Now in the Kingdom of Burgundy the court sat in the city of Worms, a city built on the banks of the great Rhine river.
At this court dwelt a beautiful Princess named Kriemhild. More beautiful was she than any other maiden in the wide world. Gentle and kind too she was, so that her fame had spread to many a far-off land.
The King, her father, had died when Kriemhild was a tiny maiden. Her mother was Queen Uté, who loved well her beautiful and gentle daughter.
But though the maiden's father was dead, she was well guarded by her three royal brothers, King Gunther, King Gernot, and King Giselher.
It was King Gunther, Kriemhild's eldest brother, who sat upon the throne, and it was to him that the liegemen took their oath of fealty.
King Gunther's chief counsellor was his uncle, a cruel man, whose name was Hagen.
There was great wealth and splendour at the Court of Worms, and many nobles and barons flocked thither to take service under King Gunther's banners.
Now one night it chanced that Kriemhild dreamed a strange dream. As she lay in her soft, white bed it seemed to the Princess that a beautiful hawk, with feathers of gold, came and perched upon her wrist.
Strong and wild was the bird, but in her dream Kriemhild fondled and petted it until it grew quiet and tame. Then the Princess dressed herself for the hunt, and with her hawk on her wrist set out with her three royal brothers to enjoy the sport.
No sooner, however, did the maiden loosen the hawk from off her wrist than it soared upward toward the bright blue sky.
Then the dream-maiden saw two mighty eagles swoop down upon her petted hawk, and bearing it away in their cruel talons, tear it into pieces.
When the Princess awoke and remembered her dream she trembled for fear. In the early dawn the beautiful maiden slipped into her mother's bower. Perchance the Queen would be able to tell her the meaning of her dream.
Queen Uté listened kindly to her daughter's fears, but when she heard of the two cruel eagles she covered her face with her fair white hands and answered slowly: "The hawk, my daughter, is a noble knight who shall be thy husband, but, alas, unless God defend him from his foes, thou shalt lose him ere he has long been thine."
But the beautiful maiden tossed her head, forgetting the sorrow of her dream, and cried with a light heart, "O lady mother, I wish no knight to woo me from thy side. Merry and glad is my life here in our court at Worms, and here will I dwell with thee and my three royal brothers."
"Nay," said the Queen, "speak not thus, fair daughter, for God will send to thee a noble knight and strong."
Yet still the maiden laughed. She knew not that even now a hero of great renown was on his way to the royal city, a hero who already bore the maiden's image in his heart, and hoped to win her one day for his bride.