360 STORY OF GRETTIR THE STRONG
paying Keingala out for her uncomfortable choice of pasture, he drew a sharp knife right across her shoulder and along both sides of her back. When Asmund next saw the mare and stroked her back, the hide came off beneath his hand. He taxed Grettir with the deed, but the boy sneered mockingly and said nothing. Keingala had to be killed. Such and many other scurvy tricks did Grettir play in his childhood, but meanwhile he grew in body and strength, though none as yet knew him to be strong beyond his years.
This first came to be known shortly afterwards at Midfirth Water, where some ball games were being held on the ice. Grettir was now fourteen; and was matched to play with one Audun, several years older than himself. Audun struck the ball over Grettir's head, so that he could not catch it, and it bounded far away along the ice; Grettir brought it back, and in a rage threw it at Audun's forehead; Audun struck at him with his bat, but Grettir closed with him and westled, for a long time holding his own; but Audun was a man of full strength, and at last prevailed. Grettir's next performance brought him into more trouble. Asmund had a bosom friend named Thor-kel Krafla, who paid him a visit at Biarg on his way to the Thing, or Icelandic parliament, with a retinue of sixty followers, for Thorkel was a great chief, and a man of substance. Each traveller had to carry his own provisions for the journey, including Grettir, who joined Thorkel's company. Grettir's saddle turned over, however, and his meal bag was lost, nor could he find it, notwithstanding a long search. Just then he saw a man who was in like plight with himself, having also lost his meal sack: his name was Skeggi, one of Thorkel's followers. All of a sudden Skeggi darted off, and Grettir saw him stoop and pick up a meal sack, which Skeggi claimed as his own. Grettir was not satisfied, and they fought for it; Skeggi cut at Grettir with his axe, but he wrenched it out of his hand, and clove his head in twain.