As they neared the stones, Estein’s onset became more furious than ever; sword and shield had to shift up and down, right and left, to guard his storm of blows, and all the while Liot was being driven back the faster towards one place where larger stones than usual had been used to make the ring. In vain he sprang suddenly to one side; Estein was before him, and his blade nearly found its way home. Two paces more Liot gave way, and then his heel struck a boulder. For an instant he lost his balance, and that moment was his last on earth. As the shield shifted, Estein’s sword came full on his neck, and it was only the bairn-slayer’s body that fell without the ring.
“Bring the spades!” cried Ketill—“a fitting enough epitaph for Liot Skulison.”
His conqueror was already in Helgi’s arms.
“I thought I should have had to avenge you, Estein. My heart is light again.”
“Odin has answered me, Helgi.”
“And the spell is broken?”
“No; that spell, I fear, will break only with my death-wound.”
Helgi laughed out of pure light-heartedness.
“There are fair maids in the south lands,” he said.
“I go to Norway,” replied Estein. “I would fain see the pine woods again.”
That evening they saw the Orkneys faint and far away astern, and Estein, as he watched them fade into the dusk, would have given all Norway to hear again the roost run clamorous off the Holy Isle.
In the cell by the roost.
On the rocky shore of the Holy Isle, Osla sat alone. The spell of summer weather had passed from the islands, and in its wake the wind blew keenly from the north, and the grey cloud-drift hurried low overhead. All colour had died out of land and sea; the hills looked naked and the waters cold.
And Vandrad, the sea-rover, had gone with the sunshine—had gone, never so Osla said to herself, to return again.
She rose and tried to give her thoughts a lighter turn, but the note of the north wind smote drearily upon her ears, and she left the sea-shore with a sigh. For seven uneventful years she had found in the sea a friend of whom she never tired, and on the little island duties enough to make the days pass swiftly by. Why should the time now hang heavy on her hands?
She walked slowly to the wind-swept cells. Her father sat within, the blackness of night upon his soul, the Viking fire now burned completely out.
She tried to rouse him, but he answered only in absent monosyllables. Again she sought the solace of the sea, but never, it seemed to her, had it looked so cold and so unfriendly.
“Why did he ever come at all?” she said.
And so the days went by; summer changed to autumn, and autumn gave place to winter. For week after week one gale followed another. For days on end the spin-drift flew in clouds across the island, salt and unceasing.