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The Saga of Half and His Heroes

The general enjoyed
just a short span,
less days than his deeds
of daring deserved.
At twelve the terror
of territories took to war,
but when our regent
reached thirty, he died.

I don't sleep well,
wake many a night,
I feel so bad
about my brother:
the thought of Rook
in that ruin burning
alive with the last
of our lord's fighters.

The darkest day
one dare imagine,
worst one in the world,
that was for me.
Ease no longer
can we expect,
nor company
of faithful kin.

Quite lighter my grief
would grow could I get
vengeance and rend
my ring-giver's slayer,
with sword scintillating
slice into Asmund,
break open the breast
of Half's butcher.

Half the hero
has to be avenged,
for they betrayed
his trust in a truce.
Murder was committed
and manslaughter
by Asmund on that
ill-starred day.

There'll be a test,
a trial of strength,
if Svein we find
on the field of battle,
of who's hardier,
who has what it takes,
Hamund's boy
or Haki's thanes.

Here's what I'd say
to that smart woman:
Brynhild I'd ask
to be my wife,
did I but believed
she wanted to love
this Rook here,
Hamund's boy.

Shrewd descendants
I'd expect to see,
some good offspring
if we got together,
for I've not met
a wiser lass
than Haki's girl,
the whole world over.

I've yet to meet
on my many journeys,
a dearer lass
than Haki's daughter.
She is all
that I could wish.

I'm an outcast here
in Haki's kingdom,
ignored by all.
They've each a spot
to sit inside,
these slack warriors,
higher at table
than Half's Heroes.

Brynhild told her father what she'd heard, and said that one of Half's Heroes must have arrived. And when the king realised that, he directed Rook to sit in the seat of honour, and they got on great, Rook and the king. Rook the Black married King Haki's daughter Brynhild. The following spring, Rook went with an army against Svein the Victorious, and they fought a battle. Svein fell there, and Rook came back triumphant to King Haki.

That summer they sailed out with an army: King Solvi and King Haki and Rook the Black, King Eystein and Utstein with him. They went to Norway, fought a battle with King Asmund and slew him.

Half's son Hjor was then king of Hordaland. Rook and Utstein went raiding for many years, and they were men of great renown. The daughter of Brynhild and Rook the Black was Gunnlod, who was Hromund Gripsson's mother.

17. The Birth of Hamund and Geirmund Hellskin

King Hjor Halfsson married Hagny, daughter of King Haki Hamundsson. King Hjor went to a meeting of kings, and while he was gone, Hagny gave birth to two sons, and they were black and strikingly ugly, and one was called Hamund and the other Geirmund. A serving woman gave birth at the same time, to a son, and he was called Leif. He was very handsome. The queen swapped sons with the servant and brought Leif to the king. The king went away again, this time on campaign. The boys were now three years old. Leif proved timid as his life went on, but Hamund and Geirmund were enormous and spoke intelligently.

The skald Bragi came to a feast there. One day, all the men went to the forest, and the women to the hazel wood to gather nuts, and no one was home in the hall except Bragi, sitting in the seat of honour, and the queen was hiding there covered in a pile of clothes. Leif sat on the throne, playing with gold, but Hamund and Geirmund were in the straw down on the floor. But then they went over to Leif and shoved him off his chair, and took off him all his gold. He was crying. Bragi got up and went to where the queen lay, and poked the clothes with his staff and said:

“There's two in here,
Hamund and Geirmund,
and both I believe,
born to Hjor,
but the third one Leif,
is Lodhott's son.
You never gave birth
to that boy, woman.”

After which, Hagny swapped her boys back with the servant. And when King Hjor came home, she took the boys to him and said that they were his sons.

“Away with them!” he said, “I never saw such hellish skin.” They were both called Hellskin after this.

They were men of great deeds and strength, and a major family in Iceland is descended from them. Hamund's son was Thorir-at-Espihol. From him are descended the Espiholers. Geirmund Hellskin settled in Medalfellsstrond in Breidafjord. His daughter was called Yri, and a great family comes from her.

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