Swain's Vengeance

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SWAINS
VENGEANGE
A Complete
Novelette
by
Arthur D. Howden Smith

Author of "A Son of Strife," "Beyond the Sunset," etc.

 

I

SWAIN OLAF'S son stood on the battlements of Lambaborg and stared down at the gray North Sea and the single, bluff-bowed craft that was scudding before the Spring gale out of the north. For a moment he thought of ordering his own men into the dragon, Deathbringer, that tugged impatiently at taut moorings in the cove beneath the headland, but a second glance assured him of two things—the stranger was neither large enough to be a menace nor rich enough to warrant a sally in such a sea, and in any case, she was edging into shore with the obvious purpose of making the shelter of the cove.

"No Norseman," he muttered to himself. "Scotch, by every line of her. Yet she must come from the Orkneys or beyond. Perhaps she'll carry word from Jarl Paul."

He waited until she was safe under the headland, then descended from the wall and crossed the court to the skalli which occupied its center, ringed by the huts of the sturdy viking-farers who shared the lot of his outlawry. Here he tarried long enough to thrust his head inside the aleroom to bellow an order to the Italian cook he had captured on last Summer's cruise, and passed out the gate. At the foot of the cliff he met a crowd of his men escorting a man and woman, who led a handsome boy just out of babyhood. They were all three richly clad, and the elders moved with an air of assurance, despite the menacing walls of the borg and the savage vikings who surrounded them. But Swain had known many fugitives who were richly clad in the beginnings of their flights, and he frowned.

"Who are you?" he demanded abruptly, as they stopped at his approach. "If you have come here for mercy or for protection you have your trouble for your pains. I am an outlaw, and these men with me are outlaws, too. We have no friends; we give no protection; we show no mercy."

Both the men and the woman laughed.

"I can see that you are Swain Olaf's son," said the man.

"It would be strange if you could not," Swain retorted.

"We know you because you have a rough tongue and a quick tongue, as all men say," answered the woman.

"The winds blow your words away," said Swain impatiently. "You have not told me who you are."

"I am Jarl Maddad of Atjoklar,"[1] answered the man, "and this is Margaret, my wife. We have been to visit her brother, Jarl Paul, at Orphir, and we stopped on our voyage home to Scotland because we have news of the Orkneys which we thought might interest you."

Swain's face cleared.

"Have you a message from Jarl Paul, lady?" he asked Margaret eagerly.

She shook her head.

"No, Swain, we heard only complaints of you from Jarl Paul."

This time Swain looked from one to the other of them, puzzled. He paid no attention to the child, even when the boy fearlessly came toward him and fingered the scabbard of his sword.

"Come," he said finally. "If you have sailed this far to visit me, at the least you shall have such hospitality as I can offer. We will talk later."

He led the way back up the path to the gate in the wall of the borg which crowned the summit of the headland. At the gate the woman halted to inspect the view.

"A choice hold for an outlaw," she remarked.

"It serves," rejoined Swain.

"How long has it been?" she inquired softly.

"Two years."

"A long time, Swain. They say Asleif, your mother, weeps for you."

Swain cursed under his breath.

"In the skalli we will talk," he said. "But I warn you that you do not commend yourself to me. You are Jarl Paul's sister, to begin with, and you have a trick of annoying me, to cap it off. It is true that the Scots king would make trouble for me if I did away with you, but there are other places than Lambaborg I know of, and no Jarl's anger or king's rage can keep me from visiting punishment where I think it due."

"That is your reputation, Swain," the man interposed hastily. "We have come here to do you a service."

"That is to be seen," said Swain, and turned on his heel.

At the skalli door he dismissed the throng of vikings with a gesture, and ushered his guests into the hall, where the high table was ready spread. And not another word did he speak until they had eaten and their ale-horns were filled. After his own custom, he drank water from a cup, and at the end of the meal the man spoke of this.

"They say you killed Swain Briostreip, Jarl Paul's forecastle man, because he called you a water-drinker, Swain."

"They say lies," returned Swain curtly. "I slew him because he forced a fight upon me. It was his life or mine. Moreover, he was a black sorcerer, as ail men know.

"My version is Jarl Paul's," answered Jarl Maddad.

"And Witch Frakork's," added the Lady Margaret in her soft voice.

Her husband was a man of middling size, cunning of face, plausible, conciliating. She was largely built and domineering. Swain turned to her, flushing noticeably.

"What is that you say?" he cried.

"It is of interest to you, then?" she inquired, almost mocking.

His eyes met hers, steadily morose—and hers dropped.

"Frakork and Olvir Rosta, her grandson, slew my father and Valthiof, my brother," he replied. "What they say of me can interest no honest man or woman. They are my deadly enemies, aye, and Jarl Paul's."

"Once his, but no longer," she corrected him.

"No longer! Lady, you must be witless. They——"

"Witless I may be, Swain, yet Jarl Paul, my brother, listens to them. Two days since he sent out a summons for a Thing to be held at Orphir, at which they will move for lifting of the outlawry against Frakork and Olvir on account of your father's and brother's deaths, because, they say, you being an outlaw, it is unfair to hold them accountable for deaths in an outlaw's family."

Swain crouched forward in his chair, white-faced and terrible.

"By the old gods!" he swore. "And this is justice! Did not Frakork and Olvir plot with Jarl Paul's cousin, Rognvald, to unseat him? And but for me and my father they would have succeeded! Aye, this is justice! This is Jarl Paul's answer to me because I refused the demand he sent me last Yule that I divide my viking spoils with him."

"He says Lambaborg is as much in his lands of Caithness as in my king's," said Jarl Maddad. "If you, in your outlawry, venture here——"

"This is no man's land," interrupted Swain. "No Jarl of the Orkneys ever made his rule felt here, and as for your Scots king, he bid me remain because I was a protection for the coast against worse than I. Those were his words. But I cared not whether he gave me leave or no. I am my own master, and shall be, so long as Jarl Paul's writ of outlawry runs against me. I have Deathbringer and a crew of stout carls and the world to roam."

"You are a man of spirit," applauded the Lady Margaret, softly persuasive.

Swain regarded her with distaste, but his attention was distracted at the moment by a tug at his belt. The son of his guests, having eaten to repletion, had clambered to the floor.

"Swain!" piped the boy. "Swain! Give me your sword to play with."

Swain chuckled in the midst of his sour mood.

"It is overlong and sharp for such as you, manling. What would you do with it?"

"Cut off the head of my uncle."

Swain peered up sharply at the two beside him. Then caught the boy's arm.

"Your uncle? Jarl Paul? Why?"

"Because he will not take me to rule with him."

Swain lifted the child over the table and down upon the floor of the hall.

"Run about, fly-catcher," he ordered. "There are odd holes to discover. Bid the man in the kitchen give you some of that sweet powder we had of the dromon from Mikligard."[2]

And as the boy pattered off, he turned again to Jarl Maddad and the Lady Margaret.

"So!" he murmured. "There was other reason for your coming here than to give me tidings of my troubles."

The man was disconcerted, but the woman accepted the situation without a qualm.

"Why not?" she said. "And you might have worse allies than we."

"I need no allies," growled Swain.

"That is foolish," she reproved him. "No man is strong enough to fight without allies—especially, if it happens, as in your case, that they are ready to your hand."

"Do you mean that Jarl Maddad will lend me men and money?" demanded Swain.

"No, Swain," replied Maddad, for himself. "That is not necessary. Rognvald is in Norway, still eager to win a Jarldom in the Orkneys, and he will aid you with all he has if you ask him. He waits for a sign that there will be a faction ready to welcome him—and such a faction would spring up under your leadership, for there will be much discontent if Jarl Paul pardons Frakork and Olvir."

"But how will you benefit by that?" asked Swain shrewdly.

"You could arrange it with Rognvald," suggested Margaret. "There is room for two souls in the Orkneys, and our aid will be worth——"

"You said you would not aid," Swain reminded her.

"No, Swain, I said I would not lend you men and money—at this time," denied Maddad.

"But why should I aid you at all?" pressed Swain.

Maddad shrugged his shoulders, but a sudden light glowed in the woman's eyes.

"For several reasons," she answered. "For one, because it would be just—you have seen our son; you can judge he will grow to become a creditable man; you know that Jarl Paul has no sons of his own; he refuses us only because he dislikes to divide his power. For another reason, it would not be a disadvantage to have a jarl of the Orkneys and his family under obligation to you."

"Humph," growled Swain, reflecting.

There was a scurry of feet, and the boy raced in from the kitchen, licking his fingers.

"Hi, Swain, that is good to eat, that sweet powder," he called.

Swain chuckled again.

"He is a proper manling," he commented. "What is his name?"

"Harald," said the mother, and her voice throbbed. "He is our youngest. Without the Orkneys, he will have nothing."

"The lot of many others," returned Swain unsympathetically, and rose.

"Will you help us?" inquired Jarl Maddad.

Swain shook his head.

"No, myself."

"Do you mean you will do nothing?" asked the Lady Margaret, sweeping the child into her arms.

"I mean no more than I have said."

"But you can do nothing alone," she urged.

"That is to be seen. Are you so anxious for me to destroy your brother?"

Her face darkened with hatred.

"No brother of mine! He turned me away like a dog."

Swain pulled his golden-red beard.

"I will see how he receives me," he said.

"Will you go to him?" asked Jarl Maddad, surprized. "Man, he has come to hate you! Swain Briostreip, whom you slew, was his favorite. And since you refused to share your viking spoils with him he will not hear your name spoken without raging that you are the evilest of all his people. Men say—" he hesitated, and crossed himself—"Frakork is a witch and has spelled him against you."

"I know her spells," roared Swain with a mighty laugh. "They are not proof against the sword."

"You will require all your men at your back," insisted Maddad.

"I will go to him alone."

"The man is mad!" cried the Lady Margaret.

"You will not stand a chance for your life," exclaimed Jarl Maddad. "An outlaw! Why, any may slay you."

"Let them try!" bellowed Swain.

"Aye, let them, Swain!" shrilled the boy Harald. "We will fight them off, eh?"

Swain's laughter shook the roof-beams.

"You are a better man than he who got you!" he shouted boisterously. "You should go far, boy. Perhaps I shall use you, after all—if Jarl Paul is unreasonable. But first we will try if he has his wits left free of Frakork's spells."

Maddad came closer to him.

"I have no men to spare," he said; "but if gold——"

Swain shoved him away against the table.

"Keep your gold! I am fighting for myself, not you. What? Do you think I'll pull your apples from the fire for you? By the old gods! Not I! I am one who uses others; I have no liking for others' using me."

And this was the true way of the coming into Swain Olaf's son's—whom some men began to call Asleif's son, because of his father's death—life of Harald Maddad's son, who was afterward, under Swain's tuition, to become one of the greatest men of the Northern Isles and a fast friend to Swain—when they were not enemies, as all of Swain's friends were at times, for he was a hard man, and bitter, and heavy with his hand. All of which shall be made clear in its proper place.

 

II

THE next morning the wind moderated, and Swain, having seen his guests off to the south, put himself into a fishing-boat without a man for company and sailed north for the Orkneys. In command of the viking-farers he left Osbiom Grim's son, who was as close to him as a brother and as loyal as his sword. And it is to be told of Osbiorn and all their company that they stood in ranks upon the beach of the cove under Lambaborg and watched Swain's sail until it was out of sight, for Swain was a leader men cleaved to, either loving him or hating him. For women, except his mother, Asleif, he had little use, holding them to be encumbrances upon a fighting-man and given to backbiting and tale-bearing.

"I think, Swain, you go to your death," said Osbiorn as he laid his shoulder to the little boat's stern to shove her out into the surf.

"That is to be seen," answered Swain.

"And if it falls out so, we shall be leaderless," continued Osbiorn.

"No, for I name you leader in my place," said Swain. "Bide here three days, and if I am not back upon the fourth day take such action as seems best to you."

"That will be a red burning at Orphir," remarked Osbiorn grimly.

Swain sailed with a quartering wind, steering by the eastward of Rognvaldsey, Borgarey and Deerness of Hrossey, and rounding the Muli of Deerness he ran to the northwest through the broader water between Hjalpandisey and Strionsey and so came to Gairsey, the isle which Jarl Paul had given to his father after the defeat of Rognvald's first attempt to compel Jarl Paul to divide the Orkneys with him. This was at the coming of dusk, and no man saw Swain land in a sheltered cove of the isle's north coast. He walked quickly by remembered paths over moor and fell to the steading where his mother dwelt with his younger brother, Gunni, and knocked upon the skalli door.

Asleif opened it, and at first she did not know her son, for Swain had grown mightily in the two years since she had seen him. His face was ruddied by wind and salt-sting; there was a cut across his cheekbone where a Moslem simitar had slashed, and his red-gold beard covered his broad chest. Also, he was dressed with a richness she was not accustomed to in fabrics from Mikligard[3] and the wealthy southern countries.

"Ho, mother," he rumbled, "do you deny your son?"

And he swept her in his arms.

"Swain!" she gasped. "You are mad to be here. Jarl Paul holds a Thing at Orphir to grant pardon to Frakork."

"That is why I am here."

"But he will ask also for indefinite outlawry against you. He says you wax rich upon viking spoils, and will not make tribute to your lord."

"All of this I have come to discuss with him."

She pushed her flat palms against his chest so as to be able to look up into his face.

"Now, do I think Frakork has woven a spell upon you!" she exclaimed. "Do you not know, too, that Jarl Paul has served notice that he takes back from us the lands on Straumsey your brother Valthiof held of him and Frakork's in Caithness which he gave to your father?"

A black look settled upon Swain's face, and he led her inside.

"Where is my brother, Gunni, that he tolerates this?" he demanded.

"Gunni has done what he may," replied Asleif. "He is now at Orphir to attend the Thing and protest against the Jarl's decision."

"Gunni is overyoung to face the Jarl," said Swain. "It is a good thing that I am here. Jarl Paul will hear truth for once."

"And his house-carls will slay you!"

"Then others will be slain, but I think the Orkney folk will see justice done—and even an outlaw should be allowed to speak when the Jarl would pardon his father's slayers."

Asleif tossed up her hands in sign of her helplessness.

"If you will go to your death, you will. I have said what I may. Now, do you tell me what I may do for you?"

She did not weep because she was of those women who face danger dry-eyed. Swain patted her shoulder approvingly, and pulled her down beside him upon the high seat of the hall.

"When is the Thing?"

"On the morrow."

"That is good! I shall not have to remain hidden. Tell me, mother, how do the people regard the Jarl's new favor for Frakork?"

"They like it not, Swain; but they say they have had an easy rule under Jarl Paul, and if he cares to traffic with a witch, that is between him and Bishop William."

"Humph," rasped Swain, deep in his throat. "Then we have Bishop William on our side."

"But he will not go far, Swain. Remember, he was glad that you killed Swain Briostreip, who was as much of a sorcerer as Frakork is a witch, yet he could not save you from outlawry."

"I remember. Is Jarl Paul still fearful of Rognvald in Norway?"

Aslief regarded him with a hint of surprize.

"Yes, he has had beacons built on all the islands north to Fridarey, so that the people may signal the coming of any strange longships."

Swain considered this for some moments, whilst the hearth-fire sputtered.

"That is to be taken into account," he muttered.

And rousing himself, he continued:

"But I am weary, mother. Give me food, and let me sleep. I have much to do on the morrow."

"You will not go to Orphir?" she pressed. "At the least, take some of our people with you."

"So that they may be hewn down by Jarl Paul's house-carls? Not I! See you, mother, I might have come in Deathbringer, with a hundred viking-farers at my back; but that would have meant fighting, and perhaps, the odds against me. No, this is work for one man to do with his wits. I will offer Olvir Rosta a free cut at my neck if I can not outwit Jarl Paul, who is grown grasping and sly with the years."

The flames on the hearth leaped higher and illuminated his stalwart figure and bold face. A gleam of mingled love and admiration dawned in Asleif's eyes, and flowered to hope, to confidence.

"It is something to have borne such a son," she cried. "I will pray tonight to the old gods and the White Christ. It is hard sometimes to know which works swiftest."

Swain laughed carelessly.

"The gods are well enough for women," he said. "But a man puts his trust in his sword."

 

III

LONG before dawn Swain was in his boat again, and crossed the narrow waters of the Aurrida Firth to Hrossey. There he beached his craft, and set off on foot across the neck of the island to Orphir, going by way of the fells because he saw early folk astir upon the footpath. The sun was riding high when he came out upon the hillside over Orphir and looked down upon the close-packed ranks of the Thing in the open space before the Jail's steading.

He wrapped his cloak around him, the better to conceal the mail he wore and his splendid garments, and strode down the hillside without more ado, forcing his way between the outer circles of commonfolk who surrounded the boendr and odalmen, who, in turn, stood before the Jarl and the bishop and his clerks.

Swain's keen gaze identified his enemies at the Jarl's left hand, Frakork, tall and stately in her clinging robes, trimmed with fur, her gray hair decently dressed, her full, unlined face defying the pressure of the age she had reached, her cold, green eyes shifting from man to man, as she mustered friend and foe in the secret chamber of her mind; Olvir Rosta, of an equal age with himself, squat in build, immensely broad of shoulder and long of arm, with a coal-black beard masking his swart and lowering face.

Opposite them, consternation and anger struggling for control in his frank countenance, was Swain's younger brother, Gunni. And on the Jarl's right stood Bishop William, mitered and robed, crozier in hand, staring straight in front of him as if he had no desire to concern himself in the proceedings.

Jarl Paul was speaking as Swain reached the edge of the inner circle, and his words carried clearly in the still air, for there was not so much as the creak of a sword-belt to interrupt him.

"This is a simple matter to be judged, and if I have called together the boendr to hear my decision it is only that men may not say afterward that I did it secretly. Several years since when Olaf of Dungelsbae was alive I augmented his lands considerably, seeing that he had three sons to aid him in managing them. But now he and one of his sons are dead, and another son is outlawed. It is bad for all that so much land should be left in the hands of a woman and one youth, and therefore I have decided to take back Straumsey that Valthiof Olaf's son held and the lands in Caithness that were once Frakork Maddan's daughter's, and which I gave to Olaf."

Gunni leaped forward, his body trembling with rage.

"Do you call this justice, Lord Jarl?" he challenged.

Swain smiled in his beard.

"There is good stuff in this boy, it seems," he murmured to himself.

Jarl Paul smiled tolerantly. He was a man of middle height, mild in his manner and temperate in his habits, but much given to falling under the influence of whoever happened to have his ear last, vain of his dignity and a great stickler for what he thought was due him.

"Certainly, it is justice, Gunni," he said. "It is for the Jarl to think of the well-being of all."

"Have my mother and I refused you rent or service for anything we held?"

"No, but you have not cultivated or employed all of your lands," returned the Jarl, still good-humored.

"And for that the reason is that my brother Swain is kept outlawed, with nigh an hundred strong fellows, for a deed he did two years and more gone, and for which he has offered twice to pay manbote and scathe," Gunni shouted.

Jarl Paul frowned.

"The less you say about Swain, the better you will please me," he warned. "He is an outlaw who shows no respect for his lord."

Gunni was incensed past reason.

"You would not say so, if Frakork had not bewitched you," he cried. "The truth is, you intend to take back these lands from us, and give them to her and Olvir Rosta, whom you outlawed for rebellion against yourself, as well as for the slaying of my father and Valthiof, my brother."

There was a lurching of shoulders throughout the ranks of the Thing at such straight talk, and Swain hovered upon the verge of action. Jarl Paul's frown became a scowl.

"You are insolent, Gunni," he said. "Beware lest I bid my house-carls whip you hence. It is no concern of yours what I do with the land."

Several men near Swain muttered resentfully at this, for the boendr were always jealous of the Jarl's land-rights; and Swain judged the time had come for his intercession. He pushed between the two in front of him, and walked into the midst of the open space, one hand on his sword. A gasp came from the huddled ranks. Frakork's green eyes blazed with a cold flame, and Olvir took one pace forward before his grandmother's hand checked him. Jarl Paul gaped with fallen jaw. As for the bishop, he stole one swift glance at the newcomer, then resumed his attitude of stolid indifference.

"There has been talk here of Swain Olaf's son," remarked Swain coolly. "Also, it came to my ears recently at Lambaborg that Jarl Paul would deal with my family's lands and the slayers of my father and brother at this Thing, and since I have found it impossible to treat with him concerning my outlawry from a distance, I decided to come myself to Orphir, and try to compose our differences."

"Seize him, house-carls," stammered the Jarl, and again Olvir Rosta started forward.

But a cry rose from the boendr and odalmen, and even from the common men outside the circle, a cry which was taken up and repeated, although not every one joined in it.

"Not so, Lord Jarl!" "Does he come in peace?" "Speak him, does he come in peace, lord!" And more to the same purpose.

The bishop grasped more firmly the staff of his crozier as if about to arise, but sat back in his chair after a stealthy survey of the Jarl's face.

It was noticeable that the group of housecarls at the Jarl's back had not leaped to obey his command. Swain smiled a grim smile; his hand left his sword-hilt.

"Perhaps my coming was unexpected," he observed bluntly. "I ask pardon of all for that, but the fact is I have traveled day and night, in order to reach here. Greetings, Lord Jarl! Your blessing, Father Bishop! Gunni, I am not ashamed to own you brother."

Gunni grinned uncertainly.

"I am no viking-farer, Swain, but what I can do I will to see you safe," he replied.

"I shall go safe," answered Swain. "And I come in peace."

Jarl Paul's face showed inflamed with rage through the hair of his beard.

"You are an outlaw," he rasped. "You have no place on the Thingstead."

"Why, that is true," admitted Swain, "but I see that I am not the only outlaw peaceably admitted."

And he nodded toward Frakork and Olvir Rosta. A murmur of assent greeted his words, for many of the boendr were not friendly to these two, and the people ever favored a brave man who was not afraid to outface the Jarl.

"Nevertheless, there is a difference," asserted the Jarl now, ordering his words with difficulty. "Frakork has offered to compound her misdeeds."

"With me?" questioned Swain.

"With you and also with Jarl Paul," answered Frakork, speaking for the first time.

Her voice had a peculiar chilling intonation which made people shudder. Swain only laughed aloud.

"As both you and Frakork know, Lord Jarl," he said, "neither I nor my mother nor my brother here will accept manbote from Frakork and Olvir. There are two killings between us, and they will remain between us until we have two killings to order against them."

Jarl Paul started to speak, but Swain raised his voice and continued:

"Moreover, Lord Jarl, I marvel that you could compound with Frakork and Olvir for their offenses against you. Did not Frakork weave a poisoned shirt for you, which, by mistake, slew your brother, Harald? Did not she and Olvir plot with Rognvald in Norway to drive you from the islands? Did they not fight you off the Muli in a battle I won for you?"

"That last is an old story," sneered the Jarl. "Some men say it was not you, but Swain Briostreip who cast the stone which knocked Olvir overboard."

"Ask Olvir," replied Swain.

All eyes turned toward Frakork's grandson, and he ground his teeth in a grimace of venomous rage.

"One Swain is dead," he mouthed thickly. "The other soon will be."

These words recalled Jarl Paul to the present.

"Yes," he roared, "Swain Olaf's son slew Swain Briostreip, the best friend I owned, for no more than an ill word and after I had expressly bidden him not to accept a quarrel. For that is he outlaw and shall——"

"—stay outlaw until he halves his viking spoils with you," finished Swain smoothly. "Which will be never, Lord Jarl."

He turned to the ring of boendr and odalmen.

"It is right that you should know why I have remained an outlaw, although I am a man of wealth and well able to pay manbote for an ordinary follower like Swain Briostreip," he said. "Twice I have asked the Jarl to end my outlawry, seeing that if I disobeyed his commands in fighting with Swain Briostreip it was because only by so doing could I save my own life; and each time he has answered me with a demand that I pay him manbote for Swain's death, and also one-half of the spoil of my cruises as tribute to my natural lord and overman. I have refused twice. I killed Swain in a quarrel which was not of my making; and I see no reason why I should share with the Jarl treasures I won without any help from him."

"The dragon you rove in I gave you," complained the Jarl, "and your men are my people. Your brother has said that he can not work his lands because you have taken so many away."

"End my outlawry, and they will return for the Spring planting," rejoined Swain.

Another murmur of assent echoed Swain's words. The Jarl mumbled in his beard.

"And besides what I have already said," Swain went on, "I hear now that you are planning to insult my family by restoring your protection to Frakork and Olvir, and to heap insult upon that by taking from us lands to give to them, lands which you took from Frakork aforetime as punishment for her misdeeds and bestowed upon my father as reward for his loyalty. It is ridiculous, Lord Jarl. The scalds will be singing that the ravens plucked forth your wits."

Jarl Paul bounded from his chair, but Frakork took the words from his mouth.

"It is easily to be seen from Swain's own words why Jarl Paul makes it difficult for him to return to his rights," she said. "As also, why our Lord Jarl desires to restore his protection to me and to Olvir, my grandson. Swain is a hard man, as is widely known, and jealous of others; he shows no respect for the Jarl. On the other hand, Olvir and I have as much wealth and as many friends as Swain, but we are glad to live humbly at the Jarl's orders. Swain is a good enemy and a bad friend; we are anxious only to be at peace with our neighbors."

"Until they cross you," jeered Swain.

"We have made our mistakes in the past," admitted Frakork with dignity. "But here we are ready to compose all of them, offering manbote, scathe or fine to any and all who can prove we have offended against them."

"By buying the Jarl's favor," mocked Swain. "That is what you mean. Behold, all who are of the Thing, Jarl Paul has accepted blood-money from a witch!"

The Jarl's sword ripped from its sheath.

"Hew him down, house-carls!" he called this time.

The house-carls advanced, reluctantly enough; but Olvir Rosta shook free of his grandmother and sprang into the midst of the ring with bared blade. A sudden hush gripped the assembly. All looked to see Swain draw, but instead he folded his arms across his breast, with a sarcastic smile.

"I came in peace," he said simply.

Olvir danced forward, mouthing curses. Jarl Paul egged him on.

"Hew him down!" shrieked the Jarl. "A golden arm-ring—two arm-rings—to the man who slays him!"

Frakork's eyes were wickedly alight in her impassive face, but a low, voiceless rumble came from the spectators. The house-carls sensed it, and stopped in their tracks. Not so Olvir, who came nearer to Swain, stepping carefully, fearful of a trick. Gunni called out to his brother.

"Draw sword, Swain! I will keep your back."

Swain only smiled, and Olvir raised his blade to strike. Gunni rushed at him, waving his own sword, and the ring swirled inward to disintegrate as Bishop William gathered his robes around him and sped between the enemies, brandishing his crozier like a spear.

"Back!" thundered the bishop in a voice that had bested the storm in his early viking days.

Olvir, red-eyed, intent upon slaying, placed a hand on the sacred vestments and would have shoved him aside; but Bishop William drove the butt of the crozier into his stomach.

"Back, I said!" he thundered again. "God's curse on the man who disobeys."

Mad with rage, Olvir gave ground, and in the confusion others came between them and herded him away. But none could hold off Jarl Paul, who strode, with bristling beard, into the center of the disturbance.

"Outside the church, I rule in these islands, bishop," he shouted. "I take it ill that you interfered in the execution of an order."

Bishop William refused to retreat.

"I am an old man, Lord Jarl," he answered, "and it is not my wont to interfere; but in this case I have saved you from losing a half of your people."

"You have saved the life of one outlaw," returned the Jarl angrily, and he added, "for a little while."

Bishop William shook his head.

"If Swain is slain there will be such fighting as was never seen at an Orkney Thing."

Several men, safe on the farther edge of the crowd, shouted assent to this.

"Swain shall not die alone!"

"Swain came in peace; let him go in peace."

"Slay him who drew the sword, not him who kept it sheathed."

"I think the Bishop is right, Lord Jarl," said Swain curtly. "Be sure I never intend to die alone."

"Is that a threat?" growled the Jarl.

"No, a promise."

"And here is one I make to you," roared the Jarl. "If I catch you again in my islands you shall die by torture."

Swain smiled.

"Make the most of your threats, Lord Jarl. I think you will not be jarl for very long to foster them."

Once more Bishop William came between them.

"Peace, peace," he urged. "Your friends will be at each other's throats. Let us compose this quietly."

"The one way to compose this is to compass Swain's death," answered the Jarl. "He is a trouble-maker, and I am finished with him."

"We shall see about that," said Swain. "Do you still intend to inlaw Frakork and Olvir and give them the lands of my family?"

"I will give them all your family's lands, if I see fit," snarled Jarl Paul. "Be careful of your conduct, Gunni Olaf's son. You are not outlawed yet, but outlawed you may be."

"I am content if I am in Swain's company," retorted young Gunni.

"Then see that you go with him!"

"No, no," exclaimed the bishop. "Will you outlaw half the islands, Lord Jarl? I tell you all are not with you in this."

"They had better not speak, in that case," returned the Jarl with undiminished passion, "for I am resolved upon having my will."

And with this he left them, and the bishop and his party edged the two brothers out of the field and across the island to Aurridaside where Swain's boat lay; but before Swain set sail the bishop had speech with him in private.

"Did you accomplish what you set out to do, Swain?" he asked.

"I did not thwart Frakork, if that is what you mean," answered Swain.

"No, that is not what I mean," said Bishop William, "because that was not what you had in mind."

"What did I have in mind?" demanded Swain.

The bishop reflected as they stood on the beach. He was leaning on his crozier.

"You can tell the man you will see in Bjorgvin," [4] he replied at last, "that there will be much dissatisfaction for him to work on—but it is due to Swain Olaf's son and not to himself."

"Ah," said Swain, "I see that you understand there are several ways to gain an object, Lord Bishop."

Then he kissed the bishop's ring, and went to say good-by to his brother.

"I know that you are wiser than I, Swain," Gunni greeted him, "but why did you not slay Olvir when the chance came?"

"Because by so doing I should very likely have been slain myself."

"Ah! Yet even so, you might have killed Frakork and the Jarl, as well, and what more could a man ask?"

"Much more, Gunni, as you will see."

"When? How?" inquired Gunni eagerly. "Take me with you, Swain."

"No, for I need you here. Take care of our mother. Keep out of the way of Jarl Paul and Frakork's people, and store up all you hear. Some dark night I will come again."

 

IV

DEATHBRINGER cautiously threaded a path through the crowded haven of Bjorgvin. Iceland traders, with high-built sides to withstand the billows of the North Atlantic; low-waisted Danishmen; broad-beamed English transports; and dozens of lean-flanked Norse dragons and longships, half-pirates, half-merchantmen as occasion served—they lay in motley confusion off the straggling town. Hairy fellows, stripped to the waist in the bright northern sunshine, leaned over bulwarks and shouted to know whence came the strange dragon and whom she served; but Swain steered silently past all inquirers until he reached the position he sought. Then he plumped overboard the anchor-stone; bade his men refuse all opportunities for quarreling; and had the small-boat dropped into the water. Ten minutes later he stood on the beach, and ascertained from the first man he encountered that Rognvald Kol's son lived at Unna's tavern over against St. Olaf's church.

The tavern was a house like any other, with an unusually large drinking-hall and sleeping-rooms opening off the hall and above the floored rafters. The hall was occupied by long tables, lined with benches, and the spaces between them were barely wide enough for the cup-boys and serving-men to pass.

Unna, a stout, sleepy-eyed woman, sat in a corner by the door to ale-room and kitchens. Her tavern was notable—as Swain perceived at the first glance—for the rank of its patrons. They were all lendermen[5] and their followers, and the men who lounged at the tables were distinguished by the quality of their dress and the fineness of their mail. Those at the door regarded Swain askance when he entered, not because of his costume, for it was as rich as theirs, but because he was a stranger, and in Bjorgvin, or for that matter, any place in Norway, the stranger was regarded with suspicion.

Swain never heeded the manner of his reception, but spoke directly, according to his custom, to the man nearest him.

"I am seeking Rognvald Kol's son," he said. "Can you tell me who he is?"

"Perhaps you mean Jarl Rognvald Kol's son," answered the man with a sneer.

"Since when is he a jarl?" returned Swain.

"Since the king made him one," replied the man. "And if you value your life, I advise you to treat him with proper respect."

"Swain's blue eyes bored so fiercely into the Norseman's that the latter looked away.

"I am used to being treated with respect, myself," growled Swain. "You have not yet answered my question."

The man pointed to a table close by.

"There is Jarl Rognvald."

Swain followed the pointing finger, and saw a large, fair man, with a pleasant, open face, who was attended by others in gilded helms. They were drinking ale and talking amongst themselves. Swain walked straight to Jarl Rognvald's side.

"I hear the king has made you a jarl, Rognvald Kol's son," he said. Rognvald and the others at the table looked up in some astonishment.

"That is true," replied Rognvald.

"And of what are you jarl?" asked Swain.

Rognvald's eyes narrowed and his fingers clenched together.

"Who are you who speak to me with such disrespect?" he demanded.

Swain laughed.

"I am he who will show you how to win your jarldom," he answered. "Men call me Swain Olaf's son. I am Orkney-born."

Now, Rognvald laughed, too, as did several of the others at the table.

"I have heard of you," he said. "You are he who was outlawed by Jarl Paul for the slaying of Swain Briostreip."

"That is true," admitted Swain.

"You have a viking hold at Lambaborg in the south of Caithness, men say," pursued Jarl Rognvald.

"That also is true."

"And you say you have come here to aid me?"

"That must depend upon yourself," rejoined Swain. "I can not aid any man who is witless, and I do not yet know you sufficiently well to decide whether you are sensible enough to serve my purpose."

The other men at the table opened their eyes very wide at this plain speaking, and Jarl Rognvald bit his lip.

"You have a harsh tongue, Swain," he commented.

"I have a harsh tongue and a quick tongue," agreed Swain. "I say what I think and fulfill what I promise. Men take me as I am or not at all. I said what I did because I thought you did not show good sense in the conduct of your last attempt upon the Orkneys."

Jarl Rognvald studied him for as long as a man requires to buckle a mail-coat.

"I can not say you are wrong there, Swain," he admitted at last.

Swain plucked by the shoulder the man who sat opposite the Jarl.

"Move over," he said.

The man dumbly obeyed, and Swain took his place.

"I have learned what I required to know," he went on. "A man who will admit that he has been foolish can always learn. Therefore, I will help you, Lord Jarl."

This time Jarl Rognvald laughed.

"It is to be remarked," he pointed out, "that I have not requested your aid."

"Yet will you be glad to have it," replied Swain. "I do not doubt that you and friends of yours have been debating the chances of a second expedition against Jarl Paul since the ice melted in the fiords, and you have not yet seen your way to the attempt."

"Nevertheless, I am going," answered Jarl Rognvald swiftly. "And I am resolved that this time I shall succeed or find a hough[6] in the Orkneys."

"That is good talk," said Swain composedly; "but it does not win battles. Will you take my aid?"

"What have you to offer?"

"My dragon, Deathbringer, and a hundred viking-farers."

Jarl Rognvald's face fell.

"That is well enough, Swain; but I am at no loss for men. I can put six dragons, besides other ships, in the water in a week. What I need is a trick to take Paul by surprize and a way to win a moiety of his people to me."

"The one is almost accomplished and the other will be, if you accept my terms," promised Swain.

"And what are your terms?" asked the Jarl.

"That I and my men be inlawed, that my lands which Jarl Paul has taken be restored to me, and finally, that I have your permission and aid whenever I seek it to revenge myself upon Frakork Maddan's daughter and her grandson, Olvir Rosta, who slew my father and my brother Valthiof."

"Those are easy terms, Swain," said Jarl Rognvald. "Do I understand that you ask for no reward in money or lands?"

"No, for I have sufficient money and can always gain more when I wish it."

"How?" inquired the Jarl curiously.

"With my two hands," returned Swain.

Jarl Rognvald pondered. He was, as all men who knew him declared, no fool, albeit impulsive and hot-headed and inclined for any desperate venture which was commended to him. When Swain came to him he was restless under the Spring viking-fever which creeps into all men's blood, and he was discontented from having labored fruitlessly for more than two years to live down the ridicule which had been aimed at him for the complete failure of his first endeavor to seize the Jarldom of the Orkneys.

"My disposition is to accept your offer," he answered at length. "It is certain that I bear some disgrace for not being able in my first expedition to the Orkneys even to force Jarl Paul to a battle with me, and I can not rest easy until I wipe this out. Moreover, as you know, my claim to the Jarldom is at least as good as Paul's, seeing that my mother, Gunnhild, was daughter to Jarl Erlend, brother of the first Jarl Paul, who was my cousin's grandfather. At the least, I should have one-half the islands, and King Harald has said as much and made me a Jarl and given me a dragon to assist me in upholding my claim."

"All of which is true, as words go," commented Swain impatiently. "But words will not overset Jarl Paul."

Jarl Rognvald smiled.

"If you had a nickname, Swain, it should be Roughtongue. Yet I think you mean it honestly, so I shall not take offense. I will accept your aid upon the terms you name. Here is my hand on the bargain. Now, do you tell me what you propose to do in addition to lending me your dragon and men."

So Swain detailed the results of his attendance at Jarl Paul's Thing at Orphir a few weeks past, as well as the bishop's comment in parting with him on Aurridaside.

"That," he said, "is the edge of the ax we will drive between Jarl Paul and his people."

"It is a good edge upon a good ax," remarked Jarl Rognvald; "but I do not see that you can do more than leave time to drive it home."

"I see how it can be done otherwise," retorted Swain. "Jarl Paul has had beacons prepared upon all the islands north to Fridarey, with watchmen appointed to tend them, so that he may have instant warning of longships coming from the Hjaltlands[7] or Norway."

Jarl Rognvald shook his head.

"This is unfortunate. I had not heard of it. It destroys our chance of surprizing Jarl Paul."

"Not so," replied Swain. "It insures it—as, also, the division of his people."

And then he explained his plan, and the Jarl slapped his hand upon the table.

"Now do I know how you came by such a reputation as a viking-farer in two short years, Swain! It is not many chiefs who combine wit with weapon-skill; but you plan like a clerk or a scald. It is well! Your plan could not be bettered. We will agree to sail for the Hjaltlands[8] this day week, and my friends and I will call up our men from the farms and boun[9] our vessels. Do you bide here with me, for I see that I shall frequently wish to ask your advice."

 

V

JARL ROGNVALD and Swain came to the Hjaltlands in the beginning 0f Summer, with six longships, three transports and five open barges. The Hjaltlanders welcomed them because in these islands any one who was an enemy of Jarl Paul of the Orkneys was regarded as a friend, and moreover, Jarl Rognvald had been very generous with the island people during his previous stay amongst them. But it was not the purpose of Jarl Rognvald and Swain to linger in the Hjaltlands any longer than was necessary to execute the schemes Swain had devised, and they set about this at once.

Their first move was to muster all the transports and barges, eight of them, with sufficient crews, and with these Swain sailed to the southward the next morning. When they sighted the mass of Fridarey low on the horizon, at Swain's order, they lowered their sails until the yards were a third of the way up the masts, and they continued so until they were within range of the eyes of the watchers on the island. It was a clear, cool day with very little haze. And when Swain was certain that their masts must have become visible to the folk on Fridarey he ordered the sails to be gradually hoisted, so that the effect upon the watchers was of ships becoming more distinct as they approached nearer to the island. But he prevented the increased sail area from urging the vessels forward by having the crews row backward against the wind, a trick which had the effect of keeping them practically stationary.

Presently, a puff of smoke rose from the island, and Swain chuckled grimly as he watched the pillar mount higher and higher. He knew that already the beacon-tenders in Rinansey must have seen it, and their signal would be carrying the false intelligence southward to Sandey and on down through the Orkneys to far off Straumsey in the Pentland Firth.

"There goes Jarl Paul's fortune," he said. "Lower sails and pull north, men."

But he, himself, went into a small sailboat that had been towed by one of the transports, and running to the southeast, fetched a wide circle around Fridarey, and so continued, until long past the settling of night, he passed westward between Austreker and Strionsey and navigated the treacherous inner waters to his own isle of Gairsey. Here he landed before dawn, and aroused his mother and Gunni.

"I have no time for love-talk," he said sternly when they were all three safe in Asleif's bower. "I am come on serious business. What happened today, Gunni, when the Jarl's people mustered?"

"How did you know?" cried Gunni blankly.

But Asleif smiled shrewdly.

"So it was you, Swain!" she exclaimed.

"What do you mean by that, mother?" demanded Gunni. "What was Swain?"

"Peace, boy, peace," she bade him, still smiling. "Let Swain tell you himself."

"I see not what he can tell," answered Gunni, nettled. "He can scarcely know of the fighting that fell out at Hrossey only a few hours back."

"I may not know of it," returned Swain, "but I caused it."

"Oh, those were your ships, then, they signaled from Fridarey? Why did you turn back? You might have been master of the Orkneys by now."

"That will come," said Swain. "I turned back for a purpose. Now, do you tell me what happened afterward."

"Why, the boendr and their folk all mustered at Kirkiuvag[10] in Hrossey according to the Jarl's plan, when the smokes were seen; but nothing happened all day, and at last when the watchmen from Fridarey and Rinansey arrived there was much bitter talk, especially after the Fridarey folk admitted that the strange vessels had sailed away. It ended in blows and some slaughter, and we all separated and went home, muttering against Jarl Paul and his plans. I'll warrant you, he'll never secure such another general attendance at a muster, Swain, yet if you had rowed in about sunset when the fighting was on one-half the men would have taken your side."

"And so they will when the right time comes," answered Swain. "This has worked out as I had foreseen. But what of Bishop William?"

"He is on ill terms with Jarl Paul, and the Jarl is sore set against him," replied Asleif. "As you know, Swain, he is my cousin on the side of my mother, and he comes in frequently for a horn of ale when he passes to and from Egilsey. He speaks of you often, and has said it is sad to think that after you slew Swain Briostreip, the worst sorcerer in the islands, and so removed the Jarl from an evil influence, the Jarl should take up anew with a foul witch like Frakork, again to your despite."

"I shall attend to Frakork and Olvir Rosta, mother," said Swain. "Are they with Jarl Paul?"

"No, they have gone to plant the lands he restored to them at Morkaorsbakki in Caithness, the same which he took back from us."

"When I have settled matters between Jarl Rognvald and Jarl Paul I will see to their broiling," growled Swain. "They will come to small profit by their cozening of this witless Jarl, who has grown niddering with his years. But I have work for both of you to do, and I must depart before men see me.

"This day week, Gunni, I would have you sail to Fridarey, putting in there as if you had been fishing and were overtaken by night. After dark make excuse so that you can go to the new beacon they will have built, and soak it with water so that it will not burn."

Gunni's eyes blazed with excitement.

"You can trust me, Swain. I'll not fail you! And you will be coming then with Jarl Rognvald?"

"I shall be coming. If not that day, the next. So if it storms you must stay on Fridarey by one pretext or another and see to it that the beacon is kept wet. I think we will come by the westward and through Straumsness to Orphir. We will hunt the badger out of his hole. This brings me to your part, mother. I must have Bishop William with us. Can we rely upon him?"

She shook her head.

"No man can rely upon Bishop William, Swain. He fights for his own hand. For the present, he is against Jarl Paul because he thinks the Jarl does not pay enough attention to religion; but if Jarl Paul made it worth his while I doubt not he would veer around again."

"Then it comes to this," said Swain. "To be sure of the bishop, we must promise him what he desires."

"Yes."

"What is that?"

Asleif thought for a long time.

"The east is whitening," Swain reminded her.

"I know it, my son, but this is a hard question. I think, though, that he feels most the humiliation of being a bishop without a great church such as are built in the southern countries."

Swain's face lightened.

"Ho, that is an easy wish to gratify," he remarked. "Do you go to Egilsey in the morning, mother, and tell him that Jarl Rognvald sends him word by me that when Rognvald is Jarl he will build him the greatest minster in all the northern countries."

"But what will Rognvald say?" objected Asleif.

"He will say what I bid him to," replied Swain casually. "And now I must be off."

 

VI

JARL ROGNVALD was so delighted with the success of Swain's schemes that he agreed as readily as Swain had supposed he would to take upon himself to vow a cathedral for the Orkneys; and in the ensuing week they overhauled their shipping and made ready the weapons of the crews. The eighth day from Swain's leaving Gairsey was clear and cloudless, with an east wind such as is easiest for navigating the west coast of the Orkneys, and the fleet set forth upon the venture with shield-hung sides and bristling spears on forecastle and poop.

They passed Fridarey within easy sight, and all eyes watched for the tell-tale smoke of the beacon; but Gunni evidently had performed the task assigned to him, and in those sparsely-wooded regions it was impossible to gather a considerable heap of firewood on short notice. They skirted the coast of Hrossey, the principal island of the group, turned southeast by Straumsness and made Orphir in late afternoon. Men scurried from the farms and the group of buildings in Jarl Paul's steading. Faint shouts were wafted across the water. Messengers ran in every direction. But when Jarl Rognvald's men climbed ashore Jarl Paul's people retired sullenly without casting a spear. They were taken by surprize, and hopelessly outnumbered. Rognvald and his chiefs sat to their evening meal in the great hall of Jarl Paul's skalli, eating the food that had been prepared for him and drinking his mead and ale.

In the morning Swain and his men, who were familiar with the country, scouted the vicinity and held speech with certain of the boendr, who told him that Jarl Paul had fled across Aurrida Firth to the steading of Sigurd of Westness. Also, Gunni and Asleif came in, and Asleif carried word that Bishop William would be glad to consult with Jarl Rognvald, with a view to composing the dispute between him and Jarl Paul; and at Swain's suggestion, Gunni was dispatched to Egilsey, where the bishop dwelt with a community of holy men, for lack of a better residence, bidding him visit Jarl Rognvald at Orphir. In the meantime, the life of the islands went on very quietly, and the boendr and odalmen and the commonfolk who served them were vastly surprized at the ease with which Jarl Rognvald had come amongst them and wrested from Jarl Paul, without the fighting of a battle or the slaying of a man, a good half of his dominions.

"He must be a very wise man," men saidone to another.

And those who were wise, themselves, said—

"Ah, but he has Swain Olaf's son continually at his ear."

Jarl Paul was bewildered by the misfortunes which had visited him, and he could not understand how they had come about. When his messengers carried the fire-arrow through the islands, calling upon his vassels for service, most of them flatly refused attendance, and those who did appear before him brought few men and were reluctant to take any positive action.

"The last time you called upon us the upshot was that we fought among ourselves," one of the richest of the boendr sent him word in declining to go to Westness, either himself or his sons or any of their men. So Jarl Paul sat-out the days in the skalli of Sigurd of Westness, his best friend, and drank horn after horn of ale until he was fuddled in his wits.

It was when he was in such a condition that the idea occurred to him of sending for Frakork and Olvir Rosta.

"They will help me," he babbled. "I made a great mistake ever to allow them to leave my side. I will have Frakork make witchcraft against Rognvald and Swain, and Olvir shall slay them."

But on the third day his messenger returned from Caithness with word that Frakork was much concerned for his plight, yet dared not commit her people to the hazards of the journey to Westness, when Rognvald's fleet lay betwixt them. That night Jarl Paul drank until he fell from the high table, and his house-carls carried him off to his couch.

It was on this day, too, that Bishop William came to Orphir in state, with his chaplains and chancellors and attendants, and sat privately with Jarl Rognvald and Swain in the skalli. He was very smooth in his talk—so that many men afterwards gave him the nickname of Slettmali, which is to say Smoothtalker—and lamented much over the unhappy strife which was likely to devastate the islands, and he continued in this strain so long that Swain lost his temper.

"Here are many good words, but no indication of deeds," he fumed. "We are come to this issue, Father Bishop—there shall be a battle between Jarl Rognvald and Jarl Paul, in which many people must die, or else their differences shall be composed—and there is none save you who can compose them."

"Ah," said Bishop William gently, and he contemplated the joined tips of his fingers. "None but me, as you say, Swain! Yes, none but me!"

"And for that," continued Swain ruthlesssly, "you must have a price—like all men."

The bishop was shocked.

"A price, Swain! This is more of your rough talk. What price could you or Jarl Rognvald pay to me, a bishop?"

Swain cast a sly look at Jarl Rognvald, and the Jarl cleared his throat.

"There is a great want in these islands," he began uncertainly.

"Ah, yes," sighed Bishop William, "many wants, my son!"

"There is one great want, so men have told me," Jarl Rognvald plowed resolutely on. "So rich a land should show decent respect for religion, a quality, I understand, in which Jarl Paul is lacking."

"He is overfond of sorcerers and magicians," commented the bishop sourly. "But we may yet convert him."

"I doubt it," answered Swain bluntly. "And in any case, he loves his money too much to build you a cathedral."

The bishop sat up very straight.

"A cathedral!" he repeated. "Ah, yes! A minster worthy to hold the relics, let us say, of our marvelous St. Magnus, that thrice holy and miracle-working Jarl, whose blood, I daresay, still flows in your veins, Jarl Rognvald."

"That was in my mind," Jarl Rognvald assured him hastily. "I am under a deep obligation to Heaven, Father Bishop. Would you think it presumptuous in me if I vowed that the first act of my new Jarldom should be to erect a fitting shrine for the bones of the holy Magnus?"

"An excellent plan, and one deserving of Divine blessing," applauded Bishop William.

"And now," grumbled Swain, "what terms can you wring from that drunken sot at Westness?"

"I am sure that Jarl Paul—with a little urging from his friends—will consent to divide the islands with Jarl Rognvald," answered the bishop.

"That is a beginning, at any rate," said Swain. "How say you, Lord Jarl?"

"It would be an honorable adjustment," agreed the Jarl.

And this was the way in which Swain Olaf's son secured for Jarl Rognvald a half of the Orkneys, without the fighting of a battle or the slaying of a man—as, likewise, how the Cathedral of St. Magnus, which is still standing in Kirkiuvag, came to be built.

 

VII

SO SOON as Jarl Rognvald was safely established at Orphir and an armed truce negotiated by Bishop William betwixt him and Jarl Paul, Swain excused himself for the purpose of securing his vengeance upon Frakork and Olvir Rosta. Jarl Rognvald was ready to lend him men and ships for the expedition, but Swain declined all aid.

"They will have no help from Jarl Paul or others," he said, "and if I can not overcome them with my viking-farers, then, I shall be ready to have the hough piled on me."

He sailed from Orphir after dusk, hoping thus to elude any spies, and landed upon the coast of Caithness to the westward of Morkaorsbakki, where Frakork had her steading; but all his care was wasted, for he came down upon Morkaorsbakki to discover his birds flown. The skalli gaped empty; the furniture even had been removed; the out-houses were mere husks; there was not so much as an animal remaining for him. Only the sewn crops Frakork had not been able to carry off, and these she had destroyed for him by deliberately furrowing the planted fields.

Swain chewed down his rage, and with the breaking of dawn undertook to pick up his enemies' trail, but in this, too, he was only partially successful. The nearest folk in those parts told him that Frakork and Olvir, with all their people, had abandoned the steading some days since, Olvir traveling with the livestock and young men overland toward the Scots marches, and Frakork with the rest of their household going by longship along the coast. He hoped that Olvir might have been delayed by the size of his convoy, and decided to give chase over the hills into Sudrland; but Olvir had raised the Scots border chiefs as he passed the marches, and Swain was obliged to relinquish his plans of vengeance for the time being. He turned back with a heavy heart, and devoted his energies to parceling out his rewon lands amongst his followers.

This consumed several weeks, and the Summer was well advanced when he recrossed the Pentland Firth and steered Deathbringer through the inner waters to Orphir. He was amazed to see that Jarl Rognvald received him with a coldness in striking contrast to the warm confidence which had been showered upon him up to the day of his setting out for Morkaorsbakki, and there were even sneers from certain of the Jarl's Norse chieftains at his failure to trap his enemies.

"It seems that you succeed well enough, Swain, when you are with me," observed Jarl Rognvald, as they sat at the ale-drinking in the hall of the skalli that once had been Jarl Paul's. "But when you have not me with you your luck turns. Some men might see a reason in this."

"Some men are never satisfied," rejoined Swain, with surly indifference.

"I have been wondering, too, why you persuaded me to allow Jarl Paul to retain half of the islands," continued Jarl Rognvald. "It is inconvenient to be obliged to keep so many house-carls in arms. If we had slain him or driven him forth, instead of appealing to the bishop as you suggested, our troubles would have been at an end."

Swain grinned.

"Your troubles might have been at an end; ours would have just begun," he answered. "Men say with reason, two jarls rule with justice; one jarl rules with fear. But it occurs to me, Lord Jarl, that you were more than anxious to have me save the lives of your men by inducing Bishop William to compose peacefully your differences with Jarl Paul."

"That is a ridiculous idea, Swain," answered Jarl Rognvald. "I consented to your plan only because you told me so often of the cost in men I must pay if I fought with Jarl Paul. But from what has happened since you journeyed to Caithness I am convinced the Orkneymen are contented to have me for Jarl and would be glad to get rid of Jarl Paul, who spends all his time drinking and otter-hunting."

Swain sat quietly thinking for several moments before he replied.

"You are hard to please," he said, then, and presently left the skalli.

Jarl Rognvald was worried somewhat by the abruptness of his departure.

"This Swain is an ill man to have for enemy," he remarked to those with him, who were of his Norse following.

"He is no more than a small viking chieftain," they reassured him. "What does it matter to you, Lord Jarl, whether he is friendly or unfriendly? He will be obliged to stand your friend to satisfy his own interests."

"I am not so sure of that," returned Jarl Rognvald, who, although he frequently made mistakes, also learned quickly, as Swain had once said. "I would not have him against me for this ale-horn filled with gold."

As for Swain, he strode from the skalli in a very bad humor.

"I have made this Jarl, and put him where he is," he muttered to himself. "If this is the measure of his gratitude, I am of a mind to unseat him, and raise up another in his place."

Still in this mood, he crossed the island to Aurridaside, intending to visit his mother at Gairsey; but on the way he encountered Bishop William, journeying to preach before Jarl Rognvald and visit the church on Rognvaldsey, for it was Thursday and the next day a holy day.

"It is a sorry business that that witch Frakork and her grandson escaped you, Swain," said the bishop after they had exchanged greetings. "But I hear worse news than that."

"It would be difficult to think of worse news," Swain replied gruffly.

"Yet it is likely that you will agree with me when you hear it," insisted the bishop. "Men say that Jarl Rognvald shows favor only to those who came with him from Norway, and that these men have begun to speak badly of you without concealment."

"That is not news," answered Swain. "What they say can not hurt me, but what I do may send them back to Norway."

The bishop was interested.

"What will you do, Swain?" he asked, almost eagerly.

"I am going back to Orphir with you," replied Swain, and no more would he say.

When they came to Jarl Rognvald's skalli he tramped in beside Bishop William, hurling the house-carls right and left from his path as they traversed the great hall, where the tables were set for the evening meal.

"What is this, Swain?" called Jarl Rognvald angrily. "Why do you knock my men about in this fashion?"

And one or two of the young chiefs with him made to draw their swords; but Swain, with the bishop still beside him, walked up to the high table as if he had not heard the questions. When he was opposite to the Jarl's seat, he leaned his elbows on the table-edge, and stared at Rognvald, eye to eye, for as long as a man may without winking. The Jarl winked first.

"Have any of my men injured you, Swain?" asked the Jarl again, albeit more mildly.

"No, what harm could they do to me?" retorted Swain contemptuously. "They speak of me behind my back, but that does not injure me."

"I think you do them an injustice," defended the Jarl.

"Let them beware lest I do them hurt to their bodies," said Swain in his rough, booming voice that all in the skalli could hear. "But that was not what I returned for, Lord Jarl. Did I understand you when I was here earlier to say that you were sorry you had made a truce with Jarl Paul?"

"Why, as to that," returned Jarl Rognvald uneasily, "there is the truce—for which, it is true, I have you and Bishop William to thank—and I can not honorably——"

"We are not talking of honor," interrupted Swain. "I wish to know if you now begrudge Jarl Paul his half of the islands?"

"It is a poor arrangement," admitted the Jarl sullenly.

Swain turned to Bishop William.

"You are a wise clerk, Father Bishop," he said. "Tell me, is there truce betwixt me and Jarl Paul?"

The bishop's shrewd eyes probed his face, and looked away again.

"You are Jarl Rognvald's man," he said. "And as Jarl Rognvald has——"

"Yes," agreed Swain, "but Jarl Paul has outlawed me. Do you doubt he would have me slain could he catch me?"

"No," assented the bishop.

"What do you propose to do, Swain?" inquired Jarl Rognvald.

"That is to be seen," replied Swain. "But having failed of revenge upon two of my enemies, and being treated with ingratitude and scorn by those who should honor me, I am disposed to serve my own hand and seek vengeance otherwhere."

Saying which, he turned upon his heel and stamped out as roughly as he had entered. Jarl Rognvald called after him when he had reached the doorway, but the only answer Swain made was to cry over his shoulder—

"You shall see me again."

He sought Deathbringer, which lay off the beach at Orphir, with a full crew aboard, and drafted thirty of his best men. These he crowded into a ten-oared barge, a large, open boat, which was yet capable of navigating ordinarily rough seas. The dragon he left in command of Osbiorn Grim's son, with instructions to sail southeast at once for Lambaborg, and await him there. And then he put out in the barge, despite the gathering dusk, and coasted Hrossey until he made the open sea. Here he turned into the first lonely cove, and they rode out the night in comfort, wrapped warm in their fur sleeping-bags.

 

SWAIN roused the men before morning, and they pulled leisurely out to sea once more, coasting on northerly to the Efjusund, which separates Hrossey from Hrolfsey. They steered into the gut, and Swain bade all, except those required for the oars, he down in the bottom under the sleeping-bags. In this position they looked to be a mass of cargo covered over to protect it from the spray, and indeed, the first men who sighted them from the shore supposed them to be merchants, and hailed them to put into Westness, where Jarl Paul and Sigurd and the other wealthy boendr would be glad to do business with them.

"Where is the Jarl this morning?" shouted Swain, steering closer in shore so that he could be heard.

The men who had hailed them pointed to a headland, which was distinguished by an enormous heap of stones and boulders that drifted from its summit to the water's edge.

"He came out with us this morning to hunt otters," one of them shouted back. "We have had fine sport. The place is full of them."

"If you are all out here, what use is there for me to continue on to Westness?" asked Swain.

"Oh, there are no more than twenty of us here," returned the man. "There are plenty of folk still at the skalli, and we shall be going home soon, for we have had little to eat, and the Jarl says he is thirsty."

This was as much as Swain wished to know, and he was resolved not to miss such an opportunity to strike the blow he had intended. He ran on to the eastward far enough to place a projection of the coast of Hrolfsey between him and the otterhunters, and then he beached his barge and landed all his men.

They strung themselves into a line extending inland from the beach and trotted back toward the headland of the stone-heap. While they were still some distance from it they were seen by two men who raised the alarm, suspecting their purpose from the naked swords and spears they carried; and the otter-hunters scrambled up the wall of the headland and tried to escape inland. But Swain was ready for them. At an order from him, his men extended their fine still farther and swung its right wing inward like a hook, blocking the fleeing men into the restricted area of the headland.

The figure of the Jarl was easily to be noted amongst the hunters by reason of the splendor of his dress. Like most of those with him he had left his sword at home, in order to make it easier for him to run and climb in and out of the stones under which the otters hid; he was helmless and had no shield, and his only weapon was a short spear and a knife. Nevertheless, he and his men did not show any cowardly fear. They grouped themselves together to facilitate their defense, and Jarl Paul called out lustily to Swain—

"There is peace between Jarl Rognvald and me."

"But not between you and me," replied Swain savagely.

"I will make you recompense for any wrongs you have suffered through me, Swain," the Jarl proffered again.

"It is too late for such talk," said Swain. "I am going to take the recompense in my own way."

The two parties were now within easy spear-cast of each other, and Jarl Paul perceived that they could not long withstand a conflict, so he made an offer for his men.

"Are you resolved to make me your prisoner?" he called.

"I am," answered Swain shortly.

"In that case, let my men go free, and I will accompany you wherever you say."

The smile on Swain's face was not pleasant to see.

"Ah, you are like all Jarls when they find themselves in difficulty," he commented. "You will seek the best terms. But I am not offering terms."

And he threw his spear and drove it through the chest of the man next to Jarl Paul.

"My people have done you no harm," cried the Jarl a second time. "Let them go. I will not resist you."

"Not one of them is to live," returned Swain. "Ho, viking-farers, slay me all of these people, except Jarl Paul. Him we take alive. If harm comes to him I will kill by slow torture the man who wrought it."

Jarl Paul and his folk were rendered desperate by this, and with a shrill yelp of hatred they charged Swain's line, endeavoring to breach an opening with a volley of short otter-spears. Several of Swain's men went down, and they came to close quarters, unarmored men, mostly equipped with skinning-knives, against armored men behind a shield-wall, wielding the terrible, straight, broad-bladed Norse sword. Heads, arms and legs bestrewed the ground, and the blood dappled the rocks before the fight was finished; but Swain paid dearly for it. Six of his men died to the nineteen who had attended Jarl Paul, and the Jarl was taken only by ringing him in with shields and casting the loop of a rope over his head. Kicking, biting, heaving himself about, they finally bound him securely, pitched him on the shoulders of two of the strongest, and returned by the way they had come to their boat.

Safe aboard the barge again, they stood out to sea from the gut, and retraced their course southward past Hrolfsey and through the channel between Haey and Grimsey, and then east by the Svelgr whirlpool—giving its swirling waters a wide berth—into the Pentland firth, and so south to Lambaborg on the ironbound coast of Caithness. The barge was only a little craft on that waste of restless waters, and whoever saw it deemed it a harmless merchantman. None of the watchers from the shore farms associated it with Swain Olaf's son. He left a blank trail. Nobody knew that he had been in those parts.

When Jarl Paul did not return to Westness at noon, Sigurd sent out men to find him, not even then suspecting that he had come to harm; but rather supposing that he had met with such good sport that he was loath to abandon it. The searchers followed the coast to the headland above the stone-heap, and found twenty-five dead men in a single pile. Nineteen of the slain were identified as the Jarl's men; the remaining six were unknown—as it chanced, they were young men from outlying islands of the Sudreyar,[11] who had attached themselves to Swain's fortunes and were strangers in the Orkneys.

Sigurd, himself, and others of Jarl Paul's friends hastened to the spot; but they could make no more of the scanty evidence available. Their first thought was that Jarl Rognvald had done it, and they sent hotfoot for Bishop William, who came and examined the bodies, formed his own suspicions and held his tongue. To placate Sigurd and avert a counter-attack upon Rognvald for the purpose of rescuing Jarl Paul, however, he crossed to Orphir and secured satisfactory proof that neither Rognvald nor any of his henchmen could have been implicated in the slaughter by the stone-heap. And for want of a better theory people of both the Jarl's factions fastened the guilt upon Frakork and Olvir Rosta.

The upshot was that everybody agreed Jarl Paul had vanished as completely as if he had been swallowed by a sea-monster, and Jarl Rognvald assumed sway over all the islands without a dissenting voice being raised, thanks, in part, to the zeal with which Bishop William supported the cathedral-builder. Occasionally, too, men wondered what had become of Swain Olaf's son, but they never suspected his connection with Jarl Paul's disappearance.

"We are well rid of that turbulent fellow," remarked Jarl Rognvald upon the occasion of one of his meetings with the bishop. "He was not without his uses to me at the beginning of this affair, but I soon was able to get along without him. A rough-tongued viking, with no real political skill, Father Bishop."

"Ah!" said Bishop William reflectively.

"He was loud in his threats against Jarl Paul the last time he came here," continued Jarl Rognvald. "Do you remember? You were with him. If he was here now he would be claiming that he had made away with Jarl Paul to put me in his debt."

"Humph!" said Bishop William. And after a pause:

"Do you think it wise to keep on all your Norse friends and their house-carls, Lord Jarl? The people complain that they are eating up the farms."

"No, there is no end to be served by their staying longer," replied Jarl Rognvald. "In truth, they were never necessary to me, for it is plain to all that the Orkney-folk were ready to accept me whenever I came. Never was Jarldom won more easily!"

"But touching your Norse friends?" Bishop William reminded him gently.

"They shall go next week, Father Bishop."

 

VIII

WHEN he had recovered his breath and canvassed the situation in which he found himself, Jarl Paul addressed Swain from where he lay in the bottom of the barge.

"This is a great wrong that you do, Swain," he cried. "I am your rightful lord. Your father was my friend, and I have augmented your family's fortunes. I have not deserved such treatment from you. Men will say evil things about you when it becomes known."

Swain relinquished the steering-oar to one of his men, and sat upon a thwart beside the Jarl.

"Nobody will ever know what has become of you," he answered coldly. "It will simply be said that you became tired of strife and retired into a monastery."

For the first time Jarl Paul was frightened.

"Do you intend to murder me?" he exclaimed.

Swain considered this question as if it were difficult to answer.

"I am not sure yet," he replied at last. "It depends upon how well you satisfy me."

"You are a man of great insolence!" returned Jarl Paul angrily. "I may be your prisoner, but I am a Jarl and a feudatory of the king, and you are an outlaw."

"I think that would be a question for the law-men to settle," said Swain. "The truth remains that you will meet the fate which seems best to me."

"But I do not see what purpose you can serve in carrying me off in this fashion," protested the Jarl. "If you do not kill me——"

"There are more ways than one of satisfying a need for vengeance," Swain commented. "I might mutilate you, and set you free. How much respect would men have for you if you were blind and dumb?"

Jarl Paul broke into a sweat which soaked through his garments. This was something he had never contemplated. Death he was not afraid to meet, but Swain's threat embodied a fate far worse than the most dreadful death.

"Not that, Swain," he begged involuntarily. "You shall name your own ransom and I will take back the outlawry——"

"It is not necessary for you to remit my outlawry," said Swain. "You will never be Jarl again."

Jarl Paul stared up at the implacable blue eyes that gleamed above the ruddy growth of Swain's beard.

"Have I, indeed, earned your enmity to this extent?" he asked.

Swain shrugged his shoulders.

"I am teaching a lesson in jarlcraft," he remarked with a kind of rude humor. "It is your misfortune that you happen to be necessary to my plans."

He refused to say any more, and climbed forward over the thwarts, leaving Jarl Paul to roll on the hard bottom-boards, drenched at intervals by the sea-spray and trodden on by the steersman and his mates. It was a humiliating experience, and the Jarl welcomed his transfer to Deathbringer at Lambaborg, for on the dragon he was laid under cover beneath the poop and given food and drink. But at Swain's command no man spoke to him.

Deathbringer. ran south and east into the Breida Firth[12] until they came to Ekkialsbakki. Here they put up the longship in a quiet cove, masked by trees, and Swain landed with Jarl Paul and twenty men, leaving the remainder of the crew aboard under Osbiorn Grim's son. Osbiorn's instructions were to avoid conflicts with the Scots and keep as secret as possible. Swain and his party pushed southward by private ways over the mountains into Atjoklar, explaining to such of the Scots folk as they met that they were going to visit Jarl Maddad, and so after several days they came safely to the castle of Atjokl, where dwelt Jarl Maddad and the Lady Margaret. And Swain blew the horn at the castle gate, and cried to the wradens who he was and that he had tidings for the Jarl's own ear.

Jarl Maddad and his lady came themselves into the courtyard to receive Swain, and considerable was their astonishment when they perceived Jarl Paul, with his hands bound behind him and his raiment stained and torn and thistle-burrs in his unkempt beard; but at a sign from Swain they withheld their speech and carried him privately into the hall of the castle, leaving Jarl Paul and Swain's men in the antechamber.

"I see that after all you need our alliance, Swain," said the Lady Margaret when they were all three seated at the high table.

"You could not help yourself without helping us—and without us to help you," added Jarl Maddad, rubbing his hands together gleefully.

Swain, laughed—and Jarl Paul in the anteroom shook with fear at the hard mockery in his tone.

"What prattle is this!" he growled. "I use you to help myself—yes! I use any and all for that purpose, even that poor wretch who awaits his doom outside. You are not sorry for him, lady?" He turned suddenly upon Margaret. "Your eyes do not sting with tears for your brother?"

She returned his gaze unflinchingly.

"No brother of mine," she returned. "I never had anything from him except empty promises."

"Is that son of yours still anxious to go north and become a Norseman and a jarl?"

Jarl Maddad interfered.

"You speak as if you were master here, Swain."

"I am," rasped Swain.

Jarl Maddad colored with temper.

"You speak foolishly," he reproved. "I have but to whistle and two hundred men would assail your twenty, and take from you this prisoner you dared not hold alone."

Again Swain's sardonic laughter filled the hall.

"I dared not hold him alone! You do not know me, Lord Jarl. But let that pass. Do you think, perhaps, that you now hold the key to the Orkneys in your hands?"

"Who else?" answered the Lady Margaret, scowling. "If you brought Paul here your prisoner, he is now our prisoner. It is for us to drive what bargain we choose with him. Whatever part we allow you to take will be from courtesy or indulgence, and dependent upon your proper attitude."

"I have said I was teaching jarlcraft," said Swain, as if to himself, "but I had not reckoned upon teaching Scots Jarls. Be at your ease, lady. I knew you too well to venture my head here, unless I was safe from treachery."

"Treachery!" mouthed Jarl Maddad. "That is an ill word. There is no cause for it."

"I intend there shall not be," affirmed Swain. "Doubt it not, Lord Jarl, you and your lady, both. There is nothing you can do in this affair without me."

"You rate yourself highly," sneered Margaret, yet she changed color.

"I do," agreed Swain with composure. "You have heard that Jarl Rognvald is established at Orphir?"

"That is stale news."

"Yet important. Without Jarl Paul, Jarl Rognvald rules alone."

"So much a child can see," said Maddad impatiently.

"And it happens not to be my desire that he should rule alone," Swain pursued evenly. "Also, I would have a jarl or jarls I might be confident would do as I desired them."

"You want little enough," murmured Margaret in sarcasm.

"Very little," assented Swain. "I come to you for two reasons—it is in your interest to have Jarl Paul out of the way that your son may succeed him, and equally in your interest to put forward your son once Jarl Paul has been removed."

An ugly look dawned in Margaret's eyes.

"Out of the way?" she repeated. "Removed?"

She made a quick motion with her forefinger, as if it were a dagger.

"That?"

Maddad, beside her, shuddered. Swain regarded her curiously.

"Of course, he is your brother," he observed.

"What does that matter?" she frowned. "He is in my way. Well, what do you say? Will your men do it—or shall mine?"

"I have no thought of mercy in my mind," returned Swain almost gently, "yet I am averse to slaying Jarl Paul."

"Why?"

"Dead, he is—dead. Alive—Jarl Rognvald will never quite forget him. He will be a protection for your son."

"But a live man may return to power," exclaimed Jarl Maddad.

"Not from a monastery, after such humiliation as Paul has undergone," answered Swain.

"So you would tonsure him?" cried the Lady Margaret.

"Even so."

"But if he will not consent?"

"There are threats to be used. I have hinted them to him."

Both Margaret and Maddad glowered at Swain in the dim light of the hall, their eyes burning with hatred; their mouths twitching with avarice.

"And why," said the woman very low, "should we suffer you to share longer in this?"

"Because you can not succeed without me."

"All that is necessary is that we wring the deed of succession from Paul," snarled Jarl Maddad. "Do you think you alone can inspire fear?"

"There is much more than that," replied Swain coolly. "After you have the deed, after Paul is disposed of, what then?"

They eyed him resentfully as wolves driven from a half-eaten deer.

"Why, take it to Rognvald," said Maddad with a hint of bluster.

Swain's mocking laugh rocked the hangings at his back.

"Yes, take it to Rognvald! And then?"

Maddad was silent, but the Lady Margaret nodded her head.

"Swain is right," she said. "That is, if even he can pry Rognvald loose from a full-won prize."

"Do you leave that to me," answered Swain.

 

IX

IT HAPPENED that there was a Thing meeting of all the boendr of the islands at Orphir in the early Fall for the settlement of the question of the rents and dues to be paid to Jarl Rognvald, and while the settlement was in full discussion, with no little feeling stirred up amongst the Jarl's retainers because of the increases he asked, there came a cry from some boys playing on the shore that a longship was approaching. And presently certain of the women called that they saw Swain Olaf's son standing on the poop.

Jarl Rognvald frowned, for he was in no very good humor that morning, and bade the speakers continue with the Thing, but many people left the meeting and walked to the strand, amongst them Bishop William, who was the first to greet Swain when he landed, leading a handsome young boy by the hand.

"You have been a long time gone, Swain," said the bishop, "and great things have happened since."

"You may take it that I am acquainted with them," responded Swain. "I have news for the Jarl and all the people."

"What is that?"

Swain spoke out, so that all around might hear him.

"I bring word from Jarl Paul to present to the Orkney-folk as his successor young Jarl Harald Maddad's son."

There was much murmuring and exclamation over this, and men sped off to carry the word to the Thing meeting in Jarl Rognvald's steading. But Bishop William smiled secretly, almost as if he was not surprized.

"Then you bring us tidings of what has become of Jarl Paul, Swain?" he asked.

"He is in a monastery of the white monks in Scotland."

"Strange," said Bishop William. "I should never have supposed him inclined to a monkish life."

"He could not be induced to leave it," answered Swain.

"I make no doubt," the bishop assured him. "There is a wondrous charm in the seclusion behind monastery walls—after the rough life of our northern world. But I suppose you have this amply attested, Swain?"

Swain pulled from his pouch a bewaxed and ribboned sheet of parchment.

"I am no clerk," he said, "so it must be for you to ascertain that, Father Bishop. This was given me for such an instrument."

The bishop perused it with pursed lips.

"It is so, no less," he admitted. "Yes, all regularly and in order, witnesses nominated by the King of Scots, the holy father abbot, himself, and the great Jarl Maddad of Atjoklar, Jarl Paul's own brother-in-law. Nothing could be clearer. But here comes Jarl Rognvald, so you may save your story for him."

In fact, the Thing meeting had broken up at the first shouting of Swain's momentous tidings, and the remainder of the boendr and the common men and herds of women and children were swarming down the hillside to the shore, led by Jarl Rognvald in person, with a look of red anger on his handsome face.

"Well, well, Swain," he exclaimed when he was .come close by, "I hope you have not returned to make more trouble."

"No, Lord Jarl," answered Swain very respectfully. "I have come back very anxious to settle the troubles in the islands, once and for all."

"Troubles?" snapped the Jarl. "What troubles? There have been no troubles since you left."

"There is the question of Jarl Paul's succession——"

"I know nothing of it! Jarl Paul has gone away, nobody knows where. We have gotten along very peacefully without him."

"Nevertheless," insisted Swain as gently as the bishop might have spoken, "I bear here Jarl Paul's deed, renouncing his rights, lands and title to his nephew, Jarl Harald Maddad's son, whose parents have appointed me to foster him."

"What does that mean to us?" retorted Jarl Rognvald roughly. "It is only a piece of parchment with writing none of us can read. We did not even see anybody write it. For all we know, Jarl Paul has been dead many weeks. Frakork and Olvir Rosta carried him——"

"It was not Frakork and Olvir," Swain corrected him. "I carried away Jarl Paul."

A gasp went up from the people clustered around. Jarl Rognvald's jaw dropped. Of all those present only Bishop William heard Swain with a twinkle of amusement in his shrewd old eyes, and no sign of astonishment. But Jarl Rognvald was swift to see an opening for an assault upon Swain's statement.

"So!" he thundered. "You slew the Jarl in a period of truce! That was a wicked deed, Swain."

"I did not slay him," said Swain. "As for the truce, that was between you and Jarl Paul; and since Jarl Paul held me outlaw there could be no truce between us two. I carried him off unharmed to satisfy a private quarrel."

Some people laughed at this, and others applauded it. It was the first time an ordinary man like Swain, a small chieftain, had spoken so of a jarl, or, for that matter, had carried a quarrel with a great man so successfully to a conclusion. All through the assemblage men were muttering to each other and whispering:

"He is a clever fellow, this Swain!"

"There was never the like before in these lands!"

"A jarl doesn't mean much to him!"

Jarl Rognvald was bewildered.

"But why have you kept this quiet all these weeks, Swain?" he demanded.

"To give me time to carry out my plans," returned Swain.

"What plans?"

"Why, you complained, Lord Jarl, because the islands were divided between you and Jarl Paul, and indeed, it was plain the arrangement could not last indefinitely as there was bad blood on either side. So I set about it to remove Jarl Paul, in order that the people might have peace; but at the same time I saw that there was justice to be done where Jarl Paul was concerned. If he retired from his place, nevertheless it was right that he should nominate his successor, and it was necessary for me to journey with him into Scotland to discuss it with his nephew's family."

"It was not right for him to nominate a successor without consulting me," flared Jarl Rognvald. "I have been his successor."

There was a rumble of discontent from the crowd.

"You captured half the islands from him," Swain answered. "Not all of them."

"And it was Swain, not you, who captured Jarl Paul, himself," spoke up the bishop.

Jarl Rognvald turned to Bishop William.

"This is a foolish business, Father Bishop," he grumbled. "We had everything settled until Swain interfered with us. What are we to do about it?"

"I see no reason why you need to concern yourself," replied the bishop soothingly. "According to Jarl Paul's deed, young Jarl Harald is to take your advice in all things until he comes of age."

"Two jarls are best!" cried a voice from the outskirts of the throng, and other voices echoed the slogan.

"We had two jarls, and we still have two jarls," added Swain. "The only difference is that one of our jarls has been replaced by another."

Sigurd of Westness, who had been Jarl Paul's closest friend, shouldered his way out of the crowd.

"I am no friend to Swain," he said. "And he shall pay manbote for those of my folk he slew in taking Jarl Paul; but I hold with him in this—that if Jarl Paul has made over his Jarldom to Harald Maddad's son or any other heir, it is for all of us to recognize his will in the matter. And those of us who fought for Jarl Paul will give you fair warning, Lord Jarl, that you must be fair toward young Jarl Harald, more especially if you desire the increased taxes and our help in building the minster you have vowed to St. Magnus."

"Yes, yes," exclaimed Bishop William hastily. "We must not forget that all the folk are to help build the minster, Lord Jarl, and for that we require peace."

"Touching Sigurd's claim of manbote, I admit it," said Swain. "And I say here, before you all, that I will settle any claims adjudged against me, excepting alone from Frakork and Olvir Rosta. I have ended my quarrel with Jarl Paul and all his folk."

Jarl Rognvald burst out laughing, for he saw how the tide trended and he determined to go with it.

"Here is my hand, and peace with it, Swain," he cried. "There is no beating you, and I would rather you were my friend than my enemy. It is my opinion that you studied this out to have it happen exactly as it has."

"I have done no more than take the vengeance due me," rejoined Swain.

"You take a full measure," observed the Jarl dryly.

"It may be there was a lesson or two for others thrown in," answered Swain.

And this is the story of how Jarl Rognvald came to the Orkneys a second time, and how Jarl Paul was cast out from his place and young Jarl Harald Maddad's son was elevated to succeed him, from which events others were to flow in future years, as will be set down in the proper order; as also, how Swain Olaf's son won to be inlawed in the islands and became the greatest man in the North. It is to be said of Swain that after he procured the replacement of Jarl Paul by young Jarl Harald he had no more difficulty with Jarl Rognvald, for Jarl Rognvald told frankly any who brought complaints to him against Swain that he could not afford to have such an enemy.

"What is a jarl to Swain?" he would ask.

And the common folk made a saying of it, too, so that if a man mowed a field of hay speedily or caught his boat full of fish or did any kind of a thorough job they called it a "Swain's vengeance."

  1. Athole.
  2. Constantipole.
  3. Constantipole.
  4. bergen.
  5. Noblemen
  6. Burial mound
  7. Shetlands.
  8. Shetlands.
  9. Make ready, equip, load, victual, etc.
  10. Now Kirkwall.
  11. Hebrides
  12. Moray Firth

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published before January 1, 1924.


The author died in 1945, so this work is also in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less. This work may also be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.