Arthur D. Howden Smith‘s best writing is generally considered to be the Grey Maiden series. I personally prefer his stories of Swain the Viking that are based on the character of Swein Asleifsson as recorded in the Orkneyinga saga.
Adventure magazine inspired Robert E. Howard, and I feel sure that at least some of that inspiration came from these stories.
The story you are about to read, Swain’s End, is the logical ending of the series. It’s a fitting end for a hero’s saga, and events proceed with the inevitability of classical Greek tragedy where the fates pull the threads.
The prose style might strike you as a little stilted. Stick with it.
“You have spoken as becomes a friend,” said Swain. “Likewise, your advice is sound. If it were not for the honorable obligation upon me to slay Olvir Rosta I would heed what you say and bide at home as becomes a man who is past his youth, and whose strength is wasted away in the wet work and the fighting. But I do not doubt I shall catch Olvir on this cruise, for he is too near to escape me. When that is done I shall have no more occasion for viking-faring, unless it be on your account. Therefore I promise you that this shall be my last cruise. I will endeavor to win as much fame as possible on it, and afterward I will leave off war-going.”
“Ah, well, comrade,” returned the Jarl sadly, “you promise all that I have a right to expect of you, but it is difficult to know which comes first—death or lasting fame.”
Download the story here. It’s 40 pages long, so you might want to print it before reading.
I wish someone would collect these stories in book form – Howden Smith and Swain deserve to be remembered.
To get the first five stories in the series, you could get the book Swain’s Saga. It’d definitely be cheaper (and a lot easier) than getting the 5 issues of Adventure where these appeared.