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Nil-The-Frogg

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I could tell you right now about the country, since I did not intend to make a secret out of it. But OTOH, if you've not figured it out yet and can have a little fun guessing... :p

I can understand your concern all the more because I share it. :eek:o BUT I would not like to do such a distasteful thing to my readers. So this bloody seventh thingy will have to hurt me bad on the nose before I quit
Q_PLAS%7E1.GIF


Now, I REALLY have to go (have kept repeating that for one hour), so don't expect me until Sunday in the evening (french time, of course). Have a nice week-end! :)
 

Amric

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I wouldn't worry about the english. This is coming across to me in a Pink Pantherish kind of way. I'm not sure if that is what you are intending, but it is kind of interesting in that way....
 

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I like your writing style. True, your English is not perfect (but have you seen the linguistic atrocities some of its native speakers commit on these forums?), but I enjoy the turns of phrase you come up with. It has a style, a certain rhyme all of its own.

Now, as to the story, was that latest scene set in Chicago, by any chance? A quick search on Google reveals a North Lake Shore Drive in that city (though I have to admit there are probably a great many American cities with a street named thusly) and it would give your story some (tenuous) link to that enigmatic title you choose for it. :)

Basically, it seems that we have crooked cops meeting with Greek mobsters. I take that to mean that you ARE playing Byzantium and what's more, that you managed to conquer Italy with them. True, it's a bit of a wild guess, but what's the fun in playing it safe, eh?

Finally: Sergeant Hitchgins? Methinks I can spot the inspiration for that name as. :D

See you around in a couple of days, enjoy your weekend!
 

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Amric: Pink pantherish ?
reflexion-gratte.gif

I quite don't know how to take that... Ah, you mean that Pink Panther's main musical theme is a masterpiece, don't you?
clin-oeil3.gif

Seriously, I 'don't know if you're refering to the cartoon or the moovie, but it wasn't intended, either way. Bah, I'm fine with it as long as I have fun writing it and you have an "interesting" reading. :)


Stuyvesant: Thanks. I know I have a very personal style in french (question: should I put a "that" between "I know" and "I have"?). Teachers never noticed when I forgot to write my name on compositions... :p My "special" handwriting might have a role in that too :rolleyes: . How far this is filtering in english I don't know, since I try to think in english when I write rather than translating.
but have you seen the linguistic atrocities some of its native speakers commit on these forums?
peur.gif
Herm, I rarely notice that. Which is a problem all by itself since I certainly learn some of those atrocities, genuinly thinking they're interesting and funny english turns of phrase. :wacko: OTOH, I'm so often horrified on french forums... Can't see why the average english one would be any better. That's one of the reasons why I'm on english forum though. I'm a hell of f..ing old-school nitpicker in french (nitpicker, but alas not wealthy... ;) ). A story with two or three typos a line breaks my reading flow and gets irritating. I'd never criticize a foreigner though, except in order to help, but I'm less patient with natives.

Regarding the city, you've got a graphical hint as well... Regarding the sergeant, I can't see what you mean. :D Oh, there is also a little EU2 easter egg in this last update, but I didn't really expect anyone to see it.

And I like your wild guesses, keep guessing! Pretty please. :rofl:

I'm currently working on several updates at a time and might have a busy week as well. One of the updates is really tough to write too, Director's readers will understand why when I'll post it, I think. I'll try my best to update before the end of the week.
 

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Inspector Jacques Clouseau in the Pink Panther movies had a funny accent and would use words in, shall we say creative ways. :D You're English is fine and it is interesting seeing how you use it. :p Anyway the story is coming across in a coherent way and I'm looking forward to more.

Joe
 

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#4


Tuesday, later in the afternoon

Matt drove back to the old city and parked the car near LaSalle’s police station. Rain had gained in strength and was cooler. Hitchgins angrily buried his head in his coat’s collar as much as possible. Matt wasn’t any more happy with the weather, but did his best to keep that for him. He still thought that a policeman should always be an example and give an image of dedication and self sacrifice. They crawled through the crowd, occasionally pushing around.

Matt suddenly caught in the corner of his eyes a shoeless boy discretely stealing a neat man’s wallet. He was about to run after him when he felt a pressure on his forearm: Hitchgins had noticed the scene too.

“Calm down lad.
- Hey, it was a theft!
- Yeah, yeah, yeah… I’m no blind ya see. I know ya’re dying to catch da kid. But we’ve got more important things to do than yar amus’ment.
- Like?
- Findin’ a dry hot little place. And o’course, we’re to report back as soon as possible. Besides let’s face it: da thief was in deeper need o’money than his victim, eh?”

Matt looked up the sky and sighed in exasperation but said nothing. The boy had already vanished anyway.

They got to the trolley station and miraculously managed to find a place in the first passing carriage. Of course the miracle had to do with their uniforms, since a small group of ragged kids fled in a hurry. They had probably forgotten to buy a ticket. The shaking machine filled with sweat stench noisily brought them to the western side of Grand Avenue. They got out in front of a huge skyscraper spiked with statues and pinnacles. This was the courthouse and siege of judiciary administration. A gigantic army of tedious pencil pushers was at work in those walls, noting, classifying and summarizing all days and nights long.


Matt and Hitchgins stepped in the main hall. This was a large room with more than four meters in height. Small doors led to various offices all around the place and busy men in black went here and there much like ants in their anthills. A few regular citizens were obviously lost in this administrative maze. They should have known that green form TY568 would have given them access to office RJ42-c, 42nd floor, where an employee would have provided them with blue coupon OJ14 revised after decree 114-8. Said coupon would have allowed them to come back to the reception and ask their way again. But alas, they were in the ignorance even of such elementary tricks…

The floor was made of pink marble, pleasantly contrasting with many deep-green pot plants. Profound armchairs and comfortable benches were ready to welcome some potentially depressive visitors. Hitchgins led the way to an array of elevators, passing by the reception without a glance. They took the first one available and the sergeant pressed number 67.

Matt was lost in his thoughts, but found his way out somewhere around 28th floor:

“I wonder why this administration is so big…
- Ah, justice is a big stuff ya know.
- But thousands of employees must be at work here!
- Bah, with all those mobsters outa here…
- Perhaps, but we’re quite not enough cops to fill in a tenth of those forms they’re supposed to work on, are we?
- I s’pose they’ve got some procedure to fill’em in all by themselves then, Hitchgins shrugged.”

They remained silent as the red padded cabin lifted them to the top of the building. A bell rang as they stopped and Matt pulled the heavy door opened. They entered a small spartan room with a closed reinforced door, a metallic desk and a cop behind the desk.

“G’d ft’noon, Hitchgins began, we’re expected, I think. Sergeant Hitchgins and agent Bredin.”

The guard checked his notebook and looked up at them.

“That’s okay. Give me your weapons and we shall proceed.
- Just wonder why we must carry’em at all! Hitchgins laughed. Here, take’em.”

The guns were locked in one of the desk’s drawers and the guard went knocking at the big door. A small vasistas* slid opened, allowing a pair of steel eyes to peer into the room. Thick lockers were pushed and the door finally opened.

Matt and Hitchgins entered an octagonal hall lit by tall colorful stained glasses, giving the place some dark gothic touch. A big circular column in the center of the hall towered over a handful of wooden desks and their isles of yellowish electrical lights. A ribbed-vaulted passage was showing the bottom of a stair flight in the column. Ignoring the guard who had opened the door, Hitchgins headed directly to the nearest desk and addressed the severe woman sitting behind:

“Good day to you Madam. His Honor should be expecting us. Would you be graceful enough to notify him of our arrival?”

She looked up at him through her wide glasses. Her regular smooth face frozen with a cold suspicious expression:

“Of course Mr Hitchgins. Please, sit down on this bench.
- You have my gratitude.”

She took her phone and gave a brief call.

“He was expecting you later and is currently in a meeting.
- Very well, do not worry, Hitchgins answered, we will be waiting patiently and quietly.
- No. He said he would receive you nonetheless. I suppose that you know your way…”

Matt couldn’t help giving quick surprised glances at Hitchgins as they climbed. The latter smiled:
“Haroumpf! Ya better be nice with Betty. Nice face and all, but a temper to turn Attila in a beggin’ sobbin’boy.”

A massive studded wooden door was baring the way at the top of the stairs, but it was ajar and a precise dry voice invited them to enter. They stepped in a smaller octagonal room, with more transparent stained windows that allowed to distinguish the city’s skyline all around. The place was scarcely furnished, cold, voluminous and gave a sensation of studious asceticism. Two men were chatting by a window. The first was in his sixties, hairless and dry like a military cookie. He had steel-circled glasses, wore a slate-grey trench coat and black leather gloves. The other one was around seven feet tall and his uniform was tightened under the pressure of his truck-like squareness. Matt immediately recognized the police superintendent and tightened up.

“Greetings, Mr Hitchgins the judge said with a not so welcoming tone, and agent Bredin, I suppose?
- Yes, your Honor, Matt answered.
- I was in a meeting with Mr Michaels, but I thought he might be interested in your report, Hitchgins. So?
- He’ll come. Unless he gets an accident before, o’course.”

Mr Michaels raised an eyebrow but said nothing. The judge kept staring at Hitchgins with an inalterable inquisitive expression, which reminded Matt of an unforgiving teacher.

“Your assessment of the situation?
- I woulda say Kallistos has sumthin’ at the top of his head. He’s in trouble with da Kamilet gang and either tries to round up things with’em or to find support in minor gangs to regain independence and d’ble cross his bosses. My bet w’d be the second option, without guarantee of ‘ny sort.
- Anything else?
- Might be. He’s still mad ‘bout you, but will trya keep a low profile. He’s afraid and I’d say he’s gettin’ too nervous to make any intelligent enough move to survive a potentially tough crisis. Just me two cents, eh?”

Judge Peter looked at Michaels, who nodded, then back at Hitchgins.

“That will do. Thanks.”

Hitchgins didn’t move. Matt was uneasy, but stood still too.

Michaels finally had a discrete smile and simply snapped:

“Dismissed.”
 
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Nil-The-Frogg

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* A vasistas is a small kind of trapdoor in the door which allows you to see who's behind. I kept the french word here for two reasons: first I wasn't happy with the various translations I've found (fanlight
beret-pensif-284.gif
, opening-window
hum.gif
), secondly I like the ethymolgy of "vasistas". Nah, googling is CHEATING!
0003.gif



Storey: Okay, I think I get it now. I'll take that as a compliment. I've only watched Pink Panther once, and that was twenty years ago. I guess I've better build up my culture: just give me time to whistle my favourite pack mule. :D


To all: I already have another (tiny) installment up my sleeve. It could have been in the same post in fact, but I'll rather use it later. Will be handy if I take too long to write the next real update, eh? ;) Damn, I barely take time to read AARs these days! :(
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Director

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So the plot - whatever it is - stretches far and wide and high, eh?

That's a great pic, by the way - very moody.


At one point in the 1930's (under Governor Huey Long, of course) the State of Louisiana had more governmental departments than the Federal government. And every little department had a staff, and all of those staff people knew that Huey Long was the one who got them that job and they were grateful, yes? :eek:

Anyway, that was just the way things worked then, and Chicago was no different.



So there's a meeting between a crime lord and a judge, which the police know about. With so many people involved, this can't be a secret. Something is certain to go wrong...
 

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...da Kamilet gang...
Kamilet? Sounds kinda Turkish to me. So 1930s Chicago is divided between Greek and Turkish mobsters? What on EARTH did your game end up as?!? :D

I like your descriptions: quite evocative. I really got a sense of these big, octagonal rooms you were talking about. Funny thing: to my mind, they were immediately dark, even though your description doesn't mention anything about that. But the things you did mention, them being big, cold, sparsely furnished, at once made me picture them as dark, shadowy rooms with only small lights struggling to illuminate the scene.
 

Nil-The-Frogg

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Director: You mean "overstretches", I guess?

Go wrong? Perhaps, but do not underestimate the Judge.


Duke of Wellington: The comparison is interesting. But I won't tell you too much too soon, eh?

Stuyvesant: I fear my game has been (and still is, even if I've not played it for months now) rather classic in fact. Bah, I take some liberties with the tale as I said in some obscure warning somewhere...

Seems like I did a good job with the description since our views on the scenes are rather close. ;)

All: I wanted to finish fifth installment before posting the fourth bis one. But I'm sweating on it too much. I have plenty of not so good reasons for that. I'll tell you if you beg, but there's nothing really interesting with them, unless I sweat some more to come up with a kind of "an elephant sat on my car"... :) Or I could ask Storey if he has a good funny excuse up his sleeve for me to borrow. :D

So, here's the fourth bis installment:
 

Nil-The-Frogg

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#4 bis


Police station : Tuesday, still later in the afternoon

They went straight through the busy police station, Sergeant Hitchgins barely saluted the police commander with a displeased grunt, as they crossed him in the corridor. Matt tried to slip a crisp begging smile but it remained essentially unnoticed. Hitchgins had warned him the first day they were put to work together:

"Hear me lad, you ar’n’t lucky to be under me. This fine bastard o’pretty dandy that rule ar crumblin’ stall hates me. Me career’s long dead and buried ya know, so I’ve neither patience nor hypocrisy to fake ‘nything ‘bout him. Now, if ya want a promotion, ya’d better find ‘nother station or wait for his sad ass to go sit on some other, preferably remote, chair. Might take a while though."

Two months later, Matt was almost invisible for his hierarchy, being labelled as Hitchgins' noob. He had neither the temper nor the experience to do anything about it. Hitchgins quietly kicked open the door of this cupboard that was officially assigned to him as an office. Even such a small room has been granted for the sole reason that Judge Peter still found the old man useful. And no one would have dared to displease the judge. Hitchgin’s kick had nothing violent or excited, but was simply required to counter the mass of paper that prevented the door from opening. Matt had suggested his boss to clean and tidy things up a little, but the latter considered that everything was orderly enough as long as he was able to recover things in less than five minutes. And sadly, he was. They hung their coats to two tiny nails in a wall and let them drip on some invaluable old washed-out reports. Matt knew they’d have to pick them up several times in the coming hour. Police had to save on money, and pegs were expensive…

Hitchgins began foraging for a mug and his old red dented coffee pot. When you were in the police, you had to like cold coffee to some extend. Matt wasn't in for long enough though. Without distracting any attention from his task at hand, Hitchgins casually asked:
"Sumethin’ bothering you Matt?
- Not exactly bothering, but how the hell did you know?
- Ah."

Matt didn't knew if the last word was a comment to his question or a punctuation for the mug's exhumation. However, Hitchgins was looking at his subordinate now.

"But ya should’ve known either.
- Me?
- Yes, ya needa keep yar senses alert. Trya remember the scene when we entered Kallistos' office.
- Well, he certainly wasn't pleased to see us. And there was nothing on his desk he might have been working on, in spite of his pretended business. Which means he was either telling us bullshits, either in an interview with somebody or he cleaned up his desk before letting us in.
- Both. What else?"

Matt hesitated a moment and then:

"Would you tell me?
- Haven't you smelled this cigarette's smoke in the room?
- So what?
- Kallistos has bright white teeth, no marks on fingers either. And there were no ashtrays in da house. Besides, this was hot tobacco, not that kind o cold smell that remains rooted in walls and clothes almost forever. Smelled like a cigarette still lit in there, and we saw Kallistos opening da windows. So, some smoker was there shortly before we arrived.
- Okay, but that would have been pretty much anyone. There are a lot of smokers around actually.
- Yeah, but why’d they feel da urge to slip away using a backdoor while two flatfeet were waitin’ at the front door, eh?
- On the other hand, we know that Kallistos isn't all that much of a clean guy, don’t we? So no wonders some of his frequentations want to avoid us. That would apply to most of his henchmen, wouldn't it?"

Hitchgins slightly nodded his disapprobation, and began to pour some cold coffee in his mug, still staring Matt.

"No, it wouldn’t. Definitely not. Kallistos’s a wealthy man, and not too modest as you might’ve noticed. D’ya think he’d’ve let just anyone smoke in his own self private office? And more than that: could ya imagine him acceptin’ that a mere henchman could drop cigarette ashes on his luxurious desk? There were faint but fresh ash stains both on da desk and da carpet. They must’ve been wiped out quickly when the visitor had to go. Therefore, Kallistos was either afraid of a bigger fish, or in need for help.
- Fine, but why did you opt for the second option? I know that Kallistos had got bad luck in recent years, but that would justify either possibility."

Hitchgins put down the mug on the edge of his desk.

“Nah. Nothin’ to do with bad luck. Worse: he got Judge Peter’s attention, and bankers too. Always think twice b’fore robbing bankers, they love their exclusivity at that. Now ya know how they’re, mobsters, feastin’ on da fallen like vultures. Da Kamilet doesn’t needa come to Kallistos to negotiate what they’ve already taken, eh?
- I guess this makes sense.”

Hitchgins began to sip his coffee, but all that suddenly spat it, adding coffee stains to the surrounding mess. He shook his head, his nose wrinkled in disgust and his cheeks shivering under the motion. He blew away some more and emptied his mug in the metallic trash can. The cleaning maid would be furious - again. Hitchgins then proceeded with an attempt at drying most of the papers on his desk.

"Well, he mumbled, I guess I shoulda keep track of me own ashes..."

Matt tried rather inefficiently to help. But he was lost in cogitation.

“What I fail to understand is what Judge Peter’s trying to achieve.
- I don’t know.
- Oh, come on, you certainly have an idea.
- Nah. I’d need facts.
- But…
- Would ya compare me with’at old stupid crone in Delphi, tellin’ crap and turnin’ her own skull into some popcorn cooking machine with sum crazy grass smoke? No, facts’ve been and will be da fuel for any sensible reasoning. Facts, I said, solid and hard facts. Ya should know that facts are da delicate pollen from which ya can elaborate da sweet honey of deduction. Everythin’else’s bullshit.”

Matt had a brief vision of Hitchgins as a bee. Worse: a worker bee. He quickly wiped that weird picture out of his mind to concentrate on the topic at hand.

“Ah, but why would Judge Peter bother with Kallistos if he has fallen so low. Why not deal directly with Kamilet? He must have a plan or something…
- Peter’s many things to deal with at da same time. He’s to concentrate on what he feels important and tries to get multiple hits in a single move. Kinda out of our grasp, see? And ya’ve developed a tendency to guess wildly and act widout a proper examination of da situation.
- Hear, I…
- Take yar girlfriend for instance. Ya’ve clearly overreacted. Even a superficial remote examination of da clues suggests she’s only cheated ya in yar own imagination…
- How the hell do you …?!!”
.
.
 
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Nil-The-Frogg

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Hum, looks like you haven't been inspired by this last scene
tristounet.gif
.
Next installment is about 90% written, so with rereading, typos, last minute changes and so on, it should be online tomorrow, or perhaps only Thursday (depending on RL demends), but soon anyway. So, if something disturbed you in this previous post, it's just about time to let me know so that I can try to rectify things in the next one :D .
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Storey

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Nil-The-Frogg said:
Hum, looks like you haven't been inspired by this last scene.

Life's been too hectic so I'm just now getting around to reading. By the way you've been named the fan of the week. Congrats. Now hop over to the fan of the week thread and tell the readers something about yourself. ;)

Joe
 

Amric

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To be honest, I've just read the latest installment. It is sort of horrifying to think of all those case reports and who knows what other kinds of reports are just lying around in that office in some version of filing that Hitchgins not only uses, but seems to understand!

Poor Matt, he's seemingly lost and Hitchgins ways are so esoteric that he doesn't seem able to understand him. Now as for Judge Peter, I don't know what his game is, but he is up to something. I would have to say graft, as that is a common theme, but perhaps I am thinking to much about it.
 

Nil-The-Frogg

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Storey: I didn't know! Thanks, I've never been there, but I'll give it an eye (well, I'll just borrow it, better to keep both to read AARs :p ).

Amric: Hitchgins? Oh, you bet he doesn't understand anything? :D Regarding Peter, you don't have enough clues of course, just as Hitch explained :rolleyes: .

I guess I'll keep going the same way for my next update... ;)
 

Nil-The-Frogg

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Don't worry, King of New Zealand (bah, aren't you worth a promotion?
champion.gif
), I wouldn't be pissed at anybody who would happen to skip an update, or even stop to post at all.

I might not even notice it at all in fact... Not at all... Sure...
ouin.gif
.

Seriously, I was just surprised that no one had a comment, that's all. Ah, since you write AARs too, I guess you don't need explanations, eh? ;)


Now, I have a question for you all. I'm not writing really fast and my free time is most probably about to shrink. So should I take more time between installments or rather divide them in shorter bits (a little like I did with installment #4)?

I have an update too (just need time to insert pictures and that sort of things...) :p :
 

Nil-The-Frogg

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#5

Serbia, April 1419 AD

The abrupt path had been furrowed by early spring rains and stones were rolling under Father Gorny’s feet. He was sweating and paused a minute. Air was clear and still, albeit a little cold. The shining whiteness of blossoming apple trees was splitting bright sun light into immaterial shrouds. Dewdrops were glittering like thousands tears on the young green grass that carpeted the hill’s side up to Gimnec’s manor. He noticed that those orchards would have strongly benefited some care. But Gimnec did not have enough serfs left to take care of it. He sighed and reluctantly resumed his climbing, keeping his distance from the small crumbling wall bordering the track road.

Father Gorny finally arrived in the manor’s courtyard. The place was clean, with some holes recently filled in with gravel and earth. Probably Lena’s work. The building itself was robust and obviously in a good shape, thanks to Piotr, but the dependencies were not that lucky, with the exception of the stables, of course. No Gimnec would have allowed a horse to live in indignant conditions. Some hens cackled loudly from a collapsed storeroom.

He was half-way in the courtyard when a sudden noise boomed behind him, a bit like a hoarse horn. But Father Gorny was prepared. He grabbed his heavy walking stick with both hands and quickly whirled to face the danger. He wielded his weapon, St George ready to fight the Dragon. Just in time to hit a big angry gander and avoid being bitten in the bum. The infernal beast beat a retreat, still yelling. Gorny knew the fight was over, for now. But he would have to watch his steps when exiting the house. He’ll be expected by a spiteful scuppered creature.

He was standing in front of the door, but apparently no one had noticed the upheaval. Gimnec was getting hard of hearing and Lena was probably out. Gorny waited almost two minutes, arm raised, struck with apprehension. But there was no reason to delay any further, no matter how hard and painful his task. He knocked. A few seconds went and passed, then Gimnec’s voice shouted:

“Come in, whoever you are, come in, it’s open.”

Father Gorny pushed the door. He decided to let it wide open and stepped in the dark main room. The old baron was flabbily sitting in his wooden armchair by the hearth. His bandaged right leg lying on a stool. His gout must have worsened badly. Gorny came to him and tried to adopt a cheerful voice to greet him. But it wasn’t convincing, not even for his own ears.

“Ah, welcome, Father. As you see, I was meditating by those cold embers.
- Yes, meditation is a good occupation, the priest nodded.
- Bah, to tell the truth, I’m just boring to death like the old ruin I am.
- You’re getting bitter.”

This was merely an observation and the tone wasn’t exactly comforting either.

“Ah, are you just paying me a visit of courtesy and compassion or what?
- Good Lord, I wish I was.”

The old baron stared intently at the priest’s face. Something suddenly obscured his eyes, but his own expression didn’t change.

“Where has it happened?”

The priest recited a silent payer. For some weird reason, he was relieved that Gimnec had understood all by himself. He tried to keep an even and mild voice.

“They fought in Kossovo-Polje.”

Lord Gimnec jolted in intense surprise, but he progressively reddened and frowned:

“Pray tell me you’re not jocking!”

The priest did expect some reaction, but not such an insinuation.

“No, my old friend, it’s no joke. Our army fought in Kossovo-Polje. We’ve been defeated.”

Gimnec eased off. Sadness and incomprehension washing anger away.

“That’s crazy. Was it another stupid idea from our king?
- His last one, indeed. He wanted a revenge for the first battle of Kossovo-Polje. I don’t have many details for you, unfortunately.”

Gimnec stared in the void and whispered:

“I can give you the details.”

The priest said nothing, but sat down and tried to revive the embers. Clearly, the baron was half dreaming, just as if he was trying to keep the actual realisation of the tragedy at bay.


“The army had been assembled in Raska, each knight and lord having brought a few followers and some equipment with him. He has arrived from Novi-Pazar under Duke Radovnic’s banner. The big camp was an enormous mess with people moving everywhere in an apparent chaos. It looked like a trade fair without jugglers and many soldiers. Each company was dealing with its own organisation. He was disoriented and so afraid to get lost that he kept the closest he could from the Duke’s banner bearers. Men were sent to surrounding farms in order to forage some more food, while Raska prudently kept its doors closed. In the evening, soldiers erected a myriad of campfires at the outskirts of the town. He tried to chat with older men around, but quickly understood that he would get only rumours and nasty stories from them. He felt rejected. Those men were obviously unwilling to get things any more personal. In fact the place was an agglomerate of isolated small groups ignoring each others. Hanging with men from Novi-Pazar, he still managed to get some hot food and a few bits of contradictory information.

They were expecting to stay in that camp for about a week, but orders were dispatched the very next day and he had to help the duke’s company to pack everything on wagons. He quickly understood that his young age and low rank in the nobility would allow any average noble or experienced soldier to treat him like a servant. In spite of the apparent mess, they hit the road less than a couple of hours later. To be easy with his mount, he decided to walk rather than ride and simply let her carry his luggage. They headed up the old city of Pristina to meet with the king’s army and help defend the capital. Rumours said that no one knew where the enemy really was, because of the huge toll scouts had to pay for every wee bit of intelligence gathering. He even once caught a frightened light rider telling they were chased like rabbits.

He felt a growing agitation in the marching mass of men in the morning of the third day, when they took the small road down to Obilic instead of Pristina. The word spread that Pristina had already fallen to the enemy. Others said that the Turcs had been spotted right to the south. Of course no one really knew. A little before noon, a wave of panic ran through the column. He heard sentinels shouting “Turks!” and saw archers and crossbowmen hurry to back up the flanks. He didn’t actually see those Turcoman raiders and the fight did not last long. A few men had been wounded by arrows and one enemy shot down thanks to a lucky bolt. Several other similar raids occurred throughout the afternoon. Casualties remained insignificant, but each time, the column had been disorganised and the morale was terrible. Serbian light cavalry wasn’t able to pursue the assailants without sustaining heavy losses and quickly settled for keeping them away from the bulk of the army as much as possible.

He was tired, his clothes and skin soaked with a layer of sweat dampened dust. But in the afternoon, orders were given to walk even faster and unrest was growing as everyone wildly tried to guess the reasons for such a hurry on this mere rutted trail. At about four o’clock, a cloud of dust progressively appeared to the East and officers trotted down the column to inform everyone that they were about to meet with the king and his host. In the evening, the two armies met in Kosovo-Polje and he was rather impressed by the heavy knights that led the other one. They didn’t wear their armours, of course, but were still massive and unbowed. Finally, he could as well understand why they had to sustain such a crazy pace. The Turkish troops were just finishing their crossing of the Pristevka. Serbian commanders had obviously hoped to stop them on the ford. Too late.

The sun was already a little low on the horizon and given the disorganisation of the troops, nothing would be achieved this day. He was ordered to help mount tents, build up rough barriers and finally had some time to attend his horse. Crossbowmen were dispatched to fire at Turcomans raiders, should they try to harass the camp. The whole day had been a noisy hell of metal clanks, grinding wheels and shouts. His ears were still resonating in the relative silence. The night was long, with constant movements in the camp and the growing smell of fear. He progressively discovered it was contagious as his bowels started to fidget and hurt. He finally had a couple hours of agitated sleep before sergeants moved through the camp, kicking everyone awake. Turkish drums were beating. He first had to find some place to relieve his ill insides, along with many other soldiers if the foul stench bathing the camp could be trusted. He had a bad time eating some porridge and finally began to equip his horse and gear himself with his iron breastplate and leather garments. Dawn was near in a cloudless sky and he could see here and there knights being equipped with their plates and helped on their war mounts. Turkish drums were still relentlessly beating.

Each host gathered, riders, archers, soldiers and peasants in the same crowd. King’s men were running everywhere, trying to dismantle those groups and organise separate divisions. Some high ranked nobles were unwilling to cooperate, but most of them saw the obvious benefit and happily gave up their privileges for efficiency. He was detached to a light cavalry unit under the second son from a high ranked family. They trotted away from the eastern flank of the army and soon were able to see the Turks already positioned to the South. They had no heavies from what could be seen. But they were many. Too many, he thought. Serbian army was in motion, knights going ahead with their squires and followed by a mass of various footmen.

His unit moved at a relatively moderate pace and he took some time to examine the enemy. They had put a bulk of light infantry in the front, heavier Ghazi soldiers to guard their flanks with bucklers and axes and he could see janissaries massed to the rear, most probably with the sultan. He quickly understood the mission he would have to fulfil with the light cavalry: threaten the eastern Turkish flank to prevent janissaries from flanking a front charge by the knights. He was not sure what to think about that, but he had no say anyway. He looked back at the serbian army and saw the king in first line, visibly trying to restrain the other knights. A few of them still suddenly thrust toward the enemy and the whole of them began to charge. “But we’ve not reached our position yet!” he thought. His commander quickly shouted “Gallop!” and launched his horse forward. “That’s crazy! Our steeds will be exhausted even before we begin to actually charge!”. His stomach shrank and a shiver ran through his whole body. His mount felt the fear as well as the vibrations in the ground from the heavy cavalry charge. He had to put all his attention to keep her in hands and did not see a widespread detachment of turcomans horse archers rushing toward his company. When the commander ordered the charge, everyone turned towards Turkish lines and spurred.


He tried his best to stay in their commander’s trail. Their rushing arrowhead was so compact that he would have been able to take his neighbour’s hand. Suddenly, a nearby rider swerved and brutally rolled down with his horse. That’s when he finally looked around and caught a small dispersed group of Turcomans galloping on their side and pounding them with arrows. Their charge did not slow down. He heard a yell behind and the sound of another rider falling, quickly followed by a second one who had probably stumbled on the first. He literally stretched himself on his mount. Several arrows flied around. His neighbours were farther now and still moving away. The janissaries had inflected their trajectory to face the attackers and slowly trotted toward them.

By the time of the clash, his nearest ally was about five meters from him. Ghazis footmen were running in the melee. He stabbed all around at random, probably inflicting some superficial injuries. His mount was panicked and reared up, kicking what could be kicked. He had to stick himself to his whirling horse to avoid a spear and took the opportunity to thrust his sword at a nearby janissary. He felt the blade pushing through a chain mail, perhaps piercing a belly. But he had no time to check it out as his horse’s volte went longer than expected and ended up with both the horse and the rider on the ground. The poor beast had got his neck torn apart. He tried to free his left hand from the reins but had it twisted in the fall. Yelling under the pain, he barely managed to keep his sword and raised on his knees. Just in time to see a bloody axe flying up to his head. He threw himself back. It was a bit too late. He felt a hard hit on his chin and his helmet went up, digging its way through his face.

Small green spots appeared like glow-worms of rapidly growing numbers and size. They quickly filled his view and darkness followed them. He never felt the ground. He awoke a few seconds later. Pain welcomed him. His head was nothing but a sphere of pain, with a blade of fire running through his face. He still managed to notice a rough couch under him and nearby men speaking in an unknown language. Then he heard blackbirds singing…”

Gimnec interrupted his tale in a dying whisper. Father Gorny fidgeted on his chair, uncertain, wondering what to do. Then Gimnec croaked:

“No… No blackbird this time…”

The old man leaned toward the chess board and put a black knight down. Father Gorny took his hand and pressed it. The baron’s eyes were veiled immobile things in a face boiling with uncontrollable tics.

“Please my friend, the old man muttered, leave me now.”

The priest shook his head and stood.

“I’ll be back Sunday in the afternoon. Take care of yourself.”

He left the room as quickly as possible without giving the impression of rushing out. He shut the door and took a deep breath, bathing his eyelids in the sun. A faint sob came from the inside. He walked away But a loud horn shrieked just as he passed by the collapsed storeroom and he painfully felt a vicious beak biting his calf.
 
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