The Carving on the Stone

In the morning, the shadow of the rune stone falls to the west and is broken by the sleeping hound who nestles against it each night. It was his job to help protect the sheep, but he never really had the fierceness or the vigilance. In the morning after the horror, it was I alone who sat beside the rune stone staring at Grandfather's burial mound.

Grandfather had commanded before his death that he be buried in the frozen earth beside that famous stone of his, and he had lain there for less than a year before that terrible night came upon us. The stone had stood where it was for several hundred times that long, yet only then, in the fading darkness of that dawn, did I really see it as a guardian over all that belonged to Njal Sturlsson in life and in death, as he once put it. It is said that the carver had wanted to move the stone after he had finished his work, but he had miscalculated its weight and it had proved to be too heavy to be safely lifted. And so it still sat on the land that had come to be our family's. Grandfather used to read the runes aloud with the rising and setting of each sun to insure the protection of our farm, and never in his lifetime did any come to burn our home or steal our sheep. In the biting breeze that broke the silence of that dawn, I waited and wished I could read those runes to protect me from what I feared would come again at the next sunset.

Grandfather had never left the farm in my lifetime. Sometimes he had gone as far as the boundary fence to complain to Hrafnkel about his wayward sheep or his worker's disrespect of our land. More often than not though, Hrafnkel would just laugh, like Gunnar would laugh and like Ketiltrout would laugh whenever Grandfather complained to them. Those three were his neighbors on three sides, and they did not like Njal Sturlsson. Grandfather said that they envied his famous sons and his prosperous farm. And above all, he believed that they envied his rune stone.