Tuesday, February 17, 2009

A Party in Morea

The party had started an hour ago. The revelers were already in a tipsy mood. Some were in the grand ball room, listening and dancing to renditions of the latest musical fashions from Paris and Vienna. Others, where enjoying games of chance, conversations, hookahs, or tobacco in the anteroom. Still others were in the Anatolian room, listening to Greek or Anatolian music, or watching the belly dancers. There were men and women, dressed in their best. Greek and Turkish fashions mixed with the latest Milanese and Parisian dress. Conversations were in French, German, Greek, Albanian, and Turkish. All were lively. The Princess was well known for her revelries. In an hour acrobats, Bear-handlers, and wrestlers would flood the Great Ball room. The night would be long, but energetic.

Theofilia, dressed in a velvet and red dress in Spanish cut, was in the midst of it, walking from room to room, from dance to song, from game to conversation. Andritsiotis and Anne were always at her side, as well as a lone Janissary. Andritsiotis was dressed in uniform of a colonel of the Nafplioton regiment, with the Cross of Saint Demetrius on his breast. Anne was lavish in a pink-white Parisian dress. Anafli was responsible for security this night, and thus unable to attend. Radu, resplendent in Hungarian dress, was milling around, listening for rumors. He also spent time with merchants from the Empire, recruiting spies no doubt. DiMonfferato was enjoying a game of chance, with Von Gortz, Graf Karl Ostendorf of Beerstein, and the ambassador of Hetzenberg. The young ambassador of Gorlstein, Markus von Braunam, was enjoying the company of a number of old, and young ladies. Earlier he had played the violin in a enchanting manner. The ambassador of Cavenderia was in the Anatolian room, smoking a hookah and conversing with the ambassador of the Emperor, and Sotiriadis. Basil, had traveled to Monevasia to prepare for his journey.

Anne smiled to Theofilia, “Your Excellency can I leave your side?” Theofilia, holding Andritsiotis arm, smiled to Anne, “I believe that young Markus is bored, of course you can go and enliven his existence.” Anne blushed, did a courtesy and went.

“Ah to be young again”, exclaimed Andritsiotis.

“My dear general, who dares say you are not young?”

“My creaking bones, my dear lady, my creaking bones,” said Andritsiotis in mirth.

“Well then, let us see if they are not crying wolf”

With that Theofilia grabbed Andritsiotis into the ball room and started dancing with him. Anne was already there dancing with Markus.

The night passed by, the acrobats came and mystified the partiers, bears danced to their pleasure, and wrestlers impressed with feat of strength and bouts. At about 9 o’clock, Radu approached Theofilia, who had been sitting on a couch, enjoying a conversation with the ambassador of Hetzenberg. Theofilia really liked the man. He was witty, intelligent, and composed. He also was a great dancer. Hetzenberg seemed an interesting place, populated with a couple of impressive women. Radu leaned over and asked Theofilia if they could talk. Theofilia excused herself from her companion and followed Radu to a smaller antechamber. Her Janissary bodyguard followed like a shadow.

Sotiriadis was inside as well. Theofilia took a seat around the wooden, exquisitely carved table. She laid one fingertip on the head of a small peacock carved on the wood, and started to trail the small wooden stream that the peacock sipped water from. Radu took a seat to the left.

“So what is going on Radu?”

“Well for one thing Anne retired with young Markus to personal quarters.”

“I noticed that Radu, I pray you didn’t take me away from vonHetzenberg for gossip?”

“No milady. Throughout the night Sotiriadis and me have learned some interesting information, from our fellow card players and revelers.” Radu gestured to Sotiriadis. The Greek kept silent for a while and then started talking.

“For starters, the ambassador of Beerstein informed me that the Reich Duke was contemplating visiting Morea.”

“ That is interesting”, mused Theofilia. ”What kind of a person is the Reich Duke?”

“Well from what I gleaned a jovial man, of great appetites and influence in the Empire. He also seems to have the good graces of Cavenderia. He is an enemy of the Prussian King.”

Radu picked up the conversation: “We should handle him wisely. We need friends in the Empire, but the Duke might be too invested in the anti-Prussian camp. I do refer to this only for the sake of that matter.”

Theofilia shot him a cold glance, “That matter? Damn that woman and her misbegotten sons. I will not have that odious family take Basils inheritance away.”

“But if it came to blows”, interposed Sotiriadis,” we might be in danger of entering the greater European war. Better to cultivate good relationships with an influential figure like this.”

Theofilia stopped trailing her finger on the wood-work. A knock on the door, was answered by the Janissary. Andritsiotis came inside, bowed slightly and took a seat. Radu brought him up to date. Andritsiotis spoke, “I think that the Reich Duke, might make an excellent traveling companion for Basil, may-haps when he comes here, we could persuade him to co-travel for a while with Basil. His majesty would enjoy the Reich Dukes company.”

“It seems a good idea.” thought Theofilia aloud.” What is next?”

“The Cavanderian ambassador got drunk”, said Radu” which permitted me to get some more information out of him. It seems Prince Geoffrey is unstable. One thing is sure, he hates the Dey a lot, and will actively try to harm him. Indeed it seems that his hate can carry own to those he thinks might be allies of the Dey.”

Sotiriadis startled: “ God, do you think he would try to attack us!”

Radu “ No, I don’t thing so. My information network in Istria hasn’t caught anything out of the ordinary. Admitently it is rather inadequate.”

He turned to Theofilia. “Thankfully I am glad to say that I got us some more information sources. A German ship captain, that makes the Danubian routes for information on the empire, and a Russian fur trader as well. Concerning the North African coast, a merchant out of Alexandria will also bring us information. Finally I heard some worrying news from a friend that came in from the Sublime Porte. The Sultan seems to be worried about his northern borders. Military units were spotted leaving Constantinople a week ago. My people are working on getting more information.”

Sotiriadis spoke” As concerns others, the ambassador of Hetzenberg likes gambling a lot. We might be able to use that.”

Theofilia seemed sad” So all men have a weakness. Pity, he is charming.”

Andritsiotis remarked “My lady, it is their weaknesses that make them charming.”

“He didn’t”, remarked Theofilia with a sad, distant voice. All knew that He wasn’t the ambassador of Hetzenberg.

“Anyhow” Radu, continued “we should be expecting the return of the mission to Bizercca in a three to four days. Furthermore the Nikiforus should be reaching the tip of Italy tomorrow morning.”

“I am worried about how things are turning up, your Excellency”, said Andritsiotis, “The problems with them in Italy, this ugly situation in the Adriatic, a possible war in the Balkans, and the war between the Emperor and the Elector in the west. I am starting to fear that you will not be able to keep Morea in peace for long.” He said the last with a tinge of sadness. Andritsiotis hated war. He had seen the wreckage, the blasted bodies, the dying youths, the ravished girls of war. All the nice uniforms, and flags, all the lace and pomp, all where a cruel joke, played by a cruel God. He hated war. But he was good at it. Too good.

Theofilia, touched his hand. “What comes will come. And we will do what we must. As long as I can avoid war, I will avoid it my good Heraclius. At least one problem will go away, when Dukas is here. That man has a lot to answer for.” The last words where in cold manner.

Sotiriadis coughed and said, “It might be of interest to know that the realm of Neues Sudland, offers regiments for hire. “

“Who are they?”, asked Theofilia perplexed.

“One of those new kingdoms far away, beyond the Indian ocean.”

“Then too far for us.” remarked Radu.

“Not necessarily”, replied Sotiriadis, “true it would take them a year to reach Mystra, but few will know that they are coming. It could be a nasty surprise to an enemy. If you want, your Excellency I could start looking at this.”

“Do so”, said Theofilia. “Let us hope we won’t need them, but let us be prepared.”

Theofilia got up, and they all followed suit. “Let us go back and forget our worries for tonight.”

They all exited, back into a make-believe, but happy place.

Later that night in a dimly lit tavern in the lower city of Morea, two figures where conversing in low voices uncaring for the half-sleeping tavern keeper, or the ragged beggar smoking a hookah on a side. “Tell your royal master that all will go as planned. Morea will be unable to resist his actions. It will happen in a week’s time. Tell him to be ready…..”


Bluebear Jeff said...

Plots have been laid it seems . . . well this could get interesting . . . WILL get interesting I believe.

A very nice little set-up scene, sir. Thank you.

-- Jeff of Saxe-Bearstein

Capt Bill said...

What wonderful webbs you weave. I believe Reich Duke Wilhelm would enjoy young Basil's company on the Grand Tour. Best Regards...

Prinz Geoffrey said...

For the record, the Reich Duke is our esteemed cousin, although we will not have met face to face until his arrival at our court, not since our youth anyway.

Konstantinos Travlos said...

Thank you all! I am trying to catch up on the plots.