Chapter 24




ADVENTURE XXIV

How Werbel And Swemmel Brought The Message.


When that Etzel had sent his envoys to the Rhine, these tidings flew from land to land. Through full speedy messengers he begged and bade to his high feasting. From this many a one met there his death. The envoys rode away from the Hunnish land to Burgundy. They were sent thither for three noble kings and for their men, that these should come to Etzel; therefore all gan haste. To Bechelaren they came a-riding, where served them gladly. Rudeger and Gotelind and the child of them twain delayed not to send their service through the envoys to the Rhine. Nor did they let them part hence without gifts, that Etzel's men might fare the better. To Uta and her sons Rudeger sent word that they had no more loyal margrave than he. To Brunhild, also, they tendered service and good wishes, constant fealty and a loving mind. When they heard the speech that the envoys would ride, the margravine begged God in heaven to keep them well.

Before the messengers were quite come through Bavarian land, the doughty Werbel sought out the good Bishop Pilgrim. What word he sent to his kin upon the Rhine, that I know not, but naught but ruddy gold he gave the messengers for love and let them ride.

Then spake the bishop: "And might I see them here, my sister's sons, I should be blithe of mood, for full seldom can I come to them upon the Rhine."

What roads they traveled to the Rhine, I cannot tell. None robbed them of their silver and their weeds; men feared their master's wrath. Certes the noble high-born king was a mighty lord.

Within a twelfth night Werbel and Swemmel came to the Rhine, to the land of Worms. To the kings and their liegemen tidings were told that there came strange messengers. Gunther, the lord of the Rhineland, gan ask: "Who will do us to wit, from whence these strangers ride into our land?"

This none wist, till Hagen of Troneg saw them, who then spake to Gunther: "New tidings be come to us, as I will vouch, for I have seen King Etzel's minstrels here. Them your sister hath sent to the Rhine; for their master's sake we must give them a kindly welcome."

Already they were riding up before the palace; never did a prince's minstrels journey in more lordly wise. Straightway the king's meiny bade them welcome. Men gave them lodgings and bade take in charge their trappings. Their traveling clothes were rich and so well fashioned that with honor they might come before the king, but they would not wear them longer there at court, and asked if there were any that desired them. At the selfsame moment folk were found who fain would take them, and to these they were sent. Then the strangers donned far better weeds, such as well befitted king's messengers for to wear.

Then Etzel's retainers went by leave to where the king was sitting; men saw this gladly. Hagen sprang courteously towards the messengers and greeted them in loving wise. For this the squires did say him thanks. That he might know their tidings, he gan ask how Etzel fared and all his men. Then spake the minstrel: "Never did the land stand better, nor were the folk more merry; now know that of a truth."

To the host they went; the hall was full. There men received the guests, as one must do by right, when kindly greetings be sent to the lands of other kings. Werbel found full many warriors there at Gunther's side. In courteous wise the king gan greet them: "Ye minstrels of the Huns and all your fellowship, be ye welcome. Hath the mighty Etzel sent you hither to the Burgundian land?"

To the king they bowed; then spake Werbel: "My dear lord, and also Kriemhild, your sister, do send you loyal service to this land. They have sent us to you knights in all good faith."

Spake the mighty prince: "Merry am I at this tale. How fareth Etzel," so asked the knight, "and Kriemhild, my sister, of the Hunnish land?"

Quoth the minstrel: "This tale I'll tell you; ye should know that never have folk fared better than the twain and all their followers, their kinsmen and their vassals. They joyed them of the journey, as we departed hence."

"Gramercy for his greetings which he hath sent me, and for those of my sister, sith it standeth so that the king and his men live thus in happiness, for I did ask the news in fear and trembling."

The two young princes were now also come, for they had but just heard the tale. For the sake of his sister Giselher, the youth, was fain to see the envoys. He spake to them in loving wise: "Ye messengers, be very welcome to us. An' ye would ride more often hither to the Rhine, ye would find friends here whom ye would be glad to see. Little of harm shall hap you in this land."

"We trust you in all honor," spake then Swemmel. "I could not convey to you with all my wits, how lovingly king Etzel and your noble sister, who live in such great worship, have sent their greetings. The queen doth mind you of your love and fealty, and that your heart and mind did ever hold her dear. But first and foremost we be sent to the king, that ye may deign to ride to Etzel's land. The mighty Etzel enjoined us strictly to beg you this and sent the message to you all, that if ye would not let your sister see you, he fain would know what he had done you that ye be so strange to him and to his lands,. An' ye had never known the queen, yet would he fain bring it to pass that consent to come and see him. It would please him well if that might hap."

Then spake King Gunther: "In a sennight I will tell you the tale of what I have bethought me with my friends. Meanwhile hie you to your lodgings and rest you well."

Quoth Werbel again: "And could that be that we might see my lady, the royal Uta, afore we take our easement?"

The noble Giselher spake then full courteously: "None shall hinder that. An' ye would go before her, ye will do in full my mother's wish, for she will gladly see you for my sister's sake, the Lady Kriemhild; she will make you welcome."

Giselher led them to where they found the queen. Gladly she gazed upon the envoys from the Hunnish land. Through her courtesie she gave them gentle greeting. The good and courtly messengers then told their tale. "My lady offereth you of a truth," so spake Swemmel, "her love and duty. Might that be that she could see you oft, ye may well believe she had no better joy in all the world."

Then spake the queen: "That may not be. However gladly I would often see the dear daughter of mine, yet doth the wife of the noble king live, alas, too far from me. May she and Etzel be ever blessed. Pray let me know before ye leave, when ye would hence again; not in a long time have I seen messengers so gladly as I have you." The squires vowed that this should hap.

Those from the Hunnish land now rode to their lodgings. Meanwhile the mighty king had sent to fetch his friends. The noble Gunther asked his liegemen how they liked the speech. Many a one gan say that the king well might ride to Etzel's land. The very best among them advised him this, save Hagen alone; him misliked it sore. Privily he spake to the king: "Ye fight against yourself; ye know full well what we have done. We may well be ever on our guard with Kriemhild, for with mine own hand I slew her husband to death. How durst we ride to Etzel's land?"

Then spake the mighty king: "My sister gave over her wrath; with a kiss she lovingly forgave what we had done her, or ever she rode away. Unless be that the feud doth stand against you alone."

Quoth Hagen: "Now let the messengers from the Huns beguile you not, whatsoever they say. Would ye visit Kriemhild, easily may ye lose there both life and honor. Full long of vengeance is King Etzel's wife."

Then spake Prince Gernot to the council: "Why should we give it over, because ye rightly fear death in the Hunnish lands? It were an ill deed not to go to see our sister."

Then spake Prince Giselher to the knight: "Sith ye know you to be guilty, friend Hagen, ye should stay at home and guard you well, and let those who dare ride with us to my sister."

At this the knight of Troneg grew wroth of mood. "I will not that ye take any with you on the way, who durst better ride to court than I. Sith ye will not turn you, I will well show you that."

Then spake the master of the kitchen, Rumolt, the knight: "Ye can well have the strangers and the home-folk cared for here, after your own desire, for ye have full store of goods. I ween, Hagen hath never given you for a hostage; (1) but if ye will not follow him, Rumolt adviseth you, for I be bound to you in fealty and duty, that for my sake ye abide here and leave King Etzel there with Kriemhild. How might it fare more gently with you in all the world? Ye be well able to stand before your foes; so deck your body out with brave attire, drink the best of wine, and pay court to stately ladies. Thereto ye be served with the best of food that ever king did gain in the world. And were this not so, yet should ye tarry here for your fair wife's sake, before ye risk your life so childishly. Wherefore I do counsel you to stay at home. Your lands be rich, and one can redeem his pledges better at home than among the Huns. Who knoweth how it standeth there? Ye should stay at home, Sire, that is Rumolt's counsel."

"We will not stay," quoth Gernot. "Sith my sister and the mighty Etzel have bidden us in such friendly wise, why should we not accept? He that liketh not to go may stay at home."

To This Hagen answered: "Take not my speech amiss, however ye may fare. In all truth I counsel you, would ye guard your lives, then ride to the Huns well armed. Sith ye will not turn you, send for your men-at-arms, the best ye have or can find in any part; from among them all I'll choose a thousand doughty knights. Then Kriemhild's evil mood can bring you naught of harm."

"This rede I'll gladly follow," spake straightway the king. He then bade messengers ride far and wide throughout his lands. Three thousand champions or more they fetched. Little they weened to gain such grievous woe. Full merrily they rode to Gunther's court. Men bade give all that were to ride forth from Burgundy both steeds and trappings. The king gained full many a one with willing mood. Then Hagen of Troneg bade his brother Dankwart lead eighty of their warriors to the Rhine. In knightly guise they came; these doughty men took with them harness and trappings into Gunther's land. Then came bold Folker, a noble minstrel he, with thirty of his men for the journey to Kriemhild's court. They had clothing such as a king might wear. Gunther bade make known, he would to the Hunnish land. I'll do you now to wit who Folker was. He was a noble lord, the liege of many doughty knights in Burgundy. A minstrel he was called, for that he wist how to fiddle. Hagen chose a thousand whom he well knew; oft had he seen what their hands had wrought in press of battle, or in whatever else they did. None might aver aught else of them than doughtiness.

The tarrying irked Kriemhild's envoys sore, for great was their fear of their lord. Daily they craved leave to go; this Hagen would not grant through craftiness. To his master he spake: "We should well guard against letting them ride away, until we ourselves fare forth a sennight later to Etzel's land. If any beareth us ill will, the better shall we wot it. Nor may Lady Kriemhild then make ready that through any plan of hers, men do us harm. An' this be her will, she'll fare full ill, for many a chosen liegeman had we hence."

Shields and saddles, and all the garments that they would take with them to Etzel's land, were now full ready for many a brave man-at-arms. Now men bade Kriemhild's messengers go before King Gunther. When they were come, Gernot spake: "The king will do as Etzel asked us, we will gladly come to his high feast to see our sister; be no more in doubt of that."

Then King Gunther spake: "Wist ye how to tell us, when this feast shall be, or in what time we should go thither?"

Swemmel replied: "Of a truth it shall be on next midsummer's day."

The king gave them leave (this had not happed as yet), if they would fain see Lady Brunhild, to go before her with his free will. This Folker hindered, which pleased her much. "Forsooth, my Lady Brunhild is not so well of mood, that ye may see her," spake the good knight. "Bide the morrow, and men will let you see her." When they weened to gaze upon her, it might not hap.

Then the mighty prince, who liked the envoys well, through his own courtesie, bade his gold be carried forth on the broad shields of which he had great store. Rich gifts were also given them by his kinsmen Giselher and Gernot, Gere and Ortwin. Well they showed, that they were generous, too. They offered the messengers such rich gifts, that for fear of their lord they durst not take them.

Now spake the envoy Werbel to the king: "Sir King, let your gifts stay here at home. We may carry none away; our lord forbade that we take aught of gifts. Then too, there is but little need."

Then the ruler of the Rhine waxed wroth, that they should thus refuse the gifts of so mighty a king. At last they were forced to take his gold and weeds, the which they later bare to Etzel's land. They would fain see the Lady Uta, or ever they departed hence, so the doughty Giselher brought the minstrels before his mother Uta. The lady sent the message, that whatever honors her daughter had, this gave her joy. Then the queen bade give the minstrels of her edgings and her gold, for the sake of King Etzel and Kriemhild whom she loved. Gladly they took the gifts; in good faith 'twas done.

The messengers had now taken their leave from thence, from wives and men. Merrily they rode away to Swabia. Thither Gernot bade his knights escort them, that none might do them harm. When they parted from those who should have them in their care, Etzel's power did guard them on all their ways, so that none bereft them of either horse or trappings. With great speed they hasted towards Etzel's land. To all the friends they wot of, they made known that in a short time the Burgundians would come hither from the Rhine to the Hunnish land. To the Bishop Pilgrim too, the tale was told. As they rode adown the highway before Bechelaren, men delayed not to tell Rudeger and Gotelind, the margrave's wife. Merry she grew that she should see them. Men saw the minstrels hasting with the tidings. They found King Etzel in the town of Gran. (2) Greeting after greeting they gave the king, of which full many had been sent him. He blushed for very joy.

Happy of mood was the queen, when she heard the tale aright that her brothers should come into the land. She gave the minstrels great gifts as meed. This was done for honor's sake. She spake: "Now tell me, both of you, Werbel and Swemmel, which of my kin are minded to be at the feast? Will the best of those we bade come hither to this land? Pray tell me what Hagen said when he heard the tale."

The minstrel answered: "He came on a morning early to the council, and but little of fair speech he spake thereby. When they pledged the journey hither to the Hunnish lands, that was as words of death to the wrathful Hagen. Your brothers, the three kings, will come in lordly mood. Whoever else may come, this tale I know not of a surety. The brave minstrel Folker vowed to ride along."

"Little do I reck," spake the queen, "whether I ever see Folker here. Of Hagen I be fond, he is a doughty hero. My spirits stand high that we may see him here."

Then the queen went to where she saw the king. how lovingly Dame Kriemhild spake: "How like you these tales, dear my lord? What I have ever craved, shall now be brought to pass."

"Thy wish is my joy," spake then the king. "Never have I been so blithe of mine own kin, when they should come hither to my lands. Through the kindness of thy kinsmen my care hath fled away."

King Etzel's officers bade everywhere palace and hall be purveyed with benches for the guests which were to come. Thereafter the king heard from them mickle weeping.


ENDNOTES:

(1) "Hostage", i.e., he has never betrayed you to your enemies.

(2) "Gran", royal free city of Hungary, on the right bank of the Danube opposite the influx of the Gran, twenty-four miles northwest of Budapest.




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