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Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 174

Fikenhild Imprisons Rymenhild

During Horn’s absence from Westernesse, his comrades watched carefully over Rymenhild; but her father, who was growing old, had fallen much under the influence of the plausible Fikenhild. From the day when Fikenhild had falsely accused Horn to the king, Ailmar had held him in honour as a loyal servant, and now he had such power over the old ruler that when he demanded Rymenhild’s hand in marriage, saying that Horn was dead in Suddene, the king dared not refuse, and the princess was bidden to make ready for a new bridal. For this day Fikenhild had long been prepared; he had built a massive fortress on a promontory, which at high tide was surrounded by the sea, but was easy of access at the ebb; thither he now led the weeping princess, and began a wedding feast which was to last all day, and to end only with the marriage ceremony at night.

Horn’s Dream

That same night, before the feast, King Horn had a terrible dream. He thought he saw his wife taken on board ship; soon the ship began to sink, and Rymenhild held out her hands for rescue, but Fikenhild, standing in safety on shore, beat her back into the waves with his sword. With the agony of the sight Horn awoke, and, calling his comrade Athulf, said: “Friend, we must depart to-day. My wife is in danger [Pg 312] from false Fikenhild, whom I have trusted too much. Let us delay no longer, but go at once. If God will, I hope to release her, and to punish Fikenhild. God grant we come in time!” With some few chosen knights, King Horn and Athulf set out, and the ship drove darkling through the sea, they knew not whither. All the night they drifted on, and in the morning found themselves beneath a newly built castle, which none of them had seen before.

Horn’s Disguise

While they were seeking to moor their boat to the shore, one of the castle windows looking out to sea opened, and they saw a knight standing and gazing seaward, whom they speedily recognised; it was Athulf’s cousin, Sir Arnoldin, one of the twelve comrades, who had accompanied the princess thither in the hope that he might yet save her from Fikenhild; he was now looking, as a forlorn hope, over the sea, though he believed Horn was dead. His joy was great when he saw the knights, and he came out to them and speedily told them of Rymenhild’s distress and the position of affairs in the castle. King Horn was not at a loss for an expedient even in this distress. He quickly disguised himself and a few of his comrades as minstrels, harpers, fiddlers, and jugglers. Then, rowing to the mainland, he waited till low tide, and made his way over the beach to the castle, accompanied by his disguised comrades. Outside the castle walls they began to play and sing, and Rymenhild heard them, and, asking what the sounds were, gave orders that the minstrels should be admitted. They sat on benches low down the hall, tuning their harps and fiddles and watching the bride, who seemed unhappy and pale. When Horn sang a lay of true love and happiness, [Pg 313] Rymenhild swooned for grief, and the king was touched to the heart with bitter remorse that he had tried her constancy so long, and had allowed her to endure such hardships and misery for his sake.


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