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Prologue Part I

jak7139

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Feb 8, 2016
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Hello everyone! Welcome to my newest AAR.

If any of you read the conclusion to my last AAR, then you might remember that at the
end of the final chapter I said my next project might be EU4 related. Well, this is that project.

What follows is very narrative-focused. Almost none of these events relate to any actual gameplay, other than the fact that I played a Florence game and was inspired to write this. The prologue is three parts long and does relate to the actual chapters.

I have most of this already written. So I will try to post an update every couple of weeks.

Also, one final thing. This AAR occasionally uses AI-generated art. And there is one moment where I quote someone else. Whenever that happens in the story, I will include an asterisk next to the instance and a footnote like this at the end of the chapter under a spoiler:

*[1] original source or information.

This story has been many months in the making and I hope you all enjoy it.

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PROLOGUE PART I

You had spent many weeks preparing for this expedition. Freshly graduated from university, you had specialized your History Doctorate in the Early Modern Period, the time from the pre-Renaissance to the early Industrial Revolution. In the weeks leading up to your commencement, one of your professors had recommended you accompany him on a trip to Italy, specifically the city of Florence.

“The recent earthquakes there,” he’d said, "had uncovered many ruins. Roman, Ostrogothic, and,” he’d paused, relishing your anticipation, “Tuscan.”

You’d already guessed what his response was going to be, but still, you let him have his fun, out of respect.

“Just think of it,” he’d continued, “hidden complexes of marble and stone, insights into how people lived under Florence’s golden age. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I know you’re not one to miss such moments.”

He’d given you a knowing wink and a nod, after which you’d thanked him and accepted his offer. Your professor was a little eccentric at times, you’d admitted, but he was passionate and knowledgeable, and he wanted his students to succeed. Those qualities had given you courage as you’d finished up your degree. And now, this was it. You had your diploma, your suitcase, and had said your goodbyes to friends and family, and were on a plane to Italy.

0 - An archaeological dig underway at the ancient .png


Florentine Ruins*

. . .

The ruins in Florence were spectacular, as your professor had said. You had arrived in the city the previous morning and, after a much-needed rest to sort out the jet lag, were finally ready to work. Well… “work” was actually more of a misnomer, it turned out. While your professor and the experienced archaeologists would be handling the actual excavation, you were just meant to sit back and observe, to take notes, as your professor had said, on what the work of a real historian looked like. Which was fine as far as you were concerned. Fine, fine. It’s just, you had felt like you should be doing something…more?

Regardless, you pick your eyes up from your notebook and look around. The dig is progressing steadily at the current site: A villa built during Medici rule. Much of the structure had already been uncovered, as well as many statues, pieces of furniture, and works of art, all in varying degrees of wear. Your professor had picked out one of the more well-preserved pieces, a marble miniature, and asked you to create a sketch of it. How he knew its condition with the amount of dust covering his glasses was unknown. But still, you had accepted his challenge. At least it would give you something to do, you thought.

Now, over an hour later, you aren’t so sure. Your attempts at sketching the statue have come to nothing. Every time you draw a line, you erase it just as quickly. You just can’t focus, what with the heat of the day, the boredom of only watching the dig, and the statue itself. The figurine has some quality to it that you’re unable to describe. And so, you sit in your folding chair, with the statue on the wooden table next to you. You stare at it; it stares back mockingly.

All you have to show in your notebook for your efforts are some scribbles and partially erased grey smudges. You decide to refill your water bottle from the cooler in the large tent nearby. Perhaps that will help clear your head. It will certainly give you something to think about other than your failed sketching.

The shade from the canopy gives you a nice break from the Mediterranean sun, even if you can’t stay in here the whole day. The cooler is only a quarter full, and whatever ice cubes were inside it are long melted, but water is water. It’s the blood of life after all. You start to refill your bottle, but then the cooler begins to shake. Scratch that. Everything is shaking. You look around in confusion. The workers outside cry out:

“Scosse di assestamento! Scosse di assestamento! Terremoto!”

Aftershocks? Earthquake? Oh no. You dive under one of the desks in the tent, hoping that it will protect you. At least if the tent falls, it is only canvas. Not something heavy like the many stone buildings around here.

The tremors continue to build in intensity. The cooler you had been refilling just a moment before falls to the ground, spilling its remaining contents onto the dirt. A quick peek out from under the desk lets you see some of the archaeological workers as they scamper around in confusion, trying to find someplace to hide. You can’t tell if any of them is your professor.

Your vision starts to blur as the ground continues violently shaking. The vibrations and screaming people aren’t the only ones making noise now. Outside your position in the tent, the ruins and buildings of the Mediterranean villa are collapsing and crashing to the ground. Untold centuries of archaeological, historical, and cultural value lost in an instant to the whims of nature.

Suddenly, you hear a sharp CRACK. But this sound is no afterthought to the tumult of noise already assaulting your ears. The stone structures collapsing, the rumbling earth, the screams of people, all of them pale to this new noise. And then it is joined by dozens of sounds just like it, all of them equal in intensity and measure. Massive fissures at least ten feet wide, and of unknowable depth, are opening up all over. And with each CRACK more earth gives way to these trenches.

The statue you had been sketching before has been knocked to the ground due to the shaking. Miraculously, it is not only still in pristine condition, but has also rolled and maneuvered its way, because of the tremors, to rest beside your hiding place. You snatch it up quickly, hoping to preserve at least something from this disaster. Countless artifacts have surely already perished to the earthquake, never to be studied. Their stories never to be known.

That is when it happened.

As soon as your hand touches the soft, dust-covered marble of the figurine, the ground gives a mighty roar. Your vision, already blurry beyond belief, begins to fade. You fight to stay conscious. Blacking out now is a sure way to die, you reason. But it is difficult. Dust rains down from the tent canopy, the desk begins to jump, and the ground is a swirling mass. Another CRACK rings out, the ground beneath you opens, and you fall into the depths.


*An AI-generated piece. Used this program. Supposed to be a bunch of ruins in a Mediterranean city.
 
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Congratulations on a new AAR start. I’ll be tuning in though have limited reading time for the next couple of weeks while travelling, but will be commenting when I can.
 
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I’ll be tuning in though have limited reading time for the next couple of weeks while travelling
Glad you could make it! Comment whenever you have time.
 
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Ooh, a @jak7139 AAR! This will be fun! And I've had a soft spot for the Medici for a while now - ever since I saw Medici: Masters of Florence (which was before Season 3 came out...).

Did our protagonist just travel through time? By earthquake? That's... strange. I've never heard of an earthquake causing time travel.
 
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Ooh, a @jak7139 AAR! This will be fun!
Thanks!
Did our protagonist just travel through time? By earthquake? That's... strange. I've never heard of an earthquake causing time travel.
Not time travel exactly. But the earthquake has caused them to fall somewhere...Next part will reveal more about this.
 
Great start @jak7139! I'm going to be following this. Good luck.
 
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Prologue Part II
PROLOGUE PART II

You awake in a dark, dank cave. Your vision is solidly black. A moment of brief panic arises within you as you grapple with the possibility of a life of blindness, but then you remember your phone. A frantic search through your pockets reveals your smartphone (with three-quarters charge), some loose change, and the statue you’d shoved into your pocket before.

You flick on your phone’s light and check the screen. No cell service. You look up and can just make out the faintest pinprick of light above. The surface, you assume. It might just be a hallucination due to the stress, but you’re sure it’s getting smaller by the second, fading away into nothing. You take a moment and admire the statue now clutched in your hand, surprised it didn’t fall out during your fall, before putting it back in your pocket.

You don’t feel injured, only tired. A headache, your dust-soaked clothes, and your current surroundings are the only evidence that you just fell. But…no broken bones? No blood? It doesn’t make sense. You push those thoughts aside for the moment to try and find a way out of here.

Behind you, lit up by your phone, is a solid rock wall, the same to your left and right. Ahead of you an endless tunnel looms, the darkness barely pierced by your phone’s light. You have no idea where it leads or how long it goes on for. Heck, you don’t even know if anybody on the surface knows you’re down here. But once again you push those thoughts aside. There’s only one thing to do. You roll your shoulders, take a deep breath, and set out into the darkness.

You walk for what feels like hours. It’s just you, alone in that vast darkness. The only sound is the shuffle of your feet over gravel and stone as you trudge on. Everything around you is black. The only two things helping you keep your bearings are your phone’s light and your decision to stick to the right cavern wall. Your feet feel heavier with every step you take, and the hand you keep pressed to the rock wall on your right (to not lose orientation) already feels callused and bruised from being continuously scraped against the rough rock.

Your throat is still dry from before the earthquake. The water bottle you had been refilling before this whole mess started must’ve gotten left behind when you fell, who knows where it is now. That, combined with the dust that had been kicked-up due to the earthquake, has kept your mouth perpetually dry. To add insult to injury, you can feel the damp humidity of the cave. It has kept you sweating for however long you’ve been down here. There must be water somewhere, but nowhere you can reach.

Your phone continues to drain its battery as you march. Every few minutes its light grows slightly dimmer. You know you’re running on borrowed time, but there’s no other option. You couldn’t have climbed out of the hole you fell down, not with the light of the surface so far distant (and fading fast). The only option is to keep moving forward and hope for a way out. As you continue forward and as your phone slowly dies, the darkness of the cave closes in even more.

There’s something almost…malevolent in its form. If you glance back, nothing remains except the darkness. The far-left wall of this tunnel, which you’re sure must be there, is completely concealed by the lack of light. Even in front of you, with the remainder of your phone, you can barely see anything. You walk a few steps more, and that’s when your light gives out. You stop and shake your phone a few times to see if it has any more juice left to give.

Nothing.

Your sigh echoes throughout the tunnel, bouncing off the rocks and becoming a mysterious HISS. You listen for a moment, intrigued, before the sound fades away. You look down at your phone, even if you can’t see it now because of the darkness. Without its useful light, it now feels like an unnecessary weight in your hand. And your body already feels so heavy…

You let your back slide down against the rock wall and give your aching, blistered feet a break. You weren’t geared up for a hike. Just some sneakers, a T-shirt, and shorts. Although you hadn’t felt all that hurt immediately after your fall, the fatigue of your trek and the sharp, rough edges of the rocks have taken their toll.

You squeeze the fingers on your right hand. Stiff.

You squeeze the toes on both your feet. Stiff.

You squeeze your left hand. Stiff.

Not as much as the one that had been touching the right-hand wall, but it is still sore from clutching your phone, from grasping it as a shield against the darkness. Not that this matters now, what with the dead battery. But still, you couldn’t have taken the chance that it might’ve broken if you’d dropped it.

You give another sigh and listen to the eerie HISS of your breath against the rocks. It gives the darkness a voice.

You sigh again. And again. And again. Until you have multiple echoing HISSES overlapping each other. It almost feels as if the cave is breathing. Your own “Modern Prometheus”, you think. But had you birthed a monster or a saint?

You give an angry yell, pick yourself up, and throw your phone as hard as you can towards the left wall. But where you expect to hear the shattered smashing of plastic and parts against rock, instead you hear a hard, dull thud, which echoes around the cavern.

You freeze, your ears and eyes both alert for any more sounds or any movements. Your body’s joints groaned when you stood up from the wall, but now they are tense and ready for action. You groan inwardly as you take step after tentative step toward the sound, fearfully dreading what might come next, but knowing you have no choice.

You know it’s foolish to leave the rightmost wall. It’s the only thing giving you a bearing amid the vast dark, but the mystery of what your phone has hit overrides your common sense.

You move forward in the dark. It is a slow pace at first. But your confidence grows with each step you take, and soon you feel the hard rock of the left wall. Your hands flounder along the wall’s surface, searching for any difference in the terrain. And soon, you find it.

Excitedly, your fingers trace themselves along this new, wooden surface. You do the edges first, marking out the boundaries between rock and wood, then you move to the center. Starting from the bottom left, you slowly move your hands up until you reach the topmost edge. Then you move slightly to the right and move your hands down to the bottom. You repeat this over and over, bit by bit, until you find it.

CLANG!

The brass knocker rattles as your hand bumps into it. You don’t realize what it is at first, after all, what modern house has a door knocker? But the answer comes to you quickly. This is no modern doorway.

Your mind reaches back to your sophomore year and a history lecture you took (taught, funnily enough, by the same professor who had invited you on this little adventure). The lecture that had cemented your interest in your particular field of study:

“The Complete History of the Florentine-Egyptians, Their Rise and Fall, and Theories as to Why”

You had heard of the Florentines before of course (or Egyptians, depending on your politics). Who hadn’t? For the roughly four-hundred years their empire had existed, they had dominated the European and African continents (and to a lesser extent Asia and the New World).

They had defied and defined religious doctrine, had fought and won wars against their larger, jealous rivals, and had come as close as Justinian to a restored Roman Empire. But that was before “the Incident.” Their empire had collapsed shortly after that, although its legacy was still felt heavily.

Eagerly you grab onto the knocker and slam it three times into the door:

CLACK!

CLACK!

CLACK!


You wait in anticipation, wanting to know if what you had long suspected to be true was to be confirmed. Your professor, and indeed the entire academic community, discounted this next part of the Florentine legend as false. It, “was the realm of crackpots” your professor had surmised when you’d asked him about it one time. But a nurtured hope had secretly burned in your heart. What if it was true? What if the Medicis had actually—

From beyond the door, a voice was heard.

“Come in,” it said. The tone was strong and deep, a male voice.

Your heart leaps in excitement. Maybe, just maybe, your secret hope is actually true. You steady yourself, making sure your breathing is even and calm. Then, you open the door.
 
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A cracking good scene. I could feel the darkness. And an excellent way to portend what may happen during the game. A promise yet you do not give too much away. Nice.
 
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Well, that certainly raises a few questions. The "Florentine-Egyptians", huh? And why does the name depend on your politics? Differing theories of origin, perhaps?

If our protagonist here helped them rise... why did they fall? Is the protagonist a stand-in for the player? How long can he live?
 
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A cracking good scene. I could feel the darkness. And an excellent way to portend what may happen during the game. A promise yet you do not give too much away. Nice.
Thanks! I really tried to give the viewer a sense of how dark it is. Glad it came across well.
Well, that certainly raises a few questions. The "Florentine-Egyptians", huh? And why does the name depend on your politics? Differing theories of origin, perhaps?

If our protagonist here helped them rise... why did they fall? Is the protagonist a stand-in for the player? How long can he live?
The "Florentine-Egyptians" thing was just a reference to the game itself. When I playing this I was doing an achievement run:
achievement.JPG

And I figured, since the empire has collapsed in the game-world, that there would be lots of successor states and world leaders who would want to emphasize either the European or African parts of that heritage for various reasons.

Our protagonist hasn't interacted with the empire in any way. They are just a history student who knows their stuff.

They are not a stand-in for the player. Just someone living in the modern day.

As for how Florence fell and if our protagonist will live through this: No spoilers.
 
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Prologue Part III
PROLOGUE PART III

What you notice first is the brightness. After the choking black of your previous surroundings, this is truly a surprise. You spend several moments blinking hard to get used to the light, before looking around at your new surroundings.

In front of you is a large study. It is furnished lavishly and comfortably. A grand fireplace takes up the back-center wall, while an end-table, a plush footstool, and two comfy-looking armchairs sit in the center of the room next to it. There is no darkness in this room, even though it is countless miles underground. The fireplace, somehow, gives off more than enough light and warmth to fill the room as well as any electric light or heater.

Many large rugs cover the floor, giving the room a cozy appeal. Multiple renaissance-style paintings, consisting of portraits, landscapes, and grandiose scenes, adorn the walls. To the right of the room, in the very back corner, you see two doors. One is open and the other is closed. Inside the open one is a long banquet table, and what looks like enough food for a king and his closest courtiers is set atop it. Around a dozen high-backed chairs surround the feast, though none of them are currently occupied. That room looks to be just as well-lit as your current one, though you can’t tell by what source.

You look up and notice that a fine, crystalline chandelier hangs from the ceiling, which makes the already low ceiling feel even more compact. This further adds to the room’s snug but claustrophobic aesthetic, though after the dark, infinite expanse of the cave behind you, you find the close quarters inviting.

None of the candles in the chandelier are lit, the fireplace is doing more than enough by itself. Instead, the chandelier appears to be just decoration. A function it fulfills by refracting excess light through its many crystals and projecting the results onto every surface around the room. The kaleidoscope-like colors give the room an odd whimsy, as do the roaring fire, extravagant feast, and soft furnishings.

Finally, your eyes come back to the center of the room and rest on the two armchairs. You had been so dazzled by the room itself that you had forgotten your original purpose when entering: the voice.

You squint at the two chairs. Despite the room’s brightness, you can’t clearly make out the figure occupying the leftmost seat. Somehow the man, for you had heard a male voice call you, was oddly shadowy. But as you step further into the room, the figure becomes clearer.

He has jet-black hair and equally dark eyes. His chin and shoulders are broad, and his nose is shaped somewhat like a boulder, rugged and uneven. He wears a fine, bright-red linen robe and a cloak, some of which is wrapped around his head like a turban.

He sits hunched forward in his chair sipping a teacup. His eyes watch you like a cat, cold, calculating, but playful too. He does not blink or say anything, he just stares at you and sips his tea. As you stare at him, he suddenly reaches out his right arm and snatches a cookie from the plate on the end-table next to him. He munches it fondly, still staring at you and not blinking. The trace of a smile starts to play at his lips, and a faint twinkle sparkles in his eyes.

“Biscuit?” he says, gesturing to the table next to him. His voice is the same one you heard before, calling you from beyond the door. You say nothing and only stare, unsure of how to proceed.

However, the stranger, seeing his offer of refreshment refused, slaps his cup down on the table, springs from his chair, and stands up to his full height. And although that only amounts to just over five feet, he still carries himself with the dignity befitting a king. You have no doubt that this man could easily subdue you, despite your advantage of half a foot of height. You are still absolutely exhausted from your ordeals, while he has sat here in comfort, fully rested.

The moment he leaves his chair is when it hits you, the identity of this stranger. His cup had been obscuring his mouth and lips, and that was the key you needed. Only one detail is different from the artwork you’ve seen. His lips. A slight scar runs from his left nostril and across the edge of his mouth. No doubt this mark was left by some duel for honor long since forgotten.

“You’re…You’re…!” you stammer, barely believing your eyes.

“Lorenzo de Medici, or Lorenzo the Magnificent if you prefer,” he holds out an arm for you to take. You do so without thinking. “Come. Sit. I’m sure you must be tired.”

Lorenzo de Medici Portrait.JPG

Lorenzo de Medici, ruler of Florence (1449 – 1492?)*
*A picture from Google of Lorenzo de Medici. One of the first results when you type in his name. Painted by Bronzino
 
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Hmm...so Lorenzo has done a time warp of his own? Or maybe he traveled to China. ;)

More great descriptive work.
 
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Hmm...so Lorenzo has done a time warp of his own? Or maybe he traveled to China. ;)

More great descriptive work.
Future chapters will shed more light on where Lorenzo and our protagonist are.

Thanks for the compliment!
 
I can't wait to learn more about what's up with Lorenzo... referring to himself as the Magnificent strikes me as strange.

Do you need to worry about the Pazzi Conspiracy or... certain zealots (*cough, cough* Savonarola *cough, cough*)?
 
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I can't wait to learn more about what's up with Lorenzo... referring to himself as the Magnificent strikes me as strange.

Do you need to worry about the Pazzi Conspiracy or... certain zealots (*cough, cough* Savonarola *cough, cough*)?
Magnificent was his real-life title, much like "the Great" or "the Sun King" for other rulers. Though you are right, now that you've mentioned it, he would not call himself that :oops:.

The Savonrola thing did happen early-game and was very annoying. But this AAR won't be covering either of those events. Like I mentioned in the first post, this is mostly a narrative with very little gameplay to back it up. But I hope you enjoy it anyway.
 
I know - I have seen the TV show on the Medici (loved that show). It just felt like more evidence of the unreality of the situation.

I'm totally fine with narratives without much basis in gameplay!
 
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Chapter One
CHAPTER ONE

Lorenzo leads you to the second of the two armchairs and plops you into it in a carefree manner. Seeing you settled, he sits opposite, in his chair from before, and rings a bell on the table beside him.

He calls out, “Aldo! More tea and snacks, please! Hurry up!”

You hear shuffling from somewhere behind you and a muffled shout. This seems to be enough acknowledgment for Lorenzo who sits back and waits patiently, his hands crossed together in his lap. He’s observing the room around him as if seeing it for the very first time. His eyes still contain that playful hint from before.

As for you, you're spent. You sit limp, loose, and low in the armchair. Your arms hang down by your sides, unmoving. You suddenly feel very tired. Your eyes are heavy with exhaustion, but something is preventing you from giving in to that temptation. Perhaps this strange situation? Whatever the case, the only thing you can focus on at the moment is your new acquaintance, “Lorenzo the Magnificent.”

Lorenzo had, according to historical sources, died nearly six-hundred years ago at the age of forty-three. But the history of the Medici family and their empire was surrounded by ritualistic rumors, occultic obsessions, and the search for immortality. It seems they had succeeded in that pursuit.

“Ah, Aldo!” Lorenzo’s shout jerks you out of your daze.

An elderly man wearing a dark blue cloak shuffles towards the two of you with a platter of tea and assorted treats. The hood of his cloak is pulled down, revealing his nearly bald head and some remaining hair, all of which is wispy and silvery white. His only other significant feature are his eyes. They are a striking crystal blue, and you feel uncomfortable as he comes forward with the tray. He’s watching you with a sly, curious grin.

8.png

A Picture of Aldo*

“Master Lorenzo,” he says solemnly, still staring at you, “I did not know you had any guests. My deepest apologies for not making extra tea in advance.”

“Don’t worry about it Aldo,” Lorenzo says with a wave of his hand, “This one’s a surprise,” he gives you a look.

“Oh,” Aldo replies, somehow eyeing you with even more interest than before. You continue to not like the way he stares at you. He sets the new tray on the table, “It’s been too long since we’ve had one of those, hasn’t it sir,” he looks at Lorenzo, “Do you require anything else?”

“Indeed,” Lorenzo’s voice is just above a whisper. Then he says, in reply to Aldo’s second question, “No, nothing else. Go back to whatever you were doing. Thank you, Aldo.”

Aldo bows his head slightly, shuffles backward for a few meters, then turns away. You sit up in your chair and crane your neck to see where he goes. He opens the closed door from earlier, the one next to the banquet room, and disappears as it closes behind him.

“Good man, that Aldo,” Lorenzo says, already eyeing one of the cookies on the tray, “been with my family since my grandfather’s time.” He pours you a cup of tea, “Of course, he’s the only family I have left since…but ah! I’ll let you relax first. Then you can hear the whole tale.”

He slides the teacup next to you on the table and you move to take it, but a rough, poking feeling in your pocket stops you. You reach into your shorts and pull out the statue you had been sketching earlier. You had forgotten it was still with you. You set it down in the chair beside you and grab the cup. You take one sip before you notice Lorenzo’s face. He looks near tears, his eyes are wide, and his mouth is agape. He gingerly unwraps his turban and sets the cloth beside him.

He points at the figure, “May…May I see that?” His voice is humble and full of awe.

You shrug and take another sip of your tea. It’s quite good. The warmth flows through your battered body. You hand him the statue which he takes carefully, not wanting to drop or damage it. He sits back in his chair and admires it, quoting:

“‘Is thy face like thy mother’s, my fair child,

Lucrezia, sole daughter of my house and heart?

When last I saw thy young blue eyes, they smiled;

And then we parted — not as we now are,

But with a hope.

Awakening with a start,

The waters heave around me, and on high

The winds lift up their voices. I depart

Whither I know not, but the hour’s gone by

When Firenze’s lessening shores could grieve or glad mine eye.’”**

You take another sip of tea and pass out, your body too exhausted to continue.

*An AI generated picture of Aldo.

**"Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage", Canto III, Stanza I -- Lord Byron (1816) ["Lucrezia" and "Firenze's" substituting "Ada" and "Albion's"]
 
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Remarkable opening, interesting characterisation, on top of the structure that is very well setup and using the rare second person perspective. Even more, the plot is carefully designed into the narrative, with the touch of no spoilers principle.

Definitely deserving the classification of extraordinary work (filcatian scale) already by this beginning. Kudos.
 
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Remarkable opening, interesting characterisation, on top of the structure that is very well setup and using the rare second person perspective. Even more, the plot is carefully designed into the narrative, with the touch of no spoilers principle.

Definitely deserving the classification of extraordinary work (filcatian scale) already by this beginning. Kudos.
Wow! Thank you very much for the praise! :D

The second-person perspective is one of the few elements of this story that has remained unchanged since my original idea and brainstorming. It was trickier to use than the more common first or third-person. But I think it serves the story well by giving the reader a direct view of the story and world.