Nibelungs - George Upton

Etzel's Invitation to Gunther

When Etzel learned that Kriemhild was coming, he rode gallantly forth to meet his bride with a long train of knights and courtiers. Kings and dukes were there withal, and banners of many countries waved above the host. For seventeen days the wedding festivities lasted; nor had Kriemhild in all her life seen aught to equal the splendor and magnificence that now surrounded her.

Six years went by. Kriemhild had borne a son who was called Ortlieb, and she was happy at Etzel's court; yet still was she tormented with the thought that Siegfried's murderer yet lived. The theft of the Nibelung hoard she had indeed forgiven, but her deadly wrath at the foul treachery to her beloved husband had known no change.

"Oh, that Hagen were but here!" she often sighed as she cast about her for some means whereby this might be brought to pass; for well she knew that he would never come alone. At last she bethought her of a plan. Seeking the King one day when in a gracious mood, she said to him:

"Most generous lord! one cause of grief and shame have I, in that my kindred never visit me. Methinks it will be said that I came to thee an exile, or that my kin disown me. Wherefore I pray thee, let them be summoned hither as our guests, and thereby wilt thou greatly relieve my troubles."

King Etzel kindly granted this request and forthwith despatched messengers to Worms to bid the Burgundian princes to the approaching festival of the Summer solstice. Before they departed, however, Kriemhild summoned them to her and charged them to see to it that all her kinsmen came, even to her uncle Hagen; and furthermore, if they should be questioned concerning her, to say that she was well and of good cheer.

Thereupon the messengers set out for Worms. Gunther gave them such welcome as befitted the envoys of so powerful a ruler, and much rejoiced was he to hear of Kriemhild's contentment, for now it seemed she had at last forgotten all the past. A council was held, and all were for accepting King Etzel's bidding save Hagen, who grew angry when urged thereto. Casting a black look at Gunther, he asked if he had forgotten how Siegfried was slain.

"'T was by my hand he fell, in truth; but thou wast partner to the deed!"

Earnestly he strove to dissuade them from the journey, pointing out the danger of putting themselves in the power of Kriemhild, whose vengeance never slept. But the princes refused to abide by his counsel, and Giselher, who of all the brothers was best loved by Kriemhild, exclaimed:

Thou art the guilty one, not we! An thou dost tremble for thy life, bide here; but as for us, our wish is that we ride thither without delay."

Then Hagen urged no more, but made ready to accompany them, since shame it were for him to stay behind. Yet he warned Gunther as a safeguard to take with him a thousand of the stoutest champions in the land; and this he did, leaving Hagen to choose them. And when all were fully armed and ready, they set out on their fateful journey to the land of the Huns.