Adventure XXIX - How Hagen Would Not Rise For Kriemhild.
Then the two worshipful warriors parted, Hagen of Troneg and Sir Dietrich. Over his shoulder Gunther's liegeman gazed for a comrade-at-arms, whom he then quickly won. Folker he saw, the cunning fiddler, stand by Giselher, and begged him to join him, for well he knew his savage mood. He was in all things a bold knight and a good. Still they let the lordings stand in the court, only these twain alone men saw walk hence far across the court before a spacious palace. These chosen warriors feared the hate of none. They sate them down upon a bench before the house over against a hall, the which belonged to Kriemhild. Upon their bodies shone their lordly weeds. Enow who gazed upon them would than have known the knights; as wild beasts the haughty heroes were stared upon by the Hunnish men. Etzel's wife, too, gazed upon them through a window, at which fair Kriemhild waxed sad again. Of her sorrows it minded her and she began to weep. Much it wondered Etzel's men what had so quickly saddened her mood. Quoth she: "That Hagen hath done, ye heroes brave and good."
To the lady they spake: "How hath that happed, for but newly we did see you joyful? None there be so bold, an' he hath done you aught, but it will cost him his life, if ye bid us venge you."
"Ever would I requite it, if any avenged my wrongs. I would give him all he craved. Behold me at your feet," spake he queen; "avenge me on Hagen, that he lose his life."
Then sixty bold men made them ready eftsoon for Kriemhild's sake. They would hence to slay the bold knight Hagen and the fiddler, too. With forethought this was done. When the queen beheld the band so small, grim of mood she spake to the knights: "What ye now would do, ye should give over. With so few durst ye never encounter Hagen. And however strong and bold Hagen of Troneg be, he who sitteth by his side, Folker, the fiddler, is stronger still by far. He is an evil man. Certes, ye may not so lightly match these knights."
When they heard this, four hundred doughty warriors more did make them ready. The noble queen craved sore to do them harm. Thereby the heroes later fell in mickle danger. When she saw her followers well armed, the queen spake to the doughty knights: "Now bide a while, ye must stand quite still in truth. Wearing my crown, I will go to meet my foes. List ye to the wrongs that Hagen of Troneg, Gunther's man, hath done me. I know him to be so haughty that he'll not deny a whit. Little I reek what hap to him on this account."
Then the fiddler, a bold minstrel, spied the noble queen walk down the flight of steps that led downward from a house. When bold Folker saw this, to his comrade-at-arms he spake: "Now behold, friend Hagen, how she walketh yonder, who hath faithlessly bidden us to this land. I have never seen with a queen so many men bearing sword in hand march in such warlike guise. Know ye, friend Hagen, whether she bear you hate? If so be, I counsel you to guard the better your life and honor. Certes, methinks this good. They be wroth of mood, as far as I can see, and some be so broad of chest that he who would guard himself should do so betimes. I ween there be those among them who wear bright breastplates. Whom they would attack, I cannot say."
Then, angry of mood, the brave knight Hagen spake: "Well I wot that all this be done against me, that they thus bear their gleaming swords in hand. For aught of them, I still may ride to the Burgundian land. Now tell me, friend Folker, whether ye will stand by me, if perchance Kriemhild's men would fight me? Pray let me hear that, if so be ye hold me dear. I'll aid you evermore with faithful service."
"I'll help you surely," spake the minstrel; "and should I see the king with all his warriors draw near us, not one foot will I yield from fear in aiding you, the while I live."
"Now may God in heaven requite you, noble Folker; though they strive against me, what need I more? Sith ye will help me, as I hear you say, let these warriors come on full-armed."
"Let us rise now from our seats," spake the minstrel. "Let us do her honor as she passeth by, she is a high-born dame, a queen. We shall thereby honor ourselves as well."
"For my sake, no," quoth Hagen. "Should I go hence, these knights would think 'twas through fear. Not for one of them will I ever rise from my seat. It beseemeth us both better, forsooth, to leave this undone, for why should I honor one who doth bear me hatred? Nor will I do this, the while I live; I reck not how King Etzel's wife doth hate me."
Haughty Hagen laid across his knees a gleaming sword from whose pommel a sparkling jasper, greener than grass, did shine. Its hilt was golden, its sheath an edging of red. That it was Siegfried's, Kriemhild knew full well. She must needs grow sad when that she knew the sword, for it minded her of her wrongs; she began to weep. I ween bold Hagen had done it for this cause. Folker, the bold, drew nearer to the bench a fiddle bow, strong, mickle, and long, like unto a broad, sharp sword, and there the two lusty knights sate undaunted. These two brave men did think themselves so lordly, that they would not leave their seats through fear of any man. The noble queen walked therefore to their very feet and gave them hostile greeting. She spake: "Now tell me, Hagen, who hath sent for you, that ye durst ride hither to this land, sith ye know full well what ye have done me? Had ye good wits, ye should have left it undone, by rights."
"No one sent for me," quoth Hagen. "Men bade to this land three knights, who hight my lords. I am their liegeman, and full seldom have I stayed behind when they journeyed to any court."
Quoth she: "Now tell me further, why ye did this, through the which ye have earned my hate? Ye slew Siegfried, my dear husband, for which I have cause enow to weep until mine end."
Quoth he: "What booteth more, enow is already said. It is just I, Hagen, who slew Siegfried, a hero of his hands. How sorely did he atone that Lady Kriemhild railed at comely Brunhild. 'Tis not to be denied, O mighty queen, I alone am to blame for this scathful scathe. (154) Let him avenge it who will, be he wife or man. Unless be I should lie to you, I have dons you much of harm."
Quoth she: "Now hear, ye knights, how he denieth no whit of my wrongs. Men of Etzel, I care not what hap to him from this cause."
The proud warriors all gazed at one another. Had any began the fight, it would have come about that men must have given the honors to the two comrades, for they had oft wrought wonders in the fray. What the Huns had weened to do must now needs be left. undone through fear.
Then spake one of the men-at-arms: "Why gaze ye thus at me? What I afore vowed, I will now give over. I will lose my life for no man's gift. Forsooth King Etzel's wife would fain lead us into wrong."
Quoth another hard by: "Of the selfsame mind am I. An' any give me towers of good red gold, I would not match this fiddler, for his fearful glances, the which I have seen him cast. Hagen, too, I have known from his youthful days, wherefore men can tell me little of this knight. I have seen him fight in two and twenty battles, through which woe of heart hath happed to many a dame. He and the knight from Spain trod many a war path, when here at Etzel's court they waged so many wars in honor of the king. Much this happed, wherefore one must justly honor Hagen. At that time the warrior was of his years a lad. How gray are they who then were young! Now is he come to wit and is a man full grim. Balmung, (155) too, he beareth, the which he won in evil wise."
Therewith the strife was parted, so that no one fought, which mightily rued the queen. The warriors turned them hence; in sooth they feared their death at the fiddler's hands, and surely they had need of this. Then spake the fiddler: "We have now well seen that we shall find foes here, as we heard tell afore. Let us go to court now to the kings, then dare none match our lords in fight. how oft a man doth leave a thing undone through fear, the which he would not do, when friend standeth by friend in friendly (156) wise, an' he have good wits. Scathe to many a man is lightly warded off by forethought."
Quoth Hagen: "Now will I follow you."
They went to where they found the dapper warriors standing in the court in a great press of welcoming knights.
Bold Folker gan speak loudly to his lords: "How long will ye stand and let yourselves be jostled? Ye must go to court and hear from the king of what mind he be."
Men then saw the brave heroes and good pair off. The prince of Berne took by the hand the mighty Gunther of Burgundian land. Irnfried (157) took the brave knight Gernot, while Rudeger was seen to go to court with Giselher. But however any paired, Folker and Hagen never parted, save in one fray, when their end was come, and this noble ladies must needs greatly bewail in after time. With the kings one saw go to court a thousand brave men of their fellowship, thereto sixty champions that were come with them, whom the bold Hagen had taken from his land. Hawart and Iring, (158) two chosen men, were seen to walk together near the kings. Men saw Dankwart and Wolfhart, a peerless knight, display their chivalry before all eyes.
When the lord of the Rhine had entered the hall, the mighty Etzel delayed no longer, but sprang from his throne when he saw him come. Never did so fair a greeting hap from any king. "Be welcome, Sir ,Gunther, and Sir Gernot, too, and your brother Giselher. I sent you truly my faithful service to Worms beyond the Rhine. All your fellowship, too, I welcome. Now be ye passing welcome, ye two knights, Folker, the brave, and Sir Hagen likewise, to me and to my lady, here in this our land. She sent you many a messenger to the Rhine."
Then spake Hagen of Troneg: "I heard much talk of that, and were I not come to the Huns for the sake of my lords, I should have ridden in your honor to this land."
The noble host then took his dear guests by the hand and led them to the settle where he sate himself. Busily they poured out for the guests in broad bowls of gold, mead, morat, (159) and wine and bade those far from home be welcome. Then spake King Etzel: "Let me tell you this; it might not liefer hap to me in all this world, than through you heroes, that ye be come to see me. Through this much sadness is also taken from the queen. Me-wondereth greatly what I have done you noble strangers, that ye never recked to come into my land. My sadness is turned to joy, since now I see you here."
To this Rudeger, a high-mettled knight, made answer: "Ye may be glad to see them. Good is the fealty which the kinsmen of my lady wot how to use so well. They bring also to your house many a stately knight."
Upon a midsummer's eve the lords were come to the court of the mighty Etzel. Seldom hath there been heard such lofty greeting as when he welcomed the heroes. When now the time to eat was come, the king went with them to the board. Never did host sit fairer with his guests. Men gave them meat and drink to the full. All that they craved stood ready for them, for mickle wonders had been told about these knights.