Nibelungs - George Upton

The Nibelung Hoard

In a castle hard by the minster, Kriemhild now spent her sorrowful days, mourning her lost husband and going daily to pray beside his tomb. Thus three long years went by and no word did she speak to Gunther, nor did she once see Hagen in all that time.

But Hagen never ceased to urge the King to make his peace with her, for in no other way might the Nibelung hoard be brought to Worms; and at last this was brought about by the King's two brothers. At the cost of many tears Kriemhild forgave every one save Hagen, but little for that cared the grim hero. His mind was set upon the treasure which had been Siegfried's marriage gift to his wife. Soon Kriemhild was persuaded to send for it, whereupon Gernot and Giselher with eight thousand men were despatched to the land of the Nibelungs to claim the hoard. Had Alberich, the Dwarf-King, still possessed the magic cap, none could have forced him to give up the treasure; but Siegfried had taken it from him, and he needs must obey Kriemhild's commands. In four days and nights, twelve wagons going to and fro had transported the great heap of gold and jewels to the ship from its resting-place within the mountain; and thus was the mighty Nibelung hoard, so famed in song and story, brought at last to Worms. There the two princes gave it into Kriemhild's keeping; and so vast was the treasure that it filled whole vaults and towers, nor did it ever grow less however much was taken from it.

After some time had passed, Hagen said to Gunther: "Of a truth, the lady Kriemhild doth dispense her riches with an open hand, and therewith bestow great charities, alike to high and low. Ere-long she will gain so many friends and followers that peril may well ensue to ourselves, wherefore, methinks, 't were better far to keep the hoard."

To this Gunther replied that the gold was her own, to do with as she would; moreover, he had sworn to do her no more wrong. But Hagen so beset his royal master, offering himself to bear the blame, that at the last Gunther yielded, and Hagen thereupon possessed himself of the keys to the treasure.

Now, at this time it chanced that the Burgundians were about to set forth on some warlike expedition, and the youthful Giselher, full of wrath at this fresh injury to his beloved sister, swore to lend her his aid as soon as ever he should return. But Hagen abode in Worms, and, fearing lest the keys should be taken from him, availed himself of the King's absence to bury the hoard beneath the Rhine, hoping thereby to keep it for his own. But not thus had fate decreed. Being well aware that the King's brothers would not easily forgive this bold act, he left the court for a space to wait till their wrath should have cooled.

Thus with new sorrows was Kriemhild oppressed, and still more bitter grew her wrath and hatred toward Hagen. Not content with the murder of Siegfried, he must also take from her the means of aiding the poor and suffering, and this had been the only solace of her darkened life.