Gudrun - George Upton




Siegfried's Revenge

The news that Herwig had won the heart and hand of the beautiful Gudrun soon spread to Moreland and filled King Siegfried, still smarting from his own scornful rejection, with deadly hatred against the fortunate suitor.

"Now will I kindle for thee, Sir Herwig," he shouted, "a wedding torch that shall light thy whole land!"

Forthwith he had twenty ships made ready and filled with chosen knights. Toward the end of May they reached the coast of Zealand, and then began such a burning and slaying as never had been known before. Herwig at once rode forth to meet his fierce enemy, and a long and desperate battle followed. Red was the soil with the blood of the slain and bravely did Herwig and his warriors fight, but at last they were forced to yield to superior numbers and take refuge in a castle near by, where they were safe for a time from the enemy. Siegfried laid siege to it; but one of Herwig's knights succeeded in stealing through the enemy's camp by night and, hastening to Hegelingen, told King Hetel of the ravages Siegfried had committed in Zealand and of Herwig's dangerous situation. When Gudrun heard these evil tidings she besought her father to hasten to the aid of her betrothed.

"That will I gladly do, my daughter," cried the King, "Herwig shall see 'twas not in vain I swore faith with him, and straightway shall all our friends be summoned hither."

Messengers were sent out in haste bidding his vassals join him prepared for war without delay; and soon a host of gallant knights assembled with their followers all eager for battle. First came old Wate, that dauntless champion who never yet had known fear and of whose prowess great tales were told. Then followed Morung, Irolt, Horand, and the aged Frute. Had these heroes been in the royal castle when Herwig sought to storm it, there might well have been a different ending to the fight! The King's son Ortwin also donned his armor and begged permission to accompany the expedition. He longed to prove his valor for the first time and aid in avenging his sister's wrong.

Hetel at once took ship with all his forces and soon reached Zealand. When Siegfried heard of their coming he set forth to meet them; then there followed a fierce conflict wherein many a good helm and shield were shattered, but neither side could claim a victory. With morning light the struggle was renewed, but again the evening of the bloody day brought no decisive result. So it went on for twelve long days, but when on the thirteenth morning Siegfried surveyed his dwindling forces, he knew he might no longer venture to wage open warfare; he retired with the remnant of his army to a strong castle which was entirely surrounded by water. Here at first he thought himself quite safe from Hetel's swords and spears, but when he found the enemy closely besieging his retreat he heartily wished himself back in his own land. After sending messengers to Hegelingen to relieve the suspense of the Queen and Gudrun, Hetel swore a solemn oath never to stir from that spot till Siegfried should surrender,—a rash vow, that brought much sorrow to him, as we shall see.