Now when Kolskegg and the house-carles had been three nights in the isles, Thorgeir Starkad's son had news of that, and sends word to his namesake that he should come to meet him on Threecorner ridge.
After that Thorgeir of the Threecorner busked him with eleven men; he rides up on the ridge and there waits for his namesake.
And now Gunnar is at home in his house, and those namesakes ride into a wood hard by. There such a drowsiness came over them that they could do naught else but sleep. So they hung their shields up in the boughs, and tethered their horses, and laid their weapons by their sides.
Njal was that night up in Thorolfsfell, and could not sleep at all, but went out and in by turns.
Thorhilda asked Njal why he could not sleep?
"Many things now flit before my eyes," said he; "I see many fetches of Gunnar's bitter foes, and what is very strange is this, they seem to be mad with rage, and yet they fare without plan or purpose."
A little after, a man rode up to the door and got off his horse's back and went in, and there was come the shepherd of Thorhilda and her husband.
"Didst thou find the sheep?" she asked.
"I found what might be more worth," said he.
"What was that?" asked Njal.
"I found twenty-four men up in the wood yonder; they had tethered their horses, but slept themselves. Their shields they had hung up in the boughs."
But so closely had he looked at them that he told of all their weapons and wargear and clothes, and then Njal knew plainly who each of them must have been, and said to him, "'Twere good hiring if there were many such shepherds; and this shall ever stand to thy good; but still I will send thee on an errand."
He said at once he would go.
"Thou shalt go," says Njal, "to Lithend and tell Gunnar that he must fare to Gritwater, and then send after men; but I will go to meet with those who are in the wood and scare them away. This thing hath well come to pass, so that they shall gain nothing by this journey, but lose much."
The shepherd set off and told Gunnar as plainly as he could the whole story. Then Gunnar rode to Gritwater and summoned men to him.
Now it is to be told of Njal how he rides to meet these namesakes.
"Unwarily ye lie here," he says, "or for what end shall this journey have been made? And Gunnar is not a man to be trifled with. But if the truth must be told then, this is the greatest treason. Ye shall also know this, that Gunnar is gathering force, and he will come here in the twinkling of an eye, and slay you all, unless ye ride away home."
They bestirred them at once, for they were in great fear, and took their weapons, and mounted their horses and galloped home under the Threecorner.
Njal fared to meet Gunnar and bade him not to break up his company.
"But I will go and seek for an atonement; now they will be finely frightened; but for this treason no less a sum shall be paid when one has to deal with all of them, than shall be paid for the slaying of one or other of those namesakes, though such a thing should come to pass. This money I will take into my keeping, and so lay it out that it may be ready to thy hand when thou hast need of it."