Friday, February 17, 2017

A Little Hamlet

Date: 9pm Saturday, April 22, 1651
Location: Gelibolu Peninsula, Strait of Dardanelles
Weather: a light breeze from the southwest and clouds drifting from the west. Feels like 13 C (55 F).

For three hours you make good headway, climbing up the hill east of Eceabat, down  and across a small valley, then up another hill and into yet another valley.  From the heights, you can see both the Dardanelles strait on the east and occasionally the Aegean Sea on the west.

The hills are well forested, though they have been maintained and cared for; as such, they are not what you would call wild.  You've seen shepherds, you've seen an isolated house in the distance, but it is only after reaching this second valley that you come upon a small hamlet.  The sun is quite gone, by now; it has fallen behind the hill you have just crossed over.  It is late dusk, enough to see but the light will be completely gone in a few minutes (the sun falls quickly at this latitude).

There are only about a dozen huts; there are goats and sheep drifting around the green grass by the well.  There is an old man who wishes you well as you appear and asks outright if you are bandits.

31 comments:

Enrico Guerriero said...

"No, grandfather," Enrico says congenially, "we are not bandits. We have traveled a long way, and we have much farther to go, and we are worn out from our journey and our constant vigil against said bandits... is there a safe place here to stay the night?"

Alexis Smolensk said...

"Safe? No. Nowhere safe." You don't recognize his accent; he doesn't sound Greek, definitely doesn't sound Turkic. In this light it is impossible to tell his skin tone or his features, but he does have a roundish head and heavy features.

He points towards the east. "Janissaries occupying the peninsula, right over there, beyond the ridge. Better be careful if you are bandits. And you look like bandits ~ dirty, scruffy, been travelling long without a wash."

Kismet said...

"What makes the Janissaries interested in that ridge?"

Alexis Smolensk said...

"There's been three rebellions this last two months," says the man. "They put 'em down but the Greeks are discontent. They executed a young girl in late February and the land's been up in arms since then."

Kismet said...

"That explains a lot. What did they claim she did that warranted execution?"

Alexis Smolensk said...

"She was a young, local girl, barely 14, when she was taken from her village. It was a tiny place called Pazarli. She was made a concubine of a garrison commander in Gelibolu, which she was for a year. But she was caught in the arms of a young janissary, Christian, obviously. They executed her for that. Him they sent to the frontier in Azerbaijan."

Enrico Guerriero said...

Enrico grimaces at this injustice but tries to remain clear of politics.

"Friend, perhaps we can help each other," he says. "We need a place to stay the night and wash our faces," for the old man's observation about them being dirty, scruffy, and unwashed was a cutting one, "and you could use some protection from bandits. We will post a guard through the night to ensure none will trouble you."

Alexis Smolensk said...

"You may pick whatever cottage suits you," he says. "I do not sleep."

Kismet said...

"That's a talent I've yet to learn. Do you live in this town by chance?"

Alexis Smolensk said...

The old man chuckles. "It is not learned, it is taught. Yes, I am a resident here."

Alexis Smolensk said...

"But this is hardly a town."

Enrico Guerriero said...

"Are you saying you are the only resident, sir?"

Alexis Smolensk said...

"As it happens, yes."

Sofia Viktorova Koleva said...

"What happened to the others, bashta? Surely you didn't build these cottages by yourself?"

Is there a well or spring within sight?

Alexis Smolensk said...

I had said in the post that there were animals mingling around the well. The old man is resting on a bench, under a tree, but a few yards to the right of the well.

He looks very hard at Sofia. "No, the people here were taken away."

Enrico Guerriero said...

"When did this happen?" Enrico asks, looking about in the onsetting dusk for any evidence of recent activity other than the old man's. "Who took them, and why?"

Alexis Smolensk said...

"Ask instead the name of this place," the old man answers.

Enrico Guerriero said...

Enrico feels the hairs on the back of his neck rise at the old man's cryptic response.

"What... what is the name of this place?" he asks, voice quavering.

Sofia Viktorova Koleva said...

(OOC: whoops, sorry about that. the well didn't register the first time)

Alexis Smolensk said...

"This is Pazarli."

Sofia Viktorova Koleva said...

(OOC: Strike 1, strike 2, and...)

"I see, bashta. The people, what will happen to them?"

Sofia Viktorova Koleva said...

"Those taken, that is? Are they imprisoned or simply killed?"

Sofia looks over her shoulder and glances around, as if checking for rebels or janissaries sneaking in behind us.

"We would do well to move quickly through the region, friends."

Alexis Smolensk said...

"They are quite dead, madam." He pauses. "I would not suggest moving at night. There are patrols in the hills, searching for spies and saboteurs ~ and they bring dogs with them. You are already in danger of them passing through here . . . but they do not every night."

Enrico Guerriero said...

"If it will not cause you further trouble, sir, we will spend the night here," Enrico says. "We will pay you for lodging. Or perhaps there is some task we can carry out for you in the morning?"

Alexis Smolensk said...

He will blast laughter at Enrico's suggestion. "I have no need of coin, Italian," he says.

"Be well. Sleep well. But know that there are more beasts that roam this village than Janissaries. It has gone wild, as wild as the forests surrounding us. There are wolves here, monkeys, weasels and even a leopard that I've seen. But you will find it no safer if you continue your journey."

Enrico Guerriero said...

Enrico bids the old man arrivederci and confers quietly with his comrades.

"I do not completely trust him, but at this late hour I think we are safer inside one of these huts than outside," he says quietly. "Still, we must keep a guard awake at all times, in case his stories of wild creatures and unwashed bandits are true."

Sofia Viktorova Koleva said...

"Wise counsel, Enrico, and agreed on all counts."

If I may speak for the party, we all occupy a single hut and post the guard as previously described and turn in. Sofia spends some time washing up at the well prior to turning in, to hopefully appear less like a bandit.

Sofia Viktorova Koleva said...

At a quiet moment, among friends, Sofia expresses herself like so:

"The old man may not be human or even mortal at all, it occurs to me. We could not tell his race nor his accent. Some local spirit or ancient race? It doesn't mean he or it is necessarily malevolent, but his manner and his even being here strike me as peculiar."

Kismet said...

Kismet leans in and places a hand on the sword.

"If it's Janissaries, perhaps there would be a magic word that could get us out of trouble? Like last time?"

Kismet glances at the sword.

"That said, I'm still keen on NOT getting spotted. I don't trust there isn't someone in the organization who's making sure the expeditions don't succeed."

Sofia Viktorova Koleva said...

"True enough, Kismet, I also prefer us going unnoticed. If we stick to the road tomorrow, and I feel we should to avoid seeming suspicious and avoid getting lost, being spotted may become inevitable."

Alexis Smolensk said...

Very well, you scout out the village and decide upon a location to rest. The old man does nothing to impede you.

With this in mind, I have put up a new post.