Adventure XXXIII - How The Burgundians Fought The Huns.
When brave Dankwart was come within the door, he bade King Etzel's meiny step aside. His garments dripped with blood and in his hand he bare unsheathed a mighty sword. Full loud he called out to the knight: "Brother Hagen, ye sit all too long, forsooth. To you and to God in heaven do I make plaint of our woe. Our knights and squires all lie dead within their lodgements."
He called in answer: "Who hath done this deed?"
"That Sir Bloedel hath done with his liegemen, but he hath paid for it dearly, as I can tell you, for with mine own hands I struck off his head."
"It is but little scathe," quoth Hagen, "if one can only say of a knight that he hath lost his life at a warrior's hands. Stately dames shall mourn him all the less. Now tell me, brother Dankwart, how comes it that ye be so red of hue? Ye suffer from wounds great dole, I ween. If there be any in the land that hath done you this, 'twill cost his life, and the foul fiend save him not."
"Ye see me safe and sound; my weeds alone are wot with blood. This hath happed from wounds of other men, of whom I have slain so many a one to-day that, had I to swear it, I could not tell the tale."
"Brother Dankwart," he spake, "guard us the door and let not a single Hun go forth. I will hold speech with the warriors, as our need constraineth us, for our meiny lieth dead before them, undeserved."
"If I must be chamberlain," quoth the valiant man, "I well wet how to serve such mighty kings and will guard the stairway, as doth become mine honors." Naught could have been more loth to Kriemhild's knights.
"Much it wondereth me," spake Hagen, "what the Hunnish knights be whispering in here. I ween, they'd gladly do without the one that standeth at the door, and who told the courtly tale to us Burgundians. Long since I have heard it said of Kriemhild, that she would not leave unavenged her dole of heart. Now let us drink to friendship (172) and pay for the royal wine. The young lord of the Huns shall be the first."
Then the good knight Hagen smote the child Ortlieb, so that the blood spurted up the sword towards his hand and the head fell into the lap of the queen. At this there began a murdering, grim and great, among the knights. Next he dealt the master who taught the child a fierce sword-stroke with both his hands, so that his head fell quickly beneath the table to the ground. A piteous meed it was, which he meted out to the master. Hagen then spied a gleeman sitting at King Etzel's board. In his wrath he hied him thither and struck off his right hand upon the fiddle. "Take this as message to the Burgundian land."
"Woe is me of my hand," spake the minstrel Werbel. "Sir Hagen of Troneg, what had I done to you? I came in good faith to your masters' land. How can I now thrum the tunes, sith I have lost my hand?"
Little recked Hagen, played he nevermore. In the hall he dealt out fierce deadly wounds to Etzel's warriors, passing many of whom he slew. Enow of folk in the house he did to death. The doughty Folker now sprang up from the board; loud rang in his hands his fiddle bow. Rudely did Gunther's minstrel play. Ho, what foes he made him among the valiant Huns! The three noble kings, too, sprang up from the table. Gladly would they have parted the fray, or ever greater scathe was done. With all their wit they could not hinder it, when Folker and Hagen gan rage so sore. When that the lord of the Rhine beheld the fray unparted, the prince dealt his foes many gaping wounds himself through the shining armor rings. That he was a hero of his hands, he gave great proof. Then the sturdy Gernot joined the strife. Certes, he did many a hero of the Huns to death with a sharp sword, the which Rudeger had given him. Mighty wounds he dealt King Etzel's warriors. Now the young son of Lady Uta rushed to the fray. Gloriously his sword rang on the helmets of Etzel's warriors from the Hunnish land. Full mickle wonders were wrought by bold Giselher's hand. But how so doughty they all were, the kings and their liegemen, yet Folker was seen to stand before them all against the foe; a good hero he. Many a one he made to fall in his blood through wounds. Etzel's men did fend them, too, full well, yet one saw the strangers go hewing with their gleaming swords through the royal hall and on every side was heard great sound of wail. Those without would now fain be with their friends within, but at the entrance towers they found small gain. Those within had gladly been without the hall, but Dankwart let none go either up or down the steps. Therefore there rose before the towers a mighty press, and helmets rang loudly from the sword-blows. Bold Dankwart came into great stress thereby; this his brother feared, as his loyalty did bid him.
Loudly then Hagen called to Folker: "See ye yonder, comrade, my brother stand before the Hunnish warriors amid a rain of blows? Friend, save my brother, or ever we lose the knight."
"That will I surely," quoth the minstrel, and through the palace he went a-fiddling, his stout sword ringing often in his hand. Great thanks were tendered by the warriors from the Rhine. Bold Folker spake to Dankwart: "Great discomfiture have ye suffered to-day, therefore your brother bade me hasten to your aid. Will ye stand without, so will I stand within."
Sturdy Dankwart stood without the door and guarded the staircase against whoever came, wherefore men heard the swords resound in the heroes' hands. Folker of Burgundy land performed the same within. Across the press the bold fiddler cried: "Friend Hagen, the hall is locked; forsooth King Etzel's door is bolted well. The hands of two heroes guard it, as with a thousand bars." When Hagen of Troneg beheld the door so well defended, the famous hero and good slung his shield upon his back and gan avenge the wrongs that had been done him there. His foes had now no sort of hope to live.
When now the lord of Berne, the king of the Amelungs, (173) beheld aright that the mighty Hagen broke so many a helm, upon a bench he sprang and spake: "Hagen poureth out the very worst of drinks."
The host, too, was sore adread, as behooved him now, for his life was hardly safe from these his foes. O how many dear friends were snatched away before his eyes! He sate full anxious; what booted it him that he was king? Haughty Kriemhild now cried aloud to Dietrich: "Pray help me hence alive, most noble knight, by the virtues of all the princes of the Amelung land. If Hagen reach me, I shall grasp death by the hand."
"How shall I help you, noble queen?" spake Sir Dietrich. "I fear for myself in sooth. These men of Gunther be so passing wroth that at this hour I cannot guard a soul."
"Nay, not so, Sir Dietrich, noble knight and good. Let thy chivalrous mood appear to-day and help me hence, or I shall die." Passing great cause had Kriemhild for this fear.
"I'll try to see if I may help you, for it is long since that I have soon so many good knights so bitterly enraged. Of a truth I see blood spurting through the helmets from the swords."
Loudly the chosen knight gan call, so that his voice rang forth as from a bison's horn, until the broad castle resounded with his force. Sir Dietrich's strength was passing great in truth.
When Gunther heard this man cry out in the heated strife, he began to heed. He spake: "Dietrich's voice hath reached mine ears, I ween our champions have bereft him of some friend to-day. I see him on the table, he doth beckon with his hand. Ye friends and kinsmen from Burgundian land, give over the strife. Let's hear and see what here hath fortuned to the knight from my men-at-arms."
When Gunther thus begged and bade in the stress of the fray, they sheathed their swords. Passing great was his power, so that none struck a blow. Soon enow he asked the tidings of the knight of Berne. He spake: "Most noble Dietrich, what hath happed to you through these my friends? I am minded to do you remedy and to make amends. If any had done you aught, 'twould grieve me sore,"
Then spake Sir Dietrich: "Naught hath happed to me, but I pray you, let me leave this hall and this fierce strife under your safe-guard, with my men. For this favor I will serve you ever."
"How entreat ye now so soon," quoth Wolfhart (174) then. "Forsooth the fiddler hath not barred the door so strong, but what we may open it enow to let us pass."
"Hold your tongue," spake Sir Dietrich; "the devil a whit have ye ever done."
Then: spake King Gunther: "I will grant your boon. Lead from the hall as few or as many as ye will, save my foes alone; they must remain within. Right ill have they treated me in the Hunnish land."
When Dietrich heard these words, he placed his arm around the high-born queen, whose fear was passing great. On his other side he led King Etzel with him hence; with Dietrich there also went six hundred stately men.
Then spake the noble Margrave Rudeger: "Shall any other who would gladly serve you come from this hall, let us hear the tale, and lasting peace shall well befit good friends."
To this Giselher of the Burgundian land replied: "Peace and friendship be granted you by us, sith ye are constant in your fealty. Ye and all your men, ye may go hence fearlessly with these your friends."
When Sir Rudeger voided the hall, there followed him, all told, five hundred men or more, kinsmen and vassals of the lord of Bechelaren, from whom King Gunther later gained great scathe. Then a Hunnish champion spied Etzel walking close by Dietrich. He, too, would take this chance, but the fiddler dealt him such a blow that his head fell soon before King Etzel's feet. When the lord of the land was come outside the house, he turned him about and gazed on Folker. "Woe is me of these guests. This is a direful need, that all my warriors should lie low in death before them. Alas for the feasting," quoth the noble king. "Like a savage boar there fighteth one within, hight Folker, who is a gleeman. I thank my stars that I escaped this fiend. His glees have an evil sound, the strokes of his how draw blood; forsooth his measures fell many a hero dead. I wot not, with what this minstrel twitteth us, for I have never had such baleful guest."
They had permitted whom they would to leave the hall. Then there arose within a mighty uproar; sorely the guests avenged what there had happed them. Ho, what helmets bold Folker broke! The noble King Gunther turned him toward the sound. "Hear ye the measures, Hagen, which Folker yonder fiddleth with the Huns, when any draweth near the towers? 'Tis a blood-red stroke he useth with the bow."
"It rueth me beyond all measure," quoth Hagen, "that in this hall I sate me down to rest before the hero did. I was his comrade and he was mine; and come we ever home again, we shall still be so, in loyal wise. Now behold, most noble king, Folker is thy friend, he earneth gladly thy silver and thy gold. His fiddle bow doth cut through the hardest steel, on the helmets he breaketh the bright and shining gauds! (175) Never have I seen fiddler stand in such lordly wise as the good knight Folker hath stood to-day. His glees resound through shield and helmet. Certes he shall ride good steeds and wear lordly raiment."
Of all the kinsmen of the Huns within the hall, not one of these remained alive. Thus the clash of arms died out, since none strove with them longer. The lusty knights and bold now laid aside their swords.