The dying words of Ragnar had been noised abroad. The priest of Odin had laid them before the oracle of the gods, and this oracle declared that they must be fulfilled without change.
So all the folk of that land met together at my bidding—yes, even the women and the children. First we laid the dead in the largest of Athalbrand’s ships, his people and Athalbrand himself being set undermost. Then on them we set the dead of Thorvald, Thorvald, my father, and his son Ragnar, my brother, bound to the mast upon their feet. This done, with great labour we dragged the ship on to high ground, and above it built a mighty mound of earth. For twenty days we toiled at the task, till at last it was finished and the dead were hidden beneath it for ever. Then we separated to our homes and mourned a while.
But Steinar was carried to the temple of Odin at Aar, and there kept in the prison of the temple.
HOW OLAF FOUGHT WITH ODIN
It was the eve of the Spring Feast of Odin. It comes back to me that at this feast it was the custom to sacrifice some beast to Odin and to lay flowers and other offerings upon the altars of certain other gods that they might be pleased to grant a fruitful season. On this day, however, the sacrifice was to be of no beast, but of a man—Steinar the traitor.
That night I, Olaf, by the help of Freydisa, the priestess of the god, won entrance to the dungeon where Steinar lay awaiting his doom. This was not easy to do. Indeed, I remember that it was only after I had sworn a great oath to Leif and the other priests that I would attempt no rescue of the victim, nor aid him to escape from his prison, that I was admitted there, while armed men stood without to see that I did not break my word. For my love of Steinar was known, and in this matter none trusted me.
That dungeon was a dreadful place. I see it now. In the floor of the temple was a trap-door, which, when lifted, revealed a flight of steps. At the foot of these steps was another massive door of oak, bolted and barred. It was opened and closed behind me, who found myself in a darksome den built of rough stone, to which air came only through an opening in the roof, so small that not even a child could pass it. In the far corner of this hole, bound to the wall by an iron chain fastened round his middle, Steinar lay upon a bed of rushes, while on a stool beside him stood food and water. When I entered, bearing a lamp, Steinar sat up blinking his eyes, for the light, feeble as it was, hurt them, and I saw that his face was white and drawn, and the hand he held to shade his eyes was wasted. I looked at him and my heart swelled with pity, so that I could not speak.
“Why have you come here, Olaf?” asked Steinar when he knew me. “Is it to take my life? If so, never were you more welcome.”
“No, Steinar, it is to bid you farewell, since to-morrow at the feast you die, and I am helpless to save you. In all things else men will obey me, but not in this.”