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The Saga of Half and His Heroes

11. Asmund Invited King Half

King Half came home from war to own his kingdom. They had a big storm at sea. Their ship was taking water, too much to bail. Then the decision was taken to cast lots for who should go overboard, but there was no need for that, as each man volunteered to go overboard on behalf of his mate. And as they climbed over the gunwales, they said, “There's no straw on the sea floor!”8

But when King Half reached Hordaland, King Asmund came to see him and did homage to him and swore oaths of allegiance and became his man, and he invited King Half to a feast together with half his warriors. But the next morning, as the king got ready and said that half his troops were to stay on the ships, Innstein said:

“We ought all of us
up from our ships
with burning brands,
best of warriors,
take fire to our foe
first while we can,
bring oblivion
to Asmund's band.”

The king said:

“Half this host
of heroes goes
up from the sea,
I say, in peace.
Asmund's granted
gold rings galore,
wealth immense
as we might wish.

Innstein said:

“You don't see all
of Asmund's mind,
that chief conceals
deceit in his breast.
You'd set less store
in your step-father's
(if we had our way)
word, my lord.

The king said:

“Asmund's offered us
oaths untold,
promised peace,
pledged his friendship.
No lord well-born
would abuse a truce,
betray the trust
of a true ally.”

Innstein said:

“Odin's fury
has fallen on you
if Asmund you trust
so absolutely.
He'll dissemble,
hoodwink us all,
unless you keep
a look out, lord.”

The king said:

“You always twist
the talk to terror--
that king won't betray
his treaty with us.
Gold we'll get there
and gleaming gems,
red rings sprinkled
from the ruler's hoard.”

Innstein said:

“Half, I had a dream
--pay heed to me--
fierce flame there played
upon our forces;
from that tight spot it seemed
quite tough to escape.
What meaning, majesty,
do you make of that dream?”

The king said:

“I'll give a gilt helm
to each gallant hero,
to those bold fellows
who follow me.
That will flash
like fire over
the lord's warband,
lighting their heads.

Innstein said:

“I dreamed again,
a dreadful scene:
it seemed that shoulders
shone with flame.
I've a feeling, sire,
that's not a good sign.
Any idea
what this dream might mean?”

The king said:

“Chain-links will chime
on chief's retainers,
on king's men clinking
cascades the mail.
That will shine
on shoulders brightly,
of royal comrades
quite like fire.”

Innstein said:

“I dreamed again,
a third dream also,
that we took a dive
in deep water.
It's got to imply
some great deceit.
What meaning, sire,
do you see in this dream.”

The king said:

“What's it to me?
I've heard all I want,
now fasten your mouth,
it means just nothing.
Enough of this nonsense!
Not a word now
of your dreams and drivel
from this day forth.”

Innstein said:

“Listen up, you two Rooks,
in the ranks of the king,
and heed these words
of warning, Utstein.
Up from the strand
let's stride together.
The words of our king
we won't blame for that.”

Utstein said:

“We'll let the warlord,
our warrior king,
lead with daring
our expeditions.
Let's chance it, brother,
to please the chief,
risk our bodies
for a brave master.”

Innstein said:

“The ruler's relied
while roaming abroad,
our lord many times,
on my loyal counsel.
Now though it seems
there's nothing I can say--
the king won't listen
since we came this way.”


8. Understatement: it’s not so cosy in the sea, quite unlike the straw-strewn floor of a hall.

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