The Wedding Feast
In joy and merriment the days flew by, while the court at Worms prepared to hold high festival in honour of King Gunther's matchless bride.
As the royal ships drew near Queen Uté and the Princess Kriemhild, accompanied by many a gallant knight, rode along the banks of the Rhine to greet Queen Brunhild.
Already the King had disembarked, and was leading his bride toward his gracious mother. Courteously did Queen Uté welcome the stranger, while Kriemhild kissed her and clasped her in her arms.
Some as they gazed upon the lovely maidens said that the warlike Queen Brunhild was more beautiful than the gentle Princess Kriemhild, but others, and these were the wiser, said that none could excel the peerless sister of the King.
In the great plain of Worms silk tents and gay pavilions had been placed. And there the ladies took shelter from the heat, while before them knights and warriors held a gay tournament. Then in the cool of the evening, a gallant train of lords and ladies, they rode toward the castle at Worms.
Queen Uté and her daughter went to their own apartments, while the King with Brunhild went into the banqueting hall where the wedding feast was spread.
But ere the feast had begun, Siegfried came and stood before the King.
"Sire," he said, "hast thou forgotten thy promise, that when Brunhild entered the royal city thy lady sister should be my bride?"
"Nay," cried the King, "my royal word do I ever keep," and going out into the hall he sent for the Princess.
"Dear sister," said Gunther, as she bowed before him, "I have pledged my word to a warrior that thou wilt become his bride, wilt thou help me to keep my promise?" Now Siegfried was standing by the King's side as he spoke.
Then the gentle maiden answered meekly, "Thy will, dear brother, is ever mine. I will take as lord him to whom thou hast promised my hand." And she glanced shyly at Siegfried, for surely this was the warrior to whom her royal brother had pledged his word.
Right glad then was the King, and Siegfried grew rosy with delight as he received the lady's troth. Then together they went to the banqueting hall, and on a throne next to King Gunther sat the hero-prince, the lady Kriemhild by his side.
But when Brunhild saw the King's beautiful sister sitting on a throne with Siegfried by her side, she began to weep.
"Why dost thou weep, fair lady?" said King Gunther. "Are not my lands, my castles, and all my warriors thine? Dim not thy bright eyes with thy tears."
"I may well weep," said Queen Brunhild, "because thy sister has plighted her troth to one who is but a vassal of thine own. Thy sister is worthy of a prince."
"Weep not," cried the King, "and when the banquet is ended I will tell thee how it is that Siegfried has won the hand of my lady sister."
"Nay," cried the impatient Queen, "thou must tell me without delay or never will I be thy wife," and Brunhild arose and stepped down from the throne.
King Gunther was displeased with the Queen's impatience, yet lest his guests should be disturbed, he answered her quickly:
"The hero Siegfried has as many castles as have I, and his realms are broader. In truth he is no vassal of mine. Ere long he will be King of the Netherlands."
Brunhild could but hide her anger now, yet in her heart she disliked Siegfried more than she had done before. It did not please her that he should be a greater king than Gunther.
When the banquet was ended, the wedding was celebrated, and the King placed a crown upon the brow of the haughty bride, for now she was his wife, and Queen of his fair realm of Burgundy.
Siegfried too was wedded to the maiden whom he loved so well, and though he had no crown to place upon her brow, the Princess was well content.
As wedding gifts the hero gave to his dear wife the treasure he had won from the Nibelungs, also the girdle and the ring which he had taken from Brunhild in her contests with King Gunther.
With his merry laugh Siegfried told his wife how he had fought for her royal brother, himself unseen, because he had on his Cloak of Darkness. And Kriemhild listening thought never had she known so fair, so brave a knight.
For fourteen days the wedding festivities never ceased. Then King Gunther and Prince Siegfried scattered costly gifts among their guests, so that they returned to their own lands in great glee.
No sooner were the guests departed than Siegfried also began to make ready to journey to his own country. Fain would he take his beautiful wife to see Siegmund and Sieglinde, and to dwell in the land over which one day he would be king.
Kriemhild, too, was glad to go to her dear lord's country. Taking a loving farewell of her lady mother, Queen Uté, and of her royal brothers, with five hundred knights of Burgundy and thirty-two Burgundian maids, Kriemhild rode away, Sir Siegfried by her side.