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The proposal, as if from Athelstan, was to this effect : That instead of engaging both armies in a great battle with effusion of much blood, the dispute should be settled between the kings, each attended by a band of picked warriors, to fight within a ring staked out with hazel rods linked together by a rope ; and that this should take place after the interval of a week. The proposal was acceptable to Olaf. Now, it was the custom of the time, when an agreement had been concluded to settle a dispute by a holmgang, a duel between two or more, that both sides should abstain from ravaging.

Accordingly, Olaf remained inactive, and he was the more inclined to delay proceedings, as numerous partisans came in from the country round, filling gaps in his depleted ranks.

Alfgeir and the two Icelandic brothers were encamped to the south of the great plain of Vinheath, with a river on one side and a forest on the other; and the united forces of the invaders lay to the north of the same desolate tract. The brothers and Alfgeir had set up innumerable tents on their side of the waste, but in some of these were but one or two men, and in others none at all.

When the delegates of Olaf and Constantine came to the army they saw this goodly array of tents, but were not suffered to enter any of them, nor to draw near to the camp. They were informed that Athelstan would arrive shortly. The messengers returned to the kings to inform them that an immense host was already encamped beyond the heath, and that the English king was hourly expected at the head of a second army.

Olaf and Constantine occupied a fortified position to the north of Vinheath, and sent forward men who met others commissioned by Thorolf and Egill to plant hazel rods, and demark the arena for the proposed combat.

Day after day passed, and Athelstan had not arrived. When the week had elapsed, the brothers had to have recourse to other devices. On the day on which the conflict was to have been engaged fresh messengers approached Olaf, and announced that Athelstan was close at hand, still reluctant to shed more blood, if that might be avoided, and he was prepared to come to terms with the invaders, and to pay a shilling for every acre of ploughed land. On these terms friendship could be concluded and both forces be withdrawn. Olaf called his council together to discuss the offer. Various opinions were expressed. Some urged the acceptance of the offer, and pointed out that if it were, the Confederates might return home, not only covered with honour, but laden with riches. Others as strenuously opposed acceptance, and declared the terms too unfavourable. The opinion of these latter prevailed, and the legates pretending to come from Athelstan requested a delay of three days, till they could bear the message to their master and return with his reply. To this Olaf (or Constantine, or both together) consented. Accordingly they rode back, and three days later arrived in the camp of the Confederates with fresh proposals, to the effect that Athelstan would maintain his former undertaking to pay a shilling for every acre of ploughed land, and in addition would grant a shilling a head to every free-born man in the invading army, a mark to every captain over twelve or more, and five marks in gold to every earl. The council considered this proposal, and again opinions differed. At last Olaf decided to accept the conditions, if there was added Athelstan's confirmation to him of his sovereignty over Northumbria.

Once more the delegates solicited a delay of three days, and this was accorded; and on this occasion Olaf sent some of his own men with the ambassadors. They met Athelstan “in the burgh that was nearest to the heath on the south side." The delegates privately informed the King of the artifice they had employed, by negotiations to delay the advance of the Confederates, and then introduced the messengers of Olaf, who delivered the ultimatum of their master. Athelstan flared up in wrath, and exclaimed: Bear these my words to Olaf, that I am prepared to allow him to withdraw unmolested, if he will make compensation for the havoc he has wrought in my lands. Henceforth there shall be no peace between us, and the Scottish king must consent to hold his realnı under me as his over-lord.”

That same evening the legates returned to the camp of the kings, and arrived in the middle of the night. Olaf was roused from sleep, and the words of Athelstan were repeated to him. The council was at once summoned, and all with one consent declared for battle.

Then said Earl Adils, who had deserted the English cause : Now has that fallen out which I anticipated. The English have proved too astute for us. Here have we been wasting our time, put off by them from day to day, kept inactive to allow them time to muster in full force. Their king was not near, but far away in the south, when we arrived here. There was then not a handful of men opposed to us, which might easily have been brushed aside. Now it is otherwise. It is my advice that my brother Ring and I this very night should attack the enemy SO


as sufficient light appears in the sky to distinguish them, and before the king and his main army can come up. If we succeed in routing them, and send them flying to the rear, they may spread a panic through the host that is with the king.”

Olaf approved of the proposition, and at once the brothers Ring and Adils collected their men, and marched in silence by the light of the stars over the heath till they reached a position at striking distance of the Norse vanguard, and there paused, awaiting the first streaks of dawn. Before proceeding further, it will be as well to state where the place was where the decisive battle was to be fought. That place is called by the Norse writer Vinheath, by Simeon of Durham, Wondune, and by the Chronicle and English historians who followed the Chronicle, Brunaburh. Many sites have been suggested, but the balance of probability is in favour of Boroughbridge, with the Swale on one side, and hills, once clothed by a forest, on the other. The reasons for this determination shall be given later.

The date of the battle was 937.

As soon as daylight appeared, the word to advance was given, and the men under Ring and Adils dashed forward.

The outposts of Thorolf gave the alarm, the cow-horns brayed, and the Northmen sprang to arms. Alfgeir, the earl, commanded the English contingent, that had been swelled by new arrivals, and the body of men under his command greatly outnumbered the Norse mercenaries under Thorolf.

Thorolf was thus armed. He carried a broad and thick shield on his arm ; on his head a stout helmet; by his side his sword, named “Long"; in his hand he bore a spear, with a head two cubits in length, and four-edged-in fact, composed of four blades welded together, and tapering to a single point. Egill was similarly equipped; he wore at his side a sword called “the Adder." Neither of the brothers was protected by a breastplate. Theofrid Strangi was the name of Thorolf's standard-bearer. All the mercenaries bore Norse shields, and were armed and harnessed in the Scandinavian fashion.

The body of men commanded by Thorolf had the forest on one side, that of Alfgeir had the river on the other. Adils and Ring perceived that they had failed in their attempt to take the enemy by surprise, and they accordingly prepared to engage in a pitched battle—not, be it understood, with the whole of the English army, but with the vanguard some miles in advance. They marshalled their forces in two columns, or, to use the old English expression, "battles," each under its own standard; one, that of Adils, was to attack the body of English under Alfgeir, and that of Ring to contend with the Norse mercenaries.

To the winding of the cow-horns Adils charged, and with such impetuosity that Alfgeir gave way, after having made but a brief stand; his men were put to the rout and fled. Alfgeir, with his horsemen, galloped over the plain without drawing rein, till they reached the burgh where was the King. But into that Alfgeir did not venture, fearing to encounter the reproaches of Athelstan and the derision of his councillors. He continued his flight to the south, not halting till he reached the coast, where he took boat, and escaped into France, never to show his face again in England.

Now, when Thorolf saw the rout of Alfgeir, he bade his brother move his standard against Adils, whilst he remained with his flank protected by the wood, contending against Earl Ring.

Such a fury of battle took hold of Thorolf, that he flung his shield behind his back, and grasping his four-edged spear with both hands, he drove in among the enemy like a ploughshare, piercing, mutilating, prostrating all before him. He forced his way to the standard of Earl Ring, killed the standardbearer, and cut down the ensign. Then, rushing forward on the Earl, he skewered him with his terrible spear, so that the point came out at Ring's back. He did more; putting his foot on the butt of the shaft, he levered the quivering Earl into the air in the sight of his followers, then cast him down, and wrenched the weapon out of his body.

Thorolf now drew his sword, and smote with it all who stood in his way. The followers of the Earls, bordermen, some Britons, some Angles, seeing that the banner was down and that the Earl had fallen, gave way and took to flight, and to escape pursuit took refuge in the wood. Adils, unable to stand against Egill, lowered his own standard to allow the Norse



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mercenaries to suppose that he had fallen, and he also, flying, found a place of concealment in the wood. There was much slaughter among the fugitives, but the pursuit could not be carried far, lest the Norsemen should rush upon the main body of the army of the Confederates.

Thorolf and Egill withdrew their men and returned to the camp, to which, in the meantime, Athelstan had come up. Tents were pitched, the battlefield visited, that the wounded might be removed to the rear, and the dead be suitably interred. Although the body of Adils could not be found, it was believed that he was dead, as well as his brother Ring.

The brothers Thorolf and Egill received thanks from Athelstan for the gallantry they had displayed, and the King bade the entire army rest that night, and prepare for a general engagement on the morrow.

Next morning, early, Athelstan reviewed his host, and appointed Egill to command one wing and Thorolf the other. To this arrangement Egill did not readily consent. Said he : “I have no desire to be parted from my brother. We have ever fought side by side; place us together where is the greatest danger, and we will do our duty, only let us be together."

However, Thorolf said: “We must let the King decide according to his judgment, and submit."

“I will submit,” replied Egill, "if you desire it, but I do not relish being separated from you."

When the army was drawn out, Thorolf was placed in the wing covered on one side by the forest, and the wing commanded by Egill was covered on the further side by the river.

Olaf disposed his army in two “battles.” He had his standard erected in that confronting Athelstan and Egill; his other “battle” was disposed over against Thorolf. This latter was commanded by the Scottish king, and most of the men in it were Scots. Thorolf's object was to break up this wing, then turn, describe a semi-circle, and take Olaf Cuaran and his Norse and Irishmen in the rear. But he was unaware that Adils and the remnant of his men had concealed themselves in the wood, and as he advanced against the Scots, these latter broke out of cover, and took him unexpectedly in the flank whilst fully engaged with the enemy in front. He was by this means overpowered, and fell pierced by many spears. His standard-bearer had to beat a hasty retreat to save the banner from capture. When the

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Scottish earls," but it ignores Constantine,

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