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Storey

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Director said:
... but that newspaper is hysterically funny! I've read and re-read it and I keep finding new jokes! Thanks for the mention, by the way.

I agree. I've gone back a few times and still pick out something I missed.

:cool:

Joe
 

Storey

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Nil-The-Frogg said:
- So the legion is buying equipment? Just about time if you ask me. Their antiquities were not even fooling parades groupies anymore.

Now that's serious when the groupies can't be fooled. :D Good update.

Joe
 

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Duke of Wellington: Free of intrigue? Maybe... It was not planned so, but I hope you don't mind too much.

coz1: Yeah spending too much time in one or the other wouldn't be good. The problem is that I actually don't spend enough time in either these days! :wacko: Regarding the plot, I won't comment yet.

Stuyvesant: I guess the next post will be an answer, to some extend.

Storey: :eek: Oh my, you're finding more jokes than I've written! :rofl: And yes, that's serious when the groupies can't be fooled.

All: Sorry for the delay, my thought are rather "scattered" ATM, not to mention this nasty week long internet breakdown. :mad: I've taken time to think about the general plot though. Things are not sorted out yet, but they're still getting clearer. :)
 

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# 7 bis

Byzantium : two weeks later

It had been a busy fortnight. Alexios had not been forced to argue his point much. He had simply shown the fat shape of the Treasure Galley still docked in the port and Maro had understood what was going on. This galley was supposed to carry the Byzantine tribute to the Sultan in May of each year. The two merchants guessed that all the riches due to the Ottomans had been spent to re-arm the legion in preparation for the inevitable backfire. They were neither soldiers nor military experts but they would not have bet a single ducat on the Empire. To tell the truth, the way seasoned traders invested or moved their money around should have been a better assessment of what was to come than any staff officer’s boasting.

That’s why their only care had been to wake and shake their respective networks to secure as much of their foreign assets as realistically possible and prepare their own discrete change of venue. They still had spent a whole night one week ago to examine various means of partially refunding their expected losses in this tragedy. Maro suggested the use of their two smaller boats to help evacuate rich refugees after official declaration of war. The option was quickly discarded though, for the ships would become extremely precious in the near future and Alexios was reluctant to the idea of jeopardising them in an attempt at dodging the Turkish fleet. The war already raging in the Balkans to the West made it unpractical to smuggle their customers through Ottoman land in that direction. Finally, they had no time to organise a connection to Wallachia.

The option of taking advantage of the usual hyperinflation in besieged cities had also been evoked and they had taken their dispositions to schedule the opening of a black market. How they would harvest their profits from the conquered city afterwards remained uncertain though. They had finally settled to consider the upcoming events as far more costly than lucrative. That’s Alexios who had concluded the discussion, his eyes all red and puffed up from tiredness:

“Let’s say we’re just about to pay a fair price for our best available assets: our lives and freedom.”

They had left each other , exhausted and frustrated, after a gloomy breakfast. Maro went back home through wakening streets. The sun had fully soared up from the horizon already but the general activity was still emerging from sleepiness. Maro had felt is members week and clumsy, his senses muffled by the need to rest a while. It wasn’t unpleasant. His thoughts were running wild though. Everyone would be more or the less knocked out after the coming war, hence the key factor would be the ability to recover quickly and root a new activity under the conqueror’s rule. His contacts in Bursa and major Turkish ports might give him the hedge in that enterprise. From this perspective, the situation had taken a more favourable aspect to him. It might even be an incredible opportunity to take the upper hand over Alexios in their loose association. He had no idea at the moment how true this estimation could be.

All these events had led them on the docks in this morning. They came at night and planned to hide in the Alexendrian Ducat before dawn in order to set sail as soon as light would allow for safe manoeuvres. They were to relocate to Crete, where Alexios house would be an ideal place to monitor the troubles and keep control over their ongoing overseas operations.

They had walked along the jetty, only counting on moonlight to see where they put their feet. Such precautions were probably not necessary, but they expected the authorities to be rather touchy regarding wealthy subjects leaving Byzantium these days and did not want to take the risk of being held by force.

Alexios sat on a crate and stared at the patchwork of white shapes standing out from deep shadows to form the mass of the sleeping City. Not that the view was particularly magnificent from the docks, of course. It was mainly a forest of mats oscillating in front of casual buildings that should have been thankful to the darkness that hid their disrepair. The domes of a few palaces could be seen here and there above the roofs though. As minutes passed, Maro grew impatient:

“Hear Alexios, we must board now.”

Alexios kept his eyes on the glowing cupolas. He was distant, his presence just as faint as a moonlight beam.

“No.”

Maro tightened his cloak, more to release his exasperation than because of coldness.

“Very well then, but we can’t wait much longer on this jetty. So what is it we do have to do before we go? Is it supposed to be some kind of solemn last good bye to the good old City?”

The elder had an amused smile, in spite of the sadness in his eyes.

“No, we have something to do before you go. You board, I stay.
- What’s that new whim?
- I know what I do, even if it’s stupid. I’ve thought about our departure all the time in the past three weeks and only seldom slept in the while. I’ve pondered all that. I’ve remembered my many travels as a young trader. I’ve extensively dreamed of my new life in Crete : the vineyard covering the slope under my villa down to the rocky shore, the sweet shadow of wisteria, the quietness of this remote country estate…”

He remained silent a couple of seconds.

“But I finally realised that my place was here, in the City. That’s where I belong to. My heart simply bleeds at the prospect of abandoning this place. It might be noisy, it might be stuffed with pettiness, it might even be on the brink of destruction. There’s still a little voice deep in my soul whispering that nothing in the world would be able to content me like those pathetic empty palaces, this golden light… I’ll stay here.”

Maro took his associate’s hand.

“You know you should come Alexios. There’s not much you can achieve here now. If you stay, chances are you will die during the fights or the plunder. So we have to…
- No. I’m sure I would not have understood either when I was twenty five. Just wait until you’re an old man and I bet you will know my feelings. For now, we have more important matters on our hands.”

He searched through his shoulder bag and produced a bundle of papers.

“Those documents grant you my house in Crete and appoint you as my heir.”

Maro took the papers. He turned them in his hand, looking at them from every possible angle, but did not unfold the ribbon tightening them together. He stared at Alexios, whose face appeared mostly made of waned surfaces sheltering holes of shadows.

“But… What about your son?
- You’re the one I would call my son. I do not disown him though. He will have some of my possessions.”

Maro would have liked to say something, but instead he was bound to remember all his life this instant as the one that found him speechless. After a little while, Alexios pursued:

“I know you’re worth it Maro. My son is not a bad guy as you said. Unfortunately, I have not been a good father, having allowed him to grow up with everything he wants close at hand and no need to actually do anything himself. He has never been a skilled trader, but he could have done something else if I had not been so stubborn about it. He might be furious with my decision. He will undoubtedly need help at some point too. I’m confident that you will not send him away. Help him to find his way in life and follow it, if you can. All in all, this heritage is not exactly a present I give you, but rather a shameful request for your help in fixing the most miserable failure of my life.”

Maro did not found the joke particularly appropriate. But he felt the strong grip of Alexios hand around his wrist. The old man was not smiling at all. Tears had left glittering trails down his cheeks and beads in his goatee.
 
Last edited:

Stuyvesant

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Alexios has clearly made up his mind to fight and die in his City, what with him making up his will and leaving most everything to Maros. It's a grand gesture, now we have to wait and see if Maros will respond to it equally grandly.

I feel you're setting up the hopelessness of the Byzantine position rather well. The last update had a melancholy feel to it, both regarding the fate of the Empire as well as, more directly, the fate of Alexios.
 

Amric

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I've finally managed to catch up. I must say this is turning out better and better as it goes along. Now if only there was another update!:)
 

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Amric said:
I've finally managed to catch up. I must say this is turning out better and better as it goes along. Now if only there was another update!:)

Thanks for the comment. Yes, I know. But you might have noticed that I don't spend much time on the forum currently. :( I'm preparing for two recruitments by open competition, gathering a registration file for a master degree and preparing to relocate in two weeks. Go figure.

So, I'm sorry not to read or write much, but I assure you that this AAR is not abandonned and that I'll be back to read your stories as well. ;)

Duke: I'm sorry if that looks out of place, but I think that you slightly missjudge our dear merchants. Or perhaps not?

Stuyvesant: I'm glad you liked the installment. To be honest, I've not firmly decided where to go with Maros and Alexios, but I still have a handfull of evil ideas... :D

Aaaahh. I should not promise anything, giving RL context, but I'll try to post an update next week... :eek:o
.
 
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Ah, Real Life, the ever-present bane of a healthy forum existence. ;)

Obviously, taking care of your real life needs ranks higher than writing on this story. So let me wish you good luck with your job search, your study plans and your move. In the mean time, we'll wait for the time you'll be able to dedicate some time to this story. If it's next week, great, if it's later, oh well. We can wait a while. :)
 

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Thanks to you, I've spent my few free hours this week-end on something more constructive than Civilization IV ;) ...
 

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Serbia : October 1419

Milan ran through the thick shrubbery bordering the bottom end of Short Bladic’s field. Brambles gripped his rude rags and big thorns bit deeply in his tender flesh. But he barely slowed down, edging out among the barbed vegetal net, slipping on the wet leaves carpeted ground. Bushes could have brandished halberds that he would not have used the track to come back to the village. He finally emerged from the shrubbery to plunge in haze banks covering the field. Splashing in mud, slipping on straw remnants from the last harvest, he ran up the slope. He didn’t took time to go to the bridge and crossed the stream jumping from stone to stone, carefully avoiding the third one, which he knew would have rolled under his foot, throwing him in a cold bath.

The women, who were going about their businesses on the place, looked at the breathless boy. He had a pathetic aspect with bleeding wounds, scratched clothes and mud stains covering him bottom to top. Again, he did not stop to give explanations and hurried directly to Father Gorny’s house. He furiously drummed on the wooden panel until Miss Gorny opened. The thin nervous woman was red with anger and visibly ready to burst at the face of anyone impolite enough to treat her door so disrespectfully. She raised a finger and opened the mouth to let a raving diatribe out. But her hard expression melted down all that suddenly.

“Oh my Good Lord! Milan? What happened to you?”

Shifting from foot to foot, the kid stammered:

“May I see Father Gorny Miss? Pretty please.”

“Of course Milan, come in.” And then louder: “It’s Milan! He wants to see you. I believe that’s important.”

Father Gorny was drinking his morning bowl of goat’s milk. He put his bowl back on the table and brushed remaining droplets off his beard with his sleeve.

“So, what is it?”

“I was going down the vale with my father’s goats and I saw them! I saw them!”

“Who? Calm down and tell me.”

The boy tried to relax but still shrieked.

“The Turks! I saw them! They’re coming!”

“Are you sure?”

“Horsemen with weapons and colourful clothes.”

The priest sighed.

“That was bound to happen, I guess. What did you do?”

“I ran away. I ran as fast as I could.”

“You left the flock alone?”

“I had to warn you!”

“Sure, you had.”

Father Gorny was obviously not convinced. The boy saw it, stood a few seconds, broke down and cried.

“I was afraid! I thought they would eat me!”

The priest had a kind smile and put his big hand on the child’s head.

“That’s okay Milan. You did exactly what you had to do. I’ll have an explanation about the goats with your father. Now, let’s do everything we could so that nobody gets eaten, right?”

Milan managed to answer in a sob:

“Yes.”

“Good. Go and gather everyone, we must act swiftly. You’re a good boy.”

The kid went out. Father Gorny had a resigned sigh, drank the few sips of milk left in his bowl and addressed his wife:

“Biljana! Help me carrying those bags we stored in the stockroom. You’ll have to quickly gather a warm coat and a thick blanket too.”

She simply nodded and swiftly followed his instructions with fast efficient moves. Shouts could be heard outside as villagers rushed in panic. When the Gornys went out, three dozens of women and children had gathered already. The priest was rather satisfied. He saw tears, frightened eyes and shivering maidens, but not the kind of hysteric reactions he would have expected.

“Now, now, hear me all. We do not have much time on our hands. I hope that everyone remembers the plan. There are provisions in those bags for a week, maybe more. Each of you must take something warm enough to stand nights outside. The women and youngest children go straight to the cover of the great woods. Elder children, go to the crops and pastures warn your fathers before joining up with your mothers. Hurry up!”

A brief rabble sized the little place, but everyone did promptly as requested. Father Gorny dearly embraced his wife.

“I depend on you to watch over my flock.”

“I will.”

He caught restrained tears shining in her eyes. He knew she would not add anything nor complain. He watched her go with a heavy heart.

A young woman went out of her shanty, firmly hugging her baby. She tried to hurry, but not enough to prevent Father Gorny to see something shining around her neck. He stopped her.

“Sofija!”

“Father?”

“Your necklace, Sofija.”

“Please Father! That’s all I own!”

“We have already discussed this Sofija. If they decide to plunder the village and don’t find anything at all, they will be disappointed. Disappointed and angry. We do not want this to happen, do we?”

Her lips nervously contracted, but she tore her crude bronze jewel off her neck and put it in the waiting priest’s hand. His fingers touched her forehead:

“May the blessing of God protect you my Daughter.”

She turned tail and ran to the forest. Father Gorny went to her shanty, replaced the necklace in its cache and came back to the place. The men were not back from the fields yet and they were only five standing there: the priest and a handful of elders unable to flee. An unnatural silence fell, allowing Father Gorny to hear the sound of a horseshoe hitting a rock in the direction of the bridge.

They had arrived.
 
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I seriously doubt that Father Gorny or anybody else present will survive this encounter with the Turks, if plunder is their goal...

A sorrowful little scene, I look forward seeing how it ties into the bigger story. When will the Turks hit Constantinople?

Thanks for updating!
 

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Whether the villagers survive will all depend on how the storyteller decides....How close to reality will he go? Remember quite a few have run for the forest. Will the Turks decide to go after them? If they are just for plundering, it is unlikely. If they are truly heading for the City, then they might decide it is imperative that they silence anyone who might warn Constantinople that they are coming....If some of the villagers are lucky, they might survive, only to return to a village that has been destroyed. I can't wait to see what happens...
 

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Yessss! I'm back in busines. Unfortunately, that's temporary since I still have many interviews and exams to come. But the relocation is done and so is the first important exam. I'll try to take advantage of this break to update and catch up with a few stories around :)

Thx for your comments. Oh, I'm not a bloodthirsty storyteller. Most of the time, that is... :rolleyes:

Just a nitpick for Amric. The scene is in Serbia, I wonder why a Turkish army en route for Byzantium would cross this land? :confused: ;)

Here's an update. I'll try to post another one within a week (not much sooner since I'll spend a few days with my sister :D ).

Read you soon!
 

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#8b
Serbia : October 1419

They heard the horses splashing in the mud up the street. This interminable approach was the only sound to wade through the deep silence. Everyone was imagining the upcoming bloodthirsty army. The old Marya fainted, falling down right in the dirt. Her husband fell on his knees and tried to comfort her, but no one else really cared.

Finally, they appeared on the little place. Father Gorny quickly assessed their strength around a dozen horsemen. Their horses were surprisingly small in comparison with battle steeds. The soldiers themselves didn’t wear armours, but ample bright colourful, albeit stained clothes. Their sabres weren’t shorter for that, not to mention that creases of their coats divulged light chainmails. The priest was no fool: he knew these soldiers could probably dispose of fifth, or even tenth their numbers of amateur fighters.

The most surprising was the men themselves though. They had no salient cheek bones and their skin was more soft red than pale olive greenish as the villagers would have expected. In fact, these soldiers could have been their neighbours from the next valley. “Mercenaries” was the first thought to cross Gorny’s mind. But he did not know if it was good or bad news.

The small host stopped a few feet away from the shivering elders. Their leader, a colossus wearing a furnished black beard calmly took a look around him, peering through the wide open doors and progressively frowning his nose in disdain. Father Gorny would have bet that even a thorough plunder of the village could not gather enough to buy the equipment for a single mercenary. The visitors obviously came to the same conclusion.

“I suppose you’re the one in charge here?”

The mercenary’s serbian was approximate, but understandable in spite of a strong accent. Father Gorny tried to show assurance and dignity, but could not prevent a little voice in his head from repeating him that those infidels didn’t care about his status.

“Well, I assume this function in practice, yes.”

“It must be difficult to lead a hamlet where only decaying people live…”

The smile was not exactly friendly, but not truly evil either. Gorny smiled back, adding:

“We all have our personal cross to carry, don’t we?”

He immediately regretted his remark, but the infidel didn’t seem to care anyway.

“Indeed. Mine is that we are to spend a few days here. Are there decent stables in this… place?”

Gorny was relieved. The soldiers would not bother asking questions like this one if they had come for the killing. He decided that co-operation would be the best chance of survival for his community.

“There are stables in our lord’s manor. They’re in good condition and almost empty, but I’m not sure if they can shelter all your mounts at a time.”

“Where is this manor? Who’s your lord?”

“I have better lead you the way. Our lord is the Baron Gimnec. He’s brave, but ageing.”

The mercenary captain stared again at the elders and muttered:

“Oh my, no wonder that Europe is slumping. Let’s go, but watch your steps, I would show no mercy in case of treachery.”

Father Gorny did not bother to answer, he was just eager to leave the village before the men could have time to be back from the fields. He walked at a brisk pace in direction of the orchards, uphill. The horsemen came in his steps in a single file. They did not progress very fast for the ground was muddy. The path had been disrupted in a few spots by rain streams. The slope was steep but not to the point of being dangerous and dead leaves formed a mellow carpet. Still, the soldiers decided to dismount approximately half-way up the hill.

“Your lord surely doesn’t get out of his manor often, does he?”

“He has been unable to ride for years now, and his son… Well, his son is gone.”

The priest noticed that the threatening wall had finally collapsed, covering the trail with a heap of earth and rocks. They had to circle it and go through the apple-trees.

They finally arrived in view of the manor. The top of the hill surrounding the building was naked, allowing the view to freely encompass both valleys below. The column followed the narrow crest leading to the gate. Father Gorny took his walking stick firmly in hands and warned the mercenaries:

“Please, wait a minute, I have a detail to deal with.”

He stepped in the courtyard. The assault came swiftly in a blur of shrieks. But the priest was ready and his weapon hit the gander at the base of the neck. The beast turned tail, but Father Gorny chased him away with a few more blows in order to deter him for the whole day, hopefully.

The dumbfounded soldiers stood still a few seconds, watching the panting beardy priest in furs running after a big yelling white bird, both of them equally twirling. Then a burst of laugh ran through the beholders. Their commander stepped in and still laughing, put a hand on Gorny’s shoulder.

“You should become a soldier!”

“No way. I’m a shepherd of souls. And obviously, a shepherd has to handle a club properly.”

He took a few inspirations and pursued:

“Look, here are the stables.”

The captain dubiously sized the building up and finally nodded. He turned to his men and snapped a few orders that Gorny did not understand. It was Turkish, as far as he could tell.

“Now, I suppose we should pay a visit to your lord.”

“Of course.”

Father Gorny went to the main building’s door and knocked heavily. Light footsteps came from inside. Blood withdrawn from the priest’s face. Lena! He had completely forgotten Lena! Poor maid, what will befall of her with all this men at arms in the house of her master? She opened the door. Gorny just caught a surprised glow in her eyes before she bent her head as usual. The mercenary was surprised too. A saucy smile grew on his lips:

“Looks like your old lord has kept the only young woman for his own needs. Interesting…”

She stepped aside and both men walked in the main room.

Baron Gimnec looked at them, stood as quickly as he could, faced the mercenary captain and saluted:

“Çavuş!”
 

coz1

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Good to see you still writing this, Nil. Hope RL is able to cooperate with you more in the future.

As for the story - it sounds like the Lord of the manor knows these mercs., no?
 

Storey

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He’s alive, alive I tell you! :D Good to see you’re back Nil. :cool:

Great scene with the Priest chasing the gander. Now what are these soldiers up to and will Lena escape a fate worst than death at the hands of the Turkish captain? ;)

Oh sorry about the world cup but France almost won it. They certainly did better than the US. :D

Joe
 

Amric

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Apparently the old boy knows the merc...Interesting...

Joe, didn't EVERY team do better than the US? I didn't follow it closely but the US didn't win a game, did it?