The Broken Sword

The Broken Sword

There was a man called Orm the Strong, a son of Ketil Asmundson who was a great landsman in the north of Jutland. The folk of Ketil had dwelt in Himmerland as long as men remembered, and were mighty landowners. The wife of Ketil was Asgerd, who was a leman-child of Ragnar Hairybreeks. Thus Orm came of good stock, but as he was the fifth living son of his father there could be no large inheritance for him.

Orm was a great sea-farer and spent most of his summers in viking. When he was in his twentieth winter, he went to his oldest brother Asmund and said, "Now you have been sitting in Himmer-land and having the use of the farm for some years, and your brothers grow restless for a share. But it is plain that if we divide it five ways our family will sink from great landsmen to smallholders, and soon be lost and forgotten."

"That is true," replied Asmund, "and if you will not yield the inheritance it were best we steered it together."

"I will not be fifth man at the rudder," said Orm, "and so I will make you this offer: give me three ships, and outfit them, and supply arms to all who will follow me, and I will find my own land and quit all claim on our father's."

It starts well, but soon, Orm's fate is sealed:

Some say that the man's mother, who was a witch, escaped the fire (...) and laid the curse on Orm that his eldest son should be fostered beyond the world of men, while Orm should in turn foster a wolf that would one day rend him.

From The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson, via the Appendix N.