Chap 1 - The Castle
On the summit of a hill lies the castle ruins. Emperor Conrad III besieged it in 1140 during the Guelph and Ghibelline wars.
Members of the two opposing factions in German and Italian politics fought during the Middle Ages. The split between the Guelfs, who were sympathetic to the papacy, and the Ghibellines, who were sympathetic to the German (Holy Roman) emperors, contributed to chronic strife within the cities of northern Italy in the 13th and 14th centuries.
Emperor Conrad III was the German king (1138–52), son of Frederick, Duke of Swabia, and Agnes, daughter of Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV;
first of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. He joined his brother Frederick, who had been defeated in the imperial election of 1125 by Lothair of Saxony (Holy Roman Emperor Lothair II), in rebelling against Lothair.
Set up as antiking to Lothair in 1127, he went to Italy (1128) and was crowned king at Milan despite ex-communication by Pope Honorius II. He subsequently failed to make any progress as king and submitted to Lothair in 1135. After Lothair’s death, he was elected king by the nobles and ecclesiastics who were afraid to increase the power of Lothair’s son-in-law,
Henry the Proud of Bavaria. Conrad deprived Henry of his duchies, giving Saxony to Albert the Bear and Bavaria to Leopold of Austria. A civil war broke out and was continued after Henry’s death by his brother Guelph (or Welf) and the Saxons, who supported Henry’s young son Henry the Lion.
Conrad was never crowned by the pope and therefore was not confirmed as Holy Roman emperor. His ambitions for the imperial crown and against Roger II of Sicily were thwarted by Guelph, who was subsidized by Roger, and by Henry the Lion, who claimed the duchy of Bavaria.
This was a history that fascinated me on a peripheral level. I’d been stationed in Italy for the past four years and deployed to Southeast Asia twice for long periods. I returned from my third rotation and was eager to explore serene, non-combat-related landscapes.
As a part of a post-deployment relaxation package supplied by the military, I took my wife to the European countryside. We sampled wines, drove the Autobahn, and slept in lakeside rentals. We saw snow-capped mountains and felt the cool air in deep valleys.
Magistic homes and large grass rolls blended into sleepy towns. We came across a farmer’s market was on and we bought some aged cheese and handmade sausage. Large swaths of tunnels blurred with yellow overhead lights and rhythmic tire hums on asphalt. Condensation wettened the walls and upon emerging to charming vistas with clouds and rain.
After hours cramped in the rental car and pulsating top-40 and German techno, we decided to pull to a rest stop. This worked for the best as we’d been arguing the entire time. I took this opportune trip to work on our marriage whereas she regretted every minute spent with me.
I had been gone for so long this time that her female companionship had morphed into a relationship. I suspected that this was more than a sisterhood, but more of a friend-with-benefits blooming yet again. This was not the first of her indiscretions.
I longed to be truly held in a woman’s heart. To be loved. I’d grown up without affection or emotional intimacy. I never witness my parents flirting, nor behave more than roommates or partners. I placed huge importance on affection. I think most times nothing else matters. Thus, a kind of fire lights up inside me when someone else shows me affection. I have a sense that is both excited and terrified by it.
That created a cycle full of heartbreak. I accepted the emotional abuse for two reasons. Any attention was better than none. The latter reason was that as a man, my fragile ego and pride kept me from being seen as weak by rebuking her and failing my marriage.
Catapulted out of my current life, I found myself in the right location and proper timing. Between the spring equinox and the summer solstice, I found I had an inherited trait that allowed me to take a trip through the misty stones that create tunnels in the fabric of time.
I was lost in memories and wrestling my thoughts when resonance ran along my skin as I stepped into the leylines of geomagnetic force running through the Earth’s crust. The nodes where the threads crisscross into a vortex are protected by standing stones shaded by huge trees. The earth wound me through the ages with ferocity. Nothing comes close to describing the billions of beestings that covered every inch of my flesh. How quickly my clothes disintegrated in the vertices that lashed my body was unbelievable.
The brilliant light blinded me momentarily and my nerves overloaded to the point I was numb down into my bone marrow.
As the inversion of my molecules resolidified into my cells and my soul, I realized I had not taken a breath. My mind went into panic mode, and I mentally screamed at my lungs to take a breath. Finally, my body listened and was able to inhale.
No smog. No ozone. Pristine oxygen-rich air hit me. I got high on the clean atmosphere. I was intoxicated by such pure air that I was reminded that I was unable to see my surroundings.
I pried open my eyes as if I awoke from a deep slumber. The air swayed the vibrant green grass against my face. The aroma of grain suggested a plentiful harvest.
I leaned to our side and took in the world. Solid earth beneath my hand. Insects buzz at my feet. A craggy rock remains tucked against my backside. My naked backside.
Rising quickly to my feet, modesty meets instinct and my hands cover my vital sexual organ. Frantically I scanned the landscape to spot any other potential threat to my sudden vulnerability. The silence brought slight comfort.
Barefoot and bare ass I trekked for civilization. Hours transpired without a sign of predator nor human. I saw great farms and extensive estates that produced a surplus of grain. Birds coo in the blue sky.
My anxiousness makes serenity and tranquility a fight. My nudity both a boon and a blessing. I hadn’t felt this free and liberated since I was a toddler. Yet, the concern of how society will view a naked person walking across the land made my heart thumping fast.
Fenced cattle, sheep herds, and roaming domesticated dogs caught my attention. That was until I saw it.
The Castle was perched on the steep hill to overlook the town under its care. The Romanesque structure beckons for anyone to discover the story trapped in time, to the foundation of its history. To its former glory.
I was to learn that this was the fabled legendary, Weidelburg Castle.