THE VENGEANCE OF THE VOLSUNGS
Sinfiotli had come to his full strength and it was time to take vengeance on King Siggeir for the killing of Volsung and the terrible fate he had set for Volsung’s ten sons. Sigmund and Sinfiotli put helmets on their heads and took swords in their hands and went to King Siggeir’s Hall. They hid behind the casks of ale that were at the entrance and they waited for the soldiers to leave the Hall so that they could fall on King Siggeir and his attendants.
The younger children of King Siggeir were playing in the Hall and one dropped a ball. It went rolling behind the casks of ale. The child peering after the ball saw two men crouching with swords in their hands and helmets on their heads.
The child told a servant who told the King. Then Siggeir arose, and he drew his men around him, and he set them on the men who were hiding behind the barrels. Sigmund and Sinfiotli sprang up and fought against the men of King Siggeir, but they were taken captives.
They could not be killed there and then, for it was unlawful to execute captives after sunset. But despite that, King Siggeir would not leave them above ground. He said that they should be put in a pit, and a mound made over them so that they would be buried alive.
The sentence was carried out. A great stone was put down to divide the pit in two, so that Sigmund and Sinfiotli could hear each other’s struggle and not be able to help each other. Everything was done as the King commanded.
But while his servants were putting soil over the pit, someone came, cloaked and hooded, and dropped something wrapped in straw into the side of the pit where Sinfiotli lay. When the sky was shut out from them with the soil that was put over the pit, Sinfiotli shouted to Sigmund, “I shall not die, for the queen has thrown down to me meat wrapped in a parcel of straw.”
A while afterwards Sinfiotli shouted to Sigmund, “The queen has left a sword in the meat which she threw down to me. It is a mighty sword. I think it is Gram, the sword you told me of.”
“If it is Gram,” Sigmund said, “it is a sword that can cut through this stone. Thrust the blade against the stone and try.”
Sinfiotli thrust the blade against the stone and the blade went through the stone. Then, one on each side, they took hold of the sword and they cut the great stone in two. Afterwards, working together, it was easy to shift the soil. The two came out under the sky.
In front of them was the Hall of King Siggeir. They came to the Hall and they set dry wood around it and they set fire to the wood and made the Hall blaze up. When the hall was in a blaze King Siggeir came to the door and shouted, “Who is it that has set fire to the house of the King?”
Sigmund said, “I, Sigmund, the son of Volsung, that you may pay for your treachery to the Volsungs.”
Seeing Sigmund there with Gram, the great sword, in his hands, Siggeir went back into his Hall. Then Signy appeared with her white face and her stern eyes, and Sigmund called to her, “Come out, come out. Come out of Siggeir’s blazing house and we will go back to the Hall of the Branstock together.”
But Signy said, “Everything is finished now. The vengeance is done and I have nothing more to keep me in this life. The Volsung race lives on in you, my brother, and that is my joy. I did not marry King Siggeir happily and I didn’t live happily with him , but I will die with him now happily.”
She went inside the Hall.Then the flames burst over it and all who were inside perished. Thus the vengeance of the Volsungs was done.
Sigurd thought about what Sigmund, his father, and Sinfiotli, the youth who was his father’s kinsman did, as he rode through the forest, and of the things that happened to them after that.
Sigmund and Sinfiotli left King Siggeir’s land and came back to the Hall of the Branstock. Sigmund became a great King and Sinfiotli was the Captain of his army.
The story of Sigmund and Sinfiotli goes on to tell how Sigmund married a woman whose name was Borghild, and how Sinfiotli loved a woman who was loved by Borghild’s brother. A battle came in which the youths were on opposite sides, and Sinfiotli killed Borghild’s brother, and it was in fair combat.
Sinfiotli returned home. To make peace between him and the Queen, Sigmund gave Borghild a great amount of gold as compensation for the loss of her brother. The Queen took it and said, “My brother’s worth is judged to be this so let nothing more be said about his killing,” and she welcomed Sinfiotli to the Hall of the Branstock.
But although she appeared friendly to him her heart was set on his destruction.
That night there was a feast in the Hall of the Branstock and Borghild the Queen went to all the guests with a cup of mead in her hand. She came to Sinfiotli and she held the cup to him. “Take this from my hands, friend of Sigmund,” she said.
But Sinfiotli saw what was in her eyes and he said, “I will not drink from this cup. There is poison in the drink.”
Then, to end the mockery that the Queen would have made of Sinfiotli, Sigmund who was standing by took the cup out of Borghild’s hand. No venom or poison could injure him. He raised the cup to his lips and drank the mead to the last drop.
The Queen said to Sinfiotli, “Must other men finish your drink for you?”
Later in the night she came to him again, with the cup of mead in her hand. She offered it to Sinfiotli, but he looked in her eyes and saw the hatred that was there. “Poison is in the drink,” he said. “I will not take it.”
And again Sigmund took the cup and drank the mead. And again the Queen mocked Sinfiotli.
A third time she came to him. Before she offered the cup she said, “This is someone who fears to take his drink like a man. What a Volsung heart he has!” Sinfiotli saw the hatred in her eyes, and her mockery could not make him take the mead from her. As before Sigmund was standing by. But now he was tired of raising the cup and he said to Sinfiotli, “Pour the drink through your beard.”
He thought that Sigmund meant that he should pour the mead through his lips that were bearded and make trouble no more between him and the Queen. But Sigmund did not mean that. He meant that he should pretend to drink and let the mead run down on the floor. Sinfiotli, not understanding what his uncle meant, took the cup from the Queen and raised it to his lips and drank. As soon as he drank, the venom that was in the drink went to his heart, and he fell dead in the Hall of the Branstock.
Sigmund was terribly saddened for the death of his kinsman and comrade. He would let no one touch his body. He himself lifted Sinfiotli in his arms and carried him out of the Hall, and through the wood, and down to the seashore. When he came to the shore he saw a boat drawn up with a man on board. Sigmund went up to him and saw that the man was old and strangely tall. “I will take your burden from you,” the man said.
Sigmund left the body of Sinfiotli in the boat, thinking to take a place beside it. But as soon as the body was placed in it, the boat went from the land without sail or oars. Sigmund, looking at the old man who stood at the stern, knew that he was not of mortal men, but was Odin All-Father, the giver of the sword Gram.
Then Sigmund went back to his Hall. His Queen died, and in time he married Hiordis, who became the mother of Sigurd. Then Sigurd the Volsung, the son of Sigmund and Hiordis, rode through the forest, the sword Gram by his side, and the Golden Helmet of the Dragon’s Hoard above his golden hair.