Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
(Circa 861 AD)
“And his shield was called Hrae’s Ship’s Round,
And his followers were called the Hraes’.”
Eyvinder Skald-Despoiler; Skaldskaparmal.
Oddi and his kin sailed out from the Vik and they got a great wind, and soon arrived on the coast of Sweden, at a place where one massive headland jutted out to sea from the mainland. They anchored their ships and raised the awnings and Oddi went ashore to see what was what, but on the other side of the headland he spotted fifteen ships and a camp on the land. He saw games being played outside of the tents and he saw the leaders of these ships, both Hjalmar and Thord.
Oddi walked back to the beach and rowed out to his ships and told his brothers the news. Gudmund asked what they should do. “We will split our men into two groups,” said Oddi. “You shall sail our ships around the headland and shout a war cry at the men on the shore, and I will march overland with my half of the troop and we shall shout another battle cry at them, and it shall unnerve them so much that they will flee back to King Hlodver.”
But when Hjalmar and his men heard the battle cry of Gudmund, they didn’t heed it, and when they heard another battle cry from the land, they stood still a while, then they got back to playing their games. Soon both groups returned from the headland, and Odd and Gudmund spoke.
“I don’t think,” said Oddi, “that these Vikings are easily frightened.”
“What will we do now?” Gudmund asked.
“Here is what I think we should do,” said Oddi, “We should not sneak up on these men. Here we shall sleep in our ships tonight beside the headland and wait for tomorrow then sail around and challenge them.”
Then next morning they sailed around the headland and challenged the Swedes to fight. But Hjalmar walked to the beach from his camp and said they should join him to eat first. When Oddi and his men saw the Vikings cooking on shore, they armoured themselves and joined them. Hjalmar asked who led such a fine troop of men. Oddi answered: “There are more chiefs than just one.”
“What is your name?” said Hjalmar.
“My name is Arrow Odd, son of Grim Hairycheek out of Hrafnista.”
“Ahh…Norwegians”, Hjalmar said easily. “Are you the Odd that went to Bjarmaland recently?”
“I’ve been there,” Odd answered coolly.
“What is your errand here?”
“I want to know,” said Oddi, “who is the greater man of us.”
“How many ships have you got?” said Hjalmar.
“I have five ships,” said Oddi, “and how many ships have you?”
“We have fifteen ships,” said Hjalmar.
“That’s heavy odds,” said Oddi.
“Ten of my ships’ crews shall sit back, watch and learn,” said Hjalmar, “and we’ll fight it out man to man. My men could use some hard training.”
Both sides prepared for battle and the ships squared off and fought while day lasted. In the evening a white peace shield was held up, and Hjalmar asked Oddi how he thought the day had gone. Oddi was very pleased and said, “Your men make worthy opponents.”
“Do you want to continue the game?” said Hjalmar.
“I would not have it any other way,” said Oddi, “for I have not met better boys or hardier men, and we will continue the fight in daylight.” And everyone did as Oddi suggested, and they bound their wounds and returned to camp for the evening. But the next morning, after breaking fast, both sides drew up their ships into battle array and fought all that day and as night approached, they drew up a truce. Then Oddi asked what Hjalmar thought of the battle that day and he said he was very pleased. “Do you want,” said Hjalmar, “to have this game a third day?”
“Only if it will settle things between us,” said Oddi.
Then Thord Prow Gleam said, “Is there plenty of treasure and money in your ships?”
“Far from it,” said Oddi, “we have got no plunder this summer at all.”
“That goes for us as well,” said Thord. “I think it is foolish for us to keep fighting, because we fight for nothing, only pride and ambition.”
“What do you suggest we do?” said Oddi.
“Do you not think it good advice,” said Thord, “that we combine our efforts?”
“It pleases me well,” said Oddi, “but I am not sure what Hjalmar would think.”
“I want only the Viking laws,” said Hjalmar, “which I have always had.”
“I will know,” said Oddi, “when I hear them, just how agreeable they are to me.”
Then Hjalmar said: ‘This is the first rule, that I will not eat raw meat, nor my troop, because it is many people’s custom to squeeze flesh in cloth and call it cooked, but it seems to me that it’s a custom more fit for wolves than humans. I will not rob merchants or farmers unless it is just to cover my immediate needs. I never rob women, even if we find them in the land alone with a lot of possessions, and no woman is to be taken to the ship to be raped, and if she is taken unwillingly, then he who does this will lose his life, be he rich or poor. I free all captives that surrender to me and require neither ransom nor oath of fealty.”
“Your laws are good,” said Odd. “I have a silver kettle in my ship that we use for cooking and the rest of your laws will not block our comradeship.” And then they joined forces, and they had as many as Hjalmar had before they met. But the survivors were the best of the best.