by Max Barry

Latest Forum Topics

Advertisement

WA Delegate: The United Empire of Miklozia (elected )

Founder: The Republic of Mahina

Last WA Update:

Board Poll Activity History Admin Rank

Most Nations: 240th Most World Assembly Endorsements: 813th
World Factbook Entry

Welcome to the United Alliance!

Welcome to the United Alliance, a roleplaying region. Carve out an empire for yourself with cunning diplomacy, intrigue, and military prowess in our Twentieth Century theme.

Following the devastating Second Great War, which led to victory for the villainous United Empire and its New World Order against the democratic Allies, the world has been thrown into the darkness of the Cold War. Will democracy finally triumph, or will evil cement its global hegemony?


Want your nation placed on the regional map? Contact Miklozia on Discord with your map claim. | ENDORSE Miklozia!


LinkUnited Alliance Discord
LinkMap


Current Date: October, 1951

Founded August 9th, 2020



Embassies: Red Wolf Alliance.

Tags: Casual, Game Player, Human-Only, Large, Map, Role Player, and Social.

United Alliance contains 86 nations, the 240th most in the world.

Today's World Census Report

The Healthiest Citizens in United Alliance

A measure of the general physical health of citizens in each nation.

As a region, United Alliance is ranked 8,895th in the world for Healthiest Citizens.

NationWA CategoryMotto
1.The Democratic Federation of IserkPsychotic Dictatorship“Into the New Era we go!”
2.The Commonwealth of CanidaesDemocratic Socialists“Tá an Cothromaíocht Mhór anseo.”
3.The Second Republic of CalarimIron Fist Consumerists“リバティをください!”
4.The Constitutional Republic of TekokuanIron Fist Consumerists“戦争はウィズ、ブレインズ、ブロンズ、ブラッドで勝利しました”
5.The United Empire of MikloziaIron Fist Consumerists“Deo Volente, masters of the world.”
6.The Armed Republic of HumitiaCivil Rights Lovefest“Libertas, Progressio, Unitas”
7.The Constitutional Monarchy of Goose HellInoffensive Centrist Democracy“Freedom or destruction”
8.The Government in Exile of Magna KaloniaInoffensive Centrist Democracy“Alrighty”
9.The Republic of New UnianIron Fist Consumerists“Arbeit, Sicherheit, Wohlstand”
10.The Republic of KutrustanFather Knows Best State“The world has turned and so many have burned”
1234. . .89»

Regional Poll • We have just six days until Phase V, which will take us from 1959 through 1970. What are you most excited for about that next phase?

Poll called by The United Empire of Miklozia

Voting opened 10 hours ago and will close . Open to residents. You cannot vote as you are not logged in.

Recent polls: “What is Panax's true origin story...?”“Star War”

Regional Happenings

More...

United Alliance Regional Message Board

Miklozia wrote:
lol

The Conference

As the last of the delegates, the President of Enspiana, made his way into the room, the eyes of the United Empire's delegation seemed to draw themselves scrupulously over the faces of the Atariean delegation, seated across the room before a desk more spacious than the other's, and decorated with a flag of red, white and blue. Once the doors shut and it became clear that all who were attending had arrived, the Imperial delegates sat in silence, the thought not failing to dawn on each of them that perhaps the next Eternal Leader may have been amongst them.

Devlin's dejected eyes shifted down to the small microphone on his desk, and his thoughts of potential grandeur turned to the Eternal Leader's firm, perfect face. Yes, Devlin thought, his eye twitching, he will be listening, won't he?

Shooting up boldly from his chair, Devlin gazed first down toward the Minister of Public Works, shrugged and relaxed as usual, how come he had it so easy? Why did the Eternal Leader trust him so much? And the inferior... he thought, turning then to the Minister of the Empire, staring back up at him with his fingers over his chin. Ugh.

"Heil Boross!" He declared to the crowd, shooting his arm upward in salute. "Now and forever!"

"Heil Boross!" Jean-Marsot replied quickly, standing up and raising his hand, before Bund did the same in his seat without much conviction.

Andrew Stockwell looked at the Miklozian delegation, his smile fading into a poker face upon the salute the Miklozians made. In his mind he felt a mix of anger and fear, praying he would never be forced to meet the monster they mentioned. Finally he took a deep breath, regaining his composure then opening his mouth to speak but before he could hear Jonathen chuckling very quietly to himself.

Stockwells face scrunched up, he prayed no one else heard what Jonathen laughing. He then leaned back, whispering, "Shut your mouth we don't want to cause a scene."

Jonathen quieted down with a slightly annoyed look on his face, one that could be noticed by most in the room. Stockwell returned his gaze to the rest of the delegates, his eyes settling upon that of the Miklozian delegation, "Shall we begin?"

The Peskrian cardinal shot to his feet, spurred on by the enthusiasm of his master's kinsmen. "Heil Boross!" He declared, his voice startling the archbishop beside him. As he sat back down he glowered at Ionescu. "His Holiness would be most displeased," he whispered harshly.

The Polacian archbishop waved his hand dismissively. "I'm sure the Holy Father can find it in his heart to forgive me. That is not a phrase uttered very often within his empire." Arching his eyebrow he turned a quizzical look towards the cardinal. "Perhaps there is a reason? There can only be one Lord of Vranastrova after all."

Cardinal Ryba narrowed his eyes, his lip curling in bitter disgust. "No one knows our lord's will."

Ionescu sighed, his eyes falling to the top of the table where they sat. "If only we were speaking of the same Lord, Your Eminence."

The Minister of Truth shot an approving look toward the Peskrian, before reminding himself of Ryba's racial inferiority and scowling, that expression only intensifying as he turned to the Atariean delegation. "Your disrespect to the True Son is very telling." Jean-Marsot shook his head from below. "But it is what I expect from your nation. As Minister of the Truth; the One Truth, the reality of the Light in the Dark and his righteous conquest against the inferiors of the world." He stuck out his arms and raised his palms up, as if a preacher receiving divine inspiration, cameras from his own department firing off toward him from the distance. "I dedicate this conference to the Eternal Leader. May his power, glory and wisdom guide us all as we pursue... peace." He said, a smirk breaking through the edge of his mouth as he spoke that last word a little softer. "We love peace. We love diplomacy. We love peace." He nodded, a crooked tooth biting into his lip, "We love peace. We do."

"Thank you, Mr. Devlin." Jean-Marsot said, standing up himself and bringing his hand over Devlin's shoulder, and the proclaimed arbiter of truth returned to his seat. "I too would like to express my unending loyalty to the Eternal Leader. Know, my friends," he said, gesturing toward the Atarieans, to Devlin's dismay, "that this war was not prompted by our aggression, but by an attempt on the lives of myself and our Eternal Leader. If you were in our position, would you not have done the same?" He nodded, his expression notably softer than Devlin's. "That is why I look forward to this opportunity to do what should have been done long before, and pursue a peaceful end to this conflict. Nonetheless, our positions are firm and unwavering. This war was justified on our part, as I hope you will acknowledge..." He said, before nodding toward the Atarieans with a little smirk and retreating to his chair.

Stockwell eyes the minister, "Yes... well I know if Williamson was in Boross's place we wouldn't be demanding ports in the first place... what was it, 'Either you willingly give me that access, and we enter into a mutually beneficial partnership, or I take it from you.' That is what your... eternal... leader said am I right? That information came right from the Sultan himself. Tell me, Minister, how to not take that as a direct and imminent threat to Ashdia?"

Jean-Marsot's eyes narrowed toward the Atariean, before his little smirk grew slightly. "False," he said immediately after standing back up. "We requested port access, yes, but we never made any threats, only that Ashdia amends its legal code to allow such an exchange. We were at that point allied with Ashdia and would hardly have thought of making any threats." His smirk grew further. "May I recommend that next time, you don't trust the testimony of a man who also admitted to attempted murder against a foreign political leader and diplomat, which ought to be unacceptable no matter the circumstances." He crossed his harms over his chest, his eyes focused toward Stockwell. "So, I ask again, does the Atariean government condone attempted politicial assassination by the Ashdian government against myself and the Eternal Leader?"

Stockwell eyes narrowed slightly, "Its your word against the Sultans, Minister. I'll let you imagine who we're going to believe. So in that regard, I will say that his reaction is justified to the extent that he was attempting to protect his nation, no matter the cost. But to answer your question while we do not necessarily condone political assassination, but at the exact same time we also say that what the Eternal Leader said leading up to the incident and how he responded with a direct invasion made seeing Miklozia in any positive light on this incident... lets say difficult. Hence why Atariea responded the way it did. In short Minister, while we understand the anger you would feel towards the incident, we also condemn the way the Eternal Leader spoke during the meeting and the way Miklozia reacted."

Watching the two men discuss the situation in Ashida, Mehdi couldn't help but disapprove of the Atariean delegates' approach. The fool was playing the Miklozians game on his terms, debating matters that ultimately were irrelevant. Leaning into Valery, Mehdi whispered, "The assassination is irrelevant. The Atarieans should be pushing that aside and going straight to the throat of the issue, Ashidan sovereignty. Regardless of what the Atarieans think of the assassination attempt, it's a matter that diplomats should handle. Invasion threatens the liberties and sovereignty of a people, values the Atarieans claim to hold in the highest regard."

The Mozakan minister shook his head, disappointed. "I find that very interesting." He said, standing up again. "It is 'my word against the Sultan's'." He nodded, allowing those words to sit in throughout the room. "I am a diplomat." He said, "I am a good Christian." He said softly, his eyes shifting slightly toward the Vranan delegation. "And I have served under both Strainist and non-Strainist administrations, and in each role I have shown nothing but professionalism and a commitment to duty and international understanding." He paused for another moment. "Ihsan brandished his eastern blade and demanded the blood of the Eternal Leader and myself. "'Come over here,'" he said, apparently echoing Ihsan's words as a layer of passion found its way over his face. "'Come with your army. I want these men killed.' I hear those words every day— every night, Mr. Stockwell. And your response is that you don't 'necessarily' condone the attempt on my life and the Eternal Leader's life? You would trust an inferior warlord's word over mine...?"

As Jean-Marsot paused again, the Estrian architect's eyes darted between the Mozakan and the Atariean. "Despite his race, you must admit that he is a good politician, Devlin." He said, prompting the Minister of Truth to shift uncomfortably in his chair, his hate for the Atarieans in this moment far outweighing that of his Mozakan counterpart.

"The world is listening, Mr. Stockwell. We have started this Conference for the sake of international peace and greater understanding. How can we come together for international peace when you have no understanding for why the United Empire made the most terrible choice of all, to go to war. So I give you one more opportunity. For the good of the world, please," he said, clenching his fist and holding it to his stomach, "recognize our point of view, and put yourselves in my shoes."

Stockwell simply stared at the Minister for a moment, almost annoyed he was dragging it on so long, "Minister, Atariea has given you its opinion, we care little for if your Christian as we are secular. And your experience is noteworthy I will not lie. Regardless both me and President Williamson agree the Sultan would not risk war with Miklozia unless it was absolutely necessary. Minister, I have given you Atariean position and our reasoning for our actions, Atariea will not be condoning your invasion." He stayed silent for a minute before speaking again, "And considering the trauma you claim to have incurred due to the Sultans actions then let us not forget what your soldiers have done in Ashdia, upon those beaches our soldiers fought. Innocent Ashdians killed, exponentially worse than anything you may have gone through. Now shall we discuss what we came here to discuss or will we continue with this charade, Mr. Jean-Marsot?"

Before Jean-Marsot could stand up again, his vision shifted annoyed at Al Bund, the Estrian architect stepping up for the first time himself. "Now, the invasion and the reason for the invasion are two different things. I think we can distinguish that as reasoned people." Devlin and Jean-Marsot grimaced below. "We were attacked, Mr. Stockwell. You acknowledged that Ihsan attempted to kill my friend, the Eternal Leader. We beleaguer this point not because of politics, we have no political dispute with you, we both come for the same reason, peace in Ashdia. This is important to us: we cannot accept a conclusion of our war if you do not recognize why we participated in the first place. All we want is an acknowledgement that the Sultan's actions, previous and subsequent words and actions notwithstanding, were incorrect and uncivilized."

Stockwell's eyes shifted over to Al Bund, "I have already told you, we do not condone what he did, but we will not condemn it. We also recognize that the Sultan did attempt to kill the Eternal Leader, despite this we also recognize the Eternal Leader did threaten the entirety of Ashdia. And you stated that you cannot accept a conclusion if we do not recognize why you invaded. We do, we recognize your reasoning, we don't agree with it. If we did we never would have been forced to send our own troops in. And Atariea will not lie and coverup in the name of peace. Do not use peace to try to hold our arm behind our back."

"Heil Boross," Felix said. He was able to cover up his lack of enthusiasm with a polite demeanor, with a solemn look on his face as if he was paying his respects. As he did, he noticed the Atariean delegation enter a discussion, and then an argument with the Miklozian one. Not wishing to cause a scene, he carefully watched as the men argued. For now, he would make himself as invisible as possible while gathering as much information as he could. He gave the representatives a respectful smile, but it appeared he had no presence; he may have as well have been invisible.
Oh well, he thought, slightly disappointed. At least things weren't awkward. Yet. It appears I have mastered the art of the doormat, he thought as he laughed internally.

Jean-Marsot shook his head, his eyes drifting toward Bund, still perturbed that the architect had butted in. Devlin shot up next in all his twisted form. "And what if the Throughlodiric Prime Minister tried to kill all of us!?" He declared, "Would we not see it as an attack on each of us!?" He leaned down and banged the bottom of his fist against the desk, his hand quickly searing red in pain in response, prompting him to quickly hide his hands behind his back. "The world is listening, Atariean!" He said, before his tongue pushed against his upper lip and he leaned further in, his vision still on Stockwell. "And we have been listening." He said a little quieter into the microphone, nodding with a wicked smirk. Then, he stuck up his finger toward the ceiling. "All the way up there, Atariean. Every word you say, we hear. We see right through your lies. We see everything. Everything."

"Thank you, Minister." Jean-Marsot said, clearing his throat and standing up again, to Devlin's dismay. "You've made your position clear, Mr. Stockwell. The Atariean state intervened in a war which they had no claim to partake in and now waffles around the issue, and that's fine enough." He said, his smirk pushing outward. "First of all, it's crucial to the United Empire that Sultan Ihsan be personally condemned for his attempted assassination of the Eternal Leader as a action against peace. We want this to be included in the terms of any potential treaty."

Stockwell just sighed, "I can accept those terms if either the Eternal Leader be condemned for threatening war with a sovereign nation over the nations territory or the United Empire be condemned for invading a sovereign nation. Or we can drop all condemnations all together, you can decide, but we will not let you decide all the terms of this treaty."

Stockwell went silent for a moment, but before he could say anything else to the dismay of the Secretary, Jonathen stood up, his signature smile plastered on his face. One that hid many things, "I would likely to quickly address Mr. Devlin." He turned to look at Devlin, his gaze almost trying to pierce the man, "Your argument doesn't hold up. Unless I am not aware I do not believe anyone here has threatened to, via force, take territory." He sat back down, Stockwell looking at him slightly angrily.

"There is no proof to your claim that the Eternal Leader threatened war during that meeting. Like you acknowledged, that's hearsay." Jean-Marsot quickly retorted. "We don't want a commendation or condemnation of either the United Imperial or Ashdian positions. Only of Ihsan's conduct and assassination attempt during that inciting meeting, which is not hearsay and you yourself have admitted occurred, Mr. Stockwell." He shook his head, as though a parent disappointed at an unruly child. "Surely, that should not be controversial by any respect."

Stockwell rubbed the temples of his head, annoyed, "What do you want me to say? That the Sultan is in the wrong for trying to assassinate the 'Eternal' Leader? Fine, sure, we condemn his actions and what he did. Now, again, we trust the Sultan wouldn't lie to us in regards of what occurred before, but we condemn his actions. You got what you want, can we now move along?"

Lamar looked at the delegation of Iserk and whispered: “Jesus, this constant bickering is giving me a headache. Can they just get the point of discussing the war itself. That’s what we’re here to end…”

Felix, seated nearby, quietly chuckled as he overheard the San Jicento and Iserkian delegates' comments. He was frankly inclined to agree, the debate was looking a bit down for Atariea. Then again, a bit hard to back down at this point. He continued to listen to the spiraling conversation, lightly amused. He'd seen his fair share of outrageous debates, but this was, admittedly, the funniest one yet. At the same time, it hurt his head too.

William wanted to get up and put a bullet through the Miklozians' heads. As he predicted, the debate would be about the Miklozians' proving that they are indeed right and everyone else is an idiot. William hid his thoughts with a mask of neutrality. The time will come when evil shall fall.

Devlin shot Stockwell a disgusted clance at his clear disrespect toward the Eternal Leader's title. Jean-Marsot's smirk grew as the Atariean finally relented, before quickly fading completely. "Good." He said. "Now, since you were so adamant about getting to the business you deemed so important, I invite you to present your terms for the treaty."

Stockwell breathed a sigh of relief, "Finally, now we have three non-negotiable demands, first the current government will remain in power, second all Ashdian islands will remain within the control of Ashdia, and third Ashdia will keep hold of some of their continental Pedrian lands." He looked over to the Vranastrovan delegation, "We are willing to negotiate the specifics."

Ionescu raised his eyebrows, the tameness of Stockwell's demands surprising him. Why not push further and request to keep the borders as they were? By simply saying that the Ashdians would keep some of their land it permitted Ryba to push for more than what was already gained. "How very foolish," he whispered under his breath. "Bloody ignorant."

"Some?" Ryba remarked. "I daresay that the Ashdians deserve none of continental Pedria, Mr. Stockwell. The land, after all, was once governed by the papacy in its entirety until the conclusion of the First Great War. To us, to His Holiness, we are merely reclaiming the land God gave us." His eyes igniting with greed, the usually clumsy and inconsistent cardinal suddenly found his footing. Baring his teeth he leaned forward, as if he would pounce at the slightest sound of compromise. "But the Holy Father did not send me here to argue so pointlessly as you have been. I, for one, am willing to see what exactly you propose in this new version of Pedria."

His eyes widening in shock, Ionescu shot a glance towards the hungry Peskrian. "You know the pope's demands," he said loud enough for the cardinal to hear. "This isn't-" Ryba's hand shot up once more. Ionescu sank back into his chair, his face reddening slightly at the gesture. His gaze drifted to Stockwell as Ryba leaned ever more against the table.

The Minister of Truth seemed ready to pounce up and throw his weight toward the Peskrian's demands with all the rhetorical power represented by the redness still persisting on the bottom of his fist. But Jean-Marsot stuck his hand out simply onto the desk, edged slightly toward Devlin. "Not yet." He said, prompting Devlin to writhe in his chair in chagrin. Leaning back once again, Jean-Marsot once again brought his hand over his chin, eager to hear the Atarieans' response.

Autumns and Bodnar paid close attention to the back-and-forth between the two sides. It was quite entertaining to watch for Autumns, as Canidaes had no role in the war itself. She hated to have to pick the United Empire's side if it were to come to a vote or discussion in which she would have to take part, but it would be in the best interests of Canidaes if she agreed with the Miklozian menace.

Bodnar hung onto every word that was thrown about in the debate. He intently watched Jean-Marsot, his long time idol. There was a glimmer in his eye as he got to watch the man who had been his inspiration for years, but he quickly realized he was just flat-out staring at him. He quickly turned towards the Atariean side, eagerly watching the discussion. The two didn't speak a word to one another and almost purposefully ignored each other. Unlike the other delegates, they seemed quite awkward with one another. Without a word between the two of them, Bodnar turned to Autumns.

"It's as if the representatives from the two sides don't have a unified opinion. It's like multiple individuals are having a conversation that will lead nowhere." He said, telling his observations to his fellow diplomat.

"I agree completely," Autumns began, a small smile on her face as she quietly chuckles at the debate. "I expect to see no matter compromise between these three if this event continues this way." Bodnar nodded in agreement, a small smirk showing himself.

Stockwell opened one of the folders at his desk, pulling out a image and passing it around to the other delegates, "Something along these lines we would accept. It would grant you your current territory plus some. I believe this is more than enough." A small grin appearing at the sides of his lips.

Julian's face creased into a frown, "Atariean and Ashdian Forces worked hard for those lands. Now they are needlessly giving them away like cowardly dogs! They should at least try to keep them. It is like turning your back on a close friend." William raised his hand, "If world peace is achieved then I shall not complain." Julian leant back and rolled his eyes. "Yes, world peace for the powerful, what about the rest of us? Do they even care?"

"You know it could be good." Max hushed. William and Julian both turned to him as the delegates continued talking. "I mean yes, we lose resources but.. it could win us favour with the Pope and help vote in someone more Democratic-leaning." William shifted in his seat so as to avoid banging his knee. "I see where you are coming from. But.." William raised his finger, "The Miklozians will definitely make that hard for us." Max nodded, "I agree with that but that is what I think the Atarieans are so willing to give away territory." William nodded and cast his eyes where the Vranans were sitting. One cardinal was leaning forward a look of greed in his eyes. The other was sitting back red-faced. "And I think they know."

William watched the discussion from his seat. The observers were either murmuring or watching the talks with interest. His knee struck the edge of the cramped seating position, sending a jolt of pain up his aging leg. William hid this through his gritted teeth. "God damn end this already!"

Archbishop Ionescu gawked at the map, its leniency on the Vranan colony's expansion taking him by surprise. Grant you your current territory plus some. The words rang in his ears like church bells that ring for Sunday mass. Only this time it rang as the east's defiance to Strainism found its shallow grave in a dingy hall of a forgotten country. "They cannot be serious," he whispered, leaning into Cardinal Ryba. "They're forfeiting more?"

"They are not giving enough," Ryba shot back, the hunger in his eyes now a biting tone in his voice. Blinking slowly, Ryba turned his face towards the Atariean delegation, a sinister smile crawling its way across his lips. "I do not know whether to thank you, or to be completely baffled." He waved his hands across the table, the dark shadow of his hands enveloping Ashdian continental Pedria. "But I am afraid that your proposal will not do. Vranastrova has, for thirty years, striven to gain back what was stolen from us at the conclusion of First Great War."

Ryba stood to his feet, the smile melting into feigned albeit almost genuine concern. His face twisting with all the raw emotions of someone who's been reunited with a lost child the Peskrian drew his attention to the map. As his eyes ignited once more with the same hunger from earlier he let his lower lip tremble slightly for dramatic effect. "Brothers," he began, moving his attention across the crowd, "and sisters. Do we not find it right and just that land, indeed lost sheep, nay, stolen children, be returned to their father? Should we let those who promote suffering through their own ignorance of a child's mistreatment continue to oppress those who would delight in their own liberation? Shall this congress permit the persecution of the Holy Father's flock to endure? Nay. We must stand against tyranny and reunite the lost with the one who seeks their highest good." He turned his face skyward and basked for a moment in the light of the room.

Ironic, Ionescu thought, turning own thoughts towards his people in Polacy, and even to the cardinal’s own kin in Peskria. Were they not under the oppression of tyranny at this very moment? Did their suffering not matter?

“Vranastrova,” Cardinal Ryba declared, moving his gaze back across the crowd as he took his seat, his scarlet robes dancing elegantly about him as he did. “Will not relinquish our claims on a single inch of continental Pedria. Our Holy Father will only be satisfied with the complete return of this purloined territory.”

Ionescu sighed. Guess not.

Jan Devlin stuck his finger up as Jean-Marsot and Bund studied the passed-out Atariean proposals below. "The United Imperial delegation stands with the Vranans on this issue." Below, Bund let out an audible sigh as Devlin shrunk back down, pleased with himself.

Stockwell sighed, "And here I thought you may be more reasonable than the..." He looked over to the Miklozian delegation before quickly looking back to the Vranastrovan delegation, "But no, we will not accept more land being relinquished. This is the best offer your going to get from us, what happens from here is up to you."

Jean-Marsot's eyes narrowed toward Stockwell for a moment, before slowly drifting onto his feet. "Perhaps you have missed exactly why we come to this Conference in the first place." He gestured toward the Vranan delegates, "Vranastrova is poised to seize the rest of continental Ashdia." Then, he motioned toward himself. "As for us, it is in our interests to see the War ended so that we may refocus on domestic affairs and wiping Fuegrado and communism off the face of the Earth. It is in the interest of both of us to see this war end." His eyes narrowed further, his glare becoming darker toward the Atariean. "If you want to end this conference, so be it. If this war is destined to proceed in the long-term, you will surely lose. For after Fuegrado would be destroyed, the entirety of the United Empire's Armed Forces would descend upon Ashdia, and the destruction on both sides would be incomprehensible.

"The United Empire would be willing to adopt an amended version of the original Atariean plan, if a term of the treaty was included that Ashdia would be bound to neutrality, and barred from making a military pact with either the United Empire, Vranastrova or Atariea."

Stockwell bit his lip slightly, considering the deal before saying, "If all of continental Pedria was handed to Vranastrova, would you still demand the neutrality bit?"

Jean-Marsot suppressed a smirk. "We could drop the neutrality terms if Vranastrova was granted its rightful territory over the entirety of continental Ashdia, yes."

Stockwell dropped his head, thinking for a moment before speaking up, "Fine, all of continental Ashdia can go to Vranastrova."

Cardinal Ryba twitched with excitement. Raising his hand slightly he closed his fist over the map of Ashdian continental Pedria, its shadow ominously enveloping the land. "You have made the right choice, Mr. Stockwell. History will remember you well as the man who not only saved a nation from complete and utter ruin, but also as the man who brought peace to a trouble continent and saved countless wives from becoming widows; mothers from shedding innumerable tears over their sons." He nodded his head, dipping his gaze to the table where the map sat. His Holiness would be pleased.

"Bloody stupid," Ionescu murmured under his breath. The Atarieans had folded without any hesitation or protest. One misguided speech, one tiny protest later and half a nation was forfeited without consent or counsel. His thoughts still on Polacy and Peskria his heart began to race. If democracy and hope should die in this room then so shall any notion of those nations, peoples, and cultures. If the vanguard of all that was still good should fall, as it so appeared to be, then evil would truly reign for one thousand years. Maybe more. "Grow a spine," he pleaded desperately though none could hear him.

Devlin turned toward Bund, and then to Jean-Marsot, his mind rushing to determine whether to celebrate or unleash his fury. "This is good." Jean-Marsot said softly, stretching his hand out toward Devlin. "The GSA gains territory, and with these new borders we get exactly what we've wanted since the beginning, naval access into the Arcadian through the Straits."

Devlin leaned back and smirked. "Yes, of course...!" He said, before reaching back up. "These terms are acceptable to the United Empire." He declared.

Jean-Marsot returned to his standing position. "And for your generous terms, and given our commitment to peace, we will also return to the Atariean nation the twelve-thousand Atariean prisoners of war currently held by our forces in Vranan Pedria and Aucerosa, and we hope that you will extend that same courtesy." He said, gesturing once again toward the Atarieans as Devlin's face twisted into disgust below.

"But clearly, this war has proven that the current system without international cheques to raw aggression and intervention." he said, throwing a dark glare toward Stockwell before quickly resetting his expression. "Clearly, the United Alliance, due to its strong centralized authority and use as a tool for the Kalonian crown to maintain its influence, was a mistake. That's why, learning from its arrogance and foolhardy, the United Empire is proposing an international peacekeeping body truly devoted to peace and non-intervention."

"Oh boy, here we go again," muttered Felix under his breath as he listened on as the others talked at the other end of the room. He wasn't all for trusting these big international organizations. The old UA was bad, and he had no doubt this new one would be worse.

Stockwell, Warren, and Jonathen all looked slightly surprised. Another international peace-keeping organization? Stockwell quickly spoke up, "Atariea would eagerly get behind such an organization if it truly was dedicated to peace and not a tool to be used by Strainism."

"Of course not." Jean-Marsot said, plastering his charismatic smile back over his face as he got up, despite the visual chagrin from Devlin below. "Our concept is simple. A lower assembly where each nation has a single vote and the power to propose non-binding proposals," he said, gesturing toward the observer nations before turning back to the Atarieans, "And a 'Security Council' with the power to pass binding proposals, made up firstly of the United Empire, Vranastrova and Atariea, and two other members, elected by the lower assembly." He cleared his throat, "An 'International Community of Nations', so to speak. And unlike the disaster that was the UA, it would not have the ability to force all nations into war or a strong leader like that sick felon Abercrombie..."

Stockwell stayed quite when he mentioned Abercrombie, but Warren stood but was quickly pulled down to prevent from saying anything. Jonathen on the other hand didn't like Abercrombie. Stockwell quickly spoke up after the small scene from Warren, "Absolutely, so I think we need to..."

Henry stood up from his seat to sign the charter. He walked up to the table and picked up the pen, making Jagengeland's participation in the ICN official. He was sweating nervously as he signed the nation in, but finished so anyways.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

"I do suggest that Jagengeland run for a Security Council seat, as Jagengeland serves as a perfect neutral country to host the ICN. It also has many other great factors that might serve well for an international organization."

Drakenburg stood up and read the charter before signing it. After doing so, he turned towards the rest of the table. "I announce the candidacy of our nation to be a member of the ICN Security Council. I believe that from a standpoint of armed neutrality, our

Manderson walked up to the table with confidence. He signed the charter with a pen made of silver and platinum. He always brought his own pen to these things, to show how rich his country was. In reality, mainland Arkalia had little of these resources and these precious minerals came from the mines in Authrasia. He walked back a little backwards and said to the public: “I hereby wish for the Gallis Monarchy of Imperia Arkalia to run for a seat in the security council. Historically, we’ve been a neutral nation in most affairs on the continent, although that changed recently. We’re a colonial empire and have many natural resources and beautiful beaches. Throughout the years we have shown that we are more than capable of managing such a position, because we didn’t have a civil war in 200 years. The Arkalian people have always been happy under our rulership and get good jobs and have enough money to buy luxury products, such as golden rings and pepper.” Manderson walked back to his seat. His minister had been translating it for everyone in the room, because Arkalian was an uncommon second language to learn. Manderson sat down and waited for everyone to finish signing the charter.

Mehdi approached the table, adjusting his glasses as he read over the charter and the names of the other signatories before adding his signature to the list. Turning to the rest of the delegates he announced; "I also announce the candidacy of the Khorshīdšahr-hâ for the Security Council, as the premier Zudean nation, we believe that we are best suited to represent the interests of the continent, and ensure that all peoples are represented on the Council, not just Aucerosan and Artarisian" before returning to his seat.

William stood up from his seat, happy to finally stretch his cramped-up legs. As his muscles performed a system reset, he walked down the walkway to the signing. William scanned his eyes down the accord. He could either ignore it, sign it, or sign it later. What he does now will decide the future for Iserk and potentially the world. Sweat began to form at the base of his neck and soak the tip of his collar. William put the pen down to the paper and signed.

"As a fledgling world power, I would like to put forward Iserk for the Security Council seat. Only 30 years ago our economy was in ruins and our people oppressed. We believe that other nations could learn from us when recovering from War or Recession." He glanced at the Miklzian delegates. "Thank you."

Arnold upon his turn to get up to sign the papers, did so. Once he got to the papers, he spent a few minutes reading, going over what to do. He quickly signed the papers before saying;

"Humitia will only apply to join the community and will not attempt to gain a seat on the Security Council as of this moment." Before promptly turning back to his seat and sitting down

Lamar stood up and walked over the the paper. He picked up then sighted where everyone else had signed. “San Jicento shall reject the offer to apply to the security council.”

Felix stood up and carefully read the charter several times. And again. And again. Finally, he signed the charter. The insulting words towards Abercrombie stung - the only good part of the UA, he thought - but there wasn't really anything he could say. Maybe in a few years time. Maybe when the world would change, maybe then they would redeem the memory of Abercrombie. But for now, he simply sighed the sheet.

"I believe that Arcadisia should run for the security council seat." He said. "Arcadisia is an emerging power, and although I cannot say that we have any significant power yet, we are rapidly growing in the sciences, industry, and general living quality has improved massively. We were once an oppressed colony for over a decade, but we were determined to overcome it and reclaim the glory of the old Arcadisian Empire, and we have already come such a long way since our liberation. In due time, Arcadisia will become a decisive power in maintaining peace and order throughout the world, and because of our history, we will represent those nations that suffer, those that continue to languish in poverty and oppression and show them that any nation can rise up and become a nation worthy of pride with hard work and patriotism. Arcadisia will formally run as a candidate to the security council. My only wish is that from there we can shine even brighter and lead the world into a glorious future, to a new age of beauty and wonder."

Hulls, like many before him, went on to sign the papers, looking around him as he stepped towards the table. He was silent and lacked emotion, instead of feeling something he was going through all possible scenarios signing this might cause. Not wanting to come over as unsure or indecisive he just signed it, forcing a smile as he walked back.

Antoni walked to the front of the room nervously, he looked around him before quickly reading the charter. He signs the paper before turning around with a bleak smile. "I hereby announce that Enspiana will be running for a seat in the security coucil" said Antoni, "I believe that we would be a great option as our nation could represent millions of Enspianan speakers around the world. We have a rich history of alliances but even with all that this might be the greatest one, we just hope to make it even greater." He walked back to his place anxiously, and hastily glanced at the Atariean delegation before sitting down.

Mr. Tusishvili, the existing agent for the holy democratic republic of Yerqir had been on the telephone with Minister of Foreign Affairs Gamsakhurdia for up to one hundred and thirty minutes—a huge expenditure, that call.

When the call came to an end, he cleared his throat, fixed his suit, and he and his aides made a prompt exit from the conference.

Yerqir did not join the global cooperative.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Jean-Marsot watched with narrowed eyes as the Yerqirian and Canidaesian delegates left to consult with their leaders. Shaking his head, he brought his focus to the remaining observers. "For the sake of this special election, you all will vote for two member-states to receive the Security Council seat," as he said this, his advisors started passing out hastily-made ballots, "The candidate with the most votes will receive the seat with the term expiring in 1953, and the second-place winner receiving that seat in 1951."

Marc Jean-Marsot arose after receiving the results, a copy being handed to the Atarieans in tandem. "The results of the election are as follows:" The Mozakan said, clearing his throat. "One vote for Jagengeland, six votes for Throughlodir and Dumeruhm, one vote for Imperia Arkalia, five votes for..." Jean-Marsot squinted at the exorbitantly long name of the next nation, before quickly giving up, "the Zudeans, two for Iserk, four for Arcadisia and three for Enspiana." Devlin's brow furrowed below that none of the GSA member-states had been elected. "Throughlodir will receive the fifth seat, to face election to a full term in October, 1953. The... Zudeans will receive the fourth, to face election in October, 1951."

He threw a glance which appeared a mix of several different feelings, hidden under his usual charismatic mask. "It was truly an honor to join you all for this meeting. The International Community of Nations will remain in Throughlodir until a permanent location is found." He raised his arm up straight in salute. "Heil Boross."

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Mikhaelia, Miklozia

"December 9th, from hence on, shall be known as Victory in Ashdia Day! Those who doubted in the shadows must bite their foul tongue, for the Eternal Leader, in his infinite brilliance, has led us to achieve victory once again! Heil Boross, now and forever!"

The clink of the bottom of a glass sucked of its wine echoed deftly through the room as a nearby radio blared with the voice of Minister of Truth Jan Devlin, laid over the Hymn of Eternal Purity, the Empire's binational anthem. "Once again you both continue to impress..." Eternal Leader Jan Boross said with a pleased smile entirely unbecoming of the empire's dictator since the July 23rd Plot almost stole his life.

Before him, the man whose voice blared over the radio, his stature crooked and his arm shot up in a plastered salute. "My life is nothing without your divine guidance, Eternal Leader!" The man said, his previous angst having totally evaporated. "Heil your name, for all eternity!"

Boross smiled down at the crooked propaganda czar, before happily patting the man's shoulder, Devlin looking up like a child whose classroom creation had been pinned on the fridge. Boross shifted his attention to the other man before him, the Mozakan. "And you. When I decided to appoint you to this post, my vision was doubted by those same voices who are so often proven wrong! But as usual, my decision to bring you from that Mozakan rump state to my service has been entirely vindicated!" A little smirk came over Jean-Marsot's face. "And this is your greatest accomplishment!"

Devlin shot Jean-Marsot a jealous look as the Eternal Leader parted, moving back toward his wine and pouring in some more, before filling two other glasses. Picking each one up, he moved back and handed them each one. "I am awarding you both the honor the medal of the Hero of the Empire!" Devlin gazed up, starstruck. "To you, my finest servants." Their glasses clinked, before Boross raised his hand up slightly in subdued salute. Devlin and Jean-Marsot did the same, straight-up and with great enthusiasm:

"Heil Boross!"

Vranastrova wrote:Luciano’s Lament - Imele, Vranastrova - January 22, 1950 - Part III

Three and a half years later…

Luciano Picelli sat alone on a stone bench as a light dusting of snow fell from the overcast sky above. In his hands he cradled a worn, black leather bible; its cover having long since given up any hope of shielding the gold trimmed pages from the elements. As he read from the tattered book, his eyes swinging gracefully from one line to the next, he found himself contemplating the exact nature of the black print. He comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any kind of affliction, through the comfort we ourselves receive from God.

His mind drifted to the front lines of the Second Great War, to the blackened beachheads and charred cities he scoured for hours as the dead and dying lay without any comfort at all. Where was the God of comfort in those moments? For as the sufferings of Christ overflow to us, so through Christ our comfort also overflows.

Then he remembered.

Kneeling down beside the wounded, bloodied bandages concealing injuries and gashes that no amount of medicine or surgery could fix, Luciano took hold of their hands and prayed. Deep in reflective prayer as the men he fought alongside slipped from this life into the next, Luciano found that as he prayed the men’s shouts became soft whimpers. Though most, his twin chief among them, would say that it was because they were dying, Luciano firmly believed that they were comforted by his prayers just as he was comforted by the prayers of his mother from so very long ago. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation. If we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is experienced in the endurance of the same sufferings that we suffer.

Enduring together, suffering together, dying together. These were the trials and tribulations of the soldiers in service to the Supreme Pontiff; ones whose burdens Luciano begrudgingly accepted, steadfastly endured, and sorrowfully left behind. Gently brushing the pages of the book free of snow, Luciano then closed the ancient Bible. The Holy Bible, Gifted to Countess Toussaint, 1872 stamped in bold lettering long since faded stared back up at him. The Countess Toussaint was his great-aunt on his mother’s side, and when she died of tuberculosis in 1921 following the sinking of the RMS Lursenkia she gifted this very Bible to Lady Adelina DuPont. Long thought to be lost in the aftermath of the First Heartland War that claimed his mother’s life in 1935, Luciano was pleased to find that the Bible had endured the war. Discovered in what remained of his past life, the boy then came into possession of this treasured family heirloom in 1947 during a trip to the Gulman Islands where his family had sought refuge twelve years before.

Bringing the Bible up to his mouth, Luciano kissed the snow-dusted cover. Yes, he whispered softly, thoughtfully tracing the name of his aunt with his forefinger, You are indeed a God of comfort. Standing, he brushed off his black cassock and shook his head to remove the snow from his cappello romano. Gliding forward through the growing blanket of white which covered the previously flowered landscape, Luciano contemplated the beauty of it all.

Ten years prior his world was a blur of blood, guns, and violent explosions. From day to day he prayed, consistently bargaining with God over every hour he was granted, and now, ten years later, he walked in the fruit of his friendship with the Almighty. The red blood was gone, replaced by the kisses of white snowflakes as they fell to God’s green earth. The guns had fallen silent as peace once more reigned throughout the world. The explosions had ceased, their horrendous sounds usurped by the songs of joyous millions as they sang “Glory to God in the highest!”

Yes it was true, he thought, turning a corner to find the Cathedral of Our Enduring Savior. Every evil, every darkness, must indeed find its end as the brilliant light of God and His righteousness marched forever forward. Entering into the great cathedral, Luciano was met by the warm glow of a thousand flickering candles. His nostrils filling with incense, he felt a serene calm wash over him as he slowly made his way up the center aisle towards the altar.

Turning left, the archbishop of the cathedral soon came into view. “Good morning, Luciano,” he said, a smile dancing its way across his face. “And happy birthday.”
_______________________________________________________________________

Reema, 1946

“Liar!” Luciano shouted, slamming his fist backwards against the wall. “You’re a spinner of lies and I’ll prove it!”

“Will you? Because I know all about dear Gregorio’s demise…” Marzia paused, glancing around to make sure no one was coming yet. “Alone. Locked away. There was no escape from that watery grave, you see. There was no way he could have escaped. Want to know how I know?” Footsteps echoed off the brown brick, Zenone, none too pleased with the noise, hastening down the hall. “I was the one who locked him in.”

Luciano’s face twisted with an unholy mixture of grief and anger. Lunging forward, his hands outstretched to grasp the woman’s throat, Luciano was narrowly stopped from throttling Marzia where she stood when Zenone arrived. Wrapping his arms around the venge-filled Luciano, Zenone began his own round of questions.

“What has gotten into you, boy?!” Zenone hurled Luciano around, throwing him to the damp floor as Marzia’s satisfied grin melted into terror.

“He-” Marzia began, her lip trembling, “he tried to kill me!”

Zenone’s countenance boiled into an alarming shade of red. “Go upstairs to your master,” he said softly, shielding her from the human wreck that lay grieving upon the floor. Turning back to Luciano when Marzia was gone, Zenone unleashed his fury upon the boy. “Do you know what we do to traitors and murderous monsters like you?” He raised a balled fist, swinging it down to strike Luciano as he attempted to stand. “We throw them to the dogs where they belong!” Kicking the downed Picelli, Zenone readied his fury-filled arsenal and fired.

“Do you know what happened to your father when the dust settled and the pontiff ushered you away?” He lifted his leg and kicked once more. “The corpse of that wretched insurgent was dumped among foul dogs.” His leg thrust forward once more, knocking the breath clear out of Luciano. “I laughed as they ripped his lifeless body limb from limb.” He bent down, grabbing Luciano’s face as he chuckled away at the boy’s misery. “And I’ll take just as much pleasure when I do the same to you.”

Zenone pushed Luciano’s face aside; tossing the boy once more towards the damp earth. “I’ll make sure His Holiness knows the whole story.” Striding upstairs, Zenone brushed off his jacket, straightened his bowtie, and groomed his slick brown hair. Returning to the room where he’d left the pontiff to guide Marzia down to the servant’s quarters, he found the pope sitting at his desk chipping away at his next encyclical. “Holiness,” he said, clearing his throat to gain Michael Gregory’s attention.

“What is it now, Zenone?” Michael Gregory grumbled, annoyed that the servant would disturb him.

Zenone stifled a smile, his pleasure at announcing the Picelli’s betrayal difficult to conceal. “It’s Luciano, Holiness. While Marzia, the nurse who-”

“I know who Marzia is,” Michael Gregory said, sitting upright in his chair. “She was just here. Do you think of me to be so forgetful?”

The butler flinched, taken aback by the pope’s rebuke. “N-no, Holiness. My apologies. But while down in the servant’s quarters, Luciano beset Marzia and…” He couldn’t hide his smile any longer. Slowly it crept its way across his mustachioed lips. “Tried to kill her.”

Michael Gregory narrowed his eyes at Zenone. “Are you sure?”

“Yes, Holiness. I saw it with my own eyes.”

The pope sat back in his chair, silently contemplating the news for a long moment. “Bring him upstairs.”

Zenone had Luciano escorted from where he lay on the damp ground upstairs by a pair of Calarimian Guardsmen, uncertain if the boy would attempt to attack him too. “I have brought the traitor,” Zenone announced proudly when the group reached the pope’s office.

“You may leave, Zenone, and take the Guard with you.”

Zenone’s face faltered, surprised that the pope didn’t want witnesses present. “B-but Holiness it isn’t-”

“Leave.”

The servant followed the Guard out of the office, and when they were gone the pope stood to his feet. Luciano, face bruised and head hung low in grief, remained planted before the pontiff’s desk, his arms hanging limp by his sides. Examining the defeated Luciano, the pope soon found himself questioning Zenone’s claim.

“Do you know why you’re here?” Michael Gregory asked, walking out from behind the desk.

Luciano sniffled, wiping his nose with the back of his sleeve. “I’ve been accused of murder, Holiness.”

Michael Gregory held up a finger. “Attempted murder.” He wagged the same finger. “There is a difference. But… I find myself questioning it.” He stopped beside the boy, narrowing his eyes as Luciano turned to face him. “You’re a hardened soldier, decorated and celebrated across my empire as a hero of our righteous cause. God’s cause.” He placed a fatherly hand on Luciano’s shoulder. “Tell me what happened.”

As Luciano recounted the entire incident from running into Marzia, to her claim that she’d killed Gregorio, and right down to the moment he was beaten then apprehended, the pope listened intently to every word. When he finished, the pope tightened his grip on Luciano’s shoulder. “Is it true?” Luciano asked, his voice an octave higher as he reconsidered Gregorio’s watery demise. “Is my brother dead?”

Michael Gregory paused, considering the boy’s question. For years he’d hidden the exact information concerning Gregorio’s disappearance from Luciano and Adelina. Believing that they would be more willing to follow him if there was the hope of being reunited with their long-lost sibling he kept the myth of Gregorio’s transfer to Authrasia alive. He even went so far as to recruit Supreme Viceroy Paskalev to write letters to Adelina to calm her when she asked about the oldest Picelli twin. But now, in one simple move, a nurse from a ship he’d forgotten found Luciano and poked a hole in the imaginary world he’d built.

Sighing, the old pope brought his gaze away from Luciano’s weary face. “Yes. What she told you about Gregorio’s death on the ship was true.”

“Why, Holy Father? Why didn’t you tell me?” Luciano pleaded. “Why?”

For a moment the pope’s hatred of the Picelli clan faltered. Every hour spent detesting Luciano and Gregorio, every moment praying for their demise suddenly meant nothing as he turned to face Luciano’s tear-ridden eyes. And then, as he averted his gaze to find the image of Boross hanging on the nearby wall, all of it came rushing back. Steeling himself against the weeping soldier he found a reason.

“To spare you.” He hid a grimace. Truthfully he cared little for the Picelli twins, but oh so very much for their sister. And she, for a reason only God knew, still depended on and cared for the twins. “You have to be strong for your sister, Luciano. Gregorio’s death was and is tragic, but there is no time for mourning. When you walk out these doors you have to promise me that you will forget everything that nurse told you and carry on as usual.” The pope released Luciano. “Can you do that? If not for me, then for Adelina.”

But Luciano couldn’t. Later that evening the boy told his sister everything, and in a flurry of black silk, blue and yellow cottons, and red plumes, Luciano was ushered out of the Apostolic Complex and into the wide, open world. Michael Gregory, having had enough of the boy’s games, exiled him into the far reaches of the empire where he was soon forgotten. Adelina, distraught and pushed to the brink as her world came crumbling down around her, soon suffered a mental breakdown and after a severe seizure became completely mute.

The pope’s goal of separating the girl from her past as a Picelli had utterly failed.
__________________________________________________________________

Imele, 1950

Or at least that is what Luciano was told.

His faith in God only growing despite everything, Luciano devoted himself to prayer and daily works of charity to forget the grief he’d endured. Eventually he found his way to Imele where the local bishop - unaware of the boy’s storied past - took him under his wing. A year later, the Picelli was ordained in a quiet ceremony by the same bishop as a priest.

Smiling back at the old bishop, Luciano quietly thanked the man for the birthday wish. “How is Mrs. Stovosk?” Sitting near the archbishop was an elderly woman, her eyes pale but her face warm and bright.

The archbishop laughed. “She’s as witty as ever, but I do fear for her.” He inched closer to Luciano, whispering, “She’s had a few run-ins with the authorities lately. As the empire consolidates, it’s people like her that find themselves on the fringes.”

“I heard that,” Mrs. Stavosk said. “Need I remind you that this whole city is on the fringe? If I go anywhere then the city is coming with me.”

Luciano’s smile faded, the woman’s words dangerously prophetic. “I’m sure things will be fine, Mrs. Stavosk. Just keep your head down and try not to cause any trouble.” The old woman laughed, opening her mouth to argue before deciding that getting into it with a priest would be worse than arguing with a policeman. “We just need to find a way to keep the people calm,” Luciano whispered to the archbishop. “God will provide a way through this storm. He always has and always will.”

The archbishop smiled, nodding his head before returning to the old woman to feed her what remained of her daily rations of soup. Luciano soon continued on his journey towards the western transept of the cathedral. There he found several people in silent prayer, standing kneeling, or rising in a sea of lit and unlit candles. Kneeling down, the priestly Picelli lit one of his own.

Our Father,” he breathed, his eyes closed and his hands folded neatly in front of him. Who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us of our trespasses, as we forgive those who have trespassed against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the glory, and the power forever. Amen.

Lifting his head and opening his eyes he found the image of Christ on the cross, His body mangled much like the bodies of the soldiers he used to pray for. Absorbing the image, he lowered his head. Forgive me, Father, of my sin. His thoughts drifted to his brother. Images of their days together flashed across his mind. Forgive me if there is something that I’ve done or said that would warrant such punishment. An image of a sinking ship, a vengeful nurse, and a drowning Gregorio replaced the happier memories. Forgive me if what I’ve done caused me to celebrate yet another birthday alone. A sunken ship, a lifeless hero. Forgive me.

“Always thought you’d make a good priest,” came a familiar voice from behind. “You know that I’ve been looking for you for five years?”

Luciano’s Lament - Imele, Vranastrova - January 22, 1950 - Part IV

Luciano turned sharply around, his eyes widening with surprise as they fell upon a rather rugged looking man dressed in hiker’s gear. A dirty metal walking stick in one hand, and half of his beard in the other as he stroked the long, unruly hairs the man looked as if he hadn’t showered or groomed himself in ages. Luciano’s face soured momentarily, smelled that way too. His eyes narrowing, the young priest tried desperately to recall any memory about who this man was but to no avail. “I-I’m sorry,” he said, examining this strange character. “Do I know you?”

The stranger shifted his weight back, seemingly offended by Luciano’s question. “Why, Luca, don’t you remember me?” Letting go of his beard, the stranger moved his hand up to his cap, removing the flat, soot covered hat slowly as he attempted a grin. “It’s me. It’s your Ani.”

Getting up from where he was kneeling and taking a step towards Ani, Luciano narrowed his eyes further. “Last I heard, Anselmo Caspari had died in the Siege of Aurelianople.” Crossing his arms he shifted himself backwards, scrutinizing the man all the more. “So who are you?”

The man claiming to be Anselmo let his stature collapse slightly, defeat and disbelief overwhelming him for a moment. “Luca, it’s me. I promise that it’s me, Anselmo. Don’t you remember me at all?”

“I remember Anselmo, but I don’t remember you.” Luciano unfolded his arms and clasped his hands behind his back. “Now, if you don’t mind, I have some business to attend to. Confession is in an hour if you’d like to repent for your heartless lies.”

“Wait.” The man threw his arm in front of Luciano, desperation filling his eyes as he took hold of the Picelli’s pellegrina. “Just wait. I can prove it.” Ushering Luciano out of earshot of everyone else within the transept he glanced down at his left ankle. “Ten years ago two friends of mine found me strung up in not but my birthday suit in the heart of Harlem. My face was beaten beyond recognition and my body was covered in blood. But how did they know it was me?” Lifting his pant leg and rolling down his sock the stranger revealed a scar on left ankle. “They saw this.”

Luciano stood silent for a moment; his eyes locked on the single, jagged line of white scar tissue that traversed the man’s ankle. Then, his mouth falling open as he inhaled a single burst of air, Luciano finally remembered. “Anselmo?” The stranger nodded. “Anselmo!” The pair embraced, the young Picelli throwing caution and tidiness into the wind as he enveloped his long-lost friend in a warm hug. Stepping back, his face beaming with delight, he took in all that his friend had become. “H-How did you find me?” He asked, attempting to hold back tears. “Imele stands at the end of the world. I thought no one would find me here.”

Anselmo fell silent, his mind racing back to the end of the war. His face devoid of emotion he slowly began to recall how he found his friend. “It was July, 1945. I’d just recovered from my final injury sustained during the War, probably that wound someone told you claimed my life in Aurelianople, and was marching once more in St. George’s Fifth. The company was permitted to march in the victory parades following the pope’s return from Elden at the conclusion of the conference that ended that damned conflict.” He let a grin tug at the corner of his mouth, the hazy image of Gregorio appearing in golden light as Anselmo lay in a hospital bed aboard a ship at peer in Aurelianople. “I was told by someone dear to both of us to find you and to tell you that they were alright. Following their instructions, I tried to find you in Reema on the day of the parade, to take you and your sister out of that cursed city to where they were hiding, but…”

“But what? Who sent you to find me?” Luciano’s heart quickened, his mind grasping at the thought of Gregorio being the one to send Anselmo after him. Who else would want both himself and his sister?

Anselmo shuddered, his eye twitching at the vile memory of what came next. “But when I reached the room you were supposed to be in I only found a contingent of Calarim Guards who swiftly arrested me. I was held captive by the Order for several years before I managed to escape.” He cocked his head mischievously at Luciano. “Don’t suppose old Michael Gregory ever told you that, eh? That he kept your best friend in a dungeon for four years?”

Luciano examined his friend once more, his pale albeit rough complexion beginning to make sense. The Anselmo from the War had always tried his best to maintain cleanliness. Something deep within him must have broken during his time as the pope’s captive. His heart sinking, Luciano recognized all too well the pope’s power to break the will of his enemies, his own will having been broken eleven years before.

“Guess not. Doesn’t surprise me.” Anselmo let his mischief fade. In its place grew an anger known too well by all who opposed the pope. “A friend of mine from the war found me and helped me escape, just in case you were wondering. He took me back to San Sebastian and helped me to recover. Then I set out to look for you.”

“I-I’m glad you survived everything, Anselmo. And I’m truly sorry you had to endure so much pain.” Luciano sighed, his thoughts drifting to his father. “Part of me feels as though it’s my fault, my father’s fault, for not being able to stop the pope sooner.”

Shaking his head, Anselmo rested his hand on Luciano’s shoulder, daring to meet his friend’s sorrowful gaze with a grin. “No. It isn’t your fault, nor is it your father’s fault. There was nothing either of you could do to stop him. Besides,” Anselmo shrugged. “I’m here, aren’t I? I’m alive. So are you. So is your sister.”

“Gregorio isn’t.” Luciano bit back, bitterness lacing both words. “He’s dead, Anselmo. That’s why… That's why I’m out here alone.”

Anselmo gave his friend a quizzical look, his memories of Gregorio visiting him on board the HHS Saint’s Dawning as clear as day. “But he isn’t, Luca.” Luciano’s heart skipped a beat. “Gregorio is the one who sent me to find you.”
____________________________________________________

Reema

A lone figure scampered along rough dirt roads, flying between makeshift shelters constructed of sheet metal, tarps, and plastic barrels. Pallets long stripped bare of any supplies lay intermittently along the paths the figure took. Near each pallet gathered a group of men, women, and children in rags and tattered blankets or coats; their tiny communities huddled closely together around fires lit in metal barrels. Soaring over another pile of pallets, the figure then took a sharp right, zipping through the night as though they were some tiny bird fluttering through the wind.

A moment later they came to a stop in front of a discrete hut, its only notable marking a white line the size of the figure’s palm along the top of the doorframe. Glancing over their shoulder the figure then knocked against the door.

The door drew open slowly, warm light emanating from deep within. In the crack soon appeared a young man, maybe 17 or 18 years old. His eyes narrow, he stared harshly at the newcomer. After a moment of silence he said, “Darkness has fallen, and the old world is gone.”

“But hope still comes for those who seek the lost.” The figure replied. The boy slammed the door shut, and for a moment nothing happened. Then the chain keeping the door locked rattled and the door swung back open. The figure was ushered in, the boy hastily closing the door and locking it once more.

“Welcome, Ms. Marzia Scarpinato, or shall we say, Thea Rossmark?” The voice which spoke the figure’s name bellowed from deep within the shelter. Other men and women who’d come slowly turned to soak in the woman’s presence. “It is not often that we get defectors who work for the princes of the Church.”

Thea, or Marzia, stood tall against the voice’s slight. “My loyalty is with my people, not with that glorified pig in a red dress.” A few of the nearby people snickered, both at her loyalties and at the insult to Cardinal Gildemeister.

“Your people are gone, Ms. Rossmark. Millions of them snuffed out in an instant over these last two decades.” Thea’s eye twitched as her hands clenched into tiny balled fists at her sides. “There is no saving anyone, no loyalty to a people who no longer exist.” The voice emerged from the crowd, its owner a man dressed in a black cassock with red trim. Crowning his head of wavy salty-blond hair was a red zucchetto. The mysterious man was a cardinal, and not just any cardinal. “Our people are gone, my dear. Your loyalties are either with yourself, or with a faint memory.”

Thea’s face drained of color, her teeth bearing for but a flickering moment before she sank into despair. Falling to her knees, Thea looked up at the aging Matsrakian cardinal. Tears began to streak down her cheeks as he took her face in his hands. “I-I just want things to end. For this suffering to be over, Father. Our people did nothing to deserve this.”

The cardinal bent down, taking Thea in his arms as she buried her face in his shoulder. “I know, my dear. I know.” For a moment the cardinal let Thea cry, her anger melting to sorrow as she slowly accepted that her people were truly lost to history. “But there is still hope. Maybe not for our kin, but for everyone else who endures this suffering.” The cardinal stood, taking Thea’s hands in his and lifting her to her feet. “Look around, Ms. Rossmark. These are the faces of those who suffer under Strainist rule. Pedrians, Rilindjans, Croats, Voxelians, even the Fahri and Lerizians can be counted among our number here. You and I may be the final embers of a dying fire, but we can still transform into a spark which lights the flame of revolution.” Thea sniffled, wiping her nose with the back of her sleeve. “Darkness has fallen, and the old world is gone, but hope still comes for those who seek the lost.” The cardinal led Thea forward, motioning towards an image she never thought she’d see again. “We’d found our hope in the true pope.”

“I-Innocent?” The words stuck to Thea’s mouth life peanut butter, the idea of that man being their hope almost sickening. “The E-Exoan?”

The cardinal nodded. “Jotham is his name now, and he will soon lead the revolution that will see this city freed.”
___________________________________________________________

Imele, January 22, 1951 – One year later

Luciano walked side-by-side with Anselmo, the latter having cleaned and groomed himself to look almost no different from the way he appeared the day they’d last seen each other in 1944. As the sun began to set on the western horizon, the pair came to a standstill at the edge of the cathedral’s gardens overlooking the river which ran through the heart of the city. Its blue waters turning a golden orange from the light of the fading sun, Luciano breathed a heavy sigh of contentment. His friend was back.

“You know,” Luciano said, breaking the comfortable, almost relaxing silence between the pair of former soldiers. “You never told me where Gregorio said he was, let alone what he was doing when he visited you.”

Anselmo’s gaze drifted to the river below them, its waters flowing softly and gently by. “He didn’t exactly say. Something about being in Zudea and that he’s alive. That’s all I got before he left.”

Luciano bit his cheek, shifting his wait as he leaned forward against the cast iron railing above the river. The idea of Gregorio being in Zudea unnerved him. Rumors circulated daily of a growing uprising in the heart of Papal Zudea; the Rilindjan people were growing ever more restless and rebellious while under the sway of some unknown master. “I don’t like it.” He let go of the railing. “There has to be something we can do to reach him, speak to him.”

“I’m not sure that there is, Luca.” Anselmo rested his weight on the railing, crossing his arms over the sturdy iron bars. “We’ll just have to wait.”

“Wait for what? For the uncertainty to fade into madness? For the years to tick by until I finally die as the last of my line?” Luciano shook his head, waving his arm angrily across the water. “No. I’ve done enough waiting. I’ve had enough of Michael Gregory stealing one member of my family from me after another. It’s time I did something.” Turning sharply on his heel, Luciano Picelli made for the cathedral, striding forward with a determination he’d not felt in years.

“Where are you going?” Anselmo called out after him.

“To find my brother.”

Dealbreaker I - November, 1950 - Unknown Location

Coundou had made the trip to Zaldur humble abode. Although the Prime Minister did not know of his illegal progression, he knew his involvement within the Al-Mungo Caliphate, who's territory had been under siege from the Passingon Army for several weeks. Knowing his involvement, Coundou, who was a similar age to Zaldur, several years older, wanted to strike some sort of deal with the man who could change everything in Coundou's path. The trip seemed long and sluggish, with his senior assistant and several bodyguards behind him in two cars similar to the one in which he was in. Taking a sip from his whiskey, he was nervous for the first time in a while. Normally when meeting someone for the first time, he would calm and confident, trying to keep himself in a mental zone before he introduced himself to the stranger, but it seemed different from other alterations. It could've been several things; the importance of the occasion, the figure he was talking to, but the Prime Minister was nervous, slightly sweaty and a few fingers twitching. Soon enough, the car came to a slow stop by a series of office buildings, with the company name of “ZALDUR LIMITED '' on the buildings exterior. The two cars, from one behind and the one forward from him had already stopped and exited, the crowds of bodyguards guarding every angle of the Prime Minister. As Coundou exited his personal car, as did his assistant beside him, the building seemed much larger than he had seen previously, however, pushed through the opening door, of which the ground floor of a luxury bar, with various clients and people of influence drinking various different beverages. Although it would be a great pleasure to have a drink with these people, some he recognised through certain connections as the leader of the country, he refused and made his way towards Zaldur’s personal office, of which the route to the office was guided by a basic clerk.

Coundou and his team of around 14 stopped, of which the rest of the bodyguards shifted away, likely for a drink of some sort, and the PM made his way in an expected manner, shoving through the door, into his office, which even with his high expectations, was bigger than he expected. The two were not standing opposite each other, as Zaldur handed him a pint of beer, something of a tradition for someone raised in the farming industry, both shook hands, and sat.

“So, you’re the big man?” Asked Zaldur in a charismatic tone, taking a sip of the beer while going through a group of files laid out on the table. His eyes narrowed ever so slightly to Coundou, who had a simple expression to himself. Looking at him, up and down, in disgust, although that wasn’t visual.

“Yes, you could say that. Now, let’s get on to the- “ Began Coundou, who was trying to prevent the longevity of small talk, and wanted to discuss the ruthless and reckless acts of the Al-Mungo Caliphate, his drug empire and other parts to Zaldur’s rise to power. Even though the caliphate had been destroyed via successful attacks, it remained operational and highly dangerous to many in the country, especially the Prime Minister. He had been interrupted by Zaldur, who to the contrary, wanted to delay the conversation of what was really at hand, talking on basic subjects of sport, drinking etc.
“Do you like beer? It’s a new creation here, and I vividly enjoy it, and for someone of such importance, I must try and please you, correct?” He asked in a weirdly-charismatic tone, as Zaldur took another sip, the liquid gushing down his mouth. The two of them knew that one was deterring, the other one eager to engage in the practices of the country. Zaldur awaited the response of the PM, who had been distracted by the various additions of art within the room.

“Yes, it’s nice, very nice. Now, we really must discuss your interaction and partnership with-”. Once more, he was interrupted, but not by Zaldur, but by his assistant, a 20-ish woman, who held a small notepad. She had entered, not really knowing it was the Prime Minister. Coundou was getting more and more impatient, as Zaldur and his assistant continued their conversation. Eventually, she was guided out the door, and the conversation between one man to another resumed.

“I understand your urgency, Prime Minister - however, I simply want to strike a deal with you, not discussing, in length, my current affairs with my connections”. He said in a fast-paced tone, yawning due to the lack of sleep he had been getting, rubbing his eye-lids. Coundou was a little surprised by this, but also glad that it wasn’t going to take hours upon hours to get this done. Both took a sip of the beer, as the real conversation got under way.

“And that is?” Asked the Prime Minister, curious of what he was to strike up to him.

“Well, I think you understand the difficulty of the Al-Mungo Caliphate, so, I know their location, equipment, senior members - as-well as knowing the mastermind of this whole organization. I am simply a puppet under another man’s organization, the figurehead of the company, If you understand”. He was simply lying. He knew that Coundou was to imprison him, maybe kill him after the arrests and executions of Al-Mungo’s members, and so, he needed a scapegoat, a blame. Downing the rest of beer, the Prime Minister was trying to conjure up a response.

“A puppet? You’re suggesting you’re being controlled?” Asked Coundou, who took once more another sip of the drink, laying it back. He re-did his tie, with the conversation taking a more alternative turn than he had hoped, however, if it allowed him to route out Al-Mungo and destroy the organization he was currently attending, it was for the better of both himself and the country. He quickly did the necessary knots, awaiting the response. This was a shock for himself.

“Exactly. If you can take down Bashi, you can take down the Caliphate, he is the architect of it all”. He said in a quick manner, trying to get his point across. Zaldur gathered several pieces of paper, with information over locations and what those of which Coundou had shuffled over to him. He waited for the Prime Minister to have a look, of which he took a sip of his second beer which had been beside his now finished first.

He began to read it, the location of Bashi House, location of military equipment of the caliphate, and everything else. It seemed brilliant, however, the deal couldn’t be struck without hearing the other side of the deal, as he took a look at Zaldur, a grin placed upon him. “What's your end then?” He asked in a curious manner, squinting his eyes to him, as Coundou continued to read through the information of the multi-page files.

“I wish for an open election to occur on February 1st, 1951. We all know of your lack of popularity, with various parties being even more popular than the government itself. And, I know that had you kept the elections free and fair, you would’ve been ousted straight after the war had ended. Wouldn’t you rather have the chance of keeping power, before you’re consumed by your own fate. This will be an open election. Do you have any questions over this?” He said in a lengthy sentence, sipping on his beer. He would look into his eyes like a lion on a gazelle, ready to pounce at any moment. Coundou seemed wordless, emotionless, nothing to say.

“No questions. However, why should I trust a man who, to my belief, is involved with this organization, involved with the drug trade?” He asked in a simple sentence, with Zaldur trying to think if it was a rhetorical question, or for him to answer. However, it was too late to think of that, as the Prime Minister had already left, the door slamming shut. Rocking back on his chair, he had been satisfied, taking one last sip of his drink before he exited his own office.

December 15th, 1950 - Victor Hanger

It was a fairly busy day at Victory Hanger, as pilots varying in where and what plane they were trained were drinking beer, playing black-jack or reading books. Most of the time when pilots were sent to a hanger of any sort, especially Victor, Tango 2 and Papa, is was either a military exercise off-shore, supporting exercises for the navy, or it was a bombing run excersies, but most missions were not to target specific are. Planes were scattered around, varying from heavy bombers to fighters. One of the pilots, Jahtika, was playing cards with a senior mechanic and a younger pilot. He was a taller man, Jathika reigned at around 5’11, fairly tall in Passingon. Wearing a jet black bomber jacket, as was the young pilot, as they continued to play black-jack, while conveying through various accounts of everyday conversation, such cricket, local news etc.

“Here about some block got 200 in a day?” Said Jahtika, as he laid one of the cards on the table as the dealer. It was simple small talk, as the two other men were attempting to respond.

“Yeah, a decent player, but I never expected him to hit 200 in a single game. Tika, ever played pro before this..?” Said the younger pilot, Rafa, who looked down to his card while sipping on cheap, canned beer, sipping upon it. The table was fairly small, although the weight and size of cards meant it was big enough to play on. Slicking his hair back, he glanced to his left to the sight of a V-12 Bomber, a 1944 modle, before heading back to the game, even the sight of it was incredible.

“No, just played in local leagues around the Northern Parts-”. He was interrupted by a loud, almost disturbing siren which surrounded the whole hangar. To the left of the 3 of them was a small crowd of pilots who had gathered to the center, quickly a rate of instructions hit the crowd, and gathered to their stations. Jathika wasn’t one of them, although one of the older ones, wasn’t very good all round, and even around the hassle and bassle of the planes being rolled out, the three continued their game, as another cycle of Black Jack came once more.

45 minutes earlier, Unknown location

It seemed lifeless. A few abandoned cars were left in the sharp dirt-roads, a few even with spark of fire in them. However, two trucks slowly came towards the area, of which had a large, near en-caved entrance to the HQ of some company, some place of importance. The trucks were fairly large, enough for around 10 in each. Painted in a jet-black color, it seemed like a pick-up of some sort, or anything normal around the area. However, the trucks stopped. It seemed like a beam of tension rose from the ground and between these trucks and the large entrance for what was considered to be a secret HQ. Four guards, dressed in religious clothing and armed with semi-automatic weaponry, of which looking to the trucks and the men, something was to occur. Inside the truck, members of the Passingon Terrorist Ageny (PTA) were silent, waiting for the foot-steps of the Al-Mungo terrorists. A private remained at the back, Private Muhammad Al-Rismam, shaking in fear.

Soon enough the doors were brushed open, and the infighting began. Rattles of bullets invaded the scene, blood soon becoming the victor of its cruel mess. The private was behind the truck, the fury and ruthless bloodshed unfolding, every bullet causing some damage. Muhammad stopped firing, below him being his captain, blood engulfing him, as the prviate carelessly and in a manner of life and death pulled him to safety behind the truck, taking out a smaller pistol, with one arm struggling to bend round the bandages, the other protecting him and his captain, who’s breath after breath was harder and harder. Soon enough, the shooting stopped, as the private was ordered to advance with the team, with the captain left to bleed out.

“Are we just going to leave him there?” Asked the private in an aggressive manner to Lieutenant Baba, whose gun was aimed completely straight, his eyes fixated on what was in front of him. He slowly turned to the private, whose gun was pointed in the similar direction. Other soldiers were doing it in a similar motion, preparing for the next bombardment of attacks from the caliphate’s men.

“Yep. No point keeping him if he’s going to die.” He said briefly, trying to avoid the topic. Baba quickly stopped, ordering the private and two others to head back to the trucks to look out for support from behind. As in motion, all three made their way back to the trucks, awaiting potential opponents to the mission.

16 minutes later

No one was coming. The three of them had been playing poker, while sitting on the edge of the truck, waiting for something to happen. The only noise aside from small talk was the birds chirping and the wind brushing against their uniform. However, something was heard from behind. The lieutenant, and other individuals who had been involved, came out, blood splattered upon their chests and tourso, with four men, all bloody and seemingly lifeless. Baba held one of them, dragging him carelessly across the pathway, which was riddled with bodies which had been punctured by the weaponry of the world, guns. The private looked to the man that Baba was holding, and here he was. Rafiq, a small grin to his face, looking at the innocent private. Shoving him in the truck, as well as the three others, and seemingly in a flash, the trucks sped away, like the devil in the night.

Within the truck of which both Baba and Muhammad were in, as was one of the most dangerous poeple in the country, maybe the world, sat their, chained in metallic serfdom, head down in embarrassment. The younger of them, the private, stared in amazement, his bloody nose slowly dripping with the red liquid, the splatters being the only noise in the near silent arena. To the man beside him, a sergeant of which he had met a few times before the mission, looked at him.

“That man has killed hundreds, and never fired a bullet. Like that Boross guy over the pond, a ruthless, emotionless and psychotic killer”. He whispered to the private, as Rafiq looked up to them both, a smile coming to his face once more, of which the former Al-Mungo leader had not known of what was to come. The sergeant gave the teenager a picture of his wife, looking to the terrorist and the pictured person, and the realisation came to him.

“She was having a baby.” He said in a singular sentence, a tear dripping from his eye, of which he looked to the man who killed his future in pure disgust. The private gave the picture back camly, now knowing what sort of man they were going to deal with. It didn’t take long for the truck to suddenly stop, they had arrived within the capitals town square, as the doors suddenly opened, thousands in the crowd cheering those part of the operation. It was the celebration of seeing a man of that caliber to die, public execution.

Several miles from unknown location, 7 minutes later

Two planes soared through the sky, ripping through the wind at high speeds. One of them was a smaller, yet, faster plane, well in front of the torpedo bomber, which had been supplied by Kalonia several years prior. The two of them slashed through the air, the engines rumbling and rattling to the highest of speeds. The beautiful blue sky was a sight to look at, however, the pilots were not focusing on the blue sky, nor the bleach white clouds patched in the inevitable sky, but it was the mission on task. As they came closer and closer to the target, the pilots became more and more nervous, especially the first plane, the fighter, a cheaper version of a Kalonian make. It increased it’s speed, roasting past with the engine at a razor-like temperature. As it dipped, dripped and dipped lower to towards the ground, the targets became much more clear, the sight of the seemingly already damaged military equipment came to sight. The rattle of the fire came to it once more, blasting through to the pipe-works of the machinery, as a fiery tenacity came to the equipment below. With all anti-air operations destroyed, the ship began to go higher and higher, trying to prevent a crash, as the pilot became a little distorted, his eye-sight becoming more and more caved due to the gravity and the weight of the plane.

It was the second part. Doing the similar maneuver, dipping lower towards the ground, yet with a much more important mission. With it being a heavier plane, it would be harder to suddenly increase it’s height, and was likely to need an emergency landing. The plane came closer and closer, as the sight of his ally and partner became harder and harder to detect. The plane was in range.

A scene of explosions could’ve been seen from another planet, an array of colorful destruction ravaged the location, however, not all was perfect for the Passingon Airforce. Just a few miles from the site of which became a mere bunker, lifeless bodies scattered across the former HQ of the Al-Mungo Caliphate. The bomber was going down, one of it’s engines had seemingly failed. As came to an inevitable conclusion, the plane slammed into an enormous tree, scattering across the surface, the pilot simply hoping for survival. It came to a stop, the pilot’s life simply to the morality of life.

10 minutes later, Central Yugosatr

Rafiq Noor was kneeling to the thousands in the crowd, and once more, a slight grin to his face. The Prime Minister looked from afar, planted to the back at one of his private apartments in the city center, security surrounding the area. Looking around, Mr Noor seemed content with what was going to occur, his inevitable fate of death to come in a matter of a minute. However, that grin soon faded, as within the crowd, Zaldur, surrounded by undercover agents friendly to him, was sighted, now a bleak expression of shock and disappointment. The sight of them was of disgust, realizing too late of Zaldur’s true interests, power, power and power, his sole request and quest. The sound of a singular bullet finally came, as the now formly leader of the Al-Mungo Caliphate was now lifeless, dead. A smirk came to Zaldur, now just one more to go.

”Magnanimous I”
March 8th, 1909
Mirobein, Miklozia

The feeling of his little shoulder being tugged at from above with hastened enthusiasm was the first thing he could remember.

“Look up there, Herbie!” The soft voice of a woman above said with as much force as she could muster, forcing his vision up, intensely distorted to the verge of chronic blindness. “There he is! It’s really him!” She said, nudging in the right direction. He squinted hard, the great blobs which he deciphered as the silhouettes of closeby figures obscuring his vision even further. Each one seemed to be pointed in the same direction, the same way his mother had nudged, oohing and awing— gawking and murmuring as if they were witness to a miracle of divine quality. The noise was overpowering, a mass of people, children and adults alike, all crying out with more fervor than he had ever seen before or would ever see again.

The shapes of their blurred silhouettes began to rearrange on their own accord, falling in on themselves in the distance. “My God,” the woman called out, before he turned and looked to her, “Come to me, Herbie! He’s coming this way!” He squinted hard, turning in all directions at the source of the disturbance which now brought the woman a step back and on her knees. It all came so suddenly; each person around him had deepened toward the ground, most likely kneeling in the same way as the soft-voiced woman, and stepped back collectively to form a shifting circle seemingly around him.

“Now, what do we have here?”

He shifted around quickly toward the sound of the voice, soft yet firm, finding behind him a pair of two tall pillars cloaked in faded red. Before he could swing his vision up to attempt to make out something of a face, he felt himself jerked up by his armpits. Once-stabilized, he swung his vision over the shoulder of the man who had stolen him away, and caught the woman, her hands clasped over her mouth as the gap between them grew with each of the man’s step, before she too was encapsulated by the mass of blurred figures.

Confusion swelling in his mind, he shifted his vision the opposite way once the figure who had scooped him up took a few climbing steps, gazing out at a blurred mass of people larger than he had ever seen.

“What’s your name?” He nudged his vision in the direction of the voice, the same one who had stolen him away before. The murmurs of the mass below permeated with greater intensity, before fizzling out as he gazed at the face which the voice belonged to. The first thing that caught his attention were two shining bright green eyes, cradled in smooth skin and a permanent smile which radiated patriarchal congeniality. It was perfect. Not a blur at all. It was as if in this moment, his blindness had faded away totally, cured by the man’s friendliness alone. “What’s your name, sir?” The man repeated, the crowd laughing a little at his tone.

“Herbert.” He slurred out quietly without thinking, before turning once again toward the mass and their consistent murmurs. Sure enough, they were just as visually incomprehensible as before. The man who had stolen him up to this elevated position was an enigma.

“Your name is Herbert.” The man repeated, a little louder, his face turned toward the crowd. “Where are you from, Herbert?” The man asked. His eyes were still drinking in the man’s appearance, his eyes focused on his strange white and red uniform.

“Home.”

The crowd laughed once again.

“Now, my son,” the man said, prompting his attention. “Would you like to go back to your mother,” the boy’s eyes tracked back toward the crowd, confused, “or stay with your king?”

At this, he finally gave some thought. “King,” he finally decided, eliciting the crowd into a whirlwind of excitement. His head ached at the noise, his failing eyes working overtime, but he dwelled on the noise none. Instead, his focus was on the man who had raised him up to his level. He radiated inexplicability.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

May 30th, 1951

The sound of a door being shifted slightly open was quickly replaced by another knock, knock, knock in quick succession. “Nedd!” A firm voice called out, prompting Professor Herbert Nedd to groan amidst the darkness, before swinging his head up from his arms and straightening his posture. “How many times must I tell you?” Even without his vision, Herb could make out the rough-tuned voice of Wilmos Yulana, the Chancellor of Ravinus University, Mirobein’s most prestigious higher education institute. “You have quarters on campus, use it.”

Herb wiped a gob of drool from his lower lip before moving his hand to scoop up his glasses, having fallen from his face and onto the desk at some point during his slumber. “My work is too important to be neglected, Wilmos.” He said, before shifting the glasses over his eyes, and being granted the gift of sight.

“Don’t tell me you were serious about that book idea,” Yulana said, his fingers massaging his temple.

“So what if I was?” The professor responded.

Yulana’s eyes tracked to Nedd’s desk, filled with books of the same subject, King-Saint Mikhael the Magnanimous. “I wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole…” Nedd furrowed his brow, as Yulana shook his head further. “Come on down, we’ve got guests downstairs.”

Nedd mindlessly reached across the desk and scooped up a bottle of pills. “Woohoo, more mingling…” Quickly, he popped one of the pills and swallowed hard.

“You better get used to it.” Yulana said, “‘Got a call from the Ministry of Truth,” Nedd’s eyes narrowed further, “the Minister himself wants to speak with you on his radio programme.”

“Goodie…” Nedd muttered, before sliding out of his chair and beginning toward the door.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

July 30th, 1904

“That went well…”

King Mikhael smiled at his greatest friend, now his Private Assistant. “Never lose that cheery outlook of your’s, my friend.”

Andreas couldn’t help but smile back, as they descended the stairs of the Diet Chamber and were flanked by a troop of palace guards. “I certainly will try my damndest, Mikhael…” He swung his head over his shoulder before back forward as they reached the great front doors of the Wilmosian Palace, where for the first time the citizenry of Mirobein had been allowed within its gates, and into its front courtyard, sloped at its front but nonetheless beautiful. “A lot to celebrate sticking it to those pompous fuddy-duddies.”

The doors were pushed open, and out came King Mikhael, dressed in his usual regal white uniform that had a dazzling, blinding quality to all true Miklozians who bore witness to it. At his sight alone, the crowd was drawn into a frenzy of excitement. Their rancor had already proven so great that even some members of the Red Guard had wandered through the palace gates as escorts to their chaotic enthusiasm.

Mikhael simply stuck out his arm toward them in salutations, and their rancor increased tenfold. “Mikhael, six-o’clock…” Andreas’s voice called out behind, and the young king turned back, catching the faces of Baron Truscus of Edvizia and his fellow noblemen who had for so long governed unopposed.

Truscus stopped immediately after finding his footing outside the Palace doors, his gaze turned up toward Mikhael. “I feared that you would try something like this,” he said, his hand shaking and his temple bulging with stress, “but never to this magnitude.”

Mikhael simply stared back at him for a moment, breathing in with a calm that clearly only furthered the former regent’s rage. “You fear what you fail to understand, Baron.”

At this, Truscus’s fury seemed to waver, before crescendoing into a vacant smirk which quickly thawed Mikhael’s calm. The King raised an eyebrow as Truscus descended to bow, before swiftly grabbing the King’s hand with his own, clammy and cold. Slowly to the point of completely eroding Mikhael’s comfort, he reached down and planted his icy lips on the back of the King’s hand, before they parted with that same slowness.

“I kiss thy hand, Caesar.”

For a moment, Mikhael simply stared down at the man for another moment, before his eyes flashed with recognition and he took an indignant step forward. “Are you threatening me, Truscus?”

“Just an ode to the Bard, my very young Majesty.” Truscus said, before deeply bowing and turning to depart, his troop of aristocrats doing the same in his stead.

Andreas simply stared on as the Sessinian baron parted. “What was that all about?” Mikhael turned back to his friend with a look so serious that it startled him. “Should I call the guard?”

“That would grant him what he wants…” Mikhael muttered to Andreas’s confusion, before his gaze shifted behind, back toward that same crowd ripe with the most powerful of enthusiasm. “We have entered their house and taken down a wall…” Mikhael continued, eyes moving to track Truscus’s departure. “I have made the mistake of walking with their people. So I will walk among mine.” He took a single step forward toward the crowd, to Andreas’s dismay. ““Do not fear, Andreas. I will walk among my people. It is there where I am most free from the predations of my enemies…”

“Wait…” Andreas said, “Mikhael, hold on for a moment!”

But it was too late, as Mikhael took his final steps and, arms outstretched, entered the mass of the crowd, to their eternal celebration. Andreas rushed forward to close the gap as the King disappeared, stunned guardsmen, Red and royal, doing the same, all entering the crowd in search of the King.

Like the seas to Neptune’s touch, the crowd weaved in and out around the King as he proceeded forward, forming an ever-shifting wall as the people outstretched their hands for the King’s, who was delighted to meet them. Others simply knelt down in his honor, or to pray. None of them had never even seen King Jan Peter II. And now, here was the new King of Miklozia and its Empire, walking among them as if he was their own.

“Mikhael!” Andreas called out within the crowd, shoving against the peasantry as he tried to part the sea of people, to no avail. “Mikhael! Mikhael, come to your senses!”

A smirk appeared over the King’s face as he easily navigated the crowd. “Andreas, come to me!” He called out, “Enjoy the people of my kingdom with me! Dispense with your fear-!”

It was at that moment that Mikhael subconsciously realized that something had changed. Something in the natural order had been inexplicably altered. His vision traced over the surrounding people, their jubilant expressions defining his vision, until a streak of silver twinkled in his eye.

“MIKHAEL, NO!”

Pop, pop!

The shriek of a nearby woman accompanied the sound as Andreas finally parted the stunned crowd. Quickly, they detained the assailant, a man wearing green and a black flat cap. “Get the Hell out of the way!” Andreas said, as he and a few of the Red Guard pushed forward, the latter quickly making a wall around the King’s body, limp upon the grass. “Dear God, Mikhael, no!”

To be continued...

A Pioneer's Wish
Bukgowon, Goseyan Liberared Zone

The dense forests of the highlands of Goseyan give way to a large plateau. On this plateau, pockets of trees intermingle with traditional Arcadisian architecture mixed with the rectangular pastels of a foreign socialist style. Insects chirp through the night, a glimmering yet deep indigo subduing what lay outside of the traditional village in darkness. Here, a thirteen year old Ryun Eul-Sung leaned on the traditional fencing of her family's state-allocated house, overlooking the dark streets of her hometown. She would be clad in a very minimalist blue and grey Goseyon-ot (Hanbok) dress, a red pioneer's neckerchief secured tightly to her frame. The sky of her hometown was a mosaic of the galaxy above.

Ryun Eul-Sung would recall a revolutionary poem passed down from her teacher to her. The words of the tribute would echo in her head to the backdrop of insects and cascading mountain winds from far away...

"The mother General will walk through the cold snow to visit our frontline.
Declaring that marching many ri is easy-
For our country is a cradle for our people alone.
And there are many more ri to march before our people are one.

I hope she will even visit me,
The General-Star descending from the revolutionary base.
There she fought for our independence:
And destroyed the country-sellers.

She will walk as many times as there are stars above.
Turning down even my coat, that I may stay warm.
And when our country, the people's Goseyan is one.
We too will walk to greet our suffering brothers and sisters.
In our beautiful home country, of our destiny-culture."

The romanticized image of the Supreme Leader, Comrade-Mother General-Star Kang Hyeong-Suk stuck in Ryun's head and made her eyes sting. Down the winding road, the only thing visible aside from the occasional lantern-light would be a lit brass statue of the madame-revolutionary and her rifle, the stars above her only a herald to what seemed to be an ancient glory restored to the planet to this day. And as the night crawled forward, Ryun could only wonder when the General really would visit their little town. Even at her young age, she had been programmed to desire the Revolutionary Command. The young pioneer's eyes trailed from the statue to a box underneath a persimmon tree. There, her pistol would be neatly stored in a box.

Her teacher told her that one day, her pistol may be put in a museum of a reunified Goseyan.

The child would pull back to her home's front door to get a good night's rest. The night was growing chilly and she didn't want her family to get worried.

-

8:00 AM.

A woman's voice would boom over the town's propaganda speakers, her northern accent bold and her tone hectic and ecstatic. The villages' traditionally-dressed residents and the many soldiers of the Revolutionary Cultural Salvation Army would march to their collective workstations.

"Let us ceaselessly strive to uphold our great and revolutionary comrade general-star Kang Hyeong-Suk's seven-point program for the implementation of the conditions for the reunification of Goseyan and the liberation of all Arcadisian peoples from imperialist strainism, the great dishonorable Calarimian scourge, and collaborationist country-sellers worldwide!"

The speaker's voice echoed across the foggy village's morning mug as Ryun Eul-Sung would hurry down the winding road past the statue of the Great Leader. Other children, armed with pistols or submachineguns holstered and slung, would assemble in lines, marching towards school. Ryun fell in line, in between a student she didn't know, and acquaintance Kim Tae-Do. Her love interest, Park Jong-Taek, would be five spaces ahead of her. She couldn't talk to either yet, but she made a mental note to corner Park later to ask him to the ice skating rink. They marched as the propaganda speaker would continue.

"Let us uphold our great nation and great peoples' supreme destiny! Let us overcome adversity to succeed in the salvation of our culture and finally destroy counter-revolutionary elements once and for all! Let us exceed our work quotas and become shock brigades of our hometown, and represent ourselves to become the Leader's chosen! Let us uphold the worker's party central program for the..."

The speaker faded out as the leader of the group merged with other lines of marching students, one bearing the national flag as they passed families working on their gardens or mobilizing for work themselves. The older members of the group began to sing the march of the Goseyan Children's National Liberation Union. Ryun's thoughts would be drowned out as she sang along, beginning to swing her arms in the typical marching style of the nation:

"I will protect my motherland with all of my strength!
The sun above my motherland is like the red of my necktie!
March forward, friends of the children's union:
We are the rear-guard of the revolutionary cultural salvation army!

We are small self-sacrificing heroes of the Republic!
Let's follow the path established by the general-star!

Our pure origin from Mt. Paekbuksan cannot be broken!
We will protect our cultural integrity with our lives!
March forward, sons and daughters of the Supreme Leader:
We inherit the tradition of armed struggle for national reunification!

We are small self-sacrificing heroes of the..."

Ryun Eul-Sung, despite nearing the back of the columns, would keep up with the same intensity of the leaders of the front of the line. Her arms swung fervently from side to side, folding at the chest- and her legs marched in a near-total goosestep. Thankfully, the column of students stopped at the front courtyard of the school, and the flag raising and anthem would be peformed. Afterwards, Ryun could expect a curriculum of reading, writing, math, science, a lengthy political class, and physical education which was a blatant preparation for guerrilla warfare and physical conditioning. An unusual physical education class that teaches its children how to dig infiltration tunnels or carry shells up mountainsides...

Post self-deleted by Miklozia.

"Reunion II"
July 15th, 1949
Alzalam, Vranastrova

In Collaboration with his Excellency, Vranastrova

Jotham leaned forward, red sand coating his face as he scrutinized the map presented to him only moments before by Gregorio and his commanders. His eyes narrowing, his dark pupils traced the battle lines and routes of those chosen to be the vanguard of this mission. Yes, with everything quickly falling into place this seemed to be the perfect plan for his revenge. Nodding his head, the old man straightened his back, letting loose a sigh as as shifted his gaze to Gregorio. "Tell Bashir that instead of entering through Porta dei Lavoratori, I want him to climb the wall next to it. You, on the other hand, will take the lead and charge through the Porta D'Agosto." Jotham smiled, half pleased with himself. "It's the same gate your father guarded the night I entered the city under cover of darkness 27 years ago."

Gregorio stared blankly at the map, his thoughts swirling inside his head. "Climbing the wall will be a challenge." He traced his finger along the route of the city's ancient wall which stood proudly even in this modern era. "The old fortress of Emperor Traianos overlooks that section of the wall. It would be best to avoid it altogether."

"Ah," Jotham conceded, his ancient eyes finally finding the outline of the fort. "So it does." Offering no solution to his plan, Jotham stood to his feet and took a couple of small steps to the back of the tent where they were meeting. There, on a short table, sat a silver pot filled with water warmed by the heat from outside. Despite all of his desperate attempts at remaining cool, the former pontiff and his growing band of rebels found that there was no escaping the unforgiving sun of the Rilindjan desert. Pouring himself a cup he then turned back around. "What say you, Mikhael? What should Bashir do to avoid this fortress?"

It had not been an easy six months. The realities of this band of desert guerillas was not as mythical or spirited as once blissfully speculated by the Miklozians during their similarly-grueling journey through the deserts of Vranan Zudea. Operations against Vranan authorities were clandestine in nature and often with mixed results. Thankfully, the Miklozians themselves had only ever received minor injuries, and with each shared activity the trust between them and the Pope's men grew.

King Mikhael Clement remained focused, his hand gripped over his chin as he thought over the map and the prior proceedings. Behind him, as was at this point typical, the Exoan Erich Hesse Jr., whose will was only matched by his brutal, almost-robotic determination in the wake of danger, stood straight in place, his FG-42 hung over his back. This is it, the Miklozian King thought in regard to the operation as a whole, We'll finally be making the big play. Finally taking the attack to where it really matters. He grimaced slightly, remembering the wicked face of the Strainist Pope who tarnished the honor of his people just the same as any other Strainist. "Michael Gregory has to go." He said, his face twisting further as he remembered his fateful meeting with the man nine years ago, when the Pope not only insulted him, but forced him to watch helplessly as Vranan forces barraged the Polacian coastline, decimating hundreds. "He is an insult to Miklozians everywhere, and I am confident that like my people, your's—" he said, referring to the Vranans in spite of Innocent's Exoan origin, "—are simply unwilling passengers in this wild-ride of evil. When our march begins, it will show the people of Reema that you are the sword with which they will end their oppression.

"So, we ought to climb the wall. The Strainists have an advantage by sea. And when the people see us climbing the walls, they will no doubt join in our righteous crusade." His grimace faded as he imagined it, a popular upheaval against Strainist rule. The same dream he had indulged himself since his exile, though with Miklozian flags waving in Mirobein, not Vranan ones in Reema. "And our forces will be so numerous that they will have no choice but to surrender or be overrun."

His face souring at the exiled king's suggestion, Gregorio clenched his fists in silent protest. It's as if he wants us to die, he thought bitterly. As if the current suffering of the Rilindjans in their homelands is not enough. Now he wants them to be massacred upon the walls of Reema. "I must disagree, Jotham," he said. breaking a tense moment of silence. "We may have the manpower to breach the walls, but attacking them head on in full view of the fortress is foolhardy."

Jotham merely motioned for the young Picelli to be silent, throwing him a disapproving glance as thought over the plan once more. "My sources in Reema tell me that the slave labour camps outside the eastern gates are growing restless. Rumors are circulating about the decaying health of both Boross and the pope." A wicked smile grew across his face, their suffering delighting his ancient heart. "As they weaken, we grow stronger." Then his smile vanished as quickly as it came, his eyes shifting between Gregorio and Mikhael. "But the king is right. The head of the snake must be cut off if we are to achieve victory. So," his eyes settled upon the exile. "When the walls are breached I want you and your men to make for the Apostolic Complex. There you will kill Michael Gregory and bring a definitive end to Strainist rule in Vranastrova."

"The Miklozians?!" Gregorio shot to his feet, his face wrinkled with fury and dismay. "You want the Miklozians to kill the pope? No! I won't allow it!" Turning an accusatory finger towards the king he bellowed "You had your chance to stop this whole mess and yet did nothing. Nothing! I will not risk my father's murderer getting away once more because of this coward."

Mikhael Clement's heart dipped at the old Pope's suggestion, that he be the one to kill Pope Michael Gregory I. Quickly, his mind became decisive. No, he came quickly to his conclusion, I will never kill again. Never again. His hand drifted to the hilt of his saber, sidled over his waist, as if trying desperately to keep it from bursting out in its own right. His mind brought up from his screaming subconscious the same image which haunted his dreams, the boy in Strainist uniform, the blade of Mikhael Clement's saber having fatally sliced his front, his mangled face calling out for his mother...

Before he could respond with the 'no' his soul demanded, the Vranan boy spoke up. A shiver struck through his body as Gregorio's words dug through his soul like a drill. Mikhael Clement knew it was all true. All of it. This was all his fault. His previous resolve shattered, a new one quickly forming in its place.

The Miklozian exile stood up, his hand letting go of the hilt of his saber for a moment, before moving back and pulling the deadly weapon up from his waist. Its sharp metal winked with the shine of all the King's care, its point demanding the blood of Miklozia's enemies, as it had for generations. "That's why I shall not make that mistake again." He said, nodding to himself as he held the sword straight-up firmly. "I will right my wrongs, Your Holiness. I will free your people from their suffering." His determination grew with each word. "I will kill Stephen Hende."

A satisfied grin snaked its way across Jotham's face as Mikhael spoke. Finally the young king had realized what the former pope knew all along: that it was truly his destiny to kill the pope and, one day, Boross. Yes, he thought to himself, slowly but surely his plans - a decade in the making - would be realized. Easing himself into a dismayed sigh, Jotham erased any sign of his previous pleasure. "But alas, for my people are still a continent away." He lifted his eyes to meet the king's, his lip trembling despite the pride he felt in his heart at this new resolve found be the exiled monarch. "Our people, my dear boy. They will need our help once Vranastrova has been liberated." He took a step forward, the feigned pain deepening on his wrinkled face with each step. "We will need to save them once Gregorio's kinsmen are free."

Gregorio sneered at Mikhael, his hatred of the Miklozian race drowning any hope of believing a single word the man said. "Then what?" Jotham circled the Miklozians, turning his sorrowful gaze towards the Vranan boy. "So Vranastrova is liberated and that murderer is dead. Then what? Do we call Conclave? Let those monsters clothed in the blood of the innocent elect us a new Hende?"

Jotham's sorrow vanished, his hand sliding across Mikhael's shoulder as he came to stand beside him. "No. Boross controls Conclave. It cannot be risked." His grip tightened, the knuckles on his fingers yellowing as he dug his claws into the king. "We will need a leader. Someone who can stand against the shroud of this age and bring hope." He loosened his grip and swung around, brushing Gregorio with a silent glare before his grief returned. "We will need a king."

For a moment, Mikhael Clement stood precipitously, his arm held up firmly with the shining curved saber's glint consuming his vision. The Pope Emeritus' hand drew a shiver from within his person as it parted, and he finally put his blade at ease. As the Pope's words settled in, his eyes widened in surprise. "I..." his gaze shifted up to the wide spirals of light spewing from the sun penetrating through the tent's top, like a divine blessing fluttering down toward him and endowing him with what he knew he needed, a crown. He envisioned a warm smile and a hearty wave from a balcony atop a Reeman palace, the crowd of his countrymen by-birthright waving below, to their king.

But then, a subconscious urging retreated his vision downward, and he caught once again the glimmer of his sword against the harsh sunlight, almost hellish in its intensity, even here. He swallowed, remembering the blood of the boy he killed, and then, his numerous and overwhelming failures. The rise of Strainism in Miklozia, the war which he ignored, dancing and drinking as countless died by his own nation's hands. "I..." he stammered, as a new memory popped into his mind, one he had replayed senselessly for the last eight years, watching as his best friend and worst betrayer fell into that raging inferno, his pale blue eyes staring into him the entire time, scarring his mind. Mikhael Clement closed his eyes, and saw, clear as day, those pale blue eyes shapeshift around an entirely new figure, that dark creature which had hunted him to Port Arter and was intent on his murder.

Eight years ago, King Mikhael Clement lay a hand on the glass casket of his father's waking tomb, and said two words, which echoed throughout the shrine:

"I'm sorry." Mikhael Clement said, shaking his head and forcing his eyes open. "Vranastrova doesn't need a king. Foreigners have imposed their will on your nation for too long..." Mikhael Clement's eyes shifted toward Gregorio, "But when Vranastrova does choose a leader, I am sure that it will make the right choice." He nodded in the Picelli's direction, before finally sheathing his sword. "This is your nation, and this is your fight. Hende is my subject." He said with some semblance of the confidence of his activities in Caloy. "Thus, removing him and making things right is my responsibility."

"But of course." Jotham turned his darkening face away from the king, scowling into the sands as he retreated to Gregorio. "Perhaps not a king. Vranastrova has never had a king, but," his arm wrapped around Gregorio as he forced himself to smile. "It has had a Generalissimo. Who's to say that it cannot have another?" Biting his lower lip the former pope stifled a growl, his displeasure with the king's sense of honor rapidly growing into hatred for his so-called righteous mission of reclamation and redemption. People do not change, dear boy, he thought bitterly. Only the circumstances in which they find themselves do.

Gregorio's own eyes only narrowed further, but his anger subsided in the friendly embrace of the pope. Then, scoffing at the very idea of leading the nation that turned its back on his father, he pulled out a cigarette and stuck it firmly between his lips. "Vranastrova can rot in hell in Hende and the others." Igniting the cigarette he took a long, slow drag on its calming fumes before swiftly exhaling. "It's done nothing for me. I'm only here to see Hende die and to get my family back. After that," he clicked his tongue and pointed east. "It's off to Atariea and I won't look back."

Jotham's displeasure only grew. "Well." His hand withdrew from the boy's shoulders. "The future is as uncertain as the winds that carry it. We will see what happens."

Mikhael Clement threw a half-sorrowful glance toward the Picelli boy. In more ways than one, he saw himself in him, if not a version of himself built with a lot more fire. I once thought that, too... The Miklozian exile thought but dared-not say. 'Go to Caloy, get the children safe, and surely the Allies will sort out my homeland for me... Closing his eyes and shaking his head in self-disappointment, he forced himself to shift his glare toward the Pope. "Fortunately, Vranastrova has an excellent guide in you, Your Holiness. The true Pope." He lowered his gaze as a slurry of sudden skepticism rushed up his neck. He swallowed it back down and threw his grip back over his holstered saber. "An operation of this magnitude will take quite the time to prepare. But I will be with you each step of the way, you have my word."

The true pope. No. Jotham forced a smile but his eyes betrayed the act. In his world there would be no more popes. "And I with you." Snapping his fingers he went back to the map, tracing the tip of his forefinger along a large, darkened patch of land near the sea. "Time to prepare indeed. See this mess here? This is what remains of the port city of Traiana." From behind, Gregorio's face twisted in grieved agony at the mention of the city's name. Its destruction still bearing the same sting almost fifteen years later. "The Vranan authorities almost never go there," Jotham continued, "choosing instead to keep the mass grave concealed behind a chain-link fence. One that my men and I have long since figure a way around." His finger withdrew from the map, a mischievous smile briefly crossing his face. "I have about a hundred men from these very deserts holed up in the charred remains of the port. Assuming I can get my message through to both the port and the camp, it will appear as if Reema is completely surrounded the moment we're ready to attack."

He leaned against the top of the table, his chipped pectoral cross dangling over Traiana, a new fire rising in his eyes as he considered the possibility of surrounding the city. "Yes. Assuming we can get what we need out of the Rilindjan Liberation Front operating in Deserta we should have all the necessary supplies, equipment, and man-power to overrun the city." Jotham then stood, his face riddled in shadow as a cloud passed silently overhead. "Once more the righteous will rule Vranastrova. And we shall have peace. But for now," he turned his attention towards the desert sands, "we have work to do."

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Light danced through the straining holes and cuts which lined the tarp hung over the 'grand' garage at the center of Alzalam. Damn this sun, Roza Davis thought, wiping her brow as she strained upward against her back. Holding a wrench in her right hand, she set it down against the makeshift table at the side of the jeep before pushing forward against her center and allowing her arms outward, resting her palms against the back of her head.

"Still working on that thing?"

At that voice, which must somehow have appeared in the tent without notice, she immediately reset her posture, and hurriedly brought her hand down to scoop her wrench back up. Clearing her throat, she dove back toward the engine as though nothing had happened at all. "Transmission's broke." She said, twisting her expression with immediate annoyance. "It's gonna need new parts."

"Good luck with that..." This time, she meticulously listened as footsteps came ever closer. "You might have to just learn to live with riding camels, dear."

"Stop calling me that, Hesse!" She said, a little too perturbed than she had clearly preferred to let on.

Erich's footsteps stopped. "Alright, Roza..." She couldn't help but smile at his concession, before forcing that away. His footsteps proceeded further, slower, as she delved back down into the engine, trying to make herself as busy as she could appear. "I just got back from that meeting."

"Well...?" Roza muttered, clearing her throat. She didn't know why, but she always felt so uncomfortably when they were alone together. Before, that could've been chalked up to her distrust toward him, but as time passed and he became more permanent a fixture of the group, it became annoyingly clear how wrong that assumption was. And now, she couldn't bear to face him. "Do we have a plan?"

"Something like that." Erich replied, her swallowing her discomfort as his footsteps stopped just behind her. "We're going to spark a revolution in Reema." Her eyes rose. "Picelli and his men are going to storm Porta D'Agosto, some section of the walls of Reema. Meanwhile, we'll be scaling some sort of ancient fortress on the other side."

Not thinking she turned back. "I don't understand how he can dig us a deeper and deeper hole here!" She said, her eyes darting to the side. "This isn't our fight, I don't know why he can't just—" her eyes struck forward, toward the face of Erich Hesse Jr., his gray-eyed face smiling down at her. He was closer than she had first presumed. Her mind raced as her face turned reddened, her expression betraying her usual act of disinterest.

He stared down at her for a moment which felt as though it lasted a millennia. She shivered as his hand brushed over her side, his other over her cheek, her body pressed against the jeep. "You're so beautiful." He said, softer than she had ever heard him speak. Her eyes fluttered as her stomach sang, as he leaned in closer toward her. The clanging of the wrench against the ground was the deafening sound as they embraced, lips clashing against one another with passion. Years of discontent— years of neglect from the man she thought she loved melted away as they melted together.

As Erich finally managed to pull himself away, Roza's eyes darted back and forth once again. "Erich..." she said, her face significantly redder. "You know I..."

He nodded, "I know I wasn't your first choice." He said, nodding. "Don't deny your feelings, Roza..." She swallowed, her mind racing faster, "Mikhael was hurt. I saw how—"

I know he doesn't want me, Roza thought, before turning back up toward her unlikely lover. Maybe... Without thinking, she embraced her feelings, as they both clashed into each other once again. No more words needed to be said.

Maybe I was wrong...

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

"The Riot Begins"
February 5th, 1951
Reema, Vranastrova

The saber at Mikhael Clement's side seemed heavier now, containing in its metal not only the weight of several hundred souls whose dying screams have been entrapped in its sheen, but also the inevitability of the fulfillment of its thirst for the blood of Miklozia's enemies. After almost two years of planning, today was the day when one evil empire would finally begin to come apart. The Miklozian King peered his head around the side wall of the peach-colored multi-storied building which they found themselves beside, and his eyes were caught by the shining brightness of the round moon above which crowned the horizon, its illumination perhaps an omen for the potential bloodshed which lay ahead. Forcing his eyes downward from the mesmerizing great white light, he turned downward toward the gate of old stone, near as old as Reema itself. It was consumed by a fortress of even greater magnitude, its walls lined with the Vranan flag and sealing in the city. The Aucerosan Recession had granted the rebels all the opportunity they needed for this revolt. Mikhael Clement was sure, all it would need was a single spark, and the entirety of his birth country would join in their fight. "Where's Bashir?" The King muttered, his vision focused toward the parallel alley where the Zudean would appear with his forces.

"He'll get here." Erich Hesse Jr. said behind, his typical FG-42 strung on his side, his finger itching for the chaos of the coming battle. Throwing his gaze over his shoulder, he mouthed to the mass of rebels, which encompassed the group's Miklozian element, he said: "Let's stay positive, folks. Mikhael's gonna get us through this." He turned further, spotting among the troops the Miklozians' Kalonian marskman.

"I'm on it." Price said, before saddling his rifle and beginning to traverse a pipe up the adjacent building.

"Wait on our signal," Erich said, a little too loud, before turning back to the King, who jittered in place, his hand stuck to the hilt of his saber. "And please, Mikhael, take a gun." He said, pulling out a pistol and handing it over.

Mikhael Clement eyed the pistol suspiciously for a moment, before reluctantly taking it. "Oh, there he is!" Erich said, as Bashir appeared in the designated spot, Mikhael Clement pressing the pistol's magazine release and stashing the cartridge and pistol both in his person. "Let's get this show on the road..." Erich muttered, biting his lip with excess excitement.

Bashir scampered into place, his pistol aimed skyward as he eyed the great wall of Reema. Though he knew it not, the barrel of his gun had aligned itself perfectly with a window high above. From within, a flash of scarlet illuminated by the warm glow of orange candlelight danced momentarily against the pane.

Taking a deep breath Bashir glanced back, his eyes wild with delighted excitement as the culmination of ten years of careful planning finally came together. From behind came a few dozen men from the nearby slave camp, their teeth glinting between snarls. In their hands they bore rope, axes, and hammers. Anything that could be lifted out of the camps was now on its way to the city gates where thousands of slaves yearning for the taste of freedom now marched. Yet despite the growing commotion outside, the city, and the fortress, remained eerily silent.

Leaning in to one of the men who had come, Bashir whispered something before pointing in the opposite direction. On his mark, half of those who had come suddenly turned from the gate and around the base of the fort, far from the sight of the others. Undeterred by the sudden departure of their comrades, those who had been left behind began their climb up the wall.

Mikhael Clement squinted at Bashir's forces, briefly confused by the seemingly-spontaneous departure of the reinforcements. Shaking away his worry, he turned back and gestured to the others to begin toward the wall. Erich's gray eyes glistened with bloody excitement as he began off, before quickly stopping himself as the King stuck out an arm. "Erich," he said, before turning and catching up Roza as well, "Roza. Don't do anything rash." He said as the two exchanged delayed glances. "Keep your heads on straight. Got it?"

"You got it." Erich said hastily, before turning back to Roza for a pregnant moment and beginning back off.

The Miklozian King tracked his Exoan comrade's trek to join the others with narrowed eyes, before turning back to Roza. "I mean it." He said, grabbing her arm as she sucked in a breath. "Your life is valuable. Don't throw it away." He said, to her silent nod. As he finally turned to join the others, Roza let out a deep exhale, before refocusing herself and beginning toward the wall herself.

As they reached the base of the wall and formed a line together, the Miklozian exiles and the Zudean allies who had accompanied them watched as Bashir's rugged company threw down ropes for the others to follow. Erich was the first to grab on to one, first tugging it to test its strength before beginning up. Mikhael Clement was next, following Erich, eager not to be thought of as a coward ever again. Below, the Miklozians and Zudeans quickly began up themselves.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Further south, Gregorio organized the rebels housed in the ghost port of Traiana. Beginning their march north only moments before the Miklozians and the slaves scaled the walls, the growing group of revolutionaries met little resistance as they left the outer courts that spanned the gap between the port and the city. Moving silently, the morphing mass soon came upon the singular checkpoint that guarded the way into Reema from the sea.

Approaching the two towers that overlooked the brush where his small army was hiding, Gregorio thought back to the many stories his father would tell of the Coup of ‘22. On a night much like this one, Augusto and his men were stationed on Reema’s east gate, its towers protecting a small line of tracks that carried in the exiled pope. Their minds turned towards card games and talk of the ongoing conclave, none of them expected to hear the sounds of a train whistle as the night wore on and midnight approached.

“It was that whistle,” his father would often say, “that heralded the dawning of a new age in Vranastrova.”

His lips quivering into a tearful smile, Gregorio glanced down at the small brass whistle he held tightly in the palm of his hand. “This one's for you, dad.” Then, turning a vengeful eye towards the towers, Gregorio raised the whistle to his mouth and blew as hard as he could. Its metallic melody echoing over the fields, hundreds of men and women answered its call and raised the roaring battlecries of revolution. These revolutionaries would be slaves no longer.

The men in the tower paused, first baffled by the whistle then wholly horrified by the liberty cries of a thousand freedmen. Rushing to the window they only had enough time to see the fields go red with the fiery eyes of the liberated before the towers they occupied were stormed by Gregorio’s men. The Picelli, watching from a nearby bush, looked on as the towers were soon set ablaze. “One step closer to avenging you, father.” He turned his attention north, the dome of St. Patrick’s peering over the walls. “Just one more obstacle. One more mission.”

"Reunion III"
February 5th, 1951
Reema, Vranastrova

In collaboration with the undeniably blessed Vranastrova.

Back on the walls, the Zudeans watched with glee as the checkpoint was razed. The element of surprise still in their favor, the former slaves knew that it would take time for the city and its guard to fully register what’s going on and how to respond. Running over to the Miklozians, one of the women motioned them forward. “Come! Come!” She cried. “Outer city is empty. We go straight to palace!”

But as she turned back to her friends, a volley of gunshots ended all excitement. The occupiers of Fortress Traianos had awoken, and their master, dressed in blood scarlet, was peering down through a window high above. Nodding slowly at the shadows he could only imagine were slaves, his eyes narrowed the moment the door to the fortress along the wall burst open.

As the towers on the distance lit the sky with the fires of revolution— like a torch of freedom lit amidst the darkness of tyranny and destined to grow, a smile quickly creeped over Erich's face. And it only grew as the door of the garrison was thrown open. "This is where the fun begins!" He called out, before swinging his FG-42 up and quickly firing the heavy beast off round-by-round with deadly efficiency.

Mikhael Clement's stomach twisted instinctively as the battle began. His eyes reached upward, catching the overseer dressed in scarlet as he disappeared back inside. Suppressing his inherent uneasiness, Mikhael Clement swooped to the side, where several of their rugged soldiers still clung to ropes. "Make haste!" He called down, before swooping back around, his vision catching the flaming towers once again.

"Jotham said something about reinforcements," Roza said, her mind seemingly caught on the same thing, though the aim of her submachinegun was stuck firmly forward at the wall's door, "didn't he?"

"He did!" Erich responded, his flickering eyes darting between his gun's fire and the belt of ammunition growing thinner and thinner with each passing round.

"They'll get here!" Mikhael Clement responded, watching with dire uncertainty as Erich ran through his ammo. Shaking his head, he swallowed his apprehension and drew on his courage. "I will be a coward no longer..." he muttered, before reaching for his saber's hilt and pulling it up from his waist, the curved blade flickering at him with that same deadly certainty.

Finally, Erich's gun stopped its suppressing fire, his once-fiery chamber now emanating smoke. Standing, the Exoan renegade took a few steps back, his grin only growing. He pulled out a grenade from his waist, and quickly pulled the pin, his eyes set on the open door. "Four, three, two..." His eyes flickering with deadly certainty, he tossed the thing forward into the door.

Fire erupted through the door in the wall as the millennia’s old portal shattered like glass against the force of the grenade. The stone tower above shook violently but remained steadfast against the explosion. Silence settled over the wall, and as the dust began to settle it soon became clear that the Order wouldn’t be using that door anytime soon.

On the opposite side of the wall several members of the Order stood still before their eyes, temporarily blinded by the light, finally readjusted to the darkness. Raising their guns they prepared to fire on the rebels who had sealed the southern entrance. But before they could let loose a single bullet they were quickly beset upon by Bashir and his men who had clambered upon the walls from the opposite side.

Their assailants momentarily stalled, the remaining Zudeans hastily descended a nearby stone staircase to the paved ground below and silently disappeared into the alleyways nearby.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

To the south, Gregorio and his men began their siege on the southern gates. Unwilling to climb, the hundreds of men under Gregorio’s command began to pile explosives against the great bronze doors put in place by Pope Michael Gregory only a few short years before. His grin widening, the young Picelli was quick to give the command for the fuse to be lit.

“Piccolo Generale,” one of the men said, handing Gregorio an instrument to ignite the explosives with. “We believe you should have the honors.”

But as Gregorio stood staring at the walls his courage faltered. In the darkness, limited only by the lights of the torches his men bore, he could almost envision his father walking along these very walls. “This city is a sacred place,” Augusto used to tell him before the outbreak of the Heartland Wars. “We must do all we can to preserve her.”

Turning his attention to the lighter, Gregorio struggled against the words of his father. “I’m sorry, dad,” he whispered. “But Reema has become a den of evil.” Slamming the palm of his hand against the switch, Gregorio turned away just as the stacks of tnt tore the gate asunder. Bricks and bronze soared overhead, some of it hitting those unlucky enough to stand in the path of the sailing debris.

“If they didn’t know we were here before, they do now.” Gregorio tossed the switch aside and threw his rifle over his shoulder. Striking forward, he looked to the east towards the fortress. Smoke billowed from its southern walls, a sure sign that someone was succeeding where they were meant to die. “You two, with me,” he said, quickening his pace towards the fortress.

As the fortress's violent shaking ceased, it was soon replaced by a malaise of smoke which streamed upward into the sky, the second beacon of liberty for the oppressed masses of the city of Reema. True enough, the door had been obliterated by Erich, and it was clear that the Order's men had retreated. "This way!" Mikhael Clement said, pointing his curbed saber in the way of the opposite door and rushing forward, pushing it open as the last of the slaves made their way up the ramparts.

"No better signal than that..." The Kalonian sniper Price muttered to himself from atop the adjacent building as he watched the smoke billow. He quickly cocked his rifle and began to fire at will at the uniformed members of the garrison.

Mikhael Clement gripped his saber tightly as he moved to round a corner into the fortress's courtyard, before being tugged at from behind by his shoulder. Nearly swinging his sword around, he stopped himself at the sight of Erich. "Hold on!" His Exoan friend said as their allies began to amass behind him. "Let's soften 'em up first." He said with that same smirk, like that of a child taking pleasure in stomping out an ant, before pulling up his last-remaining hand grenade. Planting a peck at it, he tossed it through the door without conviction, and another explosion emanated from the fortress.

"Let's do this," Sergeant Paul Carter said, his eyes flashing with conviction, "for King and country, eh?"

"For King and country..." Mikhael Clement repeated, nodding toward Carter with pride.

Erich motioned for the slaves to enter through the door first as he finished reloading his FG-42, before filing out himself. The sound of gunfire filled the near-distance as Mikhael Clement sharply inhaled, his grip on the saber tightening. Forcing his courage to the surface, the king rounded the corner and out the door, into the courtyard which had been so-quickly transformed into a battlefield. Their allies and foes alike fired down from the ramparts as blood spattered across the neatly-cut grass and pavement.

Rushing to cover, Mikhael Clement caught his breath for a moment, his head turning left as Sgt. Carter fired away at the Vranan garrison, before being struck in the chest. "Carter!" The King cried as he went down, before his vision turned deadly, and his grip on his saber tightened to the point of suffocation. "For King and country..."

Bolting up with narrowed eyes, Mikhael Clement strode forward with indignation. "They are one and the same...!" He muttered, as if trying to convince himself, before slashing his saber against the first of the Order, the Vranan crying out before falling.

Erich's brutal killing did not cease, though his eyes tracked over to the King with a sudden and complete curiosity. There was a fire in the man's eyes which he had never seen in him before.

Slashing another, and then another, and then striking down another along the front with increased intensity, blood splashing upward as he forced his blade upward. As the Order member went down, Mikhael Clement turned down as the man continued to breathe, his chest ballooning up and down with struggle. For a moment, the King was sympathetic, before in his mind he saw the man's face replaced with that foul demon who haunted his past and his future— his once-friend who had cursed him to betrayal and in his pale blue eyes embodied evil, and he struck down without remorse.

Mikhael Clement breathed heavy as he regained his posture above the body, the battle seemingly coming close to its conclusion. His eyes turned to the saber's glint, and it winked his way, its thirst finally satisfied. But in his mind, a silent voice, his own in fact, cried out, before being quickly obliterated:

"I will never kill again..."

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Jotham looked on with snide satisfaction, a smile most sinister crossing his face as explosion after explosion rocked and rattled the city’s ancient walls. With the destruction of the checkpoint, the utter annihilation of the southern gate, and the decimation of the Order’s headquarters, Strainism within Vranastrova took one step closer to being forever silenced. Yes, he breathed, relaxing himself atop the saddle of his black horse. Soon everything would be as it should.

Turning to his left he gazed upon the unsuspecting city, shouts and cries rising from deep within as its denizens were awoken by the relentless march of thousands of revolutionaries. “It’s only a matter of time, Ashraf,” Jotham said to his second-in-command. “Hende will soon meet the blade of vengeance he once wielded against the innocent.”

Ashraf cackled, his raspy voice hardly a whisper over the growing calamities befalling Reema. “You were wise, my lord, to send in that Miklozian to do the deed. Lobbing off Hende’s head is truly an act of barbarism befitting his race.”

Jotham sneered, spitting over his horse’s head towards the city. “Who said anything about the Miklozian killing Hende?” Ashraf raised an eyebrow, cocking his head as Jotham shifted to begin riding towards the city. “Come, Gregorio will no doubt be close to that wanna-be-king. He’s failed his nation once and me twice. I cannot risk him failing a third time. Come!”

The pair raced towards the walls of Reema as the slaves poured in through the hole where the southern gate once stood. Ashraf’s grip on his horse’s reins was tight, his uncertainty only growing as Jotham’s motives became muddled in his mind. For years everything had been so clear, so sure that he could almost taste the spoils of victory. But now, as he rode behind the man he’d followed for years, things suddenly seemed less clear than they were before.

“Jotham!” He cried out after the former pontiff. “What are we doing here? We were not to wait until the city was taken?”

“The city is secondary to what I truly need from you and everyone else, Ashraf.” Jotham’s hand glided across his hip, landing on a bulge the size of a pistol hidden beneath his brown robes. “Total loyalty to everything I’ve promised.” Ashraf caught a glimpse of the shiny metal attached to Jotham’s holster as the man withdrew his cape. Nodding his head he fell in behind the pontiff and followed along silently as they crossed the threshold of the city.

Taking a deep breath, Jotham took in the sight of the rebuilt city. For a moment he felt like Caesar, entering into Reema as a triumphant general returned from the wildernesses of Gaul. “Soon you will be free, my beloved daughter, and back into the hands of the one who truly loves you.”

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

Chaos began to descend across the entire outer city as the walls were ripped open by will and fire. Upon the ruined ramparts of Fortress Traianos, Mikhael Clement stood, having been beckoned by the Kalonian sniper Price, himself having traversed the city from his previous perch to scale the Fortress's surviving walls. "At 2'oclock, over the church." Price said, gesturing in the correct direction. "Do you think they're friend or foe?"

A nearby soldier handed the King his pair of binoculars, and the Miklozian exile peered downward, following Price's direction until he came across the sight. Two riders, one following the other, making their way forward into the city. Mikhael Clement narrowed his eyes, scrutinizing the two. "They're friend..." Mikhael Clement finally said. "It's just..." He stopped himself, before peeling his binoculars away and placing his hand over his chin.

"Sir?" The soldier said, interrupting the King's ruminations.

"It's nothing..." Mikhael Clement finally said, and Price lowered his rifle. "Price, you're a better help to the revolution further into the city." He turned away and nodded. "Take this." Mikhael Clement said, pulling his saber from his waist and handing it over, uncoupling his scabbard.

Bob Price stared into its crimsoned steel. "But, sir... Why... Don't you...?"

"Hopefully, I won't need it. Bring it back to me once we approach Saint Patrick's."

Price stared at him for another moment, before finally reaching over to take the sword by its hilt. "Alright, see you on the other side, Mikhael."

For a moment, the King stared at the boy, offended by his neglect of his rank. Then, he shrugged all that nonsense away. "Good hunting, Bob." Mikhael Clement finally said with a little smirk, before moving to disembark from the ramparts and back into the fortress.

"Mikhael!" Roza called as Mikhael Clement reached the courtyard once again, feeling significantly lighter without his saber at his waist, weighing down his heaart. "Prisoners," she said, drawing his attention, "we found them in the fortress's dungeons."

True enough, several dozen of them, wearing rags with their backs soaked in dried blood, or broken through entirely and showing the scars of several dozen lashes, at best. Staring down at them, Mikhael Clement shook his head in disgust. "I can only imagine the plight of our own country..." He muttered, drinking in their wounds. "Free them immediately."

Gregorio approached Fortress Traianos, its mighty walls and ramparts, once a signal of safety and security to him as a boy, now looked down upon him as the daunting spectre of all his sins. His pace slowing, the boy soon came to a stop as he rounded the corner of a smoldering house, the mighty fortress’ entrance a mere ten paces away.

“Gregorio,” one of the men said, tapping the Picelli’s shoulder as he took a step forward. “Come, we haven’t much time.”

Nodding, the boy took a tentative step towards the fortress, its dark magnificence illuminated by the thousands of torches carrying the fires of change. Darting between buildings the trio of revolutionaries were surprised when they reached the front door without any resistance. No gunshots, no shouts to stop, nothing.

“Look,” the man from earlier said, motioning to a dark puddle oozing out from beneath the door. “Think Bashir and his men cleared it?”

Gregorio narrowed his eyes, lifting them to the iron doorknocker that peered back at him with cold skepticism. “Bashir, or that coward and his men.”

The man furrowed his brow as Gregorio drew near the door, placing his hand against the wood before pushing it open. The door moaned as it swung itself open, revealing a well-lit chamber adorned with prizes taken from across the pope’s empire. A painting proudly displaying the name of its former owner, a Matsrak, hung on the far wall, a series of swords and spears from Authrasia gained from the campaigns in Chaetardy years ago adorned the walls on either side of the door. Glancing in, Gregorio waited a moment for his eyes to readjust before stepping inside.

“Stay close.” Swinging his rifle forward, Gregorio inched inside, aiming the barrel towards another door on his right. Stepping over the body of a member of the Order, the trio inched their way across the room. Opening the door they discovered a stairwell leading down into the depths of the fortress. Descending slowly, they soon came to another door, golden light emanating from behind. Twisting the knob Gregorio shoved the door open and jumped inside, his rifle at the ready to shoot any man within. But there was no one there.

“Sir!” One of the other men called after a moment. “Look…” Gregorio turned, his attention first landing on the man before following his pointed finger towards a table on the far side of the room. On the table was a single display case, a golden plaque adorning its base. Gregorio froze where he stood as he gazed beyond the glass container, icy fury washing over him.

Augusto Picelli, the plaque read just beneath a pearl-white skull, Chief Traitor to the Empire. Head liberated from body, 1939. Gregorio’s mind shot back to the day of his father’s execution, his own pleas to the pope to have mercy on his father going unheard as the firing squad let loose their fatal volleys. A tear streaking its way down his cheek the boy turned to the others. “The coward will pay for this,” he hissed, his tear soaked eyes locked to the empty sockets of his father’s skull.

Snaking their way through the fortress the trio soon arrived in the courtyard where the Miklozians were aiding the prisoners to escape. “That’s quite enough,” Gregorio called out, his voice echoing across the stones. “The innocent have suffered enough by your hands, king.” On the other side of the courtyard Bashir’s men entered in, nodding towards Gregorio as he pointed his gun towards Roza. Ordering his men to surround the rest of the king’s party he narrowed his eyes at the king. Nothing by a spy.
Gregorio stepped forward, his watery eyes, still bearing the image of his father below, betraying any confidence he attempted to exude. “It was truly only a matter of time before it all caught up to you; before the blood on your hands turned into a raging sea that you could not escape.” His lip trembled as he pushed past the wounded prisoners. “I’ve said it before, but you had your chance to stop all, all,” he swept his hands over the fortress, over the prisoners, and out into the smoking city, “all of this. Yet you didn’t.” His face scrunching, Gregorio hastily withdrew a cigarette. Cursing and damning his lighter as he struggled to light the end of the cigarette he soon had one tucked between his lips like a pacifier.

Taking a deep breath, his countenance consumed by rage and loathing, he breathed the smoke back in the king’s face. “Why?”

Mikhael Clement shook as the true scope of the betrayal washed over him. Erich pulled out two pistols from somewhere in his person and huddled near Roza, his stare deadly toward Greogorio. Half of the soldiers didn't have guns at all.

The King's hand motioned toward his scabbard, but it was not there. He forced a nod against his shaking, rage searing through his soul. He followed Gregorio's hands breathlessly, the city's destruction over the sky consuming him, its smoke just as poisonous as that of Gregorio's cigarette. Swallowing a cough, Mikhael Clement took a step back and breathed heavy. "He was just a boy!" Roza yelled out from the side, forcing the king to draw his vision away. "How can you blame him for this!?" She took a step forward, past Erich, brushing his guns away. "He had no control over any of this! But he still takes responsibility for it all! I've seen how it pains him! Blame the demagogues who tricked my people! Blame Boross! Blame Michael Gregory!" She shook with her own fury, "YOU VILE TRAITOR!"

Mikhael Clement put a hand out in her direction, silencing her as Erich pulled her back. Finally, he brought his eyes forward toward Gregorio. "Innocent has deceived me..." he said, defeated, before furrowing his eyebrows and intensifying his glare. "And he's deceived you too. I didn't know your father, Gregorio," he said, before his tone bacame darker, "but I do know he would be ashamed of you." Allowing his rage to surface, he struck a gob of spit forward at Gregorio's feet. "You are a pawn, and a traitorous, cowardly one, at that."

“I’m the traitor?” Gregorio asked breathlessly. “A-a coward?” He shook his head, lifting his rifle towards the king. “Jotham’s deceived me?” Aiming his rifle above the king’s head he pulled the trigger, his desire to see what Jotham had in store overpowering his current urge to blow the king’s head off. Taking a step back he turned towards the others. “Bag them!”

A short scuffle ensued as the Rilindjans beset the Miklozians. Bashir attempted to tackle the king but was knocked unconscious momentarily, his underestimation of the monarch’s ability to defend himself almost deadly. It took the pair that had come in with Gregorio to finish the job after a moment of wrestling with Roza.

Gregorio retreated to the shadows as his men battled with the Miklozians, the king’s words biting into him. I didn't know your father, Gregorio, but I do know he would be ashamed of you. “Would you be, father?” He whispered into the dark. “Are you ashamed of me?” The silence was enough.

Holding back a deluge of tears Gregorio turned back to his men, their hands filled with the bound and blinded Miklozians. His face twisting between raw anger and terrible grief, the Picelli turned west. “Il Colosseo. Jotham will meet us there.” His men paused, but no one protested when the group began its march across the city to the ancient arena.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

"The Colosseum"

Jotham stood at the entrance to the colosseum, the great arena’s shadow under the full moon casting the former pontiff in darkness. “Gregorio, my boy,” Jotham began as he approached with the Miklozians. “I trust that there were no setbacks.”

“None, Jotham.” He stopped next to the former pope as his men filed past into the darkness. “Let’s just kill them and get this over with.”

“Tsk, tsk, Gregorio,” Jotham said. “Patience. I must let our audience know that we’re about to achieve an even greater victory.” Gregorio gazed at Jotham. “The execution of the traitorous coward who caused all of this.”

Gregorio whipped out another cigarette as Jotham began inside, his mind racing as those words returned. Traitorous coward. Taking a long drag he huddled himself against the white Korinthian pillar nearby. Gazing across the city he soaked in the billowing columns of smoke, the burning houses, and the roaring machine guns. “Would a coward have manifested this? A revolution?” Taking one last drag on his cigarette he flicked it aside and turned to face the colosseum.

Inside, Jotham stood in the Imperial box, a Vranan soldier bound and gagged standing next to him. Lifting his arms high he drank in the praise and excitement of his victorious revolutionaries. The city east of the Adria River was theirs and soon the west, along with the pope and his court within the Apostolic Complex, would be his. “My children,” he began, calling out above the liberated. “God smiles down upon us, for He has granted us supreme victory this night against the vile evils and injustices committed against us by the regime of Pope Michael Gregory.”

Gregorio inched his way to the former pontiff’s side, attempting to join in the exhilaration of the masses despite his growing shame. Giving the darkened crowd a slight nod and a brief smile, the boy kept his eyes skyward, refusing to look upon the sands where his father was murdered.

“And leading our forces to victory, having been by my side for some time now, was the great Gregorio Picelli, offspring of the dear Augusto Picelli.” Jotham paused, allowing the crowds to cheer wildly, some even going so far as to chant ‘Generalissimo.’ Gregorio sneered at the title though none but Jotham could see. Swallowing his displeasure at the boy’s reaction to the crowd’s adoration, he continued. “And how will we celebrate this victory? With an offering to this city’s lions! Soon to be given over as a feast to the vicious cats are two city magistrates and a soldier known for cowardice and cruelty.”

Gregorio swallowed, forcing himself to gaze over at the man bound and gagged beside the pope. For a moment he felt pity for him. “Jotham,” he asked, leaning into the rugged elder. “What about Mikhael and his friends?”

Jotham set his hands on the soldier’s shoulders, shoving him over to a pair of Rilindjans who stood nearby. “My dear boy,” he strode back over to the edge of the Imperial box, a wicked smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “These are the Miklozians.”

Gregorio forced himsef to gaze down at the pair in the arena below, his shame overwhelming as the truth of the Miklozian's intentions sunk in. They were no spies. You're deceived. They were truly here seeking the same thing everyone else was.

“Let the feast begin!” Jotham cried, guiding the soldier escorted by the two men to the second level of the colosseum. The crowd roared with delight, the true identities of those below completely lost on them. Outside an even greater crowd had gathered, thousands of victorious slaves now looked up to Jotham as the held fast to the Vranan soldier. "The chief traitor! A king of cowards!" Jotham bellowed, tossing the man over the side to the cobbled streets below.

Gregorio, the king’s words still echoing deep within him, turned away as the man fell. Withdrawing from Jotham as the old man devolved into a fit of ungodly laughter Gregorio soon realized that the man thrown over the ledge was none other than King Mikhael; a man murdered once, then twice just like himself. You are a pawn, Gregorio, and a traitorous, cowardly one, at that. He imagined his father saying, echoing the words of the king as the lions roared. Tears rolled down his cheeks, his father's disapproval in the midst of this so-called victory too big a burden to bear. Is that all I truly am? He asked himself, tearing himself away from Jotham and the lions. A pawn to popes in some greater game I hardly understand? Picking up speed he ran down the corridors of the colosseum and out into the chaos of the city.

As the King fell from the top of the Colosseum, he felt himself pierce downward through the air, dropping like a tear from the Colosseum's ancient face. A woman's terror-filled scream bellowed from the arena died down as he fell hopelessly downward. His hands tied behind the back were the first to be impacted, before the rest of his body crashed against the stone pavement below.

Miklozia's last hope was surely dead.

Consul-General Election, 1951

The Candidates

Alexander Mellum of The Protective Autocrat Republic of Atsilia is quite a controversial figure in Atsilia, his love-hate relationship with strainism and his more clearly expressed anti-democratic sentiment has flipped the political landscape of the Atarisian republic around. Considering him being only 37 years old, he has proven himself to be as talented and skilled as anyone else, with his experience as an economist and columnist he is familiar with summarization, administration and statistics. He is also Minister of Trade and Diplomacy and has shown potential in negotiating too.

He is known for his self-assurance, which often nears arrogance, and his devotion to hard work. He firmly believes that everyone has to fend for themselves, and this belief would be expressed in a minimally involved ICN, a community consisting of, still very sovereign, nations with him as Consul-General, one that will not hesitate when he thinks action is needed, and one that knows how to truly listen to the international community.

Elder Blake of The United States of Atariea is an business executive turned politician in Atariea, although has yet to see success in his new career. Due to that he has turned to the international community, getting chosen as the Atariean candidate to be Consul-General. Despite his failure in national politics, he has proven himself during his time as a businessman managing to maintain cordial relations with everyone who would allow him to remain even remotely close to them. Elder Blake also feels little patriotism for his country, oftentimes saying that it was owned by corporations, despite having major stakes in corporations himself.

Lastly, he is known for his neutrality on nearly all matters, with no hate nor love of almost any ideology (although he is an outspoken critic of Communism), he has a presence which can change depending on the situation, one moment he could dominate the room, the next he is quiet and almost invisible, and he strongly believes in small government. Due to all of this, if he was chosen, he would continue trying to keep the ICN a neutral body where nations would try to work out their differences if possible while keeping the ICN a organization with very limited intervention.

Jan Wilmos Labada of The United Empire of Miklozia is a seasoned diplomat of the United Empire and an acolyte of Minister of the Empire Marc Jean-Marsot. Though having a physically large frame and a fondness for gluttony, Labada is overall an unremarkable figure, and has escaped the skeptical eyes of the United Imperial elite during his quiet rise in the ranks of the Ministry of the Empire. A Miklozian from the city of Jan's Port, Labada's father was a real estate developer whose business was spared from Strainist nationalization due to his generous donations to the Miklozian Patriotic Party during its 1930 rise to power. During his stint as a diplomat, he briefly served as wartime ambassador to the Silver Rijk, the Shahdom and Iserk.

As Consul-General, Labada's plan involves the establishment of the ICN's executive office as a neutral body whose only duty is to serve at the Security Council's pleasure. To Labada, each nation of the ICN's sovereignty must be strictly adhered to, and that means allowing the United Empire and the Atarieans to sort things out for themselves, and strict non-intervention in potential armed conflicts, unless the Security Council is unanimous.

————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————

The Vote

The International Community of Nations Security Council voted on April 22nd, 1951 to fill the position of Consul-General.

Jan Wilmos Labada himself was the first one to rise from his desk, his eyes tracking over the other delegates within the Security Council Room. He cleared his throat with passion before tuggingon his coat to fit over his sizeable frame. "The United Imperial delegation votes for the honorable Jan Wilmos Labada to serve as this organization's inaugural Consul-General." Smiling at his own cleverness, he sat back down thereafter.

Kenneth Zachary slowly stood, looking at the Miklozian delegate as he did. His monotone suit wrinkling with each movement. Finally he detached his eyes from the Miklozians, “The delegation of the United States of Atariea votes for Elder Blake to serve as Consul-General.” He then sat back down himself.

Enrico Ricci remained seated, his scrawny ghost-like frame enveloped in a black suit that appeared far too large for him. Leaning his pale face over the table he smiled in the direction of Labada. "The Papal delegation casts its vote for the honorable Jan Wilmos Labada to serve as the first Consul-General of this honored body."

Edvard Mattison stood from his desk, his aging figure pulling out a note from his suit pocket, reading it before putting it back. "The Throughlodic delegation votes for... Elder Blake as the first Consul-General of this assembly." He sat back down.

Sadegh Nadim rubbed his forehead, coming to a decision after giving the matter of Consul-General thorough consideration. "The Khorshīdi delegation votes for Jan Wilmos Labada to serve as first Consul-General of this organisation."

The rotund Miklozian got up from his desk, nearly knocking down the tiny United Imperial flag sat upon its surface as he did. "I accept this position with deep gratitude and humility..." he said, before bowing dramatically. "Together, we will insure peace!"

Proyek Amelia: "That's okay?! Oh my God I'm sorry, I love you baby!"

Proyek Amelia: "Okay thanks!"

*Exit portal*

Forum View

Advertisement