Chapter 38 - Of the slaying of the Giukings.
Now King Atli eggs on his folk to set on fiercely, and eagerly they fight; but the Giukings fell on so hard that King Atli gave back into the hall, and within
doors was the fight, and fierce beyond all fights.
That battle was the death of many a man, but such was the ending thereof, that there fell all the folk of those brethren, and they twain alone stood up on their
feet, and yet many more must fare to hell first before their weapons.
And now they fell on Gunnar the king, and because of the host of men that set on him was hand laid on him, and he was cast into fetters; afterwards fought
Hogni, with the stoutest heart and the greatest manlihood; and he felled to earth twenty of the stoutest of the champions of King Atli, and many he thrust
into the fire that burnt amidst the hall, and all were of one accord that such a man might scarce be seen; yet in the end was he borne down by many and taken.
Then said King Atli, "A marvellous thing how many men have gone their ways before him! Cut the heart from out of him, and let that be his bane!"
Hogni said, "Do according to thy will; merrily will I abide whatso thou writ do against me; and thou shalt see that my heart is not adrad, for hard matters
have I made trial of ere now, and all things that may try a man was I fain to bear, whiles yet I was unhurt; but now sorely am I hurt, and thou alone henceforth
will bear mastery in our dealings together."
Then spake a counsellor of King Atli, "Better rede I see thereto; take we the thrall Hjalli, and give respite to Hogni; for this thrall is made to die, since
the longer he lives the less worth shall he be."
The thrall hearkened, and cried out aloft, and fled away anywhither where he might hope for shelter, crying out that a hard portion was his because of their
strife and wild doings, and an ill day for him whereon he must be dragged to death from his sweet life and his swine-keeping. But they caught him, and turned
a knife against him, and he yelled and screamed or ever he felt the point thereof.
Then in such wise spake Hogni as a man seldom speaketh who is fallen into hard need, for he prayed for the thrall's life, and said that these shrieks he could
not away with, and that it were a lesser matter to him to play out the play to the end; and therewithal the thrall gat his life as for that time: but Gunnar
and Hogni are both laid in fetters.
Then spake King Atli with Gunnar the king, and bade him tell out concerning the gold, and where it was, if he would have his life.
But he answered, "Nay, first will I behold the bloody heart of Hogni, my brother."
So now they caught hold of the thrall again, and cut the heart from out of him, and bore it unto King Gunnar, but he said--
"The faint heart of Hjalli may ye here behold, little like the proud heart of Hogni, for as much as it trembleth now more by the half it trembled whenas it
lay in the breast of him."
So now they fell on Hogni even as Atli urged them, and cut the heart from out of him, but such was the might of his manhood, that he laughed while he abode
that torment, and all wondered at his worth, and in perpetual memory is it held sithence.1
Then they showed it2 to Gunnar, and he said--
"The mighty heart of Hogni, little like the faint heart of Hjalli, for little as it trembleth now, less it trembled whenas in his breast it lay! But now, O
Atli, even as we die so shalt thou die; and lo, I alone wot where the gold is, nor shall Hogni be to tell thereof now; to and fro played the matter in my mind
whiles we both lived, but now have I myself determined for myself, and the Rhine river shall rule over the gold, rather than that the Huns shall bear it on the
hands of them."
Then said King Atli, "Have away the bondsman;" and so they did.
But Gudrun called to her men, and came to Atli, and said--
"May it fare ill with thee now and from henceforth, even as thou hast ill held to thy word with me!"
So Gunnar was cast into a worm-close, and many worms abode him there, and his hands were fast bound; but Gudrun sent him a harp, and in such wise did he set
forth his craft, that wisely he smote the harp, smiting it with his foes, and so excellently well he played, that few deemed they had heard such playing, even
when the hand had done it. And with such might and power he played, that all worms fell asleep in the end, save one adder only, great and evil of aspect, that
crept unto him and thrust its sting into him until it smote his heart; and in such wise with great hardihood he ended his life days.
[1. Since ("sidh", after, and "dham", that.).
2. Hogni's heart
* The chapter numbering has been skewed by one, this is Chapter 37 in the Old Norse.]
Nú eggjar Atli konungr liðit at gera harða sókn; berjast nú snarpliga, ok sækja Gjúkungar at svá fast, at Atli konungr hrökkr inn í höllina, ok berjast nú inni, ok
var orrostan allhörð.
Sjá bardagi varð með miklu mannspelli ok lýkr svá, at fellr allt lið þeira bræðra, svá at þeir standa tveir upp, ok fór áðr margr maðr til heljar fyrir þeira vápnum.
Nú er sótt at Gunnari konungi, ok fyrir sakir ofreflis var hann höndum tekinn ok í fjötra settr. Síðan barðist Högni af mikilli hreysti ok drengskap ok felldi ina
stærstu kappa Atla konungs tuttugu. Hann hratt mörgum í þann eld, er þar var gerr í hoölunni. Allir urðu á eitt sáttir, at varla sæi slíkan mann. En þó varð hann
at lyktum ofrliði borinn ok höndum tekinn.
Atli konungr mælti: "Mikil furða er þat, hve margr maðr hér hefir farit fyrir honum. Nú skeri ór honum hjartat, ok sé þat hans bani."
Högni mælti: "Geri sem þér líkar. Glaðliga mun ek hér bíða þess, er þér vilið at gera, ok þat muntu skilja, at eigi er hjarta mitt hrætt, ok reynt hefi ek fyrr
harða hluti, ok var ek gjarn at þola mannraun, þá er ek var ósárr. En nú eru vér mjök sárir, ok muntu einn ráða várum skiptum."
Þá mælti ráðgjafi Atla konungs: "Sé ek betra ráð: Tökum heldr þrælinn Hjalla, en forðum Högna. Þræll þessi er skapdauði. Hann lifir eigi svá lengi, at hann
sé eigi dáligr."
Þrællinn heyrir ok æpir hátt ok hleypr undan, hvert er honum þykkir skjóls ván, kveðst illt hljóta af ófriði þeira ok váss at gjalda; kveðr þann dag illan vera,
er hann skal deyja frá sínum góðum kostum ok svína geymslu. Þeir þrifu hann ok brugðu at honum knífi. Hann æpti hátt, áðr hann kenndi oddsins.
Þá mælti Högni, sem færum er títt, þá er í mannraun koma: Hann árnaði þrælinum lífs ok kveðst eigi vilja skræktun heyra, kvað sér minna fyrir at fremja þenna leik.
Þrællinn varð feginn ok þá fjörit. Nú eru þeir báðir í fjötra settir, Gunnarr ok Högni.
Þá mælti Atli konungr til Gunnars konungs, at hann skyldi segja til gullsins, ef hann vill lífit þiggja.
Hann svarar: "Fyrr skal ek sjá hjarta Högna, bróður míns, blóðugt."
Ok nú þrifu þeir þrælinn í annat sinn ok skáru ór honum hjartat ok báru fyrir konunginn Gunnar. Hann svarar:
"Hjarta Hjalla má hér sjá ins blauða ok er ólíkt hjarta Högna ins frækna, því at nú skelfr mjök, en hálfu meir, þá er í brjósti honum lá."
Nú gengu þeir eptir eggjun Atla konungs at Högna ok skáru ór honum hjartat. Ok svá var mikill þróttr hans, at hann hló, meðan hann beið þessa kvöl, ok allir
undruðust þrek hans, ok þat er síðan at minnum haft.
Þeir sýndu Gunnari hjarta Högna. Hann svarar:
"Hér má sjá hjarta Högna ins frækna ok er ólíkt hjarta Hjalla ins blauða, því at nú hrærist lítt, en miðr, meðan í brjósti honum lá. Ok svá muntu, Atli, láta
þitt líf, sem nú látum vér. Ok nú veit ek einn, hvar gullit er, ok mun eigi Högni segja þér. Mér lék ýmist í hug, þá er vit lifðum báðir, en nú hefi ek einn
ráðit fyrir mér. Skal Rín nú ráða gullinu, fyrr en Hýnir beri þat á höndum sér."
Atli konungr mælti: "Farið á brott með bandingjann." Ok svá var gert.
Guðrún kveðr nú með sér menn ok hittir Atla ok segir:
"Gangi þér nú illa ok eptir því, sem þér hélduð orð við mik ok Gunnar."
Nú er Gunnarr konungr settr í einn ormgarð. Þar váru margir ormar fyrir, ok váru hendr hans fast bundnar. Guðrún sendi honum hörpu eina, en hann sýndi sína list ok
sló hörpuna með mikilli list, at hann drap strengina með tánum ok lék svá vel ok afbragðliga, at fáir þóttust heyrt hafa svá með höndum slegit, ok þar til lék hann
þessa íþrótt, at allir sofnuðu ormarnir, nema ein naðra mikil ok illilig skreið til hans ok gróf inn sínum rana, þar til er hún hjó hans hjarta, ok þar lét hann
sitt líf með mikilli hreysti.