BRYNHILD IN THE HOUSE OF FLAME
HE forest ways led him on and up a mountain-side. He
came to a mountain-summit at last: Hindfell, where the
trees fell away, leaving a place open to the sky and
the winds On Hindfell was the House of Flame. Sigurd
saw the walls black, and high, and all around them was
a ring of fire.
As he rode nearer he heard the roar of the mounting and
the circling fire. He sat on Grani, his proud horse,
and for long he looked on the black walls and the flame
that went circling around them.
 Then he rode Grani to the fire. Another horse would
have been affrighted, but Grani remained steady under
Sigurd. To the wall of fire they came, and Sigurd, who
knew no fear, rode through it.
Now he was in the court-yard of the Hal. No stir was
there of man or hound or horse. Sigurd dismounted and
bade Grani be still. He opened a door and he saw a
chamber with hangings on which was wrought the pattern
of a great tree, a tree with three roots, and the
pattern was carried across from one wall to the other.
On a couch in the centre of the chamber one lay in
slumber. Upon the head was a helmet and across the
breast was a breastplate. Sigurd took the helmet off
the head. Then over the couch fell a heap of woman's
hair--wondrous, bright gleaming hair. This was the
maiden that the birds had told him of.
He cut the fastenings of the breastplate with his
sword, and he gazed long upon her. Beautiful was her
face, but stern; like the face of one who subdues but
may not be subdued. Beautiful and strong were her arms
and her hands. Her mouth was proud, and over her
closed eyes there were strong and beautiful brows.
Her eyes opened, and she turned them and looked full
upon Sigurd. "Who art thou who hast awakened me?" she
"I am Sigurd, the son of Sigmund, of the Volsung race,"
"And thou didst ride through the ring of fire to me?"
"That did I."
 She knelt on the couch and stretched out her arms to
where the light shone. "Hail, O Day," she cried, "and
hail, O beams that are the sons of Day O Night, and O
daughter of Night, may ye look on us with eyes that
bless. Hail, O Aesir and O Asyniur! Hail, O
wide-spreading fields of Midgard! May ye give us
wisdom, and wise speech, and healing power, and grant
that nothing untrue or unbrave may come near us!"
All this she cried with eyes open wide; they were eyes
that had in them all the blue that Sigurd had ever
seen: the blue of flowers, the blue of skies, the blue
of battle-blades. She turned those great eyes upon him
and she said, "I am Brynhild, once a Valkyrie but now a
mortal maiden, one who will know death and all the
sorrows that mortal women know. But there are things
that I may not know, things that are false and of no
She was the bravest and the wisest and the most
beautiful maiden in the world: Sigurd knew that it was
so. He laid his sword Gram at her feet, and he said
her name, "Brynhild." He told her how he had slain the
Dragon, and how he had heard the birds tell of her.
She rose from the couch and bound her wondrous hair on
her head. In wonder he watched her. When she moved it
was as though she walked above the earth.
They sat together and she told him wonderful and secret
things. And she told him, too, how she was sent by Odin
from Asgard to choose the slain for his hall Valhalla,
and to give victory to those whom he willed to have it.
And she told how she had
 disobeyed the will of
All-Father, and how for that she was made outcast of
Asgard Odin put into her flesh the thorn of the Tree
of Sleep that she might remain in slumber until one who
the bravest of mortal men should waken her. Whoever
would break the fastenings of the breastplate would
take out the Thorn of Sleep. "Odin granted me this,"
she said, "that as a mortal maid I should wed none but
him who is the bravest in the world. And so that none
but him might come to me, All-Father put the fire-ring
round where I lay in slumber. And it is thou, Sigurd,
son of Sigmund, who hast come to me. Thou art the
bravest and I think thou art the most beautiful too;
like to Tyr, the God who wields the sword."
She told him that whoever rode through the fire and
claimed her as his wife, him she must wed.
They talked to each other fondly and the day flowed by
them. Then Sigurd heard Grani, his horse, neigh for
him again and again. He cried to Brynhild: "Let me go
from the gaze of thine eyes. I am that one who is to
have the greatest name in the world. Not yet have I
made my name as great as my father and my father's
father made their names great. I have overcome King
Lygni, and I have slain Fafnir the Dragon, but that is
little. I would make my name the greatest in the
world, and endure all that is to be endured in making
it so. Then I would come back to thee in the House of
Brynhild said to him: "well dost though speak. Make
thy name great, and endure what thou hast to endure in
 so. I will wait for thee, knowing that none
but Sigurd will be able to win through the fire that
guards where I abide."
They gave long on each other, but little more they
spoke. Then they held each other's hands in farewell,
and they plighted faith, promising each other that they
would take no other man or maiden for their mate. And
for token of their troth Sigurd took the ring that was
on his finger and placed it on Brynhild's—Andvari's
ring it was.
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