• Victoria 3 - Sign up now!

    The journey begins, sign up now and get a special in-game item when the game is released.


  • Crusader Kings III Available Now!

    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning
  • Crusader Kings II Expansion Subscription

    Subscribe to the CK II Expansion and enjoy unlimited access to 13 major expansions and more!


Nil-The-Frogg

Big fetid toad
11 Badges
Aug 19, 2004
1.190
0
nilthefrogg.canalblog.com
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Divine Wind
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Semper Fi
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • 500k Club
#24

Venice, January 1423


You can be proud of your son, you know. He's no longer the feather-brained young man I found upon arriving in Venice.

Maro walked, playfully trying to catch snowflakes in his black velvet-gloved hands. They did not fall in any numbers and only held as a thin layer on the most hospitable spots, like earth and roof tiles. The small, fat white dots lazily fluttering in the air added a touch of quiet drowsiness to the otherwise exuberant atmosphere of the city. The grey, limp paste they formed beneath the feet of the crowd made the stones slippery on the bridges arching over the canals.


canaletto_zanipolo.jpg


Granted, he still can’t run a business properly. But you should at least acknowledge his talent for politics and society life. Not everyone enjoys such gifts.

He flattened himself against the railing to free the way for a gang of screaming kids chased by a yelling devil. Smiling under his mask, he watched them disappear into the alleys before resuming his meditative strolling.

I’m actually considering increasing his allowance. He has made some contribution to my recent success, after all. But I'm afraid it may slack him off... What do you think?

He saw two women dressed in cascades of laces approaching in a gondola, headed to some – of course mysterious – rendezvous. Their dresses flirted impudently with the limits of decency and the relative warmth of the air would probably not be enough to spare them a nasty cough. Ah! But what other circumstance would have allowed them to enjoy the delight of displaying their charms like that? Maro brought his wandering thoughts back on topic and continued, waiting for the gondola to reach the bridge.

Oh yes, of course! You're right. I should have thought of that; always combine pleasure with business. He will certainly be delighted by an increase in the funds available for his receptions and patronage. It would be money well spent.

The damsels' gondola glided under a bridge and the young men massed on it threw rose-water filled eggs at them, some yelling obscenities, some uttering love poetry that was hardly better than the besotted babbling of drunkards. Although eggs - even filled with rose-water - can hurt when they are thrown from the height of a bridge, the young women did not seem really distressed at being the pulsating heart of everyone’s attention. They would undoubtedly take advantage of the situation as much as they could during the few remaining days of the carnival. After that... Well, the burden of Lent would descend on these cheerful roisterers of Venice.

Maro emitted a bawdy snigger under his white, smooth mask. “I'll bet we see the effect of the carnival in the fall. The city will certainly gain a few souls...” He was aroused, and briefly contemplated the idea of burying his nose in some generous, unlaced cleavage. However, he was not quite drunk enough to disregard the trouble the Serenissima's harlots could bring upon a businessman; particularly a tipsy foreigner whose financial successes were so brazen. On the other hand, he could keep his mask on... He finally discarded the idea and resumed his saunter, staggering slightly after drinking too much of a bad wine that was so sweet that you could drink it like a syrup. He followed the sinuous thread of his thoughts as he progressed through the moving crowd of happy drunken men and women that pushed around him like an undulating sea. Only later would he realize that his purse had disappeared. But that was fair enough; thieves had to earn a living, too. And he never had much money on him, anyway.


carnavalvenisedDsc00119.jpg


What a brilliant stroke it was to hire this Bartolomeo Bon to create a statue in honour of the pope's victories! I would never have believed it possible to create such a piece in so short a time. Cost me an arm and a leg, but what splendour! Those stern lines and haughty disdain curling the lips of the conqueror! What a pope! He would almost make me turn Catholic... That is, if we hadn't exaggerated a little, of course. And the amazing Eustathius even managed to have the statue erected in the public square. No one can still be unaware of the pope’s recent campaign against the Moor. It is seen now as an overwhelming victory. I've even had odes written and paintings made to show the battles and the surrender of the treasury of Carthage to the Sovereign Pontiff. The Catholic sword against the swarms of Infidels and all that stuff. Just imagine Doge Mocenigo's face! He was very pale last time I saw him; stiff lips and all. I know he's seriously ill, but I can assure you that wasn’t the only reason. Ah! It is easy for him to explain that this so-called conquest was merely a bloody raid aimed at extorting money from Tunis. But tell me, what use is truth in the face of art and rumour? The piles of corpses left by the expedition will rot away quietly and only the statues of the 'Warrior Pope' will remain. Hihi! I love writing history. Your son even received a eulogistic letter from Cardinal Pierozzo. I'm not even sure if that nutcase in his red beanie noticed that he was writing to a schismatic Orthodox Christian!

People were shouting, declaiming or singing just about everywhere. Most of them very badly; wearing a mask tends to remove any fear of being mocked. But then Maro heard the shouts of an over-excited crowd over the surrounding hurly-burly. Curiosity aroused, he headed towards the sound and had to push his way through a compact group of people who were craning their necks to see what was happening farther on. He finally managed to reach the front row, however.

A makeshift arena had been set up in a small square, using big planks. Spectators were packed together round it, bellowing even louder than the young bull that was desperately defending its life against a pack of blood-frenzied dogs. Taken over by the joy of the moment and the brutality of the crowd, Maro started to shout too, but not without ulterior motive.

“Tear it apart! Go, Venetian dogs of war, go! Devour the big Turkish bull!”

Punctuated by less intelligible exclamations, the whole thing was a little ridiculous. But he burst into laugher when his words began to spread around him until they were uttered all over the square. Public opinion was ripe. He decided to leave, all the more since the bull was no longer offering more than token resistance in the middle of the blood-soaked square.

It was time to head back home, not least because his stomach was protesting against the quantities of fat-drenched fritters he had eaten during the afternoon. He was in good spirits: his efforts were paying off nicely, at last.

Seen that? They're on the boil! The pacifists won't be able to resist them for long. Even the argument of trade becomes irrelevant now that the Ottomans control the Bosphorus and are spreading south. Andrea Dandolo even dared to maintain, in the middle of the Council of Ten, that Venice would lose everything should she fail to act now. It would be perfect timing, too, since Murad is currently bogged down in a bunch of wars throughout Anatolia. He underestimated the local potentates and the whole area is put to sword and fire. Just sparking a little more of this in Greece should get rid of him, once and for all.

He arrived at Eustathius' place. The young man would probably not be home for several days, busy as he was with the celebrations organized by his noble friends. Maro unlocked the door and stepped into the office, which was closed for the duration of the carnival. He took off his coat and shook it to remove the small quantity of snow that had stuck to it. Meanwhile, his inner monologue continued.

Oh yes, the Turks will have to release what they should never have gobbled up to begin with. Eustathius recently met an Austrian prince and I’ll bet Murad will have his hands full just to keep a few square inches of his empire... You'll soon be avenged, my old friend! Ah, I'm turning just as maudlin as you... Maybe more.

Well, the old owl’s left the mail on the writing case. I didn't even know there was any during the celebrations. Let's have a look at it!


There was nothing more than two wet letters. He put the first one aside as it was obviously from a local customer and could be dealt with later by the accountant. His heart missed a beat when he saw the scrawl on the second one. Forgetting to breathe, shivering, he slipped his thumb under the seal to open it. In his emotion, he had not even noticed that it wasn't addressed to him. He opened it and skimmed through the body of the text, quickly jumping to the signature... Alexios.

Breathless, he let the parchment fall. His thoughts whirled. He straightened up and looked around, as if seeking support. The room was cold and dark. He was all alone now.

.
 

Stuyvesant

Field Marshal
40 Badges
Dec 7, 2002
6.230
44
Visit site
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
  • Magicka
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Europa Universalis: Rome
  • Semper Fi
  • The Showdown Effect
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Leviathan: Warships
  • Rome: Vae Victis
  • Warlock: Master of the Arcane
  • 200k Club
  • 500k Club
  • Crusader Kings II: Holy Knight (pre-order)
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • Pride of Nations
  • Mount & Blade: Warband
  • Achtung Panzer
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Cities in Motion
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Deus Vult
  • Hearts of Iron Anthology
  • Divine Wind
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • For the Motherland
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • Hearts of Iron III: Their Finest Hour
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
At first, I was wondering whom Maro was talking to, but then it finally dawned on me that he was having an inner monologue. That helped clear things up. :)

An interesting description of Venice, especially since it's set in the winter: not the time of year that most readily comes to mind when thinking about Italy.

The scene showed us what has been going on, both in the wider world and more directly in Maro's world. He seems to be doing well in business. However, his dreams of destroying the Turks sound rather far-fetched. Of course, this timeline might be developing quite differently from our own, but even then, it's hard to imagine the Ottomans parting with Constantinople, unless they have been completely annihilated. Then there's the mysterious letter from Alexios: whatever its contents, they can't be good, judging from Maro's reaction.

All in all, a nice change of pace from the supernatural dealings of Hitchgins and the Judge. I liked the painting, too. Very dark, foreboding.
 

Nil-The-Frogg

Big fetid toad
11 Badges
Aug 19, 2004
1.190
0
nilthefrogg.canalblog.com
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Divine Wind
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Semper Fi
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • 500k Club
Duke: Thank you. I tried to develop a whole different ambiance than in the previous instalment, dwelling into drunken dreams, with schemes still running on.

Stuyvesant: Yes, it is an inner monologue, but he's still speaking to someone in his own head. Understanding who it is might help a great deal to understand the end of the piece and to guess what's to come. Particularly if I mention that he did not actually read the content of the letter, only had a quick peek at it. The scene in Crete, a few chapters ago, might help, too.

Yes, setting up a winter scene in Italy makes for a change. Funny thing is that the Carnival of Venice is always in winter, ending with the beginning of Lens. But snow is rare, as far as I know.


I'll be away for a few days and still have to write the next instalment, with yet another brutal change of mood ;) After that, I think I'll quit writing this AAR and concentrate on planning every single chapter of it until the end. I'm tired of stumbling in the dark, fighting warning 7 every other chapter. So, the aim is to precisely know where and when I go before I come back to actually writing. In truth, I have rather precise plans for five more chapters, but I'd rather have the full path plotted. :wacko:
 
Jan 1, 2007
563
0
Its taken quite a while, but I finally got back to this and read all the 'Chicago' part today...

Found it quite enjoyable and a good build up to where the story is now. However it did seem to deviate (perhaps) abit too much (back and forth that is) and it was hard for me to keep up with it at times, such as when more characters were being added.

Besides this, Hitchgins is a great character, someone I could really like...maybe, depends how bad he really smells :D.

Out of everything, one word struck me as out of place, in chapter 19 where Hitchgins called Matt "Dude", its only a minor, insignificant morsel, but it just seemed to me as not being something he would say.

Favorite chapters were 13a/b 'A la Tante joyeuse' and of course 21b/23/23b 'Southern Docks'....for obvious reasons...the suspense...

This is building up to a very intriging story.
 
Last edited:

coz1

GunslingAAR
29 Badges
May 16, 2002
13.786
466
hearthehurd.typepad.com
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Imperator: Rome
  • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
  • Crusader Kings II: Jade Dragon
  • PDXCon 2017 Awards Winner
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Europa Universalis: Rome Collectors Edition
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • 500k Club
  • 200k Club
  • Europa Universalis: Rome
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • For The Glory
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Deus Vult
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
I've finally got caught up once more Nil and this has been a wonderful read, yet again. I do apologize for letting off for so long but you take a day off, then a week and then it's a month. Next thing you know, you are way behind and it is daunting.

But I've enjoyed remembering these characters, most especially your very colorful Hitchgins. Those, I think, are my favorite parts. But this scene above was written with much craft. Some lovely images and a masterful back and forth as he spoke in his mind and recalled certain words.

Thankfully I am ready to follow along yet again so get to work, old chum. ;)
 

Director

Maestro
34 Badges
Aug 13, 2002
5.151
1.956
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rights of Man
  • Cities: Skylines
  • Cities: Skylines Deluxe Edition
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • Europa Universalis IV: El Dorado
  • Europa Universalis IV: Pre-order
  • Europa Universalis IV: Common Sense
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cossacks
  • Europa Universalis IV: Mare Nostrum
  • 500k Club
  • Europa Universalis IV: Mandate of Heaven
  • Europa Universalis IV: Third Rome
  • Europa Universalis IV: Cradle of Civilization
  • Europa Universalis IV: Rule Britannia
  • Cities: Skylines - Parklife
  • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
  • Imperator: Rome
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Europa Universalis IV: Art of War
  • Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise
  • Europa Universalis IV: Wealth of Nations
  • Europa Universalis IV: Call to arms event
  • For the Motherland
  • Hearts of Iron III
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis IV: Res Publica
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Semper Fi
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • Victoria 2: Heart of Darkness
That is a magnificent piece; I wish I had written it.

Does it actually snow in Venice? I suppose it must, but in my imagination La Serenissima is always floating in the lazy sunshine of a summer's day.
 

Nil-The-Frogg

Big fetid toad
11 Badges
Aug 19, 2004
1.190
0
nilthefrogg.canalblog.com
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Divine Wind
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Semper Fi
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • 500k Club
Duke: Great!

Capt Janszoon: Thank you for your comments. I agree about the "dude" part. It is very hard for me to write Hitchgins words because he and I have very different styles :D Believe it or not, but I actually find it even harder in French :eek:

There are still a few "important" characters to introduce, but not that much.

As to the smell, I can only point you to Pinelvy's observation: "What was most surprising to Pinelvy in this personage really was that he did not emit any noticeable scent."

coz1: Thank you, Hitch is also one of my favourites. He was the first to go along a path I had not planned, but I don't even remember my original plans, now! :p

Director: Oh my! That's a compliment sir. And as far as I know, it snows in Venice, sometimes.

To all: I'm working both on the next chapter and on the planning of the story till the end. It's progressing slowly and a few dark areas remain, but it's progressing. ;)
 

Nil-The-Frogg

Big fetid toad
11 Badges
Aug 19, 2004
1.190
0
nilthefrogg.canalblog.com
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Divine Wind
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Semper Fi
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • 500k Club
#25

municipalflagofnotchicagosmall.jpg


For a long time they walked along the front of storehouses, many of which appeared abandoned, even though few of them really were. Reduced to silence by the wind raging around them, they were both lost in their own thoughts. Matt kept replaying in his head the few seconds when he had glimpsed the thing. Yes, the thing. It couldn't have been human, whatever Hitchgins might say. He tried to clarify the why, how and what. He tried to order his ideas and make some logic out of it, but he was relentlessly distracted by the image of that prodigiously gaping mouth with threads of drool connecting the teeth. And the smell! A stench of putrefaction that would have been enough to make him pass out had he not been focused on the sharp stranglehold that had been about to close on his throat. Questions erupted in his mind about everything that had happened before and after this scene, but they vanished into the background before he could consider them seriously.

They did not take the tram when they finally reached the line. The sergeant must have thought it better for his colleague to breathe fresh air and keep moving rather than travel in the fouled atmosphere of a crowded metal box. Matt just let Hitchgins lead him through the streets. The city had changed. People did not look real any more and he felt hemmed in by the glass and concrete cliffs around him as if terrible, unspeakable things were hiding in them and peering out at him.

The sergeant left him alone for a couple of minutes, just long enough to nip into a small, shabby grocer’s shop and come back with a rumpled paper bag. He then dragged Matt along seamy, virtually deserted alleys. Some of them, partly sealed off by worn wooden fences, were so narrow that the two cops could barely walk abreast. The wind was weak enough there to allow for normal conversation. Hitchgins drew a small bottle of whisky out of his paper bag.

“Take it lad. Just one swig. Don't get drunk, eh?”

Matt took the bottle without a word. He trembled like an aspen-leaf and his throat was dry. He unscrewed the cap, whose ring broke with a snap, and drank a long draught. The liquid burned his throat and the perfumed emanations quickly rose to his head. He was not used to alcohol but he felt a little better. He mechanically handed the bottle back to Hitchgins, who simply recapped it and put it back in his crumpled bag.

The young cop was no longer shivering and his thoughts were clearing a little which actually seemed to make the situation worse. The sergeant kept his porcine eyes on him, his hands buried deep into his bottomless pockets, waiting patiently to see how he would react. Matt leaned against the brick wall and closed his eyes.

“It was about to kill me, wasn't it?”

“He's dead now. Don't ya get all upset with dat, will ya? If I was to list every damn single time someone's wanted' kill me, be it junkie or bigwig – when it wasn’t the same thing – well it would fill da main administrative archives to da ceilin'.”

The young man slid to the ground and covered his face with his hands. Tears soon oozed between his fingers. “It wasn’t human.”

“It's fear that makes yar imagination run riot. It's the worst hallucinogen. Fear can make ya mistake yar grandmother for a pit-bull and da last trendy politician for a saviour.”

“But it grabbed me like... like I would grab a pen! I felt like I was caught by a truck... No; a train.”

“Ecstatic water can do dat, Matt. Ya've seen crises, haven't ya? This one was a terminal crisis, as they say.”

“But I saw its face, sergeant! I saw it! No way... It was a monster!”

Matt was sobbing. Hitchgins bent over him, putting his hand on his shoulder. “Don't worry, son, everythin'll be okay, ya'll see...”

“Nothing will be okay! And… and it was pitch dark, so how did you manage to...”

The words stuck in his throat as he looked up at the sergeant and terror struck him dumb. Hitchgins' mouth had always seemed slack, but now it was opening like a funnel, lips completely distended to reveal the inner side of the cheeks. His jaws bristled with a swarm of pink tentacles that poured into Matt's mouth when he tried to scream. Others went up his nostrils. He did not think of biting the pulsating mass, shaken as he was by a cough that had no chance of expelling the invader. The sergeant's lips were already on his face, progressively covering it like giant slugs. Matt could no longer breathe as the tentacles went up his nostrils, wriggling like worms. Hitchgins' jowls now enveloped his whole head in a deadly embrace. Matt felt that he was about to pass out and struggled furiously. But the hands that held him were firm as steel.
 
Last edited:

coz1

GunslingAAR
29 Badges
May 16, 2002
13.786
466
hearthehurd.typepad.com
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Imperator: Rome
  • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
  • Crusader Kings II: Jade Dragon
  • PDXCon 2017 Awards Winner
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Europa Universalis: Rome Collectors Edition
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • 500k Club
  • 200k Club
  • Europa Universalis: Rome
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • For The Glory
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Deus Vult
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
I figured the ecstatic water Hitchgins has always been fond of would will out and it seems to have here. Good Lord, Nil - what foul beast have you been presenting to us this whole time to just now spring this on us? You've kept it well hidden. Unless, this is some impostor, and I don't think it is.

Point...I wasn't expecting that. :eek:
 

Nil-The-Frogg

Big fetid toad
11 Badges
Aug 19, 2004
1.190
0
nilthefrogg.canalblog.com
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Divine Wind
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Semper Fi
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • 500k Club
I'm glad to have surprised you. I was afraid to be knocked out by outcries and protests. :D Now, I guess we have quite a pile of possible explanations, and implications too, don't we? ;)

An update is due tomorrow (and it will remain on topic, no time jump :p ).
 

Nil-The-Frogg

Big fetid toad
11 Badges
Aug 19, 2004
1.190
0
nilthefrogg.canalblog.com
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Divine Wind
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Semper Fi
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • 500k Club
#25 bis

municipalflagofnotchicagosmall.jpg

Matt's apartment - Thursday, early in the morning

“Matt! Matt! Stop that! Are you mad?”

A click. The light was switched on. Matt blinked a few times. His bedroom, of course. Sleek sheets clutched in his clammy hands. Sweat sticking his nightclothes to his body; the blanket wound around his legs. He looked at Emily. She was crouching on the floor at the other side of the bed, her hand still holding the switch of the bedside lamp. She was staring at him aghast, terrified. A curler had dropped from her now untied auburn hair and a thread of blood ran from her bruised lips down to her soft round chin. He returned her gaze, gaping. “Emily? What...”

Since he did not finish his sentence and seemed confused, she let go of the switch and sat on the edge of the bed, still on her guard. “You certainly had a bad dream. You started to shout, all of a sudden. And then you thrashed about like a man possessed, and I got hit by your hand.”

“Oh, I'm so sorry!” He grabbed a corner of the bed sheet and tried, delicately, to wipe her chin.

“Hey! Not with the sheet! It'll never wash out...” she exclaimed.

“I'm...”

“Sorry, yes, I know.” She pressed her head softly against Matt's cheek and sighed. “Is it your job that gets you into such a state?”

“Yes, perhaps.”

“I'm going to give your sergeant a piece of my mind!”

Matt shivered. “Well...”

“I'm kidding, sweetheart.”

She stood, put a bathrobe over her nightgown and went to the kitchen, from which soon came sounds of metal and water, followed by the characteristic hiss of the kettle. Matt rubbed the sleep out of his eyes. The big phosphorescent hands of his alarm-clock indicated that he had more than an hour and a half to sleep, but the prospect did not tempt him. He took off his nightclothes and grabbed his uniform from the valet-stand. A rich scent of coffee and cooked food reached his nostrils as he laced his polished shoes. Still shaken, he rubbed his hands over his face. The roughness of his cheeks reminded him that he had not shaved. He grunted and then remembered that he had about two hours left to take care of it. He breathed a long sigh and finally went into the kitchen.

Emily had prepared slices of bread and a plate of bacon and egg. She was sitting waiting for him and had lit a cigarette. Normally she never smoked first thing in the morning; he had obviously given her quite a blow. Literally – her sore lips were swelling already. He went and stood behind her, lovingly massaged her shoulders and kissed her hair.

“Looks like I owe you breakfast in bed, honey.”

“You idiot! You mostly owe me romantic holidays.”

“Well, currently...”

“You need to rest, Matt. Maybe this job isn't for you... it’ll drive you mad.”

“We'll have a week off as soon as the current case is over, I promise. How about the shop?”

“Cathy can fill in for me.”

She stubbed her cigarette in the ashtray, put her hand on the back of Matt's neck and pulled him down to kneel at her side. He let his head rest between her small, pointed breasts. She caressed his hair and cheeks and he gradually relaxed. There may have been a tiny, indignant voice in his head protesting against being treated like a child, but he felt serene again, to the point that he would even have been able to get back to sleep.
 

coz1

GunslingAAR
29 Badges
May 16, 2002
13.786
466
hearthehurd.typepad.com
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Imperator: Rome
  • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
  • Crusader Kings II: Jade Dragon
  • PDXCon 2017 Awards Winner
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Europa Universalis: Rome Collectors Edition
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • 500k Club
  • 200k Club
  • Europa Universalis: Rome
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • For The Glory
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Deus Vult
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
Ah ha! A dream, it was. Sure he didn't get his hands on some of that ecstatic water?

I'd say that was dirty pool, mister, but it was so good, who can complain? ;)
 

Nil-The-Frogg

Big fetid toad
11 Badges
Aug 19, 2004
1.190
0
nilthefrogg.canalblog.com
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Divine Wind
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Semper Fi
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • 500k Club
#26

Constantinople, November 1423

He couldn't keep track of all the times the bureaucrats of the new administration had kept him far into the night. He hated it all the more now that autumn's coolness was falling upon the City like a silent ghost from the North. The only purpose of these endless meetings certainly was to make him feel that he was fundamentally nothing more than his masters' disposable dogsbody. The soapy official in charge of the trade and customs bureau had an unequalled knack for empty words larded with bland anecdotes drawn from his tumultuous life as an adipose paper-pusher. He could keep it up for hours and you had to fake deep interest. From time to time, he quietly slipped some important detail into the conversation without any hint in his expression or inflexion, which forced his interlocutor to stay focused. Alexios had a hell of a time doing it; he was no longer interested in such things and had to rely on his long-standing habit.

But of course, any Imperial partner, even an Orthodox Greek lackey, had to parade his luxurious lifestyle. That was why Alexios, since his appointment as Constantinople's Merchant General in lieu of Paulos, lived in a small palace and never showed up in public without pounds of jewels and colourful as a peacock. This imposing title actually referred to quite an unpleasant job as an intermediary between the authorities and what was left of the former commercial and craft industry bases in the city and its surroundings. The only really interesting task he had was the design of the future Great Bazaar, which, for him, was an opportunity to try on a large scale the theories he had developed over the years. Alas! Most of his time and efforts were wasted in endless niggling and trivialities. Because he had to, he never failed to look serene and affable in spite of his gaunt, aged face. All day long he was an authoritative official swimming in uncommon felicity. But in the evening, alone in the privacy of his apartments, he would cry again.

He did not like those walks at night in the streets. For some strange reason, changes seemed even more obvious to him than they were in daylight. Most windows were dark, but he knew that the buildings sheltered swarms of immigrants who had come to settle in the City of Men's Desires. Life teemed everywhere. No doubt it was a good thing, but for Alexios, who had lived in a ghost city for decades and then spent almost two years of his life in complete seclusion, this bustle had something deeply uncomfortable about it. He hurried as best he could with the help of his richly adorned crutch. His back was aching atrociously and the muscles of his legs, which had not recovered from his extended captivity, barely managed to carry him. And yet he still wasn't very heavy; no food seemed to be willing to settle in his body, even though he forced himself to eat a lot. Naked, he looked like a skeleton carelessly covered in tan leather. To make things worse, one of his toes had been stiff for more than a week. These insignificant appendages don't usually stir up much interest, but terrible soreness in his left calf had made him realise how important they were. He chuckled bitterly. Who would have believed that one of the most urgent concerns of the richest Greek in the City was his toe?

He went round the block of houses that were being demolished on the site of the future Bazaar. The night was rather quiet and apart from the occasional baby wailing in the dark, the only significant sounds were the tapping of his crutch against the ancient cobblestones and the rustle of his two bodyguards' armour. Having them on his heels all day long gave him the unpleasant feeling of being watched rather than reassuring him about his security. But Ilhami had been very insistent and no one could refuse this devil of a woman anything, particularly not Alexios, for whom she had accomplished a miracle of biblical proportions.

He had no idea of the details of the operation – which was probably better for everyone – but she had set up quite an incredible plot to free Verina. The whole thing had been an unbelievable succession of tours de force. Ilhami had first spread the word that the Sultan was smitten with this particular Greek concubine, which worked all the better since it was not pure invention. She had then suggested to Trebizond's diplomats that they kidnap her as a hostage to dissuade Murad from invading their tiny empire. Frightened as they were by the incessant shuffle of Ottomans troops warring with most Anatolian Emirs, manipulated indirectly by the baker and ill-advised by corrupt counsellors, they had agreed to undertake this dangerous adventure. Miraculously, the kidnapping had been crowned with success and Verina had been taken discreetly onto a boat coasting along the Southern shore of the Black Sea. She was never to reach her destination, however; by a stroke of bad luck her ship had been attacked by pirates and she had vanished.

What Alexios certainly did not know was that Ilhami’s first tour de force, the one that made it possible for all the others to go off without a hitch, had been to suggest the scheme to the Grand Vizier. This gentleman, keen to have a pretext for declaring war on Trebizond, had adopted the idea and facilitated the execution of all phases of the whole extravagant affair. By the time the emperor of Trebizond realised that he was implicated in a kidnapping without even being in possession of the hostage, the Kapikulus were already on the march.

Alexios had finally managed to meet Verina in the small port town of Amasra, where the pirates had dropped her off. She had been distant at first and it had taken a while for Alexios to understand that she had not recognised him immediately. She had been confused and scared by her kidnapping and she was appalled to see how much he had changed in so short a time. But she had finally broken down in the old trader's bony arms. They had clung to each other in silence for a long time and then Verina had quavered shyly, “Our son is still over there, Alexios.”

He would never know what kind of evil spirit had prompted his answer, he just heard his own voice asking, “But how can you be certain I'm the father?” He had instantly bitten his lips as he remembered the screams of pain and terror echoing against stone vaults and over stagnant waters. She tensed up and shut down completely. They had not spoken again for the rest of that meeting. Alexios would regret those unfortunate words for the rest of his life. What did it matter to him whether the boy was his, after all? As long as Verina wanted to believe it...

He had not seen her again. Ilhami had made the point that it would be too dangerous to allow Verina back in Constantinople, where someone was bound to identify her sooner or later. Alexios had to go back, however, for he was in debt to the baker. And there he was, entangled even more tightly by his role in the Imperial administration than by his engagements toward Ilhami. He was unlikely to leave the City any time soon and he did not even know where Verina was hiding, nor if she had forgiven him. If only he had news from his son, or from Maro! But neither had answered his letters.

Turning towards home, the austere Merchant General forced himself to think about the pattern of access paths to the Bazaar to enable him to contain his tears until he was safely in his own apartment. He didn't see it coming; it was the shouts of his bodyguards as they tried to plunge between him and his assailants that jerked him from his meditation. But the attack had been well planned and the two men died in vain. Alexios did not even get to see the face of his aggressors. To his astonishment, the pain did not keep him from feeling the blade's edge scraping against one of his ribs. It was very strange because the vibration ran right through his ribcage. He fell to his knees, his side already soaked in blood. Pain dug its ugly fingers into his chest, forcing the cropped-up tears from his eyes. Black octopuses writhed in front of his eyes, more and more of them, their undulation slowing down with each second. He remotely heard shouts and slamming doors but his vision was too blurred for him to distinguish anything. Darkness engulfed him as if he were falling asleep. He was passing away.

And then, suddenly, the pain disappeared. He blinked and stood almost effortlessly. “What the Hell...” He looked around him slowly. “...is that?”
 

coz1

GunslingAAR
29 Badges
May 16, 2002
13.786
466
hearthehurd.typepad.com
  • Victoria: Revolutions
  • Crusader Kings III
  • Imperator: Rome
  • Imperator: Rome Deluxe Edition
  • Crusader Kings II: Holy Fury
  • Crusader Kings II: Jade Dragon
  • PDXCon 2017 Awards Winner
  • Crusader Kings II: Monks and Mystics
  • Crusader Kings II: Reapers Due
  • Crusader Kings II: Conclave
  • Europa Universalis: Rome Collectors Edition
  • Europa Universalis III: Collection
  • 500k Club
  • 200k Club
  • Europa Universalis: Rome
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • For The Glory
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Deus Vult
  • Crusader Kings II: Sword of Islam
  • Crusader Kings II: Sunset Invasion
  • Crusader Kings II: Sons of Abraham
  • Crusader Kings II: The Republic
  • Crusader Kings II: Rajas of India
  • Crusader Kings II: The Old Gods
  • Crusader Kings II: Legacy of Rome
  • Crusader Kings II: Charlemagne
Has he passed or is this yet another dream?

A lovely bit of reflection during his walk.
 

Nil-The-Frogg

Big fetid toad
11 Badges
Aug 19, 2004
1.190
0
nilthefrogg.canalblog.com
  • Crusader Kings II
  • Europa Universalis III
  • Divine Wind
  • Europa Universalis IV
  • Heir to the Throne
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Europa Universalis III Complete
  • Semper Fi
  • Victoria 2
  • Victoria 2: A House Divided
  • 500k Club
Thanks for commenting :) It would be mean to use the same trick twice, wouldn't it? :D

So, no, it's not a dream...

I'm sorry, but I'm running low on steam these days. Looks like I can't write or draw anything I could be happy with. Can't do anything I could be happy with, for that matter. So, as much as I intend to work on the next chapter, I have no idea of possible delays... :eek:o