The Barding Saga

Chapter Six

Now that Einar was a goði in good standing, Ingrid urged him to allow women to testify before his Þing. Einar agreed to this, but only on the condition that Ingrid help him learn seiðr, so Ingrid invited Hildrid the White to Hrafnahof, so see if she would teach him.

Upon arrival, Hildred pronounced a prophecy: “Three crows roost upon the eaves of the Temple of Ravens, before the Wise Man’s rightful heir sits upon his seat again.”

Hildrid told Ingrid she would teach Einar in exchange for Freydis. Ingrid felt unsure about giving up her favored granddaughter. She asked Freydis if she wished to follow Hildrid and learn seiðr, but Freydis was frightened of Hildrid and wanted to stay home. So Ingrid asked Einar why he wanted to learn seiðr in the first place. He said he wanted the power that came with it. Ingrid decided that if he gained more power and respect as a goði, he would no longer want to learn seiðr, and so she told Hildrid to let Freydis stay.

After that, Hildrid travelled to Bardstaðir to counsel Björn on the situation involving the landvættir. She saw that the problem came from the boundary-marker Nereid had taken from Hrafnahof, where the niðstöng had scared off the landvættir years ago. Björn tried to offer her knowledge of the White Christ in exchange for a cure, but she recoiled and told him that tolerating Christians on the land only made things worse. So Björn gave her a goat, and in return she told him that he could make the boundary-marker feel welcome by sacrificing one of his cattle here. But if he did only that, his problems with the landvættir would continue. So long as Christians remained on the land, the landvættir would be scared away. To solve the problem for good, he would have to sacrifice a Christian.

Once Hildrid departed, the family prepared to go to the vorÞing planned by Þorsteinn Ingólfsson. Ingrid sacrificed a goat to Freyja, asking her to present Valberg’s wife Unn with a miracle that would convince her of the rightness of Ingrid’s cause. Freyja told Ingrid in a vision that the way to do this was to seduce Unn.

Now, at this time, a rumor was spreading that Valberg had gotten very drunk and announced that he would never go to the vorÞing with “that gyðja at Hrafnahof.” Nereid asked Unn about this rumor on the way to the vorÞing. Unn said it was actually Ref, Valberg’s son, who had impugned Einar’s honor in this way. He was simply teasing Einar for the times he had stayed home to look after the farm while his siblings went raiding. Unn agreed to settle it in court at the vorÞing, to lay the rumors to rest. Then Nereid spoke to Valberg, to propose an alliance on Einar’s behalf. Valberg agreed to help Einar gain respect if Einar would help him hurt a rival goði: Skjöldur Brimisson, who was called Old Dog Beard.

At the assembly, Einar kept his promise by publicly making fun of Brimisson’s sword, a famous blade called “Flesh Biter,” forged by the renowned Frankish smith, Ulfberht. Valberg supported him, calling Einar a great warrior and saying that Brimisson was too old and weak to challenge him. But Brimisson did not take lightly these insults to his honor, and challenged Einar to hólmganga. Einar soundly defeated the old man and was about to land the killing blow when Brimisson scrambled out of the circle, dishonoring himself. Einar took the opportunity to suggest making the vorÞing a yearly tradition. There was enthusiastic assent among the Þingmen present.

But the sons of Brimisson did not look happy. This alarmed Björn. He did not want his family to be in danger of retaliation. He strengthened the bonds between his family and Valberg by offering Valberg the other half of Hogniskot in exchange for giving Halbjörn a hall there and command over Valberg’s fleet. Halbjörn set up a marriage between Þorunn and one of Valberg’s strongest sons. Nereid then spoke to Þorsteinn about perhaps marrying Gudrun to someone in his family. Þorsteinn agreed to come visit Gudrun with one of his marriageable family members after the vorÞing ended. Björn also hatched a conspiracy among the children of powerful goði and landowners at the vorÞing, called the Children of Iceland. Ingrid, meanwhile, seduced Unn with a romantic riddle carved on bark. They snuck off together into the trees at the edge of the vorÞing.

Shortly after the Bardings returned, Þorsteinn came to visit with his son. They feasted the two men, and at the end of it Þorsteinn and Gudrun announced that they would marry.

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Jason

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