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Thread: Timelines: What if Spain Failed to Control the World?

  1. #881
    Corporal Panzerkardinal's Avatar

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    Another fine thread in the tapestry that is the ongoing story. Well done, old friend. The selfless sacrifice on part of the good Father won't be soon forgotten.

    Great interview as well... although I was hoping the dashing Elf would spill the beans about how he gets his hair to be so pretty even in the heat of battle!

    The grass withers and the flower fades away, but His word will last forever.

  2. #882
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    Murmurandus: No silly comment this time ? :O I'm disappointed ! Haha but thanks ^^ Haha poor Legolas , I really shouldn't have use Bloom's photo for his interview , huh ? Har har XD

    Panzerkardinal: Thanks buddy And yes , Father Julio's sacrifice for his Orthodox brother shall not be in vain ! And thanks for your kind words on the interview ! It's always fun getting to know each author and what not . Maybe I can get YOU on the chopping block someday , eh ? XD
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  3. #883
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    Status Report: Writing the next chapter is now 20% complete ! We expect to be on schedule showcasing it today (Tuesday) ! If not , you guys should be better at reminding me when an update is due :0 !!
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  4. #884
    Corporal Panzerkardinal's Avatar

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    Never thought I'd say that being on a chopping block would be an honour, but there' a first time for everything ! xD

    OH you need us to be reminding you now ?! As if reading and voting wasn't enough ?! TYRANNY !

    Your SUV can climb hills, but my Protoss Colossus can climb mountains.
    Last edited by Panzerkardinal; 10-07-2007 at 21:45.

  5. #885
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    Quote Originally Posted by Panzerkardinal
    Never thought I'd say that being on a chopping block would be an honour, but there' a first time for everything ! xD

    OH you need us to be reminding you now ?! As if reading and voting wasn't enough ?! TYRANNY !

    Your SUV can climb hills, but my Protoss Colossus can climb mountains.
    Haha , that was the funniest thing i've heard all day XD Did you come up with that or was that from something ? Gosh , I really want to see what that new carrier-like thing that they have now too . Tempest or something it was called .
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  6. #886
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    Can't wait for Starcraft 2...
    the Koreans are going to have every strategy/cheat/bug/etc. mapped out the day it comes out.

    No offense to any Koreans (you know it's true ).

  7. #887
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    Quote Originally Posted by ColossusCrusher
    Can't wait for Starcraft 2...
    the Koreans are going to have every strategy/cheat/bug/etc. mapped out the day it comes out.

    No offense to any Koreans (you know it's true ).
    Yeah it's going to be great ! Working on an update as we speak !
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  8. #888
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    Chapter LII: Cornered


    May 4, 1583

    It was already past midnight but the chandelier light continued to bask the chamber with an ethereal glow. The crackle of the nearby fireplace did not disturb the bustle of talking individuals. Already the conversation had broadened to the eventual equalization of Europeans in the region and the freedom from the oppressive Ming regime which Infinite Castle strove for. For all involved, the paramount nature of the goal of liberation and freedom bubbled to the surface and could hardly be held down by even the most reserved and calm members of that spy network.

    Dinner had been a late affair; perhaps because it was a long talk or perhaps because there was a delay in serving the main dishes; nonetheless the gaps in time were eagerly filled by the interchange of the two groups. The venerable Viceroy Renault de Fronsac who had first hand experience against the foes of Infinite Castle fascinated the court with his stories of the Ming contingent in San Francisco while the relatively quieter Nia Obidos was a mysterious icon of feminine tenacity not unlike that of Infinite Castle’s Princess. As a defector, she similarly brought curiosities to the table which tantalized the listening group both academically and anecdotally.

    Antonio, on the other hand, exhibited himself like a man lost in a tempest. His emotions barely peeked beyond the boundary of his expressions but still they poured over in the direction of the woman sitting at the far end of the table. To say that Jesca returned his confused gaze would not be entirely accurate. Indeed, the astute woman was almost immune to the churning thoughts of the young Duke. She looked to him with an interested yet dispassionate gaze. Deep behind those dark eyes that she saw, however, she understood that kind of feeling that she could not remember having felt before; that feeling of reunion and return.

    Already, the adventures from Jerusalem all the way to Osaka were recounted with exquisite detail in the hopes of rekindling some latent memory, but each time, Jesca sat in her chair with an almost flattered grin. The look she would give continually chastened Antonio whenever his excitement would rise; it was a constant reminder of the blankness that had afflicted the Isabella he knew. It was not just the way she gazed at him, either, but the patch that she had over her right eye. It was like all her memories had been shrouded in the darkness of the patch and kept hidden in a locked vault mockingly close to her brain.

    “Interesting stories,” she had finally said after having listened to an Antonio who barely touched his servings. “Seems almost too crazy to be a lie especially considering that you have no reason to lie to me, my dear Duke.”

    Despite being coated in a chide, the temptation of that deduction remained with the group throughout the evening. One had to assume that there were either hidden motives involved or that this was just too gigantic a lie to be false. For those on the other side of the table from Antonio and his entourage, there was a simple visceral response to the idea of their Princess being recruited away from them.

    Most, like Lex, remained quiet. The confidence he possessed in Jesca’s will to fulfill her promise seemed like an impenetrable barrier; it was the depth of their common affinity for nobility and conviction that continued to keep them where they were. Others, however, were content to divert the attention of the whole group to more colloquial matters and exchanged words with the other visitors regardless of their shared awe for the existence of their Lady.

    It was once again in these shared gaps of chatter that Antonio returned to his pained yet jubilant stare. His face communicated for him even without him knowing it. Concealed in the motions of his eyes and the sway of his dark locks, Antonio sent his thoughts across the ether of warmed air. “I had forgotten to tell you something,” he had said through the movements of his face; the cleft expression of his lips seemed to emulate what was occurring closer to his soul.

    For a moment, it seemed as if Antonio was about to receive a more intimate response; an inkling of thought that harkened back to their friendship. The circuit had nearly been completed between them when the woman’s eyes suddenly darted away slicing with an eagle’s gaze at the far end of the chamber. The majority of the others including Nia and Renault endowed with the keen perception of their professions were similarly drawn to the other end of the large room.

    Half the people at the table rose to their feet and weapons were brandished like a phalanx arming for a charge. “Who are you?” Lexington took the initiative to call out to a stranger who appeared in the darkened shadow of the doorway. Lex took a step closer to his mistress simultaneously.

    The hooded figure coughed a wheezing exultation of phlegm as the slopping sound of mucus and disease seemed to conjure a sticky feeling in all watching. Nia was the first to react with alarmed urgency for she knew form her experience in the House what kind of creature this was: “A Ming Agent, working for Sio-Pan!”

    Harkened to the alarm, many pushed their seats aside to draw their weapons at the half bowing figure. Crouching so low, one could not see the approaching face, but in the one hand was a lantern and on the other a knife easily recognizable from the denizens as being one from their kitchen. Like some perverted mockery of the contemplatives, the man’s cloak and hood was as brown as Indiad choco but tattered enough to signal that it was often used. The smell of rotting flesh seemed to creep towards the congregation with a stinging slowness that made even the strongest of them dizzy.

    “Who are you?!” Lex asked again but the tone of his voice sounded like wood striking wood under the water. Numbing against the eardrums of all that now focused on the approaching, slow, figure, there was obviously some poison wafting in their direction that impaired sound.

    One of the men at the table walked up to the approaching one although his step was obviously being biased by the overpowering odor. Coming within the vicinity of the stranger, he repeated his captain’s words “Who are you?”

    He was answered by a gutting stab of the kitchen knife into his abdomen. Everyone else gathered around the table would have gasped for air at the sudden fatal blow if the air itself did not seem to oppress their thoughts and functions. Unlike Lex’s voice, however, they could hear every twist that wicked creature inflicted inside their comrade’s belly.

    “One… Two… Three…” came a drowning voice from underneath the brown hood. Each number spoken in the Eastern tongue was accompanied by the sound of organs succumbing to metal. “Four… Five… Edward Hastings… for the Five agents of his Lordship you have killed I hand this punishment down to you…”

    Edward Hastings’ body now reached the floor without a stomach. The stench that now drew closer as well as the gruesome demise of one of their companions paralyzed the others where they stood. The steady approach of the stranger marked a slow increase in how their noses percolated and ran from the aura. Some, like the young Lydia, could not stop the blood escaping her nostrils.

    “You all asked who I was…” was the watery voice again, “I say to you that I come as a messenger of the Lord of Acid. I am his Lieutenant… Sebastian Royce.”

    As the man raised his hood and his body, it was like an invisible plume left his form and surrounded those around the table. Still without movement, everyone could now feel something chafing against their skin and almost burning away at their flesh. The sting approached their eyes and many became blind without the ability to scream out against it. Deep within this most sacrosanct of chambers of the Infinite Castle, there was no way to press the atmosphere out; the very room cornered the air against those within. However, it was the name that would have stopped Antonio’s heart if it wasn’t already being dampened by the smell of death. Looking at that beautiful face of the young man he once knew, the words spoken were close to the truth—Sebastian had indeed come back and he was now an avatar of pollution.

    ---


    Father Julio’s voice trembled as his lamp similarly displayed his trepidation. The unsteadiness of his light made the approaching blades shine like a silvery spray of water tumbling towards him. His voice was drowned by the crunching movements of dirt and rock against pendulum and scythe. “P…Pa..ter Noster…” he began to sing. “qui es in caelis… sanctificetur Nomen Tuum…”

    As the wheels approached him, he could hear a smaller voice behind him but unlike the melodic chant of his Latin, it was the elegant flow of his friend’s Greek behind him singing: “Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου…”

    They both continued, each in their respective language but the tone of their surrender to the Father seemed to coalesce in harmony in that deepest of Byzantine labyrinths. Here, East and West put forth their songs like one voice utilizing both lungs…

    “Adveniat Regnum Tuum… fiat voluntas Tua sicut in cael, et in terra,” was accompanied by “ἐλθέτω ἡ βασιλεία σου γενηθήτω τὸ θέλημά σου, ὡς ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ ἐπὶ γῆς”

    Both thought deeply about those words and for a moment Andronikos wished he could call out to his friend and tell him an apology for the chastisement he had said earlier. It was obvious now that the young priest understood sacrifice—understood what this part of the Lord’s prayer meant—that it is for His will and not ours that we live, work, and even die and that whatever lot we are given in life we should not complain. Just as the Lord showed all of them, so now Julio will show his Christianity.

    “Panem nostrum cotidianum… da nobis hodie; et dimitte nobis debita nostra, Sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris;” was sung more quietly. Father Julio’s face warmed up as the contraption approached. Already, his voice was lost to the hammering of air against blade and the gnawing aperture of the machine was wafting dust in his direction. Nonetheless, he could still hear his friend enjoined with him: “τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν, ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφίεμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν”

    For the final words, the young man said them with eyes closed and arms raised up in anticipation for the imminent blow: “et ne nos inducas in tentationem; sed libera nos a Malo.”

    Andronikos could not bear himself to say the last words aloud as his eyes were fixated on the figure in front of him. The machine was already a step away and his mouth would not open. His heart, however, forced his lips and his voice leapt to God saying the last line: “καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν, ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ!”

    His voice unexpectedly echoed through the chamber and, like a great rumbling thud, the sound seemed to return to him in a choir. A fulminating roar erupted from the corridor and it sent both the archbishop and the young priest stumbling backward and holding their heads against the ear shattering din. Quickly adjusting himself to his feet, Andronikos looked forward to not only find his companion in tact but the machine somehow halted in front of him.

    Rushing to his friend as if the contraption could reactivate at any time, he pulled at Julio’s shoulders with his old arms until the young one, too, was on his feet. “Andronikos, what’s going on?” Julio asked as he steadied himself; his heart was still unable to catch its beat from the anticipated confrontation.

    “I’m not sure, my friend,” Andronikos replied with no small hint of joy, “but perhaps the Lord has decided to save us from the time of trial, indeed…” He had a smile on his face.

    Father Julio looked back to the machine and confirmed with his own sight the dormant nature of the contraption. His panting breath began to grow normal again and he began to wipe the dirtied tears away from his dusty face. “Thanks be to God!” he nearly shouted out. The noise of his exultation was heralded by a second sound which made both men jump backward from the hanging blades. No, it was not coming from the machine; it was from behind them, now. Turning to see what had made the noise, both were stunned to find a corridor opened up for them.

    “How could this be?” the priest asked.

    “I’m not sure…” the metropolitan responded honestly, “It all happened when we started speaking loudly… but I’d rather not stay here with that machine over there to find out…”

    Father Julio gave a reassuring nod and both made their way to the now open corridor. Whatever ingenuous device the Greeks created to respond to the tone of prayers was something both decided to discuss at a later time.



    Interlude


    “Commander, we’ve surrounded the aircraft and we’re receiving a positive feed on the signals Dona Jimenes planted,” the Lieutenant closest to the Commander reported.

    The white and dark green camouflaged vehicle jostled and jolted as it curved the next pass on the frozen road allowing for speaking between each man within the vehicle to remain on their intercom system. In actuality, Commander Georgiev was a consultant on voice recognition software and communications for the Bulgarian Branch of the Armada before he was transferred to work as a field officer. Part of the voice processing and command protocols that he now used within his vehicle were of his design.

    “Very good;” the commander responded into the microphone, “now that we’ve cornered them, we can—”

    Georgiev suddenly screamed out and withdrew his helmet from his head exposing it to the chilling temperature of the vehicle’s exposed top. Already, static was dominating the maximum power of the earpieces. Added to the confusion, the vehicle and global positioning navigation began to stutter in and out of existence.

    “What’s going on, Lieutenant!” Georgiev yelled out conventionally to his aide.

    “We’re being jammed, sir!”

    “Jammed?!” the commander responded incredulously, “The system is supposed to filter that out!”

    “I can’t understand it sir, we’ve lost the targets! I’m trying to patch us through to the Moscow command station but even the hardlines are being disrupted!”

    Commander Georgiev immediately stood up to face the incoming snow without reservation. With his binoculars, he viewed ahead what he had been afraid of with the communications blackout—there was a plume of red flame erupting ahead of them. His attack force—in its disarray—was being picked off one by one. “Re-route us to Constantinople

    ---


    “Ricardo, I told you, we’re getting requests from fifteen sectors for clarification… the supercomputers just can’t handle this kind of strain!” Lieutenant Leonidas exclaimed into the view screen.

    In between the frantic pattering of his keyboard was the noise of his partner Fernando similarly crunching computations and the confused expression of the communications officer he was attempting to explain the situation to on the other end of the video intercom.

    “Have you tried changing the logic mode?” Ricardo asked while his dark face looked directly at the camera.

    “Of course I tried that, whatever is transmitting from that downed plane’s got algorithmic memory unlike I’ve seen before. If this is Schwarzschild like the memo from the Japanese base command said then we could be in one hell of a mess…”

    “I don’t want excuses, Leonidas; Georgiev needs the command protocols back or we can’t—”

    “Impossible!” Leonidas yelled back at the monitor, “Fernando and I have been through the entire screening six times; there’s no way to dampen or redirect the field to restore the voice recognition protocols. Whatever they’re using; it’s aimed specifically for this…”

    For a moment there was quiet on both sides of the sound system. The sound of keys being tapped filled the gap as both Fernando and Leonidas went through line after line of wave form analysis.

    “I’ve got it!” Fernando said out loud as he turned his swivel chair towards his partner’s side of the room. Leonidas immediately tilted his head to look over his shoulder while he continued to enter code.

    “We can’t re-establish the uplinks because the system is being locked into processing the alien data,” Fernando began to explain; “We have to shut down the system so that the Commander can issue commands conventionally!”

    “It’s better than nothing…” Leonidas admitted. Considering the advent of Newtype technologies that allowed the interface of human and machine was still new, Commander Georgiev would still have a good chance at succeeding if they could restore conventional communications. “But how are you going to reinstate conventional command while the programme is still running?”

    “Leave it to me,” Fernando said with a grin turning back to his console. Immediately, an image of Ricardo similarly opened on Fernando’s screen. “Rick, I’m going to need you to re-align the Patriarchate’s com system to transmit back into the feed for me. We’re going to dull the system by superimposing a simplistic sound function into it…”

    “Give me a second…” was the response as each man slid line after line of code into their screens. “Done,” Ricardo acknowledged.

    “Upload complete on my end; There wasn’t much on the mainframe for simple output but this should do it,” Fernando said before looking at the monitor, “Rick, Roll It!”

    ---


    Miss Obidos leaned heavily against one of her men watching the small viewscreen emulate the conditions outside. The deployed men had formed a make shift perimeter around the fallen craft and were now in a position to allow for an escape route. She picked up the communications headset and slipped the transmission button on.

    “Status Report,” she commanded.

    “This is Garm Section; all is set,” someone reported. “This is Jormungandr, two vehicles destroyed,” another said. “Tiamat here, a little resistance but—” the machine fuzzed a little against Miss Obidos’s ear.

    “Say again Tiamat, what is your status?” she asked into the machine.

    “Tiamat here, we’re gett—g comm—cations tro—We’re no strangers to love; You know the rules and so do I.”

    Miss Obidos looked at the headset for a second and then to her officer manning the station. “What’s going on?” she asked curtly.

    “Our signal’s being disrupted from an outside source, Ma’am. Someone’s nullifying the phase differential with something else…” the man explained as he turned on the loudspeaker.

    “Gotta make you understand…” started to come out of the machine, “Never gonna give you up… Never gonna let you down; Never gonna run around and desert you!”

    “Where is the disruption coming from?!” Miss Obidos yelled out with a growl.

    “It’s coming from the Patriarchate’s office in Constantinople, Ma’am.”

    Chapter LIII: Patriarchate (coming soon)
    DANGEROUS LIAISONS
    The New Short AAR about Seduction , Manipulation , Intrigue , Mystery , and Revolution .
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  9. #889
    GARNIER FRUCTIS...

    I mean.. did you just rick roll the bad guys?

  10. #890
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lotus-6
    GARNIER FRUCTIS...

    I mean.. did you just rick roll the bad guys?
    Haha .. why yes we just did !
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  11. #891
    Crusader for Fun and Profit Murmurandus's Avatar
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  12. #892
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    Quote Originally Posted by Murmurandus
    Was that a TMNT pic?
    Haha no , just a random pic I found online XD . I don't even know what game that's from !
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  13. #893
    Corporal Panzerkardinal's Avatar

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    The return of Sebastian as an abomination er.... a lieutenant of the Lord of Acid! Now all we need is for the Kardinal to return wearing a red and blue suit, exclaiming.....

    "By your powers combined...I AM KARDINAL PLANET!"

    Another excellent chapter of the tale, good sir. I enjoyed it as I have enjoyed its predecessors.

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  14. #894
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    ...and done!

    I can't believe I finally caught up with this. Alas, this pleasure is slightly diminished by the fact that I will have to wait for updates to come, not for time to read them. But in any case, I want more of this!
    .

  15. #895
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    Panzerkardinal: ROFL Gosh , with magical ring powers to boot ! Thanks again for the comments XD It's always so gratifying to have you keeping up with us , old friend ! Thank you !

    Legolas: Huzzah ! Congrats in finishing ! Very glad to hear it ! Hope to see what you think of the chapters to come !
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    Status Report: Alrighty folks ! working on another update for tonight but I'll be a bit late since I'm going to go watch a movie tonight . Wish me luck with this one ! XD
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    Chapter LIII: Patriarchate


    May 4, 1583

    “Can you trust Julio?” Sweet asked with a low tone. Despite the dampening features of the Silent Room, the Korean spy master decided that it was better to stifle his suspicions.

    Jakob leaned forward with elbows against the wooden table. He had a different demeanor than a few weeks ago. It was not that he seemed less fatigued; he was still pulling sleepless nights and working on unforgiving heaps of paperwork, but he seemed to have an energy and drive that was not there before.

    “It’s definitely what I’d like for you to find out for me,” Jakob said in return with his lips moving from behind his arching hands. “How soon do you think you can find where they’re holding my uncle?”

    Sweet leaned closer against the seat of his master taking comfort in the bustling and gossiping nature of the rest of the room going about its normal business. “I’ve narrowed it down to three more spots and I’ve triple checked the details independently.”

    Jakob gave a nod to the news. “Yesterday there was yet another attempt at the Timepiece despite the position change. They’re definitely receiving information, but if Julio is correct, it’s not from my uncle.”

    “The thought of a mole did occur to me,” Sweet whispered back to Jakob, “especially with Antonio having been gone for so long. I’m new to the mainland scene, however, so I’m at a disadvantage as to who can be trusted.”

    Jakob’s hands squeezed against each other as he held them against his face. His thoughts pondered about the difficulty of the situation he was now discussing with Sweet and already ideas of smoking out the double agent percolated through his brain and stiffened the hair on his skin. “Suppress most of the information for now,” he calmly said to his friend, “we don’t want to tip our hand.”

    “I will,” was the terse yet effective response.

    “It’s important that we permanently destroy this cult so that we can focus on other matters,” Jakob summarized before breaking the interlock of his fingers to fetch a cup of water awaiting him on the tabletop. “For now, we can only hope that our message through Julio will be effective enough in delaying the capture of the last Key.”

    “Do you think the clergy in Constantinople is going to like this idea of setting up a Russian Patriarchate?” Sweet asked while straightening himself up. His eyes returned to that same bland droopy stare while he talked.

    “No; anything that has a hint of Latin in it is going to be viewed with suspicion and they would hate to take orders from us,” Jakob explained with a bit of a sigh. He gulped down a sip of water. “But the Patriarch knows the safety of the Key is important so he’ll probably explain away the setup as a way of strengthening Orthodoxy now that its main See is under duress from the Turks. The growing Russian community will be a great cover to conceal the true intentions for setting up the Patriarchate of Moscow—to keep the Key from falling into the cult’s hands.”

    “Well,” Sweet added with a deeper tone to his accented Spanish, “now that these cultists have one of the Timepieces, getting any of the keys could prove to be dangerous.”

    “Constantinople is the only one we don’t have direct stewardship over…” Jakob pondered out loud while holding onto his cup with an absent grip. “It’s bad enough to lose the Timepiece but with even one of the Keys…”

    For a moment both were caught in the contemplative stare of the busy dim room constantly moving about. Top advisors, dispatchers, pages, all were sliding across the room like some Greek machine. Across from the table where Jakob held the seat of honour, there was that well illuminated view of the world as it was known to the Spaniards. Flags pinned here and there designated the movements of armies both within and without the borders of Spain. Silent ones who only kept records on paper and passed notes to each other without so much as a whisper gathered around the wide tapestry of political entities and watched the men on ladders slide the various designators to and fro.

    Jakob and Sweet beheld the long swath of golden territories stretching from the Californias to Patagonia; from the Great Lakes to the Amazon. Already these areas were the gems of the Empire. Putting down their old ways, the natives of the region—most of them at least—chose to adopt the style of life that was prevalent back home in the Peninsula. Strengthened in this endeavor by Holy Mother Church, the Americas began to rise out of the darkness of its pagan past into the dawn of a promising, productive, and faithful future.

    “Sometimes,” Sweet began with an unexpected tenderness, “I wonder why it is that the Timepiece came here from the heavens.”

    “In the First Impact, you mean?” Jakob returned. “I think I asked my uncle the same thing when I first came here to Madrid…”

    “What did he say?”

    The young man sitting in the most powerful seat on the mainland furrowed his brow in half-painful remembrance. The older face of his uncle rose graciously to the forefront of his consciousness. There was no boisterous laugh or stern attitude that most people would have remembered that titan of a cleric. Instead, he remembered the softness and vulnerability of an old man stung by the wounds of a broken world—both politically and religiously.

    “He said to me,” Jakob started, “that although it’s always important to question why something happens, nothing happens by chance. Everything that’s happened since the beginning of the universe… everything has a purpose—a reason—a goal. Everything has an ultimate End.”

    Sweet tore his eyes off of the golden fields of the New World to turn to his master on the seat. “And the Timepiece has some purpose to play in this End?” Sweet asked sincerely.

    “My uncle used to tell me that perhaps it was even meant to be that the Timepiece would spell our demise. From what he was told—from what was passed down since the beginning of the Stewardship—the Timepiece, if used incorrectly, could consume us all in darkness. Us… the world… everything. And not just some metaphorical philosophical darkness; so few would believe us but it has been passed down since the beginning to take those words literally: A darkness which no light will penetrate.”

    “And that this would be how it should be?” Sweet questioned curiously.

    Once again, Jakob pensively wrapped his hand around his metal cup losing his sight into the entrancing tapestry of the elegant movements of his aides across the room. “The mysterious thing about our faith, Sweet, is that even if the cultists were to open the Timepiece and unleash this destruction upon the world, it would only be by God’s will that it should happen. That is to say that everything that is going on is greater than ourselves or even the choices of men…”

    “I suppose in some strange way it’s a bit comforting,” Sweet whispered resolutely.

    The young German nodded his head at that and lowered his shoulders closer to the table tiredly. “It’s how the Easterners must feel,” Jakob added, “It must be how they have endured the oppression, destruction, and reduction with their faith still mostly in tact. We can be no worse in our understanding of the world.”

    ---


    Tears did not flow from Jesca’s eyes because of the death of her comrade. Although she felt the pain of the loss, the liquid coursing from her lids was an attempt to wash away the burning atmosphere that seemed to pull towards her from the cloaked figure. Her blurry vision, however, was not as distressing as the paralysis she suffered throughout her body.

    Already, that figure was drawing closer to the table group. The kitchen knife which it held in its hand continued to drip the fresh blood of his first victim. That man, whose face was a strange combination of death and masculine beauty, was no longer the only stalking figure in Jesca’s view. Indeed, the far end of the room was beginning to be filled with hooded figures that shone purple against the shadow blocking the entranceway.

    Another step and the intensity of the stifling effluvium rose. For Jesca, movement was even harder and she could only concentrate on not allowing herself to fall. A sound, however, rolled her eyes to her left. One of the guests, Viceroy Renault had buckled and fallen face first onto the tabletop. His plate nearly cracked underneath the smash of his face and his hand dashed several of the cups and utensils in several directions. As Jesca looked on, however, she did not see the face of a succumbing old man on the table. Instead, those eyes were motioning towards something.

    Jesca followed Renault’s expressions closely as his eyes rapidly moved upwards and down from one object to another—from the candelabra to the spilt wine. With a sudden understanding of his actions, Jesca released her concentration just for a moment; it was enough to send her tumbling against the table. Purposefully extending her arms as best she could, the candles on her side of the mesa now flew forward. Flame touched soaked cloth and the alcohol ignited violently.

    The sudden conflagration elicited a hiss from the approaching foe and scorched the air into a fumed flame. The immediate eruption of those chemicals was enough to replace the terrible stench in everyone’s nose and released their bodies from the horrendous grip. Renault was the first to act as he immediately ran back to the fireplace and heaved one of the flaming logs towards the direction of the retreating foe with a poker.

    “His poison is heavier than the air!” Nia called out, finally being able to talk, “Stay away from low ground.”

    Even in the flat room, Nia understood her advice was not wasted. Although these were Europeans, the K-style technique which she herself had taught to those in the House of the Rose was practiced just as much in Infinite Castle. Already, Jesca and her troupe had dispersed to the walls to touch feet against vertical barriers. Those men and women sliced sword against the air just enough until it seemed as if they ran across the walls as if it was as flat as the floor. They were, however, not uncontested. Already, the hooded figures swarmed their side of the room. Both groups smashed into each other in a flurry of clinking swords and fist against flesh.

    Renault, although not as nimble as this den of spies, nonetheless found his target. Holding two torches, he advanced towards the hissing Sebastian with a cleansing sway of his weapons. The monstrosity in front of him raised his arms in defense against the oncoming flames and backed away slowly.

    Heaving into itself, the figure stopped retreating but instead hid his face behind his arm for a second before vomiting out a green liquid towards his attacker. Renault quickly raised his torch at the liquid and the fire and poison neutralized each other. With one torch left, Renault took the opportunity of the parried attack to step forward with his other foot and advance the remaining torch just enough to touch the screeching figure’s brown habit.

    With flames now overcoming even this polluted one, the others in the room recognized the decisive turn of the skirmish. Cloaked figures began retreating through the door with the agents in hot pursuit. In the center of the room, however, everyone else witnessed the crazed movements of this now avatar of flame. The cloak he wore was quick to burn away and his body, far from charring, cracked and popped at various places quickened perhaps by the volatile poisons within. After a few moments, the flames subsided and the figure fell to the ground in a dying heap.

    Lex was the first to return into the chamber to find the scene but, in his professionalism, he looked towards his mistress and said, “We’ve managed to get five of them but the rest escaped to the dock.”

    “Let them go,” Jesca replied with a heavy breath as she slowly approached Renault and the lifeless figure. “It will be a lesson to all those who wish to challenge us in our own court.” Her voice seemed to add a harsh quickness to the condemnation.

    “I’ll begin on putting out the fires,” Lex informed her dutifully. Jesca’s eye however was captured by the sudden twitch of this ‘Sebastian.’ Almost in response, Renault had drawn his sword.

    “It’s still alive!” Renault called out to the others. He raised his sword to deliver a stabbing blow.

    “Wait!” Nia called out. Renault stayed his blow but did not take his eyes off of the strange creature. “Watch carefully,” Nia added, “and you will see the secret of the Lord of Acid’s power.”

    As the charred body twitched and moved, its arm was raised towards the air and, to the surprise of many, burnt flesh subsided from concealed flesh and a hand erupted from inside the hand. Even Renault blinked at the morbid sight. “What is this?!” Renault exclaimed.

    “This is the ‘resurrection’ Sio-Pan dabbles in…” Nia explained as she stepped forward towards the body. “Through poisons and acids he places his fanatical volunteers into the bodies of those he wishes to rise from the dead. Weak and subservient… this is but a mere shadow of what Sio-Pan has been doing… these are Flesh Puppets.”

    “K…Kill me…” was the rasping tone from the young Chinese boy that was now emerging from the charred remains of Sebastian Royce. “Please… Kill me…”

    “This is the true face of Sio-Pan’s actions,” Nia said in a low tone as she knelt down beside the young one. “It’s the reason why I left that place… and why Sio-Pan must be stopped. You all see now the choice we must make. This is no longer a war just for political or economic gain. This is no longer a conflict for the emancipation of Europeans. Sio-Pan is working and engineering something that will consume the world in this kind of shadow.” She took a moment to caress the dying young man’s cheek despite the burnt and spent flesh surrounding him. “We have to put our suspicions and lethargy aside and work together for an end to all of this.”



    Interlude


    “But I don’t understand, Miss de Fronsac,” Hayato curiously asked, “How do you know that Carlos took him to the Patriarch’s Delegate Office here in Osaka?”

    Lara continued to stare out of the car window as the vehicle shuddered up and down against the uneven portions of the street. It did not help that Captain DeWitt was driving at a rather quick pace.

    “I saw it in his notes,” Lara responded slowly, “In Tom’s papers he wrote about the perpetuation of the Great Schism. Ever since Rodrigo told me that he would be choosing Tom as his ‘co-worker’ in the End—”

    “Carlos’s family has been working as an agent for the Patriarchate since they took over the de Guzman name during the establishment of Moscow’s Patriarchal See,” Rodrigo interrupted as he faced an inquisitive Hayato. “Even though he’s of the Latin Rite the de Guzman family from then on had been working with Constantinople since the beginning.”

    “I see…” Hayato lamented as he straightened himself back in the seat. “And so he really did take him to the Room.”

    “Yes… at least the one run by the Eastern Rite. He doesn’t want Tom to choose against them. He wants to keep the Great Schism from being perpetuated.” Rodrigo’s deduction seemed to echo in the small cabin of the vehicle.

    “But if you knew about Carlos already…” Hayato began his question.

    “For what’s coming,” Rodrigo answered, “from what I’ve come to understand of how it works. In the End, even Carlos will have some role to play.”

    From those words, Lara seemed to tighten the grip around her necklace. “I knew that all of us in our Class had special training when we were children. From our families and from our traditions—I never knew that Carlos would be working for the Patriarchate.”

    “It’s not that the Patriarchate is a bad thing, Lara,” Rodrigo comforted her, “In reality it was only a matter of time until we subjected Tom to the Room… I suppose that Carlos is just a bit more impatient…”

    Lara cringed at the thought. Regardless of the necessity of these procedures, it still pained her to imagine the torture Tom must be going through. She nearly didn’t notice when Rodrigo’s hand overshadow hers. “Don’t worry, Lara… we’ll get Tom back. It may seem like Carlos has betrayed us now, but I promise you that before the End you will come to understand why all of this had to happen…”

    “It’s is really coming soon, isn’t it?” Lara said softly, “especially now that Carlos has accelerated Tom’s development as a Key bearer, it’s really a sign that this is the End we’ve sought after for so long.”

    “Perhaps now it’s done,” Rodrigo said in response, “but if all Five of us Key Bearers are not ready—whether the End comes now or in the next generation we will fail… and you know this. Tom is the bearer of Jerusalem just as you are the bearer of Alexandria. The responsibility of choice may be coming soon and we must be ready…”

    Chapter LIV: Choice (coming soon)
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  18. #898
    Your Friendly Dictator Grubnessul's Avatar
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    been away for a few days and you create two new updates o.O

    nice work I must say, though I think the young priest was a little to easily prepared to sacrifice his life.
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  19. #899
    Heartbreaker canonized's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grubnessul
    been away for a few days and you create two new updates o.O

    nice work I must say, though I think the young priest was a little to easily prepared to sacrifice his life.
    Welcome back ! Well the young can be restless and bold such is Father Julio .

    Interview going up today !
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    Favourite Overall EU3 AAR: Q1 2007; Q2 2007; Q3 2007; Q4 2007; Q1 2008; Q2 2008; Q3 2008; Q4 2008
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    Three Times WritAAR of the Week: 4 March 2007 13 May 2007 & 28 March 2008;
    Twice AAR Showcase: 9 Dec 2007, 14 Jun 2009; Twice Best Character Writer: 9 Dec 2007, 13 Sep 2008

    Editor in Chief of The AARlander

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    You’ve Been Canonized! (Again!): grayghost


    Welcome everyone to this week’s special installment of You’ve Been Canonized! For those new to the programme this is our weekly interview special on Timelines where we take a patron author and get to know more about them , their thoughts on our AAR , and see a preview of their current AAR ! I’m your host canonized author of Timelines: What if Spain Failed to Control the World? and today we welcome back grayghost author of The Manchurian Candidate: Pu Yi’s Attempt to Restore the Qing Empire to the programme ! Grayghost was our first guest and now after all these weeks of interviews we’ll be happy to catch up with him ! To the questions !

    Part I: A Reunion
    We touch base once again with our good friend grayghost and see how he’s been!

    canonized: It's been a while since we've had you on the programme ; anything significant change for you in that time as a writer ?

    grayghost: Hmmmm...well, the biggest change was loosing my access to the forum at my work. Severely cut down my forum time, limiting my input into other peoples AAR's, and dropping my updates from 3-4 a week to 1 and if I am really lucky 2 updates a week. It did not affect the quality, or lack thereof, of my writing, but it beat crap out of my forum participation. Severely depressing.

    canonized: And what's your system now for doing updates for your AAR on your limited schedule ?

    grayghost: I try to still write them while I am at work, and then I e-mail them home and post them on the forum from there. Had quite the embarrassment happen last week: I sent my update e-mail home and when I got home I went down to do my post only to realize that I never attached the update to the e-mail before I sent it. You might say "who would know". sigh...my wife...never let me live it down.

    canonized: Haha well certainly a challenge but it seems that you still continue to dazzle us with regular quality updates . Would you say your writing style itself has changed since last we spoke ?

    grayghost: Overall, not really. It may seem that way sometimes because of the different moods of the situations, but that's all it really is, the changing moods. I have gone back and re-read my whole AAR, just to make sure I am staying on track, and except for maybe the first chapter when I was getting my feet wet again, I think I have stayed pretty true to form.

    canonized: As we mentioned in our last interview , you have a rather extensive subscription list . What would you say about how what you've been reading in AARland has changed or any trends you see in the community since our last talk ?

    grayghost: Well, my subscription list has gone way down due to access issues discussed earlier. As folks have finished AAR's I have not really added any new ones, or I should say very few new ones, so the majority of my subscriptions are the same ones that I was reading during our last interview. It is hard for me to comment on any trends. One thing I have noticed is now I have people soliciting me, nay berating me, for not catching their eastern AAR's and inviting them to join the Warlord Club. Had a guy just two days ago, drops a post on my AAR, not about the AAR itself, but to chide me for not inviting him to the club. The nerve. I did apologize to the individual, went and read his AAR, and let him know I would contact him.

    canonized: Speaking of the Warlord Club -- and I can hardly be unbiased considering I've been privileged to be an honourary member-- where do you see this multi-award winning group going in the future especially as the founder ?

    grayghost: That depends. I had some ideas, but my cut in time on the forum has really put a crimp in that. I now have a hard time going out to search for other writers who fit the criteria for the club, much less expand on it much. I did design a coat of arms for the club, but have yet to post it. I think I would like to see it do a little more, but for now it must remain solely a badge of recognition for writers who decide to try their hands at eastern AAR's and their award accomplishments for those AAR's.

    Part II: An Old Friend
    One of our longest running fans tells us what they think about Timelines !

    canonized: As we mentioned in the last interview you were one of the first person to comment on Timelines and you are currently the longest running reader we have . How would you say Timelines has changed since we last spoke ?

    grayghost: Well, I think the biggest thing is the scope of the writing. Although it is still a grand adventure, in the beginning it was far reaching political intrigue, great battles deciding the fate of regions, and larger periods of time discussed. Now, the time is compressed, and we now have a central core of main characters to follow, and most of the drama has settled in one part of the world, China. As a 'Warlord' you just couldn't resist.

    canonized: Haha well certainly it's a great place to have a setting . As I promised , though , we'll go through seasons of Characters so you'll see this pattern again of the grand scope and then condensation when we get to the next generation of adventurers . Among the character currently , do you have anyone that speaks to you or you find most affinity with ?

    grayghost: It would have to be Jakob, the young warrior, doctor, scientist. The fact that he is a healer and scholar are interesting, but he will fight as well when he needs to and is quite good at it. His character seems to come closest to who I am so, hence affinity.

    canonized: As someone who's stayed with us since the beginning what can you say is an enduring aspect of the story that keeps you going even after 50 chapters ?

    grayghost: That's easy. It's just a great damn story. The enduring aspects are many, but the fact is, it is just plain good writing and story telling. The worst thing a story teller can do is bore his audience. Ha, no chance of that here.

    canonized: As I've mentioned to you before , I enjoy your particular style at conveying dialogue , what kind of thoughts do you have on the way dialogue works in Timelines and how it makes the characters seem for you ?

    grayghost: You know, I remember that conversation, and you said you thought you needed to work on your dialogue. I did not agree. Your forte is narrative description, setting up mood, giving us the color of the sweeping landscape. Your dialogue is always in support of this main effort and does a very good job of it. In 'secrets', when Antonio meets with who he thinks is Isabella in the streets of the captured city about to be assaulted by 40000 Chinese troops, the mood you conveyed between them, the setting of the scene, was beautifully supported by the dialogue.

    canonized: Throughout the chapters one of the things that we've always tried at Timelines is to add some references and jokes and it's been a tradition now to do so . Now that we're so many chapters forward , how have these references affected your reading overall ?

    grayghost: Well, I would say, that it affected it by adding to the overall enjoyment. The first time, was the "Shield's Up", and "Ceylon base ship of the port bow", and it really caught me off guard for a moment. I asked myself, "did he really just write that", went back, read it again, then laughed my butt off. After that, I started looking for them. When it got to the "Knightrider" reference I was gagging, hated that show, but it was funny as well. Loved the "Time warp" reference, very well weaved into the story.

    canonized: You've also been a great supporter of these interviews that have been going on . Especially now that we've been sponsored by the AARlander , what are your thoughts on the Canonization series ?

    grayghost: Well, when you first proposed it to me, I was flattered...and a little nervous. But it was well received. Since then, you have gone on to interview a great number of people. Some of them that I had pm from time to time. I thought you did a great job of 'getting them out there' for lack of a better way to put it. It really brought these people to the fore, allowed us to get to know them in a in a way we might not otherwise have had the chance to do. It was the main reason I brought you into the 'Warlord Club". You had interviewed a number of us, but it was also the service you were doing to the forum by allowing us to get to know each other better.

    canonized: And certainly I was incredibly honoured by it ! Now for the last question in this section ; now that you've gone through several chapters , any revised guesses on what the Timepiece might be ?

    grayghost: Grrrrrr. The dreaded question about the Timepiece. I still maintain it as a device to either travel through or control time, but adding the level of alternate timelines that can be accessed using the keys. They open the gates to the parallel realms. There, my most lucid guess.

    Part III: Searching for Independence and Empire
    Now to take a second look at grayghost’s AAR !

    canonized: In our last discussion about your AAR we talked about Pu Yi being a centralizing character in the midst of all the political intrigue and going ons . However , you managed to shift your focus to Major Li ! This , though , was definitely not a negative thing considering the kinds of adventures and the kinds of characters we meet through him . Why did you choose to switch your focus to this man ?

    grayghost: Well, first of all, Major Li turned into a fan favorite. Second, there were various disparate pieces of this puzzle called Manchukuo that had to be brought into alignment. Major Li inadvertently became the agent for that..."Convergence".

    canonized: Well you've certainly painted a very large tapestry without compromising the gritty integrity of the country , the times , and the situation . What can you say , though , to those fans out there who are waiting for the spark of independence to occur ? Will we be seeing a struggle for independence soon ?

    grayghost: The struggle is going to remain behind the scenes for some time, but you will see more overt signs of it. Particularly, and I am giving a little away here, a private war between Major Li and Lt. Colonel Ryochi Naito, Imperial Security vs Kempeitai.

    canonized: I think part of this struggle , too , is an internal one . The soul of Manchukuo , so to speak , and the essence of whether individuals have honour or morality within them and we see that play out in the morally ambiguous nature of our protagonists (even Pu Yi !) . Especially in the most recent installments it has come further to the forefront . Where do you draw these ideas of internal conflict and soul searching from ?

    grayghost: From myself I suppose. Most of us want to be good people. The true villain is in actuality a rarity, like Cutter. The rest of us are forced to make hard choices, in most cases we want to be good, do the right thing, but that goodness seems ambiguous at times...and very unreachable. We struggle with pettiness and selfishness, fighting to keep it from coming to the fore, but failing at times, sometimes, miserably. Then, we try to right the ship and continue on path of goodness. It is a narrow, treacherous path, fraught with peril and temptation.

    canonized: Would you say that this struggle for identity and emancipation from the slavery of evil is the major theme of your work both on the level of its individual characters and for the nation-person of Manchukuo ?

    grayghost: Yes I would. This is a country and a people who are trying to find themselves again. I am going to reveal a little of a future update, but I think it really captures the essence of the story. There will be a scene where Wu Lio-fan is having an argument with her Mother. Wu herself is trying to come to grips with her feelings about Major Li. On the one hand she cares about him deeply, on the other, she knows he is a ruthless killer, the man that killed her father, and she expresses this to her mother. Mother replies, "Li is not a bad man. He is a good man struggling to make his way in a bad world."

    canonized: Speaking of the bad world , although we have seen the darker underbelly of Manchukuo now that you've focused so much on Major Li , you also allow the peripheral characters to bring a lighter atmosphere to the narrative ; could you explain to us why you chose to add these lighter elements to your otherwise completely noiresque work ?

    grayghost: Even in the darkest times, people still find a way to smile, to push away the darkness, if only for a moment. These people from Li's past, like Mother and Pope Dai know Li well, are familiar with him, and in there own way, close to him. There is a gallows humor that they share. It is the same in the military, especially among the combat arms. Men who face death do it in a number of ways, gallows humor is one. I drew from my own experiences in the military to convey this.

    canonized: Last time I remember we spoke about how your technical difficulties make it hard for you to provide any pictures at all . Has any of this changed or planned to be changed in the future ?

    grayghost: I have been considering it. Especially when it comes time for actual war. People will want maps. People always want maps...sigh. But there are other things that would convey well through pictures. The Manchurian Banners for one, The Imperial Ensign for another.

    canonized: And lastly , since our last talk did you have any change in plans for what kind of AAR you'd like to have in the future ?

    grayghost: I have a number of ideas. I have one for another narrative, one historical, a comedy that you and a number of others would be actual characters (that will pique your interest) and an adventure.

    canonized: Thank you very much , grayghost and it was great to talk with you again ! We wish you all the luck especially in the AARland Choice AwAARds and hope that everyone will keep both of our AARs in their minds in their votes ! As for next week’s guest , please check back in for updates later on in the week for the announcement ! Have a good week , everyone !
    DANGEROUS LIAISONS
    The New Short AAR about Seduction , Manipulation , Intrigue , Mystery , and Revolution .
    -~= =~-
    T I M E L I N E S : What if Spain Failed to Control the World?
    Seventeen AARLand Choice Awards: Favourite Overall New WritAAR Q1 2007.
    Favourite Overall EU3 AAR: Q1 2007; Q2 2007; Q3 2007; Q4 2007; Q1 2008; Q2 2008; Q3 2008; Q4 2008
    Favourite Narrative EU3 AAR: Q1 2007; Q2 2007; Q3 2007; Q4 2007; Q1 2008; Q2 2008; Q3 2008; Q4 2008

    Three Times WritAAR of the Week: 4 March 2007 13 May 2007 & 28 March 2008;
    Twice AAR Showcase: 9 Dec 2007, 14 Jun 2009; Twice Best Character Writer: 9 Dec 2007, 13 Sep 2008

    Editor in Chief of The AARlander

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