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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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Hastu Neon

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Draco Rexus said:
I'm ineterested in knowing, besides what the European Committee is, the reason for the animosity de Aranda has for France. Is it a Spanish thing, or something personal?

No, it's just too many omelettes & escargots in the stomach :p
BTW, today I've just joined the thread. Congrats, stnylan
 

Rensslaer

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Hmm... It's like watching a rolling valley floor on a foggy day. Little bits of the terrain appear, and then disappear, and gradually we gain a better view of the whole picture... :)

Interesting that we now know his family's name. De Fontenay... though I don't know the history, its proximity to Paris would indicate an approximation to power. Good political placement. A long history of relationship to the Crown. Good or bad, that could be.

And Carlos seems to be quite an accomplished schemer. Jean not so accomplished, but able and willing. I can forsee both of these men getting in a great deal of trouble. :D

I love your portrayal of Jean! He is bright, and I love his sense of humor.

Rensslaer
 

stnylan

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coz1 I would like to think that both Carlos and Jean are both generally inexperienced at this point, but each have great instincts. A little seasoning and they could become the terror of their betters. More on that later, I guess.

J. Passepartout Well, in my Somerset AAR I was rather rude to the Irish at one point, so I thought turnaround is fair play. ;) As for the Committee, well I must confess that this is a hint of one of my favourite daydreams about Paradox games (and other similar games) - trying to fathom how on earth these great empires would work in practice!

Draco Rexus Now that would be telling. It would be wrong, however, to say that France is universally loved. Certainly when I was playing the game (as Spain remember) I cursed their name on several occasions.

Hastu Neon Great to have you along. As far as foostuffs are concerned - read on!

Rensslaer My that was a rather poetic description Renss, thank you. I rather like Jean myself, though I think he is a little out of his depth at the moment, but he is splashing around with great enthusiasm.

An update will be forthcoming just as soon as I have sorted out another dratted name. You have no idea Renss how long it took me to come up with those surnames.

Edit: Oh, and one broadcast to the ether for help, do I have a Spanish reader who would be happy to help me out with a few names - or at the very least point out if I have made some atrocious blunder in naming conventions. Many thanks.
 
Last edited:

stnylan

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The Past (6th June 1682) - Continued

It appears that we are expected, for a man with a full beard and greying waiting for us. He grabs hold of de Aranda’s hand and shakes it vigorously, greeting him in English. With a firm pull Carlos disengages, and turns to me. “This is Jean de Fontenay, the friend I spoke of. Jean, this is John – you could call him a namesake.” He grins at his own humour.

“Morning good, monsieur,” he welcomes me in mangled French. “I hope you the Lion Red pleases very good.” He beckons us and turns. “This way, me follow, me follow!”

Carlos steps beside me. “And you compare my accent to an Englishman’s!” he chortles, as wave for him to go first.

We are led to a small private chamber, pungent with the smells of fresh cooking and fresh bread. Set on a side table are platters and plates, with beakers and tankards. There is also a large pot, with air steaming from a spout. We are left alone. I look at the unfamiliar feast, and my stomach feels very small.

Carlos is no stranger to this fare, and fills up two plates with bacon, sausages, mushrooms, and various other things. From the pot he fills two of he beakers, and I recognise it as tea. He offers me a plate, and after a moment I take it. It seems quite absurd to eat so hearty so early. He fills the tankards with English ale, putting them on the table as he sits. The chair looks comfortable, and I settle into mine glad for some steady ground.

“One of the best things about this place,” Carlos expounds as he tucks into his breakfast, “is that, in addition to being very accommodating to a little intrigue they feed you well! You can plot here quite certain your secrets are safe, and equally certain your stomachs will be filled.”

With a good deal more caution I sample a sausage. It is not quite as bad as I had feared. The meat is at least cooked, and not rotten.

“It is a most uncommon kind of place then,” I reflect, studying something on my plate, a small, dark, cake-like thing I do not recognise.

“Black pudding,” Carlos identifies the oddity. “I am not sure, but I think Old Charles – the proprietor (it was his younger brother who met us) – served Prince Rupert for a time when Cromwell ruled England in certain nefarious capacities. After the Prince died he moved here and opened the Red Lion, declaring it neutral ground to the various smugglers and riff-raff. There were a few arguments about that at first, or so I have been told, but Charles had brought over most of his family, and his services were soon accepted.”

“And us diplomats followed suit.”

“We are more profitable as a clientele, and it is a useful place. More plots are made here than anywhere else in the world – with the possible exception of the Curia I suppose,” he says with a chuckle. I take a hesitant bite of the strange concoction, and then spit the foul stuff out. Carlos laughs all the louder as I slurp some ale, trying to rid myself of that terrible taste.

“Of course,” he continues still smiling, “not everyone wants to be seen in such a place. The common room can be a little rowdy, but that is part of the make-up. Old Charles is a very wily man.”

“Old Charles?”

“Charles is a popular name in the family. There is Old Charles, Young Charles – his son – and three more Charles’ among the cousins and nephews.”

“Quite the family business,” I comment. The rest of the food is palatable, but I eat without Carlos’ apparent enthusiasm. Diverting though this is, the news I have learnt this morning is too momentous for me to be truly calm.

A few minutes pass as de Aranda continues to eat, and I sip at the tea. I am not sure why the English are so enamoured of this decoction, but it is pleasant in a watery sort of way. Carlos concentrates on his food, his eyes bright and alive. Each times he selects another morsel an irrepressible smile appears on his face. I wait, and he appears to be quite happy to let me wait, but there is no sense of superiority. He does not even look at me so intent is he on the contents of his plate. I wonder, as I take another sip, whether he is being deliberately rude. I do not know him well enough to find an answer, and my patience is, for the moment, less large than his appetite.

“Carlos,” I say, learning forward to get his attention. “You mentioned three individuals of particular note. I think I should know who they are.”

He takes a long swig of ale. “Of course,” he replies, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand.

“Like an Englishman,” I affirm, and he gives me a quick smile.

“The first suspect, if you will, is Alonso Ponce de Leon.”

I frown. “The Duke of Puerto Rico?”

“The same,” Carlos nods, picking up a napkin. He wipes the back of his hand. “He is not in the capital himself of course – the Caribbean is his playground. But he is the head of the family, and that family is the centre of a faction that has been out of power since not long after King Carlos’ accession. They are always ready to make a little mischief, and this time should be no different. The man we have to worry about is his stooge on the Committee of the Americas, Miguel de los Santos. An important man in his own right – he is one of three Treasurers of that Committee and has great influence on the Secretary. Others will defer to him, and see in his actions the wishes of his master. He won’t act directly – far too dangerous – but is likely to incite others, and there are always plenty of hopefuls seeking to gain the favour of such a powerful family.”

“That sounds all very … convoluted,” I say, testing an idea.

Carlos shrugs. “The factions have been circling so long they have almost forgotten how to face each other directly.”

“Almost.” I sigh. “I presume the real reason for all of this is the question of King Carlos’ successor?”

De Aranda drinks some tea before answering. “There are three main choices: native, Hapsburg, or Bourbon.”

A silence develops. I stare into the bottom of my beaker. I know he is studying me, gauging me. I look up.

“And whom would you choose?” I keep my tone casual, but there is surely no mistaking the intensity of my eyes.

Carlos leans back, and lets out a full breath in one long exhalation. He regards me for a moment, without a trace of jollity. “Hapsburg.” He leans forward again, putting his hands on the table. “I might prefer a Spaniard, but that would likely lead to civil war, which would be disaster, and I would rather…”

“…Rather die than serve a Frenchman?” He looks straight at me when I speak, and I hold his eyes for a moment before they fall.

He smiles. “You have me figured out. Incidentally, the Duke of Milan is also a supporter of the Hapsburg candidature.”

There is another silence, and now de Aranda is the one looking down.

“The other two?” I ask, trying to take us past that point.

“The second is the Mediterranean Secretary, Enrique Velasco. He will oppose anything supported by my Minister – theirs is a personal quarrel from before we were born. He is the lesser worry, because although he would dearly love to see my Duke discomforted, he would not put personal hatred before a love of country. He will scheme, but only to a point. He is known.”

He pauses again, but before I can interject he starts again. “The third person is the real peril my friend, and I would like us to be friends. He is dangerous because he is without our – by that I mean Spanish – control; and because he really does want a Bourbon to sit on the Spanish throne, and he holds to that opinion with a frightening fervour. I do not truly think he is rational in this, or understands the consequences. For us to do something directly would entail war, a war that we cannot afford whilst the Succession is in doubt.” One side of his mouth quirks, but with a sinking feeling I know what he is going to say. “I speak, of course, of your own Ambassador."
 
Last edited:

J. Passepartout

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Well, that was a very interesting piece of updating. Lots of good old political talk, and English food. Also, it is nice to find out more background, such as the bit about the Duke of Puerto Rico, and the fact that there is a Committee of the Americas. That may shed some light of what these committees do, and I will assume that they run Spain's territories on each continent.
 

Stuyvesant

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Interesting interactions between Jean and Carlos. By that I don't mean that they were unexpected, but rather that their actions and dialogue in the carriage and in the pub did a really good job of fleshing out their characters.

Knowing that EU2 has predetermined death dates for its monarchs, and knowing that the real Spanish Succession question only came up in 1700, I must assume Carlos will survive this bout of illness as well and that the frenzy of conspiracies will simply serve as a dress rehearsal for when that time truly comes. Of course, I could be wrong if there's a Spanish king AFTER Carlos but before the Spanish Succession matter, but I'll ignore that possibility unless it becomes impossible to do so (i.e. if Carlos croaks in the next post).

I like the young Carlos and Jean, in all their relative inexperience. Clearly, they still have a long road of growth ahead of themselves until we get to that fateful night when Jean turns desperate murderer.

Being a habitual consumer of large quantities of tea myself, I found the following lines amusing:
and I sip at the tea. I am not sure why the English are so enamoured of this decoction, but it is pleasant in a watery sort of way.
'Pleasant in a watery sort of way'. :D You make me want to go and brew a pot right away (although that probably says more about my addiction to cafeine than about the persuasive powers of your description).
Can't comment on your description of an English breakfast, though, as I have never had the (good? Bad?) of never being exposed to that.
 

unmerged(28944)

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Ah, political intrigue over a good hearty breakfast. A breakfast with good English ale a that! What could be better than that?

stnylan, my friend, you have most aptly set the stage for walking through the vile nest of vipers that is the Court of Spain. My hat is off to you AND cannot wait to see how you take our young and possibly foolish pair of adventurers from their current state to where they are/were at the first post.
 

Rensslaer

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So Jean is faced with a choice... A choice which is probably already made.

Scheming against his own ambassador? A dangerous choice. :)

Thank you, Stnylan! Looking forward to more!

Rensslaer
 

coz1

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The lead up to the war becomes plainer and plainer - and so many interesting characters that may come into play.

And of course, you had to add the bit about Black Pudding. ;) However, you seem to like it a bit more than Jean does. :D
 

Director

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I've enjoyed the last few posts - you have a gift for dialog, I think - but I find myself puzzled on one point.

Who is this Jean that an official of the Spanish government would comfortable talk with him, a man he has never met, about the succession to what is at this time the most important throne in the world?

I suppose I'll have to keep reading to find out the answers. Not that you planned it that way, of course. :)
 

Rensslaer

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Director said:
Who is this Jean that an official of the Spanish government would comfortable talk with him, a man he has never met, about the succession to what is at this time the most important throne in the world?
If I were looking for allies in a coup or power play against someone, I would look for a person whose history sets them intractably against the person who I am most wishing to counter... And I believe this is what we are seeing.

He is from "that family", after all! Whatever that may mean. ;)

Rensslaer
 

stnylan

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An update once I've done the final edit etc, but in the meantime some replies. And I'm not too modest to point out I've arranged things so this is my 4,000th post ;)

J. Passepartout As for the committies I will say not quite, but you're hitting the target. I was initially unsure if I could pull the food off, but it seems to have worked.
Stuyvesant If you are ever over here, you should look at for a proper Full English. It is one of these affairs which makes your arteries harden just by looking at it, and is very scrummy.

Developing Jean and Carlos is easy in some ways - after all I know where I want them (especially Jean) to end up, so it is just a question of putting them through their paces. That is where complications arise of course.

No comment regarding croaking kings ;)

Rensslaer It is perhaps not the best work assignment, shall we say?

coz1 Actually coz1 I hate Black Pudding myself - perhaps slightly odd given my love of haggis which is, if anything, even more off-putting.

Draco Rexus Why thank you sir, most kind. It was a good breakfast all things considered. It is going to be a fun journey, I think.

Director Thank you for the compliment. When I first joined these forums I was always very conscious of my dialogue, and this AAR is in some respects my latest practise exercise as the chosen style rather thrusts dialogue to the fore.

As for the question as Rensslaer says he is from that family to use Pierre's expression, or to put it another way (from Carlos in the carriage) However, my Minister had hoped that the son of Louis de Fontenay might also hold a personal opinion. When I was thinking of titles I did consider the phrase "The Sins of the Father" but as that was already taken I discarded the idea. But the concept is there.
 

stnylan

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The Past (6th June 1682) - Later

De Aranda offers to take me back to the Embassy in the carriage, but I decline. The Red Lion is near one of the major thoroughfares, and from there all it will take is time. The dawn’s brightness is darkened by the advance of morning clouds, but I doubt it will rain.

I set off.

De Aranda is a fool if he thinks that I can contest with my own ambassador. I am my father’s son, not my father. How he haunts me everywhere I go. Pierre casts me in one light, Carlos and his Duke in another, and all for the same reason.

My fists clench for a moment, and my pace quickens.

It is almost amusing to think that Louis is back in France, desperate to serve abroad, while I am here wanting to be home. It is the only place where I am not expected to be a living, breathing apparition of my prestigious pere.

A faint sheen of sweat forms on my brow. I breathe harder.

I should have declined this honour the moment it was first offered. There would have been embarrassment and upset, even a measure of disgrace, but I would have remained where I should have stayed. I shake my head. That is a wishful fantasy. I never could have refused. My father did not, would not, allow me the information I needed to reach such a decision.

I stop.

I might still be able to make a choice.

My heart hammers in my head. I am attracting notice. There is a tavern off the street. I could order a pitcher and sort this all out, to decide my own fate. Behind me someone marks my movements, and observer in the shadows. It would be best to keep moving.

I do not want to.

Why should I care? No one ever asked me to play this part. Pierre, my father, de Aranda, they all assume. Why should they all be right? I could prove them wrong here and now. I might yet be able to chart my own course. The tavern is called The Siren. I hear its song and yearn to be entranced.

But I am not.

What hold is it they have over me? Why must I bear this burden?

Standing stock still in the street is stupid. My foot moves of its own accord, and its partner follows. I resume my journey.

Why is France my care? Who made her my charge?

You did, because you love her.

I am not a king. I have not duty here.

What use is a King who cares not for his Kingdom? What use is Duty, when it is love and lovers that France lacks. She is the small child in need of a protecting hand, the maiden fearing a gentle caress, the crone who cannot see her way. She needs people who will not leave at night’s ending, but stay to face the rising sun, and the shame it brings. She needs those who will stand by her when all others have run away. Will you too abandon her?

I deflate, my anger flees. My face is wet. I look up at the clouds, but they are not nearly so heavy, and there is no pitter-patter on the ground. I lift a hand to touch my cheek. Tears.

I am my father’s son. At last, I think, I begin to understand.

I reach the embassy in a daze. Gunter salutes me as I pass, and I smile in acknowledgement. I pause a moment before the main entrance, and elect to use the side door. It is easier to open.

“And how did your meeting with de Aranda go?” Someone asks as I enter the little hall.

I feel a heady rush, but stifle a start. “It was very interesting sir,” I say to Henri de Tallon.

“De Fontenay, I may be the Comte’s deputy, but I would take it as a great courtesy if you might actually call me by my name when we are in private.” He scowls at a servant passing through. “Come into my office.” It is small, business-like, and choked with furniture. A desk full of paper dominates it.

He gestures me to a chair, before sitting himself on a couch that is wedged between a cabinet and a bookshelf. “Now, if you would be so kind as to elucidate on your earlier comment?”

“You have heard of King Carlos’ malady?”

“The Ambassador was asked to the Palace about an hour ago, and I presume that is the reason. The rumour reached us a little earlier.” He peers at me. “The Comte was most distressed that you had not returned sooner. You might have provided needed information.”

I shrug. “Surely the Ambassador would not have wanted me interrupt my engagement.”

The edge of de Tallon’s mouth curls. “So, what did de Aranda have to say about his King’s ill health.”

I shift in the chair. “He had a message from the Duke of Milan – who wants us our co-operation to limit any discord created by this circumstance.”

“An entirely expected request. And what was your reply?”

“I made no reply. He knows I could not.”

“And what is your opinion?”

I take a little time. “Given our public commitments we must at least give the appearance of co-operation.”

“Mmmm,” he leans back, and folds his arms across his chest. He studies me, inch by inch. I want to fidget, so I read the titles on his shelves. I spy a few I would like to borrow.

He leans forward, placing his elbows on his knees and joining his hands. “De Fontenay, do you know why you were appointed here?”

“I had assumed my father, or his friends, had forwarded my name…”

“To be blunt de Fontenay, no.” He chuckles, “Indeed, what friends does your father have in Paris whose recommendations would be well-regarded?” He sighs. “Your father, as I am sure you are aware, developed during his tenure here very good relations with a number of notable Spaniards. These were avenues of information and exchange that were lost when he was withdrawn.” He smiles at me. “His revenge I think, for the way he was treated. It has taken the Court in France some years to admit that they desperately need such avenues. Recalling your father would be utterly unacceptable, and so it was suggested that you or one of your brothers might suffice. At that point certain views were solicited, and your candidacy was mooted in preference to your siblings. I was pleased when I heard that de Aranda was going to make your acquaintance, as he is a protégé of the Duke of Milan who was among those closest to your father. The Ambassador will want to know if our hopes have borne fruit, and I need an answer for him – yes or no.”

My voice sounds very small. “Yes.” I take a breath, and with more confidence, “He has … concerns.” I do not elaborate.

De Tallon clears his throat. “De Fontenay, this is no time to be coy. I should not need to remind you of your allegiance…”

“Do not question my loyalty.” My voice is firm, but not loud. There might be someone listening at the door, and they would never catch my words. I pause. “But I need proof of yours.”

He blinks, his lips clamp shut and his knuckles whiten. We are in a frozen moment, a tableaux needing a sculptor. I smile.

He rasps out the breath he was holding, and relaxes. “So very cautious,” he says. He stands, and goes to his desk. “This letter might suffice. I waylaid this about a year ago.” He pulls a thin scroll out of a drawer, and hands it to me. It has a broken seal.

It is plain enough, a letter from the Ambassador complaining about his assistant – de Tallon – and asking for a replacement. Some of the language used is quite colourful. I look to the bottom, and it bears the signature of Francois, Comte d’Artois, the Ambassador. I read it again, and notice that the ink where I had placed my thumb has smudged. Only by a little, it is almost dry.

I reach over and put it down on the desk. “Will you trust me?” he asks, a challenge in his voice.

I wet my lips, hoping to show a few nerves. “The Duke of Milan is especially concerned about the actions of two people. They are Miguel de los Santos and Enrique Velasco. I am sure I do not need to tell you why.”

"Indeed not. And he is of the opinion these two would entangle us in their conspiracies?” I nod. “And was there anything else?”

I shake my head. “No. Well, a few details, but nothing of importance.”

“We can discuss those after the Ambassador has returned. You will make arrangements to continue meeting with de Aranda, and learn all you can from what quarters we can expect attention. You may tell him we will extend co-operation, and we will see what of this we can turn to our advantage. Assuming King Carlos remains ill you will brief the Ambassador in three days.”

He makes a dismissing motion, and I stand. As I open the door to leave de Tallon speaks again.

“One last thing de Fontenay. I have indulged you this time, there will not be another.”

I sketch a half-bow. “There will not need to be,” and I shut the door.
 
Last edited:

Rensslaer

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Hmm... :)

The sins of the father... The expectations for the father...

The friends of the father...

And the leashes of the father...

Oh, and I had wondered last night if there was some significance to your signing off at exactly 3,999 posts. :D Congratulations!

Rensslaer
 

coz1

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Jean plays the diplomat very well...and also, perhaps, the spy.

What language you use, stnylan. I am so very jealous of your command of it! This phrase in particular - "Standing stock still in the street is stupid." Almost Nabokovian (if I may be permitted to use that as a word.) Splendid!

And a hearty congrats on 4,000 posts. Each and every one of them has been a sure bonus to this place of ours. Your sig spells it out, so I need not repeat it. But would that there were more like you willing to let others know of their worth and contribution. Yours is exactly the same! :D

And P.S. - my fault - I could have sworn you told me you like black pudding. My faulty memory is playing tricks on me once again. :rolleyes:
 

J. Passepartout

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So, was Jean's father less than loyal? Or merely embarrassing?

Anyway, it is always best to accuse you enemies exactly of that which you are guilty of, and if Jean is loyal, he is at least accused of being disloyal.
 

Rensslaer

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coz1 said:
my fault - I could have sworn you told me you like black pudding.
He was just pudding you on. - Rens
 

Stuyvesant

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Bad, bad pun, Renss! Well done spotting and taking advantage of that opportunity! ;)

I like the way you describe how everyone wants Jean to play a certain role, while Jean himself seems to have very little say in what he can and cannot do. Although I expect that to change, as he learns more and more to manipulate his environment and the people in it.

It seems that Jean's usefulness to France and Spain is more about WHAT he is, rather than WHO he is. He has the name, he is the son of... That is why he is where he is, not for any personal merit. I thought the scene on the street, where Jean realizes this, where he wants to rebel, walk away, but also realizes he will not do that, not because people want him to do so but because he cares for France, is put together really well.

He rasps out the breath he was holding, and relaxes. “So very cautious,” he says. He stands, and goes to his desk. “This letter might suffice. I waylaid this about a year ago.” He pulls a thin scroll out of a drawer, and hands it to me. It has a broken seal.

It is plain enough, a letter from the Ambassador complaining about his assistant – de Tallon – and asking for a replacement. Some of the language used is quite colourful. I look to the bottom, and it bears the signature of Francois, Comte d’Artois, the Ambassador. I read it again, and notice that the ink where I had placed my thumb has smudged. Only by a little, it is almost dry.
Cloak and dagger stuff! I'm still fairly clueless as to who is loyal to whom, what factions there are and how France (and its Spanish embassy) tie in to that, but the little hints and brief glimpses sure make me very curious in finding out more! :)
 

coz1

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Terrible pun, Renss! :p :D

And stnylan - hope all is well. I've noticed you've been absent for a few days. We miss your comments, I am sure - but mostly, we want to know what Jean's next step is.
 

unmerged(34884)

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coz1 said:
Terrible pun, Renss! :p :D

And stnylan - hope all is well. I've noticed you've been absent for a few days. We miss your comments, I am sure - but mostly, we want to know what Jean's next step is.
Yea where is he? Gone for a week now...

In the meantime i have taken up the task of reading the MoF, marvellous what i have read so far, and great character building on Jean.

Hope to see u back soon