“Olaf,” she whispered, “I love you, I love you well, as I have always done, though I may have erred a little, as women wayward and still unwed are apt to do. Olaf, they told me yonder how you had matched yourself against the god, with his priests for judges, and smitten him, and I thought this the greatest deed that ever I have known. I used to think you something of a weakling, Olaf, not in your body but in your mind, one lost in music and in runes, who feared to put things to the touch of war; but you have shown me otherwise. You slew the bear; you overcame Steinar, who was so much stronger than you are, in the battle of the ships; and now you have bearded Odin, the All-father. Look, his head lies there, hewn off by you for the sake of one who, after all, had done you wrong. Olaf, such a deed as that touches a woman’s heart, and he who does it is the man she would wish to lie upon her breast and be her lord. Olaf, all this evil past may yet be forgotten. We might go and live elsewhere for awhile, or always, for with your wisdom and my beauty joined together what could we not conquer? Olaf, I love you now as I have never loved before, cannot you love me again?”
Her arms clung about me; her beautiful blue eyes, shimmering with moonlit tears, held my eyes, and my heart melted beneath her breath as winter snows melt in the winds of spring. She saw, she understood; she cast herself upon me, shaking her long hair over both of us, and seeking my lips. Almost she had found them, when, feeling something hard between me and her, something that hurt me, I looked down. Her cloak had slipped or been thrown aside, and my eye caught the glint of gold and jewels. In an instant I remembered—the Wanderer’s necklace and the dream—and with those memories my heart froze again.
“Nay, Iduna,” I said, “I loved you well; there’s no man will ever love you more, and you are very fair. Whether you speak true words or false, I do not know; it is between you and your own spirit. But this I do know: that betwixt us runs the river of Steinar’s blood, aye, and the blood of Thorvald, my father, of Thora, my mother, of Ragnar, my brother, and of many another man who clung to us, and that is a stream which I cannot cross. Find you another husband, Iduna the Fair, since never will I call you wife.”
She loosed her arms from round me, and, lifting them again, unclasped the Wanderer’s necklace from about her breast.
“This it is,” she said, “which has brought all these evils on me. Take it back again, and, when you find her, give it to that one for whom it is meant, that one whom you love truly, as, whatever you may have thought, you never have loved me.”
Then she sank upon the ground, and resting her golden head upon dead Steinar’s breast, she wept.
I think it was then that Freydisa returned; at least, I recall her tall form standing near the stone of sacrifice, gazing at us both, a strange smile on her face.