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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

Bullfilter

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Nicely written indeed. And a great little line to finish on - it seemed small to look at but packed a bigger punch than expected. Just like Cosma.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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It's always nice to see an update here.
My new AAR is waaaay less resource intensive but this one is always going to be the prized possession to return to whenever I can. Although I'm going to really try and actually do a few chapters this time, and push to get to the actual flipping game start (8 pages and....2 years in! Even @El Pip tends to at least get to some gameplay by now!

Nicely written indeed. And a great little line to finish on - it seemed small to look at but packed a bigger punch than expected. Just like Cosma.
Eventually, as I said above. He'll get there, we all will. Hopefully. Definitely this year.:eek:

As I said, two chapters to go (I think) and we're ready to actually get started. Just need to get everyone to Venice now with something humungous disaster.
 

Specialist290

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Glad to see you're still moving forward with this :)

Cosma has awoken to an inborn blood lust, it seems. Given how vicious medieval Italy could be, it might serve him well if he learns to master it and temper it with compassion for the innocent.

Love is certainly a potent force indeed, and a leader who can inspire genuine love in his followers will win a potent following indeed. Unfortunately, the ability to inspire that kind of love is accordingly difficult to master, which is why many rulers with more ambition than skill prefer to wield fear instead...
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Cosma has awoken to an inborn blood lust, it seems. Given how vicious medieval Italy could be, it might serve him well if he learns to master it and temper it with compassion for the innocent.
Yes, after all that scholarly and noble pursuits of truth and such, I realised that the guy did have quite a bit of iron and blood within him too. This is the guy who turned Venice into a more expansionist power after all...and went toe to toe with the greatest powers in the world. Though even he doesn't know that's coming yet (instory).

Love is certainly a potent force indeed, and a leader who can inspire genuine love in his followers will win a potent following indeed. Unfortunately, the ability to inspire that kind of love is accordingly difficult to master, which is why many rulers with more ambition than skill prefer to wield fear instead...
Mm. He was very good at manipulating the crowd. It's how he stayed alive in office initially and how eventually he secured his potion permanently. Sure bread and circuses will get you far, but it won't get you into office, more keep you there. Honestly though, his honour and compassion gets him ridiculous praise and respect from many after a while, even if it doesn't lead to some truly harrowing situations later on.
 

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Even @El Pip tends to at least get to some gameplay by now!
You aren't using enough commas, it's holding you back. :p

Hol, as it turned out, was a traveller from the distant High North. He was a man of ice and snow but carried within great fire and heart.
Hol, from the ancient Nordic word meaning "Slowly turns into a Puddle".


Cosmo's dark side coming out in that update. Not entirely surprising but still a shame for Leone that he was on the end of it. I do have a bad feeling about Leone's future fate, you get the impression that Cosmo will keep him around during his rise to power, but if he hits a rough patch Cosmo would chuck him to the mob without hesitation.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Hol, from the ancient Nordic word meaning "Slowly turns into a Puddle".
Perhaps, but I was going for a shortened version of th name that means 'small island'. I also didn't want to use Hod, or Hodr, because really that's too cheap a metaphor.

Cosmo's dark side coming out in that update. Not entirely surprising but still a shame for Leone that he was on the end of it. I do have a bad feeling about Leone's future fate, you get the impression that Cosmo will keep him around during his rise to power, but if he hits a rough patch Cosmo would chuck him to the mob without hesitation.
Interesting musings. I wonder how the next update will make you think? Leone is going to be very important though, yes.

For those interested, most of the named characters are ingame people. The onky OCs of the named character are Mario, Hol and Roe.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Ok the next chapter is being written now, but I'm trying to get up to date on the Lancaster game too. Something tha should be easy cos it's basically editing images and then writing two sentences for each.

However...well...you'll never guess where I am:confused:
 

Bullfilter

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TheButterflyComposer

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Oh no, not hospital again!? :eek:
Yeeees. You know, one day I'll finish this bloody degree.

If nothing else, it gives time for life reflection and planning (well, hopefully future planning). I think I'm busted up enough that military life is out the window, which is a shame since I like flying and fixing stuff. I suspect I'll be at least tempted to follow in my brother's footsteps and do some law stuff in the next few years. Gah, and a wedding to plan at some point! Which is complicated enough since one of us is physically disabled and the other (currently) mentally. Eh...something will be worked out. I'm pretty smart.

I think for AAR writing, Lancaster is going to get preferential treatment purely because its 'easy' to write (screenshot editing is the pain of it) and fairly concise: I'm just writing the story of a family trying to survive. Little Dux is the monster epic that takes a while to get going, but then again, I am as mentioned before quite close to where the game starts, so it might become easier once I have screenshots and notes to work from. Or maybe it'll be harder, who knows? As for Albion, I do want to get it fixed and started again, but only after I finish one or the other of the CKII ones. Probably Lancaster.

Oh, and Italian Introduction I really want to do in a rapid burst, because it's actually quite a short story. And it would allow me to get the Lovecraft Horror out of me and onto the site fairly promptly. I suspect I'll just one day blitz through the whole thing in a week, cos the playthrough is done and I did in fact learn a lot about the game. Hopefully it would be somewhat instructive to new players who get pushed into playing as Italy.
 

Bullfilter

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Yes, sorry to hear it but I always admire the stoicism and optimism you seem to apply to such situations. I’m only a periodic checker of watched threads at the moment (sitting in a Cheltenham hotel room and off to my sixth game of the cricket tour in a few hours) but will tune in when I can on Lancaster.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Very unfortunate to hear. Here's hoping you get plenty of time to rest and recuperate :)
Yes, sorry to hear it but I always admire the stoicism and optimism you seem to apply to such situations. I’m only a periodic checker of watched threads at the moment (sitting in a Cheltenham hotel room and off to my sixth game of the cricket tour in a few hours) but will tune in when I can on Lancaster.
Well at least we all got a class game of cricket.
I think stoisicm is easier to do in text, but optimism is fairly universal for me at the moment. Not much else left.

This aar is coming along nicely though, and I'm enjoying it. The stupid amount of screenshots is a bit tricky, because the file stored them in a random order so just aligning them all together takes a while. Writing this doesn't though. I'm interested to see what people think I should do once I do (eventually) find the in game power and reason to conquer the whole island. The world is such a mess that I can see some advocating for some splendid isolation until it calms down.
 
Chapter 9: In which Leone plans to leave, and Cosma finds a Witch

TheButterflyComposer

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Chapter 9: In which Leone plans to leave, and Cosma finds a Witch

“Is that when you knew? That you loved Mama?”

Cosma looked at Filippo fondly. “Not at all. The foolishness of youth I suppose. No…but I knew she was special. From that day on we spoke quite a bit more. And yes, we started our proper rides, as you call it.” He chuckled. “Hm, come to think of it, that was how we first met Maria.”

“Nana? You haven’t mentioned her yet! Where did she come from?”

“Peace. Yes, Maria always had a habit of just appearing out of nowhere, a skill that has not diminished with age I might add. It was in the Spring of the following year in fact, or perhaps it was two, the first time we met. The kingdom was in a period of crisis, and the people were afraid of all many of demons and heathens, and witchcraft…”

1st April 763AD

“But why?”

Leone sighed. It had been the same for the past few months. Cosma was still very upset that he was leaving. Now the spring thaw had come, the paths lay open and it was time to go. But his companion was still not ready.

“Cosma, I have to go. If I am to enter the service of the Church, I need a true education in their ways and teachings.”

“Both Uncle and the Master say that’s rubbish. Bishops get appointed by local lords all the time who can barely speak let alone write!”

“But good priests do!” Leone snapped. “These are dangerous times and the people are crying out for aid, for help. I must go to them. I have to go to Bologna. Probably to Roma after that, if my father and grandfather have anything to do with it.”

Cosma scowled. “If they should have anything to do with your decision-”

“As is their right! They pay my upkeep, not the Doge. They are my family, not you!”

Leone stormed off to continue packing his things, leaving Cosma alone in the courtyard. Blinking furiously, he took out his dagger and ran outside, slashing at the trees beyond the villa walls. He hated them; he hated this whole situation.

If he was honest with himself, after he sat back on the grass with throbbing hands, this moment had been a long time coming. Leone had been withdrawn ever since his last birthday, and had spent long hours praying and meditating alone, without even the Padre to watch him. Even the Master was quite concerned, until letters from Venice arrived to really anger him. If there was one thing Cosma could take solace in, the Master was just as irate as he.

“Begone then!” He snapped at the young man when he was told the news face to face. “Go and throw your soul into the Church, and see where it gets you. It’s a wonder I bother with the young at all.”

Madame Roe was beside herself, cleaning up after the soon to be departed and packing his things together. Cosma hated her as well, for helping the traitor escape.

“Your dagger is tainted,” the rough voice of Hol broke through Cosma’s rage. “It bears…scars. The tree?”

The boy nodded, stiffly.

“Rage is useful, but not at every moment. Otherwise everything becomes a target.” Hol smiled down at him and handed him back his dagger. “Tend to it. A broken blade is no use at all.”

Huffing, Cosma went back inside. Leone was nowhere to be found. And soon he never would be again. The thought of it made Cosma drop the dagger again, in grief this time. What on earth was he to do alone here?

…​

“You seem troubled.”

Cosma turned slowly on his horse. “You seem to be fishing, Padre.”

The old man chuckled. “Forgive me, but the women are concerned about you.”

“Well, you can tell Roe-”

“Not her.”

Cosma tensed his shoulders and rode on, not looking back. Elisa and Clotilde. Now there were two people he did not expect to have wormed their way into his heart so completely. They were not meant to be his companions. They were not forced to be around him. They simply…were. It was unexpected. It was a blessing.

And he did not wish to discuss the matter further.

“You let your anger control you, dear boy,” the Padre called after him. “It is not befitting a man of your intelligence or station.”

“And what would you know of it?” Cosma snapped. “He doesn’t appear to care much for you either.”

He was furious at himself for that slip. Furious that he was angry with all these good people. It was all Leone’s fault.

“Boys are not at fault for becoming men, and he is not at fault for wishing to find his place in the world.” The Padre was suddenly next to him, and holding his shoulder. Cosma also found he was squeezing the reins tightly in his hands, as Clotilde was wont to do now instead of the horse’s mane. She hated hurting them. “Do you begrudge him his life? A chance to learn and to become a man?”

“Of course not,” Cosma said. But he did, he realised. Or at least, he resented being left out by proxy. Of being a prisoner here, locked away from a world that apparently didn’t want him. He still couldn’t even ride out by himself.

“You seem pensive. And I would hate to interrupt your thoughts. But confessing isn’t just about being lectured, its about giving yourself time to process deep feeling. What is bothering you, my son?”

“I miss him. I will miss him,” Cosma said, then corrected, though really both were true. Leone had changed, and now he was going away before they could reconnect. It was all so horrible.

“It is the nature of life for things to change,” the Padre said gently. “Little comfort that it is right now, but this too shall pass. Your sadness will vanish in time, and happiness will return. As will Leone.”

“But the Master-”

“The Master,” the Padre said firmly, “is an old fool, far too convinced, far too clever, and far too filled with self-hatred for truth to emerge. This is not the end of your companionship. In truth, it will never end, even in death. No friend is ever really left behind, not with God. Like the seasons, they return again and again, a little different each time, and no less welcome because of it.”

“Some winters are deadly,” Cosma muttered.

“As are Summers. As are all things on Earth, since the Fall of Man. But do not despair, my child. The two of you are becoming men of the world, and that means you must go out into it. One cannot live in the cradle forever. Birds do not stay in their mother’s nests. Even for you, who I suspect believes is trapped here forever…this too shall pass. Your life is your own. The gift of life is not to be squandered or cast away, for it is a gift from God, who made all things. He did not mean for this place to be your tomb, I think. No…yours is a path not yet trodden. But I know that it well lead you back to Leone, in time.”

Cosma sniffed. “Perhaps you are right.” He patted his horse absently for a moment. “Were they so concerned? Truly?”

The old man laughed again. His white beard caught the few shards of light from the overcast sky. “If they cared anymore, they would have moved in, Master or no.”

The two laughed at that, and carried on in companionable silence.

“Will you miss him too, then?” Cosma said, eventually.

“Certainly my dear, I will. I suspect I unlike you will not be seeing his like again. My years are not so long yet as yours.”

Cosma patted his arm. “Perhaps not, but what you put into them makes them count three times as much.”

The Padre smiled, “So you see? You have some wisdom within after all. Ah, but you still need prompting to get it out. Thank heaven for Clotilde. She’ll see your right, you see if she doesn’t.”

Cosma blushed. “I hardly think-”

“Permit an old man to be blunt but you are a fool if you think that girl is going anywhere if not with you. And you anywhere without her. It would be like-” he faltered.

“It would be like someone from a year ago saying Leone would leave,” Cosma answered, calmly. “I know.”

“Be ever present, and see what is in front of you,” the Padre urged. “All people seek what you have been given: a true companion like Leone, Clotilde the pure-hearted who loves you dear. And, yes, even a Master who knows some of what he is talking about.”

“And a fine preacher,” Cosma replied, to which the old man laughed.

“True enough, but you never used to think so. What changed, I wonder? I know the Master hated to have any young boy’s head in the clouds, and Leone always carried a more…shall we say, pious air than you. What made you turn towards the Church?”

“Humanity? I don’t really know.” Cosma thought for a while. They were under a row of trees now, beginning to come into the budding stage. “The Master would lecture me on these you know? On everything. He taught me about that part of the world that we knew of, and how to discover that which we did not know. But I didn’t…I couldn’t know myself. And he couldn’t help with that. But you could? I think that was it.”

“It’s always fun to be clever, and powerful. But we always come back to love. To each other. Because there is little in life that has meaning without other people to bestow it. Even the greatest things, like peace and health. What purpose are they, what good are they without men to live under such blessings? Even God the Father created Man for his Garden, perfect as it was. And God the Son to walk among us, to save us from ourselves. And God the Spirit to live within us, that we might never truly be alone. Whatever you do decide to do with your life, and please do make the decision yourself…whatever you choose, do not shut out your fellow Man. Don’t do it. Or you’ll become like the Master, in his lovely house, in his lovely valley. With beautiful blossoming trees, that he never sees.”

“The world is perfect but Life is beautiful,” Cosma whispered.

“My goodness, you are quite the poet. Perhaps…but I suspect that would interfere with the Master’s plans.”

“Yes…he likes to scheme. Do you know what he wants from me?”

The Padre paused. “Yes,” he said suddenly, and Cosma whipped his head round in surprise. “But child…ask no more of me. For I cannot bear to tell you. And…in truth, the bond of Confession would prevent it anyhow. Just know…just remember, that wherever you might go, whomever you might become…that you are always deserving of love, and so is everyone else.”

The man would say no more, and they spent the rest of the journey in restful silence.

…​

Before too long, they came across Elisa and Clotilde, whom were carefully recording their father’s figures for that season outside their house in the garden. Cosma’s initial impressions of their house and the village in general had been unfair; for it really was a lovely place once you were there. In comparison to the Master’s villa and Orchard, of course it seemed noisy, smelly and ill-built, yet the road was clean and paved in most places, the market was clean and tiled and well organised. Mario’s house was a well-crafted place of brick and stone that altogether held more life and comfort than the finest of the Master’s rooms. Of course, Cosma’s opinion of the village may well have been affected by the knowledge that his uncle had built the place, and a very good job he did of it too.

His mind was wandering in this direction, as it always did when he was waiting in their garden for the women to finish work. The priest had wisely left him to it. Elisa nodded a greeting and gently prodded Clotilde back to work. After a time lost in thought, the two called him over and he checked their figures, more out of habit than the possibility of spotting something they’d missed.

“Still moping about Leone leaving?”

Lissa,” Clotilde whispered, wide-eyed.

Cosma shrugged, “Yes, but there’s little to be done about it. Padre believes we will meet again, and I imagine it will be so if I do end up in Venice.”

“Better you than me, that place becomes more poisonous every time I hear of it,” Elisa said, bundling up the figures and stowing the safely away inside. “Now, are you here to steal us away again or must I insist on it?”

Cosma’s cheeks coloured, as they were wont to do in front of the woman. Time had only increased her spirit, and his reaction, much to her amusement. “Actually I was advised to speak with Clotilde. Alone, if you please.”

Suddenly he was several feet off the ground and struggling for breath, “And why is that, pray tell?”

Everything seemed to happen at once. Clotilde was saying or shouting something. And Cosma was holding something that glittered in the afternoon sun, resting on Elisa’s throat.

She narrowed her eyes, “What are you going to do with that, little boy?”

“What do you think, woman?”

They stared at each other. The blood thudded through Cosma’s head and neck even as his glare grew icy. Clotilde’s shouts faded from his ears as they filled with constant drumming. His lungs gasped and his hand ached with tension.

Mario arrived with a thunderclap. The two were separated, forcibly, and Cosma fell heavily to earth. He was pleased to note he did not drop his dagger even as he scrambled upright and his eyes rolled in their sockets. He vaguely made out two giants screaming at each other before one, none to gently, ushered the other inside. The warmth of Clotilde’s hand on his check burnt him and he dropped his weapon in shock.

“Are you alright?” she asked.

“Fine,” he said, retrieving and sheathing his dagger. Hol would no doubt have words on how he handled that.

So did Mario it seemed, as he was soon outside again and looking Cosma over. Seeing he was fine, he cuffed the boy over the head, though not too harshly.

“You have much to learn, little master,” he said. “Now, what’s this all about?”

Cosma told him, and the large man’s mouth twitched upwards a touch before frowning.

“I’m sorry I caused offense,” Cosma said, finally feeling abashed before Elisa’s father.

“I’m sure you are, my girl’s grip is stronger than a horse’s kick,” Mario chuckled. Then he sighed, “Lissa treasures our little one, Cosma, more than her own life. She knows better than most what a man can do…but she was wrong to think so poorly of you. Mind! You are a fool around her, so I can understand…in any case, I see no need to take this further. Be off with you, don’t get lost and make haste to be back here before long. I dislike Clotilde being out after sundown.” With that, he winked at her, getting a giggle in return, before striding back indoors to face the terror within.

Cosma breathed.

“Gosh, that went well, he barely tapped you,” Clotilde said after a moment.

Cosma glared at her, before sighing. “I’d probably deserve it. I can’t believe I did that.”

“You wouldn’t have done anything,” she said, “Elisa knows that really. Honestly, I think she was impressed you had the wits to draw on her like that.”

“You’re not mad about me drawing on your sister?” Cosma said in disbelief, feeling both relieved and somewhat insulted.

Clotilde giggled again. “Against Lissa? She’d have your arm off before you scratched her. Still,” she swatted his shoulder, “you shouldn’t have goaded her like that, just because you like her.”

Cosma’s face heated up. “Mortifying,” he murmured. “I can see why Leone swears off women wholly. Heh, ‘holy’. Ah…he’s going soon.”

Clotilde smiled, “I know. It’s really too bad for us, but maybe what’s best for him? He can’t really preach here, we already have Padre.”

Cosma laughed, “Mm, no getting rid of him. Could you imagine Leone even trying? Anyway, that’s why I’m here actually. The Padre I mean, he said to come speak with you.”

They reached the horses and began to ride out of the village. There was still time in the day for a decent conversation, though Clotilde’s condition was such that longer rides remained impossible. Cosma had never ridden alone with her before, and rarely without adult supervision. He was thus locked between joy and fear over the freedom he currently possessed, and intently aware that he was the responsible party should any catastrophe occur. Not that anything that interesting had happened in the valley since…well, since Hol turned up. Still, many adventures had begun in similar circumstance. For once however, Cosma’s mind was not wandering off to such things.

“I’ve been thinking,” he began, then stopped. He was always thinking, and Clotilde knew that, and everyone else knew that. What an idiotic way to begin a conversation. Today was simply not going very well at all-

“What about?” Clotilde asked.

“Myself I suppose. I do that a lot, or I do now anyway. Myself and Leone, and my lessons and Elisa and you-”

“Me?” Clotilde asked, seeming quite surprised.

“Of course,” Cosma said, beginning to wonder what he was doing. That infernal priest was beginning to get into his head as often as the Master was. “The Padre…um…pointed out that there are other people aside from Leone who are important to me.”

“We all care about you Cosma, we’re your friends. Father loves you too, I think everyone does. You say strange things sometimes, but I think even the Master loves you really. Um…maybe. Deep down.” She giggled a little.

“I’m not sure about that,” Cosma stammered, and looked away. Yes, everyone was very nice and thus, he was nice. Of course he was, why wouldn’t he be? And the Master…well, at this point it was pretty clear that he cared about something to do with Cosma. “I think maybe you are just kind, and assume everyone else is. The Master calls it a fundamental bias or some such.”

“Still,” she pressed, “he does. We all do. And it’s nice of you to call me kind.”

Cosma nodded. There was silence between them as they carried on down the track. He wasn’t sure whether it was awkward or not. He wasn’t sure if she thought it was awkward or not, and was desperately afraid of the answer despite having a burning desire to know. After several minutes of this hell, she spoke again.

“So, when does Leone-there’s someone up ahead.”

Cosma snapped to attention and he took a moment to compose himself as he tried to spot who or what she was looking at. And indeed, up the road there was a figure frozen, staring at them. Cosma heard Clotilde call out and the figure came to life, fleeing with astonishing speed into the undergrowth left of the road.

“What was that?” he said, hand resting upon his dagger.

“Elisa said there that there were people in the hills around here, but I never saw one before. I thought she made them up!”

“We should probably tell your father. The farmers should be warned about strangers around, Hol always said.” Cosma nodded to himself, and turned Nox towards the path back to the village. Suddenly the figure was in front of them and the horse let out a cry of alarm before he could sooth her back onto all fours.

“Forgive me sir, but I must speak with you,” the figure said, and Cosma suddenly realised that it was a girl, no older than Elisa and no less gorgeous. Clad in green and black, she stared up at him with unblinking eyes that seemed to pull his very soul into them.

“Cosma?” Clotilde said, making him jump as she touched his arm.

“I’m fine,” he smiled at her before turning to the mysterious girl. “Who are you? You speak to Cosma Boi da Venezia, ward of the great and powerful Doge Filippo.”

The girl inclined her head slightly before approaching closer. “I mean you no harm, child of Venice, but you must tell no one of my being here. It would endanger all of us. We do no harm to your people or your kind. Leave us be within the wilderness.”

“How do I know you are not spies or bandits, preying on the weak and innocent of Lombardy and Italia?”

The girl shrugged. “There is no way I can prove my innocence, save for that had I wished it I could have killed you before you ever made it back to speak of me. But I won’t. We do not condone the killing of living creatures, even the most infernal of men.”

Cosma bristled, “I assure you, my soul is pure, though my body be deformed.”

“You misunderstand,” the girl responded, “I know the truth of what you say, and amongst our number are several similar to you both, the poor and downtrodden, the crippled and the meek. I beg of you, let them be, as they let you be. I would…rather die or be enslaved than allow harm to come to them.”

Cosma frowned. His outward display of strength and competence would not hold for much longer, given he was completely underprepared for what to do next. He was no lord or captain, and this seemed a matter of life and death to a whole group of people. It seemed his fate was for his first decision to have the most grievous of consequences, whatever he might choose. Whilst he was silent and furiously debating with himself, he missed Clotilde dismounting and speaking with the girl quietly. When he finally came to his senses, he blinked at their closeness. But of course Clotilde reached out to another. It was simply her nature, and with the patience and love of all saints none could refuse her entry into their hearts. He blinked again, and felt another well of emotion that he found deeply uplifting yet terrifying in its power.

“I have no desire to condemn any man to his fate, nor woman to hers,” he said, interrupting the two. “Clotilde, what say you?”

The two girls looked at each other, before she responded, “Her name is Maria. She is…she is…I suppose she is a witch. Or something like it, I don’t understand most of what she’s trying to say. But she is telling the truth when she says they do not harm anyone, or at least the innocent. I don’t think we have to tell anyone.”

“A witch,” Cosma repeated, and then, for the first time in his life, he truly swore. This was just his fortune, this day of all days. The worst of sinners had appeared before Clotilde and he, and so devilishly placed him in the awful position of judge and potential executioner. Was this all the beginning of some terrible test by the Devil himself? He suddenly cried out for Leone in his head, knowing full well the companion would know exactly what to do. Well, actually Cosma knew exactly what Leone would have done, turned head and ran all the way back to the Padre and told all before falling into a grave panic over the whole experience.

But he wasn’t here. He would never be here again. And Cosma was the one who would live with such things, not the absent companion Leone. The Padre and the Master had both, often as of late, spoken about becoming a man, thinking for oneself and taking firm action to uphold one’s own principles and that of the Law of the World. This was it. And when put like that, there was really only one choice he could make. Clotilde or not, he would have done by this.

“You may go. I have no desire in my heart to condemn what I do not understand, nor destroy anyone so utterly that it is left to God to decide their fate. You may go, and go in peace.”

Maria smiled widely, kissed his hand with her lips and said, “My Lord Cosma, from this day forth I am your humble servant. May the spirits be ever kind and your rise be swift.” She hesitated, then handed him a spring of some green plant he could not quite recognise. “When it is time, give her this, and remember that love conquers all, even if we don’t want it to.” And she was gone, vanishing from sight with the speed of a spark.

Cosma tucked the spring into his shirt, then looked towards Clotilde. “Are you alright? How are your legs?”

“They are fine, as am I, thank you.” She re-seated herself, and, reaching over the gap between them, embraced him. “You have a great heart within you Cosma. Even when it’s hard, listen to it always.”

Slightly pale from the echoed message he had heard now from a priest, a witch and this young woman, Cosma nodded mutely, and hand in hand, they trotted back towards home.

...​
Author's Note: By my estimation, there are two chapters left before Cosma goes to Venice, and then one more before the game begins properly. One will mostly focus on a visit to Rome, one on the Master and Cosma having another heart to heart, along with the inevitable confrontation with Elisa, and one about how all this ends up in Venice with a dwarf as Doge and we can get to the pictures and stuff.
 
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Specialist290

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Glad to see you back at it, TBC :)

I'll have to take another look at this in the morning when my brain's a little fresh, but for now I'll say that I get a definite sense that the relationships young Cosma is forging on this day will have momentous consequences, for good or for ill, down the road...
 

Bullfilter

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A very welcome return for both you and Cosma. The eldritch encounter was intriguing and it seems it will have echoes, or perhaps greater impact, in years to come. I’m impressed by the gentle strength of the key characters, especially the Dwarf Who Would Be Doge. I certainly hope the fleshpots and moral dilemmas that Venice will doubtlessly present to not corrupt him in his quest to grow, survive and rule.
 

stnylan

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So I found the following exchange very touching in its own way:

“You seem troubled.”

Cosma turned slowly on his horse. “You seem to be fishing, Padre.”
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Glad to see you back at it, TBC :)

I'll have to take another look at this in the morning when my brain's a little fresh, but for now I'll say that I get a definite sense that the relationships young Cosma is forging on this day will have momentous consequences, for good or for ill, down the road...
We're finally getting to characters that exist and have ingame impact! Maria is one that sticks around for a long time and provides another viewpoint for the team in Venice. But yes, witchcraft has prices to it.

A very welcome return for both you and Cosma. The eldritch encounter was intriguing and it seems it will have echoes, or perhaps greater impact, in years to come. I’m impressed by the gentle strength of the key characters, especially the Dwarf Who Would Be Doge. I certainly hope the fleshpots and moral dilemmas that Venice will doubtlessly present to not corrupt him in his quest to grow, survive and rule.
At this point the character is trained enough to command that he could do it if he was aware it was required, he just has no experience. He needs to 'switch' into the role of leader which hopefully he'll more naturally evolve into over time.

It is significant that these are his first proper decisions regarding other people. With Elisa and Maria, he shows something of what he could be. Venice shall certainly push him further on both paths.
 

TheButterflyComposer

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So I found the following exchange very touching in its own way:

“You seem troubled.”

Cosma turned slowly on his horse. “You seem to be fishing, Padre.”
I was very pleased with that when I returned to this chapter. There's was a relationship that required a more mature Cosma in order to devolpe, but it's become very important to him in his teenage years. The Master cannot teach him every lesson, Hol and the Padre are required too. He's the mentor figure most created out of whole cloth as there is nothing like him in the actual game, unlile the Master and Hol.

In another life, he probably would have been the one to take Cosma in, and he would have grown up in the Church. Curiously, I have no idea whether that would have led to more happiness or not for him. In the end I threw the character in there because the Master was too closed off and Hol was too martial minded (and 'foreign' to Cosma) for much emotional support.

As ever, these characters are human and there's an edge to this one too. For example, he knows pretty much exactly what the Master wants to do, and hasn't told Cosma.
 

Bullfilter

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So I found the following exchange very touching in its own way:

“You seem troubled.”

Cosma turned slowly on his horse. “You seem to be fishing, Padre.”
Yes, that was a very good line. :)
 

TheButterflyComposer

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Yes, that was a very good line. :)
If this was an actual book script, the amount of editing agony that would go into whether it should be

"You seem to be troubled"
Or
"You seem troubled"

would be immense. Should it match the exact phrasing of Cosma's responce or flow more naturally to allow the come back to work better? And so on, probably for at least a few hours.