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´╗┐Title: Olaf the Glorious: A Story of the Viking Age
Author: Leighton, Robert, 1859-1934
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Olaf the Glorious: A Story of the Viking Age" ***

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The following narrative is not so much a story as a biography. My hero
is not an imaginary one; he was a real flesh and blood man who reigned
as King of Norway just nine centuries ago. The main facts of his
adventurous career--his boyhood of slavery in Esthonia, his life at the
court of King Valdemar, his wanderings as a viking, the many battles he
fought, his conversion to Christianity in England, and his ultimate
return to his native land--are set forth in the various Icelandic sagas
dealing with the period in which he lived. I have made free use of
these old time records, and have added only such probable incidents as
were necessary to give a continuous thread of interest to the
narrative. These sagas, like the epics of Homer, were handed down from
generation to generation by word of mouth, and they were not committed
to writing until a long time after Olaf Triggvison's death, so that it
is not easy to discriminate between the actual facts as they occurred
and the mere exaggerated traditions which must surely have been added
to the story of his life as it was told by the old saga men at their
winter firesides. But in most instances the records corroborate each
other very exactly, and it may be taken that the leading incidents of
the story are historically true.

The Icelandic sagas have very little to say concerning Olaf
Triggvison's unsuccessful invasion of England, and for this part of the
story I have gone for my facts to the English chronicles of the time,
wherein frequent allusion to him is made under such names as Anlaf,
Olave, and Olaff. The original treaty of peace drawn up between King
Ethelred the Second and Olaf still exists to fix the date of the
invasion, while the famous battle of Maldon, in which the Norse
adventurer gained a victory over the East Anglians, is described at
length by a nameless contemporary poet, whose "Death of Brihtnoth"
remains as one of the finest of early English narrative poems, full of
noble patriotism and primitive simplicity.

I have given no dates throughout these pages, but for the convenience
of readers who may wish for greater exactness it may be as well to
state here that Olaf was born A.D. 963, that he started on his
wanderings as a viking in the year 981, that the sea fight between the
vikings of Jomsburg and the Norwegians took place in 986, and the
battle of Maldon in the year 991. Olaf reigned only five years as King
of Norway, being crowned in 995, and ending his reign with his death in
the glorious defeat at Svold in the year 1000.



It happened in the beginning of the summer that Sigurd Erikson
journeyed north into Esthonia to gather the king's taxes and tribute.
His business in due course brought him into a certain seaport that
stood upon the shores of the great Gulf of Finland.

He was a very handsome man, tall and strong, with long fair hair and
clear blue eyes. There were many armed servants in his following, for
he was a person of great consequence, and was held in high honour
throughout the land.

He rode across the marketplace and there alighted from his horse, and
turned his eyes towards the sea. Before him stretched the rippling,
sunlit bay with its wooded holms. A fleet of fishing boats was putting
out with the flood tide, and some merchant vessels lay at anchor under
shelter of the green headland.

Nearer to the strand a long dragonship, with a tall gilded prow rising
high above the deck tent, was moored against a bank of hewn rock that
served as a wharf. At sight of the array of white shields along this
vessel's bulwarks his eyes brightened, for he knew that she was a
viking ship from his own birth land in distant Norway, and he was glad.
Not often did it chance that he could hold speech with the bold
warriors of the fiords.

Close by the ship there was a noisy crowd of men and boys. He strode
nearer to them, and heard the hoarse voices of the vikings calling out
in loud praise of a feat that had been performed by someone in their
midst. Sigurd joined the crowd, and saw a boy step out upon the
vessel's narrow gangplank, and there, standing between the ship and the
shore, begin to throw a knife high up into the sunny air, catching it
as it fell.

It seemed that the lad was of good station, for his clothing was of
finely woven cloth, and there was a gold neckband to his kirtle, and
his long black hair was well combed and curled. Thrice he threw up his
glittering knife high above his head and deftly caught it again. But
soon, thinking perhaps to excel those who had gone before him, he took
a second knife from his belt, and juggled with them both with such
skill that the shipmen watching him from under the awning swore by the
hammer of Thor that the feat could never be surpassed.

"Well done, well done!" they shouted. And the boys on the bank cried
out, "Well done, Rekoni!"

At this the youth put fuller strength into his arms and flung the
knives yet higher into the air. But his ambition for the praise of the
warriors was greater than his caution, for, in reaching forward to
catch one of the weapons, he lost his balance and fell headlong into
the deep green water beneath. And as he swam to shore the vikings
laughed aloud, and some who had thought of giving him a reward put back
their gold into their wallets and turned away.

Now, very close to where Sigurd Erikson was there stood two boys, whose
close cropped hair and dress of coarse white vadmal showed them to be
slaves. One of them was a tall, gaunt youth, with pale thin cheeks and
large sad eyes. He was fair of skin, and by this Sigurd knew that he
was not an Esthonian. His companion seemed about twelve winters old,
sturdy and broad backed, with very fair hair. His neck and bare strong
arms were burnt by the sun to a ruddy brown. Sigurd could not see his
face, and might not have noticed him had not the elder lad urged him
forward, bidding him step upon the plank and show his skill.

"Not I," said the younger, with an impatient toss of his cropped head.
And he thrust his thumbs into his belt and drew back. "Too much have I
already done in bidding Rekoni try the feat. Well is it for me that he
is not hurt by his fall into the sea, else would his father's whip be
about my back. Even as the matter stands, my master will surely stop my
food for having left his sheep to stray upon the hills."

"I had but wished to see you succeed where your master's son has
failed," sighed the elder lad. And at this the boy turned round and
said more softly:

"Well, Thorgils, for your pleasure will I do it, and not for the
vikings' praise. Lend me your dirk."

So he took the knife from Thorgils' belt, and, leaving the crowd,
walked boldly to the end of the gangplank. Here he rubbed the soles of
his bare feet in the dust and then stepped to the middle of the narrow

"Now what thinks this child that he can do?" cried one of the vikings.

The boy turned sharply and looked at the man who had spoken. He was a
tall, red bearded man, whose nose was flat against his scarred, bronzed
face. At sight of him the boy drew back a pace as if in fear.

"Ay. What thinks the babe that he can do?" echoed another of the
warriors. But those who were nearer made no answer, for they saw that
the boy was very agile and strong beyond his years.

Sigurd watched him as he took his stand on the plank. The sunlight
shone upon his fair young face. His clear blue eyes flashed like stars
under his knitted brows. He ran his fingers over his short yellow hair,
and then, turning with his back to the sun, flung one of his knives
high up into the air. As it turned in its descent he flung a second
knife, then caught the first and again threw it high--higher even than
the vane on the ship's tall mast. He stood with his bare feet firmly
gripping the plank, and his head thrown back, and his lithe, well
balanced body swaying in regular movement with his arms. Then as the
two gleaming weapons were well in play, rising and falling in quick
succession, one of his hands went to his belt, and he drew yet a third
knife and plied it in turn with the other two.

At this there was a murmur of praise from both ship and shore, and the
vikings declared that never before had they seen one so young display
such skill. And all the while Sigurd Erikson kept his eyes upon the
lad's glowing, upturned face.

"Who is this child?" he asked of the tall youth at his side. But the
sad eyed Thorgils paid no heed to the question, but only crept nearer
to the end of the gangboard, and stood there earnestly watching. As he
looked at the ship's bulwarks he caught sight of the man with the red
beard and broken nose--the chief of the vikings,--and he cried out to
his companion:

"Enough, Ole, enough!"

Then the boy caught his knives and thrust them one by one into his
belt, and, turning shoreward, strode quickly down the plank and made
his way through the cheering crowd, followed by Thorgils. Many of the
vikings called him back with offers of reward, and Sigurd Erikson tried
to arrest him as he passed. But the young slave only gave a careless
laugh and ran swiftly away.

Now it seemed that Sigurd had a mind to go after him. But as he was
leaving the crowd he met a certain rich merchant of the town, and he

"Tell me, Biorn, who is this yellow haired lad that has just proved
himself so skilful at the knife feat? And whence came he into Esthonia?"

The merchant shook his head and said:

"He is a wild and wilful loon, hersir, and of no account to any man. As
to his feat with the knives, had I my will I'd have it instant death to
any thrall who should so much as touch a sharpened weapon."

"By his looks I would judge him to be Norway born," said Sigurd.

"That may well be," returned the merchant, "for it is true that he came
with the west wind. It was I who bought him from the vikings, with
another of his kind--one Thorgils, who is to this day my bond slave. I
bought them in exchange for a good he goat from Klerkon Flatface. Very
soon I found the younger lad was worthless. There was little that I
could do with him; so I sold him to a dalesman named Reas, who gave me
a very fine rain cloak for him; nor do I rue my bargain, for the cloak
is still in use and the lad is scarcely of the value of his food and

"How do men name the lad?" inquired Sigurd. "And whose son is he?"

"Whose son he may be is no concern of mine," answered the merchant.
"Some viking's brat, it may be; for he has the viking spirit in him,
and the salt of the sea is in his veins. No landman can tame him. As to
his name, if ever he had one, 'tis certain he has none now, and is only
known as Reasthrall, for he is the thrall of Reas the bonder."

"If it be that Reas will sell his thrall," said Sigurd, "then I would
willingly buy the lad, and take him back with me into Holmgard as an
offering to the Queen Allogia."

"Think twice ere you act so unkindly towards the queen," said the
merchant. "A goodlier gift for Allogia would surely be the jewelled
brooch that I showed you yesternight; and you shall have it very cheap.
The price is but twelve gold marks."

But before Sigurd could reply a heavy hand was laid upon his shoulder,
and a gruff voice called out his name. He turned and saw at his side
the tall red bearded viking chief, whose broken nose and coarse scarred
face were now shielded from the sun's rays by a wide hat made of dry

"Well met, Hersir Sigurd!" said the warrior. "And what lordly business
brings you north to the coast? 'Tis long since last we met--not since
the yuletide feast at Holmgard, two winters back, when we had the horse
fight. How fares the Flanders mare that won such glory at that time?"

"A sickness killed her," answered Sigurd. "But I have a foal in
training that will soon beat any horse in Holmgard; ay, even in Norway.
So if you have a mind to see a good horse fight, come when you will
with the best horses you can find. I wager you that mine will beat them

"If I meet not my death before the end of the cruising season," said
the viking, "then will I engage to bring you the best horse in all the
Norseland to fight against." He looked among the crowd of boys that
still loitered near the ship, and added--"Where has the youngster gone
who stood just now upon the plank? He has in him the makings of a good
war man. Such lads as he are scarce, and I would buy him if he be for

And then the merchant spoke.

"Why," said he, addressing the viking, "'tis but six summers since that
you sold that self same boy, here on this marketplace. 'Twas I who
bought him from you, Klerkon. Have you forgotten the white haired he
goat that you got from me?"

"Life is too full for me to keep mind of such small events," answered
Klerkon. "But since the lad is yours, what price do you now put upon

"Nay, he is no chattel of mine," said the merchant. "He is the thrall
of goodman Reas, over in Rathsdale--a morning's walk from here. If you
would deal with him a guide will soon be got to take you over the hill."

"Young flesh will keep," returned the warrior. "I will buy the lad next
time we come to Esthonia."

Sigurd said: "It may be that ere that time he will already be sold,
Jarl Klerkon; for it chances that I also have taken a fancy to him."

"In that case," said the viking, "we may make him the stake to be
fought for in our coming horse fight. And if my horse overcomes yours,
then the lad shall be my prize, and I will make a viking of him."

"And how if the victory be mine and not yours?" asked Sigurd.

"You shall have value equal to the boy, be assured of that, hersir."

"Agreed," said Sigurd. "And now, what news have you from west over sea?"

"Ill news and good. There has fallen a great famine in Norway. In
Thrandheim the folk are dying for lack of corn and fish, and in
Halogaland the snow has lain over the valleys nigh until midsummer, so
that all the livestock have been bound in stall and fed upon birch
buds. Men lay the famine to the account of Gunnhild's sons, who are
over greedy of money and deal hardly with the husbandmen. There is
little peace in the land, for the kings are for ever quarrelling over
their jointures; but it seems that Harald Greyfell is having the upper
hand over his brothers. Little joy is there in ruling over a realm
these days. I had rather be as I am, an honest sea rover."

"Doubtless the viking life is, after all, the most joyful that a man
can live," said Sigurd. "How fare our friends at Jomsburg?"

"Right well, as always," answered Klerkon. "Sigvaldi has built himself
a fine new dragonship of five and twenty seats, and the Jomsvikings now
number in all seven times ten hundred men. They speak of making a sally
across the sea to Angle land, where there is corn and ale in plenty,
with fine clothes, good arms, and vessels of silver and gold to be won;
for these Christian folk are very rich, and there is abundance of
treasure in their churches, with many a golden bowl and well wrought
drinking horn as booty for those who are bold enough to make the

"But these Angles are good fighting men, I hear," said Sigurd. "And
they have many well built ships."

"They are ill matched against the vikings, with all their ships,"
returned Klerkon. "And I am told that their king is a man of peace;
Edgar the Peaceable, they name him. And talking of kings, how fares
King Valdemar?"

"As sunny as a summer's noon," answered Sigurd.

"Come, then, on board my ship, and let us pledge to him in a full horn
of mead," said the viking. And he drew Sigurd with him across the
gangplank, and they went below and sat drinking until one of the
shipmen standing on the vessel's lypting, or poop deck, sounded a
shrill horn as a sign that the ship was about to leave the harbour.

Then Sigurd came ashore and went about the town on the king's business,
and he thought no more of the yellow haired slave boy until the evening

It chanced then that he was again beside the sea.

Down there on the shore he stood alone, idly watching the white winged
seabirds--some floating in their own reflections on the calm pools of
water left by the outgoing tide, others seeking food amid the green and
crimson weeds that lay in bright patches on the rocks--and often he
turned his eyes in the direction of the setting sun, where, in the mid
sea, Jarl Klerkon's dragonship moved slowly outward, with her wet oars
glistening in the rosy light.

Suddenly from behind him there came a merry childish laugh, and he
turned quickly round, and saw very near to him the white clothed slave
boy of the gangplank. The lad was standing at the brink of a deep pool
of seawater, and had, as it seemed, started a fleet of empty mussel
shells to float upon the calm surface. He was dropping pebbles from his
full hand into the water, to give movement to the tiny boats.

Sigurd stepped quietly behind him, and then said:

"Why do you thus set these shells to sail?"

The boy looked up in surprise, and his blue eyes rested for a long time
upon the tall strange man. Then he answered:

"Because, hersir, they are my warships, setting out upon a viking

At this Sigurd smiled.

"It may be, my boy," said he, "that you will yourself command great
ships of war in time to come."

"That is what I should wish," said the boy, "for then I might take
blood vengeance upon my enemies."

"Not often do I hear one so young thus speak of enemies," said Sigurd.
"What is your age?"

"Ten winters."

"And your name?"

The boy looked up once more into the stranger's face, and at his large
crested helmet of bronze and gold. He glanced, too, at the man's great
sword and his cloak of rich blue cloth, and guessed rightly that he was
of noble rank. There was a smile upon his lips, and his eyes were
tender and kindly, winning confidence.

"My name is Olaf," answered the boy.

"Whose son?" asked Sigurd.

At this question Olaf turned aside, threw his pebbles away into the
water, and wiped his wet hands on his coarse kirtle. Then stepping
nearer to the stranger he stood upright and said, almost in a whisper,
as though fearing that even the seagulls might overhear him:

"I am King Triggvi's son."

Sigurd drew back with a little start.

"King Triggvi's son!" he echoed in surprise. And then he looked yet
more keenly into the boy's face, as if to seek some likeness there.

"Even so," returned Olaf. "And what of that? Little good can it do me
to be a king's son if I am also a slave, made to work hard for my daily
portion of black bread and tough horse flesh. Triggvi is in Valhalla,
with Harald Fairhair and the rest of them, and he cannot help me now.
But Odin be thanked, he died not like a cow upon a bed of straw, but
with sword in hand like a brave good man."

"A brave good man in truth he was," said Sigurd. "But tell me, boy,
what token have you to prove that you are indeed the child of Triggvi
Olafson? You are but ten winters old, you say; and yet, as I reckon it,
Triggvi was slain full ten winters back. How can I know the truth of
what you tell?"

"No token have I but my bare words," answered Olaf proudly.

Sigurd caught him by the hand and led him up the beach to a ledge of
rock, and sat him down before him, bidding him tell how it came about
that he was here in bondage in a foreign land.

So Olaf answered him thus:

"I came into the world an orphan," said he, "and never heard my
father's voice. But my mother bade me ever remember that I was a king's
son, and to make myself worthy. Astrid was the name of my mother. She
was the daughter of Erik Biodaskalli, who dwelt at Ofrestead, in the
Uplands, a mighty man. Now, after the slaying of Triggvi, Queen Astrid
was forced to fly from the realm of Viken, lest she too should fall
into the hands of Gunnhild and her wicked sons and be slain. And she
travelled as a fugitive through many lands. In her company was her
foster father, Thoralf Loosebeard by name. He never departed from her,
but always helped her and defended her wheresoever she went. There were
many other trusty men in her train, so no harm came to her. And at last
she took refuge on a certain islet in the middle of Rand's fiord, and
lay hidden there for many days. On that islet I was born, and I am told
that they sprinkled me with water and named me Olaf, after my father's
father. There, through the summer tide she stayed in safety. But when
the days grew short and the nights weary and long, and when the wintry
weather came upon us, then she left her hiding place and set forth with
her folk into the Uplands, travelling under the shelter of night. And
after many hardships and dangers she came to Ofrestead, her father's
dwelling, and there we abode through the winter.

"Little do I remember of these matters, which befell while yet I was a
babe in arms. This that I tell you was taught to me by Thorgils, my
foster brother, who is the thrall of Biorn the merchant; and he can
tell you more than I know, for he is older than I, and the son of our
faithful Thoralf. Thorgils has said that when Gunnhild got tidings that
I had come into the world she sent forth many armed messengers, and
bade them fare into the Uplands in search of this son of King Triggvi,
that they might prevent my growing up to manhood and claiming my
father's realm. But in good time the friends of Erik were aware of the
messengers; so Erik arrayed Astrid for departure, and gave her good
guides, and sent her east--away into the Swede realm to one Hakon
Gamle, a friend of his and a man of might, with whom we abode in all
welcome for a long while."

"And what then?" urged Sigurd. For the boy had paused, and had pulled a
tangle of brown seaweed from the rock where he was sitting, and was
cracking the little air bladders between his fingers.

"Now it chanced," continued Olaf, "that even again Queen Gunnhild
secretly learned our hiding place. So she sent a goodly company east to
the Swede king with good gifts and fair words, asking that he might
send Olaf Triggvison back with them into Norway, where Gunnhild would
foster me, and bring me up as became a king's son. And the king sent to
Ofrestead. But my mother Astrid knew that there was treachery in
this--for in like manner had Gunnhild beguiled my father,--and she
would by no means let me go into the care' of my father's murderers,
and so Gunnhild's messengers went back empty handed.

"By this time I was full three winters old and strong of limb, and my
mother took me on board a trading ship that was eastward bound for
Gardarike; for in that land her brother was a great man, and she knew
that he would gladly succour us until I should be of an age to avenge
my father's death and claim my rightful heritage."

At these words Sigurd grew very grave, and he put his hand gently on
Olaf's arm, and asked to know what ill had befallen Queen Astrid, and
whether she had reached her journey's end.

"Alas!" answered Olaf. "You ask me what I cannot tell. Would that I
knew her to be still living! But never once have I seen her or heard
tidings of her since the dread day when we were brought into this land
and sold into bondage."

As he spoke the lad looked sadly over the sea to where the viking ship
was slowly drifting into the shadow of the holms. Sigurd's eyes dwelt
upon him with curious intentness.

"We set sail across the Eastern Sea," Olaf went on "and there were many
merchants on our ship with great store of money and rich merchandise.
And, as always, Thoralf and his son Thorgils were with us. Now,
scarcely was our vessel beyond the sight of land when we were met by a
great viking ship, that bore down quickly upon us, and attacked our
seamen, first with arrows and stones, and then with spear and sword,
and there was great fighting. So the vikings killed many of our people,
and took our ship and all that was in it. When we had been made
captives the rovers took and shared us among themselves as their bond
slaves, and it befell that my mother and I were parted. An Esthonian
named Klerkon Flatface got me as his portion, along with Thoralf and
Thorgils. Klerkon deemed Thoralf over old for a thrall, and could not
see any work in him, so he cruelly slew him before our eyes and cast
his body into the sea. But he had us two lads away with him, and he
sold us here in the marketplace in exchange for a white goat. Then,
being companions in our misfortune, Thorgils and I swore foster
brotherhood, and we took an oath in handshaking that when we grew
strong enough we would go out upon the sea and take vengeance upon the
man who had slain old faithful Thoralf."

Sigurd pointed outward to the ship that was afar off upon the dim

"Jarl Klerkon, of whom you speak," said he, "is now upon yonder ship."

"And well do I know it," returned Olaf. "Today when I stood upon the
vessel's gangplank I saw him standing on the lypting; and I knew him by
the token that his nose was flat against his face. I had a mind to
throw one of my knives at him, but there were over many of his men
around, who would soon have overpowered me had I been so rash. And
now," the boy added, as he glanced up at the darkening sky, "it is time
that I go back to the hills to gather my master's sheep into the fold,
for the night will be dark, and wolves will be about. Too long already
have I tarried here."

And before Sigurd could put out his hand to detain him Olaf had bounded
up the rocks, and was soon lost to sight.


On the next morning, as the red sun rose above the mist capped hills of
Rathsdale, Olaf was at work among his master's swine, cleaning out the
styes and filling them with new straw. As he worked he asked himself
who the tall man could be who had spoken with him last night upon the
beach, and he began to regret that he had told so much, believing now
that the stranger might be an enemy--perhaps even a spy of the wicked
Queen Gunnhild, who had so often sought to add to her own security by
clearing her path of all who had power to dispute her rights. Gunnhild
was a very wily woman, and it might well be that she had secretly
discovered the abiding place of the young son of King Triggvi, and that
she had sent this man into Esthonia to entrap him.

"Never again shall I be so free in telling my story to a stranger,"
said Olaf to himself. "Thorgils was wise to counsel me to keep secret
my kinship with Triggvi Olafson. When I am a man, and can fight my own
battles, then it will be time enough to lay claim to my father's realm;
and it may be that if I remain in thraldom till that time no one will
guess who I am. As a thrall, then, I must work, even though that work
be no better than the cleaning of my master's stables and pig
styes--Get back, you greedy grunter!"

This last command was addressed to a great bristly boar that brushed
past the boy and made its way to the bed of new straw. Olaf caught the
animal by its hind leg and struggled with it for a moment, until the
boar was thrown heavily on its side, squealing and kicking furiously.
Then three of the other pigs rushed forward, and one knocked against
the lad with such force that he fell on his knees. This made him very
angry, and he rose quickly to his feet and wrestled with the pigs,
driving them back with blows of his clenched hands. But the boar was
not easily turned. It stood stubbornly glaring at him with its small
bloodshot eyes, then suddenly charged at him with a savage roar. Olaf
leapt up, but too slowly, for his left foot was caught by the boar's
high back, and he rolled over in the mire. And now his wrath got the
better of him, and he leapt at the boar with a wild cry, seizing its
ears in his two hands. Then they struggled together for many minutes,
now rolling over, now breaking asunder and again returning to the
charge. But at last Olaf gained the mastery, and his adversary lay
panting and exhausted on the coveted straw. Olaf sat upon the animal's
side with his bare foot upon its snout. His arm was bleeding, and there
was a long scratch upon his cheek. But he did not heed his wounds, for
he had conquered.

As he sat thus a shadow moved across the yellow straw. He raised his
eyes, and beheld the faces of two men, who looked down upon him from
over the barrier of the pig sty. One of the men was his master, Reas.
The other he quickly recognized as the tall man who had spoken with him
last night. Sigurd Erikson was seated on a beautiful white horse, and
he was arrayed as for a long journey.

"This is the boy you mean," said Reas, as Olaf rose and went on with
his work--"an ill favoured loon you will think him. But had I expected
you I should have seen that he had been well washed and decently
clothed. If you would have him for hard labour, however, he is at least
strong, and I will warrant you that he is healthy, and has no bodily
faults. It may be that he is a little wild and wilful, but you can tame
him, and a sound flogging will do him no harm, as I have ofttimes
found. What price do you offer for him, hersir?"

Olaf looked up in anxious surprise, wondering if in truth the stranger
had come to buy him, so that he might carry him off to the wicked Queen

"I will give you two silver marks for him," said Sigurd, "and that is
the value of a full grown man slave."

Reas demurred, looking at Olaf as if regretting that the lad was not
more presentable.

"No," he said at last. "You will not find such a thrall as he in every
day's march. If he were but a little cleaner you would see that he is a
very pretty boy. Look at his eyes--keen as a young snake's! Why, no
woman's eyes are more beautiful! Look at his skin, there where his
kirtle is torn. Is it not fair? And he is skilled in many feats. My own
son Rekoni is not more clever than he. He can run for half a day
without being wearied. He can climb the highest pine tree in
Rathsdale--as he did last seed time to harry a bluejay's nest; and no
seamew can swim more lightly on the water."

"As to his climbing," said Sigurd, with a curious look in his blue
eyes, "I do not doubt that he will some day climb much higher than you
list. But swimming is of little avail where there is no sea. And if he
runs so well there is all the more danger of his running away. I think
you will be well paid if I give you two silver marks. But since you set
so high a value on him for his beauty and his skill, then I give you in
addition this little ring of gold for your good wife's wearing. What
say you?"

"It is a bargain!" said Reas, eagerly grasping the ring that Sigurd
took from his belt pouch; "and you may take the lad at once."

Olaf drew back to the far corner of the pig sty. There was a frown on
his brow, and his blue eyes flashed in quick anger.

"I will not go!" he said firmly, and he made a rapid movement to leap
over the barrier; but he forgot the wound in his arm, and the pain of
it made him so awkward that Reas caught him by his wrists and held him
there until Sigurd, springing from his horse, came and put an iron
chain round the lad's neck. Then the two men forcibly drew him to the
gate of the pig sty. So, when Reas had opened the gate, Sigurd, who was
a very powerful man, caught Olaf in his arms and carried him to the
horse's side, and, holding the end of the chain, mounted. Olaf
struggled a little to free himself, but finding the chain secure about
his neck, resolved to await a better chance of escape. Then Sigurd gave
Reas the two silver marks in payment of his purchase, and urged his
horse to a quick walk, dragging Olaf behind him.

Very soon Reas and his straggling farmstead were hidden from sight
behind a clump of tall pine trees. Then Sigurd halted at the side of a
little stream.

"You have done well," he said to Olaf, "in thus coming away with
seeming unwillingness. But do not suppose that I value you so lightly
as did your late master, who thinks, foolish man, that you are no
better than many another bond slave whom he might buy in the
marketplace. Had Reas exacted an hundred gold marks instead of two
paltry marks of silver, I should willingly have given him them."

"And why?" asked Olaf with a frown. "Is it that you think to take me
west to Norway, and cast me like a young goat among wolves? I had
thought when you so blandly spoke to me yesternight that you were a man
of honour. Haply Queen Gunnhild would reward you well if you should
deliver me into her clutches. But this you shall never do!"

"Rash boy," said Sigurd as he stroked his horse's mane, "do you not
recognize a friend when you meet one? Or is friendship so strange to
you that you take all men to be your enemies?"

"Enmity comes so often in the guise of friendship," said Olaf, "that it
is well to be wary. I had been wiser last night if I had refused to
speak with you."

"The time will soon come," said Sigurd, "when you will not be sorry
that you so spoke. But I will warn you that it may go very ill with you
if you tell your story to all strangers as you told it to me."

Olaf was perplexed. He looked into the man's face and saw only kindness
there, and yet there was something very suspicious in the stranger's
eagerness to possess him.

"If you are indeed my friend," said the boy, "why do you keep this
chain about my neck? Why do you drag me after you like a dog?"

"Because I am not willing that you should escape me," answered Sigurd.
"But if you will shake my hand and tell me that you will not run away,
then I will take off your chain and you shall ride in front of me on my
horse. You are King Triggvi's son, and I know that, once spoken, your
word will be sacred."

Now, Olaf had never taken any man's hand since he swore foster
brotherhood with Thorgils Thoralf son. He looked upon handshaking as a
most solemn covenant, only to be made when great matters were at stake.
Also, he had never yet told or acted a lie, or been false to anyone. He
answered promptly:

"No, I will not take your hand. Neither will I give you my word that I
shall not escape from you very soon. You may keep the chain about my
neck. It is more easily broken than my promise."

Sigurd looked at the lad and smiled.

"I think," he said, "that I would admire you even more if you were a
little cleaner. Here is a stream of water. Get in and wash yourself."

"I cannot take off my clothes without removing the chain," said Olaf,
"and if the chain be removed I shall run away to where even your horse
cannot follow me. But if you will give me one boon I will promise you
that I will wash myself clean and then come back to the chain."

"What is your boon?" asked Sigurd.

"It is," said Olaf, "that since I am now your lawful thrall, and must
go with you wheresoever you wish, you will go to Biorn the merchant and
buy from him my foster brother Thorgils."

Sigurd leapt from his horse and at once unfastened the chain from
Olaf's neck, and even helped him to draw off his kirtle and woollen
sark. And when Olaf stood before him naked, Sigurd drew back amazed at
the pure fairness of his skin, the firmness of his well knitted
muscles, and the perfect beauty of his form.

In the stream near which they had halted there was a deep, clear pool
of water, with a high cascade tumbling into it in creamy foam. Olaf ran
lightly over the mossy boulders and plunged into the pool, as though he
knew it well. Sigurd watched him rolling and splashing there in
childish delight. Sometimes the boy seemed lost in the brown depths of
the water, but soon his white body would be seen gliding smoothly along
under the surface, and then emerging amid the spray of the waterfall,
where the shafts of sunlight made a rainbow arc. And at last Olaf came
out and ran swiftly backward and forward on the grassy level until he
was dry. Then returning to his new master he took up his woollen sark.
But his kirtle was gone.

Sigurd said: "I have thrown it away, for it is not well that a king's
son should wear a garment that is sullied by the marks of slavery."

He took off from his own shoulders a riding cloak of scarlet cloth and
added, "Take this cloak and wear it. And when we reach the town I will
buy you more fitting clothes, with sandals for your feet, and a cap to
shield your head from the sun."

Olaf blushed, and took the cloak and put it over him, saying nothing.
Then he caught up an end of the chain and signed to his master to
fasten it about his neck. Signed fastened it and then remounted his

They had gone a little distance seaward down the dale when they were
met by three armed horsemen, who seemed to have been waiting for them.
Sigurd gave Olaf into their keeping, bidding them guard him well, and
himself rode on in advance. Soon from the top of a hill they came in
sight of the blue sea, and then the little town with its wooden huts
nestling at the foot of the cliffs.

When they entered the town, two of Sigurd's servants took Olaf with
them to the house of a certain merchant, where they gave him some
roasted eggs and wheaten bread, and there they kept him until after
noontide, never speaking to him, but only watching him while they
played countless games of chess and drank many horns of ale.

Now Olaf, as he sat on the floor, chained to the door post, set to
wondering where his new master intended taking him to, and he could
think of no likely destination but Norway. Why else should this man
have bought him but to deliver him to Gunnhild? So thereupon he began
to question how he could escape. And he determined in his mind very
quickly, that when they were on the sea he would free himself from his
chain and jump overboard and swim to land. But then came the thought
that if he did this he would be quite alone in the world, and no one
would ever believe him if he told them that he was the son of Triggvi
Olafson, and perhaps he would again be taken into slavery. If Thorgils
were with him they might do very well together, because Thorgils was
full of the world's wisdom, and could by his wit earn food and shelter
until they were both old enough and skilled enough to join some viking
ship and win renown and power. But if Thorgils was to be left behind in
Esthonia then it would not be so easy. Nothing could be done without
Thorgils. So then Olaf thought it would be much wiser in him to try to
escape at once, before he should be taken on board ship.

The chain was tight about his neck and it was fastened behind, so that
he could not loosen it without arousing the men's suspicions by the
noise it would make. He looked at the other end of it, and saw it was
so fastened that he might easily undo it. Little by little he crept
nearer to the post as the men went on with their game. Before he could
do more, however, there was the sound of horse's feet outside. The two
men sprang up from their seats. One of them went to the door and
presently returned with a bundle of clothes, which he threw down on the
floor, bidding Olaf dress himself. Olaf saw at once that the garments
were of very fine woven cloth, and he wondered much. Even his old
master's son Rekoni had never worn such rich attire as this, and it was
passing strange that he, a bond slave, should be told to clothe himself
in such finery.

He was dressing himself--albeit with great trouble, for the things were
strange to him who had hitherto worn naught but a poor slave's
kirtle--when a shrill horn was sounded from without. Then one of the
men came and helped him to lace his sandals and to don his cloak, and
hurried him out into the courtyard. Here were three horses waiting. The
men pointed to one of them, a shaggy brown pony, and told Olaf to mount.

"I cannot ride," said the boy.

"You will be able to ride long before you reach our journey's end,"
returned the man. "And, lest you should be afraid of falling off, you
will be tied with strong ropes to the horse's back."

"I had rather walk," objected Olaf.

"Slaves must obey their masters," said the man; and he took hold of the
boy to help him to mount. But Olaf drew quickly aside with a flash of
rebellion in his eyes.

Now at that moment a company of horsemen came in sight, led by Sigurd
Erikson, and followed by many mules that were laden with bags of food
and merchandise. All the men were well armed with swords and spears,
bows and arrows. The sight of so many horses at once showed Olaf that
the journey, whatever its destination, was to be made by land. As they
came nearer and halted, his eyes quickly searched among the men for
Thorgils Thoralfson. Yes, there indeed was his foster brother, mounted
on one of the pack mules, with the sunlight falling on his white kirtle
and downbent head! Then Olaf grew calm, for his master had kept his
promise, and it mattered little where he was to be taken now that
Thorgils was to be with him in his bondage. Sometime--not today,
perhaps,--they would have a chance of speaking together and of
contriving an escape.

Sigurd, seated on his beautiful white horse, looked like a king
surrounded by his bodyguard. He watched Olaf springing on the pony's
back, and saw the men securing the boy with ropes. One of the men took
the end of the chain, while the other held the pony's halter; and thus,
with a mounted guard on each side of him, the young slave was led out
through the gates.

Very soon the little town in which he had lived in bondage for seven
long years, and the sea that he loved so well, were left far behind.
Sigurd and his followers rode southward over the hills, and then
through long dreary dales, that were strewn with large boulder stones
that made travelling very difficult. There was only a narrow horse
track to guide them, and soon even this was lost in the rank herbage,
and the land became a wild desolate waste without sign of human
dwelling, but only the bare rugged hills, with here and there a thread
of water streaming down them into the lower land. Olaf began to feel
very weary, and the jolting of the pony over the rough ground became
painful to his untrained limbs. But at last the hot sun sank in a blaze
of gold, and the first day's journey came to an end.

A halt was made within the shelter of a vast forest of pine trees, at
the side of a wide, deep stream. Here the horses and mules were
unburdened and allowed to wander, with dogs to watch them lest they
strayed too far. Some of the men then set to raising tents, others
gathered cones and dry twigs to build a fire, while two mounted guard
over their master's moneybags. When all was ready, food and drink were
served round to all alike.

At nightfall, Olaf and Thorgils, still chained, were put to sleep on a
bed of dry ferns. Near them was another slave, a young man who seemed
to be of a foreign land. They watched him silently until he was asleep,
then as they lay there with the stars shining down upon them through
the dark tree branches, they questioned one the other concerning what
had happened to them that day. Olaf asked Thorgils if he had heard the
name of their new master.

"No," answered Thorgils. "Nor can I guess why it is that he has bought
us. All that I know is that he is a Norseman, and that he is very rich."

"I can only think," said Olaf, "that he intends some treachery by us,
and that he means to take us west over sea and deliver us into the
hands of Gunnhild's sons."

"There is little cause to fear such a thing," said Thorgils. "To him we
are but as any other slaves that he might buy in the marketplace, and I
think he has only chosen us because we are of his own country. Had he
discovered that you were your father's son he might indeed design to
take us to Norway. But that is not possible. There are none but our two
selves in all Esthonia who know that you are Olaf Triggvison, and this
man could not by any means have discovered it."

Olaf was silent for many moments, then at last he said:

"Thorgils, I cannot deceive you. This man knows full well whose son I
am, and it was I who told him."

Thorgils drew in his breath, as if he had received a blow.

"You told him?" he cried. "Oh, rash that you are! Have I not always
bidden you keep this secret close in your heart? What need was there to
tell your story to the first inquiring stranger who crossed your path?
You are over ready with your tongue, and now, alas! our misfortunes
must only be greater than before."

"He spoke kindly to me," explained Olaf, "and I could not refuse to
answer him when he asked me how I came to be a bond slave. I little
thought that he was an enemy."

"You are unskilled in the knowledge of men, Ole," returned Thorgils.
"There is a look in his eyes that might soon have told you that there
is evil in his heart, and such smooth tongued men as he are not to be
trusted. But there is one good thing that your thoughtlessness has
done: it has brought us again under one master, so it will go ill if,
working together, we cannot contrive to run away, and join some viking

"That will not be easy if our new master should take us to an inland
place," said Olaf. "None of his men have the marks of the sea upon
them; they are landmen."

Thorgils glanced up into the sky and searched for the polar star.

"We are journeying southward," he said presently.

"And what country lies to the south?" asked Olaf.

Thorgils could not tell. But he remembered that on a time some
merchants had come to the coast from a great city in the south called
Mikligard--which was the Norseman's name for Constantinople,--and he
guessed that that might be their journey's end.

Then Olaf crept nearer to their sleeping companion and wakened him.

"Tell me," he asked, "who is this man, our master, and whither is he
taking us?"

"I cannot tell," answered the youth. "It is but three days since that
he bought me, and I can ill understand the tongue these men speak, for
I am not of this land. My home is far across the seas."

"In what realm?" asked Thorgils.

"In England."

"That must be far away indeed," said Olaf, "for never have I heard of
such a land."

"It is an island, out across the Western Sea," explained Thorgils;
"often have I heard it named. In that same land it was that King Erik
Bloodaxe lived and died. Many vikings out of Norway have crossed the
seas for the sake of the wealth they can win from the Angles. And if I
were a viking it is to England I would steer my course."

"Gladly would I go with you," said the English youth; "ay, even now, if
we could but escape. But it seems that we are journeying away from the
seacoast, and there is little hope that we can win our way on board a

"There is hope enough if we do not delay our escape," returned
Thorgils, looking out to where the campfires burned. He was silent for
many minutes, then, laying his hand on the stranger's arm, he asked:

"What name have you?"

"Egbert," the lad replied.

"And how came it," inquired Thorgils, "that you were brought into

Egbert then told his story. He was born, he said, in Northumberland.
His father, a wealthy armourer and silversmith, had been slain by one
of the Northmen who had made a great settlement in that part of the
country, and his mother, whose name was Edith, had then wedded the man
who had made her a widow. The man was named Grim, and he was a warrior
in the service of Erik Bloodaxe, the ruler in those parts. On the death
of King Erik, Grim and many of the Norsemen went back to Norway in the
train of Queen Gunnhild and Erik's sons, and with him he took his wife
and young Egbert. Edith did not live to reach Norway, and Grim,
unwilling to be burdened with her son, had sold Egbert into slavery.
For ten years the boy had suffered in bondage under different masters,
the last of whom--Klerkon Flatface--had brought him into Esthonia.

"My one wish during all these years," said Egbert, "has been to return
to England, where the people are Christian, and do not worship your
heathen gods. Many times I have tried to escape, but always without
success; for I have had no companions, and it is not easy for one so
young as I am to make his way alone through foreign lands."

"What is your age?" Olaf inquired.

"Fifteen summers," answered Egbert.

Thorgils stood up and leaned his hand against the trunk of a tree,
looking down at his two companions.

"I think," said he, "that it would be a very good thing if we three
should run away from this new master of ours--now, while the darkness
lasts,--and, keeping in company, try to get back to the coast. There we
might take possession of a small sailboat, and so make our way over sea
to the land of the Angles. What say you, Ole?"

Olaf was silent for a while. At last he said:

"It were much wiser in us to wait until we are old enough to fight our
way in the world."

"And you will not try to escape?" asked Thorgils.

"No," answered Olaf firmly. "We have a good master. Why should we leave

"It is because he has given you that fine cloak that you think him
good," returned Thorgils tauntingly; "but, believe me, he has his
private reasons for so bribing you. I can well guess what he means to
do with you, and I tell you that you will surely rue it if you do not
escape while we may; for, if men bear their true nature in their faces,
then this man who has bought us has an evil heart."

"And what would it avail if we were to escape?" asked Olaf. "Boys as we
are, we should be of little use in the world, I think."

"You are afraid!" cried Thorgils.

"Yes," echoed Egbert, "you are afraid." Then turning to Thorgils, he
added: "But why should we urge the lad against his will? He is but a
child, and would only be a burden to us. Let us leave him and go our
ways without him."

"You are not of our folk, Egbert," returned Thorgils, flinging himself
down upon the dry leaves, "and you do not know what the vow of foster
brotherhood means. You ask me to do that which I would sooner die than
do. Ole and I will never part until death parts us. And if either
should be slain, then the other will avenge his death. If Ole wills to
remain in slavery until he is old and gray, then I will always be his
companion in bondage. But to escape without him, that will I never do!"

Nothing more was said. The three boys, weary after their long journey,
curled themselves up to sleep.

So soundly did young Olaf sleep, that at midnight, when a man's hands
unbound the chain about his neck he was not awakened. Very cautiously
the man took him up in his strong arms, and carried him away among the
dark shadows of the trees to a part of the forest far removed from the
campfires. And at last he laid the lad down on a bed of dry reeds and
moss at the side of the stream, where the bright moon, shining through
an open glade, shed its light upon his fair round face and his short
gold hair. There the man stood over him, watching him as he dreamed his
childish dreams. Then he knelt down and gently drew aside the lad's
cloak and opened the front of his kirtle, so that the moonlight fell
upon the white skin of his throat and breast.

Suddenly Olaf awoke and saw the dark figure bending over him.

"Thorgils, Thorgils!" he cried in alarm.

"Be silent!" commanded Sigurd Erikson, gripping the boy's arm. "No harm
will come to you."

Olaf struggled to his feet and was about to take to flight, but his
master's firm grip held him.

"Silly child!" muttered Sigurd. "Why do you fear me? Have I not already
told you that I am your friend?"

"I do not trust your friendship," answered Olaf angrily, remembering
Thorgil's warning. "And now I believe that you have brought me here
only that you may secretly put me to death."

"I have brought you here for your own good, my child," said Sigurd
softly; "and I give you my solemn word that no man, whosoever he be,
shall do you any injury while I live to be your protector. Be silent,
and listen to me."

Olaf grew calmer.

"Yester eve," said Sigurd, "when you told me that you were the son of
King Triggvi Olafson, I could not easily believe your tale. But when
you spoke your mother's name and told me that she was from Ofrestead,
in the Uplands of Norway, then I knew very well that you were telling
me the truth. I looked into your eyes and I saw that they were the eyes
of Queen Astrid--the fairest woman in all the Northland. In your very
words I thought I could hear the music of Queen Astrid's voice--"

"Can it be that my mother is known to you?" cried Olaf eagerly. "Can it
be that you can take me to where she lives?"

"Well do I know her," answered Sigurd. "But, alas! it is many summers
since I saw her last, nor had I heard any tidings of her for a long,
long while, until you told me that she had taken flight from Norway.
Tell me now, what is the name of him whose succour she wished to seek
in Gardarike?"

"Her brother's name," said Olaf, "is Sigurd Erikson."

"I am that same brother," smiled Sigurd, taking the boy by the hand;
"and it is because I am your uncle that I now take you with me into
Holmgard." He drew Olaf nearer to him and put his arm about his neck.
"And you shall live with me as my own dear foster son," he added, "and
I will take care of you and teach you all that a king's son should
know, so that in the time to come you may be well fitted to claim your
dead father's realm. But it is not without great risk that I do this
thing, for I well know that there are many men in Norway who would
gladly hear of your death. Now, if Gunnhild's sons should learn that
you are living in Holmgard they would offer a rich reward to the man
who should compass your end. You will be wise, therefore, if you
breathe no word of your kinship with Triggvi Olafson. Also, you must
betray to no man, not even to your foster brother Thorgils, that I am
your uncle, or that I know your name and kin; for it is a law held
sacred in Gardarike that no one of royal birth shall abide in the land
without the sanction of King Valdemar. If it be known that I am
wilfully breaking that law, then both you and I will fall into the
sorest trouble."

Amazed at hearing all this, and at learning that the man he had taken
for a secret enemy was none other than his own uncle, Olaf was
speechless. He silently put his hand into Sigurd's great palm, and let
himself be led back to the place where Thorgils and Egbert still lay
sound asleep.


On the morrow, when Olaf awoke, he told nothing of this that he had
heard concerning his kinship with Sigurd Erikson, and if Thorgils saw
that he was very moody and quiet, he no doubt thought that the lad was
but sorrowing at being taken away from the sea that he loved so much.
And yet Olaf seemed strangely unwilling to favour any plan of escape.
Both Thorgils and Egbert were for ever speaking of flight, but Olaf
always had some wise reason to offer for yet further delay, and would
only shake his head and say that their plans were ill formed. On the
second evening of the journey into the south, a halt was made upon the
shores of a great inland lake. Thorgils declared that it was a part of
the sea, and he urged his two companions to steal away with him under
the cover of night so that they might find some fisher's boat and make
off with it. But Olaf quickly pointed out that there were no boats to
be seen, and that, as the horses and dogs were drinking of the water,
it could not be salt like the waters of the great sea. Every day during
the long and weary journey Thorgils brought up some new plan. But Olaf
was obstinate. So at last the two elder boys, seeing that he was bent
upon remaining in bondage, yielded to his stronger will, and agreed to
wait in patience and to go with him wheresoever their master had a mind
to take them.

The country into which they were taken was in old times called
Gardarike. It lay to the southeast of Esthonia, and it was a part of
what is now known as the Russian Empire. Many Norsemen lived in that
land, and King Valdemar was himself the son of the great Swedish
viking, Rurik, who had made conquests and settlements in the countries
east of the Baltic Sea. Valdemar held his court at Holmgard--the modern
Novgorod. He was a very wise and powerful ruler, and his subjects were
prosperous and peaceable, having many useful arts, and carrying on a
commerce with the great city of Mikligard. The people were still
heathen, worshipping Odin and Thor and the minor gods of the
Scandinavians; for the faith of Christendom was as yet but vaguely
known to them and little understood.

Sigurd Erikson, who was Valdemar's high steward, lived in the king's
palace in great dignity and had many servants. So when he returned with
all the treasure that he had gathered as tribute he took Olaf
Triggvison into his service. But Thorgils and Egbert were still held as
bond slaves and put to hard labour in the king's stables.

The steward was very good to Olaf, and soon grew to love him as his own
son, guarding him from all harm, speaking with him whenever chance
brought them together, yet never betraying by word or act that the boy
was other than a mere thrall, whom he had bought with other chattels
during his journey through the king's dominions. Neither did Olaf
whisper, even to his foster brother, any word of his close kinship with
their new master. Thorgils, who had not forgotten the name of Queen
Astrid's brother, might indeed have discovered Olaf's secret. But it so
chanced that the king's steward was spoken of only by his title as the
Hersir Sigurd, and not as the son of Erik of Ofrestead.

For many months Olaf fulfilled his little duties very meekly, and no
one paid great heed to him, for he still bore the traces of his rough
work. Sigurd was well satisfied that his secret was safe, and that
Valdemar would never discover that his steward was breaking the law.
But soon the lad's fair hair grew long and bright, his hands lost their
roughness, and his growing beauty of face and limb attracted many eyes.
Then Sigurd began to fear, for he knew the penalty he would be forced
to pay if it should be discovered that he had wittingly brought a king
born youth into the land.

This danger grew greater when it chanced that the Queen Allogia took
notice of young Olaf, for the queen was in some sort a spae woman; she
was skilled in foretelling the future, and she quickly perceived that
the boy's beauty had come to him from some noble ancestor. It seemed
that she was bent upon knowing his history, for she besought many
persons about the court to tell her whence he had come, and to discover
for her the names of his parents. But none could tell.

Now, Allogia was still but two and twenty years of age, and very fair,
and the king did not like that she should be seen holding speech with
his handsome steward, for fear that Sigurd should win her heart. But
one day in the early winter time the queen came upon Sigurd in the
great hall, where he was alone with Olaf, teaching the boy to read the
runes carved in the black oak behind the king's high seat.

Olaf stood back as she entered, but his eyes rested fearlessly upon
her. She wore a blue woven mantle ornamented with lace, and under it a
scarlet kirtle with a silver belt. There was a band of gold round her
head, and her fine brown hair reached down to her waist on both sides.
She approached the steward, and said as he turned to withdraw from the

"I pray you, go on with your lesson, hersir."

"Your pardon, lady," said Sigurd, "I was but teaching the lad the rune
of King Rurik, and it is of no account that I should continue."

"Not often have I heard of a mere slave boy learning runes," returned
Allogia; "such knowledge is only meant for those who are of high
estate." She paused and looked round at Olaf, who stood apart with his
hand caressing the head of a great dog that had risen from before the
fire. "And yet," added the queen thoughtfully, "I would say that this
boy Ole, as you call him, has no serf's blood in him. His fairness is
that of a kingly race. What is his parentage, Hersir Sigurd? You who
have shown him so much favour, who have dressed him in such fine
clothes, and who even go so far as to teach him the reading of runes,
surely know him to be of noble birth. Who is he, I say?"

This question, coming so directly and from the queen herself, whom he
dared not disobey, brought the guilty blood to Sigurd's brow. But
Allogia did not observe his confusion. Her large dark eyes were gazing
full upon Olaf, as though in admiration of the boy's silky gold hair
and firm, well knit figure.

"I bought the lad in North Esthonia," Sigurd answered after a moment's
pause. "I bought him from a bonder in Rathsdale, and the price I paid
for him was two silver marks. It may be that he is some viking's son, I
cannot tell. He is quick witted and very clever at all games, and that
is why it pleases me to teach him many things."

There was a look of doubt in Allogia's eyes, as though she knew that
the steward was telling her but a half truth. He saw her doubt and made
a sign to Olaf to draw nearer. The boy obeyed, and stood before the
queen with bowed head.

"Of what parentage are you, boy?" demanded Sigurd. "Who is your mother,
and what is her condition of life?"

Olaf answered promptly, as he looked calmly into his master's face:

"My mother is a poor bondswoman, hersir," he said. "The vikings brought
her into Esthonia from west over sea. I have not had tidings of her
since I was a little child."

The queen smiled at him pityingly.

"And what of your father?" she asked.

Olaf shook his head, and looked vacantly at the queen's beautiful hands
with their many gold rings.

"I never knew my father, lady," he replied, "for he was dead before I
came into the world."

"But do you not know his name?" pursued Allogia. Now Olaf feared to
tell a deliberate lie, and yet, for his uncle's sake, he dared not
answer with the truth. He stammered for an instant, and then, feeling
the dog's head against his hand, he caught the animal's ear between his
fingers and gave it a hard, firm pinch. The dog howled with the sudden
pain and sprang forward angrily. And the queen, startled and alarmed,
moved aside and presently walked majestically from the hall.

Not again for many weeks did Allogia seek an answer to her question.
Sigurd, still fearing that his secret might be revealed, kept the boy
away from the court so that he might not be seen. But for all his care
the danger was for ever recurring.

King Valdemar had a mother named Gerda, who was so old and infirm that
she always lay abed. She was wonderfully skilled in spaedom, and it was
always the custom at yuletide, when the guests assembled in the king's
hall, that his mother was borne in thither and placed in the high seat.
There she prophesied touching any danger overhanging the country, or
similar thing, according to the questions put to her.

Now it happened in the first winter of Olaf's being in Holmgard, that
at the yule feast, when Gerda had been borne in after this fashion,
Valdemar asked her whether any foreign prince or warrior would enter
his dominions or turn his arms against his kingdom during the following

The old mother ran her bent fingers through the thin locks of her white
hair, and gazing with dim eyes into the vast hall, thus spoke her

"No token of any disastrous war do I discern," she said, "nor any other
misfortune. But one wondrous event I see. In the land of Norway there
has lately been born a child who will be bred up here, in Holmgard,
until he grows to be a famous prince; one so highly gifted that there
has never before been seen his equal. He will do no harm to this
kingdom; but he will in every way increase thy fame. He will return to
his native land while yet he is in the flower of his age, and he will
reign with great glory in this northern part of the world. But not for
long, not for long. Now, carry me away."

While these words were being spoken, Queen Allogia's eyes rested upon
Olaf Triggvison, who was acting as cup bearer to his uncle Sigurd. She
saw the drinking horn tremble in his hand, so that the wine it held
dripped over the silver rim, and fell upon the front of his white
kirtle; and she divined that it was to him that the prophecy referred.
But no sign of this suspicion did she betray, either at that time or in
the after days. Yet none the less she watched him always, with her mind
fixed upon the thought of his nobility, and the glory that had been
promised him. In all that he did she was well pleased, for already she
had found that he excelled all others of his age, not only in personal
beauty but in skilful handling of all warlike weapons, in the training
of dogs and horses, in wrestling and riding, in racing on snowshoes,
and in all other exercises. Often she would have spoken with him, but,
saving at the time of a great feast, he was never to be seen in the

Throughout the long, cold winter months, Olaf saw nothing of his foster
brother or of Egbert the Briton, for they had both been taken across
the river to labour on one of the king's farmsteads. There they
remained until the early summer, when they brought over their flocks
and herds for the sheep meeting. At that time there was held a great
fair in Holmgard, with sports and games and manly contests. Many
parties of men came into the town from distant parts of the kingdom.

On the second morning of the fair, Sigurd Erikson entered the room in
which Olaf slept. The boy was dressing himself in his fine clothes, and
girding on his leather belt with its small war axe, which Sigurd had
had made for his young kinsman.

"My boy," said Sigurd, "there is little need for you to dress yourself
in this holiday attire, for it is my will that you do not attend the
games. You must not show yourself amid the crowd."

Now, Olaf had engaged to take part in a great wrestling bout with three
young champions from Livonia. Also, he was to have run in a footrace,
for which the prize was a silver hilted sword, awarded by the queen. So
at hearing his uncle thus forbid him to appear, he became very

"It is too late for you to try to keep me within doors," he protested.
"I have given my word to the wrestlers, and I cannot now withdraw. Do
you wish me to be jeered at as a coward? Why do you deny me the honour
of taking all the prizes that I may so easily win?"

"It is for your own happiness that I forbid you to show yourself before
strangers," returned Sigurd. "But, more than all, I wish you to keep in
hiding for this great reason. There has come into Holmgard a man whom I
met many months ago. I engaged with him to pit my best horse against
his in the horse ring, and the prize was to be--"

"What was the prize?" asked Olaf, seeing that his uncle had paused.

"The prize was to be yourself, my son," said Sigurd gravely. "The man
coveted you, and would have bought you from your old master Reas."

"And why did you agree to this, knowing that I am your own kinsman and
your sister's son?" asked Olaf.

"I did not then know that you were of my kin," answered Sigurd. "But
having given my word, I cannot go back from it. I have seen this man's
horse, and I judge it to be a finer animal than mine. Therefore do I
fear that I must lose you. But if you will keep within the house, I
will tell the man that you are dead, and will offer him the young
Englander Egbert in your stead."

"Would you then tell the man a falsehood?" cried Olaf.

"Gladly, if by doing so I still keep you with me, for I would not lose
you for all the world."

Olaf, obedient to his uncle's word, began to unbuckle his belt. But his
face was very gloomy, and it was easy to see that it was only out of
his love for his uncle that he would by any means agree to forego his
pleasures. Olaf was already very proud of his own skill. Never yet had
he been beaten in any contest, and he had hoped to add to his glory by
overcoming all who might come against him on this great day. Moreover,
it was a sorry sacrifice for him to make if he was not to be allowed to
witness the games.

As Sigurd turned to leave him, the boy suddenly caught his arm.

"I will not promise!" he cried. "I cannot give you my word. I have set
my heart upon the wrestling, and in spite of your forbiddance I shall
go. Tell me what manner of man this is that you speak of, and I will
avoid him. Even though he overcome you in the horse fight he shall not
take me from you."

"He is a great viking," answered Sigurd. "Men name him Klerkon
Flatface. It is the same who sold you into bondage."

A cloud came upon Olaf's brow, and he sat down upon the side of the
trestle bed.

"Klerkon Flatface?" he repeated slowly. Then raising his eyes he looked
into his uncle's face and added: "Do not fear, hersir. Klerkon shall
not take me from you."

Now, very soon after Sigurd had gone out to attend upon the king, Olaf
quitted the house and went by secret ways to the stables, where he
found his foster brother at work combing out the mane of Sigurd's
fighting steed. A very tall and powerful animal it was, with a glossy
brown coat and a long tail that reached nearly to the ground. It was
well trained, and many a well won fight had it fought. Sleipner was its
name, and it was so called after the eight footed horse of Odin.

Olaf went to Thorgils' side and greeted him with friendly words. Then,
when they had spoken for a while together, Olaf bent his head close to
Thorgils' ear, and said he:

"I have news, brother."

"Ill news or good?" asked Thorgils.

"Judge for yourself," answered Olaf. "It is that our old enemy Klerkon
the Viking has come into Holmgard, with many men and a mighty horse
that is to be pitted against Sleipner."

Thorgils drew back with a sudden start.

"Then has our good time come," he cried. "Our vow of vengeance must be
fulfilled. No longer are we little boys, weak of arm and failing in
courage. Never again shall Klerkon sail the seas."

"And who will hinder him?" asked Olaf, looking the while into the
other's brightened eyes.

"He shall be hindered by me," returned Thorgils. "With me alone must
the vengeance rest, for it is not well that you, who stand so high in
honour with the king and his court, should sully your white hands with
blood. It was my father whom Klerkon slew that day upon the ship, and
it is my part to avenge him."

Then Olaf shook his head.

"Not so shall it be," said he. "Thoralf was my own good foster father,
and I am not afraid to face the man who sent him so cruelly to his
death. I and not you shall bring the murderer to his bane."

"Rash that you always are!" cried Thorgils. "Will you never learn to be
cautious? Keep your peace. If I should fail, then will it be your turn
to avenge my death as our vow of foster brotherhood demands. Now bring
me a good weapon, for I have none but an oak cudgel."

"You shall not want for a good weapon," said Olaf, and he drew a small
sword from under his blue cloak and handed it to Thorgils. "Here is my
new handsax. Take it, and use it to good purpose. But in the matter of
Klerkon, it may be that I shall be before you. Odin be with you!"


It was yet early in the forenoon when the games began. They were held
on the great plain beyond the gate, where fences were raised as a
girdle round the course. Upon the sunny side was the king's tent, where
Valdemar and Allogia sat, attended by many guests and courtiers, among
whom was Sigurd Erikson.

For a long while Sigurd, who sat near to the queen, was at his ease in
the belief that young Olaf was keeping within doors, and he paid little
heed to those who were within the ring. First there were jumping
matches. Olaf did not join in these, for he was not yet tall enough to
compete with full grown men, and there were no youths of his own height
who were skilled enough to match him. Neither, for a like reason, did
he take part in the sword feats. But at last it came to a trial of
skill with the longbow. The bowmen were at the far end of the course,
and their faces could not well be seen from the tent, even had Sigurd
searched among them for the face of his wilful nephew. There was one,
however, who saw better than he, and this was Queen Allogia.

She waited until it came to the turn of those who were younger than
eighteen years, and then she watched with keen eyes. Among them she
soon discerned the youth whom she sought; nor did she lose sight of him
until his well aimed arrow shot full into the mark, and he was
proclaimed the victor. Then, when Olaf came before the tent to make his
obeisance, Sigurd saw him, and was very wroth, for he knew that Klerkon
the Viking was among the king's guests.

Now, when Olaf was thus near, it seemed to Klerkon that the lad was not
wholly a stranger to him. Indeed, had it not been for the long gold
hair and the disguise of better clothing, he might have known him to be
the same whom he had seen in the last summer playing at the knife feat
on the gangplank of the viking ship. But Klerkon only admired the lad's
skill with the longbow, and thought what a goodly warrior he would
make. So having this in his mind, he watched Olaf closely when again
the boy ran past in the footrace, leading his competitors by many yards.

And now, being first in the race, Olaf came once more before the tent,
and the queen gave him his well won prize.

As he took the silver hilted sword from Allogia's hand, one of the
vikings went to Klerkon's side, and said he:

"Master, this youth is the same who appeared in the last summer as a
bond slave at the time when the Hersir Sigurd came on board of us. Was
it not this same lad who was to be the prize in our horse fight?"

Then Klerkon fixed his eyes more keenly on the lad, and thought of him
as he might be with his fair hair cropped short, and with a slave's
white kirtle in place of the fine clothes he now wore.

"It is the same!" he answered. "And now I mind that someone told me it
was he whom we captured among others many summers ago off Alland isle.
It was we who brought him into Esthonia. Much would I give to have him
with us on our longship. And by the hammer of Thor, I swear that if I
win him not over the horse fight, then I will take him by force!"

So then Klerkon made his way to the side of Sigurd Erikson, and told
him that he had recognized the boy. At which Sigurd grew very pale, and
blamed himself in that he had not kept Olaf within doors by main force.

Now, at high noon when the king and queen departed from the tent,
Sigurd made his way round to the entrance of the lists, and there
searched for Olaf and found him. He spoke to the lad very gravely, and,
telling him of the viking's recognition, cautioned him against
appearing again within the circle of the course. Olaf, seeing now that
it was a serious matter, agreed to abandon the wrestling, and gave his
word that he would thereafter be more cautious of showing himself.

"Much do I fear," said Sigurd, "that the mischief is already done. Your
future welfare, your happiness, your claiming of your father's
kingdom--all depends upon the result of this horse fight. If Klerkon
the Viking's horse should overcome Sleipner there is no help for us.
You must go with the victor."

Then Olaf smiled almost mockingly.

"Be not afraid, my kinsman," said he. "Should Klerkon come to claim me
as his prize he shall not find me. But he will never need to claim me.
I have seen this great stallion that he has so much boasted of, and I
know full well that it is no match for Sleipner in a fair fight."

"We shall see very soon," returned Sigurd; "meanwhile, if you intend to
witness the combat, I beg you to take your stand as far as possible
away from the vikings. And when the fight is over--whatever be the
result--make your way over the river and keep well hidden in old Grim
Ormson's hut. There you will be safe from all discovery until after the
vikings have departed."

Now Olaf had no notion of hiding himself thus. He was not personally
afraid of Klerkon, neither did he believe that the viking would go to
much trouble to secure his prize even if his horse should be
successful. Olaf had heard that that horse had been brought from
England, and he did not believe that anything good could come from a
country so far away. His uncle's horse, on the other hand, was
celebrated all through Gardarike, and it had never been beaten either
in the race or in the fight. Why, then, should there be any fear for
the result of the coming contest?

But Sigurd Erikson was wiser, and knew better that his steed was at
last to meet its equal. Never before had he seen an animal so strong
and fierce as the stallion that Klerkon the Viking had matched against

Many horses were led forth into the circle, and they were taken in
pairs to the middle, where they fought one against the other. Each
horse was followed by its owner or the trainer, who supported and urged
it on, inciting it with his stick. The crowd of onlookers was very
large, for among the Northmen no amusement was more popular than the
horse fight, unless it were the combat between men. But at first there
was not much excitement, because many of the horses would not fight,
and others were too easily beaten. At last Sleipner and the English
horse were led forth into the centre. When they were let loose they
came together fiercely, and there followed a splendid fight, both
severe and long. Little need was there for the men to urge them or to
use the sticks. The two horses rose high on their hind legs, biting at
each other savagely until their manes and necks and shoulders were torn
and bloody. Often the animals were parted, but only to renew the fight
with greater fierceness. The combat went on until eleven rounds had
passed. Then Klerkon's stallion took hold of the jawbone of Sleipner,
and held on until it seemed that he would never yield his hold. Two of
the men then rushed forward, each to his own horse, and beat and pushed
them asunder, when Sleipner fell down from exhaustion and hard
fighting. At which the vikings set up a loud cheer.

King Valdemar was the umpire, and he said now that the fight must
cease, for that Klerkon's horse had proved himself the victor in eight
rounds, and that it could easily be seen that the steward's horse was
no longer fit. Then the king asked Sigurd what prize he had staked, and
Sigurd answered:

"The prize was staked many months ago when I met Klerkon over in
Esthonia, and it was arranged that if the viking's horse should
overcome mine he was to take the young thrall Ole."

"Let the boy be given up to him, then," said the king; "for he has won
him very fairly."

"I will take the boy tonight," said Klerkon, who stood near, "for my
business in Holmgard is now over, and at sunrise I go back to the

Now Sigurd believed that Olaf had surely taken his advice, and gone at
once across the river to hide himself in Grim Ormson's hut, so he was
not in any way anxious.

"Take the lad wheresoever you can find him," said he to the viking.
"And if you cannot find him before the sunrise, then I will pay you his
just value in gold."

"Though you offered me all the gold you are worth," returned Klerkon,
"I would not take it in place of the boy. No thrall born lad is he, but
of noble descent, and I intend to make a viking of him and take him
with me west over sea to England. It is not well that a youth so clever
as he should waste his years in an inland town. He was meant by his
nature for the sea, and I think that he will some day prove to be a
very great warrior."

At this Sigurd Erikson grew sick at heart, for he knew that the viking
was a man of very strong will, and that no half measures would serve to
turn him from his purpose. Also, he felt that it was now useless to
attempt any deception concerning Olaf. The vikings had recognized the
boy, and none other could be passed off in his stead.

With a gloomy cloud on his brow, Sigurd left the tent and made his way
back to the king's hall in search of his nephew. Olaf was not there.
The hours went by, and still there was no sign of him. Neither did
Klerkon come to make claim to his prize.

It was in the evening time. Sigurd sat alone in his room at the back of
the great hall. He was thinking that Olaf had become strangely restless
and unruly of late. Many times the lad had disappointed him and caused
him trouble, but never so much as today, when his wilfulness threatened
to bring about very serious consequences. Had Olaf taken the advice
that had been given him in the morning, the coming of Klerkon might
have been a matter of small moment; but the thoughtless boy had boldly
shown himself before the tent, and had never striven to hide himself
from the quick eyes of the shipmen. He had been recognized--as how
would one so distinguished from all other youths fail to be?--and now
Klerkon would not rest until he had safely secured his coveted prize.

Very different now was Olaf from what he had seemed on that day when he
stood near the viking ship in the guise of a poor slave. In the year
that had passed Sigurd had grown to love the lad with the love of a
father, had taught him many useful arts and handicrafts, had given him
fine clothes to wear, and had so improved his bodily condition and
moulded his mind that no king's son could ever hope to excel him either
in physical beauty or in skill of arms, in manly prowess or moral
goodness. Never once had Olaf done anything that was mean or unworthy;
never once had he told an untruth or gone back from his promise. At any
time when Sigurd had told him to do what was not to his liking the boy
had simply shaken his golden curls and said, "I will not promise"; but
always when he had given his word he held to it firmly and faithfully.
He could be trusted in all things. But for all this he had lately
become most wilful, and the trouble he was now causing made his uncle
very anxious.

Sigurd knew full well that Olaf loved him, and that all the possible
glory of being a viking would not lead him away from Holmgard of his
own free will. But in the present case he might not be able to help
himself, despite his having so positively said that Klerkon should
never carry him off alive. So in his heart Sigurd feared that Olaf
would take some mischievous and unwise measure of his own to evade the
vikings. It might be, indeed, that he had already gone across the river
to the security of Grim Ormson's hut; but it was greatly to be feared
that he had fallen into the hands of Klerkon Flatface.

Suddenly, as Sigurd sat there in moody thought, the door of the room
was flung open, and Olaf rushed in. He was strangely agitated. His hair
was rough and his clothing was torn; his large blue eyes flashed in
anger, and his breathing was heavy and uneven.

Sigurd sprang up from his seat. He saw that something ill had happened.

"Why are you here?" he cried. "Why are you not in hiding? Have I not
warned you enough that you are running into danger by letting yourself
be seen? Klerkon has won you from me, and he may be here at any moment
to claim you and carry you away!"

Olaf did not reply for a long time. He only bent down and took a
handful of rushes up from the floor, and began to quietly clean the
blade of his axe that he held under his arm.

"Speak!" cried Sigurd, driven to anger by the boy's silence.

Then at last Olaf said in a steady, boyish voice:

"Klerkon will never claim me from you, my kinsman; for he is dead."

"Dead?" echoed Sigurd in alarm.

"Yes," answered Olaf, "I met him in the gate. He tried to take me. I
raised my axe and buried it in his head. Well have you taught me the
use of my axe, Hersir Sigurd."

As he spoke there came a loud hum of angry voices from without. They
were the voices of the vikings calling aloud for the blood of him who
had slain their chief.

Without a word Sigurd Erikson crossed the room, and drew the heavy bar
athwart the door. Then he turned upon Olaf.

"Well do I discern," said he, "that you are of King Harald's race. It
was ever so with your forefathers; thoughtless, fearless, ruthless! And
so all my teaching of you has gone for nothing! Oh, foolish boy! To
think that you, who might have lived to be the king of all Norway, have
ended in being no more than a common murderer!"

"Murderer?" repeated Olaf. "Not so. It is but justice that I have done.
Klerkon was the slayer of my dear foster father. He slew him cruelly
and in cold blood, and for no other reason than that poor Thoralf was
old and infirm. I have done no murder. I have but taken just and lawful

"Just and lawful it may be in our own birthland, Olaf," returned Sigurd
gravely; "but in this kingdom wherein we now live the peace is held
holy, and it is ordained by law that he who kills another man in anger
shall himself lose his life. I cannot save you. You have broken the
peace; you have taken the life of one of the king's own guests, and you
have insulted the king's hospitality. I fear that you must die."

He broke off, listening to the furious cries of the crowd outside.
"Hark!" he went on. "Those wild sea wolves are calling for blood
vengeance. Come! come with me quickly. There is but one hope left, and
in that hope lies my own despair and my own undoing."

So, while yet the people were clamouring for the young peace breaker's
life, Sigurd took Olaf through the back part of the house and by many
secret passages into the queen's garth. Here, in a large hall that was
most splendidly adorned with carved wood and hung with tapestry, sat
Queen Allogia with two of her handmaids working with their needles upon
a beautiful robe of embroidered silk.

Sigurd passed the armed sentinel at the door and strode into the
apartment, followed closely by the boy. The queen looked up in surprise
at the unexpected visitors.

"I crave your help, O queen," cried the steward excitedly.

The queen stood up in alarm. She had heard the turmoil of voices from

"What means all this shouting?" she inquired.

Then Sigurd told her how Olaf had killed the viking, and implored her
to help the boy out of his trouble.

"Alas!" said she, when she had heard the tale. "Little power have I to
meddle in such affairs. The penalty of murder is death, and I cannot
hinder the law." She looked at Olaf as she spoke, and saw the pleading
in his eyes. "And yet," she added with quick pity, "such a handsome boy
must not be slain. I will save him if I can."

She then bade Sigurd call in her bodyguard fully armed to protect the
lad, while she went out into the king's chamber and pleaded with
Valdemar to prevent the shedding of blood.

Now, by this time, the enraged vikings and many men of the town had
gained entrance to the outer court, and they rushed forward to claim
the life of the offender according to their custom and laws. Long they
waited, hammering noisily at the oaken doors of the hall wherein Olaf
was now known to have taken refuge. But at last the door was flung
open, and King Valdemar appeared on the threshold, guarded by many
armed men. The crowd drew back, leaving only the chief of the vikings
to speak for them and ask for justice. He told the king how Klerkon,
standing within the gate, had been attacked by young Ole of the golden
hair, and how without word or warning the boy had suddenly raised his
axe and driven it into Klerkon's head, so that the blade stood right
down into the brain of him.

The king then declared that he could not believe a boy so young as Ole
could have either the skill or the boldness to attack so powerful a man
as Klerkon Flatface. But the viking turned and called upon some of his
shipmates to bring forward the dead body of their chief, which they
laid down before the king. Valdemar looked upon it and examined the
death wound. The skull was cloven with one clean blow from the crown
right down to the red bearded chin.

"A wondrous strong blow!" murmured Valdemar. "But I see that it was
struck from the front. How came it that Klerkon could not defend

"Little time had he for that," answered the viking, "for the lad fell
upon him with the quickness of an eagle's swoop, and although my master
was well armed, yet he could not raise his sword ere he fell dead at
our feet, and then Ole turned and fled with such speed that none could
follow him."

"Such an act as this," said the king, "cannot have been without some
cause. What reason of enmity was there between this boy and Klerkon?"

"No reason but wanton mischief," answered the warrior. "It was a
causeless murder, and we claim the full and lawful punishment."

"Justice shall be done," returned the king. "But I must first know what
the peace breaker may have to say in his own defence. I beg you,
therefore, to keep truce until the sunrise, when the penalty shall be

At hearing this promise the crowd dispersed in peace. Many grumbled
that the customary sentence of death had not been instantly pronounced.
But in causing this delay King Valdemar was but yielding to the
pleadings of the queen, who had implored him to spare the life of the
handsome young murderer, or at the least to save him from the fury of
the vikings.

When the crowd had gone from the courtyard Allogia returned to the hall
in which the steward and Olaf had been kept under the protection of the
guards. Dismissing the men, she turned to Sigurd Erikson.

"You have asked me to save the boy's life, hersir," said she, "but,
alas! I cannot do it. All that the king will do is to give a few hours'
respite. At sunrise the law is to take its course, and much do I fear
that its course will be death."

Olaf heard her words, but did not show any fear of the expected
punishment. It seemed, indeed, that he had become suddenly hard of
heart and dauntless, as though he thought that the killing of a man was
a matter to be proud of. Certainly, in his own mind, he did not look
upon the taking of Klerkon's life as an act of guilt deserving
punishment. He recalled what he had seen on the viking ship years
before. The old man Thoralf had fallen to Klerkon's share in the
dividing of booty. Thoralf had held little Olaf by the hand as they
stood apart on the ship's deck, and Klerkon had come up to them and
roughly separated them, flinging Olaf across to where young Thorgils
stood. Then, tearing off Thoralf's cloak, the viking had said: "Little
use is there in an old toothless hound, but his flesh may serve as food
for the fishes;" and, drawing his sword, he had given the aged man his
death blow and tilted him over into the sea. So Olaf and Thorgils had
sworn to take vengeance upon this viking, and Olaf had now fulfilled
his vow.

The queen came nearer to Olaf, and looked at him tenderly. "It is a
great pity," said she, "that one so fair should be doomed to die before
he has grown to manhood. It might be that with good training he would
become a very famous warrior, and I would gladly see him enlisted in
the service of the king."

She broke off and turned to Sigurd. "Hersir Sigurd," she said, looking
keenly into the steward's face, "I have noticed many times that you
take a more than common interest in this boy. Even now, when he has
broken the law of the land, it is you who take it upon yourself to
plead his cause. It must surely be that you have powerful reasons for
keeping him from harm. Whose son is he? Of what kin is he? It is but
right that I should know."

Sigurd demurred, remembering that it was forbidden by the law of the
land that any king born person should live in Gardarike, except with
the king's permission. He thought that it would go very ill with
himself if Olaf's kingly birth should be known.

"Lady, I cannot tell you," he murmured.

"Would you then rather that the boy should die?" she asked with anger
in her tone.

"Not so," answered Sigurd, drawing himself up to his full height. "If
the boy is to be condemned to death, then I will offer to take the
punishment in his stead."

The queen glanced at him quietly.

"If that be so," said she, "then the sacrifice of your own life can
only be taken as showing that you count the boy of more value to the
world than yourself." She paused for a moment, then added: "I am your
queen, Hersir Sigurd, and I command you to tell me what I ask. What is
the boy's true name, and what is his parentage?"

She went across to the side of the great fireplace, and, seating
herself in one of the large oaken chairs, signed to Sigurd and Olaf to
approach her. Then, taking up an end of the silken robe upon which she
had before been working, she threaded her needle.

"I am ready," she said.

So Sigurd, seeing that there was no way out of his difficulty and
hoping that the telling of his secret might after all be of benefit to
Olaf, obeyed the queen's behest, relating the story of the kings of
Norway and showing how this boy, Olaf, the slayer of Klerkon, was
descended in a direct line from the great King Harald Fairhair.


"On a time very long ago," began Sigurd, as he sat beside Olaf on a
bench facing Queen Allogia, "there reigned in the south of Norway a
young king named Halfdan the Swarthy. His realm was not large, for the
country was at that time divided into many districts, each having its
independent king. But, by warfare and by fortunate marriage, Halfdan
soon increased the possessions which his father had left to him, so
that he became the mightiest king in all the land. The name of his wife
was Queen Ragnhild, who was very beautiful, and they had a son whom
they named Harald.

"This Harald grew to be a very handsome boy, tall and strong and of
great intelligence. He was fond of manly sports, and his skill and
beauty brought him the favour and admiration of all men of the
northland. Well, when Harald was still a youth of ten winters, his
father was one day crossing the ice on the Randsfjord when the ice
broke under him and he was drowned, so his kingdom fell to his son. The
kings whom Halfdan the Swarthy had conquered then bethought them that
they might win back what lands they had lost, and they accordingly made
war against the young king. Many battles were fought, but Harald was
always victorious. Instead of yielding to his enemies he soon extended
his dominions until they stretched as far north as Orkadale. And then
he was content."

Sigurd here raised his eyes and looked across at Allogia as she
silently plied her busy needle.

"It is a long story, lady," he said; "and it may be that it is not new
to you."

"Tell it to the end," returned the queen.

"There lived at that time in Valders a maid named Gyda," continued
Sigurd. "She was the daughter of King Erik of Hordaland, and King
Harald, hearing that she was exceedingly fair and high minded would
fain have her to be his wife. So he sent forth messengers to her,
asking her to wed with him. Now the maid was proud as well as
beautiful, and when she received this message she answered thus: 'Tell
your master,' she said, 'that I will not sacrifice myself to be the
wife of a king who has no more realm to rule over than a few counties.
Marvellous it seems to me that there is no king who can make all Norway
his own and be the sole lord thereof, as King Erik in Sweden, and King
Gorm in Denmark. Give this message to King Harald, and tell him that I
will only promise to be his wedded wife on this condition, that he will
for my sake lay under him all Norway. For only then can he be accounted
the king of a people."

"Now these words of Gyda were taken duly to the king, and they awakened
in his mind a thought which had never before occurred to him, and he
said, in the presence of many men: 'This oath do I now solemnly make,
and swear before that God who made me and rules over all things, that
never more will I cut my hair nor comb it until the day when I have
conquered all Norway, and have made myself the sole ruler of the
Northmen. And if I do not fulfil my vow, I shall die in the attempt.'"

"Spoken like a true king!" interrupted Allogia. "I trust, for the proud
maiden's sake, that he did not take long to fulfil his vow."

"Ten long years it took him," returned Sigurd.  "Northward he sallied
with a vast army and conquered Orkadale, Trondelag, and Naumdale, and
all the country about Thrandheim, making himself the overlord of all
the old kings who thereafter became his earls and vassals. Those who
would not be subdued he killed or maimed. He made new laws, took from
the peasants their odal estates, and declared all land to be the king's
property. Many of the conquered people rebelled against his rule and
his strict feudal laws, and some of his provinces had to be conquered
twice over. But with every year he came nearer to his goal, and those
who opposed him only brought about their own ruin.

"At last the old kings, smarting in their subjection, banded themselves
together, resolving to assert their ancient rights in a pitched battle.
They assembled a great fleet of warships and met the conqueror in the
Hafrsfjord. In the sea fight that followed many of Harald's bravest men
were slain; spears and stones fell about them on every side; the air
was filled with the flying arrows as with winter hail. But the king's
berserks at length took on their fury and won for their master the
greatest battle that has ever been fought in Norway. Thus, after a ten
years' struggle, did Harald fulfil his vow.

"At a feast which followed this fight his hair was cut and combed. Men
had formerly named him Harald Shockhead; but now they marvelled at his
new made beauty and called him Harald Fairhair. Then, having done what
he set out to do, he married Gyda and lived with her until she died.

"From that day forth," continued Sigurd, "Harald Fairhair ruled with
great rigour, and so severely did he tax his people that many of the
nobler and prouder sort grew discontented and straightway abandoned
Norway to seek new homes across the sea. Many were content to roam upon
the waters as vikings; others sailed west to the Faroe Isles, some
settled in Shetland and the Orkneys, while others went far north into
Iceland--a country so rich that, as I have heard, every blade of grass
drips with butter. But Harald followed these adventurous men who had
thus sought to escape his rule, with the result that he reduced all
these islands to his sway."

At this point of the steward's narrative the queen moved impatiently
and said:

"All this may be very well, Hersir Sigurd. But I fail to see how this
history can bear upon the story of the boy Ole."

"You shall see its bearing very soon," returned Sigurd. "But, if you so
wish, I will cut it short."

"Nay, tell it in your own way," said the queen, "for my time is of no

"You must know, then," pursued Sigurd, "that King Harald Fairhair had
many wives, other than Gyda. And as he had many wives, so had he many
sons. These sons as they grew up to manhood became to him a serious
trouble. They were jealous of each other and for ever quarrelling among
themselves. A chief cause of their disagreement was their bitter
jealousy of Erik, the son whom Harald favoured above all the rest.

"When Erik was but a mere boy--no older than young Ole, here--his
father gave him the command of five great ships of war, and with a
picked crew of hardy warriors the boy went a-viking along the coasts,
harrying and plundering, fighting and slaughtering wherever he fell in
with ships less powerful than his own. He became a terror to all
peaceful folk, and for his murderous deeds by sea and land he won the
name of Erik Bloodaxe.

"It was through his foolish love of this wild hearted son that Harald
Fairhair was led to commit an act whereby he undid all the great work
of his life. He had succeeded in uniting all Norway into one nation,
and this was good. But now nothing would suit him but that he should
once more divide his great realm into many provinces. He therefore
created all his sons kings, and gave to each his portion of the
country, on condition that after his own death they should all
acknowledge Erik Bloodaxe their overlord.

"But no sooner had this unwise course been taken than the sons began to
quarrel more wildly than ever. There was but one son among them who was
wise enough to enjoy his share in contentment and keep peace. This was
Olaf, the son of Queen Swanhild. To him King Harald had given the
country of Viken, in the south of Norway. Olaf was the father of
Triggvi, and the grandfather of the boy who is now before you."'

Allogia's eyes were now fixed upon young Olaf, who sat at his ease in
front of her with his arm resting on the back of the bench and his
fingers playing idly with his long gold curls.

"Truly did I guess," said she, "that the boy had kingly blood in him.
Such silken hair, such clear soft skin, and beautiful blue eyes could
not possibly have come of lowly birth. And now do I well believe that
it was he whom the king's mother meant when, at the yuletide feast, she
spoke of the child who was destined to be brought up here in Holmgard,
and who was to grow to be a famous prince." She smiled softly on the
boy as she said this.  "And now, hersir," she added, "we will hear the
rest of your saga."

Sigurd rose from the bench and began to pace slowly to and fro with his
hands clasped behind his back.

"Of all King Harald's sons," said he, "Erik Bloodaxe was the one who
had the most ambition and who fought hardest to win worship from his
brothers. In his strivings he did not scruple to act unfairly. He
stooped to treachery, and even to murder. He first killed his brother,
Ragnvald Rattlebone, because he was said to be a sorcerer. Next he
killed his brother Biorn, because he refused to pay him homage and
tribute. None of Harald's sons could be safe while Erik was thus
allowed to take the law into his own hands; so two other of the
brothers attempted to take Erik's life, by setting fire to a farmhouse
in which he was feasting. But Erik escaped with four men, secured his
father's protection, and for a time there was peace.

"Now King Harald Fairhair had a young son named Hakon, the child of his
old age, and this son became in the after years a very great man in the
land, and was called Hakon the Good.

"The King of England in those days was named Athelstane the Victorious,
and it is told that on a time Athelstane, who was passing jealous of
the power of Harald Fairhair, sent a messenger to Norway bearing a
precious sword as a gift to King Harald. The sword was done with gold
about the hilt and set with dear bought gems, and well tempered in the
blade. So the messenger fared to Lade, in Thrandheim, where Harald
dwelt, and said he: 'Here is a sword which the King of England sendeth
thee, bidding thee take it withal.' So the king took the grip of it.
Then said the messenger: 'Thou hast taken the sword even as our king
wished, and thou art therefore his sword taker and vassal.'

"Well, Harald was angry at being thus tricked, and he pondered how he
might pay back King Athelstane, so the next year he got ship and sent
his young son Hakon to England, along with a great berserker, or
champion, named Hawk, and thirty warriors. They found the king in
London town, and, being fully armed, they entered his feasting hall
where he sat. Hawk took the child Hakon and placed him on King
Athelstane's knee, saying: 'The King of Norway biddeth thee foster this
his child.'

"Athelstane was exceeding wroth, and he caught up his sword that lay
beside him and drew it as if he would slay the lad. Then said Hawk:
'Thou hast set the child on thy knee and mayest murder him if thou
wilt, but not thus withal wilt thou make an end of all the sons of King
Harald Fairhair.'

"Thus did the King of Norway pay back the King of England in his own
coin, for men ever account the fosterer less noble than him whose child
he fosters. Howbeit, King Athelstane kept the lad and fostered him
right well. Thereafter he treated young Hakon with great kindness,
taught him good manners and all kinds of prowess, and in the end grew
to love him more than any of his own kin. In England, Hakon abandoned
his faith in the gods of Scandinavia, and became a worshipper of the
White Christ, for in that land all men are Christians, and Thor and
Odin have no power.

"Now, while Hakon was away in England, his elder brother, Erik
Bloodaxe, went a-warring in his viking ships to many lands--Scotland,
Wales, Ireland, and Normandy, and north away in Finland. And in Finland
he found a certain woman, the like of whom he had never seen for
fairness in all his roamings. She was named Gunnhild, and had learned
all kinds of sorcery and witchcraft among the Finns. Erik wedded with
this woman, and it afterwards befell that she wrought more evil in
Norway than even Erik himself. She was his evil genius, egging him on
to deeds of treachery and violence which made him detested of all men.

"Glad was Gunnhild when Harald the Fairhaired, being stricken in years,
declared that he felt no longer able to bear the burden of the
government. This he did when he was eighty years old. He led his son
Erik to his royal high seat and put him there as the king, so that
Gunnhild by this became the queen, and could work her evil as she

"Three years afterwards Harald Fairhair died in his bed, having ruled
over Norway for seventy-three years."

Sigurd paused in his narrative and sat down beside Olaf. He felt that
the queen's interest in his nephew was now secure and that it boded
well for Olaf. Allogia set aside her needle and nodded to the steward
as if she would tell him to continue his saga. Sigurd leaned back in
his seat, crossed his legs, and went on.

"King Erik now held dominion over the larger part of Norway," said he.
"But there were two of his brothers who would not yield to him, and who
yet peacefully ruled in the realms over which their father had placed
them. Olaf--the son of King Harald and Queen Swanhild--was the
sovereign king in Viken, and his brother Halfdan in like manner ruled
in Thrandheim. Full ill content was Erik that he could not truthfully
call himself the lord over all Norway. But, as he could not be king by
favour alone, he resolved to become so by other means. Two winters
after Erik's enthronement his brother Halfdan died a sudden and painful
death at a feast in Thrandheim. It is told that he was cunningly
poisoned by Queen Gunnhild. Erik straightway claimed his dead brother's
kingdom; but the Thrandheimers would have none of him; they declared
against him, and took another brother, Sigrod, for their king. To
protect themselves against their overbearing brother, Sigrod and Olaf
joined their forces. But Erik attacked them unawares with a great army
at Tunsberg and won the day. Both Olaf and Sigrod, champions in the
battle, were killed. Olaf's son, Triggvi, escaped, however, and fled
away to the Uplands, where he remained as long as Erik Bloodaxe was
master in the land. Triggvi was the biggest and strongest of men, and
the fairest of face of all that have ever been seen.

"Erik Bloodaxe had now killed four of his brothers and caused the death
of a fifth. He had made himself the king of all Norway, even as his
father had been. Yet the people misliked him sorely, they were for ever
striving to displace him and to set up Triggvi Olafson in his stead.
Then Queen Gunnhild swore that, if Erik would not make his rule a
certainty, she at least would not rest until she had exterminated all
the race of Harald Fairhair outside of her husband's line."

Here Olaf spoke, leaning forward and looking round into Sigurd's face.

"I think," said he, "that if I had been in my father's place I would
have rid the earth of so murderous a traitor as Erik Bloodaxe."

"Your father was a peace lover," returned Sigurd, "though, indeed,
there was not in all the land at that time a more splendid warrior than
he. But there were other reasons. The first was that Triggvi was
passing content in the place where he was living, away in the Uplands,
for there he had become the friend of a great earl who had most
fruitful lands at Ofrestead, and he had won the love of the earl's
daughter, Astrid, the most beautiful maid in all Norway. Her he had
wedded, and they were very happy together and free from all the cares
of state and war. This do I know full well," added Sigurd, addressing
Allogia, "for Queen Astrid was my own dear sister, and Earl Erik of
Ofrestead was my own father."

"Then," said Queen Allogia, "it must be that Astrid was the mother of
this boy whose cause you are now pleading; and in that case you
yourself must be our young Ole's uncle?"

"It is even so," replied Sigurd. "And now I must tell the second reason
why Triggvi did not try to compass the death of King Erik. It was that
Queen Gunnhild had already been seeking to fulfil her vow, and had been
attempting through her wicked sorcery to bring about young Triggvi's
death. So Triggvi thereupon left Astrid in the care of her father, and
went a-warring as a viking. He sailed west over sea to Scotland, and
there harried the coasts; and then to the Orkneys, where he had many
battles with the vikings of the isles. So that when the people sought
for him, wishing to make him their king, he could not be found.

"Well, in the meantime there had appeared another who had rightful
claim to the throne. Hakon, Athelstane's foster son, had come back from
England on hearing of King Harald's death. He was now a full grown man
and a valiant warrior. When he landed in Trondelag the people hailed
him with great rejoicing, and declared that old Harald Fairhair had
come back once more, gentler and more generous than before, but no less
mighty and beautiful. They claimed him as their king, calling him Hakon
the Good, and he reigned in Norway for many years, nor did he seek to
do any ill to his nephew, Triggvi Olafson, but confirmed him as king in

"Now when Hakon the Good returned it was an ill day for his elder
brother Erik Bloodaxe, for the people had become so wroth against him
that he could find no peace. At first he tried to raise an army, but
none would serve him, and he was forced to flee from the land with his
wife and children and a few weak followers. He thereupon took a ship
and roamed about as a viking. He fared westward to the Orkneys, and got
many vikings to join him, then he sailed south and harried all about
the north parts of England. So greatly did he trouble the English
people that at last King Athelstane, to win his peace, offered Erik the
dominion over Northumberland, on the condition that he would become the
king's vassal and defend that part of the realm against the Danes and
other vikings. Erik agreed, allowed himself to be christened, and took
the right troth.

"Now Northumbria is accounted the fifth part of England, and the better
bargain was on Erik's side. He made his abode in the town of York, and
he warded the country well, for full oft did the Danes and Northmen
harry there in the earlier time. But very soon, urged, it may be, by
Queen Gunnhild, he sought to increase his wealth and to add to his
lands; and when Athelstane died and King Edmund became the monarch of
England Erik Bloodaxe went far into the land, and forcibly drove the
people from their homes. Too greatly did he reckon upon success, for it
happened that there was another who, like himself, had been set there
by the king for the warding of the country. This other gathered an army
and fell upon Erik. There was a great battle, and many of the English
folk were killed; but ere the day was ended Erik lay dead upon the
field, and that was the last of him.

"No longer could Queen Gunnhild hope to dwell at peace in England. Her
husband's estates were forfeited, and she had no home. So she took her
children and sailed east to Denmark. There she was well received by the
Danish king, Harald Bluetooth. But in spite of her misfortune her
ambitions were not dead, for she had many sons growing up, and she had
a mind to make them all kings in Norway. These sons, as you may well
suppose, had little goodwill for Hakon the Good, who had dispossessed
them of their inheritance. The eldest of them had roved for a while as
vikings, and were already skilled in warfare, so Gunnhild contrived to
get them ships and followers, and sent them across to Viken, the part
of Norway where, as I have said, King Triggvi Olafson reigned. They had
many battles with Triggvi, but they could not conquer him. But at last
King Hakon came to his nephew's help, and with him pursued the sons of
Gunnhild into Denmark.

"This attack upon Danish soil brought about a war between the kings of
Denmark and Norway, and in a battle at Sotoness Triggvi Olafson was
defeated. He was forced to abandon his ships and save himself by
flight. In a later battle Hakon the Good was killed. It is said that
Gunnhild had bewitched the arrow that slew him.

"Hakon had never tried very hard to make his people Christians, and he
had himself drifted back to the worship of Thor and Odin. One of his
friends, when he was dying, offered to take his body over to England,
so that he might be buried in Christian soil, but Hakon replied: 'I am
not worthy of it. I have lived like a heathen, and therefore it is meet
that I should be buried like a heathen.'"

Queen Allogia drew a heavy breath at this point in Sigurd's narrative,
as if she thought that the story would have no end.

"Your voice gets tired, hersir," said she, "and it may be that you
would wish to keep the rest of the saga for another time!"

"There is but little more to tell," returned Sigurd, looking up with
anxious eyes. "And as what is left is the more important part, I beg
you to hear it to the end."

The queen assented, and Sigurd took up the thread of his story:

"Little time did the sons of Gunnhild lose," said he, "in claiming the
kingdom of their fathers; but it was only the middle part of Norway
that they could possess in safety. To gain the whole country they had
need to break the power of Triggvi Olafson and Gudrod Biornson, both
grandsons of Harald Fairhair, who ruled as independent kings. To do
this in open warfare was not easy. Gunnhild, who now forced her sons to
action, as she had formerly forced Erik Bloodaxe, found treachery an
easier means; so she got one of her sons to feign hostility to his
brothers and to make a show of friendship for Triggvi Olafson. King
Triggvi was invited by this son to go out on a cruise with him. Triggvi
yielded to his false friend's wish, and on reaching the place of
meeting he was foully murdered with all his men. His cousin, King
Gudrod Biornson, was at about this same time surprised at a feast by
Harald Greyfell and slain after a desperate fight.

"Thus did the sons of Gunnhild clear their path. Thus, too, did the
wicked queen fulfil the vow that she had sworn many years before, to
exterminate the whole race of Harald Fairhair outside her husband's

"But," added Sigurd, in a deep and solemn voice, "the flower that is
trampled under foot may yet leave its seed behind to come forth in its
own season and flourish. The race of King Harald was not yet dead, and
Queen Gunnhild presently found that there was a woman in Norway whose
true love and faithfulness were better than all the guile and treachery
that jealousy could devise. Triggvi Olafson's widow, Queen Astrid, when
she heard tidings of his murder, guessed rightly that Gunnhild would
pursue her, so she fled from Viken, and journeyed north towards the
Uplands, taking with her her two young daughters, Ingibiorg and Astrid,
together with such chattels as she might have with her. In her company
was her foster father, Thoralf Lusaskegg by name, and his young son
Thorgils. Thoralf never left her, but guarded her always most
faithfully, while other trusty men of hers went about spying for
tidings of her foes.

"Now very soon Astrid heard that Gunnhild's sons were pursuing her with
intent to kill her, so she let herself be hidden on a little island in
the midst of a certain lake. There on that island her son was born, and
she had him sprinkled with water and named Olaf, after his father's

Sigurd paused, and laying his hand on Olaf's shoulder, "This," said he,
"is that same child, Olaf Triggvison, and he is the one true flower of
which King Harald Fairhair was the parent stem. An ill thing would it
be for Norway if, for the slaying of Klerkon the Viking, he were now to
lose his life. And I beg you, oh, queen! to deal kindly with this
king's son so hardly dealt with, and to deal with King Valdemar
concerning him that his life may be spared."

Then Queen Allogia answered, looking on the lad, that she would do as
Sigurd wished.

"And now," she added, "tell me how it came to pass that the boy was
ever brought across the sea to Esthonia."

So Sigurd told how Queen Astrid journeyed farther into the Uplands
until she came to her father's manor at Ofrestead; how, dwelling there,
she had been at last discovered by Gunnhild's spies, and been forced to
take flight that she might save young Olaf from their murderous hands.
For Gunnhild had now heard of the birth of this son of King Triggvi,
and nothing would content her, but that he should die ere he could grow
up to manhood, and so dispute with her own sons the realm that they now

He told how Queen Astrid, leaving her two daughters at Ofrestead, had
fared east away into Sweden, and of what privations she had borne for
her son's sake, and of how, still pursued by her enemies, she had at
length taken safe refuge with Hakon Gamle, a friend of her father's.

"But even here," continued Sigurd, "Queen Gunnhild's enmity followed
her. This time it was not with the sword but with soft words that
Gunnhild sought to gain her ends. She sent a message through the King
of Sweden, asking that she might have Olaf back in Norway to live in
her court, and to be taught and nurtured as behoved one of such exalted
birth. But Astrid knew full well that there was falseness underlying
this message, and she sent word back to Norway saying that her boy
stood in no need of such help, and that she would herself see that he
was both well nurtured and fitly taught.

"I have told you," said Sigurd, "that Queen Astrid was my own sister.
Now, at the time I speak of I was already in the service of King
Valdemar; so Astrid thought that the best means of escaping her enemies
and of saving her son was that she should come here with Olaf into
Holmgard. The boy was then three winters old and full sturdy. So Hakon
Gamle gave her a good company of men, and took her down to the seacoast
and gave her into the care of certain traders whose ship was bound

"But now as they made out to sea vikings fell on them, and took both
men and money. Some they slew, and some they shared between them for
bondslaves. Then was Olaf parted from his mother, and the captain of
the vikings, an Esthonian named Klerkon Flatface, got him along with
Thoralf and Thorgils. Klerkon deemed Thoralf over old for a thrall,
and, seeing no work in him, slew him and flung him overboard, but he
had the lads away with him, and sold them into slavery. Olaf and
Thorgils swore foster brotherhood, and they took oath in handshaking
that they would bring this viking to his bane. That oath did Olaf
fulfil this day, when he drove his axe into Klerkon's head."

Sigurd rose from his seat and stood before the queen.

"And now," said he, "my story is at an end, and you know of what kin
this boy has come. Well am I aware, oh, queen! that in fostering a
king's son I have broken the law of this land. I seek no pardon for
myself. For Olaf alone do I ask your help. And if King Valdemar condemn
him to death for his crime, then do I crave that my life, and not the
boy's, be taken."

"Go with the boy to your home," returned the queen. "None shall hurt
either him or you. Wait in patience until the sun rise, and then you
shall know the issue of my pleadings with the king."

And so saying, she signed to them to leave the hall.


Very much of this story that Sigurd had told was strangely new to Olaf,
and even the parts that he had before been familiar with came to him
with fresh meaning. He had known all along of his descent from King
Harald Fairhair, but not until now did he fully and clearly understand
that by the death of his father and of all his father's brothers he was
himself at this moment the sole heir to the throne of Norway. Now for
the first time he realized that during all that past time, when he had
been living as a poor and wretched bondslave in Esthonia, he had held
this glorious birthright.

As he lay on his bed that night, thinking over all that he had heard,
he tried to comprehend all that it must mean to him in the future, and
in his own boyish way he made great resolves of how, when the fitting
moment should come, he would sail across the sea, and, landing on the
shores of Norway, tell his people the story of his royal birth and
heritage, so that they might know him and acknowledge him their king,
even as they had acknowledged Hakon the Good. But in the midst of his
dreaming there came to him the remembrance of the crime that he had
just committed, and he began to dread that King Valdemar might hold him
guilty, and order him to be slain.

All through the long night this dread haunted him. He had killed Jarl
Klerkon, and the sense of his own guilt now preyed upon him like a
terrible nightmare. He wondered by what means they would take his life.
Would they smite off his head with a sharp sword or shoot an arrow into
his heart, or would they slowly torture him to death? Perhaps they
would deem him too young to be thus punished by the taking of his life;
but if they spared his life he would none the less be punished, for
they would throw him into the dark prison that he had once seen under
the king's castle, and there they would leave him to languish in chains
for many years, so that his strength would go from him, and he would be
no longer fit to be called a king.

Not for a moment did Olaf think of allowing his Uncle Sigurd to take
the punishment for his crime. He knew that Sigurd had made no idle
offer when he had said that he would give up his life for his sake; but
Sigurd was guiltless, and it would be a coward's act to allow him to
make this sacrifice. With all his newborn hopes burning within him, it
was a hard thing for Olaf to think of death. Nevertheless, before the
night was half spent he had resolved to take whatever punishment should
be meted out to him, and if need be to face even death with a brave

Early on the next morning he was awakened from his sleep by the touch
of rough hands upon him. His own hands were seized, and heavy chains
were bound upon his wrists and ankles. Then he was taken away and
thrust into a dark cell that was cold, and damp, and airless. No food
was given to him, and very soon the pangs of hunger made him wild and
restless. A sudden dread came upon him that they meant to starve him to
death. But not long had he been imprisoned before the heavy door was
again thrown open, and he was summoned forth. Two men of the king's
bodyguard led him into the great hall, where he was met by a loud
clamour of voices. He looked about him fearlessly at the crowd of
townsfolk and vikings, who were there, as he now well knew, to bear
witness against him and to hear him condemned. As he stood facing them
the vikings broke into fierce cries for speedy vengeance, and he felt
the hot blood rush to his cheeks and brow. His clear blue eyes flashed
in bold challenge as one of the seamen called out aloud:

"Death to him! Death to the slayer of our chief!" Then one of the
king's lawmen demanded silence, and Olaf was made to turn with his face
to the high seat. There sat King Valdemar in his robes of justice, and
with his naked sword lying before him on the oaken table. At his right
side sat Queen Allogia, with her eyes fixed gravely upon the young

Presently, when there was complete silence, Olaf's accuser stepped
forward, and making the sign of Thor's hammer, spoke aloud. He was
named Rand the Strong, and the vikings had chosen him as their captain
in the place of the dead Jarl Klerkon. He told very truthfully how the
young prisoner had made his attack upon Klerkon, and showed that it was
in no mean and underhand way that he had committed this crime, but with
such boldness that none had guessed what was happening until they saw
Klerkon fall to the ground with the lad's axe buried deep in his skull.

Then came others, both townsfolk and seafolk, declaring that Rand had
spoken truly. And so when all who accused the boy had spoken, Sigurd,
the king's steward, was bidden to rise and say what he knew in Olaf's

"The boy is my own servant," said he, "and I bought him as a thrall
from a certain yeoman in Esthonia. I know no ill against him, and it
was not in his nature to commit any violent act without cause. Rash he
certainly was in killing this viking without due warning. But Jarl
Klerkon was a man whose skill and prowess have made him well known on
all the seas where the vikings are wont to do battle, and I think he
might easily have defended himself against this child, who, as you have
heard, attacked him face to face in the full daylight. As to the cause
of this attack it was this: some seven summers back Jarl Klerkon
assailed and captured a certain merchant ship, on board of which were
this boy Ole, his mother, and his foster father. Klerkon slew the boy's
foster father and sold the mother and her child into bondage. The boy
took oath of vengeance, which oath he has now fulfilled. Now,"
continued Sigurd, raising his voice so that all could hear, "it is not
lawful for any Esthonian viking to attack a peaceful trading ship; but
Klerkon assuredly did this, and I therefore hold that it was he who was
the aggressor. For this reason, and also on account of his youth, I
crave that the boy's life be spared."

While Sigurd was speaking, Olaf's eyes rested upon the queen. He saw
her lean over and whisper in the king's ear. The king nodded and
smiled, waited until there was silence, and then said briefly:

"Little question is there that the offender is guilty. He is guilty,
and must suffer the penalty of his crime. But as he is still little
more than a child in years the penalty will not be death, but the
payment of a heavy fine. He will, therefore, pay to the vikings whom he
has injured the sum of two hundred gold marks."

Now Olaf deemed this judgment very hard, for he had not the money
wherewith to pay this fine. But his life had been spared, and that was
a great matter. It might be that Sigurd Erikson, who was as he knew
very wealthy, would help him to meet the weregild.

Meanwhile the vikings had put their heads together in council. They
decided that as the young murderer's death would in no way profit them
they would accept the fine. But there was yet something that seemed to
trouble them, and at last Rand the Strong came forward before the king.

"We are well content with thy judgment, O king," said he, "and we agree
that on receiving this money we shall not molest the lad any longer on
account of this matter. But we are told that he is only a thrall, and
that there is no hope of our getting the gold from him. Therefore we
claim that he shall die the death."

Olaf looked towards his uncle as if expecting that he would at once
offer to pay this gold. But Sigurd's eyes were fixed upon Queen
Allogia, who now slowly rose from her seat and held up her hand to
silence the loud murmur of voices that filled the hall.

"As to this money," said she, addressing the vikings in a clear ringing
voice, "there is no need that you concern yourselves. The gold shall
now be paid to you in full. It is here!" she cried, throwing down a bag
of coins upon the table. "Now, loosen the boy's chains! Loosen his
chains and set him free."

Then Olaf's warders unbound him, and at a sign from the queen he
stepped to the table and took up the bag of gold and carried it to Rand
the Strong, who received it from him with willing hands, bidding the
boy have no further fear.

On that same day the vikings departed out of Holmgard not ill pleased,
for they went away much richer than they had come, and none of them
seemed at all sorry at the loss of their chief. Jarl Klerkon had gone
to Valhalla, they said, and he was surely happier than they.

Now on the day after the paying of the weregild Olaf had audience with
Queen Allogia, and he thanked her well for the great friendship she had
shown him.

"Little do I deserve your thanks, Prince Olaf," said she. "What I have
done is no more than I would wish any other woman to do for my own son
if he were so hardly dealt with in a foreign land. And now," she added,
"since I have at length learned of what great kin you are, it is my
wish that you shall be received here as becomes your royal birth, and
that you shall be educated as behoves a king's son. Too young are you
yet to bear arms as a warrior. For the present, therefore, you shall
attend upon me as my page, and you will be treated with all kindness."

Not as a servant, but rather as an honoured courtier was Olaf
Triggvison received after this time. He was twelve winters old when he
came into Holmgard, and he abode in King Valdemar's service other five
winters. Little can be told of his life during those years. They were
years of preparation for his great work in the after time; and although
he learnt very much and acquired a large part of the skill that was to
make him famous among men, yet his days were without adventure.

There was one matter which had sorely troubled him for many a long day,
and this was the thought of his mother living in bondage. Little did he
remember of those early times when she had done so much for his sake;
he had been too young then to understand what sacrifices Queen Astrid
had made and what privations she had endured. But ever as he grew older
he thought more of her, and it pained him very much to know that even
now, when he was living in comfort, with good food and rich apparel,
she, to whom he owed so much, was perhaps labouring as a bondswoman
under some cruel master.

On a certain summer morning he sat in the queen's presence, playing
upon a little harp that Allogia had given to him. And as his deft
fingers touched the trembling strings he chanted a little song, telling
of how the giant Loki, in punishment for all the ills he had done to
gods and men, was bound by strong cords against the walls of a cave,
with a serpent suspended over him dropping venom into his face drop by
drop; and of how Sigyn his wife took pity on him and stood by him for
hundreds of years, catching the drops as they fell in a cup which she

Suddenly in the midst of his song Olaf stopped. The queen looked round
at him and saw that there were tears in his eyes.

"Why do you weep?" she asked. "Are you not happy, Olaf?"

"Happy enough am I for my own sake," he replied. "It was the thought of
my mother that brought the tears to my eyes. I was thinking that what
Sigyn did for the wicked giant was just such a good act as my mother
would do for anyone whom she loved."

"Marvellous it seems to me," said Allogia, "that we can never learn
what has become of the good Queen Astrid."

"I think," returned Olaf, "that if ever I were to journey into Esthonia
I might get some tidings of her. The last that I heard of her was that
she had been sold to a rich fisherman named Hallstein, who made her
labour at cleaning the fish for him and mending his nets."

"A sorry occupation for a queen to be at!" Allogia said with a sigh.
"But if it be that you have any hope of finding her, then it would be
well if you made that journey you speak of. Sigurd Erikson goes north
to Esthonia in three days' time, on business for the king. Will you not
go with him?"

"Gladly will I go with him," answered Olaf, "if it be that I may."

Well, on the third day Olaf and Sigurd mounted their horses, and with a
good company of men-at-arms set off on their journey over the rocky
plains. Five days were they riding before they came within sight of the
blue sea with its ships and its quiet green islands. That sight brought
a restless yearning into Olaf's spirit. It seemed as if nothing would
now content him but that he should go out upon the wide ocean and spend
all his days in roving. And so much did he speak of the ships and of
the viking life that when at last the time came for the return to
Holmgard, Sigurd Erikson had hard work to win the boy away with him.

While Sigurd was dealing with the people concerning the king's
business, Olaf Triggvison went about from place to place in quest of
tidings of Queen Astrid. But nothing certain could he learn, for he
dared not say that the woman he sought was the widow of King Triggvi,
and when he told of her fairness those whom he questioned only shook
their heads. They had seen many bondswomen who were fair, they said,
and how could they tell that any one of them was she whom the young
hersir was now seeking? At last Olaf found his way to the house of
Hallstein the fisher, only to hear that Hallstein had been drowned in
the sea full five winters before. But Olaf described his mother to the
fisher's widow, who bade him fare to a certain yeoman named Einar
Ulfsson, at a farmstead over the hills. So Olaf took horse and rode
away to this man and questioned him concerning Astrid. Einar remembered
her, for she had been his bondwoman for two summers. He had sold her,
he said, to a stranger, who had taken her on board his ship and carried
her away across the seas. This was the last trace of his mother that
Olaf could discover, and he went back to Sigurd Erikson and told him
what he had learned. Sigurd was very sad at this, for he loved his
sister, and it pained him to think that she was still in slavery, when,
if she could but be found, she might live in comfort and happiness. But
he bade Olaf to be hopeful, "for," said he, "I think it may be that
some friendly man has bought her and taken her home to Norway. And if
that be so, then we shall soon learn the truth. I will send messengers
to Ofrestead, and my father, Earl Erik, will surely find her if she is
to be found."

Now when Olaf returned to Holmgard it was with the resolve that he
would not long remain in this foreign land, but would take his first
chance to go west over sea to the country of his birth. He had seen the
ships passing along the rocky coasts of Esthonia; he had breathed the
fresh free air of the sea, and the viking blood in him had been roused.
His spirit was filled with the ambition to be the commander of a great
warship, and to rove the ocean as his father had done, to visit distant
lands and to make himself glorious in battle. But well he knew that to
fit himself for the viking life he must increase his strength of body
and acquire even greater skill than he now had in the use of all
warlike weapons. So he set himself the task of excelling in the games
and exercises that were then known and practised.

Already he had been taught by his uncle to read runes, to recite sagas,
to play upon the harp, to carve wood, to twist string, to bend a bow,
and to shaft an arrow. These and many other arts had come easy to his
active mind and his deft fingers. All that a man of peace need know he
knew full well. Nor had he neglected to give thought to the religion of
his times. Every day he went into the temple to bow down in devout
worship of the heathen gods, to take part in the rites and ceremonies
of his faith, and even to offer sacrifice to Thor and Odin. The graven
image of Odin was to him, as to most of the Norsemen, a sacred and a
holy thing. When he took oath it was by the sign of Thor's hammer that
he swore; he knew the names and the special powers of all the gods in
Asgard, and Valhalla was the heaven to which, after death, he hoped to

But these arts and this religion would not alone fit him for fulfilling
his ambition. To be such a great viking as he dreamed of becoming he
must learn how to use his sword, how to wield his battleaxe, how to
throw a spear and to shoot an arrow with greater skill than any other
man could boast. He must learn, too, how to defend himself, and how, if
wounded, to bear pain without shrinking. He was a king's son, and to be
worthy of his father it was well that he should excel even the full
grown men who had been well tried in battle and who had never known the
meaning of defeat.

To this end Olaf remained three other years in Holmgard, which time he
spent in making himself strong. In the neighbouring waters of Lake
Ilmen he practised swimming, and with such success that at last he
could remain under the surface for many minutes, diving off a ship's
prow and coming up again under her steering board. So quickly and
strongly could he swim that no man rowing in a boat could keep level
with him. He could ride the wildest horse in the king's stable. At
running and jumping no man could surpass him. In the use of the sword
he was so expert that he could wield the weapon with either hand, and
he could throw two spears at once. Never was he known to shoot an arrow
without hitting the mark. So long as daylight served him he was always
to be found performing some manly feat.

But in these matters it was not his training alone that aided him.
Nature had given him a very beautiful and powerful frame, with well
proportioned limbs, clear quick eyesight, and wonderful strength to
endure all fatigue. Also, through all his life he was never known to be
afraid of any danger or to shrink before any enemy. Other men of his
race have won undying renown, but Olaf Triggvison has ever been
accounted the fairest and tallest and strongest of all the heroes of
Scandinavia, and in prowess surpassing all the warriors told of in the


It befell at a time when Olaf had been in the queen's service some four
summers that Sigurd Erikson went out into the far parts of the king's
dominions to levy the yearly taxes upon the people, and among those
that went with him on his journey were Thorgils Thoralfson and the
young Egbert of England. These two had, by Olaf's favour with King
Valdemar, been liberated from their bondage and hard labour, and Sigurd
had taken them into his service as men-at-arms. Brave and handsome they
looked as they sat upon their chargers with their swords hanging at
their sides and the sun shining on their burnished bronze helmets and
coats of ring mail. Olaf watched them with admiring eyes as they rode
away through the town, and wished that he might be of their company.
But their journey was one of peace, and it was only their martial array
that made him for the moment envious.

Sigurd was expected to be absent for little more than two weeks, but
the time went by, the weeks passed into months, and he did not return.

On a certain day Olaf was beyond the gates training a pair of young
hounds. As he watched one of the dogs running in pursuit of a hare that
had been started he espied afar off a horseman riding swiftly across
the plain, almost hidden in a cloud of dust. Nearer and nearer he
approached until Olaf at last saw his face, and knew him to be his
young friend Egbert. Leaving the dogs in the care of two of the king's
servants who were attending him, he set off at a quick run to meet the

"What brings you back alone, Egbert?" he cried as he came near.

Egbert drew rein. His garments were torn and dusty; he had lost his
helmet and sword, and his face was so begrimed and travel stained that
he was scarcely to be recognized.

"I have brought ill news," he answered, "and am hastening with it to
King Valdemar. It is full five days since I parted company with my
fellows. They are all made captive--the Hersir Sigurd, Thorgils
Thoralfson, and the rest of them--and I alone have escaped."

Olaf turned, and taking Egbert's stirrup strap in his hand trotted on
at the horse's side.

"Seven days ago," Egbert went on, "we crossed in one of the king's
ships to an island that lies out to the west of Esthonia. Dago is the
name of the island.

"There Sigurd landed, meaning to gather taxes and tribute from the
people. But no sooner was he ashore than the people told him that they
were no longer the subjects of King Valdemar but of a new king whom
they had chosen for themselves. Sigurd disputed their right to elect a
new king for themselves, and he asked to see this man and to know the
name of him who had dared to set himself up in opposition to Valdemar.
Then there was a commotion among the crowd, and one stepped forward and
cried out, 'I am the king, and my name is Rand the Strong!' and we all
knew him to be the same viking who four summers ago was here in
Holmgard in the train of Jan Klerkon. Sigurd grew ill at ease seeing
the vast crowd of islanders that had now gathered there, but he spoke
boldly, and told them all that they were a pack of rebels, and that
King Valdemar would speedily prove to them that he would not brook the
interference of this upstart sea rover. At that Rand drew his sword and
called to his men to stand by their rights and drive these intruders
from their shores. There was a brief fight, in which I know not how
many men were slain or wounded, and in the end the islanders got the
victory. Sigurd fought bravely until he was disarmed and made prisoner.
Thorgils and five others of our men were carried off with him. Our
ship, too, was captured. Darkness came on ere the fight was finished,
and under the cover of night I crept down to the seashore and waded out
into the sea. By the light of the stars I took my bearings and swam out
eastward to the mainland. All through the night I swam on and on. The
sun rose, and still the land was afar off. But at the midday I came to
a firm footing on the beach. At a farmstead I got food and a horse, and
for two days I have been travelling without rest."

"You have done wondrous well," cried Olaf. "And much do I envy you your

"There is little cause for envy," returned Egbert. "My limbs are so
weary that I can scarcely sit upright upon my horse's back, and he,
poor dumb brute, is so wind broken that he can be of little more use in
the world. As to adventure, you might now have it in plenty if the king
would but agree to your being of those who must go to the rescue of our
comrades. You are young, and have had no experience in warfare; but you
can, for all that, wield a sword as well as any man in Valdemar's

Olaf was silent, and when they entered the gates he did not seek to
accompany Egbert into the presence of the king. Instead, he made his
way into Queen Allogia's apartments, and there told the news that he
had just heard.

Not long had he been in the hall wherein the queen sat when the door
opened and King Valdemar entered, looking very grave. Olaf rose from
his seat and bowed before him.

"What is your age, my boy?" asked Valdemar.

"Sixteen summers, lord," answered Olaf, wondering at the reason of the

The king eyed him from head to foot.

"It is still very young," said he with a smile. "But your strength is
greater than your years. Not often have I seen one so young with limbs
so sturdy and with figure so nobly upright. I have been thinking that
you have lingered long enough about the skirts of our womenfolk. Such
skill as yours should be put to more manly uses than fingering the harp
and carrying the wine cup, and I have now a mind to see what you can do
in active warfare. There is trouble among the people over in the Isle
of Dago. I have had news that a rebellion has broken out, and that the
islanders have chosen a new king to themselves and refused to
acknowledge their rightful sovereign. These rebels must be instantly
quelled, and I have therefore resolved to despatch a company of men
against them and force them to submit. What say you to your taking the
command of the expedition?"

"The command?" repeated Olaf, drawing back in astonishment. "But I am
no more than a boy. My heart is willing and bold; but surely I am too
young to undertake so grave a trust!"

"Yes," cried the queen, growing white even to the lips at thought of
her favourite being thus thrust into a post of danger. "Yes," she
cried, "he is assuredly too young for such a charge!"

But King Valdemar shook his head.

"Not so," said he with confidence. "Young though he may be in years, I
am well assured that there is no man now living in this kingdom who is
better fitted for the leading of an armed host, and I will trust him to
the full." Then turning to Olaf he added: "The matter is already
settled. It so chances that there are at this present time six of our
best warships, with their full number of seamen and warriors, now lying
in the haven behind Odinsholm. You will depart hence at daybreak, with
such armed horsemen and footmen as you choose to take in your company.
Ere you reach the coast the ship captains will have been informed that
I have placed you over them as their chief and commander."

Scarcely able to believe in the reality of what he heard, Olaf stood
before the king in silent perplexity. He lacked not faith in his own
personal prowess, for that had many times been amply proved in the
games and exercises that he had daily engaged in, nor did his courage
fail him. But to be placed at the head of Some hundreds of well tried
warriors and told to lead them against an enemy, this was a matter of
which he had as yet only vaguely dreamed. For many moments he stood in
doubt. But suddenly it seemed that a new light came into his clear blue
eyes, and a fuller vigour into his strong young limbs.

"If it be your wish, lord," he said at last, "then I will undertake the
trust. My great forefather, King Harald Fairhair, was younger than I
now am when he led forth his hosts to battle; and, as I am of King
Harald's blood, so will I seek to make myself a worthy man of war."

Thereupon King Valdemar led the boy away, and for a long while they sat
together, making their plans of how Olaf's forces were to invade the
island and rescue Sigurd Erikson from the hands of the rebel islanders.

On a certain calm summer evening Olaf Triggvison, mounted upon a
splendid white horse, and followed by some two score of picked
men-at-arms, rode into the little town wherein, four years before, he
had lived as a humble thrall. None knew him now for the same wild,
wilful boy whom they had been accustomed to see playing barefooted upon
the beach or tending his master's sheep upon the hillside. Even Reas
the bonder himself, who had many a time flogged him for his
disobedience and idleness, and who now watched him riding downward to
the ships, did not recognize his former bondslave in the handsome and
gaily attired young warrior. The people spoke among themselves of
Olaf's beautiful fair hair, of his crested helmet of burnished brass,
of his red silk cloak that fluttered in the breeze, and his glittering
battleaxe that hung pendant from his saddle. They admired his easy seat
upon horseback, and, when he spoke, they marvelled at the full richness
of his voice. But none could say that they had ever before set eyes
upon him.

Out in the mid bay the king's six longships lay at anchor, with their
sails furled and their high gunwales set with shields from prow to
stern. The largest vessel had at her prow the towering figure of a
winged dragon ornamented with beaten gold. She was the longest ship
that Olaf had ever seen, and he counted that she was fitted for twenty
pairs of oars. Her hull was painted red and green above the water, and
the tent that covered her decks was made of striped red and white
cloth. As he stood gazing at her, with wonder and admiration, a small
boat came round from her further side, rowed by six seamen and steered
by a stalwart, red bearded warrior, whom the young commander had once
before seen at the king's court in Holmgard. Jarl Asbiorn was his name.
When the boat touched at the wharf Asbiorn greeted Olaf very humbly and
bade him step on board. Olaf called Egbert to his side and together
they were taken out to the dragon ship and received with great honour
by the six captains, who each in turn took vows of submission and
obedience to him. Then, while the ships were being got ready for sea,
Olaf was shown into a large room under the poop and told that this was
to be his private cabin. Here he held counsel with his officers
touching the expedition they were now entering upon.

It was a proud moment for Olaf when, just at the sun's setting and at
his own word of command, the oars of the six ships were thrust out from
the bulwarks and the vessels began to move slowly out of the bay.

The warlike spirit that had been lying quiet within him now filled him
with a strange new energy. The fresh sea air and the sense of his own
power seemed to have entered every vein in his body, thrilling him with
an eager desire for glory, which amounted almost to a madness. As he
trod his ship's deck the seamen and fighting men watched him in
wondering interest, and declared among themselves that Balder himself
could not have been more beautiful. At first they thought that he was
too young to be trusted with the sole command of six great vessels of
war, but very soon he showed them that he was well able to do all that
was expected of him; and there was something in his voice, in the quick
glance of his eyes, and in his alertness that made them acknowledge him
as one who was born to be a leader of men. So they obeyed him in all
things and yielded to his will in such wise that he had no trouble of
any sort.

Before this time he had had no experience in the working of a ship; so
in the early part of the voyage he gave his mind to the learning of all
matters wherein he knew himself to be most ignorant. He watched the
setting of the sails and asked many questions concerning them, until he
could understand why at any time a certain rope was hauled or loosened,
and why when the wind blew strong a reef was taken in. Always he took
great interest in the working of the oars. There were in his own ship
four score of rowing men--two at each oar--and as he watched them he
marvelled how they could endure the hard labour without breaking their
backs or tearing out their arms; and to prove to himself what amount of
strength the work required he went down into the ship's waist and,
taking off his shirt of chain mail, took his turn upon one of the
benches, thus winning the praise of all on board. But most of all he
loved to take the tiller in his hand and steer the vessel through the
dangers of the wind swept sea.

On the evening of the third day the ships came within sight of the
island of Dago, and the young commander bade his men get ready their
weapons lest the islanders should offer resistance. During the night he
brought his fleet to an anchorage under a small holm, whose high cliffs
sheltered the ships from the view of the larger island. Then launching
a small boat and disguising himself in a rough seaman's cloak, he took
Egbert and four of the men with him and they rowed across the channel
and made a landing.

Olaf questioned a shepherd whom he met on the upland pastures, and from
him learned that Rand the Strong was still recognized among the
islanders as their king and that the power of King Valdemar was broken.
So Olaf returned to the ships and brought them round into a wide bay,
upon whose shores the town was built.

Not long was Rand the Strong in mustering his little army of vikings,
for he had seen the six ships approaching; he knew them to be the ships
of King Valdemar, and quickly guessed with what intent they had come.

At sight of the islanders massed in battle array upon the beach Olaf
bade his rowers draw yet nearer into the shallows. Then the war horns
were sounded on both sides, the warriors set their arrows to the
bowstring and a fierce fight began. More than once the islanders
retreated before the heavy rain of arrows and stones, but again and
again they rallied and assailed the ships. Many of the vikings rushed
into the water and swam outward to the ships, but before they could
climb the bulwarks and set foot upon the decks they were cut down by
Olaf's swordsmen or slain, even as they swam, by arrow or spear.

Olaf himself stood at the prow of his dragon ship, surrounded by his
berserks, whose shields protected him, and coolly he drew arrow after
arrow from his sheath and sent it with unerring aim into the midst of
the islanders. Stones and arrows fell about him in a constant rain,
crashing upon his helmet and breaking against the close-knit rings of
his coat of mail. At last he singled out the tall figure of Rand the
Strong, who, rallying his vikings, led them nearer to the water's edge.
Olaf chose one of his best arrows and fixed it to his bowstring, then
bent his bow with the full strength of his arms, aiming very steadily.
The bowstring twanged and the arrow flew whizzing through the air. Olaf
watched its quick flight and followed it until it struck its intended
mark and stood quivering in the bare part of the viking's throat. Rand
staggered and fell. Then the islanders, seeing that their chief was
slain, drew back once more to the higher beach, while Olaf brought his
ships yet closer into the shallows and ordered his forces to land. With
his sword in hand he led his men to the attack. There was a sharp hand
to hand fight, in which many were killed on both sides; but at last the
islanders gave way before the invaders and Olaf got the victory.

So, when the fight was at an end, Olaf called the chief rebels before
him and forced them to acknowledge King Valdemar as their rightful and
sole sovereign. When peace was restored he demanded that Sigurd Erikson
and those who had been of his following should be set at liberty. Among
the first who were freed from the prison in Rand's stronghold was
Thorgils Thoralfson. But Sigurd Erikson was found dead in his cell. The
islanders declared that he had died of his wounds, but Olaf believed
that hunger and hardship were the cause of it.

Greatly did Olaf Triggvison grieve over the loss of his uncle. Sigurd
had been as a father to him, had lifted him up out of his sordid life
of thraldom and raised him to his present high position in the favour
of the court. And now he was dead and there was an end of all his
loving kindness.

For the rest of that day Olaf was engaged in the burial of the brave
islanders and vikings who had fallen in the battle, and he had a mound
built over them and raised stones above them to mark the place. But at
night he had Sigurd Erikson's body carried down to the beach with all
the other men who had been of King Valdemar's host. One of the smaller
ships was then brought in to the beach, and a pyre of tarred wood and
dry peat was built upon its upper deck. Olaf placed the dead body of
his uncle upon the pyre, with all the armour that Sigurd had worn. The
ship was further loaded with the dead men and with weapons. Then, when
the tide had risen and the vessel was afloat with her sail hoisted,
Olaf went on board alone with a lighted torch and kindled the pyre. The
wind blew off shore and the ship sailed slowly out upon the dark sea.
There was a loud crackling of dry twigs and the flames rose amid a
cloud of black smoke, showing Olaf standing at the stern with the
tiller in his hand. Very soon the fire caught the logs of tarred wood,
and when the pyre was all aglow and the heat became too great for him
to bear, he fixed the steering board with the end of a rope, gave a
farewell look at the prostrate body of his uncle, and then stepping to
the rail threw himself overboard into the sea and swam back to the
land. When he got his feet upon the rocks he climbed up to a grassy
knoll and sat there watching the burning ship. The leaping flames lit
up the sky and cast a long track of light upon the rippled sea.
Presently both sail and mast fell over with a crash, and a cloud of
fiery sparks rose high into the black night. Still Olaf sat watching;
nor did he move away until at last the ship had burned down to the
water's edge, and there was no more to be seen but a tiny gleam of
light shining far out upon the dark and silent waves.

On the next morning, having ended this work of quelling the rebel
islanders, Olaf led his fleet out of the bay and set forth on his
return to the mainland. In three days' time he was once more in
Holmgard. There he remained for two other years, enjoying great favour
in the court and performing many important services. He sustained a
great company of men-at-arms at his own cost from the wealth that he
had inherited from his Uncle Sigurd, and from such riches as the king
bestowed upon him; and the leading of this host throve so well in his
hands that all the younger men of the realm flocked to his side, eager
to be enlisted in his service.

Now it befell--as oft it must when outland men win fame and power
beyond those of the land--that many folks envied Olaf the great love he
had of the king, and of the queen no less. His bravery and his great
success in all that he undertook brought him many secret enemies, who
whispered all sorts of evil whispers to King Valdemar. They declared
that Olaf was but increasing his influence and power so that in the end
he might do some hurt to the king and to the realm. They slandered him
and spoke all manner of evil against him, representing him as a
dangerous rival to Valdemar in the affections of both the queen and the
people. So the king, hearing these false charges and believing them,
began to look coldly upon young Olaf and to treat him roughly. Olaf
then knew that it was time for him to be going, for that confidence
once lost could never be wholly restored. So he went to King Valdemar
and spoke with him, saying that as he was now grown tall and strong he
was minded to travel and to see the land wherein his ancestors had
ruled and his own father had been sovereign.

Little sorrow did the jealous Valdemar show at hearing of this resolve.
And to hasten Olaf's departure he gave him great gifts of well wrought
weapons--a splendid sword inlaid with gold on the blade and set in the
hilt with dear bought gems, and a shield of embossed brass. Also he
furnished him with a dragonship and four longships, ready manned and
equipped for the sea, and bade him go a-roving wheresoever he willed in
search of adventure and worldly furtherance.

Queen Allogia, however, was very sad at thought of thus losing her
favourite, and it was long ere she would make up her mind to let Olaf
leave her. But in the end she saw that it was for his own good and
advancement that he should go; so she gave him a beautiful banner of
silken embroidery that she had worked with her own hands, told him that
he would be accounted a noble and brave man wheresoever he should
chance to be, and then bade him a last farewell.


So Olaf quitted Holmgard and went on shipboard, and stood out with his
viking fleet into the Baltic Sea. He now owed no allegiance to any man,
but was free to journey where he pleased, a king upon his own decks. At
this time he was scarcely eighteen summers old; but his limbs were so
well knit and strong, and he was withal so tall and manly, that he
seemed already to have attained to man's estate. Yet, feeling that his
youth might be against him, he had chosen that all his ship companions
should be as near as possible to his own age. He had a score or so of
bearded berserks on each of his ships--men who feared neither fire nor
steel, but who gloried in warfare, and loved nothing better than to be
in the midst of a great battle. These indeed were full aged men; but
for the rest, his crew of seamen and his band of trained men-at-arms
was comprised of youths, none of whom were older than Thorgils
Thoralfson, or younger than Olaf himself.

Olaf made his foster brother the chief in command under himself, giving
him power over both seamen and warriors. He made his friend Egbert the
sailing master, while one Kolbiorn Stallare became his master-of-arms.

Kolbiorn was the son of a powerful viking of Sognfiord in Norway. He
was of an age with Olaf Triggvison, and so much did the two resemble
one the other that, when apart, they were often taken to be brothers.
Both had the long fair hair and the blue eyes of the Norseland, both
were of nearly equal height; and it was Kolbiorn's habit to strive, by
wearing similar clothing, to increase the likeness between himself and
his young master. But when the two were side by side the resemblance
ceased, for then Olaf was seen to be both the taller and the more
muscular; his hair was seen to be more golden and silken, his skin more
purely fair; his eyes, too, were brighter and larger than those of
Kolbiorn, and his teeth more even and white. So, too, when it came to a
test of skill, Olaf had ever the advantage, notwithstanding that
Kolbiorn had spent all his young days on shipboard, had been taught by
the vikings to perform all manner of feats, and had taken part in many
battles on both land and sea.

On a certain calm morning, very soon after Olaf had set out on this his
first viking cruise, he stood with Kolbiorn at the ship's rail, looking
out over the sunlit sea as his vessel crept along propelled by her
forty long, sweeping oars, and followed by his four longships.

"I think," said he, "that we will amuse ourselves today, and try our
skill in some new game."

"I am very unfit to try my skill against yours," returned Kolbiorn
modestly, "for you have already beaten me at chess, at swimming, at
shooting, and at throwing the spear. Nevertheless, it shall be as you

"Choose, then, what feat we are to perform," said Olaf; "I am willing
to join in any exercise that you may know, and I do not doubt that
there are many in which your skill must be greater than mine."

"There is one," said Kolbiorn, "that I would be glad to see you
attempt, although there is danger in it, and I may be doing wrong in
suggesting it."

"If it be new to me, then I shall be all the more pleased," said Olaf;
"and none the less so though the risk be great."

Kolbiorn drew the young commander across to the shady side of the ship.

"It is that we shall climb over the bulwarks," said he, "and walk
outboard along the oars while the men are rowing."

Olaf looked over the side, and for a few moments watched the regular
motion of the oars as they dipped into the green water and rose
dripping into the air. He measured with his eye the space between each
of the twenty blades.

"It seems not so difficult as I had hoped," he said, "but let me see
you do it, and then I will follow."

Kolbiorn climbed over the ship's quarter, and worked his way forward to
the first rower's bench. Steadying himself for a moment as he hung by
one arm from the gunwale, he dropped with his two feet upon the
aftermost oar, and stepped out thence from oar to oar until he reached
the one nearest to the forecastle. Then, still balancing himself with
outstretched arms, he turned and walked aft by the same way to where
Olaf and many of the ship's company had stood watching him. All thought
it a very wonderful feat.

Olaf praised Kolbiorn's skill, but promptly prepared to follow his
example. Throwing off his red silk cloak, lest, by falling into the
sea, he should injure it, he climbed overboard, and without hesitation
dropped down upon the square shank of the aftermost oar; then going out
near to the blade, he ran forward with quick, well measured strides.
Once or twice, as the oars were dipped, he faltered and nearly lost his
balance, but he reached the foremost one without accident, and returned
with greater ease. When he again stepped upon the deck he appealed to
Thorgils Thoralfson to decide which had shown the more skill. But
Thorgils was unable to determine the matter.

"The game has not yet had sufficient trial," said Olaf; "it must be
gone through once more. But this time I will myself take the lead, and
let Kolbiorn or any other of our company follow."

Then he asked Thorgils and Kolbiorn to lend him their handsaxes, and
taking his own from his belt he again climbed over the side, and
walking along the row of moving oars played with the three dirks,
throwing them in turn up into the air, so that one was ever aloft and
one hilt ever in his hand. Thus he played as he strode forward, without
once dropping one of the weapons, and without once missing his sure
footing. Climbing over the forecastle deck he then returned along the
oars on the other side, and reached the deck with dry shoes.

No one on board could understand how Olaf had done this surprising feat
without having practised it many times before, and when he gave back
the two dirks to their owners, Kolbiorn stood before him and looked at
him in silence.

Olaf said: "Why do you stand thus and not try after me?"

"Because I own myself beaten," answered Kolbiorn. "And yet," he added,
"I cannot believe that you did this feat by your skill alone and
without some secret power. Either you have the favour of Odin to aid
you, or else you are descended from some mighty king whose natural
skill you have inherited. Marvellous does it seem to me that whatsoever
exercise you attempt, in that you are certain to surpass all other men."

Olaf laughed lightly and turned away towards his cabin, while his ship
fellows continued to talk among themselves of this new example of his
great agility.

Thus, even at the beginning of his free life as a sea rover, he had
made upon his companions so deep an impression that they one and all
respected him, and openly acknowledged him their superior in all things.

But most of all, they wondered of what kin he had been born that he
should so easily and with such little effort excel all men they had
known. For although they well knew that he had been a favourite at the
court of King Valdemar, yet none even guessed at the truth that he was
a blood descendant of the great Harald Fairhair; and less still did any
imagine that he was even now heir to the throne of Norway. None but
Thorgils Thoralfson knew his true name. At this time, and indeed
throughout the whole course of his after adventures in Britain, he was
known only as Ole the Esthonian.

Now although Olaf had spoken of his wish to return to the land of his
fathers, yet now that he was upon his own dragonship, and free to
follow where fortune should lead him, he showed no haste to make a
landing in Norway. He bent his course across the Gulf of Finland, and
then westward among the many green islands and rocky holms that lie in
the mid sea between Finland and Sweden, and for many sunny days and
calm starry nights simply enjoyed the idle pleasures of his new life of

It was the summer season, when all the channels of the sea were clear
of ice, and there were many trading ships abroad which might have been
an easy prey had Olaf so chosen to fall upon them. But although he was
a viking, and had all the viking's lust for war and plunder, he yet
remembered the time when his own mother had been taken by Jarl Klerkon
and sold into bondage. So he determined to let all peaceful merchant
ships alone, and to join battle only with such vessels as were intent
upon warfare. In token of this resolve he had the great dragon's head
lowered from his prow, so that its wide open jaws and terrible aspect
might not strike fear into the hearts of the peaceable traders; and the
shields that were ranged along his outer bulwarks were peace shields,
painted white, as showing that he meant no harm to those who might
chance to meet him on the seas.

His berserks, and many of the young men who had joined his fellowship
in the hope of gain, grumbled sometimes when they saw him allow some
richly laden ship to go by without attacking her, and they declared
that after all he was a viking only in name. Olaf bade them wait in
patience, reminding them that there was no lack of good food and well
brewed ale on board, and that they had no need to feel discontent so
long as their daily life was passed in bodily comfort.

"And as to fighting," he added, "I cannot think that any of you would
take pleasure in drawing arms against men who have not been trained in

Not long did they need to wait ere their instinct for fighting was in
part satisfied.

One gloomy forenoon his ships with their sails full set were speeding
before a strong wind through the wide channel of sea dividing the two
large islands of Gottland and Eyland. Thorgils was at the tiller of the
dragon ship--a post which, in the viking times, was always held by the
chief man on deck. As he stood there, his eyes swept the wide stretch
of the grey sea in search of ships; for Olaf Triggvison had now put his
red war shields out on the bulwarks, and the winged dragon reared its
great gilded head at the prow, as if in menace. Olaf himself was below
in his cabin under the poop, watching a game of chess that Kolbiorn and
Egbert were playing.

The chessboard was a very beautiful one, its squares being of inlaid
silver and gold, with little pegs in the centre of each space upon
which the pieces might be fixed, and so prevented from being upset or
from changing place when the vessel rolled. It was accounted a great
privilege by Olaf's companions to be allowed to play upon this costly
board, and Olaf had made it a condition that all who used it must do so
without dispute. For a long time Kolbiorn and Egbert went on peaceably
with their game. But while Olaf watched them, he noticed that Egbert
became more and more ruffled, as he found himself being constantly
baffled by his opponent's better play. So great was Kolbiorn's skill
that Egbert at length became desperate, and only made matters worse by
his hasty moves. He wanted to move back a knight which he had exposed,
but Kolbiorn would not allow it. Olaf advised them to leave the knight
where it now stood, and not to quarrel. At this Egbert's anger grew
hot, and declaring that he would not take Olaf's advice, he swept his
hand over the board, upset the pieces upon the cabin floor, and leaning
forward struck Kolbiorn a blow upon the ear, so that blood flowed.

Kolbiorn rose from his seat and quietly turned towards the door. There
he was met by one of his shipmates, who called out in an excited voice
that there was a large viking ship in sight, and that she was bearing
down towards them as though to give battle.

Olaf followed Kolbiorn from the cabin, and together they mounted to the
deck. Looking out across the sea they saw the viking ship rowing
towards them against the wind. In her wake there was a second vessel,
drifting helpless and untended, with her sail flapping wildly in the
wind and her oars all inboard. Olaf quickly noticed that there were
people on her forward deck, and that she was slowly sinking. It was
evident to him that she was a trading ship, which the vikings had but
newly attacked and plundered. For a moment he hesitated, wondering
whether he should hasten to her rescue or at once enter in battle with
the vikings. He saw that his men were already eagerly preparing for a
fight. Some, according to their custom before a battle, were busily
washing themselves and combing their hair, while others were eating and
drinking. There was no need for them to make ready their weapons, for
these had been kept well prepared ever since the beginning of the
cruise, and there was nothing further to be done than to bring the
arrows up on deck and serve them round among the bowmen, twenty arrows
to each man's quiver; and as for swords, spears, and armour, every man
on board knew well where to put his hand on his own.

Bidding Kolbiorn go forward to the forecastle and marshal his berserks
and bowmen, Olaf took down his war horn and blew a loud blast as
challenge. At the same moment a red painted shield was hoisted to the
yardarm. Then he went aft and took the tiller from Thorgils, and
steered his bark as though to meet the approaching foe. But when he got
within arrow shot of the stranger he suddenly altered his course,
crossing her bows. The vikings, who could not yet have noticed the four
consort ships that were still far behind, no doubt thought that he
meant to make his escape, and they bore round in pursuit of him. But
now Olaf had managed to get his vessel between the two other ships,
and, having the wind in his sail and his oars at work, he quickly
outdistanced the viking, and sped along at a great rate towards the
sinking trading ship.  Not too soon was he in getting alongside of her,
for the vikings had scuttled her, and she had already settled down with
her quarter bulwarks on a level with the water's edge. He rescued a
full score of helpless men from her decks, and stood by her until she
went down. By this time the viking ship had again come within bow shot
of him, and his four longships had appeared in sight from behind the
headland of one of the islands.

Olaf had now his sail brailed up to the yard, and his vessel's prow
turned towards the oncoming enemy. Having resigned the helm to the
charge of one of his seamen, he donned his war armour and went forward
to the prow. Here the strongest and most experienced of his men were
stationed as stem defenders, armed with swords and spears, and
protected by their shields. Among them stood Olaf's standard bearer,
round whom they were ranged in battle order. The station abaft that
occupied by the stem defenders was manned by the berserks, and behind
the mast were the spearmen, archers, and stone slingers.

Olaf and Kolbiorn, who were both armed with their longbows and a large
number of picked arrows, as well as their swords, stood side by side by
the banner bearer. Olaf again blew his war horn, while Kolbiorn fired
an arrow of challenge high over the mast of the viking ship. When the
two vessels drew near, Olaf saw that the stranger's forward decks were
crowded, with fighting men, whom, by their dark hair and brown skin, he
rightly judged to be Danes. The ships crashed together stem to stem,
and then grappling hooks were thrown out from either side, and the
vessels were bound close together, so that neither might escape until
the fighting was at an end.

Thus at close quarters the battle began, and very soon the air was
thick with swift flying arrows, and with showers of spears and stones.
The chiefs on either side shouted aloud, urging their fellows to the
fray, and many a well tried warrior was sent that day to Odin's halls.
For a long while it seemed that the Danes were getting the upper hand,
for they greatly outnumbered the men on Olaf's dragonship. But as the
fight grew fiercer Olaf's berserks worked themselves to a wild fury,
and, led by Olaf and Kolbiorn, they made a rush upon the enemy's
forecastle, carrying all before them as an autumn wind carries the
withered leaves. For three long hours the battle continued, man to man;
but at last Olaf got the victory, and took the Dane ship as his prize,
with all the treasure and costly armour, all the slaves and stores on
board of her. His four longships had not joined in the contest, because
it was always considered unfair to oppose an adversary with unequal
force. But now they were brought nearer, and when all the wreckage of
the fight was cleared away he placed some of his own men on board the
prize, divided the spoil among all his fellowship, and once more sailed
off, well satisfied with his first success.

Southward he sailed down the Swedish coast, and met with adventures too
many to be told. And at length he made for Borgund holm, an island that
lies out in the Baltic to the south of Sweden. By this time his stores
had run short, so he fell upon the island and harried there. The
landsmen came in great force and waged battle against him; but Olaf
again won the victory, and got great plunder of horses and cattle.

He lay by Borgund holm for many weeks, with his tents ranged in order
along a stretch of the beach, and his ships drawn up to the high water
mark. Every day his men held sports, and at night they all sat in their
tents drinking and throwing dice, or listening to the sagamen's stories
of the great deeds of byegone warriors. Olaf himself joined always in
their feasts and revels, and he was ever the merriest and gamesomest in
the company.

One day while his ships were still at Borgund holm, his two chief men,
Kolbiorn and Thorgils, were boasting of their skill at climbing. They
contended as to who could climb the steepest rock, and at last they
made a bet. Kolbiorn wagered his gold neck ring against Thorgils' best
bronze drinking horn. After this they both climbed the high cliff.
Thorgils went so far that he was in danger of falling down, and he
returned in fear, saving himself with difficulty. Kolbiorn climbed up
to the middle of the precipice; but there he dared go neither forward
nor backward, nor even move, for he had no hold upon the rock for
either feet or hands. His position was so perilous that he foresaw
certain death if he should make the least movement. He shouted in great
fear for Olaf or his men to rescue him. Olaf called some brave man to
venture the deed and offered a large reward; but not one of his company
stirred. Then Olaf threw off his cloak and ran up the face of the rock
as though it had been a level plain, took Kolbiorn under his arms, and
went farther up with him. He then turned to descend with the man under
his arm and laid him unharmed on the ground. All praised this as a
great feat, and the fame of it was widely spread. Long afterwards he
performed the similar feat of climbing to the topmost peak of the
mountain called Smalsarhorn, in Norway, and there suspending his
shining shield upon the summit, so that it shone like a sun across the

Many tales are told of his strength and agility--of how he could smite
alike with either hand, of how he could shoot with two spears at once.
It is said that he could jump higher than his own height both backwards
and forwards, and this with his weapons and complete armour on. He was
the swiftest and strongest swimmer in all Scandinavia, and at running
and climbing no man was his equal.

And yet he was no boaster. His great deeds came of his eagerness in all
matters, and not from a desire to belittle his companions. He was kind
and lowly hearted, bountiful of gifts, very glorious of attire, and
before all men for high heart in battle. It may be that he also was
cruel, for it is told that he was stern and wrathful with all who
offended him, and that in punishing his enemies he knew no mercy. He,
however, sought only to do all things that it was customary for a
viking to do. To win fame, to gain wealth, to plunder, and to
slay--these were the passions that ruled him. The ocean was his only
home. He derided the comforts of a warm fireside and scorned the man
who should sleep under a sooty rafter or die on a bed of straw. To give
up his last breath amid the clamour of battle was his one unalterable
ambition; for only those who died thus, besprinkled with blood, could
ever hope to win favour of the pagan gods, or to enter the sacred halls
of Valhalla. In the spirit of his times he believed that the viking
life was the noblest and most honourable that a man could follow; he
believed that the truest title to all property was given by winning it
with the sword, and very soon he became as wild and reckless as any sea
rover on the Baltic. No danger, howsoever great, had power to daunt
him, or to lessen his joy in the fresh freedom of the open sea with its
wild hoarse winds and its surging perilous storms.

It was in the autumntide that Olaf encountered the first serious storm.
By this time he had added to his fleet many vessels which he had
captured in battle, and some that he had had built by his shipwrights;
and he bethought him that he would now sail out of the Baltic Sea and
make his way round to the coasts of Norway, where, with his great force
of men and ships behind him, he might surely hope to win the glory that
he coveted. He had kept his favourite companions and his chosen
warriors on board his dragonship, so that they might ever be near him
in case of need. But Egbert of Britain and Kolbiorn Stallare, after
their quarrel over the game of chess, had not been friendly towards
each other, so Egbert was placed in command over one of the other
vessels of the fleet--a Longship named the Snake.

On a certain day the ships were making westward under easy sail when
the storm burst suddenly upon them, with a bitter cold wind from the
north that quickly whipped the sea into great towering waves. The hail
and sleet fell so heavily that the men in the bow of each ship were
hidden from those in the stern, and the seas broke over the bulwarks,
deluging the decks and cabins, so that the men in the baling room were
kept constantly at work with their scoops and buckets. All cried upon
Njord, the sea god, and upon Thor and Odin no less, to save them out of
their peril; but the raging storm continued throughout the night and
the whole of the next day, and all the time Olaf stood at the helm,
bravely facing the tempest and keeping his vessel's prow pointing
northward to meet the towering waves. Often it seemed that he would be
swept overboard by the wild rush of water, but his great strength
endured the strain, and though nearly blinded by the pelting hail he
still held on.

With the evening of the second day the wind's force abated, and the
heavy clouds that had darkened the sky melted away in a glow of sunset
gold. Then Olaf looked around upon the wide turbulent sea and counted
his ships. Some had lost their masts, and others had been swept far
away towards the dim horizon. One of them alone was missing: it was the
longship of Egbert of Britain. Olaf had little doubt that she had
foundered with all on board, and yet he knew that Egbert was a brave
and skilful seaman, and he thought it strange that he should have
failed to weather the storm, so, finding no other explanation, he
declared that it was because Egbert was a Christian that this disaster
had happened. Had he been a true believer in the mighty gods of the
northmen, said Olaf, he would surely have surmounted all dangers, and
his ship and crew had been saved! And all who heard them regarded the
young chief's words as words of wisdom, for they did not know, and
neither did Olaf himself at that moment dream, that Egbert and his
ship's company were safe and sound in the shelter of the high headland
of Borgund holm. Not for many years thereafter did Olaf and Egbert
again meet, and when they did so, it was face to face as foemen on the
battle plain of Maldon, in far off England.

When the storm had spent its force, and the sea was calm, Olaf brought
his ships together, made the needful repairs, and led the way southward
to the shores of Wendland. There he got good haven and, faring full
peacefully, abode there throughout the winter months.


Burislaf was the name of the king in Wendland. He was a very wealthy
monarch and held in high esteem throughout the countries of the Baltic,
and his court was the frequent meeting place of the great men of that
time. Now Burislaf had three very beautiful daughters--Geira, Gunnhild,
and Astrid--whom many noble and kingly men sought vainly to win in
marriage. Geira, the eldest of the three, held rule and dominion in the
land, for it was much the wont of mighty kings in those days that they
should let the queen, or the eldest daughter, have half the court to
sustain it at her own cost out of the revenues that came to her share.
So when Geira heard that alien folk were come into Wendland, with a
great fleet of viking ships, and that the chief of them was a young man
of unusual prowess and noble mien, she sent friendly messengers to the
coast and bade the newcomers be her guests that wintertide, for the
summer was now far spent, and the weather hard and stormy. And Olaf
Triggvison took her bidding, and went with his chosen captains to the
court, where he was well received and most hospitably entertained.

It is told that when Geira saw how kingly of aspect Olaf was, and how
handsome and courteous withal, she at once yearned for his love and
craved that he should wed with her and become a ruler in the land. Many
legends which have come down to us from that time even state that she
straightway fell a-wooing him, and that in the end they were married,
and ruled the realm side by side. But it is not easy to believe that
one who was heir to the throne of Norway would be content to remain in
Wendland at the bidding of a woman he did not love, and it is to be
remembered that Olaf was still little more than a youth, while Geira
was already well advanced in years. Moreover, Olaf had at this same
time met Thyra, the daughter of the king of Denmark--a princess who was
not only more beautiful, but also much nearer his own age than Geira,
and who afterwards became his wife and queen. Howsoever it be, Olaf had
lived but a few months in Wendland when Geira was stricken with an
illness and died.

Among the guests of King Burislaf were two men who in the later time
had a large share in the shaping of Olaf's destiny, first as his
friends, and afterwards as his enemies. Their names were Earl Sigvaldi
of Jomsburg and Sweyn of Denmark.

Earl Sigvaldi was the son of Strut-Harald, sometime King of Skaney, and
at the time of his meeting with Olaf in Wendland he was lord over the
great company of vikings who had their stronghold in Jomsburg. He was a
very mighty man, and his wealth and personal prowess were such that
Burislaf's daughter Astrid encouraged his wooing of her with the result
that they were wedded.

Earl Sweyn was a younger man, the son of Harald Bluetooth, King of
Denmark. He had come into Wendland in the company of his friend
Sigvaldi, for they had both been a-warring together, and, being beaten
in a great sea fight, they had taken refuge in the court of Burislaf.
Their warring had been against Sweyn's own father, King Harald. Sweyn
had craved dominion in his father's realm, but Harald Bluetooth
preferred to retain his throne undivided. Then Sweyn gathered warships
together and got the help of the Jomsburg vikings, and stood towards
Zealand, where King Harald lay with his fleet ready to fare to the wars
against Norway. So Sweyn fell upon his father's ships, and there was a
great battle, in which Harald Bluetooth got the victory, but also his
death wound. Now the arrow with which King Harald was killed was one
bearing marks which showed it to be of his own son's making, and Sweyn
fled lest vengeance should overtake him.

Now Sigvaldi, knowing that it would not be long ere the Danes claimed
Sweyn as their king, was anxious to assure a peace between Wendland and
Denmark, and with this purpose he had brought Sweyn in his company to
King Burislaf's court, and it was then arranged that Sweyn should wed
Gunnhild, daughter of Burislaf, and that thereafter there should be
peace between the two lands. So when the wedding was over, King Sweyn
fared home to Denmark with Gunnhild his wife, and they became the
parents of Canute the Mighty--the same who in his manhood fought
against Edmund Ironsides and reigned as King of England.

In those days the Danes and their neighbours the Wends made great
threats of sailing with a host to Norway, and Olaf Triggvison heard
much talk of this threatened expedition from Earl Sigvaldi. He learned,
too, something of what had been taking place in his native land since
the time of the death of King Triggvi.

By their evil work Queen Gunnhild and the sons of Erik Bloodaxe had, as
they thought, put an end to the family of Harald Fairhair, for they had
lost all trace of Queen Astrid and her boy Olaf, and none remained to
dispute the throne of Norway. In the province of Thrandheim, however,
there reigned a certain Earl Sigurd, who yet gave them great trouble.
To rid themselves of all danger from him they resorted to treachery.
They had murdered King Triggvi and his four brothers, and they had
little scruple in employing the same means towards Earl Sigurd, so they
entrapped him and put him to death. After this deed Harald Greyfell
reigned as King of Norway for five troublous and unfruitful years. By
the slaying of Earl Sigurd, however, the sons of Erik raised up against
themselves an enemy who proved more dangerous to them than any they had
yet encountered. This was Earl Hakon, the son of Sigurd, a most
powerful and sagacious warrior, whose one desire was to avenge his
father's death and drive the whole race of Erik Bloodaxe from the land.
Nor was he long in fulfilling his designs. By a daring intrigue, and
with help from Denmark, he succeeded not only in bringing King Harald
Greyfell to his bane, but also in winning his own way to the throne of
Norway. Queen Gunnhild and her two surviving sons then fled over sea to
the Orkneys, and that was the end of them.

Now, when Olaf heard these things and understood that Earl Hakon,
although not of royal birth or lineage, was still recognized as the
king in Norway, he resolved to join issue with the Danes and Wends in
their projected expedition, and he spoke with Earl Sigvaldi, offering
the support of all his ships and men. Well satisfied was Sigvaldi at
hearing this offer made, and he gladly accepted it, for he had quickly
discerned that Ole the Esthonian was a young warrior whose help would
be most valuable, even apart from the great force of battleships and
fighting men that were under his command.

So when the winter had passed by, and the sea was clear of ice, Olaf
had his ships refitted, mustered his men, and set sail along the
Wendland coast towards the island of Wollin, at the mouth of the river
Oder, upon which stood the great stronghold of Jomsburg.

Jomsburg had been founded and built by King Harald Bluetooth of
Denmark, who possessed a great earldom in Wendland. He had garrisoned
the place with vikings on the condition that they should defend the
land, and be always ready to support him in any warlike expedition.
There was a very fine harbour or dock made within the Burgh, in which
three hundred longships could lie at the same time, all being locked
within the strongly built walls of granite with their massive gates of
iron. The Jomsburg vikings were a well disciplined company of pirates
who made war their exclusive business, living by rapine and plunder.
Their firm belief in the heathen gods justified them in following this
mode of life, and often they fought for mere fighting's sake. They were
bound by very strict laws to obey their chief. No man older than fifty
or younger than eighteen winters could be received into the fellowship;
they were all to be between these two ages. No man could join the band
who was known to have ever yielded in fight to an opponent his match in
strength of arms. Every member admitted swore by the hammer of Thor to
revenge all the rest as his brother. Slander was forbidden. No woman or
child was ever to be molested or carried away as captive, and all the
spoil or plunder of war was to be equally divided. One very important
law was that no member of the band was ever to utter a word of fear or
to flinch from pain, or to attempt to dress his wounds until they had
bled for four and twenty hours. Nothing could occur within the Burgh
over which the chief should not have full power to rule as he liked. If
any broke these rules he was to be punished by instant expulsion from
the community.

For two days after the time when Olaf's fleet anchored abreast of the
gates of Jomsburg, there was the work of inspecting all his men and
ships and arms. Some two score of the men were rejected by Earl
Sigvaldi, some because they were at enmity with certain vikings who
were already of the band, others because they had killed some near
kinsman of one of the members, and yet others who refused to follow or
obey any other chief than Olaf Triggvison alone. But the ships and
their equipment were all pronounced seaworthy and in good condition;
so, after the vows had been made, there was held a great feast, and
Olaf was chosen as a captain under Earl Sigvaldi, holding the command
of his own division of the Jomsburg fleet.

Now, during the summer months of that same year, Olaf went out upon a
viking cruise into the Gulf of Bothnia. On the coast of Jemptland and
Helsingialand he encountered many Swedish warships, cleared them, and
slew many men, and took all the wealth of them. It was his habit to lie
hidden behind some rocky promontory, or at the mouth of some vik, or
creek, and thence dart out upon his unsuspecting prey; and he would
thus creep along the coast from vik to vik, harrying and plundering
wheresoever he went. And in all his battles he never received a wound
or lost a ship, but always got the victory. He was accounted the most
favoured by the gods among all the vikings of Jomsburg, and his renown
spread far and wide.

When Olaf returned at the beginning of the winter to Jomsburg he heard
that Earl Sigvaldi's father, Strut-Harald of Skaney, had just died. Now
it was the custom in those days that a high born man, before he could
take possession of any inheritance left to him by his father, should
hold an arvel, or inheritance feast. King Sweyn was at this time
preparing to hold such a feast before taking possession of the Danish
kingdom, so it was arranged that Sweyn and Sigvaldi should make one
arvel serve for them both, and Sweyn sent word to Sigvaldi inviting him
with all his captains and chosen warriors to join him in Zealand, and
so arrange it that the greatest possible honour should be done to the

Sigvaldi accordingly left Jomsburg with a large host of his vikings and
two score of ships. Among his captains were Olaf Triggvison, Kolbiorn
Stallare, Bui the Thick of Borgund holm, Thorkel the High, and Vagn
Akison. It was winter time, and the seas were rough, but the fleet
passed through the Danish islands without disaster, and came to an
anchorage in a large bay near which now stands the city of Copenhagen.
King Sweyn welcomed Earl Sigvaldi and all his men with great kindness.

The feast was held in a very large hall, specially built for the
reception of guests, and ornamented with splendid wood carvings and
hung about with peace shields and curtains of beautiful tapestry. King
Sweyn was dressed in very fine clothes of purple, with gold rings on
his arms and round his neck, and a band of burnished gold, set with
gems, upon his head. His beard, which was as yet but short, was trimmed
in a peculiar way--divided into two prongs--which won for him the
nickname of Sweyn Forkbeard. The tables were loaded with cooked food
and white bread; sufficient to serve all the great company for three
days. The ale and mead flowed abundantly, and there was much good cheer
in the hall. Many high born women were present, and the guests sat in
pairs, each man and woman together. Olaf Triggvison had for his partner
the Princess Thyra, sister of the king.

In the midst of the feasting Thyra turned to Olaf and asked him his
true name.

"Men call me Ole the Esthonian," answered Olaf.

"I had known so much already," returned Thyra. "It is the same name
that you bore at the time we first met in Wendland. But when I look at
you, and see your silken hair and your fair skin, it seems to me that
you must be of kingly birth."

"It is not well always to judge by appearances," Olaf said with a
smile. And he drew down the gold ring from the thick part of his bare
left arm. Thyra's eyes rested upon his arm for a moment, and she saw
imprinted there the seared brand that showed him to have been a slave;
and from that moment she ceased to regard him with personal interest.

It was the custom at such feasts as this that the high seat, or throne,
of the man whom the guests were met to do honour to, should be left
vacant until the memorial toast of the deceased, and of the mightiest
of their departed kinsmen, had been proposed. In accordance with this
custom King Sweyn stood up and drank the cup of memory to his father.
Then he stepped into the high seat, and by this act took possession of
his inheritance. The cup was filled and emptied to the last drop by
each man in turn.

The Jomsburg vikings drank eagerly on that first evening, and ever as
their drinking horns were emptied they were filled again, brimming of
the strongest. After it had gone on thus for a while, King Sweyn saw
that his guests were nearly all drunk.

"Here is great merriment," said he, rising and holding aloft his silver
drinking horn. "And I propose that we shall find a new entertainment
which will long hereafter be remembered."

Sigvaldi answered, "We think it most becoming and best for the
entertainment, that you, lord, should make the first proposal, for we
all have to obey you and follow your example."

Then the king laughed and said: "I know it has always been customary at
great feasts and meetings that all present should make vows to perform
great and valorous deeds, and I am willing to try that now. For, as
you, Jomsvikings, are far more famous than all other men in this
northern half of the world, so the vows you will make here will be as
much more renowned than others, as you are greater than other men. And
to set you an example, I will myself begin."

He filled his drinking horn to the brim and held it high, while all
waited eagerly and silently to hear what vow he should make.

"This it is," said he in a loud voice which those at the farthest end
of the hall could clearly hear. "I vow that I will, before the third
winter nights hereafter have passed, have driven King Ethelred of
England out of his realm, or else have slain him, and thus have got his
kingdom to myself!"

And so saying he quaffed his deep horn.

All wondered at this great vow, for not many had heard even the name of
King Ethelred.

"Now it is thy turn, Sigvaldi," cried Sweyn, wiping his wet lips with
the back of his hand, "and make no less a vow than mine."

Then the drink bearers bore to the vikings the biggest horns of the
strongest drink that was there, and Sigvaldi rose to his feet. He first
proposed the memory of his dead father, and before raising the drink to
his lips added this oath:

"I swear," said he, "that before three winters are worn away I will
sail over to Norway and slay Earl Hakon, or else drive him from the

Now, this was the selfsame oath that Olaf Triggvison had resolved to
swear when it should come to his turn, and he was annoyed that Earl
Sigvaldi had, as it were, snatched it from his lips. He now thought
over what other vow he could make in its stead. But it chanced that ere
his turn came round all the company were either asleep or so full of
strong drink that they could not listen, so in the end he made no vow
whatsoever. Yet to the last he was as sober as when he first entered
the hall, and he remembered ever afterwards the boastful oaths that had
been made. Many of his fellow vikings--as Thorkel the High, Bui the
Thick, and Vagn Akison--declared that they would but follow their chief
to Norway, while others of Sweyn's following in like manner vowed to
accompany the king to England; and once having made these promises,
none dared to go back from them.

On the morrow, when the vikings regained their senses, they thought
they had spoken big words enough, so they met and took counsel how they
should bring about this expedition against Earl Hakon, and the end of
it was that they determined to set about it as early as might be. For
the rest of that wintertide the men of Jomsburg accordingly bestirred
themselves in making preparations for the journey. They fitted out
their best warships and loaded them with weapons, and their warriors
were mustered to the number of eight thousand well trained men, with
eighty chosen battleships.

So, when the snows of that winter had melted in the vales and the seas
were clear of ice floes, Sigvaldi led his host north through the Eyr
Sound and lay for a time in Lyme Firth. There he divided his forces,
leaving twenty of Olaf Triggvison's longships in the firth, so that
they might perchance intercept Earl Hakon should he escape the main
fleet. This was an ill judged measure, but Sigvaldi was not aware that
the forces of Earl Hakon were vastly superior in number to his own.
Olaf's ships were left in the charge of Kolbiorn Stallare, while Olaf
himself went aboard the dragonship of Vagn Akison.

Earl Sigvaldi then sailed out into the main with sixty ships, and came
to Agdir, in the south of Norway. And there he fell to pillaging in the
dominion of Earl Hakon.


The rumour of the bold vows that the Jomsvikings had made spread
quickly throughout the land, and tidings of the great war gathering
soon reached Norway. Earl Erik Hakonson heard them in good time at the
place where he abode in Raum realm, and he straightway gathered his
folk about him and fared to the Uplands, and so north over the fells to
Thrandheim to meet Earl Hakon, his father. Now Earl Hakon greatly
feared the vikings of Jomsburg, and on hearing this news he sent abroad
the war arrow all about the Thrandheim country, and to Mere and
Raumsdale, north also into Naumdale and Halogaland; and in answer to
this summons there assembled a vast fleet of warships to the number of
one hundred and eighty keels, and a force amounting to eleven thousand
men. So many vessels and warriors had never before been seen together
in the fiords.

Now there was a man named Giermund who was out sailing in a fishing
skiff among the Her isles. He fared north to Mere, and there he fell in
with Earl Hakon, and told the earl tidings of a host that had come to
the land from Denmark.

"How can I know that what you tell is true?" asked the earl. "And what
token have you to show?"

Giermund drew forth his right arm with the hand smitten off at the

"By this token may you know that these ships have come," said he.

Then Earl Hakon questioned the man closely concerning this new come
enemy, and Giermund told him that the men were vikings of Jomsburg, and
that they had slain many people of the land, and had robbed far and

"Swiftly northward are they coming," said he, "and full eagerly, and no
long time will wear by ere they are come upon you."

So thereupon the earl rowed through the firths with his fleet to meet
his foes.

The Jomsvikings had sailed northward along the coast, plundering and
ravaging wherever they landed. They made great coast raids, and often
burned towns and hamlets. They were lying in Ulfasound, off Stad, when
they and Hakon Jarl heard of each other. They were in want of food at
this time, and Vagn Akison and Olaf Triggvison went on their skiff to
the island of Hoed, not knowing that the earl lay in the bay near the
island. Vagn and Olaf landed with their men, wishing to make a shore
raid if they could, and they happened to meet a shepherd driving three
cows and twelve goats.

Vagn cried to his men: "Take the cows and goats and slaughter them for
our ships."

The shepherd asked: "Who commands the men on board your ship?"

"Vagn Akison, of Jomsburg," was the answer.

"I think then, that there are not very far from you bigger cattle for
slaughter than my poor cows and goats," said the shepherd.

Vagn did not understand his meaning. But Olaf Triggvison looked at the
man with quick apprehension, and said:

"If you know anything about the journey of Hakon Jarl, tell us at once.
And if you can truthfully tell us where he is, then your cows and goats
are safe."

The shepherd did not speak for many moments, but at last he answered
calmly: "Jarl Hakon lay yesternight with one or two ships under shelter
of the island of Hoed, and you can slay him when you like, for he is
still anchored in the bay waiting for his men."

"Then your cattle are safe," rejoined Vagn. "And you shall have a good
reward if you will come aboard our ship and show us the way into the

Ulf--for such was the shepherd's name--went on board the skiff early in
the day, and Vagn Akison, as quickly as he could, returned to the
Jomsburg fleet and told the news, which spread speedily round the
ships. Earl Sigvaldi at once weighed anchor and rowed out north of the
island, giving word meanwhile to his vikings to make ready for battle.

Greatly did Olaf Triggvison rejoice at this immediate prospect of
attacking and vanquishing the proud man who had for sixteen years held
sovereign sway in Norway. If, as Ulf the shepherd had reported, Earl
Hakon had but one or two ships, then it would be a very easy matter for
the Jomsburgers to vanquish him, and who could tell what glorious
results might not follow? Despite the fact that he was not himself the
leader of this present expedition, Olaf was confident that the expected
victory must bring about the furtherance of his own personal plans. It
might indeed be that Earl Sigvaldi, on proving himself the easy
conqueror, would attempt to place himself in possession of the realm,
and to assume the name and dignity of King of Norway. But Olaf, ever
hopeful and buoyant, trusted that with very little trouble on his own
part, he could readily prove to the people that he, the direct
descendant of Harald Fairhair, had claims of which neither Sigvaldi nor
even the great Earl Hakon could justly boast.

In his passage with the viking ships up the coast of western Norway,
Olaf had looked for the first time upon the wild splendour of the
fiords, with their deep blue reaches of the sea penetrating far inland
between steep precipices braided with sparkling waterfalls. He had seen
the giant mountains rising high into the sky, with their rugged summits
capped with snow and their lower slopes covered with vast forests of
tall pine trees. Often some fertile valley had opened out before him,
with verdant pastures and narrow strips of arable land. This was the
country over which King Harald Fairhair had ruled, and now, for the
first time, Olaf had realized the greatness of his heritage. He
determined to fight boldly and fearlessly in this coming battle, so
that he might thus win his way nearer to the possession of his
birthright and the goal of his growing ambitions.

He had been placed in command of one of the largest dragonships, and
while the fleet was sailing round the island--his own vessel being side
by side with that of Vagn Akison--he went below and dressed himself in
his strongest armour, and took up his heavy battleaxe and the well
tempered sword that King Valdemar had given him. The weather was bright
and warm, and he wore no cloak, but only his closely knit coat of chain
mail, with his brass helmet, crested with a winged dragon, and his
bossed shield. His long fair hair that fell down over his broad
shoulders, his finely marked features, his beautiful blue eyes and
clear ruddy complexion were on this day more evident than ever before;
and his firm muscular limbs and stalwart figure distinguished him as
the noblest and handsomest man in all the company of the vikings.

When he returned on deck he went at once to his post at the tiller and
looked out over the blue sunlit sea. A lusty cry rose at this instant
from the prow of Sigvaldi's dragonship. The fleet was now abreast of a
low lying point of land at the inner coast of Hoed Isle, and it was now
seen that the wide bay beyond was crowded all over with vessels of war.
Ulf the shepherd had betrayed the vikings into the hands of their
awaiting foe. When his treachery was discovered he ran to the rail of
Vagn Akison's ship and leapt overboard, intending to swim to the shore
without waiting for his reward. Vagn threw a spear at him, but missed
his aim. Olaf Triggvison, who saw the shepherd swimming astern, caught
up a spear with his left hand and flung it at him. It hit him in the
middle and killed him.

The Jomsvikings rowed with their sixty ships into the great bay. They
were formed into three divisions, and Earl Sigvaldi laid his flagship
in the centre of the line of battle. To the north of him he arrayed
twenty ships under the command of Bui the Thick and Sigurd Kapa, while
Vagn Akison and Olaf Triggvison held the southern wing.

Earl Hakon determined which of his captains should fight against these
champions. It was customary in such battles for ship to fight against
ship and man against man; but in most cases Hakon, whose forces greatly
outnumbered those of his enemies, placed three of his longships against
one of the vikings'. He himself was not matched against any one, but
had to support the whole line and command it. His son Sweyn held the
chief position in the centre of battle, facing the leader of the
vikings. Against the division of Bui was placed a great Norwegian
warrior named Thorkel Leira. The wing held by Vagn Akison and Olaf
Triggvison was opposed by Earl Hakon's eldest son, Erik. Each chief had
his own banner in the shield burg at his prow.

War horns were sounded, arrows of challenge were fired over the
opposing fleets, the berserks on either side clashed their arms and bit
the rims of their shields, working themselves into a wild war fury.
Then the fleets closed in upon each other amid a storm of arrows, and
the grim battle began.

The ships of the vikings were higher in the hull than those of the
Norwegians, and this gave them an advantage, for, when the grapplings
were thrown out and the ships were lashed together, the Jomsburgers
could fire their arrows and spears down upon the heads of their foes.
The onset and attack were faultlessly made, and for a long while it
seemed uncertain which side was getting the better hand. But at length
Earl Hakon, who was supporting his son Sweyn against Sigvaldi, saw that
his northern wing was being forced backward, and he hastened to its
aid. Nevertheless, Bui the Thick still pressed the Norwegians back with
heavy blows and a ceaseless rain of arrows and spears, and it seemed
that at this point the vikings were quickly gaining the victory. On the
southern wing, however, the fight was more equal, and Earl Erik thought
that he would go to his brother's help. He went thither, accordingly,
but could do no more than set the wing in line again. Hakon then
returned to fight against Sigvaldi.

Now, by this short absence, Earl Erik had weakened the southern wing,
and, when he came back to defend his ships, he found that Vagn Akison
and Olaf Triggvison had broken through the line and made great havoc.
Erik was a brave warrior, however, and he did not hesitate to make a
bold attack upon the ships of these two champions. He encountered them
with four of his best longships against their two. The battle at this
point now grew furious, and the carnage on both sides was tremendous.
Vagn and Olaf, followed by their berserks, jumped on board Erik's ship,
and each went along either side of her, clearing his way, so that all
fell back before the mighty blows. Erik saw that these two warriors
were so fierce and mad that he would not long be able to withstand
them, and that Earl Hakon's help must be got as quickly as possible.
Yet he goaded his men on, and they made a brave resistance. Olaf was
often attacked by three or four berserks at once, but he guarded every
blow, and received but little hurt. He fought whiles with his sword and
whiles with his battleaxe, and at times even with both weapons, one in
either hand, dealing many hard and heavy blows, and slaying many a man.
And ever when the decks were cleared there came on board other hosts of
men from the neighbouring ships. Olaf wanted to come to a hand to hand
combat with Earl Erik, but Erik always avoided him.

In the midst of this conflict one of Erik's men went forward and cut
the lashings that bound the ships together, so that Olaf's dragonship
drifted apart. Olaf noticed this, and he fought his way across the deck
to where Vagn Akison was. At this moment there was a great onrush of
Norwegians, and Vagn and Olaf sought the safety of one of their own
ships. They jumped on board of her, and had her rowed some distance
away, so that they might rest themselves and make ready for a new

There was then a pause in the battle, and it was seen that Earl Hakon's
ship had been taken landward, out of reach of the Jomsvikings' arrows.
The legend tells that, seeing the battle going against him, he took
some men ashore with him, together with his little son Erling--a lad of
seven years of age. Entering a forest glade he prayed to the gods, and
offered to propitiate them by making human sacrifice. When he thought
that his vows and prayers were heard, he took young Erling and put him
to death. Then he returned to the battle, and there was a sudden change
in the weather. The sky began to darken in the north, and a heavy black
cloud glided up from the sea, spreading quickly. A shower of hailstones
followed at once, and the Jomsvikings had to fight with their faces
against the blinding storm, which was so terrible that some of the men
could do no more than stand against it, as they had previously taken
off their clothes on account of the heat. They began to shiver, though
for the most part they fought bravely enough.

Hakon Jarl now had the advantage, confident that the gods had accepted
the sacrifice of his son, and intended to give him the victory. It is
said that some saw the maidens of Odin, the Valkyrias, standing at the
prow of Hakon's ship, sending forth a deadly hail of unerring arrows.

The vikings fought half blindly, though they were sorely pressed, and
their decks were slippery with the slush of blood and melting hail, and
in spite of the twilight and the raging storm they still held their
own. But at last Earl Sigvaldi began to lose heart.

"It seems to me," he cried, "that it is not men whom we have to fight
today, but the worst fiends."

Some one reminded him of the vow he had taken at King Sweyn's
inheritance feast.

"I did not vow to fight against fiends!" he answered; and, seeing Earl
Hakon making ready for a renewed onslaught, he added: "Now I will flee,
and all my men with me, for the battle is worse than when I spoke of it
before, and I will stand it no longer."

He turned away his ship, shouting to Vagn and Bui, whose ships were now
close to his own, to follow in all haste. But these two champions were
braver than their chief. Vagn Akison saw Sigvaldi retreating, and cried
out to him in a frenzy of rage:

"Why dost thou flee, thou evil hound, and leave thy men in the lurch?
That shame shall cling to thee all the days of thy life!"

Earl Sigvaldi made no reply, and it was well for him that he did not;
for at the same instant a spear was hurled from Vagn's hand at the man
who was at the helm, in the post usually occupied by the chief. But
Sigvaldi, being cold, had taken one of the oars to warm himself, so
that the man at the rudder was killed instead.

Confusion now spread throughout the fleet of the vikings. The line was
broken, and five and twenty of their ships followed in the wake of Earl
Sigvaldi. At last only Vagn Akison and Bui the Thick were left. And now
Earl Hakon pulled up alongside the ship of Bui, and a combat ensued,
which has scarcely had its equal in all the battles of the Northmen.
Two great berserks of Jomsburg--Havard the Hewer and Aslak
Rockskull--vaulted over the gunwale of Hakon's ship and made tremendous
havoc, until an Icelander seized an anvil that lay on the deck and
dashed it against Aslak's head. Havard had both his feet cut off, but
fought on furiously, standing on his knees. The spears and arrows
whizzed about the head of Earl Hakon, and his coat of mail was so rent
and cut that it fell off from him. It seemed now that the few
Jomsvikings who were left would have the glory of victory all to
themselves. But in the thick of the fight Earl Erik Hakonson, with a
throng of men, boarded the galley of Bui the Thick, and in the first
onslaught Bui received a sword cut across his lips and chin. He did not
flinch, but tried to pass off his injury with a jest.

"The pretty women in Borgund holm will not now be so fond of kissing
me," said he.

Then the Norwegians pressed in a great throng against him, and he saw
that further resistance was useless. He took up two chests of gold, one
in either arm, and mounting the gunwale of his ship, cried out:
"Overboard all folk of Bui!" and sprang into the sea. Thereupon many of
his men followed his example, while the rest were slain. So was Bui's
ship cleared from stem to stern.

Vagn Akison and Olaf Triggvison were now the only two champions
remaining out of all the vikings of Jomsburg, and they had no more than
fifty men to support them. Earl Erik now boarded their dragonship, and
there was a fierce fight. But the Norwegians had the larger company,
and when all but thirty of the vikings were slain, Vagn Akison
surrendered and called upon Olaf to follow his example.

"Never shall it be said that I surrendered to any man!" cried Olaf
proudly. "Rather would I die fighting."

And, gripping his battleaxe, he prepared to resist all who should come
near him. But strong and valiant though he was, he could not hold his
own against the crowd of warriors then gathered about him. He was
seized from behind, disarmed, and bound hand and foot with strong
ropes. In like manner were Vagn Akison and all the other captives bound.

At nightfall they were taken to the shore where Earl Hakon had landed
and pitched his tents.

Now, it was a question with Earl Hakon what he should do with these
thirty captives. He did not doubt that, because they were all that
remained of the Jomsburgers, they were therefore the bravest and
stoutest of all the vikings who had engaged in the great battle, and he
feared that if they were allowed to live they would surely bring some
great trouble upon him. So he ordered them to be slain. This order,
added to the fact of his having sacrificed his own son for the sake of
victory, was remembered against him by the Norwegians in the after
time, and it went far towards gaining for him the hatred of his people.

Early in the morning Vagn and Olaf, with their thirty comrades, were
led out in front of the tents for execution. They were made to sit in a
row on the trunk of a fallen tree. Their feet were bound with ropes,
but their hands were left free. The man who was to act as executioner
was one Thorkel Leira, a stalwart warrior, who had done great deeds in
the battle. Now, this same Thorkel was an old enemy of Vagn Akison, and
at the arvel of King Sweyn, Vagn had taken a solemn oath that he would
be the death of him. It seemed that, like all the other vikings who had
spoken so boldly at that feast, Vagn was to be cheated of his vow, yet
he resolved to meet his death bravely.

When all was ready Thorkel appeared before the captives, carrying a
great axe. He put Vagn Akison at the end of the log, intending to keep
him to the last in order to increase his agony. But Vagn sat chatting
and joking with his companions, and there was much laughter. Earl Hakon
wanted to know if these men were as hardy, and if their disregard of
death were as firm, as report told, and each of them, when his turn
came to be dealt with by the executioner, was asked some question,
as--"How likest thou to die?" and each answered in his own fashion.

"I should not be a worthy Jomsviking if I were afraid of death," said
one; and then Thorkel dealt him the blow. Another said: "It is a great
satisfaction to die by the hand of a brave warrior, although I would
like better if I were allowed a chance of first striking a blow at
him." And a third: "I shall at least die in good company; but first,
let me tighten my belt." One of them said: "I like very well to die,
but strike me quickly; I have my cloak clasp in my hand, and I will
thrust it into the earth if I wot of anything after my head is off." So
the head was smitten from him, and down fell the clasp from his
nerveless hand.

Eighteen of the vikings had been slain when it came to the turn of Olaf
Triggvison, and at this moment Earl Erik came upon the scene. Olaf
bared his neck, and swept up his long golden hair in a coil over his

"Let none of the blood fall upon my hair!" said he. So Thorkel told one
of the bystanders to hold the coil of hair while he struck off Olaf's
head. The man took the beautiful hair in his two hands and held it
fast, while Olaf stretched forth his neck. Thorkel hove up his axe.
Then Olaf snatched back his head sharply, and so it happened that the
blow hit the man who had hold of his hair, and the axe took off both
his hands.

"Who is this goodly young man?" asked Earl Erik, stepping forward in
front of Olaf.

"The lads call me Ole the Esthonian," Olaf replied.

"You are no Esthonian born," returned Erik. "Of what land are you,

"What matters it, so long as I am from Jomsburg?" asked Olaf.

"I had thought you were of Norway," Erik said, "and if that be so it
were not well that you should die. What is your age?"

Olaf answered: "If I live this winter I shall be three and twenty
winters old."

Erik said, "You shall live this winter if I have my will, for I do not
like to see one so handsome and strong put to such a death as this.
Will you have peace?"

"That depends upon who it is that offers me life," said Olaf.

"He offers it who has the power--Earl Erik himself," answered the earl.

"Then I gladly accept," said Olaf. And Earl Erik ordered his men to set
Olaf free from his tether.

At this Thorkel Leira grew wrothful, fearing that since the earl was in
a forgiving mood he himself would perhaps be thwarted in his vengeance
on Vagn Akison.

"Though you, Earl Erik, give peace to all these men," he cried, "yet
never shall Vagn Akison depart hence alive."  And brandishing his axe
he rushed towards his enemy. One of the men on the log, however, seeing
his chief's danger, flung himself forward so that Thorkel stumbled and
fell, dropping his axe. Instantly Vagn Akison sprang to his feet,
seized the axe, and dealt Thorkel Leira his death blow.

Thus Vagn Akison was the only one of the Jomsvikings who accomplished
what he had vowed to do.

Earl Erik, full of admiration of this feat, then said to Vagn:

"Will you have peace, Vagn Akison?"

"I will take peace gladly if it be that all my comrades have it also,"
answered the viking.

"Let them all be set free," ordered the earl. And so it was done.
Eighteen of the captives had already been executed, but fourteen had

These remaining fourteen, as the price of their liberty, were expected
to take service under Earl Hakon. Even Olaf made a pretence of agreeing
to this condition, and he helped the Norwegians to clear the
devastation of battle and to take possession of the various viking
ships that had been either deserted by their crews or whose fighting
men had all been slain. But he had no intention to abide by his
compact. In the general confusion he contrived to get on board his own
disabled dragonship. There he exchanged his tattered armour for a good
suit of seaman's clothes, with a large cloak, a sword, and a bag of
gold. He remained on board until nightfall, and then, dropping into a
small sailing boat that he had been careful to provide himself with, he
stole out of the bay and was soon far away among the skerries, safe
from all pursuit.

The disappearance of Olaf Triggvison was scarcely remarked by the
Norwegians, who were at that time holding high revel in celebration of
their victory. But had Earl Hakon of Lade been able to look into the
future, and see the disasters that awaited him at the hands of this
fair haired young viking, he would surely have swept every fiord and
channel in Norway in the endeavour to drag the runaway back and bring
him to the doom that he had so easily escaped.


Now when Earl Sigvaldi, finding that the chances of war were going so
directly against him, fled from the battle, many of the vikings
followed him in the belief that he was but intending to make a new
rally and to presently return to the fray. That the chief of Jomsburg
could be guilty of mean cowardice surpassed their understanding;
moreover, they were bound by their oaths to obey him in all things.
Some twenty of his ships followed him out of the bay, and the captains
watched him, ready to turn back with him at his first signal. But
Sigvaldi made no signal whatsoever, and only showed, by his extreme
haste, that he was indeed bent upon making an unworthy and cowardly

Justin and Guthmund, two of the viking captains who were sailing in the
chief's wake, turned their ships and cried aloud to their neighbours to
go back with them to the battle and to the rescue of the brave men who
had been so heedlessly deserted; and many put about their prows. But
already it was too late: not only were the fortunes of the fight now
entirely in the hands of the Norwegians, but the storm of hail and
wind, which was growing every moment more severe, made it impossible
for the ships to make headway against its fury. All who followed
Sigvaldi were therefore ever afterwards accused of cowardice,
notwithstanding that the larger number of them were both willing and
anxious to return.

Southward before the wind sailed Sigvaldi in all haste, until he
entered one of the wider channels; and then the storm ceased as
suddenly as it had begun. In the evening the ships took shelter under
the lee of one of the islands, and there they were anchored, so that
the decks might be cleared and put in good order. That night, unknown
to the chief, a council was held, and the captains, headed by Guthmund,
decided that they would no longer serve or obey a leader who had so far
forgotten the strict laws of the vikings as to show fear in the face of
an enemy.

In the early morning, therefore, when Earl Sigvaldi hoisted his
standard and made out for the open sea, none followed him. He quickly
guessed the reason, and, instead of attempting to win over his former
friends, he had his sail set to the wind and sped out westward across
the sea.

Guthmund was then elected commander of the twenty longships, and when
Sigvaldi's vessel had passed out of sight the anchors were weighed and
the little fleet moved southward among the isles. Here, where the
channels were narrow, and dangerous with hidden rocks, sails were of
little use, and the men, wearied with fighting and smarting from their
wounds, had little strength left for labouring at the oars, so that
progress was slow.

The ships were still but a few miles to the south of Ulfasound very
early on the third morning, when they fell in with a small sailing boat
far out beyond the sight of land. The boat had only one man in it, and
he sat at the stern, holding the sheet in one hand and the tiller in
the other. His head was bowed, and his chin rested on his chest. He was
sound asleep.

Guthmund, whose ship was nearest, called aloud to him, asking if he had
caught any fish that night. But the boatman still slept. Then Guthmund
took up an arrow and fired it so that it struck the boat's mast. In an
instant the man started to his feet, threw off his cloak, and stood up.
The morning sunlight shone on his head of tangled gold hair and on part
of his coat of chain mail. He looked very noble and beautiful, and all
the shipmen stared at him in amazement.

"By the ravens of Odin! It is young Ole the Esthonian!" cried Guthmund.
And he called to Olaf to come aboard.

Olaf at first refused, saying that although he had been without food
for two days and was also sick and weak from loss of blood and the want
of rest, yet he would never demean himself by taking the hospitality of
men who had deserted their comrades in the heat of battle.

"Where is Earl Sigvaldi?" he cried. "Let me see him that I may tell him
to his face that he is a coward!"

"We have broken off from him, and are no longer his men," answered
Guthmund. "He has sailed west over the sea towards the Orkneys. We are
now without a chief, and would be very well satisfied if you, who are a
well proved champion, would take the command over us; and we will one
and all take oath to serve you and follow you wheresoever you may
choose to lead us."

"If that be so, and if there are none but brave men among you," said
Olaf, "then I will do as you suggest."

And he brought his boat to the quarter and climbed on board.

When he had taken drink and food and had washed himself and combed his
hair, he told of how the battle had ended and of how he had escaped.

Now the vikings were well pleased to have such a chief as Olaf
Triggvison, for not only had they the fullest confidence in his
prowess, in his skill as a leader of men, and in his unfailing bravery,
but they also remembered that he was the owner of the squadron of
battleships which had been left in Jutland in charge of Kolbiorn
Stallare; and they rightly guessed that Olaf, with these combined
fleets, would not rest long ere he should start on some new and warlike

During the southward voyage nothing was said by Olaf concerning his
plans. But when he joined his other fleet in Lyme Firth, he went
straightway on board his dragonship and held council with Kolbiorn.
Glad was Kolbiorn to see his master once again, and they greeted each
other as brothers.

"It seems to me," said Kolbiorn, when Olaf had told him of the defeat
of the Jomsvikings, "that now with these forty ships that are ours we
might very well fare to Norway, and take vengeance upon Earl Hakon. If
we could take him unawares our chance of defeating him would be great,
and who can tell but you would succeed where Sigvaldi failed, and so
make yourself the King of Norway?"

But Olaf shook his head.

"Not so," said he; "Earl Hakon is a much greater man than you think,
Kolbiorn. His power is well established in the land, and his people are
well content and prosperous under his rule. I am not afraid to meet him
in battle. But our forces are very small compared with the great host
of men and ships that Hakon could muster at any moment, and to attempt
this journey you propose would only mean disaster. A better plan have I
been nursing in my mind these three days past."

"What plan is that?" Kolbiorn asked.

Olaf answered: "When we were at King Sweyn's inheritance feast the oath
that Sweyn made was, that he meant to fare across the seas to England
and drive King Ethelred from his realm. Now it appears to me that
England offers a far easier conquest than Norway, or Sweyn Forkbeard
would never have resolved to make such an attempt. I have heard that
King Ethelred is but a youth--five years younger than myself--that he
is not a fighting man, but a weak fool. Certain it is that he has very
few ships to defend his coasts. Moreover, the people of England are
Christians, and it seems to me that we should be doing a great service
to Odin and Thor, and all others of our own gods, if we were to sweep
away all the Christian temples and restore the worship of the gods of
Asgard. Whereas, if we make war in Norway we fight against those who
worship as we ourselves worship, we slay men who speak the same tongue
as we speak, whose blood is our own blood, and whose homes are the
homes of our own birthland. Many Norsemen have reaped great plunder in
England and have made great settlements on the English coasts. Why
should not we follow their example?--nay, why should we not conquer the
whole kingdom?"

Kolbiorn strode to and fro in the cabin without at first expressing any
opinion on this bold scheme.

"We have now between seven and eight thousand men," continued Olaf.

"A small enough force with which to invade a great nation such as
England," said Kolbiorn. "I think there would be a far greater chance
of success if we joined with Sweyn Forkbeard."

"My experience with Earl Sigvaldi has already taught me that I can
manage with better success when I am my own master," said Olaf.
"Moreover, King Sweyn is at present at enmity with the Danish people,
and it would not be easy for him to go a-warring in foreign lands
without the risk of losing his own throne. The glory or the failure of
this expedition must be ours alone, and so soon as we can make ready
our ships I intend to set sail."

Now it was at about this time that Olaf Triggvison's followers gave him
the name of king. It was a title which the sea rovers of the north
often gave to the man whom they had chosen as their chief, and it
implied that he was a leader who ruled over warriors and who had
acquired a large number of warships. Not often did such a king possess
lands. His realm was the sea--"Ran's land"--and his estates were his
ships. In the English chronicles and histories of this period, Olaf is
referred to as King of the Norwegians; but he was not yet a king in the
sense that Sweyn Forkbeard was King of Denmark or Ethelred King of
England. The fact that he was of royal birth was held a secret until
long after his invasion of England and his subsequent friendship with
King Ethelred. Nevertheless, his companions called him King Ole, and
the name clung to him throughout all his wanderings.

There were many wounded men on board the ships, and, while Olaf was
still lying in Lyme Firth, some of them died; others, whose limbs were
lamed and who were no longer able to work at the oars or to engage in
battle, were left behind in Jutland. Only those who were in every way
fit and strong were allowed to remain in the fleet. When all was ready
Olaf hoisted his standard and arrayed his war shields and set out to

To Saxland first he sailed. There he harried along the coasts and got a
good store of cattle and corn, and won many men and two other ships to
his following. Then about Friesland and the parts that are now covered
by the Zuyder Zee, and so right away south to the land of the Flemings.
By this time the autumn was far advanced, and Olaf thought that he
would seek out some creek or river in Flanders where he might lie up
for the winter.

On a certain sunny evening he was out upon the deeper sea in one of his
fast sailing skiffs. He chanced to look across the water in the
direction of the setting sun, and far away on the line of the horizon
he espied a ridge of white cliffs. Thorgils Thoralfson was at his side,
and the foster brothers spoke together concerning this land that they
saw. They presently determined that it could be no other country than
England. So they put about their skiff and returned to the fleet.

At noon on the following day the forty-two ships were within a few
miles of the North Foreland of Kent. The cliffs stood out white as snow
against the gray autumn sky, and where the line of the headland dipped
the grassy slopes of a fertile valley could be seen dotted over with
browsing sheep.

Olaf Triggvison steered his dragonship down the coast, until at length
he saw a film of blue smoke that rose in the calm air above the little
seaport of Sandwich. The town stood at the mouth of a wide creek whose
banks sloped backward into sandy dunes and heather covered knolls. The
river lost itself in a forest of beech trees that still held their
trembling leaves that the summer sun had turned to a rich russet brown.
Across one of the meadows a herd of cattle was being driven home to the
safety of one of the farmsteads. Olaf turned his ship's head landward
and blew a loud blast of his war horn. The shrill notes were echoed
from the far off woods. His fleet closed in about his wake, and he led
the way inward to the creek, rowing right up to the walls that
encircled the town. A few arrows were fired. But already the folk had
fled from their homes alarmed at the sight of so large a force, and the
invaders landed without the shedding of a drop of blood.

When the ships had been safely moored in the harbour, with their masts
lowered and their figureheads taken down, Olaf had his tents sent
ashore, and he made an encampment along the margin of the river and in
the shelter of the beech woods. His armourers built their forges and
his horsemen their stables. A small temple was formed of heavy stones
and dedicated to Odin; and so the northmen made ready their winter
quarters and prepared to follow their daily lives in accordance with
old time customs. There was pure water to be got in abundance from the
higher parts of the river, while fish could be got near hand from out
the sea. When corn and meat fell short, it was an easy matter to make a
foraging raid upon some inland farm or monastery. At such times Olaf
would send forth one of his captains, or himself set out, with a
company of horsemen, and they would ride away through Kent, or even
into Surrey, pillaging and harrying without hindrance, and returning to
the camp after many days driving before them the cattle and swine that
they had taken, each bullock and horse being loaded with bags of corn
or meal.

These journeys were undertaken only for the sake of providing food for
the vikings and not with the thought of conquest. And, indeed, Olaf
would often give ample payment to the folk who were discreet enough to
show him no resistance, for he had a great store of gold and richly
wrought cloth upon his ships, and his heart was always generous. But at
the monasteries and holy places he made no such return, for he vas a
great enemy of Christianity.

All through that winter he remained unmolested, in peaceful possession
of the two towns of Sandwich and Richborough.

Now the monks of Canterbury and Rochester were greatly annoyed by the
near presence of the heathen pirates, and they sent messengers to their
king, telling him that the Norsemen had made this settlement upon his
coasts and imploring his protection. It was no great news to King
Ethelred, however. The Danes and Norwegians had so often made descents
upon the English shores that it seemed to him useless to oppose them;
so he sent word back to the monks that if their monasteries and
churches were in danger it would be well to build them stronger, but
that, for his own part, he had quite enough to trouble him without
raising armies to fight against a pack of wolves. As well, he said,
fight against the sea birds that eat the worms upon our fields.

This calm indifference of the English king only gave greater boldness
to Olaf Triggvison, who very naturally considered that the monarch who
would thus allow an alien foe to settle upon his shores must be a very
child in weakness--a man with no more spirit than a shrew mouse.

Not without cause was King Ethelred nicknamed The Unready. The name
stands not as meaning that he was unprepared, but that he was without
counsel, or "redeless". His advisers were few and, for the most part,
traitorous and unworthy; they swayed him and directed him just as it
suited their own ends, and he had not the manly strength of will that
would enable him to act for himself. Of energy he had more than enough,
but it was always misplaced. In personal character he was one of the
weakest of all the kings of England, and his reign was the worst and
most shameful in English history. In the golden days of his father,
Edgar the Peaceable, all things had gone exceeding well in the land.
There was a strong and well disciplined navy to protect the coasts, and
all intending invaders were held in defiance. Edgar did much for the
good order and prosperity of his kingdom, and he personally saw to the
administration of justice and the forming of good laws; trade and
husbandry were encouraged by him, and commerce with foreign lands was
increased. Archbishop Dunstan was his friend and counsellor. After the
death of Edgar came the short reign of Edward the Martyr, whose murder
at Corfe Castle brought about the fall of Dunstan and the enthronement
of Ethelred.

Ethelred was but ten years old on his coronation at Kingston. Little is
told of the early years of his reign, and nothing to the young king's
credit. Already the great fleet raised by Edgar had disappeared, and
the vikings of the north had begun once more to pillage the coasts.
There were other troubles, too. London was burnt to the ground, a great
murrain of cattle happened for the first time in the English nation,
and a terrible plague carried off many thousands of the people. For
some unknown reason Ethelred laid siege to Rochester, and, failing to
take the town, ravaged the lands of the bishopric. And now, with the
coming of Olaf Triggvison, a new danger was threatening.

Olaf was the first of the vikings to attempt anything like a planned
invasion on a large scale, and his partial success was the signal for a
yet greater descent of the northmen, which had for its object the
conquest of the whole kingdom. It was Olaf Triggvison who, if he failed
in his own attempt, at least pointed out the way by which King Sweyn of
Denmark and his greater son Canute at length gained possession of the
throne of England and infused the nation with the blood which now flows
in the veins of every true born Briton. The ocean loving vikings of the
north were the ancestors of the English speaking people of today. Our
love of the sea and of ships, the roving spirit that has led us to make
great colonies in distant lands, our skill in battle, our love of manly
sports, even perhaps our physical strength and endurance--all these
traits have come to us from our forefathers of Scandinavia. Nor must it
be forgotten that the Normans, who conquered England just five and
seventy years after the landing of Olaf, were themselves the sons of
the vikings. Rolf the Ganger was a famous warrior in the service of
King Harald Fairhair. Exiled by Harald from Norway, he made a
settlement in northern France, whither many of his countrymen followed
him. That part of France was thereafter named Normannia, or
Normandy--the land of the Norsemen. Rolf was there made a duke. His son
William was the father of Richard the Fearless, who was the grandfather
of the great William the Conqueror.

Now, when that same wintertide had passed, and when the new buds were
showing on the trees, Olaf Triggvison arrayed his ships ready for the
sea. Leaving some of his older men in occupation of Sandwich, he stood
out northward past Thanet and across the mouth of the Thames towards
East Anglia, where, as he understood, the bravest of the English people
dwelt. His four best dragonships were commanded by himself, Kolbiorn,
Guthmund, and Justin. His foster brother Thorgils had command of one of
the longships. The fleet numbered forty sail, and each ship was manned
by some two hundred warriors and seamen. When the men were landed to
fight, one third of the company remained behind to guard the ships.
Thus the forces that Olaf usually took ashore with him numbered between
five and six thousand warriors.

The first place at which the vikings landed was at the mouth of a wide
vik, leading far inland. A man named Harald Biornson was the first to
leap ashore. Olaf named the place Harald's vik, but it is in these days
spelled Harwich. Olaf followed the banks of the river for many miles,
pillaging some steads, and carrying off much treasure from a certain
monastery. The monks and friars fought well against him, but were soon
defeated, and their houses and barns were left in flames. Farther
inland the northmen went until they came to a made road, which crossed
the river by a stone bridge. Olaf thought that this road must lead to
some large town, so he took his forces over it northward into Suffolk,
and at length he came within sight of Ipswich, and he resolved to
attack the place. But he was not then prepared to enter battle, as many
of his men had come ashore without their body armour and shields,
deeming these too heavy to carry in sunny weather. So they returned to
the ships and approached the town by way of the sea. They sailed up the
Orwell river, and fell upon the town first with arrow and spear and
then with sword and axe. The men of Ipswich met their foes in the
middle of the town, and there was a great fight. But ere the sun went
down Olaf had got the victory. He pillaged the houses and churches, and
having emptied them of all that was worth taking he carried off the
booty to his ships. He found that this was a good place to harbour his
fleet in for a time, so he remained in Ipswich until the blossom had
fallen from the trees.


Now this sacking of the town of Ipswich brought terror into the hearts
of the men of East Anglia, who well knew how useless it would be for
them to appeal for help to King Ethelred. There were brave men in that
part of the country, however, who, at the first alarm of the landing of
the Norsemen, made themselves ready to defend their homes and the homes
of their neighbours. Chief among these was a certain holy and valiant
man named Brihtnoth. He was at this time Earldorman of East Anglia. He
had already done great work in spreading the Christian faith among the
poor and ignorant people over whom he stood in authority, and his
beneficent gifts to the monasteries of Ely and Ramsey had won for him
the reputation almost of a saint. The monks regarded him as a man of
quiet and thoughtful life, absorbed in acts of charity; but he proved
that he could be a man of action also, for he was soon to become the
hero of one of the most famous and disastrous battles ever fought on
English soil.

When Brihtnoth heard that the vikings had taken possession of Ipswich
he put aside his books, and, taking down his sword, rode about the
country side gathering men about him. He assembled a goodly army of
soldiers, both archers and swordmen, and marched towards the coast. It
is told that during this march he came to a certain monastery and asked
for food for his army. The abbot declared that he would willingly
entertain the Earldorman and such well born men as were with him, but
would not undertake to feed the whole host. Brihtnoth answered that he
would take nothing in which all his soldiers could not share, so he
marched on to the next monastery, where he fared with more success.

Now it speedily came to the ears of Olaf Triggvison that this army was
being assembled against him, and he sent out spies, who in time came
back with the news that Brihtnoth was encamped upon a hillside near the
town of Maldon, in Essex.

Olaf at once weighed anchor, and took his fleet southward past the Naze
until he came to the mouth of the river Panta (now called the
Blackwater). He led his ships inward on the top of the tide. Two hours'
rowing brought him within sight of the houses of Maldon. The town stood
upon a hill overlooking the river, which at this point branched off in
two separate streams, one stream passing by the foot of the hill, the
other flowing at a little distance to the north and passing under a
strong stone built bridge. Olaf brought his ships into the branch
nearest to the town, and his men, on landing, gathered in a confused
crowd in occupation of the space between the two streams.

Brihtnoth had already taken up a position of vantage to the north of
the bridge, having both streams between his army and the town. He had
arrayed his troops in a compact mass in the form of a wedge or
triangle, whose narrower point was opposite to the roadway of the
bridge. The men occupying the outer lines stood with their large
shields locked together so closely that they made a strong rampart or
shield fortress, behind which the archers and spearmen might remain in
safety while assailing their advancing foes. It was considered very
important in the early part of a battle that the shield fortress should
not be broken or opened, nor could such a breach be easily effected
except by overpowering strength or stratagem. Mounted on a sturdy
little white horse, the Earldorman rode backward and forward in front
of the lines to see that his men stood firm in their ranks. When all
was ready he alighted, sent his horse to the rear, and took his place
among his troops, determined to share every danger of his lowlier
comrades. From where he stood he could see the fair haired vikings
making a landing. Their great numbers appalled him, but he spoke no
word of fear. Presently he noticed two men whom, by their glittering
gold helmets and beautiful shields, he took to be chiefs. They walked
some distance apart from the host of shipmen, and took their stand on a
grassy knoll overlooking the opposing armies.

"Not wrong were the reports we heard concerning these sea wolves," said
he to a young man at his side. "Look but at those two chiefs standing
apart! Giants they are in sooth. The younger one--he with the flowing
yellow hair, and with the belt of gold about his thick arm--is surely a
head and shoulders taller than any East Anglian I have seen. It will be
a tough encounter if we come hand to hand with that man. But let us all
be brave, for we have our homes to defend, and God will not desert us
in our hour of danger. And we have many good chances on our side. Very
often the more numerous host does not gain the victory, if there are
bold and fearless men against them."

The yellow haired chief was Olaf Triggvison, and Guthmund was his
companion. They had climbed the higher ground, so that they might
better calculate upon the chances of the coming battle, and great was
their surprise to see how skilfully Brihtnoth had arrayed his men. That
triangle form in which the English stood was called by the
Scandinavians the "swine array", and it was believed to have been
introduced by Odin himself. Olaf well knew how strong that formation
always proved to be against the assaults of an enemy, and how almost
impossible it was for human force to break through it.

"The man who has marshalled that little army is no unworthy foe," said
he; "and I think we shall do well to carefully consider our plans
before making an advance. Well has he foreseen that we should land upon
this spot, and he has so placed his host at the farther side of the
river that we shall not reach him without great difficulty. The water
is deep, and the rising tide flows quick and strong."

"But there is the bridge by which we may cross," returned Guthmund.

Olaf smiled and shook his head.

"The bridge is very narrow," he said, "and the old chief has wisely
placed three of his champions there to defend it and bar our passage."

"Though he had placed there three score of champions, I see no danger
in our crossing," said Guthmund.

"Nevertheless, the bridge would still be secure to those who hold it,"
answered Olaf. "Indeed, I would myself engage to hold such a position
with my own hand against a far greater force than ours. It is but a
matter of endurance, and one good sword, well wielded, is as good as
the strongest gate ever made."

As he spoke he noticed the figure of Earldorman Brihtnoth, who now left
his place in the ranks, and advanced towards the three champions at the
bridge. The old man stood there awhile giving some directions to the
bridge defenders. He was about to return when he saw that Olaf was
sending Guthmund down to him with some message, and he waited.

When Guthmund stepped upon the bridge he laid down his sword upon the
ground. Brihtnoth went forward to meet him.

"What is your will?" asked the Earldorman.

"I have come with a message from my king," answered the viking.

"What says your king?"

"He says that since it appears to be the common practice in this
country for kings and earls to buy off an unwelcome foe with offers of
gold, he will engage to withdraw and go back to his ships on your
paying him a sum of money that he will name."

Brihtnoth drew back in anger at such an offer, not guessing that King
Olaf was but testing his bravery.

"And who is it that has told your chief that such is the habit of our
English kings?" he demanded.

"Little need was there for anyone to tell the tale," answered Guthmund,
"for it is well known throughout the countries of the vikings that King
Ethelred has not so many brave warriors at his call that he can afford
to lose them for the sake of a few bags of gold. Not once but many
times has he thus sought to buy off the Norsemen."

"Go back to your chief," cried Brihtnoth, with an indignant sweep of
his arm; "go back and tell him that steel, and not gold, is the only
metal that can now judge between him and me!"

"It is the metal that King Olaf has ever favoured," returned Guthmund;
"and right glad will he be to hear that there is at least one man among
the English who is brave enough to be of that same opinion."

So, when Olaf's messenger returned, there arose a loud cry from the
deep throats of the vikings. The cry had scarcely died away ere the air
was filled with arrows, that fell in a heavy shower among the English.
Then Brihtnoth's archers answered the challenge, and the battle began
in good earnest. For a long time the two armies stood facing each
other, with the river running between, and arrows alone were the
weapons used. But at last one of Olaf's captains--Justin it was--ran
forward, sword in hand and shield on arm, towards the bridge. He was
closely followed by a large number of the vikings.

Bravely did the three champions stand at their post. With their feet
firmly set, and their shields before them, they met the onrush of their
foes, wielding their long swords with such precision and strength that
Justin and five of his fellows fell dead without striking a single
blow. Onward the vikings pressed, leaping over the bodies of their
fallen companions, but only to be themselves driven back again under
the terrible blows that met them. Very soon the roadway of the bridge
was so crowded with the slain that many of the men fell over the
parapet into the deep water of the river. A party of Olaf's bowmen
stood by the nearer end of the bridge, assailing the three dauntless
defenders with their arrows. Again the northmen charged. This time they
were led by Kolbiorn Stallare, who advanced slowly, and not with a
heedless rush as the others had done. He carried his heavy battleaxe;
but before he could raise his weapon to strike, the nearest of the
defenders stepped unexpectedly forward and dealt him a tremendous blow
which made him stagger backward. The blow was met by his strong shield,
and he received no hurt; but in stepping back he tripped upon the arm
of one of his fallen comrades, and was borne down under the weight of
the men who, following close behind him, rushed headlong to the death
that he had escaped. There Kolbiorn lay for a long while, and Olaf
Triggvison, who had seen him fall, believed him to be dead.

Now it was Guthmund and not Olaf who had given the command to the
Norsemen to attempt the taking of the bridge, and Olaf was very angry
at seeing so many of his best men sacrificed. He had seen that the tide
in the creek was ebbing, and that very soon the bridge would cease to
be an important post. Accordingly he ordered that those who were still
endeavouring to cross should be withdrawn.

The three champions who had thus succeeded in keeping the bridge were
named Wulfstan, Elfhere, and Maccus. Wulfstan was the man who had
struck Kolbiorn Stallare, and he knew that the blow could not have
killed him. So when the vikings had left the bridge he rescued Kolbiorn
from under the weight of slain men who had fallen over him, and
Kolbiorn limped back to the rear of the Norse archers who, all this
time, had kept up a constant firing of arrows upon the Englishmen.

When at last the tide had fallen, and the ford could be passed, the
bridge defenders retreated, and Brihtnoth allowed the northmen to cross
over unhindered. Olaf led his chosen men across by the road, while the
larger number of his warriors waded through the stream. And now the
fight began in desperate earnest.

Separating his forces into three divisions, Olaf advanced to the
attack. He directed his left wing, under the command of Guthmund, upon
Brihtnoth's right flank; his right wing, under Harald Biornson, wheeled
round to the attack of Brithnoth's left. He reserved for himself the
position which was considered the most difficult to deal with--the
point where the English chief himself stood, surrounded by his
strongest and most experienced soldiers. This was the narrowest part of
the formation, and Olaf knew that if he could but break through the
wall of shields at this point the whole mass of men, now so compact and
impregnable, would quickly be thrown into confusion.

Kolbiorn fought at Olaf's right hand, and Thorgils Thoralfson at his
left. Behind and about them were a thousand of the most valiant vikings
and berserks.

The attack began on all sides with the hurling of javelins, but very
soon the northmen approached closer to their enemies, and carried on a
closer combat with their swords, and at first the vikings got the worst
of it.

Olaf and his fellows had already caught sight of the white bearded
Brihtnoth, and they were making their way towards him when Thorgils
Thoralfson fell forward, pierced to the heart with a spear. Now, the
spear was one which Olaf himself had before thrown into the midst of
the English ranks, and it had now been returned in such a manner that
Olaf at once knew it had been hurled by some man trained as the vikings
were in the use of the weapon. Advancing yet nearer, he searched with
quick eye among the faces of the men before him. As he did so another
spear was flung; this time it was aimed at Kolbiorn, who caught it on
his uplifted shield.

Kolbiorn had seen the face of the man who had thus picked him out, and
throwing his shield aside he gripped his battleaxe, and flinging
himself with all his great strength against the wall of men he burst
through the ranks. Olaf saw him fighting his way into the midst of the
soldiers, who fell back before the weighty axe. At last Kolbiorn
reached the man he sought, and engaged with him hand to hand, while
Olaf and the vikings followed into the breach. In a very few moments
Olaf was at Kolbiorn's side, and then he too saw the face of the man
who had killed Thorgils. It was the face of his own fellow-slave in far
off Esthonia, his companion in Holmgard, his shipmate Egbert, whom he
had believed to be drowned.

The duel between Kolbiorn and Egbert lasted for several minutes, but it
was evident that Kolbiorn was but playing with his adversary, for he
gave him many chances.

"Less skilful are you than when we last met," he said with a laugh,
"and your wrist is not so strong. Gladly would I have given you a few
more lessons had opportunity served; but instead I must now repay the
blow you gave me over our game of chess."

Egbert then fell, and Kolbiorn turned to the help of Olaf, who was now
engaged with the English chief and three of his special comrades.

Brihtnoth wanted to fight Olaf sword to sword, but Olaf respected his
bravery and his grey hairs, and chose rather to encounter a very broad
chested Englishman, who had already slain three of the vikings. As
Kolbiorn entered the fray he saw Brihtnoth turn away from Olaf and
cross swords with one of the berserks. The berserk fell, with a great
cut across his head. His place was taken by one of his shipmates, whom
the old chief also overcame. The Earldorman was wounded, but he went on
bravely fighting until at last he was cut down by a viking named Harek
the Hawk.

The spot where the English chief had fallen became now the centre of
the battle. Here, in defence of their dead leader's body, the bravest
among the English fought and fell. Wulfstan, Maccus, and Elfhere--the
three who had held the bridge--again fought shoulder to shoulder at
this place. Wulfstan was vanquished by Olaf, and his two companions
fell to Kolbiorn's blade. The names of some of the other English
warriors are Alfwine, a lord of the Mercians, Eseferth, Brihtwold,
Edward the Long, Leofsuna, and Dunnere; all of whom fell in defending
the body of Brihtnoth. One of the vikings, thinking that Olaf meant to
gain possession of it, carried off the body of the dead hero; but Olaf
would not allow his men to do dishonour to so brave a foe, and he
afterwards delivered the body to Brihtnoth's friends, who gave it a
worthy resting place in Ely cathedral.

Meanwhile the battle had fared ill with the East Anglians on the other
parts of the field. The breaking of the fortress of shields had thrown
the ranks into confusion. The vikings, under Guthmund and Harek,
followed up their advantage and fought with fierce onslaught. The
English were but ill armed; many of them had bills and swords, others
had spears and arrows, but some had no better weapons than such as they
had themselves contrived out of their farm implements.

When it was seen that the northmen were gaining the victory on all
hands many of the English began to lose courage, and one, a caitiff
named Godric, mounted the horse on which Brihtnoth had ridden to the
field, so that many thought that it was the Earldorman himself who had
fled. After this there was a general retreat, and so the battle of
Maldon ended.

Olaf Triggvison made no assault upon the town, but pitched his tents on
the high ground between the two streams where he had landed. He allowed
the East Anglians to carry off their dead and give them Christian
burial. His own dead numbered over four hundred, and he had them laid
in a mound with all their armour and weapons, and built a cairn over
them according to the heathen custom.

He lay with his ships off Maldon during the rest of the summer, and
raided in Essex and Suffolk without hindrance.

Now it might be thought that King Ethelred, hearing, as he soon heard,
of the taking of Ipswich and of the defeat of the East Anglians at
Maldon, would lose no time in gathering an army to expel the invaders.

The spirit of the nation was ready for a vigorous resistance of the
northmen, and with a few such men as Brihtnoth to lead them the English
might without much difficulty have driven every viking out of the land.
But Ethelred was a man of quite another stamp from the valiant
Earldorman of East Anglia, and he adopted the fatal system of looking
to gold to do the work of steel.

Olaf Triggvison and a party of his captains returned to the camp one
day, after a great boar hunt, and they found that in their absence
certain messengers had arrived from Andover, where the king held his
court. Olaf directed that the men should be brought to him in his tent,
and there he held speech with them. On entering the tent the messengers
set down before the viking chief two heavy bags containing the sum of
ten thousand pounds in gold, This money, the men said, had been sent by
King Ethelred as a gift to the leader of the Norsemen.

"And for what reason should King Ethelred send such a gift to me who
have done him no good service, but have only been despoiling his lands
and disturbing his peaceful subjects?"

"It is because the king wishes you to cease your ravaging in East
Anglia and take away your ships and men," returned the spokesman. "That
is the condition he imposes on your accepting the gold."

"And how if I refuse the gold and say that it does not suit my purpose
to remove my ships?" asked Olaf. "Will your king then march with his
armies against the vikings, and give us the exercise of another good

The messenger shrugged his shoulders.

"King Ethelred does not doubt that you will take the gold," said he.
"And as to his marching against you, of that matter he has said no

"In that case you may leave the money in my keeping," said Olaf. "And I
charge you to thank King Ethelred for his generosity. It so happens
that this part of the country is already becoming somewhat bare of food
and we are wearying for new scenes. I think, therefore, that before the
winter days are far advanced we shall weigh anchor and set sail. But
our going shall not be one day earlier on account of Ethelred's desire
to be rid of us."

The messengers wanted a more definite promise from Olaf that he would
not only sail away at this present time but also that he would not
again invade the English coasts. But to this Olaf would not agree.
Either the king must be satisfied that the vikings intended to quit the
shores of East Anglia in a few weeks' time, or he might take back his
gold and suffer his kingdom to be invaded and ravaged at whatever point
the Norsemen chose to make a landing.

It seemed for a long time that they could come to no agreement; but
finally the matter was so arranged that the gold was delivered into
Olaf's hands and the messengers departed, with a mere half promise of
peace and the assurance that Olaf would remove his ships within twenty
days. Olaf did not hold himself bound to keep these conditions;
nevertheless he resolved to abide by them. He had already discovered
that his forces were too small to attempt, with any certainty of
success, a deliberate conquest of England; and, indeed, even before the
arrival of Ethelred's messengers, he had determined to presently
withdraw his fleet until such times as he had gathered about him a host
large enough and strong enough to lay siege to London. His departure
from Maldon was therefore of his own choosing and not the result of any
threats upon the part of the English king.

Meanwhile Olaf did not lose sight of the fact that the foolish policy
of King Ethelred, instead of having the effect of securing the kingdom
against invasion, only set forth a very strong encouragement to the
vikings to repeat their incursions as often as they were in want of
money. Ethelred and his advisers seem never to have learned this
lesson, and for many years after the battle of Maldon the sea rovers,
both Danish and Norwegian, continued to harry the English coasts, with
the invariable result that, so soon as they had plundered a few
monasteries and reduced a few villages to ashes, they were sure to
receive the offer of a very handsome bribe as an inducement to put to
sea again.


On a certain day in the late winter of the next year Olaf Triggvison
led his fleet across the turbulent waters of the Pentland Firth, and
steered his course for the islands of Orkney. On his way northward
along the coasts of England he had many times made a landing to plunder
some seaside village and to replenish his stores of food and water. He
had harried wide on both shores of the Humber and in Northumberland,
had stormed King Ida's fortress of Bamborough, and made a raid upon
Berwick. In Scotland, also, he had ravaged and plundered. But of these
adventures there remains no record. Before the time of his crossing to
the Orkneys he had lost five of his ships and a large number of his
men, and from this it may be judged that he had either encountered very
stormy weather or suffered some reverse at the hands of his enemies.

The snow still lay deep upon the islands when he entered the wide
channel named Scapa Flow, and anchored his fleet under shelter of the
high island of Hoy. Many of his vessels were by this time in need of
repair, so he crossed the sound and beached them near to where the port
of Stromness now lies, and at this place he took up his quarters until
the coming of the summer.

The Orkney Islands were then, and for many generations afterwards,
peopled by Scandinavian vikings and their families, who paid tax and
tribute to Norway. Olaf therefore found himself among men who spoke his
own tongue, and who were glad enough to make friends with a chief, of
whom it could be said that he had done great and valiant deeds in
battle. One thing which more than all else won these people to him was
their knowledge that he was the same Ole the Esthonian who, with Vagn
Akison, had stood out to the end in the great sea fight against Hakon
of Lade. Earl Hakon was now the ruler over the Orkney islanders, but he
was beginning to be so bitterly hated by them that they looked upon all
his enemies as their own particular friends. For a little time they had
centred their hopes in Earl Sigvaldi of Jomsburg, who had lately taken
refuge in the Orkneys. But Sigvaldi had now gone back to his stronghold
on the Baltic, in the hope of restoring his scattered company of
vikings. The coming of Olaf was therefore regarded with great favour by
the Orcadian vikings, who thought it possible that he would join them
in an attempt to drive Earl Hakon from the Norwegian throne.

In order to delay Olaf's departure from the islands the people got him
to help them in building a great temple on the shores of one of their
lakes, and, when the temple was finished and duly dedicated to Odin,
they proposed to Olaf that he should lead an expedition across to
Norway. Olaf replied that he did not consider the time ripe for such an
attempt, and that for the present he had other plans in hand; but he
bade them, in the meantime, busy themselves with the building of ships.

Now while Olaf was still in Orkney there came one day into Scapa Flow
one of the ships of King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark. Olaf learned from
her captain that the Dane folk had rebelled against Sweyn, for the
reason that, having accepted Christianity and compelled his people to
follow his example, he had now thrown off the true belief and turned
back to the worship of the heathen gods, demanding that his subjects
should again acknowledge Odin and Thor to be greater than the God of
the Christians. Rather than do this, the Danes had resolved to drive
their unbelieving king into exile; and Sweyn Forkbeard, having lost his
throne, had taken to vikingry.

On hearing this, Olaf Triggvison gave the ship captain a message to
take back to his master, bidding Sweyn remember the vow he had sworn at
his inheritance feast, and saying that if he had a mind to fulfil that
vow he might now make the attempt, for that he--Ole the Esthonian--was
now preparing his forces for a great invasion of England, and would be
well pleased if Sweyn would join him in the expedition. The place of
the gathering of the forces was to be Ipswich, in East Anglia, and the
time of meeting was to be the middle of the harvest month in the next

Olaf did not wait in the Orkneys for an answer to this message. His
vikings were already growing weary of idleness and eager to be again
upon the sea. So the ships were put in readiness, and when a fair wind
offered, the anchors were weighed and the sails set, and the fleet sped
westward through Roy Sound towards Cape Wrath. Thence they sailed down
among the Hebrides--or the Southern Isles, as the Norsemen always
called them. Here Olaf had many battles and won many ships from the
descendants of Harald Fairhair's rebel subjects, who had made
settlements in the Isles. Here, too, he gained some hundreds of men to
his following. He harried also in the north parts of Ireland, and had
certain battles in the Island of Man. By this time the summer was far
spent, so he sailed east away to Cumberland and there rested throughout
the winter.

His men thought that this part of England, with its mountains and
lakes, was so much like their own birthland in distant Norway, that
they showed great unwillingness to leave it. Many did, indeed, remain,
and the settlements they made in the lake country have left traces
which even to the present day may be recognized, not only in the
remains of heathen temples and tombs, but also in the names of places
and in certain Norse words that occur in the common speech of the
Cumbrian folk.

From Cumberland Olaf sailed south to Wales. There again he harried wide
about, and also in Cornwall, and at length he came to the Scilly Isles.
King Athelstane had conquered these islands half a century before, and
had established a monastery there, the ruins of which may still be seen.

Now when Olaf Triggvison lay at Scilly, sheltering from a storm that
had driven him out of his intended course, he heard that in the isle of
Tresco there was a certain soothsayer who was said to be well skilled
in the foretelling of things which had not yet come to pass. Olaf fell
a-longing to test the spaeing of this man.

"I will try him by means of a trick," Olaf said one day to Kolbiorn;
"and in this wise: You shall go to him instead of me, and say that you
are King Ole the Esthonion; and if he believes you, then is he no

Now Olaf was already famed in all lands for being fairer and nobler
than all other men, and he chose Kolbiorn as his messenger because he
was the fairest and biggest of his men and most resembled himself, and
he sent him ashore, arrayed in the most beautiful clothing.

Kolbiorn searched long among the trees and rocks before he found the
little cave in which the lonely hermit dwelt; and when he entered he
saw a gray bearded old man, deep in meditation before a crucifix, and
wearing the habit of a Christian priest.

The hermit looked up at the tall figure of his visitor, and waited for
him to speak. Kolbiorn answered as Olaf had bidden him, saying that his
name was King Ole. But the hermit shook his head.

"King thou art not," said he gravely; "but my counsel to thee is, that
thou be true to thy King."

No other word did he speak, and Kolbiorn turned away and fared back to
Olaf, who, on hearing of the answer that had been given, longed all the
more to meet this hermit, whom he now believed to be verily a

So on the next day, while the wind was high and the waves broke with a
heavy roar upon the rocks, Olaf dressed himself very simply, without
any body armour, and went ashore, attended by two shieldmen. When he
entered the hermit's cell he found the old man sitting at an oaken
table with a roll of parchment before him, upon which he was inscribing
some holy legend. He greeted Olaf most kindly, and when they had spoken
together for a while, Olaf asked him what he could say as to how he
should speed coming by his rightful inheritance or any other good

Then the hermit answered:

"In the time that is to come, thou shalt be a very glorious king and do
glorious deeds. Many men shalt thou bring to the right troth and to
christening, helping thereby both thyself and thy fellow men."

"As to the first part of your prophecy--that I shall become a great
king, that I can well believe," returned Olaf; "but that I shall ever
help men to christening, I cannot believe, for I am now, and always
shall be, a faithful worshipper of the gods of Asgard and an enemy to
all believers in Christ."

"Nevertheless," answered the hermit, "the second part of what I have
said is even more certain to come true than the first; and, to the end
that my words may be trusted, take this as a token: Hard by thy ship
thou shall presently fall into a snare of a host of men, and battle
will spring thence, and thou wilt be sorely hurt, and of this wound
thou shalt look to die and be borne to ship on shield; yet thou shalt
be whole of thy hurt within seven nights and be speedily christened

Olaf laughed at the good man, and presently went his way. But as he
passed downward towards the boat that awaited him among the rocks, he
was met by a party of unpeaceful men who fell suddenly upon him with
their swords. Olaf called upon his two guards, who had lagged behind,
but ere they came to his help he, being without any arms, received a
great sword thrust in his chest. His assailants fled when they saw the
two guards approaching from among the trees, and Olaf was left bleeding
where he fell. His two men lifted him upon one of their shields, and
carried him down to the boat and bore him wounded upon his ship. For
six days he lay unconscious, and, as all thought, upon the point of
death. But on the seventh night the danger was passed, and thereafter
he speedily grew well.

Then Olaf deemed that in having foretold this matter so exactly the old
hermit had proved himself to be indeed a very wise soothsayer. So he
went ashore a second time, and the two talked much and long together.

It seemed that Cerdic was the hermit's name. He had once been a
bondslave among Norsemen, and had known Olaf's father, King Triggvi,
whom Olaf personally resembled. He could speak very well in the Norse
tongue, and his soft and gentle voice was very soothing to all who
heard it. At first he spoke of the ways of heathen men, of their
revengeful spirit and their cruelty in warfare, and he condemned their
offering of blood sacrifices and their worship of graven images. Such
gods as Odin and Thor, Njord and Frey, were, he said, but the creations
of men's poetic fancy, and had no real existence. Odin was at one time
but an earthly man, with all man's faults and sins. The earthquake and
the thunder had nothing to do with the rolling of Thor's chariot or the
throwing of Thor's hammer. The waves of the ocean would rise in anger
or fall into calm peace though the name of Njord had never been spoken;
and the seasons would change in their order, fields and pastures would
grow, without the favour of Frey.

So spoke the hermit, and then he told the story of the Creation and of
Adam's Fall, and showed how Christ had come to preach peace on earth
and to save the world. It was a principle of the Christian faith; said
Cerdic, that men should remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy, that
they should not bow down to graven images, that they should not steal,
nor be covetous, nor do murder, nor bear false witness; that they
should love their enemies and bless those who cursed them.

Olaf listened in patience to all these things, asking many questions
concerning them. At last Cerdic appealed to him and besought him most
earnestly to come to repentance and to make himself a faithful follower
of Christ, so that he might at the close of his earthly life be worthy
to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Now Olaf Triggvison had until this time lived always in the firm hope
that when he died he would be admitted into the shining hall of
Valhalla, where he might expect to meet all the great heroes of past
times. He believed that Odin would receive him there, and reward him
well for all the glorious deeds that he had done. So he was not at all
willing to abandon this Norseman's faith in a future life which, as men
promised, should be full of warfare by day and of merry carousing by

Yet it was evident that Cerdic had not spoken without good effect; for
Olaf agreed--as many of the Scandinavians did in these times--that he
would at once be christened, on the one condition that, while calling
himself a follower of Christ, he should not be expected to abandon
either his belief in Odin or his hopes of Valhalla. The holy man of
Scilly well knew that this divided faith would not last long, but he
was also assured that in the contest the victory would certainly rest
with Christ.

Accordingly Olaf was christened, with all his warriors and shipmen. He
lay among the Scilly Isles for many days thereafter, and learned the
true faith so well that it remained his guiding light throughout the
rest of his life, and made him, as shall presently be seen, one of the
most zealous Christians of his time.

Now, as the summer days passed by and it drew near to the harvest time,
Olaf bethought him of his tryst with King Sweyn Forkbeard, so he raised
his anchors and sped out into the open main and round by the forelands,
and so north to Ipswich. It was three years since he had first besieged
the East Anglian town, and in the interval the folk had returned to
their devastated dwellings and built them anew. Olaf now took forcible
possession of the town for a second time. He was not yet so entirely a
Christian that he had any scruples in attacking Christian folk and
turning them out of their homes.

He lay with his ships in the Orwell for three weeks, and at the end of
that time King Sweyn and his fleet arrived from the Baltic. Olaf had
already gathered about him some fifty-five vessels of war, fully manned
and equipped; and with those which Sweyn added to the number, he had
now a force of ninety-four ships of all sizes, from small skiffs of ten
banks of oars and a crew of a hundred men, up to great dragonships with
thirty pairs of oars, two towering masts, and a complete company of
about four hundred seamen and warriors. The whole force of ninety-four
ships carried with them some thirty thousand men.

This was not to be one of the old plundering raids of a body of
adventurers seeking merely to better their fortunes by winning
themselves new homes at the point of the sword. It was an expedition
greater than any that Brihtnoth had ever met with steel or Ethelred
with gold, and its purpose was one of deliberately planned invasion and

At first when Olaf and Sweyn met and joined their fleets and armies
there was a disagreement between them as to which chief was to assume
the higher command. Sweyn declared that the leading position was his by
the right that he was a king, and should be accorded the more power in
all things over Olaf, who (as Sweyn supposed) was lowly born. But Olaf
stoutly maintained that as it was he who had proposed the expedition,
and as he had the larger number of men and ships, the sole command
should be his own, Sweyn taking the second place. In the end it was
agreed that this should be so, and that, in the event of their success,
they were to divide the kingdom of England between them--Sweyn taking
the Northern half, including Northumbria and the upper part of Mercia,
and Olaf the Southern half, including East Anglia and the whole of

The first point of attack was to be London--a city which, although not
yet the capital of the kingdom, was a chief bulwark of the land and
daily becoming one of the most important centres of trade in Western
Europe. Alfred the Great, who had himself rescued the city from the
Danes, had built a strong fortress for her defence, and her citizens
had always been regarded as among the most valiant and patriotic in all
England. Olaf Triggvison was well aware that if he should succeed in
taking London, his conquest of the rest of Ethelred's realm would be a
comparatively easy matter. Unfortunately for his plans, he did not
foresee the obstacles which were to meet him.

He led his procession of battleships up the Thames. Never before had
such a splendid array been seen upon those waters. The early morning
sun shone upon the gilded birds and dragons on the tops of the masts.
At the prow of each vessel there was reared the tall figure of some
strange and terrible animal, formed of carved and gilded wood or of
wrought brass, silver, or even amber. Many of the ships had sails made
of the finest silk, woven in beautiful designs. The decks were crowded
with men whose glittering spears and burnished helmets gave them a very
warlike aspect, and struck terror into the hearts of the people who saw
them from the river's banks.

The alarm spread quickly from point to point, and before the invaders
had come well within sight of the city the gates were securely closed
and barricaded, and the valiant burghers were fully prepared to make a
stout resistance.

As the ships came abreast of the Tower they were assailed by volleys of
well aimed arrows, fired from the battlements. Heedless of Olaf's
plans, King Sweyn drew his division yet nearer under the walls, with
the intention of making an assault upon the citadel. But the attempt
was useless. The defenders were hidden behind the ramparts and beyond
reach of all missiles, while Sweyn's forces were fully exposed to the
ceaseless hail of arrows and stones which seemed to issue out of the
very walls. So many of his men fell that Sweyn was forced to retire.

The garrison could frustrate an assault upon the fortress, but they
could not prevent so vast a number of ships from passing higher up the
river and making an attack upon the old Roman rampart. While King Sweyn
crossed to the opposite side of the stream and led an attack upon
Southwark, Olaf effected a landing near Billing's Gate and directed all
his strength upon the wall. He lost many men in the attempt, but at
last a breach was made, and at the head of many hundreds of desperate
warriors he entered the city. He had depended upon Sweyn following him;
and had the Danish king been content to obey, London might indeed have
been taken by sheer strength. As it was, however, Olaf quickly found
that he had made a fatal mistake. Vast crowds of armed citizens met him
at the end of each narrow street and dealt the invaders such lusty
blows, with their bills and swords and volleys of heavy stones, that
those who were not maimed or killed outright were forced back by
overpowering strength, their ranks being driven into hopeless
confusion. At one moment Olaf Triggvison found himself, with some six
or seven of his men, surrounded by several scores of the defenders. He
fought his way through them back to the city wall, where, through the
breach that had been made, his hosts were escaping on board the ships.
The besiegers were utterly defeated. Once again had the men of London
rescued their city from its foes.

Sweyn Forkbeard had fared no better than Olaf had done. He had made a
bold attempt to burn the town, but, like Olaf, he had been driven back
to his ships with great slaughter.

On that same day the two defeated chiefs sailed away in wrath and
sorrow, and with the loss of seven ships and two thousand men.

Now, under Alfred or Athelstane such a reverse as the invaders had met
with before London would surely have been followed up by some crushing
victory. But under the wretched Ethelred there was no attempt made to
prevent the more fearful desolation of other parts of the kingdom. Olaf
and Sweyn were calmly allowed to avenge their defeat by ravaging the
coast at pleasure, and to pillage, burn and murder without meeting the
slightest resistance. At the mouth of the Thames the two chiefs had
divided their forces, Sweyn sailing northward towards the Humber, while
Olaf took his course southward, and ravaged far and wide in the old
kingdoms of Kent and Sussex.

Late in the summer, Olaf crossed into Hampshire, and now at last King
Ethelred was roused, for the invaders threatened not only the royal
city of Andover but also the royal person. The king had no army of
sufficient strength to encounter his Norse enemy, and his navy was of
still less consequence. The only course he seems to have thought of,
therefore, was the old cowardly policy of again buying peace with gold.
Olaf was allowed to anchor his fleet for the winter at Southampton, and
in order to avert any raiding into the surrounding country, Ethelred
levied a special tax upon the people of Wessex to supply the crews with
food and pay. He also levied a general tax upon all England to raise
the sum of sixteen thousand pounds as a bribe to the invaders to quit
the kingdom.

This large sum of money was conveyed to Olaf Triggvison by the king's
ambassadors, among whom was a certain Bishop Elfheah--a zealous
Christian, who, in addition to gaining Olaf's solemn promise that he
would keep the peace, took upon himself the task of converting the
young chief to the Christian faith. Olaf had already been baptized by
the good hermit of the Scillys; but he had not yet received the rite of
confirmation. He now declared that he was willing to become entirely a
Christian, and to set aside his belief in the old gods of Scandinavia.
The bishop then led Olaf to the court at Andover, where Ethelred
received him with every honour and enriched him with royal gifts. At
the confirmation of Olaf, which took place with great pomp, King
Ethelred himself was present, and even stood sponsor.

Olaf lived for many weeks at Andover, as King Ethelred's friendly
guest, and before he left to join his ships he signed a treaty in which
he engaged never again to invade England. This promise he faithfully
kept, and for a time there was peace in the land. Ethelred believed
that he had now rid his kingdom of all danger from the vikings. But he
did not reckon with King Sweyn Forkbeard. Tempted by the great sums of
money that had been extorted from the English, Sweyn returned again and
again, and at last succeeded in expelling Ethelred from the land. For
many years Sweyn was the virtual ruler of England, and he thus prepared
the way for his son, Canute the Mighty, who was afterwards the chosen
king of the English people.

Now, while Olaf Triggvison was still the guest of King Ethelred, there
also lived at the court a certain princess named Gyda. She was the
sister of the King of Dublin, in Ireland, and she was considered very
beautiful. A great many wooers sought to wed with her, and among others
a man named Alfwin, a renowned champion and man slayer. A day was fixed
on which Gyda had promised to choose a husband, and many high born men
had come together, hoping to be chosen. All were splendidly attired.

Olaf Triggvison, clad in a coarse, wet weather cloak with a fur hood,
stood apart with a few of his comrades, merely to look on.

Gyda went here and there among her wooers, but seemed to find none that
pleased her. But at length she came to where Olaf stood, with his head
half hidden under his fur hood. She went nearer to him, lifted up his
hood and looked long and earnestly into his eyes.

"A taller and handsomer man I have never seen," said she. "Who art
thou, and whence came you?"

"I am an outland man here," he answered; "and I am named Ole the

Gyda said, "Wilt thou have me? Then will I choose thee for my husband."

Olaf replied that he was not unwilling to take her at her word. So they
talked the matter over and, being of one mind, they were forthwith

Alfwin was ill content at this, and in great wrath he challenged Olaf
to fight. It was the custom of those days in England that if any two
men contended about a matter they should each bring twelve men and
dispute their rights in a pitched battle. So when these two rivals met,
Olaf gave the word to his men to do as he did. He had a great axe, and
when Alfwin attacked him with his sword, he quickly overpowered him,
and then bound him fast with ropes. In like wise were all Alfwin's men
defeated; and Olaf forced them to depart from the land and never come
back. Alfwin was a very wealthy man, and his wealth was forfeited to
Olaf. Then Olaf wedded Princess Gyda, and went with her to Ireland, and
lived in great happiness for many days.


During all this time of Olaf Triggvison's wanderings Earl Hakon of Lade
continued to hold the sovereign rule in Norway, and there was great
peace in the land, with fruitful harvests and good fishing. In his
early years he was very popular for his kindliness and generosity, his
fearless courage and his great strength in battle. But it seems that
the greater power which he afterwards acquired disturbed the fine
balance of his mind, and he became deceitful, even to his nearest
friends, and cruel to a degree which presently won for him the hatred
of his people, who murmured against him in secret while fearing to
break out into open rebellion.

Earl Hakon knew nothing of the strong feelings that were rising against
him, nor did he doubt that he should enjoy his power unmolested to the
end of his days. One thought alone disturbed his sense of security. It
chanced that rumours had reached him concerning a certain viking who
called himself Ole, and who was said to have won great renown in the
realm of King Ethelred. Now Hakon was told that this same Ole had spent
his younger days in Gardarike, and he deemed that the lad must be of
the blood of the Norse kings, for it was no secret that King Triggvi
Olafson had had a son who had fared east into Gardarike, and been
nourished there at the court of King Valdemar, and that he was called

Earl Hakon had sought far and wide for Olaf Triggvison, but in vain.
Some men had, indeed, said that in the battle of the Jomsvikings they
had seen a young champion, named Ole the Esthonian, whose aspect was
that of the race of Harald Fairhair, and it was said that this same
champion was one of those who had been made prisoners and put to death.
But, in spite of this story, Hakon still believed in the later rumours.
He believed that the adventurous Ole the Viking was none other than
Olaf Triggvison, nor could he doubt that this daring young rover would
sooner or later lay claim to the kingdom of Norway.

As his own popularity grew less and less, Hakon looked forward with
increasing uneasiness to the inevitable conflict. He well understood
the devotion of the Norse people to the family of Harald Fairhair, and
he now considered that his own safety could only be secured by the
death of this possible rival.

Earl Hakon had a great friend named Thorir Klakka, a man who had been
many years at viking work, and had often gone on trading voyages to
England and Ireland and other lands bordering on the Western Sea. The
earl spoke with Thorir and confided to him his plan, bidding him go on
a trading voyage to Dublin, where Ole the Esthonian was then supposed
to be living, and if it was found that this man Ole was indeed the son
of King Triggvi, or any other offspring of the kingly stem of the
north, then Thorir was either to kill him or to entice him over to
Norway where Hakon himself would deal with him.

So without delay, Thorir went forth upon his mission, and sailed west
into Ireland. It was in the early springtime when he reached Dublin,
and he was not long in learning that Ole was then living at the court
of King Kuaran, his brother-in-law.

On a certain day Thorir was in the marketplace, buying some Irish
horses that were for sale. There was a beautiful white pony that he
greatly coveted, and he offered a high price for it. But there was
another who offered yet more--a tall young man, with long fair hair and
very clear blue eyes, who wore a very beautiful cloak of crimson silk
bordered with gold lace. Thorir at once knew him to be a Norseman, and
he also guessed that this was the man of whom he was in search. Now the
pony at last fell to Thorir's bidding. Then Thorir took the animal by
its halter and went and stood by the side of the handsome Norseman.

"I beg you will take the pony as a gift from me," said he, speaking in
the English tongue; "for I see that you are a great lord in this land,
and such a beautiful animal is better suited to such as you than to a
mere seafarer who has little use for it."

"And why should I take such a gift from a stranger, who owes me nothing
in the world?" returned Olaf Triggvison. "The pony is yours, my man,
for you have bought it and paid for it in fair market. If it indeed be
that you have no wish to keep the animal, then I will gladly buy it
from you at the price you paid. But I cannot take it as a free gift."

Olaf paid him his price in gold of Ethelred's coinage, and sent the
pony away in charge of one of his servants. But even when the business
was over, Thorir did not seem willing to leave, but stood near to Olaf
looking searchingly into his face.

"Why do you linger?" asked Olaf. "Is there something so very unusual
about me that you stare at me so?"

"There is much that is unusual about you, lord," answered Thorir; "and
little marvel is there that I should look upon you with interest.
Nowhere, save in my own birthland of Norway, have I ever seen a man so
tall and strong and fair."

"Certainly, there are many such men in Norway," said Olaf; "but also
there are many in these western lands; as to which witness those who
are about us here in this marketplace."

He glanced across to where his friend Kolbiorn Stallare was standing.

"There is one at your back who seems not less strong than I."

Thorir looked round at Kolbiorn, then back at Olaf. "You are well nigh
a head and shoulders taller than that one," said he; "and there is that
about you which seems to tell me you have spent the larger part of your
life in Norway."

Olaf said: "Since I was a babe in arms, I have been but once in that
land; and then only during two changes of the moon or so. Nevertheless,
I will not deny that there is indeed a vein of the Norse blood in me,
and for that reason I should be well enough pleased to hear from you
some news of what has been happening in Norway these few summers past."

"Little is there to tell," returned Thorir; "for, since the rascally
sons of Erik Bloodaxe were driven from the land, there have been no
great wars. True it is, that Earl Sigvaldi of Jomsburg did lately make
an attempt to win dominion in Norway. He led his host of vikings, with
I know not how many battleships, against Earl Hakon; but he was
defeated with great slaughter and took to flight."

"Of that famous fight I have already had tidings," said Olaf. "I have
heard that many well known vikings were vanquished on that day, and
that Vagn Akison was the only chief who stood his ground to the end."

Thorir looked with quick eyes into Olaf's face, and said: "Yes, Vagn
proved himself a valiant warrior in that encounter. But there was one
who was quite as brave and mighty as he--one who named himself Ole the
Esthonian. Men say that this same Ole has since won great renown in

Olaf smiled, but was silent for some moments. Then at last he began to
ask many questions concerning the Upland kings, and who of them were
yet alive, and what dominion they had. Of Earl Hakon also he asked, and
how well beloved he might be in the land.

Thorir answered: "The earl is so mighty a man that he now has the whole
of Norway in his power, and none dares to speak a word but in his
praise. And yet," he added, remembering the terms of his mission, "Earl
Hakon is not all that a peaceful people would wish. Many would prefer
some other monarch if they but knew where to find one better to their
taste. A pity it is that there is no man of the blood of King Harald
Fairhair living, whom the Norsemen could put upon the throne. None such
have we to turn to; and for this cause it would little avail any man
not kingly born to contend with Earl Hakon."

Now, when Olaf Triggvison heard these things, there came upon him a
certain impatient desire to fare across to Norway and proclaim himself
a direct descendant of Harald the Fairhaired and the rightful heir to
the throne. So on the next day he again sought out the man Thorir, and
when they had spoken together for a little while, Olaf said:

"A long time ago, as I have heard, there was a young son of King
Triggvi Olafson who escaped with his mother, Queen Astrid, into Sweden.
Has no one heard whether that lad lived or died? Why do none of the
Norse folk seek him out and set him to reign over them in place of this
Hakon, who is neither kingly born nor kingly mannered?"

Thorir answered: "It was not for lack of trying that Queen Gunnhild did
not bring the child to his death. She pursued him far and wide; but the
gods protected him and he escaped. It is said by many men that he fell
into bondage; others say that he took refuge in Holmgard, where King
Valdemar reigns; and I have even heard it hinted that the viking naming
himself Ole the Esthonian, who has lately been warring in England, is
none other than Olaf Triggvison. Howbeit, there now lives in Viken a
woman who is said to be the widow of King Triggvi--Astrid is her
name--and she has declared that her son Olaf is surely dead, else would
he have come back to Norway of his own accord to claim his great

As he spoke these last words Thorir saw for the first time that a
change had come into Olaf's face, and he deemed that here truly was the
man whom Earl Hakon had sent him to entrap. Yet he held his own counsel
for a while, believing that if this were indeed Olaf Triggvison the
fact would speedily be brought to light, and that he would soon have
some chance of either putting him to death or of beguiling him into the
hands of Earl Hakon.

For many moments Olaf strode to and fro in silence. There was a new
light in his eyes, and his cheeks were flushed, and when he spoke there
was a tremor in his voice that showed how deeply this news of his long
lost mother had affected him.

"How long time is it since this woman, this Queen Astrid, came back
into Norway?" he asked.

"Many years," answered Thorir.

"Then it may be that she is already dead?" said Olaf.

But Thorir shook his head.

"That is not likely," said he, "for I saw her with my own eyes at
Yuletide past, and she was then living very happily with her husband in

"Her husband?" echoed Olaf. "And what manner of man is he? A king
surely, for none but a king is worthy of such a wife."

"He is no king, but a wealthy man and of good kin," returned Thorir.
"His name is Lodin, and he went oft on trading voyages aboard a ship
which he owned himself. On a certain summer he made east for Esthonia
and there did much business. Now, in the marketplace of one of the
Esthonian seaports many thralls were brought for sale, and, among other
thralls who were to be sold, Lodin saw a certain woman. As he looked
upon her he knew by the beauty of her eyes that she was Astrid, Erik's
daughter, who had been wedded to King Triggvi Olafson. And yet she was
very unlike what she had been in her earlier days, being pale now, and
lean, and ill clad. So Lodin went up to her and asked her how it fared
with her, and how she came to be in such a place, and so far away from
Norway. She said: 'It is a heavy tale to tell. I am sold at thrall
markets and am brought hither now for sale,' and therewith she, knowing
Lodin, prayed him to buy her and take her back with him to her kindred
in Norway. 'I will give you a choice over that,' said he. 'I will take
you back to Norway if you will wed me.' Then Astrid promised him so
much, and he bought her and took her to Norway, and wedded her with her
kindred's goodwill."

Then Olaf said, "This is indeed the gladdest news that I have heard for
many a long year!" But the words had scarcely fallen from his lips when
he realized that he had unwittingly betrayed his long kept secret, for
why else should he look upon this as such glad news if he were not
himself the lost son of this same Queen Astrid? And it seemed that
Thorir had already guessed everything, for he said:

"Glad news must it always be when a son hears that his mother, whom he
thought dead, is still alive."

"I did not tell you that Queen Astrid was my mother," Olaf cried in
assumed surprise.

"There was no need to tell me," returned Thorir. "For even before I had
spoken a word with you I had guessed both your name and kin. You are
the son of King Triggvi Olafson. It was you who, in your infancy, were
pursued through the land by Queen Gunnhild's spies. It was you who,
escaping from Sweden with your mother, were captured by Esthonian
vikings and sold into slavery. Then, by some chance which I know not
of, you were received at the court of King Valdemar the Sunny.
Afterwards you joined the vikings of Jomsburg and passed by the name of
Ole the Esthonian. It was you who, in the sea fight against Earl Hakon,
rivalled in skill and prowess the most famous vikings of all
Scandinavia. A pity it is that instead of going a-warring in England
you did not again direct your force against Earl Hakon and drive him
from the throne which you, and you alone of all living men, should
occupy. It is you, and not Earl Hakon, who are the rightful king of all
Norway. The realm is yours by the right of your royal descent from King
Harald Fairhair, and I make no doubt that were you to sail into
Thrandheim fiord, you would at once be hailed by the people as their
deliverer and accepted as their sovereign king."

Thus with guileful speech and subtle flattery did Thorir Klakka seek to
entice Olaf over to Norway, to the end that Earl Hakon might secretly
waylay him and bring him to his death, and so clear his own path of a
rival whom he feared. And Olaf, listening, received it all as the very
truth, nor doubted for an instant that the people were waiting ready to
welcome him back to the land of his fathers.

There were many reasons urging him to this journey. In the first place,
his beautiful young wife, the Princess Gyda, had died very suddenly
only a few weeks after their coming to Dublin. She had been taken off
by a fever, and her death gave Olaf so much sorrow that he found no
more happiness in the home to which she had brought him. There was all
her wealth for Olaf to enjoy if he had so wished, and he might even
have become the king in Dublin. But he had wealth of his own and in
plenty, and had no great desire to wait for the death of his
brother-in-law before being raised to the Irish kingship. There was
also the thought of again joining Queen Astrid, his mother, who had
done so much for him in his infancy, and who now, doubtless, believed
him to be dead. For her sake alone, if for no other, he wanted more
earnestly than ever before to go back to Norway. Moreover, he had heard
from Thorir that the people of Norway were still strong believers in
the old gods, and in blood sacrifice and the worship of wooden images;
he had heard that Earl Hakon was a bitter enemy of the Christians, that
he forebade his people to give hospitality to any christened man or
woman; and this knowledge had put a new ambition into Olaf's mind--the
ambition to establish the Christian faith throughout the length and
breadth of Norway.

So not many days had passed by ere he got ready five of his ships and
set sail. He took with him several Christian priests who had followed
him from England, and Thorir was in company with him. He sailed first
to the South Isles, and thence up north into the Pentland Firth. Here
he encountered a terrible storm. His seamen were afraid, but he called
upon them to put their trust in God, and they took new courage. Yet the
storm did not abate, so Olaf made for the Orkneys, and there had
shelter in a quiet haven.

Right glad were the Orkney folk to see him among them once again, for
now they deemed that he had come to fulfil his former promise and
deliver them from the oppressive rule of Earl Hakon.

Now Thorir had charged Olaf not to reveal his true name to any man
until he should be safe in Norway and sure of his success. Accordingly
the islanders regarded him as a brave viking and nothing more.
Nevertheless, they gathered round him, saying that they were ready and
willing to follow him across the sea and to help him to drive Earl
Hakon to his deserved doom. To test their fidelity Olaf summoned a
great meeting of the folk and called one of their jarls before him. Few
words were spoken before Olaf, to the surprise of all present, declared
that the jarl must let himself be christened or that there and then he
should die.

"If you and your people refuse to be baptized," Olaf said, "then I will
fare through the isles with fire and sword, and I will lay waste the
whole land!"

Thorir Klakka laughed to himself at hearing this bold threat, and he
thought how ill it would go with any man who should attempt such a
thing in Norway.

But there was something in Olaf Triggvison's nature which compelled
obedience. The Orkney jarl saw well that the threat was made in serious
earnest, and he chose to be christened.

Now this meeting of the islanders was held on the margin of one of the
lakes, where stood the heathen temple which Olaf himself had helped to
build. And now he had his men pull down this temple to the ground, so
that not a stone of it remained standing in its place. Having thus made
a semblance of banishing the old faith in Odin and Thor, he set about
teaching the greater faith in Christ. He had in his company a certain
priest named Thangbrand, a mighty man who could wield the sword as well
as any viking, and whose voice was as the sound of thunder. Thangbrand
stood up to his knees in the lake, and as the people came out to him,
one by one, he sprinkled them with water and made upon them the sign of
the cross. Thus were all the islanders, men, women, and children, made
Christians. So when these ceremonies were over, Olaf weighed anchor and
sailed out eastward for Norway.

Ill content was Thorir Klakka at seeing with what ease Olaf Triggvison
had gained influence over these people, and how ready all men were to
follow and obey him. If his power were so strong over men who owed him
no allegiance, and who did not even know of his royal birth, how much
greater must it be over the people of Norway, whose adherence to the
family of Harald Fairhair would give them a double reason for obeying
him? If Olaf should ever set foot in Norway and proclaim his real name
then it might go far more ill with Hakon of Lade than the earl had
supposed, when he sent his friend Thorir across to Ireland. As the
ships sailed eastward across the sea Thorir thought this matter over,
and it came into his mind that it would be better for Hakon's safety
that Olaf Triggvison should never be allowed to reach his intended

On a certain night Olaf stood alone at the forward rail of his ship,
looking dreamily out upon the sea. The oars were inboard, and there
were but few men about the decks, for a good wind that was blowing from
the southwest filled the silken sails and sent the vessel onward with a
rush of snowy foam along her deep sides, and there was no work to be
done save by the man who stood at the tiller. To the south the sea and
sky were dark, but in the northern heavens there was an arch of
crimson, flickering light, from which long trembling shafts of a
fainter red shot forth into the zenith, casting their ruddy reflections
upon the waves. The gaunt, gilded dragon at the prow stood as though
bathed in fire, and the burnished gold of Olaf's crested helmet, the
rings on his bare arms, the hilt of his sword, and the knitted chains
of his coat of mail gleamed and glanced in the red light as though they
were studded with gems.

This red light, flashing in the midnight sky, was believed by the
Norsemen to be the shining of Thor's beard. But as Olaf Triggvison now
looked upon it from his ship's bow, he understood it to be a message of
hope sent from Heaven, beckoning him onward to his native land in the
north, there to avenge his father's death, to reconquer his realm, and
to reign as the first truly Christian King of Norway. And yet as his
vessel sailed on, plunging through the dashing foam, with her prow
rising and falling within the wide span of that great rosy arch,
strange doubts came over him, the old beliefs still lingered in his
mind, and he began to think that perhaps his new learning was false,
that Thor might after all be supreme in the world, and that this red
light in the sky was an evidence of his continued power, a visible
defiance of Christ.

Olaf was thinking these thoughts when, above the wailing of the wind
and the swishing of the waves, he heard, or fancied he heard, someone
walking behind him across the deck. He turned quickly. No one could be
seen; but his eyes rested upon the shadow cast by the hilt of his sword
upon the boards of the deck. The shadow was in the form of the cross.
The sign was prophetic, and in an instant all his doubts vanished.

"Christ is triumphant!" he cried.

The words were still on his lips when he heard the creaking of a
bowstring. An arrow flashed before him, struck against the peak of his
helmet and fell at his feet upon the deck. Then he saw the cloaked
figure of a man steal quickly away into the shadow of the sails.

Olaf picked up the arrow and examined it. By a mark upon its shaft and
the trimming of its feathers he knew it to be an arrow taken from his
own cabin. He also knew that its point was poisoned.

"Never did I suspect that I had a traitor in my following," he said as
he went aft towards his cabin. "Some man has attempted to take my life.
But whosoever he be, I shall surely find him and punish him!"

He searched among the shadows of the bulwarks and down among the
rowers' benches, but saw no trace of his secret enemy. When he entered
his cabin he found only Thorir Klakka, lying, as it seemed, asleep upon
the floor with an empty drinking horn beside him and breathing heavily.
Olaf thought that the man had been taking over much mead, so left him
there and went out upon the deck to tell his friend Kolbiorn of this
attempt upon his life. But as soon as Olaf was out of the cabin Thorir
rose, wakeful enough now that he was alone, and took from under him a
longbow which he placed in the rack.

"The man bears a charmed life!" muttered Thorir, "or else he has eyes
in the back of his head. Ill luck is mine! Had I but aimed a finger's
breadth lower he would now have been dead, and Earl Hakon might have
been saved the trouble of laying traps for him!"

Throughout that night Olaf was engaged searching for his unknown enemy;
but without avail. He questioned every man on board, but all swore by
the sign of the cross that they had seen nothing. For a time Olaf was
forced to suspect Thorir Klakka; but he soon dismissed the thought.
Thorir's conduct towards him had been from the time of their first
meeting so full of goodwill and seeming friendliness that it was
impossible to fix suspicion on him, and indeed there was no man among
all the ship's company who showed more concern over this matter than
did Thorir, or who made greater efforts to discover the miscreant who
had dared to attempt the life of the well beloved chief.


Early on the next morning the ships were within sight of the high lying
coast of Norway. By Thorir's treacherous advice, Olaf had steered his
course for a part of the country where Earl Hakon's power was greatest,
and where it was expected that Hakon himself might at that time be
staying. Steering in among the skerries Olaf made a landing on the
island of Moster, in the shire of Hordaland. Here he raised his land
tent and planted in front of it the cross, together with his own
standard; and when all the men were ashore he had his priests celebrate
the mass. He met with no opposition, for the people of the place were
then busy on their fields, and there was nothing unusual in the sight
of a few peaceful ships anchoring off their shores.

Thorir had advised a landing on this particular island because, as it
had been arranged, he knew that here he would gain private news of Earl
Hakon, and learn how he might best betray King Olaf into Hakon's
clutches. When Thorir heard, therefore, that the earl was at Trondelag,
he told Olaf that there was nothing for him to do but to keep it well
hidden who he was, and to sail northward with all diligence, so that he
might attack Earl Hakon unawares and slay him. At the same time he sent
secret word to Hakon, bidding him prepare his plans for the slaying of
Olaf Triggvison.

Believing every word that Thorir told him, and trusting in the man's
seeming honesty, Olaf accepted the advice, and fared northward day and
night until he came to Agdaness, at the mouth of the Thrandheim fiord,
and here he made a landing.

Now a great surprise was in store for Thorir Klakka. All this time,
since his setting out west to Ireland in search of Olaf, he had rested
assured that the power of Earl Hakon was unassailable, and that the
bonders, or landholders, were not only well disposed towards him, but
also ready to stand firmly by him through all dangers. He had
intentionally deceived Olaf Triggvison by representing that the earl
might easily be overthrown and his subjects as easily won over to the
side of a new king. To his great dismay he now discovered that, while
telling a wilful untruth, he had all the time been unwittingly
representing the actual condition of the country. During the absence of
Thorir from Norway, Hakon had committed certain acts which had gained
for him the hatred and contempt of the whole nation. The peasants of
Thrandheim were united in open rebellion against him; they had sent a
war summons through the countryside, and had gathered in great numbers,
intending to fall upon the Evil Earl and slay him.

Olaf Triggvison could not, therefore, have chosen a more promising
moment for his arrival in the land. He had only to make himself known
in order to secure the immediate allegiance and homage of the people.

When Olaf entered the mouth of the fiord with his five longships and
anchored off Agdaness, he heard that Earl Hakon was lying with his
ships farther up the firth, and also that he was at strife with the
bonders. So Olaf made no delay, but weighed anchor again and rowed east
into the sunlit fiord. He had not gone very far when, from behind a
rocky headland, three vessels of war appeared upon the blue water,
rowing out to meet him, with their red battle shields displayed. But
suddenly, as they drew nearer to him, they turned about towards the
land and fled in all haste. Olaf made no doubt that they were Hakon's
ships, so he put extra men to the oars and bade them give chase.

Now the retreating ships were commanded, not by Earl Hakon, but by his
favourite son Erland, who had come into the fiord to his father's help
against the bonders. When Erland found that he was being pursued a
great fear came upon him lest he should be driven farther into the
fiord and into the clutches of the bonders, whom he knew to be waiting
to give him battle, so when he saw that Olaf was coming close upon him
he ran his ships aground, leapt overboard, and straightway made for the

Then Olaf brought his five ships close in upon him and assailed him
with arrows, killing many of his men as they swam to land. Olaf saw a
man swimming past who was exceedingly fair; so he caught up the tiller,
and, taking good aim, flung it at him, striking him on the head. This
man was Erland himself, and so he lost his life.

Olaf and his folk took many of the men prisoners and made them take the
peace. From them he heard the tidings that Earl Hakon had taken flight
and that all his warriors had deserted him.

Now, when this little battle was over, and Erland's ships had been
captured, Olaf Triggvison rowed yet farther into the fiord to
Trondelag, where all the chieftains and peasants were assembled. Here
he went ashore and, dressed in his finest body armour, with his
towering gold helmet and his cloak of crimson silk, walked up into the
midst of the people, attended only by his friend Kolbiorn Stallare and
two guards.

The peasants stared at him amazed, wondering what manner of great man
this was who had so suddenly appeared before them. And two of their
chieftains went forward to meet him, uncovering their heads. One asked
him his name and the reason of his coming.

"Your questions are soon answered," said he; and the clear ring of his
voice was heard even by those who stood far apart. "I am come to offer
myself to the people of this land, to defend them against all wrong,
and to uphold their laws and rights. My name is Olaf. I am the son of
King Triggvi Olafson, who was the grandson of King Harald Fairhair."

At hearing these words the whole crowd of people arose with one accord
and rent the air with their joyous greetings, for it needed no great
proof for them to be assured that he was indeed of the race of the old
kings of Norway. Some of the elder men, seeing him, declared that he
was surely King Hakon the Good come back to earth again, younger and
fairer and nobler than he had been of yore. The young warriors who
stood near were lost in admiration of his tall and handsome figure, of
his giant strength, his large clear eyes and long golden hair, and they
envied him the splendour of his costly armour and beautiful clothing.
To follow such a man into battle, they thought, would be worth all the
glories of Valhalla.

"All hail to King Olaf!" they cried. And the cry was echoed upon every

Many of those present wanted Olaf to be at once formally proclaimed
king of all Norway, but others of the more sober sort objected.

"King he shall surely be," they said. "But let him be made so without
undue haste. Let him first prove his worthiness by some act of prowess."

"I am ready to prove it in whatsoever way you wish," said Olaf. "What
would you have me do?"

One of the chieftains then stepped in front of him and said:

"There is one thing, lord, that we would have you do; and by the doing
of it you would gain the gratitude of every man and woman in

"And what thing is that?" asked Olaf.

"It is that you shall follow in pursuit of Earl Hakon and bring him to
his bane."

"Gladly will I pursue him," returned Olaf, "if I may know what
direction he has taken, or in what part of the land I may most surely
find him."

Then the chieftain called one of the young warriors to him and
questioned him closely concerning Hakon.

The young man explained that the earl had escaped from out of Gauldale,
where he had been in hiding, and that he had gone off attended only by
a certain thrall named Kark. Men had given chase to him, and at the
edge of a deep morass they had found the footprints of the earl's
horse. Following the footprints they had come into the middle of the
morass, and there they found the horse itself struggling in the mire,
with Hakon's cloak lying near, seeming to show that the morass had been
his death.

"Earl Hakon is wily enough to have put both horse and cloak in the
morass with intent to deceive his pursuers," said one of the
bystanders. "For my own part I would stake my hopes of Valhalla upon it
that he might even now be found at the farmstead of Thora of Rimul; for
Thora is his dearest friend of all the dale folk."

Thora of Rimul sat spinning at the doorway of her home in a sheltered
dale among the hills. The birch trees were breaking out into fresh
buds, the young lambs gambolled on the flowery knolls, and the air was
musical with the songs of birds. Thora was considered the fairest woman
in all Thrandheim. Her hair was as fair as the flax upon her spindle,
and her eyes were as blue as the clear sky above her head. Her heart
was lightsome, too; for she had won the love of the great Earl
Hakon--Hakon, the conqueror of the vikings of Jomsburg, the proud ruler
of all Norway. It was he who had given her the gold ring that was now
upon her white finger, and he had promised her that he would make her
his queen. She did not believe that what people said of him was
true--that he was black of heart, and cruel and base. His hollow words
had not sounded hollow to her ears nor had she seen anything of
deceitfulness in his eyes.

He had praised her beauty and declared that he loved her, and so she
loved him in return.

As she sat there spinning, there was a sudden commotion among the ewes
and lambs. She looked up and beheld two men standing in the shadow of
the trees. One of them presently left the other and came towards her.
He was a low browed, evil looking man, with a bushy black beard and
long tangled hair. She rose and went to meet him, knowing him for Kark,
Earl Hakon's thrall. He bade her go in among the trees, where the earl
was waiting. So she went on into the wood, wondering why Hakon had not
come forth and greeted her in the open as was his custom.

Now, so soon as she saw him she knew that some great ill had happened,
for his hands trembled and his legs shook under him. His eyes that she
had thought so beautiful were bleared and bloodshot, and there were
deep lines about his face which she had never before seen. It seemed to
her that he had suddenly become a decrepit old man.

"Why do you tremble so?" she asked as she took his hand.

He looked about him in fear.

"Hide me!" he cried. "Hide me! I am in danger. Shame and death are
overtaking me. The young King Olaf is in the land, and he is hunting me

"And who is the young King Olaf that he has power to fill the heart of
the great Earl Hakon with terror?" asked Thora. "You who have
vanquished the vikings of Jomsburg can surely withstand the enmity of
one weak man."

"Not so," answered Hakon in a trembling voice. "King Olaf is mightier
far than I. And he has the whole of Norway at his back, while I--I have
but this one faithful servant. Saving him alone every man in the land
is against me."

He looked round in renewed fear. Even the rustling of the tree branches
struck terror to his heart.

"Hide me! hide me!" he cried again.

"Little use is there in hiding you in this place," returned Thora.
"King Olaf will be seeking you here before very long, for many men know
that I would fain help you, and they will surely lead him here and
search for you in my household both within and without. Yet, for the
love I bear you, Earl Hakon, I will indeed hide you so that neither
shame nor death shall come near you."

She led him through among the trees to the back of the steadings.
"There is but one place where I deem that King Olaf will not think of
seeking for such a man as you," she said; "and that is in the ditch
under the pig sty."

"The place is not one that I would have chosen," said Hakon. "But we
must take heed to our lives first of all."

Then they went to the sty, which was built with its back against a
large boulder stone. Kark took a spade and cleared away the mire, and
dug deep until by removing many stones and logs he opened up a sort of
cave. When the rubbish had been borne away Thora brought food and
candles and warm rugs. Earl Hakon and the thrall hid themselves in the
hole and then Thora covered them over with boards and mould, and the
pigs were driven over it.

Now, when evening was falling there came along the strath certain
horsemen, and the leader of them was King Olaf Triggvison. Thora of
Rimul saw them coming, with the light of the setting sun glittering on
their armour, and when they halted at her door she greeted them in good

King Olaf dismounted and asked her if she knew ought of Earl Hakon of
Lade. At sight of the handsome young king she for a moment hesitated,
thinking to betray the earl. But when Olaf asked her again she shook
her head and said that she was not Earl Hakon's keeper, nor knew where
he might be.

Nevertheless, King Olaf doubted her, and he bade his followers make a
search within and without the farmstead. This they did, but none could
find trace of the man they sought. So Olaf called all his men about him
to speak to them, and he stood up on the same boulder stone that was at
the back of the swine sty. He declared in a loud voice that he would
give a great reward and speedy furtherance to the man who should find
Earl Hakon and bring him to his death.

Now, this speech was plainly heard by both Earl Hakon himself and his
thrall as they crouched together in the cave, and by the light of the
candle that stood on the ground between them each eagerly watched the
other's face.

"Why are you so pale, and now again as black as earth?" asked Earl
Hakon. "Is it not that, tempted by this offer of reward, you intend to
betray me?"

"Nay," answered Kark. "For all King Olaf's gold I will not betray you."

"On one and the same night were we both born," said the earl, "and we
shall not be far apart in our deaths."

For a long time they sat in trembling silence, mistrustful of each
other, and neither daring to sleep. But as the night wore on Kark's
weariness got the better of him, but he tossed about and muttered in
his sleep. The earl waked him and asked what it was that he had been

Kark answered, rubbing his eyes: "I dreamt that we were both on board
the same ship, and that I stood at the helm as her captain."

"That must surely mean that you rule over your own destiny as well as
mine," said Earl Hakon. "Be faithful to me, therefore, and when better
days come you shall be well rewarded."

Again Kark curled himself up to sleep, and again, as it seemed, he was
disturbed by dreams; so Hakon roused him once more and asked him to
tell his dream.

"I thought I was at Lade," answered the thrall, "and there I saw King
Olaf Triggvison. He spoke to me, and I thought that he laid a gold
necklace about my neck."

"The meaning of that must be that Olaf Triggvison will put a blood red
ring about your neck whensoever ye meet," said the earl. "Therefore
beware of him, Kark, and be faithful to me. Then you will enjoy good
things from me always, as you have done before; so betray me not."

Thereafter they both sat wakeful, staring at each other with the
flickering candlelight between them. Neither dared to close his eyes.
But towards morning Earl Hakon leaned back against the rock, with his
head thrown back. Sleep overwhelmed him, yet he was troubled, for he
started and rolled uneasily as though in a nightmare, and at times he
moaned and muttered as if in anguish, so that Kark could not look upon
him but with horror. At last, when the earl was quiet, Kark sprang up,
gripped a big knife from out of his belt and thrust it into his
master's throat.

That was the bane of Earl Hakon.

On the next day Olaf Triggvison was in Lade, and there came to him a
man naming himself Kark, bringing with him the severed head of Earl
Hakon, which he offered to the king. When Olaf had received proof that
the head was indeed that of the earl, he asked Kark how he had come by
it, and the thrall told all that had befallen and claimed his reward.

Now King Olaf hated a traitor beyond all men, so he had Kark led away,
and ordered one of his berserks to smite the head off him, thus
fulfilling the murdered earl's prophecy, for a ring not of gold but of
blood was put about the traitor's neck.

King Olaf then fared with many of the bonders out to Nid holm. This
island, at the mouth of the river Nid, was kept in those days for the
slaying of thieves and evil men, and a gallows stood there upon which
the head of Earl Hakon was now hung, side by side with that of his
thrall. The bonders crowded round the foot of the gallows, throwing
stones and clods of earth at the heads, and crying out that there they
fared meetly together, rascal by rascal.

And now that Earl Hakon was dead the people did not shrink from
speaking their minds concerning him, and giving free vent to their
hatred of his low cunning and his faithlessness, his cruelty and his
profligacy. Even his zeal for blood offering and his strong belief in
the pagan gods were now regarded with wide disfavour, for it could not
be forgotten that he had sacrificed his own son to propitiate the god
of war, and this act, added to the evil deeds that he had more recently
committed had brought upon him such contempt that the whole of Norway
rejoiced at his death.

Olaf Triggvison's claim to the throne of Norway was not for a moment
disputed. In the first place his manly beauty and his resemblance to
King Hakon the Good gained him immediate favour, and his personal
strength and prowess might have been in itself sufficient to warrant
his being chosen as a successor to Earl Hakon. But in addition to this
there was the undoubted fact that he was a direct descendant of Harald
Fairhair, and had therefore the greatest of all claims to the kingdom
in which his fathers had reigned. So, very soon after the death of
Hakon, a general Thing, or gathering of the people, was held in
Trondelag, and Olaf was formally proclaimed the king of all Norway, and
the rule given to him according to ancient laws.

The district of Thrandheim was at that time the most populous and
important in the land, and the Thranders had exercised the right (a
right which they reserve to this day) of proclaiming a new monarch in
the name of the whole nation. Nevertheless it was necessary for King
Olaf to travel throughout the country to lay personal claim to his
dominion, and to receive the allegiance of his subjects remote and
near. The news of his coming into Norway was not long in reaching the
farthest extremities of the realm. Everywhere it was told how, having
by help of his mother's bravery escaped the wrath of the wicked Queen
Gunnhild, he had lived as a slave in Esthonia, how he had been rescued
by Sigurd Erikson and educated at the court of King Valdemar, how he
had roved as a viking on the Baltic, and, after invading England, had
at last come back to his native land to claim his own. So that wherever
he journeyed he found that his fame had gone before him to prepare the
way. He was greeted everywhere with enthusiastic homage. His natural
kindliness, his manly bearing, and his winning manners attracted
everyone with whom he came in contact, and he was recognized as a king
of whom the nation might well be proud. In token of the glory that he
had won in foreign lands the people gave him the name of Olaf the


King Olaf's first thought on ascending the throne of Norway was that he
would make it his mission to convert the country to Christianity. This
had been once before attempted by his own uncle, King Hakon the Good,
the foster son of Athelstane of England; but Hakon the Good was a weak
man, who, instead of winning his people to the true faith, had allowed
himself to drift back into paganism. Olaf was by nature better fitted
for the task, being zealous in the faith and strong in the conviction
of the sanctity of his cause. He resolved to stand firm against all
opposition, and if gentle persuasion should not avail he would have no
scruple in employing physical force. To abolish the custom of blood
sacrifice, to destroy all heathen temples, and to supplant the worship
of the pagan gods by preaching the gospel of Christ--this was to be his
life work.

He was, however, wise enough to recognize that in order to succeed in
his mission it was necessary for him first to make his own position as
monarch perfectly secure and unassailable. So rapidly did he establish
himself in the hearts of the people that even at the end of the first
summer he found that he might with safety begin his task. His one
possible rival and natural enemy, Earl Erik Hakonson, with some few
others of the kin of the late earl, had fled in fear from the land,
leaving him in absolute possession; and the lords of Viken and other
districts of the south, who had hitherto held their lands of the King
of Denmark, now became King Olaf's men, and paid him homage and tribute.

At this time Olaf could only depend upon his priest Thangbrand for
practical help. Thangbrand was a Saxon who had formerly been attached
to the see of Canterbury. He was a man of very violent temper, and his
readiness to enter a quarrel and to draw his sword must have made him a
very singular exponent of the gospel of peace. Olaf saw very soon that
he would require further help than this pugnacious priest could give;
so he sent Thangbrand over to England, bidding him fare to Canterbury
and bring back with him as many holy men as might be willing to serve
him as missionaries.

Meanwhile King Olaf, with some of his chosen companions, journeyed
south into Viken, where his mother lived with her husband Lodin--the
same who had bought her out of her bondage. There he abode throughout
the winter among his own kindred as well as many who had been great
friends with his father. They welcomed him with very great love.

And now, while the king was living with his friends in quiet comfort
and homeliness, he laid his plans most earnestly before them, craving
that they should help him with all their might. He said that he
intended to have the Christian faith set forth throughout all his
realm, and that he would bring about the christening of Norway or else
die in the endeavour. Accordingly he began by going about in Viken,
bidding the peasants take baptism, so it came to pass that the district
which his father, Triggvi, had formerly ruled over was the first part
of Norway to receive the true faith.

He was still in Viken when at the end of the winter Thangbrand returned
from England with a company of priests. Among them was a certain Bishop
Sigurd, a man of grave and gentle spirit, most learned and eloquent,
who stood at Olaf's right hand during the whole five years of his reign.

Now Bishop Sine, of Canterbury, had presented Thangbrand with a very
costly and curiously wrought shield. It was made of burnished bronze,
inlaid with gold and precious stones, and it bore the image of the
crucified Christ. Olaf admired this shield and desired to buy it.
Thangbrand loved money more than ornament, and he sold the shield to
the king for a very large sum. Finding himself suddenly rich, the
priest went off to enjoy himself. He fell into a drunken brawl with a
certain viking, who challenged him to fight. A desperate duel was
fought and the viking was killed. Great ill feeling was aroused against
Thangbrand by this unpriestly incident, and he went back full of
penitence to King Olaf.

Olaf foresaw that he would have trouble with this man, and he would no
longer bear to have him about his house; so, to get rid of him, he sent
him on a mission to Iceland, to convert the heathen there. Thangbrand
was absent in Iceland for three winters, and although he had great
success and brought the country to the true faith, yet he was not well
liked, and the people vexed him by making songs about him. Here, as in
Norway, he was boisterous and boastful and over fond of the drinking
horn. It is told that in a quarrel with the islanders he slew three
men. Howbeit, he was obliged to return to Norway with his mission only
half fulfilled.

King Olaf met with no opposition in his endeavour to convert the people
of Viken and Agder. In the district of Ringarike he christened a
certain little boy, the son of Harald Groenske, who was of the race of
Harald Fairhair. The king named the boy Olaf, and in giving him his
blessing said that he would one day be a very great man. This same Olaf
Haraldson afterwards became the King of Norway and a very great
evangelist. He is known in history by the title of Olaf the Saint, and
he is to this day regarded as the patron saint of Norway. He fought
many battles in England, and, for this reason perhaps, he is often
wrongly confused with his godfather, Olaf Triggvison.

To tell of all the good and ill happenings that King Olaf met with in
his progress through the land would make a long story. In many
districts he had but to announce his mission, and the people at once
yielded. In other places the people were very slow to understand that
there could be any advantage in changing their religion; but Olaf never
left them before every man and woman had been christened. Often,
however, he was met by bands of armed men who declared that they would
sooner die than consent to give up their old faith in Odin and Thor,
and then the king enforced his doctrines at the point of the sword, or
even by torture. When moved to anger he was guilty of committing
cruelties which in his calmer moments he sorely regretted, but it is to
be supposed that he never took to violent measures unless when very
severely provoked. For the most part he generally found that wise words
were a better argument than either the sword or fire.

Always when he came to a place where the people were still pagan it was
his custom to summon a great meeting, and then he would tell of how the
folk of another district had accepted Christianity and torn down their
sacrificing houses, and now believed in the true God, who shaped heaven
and earth and knew all things. Then perhaps he would fall into argument
with one of the leading men of the place and show how the God of
christened men was almighty, and how Thor and Odin must therefore be

On one such occasion a chief named Gudbrand answered him thus:

"We do not know about whom you are talking, O king. Do you call him God
whom neither you nor any other man can see? We have a god whom we may
see every day, but he is not out today because the weather is so wet.
He will look terrible and great to you, and fear will creep into your
breast if he comes to the gathering of our people."

The king then asked how their god was made, and Gudbrand answered that
he was made in the image of Thor, that he had a hammer in his hand, was
of large size and hollow inside, and that there was a platform made
under him on which he stood when outside the temple.

Olaf said, "I would very much like to see that god. But for my own part
I have made up my mind never to believe in logs and stones, though they
be in the shape of fiend or man, whose power I do not understand; and
although I have been told that they have great power, yet it seems to
me very unlikely, for I find that those images which are called gods
are in every way uglier and less powerful than myself. How much less
powerful are they therefore than the great God who rules over the whole
universe, who makes the rain to fall and the sun shine!"

"If, as you say, your God is so powerful, then let him send sunshine
tomorrow and not rain as we have today," said Gudbrand.

On the next day, as it chanced, there was no rain, and when the people
were all gathered together in the early dawn Bishop Sigurd rose in his
gown, with a mitre on his head and a crozier in his hand, and preached
to the peasants and told them many tokens which God had shown. And
presently King Olaf saw a crowd of men approaching, carrying a large
image, ornamented all over with gold and silver. The people all stood
up and bowed to the monster, which was placed in the middle of the
meeting place.

"Where is your God now, O king?" cried Gudbrand, rising and addressing
Olaf. "It seems to me that your boasting, and that of the horned man,
whom you call your bishop, is far less than yesterday. It is because
our god, who rules all, has come, and looks on you with keen eyes. And
I see that you are full of terror at sight of him! Now throw off this
new superstition of yours--this belief in a God who cannot be seen--and
acknowledge the greatness of Thor!"

King Olaf whispered to Kolbiorn, who was at his side: "If during my
speech it happens that the people look away from this idol of theirs,"
said he, "then go you forward and strike the thing a lusty blow with
your club."

And aloud he said: "The god with whom you have threatened us is blind
and deaf and can help neither himself nor others; nor can he move
anywhere from his place unless he be carried. Of what use is such a
god? Now look into the east!" he added, pointing to the rising sun.
"Behold! There comes the messenger of our God, bringing light and
warmth into the world!"

The people all turned with their faces to the sun. At the same moment
Kolbiorn raised his club and struck their god so that the image fell to
pieces; and it is said that vipers and rats and mice ran out of it and
that the peasants were afraid.

"You see what has become of your god!" cried King Olaf. "What folly it
is to believe in such things! One blow has shattered your Thor into
fragments. Now I demand that you shall never again make images of wood
or stone, nor worship any but the one true God. And I offer you two
choices. Either you accept Christianity here on this spot, or you fight
a battle with me today."

So the people, unwilling to take to arms and seeing that the king had a
great host of warriors at his back, agreed to listen to the teachings
of the bishop, and finally to have themselves baptized. Olaf left a
priest among them to keep them steadfast in the faith, and to keep them
from lapsing into paganism.

King Olaf stood north along the land, christening all folk wheresoever
he came. But in the wintertime he went back into Trondelag. He built a
town on the bank of the river Nid, and a great hall for himself up
above Ship Creek. He called the town Nidaros, and it is to this day the
capital of Norway, although its name has been changed to Trondhjem, or

Now on a certain winter's night the king had been feasting in his hall.
His guests had been drinking deeply, and the gray haired scalds had
been singing and reciting until a late hour. But at last Olaf was left
alone beside the fire, with the doors locked. He sat in his oaken chair
gazing into the glowing wood upon the hearth. Suddenly the door swung
wide open, and a blast of cold night air came in. He looked round and
saw upon the threshold a very old man whose cloak was sprinkled with
snow. Olaf saw that the stranger had but one eye.

"Oh, pale and shivering graybeard!" cried the king. "Come, warm your
vitals with this cup of spiced ale. Be not afraid. Sit here at my side
in the light of the flames."

The aged guest obeyed, quaffed the foaming draught, and then stretched
out his withered hands before the fire. Then he began to speak to the
king and to tell him of things that had happened many hundreds of years
before and of many lands whose very names were strange to the king. And
it seemed that he would never bring his tale to an end.

At last Bishop Sigurd entered and reminded Olaf that the night was far
spent and that it was time for him to go to sleep. But still the guest
spoke on, and the king listened enthralled until sleep came over him
and his head fell back. Yet even in his sleep he fancied that he still
heard the old graybeard's voice telling him of the gods of Asgard and
the glories of Valhalla.

When King Olaf awoke he was alone before the black hearth, and it was
full morning. He asked after the guest and bade his men call him; but
nowhere could the guest be found, nor had any man seen him. They found
the doors securely locked, the watchdog was asleep in the yard, and the
snow bore no trace of footprints. All declared that no such stranger
had ever entered the hall, and that the king had but been dreaming.

Then Olaf called the bishop to his side and, crossing himself, said:

"It is no dream that I have had. I know that my guest will never
return, and yet I know that he was here. The triumph of our faith is
sure. Odin the Great is dead, for the one eyed stranger was his ghost!"

So certain was King Olaf that the power of Odin was broken that after
this time he was less eager to follow up his mission, for he believed
that he had already established the Christian faith. He said to his
bishop that all the old gods were no more and that Christ alone was

"Not yet is it so," answered the bishop, "for Thor still reigns among
the sea rovers of the far north. I have heard that there lives a great
viking in Salten fiord who is skilled in sorcery. A wizard he is, for
he has power over the wind and the sea, and he and his great horde of
heathens still worship Odin and Thor and offer them blood sacrifice.
Rand is his name, and he is chief over all the Godoe Isles."

Roused from his apathy, Olaf declared that he would conquer this bold
viking and bring him to christening or himself be conquered. So he got
together his ships and sailed into the north.

At the mouth of Salten fiord he encountered foul weather, and was
forced to lie there storm stayed for many days. So long did the storm
continue that at length he questioned the bishop, asking if he knew any

Bishop Sigurd answered that it was surely Rand the Wizard who, by his
sorcery, had caused the winds to blow, and he ascended to the ship's
forecastle and raised a large crucifix, lighting tapers around it and
sprinkling holy water about the decks. It is told that the storm abated
near to the ships while it still roared wildly some distance away from
them. The lashed waves stood like a wall on either side, leaving a
track of calm water, through which the vessels sailed.

When at last King Olaf came abreast of Rand's stronghold he saw the
viking's dragonship lying at anchor in the bay. It was the largest and
most splendid ship that he had ever seen. The king landed with his
priests and fighting men, and went straightway up to the wizard's
homestead and broke open the door. Rand was taken prisoner and bound
hand and foot, as were also a great many of his men.

King Olaf had the viking brought before him, and bade him take

"I will not take your possessions and your riches from you," said the
king, "but will be your friend if you will be worthy thereof, and
accept the true faith."

But Rand cried out at him, saying that nothing would induce him to
believe in Christ. He blasphemed so much that Olaf became wrothful and
said that Rand should die the worst of deaths. This threat had no
effect upon the blasphemer. So, according to the legend, he was taken
and tied to a tree. A gag was set between his teeth to open his mouth,
and a live adder was forced down his throat. The adder cut its way
through his side, killing him with its poison.

This cruel act has always been regarded as a blot upon the fame of Olaf
Triggvison, but Olaf's fanaticism led him to believe that praise rather
than blame was due to him for thus punishing the enemies of God.
Moreover, this man Rand had been the terror of all peaceful men. He had
laid waste many villages, and made human sacrifices to the pagan gods.
In bringing him to his death Olaf was, in his own way, but giving just
punishment to a criminal.

King Olaf took very great wealth from Rand's stronghold, and all the
men who had been in the viking's service were allowed to go free on
condition that they would first be christened. The dragonship which
Rand had commanded now became King Olaf's property, for it was the most
beautiful vessel in all Norway, and very much larger than the Crane,
which Olaf had had built for himself. Forward at the prow there was a
very tall dragon's head, overlaid with thick gold, and at the stern was
a long dragon's tail, also of gold. When the sails were aloft they took
the form of dragon's wings. The king named the ship the Serpent.

While Olaf was in Halogaland he deemed it well to sail yet farther
north; so he fared out to the Lafoden Isles, and thence along the
coasts of Finmark as far even as the North Cape. He baptized all those
regions and destroyed many heathen temples and established Christianity
far and wide.

In that same summer King Olaf was back again in the Thrandheim country,
and had his fleet anchored off Nidaros. Now it was in this part of
Norway that Earl Hakon's power had always been greatest, and so zealous
had Hakon been in the keeping up of pagan customs that many of the
chief men of those parts withstood all King Olaf's efforts to win them
over to Christianity, and during his absence in Halogaland these men
did all they could to undo the good work that he had done in the
earliest days of his reign.

Not many days had Olaf been back in Nidaros when he heard that the
Thranders had re-established their temples, restored their idols, and
offered blood sacrifice to their gods. The young king was so disturbed
in mind over this that he resolved to put a speedy stop to it. He
therefore sent his messengers through all the lands bordering on
Thrandheim fiord summoning a great meeting of the bonders at a place
named Frosta.

Now the bonders quickly guessed the meaning of this summons. They knew
that the king would have them abandon their old customs and accept the
new faith. But they considered that he had no right to dictate to them;
so they turned this summons into one of war, and drew together, both
thane and thrall, from all parts of Thrandheim.

When King Olaf came to the meeting, thither also had come the hosts of
the bonders, all fully armed, ready to confront him.

When the Thing was established the king rose and spoke before his
lieges, first concerning matters of peace and law, and finally he bade
them take christening again.

There was one among the bonders named Skeggi Ironbeard, a very rich
farmer who cared little for king or earls, but loved only the freedom
of his farm, his ale at night, and the warmth of his fireside. He was a
huge and cumbersome man with an iron gray beard, and as he stood by the
side of his horse his feet were seen to be covered with the mud of his
ploughed fields. Near him there was a beautiful girl with very black
hair and dark brown eyes. She was his daughter Gudrun.

Well, when King Olaf began to rebuke the people for having gone back
from Christian worship, many men looked round at Ironbeard with wise

"Now hold your peace, O king!" cried he, addressing Olaf. "Say not
another word of this Christian faith of yours, or, by the hammer of
Thor and by the ravens of Odin, we will fall upon you and drive you
away out of the land. Thus did we with King Hakon the Good, nor do we
account you of a whit more worth than him."

So when King Olaf saw with what fierce minds the bonders confronted
him, and how great a force of armed men there were, he felt that he was
not prepared to withstand them, and he so turned his speech that it
appeared he was at one accord with them.

"It is my wish," said he, "that we make peace and good fellowship
together, even as we have hitherto done. I am willing, therefore, to be
present at your worship at any time, and to witness your greatest
ceremony of blood offering. We may then take counsel together and
consider which form of worship shall prevail."

Then the bonders thought that the king might easily be persuaded to
adopt their old time customs, and their indignation against him was
appeased. Thereafter all the talk went peacefully, and at the last it
was determined that a great midsummer feast of offering should be held
at Mere, and thither should come all the lords of the land and chiefs
of the bonders. King Olaf promised also to be present.

When it wore towards the time appointed for the sacrifice, Olaf gave a
great feast at Lade, to which were invited all the chieftains and most
powerful land owners of the country side. The guests were royally
entertained, and when the feast was over the king ordered his priests
to celebrate the mass. A crowd of armed men from Olaf's ships attended
the service. The guests saw that they were powerless to resist, so they
joined in the worship and awaited the course of events.

When the service was at an end the king rose and addressed his guests.
He said:

"When we held Thing the last time, at Frosta, you will remember that I
demanded of the peasants that they should accept baptism; and they, on
the other hand, demanded that I should join them in sacrifice and make
blood offering, even as my kinsman King Hakon the Good had done. I made
no objection to this, but promised to be present at the sacrificial
feast at Mere. Now I wish to tell you that if I am to make human
sacrifice, then I will make the greatest offering of blood that has
ever been made in Norway. I will offer human sacrifice to Odin and Frey
for good crops and fine weather. But, mind you, it will not be thralls
and evildoers that I shall offer to your gods. I will sacrifice the
most high born men among you."  He then pointed to several of his
guests in turn, saying, "You, Ligra of Middlehouse, shall be offered as
a sacrifice; and you, Kar of Griting; and you, Haldor of Skerding."

Eight other of the nobles he named, and bade them prepare themselves
for death. They all stood back aghast. King Olaf laughed at their
craven fears.

"Plainly do I see that you do not relish this proposal," he said. "But
if I am to be king in this land I will be obeyed. I have commanded that
Norway shall be a Christian land, and I shall have it so, even if I
lose my own life in bringing it about. Here is my bishop, ready to
baptize you. Take christening, therefore, and you shall still live.
Refuse, and you shall surely be sacrificed in the manner I have said."

Not long did they meditate before choosing the easier alternative. They
agreed to be christened there and then, and Bishop Sigurd at once
baptized them, and all the bonders who were present. Before they were
allowed to depart King Olaf demanded that they should give him their
sons or brothers as hostages. Thus by a peaceful stratagem he gained
his ends.

Now, when the time arrived for the midsummer sacrifice at Mere, Olaf
went thither with a great host of followers. But such of the peasants
and land owners who had still resisted Christianity, gathered once
more, armed to the teeth and defiant as ever. Skeggi Ironbeard was the
ringleader of the pagans, and he was everywhere active in the forefront
of the opposition.

The king attempted to speak, but the tumult was so great that no one
could hear him. At last, when he got a hearing, he repeated his
commands that all present should accept baptism and believe in Christ
the White.

Ironbeard stepped forward, sword in hand, and, confronting the king,

"Now, as before, O king, we protest against your interference with our
liberty, and we are here to prevent your breaking our laws and ancient
customs. It is held as a sacred custom among us that we shall make
sacrifices to our gods, and we now hold that, although you are our
king, you have no power to decide which gods we are to believe in, or
in what manner we shall worship. It is our intention, therefore, that
you shall make blood offering here as other kings have done before you."

King Olaf listened patiently to this speech and declared himself ready
to keep his promise. So, accompanied by many of his men, he entered the

It was a very large and splendid building. The door was of beautifully
carved oak, and the handle was in the form of a large gold ring which
Earl Hakon had had put there. In the inside there were two great rooms,
the first or outer one being the chamber in which feasts of sacrifice
were held; the inner one was the more sacred, for here the images of
the heathen gods stood on their various altars. The walls were hung
with tapestries and adorned with costly metals and precious stones.
Even the roof was covered with gold plates.

All who entered were unarmed, for no one was allowed to go through the
door bearing a sword or other weapon. But the king carried a stout
stick with a heavy gold head. He watched the bonders preparing the pyre
for the sacrifice, but before it was lighted he went into the inner
chamber and inspected the images of the gods. There sat the figure of
Thor, chief among all, with his hammer in his hand and gold and silver
rings about him. He was in a chariot of gold, into which were harnessed
a pair of goats made of wood and silver.

"What god is this one?" asked Olaf of the bonders who stood near him.

"It is our god Thor," answered one of the chieftains. "He is the most
celebrated of all gods, saving only Odin. His eyes flash in the
lightning, the wheels of his carriage rumble in the thunder, and the
blows of his hammer ring loud in the earthquake. The most powerful of
all gods is he."

"And yet," said Olaf; "it seems to me that he is made of nothing more
strong than wood. You call him powerful; but I think even I am more
powerful than he."

As he spoke these words he hove up his gold headed stick, and while all
were looking, he smote Thor a great blow, so that he fell down from his
seat and tumbled to fragments upon the stone floor. At the same instant
Olaf's men struck down the other idols, while at the temple door
Ironbeard was assailed and slain.

Olaf took possession of many of the treasures of the temple, and then
razed the building to the ground. And none of the bonders dared to
oppose him. After the death of Ironbeard they had no leader bold enough
to encounter the king and his men. So the end of it was that they all
forsook their heathenish customs and yielded to the king's demands that
they should take christening.

After this time King Olaf had no more trouble in Thrandheim, and in the
whole of Norway no man dared to speak a word against the faith of
Christ. In all places where the temples had been destroyed, the king
had Christian churches built. He instituted monasteries throughout the
land, governed by bishops and abbots brought over from Rome and
Canterbury. From these monasteries many missionaries were sent out into
the remoter parts of the country to preach the gospel and to hold the
people firmly to the faith. Never again, so long as King Olaf lived,
did the Norwegians attempt to return to paganism, and after his death
his good work was taken up by his godson and namesake, Olaf the Saint.


Now, although the peasants of Thrandheim yielded to King Olaf in the
matter of their faith and the forms of their religious ceremonies, yet
they were none the less enraged against him on account of the
destruction of their beautiful temple and the slaying of Iron Skeggi.
This man had been a great chief among them, much honoured for his
bodily strength, for his wealth, and for his spirit of independence.
Some of his nearer kin had even looked upon the possibility of his
being a successor to the great Earl Hakon, and accordingly they
regarded Olaf Triggvison as an interloper, who had come to spoil all
their hopes of worldly advancement. When their favourite was slain they
therefore cast about to find some pretext for either picking a quarrel
with King Olaf or of forcing him to make some atonement for the wrong
that he was supposed to have done them. And then they thought of
Ironbeard's daughter, Gudrun, and of what a good thing it would be for
them if the king could be made to wed her. So on a certain day they
took Gudrun to where King Olaf was and made their proposals to him.

King Olaf looked at the girl and thought her very fair of feature. Her
hair was black as charred wood, and her cheeks were rosy red; but there
was an evil glance in her dark eyes that mispleased him. Yet he saw
that it was good that there should be a queen in Norway, and urged by
his bishop, he allowed himself to be betrothed to Gudrun. It was
arranged that they should be wedded at the next yuletide.

In the midwinter King Olaf gave a great bridal feast to his friends in
his new banqueting hall at Nidaros. His bishops and priests were there,
as also his chief captains and warmen, his scald and his saga men. His
mother, Queen Astrid, was at his right hand, while at the other side of
him sat Gudrun. The fare was of the best, both food and drink, and
there was much merriment around the board, with singing of songs and
playing of harps, making of riddles and jests and telling of stories;
and of all the company the king was the merriest and the lightsomest.
No story was for him too long, nor song too boisterous, nor ale too
strong. As often as his drinking horn was emptied, it was filled again
to the brim by his cup bearer, and always before he quaffed it he made
over it the sign of the cross.

Brightly gleamed the firelight upon helmet and shield and spear, but
brighter gleamed the gladness in the young king's eyes; for his realm
was now assured to him, his mission was fulfilled, and his glory was
complete. It seemed to him that there would now be a lasting peace in
the land, with good fellowship among all his subjects, and no more
bloodshed or quarrelling or discontent for ever after. He was to wed
with Gudrun upon the morrow, and this, he believed, was to be the crown
of his happiness.

Now, as the night wore late, and the festivities flagged, the guests
rose from the board, and either departed to their several rooms or drew
their cloaks about them and lay upon the side benches of the hall, and
at length King Olaf was left alone at the table. Very soon he too fell
asleep and lay back in his high backed chair, dreaming peaceful dreams.
At his feet lay Einar Eindridson, a sturdy lad of sixteen years, whom
Olaf had adopted as his favourite page and cup bearer, even as he
himself had been adopted by King Valdemar. Between the folds of the
silken curtains that overhung the open air spaces in the wall the light
of the full moon came in, falling upon King Olaf's handsome face and
long golden hair. The sapphires and diamonds studding the band of gold
about his head shone out like glittering stars in the pale light. The
cross of blood red rubies that hung from his neck chain rose and fell
with the regular heaving of his broad chest on which it rested.

All was dark in the hall, save for that one shaft of moonlight. All was
silent, save for the crackling of the dying embers on the hearth and
the heavy breathing of the men who lay asleep upon the benches and
about the rush strewn floor. But as King Olaf slept there came a
movement at the far end of the hall, where the darkness was deepest.

Presently a woman's figure glided slowly and cautiously into the fuller
light. Her black shadow moved across the floor and crept nearer and
nearer to the sleeping king, until at last it halted, shielding his
closed eyes. She stood before him. Suddenly her right hand went to her
bosom, and she drew forth a long glittering dagger. She stood over him,
holding her hand aloft, ready to strike the fatal blow.

"Your hour is at hand, proud king!" she murmured; and her voice sounded
through the hail like the soughing of the wintry wind among the pines.
"Your hour is at hand, Olaf Triggvison. Never shall my warm lips touch
yours. Cold steel shall kiss you now."

She stepped back a pace, so that the moonlight, falling upon him, might
show her where to strike. As she did so the hem of her long robe swept
across the face of young Einar. The boy awoke and leapt to his feet. He
saw a white arm upraised; he saw the gleaming dagger poised over his
master's breast. Quick as an arrow's flight the blade flashed to its
mark. But quicker still was Einar. In that instant he had caught the
white arm in his two strong hands, staying the fatal blow, so that the
dagger's point but struck against the ruby cross and did no harm.

The scuffling of feet, the clatter of the dagger upon the floor, and
the woman's cry of alarmed surprise awoke the king. Starting from his
seat he caught his assailant and held her in the light of the moon. He
gazed into her pale and terror stricken face. It was the face of Gudrun.

Then Olaf besought Einar to tell him all that had happened, and Einar
picked up the dagger and gave it to his master, telling him how Gudrun
had attempted to slay him.

With the earliest peep of dawn Gudrun went forth upon her lonely way,
and never again did she come under the same roof with King Olaf.

At this time there lived in Sweden a certain queen named Sigrid. She
was the widow of King Erik the Victorious and the mother of King Olaf
the Swede. She was very rich and possessed many great manors in Sweden
and large landed estates among the islands of the Baltic. Many of the
kings of Scandinavia sought to wed with her, wishing to share her
wealth and add her dominions to their own. But Sigrid, who, by reason
of her great pride and the value that she set upon her own charms, was
named Sigrid the Haughty, would have none of them, although often
enough she welcomed them as wooers and listened to their fine speeches
and their flatteries.

One king there was who wooed her with such ardour that she resolved to
rid herself of him at all costs. His name was Harald Groenske (the
father of Saint Olaf), and, as he was of the kin of King Harald
Fairhair, he considered himself in all respects her equal. Three
several times did he journey into Sweden to pay court to her. On the
third time he found that there was another wooer at her manor house,
one King Vissavald of Gardarike. Both kings were well received, and
lodged in a great hall with all their attendant company. The hall was a
very old building, as was all its furniture, but there was no lack of
good fare. So hospitable, indeed, was Queen Sigrid, that, ere the night
was half spent, the two suitors and all their men were drunk, and the
guards slept heavily.

In the middle of the night Queen Sigrid surrounded the hall with dry
faggots and set a lighted torch to them. The hall was quickly burned to
the ground, and all who were within it lost their lives.

"I will teach these little kings what risks they run in wooing me!"
said the queen, as from her chamber window she watched the rising

Now Queen Sigrid grew weary of waiting for the coming of a king whom
she could consider in all ways worthy of her. Her eyes were lustreless,
and her hair was besprinkled with gray, and yet the right man did not
offer himself. But in good time she heard of King Olaf the Glorious,
and of his great wealth and his prowess, and of how in his person he
was so tall and handsome, that men could only compare him with Balder
the Beautiful. And now she deemed that she had at last discovered one
whose magnificence would match with her own. So she caused messengers
to fare across the frontier into Norway to sing her praises, so that
King Olaf might learn how fair she was, and how well suited to reign by
his side. And it seemed that her messages had the effect that she

On a certain summer day Queen Sigrid sat at her chamber window,
overlooking a wide and beautiful river that lay between her own kingdom
and Norway. From afar she saw a company of horsemen. They came nearer
and nearer, and at last they halted at the gates. Their leader entered
and the queen went down to meet him, guessing that he had come upon
some errand of great importance.

When he had greeted her, he told her that he had come all the way from
Thrandheim, in Norway, with a message from King Olaf Triggvison, who,
hearing of her great charms, now offered her his hand in marriage. And
as a token of his good faith the king had sent her a gift. The gift was
a large ring of gold--the same that Olaf had taken from the door of the
temple at Lade.

Full joyous was Queen Sigrid at this good news, and she took the heavy
ring and slipped it upon her arm, bidding the messengers take her
hospitality for three days and then return to their master, with the
word that she favoured his proposal, and agreed to meet him at her
manor of Konghelle in three weeks' time.

Now the queen admired that ring, deeming it a most noble gift. It was
most beautifully wrought and interwoven with scrolls and circles so
delicate that all wondered how the hand of man could achieve such
perfection. Everyone praised it exceedingly, and among others to whom
Sigrid showed the ring were her own goldsmiths, two brothers. These
handled it with more care than others had done, and weighed it in their
hands as if they would estimate its value. The queen saw that the
smiths spoke in whispers one with the other; so she called them to her
and asked if they thought that any man in Sweden could make such a ring.

At this the smiths smiled.

"Wherefore do you mock at the ring?" demanded Sigrid. "Tell me what you
have found?"

The smiths shrugged their shoulders.

"If indeed the truth must be spoken," said the elder of the two, "then
we have found this, O queen, that there is false metal in the ring."

"Prove what you say!" cried the queen. And she let them break the ring
asunder--and lo! it was shown to be made of copper and not of gold.

Then into Sigrid's eyes there flashed an angry light.

"If King Olaf of Norway can be so false in his gifts, he will be
faithless also in his love!" she cried. And she snatched the pieces of
the ring and flung them furiously away from her.

Now when the three weeks of his appointment had gone by Olaf Triggvison
journeyed east to the trysting place at Konghelle, near the boundary
line between Norway and Sweden, and there Queen Sigrid met him. Amazed
was Sigrid to see the splendour of the man who offered her marriage.
Never before had her eyes rested upon one so tall and handsome and so
gloriously attired. Arrived now at his full manhood Olaf looked nobler
and more majestic than ever in his life before. His cloak of fine
crimson silk clung to his giant frame and showed the muscular moulding
of his limbs. His step was light and elastic, and, in spite of his
great strength, his movements were gentle and easy as those of a woman.
His hands were very large and powerful, yet the touch of them was soft
and delicate; and his voice, which could be loud and full as a trumpet
blast, could also be lowered to the musical sweetness of a purling
brook. His forehead, where his helmet had shielded it from the heat of
the sun and from the briny freshness of the sea air, was white and
smooth as polished marble; but the lower part of his face was of a
clear, rich golden brown. He wore no beard, but the hair was left
unshaven on his upper lip and it streamed down on either side of his
chin as fine as silk. When he smiled, his white and even teeth gleamed
like a row of pearls between the coral redness of his lips. Queen
Sigrid, as she beheld him for the first time, had no thought of the
ring that he had given her, nor of its falseness.

King Olaf, on his part, was more than a little disappointed with the
looks of the queen whose praises had been so often whispered in his
ears. He had heard that she was young, yet he now saw that her hair was
sprinkled with gray, that her eyes had lost the fire and fervour of
youth, and that her brow was wrinkled with age. Younger and more comely
was his own mother Astrid than this much exalted queen. But, having
given his word that he meant to woo her and wed her, he had too much
honour to draw back.

They sat together and talked over the matter of their wedding, and of
how they would unite their domains and rule together over all the
Swedes and Norsemen. And at last he took her hand and swore by the holy
rood that he would be true to her.

Now Sigrid the Haughty was still a heathen, and she liked not to hear
King Olaf swear by Christian tokens. So she turned upon him with a
quick glance of suspicion and contempt in her eyes.

"Such vows do not please me, King Olaf," she said. "It is told that
great Odin once swore on the ring. Will you swear by this ring to be
true?" And she rose and took up the ring he had sent as a gift, which
ere this time her two smiths had repaired.

"O speak not of Odin to me!" cried the king. "He is dead as the stones
in the street. By no other symbol than the cross will I swear. Sorry am
I to hear that you, Queen Sigrid, are still a believer in the old dead
gods. Since this is so, however, there is little use in my being in
this place, for I have made up my mind that the woman who weds me shall
be a true Christian and not a worshipper of senseless idols hewn out of
trees and rocks. Abandon these things, take christening, and believe in
the one true God who made all things and knows all things, and then I
will wed with you; but not else, O queen."

Queen Sigrid, astonished that any man dared to speak to her in this
wise, looked back at King Olaf in anger.

"Never shall I depart from the troth that I have always held," she
cried. "And although you had twice the wealth that you have and were
yet more glorious than you are, yet never should I obey such a bidding.
No, no, King Olaf. I keep true to my faith and to my vows; and can fare
very well without you and your new religion. So go back to your bald
headed priests and to your singing of mass. I will have none of them!"

Then the king rose in wrath and his face was darkened with gloom. For a
moment he forgot his manliness, and in his anger he struck her across
her cheek with his glove.

"Why, then, should I care to wed with thee?" he cried; "thou withered
old heathen jade!"

With these taunting words on his lips he turned and strode from the
chamber. But while the wooden stairway was still creaking under his
tread, Queen Sigrid called after him in bitterest anger:

"Go, then, O proud and stubborn king. Go where you will. But remember
this, that the insult you have offered me and the blow you have struck
me shall be your death!"

So Olaf departed, ere yet he had broken bread, and he went north into
Viken, while Queen Sigrid the Haughty went east into Sweden.

King Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark had by this time regained full
possession of his kingdom, and was contemplating an invasion of England
which should be more complete and decisive than the attempt which he
had made in company with the viking whom he had known as Ole the
Esthonian. Sweyn had now, of course, discovered that this man Ole and
King Olaf of Norway were one and the same person, and he began to be
very jealous of the glory that was gathering about Olaf's name. A new
cause for jealousy had now arisen.

Sweyn, it will be remembered, had married the Princess Gunnhild,
daughter of Burislaf, King of the Wends. But in these days even now
told of it befell that Queen Gunnhild was stricken with an illness and
died. King Sweyn, ever ambitious of winning great dominion, had a mind
to take unto himself a new wife in the person of Queen Sigrid of
Sweden. He was on the point of setting out to woo her when he heard by
chance that King Olaf Triggvison was already bent upon a similar
journey. Envy and jealousy and bitter hatred welled up in Sweyn's
breast against his rival, and he swore by Thor's hammer that sooner or
later he would lower King Olaf to the dust.

But in good time King Sweyn heard of the quarrel that had befallen
between Queen Sigrid and her young Norwegian suitor. So he at once
fared north into Sweden to essay his own fortune with the haughty
queen. He gained a ready favour with Sigrid by speaking all manner of
false and malicious scandal against the man whom she had so lately
rejected. Sigrid probably saw that by marrying the King of Denmark she
might the more easily accomplish her vengeance upon Olaf Triggvison.
She therefore accepted Forkbeard's proposals, and they were wedded in
accordance with the rites and customs of their pagan faith.

Earl Erik, the son of the late Earl Hakon, was at this time the guest
and friend of Sigrid's son, Olaf the Swede King; and these three--King
Sweyn Forkbeard of Denmark, King Olaf of Sweden, and Earl Erik of
Lade--had each a private cause of enmity against Olaf Triggvison. It
was they who, two years afterwards, united their forces in the great
sea fight in which Olaf the Glorious lost his life.


King Olaf had now ruled over Norway for three years. In that brief time
he had done more for the country than any king who had gone before him.
He had succeeded in establishing Christianity--not very thoroughly, it
is true, for during the rest of his reign, and for long enough
afterwards, there was plenty of heathenism in Norway; but he did all
that he could to make men Christians, as far as he knew how himself,
and, by his own example of a pure and upright life, he did much to
deepen the feeling that, even in a social sense, the Christian
religion' offered advantages which had never before been enjoyed in the
land. It was noticed almost immediately that there was less bloodshed
among the people than formerly, and that the peasants lived in greater
security. The doctrine of peace upon earth was set forth as one of the
first principles of Olaf's mission, and he was never tired of showing
that, while Odin and Thor took pleasure in bloodshed and rejoiced in
war, Christ the White was a lover of peace, and accorded no merit to
the manslayer.

Olaf made it a law throughout his realm that all men should keep the
Sabbath holy, that they should always fast on Fridays, and that they
should teach their children the Ten Commandments. He could not hope
that grownup people, who had all their lives been accustomed to worship
graven images, would all at once become fervent and devout Christians;
but he clearly saw the importance of bringing up all the children to a
full knowledge of the Christian faith, and accordingly he bade his
priests give constant care to the education of the young.

What King Olaf achieved in Norway he achieved also in the outlying
parts of his dominions. He sent priests into the lands of the Laps and
Fins. It has been told how he sent his priest Thrangbrand to Iceland.
He also sent missions to the Orkney Islands, to the Shetlands, and the
Faroes, and even to so distant a country as Greenland. All these lands
were converted to Christianity during Olaf's brief reign.

But it was not in religious matters alone that Olaf Triggvison
exercised his wisdom and his rule. He encouraged fisheries and
husbandry and handicrafts, and men who had given up their lives to
warfare and vikingry now occupied themselves with useful arts and
industries. Himself a rare sailor, he loved all seamen and shipmen and
shipbuilders, and so that these might have work to do he encouraged
commerce with the lands over sea--with England and Scotland and
Ireland, with Russia, Wendland, Friesland, Flanders, and France.

When he had been in England he had learned something of the good laws
established in that country by King Alfred the Great. He strove to
introduce many of these laws into his own kingdom. Like Alfred the
Great, King Olaf recognized the value of a strong navy, and, so soon as
he had assured himself of the goodwill of his subjects, he levied taxes
upon them, and set about the work of building ships.

The great dragonship which he had taken as a prize of war from Rand the
Wizard was the largest and finest vessel in the Norwegian seas at this
time. The king determined to have a much larger and finer ship built,
one which should surpass in splendour and equipment every vessel that
had been launched in Norway or any other land throughout the ages. On
the banks of the river Nid, at the place where he had built the town of
Nidaros, a great forest of pine trees had been cleared, and there was
timber in plenty ready at hand. There had been two most fruitful
seasons, with good crops, and the country was rich. Olaf himself
possessed more wealth than any monarch in all Scandinavia, and also he
was fortunate in having about him a number of men who were highly
skilled in the work of designing and building ships. So he had a
shipyard prepared under the cliffs of Lade, and he appointed a man
named Thorberg Shafting to be his master builder.

Rand's dragonship, which was named the Serpent, was taken as a model of
the new ship that was to be made, but all her measurements were exactly
doubled, for the new craft was to be twice as long in the keel, twice
as broad in the beam, and twice as great in the scantling. Olaf himself
helped at the work, and laboured as hard as any other two men. Whenever
any difficulty arose he was there to set it right, and all knew that
every part of the work must be well done, that every piece of timber
must be free from rot, and every nail and rivet made of the best metal
or the king would discover the fault and have it undone.

Many men were in the shipyard, some to hew timbers with their heavy
axes, some to fashion iron bolts and bars, and others to spin the
shining flax into the ropes that were to form the rigging. Burly
blacksmiths stood at the roaring forge, wielding huge hammers; sawyers
worked in the pits, making the stout beams and ribs and cutting great
trunks into thin planks. Black cauldrons of boiling tar smoked and
bubbled over the fires. The clattering of hammers, the rasping of saws,
the whirring of wheels, and the clamour of men's voices sounded from
earliest morning until the setting of the sun; and the work went on
apace all day and every day, saving on Sunday, when no man was allowed
to touch a nail or lift a hammer.

On a certain morning in the midsummer, King Olaf was down in the
shipyard. He wore his coarsest and oldest clothes; his thick, strong
arms were bared above the elbows, and his hardened hands were smutched
with tar and nail rust. His head was shielded from the hot sun by a
little cloth cap that was torn in the crown, and his long hair and his
broad back and shoulders were besprinkled with sawdust. Save for his
greater tallness and strength he looked not very different from any of
the workmen about him; and indeed Kolbiorn Stallare, who stood near him
in courtly apparel, might well have been mistaken for the king and the
king for the servant.

Olaf had paused in his work, and was talking with Kolbiorn concerning
some matter of state. As he stood thus, leaning with one elbow on the
long handle of his great sledgehammer, he saw young Einar Eindridson
coming towards him, followed by a woman. The woman seemed to be of
middle age, and she looked weary with travel. As she came nearer, her
eyes rested upon Kolbiorn as though she wished to speak with him.

"Go to her," said the king. And Kolbiorn left Olaf's side and went to
meet her.

"Long have I searched for you, King Olaf," said she, drawing back the
cloak from her head, and letting the sun shine full upon her face. "But
I have found you at last, and now I crave your help for the mercy of

"You make a mistake, lady," said Kolbiorn; "I am not King Olaf, but
only his servant. Yonder is the king at work among his shipwrights. But
if you would speak with him I will take you to him, for I see that you
are in distress."

So he took her to where Olaf was, and when she stood near him she
looked at him in disbelief, taking him to be but a workman. But when
the king laid down his hammer and stood up at his full height and
uncovered his head, she saw that he was no ordinary man. Her eyes went
to his bare arm, where there still remained the mark branded there in
the days of his bondage in Esthonia.

"By that token do I know you, O king," said she. "But you are taller
and stronger than when last we met."

"In what land and in whose company was that meeting?" asked King Olaf.
"Methinks I have indeed seen you before, but in what circumstances and
at what time I do not call to mind."

"We met long years ago," said she. "First in Wendland, when you were a
guest at the court of King Burislaf; and again when we sat side by side
at the inheritance feast of King Sweyn of Denmark. My name is Thyra.
Harald Bluetooth, king of Denmark, was my father, and I am the sister
of King Sweyn of the Forked beard, who now reigns over all Denmark, and
who has lately wedded with Queen Sigrid of Sweden."

"Right well do I now remember you," returned Olaf. "And well do I mind
that, at that same feast in Denmark, you scorned me because I had been
a slave."

There was a frown upon his brow and a look of mistrust in his eyes; for
he guessed that the coming of this woman was some guileful trick of her
brother Sweyn, whom he knew to be an enemy of his own.

"At the time you speak of," said she, "you were but a heathen viking of
Jomsburg, a lover of warfare, a man who lived by plunder and bloodshed,
who worshipped the pagan gods, and knew not the sweetness of a peaceful
life. But now you are a king--a great and glorious king. And, what is
more, you are a Christian, worshipping the true God, and doing good
deeds for the good Christ's sake."

The look of mistrust now vanished from Olaf's eyes, and gave place to a
look of softness and pity.

"It is because you are a Christian that I have come to you now," she
went on. "For days and weeks I have travelled on foot across the
mountains; and now that I have found you I crave your pity and your
help, for I am in sore distress, and know of none other than you, O
king, to whom I can go for shelter. At the same time that you were
yourself in Wendland, and at the time when Earl Sigvaldi of Jomsburg
was wedded with the Princess Astrid, and my brother Sweyn with her
sister Gunnhild, it was arranged that I too should be wedded. And the
husband whom Sigvaldi and Sweyn chose for me was their father-in-law,
King Burislaf. Now, Burislaf was an elderly man, while I was but a
little girl, and I was sorely against this matter. So I craved that
they would not press me to the marriage, and they yielded so far that I
was left alone for a while.

"Early in this present summer King Burislaf renewed his pleadings that
I should wed with him, and he sent Earl Sigvaldi into Denmark to carry
me away. So well did the Earl prevail with my brother that Sweyn
delivered me into his hands, and also covenanted that the domains in
Wendland which Queen Gunnhild had had should be my dowry.

"Now, already I had become a Christian, and it was little to my
satisfaction that I should become the wife of a pagan king and live for
ever after among heathen folk, so on a certain dark and stormy night I
fled away. A poor fisherman brought me over into Norway, where I knew
that the people were all of the Christian faith, and so, after much
trouble and privation, I have found my way hither."

Thus Thyra spoke with King Olaf. And when she had told him all her
trouble he gave her good counsel and a kindly welcome, and said that
she should always have a peaceful dwelling in his realm.

Now, Olaf Triggvison knew full well that in giving succour to Thyra he
was doing that which would give great offence to King Sweyn of Denmark;
and that Sweyn, when he heard that his sister was here in Norway, would
speedily come over and carry her back to Wendland. Nevertheless, Olaf
thought well of her ways and saw that she was very fair, and it came
into his mind that this would be a good wedding for him. So when Thyra
had been in Nidaros some few weeks he spoke with her again, and asked
her if she would wed him.

Little loth was Thyra to obey his behests, for she deemed herself most
fortunate in that there was a chance of her marrying so noble a king.
So she yielded to him, and their wedding was held in harvest time, and
celebrated according to the Christian rites. From that time onward they
reigned together as king and queen of Norway.

All through that summer King Olaf busied himself in his shipyard, and
in the early autumn the great ship's hull was well nigh finished. At
this time Thorberg, the master shipwright, went home to his farmstead
in Orkadale to gather in his harvest, and he tarried there for many
days. When he came back the bulwarks were all completed.

On the same day of his return the king went down with him to the yard
to see how the vessel looked, and they both agreed that never before
had they seen its equal in size and in beauty of form. All had been
done as Thorberg had designed, and great praise did he win from his
master. But Thorberg said, nevertheless, that there were many things
that he would have improved.

But early the next morning the king and Thorberg went again to the
ship. All the smiths had come thither, but they stood there doing no

"Why are ye standing idle?" demanded Olaf in surprise.

"Because the ship is spoiled, O king," said one of the men, "and there
is no longer any good in her! Some evil minded man has been at work in
the night, undoing all that we have done!"

The king walked round to the ship's side, and lo! every plank along her
bulwarks was hewn and notched and deeply gashed as with an axe.

"Envious mischief maker!" cried the king in a sorrowful voice. Then as
he realized the full extent of the wreckage he swore an oath, and
declared that the man who had thus spoiled the ship should die, and
that he who should discover the evildoer would be well rewarded.

Then Thorberg went to his side, and said he: "Be not so wrathful, O
king. I can tell you who it is that has done this mischief. It was I
who did it."

"You!" cried the king. "You in whom I have trusted so long? You, who
have taken so much pride in the building of this ship? Unhappy man!
Know this, that you shall repair this mischief and make it good, or
else you shall lose your life!"

Thorberg laughed lightly and said: "Little the worse will the ship be
when I have done, lord."

And then he went to the ship and planed out all the notches and cuts,
and made the bulwarks so smooth and fair that all who saw what he did
declared that the ship was made far handsomer than she had been before.
So well pleased was King Olaf that he bade Thorberg do the same on the
other side, and gave him great praise and reward.

Late in the autumn the hull was finished and painted, ready for
launching. Bishop Sigurd sprinkled the vessel's bows with holy water,
and as she slipped over the rollers into the sea King Olaf named her
the Long Serpent.

There was yet much to be done before she would be ready for sea; but
such work as the stepping of her two masts, fitting her standing
rigging, caulking her deck planks, fashioning her cabins, and adorning
her prow and stern could best be done when she was afloat.

The Long Serpent would not be considered a very large vessel in these
modern days, but she was the largest ship known to have been built
before the time of King Canute, and she was, so far as it is possible
to calculate, exactly double the size of the ship in which Columbus
crossed the Atlantic. Her length was not less than two hundred feet.
Her breadth between the gunwales was about forty feet. It is not
probable that she was very deep in the water; but of this there is no
record. She was fitted with thirty-four "rooms" amidships, each room
being divided into two half rooms. These half rooms accommodated eight
men whose duty it was to attend to one of the long oars. Thus, there
were thirty-four pairs of oars and five hundred and seventy-four
rowers. Between the half rooms, and also along the bulwarks, there were
wide gangways, running fore and aft. There was a large forecastle in
which the warriors slept and took their meals, and abaft the main mast
there was another cabin called the "fore-room", in which King Olaf had
his high seat, or throne. Here he held his councils. Here, too, he had
his armour chests. Thirty men lived in the fore-room.

King Olaf's own private cabin was under the "lypting", or poop. It was
very splendidly furnished, with beautifully carved wood and tapestries
of woven silk. Only his chosen companions and his personal servants
were allowed to enter this apartment. Above it there was a large deck
which in the time of battle was occupied by the king and his most
valiant warriors.

The prow of the Long Serpent, which rose high above all other parts of
the hull, took the form of a dragon's head and shoulders. This
ferocious looking monster, with wide open jaws and staring eyes, was
covered with beaten gold. At the vessel's stern stood the dragon's
twisted tail, and this also was plated with gold. Close beside it was
the handle of the steering board, which was usually held, when at sea,
by King Olaf himself or his chief captain.

It was not until the middle of the next springtime that the ship was
ready for sea. Then Olaf had his fair weather sails hoisted. They were
as white as newly fallen snow, with a large blood red cross in the
middle. Banners of silk streamed from the masthead and from the
yardarms, and a most beautiful standard fluttered from a tall staff on
the lypting. The midships tent, which shielded the rowers from the
glare of the strong light, was striped with red and blue. The weather
vanes and the dragon glittered in the sun, and the men on the decks
were arrayed in their best, with their polished brass helmets and gaily
coloured cloaks. King Olaf himself was most splendidly attired. He had
on a newly wrought coat of chain mail, which was partly covered by a
mantle of fine crimson silk. His helmet was made of burnished copper,
inlaid with gold ornaments and surmounted by a gold dragon. Near to
him, as he stood at the tiller, his shield was hung up. It was the same
shield that he had bought from Thangbrand, bearing the image of the

Great crowds of people assembled on the banks of the Nid. They all
thought it a most wonderful sight, and they cheered lustily as, in
answer to a loud blast from the king's bugle horn, the rowers began to
pull. As the great vessel glided out of the river with her eight and
sixty oars moving in regular strokes she looked like a thing of life.
Never in all time or in all lands had such a magnificent ship been seen.

Olaf steered her out into the blue waters of Thrandheim Fiord, and then
as the wind caught her sails the oars were shipped and she sped onward
with such even speed that all were astonished. Not far had she gone
when she came in sight of Olaf's other dragonship--the Short Serpent,
as she was now called--which had been sent out an hour in advance. In
spite of the long start that she had had, the smaller vessel was
quickly overhauled and passed, as though she had not been moving. Olaf
had wanted to have a race; but now he saw that this was useless; for
the Long Serpent had proved herself to be not only the most beautiful
ship to look upon, but also the quickest sailer of all vessels afloat.

Out into the sea he took her. There was a strong breeze blowing and the
sea was rough. She rode easy upon the waves, both before and against
the wind, and Olaf was well pleased. So, when the trial cruise was
over, he returned to Nidaros, satisfied that if ever he should be drawn
into a war with any foreign power he had a battleship which no enemy
could equal.

Now King Olaf lived in happiness and contentment with Queen Thyra, and
there was great love between them. But there was one thing which gave
the queen much trouble, and over which she was for ever fretting. It
was that, by reason of her flight from Wendland, she had forfeited all
the possessions that had been reserved as her dowry. She felt that,
here in Norway, she had no private wealth of her own such as beseemed a
queen, whereas there were her great estates in Wendland and Denmark,
from which large revenues were due. Again and again she spoke to the
king on this matter, praying him with fair words to go and get her her
own. King Burislaf, she declared, was so dear a friend of King Olaf
that so soon as they met he would surely give over to him all that he
craved. But Olaf always shook his head and asked her if she did not
think that there was wealth enough for them both in Norway. But Thyra
was not satisfied with this constant delay. Whenever her husband spoke
with her she always contrived to bring in some peevish mention of her
estates. She wept and prayed and pleaded so often that Olaf's patience
was well nigh exhausted. It seemed that if only for the sake of
domestic peace an expedition to Wendland must soon be brought about.
Nevertheless, all the friends of the king, when they heard of this
talk, advised him against such a journey, for they knew full well that
it must end in a war with the queen's brother, Sweyn Forkbeard. On a
certain day in that same spring, when it was nearing Eastertide, King
Olaf was passing down the street, when by the marketplace a man met
him, and offered to sell him some very fine spring vegetables. Olaf
noticed that he had some large angelica heads. This was a herb very
much valued in those days and eaten as we now eat celery. The king took
a great stalk of the angelica in his hand and went home with it to
Queen Thyra. He found the queen in her hall weeping for her lost

"See here the big angelica I give thee," said he.

The queen rose and thrust the vegetables contemptuously aside, and,
with the tears streaming down her cheek, cried: "A pretty gift indeed!
Greater gifts did my father, Harald Bluetooth, give me when, as a
child, I got my first tooth! He did not fear to come over here to
Norway and conquer this land; whereas you, with all your boasted glory
and your great ships, are so much afraid of my brother Sweyn that you
dare not venture into Denmark to get me what belongs to me, and of
which I have been shamefully robbed!"

Then up sprang King Olaf and retorted with an angry oath: "Afraid?" he
cried. "Never have I gone in fear of your brother Sweyn, and I am not
afraid of him now. Nay, if we ever meet, he shall surely give way
before me! Now--even now--I will set sail for Wendland, and you shall
have your wretched estates!"


So, when Eastertide with all its religious ceremonies had passed by,
King Olaf summoned a great gathering of his people, whereat he set
forth that he intended to make an expedition into the Baltic, and that
he required a levy from every district, both of men and of ships. He
then sent messengers north and south along the land, bidding them
muster his forces. The ships were to assemble in Thrandheim Fiord in
the first week in summer.

Olaf paid great attention to the manning of the Long Serpent, and his
seamen and warriors were so well chosen that it was said that the crew
surpassed other men as far in strength and bravery as the Long Serpent
surpassed other ships. Every man was picked by King Olaf himself, who
determined that none should be older than sixty years, and none younger
than twenty. He made only one exception to this rule. It was in the
case of Einar Eindridson, surnamed Thambarskelver. Einar was but
eighteen years old; but, young though he was, he was considered the
most skilful archer in all Norway. With his bow, called Thamb, he could
fire a blunt arrow through a raw ox hide, and not even King Olaf could
aim more true or hit the mark at a greater distance. In after years
Einar became a very famous warrior and lawman, and his name is often
mentioned in the history of Norway. Wolf the Red was King Olaf's banner
bearer, and his station was in the prow of the Serpent, together with
Kolbiorn Stallare, Thorstein Oxfoot, Vikar of Tiundaland, and others.
Among the forecastle men were Bersi the Strong, Thrand Squinteye,
Thorfinn the Dashing, Ketil the Tall, and Ogmund Sandy. Thirty of the
best men were in the fore-room, in front of the poop. Young Einar
Eindridson was stationed in the main hold among the rowers. The
complete ship's company numbered seven hundred men.

The Short Serpent was commanded by Thorkel Nefja, a kinsman of Olaf's;
and Thorkel the Wheedler (brother of Queen Astrid) commanded the Crane.
Both these ships were very well manned. Eleven other large ships left
Thrandheim with Olaf, also some smaller vessels of war, and six that
were loaded with stores. He set sail with this fleet in the early days
of the summer, and Queen Thyra went with him. Southward he sailed, and
as he came in turn to fiord after fiord many vikings and wealthy
warriors joined him with their ships. When at length he stood out
across the Skager Rack, he had a fleet of sixty longships and sixty
smaller transports, and with these in his wake he sailed south along
Denmark through the Eyr sound, and so to Wendland.

This expedition was not made with any warlike intent. Olaf did not
expect that war would follow. But he knew that King Sweyn Forkbeard was
his bitterest enemy, and that there was danger in passing so near to
Denmark, and he thought it well to have a large number of battleships
in his train in case of need.

He arrived off the Wendish coast without being in any way molested, and
he anchored his fleet in the great bay of Stetten haven. Thence he sent
messengers to King Burislaf appointing a day of meeting. Burislaf
invited him to go inland and be his guest at his castle, and Olaf went,
leaving Queen Thyra behind on board the Serpent, for she would by no
means consent to come into the presence of the man whom she had jilted.

King Burislaf received him well, and gave him splendid hospitality.
Olaf spoke of his queen's estates and of the revenues that were due to
her. Burislaf was a just man in his own heathen way, and he answered
that, since he had not got the wife that had been promised him, he did
not think it right that he should enjoy her dowry. So he yielded to
Olaf's claims, and at once delivered to him the full value of Queen
Thyra's estates. Olaf abode in Wendland for many days, and at length
returned to the coast, carrying with him a great store of gold and
jewels, which, when he went on board his ship, he gave to his queen.

Thyra was now well satisfied, and never again did she attempt to taunt
King Olaf concerning her estates. On the contrary, she gave him all
praise for having done so much for her sake, and all her contempt of
his seeming cowardice was turned to admiration of his courage.

Now, at this same time King Sweyn Forkbeard was in Denmark, living with
his new wife, Queen Sigrid the Haughty. Even as Thyra had taunted Olaf
Triggvison concerning her possessions in Wendland, so had Sigrid
taunted Sweyn Forkbeard concerning her hatred of King Olaf of Norway.
She could never forget how Olaf had smitten her in the face with his
glove, and from the earliest days of her marriage with King Sweyn she
had constantly and earnestly urged him to wage war against Olaf
Triggvison. Sweyn, knowing the risks of such a war, turned a deaf ear
to his proud wife's entreaties. But when at last Sigrid heard that Olaf
had given protection to Sweyn's sister, and made Thyra his queen, she
renewed her urging with increased earnestness, and so well did she
succeed that Sweyn was roused to great anger against King Olaf, and he
resolved to get ready his forces and abide by Queen Sigrid's counsel.

He was in this belligerent mood when the rumour reached him that Olaf
Triggvison was at sea with his fleet, and was minded to make the voyage
to Wendland. With this rumour also came news of the splendid dragonship
that the Norse king had built.

Now, Sweyn Forkbeard was a very cautious man in the affairs of war, and
he well knew that he was himself no match for so powerful a warrior as
Olaf the Glorious. But he remembered that he was not alone in his
desire to humble the monarch of the Norselands. His own son in law,
Olaf the Swede King, had sworn by Thor's hammer to avenge the insult to
his mother Queen Sigrid the Haughty, and the help of the Swede King in
this war would be of great account. In addition to the King of Sweden
there was Earl Erik of Lade, who was eager to take vengeance upon Olaf
Triggvison for the slaying of his father Earl Hakon. Since the coming
of King Olaf into Norway, Earl Erik had become famous as a viking; he
had engaged in many battles both on land and on the sea. It has already
been told how he fought in the sea fight against the vikings of
Jomsburg. He was now one of the strongest war men in all Scandinavia,
and his fleet of battleships was equal to that of either Sweyn of
Denmark or Olaf of Sweden.

So when Forkbeard heard that Olaf Triggvison had entered the Baltic he
sent men east into Sweden, bidding them give word to the Swede King and
to Earl Erik that now was their time if they would join in battle
against their common foe.

Sweyn Forkbeard was at this time very friendly with Earl Sigvaldi, the
chief of the Jomsvikings, and he enlisted his help. It happened that
Sigvaldi's wife, the Princess Astrid, was then staying at the court of
her father King Burislaf, in Wendland. It was, therefore, a very
natural thing that the earl should go thither also. Sweyn urged him to
make the journey, to spy upon King Olaf's fleet, and to lay such a trap
that Sweyn and his allies should not fail in their object. Earl
Sigvaldi undertook this mission, and fared eastward to Wendland with
eleven longships. Meeting King Olaf he made pretence to renew his old
friendship with the man whom he had formerly known as Ole the
Esthonian. He flattered him, praised his great wisdom, and, more than
all, spoke highly of his fleet and the surpassing splendour of the Long
Serpent. Their discourse was most friendly at all times, nor did Olaf
for a moment suspect the treachery that underlay the earl's soft
speeches and his seeming goodwill. Deep into the king's open heart
Sigvaldi wormed his way, until they were as brothers one with the
other. When Olaf hinted that he would be going back to Norway, that the
weather was fair for sailing, and that his men were homesick and weary
of lying at anchor, Sigvaldi made some plausible excuse and still held
him back; and the time went on, the summer days grew shorter, and yet
Olaf made no move.

But on a certain day there came a small fishing boat into the bay, and
dropped anchor near to the earl's longship. In the darkness of the next
night one of her men had speech with Sigvaldi, and gave him the tidings
for which he had so long waited. These tidings were that the host of
the Swede King had now come from the east, that Earl Erik also had
arrayed his forces, and that these lords had joined with Sweyn
Forkbeard, and all were sailing downward to the coast of Wendland. They
had appointed to waylay King Olaf Triggvison in a certain channel
running between the mainland and the island of Svold, and Sweyn had now
sent this messenger bidding the earl to so bring it about that they
might fall upon King Olaf in that place. On the next morning Sigvaldi
put out one of his boats, rowed alongside of the Long Serpent, and
stepped upon her deck. He found King Olaf sitting at his ease against
the rail, carving runes upon the lid of a wooden box that he had made
for the holding of the queen's jewels. Sigvaldi did not disturb him,
but took a few turns across the deck and looked up into the sunlit sky.
The king blew away the chips of wood that he had been cutting from the
box lid and looked up.

"A fairer and finer day for sailing I have never yet seen," said he.
"Why should we not heave anchor this very morning? The wind bodes well
for a free run westward, and in truth, Sigvaldi, I am getting wearied
of this idleness and the sight of these sandy shores."

"Let it be so by all means if you so wish it," answered the earl in a
light tone of unconcern. "I, too, should be not ill pleased to be once
more upon the open sea, although I shall be sorry to make an end to our
close intercourse, for the sooner we sail the sooner must we part."

"The parting need not be for long," said the king. "I am hoping that
you will soon see your way to coming north to Thrandheim, there to
spend many happy summer months with us. And we may take a cruise in the
Long Serpent across to the Orkneys, or north even to Iceland."

A mocking smile played about the earl's lips.

"You are ever ready with your bright plans for the future, King Olaf,"
he said, as he raised his great hand to stroke his bushy black beard.
"But the next summer is a long while off, and it may be--who can
say?--it may be that we shall not then be both alive."

King Olaf gave a playful laugh.

"Your thoughts are passing gloomy this morning," said he. "Why should
you speak of death? You are still but in the prime of manhood, and are
blessed with the best of health. As to a death in battle, you, who are
still a believer in Odin and Valhalla, can have no fear of warlike

"It was not of myself that I was thinking," returned Sigvaldi.

"Then why should it be for me that you fear?" asked Olaf. "I am of a
long lived race, and, since I am now a man of peace and no lover of
bloodshed, I am not likely to be mixed up in any wars--at least, not
wars of my own making. And there is but one man I know of who has any
wish to wage battle with me."

"Who is that?" questioned Sigvaldi.

"King Sweyn of Denmark," answered Olaf. "And it seems that he is at
this very time abroad with his hosts in search of me."

A look of alarm came upon the earl's dark face. He marvelled how Olaf
had come to hear this news, and he feared also that his own schemes
might end in failure.

"These are strange tidings you tell, King Olaf," he said. "One would
think that, like Odin, you employed the birds of the air to bear you

"The bird that told me these matters was but a poor fisherman," said
Olaf. "Yesternight I met him on the shore, and, seeing that he was a
Dane, I had speech with him, and he said that King Sweyn, with two or
three longships, had been seen bearing southward to Wendland."

Earl Sigvaldi breathed a deep breath of relief. There was still great
hope of his scheme succeeding. He glanced round the bay at Olaf's great
fleet, and thought of the reward that Sweyn had offered as the price of
his treachery.

"Little would it avail King Sweyn to enter unaided into a battle with
so well equipped and so brave a warrior as you, King Olaf," he said.
"But, for my own part, I do not believe this tale. I have known the
Dane King in past times, and he is far too wary to attempt so bold an
attack. Howbeit, if you misdoubt that war will beset your path, then
will I be of your company with my ships. The time has been when the
following of the vikings of Jomsburg has been deemed of good avail to
mighty kings."

Then when the earl had gone off to his own ships, Olaf turned to go
below to his cabin.

At the head of the cabin stairs he was met by young Einar Eindridson.

"So please you, O king," said the lad in a halting voice, "it chanced
yesternight that I had a dream--"

"Well," smiled the king, "and what of that? The people of heathen lands
deem it a grave misfortune if a man cannot dream; therefore you may be
accounted fortunate."

"Dreams may sometimes avert misfortune," said the lad, "and this that I
dreamt yesternight may be of service to you, my master. While I slept,
it seemed to me that I saw you standing at the brink of a deep well of
water. At your side stood the Earl Sigvaldi. Suddenly he put his hand
upon your back and pushed you forward, so that you fell into the water
and sank deep, deep down, and then all was dark. I am no great reader
of dreams, O king; but this one has sorely troubled me, for I fear that
Earl Sigvaldi is a treacherous friend, and that he is now minded to do
you an injury."

"Leave the reading of such sleeping fancies to wizards and witches,
Einar," said King Olaf. "It is not for Christian folk to inquire into
the future. We are in God's hands, and He alone can determine what path
we shall tread. As to my good friend Sigvaldi, I will hear no word
against him."

Now when Olaf went into the cabin, he found there Sigvaldi's wife, the
princess Astrid, who had been for some days in companionship with Queen
Thyra. Astrid warned him, as openly as she dared, that her husband was
working against him. But Olaf turned aside her warnings with a jest. A
strange infatuation bound him to his false friend, and nothing would
shake his confidence. He resolved to abide by the earl's advice in all

It was yet early morning when King Olaf again went on deck. The wind
blew light from the southeast, and all was favourable for departure.
Loud over the bay sounded the bugle horns. Mariners cried aloud in
their joy as they hoisted the yards. The sails fluttered out in the
breeze, and the anchors were weighed. Gaily the ships sped out of the
wide bay, and forth through the western channel past the vikings'
stronghold of Jomsburg. Seventy-one keels in all there were, and the
smaller vessels led the way, right out into the open sea, nor waited to
know which course the king should take, for all knew that they were
homeward bound for Norway, and that although there were many ways, yet
they all led north beyond Denmark, and so onward into the breezy Skager

Little did Olaf see the need of keeping his fleet together. He feared
no foe, and was well aware that every craft had a trusty crew who were
fully able to look after their own safety. His own knowledge of these
seas told him also that, however much his ships might be scattered in
crossing the Baltic, they must all gather together again, as he had
commanded, before entering the Eyr Sound.

Now the treacherous earl, whose craft and cunning had been busily at
work throughout that morning, saw, in this scattering of the ships, the
fulfilment of his dearest hopes. King Sweyn had enjoined him beyond all
things to so manage that Olaf Triggvison should be separated from the
main body of his fleet, so that he might thus fall into the trap that
was laid for him, and be speedily overcome by the superior force that
now awaited him behind the island of Svold. Sweyn Fork Beard's plans
were well laid; and if Earl Sigvaldi could but contrive to lead Olaf
between the island and the mainland, instead of taking the northward
course across the open sea, success for the allies was certain.

The earl was careful to keep his own vessel within the close
neighbourhood of the Long Serpent. In the wake of these two sailed the
earl's ten other viking ships and a similar number of King Olaf's
largest dragons, including the Short Serpent and the Crane.

The remaining portion of the king's fleet had already passed in
advance, bending their course due north. Sigvaldi had tried, by
delaying Olaf's departure out of the haven, to still further reduce the
number of the king's immediate followers. But he knew the extent of
Sweyn Fork Beard's forces, and he was content that Olaf should retain
such chances as were afforded by the support of eleven of his best

Now Olaf was about to steer outward into the sea when Sigvaldi hailed

"Follow me!" cried the earl. "Let me be your pilot, for I know all the
deepest channels between the isles, and I will lead you through them by
such ways that you will come out far in advance of your other ships!"

So King Olaf, over confident and never dreaming of treachery, followed
westward into the Sound, and went sailing onward to his doom.


King Sweyn of Denmark and his allies lay with their war hosts in a
large sheltered vik, or bay, on the western side of the isle of Svold.
This position was well chosen, as the bay formed a part of the channel
through which--if Earl Sigvaldi fulfilled his treacherous mission--King
Olaf Triggvison was certain to pass into the clutches of his foes.
There were seventy war galleys in all, and each vessel was well manned
and fully prepared for battle. The larger number belonged to King
Sweyn; but the longships of Earl Erik were in all respects superior to
those of either Denmark or Sweden.

Earl Erik himself, too, was the most valiant warrior. Excepting only
Olaf Triggvison there was not a braver or more daring chief in all the
lands of Scandinavia. Trained from his earliest youth to a life of
storm and battle, Erik had never known the meaning of fear, and it
might almost be said that he had never known defeat. His own bravery
and skill had inspired every one of his viking followers with the same
qualities. As his men were, so were his ships--they were chosen with
the main view to their fitness for encountering the battle and the
breeze. His own dragonship, which had stood the brunt of many a fierce
fight, was named the Iron Ram. It was very large, and the hull timbers
at both bow and stern were plated with thick staves of iron from the
gunwales down to the waterline.

For many days had these ships lain at anchor in the bay, and as each
day passed the three chiefs grew more and more impatient for the coming
of their royal victim. Many times and again had they sat together in
King Sweyn's land tent, discussing their prospects and planning their
method of attack. Their purpose was not alone to wreak vengeance upon
King Olaf for the supposed wrongs that each of the three had suffered
at his hands. The idea of vengeance, indeed, stood only second to the
great hope of conquest and of personal gain, and they had made this
secret bargain among themselves, namely, that in the event of Olaf
Triggvison being slain, they should each have his own third share of
Norway. To Earl Erik were to be given all the shires along the western
coast from Finmark to Lindesness, with the exception of seven shires
allotted to Olaf the Swede King. All the shires from Lindesness,
including the rich district of Agder, to the Swedish boundary, were to
be taken by Sweyn Fork Beard; excepting only the realm of Ranarike (to
this day a part of Sweden), which was to be given to the Swedish king.

It was further agreed among the three chieftains, concerning the
expected battle, that he who first planted foot upon the Long Serpent
should have her for his own, with all the wealth that was found on
board of her; and each should take possession of the ships which he
himself captured and cleared of men.

Touching this same arrangement Olaf Sigridson was not well content, for
he knew that both Erik and Sweyn were better men than himself, and that
in contending for the prize he would have but a sorry chance if either
of his companions should enter the battle before him.

"It seems to me," said Sweyn, on a certain morning when they were
talking this matter over, "that the fairest way of all would be that we
should cast lots or throw the dice; and let it be that he who throws
the highest shall be first to attack King Olaf's own ship."

So they brought out the dice box and each cast his lot in turn. Earl
Erik threw a two and a five. Then the Swedish king took up the dice and
he threw two sixes.

"No need is there for a third to throw!" he cried. "Mine is the first
chance, and, by the hammer of Thor, the Long Serpent shall be mine

But King Sweyn had still to take his throw.

"There are yet two sixes on the dice," said he, "and it is easy for the
gods to let them turn up again."

He made his cast, and there were again two sixes. But one die had
broken asunder, showing a three as well as the two sixes. Thus Sweyn
was the victor, and it was agreed that his ships should take the centre
of battle and lead the attack upon the Long Serpent.

When this matter was decided the three chiefs went up upon the heights
of the island, as they had done every morning since their coming to
Svold, and stood there with a great company of men. They looked
eastward along the line of the Wendic coast, and as they watched they
saw a great number of ships upon the sea, bearing outward from Stetten
haven. The weather was very bright and clear, and the sunlight, shining
upon the gaily coloured sails and upon the gilded prows, made a very
fine sight.

Earl Erik noticed with some concern that the fleet was making due
north. But Sweyn said: "Wait, and you will see what our good Sigvaldi
will do when he comes into sight!" So they waited and watched.

In about an hour's time they saw many larger and finer vessels
appearing. But they were yet too far off to be clearly recognized.
Sweyn was very silent for a time, and he kept his eyes fixed upon the
ships, noting their every movement. At last he cried aloud:

"Now I can see that Sigvaldi is doing as we bade him. No longer do the
ships stand outward into the main. They are bearing westward for Svold!
Let us now go down to our ships and not be too slow in attack."

So they all went down to the lower land and Sweyn sent boats out to bid
the shipmen weigh anchor and prepare for battle as quietly as might be.

Now the channel through which Sigvaldi was to lead the Norsemen was
full wide, and deep, but it had many turns and twists, and before the
ships could enter the bay, where their enemies awaited them in ambush,
they had need to pass round an outstretching cape. On the ridge of this
cape, and hidden by trees, King Sweyn and his companions took their
stand, knowing that although they might wait to see the whole of King
Olaf's fleet pass by, they would still have ample time to board their
ships and be in readiness to meet their victim ere he entered the bay.

It was not very long before they saw a large and splendid dragon
sailing proudly into the channel. It was the ship of Eindrid of Gimsar.

"A great ship, and marvellous fair!" cried King Sweyn. "Surely it is
the Long Serpent herself!"

Earl Erik shook his head and answered: "Nay; though this ship is large
and fine it is not the Long Serpent."

Shortly afterwards they saw another dragon, larger than the first; but
the dragon's head had been taken down from the prow.

King Sweyn said: "Now is Olaf Triggvison afraid, for he dares not sail
with the head on his ship!"

"This is not the king's ship," returned Earl Erik with confident
denial; "for by the green and red striping of her sails I know that her
captain is Erling Skialgson. Let him pass on! If, as I believe, he is
himself on board, we shall be better served if he and his band are not
found among those with whom we are to fight this day."

One by one, in irregular order, the great ships of the Norse chieftains
sailed by, and with each that passed, King Sweyn or Olaf of Sweden
cried aloud: "Now surely this one is the Long Serpent!" But Earl Erik
the Norseman recognized every one, and told her captain's name.

Presently Earl Sigvaldi's viking ships went by, holding close inshore;
and at length the earl's own dragon, with a red banner at her prow, by
which token King Sweyn understood that all was going as had been
intended. Following close behind came the Crane.

"Now let us hasten on board!" cried King Sweyn, "for here comes the
Serpent at last!"

But Earl Erik did not move.

"Many other great and splendid ships has Olaf Triggvison besides the
Long Serpent," said he, "yet only nine have sailed past. Let us still

Then one of Sweyn's Danish warriors who stood near gave a hoarse
mocking laugh and said:

"We had heard that Earl Erik was a brave and adventurous man. But now
it is clear that he has but the heart of a chicken, for he is too
cowardly to fight against Olaf Triggvison and dares not avenge his own
father's death. Great shame is this, to be told of through all lands,
that we, with all our great host, stand here, while Norway's king sails
out to sea past our very eyes."

Erik became very angry at hearing these taunting words.

"Go, then, to your ships," said he; "but for all your doubts of my
courage you shall see before the sun goes down into the sea tonight
that both Danes and Swedes will be less at their ease than I and my

As they moved to go, yet another of King Olaf's ships hove in sight.

"Here now sails the Long Serpent!" cried the son of Queen Sigrid.
"Little wonder is it that Olaf Triggvison is so widely renowned when he
has such a splendid ship as this!"

All turned to watch the great vessel as she floated by. Her gilded
dragon glistened in the sunlight; her striped red and blue sail swelled
in the breeze; crowds of stalwart men were on her decks. No larger or
more magnificent battleship had ever before been seen on these waters.

King Sweyn Fork Beard cried aloud in his exultation:

"Loftily shall the Serpent carry me tonight when I steer her north into

Then Earl Erik added with a sneer:

"Even if Olaf the Glorious had no larger ship than the Short Serpent,
which we now see, methinks Sweyn with all his army of Danes could never
win it from him without aid."

King Sweyn was about to give an angry retort when Earl Erik pointed
towards the headland from behind which all these ships had in their
turn appeared. And now did Sweyn at once understand how greatly he had
been mistaken in what he had expected of King Olaf's famous dragonship,
and how much his fancy had fallen short of the reality. He stood in
dumb amazement as the towering prow of the Long Serpent glided into
view, shooting long beams of golden light across the sea. First came
the glistening dragon head, and then a long stretch of gaily painted
hull; next, the tall mast with its swelling white sail, and, in the
midst of the snowy expanse, the blood red cross. The dense row of
polished shields along the bulwarks flashed in the sunlight. Sweyn
marvelled at the ship's great length, for the stern did not appear in
sight until long after he had seen the prow. His companion chieftains
murmured their astonished admiration; while fear and terror crept into
the breasts of many of the Swedes and Danes, who felt that for some of
them at least the great ship carried death.

"This glorious vessel is worthy and fitting for such a mighty king as
Olaf the Glorious," declared Earl Erik, "for it may in truth be said of
him that he is distinguished above all other kings as the Long Serpent
is above all other ships."

All unconscious of the guiles of Sigvaldi, King Olaf steered his ship
in the earl's wake. At the first he took the lead of his ten other
dragons, Sigvaldi sailing in advance. But as they neared the island a
thing happened which caused him to fall back to the rear. Young Einar
Eindridson, ever full of sport and play, had perched himself astride of
the yardarm, and there, with his longbow and arrows shot at the
seagulls as they flew by. Presently he espied a large bird flying over
from the westward. Its wings and body were perfectly black. Slowly it
came nearer and nearer, as though it would cross the Serpent's bows.
Einar worked his way along to the end of the yard, and, steadying
himself, fixed an arrow to the string. As the bird came within easy bow
shot the lad took aim.  But as he drew the string he saw the great
dusky bird open its stout beak. He heard a hoarse croak, and knew it to
be the croak of a raven. Now the croaking of a raven was held in those
times to be a sound of very ill omen; it was also considered that the
man who killed one of these birds was certainly doomed to meet with
speedy misfortune. Einar slackened his bow, and the arrow slipped from
his fingers. In trying to catch it, he dropped his famous bow, Thamb,
and it fell into the sea. Now Einar treasured that bow beyond all his
worldly possessions. Without an instant's hesitation he stood up upon
the yard and leapt into the sea.

King Olaf, standing at the tiller, had seen all this, and he quickly
put over the helm and, bringing the Serpent round head to wind, lay to
while a boat was launched. Einar and his bow were rescued. But
meanwhile the Long Serpent was overtaken by all her companion ships;
and so it was that she was the last to enter the straits.

Earl Sigvaldi still held on in advance. But it was noticed that when he
came abreast of the cape whereon the three chiefs had stood, he lowered
his sails and steered his ships nearer inshore. The Norsemen suspecting
nothing, followed his example, and very soon King Olaf's fleet gathered
closer together. But when Thorkel the Wheedler came up with the Crane
he shouted aloud to Sigvaldi, asking him why he did not sail. The earl
replied that he intended to lie to until King Olaf should rejoin him.
So Thorkel struck sail also. But the ships had still some way on them
and the current was with them. They drifted on until they came to a
curve in the channel which opened out into the bay where the host of
King Sweyn and his allies waited in ambush.

Now by this time the Short Serpent had come alongside of Sigvaldi, and
her captain, espying some of the enemy's fleet, questioned the earl
concerning them.

"Strangers they all are to me," answered Sigvaldi with an evil look in
his eyes. "But whoever they be, it seems that they are not altogether
friendly to us. I see their red war shields from where I stand, and it
looks very much as though a battle awaited us."

Then Thorkel Nefja had his oars brought out, and he steered the Short
Serpent round against the stream and went back with all speed to meet
the king.

"What do I see?" cried King Olaf. "Why have the ships struck sail? And
what is the meaning of your coming back?"

"It is because a great host of war galleys are lying in the farther
bay," answered Thorkel. "It is the host of King Sweyn of Denmark, for I
saw the banner on one of the longships, and it was like unto the
banners that Sweyn Fork Beard carried at the time when we were with him
in England. Turn back, I implore you, O king! Turn back by the way we
have come! For our fleet numbers but eleven keels, while our foes have
fully two score of dragons!"

The king stood on the lypting of the Long Serpent as he heard these
tidings. He turned to his mariners.

"Down with the sails! Out with the oars!" he cried with a loud voice
that could be clearly heard across the waters; and the men quickly

Still holding the tiller, Olaf kept his ship's prow ahead as before.

"Never yet have I fled from a battle," he called out to Thorkel Nefja.
"And although Sweyn Fork Beard had thrice two score of warships, I
would rather fight him than turn tail like a coward hound. God rules
over the lives of all Christian men, and why should we fear to
encounter King Sweyn and all his heathens? Let our cry be 'Onward,
Christ men; onward, Cross men!'"

Now when the Long Serpent, sweeping quickly along with all oars at
work, came nigh to her companions, Olaf saw that Earl Sigvaldi and his
vikings had passed on beyond the cape, while his own captains had
turned their prows about and were rowing back against the current.

"Why do ye take to flight?" roared Olaf in an angry voice of thunder.
"Never will I fly from any earthly enemy. He is no worthy king who
shuns his foes because of fear. Reverse your ships and follow the Long
Serpent, be it to glory or to death!"

And now, taking the lead, he arrayed his ships in order, with the Short
Serpent and the Crane together in his immediate wake, and his eight
other longships following close behind. Proudly, and with all his
banners flying, he sailed into the bay. Before him, at about a mile's
distance, he saw the seventy warships of his foes. Their vast number
and their compact battle array might well have struck fear into the
heart of one who had but eleven galleys at his back. But not for an
instant did Olaf Triggvison shrink from the unequal encounter. He
brought his vessels to a halt, but it was not from hesitation. It was
only that, taken wholly unawares, he had need to prepare for the coming
battle. Taking down his great war horn from the mast, he blew a
resounding blast. His warriors understood the call, and they hastily
donned their armour, brought their arrows and spears on deck and stood
at their stations with a readiness which showed how well their royal
master had trained them.

Olaf himself went below into his cabin. He knelt for a time before the
crucifix in silent prayer, and then, with his stout heart well prepared
for all that might happen to him, put on his finest armour and returned
to the deck.

As he stood beside his fluttering banner--a snow white banner with its
blood red cross--he could easily be distinguished from all who were
near him. His tall majestic figure was crowned with a crested helmet of
pure gold. Over his well wrought coat of mail he wore a short tunic of
scarlet silk. His shield, with its jewelled image of the crucified
Christ shone in the sunlight and could be distinctly seen by his
awaiting foes.

Some of his companions warned him of the danger of thus exposing
himself and making himself a mark for his enemies. But he answered
proudly that he wished all men, both friends and foes, to see that he
shunned no danger.

"The more I am seen," he said, "and the less fear I show in the battle,
the more shall I inspire my brave friends with confidence and my foes
with fear and terror."

As he spoke, he saw that King Sweyn with his ships was rowing slowly
out into the mid bay to meet him, leaving two detachments in his rear.
There was no sign of haste on board of any one of the ships, for all
men knew that there was a long day's fight before them, and that it was
well to make all their preparations with slow caution.

For some time after he had come on deck King Olaf was more intent upon
observing his enemies than in arraying his own small armament. He had
seen from the first that it would be his place to assume the defensive,
and he had given the order for his ships to be drawn up in line,
broadside to broadside.

This order was being carried out as he now stood watching the advance
of his enemy's battle.

"Who is the captain of the host now drawing up against us?" he asked of
Bersi the Strong, one of his chieftains who stood near him. "By the
standard on his prow methinks I should know him well."

"King Sweyn of the Forkedbeard it is, with his forces from Denmark,"
was Bersi's answer.

"That is even as I thought," returned Olaf. "But we are not afraid of
those cowards, for no more courage is there in Danes than in wood
goats. Never yet were Danes victorious over Norsemen, and they will not
vanquish us today. But what chief flies the standards to the right?"

"Those, lord, are the standards of Olaf the Swede King."

"The son of Queen Sigrid the Haughty stands in need of a little
practice in warfare," said Olaf. "But for the harm that he can do us,
he might well have stayed at home. And his heathen Sweden, I think,
would find it more agreeable to sit at the fireside and lick their
sacrificial bowls than to board the Long Serpent under the rain of our
weapons. We need not fear the horse eating Swedes. But who owns those
fine ships to the left of the Danes? A gallant man he must be, for his
men are far better arrayed than the rest and much bolder of aspect in
all ways."

"Earl Erik Hakonson is the owner of them," answered Bersi.

"He is the noblest champion who will fight against us today," said
Olaf, "and from him and the high born men that I see upon his decks we
may expect a hard battle. Earl Erik has just cause for attacking us,
and we must not forget that he and his crews are Norsemen like
ourselves. Now let us make ready!"

Then the king turned to his own ships. The eleven dragons had been
ranged side by side as he had ordered, with the Long Serpent in the
middle and the Crane and the Short Serpent at either side of her. To
right and to left of each of these four ships were placed. This was a
very small force, compared with the overwhelming numbers of the enemy,
and as Olaf glanced along his line he sorely missed the fifty of his
fleet that had gone out to seaward. Nevertheless he did not allow his
men to see that he was in any way anxious.

The seamen were now lashing the ships together stem by stem. Olaf saw
that they were tying the beak of the Long Serpent on a level with the
other prows, so that her poop stood out far behind. He called out
loudly to Ketil the Tall:

"Bring forward the large ship. Let her prow and not her stern stand
out. I will not lie behind my men when the battle begins!"

Then Wolf the Red, his standard bearer, whose station was forward in
the bow, mumbled a complaint:

"If the Serpent shall lie as far forward as she is longer than your
other ships, then there will be windy weather today in her bows."

The King answered: "I had the Serpent built longer than other ships, so
that she might be put forward more boldly in battle, and be well known
in fighting as in sailing. But when I chose her crew, I did not know
that I was appointing a stem defender who was both red and adread."

This playful taunt ruffled Red Wolf, who replied insolently: "There
need be nothing said, lord, if you will guard the poop as well as I
shall guard the forecastle."

The king had a bow in his hand. He laid an arrow on the string and
turned it on Wolf, who cried:

"Shoot another way, king, and not at me but at your foes, for what I
win in the fight I win for Norway, and maybe you will find that you
have not over many men before the evening comes."

The king lowered the arrow and did not shoot. When the men had finished
lashing the ships together he again took his war horn and blew a loud
blast upon it that echoed and re-echoed along the rocky shores of the
island. As he turned to put the horn aside he saw that Queen Thyra,
alarmed by the growing tumult, had come up on deck.

She looked out upon the bay, and seeing the enormous hostile fleet that
was closing in upon Olaf's diminished force she burst into tears.

Olaf went to her side and laid his hand on her shoulder.

"You must not weep," he said gently. "Come, dry your tears; for now you
have gotten what was due to you in Wendland; and today I mean to demand
of your brother Sweyn the tooth gift which you have so often asked me


King Olaf stood on the poop deck of the Long Serpent, a conspicuous
figure among his fighting men, with his gold wrought helm towering high
above the others' heads. From this position he could survey the
movements of his foes, command the actions of his own shipmen, and
direct the defence. From this place also he could fire his arrows and
fling his spears over the heads of his Norsemen. His quivers were
filled with picked arrows, and he had near him many racks of javelins.
The larger number of his chosen chiefs--as Kolbiorn Stallare, Thorfinn
the Dashing, Ketil the Tall, and Thorstein Oxfoot--had their stations
forward on the forecastle deck or in the "close quarters" nearer the
prow. These stood ready with their spears and swords to resist
boarders, and they were protected by the shield men, who were ranged
before them at the bulwarks with their shields locked together. At
various points of vantage groups of archers had been placed, the best
marksmen being stationed before the mast, where no rigging or cordage
would mar their aim. At this part stood Einar Eindridson throughout the
whole battle. Loud and shrill sounded the war horns from both sides.
Nearer and nearer King Sweyn of Denmark drew onward to the attack. The
wind had fallen, the sea was calm; the sun hung hot and glaring in a
cloudless sky, flashing on burnished helmet and gilded dragon head.
King Olaf's prows were pointed towards the north, so that the enemy as
they came down upon him had the strong midday sunlight in their eyes.
King Sweyn Fork Beard opened his attack with a shower of arrows
directed at the stem defenders of the Long Serpent. King Olaf's archers
at once replied in like manner. This exchange of arrows was continued
without ceasing while Sweyn's ships came onward at their fullest speed.
Then, as the Danes drew yet closer under the Norsemen's prows, arrows
gave place to javelins and spears, which were hurled with unerring aim
from side to side.

Sweyn's men turned their stems towards both bows of the Long Serpent,
as she stood much further forward than any others of Olaf's ships. Many
who could not approach this coveted position turned their attention to
the Short Serpent and the Crane. And now the battle raged fiercely. Yet
the Norsemen stood firm as a wall of rock, while the Danes, assailed by
a heavy rain of spears and arrows from the Serpent's decks, began to
lose heart ere ever a man of them was able to make his way through the
close bulwark of shields. Olaf's prows were so lofty that they could
not be scaled, while the defenders, from their higher stand, had full
command over their foes. Thrand Squint Eye and Ogmund Sandy were the
first of the Norsemen to fall. These two leapt down upon the deck of
King Sweyn's dragon, where, after a tough hand to hand fight, in which
they vanquished nine of the Dane King's foremost warriors, they were
slain. Kolbiorn Stallare was very angry at these two having broken the
ranks, and he gave the order that none of the Norsemen were to attempt
to board the enemy's ships without express command.

Sweyn's ship lay under the larboard bow of the Serpent, and Wolf the
Red had thrown out grappling hooks, holding her there. She was a
longship, of twenty banks of oars, and her crew were the pick of all
the warmen of Denmark. Sharp and fierce was the fight at this side, and
great was the carnage. While Kolbiorn and others of Olaf's stem
defenders kept up an incessant battle with their javelins and swords,
King Olaf and his archers shot their arrows high in air so that they
fell in thick rain upon the Danish decks. Yet the Danes, and the Swedes
from the rear, were not slow to retaliate. Although they found it
impossible to board the Serpent, they nevertheless could assail her
crowded decks with arrows and well aimed spears, and the Norsemen fell
in great numbers. In the meantime Sweyn's other ships--not one of which
was larger than the smallest of King Olaf's eleven dragons--made a
vigorous onset upon Olaf's left and right wings. The Norsemen fought
with brave determination, and as one after another of the Dane ships
was cleared of men it was drawn off to the rear, and its place was
occupied by yet another ship, whose warriors, fresh and eager, renewed
the onset. All along Olaf's line there was not one clear space, not a
yard's breadth of bulwark unoccupied by fighting men. The air was
filled with flying arrows and flashing spears and waving swords. The
clang of the weapons upon the metal shields, the dull thud of blows,
the wild shouts of the warriors and cries of the wounded, mingled
together in a loud vibrating murmur. To Earl Sigvaldi, who lay with his
ships apart at the far end of the bay, it sounded like the humming of
bees about a hive. Not only at the prows, but also behind at the sterns
of Olaf's compact host, did the Danes attempt to board. The Norsemen,
indeed, were completely surrounded by their foemen. King Olaf fought
from the poop deck of the Serpent with no less vigour than did Kolbiorn
and his stem defenders at the prow. He assailed each ship as it
approached with showers of well directed arrows. Then, as the stem of
one of the Danish longships crashed into his vessel's stern, he dropped
his longbow and caught up his spears, one in either hand, and hurled
them into the midst of his clamouring foes. Time after time he called
to his followers, and led them with a fierce rush down upon the enemy's
decks, sweeping all before him. Seven of King Sweyn's vessels did he
thus clear; and at last no more came, and for a time he had rest. But a
great cry from the Serpent's forecastle warned him that his stem men
were having a hard struggle. So he gathered his men together and led
them forward. Many were armed with battleaxes, others with spears, and
all with swords. Calling to his shield bearers to make way for him, he
pressed through the gap and leapt down upon the deck of Sweyn
Forkbeard's dragon.

"Onward, Christ men, Cross men!" he cried as full three score of his
bravest warriors followed close at his back. And he cut his way through
the crowd of Danes, who, led by Sweyn himself, had been making a final
rally and preparing to board the Serpent. King Sweyn was wounded in the
right arm by a blow from Kolbiorn's sword. Kolbiorn was about to repeat
the blow when several of the Danes, retreating aft, crowded between him
and their king. Sweyn drew back, and crying aloud to his men to follow
him, turned tail and led them over the bulwarks on to the deck of a
ship that was alongside of him. This ship, which had not yet been
secured by the Norsemen's grappling irons, he now withdrew to the
farther shores of the bay. As he thus retreated from the battle he
sounded his horns, calling off those of his ships that were not yet
altogether vanquished. Tired, wounded, and despairing, he owned himself
no match for Olaf the Glorious. He had made the attack with five and
forty fully manned warships, and yet all this great force had been as
nothing against the superior skill and courage of the defenders. Thus
it befell, as Olaf Triggvison had guessed, that the Danes did not gain
a victory over the Norsemen. While the Danes were in full retreat the
Swedes hastened forward to renew the attack. The Swedish king,
believing that Olaf Triggvison must certainly have suffered terrible
loss at the hands of the Danes, had the fullest hope that he would take
very little time in turning the defeat of King Sweyn into a victory for
himself. He had already, from a distance, kept up an intermittent fire
of arrows into the midst of the Norse ships, and it may be that he had
thus helped to reduce King Olaf's strength. He now rowed proudly upon
the left wing of the Norse fleet. Here he divided his own forces,
sending one division to an attack upon Olaf's prows, and himself rowing
round to the rear. Many of the disabled Dane ships barred his way, but
he at last brought his own longship under the poop of the Long Serpent.
This interval had given the Norsemen a brief respite in which to clear
their disordered decks and refresh themselves with welcome draughts of
cooling water which their chief ordered to be served round.

Vain were the Swede king's hopes. When he advanced upon the Serpent
Olaf Triggvison was ready to meet him, refreshed by his brief rest,
unwounded still, and with his warlike spirit burning eager within him.

"Let us not lose courage at the sight of these heathen devourers of
horse flesh!" he cried as he rallied his men. "Onward, my brave
Christians! It is for Christ's faith that we fight today. Christ's
cross against Thor's hammer! Christian against pagan!"

Then, when the anchors and grappling hooks were fastened upon the Swede
king's ship, Olaf hastened to the rail and assailed her men first with
javelin and long spear, and then with sword. So high was the Serpent's
poop above the other's stem that the Norsemen had to bring their
weapons to bear right down below the level of their sandalled feet, and
whenever the Swedish soldiers, emboldened by seeing an occasional gap
in King Olaf's ranks, tried to climb on board, they were hewn down or
thrown back into the sea.

At last Olaf of Sweden came forward with a strong body of swordsmen and
axemen, intent upon being the first of the three hostile princes to
plant his foot on the deck of the Long Serpent. Olaf Triggvison saw him
approaching, and again calling his Norsemen to follow him, he leapt
over the rail and landed on the enemy's deck. The son of Queen Sigrid
stood still on his forecastle. His face suddenly blanched, but he
gripped his sword, ready to encounter Norway's king. Here the two Olafs
met and crossed swords, and a desperate duel ensued. Scarcely had they
made half a dozen passes when Olaf Triggvison, with a quick movement of
his wrist, struck his opponent's sword from his grasp and it fell on
the deck.

"Too bold is Queen Sigrid's son," cried Olaf, "if he thinks to board
the Long Serpent. Now have I got you in my power and might put an end
to you and your worship of heathen idols. But never shall it be said
that Olaf Triggvison struck down a foe who was unarmed. Pick up your
blade, proud King of the Swedes, and let us see who is the better man,
you or I."

So when Swedish Olaf stood again on guard, the two crossed swords once

"Now will I avenge the insult you offered my mother!" cried Olaf
Sigridson, "and you who struck her on the cheek with your glove shall
be struck dead with a weapon of well tempered steel instead of foxskin."

"Guard well your head," returned Triggvison, "lest I knock off your
helmet. The man who taught you the use of the sword might have been
better employed, for in truth he has taught you very little."

"He has taught me enough to enable me to slay such a man as you!" cried
the Swede, gathering his strength for a mighty blow.

"That remains to be proved," retorted Olaf Triggvison. "Wait! you have
got the wrong foot foremost!"

But without heeding, the Swede king brought down his sword with a great
sweep, aiming at Olaf Triggvison's head. As with a lightning flash Olaf
raised his sword to meet the blow. His opponent's blade was broken in
two halves, while at the same moment he fell severely wounded upon the

"Swedish sword blades are good," said Olaf Triggvison, "but the swords
of the Norsemen are better."

He thought that he had made an end of the King of Sweden. But some of
the Swedish soldiers who had been watching the duel rushed forward,
and, raising their fallen king, carried him off on board another of his
ships, while Olaf Triggvison went aft along the crowded decks, and men
fell beneath his blows, as the ripe grain falls before the mower's
scythe. It happened to the Swedes, as to the Danes, that
notwithstanding their superior numbers they found that they were ill
matched in skill and prowess with the Norsemen. Their picked champions
were speedily killed or wounded, their best ships were disabled, and
although they had indeed reduced Olaf Triggvison's forces by about
half, yet they had not succeeded in boarding any one of his ships, much
less in carrying any of them off as prizes. As King Sweyn had
retreated, so did King Olaf of Sweden. His ships were called off from
the combat and withdrawn out of range of the Norsemen's arrows. He had
won no fame by his daring attack, but only ignominious defeat, and he
was fain to escape alive, albeit very badly wounded.

Thus Olaf Triggvison had made both the Danes and the Swedes take to
flight, and it had all befallen as he had said.

And now it must be told how Earl Erik Hakonson fared in that fight.
True to the agreement which he and the two allied kings had come to
over their dice throwing on the morning of that same fateful day, he
had stood apart from the battle while Sweyn had vainly striven to make
a prize of the Long Serpent; and during the midday and until the
retreat of King Sweyn he had engaged no more in the conflict than to
direct his arrows from afar into the thick of Olaf Triggvison's host.
Now, Earl Erik was wise in warfare, and a man of keen judgment. He had
fought with his father in the great battle against Sigvaldi and the
vikings of Jomsburg, and from what he had seen on that day of Olaf
Triggvison's prowess, and from what he had since heard of Olaf's
warfare in England and other lands, he had made a very true estimate of
the man who now fought in defence of the Long Serpent. He had also seen
Sweyn Forkbeard in the thick of battle, and Olaf of Sweden no less. He
was, therefore, well able to judge that neither the king of the Danes
nor the king of the Swedes was capable of overcoming so brave and
mighty a warrior as the king of the Norsemen, or of wresting the Long
Serpent from the man who had built her and who knew so well how to
defend his own. Pride in his own countryman may have had some share in
the forming of this opinion. But Earl Erik had fought against the men
of every land in Scandinavia. He had a firm belief that the men of
Norway were braver and bolder, stronger in body, more skilful in the
use of their weapons, and had greater powers of endurance than any of
their neighbours. And it may be that in this he was right. He at least
saw cause for thinking that the only men who could succeed in
vanquishing King Olaf's Norsemen were the Norsemen of Earl Erik
Hakonson. Earl Erik's vikings and berserks, eagerly watching the fray,
had seen how the Danish ships had one after another been driven off,
disabled and defeated. They had watched every movement of the tall and
splendid form of the Norse king as he fought in his shining armour and
his bright red tunic on the Serpent's lypting. For a time they had not
been certain whether Olaf Triggvison was at the stem or on the poop of
his great dragonship, for it was seen that at each of these important
points there was a tall chief whose prowess and whose attire alike
distinguished him from all other men; and these two champions so
resembled one the other that it was not easy to tell which was Kolbiorn
Stallare and which King Olaf. But Earl Erik had not a moment's doubt.
He would have known Olaf Triggvison had a score of such men as Kolbiorn
been at his side. Earl Erik was the eldest son of the evil Earl Hakon
who had fled from Thrandheim at the time of Olaf's coming into Norway,
and been slain while taking refuge at the farmstead of Rimul, and Erik
had naturally hoped that on his father's death he would succeed to the
throne. Olaf Triggvison had shattered all his plans of future glory;
and during the five years that had already passed of King Olaf's reign
he thirsted for such an opportunity as now presented itself, not only
of avenging his father's death but also, it might be, of placing
himself upon the throne of Norway. His only uneasiness at the present
moment arose from his fear lest King Olaf should be overcome in the
battle ere he had himself encountered him face to face and hand to hand.

While the King of Sweden and his forces were engaged with their attack
upon Olaf's centre of battle, Earl Erik adopted a plan which, although
seemingly more hopeless, was in the end more successful than any that
had yet been attempted by either the Danes or the Swedes. He saw that
while the Long Serpent continued to be supported on either side by five
strong and well manned dragonships she was practically unassailable.
Her poop and her prow were the only points of her hull that were
exposed, and these towered so high above the bulwarks of all other
vessels that to attempt to board her was both useless and dangerous.
Herein lay the secret of Olaf's successful defence, the proof of his
forethought and wisdom in building the Serpent so much larger and
higher than all other vessels in his fleet. Earl Erik, indeed, had
observed that every ship that had approached her, either fore or aft,
had been in its turn completely cleared of men or forced to withdraw
out of the conflict.

Urging his rowers to their fullest speed, Erik bore down with his ships
upon the extreme of King Olaf's right wing. The heavy, iron bound bow
of the Ram crashed into the broadside of Olaf's outermost longship,
whose timber creaked and groaned under the impact. Vikings and berserks
leapt down upon her decks, and now Norseman met Norseman in a terrible,
deadly combat. The king's men were well nigh exhausted with the long
day's fighting under the hot sun; their bronzed faces streamed with
perspiration, their limbs moved wearily. But, however, tired and
thirsty they were, they could give themselves no respite. Every man
that fell or was disabled by wounds left a gap in the ranks that could
not be filled. The earl's men were fresh and vigorous; they had waited
for hours for their chief's orders to enter the fray, and now that
those orders had been given to them they fought with hot fury, yelling
their battle cries and cutting down their foemen with ponderous axe and
keen edged sword.

So fierce was the onslaught that many of Olaf's men, for the first time
that day, fell back in fear and clambered over the bulwarks of the next
ship. Very soon the decks of the first longship were completely cleared
of defenders. Then Earl Erik backed out with the Iron Ram, while the
seamen on his other ships cut away the lashings that had bound Olaf's
outermost vessel to her neighbour, and drew the conquered craft away
into the rear, leaving the next ship exposed.

Again Earl Erik advanced with the Ram and crashed as before into the
exposed broadside of the outermost ship. As before, the vikings leapt
on board and renewed the onset. Five of the viking ships lay with their
high prows overshadowing the broadside bulwarks, and their men swarmed
and clamoured upon the decks from stem to stern, clearing all before
them. Again the lashings were cut and the conquered longship was

Two of King Olaf's dragons had now been captured by Earl Erik. It was
not very long ere yet two others followed; and then the Short Serpent
was exposed, even as her four companions had been. At this juncture
Earl Erik paused, for he saw that Thorkel Nefja's decks were densely
crowded with men who had retreated from vessel to vessel before the
onslaught of the vikings. With the caution which long years of viking
work had taught him, the earl decided that the Short Serpent might best
be assailed by means of arrows, fired from a safe distance, until her
numbers had been sufficiently diminished to warrant his attacking her
at closer quarters. So he arrayed six of his ships near hand and set
his archers to work, and for a long while this method of assault was

There was no lack of arrows on the Short Serpent, or indeed, on any
other of King Olaf's battleships. But it was noticed by the earl's
vikings that the larger number of the shafts that were shot at them by
the defenders were of Danish or Swedish make, and by this it was judged
that the king's men were using the arrows that had been fired upon them
by their enemies.

Leaving his six ships where he had stationed them, Earl Erik now rowed
the Iron Ram round to the left wing of Olaf Triggvison's array. Four of
his best longships followed him. He passed astern of the king's fleet.
As he rowed by under the poop of the Long Serpent he saw the majestic
figure of the King of Norway, looking brilliant in gold and scarlet as
he stood in flood of the afternoon sunlight, sword in hand and shield
at breast. The eyes of the two bravest of Norse warriors met. Waving
his sword in mock salute, Earl Erik cried aloud:

"Short will be Olaf's shrift when Erik boards the Long Serpent!"

King Olaf saw that near to where Erik stood, on the Iron Ram's forward
deck, the image of the god Thor was raised, and he cried aloud in

"Never shall Erik board the Serpent while Thor dwells in his stem!"

"A wise soothsayer is the king," said Earl Erik to one of his warriors
as he passed onward astern of the Crane. "And I have been thinking,
ever since this battle began that the great luck of Olaf may be due to
that sign of the cross that we see on all his banners and shields.
Often have I felt a wish to turn Christian, for it seems to me that all
Christian men have something noble and honest about them--a greatness
which we heathens can never achieve. Now do I swear upon the hilt of my
sword"--he raised his sword hilt to his lips--"that if I win this
battle and take the Long Serpent for my prize I will straightway allow
myself to be christened. And, to begin with, I will have that image of
Thor thrown overboard into the sea. It is ill made and cumbrous, and a
figure of the cross will take less room in our stem and bring us more
luck withal."

So speaking, Earl Erik stepped forward and, gripping the idol in his
strong arms, flung it over the bulwark. Then he lashed two spars
together, a long plank crossed with a shorter one, and raised this
rough made crucifix high in the stem of the Iron Ram. By this time his
vessel had passed beyond the extreme of King Olaf's left wing. He bade
his rowers stop their rowing on the starboard side. They did so, and
the ship turned about. Then at fullest speed he bore down upon the
king's outermost dragon, crashed into her side and renewed his

Erik dealt with the left wing as he had done with the right, and one
after another of the four ships was cleared and unlashed. And now the
Long Serpent lay with only two companions, the Short Serpent at her
starboard and the Crane at her larboard side.

Already the Short Serpent was greatly crippled. Her commander, Thorkel
Nefja, had fallen, and the larger number of her men had retreated on
board of Olaf's ship, driven thither by the vikings of the six vessels
that were now ranged close against her. Earl Erik now made a vigorous
attack upon the Crane. He boarded her with a vast crowd of his vikings.
On the mid deck he encountered her captain, Thorkel the Wheedler, and
the two engaged in a sharp hand to hand fight. Regardless of his own
life, Thorkel fought with savage fury. He knew how much depended upon
his preventing Erik from boarding the king's ship. But he had already
received a severe wound from a javelin across the fingers of his right
hand, and he was full weary from the heat and long fighting. His
assailant speedily overcame him, and he fell, calling upon God to save
the king. As Thorkel had fought, so fought his men--desperately,
furiously, but yet weakly, and at last both the Crane and the Short
Serpent were cleared; their lashings were unfastened, they were
withdrawn to the rear, and King Olaf's great dragonship stood alone
among her foes.


The sun was sinking lower and lower to the sea; light clouds were
gathering in the western sky. But there would yet be three hours of
daylight, and Earl Erik deemed that this would be ample time in which
to win the Long Serpent. His own decks were thickly strewn with dead;
his men were weary and athirst, and he saw need for a respite from
fighting, if only for a very brief while. Also he saw on coming nearer
to King Olaf's ship that it would be no easy matter to win on board of
her; for the Iron Ram was but a third of her length, and her highest
bulwarks reached only to a level with the oar holes in the Serpent's

Erik blew his horns for a short truce. His ships were drawn off, and
for a time the battle ceased. In this interval the combatants on both
sides rested themselves and took food and drink. King Olaf had his
decks cleared of the dead, sent the wounded below into the shelter of
the holds, and arrayed his men anew. He was himself unwounded still,
but his silken tunic was tattered, so that the links of his coat of
mail showed through. His helmet was battered by the many spears and
swords that had struck upon it, and his shield bristled with broken

When he had freshened himself and got together a new supply of arrows
and spears, he mounted to the poop deck, and there, standing in the
sunlight, looked around the bay. The water was strewn with wreckage, an
arrow floated on every wave. Small boats had been put out to pick up
the men who had fallen, or been thrust overboard from the ships. All
was silent now, save for the suppressed cries of the wounded and the
hoarse voices of the chiefs who were giving rapid orders to their men
for the renewal of the fight.

Earl Erik's ships, among which there were also some of the Swedes and
Danes, stood off from the Serpent at a distance of an easy arrow's
flight. They surrounded the Serpent like a pack of eager wolves held at
bay; and the most eager of all men there present was Earl Erik.

When he had prepared his men he said to a chief who stood near
him--Thorkel the High, it was, brother of Earl Sigvaldi:

"Many fierce battles have I fought; but never before have I found men
equally brave and so skilled in warfare as the men fighting for King
Olaf today; nor have I ever seen a ship so hard to win as the Long
Serpent. Now, as you are one of the wisest of men, Thorkel, give me the
best advice you know as to how that great ship may be won."

"I cannot give you sure advice," Thorkel answered: "but I can say what
seems to me the best; and I would say that you would do well, when we
presently come alongside, to take heavy timbers or such like weighty
things, and let them fall across the gunwale of the Serpent, so that
the ship will lean over. You will then find it easier to board her, for
she will be brought down by the weight to a level with our own

"The advice is good," said Erik, "and I will follow it."

As he spoke, there came the loud blast of King Olaf's war horns,
calling to his foes to come on.

The Iron Ram, and other ships, to the number of fifteen, then closed in
about the Serpent, and, as they advanced, the archers on their decks
opened battle by shooting their arrows high in air, so that they fell
into the midst of Olaf's men in an unremitting shower. Olaf's warriors,
one and all, raised their shields above their heads and held them there
while the rain of shafts pattered upon them with a loud drumming noise
that could be heard far across the bay. Many of the men were killed and
many more wounded by this terrible hail, and when at length the
shooting ceased, every shield was found to be closely bristled with

Earl Erik bore down upon the Serpent with the Iron Ram, whose heavy
stem struck her amidships with tremendous force, so that the men on her
decks were thrown off their feet. The good ship creaked in all her
beams, but no great damage was done. Erik shipped his oars and drew his
vessel close alongside, and at once his men began to heave great planks
and logs of wood over the Serpent's gunwale. In this work they were
speedily stopped, for Olaf's spearmen and archers on the deck of the
foreroom assailed them with their weapons in such wise that they dared
not continue. Not to be outdone, Erik had all his long oars brought on
deck, and with these he made a bridge from the top of his foreroom
across to the Serpent's gunwale. In this work he lost many of his men,
who were shot down by Einar Eindridson and others of the king's best
marksmen. But a gangway was made, nevertheless, and the chief
difficulty was surmounted.

Not yet did Earl Erik attempt to board King Olaf's dragon. He sent many
of his best men on board, armed with axe and sword. Most of them
crossed the gangway to certain death; but many of the king's men also
fell, both from wounds and from sheer exhaustion. It was amidships that
the toughest fighting went on, and it was here that the larger number
of the defenders met their death. But at the foreroom and the stem of
the Serpent the fray was also of the fiercest. Company after company of
the vikings clambered on board, for so fully were the king's men
occupied in guarding their own lives that they could give little heed
to their foes, who seemed to come from every point, not only from the
Iron Ram, but also from other ships that were now drawn close in
against the Serpent's hull. For every viking or Dane or Swede who fell,
there were ten ready to take his place. The clang of weapons was now at
its highest. Spears and arrows flew in the midst, not aimed at random,
but each at its own particular mark, and each carrying death on its
keen point.

King Olaf, surrounded by a burg of shields, flung his spears and shot
his arrows with untiring vigour; but often he paused to watch how the
battle fared or to give some new order to his men. He saw that his stem
defenders were quickly becoming fewer and fewer, and that those who yet
remained wielded their weapons with slow and heavy strokes. In a
momentary lull of the conflict he left his own post and went forward.

"Why do you raise your weapons so slowly?" he cried. "I see they do not

Bersi the Strong replied: "Our swords are both dull and broken, lord."

The king then went into the foreroom, unlocked the high seat chest and
took therefrom many bright and sharp swords which he carried out in his
arms and put down among his men. As he bent over the weapons and picked
out a very fine one to give to Bersi the Strong, Kolbiorn saw that
blood flowed out of the sleeve of his coat of mail. Others saw the
blood; but no one knew where the king was wounded. Then Olaf strode
back to the lypting deck and once more surveyed the battle from on
high. He saw that his stem defenders, to whom he had served new
weapons, had now become so furious that they leapt upon the gunwales in
order to reach their foes with their swords and kill them. But many of
Earl Erik's ships did not lie so close to the Serpent as to afford any
hand to hand fighting. The vikings were still cautious of Olaf's
champions. Still, many of the king's men thought of nothing but going
constantly forward, and in their eagerness and daring they seemed to
forget that they were not on dry land. They went straight overboard,
and several sank down with their weapons between the ships. Olaf was
very angry at their want of care, for he now deemed every man of more
value than ten had been at the beginning of the battle. Nevertheless,
it was easy to see that the greater loss was on the side of Earl Erik.
Olaf's archers and spearmen dealt such destruction that the victory for
Norway seemed to become more possible with every moment.

Now Earl Erik had found very soon that his gangway of oars was by no
means satisfactory, because while his men were crossing they became so
fully exposed to King Olaf's marksmen that of every three who started
only one succeeded in gaining a foothold on the Serpent's deck. Many
hundreds of men--vikings, Swedes, and Danes--lost their lives on this
bridge. So when Erik saw that King Olaf was gaining the upper hand of
him he got his berserks to take down the oars and to fling them over
the Serpent's nearer gunwale, together with all logs of wood, spars,
ballast stones, and other weighty things that could be found. And as
the weight increased so did the Serpent lean over, until at last her
bulwarks were almost on a level with those of the Iron Ram.

While the vikings were at this work a constant rain of arrows and
javelins was showered upon them by King Olaf himself and his marksmen
on the poop, and as Erik saw his best men falling he half repented
having taken them from the fight. But when the great obstacle that had
baffled him so long was overcome, he rallied his vikings, and placing
himself at their head, led them on board the Serpent. And now ensued
one of the sharpest combats that had been seen that day.

Olaf's voice sounded loud above the tumult, calling to his chiefs in
the bow to leave their station and resist the boarders in the waist.
Wolf the Red, Ogmund Sandy, and Thrand Squinteye had already fallen,
and Ketil the Tall and Vikar of Tiundaland had been sent below
seriously wounded. But there still remained Kolbiorn Stallare,
Thorstein Oxfoot, Bersi the Strong, and Thorfinn the Dashing; and these
champions gathered a score of men about them, and hastening aft to the
midships deck, turned against Earl Erik and made a very hard resistance.

Bersi the Strong encountered the earl hand to hand, their swords
clashed, a few blows were exchanged and dexterously guarded; then Bersi
fell. Thorfinn the Dashing took his place, and while the earl and he
were fighting their hardest, Thorstein Oxfoot and Kolbiorn engaged with
four of the earl's vikings. Kolbiorn felled two of them and turned to a
third. Then Thorstein Oxfoot's sword was struck from his hand.
Thorstein doubled his fist and struck his opponent on the cheek. The
viking stumbled, and Thorstein snatched up the half of a broken oar and
wielding it above his head rushed among the vikings, belabouring them
right and left. When King Olaf saw this he called aloud to Thorstein in
a loud voice of command:

"Take your weapons, man, and defend yourself with them fairly. Weapons,
and not fists or timber, are meant for men to fight with in battle!"

Thorstein then recovered his sword and fought valiantly.

There was still a most fierce fight going on between the earl's men and
Olaf's champions. Kolbiorn vanquished the third viking he had engaged
with, while Earl Erik was pressed back and back by Thorfinn the
Dashing. Then Thorfinn caught sight of King Olaf, and at a sign from
the king he lowered his blade and drew back a pace. Before Earl Erik
could understand, a javelin whizzed past his left ear and buried its
point in the bulwark behind him. He turned to see who had flung the
javelin and saw King Olaf standing by the poop rail poising a second
spear. The king flung his weapon, taking good aim; but this spear
missed its mark as the first had done. King Olaf bit his lip in
vexation, but as the earl turned quickly to beat a retreat on board the
Ram, Olaf flung a third javelin after him. It struck the crest of
Erik's helmet, but did no harm.

"Never before did I thus miss a man!" cried the king as he watched his
enemy's retreat. "Great is Earl Erik's luck today. It must be God's
will that he now shall rule in Norway; and that is not strange, for I
see that he has changed the stem dweller on the Iron Ram. I said today
that he would not gain victory over us if he had the image of Thor in
his stem."

Now young Einar Eindridson had by this time taken up his position in
front of the poop deck, where he found he could command a better sweep
of the Iron Ram's deck, and so pick off Earl Erik's champions. Einar
saw the vexation in King Olaf's face, and when he got a good chance he
levelled his aim against Earl Erik. He drew his bow. The arrow flew
from the string and went straight to its mark. But in the same instant
the earl suddenly moved round his head, so that the arrow, meant for
his bared temple, only grazed his ear.

"Shoot me that tall, beardless youth!" cried the earl, pointing at
Einar. "Full fifty of our best men has he slain with his arrows this

Finn Eyvindson, to whom Erik spoke, aimed an arrow at Einar just as the
lad was bending his bow for a second shot at the earl. The arrow hit
Einar's famous bow in the middle and broke it with a loud snap.

"What was it that broke?" asked King Olaf.

Einar answered sadly as he dropped the pieces of his bow:

"Norway from thy hands, my king!"

"So great was not the breach, I hope," King Olaf said. "Take my bow and
shoot with it instead."

Einar seized the king's bow and straightway drew it right over the
arrowhead, bending it almost double.

"Too weak, too weak is the king's bow," said he, casting it aside.
Then, for the first time that day, he took his shield and sword and
rushed into the fray. No man in all King Olaf's host had slain more men
in that battle than Einar with his arrows; and now the lad made himself
no less distinguished with his sword.

Earl Erik presently saw that the sun was sinking nearer and nearer to
the line of the sea. The number of his men had become woefully small,
and yet, as he believed, Olaf Triggvison was still unwounded,
undaunted, and as full of confident hope as he had ever shown himself
to be. So the earl decided to make one more effort after the victory
and to risk his all in a final hand to hand encounter with the King of
the Norsemen. Gathering all his available men together he prepared to
make a rush upon the Long Serpent's deck.

King Olaf, seeing the earl's design, called his men aft, and ranged
them in a compact body in front of the poop deck, ready to meet their

At the same time Kolbiorn Stallare went up to Olaf's side, and the two,
so much alike in size and dress, stood shoulder to shoulder, with their
shields before them and their swords in their hands. A row of shield
bearers stood in front of them. Then, with wild yells, the vikings, led
by Earl Erik, rushed upon the mid deck.

As it had been throughout the whole day's battle, so was it now. King
Olaf's men were greatly outnumbered; it was a conflict of skill and
endurance against overwhelming odds. This final contest, while it
lasted, was fierce and terrible. In a short time, however, many of King
Olaf's champions fell. Brave and strong though they were, they could
not withstand the furious onslaught of the ambitious and valiant Earl
Erik. For a moment Olaf Triggvison was tempted to rush down and join
the poor remnant of his men. He pressed forward to the stairs; but
Kolbiorn Stallare drew him back.

"Wait, lord!" he cried; and then he whispered in Olaf's ear, and they
both strode slowly aft to the rail. Here King Olaf turned and spoke to
one of the shield bearers.

"How many of our men now remain?" he asked.

The man counted.

"Twelve are still left," he answered.

In a little while the king repeated his question.

"There are now but six," was the answer.

And then there came the sound of hurried feet upon the stairs, and
Einar Eindridson rushed upon the upper deck, followed by three of his
shipmates, and pursued by Earl Erik and a great crowd of clamouring

"Death to King Olaf!" cried the earl, in a voice which, in the silence
that suddenly fell upon the ships, could be heard far across the bay.
In that moment King Olaf and Kolbiorn leapt upon the rail, paused there
amid the red light of the setting sun, and then, raising their shields
above their heads, threw themselves over into the sea.

A cry that was half a groan escaped Earl Erik's lips. Flinging his
sword aside, he went to the rail where King Olaf had stood. He looked
down into the sea. Shadows were creeping over it. For a moment he saw
the two swimmers. So much alike were they, each with his flowing gold
hair, his crested helm, and his tattered red silk tunic, that it was
impossible to tell which was the king. Presently one disappeared. The
other was assailed by arrows and spears, but instantly he turned over
and held his shield above him.

"It is the king! It is Olaf the King!" was the cry and boats were put
out to rescue him. But Einar Eindridson kept his eyes upon the waves
until at last, in the midst of a bright beam of sunlight far away he
saw the shield of King Olaf appear, with its glistening image of the
holy cross. And when the word went round that the rescued man was
Kolbiorn Stallare and not the king, the lad pointed outward upon the
sea and all looked in amaze upon the shining crucifix as it rose and
fell with the motion of the waves.

The tale is told that the king, as he swam beneath the cover of his
shield, stripped off his armour and, making his way to the land, went
away on a pilgrimage to Rome. But the young grew old, and the world
went on, and never again did King Olaf the Glorious come back to his
realm in Norway.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Olaf the Glorious: A Story of the Viking Age" ***

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