43. The Marriage of Kjartan

         We begin the day after a feast at Brygjafael, where Marie Delort was welcomed after having received her dagger from Poul, and Borgny the Sharp-Tongued tried to arrange a marriage between Bjarni and her daughter Vagnhild. Marie Delort spends another day there getting to see the rest of Brygjafael, and will leave the next day.

         Meanwhile, Borgny returns to her home at Grimholt, where she tries to quietly discuss her negotiations with her husband Skallagrim. Unfortunately, Vagnhild overhears them talk about her being matched with Bjarni. She is infuriated, and says that she refuses to marry in such a fashion. They argue for a time, but eventually Skallagrim tries to reverse things on her -- and suggests that she be responsible for finding and arranging her own husband. Vagnhild leaves in a huff.

         A week later, it is time for the local Things. Those at Brygjafael go to the Westfold Thing in Viskatjorn (Fishkill). Meanwhile, Skallagrim and Thorgerd are new landholders in the Eastfold, and attend the Eastfold Thing in Hvitavellir (White Plains). There is much talk and socializing. Thorgerd has a visit from Vignir the Bald, who makes a deal with her to train his horses -- having heard of Thruma's magnificence on the Susquehannock expedition.

         The second day, Skallagrim receives a visit from four armed men, one of whom he recognizes as the sole survivor of the eight men who deserted his expedition -- a man named Hamdir. They present themselves before his tent, and the leader introduces himself as Barri, a carl of Hring. He says that Hring wishes to make peace with Skallagrim, and wishes to find an arbitrator to negotiate settlement for their various grievances. Barri says that as a sign of good faith, he is leaving the punishment of the man Hamdir at the discretion of Skallagrim -- which may be anything short of death. Hamdir is surprised by this and attempts to back up, but he is grabbed by the other two men.

         They discuss the various grievances between these, starting with the deserters from the expedition and the actions of Sigurd the Bristly. Barri then brings up the matter of the death of Hring's son Agnar, who was killed by Skallagrim in a duel in a Narragansett village. Incensed, Borgny blurts out to Hring's man that Agnar was responsible for the shameful kidnapping of Busla and Swanhild, and that if anything the balance was on his side to pay for the crimes of his son.[2] The meeting ends uncomfortably, but Barri agrees with Skallagrim's suggestion that Vignir act as arbitrator for them.

         Meanwhile, Vagnhild has been avoiding her family as she wanders about the Thing grounds. Slightly outside of the grounds, she finds Atli -- the young but valiant carl of Hring -- sitting smoking a pipe of tobacco by himself. (It should be noted that among the Lagakin, smoking is a ceremonial act, done communally among leaders on important occaisions such as peace-making. Thus, Atli's behavior is unusual. Plus it is also like smoking cigarettes out behind the 7-11.) He invites Vagnhild to join him, and they sit, smoke, and talk for a while.

         That evening, Atli shows up outside of Skallagrim's tent, quite drunk. He stands just outside the tent and declares his love for Vagnhild, saying that he doesn't care what anyone else thinks. [3] Vagnhild is mortified, and as he starts to break into poetry, she comes out to get him to leave. At one point, he misunderstands her and tries to kiss her. She is furious and tries to punch him, but in a comic mistake she instead wraps her arm around his head as he steps into her -- seeming to embrace him.[4] She struggles out of his arms and runs away, and he falls on the ground.

         After that, Skallagrim invites him into the tent. Despite (or perhaps because of) his drunken brashness, Skallagrim and Borgny are impressed by Atli.[5] They learn that he is now the foster son of Hring. This is significant in that it may be a step in Hring's getting over the loss of his son Agnar. They encourage him in his pursuit of Vagnhild.

         Meanwhile, Silksif has been staying at Raudarbank and made several journeys to the spirit world to find out more about the prophecy made by the swamp devils. She finds a disir (female ancestral spirit) of her clan, who tells her that this is not the first time that trouble has come from the house of Hvalrik. This prophecy relives what happened fifty years earlier, she says. Silksif slowly infers from this that the disir is referring to Stein the Cruel, who married her great-aunt Svala of Tjaraholt. He had come to the area with wealth from an unknown source, and no one had known his family. It seems that he may have been from the house of Hvalrik -- i.e. an ancestor of the Earl Thorvald or his brother Hring.

         A week later, the wedding of Kjartan and Thjohild begins at the stead of Thjohild's grandfather Vigfus the Proud, Groenholt. There are many guests, including all of Brygjafael and their descendants as well as all of Vigfus' extended family. In addition, Hring and his family have been invited -- as new friends of Vigfus. Melnir has also been invited, and his wife Silksif is presiding over the ceremony.

         As is customary, the groom Kjartan is sequestered with his male relatives and friends, who steam, bathe, and dress him for the ceremony. The men include Hring, who meets face-to-face with Skallagrim for the first time -- though they saw each other distantly at the last Althing. Hring is a tall man with brown hair and a bushy beard. He is somewhat reserved in his speech, but seems willing to put past conflicts behind him as he talks with Skallagrim. Skallagrim praises his foster-son Atli.

         The bride Thjohild is similarly sequestered with her female relatives and friends, who steam, bathe, and dress her for the ceremony. Gossip among the women includes Hring's wife Gullrond, who is new to these circles. She seems bitter, and at one point tells Silksif (who is presiding over the ceremony) of the wrongs done to her and her family in Hvalrik. She blames the Earl but more specifically the Earl's wife Marie Delort. She suggests the Marie contrived through magic the drowning death of the older Earl Styr, and influenced the landowners to pick Thorvald as the new Earl even though he was the younger son.

         The ceremony itself goes splendidly. Vigfus is magnanimous in his role as host, and displays both his wealth and generosity. At the feast afterwards, Kjartan gives a speech praising all present. In discussions, he hints at plans to sponsor learning -- in particular the monks of Ormskogur where he studied for several years. However, as the feast is breaking up, Hring's wife Gullrond walks a few steps from table and collapses, dead.

         Her body is prepared and carried outside with Silksif, who goes into trance to speak with and guide her spirit. Gullrond knows nothing of why she died, but she is bitter towards Silksif -- having heard from others at the wedding about the friendship between Silksif and Marie Delort.[6] She is resigned to her fate, broken-hearted over the loss of her son and exile from her home. She says that she is powerless, and says hurtful words towards Silksif but follows her instructions. Silksif wakes and studies the body in the night air, and realizes she was poisoned by an herb to induce heart attack -- cunningly mixed to avoid a distinctive taste.[7] Hearing Gullrond's words, Silksif for a moment suspects Marie Delort of being responsible -- but considering it carefully she realizes that it cannot be.[8]

  1. The result of an 01 roll on Vagnhild's Listen skill.
  2. The result of an "Rash Impulse" card by Liz.
  3. The result of an "Error of Judgement" card by Jim.
  4. The result of a "Double Jeopardy" card by Jim.
  5. The result of a "Lasting Impression" card by Heather.
  6. The result of a "Turn for the Worse" card by Liz.
  7. The result of a "Things Are Not As They Seem" card by Bill.
  8. The result of a "Insight" card by Heather.

John H. Kim <jhkim@darkshire.net>
Last modified: Fri Nov 7 10:05:50 2003