Long and dreary were Wieland's days on the isle, but even longer and more dreadful the nights. Finally, after countless nights without sleep, he had the beginnings of a plan for revenge. To the king, he pretended to have given up and was satisfied with his lot, so that after a while, he wasn't watched quite so carefully anymore. It now happened that word of Wieland's misfortune reached the ears of his brother Egil, the master archer. He decided to approach the king, and in order to allay any suspicion, he took with him his five-year-old son. The king welcomed the famous archer in a friendly enough manner, but any request on Wieland's behalf fell on deaf ears. Egil, however, was not easily discouraged and remained at King Nidung's court.
| So it came to pass that one day, Nidung came up to him as he walked with his son in the royal gardens. The king had a strange look in his eyes as he contemplated the archer.
"Egil, I heard it said that you're the best archer anywhere. Care to prove that to me?"
Unsuspecting, Egil replied that yes, that was indeed so, and should the king care to name a target, he would hit it, dead on, no matter how small.
This is where Nidung reached into a tree, plucked an apple, and sneered at Egil to shoot the apple off his son's head. Not exactly what Egil had in mind, but no amount of begging could sway the villainous king, he was enjoying himself too much. Moreover, he informed Egil that should he either refuse or miss, he would suffer the same fate as his brother Wieland.
What could Egil do. He pulled two arrows out of his quiver, and as the child stood still as a statue, apple on his head, Egil aimed carefully and the arrow went straight through the apple.
When Nidung inquired what the second arrow had been for, since Egil was only allowed one shot, the archer looked at the king and informed him that had the first arrow missed the apple and hit the child, the second arrow would not have missed ... it had been meant for the king*
Nidung continued to act friendly toward Egil, but what he really thought he kept to himself. He even took Egil into his employ but father and son had to live on the isle with Wieland.
Egil was puzzled at Wielands behaviour; the cripple had asked him to shoot down the largest of birds, as many as humanly possible. And what Wieland was feverishly working on in the smithy, that he couldn't figure out, either.
Then, one day, unexpectedly, the time and means and revenge were at hand. Now it must be said that the old Wieland, the strong and proud Wieland, would never have considered such a horrible deed, but desire for revenge was now all that drove the bitter creature he had become.
Nidungs two young sons had obtained permission from their father to go to Wieland to get new arrowheads. Wieland agreed. He told the boys he would even do something extra ... forge a spell into the metal that would let the arrows always hit their mark. But it would only work if they kept it a deep secret ... so they were to come back tomorrow, walking backwards, so no-one would know that they had come there.
The boys, overjoyed at the prospect of these magickal arrows, didn't think this through and readily agreed to Wieland's basically nonsensical request.
As they returnd the next morning, he opened the huge old chest that held the precious metals he often worked with. Greedily, the boys rummaged through the treasures.
Their heads were neatly separated from their bodies as Wieland slammed the heavy lid shut on them.
King Nidung awoke, with a heavy sense of foreboding after a night plagued by strange and disturbing dreams. It soon became apparent that the princes had disappeared in the early morning hours, and perhaps it was a sixth sense made Nidung extend the search to Wieland's isle, but all that could be seen were the boys' footprints, leading away from the smithy.
It was quite some time later that the king received the two most magnificent drinking bowls, the envy of all his guest, so masterfully were they framed in gold, inset with the most precious stones.
The man had no idea that what he put to his lips were the skulls of his childrens.
*Seems then Wilhelm Tell was not the first archer who had to
prove himself by shooting apples ....
| But Wieland's thirst for revenge was not yet stilled. Fate played into his hand as the beautiful Princess Badhild lost a bracelet, a gift from her father, as she and her maidens were playing in the castle grounds. She soon found it, but someone stepped on in and it was quite ruined. The princess was afraid of what her father's temper could think of nothing better than to secretly make her way to the island to ask Wieland to fix it for her.
He was quite amenable to this idea. But the work would be delicate, and he had another thing or two to finish first. She didn't mind waiting, and gratefully sipped on the cup of wine he handed her.
As Wieland slipped the mended bracelet on her arm, he told her of his love for her, and how she would long be his wife had her father not broken his word. Badhild fell into his arms, quite overcome with love for the smith ... this feeling facilitated, of course, by the strong love potion that had been in her wine. Morning dawned over the sea as she slipped back into the castle, unnoticed.
From that day on, she spent all the time she could at the smithy. She promised that when the day came, she would follow him to his homeland. Of course she had no idea how Wieland would ever get away.
Finally, Wieland's masterpiece was finished. He had skillfully arranged the feathers of the huge swans that Egil killed for him and fashioned a mighty pair of wings. With arms made strong from years of swinging the hammers in the smithy, he lifted himself off the island. But not yet towards Seeland ... he had unfinished business with Nidung. Who wasn't long in appearing in the courtyard, wondering what the commotion was all about ... he just about had a stroke when he saw the birdman, perched atop the highest tower of the castle. His voice shaking with rage, he called for his master archer. Who took his time in coming, so Nidung decided to stall for time and engage Wieland in conversation.
Which is exactly what Wieland had planned. Making the king swear an oath before the entire court that Egil and his son would leave the castle unscathed, he let the king know what had happened to the princes, and that he had drunk from the skulls of his sons. Moreover, the Princess Badhild was now a smith's wife.
When Egil finally showed up, Nidung threatened him, sword in hand, either he shoot or he and his son would die. Right then, right there. But Wieland kept flying, despite the blood that soon dripped down from his wings ... Egil had skillfully aimed at bladders filled with blood that Wieland had attached between the feathers.
And so Wieland made his way home to Seeland, soon followed by his brother Egil and the boy. Because from that day on, Nidung was a broken man. The spirit had gone out of him, his luck in battle left him, and he was soon a mere shadow of his former self.
Great was Wieland's happiness as one day, a ship arrived at the coast of Seeland and a woman emerged; Badhild had left her father's castle with nothing but the clothes on her back, but Wieland cared about nothing but that his beloved wife was now with him. Not even the news that Nidung had been killed in battle cold make him any happier than he now was.
As they finally got to celebrate their wedding in style, Badhild presented him with a precious gift ... she had brought something from her father's castle after all: The sword Mimung, so it could be returned to its rightful owner.
For many, many years they lived together in love and happiness. Their son, Wittich, later gained fame at the side the great Dietrich of Bern.
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|Wieland The Smith
~ conclusion ~