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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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Slinky

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Capibara

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Chapter XIV
The Road to War

“Sforza is an idiot! How could he possibly think he would be able to defeat a whole Milanese army by himself? He almost got killed. It was a foolish action and above all, now Visconti knows we are up to something. Preparations for war will need to go faster now. Especially if Ranieri is informed.”

A council was being held at the doge’s palace after notice had been received that Valentino Sforza had decided to start his little rebellion on his own and had attacked a Milanese army located in the border between the Duchy and the Serenissima, with a disastrous result of course: almost all of his army crushed, hundreds of soldiers captured and a face wound as a souvenir for him.

“Visconti has a perfect excuse now to invade us. I hope France and the Emperor can be ready as soon as possible. Messengers are already in their way to Paris and Munich to notify them of the change of plans.” said one of the members of the council. “You must remember as well, that he must take care first of the Pope business. If he is killed, all of our plans could crumble.”

“I know, I know, however, we need someone who is fast and stealthy, someone who can be a match for the assassin that Visconti has sent against the Pope, who is probably on his way to Rome right now.”

“I may know someone who could do that job, my doge.” said a voice from the far entrance of the room.

Everyone turned their heads towards the door, where a tall man armed with a sword was standing. He seemed amused by the reaction he had provoked on the assistants of the council. He was now starting towards the doge, who after some moments of confusion spoke.

“How did you get in here? Who are you?”

“Sorry about that, forgot to introduce myself. You might have heard from me before, sir. My name is Giacomo Gusci and I’m the leader of the Seven Bulls. As for how I entered, let’s say I can be persuasive in my own way.”

“You are those mercenaries that arrived yesterday and everyone’s been talking about, am I right?

“That’s right.”

“And you are telling me that you and your companions can stop Visconti’s assassin before he reaches Rome and kills the Pope?”

“Not the whole group, but one of us. May I introduce you to Salvatore Nuglio, the deathliest man of my group, he could kill a man with his hands tied to his back. He’ll make Visconti’s assassin look like a frightened kitten.”

Salvatore Nuglio entered the room. Some of the present recoiled on their seats. Nuglio’s appearance could be frightening sometimes. His weapons, long hair and dark glance could make people think that we would kill every single person in the room. However, he limited to nod and ask “How much will you pay us?”

“Excuse me?”

“Yes, you know what that means. We wouldn’t be called mercenaries if we didn’t get paid for killing people.”

The Venetian Doge remained silent while he thought about the whole issue. After some minutes of pondering, he started talking again. “I shall pay you but, only you, Nuglio. There’s no reason why I should pay to the rest of your group, since you are the one who will be doing the whole job.”

Nuglio was about to say something else, but Gusci hurried to speak first. He didn’t want that the whole thing would come down because of an imprudence of his companion.

“You got a point there” he said quickly “but who said we won’t be doing anything.”

“Really? And what will you be doing to help your friend?”

“Let’s say we have some business to do in Milan and we could help you by sending you informs of the moves of Visconti as well as disrupting his plans. What do you think?”

“What would you be doing exactly?” the doge asked, clearly interested this time.

“I can’t really tell you. You never know who could be listening. I can only assure you good results, as long as you pay us well, of course.”

Alessandro Drique stopped to think again about the situation. They could as well agents of Visconti, but for some reason, those mysterious soldiers inspired him confidence so he decided to support them.


“So be it, let’s discuss the price now.”

Gusci and Nuglio looked at each other smiling.

***

“How did it go?” asked Ordini. Gusci and Nuglio had just returned from the meeting with Drique and were entering now the house where they were staying with the rest of the Bulls. Nuglio barely heard him, since he went to his room to prepare everything for his trip to Rome.

“Excellent” said Gusci smiling “we got more money than we expected and Drique trust us completely. This is one of the best missions we’ve got in years. So, let’s stop talking and let’s start moving. We have to save Giovanni and cause some trouble to Visconti, in order to give more time to Drique and his allies to get ready for war.”

“I can’t remember the last time we separated” said Inchi who had just entered the room. “I guess it’ll just be six of us this time.”

“Maybe there’ll be just six Bulls, but there will be seven warriors. Giulio will be coming with us.” corrected Gusci.

“Ah, that’s true; speaking of which, I should go and fetch him” continued Inchi.

“You are right, we are leaving as soon as possible. Roberto, go and fetch the rest of the group and tell them we are leaving in less than an hour, so tell them to get their things ready and be here.”

“Yes, sir!”

***

As the sun started to set in the horizon, and the last sunrays colored in red the Venetian buildings, eight riders exited the capital of Venetian Republic: One of them headed towards Rome, the Eternal City, in a mission where the fate of the Catholic Church was in play, while the other seven were heading to Milan, in a mission that would set in motion the events that would decide the fate of Italy.

 
Last edited:

Capibara

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Sorry about the short update, but I'm busy preparing my new AARs, so you'll have to wait another week for a better one, at least that way you know this is alive. I invite you as well to check out my new AAR and vote either for the Knights or Ireland.(Whatever EURO says)
 

canonized

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ahh so the bulls are back in action ! glad to see it ! Looking forward to what's going on !
 

Griffin.Gen

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Sorry about the short update, but I'm busy preparing my new AARs, so you'll have to wait another week for a better one, at least that way you know this is alive. I invite you as well to check out my new AAR and vote either for the Knights or Ireland.(Whatever EURO says)
AAAaaagh, damnit I want to see if I live or not!
Well I WILL live, right? ;)
 

Slinky

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Drique is very fast to trust the bulls, somehow I doubt he will be as fast paying them ;)
 

robou

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Maybe only one is going to Rome, but in this all roads do lead to Rome. Drique is taking a risk putting the fate of Venice, the Papacy and the whole of Italy in the hands of eight mercenaries. Still, I hope it will pay off.
 

comagoosie

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Heh, I would take the money and run, there is nothing saying I can't do that :D

Oh, um...that is assuming that the doge gave them the money already, though I suppose he could withhold it until the dirty deed is done...
 

Qorten

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Sorry about the short update, but I'm busy preparing my new AARs, so you'll have to wait another week for a better one, at least that way you know this is alive. I invite you as well to check out my new AAR and vote either for the Knights or Ireland.(Whatever EURO says)

I am already glad that we an update at all. It was a nice update which sets up things well for interesting things to come. Now more with my character in it please! ;)
 

unmerged(81390)

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I am already glad that we an update at all. It was a nice update which sets up things well for interesting things to come. Now more with my character in it please! ;)
Just read this message again and pretend I wrote it.
 

aldriq

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Sorry about the short update, but I'm busy preparing my new AARs, so you'll have to wait another week for a better one, at least that way you know this is alive...

Glad to see it back! You are allowed to pause it but not to abandon it! :D

Slinky said:
Drique is very fast to trust the bulls, somehow I doubt he will be as fast paying them ;)

Venice always pays! Even if we have to sack Constantinople to afford it :p

robou said:
Drique is taking a risk putting the fate of Venice, the Papacy and the whole of Italy in the hands of eight mercenaries. Still, I hope it will pay off.

This is no time for indecision, Sforza has already made things quite difficult, the bulls are a risky but worthwhile bet.

comagoosie said:
Heh, I would take the money and run, there is nothing saying I can't do that

Oh, um...that is assuming that the doge gave them the money already, though I suppose he could withhold it until the dirty deed is done...

You'll be paid in Venetian cookies if you don't behave :p
 

Capibara

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It seems aldriq's already answered the comments for me :p

AAAaaagh, damnit I want to see if I live or not!
Well I WILL live, right? ;)

I'll keep you in suspense, just don't get a heartattack, will you?

Drique is very fast to trust the bulls, somehow I doubt he will be as fast paying them ;)

Drique is not the same kind of snake as Visconti or Sforza, I'm sure he will pay.

Hee, only one gets to see Rome. :(

If all of you do your job right, perhaps the Pope will invite you as a thank you gift ;)

Maybe only one is going to Rome, but in this all roads do lead to Rome. Drique is taking a risk putting the fate of Venice, the Papacy and the whole of Italy in the hands of eight mercenaries. Still, I hope it will pay off.

Have more fate in the bulls (you are one of them after all ;))They have experience and know what to do.

Heh, I would take the money and run, there is nothing saying I can't do that :D

Oh, um...that is assuming that the doge gave them the money already, though I suppose he could withhold it until the dirty deed is done...

That attitude could cost you the leadership of the bulls :p But you don't have all the money still, so go and get the work done.

I am already glad that we an update at all. It was a nice update which sets up things well for interesting things to come. Now more with my character in it please! ;)

Next chapter we will see more of the Bulls during the fights both in Rome and Milan.

Just read this message again and pretend I wrote it.

Just read this message above and pretend I wrote it as answer to this ;)

Just one off to Rome?:eek:

Well, there's more work to do in Milan than Rome.

Glad to see it back! You are allowed to pause it but not to abandon it! :D

Don't worry, I'll try to update more frequently now (although I have promised that a lot of times :p)
 

aldriq

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unmerged(83622)

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So Nuglio, the cold-blooded murderer, is going to Rome. You've sure got me hooked for the next episode at least. :D And hey, rather churning out small updates more frequently, than longer ones with much time in between. ;)
 

EUROO7

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So Nuglio, the cold-blooded murderer, is going to Rome. You've sure got me hooked for the next episode at least. :D And hey, rather churning out small updates more frequently, than longer ones with much time in between. ;)

I disagree.

I think he should post long updates everyday.
 

Capibara

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Chapter XV
Italian Mayhem

The first rays of light were starting to appear on the horizon and illuminated the top of the hills filled with buildings, seven hills to be precise, the Seven Hills of Rome. Salvatore Nuglio had arrived to the Eternal City after a whole night of travelling without stop. He was on a race against time. He had gotten information from the inns that Visconti’s assassin had stopped to change horses and was on the lead and probably was at that moment lurking around Rome. He had never like Rome, it was too crowded and noisy; every single time he visited the city he couldn’t relax properly. Everyone bothered him and not even women were that good, he really preferred his natal south, where everything was calmer. He had to find the assassin soon, the quicker he got rid of him, the quicker he could get out of Rome and return north with his companions, where all the real action would be taking place, lots of Milanese and Savoyard soldiers ready to be killed. Visconti and Ranieri included, of course. That would be fun, having them hanged from the walls of Milan and Turin. After that, with all the money they would be receiving from Drique, they could go far away and take a little vacation. There would be plenty of wars waiting for them once they returned.
As he rode across the alleys of Rome, people had started to fill the streets, ready for another day of work and routine. The sun now shone above the city. Despite of his dislike for Rome, he knew some people who could help him in his task of finding the assassin. He had brought enough money to open any mouth that could be shut. “Con dinero baila el perro*” he remembered a phrase he had once heard from a Castilian friend and smiled. It was, true, he wouldn’t be doing this if it wasn’t for the money, he could sell his own soul to the Devil if the paying was good. He left the most crowded streets as he entered to the most dangerous zones of Rome, where thieves and assassins could be found in every corner. His target had probably been there some hours before. Killing the Pope wasn’t an easy job and even the deathliest assassin would need some kind of help in order to have a chance of succeeding.
He kept advancing for another couple of streets, until he stopped in front of a small, old house. He dismounted his horse and tied it to one of the house wooden columns and entered to a dark, small room. Light barely entered through a dust-covered window. Some armed men were sitting around a table and seemed to be playing dices. Everything was in complete silence and nobody seemed to have noticed the presence of the newly arrived. They just continued to throw the dices.

“I’m looking for Materazzi” he said “I was told I could find him here.”

At the mention of Materazzi the sound of the dices stopped and everyone turned their attention towards Nuglio. They looked absolutely surprise and he couldn’t help but smile. Their expressions were priceless.

“Who are you? Materazzi no longer comes here.” said an old man that looked like the leader. “And even if he did, it’s none of your business to come and ask for him.”

“Really? Because I was just told by some men out there that they saw him arrive here this morning. And you know, if there is something I hate in this world are liars, so you better go and fetch him.”

“You don’t know on what you are getting here, young man. My boys here don’t like someone to address them like you just did. But it seems you don’t know that, so we’ll let you walk away for this time; just turn around an exit through the door, no hard feelings or that kind of crap.”

“The thing is, I don’t want to go and I really don’t care what you or your dogs think about my speaking tone, so get out of my way, ‘cause I really need to see Materazzi, or Satan will have to make you room on his table for dinner tonight. So, move aside and tell me where he is, or suffer the consequences.”

“So you are playing the tough guy now, huh? We’ll teach how he treat the tough guys in this neighborhood. Boys, go get him and let him feel what happens when he is sticking his nose where it doesn’t belong.”

The men in the table stood up, drawing out their swords and started advancing menacingly towards Nuglio. He smiled again and whispered while he drew out his own sword “Finally, I thought you were never going to make up your mind.”

***​

As the inhabitants of Milan walked through the streets, enjoying the sunny weather and thanking God for the good crops of that year, seven horsemen rode across the streets of the capital of the Milanese Duchy, in constant vigilance, sneaking out of view as soon as they saw a patrol. Everyone in the city knew that another war, this time with France and Venice was imminent and everyone feared that enemy spies would start flooding the city, so anyone who was armed or looked suspicious was prone to be detained by one of the patrols that swept every street of Milan. The Ducal jail was now near and every meter they advanced, the patrols multiplied. It was rumored that an enemy was being held there, an enemy with useful information, so Visconti didn’t want anyone near the jail.

“So, how the hell are we exactly going to enter the super fortified jail of Visconti?” asked Ordini looking around him, trying to find a weak spot from where the group of mercenaries could enter.

“That’s easy, we charge, kill everyone and rescue Giovanni” said Orteni, it’s simple and fast to do. And I haven’t had a good battle in weeks. It shouldn’t be that difficult. We just have to kill about seven guards each one of us and it’s done…”

“Only to get trapped on the building after someone notices that there are a bunch of enemy soldiers storming it and we get slaughtered after a long and bloody battle” Gusci interrupted. “However, we cannot wait until night either; we don’t have that much time and we must enter that prison as soon as possible, so let’s divide in three groups and start searching for an entrance point and the main gate is not an option, Quinto. For making sure you don’t do anything stupid, you are coming with me. Mazdi and Nebaldi will form another group and Giulio, Roberto and Inchi will form the last group. We will meet here again at noon. Don’t be late. Let’s go.”

***​

He had lost track of time. Day and night passed and he would not notice. The dark room where he was being held didn’t allow him to know the time of the day. The visits of Anna cheered him up somewhat, but it wasn’t enough to give him back the desire to live. She would speak about the great life they had ahead, a future for the two of them. That was one of the few times he would smile, cynically. “What future?” he would ask “I’m the prisoner of Visconti, who has me tortured daily and will probably kill me soon, while you are married to a wealthy Milanese nobleman and live in a comfortable big house. You are on the winning side, I’m about to die. What future are you talking about?” Anna would then tell him how could he think that and rush out of the room crying, while he got beaten up by the guards for making the lady cry. He would then regret his words and cry in silence for hurting the one person that cared for him, but the same scene would repeat the very next day. He just wished to die. He had been abandoned by everybody, so dead would be sweet at that moment. He could now hear the sound of the heaven bells ringing and the angelical voices… Wait, those weren’t angels, nor the sound was produced by bells. That sound was steel clashing against steel, what was happening?

“There he is! Untie him and let’s get the hell out of here.”

He could continue to hear the fight raging, a mix of swords against swords and the screams of agonizing men.

“Giovanni, can you here me? We are here to rescue you.” said a voice right next to him.

“Giulio, is that you? I thought you had forgotten about me.”

“I would never forget about a comrade, now let’s go.” Giulio unlocked his friend using the keys taken from a dead guard. Giovanni has too weak to walk, so his companion carried him over his shoulder. The Bulls had already killed the guards and were freeing the prisoners of the adjacent cells.

“We will need as much manpower as possible to get out of this hell alive” said Gusci “So grab the weapons of the dead soldiers and follow us.”

The group had now about twenty people, but the Milanese soldiers were already swarming into the old castle, covering every possible exit.

“If we get caught, everything is done, so let’s look for the less crowed hallway that leads us to the exit.” Said Ordini.

“Then what? We run through the streets of Milan all the way to Venice expecting that no one will notice us? A group of mercenaries and escapees from the prison is not exactly a group that can blend with the people.” Inchi looked skeptically around him.

“We will think of something” Gusci said “Now let’s go, before they arrive. Less talking and more running saves lives.”

Arguing ended and everyone started running upstairs, where they met the first group of enemy soldiers who resisted bravely but weren’t match for the Bulls and they improvised allies. Sporadic fighting continued as they advanced towards the entrance of the building, where a group of ducal guards had already formed. Those soldiers were famous for being the fiercest fighters of the Milanese armies and fought to the last men.

“Well, it looks they’ve decided to bring the cavalry against us.” said Quinto laughing. “The will be all dead soon anyways, so let’s…”

“Watch out” yelled Inchi. The enemy had some archers among their ranks and one of them didn’t like the way Orteni was talking so was aiming at him with his bow and was about to fire, but Inchi was faster and drawing out one of his knives, he threw to the archer who quickly fell dead to the ground with a long knife across his throat. Both sides didn’t waste another second before throwing against each other. After that, everything was blood and confusion.

***​

Salvatore Nuglio took a piece of cloth from his pocket and cleaned carefully his blood stained sword. He liked to have his weapon clean and shinny. After he was done with his sword cleaning ritual, he looked around him. There were dead bodies all over the floor. However, one of them was still alive: the old man. While Nuglio was looking around, he tried to get up, grabbing a sword near him. He had already gotten up and was about to stab the Bull in the back when Nuglio turned around drawing his sword at incredible speed and beheaded his enemy before he could even raise his sword.

“Now, it’s time to find Materazzi” he cleaned his sword again and went upstairs.

He entered a room that had a small window, from where the street could be seen. There was a small bed and a table with papers over it. There were some chairs scattered around the floor and next to one of them, a corpse.

“Materazzi…” he muttered.

“That’s right, Materazzi” said a voice behind him. Nuglio tried to move, but he felt the cold steel of a sword against the back of his head. “Don’t try to move or you’ll be dead even before your hand reaches for your sword. Do you really think I hadn’t noticed that someone had been following, all the way from Milan? You know, I was doing an easy job here. Arrive to Rome, kill the Pope, get my reward and disappear for the rest of my life. But you had to complicate everything, like you could even stop my plans. I have been ahead of you even from the start, so let’s finish with this so I can resume my activities.”

“So you are Visconti’s assassin…” Nuglio was moving his eyes frenetically around the room, trying to find something that would help him get out alive of that one.

“Yes I am, at least for now. As I told you, as soon as the Duke pays me, I will get out of here and enjoy the money somewhere where no one can bother me. So, let’s get done. Any last words you would like to say?”

“Yes, this is not over yet.”



*Con dinero baila el perro: Literally translated as "With money, the dog dances". It refers to the fact that money can achieve lots of things.
 
Last edited:

EUROO7

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Finally! :mad: :p

Now to read it all. :D
 

Capibara

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