Alberich had been walking “top-side” for several days now. It was rather uncomfortable for him, being in the light that is… As a dwarf of the Eastern Mines, a Nibelung, he had rarely seen the sun his whole life. Even if he looked at the ground here, the overall brightness strained his eyes — and burned his skin… He tried to stay in the thick trees for this reason, which were the densest around the river.
The reason that he had left his home was rather simple. He was looking for a wife. You see, he had recently received that which he had worked his whole career for… He had created a Masterpiece. A golden helmet that he toiled for 10 years building, was selected by the Council of High Dwarves… It was beyond simply an honor among the Nibelung. It was the highest honor any Dwarven metalsmith could earn… It had been nearly three decades since a specimen had been selected, and it had made him a celebrity amongst his brethren and sistren… The Nibelung lived in economic groups of two to three hundred, sharing alliances with many other related groups but all serving under a powerful king… After his acclaim, he was now as well-known as anyone besides the king and queen themselves…
To achieve this honor, he had dedicated his life. Now, this middle-aged and slightly pudgy (even for dwarf standards) artisan sought to capitalize on all his hard work, as he was riding high in confidence. In the past few days there had been many dwarven women showing interest in the goldsmith… Although Alberich had always sought to be married and start a family, his dedication to his craft had led to him being isolated for years on end, and he had almost forgotten to find a wife… Until now… Now was the time. He had also heard from the merchants that he traded with that the most beautiful women were “top-side.” Therefore, Alberich took a week off to see for himself. It would double as a reward… a break from all his hard work. If he could also bring a beautiful bride back with him, he could forever be the envy of all those in his community and pass his prestige onto their children. Maybe he could even start his own Nibelung kingdom… These thoughts made Alberich’s mind ecstatic…
It was on the morning of day four that he came to a particularly beautiful place. It was a large clear pool under the Rhine River, and he sat down on the water’s edge to rest. The ascetics of this place were somewhat lost upon the dwarf. He found metals and jewels beautiful… In fact, this was somewhat boring to him. Although he could understand its appeal to others, he only stopped because of the sound of the waterfall… It reminded him of the roar of the fire inside of his kiln. He already missed home… It was at that moment though, that he heard something even more interesting, a giggle.
Alberich stood up and walked a few short steps to his left, craning his neck to see. There were three women, absolutely stunning in every way. And Alberich was just that … stunned. He watched them dumbly for a moment before they sensed his hungry eyes upon them. One of them turned…
“Oh my, we have an… admirer… my sisters.” The brunette said softly.
“It appears you are correct.” A slighter-framed blonde quickly replied.
Alberich could vaguely feel the rush of blood to his face. If he could see his own complexion right now, he would be shocked at the degree of redness held by it. He desperately tried to form words, but the first thing that came out was something entirely incomprehensible… He tried to greet them at the same time he was trying to explain himself… and why he was staring. “I followed… I mean came over from down deep… I was just saying hello, I mean.”
The girls looked at one another and smirked playfully. They had seen this reaction many times, and it was always a good source of fun for them. It was at this moment that the other golden-haired one spoke: “Well, aren’t we lucky my sisters. Look at this striking… gentleman… we have in front of us. My name is Woglinde, and these are my sisters Wellgunde and Flosshilde. We are the Rhinemaidens… Perhaps you have heard of us?”
Alberich swallowed deeply and simply shook his head sideways to indicate that he had not… His tongue was not as silver as he would have hoped. He felt should try to speak as little as he could, for now anyway.
“Oh, did you catch that my sisters? He hasn’t even heard of us. He must be very important; wouldn’t you say?” Woglinde said this in a slight, mocking tone. “You know he is kind of handsome. Come swim to me, and let me get a better look at you…”
Alberich had a boon of confidence. He thought that, somehow, he was doing well, and a rush of excitement hit him. He submerged himself into the water and tried to swim toward Woglinde. He was so eager to do so, he almost drowned — for he could not swim… He did float though. In fact, his barrel-chest seemed to be as buoyant as wood. Meanwhile, the maidens watched with slight smiles. When he looked, Woglinde immediately straightened her expression and winked at him.
Alberich angled his body towards her and swam somewhat like a bullfrog, dropping his head below the surface to pop up intermittently to see where she was… He did this many times. He didn’t notice that she would move herself every time he did… He became frustrated and the maidens would laugh every time he put his head under again. Woglinde was simply teasing him…
After one exit from the water, she was gone. He looked around in desperation and saw no one. Just then though, he heard another voice in the distance; it was another of the maidens. This time it was Wellgunde. She was the most beautiful of the three Alberich believed, and he went onto the shore to find her. He walked up toward the waterfall, and just below, on the other side of a large rock, she rested. “Oh, young dwarf, did you reject my sister? She thought you were not really trying to make it to her… Did you do this because you prefer me?… I knew all along. I think she knew too… secretly.”
Alberich was a little dumbstruck by what just happened and was still thinking of the other maiden, but in a split moment, he was already enamored by this beauty in front of him… His attraction was so strong, he felt like he was entirely drunk. He looked at her with glassy eyes and smiled weakly. He was about to step into the water again, when he heard another voice, “Noble Dwarf, I, up here… will treat you better than either of my sisters. Come to me, they are just playing with you. Come to the caring Flosshilde instead!”
Alberich looked back at the beauty near the rock. She looked at him seductively and went under the water. The maiden on the top of the waterfall looked caring; she would be the safer choice, and it was the only one he could still see… He walked up towards her and eventually came onto the top of the hill. She already had her arms outstretched to embrace him.
He walked cautiously towards her. Slowly, he entered the shallow water just before the falls… As he took the last step before her, the other two maidens suddenly appeared out of the pool next to him. One pulled down his clothing and the other pushed him into the water. He nakedly fell and quickly rolled over top of the waterfall, splashing into the pool below. When he came back to the surface, he could only hear the three of them laughing hysterically. They leaned on one another as they watched Alberich try to corral his clothing and get out of the water as quickly as possible.
The formally proud dwarf seethed with anger and embarrassment. They had humiliated him to a level that he could never forgive. He was so enraged and hurt, he could not even think straight… He pulled himself onto a central rock and quickly got dressed. As he put on his clothes, a gleam in the pool caught his eye. It was gold — luminous and slightly reddish. Oddly, there was a pillar of light right down to the bottom where it was. It was not that much. After all, Alberich had seen gold his entire life… huge amounts of it. There was something different about this gold… He was entranced by it. The sight of it permeated his broken heart and made him immediately feel better… feel stronger.
Meanwhile the Rhinemaidens were still laughing and yelling from the top of the waterfall about how ugly and hairy Alberich was… His eyes sharpened. He breathed in and tried to capture his rage. He felt so vindictive at this moment that he was able to swallow his pride and speak to the nymphs as though he didn’t hate them.
“Oh, ha-ha, you lovely ladies got me… I am a fool indeed. This was all a ruse though ladies… I came here to ask about the gold at the bottom of the pool here. Although, I admit, Ha-ha… I became a little lustful towards you all. I am okay now, and I’d like to talk business.”
“There is no business to discuss, you foul little earthworm. That is our father’s gold. It is the most precious thing in the world. Our whole purpose is to guard it with our lives. And if you get close to it, we will end your miserable existence…” Wellgunde said casually.
Another maiden interjected, “Not that it even matters though… before you can take it, you must renounce love forever… Judging by your foolishness displayed today, that will never happen.” Flosshilde said this sternly but broke into apathetic laughter with her sisters after.
Alberich was able to maintain his calm, despite their insults. “That is a difficult price to pay indeed, ha-ha. You are correct, I am but a lovestruck fool. I could not renounce love: the purpose of all poets; the purpose of all life some say… With that in mind, can I ask what makes this gold so special?”
Flosshilde spoke with full scorn in her voice now, “If it can be worn… The one who wears it, can rule the world. It requires great skill to mold though… Anyway… just get away from it… you make it less pretty being next to it.”
It all became clear. He would have his vengeance. Alberich looked up to the sky and bellowed: “To the All-Father, highest in Asgard, Odin, I swear that I renounce love for ALL TIME! I instead will take this gold to rule the world…” At this moment, Alberich grabbed a heavy stone and jumped into the water. He sank rapidly to the bottom to where the gold was and grabbed it. He now looked to escape… When he looked around, he saw a stone pushed aside that went deeper into the ground. He went into the crevice and found that it went much deeper… It led to an underground river. He could escape.
He went in and started to push the massive rock behind him. As it closed, he saw the Rhinemaidens jumping in the pool; water bubbles shielded their panicked movements. When they eventually saw him, it was just in time to see his eyes glaring… Alberich smiled a devious smile.
After he closed the exit, there was an open area above him that held stale air. He breathed in and could immediately hear the screams of desperation of the maidens… He looked at the gold in his hand. He could feel it… There was no need to consult anyone else to believe what the Rhinemaidens told him. It was true. This gold bestowed incredible power. As he followed the underground river, he decided to form it into a ring… With this ring, he would make the maidens pay for what they did. In fact, the entire world would bow… It was the time of the dwarves… of the Nibelung…
No, it was his time.