The Marriage Proposal
When they reached what Sigmundur estimated was halfway to Sandvik, or approximately five miles from land, he noticed that Einar was turning white, his lips blue, and that his strokes were no longer propelling him forward. In fact they were barely keeping him afloat. At any moment now the chieftain was sure that his friend would not have the strength to go on, let alone make it the rest of the way to Sandvik. Sigmundr, in a final effort to save Einar, allowed him to grab hold of his shoulder, and lay himself across his back as he continued on.
Moments later Thore swam up to his cousin, and pointed out that the cold ocean had taken their friend.
" Einar is gone cousin. We must now go on without him. " he informed Sigmundur.
At first Sigmundur refused to let go of his friend, but when he was absolutely certain that all life had drained out of him he released Einar. Before resuming his own struggle to survive he watched as he Einar bobbed up and down in the waves for a few moments. Only after his face disappeared under the surface of the water did he turn and continue on.
To try and conserve their dwindling energy, and to use their muscles in different ways so that they would not cramp, Sigmundur and Thore switched back and forth from swimming on their backs, to swimming with the standard breast stroke. Nothing seemed to help Thore, however, and when Sigmundur noticed that his cousin was rapidly weakening he began to talk to his kin to judge if the cold was winning the battle for his life.
Sigmundur was relieved when he saw land looming off in the distance. When he turned to tell Thore that they were almost there he was gone ! As he frantically looked around the seemingly endless ocean he spotted Thore floundering in the water about twenty yards behind him. Sigmundur used some of his precious remaining strength to swim back to his cousin. What he saw when he reached him was not encouraging. Thore's eyes had rolled back into his head, and he was breathing very slowly. When Sigmundur grabbed his cousin's hand to throw it over his shoulder it was ice cold to the touch. But still Sigmundur could not bring himself to let go of Thore and did his best to swim ashore with him.
Sigmundur held onto Thore until an undercurrent pulled him further away from Suðuroy. With his strength almost gone he had no choice but to let his cousin go. He watched for a moment as his kin slipped under the water, and he was gratified that he did not struggle as he went down. Thore had obviously been dead for some time, and had died peacefully from the cold.
It was not until Sigmundur made it into the surf that he realized that he, unlike his comrades, had a real chance to survive. As the crashing waves pushed him ever closer to the beach Sigmundur grinned.
" I have once again defeated Tróndur í Gøtu ! " he said out loud to the ocean.
By the time the water had pushed him onto solid ground Sigmundur was too weary to stand. It was all he could do to crawl up onto the beach to get away away from the tidal mark. As the chieftain of Skúvoy struggled to a patch of seaweed his body and his mind finally gave out, and he became unconscious, falling into a deep sleep.
Thorgrim awoke early, as he did almost every morning, and walked down from his farm on Sandvik to the beach to do a little fishing. This morning he once again had to come alone because his sons Ormstan, and Thorstan liked to sleep late. Thorgrim, who was also known to many as " The Wicked " grinned when he thought of how much more peaceful it was when his sons either arrived late, or did not bother to come at all.
As Thorgrim walked down the beach towards a group of rocks that jutted out like a jetty into the ocean he noticed something red mixed in with the dark colored seaweed that had been deposited on the shore by the high tide. When he came closer he realized that it was a person's clothing. Thorgrim quickly dropped his fishing gear, and pulled from his belt his axe. As he carefully removed the layers of seaweed that covered the clothes he saw that a man lay beneath the tangled mess.
Thorgrim ran over to the rocks, where a small tidal pool had formed, and gathered up some water in his cupped hands. By the time he made it back to the man half of the water had drained through his fingers. What remained, however, turned out to be enough to waken the man when he threw it in his face.
" Well ! Good morning to you ! I am Thorgrim ! " he greeted the stranger.
Sigmundur placed his hands over his eyes to shade them from the morning sun before replying.
" Good morning ! " he said groggily in return.
Thorgrim scratched his bearded chin, and then with a deeply frowned looked asked the stranger :
" May I ask what your name is friend, and how you came to be washed up on the shore like a wrecked ship ? "
Sigmundur sat up and shook his head from side to side to relieve the stiffness.
" I am Sigmundur Brestisson, Chieftain of Skúvoy ! " he told the man who hovered over him.
Just as Sigmundur began to tell of how his farm had been attacked, and how he and his comrades had to flee for their lives, Thorgrim's sons walked up to them. Thorstan, not meaning to be rude, broke into the conversation with news he felt was more important.
" Father ! Down the beach a ways their is the dead body of a man ! " he informed his father.
Sigmundur looked up at the large young man who appeared to be in his late teens.
" That must be my cousin Thore. He did not have the strength to make it here, and I am afraid that I was not strong enough to save him. " he explained to the youngster.
Sigmundur then finished his story of how Tróndur í Gøtu and his men had lit his farm buildings on fire, and tried to kill him.
" If not for the sea I would have been killed right there on Skúvoy. " Sigmundur told them in conclusion.
In his bruised, tired, and aching condition, Sigmundur had not noticed that Thorgrim was eyeing his gold arm ring. More importantly, however, the chieftain did not know that Thorgrim was a very good friend of Tróndur í Gøtu.
After hearing Sigmundur's harrowing tale Thorgrim became hostile towards the chieftain, and had his boys hold him down. Sigmundur tried to fight back, but in his weakened condition he could do no more than put up a feeble struggle. The father suddenly jumped up and held his axe out in front of him in a menacing fashion.
" Hold his head Ormstan ! " he ordered his son.
Ormstan grabbed a hold of Sigmundur's hair and pulled as hard as he could, stretching the struggling man's neck out. Thorgrim grunted as he swung the axe head hard against the exposed skin. Sigmundur screamed at the intense pain and thrashed out hard with his legs, but he could not break their hold on him. Sigmundur also began to plead for his life when he realized that the dull axe that Thorgrim was using would take several more swings to severe his head from his body.
Thorgrim hacked at Sigmundur's neck a few more times, digging the axe blade deeper into the chieftain's gaping wound each time. Finally, to silence the high pitched screams of his victim more than anything else, Thorgrim spit on both of his hands before raising the axe high over his head. This time when he swung the blade cut clean through, and Ormstan fell backward as the head detached from its body.
While Thorstan, who had been holding Sigmundur down, vomited at the sight of the headless body that had blood gushing out of it, his brother danced around with the head as though he had been handed it as a prize. Thorgrim the Wicked, however, had another trophy in mind. He knelt down and pulled the the gold ring off of the arm of the dead man, and held it up to the early morning light.
" Boys ! Bury both of these bodies, and then meet me up at the house. I don't feel much like fishing today ! " he told his sons.
Thorgrim the Wicked had allowed greed and hatred to decide Sigmundur's fate, but those who knew the Chieftain of Skúvoy well would later place the blame for his death squarely on the curse put on the gold arm ring by King Olav of Norway all those years before !
- End Chapter 12
- Next : Chapter 13 : Tróndur Avenges Sigmundur's Murder
- Glenn Bergen, ( Ravensheart ), © Copyright, 2017.