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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Storey

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Amric said:
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?

I have it on good athority that we beat the snot out of a French amature teenage girls team. Well it was tied after regulation but we beat them in the shoot out. :D I repeat the cry of every loser "Wait till next year!" Or make that "Wait till four years from now!" :p

Joe
 

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Good to see you around here, Nil! Hope things will continue to work out for you (all purely so that you can be around the forums more frequently, of courese ;)).

So, when are you going to tell us what that ' “Çavuş!” ' means? Is it a name? A greeting? Something else instead?

So far the encounter with the Turkish troops has gone well. Let's see where it heads next!
 

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Good news! For me, that is... :D My absence from this forum may not have been in vain. I wrote that the first important exam was over. Well, it was supposed to select two hundred candidates out of about a thousand. I've just been warned that I'm in those two hundred. :) The downside is that the next step will be a second more difficult exam in September to recruit 73 candidates out of those 200... Which means that I'll have to work really hard this summer :( . Now now, my chances have increased from 1 out of 14 to 1 out of 3, approximately. Doable. Hopefully.

Regarding important things: I plan for an update tomorrow (if my girlfriend allows me to work on it enough :D )

coz1: I've just tried to answer to your first remark (thx btw) and next post will of course answer to the other one.

Storey: Yep, alive. And I've managed to recover my dangling eye as well. Maggots left enough muscles for me to use my keybord: everything's perfect. Glad you liked the scene. Now I just have to pretend knowing what to do about Lena...
Hem, I fear that you may have difficulties to find anyone caring less than me about football :p . I knew when "we" lost because the street was sooo pleasantly quiet.

Amric: Hi! See above.

Duke of Wellington: Oh my! I didn't know you were that bloodthirsty! I plan some blood indeed, but a little later. Aaah, yes, good question, what do they have in common?

Stuyvesant: Thanx. I guess that I've already answered to this. :cool:
Fear not, everything should become cristal-clear in the next post (wait... aren't metals made of cristals?).
 

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#8c
Serbia : October 1419

Surprise petrified the mercenary captain for an handful of seconds. It was not the greeting that unhinged him most, but rather the old baron’s aspect. He first saw a big mouth splitting the man’s face up to bottom and he muttered a protective formula against demons. As his eyes progressively got used to the relative darkness of the room, he distinguished a frail shrunken man standing as erect as possible given the fact that a crutch played the role of his bandaged right leg. A bunch of white tufts of hair cascaded from a mostly bald head. But the most striking characteristic was of course this big scar disfiguring the crumpled face. The mercenary had seen many wounds in his career, but this one should have been lethal. His respect for the pathetic man in front of him raised a notch up.

He decided to reply in Turkish:

“What’s that? How do you know my rank?”

Gimnec stood still as he answered in the same language, slowly seeking his words through strata of ageing memories.

“I’ve been a çavuş myself, a long time ago. I know one when I see one.”

“You’ve been in the Turkish army?”

“Indeed. How many men do you have under your command?”

The mercenary showed a short hesitation as if he was about to send the baron packing. He still answered:

“Ten. We wished to use your stables.”

“I am certainly not in a position to refuse. Not that I have much to loose, of course…”

“Where’s your side in this war?”

“Doesn’t matter. I feel like I only have enemies. Or maybe fate is the only one. Let’s hope that God will have mercy upon my soul, it will need it.”

“Inch’Allah.”

Father Gorny blinked at this. He didn’t understand the conversation but these words he caught. He had expected such an exchange between the men of course, since he was well aware of Gimnec’s story and skills. He waved toward the chairs, but neither the baron nor the mercenary seemed to notice as they kept speaking. He fell back on sitting himself and tried to start a roaring fire.

The mercenary captain cast a suspicious glance at the baron, keeping rummaging his thick black beard. He let his curiosity speak:

“I still don’t understand how you ended up in the Turkish army.”

“To make it short, I’ve fallen during the battle of Kosovo Polje and was made prisoner.”

As he spoke, Gimnec caressed his scar.

“I suppose that I should be grateful for muslim physicians knowledge.” He added.

“Why did they not behead you? As far as I know, you must be able to pay a ransom to survive, don’t you?”

An ironic smile crossed the baron’s scar.

“I belong to the nobility after all. Not to mention that my family has not always been in such a dire financial situation. That and Bayezid the First was in need of young inductees for his campaigns.”

“Wait a minute.” The mercenary counted on his fingers. “How old were you?”

“Twenty one.”

“But, you’re much younger than I would have thought!”

“You should know that age is not just the number of years: wounds and illnesses take their toll too. I’ve given much to both.”

“I see that.”

“No. Physical wounds are not always the worst.”

Lord Gimnec smiled. It was a real smile, but his ravaged face made it hard to tell if it was impish or sad. Given the context, the captain chose the second option. The baron continued:

“My father didn’t pay the ransom and merely made vague promises to do so relatively quickly. I guess that my beheading has been discussed, but has obviously been discarded.”

Although the mercenary did not seem really appalled, his interest in the story was genuine:

“Why did he act in such a despicable fashion?”

The baron shook his head slowly.

“It wasn’t that despicable in regard to our standards. The ransom was huge and bound to ruin our family. My father was keener on preserving my elder brother’s heritage. Of course, sacrificing me for that purpose probably bothered him altogether.”

“Bothered…” the captain muttered with a disgusted frown of the mouth.

“Yes. I was more affected than I would have admitted back then. I imagined plenty of explanations for his unwillingness to pay. I even came to the conclusion that he did not trust the Turks and thought they might kill me as soon as they received the money. But later events proved me wrong. I was just not that important for this inflexible ruler who was my father.”

There was a short pause. Lord Gimnec absent-mindedly ran his index along the hedge of his scar.

“In a way, this delay might have saved my life since it took me several months to recover, with the first weeks in a complete state of delirium due to burning fever. I’ve been brought to Bursa and taught Turkish. I must say that my conditions of detention weren’t unpleasant, albeit Spartan. I didn’t care much anyway. My thoughts were a boiling mixture of various hatreds spiced up by shame. Not to mention physical sufferings, of course.”

“Your wound was certainly not pretty…”

“Is it now?”

“Well, I did not mean to…”

“Never mind. I can’t even tell how it was. I’ve been unable to use my eyes for more than a month. The slightest beam of light caused unbearable pain under my skull. I kept a blindfold all that time. I was getting mad in my darkness. Some days, pain obliterated any rational thought, nailing me to the present. On other occasions, I felt stuffed with hatred either against my father or against the Turks. Sometimes against me, because I had given the Turks an occasion to gather wealth at the expanse of my family. This period gave me a sense of eternity. I rationally knew it was about a month long, but I did not realise at the moment. I guess that spending the eternity in Hell should not be that much different from just one year…”

“I suppose you recovered long before your father finally decided to pay, didn’t you.”

“I did. I’m still subject to frequent headaches and loss of equilibrium but I progressively recovered nevertheless. My sight came back, albeit with a slight blur and occasional blinding flashes, which didn’t prevent me from learning elementary reading skills along with spoken Turkish. I was held in walled barracks with about fifty other prisoners of low ranks from various origins. From time to time, a new one arrived or another disappeared, either because his family had paid or because he was due to beheading. We rarely knew. Many of us were wounded to some extend and definitely disturbed in our minds. Communication was all the more complicated by the fact that about each one spoke a different language. I essentially directed my efforts to regain my physical aptitudes.

This lasted until a balmy day of the Fall of 1390, when a kapikulu officer came to me as I was lying in the dark after a short relapsing of my eye-ache. He explained me that the authorities were growing impatient for the ransom and that my life was at stake. They didn’t want to keep feeding me and curing me for nothing. He proposed me to be incorporated in the military and fight for the Sultan, thus paying for their expenses as they wait for my father to comply with their demands. My first reaction was to refuse and tell him that I would never fall so low as to stain my honour just to save my life.”

The mercenary had an equivocal smile:

“How did he react?”

“He laughed. I felt offended at first. Then he explained me that peace had been signed with Stepan Lazarević, the new Prince of Serbia and that the Sultan Bayezid the First had married princess Marya Olivera Despina. My new suzerain had promised the Turks military assistance in any occasion, which meant that I would simply accomplish my duty by serving under the kapikulus.”

“This obviously convinced you.”

“I was reluctant, but there’s no place for personal feelings when honour and duty are at stake, is there? In hindsight, I would say it was mainly a very good excuse to save face and my life at the same time though. Thus began my second life under an officer who would unexpectedly end up as a friend…”
 
Last edited:

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Posted as promised...
I originally wanted only 2 or eventually 3 parts for 8th chapter. But it's getting too long and eating too much of my time... So, let's go for 4 or 5. :)

BTW, I'm trying to adopt english style punctuation for dialogs. Could you tell me what's to be fixed in this regard? [inconspicuous glance at Coz1 :rolleyes: ].
 

coz1

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Deep indeed. He certainly seems to have much in common with this mercenary. And the quotes looked fine to me - used exactly right. Well done, Nil. And some great description to start the update. :)
 

Director

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age is not just the number of years: wounds and illnesses take their toll too
That is certainly true.

Excellent description and dialogue in this one, though it seems hard for anyone to get a word in when the baron is talking. ;)

I look forward to hearing how the baron adjusted to life as a janissary.
 

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Gimnec as an old Jannisary. Not what I had expected, that's for sure. Hopefully the shared background of Gimnec and the mercenary will soothe the mercenaries and save the village.

An interesting story by old Gimnec. The man carried quite a lot of baggage evn before his son disappeared in the war.
 

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Duke of Wellington: Come in handy? Sort of, yes...

Director: Yes, he's talkative. I would say two things: first he's the one with a story to tell, secondly, he has a little something at the back of his head... :rolleyes:
Of course the real reason is that my characters often escape my tyrany. I design them with major traits, in a rigid mould, but they generally manage to escape. I wanted a taciturn old noble, but he has chosen to be talkative instead. Kallistos escaped me as well. Bah, I let them do, I know my characters are stronger than me anyway
pas-ma-faute.gif


coz1: thx for the compliment. Yes, they have much in common and essentially just a (short) generation between them.

Stuyvesant: I'm glad to be able to surprise you and genuinely happy if you enjoy the trip! :)

ALL: I wanted to provide you with the next installment as soon as today or tomorrow, but there is a detail in Gimnec's story that resist me (it's an imporant detail, unfortunately). I don't know when I'll be able to put this little morron of a detail in line, but I'll try to do so quickly :D .

Consequently, I don't have an update, but... BUT...

I've just updated my website! So, what d'you say?
0090.gif


Herm...
confused.png


Nooooo!
0200.gif
 

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Okay, here comes another update.

I wanted to appologize for the delay first and then for an error. It's not in the Janissaries that Gimnec should be incorporated, but rather in the kapikulus (sounds better anyway). So, I'll edit the previous installment accordingly.

H_12SH%7E1.GIF


The delay is Gimnec's fault, not mine!
0082.gif
This elder is way too talkative for my own well-being... I'm eager to switch to another chapter but there will be a last update to this one before.

I'm feeling like I've been glued in this biography and can't manage to get it right.
0084.gif
So please, do not hesitate to manifest your criticisms, for it's my only way to improve and find a way out of this.
02.gif
 

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#8d
Serbia : October 1419

“From my acceptation on I’ve been granted better conditions of detention, ‘detention’ being an excessive formulation, since no physical barrier prevented me from going away. Coskun was the name of my new commander. He was an inflexible çavuş, but he truly did not care where his men came from, what they looked like or even what they believed in. He was happy with anyone following his orders, enduring training without complaints and showing dedication to the Kapikulus. He had to thrash me a couple of times in the first weeks, but he quickly became very happy with his new recruit. The Kapikulus were mostly young christian children raised in muslim faith in order to serve the Sultan, but our unit counted a few genuine Turks as well, and many prisoners from Greece and the Balkans.

We were sent to quell rebellions in Rüm. To my surprise, they were essentially sparked by local nobles or deposed nobles while the people itself was relatively quiet. I decided to find out what may cause this and quickly discovered that peasants were rather glad to be under Turkish rule. They had considerably more freedom and less arbitrary decisions to suffer than they could hope with us, voivoides. Our detachment was generally able to count upon full co-operation of the population during its missions. This period saw intensive reflections and changes in me. On one hand I became a skilful soldier rather than the impetuous warrior I was before and on the other hand my certitudes about leadership and legitimacy were profoundly reshaped: it was possible to exert authority upon your subjects without enslaving them or considering them as mere tools.

We were feared throughout the area assigned to us. Coskun was generally swift to respond to any unrest and to punish those responsible. I remember that he used to say: ‘I hate cruelty. But leniency is worse because it egg on crime and even more cruelty from all sides. So, be swift and merciless but know when you’re right and when you're wrong.’ To tell the truth, our own power intoxicated us a little too much, driving us to commit a few crimes on occasions. Coskun always punished us when he found out. One of us even once murdered a man to rape his wife. I caught him red-handed and trashed him properly until he lied in the street, bleeding and spitting his teeth. Of course, Coskun inquired after my reasons and proceeded at once with the beheading of the criminal. I can remember the latter pleading for mercy, telling that he would never misconduct again and that a lighter punishment would be enough. Coskun just answered: ‘I’m not punishing you. I’m purchasing peace and civil order.’”

“This Coskun was an interesting leader, if you ask me. But I would bet you’ve earned some animosity from your fellow soldiers this day.”

“Indeed. But they feared me as well. I may be diminished now, but I was rather impressive back then. I had already proven to be lethal in close combat as well. I also tried my best to be a reliable companion, which eventually lead me to progressively become Coskun’s trusted second. For instance, I’ve managed to save a patrol from an ambush laid out by highwaymen on the Wallachian border. I think that I’ve saved their lives this day, including Coskun’s. It cost me my second serious wound in the form of an arrow through the belly.

I developed an infection and remained unconscious several days. I’ve been unable to ride or fight for more than three months, which prevented me to take part in several battles fought and lost against the Wallachians by Bayezid. Other campaigns went better though, including the conquest of Bulgaria, with the capture of Nicopolis.

Coskun was eventually promoted to the tittle of Çorbacı in charge with both law keeping and scouting in newly acquired lands. He immediately named me to replace him as çavuş of our unit and placed fifty men under my command.”

“Fifty? That’s way too much for a çavuş!”

“Yes, but don’t forget that he couldn’t promote me more than that since I was theoretically still a prisoner.”

“That’s still weird.”

Gimnec nodded:

“And difficult to manage too, since a few of my subordinates were technically my equals in rank. But I did not lose any time pondering such considerations. Small bands of disbanded Bulgarian mercenaries were pillaging the area. I essentially relied upon their victim’s testimonies to track them down. I first eradicated a slow footmen group of about the same size as my own detachment. They barely opposed a resistance on the open ground where we caught them. I ordered them to be impaled and sized their equipment. My reputation quickly spread around, gathering survivors from bandits raids, who I happily equipped and incorporated in my little army. Within a month, two hundred and half irregular footmen had been added to my kapikulus. They were almost untrained but absolutely full with hatred toward their oppressors. From this time on I picked band after band of bandits, impaling them at the outskirts of villages to warn everyone that the Sultan’s law was unquestionable in these lands. I was soon nicknamed ‘The Scar Crow’.”

The mercenary captain laughed:

“Not very original, but rather appropriate I would say! How did you disarm your followers afterwards?”

“Without difficulty. By 1395, Bulgaria was secure and they feared me too much to resist when I asked them to give their weapons back.”

The mercenary still seemed very amused:

“Do you mean that you pacified Bulgaria with your fifty kapikulus?”

The old baron sighed and stared at the ceiling.

“Oh my, oh my! Do I look like such a boaster? Of course not! Others were doing the same kind of job in other areas and timariots were being appointed to occupy the land. Not to mention that military threats remained at the borders.”

“Ah, if you're referring to the crusade, yes I'd bet that's a military threat at the border.”

“The crusade? Yes, it was in 1396. Catholic powers lead by Sigismund tried to free Nicopolis.”

“Yes old man, I've heard about their sound defeat.”

“Sound? Not that much. They lost because of complete lack of strategy, but we still suffered heavier losses than them. The French knights have specially been outstanding this day. Their overall conduct remains mysterious. Just before the battle, they killed without explanation all the prisoners taken during the sack of Rahova. They later showed their incredible stupidity during the battle, charging straight into our lines until they stumbled upon a field of stakes. They simply dismounted and resumed their charge on foot under our fire. What is really unbelievable here is that they managed to kill four or five times their numbers in such unfavourable conditions. I can't help but think that we were saved by their blooded temper. They would have wiped us away if only they had used their brains just a little.

For me, this battle was the occasion for a third serious wound. My horse was killed during an engagement. I didn't manage to free my right foot from the stirrup quickly enough and was caught under my falling mount, which broke my leg and thrown my head straight on a rock.”

The mercenary was dubious :

“Your companions managed to find you after the battle?”

“No. I think that I would be dead if I had fallen in the heart of the battle. Our light cavalry was moving on the flanks in probing missions prior to the battle when we met Wallachian riders. My companions picked me up after the skirmish.

My leg never really recovered. I mean that I’ve always suffered from a slight limp after that. Coskun invited me in his little property in southern Anatolia. His own heath wasn't good and both of us were assigned to police duties in the nearby city. In all honesty, this was rather a pretext than anything else, since we spent more time in his fields or resting than on duty. Meanwhile, his daughter nursed us.”

The mercenary captain chuckled, a clear hint of naughtiness sparking in his eyes.

“Ah, I guess your thoughts” the baron replied “and you're not far from the truth. I had mixed feelings during my stay. I clearly enjoyed the break, all the more since his daughter, named Arzu, and I weren't indifferent to each other. I understand now that I was probably the first man she saw intimately, which counterbalanced my ugliness. Coskun did not seem to bother, even if he kept us under close scrutiny. At the same time, I suffered from a feeling of culpability and uselessness. A feeling that have turned to be a growing part of my thoughts from that time on.

A surprise came in the summer of 1398, just as I was growing impatient to go away and resume my military career.”

“With your broken leg?”

“I was only thirty, mind you! How would I have accepted to be forevermore out of order? This surprise took the shape of an official visiting us to announce that my father had paid the ransom.”

“What the hell might have decided him after nine years?”

“Simply put, my older brother had died from illness, which made me the last heir of our lineage. I quickly bode farewell to Coskun and Arzu and came back to Serbia. It was horrible. My father had literally dried out the fief to pay for my return. Peasants belongings had been confiscated, including the flocks. Our house had been emptied from anything my father could sell, except for poultry and a single horse, which he considered vital for a lord. More than half of the land had been sold to neighbouring counts and barons as well.

Relations with my father were awful since I had accumulated resentment over the years. He did not even inquire about my whereabouts during the past years. He was only obsessed by the need to find a suitable spouse for me and the necessity to quell unrest on his fief.

He was disappointed in both expectations though. Our situation was so pathetic that no other noble wanted to unite his family to ours. Regarding the quelling of unrest, he faced an unruly son who had matured enough to choose his own way. I refused to oppress our subjects any more, they had faced enough privations. I felt like I had a debt toward them and spent most of my time working on their side. My meagre savings were spent to buy the seed of a future sheep flock.

My father's bitterness was growing and we never found any occasion to talk together without turning the conversation into a loud argument. My politics bore fruits anyway, for no revolt occurred in spite of two successive years of starving dearth. That's the period when the priest and me became close friends. He had studied in Byzantium and was really open-minded compared to our standards. He did not really oppose to the old ways, but was interested in my take on the situation. He has been my confident and a relay between the population and me until nowadays.

In March of 1402, Stepan Lazarević required the service of all his vassals in order to support Bayezid. I didn't know who was the enemy but answered the call. Being better trained as a Turkish-style light cavalryman, I chose to ride directly to Rüm and made contact with kapikulus officers rather than join the assembling Serbian army. It didn’t take long for me to learn that the Mongols had declared war and were marching against Anatolia.”

“Bloody bastards! May they be cursed to the thousandth generation!”

“Oh, yes, I’ve heard that Turkish resentment was still vivid against them. Do you still want to hear my point of view on this campaign? I suppose that you were a little too young to be part of it, weren’t you?”

“Yes. Please, carry on.”

“Nothing in particular to report on our march toward Ankara. I’ve always been amazed to see how smoothly our armies managed to move. Even in this unexpected situation, everything had been planned out to supply us. In return, we were worried to notice that most of the army was made up of my own compatriots under the command of our king himself. Turkish troops were scarce, mainly composed of Janissaries. Most of Bayezid’s vassals had betrayed him and switched to Timur’s side.”

“I know that. Most of them have paid, the others will soon, if they’re not burning in hell already.”

“Yes? I’ll take your word on that. We reached the drying peninsula in July, marching under the burning summer sun. I was glad to be in the Kapikulus light chain mail rather than under a Serbian armour. I know that a few men even fainted and fell on the ground, struck by afternoon’s heat. But we marched on, to the rescue of Ankara, which was besieged. We went upstream along the Cubukcay river. Timur was waiting for us there behind rudimentary fortifications apparently devised to protect his archers and break our cavalry charges. But as you know, there was more about those dikes, much more.”
 
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coz1

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I tell you, after hearing this man's biography, it is amazing he is still alive. He has certainly had his fair share of injuries. :eek:
 

Nil-The-Frogg

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Thank you both! I should be able to update by tomorrow. But tell me: am I getting mad? I can swear I've read a comment from a new reader last time I've checked, it just said "nice." :wacko: :confused:

Bah... I'm probably getting old.
 

Nil-The-Frogg

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#8e
Serbia : October 1419

“Horror seized us all when the Cubukcay ceased to flow as we were closing in for the fight. Timur’s engineers had diverted water toward a reservoir upstream. I don’t know if we truly realised immediately that the battle’s outcome was sealed from this very moment on, but we definitely knew that we were in serious trouble.

Bayezid must have understood anyway, since the order quickly came to the light cavalry: we were to flank the enemy lines and aim to break the dam at all cost. Indeed, the cost was steep and the attempt really hopeless. I had been involved in a light cavalry charge against the Turkish army at Kosovo Polje. It had been my very first, and disastrous, contact with war. But Ankara was even worse if possible. Our charge was really just a suicidal attack. Mongol raiders pounded us with their sharp arrows all along, dodging our counter attacks like eels. It was unbelievable. I’m still pretty sure that one of them turned around without even slowing his mount. Not only didn’t we reach the dikes, but we didn’t even reach enemy infantry. My comrades were falling like flies and the charge quickly faltered. I realised that I was facing my end to no avail.”

“So, what did you do?”

“What would have you done?”

The mercenary thought a few seconds.

“Well, turning tail would not be an option… Going on would be fatal. I suppose that I would have tried to play the dummy.”

The baron nodded.

“Exactly. I knew the battle was lost. My compatriots fought incredibly well though. Swords were still clashing late in the afternoon although both horses and men were falling for dehydration.”

“How did you get out of this mess?”

“Good question. I had to get away quickly, because I was dehydrating too in the burning dust, not to mention the threat of scavengers who usually come on the battlefield as soon as they can in order to loot the dead and wounded. I’ve been lucky this day, for the battle moved further south. I escaped through the empty bed of the Cubukcay. I just stopped to drink a few swallows of muddy water in a puddle where a lone fish was dying of asphyxia.

It took me about twenty nights of forced march to reach Coskun’s property. I was broken, my back was literally blocked, my legs aching to the point where I was about to cry. I arrived late in the night, but Arzu welcomed me nevertheless. She was horrified to see me in such a pitiful condition, but quite not as much as I’ve been when I saw my old superior.

He was getting nuts. His words were senseless most of the time, with episodic moments of lucidity. According to Arzu, he had been in completely apathetic for months. My presence had reanimated him somewhat. I still told them the battle and how we were defeated. I can remember Coskun’s void face like if it was still in front of me. He suddenly burst in an hysterical laugh and told me something like: ‘Ha, the Mongol horde is back from the dead and will take us with it! You’ve better going back home, my child.’ After that, he kept repeating ‘my child, my child…’ for several minutes. Arzu and I were keeping his shaking hands in ours, totally distraught. He took me by surprise, jumping on me and clenching his fingers around my neck. Fortunately, he wasn’t strong enough to strangle me. He started to shout at me, sputtering my face. ‘My child, my child! Save my child Gim! Don’t let my brother put his hand on her! Save my child Gim!’ on and on…”

“Looks like he was seriously demented.”

The old baron shivered.

“Yes. He calmed down a little, but did not unhand me. He wanted me to take his daughter away with me. My objections regarding the impossibility to marry her did not seem to reach him. He kept asking me to swear that I would not abandon her. I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t completely in our world anymore. I finally agreed, hoping to find him more reasonable after a few hours of rest. He blessed me and sank almost instantly in a deep, quiet sleep. But he never woke up.”

“Ouch.”

“No, not merely ‘ouch’. It was a tragedy. Arzu and I both lost our father this morning. And I was stuck with my promise.”

“So, what did you do?”

Gimnec shrugged.

“What were my options? I looted Coskun’s savings and went away with his daughter the same day. The trip back to Serbia has been among the strangest experiences of my life. The reality itself seemed to fall apart. Try to figure out the aftermath of Bayezid’s defeat. A wave of terror ran through the peninsula, each and very high ranked officer was trying to flee with his family. Scared people were wandering in all directions. And of course, we were disoriented ourselves, both mourning Coskun, both wondering what we become back in Serbia, both discovering each other. It was like a dream. I bought our passage to Athens on a Genoese merchant ship. From there, we followed a pack mules train going to Hungary.”

“I wonder how your father reacted when he saw you with a Turkish girl. It was certainly not what he had expected, eh?”

“He did not accept her at first. We had a loud conversation about that and he ended up trying to physically correct me when I kept him from throwing her out. I must say that I'm still ashamed about this, but I had changed too much to submit and endure his blows. He ate my fist and fell on the ground.”

“What?” the mercenary interjected in indignation.

“Yes, I did it. I was mortified. He didn’t suffered much harm though, saving for his pride, but beating your father certainly his among the gravest things you might happen to do.”

“Yeah, you can say it!”

The despise in the tone was such that he seemed to spit his words. The baron answered with a vague waving of his hands, probably meaning that past events were not to be changed.

“I think that any animosity or anger he may had nourished toward me before mutated into hatred this day. However, nothing was stronger in him than dedication to our lineage. That's probably why he pretended to forgive me, since I was the only possible heir left.

But he did not hesitate to torment Arzu on any occasion, treating her like a slave. His conduct only changed when it became apparent that she was pregnant with my child. From this time on, he set back to ignoring her altogether. At all events my love did not offset the cumulative effects of homesickness, culpability, tiredness from pregnancy, locals contempt, mourning... Her health ebbed. She gave birth to a son on the 25th of March 1403. I called him Piotr. The birth has been horrible. Arzu was feeble and both the child and the mother were on the brink of death. The first pictures to flood in my mind are bloody linen in the hands of the midwife and my beloved one looking like the wax of the candles that were spreading their scarce red light on the scene.

Contrary to expectations, they survived, but not for long. In the fall of 1403, a deadly flux infested the region and quickly took her and my father without a break. I've been ill too, but recovered to face my losses. I was slowly sinking in despair and finally kept my head up thanks to my son. Piotr was my heir and only company. He was a surprisingly vigorous and cheerful baby, given the circumstances.

I’ve spent the following sixteen years here, raising him and ruling, or pretending to rule my fief. Piotr has been taught what I’ve learnt myself. A good boy he was, the shining jewel of my life. I taught him how to ride, how to fight. He was able to read and write, he understood several languages… Big cities scholars would have mocked him, for sure. He was nonetheless a courageous and cultivated young noble. He progressively took over the reigns of my estates as gout and my petrifying back nailed me home.

But all this has ended where it had begun, in a sense, at Kosovo Polje. My son died there in April… I do hope that wildflowers cover his nameless grave…”

The baron sighed, shook his head slowly, his hand grasping at his lapel, releasing it, grasping it again… The mercenary remained silent. The old man swallowed and resumed his tale:

“I’ve been alone here with my servant since then, waiting for death to come and release me from this rotting carcass. Days are long… Life long… Spending all your time turning over ‘What ifs’ and ‘If onlys’ is certainly unhealthy. Oh well, who cares now?”

There was a silence. Father Gorny stared at the men. He had perceived that the tale was more or the less finished. The mercenary leaned on his backrest and muttered:

“Your life has been sad old man, but it’s quite a story.”

Gimnec kept staring at his intertwined hands.

“Indeed.”

He looked back at the captain and added with a poor smile:

“But I’ve not told you the most interesting part of it yet.”

This raised his interlocutor's interest, prodding him to bend forward.

“What is it?”

“It’s related to the battle of Nicopolis. Some strange events happened there as I said earlier. I’m among the very few men in this world who can partly explain them. But the matter is very disturbing and delicate. Very hard to believe too. But you will believe me, fortunately, for I am in the possession of a material clue to convince you. This might be a dangerous knowledge though and must remain confidential between you and me… I did not even reveal that piece of the story to my own son. And now, there’s no one left to ear it but you.”

He nodded at the mercenary, whose amazement was growing, and turned to the priest:

“My Father, he said in Serbian, would you be so kind as to go with Lena and gather some bryony against my gout? You might take some time to receive her confession while you’re at it. I’m afraid that she might have entertained a few nasty thoughts with all those manly soldiers visiting us…”

The priest looked back at him with an hint of surprise, but did not ask a question and stood up.

“Of course my Lord.”

Then, lending a helping hand to the servant:

“Come my Child.”

The captain seemed rather uneasy, pondering what to do. Lord Gimnec smiled at him:

“Did I tell you that I’ve been delighted by some Arabian literature masterpieces?”

“What does that mean again?”

The baron shrugged and slightly shook his head.

“Never mind. So, do you want to hear my last and darkest revelation?”

The captain sighed and had an exasperated gesture toward his man standing at the door:

“That’s okay, let them go, close this door and wait for me outside.”

The soldier nodded dryly. Lena and Father Gorny hurried out and the heavy door was shut behind them. They crossed the courtyard under conspicuous gazes, but no one tried to stop them. Passing by the coop, Father Gorny saw a small mass of white feathers stained in red. The gander had probably made a rather stupid attempt at biting a soldier. The priest felt sad for it in spite of his long lived animosity for this aggressive idiot of a bird.
 
Last edited:

Storey

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Excellent writing Nil. :cool: I found the old man's story believable and enjoyed all of it. Now you have me wondering what he's about to reveal. :eek:

Joe
 

coz1

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Kind of sad for the gander, but the story is engaging. So what is this dark revelation?