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  The Eternal Battle

"I think the slain care little if they sleep or rise again"

Dying Warrior. Illustration by Sigurd Towrie

The island of Hoy is said to be have once been the site of a magical battle. This bloody conflict was between the armies of two men and each night, after the bloodshed, the dead were reborn.

The battle was between the kings Högni, and Hedinn Hjarrandason.

Hedinn Hjarrandason had abducted King Högni's daughter, Hild, while the king was absent from his kingdom.

Upon his return Högni was enraged and, gathering his forces, set out in pursuit of Hedinn. Arriving in Norway Högni learned that Hedinn had sailed west over the sea towards Orkney.

Högni set of in pursuit and found Hedinn, and Hild, in Hoy.

Hild, who had since married Hedinn, tried to make peace between her father, offering him a necklace on behalf of her new husband.

She begged him to avoid conflict, saying that Hedinn was ready to fight, and if it came to battle, the old king could expect no mercy at her husband's hand.

But the old king had been insulted and sought battle. So he ignored his daughter's pleas.

Saddened, Hild returned to Hedinn and told him there would be no reconciliation. The warriors prepared to fight.

When the two armies deployed for battle, Hedinn once again tried to make peace, offering the king a fortune in gold in order to prevent war. But it was not enough.

Högni, who had unsheathed his sword, Dáinsleif, said the peace offering was too late.

"Your offer of peace comes too late, " said Högni. "My blade has been drawn. Forged by the dwarves it cannot be sheathed until it has drawn blood or taken life."

Hedinn glared at the old man.

"You can boast about your sword, but victory will not be yours. I call any sword good which is faithful to its master."

So the bloodshed began.

The two armies fought fiercely until nightfall, when the survivors from both sides retired to their camps, leaving a battlefield strewn with the dead of both sides.

As the moon crept above the horizon, Hild walked among the fallen, and with her magic, brought the slain back to life, ready to fight the same battle the next morning.

By the time the sun arose, those who had fallen the day before had joined their comrades, ready to resume battle.

Once again, the two sides met fiercely and the field was reddened with blood.

The arrival of night once again ended the conflict and, once again, Hild used her magic to revive the fallen so that they might rise again to fight the same battle.

Thus the cycle continued.

The two armies fought during the day, and at night the dead were resurrected. They rose again in the morning and gathered their weapons and shields, which had turned to stone overnight, to fight another day.

Tradition has it that the two armies were cursed to fight one another until the day of Ragnarok.