Nibelungs - George Upton

The Burgundians Go To Mass

So the night passed, nor did the Huns again show themselves. "My armor grows chilly," said Volker, at last, "methinks the fresh breeze betokens day is near." And the two sentinels went within to awaken the sleepers.

Soon thereafter the beams of the rising sun shone into the hall, the bell for matins sounded, and Hagen summoned the Burgundians to go to mass. The knights were about to array themselves in festival attire, but he bade them don their armor instead, change their silk garments for hauberks, rich mantles for shields, and jewelled caps for good steel helms; for strife would surely come ere set of sun and they must be prepared.

"Now go ye to the minster church,

Your sins there to confess;

And pray to God right earnestly,

For aid in our distress.

For of a surety I do say,

Ye heroes without fear,

Unless the God above will save,

No masses more ye 'll hear."

So it was that clad in full armor the Burgundians took their way in procession to the minster. When they were come to the churchyard, Hagen said: "Hearken to my counsel, knights and princes! We must be ever on our guard against the Huns, wherefore it were well to keep in close array. Place your shields before you, and should any chance to offer evil greeting, see that his death stroke be your thanks. If our courage fail not, our knightly honor shall yet remain unstained, though all beside be lost!" Thus man to man they stood, while Hagen and Volker advanced to the church door that they might thence keep watch of Kriemhild and her men.

Soon came Etzel in all the splendor of his royal robes, his beauteous wife Kriemhild at his side, followed by a glittering train of knights, and not a little surprised was he to behold the Burgundians armed from head to heel. Still unaware of the dark storm-clouds hourly gathering thicker and heavier above the heads of his guests, he was troubled at this sight, for it seemed that they misdoubted his good faith; wherefore, seeing Hagen, he sought to learn from him the cause thereof.

"Have any dealt you ill?" he asked; "if so, then dearly shall they rue it!

Now was Kriemhild stricken with terror lest Hagen should betray her to the King; but far too proud was the hero to seek help from Etzel and thereby own he lacked the courage to defend himself. So he replied: "Naught has befallen us, O King. 'T is but a custom we of Burgundy have, to go full armed for three days during every feast."

Nor yet did Kriemhild reveal the truth to Etzel, fearing he would forbid her vengeful purpose, and thus her mortal enemy would once more escape her. So they passed on, and behind them came Kriemhild's knights in spreading ranks. Neither Hagen nor Volker would stir a handbreadth from the path, and thereby ensued great crowding and jostling. The Huns would fain have provoked a conflict, but they feared the King's wrath; and presently all had passed into the church, the Burgundians following last of all.