“You need ale, Estein,” said his opponent; “a man going to fight should be gay.”
“It is more fitting,” replied Helgi, “for the man who comes back to be cheerful.”
“Well said,” said Ketill.
Liot only laughed, and springing ashore before the boat had touched the rocks, cried,—
“I had little thought to have such a pleasant morning. We will finish what we began before, Estein.”
“Ay, we will finish,” said Estein.
They found a wide ring marked off with stones, and in this the two champions took their stand. Each was armed with a helmet and a coat of ring-mail, and bore in his right hand a sword, and in his left a long, heart-shaped shield. Round their waists another sword was girded, though there was likely to be little time to draw this. In height and build they were very equally matched, but men noticed that Estein moved more lightly on his feet.
In a loud voice Ketill proclaimed that whoever should withdraw outside the ring of stones should ever after bear the name of dastard.
Then all went outside the circle, and with a shout Liot sprang at his foe. Estein caught the sword on his shield, and in return delivered such a storm of blows that Liot got no chance for a blow in return. He began to give ground, Estein pressing him hotly, his blade flashing so fast that men could not follow it. It was easily seen that in quickness and dexterity with his weapon Liot was inferior to his foe; but with wary eye and cool head he kept well covered with his shield, shifting his ground all the time. Twice he was nearly driven over the line, but each time saved himself by a rapid side movement.
“I fear that Estein will tire,” muttered Helgi.
“Ay; he has started too hard,” replied Ketill.
It seemed as if they were right. Estein’s blows became less frequent, and Liot in turn attacked hotly. He made as little impression, however, as Estein, and then by mutual consent both men stopped for a minute’s breathing-space.
“You seem tired, Estein,” said Liot.
“Guard yourself,” was the reply, and the fight began again. As before, Estein attacked hotly, Liot steadily giving ground.
“Too hard, too hard! after two sleepless nights he cannot fight long like this,” exclaimed Helgi.
So thought Liot, and he bided his time with patience. He was opposed, however, by one of the best and most determined swordsmen in Norway, and Estein as well as any one knew the risk he ran. He rained in his blows like a hailstorm; but fast though they came, he was sparing his strength, and there was less vigour in his attack than there seemed. He bent all his energies on driving Liot back on the ring, shifting his ground as fast as his foe, heading off his attempts to move round, and all the while watching keenly for an opening.
“He wins, Ketill! he wins!” cried Helgi.
“Ay,” said the black-bearded captain; “there is little skill we can teach Estein.”