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The Saga of Hrolf Kraki

15. An Elf-Woman Visited Helgi

But one Yule-eve, so it's said, when King Helgi has gone to bed, and there's bad weather outside, there was a knock at the door, rather faint. It occurred to him that it wouldn't be very kingly to leave some poor wretch out there, when he might as well offer them shelter. So he goes and opens the door.

He sees this poor ragged thing has come. It said, "You've acted well, king," and then it comes inside.

The king said, "Get this straw and bearskin over you, so you don't freeze."

It said, "Let me into your bed, lord, and I'll lie with you. My life depends on it."

The king says, "My gorge rises at you, but if it's as you say, then lie here at the edge in your clothes, and it won't hurt me."

So that's what she does. The king turns his back on her. Light shone in the house. And after a while, he glances over his shoulder at her. Then he sees a woman lying there so fair, he thinks he's never seen the like of her. She was wearing a silk gown. He then turns quickly towards her, full of joy.

She spoke: "Now I want to go away," she says, "and you've saved me from a terrible curse, because this was what my stepmother did to me, and I've visited many kings in their homes, so don't sink to shamefulness now. I don't want to be here any longer."

"No," said the king, "that's not an option. You won't get away that fast, and we shan't part like this. It'll have to be a quick wedding, I'm afraid, because I like you very much."

"That's up to you," she said, and so they slept together that night.

But when morning comes, she says these words: "You've had your way with me, but know this: we'll have a child. Do as I say, king, come and see our child this time next winter at your boatsheds, or you'll pay, if you don't do as I say." After this, she went away.

King Helgi is now a bit happier than before. Time passes and he forgets all about it. And after three years, so they say, there came three riders to the building which the king sleeps in. It was midnight. They came with a girl-child and set her down beside the building.

The woman who brought the child spoke these words: "Know this, king," she said, "your kin will pay because you failed to do as I told you. But you'll benefit, for releasing me from that curse, and know this: the girl is called Skuld. She is our daughter."

After which, these riders went away. It had been an elf-woman. The king never heard of her again. Skuld grew up there and she's soon vicious at heart.

It's said that one time, King Helgi gets ready to go abroad and forget his cares in that way. His son Hrolf is left behind. He harries far and wide, and accomplished many great deeds.

16. Adils Tricked King Helgi

King Adils is at Uppsala now. He had twelve berserks and their job was to defend the realm from all danger and enemies. Now King Helgi sets course for Uppsala to seize Yrsa. He comes ashore there. And when King Adils hears that, that King Helgi has arrived in the land, he asks Queen Yrsa whether she wants Helgi welcoming.

She says, "It's up to you, but you already know that there's no man more closely related to me that him."

So King Adils sees fit to invite him to a banquet, but what he's planning is not entirely above board. King Helgi accepts, goes to the feast with a hundred men, but most of them stayed down at the ships. King Adils welcomes him with open arms. Queen Yrsa thinks she'll make peace between the kings, and she treats Helgi with all due respect.

King Helgi was so happy to see the queen that he thought of nothing else. He wanted to talk to her the whole time, every chance he got, and there they sit at the feast.

And the story goes, that King Adils' berserks came home. And the moment they'd touched land, King Adils goes to meet them, taking care that no-one else knew. He tells them to go to a particular wood that stood between the town and King Helgi's ships, and told them to spring an attack on Helgi from there, as he went to his ships. "I'll send a troop to help you, and they'll cut them off from the rear, so we'll catch them in a pincer movement, because I want to make certain that King Helgi doesn't get away, because I can tell he's so much in love with the queen, that I just can't take a chance with whatever he's planning."

Meantime King Helgi is sitting at the feast and this plot was carefully kept from him, and from the queen too. Queen Yrsa says to King Adils that she wishes to give Helgi splendid gifts, gold and treasures. He gives his word, but plans to enjoy them for himself. Then King Helgi leaves, and Adils and the queen saw him on his way, and they part company on pretty good terms.

And not long after, when King Adils had left for home, Helgi and his men saw enemies approaching, and a battle ensued. King Helgi flung himself at the enemy and fought bravely, but, thanks to overwhelming odds, he fell then, King Helgi, with good glory and many terrible wounds, and some men of Adils came behind them, and they were crushed thus between stone and sledge-hammer. Queen Yrsa knew nothing till Helgi was fallen and the battle done. There fell with Helgi all the men who'd gone up to the feast with him, and the rest fled home to Denmark. And here ends the tale of King Helgi.

17. Of Queen Yrsa

King Adils gloried in his victory and thought he'd gained much honour by killing such a renowned and widely-famed king as Helgi.

Queen Yrsa said, "You've no need to boast so much, even if you have betrayed that man who was closest to me and I loved the most, and for this very reason I'll never be loyal to you if you come up against King Helgi's kinsmen. I mean to get your berserks killed just as soon as I can, if there's anyone brave enough to do that for my sake and for their own prowess."

King Adils asked her not to threaten him or his berserks, "because it won't do you any good. But I wish to compensate you handsomely for your father's death with gifts of great wealth and good treasures, if you can find it in yourself to accept."

At this, the queen becomes calm and accepts redress from the king. But all the same, from then on her mood was grim, and she often sat working out ways to get at the berserks, to hurt or humiliate them. Since that day, no-one sees the queen glad, or ever in a good mood after the fall of King Helgi, and there was more quarrelling in the hall than there was before, and the queen didn't want to make up with King Adils, not if she had any choice.

King Adils thought he'd become very famous now, and anyone who's with his warriors is considered a great man indeed. He stays a while in his kingdom and no-one thinks to lift a finger, or raise a shield, against him and his berserks. King Adils was a great one for sacrifices and full of arcane wisdom.

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