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The Saga of Yngvar the Traveller

7. Of Yngvar and King Jolf

After all this, Yngvar and his men went away and explored this headland they'd come to. They found a castle there and saw standing within it a great hall. And when they entered the hall they saw that it was richly decorated and found a great hoard of treasure and valuables there. Then Yngvar asked if anyone wanted to stay behind and spend the night there and see what he could find out. Soti said he wouldn't mind doing that. And when evening came on, Yngvar went back to the ships with his men, and Soti hid himself somewhere.

And when it had got late, the devil appeared to him in the form of a man and said, “Siggeus was a man, both strong and mighty. He had three daughters. To them he gave much gold. But when he died, he was buried there where you saw the dragon just now. After his death, the eldest grudged her sisters gold and treasure. She killed herself. The second sister met the same fate. The third of them lived the longest and took her father's inheritance and the guardianship of this place, and not just while she lived. She named this ness and called it Siggeum. She fills the hall each night with a crowd of devils, and I am one of them, sent to bring tidings to you. But dragons ate the king's cadaver and the bodies of his daughters. Some believe they've turned into dragons. Know this, Soti, and tell your king, Yngvar, that King Harald of Sweden came this way long ago and perished in the whirlpool of the Red Sea together with his company, and he has now come to be the guardian here. And as proof of my tale, here is kept in this hall the standard of King Harald, and Yngvar shall have that and send it to Sweden, so that they are not in ignorance concerning what became of their king. This too you shall tell Yngvar, that on this journey he will die together with a great part of his crew. But you, Soti, are unrighteous and faithless, and so you shall stay behind with us. But Yngvar will be helped by that faith which he has in God.”

When the devil had said this, he was silent. There was a great din and shouting the whole night long. But when morning came, Yngvar arrived, and Soti told him what he had seen and heard. And when Soto had finished his tale, there with everyone watching he dropped down dead.

Now Yngvar takes the standard that stood in the hall, and goes with his men to his ships. He turns around now and gave a name to that great waterfall and called it Belgsoti. Nothing else much happened till they came to the realm of King Hromund, which was another name for Jolf.

And when they come sailing a second time to the city of Heliopolis, King Jolf went out to meet them with a fleet of ships and told Yngvar to lower his sails, “for now you must give me help against my brother Bjolf, who is also called Solmund, because he and his eight sons want to steal the kingdom from me.”

Then Yngvar went to the city, and they prepared for battle. Yngvar had big wheels built with sharp points and spikes fixed all round. He also had caltrops forged.

Now both kings gather their forces and come to the place they've decided on between them. And even when Yngvar had formed up his troops, Bjolf had by far the most men. King Jolf drew up his forces against his brother. And when both sides were ready, they roared the battle-cry. Yngvar and his men pushed forward the wheels, with all their specially-prepared armaments, and caused great loss of life, and the enemy ranks were broken. Then Yngvar came at them on their unprotected flank and killed all the sons of King Bjolf, and Bjolf himself fled.

King Jolf then pressed home hard and pursued the fleeing host, but Yngvar ordered his men to stay behind and told them not to go too far from the ships, “as our enemies could take them. Better for you to get a great haul of booty from those enemies of ours that we've killed here.”

They gathered treasures of many kinds and much booty and took it to the ships. Then Jolf came with his army, and he draws up his battle-lines and strikes up the war-cry, and this took Yngvar by surprise, and he ordered his men to pull back. But as they did so, he had them throw caltrops under the feet of their foes. Without knowing what was happening, Jolf's men could do nothing to protect themselves. And when they felt the sharpness of the spikes, they thought they were up against magic. But Yngvar was back at the tents, and they picked out for themselves a mass of treasure there. Then they saw a great crowd of women who started playing beautiful music and came to the tents. But Yngvar told them to avoid the women as if they were the worst sort of poisonous snakes. But when evening came on and the army got ready to go to bed, the women came into the tents to them, and the lady who was highest in rank picked Yngvar's bed and climbed in beside him. He got angry then and took his knife and stabbed her in the private parts. And when his men saw what he did, they began to push away these shameful women, although there were some of them who were no match for their charms and devilish enchantments and lay with them. But when Yngvar heard of this, his joy at the silver and pleasure in wine turned to great grief, for by morning, when they called the roll, eighteen men lay dead. Then Yngvar ordered them to bury the dead.

8. Yngvar's Death

Well, after this, Yngvar made ready with all haste and left with all his men, and they go on their way now, and travel night and day now, as fast as they can. But such a sickness begins to spread in their crew that all their best people died, and more died than lived. Yngvar took sick too, and by then they'd come to the realm of Silkisif. He called his men to him then and told them bury to those who were dead.

Then he called Garda-Ketil to him, and his other friends and said, “I've taken sick, and I see that it will be the death of me, and I'll have got then such an end I have earned. But with God's mercy I hope that God's son will grant me his promise, because with all my heart I take refuge in the arms of God every day, my soul and body, and I looked after these people as best I knew how. But this I want you to know, that by God's just judgement we've been smitten with this plague, and this is the worse plague and enchantment that's inflicted on me, for when I am dead, then the sickness will pass. And this I ask of you, and you Ketil most of all, that you bring my body to Sweden and have me buried at church. But my wealth, that which I have here of gold and silver and costly clothes, that I want dividing into three parts: One third I give to the churches and preachers, another I give to poor people. The third part my father and sons will have. Greet Queen Silkisif for me. But for the sake of everything, I want to ask you to be at peace with one another. But if you disagree over which course to take, let Garda-Ketil decide, as he has the best memory out of all of you.

Then he bade them farewell till they met in joy on the day of resurrection. He was spoken of well in many respects and lived a few more days.

They prepared his body with care and laid it in a casket, then continued on their way and landed at the town of Citopolis. And when the queen recognised their ship, she went to meet them with great splendour. But when she saw them come ashore, she became downcast, and it seemed to her that much must have happened, and she couldn't see him, that man who meant more to her than any other. She asked them for tidings and questioned them carefully about the details of Yngvar's passing and where they'd put his body. They told her they'd buried it in the earth. She said they lied and that threatened to have them killed if they didn't tell the truth. Then they told her what arrangements Yngvar had made with them for the disposal of his body and wealth. Then they gave Yngvar's body to her. She had him borne into the city with great honour and prepared for burial with costly unguents.

Then the queen bade them farewell with the blessing of God and Yngvar. “He is my God, he who is yours. Take my greetings to Yngvar's kin when you come to Sweden, and ask some of them to come here with preachers and christen this people, and then a church shall be built here, where Yngvar shall rest.

And when Yngvar breathed his last, 1041 years had passed since the birth of Jesus Christ. He was twenty-five when he died. It was eleven years after the fall of King Olaf Haraldsson the Holy.

Ketil and the others got ready to leave and bade the queen farewell, continuing on their way now, and they had twelve ships. And when they'd been going for a while, they had a disagreement over which way to take, and they split up because no one wanted to follow anyone else. But Ketil had the right course and came to Russia, while Valdimar made it with one ship to Miklagard. We can't say for sure where the other ships ended up, because most are thought to have perished, and of Yngvar we can say no more. And yet, we know that he performed many great deeds on this expedition, which wise men will most likely have told in detail.

This Ketil we've spoken of, stayed the winter in Russia and went to Sweden the following summer and told tidings of what had passed on that voyage, and brought Yngvar's treasure there to his son, who was called Svein, and conveyed to him the queen's greetings and message. Svein was young in years but great in stature. He was a strong man and most like his father. He wanted to test himself first and started raiding. And after a few years had passed, he came with a large force east to Russia and stayed the winter there.

9. The Expedition of Svein Yngvarsson

It's said now that that winter Svein went to school and learnt to speak many tongues which were known to be used in the east. Then he got thirty ships ready and said he'd go with that force to see the queen. He had many priests with him. Foremost among them was a bishop called Rodgeir. The bishop thrice blessed lots and cast the lots three times. And each time the lots fell, they showed that God wanted him to go. The bishop said he would go gladly.

Now Svein set out from Russia. But when they'd been gone two days along the river, heathens took them by surprise with ninety ships of the sort Norsemen call galleys. Without further ado, the heathens prepare for battle, and Svein's party likewise, but neither side understood what the other way saying. But while they were donning their armour, Svein put himself in God's hands and cast lots to see what God's will was, whether they should fight or flee from such overwhelming odds. But the lot told them to fight, and Svein vowed to give up plundering if God granted him victory. After this, they began to fight, and Svein and his men were able to kill the heathens at will. And in the end, the heathens fled in twenty ships, but all the rest were killed. Svein's crew though suffered little loss of life, and won as much treasure as they could wish for of gold and all sorts of valuables.

So they went on their way till they came to the land where Ketil had got the pot-handle. Then Svein ordered the greater part of his crew to put on their armour, and they did so. And they hadn't gone far when they saw a large farmhouse and beside it a large man, and he called out in horrible voice. Then reinforcements rushed in from all sides. These sort of people are called Cyclopses. They had clubs in their hands, as big as beams. They swarmed together and had no proper weapons or protection.

Then Svein told archers to shoot at them as fast as they could, and said this was no time to stand around, “because they're as strong as the lion and as high as a houses or woods.”

They shot at them and killed many and wounded others. Then an amazing thing happened, because the strongest ones now fled. Svein forbade them to go in pursuit and said there wouldn't be any cover. Instead, they ran into the farm and made off with a fortune of furs and clothes and silver and every precious metal, then went back to their ships and continued on their way.

When they'd gone a long way, Svein saw an inlet cutting into the bank. He told them to steer the ships in that direction. This they were happy to do, since many of them were young men. And as they neared land, they saw castles and many farms. They saw eight men running and were amazed at their speed. One of the locals had a feather in his hand and held up the stem of the feather, and then the blade. This they took for a sign of peace. Then Svein made a sign of peace with his hand. Eventually they reached the shore and the locals crowded together under a cliff with various wares for trading. Svein ordered his men to step ashore, and they traded with the inhabitants, though neither party understood what the others were saying.

The next day, Svein's men went again to trade with the locals, and they bartered together for a while. But then a Russian man wanted to cancel a bargain he'd just made with one of them over some pelts. The heathen got angry and punched him on the nose so that blood spattered the ground. Then the Russian drew his sword and cut the heathen in two. Then the natives ran away with great screaming and shouts, and next thing an immense host of them gathered. Then Svein told his men to put their armour on and go to meet them, and a hard and fierce battle ensued, and a great many heathens fell, as they had nothing to protect themselves with. And when they saw they were being overwhelmed, they ran away. Meanwhile Svein and his men collected a mass of valuables which the locals had left behind, and carried them to the ships.

Anyway, after this incident, Svein and his men go on, leaving that place, and praise God for their victory. They go on for a while now, till they saw a great herd of swine on a headland under a crag that jutted over the river, and a few men wanted to kill them and jumped ashore, and they did kill some pigs. But the rest then began to squeal loudly as they got away and ran up onto the land. And next thing they saw a great army coming down from the land to the ships, and one man going on somewhat ahead of the host. This man had three apples and threw one up in the air, and it came down at the feet of Svein, and then the next one after it--that fell in the same place.

Then Svein said he wasn't going to wait for the third apple: “There's some devilish power behind this and strong belief.”

Svein put an arrow to his string and shot. The arrow hit the man on the nose and they heard a noise like snapping horn. He flung back his head, and they saw that he had a bird's beak. Then he screams very loud and ran back towards his troops and they all raced back inland as fast as they could, for as long as they could be seen.

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