Romsdal pt 5: In which the murderer returns to his forest dwelling.
Then he came, the great hall owner.
From his covert Thorstein saw him,
Tall and warlike, long hair falling
All around his giant shoulders.
Like a king he led his horse in,
Striding through the massive doorway.
Took to stall his mountain racer,
Then he turned to his own table.
Hilt and pommel of his shortsword
Thorstein saw with blood upon them,
And his hands stained cloth and water
As he washed them in a basin.
Then he poured himself a goblet
Of the vine’s blood, and in silence
Held a feast with manner regal
In his dark hall full of treasure.
When this stranger to his hearth came,
Saw the red and glowing coal-bed,
Said he, ‘Someone stirred my fire up,
Set the the log-foe fiercely flaming.
Dauntless men have come to hunt me,
Come to feed the mountain eagle,
Fix a feast for forest falcon.
They have cause, and will not spare me.’
With his tongs he took an ember,
Held aloft the red-coal glowing,
Cast a light upon the timbers
Of the mighty forest dwelling.
Every shadow, black, foreboding
Could be hiding some avenger;
On the beams the dragon carvings
Leered at him with greedy hunger.
When he came to where was lying
All his pillage and provisions,
Thorstein stole from out the packing
Through a cleft behind the chimney.
He escaped the threatening searcher
In the fog-cloak of the forest,
Sat and smiled and blessed his smallness
In the night outside the death-hall.
Three times through the great hall owner
Searched his hall with smouldering ember
Till at last, when nothing finding,
Said the man, to bed retiring –
‘I will leave things as they’re standing.
All is dark to me this evening,
And I fear my own heart’s counsel
Will betray me ere the morning.’
Thorstein watched him loose his short-sword
Through the cloven chimney hatchway,
Saw him hang it by the headboard,
Sharp to pour warm wine for ravens.
Spell-bound Thorstein looked upon it,
Shining, biting, sharp wound-maker,
And he listened for the breathing
Soft and even of a sleeper.
Illustration by Christian Krohg