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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Nil-The-Frogg

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Nothing to do with the AAR, but I could not resist the temptation (done with GIMP : I'm a beginner, but it looks fun and powerful)... :D

 

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You may have guessed it, but the above post was my 666th.

Stuyvesant said:
That's a frightening image: Joe Storey as a geriatric masked superhero.
My original image was even worse. :D But yours probably fits better ;) . Note that I don't actually know what Joe looks like anyway.

Stuyvesant said:
I doubt he could keep Mr. Voltshead safe, if the Judge wanted any harm to come to him.
Oh, do you remember how afraid Peter was to see the case ending up on Judge Caryotte's desk ? :cool:

Stuyvesant said:
Finally, I noticed you even put the Judge's scribble on the paper, the directions for Hitchgins to come to the restaurant. Nice touch. :)
Yeah, I had fun writing this update, although it took some time.

I've not begun the next update yet. I'm curently working on a translation of this AAR from english to french so that my girlfriend will read it without complaining (she specially hates Hitchgins, guess why ? :D ). That's not an easy task since I've thought and designed the whole thing in and for english. :eek:o For instance, believe it or not, but I find it very hard to properly render Hitchgins personal phrasing. I've finally chosen a mix of slang and abreviations. It's also a pain in the ass to decide wether to keep american names or not. I guess that given the context, I should keep them.

I must also admit that I was expecting Director and Storey comments, for obvious reasons. I'll still try to wrap a new installment for Wednesday or Thursday while enjoying my last days of free time before getting back to work.
 

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Nil - As best as I know, both Storey and Director are out of town for a little while. Director should be returning any day but Joe may be a while longer. I'm sure they'll enjoy the update greatly, however, once they return and read it. :)
 

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coz1 said:
Nil - As best as I know, both Storey and Director are out of town for a little while. Director should be returning any day but Joe may be a while longer. I'm sure they'll enjoy the update greatly, however, once they return and read it. :)
Yeah, I knew for Director, not for Joe. But don't worry, I know they're perfectly able to read this even weeks later... :p
The only true reason why the next installment isn't posted is not that I wait for them: it's just that I have not taken the time to write it yet. Thanks for the info anyway. :)
 

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#12a
Udbina : June 1420 AD

At last, Bjorn felt some hope, after weeks of frustration. He finally found it in this godforsaken place where the trail of the bogomiles had led him.

His pursuers in Byzantium had abandoned their hunt at dawn for they had their own problems to cope with. They probably discovered that their agents infiltrated in the palace had been killed a few hours sooner by order of the Emperor. Bjorn and his varanguian colleagues had zealously fulfilled their duty. About forty spies and traitors had offered their blood to the fine carpets and tapestries of their luxurious lairs. It appeared that the Emperor's wrath wasn't satisfied though, for the next days had seen the expulsion of most Italians from the City. Bjorn had taken advantage of the resulting mess to take leave of the capital.

From that moment on, he had been lurking through the Balkans for the Bogomiles, and more specifically for this Tzourillas fellow. He didn't know much about their sect but quickly learnt that they were some kind of widespread Christian heretics who showed much respect for a preacher called Tzourillas. He may not have been his target, but he was the more likely and there was no way to know for sure, in any case. Bjorn was not stupid enough to get back to Byzantium asking for details when thugs might just be waiting for him. Not to mention that the recent declaration of war by the Ottoman Turks would have represented a major annoyance as well.

Theoretically simple investigations had been made difficult by several events. To begin with the whole area was troubled by refugees fleeing the new Turkish province of Kosovo. Worse : Croatia, who had been the nest for the most intensive Bogomyl activities these years had just put brutal actions in motion to crush them. His task was very delicate as much because asking questions about them could have brought suspicions on him as because the Bogomiles themselves were very cautious and reluctant to speak to a complete stranger. As a result he had been wandering in his fruitless search for useful tips while trying to remain unnoticed, which wasn't easy since anyone speaking to him had to look up. To top it off, people understanding Greek were not overcrowding the place.

He was crossing the region of Lika when something turned his luck around. There was some unrest because a popular heretic preacher had been arrested in a nearby village. That's how Bjorn ended up in the boondocks of the world: Udbina where he could hardly melt in the population, consisting of less than two hundred souls all speaking local dialects he had never heard before. He made up his mind for a direct approach and pretended to be a Byzantine citizen (which was half the truth anyway) who had gone by a roundabout in order to mock the sandbagged captive.

The village was a small stinking group of shacks with hens wandering in the muddy streets. To be fair, Bjorn would have called them houses before living in the City. There was a nice little Romanesque church too, but all in all, really nothing to be excited about. Both the inhabitants and the handful of soldiers seemed surprised to see him, but the contrary would have been startling. A guard by the pillory tried to ask him questions but did not insist when it became apparent that the visitor only spoke Greek. Bjorn looked down at the preacher with a malevolent smile and spat a colourful array of insults both personal and against his faith. Chuckles among the guards suggested that he was well into the role, but the most interesting reaction was the prisoner's, who looked shocked and muttered:

“God may have mercy upon your soul.”

After a few more mockeries and taunting, Bjorn turned tail and went away under peasants' hostile gazes. A satisfied smile was floating on his mouth. The day was indeed favourable. He had found an experienced Bogomyle preacher in need for help and speaking Greek, to boot.

Now, there was only the slight formality of freeing him...
 
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Duke of Wellington said:
Just a small formality I'm sure. I'm most curious as to what he could want with the Bogomiles. Enemy of my enemy is a friend perhaps? All in all very interesting Nil, keep it up :).
It just have something to do with that:
“Quick! Find Tzourillas... The bogom... Tzourillas... Go! Go...”
(from chapter #10a). ;)

It was a very short update, but I intend to provide another one by the weekend (if I'm not away from home, that is).
 

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Bjorn is just ranging all over the Balkans, isn't he? Constantinople, Kosovo, Croatia... But at least he's found his lead. Now let's see how this Bogomil can help him, after Bjorn busts him out of jail. Unless there's a complete army nearby, I don't see how a small village and some guards present any problem to Bjorn, especially after seeing how he handled himself in the ambush in Constantinople. :)
 

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Is it just me or is the forum rather quiet for my last days off work ? :(

Stuyvesant: You are of course correct, as will be proved immediately :nods:
 

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#12b

Udbina : June 1420 AD (continued)


They would surely not execute the preacher on the spot : they would not have bothered putting him to the pillory otherwise. He was probably supposed to be taken to some bigger town, that is approximately anywhere. But the important point was that there was only one road out of Udbina. All Bjorn had to do was to prevent them from reaching the end of that road. The problem was very simple : four armed men were too much for him, especially when one of them was mounted, according to what he had seen. The solution was simple too : he had to reduce their numbers before any real fight would begin.

He quickly designed a very straightforward plan for he was fond of direct approaches. He would ideally require some game he could borrow blood from. Animal-hunting was unfortunately not among his skills and he did not even dare to try without proper equipment. Walking quickly along the road, he sought the perfect spot and finally settled for a sharp muddy bent bordered by thick bushes : they would not be able to see this portion of the road until they passed the curve. He scuppered in the foliage, watching over the village and waited.

Noon came and past. The sun was on its way down and Bjorn was despairing of seeing them this day when they finally appeared in the distance. He had not mistaken, they were three footsoldiers with pikes leaded by a mounted officer. The bogomile preacher was with them, still bending under the weight of the board ensnaring his neck and wrists. Bjorn quickly came back to the road, unsheathed his blade and used it to snick his own already wounded left arm. He hastily daubed his face and clothes with blood. This would never stand an examination more than a second, but he did not need more than that. Then he dropped his sword in the mud and reclined, hiding it under his body while holding a firm grasp over the hilt. After that, all he had to do was playing the dummy and hope they would not skewer him right away as a mean of checking if he was actually dead.

Footsteps. Hesitation... They come to a halt. Incomprehensible conversation. An order is snapped. Sucking noises of steps in the mud : most certainly two men... Here they are, bending over, one of them open the mouth : he has understood. Too late. The blade is already swinging.

The second corpse had not even reached the ground that Bjorn was already thrusting forward, howling terribly. The horseman was caught off guard. Sometimes, a couple of seconds to take your afraid mount back under control is way too long... The last soldier did not take time to think or might just have turned tail and run as far as he could. He charged spear forward and tried to nail the Viking down. Bjorn deflected the assault by a few centimetres off his chest, pursued his whirling motion and landed his blade right between his opponent's helmet and chain mail.

Casually looking at his work, he wiped his sword on the last dead man's tunic and headed toward the gaping captive.

“Looks like God and I have been looking after you.”

Bjorn unlocked the pillory and proceeded to hide the corpses in the shrubbery, but the other one kept gazing at the massacre.

“Hey, do you intend to stand in the middle of the road forever ? Please, help me.”

The preacher grudgingly complied. Their sinister job done, both went cutting across the fields and sustaining a fast silent walk for several hours. Only then did Bjorn allow his new companion to sit down and rest. The latter thoughtfully rubbed his bruised neck and wrists. He was a scraggy man in his thirties with crow black hair and a skin disease eating up the bottom-left part of his face. His eyes were bright and mobile. After many hesitations, he finally asked :

“I'm Juraj. May I know the name of my rescuer ?”

“Constantine.”

Juraj kept rubbing his scruff for a while before asking:

“Did you do this good deed in the hope of buying your way to heaven ?”

Bjorn smiled sarcastically.

“Good deed ? What if we consider that I've killed four men and brought possible retaliations on this pathetic village ?”

The bogomile did not seem surprised by the answer, but rather curious. He kept staring at Bjorn in silence. The later stretched, cracking his joints loudly and resumed:

“Besides, I don't care about heaven.”

He smiled again, as if to provoke the preacher.

“All I want is to find one of your brothers in faith called Tzourillas.”

Juraj went on the defensive.

“What do you want to him?”

“Great. So I assume you know him?”

“I did not say so.”

“You did. Sort of.”

Bjorn poured some wine from one of his leather flasks into a small beaker. He held it to the bogomile.

“Don't worry, I do not intend to kill him. Let's say that I've a confidential document for him. As you can see, I've gone to great lengths to deliver it.”

“I see. But you will have to go way further, I'm afraid. He fled to Alexandria through Ottoman territories. I believe that he may have taken refuge in some hospital there.”

There was a blank in the conversation, then Bjorn muttered:

“Holy shit! I should have guessed I was in for one hell of a bloody quest...”
 
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As long as Bjorn can book passage on a ship, he will at least have a few weeks of calm on the Mediterranean before he has to slash his way through Alexandria (big city: lots of people to kill). Of course, knowing Bjorn, he'll probably sneak onto a ship clandestinely. Which could lead to cat-and-mouse games while at sea. Not to mention the fact that there might be pirates... I fear a lot more people will die before Bjorn completes his quest. :p

The forums appear to be a bit quieter: I have been patchy in my attentions lately and I have been able to (mostly) keep up with the AARs I follow anyway. Ah well, quiet spell, it will change soon enough. :)
 

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Very interesting developments, Nil. I remain impressed at how you juggle the two sides of the story and even manage to include a few parallels such as the hospital. :cool:
 

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Duke of Wellington: Who knows, who knows ? Well... I do. :cool:

Stuyvesant: Yes, still plenty room to feed Duke with some gory events. And perhaps not only in Bjorn's company. See Coz' comment. :rolleyes:

coz1: Parallels, mmmh ? You're on something here, coz, I tell you!
idee-ampoule-987.gif


Oh, BTW: I've started posting my translation on the French forum. Damn, it's even quieter than here. But of course, we're not as numerous.


[EDIT]And I've updated my website: GUESTBOOK added there :) [/EDIT]
.
.
 
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Wow, I've managed to write the next update - at last. Made me sweat! I sometimes wonder why some passages are so difficult to write while others come easily. It's not even correlated to quality :wacko: .
 

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#13a



A la Tante joyeuse, Friday, soon in the morning.


Hitchgins felt cramped in his worn-out suit, which had been trendy fifteen years before he bought it, twenty years ago. It was still better for his errand than wandering in uniform, not to mention that it was way warmer to stand this dark, cold and rainy morning. He pushed the door of the little café. The window displayed a colorful sign reading: “A la Tante Joyeuse”. Beneath, smaller letters specified: “Fine meals for fine ladies and gentlemen”. Hitchgins already knew the place: the food was indeed of above average quality but so were the prices.

There was a library in a corner of the main room but all the books were old French titles whose covers looked almost new. The walls had been painted in green and the floor left as bare tiles, which was a good idea given the amount of cigarette ashes scattered all around. A thick sea of smoke was already dancing its ballet of volutes against the ceiling. Customers were drinking their tee or coffee, a few of them also had an omelet or a French ham sandwich. Two men in neat suits and a pale classy blonde woman in high heels were leaning against the shining counter, chatting with the barman. The latter, wearing a black apron over his white shirt, was standing in front of a wide leprous mirror filling most of the wall. All in all, this place did not look like the archetypal gang lair. But of course, it was nonetheless.

Hitchgins crossed the room, adding his own wet trail to the muddy tangle already left by others. A few sleepy gazes turned toward him, but went back to their breakfasts. He sat on a stool and nodded to the barman, who winked in return before addressing the woman.

“I savor your every word my dearest, but I must attend this customer.”



She cast a disdainful glance at Hitchgins, provocatively puffing her cigarette-holder in a kiss-like move of her cherry-red lips. She was beautiful, but her cold expression could act as a deterrent just as much as a turn-on. Not that Hitchgins still cared much about that kind of starlets. The barman went to him, delicately smoothing his thin moustache. His perfume was even strongest than Pinelvy’s, but fortunately, it smelled better.

“Bonjour mon chou! We haven’t seen you for several eternities…”

“Haroumpf! Ya shouldn’t have expected me to swallow yar sluggish thingies.”

The bartender laughed, wiping the perm auburn hair hanging on his balding head in a gesture of faked despair:

“You will never make out what is good and what is not. I put all my love in each of my dishes, and just about no one seems to realize!”

He looked up the sky, let a short disappointed squeaking out and vigorously rubbed a drop of coffee on the counter:

“What can your humble servant do for your service?”

“Err... tell me, Charles, would ya understand if I mentioned ‘big daddy’?”

Amusement sparked in the barman’s mobile chestnut-brown eyes. His smile widened, spreading waves of wrinkles up his cheeks toward salient cheekbones.

“You certainly mean ‘un demi’! But I thought you did not have that vice. Should you convert to alcohol’s euphoria, I would happily offer you a glass of Chablis or Champagne instead, in the hope of salvaging something out of the Trafalgar of your taste!”

Hitchgins grumbled:

“Thanka very much but I woulda content meself wid half a pint of espresso.”

“Of course, mon chou, you are the king of the day…”

Charles used his towel to grab one of the biggest hot stainless steel coffee pots aligned near the burners. He masterfully filled the upper barrel with thick dark brown powder, the lower barrel with water and in the twinkling of an eye, it was on the fire.

The well-rounded waitress came to deposit her big tray on the counter. She was short on her legs and wore thick glasses on her cute freckled little nose.

“Charles, aye need six morre coffies for the fifs. Zey want zem verry dark.”

Then, to Hitchgins:

“Good morrningue tou you seer!”

“G’d mornin’ Martine. Too soona tell if da day will be good, but it starts well, n‘deed.”

Her eyes widened in surprise, which wasn’t unusual for Hitchgins since he never forgot a name, even if he had heard it only once, years ago.

Charles grabbed saucers and cups so quickly and so nimbly that he barely seemed to touch them at all. He placed them on the trail a bit like a croupier dealing cards. After that, he waved the big paunched red coffee pot, pouring the smoking liquid in the cups in a single smooth motion. He sent sugars flying, each of them accurately landing in a saucer. Hitchgins thought the man had well converted his outstanding talent as a former thief and conjurer. For her part, Martine had ecstatically watched the scene as she always did and immediately regained her countenance as soon as Charles turned to her.

“I think you can take it honey, it’s all hot and smelling nicely.”

She went away. Charles reported his attention to Hitchgins.

“Ah, women! These marvelous creatures are the shining jewels of our lives!”

The sergeant shrugged:

“Yeah, perhaps. But ya shoulda be aware o'their cutting edges. B'lieve me: don't trust anythin' that's lookin' too nice. Dat's bad for your health.”

The espresso coffee pot's rumbling was becoming erratic, alerting the bartender, who took it off the fire and slowly poured the content in a bowl while answering with his expressive eyes riveted on his interlocutor:

“I would say such considerations are a very sorry way of guiding your life. What do you think is best: avoiding misfortune or pursuing happiness?”

“Easy for ya to say so since yar not 'xactly into women, eh?”

“I may have a preference for distinguished men, but I can discern, and even enjoy in various ways, any kind of beauty. I must say that I am humbly very proud of it. Life is absolutely worth our efforts because it is filled with opportunities for delight. We just have to seize them.”

Hitchgins snorted:

“Opportunities, eh? Yeah, and I'm only from Mars meself.”

Charles raised an eyebrow in a silent interrogation.

“Nah, forget'at.”

The bowl was full and the cop was about to take it when the barman gently took his wrist:

“Tss tss. No! No, no, no, no! It's not the way to drink it. You must try something! Italians call that the Coretto. Those barbarians use their infamous Grappa...”

He reached for a small stained bottle under the counter.

“But just get your taste buds around this! It is a nectar for real gourmets like you and me! ”

He slightly leaned the flask with a spinning movement and let a single tiny drop fall in the bowl. Hitchgins had understood, but he took a sip nonetheless. Yes! The taste was clearly identifiable on his tongue and a few more sips brought in slight warm tingles in his toes and fingers. He kept it in his mouth for a moment, swallowed and nodded in appreciation:

“Haroupf! I must confess'at yar mixture is outstanding!”

“If you really like it, I can do without this bottle, for fifty dollars. I hope you do realize that such an offer is not proposed to just anybody.”

“Err... Fifty? Well, o'course. Dat's almost a gift.”

Charles washed the coffee pot while Hitchgins rummaged through his overcrowded pockets in order to gather the bills. He dropped them on the counter, but they had disappeared before reaching the metallic surface. The cop slipped the flask in his inside pocket and resumed his bowl.

The blonde woman slid down from her stool, smiling at Charles.

“I must go.”

The barman gracefully took her fingers and hand-kissed her.

“It’s always a pleasure to see your smile illuminate our gloomy mornings!”

She didn’t hide her pleasure, sensually whispering:

“You’re lovely, Charles. B’bye…”

She headed for the exit under Martine’s hateful gaze. Through the condensation blurred window, Hitchgins noticed the shadow of a car slowing and stopping in front of the pub. A chill ran through his spine: he jolted. And suddenly, all hell broke loose.

.
 
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coz1

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Well that was a cliffhanger ending if I've ever seen one.

Lot's of lovelies in that place it seems, especially the blond. What connection does she have I wonder? And the bartender was an interesting character, full of thoughts and no problem sharing them. A very nice conversation, especially "I would say such considerations are a very sorry way of guiding your life. What do you think is best: avoiding misfortune or pursuing happiness?
 

Duke of Wellington

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I can't wait to find out how this goes. Very well written chapter Nil. You got me lulled in a calm with the nice scene in the café only to shock me at the end making it all the more enjoyable. The café certainly is an atmospheric place and I'm intrigued by the way powerful drinks seem to be attracted to Hitchgins time and again.
 

Stuyvesant

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I enjoyed the verbal exchange between Hitch and Charles. For a lowly police sergeant with an alcohol(?) addiction, he sure knows how to pick up and keep useful contacts. From your description, it sounds like Charles knows a lot of people from the criminal world, and it sounds like he has a soft spot for Hitchgins. Enough of a soft spot, at least, to sell Hitchgins his choice poison for a friendly price.

A nice place, you established a good atmosphere. I now expect that atmosphere to be brutally shattered by some men in trench coats, armed with Tommy Guns, shooting the place up. :)

One final question: "A la Tante Joyeuse", does that mean "At the happy aunt"? In that case, Dutch and French share the same word for aunt. If not, I'm just completely lost, which shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. :)
 

Nil-The-Frogg

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I love when your comments show me that my installement has reached the goal I've assigned to it. You would laugh at me if you could see me clap my hands like a child and jump on my chair!
0098.gif
Damn, it even lost a screw :eek:o (my brain may have too).

coz1: Yep, a cliffhanger. Someone must keep the tradition alive till Storey comes back. I miss this old boaster and his funny anecdotes. :D Yeah, I like the bartender too. I've pondered a long time the possibility of giving him a strong French accent, but I've been afraid that a strange spelling would hide or mitigate his stylishness. So I gave it to Martine instead. :)

Duke: As I wrote, I'm glad the atmosphere worked as desired. Regarding your impatience... the next installment is ready! But I don't know if I should post it ASAP given that the following one might be tough to write quickly :rolleyes: .

Stuyvesant: Hitchgins has quite a heavy background, as I've suggested on several occasions. One of them being when a lieutenant welcomes him on the crime scene in former Kallistos' garden. Oh, and he's definitely addicted, but not to alcohol.
Tommy guns? Almost...
0020.gif

And yes, you're right about "tante". But it has yet another meaning in French :D .

Now, regarding Charles' "gift", all I can do is sending you back to the end of chapter #11c...

.
 
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