The king answered, "Call forth whom thou wilt, and he shall be regent."
The lady saw her nearest of kin standing night her—her mother's brother—and to him she said, "Take my castles and land in charge, till that King Gunther's own hand holdeth rule here."
She chose from among her knights two thousand men to follow her to the Rhine, and the thousand Nibelung warriors. Then she made ready for the journey, and rode down to the shore. She took with her six and eighty women, and an hundred fair damsels, and they tarried not longer, but set out. They that were left behind wept sore! Graciously and sweetly the lady quitted her land. She kissed her nearest of kin that stood round. With loving farewells they reached the sea. To the land of her fathers the maiden returned nevermore.
Many hands made music during the voyage, and they had all manner of pastime, and a favouring wind. And so they sailed away; and many a mother's son wept for it.
Brunhild wedded not the king on the voyage, but waited for a hightide that was to be held in the castle of Worms; and thither they speeded merrily with their knights.
How Siegfried Was Sent to Worms
When they had journeyed full nine days, Hagen of Trony said, "Hearken to my word. We have delayed too long to send the news to Worms on the Rhine. The envoys should have been in Burgundy or now."
King Gunther answered, "Thou sayest sooth. And none were better for this business than thyself, friend Hagen. Ride now into my land, for thou art the fittest to tell of our coming."
"Nay, certes, dear master, I am but a bad envoy. Let me stay here at sea and act the chamberlain. I will look to the women's wardrobe, till we bring them to Burgundy. Bid Siegfried rather carry the message; by reason of his great strength he will bear it through well. If he deny thee, urge him with friendly words, that he do it for thy sister's sake."
So Gunther sent for the knight, who came when they had found him. And the king said, "We are well night home in my land. It is time I sent a messenger to tell my dear sister and my mother that we draw near. Undertake thou the journey, and I will owe thee much thank."
But Siegfried would not do it till that Gunther had begged him and said, "Ride not for my sake only, but for fair Kriemhild's, that the royal maiden requite it, even as I." And when Siegfried heard that, he yielded.
"Command what thou wilt, I will not gainsay it. I will do it for the sake of my beautiful lady. How should I deny aught to her that I bear in my heart? Because of her, I will perform all that thou askest."
"Tell Uta, then, the great queen, that we have prospered in our adventure; and let my brothers hear how that it hath fared well with us. Tell the same news to our friends. And hide nothing from my sister. Greet her from Brunhild and me; greet also the courtiers and all my men. Say to them that I have gotten the desire of my heart. And bid Ortwin, my dear nephew, raise seats by the Rhine. Make it known also to the other knights that I will hold a great hightide with Brunhild; and bid my sister, when she heareth I am at hand with my guests, prepare a fair welcome for my bride; for the which I shall ever be beholden to her."
So Siegfried took leave of Brunhild, as was meet, and rode to the Rhine. In the whole world was no better envoy.
With twenty and four knights he rode to Worms. And when it was noised abroad that he was come without the king, Gunther's servants were heavy of their cheer, for they feared that their lord had tarried behind, dead.
The messengers sprang gaily from their horses, and Giselher, the young king, ran to them, and Gernot, his brother, who cried quickly, when he saw not King Gunther with Siegfried, "Thou art welcome, Sir Siegfried. Tell me, now, what thou hast done with my brother the king. If the strength of Brunhild hath reft him from us, a bitter wooing hath it been."
"Fear naught. Thee and his kinsmen my friend greeteth by me, for he hath sent me hither to you with news. Contrive now that I come to the queen and thy sister. For I am charged with the same message to them as to thee, from Gunther and Brunhild: that it standeth well with the twain."
Giselher said, "Go in to them straightway, and it will please my sister. She feareth for my brother; by my troth, she will see thee gladly."
Siegfried answered, "If I can serve her in aught, it shall be done. Where are now the ladies, that I may go to them?"
Giselher, the brave youth, bare the message; he said to his mother and his sister, "Siegfried is come to us, the hero of the Netherland. My brother Gunther hath sent him hither to the Rhine. He bringeth us word how it standeth with the king. Allow him to come to the court, for he bringeth news from Issland."
The noble women were heavy of their cheer. They ran for their robes, and arrayed them, and bade Siegfried to the court; and he went gladly, for he yearned to see them. Kriemhild, the noble maiden, greeted him fair.
"Thou art welcome, Sir Siegfried, valiant knight. Where is my brother Gunther, the noble king? I fear we have lost him by Brunhild's strength. Alack! that ever I was born!"
But the warrior answered, "Give me the guerdon of good news, for, fair women, ye weep without cause. I left him safe and sound—I say sooth—and he hath charged me with a message. He and his wife commend them lovingly to thee, O Queen. Dry thine eyes, for they will be here shortly."
Kriemhild had not heard such good news for many a day. She wiped her bright eyes with her snow-white apron, and began to thank the envoy for his message.
So ended her sorrow and her tears.
She bade Siegfried sit, whereto he was nothing loth, and said sweetly, "I would fain give thee the envoy's guerdon, wert thou not too rich to receive it. Take my good will in lieu thereof."
"Though I had thirty lands," answered Siegfried, "I were proud to take a gift from thy hand."
Kriemhild said, "Be it so." And she bade the chamberlain fetch the envoy's meed. She gave him four and twenty bracelets with precious stones for his fee. The hero would not keep them: he was too rich a prince, but gave them to the maidens that were in the chamber.
Uta, also, greeted him fair, and he said, "I must tell thee further what the king would have thee do when he cometh to the Rhine; for the which, if thou grant it, he will ever be beholden to thee. He would have thee receive his noble guests kindly, and ride out from Worms to the shore to meet them. He begged this of thee with true heart."
The beautiful maiden answered, "I will do it gladly. I will deny him no service. Faithfully and truly will I do it." And she grew red from love.
Never was prince's envoy better entreated. If she had durst kiss him, she had done it readily. On loving wise he took leave of the maiden.
Then did the Burgundians as Siegfried told them. Sindolt, and Hunolt, and Rumolt the knight, hasted and raised seats on the strand before Worms. The king's servants rested not. And Ortwin and Gary sent messengers out straightway to Gunther's liegemen over all, with news of the hightide. The maidens looked to their apparel. The palace and all the walls were decked out for the guests, and adorned cunningly for the stranger knights.
All the roads were thronged with the kinsmen of the three kings, that had been summoned to welcome Gunther and Brunhild, and many a rich vest was taken from its wrapping-cloth. Then the news spread, that Brunhild's friends had been spied on the way. And great was the press in Burgundy. Bold knights, enow, I ween, were there on both sides!
Fair Kriemhild said, "Go now, you of my maidens that will forth with me to the welcome, and seek out your best clothes from the chests, that we may have honour and praise from the guests."
The knights also bade bring out rich saddles, all of red gold, for the women to ride from Worms down to the Rhine. Better riding gear there could not be. Ha! how bright the gold shone on the horses, and the precious stones on the bridles! They brought out gilded side-saddles and goodly trappings for the women. And they were all merry of their cheer.
The horses stood ready in the court for the noble maidens, as I have told you, and the poitrals were of the finest silk that was ever spun. Eighty and six dames in head-coifs, fair, and dight in rich apparel, came to Kriemhild, and thereto, featly adorned, many a beautiful damsel; fifty and four, the fairest in Burgundy, with glittering lace over their yellow hair. All that the king had desired of them they did with good will. Fair robes of goodly stuffs that matched their white skins they wore before the stranger knights. None but a fool had found any of them amiss. Some had mantles of sable and ermine, and their arms and wrists had bracelets over the silk; none might tell all the goodly show to the end. With girdles cunningly fashioned, rich and long, they bound their gorgeous robes made of silk of Araby. The world held no fairer damsels. In their tightened bodices they laced them deftly. Certes, they had been grieved if their red cheeks had not outshone their vesture. Never queen had lovelier maidens.
When now the women had done on their apparel, the proud warriors that were to lead them out drew nigh, a mighty force, bearing shields and ashen spears.
How Brunhild Was Received at Worms
On the far bank of the Rhine appeared a mighty host—the king with his guests—and they drew nigh to the strand, where damsels, led by the bridle, stood ready with welcome. When they from Issland, and Siegfried's men of the Nibelung, saw that the ships were come, they hasted to the beach and laid hold, for they spied the king's friends that waited on the other side.
It is told of Uta, the rich queen, that she brought her damsels from the castle to ride with her, so that knights and maidens won knowledge of one another. The Margrave Gary held Kriemhild's bridle till they were out from the fortress; then Siegfried hasted to serve her, for the which he was after requited.
Ortwin the bold went by dame Uta's side, and, paired meetly and in sweet fellowship, knights and maidens rode together. Never, in sooth, at such meeting were so many women gathered. The men held tourney in the presence of Kriemhild and the rest, until the ships were landed, and did valiant deeds, that had been ill left undone at such a season.
Then they lifted the rich-attired women from their horses. Ha! what splintering of lances, what din of shields, what noise and clash of wrought bucklers, when the king and his guests were come over to the fair ones that stood by the haven!
Gunther, with his friends, went down from the ships; he led Brunhild by the hand; garments and precious stones shone bright and sparkled. And Kriemhild went eagerly toward them, and greeted Brunhild and her following. They drew back their head-bands with white fingers, and kissed one another through love. Then Kriemhild, the maid, spake courteously, "Thou art right welcome in this land, to me and to my mother, and to our friends." And they courtsied and embraced. Never, I ween, was any greeted fairer than the bride, by Uta and her daughter, for they ceased not to kiss her sweet mouth.
When Brunhild's women were all gotten to land, the knights led them before the queen, where welcome was not stinted them, and, where many a red mouth was kissed. The rich kings' daughters stood long side by side, and the warriors gazed on them. What these had heard tell they saw with their eyes, that none surpassed those two women in beauty, neither was any blemish found in them. They that esteem women for the comeliness of the body and what the eye beholdeth, extolled King Gunther's wife, but the wise that look deeper said, "Praised shall Kriemhild be before Brunhild." And the bright-attired women drew together where the silken canopies were spread, and the goodly tents, in the field before Worms.
The king's kinsmen pressed forward to see them. They prayed the two queens to go with their women where the shade was, and the Burgundian knights led them thither.
The guests also were now gotten to horse, and there was din of tilting against shields. The dust swirled up from the plain, as the land had been on fire, and the valour of many knights was proven, while the maidens beheld their prowess. Siegfried, I ween, rode many a course before the pavilions with his thousand Nibelungs.
Then came Hagen of Trony at the king's command, and, on friendly wise, stopped the jousting, lest the dust should irk the fair maidens, and they demurred not, but obeyed gladly.
Gernot said, "Let stand the horses till it groweth cooler, and let us lead the women home. But be ready to ride again when the king giveth the order."
So the tourney ended over all the plain. And the knights went to the women under the high pavilions, and passed the time merrily till it was time to ride home.
At the fall of night, when the sun went down and the air had begun to cool, they tarried not longer, but arose, men and women together, and the knights wooed the fair maidens with their eyes. Then, as was the custom of the land, the good squires spurred forward to the castle gate before the proud knights.
There the king alighted from his horse, and, on knightly wise, the heroes lifted down the women. There, too, the noble queens parted. Uta and her daughter went with their attendants into a wide chamber, and a merry din was heard over all.
The chairs were set, for the king was ready to go to table with his guests, and beautiful Brunhild stood by him, and were her crown in Gunther's land. Certes, she was proud enough.
Many were the seats, they say, and the tables goodly and broad, and laden with food. Little, I trow, was lacking! And many a noble guest sat there with the king. Gunther's chamberlains carried round water in golden ewers. If any tell you of a prince's table better served, believe it not.
Or Gunther took the water, Siegfried, as was meet, minded him of his oath that he had sworn or ever he saw Brunhild in Issland.
He said, "Forget not the vow thou swarest with thy hand, that, if Brunhild came into Burgundy, thou wouldst give me thy sister. Where is thine oath now? Mickle toil was mine on the journey."
The king answered his guest, "Thou hast done well to remind me. I go not back from the oath of my hand. What I can do therein I will do."
They bade Kriemhild to the court before the king. She went up the hall with her maidens, but Giselher sprang down the stair and cried, "Send back these maidens. My sister goeth alone to the king."
They brought Kriemhild before Gunther, where he stood amidst of knights from many lands. And they bade her stand in the middle of the hall. Brunhild, by this time, was come to the table, and knew naught of what was toward. Then said Dankrat's son to his kinsmen, "Help me now, that my sister take Siegfried to her husband."
And they answered with one accord, "That may she do with honour."
Gunther said, "Dearest sister, I prithee of thy goodness, loose me from mine oath. I promised thee to a knight; and truly thou wilt do my will, if thou take him to husband."
The maiden answered, "Dear brother mine, thou needest not to entreat. Command and I will obey. Him that thou givest me to husband I will gladly wed."
Siegfried grew red for love and joy, and vowed his service to Kriemhild. And they bade them stand together in a circle, and asked her if she would take the knight.
On maidenly wise she was shamefast at the first, yet so great was Siegfried's good fortune and his grace, that she refused not his hand; and the king of the Netherland, from his side also, plighted his troth to Kriemhild.
When their word was given, Siegfried took his queen in his arms straightway, and kissed her before the warriors.
The circle brake up when this was ended, and Siegfried took the seat of honour with Kriemhild. The vassals served before them, and his Nibelung knights stood nigh.
The king and Brunhild were seated, and Brunhild saw Kriemhild sitting by Siegfried, the which irked her sore; she fell to weeping, and the hot tears ran down her bright cheeks.
Whereupon the host said, "What aileth thee, sweet Lady, that the light of thine eyes is dim? Rejoice shouldst thou rather, for my land and rich castles and true liegemen are all subject to thee."
"I have cause to weep," said the maiden. "I grieve from my heart for thy sister, that she sitteth there by thy vassal. I must ever weep to see her so shamed."
But King Gunther answered, "I prithee, silence! Another time I will tell thee why I gave my sister to Siegfried. May she live happily with the knight."
But she said, "I must grieve for her beauty and her birth. If I knew whither I might flee, I would not suffer thee by me, till that thou hadst told me how Siegfried hath gotten Kriemhild."
Gunther answered them, "Hearken, and I will tell thee. Know that he hath lands and castles even as I, and is a rich king; wherefore I give him my beautiful sister gladly to wife." Yet, for all the king could say to her, she was downcast.
The knights rose from the table, and the tourney waxed so fierce that the castle rang with the noise. But the king wearied amidst of his guests. He thought, "It were softer alone with my wife." And his heart dwelled on the mickle joy her love must bring him, and he looked at her sweetly.
Then they stopped the tourney, that the king might retire with his wife.
At the foot of the stair that led forth from the hall, Kriemhild and Brunhild came face to face. They were not foes yet. Their attendants followed them, and longer they tarried not. The chamberlains brought candles, and the knights of the two kings parted in two companies, and many followed Siegfried.
Then came the heroes where they were to lie, and each thought to win his wife's favour, whereat their hearts melted.
With Siegfried all went well. He caressed the maiden lovingly, and she was as his life. He had not given her alone for a thousand other women.
Of them I will tell no further. Hear now how it fared with Gunther. Better had been his case with any but Brunhild.
The folk had departed, dames and knights. The door was made fast. He thought to win her love, but it was long yet or she became his wife. He lay down in a white garment and thought, "Now have I my heart's desire." The king's hand hid the light. He went to Brunhild and embraced her with his arm. He was greatly glad. He would have caressed her sweetly if she had let him. But she was so wroth that he was dismayed. He thought to find joy, but found deep hate.
She said, "Noble knight, let me alone, for it shall not be as thou desirest. Mark well I have naught to do with thee, till that thou has answered me concerning Kriemhild."
Then Gunther began to be angry with her, and fought with her, and tore her raiment. And the royal maiden seized a girdle, a strong embroidered silk cord that she wore round her waist, and did hurt enow to the knight. She bound his hands and his feet, and carried him to a nail, and hung him on the wall. She forbade him to touch her because he disturbed her sleep. He almost perished from her strength.
Then he that should have been master began to pray, "Now loose my bands, most noble queen. I promise never to touch thee, or even to come night thee."
She asked not how he fared while she lay soft. There must he hang the long night through till the day, when the bright morning shone through the window. If he had ever had strength, he had little in his body now.
"Tell me, Sir Gunther," said the beautiful maiden, "doth it not irk thee that thy chamberlains find thee bound by the hand of a woman."
The noble knight answered, "It were the worse for thee. Also little were my honour therein. Of thy charity allow me to lie down. Seeing thou hatest my love, I will no so much as touch thy garment with my hand."
Then she loosed his bands, and let him go, and he laid him down, but so far from her that he ruffled not her beautiful gown. Even that she had gladly forgone.
Thereupon their attendants came and brought them new apparel, as much as they could wear, that had been made ready against the wedding morn. But, amidst of them that rejoiced, the king was heavy of his cheer beneath his crown that day.
According to the good custom of the land, Gunther and Brunhild tarried not longer, but went to the minster to hear mass. Thither also went Siegfried, and there was great press of people.
Crowns and robes were ready for them there; and after they had taken their vows, they stood up, all four, proudly beneath their crowns.
Youths, to the number of six hundred or more, were dubbed knights (I say sooth) in honour of the king. And great joy was in Burgundy, and much splintering of lances by sworded knights.
The beautiful maidens sat at the windows, and underneath them was the flashing of many shields. But the king stood apart from his men, and went about sadly.
He and Siegfried were unlike of their moods. The hero guessed what ailed him, and went to him and asked him, "Tell me how it hath fared with thee."
Then said the host to his guest, "Shame and hurt have I suffered from my wife in my house. When I would have caressed her, she bound me tight, and took me to a nail, and hung me up on the wall. There I dangled in fear the night through till the day, or she loosed me. How soft she lay there! I tell thee this in secret."
And stark Siegfried said, "I grieve for thee. I will tell thee a remedy if thou keep it from her. I will so contrive it that this night she will defy thee no longer." The word was welcome to Gunther after his pain.
"Now see my hands, how they are swollen. She overmastered me, as I had been a child, that the blood spurted all over me from my nails. I thought not to come off with my life."
Said Siegfried, "It will yet be well. Unequal was our fortune last night. Thy sister Kriemhild is dearer to me than mine own body. This day must Brunhild be thy wife. I will come to-night to thy room secretly in my Tarnkappe, that none may guess the trick. Send the chamberlains to their beds. I will put out the lights in the hands of the pages, and by this sign thou shalt know that I am night. I will win thy wife for thee or perish."
"If only thou winnest her not for thyself. She is my dear wife. Otherwise I rejoice. Do to her what thou wilt. If thou tookest her life, I would bear it. She is a terrible woman."
"I vow to thee on mine honour that I will have naught to do with her. Thy dear sister is more to me than any I have ever seen." And Gunther believed Siegfried's word.
Meanwhile the guests rode at the tourney with fortune good and bad, but, when it was time for the women to go to the hall, they stopped the tilting and the din, and the chamberlains bade the folk void the way.
And now the courtyard was empty of horses and men. A bishop led each queen before the kings to table, and many proud knights followed them to their seats. The king sat beside his wife in good hope, for he minded Siegfried's promise. The one day seemed to him as thirty, for he thought only on Brunhild.
Scarce could he wait till they rose from the table.
Fair Kriemhild and also Brunhild were led to their chambers. Ha! what bold knights went before the queens!
Joyful and without hate Siegfried the knight sat sweetly beside his beautiful wife. With her white hand she caressed his, till, she knew not how, he vanished from before her eyes. When she played with him and saw him no longer, she said to her maidens, "I marvel much where the king is gone. Who took his hands out of mine?" And so the matter dropped.
He had gone where he found the chamberlains with the lights, which he began to put out. By this sign Gunther perceived that it was Siegfried. He knew well what he wanted, and he sent away the women and maidens. When that was done, the king himself locked the door, and shot two strong bolts before it. He hid the light quickly behind the bed curtain, and the struggle that had to come began between stark Siegfried and the beautiful maiden. King Gunther was both glad and sorry.
Siegfried lay down by the queen, but she said, "Stop, Gunther, lest thou suffer as afore. Thou mayest again receive a hurt at my hand."
Siegfried concealed his voice and spake not. Gunther heard well all that passed, albeit he saw nothing. There was little ease for the twain. Siegfried feigned that he was Gunther, and put his arm round the valiant maiden. She threw him on to a bench, that his head rang loud against a foot-stool.
The bold man sprang up undaunted, but evil befell him. Such defence from a woman I ween the world will never see more. Because he would not let her be, Brunhild rose up.
"It is unseemly of thee," said the brave maiden. "Thou wilt tear my beautiful gown. Thou art churlish and must suffer for it. Thou shalt see!"
She caught the good knight in her arms, and would have bound him as she had done to the king, that she might have peace. Grimly she avenged her torn raiment.
What availed him then his strength and his prowess? She proved to him the mastery of her body, and carried him by force, since there was no other way, and squeezed him hard against a press that stood by the bed.
"Alack!" thought the knight, "if I lose my life by the hand of a woman, all wives evermore will make light of their husbands, that, without this, would not dare."
The king heard it well. He feared for the man. Then Siegfried was ashamed and waxed furious. He grappled fiercely with her, and, in terror of his life, strove to overcome Brunhild. When she squeezed him down, he got up again in spite of her, by dint of his anger and his mickle strength. He came in great scathe. In the chamber there was smiting with many blows. King Gunther, likewise, stood in peril. He danced to and fro quickly before them. So mightily they strove, it was a wonder they came off with their lives. The trouble of the king was twofold, yet most he feared Siegfried's death. For she had almost killed the knight. Had he dared, he had gone to his help.
The strife endured long atwixt them. Then Siegfried got hold of Brunhild. Albeit she fought valiantly, her defence was grown weak. It seemed long to the king, that stood there, till Siegfried had won. She squeezed his hands till, by her strength, the blood spurted out from his nails. Then he brake the strong will that she had shown at the first. The king heard it all, but he spake no word. Siegfried pressed her down till she cried aloud, for his might hurt her greatly. She clutched at her side, where she found her girdle, and sought to tie his hands. But he gripped her till the joints of her body cracked. So the strife was ended.
She said, "Noble king, let me live. I will make good to thee what I have done, and strive no more; truly I have found thee to be my master."
Siegfried rose up then and left her, as though he would throw off his clothes. He drew from her hand a gold ring, without that she was ware of it. He took her girdle also, a good silken band. I know not if he did it from pride. He gave them to his wife, and suffered for it after.
The king and the fair maiden were left together, and, for that she was grown weak, she hid her anger, for it availed her nothing. So the abode there till the bright day.
Meanwhile Siegfried went back to his sweet love, that received him kindly. He turned the questions aside that she asked him, and hid from her for long what he had brought with him, till at the last, when they were gotten home to the Netherland, he gave her the jewel; the which brought him and many knights to their graves.
Much merrier was Gunther of his cheer the next morning than afore. Throughout his lands many a noble knight rejoiced, and the guests that he had bidden to the hightide were well feasted and served.
The hightide lasted fourteen days, during the which time the din of the sports, and of the pastimes they practised, ceased not. Mickle was the cost to the king. The king's kinsmen gave, in his honour, to the stranger knights, as their lord willed it, apparel, and ruddy gold and horses, and thereto silver enow; and they that received the gifts took their leave well content. Also Siegfried of the Netherland and his thousand knights gave all that they had brought with them—goodly horses with saddles. Certes, they lived right royally. Nevertheless, or they had made an end of giving, they deemed it long; for they were weary for their home. So ended the hightide, and the warriors went their ways.
How Siegfried Brought his Wife Home
When the guests were all gone, the son of Siegmund spake to his friends, "We will also go forth to our land." And his wife was glad when she heard the news.
She said to her husband, "When shall we start? Yet be not in too great haste. My brothers shall first divide the land with me." But the word irked Siegfried.
The princes went to him and said, all the three, "Sir Siegfried, we be thy true servants till death. Know this of a surety." And he thanked the knights that they spake him so fair.
"We would also divide with thee," said Giselher the youth, "land and castles, and the rich kingdom that we rule. A full share thereof shalt thou receive with Kriemhild."
But the son of Siegmund made answer, when he had heard their honourable intent. "Blest be your heritage to you evermore, and also the people thereof. The share you would give to my dear wife she may well forego, for when she will wear the crown, she will be, if she live long enough, the richest woman on earth. Command me in aught else, and I will obey."
But Kriemhild said, "Though thou scorn my land, not so lightly shalt thou treat Burgundian warriors. These any king might be proud to take with him, and them, at the least, shall my brothers' hand share with me."
Gunther answered, "Take whom thou wilt. Thou wilt find many ready to ride with thee. Of three thousand knights, choose thou one thousand for thy following."
Then Kriemhild sent for Hagen of Trony and for Ortwin, and asked them if they and their kinsmen would ride with her. But Hagen fell in a fury and cried, "To no man in this world shall Gunther give us. Others can ride with thee. Thou knowest the men of Trony and their way. By the king at the court will we bide, to serve him and follow him as heretofore."
So she let the matter rest, and made ready for the journey; for her followers she won two and thirty maidens and five hundred men, among the which was Eckewart the Margrave. And they took their leave, as was meet: knights and squires, damsels and dames. They parted thence with kisses, and set out from Gunther's land joyfully.
Her kinsmen brought her far on her way, and had night quarters put up where they desired them, in the king's land. And they despatched envoys to King Siegmund, to tell him and Queen Sieglind how that their son drew nigh with fair Kriemhild, Queen Uta's child, from Worms on the Rhine.
They could not have brought them better news.
Siegmund said, "Praised be God that I have lived to see the day when Kriemhild shall wear the crown here. My heritage is increased in worth, and Siegfried himself shall be king."
Queen Sieglind gave the envoys, for fee, red velvet and heavy silver and gold, for she was glad at the news.
Her women began to adorn them in haste, and when Sieglind knew who came with Siegfried, she let seats be builded, where he might be crowned in presence of his kinsmen.
King Siegmund's knights rode out to meet them. Never heroes were better welcomed, I trow, than these, into Siegmund's land. Sieglind rode forth, herself, to greet fair Kriemhild, with beautiful women and bold knights, a day's journey or they spied the guests. And strangers and friends were pressed alike for room, till that they came to a great castle that hight Xanten, where Siegfried and his wife were crowned afterward.
Siegmund and Sieglind kissed Kriemhild, and Siegfried also, many times with smiling mouth for their sorrow was ended; and Kriemhild's attendants got a gracious welcome.
They brought the guests into Siegmund's palace, and lifted the fair damsels from the horses. There were knights enow eager to serve them.
Howso rich had been the hightide by the Rhine, here the knights received costlier apparel than ever before in their lives. Many marvels might be told of their splendour. So they sat in honour and had plenty. The courtiers wore robes of red gold embroidered with precious stones and silk, that Sieglind, the noble queen, gave them.
Then Siegmund spake in presence of his kinsmen, "Be it known to you all that Siegfried shall henceforth wear my crown." They of the Netherland heard the news gladly. So he made over to Siegfried his crown and his rule and his land, that he became lord and king. And to him that he acquitted, and to him that he condemned, it was done according to his judgment. The husband of Kriemhild was a man greatly feared.
Thus, in high honour (and this is sooth that I say) he lived and reigned, a crowned king, till the tenth year, when a son was born, whereby the king's liegemen saw their desire accomplished. They hasted and christened him, and called him Gunther, after his uncle; that was no shame, for, took he after his kinsmen, he must grow to be a bold man. They reared him well, as was meet.
And in these days Sieglind died, and many wept because death had taken her. Then Uta's child held supreme rule, as befitted so rich a queen.
Now at the same time, they tell us, in Gunther's land of Burgundy, the beautiful Brunhild had borne a son, that, for love of the hero, they named Siegfried. With all care they trained him. Gunther let him be reared by his liegemen at the court in all virtues that might serve him if he grew to be a man. Soon, alack, by an evil fate, he was to lose all his kin!
The fame of Siegfried's court ceased not to be noised abroad, and with what worship his knights abode there; great was the fame also of Gunther's chosen warriors in Burgundy.
The Nibelungs held their land in fee from Siegfried, and none of his kinsmen were so rich as he. For he was overlord to the knights of Shilbung, and owned the treasure of the two brothers. Wherefore his heart was the more uplifted.
The biggest hoard that ever hero won was his; that he had got by means of his strong hand before a mountain, and for the which he smote many heroes to death.
He had honour to the full; yet, if he had possessed nothing at all, none that saw him had denied him to be the prowest champion that ever rode a horse. With good cause the folk feared him.
How Gunther Invited Siegfried to the Hightide
Now there passed not a day but Gunther's wife thought, "Surely Kriemhild beareth her too proudly. Siegfried, her husband, is our vassal. Little service hath he done for his land."
She pondered it secretly in her heart; for it irked her that they were strangers, and she had fain known wherefore Siegfried's country yielded no tribute. She prayed the king that she might behold Kriemhild again, and told him her secret thought. But her word pleased him not. "How could we bid them hither?" said the great king. "It cannot be. They dwell too far off. I durst not do it."
But Brunhild answered proudly, "However mighty a king's vassal may be, he must do what his lord commandeth."
But Gunther laughed, for he took it not as homage when he saw Siegfried.
She said further, "Dear lord, for my love, help me thereto, that Siegfried and thy sister visit us, and that we see them here. Truly nothing could rejoice me more. Thy sister's courtesy, her gentle breeding—with what delight my heart dwelleth thereon, and how we sat together the day I became thy wife! That she chose Siegfried to her husband did her honour."
She begged the king for it so long that he said, "Certes! no guests would I gladlier welcome, and willingly I grant it thee. I will bid them hither by my envoys."
The queen answered then, "Send not thither without my knowledge, and inform me, without fail, when my dear friends shall come. And tell me, also, whom thou wilt charge with the embassy."
"That will I," said the king. "I will despatch thirty of my knights."
He bade them to his presence, and sent greeting by them to Siegfried's country. Brunhild clad them in rich apparel, and the king spake, "Ye knights shall keep back naught wherewith I charge you, but shall say to stark Siegfried, and to my sister, that no man in this world is better minded to them than I be. Bid them both hither to the Rhine. If they come, I and my wife will cease not to be beholden to them. Or midsummer is here, he and his knights will find among us many to do them worship. Greet King Siegmund also from me, and say that I and my friends are his true servants; and entreat my sister that, without fail, she ride hither to her friends. No hightide were fitter for her."
Brunhild and Uta, and their women, commended them to the fair women and the bold men at Siegfried's court.
So the envoys made haste to do the king's bidding. They stood ready for the road; horses and harness were there, and they took their leave. They pushed forward with the escort the king gave them. Inside of twelve days they reached the land and the castle of the Nibelungs, and found Siegfried on the march of Norway. Horses and men were weary with the long road.
They brought word to both Siegfried and Kriemhild that knights were come, clad after the manner of the Burgundians.
And Kriemhild sprang from the couch where she lay resting, and bade a maiden run to the window, who saw Gary standing in the courtyard, and his knights that were sent with him. They brought welcome news to her anxious heart.
She cried to the king, "Seest thou, standing there in the courtyard, them that be come with stark Gary, that my brother Gunther hath sent down the Rhine?"
And Siegfried answered, "They are welcome."
All the folk ran when they saw the envoys and greeted them with kind words. Siegfried was right glad at their coming. Lodging was given to them, and their horses were seen to, whereupon they went straightway where Siegfried sat by Kriemhild. Both were joyful to behold them. The king and his wife rose quickly to receive Gary and Gunther's knights of Burgundy. And they bade Gary sit down.
"Nay, let us way-weary guests stand while we tell thee Gunther's message. After, we will sit. Gunther and Brunhild, with whom it is well, and Queen Uta, your mother, and Giselher, the youth, and eke Gernot, and your nearest kinsmen, send greeting from Burgundy."
"Now God reward them," said Siegfried; "I hold them for good and true, as a man should trust his friends. The like doth their sister. Say on, whether they be of good cheer. Hath any done my wife's brethren a hurt since we parted? Tell me, for I will stand by them till their foemen rue my help."
Margrave Gary, the good knight, answered, "It is well with them, and they are of good cheer. They bid thee to a hightide, and were right glad if thou camest. They bid my Lady also. So soon as the winter shall be ended, before midsummer, they would see you."
But Siegfried said, "That can hardly be."
Whereupon Gary the Burgundian answered, "Your mother Uta, Gernot, and Giselher, pray that ye deny them not. Every day I hear them lament that ye dwell so far. Brunhild my mistress, and her maidens, rejoice in the hope to see you."
The message seemed good to Kriemhild. Gary was her kinsman; and the king bade him sit, and tarried not longer to let pour the wine for the guests.
Thither came Siegmund also, when he saw the messengers, and he spake to them on friendly wise. "Ye be welcome, ye knights, Gunther's men; since Siegfried won Kriemhild to wife, ye should have been seen here oftener, if you would have proved your love."
They answered that, if he willed it, they would come gladly, for that joy had taken from them their mickle weariness.
Then they bade the envoys sit, and set meats before them, whereof Siegfried gave order they should have enough. Nine days they were kept at the court, till at last they murmured, saying that if they tarried longer, they durst not return again to their land.
Meanwhile Siegfried had let summon his friends. He asked them their mind about his journey. "Gunther my brother-in-law, and his kinsmen, have bidden me to a hightide at the Rhine, and Kriemhild also, that she ride with me. And I were fain to go if his country lay not so far off. Now counsel me, dear friends, for the best. Had I to harry thirty lands for their sake, my hand were at their service."
His knights made answer, "If thou wouldst ride to this hightide, we counsel thee on this wise: take with thee a thousand knights to the Rhine, that thou mayest have honour among the Burgundians."
Then said King Siegmund of the Netherland, "Wherefore has thou not told me thou wouldest to the hightide? If thou hast naught against it, I will ride with thee, and will take an hundred knights with me to add to thy train."
"Wilt thou do so, dear father mine?" said bold Siegfried. "Right welcome art thou. Inside of twelve days we will forth."
To them that desired it horses and apparel were given.
Since the king was minded to make the journey, he sent away the swift envoys, and charged them with a message to his wife's brethren at the Rhine, that he would come right gladly to their hightide.
Siegfried and Kriemhild (so runneth the tale) gave so much to the envoys that their horses scarce sufficed to carry it, for Siegfried was a rich king. So, well content, they drave their sumpters before them.
Then Siegfried and Siegmund equipped their folk, and Eckewart, the Margrave, bade bring forth the best women's vesture that was in Siegfried's whole land. They made ready saddles and shields, and to the knights and the gentlewomen that were to ride with them, they gave freely, that they lacked naught. Siegfried led many valiant knights to his kinsmen.
The envoys hasted on their way, and when bold Gary was come into Burgundy, they greeted him fair. The riders sprang from their horses Gunther's hall. And young and old, as their wont is, pressed round them and asked for news. But the good knight answered, "Ye shall have it when I have told it to the king." And he passed on with his comrades to Gunther.
The king sprang from his seat for joy, and Brunhild thanked them that they were so soon back again. To the envoys spake Gunther then, "How fareth it with Siegfried, that hath ever done well by me?"
And Gary answered, "He and thy sister waxed red for joy. Kinder greeting sent man never to his friends than Siegfried and his father Siegmund send to thee."
Then said the queen to the Margrave, "Tell me, I prithee; cometh Kriemhild with them? And hath her body lost nothing of its fairness?"
Whereto Gary answered, "They will both come, and, with them, many knights."
Then Uta bade the envoys to her presence, and showed by her questions what most she desired to know—how it fared with Kriemhild. He told her how he had found her, and that she would come thither shortly.
They declared also the envoy's fee that Siegfried had given them: the apparel and the gold. All the knights of the three kings saw it, and praised Siegfried.
"It is easy for him to give," quoth Hagen. "He could not spend it if he lived for ever, for the hoard of the Nibelungs is in his hand. Would it came our way!"
All the court, both knights and ladies, were glad at their coming. The servants of the three kings were not idle, and started to raise the high-seats. Hunolt and Sindolt had work enow, for they were the sewer and the butler, and they arranged the chairs; to Ortwin, for that he helped them, Gunther gave thanks. As for Rumult, the chief cook, I ween he knew how to order his underlings. Ha! what meats they made ready against the feast, in their huge cauldrons and pots and pans.
The women too busied them, and saw to their robes, whereon they embroidered gold and bright shining stones, that, when they wore them, they might be well esteemed.
How They Rode to the Hightide
Leave we all this work now, to tell how Kriemhild and her maidens journeyed from the Nibelung land to the Rhine.
Never sumpters bare such rich apparel. They sent many travelling chests on before them, and Siegfried and the queen rode with their friends and dreamed on joy—that was to end in deep sorrow. As needs was, they left their son at home. Also for him was the journey woeful: his father and his mother he saw nevermore. Siegmund, the king, rode with them, that had, certes, not been there, had he known what was to betide them. Never sorrow was worse than his for dear ones.
They sent forward messengers betimes, and a proud host of Uta's kin, and Gunther's knights, came forth to meet them. Gunther busied him to show his guests worship. He went to Brunhild and said, "How did Kriemhild welcome thee when thou camest first to this land? I would have thee welcome her even so."
She answered, "I will do it gladly, for I have cause to love her."
The king spake further, "They come to-morrow early. If thou wilt receive them, lose no time, lest they surprise us here in the castle, for never have I welcomed dearer guests."
So she gave orders to her women to seek out goodly robes, the best that they had, and to wear them; the which, I trow, they did gladly.
Gunther's men also hasted to meet them; all that he had he led forth; and the queen rode in royal state. Mickle joy was at that greeting. With high honour they welcomed them, yea, with even more, the folk said, than Kriemhild had showed Brunhild aforetime; and the hearts of them that saw it were uplifted. Then Siegfried came up with his men, and the heroes coursed to and fro on the plain, that none had ease for the dust and the press.
When the king saw Siegfried and Siegmund, on what loving wise he spake! "Ye are welcome to me and to all my men. Right joyful have ye made us by this journey."
"Now God reward thee," answered Siegmund, the worshipful man. "Since my son Siegfried won thee to his kinsman, my desire hath ever been to behold thee."
Whereupon Gunther said, "That it hath come to pass doth rejoice me."
Siegfried was received with the honour that was his due; and none wished him ill. From Gernot and Giselher, also, dear guests had never better welcome.
Then the two queens drew nigh to each other.
The saddles were emptied, and the women alighted on the grass with the help of the heroes, that were not slow, I trow, with their service!
The queens met, and the knights rejoiced at so fair a greeting, and ceased not to wait upon the fair women. Hero now to hero held out the hand of welcome; the women courtseyed and kissed, and Gunther's and Siegfried's men looked on well content.
They tarried not longer, but rode to the town, where the host bade it be shown plain that the guests were welcome to Burgundy. There, too, there was tilting before the maidens. Hagen of Trony and Ortwin approved them mighty, for none durst gainsay their command; and they showed the dear guests much honour.
The clash of shields, and the din of piercing and smiting, rose before the castle gate. Long time stood the host there with his guest or they were all gone in, for in pastime the hours flew by. Then they rode merrily to the great reception hall. Gorgeous footcloths, rich and cunningly fashioned, hung down from the saddles of the beautiful women. Gunther's serving-men hasted forward, and led them to their chambers. All this time Brunhild kept not her eyes from Kriemhild, that was, certes, fair enow, and of brighter hue than the gold she wore.
Over all the town of Worms was heard the mirth of the company. King Gunther bade Dankwart, his marshal, see to them well, who gave them goodly quarters. Without and within they feasted; never were strangers fairer entreated; all that they desired stood ready for them, for so rich was the king, that to none was aught denied. They were served well and without hate.
Then the king went to table with his guests. Siegfried they let sit where he had sat aforetime, and many a proud warrior strode after him to the feast. Twelve hundred knights were in the circle at the table; whereat Brunhild thought, "Never afore was vassal so rich." Nevertheless she was well minded to him, nor contrived aught to his hurt.
Many a rich cloak was wetted where the king sat that night, with the wine that the butlers ceased not to pour; for they toiled sore to serve all.
As hath still been the custom at hightides, the women and the damsels were led to their beds betimes; and to each guest, from whencesoever he came, the host gave honour and gifts enow.
When the night was ended, and the morning shone, precious stones sparkled on the rich apparel that the hands of the women drew forth from the travelling chests. Many a rich robe was sought out.
Or it was well day, knights and squires gathered before the hall, and the din of tourney arose again before the early mass that they sang for the king. Gunther thanked the young heroes. Then the trumpets were blown lustily, and the noise of drums and flutes were so loud that Worms, the wide town, rang therewith.
Everywhere the bold heroes sprang to horse, and tourney was held in the land. Many young hearts were there that beat high, and, under their shields, many a doughty knight. In the windows sat stately dames and beautiful maidens, featly adorned, and gazed down at the joisting of the warriors, till that the king himself began to tilt with his kinsmen. So they passed the time, nor thought it long.
Then the bells rang from the dome, whereat they led up the horses, and the women rode forth, with many stark knights following the queens. They alighted before the minster, on the grass. Still was Brunhild well minded to her guests, and, with their crowns on, they went into the great church. But soon jealousy made an end of their love.
When the mass was sung they rode home in state, and went merrily to table. Nor was there an end of joy at the hightide till the eleventh day.
Then the queen thought, "I can hide it no longer. I must contrive by some means that Kriemhild tell me why her husband, that is our vassal, hath so long paid us no tribute. I cannot lose this riddle."
So she waited for the hour when the Devil tempted her, and she turned the joy of the hightide to dole. For it pressed on her heart, and must needs come to light. By reason thereof many lands were filled with mourning.
How the Queens Quarrelled
One day, before vespers, there arose in the court of the castle a mighty din of knights that tilted for pastime, and the folk ran to see them.
The queens sat together there, thinking each on a doughty warrior. Then said fair Kriemhild, "I have a husband of such might that all these lands might well be his."
But Brunhild answered, "How so? If there lived none other save thou and he, our kingdom might haply be his, but while Gunther is alive it could never be."
But Kriemhild said, "See him there. How he surpasseth the other knights, as the bright moon the stars! My heart is uplifted with cause."
Whereupon Brunhild answered, "Howso valiant thy husband, comely and fair, thy brother Gunther excelleth him, for know that he is the first among kings."
But Kriemhild said, "My praise was not idle; for worshipful is my husband in many things. Trow it, Brunhild. He is, at the least, thy husband's equal."
"Mistake me not in thine anger, Kriemhild. Neither is my word idle; for they both said, when I saw them first, and the king vanquished me in the sports, and on knightly wise won my love, that Siegfried was his man. Wherefore I hold him for a vassal, since I heard him say it."
Then Kriemhild cried, "Evil were my lot if that were true. How had my brothers given me to a vassal to wife? Prithee, of thy courtesy, cease from such discourse."
"That will I not," answered Brunhild. "Thereby should I lose many knights that, with him, owe us homage."
Whereat fair Kriemhild waxed very wroth. "Lose them thou must, for any service he will do thee. He is nobler even than Gunther, my noble brother. Wherefore, spare me thy foolish words. I wonder, since he is thy vassal, and thou art so much mightier than we, that for so long time he hath failed to pay tribute. Of a truth thine arrogancy irketh me."
"Thou vauntest thyself too high," cried the queen; "I would see now whether thy body be holden in like honour with mine."
Both the women were angry.
Kriemhild answered, "That shalt thou see straightway. Since thou hast called Siegfried thy vassal, the knights of both kings shall see this day whether I dare enter the minster before thee, the queen. For I would have thee know that I am noble and free, and that my husband is of more worship than thine. Nor will I be chidden by thee. To-day thou shalt see thy vassals go at court before the Burgundian knights, and me more honoured than any queen that ever wore a crown."
Fierce was the wrath of the women.
"If thou art no vassal," said Brunhild, "thou and thy women shall walk separate from my train when we go to the minster."
And Kriemhild answered, "Be it so."
"Now adorn ye, my maidens," said Siegfried's wife, "that I be not shamed. If ye have rich apparel, show it this day. She shall take back what her mouth hath spoken."
She needed not to bid twice; they sought out their richest vesture, and dames and damsels were soon arrayed.
Then the wife of the royal host went forth with her attendants. Fair to heart's desire were clad Kriemhild and the forty and three maidens that she had brought with her to the Rhine. Bright shone the stuffs, woven in Araby, whereof their robes were fashioned. And they came to the minster, where Siegfried's knights waited for them.
The folk marvelled much to see the queens apart, and going not together as afore. Many a warrior was to rue it.
Gunther's wife stood before the minster, and the knights dallied in converse with the women, till that Kriemhild came up with her meiny. All that noble maidens had ever worn was but as a wind to what these had on. So rich was Kriemhild that thirty king's wives together had not been as gorgeous as she was. None could deny, though they had wished it, that the apparel Kriemhild's maidens wore that day was the richest they had ever seen. Kriemhild did this on purpose to anger Brunhild.
So they met before the minster. And Brunhild, with deadly spite, cried out to Kriemhild to stand still. "Before the queen shall no vassal go."
Out then spake Kriemhild, for she was wroth. "Better hadst thou held thy peace. Thou hast shamed thine own body. How should the leman of a vassal become a king's wife?"
"Whom namest thou leman?" cried the queen.
"Even thee," answered Kriemhild. "For it was Siegfried my husband, and not my brother, that won thee first. Where were thy senses? It was surely ill done to favor a vassal so. Reproaches from thee are much amiss."
"Verily," cried Brunhild, "Gunther shall hear of it."
"What is that to me? Thine arrogancy hath deceived thee. Thou hast called me thy vassal. Know now of a truth it hath irked me, and I am thine enemy evermore."
Then Brunhild began to weep, and Kriemhild tarried not longer, but went with her attendants into the minster before the king's wife. There was deadly hate, and bright eyes grew wet and dim.
Whether they prayed or sang, the service seemed too long to Brunhild, for her heart and her mind were troubled, the which many a bold and good man paid for afterward.
Brunhild stopped before the minster with her women, for she thought, "Kriemhild, the foul-mouthed woman, shall tell me further whereof she so loud accuseth me. If he hath boasted of this thing, he shall answer for it with his life."
Then Kriemhild with her knights came forth, and Brunhild began, "Stop! thou hast called me a wanton and shalt prove it, for know that thy words irk me sore."
Said Kriemhild, "Let me pass. With this gold that I have on my hand I can prove it. Siegfried brought it when he came from thee."
It was a heavy day for Brunhild. She said, "That gold so precious was stolen from me, and hath been hidden these many years. Now I know who hath taken it." Both the women were furious.
"I am no thief," cried Kriemhild. "Hadst thou prized thine honour thou hadst held thy peace, for, with this girdle round my waist, I can prove my word, and that Siegfried was verily thy leman." She wore a girdle of silk of Nineveh, goodly enow, and worked with precious stones.
When Brunhild saw it she started to weep. And soon Gunther knew it, and all his men, for the queen cried, "Bring hither the King of Rhineland; I would tell him how his sister hath mocked me, and sayeth openly that I be Siegfried's leman."
The king came with his warriors, and, when he saw that his dear one wept, he spake kindly, "What aileth thee, dear wife?"
She answered, "Shamed must I stand, for thy sister would part me from mine honour? I make my plaint to thee. She proclaimeth aloud that Siegfried hath had me to his leman."
Gunther answered, "Evilly hath she done."
"She weareth here a girdle I have long lost, and my red gold. Woe is me that ever I was born! If thou clearest me not from this shame, I will never love thee more."
Said Gunther, "Bid him hither, that he confess whether he hath boasted of this, or no."
They summoned Siegfried, who, when he saw their anger and knew not the cause, spake quickly, "Why weep these women? Tell me straight; and wherefore am I summoned?"
Whereto Gunther answered, "Right vexed am I. Brunhild, my wife, telleth me here that thou hast boasted thou wert her leman. Kriemhild declareth this. Hast thou done it, O knight?"
Siegfried answered, "Not I. If she hath said so, I will rest not till she repent it. I swear with a high oath, in the presence of all thy knights, that I said not this thing."
The king of the Rhine made answer, "So be it. If thou swear the oath here, I will acquit thee of the falsehood." Then the Burgundians stood round in a ring, and Siegfried swore it with his hand; whereupon the great king said, "Verily, I hold thee guiltless, nor lay to thy charge the word my sister imputeth to thee."
Said Siegfried further, "If she rejoiceth to have troubled thy fair wife, I am grieved beyond measure." The knights glanced at each other.
"Women must be taught to bridle their tongues. Forbid proud speech to thy wife: I will do the like to mine. Such bitterness and pride are a shame."
Angry words have divided many men. Brunhild made such dole, that Gunther's men had pity on her. And Hagen of Trony went to her and asked what ailed her, for he found her weeping. She told him the tale, and he sware straightway that Kriemhild's husband should pay for it, or never would Hagen be glad again.
While they talked together, Ortwin and Gernot came up, and the warriors counselled Siegfried's death. But when Giselher, Uta's fair child, drew nigh and heard them, he spake out with true heart, "Alack, good knights, what would ye do? How hath Siegfried deserved such hate that he should lose his life? A woman is lightly angered."
"Shall we rear bastards?" cried Hagen. "That were small honour to good knights. I will avenge on him the boast that he hath made, or I will die."
But the king himself said, "Good, and not evil, hath he done to us. Let him live. Wherefore should I hate the knight? He hath ever been true to me."
But Ortwin of Metz said, "His great strength shall not avail him. Allow, O Lord, that I challenge him to his death." So, without cause, they banded against him. Yet none had urged it further, had not Hagen tempted Gunther every day, saying, that if Siegfried lived not, many kings' lands were subject to him.
Whereat the warrior began to grieve.
Meanwhile they let the matter lie, and returned to the tourney. Ha! what stark spears they brake before Kriemhild, atween the minster and the palace; but Gunther's men were wroth.
Then said the king, "Give over this deadly hate. For our weal and honour he was born. Thereto the man is so wonderly stark and grim, that, if he were ware of this, none durst stand against him."
"Not so," said Hagen. "Assure thee on that score. For I will contrive secretly that he pay for Brunhild's weeping. Hagen is his foe evermore."
But Gunther said, "How meanest thou?"
And Hagen answered, "On this wise. Men that none here knoweth shall ride as envoys into this land and declare war. Whereupon thou wilt say before thy guests that thou must to battle with thy liegemen. When thou hast done this, he will promise to help thee. Then he shall die, after I have learnt a certain thing from his wife."
Evilly the king followed Hagen, and they plotted black treason against the chosen knight, without any suspecting it. So, through the quarrel of two women, died many warriors.
How Siegfried Was Betrayed
On the fourth morning, thirty and two men were seen riding to the court. They brought word to Gunther that war was declared against him. The women were woeful when they heard this lie.
The envoys won leave to go into the king, and they said they were Ludger's men, that Siegfried's hand had overcome in battle and brought captive into Gunther's land.
The king greeted them, and bade them sit, but one of them said, "Let us stand, till that we have declared the message wherewith we are charged to thee. Know that thou hast to thy foemen many a mother's son. Ludger and Ludgast, whom thou hast aforetime evilly entreated, ride hither to make war against thee in this land."
The king fell in a rage, as if he had known naught thereof. Then they gave the false messengers good lodging. How could Siegfried or any other guess their treason, whereby, or all was done, they themselves perished?
The king went whispering up and down with his friends. Hagen of Trony gave him no peace. Many of the knights were fain to let it drop, but Hagen would not be turned from it.
On a day that Siegfried found them whispering, he asked them, "Wherefore are the king and his men so sorrowful? If any hath done aught to their hurt, I will stand by them to avenge it."
Gunther answered, "I grieve not without cause. Ludgast and Ludger ride hither to war against me in my land."
Then said the bold knight, "Siegfried's arm will withstand them on such wise, that ye shall all come off with honour. I will do to these warriors even as I did aforetime. Waste will be their lands and their castles, or I be done. I pledge my head thereto. Thou and thy men shall tarry here at home, and I will ride forth with my knights that I have with me. I serve thee gladly, and will prove it. Doubt not that thy foemen shall suffer scathe at my hand."
"These be good words," answered the king, as he were truly glad, and craftily the false man bowed low.
Then said Siegfried further, "Have no fear."
The knights of Burgundy made ready for war, they and their squires, and dissembled before Siegfried and his men. Siegfried bade them of the Netherland lose no time, and they sought out their harness.
Then spake stark Siegfried, "Tarry here at home, Siegmund, my father. If God prosper us, we shall return or long to the Rhine. Meanwhile, be thou of good cheer here by the king."
They made as if to depart, and bound on the standard. Many of Gunther's knights knew nothing of how the matter stood, and a mighty host gathered round Siegfried. They bound their helmets and their coats of mail on to the horses and stood ready. Then went Hagen of Trony to Kriemhild, to take his leave of her, for they would away.
"Well for me," said Kriemhild, "that ever I won to husband a man that standeth so true by his friends, as doth Siegfried by my kinsmen. Right proud am I. Bethink thee now, Hagen, dear friend, how that in all things I am at thy service, and have ever willed thee well. Requite me through my husband, that I love, and avenge not on him what I did to Brunhild. Already it repenteth me sore. My body hath smarted for it, that ever I troubled her with my words. Siegfried, the good knight, hath seen to that."
Whereto Hagen answered, "Ye will shortly be at one again. But Kriemhild, prithee tell me wherein I can serve thee with Siegfried, thy husband, and I will do it, for I love none better."
"I should fear naught for his life in battle, but that he is foolhardy, and of too proud a courage. Save for that, he were safe enow."
Then said Hagen, "Lady, if thou fearest hurt for him in battle, tell me now by what device I may hinder it, and I will guard him afoot and on horse."
She answered, "Thou art my cousin, and I thine. To thy faith I commend my dear husband, and thou mayst watch and keep him."
Then she told him what she had better have left unsaid.
"My husband is stark and bold. When that he slew the dragon on the mountain, he bathed him in its blood; wherefore no weapon can pierce him. Nevertheless, when he rideth in battle, and spears fly from the hands of heroes, I tremble lest I lose him. Alack! for Siegfried's sake how oft have I been heavy of my cheer! And now, dear cousin, I will trust thee with the secret, and tell thee, that thou mayst prove thy faith, where my husband may be wounded. For that I know thee honourable, I do this. When the hot blood flowed from the wound of the dragon, and Siegfried bathed therein, there fell atween his shoulders the broad leaf of a lime tree. There one might stab him, and thence is my care and dole."
Then answered Hagen of Trony, "Sew, with thine own hand, a small sign upon his outer garment, that I may know where to defend him when we stand in battle."
She did it to profit the knight, and worked his doom thereby. She said, "I will sew secretly, with fine silk, a little cross upon his garment, and there, O knight, shalt thou guard to me my husband when ye ride in the thick of the strife, and he withstandeth his foemen in the fierce onset."
"That will I do, dear lady," answered Hagen.
Kriemhild thought to serve Siegfried; so was the hero betrayed.
Then Hagen took his leave and went forth glad; and his king bade him say what he had learned.
"If thou wouldst turn from the journey, let us go hunting instead; for I have learned the secret, and have him in my hand. Wilt thou contrive this?"
"That will I," said the king.
And the king's men rejoiced. Never more, I ween, will knight do so foully as did Hagen, when he bade his faith with the queen.
The next morning Siegfried, with his thousand knights, rode merrily forth; for he thought to avenge his friends. And Hagen rode nigh him, and spied at his vesture. When he saw the mark, he sent forward two of his men secretly, to ride back to them with another message: that Ludger bade tell the king his land might remain at peace.
Loth was Siegfried to turn his rein or had he done battle for his friends. Gunther's vassals scare held him back. Then he rode to the king, that thanked him.
"Now, God reward thee, Siegfried, my kinsman, that thou didst grant my prayer so readily. Even so will I do by thee, and that justly. I hold thee trustiest of all my friends. Seeing we be quit of this war, let us ride a hunting to the Odenwald after the bear and the boar, as I have often done."
Hagen, the false man, had counselled this.
"Let it be told to my guests straightway that I will ride early. Whoso would hunt with me, let him be ready betimes. But if any would tarry behind for pastime with the women, he shall do it, and please me thereby."
Siegfried answered on courtly wise, "I will hunt with thee gladly, and will ride to the forest, if thou lend me a huntsman and some brachs."
"Will one suffice?" asked Gunther. "I will lend thee four that know the forest well, and the tracks of the game, that thou come not home empty-handed."
Then Siegfried rode to his wife.
Meanwhile Hagen had told the king how he would trap the hero. Let all men evermore avoid such foul treason. When the false man had contrived his death, they told all the others. Giselher and Gernot were not hunting with the rest. I know not for what grudge they warned him not. But they paid dear for it.
How Siegfried Was Slain
Gunther and Hagen, the fierce warriors, went hunting with false intent in the forest, to chase the boar, the bear, and the wild bull, with their sharp spears. What fitter sport for brave men?
Siegfried rode with them in kingly pomp. They took with them good store of meats. By a cool stream he lost his life, as Brunhild, King Gunther's wife, had devised it.
But or he set out, and when the hunting-gear was laid ready on the sumpters that they were to take across the Rhine, he went to Kriemhild, that was right doleful of her cheer. He kissed his lady on the mouth. "God grant I may see thee safe and well again, and thou me. Bide here merry among thy kinsfolk, for I must forth."
Then she thought on the secret she had betrayed to Hagen, but durst not tell him. The queen wept sore that ever she was born, and made measureless dole.
She said, "Go not hunting. Last night I dreamed an evil dream: how that two wild boars chased thee over the heath; and the flowers were red with blood. Have pity on my tears, for I fear some treachery. There be haply some offended, that pursue us with deadly hate. Go not, dear lord; in good faith I counsel it."
But he answered, "Dear love, I go but for a few days. I know not any that beareth me hate. Thy kinsmen will me well, nor have I deserved otherwise at their hand."
"Nay, Siegfried, I fear some mischance. Last night I dreamed an evil dream: how that two mountains fell on thee, and I saw thee no more. If thou goest, thou wilt grieve me bitterly."
But he caught his dear one in his arms and kissed her close; then he took leave of her and rode off.
She never saw him alive again.
They rode thence into a deep forest to seek sport. The king had many bold knights with him, and rich meats, that they had need of for the journey. Sumpters passed laden before them over the Rhine, carrying bread and wine, and flesh and fish, and meats of all sorts, as was fitting for a rich king.
The bold huntsmen encamped before the green wood where they were to hunt, on a broad meadow. Siegfried also was there, which was told to the king. And they set a watch round the camp.
Then said stark Siegfried, "Who will into the forest and lead us to the game?"
"If we part or we begin the chase in the wood," said Hagen, "we shall know which is the best sportsman. Let us divide the huntsmen and the hounds; then let each ride alone as him listeth, and he who hunteth the best shall be praised." So they started without more ado.
But Siegfried said, "One hound that hath been well trained for the chase will suffice for me. There will be sport enow!"
Then an old huntsman took a limehound, and brought the company where there was game in plenty. They hunted down all the beasts they started, as good sportsmen should.
Whatsoever the limehound started, the hero of the Netherland slew with his hand. His horse ran so swift that naught escaped him; he won greater praise than any in the chase. In all things he was right manly. The first that he smote to the death was a half-bred boar. Soon after, he encountered a grim lion, that the limehound started. This he shot with his bow and a sharp arrow; the lion made only three springs or he fell. Loud was the praise of his comrades. Then he killed, one after the other, a buffalo, an elk, four stark ureoxen, and a grim shelk. His horse carried him so swiftly that nothing outran him. Deer and hind escaped him not.
The limehound tracked a wild boar next that began to flee. But Siegfried rode up and barred the path, whereat the monster ran at the knight. He slew him with his sword. Not so lightly had another done it.
They leashed their limehound then, and told the Burgundians how Siegfried had prospered. Whereupon his huntsman said, "Prithee, leave something alive; thou emptiest to us both mountain and forest." And Siegfried laughed.
The noise of the chase was all round them; hill and wood rang with shouting and the baying of dog, for the huntsmen had loosed twenty and four hounds. Many a beast perished that day, for each thought to win the prize of the chase. But when stark Siegfried rode to the tryst-fire, they saw that could not be.
The hunt was almost over. The sportsmen brought skins and game enow with them to the camp. No lack of meat for cooking was there, I ween.
Then the king bade tell the knights that he would dine. And they blew a blast on a horn, that told the king was at the tryst-fire.
Said one of Siegfried's huntsmen, "I heard the blast of a horn bidding us back to the camp. I will answer it." And they kept blowing to assemble the company.
Siegfried bade quit the wood. His horse bare him smoothly, and the others pricked fast behind. The noise roused a grim bear, whereat the knight cried tot hem that came after him, "Now for sport! Slip the dog, for I see a bear that shall with us to the tryst-fire. He cannot escape us, if he ran ever so fast."
They slipped the limehound; off rushed the bear. Siegfried thought to run him down, but he came to a ravine, and could not get to him; then the bear deemed him safe. But the proud knight sprang from his horse, and pursued him. The beast had no shelter. It could not escape from him, and was caught by his hand, and, or it could wound him, he had bound it, that it could neither scratch nor bite. Then he tied it to his saddle, and, when he had mounted up himself, he brought it to the tryst-fire for pastime.
How right proudly he rode to the camping ground! His boar-spear was mickle, stark and broad. His sword hung down to the spur, and his hunting-horn was of ruddy gold. Of better hunting-gear I never heard tell. His coat was black samite, and his hat was goodly sable. His quiver was richly laced, and covered with a panther's hide for the sake of the sweet smell. He bare, also, a bow that none could draw but himself, unless with a windlass. His cloak was a lynx-skin, pied from head to foot, and embroidered over with gold on both sides. Also Balmung had he done on, whereof the edges were so sharp that it clave every helmet it touched. I ween the huntsman was berry of his cheer. Yet, to tell you the whole, I must say how his rich quiver was filled with good arrows, gilt on the shaft, and broad a hand's breadth or more. Swift and sure was the death of him that he smote therewith.
So the knight rode proudly from the forest, and Gunther's men saw him coming, and ran and held his horse.
When he had alighted, he loosed the band from the paws and from the mouth of the bear that he had bound to his saddle.
So soon as they saw the bear, the dogs began to bark. The animal tried to win back to the wood, and all the folk fell in great fear. Affrighted by the noise, it ran through the kitchen. Nimbly started the scullions from their place by the fire. Pots were upset and the brands strewed over all. Alack! the good meats that tumbled into the ashes!
Then up sprang the princes and their men. The bear began to growl, and the king gave order to slip the hounds that were on leash. I'faith, it had been a merry day if it had ended so.
Hastily, with their bows and spears, the warriors, swift of foot, chased the bear, but there were so many dogs that none durst shoot among them, and the forest rang with the din. Then the bear fled before the dogs, and none could keep pace with him save Kriemhild's husband, that ran up to him and pierced him dead with his sword, and carried the carcase back with him to the fire. They that saw it said he was a mighty man.
Then they bade the sportsmen to the table, and they sat down, a goodly company enow, on a fair meadow. Ha! what dishes, meet for heroes, were set before them. But the cup-bearers were tardy, that should have brought the wine. Save for that, knights were never better served. If there had not been false-hearted men among them, they had been without reproach. The doomed man had no suspicion that might have warned him, for his own heart was pure of all deceit. Many that his death profited not at all had to pay for it bitterly.
Then said Sir Siegfried, "I marvel, since they bring us so much from the kitchen, that they bring not the wine. If good hunters be entreated so, I will hunt no more. Certes, I have deserved better at your hands."
Whereto the king at the table answered falsely, "What lacketh to-day we will make good another time. The blame is Hagen's, that would have us perish of thirst."
Then said Hagen of Trony, "Dear master, Methought we were to hunt to-day at Spessart, and I sent the wine thither. For the present we must go thirsty; another time I will take better care."
But Siegfried cried, "Small thank to him. Seven sumpters with meat and spiced wines should he have sent here at the least, or, if that might not be, we should have gone nigher to the Rhine."
Hagen of Trony answered, "I know of a cool spring close at hand. Be not wroth with me, but take my counsel, and go thither." The which was done, to the hurt of many warriors. Siegfried was sore athirst and bade push back the table, that he might go to the spring at the foot of the mountain. Falsely had the knights contrived it. The wild beasts that Siegfried's hand had slain they let pile on a waggon and take home, and they that saw it praised him.
Foully did Hagen break faith with Siegfried. He said, when they were starting for the broad lime tree, "I hear from all sides that none can keep pace with Kriemhild's husband when he runneth. Let us see now."
Bold Siegfried of the Netherland answered, "Thou mayst easily prove it, if thou wilt run with me to the brook for a wager. The praise shall be to him that winneth there first."
"Let us see then," said Hagen the knight.
And stark Siegfried answered, "If I lose, I will lay me at thy feet in the grass."
A glad man was King Gunther when he heard that!
Said Siegfried further, "Nay, I will undertake more. I will carry on me all that I wear—spear, shield, and hunting gear." Whereupon he girded on his sword and his quiver in haste. Then the others did off their clothes, till they stood in their white shirts, and they ran through the clover like two wild panthers; but bold Siegfried was seen there the first. Before all men he won the prize in everything. He loosed his sword straightway, and laid down his quiver. His good spear he leaned against the lime tree; then the noble guest stood and waited, for his courtesy was great. He laid down his shield by the stream. Albeit he was sore athirst, he drank not till that the king had finished, who gave him evil thanks.
The stream was cool, pure, and good. Gunther bent down to the water, and rose again when he had drunk. Siegfried had gladly done the like, but he suffered for his courtesy. Hagen carried his bow and his sword out of his reach, and sprang back and gripped the spear. Then he spied for the secret mark on his vesture; and while Siegfried drank from the stream, Hagen stabbed him where the cross was, that his heart's blood spurted out on the traitor's clothes. Never since hath knight done so wickedly. He left the spear sticking deep in his heart, and fled in grimmer haste than ever he had done from any man on this earth afore.
When Siegfried felt the deep wound, he sprang up maddened from the water, for the long boar spear stuck out from his heart. He thought to find bow or sword; if he had, Hagen had got his due. But the sore-wounded man saw no sword, and had nothing save his shield. He picked it up from the water's edge and ran at Hagen. King Gunther's man could not escape him. For all that he was wounded to the death, he smote so mightily that the shield well-nigh brake, and the precious stones flew out. The noble guest had fain taken vengeance.
Hagen fell beneath his stroke. The meadow rang loud with the noise of the blow. If he had had his sword to hand, Hagen had been a dead man. But the anguish of his wound constrained him. His colour was wan; he could not stand upright; and the strength of his body failed him, for he bare death's mark on his white cheek. Fair women enow made dole for him.
Then Kriemhild's husband fell among the flowers. The blood flowed fast from his wound, and in his great anguish he began to upbraid them that had falsely contrived his death. "False cowards!" cried the dying knight. "What availeth all my service to you, since ye have slain me? I was true to you, and pay the price for it. Ye have done ill by your friends. Cursed by this deed are your sons yet unborn. Ye have avenged your spite on my body all too bitterly. For your crime ye shall be shunned by good knights."
All the warriors ran where he lay stabbed. To many among them it was a woeful day. They that were true mourned for him, the which the hero had well deserved of all men.
The King of Burgundy, also, wept for his death, but the dying man said, "He needeth not to weep for the evil, by whom the evil cometh. Better had he left it undone, for mickle is his blame."
Then said grim Hagen, "I know not what ye rue. All is ended for us—care and trouble. Few are they now that will withstand us. Glad am I that, through me, his might is fallen."
"Lightly mayst thou boast now," said Siegfried; "if I had known thy murderous hate, it had been an easy thing to guard my body from thee. My bitterest dole is for Kriemhild, my wife. God pity me that ever I had a son. For all men will reproach him that he hath murderers to his kinsmen. I would grieve for that, had I the time."
He said to the king, "Never in this world was so foul a murder as thou hast done on me. In thy sore need I saved thy life and thine honour. Dear have I paid for that I did well by thee." With a groan the wounded man said further, "Yet if thou canst show truth to any on this earth, O King, show it to my dear wife, that I commend to thee. Let it advantage her to be thy sister. By all princely honour stand by her. Long must my father and my knights wait for my coming. Never hath woman won such woe through a dear one."
He writhed in his bitter anguish, and spake painfully, "Ye shall rue this foul deed in the days to come. Know this of a truth, that in slaying me ye have slain yourselves."
The flowers were all wet with blood. He strove with death, but not for long, for the weapon of death cut too deep. And the bold knight and good spake no more.
When the warriors saw that the hero was dead, the laid him on a shield of ruddy gold, and took counsel how they should conceal that Hagen had done it. Many of them said, "Evil hath befallen us. Ye shall all hide it, and hold to one tale—when Kriemhild's husband was riding alone in the forest, robbers slew him."
But Hagen of Trony said, "I will take him back to Burgundy. If she that hath troubled Brunhild know it, I care not. It concerneth me little if she weep."
Of that very brook where Siegfried was slain ye shall hear the truth from me. In the Odenwald is a village that hight Odenheim, and there the stream runneth still; beyond doubt it is the same.
How Siegfried Was Mourned and Buried
They tarried there that night, and then crossed the Rhine. Heroes never went to so woeful a hunt. For one thing that they slew, many women wept, and many a good knight's body paid for it. Of overweening pride ye shall hear now, and grim vengeance.
Hagen bade them bear dead Siegfried of the Nibelung land before the chamber where Kriemhild was, and charged the to lay him secretly outside the door, that she might find him there when she went forth to mass or it was day, the which she was wont to do.
The minster bell was rung as the custom was. Fair Kriemhild waked her maidens, and bade them bring her a light and her vesture.
Then a chamberlain came and found Siegfried. He saw him red with blood, and his garment all wet, but he knew not yet that he was his king. He carried the light into the room in his hand, and from him Kriemhild heard evil tidings.
When she would have gone with her women to the minster, the chamberlain said, "Lady, stop! A murdered knight lieth on the threshold."
"Woe is me!" cried Kriemhild. "What meanest thou by such news?"
Or she knew for certain that it was her husband, she began to think on Hagen's question, how he might guard him. From that moment her dole began; for, with his death, she took leave of all joy. She sank on the floor speechless; they saw the miserable woman lying there. Kriemhild's woe was great beyond measure, and after her swoon she cried out, that all the chamber rang.
Then said her attendants, "What if it be a stranger?"
But the blood burst from her mouth by reason of her heart's anguish, and she said, "Nay, it is Siegfried, my dear husband. Brunhild hath counselled it, and Hagen hath done it."
The lady bade them show her where the hero lay. She lifted his beautiful head with her white hands. Albeit he was red with blood, she knew him straightway. Pitifully the hero of the Netherland lay there.
The gentle, good queen wailed in anguish, "Woe is me for this wrong! Thy shield is unpierced by swords. Thou liest murdered. If I knew who had done this deed, I would not rest until he was dead."
All her attendants wailed and cried with their dear mistress, for they were woe for their noble master that they had lost. Foully had Hagen avenged Brunhild's anger.
The sorrowful one said, "Go and wake Siegfried's men quickly; and tell Siegmund also my dole, that he may help me to mourn for brave Siegfried."
Then a messenger ran in haste where Siegfried's heroes of the Nibelung land lay, and took from them their joy with heavy tidings. They believed it not, till they heard the wailing.
The messenger also came quickly where the king was. Siegmund slept not. I ween his heart told him what had happened, and that he would see his dear son never more.
"Arouse thee, Sir Siegmund! Kriemhild, my lady, hath sent me. For a wrong hath been done her, that lieth heavier on her heart than any other hath done. Thou shalt help her to mourn, for it is thy sorrow also."
Up rose Sir Siegmund then, and said, "What is fair Kriemhild's grief, whereof thou tallest me?"
The messenger answered, weeping, "She mourneth with cause. Bold Siegfried of the Netherland is slain."
But Siegmund said, "Jest not with these evil tidings of my son, and say to none that he is slain; for never to my life's end could I mourn him enow."
"If thou believest not what I tell thee, hearken thyself to Kriemhild, how she maketh dole for Siegfried's death with all her maidens."
Then Siegmund feared and was sore affrighted. With an hundred of his men he sprang out of his bed; they grasped their long swords and keen, with their hands, and ran sorrowfully where they heard the sound of weeping. They thought not on their vesture till they were there, for they had lost their wits through grief. Mickle woe was buried in their hearts.
Then came Siegmund to Queen Kriemhild, and said, "Woe is me for our journey hither! Who, among such good friends, hath murderously robbed me of my child, and thee of thy husband?"
"If I knew that," answered the noble woman, "I were ever his foe with heart and soul. Trust me, I would so contrive his hurt that all his friends, by reason of me, would yet weep for sorrow."
Siegmund took the prince in his arms; the grief of his friends was so great that, with their loud wailing and their weeping, palace and hall and the town of Worms rang again. None could comfort Siegfried's wife. They took the clothes off his beautiful body, and washed his wounds and laid him on a bier, and all his folk were heavy with great grief.
Then spake his knights of the Netherland, "Our hands are ready for vengeance. He that hath done it is in this house."
Siegfried's men armed them in haste; the valiant knights assembled to the number of eleven hundred. These had Siegmund, the mighty king, for his following; and, as his honour bade him, he had gladly avenged the death of his son. They knew not whom they should fall on, if it were not Gunther and his men, with whom Siegfried had gone hunting.
But when Kriemhild saw them armed, she was greatly grieved. For all her dole and her pain, she so feared the death of the Nibelungs at the hand of her brother's men that she forbade their vengeance, and warned them in love, as friend doth with dear friend.