When the Danes heard that the Northmen's army was come to the Gaut river they all fled who had opportunity to get away. The Northmen heard that the Danish king had also called out his forces and lay in the south, partly at Fyen and partly about Seeland.
When King Harald found that King Svein would not hold a meeting with him, or a fight, according to what had been agreed upon between them, he took the same course as before — letting the bonde troops return home, but manning 150 ships, with which he sailed southwards along Halland, where he herried all round, and then brought up with his fleet in Lofufjord, and laid waste the country.
A little afterwards King Svein came upon them with all the Danish fleet, consisting of 300 ships. When the Northmen saw them King Harald ordered a general meeting of the fleet to be called by sound of trumpet; and many there said it was better to fly, as it was not now advisable to fight. The king replied,
"Sooner shall all lie dead one upon another than fly."
So says Stein Herdison: —
"With falcon eye, and courage bright,
Our king saw glory in the fight;
To fly, he saw, would ruin bring
On them and him — the folk and king.
'Hands up the arms to one and all!'
Cries out the king; 'we'll win or fall!
Sooner than fly, heaped on each other
Each man shall fall across his brother!'"
Then King Harald drew up his ships to attack, and brought forward his great dragon in the middle of his fleet.
So says Thiodolf: —
"The brave king through his vessels' throng
His dragon war-ship moves along;
He runs her gaily to the front,
To meet the coming battle's brunt."
The ship was remarkably well equipt, and fully manned.
So says Thiodolf: —
"The king had got a chosen crew —
He told his brave lads to stand true.
The ring of shields seemed to enclose
The ship's deck from the boarding foes.
The dragon, on the Nis-river flood,
Beset with men, who thickly stood,
Shield touching shield, was something rare,
That seemed all force of man to dare."
Ulf, the marshal, laid his ship by the side of the king's and ordered his men to bring her well forward.
Stein Herdison, who was himself in Ulf's ship, sings of it thus: —
"Our oars were stowed, our lances high,
As the ship moved swung in the sky.
The marshal Ulf went through our ranks,
Drawn up beside the rowers' banks:
The brave friend of our gallant king
Told us our ship well on to bring,
And fight like Norsemen in the cause —
Our Norsemen answered with huzzas."
Hakon Ivarson lay outside on the other wing, and had many ships with him, all well equipt. At the extremity of the other side lay the Throndhjem chiefs, who had also a great and strong force.