After some time passed, Vin and Ván began to fashion a longship with the blessed wood from the grove. Ván worked on the ship every day at the mouth where the stream of the Sip met the sea and the Lissons kept their small fleet. Vin helped to cut the lumber. They worked alongside Floki the Cooper, who made all the barrels for their trading voyages. Floki was the best swimmer in Iceland and had drowned two men. They called him Floki "the seal." Floki and Ván worked in tandem from both ends of the logs shaving off thin chips of wood with adzes, and their lines never wavered nor ever required adjustment. Ván would return to Jvánsknoll and give the woodchips to Nastya. She cooked with them and kept the ashes in barrels. Ván cut only what he needed from the grove and left the rest of the trees to grow bigger and stronger. After several long months, he and Floki had a massive stern, bigger than any made across Iceland, Norway, and the land of the Danes.
At this time, strange things were happening in Iceland. Though Vitandi had brothers, Tómas now led the Aronssons. His prestige had grown since the events of the totem and the death of his cousin Vitandi. There was increasing talk among southwestern farmers about whom to support among the three strongest chiefs. Tomas, Helgi, or Haldr the Grey. Haldr was a vassal of king Harald of Norway. Tómas's sheepherders would sometimes graze their sheep on Vincent's land; there were scuffles and killings. Though all had been quickly settled with silver, a pattern emerged: the aggressor was always an Aronsson, the defender a Lisson. This rapid change in the dynamics of power caused many to question whether the transfer of the totem and the outcome of the duel at the Althing had indeed been the will of the gods.
One day as Vincent was returning from the local thing, he met along the road the men of Tómas. Skapti Arsonsson chided, "Behold a Lisson, one whose gods know not how to show their favor!" Canut Aronsson rode very close to Vincent's saddle, almost clipping him and shaking his horse. Vincent carried with him only a tiny spear and was alone, but responded:
"My gods know not how to repay cleverness, but I do!" He did clip Canut, striking him from his horse and dealing his deathblow with the momentum behind his spear. Skapti came around and tried to swing at him, but Vincent dodged in his saddle; his horse kicked Skapti's as it passed behind and drove him out of the saddle and into the mud. Vincent grabbed the reins of Skapti's horse, a beautiful chestnut charger, and said:
"See now to whom gods give prizes and to whom is treated the filth and the mud."
Outnumbered, he rode off. As he had bested two men and composed verse of brutal relevancy, there was no dishonor.
Tómas's influence was not secure, yet some of the Aronssons were unwilling to settle in silver for Vincent's attack. Haldr also weighed in. For the horse, the dead man, and the slanderous verse, a settlement was reached of two hundred pieces of silver and an exile of one year. Vin had one week to leave.
"Where will you go?" asked Nastya.
"First, to seek royal favor of Harald, king of Norway," said Vin.
"Some have called you Lisson the Lancer. It is for your fame that I worry."
"I will have men and Ván. Ax work makes strong, and we have all chopped much wood."
"I- I will ask Helgi to go with you," said Nastya.
So Vin and Ván made their preparations to leave almost immediately. They cut down every oak that was growing in the grove. Vin, Ván, Helgi, and their men hurried the wood down to the mouth of Sip and loaded it onto ships, along with the golden totem and the completed stern. They rowed away from the coast, watching the largest mountain until it disappeared, then navigating by starlight. On the first night, some men slept while Vin sat on top of the uncompleted stern, upturned on the deck. Freyr on the totem watched him watching the crew. Then, there were three knocks on the edge of the hull. Vin went over and saw riding on a long buoyant bone, the figure of a man. He wore a skull for a mask and a blue hat with a tassel. He carried with him a bow and quiver. The figure spoke:
"Royal favor in Harald's court you should not seek, of enmity to thee it reek. Rather seek now the king of Danes, secure a long and healthy reign." Then, the man skied off.
After a brief discussion, with several strategic details, they changed course to Denmark.
When they arrived at the court of the Danish king, Sven Svansson, they were greeted by Kari Haldrsson, one of the king's retainers and Vin's kinsman. Kari brought them before the king.
Vincent bowed, "We come to seek your favor, king, and so some gifts we bring."
Vin's men unfurled a cloak with gold and silver wares, bands, and trinkets.
The King spoke, "Near war with Norway we are now. A beggar's plight I cannot hear. More than a cloak with trinkets I hold dear. I hear you bear with you a pillar golden, an effigy of Freyr's blessing. Such boons bring might in peace and war..."
Vin and Ván exchanged glances but said nothing. Vin then noticed the King wavering, the movement of the judge who rules, preparing to make a gesture of dismissal.
Vin interrupted, "--but beggars we are not!" The king glanced at Kari with his eyebrows raised but was still. "Allow us here to bring this totem, to stay and build a vessel. Then, with your favor, we may go and return thence here with loot in stow." Instead of moving his hand to dismiss the brothers he stroked his beard and examined the totem they had brought in. He allowed the brothers to stay.
On the Danish shores, they quartered and split their logs into planks and began building a ship when suddenly news from Iceland came. Haldr and Tómas had declared themselves Jarls, receiving aid from the Norwegian king. "And what of Nastya and Jvánsknoll?" asked Vin. "Fled by ferry to a hidden hearth, a witch's spell protects her."
Vin and Ván worked as they never had, and the men working with them seemed driven as horses by the master's whip. Each plank clacking, overlapping, rivets driving in, rammed by strength of men, the caulk to make a seal, to keep the water from the keel. And from this clinking cacophony was born a ship of size so great that of its glory even king Sven could not debate. The curve on the prow was so deep and twirled so finely toward its center that no man could follow it and find the middle. All men who tried fell hypnotized. When the brothers sailed the ship, its hulking hull breathed like the belly of a dragon as it crested each wave, the interlocking planks shifting like scales. The ship had rooms and a brig for prisoners built right into the floor, made from the beams of Snorri's door. That summer, they took Kari with them raiding, and Floki manned the rudder. Fleets and fortune fell their way. They soon had twice the men and twice the ships. So great was the terror of their longship and its legend, that Helgi seldom had to lead men. Towns and villages evacuated in their wake. The siege of Novgorod was quick. The town of Riga fled and left a desert of glimmering treasure for them to collect. They were like farmers reaping fields of gold for wheat.
Among the treasures, Vin found a silver balance scale that pleased the eye. One day, in revelries, he raised it and proclaimed, "It seems to me, only just for all to see, that this scale be the symbol of my house. For we are fearsome but most fair. That no one may our justice spare!"
When the long days drew shorter, they sailed back to the Danish king. Now Vin presented him not with one cloak but with nine, and rings of kings from cities far, goblets made with jeweled bands, and piles of silver from distant lands. Coins of mirth and sorrow, engraved faces bold and brave now dead, and fashionable markings of the Caliph's head. The Danish king, shocked at this, exclaimed "Great honor you would bring, to me, a lowly, humble king!" He bid them stay a time, but arrest there long they could not. To return to Iceland was their lot. Their heartfelt fires burned inside. The strong Jarl still there did abide.
Before they set sail from his port, the king produced the totem from his court. He then motioned toward their boat docked there. "Take this totem beam with thee, to make a dragon's prow for all to see." So Ván made to work, and made and carved from Freyr's totem, a dragon prow with ram's horns, and golden paint adorned. King Sven christened the boat Gullhrútur (The Goldenram), and the men rowed for home.
In Iceland, they saw Snorri on the beach. They stopped to ask him, "What do you here, herald of woe? Go you not with 'Jarl' Tómas to and fro?"
"I dine no more with traitor's dogs," said Snorri.
They knew not if he was friend or foe. They threw him in the brig below. And so, the skald in moonshafts sat, beneath his prison beams, behind which once he wrote sweet melodies. He did not beg nor cry or shout. On a bit of parchment, he then wrote the tale of Nastya and the boat. He sang it to them from below, and then they knew his heart was true and pulled him up, giving him meads' brew. He told them of the cruel 'Jarl' Tómas's reign, of the Althing now dissolved, of torturous pains on farmer's purse, of lands taken, of justice terse.
The last line of Snorri's poem had echoed through the hull of the ship, "And so they came on winds of fate foretold, to bring back justice like of old."
They unloaded most of their treasure onto the beach and sent it up, up the rivers to hidden hoards. They kept a tenth of the spoils with them. When they arrived near Tómas's fortress harbor a single boat met them. The 'Jarl's' Herald proclaimed:
"Here Jarl Tómas rules. Your boat is a dragon of the sea, vicious and cruel to all whose sights it sees. You may not cross our gates!”
"By which law or what man dares to make him 'Jarl?'" shouted Vin.
"The king of Norway," the man smirked, "well, his huscarls."
There were tall, blond, and burly Norwegian men with halberds on the walls. Their blue eyes peeked out from dark helms, dancing back and forth over the length of Gullhrútur. Vin did not stop his men but encouraged them. They rowed like reavers, no longer pushing the water but splitting it around the boat. Vin did not flinch but placed himself right at the prow, holding his silver scale for all to see. And at the sight of Gullhrútur, half the men jumped from the walls and fled. They saw purple fire from the dragon's mouth, ripping and screaming. The gates were no match and did not withstand its fury. Into the harbor now it came, twisted oak and gold made flame. They rammed Tómas's ship, which lay waiting in the port and the remnant of his men began to fight.
Tómas jumped right onto the deck of Gullhrútur with his contingent of huscarls. Helgi fought three Norwegians at once but fell to Tómas's spear strike that pierced his shield. The 'Jarl' had eyes that held that light of vengeance that men can only capture in the heat of battle, glimmering almost as bright as the dragonhead. The flames burned all around them on the deck. The sails and the rigging and the oars all immolated, but unfriendly fire could never sink Gullhrútur; whoever fought best would prevail. Vin and Ván were separated, fighting among Norwegians through flames. Ván struck one huscarl and cut his head clean off. Vin picked up the halberd he dropped and protected the right flank, which was not blocked by the rudder handle. Together they reunited and pushed these Norwegians back. Tomas came charging in from the mid-ship. Ván and Tómas began a fierce struggle that resolved so quickly that no one could intercede. Ván parried two strikes from Tómas's ax, then rolled. Tómas tracked him fast and thrust with his spear in the other hand, which pierced Ván's stomach. There was a pause, and then Ván saw his adze lying in a bag of tools. He grabbed it and began to swing like a wild buck. He shredded Tómas; both fell dead.
On seeing their leader fall, the burly Norwegian huscarls surrendered to Vin. There was no dishonor as all had fought bravely. Tómas was returned to the Aronssons for burial rites, but their land was taken, and the entire clan was exiled. Ván and Helgi were placed inside Gullhrútur with their share of treasure and weapons. Gullhrútur was sent to sea, and a great blaze was lit inside. As their ashes rode upwards, the Icelanders saw Valkyries accompany them into the sky. The rule of the Althing was restored to Iceland; the Lissons returned to Jvánsknoll. In the grove, they spread the ashes from the burnt oak chips of the sacred trees. The silver scale sat on the law rock. Ever thence so that justice may weigh the hearts of men.