He had a band of play-fellows, twelve boys of noble birth, but not one of them could throw the ball so high as Horn. Out of the twelve, two were his special companions, and one of them, Athulf, was the best of the company, while the other, Figold, was altogether the worst.
"Come, Athulf, true friend," said he, "and help me to search for her." So they searched far and near, in vain, till at last Horn remembered that strange tower in the sea, and set sail for the lonely fortress where Figold had the fair princess in his evil keeping. "Now, my eleven companions, and you, too, Athulf," said he, "abide here while I go up alone with my horn.
So he went, and she, not recognising him in the ill-lighted room, stretched out her hand to him, crying, "Oh, Horn, I have loved you long. Now plight me your troth." But Athulf whispered to her, "Hold! I am not Horn. I am but his friend, Athulf, as unlike him as may well be. Horn's little finger is fairer than my whole body; and were he dead, or a thousand miles off, I would not play him false."
Not a word had she ever ventured to speak to Horn when she saw him among the other knights at the great feasts, but day and night she bore his image in her heart. But he went to Athulf, who was the pure minded and true one of Horn's two chosen companions, while Figold, the other, was a wolf in sheep's clothing, and said to him, "You shall go with me in Horn's stead to the Princess."
Could I but see them both once more, I should feel that I could die in peace." "Then rejoice," they told him, "for Horn and Athulf are here!" Joyfully did the old man greet the youths; he embraced his son and bent the knee to Horn, and all three rejoiced together. "Where is your company?" asked the old knight. "I suppose you two have come to explore the land.
Horn's twelve companions came also, and did him homage as their sovereign, and he rejoiced to see them all, but especially Athulf the brave and true. "Athulf," he told him, "thou hast helped me to win my bride here, now come with me to Southland and help me to make a home for her.
But his wicked smile made her uneasy at heart. "If Horn could not come himself," she said, "why did he not send Athulf, his faithful friend?" But this question pleased the traitor so little that he gave her no answer. Her father blessed her, and she set forth, wringing her white hands.
Now about this time Horn had a dream, in which he saw Riminild on board a ship at sea, which presently went to pieces, and she tried to swim ashore, steering with her lily-white hand, while Figold, the traitor, sought to stop her with the point of his sword. Then he awoke and cried, "Athulf, true friend, we must away across the sea. Unless we make all speed some evil will befall us."
I am keeping a place ready for Horn, the best loved of all heroes. Long I have wondered why he does not bestir himself to return and fight for his own. God give him power so to do till he slay every one of these miscreants. They put him out to sea, a tender boy, with his twelve playmates, one of whom was my only son, Athulf. Dearly he loved Horn, and was beloved by him.
"I tell you he is living," she said "aye, and more alive than ever. Go to the forest and find him he is there with all his faithful followers." Athulf made haste to the forest, still unbelieving, but soon his heart bounded for joy, for there rode Horn in his shining armour at the head of his troops.