As soon as the contests were over, Siegfried had slipped back to the ship and hidden his Cloak of Darkness. Then boldly he came back to the great hall, and pretending to know nothing of the games begged to be told who had been the victor, if indeed they had already taken place.
When he had heard that Queen Brunhild had been vanquished, the hero laughed, and cried gaily, “Then, noble maiden, thou must go with us to Rhineland to wed King Gunther.”
“A strange way for a vassal to speak,” thought the angry Queen, and she answered with a proud glance at the knight, “Nay, that will I not do until I have summoned my kinsmen and my good lieges. For I will myself say farewell to them ere ever I will go to Rhineland.”
Thus heralds were sent throughout Brunhild’s realms, and soon from morn to eve her kinsmen and her liegemen rode into the castle, until it seemed as though a mighty army were assembling.
“Does the maiden mean to wage war against us,” said Hagen grimly. “I like not the number of her warriors.”
Then said Siegfried, “I will leave thee for a little while and go across the sea, and soon will I return with a thousand brave warriors, so that no evil may befall us.”
So the Prince went down alone to the little ship and set sail across the sea.
SIEGFRIED AND THE PRINCESS
The ship in which Siegfried set sail drifted on before the wind, while those in Queen Brunhild’s castle marveled, for no one was to be seen on board. This was because the hero had again donned his Cloak of Darkness.
On and on sailed the little ship until at length it drew near to the land of the Nibelungs. Then Siegfried left his vessel and again climbed the mountain-side, where long before he had cut off the heads of the little Nibelung princes.
He reached the cave into which he had thrust the treasure, and knocked loudly at the door. The cave was the entrance to Nibelheim the dark, little town beneath the glad, green grass.
Siegfried might have entered the cave, but he knocked that he might see if the treasure were well guarded.
Then the porter, who was a great giant, when he heard the knock buckled on his armor and opened the door. Seeing, as he thought in his haste, a strange knight standing before him he fell upon him with a bar of iron. So strong was the giant that it was with difficulty that the Prince overcame him and bound him hand and foot.
Alberich meanwhile had heard the mighty blows, which indeed had shaken Nibelheim to its foundations.
Now the dwarf had sworn fealty to Siegfried, and when he, as the giant had done, mistook the Prince for a stranger, he seized a heavy whip with a gold handle and rushed upon him, smiting his shield with the knotted whip until it fell to pieces.
Too pleased that his treasures were so well defended to be angry, Siegfried now seized the little dwarf by his beard, and pulled it so long and so hard that Alberich was forced to cry for mercy. Then Siegfried bound him hand and foot as he had done the giant.