Adventure XXXVIII - How All Sir Dietrich's Warriors Were Slain.
On every side one heard a grief so great, that the palace and the towers rang with the wailing. Then a liegeman of Dietrich heard it, too. how quickly he gan haste him with the fearful tales! To the lording he spake: "Hear, my lord, Sir Dietrich, however much I've lived to see till now, yet heard I never such a monstrous wail, as now hath reached mine ears. I ween, King Etzel himself hath come to grief. How else might all be so distressed? One of the twain, the king or Kriemhild, hath sorely been laid low by the brave strangers in their wrath. Full many a dapper warrior weepeth passing sore."
Then spake the Knight of Borne: "My faithful men, now haste ye not too fast. Whatever the homeless warriors may have done, they be now in mickle need. Let it profit them, that I did offer them my peace."
At this brave Wolfhart spake: "I will hie me hence and ask for tidings of what they have done, and will tell you then, my most dear lord, just as I find it, what the wail may be."
Then spake Sir Dietrich: "Where one awaiteth wrath, and rude questions then are put, this doth lightly sadden the lofty mood of warriors. In truth, I will not, Wolfhart, that ye ask these questions of them."
Then he told Helfrich (181) to hasten thither speedily, and bade him find from Etzel's men or from the guests themselves, what there had fortuned, for men had never seen from folks so great a grief. The messenger gan ask: "What hath here been done?"
At this one among them spake: "Whatever of joy we had in the Hunnish land hath passed away. Here lieth Rudeger, slain by the Burgundians' hands; and of those who were come with him, not one hatch 'scaped alive."
Sir Helfrich could never have had a greater dole. Sorely weeping, the envoy went to Dietrich. Never was he so loth to tell a tale. "What have ye found for us?" quoth Dietrich. "Why weep ye so sore, Knight Helfrich?"
Then spake the noble champion: "I have good cause for wail. The Burgundians have slain the good Sir Rudeger."
At this the hero of Berne made answer: "Now God forbid. That were a fearful vengeance, over which the foul fiend would gloat. Wherewith hath Rudeger deserved this at their hands? I know full well, forsooth, he is the strangers' friend."
To this Wolfhart answered: "And have they done this deed, 'twill cost them all their lives. 'Twould be our shame, should we let this pass, for of a truth the hand of the good knight Rudeger hath served us much and oft."
The lord of the Amelungs bade learn it better. In bitter grief he sate him at a window and begged Hildebrand to hie him to the strangers, that he might find from them what had been done. The storm-brave warrior, Master Hildebrand, (182) bare neither shield nor weapon in his hand. In courtly wise he would hie him to the strangers; for this he was chided by his sister's son. Grim Wolfhart spake: "And ye will go thither so bare, ye will never fare without upbraiding; ye must return with shame. But if ye go there armed, each will guard against that well."
Then the wise man armed him, through the counsel of youth. Or ever he was ware, all Dietrich's warriors had donned their war-weeds and held in their hands their swords. Loth it was to the hero, and he would have gladly turned their mind. He asked whither they would go.
"We will hence with you. Perchance Hagen of Troneg then will dare the less to address him to you with scorn, which full well he knoweth how to use." When he heard this, the knight vouchsafed them for to go.
Soon brave Folker saw the champions of Berne, the liegemen of Dietrich, march along, well armed, begirt with swords, while in their hands they bare their shields. He told it to his lords from out the Burgundian land. The fiddler spake: "Yonder I see the men of Dietrich march along in right hostile wise, armed cap-a-pie. They would encounter us; I ween 'twill go full ill with us strangers."
Meanwhile Sir Hildebrand was come. Before his feet he placed his shield, and gan ask Gunther's men: "Alas, good heroes, what had Rudeger done you? My Lord Dietrich hath sent me hither to you to say, that if the hand of any among you hath slain the noble margrave, as we are told, we could never stand such mighty dole."
Then spake Hagen of Troneg: "The tale is true. How gladly could I wish, that the messenger had told you false, for Rudeger's sake, and that he still did live, for whom both man and wife may well ever weep."
When they heard aright that he was dead, the warriors made wail for him, as their fealty bade them. Over the beards and chins of Dietrich's champions the tears were seen to run. Great grief had happened to them.
Siegstab, (183) the Duke of Berne, then spake: "Now hath come to an end the cheer, that Rudeger did give us after our days of dole. The joy of all wayfaring folk lieth slain by you, sir knights."
Then spake the Knight Wolfwin (184) of the Amelungs: "And I saw mine own father dead to-day, I should not make greater dole, than for his death. Alas, who shall now comfort the good margrave's wife?"
Angry of mood Knight Wolfhart spake: "Who shall now lead the warriors to so many a fight, as the margrave so oft hath done? Alas, most noble Rudeger, that we should lose thee thus!"
Wolfbrand (185) and Helfrich and Helmnot, too, with all their men bewailed his death. For sighing Hildebrand might no longer ask a whit. He spake: "Sir knights, now do what my lord hath sent you here to do. Give us the corse of Rudeger from out the hall, in whom our joy hath turned to grief, and let us repay to him the great fealty he hath shown to us and to many another man. We, too, be exiles, just as Rudeger, the knight. Why do ye let us wait thus? Let us bear him away, that we may yet requite the knight in death. More justly had we done it, when he was still alive."
Then spake King Gunther: "Never was there so good a service as that, which a friend doth do to a friend after his death. When any doeth that, I call it faithful friendship. Ye repay him but rightly, for much love hath he ever shown you."
"How long shall we still beseech?" spake Knight Wolfhart. "Sith our best hope hath been laid low in death by you, and we may no longer have him with us, let us bear him hence to where the warrior may be buried."
To this Folker made answer: "None will give him to you. Fetch ye him from the hall where the warrior lieth, fallen in the blood, with mortal wounds. 'Twill then be a perfect service, which ye render Rudeger."
Quoth brave Wolfhart: "God wot, sir minstrel, ye have given us great dole and should not rouse our ire. But that I durst not for fear of my lord, ye should all fare ill. We must perforce abstain, sith he forbade us strife."
Then spake the fiddler: "He hath a deal too much fear who doth abstain from all that one forbiddeth him. That I call not a real hero's mood." This speech of his war comrade thought Hagen good.
"Long not for that," answered Wolfhart, "or I'll play such havoc with your fiddle strings, that ye'll have cause to tell the tale, when ye ride homeward to the Rhine. I cannot brook in honor your overweening pride."
Quoth the fiddler: "If ye put out of tune my strings, then must the gleam of your helmet grow dim from this hand of mine, however I ride to the Burgundian land."
Then would he leap at him, but his uncle Hildebrand grasped him firmly. "I ween, thou wouldst rage in thy silly anger. Then hadst thou lost forever the favor of my lord."
"Let go the lion, master, he is so fierce of mood," quoth the good knight Folker. "Had he slain the whole world with his one hand, I'll smite him, and he come within my reach, so that he may never sing the answer to my song."
At this the men of Berne waxed passing wroth of mood. Wolfhart, a doughty knight and a good, snatched up his shield. Like a wild lion he ran to meet him, swiftly followed by all his friends. But howsoever great the strides he took towards the hall, yet did old Hildebrand overtake him at the steps. He would not let him reach the fray before him. At the hands of the homeless knights they later found the strife they sought. Master Hildebrand then sprang at Hagen. In the hands of both one heard the swords ring out. That both were angry, might be plainly seen; from the swords of the twain streamed forth a blast of fire-red sparks. Then they were parted in the stress of battle by the men of Berne, as their strength did bid them. At once Hildebrand turned him away from Hagen, but stout Wolfhart addressed him to Folker the bold. Such a blow he smote the fiddler upon his good helmet, that the sword's edge pierced to the very helmet bands. This the bold gleeman repaid with might; he smote Wolfhart, so that the sparks flew wide. Enow of fire they struck from the armor rings, for each bare hatred to the other. Then Knight Wolfwin of Berne did part them -- an' he be not a hero, never was there one.
With willing hand Gunther, the champion, greeted the heroes of the Amelung land. Lord Giselher made many a gleaming helmet red and wot with blood. Dankwart, Hagen's brother, a fierce man was he; whatever he had done before to Etzel's warriors in strife was as a wind to the fury with which bold Aldrian's son now fought. Ritschart (186) and Gerbart, Helfrich and Wichart had spared themselves full seldom in many battle storms; this they now made Gunther's liegemen note full well. Wolfbrand, too, was seen in the strife bearing him in lordly wise. Old Hildebrand fought as though he raged. At Wolfhart's hands many good knights, struck by the sword, must needs fall dead down into the blood. Thus the bold champions and good avenged Knight Rudeger.
Then Lord Siegstab fought as his prowess bade him. Ho, what good helmets of his foes this son of Dietrich's sister clove in the strife! Nor might he ever do better in the fray. When sturdy Folker espied that bold Siegstab hewed a bloody stream from the hard armor rings, wroth of mood the hero grew. He sprang to meet him, and Siegstab lost his life full soon at the fiddler's hands, for Folker gave him such a sample of his art, that he soon lay dead, slain by his sword. This old Hildebrand avenged, as his might did bid him.
"Alas for my dear lord," spake Master Hildebrand, "who lieth here dead at Folker's hands. Now shall the fiddler no longer live."
How might bold Hildebrand ever be fiercer? Folker he smote, so that on all sides the clasps flew to the walls of the hall from helmet and shield of the doughty gleeman. Thus stout Folker was done to death. At this the men of Dietrich pressed forward to the strife. They smote so that the armor rings whirled far and wide, and high through the air the sword-points wore seen to fly. From the helmets they drew the warm gushing stream of blood. When Hagen of Troneg saw Folker dead, that was the greatest sorrow, that he had gained at the feasting in kinsman or in liegeman. Alas, how fiercely Hagen gan venge the knight! "Now old Hildebrand shall not profit by this deed. My helpmate lieth slain by the hero's hand, the best war comrade that I did ever win." Higher he raised his helmet, and ran, slashing as he went.
Stout Helfrich slew Dankwart. Loth enow it was to Gunther and Giselher, when they saw him fall in cruel need, but with his own hands he himself had well avenged his death. Meanwhile Wolfhart raged back and forth, hewing alway King Gunther's men. For the third time he was come through the hall, and many a warrior fell, struck by his hands.
Then Lord Giselher cried out to Wolfhart: "Alas, that I have ever gained so grim a foe! Noble knight and brave, now address you unto me. I'll help to make an end; this may be no longer."
At this Wolfhart turned him in strife to Giselher, and each smote other many a gaping wound. He pressed so mightily toward the king, that the blood beneath his feet spurted high above his head. With grim and fearful blows the son of fair Uta then greeted the brave knight Wolfhart. However strong the warrior, he might not save his life. Never could so young a king have been more brave; Wolfhart he smote through his stout hauberk, that his blood streamed down from the wound. Unto death he wounded Dietrich's liegeman. None save a champion had done such deed. When brave Wolfhart felt the wound, he let fall his shield and lifted higher in his hand his mighty sword (sharp enow it was); through both helmet and armor rings the hero smote Giselher. Thus each did other fiercely unto death.
Now was none left of Dietrich's men. Old Hildebrand saw Wolfhart fall; never before his death, I ween, did such dole happen to him. The men of Gunther all lay dead, and those of Dietrich, too. Hildebrand hied him to where Wolfhart had fallen in the gore, and clasped in his arms the brave knight and good. He would fain bear him from the hall, but he was a deal too heavy, and so he must needs let him lie. Then the dying warrior looked upward from the blood in which he lay; well he saw, that his uncle would fain help him hence. Though wounded unto death, he spake: "Dear uncle mine, ye may not aid me now. 'Tis well, methinks, that ye should guard you against Hagen. A fierce mood he beareth in his heart. And if perchance my kinsmen would mourn me after I am dead; pray tell the nearest and the best, that they weep not for me; there is no need of that. At the hands of a king I have met a glorious death and have also avenged me, so that the wives of the good knights may well bewail it. If any ask you of this, ye may boldly say, that full a hundred lie slain by my hand alone."
Then Hagen, too, bethought him of the gleeman, whom bold Hildebrand had robbed of life. To the knight he spake: "Ye'll requite me now my sorrows. Through your hatred ye have bereft us of many a lusty knight."
He dealt Hildebrand such a blow, that men heard Balmung ring, the which bold Hagen had taken from Siegfried, when he slew the knight. Then the old man warded him; in sooth he was brave enow. Dietrich's champion struck with a broad sword, that cut full sore, at the hero of Troneg, but could not wound King Gunther's liegeman. Hagen, however, smote him through his well-wrought hauberk. When old Hildebrand felt the wound, he feared more scathe at Hagen's hand; his shield he slung across his back and thus Sir Dietrich's man escaped from Hagen, though sorely wounded.
Now of all the knights none was alive save the twain, Gunther and Hagen alone. Dripping with blood old Hildebrand went to where he found Dietrich, and told him the baleful tale. He saw him sitting sadly, but much more of dole the prince now gained. He spied Hildebrand in his blood-red hauberk, and asked him tidings, as his fears did prompt him.
"Now tell me, Master Hildebrand, how be ye so wot with your lifeblood? Pray who hath done you this? I ween, ye have fought with the strangers in the hall. I forbade it you so sorely, that ye should justly have avoided it."
Then said he to his lord: "'Twas Hagen that did it. He dealt me this wound in the hall, when I would fain have turned me from the knight. I scarce escaped the devil with my life."
Then spake the Lord of Berne: "Rightly hath it happed you, for that ye have broken the peace, which I had sworn them, sith ye did hear me vow friendship to the knights. Were it not mine everlasting shame, ye should lose your life."
"My Lord Dietrich, now be ye not so wroth; the damage to my friends and me is all too great. Fain would we have carried Rudeger's corse away, but King Gunther's liegemen would not grant it us."
"Woe is me of these sorrows! If Rudeger then be dead, 'twill bring me greater dole, than all my woe. Noble Gotelind is the child of my father's sister; alas for the poor orphans, that be now in Bechelaren."
Rudeger's death now minded him of ruth and dole. Mightily the hero gan weep; in sooth he had good cause. "Alas for this faithful comrade whom I have lost! In truth I shall ever mourn for King Etzel's liegeman. Can ye tell me, Master Hildebrand, true tidings, who be the knight, that hath slain him there?"
Quoth he: "That stout Gernot did, with might and main, but the hero, too, fell dead at Rudeger's hands."
Again he spake to Hildebrand: "Pray say to my men, that they arm them quickly, for I will hie me hither, and bid them make ready my shining battle weeds. I myself will question the heroes of the Burgundian land."
Then spake Master Hildebrand: "Who then shall join you? Whatso of living men ye have, ye see stand by you. 'Tis I alone; the others, they be dead."
He started at this tale; forsooth, he had good cause, for never in his life had he gained so great a grief. He spake: "And are my men all dead, then hath God forgotten me, poor Dietrich. Once I was a lordly king, mighty, high, and rich." Again Sir Dietrich spake: "How could it hap, that all the worshipful heroes died at the hands of the battle-weary, who were themselves hard pressed? Were it not for mine ill-luck, death were still a stranger to them. Sith then mine evil fortune would have it so, pray tell me, are any of the strangers still alive?"
Then spake Master Hildebrand: "God wet, none other save only Hagen and Gunther, the high-born king."
"Alas, dear Wolfhart, and I have lost thee too, then may it well rue me, that ever I was born. Siegstab and Wolfwin and Wolfbrand, too! Who then shall help me to the Amelung land? Bold Helfrich, hath he, too, been slain, and Gerbart and Wiehart? How shall I ever mourn for them in fitting wise? This day doth forever end my joys. Alas, that none may die for very grief!"