bringing the light.
The defeat of the French in the Franco-Prussian War brought the proclamation of a new German Empire in Versailles in 1871. When William I ascended to the new imperial throne those who assisted in the German victory soon found themselves greatly rewarded. Of them, only one received his honors in a discrete ceremony, lest word get out that the emperor had showed him any favor.
History does not remember the Baron Ivar Metzger because some truths are so dark, they blend too perfectly into the shadows in which they are hid. While it is known that he fought under Crown Prince Frederick III at Wissembourg, Woerth, Sedan, and the Siege of Paris, no real details survived the battle field. The little that is told sounds like a recipe for nightmares and is often disregarded as rumor.
However, he did receive lands in Ostpreussen outside Konigsberg. Yet, some could not deny the impression that his award seemed like a banishment, especially the Baron Metzger. In order to defy his polite exile, Ivar Metzger set about planning the construction of a manor to rival any palace yet to be found in the empire.
Months passed with only a few boards rising here and there. Two years saw the completion of a handful of disjointed portions. By the end of five something resembling a building stood in the woods, but it did not display an ounce of elegance. Twilight seemed to constantly hang over its roof, born from the twisted disgust of a failure endlessly surviving abortion.
Within its walls Baron Metzger stewed over the failure that housed him, known throughout the empire as Ivar’s Flophouse. Over time he developed the intention to undertake a new venture.
Artisans from the surrounding area, many the best in their field, began to disappear. Jewelers, gold and silver smiths, painters, and sculptors all vanished without a sign. Rumors trickled about that the Baron Metzger kept them locked in his house constructing the means by which he could escape the embarrassment of his home. Other stories whispered through the walls of the Baron’s manor. Strange tales of human grotesquery masquerading as entertainment, for the hideously debauched added fresh spice to the nightmares Ivar Metzger already inspired.
Then no word came from the manor. No servants came down to collect supplies for the coming winter. Those who had occasion to pass the house said the windows were always dark and that an unwholesome stillness surrounded the grounds. This exaggerated the already wild tales circling the manor, and consequently led to the decision that an investigation was in order.
Konisberg organized a collection of respected citizens who then marched straight to the Baron’s front doors. After several minutes spent debating who would knock, the group discovered the door already unlocked and easily opened. Many would never recount what they found within, but what perhaps they witnessed can be summed up simply by this: Nicholas Silberschatz went into the house a steely young man with hair as black as pitch and emerged a twitching mess crowned by a grey mane.
The only story they could not keep to themselves was that of Metzger’s heavenly stein.
Recorded in the Baron’s own private journal, recovered by the investigating party, was the record of how he “employed”the best craftsmen he could find. Locked away in a dilapidated wing of the manor, they toiled night and day producing the finest sculptures, jewelry, and arts each of their trades could offer. Sometimes they blended styles such as when a marble sculptor combined efforts with a gem cutter to make a bust of the Baron with eyes as fiery as Ivar’s own. They produced wonders even they themselves thought were impossible to make with human hands. Any one might have redeemed the Baron’s name and erased all mention of Ivar’s Flophouse, however, the Baron’s greed compelled him to keep all these treasures for himself.
On occasion he sent one or two items to William I and Crown Prince Frederick III, but only to keep them pacified when rumors of Metzger’s more unsavory indulgences surfaced. Towards the end, an idea struck the Baron during a night of orgies and absinthe. Remembering stories his grandfather used to tell him as a child, Baron Metzger commissioned all of his craftsmen to fashion for him a stein in homage to the holiest of chalices, Christ’s own grail.
The evidence, from drawings found in the craftsmen’s workshop, suggests that two attempts were made before a cup was completed that met with the Baron’s approval. Those who went into the manor that fateful day found the completed piece clutched in Ivar’s hands. Every finger had to be broken in order to remove it from his clutches. No one who saw the stein could hope to deny its magnificence. Curves of gold and silver in angles of geometric perfection carried the eye through a concourse of dazzling gem stones that sparkled like colored stars in even the faintest light. Artists had painted angelic figures between the jewelry and metal in a paint no one could identify and which all swore contained an unearthly radiance.
As to the occupants of Metzger’s manor, only one phrase would be whispered, “Struck down, as if by the hand of God.” No marks of violence or signs of disease could be found on a single one of the bodies seen that day. All appeared to have died in the same instant, many in the midst of one act or another, as though no hint ever struck a single one the end was at hand.
For months the vessel, which the Baron had dubbed his “heavenly stein,” lingered in Konisberg. The local inhabitants kept it in a sealed case, not daring to even look upon it despite its beauty. When word of its brilliance reached the capital the stein was sent for at once, so that the emperor could behold this marvel. It never arrived.
Some believed that the men sent for it could not resist taking a peek, and when they beheld it were so consumed by a lust to possess Metzger’s heavenly stein they stole it. However, they were eventually found on the road to Thorn in Westpreussen. The report claimed they appeared to have all dropped dead in mid-stride. No signs of violence or any hint of illness were apparent. The stein could not be found among their belongings.
Stories began, much as one might expect. Any mysterious death became attributed to the stein. There were occasions where wealthy collectors genuinely displayed Metzger’s heavenly stein, however, every such instance was marked by the death of the collector and many of those who viewed it. It would vanish from one set of hands then appear in another. The French called it the rectification of a great wrong, namely their defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, by almighty God. Once the stein left the German Empire and cleared the country estate of Donatien Alphonse du Motier -- a wealthy playboy known well in France and abroad for his extravagant tastes --of every living breath, the French ceased such claims.
The heavenly stein crept across the English Channel with James Edward Pierce. From what is known about Pierce, he was a professional thief of some skill. However, on the 3rd of December 1898, inside a grimy London flat, Pierce was found dead. The coroner could find no cause of death, though the fact of his demise could not be denied. The police discovered no stein.
Little is heard about the stein and its whereabouts for a number of years after. Stories circulate about soldiers encountering it during the first World War, many of which have an air of truth. Rumors from 1921 put it on board the Carroll A. Deering -- a schooner found off the coast of North Carolina with all hands missing -- before becoming involved with a number of strange deaths in New York over the course of the ‘20s. By the beginning of the second World War, Metzger’s heavenly stein is thought to have been en route to Alaska. After that there is no clear sense of its possible location.
The only solid clue comes in 1968 when it is known to have been scheduled for delivery to Howard Hughs, but the plane meant to carry the package vanished in the Nevada desert. Throughout the seventies there is an endless list of sightings that can only be described as the juvenile fiction of feeble minds. Stories about the Nazis hunt for the stein and sinister cults devoted to the mystery of the Metzger’s heavenly cup have been thoroughly rejected by all serious researchers.
However, here at the start of 1980, it seems time to come to the point. You did ask me to explain the gift I gave you this past Christmas. Well, friend, let me tell you: It is Ivar Meztger’s heavenly stein. Don’t doubt it for a moment, as you can tell I’m rather well versed in the history of this particular item. Moreover, I can promise that it is responsible for all I’ve said here. Consider us even.