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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Story Of Siegfried - Chapter IX.The Journey to Burgundy-land
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The Story Of Siegfried - Chapter IX.The Journey to Burgundy-land Post by :David_Thompson Category :Long Stories Author :James Baldwin Date :February 2011 Read :1425

Click below to download : The Story Of Siegfried - Chapter IX.The Journey to Burgundy-land (Format : PDF)

The Story Of Siegfried - Chapter IX.The Journey to Burgundy-land

For many days before Siegfried's departure, the queen, and
all the women of the household, busily plied their needles;
and many suits of rich raiment made they for the prince and
his worthy comrades. At length the time for leave-taking
came, and all the inmates of the castle went out to the gate
to bid the heroes God-speed. Siegfried sat upon his noble
horse Greyfell, and his trusty sword Balmung hung at his
side. And his Nibelungen knights were mounted on lordly
steeds, with gold-red saddles and silver trappings chased
with gold; and their glittering helmets, and burnished
shields, and war-coats of polished steel, when added to
their noble bearing and manlike forms, made up a picture of
beauty and strength such as no one in Santen had ever seen
before, or would ever see again.

"Only go not into Burgundy-land," were the parting words of
Siegmund.

And all who had come to bid them farewell wept bitterly as
the young men rode out of the city, and were lost to sight
in the distance.

"Only go not into Burgundy-land!" These words of his father
sounded still in Siegfried's ears; and he turned his horse's
head towards the west and south; and they rode through the
level country, and among the fields, from which the corn had
already been gathered; and at night they slept in the open
air, upon the still warm ground. Thus for many days they
travelled. And they left the Lowlands far behind them, and
Burgundy far to the left of them; and by and by they came to
a country covered with high hills, and mountains that seemed
to touch the sky. The crags and peaks were covered with
snow, and ice lay all summer in the dales and in the deep
gorges cleft long time ago by giant hands. Here it is that
the rivers take their beginning. And here it is that the
purple grapes and the rare fruits of milder climes are
found; for the sun shines warm in the valleys and upon the
plains, and the soil is exceeding rich. It is said that
these mountains are midway between the cold regions of
Jotunheim and the glowing gardens of Muspelheim, and that,
in ages past, they were the scene of many battles between
the giants who would overwhelm the earth,--these with ice,
and those with fire. Here and there were frowning caves dug
out of the solid mountain-side; while higher up were great
pits, half-filled with ashes, where, it is said, the
dwarf-folk, when they were mighty on earth, had their
forges.

Siegfried stopped not long in this land. Thoughts of the
Nibelungen Land, and of his faithful liegemen who waited for
his return, began to fill his mind. Then the heroes turned
their horses' heads, and rode back towards the north,
following the course of the River Rhine, as it wound, here
and there, between hills and mountains, and through meadows
where the grass was springing up anew, and by the side of
woodlands, now beginning to be clothed in green again; for
the winter was well over, and spring was hastening on apace.
And as they rode down the valley of the Rhine they came, ere
they were aware, into the Burgundian Land, and the high
towers of King Gunther's castle rose up before them. Then
Siegfried remembered again his father's words,--

"Only go not into Burgundy-land."

But it was now too late to go back, and they determined to
stop for a few days with the Burgundian kings. They rode
onwards through the meadows and the pleasant farming-lands
which lay around the city; and they passed a wonderful
garden of roses, said to belong to Kriemhild, the peerless
princess of the Rhine country; and at last they halted
before the castle-gate. So lordly was their bearing, that a
company of knights came out to meet them, and offered, as
the custom was, to take charge of their horses and their
shields. But Siegfried asked that they be led at once to
King Gunther and his brothers; and, as their stay would not
be long, they said they would have no need to part with
horses or with shields. Then they followed their guides, and
rode through the great gateway, and into the open court, and
halted beneath the palace windows.

And the three kings--Gunther, Gernot, and Giselher--and
their young sister, the matchless Kriemhild, looked down
upon them from above, and hazarded many guesses as to who
the lordly strangers might be. And all the inmates of the
castle stood at the doors and windows, or gathered in
curious groups in the courtyard, and gazed with open-mouthed
wonder upon the rich armor and noble bearing of the thirteen
heroes. But all eyes were turned most towards Siegfried and
the wondrous steed Greyfell. Some of the knights whispered
that this was Odin, and some that it was Thor, the
thunderer, making a tour through Rhineland. But others said
that Thor was never known to ride on horseback, and that the
youth who sat on the milk-white steed was little like the
ancient Odin. And the ladies who looked down upon the heroes
from the palace windows said that this man could be no other
than the Sunbright Balder, come from his home in Breidablik,
to breathe gladness and sunshine into the hearts and lives
of men.

Only one among all the folk in the castle knew who the hero
was who had ridden thus boldly into the heart of
Burgundy-land. That one was Hagen, the uncle of the three
kings, and the doughtiest warrior in all Rhineland. With a
dark frown and a sullen scowl he looked out upon the little
party, and already plotted in his mind how he might outwit,
and bring to grief, the youth whose name and fame were known
the whole world over. For his evil mind loved deeds of
darkness, and hated the pure and good. By his side, at an
upper window, stood Kriemhild, the peerless maiden of the
Rhine; but her thoughts were as far from his thoughts as the
heaven-smile on her face was unlike the sullen scowl on his
grim visage. As the moon in her calm beauty is sometimes
seen in the sky, riding gloriously by the side of a dark
thunder-cloud,--the one more lovely, the other more
dreadful, by their very nearness,--so seemed Kriemhild
standing there by the side of Hagen.

"Think you not, dear uncle," she said, "that this is the
Shining Balder come to earth again?"

"The gods have forgotten the earth," answered Hagen in surly
tones. "But if, indeed, this should be Balder, we shall,
without doubt, find another blind archer, who, with another
sprig of mistletoe, will send him back again to Hela."

"What do you mean?" asked Kriemhild earnestly.

But old Hagen said not a word in answer. He quietly withdrew
from the room, and left the maiden and her mother, the good
dame Ute, alone.

"What does uncle Hagen mean by his strange words? and why
does he look so sullen and angry?" asked Kriemhild.

"Indeed, I know not," answered the queen-mother. "His ways
are dark, and he is cunning. I fear that evil will yet come
to our house through him."

Meanwhile the three kings and their chiefs had gone into the
courtyard to greet their unknown guests. Very kindly did
Gunther welcome the strangers to his home; and then he
courteously asked them whence they came, and what the favors
they wished.

"I have heard," answered Siegfried, "that many knights and
heroes live in this land, and that they are the bravest and
the proudest in the world. I, too, am a knight; and some
time, if I am worthy, I shall be a king. But first I would
make good my right to rule over land and folk; and for this
reason I have come hither. If, indeed, you are as brave as
all the world says you are, ride now to the meadows with us,
and let us fight man to man; and he who wins shall rule over
the lands of both. We will wager our kingdom and our heads
against yours."

King Gunther and his brothers were amazed at this
unlooked-for speech.

"Such is not the way to try where true worth lies!" they
cried. "We have no cause of quarrel with you, neither have
you any cause of quarrel with us. Why, then, should we spill
each other's blood?"

Again Siegfried urged them to fight with him; but they
flatly refused. And Gernot said,--

"The Burgundian kings have never wished to rule over folk
that are not their own. Much less would they gain new lands
at the cost of their best heroes' blood. And they have never
taken part in needless quarrels. Good men in Burgundy are
worth more than the broadest lands, and we will not hazard
the one for the sake of gaining the other. No, we will not
fight. But we greet you most heartily as our friends and
guests."

All the others joined in urging Siegfried and his comrades
to dismount from their steeds, and partake of the cheer with
which it was their use to entertain strangers. And at last
he yielded to their kind wishes, and alighted from Greyfell,
and, grasping King Gunther's hand, he made himself known.
And there was great rejoicing in the castle and throughout
all the land; and the most sumptuous rooms were set apart
for the use of Siegfried and his Nibelungen knights; and a
banquet was at once made ready; and no pains were spared in
giving the strangers a right hearty welcome to the kingly
halls of Burgundy. But Hagen, dark-browed and evil-eyed,
stood silent and alone in his chamber and waited his time.

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