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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

stnylan

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Hi all. I can't seem to get anywhere with my writing on MonAARsteries, so I have decided to write this new tale. It is a Mongolian scenario AAR, inspired to a greater and lesser degree by other influences which will, on all probability, soon become clear.

Meanwhile I think I'll just hold onto this post. It could prove useful.

Edit: Thanks to Kurek Chapter 1 is now a downloadable pdf file. See the link in my sig.

Edit: Here follows a synopsis of the first two chapters. It is EXTREMELY rough, and many points, some of them important, are rushed over. However, if you want to just get up to speed chapter 3 starts here

Synopsis of Chapters 1 & 2

Sergio, a Latin, is in Thessalonica, where he is temporarily staying. He goes to a gathering at the house of the Patrician Lord Septimus, an Archon of the city. There his friend Amos suggests he goes to Amos to settle. His patron, Father Zacharius, supports the idea. He also meets up with Sebastos, the childe of Choronides of Thebes (an ally of Demos of Athens), and they agree to travel together.

On the road they are attacked by four men, whom they easily defeat. Cursory investigation show they have all been marked. They make good progress to Thebes. Choronides judges Sergio a fit companion for Sebastos (who is also going to spend time at Athens). Ioannes, a Thanatologist, examines the bodies and finds signs of sorcery, and hints of a Latin origin.

They arrive at Athens, where they are met by David and escorted for a meeting with Timon, who does most of the day to day business of running the city for Demos. He welcomes them, and puts them under David's charge. David is, in effect, the sheriff. They also meet one Evagoras.

The next night they are told by David that a loose Cainite is in the city. The person most likely to have that information, a Leper called Andros, has not been heard of for some time. They meet Ranulf, who assists David. David tells him and Sergio to go searching for Andros. They visit a contact of his, and threaten him. He promises to deliver a message.
 
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And I think this one might prove handy as well.
 

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Chapter 1 - Stepping into the unknown

Sing to me of the man, Muse, the man of twists and turns
driven time and again off course, once he had plundered
the hallowed heights of Troy​

Homer - The Odyssey
(trans. Robert Fagles)​




Sergio did his best to ignore the unfriendly looks he got as he walked through the streets of Thessalonica. His dress marked him out as a Latin, or a Frank, as these rude Greeks named all westerners. He had given up trying to explain the difference between French, English, Italians, and Iberians. To the small-minded people of this land they were all Franks, barbarians no better than the infidels from the East. At his side walked Juan, steady and certain as ever, unconcerned by the bystanders. In his world they were utterly unimportant, and not worthy of note. How Sergio wished for Juan’s disregard of the petty slights, but they rankled him, and deeply. At times he wanted to grab a shopkeeper or monk by the ears and shake them till they begged!

No, that would only cause trouble. He was being watched he knew. Sergio doubted few moments had passed since his arrival in town six weeks ago when hidden eyes were not upon him. He was being observed, and judged. Tested. So he calmly walked through the streets, back straight, and seeming proud.

Court tonight was being held in the stately house of Lord Septimus, one of the Archons. Sergio had been in two minds about attending. Lord Septimus had made plain his distaste of Sergio, but Father Zacharias had insisted. Fortunately this was an open meeting of the Court, not a private affair. Otherwise Sergio would definitely not have attended. Tonight however it would see Damian presiding, and to him would go all the necessary Imperium to maintain the Peace of the Trinity.

The Peace of the Trinity. The phrase exemplified so much of what put him on edge since he had landed at Dyrrachium three months ago. Sergio was used to the Traditions that defined his life, but here they had the Legacies. They were much the same, but subtly different. The differences made his skin crawl. There were so many ways to mis-step, so many ways to trip up on the familiar, but variant, etiquette of the Eastern Courts.

At the gate stood two guards, and Septimus’ second childe, Isaac Serriates. Isaac was impeccably turned out, and he looked Sergio up and down with a cold, calculating eye.

“Good evening.” He spoke in accurate, slightly accented, Latin. “We had wondered whether you would deign to show your face. This is your servant?” he asked, nodding his head towards Juan.

“Yes.” No need to dignify this with the illusion of conversation.

“He may await your needs in the servant’s quarters. Gregory here will show you to the hall.” He indicated a house servant whose presence had been hidden by the shadow.

Lord Septimus has spent a lot of money on the house over the years, that much was plain. It was surprisingly empty of decoration. Only a few small statuettes in discrete niches and some geometric patterning on the floor relieved the severity that so well evoked the Patrician’s character.

The banquet hall was, in contrast, richly decorated. Fine tapestries adorned the walls. The tables and couches were richly carved and covered with fine cloths and silks. Statues lined the room, carvings of men proud and long dead. The ceiling was decorated with frescos showing mythic scenes. From somewhere music was being played, though Sergio could not spot the ensemble. One wall had many arches that led into a garden, which was set around a central pool and fountain.

Most of the Court was already gathered, some standing, some reclining. His eyes immediately search for Damian, and found him laying on one of the couches talking easily to another of the Archons. To his side, and a little removed behind, stood a proud looking man Sergio had not seen before. There was no doubt that he was relieved to see Damian already here, and so he looked further around the room. There were small groups, couplets and singletons. From each to each went servants, all carrying a tray laden with either delicacies or drinks. It was a serene moment, broken by the necessity of moving away from the door.

His entrance did not seem to create much comment, and for that Sergio was grateful. He took up station in a recess next to statue, out of the way. A servant proffered a tray of fine glass goblets. The entrancing miasma of vitae wafted from them, and he took one. He watched as the servant went to another, and did the same. Only when Sergio saw two others accept glasses from that tray and sip without sign of alarm did he let himself taste.

Sergio was no connoisseur, but Lord Septimus certainly was, in keeping with his kind. To Sergio the blood was infatuating, but that was normal. Entirely normal. He supposed that many here would discuss such matters as the origin and the nature of the subject from which a particular vintage was harvested, but his palette was not that refined. Still, it was good, and he sipped appreciatively. The music was pleasant, and the atmosphere relaxing.

“I am surprised to see you here,” the voice from his side startled Sergio. It was Amos. In the short time Sergio had known him it was obvious that Amos exhibited the stealth for which his kind were legendary. Cowled and cloaked there was nothing to be seen of the Leper, but the material he wore was very fine and not entirely out of place. Sergio’s own western style was arguably more jarring.

“I was persuaded,” Sergio answered in his passable Greek, and sipped again. The vitae was very good. Of all people in this room appearances would matter perhaps least with Amos. Amos had also become the closest thing a friend Sergio had in this strange city.

“By Father Zacharias? It is interesting that he takes such an interest in you.”

“No less so than yours, surely.”

Amos shrugged. “People expect me to take an interest, I try not to disappoint. Your presence though has somewhat … energised … the Father. It has caused some people to wander.”

“Should I be concerned?” The last thing Sergio needed was expressions of ‘interest’ in his affairs, however politely undertaken, by all and sundry.

“So long as you flit around the edges like this, yes. Either settle down or move on. Nothing is so dangerous to you as your current status,” Amos reminded Sergio, his voice intense. Sergio nodded his agreement. It was true enough. “You have been here six weeks. If you were a Poet or a Patrician it would not matter, but you are not so fortunate to have such a background.”

“If I chose to stay, would I be allowed to?” It was something Sergio had wondered in the past few weeks.

“Of course.” Amos said it simply, as a matter of fact. “There would even be no dissent. There is a deal on the table, if you want it.”

“It seems like my fate is nicely sealed,” Sergio commented with some bitterness.

“Not at all. Tomorrow you could leave this city, and leave its politics. It is really up to you, but the longer you stay the harder it will be to leave free from entanglements. Far better to make a decision than have to stay because of some promise or debt.” Amos nearly spat the final word.

“And where would I go?” Sergio asked, switching unconsciously back to Latin now that he was not concentrating. “Constantinople? Back to Italy? To the Holy Land? None of these seem likely options for me.”

“You could always go south into Greece,” replied Amos in the same language.

Sergio paused a moment. “I have heard it is a backwater.”

“True enough, as far as that goes. Most people consider it such, but for one such as you … Athens … could be the place to go.”

Athens. The very name rung like a chord. “Why are you telling me this?”

“So that you think well of me. Why else? Think on it. Ask Damian, if you want. But I must be about other business. This is a very good vantage point you have picked incidentally. I will remember it.” For a moment Sergio stared at the departing back of Amos, before he shook his head and turned his attention back to the centre of the room.
 
Last edited:

Kurek

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Finally you got around to posting it! Very bloody good, I'm hooked :)
Hits subscripe
 
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Machiavellian

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This was a very enjoyable read tonight and I thank you for it. I look forward to reading more of the story.

Is it just me, or do I detect a hint of VtM in this storyline?
 

stnylan

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Kurek Nice to have you on board. I expect to be hollared if updating slows[/b]

Machiavellian Thank you for reading and commenting. As regards to my influences, I simply do not know what you are talking about *whistles innocently in a terribly unconvincing manner, particularly since I can't whistle*

King Yngvar I hope I shall not disappoint. I have never attempted anything quite like this before (since I usually write just for my own pleasure I am still not that brilliant at 'polishing'

A note to all - if you have any suggestions or criticisms about my writing I would delighted if you could post them, or PM me if you're not one for public criticism. Even if it is only minor things. I would be interested especially in your opinions upon completion of Chapter 1 (in a couple of updates time).

And so, moving smartly on...
 

stnylan

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A quick glance around confirmed that nearly all who were likely were now present. Sergio counted twenty-three, including himself. And this was just a regular gathering. The numbers staggered him. In Bearn so many might gather two or three times a year, but not for just a regular, ordinary meeting. Indeed it was smaller than any other he had attended. Clearly he was not he only one to have been made cautious by the host and venue.

It was one of the things that made Sergio cautious about heading further East. Thessalonica was a big city, but he was sure it would pale when compared to Constantinople. He felt intimidated by such numbers as those gathered here. They spoke of a shifting of the rules by which he had so far been able to survive, and he disliked the feeling of shifting ground beneath his feet.

A subtle shift of mood occurred in the room, and Sergio knew that the Gathering now could be said to have truly started. There was nothing you could quite put your finger on, but it was there. A seriousness made itself felt, as if all before had a certain amount of frivolity. For his part Sergio stayed in his place, and watched. He was not the only Latin here. There were two Provençals talking quietly in one corner. Both were residents of the City, and had made Sergio feel welcome, after a fashion. Also there was a hulking man from England who had taken service with these Easterners. He was here primarily because of Latins like himself.

This was especially true for the final Latin, Eleanor, a beautiful aristocratic woman from Leon. She was standing alone, looking tall and haughty. Sergio had no dealings with her. He had quickly learnt that here in the East all her kind were marked with suspicion, and it did his own affairs no good to be seen close to her. Her cousins had helped Sergio in the West, but gratitude would have to wait until making good would prove less fatal.

The music altered to something more engaging. It was probably still the same group of hidden players, but voices were now added, rising and falling in delicate rhymes that demanded quiet attention. When the piece ended there was a polite, restrained applause, and Damian stood from his couch near the centre of the room. On que a silence descended.

“I welcome you all to this our Gathering," he began in slow, measured words, by which he made himself heard, and allowed Sergio time enough to translate. "On your behalf I thank our Host for this evening, Archon Septimus, for providing the venue and entertainment." He paused a deliberate moment, and then added, "I counsel you all to enjoy yourselves.”

There was no response to this, but Sergio knew that all here would make sure to take a moment to congratulate the Archon. Including me, he thought. For his part Lord Septimus looked satisfied with that admonition, and Sergio thought he spotted the first twitches of an errant smile, before it was ruthlessly quashed.

Now Damian gestured to the man who had been standing by his side. “May I take this opportunity to introduce you all to Sebastos, the childe of Lord Choronides of Thebes. He is here on an errand of his sire, and will be tarrying in our City for a short while. I commend him to you.”

Sergio looked at Sebastos even more closely. There was no doubt that he was an impressive man, standing somewhat taller than Sergio, with a confidence born of breeding. An open face, that now lit up with a welcoming smile as Sebastos looked around. He saw Sergio staring, and held his gaze a moment before, answering a quick enquiry from one of the others sitting near him.

Sergio shifted slightly in his place, and turned his attention to Lord Septimus. The Patrician was standing rigid. He clearly did not like something, all the more noticeable because of his most recent satisfaction. Damian had clearly done all that he thought immediately necessary because he lowered himself on his couch once more, and Sergio decided it was time to pay his respects to both the Sub-Prefect and the host. Beside his glass was empty, and he was not about to turn down another cup as good as what was on offer.

He was intercepted on his way by Father Zacharias, whom Sergio had somehow not spotted spread out on a couch in between him and Damian.

“Sergio, come, have a seat,” Father Zacharias said, waving, and he sat up, making room for Sergio to sit. The Father was a short, squat man who nearly always wore a black cassock. He had been a churchman in life, and remained so. He was also the reason why Sergio had been tolerated in this Court, for he was a man with discrete influence, both here and elsewhere.

“So, you decided it come. Excellent decision I must say. I presume that you will pay our host your respects?” Father Zacharias spoke heartily, with no apparent care.

Sergio sat in the space that Zacharias made for him, and picked up a new goblet. Now that he was closer he could see all the couches were laid about a central mosaic, but he was side-ways to it and could make no sense of the image. “I was just about to do so,” he replied softly in Latin. He did not feel comfortable using his Greek now where he could be so easily over-heard.

“Well, our host will have to excuse me delaying you – though in truth I doubt he relishes the prospect any more than you.” Zacharias took a draught from his own goblet, and a trickle of blood ran from the corner of his mouth and onto his chin that Sergio could not help but notice. “So,” Zacharias said leaning back, “have you come to a decision?”

Sergio drank some of his own goblet. This offering was somehow richer than his previous selection. “In truth Father I do not think that I could settle here in Thessalonica. It is too big a place for me.”

Zacharias absently wiped the spot of blood from his chin with his sleeve, before sampling the vitae again. “If Thessalonica is too large for your tastes then I presume you are not thinking of going further east to Constantinople? Why, this is a mere hillock to that mountain.”

Sergio smiled. “Amos mentioned that I perhaps should go south, to Athens, specifically.”

“Athens?” For a moment Zacharias seemed surprised, and then his eyes grew shrewd. “Yes. At first it sounds absurd, but I think that Leper might have a point. Athens could just very well be the place for you, and certainly it could be no worse than anywhere else. It is just bizarre enough a place that you could fit right in.”

“Bizarre?”

The Father smiled. “Come now Sergio, all us Greeks are bizarre to you. But Athens is … unique. If you are accepted there you could prosper.” Unspoken was the fact that he could also fail. That was not a thought Sergio wanted to dwell on. “Well, if you wish to consider it I advise you to speak to Sebastos. Thebes and Athens are closely allied, and he will probably be able to sate your most immediate queries.”

Sergio paused a moment, and then raised a matter that had been growing on his mind. “I know that you have expended some efforts on my behalf here, and I am wroth to impose on your further, but would you support me in this move?”

Father Zacharias chuckled. “But of course. What are friends for?”

“I am in your debt,” Sergio noted seriously.

“Naturally,” Zacharias nodded. “Hopefully you will one day be in a position to repay it. Let us drink to that.”

They did so, both draining the remaining contents of their goblets. There was a natural pause, and then the Father waved him on. “Enough of this. I should not keep you further. It would not do for you to be tardy.” Sebastos nodded, and rose, while Zacharias now set about gaining the attention of a servant to provide him with more nourishment.
 
Last edited:

unmerged(6777)

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Since you ask for a critique, however small...

*puts on appropriate hat*

I very much enjoyed your first two offerings in what promises to be a very engaging story. You have certainly piqued my interest as to what, exactly, our friend Sergio's business might be - and I sense that the debt, so freely and nearly casually offered to Father Zacharias, might be something he will come to regret at some point in the future.

The writing is excellent, too, with a nice devotion to some of the smaller details that are often overlooked as being superfluous but which add a much more heightened sense of flavour to the presenation. I found myself having no trouble at all envisioning the surroundings and setting the stage, so to speak.

I did find myself slightly...I'm not sure if "jarred" would be the right word...by your choice of using very short, choppy sentences in the narrative - something that stands in somewhat stark contrast to the mood that the language seems to be designed to build. I might have expected a more languid, fluid phrasing that would have exagerated the effect...but I can also see that this might be an intentional vehicle to add an air of tension that is also alluded to in a few of the passages.

There are a few little trivial things that need cleaning up here and there (the odd typo, errant comma, etc.) but I can't say that I found very much to fault on that end. I might also suggest that you peruse a few of the discussions we had some time ago in the SolAARium where we bandied about some ideas on using dialogue to carry or imply some of the descriptive elements. This allows you to convey action or intenet without being forced to resort to "he said", "he asked", "he gestured" tags...something that Lord Durham presented an excellent overview of somewhere along the way. He mentions it in the very first post (see "#3 Show and Tell") but there's a section later on in the thread where we delved into it in greater detail. I'll see if I can find that for you if I get the chance.

I did notice a few slightly awkward sentences or phrasings here or there that might benefit from a bit of tidying up, but that's something that would probably be fairly easy to do with a couple more editting passes and they are things that one often doesn't notice when writing and only become apparent when you've removed yourself from the writing process for a little while and then come back to it with a fresh perspective. Yeah...I know...I'm the pot calling the kettle black. Guilty as charged.

I must say that it looks as though you've done your initial research nicely with the comfortable use of terms and such that seem perfectly consistent with that region and period (although I'll confess to being far from an expert on the subject, having devoted far more of my time to German and French culture of that era). If you continue along that vein then I am happily certain that I will learn considerably more - a major bonus in my mind, and one that is sure to keep my attention.

All in all a great beginning, and one that has definitely captured my interest. I'm looking forward to your next instalments and curious to see what sort of journey you'll be taking us on. I have no doubts, though, that it will be an enjoyable one to read.
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stnylan

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Thank you Chris.

As regards to me research I am lucky here to begin with. I know the period upto about 1210 quite well, and have some handy books at my disposal, having studied it at uni for a few years.

All
I hope to have the next installment ready tomorrow.
 

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Sergio rose and started to work his way to where Damian had settled back down. He took a moment to look closer at the mosaic, and he saw that it was a study of the First Murder. The mosaic depicted the act itself, the moment when Caine struck Abel. To each side of the central figures were the two sets of offerings. On Caine’s side the first fruits of his harvest, and on Abel’s the remains of the slaughtered lamb, ritually drained of blood. The tesserae and craftsmanship were the finest Sergio had ever seen. Whatever else he might think of Lord Septimus, Sergio could not fault his taste.

Damian had just bid farewell to another, so Sergio seized the moment. Taking two quick steps to bring him close, he went down on one knee, and bowed his head. “My Lord. Health and honour to you.” About him the hum of conversation died down, and he felt eyes turn towards him. From someone he heard a giggle.

Damian laughed. “Thank you Sergio,” and Sergio thought he heard a friendly humour in the tone. “You may get up.” The sound of people talking began again, and Sergio unclenched his fist, before carrying out the instruction.

“My Lord.” Damian seemed far less imposing than when he had decided on whether or not Sergio would be able to stay in the City. On that occasion the Sub-Prefect had been standing straight and tall, decked out in Imperial finery. Tonight it was as if he were relaxing among friends. Behind Damian and to one side that Sebastos was saying something to Lord Septimus.

“So, you are still among us. What do you think of our City now – you will recall I asked you the same just a week after you were Introduced.”

Lord Septimus seemed to say something in return, and then Sebastos turned and strode off, out of Sergio’s vision. He tried to think of a suitable reply. Damian reached to take some deep-red grapes from a servant.

“It is very grand my Lord. All I really know now, that I did not know then, is how much there is I do not know – before I could only guess.”

Spitting out a seed Damian frowned irritably. “That just won’t do Sergio. It is a truism - and an evasion. Come now, indulge me! How does our City compare to those of your homeland?”

Sergio shrugged. Lord Septimus turned, and walked towards them. “My Lord, there is little I can tell. It is as if I am in a different world from where I was. How can I explain a new world?”

Lord Septimus got closer as Sergio paused, sensing that this answer too would be inadequate, so he swallowed and began again. “In the land where I was born the infidels hold sway. Their cities can be grand, but I have seen nothing to excel this place and all its finery, and though I have yet to see the City of Constantine I cannot doubt that even the jewels of Al-Andulas would but seem like cheap glass against the glory of the New Rome.

“As for those places where Christian Lords are dominant, well, they are poor relations, rude functional places, but little else.”

“You must careful Sergio. When you are prodded you might be mistaken for a Poet.” At that moment Lord Septimus came very close, and started to go past, but he was hailed by Damian.

“Archon, has Sergio had a chance to pay his compliments to you yet?” Sergio gritted his teeth, and felt an itching in his palms.

The Archon stopped, his stance impatient, but he quelled it. “No. He has not.”

“Well then, time to see that he does! Sergio.” Damian smiled broadly.

The itching spread to his back, but Sergio did his best to put it out of his mind, and bowed to Lord Septimus. “Honoured Archon, may I offer my lowly congratulations and express my delight at being at such a cultured venue.”

“You may,” Lord Septimus replied after a moment’s consideration. “You speak prettily enough. Enough to create a poor illusion of respectability. However, Lord Damian, there is a matter I must attend do. My apologies for interrupting.” With that he abruptly continued on his way.

Lord Damian sighed happily, and then quickly dismissed Sergio. Turning, Sergio stopped for a moment while he stared again at the mosaic. From this angle the scene had changed entirely. Instead of seeing the First Murder the mosaic now seemed to be a representation of the Banishment, when the Lord cast Caine out into the lands of Nod. In a moment of awe Sergio realised that the artist had incorporated two images into the one, that every tessera and image had a dual purpose. Sergio was humbled. He wondered if the mosaic hid any other secrets in plain sight. O for a whole night to contemplate the wondrous work uninterrupted! He had to force himself to move.

The arches provided a welcome refuge. The cool of the night calmed him, and he could breathe easier. He had not expected that, – perhaps he had formed too benevolent an image of Lord Damian.

“You must be Sergio.”

The unknown voice startled Sergio, and he turned swiftly to see Sebastos addressing him from the garden side of the same arch.

Sebastos looked somewhat embarrassed. “My apologies. I thought you had seen me.”

“In truth I was not looking. I was thinking elsewhere.”

“Lord Septimus does that to a man truly. I see you had a little run-in with him.”

Sergio nodded. “Not my first, but I was more considering the mosaic.”

“It is a marvel isn’t it? Of course, the subject matter is not terribly original, but tradition is so terribly important to him that he probably could not stand anything else as his centre-piece.”

Sergio was stunned that Sebastos was so forthright in his views, even though he personally might agree. “You … do not … approve … of Lord Septimus?”

“My sire and he do not get along. I do not know what the custom is in the West, but here it is to be expected that while I do my Sire’s bidding that Lord Septimus would view me as nothing but an extension of my Sire.” He paused a moment, “but enough of my Sire’s affairs, let us put them to rest, at least for a moment. What brings you here? You Latins are not precisely common outside Constantinople.”

Sergio smiled, there was no denying Sebastos’ carefree was engaging. More, it was infectious. “Well, by good fortune I wanted to talk to you about just that very thing.”

“Oh?”

“You see, I am looking for a place to settle, and it was mentioned to me that I ought to consider Athens. I was wondering if you could tell me anything of the place?”

“I certainly could! I have visited Athens several times. It is the largest Domain in Greece, south of here that is. Quite a range of folk there. The mortal city is none too grand these days mind you, but the Akropolis is still a sight to stir the blood.” Sergio had no doubt of that, even the name seemed to speak to his soul, but what was an Akropolis? He decided it would be better not to highlight his ignorance.

“Say, if you are willing why don’t you travel with me? You see,” and Sebastos leaned closer, lowering his voice, “I am actually going to Athens from here, for an extended period. My Sire seems to think it would do me good.”

Sergio thought on the offer a moment. There were risks whatever he did. Sebastos though was the childe of a Prince, and that alone gave Sergio a certain surety, for Sebastos’ actions would necessarily impact on his Sire. The chances of this Choronides countenancing such a blatant entrapment seemed slim enough. Sebastos also happened to know the way, no small matter. And for once it would be nice to travel alone (Juan was a servant, but hardly a companion).

“You do have a sponsor?” Sebastos asked suddenly as the thought struck him. “Demos is as magnanimous as they come, but he is not known to look kindly on waifs and strays.”

Sergio waved the problem away. “That is not an issue. Father Zacharias will vouch for me, and has said he will intercede on my behalf.”

“The Magnus? You have interesting friends Sergio, for a foreigner. Well, is it decided then? Will we travel together?”

Sergio smiled and accepted what seemed to be the inevitable. “Yes. Indeed, how could I refuse the offer of your company?”

“I honestly do not know Sergio, and I am glad I do not have to find out.”

“When do you leave?”

Sebastos sighed, waving his hands expansively. “Whenever Damian decides he has answers to my Sire’s business. But at the very latest in twelve nights’ time. Where can I contact you?”

“I am staying in the Hostel of St Anastasius, just by.”

“I know of it. I'll send my Servitor when I am done - he's called Demetrios. One night in the future you will have to tell my why the Magnus are so willing to aid you. But now, I fear you must excuse me. My Sire asked me to convey other messages to certain people, and tonight is the simplest and easiest time to pass them along.”

“By all means. Duty rarely leaves much time for pleasure.”

Sebastos grinned, and then went on his way.

What a night. More or less blindly he had agreed to go to somewhere he had barely even heard of. A hundred questions rolled around his head, but he didn’t really have time to think about them at the moment. The first order of business was to ask Father Zacharias (why had Sebastos called him Magnus?) for his good office, and then to say farewell to the few minor members of the Court whom he had got to know slightly. Having expected to have not very much to do, Sergio now found the rest of the Gathering surprisingly, but cordially, busy.
 

coz1

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Wow. Excellent beginning. I've just had a chance to read what you have started and I am floored. I dare not suggest any criticism at this point as this is far above my own level of writing. It appears that you have a very nice command of the language and a good eye for dialogue. I will follow this and I am glad I was able to get into it early on. ;)
 

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Holy smokes this is good, (clicks subscribe button) I will be following this one for sure
 

nalivayko

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Hell, how can I dare to make a comment on a fine piece of writing like this?!(especially with me being into "chronicles" with no clue about where to start writing a story). Good job, stnylan.
 

stnylan

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Thank you all for reading. Those are some very kind words.

Vperic Welcome. I hope you make many return visits ;)

Warspite Completely as an aside by holy smokes is an expression I haven't seen or written for a long, long time. Good to see that it has not entirely fallen out of favour. Oh, and I look forward to your interest with relish.

coz1 The dialogues are the things I have been concentrating most on, because I feel they are what I am weakest at (this might well mean the more narrative passages suffer as a byproduct). So I am very gratified that they caught your eye.

nalivayko Nothing wrong with chronicles. I only wish I could get round to writing more up of my own. In any event I hope I continue to entertain.

I suppose I should have asked for comment as well as criticism. Not that I object to reading that people are enjoying what I write mind you. ;) Still, if you have any thoughts/impressions about my characters or scenes, or anything about my story, I would be delighted to read them. One of the nice things about the AAR format is the ability for feedback.

Anyway, here is the next update (or it will be when I've posted it and looked it over carefully a couple of times). I hope it lives up to expectations.
 

stnylan

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The Hostel of St Anastasius had been under the control of Cainites like Father Zacharias for centuries. The manager claimed that his family had run a hostel on more or less the same site since the time of Saint Constantine the Great, and it might very well be true. One thing that Sergio had quickly realised was just how old the East was. Even mortals here could lay claim to a lineage and to a heritage that put the lines of many Latin Lords to shame. The man also said that his family had been in the service of Father Zacharias for as long as he knew. Sergio suspected that the family went with the property.

Sergio had to admit the ease with which this man’s easy inhabitation of the twilight world, bound by ties no stronger than familial servitude, frankly scared him. In the West such casual associations were looked on with extreme disfavour, but here they seemed to be an accepted fact, if an unspoken one. Sergio did not have the liberty of further reflecting on this now, because it was time to go. Sergio looked around the bare room. Nothing seemed to be left. He knew that Juan had already checked, and he had not expected to find anything, but it was wise not to become too reliant.

Sebastos was already waiting for him in the courtyard, with Demetrios. Last night Demetrios had come with the message that Lord Damian had concluded Sebastos’ business. Demetrios sat atop a wagon looking bored. Sebastos was standing beside his own horse, and he greeted Sergio in his comfortable Latin. “Sergio, your man has already loaded your gear. Since Lord Damian settled his business with me so quickly I thought we might take the chance for a more lackadaisical journey. I like travelling at night, and rarely get the chance. Besides, it will give us the chance to talk.”

Sergio took a deep breath. Everything seemed to be in order. The wagon, he noted, was well constructed. No doubt it would also serve as an emergency shelter should they need it.

“I prefer not to trust to daytime travelling when I can avoid it.” Juan brought out his horse. Nathaniel nickered, sensing they would be on the road again soon. Sergio stroked the stallion’s neck, murmuring. “And my Greek could use the practice.”

“Excellent. Are we ready to be on our way then?”

Sergio looked at Juan conveying the question. His Servitor shifted slightly on his feet. “Ojos my lord?”

“We will collect him outside the city. That is probably best. Fewer eyes.”

“Ojos?” Sebastos sounded cautious.

“I … adopted an owl some time ago, when I first began to travel extensively. I have never regretted it. It has proved useful on several occasions, having an extra pair of eyes and ears overheard.”

“An excellent practice. You are clearly better versed in the travelling the wilds than me, though hopefully our journey to Thebes should not be too fraught. Still, until one passes into Boeotia the risks are there.”

“What risks?”

“Bandits of some sort are a possibility, the people of Thessaly can be desperate enough at times. I suppose it is just possible that an Epirote Lukos could inconvenience us, but I have not heard of such an attack this side of the battle of Larissa. In short, providing that the weather stays with us, and the wheels of the wagon do not break, and that our horses do not go lame, it should be as peaceful a ride as may be had.”

Sergio was thought he knew what a Lukos was, and he was certain that one would be more than an inconvenience, but he did want to dwell on that. “Shall we go?”

“In good time. There is one matter we need to arrange before we quit the city.” Sergio looked questioningly. “Provisions.”

There was a way in which that word was said that left Sergio in no doubt as to what Sebastos meant. He took a moment to organise his thoughts. “I understand.”

Some of his reluctance must have shown through. “I hope that you are not an aesthete.”

Sergio had to laugh. “No. Whatever else I might be, I am not one of those. Do not mind me, I just try to avoid killing, when I can. The sooner we are about it the sooner we can be on our way.”

“So let us go. Demetrios did some scouting last night, and I think he found us a likely catch.” Demetrios nodded slowly. “Well then, lead on!”

They made their way through the streets of the city, busy still in the early evening, Demetrios driving the wagon, Sergio, Sebastos, and Juan walking their horses. Demetrios led them to a quieter run-down district. The buildings here were in a state of collapse, and Sergio could see where the poorest made their dwellings. There was not a hint of movement, but everywhere he felt eyes upon him.

Sebastos, initially talkative, had now been silent for some time. Demetrios hauled up at an indeterminate stop. Sebastos moved alongside Sergio. “I think it best,” he began quietly, “if Demetrios and I get this over with. We have some experience working as a team.”

Sergio nodded, half-wondering about his new companion as Sebastos and Demetrios disappeared into the darkness between two buildings. He had got the impression, back in the Courtyard, that Sebastos had been struggling to avoid judging him, struggling to be generous. Did being raised by a Prince have something to do with such a hard-headed view? Or was it because Sebastos was older than he seemed? It was a difficult matter, to guess a Cainite’s age. Sergio thought that Sebastos has been Sired at about the same age he himself had been, in his thirties. How long he had walked the night was another question entirely.

“Are you well, Dominus?” It was Juan, speaking softly from behind, his voice expressing concern. Clearly the Servitor had picked up something in his mood.

“Just idle thoughts. What do you think of our companions?”

“It is not my place, but I do not think that my Lord Sebastos is the first to govern Demetrios. There is a strangeness to the servant that does not fit with the master.”

Juan nodded. “Thank you Juan. We will be prudent.” From the darkness there was a muffled cry, Sergio doubted any others could have heard it.

Sebastos and Demetrios quickly returned, each carrying a bundle. “Two,” Sebastos announced. “They should see us through, unless we suffer an unexpected mishap.” He and Demetrios threw the bundles into the wagon. “Enough of this place, let us set this behind us and be on our way.”
 
Last edited:

Amric

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Interesting...Cainites....This is proving to be very interesting reading. I shall have to keep my eye on this!
 

unmerged(14689)

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And this writer is telling me he likes my AAR?!? :eek:o

Holy sh*t, this is good! Stnylan, you really rule. But, I must say, you're also a bit of an idiot (forgive me my bluntness, please :) ), since you don't seem to notice how well you write. Now, no more saying you have difficulties writing and no more complementing me on my attempts at writing an AAR that might be at least remotely worthy of standing in your work's shadow. Just write. I'll read. :)
 

stnylan

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Amric Please do!

Suvorov Glad you could make it! How about I meet you halfway. We'll both keep writing and reading. ;)

Incidentally people, I highly recommend Suvorov's Vicky AAR. It is a gem. (link in his sig above).

In all seriousness I do find writing to this kind of level very challenging, since it forces me to think more about what I am writing than I usually do. Anyway, next update on its way. As a side note, chapter 1 has a little longer to run than I originally planned, since I have merged it with what was my putative chapter 2(I realised it made no sense to me to break this portion of the tale into two chapters).