AS for Thorkel, who had been Kolbein’s greatest friend, he could not bear to be at home, nor would he change swords with Gisli, but went his way to a man called Duelling Skeggi, in the isle of Saxa. He was near akin to Kolbein, and in his house Thorkel stayed. In a little while Thorkel egged Skeggi on to avenge his kinsman, and at the same time to woo his sister Thordisa. So they went to Stock–for that was the name of Thorbjorn’s farm–twenty of them together; and when they came to the house, Skeggi began to talk of King Thorbjorn’s son-in-law, and of having Thordisa to wife. But Thorbjorn would not hear of the match. The story went that Bard, Kolbein’s friend, had settled it all with Thordisa; and, at anyrate, Skeggi made up his mind that Bard was to blame for the loss of the match. So he set off to find Bard, and challenged him to fight on the isle of Saxa. Bard said he would be sure to come; he was not worthy to have Thordisa if he did not dare to fight for her with Skeggi. So Thorkel and Skeggi set out for Saxa with twenty-one men in all, and waited for the day fixed for the duel. But when three nights had come and gone, Gisli went to find Bard, and asks whether he were ready for the combat. Bard says, Yes; and asked whether, if he fought, he should have the match.
“’Twill be time to talk of that afterwards,” says Gisli.
“Well,” says Bard, “methinks I had better not fight with Skeggi.”
“Out on thee for a dastard!” says Gisli; “but though thou broughtest us all to shame, still for all that I will go myself.”
Now Gisli goes to the isle with eleven men. Meantime Skeggi had come to the isle and staked out the lists for Bard, and laid down the law of the combat, and after all saw neither him nor any one to fight on the isle in his stead. There was a man named Fox, who was Skeggi’s Smith; and Skeggi bade Fox to carve likenesses of Gisli and Bard: “And see,” he said, “that one stands just behind the back of the other, and this laughingstock shall stand for aye to put them to shame.”
These words Gisli heard in the wood, and called out:
“Thy house-carles shall have other handier work to do. Here behold a man who dares to do battle with thee!”
Then they stepped on the isle and fought, and each bore his own shield before him. Skeggi had a sword called “Warflame,” and with it he smote at Gisli till the blade sang again, and Skeggi chaunted:
“Warflame fierce flickered,
Flaring on Saxa.”
But Gisli smote back at him with his battle-axe, and took off the tail of his shield, and Skeggi’s leg along with it; and as he smote he chaunted:
“Grimly grinned Ogremaw,
Gaping at Skeggi.”
As for Skeggi, he ransomed himself from the island, and went ever after on a wooden leg. But Thorkel went home with his brother Gisli, and now their friendship was pretty good, and Gisli was thought to have grown a great man by these dealings.
That same winter Einar and Sigurd, the sons of Skeggi, set off from their house at Flydroness, with nigh forty men, and marched till they came in the night to Surnadale. They went first to Bard’s house at Hella, and seized all the doors. Two choices were given him: the first, that he should lose his life; the other, that he should go with them against Thorbjorn and his sons. Bard said there were no ties between him and Thorbjorn and his sons. “I set most store on my life,” he says; “as for the other choice, I think nothing of doing it.”
So he set out with them, and ten men followed him. They were then in all fifty men. They come unawares on Thorbjorn’s house at Stock. His men were so arranged that some of them were in the hall and some in the store-room. This store-room Gisli had built some years before, and made it in such wise that every plank had been cut asunder, and a loose panel left in the middle, and on the outside they were all fitted together, while within they were held by iron bolts and bars, and yet on the outside the planks looked as if they were all one piece. The weather that night was in this wise: the air was thick, and the wind sharp; and the blast stood right on to the store-room. Einar and Sigurd heaped a pile of wood both before the hall and the store-room, and set fire to them. But when those in the store-room were aware of this, they threw open the outer door. By the entry stood two large pails or casks of whey, and they took the whey in goat-skins and threw it on the fire, and quenched it thrice. But the foe made the pile up again a little way from the door on either side, and then the fire soon began to catch the beams of the house. The heads of the household were all in that store-room–Thorbjorn, and Thorkel, and Gisli, and Isgerda, and Thordisa. Then Gisli stole away from the doorway to the gable-end, and pushed back the bolts, and thrust out a plank. After that he passed out there, and all the others after him. No men were on the watch there, for they were all guarding the door to see that none came out; but no man was aware of what was happening. Gisli and his kindred followed the smoke away from the house, and so got to the woods, and when they got so far they, turned and looked back, and saw that the hall and the whole homestead were ablaze. Then Gisli chaunted–
“Flames flare fierce o’er roof and rafter,
High the hubbub, loud the laughter;
Hist with croak, and bark with howl,
Ravens flit and gray wolves prowl:
Father mine, for lesser matter
Erst I fleshed my maiden steel
Hear me swear amid this clatter,
Soon our foes my sword shall feel.”
Now these are there in the waste, but their house burns to cold ashes. Those brothers, Einar and Sigurd, never left the spot till they made up their minds that Thorbjorn and his sons, and all his household, had been burnt inside. They were thirty souls who were burnt inside the hall. So wherever those brothers went they told this story, that Thorbjorn was dead and all his household. But Gisli and his kindred never showed themselves till the others were well away. Then they got force together by stealth, and afterwards they fare by night to Bard’s house, and set fire to the homestead, and burnt it up, and the men who were inside it. When they had done that deed, they went back and set about rebuilding their house. All at once Gisli took himself off, and no man knew what had become of him; but when spring came he came with it. Then they set to work and sold their lands secretly, but their goods and chattels they carried off. Now it was plain that Thorbjorn and his sons meant to change their abode and leave Norway; and that was why Gisli had gone away, that he might be busy building their ship. And all this was done so silently that few knew they had broken up their household before they had gone on shipboard, thirty men told, besides women. After that they hold on their course for the sea, and lay to in a haven under the lee of an island, and meant to wait there for a fair wind.
One day when the weather was good Gisli and his brother got into their boats. Ten men stayed behind with their ship, and ten got into each of the boats; but Thorbjorn stayed by the ship. Gisli and his brother row north along the land, and steer for Flydroness; for Gisli says he wishes to look those brothers up ere he leaves Norway for good and all. But when they got to Flydroness they hear that Einar and Sigurd had gone from home to gather King Hacon’s dues. So Gisli and his men turned after them, and lay in wait for them in the path which they knew they must take. Those brothers were fifteen in all, and so they met, and there was a hard light. The end of it was that Einar and Sigurd fell, and all their followers. Gisli slew five men and Thorkel three. When the fight was over, Gisli says he has got an errand to do up at the farm. And Gisli went up to the farm, and into the hall, and sees where Skeggi lies, and comes on him, and hews off his head. They sacked the house, and behaved as much like enemies as they could, and took all they could carry with them. After that they row to their ships, and landed on the island, and made a great sacrifice, and vowed vows for a fair wind, and the wind comes. So they put to sea, and have Iceland in their mind’s eye.
From “The Saga of Gisli the Outlaw”