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billy bob

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Jestor said:
Just a bump to let you guys know I'll try and get an update in sometime this weekend.

Also, JimboIX, if you're around at all, can you do me a favor and check in here? It's been quite a while since we've seen you and I'd just like to make sure you're okay. I wouldn't write this, except you're usually one of those who comments after every update and quite a few have gone by.

Soooo, the rest of us are not important? *Sniffle* Well I hope your happy!

(Runs off to cry in a corner)
 

unmerged(24320)

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billy bob: ...(Runs off to cry in a corner)

now, now, billy bob, no reason to cry. it just means that you are not considered to be among the lost sheep ! ! ;)

in fact, if you look at it that way, it is a compliment ! ! :cool:
 

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I have just gone through ALL of it! Can't believe I never read it before, but it's really really good. So I can only join the 'more more!' chorus and hope you can end this duel before the tension kills me :p
 
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This is so epic. It took a long while too catch up with everything.

This AAR has to be among the best of all time. Just marvolous.

I don't think I could have the will to do an AAR for this long. Amazing work.
 

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This, as has been said, is EPIC.

Wonderful blend of the gameplay, the love story, and the life of the author, heh.

I eagerly await the final update.
 

Jestor

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Prussian King/billy bob/GhostWriter: Sorry. :D I just worry when someone who generally comments after every update suddenly disappears and I don't see them commenting on other AARs, etc. So hopefully Jimbo will come back and let us know he's okay.. and of course, I'm quite happy to have you guys and every one of my readAArs and commentatAARs around. :)

By the way, tough luck against UK, billy bob. Hope you're feeling okay. ;)

Cecasander: Thank you for the high praise and I commend you (and everyone else that follows) for having the determination to wade through this incredibly long AAR. :) As for the duel's end... well, you'll just see. :D

TheEnlightened1: :eek: One of the best of all time? I don't know about that, but thank you very much for thinking so! :) You know, now that you mention it, I don't know for sure how long I've been writing this AAR. Something to check before I do the next update, I suppose.

Alex Borhild: I never knew my actual life was that interesting. :D I'm very glad to hear you're enjoying it and am glad to have you along for the end ride. :)

To everyone, both old and new, I apologize for not having updated. Between graduate classes, adjusting to life in a new state and campus and teaching two sections of Composition I, it's been extremely hectic here.

That said, I'll do my best to get an update in tonight, but make no promises. :)
 

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I'm sweating and because I'm blindfolded, I feel each individual drop sizzling my skin. It's too crowded in here and I'm starting to feel the full weight of the pressure. A five-point lead is pretty sizeable halfway through, but by no means guaranteed.

A hand takes my arm, Drake's voice coming into my ear.

"Let's get you of here for a bit. You're looking pretty stressed, man."

He leads me outside and I hear another pair of footsteps behind us. For some reason, I'm not surprised to discover it's Caveman.

"You need a smoke, Nick?"

"...No. I need something to drink. Get me a shot."

One of them, I don't know who, runs back in and comes out a few moments later, shoving a shotglass into my hand.

I toss it back without bothering to ask what it is. Whatever it is, it's delicious, with a sweet grape flavor dominant, notes of what tastes like vodka and rum underscoring it.

"Thanks."

"No problem", Drake answers.

"You sure you don't want a cigarette?" The sound of Caveman clicking his lighter on echoes through the silent, dark night, the licorice scent of Djarum Black wafting in my nostrils.

"No, I'm good... and I don't mean to be a dick, but do you think you could go back inside with that? The smoke's bugging me right now. I'm just trying to concentrate, you know?"

A sensation of icy hostility hits me, but it fades as Caveman's feet shuffle back through the door.

Drake chuckles, "Man, I don't get that guy sometimes. Sometimes I wonder why we even pledged him."

"Because in spite of all his faults, he's a good guy. ...And he's smart as hell, which is good for our chapter GPA."

"True enough", Drake replies as we wryly laugh over it together. Any fraternity chapter worth anything emphasizes academics, because one of the biggest selling points we have against the Greek stereotypes is that generally speaking, the Greeks have higher GPAs than the average student. It's a vital weapon against the war of anti-social sorority and fraternity misunderstanding.

We're silent for a time while I let the pleasurable liquor flow through me, the taste and the booze mixing in with the silence to calm me, flushing out my nervousness and worry.

"Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I'm proud of you, Nick. Although I was always pissed at you for not running for office, you're more than making up for it here by doing this. Win or lose, you've officially become a chapter legend and your story will be told for years after."

"Thanks, but you know I never cared about that kind of thing. I'm just a guy who does his part for our chapter and for our fraternity."

And it's true. It's one of the fundamental differences between me and guys like Caveman, who stress and worry so much about wanting to be one of the top dogs that they never will be one. It strikes me, far too late now of course, that maybe I should've tried a little harder, done a little more. I'm ashamed to realize now that I wasn't the best Theta Sigma Phi I could be.

Drake must be able to read the look on my face, because his hand claps my shoulder, "Hey, don't worry about it. Like I said, you're making us all proud tonight. Just go in there, do the best you can and get that girl, all right?"

"All right."

******

"Ladies and gentlemen, take your places. We're about to start again. Mr. Astor? Whenever you're ready."

I should not be losing to that inferior twit. Not me, not Chet Astor. My family is known for doing great things and to lose here would be to shame my name.

But enough thinking, for thinking leads to defeat and doing is the way to victory.

"8!"

"7!"

"8!"

Let's see him beat that.

*****

chete3.jpg


"Oh no! Poor Nick!"

"He can still do it. I have faith in him."

"So do I. Oh! I almost forgot! Baron Suchet and Viscount Duchovny both agreed to have my picture taken with them, so we can do it right after the duel?"

"Sure."

Man, she owes me big for this. Hmm, maybe I can finally talk her into playing priest and nun one night.

*****

Shit, shit, shit. Not good, not good.



Okay, remember, deep breath. I can do this, I can definitely do this. It's just me shooting practice rounds. No stress, no worry.

I step up to the line with F.W.'s vocal cue, take another breath, take aim and fire.

"5!"

Okay, a little -too- loose there. I tighten up and try again.

"2!"

...Way too tight.

I close my eyes behind the blindfold, letting the target and its details come into view. My hands and arms follow my eye and once I think I've found my spot, I shoot.

"10!"

YES! REMEMBER THAT!

They're going wild with applause, even more so than last time, but it's a distant memory as the sweating pops back up again and my heart's pounding as F.W. reports the score.

"Going into the final end, it's Mr. Astor 56, Mr. Hunter 55!"

*****

nicke3.png


"Ah, Mr. Hunter's just one point away."

"I see that."

My father looks at me, trying to read my face, but I just twirl the ring on my left hand and pretend great interest in the play of the room's light on its diamonds.

No one can know what I'm thinking, what I'm feeling. Not yet. I'm the prize to be won, after all and so must maintain perfect neutrality.

So I keep a composed, indifferent face as I watch Chet Astor line up for his final end.

"9!"

"8!"

"10!"

"Door's open, but only a little bit. It'll be a tight squeeze for your boy."

Father, do please shut up.

chete4.png


******

....I have to be perfect, or so close to perfect I have a very slim room for error. Suddenly I wish I hadn't taken that shot, because my stomach's raging and my hands are shaking.

I can barely concentrate as I step to the line, I'm so tense. Shit! This is why I don't do this shit! This is why I play it safe and never challenge for anything!

The stillness of the crowd is oppressive as I raise my bow. I can't even visualize the target, I'm wigging out so bad.

"Nick! Wait! You've got a phonecall!"

...What? I'm confused as everyone else, a murmuring rippling through the hall as a cell phone's pressed into my hand.

I blink beneath the blindfold and set my bow down to hold the phone to my ear.

"Hey, buddy! How's my favorite fellow ladies man?"

...No. It can't be.

"Terry?! How the hell did you-"

"Drake called me and told me about the little duel you've got going on. Listen, I just wanted to say that if this girl's worth it, you'll find a way to win. I'm actually kinda jealous of you, bro. I mean, yeah, I'm banging supermodels and starlets left and right out here, including my second wife, but there's no love in it. Guys like us, we fall in love maybe once in our lifetime, even if that. This is your chance, your love. Don't let it fly away man."

And just like that, all the stress evaporates in this sudden feeling of wonder. Terry McClintock of all people, jealous of me.

"Thanks, Terry. I owe you one."

"No problem, man. Just win one for the Theta Sigs and win one for yourself, all right?"

"Will do."

I blindly hand the phone back to the hand that reaches for it and take up my bow once more.

Now the target comes into view again in my mind and I'm able to aim and fire right where I want it.

"9!"

Okay, okay. No pressure, even though I need to hit both shots in the 10 spot to win it...

It felt just a touch high, so I lower the point a little and shoot again.

"10!"

I smile as I hear the wild screams of the brothers and alumni. I've got this. All I need to do is keep the same pose and fire... just like...

NO! NO! NOOOOO!

My hands, still slick with sweat from the exertion of it all, slip as I let the arrow fly and I'm screaming inside as I hear the arrow fly down and scuttle across the floor.

I don't even wait for F.W.'s grim-faced zero to tear off my blindfold and stare, just stare at the fallen arrow.

This can't be real.

It's just a dream, that's all it is.

Just some nightmare I'll wake up from.

I can't have lost her, I can't have lost her now. Not when I was so damned close, not when she was... "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!!!"

My scream roars out of my mouth, but I don't care. I don't care how much an idiot I look. I've let myself down, let Melody down, let all the brothers down, let everyone down! I'll never be able to live with myself for this.

"Nick. Stop."

A cool breeze. Melody's voice ringing out commandingly through the crush of people as she steps forward, calm as ever and so pretty in her white dress.

I'm panting, but I stop, looking up at her from the floor I don't remember falling on. Everyone else is watching her too.

"I have decided not to accept the terms of the duel."

"You can't do that", Chet cuts in, "You've already agreed to it and that's that."

She turns and looks at him with all the nobility and aristocracy that her ancestry no doubt instilled in her, her face positively regal.

"Is this not the United States? Does not America, with its traditions of democracy and individual liberty, dictate through that long heritage that I have the right to choose who and under what terms I marry?"

Out of the corner of my eye, I see Caveman open his mouth, no doubt to interject, but Drake kicks him in the shin before he can say anything.

"All right, fine. I can be generous enough to allow you that, I suppose. What are your terms?"

Melody slowly and majestically turns about again, her movement so graceful and so natural, she would look incredible on the stage. Maybe it's her father's theater blood in her or maybe it's something that's uniquely her. Maybe both, but she takes my breath away just watching her.

"Nick. Stand. Come here. Chet, you too."

And here we are, spellbound like sailors to a Siren, like the mythology story Caveman told me about one time. We follow her command and stand in front of her, each of us on either side, because I know if we get too close, I'm going to strangle that smug prick.

"The one who marries me will be able to answer this question. What does the word Paraiba mean to me?"

"What? That's a stupid ques-"

"I know what it means."

Chet starts and glares at me, his face a mixture of confusion and hostility, while Melody smiles serenely, waiting for me to go on.

"It's where you found the thing that's most precious to you, when you were sweet sixteen and begged your father to let you go digging in the mountains, something nobody would imagine you of all people doing."

Her smile widens, brightening and enlivening the whole room as the crowd laughs appreciatively at the image of this pretty, elegant girl traipsing about in the dirt.

I step forward to grasp her hand before she can speak, ignoring Chet's furious gaze plunging daggers into my back.

"And that's what you are, Melody, the most precious thing in the world to me, even more than my brothers, even more than fishing or making pancakes or hot tubs.. even more than the fraternity. You're my Paraiba tourmaline."

She answers me with a kiss, the kind of deep, full, love-flavored kiss that you see in movies and wonder if it'll ever happen to you. It's happening to me now and all the cheers and all the faces fade away in the bliss of this kiss, this confirmed love that will be mine forever after, until we breathe our last and the world knows only memories of us and our story.

I break away from her with a smile, my fingers closing about the ring on her finger.

"May I see this?"

She nods and I pull the ring off. After a moment's inspection, I walk out on the range and pick up my bow and the fallen arrow.

With everyone watching, I toss the ring high in the air, line up my shot and fire.

The arrow goes whistling through the air, the head catching in the loop of the ring and striking the bullseye of our duelling target.

The crowd breaks out in applause, the ring whirling around the arrow twice before settling. I grin, draping my arm around Melody as a furious Chet stalks out to retrieve the unwanted jewelry.

I don't know what's going to happen after this, but I do know that I've found my beautiful girl at last.

And there is no sweeter history than that.

~The End~


(OOC Note: Authorial Afterword to follow)
 
Last edited:

unmerged(87106)

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1207344483_applause.gif


*sniff, sniff*

It's over...

Wonderful AAR!

Masterfully written!

Truly engaging!

This shall live on as a legend of the Paradox forums, this is one of the pinnacles of narrative writing on these forums!

Well done!



:) asd
 

Tem_Probe

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Nice ending. Agree wholeheartfully that it couldn't make sense to bet a wedding on a stupid duel.
 

billy bob

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NOOOOOOOO! It is over?! *Sniffle* And Caveman was a real dick you know, I mean this is Nick's greatest moment and he leaves in a huffle.

Anywho, great job. Loved it from beginning to end.
 
Aug 15, 2008
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I think I would cry when I had too end such a magnificent AAR,

*cries*
Truly fantastic, maybe I wasn't around from the beginning and this is what I get in return -- I finally catch up through weeks of reading and then puff, the story ends.

Truly epic! A little sad though that it had to come to an end... well all great stories have to end, but all ends are also beginnings... *Cries heavily*
 

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Alex Borhild: Thank you! :)

asd21593: A legendary AAR? I like the sound of that. ;) Thank you, though I imagine only time will tell if it stays in the collective memory of AARland.

Tem_Probe: Stranger things have happened. :D After all, there's the whole time-honored tradition of might making right. Glad to know you enjoyed it, though.

Cecasander: Perhaps.

billy bob: Caveman's an interesting character and he did stick around to the end at least, even if he got a bit snippy before it. I'm happy you stuck around, even with our off-topic QB quibbles. ;)

TheEnlighted1: I'm going to sound terribly geeky here, but I had the exact same reaction when I beat Final Fantasy Tactics (the original PS1 version). I found it such an engaging story that I didn't want it to end, and was very depressed when it did. It's good that you were able to come in just before it ended, though, so you had the experience of getting the last story post in real-time at least. :)

sbr: To me, that's quite possibly the highest compliment a narrative AAR can have; to engage and draw in readers that normally wouldn't. Thaknk you. :)

Up next, the Authorial Afterword, which I'll start writing as soon as I hit Submit Reply.
 

unmerged(11366)

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Don't mean to interrupt the Authorial Afterword writing process - honestly I am REALLY looking forward to that post, a whole great deal - but ...

Wow.
Jestor, that ending was awesome, that whole AAR was awesome, it was a triumph of imagination (and fantasy? ;) ;) :D ), a triumph of narrative storytelling, and a hell of an awesome way to make AARs not just fun but addictive. And yes, it is a classic. I loved every minute.

Unfortunately, I now have no real reason to hang out on Pdox anymore*. :(

*Yeah, except that AAR I'm supposed to have finished last year.
 

Jestor

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Authorial Afterword​

When I first began this AAR in late January 2007 (hard to believe it's been over a year and a half!), I had only very vague notions of what it was going to entail.

Melody and Nick, the primary characters, were literally mere wisps of pencil sketches in my mind.

My original intention was that Nick would be this cocky ladies' man who would, through Melody, face a reversal of the condition he'd inflicted on so many of the girls who'd loved him but he hadn't loved in return. Of course, it wasn't going to be a deliberate plan concocted by the girls he'd spurned (as I think one reader suggested). That seemed too contrived to me for one and for two, it was completely against the spirit of the story I wanted to write. Rather, I wanted to have it contain the imprint of destiny, no matter how it turned out.

Of course, that isn't exactly what happened. Yes, Nick fell for Melody like girls had him, but the time he realized that he was in love with her, he had long since ceased to be my first concept of him and instead revealed himself to be more of an Everyman kind of character. I think this worked to the story's benefit, because it created a narrator that readers could empathize with, because he was just a normal guy.

As for Melody herself, her appearance and the idea of a beautiful girl in the history class were inspired by a beautiful girl in my Japanese History class the semester before. But outside of that, I didn't know anything about her.

Then, as I began to write more of the story in the early stages of Morengay's background lectures, I came to understand her, to realize her background and just how complex and conflicted an individual she really was. Naturally, she retained some aspects of mystery, both to the readers and to myself as the author, but her multi-dimensional qualities started to show through and became absolutely essential to keeping the story from falling into the triteness trap. It would've been very easy to write her strictly as an object of desire or solely as a class snob, but she turned out to have much greater depth than that. And I think it's that depth and that complexity that engineered a lot of the fierce debates over just who Melody is, outside of the mysterious aspects of her.

Professor Morengay was the easiest character to figure out. From the very beginning, he was what he was, a composite of different aspects of professors I've had, particularly in history classes, and the natural and logical storyteller for the history class (CK portion) of the story.

The Baron and Baroness were also very quickly realized figures in my mind, once I'd determined what Melody's background was. In fact, I had the scene where Nick meets the Baron at the party written in my head literally months before it came time to post it.

With regards to the others, each one has their own individual point of origin.

I intended Drake to play a larger role than he actually did. He was modeled in certain ways after one of my own fraternity brothers and I wanted him to serve as the main focus for the fraternal side of the story.

But then Caveman, who I took a few aspects of my own personality and appearance and lampooned to an exaggerated level to form the basis for, quickly became one of the most popular characters with readers and I realized that he made a far more effective foil for Nick than Drake. He also acquired a much darker nature than I thought he would and became much more integral to the story than I imagined. Quite a far cry from my first vision of him as the comic relief character in the story.

Becky was an accident. She was never planned for, nor, when she made her way into the story, did I ever mean for her to become as major as she did. Yes, I'd toyed with the possiblity of having Nick become involved with another girl as a rebound after Melody's rejection of her love for him, but I didn't expect the situation to script itself so fluidly that Becky would entangle herself with him. But it did and in my opinion, it worked beautifully.

In fact, it worked so beautifully, that for a very long time, the original ending of the story was at the dance during the party, with Nick choosing Becky and one or the other of them remarking as the closing line, "So, you think we should introduce Caveman to Melody?"

Of course, that's not how it turned out and the reason it didn't was because I came to realize that Nick simply doesn't love Becky romantically. Instead, it's a very close friendship/platonic type of love, the kind that so many of us have the misfortune of having been familiar with in our unrequited loves.

All of which brings me to Chet. If I have a regret with this story, it's that I didn't develop him enough. On the surface of it, he seems like a stereotypical rich jerk, but as I go over his scenes again, particularly the short blurb where he reveals his thoughts during the last end, I see someone who's been made bitter by the expectations that come with his family name. I find myself wondering why that's so and I think there's a lot more to him than we've been able to find out here.

I think part of the problem is that he doesn't make his first appearance until almost the very end. This wasn't intentional. Originally, I planned for Nick to find out about the engagement (which I knew about pretty early on) by running across Melody and Chet in the local shopping mall, or by Chet visiting the fraternity house due to a cousin of some kind being in the chapter. I had some very amusing scenes written for both possibilities, including Nick knocking Chet out with a well-placed punch.

But these scenes, like the original ending and like the very brief, but quickly discarded consideration of the greatest cliche in narrative romantic history (I'm so loathing of it, I won't mention it by name), didn't occur and I think the story turned out better for it.

The duel itself was tacked on very late, as in, I didn't know I was going to do it until I was writing the dance scene itself kind of late. Again, my plan for the story called for it to end there, but somehow, I don't remember how, the duel interjected itself before I fully realized what was happening. I perceive a reduction in the quality of writing for those final scenes and I suspect the duel's unplanned quality had a lot to do with that. Of course, my audience may disagree with me on that point and they're quite welcome to.

Overall though, I'm quite happy with how the story turned out, so much so that I think it's very possible to engage in literary criticism and analysis of it. (One paper topic that came to mind off the top of my head is the idea of Drake, the Baron and Terry serving on a symbolic level of the three possible endpoints for Nick's life). I think the fact that it -can- be analyzed is a testament to the story's quality, something that shocked me when I first realized it and gives me hope for my future writings.

Speaking of which, some have mentioned throughout the AAR that I should turn this into a published story. It's a nice idea, but it's not going to happen. Much of the story's strength comes from the parallel structure of the CK narrative with the "real-life" narrative and the alt-history involved is so alt-history, I don't foresee any publisher accepting it, even if it weren't considered already published by virtue of being posted on the Internet (which it is).

Finally, this story owes a great debt not only to Paradox for publishing CK and to the readers for commenting and giving me the energy to keep going when I hit lulls, but a range of literature and music that either directly inspired or are quoted in it or helped me get in the mood for specific updates or arcs. To that end, I present the following lists, titled "The Literature and Official Soundtrack of The Beautiful Girl and the History Class"

Literature
The Great Gatsby - F. Scott Fitzgerald
--The traffic stop scene was ripped wholesale from the novel, as in, it's virtually the exact same scene. I also borrowed Nick's first name from this.
"The Rich Boy" - F. Scott Fitzgerald
--Nick's last name of Hunter came from this story, as well as some of the material for describing Caveman's relationship with the Dutch girl, which I'm sorry that I didn't expand more on later in the story as I'd intended to. Some readers may see other influences as well.
Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov
--In my opinion, the greatest novel ever written and a primary influence on a lot of my own creative writing.
"Hungry Stones" - Rabindranath Tagore
--Cited in its entireity within the story, with some obvious parallels to the Nick/Melody arc that some pointed out. One of the most brilliant short stories I've ever read, by the way.
"The Wasteland" - T.S. Eliot
--The hyacinth girl passages are quoted in part in the story. I just thought it fit.
"The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" - T.S. Eliot
--I don't remember if I quoted it or not, but I was definitely thinking of it when writing some scenes.

Official Soundtrack
"Far Away" - Nickelback
-Quoted at the formal, I believe. Nick and Melody's theme song. Regardless of what you might think of it or the group, I think most would agree the lyrics are quite fitting.
"Because I Am A Girl" - JiNi/K.I.S.S. (English version/Korean version)
--The original was in Korean, performed by the K-Pop group K.I.S.S. and later sung in English by JiNi, one of its members, after the group broke up. Becky's theme song, obviously and sung at formal. Also the single saddest music video I've ever seen. I highly recommend you Youtube the Korean version.
"Thinkin' Again" - Clint Black
--Quoted in one of the posts following the note Nick gets from Melody. I found it rather apt.
"So Close" - Jon Mclaughlin (sp?)
--The dance at the December party song. And yes, I had that scene written in my head before the movie Enchanted came out. It just so happens that the ballroom scene and the song fit perfectly for my own scene, so I shamelessly stole it.
"Unbreak My Heart" - Toni Braxton
--Not quoted, but I listened to it often to get myself in the mood to write an update.
"Nobody Knows It But Me" - Tony Rich Project
--Also not quoted, but a song I listened to nonstop when writing the Note post and the ones following it.

There were other songs that played a role, but these six were the ones either cited or most often listened to in terms of writing.

I may have missed a song that was quoted or a text referenced in the story and if I did, please feel free to let me know and I'll update the lists.

Oh, I almost forgot to mention one more thing.

I deliberately never specified a place or a school where this story is set. At first, I wasn't sure just -where- it took place and then later on, I thought it would have a greater universality if I didn't place it in a specific spot other than somewhere in the US. The time, is, however, present-day and there's ample markers to establish that.

Thank you again, everyone who read and/or commented or voted for this AAR in the AARland Choice Awards, or who accorded it some other distinction. It means a lot to me that it achieved this type of recognition and acclaim, particularly since I still struggle with doubts as to my talent level in writing.

You guys have helped make this story what it is and for that, you should be proud. :)
 

Fiftypence

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Awwwww! :)

Congrats on finishing this, and congrats for successfully combining Crusader Kings and romantic fiction, quite a feat!
 

J. Passepartout

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I was reminded, by that last scene, of the three, seven, and ace of spades. I am undecided whether he got the ace or whether he got the queen of spades and won anyway.