Adventure XX - How King Etzel Sent To Burgundy For Kriemhild.

ADVENTURE XX - How King Etzel (91) Sent To Burgundy For Kriemhild

That was in a time when Lady Helca (92) died and the king Etzel sought another wife, that his friends advised his marriage to a proud widow in the Burgundian land, hight Lady Kriemhild. Since fair Helca was dead, they spake: "Would ye gain a noble wife, the highest and the best king ever won, then take this same lady; the stalwart Siegfried was her husband."

Then spake the mighty king: "How might that chance, sith I am heathen and be christened not a whit, whereas the lady is a Christian and therefore would not plight her troth? It would be a marvel, and that ever happed."

The doughty warriors answered: "What if she do it, perchance, for the sake of your high name and your mickle goods? One should at least make a trial for the noble dame. Well may ye love the stately fair."

The noble king then spake: "Which of you be acquaint with the people and the land by the Rhine?"

Up spake then the good knight Rudeger of Bechelaren: (93) "I have known from a child the three noble and lordly kings, Gunther and Gernot, the noble knights and good; the third hight Giselher. Each of them doth use the highest honors and courtesie, as their forebears, too, have always done."

Then answered Etzel: "Friend, I prithee, tell me whether she should wear the crown in this my land. An' she be so fair, as hath been told me, it shall never rue my dearest kin."

"She compareth well in beauty with my Lady Helca, the royal queen. Certes, there might not be in all this world a king's bride more fair. He may well be of good cheer to whom she plight her troth."

He spake: "So bring it to pass, Rudeger, as I be dear to thee; and if ever I do lie at Kriemhild's side, I will requite thee for it as best I may. Then hast thou done my will in fullest wise. From my treasure chambers I will bid thee be given such store of horses, of clothes and all thou wilt, that thou and thy fellowship may live full merrily. I'll bid full plenty of these things be made ready against thine errand."

To this the lordly margrave Rudeger replied: "Craved I thy goods, that were not worthy of praise. With mine own goods, which I have from thy hands, will I gladly be thy envoy to the Rhine."

Then spake the mighty king: "Now when wilt thou ride for the fair? May God keep thee and my lady in all worship on the journey. May fortune help me, that she look with favor on my suit."

Rudeger made answer: "Ere we void the land, we must first make ready arms and trappings, that we may stand with honor before princes. I will lead to the Rhine five hundred stately men, that wherever in Burgundy I and mine be seen, all may say of thee: `Never did any king send afar so many men in better wise than thou hast done to the Rhine.' If thou, O mighty king, wilt not turn back on this account, I'll tell thee that her noble love was subject unto Siegfried, Siegmund's son. Him thou hast seen here. (94) Men could in right truth ascribe to him great worship."

Then spake King Etzel: "Tho' she was the warrior's wife, yet was the noble prince so peerless that I should not disdain the queen. She liketh me well for her passing beauty."

The margrave answered: "Then I will tell thee that we will start hence in four and twenty days. I'll send word to Gotelind, my dear lady, that I myself will be the messenger to Kriemhild."

Rudeger sent word to Bechelaren, at which the margravine grew both sorrowful and proud. He told her he should woo for the king a wife. Lovingly she thought on Helca, the fair. When the margravine heard the message, a deal she rued it; weeping beseemed her at the thought whether she should gain a lady as afore. When she thought on Helca, it grieved her heart full sore.

Rudeger should ride in seven days from Hungary; lusty and merry King Etzel was at this. There in the town of Vienna men prepared their weeds. Then might he no longer delay his journey. At Bechelaren Gotelind awaited him; the young margravine, too, Rudeger's child, gladly saw her father and his men. Many fair maids awaited them with joy. Ere the noble Rudeger rode from the city of Vienna to Bechelaren, all their clothes were placed upon the sumpters. They journeyed in such wise that not a whit was taken from them.

When they were come to tho town of Bechelaren, the host full lovingly bade lodge his fellowship and ease them well. The noble Gotelind saw the host come gladly, as likewise his dear daughter did, the young margravine. To her his coming could not be liefer. How fain she was to see the heroes from the Hunnish land! With smiling mien the noble maiden spake: "Now be my father and his men full welcome here."

Then great thanks were given to the young margravine by many a doughty knight in courteous wise. Well wot Gotelind Sir Rudeger's mood. When at night she lay close by his side, what kindly questions the margravine put, whither the king of the Huns had sent him. He spake: "My Lady Gotelind, I'll gladly make this known to thee. I must woo another lady for my lord, sith that the fair Helca hath died. I will ride for Kriemhild to the Rhine; she shall become a mighty queen here among the Huns."

"Would to God," spake Gotelind, "an' that might hap, sith we do hear such speech of her many honors, that she might perchance replace our lady for us in our old age, and that we might be fain to let her wear the crown in Hungary."

Then spake the margrave: "My love, ye must offer to those who are to ride with me to the Rhine, your goods in loving wise. When heroes travel richly, then are they of lofty mood."

She spake: "There be none that taketh gladly from my hand, to whom I would not give what well beseemeth him, or ever ye and your men part hence."

Quoth the margrave: "That doth like me well."

Ho, what rich cloths of silk were borne from their treasure chambers! With enow of this the clothing of the noble warriors was busily lined from the neck down to their spurs. Rudeger had chosen only men that pleased him well.

On the seventh morning the host and his warriors rode forth from Bechelaren. Weapons and clothes a plenty they took with them through the Bavarian land. Seldom did men assail them on the highways for robbery's sake, and within twelve days they reached the Rhine. Then might the tidings not be hid; men told it to the king and to his liegemen, that stranger guests were come. The host gan say, if any knew them, he should tell him so. One saw their sumpters bear right heavy loads. 'Twas seen that they were passing rich.

Anon in the broad town men purveyed them quarters. When that the many strangers had been lodged, these same lords were gazed upon full oft. The people wondered from whence these warriors were come to the Rhine. The host now sent for Hagen, if perchance they might be known to him. Then spake the knight of Troneg: "None of them have I ever seen, but when we now gaze upon them, I can tell you well from whence they ride hither to this land. They must indeed be strangers, an' I know them not full soon." (95)

Lodgings were now taken for the guests. The envoy and his fellowship were come in passing costly vesture. To the court they rode wearing good garments, cut in full cunning wise. Then spake the doughty Hagen: "As well as I can tell, for I have not seen the lord long time, they ride as if 'twere Rudeger from the Hunnish land, a lordly knight and a brave."

"How can I believe," spake at once the king, "that the lord of Bechelaren be come to this land?"

When King Gunther had ended his speech, Hagen, the brave, espied the good knight Rudeger. He and his friends all ran to meet them. Then five hundred knights were seen dismounting from their steeds. Fair were the men from Hungary greeted; messengers had never worn such lordly clothes. Then Hagen of Troneg spake full loudly: "Now be these knights, the lord of Bechelaren and all his men, welcome in God's name."

With worship the speedy knights were greeted. The next of kin to the king went to where they stood. Ortwin of Metz spake to Rudeger: "Never have we seen guests so gladly here at any time. This I can truly say."

On all sides they thanked the warriors for their greeting. With all their fellowship they hied them to the hall, where they found the king and with him many a valiant man. The lords rose from their seats; through their great chivalry this was done. How right courteously he met the messengers! Gunther and Gernot greeted the stranger and his vassals warmly, as was his due. He took the good knight Rudeger by the hand and led him to the seat where he sat himself. Men bade pour out for the guests (full gladly this was done) passing good mead and the best of wine that one might find in the land along the Rhine. Giselher and Gere both were come; Dankwart and Folker, too, had heard about the strangers. Merry they were of mood and greeted before the king the noble knights and good.

Then spake Hagen of Troneg to his lord: "These thy knights should ever requite what the margrave for our sake hath done; for this should the husband of fair Gotelind receive reward."

King Gunther spake: "I cannot hold my peace; ye must tell me how fare Etzel and Helca of the Hunnish land."

To this the margrave now made answer: "I'll gladly let you know." He rose from his seat with all his men and spake to the king: "An' may that be that ye permit me, O prince, so will I not conceal the tidings that I bring, but will tell them willingly."

Quoth the king: "The tidings that have been sent us through you, these I'll let you tell without the rede of friends. Pray let me and my vassals hear them, for I begrudge you no honor that ye here may gain."

Then spake the worthy envoy: "My great master doth commend to you upon the Rhine his faithful service and to all the kinsmen ye may have. This message is sent in all good faith. The noble king bade complain to you his need. His folk is joyless; my lady, the royal Helca, my master's wife, is dead. Through her hath many a high-born maid been orphaned, daughters of noble princes, whom she hath trained. Therefore it standeth full piteously in his land; they have alas none that might befriend them faithfully. The king's grief, I ween, will abate but slowly."

"Now God reward him," spake Gunther, "that he so willingly commendeth his service to me and to my kin. Full gladly have I here heard his greeting, and this both my kindred and my men shall fain requite."

Then spake the warrior Gernot of Burgundy: "The world must ever rue fair Helca's death, for her many courtesies, which she well knew how to use."

With this speech Hagen, the passing stately knight, agreed.

Then answered Rudeger, the noble and lordly envoy: "Sith ye permit me, O king, I shall tell you more, the which my dear lord hath hither sent you, sith he doth live so right sorrowfully in longing after Helca. Men told my lord that Kriemhild be without a husband, that Sir Siegfried be dead. If this be so, then shall she wear a crown before Etzel's knights, would ye but permit her. This my sovran bade me say."

Then spake the mighty king, full courteous was his mood: "And she care to do this, she shall hear my pleasure. This will I make known to you in these three days. Why should I refuse King Etzel before I've learned her wish?"

Meanwhile men bade purvey good easement for the guests. They were served so well that Rudeger owned he had good friends there among Gunthers men. Hagen served him gladly, as Rudeger had done to him of yore. Till the third day Rudeger thus remained. The king sent for his counsel (full wisely he acted) to see whether his kinsmen would think it well that Kriemhild take King Etzel to husband. All together they advised it, save Hagen alone. He spake to Gunther, the knight: "Have ye but the right wit, ye will take good care that ye never do this, tho' she were fain to follow."

"Why," spake then Gunther, "should I not consent? Whatever pleasure happen to the queen, I should surely grant her this; she is my sister. We ourselves should bring it to pass, if perchance it might bring her honor."

Then answered Hagen: "Give over this speech. Had ye knowledge of Etzel as have I, and should she harry him, as I hear you say, then first hath danger happed to you by right."

"Why?" quoth Gunther. "I'll take good care that I come not so near him that I must suffer aught of hatred on his part, an' she become his wife."

Said Hagen: "Never will I give you this advice."

For Gernot and Giselher men bade send to learn whether the two lords would think it well that Kriemhild should take the mighty and noble king. Hagen still gainsaid, but no one other. Then spake the knight Giselher of Burgundy: "Friend Hagen, ye may still show your fealty. Make her to forget the wrongs that ye have done her. Whatever good fortune she may have, this ye should not oppose. Ye have in truth done my sister so many an ill," continued Giselher, the full lusty knight, "that she hath good cause, if she be angry with you. Never hath one bereft a lady of greater joys."

Quoth Hagen: "I'll do you to wit what well I know. If she take Etzel and live long enow, she'll do us still much harm in whatever way she can. Forsooth full many a stately vassal will own her service."

To this brave Gernot answered: "It may not happen, that we ever ride to Etzel's land before they both be dead. Let us serve her faithfully, that maketh for our honor."

Again Hagen spake: "None can gainsay me, an' the noble Kriemhild wear the crown of Helca, she will do us harm as best she may. Ye should give it over, 'twould beseem you knights far better."

Wrathfully then spake Giselher, fair Uta's son: "Let us not all act as traitors. We should be glad of whatever honors may be done her. Whatever ye may say, Hagen, I shall serve her by my troth."

Gloomy of mood grew Hagen when he heard these words. Gernot and Giselher, the proud knights and good, and Gunther, the mighty, spake at last, if Kriemhild wished it, they would let it hap without all hate.

Then spake Prince Gere: "I will tell the lady that she look with favor upon King Etzel, to whom so many knights owe dread obedience. He can well requite her of all the wrongs that have been done her."

Then the doughty warrior hied him to where he saw Kriemhild. Kindly she received him. how quickly then he spake: "Ye may well greet me gladly and give me a messenger's meed. Fortune is about to part you from all your woes. For the sake of your love, my lady, one of the very best that ever gained a kingdom with great honors, or should wear a crown, hath sent envoys hither. Noble knights be wooing; this my brother bade me tell you."

Then spake the sorrow-laden dame: "God should forbid you and all my kinsmen that ye make a mock of me, poor woman. What could I be to a man who had ever gained heartfelt love from a faithful wife?"

Sorely she gainsaid it, but then came Gernot, her brother, and Giselher, the youth, and lovingly bade her ease her heart. It would do her good in truth, could she but take the king.

None might persuade the lady that she should marry any man. Then the knights begged: "If ye do naught else, pray let it hap that ye deign to see the messengers."

"I'll not deny," spake the noble dame, "but that I should gladly see the Margrave Rudeger for his passing courtesie. Were he not sent hither, whoever else might be the messenger, never should he become acquainted with me. Pray bid him come to-morrow to my bower. I'll let him hear my will in full and tell it him myself." At this her great laments brake forth anew.

The noble Rudeger now craved naught else but that he might see the high-born queen. He wist himself to be so wise that she could not but let the knight persuade her, if it should ever be. Early on the morrow when mass was sung, the noble envoys came. A great press arose; of those who should go to court with Rudeger, many a lordly man was seen arrayed. Full sad of mood, the high- born Kriemhild bided the noble envoy and good. He found her in the weeds she wore each day, whereas her handmaids wore rich clothes enow. She went to meet him to the door and greeted full kindly Etzel's liegeman. Only as one of twelve he went to meet her. Men offered him great worship, for never were come more lofty envoys. They bade the lording and his vassals seat them. Before her were seen to stand the two Margraves Eckewart and Gere, the noble knights and good. None they saw merry of mood, for the sake of the lady of the house. Many fair women were seen to sit before her, but Kriemhild only nursed her grief; her dress upon her breast was wot with scalding tears. This the noble margrave noted well on Kriemhild.

Then spake the high-born messenger: "Most noble princess, I pray you, permit me and my comrades that are come with me, to stand before you and tell you the tidings for the sake of which we have ridden hither."

"Now may ye speak whatso ye list," spake the queen. "I am minded to hear it gladly; ye be a worthy messenger."

The others noted well her unwilling mood.

Then spake Prince Rudeger of Bechelaren: "Etzel, a high-born king, hath in good faith sent you a friendly greeting, my lady, by messengers hither to this land. Many good knights hath he sent hither for your love. Great joy without grief he doth offer you most truly. He is ready to give you constant friendship, as he did afore to Lady Helca, who lay within his heart. Certes, through longing for her virtues he hath full often joyless days."

Then spake the queen: "Margrave Rudeger, were there any who knew my bitter sorrow, he would not bid me marry any man. Of a truth I lost the best of husbands that ever lady won."

"What may comfort grief," the bold knight replied, "but married joy. When that any gan gain this and chooseth one who doth beseem him, naught availeth so greatly for woe of heart. And ye care to love my noble master, ye shall have power over twelve mighty crowns. Thereto my lord will give you the lands of thirty princes, all of which his doughty hand hath overcome. Ye shall become the mistress over many worthy liegemen, who were subject to my Lady Helca, and over many dames of high and princely race, who owned her sway." Thus spake the brave knight and bold. "Thereto my lord will give you (this he bade me say), if ye would deign to wear with him the crown, the very highest power which Helca ever won; this shall ye rule before all Etzel's men."

Then spake the queen: "How might it ever list me to become a hero's bride? Death hath given me in the one such dole that I must ever live joyless unto mine end."

To this the Huns replied: "O mighty queen, your life at Etzel's court will be so worshipful that it will ever give you joy, an' it come to pass, for the mighty king hath many a stately knight. Helca's damosels and your maids shall together form one retinue, at sight of which warriors may well be blithe of mood. Be advised, my lady, ye will fare well in truth."

With courtesie she spake: "Now let be this speech until the morrow early, when ye shall come here again. Then will I give you answer to what ye have in mind."

The bold knights and good must needs obey.

When all were now come to their lodgings, the noble dame bade send for Giselher and for her mother, too. To the twain she said, that weeping did beseem her and naught else better.

Then spake her brother Giselher: "Sister, it hath been told me, and I can well believe it, that King Etzel would make all thy sorrows vanish, and thou takest him to be thy husband. Whatever others may advise, this thinketh me well done. He is well able to turn thy grief to joy," spake Giselher again; "from the Rhone to the Rhine, from the Elbe down to the sea, there be no other king as mighty as he. Thou mayst well rejoice, an' he make thee his wife."

She spake: "My dear brother, why dost thou advise me this? Weeping and wailing beseem me better far. How should I go to court before his knights? Had I ever beauty, of this I am now bereft."

To her dear daughter the Lady Uta spake: "Whatever thy brothers counsel thee, dear child, that do. Obey thy kindred and it will go well with thee. I have seen thee now too long in thy great grief."

Then she prayed God full oft to grant her such store of goods that she might have gold, silver, and clothes to give, as at her husband's side of yore, when that he was still alive and well. Else would she never have again such happy hours. She thought within her mind: "And shall I give my body to a paynim (96) (I am a Christian wife), forever in the world must I bear shame. An' he gave me all the kingdoms in the world still 1 would not do it."

Thus she let the matter rest. All night until the break of day the lady lay upon her bed in thought. Her bright eyes never grew dry, till on the morn she went to matins. Just at the time for mass the kings were come and took their sister again in hand. In truth they urged her to wed the king of the Hunnish land; little did any of them find the lady merry. Then they bade fetch hither Etzel's men, who now would fain have taken their leave, whatever the end might be, whether they gained or lost their suit. Rudeger came now to court; his heroes urged him to learn aright the noble prince's mind. To all it seemed well that this be done betimes, for long was the way back into their land. Men brought Rudeger to where Kriemhild was found. Winningly the knight gan beg the noble queen to let him hear what message she would send to Etzel's land. I ween, he heard from her naught else than no, that she nevermore would wed a man. The margrave spake: "That were ill done. Why would ye let such beauty wither? Still with honor may ye become the bride of a worthy man."

Naught booted that they urged, till Rudeger told the noble queen in secret that he would make amends for all that ever happed to her. At this her great sorrow grew a deal more mild. To the queen he spake: "Let be your weeping. If ye had none among the Huns but me and my faithful kin and liegemen, sore must he repent it who had ever done you aught."

At this the lady's mood grew gentler. She spake: "Then swear me an oath, that whatever any do to me that ye will be the first to amend my wrongs."

Quoth the margrave: "For this, my lady, I am ready."

Rudeger with all his vassals swore that he would ever serve her faithfully and pledged his hand, that the noble knights from Etzel's land would ne'er refuse her aught.

Then the faithful lady thought: "Sith I, wretched wife, have won so many friends, I'll let the people say whatso they choose. What if my dear husband's death might still be avenged?" She thought: "Sith Etzel hath so many men-at-arms, I can do whatso I will, an' I command them. He is likewise so rich that I shall have wherewith to give; the baleful Hagen hath bereft me of my goods."

To Rudeger she spake: "Had I not heard that he were a paynim, gladly would I go whithersoever he listed and would take him to my husband."

Then spake the margrave: "Lady, give over this speech. He hath so many knights of Christian faith, that ye'll ever be joyful at his court. What if ye bring it to pass, that he should let himself be christened? Therefore may ye fain become King Etzel's wife."

Then her brothers spake again: "Now pledge your troth, dear sister. Ye should now give over your sadness."

They begged her till she sadly vowed before the heroes to become King Etzel's bride. She spake: "I will obey you, I poor queen, and fare to the Huns as soon as ever that may be, whenever I have friends who will take me to his land."

Of this fair Kriemhild pledged her hand before the knights.

Then spake the margrave: "If ye have two liegemen, I have still more. 'Twill be the best, that with worship we escort you across the Rhine. No longer, lady, shall ye tarry here in Burgundy. I have five hundred vassals and kinsmen, too; they shall serve you, lady, and do whatso ye bid, both here and there at home. I'll do by you the same whenever ye do mind me of the tale and never feel ashamed. Now bid the housings for your horses be made ready (Rudeger's counsel will never irk you) and tell it to your maids, whom ye would take along, for many a chosen knight will meet us on the road."

She still had harness with which they rode afore in Siegfried's time, so that she might take with her many maidens now with worship, whenever she would hence. Ho, what good saddles they fetched for the comely dames! Albeit they had aye worn costly robes, many more were now made ready, for much had been told them of the king. They opened up the chests, which stood afore well locked. For four and one half days they were aught but idle; from the presses they brought forth the stores that lay therein. Kriemhild now began to open up her treasure rooms, she fain would make all Rudeger's liegemen rich. Of the gold from the Nibelung land she still had such store that a hundred horses might not bear it; she weened her hand should deal it out among the Huns.

This tale Hagen heard told of Kriemhild. He spake: "Sith Kriemhild will not become my friend, so Siegfried's gold must stay behind. For why should I give to my foes such great store of goods? Well I wot what Kriemhild will do with this hoard. I can well believe, an' she take it with her, that it will be doled out to call forth hate against me. Nor have they steeds enow to bear it hence. Hagen doth intend to keep it, pray tell Kriemhild that."

When that she heard this tale, it irked her sore. It was likewise told to all three kings. Fain would they have changed it, but as this did not hap, the noble Rudeger spake full blithely: "Mighty queen, why mourn ye for the gold? King Etzel doth bear you such great love, that when his eyes do light upon you, such store he'll give you that ye can never spend it all; this will I swear to you, my lady."

Then spake the queen: "Most noble Rudeger, never hath king's daughter gained such wealth as that, of which Hagen hath bereft me."

Then came her brother Gernot to the treasure chamber. By leave of the king in the door he thrust the key. Kriemhild's gold was handed forth, a thousand marks or more. He bade the strangers take it; much this pleased King Gunther.

Then spake Gotelind's knight from Bechelaren: "And had my Lady Kriemhild all the hoard that was brought from the Nibelung land, little of it would mine or the queen's hand touch. Now bid them keep it, for I will none of it. Forsooth I brought from home such store of mine that we can lightly do without this on the road, for we be furnished for the journey in full lordly wise."

Aforr this her maids had filled twelve chests at leisure with the very best of gold that anywhere might be. This they took with them and great store of women's trinkets, which they should wear upon the road. Her thought too great the might of Hagen. Of her gold for offerings (97) she had still a thousand marks. For her dear husband's soul she dealt it out. This Rudeger thought was done in faithful love. Then spake the mournful lady: "Where be now my friends who for my sake would live in exile? Let those who would ride with me to the Hunnish land, take now my treasure and purchase horses and trappings."

Then spake the margrave Eckewart to the queen: "Since the day I first became your vassal, I have served you faithfully," spake the knight, "and aye will do the same by you until mine end. I will take with me also five hundred of my men and place them in your service right loyally. Naught shall ever part us, save death alone."

For this speech Kriemhild bowed her thanks; forsooth she had full need.

Men now led forth the palfreys; for they would ride away. Then many tears were shed by kinsfolk. Royal Uta and many a comely maiden showed that they were sad at Kriemhild's loss. A hundred high-born maids she took with her hence, who were arrayed as well befit them. Then from bright eyes the tears fell down, but soon at Etzel's court they lived to see much joy. Then came Lord Giselher and Gernot, too, with their fellowship, as their courtesie demanded. Fain would they escort their dear sister hence; of their knights they took with them full a thousand stately men. Then came Or(win and the doughty Gere; Rumolt, the master of the kitchen, must needs be with them, too. They purveyed them night quarters as far as the Danube's shore, but Gunther rode no further than a little from the town. Ere they fared hence from the Rhine, they had sent their messengers swiftly on ahead to the Hunnish land, who should tell the king that Rudeger had gained for him to wife the noble high-born queen.