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    Real Strategy Requires Cunning

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Congrats buddy. Well done.
 

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comagoosie: thank you for all of your support ! help yourself to some of the champagne and caviar XD

rcduggan: thank you for dropping by , mr. duggan !

grayghost: don't worry , ole man , we'll get 'em good next time ! XD
 

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Remble said:
Congrats once again :)

In a break from my normal reading I am actually reading this backwards, which will no doubt leave me totally lost when I get to page 1 and wonder where I actually started.

Very good so far though.

Greetings Remble !! Glad to have you with us ! Please make yourself at home and have some of the leftover champagne !!

As for the rest of you , the new update will be done around noonish eastern time today so please stay tuned for that !
 

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Even though I haven't been here long, I just wanted to say congrats! This is no small achievement!
 

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Throne said:
Even though I haven't been here long, I just wanted to say congrats! This is no small achievement!

We have no pretence here , sir ! Glad to have the support from anyone ! We hope you stay for a while too :D

Update is progressing nicely !
 

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canonized said:
One Whole Year of Win !​



That's right ladies and gentlemen , the AARland Choice AwAARds Results have just been released and we once again took home Favourite EU3 Overall and Favourite Narrative EU3 !! This means we've won these categories for one whole year !!


That's right , Giren ! Perhaps not the ultimate vindication , but it's great to see the support we've been getting . I'd like to thank all of you properly and I'll do so in a speech I'll deliver (as is tradition) on the ACA results so I'll add that link here when it goes up .

Thank you all again and let's continue to pave the way to the future !

SIEG TIMELINES !​

thank god... Maybe now my PM box will remain free of "vote now" messages :p

congrats :)
 

unmerged(59077)

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Congratulations Armi! That's an impressive string of successes!

Too bad you didn't get Comedy; my attempts didn't quite go viral. Oh well.
 

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ForzaA: Hey ! It was only one PM XD ! But thank you !

RGB: Haha , no didn't exactly take hold but that's okay haha .

Update coming in about 15 minutes . Just proofreading to do now !
 

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chapter84tile.gif


Chapter LXXXIV: Thugs​

2 April 1610

“Arturo, please don’t make more trouble…” the tall one hissed while holding back his companion’s shoulder from crossing the threshold of the shaded building corner into the moonlit street.

“José… let go of me,” Arturo protested as he pulled away from his friend’s terrified grip. As soon as he got one hand off of his shoulder, however, another one clamped onto the other like a grappling hook.

“Please, Arturo!” the older one pleaded. In the darkness provided by the town building, José watched his slightly lanky friend resist his talon grip. “There’s five of them… you can’t do anything by yourself.”

“Maybe if you helped me once in a while, José!” was the low but bitter response. Arturo was quickly interrupted by his friend who pulled him back into the obscurity of the alley.

“They are soldiers, Arturo! No one in their right mind would go up against them!” the older one hammered to his companion with both of his hands now pulling at both of Arturo’s bony shoulders. His eyes, conveying desperation to calm his friend reflected dully the faint starlit aura of the Mexican evening.

“Soldiers,” Arturo spat on the ground audibly, “real soldiers are the ones that they recalled to fight in Spain and Africa.” The younger one stopped moving and exchanged José’s harrowed stare with his own intense glare. “These militiamen are nothing more than thugs… Without the army here, they think they run the place… and they take our money and our best food… I can’t forgive them.” With that he turned towards the street once more.

José’s hand lassoed at Arturo’s wrist and pulled the shorter one back into the alley nearly knocking him off balance. “I’m sorry for what happened to your mother’s store, Arturo—” and here, although only halfway through the sentence, José could see how his words immediately affected his younger friend. The steely gaze of the sixteen year old visibly betrayed a softer film as soon as he mentioned the store. “… but your mother,” José persevered even as he could feel Arturo’s rage dampen again his grip, “would never forgive you for getting yourself hurt.”

As the two shadow-draped figures stared at each other in the alley, the reveling voices that had only a few seconds before sounded like faint musings of the evening wind now burst forth in drunken merriment. Five privates with uniforms barely resembling that of the Imperial regiments’ filed past the frozen darkness of the alley without a second look.

It was a tense moment and it was as if both figures temporarily melded into the evening night and became part of the landscape of the streets and alleys of Veracruz. José had been too afraid to give away their presence and Arturo was too emotionally stirred to find the resolve to turn to face them. Instead, the five militiamen passed with no one to disturb their drunken songs or their curly and bawdy jokes.

When those rude voices reduced themselves to inebriated buzzing in both of the boys’ ears, Arturo shrunk away from José’s grip with a frustrated sigh ventilating through his grit teeth. As José looked at him with a mixture of relief and sympathy, Arturo could only look down at the dirt of the alley with shame and frustration.

“Let’s go home…” José asked with a miniature of his previous pleading. “It’s getting late—”

Arturo turned away from him and leaned harshly against the side of the building as if he was trying to tip the entire world back from being up-side-down. “You can go home, José,” the younger one said harshly. “Back to your hacienda with your German father to protect you…”

José curled his lip at Arturo’s back but stepped forward onto the street anyway. “I’m your friend, Arturo,” José told him angrily, “I hope someday you’ll realize that I was being your friend tonight too.” José didn’t waste another second but started walking up the road back to his home.

Arturo grit his teeth harder and shoved himself off the wall. “José, wait…” the younger one said as he too stepped into the moonlight. Turning up his head towards his friend, he nearly bumped into that man’s back. Only a few steps away from the alley and José stood still. “Hey… what’s…” Arturo only had to look past his taller friend to similarly become transfixed.

Those same five soldiers that had just passed them by were circled around a young lady a few yards up the road. It was with this sight that Arturo could feel his heart smashing against the cage of his ribs. He took a step forward but José’s arm quickly barred his way. “What do you think you’re doing?”

“I can’t believe you have to ask!” Arturo’s head shot up momentarily to shoot José between the eyes with his indignation before pressing away from that restraining arm.

“Think of your mother!” José hissed at him still hoping not to be detected by the militiamen.

Arturo turned around coldly at him. “And someday she might be a mother too, José.”

“And do you think you can save her?” José retorted before Arturo could turn around.

“No,” the young one admitted swiftly, “but maybe… she can get away.” No more was said. Unhooked from José’s restraints, Arturo stormed up the road at the sneering men wobbling around in their drunken state surrounding the young woman. “‘Ey! Cholos!” Arturo called out to them.

Like crooked faced hyenas the five soldiers craned their drunken necks at the shadow that approached them in the darkness of the night. At first, stern faces greeted him but as his moonlit outline became more visible to the men, a low rupture of laughter surged from their alcohol filled bellies.

“Who are you calling cholo?” one of them asked half chortling himself drunk. The five of them now stepped away from the young woman and formed a gaggle of unkempt uniforms and mostly empty bottles against the lone figure.

“I’ll take care of him,” one of them said slurring his words as he handed off his drink to one of his friends. Approaching Arturo with a heavy foot, he raised his dirty fists between him and the young boy’s unflinching stature. “I’ll teach you a lesson to respect us, boy!”

The first swing was the only one he managed. Arturo had stepped to the side and took advantage of the man’s balance and lobbed his wiry frame against the man’s stomach to tackle him sideways. A plume of heavy dust covered the two at first and the other four were puzzled at what just happened. There was no sound of laughter, only the low moan of their companion on the ground squirming against the floor.

Arturo gave a short grunt as he heaved himself from the heavier body and stood up with half of his body covered in the dry powder of the road dust. “You’ve done it now, boy!” one of them yelled out at him as he stepped forward and caught Arturo off-balance. As the young man tried to back away from the incoming fist, his ankle caught onto the still laying foot of the fallen one and he stumbled backward.

Although the first swing failed, Arturo was now sitting against the road when the second blow came down to his face. The sound of knuckle against flesh let out a loud thud into the cold air. It was only a second after the fist connected with Arturo’s cheek and the back of his head meeting the relatively softness of the road that José lunged at the one on top of Arturo. The two tall figures entangled against the earth to Arturo’s side.

The young man’s head was still dizzied and uneven from the blow when he sat up. The wavy figures of the two other men were already growing larger in his vision. Noise of bitter resentment was evident in his ear even though he could not discern the words. “Get up, boy!” he finally heard as both came upon him.

Rude hands took hold of his shoulders and pulled him upward. Although his body was still reeling from the shook of the head blow, he managed to see the figure of the young lady standing where it was before. She must be as stunned as he was, he thought. “Run!” he groaned out to her as one of the two men held him up by his arms and the other now stepped in his line of sight eclipsing the vision of the lady.

With all of his energy, Arturo attempted to pull away from the one restraining him from behind but his lanky frame could do nothing against the heavier man. A fist drew itself back and Arturo closed his eyes. Only “Ave Maria…” escaped his lips in time.

Like the sound of a boulder splitting in two, a whack dominated the ears of all. Arturo opened his eyes with a jump as he noticed the whites of the soldier’s eyes in front of him cross before the whole frame in front of him fell to the ground. He called out for Our Lady and what he received was the figure of the young lady holding an umbrella in her laced hands still in the poise that had knocked down the one now languishing on the ground.

Arturo puzzled at the smile that was beaming at him as radiantly as the crescent moon above. And like the evening rush of ocean wind, a slice of air crashed against his cheek as the parasol of the young lady thrust over his shoulder and hit the man holding him from behind right in between his eyes. As the man behind him tumbled, Arturo felt himself pulled back but the stranger grabbed his wrist and kept him upright.

Cocking his head to the right, he could see the last man who had been wrestling with José come up from behind. Before Arturo could say a warning word, the young lady bent down on one knee and thrust her parasol back with a swift motion. Jutting backward and then forward again like a hammer, it made contact with the incoming man. Arturo gasped in surprise at the expression on that man’s face as he collapsed on the floor a hint of redness blotting the fabric between the man’s legs.

“Who…” Arturo tried to say as José wobbled over in similar shock. His wrist was gently released.

“Do you know where the Apothecary is?” the girl asked him with her smile quickly fading.

“Are you hurt?” Arturo asked assuming the stranger needed some kind of medicine. In the melee, he could barely realize the strange accent on the young lady’s lips.

“No,” she replied, “but my Uncle needs some drugs immediately.”

---​

3 April 1610

“Will this work?” Madeleine asked Riku as the pale figure of Renault de Fronsac rested on the bed to their side.

“Temporarily,” Riku admitted to Madeleine. “I’ve been trying to figure out what it was that poisoned your uncle. I’ve been distilling the wine out of the bottle and it turned out to be some kind of Red powder. I don’t know if it’s red because of the burgundy or because it is that way to begin with.”

Madeleine’s eyes tore themselves away from Riku and eased a little towards the blanketed form of her uncle. “What can we do?”

“I don’t know if there’s anything we can do,” Riku sighed out, “as far as I know from the tests I’ve done on the powder, it’s very slow acting. There wouldn’t be symptoms for a long while.”

“So he could have drunk it a long time ago and only got sick now?” Madeleine asked while still fixing her eyes towards the one sleeping on the bed.

“Months beforehand probably,” Riku said, “though I don’t understand why anyone would use a poison like that…”

“They wanted to keep him alive long enough for us to reach here,” Madeleine’s unique intelligence informed her. “If he had died on the voyage, we would have known it was someone on the ship, but since he only came down with it after we reached port, whoever was on the ship who poisoned him had a chance to escape. They also wanted it to be slow so that my uncle would know what was happening in time to give me this.” She held up a piece of parchment and presented it to Riku.

“A map?” Riku deduced.

“Yes, to the location of the Timepiece. He wrote it up as soon as he figured out he had been poisoned. Whoever did this wanted to make sure we would still know how to get there… that’s why they used this method…”

“I’m afraid there’s nothing much else I can do here—we’d have to go back to Madrid to…”

“Excuse me,” a voice from the corner called out. Madeleine turned around and saw Arturo standing there with the medicines she had requested still in his hands. “I think I know what can cure whatever it is that’s afflicting your uncle…”

“Who is this again?” Riku asked out loud.

“Tell me,” was Madeleine’s immediately response ignoring Riku’s confusion.

“I’m the son of the Apothecary, sir,” Arturo replied to the one standing behind Madeleine. “My friend José and I go to the local seminary...” Arturo turned to Madeleine. “My mother has been called upon by the doctors around here to try and figure out this poison before… it’s been happening around here a lot lately. A slow poison that kills after months of ingesting whatever it was it was in. The Constable, before he got called away with the expedition back to Spain, said that it was the assassin’s way of ensuring he got away. They’ve already killed a few important people in the surrounding cities.”

“So the assassin is based here…” Riku said to himself.

“You said you knew of a cure?” Madeleine reiterated as she took a step towards the young man. Arturo made a face.

“Not really a cure… but a treatment that my mother’s been trying to develop. We haven’t tried it out if it works yet…”

Madeleine quickly turned towards Riku who gave her a sharp nod. Turning back to Arturo she said, “Let’s go back to your Mother’s.”

interlude2.gif


Interlude​

“An experimental treatment?” Rodrigo asked with his eyes sagging with tiredness.

“Yes,” the doctor replied with a stoic nod of his head. “Whatever was put into him is very similar to the kind of psychotropic substances that we’ve encountered especially amongst Great War veterans. I think we’ll be able to treat Mr. Royce properly but we won’t know until the treatment takes hold. I’ll have a report for you in a few hours if it’s working or not.”

Rodrigo audibly sighed and sat back down onto the seat of the waiting room. “Thank you, doctor,” was his only response.

The military hospital gave Rodrigo another sterile feeling and as the doctor moved back into the hallway, Rodrigo sat back on the cushioned chair and looked towards the strange stucco texture of the room’s ceiling. It seemed… so unfamiliar to him. Carlos, Lara, and Hayato were all probably sleeping—another night’s rest in their exile.

The memories of the past few weeks were like pieces of hail against his steely resolve: barely denting it but still making too much noise to ever be comfortable. He closed his eyes and absorbed what the doctor had told him. Thinking of Thomas only brought about the harsher memories. A few weeks back they had gone into the bowels of the building where Carlos had taken Tom and he remembered the look of terror on Tom’s face when they first found him.

What he remembered the most about the experience was not the strange doctor’s getaway or Carlos’s own surprise at the whole affair, but the look of soullessness in Tom’s eyes. “I’m sorry…” he sighed out. Feeling himself drifting closer to sleep, he opened those lids and stood up: time to get some coffee.

---​

Rodrigo hovered his fingers above the steaming surface of the cup to test the temperature as he stood in the lounge. Looking at the swirls in his drink, it reminded him just how chaotic the world around him was becoming. He resisted the urge to squeeze the Styrofoam vessel in frustration. His father had told him that being someone entrusted with the responsibilities tied to the world would not be easy, but he never knew it would put his friends into so much peril.

It was through the corner of his eye during his contemplation that he saw the rushing of nurses with a familiar form laid about bloodily on the gurney. Rodrigo took in a sharp breath and stopped himself from dropping his drink. It was in this spot of acute awareness that he saw a glimmer of light further down the hall. Switching focus, he caught the tail end of Pablo turning into Tom’s ward. Rodrigo abandoned his hot drink and started to race down the hall.

Chapter LXXXV: Race Against Time (coming soon)
 

Woody Man

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Haha good old Madeleine, just when I thought Arturo was done for,

The assasinations are an interesting thing, seems like there's a wave of them going around the place, all by one person, or at least, by one organisation...


Excellent chapter as always! :D
 

canonized

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English Patriot said:
Haha good old Madeleine, just when I thought Arturo was done for,

The assasinations are an interesting thing, seems like there's a wave of them going around the place, all by one person, or at least, by one organisation...


Excellent chapter as always! :D

Thank you kindly ! And yes , Good ole Maddy XD . Though our guest Spanish speaking guest stars didn't do so badly , eh ? XD
 

Capibara

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:D Great update, I like the new character :p, hehe. Let's hope Renault survives with some help of Arturo's mother.
 

canonized

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Capibara said:
:D Great update, I like the new character :p, hehe. Let's hope Renault survives with some help of Arturo's mother.

Haha , I was hoping you'd like it !
 

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Pah... Why does it seem like the Spanish are getting beaten in detail at their very own game, namely plotting in the shadows?

How did such a bunch of incompetents ever conquer the world? :p

Also, nice cliffhangers... :mad:

:p
 

canonized

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Avernite said:
Pah... Why does it seem like the Spanish are getting beaten in detail at their very own game, namely plotting in the shadows?

How did such a bunch of incompetents ever conquer the world? :p

Also, nice cliffhangers... :mad:

:p

Haha , beaten at their own game sometimes , yes . Everybody's gotta die sometime , red ! Just a difficult climb that's all XD
 

unmerged(59077)

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Haha , beaten at their own game sometimes , yes . Everybody's gotta die sometime , red ! Just a difficult climb that's all XD

Besides, what are protagonists without dangerous and nefarious enemies?

I thought they were actually doing well enough as it was...
 

canonized

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RGB said:
Besides, what are protagonists without dangerous and nefarious enemies?

I thought they were actually doing well enough as it was...

Exactly XD . And they are doing pretty well . The Loss of Jerusalem and the entire Middle East is tenuous .
 

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