Monday, November 15, 2010

The testimony of Karl Grubenhagen.

Scribed by Johann Altenburg. Schöenberg Castle. 14th June. 1409.

Before the mother of my lord and saviour Jesus Christ, I do hereby swear to the validity and truth of what I am about to relate. Let God’s heavenly will alone pass judgement upon me for my sins.

In the summer of 1398 I was approached by my kinsman Frederick of Kitnow who bore news of a secret gathering of nobles from our home province of Culm, wherein it had been decided that the best interests of the people of Culm were to be safe guarded by a secret fraternity whose prime purpose would be to eradicate the outlaws who were then a problem for the people of the province. Culm had long since suffered from the deprivations of undesirable elements from foreign parts, not least from amongst the Lithuanians and Poles and I agreed to meet with Nicholas von Renys upon whose initiative the meeting had taken place.

Von Renys was then a secular brother of the German Order, and upon our meeting, he impressed upon me the importance of joining the order with the purpose of influencing it from within. He spoke at great length of the troubles afforded to Culm by the imposition of authority by the leadership of the German Order and how the province would be better served if it were a part of a greater Germany under the sovereign rule of a Holy Roman Emperor.

I could not but agree, for in those days I was young and idealistic and betraying the Orderstaat seemed of no great importance if only Culm could be liberated. To my ever lasting shame I readily agreed and entered into the Order with the intention of furthering the interests of Culm. I was not alone however, a great many other young nobles of Culm were beside me, and we called ourselves the Union of the Lizard.

For the next many years I campaigned hard on behalf of the Ordenstaat whilst all the while working towards the interests of Culm. At first this was easy as my differing interests did not conflict, but with time, I began to find it harder to reconcile my betrayal of the men I was fighting along side. I knew that with time, the acts I undertook at the behest of the Union would eventually bring me into direct conflict with my pledge of allegiance to the Order. Little did I realise that my worries were misplaced and that subsequent events would demonstrate the folly of my decisions.

In 1407, after many years of dedicated service to the Union, I became aware of a conspiracy at its heart which defied its stated purpose. Like most of my fellows, I was convinced of the honour in Nicholas von Renys and his intentions, but during a trip to Liege I was made aware that certain highly placed individuals within the Union were in direct conversation with highly placed members of the Order, and together with several members of the Court of King Ruprecht were conspiring for own gain. I became confused and undertook to discover the truth of what I had glimpsed. I met with Frederick and made him aware of my knowledge and whilst he initially attempted to deny that any such conspiracy was afoot, he soon gave up the pretence and admitted that the Union had been infiltrated by unscrupulous parties and that he himself did not even know if Nicholas von Renys was implicated in the affair. We agreed that I would undertake to investigate the matter further and for the next few years I went about my business, quietly watching my fellows.

Around about this time, I became wounded in a skirmish with some Poles and I was sent to Memel to work as a secretary to the Komtur. This gave me an insight into matters to which I had heretofore previously been blind. I examined the archived records of the Komtur and discovered that the Ordenstaat was rife with corruption and that a great deal of wealth was being taken from the provinces and moved to the coffers of several influential nobles, some of whom were themselves high standing brother knights of the Order.

My wounds were sufficiently recovered in the Spring of 1409 that I was sent to help deal with the uprising in Samogitia, but I discovered upon my arrival that the group with which I had been placed was comprised mainly of members of the Lizard Union and the purpose of our group was not to impose the authority of the Order, but to gather as much wealth as possible. To my dismay, none of the other members of the Union objected and I soon found myself witness to all manner of atrocities carried out against the native Poles. Alone with my doubts and misgivings I am ashamed to say that I went along with the actions of my brethren, acting the part of an aloof observer. During the first months of 1409 I saw a great many murders committed, often accompanied by rape, torture and the destruction of entire villages.

I finally lost my reserve when I was sent on a raid with von Voldensee and Metzger. Both are high standing brother knights of the order whom I had long suspected of corruption, von Voldensee’s name in particular has often been whispered to me as I searched for connections between the corruption of the Ordenstaat and the Court of King Ruprecht.

We arrived at a rebellious village called Pinnow where both Germans and Poles were living and von Voldensee and Metzger chose to attack. I had supposed they would slaughter the Polish inhabitants as this had been seen on several previous occasions, but this was not to be the case. With us on this mission was a noble in blackened armour unmarked with any heraldry, whose name I gathered was Krebs. I had never seen this man before, but I understood from his bearing and the deference shown to him by von Voldensee and Metzger that he was of great importance and influence. Krebs ordered the destruction of the entire village and despite my protestations, von Voldensee and Metzger obeyed. I was placed under guard and removed to a nearby hill top, from whence I watched as the village and all its inhabitants were all put to the sword whilst anything of value was removed in a caravan of wagons which headed west.

Later I was removed to the custody of Anschütz-Kaempfe von Beyrich who informed me that my arrest had been cosigned by the Grosskomtur himself, and that I was to be taken to Memel to be tried as a traitor to the Ordenstaat. This did not happen as I was unexpectedly rescued by Heinrich von Lüneberg and his compatriots.

During the past several years I have uncovered a lot of corruption within the Order, with many examples of individuals taking bribes, stealing assets of the order and general theft of goods belonging to the native population of the Ordenstaat. To which degree these crimes are connected I cannot say, but I can identify a number of key figures in the conspiracy of corruption which exists between the Lizard Union, the German Order and the Court of King Ruprecht.

The Komtur of Memel, Albrecht von Oldenburg and several of his staff are all guilty of corruption, von Oldenburg himself may also be in league with the Grosskomtur of the German Order, Franz Karl von Voldensee and his Sergeant-at-arms Marius Metzger, both of whom are in league with several high standing knights of the Court of King Ruprecht, including Dieter Anschütz-Kaempfe von Beyrich, Adam August von Eschenmayer and the mysterious Knight in Black named Krebs whom I have only encountered once.

Aside from these, there are also the members of the Lizard Union, several of whom I suspect to be implicated with the afore mentioned conspirators, and others whom I know to be in league with various Polish and Lithuanian nobles. Nicholas von Renys is a traitor to the Ordenstaat and almost certainly in treasonous conversation with the Grand Duke of Lithuania Jogaila. Frederick of Kitnow is a co-conspirator in Nicholas von Renys’s plots as are John of Pulkow and Frederick of Kitnow. These men make up the governing body of the Lizard Union, but behind them are several other notable figures from Culm, foremost of whom is one Albrecht Wohlfahrt von Toruń. I cannot be certain, but I have reason to suspect that von Toruń is in league with von Beyrich and von Eschenmayer.

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