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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Idhrendur

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Alexios runs into the Senate hall, accompanied by Varangians who were more heavily armed than usual.
Senators! The Cult has struck again! My father is missing!
He had...my father had just been going for a walk during the break. I heard him shout suddenly and then go silent as if something had happened to him.
I looked over...and he was gone. His gun was lying on the ground, along with a small note.
He pulls out a piece of paper with Cyrillic script on it.
It reads as follows:

"To the incompetent and arrogant senators and your pitiful Empress with her harem of little Mexihcan boys:

Your dead god will not save you from the wrath of Chernobog. We warned you that there were twelve senators within your ranks serving the Black God. You did not heed our warnings. So, we gave you a better warning.
It was quite easy to steal your Minister of Security, as you call the Duke. That old buffoon never knew what hit him. By the time you read this, he will no longer be in your dying empire's borders.
Don't think about offering a monetary ransom; we have no use for your money. Don't worry, we won't sacrifice him to the Dark God...yet.
We offer the following terms in exchange for the life of your precious senator:

You will stop persecuting our cult and let us live in peace.
All investigations into our cult will cease immediately.
All members of the Favero and Doukas families (no, not the Imperial House, you traitors) will be stripped of their various titles and barred from public office.

The following will occur should you refuse to meet these terms or if you attempt to send in your army:

We shall trigger a war with Germany, Russia, Bavaria, Mexihco, Iraq, and Hedjaz...all of them at once.
The sleeper agents we have implanted in the Senate will kill all of you and your royal family.
The Ecumenical Patriarch will be assassinated.
We shall fund and lead separatist uprisings in all parts of your empire.
Of course, we shall sacrifice your Minister of Intelligence and Minister of Security to Chernobog.

Do we have a deal? Good.

Hail Chernobog,
Yosef Ignatieff"

What do we do, senators?

~Alexios Doukas
I shall mourn for the loss of poor Yevhen.

I hope that the war with Deccan went well. I heard so little of it from my home in Venice.

I can only hope that we have seen the last war between the UTA and Mexico for now. Their constant warring is quite exhausting.

We do not negotiate with cultists. I will have all the resources of the Ministry of Intelligence put towards finding the Duke. For the moment, I suggest that the Empress and Ecumenical Patriarch be protected at times by only the most loyal of guards. Their safety is paramount.

- Senator Michelangelo "the Artist" Favero
I am sorry for your loss, Empress. The entire empire mourns.

Bavaria's expansion is quite worrisome. Perhaps we should put those upstarts in their place once more.

The Suez Canal is truly the greatest wonder of our time. Now we can control the east-to-west trade, especially when we are victorious against Deccan.

-Senator Moustakas
Your loss is our, Senators' and citizens', loss aswell, Empress.



That note was written by some mad man. He's acting like a child giving us threats that can't be accomplished. You won't really believe that they have the power to make coalition that involves all those countries. Germany and Bavaria attacking us at the same time? I can't stop laughing. If one of them will be at war with us, the second one would attack our enemy as they are weaker, not us. Separatists in all parts of Empire? Considering that most of our citizens are Greeks I can't even think about what could make them turn against the Empire. I'm sorry to say that, but I think that Senator Doukas was prepared for such situation and he is more than anyone willing to sacrafice his life for safety of the Empire, and our Empire won't be safe if we will let those mad murderers live on. With a bit of luck we will be able to rescue Senator Doukas before they will do something terrible to him.

- Senator Alexios Damaskinos
As Alexios shook the hand of the senator who had just arrived, he noticed the hand of another senator dropping into his pocket, as if to draw something...a gun!

Get down!

Shots rang out throughout the senate room. He charged at the gunman before he could target the Empress, but the gunman turned his gun on himself and shot himself in the head.
Outside, they heard numerous explosions coming from downtown.
"Kyrie eleison!" says Kyriakos Angelos angrily. "I'm getting too old for this! Firearms in the Senate, even after the Rus assault on the Chrysotriklinos?? If it wasn't such an affront to our dignities, I'd motion that all senators are searched before entering the palace!"
As the body of the gunman is taken away for analysis by the Ministry of Intelligence, Alexios speaks up.
Well, actually we did institute harsher security measures after the attack. Somehow this senator--I mean, cult sleeper agent--managed to sneak in an unauthorized firearm.
After what seemed far too long, members of the 1st Constantinople Guard arrived, escorting General Kanaris.

Your majesty.

As we expected, the cult revealed their hand in this session. This has allowed us to track the traitors within the Scholai Palatinae and remove them. Your person and the city should now be secure.

Unfortunately, the cult leaders have escaped with the Senator. We thought we had them trapped in the harbor, but their ship exploded before we could board it, as well as several other ships that had been booby-trapped. And then suddenly they were taunting us from a ship outside the Great Chain. It is unfathomable how they could have slipped the noose.

Centurion Doukas, I task you with rescuing your father. Your century shall go with you. We've arranged passage on some merchant ships, Ukraine is sending a Frigate to meet you and continue the chase, and one of the Light Fleet's commerce raiders is sailing from the Canary Islands to carry you wherever you need. Orders have been telegraphed to every garrison in the Empire to help you to the end of their abilities. With the transatlantic cable, we were even able to send orders to Guayana, and to request assistance from the UTA and England. You can go anywhere in the world and receive assistance.

Your majesty, the world is growing ever smaller, and the cult will have fewer and fewer places to hide. They will not survive much longer.
 

Idhrendur

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Senators,

We apologize for this madness. It was necessary to allow the cult to try again in order to weed out the worst of the traitors. And they have done just as we expected.

Like several of you, We do not believe they can carry out their threats. They are a stinging gnat, not an existential threat. Nevertheless, their escape is surprising.

Senator Moustakas, We agree that Bavaria needs to be put in their place. And after their war with Germany distracted the doctors that could have saved Sigismund, We are their everlasting foe.

Normally, We would give you more time to respond, but We must discuss matters of security with the General, and We expect that many of you are shaken. So yet again, thank you for your time, Senators.
 

Idhrendur

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(( Okay, I'll play again, and start a new update. If anyone wants the chance to possibly write parts of the updates, the following positions are still available:

Armament minister
Chief of Staff
Chief of the Army
Chief of the Navy

))
 

Arakhor

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((You don't have a prime minister, chancellor or anything else like that?

Also, for those keeping score, anyone who appeared in the first section of this AAR is now at least 25 years older!))
 
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Arakhor

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In line with the above: introducing Kyriakos' son and heir (and secretary), Ioannes Angelos, born 31.07.1836. His views are in line with the modern Angeloi, but being in his mid-twenties and still working for his father, he has not really had the chance to develop many independent views.
 
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BBBD316

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* Into the senate chamber walks a broken and haggard man, leaning heavily on a much younger man in the latest military style*

My sincere apologies for my long hiatus my Empress. A number of years ago I was a Senator like you corpulent pigs in wolves clothing, I saw with disgust the so called elite of the Empire lead our Empress further and further from the true path of the Empire and the Glorious Republic that it sprouted from. The Cult that these men shy from is nothing less than a cabal of nobles of masonic heritage attempting to stop the people from seeing their Empress and expressing the woes of the Empire.

After I laid my allegations against certain high ranking members of the Senate I was visited by a man, a man who promised a way that truth could return to this chamber of lies that even know sees more Freemason plots against our Empress! This man was supposed to take me back to my home lands to meet with landed gentry and merchants that wanted to support a drastic change in the Empire.

Instead I was bound, gagged and beaten and left in some South East Asian hell hole, there I had to work with the common man to survive for years, it was not till I was able to reach my son working at his post as Governor that I was able to be freed. So many years wasted whilst those here continue to bleed the vitality of the Empire.

In short Empress, I Senator Στήβεν Γκρέυ now I am too old to continue and my son Αιδεν will now take my place. I would heartily recommend him for Chief of Staff.

 
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austrianemporer

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(( Okay, I'll play again, and start a new update. If anyone wants the chance to possibly write parts of the updates, the following positions are still available:

Armament minister
Chief of Staff
Chief of the Army
Chief of the Navy

))
((I still feel like there should be chief of staff of the general staff. Nearly every country in the world had one by 1930, many countries still do. The chain of command would be something like
Chief of the Army (Supreme General might work better) has control over the Chief of Staff who has nominal( in name but not in practice) control over the Chief of the General Staff. That would make me very happy :). Sorry for asking for so much.))
 
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"MINISTER OF SECURITY MISSING!"
Alexios read the newspaper over and over again and then glanced over at the Imperial Order on his table. The news stated that his father, the senator who had saved the empress and the Empire from the wrath of a pagan cult, had been abducted by unknown persons. He and the other senators knew better than the partial truth they were forced to tell the common people. His father was captured by the Cult itself.
The Imperial Order, the letter accompanied by a seal with the double-headed eagle insignia of the Imperial House Doukas, ordered him to find his father and hunt down those responsible "by any means necessary."
This was going to be a long journey. The Cult was a formidable opponent to take on, having eluded the forces of the Empire for many years ever since their initial attack on the Senate and palace on 9 May 1854. They were good at bending the minds of the people to their will without the people themselves knowing it. Already people were asking about the explosions of several ships in the harbor that had killed several innocents and thirty soldiers. It wouldn't be long before the protests began in the forums.
His wife Anna appeared in the hallway of their house, looking quite worried. "
Is it true?" she asked. "Is the Empress really sending you off around the world to find your father?"
"
Yes, my dear," he said, "It is of grave importance."
"
You just came back from that slaughterhouse in Varna!" she responded. "I feared for your life when the rebels sacked the garrison and beheaded everybody inside!"
"I'll be fine, my dear," replied Alexios, "I always am."
Anna didn't even cry. "
I hope you will come back."
Alexios arrived at the docks of the Ukrainian frigate
Yehven, where the other members of the Athenian Lancers had already gathered on the decks of the old warship. Next to it was the commerce raider Konstantinos, which had just arrived from the Canaries.
After greeting his men, he gave an order to exchange all of their uniforms with merchant clothes, as the Cult would be expecting an Imperial army to be marching after them. All rifles were to be hidden, and each man would carry pistols in their inconspicuous clothes.
The ships left the harbor, sailing out of Constantinople into the Mediterranean Sea. Alexios knew the Cult wouldn't be hiding in Russian territory; despite the fact that the Ruthenians and the Imperials were bitter enemies, both had agreed to work together on the matter of the Cult, as they were both Eastern Orthodox nations.
Before his father had left, he had posited that there was a Cult stronghold somewhere in UTA or Kanata territory which was causing the constant wars with Mexihco. But with the destruction of the last Aztec enclave in Cherokee territory, Great Chief Lincoln and his generals had sent a letter to the Ministries of Security and Intelligence stating that there was a stronghold in one of the enclaves and that it had been destroyed by UTA forces. The Aztec emperor and the chief of Kanata also affirmed that any pockets of Cult control had also been destroyed.
So if not Russia or America, then where?
There were three options: England, Asia, or Africa.
The English had control of the rainforest known as the Amazon, where nobody who had gone in had come out. However, they made sure very well that nobody went in at all.
Asia was full of lawless states, ideal for cultists to escape from central governments. But after the recent diplomatic agreements with the Celestial Empire, the Empire could project its power deep into Asia. Poland-Lithuania owned parts of Southeast Asia, and Russia owned Siberia. A Cult stronghold had been found and destroyed in the Philippines, so they wouldn't likely relocate to the mainland.
That left only Africa--the "Heart of Darkness," as a Polish writer in London had wrote in a recent book. It was the last place on earth that was truly wild and savage, untouched by both the West and East. While the Empire had a few military and corporate bases along the coast, those were merely outposts in a hostile environment, and nobody, not even the major African kingdoms like Mali, Ethiopia, or Kongo knew what lay in the interior of Africa.
Alexios gave the order to sail for the Kongo River region, where the rainforests were the least well known to the Empire of all of the African forests. The Cult knew that the Empire would have a hard time sending an army into the heart of Africa.
Alexios knew that. He had selected from among the Lancers those who were best suited for jungle combat. Some had fought in the Yucatan, while others had lived in Guyana. Still others had participated in Senator Favero's invasion of the Philippines and the destruction of the Cult stronghold there, and the rest had been part of military operations in Indonesia. They were all used to fighting proficiently in rough terrain, hot and humid climates, and against unconventional enemies.
He hoped that they would be enough to rescue his father.
 
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Arakhor

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((I think you're a little early for Joseph Conrad, but still. :)))
 
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(( I still need to read Heart of Darkness one day. How am I supposed to work in references when I don't know all the allusions the title alone is making?

Edit: Also, I'm glad we're on the same page in implicating Africa as a potential home for the Cult... ))
 
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Idhrendur

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((I still feel like there should be chief of staff of the general staff. Nearly every country in the world had one by 1930, many countries still do. The chain of command would be something like
Chief of the Army (Supreme General might work better) has control over the Chief of Staff who has nominal( in name but not in practice) control over the Chief of the General Staff. That would make me very happy :). Sorry for asking for so much.))
(( No worries for asking! It's fun to try and get this kind of stuff in place. Fortunately, there's not a rush. I'd like to have something that neatly dovetails with the HoI3 ministers by the 1930s, but for now I envision individual appointments that are kind of arbitrary that evolve into that kind of role. For now I'm more curious in getting people who'd like to write a short blurb in those roles, but probably eventually they'll all be filled just to have them filled.

That said, I think I'm not following you. Probably because the only system I only start to know is the USA's system, and that only with lots of google and wikipedia. If my quick research is correct, it looks like it works President -> Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -> Chief of Staff of the various branches. Though that's not the chain of command for orders, more like the administrative side of things, or something. And wikipedia at least convinced that the CJCS is same as the Chief of the General staff (but, hey, wikipedia).

It would make sense in my head (and I think HoI3 is intended to work like this) to have it as Empress/Emperor (Head of State) -> Head of Government (specifics to be defined later, as the Senate evolves over time, may not ever be a player character) -> Chief of Staff (a player character, preferably) -> Chief of the Army/Navy/Air Force (also player characters).

Of course, in that system I don't see a role for a Chief of General Staff as separate from the Chief of Staff. But I be completely misunderstanding how it all works. Or taking what knowledge I have and creating a poor system from it. Feel free to educate me! And convince me! ))
 

austrianemporer

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(( No worries for asking! It's fun to try and get this kind of stuff in place. Fortunately, there's not a rush. I'd like to have something that neatly dovetails with the HoI3 ministers by the 1930s, but for now I envision individual appointments that are kind of arbitrary that evolve into that kind of role. For now I'm more curious in getting people who'd like to write a short blurb in those roles, but probably eventually they'll all be filled just to have them filled.

That said, I think I'm not following you. Probably because the only system I only start to know is the USA's system, and that only with lots of google and wikipedia. If my quick research is correct, it looks like it works President -> Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff -> Chief of Staff of the various branches. Though that's not the chain of command for orders, more like the administrative side of things, or something. And wikipedia at least convinced that the CJCS is same as the Chief of the General staff (but, hey, wikipedia).

It would make sense in my head (and I think HoI3 is intended to work like this) to have it as Empress/Emperor (Head of State) -> Head of Government (specifics to be defined later, as the Senate evolves over time, may not ever be a player character) -> Chief of Staff (a player character, preferably) -> Chief of the Army/Navy/Air Force (also player characters).

Of course, in that system I don't see a role for a Chief of General Staff as separate from the Chief of Staff. But I be completely misunderstanding how it all works. Or taking what knowledge I have and creating a poor system from it. Feel free to educate me! And convince me! ))
(( The USA is one of the few countries that have never had a General Staff system, mainly because of their ideals of liberty, independence, and isolation. Now, America has something similar to the General Staff except officers rotate between the staff system and the field. Your chain of command is correct, wikipedia is also correct. The thing about this is that the Roman Empire we have in this AAR is in Europe, so I thought a European chain of command would work better. I am adopting this chain of command from the USA and German Empire chain of commands,
The Emperor -> Chief of Staff + Ministers -> Chief of the General Staff +Chief of the Army/Navy/ Air Force. While the Chiefs of Staff commands the military, the General Staff plans for war, they draw up plans for war. They deal only in the planning stage and don't actually command any troops. But generals usually have to follow what plan they made.

Of course, this is your AAR so its your choice on what chain of command you want!))
 
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(( I think I get it now, thanks! I also understand why I didn't understand, being an American and all.

I think I like that idea. There's no HoI3 minister that fits that kind of position, but both Vic2 and HoI3 have the capability of drawing plans on the map. I could release the mod + a save at any given point, and have a player appointed as Chief of the General Staff (or a number of players that are a part of the general staff) draw up plans that I would then attempt to use. If people think that could be fun, I'll write up some rules, ask for permission for that increase in interactivity, and work it in to the next update.

Or do you have a different system in mind? Now that I see where you're coming from, I like your thinking. ))
 

austrianemporer

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(( I think I get it now, thanks! I also understand why I didn't understand, being an American and all.

I think I like that idea. There's no HoI3 minister that fits that kind of position, but both Vic2 and HoI3 have the capability of drawing plans on the map. I could release the mod + a save at any given point, and have a player appointed as Chief of the General Staff (or a number of players that are a part of the general staff) draw up plans that I would then attempt to use. If people think that could be fun, I'll write up some rules, ask for permission for that increase in interactivity, and work it in to the next update.

Or do you have a different system in mind? Now that I see where you're coming from, I like your thinking. ))
((That is about right :). I didn't think of that interactivity, that would be really fun! We could even have all the military ministers "propose" different plans ;).
 
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Alexios awoke when the Yehven's horn blared. The two ships were approaching the port city of Brazzaville, where the Empire had an outpost ready to assist them. A lead picked up by a contact in Morocco indicated potential Cult influence in the Kongo region.
He put on his disguise and was about to stand up when there was an explosion. There was shouting in the many languages of Europe and Africa. Footsteps were heard as sailors rushed across the deck.
The
Konstantinos had apparently fired upon the Yehven, which was firing back. All attempts to signal the commerce raider were in vain when somebody began raising the heads of its crew on poles out the windows.
The guns fired again, tearing holes in the wooden hull of the Ukrainian frigate. The Ukrainians tried shooting back, but the frigate was old and weak, and its guns could not pierce the commerce raider's hull.
Alexios felt the ship list heavily to port as the bombardment from the Cult-occupied
Konstantinos continued. Then there was a great jolt as the commerce raider rammed into the side of the frigate.
Peering above deck, Alexios and his men watched as cultists streamed onto the
Yehven's deck, using scythes and barbed blades to mercilessly behead and dismember any sailors who stepped in their way.
"
Sir, what do we do?" Ioannes asked.
"
We can't fight them," said Alexios, "This is their territory. We jump the ship and head to shore. Blow up the frigate."
"
Yes, sir," said Loukas, dropping some explosives in the gunpowder reserves and boiler room.
The Lancers took everything they needed and escaped the ship by jumping out some holes in the starboard side. A well placed bomb in the boiler room then detonated, killing the cultists and destroying both of the ships.
Alexios and his men washed up on the beach near Brazzaville. Nobody in the city had seen them yet, which was good, as he assumed that the Cult has also infiltrated the city. They had to get to the river without anyone noticing and then follow it upstream.
Luckily, he realized that a branch of the river was just nearby, along with a steamboat conveniently moored there...
 
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Idhrendur

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In line with the above: introducing Kyriakos' son and heir (and secretary), Ioannes Angelos, born 31.07.1836. His views are in line with the modern Angeloi, but being in his mid-twenties and still working for his father, he has not really had the chance to develop many independent views.
* Into the senate chamber walks a broken and haggard man, leaning heavily on a much younger man in the latest military style*

My sincere apologies for my long hiatus my Empress. A number of years ago I was a Senator like you corpulent pigs in wolves clothing, I saw with disgust the so called elite of the Empire lead our Empress further and further from the true path of the Empire and the Glorious Republic that it sprouted from. The Cult that these men shy from is nothing less than a cabal of nobles of masonic heritage attempting to stop the people from seeing their Empress and expressing the woes of the Empire.

After I laid my allegations against certain high ranking members of the Senate I was visited by a man, a man who promised a way that truth could return to this chamber of lies that even know sees more Freemason plots against our Empress! This man was supposed to take me back to my home lands to meet with landed gentry and merchants that wanted to support a drastic change in the Empire.

Instead I was bound, gagged and beaten and left in some South East Asian hell hole, there I had to work with the common man to survive for years, it was not till I was able to reach my son working at his post as Governor that I was able to be freed. So many years wasted whilst those here continue to bleed the vitality of the Empire.

In short Empress, I Senator Στήβεν Γκρέυ now I am too old to continue and my son Αιδεν will now take my place. I would heartily recommend him for Chief of Staff.

((I've added both characters to the list, and made Αιδεν Στήβεν the Chief of Staff (which is separate from the Chief of the General Staff). I wasn't sure which party you intended him to be a part of, so I left him as unaffiliated. ))
 

Idhrendur

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(( Okay, I played up until 1880. I need time to put the pictures together, and for the side story to get wrapped up. In the meanwhile, the following characters are quite aged and should be retired. If you don't retire them by the next Senate session, I'm afraid I will have to do so for you. As well, the Communist party has popped, so there are several more choices of political party for your characters (details here). Remember also that your characters can change party at any time if they choose.

Characters to Retire:
Georgios Blenchard - @GreatUberGeek
Michelangelo Favero - @Michaelangelo
Potitus Caristanius Gallio - @The Crows
Basileios Rellis - @Attalus
Konstantinos Galatías - @Sakura_F
Ovulur Kishiev - @CaterpillarKing
Nikephoros Doukas - @zenphoenix
Damianos Septiadis - @Damian0358


))
 
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((Is it okay to keep my character alive in my Heart of Darkness side story so that I can kill him off in a couple of my own chapters? He won't be at the Senate session at all. I just am quite busy on vacation and all.))
 

Michaelangelo

Archaeopteryx
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Senator Michelangelo Favero sat in his study at home near Venice. He hadn't been home in ages. The vineyards were well tended by the workers and they were expected to bring in another excellent crop. He was certain this year's vintage would be its finest. He smiled as he looked outside his window, but that smile was wiped away when he spotted smoke coming from the vineyard. His precious crop was on fire.

At a speed surprising for a man of his years, Michelangelo raced outside. The smoke was thick in the air and the senator coughed to clear his lungs. Where were his workers? They needed to put out this blaze before the whole crop burned down. He glanced around for anyone. In fact, where were the guards who usually protected his estate? He scurried around trying to find someone. He found his answer in the form of a corpse. At least one of his guards had been killed and was lying there in a pool of his own blood. Was this an attack?

Michelangelo felt the barrel of a gun pressed against the back of his head. He raised his hands, hoping the man would not shoot. Instead he just pushed the cold steel up against the senator's head and said, "It is about time that the Artist met his end. The Cult sends its regards."

Michelangelo opened his mouth to speak, but the words got stuck in his throat like the bullet that then burst through his skull. Blood and brain matter sprayed everywhere as the senator collapsed to the ground, his body limp and lifeless. The Artist was no more.

* * * * *

((A letter to the Empress and Senate))

I, Leonardo Favero, eldest son of Senator Michelangelo Favero, am sending this letter to regretfully inform you that my father is dead. He was murdered at his estate near Venice, most likely by the Cult that he had tried to destroy for so many years. He loved this Empire with all his heart and it saddens me that he was brought down before the Cult could be destroyed. There were many times though when he told me of the joys of being in the Senate when word of the Empire's many great successes reached the capital. He got to play a major part in helping decide the fate of this great Empire and guiding the Empress in her rule. He will ever be grateful for that opportunity, even as he greets God in heaven.

With his passing, I will be taking his place in the Senate. As I have stated, my name is Leonardo Favero. I was born on 27 April 1840 near Venice. I know I am still young, but I spent most of my youth at various universities across the Empire studying politics, history, and law. The past few years I have been working alongside my father, aiding him in his duties as Minister of Intelligence. I hope that the Empress will permit me to take up my father's mantle and continue on his work. I want nothing more than to find the ones responsible for his death. I look forward to working with all of you. Long live the Empire and long live the Empress!
 
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zenphoenix

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((I suppose I should just wrap up my character's story quickly.))

Far up the Congo River, in terra incognita

The Athenian Lancers watched as the Kongo natives advanced on them from all directions, armed with crude spears and wearing little more than loincloths.
Alexios ordered his tired and exhausted men to retreat to the steamboat moored at the riverside, their (empty) pistols raised at the enemy. Ioannes and Loukas, both of whom had a rudimentary knowledge of native languages, desperately shouted at the natives to stop.
How did they fall into this trap? he wondered. Well, they made the journey upriver, following native accounts of a white "Lord Dooku" deep in the jungle somewhere. Eventually they found what appeared to be an old hut which was built on top of an elaborate prison-like structure. There were signs of a struggle but no bodies at all. Farther up the river they found the bodies of numerous Cultists, killed by gunshots or stab wounds. And then they came to a native village where Alexios was sure his father was staying. He was stupid enough to fall into the trap the native savages had sprung. Clever men, they were, despite their savagery, he thought.
There was a shout of a white man from the village, and the natives halted their advances. There was a Greek accent to that voice, Alexios realized.
Natives emerged from one of the buildings, carrying an old and frail white man on a stretcher towards them. It was his father, almost unrecognizable now. Somehow he had managed to escape the Cult and come here to the natives.

"Father!" he shouted.
Nikephoros didn't respond. He was too weak to speak, having used up his energy on the shout. He was also very old now.
The natives set down the stretcher in front of the Lancers and pointed at the steamboat, intending them to leave quickly. Shouting some orders to his men, they carried Alexios's father back to the ship, where Ioannes floored the throttle in reverse.
The brown current ran swiftly out of the heart of darkness, bearing them down towards the sea with twice the speed of their upward progress; and Nikephoros's life was running swiftly, too, ebbing, ebbing out of his heart into the sea of inexorable time. Alexios was, so to speak, numbered with the dead. It wqs strange how he accepted this unforeseen partnership, that choice of nightmares forced upon him in the tenebrous land invaded by those mean and greedy phantoms.
Nikephoros discoursed. A voice! a voice! Alexios thought. It rang deep to the very last. It survived his strength to hide in the magnificent folds of eloquence the barren darkness of his heart. Oh, he struggled! he struggled! The wastes of his weary brain were haunted by shadowy images now—images of wealth and fame, the destruction of the Cult, revolving obsequiously round his unextinguishable gift of noble and lofty expression. My son, my station, my career, my ideas—those were the subjects for the occasional utterances of elevated sentiments. The shade of the original Nikephoros, the respected and noble senator, frequented the bedside of the hollow sham, whose fate it was to be buried presently in the mould of primeval earth. But both the diabolic love and the unearthly hate of the mysteries it had penetrated fought for the possession of that soul satiated with primitive emotions, avid of lying fame, of sham distinction, of all the appearances of success and power, of his drive to destroy the Cult with his dying breath. And he had, somewhat; there was a Cult stronghold here in the Kongo, and Nikephoros had managed to escape before he could be sacrificed. He then returned at the head of a native army and destroyed the stronghold, forcing the Cult to flee even farther inland, where nobody, not even the natives of the Kongo, ever went. The interior was even more unknown to the Empire than the Kongo River region.
The days passed. They chugged down the river, past ruined settlements built by both natives and the Empire, past trading posts built by the Kongolese government, and other stuff. And Nikephoros's condition got worse and worse.
He was an impenetrable darkness. Alexios looked at him as one peers down at a man who is lying at the bottom of a precipice where the sun never shines. But Alexios had not much time to give him, because he was helping the engine–driver Lancer to take to pieces the leaky cylinders, to straighten a bent connecting–rod, and in other such matters, for the steamboat had broken down.
One evening, Alexios was startled to hear him say a little tremulously,
"I am lying here in the dark waiting for death." The light was within a foot of his eyes.

The old and broken senator cried in a whisper at some image, at some vision—he cried out twice, a cry that was no more than a breath:

"The horror! The horror!"

Alexios blew the candles out and left the cabin so that his father could had some peace. The pilgrims were dining in the mess–room, and he took his place opposite Loukas, who lifted his eyes to give Alexios a questioning glance, which he successfully ignored. Loukas leaned back, serene, with that peculiar smile of his sealing the unexpressed depths of his meanness. A continuous shower of small flies streamed upon the lamp, upon the cloth, upon the Lancers' hands and faces. Suddenly Loukas's native servant boy put his insolent black head in the doorway, and said in a tone of scathing contempt:

"Mistah Dooku—he dead."

All of the Lancers rushed out to see. There was a lamp in there—light—and outside it was so beastly, beastly dark. The voice was gone. What else had been there?

Nikephoros Doukas, the Bringer of Victory, the Duke, Doux of Thema Greece, Imperial Senator, was dead.

((Will post formal introduction later))
 
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