Siegfried Goes Home with Kriemhild
In the court of the Netherlands there was great gladness, for tidings had come that Prince Siegfried and his beautiful wife were already on their homeward way.
King Siegmund rejoiced, and resolved that now indeed his son should wear the crown.
Sieglinde wept for joy, then dried her tears, and bade her maidens look out their richest robes that they might welcome the young bride as became her rank.
Then the King and Queen rode forth to meet the travellers, and greeted them with kisses and fair words, and with great rejoicings the whole company returned to the castle. Here a great feast was held, and Siegmund, calling together all his liegemen, placed the crown upon his dear son's head, bidding them henceforth swear fealty to him alone.
The Netherlanders were indeed well pleased to have the mighty hero Siegfried for their king, and the castle walls shook with the shouts of strong men crying, "Hail, King Siegfried, hail!"
For ten years Siegfried ruled and did justice in the land. At the end of ten years a little son came to gladden the hearts of the brave King and his gentle wife, and in memory of her royal brother, Kriemhild named him Gunther.
Now Queen Sieglinde had grown old and feeble, and after her little grandson had been born she grew still more weak until one day she passed away from earth.
Then Kriemhild took charge of the royal household. So kind was she and gentle that she was loved by all her maidens and indeed by all who dwelt in the castle.
Meanwhile Brunhild, the haughty Queen of Burgundy, was not happy, even her little son could not bring joy to her heart. Little had she to vex her, yet day by day her unhappiness grew.
Siegfried was now a mightier King than Gunther, and this displeased her more and more, for certainly he had once been but her lord's vassal. Had she not herself, from her castle window at Isenland, seen him hold King Gunther's charger until he had mounted, and that a Prince would have scorned to do. Yet to-day Siegfried was a King. Brunhild could not understand how this could be, and the more she thought about it, the angrier she grew. Even the gentle Kriemhild seemed to have grown haughty and disdainful, and for her too Brunhild had no love.
At length Brunhild made up her mind to speak to her husband.
"It is many years," she said to King Gunther, "since Siegfried has been at Worms. Bid him come hither with his wife."
Then Gunther frowned, ill-pleased at her words. "Thou dost not dream that I may command so mighty a King as Siegfried!" he cried.
But these words only made the Queen more angry. "However great Siegfried may be, he dare not disobey his lord," she said.
King Gunther smiled to himself at Brunhild's foolish thoughts. Full well he knew that the King of the Netherlands owed no duty to him, the King of Burgundy.
Then Brunhild, seeing that by anger she would not gain her wish, smiled and coming close to Gunther said, "My lord, fain would I see thy sweet sister once more. If thou mayest not bid, wilt thou not entreat Siegfried to bring Kriemhild to our country that again we may sit together as we were used to do? In truth the gentleness of thy lady sister did ever please me well."
Now Gunther, hearing his wife's kind words, was wishful to do her will. Therefore he sent for thirty warriors, and bade them ride into King Siegfried's land, and entreat him once again to come with his fair wife to the royal city of Worms. Queen Uté also sent messages to Queen Kriemhild beseeching her to come again to her own country.
Well pleased was Kriemhild when the knights from Burgundy were shown into her presence, and right glad was the welcome given to them by King Siegfried. Then one of the knights hastened to deliver King Gunther's greetings and the greetings of Queen Uté and her ladies.
"The King and Queen bid you also welcome to a high festival which they hold as soon as the winter is ended," he said.
But King Siegfried, thinking of all the business of the state, answered courteously, "Nay, I fear that I may scarce leave my land without a king. Yet will I lodge you here while I take counsel with my liegemen."
For nine days King Gunther's men tarried in the Netherlands, and banquets and tournaments were given in their honour.
Then Siegfried summoned his liegemen together and told them of King Gunther's desire that he and his Queen should go to Rhineland, and bade them give him their counsel.
"Take with thee a thousand warriors, sire, and if it be thy will ride thus into Burgundy," said the King's chief adviser.
"I also will go with thee," said Siegmund, for well did he love his son. "I also will go with thee and take a hundred swordsmen along with me."
Right glad was Siegfried when he heard his father's words. "My own good father dear," he cried, and seizing his hand he kissed it. "In twelve days will I leave my realm and journey toward Burgundy, and thou shalt ride with me and Queen Kriemhild."
Then the heralds of King Gunther, laden with rich gifts, were bidden to hasten back to their own land with tidings that Siegfried and his Queen would ere long follow them to the royal city.
When the heralds stood again before King Gunther, they delivered their tidings, and then spread out before him and his courtiers the raiment and the gold which Siegfried had bestowed upon them.
Hagen looked upon the gifts, his keen eyes full of greed. "Well may the mighty King Siegfried give such gifts," he said. "If he were to live for ever, yet could he not spend the great treasure which he possesses in the land of the Nibelungs."