Friday, August 13, 2010

A discrete meeting

Barcelona harbour, 23rd July 1713

Loys d'Hauteville nearly repented of having agreed a meeting in that Barcelona harbour tavern, for it was a quite popular one, and at that time it was literally crowded of every kind and class of men. Uneasy for such unexpected circumstance, Loys thought it was not completely unlikely that someone might recognize him, so that he chose to stay by the doorway for a while, closely watching the tavern clients to get ensured there wasn’t nobody known to him.

Then someone sitting alone in the farthest corner made a discrete waving sign, implicitly inviting Loys to take a seat at his table.

-Adieu siatz, Loys -the man said in a quiet voice.
-Adieu siatz, lo bon Paul -Loys responded, using the same Gascon dialect his talker had used before.

-Are you bringing the report?

-Yes I do, although I wasn’t able to complete it until early in this very morning -Loys drew some kind of notebook from his leather bag and gave it to the so-called Paul, who unfolded it and started picking a few pages at random, reading some fragments.

-It seems quite thoroughly detailed -the man said-. Might you give me an approximation of it in a few words?

-Not right now -Loys answered in a whisper, for a waitress was coming towards them. Both men ordered a bowl of soup and, once the waitress had gone away, Loys continued:

-The Catalans had a number of Mountain Fusiliers battalions scattered all around the Spanish penetration lines, which were in optimal situation for a fast reaction, and most of them have succeeded in doing so, thus occupying strategic locations in advance, or exploiting local disorders. Such initial successes have badly damaged the Spanish initial plan, as you can see... Look at the map on page... -Loys stopped for a moment while his interlocutor sought for such map -Yes, that one. There you can see one of the Spaniards' three major armies. -he nodded when the other man located a point on map- Right, their northernmost army. A small Catalan force has been mocking on their vanguard, while at their rear a local uprising has cut off their supply lines. You see? It’s a bad uprising, for the affected town is well defended by strong walls, which are in hands of the rebels... That army is nearly deprived of any initiative until supply lines are restored; they’ll be forced to send a number of troops back to regain control of the town, while the rest is dispersing at place for some foraging...

And this isn't all -he continued-. Now look at South. The advance of a second major army has been stopped by the reluctant Imperial garrison of another town, who have rejected evacuating it. The town is located on a rocky hill guarding a strategic pass, with a steep range at the rear... Local population has joined the Imperials, and they’ve also been reinforced by a whole Mountain Fusiliers battalion, so that defeating them and taking the town by force will delay the Spaniards not less than a whole week, no doubt...

-So that the Spaniards have only one army left to keep advancing -thoughtfully answered the so-called Paul.

-...True, but should they dare keep advancing, with their flanks deprived of the mutual defence from the other two armies? -Loys agreed.

-Good report, Loys. His Highness will be most grateful for it -the other man then concluded- But now I must leave for the ship, for wouldn’t like sailing after sunrise.

-Troubles expected at harbour?

-None. We’re sailing under Livornese ensign, quite unsuspected so far -the so-called Paul replied with a smile- And what about open sea?

-No news about any Spanish fleet so far. As for the Catalans, they're still struggling to gather something similar to a Navy...

-Excellent news! I guess we'll be arriving in Tanger undisturbed -Paul replied while standing up -Take care, my friend.

-You too.


Jordi said...

Bloody heretic Spy!!!

abdul666 said...

Spy or friendly observer? To be cynical, it depends on the sympathies of his employer. A character and situation full of 'Pulp'potential...

Soldadets said...


Bluebear Jeff said...

Hmmm, plots do seem to be afoot . . . or should that be "afloat"?

-- Jeff

Soldadets said...

An 18th century conflict without a plot is like a meal with no garlic... :D :D