• Crusader Kings III Available Now!

    The realm rejoices as Paradox Interactive announces the launch of Crusader Kings III, the latest entry in the publisher’s grand strategy role-playing game franchise. Advisors may now jockey for positions of influence and adversaries should save their schemes for another day, because on this day Crusader Kings III can be purchased on Steam, the Paradox Store, and other major online retailers.


    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

coz1

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And we have our authors. :cool: Thank you to everyone that showed interest. If you didn't make the cut this time, there's always next month. And we can always use a few good writers. I'll try and get these submissions posted on the 17th and then allow a week or so for critiques. And a strong goup it is, too. :D
 

coz1

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We have our submissions and hopefully we are ready to read. I will post all four (hoping that the "server is busy" signal will be kind to at the moment) and then once they are up, the floor is open to your comments.

Please remember to keep critiques constructive and thoughtful. And let's give these authors the attention that each of them gave to the project. As always, you are free to guess the authors, but remember to keep that a secondary effort with your critique the primary goal.

In a week or so (before the end of the month) I will post who the authors are and allow them the chance to respond to feedback. But for now, thanks to each of you for putting your work out there for the masses.
 

coz1

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Author #1

“A Lapse of Insanity”

And it all started back in the deepest year of 1941. Uncle Joe, also known as Josif Vissarionovich Stalin, initialy refused to believe his german ally, Adolf Hitler - the man who gifted him with the Baltic States and Polish, Finnish and Rumanian land - ordered his troops to cross the frontier to have some fun. He got somewhat mad but, well, it passed away and he was back into reality. Despite horrendous losses of man and materiel, the Red Army stoped the german Heer at the outskirts of Moscow and Leningrad in the last months of that year, and inflicted a decisive blow at Stalingrad (Joe's city) during the winter of '42-'43.

We can give him credit for those achievements. Although Joe didn't fire himself a single bullet (at least close to the frontline!), he kept his soldiers' and officers' morale up and high, with the best method ever: "Not one step back! The Commissars are looking after you and the Gulag is always open!" Perhaps if the french army used this method it could have held the german invasion for long, or even crossed the Rhine!

But now we are in November '43. Last days of it, in fact. Joe is travelling to Teheran with some of his staff, to meet the other two Great Ones: Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchil. Of course, Joe is the third one, but in fact is the first. His medical doctors lately have given him more and more medicine, specialy to control his tempers and incresingly mad behaviour. Joe in fact likes it: he says medicine is well tasty. Unfortunately, we face a new problem: the medics took less medicine than needed with them. It will have to be diluted with water and other stuff, so Joe thinks he is taking them and enjoying them still. But the effects, ah the effects...

His doctors started to give him some strong medicine after the soviet disaster at Kursk, during July and August. The Kursk salient was very well defended before the battle, with loads of minefields, pillboxes, strongpoints, machinegun nests, anti-tank guns with camouflage and so on and on, as well as the cream of the Red Army and Air Force. And the STAVKA knew the next german offensive would be there. But some high-ranking officer, a traitor of the motherland, gave the germans detailed maps of the soviet defenses, as well as intelligence regarding the army formations and air force numbers, radar sites and main landing strips.

The offensive came, the salient was closed after heavy battles and, in two months, the soviets took about 900 thousand casualties including prisioneers (Marshal Rokossovsky being among them), more than 3000 tanks and 2000 aircrafts, the german losses estimated on about 200 thousand men, 600 tanks and 300 aircraft. Most of the soviet heavy equipment was lost and, since most of the Red Air Force was destroyed by the Luftwaffe on their bases by the first hours of the battle, the german losses were much smaller. The soviet people could still provide men to substitute those lost, but the manpower poll will start to dry out after another defeat like this!

After this horrendous battle, the german army retreated a bit westwards to better defensive lines. Joe immediately ordered counterattacks, but they were all with no good result (except for the Heer!), and he started to reward selected and otherwise competent high-ranking officers with long vacations on Siberia.

Meanwhile, as the fighting around Kursk developed, US and UK forces landed on Sicily - the so-called Operation Husky - and, after one month of fighting, dominated the entire island. Pietro Badoglio, the famous italian general who wanted Italy out of the war, tried to oust Mussolini with a coup d'état, but was arrested. The italian forces continued fighting for the motherland alongside with his allies!

After Husky and the easy taking of Sardinia, they landed on mainland Italy, down south, but advance northwards was hard and very costly. Eisenhower even considered pull the troops out to use them in France, but then though twice and didn't do so.

Now, back to Teheran. The conference is very important and the danger of german commando raids is obviously increased: some people even report they saw german recon planes over Teheran during last weeks, but it's quite unlikely as the closest german airbase is out of reach. Nonetheless, Joe brought with him some full army divisions in advance, as well as air force squadrons: his usual forces in Iran wouldn't be enough, he thinks. He knows the germans wouldn't dare to advance again during the winter.

Stalin blames the western allies for the Red Army's defeats. Let's see what happens on the first day of conference:

Roosevelt: "We couldn't imagine the german army would do such a damage on the Red Army and we thought the fighting in Italy would be easy!"

Churchill: "They are really far from defeated."

Stalin, enraged: "It is all your fault!"

Roosevelt and Churchill, in chorus: "Our fault?"

Stalin: "Yes, your fault! You didn't send me enough help! You just sit your arses on your comfortable armchairs and do nothing to stop the german menace in the Soviet Union!"

Roosevelt, calmly taking some sheets from his folder: "Look at these statistics, Mr. Stalin. It shows the month-by-month amount of supplies sent to the USSR by the Lend-Lease program. Our help increases each month, and we even send you lots of heavy trucks, airplanes, tank parts, raw materials, as well as guns and bullets. Even food, milk and emergency rations! You could assemble whole armies with our help, and feed the soldiers and starving people!"

Churchill lights his cuban cigars.

Stalin: "But it was not enough! Not plainly enough! Anyway! Our supplies are drawn by horse, not by trucks! Your tank parts make our tanks weak! Your airplanes suck! And the people still starve, the soldiers also don't have enough food! Millions have died!"

Churchill: "For the trucks, please teach your men how to drive. For your tanks, please teach your tank crews and mechanics how to properly repair damaged tanks and, more important, how to use them to fire bullets at the enemy. For the airplanes, please ask your air generals to pay a visit to the Royal Air Force training facilities and see how it's done. For the food, if it's not enough, I recommend you to also issue ration cards to yourself and the members of the Party. And you always said that the death of millions is only a statistic."

Stalin feels a punch on the stomach.

Roosevelt: "I'd recommend you to anticipate the germans and make yourself an offensive next spring or summer. We plan to land on France in May and open a third front. Training has already begun!"

Stalin can't talk. His doctors arrive and recommend him to take his "medicine" and have a resting sleep, so next day he can continue the talks. Joe agrees and goes to his room after taking the medicine. Roosevelt and Churchill go to their rooms as well.

In his room, Joe of course doesn't waste the oportunity and, with his headphones, starts listening what's going on Churchill's and Roosevelt's rooms, the sound being captured by secret microphones. He hears them talking to each other on Churchill's room before Roosevelt leaving, and gets more mad. He calls some officers to his room, and talks about the conversation with the other Great Ones.

Staliin: "You see? They are allying with Hitler! They only send us crappy equipment, and call ourselves incompetent!"

He can't stop moving his left hand. He tries to hold it fast with the right hand, but it also starts to shake.

Officer #1: "They are actually at war with Germany. They are even fighting them in mainland Italy and drove them out of Sicily and Sardinia!"

Stalin: "This is only slideshow!"

Officer #2: "I wouldn't call it a slideshow knowing that they started bombing german cities to dust. Hamburg, Kassel and a few others were already devastated, making the Luftwaffe destruction of Coventry only a minor happening."

Officer #1: "Don't you see it now, Stalin? This is real war!"

Stalin: "Churchill always hated us, benevolent communists. He made a deal with Hitler, in which Hitler agreed to let some german cities here and there, whose people and industry were previously evacuated, to be bombed while crappy equipment would be sent to us."

Joe opens a bottle of vodka despite being disallowed by his doctors to drink alcohol. Drink a lot right from the bottle.

Officer #1, thinking to himself: "Better get out of this madness..."

Officer #3: "The enemy of my enemy is my friend! Churchill would never do it, nor would Roosevelt! Don't be so crazy..."

Those very last words were the worst of them all.

Stalin: "Get out of here! You don't agree with me, you don't deserve talking to me!"

Next morning, the Three Great Ones aren't there anymore. Churchill and Roosevelt were kidnapped by Stalin's orders and sent to a trip to Siberia, and the Red Army in Iran advanced towards the weak allied forces in the region. But, as soon as the orders were given and the other two Great Ones sent to vacations, NKVD agents with orders from Beria kidnapped Stalin and took him to a hospital for mad people. Then, Beria starts to negotiate with german, british and american key people and the rest is just history...
 

coz1

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Author #2

“Ah beautiful, an excellent example of Moorish architecture Dom Alvaro!”

“Indeed my Lord”. These halls of Alhambra are truly magnificent!” Dom Alvaro smiled. He knew that his Lord was fond of Moorish buildings.

“We do believe in the same God you know Dom Alvaro”.

“Indeed my Lord”. This time Dom Alvaro replied with some less enthusiasm. Not many years ago his master, the extremely wealthy Rodriguez Talavera, the financer of the royal court, had been the confessor of Queen Isabelle herself, a most powerful man whose words were the law in the kingdom. Then he had been entrusted with governing the newly conquered province of Granada, the last refugee of the Moor, at least up until now. Rumours said that the Queen had new plans for Talavera but they knew nothing yet. Hopefully they would go to some rich land… that would be great, he needed some more gold to secure his retirement.

“The Lord provides for us”. Talavera grinned as if he could read Dom Alvaro´s thoughts. Dear old Alvaro, he wasn’t the cleverest churchman around but he had always been very loyal and anxious to please. Besides he did not care about him being a converso, a converted Jew, either. Many Christians refused to work for conversos but not dear Alvaro.

Dom Alvaro carefully watched Talavera. Talavera, the man who had done so much for him literarily had taken him from the gutter to a distinguished position as a churchman. “So where do you think we will we go next my Lord if we are not asked to stay here of course?”

Talavera looked down on the floor filled with Arabic mosaic, it was so beautiful. “I really don´t know, I still await instructions from the Queen and King. They say a man called Columbus recently discovered the way to India”. Talavera took a deep breath. “Perhaps there are plans for me over there”.

“Ah, the new world, that would be a very honourable mission my Lord”. Alvaro´s face cracked up in a smile. Wine, gold, women, fresh fruit… Then suddenly his expression froze. Recently other rumours had been circling around. Rumours that said that Talavera had fell out of the Queens favour, that he was stealing Christian children and set them on a cross to mock God. Alvaro shrugged and his body turned cold, if Talavera would fall so would he….

Abruptly a voice rang out behind them and a guard appeared“. My Lord Cardinal Mendoza is here, shall I bring him to you?”

“By all means, do so” said Talavera and frowned. Mendoza, yeah he knew that name all too well.

Within minutes a small man stood in front of them who seemed not to belong to this world. He was dressed in black from head to foot, without a single speck of colour. His face was strong and curved with an expressionless cruel appearance. His mouth was small with peculiar sharp, white teeth. His eyes were red and almost seemed to glow even in broad daylight.

“So this is Granada, the nest of sinners…” said Cardinal Mendoza in a thrilled voice. He did not finish the sentence but picked up a small black note book and started to take some notes. “Must purify, must purify” he whispered as he wrote some words in his book by now totally unaware that he was not alone. "We all have an Achilles heal it is just a matter of finding it..hahah”.

Talavera and Dom Alvaro looked hesitantly at each other but they did not utter a word. They both neurotically stared at the little black book Mendoza was holding in an iron grip.

Cardinal Mendoza turned a page in his book. “Ah sweet memories, two hundred heretics burned at the stake at the same time, hm, it was in 1487 the best auto-da-fee ever, Torquemada was there, haha my old friend Tomas de Torquemada. He was Grand inquisitor then and I was his aide... Those were the days…. Haha, the Jews were continuing their evil ways but we stopped them didn´t we?” he said rhetorically. “No more secret waiting for the return of the prophet Elijah. No more drinking the blood of crucified Christian children..haha”.

Dom Alvaro started to sweat as he watched Cardinal Mendoza slaver over the little book. Truly this was a man to fear. He noticed that Talavera stood perfectly still even when Cardinal Mendoza mentioned the terrible persecution of his former brothers. Dom Alvaro even imagined that Talavera smiled slightly. Maybe this Cardinal Mendoza should be more careful. It often happened that a too keen inquisitor was assassinated; many things could happen in the crowded stone streets of Granada….

Cardinal Mendoza wept away saliva from his mouth. “Dom Talavera you have done a lot to create order here, I will give you that, but you have failed in some vital parts too” he talked slowly as to mark every word. “And yes I know all about your old customs hehe”.

Dom Alvaro heard the man mock his master and couldn´t restrain himself any longer. “So in what way have Dom Talavera failed?” he shouted at the disgusting man.

Cardinal Mendoza´s eyes seemed to turn blood red. “Well let me ask you a question. How many auto-da-fees have been held here? How many Moors have been converted? Do I feel the aroma of burnt Korans as I entered this unclean city? I want to hear Te Deum Laudamus in every street here, do you hear me? It shall waft through every stone street and make the Moors in this town shiver! I want to see hot pincers taking bites from infidel flesh, behold, I will tear down the mosque of Satan which say they are Moslems, and are not, but do lie…die, die die….must take more notes in my book!”

Auto-da-fee, the act of faith, burning heretics here in peaceful Granada? Dom Alvaro looked down on the inscriptions in the marble floor. Would he ever see the sun set in the new land? Would he smell the sweet scent of Gold? Would he be drinking sweet wine and dancing away the night with young, beautiful Indian women? Or would he end up in the gutter poor and alone as a smelling beggar? It only took an assassin in the dark, a cold dagger, a swift blow, a scream. …

Cardinal Mendoza made an accusatory gesture with his hand towards Talavera. “You do know about the edict? The edict that our majesties Ferdinand and Isabella themselves have issued? It says that all infidels who live, dwell and are in any way present in our kingdom by the end of this present year of 1493 shall be gone from our kingdom?”

“I am aware of that edict” replied Talavera “but it also says that infidels shall have the right to repent and convert thus giving them the right to stay” .

Cardinal Mendoza licked his lips. It was true that Isabella, in a weak moment had granted the Moslems here the right to religious freedom. However that was when Talavera was her confessor…a converted confessor, what a disgrace it had been, probably because that bastard was so damned wealthy. “Your own way? And what about God then? The Edict has been announced in every church in this country accompanied by trumpeters and drummers and it states clearly that all infidels shall be gone this year!!!”

Amidst the heated discussion Dom Alvaro´s thoughts swayed away and he saw a gutter, a poor man sitting in it, people passing by throwing copper mints to the man and then he was waken from his daydream as he once again couldn´t help staring at that damned little black book waving in the air, it would only take a cold dagger..ah but was it realistic? Yes! It could be done, he knew men willing to kill for money and by God, Talavera was the richest man in the country…

Cardinal Mendoza had turned red and held his notebook in a steady grip waving it in front of Talavera. “I can inform you that I am her confessor now and I happen to know that our Queen´s former promise to the Moors must give way to the promise to God.. the promise to purify the land, oh Lord rejoice at the words of the defeat of the Moors!”

Talavera interrupted the Cardinal. “We will win more souls over if we always keep our arms open to embrace those who return to our mother church” said Talavera calmly. “The Queen herself has promised religious freedom…”

“Don´t tell me what the Queen has promised! Don´t lecture me one more time or…” Cardinal Mendoza made an ominous gesture. “I know the will of the Queen. I know she needs men of steel, men that hunger for the purity. We must get rid of these old believes, get rid of these appalling buildings with its awful Moorish architecture”. Cardinal Mendoza had a mad glow in his eyes when he finished his short speech. He took up his book and made some more notes. “Purify, must purify, hot pinchers, fire, the smell of burning flesh” he whispered over and over as saliva fell down on the book.

Talavera made a sigh. If only he could see Queen Isabelle one more time. She had been the one convincing him convert and she had been there during the whole ceremony. He remembered all their fruitful discussions about philosophy, religion, architecture. If they only could wander along with her through the decorative halls and spacious courtyards of Alhambra, watch the sun rise over the old Moorish fort, smell the scent from the red wildflowers, go to the marvellous Arabic baths, watch the market start in the morning in the busy stone streets…how different would things not be if he just got one chance.

Dom Alvaro stared at the black book, he could not take his eyes from it as if it tried to whisper something to him. All of a sudden it was as if he could see through that little black notebook. Suddenly it was so clear, yeah, the future was written in red inside the damned little book. The text rose from a page and materialised in a vision there right over the marble floor. It was like a dream. Talavera was there in the green meadow outside Granada. A condemnation was read and Talavera was handed over to the executioners. Talavera was steadfast not seeking to repent his sins to get the benefit of being strangled before being burned. Mendoza´s ghostly figure hovered over the whole scene. Hot pinchers were brought forward, Te Deum Laudamus echoed over the scene. Talavera was praying. The fire was lit and Cardinal Mendoza was laughing and holding his damned little notebook in front of him taking notes…

………….suddenly he knew what to do, there was no other alternative…he cleared his throat and made a smile towards Cardinal Mendoza. “Ah a wonderful speech, magnificently said dear Cardinal Mendoza, you put it so brilliantly, besides I have some valuable information about the habit of drinking of the blood of crucified Christian children here in Granada that might interest you…”
 

coz1

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Author #3

This winter would, many were already saying, be the worst in living memory. Dark, ominous clouds had shrouded the castle of Melun-sur-Seine since early December. Days of driving rain were followed by frigid nights of hail, sleet, or even snow. The roads leading to the massive fortification were mired in mud and had remained nigh-impassable for more than a fortnight; a situation unlikely to change in the near future given the torrential downpour assaulting the court this evening.

Heavily cloaked, he had spent the better part of the last hour struggling his way through this seething morass. The garment was more of a hindrance than anything, he thought. The howling wind had tugged relentlessly at its volumous folds, pushing him too and fro at its whim; and the thick lining had become quickly saturated with rain -- a sodden anchor that had only furthered the torment of each treacherous step of his way from the priory of St Denis.

Now, as he traversed the slippery, slick stone of the palace courtyard, he questioned the sanity of venturing forth on such a night. I wonder if any guards are even bothering to keep watch? He shivered against the wool of his cassock. It, too, was thoroughly drenched. They had better be, else they will probably find their doors jammed closed by my corpse in the morning.

He pounded his fist three times, hard, against the solid oak. Waited. No response. Then again. And again no response. Mon dieu! This time the skin of his knuckles split with the force of his blows. As he sucked them and muttered a far less pious curse, there was the sound of a heavy iron bar being shifted, and then the doors finally parted to reveal the torch-lit entryway.

"Who are you?" A harsh, unfriendly query. The guard was obviously displeased at having been called away from the warmth of the kitchen. The young man's breath, vile with garlic, carried more than a hint of ale; and a hand firmly clasped an as-yet undrawn sword's hilt. "What do you want?"

The visitor pushed back his hood, then began to remove the cloak that was already trying to create a small stream on the tiled floor. "His majesty…is he within?"

The guard blinked, mouth twitching, and then raised an eyebrow as if to say "where else would he be?" But now that the visitor's familiar, clean-shaven face and tonsure were visible, his reply was a far more respectful. "He took his dinner in the great hall, monsignor, and I believe that dessert was only recently served so you should still find him there. Shall I escort you?"

"There's no need, lad. I know the way." He deposited the ruined cloak in the young man's reluctant hands. "Perhaps you could have this hung near a fire somewhere?"

"Yes, Abbot Suger. It would be my pleasure." The guard's tone belied the sentiment.

"Bless you, my son…"


* * * * *

The abbot slowly crossed the floor of the near-empty hall and approached the dais.

The king was propped awkwardly on his throne, almost as though he had been hap-hazardously thrown into the position. From her seat at his side, the queen leaned close and whispered something into his ear. At this, he looked up and waived a hand in the abbot's direction. "We welcome you back to Our court. Come. Join Us for…" but the ruler was suddenly caught by a wracking coughing fit that choked off the greeting.

It has been several months since Suger had last seen the monarch, and the changes shocked him. Philippe Capet had been a strikingly handsome man in his prime. Tall, hale, hearty…women of the court had been known to swoon if he so much as glanced in their direction. Even as time had cast its relentless shadow over the ruler of France, causing the lines in his face to deepen, his hair to thin and become salted with grey, Philippe had always exuded an aura of immense strength and virility. He was a man born to rule, and his every fibre of his being cried out for all to see "here is a King among kings!"

Now, though, the powerful frame seemed to have sunken in on itself. The hand trembled, as though even this simple gesture had taken a Herculean effort. The dark green eyes -- eyes that had always danced and sparkled so brightly with intelligence and wit -- seemed lethargic and dimmed. The abbot had tended to too many of St Denis' infirmary patients to miss the signs. He has the lung sickness. He is dying. He took several more paces, then bowed deeply. "God's blessings upon you, your majesty."

Philippe suppressed another cough. "Unlikely. We are not much in God's graces; or so your master has said." The king glanced briefly to his wife, and then back to the priest. "Unless, of course, you return from Rome to bring Us news of a reprieve?"

Suger heard the dark tone of the king's voice, but chose to ignore it. "I regret, majesty, that those are not the New Year's tidings I bring." Not until you repent and send her away, he thought.

Already married to Bertha of Holland, the king had met and fallen hopelessly in love with the beautiful young Bertrade -- the wife of Fulk of Anjou. After the count's untimely (and highly suspicious) demise, Philippe had repudiated Bertha and married Anjou's widow against the desperate entreaties of his advisors. His subsequent excommunication by the bishop of Lyon, later affirmed by Pope Urban II at the council of Claremont, had hardly come as a surprise and had done nothing to shake Philippe's obstinate resolve -- nor had the ensuing decade of political turmoil and social unrest. "What tidings then?"

"Must there be any? May I not visit an old friend and patron to beg a cup of wine from his cellar?" Theirs was an unusual bond; a shared delight in the verbal banter that had characterised their exchanges for many years. In spite the ban, Urban allowed Suger sufficient leeway to continue the relationship in the hopes that the abbot might someday be able to bring the wealthy ruler back into the fold. Suger was patient, and France was not under papal interdict, so it was simply a subject that the king and priest usually avoided. "May I not also simply be here to check on the recent progress of my most able pupil?"

"If you are, then your wishes will be only half fulfilled and you've chosen a foul night to do it. As to the latter, We have sent Louis to assist Our constable Alberic with some delicate matters in Bourges, so my son will be unable to pursue his studies with you until he returns. Wine, though, is another matter altogether." The king turned to a servant who had been hovering unobtrusively nearby. "Alain, bring the abbot some of that mulled wine. And bring him a cloak or a blanket or something…We would not wish him to catch a cold such as the one that troubles Us." He paused to cough again, the force of it briefly bringing a hint of colour to his face. "Draw up a chair, old friend. You need not stand on ceremony on a night such as this."

The abbot was soon seated, a steaming goblet in hand. Alain had returned with a luxurious fur that was now -- with the help of the wine and cloves -- returning some warmth to Suger's veins. "There is trouble in Bourges?" he ventured.

"No more so than usual; and soon less."

"Why Louis? I would have thought that Alberic would be more than…capable." Indeed, Alberic will probably turn it into a bloodbath if he has his way. Suger shuddered. Philippe was not tolerant with dissenters, and Alberic delighted in being the cruel instrument of the king's harsh brand of justice.

"Of course he is capable; but Louis is Our heir and must see what must be done to stamp out rebellion if he is to preserve the realm that I have built -- and that is not a lesson of statecraft that you are likely to give him." Philippe paused for a moment, seemingly lost in thought. "But come now. You are not here to listen to the gossip of the realm or discuss some petty traitors. We were informed that you had returned to St. Denis this afternoon, in spite of this storm, and now here you are in Our chamber. What is so important that it couldn't wait until a brighter day -- or at least until the morrow? What news from Rome?"

The abbot licked his suddenly dry lips. "Majesty, my tidings are grave and I was not told that you were ill. No, do not deny it. I am not blind. Had I known, I would have waited until you have recovered before coming here. It is not so urgent that it cannot wait." He will never recover, thought Suger. Perhaps God will be merciful enough to spare him this pain.

"Nevertheless, you are here. Speak. Have out and be done with it."

"Majesty, I…I…I fear its consequences on your health. I beg you; leave it for another day."

"No. If the news is so grave then We must hear it without delay. Our health is not so poor that mere words would lay Us low."

"Please, majesty, do not insist…"

"We command it!"

Suger sighed, knowing that Philippe would accept no further disobedience. "As you majesty knows, your brother was gravely wounded doing battle with the Turk near Heraclea this summer. He was then taken with all haste to Tarsus where he was tended to by the very best chirurgiens."

Philippe grunted. "We had a correspondence from Hugh's own hand to say that the wound was healing but still very sore." The king's expression was dark, for his brother was not a topic he particularly favoured. After the successful siege of Antioch during the first crusade, Hugh had been sent to the Byzantine emperor to secure additional forces needed for the siege of Jerusalem. Hugh had failed. Worse, instead of returning to Antioch, he had broken his vows and come home in disgrace. For the next four years Philippe had refused his brother's requests for permission to embark on a second crusade, deeming it dangerous and wasteful. But Hugh's persistent pleas to be allowed to restore his honour -- combined with the a new threat from the Pope to excommunicate a second royal Capet -- had finally caused the king to relent. "He wrote that in all likelihood he would winter in Tarsus and then arrange passage home in the spring."

"Aye. Sadly, his wound did not heal and it began to fester." Suger's voice became a whisper. "They tried, majesty. The chirurgiens tried…but they could not…it was God's will…"

"Dead?!" The king's white-faced shriek brought guards running into the hall.

Sadly, the abbot nodded. "I was about to leave Rome when the word arrived, so I agreed to be the unhappy messenger. They said that he died well, at peace with his maker, and in a state of Grace…"

"Grace be damned! And Christ be damned as well, for that matter!"

"Majesty!"

"No! Warn me not against blasphemy, or have you forgotten that I have already been excommunicated by your precious Pope? That conniving bastard…that power-hungry disgrace of humanity…the man that sits on St Peter's throne is none other than the devil incarnate! It was he who called upon Christendom yet again and urged them into this folly. It was he who threatened Hugh and manipulated him into this madness. Does he not have enough innocent blood on his hands that he need use his office to seek more? How many more souls must he feed to the Turk before he is sated? How many…?" But at this the king ground to a sudden halt, his breast heaving but the breath failing him. He began to cough violently, gasping.

Suger, who had lept to his feet during the monarch's tirade, overcame his shock and quickly bent to attend him. Philippe's face was contorted in rage, the veins in his neck strained against white flesh, the mottled hands clenched and unclenched as they grasped compulsively at his chest. Suger placed a firm hand on each shoulder. "Sire! You must calm yourself! Try to take short breaths…shallow ones…for mercy's sake, majesty, you must do as I say!" He knelt, then, and used the sleeve of his cassock to wipe away the spittle that dribbled down the king's chin. It was tinged with blood. Dear God, no!

The king's mouth moved, but no sound issued forth. His eyes bulged; his face became ashen.

"Close your eyes, Philippe. Close them and try to relax…" But no, it is too late. Too late. Too late for all…except…not too late for redemption. "Open your heart, Philippe. Confess your sins to Almighty God and ask Him for forgiveness. He will hear your prayers, Philippe, and will grant you everlasting life in the company of His angels. You need not speak it aloud, sire. He will hear and heed the words of your mind. But for the sake of your immortal soul you must make your confession and you must do it now!" Suger ignored the wailing of the queen, who had heard his words and understood their import. He angrily pushed away Alain's futile efforts to aid his dying liege. "I will absolve you, Philippe. Christ will absolve you. You need do nothing but ask him for forgiveness with all your heart." He drew the sign of the cross on the king's forehead. "Please, Philippe. Please give me a sign that you have confessed. I will absolve you!"

The king's spasmodic struggles gradually slackened, his eyes fluttered shut, and then his lips finally parted. The priest bent close, laying his ear against them to hear any last utterance and praying for some sign. When it came, it was so faint that none other heard it; but the words would haunt his dreams for many years to come.

"May God be damned too!"
 
Last edited:

coz1

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Author #4

Bullriding.

General Horiuchi had visited the World Exposition once, and had seen an American cowboy demonstrate how to ride a bull in a rodeo. One man, perched atop a hundred stones’ worth of raging, undirected energy. It was a test of courage, and will.

That’s what he now faced. Or would, in mere moments.

A slight click at the ornate doors into the Emperor’s chambers, and a subtle gesture from the Lifeguards who stood on either side. The doors swung open noiselessly to admit Horiuchi and his pale, perspiring companion, General Unari.

Emperor Morihito was dwarfed by the trappings of his office. The generals approached close, so they could see him, nestled in his colorful regalia of cloth and gold. Horiuchi was no longer impressed. This figure was not a god, as he claimed. At worst, he was a demon-spirit, though it hardly mattered to a mere mortal how relatively less that made his power over them. The generals prostrated themselves.

Eventually, after their muscles began to ache, His Eminence deigned to allow them to rise to one knee, keeping their faces averted floorward. In a hissing voice, audible only because of the oppressive silence, he demanded, “What news from the war?”

“It is going well, Heika Tenno,” Horiuchi lied. Next to him, Unari… shivered. But Horiuchi realized that he, himself, was damp with sweat. He forced himself to breathe more evenly. “We have landed in Kamchatka,” he reported. There were no Japanese troops within 700 miles of that peninsula. “And we are advancing against the Russians… though, slowly.” That last bit he added judiciously, as a careful afterthought. The Russians had already captured the island of Hokkaido. If they ever landed on the home island of Honshu, Horiuchi’s frail web of fantasy would become increasingly difficult to maintain, no matter how cloistered was the Emperor.

“Slowly?” There was tension, displeasure… even rage in that soft whisper.

Unari stammered, “Heika Tenno, the Russians are retreating before our infantry, but it would go so much faster if we could afford to equip more cavalry divisions.”

Horiuchi stared sideways at Unari. It was a brilliant deception. Cavalry would be torn to shreds on a modern battlefield, facing machine guns and rifled artillery. But the Emperor could not know that. No one had dared tell him his prized cavalry was obsolete. And he flew into a tantrum every time he even saw a horse – screaming, pointing and insisting it be seized for the virtually non-existent cavalry corps. Besides, if the Russians ever pushed toward Tokyo, they would need to use every resource, no matter how hopeless.

“Do so,” he breathed. “You are dismissed.” The generals, relieved, began to rise from their crouch. “Wait.”

That – the loudest word he had uttered – hit the men like a fist. They stared desperately at the floor, wide-eyed.

“I saw General Yamaguchi at the review yesterday.”

Horiuchi’s stomach somersaulted. The Emperor was upset at the Home Defense Chief… For what???

“He did not applaud when the Emperor’s Lifeguard Battalion passed by.”

Danger. Horiuchi flushed cold. He had seen – Yamaguchi had not clapped because he had fallen asleep! He was exhausted, after a long coach ride from the front to ensure he was not missed at one of the several militaristic social events that were so important they could not be missed. They could not afford to lose their most brilliant military commander to the Emperor’s vengeance. He was the only reason the Czar’s armies had not crushed Japan long ago!

“Heika Tenno,” Unari interjected again. “I saw that too, but it was… It was General Kobayashi.” He had fingered a personal enemy of House Unari, instead. “They look very much alike.”

“No.” The breathy contradiction fairly boomed in the quiet chamber. “It was Yamaguchi I saw. I am sure of it. Kobayashi, too? Inform both of them that they have disappointed their God-Emperor, and they must do as their houses’ honor requires.”

Unari exhaled – sobbed? – loudly as he realized his gambit had unintentionally compounded the Emperor’s self-destructive wrath.

Seppuku was out of the question. Horiuchi would find quiet, out-of-the-way assignments for both men. The Emperor could not know.

“But Yamaguchi…” Morihito rasped with cold pleasure. “He has always been dismal. Pessimistic. He does not have faith in the spiritual superiority of the Japanese fighting man, whose ancestors ride on his shoulder and can defeat ten men at once. The glorious abilities only the Empire of the Rising Sun can boast!” Only then did the Emperor’s voice reach normal, human levels. Then, more quietly, “When it is done, bring me his head in a glass box. I wish to keep it with me. Right here!” He banged four times with the flat of his hand on the table next to his throne. He quickly stifled a giggle, then resumed his dangerous calm. “It will remind others how wrong it is to disregard our heritage and breed discouragement in the face of certain victory.”
 

Rensslaer

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Wow! The very different choice of topic I think changed the character of these story/scenes quite a bit. A difficult topic on which to write!

I'm still going over some of these. I'll come back to #3 and #4...

Author #1

Wow. This is so different, i'm speechless!

So is everybody else, I guess! Hello out there!

Hmm... If I posit that a crazy person can talk about themselves in the third person, then... Is it possible that this voice -- the fellow telling the story -- is Stalin some many years later, speaking from the asylum?

He seems to have some knowledge... Seems sympathetic to Stalin... But man, he's way off his rocker. Way too flippant about how he tells the story.

I'd almost guess this was a younger author just trying out a writing style, but the story has some sophistication and complicated analysis worthy of an older, college-educated author... This required a great deal of thought to put together, even if I think it's written in a very distracting way. Perhaps that was the intent, especially considering the subject matter of the challenge!

Hmm.... I'm puzzled. And intrigued! :D


Author #2

I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you!

Truly, I wonder if anybody who -- 1) heard the Cardinal talk, and 2) did not immediately run away -- might be the craziest folk of all! That guy is clearly unhinged. And while the rulers might be off their rockers to allow the Inquisition, the Cardinal is maxed out in the crazy zone.

I would have to suggest that the Cardinal is somewhat overdone. It seems that the folks in this quiet town would be well advised to do what was suggested -- assassination of the inquisitor. Except that I really find it hard to believe it hadn't happened in the first town he reached!



I'll be back soon when I have the chance to read the last two stories. And I may have more thoughts on the first two, also... as I contemplate.

In the meantime, WHERE IS EVERYBODY???

Rensslaer
 

J. Passepartout

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Author #1: I thought this was a funny story. It conveys Stalin's madness in an amusing fashion. The story does seem to be written by a novice writer, but one who has some talent already. Quite imaginitive, I say.

Author #2: The Cardinal seems quite mad! I can see that he would easily be assassinated. My only real problem is that sometimes I had trouble figuring out who was talking, especially in the beginning. But I thought the rest was pretty good, and I liked the talk of architecture, since I seem to share tastes in that subject with Talavera.

Author #3: Very good piece, here. I was going to comment on the very little action we see from the Queen, but upon reflection I am not sure you needed to write more about her than you did.

Author #4: This was also a good story. I noticed the last line in particular, and thought that perhaps the war is being lost for that very reason on the part of the generals. They seem to be disregarding some of his orders, so if they disregarded the madness and just tried to do their jobs, it ight be possible to hide this from the Tenno of Nippon...
 

Storey

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Rensslaer said:
In the meantime, WHERE IS EVERYBODY???

Rensslaer

Over here. No, look over here! Yea I'm the one waving. I'm sitting in this corner reading the stories. Come back later and I'll have something to say. :D

Joe
 

coz1

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Thanks Joe. :D

And Renss - I think it's just January, which is notoriously slow at times, and crazy slow this year it seems. I'm sure it'll pick once people have a chance to get through all four submissions. :D
 

unmerged(11366)

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As usual (ask my family :D ), the first thing I must do is disagree with someone.
Rensslaer said:
Wow! The very different choice of topic I think changed the character of these story/scenes quite a bit. A difficult topic on which to write!
Nope! Insanity is fun! I was coz's alternate (PMed too late) and wrote a very amusing story about Sir Neville Chamberlain's secret cross-dressing problem. It took me 2 minutes to think it up and 40 to write :D

Now on to the critiques...

I'm very glad that Author #1 also took up coz's blatant challenge to write a piece for the HoI period :D . The narrative style is extremely casual, and in some places a bit odd - "he kept his soldiers' and officers' morale up and high, with the best method ever: 'Not one step back!...' " The piece reminded me - for better and/or for worse - of stuff I wrote/would have written when I was younger...but if our mystery author is new or relatively new to writing (or perhaps to writing in English?) then I expect very good and interesting things to come in the near future as his style evolves. You can basically pull off anything, Author #1, because you're clearly intelligent and have a goofy sense of humor, and those are the only things that really matter in writing :D ..................unless, of course, you want to become Herman Melville, which you don't. Trust me. I'm reading Billy Budd right now and (gets off topic and rambles for a while pointlessly) ...well as I was saying :p good story, and I'm glad Stalin got hauled off.

I decided to skip 2 and 3, arbitrarily :D , and was interested by the work of Author #4. The bullfighting metaphor was interesting, and artfully dodged the matter of explaining who the ruler is and why he's bonkers so we could find out for ourselves. Excellent! (Confession time: I'm biased towards this tactic because my aborted submission used the same trick...) The one thing I would like to have had in this piece, which isn't there, is some sort of reaction to the Emperor's final decree. "Oh, CRAP" would have been enough ;) but I guess there was a slight lack of... closure perhaps?

Still a good story!
Have to go.... #2 and #3 will probably come a little later.
 

Rensslaer

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I am going to follow a belated hunch and guess that Author #1 is Rocketman. The sense of humor, and the cadence of the dialogue seems familiar to me.

<<braces against the expectation of peals of laughter if he's wrong>>

Renss :)
 

Judge

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I found all stories highly interesting this time, here we go :)

Author 1

The story was a bit too confusing to me. First it was a history lesson, then a dialogue and at the end we got to know that Stalin kidnapped Roosevelt and Churchill. I don´t think the layout of this story worked all the way. If I would have written this kind of story I would have tried to focus solely on the dialogue and I would have tried to build up the story from the start instead of adding a somewhat abrupt ending. The history lesson was good though.

Author 2

Scary story from the days of the Spanish inquisition. When I read the story I find it to be somewhat over-worked. Perhaps the author wanted to tell us a bit too much? Still the historical background is good and it is an interesting topic. The Cardinal was scary.

Author 3

A wonderful story, well written, a good dialogue and interesting all the way. The settings were excellent and the author has a good way with describing persons and environments. I really liked this one, good work indeed. Definitely a top-notch story.

Author 4

The basic plot was interesting (nobody daring to tell the emperor about his obsolete cavalry). The dialogues were good and you could really see the scene in front of you. I think the author managed to produce a good story with minimum of words which can be quite difficult.
 

Storey

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I don't have much time so I'm going to do the authors as I get time.

Author #2

<Nit-pick alert.> You used “yeah” a couple of times and I think of it as more of a modern slang term so it was distracting for me. Hey and I only found one misspelt word! That’s better than I did. <nit-pick alert off>

The next is just a matter of taste but I’ll just throw this out for you to think about. You wrote:

“His mouth was small with peculiar sharp, white teeth. His eyes were red and almost seemed to glow even in broad daylight.”

You do such a wonderful job of creating the Cardinal with his dialogue and actions that I think the above is a little over the top. I’d suggest that giving as little physical description or at least toning it down would work better.

There are several things I really liked about the story. We have the Cardinal who we know is mad but we also have Dom Alvaro who gives signs that because of his fears he may be losing control of his mind. And of course we have the ambigious ending. Is Dom Alvaro going to tell the Cardinal something just to get on his good side? Possibly to buy time until he can have him killed? Or is he about to lie and turn his old friend Talavera over to the Cardinal. After all in the beginning we hear that,

“Rumours that said that Talavera had fell out of the Queens favour, that he was stealing Christian children and set them on a cross to mock God.”

A person scared out of his wits is capabe of doing anything. A very enjoyable story.
 

CatKnight

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Author 1:

I'm also guessing you're new to writing and/or the English language. The story stuttered a few times, or perhaps I didn't understand what you were trying for. Part of your story seemed very serious, and part seemed humorous.

You spend a lot of time describing the Battle of Kursk and the aftermath. While a little backstory is inevitable and a good idea, eight paragraphs in a short vignette like this is just too long. I was starting to suspect you were trying out the 'history book' narrative form.

Your narrator seemed very sympathetic to Stalin, or like an apologist historian. (Yeah, Stalin was a jerk, BUT...) The opening paragraph seems to disprove that the narrator is Stalin, however.

You do a lot of 'telling' rather than 'showing.' "The conference is very important." "Stalin blames the western allies." The first is obvious from the history lesson, and you make the second very clear when they speak.

Enough nitting though, let's look at what is right. Your characterization of an insane Stalin was right on, and the part about his medicine (and what happens when they try to dilute it) is very enjoyable. You seem to have a good sense of humor and that kind of AAR, with just enough narration to establish the folk who are running around your world, could serve well. Stalin's solution, then Beria's, is also amusing though the ending was very abrupt.

I think some more practice will serve you very well. These boards are a great place to practice as well as have fun! Keep reading, and by all means keep writing!
-------------


Author #2

I have trouble getting a grip on Talvera, despite the abundant help you try to give. We see him through Dom Alvaro's eyes, but he doesn't give us a clear idea what kind of man Talavera is. A converted Jew who admires Muslim architecture is about as far as we get. Though Talavera would certainly wish to avoid any excesses of the Inquisition, he sounds wise enough to not have argued with an insane cardinal. His position at court is exceptionally tenuous simply because of his religion.

Dom Alvaro is too...I don't know about him. He starts out being politely respectful, which is normal enough but then he acts oddly. He speaks firmly against the Cardinal, which even if the Card. was sane would be exceptionally unwise, albeit loyal. Why is he loyal? And if he is, why does he turn on Talvera at the end? To save his own skin? Certainly, but if he was that afraid he wouldn't have spoken against the cardinal in the first place. Ditto if he's an opportunist. I can't reconcile the two reactions. And if he is planning assassination, I think his last comment before we leave them has doomed his master Talvera.

Your cardinal is exceptionally well drawn. As Hajii says, writing about this kind of rabid insanity can be fun (and even a release) and I suspect the writer had a lot more fun with him than the others, who were really only filler characters. Well described, excellent portrayal.

My only nit is it isn't always clear what he's about. He seems to be talking about cleansing Granada, but the example he gives involves the Jews. The Cardinal speaks repeatedly about the edict forcing non-Christians out of Spain, but I'm not sure if he's accusing Talavera at that point of reverting or not. (Incidentally, given Talavera's earlier comment it's clear he's at least borderline.)

Overall good portrayals, especially of the Cardinal and some nice interplay. Depending on Dom Alvaro's intentions this could make a fun story.

Author #3

I guess I'll go with my nit first: There are no insane rulers (or anyone) here. Phillippe is very ill, and at the end very angry (perhaps even temporarily insane), but up until then his greatest crimes appear to be repudiating without the church's sanction and a stubborn streak. He's also exceptionally sick. I suppse we could argue he was melancholic from being rejected by the church, since when Phillippe asks he seems almost hopeful despite the tone Suger ignored.

I love your descriptions. You really let us know what it's like on the cold night and Abbot Seguar's fatigue as he enters the castle. The queen is clearly a secondary character in descrption and action, but that's okay - we're clearly meant to be taking a good long look at king and abbot.

I really enjoy the buildup to the abbot's bad news. It almost seems like two friends chattering the evening away. Again, nothing wrong with the descriptions here.

I have no problem with Phillippe's reaction to the news. Honestly given the backstory (excommed, the crusade, etc.) I'd probably feel the same way. I suppose that might be insane for the Middle Ages, but I have no problem with Phillippe, especially since I have the (or A) 'lung sickness' and I'm pretty sure given all this my reactions would be fear and anger.

Suger...I'm not sure of. I see what you're clearly trying to do here: Suger's his friend, Suger's trying to save his soul. He's badgering Phillippe at the end though, which sounds just a little false - though I could be convinced otherwise. The problem is I don't think Suger can do what he proposes:

First, I'm no Catholic, but I read a story dated in the 1360s by an author I'm inclined to trust, where the abbot can't absolve someone who doesn't confess out loud, though Suger obviously realized that wasn't possible at that point. Second, and more critically - again not being Catholic feel free to correct me - but the king is excommunicated. He can't be absolved, period. Even if the king repudiated this second wife, the pope has to withdraw his order.

It was touching to see Suger try though, so these are minor nits. A simple line like "I'll explain to the Pope later" or some such would make that go away.

Author #4

The early explanation throws me a little. I think I caught up easily enough, but in one paragraph you talk about cavalry being gunned down by machine guns, and I'm thinking "Aha! World War II again!" Then we're talking about Czars, which historically throws us back to the Russo-Japanese War, or ahistorically up through World War I.

Cavalry weren't really obsolete, IMHO, in those time periods. Their use was waning, but armored units were still in their infancy in World War I. Cavalry was still used through the end because armies still needed a quick strike capability. It's only after armor comes into its own between the wars that cavalry is hopelessly outmatched.

And if this is World War II, where'd we pick up the czar?

Enough nitting - your opening reference to bullriding was jarring for a moment (American reference, Japanese setting) but it turned out working very well for you. Your description of the emperor and his office is done well - just enough for us to figure out what's happening, without overwhelming us.

We now turn to Horiuchi's lying. I'm not sure whether I like Unari's shivering or not. As a samurai, he would have been taught to suppress any such movement as much as emotion, and given they're dealing with a mad emperor Unari would be even more on guard. Still, it added to the scene. I liked Horiuchi's 'fantasy war', though I was left wondering where the emperor's spies and other advisors were.

Unari's asking for cavalry, given the situation, was brilliant. Certainly given the samurai-type culture, Hokkaido's fall, and the insane emperor the cavalry being obsolete wouldn't enter into Unari's thinking - and Horiuchi's right: If the Russians push on Tokyo, they'll need everything they can get!

The emperor's condemning Yamaguchi was well written, as was Unari's gambit. We now see clearly the emperor's not just cloistered and mistaken about the use of cavalry in modern warfare - both are forgivable - but this clearly indicates he's insane. In fact, it reminds me of the Stalinist purges of the oficer ranks after the Winter War. Horiuchi's trying to save Yamaguchi - good try, though what the former defense minister would do from an out of the way post could be questioned - was also nice.

I liked the characterization of this meeting. We clearly see Horiuchi and enough of the Emperor and Unari to make this a satisfying discussion. Each have their own agendas which makes them seem more real. Despite the nitting, I really enjoyed this story!
 

Mettermrck

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#1) Well, you captured insanity certainly enough. There were some grammatical mistakes, which are easily edited. Overall, I enjoyed the frank descriptions of Stalin’s instability. One thing I wish I could’ve discerned was the point of view. At first, I thought it was historical, with perhaps a winking nod to satire. This was confirmed by the historical descriptions of Kursk, Italy, etc. Then towards in the conference scene it became more humorous and at the end, with the kidnappings, it read as if the author was hurrying to a finish. There wasn’t enough depth to the ending. A fun read, nonetheless! :)

#2) You really had me nervous around Cardinal Mendoza, which is good. I was wondering in my mind just how scary and unstable the historical figure really was, but your depiction of Mendoza as an archetypal villain was well done. There were a few minor grammatical edits needed, such as commas, ‘feel the aroma’ etc., yet nothing that detracted from the story. I felt the intensity of Mendoza’s belief, which means you accomplished what you wanted in the story. I also particularly liked Talavera’s expediency at the end, playing along in order to survive.

#3) I really enjoyed this piece. The author’s use of description in the beginning is excellent, especially the depictions of the weather and the confining layers of clothing. You could almost feel the chill. Very well done. I got a good sense of the characters, the abbot and the King. I liked the byplay, it felt realistic. Good job using the royal ‘we’ though I spotted a couple places where you went back to the singular. Also, I did wish the great description could’ve been carried through the length of the story, with possibly describing the throne room in more detail. I was trying to find a mental picture of the scene in the second half. Great story and a very good political scene.

#4) My favorite of the four. A short scene, yet it embodied so much in the disaster facing Japan and how this terrible, insane, Emperor is bringing his land into ruin. It’s great how you could capture this in only a few paragraphs. I liked the rodeo allusion in the beginning, it really established the foreign perspective nicely. Putting the terrible reality directly after the glowing spoken reports was a great contrast. It both informed and gave you a clear sense that no one was brave enough to confront the Emperor with the truth. This is also the one story where I really wanted to know more. When I find this author out, I am going to demand that he keep writing more about this. :D
 

Storey

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Author #1

I don’t have a problem with learning how the war is going. It helps understand the strain Stalin is under and why he goes crazy. But I think you get caught up in the details of the war and that’s a mistake. You could give a one or two paragraph general coverage of the war and accomplish the same thing and then concentrate on the dialogue between the three men. Stalin’s decent into madness is quite humorous.


Author #3 I have the same nit-pick as CatKnight in that the king isn’t insane. However that’s the only problem I have with the story. You do a great job creating the atmosphere of the story. The characters are well rounded except for Bertrade, which is understandable since she wasn’t a main character. I felt sorry for the King because of what he was at one time and how he ended up. I found it interesting how you wove politics, religion and the Kings private life into the story. I don’t have enough knowledge of that era to know if it’s factual or not but you make it convincing.

Author # 4

I also wonder at the use of bull riding for the story. I’ll be interested to read what your reasons were. I think that’s the only possible misstep in the story. You tell a story that has been told many times about a despotic mad emperor but you manage to put a nice twist to it with the ending. I admire the skill shown here.

Well done everyone

Joe
 

Rensslaer

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...picking up where I left off...

Author #3

Hmm... Twice I thought I knew who this author likely was, and twice I changed my mind. I'm now thinking it might be The Yogi, but I'd also considred Alhazen and even Froggy (because of Fulk... is he a historical fellow or must he have been borrowed?). Ultimately, I must admit I cannot venture a solid guess.

This story is by far my favorite! Very well written, an interesting story with a deep plotline running throughout. Dialogue is very well done. I love it, at the end, when the Queen realizes what the abbot is asking of the King, and.... No! Not that! :rofl:

Storey, as for who the insane ruler is... I almost think it might be the Pope! I'll wait to see the author's explanation.

Author #4

I swear -- some people will just not be saved from themselves, no matter how hard someone tries.

I liked this one also. I like the speculation as to whether the emperor is a god or a demon-spirit... or just a crazy old coot.

Somehow, this reminds me of a true story from WWII. In the final year of the war, with American and Soviet troops closing in on central Germany, Hitler for a time was holed up at his Eagle's Nest fortress. He -- crazy, as we all know -- wanted to encourage his people, so he ordered a valued general to fly in to visit, without explaining why. The general's plane was shot down or at least shot up, and he was pulled from the gravely damaged plane in bad shape, I think losing a leg or something or other. When Hitler came to visit, he revealed that it was all a big surprise, and that he wanted to honor the general by personally awarding him with a medal! Gee... Thanks! :wacko:

Hajji Giray, sorry we didn't get to see your Chamberlin story! That sounds very interesting. Maybe there's a way we could still see it (start your own review thread, and post it!). I'll look forward to seeing your participation next time around...

Thanks to all the authors! And thanks to Coz and the reviewers for putting your time and effort into this!

Rensslaer
 

The Yogi

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Author #1

While Stalin's madness was certianly amusing, and the subtle differences in this alternate history interesting, I found that this piece was a little crude in style. I was also not fond of the Theatric Play style of diaglouge (ie Stalin: Your planes suck!). I'd say that with a little more practice, this writer will acomplish great things though.

Author #2

I liked just everything about this piece except the main character, Cardinal Mendoza. He's just way, way, WAY over the top! It's hard to belive that the Queen would have gone from the spiritual guidance (and apparently also personal friendship) of the urbane and civilized Talavera to the slavering madman Mendoza. But then again, maybe it's the Queen that has gone mad in the first place, and chosen a confessor accordingly? If so, that should have been hinted at, at least.

There's also a small nitpick regarding the queen's edict; if the moors have been given the choice of conversion or exile, that is hardly one of religious freedom! Other than those two things, I find the style fluent and well developed, descriptions are well done and all in all, I'd say this is an experienced writer with a tubfull of talent!

Author #3

I liked this piece best of the four. You feel for poor King Phillipe. Contrary to other commentators, I have no doubt about who the madman in this story is; it is not the Pope, but the King who has gone temporarily (if fatally) mad with grief and rage, or as the Latin saying goes; Ira furor brevis est (Anger is a brief madness). Description and dialouge in this piece are the work of an acomplished writer. Hat's off for a fantastic piece!

Author #4

Of all the madmen we've been shown this time around, Emperor Morihito is by far the scariest. The description of his madness is restrained, but that only brings it across all the more powerfully. The combination of complete detachment from reality, remorseless cruelty and absolute power is truly chilling. The author has done a splendid job, and the choice of POV, seeing the scene through the eyes of one of Morihito´s cringing generals was a happy one. Good, solid, writing through and through, superb job!
 

coz1

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I'll probably be revealing the authors on Saturday, so there's a bit more time if any one else wants to post a critique. And thanks to all those that have so far. :D