Historical fiction novel, by Dimitris Apergis. Exclusively at the blog of OKYPUS in 36 weekly episodes, in English and Greek languages.
Synopsis: London, 1824. The boss of London's Crime Syndicate, Wilbur Barnaby, assigns two men to travel to the -revolting against the Ottomans- country of Greece and locate the renowned poet Lord Byron in order to obtain a gambling debt of his to the underworld. One of the two men is Welsh Bugs Hamhaduke, the so-called "neckwringer." The other is the enigmatic Lord Greywood. The two men will embark on an adventurous journey to the Greek city of Missolonghi via Paris. None of those involved, however, is aware of Lord Greywood's terrible secret: That he actually belongs to the Order of Strigoi Morti, the oldest and most dangerous generation of vampires.
ISBN : 978-618-00-1549-2
PRELUDE : Guilá Naquitz (1 chapter)
PART ONE : London (4 chapters)
PART TWO : Paris (10 chapters)
PART THREE : Vampires (10 chapters)
PART FOUR : Missolonghi (10 chapters)
EPILOGUE : Los Angeles (1 chapter)
[ep. 30 of 36]
PART FOUR : Missolonghi
It was a real shame that the Lord could not enjoy the Greek sun and the nature that raged under its bright rays during the day. From that marble tomb in which he had found his refuge and fell in stupor during daylight, he was unable to hear the tweets of finches upon the osiers or the cicadas that were pressed on their quaver by the tremendous heat of the noon or the women who were singing while kneading the bread with accordant voices. Nor could he smell the fragrances of cooked food from the domed firewood ovens.
One had to be awake those times in order to see the bees piercing through the colourful anemones to obtain the pollen or enjoy the wavy glares of platinum upon the lagoon's surface or to be captivated by the sweet blue colour of the sky with the happy contrasts of the white houses and red tiled rooftops. Even so, whatever the Lord was missing from the beauty of nature at sunshine, the Greek nights compensated with their mysterious dreamy allure. Plus, there was also the hospitable graciousness of the Greeks.
The Greeks shared a stoicism in the eyes that looked like it derived from a common gene. And it was that expressive stoicism that gave him the feeling that those people sympathised with his sorrow, that they understood firsthand the gloomy paths he was passing through, even though they did not know that he was a vampire, a creature of the night.
Once again the Lord's secret was in danger of being revealed. It was the night of the Ascension Day where the Missologhians celebrated Christ's miraculous ascent from earth to heaven forty days after His Resurrection. The youths grabbed the Lord by the hand and pulled him to join them in the celebration they had organised in the square. The Lord, sensing the danger he was in, tried with a few pretexts to avoid his presence at the event. He even pretended a severe cold with a high fever, though he had no intention of enduring the armies of the Missolonghian doctors visiting him in his room with treatments of bloodlettings and poultices and hot pads. He realised however that his excuses were too weak to persuade the youths and eventually accepted to follow them.
Upon witnessing the flood of people heading towards the square, he was seized by the first fears. People would of course greet him with royal honours, but he was constantly haunted by the familiar dazes as he saw the crowd light the candles among them, transmitting the Holy Light with pious prayers. And things got worse as he got involved with the crowding of the square, and in his every look he ascertained nothing but faces overwhelmed by religious devotion and steadfast faith in God, a faith which he had lost centuries ago, when he experienced his woeful tragedy, in that small village in Transylvania called Viragfalu.
The situation became unbearable when the people began to sing in one voice the Divine Liturgy along with the priests. The vertigo was now undeniable truth in his rationales, and the words of the Liturgy stung his ears like wasps.
O Christ our God, You ascended in Glory and gladdened Your disciples by the promise of the Holy Spirit. Your blessing assured them that You are the Son of God, the Redeemer of the world.
Let our mouths be filled with Your praise, O Lord, that we may sing of Your glory, because You have made us worthy to partake of Your Holy Mysteries. Keep us in Your sanctification, that all day long we may meditate upon Your righteousness. Alleluia. Alleluia. Alleluia.
Those words were enough to deeply shake the Lord. Unable to stand upright on his feet, he was desperately searching for a crutch in the crowd. Until he happened upon Daphne, who stood with the lit candle in her hands and prayed in earnest for her beloved, Petros Mousouris, with whom she was separated by thirty kilometres of wild nature and Turkish troops. The Lord rested upon her and was dazzled by her beauty. But he was more dazzled by the fact that Daphne bore a striking resemblance to the love of his human years, Euphrosine. As the images of Viragfalu and Euphrosine were now piercing his mind with lightning speed, he could no longer hold on and collapsed pale on the ground. The youths perceived him and forcibly pushed the crowd back to allow fresh oxygen into his lungs.
"Get back, people. The man fainted. Let him breathe."
The Lord's face had become all sickly white. He did not feel his limbs, his body was numb. He made no move to lift himself up, there was no point in that. He just stayed lying on his back. He let his gaze travel between the faces of the people who watched him anxious and then to the planetree that stood imposing and haughty above him. The warm south wind blew the branches of the centenarian tree, and in the whispering sough of the foliage the Lord felt recovered. The frosty blue aura that had haunted his eyes was now leaving him.
"Let's take him to Barbagrivas' tavern, friends, to make him feel relaxed. He will come to his senses over there."
It was not too long before the Lord was in Barbagrivas' tavern, sitting at a table with his back on the wall, surrounded by youths who looked after him and served him red wine. Barbagrivas hadn't seen so many youths in his establishment for a long time as it was frequented mainly by elders with their quirks on a daily basis. So the fat owner of the tavern rejoiced with all those youths and opened the window to purify the polluted air of the pipes and began preparing dishes.
"What happened to you, darling? Has anybody put the evil eye on you being such a handsome man?" said Mrs Barbagrivas to the Lord as she served the wine and meat on the table.
The Lord was slowly coming around. His face, albeit permanently pale in appearance by nature, seemed to be rejuvenated by the care of people around him. Looking around at the youths of his companionship, the Lord realised in their glittering eyes and in the youth emerging undeterred from their glowing skin that he was amongst the offsprings of a brilliant generation of men, of the genus of the Ancient Greeks. This thought made his chest shiver like a newborn bird in its nest.
But even if one were to confront this correlation between the two generations with a sarcastic sneer, he would in no way be able to ignore the fact that these people, the rebelling Greeks of 1824, were brought up on the very land that once felt on its back the heavy steps of a Plato, of an Aristotle, of a Socrates. So there was indeed something in common between these people and the immortal ancients, a firm link that held their destinies together: the Greek land and the creation that this land carried in its bowels.
"Do you feel any better, Milord?" asked Elias at his side.
"Yes ... Yes ... I'm better now ..." the Lord responded.
"Might it be the summer flu, Milord? Summer, you know, doesn't just come with sun. It sometimes brings sicknesses with it." said another young man.
"It was nothing. A slight discomfort. My mood changed abruptly and my body was exhausted for a while. Nothing worrying." said the Lord.
At Barbagrivas' tavern arrived more groups of youths and filled the place. This meant that Mrs Barbagrivas had to pick up the pace in order to serve the customers. And this is exactly what the poor woman did, and her figure was buzzing around at the tables with the demijohn like a nervous fly. The young people were not like the elders, the young people had an appetite for dance and music and not for political debates. So they gave themselves to singing while a few drunk were rocking their bodies under the lit oil lamps hanging from the ridgepole. And the music caught fire with the tamburs and the davuls and the zurnas.
What is the matter, my poor planetree?
and you stand withered,
with your roots in water
with the dew on your leaves?
My children, since you've asked me,
I shall confess to you. Ali Pasha
passed by with eighteen thousand men.
And they all sat under my shade
and under my cool
and everybody made a mark of me
and everybody shot me.
Others fired at my boughs
and others fired at my leaves
and Ali Pasha the dog
fires at my heart.
My leaves withered,
my heart withered.
In the midst of the tavern's revelry, Lord did not stop for a moment to marvel at Daphne's beautiful figure sitting at his company's table. Daphne had her own cares on her head and for this reason she did not actively participate in the celebration of the rest of the youths, instead she remained speechless and occasionally pretended a smile so as not to spoil the joyous atmosphere. The Lord understood this of course, and after he drank two glasses of Barbagrivas' aromatic wine, he assumed his courage and decided to speak to her.
"I know where lies your mind and where your heart stands. I know about you." he said, grabbing her arm slightly.
The noise in the room was such that personal conversations were made impossible. However, Daphne could and did hear the Lord's silent words (due to his deep bass voice) and she drew back looking at him in surprise.
"You know?" she stammered with a trembling voice.
"I'll take you to him. I promise." the Lord responded amidst the hubbub.
"You can't ... It's impossible ..." she nodded her head negatively.
"I'll take you to him. Trust me." the Lord insisted.
Willow tree, flowered willow tree
All over the world famous.
Willow tree, willow tree in the stream
I love you, it's not a lie.
Willow tree, willow tree in the plain
I love you but what am I to do.
So who is this valiance?
Who dances with the willow tree?
Inside Roumeli and Moria
Everyone is dancing with the willow tree.
Night. It had not dawned yet. The grapevine in the small yard of the Mastrodimos' house had thrived its foliage, its twigs wrapped like tentacles in the horizontal planks, its bunches hanging juicy. The rose bushes on the small parterre had flushed the crimson colour of their blossoms.
"It's impossible, Milord. The Turks have camped everywhere in the area. We shall never be able to travel thirty kilometres unnoticed between them."
"I'll take you to him. Trust me."
"But how? How are we going to do this? Which way?"
"I can't tell you any more at this time. But we shall leave at night. You will decide which night. You'll need to be well-rested because you shall have a long walk. And most importantly: you'll have to trust me."
"I don't know if I can do that, Milord. I don't know whether I can trust you. I still don't believe that such thing is feasible."
"I'll take you to him. It shall be done at night. I can say no more. You'll need to trust me."
At the yard of Mastrodimos there was quiet. Only the crickets' song defined these nightly hours. The revelry at the tavern echoed faintly from the city centre. Daphne was still contemplating the Lord's proposal. She was standing. She couldn't sit down.
One eagle proud, One eagle valiant
Out of his pride, out of his valiance
He is not moving to the plains, to spend the winter
Instead he stays lonesome on the mountains, on the high peaks
And it snowed at the mountains and rained crystals at the plains
His nails rotted and his wings dropped
And he came out and sat upon a high place, on a tall stone
And he quarrelled with the sun, and at the sun he says:
"Sun, why don't you throw your beams here in the shade
to melt the crystals, to melt the snow
to make a fine spring, to make a hot summer
to warm my nails, to heal my wings
to let the other birds and my other brothers come over."
"And what if we don't make it? What if they catch us?"
"We shall make it. Trust me."
[to be continued next Friday, 7 August 2020, exclusively at the blog of OKYPUS]
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A few words about the author
Dimitris Apergis was born in Larisa, Greece, in 1978. He graduated in BA (Hons) Film Studies in the UK. He lives in Greece.
His books are published in both English and Greek languages, by the OKYPUS PUBLISHING. https://en.okypus.com/okypus-publisher
Dimitris Apergis has received several awards for his literary work.
In 2018 he received the First Literature Award from the Panhellenic Association of Writers for his novel Gerard & the father. Additionally, in 2018 his novel Gerard & the father also received the First Literature Award at the 8th International Literature Contest held by E.P.O.C. (Hellenic Culture Association of Cyprus) under the aegis of UNESCO.
In 2017 his novel ‘At the Whiskey County’ received the First Literature Award at the 7th International Literature Contest held by the Hellenic Culture Association of Cyprus under the aegis of UNESCO.
In 2015 his novella ‘Jazz Room’ received the Second Literature Award from the Panhellenic Association of Writers.
In 2013 he received a Praise from the Panhellenic Association of Writers for his short story Labyrinth.
In 2012 he received the First Literature Award from the MONITOR Press for his short story Acid Rain.