Of the Slaying of Holmgang-Liot
Liot was the name of a man who dwelt at Redsand; he was called Holmgang-Liot: he was both big and strong, and the greatest of Holmgang-fighters. Thorbiorn Thiodrekson had had his sister to wife : it is said of him that he was a most unjust man, who had had his axe in the head of every man who would not yield all to his will; nor was there any who might hold his head up in freedom against him all around Redsand, and far and wide otherwhere.
Now there was one called Thorbiorn, who dwelt at a stead called Ere, a man well stricken in years, a wealthy man, but of no great heart: two sons he had, one called Grim, and the other Thorstein.
Now as tells the tale, Liot and Thorbiorn had a water-meadow in common, a right good possession, which was so divided betwixt them that they should have it summer and summer about: but the brook which flooded the meadow in spring ran below Liot's house, and there were water-hatches therein, and all was well arrayed. But so it fell out that whensoever it was Thorbiorn's turn for the meadow he gat no water, and at last it came to this, that Liot gave out that the meadow was none of Thorbiorn's, and he were best not dare to claim it; and when Thorbiorn heard that, he deemed well that Liot would keep his word. It was but a little way between their houses, so on a day they met, and Thorbiorn asked Liot if he would verily take his meadow from him. Liot answered and bade him speak not another word of it: "It is not for thee any more than for others to go whining against what I will have; do one of two things : either be well content with my will herein, or I drive thee away from thine own, and thou wilt have neither the meadow nor aught else."
So when Thorbiorn saw Liot's injustice, and whereas he had wealth and to spare, he bought the meadow at Liot's own price, paying him sixty hundreds then and there; wherewith they parted.
But when those lads his sons heard hereof, they were full evil content, saying that it was the greatest robbery of their heritage to have to buy what was their own.
And this thing was heard of far and wide.
Now those brethren kept their father's sheep. Thorstein being of twelve winters, and Grim of ten : and on a day in the early winter they went to the sheep-houses; for there had been a great snow-storm, and they would wot whether all the sheep were come home. Now herewith it befell that Liot had gone that morning to see to his drifts ; for he was a man busy in his matters; so just as the lads came to the sheep-house they saw how Liot came up from the sea shore ; then spake Grim to Thorstein his brother : "Seest thou Holmgang-Liot yonder, coming up from the sea ? "
"How may I fail to see him?" said Grim.
Then said Thorstein: "Great wrong hath he . done to us and to others, and I have it in my mind to avenge it if I might."
Said Grim : "An unwise word that thou wouldst do a mischief to such a champion as is Liot, a man mightier than four or five men might deal with, even were they full-grown : this is no game for children." Thorstein answered : "It availeth not to stay me, I will follow him all the same; but thou art likest to thy father, and wilt be a robbing-stock for Liot like many others."
Grim answered : "Whereas this hath got into thy head, kinsman, for as little avail as I may be to thee, I will help thee all I may." "Then is it well done of thee," said Thorstein, "and maybe that things will follow our right." Now, they bore hand-axes little out sharp. There they stand, and bide till Liot makes for the sheep-house: he passed by them quickly, having a poleaxe in his hand, and so went on his way, making as if he saw not the lads; but when he was even passing by them Thorstein smote on his shoulder; the axe bit not, but so great was the stroke that the arm was put out of joint at the shoulder. But when Liot saw (as he deemed) that the lads would bait him, he turned on them, and hove up his axe to smite Thorstein ; but even as he hove it aloft, ran Grim in on him, and smote the hand from him above the wrist, and down fell hand and axe together. Short space then they left betwixt their strokes; nor is aught more likely to be told hereof, than that there fell Holmgang-Liot, and neither of them hurt.
So they buried him in the snowdrift and left him there; and when they came home their father was out in the doorway; and he asked them what made them so late, and why their clothes were bloody.
They told of the slaying of Liot. He asked if they had slain him; and they said that so it was. Then said he : "Get ye gone, luckless wretches! ye have wrought a most unhappy deed, and have slain the greatest of lords and our very chieftain; and this withal have ye brought to pass, that I shall be driven from my lands and all that I have, and ye will be slain, and that is right well."
And therewith he rushed out away from the house.
Said Grim: "Let us have nothing to do with the old devil, so loathly as he goeth on! to hear how he goeth on, the sneaking wretch !"
Thorstein answered: "Nay, let us go find him, for I doubt me he is nought so wroth as he would make believe." So they go' to him, and Thorbiorn spake gladly to them, and bade them bide him there; then he went home, and was away but a little while till he came back with two horses well arrayed; so he bade them leap a-horseback. "I will send you," said he, "to Steinthor of Ere, my friend, whom ye shall bid to take you in; and here is a gold ring, a right dear thing, which ye shall give him: he hath oft asked me for it, and never got it, but now it shall be free to him because of your necessity." Then the old man kissed his sons, and bade them to fare well, and that they might all meet again safe and sound. Nought is told of their journey till they came unto Ere betimes of a morning; so they went into the hall, and it was all hung about and both benches were full, and neither game nor glee was lacking* They went before Steinthor and greeted him. well,* and well he took their greeting, and asked, them who they were; so they told of their names and of their father, and withal Thorstein said: "Here is a ring which my father sendeth thee, and therewithal his greeting, and biddeth thee give us quarters this winter, or longer, if we need it.
Steinthor took the ring, and said: "Tell ye any tidings?"
They said : " The slaying of Liot, and we have slain him."
Steinthor answered: " Lo here another wonder, that two little lads should make an end of such a champion as was Liot! and what was his guilt?" They said what they deemed thereof. Steinthor said : "My rede it is that ye go across the floor up to Howard, the hoary carle who sits right over against me, and ask of him whether he will or will not take you into his company."
So do they, and go before Howard; he greeted them well, and asked for tidings, making as if he had not heard, and they told him the very innermost thereof; and when their tale was done, Howard sprang up to meet them, and sang a stave:
Ye, O fir-stems of the fight-sun, Thank we now for manly service; Men by valiant deeds left luckless Do I love, and ye are loved. Of all men on mould abiding Do I deem his slaughter meetest Let this fearful word go flying To my foemen of the westward.
Howard gave those brethren place outward from himself, and they sat there glad and merry.
These tidings are heard all about Redsand, and far and wide otherwhere. Liot was found dead there under the wall; and folk went to Thorbiorn and asked him thereof, and Thorbiorn denied not that his sons had slain him. But whereas Liot was unbeloved in Redsand, and that Thorbiorn said he had taken their deed amiss and driven them away, wherein the home-men bore him out, there was no taking up of the feud as at that time; and Thorbiorn sat at home in peace.