Adventure XXXI. - How They Went To Church.

ADVENTURE XXXI. (161) - How They Went To Church.

"My coat of mail groweth cold," said Folker. "I ween the night hath run its course. By the air I mark that day is near."

Then they waked the many knights who still lay sleeping. The light of dawn shone into the hall upon the strangers. On all sides Hagen gan wake the warriors, if perchance they would fain go to the minster for mass. Men now loudly rang the bells in Christian fashion. Heathens and Christians did not sing alike, so that it was seen full well that they were not as one. Gunther's liegemen now would go to church, and all alike had risen from their beds. The champions laced them into such goodly garments, that never did hero bring better clothes to the land of any king. This vexed Hagen. He spake: "Heroes, ye should wear here other clothes. Certes, ye know full well the tales. Instead of roses, bear weapons in your hands; instead of jeweled chaplets, your bright helms and good, sith ye know full well the wicked Kriemhild's mood. Let me tell you, we must fight to-day, so instead of silken shirts, wear hauberks, and instead of rich cloaks, good shields and broad, so that if any grow angry with you, ye be full armed. Dear my lords, and all my kin and liegemen, go willingly to church and make plaint to the mighty God of your fears and need, for know full sure that death draweth nigh us. Nor must ye forget to confess aught that ye have done and stand full zealously before your God. Of this I warn you, noble knights, unless God in heaven so will, ye'll never more hear mass."

So the princes and their liegemen went to the minster. In the holy churchyard bold Hagen bade them halt, that they might not be parted. He spake: "Of a truth none knoweth what will hap to us from the Huns. Place, my friends, your shields before your feet, and if any proffer you cold greeting, repay it with deep and mortal wounds. That is Hagen's counsel, that ye may so be found as doth befit your honor."

Folker and Hagen, the twain, then hied them to the spacious minster. This was done that the queen might press upon them in the crowd. Certes, she was passing grim. Then came the lord of the land and his fair wife, her body adorned with rich apparel; Doughty warriors, too, were seen to walk beside her. One saw the dust rise high from Kriemhild's band. When mighty Etzel spied the kings and their fellowship thus armed, how quick he spake: "Why do I see my friends thus go with helmets? Upon my troth, it grieveth me, and hath any done them aught, I shall gladly make amends, as doth think them good. Hath any made heavy their hearts or mood, I'll show them well, that it doth irk me much. I am ready for whatever they command me."

To this Hagen answered: "None hath done us aught; it is the custom of my lordings that they go armed at all high feasts for full three days. We should tell Etzel, had aught been done us."

Kriemhild heard full well what Hagen spake. How right hostilely she gazed into his eyes! She would not tell the custom of their land, albeit she had known it long in Burgundy. However grim and strong the hate she bare them, yet had any told Etzel the truth, he would have surely hindered what later happed. Because of their great haughtiness they scorned to tell him. When the great crowd went past with the queen, these twain, Hagen and Folker, would not step back more than two hand-breadths, the which irked the Huns. Forsooth they had to jostle with the lusty heroes. This thought King Etzel's chamberlains not good. Certes, they would have fain angered the champions, but that they durst not before the noble king. So there was much jostling, but nothing more.

When they had worshiped God and would hence again, many a Hunnish warrior horsed him passing soon, At Kriemhild's side stood many a comely maid, and well seven thousand knights rode with the queen. Kriemhild with her ladies sate her down at the easements by the side of the mighty Etzel, which was him lief, for they would watch the lusty heroes joust. Ho, what stranger knights rode before them in the court! Then was come the marshal with the squires. Bold Dankwart had taken to him his lord's retainers from the Burgundian land; the steeds of the Nibelungs they found well saddled. When now the kings and their men were come to horse, stalwart Folker gan advise that they should ride a joust after the fashion of their land. At this the heroes rode in lordly wise; none it irked what the knight had counseled. The hurtling and the noise waxed loud, as the many men rode into the broad court. Etzel and Kriemhild themselves beheld the scene. To the jousts were come six hundred knights of Dietrich's men to match the strangers, for they would have pastime with the Burgundians. Fain would they have done it, had he given them leave. Ho, what good champions rode in their train! The tale was told to Sir Dietrich and he forbade the game with Gunther's men; he feared for his liegemen, and well he might.

When those of Berne had departed thence, there came the men of Rudeger from Bechelaren, five hundred strong, with shields, riding out before the hall. It would have been lief to the margrave, had they left it undone. Wisely he rode then to them through the press and said to his knights, that they were ware that Gunther's men were evil-minded toward them. If they would leave off the jousting, it would please him much. When now these lusty heroes parted from them, then came those of Thuringia, as we are told, and well a thousand brave men from Denmark. From the tilting one saw many truncheons (162) flying hence. Irnfried and Hawart now rode into the tourney. Proudly those from the Rhine awaited them and offered the men of Thuringia many a joust. Many a lordly shield was riddled by the thrusts. Thither came then Sir Bloedel with three thousand men. Well was he seen of Etzel and Kriemhild, for the knightly sports happed just before the twain. The queen saw it gladly, that the Burgundians might come to grief. Schrutan (163) and Gibecke, Ramung and Hornbog, (164) rode into the tourney in Hunnish wise. To the heroes from Burgundian land they addressed them. High above the roof of the royal hall the spear-shafts whirled. Whatever any there plied, 'twas but a friendly rout. Palace and hall were heard resounding loud through the clashing of the shields of Gunther's men. With great honor his meiny gained the meed. Their pastime was so mickle and so great, that from beneath the housings of the good steeds, which the heroes rode, there flowed the frothy sweat. In haughty wise they encountered with the Huns.

Then spake the fiddler, Folker the minstrel: "I ween these warriors dare not match us. I've aye heard the tale, that they bear us hate, and forsooth it might never fortune better for them than now." Again Folker spake: "Let our steeds be now led away to their lodgings and let us joust again toward eventide, and there be time. Perchance the queen may accord to the Burgundians the prize."

Then one was seen riding hither so proudly, that none of all the Huns could have done the like. Certes, he must have had a sweetheart on the battlements. As well attired he rode as the bride of any noble knight. At sight of him Folker spake again: "How could I give this over? This ladies' darling must have a buffet. None shall prevent me and it shall cost him dear. In truth I reck not, if it vex King Etzel's wife."

"For my sake, No," spake straightway King Gunther. "The people will blame us, if we encounter them. 'Twill befit us better far, an' we let the Huns begin the strife."

King Etzel was still sitting by the queen.

"I'll join you in the tourney," quoth Hagen then. "Let the ladies and the knights behold how we can ride. That will be well, for they'll give no meed to King Gunther's men."

The doughty Folker rode into the lists again, which soon gave many a dame great dole. His spear he thrust through the body of the dapper Hun; this both maid and wife were seen thereafter to bewail. Full hard and fast gan Hagen and his liegemen and sixty of his knights ride towards the fiddler, where the play was on. This Etzel and Kriemhild clearly saw. The three kings would not leave their minstrel without guard amidst the foe. Cunningly a thousand heroes rode; with haughty bearing they did whatso they would. When now the wealthy Hun was slain, men heard his kin cry out and wail. All the courtiers asked: "Who hath done this deed?"

"That the fiddler did, Folker, the valiant minstrel."

The margrave's kindred from the Hunnish land called straightway for their swords and shields, and would fain have done Folker to death. Fast the host gan hasten from the windows. Great rout arose from the folk on every side. The kings and their fellowship, the Burgundian men, alighted before the hall and drove their horses to the rear. Then King Etzel came to part the strife. From the hand of a kinsman of the Hun he wrenched a sturdy weapon and drove them all back again, for full great was his wrath. "Why should my courtesie to these knights go all for naught? Had ye slain this minstrel at my court," spake King Etzel, "'twere evil done. I saw full well how he rode, when he thrust through the Hun, that it happed through stumbling, without any fault of his. Ye must let my guests have peace."

Thus he became their safe-guard. To the stalls men led away the steeds; many a varlet they had, who served them well with zeal in every service. The host now hied him to his palace with his friends, nor would he let any man grow wroth again. Then men set up the tables and bare forth water for the guests. Forsooth the men from the Rhine had there enow of stalwart foes. 'Twas long before the lords were seated.

Meanwhile Kriemhild's fears did trouble her passing sore. She spake: "My lord of Berne, I seek thy counsel, help, and favor, for mine affairs do stand in anxious wise."

Then Hildebrand, a worshipful knight, made answer to her: "And any slay the Nibelungs for the sake of any hoard, he will do it without my aid. It may well repent him, for they be still unconquered, these doughty and lusty knights."

Then Spake Sir Dietrich in his courteous wise: "Let be this wish, O mighty queen. Thy kinsmen have done me naught of wrong, that I should crave to match these valiant knights in strife. Thy request honoreth thee little, most noble queen, that thou dost plot against the life of thy kinsfolk. They came in hope of friendship to this land. Siegfried will not be avenged by Dietrich's hand."

When she found no whit of faithlessness in the lord of Berne, quickly she promised Bloedel a broad estate, that Nudung (165) owned aforetime. Later he was slain by Hagen, so that he quite forgot the gift. She spake: "Thou must help me, Sir Bloedel, forsooth my foes be in this house, who slew Siegfried, my dear husband. Ever will I serve him, that helpeth me avenge this deed."

To this Bloedel replied: "My lady, now may ye know that because of Etzel I dare not, in sooth, advise to hatred against them, for he is fain to see thy kinsmen at his court. The king would ne'er forget it of me, and I did them aught of wrong."

"Not so, Sir Bloedel, for I shall ever be thy friend. Certes, I'll give thee silver and gold as guerdon and a comely maid, the wife of Nudung, whose lovely body thou mayst fain caress. I'll give thee his land and all his castles, too, so that thou mayst always live in joy, Sir knight, if thou dost now win the lands where Nudung dwelt. Faithfully will I keep, whatso I vow to thee to-day."

When Sir Bloedel heard the guerdon, and that the lady through her beauty would befit him well, he weened to serve the lovely queen in strife. Because of this the champion must needs lose his life. To the queen he spake: "Betake you again to the hall, and before any be aware, I'll begin a fray and Hagen must atone for what he hath done you. I'll deliver to you King Gunther's liegeman bound. Now arm you, my men," spake Bloedel. "We must hasten to the lodgings of the foes, for King Etzel's wife doth crave of me this service, wherefore we heroes must risk our lives."

When the queen left Bloedel in lust of battle, she went to table with King Etzel and his men. Evil counsels had she held against the guests. Since the strife could be started in no other wise (Kriemhild's ancient wrong still lay deep buried in her heart), she bade King Etzel's son be brought to table. How might a woman ever do more ghastly deed for vengeance' sake? Four of Etzel's men went hence anon and bare Ortlieb, (166) the young prince, to the lordings' table, where Hagen also sat. Because of this the child must needs die through Hagen's mortal hate.

When now the mighty king beheld his son, kindly he spake to the kinsmen of his wife: "Now see, my friends, this is the only son of me and of your sister. This may be of profit to you all, for if he take after his kinsmen, he'll become a valiant man, mighty and noble, strong and fashioned fair. Twelve lands will I give him, and I live yet a while. Thus may the hand of young Ortlieb serve you well. I do therefore beseech you, dear friends of mine, that when ye ride again to your lands upon the Rhine, ye take with you your sister's son and act full graciously toward the child, and bring him up in honor till he become a man. Hath any done you aught in all these lands, he'll help you to avenge it, when he groweth up."

This speech was also heard by Kriemhild, King Etzel's wife.

"These knights might well trust him," quoth Hagen, "if he grew to be a man, but the young prince doth seem so fey, (167) that I shall seldom be seen to ride to Ortlieb's court."

The king glanced at Hagen, for much the speech did irk him; and though the gentle prince said not a word, it grieved his heart and made him heavy of his mood. Nor was Hagen's mind now bent on pastime. But all the lordings and the king were hurt by what Hagen had spoken of the child; it vexed them sore, that they were forced to hear it. They wot not the things as yet, which should happen to them through this warrior.