If we must die--let it not be like hogs Hunted and penned in an inglorious spot, While round us bark the mad and hungry dogs, Making their mock at our accursed lot. If we must die--oh, let us nobly die, So that our precious blood may not be s... Read more of If We Must Die at Martin Luther King.caInformational Site Network Informational
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Amalasuentha
Anastasius
Belisarius
Boethius
Civilitas
Heodoric's Tomb
Introduction
Italy Under Odovacar
Narses
Roman Officials--cassiodorus
Rome And Ravenna
Storm And Stress
The Arian League
The Conquest Of Italy
The Might Of Attila
The Southward Migration
The Theodoric Of Saga
Theodoric's Ancestors
Theodoric's Boyhood
Totila



The Theodoric Of Saga








The fame of Theodoric attested by the Saga dealing with his name,
utterly devoid as they are of historic truth--The Wilkma Saga--Story of
Theodoric's ancestors--His own boyhood--His companions, Master
Hildebrand, Heime, and Witig--Death of his father and his succession to
the throne--Herbart wooes King Arthur's daughter, first for Theodoric
and then for himself--Hermanric, his uncle, attacks Theodoric--Flight
and exile at the Court of Attila--Attempt to return--Attila's sons slain
in battle--The tragedy of the Nibelungs--Theodoric returns to his
kingdom--His mysterious end.


It is one of the most striking testimonies to the greatness of
Theodoric's work and character, that his name is one of the very few
which passed from history into the epic poetry of the German and
Scandinavian peoples. True, there is scarcely one feature of the great
Ostrogothic King preserved in the mythical portrait painted by minstrels
and Sagamen; true, Theodoric of Verona would have listened in
incredulous or contemptuous amazement to the romantic adventures related
of Dietrich of Bern; still the fact that his name was chosen by the
poets of the early Middle Ages as the string upon which the pearls of
their fantastic imaginations were to be strung, shows how powerfully his
career had impressed their barbaric forefathers. Theodoric's eminence in
this respect, his renown in mediaeval Saga, is shared apparently but by
three other undoubtedly historic personages: his collateral ancestor,
Hermanric; the great world-conqueror, Attila; and Gundahar, king of the
Burgundians, about whom history really records nothing, save his defeat
in battle by the Huns.

As it would be a hopeless attempt in a short chapter like the present to
discuss the various allusions to Dietrich von Bern in the Teutonic and
Scandinavian Sagas, I shall invite the reader's attention to one only,
that which concerns itself most exclusively with his life, and which is
generally called the Wilkina Saga,[160] though some German scholars
prefer to call it by the more appropriate name of Thidreks Saga.

[Footnote 160: So called because it contains a large number of episodes
as to King Wilkinus, his descendants, and the land known by his name,
Wilkina-land (Norway and Sweden). Some suppose the name to be a
corruption of Viking.]

The earliest manuscripts of this Saga at present known are attributed to
the first half of the thirteenth century. There are many allusions in
the work to other sources of information both written and oral, but the
Saga itself in its present form appears to contain the story of
Theodoric as current in the neighbourhood of Bremen and Muenster,
translated into the old Norse language, and no doubt somewhat modified
by the influence of Scandinavian legends on the mind of the translator.
In its present form it is not a poem but a prose work, and though the
flow of the ballad and the twang of the minstrel's harp still often make
themselves felt even through the dull Latin translation of Johan
Peringskiold, there are many chapters of absolutely unredeemed prose,
full of genealogical details and the marches of armies, as dry as any
history, though purely imaginary.

I will now proceed to give the outline of the story of Theodoric as told
in the Wilkina Saga, I shall not harass the reader by continual
repetitions of the phrase It is said, or It is fabled, but will ask
him to understand once for all that the story so circumstantially told
is a mere romance, having hardly the slenderest connection with the
actual history of Theodoric, or with any other event that has happened
on our planet.

The Knight Samson, the grandfather of Theodoric, was a native of Salerno
and served in the court of Earl Roger, the lord of that city Tall and
dark, with black brows and long, thin face, he was distinguished by
great personal strength, and his ambition was equal to his prowess. Earl
Roger had a most lovely daughter, Hildeswide, to whom Samson dared to
raise his eyes in love. Being sent one day by her father to the tower
where she dwelt, with dainty morsels from his table for her repast, he
persuaded her to mount his servant's horse and ride away with him into
the forest. For this Earl Roger confiscated his possessions and sought
his life. Enraged at the decree of exile and death which had been passed
against him, Samson issued forth from his forest to ravage Earl Roger's
farms. In his return to the forest, being intercepted by the Earl and
sixty of his knights, he was seized with sudden fury, and struck down
the Earl's standard-bearer, dealt so terrible a blow at the Earl that he
lopped off not only his head but that of the steed on which he rode,
slew fifteen knights besides, and then galloped off, himself unwounded,
to the forest where Hildeswide abode. Thus did Salerno lose her lord.

Brunstein, the brother of Earl Roger, sought to avenge his death, but
after two years of desultory warfare was himself surprised in a night
attack by Samson, compelled to flee, overtaken and slain. So Samson went
on and increased in strength, treading down all his enemies; but not
till he had persuaded the citizens of Salerno to accept him as their
lord would he assume the title of king. Then did he send out messengers
to announce to all the other kingdoms of the world his royal dignity. He
governed long and wisely, extending his dominions to the vast regions of
the West (apparently making himself lord of all Italy), and by his wife
Hildeswide becoming the father of two sons, whose names were Hermanric
and Dietmar.

After twenty years of wise and peaceful rule, as Samson sat feasting in
his palace he began to lament the decay of energy in himself and his
warriors, and to fear that his name and fame would perish after his
death. He therefore resolved on war with Elsung, Earl of Verona, and to
that end despatched six ambassadors with this insulting message: Send
hither thy daughter to be the concubine of my youngest son. Send sixty
damsels with her, and sixty noble youths each bringing two horses and a
servant. Send sixty hawks and sixty retrievers, whose collars shall be
of pure gold, and let the leash with which they are bound be made of
hairs out of thine own white beard. Do this, or in three months prepare
for war.

This insolent demand produced the expected result. Elsung ordered the
leader of the embassy to be hung. Four of his companions were beheaded.
The sixth, having had his right hand lopped off, was sent back with no
other answer to Salerno. When he reached that city, Samson appeared to
treat the matter as of no importance and went on with his hunting and
hawking and all the amusements of a peaceful court. He was, however,
quietly making his preparations for war, and at the end of three months,
at the head of an army of 15,000 men, commanded by three under-kings and
many dukes he burst into the territories of Earl Elsung who had only
10,000 men, drawn from Hungary and elsewhere, with whom to meet his
powerful foe. There was great slaughter on the battle-plain. Then the
two chiefs met in single combat. Elsung inflicted a wound on Samson, but
Samson cut off Elsung's head and clutching it by the hoary locks
exhibited it in triumph to his men. The utter rout of the Veronese army
followed. Samson went in state to Verona, received the submission of the
citizens and laid hands on the splendid treasure of Earl Elsung. He
then celebrated with great pomp the marriage of Odilia, the daughter of
the slain earl, to his second son Dietmar, whom he made lord of Verona
and all the territory which had been Elsung's. He marched next toward
Romaborg (Rome) intending to make his eldest son, Hermanric, lord of
that city, but died on the journey. Hermanric, however, after many
battles with the Romans achieved the desired conquest, and became Lord
of Romaborg and the country round it, even to the Hellespont and the
isles of Greece.

Dietmar, son of Samson, King of Verona, was brave, prudent, and greatly
loved by the folk over whom he ruled. His wife Odilia was one of the
wisest of women. Their eldest son was named Theodoric, and he, when full
grown, though not one of the race of giants, surpassed all ordinary men
in stature. His face was oval, of comely proportions; he had gray eyes,
with black brows above them; his hair was of great beauty, long and
thick and ending in ruddy curls. He never wore a beard. His shoulders
were two ells broad; his arms were as thick as the trunk of a tree and
as hard as a stone. He had strong, well-proportioned hands. The middle
of his body was of a graceful tapering shape, but his loins and hips
were wondrously strong; his feet beautiful and well-proportioned; his
thighs of enormous bigness. His strength was much beyond the ordinary
strength of men. The size of Theodoric's body was equalled by the
qualities of his mind. He was not only brave but jovial, good-tempered,
liberal, magnificent, always ready to bestow gold and silver and all
manner of precious things on his expectant friends. It was the saying of
some that the young warrior was like his grandfather, Samson; but
others held that there was never any one in the world to compare unto
Theodoric. When he had attained the fifteenth year of his age he was
solemnly created a knight by his father, Dietmar.

Now, while Theodoric was still a child there came to his father's court
one who was to have a great influence on his after life. This was
Hildebrand, commonly called Master Hildebrand, son of one of the Dukes
of Venice. He was a brave knight and a mighty one, and when he had
reached the age of thirty he told his father that he would fain see more
of the world than he could do by lingering all his days at Venice. Upon
which his father recommended him to try his fortune at the court of
Dietmar, King of Verona. He came therefore and was received very
graciously by Dietmar, who conferred great favours upon him and assigned
to him the care of the young Theodoric then about seven years of age.
Hildebrand taught Theodoric all knightly exercises; together they ever
rode to war, and the friendship which grew up between them was strong as
that which knit the soul of David to the soul of Jonathan.

One day when Theodoric and Hildebrand were hunting in the forest, a
little dwarf ran across their path, to which Theodoric gave chase. This
dwarf proved to be Alpris, the most thievish little creature in the
world. Theodoric was about to kill it, but Alpris said: If you will
spare my life I will get you the finest sword that ever was made, and
will show you where to find more treasure than ever your father owned.
They belong to a little woman called Hildur and her husband Grimur. He
is so strong that he can fight twelve men at once, but she is much
stronger than he, and you will need all your strength if you mean to
overcome them. Having bound himself by tremendous oaths to perform
these promises, the dwarf was dismissed unhurt, and the two comrades
went on with their hunting. At evening they stood beside the rock where
Alpris was to meet them. The dwarf brought the sword, and pointed out
the entrance to a cave. The two knights gazed upon the sword with
wonder, agreeing that they had never seen anything like it in the world.
And no marvel, for this was the famous sword Nagelring, the fame whereof
went out afterwards into the whole world. They tied up their horses and
went together into the cave. Grimur, seeing strangers, at once
challenged them to fight; but looking round anxiously for Nagelring, he
missed it, whereupon he cursed the knavish Alpris, who had assuredly
stolen it from him. However, he snatched from the hearth the blazing
trunk of a tree and therewith attacked Theodoric. Meanwhile Hildebrand,
taken at unawares, was caught hold of by Hildur, who clung so tightly
round his neck that he could not move. After a long struggle they both
fell heavily to the ground, Hildebrand below, Hildur on top of him. She
squeezed his arms so tightly that the blood came out at his
finger-nails; she pressed her fist so hard on his throat and breast that
he could hardly breathe. He was fain to cry for help to Theodoric, who
answered that he would do all in his power to save his faithful friend
and tutor from the clutches of that foul little wench. With that he
swung round Nagelring and smote off the head of Grimur. Then he hastened
to his foster-father's aid and cut Hildur in two, but so mighty was the
power of her magic that the sundered halves of her body came together
again. Once more Theodoric clove her in twain; once more the severed
parts united. Hereupon quoth Hildebrand: Stand between the sundered
limbs with your body bowed and your head averted, and the monster will
be overcome. So did Theodoric, once more cleaving her body in twain and
then standing between the pieces. One half died at once, but that to
which the head belonged was heard to say: If the Fates had willed that
Grimur should fight Theodoric as toughly as I fought Hildebrand, the
victory had been ours. With these words the brave little woman died.

Hildebrand congratulated his pupil on his glorious victory, and they
then proceeded to despoil the cave of its treasures. One of the chief of
these was a helmet of wonderful strength, the like of which Theodoric
had never seen before. It was made by the dwarf Malpriant, and so
greatly had the strange couple prized it that they had given it their
united names Hildegrimur. This helmet guarded Theodoric's head in many a
fierce encounter, and by its help and that of the sword Nagelring he
gained many a victory. Bright was the renown which he won from this deed
of arms.

So great was the fame of the young hero that striplings from distant
lands, thirsting for glory, came to Dietmar's court that they might be
enrolled among the comrades of Theodoric. There were twelve of these
who, when they came to manhood, were especially distinguished as the
chiefs of his army, and among these Theodoric shone pre-eminent, even as
his contemporary, Arthur, king of Bertangenland,[161] among the Knights
of his Table Round.

But there were two of these comrades, friendly to Theodoric, though by
no means friendly to one another, who were more renowned than any of the
rest for their knightly deeds and strange adventures. These were Witig
and Heime, each of whom, having first fought with Theodoric, was
afterwards for many years his loyal and devoted knight.

Heime was the son of a great horse-breeder who dwelt north of the
mountains, and whose name was Studas. He was short and squat of figure
and square of face, but was all made for strength; and he was churlish
and morose of disposition, wherefore men called him Heime (which was the
name of a strong and venomous serpent), instead of Studas, which was of
right his name as well as his father's. One day Heime, having mounted
his famous grey horse Rispa, and girded on his good sword Blutgang,
announced to his father that he would ride southward over the mountains
to Verona, and there challenge Theodoric to a trial of strength. Studas
tried to dissuade his son, telling him that his presumption would cost
him his life; but Heime answered: Thy life and thy calling are base and
inglorious, and I would rather die than plod on in this ignoble round.
But, moreover, I think not to fall by the hand of Theodoric. He is
scarce twelve winters old, and I am sixteen; and where is the man with
whom I need fear to fight? So Heime rode over the rough mountain ways,
and appearing in the court-yard of the palace at Verona, challenged
Theodoric to fight. Indignant at the challenge, but confident of
victory, Theodoric went forth to the encounter, having donned his iron
shoes, his helmet and coat of mail, and taking his great thick shield,
red as blood, upon which a golden lion ramped, and above all, his good
sword Nagelring.

The young heroes fought at first on horseback, and in this encounter,
though Theodoric's spear pierced Heime's shield and inflicted upon him a
slight wound, a stumble of his horse had nearly brought him to the
ground. But then, as both spears were shivered, the combatants sprang
from their horses, waved high their swords, and continued the fight on
foot. At last Heime dealt Theodoric a swashing blow on his head, but the
good helmet Hildegrimur was so strong that it shivered the sword
Blutgang to pieces, and there stood Heime helpless, at the mercy of the
boy whom he had challenged. Theodoric gladly spared his life, and
received him into the number of his henchmen, and after that they were
for many years sworn friends.

It was some time after this that another young man appeared at Verona
and challenged Theodoric to single combat. This was Witig, the Dane, son
of that mighty worker in iron, Wieland,[162] who had in his veins the
blood of kings and of mysterious creatures of the deep, but who spent
all his days in his smithy, forging strange weapons, and whose wrongs
and terrible revenges and marvellous escapes from death are sung by all
the minstrels of the North. When he was twelve years old, Witig, drawn
like so many other brave youths by the renown of the young Theodoric,
announced to his father that he was determined to seek glory in the land
of the Amelungs.[163] Wieland would fain have had him stay in the smithy
and learn his own wealth-bringing craft; but Witig swore by the honour
of his mother, a king's daughter, that never should the smith's hammer
and tongs come into his hand. Thereupon Wieland gave him a coat of mail
of hard steel, which shone like silver, and greaves of chain-armour; a
white shield, on which were painted in red the smith's hammer and tongs,
telling of his father's trade, and three carbuncles, which he bore in
right of the princess, his mother. On his strong steel helmet a golden
dragon gleamed and seemed to spit forth venom. Into his son's right hand
Wieland gave the wondrous sword Mimung, which he had fashioned for a
cruel king, and which was so sharp that it cut through a flock of wool,
three feet thick, when floating on the water. Witig's mother gave him
three golden marks and her gold ring, and he kissed his father and his
mother and wished them a happy life, and they wished him a prosperous
journey and were sore at heart when he turned to go.

But he grasped his spear and sprang into the saddle, all armed as he
was, without touching the stirrup. Then Wieland's face grew bright
again, and he walked long by the side of his son's horse and gave him
full knowledge of the road he must take. So they parted, father and son,
and Witig rode upon his way.

Long before he reached Verona he had met with many adventures,
especially one in which he overcame twelve robbers who held a strong
castle by a bridge and were wont to take toll of travellers. These
robbers seeing Witig draw nigh parted among them in anticipation his
armour and his horse, and planned also to maim him, cutting off his
right hand and right foot, but with the good sword Mimung he slew two of
them and was fighting valiantly with the rest when certain knights whom
he had before met on the road came to his help, and between them they
slew seven of the robbers and put the others to flight. These knights
were Hildebrand and Heime, and a stranger whom they were escorting to
the court of Verona. Heime, who was already jealous of Witig's power and
prowess, had sought to dissuade his companions from going to his help;
but Hildebrand refused to do so unknightly a deed as to let their
road-companion be overpowered by ruffians before their very eyes without
giving him succour. So now, the victory being won and Witig having
displayed his might, they all made themselves known unto him. Hildebrand
swore brotherhood in arms with Witig, but having heard of his
determination to challenge Theodoric to single combat, secretly by
night changed the sword Mimung for one less finely tempered. For he
feared for his young lord's life if that sword, wielded by Witig's
strong hand, should ever descend upon Theodoric's helmet.

At length the wayfarers all entered the gates of Verona. Great was
Theodoric's joy to behold again the good Master Hildebrand; but great
was his indignation when the young Dane, who came with Hildebrand,
challenged him to single combat. Said Theodoric: In my father's land
and mine I will establish such peace that it shall not be permitted to
every rover and rascal to come into it and challenge me to the duel.

Hildebrand: Thou sayest not rightly, my lord, nor knowest of whom thou
speakest. This is no rover nor rascal, but a brave man; and in sooth I
know not whether thou wilt get the victory over him.

Then interrupted Reinald, a follower of Theodoric: That were in truth,
my lord, a great offence that every upstart urchin in thine own land
should come and challenge thee to the fight.

Hildebrand: Thou shalt not assail my journey-companion with any such
abusive words.

And thereat he dealt Reinald such a blow with his fist on his ear that
he fell senseless to the ground. Then said Theodoric: I see thou art
determined to be this man's friend; but thou shalt see how much good
that does him. This very day he shall be hung up yonder outside the
gates of Verona.

Hildebrand: If he becomes thy prisoner, after you have both tried your
might, I will not complain however hard thy decision may seem to me;
but he is still unbound, and I think thou hast a hard day's work before
thee, ere thou becomest lord of his fate.

Theodoric in a rage called for his horse and armour and rode, followed
by a long train of courtiers, to the place of tourney outside the walls
of Verona, where Witig and Hildebrand, with few companions, were
awaiting him. Witig sate, arrayed in full armour, on his horse,
battle-ready and stately to look upon. Then Heime gave Theodoric a bowl
of wine and said: Drink, my lord, and may God give thee the victory.
Theodoric drank and gave back the bowl. Likewise Hildebrand offered a
bowl to Witig, who said: Take it to Theodoric and pray him to drink to
me from it. But Theodoric in his rage refused to touch the bowl that
Witig was to drink from. Then said Hildebrand: Thou knowest not the man
with whom thou art so enraged, but thou wilt find him a true hero and
not the good-for-nothing fellow thou hast called him to-day. Then he
gave Witig the bowl and said: Drink now, and then defend thyself with
all manhood and bravery, and may God give thee his succour. And Witig
drank and gave it back to Hildebrand, and with it the gold ring of his
mother, saying: God reward thee for thy true help-bringing.

Of the fierce battle between the two heroes which now followed it were
too long to tell the tale. They fought first on horseback, then they
fought on foot. Witig dealt a mighty blow with his sword at Theodoric's
helmet, but the helmet Hildegrimur was too strong for the sword which
Hildebrand had put in the place of Mimung, and which now was shivered
into two pieces. Ah, Wieland! cried Witig in vexation, God's wrath be
on thee for fashioning this sword so ill! If I had had a good sword, I
had this day proved myself a hero; but now shame and loss are mine and
his who forged my weapon.

Then Theodoric took the sword Nagelring with both his hands and was
about to cut off Witig's head. But Hildebrand stepped in between and
begged Theodoric to spare Witig's life and take him for a comrade,
telling of his brave deeds against the twelve robbers, and declaring
that never would Theodoric have a more valiant or loyal follower than
this man, who was of kingly blood on both his father's and mother's
side, and was now willing to become Theodoric's man. But Theodoric,
still indignant at being challenged, as he deemed, by a son of a churl,
said sullenly: No; the dog shall hang, as I said he should, before the
gates of Verona. Then Hildebrand, seeing that nought else would avail,
and that Theodoric heeded not good counsel, drew Mimung from the
scabbard and gave it to Witig, saying: For the sake of the brotherhood
in arms which we swore when we met upon the journey, I give thee here
thy sword Mimung. Take it and defend thyself like a knight. Then was
Witig joyous as a bird at daybreak. He kissed the golden-hilted sword
and said: May God forgive me for the reproach which I hurled at my
father, Wieland. See! Theodoric, noble hero! see! here is Mimung. Now am
I joyous for the fight with thee as a thirsty man for drinking, or a
hungry hound for feeding. Then he rained on Theodoric blow on blow,
hacking away now a piece of his coat of mail, now a splinter from his
helmet. Theodoric, bleeding from five great wounds, and thinking only
now of defence, never of attack, called on Master Hildebrand to end the
combat; but Hildebrand, still sore at heart because Theodoric seemed to
accuse him of lying when he called Witig a hero, told him that he might
now expect to receive from the conqueror the same disgraceful doom which
he in his arrogance and cruelty had adjudged to the conquered.

Then King Dietmar came and besought Witig to spare his son's life,
offering him a castle and an earl's rank and a noble wife; but Witig
spurned his gifts, and told him that it would be an unkingly deed if he,
by his multitude of men-at-arms, stayed the single combat which was
turning against his son. So, after these words, they renewed the fight;
and now, by a mighty blow from the good sword Mimung, even the stout
helmet was cloven asunder from right to left, and the golden hair of
Theodoric streamed out of the fissure. With that Hildebrand relented,
and springing between the twain, begged Witig, for the sake of the
brotherhood that was sworn between them, to give peace to Theodoric and
take him for his comrade--And when you two shall stand side by side
there will be none in the world that can stand against you. Though he
deserves it not, said Witig, yet since thou askest it, and for our
brotherhood's sake, I grant him his life.

Then they laid their weapons aside and clasped one another's hands, and
became good friends and comrades. So they rode back to Verona, and were
all merry together.

Many days lay Theodoric at Verona, for his wounds in the fight were
grevious. At length he rode forth on his good steed Falke, in quest of
adventures, to brighten again his honour which was tarnished by the
victory of Witig. After many days he reached a certain forest which was
near the castle of Drachenfels. Through that forest, as he was told,
there was wont to wander a knight named Ecke, who was betrothed to the
chatelaine of Drachenfels, a widowed queen with nine fair daughters.
Having heard of the might of the unconquered Ecke, Theodoric, who was
still somewhat weakened by his wounds, thought to pass through the
forest by night and so avoid an encounter. But as luck would have it,
the two knights met in the thick wood where neither could see the other,
and Ecke, having called upon the unseen traveller to reveal his name,
and finding that it was Theodoric, tempted him to single combat by every
taunt and lure that he could think of, by sneering at him for Witig's
victory and by praising his own good sword Ecke-sax, made in the same
smithy as Nagelring, gold-hilted and gold-inlaid, so that when you held
it downwards a serpent of gold seemed to run along the blade from the
handle to the point. Neither this temptation nor yet that of the twelve
pounds of ruddy gold in Ecke's girdle prevailed on Theodoric, who said
again and again: I will fight thee gladly when day dawns, but not here
in the darkness, where neither of us can see his foe. But when Ecke
began to boast of the stately queen, his betrothed, and of the nine
princesses who had armed him for the fight, said Theodoric: In heaven's
name I will fight thee, not for gold nor for thy wondrous sword, but for
glory and for the prize of those nine fair daughters of a king. Then
they struck their swords against the stones in the road, and by the
light of the sparks they closed on one another. Shield was locked in
shield, the weapons clashed, the roar of their battle was like the roar
of a thunderstorm, but or ever either had wounded his foe, they fell to
the ground, Ecke above, Theodoric below, Now, if thou wouldst save thy
life, said Ecke, thou shalt let me bind thee, and take thy armour and
thy steed, and thou shalt come with me to the castle, and there will I
show thee bound to the princesses who equipped me for this encounter.
Rather will I die, said Theodoric than be made mock of by these nine
princesses and their mother, and by all who shall hereafter see or hear
of me. Then he struggled, and got his hands free, and clutched Ecke
round the neck, and so they wrestled to and fro upon the turf in the
dark forest. But meanwhile the good steed Falke, hearing his master in
distress, bit in two the bridle by which Theodoric had fastened him to a
tree, and ran to where the two knights lay struggling on the earth.
Stamping with his forefeet, with all his might, upon Ecke, Falke broke
his spine. Then sprang Theodoric to his feet, and drawing his sword he
cut off the head of his foe. Equipping himself in Ecke's arms he rode
forth from the forest at daybreak, and drew near to the castle of
Drachenfels. The queen, standing on the top of her tower, and seeing a
man clad in Ecke's armour approach, riding a noble war-horse, called to
her daughters: Come hither and rejoice. Ecke went forth on foot, but he
rides back on a noble steed. Doubtless he has slain some knight in
single combat. Then the queen and all her daughters, dressed in their
goodliest raiment, went forth to meet the conqueror. But when they came
nearer and saw that the arms of Ecke were borne by an unknown stranger,
they read the battle more truly. Then the queen sank to the ground in a
swoon, and the nine fair princesses went back to the castle and put on
robes of mourning, and told the men-at-arms to ride forth and avenge
their champion. So Theodoric perceived that the princesses were not for
him, and rode away from the castle.

Now, Ecke had one brother named Fasold, and this man had bound himself
by a vow never to smite more than one blow at any who came against him
in battle. But so doughty a champion was he that this one blow had till
now been sufficient for every antagonist. When Fasold saw Theodoric come
riding through the wood towards him he cried out: Art thou not my
brother Ecke?

Theodoric: Another am I, and not thy brother.

Fasold: Base death-dog! thou hast stolen on my brother Ecke in his
sleep and murdered him; for when he was awake thou hadst never overcome
that strifeful hero.

Theodoric: Thou liest there. He forced me, to fight for honour's sake
and for the sake of his betrothed and the nine fair princesses, her
daughters. But a brave man truly he was, and had I known how great a
warrior I would never have ventured to match myself against him.

Then Fasold rushed at Theodoric with drawn sword, and dealt a terrible
blow upon his helmet, which stunned Theodoric and stretched him
senseless on the ground. Remembering his vow, Fasold then turned away
and rode towards the castle.

Before long, however, Theodoric's soul returned into him, and springing
on his horse he rode furiously after Fasold, and with taunting words
provoked him to the fight, declaring that he was a Nithing [164] if he
would not avenge his brother. With that Fasold turned back, and the two
heroes leaping from their horses began the fight on foot. It was a long
and terrible combat, but it began to turn against Fasold. He had
received five grievous wounds, while Theodoric had but three, and of a
slighter kind. Perceiving, therefore, that the longer the fight lasted
the more certain he was to be at last slain, and as to each man his own
life is most precious, this great and valiant hero begged his life of
Theodoric, and offered to become his henchman. Peace I will have with
thee, said Theodoric, but not thy service, seeing that thou art so
noble a knight, and that I have slain thy brother. On this one condition
will I grant thee thy life, that thou wilt clasp my hand and swear
brotherhood in arms with me, that each of us shall help the other in all
time of his need as if we were born brothers, and that all men shall
know us for loyal comrades. Fasold gladly took the oath, and they
mounted their horses and rode together towards Verona.

On their road they met a mighty beast which is called an elephant.
Theodoric, in spite of Fasold's dissuading words, persisted in attacking
it, but failed, even with the good sword Ecke-sax, to reach any vital
part. Then was he in great danger; nor would the help which Fasold
loyally rendered have availed him much, for the huge beast was trampling
him under its great forefeet; but the faithful steed Falke again broke
its bridle and came to the help of its master. The fierce kicks which it
gave the elephant in its side called off its attention from Theodoric,
who once more getting hold of Ecke-sax, stabbed the elephant in the
belly, and sprang nimbly from under it before it fell down dead.

Riding some way from thence and emerging from a wood, the two comrades
saw a vast dragon flying through the air at no great distance from the
ground. It had long and sharp claws, a huge and terrible head, and from
its mouth protruded the head and hands of an armed and still living
knight whom it had half swallowed and was attempting to carry off. The
unhappy victim called on them for help, and they struck the dragon with
their swords, but its hide was hard, and Fasold's sword was blunt, and
only Theodoric's sword availed aught against it, Mine is sharper,
cried the captive, but it is inside the creature's mouth. Use it, if you
can, for my deliverance. Then the valiant Fasold rushed up and plucked
the knight's sword from out of the jaws of the dragon. Strike
carefully, said the captive, that I be not wounded by mine own sword,
for my legs are inside the creature's mouth. Even so did they. Both
Fasold and Theodoric struck deft blows and soon killed the dragon, by
whose dead body the three heroes stood on the green turf. They asked the
liberated knight of his name and lineage, and he turned out to be
Sintram, grandson of Bertram, Duke of Venice, and cousin of good Master
Hildebrand, and then on his way to Verona to visit his kinsman and to
take service under Theodoric.

Eleven days and eleven nights had he been riding, and at length being
weary had laid him down to rest, when that foul monster stole upon him
in his sleep, and first robbing him of his shield, had then opened its
mouth to swallow him up and bear him away.

Then Theodoric made himself known to Sintram, who pleaded earnestly that
his faithful sword might be restored to him. Great was the joy when the
heroes were made known one to another. And so Sintram became one of
Theodoric's henchmen, and served him long and faithfully.

Thus passed the youth of Theodoric--

When every morning brought a noble chance.
And every chance brought out a noble knight.

Ere many years were gone King Dietmar died, having scarcely reached
middle age, and Theodoric succeeded him in the kingdom. And he was the
most renowned amongst princes; his fame spread wide and far over the
whole world, and his name will abide and never be forgotten in all the
lands of the South so long as the world shall endure. After he had
reigned some years, he willed to marry, and having heard of the fame of
the beautiful Princess Hilda, daughter of Arthur, King of Britain, he
sent his sister's son, Herbart, to ask for the maiden's hand. King
Arthur liked not that Theodoric should not have come himself to urge his
suit, and he would not suffer Herbart to have speech of the princess;
but Herbart, who was a goodly youth and a brave knight, pleased Arthur
well, and he kept him at his court and made him his seneschal. Now the
Lady Hilda was so closely guarded that no stranger might see her face.
She never walked abroad, except when she went to the church, and then
twelve counts walked on either side holding up her girdle, and twelve
monks followed after, bearing her train, and twelve great Earls, in
coats of mail, with helmet and sword and shield, brought up the rear,
and looked terrible things on any man who should be bold enough to try
to speak with her. And over her head was a canopy, in which the plumes
of two great peacocks shielded her beautiful face from the rays of the
sun. Thus went the Lady Hilda to the place of prayer.

Now Herbart had waited many days, and had never caught sight of the
princess; but at length there was a great church festival, and she went,
thus magnificently attended, to perform her devotions. But neither on
the road nor yet in the church could Herbart see her face. But he had
prepared two mice, one adorned with gold and one with silver, and he
took out first one and then the other, and they ran to where the
princess was sitting. Each time she looked up to see the mouse running,
and each time he saw her beautiful face, and she saw that he beheld her,
and signals passed between them. Then she sent her maid to ask him of
his name and parentage, and he said: I am Herbart, nephew of Theodoric
of Verona, and I crave an interview, that I may tell mine errand to thy
mistress. When they met outside the church porch, he had only time to
ask the princess to arrange that he might have longer speech of her,
when a monk, one of her twelve watchers, came by and asked him how he, a
foreigner, could be so bold as to speak with the princess. But Herbart
took the monk by the beard and shook him so violently that all his teeth
rattled, and told him that he would teach him once for all how to behave
to strangers.

That evening the princess asked her father at the banquet to let her
have whatever she should desire, and he, for his heart was merry with
wine, consented to her prayer. Then she asked that Herbart, his handsome
seneschal, might be her servant, and King Arthur, though loath to part
with him, for his honour's sake granted her request. Thereupon Herbart
sent back half of the knights who had accompanied him from Verona to
tell Theodoric that he had seen Hilda and spoken with her, and that she
was the fairest of women. Glad at heart was Theodork when he heard these
tidings.

And now Herbart had speech often with his mistress, and began to tell
her of his errand and to urge his uncle's suit. But she said, What
manner of man is Theodoric of Verona? Greatest of all heroes, said
Herbart, and kindest and most generous of men; and if thou wilt be his
wedded wife thou shalt have no lack of gold or silver or jewels. She
said, Canst thou draw his face upon this wall? Yea, answered he,
and so that every one seeing it would say, 'That is the face of King
Theodoric.' Then he drew a great, grim face on the wall, and said:
Lady, that is he; only, God help me! he is far more terrible-looking
than that. Thereupon she thought, God cannot be so wroth with me as to
destine me for that monster. And she looked up and said, Sir! why dost
thou ask for my hand for Theodoric, of Verona, and not for thyself? He
answered: I was bound to fulfil the message of my lord; but if thou
wilt have me, who am of the seed of kings, though I am not a king
myself, gladly will I be thy husband, and neither King Arthur nor King
Theodoric nor all their men shall part us twain.

So the two plighted troth to one another, Herbart and Hilda: and
watching their opportunity they stole away on horseback from the castle.
King Arthur sent after them thirty knights and thirty squires, with
orders to slay Herbart and to bring Hilda back again; but Herbart
defended himself like a hero, killing twelve knights and fourteen
squires: and the rest fled back to the castle. Herbart, though sore
wounded, mounted his steed and escaped with his wife to the dominions of
a certain king, who received him graciously, and made him duke, and gave
him broad lands. And he became a great warrior and did mighty deeds.

After this Theodoric married the eldest of the nine fair princesses of
Drachenfels, for the love of whom he had fought with the strong man
Ecke. The name of Theodoric's wife was Gudelinda. Two of her sisters
were married to two of Theodoric's men, namely, to Fasold, and the merry
rogue and stout warrior, Dietleib,[165] whose laughter-moving adventures
I have here no room to chronicle. And the mother, Bolfriana, who was
fairest of all the race, was wooed and won by Witig. But this marriage,
which Theodoric furthered with all his power, brought ill with it in the
end and the separation of tried friends. For, in order to marry
Bolfriana and receive the lordship of her domains, Witig was obliged to
enter Hermanric's service and become his man. And though Hermanric
promoted him to great honour and made him a count, this was but a poor
amends for the necessity which, as you shall soon hear, lay upon Witig,
to lift up his sword against his former master.

[Footnote 165: Some of these adventures remind us of the story of the
kitchen-knave as told in Tennyson's Gareth and Lynette.]

Now, Hermanric, as has been said, was sovereign lord of Rome and of many
other fair lands beside: and all kings and dukes to the south of the
great mountains served him, and, as it seems, even Theodoric himself
owned him as over-lord, and he was by far the greatest potentate in the
south of Europe. For the Emperor himself then ruled only over Bulgaria
and Greece, while King Hermanric's dominions included all that lay west
of the Sea of Adria.

Till this time Theodoric and his uncle, Hermanric, had been good
friends. The young hero had visited the older one at Romaborg, and they
had fought side by side against their enemies. But now came a disastrous
change, which made Theodoric a wanderer from his home for many years;
and this was all the work of that false traitor, Hermanric's chief
counsellor, Sibich.[166] For Sibich's honour as a husband had been
stained by his lord while he himself was absent on an embassy; but
instead of avenging himself with his own right hand on the adulterous
king, he planned a cruel and wide-reaching scheme of vengeance which
should embrace all the kindred of the wrong-doer. Of Hermanric's three
sons he caused that the eldest should be sent on an embassy to
Wilkina-land[167] demanding tribute from the king of that country, and
should be slain there by an accomplice; that the second should be sent
on a like embassy to England, and sailing in a leaky ship, should be
swallowed up by the waves; and that the youngest should be slain by his
father in a fit of rage provoked by the slanderous accusations of
Sibich. Then he set Hermanric against his nephews, the Harlungs, sons of
his half-brother, Ake; and these hapless young men were besieged in
their Rhine-land castle, to which Hermanric set fire, and issuing forth,
sword in hand, that they might not die like rats in a hole, were
captured and hung by their enraged uncle on the highest tree in their
own domains. So was all the family of Hermanric destroyed except
Theodoric and his young brother Diether: and against Theodoric Sibich
now began to ply his engines of calumny. He represented to Hermanric
that Theodoric's kingdom had for some time been growing large, while his
own had been growing smaller, and hinted that soon Theodoric would
openly attack his uncle. Meanwhile, and in order to test his peaceable
disposition, Hermanric, by Sibich's advice, claimed that he should pay
him tribute for Amalungen-land.[168] When Theodoric refused to do this
Hermanric was persuaded of the truth of Sibich's words, and declared
that Theodoric also should be hanged, for right well do both he and I
know which of us is the mightier.

Witig and Heime, who were now at Hermanric's court, when they heard
these wrathful words, tried in vain to abate the fury of the king and to
open his eyes to Sibich's falseness; but as they availed nothing, they
mounted their horses and rode with all speed to Verona. At midnight they
reached the city and told Theodoric the evil tidings, that on the next
day Hermanric would burst upon him with overwhelming force determined to
slay him. Then Theodoric went into his great hall of audience and bade
the horns blow to summon all his counsellors and men of war to a meeting
there in the dead of night. He told them all the tidings that Witig had
brought and asked their counsel, whether it were better to stay in
Verona and die fighting--for of successful resistance to such a force
there was no hope--or to bow for a while to the storm and fleeing from
the home-land seek shelter at some foreign court. Master Hildebrand
advised, and all were of his opinion, that it was better to flee, and
that with all speed, before morning dawned. Scarcely had Hildebrand's
words been spoken, when there arose a great sound of lamentation in
Verona, women and children bewailing that their husbands and fathers
were about to leave them, brothers parting from brothers and friends
from friends. And with all this, in the streets the neighing of horses,
and the clank of arms, as the warriors, hastily aroused, prepared
themselves for their midnight march.

So Theodoric, with the knights his companions, rode away from Verona,
which Hermanric entered next morning with five thousand men. And
Theodoric rode first to Bacharach[169] on the Rhine, where dwelt the
great Margrave, Rudiger, who was his trusty friend. And from thence he
rode on to Susat,[170] where was the palace of Attila, King of the Huns.
And when Attila heard that Theodoric was coming, he bade his men blow
the great horns, and with all his chieftains he poured forth to welcome
him and do him honour. So Theodoric tarried in the palace of Attila, a
cherished and trusted guest, and there he abode many years.

Now King Attila had long wars to wage with his neighbours on the north
and east of Hun-land. These were three brothers, mighty princes,
Osantrix, king of Wilkina-land (Norway and Sweden) whose daughter Attila
had married, and Waldemai, king of Russia and Poland, and Ilias, Earl
of Greece, With all Attila waged war, but longest and hardest with
Waldemar. And in all these encounters Theodoric and his Amalung knights
were ever foremost in the fray and last to retreat, whilst Attila and
his Huns fled often early from the battle-field, leaving the Amalungs
surrounded by their foes. Thus, once upon a time, Theodoric and Master
Hildebrand, with five hundred men, were surrounded in a fortress in the
heart of Russia: and they suffered dire famine ere King Attila,
earnestly entreated, came to their rescue. And Master Hildebrand said to
the good knight, Rudiger, who had been foremost in pressing on to
deliver them, I am now an hundred years old and never have I been in
such sore need as this day. We had five hundred men and five hundred
horses, and seven only of the horses are left which we have not killed
and eaten.

In this campaign Theodoric took prisoner his namesake, Theodoric, the
son of Waldemar, and handed him over into the keeping of his good host
and ally, King Attila. By him the captive was at first thrown into a
dreary dungeon, and no care was taken of his many wounds. But Erka, the
queen of the Huns, who was a cousin of Theodoric, son of Waldemar,
besought her husband that she might be allowed to take him out of prison
and bring him to the palace and heal his wounds. If he is healed, he
will certainly escape, said Attila. If I may only heal him, said
Erka, I will put my life on the hazard that he shall not escape. Be
it so, said Attila, who was going on another campaign into fat Russia:
If when I return I find that the son of Waldemar has escaped, doubt not
that I will strike off thy head.

Then Attila rode forth to war, and Erica commanded that Theodoric, the
son of Waldemar, should be brought into the palace, and every day she
had dainty dishes set before him, and provided him with warm baths, and
delighted his soul with gifts of jewels. But Theodoric of Verona, who
was also sore wounded, was left under the care of an ignorant and idle
nurse, and his wounds were not tended, and were like to become
gangrened. So before many days were passed, the son of Waldemar was
again whole, and clothed him with his coat and greaves of mail and put
his shining helmet on his head, and mounted his horse and rode from the
palace. Queen Erka implored him to stay, saying that her head was the
pledge of his abiding; but he answered that he had been all too long
already in Hun-land, and would ride forth to his own country. Then the
queen, in her terror and despair, sought Theodoric of Verona, where he
lay in his ungarnished chamber with his gangrened wounds; and he, though
he could not forbear to reproach her for her little kindness to him, and
though his wounds made riding grievous and fighting well-nigh
impossible, yet yielded to her prayers and tears, and rode forth after
the son of Waldemar. Striking spurs into the good steed Falke, he rode
fast and far, and came up at length with the fugitive. Return, he
cried, for the life's sake of thy cousin, Erka; and she and I together
will reconcile thee to Attila, and I will give thee silver and gold.
But Waldemar's son utterly refused to return and to be reconciled with
either of his enemies, and scoffed at the foul wounds of his namesake.
If thou wilt not return for silver and gold, nor to save the life of
thy cousin, Erka, thou shalt stay for thine own honour's sake, for I
challenge thee here to combat; and never shalt thou be called aught but
a 'Nithing' if thou ridest away when challenged by one wounded man. At
these words the son of Waldemar had no choice but to stay and fight. The
battle was long and desperate, and once both champions, sore weary,
leaned upon their shields and rested a space, while he of Verona in vain
renewed to the son of Waldemar his offers of peace and friendship; but
the combat began again with fury, and at last, with one mighty
sword-stroke, Theodoric of Verona struck the right side of the neck of
the other Theodoric so that his head rolled off on the left side, and
the victor rode back to Susat with that trophy at his saddle-bow. Queen
Erka, when her cousin's head was thrown by Theodoric at her feet, wept
and bitterly lamented that so many of her kindred should lose their
lives for her sake.

At length, after many days, Theodoric was healed of his wounds, and went
with Attila on one more expedition into Russia, in the course of which
they took the cities of Smolensko and Pultowa, and Theodoric slew King
Waldemar on the battle-field.

And now had Theodoric been twenty winters in Hun-land. He had fought in
many great battles, and had gained broad lands for his host-friend,
Attila. His young brother, Diether, who had been brought as a babe from
Verona, had grown into a goodly stripling; and the two sons of Attila,
Erp and Ortwin, who had grown up with him, loved him as a brother; and
Erka, their mother, loved Diether as her own son. Great, too, was the
reverence shown to Theodoric, who sat at the high-seat by the side of
Attila, and was honoured as his chief counsellor and friend.

But Theodoric's heart pined for his home and his lost kingdom, and one
day he sought the presence of Queen Erka and poured out the longings of
his soul. Good friend, Theodoric, said she, I will be the first to
aid thee in thine endeavour. I will send with thee my two sons, Erp and
Ortwin, and a thousand well-armed knights. And now will I seek Attila,
my lord, and adjure him to help thee. Attila at first took it ill that
Theodoric came not himself to urge his suit, but when Erka had persuaded
him that it was not from pride but from modesty that he made the request
through her, and when she said that she was willing to send her own sons
into danger for his sake, Attila gladly yielded, and bade his trusty
friend Rudiger, with a body of chosen knights, accompany Theodoric and
his exiled followers back to their own land.

Then Queen Erka called her two sons to her and showed them the coats of
mail and the greaves of mail, bright as silver and of hardest steel, but
embellished with ruddy gold, and the helmets and the thick red shields
that she had prepared for their first day of battle. Now be brave,
said she, weeping, oh, fair sons of mine, even as your arms are
strong: for great as is my longing that you return in safety to my
embraces, I long yet more that all men should say that you bore
yourselves as brave men and heroes in the fight. And then she armed
Diether in like manner, and said: Dear foster-son, behold here my sons
Erp and Ortwin, whom I have armed for war to help thee and Theodoric in
the recovery of your kingdom. You three youths, who are now here, have
loved one another so dearly that never were you in any game in which you
could not be on the same side and give one another help. Now you ride
forth to war for the first time: keep well together and help one another
in this great game on which you are now entering. May God help me,
dear lady, said Diether, that I may bring back both thy sons safe and
sound; but if they fall in the storm of war, I will not live to tell the
tale.

Of the clang of iron and steel in all the armourers' shops at Susat, of
the stillness which fell upon the shouting host when Attila, from a high
tower, gave his orders to the army, of the setting forth of the gallant
band, ten thousand knights with many followers, it needs not to be told
at length. Enough, they crossed the mountains and entered the land that
had been theirs; and Theodoric, to take no unknightly advantage of his
foe, sent messengers to Rome to apprise Hermanric of his coming and
challenge him to battle outside the walls of Ravenna. [171]

[Footnote 171: I here deviate from the text of the Wilkina-Saga, which
puts the battle-field at Gronsport on the banks of the Moselle. This is
evidently due to the influence of the Muenster and Bremen traditions,]

Hermanric, too old to go forth himself to war, gave the chief command to
the false counsellor, Sibich. Under him were Reinald and Witig, both of
whom had been friends and comrades of Theodoric in times past, and were
most unwilling to fight against him, though thirsting for battle with
any number of Huns. It was appointed, therefore, that Sibich, bearing
Hermanric's banner, should fight against Theodoric and his Amalungs,
Reinald against the gallant Rudiger, and Witig against the two sons of
Attila. The whole army of Hermanric numbered seventeen thousand men. And
now were the two armies drawn up on the opposite banks of a river, and
it was the night before the battle. Master Hildebrand, desiring to learn
the position of the enemy, rode some way up the stream till he found a
ford by which he crossed to the other side. It was so dark that he had
almost ridden up against another knight coming in the opposite
direction, before either perceived the other. Dark as it was they soon
recognised one another by their voices, though they had not met for
twenty years. The stranger was Reinald, who had come forth on the same
errand as Hildebrand. No blows were fought; only friendly words were
exchanged, with lamentations over this miserable war between the brother
Amalungs, and curses on the false Sibich, whose intrigues had brought it
to pass. Then the moon shone forth, and Reinald showed Hildebrand from
afar the great yellow tent with three golden tufts where the traitor
Sibich was sleeping; and the green tent with the silver tuft in which
Witig and his Amalungs were dreaming of battle with the Huns; and the
black tent, then empty of its lord, that was the tent of Reinald
himself. And Hildebrand told Reinald the ordering of the troops of
Theodoric, showing him Theodoric's tent with five poles and a golden
tuft, and the tent of the sons of Attila, made of red silk with nine
poles and nine tufts of gold; and the green tent of Margrave Rudiger.
Then the two warriors kissed each other and wished one another well
through the day of battle, and so they parted. And when Reinald,
returning to the camp, told whom he had met, Sibich wished to send him
to slay Master Hildebrand before he returned to his friends. But Reinald
would in no wise permit so unknightly a deed, saying that Sibich must
first slay him and all his friends ere such a thing should befall.

When day dawned Theodoric set forward his array and bade all his
trumpets blow. They rode up the stream to the ford which Hildebrand had
discovered the night before, and crossed thereby. And Sibich and Witig,
seeing them approach, sounded their trumpets and marshalled their men.
Theodoric, seeing the false Sibich's banner waving, cried to his
followers: Forward, my men! Strike this day with all your courage and
knighthood. Ye have striven often against the Russians and the
Wilkina-men, and have mostly gotten the victory; but now in this strife
we fight for our own land and realm, and for the deathless glory that
will be ours if we win our land back again. Then he spurred his brave
old steed Falke through the thickest ranks of the enemy, raising ever
and anon his good sword Ecke-sax and letting it fall, with every blow
felling a warrior or his horse to the ground. Likewise his brave
standard-bearer Wildeber, who went before him, hewed down the ranks of
the foe. Against him came Walter, Sibich's standard-bearer, who rode in
hero-mood towards him, and aiming the banner-staff full against his
breast, pierced him through, the staff coming out through his shoulders.
But Wildeber, though wounded to the death, lopped off with his sword the
end of the banner-staff, and then riding fiercely at Walter struck him
on his thigh so terrible a blow that the sword cut right through the
coat of mail and stuck fast in the saddle below. Then did both the
standard-bearers fall from their horses and lie dead on the field side
by side.

When Sibich saw his standard droop and the brave knight Walter fall, he
turned his horse and fled from the field, and all his division of the
army with him. Theodoric and his men rode after them fast and far, and
wrought dire havoc among them, but when Theodoric was miles away from
the battle-plain he was overtaken by one of his men, his horse all
covered with foam, who brought him evil tidings from another part of the
field.

For Witig, when he saw the flight of Sibich, not terrified but all the
more enraged, had ridden fiercely towards the place where the banner of
Attila's sons was waving and had struck down their standard-bearer.
Seest thou, said Ortwin to Helfric, his sworn henchman, what evil
that base dog, Witig, is doing? He has slain our brave standard-bearer;
let us ride up to him and stop his deadly work. So spake Ortwin, but in
the fierce fray that followed both he and his good comrade Helfric, and
then his brother Erp, fell dead around Witig and his standard-bearer.
Oh! then, great was the wrath of the young Diether--who meanwhile had
fought and killed the standard-bearer of Witig--when he saw both of his
foster-brothers slain. Eager to avenge them, he struck oft and hard at
Witig's armour. Art thou Diether, King Theodoric's brother? cried
Witig; for his sake I am loth to do thee any hurt. Ride away and fight
with some other man. Since my young lords Erp and Ortwin are dead, and
thou, base hound, hast slain them, I care not for my life unless I can
have thine. So said Diether, and struck with all his might on Witig's
helmet. The helmet, of hardest steel, resisted the blow, but the sword,
glancing off, descended on the neck of Witig's war-horse, Schimming, and
severed its head from its body. God knows, cried Witig, as he sprang
to earth, that I fight now but to save mine own life. And with that he
grasped the handle of his sword Mimung with both hands and struck
Diether so terrible a blow that he clove his body in twain.

These were the tidings which the breathless knight brought to Theodoric
and which stayed him in his pursuit of the fugitives. Ah! how have I
sinned, said he that so evil a day should come upon me? Here am I
untouched by a wound, but my dearest brother is dead and my two young
lords also. Never may I now return to Hun-land, but here will I die or
avenge them. And with that he turned and set spurs to Falke and rode so
swiftly that none of his men could keep up with him; and so full was he
of rage and fury that a hot breath, like sparks of fire, came forth from
his mouth, and no living man might dare to stand before him. And when he
reached Witig, who was riding Diether's horse, his own being slain,
Witig, like all others turned to flee from that terrible countenance.
Evil dog, cried Theodoric, if thou hast any courage stand and wait
till I come up to thee and avenge the death of my brother. I slew him
against my will. said Witig, and because I had no other way to save my
life; and if I can pay forfeit for his blood with any quantity of gold
and silver, that will I gladly do. But still he fled as fast as his
steed could carry him, down the course of a stream to where it poured
itself into a lake, and still Theodoric rode after him. But when
Theodoric hurled his spear, in that very moment Witig sank beneath the
waters of the lake and the spear-shaft was driven deep into the shore,
and there it may be seen to this day. But some men thought that Witig
was received by a mermaid and kept hidden in her cave for many days. For
his grandfather had been born long ago of this mermaid, having been
begotten by Wilkinus, King of Norway.

So the battle had been won by Theodoric and his allies (for in other
parts of the field the Margrave Rudiger had vanquished Reinald) yet was
it a bootless victory by reason of the death of Attila's sons. And
Theodoric, riding back to the battle-field, came where his brother
Diether was lying; and lamented him saying: There liest thou; my
brother Diether. This is the greatest sorrow that has befallen me, that
thou art thus untimely slain. And then he came to the place where lay
the young princes, with their stout coats of mail and their strong
helmets, which had not been able to save them from death, and he said:
Dear young lords, this is the greatest of my sorrows that I have lost
you; and how shall I now return to Susat? God knows that I would gladly
have many a gaping wound, if only you might be whole again. Then he
bade Rudiger lead back the army to its king, for he would neither claim
his own kingdom nor return to the palace of Susat, after he had cost
Attila the lives of so many brave knights and of his own sons. So
Rudiger returned to the palace, but Theodoric and Master Hildebrand
dwelt in a little hut in the neighbourhood of the city of Susat.

When Rudiger stood in the presence of Attila, who asked him of the
welfare of Theodoric and of the host, he made answer: King Theodoric
lives, and the Huns have been conquerors in the battle, yet have we had
evil fortune, since we have lost the young lords, Erp and Ortwin. Then
Queen Erka and almost all who were in the palace-hall lifted up their
voices and wept. And Rudiger told Attila how Diether and many another
brave knight had fallen in the battle. But Attila answered with
steadfast soul: It has happened now as it ever does. They fall in the
fight for whom it is so appointed, and neither mail nor muscle avails
them anything. My sons Erp and Ortwin and their foster-brother Diether
had the best arms that could be fashioned in the smithy, yet there they
all lie dead. And after a space he added: Where is my good friend,
King Theodoric? He and Master Hildebrand are sitting together in a
mean hut, and they have laid their arms aside and dare not come into thy
presence, O King! because they have lost the young lords. Then Attila
sent two knights to beg Theodoric to come into his presence, but he
would not for grief and shame. Then Queen Erka rose up weeping and went
with her maidens to the cottage where Theodoric abode: and when she
entered it she said: My good friend, Theodoric! how did my sons fare in
the war, and fought they as good knights ere they fell? But Theodoric,
with mournful face, answered: Lady! they fought as good knights and
parried the blows bravely, and neither of them would part from the
other. And with that she went up to him and threw her arms round his
neck and said: Good friend! King Theodoric! come now into the
palace-hall to King Attila, and take thy welcome there, and be merry
once more. Often before now have the brave men for whom it was
appointed, fallen in the battle; and they who live still must take
thought for themselves, since it profits not to be ever bewailing the
dead. So Theodoric went with the queen into the palace-hall, and Attila
stood up and gav






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