Adventure XXVII - How They Came To Bechelaren.

Then the margrave went to where he found the ladies, his wife with his daughter, and told them straightway the pleasing tidings he had heard, that the brothers of their lady were coming thither to their house. "My dearest love," quoth Rudeger, "ye must receive full well the noble high-born kings, when they come here to court with their fellowship. Ye must give fair greeting, too, to Hagen, Gunther's man. With them there cometh one also, hight Dankwart; the other is named Folker, well beseen with courtesie. Ye and my daughter must kiss these and abide by the knights with gentle breeding." This the ladies vowed; quite ready they were to do it. From the chests they hunted out the lordly robes in which they would go to meet the warriors. Fair dames were passing busy on that day. Men saw but little of false colors on the ladies' cheeks; upon their heads they wore bright bands of gold. Rich chaplets (144) these were, that the winds might not dishevel their comely hair, and this is true i' faith.

Let us now leave the ladies with these tasks. Much hasting over the plain was done by Rudeger's friends, to where one found the lordings, whom men then received well into the margrave's land. When the margrave, the doughty Rudeger, saw them coming toward him, how joyfully he spake: "Be ye welcome, fair sirs, and your liegemen, too. I be fain to see you in my land." Low obeisance the knights then made, in good faith, without all hate. That he bare them all good will, he showed full well. Hagen he gave a special greeting, for him had he known of yore. (145) To Folker from Burgundy land he did the same. Dankwart he welcomed, too. The bold knight spake: "Sith ye will purvey us knights, who shall have a care for our men-at-arms whom we have brought?"

Quoth the margrave: "A good night shall ye have and all your fellowship. I'll purvey such guard for whatever ye have brought with you, of steeds and trappings, that naught shall be lost, that might bring you harm, not even a single spur. Ye footmen pitch the tents upon the plain. What ye lose I'll pay in full. Take off the bridles, let the horses run."

Seldom had host done this for them afore. Therefore the guests made merry. When that was done, the lordlings rode away and the footmen laid them everywhere upon the grass. Good ease they had; I ween, they never fared so gently on the way. The noble margravine with her fair daughter was come out before the castle. One saw stand by her side the lovely ladies and many a comely maid. Great store of armlets and princely robes they wore. The precious stones gleamed afar from out their passing costly weeds. Fair indeed were they fashioned.

Then came the guests and alighted there straightway. Ho, what great courtesie one found among the Burgundian men! Six and thirty maids and many other dames, whose persons were wrought as fair as heart could wish, went forth to meet them with many a valiant man. Fair greetings were given there by noble dames. The young margravine kissed all three kings, as did her mother, too. Close at hand stood Hagen. Her father bade her kiss him, but when she gazed upon him, he seemed so fearful that she had fain left it undone. Yet she must needs perform what the host now bade her do. Her color changed first pale then red. Dankwart, too, she kissed, and then the minstrel. For his great prowess was this greeting given. The young margravine took by the hand Knight Giselher of the Burgundian land. The same her mother did to Gunther, the valiant man. Full merrily they went hence with the heroes. The host walked at Gernot's side into a broad hall, where the knights and ladies sate them down. Soon they bade pour out for the guests good wine. Certes, heroes might never be better purveyed than they. Rudeger's daughter was gazed upon with loving glances, so fair she was. Forsooth many a good knight caressed her in his mind. And well did she deserve this, so high she was of mood. The knights thought what they would, but it might not come to pass. Back and forth shot the glances at maids and dames. Of them sate there enow. The noble fiddler bare the host good will.

Then they parted after the custom, knights and ladies going to different sides. In the broad hall they set up the tables and served the strangers in lordly wise. For the sake of the guests the noble margravine went to table, but let her daughter stay with the maidens, where she sate by right. The guests saw naught of her, which irked them sore, in truth.

When they had eaten and drunk on every side, men brought the fair again into the hall; nor were merry speeches left unsaid. Many such spake Folker, this brave and lusty knight. Before them all the noble minstrel spake: "Mighty margrave, God hath dealt full graciously with you, for he hath given you a passing comely wife and thereto a life of joy. An' I were a prince," quoth the minstrel, "and should wear a crown, I would fain have to wife your comely daughter. This my heart doth wish. She is lovely for to see, thereto noble and good."

Then answered the margrave: "How might that be, that king should ever crave the dear daughter of mine? My wife and I are exiles; what booteth in such ease the maiden's passing comeliness?"

To this Gernot, the well-bred man, made answer: "An' I might have a love after mine own desire, I should be ever glad of such a wife."

Hagen, too, replied in full kindly wise: "My lord Giselher must take a wife. The margravine is of such high kin that I and all his liegemen would gladly serve her, should she wear a crown in Burgundy land."

This speech thought Rudeger passing good, and Gotelind too, indeed it joyed their mood. Then the heroes brought to pass that the noble Giselher took her to wife, as did well befit a king. Who may part what shall be joined together? Men prayed the margravine to go to court, and swore to give him the winsome maid. He, too, vowed to wed the lovely fair. For the maiden they set castles and land aside, and this the hand of the noble king did pledge with an oath, and Lord Gernot, too, that this should hap.

Then spake the margrave: "Sith I have naught of castles, I will ever serve you with my troth. As much silver and gold will I give my daughter, as an hundred sumpters may barely carry, that it may please the hero's kin in honor."

After the custom men bade them stand in a ring. Over against her many a youth stood, blithe of mood. In their minds they harbored thoughts, as young folk still are wont to do. Men then gan ask the winsome maid whether she would have the knight or no. Loth in part she was, and yet she thought to take the stately man. She shamed her of the question, as many another maid hath done. Her father Rudeger counseled her to answer yes, and gladly take him. In a trice young Giselher was at her side, and clasped her in his white hands, albeit but little time she might enjoy him.

Then Spake the margrave: "Ye noble and mighty kings, when ye now ride again (that is the custom) home to Burgundy, I will give you my child, that ye may take her with you."

This then they vowed. Now men must needs give over all the noisy joy. They bade the maiden hie her to her bower, and bade the guests to sleep and rest them against the day. Meanwhile men made ready the food; the host purveyed them well.

When now they had eaten, they would ride hence to the Hunnish lands. "I'll guard against that well," spake the noble host. "Ye must tarry still, for full seldom have I gained such welcome guests."

To this Dankwart replied: "Forsooth this may not be. Where would ye find the food, the bread and wine, that ye must have for so many warriors another night?"

When the host heard this, he spake: "Give o'er this speech. My dear lords, ye must not say me nay. Forsooth I'd give you vittaile for a fortnight, with all your fellowship that is come hither with you. King Etzel hath taken from me as yet full little of my goods."

However much they demurred, still they must needs tarry there until the fourth morning, when such deeds were done by the bounty of the host that it was told after. He gave his guests both mounts and robes. No longer might they stay, they must fare forth. Through his bounty bold Rudeger wot how to save but little. Naught was denied that any craved, it could not but please them all. Their noble meiny now brought saddled before the gate the many steeds, and to them came forth thee stranger knights. In their hands they bare their shields, for they would ride to Etzel's land. Before the noble guests come forth from the hall, the host had proffered everywhere his gifts. He wist how to live bountifully, in mickle honors. To Giselher he had given his comely daughter; to Gunther, the worshipful knight, who seldom took a gift, he gave a coat of mail, which the noble and mighty king wore well with honor. Gunther bowed low over noble Rudeger's hand. Then to Gernot he gave a weapon good enow, the which he later bare full gloriously in strife. Little did the margrave's wife begrudge him the gift, but through it good Rudeger was forced to lose his life. Gotelind offered Hagen a loving gift, as well befit her. He took it, sith the king had taken one, that he should not fare forth from her to the feasting, without her present. Later he gainsayed it. "Of all that I have ever seen," quoth Hagen, "I crave to bear naught else save that shield on yonder wall; fain would I take that with me into Etzel's land."

When the margravine heard Hagen's speech, it minded her of her grief -- tears became her well. She thought full dearly on Nudung's (146) death, whom Wittich had slain; from this she felt the stress of sorrow. To the knight she spake: "I'll give you the shield. Would to God in heaven, that he still lived who bare it once in hand. He met his death in battle; for him must I ever weep, which giveth me, poor wife, dire woe."

The noble margravine rose from her seat and with her white hands she seized the shield. To Hagen the lady bare it, who took it in his hand. This gift was worthily bestowed upon the knight. A cover of shining silk concealed its colors, for it was set with precious stones. In sooth the daylight never shone on better shield. Had any wished to buy it at its cost, 'twere well worth a thousand marks. (147) Hagen bade the shield be borne away.

Then Dankwart came to court. To him the margrave's daughter gave great store of rich apparel, the which he later wore among the Huns in passing lordly wise. However many gifts were taken by them, naught would have come into the hands of any, save through the kindness of the host, who proffered them so fair. Later they became such foes that they were forced to strike him dead.

Now the doughty Folker went courteously with his fiddle and stood before Gotelind. He played sweet tunes and sang to her his songs. Thus he took his leave and parted from Bechelaren. The margravine bade fetch a chest. Now hear the tale of friendly gifts! Twelve rings she took out and placed them on his hand. "These ye must bear hence to Etzel's land and wear them at court for my sake, whithersoever ye turn, that men may tell me how ye have served me yonder at the feast." What the lady craved, he later carried out full well.

Then spake the host to his guests: "Ye shall journey all the gentlier, for I myself will guide you and bid guard you well, that none may harm you on the road."

Then his sumpters were laden soon. The host was well beseen with five hundred men with steeds and vesture. These he took with him full merrily hence to the feasting. Not one of them later ever came alive to Bechlaren. With a loving kiss the host parted hence; the same did Giselher, as his gentle breeding counseled him. In their arms they clasped fair wives. This many a high- born maid must needs bewail in later times. On every side they opened the casements, for the host with his liegemen would now mount their steeds. I ween their hearts did tell them of the bitter woes to come. Then wept many a dame and many a comely maid. They pined for their dear kinsmen, whom nevermore they saw in Bechelaren. Yet these rode merrily across the sand, down along the Danube to the Hunnish land.

Then noble Rudeger, the full lusty knight, spake to the Burgundians: "Certes, the tidings that we be coming to the Huns must not be left unsaid, for king Etzel hath never heard aught that pleased him more."

So down through Austria the envoy sped, and to the folk on every side 'twas told that the heroes were coming from Worms beyond the Rhine. Naught could have been liefer to the courtiers of the king. On before the envoys hasted with the tidings, that the Nibelungs were already in the Hunnish land.

"Thou must greet them well, Kriemhild, lady mine. Thy dear brothers be coming in great state to visit thee."

Within a casement window Lady Kriemhild stood and looked out to see her kin, as friend doth for friend. Many a man she spied from her fatherland. The king, too, learned the tale and laughed for very pleasure. "Now well is me of my joys," quoth Kriemhild, "my kinsmen bring with them many a brand-new shield and white coat of mail. He who would have gold, let him bethink him of my sorrows, and I'll ever be his friend."