Four days later, 32 messengers are seen riding to court to tell Gunther that war has been declared on him, allegedly by Liudeger and Liudegast. Some of Gunther’s men want to give up the plot even now, but Hagen won’t hear of it. “Their plotting,” the poet observes, “fell out to their own torment in the end.”
Here, the deceptive scheme is put in motion. It’s clear that Hagen is the ringleader of the plot and is determined to see it through.
When Siegfried hears of the “war,” he immediately offers to ride against the invaders as he has done before. Gunther perfidiously thanks him. Knights from both Burgundy and the Netherlands begin to prepare for battle. When Hagen tells Kriemhild about the impending war, she mentions that Siegfried should not be made to pay for any wrong that she has done, since Siegfried has beaten her soundly and “taken ample vengeance” for her having vexed Brunhild.
Spousal abuse is taken entirely for granted in this context, even within the bounds of an apparently loving marriage; and in the story, it’s categorized as a matter of “vengeance,” with Kriemhild accepting it as a way of dealing with the trouble she initiated. The implication is that the matter need never have escalated from private household violence to violence between men.
Hagen asks Kriemhild what he can do to help protect Siegfried from harm in battle. Kriemhild commends Siegfried to Hagen’s protection, revealing that, when Siegfried bathed in dragon’s blood, a linden leaf fell between his shoulder-blades, rendering that one spot vulnerable to harm. She is anxious that Siegfried will come to harm in battle this way. Hagen tells Kriemhild to sew a small mark on Siegfried’s clothing so that he will know where he must protect Siegfried in battle. Kriemhild agrees, thinking she is helping protect her husband.
The next morning, Siegfried rides out happily with his men for battle. Once Hagen observes the mark sewn on Siegfried’s clothes, he secretly sends two of his men to report that Liudeger is, in fact, going to leave Burgundy in peace. When they return to court, Gunther thanks Siegfried for his loyal intentions and suggests—put up to it by Hagen—that they embark on a hunting trip instead. Siegfried agrees and rides off, while Hagen fills Gunther in on how he intends to betray Siegfried. “Never should a man practice such monstrous treachery,” concludes the poet.
Hagen quickly aborts the mission once he identifies Siegfried’s weak spot, giving Gunther the chance to suggest the diversionary hunting trip. The characterization of Hagen’s actions as “monstrous” will echo much later in the story in Kriemhild’s actions against Hagen and his fellows.