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- Vandrad the Viking - 1/28 -


VANDRAD THE VIKING

or

The Feud and the Spell

by

J. STORER CLOUSTON

WITH SIX ILLUSTRATIONS BY HUBERT PATON

CONTENTS.

I. THE WEST SEA SAILING

II. THE BAIRN-SLAYERS

III. THE HOLY ISLE

IV. THE ISLAND SPELL

V. ANDREAS THE HERMIT

VI. THE HALL OF LIOT

VII. THE VERDICT OF THE SWORD

VIII. IN THE CELL BY THE ROOST

IX. THE MESSAGE OF THE RUNES

X. KING BUE'S FEAST

XI. THE HOUSE IN THE FOREST

XII. THE MAGICIAN

XIII. ARROW AND SHIELD

XIV. THE MIDNIGHT GUEST

XV. THE LAST OF THE LAWMAN

XVI. KING ESTEIN

XVII. THE END OF THE STORY

CHAPTER I.

THE WEST SEA SAILING.

Long after King Estein had joined his fathers on the little holm beyond Hernersfiord, and Helgi, Earl of Askland, had become but a warlike memory, the skalds of Sogn still sang this tale of Vandrad the Viking. It contained much wonderful magic, and some astonishingly hard strokes, as they told it; but reading between their lines, the magic bears a strong resemblance to many spells cast even at this day, and as for the sword strokes, there was need for them to be hard in Norway then. For that was the age of the making of many kingdoms, and the North was beginning to do its share.

One May morning, more than a thousand years ago, so the story runs, an old man came slowly along a woodland track that uncoiled itself from the mountain passes and snow-crowned inlands of Norway. Presently the trees grew thinner, and grass and wild flowers spread on either hand, and at last, just where the path dipped down to the water-side at Hernersfiord, the traveller stopped. For a while he remained there in the morning sunshine, watching the scene below, and now and then speaking out his thoughts absently in the rapt manner of a visionary.

Though his clothes were old and weather-stained, and bare of any ornament, his face and bearing were such as strike the mind at once and stay in the memory. He was tall and powerfully framed, and bore his years and the white volume of his beard in an altogether stately fashion; but his eyes were most indelible, pale blue and singularly cold in repose, very bright and keen and searching when his face was animated.

They saw much to stir them that morning. On the slope above Hernersfiord stood the royal hall of Hakonstad, the seat of the kings of Sogn; and all about the house, and right down to the water's edge, there was a great bustle and movement of men. From the upland valley at the fiord head, warriors trooped down to the ships that lay by the long stone pier. The morning sun glanced on their helmets and coats of mail, and in the still air the clash of preparation rang far up the pine-clad hillside. He could see some bringing weapons and provisions down to the shore, and others busily lading the ships. Women mingled in the crowd, and every here and there a gay cloak and gilded helm marked a leader of rank.

"Ay, the season has come for Vikings to put to sea again," he said. "Brave and gay are the warriors of Sogn, and lightly they leave. When a man is young, all roads are pleasant, and all lead home again. Many have I seen set sail these last sixty years, and their sailing led them--where?"

And then again, as the stir increased, and he could see the men beginning to troop on board the long ships,--

"This voyage shall be as the falling of snowflakes into the sea; but what man can escape his fate?"

Meanwhile a party of men had just left the woods, and were coming down the path to the fiord, ten or twelve in all, headed by an exceedingly broad, black-bearded man, clad in a leather coat closely covered all over with steel scales, and bearing on his shoulder a ponderous halberd.

The path was very narrow at that point, and he of the black beard called out gruffly,--

"Make way, old man! Give room to pass."

Roused abruptly from his reverie, the dreamer turned quietly, but made no movement to the side. The party by this time were so close that they had perforce to halt, with some clash of armour, and again their captain cried,--

"Are you deaf? Make way!"

Yet there was something daunting in the other's pale eye, and though the Viking moved the halberd uneasily on his shoulder, his own glance shifted. With the slightest intonation of contempt, the traveller asked,--

"Who bids me make way?"

The black-bearded man looked at him with an air of some astonishment, and then answered shortly,--

"They call me Ketill; but what is that to you?"

Without heeding the other's gruffness, the old man asked,--

"Does King Hakon sail from Hernersfiord to-day?"

"King Hakon has not sailed for many a day. His son leads this force."

"Ay, I had forgotten, we are both old men now. Then Estein sails to-day?"

"Ay, and I sail with him. My ship awaits me, so make way, old man," replied Ketill.

"Whither do ye sail?"

"To the west seas. I have no time for talking more. Do you hear?"

"Go on then," replied the old man, stepping to one side; "something tells me that Estein will have need of all his men before this voyage is over."

Without stopping for further words, the black-bearded captain and his men pushed past and continued their way to the fiord, while the old man slowly followed them.

As he went down the hillside he talked again aloud to himself:--

"Ay, this then is the meaning of my warning dreams--danger in the south lands, danger on the seas. Little heed will Estein Hakonson pay to the words of an old man, yet I am fain to see the youth again, and what the gods reveal to me I must speak."

Down below, near the foot of the path that led from the pier up to the hall of Hakonstad, a cluster of chiefs stood talking. In the midst of them, Hakon, King of Sogn, one of the independent kinglings who reigned in the then chaotic Norway, watched the departure of his son.

He was a venerable figure, conspicuous by his long, wintry locks and embroidered cloak of blue, straight as a spear-shaft, but grown too old for warfare. His hand rested on the shoulder of Earl Sigvald of Askland, a bluff old warrior, long the king's most faithful counsellor and companion in arms. Before them stood his son Estein, a tall, auburn-haired, bright-eyed young man, gaily dressed, after the fashion of the times, in red kirtle and cloak, and armed as yet only with a gilded helmet, surmounted with a pair of hawk's wings, and a sword girt to his side. His face, though regular and handsome, would have been rather too grave and reserved but for the keenness of his eyes, and a very pleasant smile which at times lit up his features when he spoke.


Vandrad the Viking - 1/28

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