Of Another Witch, And Two Magic Swords
There was a woman called Thordis - and a shrew she was - who lived at Spakonufell (Spaequean's-fell), in Skagastrand. She, having foresight of Cormac's goings, came that very day to Muli, and answered this matter on his behalf, saying, "Never give him yon false woman. She is a fool, and not fit for any pretty man. Woe will his mother be at such a fate for her lad!"
"Aroint thee, foul witch!" cried Thord. They should see, said he, that Helga would turn out fine. But Cormac answered, "Said it may be, for sooth it may be: I will never think of her."
"Woe to us, then," said Thorgils, "for listening to the words of yon fiend, and slighting this offer!"
Then spoke Cormac, "I bid thee, Bersi, to the holmgang within half a month, at Leidholm, in Middal."
Bersi said he would come, but Cormac should be the worse for his choice.
After this Cormac went about the steading to look for Steingerd. When he found her he said she had betrayed him in marrying another man.
"It was thou that made the first breach, Cormac," said she, "for this was none of my doing."
Then said he in verse:
"Thou sayest my faith has been forfeit,
O fair in thy glittering raiment;
But I wearied my steed and outwore it,
And for what but the love that bare thee?
O fainer by far was I, lady,
To founder my horse in the hunting -
Nay, I spared not the jade when I spurred it -
Than to see thee the bride of my foe."
After this Cormac and his men went home. When he told his mother how things had gone, "Little good," she said, "will thy luck do us. Ye have slighted a fine offer, and you have no chance against Bersi, for he is a great fighter and he has good weapons."
Now, Bersi owned the sword they call Whitting; a sharp sword it was, with a life-stone to it; and that sword he had carried in many a fray.
"Whether wilt thou have weapons to meet Whitting?" she asked. Cormac said he would have an axe both great and keen.
Dalla said he should see Skeggi of Midfiord and ask for the loan of his sword, Skofnung. So Cormac went to Reykir and told Skeggi how matters stood, asking him to lend Skofnung. Skeggi said he had no mind to lend it. Skofnung and Cormac, said he, would never agree: "It is cold and slow, and thou art hot and hasty."
Cormac rode away and liked it ill. He came home to Mel and told his mother that Skeggi would not lend the sword. Now Skeggi had the oversight of Dalla's affairs, and they were great friends; so she said, "He will lend the sword, though not all at once."
That was not what he wanted, answered Cormac, - "If he withhold it not from thee, while he does withhold it from me." Upon which she answered that he was a thwart lad.
A few days afterwards Dalla told him to go to Reykir. "He will lend thee the sword now," said she. So he sought Skeggi and asked for Skofnung.
"Hard wilt thou find it to handle," said Skeggi. "There is a pouch to it, and that thou shalt let be. Sun must not shine on the pommel of the hilt. Thou shalt not wear it until fighting is forward, and when ye come to the field, sit all alone and then draw it. Hold the edge toward thee, and blow on it. Then will a little worm creep from under the hilt. Then slope thou the sword over, and make it easy for that worm to creep back beneath the hilt."
"Here's a tale of tricks, thou warlock!" cried Cormac
"Nevertheless," answered Skeggi, "it will stand thee in good stead to know them."
So Cormac rode home and told his mother, saying that her will was of great avail with Skeggi. He showed the sword, and tried to draw it, but it would not leave the sheath.
"Thou are over wilful, my son," said she.
Then he set his feet against the hilts, and pulled until he tore the pouch off, at which Skofnung creaked and groaned, but never came out of the scabbard.
Well, the time wore on, and the day came. He rode away with fifteen men; Bersi also rode to the holm with as many. Cormac came there first, and told Thorgils that he would sit apart by himself. So he sat down and ungirt the sword.
Now, he never heeded whether the sun shone upon the hilt, for he had girt the sword on him outside his clothes. And when he tried to draw it he could not, until he set his feet upon the hilts. Then the little worm came, and was not rightly done by; and so the sword came groaning and creaking out of the scabbard, and the good luck of it was gone.