Siegfried held the point of his sword under Kuperan's chin. He turned it a little so that the point pricked Kuperan's throat. Kuperan, the King of the Giants, gasped when he felt it.
Siegfried looked menacing. "Are you going to unlock the enchanted cave?" he demanded. "Or am I going to kill you? Choose, Kuperan."
There was no real choice. Kuperan had no wish to die, and certainly not with Euglein, King of the Dwarfs, looking on. The dwarfs and giants hated each other. Now that Kuperan was at Seigfried's mercy, the Dwarf King was grinning all over his ugly face.
"Let me get up and I'll get the key to the cave," Kuperan growled at Siegfried. Siegfried took his sword away. Scowling, Kuperan got to his feet.
"The shame of it! The shame of it!" he muttered to himself. "If I don't get my revenge, the dwarfs will laugh at me for ever."
The facts were indeed shameful for Kuperan. The key he held was the only key to the enchanted cave, where the dragon Fafnir guarded the most splendid treasure on Earth. Fafnir was an enormous creature. Once he had been a blacksmith. He was turned into a dragon after he killed his father, Reidmar, and took the treasure from him.
The crystal, gold, silver, jewels and other treasure had been made by the dwarfs. If Kuperan let "Siegfried and Euglein into the cave, the dwarfs would get the treasure back. That was the last thing Kuperan wanted. So he refused to give Siegfried the key.
Things had gone badly wrong, however.
Siegfried was far stronger than Kuperan imagined. When they fought, Kuperan lost. Now Seigfried was forcing the Giant King to do what he wanted. It did not make Kuperan feel any better to know that Siegfried, son of King Siegmund of the Rhine, was already famous as a powerful warrior and a great dragon slayer. The King of the Giants did not want to be conquered by anyone!
'How can I get my revenge?' Kuperan thought, as he reluctantly took the key to the cave from its hiding place. 'Prince Siegfried may be a great warrior, but he is human and all humans have some weakness.'
Then Kuperan remembered when Siegfried killed his first dragon, he ate the dragon's flesh. The dragon's thick, scaly horn had grown all over his body.
It was like a suit of armour. However, there was one spot between Siegfried's shoulders where a leaf had fallen, and that spot was not covered in horn.
'That is where I shall strike Siegfried when I get the chance,' Kuperan decided, as he led the Prince and Euglein towards the enchanted cave.
Siegfried followed Kuperan warily. He did not trust the Giant King. Euglein stayed close to Siegfried all the way, and while they walked along, the Dwarf King told the Prince more about the treasure in the cave.
"We dwarfs have placed a curse on it," Euglein said. "Whoever possesses the treasure and keeps it from us shall die! But there is one great problem . . . "
"What is that?" Siegfried asked.
"Fafnir, who has the treasure, can only be killed with the magic sword he himself used to kill his father, Reidmar," replied Euglein. "And that sword is hidden away somewhere in the cave. I don't know where it is."
When he heard this, Kuperan turned round. At once, Siegfried pointed his sword at him in case Kuperan attacked. But Kuperan smiled and held up his hands to show that he meant no harm.
"I know where the magic sword is, Prince Siegfried," the giant said. "As you have spared my life, I will show you its hiding place."
Siegfried was pleased to hear this.
"Good!" he cried. "Then I can kill Fafnir."
Kuperan chuckled to himself. 'Oh, no you won't, young Siegfried,' he thought. 'I shall kill you first, and I know precisely how I am going to do it.'
At last, they reached the cave. It was hidden behind a waterfall. Kuperan opened the door with his key. Behind the door lay a long, winding passage.
There was a strange light glowing there. As Kuperan led Siegfried and Euglein along it, the light became brighter and brighter.
Suddenly, they entered a huge hall and Siegfried saw that the light had come from the gold covering its wall and the large jewels that studded it.
"No wonder this is called the most splendid treasure in the world!" breathed Siegfried, as he looked at him in wonder.
Suddenly, there was a deep rumbling not far away. The floor of the cave trembled. The rumbling became a roar, and Siegfried heard a swishing, howling sound. Greatly frightened, Euglein jumped behind a nearby rock and hid himself "It's Fafnir!" Kuperan whispered. "The dragon - he's coming and he's breathing fire and flames. Quick, Prince Siegfried, get the magic sword!"
Kuperan hurried across the room and drew back a thick curtain that hung on one side. There, behind it, was a sword. It was embedded in a large stone.
"This is the magic sword that can kill Fafnir, if you can get it out of the stone," Kuperan told Siegfried.
Siegfried rushed over to the sword and grasped the hilt. He began pulling and heaving at it but the sword was difficult to move.
All at once, there was a sharp cry. "Prince Siegfried! Look out!" It was Euglein. Siegfried turned his head and saw the tiny Dwarf King fling himself across the hall and collide with Kuperan's hand. Kuperan shouted in surprise as the dagger in his hand was knocked to the floor. He had been about to plunge the dagger into the unprotected spot on Siegfried's back. Kuperan reached down and snatched up the dagger, but Siegfried was too quick for him. With one last terrific effort, he pulled the sword out of the stone, and plunged it into Kuperan. At once Kuperan fell to the floor, dead.
"A sword that can kill a dragon can also kill a traitor!" Siegfried cried angrily.
Now the roaring was getting louder and louder. Suddenly, Euglein shrieked, "He's here! Fafnir's here!" The Dwarf King leapt back into his hiding place and ducked down out of sight.
The next moment the hall became tremendously hot and Fafnir appeared.
He was indeed a colossal creature, covered all over in thick scales. With each deafening roar, a mass of flames leapt out of his mouth. The heat was so terrific that Siegfried's shield became red hot.
Fafnir was coming straight towards Siegfried. His eyes were like enormous pools of fire and there was a ferocious look in them.
Siegfried looked for somewhere to shelter. He saw a passageway between the rocks that was too small for Fafnir to follow and darted into it. While Fafnir roared and stamped outside, Siegfried picked up a large rock. He crept to the entrance of the passageway and flung the stone at Fafnir with all his strength. Siegfried's aim was good. The rock flew into Fafnir's mouth and stuck in his throat.
At once, the flames stopped coming out of Fafnir's throat. Seeing this, Siegfried rushed forward and began to slash at the dragon's scales with the magic sword. To his horror, he found that even this wonderful weapon could not pierce the thick scales.
Then a small voice sounded from the other side of the cave.
"Fafnir! Fafnir! Over here, Fafnir!" It was Euglein's voice.
The dragon looked round to see who had spoken. As he did so, Siegfried saw a space between his thick scales. He lunged forward and plunged the magic sword into the gap. It sank right in. Siegfried pulled it out, ready to strike Fafnir again, but he was driven back by an enormous blaze of fire which poured out of the wound.
Fafnir went wild with pain, and began thrashing about with his huge tail. Even so, Siegfried leapt forward again and once more plunged the magic sword between two of Fafnir's scales. This time it went directly into his heart. A fearful gurgling noise came out of the dragon's throat and he collapsed to the floor with a thunderous crash. The last of the flames flickered out and the light in his fearsome eyes grew dark. Fafnir was dead.
King Euglein came dancing out from his hiding place, laughing with delight. He jumped up and embraced Siegfried.
"At last, at last!" Euglein cried.
"The treasure the dwarfs created belongs to the dwarfs again."
As a reward, Euglein gave Siegfried one of the most beautiful jewels in the enchanted cave. Siegfried wore it on his shield, so that his enemies would know he was the mighty Prince of the Rhine who in one day killed the King of the Giants and the King of Dragons.