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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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blklizard

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Section II

Chapter 33 (part 4)

[March 1, 1356]

(Turda, Transylvania)

It took the small party awhile to get through the dark passageway but they eventually exited at the other side. Lezeu and his men, upon exiting the passageway, got on their knees to check where they were at. Everyone knelt down as well as they waited for a signal from Lezeu. The party found themselves on a high ledge overlooking the main chamber of the underground cavern. Looking down from the ledge, Lezeu and his men saw Richard and his party starting to pool together the treasure they have discovered. Richard's men clearly didn't waste any time in their search for all the treasure hidden in the underground cavern. From Richard's orders, Lezeu realized that Richard wanted one of his men to get carts to ship the treasure to the cave entrance. Making a signal to his men, Lezeu and his men pulled out their crossbows. With incredible efficiency, the bolts were loaded onto the crossbows and the nine men aimed their crossbow at the party below. The crossbows fired the moment Lezeu whispered "Fire!" Five of the bolts found their mark and five men immediately fell to the ground. The remaining four men ran their separate ways down the the passageways leading deeper underground. Lezeu and his men gave chase to hunt down the remaining four men while Ferdinand's party checked up on the five men. Four of the five men were already dead from the shots and one was mortally wounded with only a few minutes to live. Cato took a careful look at the man and realized that he was the Antonio whom he met in Venice.

Cato: Antonio, why are you here? How did you get involved in all this?
Antonio: I had no choice, my friend. My family reputation was ruined and I had to change my name. When I was about to beg on the streets, I was offered this position.
Cato: Did you befriend me on purpose?
Antonio: No, it was just a coincidence. I felt we had so much in common. Of course, our friendship didn't go unnoticed by Richard.
Cato: What were his orders?
Antonio: He wanted me to kill you.
Cato: Did you try?
Antonio: No, I couldn't do it. When I had nothing, you were my only friend. I cannot betray that. Still, I cannot warn you. Instead, I kept quiet until you left Venice.
Cato: While you were a coward, I still admire your dedication to our friendship. I wish to thank you.
Antonio: I guess I paid for my crimes now. Live strong, my friend. Once this is over, the treasure can make so much come true. You have the world within your grasp.
Cato: I'm not Richard. I would rather burn all this treasure into ash than to use it for my own selfish means.
Antonio: That's where you surpassed me. You still let your honor come first. Goodbye, my friend. I fear we won't be meeting in the after world.

With that, Antonio died with his eyes open and staring at the ceiling. Cato knelt down beside his friend to close his eyes.

Cato: No, we will meet in the after world. God knows that you made mistakes but you don't deserve hell that men like Richard belong.

Cato stood up and Andra walked up to him. The two embraced for a few seconds and nobody else spoke for those brief few seconds.

-meanwhile-

Lezeu and two of his men went down the passageway Richard escaped through. They gave chase until they found themselves staring at Richard holding a torch beside a large beam. Richard watched them with a smile on his face. He shouts to his pursuers.

Richard: Ah, glad you can join me! I see that I cannot get this treasure. However, nobody else will either. Not you. Not those youngsters that I traveled with. I will now bring down this place and everyone will die with me.
Lezeu: No!!!

Richard lit his torch onto the beam which began burning immediately. Soon, the underground cavern began to shake as though an earthquake was taking place. Suddenly, a giant boulder fell from the ceiling and blocked the only exit. The two soldiers that were with Lezeu were crushed instantly leaving Lezeu and Richard alone.

Lezeu: Why? Why do you seek this treasure?
Richard: Why not? Your Templar order couldn't put it into proper use. I might as well make the best use of it.
Lezeu: How did you find out?
Richard: It was an opportunity handed to me by God. I happened to come across some manuscripts that hinted at this treasure. With Martin, I unearthed the incredible truth and I wanted it.
Lezeu: I don't believe that God would let corrupted men like you have this treasure.
Richard: Oh really? I don't see your God saving the vulnerable and creating a utopia. No, I see him rewarding only the strong. Not the weak.
Lezeu: You won't insult God. I won't let you.
Richard: Really? What can you do? What has God done for your order? Your order still collapsed and all of you claimed that you were always loyal to him. Where was he when your people were persecuted?
Lezeu: God has his reasons. You have no authority to judge him.
Richard: Well, we will see shortly, won't we? We will come before your God and we will see whether he favors you or me.

The ceiling came crashing down and both men were buried alive.

-meanwhile-

Ferdinand's party ran for their lives when they felt the cavern shake violently. Unsure which path to take, the party chose the passageway that appeared to be leading upwards. As the party continued to run, the members of the party heard the passageway behind them collapsing and closing in on them. With a last burst of speed, the party made their way through a relatively narrow opening and found themselves at the outer cave cavern. Without stopping, the party made its way out the cave entrance and, the moment they all exited, the cave entrance collapsed. They looked back at the cave and realized that there was no longer any sign the cave has once existed. Suddenly, they heard horse galloping towards them. They turned around and found Arnaud and his guards riding towards them. Arnaud stopped his horse and did a quick count of the survivors. He then got off the horse and approached Andra.

Arnaud: Lezeu didn't make it?
Andra: He chased Richard deeper into the cavern. What happened?
Arnaud: I don't know how but someone in the other party must have discovered the secret of the support beam.
Andra: Support beam?
Arnaud: When the cavern was dug out, one important beam was constructed to hold the entire cavern up. While it does appear to be foolish, it was there for a reason.
Cato: To bury the treasure forever in the case of an emergency.
Arnaud: Yes, the treasure is now forever out of reach. I fear we lost many great men today.
Cato: We have. Though, they died for what they believed in.
Arnaud: True, I cannot think of a more fitting reason to give up one's life.
Andra: Let's go home, uncle. I hope we can let this place be forgotten forever. Too many lives were lost over this.
Arnaud: You're right, child. We will let this place be nothing more than a myth. The Knight Templar no longer exist and we will keep it that way. Let's go home!

Everyone made their way to Turda and no one looked back once. The last known treasure of the Knight Templar was forever gone. In Turda, Arnaud explained to Ferdinand's party about the final chapters of the Knight Templar following the persecutions. The journey ended with a sad note but everyone accepted the outcome. Once the party return to Buda, they might go their separate ways. However, they, after the exhausting adventure, chose to discuss their future another time. Everyone ate an early supper before heading to bed. The party decided to get up early and make their way back to Buda. Their journey was over and their objective appeared to be achieved.

-Nighttime-

A man pushed the rubble out of his way as he climbed out of the small hole. Once he got out, he dusted himself and stared up at the moon. He was counting his blessings after his narrow escape from death. Creeping quietly, the man checked his surroundings until he was sure no one else was around. The man made his way to Turda where he planned to return home. In his small bag, several beautifully crafted gold jewelry were tucked away. The man can finally go home and take care of some unfinished business.


I'll be finishing up Section I very soon. I'm accepting new characters for Section II (This section will be taking place in Bohemia!). Please PM me with the following:

Name:
Age:
Gender:
Brief Background:
 
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Section II

Chapter 33 (part 5)


(Buda, Hungary)

After returning to Buda, Ferdinand visited Sophie in the marketplace while everyone else decided to head to the palace to rest. The marketplace was busy as always and it took Ferdinand awhile to get through the crowds. Arriving at the stall, Ferdinand realized that he needed to shove his way through the people if he hoped to arrive at the stall. Shoving through the crowd did anger the customers and a few threw swear words at him. When he arrived at the stall, Ferdinand asked Sophie to open the door so he could enter. Sophie looked up from her work and reluctantly opened the door. Ferdinand got in and stopped the moment he stepped in. He saw Laura staring back at him with surprise on her face as well.

Laura: Ferdinand, is that you?
Ferdinand: Laura! I can't believe you are alive.

The two embraced for a long time until Sophie broke the silence.

Sophie: If you two are done with the greetings, I need some help here.
Augustyn: Yes, please don't loiter around when we have so many customer.
Laura: Sorry, I'll get right back to work.
Ferdinand: I'll help!

The four people worked for the entire day without a break for lunch. Once the stall was closed, the four people finally got some food and ate inside the stall.

Sophie: So, you two know each other?
Laura: He's that true love I was talking about.
Sophie: Oh, I'm surprised that he never mentioned you.
Ferdinand: I thought she was killed. I never thought I would see her again.
Sophie: Really? You sure you weren't evading her on purpose?
Ferdinand: I swear upon it that, had I known she was alive, I would move heaven and earth to find her.
Laura: I know you would.

Laura gives Ferdinand a peck to the cheek.

Ferdinand: Marry me, Laura.
Laura: What?
Sophie: We know you heard him.
Ferdinand: Please Laura. You are special to me and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.
Laura: Alright, I'll take up the offer.
Sophie: I'm so envious. Augustyn hasn't said anything yet. I don't think he loves me anymore.

Augustyn, while eating his food, began choking and struggled to catch his breath.

Augustyn: Sophie. -cough- I want to marry you as well.
Sophie: Took you long enough to say that.
Augustyn: Why don't we get married on the same day.
Sophie: That's sounds like a wonderful idea!
Laura: I'd like that too.
Ferdinand: Augustyn finally has a good idea. About time he becomes a man.

The women started to laugh while Augustyn was speechless from the comment.

-meanwhile-

(Miskolc. Hungary)

Alwin has already begun his journey back home. He said his goodbyes several days earlier and stopped at the local tavern for a drink. Heading inside, he approached the bartender and asked for the cheapest drink. He then sat down and pondered about what he will do once he returned home. Suddenly, two men in the corner got into a fight. Alwin, unwilling to get himself caught in the fight, decided to leave the tavern after paying for his drink. The fight was over before it began and the winner came over beside Alwin.

Man: Well, you should buy me a drink, buddy.
Alwin: Why should I?
Man: You owe me that much.

Alwin turned to look at the stranger and he was surprised by what he saw. Before he could say anything, the man embraced him.

Man: Damn it, see what you turned me into? I'm nothing more than a harmless puppy since I met you.
Alwin: It's nice to see you again, Zoltán. Wanna come with me to Pommerania?
Zoltán: Of course, friend!

-meanwhile-

(Buda, Hungary)

Andra: What's the hurry, Cato?

Andra ran after her fiancee who was acting really weird after his meeting with the king. She grabbed Cato who unexpectedly turned around and gave her a long kiss. He then stopped and embraced her.

Andra: What's wrong?
Cato: You have no idea what just happened in there.
Andra: Try me.
Cato: I've been promoted to a viceroy.
Andra: No way!
Cato: Yes, the king felt I was the best candidate for the job. I can't believe this is happening.
Andra: I can. Come here!

Andra gave Cato a long kiss and both of them headed to the marketplace to tell everyone else the good news.

-meanwhile-

(Nicomedia, Ottomans)

Christopher said goodbye to Emmanuel and Arzu.

Emmanuel: Remember, Christopher. Take care of your sister. You are fortunate the two of you were reunited.
Christopher: I will, Emmanuel. She's all that I have left.
Emmanuel: Live well. The captain and Ese will take good care of you both.
Christopher: I know. I'm so thankful for all your help.
Emmanuel: Don't be. We are just doing our part in the world.
Susan: Will we ever see you again?
Emmanuel: You bet we will. I'll visit whenever I can.
Susan: Please tell the old man to take care of himself.
Emmanue: I will. Farewell, you two!
Susan, Christopher: Farewell!

The ship left dock as the two children waved their goodbyes.

Arzu: She called me an old man, didn't she?
Emmanuel: I see you are fluent in Italian already. Excellent!
Arzu: Those two children will grow up to be fine people one day.
Emmanuel: I can't disagree with you there.

[Bonus Content]

(Praha, Bohemia)

Old man: Richard failed, didn't he?
Man: Your informers are sharp.
Old man: I would've been dead a long time ago if they weren't.
Man: I told you Richard would fail.
Old man: Not quite. He did accomplish something.
Man: Enlighten me.
Old man: I'm not telling. You must wait for the chapters to unfold.
Man: You speak as though you are writing a story.
Old man: Not quite. You see, I'm merely playing out my part in a story. My time to shine will be here soon.
Man: What role will I play?
Old man: You will soon be the king of Bohemia. Think you can handle it?
Man: Of course, father. I was made for that position.
Old man: Glad to hear that, my son.


Section II Concluded

 
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Section III

Chapter 34

[May 5, 1356]

(Praha, Bohemia)

Dakon ran through the dark streets with a dozen or so men chasing him. He knew that, should he be captured, his chances of seeing his love was forever gone. Dakon was fortunate find a narrow exit in the underground cavern. It took him awhile to worm through the exit but he eventually got out. With the precious gold jewelry he smuggled out of the underground cavern, Dakon was able to get enough ducats to pay both his travel expense and the freedom of his love while still having enough to start a new life elsewhere. Arriving in Praha early morning, Dakon found a small tavern where he got a small room. He rested for a few hours before he ate lunch. Next, he explored the streets surrounding the compound of the man he would soon make a deal with. To his surprise, the streets haven't changed one bit and Dakon had every confidence he could in getting himself and his love out in one piece. The compound always opened at night which meant Dakon still had a few more hours to kill. To pass the time, he decided to meet with a few of his old friends to learn about the changes that took place. To his surprise, his friends, upon seeing him, all refused to even speak with him. Dakon felt something was wrong but he had no idea what. Luckily, he didn't have much time to ponder as he had an appointment with a man.

He met with the man who owned his love to negotiate her release. At first, the man was polite and patient. He was apparently trying to find many excuses to refuse the release. After a while, the man lost his temper and was threatening to kill Dakon if he remained so stubborn. Dakon knew this man, known to everyone in Praha as the Pig, never turned down a large sum of ducats. The fact that he was refusing to negotiate meant that he might have his life at stake. Following a few more questions, it became clear to Dakon that the man no longer had his love. Dakon demanded the whereabouts of her and the Pig merely said he sold her to a wealth slaver who had excellent taste. Dakon knew the Pig was lying and asked one more time. The Pig refused and Dakon, not taking a no for an answer, decided to gut the man. As the Pig was dying, he called for his two guards to save him. The two guards came in to stop Dakon but they, too, were cut down when they underestimated Dakon's ability to wield a dagger. Unfortunately for Dakon, the alarm was already set off. By the time he arrived at the front gate of the compound, a few soldiers were already entering the place. Dakon headed for the walls where he leaped over with no problem. The soldiers outside the compound were giving chase the moment they saw him and Dakon knew he must get away quickly.

Running through the familiar streets, Dakon knew exactly where he was going. Few minutes later, Dakon leaped over a wall until he arrived in the courtyard of the local church. Hiding in the shadows, Dakon stooped down as he listened to the progress of his pursuers. The soldiers ran past the church without stopping and Dakon knew he was safe for the moment. Just as he was going to get up, Dakon realized he was being watched by a man standing at a doorway. Once his eyes adjusted, Dakon noticed that the man was probably a priest that worked at the church. Considering that the priest was a stranger to him, Dakon knew that priest must have came after he left Praha. The priest approached Dakon slowly as though he was unsure whether the intruder was dangerous or not. Dakon, unsure if there were other people nearby, chose to stay quiet and waited for the priest to make the first move. The priest stopped a fair distance away where he believed he was safe. He then listened carefully to see if anybody else was within earshot. Once he was sure nobody else was nearby, he began talking to Dakon.

Priest: You were fleeing those men, didn't you?
Dakon: Yes.
Priest: What crime have you committed?
Dakon: If I tell you, I must then kill you.
Priest: You don't determine my death. God does.
Dakon: God couldn't save you if I were to kill you.
Priest: If he doesn't stop you, then my time here is up.
Dakon: I'm surprise you didn't alert the soldiers.
Priest: I needed to make sure that you have indeed committed a crime first.
Dakon: What do you mean by that?
Priest: I don't see killing evil men as a sin.
Dakon: You think I killed a evil man?
Priest: My gut says so. Are you going to tell me who died under your blade?
Dakon: I killed the Pig. He wasn't cooperating and I decided that he did enough harm in Praha.
Priest: Good riddance! You have done all of us a favor. You may come in.
Dakon: You believe what I told you?
Priest: Of course, Dakon.
Dakon: How? How did you know my name? Who are you?
Priest: If you can come inside, I will explain everything to you. Including the whereabouts of your love.

Dakon quickly got to his feet and followed the priest into the church. The priest led him to his study where the two of them sat down.

Dakon: Who are you?
Priest: I'm am merely a priest that works here. My name is of no importance
Dakon: What do you know about me? What do you know about Malina?
Priest: Please calm down. I can only answer so many questions at one time.
Dakon: Okay,how did you know Malina?
Priest: Malina came to me before she went into the palace.
Dakon: Palace?
Priest: There is only one palace in Praha.
Dakon: I know that. Why did she came to you?
Priest: A crime was committed and Malina was the prime suspect. Unlike other crimes, this one demanded her whole family to be executed.
Dakon: What crime was it?
Priest: A well-known noble family was brutally murdered. The murder weapon was found inside Malina's room.
Dakon: They thought she did it?
Priest: That was the odd part. The constable wanted to close the case quickly. He saw the weapon as evidence that Malina did it. She was arrested and her family was also locked up in prison.
Dakon: Something isn't right here.
Priest: I agree with you there. However, there was no way she could prove her innocence with the constable so confident with his arrest. Many people in Praha, including me, thought a proper investigation was needed. Unfortunately, the constable called the shots and he simply ignored us.
Dakon: Yet, she came here? I thought she was in prison.
Priest: There was a powerful man with wealth and influence. He apparently made an offer to Malina. She could either accept the execution or she could do the man's bidding.
Dakon: Knowing Malina, I would say she chose to serve the man. What was required of her?
Priest: She was supposed to marry the third son of the Bohemian king.
Dakon: That doesn't sound like a bad deal.
Priest: Let's just say the son is not only a bastard son but he is also an imbecile.
Dakon: I should've known that offer was too good to be true. Where is Malina now?
Priest: She is a princess in the palace right now. As for how she is, I'm afraid I haven't spoken to her since that meeting.
Dakon: I find it odd that she came to you before she went there.
Priest: She had a feeling that you may return for her. She made me promise to meet you and pass a message to you.
Dakon: What message?
Priest: "Leave Praha! Forget about me and leave. It's no longer safe here."
Dakon: What does she mean by here?
Priest: She meant Praha as a whole. She felt uneasy about the offer.
Dakon: Did she explain her uneasiness?
Priest: She felt that powerful man had an ulterior motive. She doesn't want you to be caught in the crossfire.
Dakon: How does she know I would arrive here?
Priest: I asked her the same question. She stated that you would probably kill the Pig and escape to this church.
Dakon: She knows me too well. I must save her.
Priest: Have you not listened to me?
Dakon: No matter what the danger, I must go save her. When a man is in love, he would do anything for that other person.
Priest: I should've known. You should stay here overnight. You can start your rescue tomorrow in the morning.

 
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Section III

Chapter 35 (part 1)

[May 6, 1356]

(Praha, Bohemia)

Malina got up from bed and rubbed her eyes. She has already lost count of the days she has been in the palace. She sat along the edge of the bed and looked behind her at her husband. The king's bastard son, Vojtik, was still sleeping like a baby. Malina couldn't believe that this man would become her husband. Vojtik had the intelligence of a child and Malina felt she was more of a mother than a wife. She hated that a powerful man decided to use her for his own means but she couldn't stand on the sidelines while her family was executed. Her family has betrayed her many times but Malina still refused to abandon them them. Dakon said she was too kindhearted and she sometimes wondered if her lover was right. Walking out of her bedroom, Malina wondered if Dakon has returned to Praha yet. If he did, she wished for Dakon to give up on her. Unlike the palaces in her fantasies when she was still a young girl, this palace has became a prison instead. Dakon could easily lose his life if he even attempted to rescue her. Malina accepted her fate in the palace and prayed the Dakon would do the same. Opening the door leading to the hallway, Malina was greeted by a female servants.

Servant: Princess Malina, I hope you had a wonderful sleep.
Malina: I did. I need to wash up first.
Servant: Of course, I will get your water and towel ready.

The servant headed to the bathroom to prepare the necessary things while Malina took her time. When she arrived, Malina was handed a towel which she used to wash up. Once she was done, she left for the dining hall. She walked silently down the hallway until she arrived at the doorway leading to the dining hall. More servants waited patiently inside and they all greeted her. A few of the servants headed to the kitchen to bring food for Malina while the rest set the table up for her. Malina was still uncomfortable with the servants that took care of her every needs but she had little say in it. Food was soon brought before her and she ate quickly. Malina still didn't like interactions with other members of the royal family and generally stayed away from them. As soon as she finished her meal, she began to head out the door to return back to her room. Unlike other days, someone else was up and entered the dining hall just as Malina was leaving. Malina looked up and saw the second son of the king, Slavko. Malina always viewed Slavko as a snake and knew that he played a part in trapping her in the current situation. She greeted Slavko who merely closed the distance before touching her cheek. Malina quickly backed away so there was distance between the two of them.

Malina: Prince Slavko, please behave yourself. I am already married.
Slavko: You can that idiot your husband? I admire you for your tolerance for such a lowly human being.
Malina: No matter what, I am still his wife.
Slavko: I guess so. I will have you as my own soon. Just you wait. The bastard won't be living for too long.

Slavko laughed as he walked towards the table where the servants waited. Malina, shaking from her conversation with Slavko, quickly exited the dining hall and rushed to her bedroom. She opened the door and got in before closing the door quietly. Vojtik was still asleep and Malina didn't want to wake him up. She tiptoed to the desk where she sat down. From her seat, she could see the palace courtyard and parts of the city through the window. She longed to escape the prison she was in but she felt powerless to decide her own fate. Tears began to drip down her face as she thought about a happier time. She remembered back to the time when she first met Dakon.


Malina and her sister were heading home after watching a jousting tournament. They weren't allowed in but they managed to sneak into a small space hidden from the crowds where they could see some of the action. Both of them were thrilled after seeing the event and they looked forward to describing the event to their friends and relatives. Malina's sister decided to abandon Malina so she could arrive home first. Malina, too tired from the events, chose to stroll home to conserve her energy. As she was passing by the smithy, she saw a man carrying weapons over to a cart. The man dropped one of the swords and Malina offered to pick it up for him. The man, as soon as he unloaded the swords in his arms, turned to face Malina. When the man merely froze in place, Malina asked the man if he was alright.

Malina: Are you alright? You don't look so well.
Man: ... Sorry! ... It's just that ... I think I just saw an angel.
Malina: What are you talking about? How long were you in the smithy? I think you took a hammer to your head.
Man: No, I'm saying the truth. You're beautiful. Will you be my wife.

Malina, blushing from the comment, shoved the sword she picked up into the man.

Malina: Get lost!

Malina ran home and never dared looking back. She never stopped until she arrived home. She entered her home and was immediately busy in helping with making supper. When Malina finally lay down in bed, she thought back to encounter with the man. She admitted that the man was handsome and he had a good profession. She wonder if she should see the man again to know him better. Before Malina had a chance to decide, she fell asleep. Malina was woken up at night when she heard noise downstairs. Her sister wasn't in bed and Malina quickly got out of bed to check what has happened. Walking down the stairs, Malina realized that the Pig and his henchmen were at her house. He was just speaking with Malina's father when he suddenly caught sight of her. He said a few simple words and Malina's father nodded. He then approached Malina and explained that he had no choice but to sell her to the Pig. Malina couldn't believe what she was hearing but, before she could ask any questions, two of Pig's men grabbed her and took her with them. That was the last time Malina saw or heard from her family. To her family, it was as though she was dead since that day. Locked inside one of the Pig's cell, Malina cried until she could cry no more. She knew that her family has abandoned her and she was alone with no one. Malina would soon learn that there was still hope for her.

Two weeks later, Malina was told to leave her cell. She found herself being led into the Pig's guest room where she saw the pig and the man she saw at the smithy. The man, after seeing Malina, began to negotiate her release. Malina couldn't believe that this man, whom she saw only once, was here negotiating her release. After much discussion, the two men appeared to have finished their discussion and the man approached Malina.

Man: Hi, my name is Dakon.
Malina: Why are you doing to for me?
Dakon: I have fallen in love. I will get you out.
Malina: You shouldn't waste your time with me.
Dakon: I'm not wasting my time. I'm merely rescuing my future wife.
Malina: He will ask a ridiculous price on me.
Dakon: I will move heaven and earth to get you out. Promise me you will wait for me.
Malina: I will. I will wait for you forever.



Malina hated herself for not keeping that promise. She hated how fate dealt her one bad hand after another. She could only hope Dakon wouldn't be stupid enough to plan a rescue.

 
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Section III

Chapter 35 (part 2)

[May 6, 1356]

(Praha, Bohemia)

Dakon, upon waking up, decided to head to the marketplace to buy some supplies. His dagger was stuck in the Pig the night before and he preferred to have a weapon on him. While he suspected that the guards couldn't recognize him in broad daylight, he still tread the marketplace carefully as he made sure he doesn't arouse any suspicion. Seeing how his friends seemed to have abandoned him, he decided to visit one of the newer smithy where he could purchase a dagger without any questions asked. It took him half an hour but Dakon finally found the smithy he needed. The owner of the smithy, seeing that he had a customer, approached Dakon.

Owner: How may I be of service?
Dakon: I need a new dagger.
Owner: A dagger? Are you, by any chance, an assassin?
Dakon: Aren't you asking a bit much?
Owner: I just want to avoid the guards asking me unnecessary questions.
Dakon: Alright, I need a dagger for my own personal protection. The streets can be dangerous and a weapon could deter most thieves and muggers.
Owner: I see. I was worried that you may be responsible for the death of the Pig.
Dakon: Pig? I'm surprised you give such an emphasis on an animal.
Owner: Do we need to go in circles, Dakon?
Dakon: Who are you?

Dakon quickly looked around to see what weapons were available to him.

Owner: Don't worry. I bear grudge against the Pig and you did me a favor by killing him. I'll even provide you some of my best weapons for free.
Dakon: I don't trust you.
Owner: I understand. So, how could I earn your trust?
Dakon: Let's start with a name.
Owner: How rude of me. My name is Basek.
Dakon: From your name, I'm assuming you aren't from here?
Basek: No, I came from Poland. I was hoping to start a new life here with my wife. The Pig decided otherwise.
Dakon: He took your wife as a prisoner?
Basek: I wish. My wife always believed in justice. She would put herself at harm's way to protect a stranger. She got in the way of the Pig and she was raped before they killed her. I vowed to avenge her.
Dakon: I'm sorry.
Basek: For killing the Pig? No, I might say I seek revenge but I couldn't possibly carry it out without being caught.
Dakon: Yet, you know my name and my involvement in this.
Basek: The Priest is my friend. He told me to look out for you. He, like me, feels like he is in debt of you.
Dakon: You must know what I aim to accomplish next then.
Basek: Indeed, you wish to break into the palace to save your princess.
Dakon: You do know the price you will pay if you get caught.
Basek: Nothing ventured, nothing gained. It doesn't hurt that I understand the pain of being separated from the woman one love.
Dakon: I thank you. I still prefer to work alone.
Basek: If you do that, then you will be hanged and your woman would be trapped in the palace forever.
Dakon: What makes you say that?
Basek: I know that the Bohemian king is very paranoid. He has set up extra guards everywhere. There is no way you can break in without help. For instance, how long do you think it will take for you to gather the information you need to get inside?
Dakon: You got a point. Where do you suggest I start?
Basek: Come inside and pick your weapons first. We will discuss the matter at the local inn.
Dakon: Inn?
Basek: I know a quiet corner where no one can eavesdrop. Enough talk for now, come inside!

Basek led Dakon into the small armory inside the smithy. Dakon picked two well crafted daggers and the two men headed to the inn. There weren't many patrons inside the inn and the bartender, seeing Basek entering the inn, ignored them as he continued his chat with one of the patrons. Basek led the way to a corner where he told Dakon to be seated. He walked over the to bartender and, in a minute or so, brought over two mugs of drinks. He set the drinks down and sat himself down as well.

Basek: It's rather nice here. Have a drink.
Dakon: I prefer to keep my head clear.
Basek: If you say so.

Basek took a sip of his drink and looked around first. When he was sure no one was listening, he continued speaking with Dakon.

Basek: Have you wondered why your friends don't want to be involved with you?
Dakon: I was confused and I still haven't figured it out.
Basek: When you 'disappeared' from the city, your smithy was taken over.
Dakon: Taken over? You mean I sold it to my friend.
Basek: No, it was taken over by a powerful noblemen. There are rumors regarding this nobleman that he might want the throne for himself.
Dakon: What good is a smithy to him?
Basek: If he had more weapons, he could explain that the weapons were made there.
Dakon: I don't see how the extra weapons would help him.
Basek: Yes, his plan couldn't work with a certain puppet.
Dakon: Puppet? What puppet?
Basek: He managed to turn the king's second son into his puppet.
Dakon: Impossible.
Basek: No, it's quite viable. You see, that son wanted power. The nobleman just used simple manipulation to convince the prince that he was a valuable ally.
Dakon: I don't see how that involves me.
Basek: Did you know that Malina's family was slaughtered?
Dakon: What?
Basek: That city officials called it an accident but anyone with a brain knows something is up.
Dakon: They are trying to systematically eliminate anyone that knows Malina well?
Basek: Bingo! You appeared to be a lover of hers which made them suspect that you know her well.
Dakon: They haven't sent anymore to kill me yet.
Basek: I'm surprised as well. They might think you are dead. Is there a chance they know about your adventures after you left here.
Dakon: I don't think so. Why?
Basek: I don't know. They just told your friends that they suspect you of treason. Anyone that associate themselves with you would be punished. There is an odd part though.
Dakon: What?
Basek: They didn't request any of your friends to report your whereabouts if they met you. It's as though they already expected you to be dead. They merely wanted no questions to be asked about you.
Dakon: How do you know all this?
Basek: The thieves guild in the city has a large network. At the right price, they can give you an interesting amount of information.
Dakon: Is the thieves guild the help you expect me to get?
Basek: They are your best chance to succeed. Their leader had a nasty history with the king which could make them more cooperative.
Dakon: I'll think about it.
Basek: You should think quickly. I'm afraid you are racing against time.
Dakon: Is Malina's life at risk?
Basek: It might be a rumor but people say that the king might be overthrown soon. If that were too happen, Malina probably would be caught in the middle. With her husband being an imbecile, she has no allies inside the palace. When things get dangerous, there is a good chance she might not survive.
Dakon: Damn it, I cannot believe that she would be caught up in all this. She said she suspected that the man was behind something. Wait!
Basek: Yes, the man that forced her into the palace is the same nobleman that took over your smithy.
Dakon: What is he up to? Why does he need Malina to do his bidding?
Basek: There are many things that could happen in the palace. An accident and someone disappears. If the nobleman is looking to take over the throne, it is wise for him to have more allies within. Or rather, he would prefer to have more than one puppet inside.
Dakon: I need to get her out before it's too late.
Basek: Now you see why I think you need help.
Dakon: Tell me, why are you aiding me?
Basek: The priest saved my life and you avenged my wife. The fact that the priest asked me to aid you meant that I need to make sure you succeed.
Dakon: I wish I could have met you sooner. You seem like a good friend to have.
Basek: I could say the same for you. Let's empty our drinks and we can leave. The thieves guild await.
Dakon: Alright!

The two men emptied their mugs and, after Basek paid the bartender, they left the inn with Basek leading the way.

 
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Section III

Chapter 35 (part 3)

[May 6, 1356]

(Praha, Bohemia)

Basek took Dakon to a poor sector in the city where the beggars eyed them with hatred. Dakon had a bad feeling about the trip and had his hands close to his daggers fearing a possible attack. Basek saw that his friend was nervous.

Basek: Don't worry! You are safe here. They won't attack unless they know they can get anything out of it.
Dakon: If they all jump us, they can take us both out.
Basek: It's quite simple here. Everyone is a vulture. You don't want to get wounded or killed while getting nothing out of it.
Dakon: You mean they aren't going to take the initiative?
Basek: They won't take the initiative until you give them a good reason to.
Dakon: Are we there soon?
Basek: We're here.

Dakon saw himself standing before a doorway with stairs leading downwards. Basek took the lead and Dakon followed. The tunnel was dark with some segments were lit up by torches. The sound of rats could be heard with every step and Dakon felt his senses heightened with the adrenaline pumping through his system. He kept a close eye ahead of Basek but the darkness didn't help him. A few minutes later, the two men exited the tunnel and entered a large chamber. A few people were loitering around and they paid no attention to Basek or Dakon.

Dakon: Who are they?
Basek: They are the guards.
Dakon: They don't look too tough.
Basek: Looks can be deceiving. They aren't people you want to mess with. They have quick hands and they'll slit your throat before you can swallow.
Dakon: I guess it doesn't hurt that we are in their territory.
Basek: You got that right. Follow closely and try not to attract any wanted attention.

Dakon listened and followed Basek closely as the two men approached a table at the center of the chamber where a man was sitting at. The man, with a candle on the table, was pondering over his documents when he noticed the shadow of the two men. He looked up and carefully looked over the two men.

Clerk: How may I help you?
Basek: We need some information.
Clerk: We can provide information. However, can you pay up?
Basek: Of course. Who do you take us for?
Clerk: You will need to pay up half the amount now. Once we finish our part, you pay us the rest.
Basek: Alright.

Basek took out some ducats and gave it to the clerk. One of the guards passed by and the ducats suddenly vanished. The guard proceeded to the doorway behind the clerk and disappeared into the shadows.

Clerk: That's good. What information do you need?
Basek: We wish to know the enemies of the royal family here in Praha.
Clerk: That's an interesting request. May I ask you why do you need to know?
Basek: My friend here wants to get something back. He knows he couldn't do it alone.
Clerk: Your friend is foolish. Tell him to turn back before he puts a bounty on his head.
Basek: I paid you for information. I didn't pay you to give advice. My friend is determined.
Clerk: Don't blame me if I didn't warn you. Let us wait for the documents to be delivered.
Dakon: What do you mean by that?
Clerk: Exactly that. We need someone to retrieve the information you need from one of our vaults.
Dakon: What if I don't find it satisfactory?
Clerk: We make sure you get the most out of your ducats. If we don't have enough information, we make sure that we get enough. We never cheated out of our customers, whether old or new.
Basek: I can vouch for them. They will get what you need. They have their ways and they are usually accurate.
Clerk: Usually?
Basek: Even thieves are human, my friend. There are times your information lack accuracy. That is, however, a conversation for another day.

Dakon and Basek waited at the table while the clerk returned to his work looking over the documents. The seconds passed by with water dripping down a hole in the wall. Few minutes passed before the guard that took the ducats arrived with a small stack of paper. He passed the documents to the clerk before returning to his post. The clerk looked over the papers before handing it over to Dakon and Basek. Basek had a quick look over the paper and shook his head.

Basek: It's just as the rumors predicted. The second son is trying to overthrow his father with the help of that noble.
Dakon: Do the papers explain the role of Malina?
Basek: There is speculations that Malina will be the instrument to kill the first son and the king.
Dakon: How? She wouldn't hurt a fly.
Basek: One of the noble's servants bought a considerable amount of poison. That could be what she will be using.
Dakon: She probably would do it unknowingly.
Basek: Indeed, they would then plant the evidence in her room and blame her for everything.
Dakon: Those bastards will pay for their plan. I will make sure they pay dearly.
Basek: Knowing their plans isn't enough. We need allies if we hope to succeed in this.
Man: That's right!

Both Dakon and Basek looked at the doorway behind the clerk. At first, they saw nothing but darkness. Eventually, a man covered in dark clothes stepped out of the shadows. Dakon saw the stranger's eyes and he was shaking slightly. He never thought a man's eyes can be this cold. The stranger walked towards Dakon and Basek and greeted them.

Man: I am that ally you need to succeed.
Dakon: Who are you? Why should we trust you?
Man: I have many names. I am best knows as the Shadow.
Dakon: Sorry, I have never heard of you.
Shadow: You're kidding, right?
Basek: I apologize for my friend. He is new to this city. He hasn't heard of you yet.
Shadow: Yet, he dared to go into the palace alone?
Basek: Love makes men do stupid things.
Shadow: I see. Is your love the thing you are recovering.
Dakon: Yes.
Shadow: You are foolish enough to throw everything away for her?
Dakon: Of course.
Shadow: Good! I can see that we can work together quite well knowing that. Follow me!

 
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blklizard

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Section III

Chapter 35 (part 4)

[May 6, 1356]

(Praha, Bohemia)

Dakon and Basek followed Shadow back through the passageway they entered through earlier. Shortly after, Shadow turned to his right and, after pausing for a brief moment, pushed the wall which gave way. Shadow disappeared and both Dakon and Basek were surprised. They walked over and looked to the right to see a small passageway. Shadow signaled them to enter and, as soon as they walked in, Shadow pushed the door back into place. He then took the lead again and led the group to a well lit chamber. Inside, there were three other men gambling while drinking. They were looking at Dakon and Basek by the time they entered the chamber.

Shadow: Darkness, we found a new employer.
Darkness: Whatever they are asking for, I'm not interested. Tell them to get lost.
Shadow: It's not like you to turn away a challenge, Darkness. Cursed, why is he in a bad mood?
Cursed: He has been on a huge losing streak. He's just getting frustrated. He'll return to normal once he hears the assignment, I bet. Right, Death?
Death: Right, I personally don't mind seeing his bad mood if I can keep winning like this.
Dakon: Shadow, Darkness, Cursed and Death. Interesting names.
Darkness: Oh look, he can remember names. Maybe we should give him a pat on the back.
Shadow: Ignore him for now. Us four were orphans for as long as we can remember. We picked these names and they stuck with us ever since.
Basek: Wait, you four wouldn't be the infamous brothers that struck fear across the city?
Death: Ah, we have made a name out of ourselves. That's just wonderful! So, what's the assignment we are given?
Shadow: I'm not sure. Dakon, that's your name right?
Dakon: Yes.
Shadow: What are your plans? What do you want accomplished?
Dakon: We haven't paid yet.
Shadow: Don't worry about that yet. We'll help ourselves when we perform the job.
Dakon: I'm thinking along the lines of killing two men.
Cursed: Which two?
Dakon: One is a nobleman. The other is a prince.
Death: Sounds interesting! I don't mind returning back to the palace. They have some nice treasure hidden away.
Cursed: Going there is like going on a treasure hunt. You never know what you may find.
Shadow: I believe a woman is involved?
Basek: Yes, she was engaged with my friend here but they forced her to marry the imbecile.
Cursed: Wait, we are killing the imbecile?
Basek: No, you are killing the second prince.
Cursed: That's the imbecile, right?
Darkness: Don't be an idiot! The third prince is the imbecile. The second prince is a crafty one with many dangerous friends. I heard he intend to take the throne.
Cursed: I was only joking around. So, when do we get started?
Basek: It does appear those rumors are correct.
Dakon: Sooner the better.
Shadow: You heard the man. Start packing your stuff and we will begin our little adventure into the palace.
Cursed: Alright! I cannot wait.

The three men headed to their rooms while Shadow led Dakon and Basek to the doorway. He showed them the way out and told them that they will keep in touch.

-meanwhile-

Malina made her way to the dining hall with her husband who held her hand like a child. They were steps away from the dining hall when a man crept out of the kitchen and nearly bumped into Malina. Malina barely managed to get out of the way and looked at the cloaked man running away. Malina thought the man was on an important errand and forgot about him when she entered the dining hall. Everybody else was already digging into their meal and they paid no attention to Malina or her husband. Malina and Vojtik walked to their seat where the servants immediately brought their meals and utensils. Malina began eating when she suddenly heard the king choking. The servants rushed to him to help him but he soon rolled onto the ground with his hands around his throat. He rolled around a few times before he stopped moving. The first prince, Farkas, was the first to react and told the servants to call for the physician. The servants rushed out the dining hall while everyone else stared at the king with shock. The physician arrived shortly but, by then, the king has stopped moving.

Farkas: Can he be saved?
Physician: I fear that he is already dead.
Farkas: How is that possible? He merely choked on something.
Physician: He didn't choke to death. He was poisoned to death.
Farkas: What? Impossible!

Farkas looked around the room before setting his gaze on his second brother.

Farkas: You have gone to far, brother! It's one thing to say things like usurpation. It's another thing to actually act upon it.
Slavko: My brother, I am innocent! I was here the whole time.
Farkas: You take me as a fool? You could hire someone here to do your dirty work.
Slavko: Please, brother. I am innocent. There is someone else that could put the poison. Malina was the last one here.
Farkas: Don't spread your lies! We all know Malina couldn't do such a thing.
Slavko: Of course you don't believe her. You are deeply in love with her.
Farkas: Shut it before I cut out your foul tongue.
Slavko: Let me ask you, brother. Malina was the last one in here and the dish our father ate was served after she arrived. She had plenty of time to slip in the poison before coming here.
Farkas: You are too good at fabricating stories, brother. Do you have proof?

One of the servants came forward.

Servant: May I speak, princes?
Slavko: What do you have to offer?
Servant: Before she entered, I saw a man exiting the kitchen and spoke to her briefly. I found that to be very suspicious.
Slavko: Malina, were you foolish enough to think you can go unnoticed with your crime?
Malina: He didn't talk to me. He almost bumped into me.
Slavko: Why didn't you stop him?
Malina: I thought he was running an urgent errand.
Slavko: Where is he now?
Malina: I don't know.
Slavko: How convenient! The assassin escaped and you don't know. I was hoping to give you a chance to repent but you clearly aren't willing. Guards! Arrest this witch! Take her to the dungeon and we will take care of her later.

Two guards grabbed Malina by her arms and towed her to the door. She tried to shout that she was innocent but she was simply too overwhelmed to speak out loud. She stared back at Farkas who showed his hatred for his brother on his face while tightening his fist. As for Slavko, he had a smile across his face as he watched Malina taken to the dungeon. Vojtik continued eating his meal while ignoring everything that was taking place. Everybody else chose to stay silent while Malina was taken away.

 
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Section III

Chapter 35 (part 5)

[May 6, 1356]

(Praha, Bohemia)

Malina sat in her cell for hours. She knew yelling at the guards wouldn't solve a thing. She needed Farkas or someone else with status to bring forward proof of her innocence. Unlike the other prisoners, Malina's prison wasn't cramp and it was kept rather clean. Despite the royal treatment, Malina still preferred her bedroom which seemed less of a prison now that she was locked up in an actual cell. There wasn't a sound to be heard since the guards left which told Malina that she was alone in this part of the dungeon. She didn't know if that was a blessing or a curse but she didn't mind the silence as it allowed her to think. Hours later, Malina heard footsteps coming towards her and she rushed over to the bars to see who was coming. Along with two guards, she recognized a maid who worked for Farkas. The maid arrived before the cell and dismissed the guards. The guards were hesitant at first but, when the maid threatened to tell the prince of their disobedience, they quickly complied. The maid waited until the guards were far away before she had her conversation with Malina.

Maid: I hope the accommodations are alright. This is the best we can offer you at the moment.
Malina: I just want to get out.
Maid: I understand but you cannot rush things. We need to find evidence you are innocent.
Malina: That servant was clearly lying.
Maid: I'm afraid we don't have a way of getting anything out of him.
Malina: Why?
Maid: Prince Slavko has kept him locked up somewhere. He claims that he doesn't want anything to happen to the man.
Malina: And you all believe him?
Maid: No, of course not. However, we aren't in a position to force him to do otherwise.
Malina: Is there no other way to prove my innocence?
Maid: We could find the assassin.
Malina: Does the prince have any leads?
Maid: I fear he is coming up empty right now. The assassin did a good job hiding his tracks.
Malina: I'm basically trapped here?
Maid: Well, prince Slavko wants you dead. If we cannot find enough evidence, you will be executed.
Malina: A quick death would be blessing compared to being locked up for the rest of my life, I guess.
Maid: Don't give up hope! We will find a way to get you out.
Malina: Be honest with me. Chances are that you will fail, right?
Maid: I hate to admit it but that is pretty accurate.
Malina: Alright, I thank you for all your help. I will pray and hope.
Maid: Please do that. Oh yes, I forgot one more thing.
Malina: What?
Maid: Vojtik is dead.
Malina: How?
Maid: He was poisoned as well.
Malina: Don't tell me that they are going to pin his death on me as well.
Maid: They tried but we found the servant. The servant was cut down by Slavko before he was willing to talk and we left it at that.
Malina: Vojtik is innocent. Why is he involved?
Maid: He just happened to be caught in the crossfire of all this. Sometimes status could bring about downfall of anyone. Anyways, I must go now. Stay strong, princess.

The maid walked down the hallway and Malina eventually heard her walking out the dungeon gates. She sat back down to absorb the news her husband was dead. She was never really close with Vojtik but, until the man dead, she never realized that a bond existed between them. It was more like a bond between an older sister and her younger brother. It's a different kind of love and she found herself grieving for Vojtik. She began crying in her cell and wished everything could return to normal.

-meanwhile-

Dakon and Basek walked towards the marketplace when someone threw a rock at Dakon. Dakon turned to the person and recognized him as Death. Death gestured them to follow him and they did so. Once they found themselves in a quiet alleyway, Death turned towards them and Dakon saw the expression on his face.

Dakon: What's wrong? You don't look so well.
Death: I have good news and bad news. Which do you want hear first?

Before Dakon could speak, Basek chose to interrupt.

Basek: Let's start with the good news then.
Death: The good news is that we know the whereabouts of the second prince and that nobleman you mentioned. They are both in the same parts of the palace. If you want them both dead, you could do so easily if you can get to them.
Dakon: Getting to them is the bad news, I assume.
Death: Getting to them is a challenge. I wouldn't call it bad news. Not yet, at least.
Dakon: What's the bad news then?
Death: Princess Malina has been locked away. Her crime is treason and her execution is tomorrow.
Dakon: No! How?
Death: They say she poisoned the king.
Dakon: She could never do that!
Death: At the moment, she's the suspect and, unless she is proven innocent, she will be beheaded tomorrow.
Dakon: I won't allow that.
Basek: There is another way to save her.
Dakon: How?
Basek: It's risky but we can break her out of the dungeon.
Dakon: No risk, no reward.
Death: Well said! Would you two like to join us? We were hoping you would agree to the jailbreak.
Basek: You wanted us to agree?
Death: Of course, it's going to be fun.
Dakon: If we can get Malina out safely, any risk is worth it.
Death: Enough talk then, let's meet with the other three. We don't have much time to talk.

Death led the way as the three men ran down the alleyway to the meeting place.

 
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Section III

Chapter 35 (part 6)

[May 6, 1356]

(Praha, Bohemia)

The trio made their way to a small tavern in one of the poorer districts within the city. Everyone who caught a glance of Death immediately got out of his way as though he was a plague. Dakon was too occupied to notice and he nearly bumped into Death when he suddenly stopped. Death pushed open the door and the trio entered without a sound. The bartender, seeing Death entering, merely pointed to one of the rooms before going back to his business. Inside the room, the trio found Shadow and Darkness sitting at their table staring into nothing. Shadow was the first to react when the trio entered and he gestured to Dakon and Basek to sit down. He then sat down and told them to wait for Cursed to return before they carry on with their meeting. A few minutes passed but, to Dakon, it felt like an eternity. Cursed finally entered the room and he sat in the only empty chair.

Dakon: I hope we won't be wasting time here.
Cursed: Don't worry! I was merely gathering information.
Shadow: We prefer not to go in without a plan. That way, we could come out alive.
Dakon: What's the plan then?
Cursed: We sneak past the guards and enter the dungeon. We then open the lock to her cell and we get her out.
Dakon: That's it?
Cursed: I hope you weren't expecting a frontal assault on the gates where you get through all the guards and save your woman before riding out on a stallion.
Dakon: Why didn't you get her out then? Seems simple enough.
Cursed: The problem is she doesn't know us. Even if we entered, we might have trouble persuading her that we wish to help her.
Dakon: That's where I come in?
Cursed: Yes.
Dakon: When can we start?
Cursed: Now is a good time. I scouted out all the possible routes and you will be satisfied that we can get you in and out in an hour or so.
Dakon: Enough talk. Let's go!
Shadow: Are we all going?
Cursed: On our way out, two of us can make a short trip to the treasury to help ourselves to some ducats.
Death: Sounds good enough for me. Let's go!

The six men left the tavern without a word to the bartender who, to Dakon and Basek, seemed relieved that they were leaving. The party stuck to the alleyways as they made their way to the palace. The streets were slowly getting crowded with many people doing their shopping for dinner. Cursed was very familiar with the alleyways and the party didn't stop until they arrived before stone building. Cursed took out a small key and opened the lock with ease. He looked both sides before pushing the gates open. He gestured everyone to get inside quickly before closing the gates. The stone building looked abandoned with dust everywhere inside. It didn't appear that the building has been in use for a long time but neither Dakon nor Basek had time to check out their surroundings. They were quickly ushered down some stairways to a passageway that was too dark to see anything. Cursed produced a torch out of nowhere and the party proceeded down the passageway with him leading the way. No one spoke a word and they soon stopped before another set of gates. Cursed took out another key which he used to open the gates with ease. The party continued its journey until another stairway, leading upwards, appeared before them. They walked up the stairs and arrived before another set of gates. Cursed signaled to everyone else that he would exit first and he disappeared behind the gates. Few minutes later, he returned and stated that they were alone. Dakon walked through the gates and was surprised to see himself in the dungeon. Before he could ask a question, Cursed led him down the hall while everyone else waited behind the gates. A few minutes passed and Dakon heard a sound of steps nearby. He walked towards the sound and suddenly realized that Cursed was gone. Before he could register the disappearance of his guide, he saw himself staring at Malina who stared right back. It seemed like time stood still at that very moment and Dakon found himself unable to speak. Malina broke the silence first.

Malina: What are you doing here?
Dakon: I'm here to save you.
Malina: Save me? By yourself? Don't kid yourself. Where's the key then?

Dakon was about to take a step back when he noticed that he held a key in his hands. He had no idea when the key was given to him but he was glad he didn't make a fool of himself. He held up the key and pushed it into the lock. The key twisted easily and Malina was shocked to see it take place. The lock was open but neither one of them was brave enough to take the first step. A few minutes passed before Dakon finally mustered enough courage and pushed open the door. Before Malina could say anything, Dakon pulled Malina towards him and kissed her hard on the lips. Malina struggled initially but she soon responded with the same amount of hunger. Dakon wanted to kiss the woman he loved forever but he knew the dungeon wasn't the right place. He reluctantly pulled himself away.

Dakon: Sorry, I couldn't control myself.
Malina: I didn't mind. I hope there's more where that came from.
Dakon: Don't worry. There is. First, we must get out of here.
Malina: I cannot leave yet.
Dakon: Why not?
Malina: I have unfinished business here.
Dakon: What do you mean? We need to get you out of here now.
Malina: Until I get it done, I won't leave. I love you, Dakon. However, I cannot leave here or I will regret this day for the rest of my life.
Dakon: What is so important to you?
Malina: Do you know about Vojtik?
Dakon: The idiot you are married to?
Malina: I would normally take offend to that but he is the one.
Dakon: What about him?
Malina: He was killed. I have a feeling I know who.
Dakon: Why do you wish to avenge him? Did you love him?
Malina: I did love him.
Dakon:...
Malina: Not as a husband. More like love between an older sister and a younger brother.
Dakon: I see.
Malina: Are you willing to help me?
Dakon: I said I would move heavens and earth to save you. Of course I would agree.
Malina: When do we head out?
Dakon: You aren't heading out. I have a few friends that helped me get through here. I will see if they can aid me in any ways.
Malina: What am I supposed to do?
Dakon: You will be taken to a safe place and wait for me. Then, we will leave this place for good.
Malina: Alright, please be careful.
Dakon: Don't worry. I intend on spending the rest of my life with you.

Dakon kissed Malina on the cheeks before taking her hand. They walked out the cell and towards the gates Dakon entered through. Dakon pushed through the gates and see the other five men waiting patiently.

Dakon: There's a slight change of plans.

 
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Section III

Chapter 35 (part 7)

[May 6, 1356]

(Praha, Bohemia)

Shadow: Do explain.
Dakon: Malina would prefer that we avenge her former husband. It looks like, except for one person, the rest of us won't be leaving yet.
Cursed: I could lead Basek and the princess out of the palace before joining you later.
Dakon: That sounds like a good plan. Still, we need a guide with us.
Death: Don't worry about that! I can take care of that. I've been in this palace a number of time.
Darkness: Let's not forget about the fact that you were lost nearly all those times.
Death: I may have taken a few wrong turns along the way but I never got myself in a bad position.
Darkness: You haven't yet. I wouldn't bet my life on your luck holding out all the time.
Death: Spoken like a true optimist!
Darkness: Don't think I can't hear your sarcasm.
Shadow: Let's get along and get the job then. In case you weren't aware, you two might alert the guards.
Death: Right, I'm sorry.
Shadow: Cursed, you lead these two out of here now. We will meet up shortly.

Cursed nodded and gestured to Basek and Malina to follow him down the passageway he used to get into the palace. Waiting until he couldn't hear the footsteps of Cursed, Shadow took the lead ahead the remaining three people. Moving quickly and silently, the party made its ways to another exit of the prison and Shadow was the first to sneak out the door. He looked both ways before stepping out to find some cover. Few minutes later, he returned and whispered to the other men to follow him. The party made its way down the hallway until they found themselves in front of a door. Shadow pressed himself against the door to listen carefully. He didn't detect anyone inside and pushed the door slowly open until there was enough room for them to sneak inside. Shadow then closed the door quietly before joining the others by the bed where they examined their surroundings.

Shadow: If I had to guess, I would say this room belonged to Malina.
Dakon: What makes you say that?
Shadow: You see those toys in the corner?
Dakon: Yes.
Shadow: None of the princes have a child so they had no need for toys.
Dakon: The toys were for Malina's ex-husband?
Shadow: I see no other reason why anyone would keep toys. Anyways, we shouldn't be wasting time debating over this.
Dakon: What do we do next then?
Death: I have a plan.
Darkness: A snail has a better brain for plans.
Death: I'd say you are trying to insult me.
Darkness: You think so, wise one?
Shadow: Enough from you two!

A scream came from down the hall and everyone in the party heard it. They then heard people running past their room and stayed quiet until they cannot hear anyone outside. Death was the first to break the silence as he whispered to everyone else.

Death: What was that?
Darkness: Sounded like a woman screaming. She must have attracted people all over the palace.
Shadow: I don't like being kept in the dark. We must find a way to learn what has happened.
Death: What are you suggesting?
Shadow: The retarded prince must have clothes around here. If one of us dress up like a nobleman, no one would suspect us as intruders.
Dakon: I'll do it.
Darkness: Don't be a fool. You have no idea how to mix into the crowd. You will be discovered almost instantly.
Death: It doesn't help that you lack the experience to gather information.
Shadow: I'll do it.

Shadow headed over to Vojtik's wardrobe where he tried his best finding clothes. Few minutes later, Shadow appeared before the party dressed like a nobleman.

Shadow: How do I look?
Darkness: You look just like Vojtik.
Shadow: That wasn't a compliment, was it?
Darkness: It's the best I could come up with. It's not like I'm wrong in any case.
Shadow: I'll be leaving now. Hopefully, I'll be back shortly.

Shadow left the room and closed the door behind him. The party remained silent as they waited for his return. The door opened a moment later and Cursed slipped in. He smiled at the surprise on everyone's faces.

Cursed: Didn't expect me to be back so soon, did you?
Dakon: Is Malina fine?
Cursed: Of course she is fine. I'm surprised you didn't ask about your friend.
Death: A woman is more important than a friend.
Cursed: Of course. How did I forget about that.
Dakon: How did you know we were here?
Cursed: I recognized Shadow when he left and I assumed the rest of you are waiting here.
Dakon: Did you hear the scream?
Cursed: No, I didn't. However, I did overhear some of the servants talking about a death of someone important.
Dakon: I hope it's Slavko.
Cursed: He's too sly to be killed off so easily. I wouldn't be surprised if the eldest son was dead though.
Death: He has eliminated all of his threats then.
Darkness: I don't like this one bit. This Slavko character is trouble and making him monarch is going to make our lives difficult.
Cursed: Luckily, we have the nice mission of eliminating him. I wouldn't mind putting that in motion.
Dakon: Let's wait until Shadow joins us. He might be able to provide us with more information regarding what has transpired.
Death: I hope he returns soon. I'm getting restless waiting here.
Darkness: Learn to calm down, buddy. We mustn't make mistakes now that we are deep in enemy territory.
Cursed: Darkness is right. We must keep calm and make smart moves. If someone important was killed, I wouldn't be surprised if guards are searching the palace right this moment.

The open opened briefly and Shadow slipped in without a sound.

Cursed: Is the eldest prince dead?
Shadow: Don't know where you got your information but that's about the just of it.
Cursed: Slavko is getting daring with his moves.
Shadow: We must eliminate him so a brighter future can be brought to Bohemia.
Dakon: Care to share with me your agenda?
Shadow: I guess it doesn't hurt. We were sent by the Hungarian monarch to this city. Our job is to report to him information about Bohemia while aiding him in obtaining the throne here.
Dakon: I understand the information part but getting the throne is a tough one.
Death: We weren't sent here blindly. Our monarch anticipated something like this would happen.
Dakon: Don't tell me that you four are behind Malina's blackmail as well.
Darkness: I wish we were so brilliant. She was just a bonus as her role really helped us. We will thank her later when we finished our job. We had belief that the sons will fight over the throne amongst themselves which would give us an opportunity to push the situation in the right direction.
Dakon: What plan are you guys thinking of?
Cursed: It's quite simple. We take out the nobleman along with Slavko and Bohemia will become a part of Hungary.
Dakon: Do I still have a role to play then?
Shadow: You can stay if you want. We won't mind having some backup when we escape from the palace.
Dakon: I'm going to stay until I'm sure those two are dead. I'll then leave the city with Malina and head for a foreign city.
Death: Excellent plan! I wish you two luck.
Dakon: Let's get started!
Shadow: Let's!

Shadow had a sly grin across his face as he described the plan to everyone.


 
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Section III

Chapter 35 (part 8)

[May 6, 1356]

(Praha, Bohemia)

Death and Darkness were busy tying up the guards while everyone else put on the uniforms they stripped off the men who were currently unconscious. Getting the uniforms wasn't too difficult with Shadow's excellent acting skills. He merely reported some suspicious behavior to the five guards as a noble and asked them to investigate. They were knocked out the moment they entered Malina's room and, to be safe, they were hog tied so they won't alert anyone. The party wore the uniforms and left the room in a single file. They made their way to the room Slavko was staying in where many guards were already posted. They approached the guards and were stopped by someone who appeared to be the captain.

Captain: Halt! I didn't ask for reinforcements.
Shadow: Captain, we have been told that suspicious men were spotted nearby. We are trying to track them down but we haven't been too successful. Whoever they are, they are very sly.
Captain: Odd, I'm surprised no one reported to me yet.
Shadow: That's exactly what I am doing, captain. Am I dismissed?
Captain: You don't look familiar.
Shadow: I'm new, captain. I'm been sent here after doing an excellent job at my home.
Captain: I'm surprised you're patrolling.
Shadow: With all the chaos, we need all the men we need, captain.
Captain: Alright, you five can stand guard here. The surviving prince will be moving out.
Shadow: Forgive me if I speak out of line but I believe now isn't the time to move around.
Captain: I would agree with you but our prince seems to believe that he is safe. He is making himself rather suspicious with all these deaths.
Shadow: I've learned it's wise not to judge your superior if one wished to keep one's job, captain.
Captain: Now I see how you got sent here. You clearly know how not to insult people. I'm liking you already.
Shadow: Thank you, captain.

The party stood outside the door when, suddenly, the door opened. Slavko walked out with his servants in tow.

Slavko: Captain, I wish to head to the dining hall. I am rather famished.
Captain: Of course, my prince.

The party was ordered to follow from the rear and they made their way to the dining hall. Except for the regular patrolling soldiers, the hallway was mostly empty as anyone walking it without an escort would be under suspicion. The large group moved silently through the hallway without a single word. Arriving at the dining hall, the guards waited outside and Slavko entered with only his servants. The door was closed behind him so no one can interrupt his meal.

Shadow: Captain, I hope he doesn't get poisoned.
Captain: Don't tell anyone but I doubt a snake can be poisoned.
Shadow: You might be right in that case, captain. Wait, someone is coming.

Everyone looked to their right and saw a nobleman arriving. The nobleman was smiling but, to everyone, he would appear less dangerous if he was frowning. He entered the door without permission from the prince and the door was closed behind him.

Shadow: That's odd. I thought you need permission from the prince to eat with him.
Captain: Something is up with that old man. His smile gives me the shivers.
Shadow: What if he is the assassin?
Captain: I'm all ears.
Shadow: You see, the old man seem to have no respect for the surviving prince. He also walked the halls unescorted. If I weren't traveling alone, I would have to be quite sure that I will survive my walk to my destination.
Shadow: Yes, it also struck me as odd that he has the appetite to eat. We know the other noblemen have all left for their rooms with many guards posted outside their doors.
Captain: Yet this man walked the hallway alone. He seemed to think there are no real threats to him.
Shadow: One reason would be the old man was crazy but, looking at his eyes, I'd say he is more cold and calculating than crazy.
Captain: The other reason would be that he knew who was responsible and was certain no harm would come to him.
Shadow: Yes, captain.
Captain: Now that you mentioned it, I do find it very suspicious. Still, it's not like there's anything we can do to that nobleman without any proof.
Shadow: You are right, captain.

Suddenly, they heard a scream coming from inside and the captain led the guards through the doors. They saw the nobleman standing beside the dining table with shock in his eyes and Slavko on the ground appearing unconscious. The captain quickly ran up to the prince and knelt beside him.

Captain: Hurry! Someone call the physician!

One of the guards left in a hurry while the captain checked to see the condition of the prince. To his surprise, the prince has already breathed his last breath and his lifeless eyes stared back as though he wanted revenge.

Captain: What happened!

One of the servants stepped forward.

Servant: The prince was eating when he suddenly grabbed at his throat. When you entered the room, he already stopped moving.
Captain: Who was the one that screamed?
Nobleman: I was the one. I was terrified by the prince's expression when he grabbed at his throat.
Captain: I find it interesting that you are fine.
Nobleman: What's that supposed to mean?
Captain: Did you have the same meal as him?
Nobleman: Are you accusing me of killing the prince?

The nobleman stepped forward to challenge the captain but he soon realized that the captain towered over him. The captain stared at the servant who spoke earlier.

Servant: Yes, the nobleman was eating the same meal. They were served from the same dish.
Nobleman: You! You dare to accuse me of murder?!

The nobleman walked towards the servant ready to strike at the man when Shadow stood between him. The nobleman was shocked to see those he viewed as inferior standing in his way.

Nobleman: You dare stand in my way?!
Shadow: Captain, he has a weapon in his sleeve. I believe he is trying to rid the witness.

The captain grabbed the nobleman by his arm and reached into his sleeve to find a dagger inside. The nobleman had shock over his face and struggled to find words.

Captain: Interesting, why do you have a weapon with you?
Nobleman: ...
Captain: Speechless, aren't we? You were hoping to bring a weapon in case your poison didn't work.
Nobleman: Don't be a fool. That dagger was for my own protection.
Shadow: Interesting that you are worried about your protection and came without any escorts.
Nobleman: I don't trust you soldiers to do your job properly.
Shadow: I'm curious about one thing. How is it that you and the prince ate the same meal and you are fine.
Nobleman: What are you implying?
Captain: That is odd. You are fine but the prince is dead already. When did you put the poison in his food?
Nobleman: I have done no such thing. Do you have proof?
Captain: ...
Nobleman: Don't go around accusing others, captain. For that, you will pay the ultimate price.
Cursed: Captain, there's a dagger underneath the noble's chair. There's blood on it.
Captain: What?

The captain moved quickly and saw a dagger he missed earlier. He knelt down to look at the blade and looked over to the body. It took him a few seconds before he caught sight of the body wound.

Captain: So, what have you to say about this?
Nobleman: This is absurd! I have no idea the dagger was there.
Shadow: Are you trying to say you didn't intentionally leave the dagger there? I guess you got sloppy and left it beneath your chair.
Captain: Is that why you were making such a scene? Were you trying to distract us from the weapon until we left?
Nobleman: I didn't approach the prince once.
Shadow: Really?

Shadow approached the servant who was shaking in his boots.

Shadow: Tell us! Did he approach the prince during the meal? Is that why he wishes to kill you?
Servant: Um.... Yes, he did approach the prince. I found it odd at the time but I never thought he would commit such treason.
Nobleman: You! You insolent insect. I'll kill you!

The nobleman charged at the servant with his fist raised but he never made it to the servant. To his surprise, the captain has driven a sword through his abdomen and looked him in the eye.

Captain: I charge you for treason and your punishment will be instant death.
Nobleman: No. I was supposed to be king! King! You will all pay! I will return one day and reclaim my throne. Just you wait!

The nobleman spat out blood and fell to the ground where he was motionless. His lifeless eyes stared at the seat reserved for the monarch and one of his hands reached for it.

[moments before midnight]

Dakon embraced Shadow as they stood outside the gates of Praha. Malina stood under a tree waiting for Dakon to join her. She had her few belongings in his bag and patiently waited for her love to say farewell to his friend.

Dakon: I'm going to miss you.
Shadow: I can say the same. Feels like I found one of my long lost brothers.
Dakon: Try to stay out of trouble, okay?
Shadow: We will. Our job here is almost done. You take care with Malina.
Dakon: That was brilliant work by Cursed.
Shadow: He's knows how to administer his poisons. My advice is not to antagonizing him.
Dakon: I still don't get how we missed that dagger underneath the chair when we entered.
Shadow: It wasn't there when we entered.
Dakon: What?
Shadow: Cursed used the commotion to draw out his dagger and, after taking a quick stab at the corpse to draw a little blood, hid it under the chair.
Dakon: He has quick hands.
Shadow: Yes, he does. Enough with all that. Your lovely wife is waiting for departure. Good luck, my friend. May God watch over you both.
Dakon: Thank you! Let's hope we can meet again one day.

The two men said their final farewells and Dakon walked over to Malina. Dakon and Malina purchased whatever supplies they needed for the trip and decided to leave immediately. They moved to the west where they hoped to start a new life. As for Shadow and his gang, they would eventually return to Hungary where they could retire to a peaceful lifestyle. It was never clear whether or not Dakon and Shadow ever met again later in their lives but it was obvious that they still remembered their brief adventure together.
 
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Section III

Chapter 36 (part 1)

[September 5, 2013]

(Burnaby, Canada)

Matthew rubbed his eyes and looked out the window. There nothing but the gloomy clouds waited outside threatening to rain. Rain, that's what Vancouver was known for, right? Months after he was born, his parents brought him and his brothers to Vancouver so they can see the Pacific Ocean. Considering they came from Alberta, a large body of water was a big deal back then. As a young boy, Matthew used to love running in the rain with his brothers. It was such an exhilarating experience back then. Now, he hated the rain and couldn't tolerate getting wet. As time passed by, his brothers left for other parts of Canada and he was alone in his little condo. The condo was quite nice and his neighbors weren't too bad despite the fact he has never met them. Unlike the old days, one's days went by without the need to know one's neighbors and the world has become a colder place. On the topic of transportation, it was a twenty minute walk to the skytrain so he has no trouble getting around Greater Vancouver. Of course, that was assuming that skytrain wasn't broken down which seemed to be too frequent. Matthew wasn't an active guy and, if he ever needed a stroll, there was a nice bicycle path nearby where many people jogged, strolled or walked their dogs. If he was a few years younger, he might have made a few friends in the community to play tennis at the nearby court.

As much as he wanted to stay in bed, this wasn't a day for him to do so. His grandchildren were visiting him before they return to school the very next day. This was labor day but holiday no longer meant anything to him. Matthew retired for a few years now and he had everyday off. Matthew felt like an old man thinking about his grandchildren and his retirement. Still, he loved the two kids because they have the eyes of his lovely wife. With a smile, he reached his arm beside him and realized that old habits died hard. His wife died the year before and he still tries to wrap his arms around her everyday. Matthew missed his wife dearly but he felt it was too early for him to join her. Refusing to cry, Matthew quickly closed his eyes while thinking about his grandchildren. What were their names again? Ah yes, Thomas and Amy. Those two were going to Selkirk Elementary as grade one students. Matthew worried that, if he closed his eyes any longer, they would be coming as teenagers. Of course, he felt he was pushing his luck with that thought. As teenagers, they would most likely stay away from him like a plague. What would teenagers want from an old man from him? Thinking about aging another ten years made Matthew shudder. Reluctantly, he sat up from his bed and stared at his alarm clock. 8:00 am. Matthew got up and made his way to the washroom. He had a long day ahead of him and he needed to be looking his best. Entertaining two grandchildren wasn't going to be an easy task.

(2 hours later)

Matthew stood in the kitchen with a mug in his hand. He couldn't imagine starting his day without coffee. A decade of coffee could do that to a man. Matthew had a small breakfast consisting of toast and orange juice. It was simple and, most importantly, fulfilled his shrinking appetite. There was a time when Matthew would find that breakfast unsatisfying but age has taken a toll on his stomach. He didn't mind saving money on food and any other expenses that seemed to empty his pockets too quickly. His measly pension wasn't enough to cover most of his expenses and, had his two sons decided to not chip in, he would be sleeping in the streets or still working. What was the use of retiring when one couldn't enjoy it? Most of the savings he had was used to purchase the little condo. Following that, what little savings he had was used in the surgery that was meant to save his wife's life. Matthew's wife was a heavy smoker and it didn't take long before she was diagnosed with lung cancer. Many treatments were used but the doctors were forced to give her a surgery to remove the most damaged part of her lung. The surgery failed and she never recovered from it. She suffered in the hospital until, months after the surgery, she was mercifully spared from the pain with death. Matthew never regretted the decision to marry his wife or spending his savings in an attempt to save her. Matthew was just too bitter that his wife was taken away from him so quickly. He shook his head as he realized that he was thinking about his past once again. There were simply too many regrets and dreams to think back on. Instead, he should look towards the future.

The phone was suddenly ringing and Matthew put down his mug. What was precious to him has finally arrived and he eagerly walked over to the phone. For a brief second, he was worried that his son would tell him that they couldn't make it and would visit him another day. With that thought lingering, Matthew's hand was shaking above the phone. Taking a deep breath, he reached down and grabbed the phone to answer. To his relief, Amy called to him to open the door. To get into the condo, there was a buzzer and the two kids loved pressing it. Matthew pressed the floor of his home and waited for his family to arrive. He opened the door when he heard the knock and was immediately greeted by two energetic children. Amy definitely had features of his wife which was why Matthew spoiled her the most. As for Thomas, he resembled his father the most and his features reminded Matthew of his own grandfather. There wasn't much memory regarding his grandfather except for the remnants of the hunting trips. Matthew never had a chance to go hunting since that day and that only made the memories more valuable. Before he could think back to his past, the two kids rushed into his arms. Matthew didn't realize that he knelt down but the embrace with the two kids made his glad he did so.

"Grandpa!" the two children yelled. Matthew steadied himself from the initial force and looked down at Thomas and Amy.

"Now, you two be easy on your grandpa. He's an old frail man." Alex said to his kids. He looked down and smiled at Matthew. "Hello, father."

"I'm not that old and frail. How about I take you two to my study?" Matthew said to the two kids after smiling back at his son. Thomas and Amy, impatient as always, ran to Matthew's study while telling their grandfather to hurry up.

"Take it easy, father. Those two can be a handful," said Alex when his father turned his back to follow the two kids.

Matthew looked back and said, "You and Peter were a lot worse. Remember the time you two decided to get into a fight at school? I got an earful from your teacher."

"Alright, that's enough from you, Alex," said Mary as she entered the home. "Just let him be with the kids already. They're inseparable the moment the kids step in." Mary looked at her father-in-law with a smile.

"My daughter knows me best!" said Matthew before going into his study where two energetic kids awaited him.

"Grandpa, what took you so long?" asked Amy.

"Patience," responded Matthew. He walked over to his bookshelf. "What do you two want to listen to today?"

"The stories you tell are too boring," said Thomas.

"I loved the stories! Especially the one with Dakon and Malina. They were together and lived happily ever after," rebutted Amy.

"Grandpa never said they lived happily ever after," Thomas said and looked at his grandpa.

Matthew shook his head and used a few seconds to think up his answer. In the end, he came up with "I never said they lived happily ever after but I did imply that was the case."

"See! I told you I was right," screamed Amy.

"I wasn't wrong either," responded Thomas with a scream equally loud.

"Alright, you two. Keep it down or your parents will have to take you away. Let's go over some history then," said Matthew.

"I hope it's more interesting than the stories you were telling," said Thomas.

Matthew ignored the boy's sulking mood and took out a relatively thick volume. "Don't worry, we won't go over everything. We are merely going over the important stuff. Are you two ready?"

"Ya," the two children screamed in unison with excitement. They have been waiting nearly a week to hear their grandpa tell them more stories. With school starting the next day, they knew that their visits to their grandpa would become more infrequent.
 
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Section III

Chapter 36 (part 2)

[September 5, 2013]

(Burnaby, Canada)

Mathew sat down in his single couch with the thick volume in his hands. He opened the cover to the first page.

"This is the alternate history of Hungary," said Matthew.

"Is that the title?" asked Amy.

"Shh!" responded Thomas. "I can't hear him."

"He hasn't started yet," Amy replied.

"He opened the book," rebutted Thomas.

"Alright, you two," said Mathew with a chuckle. "This book doesn't have a title. It simply has a line acting as introduction. Should we continue?"

The two children nodded their heads.



The Hungary nation joined her ally, Poland, in a war against Pommerania. The fighting was fierce on both sides and the Hungarian king sent men far away from home to aid the Polish. They were brave men that weren't sure if they would ever return home. Meanwhile, the Polish army fought the enemy and little progress were made. That is, until the Hungarian soldiers arrived. When the Hungarians arrived, the enemy fled from such a powerful enemy. The Hungarians were fearless in battle and they charged without fear at the enemy. They broke the deadlock between the two sides and they literally won the war for Poland. Of course, their work weren't done yet. The Pommeranian ruler wasn't ready throw in the towel. He still tried to rally his men for his cause. However, even the newly recruited soldiers weren't a match against the Hungarian elites. Pommeranian provinces fell one by one until they were completely occupied. Hungary and Pommerania made a secret deal. Pommerania would be initially annexed before they were allowed to become a vassal of Hungary. The people of Pommerania would be protected by the Hungarian army and Hungary would have a stronger presence in Europe.


"What's a vassal?" asked Amy.

"A vassal is a servant. Even I know that!" said Thomas.

"Well, that's partly right," replied Matthew. "I would say vassal is more like a subject under a king."

"I like grandpa's explanation better," said Amy.

"Should we continue?" asked Matthew.

Once again, the two children nodded.



Following the war with Pommerania, Hungary enjoyed a few years of peace. The king wanted his people to prosper and he needed a rest. He was becoming an old man and couldn't handle the strains of war like he used to. Slowly, the king got ill and had to stay in bed all day. Despite their best efforts, the physicians couldn't cure the king of his illness and he passed away in bed. His son died a few years ago which meant his grandson would be the new monarch. As an infant, the grandson was too young to rule and a regency council was formed for this very occasion. On the death of the king, Croatia was inherited into Hungary. The decades of personal union between the two nations have finally brought the two nations together into a single nation. The king may have died but he has left behind a great legacy. He will be well remembered by many in history.

"What's a personal union?" asked Thomas.

"Oh my, that's a tough question. How should I put it?" pondered Matthew. "To put it simply, a personal union is two nations ruled by one king."

"Why don't they become one single nation then?" asked Amy.

"That was supposed to be my question!" said Thomas.

"An excellent question from you both. I would say it happens so people are happier. It's a hard concept to explain," replied Matthew.

"So the two nation became one?" asked Thomas.

"Yes, inheriting meant the two nations finally became one," said Matthew.

"They become stronger as one, don't they?" asked Amy.

"They sure do. Let's keep going then," said Matthew before flipping over the page.



The regency council didn't sit idle for too long. Even though their power was severely limited, they still gave it their all to make their nation the greatest in the world. Even though the regency council cannot declare war on a foreign nation, they can still expand the Hungarian border. Transylvania has been a vassal of Hungary for more than a decade and they were officially annexed into the great nation. Their provinces would increase the income and manpower of Hungary which, in the long run, will greatly strengthen the nation. Of course, the regency council wasn't finished. As a follow up, they re-established the Golden Bull of 1222. As a result, the nation becomes richer and stronger. While some historians argued that the decision turned Hungary backwards with a shift towards serfdom and more power to aristocracy, many Hungarians at the time believed that the change was for the better. Later history would prove that they were right and the regency council at that era would be remembered like the king they once served.
 
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Section III

Chapter 36 (part 3)

[September 5, 2013]

(Burnaby, Canada)

"A Golden Bull! They must have a lot of gold to make it that big," said Thomas.

"It's probably not made of real gold. It's just a yellow colored bull," said Amy.

"First, the word bull means an edict in this case. An edict is an official order. It was called the Golden Bull because the edict had a golden seal," responded Matthew.

"Was it real gold?" asked Thomas.

"Of course, they needed real gold to show how important it was," replied Matthew. "Are there any other questions?"

The two children shook their heads and Matthew continued.



The instability within the Bohemian court and the many wars with her neighbors has finally destabilized Bohemia. Once holding the throne of the Holy Roman Emperor, Bohemia has been greatly weakened over the decades. Despite the occasional diplomatic tensions between the two nations, Bohemia and Hungary maintained close ties with their many marriages. When an internal conflict killed off all the heirs to the throne, the nobles of Bohemia were forced to turn to the Hungarian king. Hungary has grown stronger despite its limited land expansions. For the Hungarian king, the idea of ruling over two nations was too alluring to reject. The situation in Eastern Europe has changed dramatically with the union of the two medium powers in the region. Hungary, with the Bohemia army under its control, became a force not to be reckoned with. The Hungarian king felt that it was time for his nation to shine and the age of expansion has begun.

"Expansions! I really like hearing about wars," Thomas said.

"I hate wars. Wars kill people and make people homeless," responded Amy.

"You're silly. This isn't real history. No one was actually hurt in these imaginary wars," stated Thomas.

Matthew shook his head and answered, "While these historical events are made up, they aren't far from the real thing. Wars are always interesting but there is an important lesson in all this. You must learn about history so you don't repeat the same mistake. Anyways, let's continue."



Upon learning about the union between Hungary and Bohemia, the Austrian monarch, the current Holy Roman Emperor, decided to launch an attack. The Austrians believed that a swift strike would force the Hungarians to give up their claim to the throne and return the balance of powers in the region. The unexpected war by the Austrians did result in many victories for the aggressor in the initial stages of the war. As the war dragged on, Hungarian troops and Bohemian troops managed to work together in halting the Austrian advances. Bit by bit, the defenders pushed the enemy back and began their attack on Austrian soil. The Austrian Imperial Army was assembled at the Austrian capital to slow down the Hungarian-Bohemian push but, by then, the coalition had all the momentum. At the Battle of Vienna, the Austrian Imperial Army was defeated and the Austrians surrendered. As the aggressor, the Austrians were severely punished with a loss of three precious provinces. The victory for the Hungarians had shocked the world and, as a result, many neighbors of Hungary were hesitant in starting wars fearing a similar fate as Austria.

"Hungary is so powerful. No one can possibly stop them, right?" asked Amy.

"There were still many powerful nations in that time period. I wouldn't count them out just yet. What do you think, Thomas?" asked Matthew.

"Hungary is still too small. You could barely see them on the map. If they grow to be as large as the Mongol Empire, then they are unstoppable," replied Thomas.

"The Mongol? Who are they?" asked Amy.

"Did you go to the library, Thomas?" asked Matthew.

"I sure did. I used the library card dad got me. I used it to borrow a book on one of the greatest empires in the world," announced Thomas proudly.

"I still don't know what you're talking about, Thomas," replied Amy.

"Amy, I'll explain to you another time. Let's keep going, shall we?" asked Matthew.

Thomas nodded immediately and Amy nodded soon after.



Hungary has been home to a Venetian family that has been ousted in the previous Venetian civil war. For decades, the family bid its time for an opportunity to return to Venice to reclaim their place in the Merchant Republic. The opportunity finally arrived when internal struggles within Venice had split the nation up to many pieces. Seeing this as an opportunity, the family requested the Hungarian king to declare war on their behalf. The agreement between the family and the Hungarian king was that, for taking back Venice, the family would use the resources within Venice to support Hungary in her future conquests. The two sides agreed and war was declared. Venice, with its internal struggles, stood no chance against the Hungarian army. However, the Venetian fleet managed to hold the enemy at bay from the Venetian capital. With a cunning and daring plan, a Hungarian general was able to sneak troops to Venezia and force a complete surrender. The family that resided in Hungary return to their proper positions within Venice and Hungary grew stronger with a powerful vassal under her control.

"The family they are talking about is Francisco and Sophie, right?" asked Amy.

"Yes, they're the ones being mentioned here," confirmed Matthew.

"I loved their story, especially Sophie being reunited with Augustyn," said Amy.

"Can we keep going? It looks like we're getting to the good part," interrupted Thomas.

"Alright, let's keep going then," said Matthew.


For the Hungarians, expansion to the west was a poor choice. There were many webs of alliances that could easily turn a small war into a war involving all the major European powers. To her east, Poland was cutting her off from expansion into former Lithuania and the Golden Horde. Therefore, her only possible expansion option involved the Balkans. The Orthodox nations have been fighting over petty conflicts amongst themselves while the Ottomans grew stronger day by day. With a claim on Wallachian territory, war was declared and Bosnia, Serbia, Bulgaria and a number of other smaller nations joined in the coalition against Hungary. The combination of the Bohemian army and Hungarian army defeated the coalition soundly. Bosnia was the first to fall and they were completely annexed. Serbia was defeated next and she lost a single province. Wallachia wasn't fortunate enough to become a vassal of Hungary with the annexation as part of the treaty. The Bulgarians weren't spared and were forced to give up a single province (screenshot not available). The conclusion of the war in the Balkans has made the Ottomans a border of the Hungarians. A clash between the two rising nations would take place and only one nation would be the dominant power in the region.
 
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Section III

Chapter 36 (part 4)

[September 5, 2013]

(Burnaby, Canada)

"Yes! Hungary and Ottomans are neighbors. They will have enormous wars, won't they?" asked Thomas.

"Of course they will. Stop asking dumb questions. When has grandpa let us down?" asked Amy.

"The Hungarian king and the Ottoman ruler agreed on a non-aggression treaty which saw the two nations at peace for the next two centuries," said Matthew.

"Grandpa!" complained Thomas.

Matthew laughed and resumed his history of Hungary.



Sharing border meant the tensions between the two nations were high. As expected, war soon broke out between the two nations in 1431. Initially, the Ottomans were winning many battles for several reasons. First, the Hungarian generals underestimated their enemy which was a mistake they wouldn't soon forget. Secondly, Bohemian reinforcements needed time to arrive at the front lines which meant the Turkish armies met less resistance when they first launched their attacks. The Ottoman generals made the mistake of not capitalizing on their initial victories by remaining passive fearing a counterattack from the Hungarians. Their passiveness gave the Hungarian generals time to regroup with the Bohemian reinforcements. The merging of the two forces would quickly lay waste to the Ottomans soldiers and the tide was turning. It wasn't long before the merged army arrived at the Ottoman capital. The well fortified city proved to be a tough nut to crack but it was no match for the determined European soldiers. The fall of Constantinople forced the Ottomans to discuss a peace deal in 1440 and the Hungarian king acquired large amount of territory. The defeat would mark the decline of the Ottoman Empire and the rise of the Hungarian Empire.

"Hungary won!" screamed Thomas and Amy.

"Alright, you two. You don't want your parents to come in here with your screaming, now do you?" asked Matthew.

The two children, after closing their mouths in a hurry, shook their head and Matthew proceeded forward.



In 1445, the Hungarian king declared another war on the Ottomans. The Hungarian generals learned from their first war and advanced with caution. With careful coordination with Bohemian and Venetian troops, the Hungarian armies were able to push deep into the Asian Minor. Despite many efforts, the Ottomans were unable to fight back the attackers. They fought to the last men but their efforts were in vain in the end. When most of the Ottoman territory were occupied, the Ottoman ruler agreed to discuss a peace offer that saw more of his territory ceded to Hungary. The two defeats would devastate the Ottomans. Their capital would be isolated and their wealth, along with manpower, plummeted. Things weren't looking up for the Turks and it would only get worse with an ambitious and warlike ruler rising to the Hungarian throne few years later.

Matthew waited for a response from the two children but they seemed too scared to open their mouth again. With a chuckle, he turned the page in his book.



With the victory over the Ottomans, the Hungarian king felt he could take on any nation. Luckily, cooler heads prevailed and the king's subject advised him to target Serbia in the next war. Austria, surprisingly, came to the aid of the Serbians and they would pay for their poor decision. Austria would part with another one of their provinces while Serbia, isolated in the Balkans with no reinforcements, would agree to give up some of their territory. Hungary enjoyed a few years of peace before the king decided to declare a second crusade on the Ottomans. Unlike the first war, the Ottomans were severely weakened and lacked the armies to win decisive victories as in the first war. On the defensive, the Ottomans were able to keep the Hungarian armies at bay until the Bohemian soldiers arrived. A few major losses would see the Ottomans without an army. Much of the Ottomans would be occupied but the Hungarian king had his eyes only on one city, Constantinople. The Ottomans, following the previous war, moved their capital seeing how their old capital was completely isolated. Thus, they agreed to the peace deal and the Hungarian king got the city of world's desire in 1458.

Matthew noticed his grandchildren were too excited to talk when he looked up. He would continue the story.


To fully secure their power in the region, Hungary renewed her wars with Serbia and the Ottomans. Serbia would fall first and she was reduced to only a handful of provinces in the Balkans. Meanwhile, the Ottomans was a greater challenge with The Mamluks coming to their aid. The arrival of a new enemy did make things more challenging but they lacked the tools and men to stand up against the merging of Hungarian and Bohemian armies. After nearly seven years of fighting, the Ottomans finally agreed to discuss peace and they would lose their remaining European possessions. The Muslim presence in Europe has been eliminated and the Hungarian king looked to push further into the Asian Minor. The four crusades declared on the Ottomans had pay off with huge dividends. Hungary has nearly tripled in size and her army was feared in the known world. Unfortunately, the king met an early end due to illness and regency council took over. It would be many years before Hungary can resume her expansion and the Hungarian generals eagerly await the chance to fight on the battlefield once again.
 
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Section III

Chapter 36 (part 5)

[September 5, 2013]

(Burnaby, Canada)

A knock on the door had everyone's attention. Matthew saw his son and daughter-in-law standing by the door.

"It's time to go home," announced Alex.

The children were devastated by the news. Just as they were about to complain, Mary walked over to them.

"I know it's a short visit," said Mary. "If you two are good, we can come over tomorrow after school. Okay?"

The two children thought it over and nodded.

"Say goodbye to grandpa, you two," said Alex.

"Goodbye, grandpa!" the two children called out in unison.

Matthew laughed and got up to walk them to the door. After a few more goodbyes, Matthew closed the door behind them. He sat down on the sofa and realized he was exhausted. Matthew closed his eyes and fell asleep almost instantly.

-an hour later-

Thomas and Amy were chatting about the stories when Thomas asked his dad to stop.

"What's wrong?" asked Alex.

"I forgot my cap at grandpa's house," replied Thomas.

"You are forgetful, son," said Alex. "Just like your mother."

"Hey!" complained Mary.

"Let's head back then," said Alex as he did a u-turn heading to his father's house.

-two hours later-

-knock-

Matthew imagined that someone was knocking on the door. He opened his eyes and listened again.

-knock-

Matthew was sure someone was at the door. He tried to think of who was visiting him this late. As he stood up, he looked into his study and saw Thomas' cap. He chuckled and headed to the door. Without checking through the peephole, he opened the door.

"Thomas, why do you ..."

Matthew never got a chance to finish his sentence as two bullets found their way through his heart. Matthew collapsed onto the ground before he could register what happened. Death came swiftly and he felt almost no pain. As for the murderer, he entered the suite heading for the kitchen. Just as he was stepping over the corpse, he heard some racket in the hallway. Taking no chances, he stood with his back against the door and listened. Shortly after, there came a knock on the door and the murderer cursed his bad timing. Thinking quickly, he dashed to the balcony hoping to find a way out. Luckily for him, there were people cleaning the balconies and wires were dangling down. The cleaning crew has already left for home but their wires were still there. Preparing himself, he jumped and grabbed the wire. With care, he dropped himself down the wire until he reached the ground. No one paid attention and the murderer got away undetected.

-meanwhile-

"Why is he taking so long, dad?" asked Amy.

"He probably forgot to lock the door like last time," said Thomas as he tried the door handle.

To everyone's surprise, the door opened and Thomas, excited that he was right, entered before his father could stop him.

"Grandpa!" shouted Thomas.

Alex and Mary, hearing the shout, burst into the room to see Matthew on the ground. Alex saw the bullet wound, grabbed Thomas and took him to the hallway. Mary was already calling the police and ambulance.

"What happened, dad?" asked Thomas.

Alex heard the fear in Thomas' voice and merely hugged him tight. Amy, as though recognizing what happened, started crying. Alex reached over to his daughter, so he could include Amy in the embrace.

"Did grandpa get a heart attack?" asked Amy.

"Yes, his heart gave out," replied Alex who was struggling to contain his emotions. He, along with his two children, started crying. Their racket brought out the neighbors from their suites who, being considerate, chose not to ask anything.

"I've called the ambulance," said Mary as she stepped out the doorway.

The neighbors, hearing that, understood that Matthew may have passed away. They wanted to give the family some space and returned to their suites. Meanwhile, Alex and his children were still crying nonstop. Mary stood above them like a guardian. She knew that she must stay strong for her family to get through this.
 
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Section III

Chapter 37 (part 1)

[September 7, 2013]

(Burnaby, Canada)

"Sergeant Jayce Christou?"

Jayce turned around and saw a man in uniform standing before him.

"Jayce would be fine," he replied.

"I'm Corporal Mattieu Seveu," said the man in uniform. "People call me Matt. How was your flight?"

"The five hour flight wasn't too bad. I'm not too big of a fan in flying."

"Well, I'm afraid you have been assigned a case already. No rest for the weary, I guess."

"A case already? Is your department short on staff? What if I came in late?"

"The number of cases rose recently. I think it's the nice weather that's making the criminals active. As for you being late, I would be stuck here until you arrived."

"What's it about then?"

"We have an old man gunned down."

"Domestic violence?"

"Whoever did it was an outsider. From the initial investigation, it is safe to assume that this isn't gang related."

"What else do we know?"

"The old man died yesterday. We are still gathering information. I think I should drive you to the office where you can get up to date."

"Alright, I just hope you guys brew good coffee. I will need some to stay awake for this case."

"Don't worry, we provide a steady supply of coffee for everyone. It's one of the perks for our job here."

Matt led the way as the two men made it to the police cruiser waiting at the domestic arrival parking. Matt turned on the ignition and they began their journey to the Burnaby Detachment.

-an hour later-

"The traffic wasn't so bad," said Jayce.

"It wasn't?" asked Matt.

"I've seen worse in Toronto. So, this is where the Burnaby RCMP is at?"

"Yes, we are located next to the city hall. Let's head in."

The two officers made their way into the building until they arrived at Jayce's office. There weren't many people working considering that the day was a Saturday. Jayce didn't mind what he saw but Matt apparently wasn't ordered to give him a proper tour.

"You check out the interior," said Matt. "I will get both of us some coffee."

Without another word, Matt left for the kitchen and Jayce checked out his office. The room was small but cozy. A renovation would be nice but Jayce was overall satisfied with what he had. He has seen worse offices and his new office didn't even come close. He was about to sit down when he noticed a folder on his desk. Jayce opened the folder only to find out the contents were related to the case Matt was mentioning earlier. He skimmed through the contents and found it rather thin. Matt entered into the room with two cups of coffee.

"Hard at work?" asked Matt.

"Just skimming through everything," replied Jayce. "Mot much to go on."

"The case is still early in its infancy stage. You have the honors to gather clues and solve it."

"Lucky me," said Jayce as he was sitting down. "What else can you tell me?"

"From what I heard, the victim's family missed him by a few minutes. Whoever the murderer is, he definitely got luck in getting away without a trace."

"You're saying there isn't a single witness? No camera footage?"

"The cameras installed in the condo are more for show than anything. As for witnesses, no one came forward with information yet. As of yet, we don't have much to go on."

"Do I have the honors to speak with the victim's family?"

"The cell number of the victim's son is in the folder. If you feel like you're up for it, you can give him a call now."

"He's willing to speak with me on a Saturday?"

"When I last spoke with them on the phone, I was getting the impression that they are willing to cooperate to get the murderer. If they aren't available today, you could book a time to meet them."

"How will I get around with transportation?"

"I forgot to tell you. I will be your chauffeur for the next few days. We will take care of everything in the upcoming week. Your arrival did catch us off guard."

"I understand."

"My office is down the hall. Give me a call if you need anything."

Matt left Jayce alone and walked to his office. Jayce went over the contents within the folder once again and took some notes. He then picked up the phone to enter the cell number of the victim's son.
 
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Section III

Chapter 37 (part 2)

[September 7, 2013]

(Burnaby, Canada)

"Hi," said the person on the other end.

"Is this Alex?" asked Jayce.

"Yes, who is this?"

"My name is Jayce and I work for the RCMP. I've been assigned to your father's case."

"Hello, officer Jayce."

"Jayce would be fine."

"What do you wish to speak to me about?"

"I was hoping to ask you a few questions if you aren't too busy."

"I'm free right now. Would speaking over the phone work for you?"

"Yes, that would be appreciated. When was the date you found your father's body? It says September 5th."

"That is the date."

"Why were you at his house again?"

"We visited earlier. My son forgot his cap and we went back to retrieve it."

"You found him dead when you returned then?"

"Yes."

"How much time elapsed since you left his home the first time?"

"Let me see. I believe it was two hours."

"Not a lot of time to work with for the murderer. How does he know your father was alone?"

"I'm not sure."

"Did anyone installed something in your father's suite lately?"

"There was an inspection three months ago. Other than that, I don't think a stranger entered the suite."

"Three months is a long time. I doubt the murderer waited that long. Does your father have any enemies?"

"Enemies? I don't think so. He gets along with everybody."

"Did he get any threats over the phone or email?"

"No threats but ...."

"What did you recall? It might be important to the case."

"I remember my father mentioning a person he recently met on the web."

"What do you know about this person?"

"I know he's an American and loves history like my father. They were going to work on some sort of project."

"If my hunch is correct, this project might be related to your father's death. Is it possible for me to access your father's computer?"

"Of course, I'm free today if that works for you."

"That would be great. I'll pick up at your place. Bye."

"Bye."

Jayce quickly took down notes on his latest findings after hanging up the phone and ran out his office. A few minutes later, he and Matt got into a cruiser and headed to Alex's house.

-2 hours later-

Alex unlocked the door to the suite and entered the suite with Jayce and Matt following behind him.

"Where did you find your father's body?" asked Jayce.

"It was right here," replied Alex as he pointed to the spot where his father was lying down.

"Based on that," said Jayce, "I would say the murderer shot your father the moment he opened the door. Chances are he didn't even react."

"I still don't know why someone would want to take my father's life," said Alex.

"I think he stumbled onto something big and someone wants to silence him," Matt replied. "By the way, who left this message on the answering machine?"

Alex saw Matt pointing towards the blinking light and walked over. After a few buttons pressed, the answering machine began to repeat the message.

Hello Matthew,

I'm Detective Jim from the Los Angeles Police Department. I understand that you have recently started a project with a man called Chris. There is a complication regarding Chris and I hope you can call me. Please contact me by this number: xxx-xxx-xxxx. Thank you and hope to hear from you soon.


Jayce and Matt looked at each other. Alex was scratching his head.

"What is that all about?" asked Alex.

"I think Matt is right about your father stumbling into something," replied Jayce who quickly noted the detective's number in his notepad.

"You're saying that this Chris person might be responsible for my father's death then?" asked Alex.

"I won't have the answers until I call this detective. We'll drop you off at your house and contact Detective Jim. He might be able to shed some light on our case."
 
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Section III

Chapter 37 (part 3)

[September 7, 2013]

(Burnaby, Canada)

Jayce and Matt dropped Alex at his home before heading back to Burnaby Detachment. As soon as Jayce returned to his new office, he took out his notepad and briefly looked over all his notes. He then entered the detective's number on his phone and, following a few rings, someone answered on the other end.

"Hello?" asked the person on the other side.

"Is this Detective Jim?" asked Jayce.

"Yes, I am him. Who is this?"

"I'm Jayce from the RCMP."

"RCMP? I hope I'm not in trouble with you Canadians up north."

"I'm calling regarding a man you are looking for."

"Are you referring to Matthew?"

"Yes, he's a person of interest here."

"He's a criminal then?"

"Sorry, I wasn't clear. Matthew is dead."

"Dead?"

"Yes, he was found dead on the 5th of September."

"What was his cause of death?"

"He took two shots to his heart."

"..."

"Are you still there, Detective Jim?"

"I'm still here."

"May I ask about the man you mentioned in your call?"

"What man?"

"I believe his name is Chris."

"Chris? Ah yes, he was apparently a partner of Matthew in a new project."

"What do you know about Chris?"

"Chris was killed. He, too, took two shots to his heart."

"Is there a chance that the two cases are related?"

"I'm not entirely sure ..."

Suddenly, a couple of gunshots were heard outside the office. Jayce quickly grabbed his weapon and opened his door slowly. The first thing he saw was Matt's lifeless eyes staring back at him. Matt was clutching at his gunshot wounds and Jayce counted four well aimed shots. Taking a deep breath, he leaped into the hallway pointing his gun at where he suspected the gunman was at but the gunman was nowhere to be seen. He knew Matt was already dead and he needed some backup. He had a feeling that his partner's death wasn't the handiwork a crazy gunman. Instead, he was facing a professional and he needed to be careful. He proceeded to the end of the hallway with caution while pointing his gun forward. Just as he was reaching the end of the hallway, he caught some movement in the corner of his eye. He directed his gun towards the person but the gunman already let loose three shots. One shot found his head and the other two found his heart. Jayce was dead before he hit the floor.

The gunman headed to Jayce's office and found Jayce's notepad. He took out his lighter and burned the notepad along with all the other documents related to the case into ashes. Walking out the office, the gunman exited through the rear of the building where he got into a vehicle he stole earlier. Turning on the ignition, the man drove to the airport so he could eliminate a few more targets.

-later that day-

Welcome to CBC news network. We wish to first bring you a story of a fire that took place in Burnaby. A suite of a condo in Burnaby suddenly burst into flames and the residents of the condo were quickly evacuated. The suite was home to an old man that was recently murdered. At the moment, firefighters are still combating the flames which has been fierce all afternoon. The police has yet to confirm whether or not the explosion is related to the old man's death. They claim that they won't be jumping to conclusions until investigators can arrive at the crime scene to determine the cause of the explosion.

Police was called in to investigate a house in Surrey earlier today. Upon gaining access to the home, police have discovered a family of four murdered in their home. The family was well liked in the neighborhood and their neighbors were shocked by their deaths. Police have yet to disclose anything as they are still investigating. Police is asking anyone with information to step forward and provide it to them.

 
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Section III

Chapter 37 (part 4)

[September 7, 2013]

(Burnaby, Canada)

"Damn it!" said the RCMP officer as he hit the wall with his fist.

"Wallace, calm down," said another man.

"Easy for you to say. You aren't even part of the RCMP."

"In case you didn't know, I knew Jayce quite well."

"I apologize for getting out of line there."

"That's fine. I know how you feel."

"Losing two officers to an unidentified man. That's tough."

"Whoever killed them is a professional."

"Why are you here, Jake?"

"What do you mean?"

"Well, you are part of the CSIS. Shouldn't you be undercover on the streets?"

"You watch way too many movies."

"You haven't answer my earlier question."

"Well, we got a call from the Americans. Thinking that this criminal might be traveling back and forth across the borders, I thought I should investigate this. Of course, I owe it to Jayce's wife to find the killer."

"Is there something between you and his wife?"

"Our wives are close and I'm doing it as a friend."

"You think I believe you? You must have an ulterior motive."

"Cut it out. What have you found out so far?"

"Both officer Matt and Jayce have several bullet wounds. Matt's gun was fired a few times but they all hit the wall. Jayce didn't even get a chance to fire his weapon."

"In case you weren't aware, Jayce is, or was, quite a marksman."

"If he was so tough, why couldn't he get a shot off?"

"The gunman is probably from the military. He knew how to position himself and catch others off guard. Jayce was, unfortunately, not trained these kinds of scenarios."

"There's one more thing. I find some ashes on Jayce's desk. If I had to guess, I would assume that the gunman burned something before leaving."

"Must be important if he risked discovery by burning it. Are there cameras here?"

"There are cameras but the gunman was wearing a mask."

"Did any cameras catch the vehicles he was riding in?"

"The cameras did get a license plate but that isn't going to help us."

"Why?"

"The call I got a few minutes ago revealed that the vehicle was found at the airport."

"The gunman has escaped the country then."

"I'm afraid so."

"Did you find the owner of the vehicle then?"

"I got some guys on the job. We haven't received any reports of stolen vehicles that match the vehicle."

"I recall that you say Matt fired his gun but Jayce didn't."

"Yes."

"Don't you find it odd that Matt got shots off? I'm not trying to insult Matt but I would think Jayce would be better with a weapon."

"That is odd now that you mention it."

"What if the gunman let Matt fire those shots?"

"Wouldn't that alert Jayce of his presence?"

"The gunman might not know who was working today."

"You're saying he was trying to lure out everyone so he could calculate his odds?"

"There might be a second reason."

"Do explain."

"We know that an office has a desk and other furniture. If you wanted someone dead, would you risk failure by attacking someone where they can take cover?"

"I could see what you are going with that. Human instinct would force Jayce to take cover behind his desk. If the gunman doesn't mortally wound him, Jayce would still be a threat."

"If Jayce was out in the hallway, he had no cover."

"This gunman is brilliant."

Wallace's cell rang and he picked it up. Following a brief conversation, he hanged up his cell with a troubled expression.

"What's with that look?" asked Jake.

"Things have gotten worse," replied Wallace.

"What happened?"

"You know about that stolen vehicle?"

Jake nodded.

"The vehicle belonged to a man called Alex. A few officers were at his home an hour ago and discovered that his entire family was murdered."

"The officers were at his home?"

"I got a call about an explosion that ripped apart Alex's residence. The officers posted there were all killed by the explosion."

"The situation just got messier."

"Do you want to go to the Alex residence?"

"Let's go. We are done here. Let the other officers take care of the bodies."
 
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