“I cannot give you a storm, I fear,” laughed Helgi, “but you can have fighting enough to-night. Liot keeps two hundred men and more about him, and we have here some seventy all told.”
“We have faced greater odds together, Helgi. Life does not seem so fair to me now that I should shrink from odds of three to one. Let us seek Liot wherever he is, and when we have found him, tell him to arm as many men as he can muster. Then let our destiny weave its web for us.”
Helgi laughed again.
“That would be a good revenge—to let Liot slay the men of Estein, a shipload at a time. If Odin wishes us to die, I shall try to meet my fate stoutly, but I shall not help him in the slaying. Nay, Estein, I can devise a better plan than yours.”
Estein smiled for the first time since he had come on board.
“So long as it gives me a good fight with stout foes, and with you at my side, I care not what plan you propose.”
“There speaks yourself again!” cried Helgi; “and I think that ere long you will meddle with my schemes. I will call Ketill and the Orkneyman, and we four will hold council here.”
Ketill, the broad-beamed captain of the ship—the same whose path had been stopped by Atli—a man of few words and stout deeds, and Grim, the Orkneyman, came up to the poop. There they deliberated for long. Helgi was all for fire.
“Let us hear how the men of Liot will sing when they are warm.”
Ketill gave a short laugh.
“I, too, am for burning,” he said.
“We must catch them when they are drinking,” said Grim. “When Liot’s feasts are over many men go to sleep in outhouses round the hall, and we have not force enough here to surround them all at once.”
“I will have no more burnings,” said Estein.
“When had we our last?” asked Helgi. “You speak as though we had done naught but burn foes all our lives. We have never had a burning before, Estein, and it is better to begin as the burners than the burned.”
“I have lately heard tell of another. It is no work for brave men.”
Helgi shrugged his shoulders.
“Let us drown them then,” he said.
Ketill gave another short, gruff laugh.
“Nay, Ketill, I am not jesting; in truth I am in little humour for that. If seventy brave men cannot clear a hall of two hundred drinkers, what virtue lies in stout hearts and sharp swords? We will enter the hall, you from one end and I from the other, and I think the men of Liot Skulison will not have to complain of too peaceful an evening.”
“We must catch them, then, while they are feasting. Afterwards it will be too late, with only seventy men,” the wary Grim replied.
“We can choose our hour,” said Estein; “and whatever plan we fall on, it seems we must be in time.”
Helgi laughed lightly.
“I thought you would leave us little say, Estein, when once you were aroused,” he said. “’Tis all the same to me. Fire, sword, or water—choose what you will, you will always find me by your side; and if you must go to Valhalla, why, I will blithely bear you company.”