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. 33 of 36]
PART FOUR : Missolonghi
At the beginning of their journey, Daphne and the Lord were required to cross an inaccessible area of tall poplars and thorny bushes. Their ally in this inhospitable vegetation with the rugged terrains and the dense darkness was the full moon whose light foretold every impending obstacle. The Lord was often forced to open passages between weeds using his cane. Three times the sharp branches of the trees came close to grabbing the embroidered headscarf that Daphne was wearing on her head. The trees seemed to be jealous of it and wanted to take it from her and keep it for themselves. As for the rough moss of the ground, it constantly advanced its plies which self-purposing were curling on the travellers' feet like tentacles.
At their every step, there were sounds of branches being broken or the crawls of lizards. Sometimes a stone would come off its place and then hisses were heard from the vipers that nested under it. Daphne dreaded the snakes, but the Lord had told her not to be afraid of them while she was in his presence. The owls sitting in the trees watched impassively the two travellers with wide-open phosphorescent eyes.
They finally arrived at the goat track they were looking for. The weeping willows, lined up as they were on the sides, formed an arch with their foliage along it. The ground was covered with piles of dried leaves and from inside the tangled root tips of the trees sneaked out here and there. Looking at the long cloistered distance she was now required to travel, Daphne felt relief and confusion at the same time. The first thing she thought of doing was to turn to the Lord and say excitedly, "Here's the way!"
But the Lord was nowhere to be seen. Daphne looked around but couldn't find him anywhere.
She then remembered the words he had told her before they left for their trip. Keep going, even if you don't see me anywhere . As she pondered this, Daphne walked down the arched path. In her anxiety, she held the small basket of the meal tightly on her chest. She occasionally recalled the Lord's words to allay her fears, as well as the unquestioning trust she ought to have in him.
The Lord had given her another advice. Never look at the blood. Why did he say that? She wondered, but she was now determined to faithfully obey the Lord's instructions, no matter how incomprehensible they seemed to her. She was not given any alternatives anyway. The Lord was her only hope in order to be close to her beloved.
On her journey, she happened upon the first paradoxical sign. A bat with red eyes hung from a branch and followed Daphne with its gaze as she passed in front of it. It was larger than normal and its head resembled a human head with mouse ears. At the sight of this grotesque bat, Daphne was terrified. But she soon regained her composure as she was prepared for such visions along the way. Don't be scared by anything strange or horrible on your way, just keep going, the Lord had warned her and she had already created with her imagination various things as to what the Lord might have meant by these words.
Although light, her step resonated with an insidious echo in this long path. She wrapped herself in the woollen coat that Lady-Asimo had woven on the loom, the one with the red embroidered neckline. The wooded part kept its cool coolness in its bowels, so much that Daphne's breath sometimes painted vapours in the air. She nevertheless continued to walk with a strong will. The Lord remained nowhere to be seen for the time being. The full moon bathed the arched goat track with its silver-grey glow.
Darkness began to turn black like tar now. The foliage of the willows thrived on her path and hid the moonlight. Upon seeing that she kept stumbling into the puddles and crevices of the ground, Daphne decided to light her lantern. She would have preferred to avoid this move as she did not wish to draw the attention of the camped Turks upon her. But she had no choice hereto, the darkness was too thick and she could see nothing. So she lit the lantern and continued on her way, keeping it before her body and illuminating the path.
"Merhaba kız!" a manly voice was suddenly heard from behind her.
Daphne turned her gaze directly to the voice. What she feared most, had finally happened. The enemy had perceived her at last. Five Turkish soldiers followed her with a steady step, about twenty meters away. They wore their all-purple uniforms with the large wrapped turbans and the vests of the golden laces and the bloated salwars. The long pistollas and the sharp swords sprouted out of their belts. Two of them held burning torches in their hands.
Daphne stepped forward again, accelerating her pace. In her ears echoed now the decisive footsteps from the boots of the five Turks on the rough ground. She was ordered to stop with whistles and yells. But she, obeying the Lord's advice, ignored their cries and continued to march uninterruptedly.
«Kız! Şimdidur! Şimdidur, yoksaateş edeceğim!» sounded the Turk's voice all thunderous and authoritative, and with it growled the swords that were now coming threateningly out of their sheaths.
But where was the Lord? If he had to act, that was definitely the time. The five Turks neared more and more on her, and Daphne whispered her prayers to her chest that was now about to explode from the intense thuds of the heart.
A roar. Long, savage, bloodthirsty, violent. And then began the sounds of screams of hysteria and violent devourings and shreddings of human flesh from sharp fangs. A pistolla discharged with a loud bang. The roars of that unknown beast continued with greater fury until the cries of the Turks were limited to desperate sobs and now all that could be heard now was the awful throes of a pharynx swallowing its prey with bulimia.
Daphne could no longer bear her curiosity and turned her gaze back to see. She was shocked by the heinous spectacle. A beast - half man, half wolf - was devouring the remains of the Turkish soldiers. This creature was all covered with hard hair, and the muscles of his body were bulging and wiry. His shoulders looked like they were made of steel, the tendons at his limbs were pounding with accumulated energy. His awesome muzzle was chewing the human prey, showing off its sharp blood-stained jaws. When this werewolf creature perceived Daphne's gaze, he focused his fiery red eyes upon her.
"Don't look at the blood!" he growled through his bowels, and Daphne turned her gaze straight ahead, overwhelmed by terror.
She kept walking steadily. At her right ear now came war cries and alarm trumpets. She looked at the dark hill to her right and saw small fires scattered here and there in its black area. The commanders of the divisions barked orders in Turkish from the metal funnels and their infantrymen grabbed their rifles to charge towards the spot where the five hapless soldiers were butchered. The first gunshots were heard.
Ascertaining that the gunshots were aimed at her, Daphne adjudged it wiser to turn off the lantern in her hand so that she would not be visible to the eyes of the Turks. But before she moved to blow the flame, a thick green mist surrounded her like a circular chamber and followed her step, protecting her. She then resumed her courage and continued on her way with the lantern on. She observed the way in which the rifles' bullets were unable to penetrate the green mist and dissolved in its cloudy hypostasis with momentary flashes that seemed like swarms of fireflies falling dead on the ground. She looked up and saw that this green chamber of mist was endless in length and reached the unfathomable skies.
She could sense the icy aura of the mist. The mist bore in its texture a poisonous unholy quintessence, as if its green vapours were gushing from a demonic womb buried in the abyss of the earth. The air inside the circular green chamber was burdened by the macabre suffocation of the tombs, by the bad smell of the decomposed bodies. Protected in this enclosed chamber, Daphne fell into an indefinable melancholy that connected her with the permanently melancholy nature of the Lord, with the inexplicable sadness that made every now and then its presence upon his sight. There was no doubt in her mind that Lord Greywood was a ghost, a metaphysical entity whose fate was joined as if by divine providence with her own. However, instead of feeling awe and gratitude for this enigmatic creature - the Lord - she couldn't but be overwhelmed by pity and compassion for him inside that sad green mist. For Daphne, the Lord now represented deep and unspeakable pain. But also strength. Unparalleled, almighty strength.
From her right now she could hear the heavy footsteps of the Turkish soldiers running down the hill, carrying lit torches. They ran furious from the enraged orders of their commanders in order to catch up with her. From the sound of their shouts and the vibrations of the ground beneath her feet, Daphne concluded that the Turks were thousands in number and were all heading towards her. She lost for a split second the faith she had in the green mist around her. Would it be enough to stop the Turks approaching?
More rifle shots. This time they were coming from her left, through the wooded plain. The shots violently tore down the foliage of the trees, but the bullets were unable to harm Daphne as they collided with the green mist, creating fiery flashes. The Turkish infantry, however, approached more and more towards her, passing between the very high willows, and she hastened her step to avoid them. From her left and right, she could now hear the weeds and bushes splitting and breaking from the rushing attack of the Turks. Soon the moment would come when they would surround her. And if they did capture her, what mind could imagine the punishment they would inflict upon her for the brutal death of the five infantrymen caused by the werewolf beast? Hell, she had to keep her faith intact. That's what she ought to do.
A long rattle sounded beside her. It came from the ground and was accompanied by the hissing slide of a belly. Daphne turned her gaze to the ground and saw in horror the large reptile passing by her inside the green mist. It looked like a snake, only it had four three-fingered legs with long hooked claws that helped it move. Its hard scaled leather had the rosy colour of human skin. Realising Daphne's gaze, this bizarre reptile opened its jaws wide, showing off its two sharp fangs and let its forked tongue stick out to detect the space. Daphne turned pale in fear, looking into those empty eyes with the vertical pupils, but before she even thought of slowing down her step, the reptile slipped with abrupt rapidity into the vegetation on her right and disappeared.
Through the dense darkness, the violent shaking of slim-trunked trees could now be heard before they gave way to desperate cries of pain and agony and to sudden gunshots. The harsh sounds of ruminations haunted the atmosphere as the reptile frantically devoured flesh and bones between its sharp dentures. The reptile moved with lightning speed, such that it did not give the Turks time to think of any defence in the dense forest, and it attacked its prey relentlessly, killing them instantly. Those Turks who were smarter and foresighted ran back to their camps when they realised that it was a wild beast destroying them and not the hand of man. As soon as it ravaged the Turkish raids on the hill, the reptile moved like lightning in front of Daphne and headed to her left, towards the Turks who were approaching her from the wooded plain. And after it did that, the reptile acted in the same deadly and ruthless manner, defeating the threatening infantry.
«Işığa doğru koş! Kadını öldür!” screamed now the commanders from the funnels and slaughtered with their swords on the spot those soldiers who were deserting.
The shootings multiplied. The same thing happened with the flashes from the ricochets of the bullets on the green mist. Now sounded the gallops of horses from the far end of the arched path, from the opposite direction of Daphne. Turkish horsemen speared the horses' sides with their spurs and the animals stepped savagely their heavy hooves on the ground. Upon hearing the neighs of the proud horses, Daphne stopped for a moment on the path and thought of going back. It was only her love for Petros and the words of the Lord that made her regain her lost morale and move forward determined. "Don't stop! ... Go on," the green mist seemed to echo in Daphne's ears, and she could not help but obey the dictates of the mighty spirit. But as soon as the cavalry battalion appeared before her, constantly approaching frantic, she weakened once more, losing her courage from terror.
The green mist was enraged by this lack of faith on the part of Daphne, and in its cloudy composition now swirled fiery tongues that revealed the wrath of the spirit, and the urges which until then were uttered in the form of whispers were immediately transformed into wild howls of fury. Realising her mistake, Daphne continued on her way silent towards the raging blows of the bridles and the powerful clops of the cavalry reaching her. However, she could not bear her silence for a long time and addressed the mist grievous to abate her doubts. "Who are you?" she asked, waiting for a response from the green cloud around her. "What do you care who I am for!?" the spirit revolted, and it continued: "Are you so weak to be convinced of my power that you definitely wish to appoint a name to me? Can't you see that I am capable of taming the earth and the sky? Didn't you see with your own eyes my armies plowing the lands and defeating the enemies mercilessly? Or will you rush to dismiss as simple illusions the swarms I command in the ethers? Go on, daughter ..."
That's what the spirit said. And as soon as these words were spoken, a multitudinous swarm of bloodthirsty bats flew over Daphne's head with such impetus that it tousled her hair like the wind. Those bats were big and horrible in sight, and when they were spreading their wide membranous arm-wings, they showed their hooked fingernails with reckless arrogance. Their mouse-shaped faces were dominated by the fangs of the snouts and by the fiery red eyes that shone imperious in the thick darkness. As soon as they made their hasty passage over Daphne, the bats attacked the cavalry battalion relentlessly and began to sink their sharp teeth into the human flesh, prompted by the smell of blood flowing through the veins. Although Daphne's perception was confused by the whirl of the moments, the beautiful daughter could immediately assume that the bats were acting thus unremitting more out of anger for the cavalry's red pennants because they waved disdainful into the kingdom of the night and seemed as if they arrogated the authority of the flying creatures.
The horses stood on their hind legs from the fright, shaking the riders off their backs, and then fled with terrified neighs from the scene of the massacre. The bats were thus left alone to devour the unfortunate horsemen who tried in vain to escape the doom. Daphne continued her journey enclosed in the green mist's chamber, passing through the extermination that was manifesting around her. Some Turks, covered in blood on the ground by the relentless bites of the deadly swarm, desperately spread their hands to her, begging for help. Daphne sympathised with the pain of the people because her nature was sweet and compassionate, but the mist did not allow her to waste time in her purpose and once again the compelling voice of the spirit echoed in her ears: "Don't look at the blood" !” Daphne complied to the stern orders of the mist and left behind her the barbaric bloodshed and the screams of death and hysteria.
The Monastery of Panagia Filotheou was not far away now. A few hundred meters separated now Daphne from her beloved Petros. The purpose of this bizarre journey would be fulfilled at any time now and the destination was getting closer and closer to her step. The hordes of the Turks insisted relentless and violent to ride in the path where tens of thousands had died, the path that she had marked in her course, and the spirits of the night raged in the crazy spree of flesh and blood. The whole creation of slopes and plain was lamenting from human pain, so mournful were the cries that Daphne could not bear her curiosity once again and turned her gaze back to see the genocide that was raging like a fire in the beautiful nature.
And the ground shook under her feet, forming deep cracks, and from the cracks came out loathsome worms and rats hairy and infected, filthy creatures that looked like they had been up until then imprisoned in the abysmal depths of the earth from some superior power, and it was now that same power setting them free to unleash their inmost frenzy. And the swarms of bats swooped like boisterous rainstorms of the night down on the enemy, crushing him with their sharp teeth.
And Daphne then realised that it was hell itself that her eyes were looking at and that there was no point in learning more about that spirit which protected her all the way. And after pondering all this, she continued her journey to the monastery without looking back at the brutality and bloodshed that was taking place behind her. But, even when she finally joined her beloved and perched like a nightingale in his loving arms, the poor woman was unable to take the morbid images of that decimation out of her mind.
[to be continued next Friday, 28 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.