Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Troubled journey (6): A closing trap

Pierrelatte (Dauphiné), night of 24th August 1713

Marquis de Vilana quickly inspected the deceased monk's pockets and took out a book of worn leather cover. A Bible. On the first page there was a brief inscription in Latin, in a large and neat handwriting. It was some kind of dedication:

"To Brother Dídac of the Langue of Aragon. May God keep you and guide you in your new position. In the Year of Our Lord 1696"

Then he had enough, he finally recalled the true identity of that old monk, whose pityful remains layed on the floor. That certainty hit him like a hammer. Of course he had known that old monk! But it had been in Catalonia, long ago. Even before the outbreak of war. His actual name was Brother Dídac of the Order of... But... what the hell had lead a person of his importance and position in that remote French town?

The pragmatic aspect of Vilana finally prevailed. They could no longer do anything for the deceased man, but had enough evidences for him to have been pursuing a goal shared to them. It was time to get some answers still... provided they had time enough for checking the monk's spartan holdings. He stared silently at Claire, who quickly understood and started thoroughly inspecting the room. Meanwhile, Vilana begun a sharp interrogatory to the still commoted Brother Adrien, with the aim of discarding him out as a crime suspect -or not.

At last, Claire managed to find some documents deliberately hidden in a pocket sewn to the inside of some spare habits. The girl also showed a metal symbol, consisting of an eight-pointed white cross on red background. A Maltese Cross. Evidences over evidences. Vilana took apart the young Brother Adrien with the aim of calmly debating with him, while Claire hurried to her own room to shed her blood stained clothes. She was still stuffing the contaminated dress into her luggage when perceived the sound of footsteps along the corridor.

A sudden male voice took her by surprise "Murder!", the voice loudly shouted. Claire cursed to herself: it was impossible for that to have already seen the old monk corpse, because they had his rooms firmly closed, and now she'd heard no sound of door opening. Actually, that cry of alarm was nearly a straight incrimination, especially if someone managed to unveal her blood stained clothes in her luggage. With the fatal premonition that a trap was about to close upon them, Claire opened her room's door and feigned a expression of surprise and fear.

One of the militiamen, of course. Who else?

Under her adopted role of a terrified scary lady, Claire's relentless feline mind coldly started calculating actions and chances.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Troubled journey (5): Murdered!

Pierrelatte (Dauphiné), night of 24th August 1713

Claire Baizanville's steps echoed smoothly on the wooden stairs while she followed Marquis de Vilana to the rooms they'd just been assigned. The staircase our characters took was attached to the spacious dining room, so that their irruption had managed to reduce the noisy militiamen in there to a deep silence, while watched Claire with greedy eyes. She kept a deliberately calculated pace, ignoring the lewd comments softly exchanged after her.

Once in her room, Claire inspected it routinely seeking possible escape routes. Good, the window was practicable enough. Vilana's room was next to hers, although there was no straight communication between them. That wasn't that good. She was still inspecting when some steps in the corridor got her attention. Someone knocked at the door of the room in front of theirs -the one of Brother Vincent, perhaps. She carefully brought her ear to the door. Some intense discussion in French language, in a low voice however:

-I do insist, brother: I don't believe it wise...

-Don't worry, Beaujeu. Monsieur Villars is undoubtedly a honest, intelligent man, who will appreciate the purpose of our mission. And if I'm right, they're going to share our route. This is, as said before, a happy coincidence.

The rest of conversation became inaudible to her. However, it had been interesting enough. That Brother Vincent had kept Vilana's masquerade as Monsieur Villars. That could mean either a routinely habit for a man who was accustomed to secrecies, or a deliberate will to keep hidden the Catalan diplomat's identity.

A little later, Marquis de Vilana smoothly knocked at her door, to take her to the reserved dining room where the expected meeting with the monks was to be held. On their way downstairs again, they crossed the youngest of the monks, a boy whose name was Adrien. For the strong Catalan accent in the few words she'd heard from him so far, Claire guessed the boy was from Roussillon county.

"A really intriguing coincidence", she agreed to herself. The young monk discretely saluted them, and continued upstairs.

When Claire and Vilana were about to get in the main dining room, a sudden exclamation of horror make them rush upstairs again. Brother Adrien was standing under the lintel of Brother Vincent's room, his face frozen in a terrified expression,ceaselessly signing up. Claire was the first to react and with rapid strides got into the room, followed by the Marquis, whose heart unbridled with terrible omens. The sight at their eyes couldn't be worse: the venerable monk was lying on the floor his eyes wide open, with a rictus of infinite surprise on face, while his life dripped away through a deep cut crossing his throat. The brown-and-white habit soaked in his own blood, and an ominous reddish stain spread inexorably over the floor.

Claire hurried to try and stop the bleeding, despite the wound was evidently fatal. And so Brother Vincent died. For a moment, the room was plunged into a strange calm while the girl stood up again with bloody hands and clothing. Vilana slowly knelt down beside the corpse. Instinctively, his hand traced the old man face to close his eyes for the last time, and then his gaze was fixed on a medal the monk had around the neck. He delicately took the amulet and rubbed it with the fingers, to clean it from blood. As expected, it showed at the obverse a religious image -albeit an unmistakable one to him, a Catalan. It was the image of La Moreneta -that is, Our Lady of Montserrat.

"Not any coincidence. By no means", Claire thought, still dazed.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Troubled journey (4): Les Tricastins

Pierrelatte (Dauphiné), 24th August 1713

Passengers started descending wearily from the stage coach, while Llinàs (the most veteran soldier in Marquis de Vilana's escort) briefly examined the inn. It was an ensemble of minor buildings around a central 3-stories piece, all set amidst an esplanade sorrounded by forest, some feet apart from the road running north-south, parallel to Rhone river. "Les Tricastins" was its name. Well, it wasn't that bad. It would be a peaceful night, after the sudden storm and road accident. The Marquis and Claire were directed to the main building along with the small group of monks.

"Les Tricastins" innkeeper seemed highly pleased at the visit of so distinguished-looking guests, although he openly admitted his disgrunt because Vilana and the beautiful lady accompanying him would have to spend their night in his hostel on a day so wrong -just when he had been forced to accept the unexpected visit of a noisy group of militiamen in transit towards Cévennes county... True, the newly arrived visitors could neatly perceive a loud stridency of laughter, music and lively conversations, either in Provençal or French, apparently from the dining room.

-I believed that the Camisards issue was already over... -commented Vilana, who was fully aware of the violent Huguenot revolt burst not long ago at Cévennes county. Just as they Catalans, Southern French Huguenots had become another pawn else in that huge war's merciless chessboard.

-And so it is, Monsieur Villars -the innkeeper replied- It could be said the revolt has long expired, but a formal peace with them has not yet been agreed. In my opinion, weapons are now only in hands of the irreducible, the misfits... Criminals with enough blood on their hands to make impossible to them returning back to peace. His Majesty seems to feel confident enough to allow a few volunteer squadrons, like this one, for keeping those irreducible at bay... -A loud noise arose from the dining room, along with brittle laughters- Unfortunately, now it seems they're becoming more of a problem themselves, than a solution instead...

Llinàs frowned with displeasure. Perhaps this wasn't to be his most peaceful night after all, thanks to that damned gang of drunk militiamen... So he decided to get out from there and focus on the stage coach repairs, while Vilana and Claire went up to their rooms. He started working vigorously on the vehicle, with the help of Josep (the younger soldier) and one of the inn servants. He wanted to finish the job as soon as possible, in order to be able to discretely watch the agreed meeting at dinner of Marquis the Vilana and the monks.

He then saw one of the monks -that one drawing his attention at the road- who apparently had not entered the inn yet, wandering thoughtfully with a pipe at the lips. Llinàs watched the monk until he disappeared behind the stable building. Little afterwards, the man returned back to the inn. Llinàs shook his head with a half smile. "Let me hang up if he's actually a monk", he told to himself.

Some time later, after the repair was done, Llinàs started walking along the gravel road linking the carpentry to the main building. He was uneasy, for he had just seen again that peculiar monk emerging from the inn towards the stable and taking his horse off. He then had mounted and lead the horse behind the stable. Lead by a vague foreboding, Llinàs gave instructions to Josep for joining the horses to the coach and quickly approached to the inn. Marquis de Vilana's safety was an absolute priority to him.

Since then, events started rushing faster. About to get inside the inn, Llinàs suddenly heard two horses galloping away behind the barn, on his right. Two horses? He had no time to investigate, for then a loud voice from the inn's upper story abruptly tore the nightly silence:

-Murdering! Murdering!

Fearing for Vilana's life, Llinàs burst like a lightning through the door and rushed upstairs along the dining room, pushing his way among the militiamen, some of whom were clumsily taking their weapons...

Thursday, September 08, 2011

Renewed determination

On the Spanish side, 5th October 1713

After the honourable after-battle arrangament agreed at Montblanc town, the exhausted column of General Vallejo was granted retreat towards Tarragona city, where they met the huge army recently evacuated from Sicily. On their side, the small force defending Cervera town took advantage on the confident approach towards them of the Catalan column lead by Marquis of Poal, and discretely withdrew 1 hex westwards -no pursuit attempt was made by the Catalans, satisfied enough at the prospective of releasing Cervera without even a single shot.

"Twelve weeks pitifully lost", the new Spanish commander Marquis of Aitona thought. After all those twelve weeks, the front line had barely moved de facto from their positions at Summer start. Even worst, the Spanish armies had been soundly beaten several times in the open, so that moral of Spanish field captains was below a minimum acceptable level. It was to be a hard task to recover their traditional impetus, that legendary arrojo distinguishing Spanish arms all over Europe for past centuries...

However, Marquis of Aitona was still confident to turn the tide, thanks to the huge amount of reinforcements ordered by His Majesty in their help, gathered from all around the Empire -some of which, still in their way through Aragon roads.

Now he was prepared to kick hard the rebels and force them back into their lairs before Autumn came to an end.

He was determined to.

He needed to.

Sunday, September 04, 2011

Re-arranging my life

Sorry for the huge delay. The end of August has come to remind me the unemplyment situation I'm currently living -some disarrengements to adjust, a daily calendar as if employed, and so.

In the process of creating a new future of my own, my first step has been starting to regularly set gaming and modelling stuff on sale at eBay. I've just started some 10-days auctions for a lot of aircraft model kits and accessories, as you can see through this link. Every week I'll be setting a new batch of model kits or figures, whose 10-days auctions will overlap with the pre-existing ones. I'll be selling at first aircraft model kits and gradually will be changing to 20mm or 15mm ground vehicles and miniatures, either unbuilt or built & painted.

My second step will be painting under commission. I humbly believe not to be that bad at this, as it can be judged through my personal painting blog (sorry it's in Catalan language only!), so that I honestly can expect some amount of work at it. I'm already working on a FoW British Rifle Company on comission, with a Medieval Catalan army waiting just behind...

Both activities are likely to give me some stability and self-confidence in the next months (if not astronomical earnings, for sure!), while I steadily keep preparing a thuird step: my projected miniatures company. Let me tell you in advance that this will most probably produce wargaming stuff related to the Catalan involvement at well-known wars: Spanish Civil War & WWII, War of the Spanish Succession (of course!!!), Napoleon's Era, Maximilian's Adventure & colonial, and so. Let me also say that I'll most probably essay hard plastic and multi-scale production too. At such an early stage (I'm currently still designing my first set, as well as discussing the two following ones), it would be plainly unwise to tell you anything else, so that please allow me a discrete silence for a while yet...

Let me now write a few words about my wargaming activities: in spite of the late lack of activity at Defiant Principality, you can be sure this gaming project is growing stronger every day. So strong and hungry has grown this child, that most likely it will finally canibalize some other gaming project I'd been keeping in the last times. Such is the case of my September 11th, 1714 Project, consisting of reproducing with a miniatures layout a Catalonian boardgame whose subject is the 1714 fall of Barcelona. I'm not going to discard the work done so far, I'm simply going to drop that project as it was, to integrate it into my currently stronger Defiant Principality gaming adventure. This means to me a huge economy in effort and time (I was getting literally bored with painting twice a very same regiment once and once again: one set for the Principality, the other set for the boardgame!). It was a waste of time, as I've gradually realized.

Allow me a couple of days to definitely adjust my daily life to the new situation, and then I'll re-start writing on this blog -we still have to give an end to a gaming turn, after an already reported sound Catalan/Galatan victory!