Sagas & Legends
Mission to Vermaland.
King Harold Fairhair had subdued Vermaland eastwards as far as Lake Wener. Vermaland had first been cleared and tilled by Olaf Tree-cutter, father of Halfdan Whitebone, who first of his family was king in Norway; and from him on the father's side was king Harold descended, and all his forefathers had ruled over Vermaland and taken tribute therefrom, and set men in charge over the land. But when Harold was grown old, then was an earl named Arnvid governor of Vermaland. It happened there, as elsewhere, that the tribute was worse paid now than when Harold was in the vigour of life. So also was it when Harold's sons strove for the rule in Norway, the outlying tributary lands were little looked after. But when Hacon sat in peace, then enquired he after all the empire that his father Harold had had. King Hacon had sent eastwards to Vermaland a company of twelve men. These had received the tribute from the earl. But as they were going back to Eida-wood, robbers set upon them and slew them all. The same hap befell yet other messengers sent by king Hacon eastwards to Vermaland; the men were slain, and no money was brought back. Then was it said by some that earl Arnvid belike set men of his own to slay the king's men, while he kept the tribute for himself. Whereupon king Hacon sent yet a third company.
He was then in Throndheim; the messengers were to go to Vik and seek Thorstein Thora's son with these words, that he should go eastwards to Vermaland and gather in the tribute for the king, or else he must leave the land. For the king had heard that Arinbjorn Thorstein's mother's brother was gone southwards to Denmark and was with Eric's sons, and further that they had a large following and spent the summer in harrying. King Hacon mistrusted the loyalty of all this company, expecting as he did hostilities from Eric's sons if they had but strength to raise rebellion against him. And to Arinbjorn's kinsmen and friends he showed great dislike, putting some to death, driving some from the land, or laying on them other hard conditions. And so it was that before Thorstein the king put this choice.
The man who bore this message was named Kol; he was a man of all lands; he had been long in Denmark and in Sweden, and knew all about ways and men there. In Norway too he had travelled widely. And when he brought this proposal to Thorstein Thora's son, then Thorstein told Egil upon what errand these men came, and asked how he should answer them; he said that it seemed a hard thing for him to lose his possessions and be driven out of the land.
Egil said: 'It is to me quite clear what this message means; the king will have you out of the land like others of Arinbjorn's kin, for I call sending a man of your nobleness on such errand a sending to certain death. My advice is that you call the king's messengers to conference with you, and I will be present at your talk, and we will see what come of it.'
Thorstein did as he bade; he held conference with them. The messengers told all the truth of their errand and of the king's message, that Thorstein must go on this mission or else be outlawed.
Egil said: 'I see clearly about your errand, that if Thorstein refuses to go, then you will have to go and gather the in the tribute.' The messengers said that he guessed rightly. Said Egil: 'Thorstein shall not go on this journey; for he is in nowise bound thereto, a man of his renown, to go on such mean missions. Thorstein will do that whereto he is bound, to wit, attend the king within the land or without, if the king demands it. Also, if ye want to have some men from hence for this journey, this will be granted you, and all such furtherance of your journey as ye may name to Thorstein.'
Then the messengers talked among themselves, and agreed that they would accept these terms, if Egil would go with them on the journey. 'The king,' they said, 'bears him great ill-will, and he will think our journey a right good one if we bring it about that Egil be slain. He can then drive Thorstein out of the land if he pleases.' So they told Thorstein that they would be content if Egil went and Thorstein stayed at home.
'So shall it be,' said Egil. 'I will release Thorstein from this journey. But how many men think ye that ye need to take from hence?'
'We are eight,' said they; 'we would fain have four men go from hence; then are we twelve.'
Egil said it should be so. Aunund Sjoni and some of Egil's company had gone out to sea, to look after their ship and another cargo which they had given into safe keeping in the autumn, and they had not yet returned. Egil thought this a great pity, but the king's men were impatient to be gone, and would not wait.
Next: CHAPTER LXXIV. Journey to Vermaland.