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Æ Firestone's Crimea Prologue

 

 

                                        A historical fiction written by Æ Firestone

             Brief note from the author:  This story is intended for mature and intelligent readers. 

                           Sensitive people should stay away and go back to their "safe space"؟

In the wrong place, at the wrong time; a young boy finds himself lost in a foreign land while caught between a geopolitical war with major European empires.

 

July 19, 1854, 8:45 PM


O’ lonely, Prince Niko, a member of the house of Dadiani.

A Mingrelian boy at 14 years of age with long curly hair

that is dark as night, his eyes were brown like sand

and had pale skin that is white as snow.

5 So, bored and tired of his luxurious life being with the        

privileged, crooked politicians and wealthy aristocrats.


He and his family were in Saint Petersburg,

the imperial capital of the Russian Empire.

They were to a royal ball in The Winter Palace,

10 hosted by the Tsar Nicolas the First himself.

In the Nicolas Hall, everyone from the empire

was there, from aristocrats, politicians,

ambassadors, and royal and noble families.

Dancing together, dressed in fancy suits and gowns.

15 with an orchestral band playing music

to give everyone peaceful sounds.       

                                             



Niko’s aunt was Princess Ekaterine Dadiani,

ruler of Mingrelia, who was also invited to the ball.

She and her family's noble responsibility played

20 an important role in resisting Ottoman influence

in her principality. Concerned about their

neighbor's crumbling decline of autonomy,

she approached the Tsar with his wife, Alexandra.


She asked: "Your majesty will you be so gracious

30 if you allow me to ask, what do you think about

the decline of the Ottomans?"                                                


“A sick man—a very sick man, a man who has fallen

into a state of decrepitude. That is the Eastern Question.

The Empire is dying. We may endeavor to keep him alive,

35 but we shall not succeed.

They will and must fall.“                                                      


She replied. “For years my people have been

threatened by them, this will be the opportunity

for the Empire and all of Europe to join your conquest.“


40 “You would think they will including the

Austrian Empire after we helped them with their                  

revolution six years ago, but I was highly mistaken”

The British have sided with the French, Austria offered

the Ottomans diplomatic support, Prussia and

45the rest of Europe remained neutral, thus leaving

our nation without any allies on the continent."                  


"France takes Algeria from Turkey, and almost

every year England annexes another Indian principality:

of this disturbs the balance of power;

50 but when my country occupies Moldavia

and Wallachia, albeit only temporarily,                                

that disturbs the balance of power.

France occupies Rome and stays there several

years during peacetime: that is nothing,

55 but Russia only thinks of occupying Constantinople,

and the peace of Europe is threatened.                                  

The English declare war on the Chinese,

who have, it seems, offended them: no one has

the right to intervene, but Russia is obliged to ask

60 Europe for permission if it quarrels with its neighbor.

England threatens Greece to support the false claims          

of a miserable Jew and burns its fleet:

that is a lawful action; but Russia demands a treaty

to protect millions of Christians, and that is deemed

65 to strengthen its position in the East at the expense

of the balance of power. We can expect nothing from                    

the West but blind hatred and malice."


“That is the whole point.” The Tsar replied.



Prince Niko was sitting in the corner and staring

70 at the Tsar talking to his aunt. He was never pleased

or comfortable with the Russians, believing they will

swallow his home that he loves so dearly.

He has always loved his people and his culture,

even his related neighbors.


75 His mother, Princess Terezia, saw Niko and sat

beside him, asking. “Niko, my dear, you look so lonely and frail.

 Aren’t you enjoying the ball?”


“How can you suck up to these Russians?

I can see why some of our people rebel against our families.”


80 She replied. "Watch what you say, if the Tsar

heard that he would cut your tongue out!"                            


"But why mother, why would our family cater

to the ones that rule over us?"


“We had no choice, without the support of the Russians

85 we would have been invaded by the Ottomans long ago.

We're lucky they grant us autonomy.”                                                          


She continued.

"Listen, my dear son, as much as I care for my people,

sometimes we have to make decisions we don't like.

90 Your aunt makes the decisions now since your uncle has passed away.

We hope she makes the right ones for our home.    


“I have something else I want to get out of my chest,

without disrespect mama, I'm kind of depressed

of this way of life of our noble family,

100 it's too much for me.”


“When you are older to be a young man,

you can be anywhere you want, but not now, not yet.

This world is not kind to young boys such as yourself,

you're not ready to face it yet.”


105 “I’m brave I can face it with all of my might

with the power of our ancestors! Just like my father”    


His mother smiled. “I’m sure you will, my dear."


A well-dressed man approach Niko and

his mother. “May I have a word, madam?”


110 She replied. “Of course, Senator.”


She said her final word to Niko. “Remember Niko            

you're not ready to face the world yet, you will

when the time comes, oh, and keep your controversial

thoughts to yourself, we don’t want the Tsar to do

115 to you as he did to that Ukrainian poet, Taras Shevchenko.“


“What happened to him?”                                                  


As she sat up to leave she said.“He was exiled to Siberia

by the direct order of the Tsar after composing a poem that

mocked him and his wife. He was kept under strict surveillance

120 and prevented from writing or painting ever again.

That’s why you must be careful of what you say.“            


Niko passed the Great Antechamber to the Jordan

Staircase to be left alone, thinking how much the lack

of freedom this empire has, it doesn’t, not really.


125 “What is freedom? How do you define freedom?                                        


Is freedom a state of mind where we can think

and be free of our unique intellectual minds?

Have our leaders of this Christian land forgotten that

where the spirit of the lord is there is freedom?

130 Isn’t that our unalienable right that,                                    

am I thinking for myself?


Niko was outside, holding both of his hands

high to the sky, and said “If the Holy Son sets

you free, you shall be free indeed!”

                         

                                


135 Niko and his family returned to their home                        

to Mingrelia in their Dadiani Palace in the city of Zugdidi.

Niko's father, Prince Grigol Dadiani,

wasn't present  at the palace at the time,

as he's a general for the  Imperial Army                            

140 backing off the Ottomans with the

Mingrelian and Gurian militias in the south.

Niko was in his room at his little office desk with his

typewriter typing a letter to his father.


"Dear Father,                                                                      

145 I hope you are doing well, mother and

I am praying every day for your safety.

We hope and pray that God will bless this country,

and these invaders will leave our people alone  

and that you and your men will succeed in this war.

150 Mother loves you, and we miss you so dearly, come home safe.

                                    

  Love, your only favorite son,

                                    Niko.” 




The boy was the only child, though he had                    

lots of cousins that were sometimes wild.

He likes to be alone, but he's been facing stress                

155 and depression from his schedules,

events, and the entirety of his noble life.


On July 19, 1854, the family heard the news that

a group of Georgian noble family members of

Prince Alexander Chavchavadze was captured on July 4

160 in Tsinandali, a Georgian village in the Tiflis Governorate.


Princess Ekaterine was a Chavchavadze until she

married David and became part of the Dadiani family.

She was very concerned about the news and was reading

the letter about it with her regency in her quarters.          


165 She spoke aloud to everyone.

"The Chavchavadze family's estate has been raided and pillaged;

all of the family members are kidnapped."


Prince Konstantin Dadiani's brother of David Dadiani

was part of the Regency and was very shocked and startled.    

170 He said. "Raided! By whom?"


"According to the authorities, it was Dagestani tribesmen

from the mountains of the North East commanded by

Ghazi Muhammad, the son of Dagestani resistance

leader, Imam Shamil, kidnapped Prince Chavchavadze's wife

175 and sister-in-law, Princess Varvara Orbeliani,

together with their children and some others

including all the servants and their children.

They captured everyone in the household, loot,

and burn the manor to the ground."                                    


180 The Dagestani is a group of tribes from the

Northern mountains of the Caucasus; they are no relation

to the Mingrelians or Georgians but their own.

They are very cruel, uncivilized, and

greatly despise the Christian religion.                                                      


185 "Barbarians savages! Why would they do such a thing?!"


"They are keeping the family hostage in exchange for

Imam Shamil's other son. They chose the Chavchavadze

family because of my father's contribution to Russia's

success in conquering the northern tribal lands of            

190 Dagestan, Chechnya, and many others."                  



"Princess, for the safety of you and our noble

family, we should evacuate to the mountains.

Temporary, Russian forces had fled the principality,

my brother and his militia are still defending their ground,

200 and Ottoman forces are advancing here every day".


The Princess looked directly at Prince Konstantin

and said. "I'm afraid that you are right, Konstantin.

Let's start the evacuation."                                                


Niko was behind the door of her aunt's quarters,

205 he heard the conversation and was just as worried

and concerned as she is. He put his hand on his

chest because his heart was fluttering with fear.


An old man wearing a traditional Mingrelian woolen coat 

with a high neck came from the hallway and approached Niko.

210 It was one of the Princess' guardsmen named Akaki,

he's been serving the noble family before Niko was ever born.


"Come with me boy, let's get your anxiety off your mind.."


Niko and Akaki were outside in the forest not far from

the palace causally competing with each other in a little

215 game of archery, shooting arrows from a bow at a target.


Akaki spoke. "Our people used swords, shields, and bows,

but since guns came along, that all changed."                  


Niko replied. "I think they're still relevant to a certain extent."


"I agree, the rifle has more range,

220 but the bow & arrow are more silent."


Akaki shoots his bow at the target,

and the arrow landed in the dead center.                            


"Nice shot!" said Niko.

"But I don't think I can achieve like what you did."


225 "Sure you can! It just takes trial and error.

I bet you can't replace my arrow with yours, little prince."


"Alrighty, I'll give it a shot."                                                


He shoots his arrow and then missed.                            


"Give it another try."


230 Feeling unsatisfied, he tries again.

He shoots it for the second time,

missed again but didn't wine.                          


The boy prepares his bow & arrow,

points at the target, sitting still he takes a deep breath,

235 looks at the target with his sharp eyes,

and finally shoots the arrow through Akaki's.

Akaki was surprised and happy for Niko for his

success and patted him on the back to express his joy.


"That's a dead one, good shot, my boy!"


240 Unexpectedly, another guardsman

with the same clothes as Akaki approached them.          


"Akaki, we need to prepare the

weapons and gear for the evacuation soon."


"I'll be there."


245 The other guardsmen left, leaving Niko feeling

disappointed again, remaining him of his anxiety.            

Akaki put his hands on his shoulders and said.


"Hey, cheer up, O'rewhelm your thoughts.

If your feeling troubled again, go to the monastery

250 and pray about it. It always helps me when I'm down."


As Akaki left, Niko thought about it                                    

and decided to visit their personal

monastery near the palace.


He went inside, there was no priest insight,

255 assuming he left for the evacuation.

A beam of light from the sun was shining in                      

the center of the church hall. Niko sat on the bench

in the front row, he looked up and said to God.


"Dear Lord, I pray that I and my family

260 will be safe from these troubling times.                              

Men fighting and slaughtered, women and

children being kidnapped and used. O Lord,

when will this engross infighting will stop?

What did we do to deserve this?

265 Bless and watch over us and our home."  


"Aw, That's cute."


There's a strange woman on the backbench

near the door on the left side six rows behind Niko.

Her hair was black with dark eyes, colorless skin,

270 and she was wearing a black dress.    


This woman kept staring at Niko

like a crow perching on a branch.


"You have no respect at all." Said an unknown man.


This mysterious man was sitting down on the right side

275 opposite and across from the strange woman.            

He had blond hair, blue eyes, and fair skin with

clothes that were all white.


The woman asked the man.

"Why do you care about him?"

280 She turned her head to face the mysterious man,    

as soon she saw him her face was surprised,

her eyes were wide,

and her jaw dropped like she was in fear.


The man replied,


285 "My Father gave                                                                

In charge to me.

This child of earth

E'en from its birth

To serve and save.

290 And saved is he.                                                              

I will follow him

To the end."


The man turned around to face the woman,

but she was gone like she completely

295 vanished like she wasn't there in the first place.      


The man turned back around and said to himself.


"Typical."


                                  


Several hours later, Princess Ekaterine and her

family had already evacuated to the mountains of Lechkhumi,

300 at the monastery of Tsageri where they      

would be safe. Niko and his side of the family were

to leave. Princess Ekaterine recently received a

letter from the Ottoman Commander, Omar Pasha,

asking for her surrender.


305 “Dear Princess Ekaterine,                                        

In the name of the Ottoman Empire,

we ask you of the terms of your surrender and join the empire.

It will be quick and easy unless you want to take it the hard way.

Either way, until then, we will come for you and seize your land.        

310 The choice is yours.                                                            

Sincerely,

Omar Pasha”.


After reading the threatening letter, she said to herself.


"I will remain loyal to my country, I shall not cater      

315 to foreigners who do not share the same beliefs and

values as we do. I refuse to dignify Mr. Pasha's proposal,

with help from our only ally, I shall send our forces to the

ground to defend this land from these extraneous outlanders."


It was evening, the sun was almost gone like a                

320 candle being faded out, the final evacuation escort

for Niko's side of the family was late due to unnecessary

mismanagements of the horses, wagons, and also poor

roads. His mother was in her carriage separate from          

Niko as the guards felt they should be separated

325 for security concerns.


Niko was in his own fancy wagon called a coach,

a large closed four-wheeled passenger-carrying

carriage drawn by two horses controlled                          

by a coachman driver.


330 It was 9 o'clock, Niko's coach and escort were

driving the bumpy dirt road in the foggy forest.


The couch made a huge bumpy stop, Niko knocked on

the front window where the coachmen were and asked.  

"Is everything alright, why did we stop?"


335 "A huge branch has blocked our path,

Prince Niko, we shall dispose of it right away."


"Make it quick and speedy,

this night is cold like the full moon,                                  

as I feel uncomfortable as we loon."


340 Inside the coach, Niko was wearing dark clothing

with a leather jacket shivering from this cold

gloomy night. He was looking through the left

glass window at the old tall trees, he could barely                  

see anything because of the thick fog. Abruptly,

345 he saw something moving like it was quickly

sprinting, he wasn't sure if it was a deer or something else.


"There 'tis again!" He said as he suddenly

saw another mysterious figure.                                                        

Niko heard something snap, looking up he seen a

350 branch and its leaves moving with nothing in sight,

but at this current time, it was not a windy night.


The Prince was getting nervous and paranoid as

he's never been stuck in the middle of the road                          

before at this time of night.


355 Niko said to the driver. "Driver, what is taken so long?"


"Driver? DRIVER‽"


The Driver was not answering Niko demanding      

questions as he was just sitting there in his seat.                                  

But then he fell off to the ground, with Niko's eyes

360 so big and wide he discovered that his driver was dead

as he had an arrow in his chest covered and socked with blood.


And out of nowhere, a band of Dagestani tribesmen came

from the dark words in horses with their guns and swords!              


"Ambush!" said one of Niko's guards.


370 They were also coming from the trees with

their bows shooting at Niko's guards and soldiers.


Niko was oppressed and fear-surprisèd from the

terrifying ambush in the act of fear upon these tribesmen.        


He saw one Dagestani was coming after Niko,

375 the Prince looked at the right-side door of his coach,

he fastly opened the door, quickly exit

and run as fast as possible to the dark foggy forest.                            


The boy didn't stop running as he was terrified that they

were coming for him, then he tripped on a small rock and

380 fell down to a steep hill where he kept rolling down until

he came to the bottom and hit his head on a rock,

knocking him out unconscious.                                                                    


An hour after the unexpected tribal raid, the Dagestanis

have retreated and a quarter of them was killed as they

385 have failed to capture any of the noble families.


Niko's mother was outside of her carriage, yelling, "Niko! NIKO!"

Hoping that her only son will come back, but he never returned.      


"NIKO my child, Where are you! NIKO!"


Akaki approached her. "Princess as much as I want your

390 son to return, I believe two things have happened,

he was either captured by the Dagestanis or he ran

off to the woods way from the raid."                                        


"If they kidnapped my boy, will they hurt him?"


"I pray not, they will not harm him for ransom of

395 whatever they want in exchange, but if's he's in the

woods, he must fend for himself until we come back."


"What? No! I order you to go after my son!"                                  


"My lady, we do not have enough men to watch over you and

the rest of your family if we search for him. We may have no

400 choice but to finish our escorts and then come back to find him."


Princess Terezia cried and put her hand in her chest, feeling dizzy. 

She collapses and fell to the ground.                                  


"My lady!" cried Akaki.


"My lord, what has happened to the Princess?"

405 said another guardsman.


Akaki checks her to see what has happened

to this grieving lady.                                                                                                                


"The poor lady has fainted, grieving for her son.

We must gather the bodies of our fallen and continue.

410 Hurry, Our destiny awaits!"



End of Prologue.

NEXT: CHAPTER 1

©2021 Æ Firestone 

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