Now Flosi speaks to his men, "Now we will ride to Bergthorsknoll, and come thither before supper-time."
They do so. There was a dell in the knoll, and they rode thither, and tethered their horses there, and stayed there till the evening was far spent.
Then Flosi said, "Now we will go straight up to the house, and keep close, and walk slow, and see what counsel they will take."
Njal stood out of doors, and his sons, and Kari and all the serving-men, and they stood in array to meet them in the yard, and they were near thirty of them.
Flosi halted and said, "Now we shall see what counsel they take, for it seems to me, if they stand out of doors to meet us, as though we should never get the mastery over them."
"Then is our journey bad," says Grani Gunnar's son, "if we are not to dare to fall on them."
"Nor shall that be," says Flosi; "for we will fall on them though they stand out of doors; but we shall pay that penalty, that many will not go away to tell which side won the day."
Njal said to his men, "See ye now what a great band of men they have."
"They have both a great and well-knit band," says Skarphedinn; "but this is why they make a halt now, because they think it will be a hard struggle to master us."
"That cannot be why they halt," says Njal; "and my will is that our men go indoors, for they had hard work to master Gunnar of Lithend, though he was alone to meet them; but here is a strong house as there was there, and they will be slow to come to close quarters."
"This is not to be settled in that wise," says Skarphedinn, "for those chiefs fell on Gunnar's house, who were so nobleminded, that they would rather turn back than burn him, house and all; but these will fall on us at once with fire, if they cannot get at us in any other way, for they will leave no stone unturned to get the better of us; and no doubt they think, as is not unlikely, that it will be their deaths if we escape out of their hands. Besides, I am unwilling to let myself be stifled indoors like a fox in his earth."
"Now," said Njal, "as often it happens, my sons, ye set my counsel at naught, and show me no honour, but when ye were younger ye did not so, and then your plans were better furthered."
"Let us do," said Helgi, "as our father wills; that will be best for us."
"I am not so sure of that," says Skarphedinn, "for now he is 'fey'; but still I may well humour my father in this, by being burnt indoors along with him, for I am not afraid of my death."
Then he said to Kari, "Let us stand by one another well, brother- in-law, so that neither parts from the other."
"That I have made up my mind to do," says Kari; "but if it should be otherwise doomed,--well! then it must be as it must be, and I shall not be able to fight against it."
"Avenge us, and we will avenge thee," says Skarphedinn, "if we live after thee."
Kari said so it should be.
Then they all went in, and stood in array at the door.
"Now are they all 'fey,'" said Flosi, "since they have gone indoors, and we will go right up to them as quickly as we can, and throng as close as we can before the door, and give heed that none of them, neither Kari nor Njal's sons, get away; for that were our bane."
So Flosi and his men came up to the house, and set men to watch round the house, if there were any secret doors in it. But Flosi went up to the front of the house with his men.
Then Hroald Auzur's son ran up to where Skarphedinn stood, and thrust at him. Skarphedinn hewed the spearhead off the shaft as he held it, and made another stroke at him, and the axe fell on the top of the shield, and dashed back the whole shield on Hroald's body, but the upper horn of the axe caught him on the brow, and he fell at full length on his back, and was dead at once.
"Little chance had that one with thee, Skarphedinn," said Kari, "and thou art our boldest."
"I'm not so sure of that," says Skarphedinn, and he drew up his lips and smiled.
Kari, and Grim, and Helgi, threw out many spears, and wounded many men; but Flosi and his men could do nothing.
At last Flosi said, "We have already gotten great manscathe in our men; many are wounded, and he slain whom we would choose last of all. It is now clear that we shall never master them with weapons; many now there be who are not so forward in fight as they boasted, and yet they were those who goaded us on most. I say this most to Grani Gunnar's son, and Gunnar Lambi's son, who were the least willing to spare their foes. But still we shall have to take to some other plan for ourselves, and now there are but two choices left, and neither of them good. One is to turn away, and that is our death; the other, to set fire to the house, and burn them inside it; and that is a deed which we shall have to answer for heavily before God, since we are Christian men ourselves; but still we must take to that counsel."
(1) The Icelandic word is "heimsokn," a term which still lingers in the grave offence known in Scottish law as "hamesucken."