Nibelungs - George Upton

Siegfried Makes War Against the Saxons

Now, it came to pass that one day messengers arrived from two powerful Kings, Lendeger of the Saxon land and Lendegast of Denmark, declaring war against Gunther, whose dominions they were preparing to lay waste. Thereupon was the King greatly troubled, for the enemy far outnumbered his own men and, moreover, were well armed. He took counsel of Hagen, who bade him secure the aid of Siegfried without delay. But Siegfried had already observed Gunther's sorrowful mien, and asked him what lay so heavy on his heart. The King disclosed the cause of his trouble, whereupon Siegfried swore to aid him with all his power, and joyfully hastened to summon his twelve knights to join the thousand Burgundians Gunther had assembled, while Hagen, with all his followers, made ready to march with them.

The messengers were released and sent upon their way; but when it was made known to the two Kings that Siegfried was with the Burgundians, gathering together an army to meet them, they hastily doubled the number of their forces.

Soon thereafter the two hostile armies drew near to each other, and Siegfried rode on before to the top of a hill to learn somewhat of the enemy's strength. Of Danes and Saxons there were full thrice his own number of men, but little did this dismay his bold spirit. Now, while he gazed, there rode forth from the opposite camp King Lendeger, who likewise thought to spy upon his foes. Swift as a whirlwind they rushed to the attack, and casting aside their shattered spears, sprang from their horses. Thick and fast fell the blows of their swords on shield and helm, but soon the Saxon King was sorely hurt and knelt at Siegfried's feet, craving his mercy and yielding himself captive.

Then came thirty of the Saxon knights, who, having observed the combat from afar, dashed to the rescue of their lord; but these also Siegfried overcame after a desperate fight,—all save one, who fled, bearing the evil tidings to his comrades. Thereupon Siegfried rode back with his prisoners and summoned his army to the attack. Pennons waved, shield and armor glittered in the sunlight, while clouds of dust arose, as, shouting their battle-cries, they rushed upon the foe. Then followed such a battle as rarely had been known before, so fiercely and bravely was it fought. Many a shining helm was dulled, and many a lance splintered, while far and wide the plain was strewn with broken shields and swords. But none could stand before Siegfried. Thrice he broke through the enemy's ranks, hewing bloody gaps wheresoever he rode, and at last he came upon King Lendegast. The sight of Siegfried gave fresh courage to the Danish King, for he burned to avenge his brother. Furiously they sprang at one another, but the first stroke of Balmung shattered the golden shield of Lendegast, while the second clove his armor and bore him to the ground; whereupon he yielded himself likewise, and ordering his banners lowered, sued for peace. The greater part of the Danes and Saxons fled, but there fell into the hands of the victors full five hundred warriors, together with the two Kings, wherewith they joyfully set out on their homeward way.

Now, Siegfried had despatched messengers to bear news of the victory to King Gunther; and one of these, being perchance aware that Kriemhild looked not unkindly on the young hero, betook himself straightway to her.

"If thou dost bring me good tidings," cried Kriemhild, "thou shalt have all my gold!"

"In truth, fair lady," replied the messenger, "none bath fought so nobly as my lord Siegfried, nor lives there a hero with fame to equal his!

Thereupon he told her of the battle, and how Siegfried had vanquished the two Kings and was bringing them captives to the court of Burgundy. At this the maiden's eyes shone like stars, and when the messenger departed she bestowed on him not only the promised gold, but also a suit of rich apparel. And thereafter she stood often at her window, gazing toward the road by which the warriors must return.