Gudrun - George Upton

Ludwig Fights with Herwig

In the tumult, Herwig encountered Ludwig; and when he beheld the old King, whose blade dripped with the blood of heroes, he asked: "Who is the aged warrior that so fiercely wields his reeking sword?"

Ludwig heard the words and shouted in reply: "My name is Ludwig, and of this land I am the King. Doth any seek combat with me, let him step forth!"

"If thou be he," answered Herwig, "then well hast thou earned my hatred. Upon the Wulpensand thou didst slay King Hetel and many a comrade dear. Also didst thou rob me of my fair betrothed. Wherefore now over thy body will I win her back to me again."

"Boy, 'twere little need for thee to avow thyself," said Ludwig, scornfully. "But dearly shalt thou atone for that threat of thine!"

Therewith the two Kings rushed at each other amid the shouts of their followers. Herwig in his fury was like the raging sea; Ludwig, a great gray rock against which the foaming billows dash in vain. The struggle had lasted for some moments when Ludwig's sword descended with such force on the head of his adversary that Herwig tottered and sank upon his knee. Again the mighty blade fell and he would have been slain had not one of his knights sprung forward and received the blow upon his own body. The hero paid for his devotion with his life, but Herwig was borne away by his friends and soon revived. Looking up at the turret, he cried: "Shame were it to my knighthood that Gudrun should see me sink upon my knee before yon hoary chief! Now will I hasten after him to redeem my honor." And away he dashed, his men following with flying banners.

Hearing these shouts, Ludwig turned about, and great was his amazement to behold the young hero whom he had supposed slain. Once more they fought till their shields grew hot from the shower of blows, but now as Ludwig flung his sword aloft to deal the death-stroke to his royal foe, Herwig thrust his own blade deep into the old King's breast. Down he fell, and again Herwig smote; whereupon the head of the fierce Norman monarch rolled in the sand, staining it crimson.

This was the death signal for Ludwig's band. Like a hurricane tearing its way through the forest, on swept Herwig's knights against the foe, and few indeed were those who survived that terrible onslaught.