Friday, March 20, 2009

Morean Chronicles 3

The hussar panted.

His breathing came heavily. Clam down, calm down he thought.

His black and maroon uniform was dusty and torn, from his flight through the scrubs.

A wetness was expanding on his left thigh. Must stop the bleeding he thought.

He grabbed his saber and used it to cut a strip of cloth from his tunic. He then tied it around his thigh above the bullet wound. He could still walk, so no bone was shattered, but the bleeding was bad. Keep low he thought. Keep low and they won’t find you. Don’t think about what happened, focus on keeping yourself alive.

He took two big breaths and calmed a little. He looked at his surroundings. He was hiding in a bush at the right side slope of the derbeni which the road from Morea to Tripoli crossed. Behind him was the point where the ambush had been set. A hidden ditch that had broken the horses of the first five troopers. Then the shooting had stated, from both sides of the ravine. Esternezy had died first, his head blown by a kariofili round. Only kariofili could shoot straight from the ranges they got attacked from. Kleftes then. But here. What where the amartoli doing!

Damn it, forget this superfluous thoughts. There was a copse somewhere ahead. He had ridden through here in the past. It led to a little stream that passed through the derbeni. It created some heavier foliage. He could hide there and have fresh water. They might seek him. But if these are kleftes they will just run away with the loot.

He started crawling towards the copse. The shooting had stopped, and he could here loud voices speaking in Greek. Laughing and joking, at his and his comrades expense.

Damn them.

Damn them.

His Hungarian heart wanted to fight. Not hide. But he had to live. He had to report back, he had……

The gun-shot echoed the ravine, stopping momentarily the kleftes from looting the corpses. After some tense minutes, down the ravine came a group of men dressed in the traditional Greek and Albanian foustanella.

“Good shot Kitsos! Now I know why you are one of the most feared kleftes of Morea!”
Shouted a burly big man, dressed in a traditional Vlach dress, swords, palas, daggers and pistols stuck in his belt.

“Hahaha, yes yes Ardit. But you and your martoli prepared an excellent ambush spot here.”

The two men, mortal enemies at most times, exchanged the customary embrace of greeting. Ardit took out a pouch that clinked and gave it to Kitsos.

“Here is the payment. Lay low for a couple of days and then march to Mystra. I will keep an eye on traffic here.”

“Can we keep the horses? They are magnificent animals”

“Afraid not. They have the despotal seal on them. We need to kill them, just as the riders.”

“Krima, ah well what can you do, fate is fate. Well then off we are. But I have to ask, aren’t you afraid of the Despotissas wrath?”

“Hehehe, Kitsos don’t worry I don’t stick my head out without a good reason. Wait for news in four days and you will see why.”

With that the kelftes and martoli, looted the dead Hungarian Guard Hussars, burned their uniforms, buried the bodies, and then killed and buried the horses. The job had gone smoothly.

Two days later, a rider coming from Tripoli was passing through the derbeni. He had the livery of a principial messenger. He died from a kariofili shot. Good ,thought Ardit, while patting the shoulder of his best marksman. Know she wouldn’t know what happened.

Two days after that, and four days after the Hungarians had been ambushed, a new rider made the pass. His livery was foreign. Ardit let him pass, even having one of his Amartoli escort him up to Mystra’s entrance. That must be that foreign lord’s man coming to rant at Theofilia for dishonoring his lord. Good.

The preparations for the Duke’s welcoming party where going as planned. Food, beverages and entertainers where flocking to the castro-politeia. The inns of Mystra where full of merchants and would-be revelers, who where going to take advantage of the party to make some money. Dignitaries from all over Mystra, and also some Ottoman officials had arrived as well. Anne Tzannetou was scurrying around trying to organize everything, while Sotiriadis was whining about the dent in the treasury.

Basil had arrived three days after the cavalry escort for the Duke had left. Theofilia was delighted to see her grandson again, and had kept hours listening to his experiences from the naval base. Basil also had some suggestions about changing some things in the navy, although Theofilia decided they where still too immature. But he showed interest which was good. Preparations for his own voyage were being made, while messengers from Kyllini had informed her that Basil’s ship was ready. The letter she had received from the duke talked about first visiting Monte-Christo. Which was fine, as Morea needed to hear Monte-Christan views about the Adriatic situation.

Meanwhile the ambassador of Beerstein, had been a great help in the preparations, pointing out, things the Duke would like or not like. He was also becoming popular in the court. A jovial and good man indeed. At the same time though, matters of state where moving. A day after Basil came, Andritsiotis departed with half the Old Regiment for Kyllini, where he would board transport vessels and go to Corfu, where he would take command of the army there. A day had passed since Andritsiotis departure, when the ambassador of Beerstein requested a special audience. Theofilia knew from guards that a man carrying the livery of the Duke had arrived in Mystra and had demanded to see the ambassador immediately.

What is going on, thought Theofilia tensely. The Duke should had been here by today. Five days had passed since the escort had left, and a week since the Duke had announced his presence at the border. She was in her throne room, with Anafli, Basil and von Gortz. Why is the duke not here? The doors opened and the junior major domo announced the Ambassador of Beerstein and a Captain von Eickweist of the Ducal army. The ambassador was visibly uncomfortable. The soldier had a contemptuous and arrogant look on his face.

“Your Orthodox Serene Excellency, I am sorry to bring this terrible news to you, but my lord, his Excellency Wilhelm, the Duke of Beerstein has revoked my appointment here, and is severing diplomatic ties with Morea.”

Theofilia was stunned. So was everyone else around her. She took a deep breath.

“Pray, good ambassador and tell us how have we wronged your lord, so that we make the proper amends.”

The ambassador looked warily at the soldier: “Captain von Eickweist of the Duke’s entourage has the details.”

Von Eicweist stepped forward, cast an arrogant look and then began in a voice, more belonging to the barracks then a court. “ My lord patiently waited for seven days, in a miserable little border town for your promised escort which never materialized, Furthermore you send no explanation for this delay, even after at his request, the local magnate sent a rider to inform you of his predicament. Is this how Morea treats it’s dignitaries? We were led to assume that this is a civilized place, and that you are a hospitable
lady. But it is obvious that the taint of eastern despotism is hard to wash off. My lord scoffs at your hospitality and admonishes you not to bother him again with your Byzantine plots and intrigues. And he would appreciate if King Basil of the Romans, does not seek to associate himself with the Duke, should they ever meet in their tours.”

Anafli almost drew his saber, but Basil and Gotz put restraining hands on his shoulders. The Hungarian was visibly angry at the German, and would had challenged him to a duel than and there. But in the end he kept his composure.

Theofilia was stunned, almost speechless. All her plans had broken down with just those words. Her whole strategy had been upturned. What had happened? Calm, calm yourself.

“Captain, We do not understand how this could had come to pass. We sent out the cavalry escort. Your ambassador can testify to this.”

“Indeed he says so. But one must question your veracity. You send an escort out. But how do we know that it was going to the Duke. Otherwise the only thing we see, is that you don’t know what is going on in your own realm. Anyhow we do not want your excuses. We wish nothing more to do with you.”

Anafli was visible angry, and the German cast a contemptuous glance at him. “Enough, with this disrespectful cur!” cried Anafli and drew his sword. The captain made for his own.

Theofilia got up and cried. “ Cease this behavior now!!!”
“Anafli surrender your sword to von Grortz. I will not have diplomatic representatives of other countries threatened in my throne room. Janissaries, arrest Loudovic Anafli and keep him detained in his rooms, until latter.”

Everyone was stunned. Anafli stammered a little, while Basil tried to say something, but was silenced by Theofilia’s imperious gaze. Anafli gave his sword to von Grotz, and let the two guard Janissaries take him. Theofilia looked at the captain and her eyes where smoldering coals.

“We are no oriental tyrant, Captain. And we will punish those who sully our honor by threatening our cousins and royal friend’s dignitaries. But to repay an insult, however unintended, with an intended insult can by all people of good stature, be seen as a far worse transgression. Ambassador, I will do all I can at my power to make amends to his Excellency the Reich Duke. He is always welcome in Morea, and I will find who is responsible for these events. Express my deepest apologies to him. But I understand his anger, and Basil will not attempt to co-travel with him. But if they should meet he will try his best to make amends. We also thank you personally for your stay here, and hope sincerely you return. As for you captain, I call you an uncouth cur, and insulting and incompetent man, and if I where a man and not a ruler I would have called you to duel minutes ago. You have insulted us, and we shall not forgive this, until you make amends. You may leave now from Morea in safe passage. But if you ever wish to return here again, you must first atone for your terrible behavior. Otherwise any person in Morea will have the right to call you out to duel and end your life. Now go. I have had enough of your mouth.”

The captain made no comment, as dark and hate-field eyes looked upon him. He now felt extremely vulnerable, with the savage looking janissary guards looking at him with hate. He and the ambassador left, the ambassador making a small bow.

The doors closed.

“Damn him, damn Anafli for his temper, and damn Radu for his information.”

“My lady”, said von Grotz, “ I beseech you not to punish Anafli, it was your honor that he wanted to defend.”

Theofilia looked at Grotz. “I won’t punish him, but his Hungarian boiling blood needs to calm down. I will keep him in his room for this day and then he can come out.”

“Where is Radu? I need him now.”

“He went into the city, for urgent business, yiayia” said Basil “ he should probably be back tonight.”

“Urgent business! He always is away at urgent business! This is urgent business! What happened to those cavalrymen!”

Von Grotz looked at Theofilia “I can’t think of anything. Treason? Where they attacked?”

Basil thought for a moment “ If either had happened, shouldn’t we had heard something from our agents in the country side, perplexed village elders, or martoli?”

Theofilia thought “Yes, and that is what worries me. What do you both suggest we do, about the horseman, the Duke and the party?”

Von Grotz thought for a minute and spoke “We should send a larger cavalry party to scour the countryside for news, rumors or the horseman themselves. Maybe 50 men this time. I will take command. But it worries me, that we have weakened the city guard so much.”

“We have little choice in this my dear General. We will do as you suggest, and hope for the best.”

Basil then talked “We should still hold the party, in maybe my honor, giving an official excuse for the Duke’s absence. Maybe the worrying news of war in Germany? Yiayia let me go and ride after him the day after tomorrow. I will catch up with him and persuade him of our innocence in this matter.”

Theofilia smiled at her grandson “My dear grandson, sometimes you are too innocent. If I did this, everybody would think that we indeed were wrong, and that I am now scurrying to be forgiven. I would like to mend ways with him, but as equals, not as a penitent. No, you will start your grand tour earlier then planned. Should you meet the Duke at a neutral place, then please go ahead and make amends in a honorable fashion. But I cannot have you trail him.”

Basil responded “But is not our honor sullied if we do not immediately make amends. You always taught me that yiayia.”

“Yes Basil, but this only holds if you are just a man and not a ruler. A ruler can lose a lot more honor by actions he takes to correct a mistake, if he is not careful, then a man. More eyes are upon you, and some of those care not about questions of honor, but seek weak points. No Basil you will go on your tour, but you will not go as a penitent. That is why you will also start your trip from Monte-Christo“

Basil did not retort back, and accepted in sullen compliance his grandmother’s judgment.

At that moment the door opened, and Anne came scurrying in with Sotiriadis behind her.

“My lady, we have a situation. A large troop of Venetian merchants arrived into Mystra, and there is no inn left to take them in. They have asked if they could ask for your personal hospitality. They wonder if the lead merchants could stay in the castle for the tow days of the party. “

Sotiriadis also spoke” My lady this would be unwise. It would cost us a small fortune to feed them. Let them camp outside, or settle in one of the smaller villages.”

Theofilia gave out a laugh, “ Hahahah, great. I wonder how those merchants will respond if they know they came for naught. The Duke will not attend the party.”

Anne and Sotiriadis were both stunned. Before they could say anything though, Theofilia stopped them. “I will inform you of what happened later. We will still hold the party in Basils honor. As for the merchants, their leaders and a small number of twenty followers will be given our hospitality for this two days. The rest will have to camp out, but we shall make it worth their time. Also somebody find me Radu.”

Sotiriadis sighed at the thought of another dent in the treasury. He then sat down with Anne to hear the tale of today’s events.

Later that night twenty five Venetian merchants with their entourage entered the castro-politeia of Mystra. Among them was one named Carlo.


ColCampbell50 said...

Ah, plots grow deeply in Morea. One wonders who ordered the ambushing of the hussar escort for the Reich Duke? Could it be the Delycate of Bizerta or even the vile Stagonians?

One hopes that young Basil can persuade the Reich Duke of confusion over the escort and can join him in his grand tour. We look forward to seeing both of them soon in the hinterlands of Thuringia at the joint ceremonies of the Margrave of Carpania and the Dukes of Courland and Sachsen-Wachsenstein.


Konstantinos Travlos said...

He will definetly come by your way, after Monte Christo. I wan't to see the mini!

Capt Bill said...

An excellent account of events in Morea. When our ambassador and bold captain catch up the the Reich Duke, he'll post a pleasant response. Best regards...Bill

Prinz Geoffrey said...

great story, I hope that all will go well for Morea, except for perhaps Dukas' escape.

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