The sorrowful queen said, "My lord, Siegmund, what wouldst thou do? Surely thou knowest not how many bold knights Gunther has. If ye come to grips with them, ye must certainly perish."
They stood eager for strife with their shields dressed, but the queen begged and commanded them to forbear; that they would not, grieved her sore.
She said, "My lord Siegmund, let be, till more fitting season, and I will help thee to avenge my husband. Verily, I will show him that took him from me that he hath done it to his hurt. Here by the Rhine there are so many overweening men that I would have thee, for the present, forbear from battle; for thy one man they have at least the thirty. God do to them as they have done to us. Tarry here, brave knights, and mourn with me till it is day, and help me to lay my dear husband in his coffin."
The warriors answered, "Dear lady, be it so."
None might tell to the end the wailing that arose there from knights and women. It was so loud that they in the town heard it, and the noble burghers hasted thither, and mourned with the guests, for they were right sorrowful. They knew no fault in Siegfried for which he had lost his life, and the good burgesses' wives wept with the women of the court.
They bade the smiths go and make a coffin of silver and of gold, mickle and stark, and brace it strongly with good steel. Right heavy of their cheer were all the folk.
The night was ended. They told them it was day, and the queen gave order to bear the dead knight, her dear husband, to the minster; and all the friends he had there followed weeping.
When they came to the minster, how many a bell rang out! On all sides they sang requiems. Thither came King Gunther with his men, and also grim Hagen, that had better stayed away.
Gunther said, "Dear sister, woe is me for this grief of thine, and that this great misadventure hath befallen us. We must ever mourn Siegfried's death."
"Ye do wrongly," said the wailing queen. "If it grieved thee, it had never happened. I was clean forgotten by thee when thou didst part me from my dear husband. Would to God thou hadst done it to me instead!"
But they held to their lie, and Kriemhild went on. "Let him that is guiltless prove it. Let him go up to the bier before all the folk, and soon we shall know the truth."
It is a great marvel, and ofttimes seen even now, how that, when the murderer standeth by the dead, the wounds bleed again. And so it fell then, and Hagen's guilt was plain to all.
The wounds burst open and bled as they had done afore; and they that had wept already wept now much more. King Gunther said, "Hear the truth. He was slain by robbers. Hagen did it not."
"These robbers," she answered, "I know well. God grant that his kinsmen's hands may avenge it. By you, Gunther and Hagen, was it done." Siegfried's knights had fain fallen on them, but Kriemhild said, "Help me to bear my woe."
Gernot her brother, and Giselher the youth, both came and found Siegfried dead; they mourned for him truly, and their eyes were blind with tears. They wept for Kriemhild's husband from their hearts.
It was time to sing mass, and men and women flocked from all quarters. Even they that missed him little mourned with all the rest.
Gernot and Giselher said, "Comfort thee, sister, for the dead, for so it must needs be now. We will make it good to thee while we live." But comfort her could none.
His coffin was ready by the middle of the day, and they lifted the dead man from the bier whereupon he lay, but the queen would not let them bury him yet. All his folk must first toil sore.
They wound him in a rich cloth. Not one, I ween, was there that wept not. Uta, the noble queen and all her women wailed bitterly for Siegfried.
When the folk heard they sang the requiem, and that Siegfried was in his chest, they crowded thither, and brought offerings for his soul. Amidst of his enemies, he had good friends enow.
Then poor Kriemhild said to her chamberlain, "For my sake, stint not thy labour. For Siegfried's soul, divide his wealth among them that were well minded to him, and are true to me."
The smallest child, if he understood all, must go with its offering or he was buried. They sang at the least an hundred masses a day. And great was the press among Siegfried's friends.
When they had done singing, the folk rose and departed; but Kriemhild said, "Leave me not alone to watch the valiant knight. With his body lieth all my joy. Three days and three nights will I keep him here, till that I have had my fill of my dear husband. What if God let death take me too? So the sorrow of poor Kriemhild were ended."
The townsfolk went home; and priests, and monks, and all them that had served Siegfried, she bade tarry. Heavy were their nights and toilsome their days. Many a man neither ate nor drank, but they that desired it were bidden take their fill. Siegmund saw to that. No easy time had the Nibelungs. They say that all that could sing got no rest. What offerings were brought! The poorest was rich enow, for they that had naught were bidden bring an offering from the gold of Siegfried's own hoard. When he lived no more, they gave many thousand marks for his soul. Kriemhild bestowed lands and revenues over all, on cloisters and holy men. Silver and clothes in plenty they gave to the poor. She showed plain the love she bare Siegfried.
On the third morning, when mass was due, the great churchyard by the minster was full of weeping countryfolk; for they served him in death as dear friends should.
They say that, in these four days, thirty thousand marks, or more, were given to the poor for his soul's sake, when his beauty and life were brought to nothing.
God had been served; the song was done. The folk were shaken with weeping. They bade carry him from the minster to the grave, and naught was heard but crying and mourning.
With loud wail the people followed after. None was joyful, neither woman nor man. They sang and read or they buried him. Ah, what good priests were at his funeral!
Or Siegfried's wife came to the grave, her faithful body was wrung with such grief that they ceased not from sprinkling her with water. None could measure her sorrow.
It was a wonder that she lived. Her weeping women helped her. Then said the queen, "Ye men of Siegfried, as ye love me, do me this grace. Give me, in my sorrow, this little joy: to see his dear head once more." She begged this so long, and with such bitter weeping, that they brake open the rich chest.
Then they bought the queen where he was. She lifted his lovely head with her white hand, and kissed him. Her bright eyes, for grief, wept blood. It was a pitiful parting.
Then they carried her thence, for she could not walk. And she lay in a swoon, as her fair body would have perished for sorrow.
When the noble knight was buried, they that were come with him from the land of the Nibelungs made measureless dole. Little joy was seen in Siegmund. For three whole days some neither ate nor drank for woe. Longer than that their bodies endured it not. And so they ate and got well of their grief, as many a one doth still.
Kriemhild lay senseless in a swoon all that day and that night, till the next morning; she knew nothing that they said. And in like case lay also King Siegmund. Scarce got the knight his wits again, for his strength was weakened by reason of his great dole. It was no wonder.
Then his men said, "Sir knight, let us home. We may not tarry longer here."
How Siegmund Returned Home
Kriemhild's father-in-law went to her and said, "Let us hoe to our land. I ween we are unwelcome guests by the Rhine. Kriemhild, dear lady, return to my country with me. That treason has bereft thee here of thy dear husband shall not be avenged on thee. I will stand by thee truly, for love of thy husband and his noble child. Thou shalt also have all the power that Siegfried, the valiant knight, gave thee. The land and the crown are thine, and all Siegfried's men shall serve thee gladly."
They told the squires they would away. There was hurrying for the horses, for life was a burden to them among their stark foemen. Women and maidens were bidden seek out their clothes.
But when King Siegmund would have set out, Kriemhild's mother began to beg that she would remain among her kinsfolk.
The wretched queen said, "That could hardly be. How could I have ever before mine eyes him that hath brought this woe upon me, miserable woman that I am?"
Giselher the youth said, "Dear sister mine, thy duty is here by thy mother. Thou need'st no service from them that have wounded and darkened thy spirit, for thou shalt live at my sole charge."
But she answered the knight, "It cannot be; I must die of grief but to look on Hagen."
"Nay, I counsel thee, dear sister, to stay by thy brother Giselher; and I will make good to thee thy husband's death."
But the God-forsaken one answered, "Need enow hath Kriemhild of comfort."
While the youth besought her so kindly, Uta and Gernot began to pray her, and her faithful kinsmen also, that she should tarry, for she had few kinsmen among Siegfried's men.
"They are all strangers to thee," said Gernot, "and however strong a friend may be, one day he must die. Consider it, dear sister, and take comfort and stay here by thy kinsfolk. It were better for thee."
So she promised Giselher she would remain there.
The horses were led out for Siegmund's men, for they were ready to ride back to the land of the Nibelungs; and their harness was laid on the sumpters.
Then went Siegmund to Kriemhild, and said to her, "Siegfried's men wait by their horses. Let us away, for it irketh me here by the Burgundians."
Kriemhild answered, "They that are faithful among my kinsfolk counsel me to abide here with them. I have no kinsmen in the Nibelung land."
Siegmund was woeful when he heard this from Kriemhild, and he said, "Let none tell thee that. Before all my kinsmen shalt thou wear the crown, and have dominion as aforetime; no man shall avenge on thee the loss of the hero. Come with us for thy little child's sake. Leave it not an orphan. When thy son is grown to a man he shall comfort thee; and meanwhile many a bold knight and good shall serve thee."
But she answered, "My lord Siegmund, I cannot go. Whatso come of it, I must tarry here with my kinsfolk, who will help me to mourn."
The warriors liked not the news, and they said with one accord, "Then might we bewail our wrong indeed, if thou shouldst abide here by our foemen. Heroes never rode to a sorrier hightide."
"Depart without fear, and in God's keeping. I will see that ye come well escorted to your land. I commend my dear child to your care."
When they saw plain that she would not go, Siegmund's men all fell to weeping. How right piteously Siegmund parted from Kriemhild! His grief was bitter, and he said, "Woe is me for this hightide! Never yet hath such evil befallen a king and his men at a feast. They shall see us no more in Burgundy."
Siegfried's men said openly, "Nay, we might well ride hither again if we knew who had murdered our master. Among his kinsmen they have stark foes enow."
Siegmund kissed Kriemhild, and spake dolefully when he saw she would tarry, "We fare home joyless to our land. Now, for the first time, I know all my sorrows."
They rode, without an escort, from Worms across the Rhine. Well might the Nibelungs fear nothing from the assault of foemen, with their own strong hand to guard them.
They took leave of none; but Gernot and Giselher went to them lovingly, for they grieved for their loss, and told them so.
Gernot said courteously, "God in Heaven knoweth that I had no blame in Siegfried's death; neither was it told me, that any here bare him malice. With true heart I sorrow for him."
Giselher the youth gave them good escort. He brought the king and his knights home to the Netherland without further mischance.
How it fared with them after, I cannot tell. But Kriemhild was ever heard mourning, and none comforted her save Giselher—he was true and good.
Fair Brunhild sat misproud, and recked little how Kriemhild wept. She was never kind to her again. Also to her, afterward, Kriemhild caused bitter heart's dole.
How the Nibelung Hoard Came to Worms
When noble Kriemhild was widowed, Count Eckewart stayed by her in Burgundy with his men, as honour bade him, and served his mistress with goodwill till his death.
At Worms, by the minster, they gave her a room, wide and high, rich and spacious, where she sat joyless with her attendants. To church she went often and gladly. Since her dear one was buried, how seldom she failed there! She went thither sorrowfully every day, and prayed to great God for his soul. Faithfully and without stint the knight was mourned.
Uta and her women ceased not to comfort her. But her heart was wounded so deep that she could not be cheered. She sorrowed for Siegfried more than wife ever did for husband. Her great love appeared therein, and she mourned him to the end, while her life endured. Strong and true she took vengeance at the last.
So she remained (I say sooth) till the fourth year after her husband's death, and had spoken no word to Gunther, nor once, in the whole of that time, had looked on Hagen, her foe.
Then said Hagen of Trony, "Couldst thou contrive that thy sister took thee to friend again? So would the Nibelung gold come into this land. Thou mightest win much thereof for thyself, if the queen were appeased."
"We will try it," answered the king. "I will send my brothers thither, that haply they may prevail upon her to do it gladly."
But Hagen said, "I doubt that will never be."
Gunther sent Ortwin and the Margrave Gary to the court. When that was done, they brought Gernot, and Giselher the youth. And on friendly wise they essayed it with Kriemhild.
Bold Gernot of Burgundy said, "Lady, thou mournest Siegfried's death too long. The king will prove to thee that it was not he that slew him. Evermore thou art heard wailing bitterly."
She said, "No one blameth the king. Hagen's hand slew him, and from me he discovered where he should stab. How could I know he hated him? Good care had I taken then not to betray his beautiful body, and had not needed now to weep, wretched woman that I am. I will never be the friend of them that did it."
Then began Giselher, the valiant man, to entreat her.
She said, "Ye give me no peace. I must greet him, but great is your blame therein, for without fault of mine the king hath brought on me bitter heart's dole. With my mouth I may pardon him, but with my heart, never."
"After this it will be better," thought her friends. "What if he so entreat her that she grow glad again?"
"He may yet make it good to her," said Gernot, the warrior.
And the sorrowful woman said, "See, I will do as ye desire; I will greet the king."
When they told him that, the king went with his best friends to her. But Hagen durst not come before her. Well he knew his guilt, and that he had done her a wrong.
Since she had hid her hate to him, Gunther deemed it well to kiss her. If he had not wrought her such woe, he might have gone often and boldly into her presence.
Friends were never reconciled with so many tears, for her wrongs weighed heavy on her heart. She forgave them all, save the one man, for none but Hagen had slain him.
Soon after, they contrived that Kriemhild won the great hoard from the land of the Nibelungs, and brought it to the Rhine. It was her marriage-morning gift, and rightly hers. Giselher and Gernot went for it. Kriemhild sent eighty hundred men to fetch it from where it lay hid, and where Albric with his nearest kinsmen guarded it.
When they saw the men of the Rhine come for the treasure, bold Albric spake to his friends, "We dare not refuse her the treasure, for it is the noble queen's wedding gift. Yet we had never parted with it, if we had not lost with Siegfried the good Tarnkappe. At all times it was worn by fair Kriemhild's husband. A woeful thing hath it proved for Siegfried that he took from us the Tarnkappe, and won all this land to his service."
Then the chamberlain went and got the keys. Kriemhild's men and some of her kinsmen stood before the mountain. They carried the hoard to the sea, on to the ships, and bare it across the eaves from the mountain to the Rhine.
Now hear the marvels of this treasure. Twelve wagons scarce carried it thence in four days and four nights, albeit each of them made the journey three times. It was all precious stones and gold, and had the whole world been bought therewith, there had not been one coin the less. Certes, Hagen did not covet it without cause.
The wishing-rod lay among it, the which, if any discovered it, made him master over every man in all the world.
Many of Albric's kinsmen went with Gernot. When Gernot and Giselher the youth got possession of the hoard, there came into their power lands, and castles, also, and many a good warrior, that served them through fear of their might.
When the hoard came into Gunther's land, and the queen got it in her keeping, chambers and towers were filled full therewith. One never heard tell of so marvelous a treasure. But if it had been a thousand times more, but to have Siegfried alive again, Kriemhild had gladly stood bare by his side. Never had hero truer wife.
Now that she had the hoard, it brought into the land many stranger knights; for the lady's hand gave more freely than any had ever seen. She was kind and good; that must one say of her.
To poor and rich she began to give, till Hagen said that if she lived but a while longer, she would win so many knights to her service that it must go hard with the others.
But King Gunther said, "It is her own. It concerneth me not how she useth it. Scarcely did I win her pardon. And now I ask not how she divideth her jewels and her red gold."
But Hagen said to the king, "A wise man would leave such a treasure to no woman. By reason of her largess, a day will come that the bold Burgundians may rue."
Then King Gunther said, "I sware an oath to her that I would do her no more hurt, nor will I do it. She is my sister."
But Hagen said, "Let me be the guilty one."
And so they brake their oath and took from the widow her rich hoard. Hagen got hold of all the keys.
Gernot was wroth when he heard thereof, and Giselher said, "Hagen hath greatly wronged Kriemhild. I should have withstood him. Were he not my kinsman, he should answer for it with his life."
Then Siegfried's wife began to weep anew.
And Gernot said, "Sooner than be troubled with this gold, let us sink it in the Rhine. Then it were no man's."
She went wailing to Giselher, and said, "Dear brother, forsake me not, but be my kind and good steward."
He answered her, "I will, when we win home again. For the present we ride on a journey."
The king and his kinsmen left the land. He took the best he had with him. Only Hagen tarried behind through the hate he bare Kriemhild, and that he might work her ill.
Or the great king came back, Hagen had seized all the treasure and sunk it in the Rhine at Lochheim. He thought to profit thereby, but did not.
Or Hagen hid the treasure, they had sworn a mighty oath that it should remain a secret so long as they lived. Neither could they take it themselves nor give it to another.
The princes returned, and with them many knights. Thereupon Kriemhild, with her women and her maidens, began to bewail her wrong bitterly. She was right woeful. And the knights made as to slay Hagen, and said with one accord, "He hath done evilly." So he fled from before their anger till they took him in favour again. They let him live, but Kriemhild hated him with deadly hate.
Her heart was heavy with new grief for her husband's murder, and that they had stolen her treasure, and till her last day she ceased not to wail.
After Siegfried's death (I say sooth) she mourned till the thirteenth year, nor could she forget the hero. She was ever true to him, and for this folk have praised her.
Uta founded a rich abbey with her wealth after Dankrat's death, and endowed it with great revenue, the which it draweth still. It is the Abbey of Lorsch, renowned to this day. Kriemhild also gave no little part thereto, for Siegfried's soul, and for the souls of all the dead. She gave gold and precious stones with willing hand. Seldom have we known a truer wife.
After that Kriemhild forgave Gunther, and yet, through his fault, lost her great treasure, her heart's dole was a thousand times worse than afore, and she was fain to be gone. A rich palace was built for Uta fast by the cloister of Lorsch. She left her children and went thither, and there she lieth still, buried in her coffin.
Then said the queen, "Dearest daughter mine, since thou canst not tarry here, dwell with me in my house at Lorsch, and cease from weeping."
But Kriemhild answered, "To whom then should I leave my husband?"
"Leave him here," said Uta.
"God in Heaven forbid!" said the good wife. "That could I never do, dearest mother; he must go with me."
The sorrowful one had his body taken up, and his noble bones were buried again at Lorsch beside the minster with great honour; and there the bold hero lieth in a long coffin.
But when Kriemhild would have journeyed thither with her mother, the which she was fain to do, she was forced to tarry, by reason of news that came from far beyond the Rhine.
How King Etzel Sent to Burgundy for Kriemhild
It was in the days when Queen Helca died, and King Etzel wooed other women, that his friends commended to him a proud widow in the land of Burgundy, that hight Queen Kriemhild.
Seeing fair Helca was dead, they said, "If thou wouldst win a noble wife, the highest and the best that ever a king won, take this woman. Stark Siegfried was her husband."
The great king answered, "How could that be, since I am a heathen, and have not received baptism? The woman is a Christian—she will not consent. It were a wonder, truly, if it came to pass."
But the good knights said, "What if she do it gladly, for thy high name's sake, and thy great possessions? One can ask her at the least; she were a fitting and comely mate for thee."
Then the noble king answered, "Which among ye knoweth the folk by the Rhine, and their land?"
Said good Rudeger of Bechlaren, "From a child I have known the high and noble kings, Gunther and Gernot, good knights both. The third hight Giselher; each of these doeth whatso goeth best with honour and virtue. The like did their fathers."
But Etzel said, "Friend, tell me now, is she meet to wear the crown in my land? If her body be so fair as they say, my best friends shall never rue it."
"She resembleth great Helca, my mistress, for beauty. No king's wife in the world could be fairer. Whom she taketh to friend may well be comforted!"
He said, "Then woo her, Rudeger, in my name and for my sake. And come I ever to wed Kriemhild, I will reward thee as I best can. Thereto, thou wilt have done my will faithfully. From my store I will bid them give thee what thou requirest of horses and apparel, that thou and thy fellows may live merrily. They shall give thee therefrom without stint for thine embassy."
Rudeger, the rich Margrave, answered, "I were much to blame if I took from thy store. I will gladly ride, an envoy to the Rhine, at mine own cost, and with what I have received from thy hand."
Then the rich king said, "When thinkest thou to set out for the fair one? God guard thine honour by the way, and also my wife, if kind fortune help us to her favour."
Said Rudeger, "Or we quit this land, we must let fashion weapons and apparel, that we may win worship when we come before the princes. I will lead to the Rhine five hundred valiant men, that when they see me and mine at Burgundy, they may say that never king sent so many men so far as thou hast sent to us, to the Rhine. And know, great king, if thou art set on this, that she belonged to Siegfried, a right goodly man, the son of Siegmund. Thou hast seen him here. Soothly, much worship might be said of him."
King Etzel answered, "If she was that knight's wife, the noble prince was of so high renown, that I may not scorn his queen. By reason of her great beauty she pleaseth me well."
Then the Margrave said, "I promise thee that we will ride hence in four and twenty days. I will send word to Gotelind, my dear wife, that I, myself, go as envoy to Kriemhild." So Rudeger sent messengers to Bechlaren to his wife, the high-born Margravine, and told her that he would go wooing for the king.
The Margravine still thought lovingly on good Helca, and when she heard the message, she was one part sorry, and began to weep, lest she might not win such a mistress as afore. When she thought on Helca she was heavy of her cheer.
Rudeger rode out of Hungary in seven days, whereat King Etzel rejoiced. They made ready his equipment at the town of Vienna, and he delayed his journey no longer.
Gotelind awaited him at Bechlaren, and the young Margravine, Rudeger's daughter, saw her father and his men gladly. They got a fair greeting from beautiful women.
Or noble Rudeger rode to Bechlaren from the town of Vienna, the clothes, whereof there were enow, came on the sumpters. So strong they rode, that little was stolen from them by the way.
When they were come into the town of Bechlaren, the host bade lodge his comrades, and give them good quarters. Wealthy Gotelind rejoiced to see her husband, the like did also his dear daughter, the young Margravine, that was as merry as could be at his coming. Right gladly she saw the heroes from Hungary. The noble maiden said, with laughing mouth, "Ye be very welcome, my father and his men."
And the good knights were not slow to thank her.
Well Gotelind knew the mind of Rudeger. When she lay by him at night, she asked him sweetly whither the king of the Huns had sent him.
He answered, "I will tell thee gladly, my wife Gotelind. I go to woo a wife for my master, now that fair Helca is dead. I go to Kriemhild, on the Rhine, that shall become a great queen here among the Huns."
"God grant it fall so, for much good have we heard of her. Haply she will make up to us for our mistress of aforetime. We might well rejoice to have her wear the crown here."
Said the Margrave, "To them that ride with me to the Rhine, thou shalt give graciously of thy goods, dear wife. When heroes go richly attired, they be of high courage."
She answered, "There is none, if he will take it, but shall have what suiteth him well, or thou and thy men depart."
And the Margrave said, "Thou wilt please me well thereby."
Ha! what rich stuffs they took from their chambers! They hasted and provided the noble warriors with vesture enow from neck to spur. What pleased him the beast, Rudeger chose for himself.
On the seventh morning the host rode from Bechlaren with his knights. They took a goodly store of weapons and raiment through Bavaria, and were seldom fallen upon by robbers on the way.
Within twelve days they came to the Rhine. The news was not slow to spread. They told the king and his men that stranger guests had arrived. Then the king began to ask that, if any knew them, he might declare it. They perceived that their sumpters were heavy laden, and saw that they were rich; and they gave them lodging in the wide city straightway.
When the stranger were arrived, the folk spied at them curiously. They wondered whence they had journeyed to the Rhine.
The king asked Hagen who the knights were, and the hero of Trony answered, "I have not seen them aright. When we meet them, I will tell thee whence they have ridden into this land. They be strangers indeed if I know them not straightway."
The guests had been to their lodging. The envoy and his train were richly arrayed. Their clothes were good, and cunningly fashioned; and they rode to the court.
Then said bold Hagen, "So far as I know, for it is long since I saw the knights, they ride like the men of Rudeger, a bold warrior from the land of the Huns."
"How could I believe," said the king, "that he of Bechlaren should come into this land?" King Gunther had scarcely made an end of speaking, when bold Hagen saw the good Rudeger.
He and all his friends ran to him. Five hundred knights sprang from their horses. The Huns were well received; never were envoys so richly clad.
Then cried Hagen of Trony, "Welcome, in God's name, is this knight, the prince of Bechlaren, and all his men." Worshipful greeting got the Huns. The nearest of kin to the king pressed forward, and Ortwin of Metz said to Rudeger, "We have not, for long, seen guests so gladly. I speak the truth."
They thanked the heroes for their welcome. Then they went with the warriors into the hall, where they found the king amidst of many bold men.
Gunther rose from his seat out of courtesy. On what friendly wise he went toward the envoys! He and Gernot hasted to meet the guests and his men, as beseemed them, and Gunther took Rudeger by the hand. He led him to the highseat where he sat himself, and bade his men set before the strangers goodly meats, and the best wine that was to be found in all the land round about the Rhine; the which was done gladly.
Giselher and Gary, Dankwart and Folker, came in, for they had heard of the worthy guests. They rejoiced to see them, and welcomed, in the presence of the king, the noble knights and good.
Then said Hagen of Trony to his master, "Thy knights are greatly beholden for what the Margrave hath done for our sake. The husband of fair Gotelind should be well requited."
King Gunther said, "I pray thee tell me, for I would know, how it standeth with Etzel and Helca in the land of the Huns."
The Margrave answered, "I will tell thee gladly."
Then he rose from his seat with all his men, and said to the king, "Give me leave to deliver the message that King Etzel hath sent me with, here to Burgundy."
Gunther answered, "I will hear the message wherewith thou art charged, without taking counsel with my friends. Speak it before me and my men, for with all honour shall thy suit be heard."
Then said the faithful envoy, "My great lord commendeth his true service to thee at the Rhine, and to all the friends thou hast. This he doth with true heart. The noble king biddeth thee mourn for his loss. His people are joyless, for my mistress, great Helca, my lord's wife, is dead; whereby many high-born maidens, children of great princes, that she hath reared, are orphaned. By reason thereof the land is full of sorrow, for these, alack! have none now to care for them. The king also ceaseth not to make dole."
"Now God requite him," said Gunther, "that he commendeth his service so fair to me and to my men. I have hearkened gladly to his greeting. My kinsmen and my liegemen will repay him."
Then said Gernot of Burgundy, "The world may well rue beautiful Helca's death, for the sake of her many virtues."
Hagen and many another knight said the same.
But Rudeger, the noble envoy, went on: "If thou allow it, O king, I will tell thee further what my dear master hath charged me with. Dolefully hath he lived since Helca's death. And it hath been told him that Kriemhild is without a husband, for that Siegfried is dead. If that be so, and thou grant it, she shall wear the crown before Etzel's knights. This hath my lord bidden me say."
Then the great king spoke courteously, "If she be willing, she followeth my desire therein. In three days I will let thee know. If she say not nay to Etzel, wherefore should I?"
Meanwhile they gave the guests good lodging. On such wise were the entreated that Rudeger was fain to confess he had friends among Gunther's men. Hagen served him gladly, the which Rudeger had done to Hagen aforetime.
So Rudeger tarried there till the third day. The king did prudently, and called a counsel, to ask his friends whether it seemed good to them that Kriemhild should take King Etzel to husband.
And they all counselled it save Hagen, that said to Gunther, the bold knight, "If thou be wise, thou wilt see to it that she do it not, even if she desire it."
"Why should I hinder it?" said Gunther. "If any good fall to the queen, I may well grant it. She is my sister. If it be to her honour, we ourselves should seek the alliance."
But Hagen answered, "Say not so. Didst thou know Etzel as I do, thou wouldst see that thou, first of all, must suffer if she wedded him as thou consellest."
"How so?" answered Gunther. "Were she his wife, I need not come so nigh him that I must feel his hate."
But Hagen said, "I will never approve it."
They summoned Gernot and Giselher, and asked whether it seemed good to them that Kriemhild should take the great king. And none save Hagen was against it.
Then said Giselher, the knight of Burgundy, "Do fairly by her for once, friend Hagen. Make good to her the hurt thou hast done her. Let her prosper without grudging it. Thou hast caused her much sorrow, and well might she hate thee. Never was woman bereft by any man of more joy."
"Trow me, I know that well. And were she to take Etzel, and to live long enow, she would do us all the hurt she could. She will have many valiant men to serve her."
But bold Gernot answered Hagen, "Belike we shall never come into Etzel's land till they both be dead. Let us do truly by her, and it will be to our honour."
Said Hagen, "None need tell me that. If Kriemhild wear Helca's crown, she will do us all the hurt she can. Let the thing alone; it were better for you knights."
Then Giselher, fair Uta's son, spake angrily, "We will not all do basely. If aught good befall her, we shall be glad. For all thou canst say, Hagen, I will serve her truly."
When Hagen heard that, he was wroth. Gernot and Giselher, the proud knights and good, and Gunther, the great king, agreed in the end, that they would allow it gladly, if Kriemhild were so minded.
Then Prince Gary said, "I will tell the lady, that she may incline her heart to King Etzel, for many a knight is his vassal. He may make good to her the wrong she hath suffered."
The good knight went to Kriemhild. She welcomed him kindly, and he said without ado, "Greet me gladly, and give me the envoy's meed, for good fortune parteth thee from all thy dole. One of the best men that ever ruled a king's land with honour, or wore a crown, hath sent hither to sue for thy love. Noble knights are come wooing for him; thy brother bade tell thee this."
But the sorrowful one said, "God forbid that thou and all my friends should mock my misery. What could I be to a man that hath known the heart's love of a good wife?"
She would none of it. But Gernot, her brother, and Giselher the youth, came to her, and lovingly they bade her be comforted, for, if she took the king, it were truly to her profit.
But none could prevail on the lady to wed with any man. Then the knights prayed her, saying, "Receive the envoys, at the least, if thou wilt not yield."
"That I will do," said the queen; "I am fain to see Rudeger, by reason of his many virtues. Were it not he, but another envoy, I had remained a stranger to him." She said, "Send him hither to my chamber to-morrow early, and I will tell him my mind on this matter."
Then her bitter weeping began afresh.
Rudeger desired nothing better than to see the queen. He knew himself so skilful in speech that, could it be at all, he must prevail with her.
Early the next morning when they were singing the mass, the noble envoys came. The press was great, and the valiant men that were bound for the court with Rudeger were richly arrayed.
Poor Kriemhild, the sad-hearted one, waited for Rudeger, the noble envoy. He found her in the clothes that she wore every day, albeit her attendants were in rich raiment enow. She went to the door to meet him, and received Etzel's man kindly. With twelve knights only he came before her. They were well entreated, for never were better envoys. They bade the warrior and his men sit down. The two Margraves, Eckewart and Gary stood before her, but all were sad of their countenance by reason of the sorrowful queen; many fair women sat round her, and Kriemhild did nothing but weep; that her robe on the bosom was wet with hot tears.
The Margrave saw this, and rose from his seat and spake courteously, "Most noble king's daughter, grant to me and my friends that are with me, to stand before thee and tell thee the message we bring hither."
"Thou hast permission," said the queen; "say what thou wilt, and I will hear it gladly, for thou art a good envoy."
The others perceived her unwilling mind, but Prince Rudeger of Bechlaren said, "Etzel, a great king, commendeth his true love to thee, here in this land. He hath sent many good knights to sue for thy love. Love without sorrow he offereth thee, and the like firm affection that he showed erstwhile to Queen Helca, that lay upon his heart. Thou shalt wear the crown, even as my mistress did aforetime."
Then said the queen, "Margrave Rudeger, none that knew my bitter woe would counsel me to wed another man, for I lost one of the best that ever woman had."
"What comforteth more in grief," said the bold man, "than true love? He that chooseth to his heart's desire findeth that naught healeth sorrow like love. If thou consent to wed my noble master, twelve royal crowns shall be thine; thereto, my lord will give thee thirty princes' lands that his strong hand hath overcome. And thou shalt be mistress of many worshipful men, that were subject to my lady Helca, and of many beautiful maidens, the kin of kings, that she ruled over. My master bade me say that, if thou wilt wear the crown with him, he will give thee all the high power that Helca had. Mightily shalt thou wield it over Etzel's men."
But the queen answered, "How could I incline my heart again to be a hero's wife? Death hath wrought me such a woe through one, that I must stand joyless till my life's end."
The Huns answered, "Great queen, thy life by Etzel will be so glad that thou wilt know nothing save delight, if thou consent. For the king hath many a peerless knight. Helca's maidens, and thine together, shall be thy attendants, by reason whereof many warriors shall rejoice. Be counselled, O queen, for thy good."
She said courteously, "Let the matter stand till to-morrow morning. Come to me then; and I will answer you concerning your business." To the which the bold knights agreed.
When they were all gone to their lodging, the lady sent for Giselher and her mother. To both she said that weeping beseemed her better than aught else.
But her brother Giselher said, "Sister, something telleth me, and I trow it, that King Etzel will end all thy dole. It seemeth good to me that thou take him to husband, whatso any other may counsel. He may give thee again all that thou hast lost. From the Rhone to the Rhine, from the Elbe to the sea, no king is so mighty as he is. Thou mayest well rejoice that he chooseth thee for his queen."
She answered, "Dear brother, wherefore counsel me thus? Mourning and weeping suit me better. How could I appear before the knights at court? Had my body ever beauty, it hath lost it."
Then said queen Uta to her dear daughter, "Dear child, do what thy brother saith. Be counselled by thy friends, and good will betide thee. Too long have I seen thee mourning bitterly."
Then she asked mighty God to guide her. Albeit she might have gold and silver and apparel to give, as aforetime, when her husband lived, never again could she have the happy hours.
She thought to herself, "Shall I give myself to a heathen? I am a Christian woman. I should be shamed before the world. Though he gave me the riches of the whole earth, it could never be."
At that point she left it; and all night long, till the day, the woman lay on her bed full of thoughts. Her bright eyes were never dry till she went to mass in the morning.
The kings also came at the hour of mass, and took their sister by the hand. They counselled her to wed the king of the Huns. But the lady was no merrier of her cheer.
Then they bade Etzel's men come before her, that were fain to be gone with her answer, whether it was a "yea" or a "nay." So Rudeger came to the court. His comrades urged him to learn the princes' mind without delay. This seemed good to them all, for it was a far way back to their land.
They brought Rudeger to Kriemhild. And the knight asked the queen gently to let him hear the message she sent to Etzel. He won nothing from her but denial, for never could she love another man.
Then said the Margrave, "That were ill done. Wherefore ruin so fair a body? Still mayest thou with honour become a good man's wife." Yet all their entreaty availed not, till that Rudeger said secretly to the queen that he would make good to her any hurt that might befall her. At that, her grief abated somewhat.
He said to the queen, "Weep no more. If thou hadst none among the Huns save me, my faithful kinsmen, and my men, sore must he pay for it that did thee wrong."
Much milder was the lady's mood, and she said, "Swear me an oath that, should any do aught against me, thou wilt be the first to avenge it."
The Margrave answered, "I will swear it."
So Rudeger swore with all his men always to serve her truly, and to deny her nothing in Etzel's land that her honour called for, and he confirmed it with his hand.
Then thought the faithful woman, "Since I, a forlorn woman, can win so many friends, I will let the folk say what they please. Haply I may yet avenge my dear husband's death. Etzel hath so many knights that, were they mine to command, I could do what I would. Thereto, he is so wealthy that I shall have wherewith to bestow gifts. Cruel Hagen hath taken my treasure from me."
She said to Rudeger, "Had I not heard he was a heathen, I would go gladly at his bidding, and take him to husband."
The Margrave answered, "Say no more of that, Lady. He is not quite a heathen, be assured, for my dear master hath been christened; albeit he hath turned again. Haply he will think better of it shouldst thou wed him. He hath so many Christian knights that no ill could betide thee. And thou mightst easily win back the good prince, heart and soul, to God."
Her brothers said, "Promise it, sister, and give over grieving."
They begged it so long that at the last the sorrowful woman promised, before the warriors, to become Etzel's wife.
She said, "Poor queen that I am, I will follow you! I will go to the Huns, if I find friends to lead me thither." Fair Kriemhild gave her hand on it before the knights.
Then said the Margrave, "Thou hast two knights for thy liegemen, and I have more. Thou canst fare across the Rhine with honour. I will not leave thee longer here among the Burgundians. I have five hundred men and also my kinsmen. These shall serve thee here, and at home likewise, and do thy bidding. I will do it also, and will never shame me when thou mindest me on my word. Bid them fetch thee forth thy horse-gear, for thou wilt never rue Rudeger's counsel, and tell it to the maidens that thou takest with thee. Many a chosen knight will meet us on the road."
They had still the trappings that they rode with in Siegfried's time, so that she could take many maidens with her in fitting pomp when she departed. Ha! what goodly saddles they brought out for the fair women! All the rich clothes they had ever worn were made ready for the journey, for they had heard much of the king. They opened the chests that had stood shut, and busied them for five days and a half, and took from the presses the store of things that lay therein. Kriemhild unlocked her chambers, that she might make Rudeger's men rich. She had still some gold from the Nibelung hoard, that she purposed to divide with her hand among the Huns. An hundred mules scarce carried it.
Hagen heard the news, and said, "Since Kriemhild will never forgive me, Siegfried's gold shall stay here. Wherefore should I let my foemen get so much wealth. Well I know what Kriemhild will do with this treasure. If she took it hence, she would divide it, certes, to my hurt. Tell her that Hagen will keep it."
When she heard this, her anger was grim. They told it to the three knights, that would gladly have put it right; when they could not, noble Rudeger said joyfully, "Great Queen, why weep for thy gold? King Etzel's love is not small. When his eyes behold thee, he will give thee more than thou canst ever spend. Take my word for it, lady."
But the queen said, "Most noble Rudeger, never had a king's daughter more wealth than Hagen hath taken from me."
Then came her brother Gernot to her chamber, and, with his kingly might, stuck a key into the door, that they got Kriemhild's gold out—thirty marks or more. He bade the guests take it, the which pleased Gunther.
But Gotelind's husband of Bechlaren said, "Had my mistress all that was ever brought from the Nibelung land, neither mine nor the queen's hand would touch it. Bid them keep it, for I will none of it. I brought with me so much from my home that we can lightly dispense with it, and yet live merrily by the way."
But her maidens had filled twelve chests of the best gold that could be; they took that with them, and many women's trinkets for the journey. But even in this thing she feared grim Hagen's might. She had still a thousand gold marks for masses, and this she gave for the soul for her dear husband; the which Rudeger thought well done.
Then said the weeping queen, "Where are now the friends that will leave their home for my sake? Let them ride with me into the land of the Huns, and take of my treasure to buy them horses and apparel."
The Margrave Gary spoke at once, "From the day I was first given to thee for thine attendant, I have served thee faithfully," said the knight, "and will do the same to my life's end. I will take with me also five hundred men; these, with true heart, I make over to thee. Only death shall part us." Kriemhild thanked the knight for his word and for his good offer.
Then they brought round the horses, for they were ready to start. There was bitter weeping of friends. Great Uta and many a fair maiden showed their grief for the loss of Kriemhild.
She took with her an hundred high-born maidens, arrayed as beseemed them. The tears ran down from bright eyes. But at Etzel's court they had joyful days again.
Then Giselher and Gernot came with their followers, as courtesy bade them, and escorted their dear sister. Brave Gary came, and Ortwin. Rumolt the cook had also to go. They prepared the night-quarters for the women on the way. Folker was the marshal, and saw to their lodging.
After the kisses there was loud weeping, or they came from the castle to the plain. Many rode and followed on foot unbidden, but Gunther went only a little way from the town.
Or they left the Rhine, they had sent forward swift messengers to the land of the Huns, that told the king how Rudeger had won the noble queen for his wife.
They envoys sped fast; needs must they haste, for honour's sake and the guerdon of good news. When they and their horses got home, King Etzel had never heard such welcome tidings. The king bade give the envoys so much for their message that they could live merrily ever after, till their death. For love had chased away the king's trouble and his dole.
How Kriemhild Journeyed to the Huns
Let the envoys ride, and list rather while we tell you how the queen journeyed through the land, and where Giselher and Gernot parted from her. They had served her well as honour bade them. They rode as far as the Danube at Bergen; then they took their leave, that they might return to the Rhine. Among friends so good, this could not be done without weeping.
Bold Giselher said to his sister, "If thou hast need of me at any time, sister, or standest in any peril, let me know it, and I will ride to thy succour into Etzel's land."
She kissed all her kinsmen on the mouth, and on friendly wise the bold Burgundians took leave of Rudeger's men. With the queen went many fair maidens, an hundred and four, richly clad in gay and costly stuffs; and they that followed Kriemhild bare broad shields enow. Then Folker, the goodly knight, turned back also.
When they were come over the Danube into Bavaria, the news was noised abroad that unknown guests were advancing. Where a cloister still standeth, and the Inn floweth into the Danube, a bishop dwelled in the town of Passau. The houses were emptied of the folk, and also the prince's palace, and they hasted to meet the strangers in Bavaria, where Bishop Pilgerin found fair Kriemhild.
The knights of the country were not sorry when they saw so many beautiful maidens following her, and they wooed the heroes' daughters with their eyes. Good lodging was given to the strangers, and they rested at Pledelingen. The folk rode from all quarters toward them, and they got freely all they needed. Both there and elsewhere they took it, nor lost honour thereby.
The bishop rode with his niece to Passau. When the burghers of the town got word that Kriemhild, the child of their prince's sister, came thither, she was received with great worship by the merchants.
The bishop thought she would tarry there, but Eckewart said, "It cannot be, for we must down into Rudeger's land. Many knights await us that know of our coming."
Fair Gotelind also had heard the news. She and her high-born child made them ready in haste, for Rudeger had bidden her cheer the queen by riding to meet her with all his men, as far as the Enns. This was no sooner done than the roads were thronged with folk riding and running afoot to meet the guests.
The queen was now come to Efferding. There many a Bavarian robber had gladly plundered them on the road, as their custom is, and had easily done them a hurt. But noble Rudeger had guarded against this; he had with him a thousand knights or more. Rudeger's wife, Gotelind, too, was come thither, and with her many bold warriors. When they had crossed the Traun at Enns, they found booths and tents pitched for them on the plain where they were to sleep. Rudeger took all the charges on himself.
Gotelind set out from her quarters, and many horses with jingling bridles took the road. It was a fair welcome, and done for Rudeger's sake. The knights, from both sides, pricked gallantly to the greeting, and showed their horsemanship in the presence of the maidens, that saw it gladly enow. When Rudeger's men rode up to the strangers, many a splinter flew into the air from the hands of the heroes, that tilted on knightly wise. They rode to win praise from the women. When the tourney was ended, the men greeted each other, and fair Gotelind was led up to Kriemhild. There was little rest for any skilled to wait upon women.
The Margrave rode to meet his wife, that was not sorry to see him come back safe from the Rhine. In her joy she forgot her long dole. When she had welcomed him, he bade her alight on the grass with her attendants. The knights hasted to serve them.
When Kriemhild saw the Margravine standing with her train, she went no further, but stayed her horse and bade them lift her quickly from the saddle. The bishop led his sister's child, he and Eckewart, to Gotelind, and all that stood in the way fell back. Then the stranger kissed the Margravine on the mouth, and Rudeger's wife said sweetly, "Well for me, dear lady, that I have seen with mine eyes thy fair body here in this land! Naught so welcome hath, for long, befallen me." "God reward thee, noble Gotelind," answered Kriemhild. "If I be spared alive to live with Botlung's child, it may indeed be well for thee that thou hast seen me." Neither of them knew that which was to be.
The maidens, attended by the knights, advanced and greeted each other courteously; then they sat down on the clover, and many that had been strangers became acquainted. They bade pour out the wine for the women; and, seeing it was already noon, they rested there no longer, but rode till they came to broad pavilions, where they were well served. They stayed there the night through, till the early morning.
The folk of Bechlaren had not failed to make them ready for the many worshipful guests, and Rudeger had so ordered it that these wanted for little. The windows in the walls were thrown wide, the Castle of Bechlaren stood open, and the welcome guests rode in. The noble host bade provide good lodging for them all. Rudeger's daughter advanced with her attendants and received the queen right sweetly, and her mother, the Margravine, was there also. Many a maiden was lovingly greeted. They took hands and went together into a wide and goodly hall, below which flowed the Danube. There they sat merrily, and the breeze blew upon them.
What they did further, I cannot say. Kriemhild's knights were heard mourning that they must away so soon; it irked them sore. Ha! what good warriors rode with them from Bechlaren.
Rudeger did them right loving service. They queen gave Gotelind's daughter twelve red armlets, and, thereto, goodly raiment of the best that she had brought with her into Etzel's land. Albeit she was bereft of the Nibelung gold, she won to her all that saw her with the small store that remained to her. Goodly were the gifts she bestowed on the followers of the host. In return, the lady Gotelind did the guests from the Rhine such honour that it had been hard to find any among them without jewels or rich apparel from her hand.
When they had eaten, and it was time to be gone, the hostess commended her true service to Etzel's wife, who, from her side, embraced the fair Margravine lovingly. And the maiden said to the queen, "Well I know, if it seem good to thee, that my father would gladly send me into the land of the Huns to be with thee." Kriemhild found her true indeed!
The horses stood ready before Bechlaren; the noble queen had taken leave of Rudeger's wife and daughter, and, with many a sweet farewell, the maidens parted; seldom did they meet again.
The folk of Medilick brought out in their hands rich golden vessels, and offered them, full of wine, to the guests on the road, and bade them welcome. The host of the place hight Astolt, that showed them the way into Austria, by Mautern down below on the Danube; and here, again, the great queen was paid much worship.
At that point the bishop parted lovingly from his niece, after that he had prayed earnestly that she might prosper, and win herself honour even as Helca had done. Ha! what fame was hers after, among the Huns!
So the strangers fared on to the Traisem, diligently waited on by Rudeger's men, till that the Huns were seen riding across the land. Mickle worship was done there to the queen.
Fast by the Traisem the King of the Huns had a goodly castle and a famous, called Traisenmauer. There Helca had dwelled and ruled more mildly than any hath done since, save Kriemhild, who likewise gave freely of her goods. Well might she live happily after her mourning, and win praise from Etzel's men, the which the heroes soon gave her to the full.
So famed was Etzel's rule that the boldest knights ever heard of among Christians or heathens drew ceaselessly to his court; and all these were come with him. One saw there what one never sees now—Christian and heathen together. Howso divers their beliefs were, the king gave with such free hand that all had plenty.
How She Was Received Among the Huns
She tarried at Traisenmauer till the fourth day, during which time the dust on the road was never still, but rose like flame from all sides. And King Etzel's men rode thither through Austria.
When it was told to the king how proudly Kriemhild advanced through the land, his old sorrow vanished clean from his mind, and he set out to meet the fair one. In front of him on the way rode many a bold knight—a vast host of Christians and heathens of many divers tongues. When they spied the queen, they came on in stately array. Russians and Greeks were there. Polacks and Wallachians spurred along, deftly managing their good horses, displaying themselves each according to the custom of his own land. From Kiow came many a knight. Savage Petschenegers were there also, that shot with their bows at the birds that flew by, and drew their arrow-heads strongly to the utmost stretch of the bow.
In Austria, by the Danube, is a town that hight Tulna. There Kriemhild learned many a strange custom that she had not seen afore, and was welcomed by not a few that, after, suffered dole through her.
The men of King Etzel's household rode before him, merry and rich-attired, fair accoutred and courtly: full four and twenty princes, great and noble. To behold their queen was all they sought. Duke Ramung of Wallachia spurred up to her with seven hundred men. Then came Prince Gibek with a gallant host. Hornbog, the swift, pricked forward from the king's side to his mistress with echoing shouts, after the fashion of his country. Etzel's kinsmen, likewise, spurred hotly toward her. Next came bold Hawart of Denmark, and swift Iring, free from guile; and Irnfried of Thuringia, a brave man. These, with the twelve hundred men that made up their host, received Kriemhild with all worship. Then came Sir Bloedel, King Etzel's brother, from the land of the Huns; with great pomp, he drew nigh to the queen. The next was King Etzel, with Sir Dietrich and all his knights, among the which were many good warriors faithful and true; whereat the heart of Queen Kriemhild was uplifted.
Then Sir Rudeger said to the queen, "Lady, the king would welcome thee here. Kiss them that I bid thee kiss. It is not meet that all Etzel's men be greeted on like manner."
So they lifted the queen down from her palfrey. Etzel, the great monarch, tarried no longer, but sprang from his horse with many a bold knight, and hasted joyfully toward Kriemhild. Two mighty princes, they tell us, walked by the queen and carried her train when King Etzel went toward her, and she received him sweetly with kisses. She pushed back her head-band, and her bright skin shone from out the gold, till many a man vowed that queen Helca could not have been fairer. Bloedel, the king's brother, stood close at hand, whom Rudeger, the wealthy Margrave, bade her kiss; also King Gibek, and Dietrich likewise. Twelve knights were kissed by her, and many others were kindly greeted.
All the time that Etzel stood by Kriemhild, the youths did as the custom is still. Christian knights and heathen jousted, each after his own fashion. Dietrich's men, as beseemed good warriors, hurled the whizzing shafts high above the shields, with undaunted hand. Bucklers enow were pierced before the German guests. Mickle din was there of splintered lances. All the knights of the land were gathered together, and the king's guests also, among the which were many noble men. Then the great king went with the queen into a stately pavilion. The field round about was full of tents, that they might rest after their labour. Thither the heroes led the beautiful maidens after the queen, who sat down therein on a rich couch. The Margrave had so ordered it, that they found it all goodly and fair. High beat the heart of Etzel.
What they said to each other I know not. Kriemhild's white hand lay in the king's. They sat lovingly together, but Rudeger allowed not the king to caress his bride in secret.
They bade stay the tourney. The din of the fray ended with honour, and Etzel's men went to their tents, where they had spacious lodging. That evening, and through the night, they rested in comfort, till the morning light began to shine. Then they got to horse again. Ha! what sports they drave for the glory of the king! Etzel exhorted his Huns to do as honour bade.
Then they rode from Tulna to the town of Vienna. There they found many women featly adorned, that received Etzel's wife with much worship. All that they needed was there in plenty, and the heroes rejoiced against the festival. Lodging was given them, and the king's hightide began merrily. There was not room for all in the town, and Rudeger bade them that were not guests take up their quarters in the country round about. All this time, I trow, the king was not far from Kriemhild. Sir Dietrich, and many another knight beside, slacked not in their endeavour to cheer the hearts of the strangers. Rudeger and his friends had good pastime.
The festival fell on a Whitsuntide, when King Etzel wedded Kriemhild in the town of Vienna. She had not, certes, had so many men to serve her in her first husband's time. With her gifts she made herself known to many that had never seen her afore, among the which were some that said to the guests, "We deemed that Kriemhild possessed naught. Yet here she doeth wonders with her wealth."
The hightide lasted seventeen days. Of no king, I ween, is it told, that he held a longer marriage feast; at the least we wot of none. All the guests wore new apparel. At home, in the Netherland, Kriemhild had never sat before so many knights; yea, I trow, that albeit Siegfried had great possessions, he had never at command so many noble warriors as stood before Etzel. Nor had nay king ever given at his own wedding such store of rich mantles, long and wide, nor such goodly vesture, whereof he had enow and to spare. For Kriemhild's sake he did it all.
Friends and strangers were of one mind. They grudged not their dearest possession. Whatso any asked for was readily given, till that many a knight, through his charity, was left bare and without clothes.
When the queen thought how once she had sat by the Rhine with her noble husband, her eyes grew wet. But she hid it, that none knew. Great honour was now hers after her mickle dole.
Howso freely the others gave, it was but a wind compared with Dietrich. What Botlung's son had given him was no wall spent. The open hand of Rudeger also did great wonders. Prince Bloedel, too, of Hungary, bade empty many a travelling chest, and scatter freely both silver and gold. Right merrily lived the warriors of the king. Werbel and Schwemmel, the court minstrels, won, each, at the hightide, when Kriemhild wore the crown beside Etzel, a thousand marks or more.
On the eighteenth morning they rode away from Vienna. Many a shield was pierced in knightly encounter by the spears which the heroes bare in their hands. So Etzel returned to the land of the Huns rejoicing. They stayed the night at ancient Haimburg. None could number the host, nor tell how many strong they rode through the land. Ha! what beautiful women they found waiting them in their home! At Misenburg, the wealthy city, they went aboard ships. The water was covered with horses and men, as if the dry land had begun to float. There the way-weary women had ease and comfort. The good ships were lashed together, that wave and water might not hurt them, and fair awnings were stretched above, as they had been still on the plain.
When word thereof came to Etzel's castle, both women and men rejoiced. Etzel's household, that Helca had aforetime ruled, passed many a happy day with Kriemhild. Noble maidens stood waiting, that since Helca's death had suffered heart's dole. Kriemhild found there seven kings' daughters that were for an adornment to Etzel's whole land. The charge of the damsels was with Herrat, Helca's sister's daughter, famed for virtue, and the betrothed of Dietrich, a noble king's child, the daughter of Nentwine; the which afterward had much worship. Glad of her cheer was she at the coming of the guests, and many a goodly thing was made ready. What tongue might tell how merrily King Etzel dwelled there? Never under any queen fared the Huns better.
When the king rode up with his wife from the strand, Kriemhild was told the name of them that led forward the maidens, that she might greet them the more fitly. Ha! how mightily she ruled in Helca's stead! She had true servants in plenty. The queen gave gold and vesture, silver and precious stones. All that she had brought with her from over the Rhine to the Huns, she divided among them. All the king's kinsmen and liegemen vowed their service to her, and were subject to her, so that Helca herself had never ruled so mightily as Kriemhild, that they had all to serve till her death.
So famous was the court and the country, that each found there, at all times, the pastime he desired; so kind was the king and so good the queen.
How Kriemhild Thought of Revenging Her Wrong
So, in high honour (I say sooth), they dwelled together till the seventh year. Meanwhile Kriemhild had borne a son. Nothing could have rejoiced Etzel more. She set her heart on it that he should receive Christian baptism. He was named Ortlieb, and glad was all Etzel's land.
For many a day Kriemhild ruled virtuously, even as Helca aforetime. Herrat, the foreign maiden, that still mourned bitterly for Helca in secret, taught her the customs of the country. Strangers and friends alike praised her, and owned that never queen had ruled a king's land better or more mildly. For this she was famed among the Huns till the thirteenth year.
When now she saw that none withstood her (the which a king's knights will sometimes do to their prince's wife), and that twelve kings stood ever before her, she thought on the grievous wrongs that had befallen her in her home. She remembered also the honour that was hers among the Nibelungs, and that Hagen's hand had robbed her of it by Siegfried's death, and she pondered how she might work him woe.
"It were easily done, could I but bring him hither." She dreamed that she walked hand in hand with Giselher her brother, and oft, in sweet sleep, she kissed him. Evil came of it after.
It was the wicked Devil, I ween, that counselled Kriemhild to part from Gunther in friendship, and to be reconciled to him with a kiss in the land of Burgundy. She began to wet her vesture anew with hot tears. Late and early it lay on her heart, how that, through no fault of hers, she had been forced to wed a heathen. Hagen and Gunther had done this wrong to her.
Never a day passed but she longed to be revenged. She thought, "Now I am so rich and powerful that I could do mine enemies a mischief. Were it Hagen of Trony, I were nothing loth. My heart still yearneth for my beloved. Could I but win to them that worked me wore, well would the death of my dear one be avenged. It is hard to wait," said the sorrowful woman.
All her knights, the king's men, loved her, as was meet. Her chamberlain was Eckewart, that thereby won many friends. None durst withstand Kriemhild's will.
Every day she thought to herself, "I will ask the king." She deemed that, of his goodness, he would send for her friends and bring them into the land of the Huns. None guessed her evil intent.
One night, when she lay by the king, and he held her in his arms, as was his wont, for she was to him as his life, the royal woman thought on her foes, and said to him, "My dearest lord, I would fain beg a boon of thee. I would have thee show, if I have deserved it at thy hand, that my kinsmen have found favour in thy sight."
The great king answered with true heart, "That will I readily prove to thee. All that profiteth and doth honour to the knights rejoiceth me, for through no woman's love have I won better friends."
Then said the queen, "Thou knowest well that I have noble kinsmen. It irketh me that they visit me so seldom. The folk here deem me kinless."
Whereto King Etzel answered, "My dearest wife, if it be not too far, I will invite across the Rhine whomsoever thou wouldst gladly see, and bid them hither to my land."
The woman was well content when she discovered his mind on the matter, and said, "If thou wouldst truly please me, my lord, thou wilt dispatch envoys to Worms beyond the Rhine. I will inform my friends of my desire by these; so, many good knights will come hither into our land."
He answered, "Thy wish shall be obeyed. Thy kinsmen, noble Uta's sons, will not be so welcome to thee as to me. It irketh me sore that they have been strangers so long. If it seem good to thee, dearest wife, I will send my minstrels as envoys to thy friends in Burgundy."
He bade summon the good fiddlers straightway, that hasted to where he sat by the queen, and he told them both to go as envoys to Burgundy. He let fashion rich clothes for them; for four and twenty knights they made apparel, and the king gave them the message wherewith they were to invite Gunther and his men. And Kriemhild began to speak to them in secret.
Then said the great king, "I will tell ye what ye shall do. I send to my friends love and every good wish, and pray them to ride hither to my land. I know few other guests so dear. And if Kriemhild's kinsmen be minded to do my will, bid them fail not to come, for love of me, to my hightide, for my heart yearneth toward the brethren of my wife."
Whereto Schwemmel, the proud minstrel, answered, "When shall thy hightide fall, that we may tell thy friends yonder?"
King Etzel said, "Next midsummer."
"Thy command shall be obeyed," answered Werbel.
The queen bade summon the envoys secretly to her chamber, and spake with them. Little good came thereof. She said to the two envoys, "Ye shall deserve great reward if ye do my bidding well, and deliver the message wherewith I charge you, at home, in my land. I will make you rich in goods, and give you sumptuous apparel. See that ye say not to any of my friends at Worms, by the Rhine, that ye have ever seen me sad of my cheer, and commend my service to the heroes bold and good. Beg them to grant the king's prayer and end all my sorrow. The Huns deem me without kin. Were I a knight, I would go to them myself. Say to Gernot, my noble brother, that none is better minded to him in the world than I. Bid him bring here our best friends, that we win honour. And tell Giselher to remember that never, through his fault, did ill betide me; for which reason mine eyes are fain to behold him. Evermore I would serve him. Tell my mother, also, what worship is mine. And if Hagen of Trony tarry behind, who shall lead them through the land? From a child up he hath known the roads hither to the Huns."
The envoys guessed not why she could not leave Hagen of Trony at the Rhine. They knew it afterward to their cost, for, through him, many a knight was brought face to face with grim death.
Letters and greetings were given to them. They rode forth rich in goods, that they might live merrily by the way. They took leave of Etzel and his fair wife. Their bodies were adorned with goodly vesture.
How Werbel and Schwemmel Brought the Message
When Etzel sent his fiddlers to the Rhine, the news flew from land to land. By means of swift messengers, he invited guests to his hightide. There many met their death.
The envoys rode from the country of the Huns to the Burgundians, even to the three noble kings and their men, to bid them to Etzel's court, and hasted on the way. They came to Bechlaren, where they were well seen to, and nothing lacked to their entertainment. Rudeger and Gotelind, and the Margrave's child also, sent their greeting by them to the Rhine. Not without gifts went Etzel's men forth, that they might fare the better on the road. Rudeger commended him to Uta and her sons; never Margrave was so true to them as he. To Brunhild, likewise, they commended their true service and their steadfast faith and love. When the envoys had heard the message, they set out again, and the Margravine prayed God in Heaven to guard them.
Or they left Bavaria, swift Werbel sought out the bishop: what greeting he sent to his friends by the Rhine I know not. But he gave his red gold to the envoys out of love, and let them ride on. Bishop Pilgerin said, "Right gladly would I see my sister's sons here. Seldom, alack! can I win to them at the Rhine."
I cannot tell by what road they fared through the land; but none took from them their silver and fine clothes, for all feared the wrath of their master: the great king was mighty and of high lineage.
Within twelve days Werbel and Schwemmel reached Worms on the Rhine. And the king sand their men were told the news, that foreign envoys were come. Thereupon Gunther, the prince of the Rhine, began to question his folk, and said, "Who will tell us whence these strangers are come riding into the land?"
And none knew, till that Hagen of Trony saw the envoys, and said to Gunther, "We shall have news, I promise thee, for I have seen Etzel's fiddlers here. Thy sister hath sent them. Let us welcome them right heartily for their master's sake."
They rode straight to the palace. Never goodlier show made the minstrels of a king. Gunther's courtiers hasted to meet them, and gave them lodging, and bade see to their gear. Their travelling clothes were rich and well fashioned. With all honour they might have gone before the king therein. Yet the scorned to wear them at the court, and asked whether any desired them. There was no lack of needy folk, that took them gladly, and to these they were sent. Then the guests clad them in rich apparel, as beseemed the envoys of a king.
Etzel's men got leave to go before Gunther. They that saw them rejoiced. Hagen sprang from his seat and ran to them, and received them lovingly, for which the youths thanked him. He asked for news of Etzel and his men, whereto the fiddlers made answer, "The land was never more prosperous, nor the people more joyful; know that of a surety."
He led them before the king, through the hall full of folk, and the guests were well received, as envoys should ever be in foreign kings' lands. Werbel found many a knight by Gunther.
The gracious prince greeted them, and said, "Ye are both welcome, Etzel's minstrels, ye and your followers. Wherefore hath the mighty Etzel sent you into Burgundy?"
They bowed before him, and Werbel answered, "My dear master, and Kriemhild thy sister, commend their service to thee. With true intent they have sent us hither to you, O knights."
Then said the noble prince, "I rejoice at the tidings. How fareth it with Etzel, and Kriemhild my sister?"
Whereto the fiddler answered, "Never was king of any land better or happier, nor his kinsmen nor vassals; know that for certain. Right glad were they when we set forth on this journey."
"Thank him and my sister for their greeting. I rejoice that it is well with the king and his folk, for I asked, much fearing."
The two young kings were also come in, and had heard the news for the first time. Giselher, the youth, was glad to see the envoys, for love of his sister, and said to them kindly, "Ye be heartily welcome. If ye came oftener to the Rhine, ye would find friends worth the seeing. Small ill should betide you here."
"I trow it well," answered Schwemmel. "Word of mine cannot tell thee how right lovingly Etzel commendeth him to thee, and eke thy sister, that is holden in high esteem. The king's wife biddeth thee remember thy love and faith, and that thou wert ever true to her in heart and soul. And, first of all, we are sent to the king, to invite you to ride into Etzel's land, and Sir Gernot with you. Mighty Etzel commanded me to say to you all that, even if ye desire not to see your sister, he would fain learn what wrong he hath done you, that ye are such strangers to him and his court. Had ye never known the queen, he deserveth no less of you than that ye come to see him. If ye consent to this, ye shall please him well."
And Gunther answered, "A sennight from now I will let thee know what I and my friends have determined on. Go meanwhile to thy lodging and rest."
But Werbel said, "Might we not, ere we seek repose, win audience of great Uta?"
Whereto the noble Giselher answered courteously, "None shall hinder you, for in this ye shall have done my mother's will. For the sake of my sister, Queen Kriemhild, she will see you gladly. Right welcome shall ye be."
Giselher brought them before the lady, who rejoiced to see envoys from the land of the Huns. Kindly and lovingly she greeted them, and the courtly messengers and good delivered their tidings. "My mistress commendeth to thee," said Schwemmel, "her service and her true love. Could she but have sight of thee oftener, naught on earth were dearer to her."
But the queen answered, "That cannot be. The noble king's wife dwelleth, alack! too far from me. Blessed evermore be she and Etzel. Fail not to send me word of your departure, when ye are about to return home. It is long since envoys were so welcome as ye are." And the youths promised that they would do it.
The Huns went to their lodging. Meanwhile, the great king had sent for his friends, and noble Gunther asked his men how the message pleased them. And many of them began to say that he might well ride into Etzel's land. The best among them counselled him thereto—all save Hagen. Him it irked exceedingly. He said to the king apart, "Ye strike at your own life. Surely you know what we have done. Evermore we stand in danger from Kriemhild. I smote her husband dead with my hand. How dare we ride into Etzel's land?"
But the king answered, "My sister forgot her anger. With a loving kiss she forgave us for all we had done to her or she rode away. Hath she aught against any, it is against thee alone, Hagen."
"Be not deceived," said Hagen, "by the words of the Hunnish envoys. If thou goest to see Kriemhild, thou mayst lose thine honour and thy life. The wife of King Etzel hath a long memory."
Then Gernot spake out before the assembly, "Because thou fearest death with reason among the Huns, it were ill done on our part to keep away from our sister."
And Sir Giselher said to the knight, "Since thou knowest thyself guilty, friend Hagen, stay thou at home, and guard thyself well, and let them that dare, journey with us to the Huns."
Then the knight of Trony fell into a passion. "None that ye take with you will be readier to ride to the court than I. And well I will prove it, since ye will not be turned."
But knight Rumolt, the cook, said, "Strangers and friends ye can entertain at home, at your pleasure. For here is abundance. Hagen, I trow, hath never held you back afore. If ye will not follow him in this, be counselled by Rumolt (for your true and loving servant am I) and tarry here as I would have ye do, and leave King Etzel yonder by Kriemhild. Where in the wide world could ye be better? Here ye are safe from your enemies. Ye can adorn your bodies with goodly vesture, drink the best wine, and woo fair women. Thereto, ye are given meats, the best on earth that ever king ate. The land is prosperous. Ye may give up Etzel's hightide with honour, and live merrily at home with your friends. Even had ye nothing else to feat on here, I could always give you your fill of one dish—cutlets fried in oil. This is Rumolt's advice, my masters, since there is danger among the Huns. Never again, I trow, will Kriemhild be your friend, nor have you and Hagen deserved otherwise. Stay here, ye knights, else ye may rue it. Ye shall find in the end that my counsel is not bad: wherefore heed my words. Rich are your lands. Here you can redeem your pledges better than among the Huns. Who knoweth how things stand there. Abide where ye are. That is Rumolt's counsel."
"We will not stay here," said Gernot. "Since my sister and great Etzel have bidden us so lovingly, why should we refuse? He that will not with us may tarry at home."
"By my troth," said Rumolt, "I, for one, will never cross the Rhine for Etzel's hightide. Why should I hazard what I have? I will live while I may."
"I am of thy mind for that," said knight Ortwin. "I will help thee to order things at home."
And there were many that would not go, and said, "God guard you among the Huns."
The king was wroth when he saw they desired to take their ease at home. "We will go none the less. The prudent are safe in the midst of danger."
Hagen answered, "Be not wroth at my word. Whatever betide, I counsel thee in good faith to rid strongly armed to the Huns. Since thou wilt not be turned, summon the best men thou canst find, or knowest of, among thy vassals, and from among the I will choose a thousand good knights, that thou come not in scathe by Kriemhild's anger."
"I will do this," said the king straightway. And he bade messengers ride abroad through the country. Three thousand or more heroes they brought back with them.
They thought not to meet so grim a doom. Merrily they rode into Gunter's land. To all them that were to journey to the Huns horses and apparel were given. The king found many willing. Hagen of Trony bade Dankwart, his brother, lead eighty of their knights to the Rhine. They came in proud array, bringing harness and vesture with them. Bold Folker, a noble minstrel, arrived with thirty of his men for the journey. He told Gunther that these would also visit the Huns.
I will tell you who Folker was. He was a noble knight, and many good warriors in Burgundy were his vassals. He was called a minstrel because he played on the viol.
Hagen chose a thousand that he knew well, and the prowess of whose hand he had seen in grim battle, and in warlike deeds. None could deny their valour.
It irked Kriemhild's envoys to be delayed, for they greatly feared their master, and every day they desired to be gone. But Hagen kept them for his crafty ends. He said to his lord, "We must beware of letting them go or we be ready to follow them, in a sennight. We shall be safer so, if they mean us harm. Kriemhild will not have the time to contrive our hurt. Or, if she be minded thereto, it may go ill with her, since we lead with us to the Huns so many chosen men."
Shields and saddles and all the vesture they were to take with them, to Etzel's land, were now ready, and Kriemhild's envoys were bidden to Gunther's presence. When they appeared, Gernot said, "The king will obey Etzel's wish. We go gladly to his hightide to see our sister. She may count on us."