Magnus, aka Madz,
A very Special Student

By: Ruwen Rouhs
(© 2022 by the author)

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent. Comments are appreciated at...

Chapter 11
Sir John Mandeville’s Account of his Travels Around the World

In my seat in the fourth pew in the chapel of the castle, I immersed myself in the altar painting. Why in heaven was the wounded boy smiling at his enemies? They had tied him to an oak tree with thick ropes and seemed to be taunting him. One was aiming his crossbow at him and the other three had already shot their bolts. One of the bolts was in his chest, another was where his liver might be, and a third in a thigh. Their weapons and helmets identified this enemies as soldiers. However their faces with broken teeth and scars reminded Madz of muggers. Had Veit and his men looked like that, also?

I was scared to death as Anders pressed himself into the pew beside me. "What did the chaplain give you to do as penance? He only told me to think about whether I really liked you. If not, then what we would have done in bed this morning was a sin and I would have to make amends to you." Anders shifted back and forth unsteadily. "Do you think I like you? I hadn't even thought about it until now." "He asked me the same question. When I asked him in return why he's unsure if we really like each other, he answered, you only known each other for half a day and you're four years apart!" When Anders didn't answer, I turned my head and tried to look him in the eye, "I like you and what I did with you, I did because I like you. I didn't do it just for fun!"

"I think it was the same for me. I just never thought about it before. I never thought about if I really liked anyone. I like my half-brother Alies, but somehow, I like him differently. I just like him like a brother. But you? I really like you. I would love to hold you in my arms all the time, just like you hold a vulnerable baby in your arms." Anders thought for a moment, then asked, "Can I call you Baby-Boy when we're alone? I won't tell anyone you're my Baby-Boy, never!"

With the bell announcing the beginning of evening Mass, we moved even closer together and behaved in an exemplary way till the service came to an end.


Sixteen steps led down from the anteroom of the chapel into the crypt proper. The crypt had been renovated only a short time ago. On this occasion, the three sarcophagi were carefully freed from the dust of the centuries, the tombstones, which were placed all around at the walls, were cleaned and the walls were freshly whitewashed.

The tomb slabs, depicting knights in armor or monks in cowls, stood out gray against the white wall. They reached from the floor almost to the ceiling, leaving little less than a palm with space between them of the whitewashed fieldstone that made up the wall of the crypt. The wall facing the dungeon, where we suspected the mysterious pattern made of the three stones, was almost completely concealed by the tombstones. Immediately, Anders and I began to search the parts of the wall that were freely accessible. At first, we found nothing that reminded us of the sign with the triangular stone standing on edge and the two round ones. Then I noticed a spherical stone sticking out of the wall quite close to a grave slab standing close to the stair. "Look Anders, that stone is similar to the one in the dungeon. Do you believe what I believe?"  Anders immediately examined the stone, hidden half by the tomb slab. "I think that's part of the sign. However, we can't lever up the slab to be sure. It’s too heavy too!"

"Never mind! I have very thin fingers, I can slide them into the gap between the slab and the wall and feel for the others stones." After a few tries, I managed to push the fingers of my right hand so far behind the grave slab that I could feel the edge of the narrow stone. "I got it, the stone is pointed." then I turned to Paul and Carlo. "Come on, here's the sign again! Here in the crypt the passage should end or continue!" "Let's search the other three sides to see if the sign reappears there, if so, then the tunnel from here could lead further into the village or the valley or somewhere else."

After a while, Paul exclaimed, "I can't find anything on the south wall!" "Neither can I!" replied Anders and I almost simultaneously, and Carlo added, "They've covered the floor so well with tiles that we'd have to knock them off if we wanted to find the tunnel. If the entrance is hidden under one of the stone sarcophagi, we can't find it either, they're way too heavy to lift."

As we climbed back up the stairs out of the crypt, Anders hung his head. The chaplain put his arm over his shoulder. "Come don't be sad. We still have at least one alternative, the wine cellar. I promise you I'll get the key as soon as I get to the hold of the innkeeper. He manages the wine cellar."


A freshly showered but tired Alies was already waiting for them in the garden in front of the castle.  "How was the soccer game?" was Anders' first question.  "It ended in a tie two-two." he said with his head hanging. "Well, it's not too bad. At least you didn't lose. I bet, if you had not been on the line our team had lost." "Yeah, I know Bro, you're running the game from the outside line, when you're present, we always win, at least every other time." Alies now laughed again, "But I am sure you must have found Veit s treasure and now I don't have make money anymore!"

Anders and I gave a detailed report about our failure and in the end, we scolded the municipality that had commissioned the renovation of the chapel. But there was still the wine cellar. When we mentioned it, Alies suggested to visit it today.

When Carlo asked, "How are you going to get in without a key?" Alies pulled a bundle of lock picks out of his pocket, "I always have them with me. How often do you think I get called when someone gets locked out or misplaces his keys. As professional technician I have to be able to do everything!"

After the meal, to which Alies was also invited, Anders could stand it no longer and stormed around the house to the back of the castle, where the cellar entrance was located. There were some steps leading down to a heavy wooden door. Anders took the steps so fast that he banged his nose bloody on the rust-red door. "Ow!" he yelled, "The door's fighting back!" Alies, who came stumbling after him, comforted him, "You can't see your blood on the door, it just gives a red stain on a red door!"

In the dim light of a flashlight, Alies had to try almost all the lock picks before the bolt of the ancient lock snapped back. Starting at the large cellar door, a long steep stone staircase led down into the darkness to the bottom of the cellar. Cold, damp air wafted toward the five, carrying with it a faint scent of wine and vinegar. Three lamps hanging from thin cables from the vaulted ceiling could hardly illuminate the vast room. The outlines of the barrels that stood on either side of the central passage were only visible as shadows. The tablets on barrels that provided information about their contents were unreadable in the dim light.

Behind the barrels was impenetrable darkness. At first Anders and I searched the wall closest to the dungeon under the keep with our flashlights. Right away, we discovered nothing in the rough wall of fieldstone that resembled the upside-down cross symbols in the dungeon and crypt. We also found nothing when Alies brought a spotlight from his car, which illuminated the room better. Slightly disappointed, Anders, his brother and Carlo and Paul began to search the other walls of the huge basement. "Nothing, nothing, nothing again!" they shouted every few minutes.

I, on the other hand, made my way to the wall of the deep alcove next to the stairs. It seemed to be even cooler, darker and more humid than the rest of the basement. At first, I carefully scanned the walls of the alcove, but even here I could not discover the pattern. I was about to return to the others when I almost stumbled over a wide vat filled with all sorts of rubbish. Immediately my collecting instinct awoke and I began to rummage around between the discarded things. That was not so easy, because I could not put my flashlight away. At the beginning I rummaged only with one hand between objects. Since the contents of the vat were jammed, I held the flashlight between my teeth, trying to fish out individual items.  First, I cleared away the barrel staves and the rusted barrel hoops on top, then put away the broken wine bottles stuck between chunks of stone and mortar. I was glad when I didn't cut myself on the broken pieces. In the next layer I found a hammer handle with the head missing, old bottle corks, greasy rags and crooked nails. Everything was damp and must have been stuck in the vat for a long time. I was about to give up when I discovered a bundle of newspapers underneath.   In the semi-darkness, I couldn't decipher the writing and tugged it out from under the other stuff. The bundle was tied with a thick cord. Fortunately, it reminded me of the old prayer books I had found in an abandoned barn in Gondersdorf. These prayer books had been from the previous century. Therefore newspaper may have been of similarly age.

I could not untie the knots of the cord, so I simply cut them. When I took apart the pile of newspapers, a narrow package about the size of a book was inside, wrapped in waxed canvas. The treasure was my first thought, then I remembered, it could not be the one Veit Scharpf had hidden. Nor could it be gold coins. The package was heavy, but not so heavy that it could be coins. More like a book? An old book? A valuable book. I looked at the top newspaper of the bundle again more closely and tried to read the headline of the first column. After a moment, I managed to decipher it. It read "Brief News of Count Hallbergis' Journey since his Departure from Ascalon."

"Now I knew I had to examine the packet more closely. I had to pocket it if I didn't want Paul or Carlo would take it from me. I couldn't let that happen. I absolutely had to find out what was wrapped in the oiled paper. I had no bad conscious to take it, because if it was thrown into the garbage, it belonged to the finder. Therefore, it belongs to me! I quickly slipped the package under my shirt.

Fortunately, Carlo was already drumming us to go out. Since I didn't come, he called back, "Hurry up Madz or we'll leave you in the dark and you can starve to death!" "I'm coming, I'll close the door!" I called back and was glad when the others quickly ran around the building to Carlo's apartment.

I was giddy with excitement. My whole body prickled. Was it my guilty conscience or had I put spiders and woodlice under my shirt with the package? In any case, I had to get rid of the package quickly. Back in the house, I ran up the stairs to my room, tore open my backpack and hid the find in it.


"Where is Ascalon?" I blurted out as we discussed the day's experiences over dinner "Ascalon?" asked Paul back, "Where did you get that name, Madz. Today the port city is called Ashkelon. It is in Israel on the Mediterranean Sea. Ascalon is the ancient name. During the Crusades the Crusaders landed there, today it's a sleepy port! We haven’t even been there when we visited the Holy Land!" "You have been already in Ascalon, in Jerusalem, in Bethlehem, that is in Israel? With whom were you there, with Castor!" I wanted to distract and therefore posed the question. "With him, of course. I can’t go on such a dangerous journey without my Castor!"

This turned into a longer description of their travel experiences, which ended only when Anders and I began to yawn. "Haven't you had enough? I can see down to your stomachs.” Turning to Alies, he asked, “Does Anders always eat so much, Alies!"  Alies just grinned, "I was already thinking about getting married so I wouldn't be at the stove for so long every day!" "S'Babettle or s'Bärbelle? They're both pretty and sweet!" "I'd would get turned down by both of them if I mentioned that as a reason to get married! Besides, Anders is strictly against my marriage! When I suggested it once he immediately asked, Who will spoon me when I'm freezing in bed?" At this, Alies suddenly blushed and looked to the floor! Anders just grinned and stuck out his tongue, "He can't marry them, they're our cousins!"


After we wearily trudged upstairs in our bedroom, Anders suddenly announced, "I need to go to the john." When I looked at him questioningly, "I have to go to the toilet, to the washroom, the shithouse, Baby-Boy! Don't you know what a john is!" "Nah, I don’t know any John. But wipe your butt well afterwards, preferably use water! We'll sleep in the same bed and you better not stink!" Before Anders disappeared outside, he stuck his tongue out at me, "You have to clean your fanny, also, maybe we will be up to more in bed besides sleeping!"

While Anders sneaked down to the toilet, I quickly tried to untie the small package I had found in the vine cellar. With difficulty, I unknotted the fine cord with which the package was tied. The oilcloth was so brittle that I almost tore it to pieces as I unwound it. Then three layers of newspaper had to be unwound, probably to keep the contents of the packet dry, afterwards came some more oilcloth. The tight coverage had protected the contents of the package from moisture. Now I had almost done it.

I did not want to throw away the sheets of paper, so I folded them carefully. As I did so, my eyes fell on the front page of the newspaper. It depicted a rider with a horn on a galloping horse. In the top line to the left of the rider was written "N°. 1" and on the right "1780". Therefore, the newspaper had to be over 230 years old. Below the N°. 1 "Hallberger" was printed and below the 1780 was "Zeitung". Below that, again, on the left was "Saturdays" and on the right "Febr 15".

Just as it was getting exciting, I heard Anders coming up the stairs and just managed to put the oiled canvas, the old newspapers and the cords back into the backpack. Hardly done, Anders was scurrying in through the door, which creaked loudly in its hinges. "You don't have to be quiet, they're chatting and laughing downstairs. I'm sure they can't hear us. Alies is still there, too. I didn't know my brother enjoyed chatting with the chaplain and your teacher so much." I nodded and rushed to the door, because I also had to hurry to the washroom. "Hurry up!" called Anders after me, "We still have a lot to do before they go to sleep." at that he pointed to the next room to go to bed. "The sooner you get back upstairs Baby-Boy, the louder we can be!" With that he took off his underpants and jumped into bed naked.

As I crept down the wooden stairs one of the steps creaked and all three heads wheeled around. "You're already undressed, according to this you're ready to sleep!" Alies exclaimed, "If you're going upstairs, tell Anders it's time to go home!" I had to swallow, "He wanted to stay with me, I don't like sleeping alone. Yesterday he was allowed to. Can't he stay today, also?" I made my sweetest baby face, "Please Alies, tomorrow I have to go home again and then you'll have him all to yourself again!

Alies looked from Carlo to Paul and back again. “I don't know him like that. Usually he always wants to sleep at home! What has happened to in my little brother?" When the other two just grinned at him, "Does he end up cheating on me? Did Madz change him completely? If you don't mind chaplain, then he may stay."

While I scurried to the bathroom I saw the chaplain nodding in agreement, and in less than five minutes I was clean from head to toe. I even washed the spots with a washcloth I did clean usually.

Back in the room I could not get out of my amazement. Anders had turned the room lamp off and left only the bedside lamp on. He had made a nest out of the bed spread and was lying in the dent with his arms and legs drawn up like a little baby. I feared the worst, jumped on the bed and put my head on his chest to hear if he was still breathing. He was just waiting for that. He quickly turned on his back, pulled me on top of him and hugged me tightly. "Do you really like me, Magnus, like you told in church today? Do you like me like you confessed to the chaplain?" I could only nod and confessed to Anders, "I like you more than anyone I have ever liked. I like you very, very much. Do you think that's love?" "Baby-Boy, Baby-Boy, I feel the same. I think it's love when there's something like that between two people like us. It was such a great day today, because we could do everything together. Can't you stay here in Hallberg? Alies and I have enough space or you can stay here with Carlo and I'll come visit you every day."

At first, I didn't know what to answer. But then I found the right answer and kissed Anders on the mouth, something I had never done with a boy before. Anders was surprised at first, but then kissed back. The short touch of our lips turned into a long kiss, then a second and a third. When Anders got his breath back, all he said was "Baby-Boy! Baby-Boy!"


The cool evening breeze coming through the open window, soon shooed us under the covers. Snuggled up to Anders, I suddenly remembered something terrible, something unforgivable. I hadn't told Anders anything about the mysterious find, I had even wanted to hide it from him. But you don't hide anything from a friend! We were friends now, certainly closer friends than I had ever been with anyone else. I had to tell him about the find. After all, I had discovered the package while hunting for Veit' treasure. I sat up, "Anders, can you forgive me if I have hidden something from you? Something you absolutely must know! I. I ..." he began to stammer.

Anders turned to me curiously, "Are you telling me that you have another boyfriend? That doesn't count! It only counts what has happened since yesterday afternoon!"

"But it happened today and I want to confess." Then I began to tell about the find in the wine cellar. How I had brought the parcel to this room and had begun to unpack it, while Anders was washing himself. "And now I have it in my backpack. We'll unwrap it together and if you like it, you can keep it."

Anders got big eyes during my description, then he swallowed, "Maybe I wouldn't have told you and just kept the package. After all, we weren't looking for it, we were looking for the secret passage and the treasure of Veit Scharpf!" Then he poked me in the side, "Show me, I'm curious!"

First, I spread out the newspaper on the bed and since Anders could decipher the fracture writing only very slowly, I read him the beginning of the travelogue about Count Asburgis. Then, together, we set about unwinding the oilcloth of the inner packet. This was not so easy, as the fabric was often folded and stiff with age.

Suddenly there was a book in front of us, a book in an embossed cover of scraped brown leather. It was only about a hand span high and half a span wide. The spine had partially detached and was popping off when I opened the book. The paper was yellowed, almost brown. An illegible name was scrawled on the first page. On the next page was a whole story printed, instead of a title and author as I knew it from my books. In the light of the overhead lamp, I had trouble deciphering the words printed in red and black.

While I was still struggling with the first line, Anders pointed to the bottom of the page. "Madz, there's a date here. 1692 it says. Therefore, the book is..." he counted through in his head " over 300 years old!" he exclaimed triumphantly. "You've found something really great, a book that's almost 30 times older than you!" I cried out anxiously as Anders tried to touch the title page, "Don't touch it with your fingers, just point at it, Anders, think about how old it is!" Slowly, I began to read aloud, word by word:

"Of the excellent and world-experienced

also highly and widely famous

Mr. Doctoris


Engeland knight


de Montevilla" 

Sofar I had understood it, "Engeland" probably meant "English" and Johannis de Montevilla, was probably the name of the traveling knight.


The next word, however, I did not know, " curieuse? What does that mean again curieuse?" Then it occurred to me "It must mean curious, or wondrous, strange or something!

The next word I did know. Reisz-Beschreibung, that was travel description, but the spelling was strange


I shook my head.  "Anders, you could also decipher a few words, you are older and already go to high school." He fought back, "Oh, please do it Madz, I may be older, but you are smarter at such old things!" "Alright then." nodded, for I didn't want to waste any time. "It further says:

How the same went to the promised land / Pa-

laestinam, Jerusalem / Egypt/ Türckey/.

Judeam, India/ Chinam, Persia/

and Anderse

near and far to remote kingdoms and provinces

and provinces/ by sea and land/ and almost the whole

and almost the entire earth and world crack

and the world. 

"Anders, look! The knight has already seen the entire world! So many years ago! He even wrote the book by himself, it says!" 

Described by himself in Latin and French.

French language;


to all German sovereigns and many countries

also to those who love their customs and manners

for the benefit of all.

Formerly printed in Cologne

Now newly published / extended and

improved / also provided with registers.

In the year


Reading the ancient German had totally exhausted me, so I stopped and just moaned, "I won't read any more tonight. Let's just flip through it." 

"This book has over 260 pages!" marveled Anders. "If you can only decipher the other pages as slowly as you did the title page, then you won't be finished in a year." "Once I get used to the typeface and the old-fashioned language, I'm sure it'll go faster. But you're right. It's not going to work today! I'm dead tired." "You're right, Baby-Boy! Come put it away."


To be continued...


Posted 09/30/2022