Adventure XXXV - How Iring Was Slain.
Then cried Margrave Iring of Denmark: "I have striven for honor now long time, and in the storm of battle have been among the best. Now bring me my harness, for in sooth I will encounter me with Hagen."
"I would not counsel that," spake Hagen, "but bid the Hunnish knights stand further back. If twain of you or three leap into the hall, I'll send them back sore wounded down the steps."
"Not for that will I give it over," quoth Iring again. "I've tried before such daring things; in truth with my good sword I will encounter thee alone. What availeth all thy boasting, which thou hast done in words?"
Then were soon arrayed the good Knight Iring and Irnfried of Thuringia, a daring youth, and the stalwart Hawart and full a thousand men. Whatever Iring ventured, they would all fain give him aid. Then the fiddler spied a mighty troop, that strode along well armed with Iring. Upon their heads they bare good helmets. At this bold Folker waxed a deal full wroth of mood. "See ye, friend Hagen, Iring striding yonder, who vowed to match you with his sword alone? How doth lying beseem a hero? Much that misliketh me. There walk with him full a thousand knights or more, well armed."
"Say not that I lie," spake Hawart's liegeman. "Gladly will I perform what I have vowed, nor will I desist therefrom through any fear. However frightful Hagen be, I will meet him single- handed."
On his knees Iring begged both kinsmen and vassals to let him match the knight alone. This they did unwillingly, for well they knew the haughty Hagen from the Burgundian land. But Iring begged so long that at last it happed. When the fellowship beheld his wish and that he strove for honor, they let him go. Then a fierce conflict rose between the twain. Iring of Denmark, the peerless high-born knight, bare high his spear and covered him with his shield. Swiftly he rushed on Hagen before the hall, while a great shout arose from all the knights around. With might and main they cast the spears with their hands through the sturdy shields upon their shining armor, so that the shafts whirled high in air. Then the two brave men and fierce reached for their swords. Bold Hagen's strength was mickle and great, but Iring smote him, that the whole hall rang. Palace and towers resounded from their blows, but the knight could not achieve his wish.
Iring now left Hagen stand unharmed, and hied him to the fiddler. He weened to fell him by his mighty blows, but the stately knight wist how to guard bin, well. Then the fiddler struck a blow, that the plates of mail whirled high above the buckler's rim. An evil man he was, for to encounter, so Iring let him stand and rushed at Gunther of the Burgundian land. Here, too, either was strong enow in strife. The blows that Gunther and Iring dealt each other drew no blood from wounds. This the harness hindered, the which was both strong and good.
He now let Gunther be, and ran at Gernot, and gan hew sparks of fire from his armor rings. Then had stalwart Gernot of Burgundy nigh done brave Iring unto death, but that he sprang away from the prince (nimble enow he was), and slew eftsoon four noble henchmen of the Burgundians from Worms across the Rhine. At this Giselher might never have waxed more wroth. "God wot, Sir Iring," spake Giselher, the youth, "ye must pay me weregild (176) for those who have fallen dead this hour before you."
Then at him he rushed and smote the Dane, so that he could not stir a step, but sank before his hands down in the blood, so that all did ween the good knight would never deal a blow again in strife. But Iring lay unwounded here before Sir Giselher. From the crashing of the helmet and the ringing of the sword, his wits had grown so weak that the brave knight no longer thought of life. Stalwart Giselher had done this with his might. When now the ringing gan leave his head, the which he had suffered from the mighty stroke, he thought: "I am still alive and nowhere wounded. Now first wot I of Giselher's mighty strength." On either side he heard his foes. Wist they the tale, still more had happed him. Giselher, too, he marked hard by; he bethought him, how he might escape his foes. How madly he sprang up from the blood! Well might he thank his nimbleness for this. Out of the house he ran to where he again found Hagen, whom he dealt a furious blow with his powerful hand.
Hagen thought him: "Thou art doomed. Unless be that the foul fiend protect thee, thou canst not escape alive."
Yet Iring wounded Hagen through his crest. This the hero wrought with Waska, (177) a passing goodly sword. When Sir Hagen felt the wound, wildly he brandished his weapon in his hand. Soon Hawart's liegeman was forced to yield his ground, and Hagen gan pursue him down the stairs. Brave Iring swung his shield above his head, but had the staircase been the length of three, Hagen would not have let him strike a blow the while. Ho, what red sparks did play above his helmet!
Iring returned scatheless to his liegemen. Then the tidings were brought to Kriemhild, of that which he had wrought in strife with Hagen of Troneg. For this the queen gan thank him highly. "Now God requite thee, Iring, thou peerless hero and good. Thou hast comforted well my heart and mind. I see that Hagen's weeds be wot with blood." For very joy Kriemhild herself relieved him of his shield.
"Be not too lavish of your thanks," spake Hagen. "'Twould well befit a knight to try again. A valiant man were he, if he then came back alive. Little shall the wound profit you, which I have at his bands; for that ye have seen the rings wot with blood from my wound doth urge me to the death of many a man. Now first am I enraged at Hawart's liegeman. Small scathe hath Knight Iring done me yet."
Meanwhile Iring of Denmark stood in the breeze; he cooled his harness and doffed his casque. All the folk then praised his prowess, at which the margrave was in passing lofty mood. Again Sir Iring spake: "My friends, this know; arm me now quickly, for I would fain try again, if perchance I may not conquer this overweening man."
His shield was hewn to pieces, a better one he gained; full soon the champion was armed again. Through hate he seized a passing heavy spear with which he would encounter Hagen yonder. Meantime the death-grim man awaited him in hostile wise. But Knight Hagen would not abide his coming. Hurling the javelin and brandishing his sword, he ran to meet him to the very bottom of the stairs. Forsooth his rage was great. Little booted Iring then his strength; through the shields they smote, so that the flames rose high in fiery blasts. Hagen sorely wounded Hawart's liegeman with his sword through shield and breastplate. Never waxed he well again. When now Knight Iring felt the wound, higher above his helmet bands he raised his shield. Great enow he thought the scathe he here received, but thereafter King Gunther's liegeman did him more of harm. Hagen found a spear lying now before his feet. With this he shot Iring, the Danish hero, so that the shaft stood forth from his head. Champion Hagen had given him a bitter end. Iring must needs retreat to those of Denmark. Or ever they unbound his helmet and drew the spear-shaft from his head, death had already drawn nigh him. At this his kinsmen wept, as forsooth they had great need.
Then the queen came and bent above him. She gan bewail the stalwart Iring and bewept his wounds, indeed her grief was passing sharp. At this the bold and lusty warrior spake before his kinsmen: "Let be this wail, most royal queen. What availeth your weeping now? Certes, I must lose my life from these wounds I have received. Death will no longer let me serve you and Etzel." To the men of Thuringia and to those of Denmark he spake: "None of you must take from the queen her shining ruddy gold as meed, for if ye encounter Hagen, ye must gaze on death."
Pale grew his hue; brave Iring bare the mark of death. Dole enow it gave them, for no longer might Hawart's liegeman live. Then the men of Denmark must needs renew the fray. Irnfried and Hawart with well a thousand champions leaped toward the hall. On every side one heard a monstrous uproar, mighty and strong. Ho, what sturdy javelins were cast at the Burgundian men! Bold Irnfried rushed at the minstrel, but gained great damage at his hands. Through his sturdy helmet the noble fiddler smote the landgrave. Certes, he was grim enow! Then Sir Irnfried dealt the valiant gleeman such a blow that his coat of mail burst open and his breastplate was enveloped with a bright red flame. Yet the landgrave fell dead at the minstrel's hands. Hawart and Hagen, too, had come together. Wonders would he have seen, who beheld the fight. The swords fell thick and fast in the heroes' hands. Through the knight from the Burgundian land Hawart needs must die. When the Thuringians and the Danes espied their lordings dead, there rose before the hall a fearful strife, before they gained the door with mighty hand. Many a helm and shield was hacked and cut thereby.
"Give way," spake Folker, "and let them in, for else what they have in mind will not be ended. They must die in here in full short time. With death they'll gain what the queen would give them."
When these overweening men were come into the hall, the head of many a one sank down so low that he needs must die from their furious strokes. Well fought the valiant Gernot, and the same did Giselher, the knight . A thousand and four were come into the hall and many a whizzing stroke of the swords was seen flash forth, but soon all the warriors lay slain therein. Mickle wonders might one tell of the Burgundian men. The hall grew still, as the uproar died away. On every side the dead men's blood poured through the openings down to the drain-pipes. This the men from the Rhine had wrought with their passing strength.
Those from the Burgundian land now sate them down to rest and laid aside their swords and shields. But still the valiant minstrel stood guard before the hall. He waited, if any would perchance draw near again in strife. Sorely the king made wail, as did the queen. Maids and ladies were distraught with grief. Death, I ween, had conspired against them, wherefore many of the warriors perished through the guests.