The Barding Saga

Chapter Three

As Midsummer neared, word spread across the island of Björn’s bravery. Eyvind, Björn’s cousin and Nereid’s son, got very jealous, even though he had recently found some valuable bog iron for the family. He had heard tale of a “ghost bear” that had been spotted on the island, and told Björn that he was going to kill it to show how he was braver and better. Bjorn tried to dissuade him from this.

Halbjörn returned from freebooting with three Irish slaves. Two were women, and one was a man. Being curious about other lands, Björn took a special interest in these slaves. He tried to talk to one, who was called Caoimhe, but she spoke no Norse. He began to teach her a little, but Bard scolded him. However, the other female slave, Shylah, had noticed. She did speak Norse, and happily answered all of Björn’s questions about her homeland and her god, Jesus Christ. This Bard did not stop, because the slave was very secretive and quiet and did not allow the conversation to be noticed.

Now, Nereid had long hated Njáll Snorrisson, as she believed he was responsible for the loss of her father’s goðorð. So she went to visit Njáll to see how she might sabotage him. She took Björn and Eyvind along, and introduced them to Njáll, along with the story of Björn’s cleverness against the outlaws. Njáll was very impressed with Björn, which left Eyvind seething. Björn tried to give credit to Eyvind for finding the ore, but Njáll did not take interest in that.

Nereid slyly got him talking, and soon Snorrisson admitted that he had had much trouble lately with Håkon Travel-quick. His son Brauggi slew a quest of Travel-quick’s, who happened to be the nephew of Þorsteinn Ingólfsson. So now guards surrounded his hof in case of retaliation. He proposed a partnership with Nereid to start a ferry that would rival Travel-quick’s. Nereid said she would have to go home and talk it over with Bard. Njáll sent his son Bolli to protect her and the two boys on their way home.

Bard liked Nereid’s plan of sabotage, and urged her not to establish any partnership with Njáll, but to make it seem as though she was interested, to keep him talking. Nereid admitted that she was tempted by the wealth such a partnership would bring. She argued that she could hurt Njáll much more easily if they worked closer together, but Ingrid did not approve.

Many years ago, a seiðkona named Hildrid the White had prophesied that Ingrid would speak before the Þing. Ingrid felt unsure about her next move, so she invited Hildrid to Bardstaðir. She arrived protected by two shieldmaidens with their tongues cut out. The two women sat outside by a fire to speak. Nereid came out with them, but Ingrid shooed her away lest she find out about her deal with Valberg Blood-jewel. Nereid felt very insulted by this exclusion, but went back inside.

Hildrid knew of Ingrid’s deal with Valberg without being told, but suggested that it would ultimately only help Njáll. She suggested that Ingrid convince Unn of her conviction by making a generous sacrifice to Freyja, but meat was scarce at Bardstaðir, and she feared she could not afford such a thing. Hildrid left the farm that same night.

Halbjörn walked with Nereid on her second trip to Hrafnahof to protect her from Þorsteinn’s men. He had taken Caoimhe as his bed slave. His wife Þora did not like this, but spoke of her displeasure only to the women of the household. As they walked, Nereid confronted Halbjörn about this. He said he would give up his bed slave if Nereid made Ingrid stop talking about her silly ideas. Nereid suggested that perhaps Ingrid could spend more time away from the farm, visiting other people. Halbjörn agreed to the arrangement.

When Nereid next spoke with Njáll, he revealed that the case between his son and Þorsteinn would be judged by Valberg’s Þing. Nereid suspected that Njáll might erect a níðstöng on Travel-quick’s land to destroy him, as she suspected he had destroyed her father. She decided they must trap him in the act before the Þing ended. While they visited, Njáll, thinking Nereid and Bard his allies, told them that he planned to make the argument that Valberg could not judge the case because of the well-known rivalry between them. That would give him more time to gather up the weregild he would need to pay to Þorsteinn. Nereid suggested that he try to offer gifts to some of Valberg’s Þingmenn like Einar Lambisson to see things his way, but Njáll admitted that gathering such a hefty weregild left him with little to give away.

Nereid returned again to Bardstaðir. She told Ingrid of her conversation with Halbjörn. Ingrid agreed to the arrangement, as she could make more change by convincing neighbors of her position anyway. The family prepared to attend the Þing.

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