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The Saga of Half and His Heroes

12. King Asmund's Treachery

King Half went up to Asmund's hall with one half of his warriors. There was a multitude of people there. The banquet was bountiful and the drink so strong that Half's Heroes were soon fast asleep. King Asmund and his men set fire to the hall.

And the first of the Heroes to wake saw that the hall was nearly full of smoke. He said, “Seems a bit smoky round our hawks9 now.” Then he lay down and went back to sleep.

And another one woke up and he saw that the hall was burning, and he said, “I suppose the wax'll be dripping off our blades now.”10 That one lay back down.

And then King Half woke up. He got up and roused the men and told them to arm themselves. They charged at the wall then, so that the clasps on the corner-beams came loose.

And Innstein said:

“Smoke's to the hawks
in the hall of the king,
and wax from saxes
it seems will drip.
High time to deal out
dear treasures and gold,
hurry helms to share
among Half's Heroes.

Wake, Half, I urge -
no want of warmth,
of fires kindled,
Rise ring-sharing king
rise to vengeance:
for a plotting parent
it's pay back time.

Ram now the planks,
push on the walls.
The props splinter,
split finally in two.
The fame won't fail
while folk live, ever,
of the day Half's Heroes
dined with this duke.

With hard blows we'll go
and give up never.
The chief's champions
must charge with short-swords.
On themselves they'll bear
bloody sores,
our foes, before
we're finished battling.

Look lively, lads,
leap out the fire,
dodge cinders gentlemen
just like your prince.
No man's likely
to live for ever -
I doubt he'll dread
to die, our leader.”

13. The Fall of King Half

So it is said that Half and his Heroes got out of the fire and that Half fell before overwhelming odds together with his men. Innstein said, when the king had fallen:

“Here I saw armed-men
all follow one,
(king's kin he was)
keen as each other.
We'll meet in one piece
when we part from here.
I've little more liking
for life than death.”

Then the rest of the Heroes joint the fight, those who'd stayed with the ships. There fell a great many of Half's Heroes. The battle dragged on till nightfall, before Innstein fell. Innstein said:

“Rook has fallen
by the feet of our leader,
defending to the last
his liege-lord staunchly.
With Odin we've
one bone to pick–
that he snatched victory
from such a king.

I've been at sea
eighteen summers,
a bold boss I served,
stained shaft with blood.
Another lord
I'll never find
more gallant in war,
nor grow old now.

So here Innstein
sinks to the ground,
lays himself down
by his leader's head.
In latter times
at the telling of sagas,
they'll hear of how
King Half died laughing.”

14. Of Utstein and Rook the Black

Gunnlod went in the night among the slain to look for her sons. She found Innstein dead, but Utstein was wounded, though barely alive, and likewise Bard and Bjorn. She put them on a cart and brought them to a cottage and healed them in secret and sent them south then to Sweden. Bjorn and Bard went to see King Solvi, Half's uncle on his mother's side, but Utstein went to Denmark to King Eystein, his kinsman.

Rook the Black had many grave wounds. In the night, he walked from the battle field till he found a humble cotter whose name was Skogkarl. There he stayed, and his wounds were bandaged. The cotter smuggled him north to Sogn to Lord Geirmund, his father's brother. There he was healed in secret and in the autumn he went to the Uplands and east to Gautland. He made it to King Haki in Skåne and stayed the winter with him.


9. A conventional metaphor for brave warriors, but the writer of the prose may have interpreted it literally here.
10. The blades were coated in wax to prevent rust.

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