Auf dem Geisenberg – The Highwayman

Once upon a time, there stood a stronghold in the mountains around Geisenberg in the Siebengebirge region, clsoe to Bad Honnef, which served as headquarters of notorious highwaymen. The men plundered the local villages and stole their belongings and cattle only to sell it further afield where they were unknown. The leader of the group, Johann Hübner, was a frightful sight. He was teller than most and build like an ox. His hair and beard were unkempt and not even the best of barbers would have been able to run a comb through them. In a fight, he had lost an eye and instead wore an old and dirty rag over this side of his face. 

TUBS, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

One day, Johann was enjoying the company of his men, celebrating their latest plunder. As always on these occasions, the ale was flowing freely and the group gorged on the food that the peasants had saved to survive winter. Through the window, Johann could see a rider, who was passing by and he marvelled at his horse. He jumped up and commanded his men to get it for him. The group took up their weapons and confronted the rider, killing him after a short dispute and bringing their captain his bounty.

Close by the Earl of Dillenburg heard of the exploits of the notorious highwaymen and decided that he was going to put an end to them. Like Johann Hübner, he was known for his physical strength and fighting abilities, but unlike the robber he felt sorry for the peasants. He sent his most loyal servant, Hans Flick, to scout the location of the robber captain and to report back. 

Hans Flick travelled to the area and started to ask around. One day, he encountered a smithy, where he saw a man in armour standing against a wheel. He had brought in a beautiful black horse and was clearly waiting for the smith. 

‘Greetings,’ Hans Flick offered. ‘I am looking for Johann Hübner, the notorious robber. Would you have any information about his whereabouts?’ The other man looked at him and answered ‘he is on the wheel.’ Hans Flick misunderstood this sentences to mean that he had been captured and was being tortured on the wheel as was common practice, not noticing the double meaning. ‘When did this happen?’ He asked. ‘Only just today’ the armoured man answered. Hans Flick turned and left, but continued to ask around in the village to get more information.

Johann Hübner, who of course was the armoured man, asked the blacksmith to wrongly fit the shoes for his new horse. As he left, he encountered Hans Flick and saluted him: ‘you are a hard-working man, but do tell your lord to send someone with more brains next time.’ And so he rode off. 

Hans Flick quickly saddled his horse to follow, but by the time he was in pursuit, Johann Hübner was long gone and he could not make heads nor tails from the tracks he found. As he was searching the area, however, he came across a clearing where the robbers were keeping the stolen cattle and where Johann Hübner had decided to stay for a while. Quietly he creeped back into the forest and hurried to tell his earl of the clearing. At once an expedition was mounted and the earl himself led his men to attack the highwaymen. 

A frightful fight ensued, but the element of surprise helped the earl’s men to get the upper hand. The earl himself and Johann Hübner faced each other. Johann’s men had all been defeated and he was bleeding from multiple wounds, but the earl had also been hurt. Both men had abandoned their horses and faced each other sword in had. Many of the earl’s men reported of this fight afterwards, describing the great strength and courage shown, but eventually Johann Hübner was overcome and his body buried in a shallow grave. The region became part of the holdings of the Earl of Dillenburg, but the stronghold was burned to the ground. The peasants rejoiced as they now had a just lord, who supported them through a harsh winter. The ghostly form of Johann Hübner, however, can still be seen at midnight, riding around the hill on his black horse as his evil deeds do not allow him to rest. 

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