|Chapter 1: Suitors
The boy Ortwin was given into the care of old Wate to prepare him for his life as a knight and a warrior. Gudrun grew up in the women's quarters of Castle Matelane, where she blossomed into a most beautiful maiden.
Many a suitor appeared to vie for the hand of the maiden. The proudest of them all was Siegfried of Morland, who took King Hettels refusal especially bad. He left Matelane, revenge on his mind.
Across the ocean, the Kingdom of Normandy was ruled by King Ludwig. Beside him was his Queen Gerlind, whose claim to fame was her malicious and spiteful nature. Their son, Hartmut, however, was a brave Knight beyond repproach and their daughter Ortrun a lovely maiden, possessed of a sweet nature. Even though their kingdom was small, Hartmut nevertheless believed he could win the hand of Grudrun. Messengers were dispatched to present the proposal. Alas, the haughty reply was that a Princess of the House of Hegelingen was meant for bigger and better things than to grace the measly little throne of Normandy.
It can't be said that Ludwig and Hartmut were overly pleased with this turn of events but they tried to take it in stride. Gerlind, however, was furious and screamed for revenge. Hartmut decided to travel to Matelane himself to see if Gudrun would not just fall madly in love with him and follow him to Normandy...
Meanwhile, the mighty King Herwig of Seeland appeared before King Hettel, marriage on his mind. But even he was denied.
Hartmut managed to surprise Gudrun in the gardens of Matelane but she reminded him of her father's decision. The knight was not that easily put off, though, and requested an audience with the king. Who reminded him that his father, King Ludwig had received his lands from the Hegelingen and was therefore in liege to them. Not so, countered Hartmut, that was long ago and King Ludwig now ruled free over his lands. Be that as it may, Hettel again told him that Gudrun was destined to be the Queen of a kingdom much mightier than Normandy.
Now Hartmut's gander was up. But no sooner had he stomped off than a huge army appeared before Matelane, the troops of King Herwig, who also could not take "no" for an answer.
In the ensuing battle, Herwig bested Hettel and nearly killed him. Now don't ask me how, but through all the battle noises, Herwig heard Gudrun's voice, from the tower, reminding him to consider that, after all, he was here to become the son-in-law of Hettel.
The engagement of Gudrun and Herwig was celebrated in great splendor, but Hettel and Hilde asked that the wedding not be for another year. This the young couple agreed to.
Upon Herwig's return to Seeland, what awaited him than the army of Siegfried of Morland, who was still bitter about being refused and wanted to take it out on the man who won Gudrun's hand. Had not King Hettel come with his troops, it would have looked bad for Herwig. Alas, while the fighting went on in Seeland, Castle Matelane was largely unprotected. Like thieves in the night, the Normans broke in and kidnapped Gudrun and several of her handmaidens, among them Gudrun's favourite, Hildburg.
Messengers arrived at the camp of the Hegelingen in Seeland informing them of the cowardly deed.
This sickened even Siegfried of Morland to the point where he made peace with Herwig and Hettel, to join them in pursuit of the Normans, who were celebrating their success at the shores of Ireland, with the booty they had taken from Matelane.
The ensuing battle was fierce, and luck was with King Ludwig, who slew King Hettel, whose men managed to take his body to the castle, where the grief was understandably great.
Night fell. But the next morning, as the Hegelingen awoke to resume the battle against the invaders, they discovered that the Normans had sailed away, again like thieves in the night, with Gudrun and her maidens aboard.
Old Wate was furious and wanted to follow them right then and there.
Cooler heads prevailed. He was persuaded that first, they must bury their dead, then replenish their ranks and recoup their trength.
Chapter 2: Prisoners
As the ships neared she coast of Normandy, King Ludwig pointed out their castle, Kassiane, where Gudrun would someday rule as queen. "Never" she replied, reminding him that she could never marry the son of the man who was responsible for the death of her father, she'd rather be dead herself. In an fit of temper, Ludwig decided to grant her wish and threw her overboard. But Hartmut dove after her, thus saving her life.
|Ortrun welcomed Gudrun as a sister and Gudrun felt friendly toward her also, but she rebuffed all contact with Gerlind, knowing full well whose idea it had been that she was a prisoner, and the person ultimately responsible for her father's death.
Gerlind held herself in check, but her eyes spoke of horrible times to come for the proud young woman.
At first, the Hegelingen women were treated as guests, but Gudrun continued to rebuff any attempts by Hartmut to make her his wife. He finally gave up and gave the maidens over to the "care" of his mother. With the result that they from now on lived no better than the castle druges, doing hard labour from morning to night, on meager rations, dressed in rags.
Hartmut meanwhile, took to his ship and went on an extended journey. Upon his return after a year, Gudrun's answer to him remained the same. When he lost his temper and threatened her, Gudrun haughtily informed him that she wished for nothing more than that she be a knight, so he would not dare come near her without his weapons.
From that day on, Hartmut avoided Kassiane, and Gudrun was again at the mercy of the evil Gerlind. And mercy was not one of Gerlind's qualities. Soon, Gudrun and Hildburg were at the shore doing the washing, day after day, from sun-up to sun-down, their fingers bloody from rubbing the clothes against the rough stones.
In vain did Gudrun wait for rescue. Time passed ....
Chapter 3: Hope
Finally one day, the Hegelingen, together with King Herwig and his men, were ready to take to their ships to reclaim what was theirs. They anchored near the strands of Matelane, but well out of sight in a cove; they sent out scouts to get the lay of the land and gather information about the enemy.
Gudrun and Hildburg were, as always, at the shore doing the washing, almost freezing to death because even though the storm was icy and it had begun to snow, Gerlind had refused them shoes and warm clothing.
They were shaking with cold and despair as all of a sudden, they saw a boat carrying two men nearing the shore. The maidens set to flee, but the men assured them they were lost at sea and had been adrift until they were washed upon this shore.
Gudrun could not believe
her eyes--the men before
her were Herwig and
Ortwin! They, however, did
not recognise the young
women in their sorry state
and believed to have en-
countered a couple of
druges, beautiful, yes, but
of very low standing.
The men finally told them
that they were searching for
the daughter of a king who
was being held prisoner,
probably on this very shore.
Gudrun's heart beat in her
throat as she inquired about
the name of this princess.
Herwig quietly spoke her
name, pain and longing in his
voice. Gudrun wasn't done testing them, however. She pre-
tended to think for a while, then told them yes, such a prisoner had once been held here, but she was believed to have died.
Upon hearing this, the men moaned and tears welled in their eyes. Gudrun however, stretched herself to her full height and allowed her golden hair to blow in the wind. Both hands did she hold out to her betrothed and ask him, did he not now recognise her?
The men were overjoyed, but then the realisation came that the princess and her handmaiden were as slaves, dresed in rags, performing the lowest and hardest of labours. Gudrun informed them that this was the work of Gerlind, in reply to her continued refusal to marry Hartmut. They did not, however, want to be rescued the same cowardly way they had been kidnapped ... tomorrow, there would be a battle, Kassiane would be defeated and the maidens rescued.
As the boat disappeared with the two warriors, Gudrun gathered up the washing and threw everything into the waves ...
|This page created September 2000 by Valkyrie.
Illustrations by Kurt Schmischke, all rights reserved.
Translation and page design by Val Grant