Newer Edda: Chapter Two

  • Chapter Two: Concerning Bergrimr’s Dispute with The Men of the Reach

          The tale tells now of how Bergrimr and Dortgljot raise their children, one after the other, and of how they became. Orm was the eldest son, and took after his father in all things. Calm and slow to anger, deliberate in action and word, Orm inspired feelings of pride in Bergrimr when the father saw son working sure-handed with the goats or the forge. Erikr took after her shieldmaiden mother and caused no end of trouble in her youth; when she was but a babe and teething, she bit the rim of her mother’s shield and broke her teeth. Dortgljot had rushed out to the meadow where Bergrimr and Orm were milking goats, with babe crying and shield cradled each underarms; near jubilant with pride, she proffered the men look at her shield where the babe had bit, for it had been ruined beyond battle worthiness. Of the twins Kroke and Toki, the tale later goes into much detail, for they were weird children, and spooked Bergrimr even in their infancy.

          One day it happened that all the goats of Bergrimr’s meadow disappeared so that Bergrimr and Orm went down into the Reach to search for the missing herd. They wandered wide and weary through the mountains, till having found no trace remaining save tracks leading downwards towards the highlands. Having found them watering along the banks of the Karth where all might see, they rounded them up and ushered them back toward the mountain paths leading homeward; but this was a goodly number of goats to look upon, and saw this curious entourage a watchman of the Reach, from that fort Harmugstahl that tolled the road south to Markarth. And knowing not who these men or their goats were, thinking they did not belong for he knew them not, therewith the watchman departed with this information to seek his lord’s instruction on the matter. However it also happened at this time that the savage Reachmen had noticed these goats of Bergrimr’s, while planning to attack Harmugstahl.

          So the raiding party of Forsworn split into three lesser companies; one group fell upon the watchmen and his retinue who had ridden forth from the fort, one fell to harrying the remaining forces of the fort itself, and the last swarmed upon Bergrimr and Orm and the goats.

          Back to back stood the two, amidst the bleating of goats panicked and the war cries of Forsworn, father and son brandishing mere woodcutter axe and dagger against their foemen. The goats made positioning for the raiders troublesome, some tripping upon the goats and yet others suffering rammings and bitings, so that before long Bergrimr and Orm grew bored of waiting and leapt to meet foe in battle. This fresh chaos and its marked intensity caused the goats finally to flee towards the Druadachs, so that Bergrimr and Orm waded deep and unopposed into the ranks of the enemy. Soon it was seen that father and son were worse for wear, lacking shield or armor and gaining many wounds thereof, so that Orm gave a mighty war cry from the pit of his belly, and so scattered his foemen in fear that father and son made straightaway to the familiar mountain path leading home, hoping to use the knowledge they had of home and its surrounding acreage in their defense should they be harried. But the Forsworn rarely went so far afield.

          When home and accounting for the number of goats it was found that many were missing, so that Dortgljot declared it needful to return suchlike in kind to the men of the Reach on some moonless night upcoming, though Bergrimr and Orm would be long to heal their wounds. Bergrimr declared that she would do no such thing, forbidding her to prevail upon the Forsworn in retaliation. This she found as annoying as humorous, so that when it came time to change the dressing and bandages on his wounds she bound him up quickly and tightly so that he might not move about thereof. Well content that her husband was to be bedridden for atime enow that she might move to purpose, she armed herself and marched forth that very evening.

          Coming upon sight of the riverside of the Karth wherein the skirmish had taken place, and seeing there many of the slain goats and moreso living foemen busy gathering their own dead, Dortgljot called out for attention from the foothill above them, which caused these men fear for she had come grim of aspect in mighty wargear. She wore a leather jerkin studded in front with steel plates, and had a great bear-fur cloak about her, and wore the head of a bear upon her own from the open jaw of which she gazed from. She had also upon her person a great shield, slung across her back alongside hunting bow and twenty arrows; moreover she wore a handaxe and longsword hung from her belt, and a dagger jutting from a fur trimmed boot. Even still she held two spears within her left hand, and brandished a great-axe for the felling of timbers in her right. When her foemen, who wore furs and fought with rocks fashioned to sticks, had seen all this then did Dortgljot throw her first spear into the chest of one closest.

          Dortgljot then gave chase and harried the war-band long and hard, till twilight had come and gone and at last they came out of the darkness of night to torch-bright Druadach Redoubt and the encampment of Forsworn thereof. Now that the warband had joined their fellows and were double their original number, did Dortgljot think to seek advantage and ceased to give chase but instead found a large boulder to clamber upon, so that the foe needs must come back down from the cave upon the mountainside to fight with her. And here the enemy’s horn bellowed, and there shouted warriors and made much commotion, and now the battle was begun in earnest.

          Soon many arrows were in the air around the head of Dortgljot as foemen tried to provide cover for the descent of their comrades down the mountainside path. Yet while their arrows found no purchase she had loosed twenty arrows and felled nineteen men, so that there were now no more arrows in flight. Now did she leap from her boulder to the enemy gathering about her, throwing yet another spear to fell another foe. She gave much effort then to the hewing of bodies left and right till the enemy hacked the head off her great-axe. Stabbing at foemen now, using their numbers as hindrance, she laid waste with stinging sword from behind her shield till was one dull and the other broken. Tossing these aside she drew forth her dagger and hand-axe and, exhausted, merely fell upon the remaining Reachmen with savagery heedless of defending herself. The battletide was high in her favor. When even these last weapons were lost to her, she took up a stone and began beating a few of the Forsworn to death, so that the remainder limped away weeping and weary to their cave above, and she slumped back nigh unconscious upon the boulder among the slain.

          The tale now tells that the watchmen who were assaulted by these very Forsworn earlier that day did not all fall to the attack, but instead made some safe to Markarth and reported all the happenings of that day. As the jarls of Markarth and the Reachmen were wont to trade blows for as long as could be remembered, jarl Hralfdan did sally forth with men that very eve not long after Dortgljot had begun her merry slaughter. And so now the retaliatory force from Markarth crept forth from their hiding places, having watched the assault from these darknesses, and secured the downed shieldmaiden upon a steed and departed with her, to where the jarl held court in the ancient dwarven City of Stone.

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