Siegfried Goes to the Cave
The ship in which Siegfried set sail drifted on before the wind, while those in Queen Brunhild's castle marvelled, for no one was to be seen on board. This was because the hero had again donned his Cloak of Darkness.
On and on sailed the little ship until at length it drew near to the land of the Nibelungs. Then Siegfried left his vessel and again climbed the mountain-side, where long before he had cut off the heads of the little Nibelung princes.
He reached the cave into which he had thrust the treasure, and knocked loudly at the door. The cave was the entrance to Nibelheim the dark, little town beneath the glad, green grass.
Siegfried might have entered the cave, but he knocked that he might see if his treasure were well guarded.
Then the porter, who was a great giant, when he heard the knock buckled on his armour and opened the door. Seeing, as he thought in his haste, a strange knight standing before him he fell upon him with a bar of iron. So strong was the giant that it was with difficulty that the Prince overcame him and bound him hand and foot.
Alberich meanwhile had heard the mighty blows, which indeed had shaken Nibelheim to its foundations.
Now the dwarf had sworn fealty to Siegfried, and when he, as the giant had done, mistook the Prince for a stranger, he seized a heavy whip with a gold handle and rushed upon him, smiting his shield with the knotted whip until it fell to pieces.
Too pleased that his treasures were so well defended to be angry, Siegfried now seized the little dwarf by his beard, and pulled it so long and so hard that Alberich was forced to cry for mercy. Then Siegfried bound him hand and foot as he had done the giant.
Alberich, poor little dwarf, gnashed his teeth with rage. Who would guard the treasure now, and who would warn his master that a strong man had found his way to Nibelheim?
But in the midst of his fears he heard the stranger's merry laugh. Nay, it was no stranger, none but the hero Prince could laugh thus merrily.
"I am Siegfried your master," then said the Prince. "I did but test thy faithfulness, Alberich," and laughing still, the hero undid the cords with which he had bound the giant and the dwarf.
"Call me here quickly the Nibelung warriors," cried Siegfried, "for I have need of them." And soon thirty thousand warriors stood before him in shining armour.
Choosing one thousand of the strongest and biggest, the Prince marched with them down to the sea-shore. There they embarked in ships and sailed away to Isenland.
Now it chanced that Queen Brunhild was walking on the terrace of her sea-guarded castle with King Gunther when she saw a number of sails approaching.
"Whose can these ships be?" she cried in quick alarm.
"These are my warriors who have followed me from Burgundy," answered the King, for thus had Siegfried bidden him speak.
"We will go to welcome the fleet," said Brunhild, and together they met the brave Nibelung army and lodged them in Isenland.
"Now will I give of my silver and my gold to my liegemen and to Gunther's warriors," said Queen Brunhild, and she held out the keys of her treasury to Dankwart that he might do her will. But so lavishly did the knight bestow her gold and her costly gems and her rich raiment upon the warriors that the Queen grew angry.
"Nought shall I have left to take with me to Rhineland," she cried aloud in her vexation.
"In Burgundy," answered Hagen, "there is gold enough and to spare. Thou wilt not need the treasures of Isenland."
But these words did not content the Queen. She would certainly take at least twenty coffers of gold as well as jewels and silks with her to King Gunther's land.
At length, leaving Isenland to the care of her brother, Queen Brunhild, with twenty hundred of her own warriors as a body-guard, with eighty-six dames and one hundred maidens, set out for the royal city of Worms.
For nine days the great company journeyed homeward, and then King Gunther entreated Siegfried to be his herald to Worms.
"Beg Queen Uté and the Princess Kriemhild," said the King, "beg them to ride forth to meet my bride and to prepare to hold high festival in honour of the wedding feast."
Thus Siegfried with four-and-twenty knights sailed on more swiftly than the other ships, and landing at the mouth of the river Rhine, rode hastily toward the royal city.
The Queen and her daughter, clad in their robes of state, received the hero, and his heart was glad, for once again he stood in the presence of his dear lady, Kriemhild.
"Be welcome, my Lord Siegfried," she cried, "thou worthy knight, be welcome. But where is my brother? Has he been vanquished by the warrior Queen? Oh, woe is me if he is lost, woe is me that ever I was born," and the tears rolled down the maiden's cheeks.
"Nay, now," said the Prince, "thy brother is well and of good cheer. I have come, a herald of glad tidings. For even now the King is on his way to Worms, bringing with him his hard-won bride."
Then the Princess dried her tears, and graciously did she bid the hero to sit by her side.
"I would I might give thee a reward for thy services," said the gentle maiden, "but too rich art thou to receive my gold."
"A gift from thy hands would gladden my heart," said the gallant Prince.
Blithely then did Kriemhild send for four-and-twenty buckles, all inlaid with precious stones, and these did she give to Siegfried.
Siegfried bent low before the lady Kriemhild, for well did he love the gracious giver, yet would he not keep for himself her gifts, but gave them, in his courtesy, to her four-and-twenty maidens.
Then the Prince told Queen Uté that the King begged her and the Princess to ride forth from Worms to greet his bride, and to prepare to hold high festival in the royal city.
"It shall be done even as the King desires," said the Queen, while Kriemhild sat silent, smiling with gladness, because her knight Sir Siegfried had come home.