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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Idhrendur

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January 22, 1901, a messenger arrives to a hastily-assembled Senate.

Senators, I bring sad news. Empress Veronica has passed away this evening, after failing health throughout January. Her funeral will be on the 25th. Her wish was for it to be of military style, and white instead of black, and so it shall be. Afterward, Emperor Alvértos will make an address to the Senate.
 
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austrianemporer

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January 22, 1901, a messenger arrives to a hastily-assembled Senate.

Senators, I bring sad news. Empress Victoria has passed away this evening, after failing health throughout January. Her funeral will be on the 25th. Her wish was for it to be of military style, and white instead of black, and so it shall be. Afterward, Prince Alvértos will make an address to the Senate.
The Palaiologoi is in shock at the death of Empress Veronica. Also, I am saddened to inform you of the passing of Ambrosio Palaiologos. A faithful senator to the very end, he was killed by assassins at his home. Either that, or someone accidently tossed a torch on his house. And then went in and stabbed him. We are currently deciding the next head of the family as his lone child has renounced the material world and has become the Patriarch's Chief Assistant in Antioch.

Sincerely, Spokesman Christophoros Palaiologos

((Please disregard the fact i wrote Victoria instead of Veronica on my first attempt to write this :p. Thanks Michaelangelo.))
 
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Michaelangelo

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January 22, 1901, a messenger arrives to a hastily-assembled Senate.

Senators, I bring sad news. Empress Victoria has passed away this evening, after failing health throughout January. Her funeral will be on the 25th. Her wish was for it to be of military style, and white instead of black, and so it shall be. Afterward, Prince Alvértos will make an address to the Senate.
I send my condolences to the royal family. Empress Veronica's reign defined an era and led this empire to such heights that will surely be difficult to surpass.

- Senator Leonardo Favero

((You might want to fix the empress's name. :D))
 
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"The Veronikan Era has passed and with it, the Basilissa of my father and grandfather. The Angeloi offer their deepest sympathies to the throne."
 
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Idhrendur

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(( Whoops! You'd think I of all people would get the name right. Thanks for pointing it out! ))
 

BBBD316

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Though my supports and I have clashed with elements of Her Imperial Majesty's government we have always had great affection and loyalty to our dear departed Empress.

Our thoughts are with the Imperial Family at this time.

- Senator Gray
 
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zenphoenix

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((Private))

Michael read the newspaper. "EMPRESS VERONICA DEAD," the headlines read.
He was sad, of course, but he was also angry. He knew the truth, as Minister of Security. The Blachernae Gazette didn't tell the whole truth. But the truth was out there.

Soon after the Empress's death, an emergency meeting of the Ministry of Security was called, and some of the members of the General Staff were in attendance, including Strategos Dalassenos, as well as some doctors from the Pandidakterion. The autopsy on the Empress had shown that she had been drained of her blood, with two puncture holes on her neck. The doctors were baffled and at a loss to explain how she lost so much blood. She was old, but she wasn't expected to die like this! The General Staff and the Secret Police agreed to a measure to hunt down the supposed killer, while hiding the truth from the public. The citizens weren't ready for the truth. Michael knew they would not find their killer, whom they assumed to be human. Michael and Ioannes knew what really happened that night. IT got to her. IT killed her. IT was punishing them.

He threw the newspaper at the wall, hitting his father's portrait. "NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!" he screamed. "I WILL FIND YOU AND HUNT YOU DOWN WITH EVERYTHING AT MY DISPOSAL! MARK MY WORDS, DRACULA, YOU WILL NOT LIVE TO SEE THE CORONATION OF THE EMPEROR!"

((Public))

I humbly offer my deepest condolences to the royal family. The Empire reached its greatest extent in civilization and power under her reign, a true Pax Romana. Whether the empress caused the period, or the period creates the empress, she fitted her time perfectly. She will be greatly missed by all of the citizens of Rome. Long live the new Emperor!

~Michael Doukas

((Private again))

Dr. Stavridis’s Diary

For a while sheer anger mastered me. It was as if he had during her life struck Loukia on the face. I smote the table hard and rose up as I said to him, "Dr. von Habsburg, are you mad?"
He raised his head and looked at me, and somehow the tenderness of his face calmed me at once. "Vould ich vere!" he said. "Madness vere easy zo bear kompared vith zruth like zhis. Oh, mein freund, vhy, zhink du, did ich go so far round, vhy take so long to tell so simple a zhing? Vas it because ich hate du und have hated du all mein life? Was it because ich vished to give du pain? Vas it zhat ich wanted, no so late, revenge for zhat time vhen you saved my life, and from a fearful death? Ah nein!"
"Forgive me," said I.
He went on (and I’ll just stop representing his accent here, it’s tiring), "My friend, it was because I wished to be gentle in the breaking to you, for I know you have loved that so sweet lady. But even yet I do not expect you to believe. It is so hard to accept at once any abstract truth, that we may doubt such to be possible when we have always believed the `no' of it. It is more hard still to accept so sad a concrete truth, and of such a one as Frau Loukia. Tonight I go to prove it. Dare you come with me?"
This staggered me. A man does not like to prove such a truth, Kyrillos excepted from the category, jealousy.
"And prove the very truth he most abhorred."
He saw my hesitation, and spoke, "The logic is simple, no madman's logic this time, jumping from tussock to tussock in a misty bog. If it not be true, then proof will be relief. At worst it will not harm. If it be true! Ah, there is the dread. Yet every dread should help my cause, for in it is some need of belief. Come, I tell you what I propose. First, that we go off now and see that child in the hospital. Dr. Melissenos, of the North Hospital, where the papers say the child is, is a friend of mine, and I think of yours since you were in class at Vienna. He will let two scientists see his case, if he will not let two friends. We shall tell him nothing, but only that we wish to learn. And then . . ."
"And then?"
He took a key from his pocket and held it up. "And then we spend the night, you and I, in the churchyard where Loukia lies. This is the key that lock the tomb. I had it from the coffin man to give to Michael."
My heart sank within me, for I felt that there was some fearful ordeal before us. I could do nothing, however, so I plucked up what heart I could and said that we had better hasten, as the afternoon was passing.
We found the child awake. It had had a sleep and taken some food, and altogether was going on well. Dr, Melissenos took the bandage from its throat, and showed us the punctures. There was no mistaking the similarity to those which had been on Loukia’s throat. They were smaller, and the edges looked fresher, that was all. We asked Melissenos to what he attributed them, and he replied that it must have been a bite of some animal, perhaps a rat, but for his own part, he was inclined to think it was one of the bats which are so numerous on the northern heights of Constantinople. "Out of so many harmless ones," he said, "there may be some wild specimen from the South of a more malignant species. These things do occur, you, know. Only ten days ago a wolf got out, and was, I believe, traced up in this direction. For a week after, the children were playing nothing but Red Riding Hood on the Heath and in every alley in the place until this `bloofer lady' scare came along, since then it has been quite a gala time with them. Even this poor little mite, when he woke up today, asked the nurse if he might go away. When she asked him why he wanted to go, he said he wanted to play with the `bloofer lady'."
"I hope," said von Habsburg, "that when you are sending the child home you will caution its parents to keep strict watch over it. These fancies to stray are most dangerous, and if the child were to remain out another night, it would probably be fatal. But in any case I suppose you will not let it away for some days?"
"Certainly not, not for a week at least, longer if the wound is not healed."
Our visit to the hospital took more time than we had reckoned on, and the sun had dipped before we came out. When Van Helsing saw how dark it was, he said,
"There is not hurry. It is more late than I thought. Come, let us seek somewhere that we may eat, and then we shall go on our way."
About ten o'clock we started from the inn. It was then very dark, and the scattered lamps made the darkness greater when we were once outside their individual radius. The Professor had evidently noted the road we were to go, for he went on unhesitatingly, but, as for me, I was in quite a mixup as to locality. As we went further, we met fewer and fewer people, till at last we were somewhat surprised when we met even the patrol of horse police going their usual suburban round. At last we reached the wall of the churchyard, which we climbed over. With some little difficulty, for it was very dark, and the whole place seemed so strange to us, we found the Este-Ravenna tomb. The Professor took the key, opened the creaky door, and standing back, politely, but quite unconsciously, motioned me to precede him.

Von Habsburg went about his work systematically. Holding his candle so that he could read the coffin plates, and so holding it that the sperm dropped in white patches which congealed as they touched the metal, he made assurance of Loukia’s coffin. Another search in his bag, and he took out a turnscrew.
"What are you going to do?" I asked.
"To open the coffin. You shall yet be convinced."
He opened the coffin and motioned to me to look.
I drew near and looked. The coffin was empty. It was certainly a surprise to me, and gave me a considerable shock, but Von Habsburg was unmoved. He was now more sure than ever of his ground, and so emboldened to proceed in his task. "Are you satisfied now, friend John?" he asked.
I felt all the dogged argumentativeness of my nature awake within me as I answered him, "I am satisfied that Loukia’s body is not in that coffin, but that only proves one thing."
"And what is that, friend John?"
"That it is not there."
"That is good logic," he said, "so far as it goes. But how do you, how can you, account for it not being there?"
"Perhaps a body-snatcher," I suggested. "Some of the undertaker's people may have stolen it." I felt that I was speaking folly, and yet it was the only real cause which I could suggest.
The Professor sighed. "Ah well!" he said," we must have more proof. Come with me."
He put on the coffin lid again, gathered up all his things and placed them in the bag, blew out the light, and placed the candle also in the bag. We opened the door, and went out. Behind us he closed the door and locked it. He handed me the key, saying, "Will you keep it? You had better be assured."
I laughed, it was not a very cheerful laugh, I am bound to say, as I motioned him to keep it. "A key is nothing," I said, "there are many duplicates, and anyhow it is not difficult to pick a lock of this kind."
He said nothing, but put the key in his pocket. Then he told me to watch at one side of the churchyard whilst he would watch at the other.
I took up my place behind a yew tree.

Suddenly, as I turned round, I thought I saw something like a white streak, moving between two dark yew trees at the side of the churchyard farthest from the tomb. At the same time a dark mass moved from the Professor's side of the ground, and hurriedly went towards it. Then I too moved, but I had to go round headstones and railed-off tombs, and I stumbled over graves. The sky was overcast, and somewhere far off an early cock crew. A little ways off, beyond a line of scattered juniper trees, which marked the pathway to the church, a white dim figure flitted in the direction of the tomb. The tomb itself was hidden by trees, and I could not see where the figure had disappeared. I heard the rustle of actual movement where I had first seen the white figure, and coming over, found the Professor holding in his arms a tiny child. When he saw me he held it out to me, and said, "Are you satisfied now?"
"No," I said, in a way that I felt was aggressive.
"Do you not see the child?"
"Yes, it is a child, but who brought it here? And is it wounded?"
"We shall see,"said the Professor, and with one impulse we took our way out of the churchyard, he carrying the sleeping child.
When we had got some little distance away, we went into a clump of trees, and struck a match, and looked at the child's throat. It was without a scratch or scar of any kind.
"Was I right?" I asked triumphantly.
"We were just in time," said the Professor thankfully.
We had now to decide what we were to do with the child, and so consulted about it. If we were to take it to a police station we should have to give some account of our movements during the night. At least, we should have had to make some statement as to how we had come to find the child. So finally we decided that we would take it to the Heath, and when we heard a policeman coming, would leave it where he could not fail to find it. We would then seek our way home as quickly as we could. All fell out well. At the edge of the Heath we heard a policeman's heavy tramp, and laying the child on the pathway, we waited and watched until he saw it as he flashed his lantern to and fro. We heard his exclamation of astonishment, and then we went away silently. By good chance we got a cab near the `Spainiards,' and drove to town.
I cannot sleep, so I make this entry. But I must try to get a few hours' sleep, as Von Habsburg is to call for me at noon. He insists that I go with him on another expedition.

27 September. 1901

It was two o'clock, several months after the funeral of the Empress, before we found a suitable opportunity for our attempt. The funeral held at noon was all completed, and the last stragglers of the mourners had taken themselves lazily away, when, looking carefully from behind a clump of alder trees, we saw the sexton lock the gate after him. We knew that we were safe till morning did we desire it, but the Professor told me that we should not want more than an hour at most. I shrugged my shoulders, however, and rested silent, for von Habsburg had a way of going on his own road, no matter who remonstrated. He took the key, opened the vault, and again courteously motioned me to precede. Von Habsburg walked over to Loukia’s coffin, and I followed. He bent over and again forced back the leaden flange, and a shock of surprise and dismay shot through me.
There lay Loukia, seemingly just as we had seen her the night before her funeral. She was, if possible, more radiantly beautiful than ever, and I could not believe that she was dead. The lips were red, nay redder than before, and on the cheeks was a delicate bloom.
"Is this a juggle?" I said to him.
"Are you convinced now?" said the Professor, in response, and as he spoke he put over his hand, and in a way that made me shudder, pulled back the dead lips and showed the white teeth. "See," he went on,"they are even sharper than before. With this and this," and he touched one of the canine teeth and that below it, "the little children can be bitten. Are you of belief now, friend John?"
Once more argumentative hostility woke within me. I could not accept such an overwhelming idea as he suggested. So, with an attempt to argue of which I was even at the moment ashamed, I said, "I want to believe, but she may have been placed here since last night."
"Indeed? That is so, and by whom?"
"I do not know. Someone has done it."
"And yet she has been dead one week. Most peoples in that time would not look so."
I had no answer for this, so was silent. Von Habsburg did not seem to notice my silence. He said to me,
"Here, there is one thing which is different from all recorded. Here is some dual life that is not as the common. She was bitten by the vampire when she was in a trance, sleep-walking, oh, you start. You do not know that, friend John, but you shall know it later, and in trance could he best come to take more blood. In trance she dies, and in trance she is Un-Dead, too. So it is that she differ from all other. Usually when the Un-Dead sleep at home," as he spoke he made a comprehensive sweep of his arm to designate what to a vampire was `home', "their face show what they are, but this so sweet that was when she not Un-Dead she go back to the nothings of the common dead. There is no malign there, see, and so it make hard that I must kill her in her sleep."
This turned my blood cold, and it began to dawn upon me that I was accepting von Habsburg’s theories. But if she were really dead, what was there of terror in the idea of killing her?
He looked up at me, and evidently saw the change in my face, for he said almost joyously, "Ah, you believe now?"
I answered, "Do not press me too hard all at once. I am willing to accept. How will you do this bloody work?"
"I shall cut off her head and fill her mouth with garlic, and I shall drive a stake through her body."
It made me shudder to think of so mutilating the body of the woman whom I had loved. And yet the feeling was not so strong as I had expected. I was, in fact, beginning to shudder at the presence of this being, this Un-Dead, as Von Habsburg called it, and to loathe it. Is it possible that love is all subjective, or all objective?
I waited a considerable time for Von Habsburg to begin, but he stood as if wrapped in thought. Presently he closed the catch of his bag with a snap, and said,
" She have yet no life taken, though that is of time, and to act now would be to take danger from her forever. But then we may have to want Michael, and how shall we tell him of this? If you, who saw the wounds on Loukia’s throat, and saw the wounds so similar on the child's at the hospital, if you, who saw the coffin empty last night and full today with a woman who have not change only to be more rose and more beautiful in a whole week, after she die, if you know of this and know of the white figure last night that brought the child to the churchyard, and yet of your own senses you did not believe, how then, can I expect Michael, who know none of those things, to believe?
"My mind is made up. Let us go. You return home for tonight to your asylum, and see that all be well. As for me, I shall spend the night here in this churchyard in my own way. Tomorrow night you will come to me to the Hotel at ten of the clock. I shall send for Michael to come too, and also that so fine young man of Oceania that gave his blood. Later we shall all have work to do. I come with you so far as Hippodrome District and there dine, for I must be back here before the sun set."
So we locked the tomb and came away, and got over the wall of the churchyard, which was not much of a task, and drove back to Hippodrome District.


Note left by von Habsburg in his portmanteau, [REDACTED] directed to John Stavridis, M. D. (not delivered)


27 September

Friend John,

I write this in case anything should happen. I go alone to watch over the churchyard. The Un-Dead may be there, waiting for us. I shall place garlic and crucifixes around the tomb to limit the Un-Dead’s movement. But the Un-Dead are strong, and if I fail, you must be prepared to take up the challenge.

Therefore I write this in case . . . Take the papers that are with this, the diaries of Dalassenos and the rest, and read them, and then find this great Un-Dead, and cut off his head and burn his heart or drive a stake through it, so that the world may rest from him.

If it be so, farewell.

VON HABSBURG.



Dr. Stavridis’s Diary

29 September.

Last night, at a little before ten o'clock, Michael and Markos Quintus came into von Habsburg’s room. He told us all what he wanted us to do, but especially addressing himself to Michael, as if all our wills were centered in his. He began by saying that he hoped we would all come with him too, "for," he said, "there is a grave duty to be done there. You were doubtless surprised at my letter?" This query was directly addressed to Senator Doukas. "I was. It rather upset me for a bit. There has been so much trouble around my house of late that I could do without any more. I have been curious, too, as to what you mean.
"Markos and I talked it over, but the more we talked, the more puzzled we got, till now I can say for myself that I'm about up a tree as to any meaning about anything."
"Me too," said Markos Quintus laconically.
"Oh," said the Professor, "then you are nearer the beginning, both of you, than friend John here, who has to go a long way back before he can even get so far as to begin."
It was evident that he recognized my return to my old doubting frame of mind without my saying a word. Then, turning to the other two, he said with intense gravity,
"I want your permission to do what I think good this night. It is, I know, much to ask, and when you know what it is I propose to do you will know, and only then how much. Therefore may I ask that you promise me in the dark, so that afterwards, though you may be angry with me for a time, I must not disguise from myself the possibility that such may be, you shall not blame yourselves for anything."
"That's frank anyhow," broke in Markos. "I'll answer for the Professor. I don't quite see his drift, but I swear he's honest, and that's good enough for me."
"I thank you, Sir," said Von Habsburg proudly. "I have done myself the honor of counting you one trusting friend, and such endorsement is dear to me." He held out a hand, which Markos took.
Then Michael spoke out, "Dr. Von Habsburg, I don't quite like to `buy a pig in a poke', as they say in Caledonia, and if it be anything in which my honour as a gentleman or my faith as a Christian and a servant of the Empire is concerned, I cannot make such a promise. If you can assure me that what you intend does not violate either of these two, then I give my consent at once, though for the life of me, I cannot understand what you are driving at."
"I accept your limitation," said Von Habsburg.

"Agreed!" said Michael. "That is only fair. And now that the pourparlers are over, may I ask what it is we are to do?"
"I want you to come with me, and to come in secret, to the churchyard at Kingstead."
Michael’s face fell as he said in an amazed sort of way,
"Where poor Loukia is buried?"
The Professor bowed.
Michael went on, "And when there?"
"To enter the tomb!"
Michael stood up. "Professor, are you in earnest, or is it some monstrous joke? Pardon me, I see that you are in earnest." He sat down again, but I could see that he sat firmly and proudly, as one who is on his dignity. There was silence until he asked again, "And when in the tomb?"
"To open the coffin."
"This is too much!" he said, angrily rising again. "I am willing to be patient in all things that are reasonable, but in this, this desecration of the grave, of one who . . ." He fairly choked with indignation. "Would it not be well to hear what I have to say?" said Van Helsing. "And then you will at least know the limit of my purpose. Shall I go on?"
"That's fair enough," broke in Quintus.
After a pause Von Habsburg went on, evidently with an effort, "Miss Loukia is dead, is it not so? Yes! Then there can be no wrong to her. But if she be not dead. . ."
Michael jumped to his feet, "Good God!" he cried. "What do you mean? Has there been any mistake, has she been buried alive?"He groaned in anguish that not even hope could soften.
"I did not say she was alive, my child. I did not think it. I go no further than to say that she might be Un-Dead."
"Un-Dead! Not alive! What do you mean? Is this all a nightmare, or what is it?"
"There are mysteries which men can only guess at, which age by age they may solve only in part. Believe me, we are now on the verge of one. But I have not done. May I cut off the head of dead Miss Loukia?"

Michael screamed.
"Heavens and earth, no!" cried Michael in a storm of passion. "WHY, Habsburg, WHY should I help you carry out this act of desecration?! You know I have other things to do, such as find the empress’s killer!"
Von Habsburg rose up from where he had all the time been seated, and said, gravely and sternly, "My Lord Doukas, I too, have a duty to do, a duty to others, a duty to you, a duty to the dead, and by God, I shall do it! All I ask you now is that you come with me, that you look and listen, and if when later I make the same request you do not be more eager for its fulfillment even than I am, then, I shall do my duty, whatever it may seem to me. And then, to follow your Lordship's wishes I shall hold myself at your disposal to render an account to you, when and where you will." His voice broke a little, and he went on with a voice full of pity.
"But I beseech you, do not go forth in anger with me. In a long life of acts which were often not pleasant to do, and which sometimes did wring my heart, I have never had so heavy a task as now. Believe me that if the time comes for you to change your mind towards me, one look from you will wipe away all this so sad hour, for I would do what a man can to save you from sorrow. Just think. For why should I give myself so much labor and so much of sorrow? I have come here from my own land to do what I can of good, at the first to please my friend John, and then to help a sweet young lady, whom too, I come to love. For her, I am ashamed to say so much, but I say it in kindness, I gave what you gave, the blood of my veins. I gave it, I who was not, like you, her lover, but only her physician and her friend. I gave her my nights and days, before death, after death, and if my death can do her good even now, when she is the dead Un-Dead, she shall have it freely." He said this with a very grave, sweet pride, and Michael was much affected by it.
He took the old man's hand and said in a broken voice, "Oh, it is hard to think of it, and I cannot understand, but at least I shall go with you and wait."

((And no, I am not going to turn Veronica into a vampire. That would be going too far.:p))
 
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The Palaiologoi is in shock at the death of Empress Veronica. Also, I am saddened to inform you of the passing of Ambrosio Palaiologos. A faithful senator to the very end, he was killed by assassins at his home. Either that, or someone accidently tossed a torch on his house. And then went in and stabbed him. We are currently deciding the next head of the family as his lone child has renounced the material world and has become the Patriarch's Chief Assistant in Antioch.

Sincerely, Spokesman Christophoros Palaiologos
I send my condolences to the royal family. Empress Veronica's reign defined an era and led this empire to such heights that will surely be difficult to surpass.

- Senator Leonardo Favero
"The Veronikan Era has passed and with it, the Basilissa of my father and grandfather. The Angeloi offer their deepest sympathies to the throne."
Though my supports and I have clashed with elements of Her Imperial Majesty's government we have always had great affection and loyalty to our dear departed Empress.

Our thoughts are with the Imperial Family at this time.

- Senator Gray
((Private))

Michael read the newspaper. "EMPRESS VERONICA DEAD," the headlines read.
He was sad, of course, but he was also angry. He knew the truth, as Minister of Security. The Blachernae Gazette didn't tell the whole truth. But the truth was out there.

Soon after the Empress's death, an emergency meeting of the Ministry of Security was called, and some of the members of the General Staff were in attendance, including Strategos Dalassenos, as well as some doctors from the Pandidakterion. The autopsy on the Empress had shown that she had been drained of her blood, with two puncture holes on her neck. The doctors were baffled and at a loss to explain how she lost so much blood. She was old, but she wasn't expected to die like this! The General Staff and the Secret Police agreed to a measure to hunt down the supposed killer, while hiding the truth from the public. The citizens weren't ready for the truth. Michael knew they would not find their killer, whom they assumed to be human. Michael and Ioannes knew what really happened that night. IT got to her. IT killed her. IT was punishing them.

He threw the newspaper at the wall, hitting his father's portrait. "NOOOOOOOO!!!!!!!!" he screamed. "I WILL FIND YOU AND HUNT YOU DOWN WITH EVERYTHING AT MY DISPOSAL! MARK MY WORDS, DRACULA, YOU WILL NOT LIVE TO SEE THE CORONATION OF THE EMPEROR!"

((Public))

I humbly offer my deepest condolences to the royal family. The Empire reached its greatest extent in civilization and power under her reign, a true Pax Romana. Whether the empress caused the period, or the period creates the empress, she fitted her time perfectly. She will be greatly missed by all of the citizens of Rome. Long live the new Emperor!

~Michael Doukas

((Private again))

Dr. Stavridis’s Diary

For a while sheer anger mastered me. It was as if he had during her life struck Loukia on the face. I smote the table hard and rose up as I said to him, "Dr. von Habsburg, are you mad?"
He raised his head and looked at me, and somehow the tenderness of his face calmed me at once. "Vould ich vere!" he said. "Madness vere easy zo bear kompared vith zruth like zhis. Oh, mein freund, vhy, zhink du, did ich go so far round, vhy take so long to tell so simple a zhing? Vas it because ich hate du und have hated du all mein life? Was it because ich vished to give du pain? Vas it zhat ich wanted, no so late, revenge for zhat time vhen you saved my life, and from a fearful death? Ah nein!"
"Forgive me," said I.
He went on (and I’ll just stop representing his accent here, it’s tiring), "My friend, it was because I wished to be gentle in the breaking to you, for I know you have loved that so sweet lady. But even yet I do not expect you to believe. It is so hard to accept at once any abstract truth, that we may doubt such to be possible when we have always believed the `no' of it. It is more hard still to accept so sad a concrete truth, and of such a one as Frau Loukia. Tonight I go to prove it. Dare you come with me?"
This staggered me. A man does not like to prove such a truth, Kyrillos excepted from the category, jealousy.
"And prove the very truth he most abhorred."
He saw my hesitation, and spoke, "The logic is simple, no madman's logic this time, jumping from tussock to tussock in a misty bog. If it not be true, then proof will be relief. At worst it will not harm. If it be true! Ah, there is the dread. Yet every dread should help my cause, for in it is some need of belief. Come, I tell you what I propose. First, that we go off now and see that child in the hospital. Dr. Melissenos, of the North Hospital, where the papers say the child is, is a friend of mine, and I think of yours since you were in class at Vienna. He will let two scientists see his case, if he will not let two friends. We shall tell him nothing, but only that we wish to learn. And then . . ."
"And then?"
He took a key from his pocket and held it up. "And then we spend the night, you and I, in the churchyard where Loukia lies. This is the key that lock the tomb. I had it from the coffin man to give to Michael."
My heart sank within me, for I felt that there was some fearful ordeal before us. I could do nothing, however, so I plucked up what heart I could and said that we had better hasten, as the afternoon was passing.
We found the child awake. It had had a sleep and taken some food, and altogether was going on well. Dr, Melissenos took the bandage from its throat, and showed us the punctures. There was no mistaking the similarity to those which had been on Loukia’s throat. They were smaller, and the edges looked fresher, that was all. We asked Melissenos to what he attributed them, and he replied that it must have been a bite of some animal, perhaps a rat, but for his own part, he was inclined to think it was one of the bats which are so numerous on the northern heights of Constantinople. "Out of so many harmless ones," he said, "there may be some wild specimen from the South of a more malignant species. These things do occur, you, know. Only ten days ago a wolf got out, and was, I believe, traced up in this direction. For a week after, the children were playing nothing but Red Riding Hood on the Heath and in every alley in the place until this `bloofer lady' scare came along, since then it has been quite a gala time with them. Even this poor little mite, when he woke up today, asked the nurse if he might go away. When she asked him why he wanted to go, he said he wanted to play with the `bloofer lady'."
"I hope," said von Habsburg, "that when you are sending the child home you will caution its parents to keep strict watch over it. These fancies to stray are most dangerous, and if the child were to remain out another night, it would probably be fatal. But in any case I suppose you will not let it away for some days?"
"Certainly not, not for a week at least, longer if the wound is not healed."
Our visit to the hospital took more time than we had reckoned on, and the sun had dipped before we came out. When Van Helsing saw how dark it was, he said,
"There is not hurry. It is more late than I thought. Come, let us seek somewhere that we may eat, and then we shall go on our way."
About ten o'clock we started from the inn. It was then very dark, and the scattered lamps made the darkness greater when we were once outside their individual radius. The Professor had evidently noted the road we were to go, for he went on unhesitatingly, but, as for me, I was in quite a mixup as to locality. As we went further, we met fewer and fewer people, till at last we were somewhat surprised when we met even the patrol of horse police going their usual suburban round. At last we reached the wall of the churchyard, which we climbed over. With some little difficulty, for it was very dark, and the whole place seemed so strange to us, we found the Este-Ravenna tomb. The Professor took the key, opened the creaky door, and standing back, politely, but quite unconsciously, motioned me to precede him.

Von Habsburg went about his work systematically. Holding his candle so that he could read the coffin plates, and so holding it that the sperm dropped in white patches which congealed as they touched the metal, he made assurance of Loukia’s coffin. Another search in his bag, and he took out a turnscrew.
"What are you going to do?" I asked.
"To open the coffin. You shall yet be convinced."
He opened the coffin and motioned to me to look.
I drew near and looked. The coffin was empty. It was certainly a surprise to me, and gave me a considerable shock, but Von Habsburg was unmoved. He was now more sure than ever of his ground, and so emboldened to proceed in his task. "Are you satisfied now, friend John?" he asked.
I felt all the dogged argumentativeness of my nature awake within me as I answered him, "I am satisfied that Loukia’s body is not in that coffin, but that only proves one thing."
"And what is that, friend John?"
"That it is not there."
"That is good logic," he said, "so far as it goes. But how do you, how can you, account for it not being there?"
"Perhaps a body-snatcher," I suggested. "Some of the undertaker's people may have stolen it." I felt that I was speaking folly, and yet it was the only real cause which I could suggest.
The Professor sighed. "Ah well!" he said," we must have more proof. Come with me."
He put on the coffin lid again, gathered up all his things and placed them in the bag, blew out the light, and placed the candle also in the bag. We opened the door, and went out. Behind us he closed the door and locked it. He handed me the key, saying, "Will you keep it? You had better be assured."
I laughed, it was not a very cheerful laugh, I am bound to say, as I motioned him to keep it. "A key is nothing," I said, "there are many duplicates, and anyhow it is not difficult to pick a lock of this kind."
He said nothing, but put the key in his pocket. Then he told me to watch at one side of the churchyard whilst he would watch at the other.
I took up my place behind a yew tree.

Suddenly, as I turned round, I thought I saw something like a white streak, moving between two dark yew trees at the side of the churchyard farthest from the tomb. At the same time a dark mass moved from the Professor's side of the ground, and hurriedly went towards it. Then I too moved, but I had to go round headstones and railed-off tombs, and I stumbled over graves. The sky was overcast, and somewhere far off an early cock crew. A little ways off, beyond a line of scattered juniper trees, which marked the pathway to the church, a white dim figure flitted in the direction of the tomb. The tomb itself was hidden by trees, and I could not see where the figure had disappeared. I heard the rustle of actual movement where I had first seen the white figure, and coming over, found the Professor holding in his arms a tiny child. When he saw me he held it out to me, and said, "Are you satisfied now?"
"No," I said, in a way that I felt was aggressive.
"Do you not see the child?"
"Yes, it is a child, but who brought it here? And is it wounded?"
"We shall see,"said the Professor, and with one impulse we took our way out of the churchyard, he carrying the sleeping child.
When we had got some little distance away, we went into a clump of trees, and struck a match, and looked at the child's throat. It was without a scratch or scar of any kind.
"Was I right?" I asked triumphantly.
"We were just in time," said the Professor thankfully.
We had now to decide what we were to do with the child, and so consulted about it. If we were to take it to a police station we should have to give some account of our movements during the night. At least, we should have had to make some statement as to how we had come to find the child. So finally we decided that we would take it to the Heath, and when we heard a policeman coming, would leave it where he could not fail to find it. We would then seek our way home as quickly as we could. All fell out well. At the edge of the Heath we heard a policeman's heavy tramp, and laying the child on the pathway, we waited and watched until he saw it as he flashed his lantern to and fro. We heard his exclamation of astonishment, and then we went away silently. By good chance we got a cab near the `Spainiards,' and drove to town.
I cannot sleep, so I make this entry. But I must try to get a few hours' sleep, as Von Habsburg is to call for me at noon. He insists that I go with him on another expedition.

27 September. 1901

It was two o'clock, several months after the funeral of the Empress, before we found a suitable opportunity for our attempt. The funeral held at noon was all completed, and the last stragglers of the mourners had taken themselves lazily away, when, looking carefully from behind a clump of alder trees, we saw the sexton lock the gate after him. We knew that we were safe till morning did we desire it, but the Professor told me that we should not want more than an hour at most. I shrugged my shoulders, however, and rested silent, for von Habsburg had a way of going on his own road, no matter who remonstrated. He took the key, opened the vault, and again courteously motioned me to precede. Von Habsburg walked over to Loukia’s coffin, and I followed. He bent over and again forced back the leaden flange, and a shock of surprise and dismay shot through me.
There lay Loukia, seemingly just as we had seen her the night before her funeral. She was, if possible, more radiantly beautiful than ever, and I could not believe that she was dead. The lips were red, nay redder than before, and on the cheeks was a delicate bloom.
"Is this a juggle?" I said to him.
"Are you convinced now?" said the Professor, in response, and as he spoke he put over his hand, and in a way that made me shudder, pulled back the dead lips and showed the white teeth. "See," he went on,"they are even sharper than before. With this and this," and he touched one of the canine teeth and that below it, "the little children can be bitten. Are you of belief now, friend John?"
Once more argumentative hostility woke within me. I could not accept such an overwhelming idea as he suggested. So, with an attempt to argue of which I was even at the moment ashamed, I said, "I want to believe, but she may have been placed here since last night."
"Indeed? That is so, and by whom?"
"I do not know. Someone has done it."
"And yet she has been dead one week. Most peoples in that time would not look so."
I had no answer for this, so was silent. Von Habsburg did not seem to notice my silence. He said to me,
"Here, there is one thing which is different from all recorded. Here is some dual life that is not as the common. She was bitten by the vampire when she was in a trance, sleep-walking, oh, you start. You do not know that, friend John, but you shall know it later, and in trance could he best come to take more blood. In trance she dies, and in trance she is Un-Dead, too. So it is that she differ from all other. Usually when the Un-Dead sleep at home," as he spoke he made a comprehensive sweep of his arm to designate what to a vampire was `home', "their face show what they are, but this so sweet that was when she not Un-Dead she go back to the nothings of the common dead. There is no malign there, see, and so it make hard that I must kill her in her sleep."
This turned my blood cold, and it began to dawn upon me that I was accepting von Habsburg’s theories. But if she were really dead, what was there of terror in the idea of killing her?
He looked up at me, and evidently saw the change in my face, for he said almost joyously, "Ah, you believe now?"
I answered, "Do not press me too hard all at once. I am willing to accept. How will you do this bloody work?"
"I shall cut off her head and fill her mouth with garlic, and I shall drive a stake through her body."
It made me shudder to think of so mutilating the body of the woman whom I had loved. And yet the feeling was not so strong as I had expected. I was, in fact, beginning to shudder at the presence of this being, this Un-Dead, as Von Habsburg called it, and to loathe it. Is it possible that love is all subjective, or all objective?
I waited a considerable time for Von Habsburg to begin, but he stood as if wrapped in thought. Presently he closed the catch of his bag with a snap, and said,
" She have yet no life taken, though that is of time, and to act now would be to take danger from her forever. But then we may have to want Michael, and how shall we tell him of this? If you, who saw the wounds on Loukia’s throat, and saw the wounds so similar on the child's at the hospital, if you, who saw the coffin empty last night and full today with a woman who have not change only to be more rose and more beautiful in a whole week, after she die, if you know of this and know of the white figure last night that brought the child to the churchyard, and yet of your own senses you did not believe, how then, can I expect Michael, who know none of those things, to believe?
"My mind is made up. Let us go. You return home for tonight to your asylum, and see that all be well. As for me, I shall spend the night here in this churchyard in my own way. Tomorrow night you will come to me to the Hotel at ten of the clock. I shall send for Michael to come too, and also that so fine young man of Oceania that gave his blood. Later we shall all have work to do. I come with you so far as Hippodrome District and there dine, for I must be back here before the sun set."
So we locked the tomb and came away, and got over the wall of the churchyard, which was not much of a task, and drove back to Hippodrome District.


Note left by von Habsburg in his portmanteau, [REDACTED] directed to John Stavridis, M. D. (not delivered)


27 September

Friend John,

I write this in case anything should happen. I go alone to watch over the churchyard. The Un-Dead may be there, waiting for us. I shall place garlic and crucifixes around the tomb to limit the Un-Dead’s movement. But the Un-Dead are strong, and if I fail, you must be prepared to take up the challenge.

Therefore I write this in case . . . Take the papers that are with this, the diaries of Dalassenos and the rest, and read them, and then find this great Un-Dead, and cut off his head and burn his heart or drive a stake through it, so that the world may rest from him.

If it be so, farewell.

VON HABSBURG.



Dr. Stavridis’s Diary

29 September.

Last night, at a little before ten o'clock, Michael and Markos Quintus came into von Habsburg’s room. He told us all what he wanted us to do, but especially addressing himself to Michael, as if all our wills were centered in his. He began by saying that he hoped we would all come with him too, "for," he said, "there is a grave duty to be done there. You were doubtless surprised at my letter?" This query was directly addressed to Senator Doukas. "I was. It rather upset me for a bit. There has been so much trouble around my house of late that I could do without any more. I have been curious, too, as to what you mean.
"Markos and I talked it over, but the more we talked, the more puzzled we got, till now I can say for myself that I'm about up a tree as to any meaning about anything."
"Me too," said Markos Quintus laconically.
"Oh," said the Professor, "then you are nearer the beginning, both of you, than friend John here, who has to go a long way back before he can even get so far as to begin."
It was evident that he recognized my return to my old doubting frame of mind without my saying a word. Then, turning to the other two, he said with intense gravity,
"I want your permission to do what I think good this night. It is, I know, much to ask, and when you know what it is I propose to do you will know, and only then how much. Therefore may I ask that you promise me in the dark, so that afterwards, though you may be angry with me for a time, I must not disguise from myself the possibility that such may be, you shall not blame yourselves for anything."
"That's frank anyhow," broke in Markos. "I'll answer for the Professor. I don't quite see his drift, but I swear he's honest, and that's good enough for me."
"I thank you, Sir," said Von Habsburg proudly. "I have done myself the honor of counting you one trusting friend, and such endorsement is dear to me." He held out a hand, which Markos took.
Then Michael spoke out, "Dr. Von Habsburg, I don't quite like to `buy a pig in a poke', as they say in Caledonia, and if it be anything in which my honour as a gentleman or my faith as a Christian and a servant of the Empire is concerned, I cannot make such a promise. If you can assure me that what you intend does not violate either of these two, then I give my consent at once, though for the life of me, I cannot understand what you are driving at."
"I accept your limitation," said Von Habsburg.

"Agreed!" said Michael. "That is only fair. And now that the pourparlers are over, may I ask what it is we are to do?"
"I want you to come with me, and to come in secret, to the churchyard at Kingstead."
Michael’s face fell as he said in an amazed sort of way,
"Where poor Loukia is buried?"
The Professor bowed.
Michael went on, "And when there?"
"To enter the tomb!"
Michael stood up. "Professor, are you in earnest, or is it some monstrous joke? Pardon me, I see that you are in earnest." He sat down again, but I could see that he sat firmly and proudly, as one who is on his dignity. There was silence until he asked again, "And when in the tomb?"
"To open the coffin."
"This is too much!" he said, angrily rising again. "I am willing to be patient in all things that are reasonable, but in this, this desecration of the grave, of one who . . ." He fairly choked with indignation. "Would it not be well to hear what I have to say?" said Van Helsing. "And then you will at least know the limit of my purpose. Shall I go on?"
"That's fair enough," broke in Quintus.
After a pause Von Habsburg went on, evidently with an effort, "Miss Loukia is dead, is it not so? Yes! Then there can be no wrong to her. But if she be not dead. . ."
Michael jumped to his feet, "Good God!" he cried. "What do you mean? Has there been any mistake, has she been buried alive?"He groaned in anguish that not even hope could soften.
"I did not say she was alive, my child. I did not think it. I go no further than to say that she might be Un-Dead."
"Un-Dead! Not alive! What do you mean? Is this all a nightmare, or what is it?"
"There are mysteries which men can only guess at, which age by age they may solve only in part. Believe me, we are now on the verge of one. But I have not done. May I cut off the head of dead Miss Loukia?"

Michael screamed.
"Heavens and earth, no!" cried Michael in a storm of passion. "WHY, Habsburg, WHY should I help you carry out this act of desecration?! You know I have other things to do, such as find the empress’s killer!"
Von Habsburg rose up from where he had all the time been seated, and said, gravely and sternly, "My Lord Doukas, I too, have a duty to do, a duty to others, a duty to you, a duty to the dead, and by God, I shall do it! All I ask you now is that you come with me, that you look and listen, and if when later I make the same request you do not be more eager for its fulfillment even than I am, then, I shall do my duty, whatever it may seem to me. And then, to follow your Lordship's wishes I shall hold myself at your disposal to render an account to you, when and where you will." His voice broke a little, and he went on with a voice full of pity.
"But I beseech you, do not go forth in anger with me. In a long life of acts which were often not pleasant to do, and which sometimes did wring my heart, I have never had so heavy a task as now. Believe me that if the time comes for you to change your mind towards me, one look from you will wipe away all this so sad hour, for I would do what a man can to save you from sorrow. Just think. For why should I give myself so much labor and so much of sorrow? I have come here from my own land to do what I can of good, at the first to please my friend John, and then to help a sweet young lady, whom too, I come to love. For her, I am ashamed to say so much, but I say it in kindness, I gave what you gave, the blood of my veins. I gave it, I who was not, like you, her lover, but only her physician and her friend. I gave her my nights and days, before death, after death, and if my death can do her good even now, when she is the dead Un-Dead, she shall have it freely." He said this with a very grave, sweet pride, and Michael was much affected by it.
He took the old man's hand and said in a broken voice, "Oh, it is hard to think of it, and I cannot understand, but at least I shall go with you and wait."
 

Idhrendur

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And so passed Empress Veronica. She had been the last survivor of the mysterious events in the old Imperial Palace that had unfolded after Andronikos had been made heir in 1820. When she came to the throne in 1836, she masterfully brought the newly reformed Senate under her control, took up the reigns of the Empire, and brought prosperity back to the Empire. During her sixty-five year reign, the Empire industrialized, became far more educated, and expanded (primarily in Africa). She would be remembered as one of the greatest rulers of the Roman Empire.

Her funeral was a sorrowful affair, with the whole Imperial family, the Senate, and crowds of mourners attending. She was laid to rest in a new mausoleum within the Blachernae Palace complex, one that extended under the Theodosian walls. After the ceremony was over, the Imperial family remained for their own remembrances.

Meanwhile, the Senate gathered at the Grand Palace complex in the heart of Constantinople, waiting for Emperor Alvértos to arrive and give the first address of his reign to the Senate.
 
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Arakhor

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((Why is he still a Prince, rather than the Emperor?))
 
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Idhrendur

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(( Oooh, I was meaning to ask if anyone know the protocol for his title changing. Does it happen immediately? Or only at his coronation? If the former, I'll edit the posts above. ))
 

zenphoenix

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(( Oooh, I was meaning to ask if anyone know the protocol for his title changing. Does it happen immediately? Or only at his coronation? If the former, I'll edit the posts above. ))
((Are we going by British coronation procedure or Eastern Roman Empire coronation procedure? If we're going by British protocol, his title will change during the ceremony. For Eastern Roman protocol, the title would change immediately, but after being crowned during coronation the emperor would be considered holy, and everybody would shout "Holy!"))
 
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Arakhor

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((As I understand it, there is always a monarch - the King is dead: long live the King. E.g. Elizabeth II's reign is counted from the death of her father George VI, even though she wasn't crowned for another 16 months.))
 
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BBBD316

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((Terry Pratchett on monarchy

“The only thing known to go faster than ordinary light is monarchy, according to the philosopher Ly Tin Wheedle. He reasoned like this: you can't have more than one king, and tradition demands that there is no gap between kings, so when a king dies the succession must therefore pass to the heir instantaneously. Presumably, he said, there must be some elementary particles -- kingons, or possibly queons -- that do this job, but of course succession sometimes fails if, in mid-flight, they strike an anti-particle, or republicon. His ambitious plans to use his discovery to send messages, involving the careful torturing of a small king in order to modulate the signal, were never fully expanded because, at that point, the bar closed.”))
 
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austrianemporer

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((Terry Pratchett on monarchy

“The only thing known to go faster than ordinary light is monarchy, according to the philosopher Ly Tin Wheedle. He reasoned like this: you can't have more than one king, and tradition demands that there is no gap between kings, so when a king dies the succession must therefore pass to the heir instantaneously. Presumably, he said, there must be some elementary particles -- kingons, or possibly queons -- that do this job, but of course succession sometimes fails if, in mid-flight, they strike an anti-particle, or republicon. His ambitious plans to use his discovery to send messages, involving the careful torturing of a small king in order to modulate the signal, were never fully expanded because, at that point, the bar closed.”))
((Very good kind sir, never read that quote. It is very unique and true.))
 
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Idhrendur

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Senators,

Thank you for your many kind words regarding Our mother. We have decided to continue the methods of governance she developed. The same ministries will be appointed, all current Senators retain their appointments to the Senate, the governorships will continue.

The archivists found several newspapers to be worthy of archiving, and We have had copied made for you all.




As well, the Senate's map shall be updated.

Let us describe the royal family, as Our mother did not share specifics of her grandchildren with you. We have been happily married to Alexandria of Scandinavia since 1863, and have had six children. Alvértos Nikephoros was born in 1864, but died in 1892 of influenza. Konstantios was born in 1865, and in 1893 married Princess Veronica Maria of Denmark. They have four children. Louiza was born in 1867, and in 1889 married Alexander William George Duff, 1st Duke of Fife. They had three children. The first, a son, was stillborn, but the two daughters born later are in good health. Veronica was born in 1868, and is yet unmarried. Mathilde was born in 1869, and in 1896 married Prince Carl of Scandinavia. They have not had any children so far. Finally, Alexander was born in 1871, but died a day later.

The last announcement before We share the address Our mother had begun planning is that We will take the name of Konstantinos XX on Our coronation. And now, the State of the Empire since 1900, as prepared by Empress Veronica.

At the very beginning of 1900, We received several requests for alliances. Those from Dai Nam, Siam, Benin, and Baluchistan were accepted, as We believed these alliances would allow Us to influence these regions for the better. An alliance with England was rejected as We felt their expansion in South America was disrupting the balance of power. Instead, an alliance with the United Tribes of America was signed.

Meanwhile, Scandinavia declared that Greenland was rightfully theirs, and declared war on Scotland for it.

In March, We received news from Our expedition to the North Pole: they had been the first to make it.

Shortly thereafter, the Olympic Committee invited Us to send a team to the second Olympics. We promptly agreed.

In England, there was stranger news. A new political force had coalesced around complete economic freedom. Their ideas soon spread to the Empire.


While there had been minor clashes with rebel groups throughout the year, in June We saw something new: a rising of people who wanted more independence for New Zealand.

As the core ideas of anti-rationalism formed, We asked the Psychology department to apply these insights to their field.


In October, when Scandinavia had fully committed to their war, Germany declared war on them in order to reclaim the Sjaelland islands.

In late December, Jacobin rebels rose yet again.

Unfortunately, Empress Veronica's planned address ended on that note. We do not know what more could be added, though. Do the Senators have any questions or comments?
 

zenphoenix

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These Anarcho-Liberals look like trouble, but they can be managed like the militant socialists and the Jacobins, and if they are willing to work with us I would gladly do so. I send my deepest condolences to the people of Napoli, who have suffered greatly from the volcanic eruption.
First to the North Pole! A triumph for the Empire! Now to the South Pole!
I am looking forward to the coronation. Long live the Emperor!

~Michael Doukas

((Private))

"Ha, I have won!" said Konstantinos, standing in front of him.
If you ignore him he'll go away, thought Michael.
"Do you really think I would go away that easily?" said Konstantinos. "Wrong! And now the Emperor is adopting my name..."
Michael slammed his fist down on the table. When he looked up again, Konstantinos was gone.
"My apologies," he said to the other senators.
 
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Arakhor

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((Chester, Leicester and St Albans? Bah, the natives are revolting! :)))
 
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BBBD316

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Damn how much "economic freedom" do these capitalists need!

- Senator Gray
 
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