Asim Kara Yilan-Bey:
April 23, 1479, Ottoman camp, at the siege of what will be known as the Last Castle.
The siege equipment is all set. Everyone seems to be ready for the attack. There is no doubt that this last of the castles will fall with minimum of effort. Janissaries under my command are in high spirits. The score of continuous victories has left them with this infectious feeling of invincibility.
Nevertheless, I am prevented from sharing this mood with my fellow soldiers. I suspect it is because of my memories of this place. As if by some spell, my old name keeps ringing in my ears. Gjoke Dede Kola. I wish this battle was fought elsewhere.
I know what you might say: that I am a traitor and a lowlife and that I do not deserve to have my story told. But aren’t you being a bit harsh? All I want is to survive, and live and enjoy things that belong to me. All I want is to return home; although I am not entirely sure where that would be.
Let me just say that I am a practical man. I am a highly ambitious man. And I know that I am a greedy man. I won’t deny any of these attributes of mine, same as I won’t deny my well-known opinion: I never believed that this so called Kingdom of Eagles ever had a chance.
None of these should be reason enough for you to hate me. Yes, I am a traitor. I changed more skins than a snake during its youth, and that’s probably why they call me “Yilan-Bey.”
As their Snake Lord, I first betrayed the janissaries by rebelling for my long-held dream of home and belonging. Only after I joined the Kingdom of Eagles, I realized that I did not belong in this foreign place that I thought was my home. So, when the chance presented itself, I again switched sides in favor of the service to the Sultan.
I will not lie to you. At that time my career seemed to be going nowhere. Any other ambitious person with great appetite for success and career would have done the same thing. But I refuse to believe that was the real reason for my change of skins. Somehow, all these rebellions of mine were driven by my hollow heart. Maybe all I wanted was to make a home for myself. You see, I had this drive for homecoming. But I never found the home I hoped for.
I was part of the special janissary regiment ever since I was a little boy. My loyalty to my people was only a boy's dream. But that's all it was - a dream of a boy who was missing his mother and father and siblings. You can't expect that a man's ambitions to be stifled by a little boy's dream.
I know that you already accuse me of turning the sword against my brother. It doesn't matter if he is my blood brother, or a good friend, or brother in arms, I consider him my brother none the less. It’s so unfortunate that everything has to end up like this, for us to be facing each-other on the opposite sides of the battlefield. I feel bad for him because it is so evident that this last castle is going to fall with minimal effort. This last stand is as absurd as it is tragic.
I hear that nowadays he calls himself the Knight of Violets, as if he’s some real European lord. But I suppose we don’t really have much say in choosing our names. Just look at mine; it’s not like I wanted others to call me Yilan-Bey, Lord Snake-Skin. I hear some lady bestowed that name upon him jokingly, and it stuck. I hear he even got a nice piece of armor as a favor for helping some Italian King, and in her honor, he engraved the picture of a violet by the side of his heart.
All I want is to make a home for myself. But how does one do that after changing so many skins? Well, I would better be a snake, than a beggar wandering in search of the substitute for the lost glory and riches and power.
In the next episode: The Wandering Knight
The article was originally written in English.
Illustration: Sofie Olsen
The views, opinions and comments published on this BLOG are not necessarily those of the Kosovo 2.0 editorial staff. Also, the website reserves the right to delete, reject, or otherwise remove any views, opinions and comments posted on the blog stories. All comments that incite and encourage hate speech or discrimination will be moderated.