ND NOW THE Queen threw the spear with all her might against the shield Siegfried bore upon his arm. New was the shield and stout of make, but the spearhead passed clean through it, and rang on the hero's coat of mail, dealing him so sore a blow that the blood gushed forth from his mouth. Of a truth, but for the Hood of Darkness, that hour both the champions had died. Then Siegfried caught the great spear in his hand, and tore it from the shield, and hurled it back. "She is too fair to slay," said he to himself, and he turned the spear point behind him, and smote the maiden with the shaft on the silken vest that she wore. Loud rang the blow, and the fire-sparks leapt from her armour. Never could Gunther, for all his strength, have dealt such a blow, for it felled the strong Brunhild to the ground. Lightly did she leap up again, crying, "King Gunther, I thank you for the blow; 'twas shrewdly given," for she thought that the King had dealt it.
But great was the wrath in her heart to find that her spear had sped in vain. And now she turned to the great stone where it lay, and poised it in her hand, and hurled it with all her might. And having hurled it, she herself leapt after it. Twelve full arms' length hurtled the great stone through the air, so mighty was the maiden, and she herself overpassed it by a pace. Then came Gunther to the place, with Siegfried unseen by his side. And Siegfried caught the stone and poised it--but it seemed to all as if Gunther did it--and threw it yet another arm's length beyond the cast of the maid, and passed the stone himself, aye, and carried King Gunther along with him, so mighty was he!
But when the Queen saw that she was vanquished, she flushed with shame and wrath, and turning to her lords, she spake aloud, "Come hither, my kinsmen and lieges. You must now be thralls of King Gunther of Burgundy."
So the chiefs of Isenland laid their swords at Gunther's feet and did him homage, for they thought that he had vanquished by his own strength; and he, for he was a very gentle, courteous knight, greeted the maid right pleasantly, and she, for her part, took him by the hand and said, "Henceforth, Sir King, all the rule and power that I have held is yours."
There is no need to tell how Gunther and Brunhild and all their company travelled to Rhineland with great joy, and how Queen Ute and her sons and the fair Kriemhild, and all the people of the land, gave them a hearty welcome and how in due time King Gunther was married to the fair Brunhild. Nor is there need of many words to relate how Siegfried also took to wife the beautiful Kriemhild, as it had been promised him. Nor were there any to gainsay save Brunhild only, for she grudged that her husband's sister should be given to a vassal, for such in truth she deemed him to be. Very ill content she was, though the King would fain have satisfied her, saying that he was a very noble knight, and was lord of many woodlands, and had great store of gold and treasure.
So Siegfried wedded the fair Kriemhild and took her with him to his own land. A goodly welcome did the Netherlands give her. And Siegmund gave up his kingdom to his son, and the two lived in much peace and love together; and when in the tenth year a son was born to them, they called him by the name of his uncle Gunther.
Also Gunther and Brunhild lived together in much happiness. They also had a son, and they called him by the name of Siegfried.
But Brunhild was ill content that Siegfried being, far so she deemed, her husband's vassal, should pay no homage to his lord and do no service for his fee. And she was very urgent with her husband that he should suffer this no longer. But the King was fain to put her off. "Nay," said he, "the journey is too long. Their land is far from ours; why should we trouble him to come? Also he is a great prince and a powerful." "Be he as great as he will," she answered, "'tis a vassal's duty to pay homage to his lord." But Gunther laughed to himself. Little thought had he of homage from Siegfried. Then the Queen changed her voice. "Dear lord," she said, "how gladly would I see Siegfried and your dear sister once more. Well do I remember how fair she was and how kind, how gracious of speech when we sat together, brides both of us." With such words she persuaded her husband. "There are no guests that would be more welcome," said he; "I will find messengers who shall bid them come to the Rhineland."
Great was the joy in Rhineland when the messengers returned and told how they had been welcomed and royally entertained and loaded with gifts, and how that Siegfried and his Queen Kriemhild and a company of gallant knights were coming to the festival. Great was the joy and manifold the preparations.
No sooner did the King hear the news than he sought out Queen Brunhild where she sat in her chamber. "Bear you in mind," said he, "how Kriemhild my sister welcomed you when you came hither from your own land. Do you, therefore, dear wife, welcome her with the like affection." "So shall it be," answered the Queen.
And indeed, when the guests came, right royal was the welcome that they had. For Gunther and Brunhild rode forth from the city to meet them, and greeted them most heartily. All was mirth and jollity. By the day there were tilts and tournaments and sports of every kind, and at night there was feasting in the hall. And so they did for twelve days.
But Brunhild ever cherished a thought of mischief in her heart. "Why," she said to herself, "why has Siegfried stayed so long to do homage for that which he holds of us in fee? I shall not be content till Kriemhild answer me in this."
It fell out on a certain day, while sundry knights were in the castle court, that the two Queens sat together. The fair Kriemhild then began, "My husband is so mighty a man that he should rule these kingdoms of right." "Nay," answered Brunhild, "that might be were you and your husband only alive, and all others dead, but so long as Gunther lives he must needs be King." Then said fair Kriemhild, "See how he shines among the knights, a very moon among the stars." Brunhild answered, "However brave and strong he may be, and stately to look upon, Gunther, your brother, is better than he." "Nay," said Kriemhild, "better he is not, nay, nor even his peer." "How say you?" answered Brunhild in wrath; "I spake not without cause. When I saw the two for the first time, then I heard with my own ears how Siegfried confessed that he was Gunther's man. Yea, I heard him say it, and I hold him to be such." "This is folly," said Kriemhild; "think you that my brothers could have given me to be bride to a vassal? Away, Brunhild, with such idle talk, if we would still be friends." "I will not away with it," Brunhild made answer. "Shall I renounce the service which he and all the vassals are bound to render to their lord?" "Renounce it you must," cried Kriemhild in great wrath. "The service of a vassal he will never do; he is of higher degree than Gunther my brother, though Gunther is a noble King." "You bear yourself far too proudly," answered Brunhild.
But the deadliest cause of quarrel was yet to come. Said Queen Kriemhild to Queen Brunhild when next she saw her: "Think you that when you were vanquished in your own land it was Gunther, my brother, that vanquished you?" "Yea," answered the Queen, "did I not see it with my own eyes?" "Nay," said Kriemhild, "it was not so. See you this ring?" And she took a ring that she had upon her finger and held it forth. "Do you know it?" And Brunhild looked and knew it for her own. "That," said Kriemhild, "Siegfried, my husband, took from you when you were smitten by his spear and knew not what had befallen you, so sore was the blow. You saw him not, for he had the Hood of Darkness on him and was invisible. But it was he that smote you with the spear, and put the stone further than you, and passed you in the leap. And this ring he gave me for a token, if ever you should boast yourself against me. Talk, therefore, no more of lords and vassals. My husband feigned this vassalage that he might deceive you the more readily."