The Barding Saga

Chapter Nine

Halbjörn took a longboat to Eyarbakki, but they had longboats of their own. A sea battle followed, which Halbjörn’s men won, taking out the enemy’s two longboats. Halbjörn faced Hallstein in battle and slew him.

Einar faced Harek Skjöldursson. Harek smashed Einar’s shield, but Einar ran him through with his spear. But Harek was a berserker, and his fury allowed him to continue attacking Einar with his axe. As the two fought, lava from Mount Hekla flowed onto the battlefield, forcing the two sides apart. Einar threw Harek off-balance and he fell into the lava, but Einar himself was badly injured. Valberg rescued him. His men lifted Einar up on a shield and carried him away.

Meanwhile, Skallagrim Hofsteinson and his men attacked Einarsbær in retaliation for the death of his father. Björn the Brave took a spear wound to the side, but still slaughtered his enemies with his father’s dane-axe. He split Skallagrim’s skull open, then collapsed. Helga protected him from the warriors that were left.

Once the battle was through, Björn, Helga, and Halbjörn went north to Valbergsholt with the warriors of the south. Einar was already there, recovering, and Ingrid convinced him to let women testify in his court. She asked Unn to speak to Valberg on the subject; the next day, Valberg debated Ingrid on the issue in front of everyone, and she convinced all of the Þingmen that it was right.

Halbjörn told Einar about Gellir’s strange beliefs. The two asked Björn about it, but he denied that Gellir spoke blasphemy, though he would not say clearly what Gellir had said. Fed up with Björn’s hedging, Einar publicly announced that charges had been levied against Gellir, that they would have a hearing then and there, and that Björn would speak to answer any questions.

Björn repeated the same story that omitted Gellir’s blasphemy. Gellir felt he had nothing to hide, however, and urged Björn to tell the truth. Björn admitted that Gellir was a Christian. Gellir confirmed this, but said that his version of Christianity had room for other gods. He believed that both Odin and Jesus sacrificed themselves to gain wisdom, and were examples that people could follow to become gods themselves. He therefore felt he could be trusted to keep his oaths. He followed not the White Christ, he claimed, but the “Red Christ.” Björn announced that he, too, followed this Red Christ.

Einar declared a short recess to consider whether or not this constituted blasphemy. After speaking with Valberg and Ingrid, he concluded that perhaps this Red Christ might inoculate the island against the White Christ, which was far more threatening to the social order. Einar and Valberg both agreed to set up shrines to the Red Christ in their temples, so long as his followers paid and sacrificed to the other gods as well.

They all assembled later that night. Einar declared the religion of the Red Christ not blasphemous, so long as his followers kept their oaths and made offerings to the other gods. To prove themselves, Björn and Gellir made sacrifices to all the gods in Valberg’s temple.

That night, Halbjörn told Helga of how ardently Shylah hated the Gospel of Thomas. Now that Björn had declared himself openly as part of this religion, she would no doubt try to kill him. Helga went to Bardstaðir and killed all of the former slaves.

At the same time, Valberg asked Halbjörn to kill Skum. Like all ergi, Valberg said that Skum would become a ravenous, murderous monster on every ninth day. He said that he had killed several of Valberg’s men before he had stopped him. Now that he had served his purpose in helping them fight Skjöldur, he needed to die. So Halbjörn got Skum very drunk, and then suffocated him in his sleep.

They committed to continuing the war through the summer raiding season, trusting that they would defeat Skjöldur and steal his wealth, which would carry them through the winter in lieu of Irish loot.



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