There was a man named Starkad; he was a son of Bork the Waxy- toothed-blade, the son of Thorkell Clubfoot, who took the land round about Threecorner as the first settler. His wife's name was Hallbera (1). The sons of Starkad and Hallbera were these: Thorgeir and Bork and Thorkell. Hildigunna the Leech was their sister.
They were very proud men in temper, hard-hearted and unkind. They treated men wrongfully.
There was a man named Egil; he was a son of Kol, who took land as a settler between Storlek and Reydwater. The brother of Egil was Aunund of Witchwood, father of Hall the Strong, who was at the slaying of Holt-Thorir with the sons of Kettle the Smooth- tongued.
Egil kept house at Sandgil; his sons were these: Kol, and Ottar, and Hauk. Their mother's name was Steinvor; she was Starkad's sister.
Egil's sons were tall and strifeful; they were most unfair men. They were always on one side with Starkad's sons. Their sister was Gudruna Nightsun, and she was the bestbred of women.
Egil had taken into his house two Easterlings; the one's name was Thorir and the other's Thorgrim. They were not long come out hither for the first time, and were wealthy and beloved by their friends; they were well skilled in arms, too, and dauntless in everything.
Starkad had a good horse of chesnut hue, and it was thought that no horse was his match in fight. Once it happened that these brothers from Sandgil were away under the Threecorner. They had much gossip about all the householders in the Fleetlithe, and they fell at last to asking whether there was any one that would fight a horse against them.
But there were some men there who spoke so as to flatter and honour them, that not only was there no one who would dare do that, but that there was no one that had such a horse
Then Hildigunna answered, "I know that man who will dare to fight horses with you."
"Name him," they say.
"Gunnar has a brown horse," she says, "and he will dare to fight his horse against you, and against any one else."
"As for you women," they say, "you think no one can be Gunnar's match; but though Geir the Priest or Gizur the White have come off with shame from before him, still it is not settled that we shall fare in the same way."
"Ye will fare much worse," she says: and so there arose out of this the greatest strife between them. Then Starkad said, "My will is that ye try your hands on Gunnar last of all; for ye will find it hard work to go against his good luck."
"Thou wilt give us leave, though, to offer him a horsefight?"
"I will give you leave, if ye play him no trick."
They said they would be sure to do what their father said.
Now they rode to Lithend; Gunnar was at home, and went out, and Kolskegg and Hjort went with him, and they gave them a hearty welcome, and asked whither they meant to go?
"No farther than hither," they say. "We are told that thou hast a good horse, and we wish to challenge thee to a horse-fight."
"Small stories can go about my horse," says Gunnar; "he is young and untried in every way."
"But still thou wilt be good enough to have the fight, for Hildigunna guessed that thou wouldest be easy in matching thy horse."
"How came ye to talk about that?" says Gunnar.
"There were some men," say they, "who were sure that no one would dare to fight his horse with ours."
"I would dare to fight him," says Gunnar; "but I think that was spitefully said."
"Shall we look upon the match as made, then?" they asked.
"Well, your journey will seem to you better if ye have your way in this; but still I will beg this of you, that we so fight our horses that we make sport for each other, but that no quarrel may arise from it, and that ye put no shame upon me; but if ye do to me as ye do to others, then there will be no help for it but that I shall give you such a buffet as it will seem hard to you to put up with. In a word, I shall do then just as ye do first."
Then they ride home. Starkad asked how their journey had gone off; they said that Gunnar had made their going good.
"He gave his word to fight his horse, and we settled when and where the horse-fight should be; but it was plain in everything that he thought he fell short of us, and he begged and prayed to get off."
"It will often be found," says Hildigunna, "that Gunnar is slow to be drawn into quarrels, but a hard hitter if he cannot avoid them."
Gunnar rode to see Njal, and told him of the horse-fight, and what words had passed between them, "But how dost thou think the horse-fight will turn out?"
"Thou wilt be uppermost," says Njal, "but yet many a man's bane will arise out of this fight."
"Will my bane perhaps come out of it?" asks Gunnar.
"Not out of this," says Njal; "but still they will bear in mind both the old and the new feud who fare against thee, and thou wilt have naught left for it but to yield."
Then Gunnar rode home.
(1) She was daughter of Hroald the Red and Hildigunna Thorstein Titling's daughter. The mother of Hildigunna was Aud Eyvind Karf's daughter, the sister of Modolf the Wise of Mosfell, from whom the Modylfings are sprung.