Next spring Njal said to Atli, "I wish that thou wouldst change thy abode to the east firths, so that Hallgerda may not put an end to thy life?"
"I am not afraid of that," says Atli, "and I will willingly stay at home if I have the choice."
"Still that is less wise," says Njal.
"I think it better to lose my life in thy house than to change my master; but this I will beg of thee, if I am slain, that a thrall's price shall not be paid for me."
"Thou shalt be atoned for as a free man; but perhaps Bergthora will make thee a promise which she will fulfil, that revenge, man for man, shall be taken for thee."
Then he made up his mind to be a hired servant there.
Now it must be told of Hallgerda that she sent a man west to Bearfirth, to fetch Brynjolf the Unruly, her kinsman. He was a base son of Swan, and he was one of the worst of men. Gunnar knew nothing about it. Hallgerda said he was well fitted to be a grieve. So Brynjolf came from the west, and Gunnar asked what he was to do there? He said he was going to stay there.
"Thou wilt not better our household," says Gunnar, "after what has been told me of thee, but I will not turn away any of Hallgerda's kinsmen, whom she wishes to be with her."
Gunnar said little, but was not unkind to him, and so things went on till the Thing. Gunnar rides to the Thing and Kolskegg rides too, and when they came to the Thing they and Njal met, for he and his sons were at the Thing, and all went well with Gunnar and them.
Bergthora said to Atli, "Go thou up into Thorolfsfell and work there a week."
So he went up thither, and was there on the sly, and burnt charcoal in the wood.
Hallgerda said to Brynjolf, "I have been told Atli is not at home, and he must be winning work on Thorolfsfell."
"What thinkest thou likeliest that he is working at," says he.
"At something in the wood," she says.
"What shall I do to him?" he asks.
"Thou shalt kill him," says she.
He was rather slow in answering her, and Hallgerda said, "'Twould grow less in Thiostolf's eyes to kill Atli if he were alive."
"Thou shalt have no need to goad me on much more," he says, and then he seized his weapons, and takes his horse and mounts, and rides to Thorolfsfell. There he saw a great reek of coalsmoke east of the homestead, so he rides thither, and gets off his horse and ties him up, but he goes where the smoke was thickest. Then he sees where the charcoal pit is, and a man stands by it. He saw that he had thrust his spear in the ground by him. Brynjolf goes along with the smoke right up to him, but he was eager at his work, and saw him not. Brynjolf gave him a stroke on the head with his axe, and he turned so quick round that Brynjolf loosed his hold of the axe, and Atli grasped the spear, and hurled it after him. Then Brynjolf cast himself down on the ground, but the spear flew away over him.
"Lucky for thee that I was not ready for thee," says Atli, "but now Hallgerda will be well pleased, for thou wilt tell her of my death; but it is a comfort to know that thou wilt have the same fate soon; but come now take thy axe which has been here."
He answered him never a word, nor did he take the axe before he was dead. Then he rode up to the house on Thorolfsfell, and told of the slaying, and after that rode home and told Hallgerda. She sent men to Bergthorsknoll, and let them tell Bergthora that now Kol's slaying was paid for.
After that Hallgerda sent a man to the Thing to tell Gunnar of Atli's killing.
Gunnar stood up, and Kolskegg with him, and Kolskegg said, "Unthrifty will Hallgerda's kinsmen be to thee."
Then they go to see Njal, and Gunnar said, "I have to tell thee of Atli's killing." He told him also who slew him, and went on, "And now I will bid thee atonement for the deed, and thou shalt make the award thyself."
Njal said, "We two have always meant never to come to strife about anything; but still I cannot make him out a thrall."
Gunnar said that was all right, and stretched out his hand.
Njal named his witnesses, and they made peace on those terms.
Skarphedinn said, "Hallgerda does not let our housecarles die of old age."
Gunnar said, "Thy mother will take care that blow goes for blow between the houses."
"Ay, ay," says Njal, "there will be enough of that work."
After that Njal fixed the price at a hundred in silver, but Gunnar paid it down at once. Many who stood by said that the award was high; Gunnar got wroth, and said that a full atonement was often paid for those who were no brisker men than Atli.
With that they rode home from the Thing.
Bergthora said to Njal when she saw the money, "Thou thinkest thou hast fulfilled thy promise, but now my promise is still behind."
"There is no need that thou shouldst fulfil it," says Njal.
"Nay," says she, "thou hast guessed it would be so; and so it shall be."
Hallgerda said to Gunnar, "Hast thou paid a hundred in silver for Atli's slaying, and made him a free man?"
"He was free before," says Gunnar, "and besides, I will not make Njal's household outlaws who have forfeited their rights."
"There's not a pin to choose between you," she said, "for both of you are so blate?"
"That's as things prove," says he.
Then Gunnar was for a long time very short with her, till she gave way to him; and now all was still for the rest of that year; in the spring Njal did not increase his household, and now men ride to the Thing about summer.