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Our Fathers' Godsaga : Retold for the Young.
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The Saga of Hrolf Kraki

40. Of King Adils' Welcome

After this, King Hrolf rides with his champions to the hall of King Adils, and all the townsfolk crowded up into the highest towers of the stronghold to see the splendour of King Hrolf and his champions, for they were magnificently arrayed, and many were impressed to see such chivalrous knights as these. First they ride slowly and grandly, but when they neared the hall, they let their horses feel the spur and galloped to the hall, so that all fled who stood before them. King Adils gave them a fine welcome, with all good cheer, and had their horses taken.

Bodvar said, "Take care, boys, not to tangle tail or forelock on our horses, but look after them well and especially make sure they don't soil themselves."

This was promptly told to King Adils, what careful instructions they'd given for they care of the horses. He said, "Their pride and insolence know no bounds. Now hear my instructions, and do as I bid: Hack off the tails close to the rumps, right up to the arse, and shear the forelocks so the skin comes off with them, and treat them as shamefully as you know how, but leave them just clinging to life."

Then they're escorted to the hall doors, but King Adils is nowhere in sight.

Then Svipdag said, "I know this place from before, so I'll go in first, as I have the worst suspicions of how we'll be treated, and what's likely been arranged. We'll not say a word to let on who King Hrolf is, then King Adils won't be able to tell him apart from the rest of our company."

Svipdag then walked on ahead of them all, and his brothers after him, Hvitserk and Beigad, and then King Hrolf and Bodvar and the rest likewise, one after another. There were no servants left now, as those who had escorted them to the hall door had vanished. They had their hawks on their shoulders, and that was considered the height of gallantry in those days. But King Hrolf owned a hawk called Habrok.

Svipdag goes on ahead now and pays careful attention to everything. He sees great changes everywhere. They cross so many obstacles that had been set before them, that it isn't easy to describe, and it was harder the further into the hall they advanced.

And now they come so far into the hall, all the way till they see King Adils swollen with pride in his high-seat, and the moment wasn't lost on either side, the gravity of the occasion, when they looked on King Adils, and he on them. They see however that it won't be easy to get to him, even though they've come so close that they can make out one another's words.

Then King Adils spoke: "And now you've come here, Svipdag, mate, but what will the hero's business be? Or not, as it seems to me:

"There's a scrape in his nape,
an eye out his head,
a scar on the brow,
cuts on both arms.

"And the same with Beigad his brother - all crippled."

Svipdag spoke up so that all could hear: "I now want safe-conduct from you, King Adils, as we agreed, for these twelve men who've come here together."

King Adils answered, "I will grant this, so come in quick into the hall, bold and brave with minds at ease."

They think that they can make out pit-traps dug all over the hall in front of them, and it won't be safe to test exactly what lies out there, and such a great darkness was over King Adils that they could hardly see his face. They also see that the ornamental drapes which hang all round the inside of the hall, have been broken off and moved forward, as if there might be men behind them with weapons. This was true enough, for no sooner had they come over the pits, than a mail-clad man burst from under every curtain, and King Hrolf and his champions made a hard fight of it and clove the soldiers down to their teeth. So it went on for a while, and the enemy can't work out where King Hrolf is, but the soldiers fell in heaps.

King Adils swells with rage in the high-seat, when he sees Hrolf's champions cutting down his troops like dogs, and he sees that this isn't getting anywhere, so he stands up and said, "What's the meaning of this great commotion? You stinking wretches! What skulduggery is this, that you go attacking men of such distinction as have come to visit us? So stop it right now and sit down, and let's enjoy ourselves all together, eh?, kinsman Hrolf?"

Svipdag said, "You've not kept the truce too well, King Adils, and you'll get no glory for this."

They sit down after that, Svipdag furthest in towards the high-seat, then Hjalti the Magnanimous, but Bodvar sits together with the king, since they didn't want him to be recognised.

King Adils said, "I see you don't travel abroad with dignity, or why does kinsman Hrolf not have more followers."

Svipdag said, "I see you don't shrink from plotting treacherously against King Hrolf and his men, and it's no big scandal whether he rides here with few men or many."

And with that their talk was done.

41. Hrolf in the Hall of King Adils

After that, King Adils has the hall cleared. The dead were carried away, for many of King Adils' men were killed, and many wounded.

King Adils said, "Let us now make fires for our friends, the length of the hall, and let us show these men our affection, so that we shall all be pleased."

Now men are fetched to light up the fire in front of them. Hrolf's champions sat with their weapons the whole time and wouldn't let them out of their hands. The fire took quickly, as neither pitch nor dry wood were spared. King Adils and his retainers were on one side of the fire, and King Hrolf and his champions on the other, and each party sits on its own long bench, and they talk across to each other very nicely.

King Adils said, "It's no exaggeration what they say about your courage, Hrolf's champions, or your toughness, and in fact you think yourselves better than everyone else, and it's no lie what they tell of your strength. Build up the fires now," said King Adils, "for I can't quite see who's the king, and you won't flee the fire, though you might get a bit warm."

And this was now done as he said, and he wanted to find out that way for sure who King Hrolf was, because he reckoned Hrolf would not be able to stand the heat like his champions, and he thought then it would be easier to catch him, once he knew which one he was, since he truly wanted King Hrolf dead. Bodvar realised this and so they shielded him somewhat from the heat, as much as they could, but not so much that he would be noticed. And as the fire burnt its hardest at them, King Hrolf resolves to remember that he had sworn to flee neither fire nor iron, and he sees now that King Adils wishes to put this to the test, to learn whether they'll burn or break their oath. They see that King Adils' throne has been moved back all the way to the hall wall, and so have his men.

Now more fuel is going on fast, and they see that they'll burn unless something is done about it. By now their clothes are burnt all over them, and then they throw their shields on the fire. Then said Bodvar and Svipdag:

"Let's feed the fires
in the fort of Adils."

Then Bodvar and Svipdag each grabbed themselves a man, from among those who had built up the fires, and flung them onto the fires and said, "Now you enjoy the warmth of the fires, for your toil and trouble, because we're baked through now. So now you can bake, seeing as you've worked so hard all this time to make a fire for us."

Hjalti grabs a third and flings him on the fire at his end, and they all go the same way, all those who fed the fires. They burn to ashes there, and no-one saves them, as nobody dared come near enough. When this was done, King Hrolf speaks:

"He flees not the blaze,
who bounds over."

And at this, they all leap over the fire, and make for King Adils, meaning to capture him. And when King Adils sees this, he saves himself and ran to the tree that stood in the hall, and it was hollow inside, and so he escaped from the hall with his magic and spells.

And so he comes to the chamber of Queen Yrsa and goes to speak with her, and she receives him with disdain and says many harsh words to him: "First you had King Helgi, my husband, killed," she said, "and acted disgracefully towards him and kept property from him who owned it, and now on top of all that, you want to kill my son. And you are a man much worse than any others, and more vicious. Now I will do all I can to see that King Hrolf gets his property, and you will earn disgrace, as your deserve."

King Adils said, "That's how it'll be then, here, that neither will trust the other. I will not come into their sight again."

With that their talk was done.

42. Vogg Serves Hrolf and his Men

Queen Yrsa goes then to meet King Hrolf and gives him a most hearty welcome. He gladly returns her greeting. She sends for a man to attend to them and treat them with every hospitality.

And when this man came before King Hrolf, the man said, "He's on the thin side, this fellow, and a bit of a beanpole. He's got a face like a pole-ladder, a kraki, is he really your king?"

King Hrolf said, "You've given me a name that'll stick, so what naming-present have you got me?"

Vogg answered, "I have nothing, because I'm penniless."

The king said, "Then it falls to the other to give."

He takes a gold ring from his arm and gives it to this man.

Vogg said, "Of all givers you're the best, bless you sir, this is a real treasure."

And when the king saw how much worth he attached to it, he said, "It doesn't take much to make Vogg happy."

Vogg spoke and set one foot on the foot-board, "This I do solemnly swear, that I will avenge you, if I live longer, if you are defeated by men."

The king answers, "Good for you," he says, "but others might stand more chance than you there."

They see that this man will be true and trusty in so far as he can be, in what little way, but they doubt he'll be up to much, a measly man like that. From now on they keep nothing from him. Eventually, they decide to sleep, and they reckoned they could lie unafraid in those rooms the queen had given them.

Bodvar said, "We've been looked after nicely here, and the queen wishes us well, but King Adils wishes to do us all the harm he can. I'd be very much surprised if nothing else happens to us, and he leaves it at this."

Vogg tells them that King Adils is a great sacrificer, so much so, "his like is not to be found. He sacrifices to a boar, and I'm not sure if another such fiend exists, so watch out for yourselves, because he'll put all his powers into overcoming you, one way or another."

"More likely, I think," says Bodvar, "he'll remember how he had to flee his hall this evening on our account."

"You should remember," says Vogg, "that he's sly and vicious."

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