But in the morning Ospakar repented of the match, for it is truly said that ale is another man, and men do not like that in the morning which seemed well enough on yester eve. He remembered that he held Whitefire dear above all things, and that Eric's eye had no worth to him, except that the loss of it would spoil his beauty, so that perhaps Gudruda would turn from him.
Now Jon, Eric's thrall, watched all night on Mosfell, but saw nothing except the light of Whitefire as it smote the Baresark's head from his shoulders. He stayed there till daylight, much afraid; then, making sure that Eric was slain, Jon rode hard and fast for Middalhof, whither he came at evening. Gudruda was watching by the women's door.
Eric's hair that Swanhild shore with Whitefire from Eric's head Whitefire whereon we plighted troth! Say now, whose blood is this that stains the hair of Eric?" "It is Atli's blood, whom Eric first dishonoured and then slew with his own hand," answered Hall. Now there burned a fire on the hearth, for the day was cold.
And again he sang: "Lord, if in very truth thou thinkest Brighteyes is a man midst men, Swear to him, the stalwart suitor, Handsel of thy sweet maid's hand: Whom, long loved, to win, down Goldfoss Swift he sped through frost and foam; Whom, to win, to troll-like Ogre, He, 'gainst Whitefire, waged his eye." Men thought this well sung, and turned to hear Asmund's answer, nor must they wait long.
"Hold!" said Eric; "perhaps there is yet a deed for thee to do. Then thou mayest die, if it pleases thee." "Ay," said Skallagrim coming back, "perchance there is still a deed to do!" And, flinging down the axe, Skallagrim Lambstail the Baresark fell upon the floor and wept. But Eric did not weep. Only he drew Whitefire from the heart of Gudruda and looked at it.
"Thou art a strange sword, Whitefire," he said, "who slayest both friend and foe! Shame on thee, Whitefire! We swore our oath on thee, Whitefire, and thou hast cut its chain! Now I am minded to shatter thee." And as Eric looked on the great blade, lo! it hummed strangely in answer. "'First must thou be the death of some, thou sayest? Well, maybe, Whitefire!
It was the flash that Whitefire made as it circled ere it smote that Jon saw while he waited in the dell upon the mountain side. But of the Baresark he saw nothing, for he passed down into the great fire-riven cleft and was never seen more, save once only, in a strange fashion that shall be told. This was the first man whom Brighteyes slew.
Then Skallagrim came to Eric, and, kneeling before him, took his hands and kissed them. "Now I am once more a man," he said, "and I know this: we two shall die such a great death that it will be well to have lived to die it!" and he arose and shouted: "A! hai! A! hai! I see foes pass in pride! A! hai! A! hai! Valkyries ride the wind! Hear the song of the sword! Whitefire is aloft aloft!
Gudruda alone shall shear my hair: I have sworn and I will keep the oath that I once broke. Give me snow! snow! my throat burns! Heap snow on my head, I bid you. Ye will not? Ye mock me, thinking me weak! Where, then, is Whitefire? I have yet a deed to do! Who comes yonder? Is it a woman's shape or is it but a smoke-wraith? 'Tis Swanhild the Fatherless who walks the waters.
Eric was bleeding at the brow, and bloody was the hooked nose of Skallagrim, before they came to where Whitefire was. At length they reached the sword, and pushed aside the bucklers that were over it with their heads. The great war-blade was sheathed, and Eric must needs lie upon his breast and draw the weapon somewhat with his teeth.
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