,” said Ragnar. “Kiss me now, Olaf. Oh! what is it that I see in your eyes? A new light, a strange light! Olaf, you are not one of us. This time is not your time, nor this place your place. You travel to the end by another road. Well, who knows? At that end we may meet again. At least I love you.”
Then he burst into a wild war song of blood and vengeance, and so singing sank down and died.
Afterwards, with much labour, I and the men who were left roped together our vessels, and to them those that we had captured, and when a favouring wind arose, sailed back for Fladstrand. Here a multitude awaited us, for a fishing-boat had brought tidings of the great sea battle. Of the hundred and fifty men who had sailed in my father, Thorvald’s, ships sixty were dead and many others wounded, some of them to death. Athalbrand’s people had fared even worse, since those of Thorvald had slain their wounded, only one of his vessels having escaped back to Lesso, there to tell the people of that island and Iduna all that had happened. Now it was a land of widows and orphans, so that no man need go wooing there for long, and of Aar and the country round the same song was sung. Indeed, for generations the folk of those parts must have told of the battle of Lesso, when the chiefs, Thorvald and Athalbrand, slew each other upon the seas at night because of a quarrel about a woman who was known as Iduna the Fair.
On the sands of Fladstrand my mother, the lady Thora, waited with the others, for she had moved thither before the sailing of the ships. When mine, the first of them, was beached, I leapt from it, and running to her, knelt down and kissed her hand.
“I see you, my son Olaf,” she said, “but where are your father and brother?”
“Yonder, mother,” I answered, pointing to the ships, and could say no more.
“Then why do they tarry, my son?”
“Alas! mother, because they sleep and will never wake again.”
Now Thora wailed aloud and fell down senseless. Three days later she died, for her heart, which was weak, could not bear this woe. Once only did she speak before she died, and then it was to bless me and pray that we might meet again, and to curse Iduna. Folk noted that of Steinar she said nothing, either good or ill, although she knew that he lived and was a prisoner.
Thus it came about that I, Olaf, was left alone in the world and inherited the lordship of Aar and its subject lands. No one remained save my dark-browed uncle, Leif, the priest of Odin, Freydisa, the wise woman, my nurse, and Steinar, my captive foster-brother, who had been the cause of all this war.