The Sands of Himyar

Discussion in 'The World Stage' started by Tiburia, Oct 6, 2019.

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  1. Tiburia

    Tiburia Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2014
    Messages:
    2,344
    Location:
    Athens, Greece
    Capital:
    Propontis
    Nick:
    Demos
    On the sands of Homireia*
    We met and we danced
    In the streets of Herakleia
    I asked for your hand
    *Himyar in Pelasgian

    The words of the famed Tiburian popular song "The Sands of Himyar" echoed through the wide streets of the Propontine port of Hagios Simeon, between the cries of vendors and the endless chatter of the locals going about their daily business. A trio of street musicians, wielding a bouzouki, a baglamas and a violin filled Agoras Street, the large thoroughfare which cut between the Fishmongers' Market and the Flea Market of Hagios Simeon, the clicks of coins dropping inside their instruments' cases intertwining with the music. The sea of people moved to and fro on the pedestrian street, with officers of the Municipal Police posted outside the market, flanked by a few of their colleagues from the National Police.

    Running through the street and between the crowd was a young boy, no more than twelve years old, on his way to run some errands at the Fishmongers' Market. Stopping by the stand of a young man from Pergomeni, the boy counted the coins and bills in his pocket to make sure he had dropped no money and looked at the fishmonger's stall. Decidedly he pointed at a large swordfish he had spotted.

    "I'd like this one," the boy said with an air of confidence.

    Surprised but smiling, the fishmonger responded with a question: "The whole thing?"

    "Obviously not" the boy exclaimed, "My parents are hosting family and we need food for eight and a half! So... how many slices would you say?"

    "Who's the half? You, lil' Giorgos?"

    "No!" the boy protested the fishmonger's tease, "It's my aunt's baby!"

    The Pergomenian man let out a loud, honest laugh, closing his dark eyes and leaning slightly back momentarily.

    "Alright then, six slices should do it. Come back in a bit and I'll have it ready for you, cleaned and everything. Should be around seven kilos."

    The boy moved his head down and then back up, signifying his acceptance. He deposited one thousand oboloi (or 82 Euromarks), around half the price of the estimated seven killos based on the rate inscribed on the chalk plaque above the swordfish; the other half would be given on his return, as per local custom. Then, with impressive speed, the boy ran over to the stall of the crustacean merchant, watching the water tanks full of lobsters and crabs with an intrigued gaze. His mother had asked him to buy some little blue crabs, and if he had money to spare, he could also buy some sweetened crab legs. Luck had indeed blessed little Giorgos on that day, for he had exactly eighty oboloi (or 3.29 Euromarks) to buy the sweet confection. Clutching the shiny metallic blue box, with its intriguing drawings of crabs and ornate white lettering, the boy run back to the fishmonger's stall, a plastic bag with little crabs inside hanging from his elbow.

    Suddenly, the boy stopped running, having fallen on the leg of a stranger; as he fell to the dirty floor-tiles, Giorgos noticed a peculiar amulet which the stranger seemed to have dropped when Giorgos fell on him. Giorgos picked up the strange object, a small golden piece in the shape of a coin, with a featureless head crowned with a crown of thorns on the obverse, and some undecipherable writing surrounded by peculiar elongated shapes on the reverse. "Hey Mister, I think you dropped something!" he said as he looked up. His gaze fell upon a man dressed in a black suit, with dark, somewhat long hair and brown eyes.

    "O thank you, my good child. What's your name?" the man asked as he reached and picked up the little blue box of sugared crab legs that Giorgos had dropped and handed it over. Normally, Giorgos would know far better than to give his name to strangers; but he felt peculiarly drawn to this man, who looked so out of place in his fine suit and freshly washed hair in a market full of working class people in dirty clothes and with sweat and dirt all over them.

    "They call me Giorgos," the boy said.

    "Well, Giorgos, would you happen to know which way Dr. Gavaliotis' office is? I have an old debt to repay and I really need to see the man."

    The question did not need much thinking to answer. Everyone in Hagios Simeon knew of the learned and celebrated doctor with the charming and kind wife, whose rich mansion took up the space of three normal residential buildings. And giving directions in Hagios Simeon was a piece of cake even for those who did not know the place as well as the young adventurer in question, thanks to the well-organised grid of roads first built by the ancient Tiburans and still maintained by the modern Tiburians.

    "Oh yes, you just need to go straight for two streets, until you see the police station, and then turn right. The Doctor's office is in the red building that overlooks Naftilias Square, it's the biggest mansion of them all. You can't miss it!"

    "Thank you again, Giorgos. May the Gold-clad King keep you safe and healthy," the stranger said amicably, and then went on his way as directed by the young boy. Giorgos was momentarily perplexed: everyone knew the Autocrat of Tiburia wore purple, not yellow! Was this man some kind of foreigner? The little blue health insurance booklet that Giorgos' parents had been issued for him did have the Autocrat's Crown on it but one did not really need to wish for that... it was provided by law. Suddenly, his train of thought was interrupted by a realisation: he needed to get the swordfish slices! If he was late again, his mother would not let him hear the end of it. Once more, the youngster from Propontis' oldest port run off with the speed of the bullet, headed for the stall of Antonis the Pergomenian Fishmonger.

    ----

    Later that afternoon, Giorgos made his way to the cement-floored, open air public basketball field where he and his friends usually played. With ball in hand, Giorgos quickly crossed the streets of the Tiburian capital's oldest port, a working class area full of buildings in the simplified neoclassical style, along with some more modern, simple cement, steel and glass structures. Almost all these buildings were painted white, or some light colour such as light blue and light yellow, to reflect the light of the sun which shone brightly in the hours around noon, even in early October. As he was about to cross the street he noticed a familiar face on a poster: it was the stranger from the market on a Police wanted poster. Next to it was a bulletin published by the local Archbishopric of the Orthodox Church: the symbol on the man's amulet was drawn, with a warning writ large above: "BEWARE THE SIGNS OF HERESY". Giorgos gulped in fear and froze, as he thought of what he should do.
     
  2. Tiburia

    Tiburia Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2014
    Messages:
    2,344
    Location:
    Athens, Greece
    Capital:
    Propontis
    Nick:
    Demos
    Georgios Dobros, son of Titos, was a middle aged man with thick dark-grey hair, which he combed backwards with gel, and a thick but neatly trimmed mustache. His dark strong eyebrows matched his dark eyes, which were nearly as black as the tie that hanged over his white dress shirt. Georgios, known to his friends as "Giorgos", was an overweight man, and visibly so. His belly protruded creating a visible protrusion that forced his shirt forward, causing his black tie to lean forward at a slight but clearly visible angle. His cheeks were further proof of his weight, though his extremely broad shoulders and large build somewhat moderated the effect of the said disparity between height and weight. Giorgos was an honest and frank man, albeit sometimes ill-mannered or even brutish, and an avid reader of simple fiction and watcher of films, though certainly not an intellectual. This is not to say that Giorgos was not a smart man; a Major of the Tiburian National Police with over twenty years of experience on the job, he had a sharp mind and profound analytic skills, even if his taste in entertainment was not particularly refined.

    Sweating slightly from the heat of the sun and the weight of his own body under his thick, black dress coat, Giorgos wiped his forehead anxiously as he walked on the sidewalk towards the large red mansion on Naftilias Square: the residence of Dr. Avgoustinos V. Gavaliotis. The green doors of the residence, made of steel, were wide open but a blue tape hanged between them, reading "POLICE LINE - DO NOT CROSS". Crossing under the tape, Giorgos made his way indoors, the door being similarly open. A single officer of the National Police greeted Giorgos directing him upstairs. There, Dr. Gavaliotis stood flanked by a set of officers. Behind him was an open and empty safe, surrounded by markings identical in size to the a painting frame which lay on the floor before the painting, having been removed from the wall. The overweight police Major analysed the scene for a moment before stepping forward and introducing himself.

    "I'm Major Georgios T. Dobros of the National Police," he said, showing the doctor his badge. "I have been assigned to your case."

    Dr. Gavaliotis immediately ignored the Major's subordinates and looked the man in the eyes. "Mr. Major, thank you for showing up. I would appreciate it if you could tell your colleagues to stop bothering about questions whose answers are in the original incident report."

    "Certainly, Doctor. But if you want us to the get to the bottom of this, you must give us the whole truth. You told us that your house was burgled to steal valuables, though there are much more valuable items elsewhere in this house, which are much more accessible, than what you declared to be in the safe. This house is a fortress, Doctor. I sincerely doubt that someone would risk coming in here if they were an amateur. And I sincerely doubt that a professional would leave all sorts of easily movable valuables behind, only to steal a couple of jewels and business papers."

    "Are you implying that I'm lying, Major?" the Doctor said, having reverted to a defensive tone. "I swear to you, on my honour, that all I've told you is true."

    "I have no doubt that you've told us truthful things, Doctor," the Major replied. "I just think that you haven't told us the whole truth. And if you want us to help you, you'll need to tell us what was in that safe. Everything that was in there."

    "I- well, you must understand that I require some privacy. My clients are people of great repute and of particular... proclivities."

    Giorgos realised his approach would not get him very far. He needed to prod and see what would get a reaction. Pulling out a sketch of the man from the wanted posters plastered all over the port, he showed it to the elderly physician.

    "Have you ever seen this man?" he asked.

    "No! Not once in my life!" the doctor said.

    Giorgos then pulled out a sketch of the man's amulet.

    "What about these symbols? Do they mean anything to you?" he asked.

    The doctor paused for a noticeable period before answering. He sounded much more reserved and anxious when he delivered his reply: "I... I do not know what these symbols are."

    Giorgos pressed on: "But have you seen them before?"

    "I- I'm not certain, but I doubt so."

    Giorgos' face became more serious. "Doctor, if such designs are involved, the National Police will not be the only body concerned. Soon enough, the Ecclesiastical Committee for the Enforcement of Public Morality and Proper Doctrine will be paying you a visit. And I cannot protect you from the claws of zealots, if they suspect you of heresy. Their standards for proof are nowhere near as demanding as ours, and their resources are much more concentrated."

    The doctor paused for a few moments before responding. "There's no reason for the Church to suspect me of any wrongdoing. I'm as devoted an Orthodox Christian as any. I think it best if you continue your investigation and let me know how it progresses, Major."

    "Very well," said Giorgos after sighing. "Here's my card. You can call me at any time, if you wish to discuss this case further. I will keep you updated."

    As Giorgos exited the residence, he came across another group of men entering the residence. A single member of the clergy, flanked by half a dozen armed guards, all of them dressed in black. The man wore an Orthodox priest's black robes, though his beard was closely trimmed and his kalpakion (or cap) was shorter than must standard priests' caps, with a peculiar design of four small "panels" surrounding a round piece that covered the top of his head. The six men wore paramilitary gear with black balaclavas covering their faces, and a large golden cross painted on their armour.

    Giorgos and the other officers bowed and kissed the clergyman's hand.

    "Father, I ask for your blessing." Giorgos said; the black-clad clergyman offered it to him, after which the police Major stood again.

    "These are troubling times we live in, my child. Full of heresy and infidelity. Just look at the vile happenings in Sylvania: a whole country controlled by heretical cultists. Thankfully, the Sovereign of Tiburia has, in His majestic wisdom, provided for the proper monitoring and enforcement of public morality and proper doctrine in our land."

    Giorgos did not reply to the clergyman's talk.

    "Now, if you found any evidence or have any suspicion of heresy, you should certainly hand it over to us, my child. The Lord does not forgive those who aid and abet His foes."

    "Of course, father. Fortunately, I have no such suspicions. All I see right now is a common burglary of an upstanding citizen's home by a common criminal. His Majesty's National Police shall bring the offender to justice. The Great Church of Christ need not trouble itself with such minor matters."

    "Oh, my child, but we must indeed be vigilant in such matters above all," the clergyman said. "For it is those who stand above the common man that fall into the sin of pride. And pride can be the gateway to many other, much graver sins. Look at Sylvania; it was not the common wench that sacrificed children to the unspeakable demons of the underworld. It was the society's elite. Sometimes those we trust to guard us are those against whom we must guard ourselves."

    The inquisitor's threat was clear enough. The Church considered this matter its own 'turf' and would tolerate no incursion. But, thankfully, Tiburian Caesaropapism placed the Autocrat over the Patriarch. So, even if they could start their own investigation, the Ecclesiarchs could do nothing to seize the matter from the National Police. Whether that would remain so as the investigation progressed was another tale altogether.
     
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2019 at 4:16 AM

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