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Congrats, Monnikje
 

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You're welcome :D it was great to have you on !
 

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I'm gone for 2 weeks and you've only done 1 update... What have you been doing canonized? :p
Not updating enough, that's for sure, haha.

Haha glad to see you about XD Will be working on it
 

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So did they get that timepiece for Persia or not?

Cause it's been so long since an update I'm forgetting what's going on...!
 

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So did they get that timepiece for Persia or not?

Cause it's been so long since an update I'm forgetting what's going on...!

working on the update right now as we speak actually XD
 

trekaddict

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Then what are you still waiting for?

Haha , had to take care of something earlier today , but at least now I should have a free hand ... after dinner XD
 

Davout

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Haha , had to take care of something earlier today , but at least now I should have a free hand ...

Too much information. You know that will make you go blind, don't you?!?
 

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Ahhh...why are all AARs turning creepy! Is everyone trying to give me nightmares or something?

Now that the Emperor is dead, will the unhappy Empire start to crumble? Will Spain bounce back and control the world? Hmmm...questions, always questions :p
 

canonized

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Too much information. You know that will make you go blind, don't you?!?

Sometimes you do embarass even me , Davster XD XD

Ahhh...why are all AARs turning creepy! Is everyone trying to give me nightmares or something?

Now that the Emperor is dead, will the unhappy Empire start to crumble? Will Spain bounce back and control the world? Hmmm...questions, always questions :p

Haha , for some reason I've been enjoying the nightmarish interludes . don't fall asleep too quickly , goose ! :D
 

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temporarypuzzleplate8.jpg


Chapter CXLIV: Decisive Confrontation​

15 April 1643

Van's hand ached quietly in the mysterious young man's grip. It was a different kind of discomfort than the usual tense and abusive holds of the various rapacious 'targets' of his profession. No, this wasn't the lustful hold of a perverse patron. Perhaps that's why it burned against his palm. There was something different about the soft gentile fingers that curled around his knuckles. He wanted to pull away. It somehow felt familiar, but he thought it deadly at the same time.

The tunnels ahead of him, where the young nobleman was leading him through, twisted and dropped unexpectedly as if an earthquake had rent the intricate cistern system under the Vatican into a manifold labyrinth. Van's golden accessories that hung from were dropped away one by one, hoping that to the young man leading him, it would only appear as if these trinkets were being shed away due to the pace they kept up. His original plan was to discard the costume after the Baron had been dispatched to make it easier to sneak about, but with the turn of events, it didn't seem as if he could show his true identity quite yet.

Why not just kill him and get it over with? a voice in his head triggered as they rushed past another dark corridor. The water in the middle of the tunnel flowed slowly and sometimes there would be no water at all. The darkness of the hallways was interrupted only by the presence of half lit torches barely attended to. They suddenly halted and the young man ahead of Van stopped short of a corner and pressed his back against the wall. Van felt the young man grip tighter and Van went flat against the stone as well. He could hear it too: the sound of footsteps. A patrol.

The young man ahead of him flashed his face at Van with a silent finger over his lips before swiveling back and peeking across the corner. The patter of boots, metal, and leather began to edge away and Van could see the back of the young man's head slip past the corner to get a better look. Those blue eyes turned back to him once more and the foreign words “Venez” escaped his guide's lips as the two of them crossed the intersection silently and then faster down the hall as it descended lower into the ground. They stopped at the next intersection and waited again.

When Van spoke, he could hardly tell it was his voice. His whisper felt like he was watching himself talk in his dream. Nonetheless, the Spanish words for “What's your name?” clearly leapt off his lips. He was surprised he said it, and he perceived the young noble who turned his head swiftly was just as surprised.

“So you know Spanish?” the boy seemed to light up as he asked Van.

“Little,” Van replied quietly. He was quite fluent in the language having picked it up from the tutors of General Tariq, but he was in no mood to make the boy in front of him get any more curious than he should.

“My name is Étienne,” the boy replied with a quirky grin.

“Étienne...” Van rolled the name across his tongue in imitation as if it was a piece of candy.

“What about your name?” Étienne asked in return.

Van froze for a moment. His lips, hidden underneath the veil, was ready to say something. It was ready to say a dozen different names of different female whores. The back of his throat, however, tightened, and no air would escape. What was this hesitation? Those eyes awaited his response and despite a dozen more ready names, he could only say one. “Van...” he said desperately.

“Enchanté, Van,” the boy said. Van was suddenly conscious that during their introduction, their hands remained locked. He suddenly felt a wave of confusion: why did he tell him his real name? Well not his real name... at least the name he chose to call himself after—but still. Did he want this boy to know? Of course the Frenchman would have no idea... being the westerner that he was, he probably wouldn't have blinked if Van had said his name was Babur. Van could only nod to the young man's words of greeting before they moved forward again.

By the time Van felt the cold rush of the Roman night against his half exposed skin, it must have been three in the morning. Van could feel the rush of sleep-air as Étienne pushed a stone slab to the side and traces of the moon's beams invaded the darkness of their tunnel. Van could not help but look past the boy's shoulder at the silver darkness outside. Heavy greens mixed with the diamond diffusion of moonlight against water wound about stone and marble until Van's eyes adjusted to comprehend the Papal Gardens that now unfolded before them.

Étienne eased out of the tunnel which had doubled as a wall with Van quietly in tow. Van's eyes immediately shot about the internal confines of the gardens and marked his route: the palace apartments were to his left and, with all of the Swiss guards undoubtedly looking for an intruder from without, he could move inside the gardens with relative impunity. His calculations were swiftly disrupted as the circuit between his hand and Étienne's disconnected: the young Frenchman had to use both of his hands to reseal the wall in its proper spot.

Van turned his head to the young man diligently working to close the entrance and watched him quietly. His hand was still outreached as if the memory of Étienne's grasp suspended his arm in the air. His fingers closed in on his palm feeling that it was suddenly naked and a chill passed over his empty hand which was suddenly exposed to the night air. His lips moved to say something, but his muscles seized. There was a different impulse in his body that made him suddenly conscious of the pin hidden in the folds of his disguise. The young man's back was turned. One small prick of the needle and he would be gone... Gone. He reached for the metal spike steadily as Étienne put the rock into place.

---​

“That should do it, I--” Étienne whispered as he turned. Only the empty shadows underneath the trees and between the bush paths were listening to him. A small flash of silk flickered somewhere down the path and turning into one of the palisades like a falling star. Étienne did not hesitate, he ducked low behind some of the bushes hiding from phantom patrols before slinking as fast as he could down the path and similarly into the umbrage of the adjacent palisade. “Van?” he tried to call out, but there was no answer. Instead, the click of a door broke the silence somewhere along the wall.

Étienne raced towards that location and tried the handle only to find it locked. What is she doing? he asked himself before he heard footsteps pattering above him—bare feet. On the balcony? he asked himself. He tried the door again in desperation but only the heavy thuds of unyielding metal vibrated against his grip. He stepped backward and into the garden space looking up at the columns to a balcony above. He lunged against one of the columns gripping with all his might the slippery consistency of the architecture. His fingers, finding traction along the grooves of the short support tower. His boots hit against the stone platform where the column stood and he lunged upward with a ferocity that he nearly bruised his cheek against the cold metal face. His fingers succeeded in communicating with the upper tier of the balcony before his hand pulled his young frame up and over the railing.

As Étienne scrambled back to his feet and caught his breath, he leaned against the portal that lead to the hall within. As he moved his head into the hall he could see the red carpet flash across the corridor like a wine-dressed river. It separated into an intersection immediately in front of him so that he was standing at the bottom of an up-side-down T. The candles that remained on were only dimly illuminating the hallway that seemed to be lined with tables, portraits, and other artifacts of style and office.

He squinted his eyes as he could detect, on the far end of the dim hallway directly in front of him was Van carefully moving among the doors on the far end. Is she trying to find a way out? he worried himself with this thought as he stepped forward to pass down the sine of the T towards her position. It was no sooner that he had entered into the corridor that behind him he could hear the soft bootsteps of patrolmen. He quickly leaned his head backwards and grabbed hold of the corner of the hallway to see across: two Swiss were filing down another hallway a few feet away parallel to where he was standing now. He allowed himself a sigh of relief before looking forward again. Étienne saw Van, however, moving to a small hall to the left—one which would lead to that parallel corridor.

Étienne rushed forward, crossing the distance a lot quieter and a lot faster than even he expected and just as that figure in front of him was about to disappear from sight behind the left turn, Étienne's hand reached out desperately.

---​

One thing was looming in his fragmented and divided mind: That damn Egyptian struck him: Midhat. The vertigo was a loyal companion to him. Like a Sufi's twirl, he felt himself suspended in motion. His head throbbed from the bruise with little respite. He opened his eyes barely, the black shadows prancing around gaily before him in a tantalizing dance like a midsummer night's dream. He moaned loudly as the suffocating pain flooded his awakening senses. No one answered his assertions of ache.

He looked around, the tied bodies sprawling around him like corpses strewn across a battlefield. They were in the Qubtan's cabin. The knot was tight as he began to struggle faintly, the thick rope strangling his emaciated body ridiculously. Like a serpent grabbing hold of a little mouse. Nothing to be done in both cases, he thought. Dejected, his mouth muttered yet another mindless prayer. He sighed with the sharpening of his vision. But what use is it to perceive when one is immersed in the true darkness of fate and destiny? "Allah," he exclaimed to the empty room. A statement of condition, nothing less and nothing more.

Then came the swift rebuttal, not an echo, but something more sinister: another man. "You dare utter the name of the Lord?" He was startled, his body now springing to a pose as if to receive instinctively yet another blow. He calmed a bit.

"The names of thy Lord are uttered by the Mumineen and the Mushrikeen alike," he retorted to the recognizable voice. It was Zakaria, the big Nubian. A slave of the Sunni Sha’fi rite if he wasn’t mistaken. A Heretic by all accounts, and here for counts of blasphemy by the Mullah of Jazmar.

"You are neither, for you are of the lower plain in hell, ya armani," the man growled as he appraised Ibrahim carefully.

"Why?" the simple word carried so much sincerity and simplicity. It was almost maddening to his captor.

"You conspired with the enemy of the Ummah!" the Nubian boomed, his grip nary away from Ibrahim's throat. The Armenian, in turn, trembled, his forehead perspiring with anxiety and his heart palpitating wildly.

He gathered his tattering courage and threw up a defense "Who is the real Muslim here?" he posed. The Nubian stared back at him, caught in the trap and unsure as how to answer it. He was relaxing his hold, and a breach appeared in the horizon. Ibrahim pressed on "The Prophet said the Muslims are to their Words, did he not? Or have you Sunnis discarded the tomes of Al-Bukhari wa Muslim for the rubbish they are?"

Zakaria now looked genuinely perplexed. The man was sincere in his beliefs, if rowdy and with a demeanor that made him no different than the common buccaneer. He looked as if he was searching for something hidden in the recesses of his mind, maybe an old hadith or lore uttered by an unknown dervish or teacher visiting his old Sudanese village. Al-Armani could only guess, for the long silence was almost unbearable now. How things change with a wretched thing like man!

A wide smile appeared on his captor's lips "Yet he said that to fight another Muslim is outright apostasy." He beamed childishly at the preserved and well used trope.

Ibrahim nodded his head in approval "True, but I wonder why such a ragtag group of miscreants would raise the Law so high all of a sudden." There was no sarcasm in his words, but a mingling of surprise and betrayed disgust.

"Redemption mein habib," the tone of the Nubian increasingly sympathetic.

Ibrahim was growing tired, and with it, the fear was banished to the nether. He felt he could demand certain clarity without consequence now. "Speak the truth, for by God, you've prayed behind me Zakaria."

"Deus Vult as the Latin's say." The large Nubian was now draped in a solemn poise unfit for his burly body "You lose a head, we gain Imperial pardon. The Isphani will find defeat in this battle. It is written," and with that, Zakaria hurled his large hand at the Armenian's face, engraving a mosaic of intense pain on his left cheek.

Ibrahim’s eyes teared up, and as the darkness, the oh-so desired yet unspeakable oblivion descended upon him from all sides, he uttered one last Qadiri truism of centuries old "What is written is written, but only God writes it."

---​

Van felt the grip on his elbow with alarm. His hand was already reached for his tiny weapons when he suddenly recognized Étienne's frame pressing him against the hallway and rushing a face towards him on a collision course only to halt a few inches from him with a quick “shh.” Van's initial instinct was to struggle and so he did, flashing a kind of strength that even Étienne had to struggle to control.

“It's alright, it's alright,” Étienne repeated in a desperately hushed tone. “There was a patrol that you were going to run into up ahead... I couldn't just let you walk into them...”

Van felt a strange lethargy in his arms as if the grip that pinned him against the wall had pulled energy directly from his body. He was suddenly afraid... afraid of how close Étienne was to him. “Let go...” he tried to say, but Étienne only reacted by pushing him harder, yet also with more gentleness, against the wall while the young Frenchman's head leaned across the corner. All Van could see was the exposed and straining neck of the boy who held him against danger... who was protecting him. Van could hear them now as well: the loud friction of metal against metal as the guardsmen walked by in the parallel hall. He was sure he could have detected them himself, but it was obvious Étienne had no idea about Van's skills in this department.

“You went the wrong way,” Étienne began to say as he stepped back from Van and let him go. Van stood there, with his arms crossing over his costumed body and leaning forward inwardly on himself awkwardly. “Are you alright?...” Étienne asked looking at him strangely, “the exit was on the other side of the gardens...” Van declined to answer. Instead, he looked at those boots inching towards him cautiously. “Why did you run? I'm not going to hurt you, Van...”

Van felt as if he couldn't breathe. Those words being said to him came to him as if they were from the top of a long tower and some boy lost in a minaret was echoing down to him. Étienne was out of reach even as those inches were shaved away and concerned arms seemed to reach for his shoulder. Van wanted to say something. A “don't” escaped him but those palms warmed his bare shoulders nonetheless and he was lifted off the wall. Étienne brought him closer and soon the Frenchman's arms were around him and Van trembled slightly for letting it happen.

“It's alright...” Étienne said quietly. “I won't let them catch you.”

It was all too much. Van felt a part of himself eroding away like he was suddenly becoming liquid. He opened his mouth as he felt his cheek press against the other boy's cheek but the rest happened in a flash. His fingers, as if a shadow had possessed him, reached for his pin. A small prick on the side of Étienne's neck and the young man started to hang limply against Van's shoulders. The warm cheek that caressed his own became colder and Van succumbed to the weight, stepped back against the wall and slid downwards as the boy on top of him slowly descended to the floor like an empty coat falling out of a wardrobe.

Van looked at the golden hair and onto those stark blue eyes before they closed as if the empty orbs were still trying to comfort him... were still trying to tell him that it will be alright. Étienne's body slid away and the boy's face found rest on the carpet that spread the scarlet colour around them like a stagnant artery. Van's sitting frame looked at the still body in front of him. His arms rested against the cold marble floor. For minutes he watched, in complete silence with the dimness of the lights not even flickering. He felt a kind of coldness and warmness shifting along his body and his muscles felt a bit confused. His eyes looked up and around the corner once more to where his original destination was: the papal bedroom was just down the hall. He looked back quickly at the boy in front of him and for some reason, the motion of his head dislodged something in his eye. Something hit the carpet and melded into the fabric until it grew a darker shade of red. He felt it casually with his finger and a warm wetness confused him even more.

He looked to the boy once more before standing up. As he did, he felt a tug. His arms wanted to stay. His arms wanted to feel the warmness still present... lingering on Étienne's body. He was a friend, he thought to himself.

“No he wasn't,” a voice said to him in return. It felt like the shadows deepened at that moment. “You don't have any friends, Van. You're alone in this world. But that makes you Special. He would have never loved you.” Van opened his mouth but nothing but the silence entered into it and choked whatever he might have said in return. “He's not like you, Van. You're not a boy like he is. You're a different kind of boy... a special kind. Don't worry, Van, I'll take care of you... This is who you are... you can never be anything else, you were never anything else. If you do what master Tariq wants, he might love you, you know, for a while at least...” Van took a step forward towards the doorway ahead of him. “Leave him behind... he would have just turned away from you anyway. He would have just hated you after a while. He would never want to touch you.... whore.” Van's lip trembled as he extracted some pins from his back, this time to jostle the lock ahead of him open. He checked both sides of the corridor and the night patrol was nowhere to be seen. A click yielded the passage for him and he entered into the sleeping chamber. Van wanted to turn. He knew he could not see Étienne, but... “He was going to hurt you. They always do. Someone as beautiful as that... they're different,” the voice kept saying.

Van slipped into the cool sleeping apartment and his target had not detected his entrance. The door behind him closed easily and he crept along the floor and wall towards his goal. It was total darkness in that room, but the faint outline of a sleeping Pontiff lay on the bed. As Van reached the bed, he still could not help but think... steps behind him... down that dark hall... back into that darkness was someone who was kind to him... a friend no matter what those shadows were saying to him.

interlude2.gif


Interlude​

The voice from the darkness continued to whisper to Trey. First from behind and then from in front again. “It's good that you've come,” it would say. It was a man's voice, though young. Strangely... Trey thought... it sounded like his own voice. Yet, he needed to keep moving. The hallway darkened as he ran down and for a while it felt as if he was taking footsteps into an abyss, but each time his shoes landed on concrete. It seemed, almost as if it was a memory trying to run away from him, that the outline of Randall... that friend was just within reach. Just within running distance... almost there.

When the lights turned on, Trey felt like he was hit by a wall that leapt at him. He covered his eyes and his face with his arms. Turning around didn't seem to help as the stunning flash seemed to come from behind him as well. He fell, stumbling over his own feet as he cried out. Clumsily, he hit the cold grainy floor of the unfinished building. “Trey!” he thought he heard Randall's voice call out, but it faded quickly like some echo being overpowered by a dull white noise that steadily invaded his ears.

“It's good you've arrived,” the voice came, though it penetrated to him in such a clarity that it was breaking his ears. All he could do was shut his eyes and cover his head while the heat of the lights made it feel as hot as day. “Now, it's time to make your choice. To cast out this world we know...”

There was a crack, like mirrors breaking in the distance. Crystals sprinkling onto the floor followed suit as gunshots rang left, and then right, and Trey's heart felt like it was going to burst in his chest. Faded voices could be heard in the background like people talking underwater. There was one, however, that flew to him, that raised him up and pulled his arms away from his eyes. It was the voice that asked desperately, “Trey? Are you alright? They're gone now... they're gone.”

Trey opened his eyes again and darkness set in. His eyes, having been stunned by the light now hardly let any light in and it took seconds before Randall's face materialized. “They're gone?” Trey asked.

Randall nodded but also turned to his side. Trey followed his friend's gaze and in the distance he could see figures rushing about the building. “Thank you for leading us to them,” came from a man in bandages coming up to him. “It still stings from where your friend shot me,” the smug young man continued while indicating the bandage, “but your friend 'Natasha' made us move faster than we thought...”

“Who are you?” Trey asked. He knew the face, he recognized the face, he knew it was the boy named Jim, but somehow he suspected that wasn't his name at all. Randall similarly stood beside his friend as men in helmets and armour secured the area around them.

“That's not the right question you should be asking,” this 'Jim' replied, “you already know me after all. The real question is who are you? Would you like me to show you?” By now, Trey's eyes had adjusted that tanned face was plain to see smiling at him. “Human Instrumentality Project command input: It Was You Who Broke My Mason Plate.”

Randall watched his friend reach backward to a spot on the back of his head while Trey's face contorted into agony. Saliva dripped out of Trey's mouth as he keeled over and fell backwards pulling his knees into himself and pulling at the back of his head as if shoving his face into his chest trying to cover something up at the rear of his skull. “What are you doing to him!” Randall shouted and dropped down to his friend who convulsed slightly in his arms. “Trey! Trey!”

The bandaged one smiled a little more. “He won't respond to you if you call him out to him like that. Tonight, Trey Coom has served his purpose: he's finally gone forever.”

Chapter CXLV: Night of the Departed (coming soon)
 
Last edited:

canonized

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Ooooh, seems like things aren't up to any good. And Van talking with that voice couldn't but remind me of Gollum/Smeagol...

haha yes , actually that wasn't such a bad connection . Maybe I should show a little bit of my hand .

The voice as you know has happened before . And the connection to Raul's dual personality (or is it?) reinforces the theme . The twinning that happens (Tom's name meaning twin , as well as the Twins mentioned in the Dead Sea Scrolls and all this)

The Jungian Shadow Aspect is one clue behind the mysteries surrounding the voices . It's one reason why these particular voices resided in the shadows .
 

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As this seems to be the thread where he posts most often I'd like to hijack this thread and wish Davout a Happy Birthday!

And a very happy birthday to him ! He's been one of my favourite fans indeed XD In fact maybe I'll make something for him later on tonight I think XD

No Captain Dias? :(

Not yet XD
 

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Oh my God, they killed Etienne! You bastards!

Apart from that, wonderful stuff, yet again. To be honest, I have enjoyed the more recent story lines to the the ones as the start of the season. You are really in a purple patch with your writing at the moment, canonized.

@ Qorten & Canonized, also thanks for the birthday wishes. Much appreciated.