Nibelungs - George Upton

Blodelin and Dankwart

Now, the charge of the Burgundian following had been given to Dankwart, the brother of Hagen, the same who in former days had journeyed to Iceland for the wooing of Brunhild; and Blodelin's plan was to overpower them first, and then attack the princes and their knights. Accordingly he sought that remote part of the castle wherein they had been lodged, and asked for Dankwart. He was shown into a hall where that hero with all his men was seated at the board, and from the window of which he had marked the approach of the band of armed Huns. Greeting Blodelin with fair words, he asked what brought him thither. "Nay, spare thy greetings," said Blodelin, coldly, "I come not in peace, Sir Knight, but in good Booth to hold thee to account for thy brother Hagen's murder of the noble Siegfried."

"By my faith," said Dankwart, "then would thy vengeance overtake the guiltless, since I, as it chanced, did abide at the royal court when Siegfried met his death beside the spring."

"What thou hast done concerns me naught," replied Blodelin, "it is enough that 't was thy kinsman did the deed; and therefore must thou die!

"Gramercy!" quoth Dankwart, "methinks 't were well I had spared my words "; and springing from his seat he swung his sword aloft and at one blow swept Blodelin's head from his shoulders, shouting: "Be this my marriage gift unto thy bride!" For he had learned from a friendly Hun of Kriemhild's promise to Blodelin.

When the Huns saw their leader fall they burst into the hall with howls of vengeance. Dankwart shouted to his men to defend themselves to the death and therewith began a terrible conflict. Those of the Burgundians who had no swords made weapons of whatever came to hand, but the greater part were well armed, and so fiercely did they fight that soon the Huns were driven from the hall leaving more than a hundred of their dead upon the floor and in the passage. But anon came fresh bands of armed Huns, gathering from all quarters and in such numbers, that their onslaught could not long he withstood. Bravely as they fought, the Burgundians at last were all slain save Dankwart. Alone he stood and shouted: "Behold, ye Huns! of all my men I only am yet alive! If you are true knights, yield me passage to the open air, that I may once more cool my brow before I fall." But the Huns would not give way for him; whereupon Dankwart laid about him so fiercely that soon he made his way to the door and succeeded in gaining the courtyard.

"Now would to God," he cried, cleaving a pathway before him step by step, "some messenger were near to warn my brother Hagen of my need!"

Whereon the Huns shouted: "Thou thyself shalt be the messenger when we shall fetch thee dead into the royal hall! Then shall Etzel learn that thou hast slain his brother Blodelin and with him his liegemen!"

But Dankwart scorned their threats. "By the mass, I'll bear the news myself while yet I live!" he cried; "I'll stain many a Hunnish helm with gore!" So furiously did he spring upon his foes that they fell back before him and no longer dared meet him at sword's length, but hurled their javelins at him from afar. His shield was soon so thickly pierced with spears that he could not bear the weight thereof, and so cast it off. Then they ventured again to approach; but he smote so fiercely and truly that none who came against him returned. Ever nearer and nearer he made his way to the royal hall. At last, weary and breathless, the hero reached the palace. The terrified servants let fall the cups and dishes that they bore, and would have hastened to the hall to tell the tale. But Dankwart cried: "Stay, varlets! your task is but to carry wine and food unto the feast! I will bear the news unto the King!" Some among them sought to bar his passage, but again his good sword marked a path. Springing up the stairs, of a sudden the hero appeared in the doorway of the vast hall where the Burgundians ate at table with the Huns.

Just at this moment it was that Hagen said the young prince bore the marks of an early death.