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((That's what they want you to think. In my last post I wrote that it was a bunch of pagan cannibal cultists who wanted to start a war between the Empire, Germania, and Ruthenia so that the massive fatalities could please their God. Of course, your character probably doesn't know this. I got carried away when a reader who was not a senator made a comment about Russia, resulting in a terrorist attack on the Senate, the Empress and the Patriarch being held hostage, and my character and Michaelangelo's teaming up to save the day because we were the only users online for much of the plot. Take a look at my signature for an even briefer summary of what happened.))

Doukas, for the first time in his life, felt completely at peace. He knew he had done his duty and saved the Empire from destruction. He hoped Favero had also been successful. He couldn't feel the rest of his body, but his mind was free to roam around.
He saw a world where he was born as a knight in one of the Oriental kingdoms, named Sakamoto. In that world, there was no Roman Empire. The true rulers of the world were the Anglo-Saxon barbarians, horrifyingly.
He saw images of what may be. Mankind making larger and larger leaps in technology, exploring the unknown parts of the world, discovering secrets that only God should have known. Wars growing even more deadly and widespread. Mankind taking its deadly violence to the skies, raining fire and brimstone upon millions of innocents...the Empire could not hope to survive in this deadly age with such a mindset. They had to adapt, to prepare...
In the East, two empires emerged to shake the world. The Celestial Empire and the Land of the Rising Sun, tipping the balance of power, would either challenge the Empire or join forces with it, ushering in either an age of war or peace
.
He wondered when he was going to wake up.
 
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((Sure.))
 
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(( Absolutely! Details are in the second post, and the third post links character announcements if examples help. ))
 
((That's what they want you to think. In my last post I wrote that it was a bunch of pagan cannibal cultists who wanted to start a war between the Empire, Germania, and Ruthenia so that the massive fatalities could please their God. Of course, your character probably doesn't know this. I got carried away when a reader who was not a senator made a comment about Russia, resulting in a terrorist attack on the Senate, the Empress and the Patriarch being held hostage, and my character and Michaelangelo's teaming up to save the day because we were the only users online for much of the plot. Take a look at my signature for an even briefer summary of what happened.))

(( Well, that's hell of a story. Idhrendur, will it have some kind of impact (maybe just symbolic one) in game (by making new event for example)? ))
 
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((It probably will, as I kind of went overboard with descriptions in a few places...maybe some free casus bellis or consciousness/militancy/pop events?))
 
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Introducing Mikael Moustakas, born on April 5, 1818 in Western Thrace. The founder of the house was a Norse commoner named Gunnar who served in the Varangian Guard and rose to become a captain in the year 1650. For his service, he was given a plot of land in Western Thrace and his descendants adopted the name Moustakas. House Moustakas has risen to become one of the most prominent houses in the Empire, though there origins prevent them from achieving a place in the imperial inner circle.

Mikael has followed the family legacy and served as an officer in the Imperial Legions. He is a veteran of both Russian wars but was severely wounded and crippled in the last war. Mikael is a moderate "conservative" and aligns with the Kyriarchía faction. He believes that Greeks are the proper heirs of Augustus and Alexander but, keeping his family's origins in mind, believes that all ethnicities can consider themselves roman citizens and receive the benefits of imperial rule. Mikael thinks that the only legitimate states are the Empire and the ancient states of the Orient. Because of this, he believes that the whole world, excluding India, China, and Japan, should be brought under Roman rule. He also holds a strong hatred of Russian barbarians.
 
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((Welcome! To start off, where is your character located during the attack on the Senate and the Empress?))
 
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During the time of the terrorist strike on the Senate, Septiadis was sitting the farthest away from the explosion. While he got hit by flying debris, he was largely unscathed. He ran for cover as soon as he could. In his many years of travel, he had learned many things from many people. This included the many swordsmanships that exist. He grabbed a sword from one of the dead Varangians and started hiding in the debris. He'd kill a few terrorists before overhearing a conversation between two of them, mentioning a conspiracy that would lead to war. He recalled hearing of a multicultural neo-paganist terrorist group a few months back, but he had dismissed it as a silly rumor.

Eventually, he made his way outside, seeing some awake senators. He was relieved that the other senators were alive. He sees Senators Doukas and Favero running into the city. He realizes that practically no one is helping the unconscious senators beneath the debris and decides to help them instead. By the time he finished helping the remaining senators up, everything was already over. He wonders where the other awake senators are.
 
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Doukas awakens in one of the undamaged rooms of the palace which was conveyed into a makeshift hospital. He finds that his wounds have been bandaged and hardly hurt. The improved scientific technology really had paid off.
He asks one of the doctors, "
What of the Empress? Is she okay?"
The doctor tells him that Her Majesty is being treated in another part of the palace, surrounded by a detachment of heavily armed surviving Varangians.
Doukas sighed. At least she was safe.
He got up and left the palace, as he was no longer seriously injured. He found his horse grazing on the lawn outside ("
Stop that you beast!") and rode to the Hagia Sofia. He found the Patriach safe and surrounded by a crowd of civilians.
Doukas:
Where is Senator Favero?
Patriarch: He's safe and alive, but it'll take some time for him to recover.
With that, Doukas headed off for the Senate building. He was sure that some senators had woken up. He had to tell them what had happened.
 
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Michelangelo awoke on a cot in some candlelit room. The sound of chanting could be heard nearby, a prayer to God most likely. He went to get up, but groaned as pain spiked in his shoulder. A nun shuffled into the room and gently pushed him back down on the cot.

Nun: You are still injured, Senator. Your wound may be infected and you're already running a fever. You must rest.

The nun wiped his forehead with a damp cloth, making Michelangelo realize just how warm he was. Sweat poured from his skin and he felt as though he was on fire. She pulled out a vial of what he assumed was medicine and carefully poured it between his lips. It was bitter, but what medicine wasn't. He reluctantly gulped it down. Then he remembered the circumstances that had brought him to this points.

The Empress, has she been harmed? And what of the Patriarch? Is the attack over?

The nun smiled down at him.

Nun: I have been told that they will both be fine. Now rest.

Michelangelo stretched out on the cot to get comfortable, letting his eyes slowly close. He felt unusually drowsy and soon sleep overcame him. He didn't notice the shine of metal sticking out from between the nun's robe as she left the room, a mischievous look on her face.

((If you want to deal with a killer nun on the loose, have fun with that. I don't know if anyone wants to deal with more craziness. :p))
 
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((Sure, why not?))
Doukas heard a scream behind him. It was the Patriarch. Something was happening at the Hagia Sofia.
He turned around and rode back into the church, only to find dozens of civilians incapacitated and a nun holding a knife to the Patriarch's throat. Blood trickled down from a gash in his shoulder, which the nun lapped up happily.
Doukas sighed. Here we go again...
He raised his gun and pulled the trigger.
CLICK. Nothing.
He noticed movement behind him. He dodged the knife blow from the cultist sneaking up behind him, seeing something glint on the blade as it passed him.
Poison.
He tackled the cultist, knocking the blade out of his hand. With his foot he kicked a nearby sword into his hand and stabbed the cultist.
"
Stop! Or your Patriarch will be fed to Chernobog!" screamed the nun.
If only he still had some ammunition...
In another part of the church, there was chanting in that same not quite Ruthenian language. A group of cultists filed into the main atrium, dragging the body of senator Favero towards an altar they had constructed around the Patriarch's chair and a large mound of paintings and idols to Christ.
"
Who will you save, Duke?" The nun smiled. "The Artist or the Patriarch?"
With that they tied both the Patriarch and Favero to the altar and set the whole thing on fire. The cultists drew knives and advanced as one menacingly on Doukas. He was surrounded. There was no escape...
 
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((I must have read right over the part about my character being set on fire because I totally didn't notice that the first time. :p))

Michelangelo slowly returned to consciousness. He felt incredibly warm. His fever must have been getting worse. As he opened his eyes, he realized it wasn't the fever. Flames licked around him and were starting to singe his robes. Behind him he could hear the screams of another man. He tried to turn his head, but it flopped to the side uselessly. Had he been drugged? He could make out a group of people across the room wearing strange clothing. Cultists, perhaps? He had no idea what they were doing here or what was going on. The fire was slowly burning closer to him. He needed to get away from the flames.

Michelangelo tried to move, but found himself bound down. He could just barely shift his body with ropes binding him to the altar behind him. He wiggled back and forth to try to loosen the ropes, but to no avail. Something fell out of his pocket and onto the floor. Flopping his head forward, he could make out the shape of a gun by his feet. It must have been the pistol Doukas had given him earlier. He tried to nudge it closer with his foot, but accidentally kicked it into the flames in his drugged stupor. Well that didn't go as planned.

A loud bang sounded near Michelangelo and one cultist attacking Doukas dropped over dead. The flames must have heated up the gunpowder and fired the gun. Well that was the best help he could provide. The flames licked at his skin now and the altar was now burning behind him. He hissed in pain as his skin was scorched by the hot flames. Just when he thought it unbearable, the rope snapped after being burned through by the fire and he fell forward onto the floor. Michelangelo flopped out of the flames and rolled away from the altar. He was no longer in danger of burning, but he was still too drugged to get to his feet and help. All he could do was watch the Patriarch stumble away from the altar and run out a side door in terror. Well at least he was safe if somewhat of a coward.
 
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((Idhrendur, when can we expect the next update? I'm kind of running out of ideas and probably taking this RP too far...))
Doukas heard a bang from the altar, and one of the cultists in front of him screamed and dropped on the floor, dead. As all of the cultists turned to see Favero and the Patriarch break free of their bindings, with the Patriarch running out of the room and Favero collapsing on the floor in a drugged stupor, Doukas lashed out with his sword, cutting down at least five of the cultists before he was restrained by the rest.

Surprisingly, they didn't kill them immediately. A man in the robes of the High Priest of Chernobog entered the room, and the cultists bowed to him.


"Ah, the Artist who is not an artist and the Duke who is not a duke," said Iosef Ignatieff, "It is nice to see you again."

“Iosef Ignatieff!” Doukas said, “I killed you myself back at Blachernae!”

Ignatieff smiled.
“Chernobog works in mysterious ways. I am his chosen one, his champion!”

He strolled over to the bonfire, where priceless relics dating back to the days of the Great Schism and the Iconoclast Controversy were burning and melting.

“You hate this, don’t you?” Ignatieff smiled. “Once word gets out about this, everyone will hate Mother Russia and Germania. Then, only then, will Chernobog be pleased by the sacrifices made to Him in the ensuing war!”

“Yada, yada, yada,” Doukas said, “Yeah, I heard this before. Why don’t we skip the boasting and trash talking and get to the part where you explain your evil plan? Oh wait, you already did so!”

“I am getting sick of your talk, boy,” Ignatieff said.

To his cultists, he ordered, “Kill them!”

The pagans resumed advancing on Doukas. Looking around, he saw Favero stirring ever so slightly, but nobody paid attention to him, thinking he was dead already of his burns.

Ignatieff raised his arms skyward let out a large, diabolical laugh that could only have been given to him by Satan or whatever god he served. “WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Nobody can stop us now! Praise the Black God! The Cult of the Black Hand is victorious!”

At that moment, the doors of the church burst open, and with a fanfare of trumpets, gunfire—from military rifles used by the Imperial Army, not the pistols the Ruthenians carried—rang out throughout the room. Cultists screamed as they were cut down by the relentless volley and sent to eternal torment.

“Get down!” shouted an Imperial soldier.

A second salvo rang out, and the bullets struck the nun and what cultists were stupid enough to remain standing and not run away.

There was the sound of hoof beats, and Doukas turned to see the Athens Lancers, the renowned light cavalry brigade, charge into the room, blaring their bugles and drawing their sabers, cutting down cultists with every strike.

Ignatieff’s smile turned to shock. He glared at Doukas. “This isn’t over yet, House Doukas. The Cult is patient, and it will return to exact vengeance! Chernobog isn’t finished with any of you just yet!”

With that he disappeared into the shadows as quickly as he had arrived, the surviving cultists following him as quickly as they could.

It was over. It was finally over, Doukas thought. He felt relieved that the nightmare was finally over. Hopefully there would be no more attacks.

One of the cavalry officers dismounted and approached him. Doukas’s eyes widened as he recognized his own son, Alexios, whom he had not seen in years. He was in a colonel’s uniform and wore a couple medals—was that the Nike Medal, Order of the Empire, and the Veronica Cross? What had he done in the Holy Land in the name of the Empire?

“Is that you?” Doukas asked.

“Yes, father, it is me, Alexios,” replied the lancer officer, “After the bombing of the Senate this morning, General Savopoulos received a rushed order from Blachernae for partial mobilization of all troops around the capital before communications were cut off. With the Varangian Guard out of the picture, the Athens Lancers were the only brigade in the area fully prepared for battle at the time—we were here for training—so they sent us into the city to root out any suspects. You should have seen the battle in downtown!”

Doukas hugged his son and cried. He couldn’t take any more of this. “Thank you so much, son. You saved us all.”

“No, father, you did. You saved the Empress herself, for crying out loud! Her Majesty is safe from the clutches of the cannibals and heathens thanks to you. God knows what would have happened if you had decided to accept that job offer at the University of Constantinople instead of the appointment to the Senate…”

Some soldiers brought in water and put out the bonfire, saving most of the relics, while others helped Favero to his feet and put him on a horse.

“We’re heading to the Senate now, you might want to come with us, as it’s safer traveling with us, Father. The Cult has you two—and your families, by extension—as targets. They’re going to seek vengeance at all costs, for whatever reason. Only God knows why the Doukoi and Favero families are so important…”
 
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((I'm pretty much done at this point. Adding any more will make this turn into the ridiculous. At least we have some good conspiracies to build off of. :p))
 
((I think I did a decent job at wrapping up this plot, leaving enough stuff dangling to catch in the future. I'm out of ideas anyways, so I don't think I can do anything more. Maybe a sequel plotline sometime down the road would suffice...))
 
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(( Well, my computer is set up in my new place, but I still don't have much time to spare while moving and unpacking everything else.

Also, the Scholai Palatinae would be the nearest army to the capital (I keep them parked there for RP reasons), though outside the walls at the beginning of this crisis. I could easily make one of their regiments be the Athenian Lancers, though. ))
 
(( again, quotes for the sake of linking ))

I don't particularly like the idea of Germany being on good terms with Russia. At least Poland has expanded at their expense.

The papers are overflowing with news of Imperial expansion. Truly these are the golden days of the Empire!

- Michelangelo Favero

We shouldn't bother with German-Hungarian war, as, in my opinion, it was inspired by opressed majority of German people in Austria, and not any kind of imperialism. I insist again on claiming Taiwan, as it may help us in future interventions considering last expansion of Ming dynasty. I suggest to consider invasion of Ceylon to support future interventions in India. We should also look closer to growing importance of Deccan in that region. Also, I again insist on breaking any relations with Poland, as this might lead us to war within our Sphere, and I must say that in my opinion, in case of Livonia-Poland war, we should give what we can to support Livonia, armies or subsidies (if we will be in another war at the same time).

- Alexios Damaskinos

Germany's relations with Russia are unsettling. We should be careful in dealing with them. Remember, the First Empire was destroyed by the Germans when they were uncivilized brutes-Alemanii, they called themselves at the time. They can do it again. Perhaps we can enlist the help of the Poles? If they were willing to fight Russia over Lithuanian territory, they can surely help us against any German treachery.
I fully agree with an invasion of Taiwan. We must deprive Russia of any colonies and truly take our place in the sun! Ming is growing quite strong, and is on good terms with the Koreans. They could be a useful ally against Russia in a future war.
I do not recommend an invasion of India. There are so many people there, and their cultures and traditions are so foreign from our own that integrating them into Roman society would have more costs than benefits. We should instead increase our sphere of influence in the region and build up friendly relations and trade agreements with native rulers, especially the Deccans. We can have the benefits of trade goods from India and an ally in the region, as well as an effective foothold in the subcontinent without the costs of maintenance and providing for millions of new Imperial subjects.

Also, with all due respect, if Your Highness would consider a diplomatic mission to China itself, I recommend myself as ambassador. I am close friends with the Celestial Empire's foreign minister, Lin Zexu, and am fluent in the local languages and traditions.

~Doukas

Whilst I agree with my fellow senators with the Germany and Hungarian war, I am concerned with the Polish invasion of Russia. What is the likelihood of Poland managing to at least white peace with the Bear?

With the Indians perhaps they would better serve us as loyal puppets than us taking their land directly, at least this way we control their destiny.

- Senator Γκρέυ

The Third Rome needs to punish the Second Rome! :p


Never heard of Third Rome. Is it some kind of capital of our Australian colonies?

Russia was often called Third Rome.

((True, but they only assumed that title when Byzantium fell in 1453. I would think that the Empire in this AAR is the Third Rome, as the Second was Byzantium and the Third is the restored Rome.))
This discussion about a hypothetical "Third" Empire (which ought to never exist, as doing so would mean that our current Empire be destroyed; it is treason to suggest a rebellion against the Empire!) has got me thinking...if the Empire is Roman, why is the capital in Constantinople? We can't have a Roman Empire without a capital in Rome.
Also, how did that guy get into the Senate room? He's not a senator! Somebody call in the Varangian Guard! The Empress is under attack! (Also, somebody improve security here)
Senator Rellis, why do you refer to the Russian menace as a "Third Rome," implying that the Slavic peoples can be as cultured and civilized as the Romans on the level that they are the successors of the Empire? By explicitly saying that Russia is the Third Rome, instead of our Empire, I get the feeling you wish to overthrow the Empress and install the Slavic Tsar as the Imperator. Such talk is treasonous, at best.

((I assumed you were talking in character as you didn't use the double parenthesis.))

~Doukas

((I'll be fine with any format. Perhaps we could also make the senate sessions a little bit more interesting a la Czoklet's This is Madness Byzantine AAR? Slightly more interaction would be better appealing. Also, it would be nice if we got more in-game screenshots like Great Powers, spheres, borders, etc.))

But fellow senators, as we wait for Her Imperial Highness to give her address, what should we do about the trespassers who somehow manage to get into the Palace and speak vile heresies?

~Doukas

Surely they should be detained and interrogated. They could be spies for Russia. The audacity of them to claim Russia to be some third Rome. There is only the Empire and no others.

- Michelangelo Favero

Yes, there can only be one Empire, but what Ruthenian spy would be idiotic to the point that he walks into the Senate, of all places, and foolishly proclaim that Ruthenia is the Third Rome, knowing that he would be immediately arrested? There must be something going on here, or the Ruthenians are just playing us. It could be a trap, and they distracted our attention while...(looks outside)...oh.

(explosion wipes out part of the Senate room)

Michelangelo is blown clear across the room and slams against the wall. He tries to rise to his feet, but loses his balance. Blood slowly oozes from a gash on his head. Managing only to get to his knees, Michelangelo spits out some blood between his teeth. He wipes his face with his senator's robe as he regains his senses.

What in the name of the Empress was that? Do the Russians have artillery outside Constantinople?

- Michelangelo Favero

((Are we having a terrorist attack on the Senate now? How exciting. :D))

Doukas is sprawled on the floor. He is lying in a pool of blood from the senator next to him but is himself largely unharmed.

Seems to have been a bomb; the Ruthenians can't possibly have gotten artillery this close to Constantinople.

He looks over and sees that the Varangians assigned to guard the Senators are either dead or unconscious. The front door is blasted open, and the windows are broken. Doukas realizes that the Empress is in grave danger.

The Empress is under attack! Save her!

He grabs a sword from a dead Varangian just as a man in Ruthenian clothing appears in the doorway, pistol raised to fire at anyone.

You all get the Empress out of here! I'll take care of the attackers!

Doukas charges at the Ruthenian, who calmly fires three times.

Ruthenian terrorist:
For Mother Russia!

((The idea for this came up during the "Third Rome" discussion.))

Michelangelo cowers behind a tipped-over bench as shots fire through the room. Knowing that not only his life but the Empress' as well is at stake spirs him into action. Crawling quickly on his hands and knees, he sneaks out a side door while the terrorist is distracted. He rises slowly to his feet once outside the room and nearly topples over from dizziness. He places a hand against the wall to maintain his balance and starts working his way through the palace.

The Empress... must find the Empress....

((I have no idea where the Empress actually resides when not attending the Senate and obviously I cannot dicate her actions. I assume we just let Idhrendur intervene if things get out of hand.))

Doukas runs the terrorist through with his sword as he feels three bullets strike him in the chest and left arm. The pain is unbearable, but he knows he must do his duty for the people and Senate of Rome.

Ruthenian (spits blood in Doukas's face):
It is too late, Greek scum! Soon Mother Russia will be the mother of all.

Doukas: Who sent you?! What are your orders? Are there others?

The Ruthenian laughs evilly: Soon the Germanic barbarians will sack Rome again.

The terrorist dies.
The pain overwhelms Doukas, and he collapses to the floor. Before he looses consciousness, he hears more explosions--this time from the direction of downtown. Blachernae may have been among the targets, but he didn't know.

God have mercy on our souls!

Michelangelo keeps wandering through the palace, looking for anyone at all who could warn the Empress. He's in no condition to make the trip to Blachernae, but someone has to. All the hallways look the same. In fact, maybe he's already been down this one judging by the blood drops on the floor. Has he gotten turned around? Michelangelo tries to clear his head, but a dizzy spell overcomes him. He's losing too much blood.

Explosions sounds off in the distance. Is Constantinople under attack? Michelangelo has no idea. He just wants to get out of here and get the Empress to safety. Maybe she's already safe and he's wasting his time. Regardless, he has a duty to perform, or at least the duty to get some beneath his station to fulfill the role while he tries not to succumb to his wounds.

The sound of heavy footsteps draws Michelangelo's attention, so he rounds a corner and pushes himself up against the wall to hide. Two burly men speaking in Russian run down the other hallway. Michelangelo remains silent as they leave, but then the footsteps stop and start drawing closer. That's when he notices the blood drops all over the floor.
They know he's here.

Michelangelo scurries down the empty hallway, only to run into a dead end as he rounds the corner. There are two ceremonial poleaxes mounted on the wall, so he lifts one from its bracings and steadies himself. He only has one shot at this. As the Russians round the corner, Michelangelo lets out an angry yell and charges them. Before they can react, he impales the first one on the end of his poleaxe, piercing him right through the gut. The dying man spews out blood from his mouth and pushes himself off the weapon, only for more blood to pour from his wound. He slips to the floor as life escapes him. The second man draws a pistol and Michelangelo dives to the floor. The bullet shatters a nearby window, which is much better than shattering Michelangelo's head. Before the man can fire another shot, Michelangelo picks the poleaxe back up and swings it at his assailant. The blade slices through the man's forearm, forcing him to drop the gun. Before the Russian can draw his own blade, Michelangelo stabs the poleaxe's end into his neck. Blood sprays everywhere as the man slumps to the floor. The two Russians are dead.

Michelangelo drops the poleaxe in horror and vomits all over the palace floor. He has never killed a man before in his life. He suddenly has a much deeper appreciation for the soldiers in the Imperial Army. When was this horrid event going to end? Looking out the broken window and seeing smoke spiralling into the air didn't give him the answer he wanted. Slumping to the floor, he takes in several deep breaths. The Empress would have to wait, at least until he didn't feel like he was dying inside. Surely even the Empress would grant him that reprieve.

Doukas saw images flashing by his eyes. He saw his childhood in Athens, his time at the Imperial University, his wedding, his son before heading off to war in the Holy Land...
(thinking to himself):
Seriously? A flashback of my life at this time? I don't need to see this again, I already know this.

His perspective changes, and now he is looking down on all of Eurasia. The Empire in all of its majesty stretches from the Atlantic to the Black Sea, but to the north lie Germania and Ruthenia, the patchwork of barbarians which brought down the First Empire. Even now, centuries after the deposition of the last ruler of the First Empire, Rome was still threatened. The Germans had done what Rome couldn't and united into one main polity. They were on friendly terms with the Empire now, but Doukas remembered what the Ruthenian had told him.
To the east lay the once-mighty and isolationist Celestial Empire, or Serica as some called it. If an alliance could be secured, the Ruthenians could face a two-front war should conflict break out. Their almost unlimited manpower could mean the difference between victory and defeat.
There was the sound of disparate voices behind him, but he couldn't turn around. Then he realized the voices were in German and Ruthenian.
He opened his eyes. There were three foreign men standing in the middle of the Senate room. One of them spoke German, which Doukas was competent at.

German:
Too bad they're all dead or unconscious, I would have loved to hear them scream.
Ruthenian 1: Why don't you kill them now?
German: It's not fun.
Ruthenian 2: Guys, focus. Our forces have incapacitated the government of the Roman scum--
Ruthenian 1: Hate to remind you, but the Empress holds all of the power.
Ruthenian 2: Shut up! As we speak, a small force of Germans is advancing into Blachernae, and another force of Russians has seized Hagia Sofia. Soon Rome will be brought to its knees.
German: And then they'll blame the Tsar and the Kaiser instead of us! It's perfect.
Ruthenian 1: Exactly.

Doukas couldn't believe what he was hearing. A secret conspiracy to drag the Empire to war with the Germans and Ruthenians? He silently reached over to the body of the man he stabbed earlier and took the still-loaded gun.

Ruthenian 2:
Is everybody accounted for?
German: We're missing one of the senators, an Italian. I heard something in the corridors, and two of our men are missing.
Ruthenian 1: It must be the Artist. If he gets out of the building our plan will be foiled. Go get him!
The German and the second Ruthenian left the room. Doukas inferred that the "Artist" was Senator Favero, apparently the only other senator to maintain consciousness. Perhaps they could still save the Empress...
He accidentally knocked over some rubble.
Ruthenian 1:
Who was that?
With quick thinking, Doukas brought up the gun, wrapped it in his toga, and fired at the enemy. The shot was muffled, so the others couldn't possibly have heard it. The Ruthenian keeled over dead before he could shout.
Doukas got to his feet painfully. He had to get out of here and reach Blachernae. So he limped out through the giant hole in the wall of the room.

The sound of another explosion made Michelangelo snap his head up. He was lying down on the floor, although he didn't remember lying down. Hadn't he just been sitting down to catch his breath? How much time had passed. He glanced out the window, trying to judge the time by where the sun was. He couldn't figure out how much time had passed since he didn't remember when the attack had begun in the first place. Damn his aging mind! Maybe he would retire after this incident and take up painting. That sounded a lot less stressful.

Michelangelo tried to get up, but slipped in a puddle of blood from the two corpses lying nearby. He nearly threw up again at the sight of them, their cold lifeless eyes staring up at the ceiling. He needed to get away from here before someone came to investigate. He went to round the corner when he heard voices arguing. They were drawing nearer, too close for him to escape the dead end in time. He went to pick up the pole-axe again, but slipped on the blood again. He got back up to his feet, only for someone to shout at him in German behind him. Why was there a German in the palace?

German: Turn around slowly, you filthy Italian, and show me your hands.

Michelangelo slowly obeyed the orders and faced the German. He had another man with him. Both were armed, their pistols aimed at him. He warily took a step back, brushing up against the window sill of the broken window.

What do you want with me? You won't get away with this attack. The Empress will have your eyes and tongues cut out for this.

German: She'll be dealt with soon enough. Now follow me.

Michelangelo went to follow, only to slip in the blood for a third time and fall backward. He put his hands behind him and stopped his fall by grabbing the window sill. He winced as one finger grasped some broken glass from the window.

German: Watch your step, old man. Make too many sudden movements and you might not make it back to the Senate alive.

The two men laughed together. Michelangelo had a feeling he might not make it back to the Senate even if he obeyed. He needed to escape these thugs. Before he could consider the consequences of his actions, he pushed off the window sill with his hands and rolled backwards out the window. The German shot at him with his pistol, but the shot missed his head by a few inches. The next thing he knew, Michelangelo was falling out the window. Now that he thought about it, he had probably been on the second or third floor. He closed his eyes and hoped that the impact would either kill him immediately or spare him further pain.

Forgive me, Empress.

((The plot thickens. I like the sound of "the Artist". I should start using that. :p))

Doukas heard a splash next to him. Did somebody just fall into the fountain he had helped fund last year? Then he noticed it was Senator Favero.

You! You're alive! You won't believe what I overheard in the Senate room. Did you find anyone else?

There were shouts from above. Doukas looked up and saw the German and his Ruthenian accomplice looking down on them from a broken window.
German:
It's him! The Duke!
Doukas hoped his arm was still good enough to shoot at them. He aimed and pulled the trigger twice.

God help me.

((Well this escalated quickly. I was not expecting this to evolve into an action film plot. Maybe I should start writing my own AAR...))

It was sure cold in Heaven. And wet. A bit too wet for Michelangelo's tastes. In fact, he had trouble breathing. Wait, if he's dead, why does he need to breath?

Michelangelo's eyes snapped open and he pushed his head up out of the fountain water, gasping for air. He'd survived, and relatively unscathed too. He vaguely heard a voice as he dragged himself out of the fountain. Two shots followed and a figure fell down into the fountain next to Michelangelo, splashing water all over him. By the way that the water was quickly turning red, he probably wasn't getting out of that fountain.

As Michelangelo regained his sense, he realized that Senator Doukas was standing nearby. He remembered the senator asking a question as he rose from the fountain.

I haven't seen a soul other than the Russians I ran into and that German who tried to shoot me. Oh good God, I killed them, the Russians. I had no choice.

Michelangelo shivered involuntarily, still uncomfortable with the idea of taking another man's life. Then he realized that there may be more of them nearby and that the Empress could be in danger.

We need to find the Empress. Her life is in danger.

((If you can manage an AAR with this much action, I want to read it. I doubt any other iAAR would allow for this. Idhrendur wins the award for best iAAR host. :D Also love the change to your signature. Every AAR need Ruthenian terrorists. :p))

Don't worry, fellow Senator. You did what you had to do for the Empress, for the Senate and people of Rome. I heard that these Ruthenians...they're not working for the government in St. Petersberg or Berlin; they're trying to trick us into a war against Ruthenia and Germania, one we possibly can't win at this point without losing much. We must alert the Empress to this plot. If she hears of the attack on the Senate she will definitely push for war with the Germans and Ruthenians. That is, if she survives today, of course.

((Thanks, I changed it just because it sounded better. I'm not sure if I could write an AAR as detailed as this, as I'm making up most of this (with some inspiration from recent events in This is Madness) as we wait for the update, but I do have some ideas.))

((Alright, I began my AAR. I'm not that good with introductions, though...))

A ruse to lure us into war? Ingenius of them, since we would have bitten that bait with ease with all the hatred of Russia in the Empire. We must make for Blachernae at all haste before it is too late!

Before Michelangelo could say any more, a bullet whizzed past his head and struck the ground. Apparently the second man had not be dealt with like the one in the fountain. Thinking on his feet, he grabbed Senator Doukas and dragged him behind a large bush.

We need to get out of here immediately. Who knows how many of them are roaming the palace.

((Must be some crazy stuff happening in that iAAR then. :p))

I must have missed.
He coughs up blood.
Do you know a safe way to the palace? I overheard that downtown's filled with them. We might need to call in the army to deal with them. Also, I don't really remember how far away is the palace.
He heard voices getting nearer and nearer...

((In the other iAAR a senator was burned alive for a slight heresy, and then somebody poisoned the speaker and three more senators, resulting in a third of their Senate being arrested and put on trial for treason. Yeah, you could say that it is madness over there...))

Kyriakos Angelos came to amidst the rubble in one of the corridors of the Chrysotriklinos and somewhat unsteadily picked himself up. "I say," he said to himself in an offended tone, after noticing the fallen bodies of senators and Varangians alike, "this really is not chariot racing."

Picking up a sword and a firearm from the fallen guards' bodies, he began to make his way out of the palace.

Doukas shoots the Ruthenian passing by the bush. The man gives a shout before falling over.
Well, that was easier than I expected, don't you think?
He takes the Ruthenian's ammunition and sword while also putting on the Ruthenian outfit.
Why don't you disguise yourself as well, Favero? That way they probably won't kill us immediately. And are you sure you couldn't find any other senators? I may have seen movement in one of the windows.

It may have been more Russians. I didn't get much of a chance to see if any other senators were alive when I was forced to flee.

Michelangelo goes back to the fountain and pulls out the body. He quickly puts on the man's clothes and casually walks away. The outfit was soaked, but he'd already been in the fountain before anyway.

How are we ever going to get to Blachernae in time? Who knows how many of these men there are and where they are? They could be roaming the streets for all we know.

They are roaming the streets. They have even occupied Hagia Sofia itself and have taken the Ecumenical Patriarch himself hostage! Which means we're going to have to find some horses. I think the stables are in another part of the building?

They may have some horses stabled near the Hippodrome for chariot racing. That's our best chance of finding some. I'd love to know how these men got into Constantinople without anyone noticing. Those responsible should be drawn and quartered for the mess they've caused.

There must have been traitors within the Senate and Varangian Guard helping them!
Alright, then, let's go to the Hippodrome.
They start walking.

The Hippodrome was empty when they arrived, with no guards or intruders. It apparently had not been a focus of the attack, probably because there were no races planned. There weren't even any stable boys attending to the horses when they entered the stables.

Did everyone just run away when they heard explosions? I certainly hope they weren't all in on the attacks.

Michelangelo wandered past all the horses, looking for a horse that fit his taste. If he was going to ride through the city to save the Empress, he may as well do it in style. As he approached the end of the row, the stable door opened and a man stuck his head in. His features were clearly Slavic and the fact he yelled at Michelangelo in Russian confirmed that the man was an enemy. Michelangelo dove into an empty stable as the man fired his pistol. The Russian burst into the stables to pursue, but Michelangelo grabbed a shovel and swung it at the man's face. It collided with a dull thud, softened by the manure that had been stuck to it. When the Russian didn't topple over from the first hit, Michelangelo swatted him again in the head and brought him low.

Maybe in Russia they should focus on breeding strong minds instead of strong heads.

Doukas takes the Ruthenian's gun and tosses it to Favero.
Take this, and I hope you're a good shot with it.
He gets on the nearest horse.
Alright, let's go save the Empress in style!

Michelangelo catches the gun and briefly examines it before stuffing it in his robes. He's never wielded a firearm before, but he'll need it now.

I was always more partial towards the sword when practising duelling. The gun was always too dangerous for sport.

As he looks up, Michelangelo spots a white stallion of the purest breed. That is definitely the type of horse he wants. He hops up on the horse and follows Doukas out of the stables and into the city. A few Russians, or maybe even Germans, take shots at them as they rush through the gates, but the horses easily outdistance the enemy. They are free to make their way to the Empress, that is if no one is waiting for them on the way.

Maybe we should have taken swords, just like the cavalry. But oh well, not everyone can be a Mongol, right?

They charge straight through downtown, and peasants and merchants scream and jump out of the way as the two senators charge through the central market.

Make way! The Empress is in danger!

Doukas remembers that the Ecumenical Patriarch is also a hostage.
Wait, we need to free the patriarch first! If they have him hostage, they have the entirety of Christianity hostage as well!

Michelangelo slows down his horse for a moment, considering whether or not to backtrack. The Empress or the Ecumenical Patriarch.

If we go back for him, we may be too late to save the Empress. But we can't let him be taken either. Damn those Russians to the fires of hell! Perhaps if we split up we may be able to save them both.

I'll go after the Empress, you get the Patriarch.

Michelangelo gave a nod before turning around to race towards the Hagia Sophia. If the two of them were fast enough, they could save the two most powerful people in the Empire. He wished he could have gone to save the Empress, but Doukas seemed much more capable with a firearm than him. It would be better this way. Michelangelo only hoped that whoever was holding the Patriarch hostage could be dealt with. He wasn't exactly the most capable of fighters.

As Michelangelo rounded a street corner, an explosion blew out the windows of a shop across the street. His horse reared up and nearly threw him off. Fortunately he was well-trained with a horse and kept his grip on the reins and saddle. A man in Russian garb ran out of an alley with a grin on his face and some sort of make-shift explosive in his hand. He tossed it into the street where people were screaming in terror and it exploded in a shower of rubble. Two bodies lay on the ground, killed by the explosion. Remembering that he had a pistol, he pulled it from his robes and fired a shot. The Russian man collapsed to the ground, a bleeding hole in his chest. The people in the street all turned in his direction. The image of a senator in blood-stained Ruthenian clothes holding a pistol while riding a white stallion must have been an impressive sight. Michelangelo decided to use it to his advantage.

People of Constantinople, I beseech you. We are beset by foreign spies who wish to sow discord within this most splendid of cities. They put not only your lives, but those of the Empress and Patriarch in danger. As for the latter, he has been taken hostage by these foul men. Alone I cannot save him, but together we may. Join with me to take back the jewel of the Empire and save the Patriarch from those who would do us harm.

The street was unusually silent for a moment, but soon cheers erupted from the crowd. The people of Constantinople would follow him. They picked up whatever makeshift weapons they could find or make. One woman even offered him a sword, although he had no idea where she had come upon it. The blade felt much more comfortable in his hands than the pistol. He let a grin spread across his face as he rode off to the Hagia Sophia with a band of armed citizens.

((I fully expect a medal after this performance, or at least a portrait of Michelangelo inspiring the citizens of Constantinople. :p))

((I see nothing wrong with your sequence, but aren't you dressed in Ruthenian clothes at the moment?))
Doukas heard an explosion behind him, but he didn't look back, as he was getting close to Blachernae and had to watch for any Ruthenians.
Just as he reached the front gates, which were blasted wide open as if by a bomb, he heard a cheer behind him. Were the peasants also on the Ruthenians' side?
There was a shout from his right. Looking in that direction, he saw two horsemen charging straight at him, one apparently a Mongol armed with a bow and the other a Hungarian armed with a sword.

Seriously? Are we repeating the Hunnic invasions of the First Empire and the Mongol invasions during the Second Empire?
He aimed and fired twice, and both riders toppled from their mounts.
Doukas arrived at the main door leading inside.

Here goes nothing.
He slipped inside.

((If you want a medal for saving the Patriarch, then I at least want some noble titles and a bigger villa. I mean, what would you do if you saved the Pope from terrorists?))

((Oops, fixed. :D This conspiracy is going to cause some serious drama afterwards.))

Michelangelo reached the Hagia Sophia later than he had hoped, since he had to slow down for the citizens to keep up. He knew time was of the essence, but he couldn't save the Patriarch alone. When they reached the grand building, Michelangelo came to a halt. Guards stood outside the open doors. They didn't notice him at first, but the sound of the approaching mob drew their attention. Not delaying any longer, Michelangelo charged at them. He closed the gap rapidly on his horse as the men drew their pistols. They both fired and Michelangelo felt a burning in his shoulder. He ignored it and drew his sword. He cut across as the first guard as he passed and swept the sword overheard as he slashed the second on the other side. The two men fell back in pain as the mob approached. Not slowing down a bit, Michelangelo lowered himself in the saddle and galloped straight into the Hagia Sophia. Several men stood within the building and scattered as he dashed through them. His horse trampled at least one of them and he got in a few blows with his sword as he passed by. Before the men could retaliate in kind, the mob burst into the building and swarmed over them. He kept on through the holy site, looking for the Patriarch.

It didn't take long to find the Patriarch. He was being held hostage near the alter by several burly men. He guessed they were all Slavic until one of them started speaking some form of Scottish or Gaelic. Exactly who was involved in this conspiracy? As the men took note of his approach, he jumped off the horse. Speed would not aid him here.

Release the Patriarch immediately!

Scot: Or what?

The mob made its way into the large room and started to spread out around Michelangelo. The men holding the Patriarch hostage were noticeably nervous. Michelangelo smirked. That smirk was quickly wiped off his face as the Scot grab the Patriarch's head and held a blade to his throat. Time for some negotiations.

Before Michelangelo could utter a word, a shot rang through the air. The Scot collapsed to the ground, releasing the knife. Everyone looked around stunned. Before the enemy could react and harm the Patriarch, Michelangelo let out a battle cry and charged with his sword held high. The mob followed. The enemy stood no chance. They tried to flee, but were run down by the citizens of Constantinople. Michelangelo let them release their anger while he approached the Patriarch.

Are you hurt, your holiness?

Patriarch: I am fine, Senator Favero. God has seen it fit to spare me this day and punish these heretics. But what of the Empress? Is she safe?

Senator Doukas has gone after her. I am certain he will keep her from harm. For now, let us get you to safety before more intruders arrive.

Michelangelo went to guide the Patriarch out of the building when he lost his step and fell to his knees. He tried to rise but a dizzy spell overtook him.

Patriarch: Senator, you are hurt!

Michelangelo finally noticed the wound in his shoulder. The bullet had gone straight through and his outfit was soaked with blood. So that was what that pain was from before. He tried to regain his feet again and collapsed to the ground. The Patriarch and several citizens gathered around him to help. He slowly slipped from consciousness, content that he had at least done his duty and saved the Patriarch in time.

((That's probably it for me until next evening. That was a lot of fun. :)))

((Alright, see you tomorrow, then. I suppose I should also wrap this up if possible.))

Doukas advanced through the halls of the Imperial Palace. Servants and Varangians were strewn all over the floor, and the blood had stained the priceless Anatolian carpets. On the walls were portraits of former Emperors and Empresses, and Doukas felt unworthy to be looking directly at them.
A large man rounded the corner in front of him. Before he could react, Doukas drew a dagger and stabbed him, muffling his screams for help. Moving along, he arrived at what appeared to be the Empress's private quarters. They were empty, but there was a trail of blood leading out from the doors to another part of the palace...
Doukas felt sick to be looking at imperial blood being spilled so callously. But he must look and follow the trail. He slowly stepped through the deserted palace, the blood trail leading him towards one of the old pagan temples which had been refurbished as part of the palace. As he got closer and closer to the temple, he heard an ominous chanting in some language that was not quite Ruthenian.
He rounded a corner, and the temple came into full view. He was on a balcony, overseeing the horrifying rites going on below.
There were at least a dozen men gathered below in front of a Ruthenian in pagan robes. As he watched, the Ruthenian priest carried a wooden sculpture of Christ on the cross and dropped it into a bonfire. Behind him, strapped to an altar, were the Empress and her husband themselves.
High Priest:
Praise be to the Black God, Chernobog, who smiles upon us as we offer Him this offering to feast upon.
Seriously? Doukas thought. First a conspiracy to drag Ruthenia and the Empire to war, and now a conspiracy of pagan cannibal Ruthenians? I must be going mad.
Empress's husband:
God will have you burn in hell for eternity, heathen!
High Priest: Oh, but it is you who is mistaken. Your god has abandoned you to our clutches. Chernobog is victorious! Soon, war will break out, and He will feast upon all of the souls taken in the fighting. But first, both of you will be His first meal.
Doukas: Not if I can help it.
Everyone looks up and sees him.
High Priest:
Ah, the Duke who is not actually a duke. We meet at last. I am Iosef Ignatieff, servant of Chernobog, and you really expect me to tell you my evil plan at this moment?
Doukas: No. I already know your plan.
He empties his guns into the procession below, each bullet sending a cultist to Hell for eternity.
Finally, he is out of bullets, and the High Priest is still alive. He walks downstairs, takes his dagger, and runs the pagan through.
Doukas:
The name's Nikephoros Doukas. Not just "the Duke," but the bringer of Victory as well. Senatus Populesque Romanus.
With that Ignatieff departed to hell with the rest of the cultists. As Doukas set to work freeing the unconscious Empress and her conscious but badly wounded husband from the altar, he wondered if Favero had saved the Patriarch.
The Empress's husband pointed at Doukas's chest. "You're bleeding."
Doukas looked down. He had forgotten about his wounds from earlier.
He collapsed on the altar and blacked out.

((Was this too far?))

Konstantinos Galatias beheads a Ruthenian with one swipe of his family sword. He mutters several swears in French.

Alexios Damaskinos went to his apartment, he finally had time to rest after many conversations with Livonian Order's representatives and diplomats. He was admiring views of Riga.

It is indeed beautiful city. I'm curious if my fellow senators are having as tough day as I am.

(( I must say that this is great form of AAR interaction. I don't have time to read all of your posts, not to mention be part of story, so I had to sent my character away. I hope that at the end someone will make summary of what happened for me to catch up :) ))

((That's what they want you to think. In my last post I wrote that it was a bunch of pagan cannibal cultists who wanted to start a war between the Empire, Germania, and Ruthenia so that the massive fatalities could please their God. Of course, your character probably doesn't know this. I got carried away when a reader who was not a senator made a comment about Russia, resulting in a terrorist attack on the Senate, the Empress and the Patriarch being held hostage, and my character and Michaelangelo's teaming up to save the day because we were the only users online for much of the plot. Take a look at my signature for an even briefer summary of what happened.))

Doukas, for the first time in his life, felt completely at peace. He knew he had done his duty and saved the Empire from destruction. He hoped Favero had also been successful. He couldn't feel the rest of his body, but his mind was free to roam around.
He saw a world where he was born as a knight in one of the Oriental kingdoms, named Sakamoto. In that world, there was no Roman Empire. The true rulers of the world were the Anglo-Saxon barbarians, horrifyingly.
He saw images of what may be. Mankind making larger and larger leaps in technology, exploring the unknown parts of the world, discovering secrets that only God should have known. Wars growing even more deadly and widespread. Mankind taking its deadly violence to the skies, raining fire and brimstone upon millions of innocents...the Empire could not hope to survive in this deadly age with such a mindset. They had to adapt, to prepare...
In the East, two empires emerged to shake the world. The Celestial Empire and the Land of the Rising Sun, tipping the balance of power, would either challenge the Empire or join forces with it, ushering in either an age of war or peace
.
He wondered when he was going to wake up.

During the time of the terrorist strike on the Senate, Septiadis was sitting the farthest away from the explosion. While he got hit by flying debris, he was largely unscathed. He ran for cover as soon as he could. In his many years of travel, he had learned many things from many people. This included the many swordsmanships that exist. He grabbed a sword from one of the dead Varangians and started hiding in the debris. He'd kill a few terrorists before overhearing a conversation between two of them, mentioning a conspiracy that would lead to war. He recalled hearing of a multicultural neo-paganist terrorist group a few months back, but he had dismissed it as a silly rumor.

Eventually, he made his way outside, seeing some awake senators. He was relieved that the other senators were alive. He sees Senators Doukas and Favero running into the city. He realizes that practically no one is helping the unconscious senators beneath the debris and decides to help them instead. By the time he finished helping the remaining senators up, everything was already over. He wonders where the other awake senators are.

Doukas awakens in one of the undamaged rooms of the palace which was conveyed into a makeshift hospital. He finds that his wounds have been bandaged and hardly hurt. The improved scientific technology really had paid off.
He asks one of the doctors, "
What of the Empress? Is she okay?"
The doctor tells him that Her Majesty is being treated in another part of the palace, surrounded by a detachment of heavily armed surviving Varangians.
Doukas sighed. At least she was safe.
He got up and left the palace, as he was no longer seriously injured. He found his horse grazing on the lawn outside ("
Stop that you beast!") and rode to the Hagia Sofia. He found the Patriach safe and surrounded by a crowd of civilians.
Doukas:
Where is Senator Favero?
Patriarch: He's safe and alive, but it'll take some time for him to recover.
With that, Doukas headed off for the Senate building. He was sure that some senators had woken up. He had to tell them what had happened.

Michelangelo awoke on a cot in some candlelit room. The sound of chanting could be heard nearby, a prayer to God most likely. He went to get up, but groaned as pain spiked in his shoulder. A nun shuffled into the room and gently pushed him back down on the cot.

Nun: You are still injured, Senator. Your wound may be infected and you're already running a fever. You must rest.

The nun wiped his forehead with a damp cloth, making Michelangelo realize just how warm he was. Sweat poured from his skin and he felt as though he was on fire. She pulled out a vial of what he assumed was medicine and carefully poured it between his lips. It was bitter, but what medicine wasn't. He reluctantly gulped it down. Then he remembered the circumstances that had brought him to this points.

The Empress, has she been harmed? And what of the Patriarch? Is the attack over?

The nun smiled down at him.

Nun: I have been told that they will both be fine. Now rest.

Michelangelo stretched out on the cot to get comfortable, letting his eyes slowly close. He felt unusually drowsy and soon sleep overcame him. He didn't notice the shine of metal sticking out from between the nun's robe as she left the room, a mischievous look on her face.

((If you want to deal with a killer nun on the loose, have fun with that. I don't know if anyone wants to deal with more craziness. :p))

((Sure, why not?))
Doukas heard a scream behind him. It was the Patriarch. Something was happening at the Hagia Sofia.
He turned around and rode back into the church, only to find dozens of civilians incapacitated and a nun holding a knife to the Patriarch's throat. Blood trickled down from a gash in his shoulder, which the nun lapped up happily.
Doukas sighed. Here we go again...
He raised his gun and pulled the trigger.
CLICK. Nothing.
He noticed movement behind him. He dodged the knife blow from the cultist sneaking up behind him, seeing something glint on the blade as it passed him.
Poison.
He tackled the cultist, knocking the blade out of his hand. With his foot he kicked a nearby sword into his hand and stabbed the cultist.
"
Stop! Or your Patriarch will be fed to Chernobog!" screamed the nun.
If only he still had some ammunition...
In another part of the church, there was chanting in that same not quite Ruthenian language. A group of cultists filed into the main atrium, dragging the body of senator Favero towards an altar they had constructed around the Patriarch's chair and a large mound of paintings and idols to Christ.
"
Who will you save, Duke?" The nun smiled. "The Artist or the Patriarch?"
With that they tied both the Patriarch and Favero to the altar and set the whole thing on fire. The cultists drew knives and advanced as one menacingly on Doukas. He was surrounded. There was no escape...

((I must have read right over the part about my character being set on fire because I totally didn't notice that the first time. :p))

Michelangelo slowly returned to consciousness. He felt incredibly warm. His fever must have been getting worse. As he opened his eyes, he realized it wasn't the fever. Flames licked around him and were starting to singe his robes. Behind him he could hear the screams of another man. He tried to turn his head, but it flopped to the side uselessly. Had he been drugged? He could make out a group of people across the room wearing strange clothing. Cultists, perhaps? He had no idea what they were doing here or what was going on. The fire was slowly burning closer to him. He needed to get away from the flames.

Michelangelo tried to move, but found himself bound down. He could just barely shift his body with ropes binding him to the altar behind him. He wiggled back and forth to try to loosen the ropes, but to no avail. Something fell out of his pocket and onto the floor. Flopping his head forward, he could make out the shape of a gun by his feet. It must have been the pistol Doukas had given him earlier. He tried to nudge it closer with his foot, but accidentally kicked it into the flames in his drugged stupor. Well that didn't go as planned.

A loud bang sounded near Michelangelo and one cultist attacking Doukas dropped over dead. The flames must have heated up the gunpowder and fired the gun. Well that was the best help he could provide. The flames licked at his skin now and the altar was now burning behind him. He hissed in pain as his skin was scorched by the hot flames. Just when he thought it unbearable, the rope snapped after being burned through by the fire and he fell forward onto the floor. Michelangelo flopped out of the flames and rolled away from the altar. He was no longer in danger of burning, but he was still too drugged to get to his feet and help. All he could do was watch the Patriarch stumble away from the altar and run out a side door in terror. Well at least he was safe if somewhat of a coward.

((Idhrendur, when can we expect the next update? I'm kind of running out of ideas and probably taking this RP too far...))
Doukas heard a bang from the altar, and one of the cultists in front of him screamed and dropped on the floor, dead. As all of the cultists turned to see Favero and the Patriarch break free of their bindings, with the Patriarch running out of the room and Favero collapsing on the floor in a drugged stupor, Doukas lashed out with his sword, cutting down at least five of the cultists before he was restrained by the rest.

Surprisingly, they didn't kill them immediately. A man in the robes of the High Priest of Chernobog entered the room, and the cultists bowed to him.


"Ah, the Artist who is not an artist and the Duke who is not a duke," said Iosef Ignatieff, "It is nice to see you again."

“Iosef Ignatieff!” Doukas said, “I killed you myself back at Blachernae!”

Ignatieff smiled.
“Chernobog works in mysterious ways. I am his chosen one, his champion!”

He strolled over to the bonfire, where priceless relics dating back from the days of the Great Schism and the Iconoclast Controversy were burning and melting.

“You hate this, don’t you?” Ignatieff smiled. “Once word gets out about this, everyone will hate Mother Russia and Germania. Then, only then, will Chernobog be pleased by the sacrifices made to Him in the ensuing war!”

“Yada, yada, yada,” Doukas said, “Yeah, I heard this before. Why don’t we skip the boasting and trash talking and get to the part where you explain your evil plan? Oh wait, you already did so!”

“I am getting sick of your talk, boy,” Ignatieff said.

To his cultists, he ordered, “Kill them!”

The pagans resumed advancing on Doukas. Looking around, he saw Favero stirring ever so slightly, but nobody paid attention to him, thinking he was dead already of his burns.

Ignatieff raised his arms skyward let out a large, diabolical laugh that could only have been given to him by Satan or whatever god he served. “WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Nobody can stop us now! Praise the Black God! The Cult of the Black Hand is victorious!”

At that moment, the doors of the church burst open, and with a fanfare of trumpets, gunfire—from military rifles used by the Imperial Army, not the pistols the Ruthenians carried—rang out throughout the room. Cultists screamed as they were cut down by the relentless volley and sent to eternal torment.

“Get down!” shouted an Imperial soldier.

A second salvo rang out, and the bullets struck the nun and what cultists were stupid enough to remain standing and not run away.

There was the sound of hoof beats, and Doukas turned to see the Athens Lancers, the renowned light cavalry brigade, charge into the room, blaring their bugles and drawing their sabers, cutting down cultists with every strike.

Ignatieff’s smile turned to shock. He glared at Doukas. “This isn’t over yet, House Doukas. The Cult is patient, and it will return to exact vengeance! Chernobog isn’t finished with any of you just yet!”

With that he disappeared into the shadows as quickly as he had arrived, the surviving cultists following him as quickly as they could.

It was over. It was finally over, Doukas thought. He felt relieved that the nightmare was finally over. Hopefully there would be no more attacks.

One of the cavalry officers dismounted and approached him. Doukas’s eyes widened as he recognized his own son, Alexios, whom he had not seen in years. He was in a colonel’s uniform and wore a couple medals—was that the Nike Medal, Order of the Empire, and the Veronica Cross? What had he done in the Holy Land in the name of the Empire?

“Is that you?” Doukas asked.

“Yes, father, it is me, Alexios,” replied the lancer officer, “After the bombing of the Senate this morning, General Savopoulos received a rushed order from Blachernae for partial mobilization of all troops around the capital before communications were cut off. With the Varangian Guard out of the picture, the Athens Lancers were the only brigade in the area fully prepared for battle at the time—we were here for training—so they sent us into the city to root out any suspects. You should have seen the battle in downtown!”

Doukas hugged his son and cried. He couldn’t take any more of this. “Thank you so much, son. You saved us all.”

“No, father, you did. You saved the Empress herself, for crying out loud! Her Majesty is safe from the clutches of the cannibals and heathens thanks to you. God knows what would have happened if you had decided to accept that job offer at the University of Constantinople instead of the appointment to the Senate…”

Some soldiers brought in water and put out the bonfire, saving most of the relics, while others helped Favero to his feet and put him on a horse.

“We’re heading to the Senate now, you might want to come with us, as it’s safer traveling with us, Father. The Cult has you two—and your families, by extension—as targets. They’re going to seek vengeance at all costs, for whatever reason. Only God knows why the Doukoi and Favero families are so important…”
 
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