The tale of Aswid and Asmund

The Eyrbyggia Saga was written by an anonymous author sometime between the 13th and 14th century but the narrative begins somewhere in the 9th century. There are many historic legends within the manuscript, amongst them is the tale of Aswid and Asmund.

Asmund, Prince of Iceland was out on a hunting expedition when a storm came upon him.  Had it not been for the kindness of Prince Aswid, he would have died.  After discovering Asmund in the peak of the storm, Aswid brought him to the hall of King Bjorn.  The two Princes would become as brothers having taken a blood oath to destroy all of those found to be evil.  As the boys grew older they also pledged a death pact: If one was to die the other would accompany him to his grave, and this was sealed in blood between the two of them.

As time passed Aswid became ill and died.  As promised, Asmund would follow him to his grave.  Asmund’s loyalty to his blood brother was met by much opposition from his other friends and family, despite their pleas, he would uphold his oath.  Asmund was sealed in a tomb with Aswid along with many of their prized possessions, to include Aswid’s horse and dog.  Asmund had spent his time mourning the loss of his friend and then began to determine how he would take his own life.  Just as he had drawn his sword he noticed movement from the corner of his eye.  Aswid’s decomposing corpse began to stir; he had arisen undead.  Asmund stared in horror as Aswid began to eat his dog and then his horse.  It was not long before his attention was turned on Asmund.  He had barely lifted his sword before the monster was upon him.  Asmund defended himself to the best of his ability, having been equal in strength in life, Aswid now possessed supernatural strength.

The tale does not end here, fast forward on about 300 years when a group of youth decided to break into the cursed tomb.  Having been warned that the tomb was haunted as well as the ramifications of disturbing the dead, the youth proceeded.  Upon the opening of the tomb the young men could hear a struggle.  One brave volunteer was lowered down on a rope to take a look around.  His friend above called to him for several minutes with no response until a strong tug came from the rope.  The young men above on ground level began to pull the rope up to find an elderly man donning a centuries old suit of armor.  The old man collapsed as he reached the surface and survived only long enough to tell his tale.

The old man, Asmund, claimed that he had been fighting for his life for the last 300 years and had only had the opportunity to strike against the beast Aswid upon having the distraction provided by the brave volunteer that had invaded the tomb.  Once Aswid had become distracted Asmund  yielded his sword and swung, having just enough strength to separate his head from his body.

The surviving young men would return to remove the body and head of Aswid, burn it and scatter the ashes into the wind.  Asmund would be reburied with full honors, placing the body of their slain friend beside him to keep him company throughout eternity.

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