Copyright by Brian Howard Seibert
(Circa 875 AD)
“And his shield was called Hrae’s Ship’s Round,
And his followers were called the Hraes’.”
Eyvinder Skald-Despoiler; Skaldskaparmal.
One day in Frankia Oddi walked to the edge of a forest. He was tired, so, he sat down under a big oak tree. Then he saw a man in a blue-flecked cloak walking by with high shoes, gold emblazoned gloves and a reed in his hand. He was average height and gentlemanly in looks, but he had a lowered hood that covered his face. Oddi could just make out a big moustache and long beard, both of them red. He turned to where Oddi sat and greeted him by name. Oddi welcomed him and asked who he might be. He said he was Grani, called Raudgrani, then he said, “I know all about you, Arrow Odd. It seems to me that, since you are a great Viking and an accomplished man, you have few followers, and travel rather like a pauper, and it is bad that a man like you should be so reduced.”
“It is true,” Oddi said, “that I have not been a leader of men in a while.”
“Will you swear an oath of brotherhood with me?” Raudgrani said.
“It’s hard to deny such an offer,” said Oddi, “and I will take it up.”
“You are not yet totally luckless,” said Raudgrani. “Now I know of two champions in the east of this country and they have twelve ships. They are sworn brothers; one comes from out of Denmark and is called Gardar, and the other Sirnir and comes out of Gautland. I know of no better men on this side of the Baltic and I will bring you into brotherhood with them, yet you’ll have the most say of all of us, although you’ll find that following my advice will be most helpful. But where would you want to sail if this is arranged as I have now said?”
“I would like to find a killer named Ogmund Eythjofsbane Tussock, so if that could be arranged while we are raiding…”
“Stop, stop,” said Raudgrani, “you don’t want to find him, because he is not a man of humankind, is Ogmund, and if you meet him again, you will get far worse from him than before, so just put that idea out of your mind.”
“All I wish to do is avenge my son, Vignir, and my blood brother, Thord, and I shall never give up until I do.”
“I’ll tell you,” said Raudgrani, “how Ogmund was born. Then you’ll see there is no chance that he will be killed by mortal men. It is said that Prince Hraerik ruled all of the Nor’Way when you made your Viking raid into Bjarmaland, and you will remember what damage you did to the giants there, before you left. You half blinded their king and you fully blinded his daughter and killed his wife who had just given birth to a son. Once you had gone, they felt bitter about what you had dealt them with your Gusir’s Gift arrows and they wanted revenge, if they could get it. And this was how they got it, they had the boy sprinkled with water and given the name Ogmund. He was unlike most mortal men from an early age, as you’d expect from his birth, and when Ogmund was three years old, he was sent to Finmark, and he studied all kinds of magic and sorcery, and when he was fully trained, he went home to Bjarmaland. He was then seven years old and as big as a full grown man, very powerful and hard to deal with. His looks had not improved while he was with the Lapps, because he was both black and blue, with his hair long and black, and a tussock hanging down over the eyes where a forelock should be. He was called Ogmund Tussock. The giants meant to send him to meet you and slay you; although they knew that much would be needed to bring about your death. They strengthened Ogmund with witchcraft, so that no normal iron could bite him and they sacrificed to him and altered him so that he was no longer a mortal man.
“Eythjof was the name of a Viking. He was the greatest of berserks and an unparalleled hero, and he never had fewer than eighteen ships when raiding. He never spent time on land and stayed out on the sea, winter and hot summer. Everyone was scared of him wherever he went. He attacked Bjarmaland often and forced them to pay tribute. That’s when Ogmund got his eight comrades, and they all dressed in thick black woolen cloaks, and no iron bit them. They were named thus: Hak and Haki, Tindall and Toki, Finn and Fjosni, Tjosni and Torn. Then Ogmund joined up with Eythjof, and they went to war together. Ogmund was ten years old. He was with Eythjof for five winters. Eythjof was so fond of him that he could not refuse him anything, and for his sake he freed Bjarmaland from tribute. Ogmund rewarded Eythjof no better than to kill him while he slept in his bed and then he concealed the murder. It was easy to do because Eythjof had planned to make him his adopted son. He left Eythjof’s men to do as they pleased, but Ogmund kept two of their ships, fully crewed by his eight comrades and only the finest of Eythjof’s men. He then became Ogmund Eythjofsbane Tussock and that same summer he attacked you at Tronuvagar and Ogmund was then just fifteen years old. He hated getting no vengeance against you, and so he murdered Thord Prow-Gleam, your sworn brother. Then he went to meet the giantess, his step-mother, who was Grimhild when she was with humans. But then she was a finngalkin. She looks human as far as her head, but like an animal further down and has remarkably large claws and a tremendous tail, and with it she kills both humans and livestock, animals and dragons. Ogmund coaxed her to get you, and now she lives in the forests with animals and has reached the north of England and is looking for you. Now I have told you plainly of Ogmund.”
“I can see,” said Odd, “why most men find him hard to fight, if he is as you say, but I still want to meet him.”
“He is worse now, though,” Raudgrani said. “He is more wraith now than man, so I think that he won’t be killed by humans. But let’s go down to the ships first,” and so they did. And when they came to the sea, Odd saw where many ships floated. They went aboard. Odd saw two men who stood out from the rest. They stood up and greeted Raudgrani as their blood brother. He sat down between them and told Odd to sit. Raudgrani said, “Here’s a man who you sworn brothers will have heard told of, called Arrow Odd. I wish that he be sworn our blood brotherhood; he shall be the one to lead us, because he is most experienced in warfare.”
Sirnir asked: “Is he the Odd who went to Bjarmaland?”
“Yes,” said Raudgrani.
“Then we shall benefit,” said Sirnir, “if he is sworn in as our brother.”
“I like the idea,” said Gardar. They bound themselves with the mixing of blood and promises. Then Raudgrani asked where Oddi meant to go. “Let us first sail west to Angleland,” said Oddi and so they sailed there and they put up awnings over their ships and they sent out raiding parties for a while.
One day fine day, Sirnir and Gardar went ashore to shoot and throw weights and play sports with a leather ball. Many men joined them in these activities, but Oddi stayed on his ship. Raudgrani was nowhere to be seen. The weather was very warm, and the blood brothers and many others went swimming in a nearby lake. There was a forest by the lake and they saw an incredibly large animal come out of the woods. It had a human head with immense fangs and its tail was both long and stout and its claws were remarkably large. It had a sword in each claw and both were large and gleaming in the sunlight. When this finngalkin came at the men, she howled menacingly and killed five men in the first attack. She cut down two of them with her swords, a third she bit with her teeth and two she struck with her tail. Within a few minutes, she had killed sixty men. Gardar grabbed his sword and dashed out naked against the finngalkin and he struck her with a blow so hard that it smashed one of the swords from her claw and way out into the lake, but she hit him with the other sword, and he fell, injured. Then, as she jumped on top of him, Sirnir rushed in with his sword that never failed, named Snidil, best of all blades, and he struck the beast, and knocked the second sword into the water. The finngalkin then trampled him until he was unconscious. Men who escaped ran to the ships and told Oddi that the foster-brothers and many others had been killed and said that no one could stand against the beast. “Please, Odd,” they cried, “save us and sail away from this place as quickly as possible.”
“That would be a great shame,” said Oddi. “To flee and not avenge my sworn brothers, such valiant heroes? I’ll never do it.” He took his quiver and went ashore and when he had gone but a short way, he heard a frightening noise. A few steps more and Oddi spotted the finngalkin. He put one of Gusir’s Gifts to the bowstring and shot it into the eye of the monster and out the back of her head. The finngalkin charged so fast that Oddi could not use the bow. It clawed at his chest so hard that he fell on his back, but the shirt kept him from being killed. Swiftly he drew his sword while rolling to the side of her and cut off the beast’s thick tail when it was going to strike him. He kept one hand up so she could not bite at him as she ran toward the woods screaming horribly. Oddi then shot another of Gusir’s Gifts. It hit the beast square in the back, right in the heart and through the breast and the finngalkin fell forward quite dead. Many people ran up to the monster then and hacked and hewed, those who had not dared come close before. The beast was struck asunder. Oddi burned the remains so it could not be revived by magic and he had the sworn brothers taken to Fair Faxi to be healed.
They found Raudgrani and the survivors left England and overwintered in Denmark. Raudgrani knew that by staying in Denmark, Arrow Odd was hoping that Ogmund Eythjofsbane Tussock would feel compelled to join him there, but Ogmund never showed. With spring came raiding, so he and Gardar and Sirnir went to war and as they were getting ready to sail, Raudgrani joined them. He asked Oddi where he wanted to go and Oddi said he wanted to search for Ogmund Eythjofsbane Tussock.
“It seems to me that you search for sorrow,” said Raudgrani. “Every time you come up against him you lose those dear to you. It’s unlikely that Ogmund has changed since you parted. But I know where he has gone and I can tell you if you’re interested.” Oddi nodded. “He went east to the giant Geirrod in Geirrodargard and has married his daughter, Geirrid, and both are the worst of trolls, and I advise you not to go there.” Oddi said he was going anyway.
Then they readied their ships to go east, the sworn brothers, and when they reached Geirrodargard, they saw a man fishing in a boat. It was Ogmund Eythjofsbane Tussock and he wore a shaggy cape. When he had escaped from Oddi, he travelled east and he became the son-in-law of Geirrod the giant, and he claimed tribute from all the kings of the Baltic such that they would each year send him their beards and moustaches. Ogmund had used them to make the cape that he wore. Oddi and his men headed for the boat, but Ogmund retreated, rowing strongly. The sworn brothers jumped into a boat and rowed rapidly after him, but Tussock rowed so powerfully that the blood brothers could not gain on him. Then Ogmund ran ashore and Oddi was chasing after him, followed by Sirnir, then Gardar, all after Ogmund. But when Ogmund saw them catching up, he spoke, and recited:
“I pray to Geirrod for the gods’ favour,
greatest of warriors, grant me assistance
and my wife quickly to others,
I need now all the aid they can give.”
Geirrod soon showed up with his people, and there were fifty of them in all. Gardar and the rest caught up and then began the greatest of battles. Geirrod hit hard, and in minutes had killed fifteen men. Oddi pulled out one of Gusir’s Gifts and nocked it on the bowstring and shot. It hit Geirrod in the chest and came out at the shoulders, but Geirrod kept coming and he killed three more men before he fell, dead. Geirrid was also a threat because she killed eighteen men in a short time. Gardar turned to her and they traded blows, but Gardar lost his life in the exchange. When Oddi saw it, he was furious. So, he nocked another one of Gusir’s Gifts and shot it into the right armpit of Geirrid and it came out the left. The shot didn’t seem to do anything. She rushed headlong into battle and killed five men in no time. Oddi then shot another of Gusir’s Gifts. It went into her stomach and out one thigh; she died after that hit.
Ogmund, too, was hard in battle, having killed thirty men in a short time before Sirnir turned on him, and they fought hard, and Sirnir was soon wounded. Oddi saw Sirnir giving ground so, he turned that way, but Ogmund saw him and fled in disarray. Sirnir and Oddi went after him and both of them were running very fast. Ogmund was still wearing his fine cape, but when they were almost upon him, Ogmund threw down the cloak and recited:
“Now must I cast away my cloak,
which was made of kings’ beards,
and embroidered with moustaches,
I am grieved to give it up,
But they chase me at full pelt,
Odd and Sirnir, from the battle.”
Now that Ogmund had a lighter load, he pulled away. Oddi steeled himself and ran quicker than Sirnir and, when Ogmund saw that, he turned towards him, and they fought. They were grabbing and punching frantically; Oddi was not as powerful as Ogmund, but Ogmund could not knock him off his feet. Then Sirnir came up with his sword, Snidil, and tried to strike at Ogmund, but when Ogmund saw it he turned and thrust Oddi between them. Then Sirnir held back the stroke and so it went again, that Ogmund used Oddi as a shield and Sirnir had to hold back his strokes. Then Oddi braced both feet against a very solid boulder and grabbed Ogmund’s wrists so hard that he was forced to his knees and Sirnir hacked at Ogmund who had no opportunity to parry the blow with Odd. The stroke hit him on the buttocks and took a chunk out. Sirnir cut so great a slab out of Ogmund’s backside that no mule could carry more. Ogmund was so pained that he sank down into the earth where he was. But Odd was determined to stop his escape and grabbed his beard with both hands with so much force that he tore it from him, beard and skin down to the bone, and much of his face with both cheeks and right on up his forehead to his tussock, and they parted their ways as the ground opened up for Ogmund and the boulder held for Odd. But Oddi kept what he held, dripping with gore as the earth closed above the head of Ogmund and he disappeared into the underworld.
Odd and Sirnir went back to their ships, but they had lost many men and the greatest sorrow was the loss of Gardar. Raudgrani was also gone, and Odd and Sirnir never learned what happened to him during the battle. It was true that he seldom faced danger, but some of the men saw him struggling with giants. He had always given the best advice and never more so than with his last warning, but the sworn brothers never saw Raudgrani again. Men think he may have actually been Odin. The sworn brothers went to Gautland, since Denmark reminded them too much of their losses.