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The Saga of Hrolf Kraki

22. Svipdag Joined King Hrolf

Now the brothers get ready to leave, and nothing could stop them. King Adils enquired where they were headed.

They said they hadn't decided, "but our ways must part for now. I want to experience the customs of other people and kings, and not get old here in Sweden."

They go now to their horses and thank the queen for the favour she's shown to Svipdag, and now mount their horses and all ride away, till they come to their father's, and ask his advice on what to do, "and where should we turn now, anyway?"

He declare that the greatest fame was with King Hrolf and his champions over in Denmark, "and that's where you're most likely to get a bit of glory to slake your pride, because I've heard for a fact that the greatest heroes in the all the north have gone there."

"What's he like?" says Svipdag.

His father says, "They tell me King Hrolf is open-handed and generous, trustworthy and looks after his friends, and his like is not to be found. He doesn't stint on gold or jewels, bestowing them on near enough anyone who'll take them. He's a small man, to look at him, but tough when tested, and tricky to beat. He's the most handsome man you could meet, hard on the wicked, but kind and sympathetic to the wretched, and with all those who don't challenge him. He's the most modest of men, talking to rich and poor alike, so excellent his name will never fade while this world is lived in. He's exacted tribute from all the kings around him, so that everyone is eager to serve him.

Svipdag says, "From what you've said, I'm minded to go and meet King Hrolf, along with all my brothers, if he'll take us."

Svip the Farmer said, "Where you go and what you get up to, that's for you to decide, but the best thing, I would have thought, would be to stay here with me."

They said it was no good asking that.

Then they wished their father farewell and a good life, and their mother too, and they go their way, all together, till they came to King Hrolf. Svipdag stepped straight up before the king and greeted him. The king asks who he might be. Svipdag says his name, and those of the others, and mentioned that he'd been with King Adils for a bit.

King Hrolf said, "Why did you come here then? There's not much friendship between Adils and our people."

Svipdag said, "I know that, lord. But still, I want to try and become your man, if that's possible, and all my brothers too, although it probably seems to you as if we don't amount to much."

The king says, "I never expected to be making friends with King Adils' men. But since you've sought me out, I'd better take you on, because I think things will go well for the man who doesn't turn you away, for I see that you are fine fellows. I've heard tell that you won much fame, killing King Adils' berserks and did plenty notable deeds besides."

"Where you want me to sit?" said Svipdag.

The king says, "Sit next to that man, he's called Bjalki, but leave room for twelve men further in from you."

Before he left, Svipdag had vowed to King Adils that one day he'd return to him. But now the brothers go to the places the king had assigned them. Svipdag asked Bjalki why that space further in from them had to stay empty. Bjalki says that's where the king's berserks sit, when come home. They were off raiding at the moment.

Skur was the name of King Hrolf's daughter, and his other one was called Drifa. Drifa was home with the king and she was the most courteous of women. Drifa looked kindly on the brothers and was generally well-inclined towards them in every way.

And so the summer passed like that, till the berserks came home that autumn to the court. And as was their custom, when they came to the hall, they walked up to each man and asked him if he reckoned he was a match for them, and the men searched around for whatever various expressions would seem most deferential to them, and it was clear from their words, that everyone thought themselves far short of being a match for them.

And now one came up to Svipdag and asks whether he thinks he's a match. Svipdag springs up and draws his sword and said he was as good as him in every way.

The berserk said, "Hit me on the helmet then."

Svipdag does so, and it doesn't bite, and after that they're ready to fight.

King Hrolf leapt between them and told them not to clash and from then on they would be called equals, "and both my friends."

And afterwards they shook hands and are always in agreement, go raiding together, and carry the day wherever they come to.

King Hrolf now sent men to Sweden to meet with Queen Yrsa, his mother, and asked her to send the goods that his father King Helgi had owned, and King Adils had taken for himself when King Helgi was killed.

Yrsa said that this was only fair, if she could but arrange it, if only it was possible for her, "but if you come after the goods yourself, then I will be true to you, my son. But Adils is so greedy for gold that he doesn't mind how he gets it," and that's what she told them to say to King Helgi, and she sent them back with fitting gifts.

23. Hrolf Subjugated King Hjorvard

King Hrolf is off raiding at the moment, and his encounter with King Adils is delayed. He gathers under him a mighty force, and all the kings he meets submit to him and pay tribute, and that was mostly because all the best heroes wanted to be with him and wouldn't serve anyone else, since he was much more generous with wealth than most other kings.

King Hrolf made his home at Hleidargard, which is called Lejre. That's in Denmark, a large and solid stronghold, and the pomp and splendour of the place was unheard of, and in every manner of magnificence it had no match.

There was a powerful king called Hjorvard. He'd married King Helgi's daughter Skuld, the sister of King Hrolf. This was done with the consent of King Adils and Queen Yrsa and of Hrolf, her brother.

And once, King Hrolf invited his brother-in-law King Hjorvard to a feast. And one day, while he was at the feast, and the two kings were stood outside, it happened that King Hrolf had to take off his trouser-belt, and he gave his sword to King Hjovard to hold, till he was done.

And when King Hrolf had fastened his belt again, he took back his sword and turned to King Hjorvard, "We both know," he said, "it's an old saying, that whoever holds someone else's sword while they take off their belt is that man's servant. Now you must be my underking, and you'll have to put up with it as well as the others."

Hjorvard bridled at this. He has no choice though, but to let things stand as they were, so he heads home, leaving it at that, far from happy with his lot, and sent payment to King Hrolf, just like his other underkings who had to show homage.

And here ends Svipdag's Thread.

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