Siegfried Journeys to Worms
To the Netherlands, as to many another land, came rumours of the beauty and the gentleness of the Princess Kriemhild. Siegfried at first paid little heed to what he heard of a wonder-maid who dwelt in the famous court of Worms. Yet by and by he began to think she was strangely like the unknown maid whose image he carried in his heart.
When he heard that many knights had ridden far that they might see this fair Princess, he made up his mind that he also would go thither to the court at Worms.
Siegmund and Sieglinde had often begged the Prince to wed some great princess. He thought, therefore, that they would be well pleased that he was going into Burgundy to see the beautiful maiden Kriemhild.
But the King and Queen were grieved when they knew that Siegfried must leave them. Kriemhild, it was true, was as good as she was beautiful, but two of her brothers were proud and haughty men of Burgundy, moreover their uncle Hagen had a grim and cruel temper, and it was he who really ruled the land. It might be that their son would not be welcomed to the court at Worms, and ill might betide him in a strange country.
Yet Siegfried would have his way. He must certainly go to Burgundy to woo the gentle maiden who had already sent many knights away, unmoved by all their vows of courtesy and love. For, indeed, no knight yet had the lady seen whom she would call her lord.
Then Siegmund, seeing that Siegfried had determined to go to Worms, warned him that King Gunther was too weak to be trusted, while Hagen his chief counsellor was so powerful at court that he might work ill on whom he would.
As of old, the hero laughed aloud.
"Should Hagen deny what I shall ask in courtesy, he shall learn that strong is my right hand!" cried the Prince. "His country and his kings I will surely wrest from him if he treat me with disdain."
"Speak not thus foolishly," said King Siegmund. "Should thy wild words be carried to Hagen's ears, thou wouldst never be allowed to cross the borders of his country. If go thou must to Burgundy, take with thee an armed force. See, I will summon my warriors to follow thee lest danger befall."
"Nay, but an army will I not take with me, lest Gunther dream I have come to invade his land. I, with eleven brave knights to follow me, will ride to Burgundy. Your help do I crave, good father. Give me, I pray thee, eleven stalwart warriors."
Then Siegmund called for eleven of his bravest knights, and bade them prepare to follow their Prince.
Meanwhile Queen Sieglinde had been weeping bitterly for fear lest her dear son should fall into danger in King Gunther's country.
But Siegfried stole to her side, and taking her frail, white hands in his strong ones, he said tenderly, "Lady mother, I pray thee weep not, neither fear for me." Then, knowing well what would please the Queen best, he pleaded with her to aid him in his adventure.
"Provide me and my eleven knights with beautiful garments," thus he coaxed his lady mother, "that we may go to Burgundy clad as proud heroes should."
Swiftly the Queen dried her tears. "If go thou must, dear son," she said, "thou shalt go clothed in the best apparel ever warrior wore, thou and also thy brave comrades."
Thus day by day, while the eleven warriors polished their armour until it shone as the noontide sun, Sieglinde and her maidens sat stitching, stitching. Gladly they stitched, nor ever did their fingers loiter at their seams until Prince Siegfried's garments were complete.
At length all was ready and Siegfried and his eleven brave warriors took farewell of their native land. Gently the bold hero kissed his lady mother as once again her sad tears fell. "Fear not, dear mother," he said, "fear not; ere long I will return and bring with me the beauteous maiden Kriemhild." Yet the Queen and her maidens wept, and over the little band of knights a sudden gloom fell, they knew not why.
But ere long as they journeyed along, gay thoughts cheered the warriors, laughter and merry jests filled the air, for were they not going forward to fame and fair adventure.
For six days Siegfried and his knights journeyed, and on the seventh they reached the sandbank by the Rhine which led them into Worms. Boldly, and clad in their most costly garments, the Prince and his companions entered the royal city.