Vitandi's Holm and the Pillar of Gold

The Aronssons hosted two feasts every year and among their guests were notable citizens from the southwest quarter. At the first feast, Vitandi Aronsson greeted everyone warmly, and all enjoyed a merry time.

Thorgerd Gorlasdottir, known for spreading rumors and rhymes of devastating verse, had attended this first feast. Thereafter, she came to Jvánsknoll to ask for counsel in recovering a dowry lost by her cousin Thorgeir. She rambled somewhat coherently, "...at the feast of the Aronssons, the revelry! There in the hall sits a totem carved of dark wood. Spirals curve around the handle-mast of the hammerhead meeting in the middle where Freyr sits engraved. There are salt markings on it like those seen on ships. Imagine him who must have given up the wood of his ship! And so that Vitandi Aronsson might have a totem like that!"

Vin and Ván approached Helgi and told him they suspected it was Tómas's stolen wood. Together, they gathered men and marched toward Aronshall. Vincent burst through the doors, marching right past the totem and up to the high seat where Vitandi sat.

"Know you, Vitandi Aronsson, that the wood from your totem was stolen by your kin Tómas from Helgi Hrannarsson?"

Vitandi grinned.

"How can one steal what is grown from one's own blood!?" yelled Tómas, erupting from his seat.

"Sixty pieces of silver should put this spat in its grave!" shouted Vincent, his voice bellowing over the multitude of heads dotting the hall.

Vitandi retorted, "And how much is a good name worth to you, Lisson?"

Suddenly the skald from before pointed at Vincent, before blurting:

"They left me without a new carved door!"

"But surely, your silver buys you a door?" retorted Vincent.

"Does anyone else have a grievance?" asked Vitandi.

The seeress stood up.

"They left me without a ladle for brewing remedies!" she said.

"Surely, your silver buys you ladle," retorted Vincent.

"Who else?" echoed Vitandi.

The ferryman leaped from his bench over the table, turning around to face Vincent.

"They left me without an oar on the river!" shouted the Ferryman.

"Your oar was given freely! And silver buys a fine oar!" said Vincent

Each pointed out that their items had been bought and burned; each brought out their ten pieces of silver and dropped them at the feet of Vitandi. Some of Vitandi's men were now toeing towards the totem...

Vitandi snorted, "Look at all this silver, surely not enough to buy my totem! Is not Freyr worth more than an oar, a ladle, and a door? And you bring your brother-in-law here, in arms!"

Snorri chuckled and Vincent turned red.

Vitandi continued, "Does Vincent Lisson fail to settle all matters? Perhaps had Helgi a mouth to speak, things would be different! There is much talk of Hrannarson blade craft!"

At this, Helgi and his men held their hilts. For a moment the minds of the feast goers trained toward the exits; others felt tempted to the underside of tables, and yet more watched weapons stacked and unwielded from the corners of their eyes. All could but fix their gaze on the totem and the men around it. Vin whispered something to Helgi. He then declared a lawsuit to prosecute Vitandi for knowingly accepting the totem made with stolen wood. He followed all the witness callings and regulations to the letter, naming every participant.

He twirled his cloak and marched out the door, his men following in a straight line, each taking care not to bump into or provoke any feast goer; Helgi was last. As he left the hall, he saw a brazier burning to the right of the entry. He took the hilt of his sword and flipped the brazier with it, spilling sputtering coals all over the floor, which started a small fire on one hanging tapestry whose twirling ends curled and burnt to ash.

At their departure Snorri the skald then recited this verse:

That lest with blessed wood he build,

a foreign king will waste for naught,

knots of wood on boats soon stopped.

That who bursted in on fateful wind,

to seize a wooden prize, not bought,

beardless, bring his plans to naught.

The feast ended, and every attendee made their way home.


But Vitandi would bring the totem to any public event he attended. First, athletic games, where he and his men propped the totem up near the field of play. Their team won the day. Second, board games at a marriage. Vitandi placed the totem behind the bride and groom and then sat down to play. He won more games than usual, even defeating the groom. Then Vitandi brought the totem to the summer gathering at the Althing. He did not erect the totem near his booth, but right next to the law rock and court proceedings.

At the Althing, Vincent went to the law rock to rename witnesses and jurors, announcing his case accusing Vitandi of accepting wood stolen by Tómas from Helgi. Vitandi knowing little of legal matters went to the booth of Mord the White, a former student of lawspeaker Skapti Thorodsson. Vitandi offered him a golden ring in exchange for his help. Mord agreed.

A jury was called, and Vin lined up the jurors so that each might be examined and challenged. Mord arrived, pacing up and down, his feet scarcely made a sound. Then he pointed at one juror, loudly asking "You, your name is...?"


"And your land?"

"Up where the Westfold meets the Par, on the slopes above the gully."

"Slopes," Mord whispered.

Mord turned toward the judge, with his hands holding each other firm, and stated, "I move to show that this man, Finnur, has land used for grazing milk cattle, making him ineligible to sit on a jury. This jury being invalid, we move to dismiss."

Vincent quickly talked to the jurors, before addressing the judge. "The prosecution cannot prove..." he stifled a grin, "...that Finnur's cows make milk. Nor will any other juror attest to ever buying milk or milk fat from Finnur."

The judge stroked his ear, then waved his hand, "The jury stands. The case continues."

Vincent called many witnesses to testify that Tómas had stolen two trees and that he had made wares with them. Ván testified how they had found each of these objects and how the wood matched the dark hue of the stolen logs. Snorri even testified that the brothers had come to reclaim his door but did not mention his wound. Finally, witnesses from the feast were called upon, and all acknowledged what had happened within the Aronsson hall and that more than fair payment had been offered to all for the return of the wood. All jurors and judges agreed verily: the totem was carved from one of the stolen logs. Mord offered the payment of one hundred pieces of silver instead of the totem, but no compensation was accepted. The court ruled that the wood be returned, also demanding that the original thief, Tómas, was to return all the silver on Vitandi's behalf.

Mord could find no excuse, and all agreed that the case was settled, all except Vitandi. He not only maintained ignorance of the totem's stolen status but asserted his right to keep it, though he tossed the 30 pieces of silver in a pouch over to Ván, who caught it between his index finger and his thumb.

Refusing the court's ruling, he had Mord immediately called for a new proceeding into the issue of Snorri's wound.

Mord recited, "...and that Ván inflicted on Snorri a brain wound, or else an internal wound, or else a marrow wound affecting his mental faculties and profession as a poet, meriting the court's consideration for just compensation."

All of Vin's faction stood and listened to this announcement. Snorri turned red.

Then Mord continued, "Further, we open a second proceeding into the attempted burning of Vitandi Aronsson's hall by Helgi Hranarsson in the middle of a feast!"

At this insulting insinuation, the men all jumped to their weapons, even Ván. Helgi and his men made straight for Vitandi and Mord at the center of the law rock. The judges jumped from their seats and fled into the plane where the booths were. Jurors who had just ruled for Vin now considered fighting for whichever side they esteemed to win. Someone threw a spear; the ensuing chaos was such that no records were clear on who threw it. Helgi took his sword, "Arm-Eater," swinging it once and hitting the shield of Vitandi's man with such a formidable strike that he bowled over. With the second strike in another direction, he dealt a deathblow, cutting off the arm of Harald Thrainsson who died almost immediately. One of Helgi's men, Kari Kjartansson threw a javelin straight at Vitandi, who caught it in mid-flight, spun around, and sent the straight spear back through Kari's shield-- piercing his chest, and dealing his deathblow. Helgi threw an ax at Vitandi which he dodged by jumping out of its trajectory. The ax flew by and embedded itself in the skull of Hoskuld the bowmaker, who did not die but had to make do with half a face and one eye for the rest of his life.

Helgi then spoke to Vitandi, "Do you always let someone take your blows? Let us lose no more good men! I challenge you to The Holm!"

Vitandi nodded in acceptance, and a circle was formed from their followers. Both men now used axes. Vitandi's was called "Pillar-Of-Gold" (Gullstólpi), and Helgi chose his favorite, "Battle-Bitch" (Orrusta-Tík), which had an engraving of a fanged she-wolf on one side.

First to strike out was Helgi, whose downward swipe made an audible sound as it split the solid air. It was dodged clean by a rolling Vitandi, who then countered the strike by cutting sideways, hitting Helgi's shield, which absorbed the blow. Helgi pulled away and began tapping the back of his ax against his shield, the clicking, clinking sound was a metronome counting down until his next attack. He lunged at Vitandi. The two men locked guards and pressed shields. Each tried with all might to trip and push the other. Each man's back foot dug further and further into the mud, gripping at less and less with greater and greater strength, until suddenly Helgi slipped and fell onto his back. Vitandi lost his balance but meant to fall into Helgi with the sharp of his blade. Helgi kicked with upward momentum, forcing Vitandi back onto his feet to regain his balance. At that moment Helgi threw his ax at Vitandi. It lodged itself deep in his chest, dealing him his deathblow. The duel ended, Tómas closed Vitandi's eyes, and the men retired. His kin performed Vitandi's funeral rites.

Vin and Ván reclaimed Freyr's wooden totem. After the Althing, Ván carved designs into it, including semblances of an ax, making it more intricate and detailed than before. He painted this pillar of victory gold.