The treasure of Fafnir the dragon, gleamed in the light of the rising moon and at the cave’s entrance, a grin spread across the old blacksmith’s face. At last the treasure was his. All his. He had done well in plotting the destruction of his brother Fafnir and ensuring the death of Sigurd. He chuckled at the thought of the young Volsung digging his own grave and drowning in the blood of the dragon. Now to take the gold that he had dreamed of for so long. The old man stepped into the cave and made his way towards the gleaming pile of gold.
“So you thought you’d beat me to it, did you old man?” a voice cut through the silence. Regin turned with a start to see the dragon’s slayer standing behind him, his sword in his hand.
“S-Sigurd!” he stammered. “I merely came to see that it was all here.”
The prince shook his head and walked past the old man to stand over the treasure. He whistled in amazement. It certainly was a very large pile of gold, and well worth the effort of slaying Fafnir. But he would rest tonight before attempting to fill the large wooden chests that he had brought.
“How did you escape from the pit?” the blacksmith was beside Sigurd, reaching out to touch his arm as though trying to ascertain that he was not an apparition.
Sigurd turned to the man with narrowed eyes.
“So you expected me to die, did you?” he thought to himself. Aloud he said:
“I escaped because I did not follow your advice old man. I dug a network of many pits, enough to hold the blood of a hundred dragons. If I had not, I would certainly have perished.”
“You are a Volsung,” Regin said with the hint of a hiss in his voice. “You would have managed to escape.”
Sigurd studied the old man’s face. The hooked nose, thin lips and small, shifty eyes. This was the man who had raised him and taught him for as long as he could remember. And Sigurd had loved the blacksmith. As much as he loved the king. But it was obvious that any love in Regin’s heart was outweighed by his greed for gold. He would have gladly let his foster-son die to satisfy his greed.
Sigurd tightened his grip around his sword. He knew what he ought to do to the traitor before him. But even though the sword quivered in anticipation and sent a thrill up his arm as it always did when preparing to take a life, Sigurd resisted. He heaved a sigh and sheathed the sword before turning to make his way out of the cave.
Outside, the youth busied himself making a fire, casting glances of wonder now and then at the dead dragon which lay like a hill beside the river. It was the largest creature he had ever seen, and he had slain it.
“You have certainly killed the monster,” the blacksmith had followed Sigurd out and now sat down beside him.
Sigurd said nothing.
“But it wasn’t entirely your work was it, boy?” Regin continued. “I deserve some of credit for it, don’t you think?”
Sigurd turned and stared at the man in disbelief.
“How do you deserve credit for Fafnir’s death?” he asked. “You were miles away, hiding, when I killed the beast!”
“Ah, but you forget that you could never have done it without the sword I so skilfully forged,” the old man insisted. “In making it, I ensured your victory. And I deserve as much credit for Fafnir’s death as you do!”
Sigurd got to his feet, his fists clenched. He had to put some distance between the old man and himself if he was to resist the desire to punish Regin for his treachery. He made his way down to the river where he began to walk around the dragon’s carcase, marvelling yet again at the size of the creature.
“Cut out the heart for me Sigurd!” Regin called.
And the young man gritted his teeth and set to work. Moments later, he brought the heart of Fafnir and tossed it at his teacher’s feet.
“Good,” the old man said. “Now roast it in the fire for me as I am very hungry but see that you eat none for it will surely poison you.”
Sigurd stared at the old man for a moment in disbelief. Fafnir the dragon had been Regin’s brother. Would the blacksmith really eat his own brother’s heart?
“Did you not hear me, boy?” Regin scolded. “Roast the heart that I might eat it.”
Sigurd drove a spit through the dragon’s heart and began to roast it over the flames, his back to the old man.
“Do not touch even a morsel,” Regin said again. “I alone must feast on Fafnir’s heart.”
Sigurd watched the heart sizzle over the flames. Surely it was cooked already! But he had to make sure. Reaching out, he prodded the meat with his finger and placed his finger in his mouth. It was almost done and tasted like no meat he had ever eaten.
“He’s a fool, I tell you!”
“What?!” Sigurd turned to his teacher. “What did you say?”
“I did not speak!” Regin retorted. “Keep your eyes upon my dinner! Don’t let it burn.”
“He is a Volsung! The Volsungs are not fools!” it was a strange voice. Sigurd looked around but could see nothing save a pair of owls in a nearby tree.
“Well, Volsung or not, this boy is certainly a fool if he trusts that wily old man behind him,”
“Does he not know that Regin plans to slaughter him in his sleep?” the voice which spoke these words seemed to come from the clump of grass near the cave’s mouth and turning toward it, Sigurd saw the snout of a small creature poking out.
“The blacksmith wants Fafnir’s treasure all to himself and will not rest until the boy is dead.”
“Aye! He should draw his sword and kill the traitor where he sits!”
“And he should eat Fafnir’s heart himself,” the voice from the clump of grass added. “Everyone knows that the heart of a dragon can confer special powers on anyone who eats it.”
It was the animals that spoke! Sigurd was certain of that now! That one taste of the heart’s blood had given him the power to understand the speech of animals.
“What is the old man doing now?” it was the grey owl that spoke. “Look! He has drawn a dagger and means to stab the boy in the neck!”
In a heartbeat, Sigurd’s sword was in his hand and he turned around just in time to see Regin raise his dagger. It was over in a flash and without looking at the lifeless body the man who would have killed him out of greed, Sigurd cleaned his sword.
As dawn broke over the land, Sigurd finished the last morsel of Dragon’s heart and made his way into the cave to retrieve his treasure. Now he could understand the speech of all creatures, and he saw everything far more clearly than he ever had before.
What would become of Sigurd? What other adventures would he have? We will find out next time...