THAT summer, there came a ship from the sea into Dyrafirth, owned by two brothers, Norsemen. One’s name was Thorir, and the other’s Thorarinn. They were men from “the Bay,” in South Norway. The story runs that Thorgrim the Priest rides to the ship, and buys of the captains wood worth four hundreds in woollen, and pays some of the price down, and promises to pay the rest. So the Easterlings made their ship snug at Sandwater-mouth and got winter-quarters for themselves and their men at the house of a man called Oddi who lived in Skutilsfirth. Now Thorgrim sends his son Thorodd to fetch home the wood, and bade him reckon it and know well every plank as he took it. So, he comes up to the ship, and thought the terms of the bargain were not so clear as Thorgrim had told him; for now the Easterlings were unwilling to keep to what they had agreed at first, and the end was that Thorodd spake ill words to the Easterlings. That they would not stand, and fell on him, and slew him there and then. After that the Easterlings left the ship, and took horse, and went to ride to their quarters in Skutilsfirth. They rode all that day and the night after, till they came to the dale which turns off from Skutilsfirth. Here they break their fast, and afterwards rode on again. Meanwhile Thorgrim had heard what had happened; how his son was slain, and the wood not handed over. Then he busked him for a journey, and had himself put across the firth. After the Easterlings he goes, all alone, and comes upon them as they lay and slept on a bit of mead. Thorgrim. wakes Thorarinn, and prods him with the butt of his spear. He springs up, and was about to draw his sword, for he knows Thorgrim, but Thorgrim thrusts his spear through him. Now Thorir wakes and would avenge his brother, but Thorgrim slew him too with his spear. So that is called Breakfastdale, where they broke their fast, and the, Easterlingsfall, where they lost their lives. Now Thorgrim goes home, and is famous for this deed. All that winter he stayed at home; but next spring the two brothers-in-law, Thorgrim and Thorkel, fitted out the ship which the Easterlings had owned for a foreign cruise, and they lade her with their goods, and were to sail for Norway. As for those Easterlings, they had been ill-doers in Norway, and were under a ban there. So they set sail the same summer, and Gisli also went aboard with his brother-in-law Vestein, and they sailed from Skeljawick in Steingrimsfirth. Aunund of Tweendale had care of Thorkel’s and Gisli’s farm while they were away, and Quarrelsome Stein took charge of Thorgrim’s farm at Sæbol, along with his wife Thordisa.
At that time Harold Grayfell ruled over Norway. Thorgrim and Thorkel went north to Drontheim, and met the king there. They went in before him, and hailed him, and he was gracious to them. They became his thanes. They were well off both for goods and honour. As for Gisli and Vestein they were more than a hundred days out, and about the first day of winter came upon the coast of Hordaland in Norway, in a great fog and storm, at dead of night. Their ship was dashed to pieces, but they saved their goods and crew. There was a man off the coast called Beard-Bjalf. He owned a ship, and was on his way to Denmark. So Gisli and Vestein dealt with him for half the ship. He heard they were brave fellows, and gave them half the ship, and they repaid him at once by giving him more than half her worth in goods. So they held on their course for Denmark to that mart called Viborg. They stayed there that winter with a man called Sigrhadd. There they were all three in good fellowship–Gisli, Vestein, and Bjalf. They were great friends, and many gifts passed between them. At that time Christianity had come into Denmark, and Gisli and his companions were marked with the cross, for it was much the wont in those days of all who went on trading voyages; for so they entered into full fellowship with Christian men. Early the spring after, Bjalf fitted out his ship for Iceland. Now there was a man named Sigurd, a Norseman: he was a trading partner of Vestein’s, and was then away west in England. He sent word to Vestein, and said he wished to cease partnership with him, for he thought he needed his goods no longer. So Vestein asked leave of Gisli to go to meet him; “for,” he said, “I have money and goods to seek in that country.”
“Thou shalt pledge me thy word first,” said Gisli, “never to leave Iceland again, if thou comest safe back, unless I give thee leave.”
To that Vestein agreed.
Next morning Gisli rises up early and goes to the smithy. He was the handiest of men, and had the quickest wit. So Gisli smithies a silver coin which weighed an ounce. He bent back the coin and broke it in two, and forged it with twenty teeth. When it was in two pieces there were ten teeth on one bit and ten on the other, but when they were put together it looked as though it were one whole; yet it might be taken asunder at once. Now Gisli takes the coin in two, and gives one half into Vestein’s hand, and the other he keeps himself, He bids him keep that as a token if anything befell them which they thought of weight. “And,” says Gisli, we will only send these tokens between us if our life is at stake; and in truth my heart tells me we shall need to send them, though we do not see each other face to face.”
With that they parted, and Vestein sails to England, but Gisli and Bjalf to Norway. That summer they set sail for Iceland, and had thriven well in goods and honour, and they ceased their partnership, and Bjalf bought back the half of the ship that Gisli owned. So Gisli goes home to his house in Dyrafirth with twelve men. That same spring Thorgrim and Thorkel fitted out their ship and came to Dyrafirth in the summer; and the very same day that Gisli had sailed into the mouth of the Hawkdale river Thorgrim and Thorkel sailed into it after him. So those brothers, Gisli and Thorkel, met; and that was a very joyful meeting.
So each of them went to his own home.
From: The Story/Saga of Gisli the Outlaw
Translated From The Icelandic Sir George Webbe Dasent D.C.L. With Illustrations By C. E. St. John-Mildmay