Retold by Jenny Bennett
The little prince and princess of Gothland ran down the hallway shrieking with laughter. They had been playing with their golden ball and it had rolled away from them.
“I’ve got it! I’ve got it!” they squealed as the ball rolled past the doors and towards the bottom of the hall. Suddenly the children stopped and stood in shocked silence, forgetting all about the golden ball that had come to a halt in a corner a few feet away. There before them were two figures hiding in the shadows of the hallway. They were men, large and fierce-looking with bows strapped to their backs and swords in their hands. They had caught sight of the children and one, the younger of the two, had stepped forward with his sword raised.
“No!” the children heard the other man hiss as he reached out to grab his companion’s wrist. “They are Signy’s!”
The sound of their mother’s name jolted the children out of their stupor and grabbing her brother’s hand, the little girl turned and fled, stopping only when they had reached their father’s feet.
The king who had been sitting before the fire, surrounded, as usual by his guards, looked up in alarm as his children ran in and threw themselves upon his lap.
“Men, Papa!” the princess clinging tightly to her father’s neck and hiding her face in his thick beard.”Strange men in the hallway!”
“And they have swords, Papa!” the little boy added. “Big ones with sharp tips...”
The king jumped to his feet and signalled to his guards who had already drawn their swords.
“Summon the others,” he told the nearest man who hurried out immediately.
Within moments, two dozen armed soldiers were marching down the hallway with their weapons drawn and a hundred more were making their way up the stairs to join them.
At the end of the hallway, the two men emerged from the shadows, preparing to meet the approaching force. They were Sigmund, the son of Volsung and his nephew Sinfjotli. They had come to avenge the deaths of Volsung and his nine sons upon Siggier, the king of Gothland.
“We should have killed the brats!” the youth said sullenly. “Now they’ve ruined our plan to surprise the tyrant.”
“Focus on the fight Nephew,” Sigmund replied. “You said you were ready for this. Now prove it.”
Gritting his teeth, the young man raised his sword. Soon the hallway was filled with the sounds of battle. Before long the floor was littered with the corpses of Siggier’s guards; but the soldiers kept flooding into the hallway in an endless stream fed by the army below.
“Behind you Uncle!” Sinfjotli called seeing an axe raised menacingly above Sigmund’s head. But Sigmund was occupied with three other men and could not turn in time. Cutting down four more attackers, the young man lifted his sword and threw it. The blade spun through the air and buried itself in the breast of the soldier behind Sigmund. The axe wavered momentarily in the air and then fell with a clatter to the floor.
Sinfjotli turned back to face the advancing row of soldiers; unarmed. With six men around him, the youth fought in vain. Before long, he was in chains and upon the floor.
Behind him, Sigmund who had tried to cut his way through the flood of guards to get to his nephew, was disarmed and dragged down by a dozen of Siggier’s men.
“Don’t kill them!” the voice of the king bellowed down the hallway. “Death by the sword is too good for such traitors.”
The soldiers lowered their weapons and dragged the two men forward; throwing them at the feet of the king.
“Turn them over,” the king demanded. “Let me see their faces.”
The men obeyed, kicking Sigmund over so that his face was towards the king of Gothland.
King Siggier gasped and stepped back.
“Sigmund!” he whispered hoarsely. “I thought you were dead!”
Volsung’s son stared up at the face of the man who killed his father and brothers.
“I cannot die,” he said through gritted teeth.
The king laughed, but his face was still pale and his hands still trembled.
“We will see about that, son of Volsung,” Siggier said. “And who is your accomplice? Who would dare to join you in this attack upon his king?”
The soldiers turned the younger man over and the king immediately recognised his third son, who like his two older children had mysteriously disappeared from the castle as a young boy.
“Sinfjotli!” the king exclaimed in disbelief. “You would join this traitor to attack your own father?!”
“Volsung is my father,” the youth spat. “You are no father of mine.”
“Then you will suffer the same fate as this man you have chosen to follow,” the king declared. “You would have been king after me and worn my crown. But a traitor you are and as a traitor you shall die.” He turned to his soldiers.
“Dig a hole!” he ordered. “And place the prisoners inside it, with a large stone slab between them that they may neither see nor touch one another. Then fill the barrow with turf.”
“Neither food nor water will you touch,” he added turning back to the chained men. “And in the darkness of your stone grave, you will slowly and painfully starve to death. Such is a fitting death for the last of the Volsungs and with you the name of your accursed father will be buried forever.”
What would become of Sigmund and Sinfjotli? Would they suffer the fate that King Siggier had planned for them? And what of Signy, the daughter of Volsung? We will find out next time...