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~ Heathen Stories and New Myths ~

Three Fine Swords

Ages ago in Norway lived a poor bonder by the name of Analf with his two children, Thorleif and Ingerd. Their holding was small. A shaggy patch of earth near the fens with a scabby old cow, a mangy dog, five old hens and a cockerel so blind it could not see the rising sun to crow at it. Yet despite their state of poverty the family made on as best as it could. Analf was wise in the ways of the earth and set about his crops as shrewdly as he might. Thorleif was a tireless worker and ever eager to complete a task as precisely and well done as he could. But Ingerd was the treasure of the house. Her eyes shone as blue as the sky and her hair cascaded like a dark waterfall down her pale skin. Her manner was so mild and gentle that to be in her presence was as a draught of cool water after being scorched by a desert's fury. It was she that kept the spirits of the small impoverished farmstead alive in times of stress and overweening toil. Often it was commented that should she ever find a way out of her poor clothes and humble house Norway would suddenly find a new princess in its midst. And so these three lived for many a year in simple subsistance, for try as they may, Analf and Thorleif together could not bring more means forth from their shabby patch of earth.

Then one year disaster befell. Ullr's footsteps came early to the land, and a grim breath of frost crept in on the night air and over the crops, seizing them all in a fell grip of icy death. Famine followed this unexpected freeze, as what little was left was hastily gathered and stored for for the coming winter. Now during this time the local chieftain, a lout of a man named Svein, squallorous and boorish, began to feel the sting in his larder. He kept too many guests that winter than he could support, and after seeing their suspicious glances at their shortening rations, he decided that action had to be taken to prevent his dishonour in the eyes of his dependants. Svein was known by reputation as a fierce warrior and dueller;  that being said he gathered a force from his farm and went out into his district to seize foodstuffs from his bonders. He visited several farms and deprived them of much in the way of supplies, regardless of the hardship left in the wake of the early freeze. But because of his might and troop no one would stand before him, and they let go their stores without issue.

At length Svein came to Analf's farm and noted the bloody snow outside from when they had been forced to kill their only cow for meat. Svein was foolish and did not see into this much, and so he kocked upon the door of Analf's farmstead.
Analf answered, "Who is this who comes so boldly to my door in the midst of this miserable winter?"
"Tis I", answered Svein, "Svein who is chieftain over this district."
"So it is." Said Analf, " Be welcome in my home and take all of the warmth that you care, but you've come at a poor time if you wish to be feasted, for I have naught of food to give you, as we have only just enough to last us through the winter."
"Nonsense," said Svein butting open the door, "all families keep extra as they might in case the winter runs long. I have come to collect a winter tithe for myself and my guests. A friend you will make of me if you give freely, and a friend of my sword you will make should you find cause to resist."
"Tyrant!," shouted Thorleif, "Can you not see we are alive but by scrapings, and that our only cow's blood wets the snow outside?"
"Tut," said Svein, "Old cows often perish in winter and it is to waste not to take the meat. Now stand aside that we may take but what is laid against a long winter. But have no fear of this case. For Freyr my friend has told me that Ullr's stay will not be long that you may not even need this share that I will take."
At this Thorleif went to seize his sickle and beset against Svein, but both Analf and Ingerd intercepted him. "Stay your bloody hand, boy!," whispered Analf sharply into Thorleif's ear, "I see finely wrought blades amongst Svein's men and coats or mail beneath their winter cloaks. I would not see my only son's blood mingle with the cow's out in the snow." At this Thorleif was restrained.

With a grin Svein turned his back upon Analf and Thorleif and stalked outside to their storehouse. Though when he opened the door, he saw with his own eyes what store the poor family had to last the winter through, and paused to weigh the stones on his heart. But greed took him at last as the faces of angry guests facing lean plates ready to decry him to great men in foreign places as a miserable host was less easy to bear than the wistful image of three lonely grave mounds on a shabby patch of land. Svein took as much of the stores as he dare, lest he leave the family with nothing whatsoever, but what pittance remained was certainly not enough to survive.
His deed being done, Svein continued his errand, as the eyes of the family he'd as good as killed watched as he and his men vanished into the falling snow and mist. Analf's eyes betrayed his sadness, while Thorleif's burned with rage as coals to heat their entire house. Ingerd's eyes were hidden as gentle tears rolled down her pale cheek to wet the floor below.

The winter wore on, and Analf and Thorleif went out every day to gather as much food as they might. They came to the point that they ate the bark from trees to help sustain themselves, but to no avail. On Midwinter night Ingerd took ill. The sickness consumed her over the course of a full month, slowly eroding her, till she was but skin stretched over bone. Father and brother fought this fate as much as they might with ceaseless gathering and begging their neighbors for aid. But the famine had picked at their plates too, and Svein had come collecting at their tables, so there was precious little to be given.
A full moon rose on the night Ingerd finally died. It is a horrid thing to watch a rose wither away. It leaves curling in despondency, as petal after petal falls from its crown for lack of strength to hold itself up. Then the blackness creeps in. At the tips of the petals and the base of the stem, spreading, always spreading. Then the dry crackle of the leaves as they are consumed by the withering shadow, till the whole Rose lies as twisted and wrinkled ebony against the vivaciousness that it once posssed. Analf and Thorleif saw the whole of this transition in their beloved kin. As on the night Svein walked away with their hope, the same on the night of Ingerd's death: Two sets of eyes shone as they had before, one with sadness and the other with rage.

Thorleif could get neither rest nor peace of mind. If he sat, he stood immediatly, and if he lay down, it was as if the bed would toss him up again. Always he was with anger. As for Analf, his grief took him. He spoke not nor moved much but simply stared, into space or sky, but never a word was uttered.
Thorleif buried Ingerd out in the frozen earth while Analf kept to himself indoors. When Thorleif returned from his grim errand, his hands scraped and bleeding from the frozen ground, he stopped and listened to hear if his father had broken from his reverie. Hearing nothing, Thorleif took an axe and walked out again into the frosty air. He treaded three days through miles of frozen ground ,no longer caring for his fate. He knew he could not rest until Svein's blood watered the earth.
In the night he came across Svein's hall and saw within firelight, and heard the sound of merriment. Shouts and laughter rose from the hall along with the grey band of smoke from the warm hearthfires within. Thorleif made right for the door and pushed it open. Cold winds rode at his shoulders as he stepped into the hall.

"Who is it who lets warmth and mirth seep from an open door?!" cried Svein angrily from his high seat.
"Tis I, Thorleif, Analf's son, whose sister lies cold in the earth and who has come to repay death for death!" said Thorleif as he brandished his wood chopping axe. And before any of Svein's men could stop him, Thorleif rushed hastily toward the high seat, intending to bury his axe in Svein's paunchy flesh. But alas, Thorleif himself was weak from hunger and the long cold march to his quarry's hall. Svein caught Thorleif's arm as he swung down to deliver the axe to his flesh, and held it fast above their heads. And so for a moment it lasted that each man stood locked in balance, until Thorleif's eyes met Svein's. Those eyes of Thorleif so burned that they shot fear into Svein's heart, that he moved away and his grip slackened. The axe fell down and cut a path across Sveins face, so that a river of blood was opened from the top of his left eyebrow across unto his right cheek. Svein fell back shouting, his left hand clutching his scarred face as his right hand seized the hilt of his sword and drew it. Thorleif pressed forward, raising his heavy arm to strike again, and suddenly Svein's sword flashed out in practised motion under Thorleif's ribs and into his heart. The noble son's body toppled next to his murderer, landing heavily on the ground. From the door a cold wind blew and slackened the fires down to coals.

Svein was taken to bed and his great wound tended for many nights. As soon as he was able, he called in his judges who had been spending the winter with him.
"My face is a ruin now thanks to that wretch", grumbled Svein from behind soaked bandages, "and I would have payment in full for this insult from Analf and his family. I took what was my due and am repaid in maiming. I would instruct you judges to ponder a fee which you think is fair for the dishevellment of such handsome features."

And so the judges went away, thinking amongst themselves how best to please their host and bring them credit as fine arbitrators, while being blind to all the facts of the case before them. They came back to Svein a day later and announced to him that as the family of Analf had numbered three, and that each had so offended Svein with this insult, that they should owe to Svein three fine swords newly forged of hardy make and excellent quality. Svein was approved of this fine and humbly validated their verdict himself.

To return now to Analf, alone in his house, he was roused from his grief by a sound which only a parent can hear, the silence of an empty house. He roused and searched about for Thorleif but did not find him anywhere. Analf was no fool though and noticed the missing axe. Trusting to his son's strength and wits he thought it would be best to wait for him to return, no matter how long it might take. For Analf knew that Throleif might suceed in his errand and need to hide for some time.

With the strain of extra people removed from the remaining supplies, Analf was able to last the winter. In the spring, news of Thorleif's fate finally reached him. One of Svein's judges came by to declare the death of his son and the fine that was to be levied against him for paying such an insult to the chieftain. Never was a heart more downcast than Analf's. His children had been slain in blood and greed by the same man, and Analf knew it was beyond his power to avenge them by blade or bow. The judge appointed that Svein was not totally uncaring and in accordance to his poor situation he would give three years´ grace till the payment of the fine. Three years might well have been a decade, for Analf knew that such a fine was beyond his means to pay. His choices were limited though by his means and age. He could not move or flee without death finding him swiftly, and open defiance of Svein would bring about its approach even faster. And so without option he set himself to this heavy task. He worked his land alone now without the aid of Thorleif's strong arms and without the comfort of Ingerd's musical laughter. His house was as one haunted with dreams. He lived on scrub and sour fare, selling all he could against his fine. And for almost a full three turns of the seasons he labored under this crushing misery, forever looked upon by the two grave mounds near the house and taunted my messengers from Svein reminding him of his dues.

At last Analf set out to find a smith with the skill to requite his unjust debt to Svein. In those years he had managed to save a fair amount. But as his holdings were not great he only afford a single sword of the make that the debt demanded. Still though he was determined to try and find a smith with mercy enough to accommodate him, and he traveled to a great town in the upplands. There he plied for one who could help him with his money and his tale of woe, but in all his travels he could not find a weaponsmith who would help him for the money he had. None would forge three fine blades for the price of one. At last in despair he walked to a quiet corner of the town and there sat for a long time considering his end at the hands of Svein, who would surely seize his land and cast him out if not kill him outright. As he sat there he heard in his ears the sound of hammering begin to rise. It rose and rose such that it could be heard well above the humming from the town square, as a splash can be heard in a murmering pool.
"Clang!.... Clang!... Clang!"

Analf rose and went to the sound. Round a bend in an alley he found a door leading to a smithy he had not known was there, and indeed that none of the other smiths had even spoken of, despite their affinity for knowing what competition was in town. There smouldered a forge glowing red, and behind it stood a great figure of a man in a leather apron, beating upon iron as if if had caused his family some great shame in the distant past. He was greatly muscled with long hair tied back behind his head. Sweat from his forehead ran like fire down his brow into his close cropped beard. As Analf gazed on, he came to see that the man was also free of the odd scarred burns that every smith acquires when the hot iron sparks reach out to grasp at his flesh. And upon further gazing Analf noticed the most surprising feature on so capable looking a smith, that one of his hands was quite gone from his arm. This struck Analf as something he should have noticed immediately. but the man moved so confidently and surely that it belied his disability, such that it seemed not to exist.

"Hail, traveller, and welcome to my forge", said the smith.
Analf was taken aback, as he had not realized how much time he had been standing in the doorway. "Greetings, Sir" replied Analf in turn.
"So are you a plier of the trade come to admire my work, or is there something you require?"
"No, good Sir," said Analf, "I was called by the ringing of your forge, for I thought that I had been to every smith in this town with my request."
"Fie me then," chortled the smith, "they must all have turned this request down for you to have turned up at my door. You are either so rich that you ask a thing created beyond the skill of any craftsman, or you are so poor that you ask a thing created beyond the means of your silver to carry it. I can tell from your talk that you are not arrogant enough to be a rich man, and can see what you are from your dress. So tell me, poor man, what would you have the hammer call forth from steel and why?"
And so Analf spoke his tale of woe. He told of shabby scrubland that provided just enough to make do, of a dutiful son of promise, of a princess's equal hidden behind rags and dirt, and of a man posessed by greed and cruelty who had snatched them all from him in a fell twist of fate. And as Analf told his tale he could see that the Smith was moved by the injustice laid out before him, the wrongs left bare to the world that cried out in pain for succor. And so Analf finished his tale and sank down, his grief renewed at the telling.

"Be at ease, old man," said the smith, "I will help you pay this debt in full and be sure that this chieftain is repaid everything that is owed him. Give me what silver you have and return in one month. I shall have for you the first of the swords to repay this man with."

Hardly believing his luck, Analf happily turned over the silver and made his way home. After one month he returned to the town. As he stood in the square he had a sudden fear that he might not be able to find the alley that led to the well concealed shop but then he heard the sound again.
"Clang!... Clang!... Clang!"
A hammering rising above all the bustle of the square, drowning out even the sounds of the other smithies even though it was far away. Analf followed the sound to the shop of the smith with one hand.
"Ah, poor man. Welcome again to my forge", said the smith as he ceased tormenting the twisted lump of iron listing like a beaten dog across his anvil, and crossed over to a workbench which was covered in a silvery blue cloth. "Tell me, poor man," he intoned as he drew the cloth away, "will this satisfy your greedy chieftain as the first of his debt?"
Beneath the cloth was a sword unlike any Analf had ever seen in life or story. It was narrow and long but shimmered like ice in the half light of the forge. Its hilt was all inlaid with silver in a beautiful pattern of entwining roses.
"Pick it up," said the smith in a quiet voice.
Analf needed no urging and reached down to grasp the hilt, which he immediately noted was very slender and rather short for a man's hand. But nevertheless he brought it up and moved it about the air clumsily as he was no swordsman. The blade moved like water through the air, and though Analf thought it was a trick on his old ears, he thought he heard a sound like someone's musical laughter as the blade danced to and fro.
"I believe Svein will be more than satisfied with this and may finally cease sending his riders to goad me so at all times and trample down my crops."
"Then take it to him," commanded the smith, "and in one month's time return for the second sword."

Analf thanked the smith profusely before hurrying out of the forge, and in his old heart the faint glimmer of hope began to push back the shadows which had lingered there for so long. He made straightaway for Svein's hall and found him there at table tearing away at roasted meat and wearing several glistening trinkets that he had won on his raids in foreign lands. But all for all, the most shocking thing about Svein was the great red scar lancing across his face from eye to cheek.
"Here," said Analf, in a restrained tone while drawing out the sword, "Here is part of the payment owed you by your decree against my son's murd.... against the insult caused you by my son."
"Mind your words, old man..." Grumbled Svein with a full mouth as he gestured for one of his retainers to bring him the blade. "... lest they lead you to more troubles." The retainer took the blade and handed it to Svein, who dropped his meat to receive it. He stood and grasped it with a frown of disppointment crossing his face. Taking a few half-hearted swings which made no sound in the air, he turned an angry glare to Analf and broached, "Pah! This sword is too light, its handle is far too short, and it is like a reed to grasp. My fee was three well-wrought swords, Analf. This one is more suited for a woman to wield. Take it back to whatever fool made it and do not trouble me with these half measures again. This repays nothing, now get out of my sight!"

Crestfallen, Analf was tossed roughly from the hall. He could not return this blade to the smith. It was beautiful and though slender, was as strong as any ever forged. And what if the smith should get angry and decide to halt his work for the insult of one of his works so ignobly returned to him? No, Analf would not allow for that, and instead took the blade to his home and placed it upon the bed that his daughter had used. For its shimmer likened unto him her fair skin and its passage through the air made a sound which was wistful of her fair laughter.

As the month turned, Analf turned his steps again toward the upland town and made his way to the quiet corner of the town. There he looked for the small alley leading to the smith's forge, but was unable to find it until he heard the sound of hammer strikes.
"Clang!... Clang!... Clang!" rose above every other sound and almost seemed to ring off the nearby hills. Analf entered the smithy and was greeted by the placid face of the one-handed smith.
"Did your chieftain like the sword, poor man?" intoned the smith with an almost imperceptible grin.
"Why.... yes." Analf had to force the words out, for he found that the lie had stuck in his throat and he could only speak it when he turned his gaze from the smith's face. "He was quite pleased."
The smith had noticed Analf's shying gaze with keen interest, but pretended not to notice for the sake of his guest. "Then here," he said, stepping over to the same workbench which was covered by a cloth of green and gold, "is the second sword." He drew away the cloth, and there on the table lay a massive broadsword, huge and heavy with knotwork and the images of oxen entwined about the hilt. Mounted in the center of the guard was a red stone which seemed to burn with its own inner fire.
"Pick it up," commanded the smith.
Analf reached over to grasp the sword and found that his hands could barely grip the heavy hilt. With a grunt of effort he barely managed to bring the blade up off the table and dared not swing it lest he loose his balance and send it to the gritty floor. "It is a kingly sword," said Analf, " and I have never before seen its equal."
"Aye, take it to your chieftain. That is such a blade that I should not be surprised if he were to requite you of your debt in full after two such fine swords. But nonetheless return to me again this next month, and you shall have your final blade."

Once again Analf thanked the smith, and with two hands and a hearty grunt he hefted the blade and made out the door. He travelled straight to Svein's hall, wondering if indeed the smith might be right that Svein would marvel at this blade so as to fully requite him. He knocked cautiously upon the door and was admitted with the jeering and untrusting stares of Svein's retainers upon him. Standing before the high seat, he proffered the sword to Svein who had just finished counting some silver.
"What is this?!" said Svein as he took the blade, and nearly dropped it for its unexpected heft. "The fine you owe me is three fine swords, old man. Swords are not war mauls!" The bright scar across Svein's face seemed to burn a brighter red. "This is no blade but a great sharp bludgeon better suited to a man with hands too large and and strength beyond the reach of what a normal man can hope to have in battle. This repays none of your debt either. Take this great cleaver back to the fool who forged it, and tell him to take the measure of men before he again brings such a one-handed pry bar into form!"
Analf was roughly tossed from the hall, much as before, and hit the ground hard; his own weight cushioning the great sword which fell on top of him. Dejected he stood and began the trek to his home, once more crushed of hope. He again felt he could not tell the smith of this grave insult to his craft. And so he placed the blade upon the bed which Thorleif had used in happier days. For indeed Thorleif's great strength could have wielded the blade easily, and Analf wondered if Thorleif had left that night with this weapon rather than a poor wood chopping axe, if that confrontation that had taken his son from him might not have gone quite differently.

The moon turned again, and with a heavy heart Analf turned his feet toward the upland town to find the merciful smith, and see what wonder he had wrought and indeed what wonder Svein in his pride and greed would no doubt turn down. This time Analf wasted no time searching for the smith but rather pricked his ears the moment he entered the market square and listened.
"Clang!... Clang!... Clang!" came the unmistakeable sound coursing on the wind. Analf followed the rising hammerfalls to the now familiar door.
"Ah, poor man, you have come at last," said the great one-handed smith. "Here you will find your final blade, though I must caution you. The iron at this blade's core was sent to me by a very overworked source, and I believe that it has been beaten upon and worn to its very wit´s end, before it came to be. But the iron at the edges of the blade is still stout and has remained strong, despite the wear on its heart. This I tell you as I see it and know it, but I think that this chieftain who has been so cruel and unjust to you will neither see nor care. Be that as it may, its looks betray no malice, and he who wields it shall have what he deserves. So..." The smith went to his workbench and drew aside a flat brown cloth. Underneath lay a staight and sturdy blade, standard of weight and grip. No filigreed design lay about its hilt which was flat and plain, nor was the pommel bedecked in some special way. All that was unique about it was that a band of fine gold had been well twined below the hilt and there unto the handle. It looked a fine blade but for what the smith and Analf knew lay in its weakened heart.

Analf was about to speak, to say that this sword seemed poor work when compared to the two beautiful pieces that had been made before, but he immediately berated himself for such lack of manners. He owed this smith all, for he had brought out three finely wrought swords for the price of but one, and Analf was most grateful. So there they shook hands at the conclusion of their business, and Analf invited the smith to stay with him should he ever pass near to his home and be out of doors. The smith thanked him, and wished him well. Analf went out holding the final sword clutched to him, and the smith in the doorway raised his left arm which was missing the hand, and waved goodbye.

Analf set forth for Svein's hall, dreading his reception and fearing that once again the smith's work would be rejected. The door was opened for him, and he went before Svein's high seat where the chieftain sat deep in his cups. "Analf!," he barked, "Show me what forge splinter scrapings you have brought with you this time. But I warn you, that should you once again be cheating me with wispy cutters or sharpened shovels, you'll not leave this hall with your head on your shoulders!" Analf pulled the plain brown cloth off the sword and handed it to Svein.
"Ahh," toned Svein, giving the sword a few practiced swishes through the air, "now this is a sword. Straight and stout, normal of grip and normal of weight. This, I decree, is the first of the swords that you owe me which is acceptable to the fine. Now begone from here, and do not return without bearing me another weapon such as this."
"Chieftain...", said Analf quietly as he was beginning to leave, "about that blade you should know that..."
"Silence!" bellowed Svein, "I know more of blades than you ever will, old man. Now go out of my hall and back to your scrub land, or wherever it is you keep yourself."

At this Analf turned and left. Most pleased that this time he was not tossed out the door, he made his way home. Still, though, he worried that now there was nothing he could do to appease Svein, and that in the end he would lose his life to the man as his poor children had. He thought about selling the two fine swords that he still had and having more made, but time was too far against him on that. Besides, they were so beautiful and each one alike to his two children, that he had taken solace from where they rested in his house. So Analf resigned himself to wait and see what fate delivered to him.

Another moon waxed and waned, until one night a terrible storm arose. It shook Analf's house in its fury and pelted the earth with rain. At one point the front door was blown open by a violent blast of wind, and as Analf ran to close it, the sky outside was lit bright as day by streaking lightning. Across the way he saw the two grave mounds of his children and sticking up out of them unmistakably were two fine swords. From Ingerd's stood the fine blade which shimmered like ice and laughed as it cut bending in the wind. From Thorleif's, resolute and unmoving despite the fierce wind, stuck the great broadsword which only one of exceptional strength could wield, the faint gleam of the red stone in its hilt shimmering out against the night.
Analf slammed the door shut and ran to his children's corners. Upon their beds was nothing but thin cloth covering the straw. Then there came a pounding on the door, and perplexed and confused Analf went too it and opened it. There stood the one-handed Smith in the rain, a travelling cloak pulled tight about him, and a hat pulled over his head.

"I have come to claim your offer of lodging, poor man. For as you can see, I am nearby and quite out of doors," said the smith above the pouring rain.
"Of course, enter and be quick," said Analf, eagerly stepping out of the way and ushering the smith inside."Whatever caused you to be out on a night like that?"
"I had an errand aways to the south," said the smith as he removed his dripping hat and cloak.
They sat there and talked, as Analf put together what fare he could. The Smith's clothes were set to dry by the fire, and the smith himself sat by the flickering flames intent on dragging some warmth back into his bones. His one handed arm rested by his side.
"And so you are now requited of your debt to Svein the Scarred?" asked the Smith.
Analf looked about, still shaken by the mysterious migration of the swords from the beds in which they lay outside to the tops of the mounds. "No," he finally said with a sigh,"Svein rejected the first two of your wonderous blades. He complained that one was to thin and light, while the other was too heavy and broad, and as such did not satisfy the fine he levied upon me for the death and murder of my children. He kept the third with the broken heart, though . I say without compunction that had I been able, I would gladly have rammed either of those two fine blades through him and have my just revenge!" Analf's knees gave out and he slumped onto the floor, his head between his hands.

Unblinking the smith replied, "It would seem that someone did it for you then."
Looking up through misted eyes Analf asked, "What do you mean?"
With a chuckle and a mysterious look the smith recounted: "After you gave him the last fine blade he set out in his ship upon a raid. He found a settlement across the waters to the south. A piteous thing really, no stockade or defenses, more just a gathering of farms; and he attacked it with his crew. He subdued the residents with ease and made his way to their storehouse, to seize what food they had. He opened the door and went alone inside, but someone was waiting for him."
"Who?" asked Analf.
"Oh, I cannot say," said the smith, "for there was no light, and who knows what wights may get their hands about sword hilts when the moon is dark. But there were screams from within, the sound of shattering steel, and lo, Svein's scarred head came toppling out the door to rest in the mud outside. It seemed that great scar of his had been reopened, and the job your son set upon so long ago was finished. When they dragged his body out, they found no one and nothing inside save the pieces of his sword. It seemed he had tried to guard against his attackers´ blows, but his sword had been too much beaten in its heart and spited him by breaking into shards at the first touch of another blade. Upon his body they found another wound. A wispy slice clean and deep across his stomach."
Analf looked on in shock as this was recounted. "When did all this happen?" he stammered.
"Not more than an hour ago." said the smith as he finished his food. "And now I must take my leave, poor man. I do not wish to be a rude guest, but I still have many things to do tonight, and mainly wished to give you the news."

Analf's mind raced. He wondered if the smith was somehow mad or playing him for a fool, that he could be away in the south with Svein on a raid, and suddenly again in the North to inform him of his hated chieftain's death.
The smith stood and bound up his now dry cloak, his handless arm sinking beneath its folds. "I have never asked you, poor man, but I would know, what is your name?"
"My name is Analf, sir, and may I have yours?"
"My name," said the smith as he opened the door into a clear night devoid of rain or weather of any kind, "is Tyr of the Aesir, and I would say that you have your justice at last." With that he stepped out ito the night. Analf flew to the door behind him, but only caught a glimpse of his hat as it descended out of view between the grave mounds of his son and daughter, the two fine swords still perched at their peaks.

And so it came to pass that the crew of Svein the Scarred returned home with a tale of woe and their chieftain's body. They made a great show of grief ,but soon came to squabbling over the goods he had owned. Meanwhile Analf had peace. His debt to Svein was paid in full measure, and always he remembered his friend, the great As who had so helped him.

© Matthias Wilson

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