ADVENTURE XXXII (1)
How Bloedel Was Slain.
Full ready were now Bloedel's warriors. A thousand hauberks strong, they hied them to where Dankwart sate at table with the squires. Then the very greatest hate arose among the heroes. When Sir Bloedel drew near the tables, Dankwart, the marshal, greeted him in courteous wise. "Welcome, Sir Bloedel, in our house. In truth me-wondereth at thy coming. What doth it mean?"
"Forsooth, thou needst not greet me," so spake Bloedel; "for this coming of mine doth mean thine end. Because of Hagen, thy brother, by whom Siegfried was slain, thou and many other knights must suffer here among the Huns."
"Not so, Sir Bloedel," quoth Dankwart, "else this journey to your court might rue us sore. I was but a little child when Siegfried lost his life. I know not what blame King Etzel's wife could put on me."
"Of a truth, I wot not how to tell you of these tales; thy kinsmen, Gunther and Hagen, did the deed. Now ward you, ye wanderers, ye may not live. With your death must ye become Kriemhild's pledge."
"And ye will not turn you," quoth Dankwart, "then do my entreaties rue me; they had better far been spared."
The doughty knight and brave sprang up from the table; a sharp weapon, mickle and long, he drew and dealt Bloedel so fierce a sword-stroke that his head lay straightway at his feet. "Let that be thy marriage morning gift," (2) spake Dankwart, the knight, "for Nudung's bride, whom thou wouldst cherish with thy love. They call betroth her to another man upon the morn. Should he crave the dowry, 'twill be given to him eftsoon." A faithful Hun had told him that the queen did plan against them such grievous wrongs.
When Bloedel's men beheld their lord lie slain, no longer would they stand this from the guests. With uplifted swords they rushed, grim of mood, upon the youthful squires. Many a one did rue this later. Loudly Dankwart called to all the fellowship: "Ye see well, noble squires, how matters stand. Now ward you, wanderers! Forsooth we have great need, though Kriemhild asked us here in right friendly wise."
Those that had no sword reached down in front of the benches and lifted many a long footstool by its legs. The Burgundian squires would now abide no longer, but with the heavy stools they dealt many bruises through the helmets. How fiercely the stranger youths did ward them! Out of the house they drove at last the men-at-arms, but five hundred of them, or better, stayed behind there dead. The fellowship was red and wot with blood.
These grievous tales were told now to Etzel's knights; grim was their sorrow, that Bloedel and his men were slain. This Hagen's brother and his squires had done. Before the king had learned it, full two thousand Huns or more armed them through hatred and hied them to the squires (this must needs be), and of the fellowship they left not one alive. The faithless Huns brought a mickle band before the house. Well the strangers stood their ground, but what booted their doughty prowess? Dead they all must lie. Then in a few short hours there rose a fearful dole. Now ye may hear wonders of a monstrous thing. Nine thousand yeomen lay there slain and thereto twelve good knights of Dankwart's men. One saw him stand alone still by the foe. The noise was hushed, the din had died away, when Dankwart, the hero, gazed over his shoulders. He spake: "Woe is me, for the friends whom I have lost! Now must I stand, alas, alone among my foes."
Upon his single person the sword-strokes fell thick and fast. The wife of many a hero must later mourn for this. Higher he raised his shield, the thong he lowered; the rings of many an armor he made to drip with blood. "Woe is me of all this sorrow," quoth Aldrian's son. (3) "Give way now, Hunnish warriors, and let me out into the breeze, that the air may cool me, fight-weary man."
Then men saw the warrior walk forth in full lordly wise. As the strife-weary man sprang from the house, how many added swords rang on his helmet! Those that had not seen what wonders his hand had wrought sprang towards the hero of the Burgundian land. "Now would to God," quoth Dankwart, "that I might find a messenger who could let my brother Hagen know I stand in such a plight before these knights. He would help me hence, or lie dead at my side."
Then spake the Hunnish champions: "Thou must be the messenger thyself, when we bear thee hence dead before thy brother. For the first time Gunther's vassal will then become acquaint with grief. Passing great scathe hast thou done King Etzel here."
Quoth he: "Now give over these threats and stand further back, or I'll wot the armor rings of some with blood. I'll tell the tale at court myself and make plaint to my lords of my great dole."
So sorely he dismayed King Etzel's men that they durst not withstand him with their swords, so they shot such great store of darts into his shield that he must needs lay it from his hand for very heaviness. Then they weened to overpower him, sith he no longer bare a shield. Ho, what deep wounds he struck them through their helmets! From this many a brave man was forced to reel before him, and bold Dankwart gained thereby great praise. From either side they sprang upon him, but in truth a many of them entered the fray too soon. Before his foes he walked, as doth a boar to the woods before the dogs. How might he be more brave? His path was ever wot with recking' blood. Certes, no single champion might ever fight better with his foes than he had done. Men now saw Hagen's brother go to court in lordly wise. Sewers (4) and cupbearers heard the ring of swords, and full many a one cast from his hand the drink and whatever food he bare to court. Enow strong foes met Dankwart at the stairs.
"How now, ye sewers," spake the weary knight. "Forsooth ye should serve well the guests and bear to the lords good cheer and let me bring the tidings to my dear masters."
Those that sprang towards him on the steps to show their prowess, he dealt so heavy a sword-stroke, that for fear they must needs stand further back. His mighty strength wrought mickle wonders.
(1) Adventure XXXII. The details of the following scenes differ materially in the various sources. A comparative study of them will be found in the works of Wilmanns and Boer.
(2) "Marriage morning gift" (M.H.G. "morgengabe") was given by the bridegroom to the bride on the morning after the wedding. See Adventure XIX, note 1.
(3) "Aldrian's son", i.e., Dankwart.
(4) "Sewers" (O.F. "asseour", M.L. "adsessor" 'one who sets the table'; cf. F. "asseoir" 'to set', 'place', Lat. "ad sedere"), older English for an upper servant who brought on and removed the dishes from the table.
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