Klaas Gottschall is a historian from the University of Königsberg, investigating the fate of nobleman Wilhelm von Gerich, who seems to have disappeared during his service to the baron of Brennenburg, in 1704. At a visit at the Königsberg Magistrate, he procures documents regarding an arson that Wilhelm investigated. The fire had consumed a barn at a farm a couple of miles outside of Altstadt, where Wilhelm was stationed. Gottschall travels to the farm and speaks with its current owner, a Mr. Zimmermann, and investigates the remains of the burnt-down barn. He then travels to Altstadt to look through the church archives, where he finds out that Anna Stoss, the daughter of Dorothea Stoss who inhabited the farm during the fire, had moved to Königsberg and was still alive.
He travels to Königsberg to speak with her, and she informs him that the barn burned down in an accident where a farmhand, Emil, had fallen asleep in the barn with some lamp oil still burning. Emil had been arrested by Wilhelm, but Anna assumes that he was let go after the nobleman realises the event was an accident. Gottschall decides not to tell her about a statement from her mother which he had procured, where she frames the incident as a deliberate attempt of arson by Emil. Gottschall then travels to Brennenburg Castle to speak with the baron, where the story ends.
House of Gerich - Full Short StoryEdit
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- "Altstadt has never seen much crime, but there was a dark period
spanning from the early winter of 1702 until late summer of 1704.
During these years no less than 39 men were arrested and locked up
in castle Brennenburg’s dungeons. In most cases the criminal’s family
would be banished from the land, effectively cutting the already
dwindling population of Altstadt with 86 souls. The magistrate’s
office has almost no records detailing these crimes, as most
arrests were handled by an unknown nobleman named Wilhelm."
- ―Klaas Gottschall
University of Königsberg
desk. Every now and then he would find something, adjust his
glasses, and try to decipher the century old handwriting.
explanation. Klaas reached into his bag and produced a thick
book and placed it on the desk.
The magister feared a longwinded lecture from the
historian sitting across the desk.
have come off. Klaas looked confused.
he could redeem himself. He quickly got up and headed over
to a cabinet and fetched two glasses and bottle of liquor.
thorough investigation into the fate of the House of Gerich,”
Wilhelm. It only briefly touches on a few of the cases he
worked on during his time in Altstadt. I want to try to find out
what happened to him.”
which supports the claim that Wilhelm was working for the
Baron of Brennenburg in order to quell the rise of crime.
Wilhelm remained unknown by most and Kleist argues that he
might have been working for the Baron to gain influence in
The magister stood up and gestured towards a wall of framed
Brennenburg barony since...” The magister went in for a
closer look at the document to the far left. “... since 1599 and
none of them mentions such a partnership.”
deal, rather that the barony have been a quiet lot.”
magistrate´s office wouldn’t know. My point being, I can not
looked outside. He watched the people on the town square go
about their daily life. This is how he preferred to observe the
world, from behind a protective window pane.
breath, trying to control his discomfort. His eyes jumped
across the scene, the laughing young women carrying bags of
flour to the bakery, the boy bringing out one of the horses in
front of the Inn, the priest waving to an elderly woman.
deep breath. Open spaces always made him nervous. He knew
it was silly, but he couldn’t control it. Klaas hurried over to the
carriage and climbed inside.
described in the documents. On Thursday, 28th of September,
1704, there was a fire which consumed a barn a few miles
south of Altstadt. It was Wilhelm’s last case. The documents
procured from the magistrate’s office contains a handful of
testimonies from witnesses, but it lacks a final statement from
Wilhelm. The fates of Wilhelm and the arsonist have never
been fully disclosed. A sheriff from Königsberg was sent to
investigate Wilhelm’s endeavors, but he returned early winter,
1704, reporting that crimes had dropped in Altstadt and that
there was no trace of the nobleman.
best for all parties.
- "It stands to reason that we lack information about half of
Wilhelm’s life. In 1704, when he was but 34 years old, we find the
last documents detailing his efforts. Wilhelm had for two years been
working for Baron Alexander of Brennenburg as a secret lawman.
Baron Alexander, being a knight of the prestigious Order of the
Black Eagle, must have realized that the rising crime could not be
left to the magistrate and the sheriffs in Königsberg, and acquired
assistance from the decorated soldier from Gerich. This arrangement
was most likely not administered by the King, at least not officially,
and if investigated would fall apart from a legal standpoint. In
1704, a sheriff from Königsberg were sent to Altstadt to question
Wilhelm about the civil arrests he had undertaken. It seems safe to
assume that Wilhelm was made to cease his efforts, but was allowed
to leave on his own accord, as no documents details this meeting.
Considering that the arrival of the sheriff coincides with Wilhelm’s
last case this fact seems glaringly obvious."
- ―Excerpt from “Heritage”
read any longer as the cart started to bob from side to side. He
thought about Kleist’s words. He really enjoyed reading
Heritage, but there were just so much speculation.
bother him as much. As long as there wasn’t too many people
around, he could relax. There were two houses standing and
one being built. One of the men working, crossed the yard and
approached the carriage.
Königsberg. I’m investigating the fire.”
his laughter, “What’s your name, Sheriff?”
clear, as it was still littered with pieces of burned wood.
Zimmermann wasn’t concerned as it worked just fine as a
pasture. Klaas wasn’t sure what he was looking for, but was
hoping he would turn up something. He looked around the
grassland, towards the forest and back at the farmstead. The
men were working on the house, while the driver had lit a
pipe. What am I doing, he thought. He looked at the
documents detailing the event again. He tried to imagine it
play out in front of him. The two standing houses were most
likely from Stoss’ farm. Klaas was standing where the barn
stood. The farmhand, named Emil, torched the barn with his
master inside. The fire quickly spread...
taken a long time. How come the farmer didn’t save himself
and how did Wilhelm show up so quickly?
- "Wilhelm knew Emil was up to no good. He had one of his men
follow Emil that night and caught him as he torched the barn. After
alerting the family, Wilhelm’s man had fetched his master to arrest
- ―The Statement of Dorothea Stoss
unfounded as Kleist’s fairytale, but there was something
strange about the whole ordeal. He pushed open the heavy
door leading into the church. The priest was lighting some
candles as the cloudy afternoon left the church in the dark.
church records. I need to know what happened to Dorothea
lived with her daughter, Anna, for years here in Altstadt. She
passed away. Must have been fifteen or twenty years ago.”
in 1718, and moved away from the farmstead. A little more
than a decade later, Dorothea moved in with Anna. The
farmstead fell into disuse and the land was left unattended for
twenty years until it was sold after Dorothea’s death.
church archives turned out to be. But there was still little
about the actual event or any traces of Emil the farmhand.
There was only one way to go, he had to find Anna Koch and
hope she had something to say. She was six at the time of the
fire and with a bit of luck the event had made an impression
so he didn't have to cross it. He felt enough excitement
already, he didn't need another panic attack. He turned down
the side street and dodged a farmer, with a cart of turnips,
heading into town. Anna was a fairly wealthy widow, living
with a maid in a modest, but well-kept townhouse. Klaas
straightened his jacket, brushed off dust from his sleeves, and
knocked on the door. The maid opening the door was a
cheerful middle-aged woman. Klaas was invited inside.
Anna sat in a rocking chair facing the oriel window. The room
was decorated with paintings and porcelain. A fine carpet was
splayed across the polished wooden floor. The fireplace
cracked comfortingly and immersed the room in a warm glow.
Would that be all right?”
university in Königsberg. May I ask you a few questions?”
outside the window. The street outside was nothing but
ordinary. One-story houses lined the opposite side of the
street, a single sign belonging to the town’s cobbler was the
only thing breaking the monotony of residential homes.
forest beyond the town. The sun was setting and the waning
moon was rising.
- "Sometimes Emil had to sleep alone inside the barn. He was
twenty years of age, but still afraid of the dark, so I would sneak him
some lamp oil he could burn in a tin bowl. He fell asleep with the fire
still burning. Later he woke up screaming his lungs out. The barn
was on fire. The entire family quickly gathered in the yard, but
father being the man he was, decided he was going to save the
animals inside. As you well know, he never came out. Emil was
crying hysterically. I tried to comfort him, as I didn’t yet realize what
had happened. Later, that Wilhelm fellow, arrived with his men
telling Emil that he would have to come with them. Us children were
sent inside, but mother spoke to the lawmen and later wrote a
statement to the magister in town."
- ―Anna Koch, formerly Stoss
was an accident and everyone knew so. I can’t imagine him
being punished except by his own sense of guilt.
mother had written about Emil. They most certainly would
have him sentenced to a few years in prison. What could he
possibly gain from telling her, and what would she do with
such information? Klaas decided to keep his words to himself.
go – castle Brennenburg.
Brennenburg’s courtyard, he got the sense of abandonment.
Everything was so quiet and serene. Did anyone really live
around. The courtyard was paved in cobblestone, not the rigid
square form like at the university in Königsberg, but the more
natural stone found on a rocky sea shore. The castle towered in
front of him, a magnificent gothic structure with distinct
windows and elaborate parapets.
way to the large gate and tapped the heavy door knocker with
as much grace as he could.