And so I found myself leaving England once more, this time bound for Germany.
Being amongst people again, after my time spent in seclusion with Nathaniel and all the many wonders I have witnessed, is an unexpectedly strange sensation. The world and its people have not changed, but my perception of it certainly has. The world that seemed so important before has now paled into insignificance beside the hidden realms that I have been shown. I don’t so much see it, as feel it. I converse with people and wonder how flat everything must feel for them.
We boarded a merchant vessel in the early hours of the morning, departed soon after and were well under way before the sun rose. Though I was not privy to the negotiations, it was obvious from the manner of both men that Jennings knew the captain from old. We made Calais within the day and Jennings found us lodgings for the night. My mentor was very tight lipped about the nature of our trip for the entirety of that first day. He was obviously very troubled by it, which in turn gave me cause for concern. I approached him on the subject only once as his response to my questioning and outright evasion of the subject made it clear that I should not ask again. Instead he had me meditate with him on our crossing. We went to the prow of the ship and stood side by side facing forward into the open sea.
“Water is one the most powerful elements of our world” He said “It can fill any vessel, take any shape, break down walls and, in time, it can move mountains. Most importantly of all however, it is the giver of life. Without it, none can live”
He had me adopt the horse riding stance next to him and take up my breathing. Standing thus, I was to extend my hands out in front of me at the height of my waist with my fingers outstretched and my palms facing down.
“Now listen the water as it crashes against the ship. As you breathe in, imagine the waves crashing against the palms of your hands. Feel the force of the waves against your skin and let the sound fill your mind”
After spending so much time with Jennings in Nathaniel’s woodland sanctuary this came easily. I was to stand with him and imagine the water rushing in through the palms of my hands to fill my entire body as I breathed in, and let it rush out again as I breathed out, keeping the sensation and sound of it clear in my mind as I did.
“Feel the energy course through you but always allow it to return whence it came. It is not yours to keep but, if it favours you, some may choose to stay for the ride”
He urged me to intensify the sensation with every breath until the roaring of the water was deafening and it poured through me with such force that I fought to hold it. I know that these sensations were nothing more than a product of my own mind, but they reached such a stage that I could almost feel my body trembling under the force of the torrent and Jennings’ words became distant as a raised voice under the thundering of a waterfall.
The feeling was indescribable. After a while I was instructed to let the sensation slowly ease until it felt like nothing more than the lazy crest of a summer wave washing up the beach and back to the sea, but to keep in my mind the feeling of calm power the water has on the horizon.
This whole exercise left me feeling more invigorated and mentally alert than I can ever recall and over the course of this week it is an element that Jennings has returned to in our daily meditations.
On the second morning I awoke to find Jennings already up and making ready to leave. I took this as my cue to follow suit. The sun was barely colouring the sky by the time we were back on the street and looking for passage with anyone who could get us closer to Germany. We still had considerable ground to cover and time was of the essence. Once again I found myself standing in the wings as Jennings negotiated our passage with a market trader bound for Lille.
It was on this second day, whilst sitting cramped between our gracious host’s various market wares, that Jennings finally conceded to inform me of the task that lay ahead.
His story started with the Napoleonic war and the Battle of Russia. After their disastrous defeat in Moscow a group of deserters left Napoleon’s forces and fled across Europe. Amongst them was a man called Thomas Johannes Baptist Schwytzer and he was making his way back to his homeland of Alsace in France. When the men reached the town of Wittlich in Germany they came across the secluded house of a farmer on the outskirts of the Morbach forest. The men, being hungry and tired saw nothing wrong with taking whatever they wanted. In the midst of their ransacking they were discovered by the farmer and his sons who confronted the men. A fight inevitably ensued in which Thomas and his fellow deserters overpowered and killed the farmer and his two boys. The farmer’s wife, being understandably grief stricken, attacked Schwytzer who easily struck her down. With murder in his heart he turned on her, but as he raised his hand she laid a terrible curse upon him.
“Every month, when the moon grows full, you will roam this land as the rabid beast you are”
With those words Schwytzer crushed her skull. The men took up residence in the farm house but it was not long before the curse began to take effect. Schwytzer’s behaviour slowly started to become more ferocious. He would rob and murder any passersby at his leisure. Before too long his counterparts could bear it no longer and left him to do as he wished. Thomas fell in with bandits where he carried on in his dark ways unheeded, until even they could stand his ferocity no longer and shunned him. Left to his own devices he took refuge in the solace of the thick woodland of Morbach and continued his rampage as he grew more ferocious by the day.
Rumours were heard of an enormous wolf that could walk on its hind legs and stalked the forest slaughtering men and cattle wherever it went. Tales of a huge ferocious beast that terrorized anyone who strayed too close to the forest as dusk fell. Heaven forbid they should find themselves lost in the wilderness after dark.
One night, whilst on his travels Schwytzer came across a beautiful farmer’s daughter by the name of Elizabeth Beierle. With no morals or inhibitions to stand in his way, he raped her and fled into the woods. When she gave her account of the ordeal she said it was not a man that attacked her, but an enormous wolf like beast that walked on two legs. Several days later, whilst sitting by his camp fire in the forest, Schwytzer was discovered by a group of farmers who had taken it upon themselves to track him down. Realising he was outnumbered, the beast, as he had become known, ran and the mob gave chase. The pursuit lead them through thick forest for hours but finally they managed to corner him and their justice was served. Schwytzer’s body was burned and his remains buried at a crossroads between Morbach and Wittlich. The villagers erected a shrine at this crossroads and performed a sacred rite that would keep the beast confined as long as a candle burned there. Nine months later Elizabeth gave birth to a son who she named Martin. He grew up to be a normal, healthy man and his family name commands great respect among the people of Wittlich. The legend says that if the candle is ever extinguished the beast will return to have his revenge on the people of the village and the son he would never have wanted. The reason I found myself so far from home again was clear. The candle has gone out.
I listened to Alfred’s story with interest, mulling it over in my mind and trying to imagine what part we were to play in this tale of terror. I offered my thoughts on the matter. Surely we were to make for Wittlich with haste, attend the ceremony in order to ensure it was properly executed and once we were satisfied that all was well, and the beast had been incarcerated, we would return to England and report to the S.P.R. and Nathaniel.
Turning to Jennings I expected to be congratulated on my proposed solution. Instead I found him looking at me with an expression of incredulous surprise.
“Oh? You think it that easy?”
With that he gave his explanation of our duties. We were indeed to make for Wittlich with all haste. That much I had guessed correctly. Once there we would ensure the ritual was performed in the proper manner and the candle relit. This however, was tantamount to closing the gate once the horse has bolted. Schwytzer would be looking for Elizabeth. Failing that, he would be looking for his son, and failing that he would be looking for any of his descendants. Given that Schwytzer was buried over 80 years ago I doubted very much that his son still lived. Elizabeth certainly would not.
Jennings had yet more to offer on the subject. Once Schwytzer had found who he was looking for he would inevitably put them to death. Once sated he would return to incarceration but as long as the candle remains unlit he would be free to come and go as he pleases. Once the candle has been relit he must be placed back in his prison where he will remain until such time as the candle may go out again.
It was our job to make sure he was safely locked away.
From Lille we took the train to Luxembourg and travelled the rest of the way by whatever means we could find, be it horse, cart or foot. The majority of our time on the road was spent in meditation as Jennings set about teaching me to put into practice everything I had learned so far. He showed me how it could be used to channel my thoughts and energies around my body whilst placing my awareness at the point where the soul stone rested against my chest. A full seven days later and we finally reached our destination.
It was dark as we arrived in the little town and fear hung in the air like a greasy haze. The forest loomed in the distant darkness and dread filed me as I looked upon it. My imagination gave it glowing eyes and snarling teeth. Everywhere the shutters were closed tight and very little light spread into the street from open doors or windows. Jennings manner was not diminished by this in the slightest. With his chest puffed out he strolled as if he had not a care in the world. His face was cut in a broad, friendly smile as one might wear whilst merrily wandering over hill and dale. I followed at his side with a feeling that I had missed him utter the witty comment he seemed so proud of.
A lady was hurriedly gathering firewood from an outside store as our path took us past her house. Jennings stopped and, still wearing his broad and friendly smile, addressed her warmly, in perfect German. At least I assume it was perfect. I must confess to not knowing the language myself but I have heard it spoken on several occasions and this sounded extremely convincing to me. It also took me a little by surprise as he spoke fluently, with confidence and a perfect accent.
The woman simply froze with her hand full of kindling, stared at him for a moment and ran straight back into the house slamming the door behind her. Seconds later the shutters slammed fast too. Jennings turned to face back in the direction we had been heading, still with that same happy smile and simply said,
“Ah yes, this is the place”
As we walked further into the centre of town the place slowly seemed to show more signs of life. By which I mean only that the light grew a little brighter and sound started to find our ears. The steeple of the wooden church was merely a dark shape against the inky black sky but still stood as a beacon guiding us to the heart of the village. It was as we rounded a corner that the noise hit us full on. On one side of the main square, with light and life and laughter spilling into the night, was the true heart of the town. Jennings step lengthened and his smile found its reason as he marched with glee towards the cacophony and I found myself struggling to keep at his heels.
The sound of silence as we stood in the doorway was deafening. Everybody had stopped to look at the strangers framed against the night. Jennings smile did not falter as he made purposefully for the bar. Keeping my eyes squarely at his back I made after him. He then proceeded to surprise me still further. In a loud and unabashed voice he spoke to the bartender in such broken German and without a hint of an accent as he stammered and wrestled with every syllable that left his mouth. There was a very large man on the other side of the bar taking a keen interest in Jennings and his feigned show of ignorance. He stood with both hands on the counter and a growing smile on his face as he looked across at us and took in the show. The men that stood around him were far smaller than he, but they gave the impression of an adoring pack at the heels of the alpha wolf. All I wanted was to find a dark, cosy corner and slip out of the world for a breath of fresh air.
After what seemed like an eternity of Jennings dancing around in the tiger enclosure, two mugs of beer were placed heavily on the counter. My counterpart then offered a loud and happy thank you, in English, which raised the interest of the mountainous man to new heights.
The comment he issued to the gang of men that surrounded him filled the bar and was met by thunderous laughter from the majority of its patrons. Jennings smile did not waver one jot, he simply lifted his drink to his lips and took a deep and delighted pull on it. This only seemed to add fuel to the fire as another comment was met with even more raucous laughter and sneers from our enormous tormentor. Another verbal missile, and yet another, each one gathering momentum from the derision of its predecessor until the entire room had turned to look at us and placed it allegiance squarely behind this towering bully.
Jennings smile was like a red rag. He drained his cup, placed it softly on the bar and turned to look at the man. He said nothing as he walked around the bar to stand in front of him. From my vantage point I could see that this hulking brute was a clear head taller than my soon to be ex friend as he gazed up into his smug, jeering face. Jennings just smiled as he stood looking up at him with his arms hanging limp at his sides. The whole room held its breath in anticipation of the show that was about to take place, my mind went numb. I had no idea what he was playing at but I certainly had no love for the game.
The hefty brute shifted his weight and the smile slowly fell from his face as he placed his mug on the bar top. Drawing himself up to his full and considerable stature he towered over Jennings with a look that could have drilled through solid stone. Then it happened and I didn’t even see him move. The sound filled the room like the crack of a lion tamer’s whip and then all was still. My world froze in a heartbeat and fear gripped me. The huge man that had made our arrival in this little town an experience I am likely never to forget started to slowly slump towards the bar. His eyes rolled back in his head, Jennings moved forward to catch him and seated him on the nearest stool. Speaking to him clearly and soothingly in his native tongue he helped the man lean forward so that he might put his head between his knees. The rest of the room simply watched, transfixed by what had just occurred. My reckless friend addressed them at large as their champion recuperated and his comment was met by a smattering of smiles and recognition. He then addressed the stunned patron of the establishment loud enough so that the whole room might hear and they duly received his words with much appreciation. The bartender wasted no time pouring drinks for everyone and my companion set about nursing our agitator back to some semblance of consciousness. I breathed a sigh of relief.
The rest of the evening was spent in laughter and merriment. Jennings span many a yarn that I understood not one word of. I was clapped on the back, had the arm of many a drunken stranger flung about my shoulders and my hand was nearly crushed lifeless several times when shook by our satirical greeter in his increasingly inebriated attempts to apologise or justify his earlier actions, or both.
At the end of the night Alfred and I were shown to our rooms and I took the opportunity of pulling him aside to berate him for his reckless behaviour that could have easily seen us both beaten to a pulp. He was immediately serious for the first time since we had arrived.
“If you don’t take risks you will fail. This is an uncertain task in an uncertain world. There is no place for rules and etiquette here. Besides, (his grin returning with full force) I managed to find us the biggest guide in Germany and lodgings for our stay, what did you get?”
With that he ducked into his room and his door closed behind him. I wonder what treats Wittlich will have in store for us when the sun rises.

[Return to Victors Journal]

[See Victors Artifacts]

Leave a reply

Name (*)
Mail (will not be published) (*)
URL
Comment