Sagas & Legends
Of Arinbjorn's harrying.
Arinbjorn stayed at home on his estate that winter, but in the next spring he let it be known that he meant to go a-freebooting. Arinbjorn had good choice of ships. He made ready in the spring three war-ships, all large, and he had three hundred men. His house-carles he had on his own ship, which was excellently equipt; he had also with him many landowners' sons. Egil settled to go with him; he steered a ship, and with him went many of the comrades whom he brought from Iceland. But the merchant-ship which he brought from Iceland he caused to be moved eastwards to Vik, getting some men there to dispose of the cargo.
But Arinbjorn and Egil with the war-ships held a southward course along the coast; then took their force still southwards to Saxland, where they harried in the summer and got wealth. As autumn came on they came back northward harrying, and lay off Friesland. One night when the weather was calm they went up a large river-mouth, where was bad harbourage, and the ebb of the tide was great. There up on land were wide flats with woods hard by. The fields were soaked because there had been much rain. They resolved to go up there, and left behind a third of their force to guard the ships. They followed up the river, keeping between it and the woods. Soon they came to a hamlet where dwelt several peasants. The people ran out of the hamlet into the fields, such as could do so, when they perceived the enemy, but the freebooters pursued them. Then they came to a second village, and a third; all the people fled before them. The land was level, flat fields everywhere, intersected by dykes full of water. By these the corn-lands or meadows were enclosed; in some places large stakes were set, and over the dyke, where men should go, were bridges and planks laid. The country folk fled to the forest. But when the freebooters had gone far into the settled parts, the Frisians gathered them in the woods, and when they had assembled three hundred men, they went against the freebooters resolved to give them battle. There was then some hard fighting; but the end was that the Frisians fled and the freebooters pursued the fugitives. The peasants that escaped were scattered far and wide, and so were their pursuers. Thus it happened that on either side few kept together.
Egil was hotly pursuing, and a few with him, after a numerous company that fled. The Frisians came to a dyke, over which they went, and then drew away the bridge. Then came up Egil and his men on the other bank. Egil at once went at the dyke and leapt it, but it was no leap for other men, and no one tried it. But when the Frisians saw that but one man was following, they turned back and attacked him, but he defended himself well, and used the dyke to cover him behind so that they could not attack him on all sides. Eleven men set on him, but the end of their encounter was that he slew them all. After that Egil pushed out the bridge over the dyke, and crossed it back again. He then saw that all his people had turned back to the ships. He was then near the wood, and he now went along the wood towards the ships so that he had the choice of the wood if he needed its shelter. The freebooters had brought down to the shore much booty and cattle. And when they came to the ships, some slaughtered the cattle, some carried out the plunder to the ships, some stood higher up and formed a shield-burgh; for the Frisians were come down in great force and were shooting at them, being also in battle array. And when Egil came down and saw how matters stood, he ran at full speed right at the throng. His halberd he held before him grasped in both hands, and slung his shield behind his back. He thrust forward his halberd, and all before him started aside, and so gat he a passage right through their ranks. Thus he dashed down to his men, who looked on him as recovered from the dead.
Then they went on ship-board, and loosed from land. They sailed then to Denmark. And when they came to Lima-firth and lay at Hals, Arinbjorn held a meeting of his men, and laid before them his plans. 'Now will I,' said he, 'go seek Eric's sons with such force as will follow me. I have now learnt that the brothers are in Denmark here, and maintain a large following, and spend the summers in harrying, but for the winters abide here in Denmark. I now give leave to all to go to Norway who would rather do that than follow me. For you, Egil, methinks, the best counsel is that, as soon as we part, you return to Norway, and then on with all speed to Iceland.'
Then the men separated to their several ships. Those who wished to go back to Norway joined Egil, but by far the larger part of the force followed Arinbjorn. Arinbjorn and Egil parted in love and friendship. Arinbjorn went to seek Eric's sons, and joined the company of Harold Gray-fell his foster-son, and was with him henceforth so long as they both lived.
Egil went northwards to Vik, and into Osloar-firth. There was his merchant ship which he had caused to be moved thither in the spring. There were also his cargo and the men who had gone with the ship. Thorstein Thora's son came to seek Egil, and asked him and such men as he would bring to stay with him that winter. Egil accepted the offer, had his ship set up and the cargo safely bestowed. Of his followers some got quarters there, some went to their several homes in the north. Egil in a company of ten or twelve went to Thorstein's, and remained there for the winter an honoured guest.
Next: CHAPTER LXXIII. Mission to Vermaland.