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But the Finlanders did not mind the wolves, and built a house
close to the lake, and hunted bears, and caught fish through holes in
the ice, till winter had passed away and spring had come. Then one day
they noticed that the sky was blue and the earth covered with flowers.

By-and-by they noticed something more, and that was that three maidens
were sitting on the grass, spinning flax on the bank of a stream.
Their eyes were blue, and their skins were white as the snow on the
mountains, while instead of the mantles of swansdown they generally
wore, golden hair covered their shoulders.

The hearts of the brothers beat as they looked on the maidens, who were
such as they had often dreamed of, but had never seen; and as they drew
near they found to their surprise that the maidens were dressed each in
red, green, and blue garments, and the meadow was so thickly dotted
with yellow flowers that it seemed as if it were a mass of solid gold.

[Illustration: The three women by the stream]

"Hail, noble princes! Hail, Slagfid, Eigil, and Wayland," sang the
maidens.

"Swanvite, Alvilda, and Alruna are sent by the Norns,
To bring joy to the princes of Finmark"

Then the tongues of the young men were unloosed, and Slagfid married
Swanvite, Eigil Alruna, and Wayland Alvilda.


PART III.

For nine years they all lived on the shores of the lake, and no people
in the world were as happy as these six; till one morning the three
wives stood before their husbands and said with weeping eyes:--

"Dear lords, the time has now come when we must bid you farewell, for
we are not allowed to stay with you any longer.. We are Norns--or, as
some call us, Valkyrie. Nine years of joy are granted to us, but these
are paid for by nine years during which we hover round the combatants
on every field of battle. But bear your souls in patience, for on
earth all things have an end, and in nine years we will return to be
your wives as before."

"But we shall begetting old then," answered the brothers, "and you will
have forgotten us. Stay now, we pray you, for we love you well."

"_We_ are not mortals to grow old," said the Norns, "and true love does
not grow old either. Still, we do not wish you to fall sick with
grieving, so we leave you these three keys, with which you may open the
mountain, and busy yourselves by digging out the treasures it contains.
By the time the nine years are over you will have become rich and men
of renown." So they laid down the keys and vanished.

For a long while the young men only left their houses to seek for food,
so dreary had the Valley of Wolves become. At last Slagfid and Eigil
could bear it no longer, and declared they would travel through the
whole world till they found their wives; but Wayland, the youngest,
determined to stay at home.

"You would do much better to remain where you are," said he. "You do
not know in which direction to look for them, and it is useless to seek
on earth for those who fly through the air. You will only lose
yourselves, and starve, and when the nine years are ended who can tell
where you may be?"

But his words fell on deaf ears; for Slagfid and Eigil merely filled
their wallets with food and their horns with drink, and prepared to
take leave of their brother. Wayland embraced them weeping, for he
feared that he should never more see them, and once again he implored
them to give up their quest. Slagfid and Eigil only shook their heads.
"We have no rest, night or day, without them," they said, and they
begged him to look after their property till they came back again.

Wayland saw that more words would be wasted, so he walked with them to
the edge of the forest, where their ways would part. Then Slagfid
said: "Our fathers, when they went a journey, left behind them a token
by which it might be known whether they were dead or alive, and I will
do so also." So he stamped heavily on the soft ground, and added, "As
long as this footmark remains sharp and clear, I shall be safe. If it
is filled with water I shall be drowned; if with blood, I shall have
fallen in battle. But if it is filled with earth an illness will have
killed me, and I shall lie under the ground." Thus he did, and Eigil
did likewise. Then they cut stout sticks to aid their journeys, and
went their ways. Wayland stood gazing after them as long as they were
in sight, and then he went sadly home.


PART IV.

Slagfid and Eigil walked steadily on through the day, and when evening
came they reached a stream bordered with trees, where they took off
their golden helmets and sat down to rest and eat. They had gone far
that day and were tired, and drank somewhat heavily, so that they knew
not what they did. "If I lose my Swanvite," said Slagfid, "I am
undone. She is the fairest woman that sun ever looked on, or that man
ever loved."

"It is a lie," answered Eigil. "I know one lovelier still, and her
name is Alruna. Odin does not love Freya so fondly as Eigil adores
her."

"It is no lie," cried Slagfid, "and may shame fall on him who slanders
me."

"And I," answered Eigil, "stand to what I have said, and declare that
you are the liar." At this they both drew their swords and fell
fighting, till Slagfid struck Eigil's helmet so hard that the jewel
flew into a thousand pieces, while Eigil himself fell backwards into
the river.

Slagfid stood still, leaning on his sword and looking at the river into
which his brother had fallen. Suddenly the trees behind him rustled,
and a voice came out of them, saying, "A time of weal, a time of woe, a
time of tears, a time of death"; and though he could see nothing he
remembered the mountain elves, and thought how true their prophecy had
been. "I have slain my brother," he said to himself, "my wife has
forsaken me; I am miserable and alone. What shall I do? Go back to
Wayland, or follow Eigil into the river? No. After all I may find my
wife. The Norns do not always bring misfortune."

As he spoke a light gleamed in the darkness of the night, and, looking
up, Slagfid saw it was shed by a bright star which seemed to be drawing
nearer, and the nearer it drew its shape seemed to change into a human
figure. Then Slagfid knew that it was his wife, Swanvite, floating
just over his head and encircled by a rim of clear green light.

He could not speak for joy, but held out his arms to her. She beckoned
to him to follow her, and Slagfid, flinging away his sword and coat of
mail, began to climb the mountain.

Half way up it seemed to him as if a hand from behind was pulling him
back, and turning he fancied he beheld his mother and heard her say:
"My son, seek not after vain shadows, which yet may be your ruin."

The words caused Slagfid to pause for a moment. Then the figure of
Swanvite danced before him and beckoned to him again, and his mother
was forgotten. There were rivers to swim, precipices to climb, chasms
to leap, but he passed them all gladly, till at last he noticed that
the higher he got the less the figure seemed like Swanvite.

He felt frightened and tried to turn back, but he could not. On he had
to go, till just as he reached the top of the mountain the first rays
of the sun appeared above the horizon, and he saw that, instead of
Swanvite, he had followed a black elf.

He paused and looked over the green plain that lay thousands of feet
below him, cool and inviting after the stony mountain up which he had
come. "A time of death," whispered the black elf in his ear, and
Slagfid flung himself over the precipice.


PART V.

After his brothers had forsaken him Wayland went to bed lonely and sad;
but the next morning he got up and looked at the three keys that the
Noras had left behind them. One was of copper, one was of iron, and
one was of gold.

Taking up the copper one, he walked to the mountain till he reached a
flat wall of rock. He laid his key against it, and immediately the
mountain flew open and showed a cave where everything was green. Green
emeralds studded the rocks, green crystals hung from the ceiling or
formed rows of pillars, even the copper which made the walls of the
cave had a coating of green. Wayland broke off a huge projecting lump
and left the cave, which instantly closed up so that not a crack
remained to tell where the opening had been.

He carried the lump home, and put it into the fire till all the earth
and stones which clung to it were burned away; and then he fashioned
the pure copper into a helmet, and in the front of the helmet he set
three of his largest emeralds.

This occupied some days, and when it was done he took the iron key, and
went to another mountain, and laid the key against the rock, which flew
open like the other one. But now the walls were of iron, which shone
like blue steel, while sapphires glittered in the midst.

Wayland gazed with wonder at all these things; then he broke off a
piece of the iron, and carried it home with him.

For many days after he busied himself in forging a sword that was so
supple he could wind it round his body, and so sharp it could cut
through a rock as if it had been a stick. In the handle and in the
sheath he set some of the finest sapphires that he had brought away
with him.

When all was finished he laid the sword aside, and returned to the
mountain, with the golden key. This time the mountain parted, and he
saw before him an archway, with a glimpse of the sea in the distance.

Before the entrance roses were lying, and inside the golden walls
sparkled with rubies, while branches of red coral filled every crevice.
Vines climbed around the pillars, and bore large bunches of red grapes.

Wayland stood long, looking at these marvels; then he plucked some of
the grapes, broke off a lump of gold, and set out home again.

Next day he began to make himself a golden breastplate, and in it he
placed the jewels, and it was so bright that you could have seen the
glitter a mile off.

After he had tried all the three keys, and found out the secrets of the
mountain, Wayland felt dull. So his mind went back to his brothers,
and he wondered how they had fared all this time.

The first thing he did was to go to the edge of the forest, and see if
he could find the two footprints they had left.

He soon arrived at the spot where they had taken farewell of each
other, but a blue pool of water covered the trace of Eigil's foot.



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