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Thread: AD USQUE FIDELIS

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    Default AD USQUE FIDELIS





    (True to the End)
    A tale of a soldier for the Eastern Roman Empire during the reign of Justinian...


    Last edited by ♔Old Dragoon♔; June 03, 2019 at 11:17 PM.

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    Default Re: AD USQUE FIDELIS

    PROLOGUE

    Blood dripped from the spatha that had dug through all the layers of flesh and bone slicing through veins that were once connected to the dead pirate’s heart. The veteran soldier let him drop lifeless on the cobbles as the other pirates stood there in shock as their leader had just entered the afterlife. The veteran spoke up, “If you do not want the same fate, then I suggest you scurry back to your rat invested barge and never come back to this port again!” The two remaining pirates stood there looking at each other, then they looked over their dead leader. Foolishly they charged with undisciplined but overzealous attacks, and easily the veteran parried their blows then sliced open one of the pirate’s backside with his counter strike. The veteran quickly turned with sword pointing in middle position and the other charging pirate ran his own neck through the veteran’s blade to the hilt with his sword raised up like he was chopping wood.

    The pirate dropped his sword and staring at the veteran as his glassy eyes rolled back into his nearly lifeless head. The veteran raised his left leg and pushed on the half dead pirate’s stomach and pulled his sword from the pirate’s throat, which resulted in an eruption of blood from the death wound where the spatha was seconds earlier. The other wounded pirate tried to scurry off, but the veteran was too fast and thrusted his dagger into his armpit piercing his lung, then held him there demanding to know why they were sent to kill him. The pirate did not speak but held out his hand with a gold coin that on the obverse side read REDEMPTUS, and the reverse side bore the chi rho. The veteran shook the pirate with great ferocity and demanding tone stated, “Where did you get that coin!” The pirate smiled and then exhaled his last breath.

    The veteran was never fond of killing, but cold steel in his hand had always felt like an old friend that even though he had not seen for many years they could pick up where they had left off. This attempt on his life and the coin vexed him terribly because he knew how that coin was struck and why. He reached into one of his pouches and removed the exact coin. Looking around for any onlookers in this alley by the port and finding none he realized also that his retirement would be put on temporary hold. However, he had a good idea where to start looking for answers.
    Last edited by ♔Old Dragoon♔; June 10, 2018 at 08:34 AM.

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    Default Re: AD USQUE FIDELIS

    Good start! I'm wondering what is the significance of the mysterious coin and how the veteran knows why it was struck.

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    Default Re: AD USQUE FIDELIS

    Thank you! I have been writing a couple of chapters which should be ready to go soon!

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    Default Re: AD USQUE FIDELIS

    CHAPTER I: REUNION









    The summers of Constantinople were always hot, but this one seemed hotter than usual or perhaps age was having an effect on this grizzled veteran. Serving Belisarius nearly his whole career had been the fulfillment of adventure beyond what he could have imagined. Yet, he still felt empty in some ways. Slowly but with purpose he sought after an old friend of his from the Persian Wars and Ostrogothic campaigns. He was looking for the most sordid drinking hole in the city. Anything fancier than a drinking hole, would not be darkened by the veteran’s friend at least not in this lifetime. Keeping a low profile was also important since the news of Belisarius’ arrest on the grounds of corruption and possibly treason, so his household forces were told before they were dismissed or faced charges of God knows what. The once loyal Procopius, former secretary to Belisarius, had risen in station to be in charge of the fate of their general and fellow brother in arms.

    The grizzled veteran was a born survivor and believed that the season of misfortune would change as long as he remained true to his faith, the cause, and his general and friend. Traversing Constantinople on foot could feel like walking into a labyrinth. Despite being one of if not the finest and most modern city in the world, it still had its cons. The cons were the widespread corruption of not only politicians but merchants and nobles who also frequently quarreled. There was also the great corrupt racing factions despite the hammering Justinian’s policies gave them all. Beyond that there is no other city like Constantinople from the Hagia Sofia to the Theodosian Walls.

    Reaching a hole in the wall drinking den near the Harbour of Theodosius, the veteran smiled, inhaled, and smelled the putrid air and knew his old friend and brother in arms would be inside having his fill. Walking in with mysterious onlookers and vagrants abound, no one challenged the veteran. Most likely the aura he presented was of unsettling origin. Quite simply he did not look like one to challenge. The crowded room, that was stirring moments before, quickly grew quiet except for one extremely boisterous and muscular brute, who was drinking out of the wine jug in one hand and shamelessly with a bar matron in the other. Realizing the room grew silent, the huge drunkard shot the veteran a look, and slowly his concerned look transformed into a smile and belly laughed harder than anyone could imagine. “No! It cannot be! Uliaris from the wars! Come over my friend and drink with us. I saved the other lass for you old friend!" Slightly embarrassed Uliaris, the veteran, went over to the large man’s table and met with his old friend and the two ladies with him. Uliaris was not just greeted with a clasping of forearms but a great hug from the burly man.

    Uliaris replied, “Just as I remember Andreas! You always have nearly squeezed the life out me every time!” They all laughed knowing how true that was. Uliaris began, “Andreas, we need to talk in private if all possible?” Andreas quickly dismissed the matrons and replied, “Well I knew you would be a kill joy when I saw you enter this establishment and, we are as far back and private as we can get unless we need to go somewhere else?” “No this is fine I just cannot trust anyone I have never met let alone those I do know except for you of course and very few others unfortunately." While they took their seats Andreas passed over a full jug of wine to Uliaris. “So, my friend what sort of problem are you involved in?” Uliaris laid down the gold coin from the dead pirate and spoke, “This was not mine, but it was given to me by a pirate who tried to kill me. He gave it to me before he met his demise." Andreas looked at the coin and said nothing at first just studying it before he picked it up and analyzed more closely. He spoke softly, “Where do you think he got it?” “I was hoping you would be able to offer more than that,” remarked Uliaris. Andreas quipped, “Well I am guessing he gave it to you as a token from the one who hired him to kill you for starters.” “Clearly that was the point,” replied Uliaris. “Andreas, can you think of anyone who might have survived from the Greens, senators or other leaders?” Andreas quickly stated, “No except maybe it was from a more deceptive source. Someone in the shadows but wants people to believe he is in the light.” Uliaris rested his chin on his palm and pondered that thought. He shot up, “Andreas you are a genius!” Andreas belly laughed again and nodded in approval. Uliaris kissed the hulking man on the forehead and continued, “Procopius as you know is set to be the judge for the trial of Belisarius, and just maybe someone wants me out of way, because my testimony could most definitely dampen the prosecution’s case against Belisarius.” Andreas replied, “Indeed, and though the Armenian John is long dead he will once again come to the aid of his closest friend Belisarius!”
    Last edited by ♔Old Dragoon♔; September 17, 2017 at 01:06 AM.

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    Default Re: AD USQUE FIDELIS

    Well, this is an intriguing beginning!

    Mysterious coin, mysterious past (containing a terrifyingly large ex-warrior friend), mysterious testimony to be given - unless Uliaris is murdered - at a mysterious court case... So many questions I want to know the answers to! I'm hoping you're planning to continue this so I can discover some of those answers.






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    Default Re: AD USQUE FIDELIS

    Thank you kind sir! Indeed I am planning on answering all those questions in due time of course. This is part of bigger picture, but I have some more set up parts to finish. I will throw this out since it has been a couple of weeks. Life has a funny way of distracting and all that...

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    Default Re: AD USQUE FIDELIS

    Uliaris raised his cup and Andreas raised his jug and they drank to John the Armenian’s memory and other worthy brothers who fell during the battles they fought together. Andreas then spoke up, “I think we do need to take our meeting elsewhere,” as two suspicious characters entered in the establishment in hooded cloaks. Andreas noticed their armor underneath and realized they were from the urban prefect sent to look for the slayers of the pirates more than likely thought Andreas. He grabbed Uliaris’ arm to make their way out the back exit. Uliaris acknowledged what Andreas saw, moved with purpose to the back exit of the drinking den to avoid detection, and told Uliaris to keep up with him.

    Even though Andreas was as big as an ox, he moved as swift as a deer. Uliaris asked, “Where are you taking me Andreas?” Andreas bellowed, “To the one that can help us answer our question!” Uliaris responded, “Oh, so it is your question as well now?” “Of course it is since you are need of a genius to help with your problems. You obviously have forgotten your way around this city since you have become so important,” laughed Andreas. After some time they finally reached the modest home of Andreas’ friend. Andreas cautioned, “Uliaris, let me do the talking she does not look like much, but she does not take well to strangers…at first. However, no one is better at gathering information or finding facts at the right price! Usually that involves answering her many direct questions and other things of value to her.” “I do not know if I like the sound of that Andreas!” They both laughed.

    “Her name is Aelia, and that is all she will tell you,” said Andreas. Uliaris checked their perimeter to see if they had lost the guards, and after he was confident he nodded for Andreas to awaken his mysterious friend. Andreas knocked firmly on the door and sounded like the whole structure might give way. The door opened but no one was there to greet them. Andreas spoke quickly, “She does this sometimes!” They cautiously stepped inside and without warning Uliaris was snared in some sort of rope trap lifting him into the air. While he was flipping upside down he noticed that a line of string was attached to the inside door handle. Uliaris whilst dangling upside down thought, ‘Who was this woman?’

    Quite annoyed he stated, “OK you got me now let me…” Interrupting Uliaris’ the rope was quickly cut sending him quickly to the floor of the building. With a loud thud Uliaris quipped, “ Down…Thank you I think.” Andreas remarked, “Step into the light now would you Aelia…please?!” Dressed completely in black including a black head wrap Aelia stepped into the light of the lamp. Amongst her outfit she was armed with an ornate composite bow and quiver, a Persian style sword, and a very fine dagger. “Andreas, is this the clumsy fool you have spoken so often about?” Andreas awkwardly nodded his head in agreement. Uliaris bowed before her but kept his eyes fixed on her movements. She then turned to show her backside then quickly turned and unsheathed her sword and swung downward at Uliaris with great force. Uliaris withdrew his spatha likewise and blocked her attack to her pleasant surprise. Aelia smiled and said, “He does show promise for an old man!” She then stepped back and tried an unusual style of thrust where she stretched her body way forward and head and shoulders were below Uliaris’ belt line. He then blocked the thrust and stepped in with equal speed of Aelia’s attack and brought his pommel end down on her shoulder sending her reeling in pain. She then like magic disappeared into the shadows once more until he saw her right foot first heading for his head and then her sword point shimmering in the lamp light. He tried to dodge but was struck by her flying left knee as she leapt like a deer. Uliaris had never seen this before, and the right side of his face felt like it had been struck by a club.

    She then withdrew into the shadows while Andreas just stood there watching in amusement. Uliaris was turning and had his guard up watching for another Aelia surprise attack. Suddenly she burst out again attacking Uliaris’ right flank. Uliaris blocked her attack again, but this time she brought an unnoticed dagger to his throat. She then spoke again, “As I said earlier not bad for an old man, but you need work on your on observation. Remember that we all hear but do we truly listen, and we all look but do we really see?”
    Last edited by ♔Old Dragoon♔; September 17, 2017 at 01:07 AM.

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    Default Re: AD USQUE FIDELIS

    Great start! Look forward to reading more.
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    Default Re: AD USQUE FIDELIS

    Uliaris felt at this moment as an amateur considering how renowned he was for his sword fighting skills. He had never been bested before, and this Aelia was the most intriguing fighter he had ever gone up against, but he trusted Andreas completely.

    Andreas chimed in finally, “Aelia fighting is a rare treat, but Aelia enough of this performance… We need your assistance on a grave matter that involves more than the skills you so eloquently presented!”

    “Oh really!? Now you have my utmost attention!” As she walked by Uliaris she smacked him firmly on his buttocks with the flat of her ornate sword before sheathing it. Uliaris looked at her again with a very obscure look because he had never been around a woman such as this. Andreas chimed in, “Now you know why, Uliaris, I needed to do all the talking.”

    “Yes, because that made all the difference…”

    “Actually it did, because had you entered alone and started blabbering on I would have finished you off before you hit the ground from the trap!”
    Uliaris only smiled and bit his tongue as he knew he had met his match.

    Andreas replied, “Alright Aelia you made your point! Can we please get on with what we came her beyond your prowess of martial skill?

    Sarcastically but serious Aelia replied, “Yes please do tell, I promise I will soak up every word!”

    Andreas clearly annoyed but began, “Alright now, as you already know this is Uliaris…”

    “Please don’t state the obvious! You know how that annoys me. The facts that I do not already know please,” interrupted Aelia

    “As I was saying…”

    Aelia interrupted again, “As you were saying, your friend who could learn a thing or two about sword play was attacked near the docks without knowing who or why he was. More than likely pirates, and clearly wants to get to the bottom of this attempt on his life and find out who is truly responsible before he is able to tell his story during the trial of Belisarius. So, he looks for his bear of a friend, who likes the worst of drinking dens, for assistance. Now, do tell what I left out please!”

    Stunned by the deduction Uliaris replied, “How on earth did you deduce all of that?”

    "Simple my unobservant acquaintance," retorted Aelia, “I see and I listen! But the broader answer is that you still have blood stains on your gauntlets, you retain the stench of the docks, and you are friends with that big oaf over there who goes on and on about you in great detail. Lastly when I am told the details in my mind it becomes the perfect mosaic and generally not far off once I see the person with my eyes.”

    “Astonishing!”

    Andreas remarked, “She is that indeed!”

    Quickly without hesitation Uliaris flipped the gold coin directly at Aelia’s face, and equally without hesitation she snatched the coin out of the air.

    “Ahhh, the missing piece from my deduction! Minus the gold it is rather dull and plain is it not?”

    Uliaris replied, “This was the coin struck during the Nika Riots that was on the…”

    “Pirate who gave it to you after you dispatched him…the blood on your guantlets,” said Aelia.

    “Yes that is correct,” replied Uliaris.

    “Now please tell me about the riots, completely your version, and do not gloss over the details. However, we need to go to a more suitable room for that,” said Aelia.
    Last edited by ♔Old Dragoon♔; September 17, 2017 at 01:08 AM.

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    Default Re: AD USQUE FIDELIS

    Thank you Scottish King much appreciated!

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    Default Re: AD USQUE FIDELIS

    Great dialogue, which flows realistically (for example, people interrupt each other). I notice that you often tell the reader the emotion which someone speaking has or the way in which they are speaking (annoyed, sarcastically, and so on). Just a suggestion - I wonder if it would be worth using different ways of doing showing that, for variety. For example: you can use the words that they use, so someone who is annoyed could say something rude. You could describe what the reader would see or hear, to realise the emotion which went with the words, such as a character looking scornfully at another or raising their voice. You could describe the gut feeling which someone would have, watching the scene ('when she spoke, it was as if the temperature in the room dropped suddenly'). Like Scottish King, I am looking forward to more.

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    Default Re: AD USQUE FIDELIS

    This Aelia is an interesting character - her deductions are rather in the style of Sherlock Holmes, aren't they? I hope we will discover a bit more about her as the story goes on...






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    Default Re: AD USQUE FIDELIS

    Alwyn, thank you for your observation and suggestion on the emotion and feeling of the character. Indeed I am pretty much trying to set up the characters so that the reader can get a good understanding of the type of character they are and don't at first have to guess the attitude of the character in the moment. In future dialogue my intent is to steer away from that and write it like you suggested, because then if the reader is following the character it should be easier to detect the sarcasm in their lines much like texting or reading an email from people you know well. However, I will throw in the occasional sarcastically etc. Thank you again, it is much appreciated!

    Caillagh, yeah Aelia is becoming a rather intricate character who will have a lot of depth. To match that depth and once you know her back story then you will understand why I took her in the Sherlock-esque style. However, the deductive mind will be the main similarity between the two characters. In my character development she surprised me, and thought she would aid greatly to the story I was trying to form. So, yes Aelia will definitely not be a throw away character. Thank you again for your comments! There will be much more soon!

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    Default Re: AD USQUE FIDELIS

    subscribed!
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    In the lamp lit room many things did not necessarily appear as they were. The room itself was a rather large open room almost like a stock room with amphoras and wooden crates against the four walls. It was apparent that the shop was not open for business much. There was a large sackcloth mat near the rear wall. Aelia bent down and partially rolled the large mat until a door with a ring pull was exposed. The doorway was large enough for even Andreas to descend. A stone stairway leading to a dark void could be seen after she opened the door she asked Andreas to hand her the lit lamp. He handed Aelia the lamp and she lit a torch that was on the wall immediately expelling the darkness that was concealing the hidden passage. She then lit a series of large ornate lamps that lit the room up, and this was your typical lounging room that would be in villas. Ornate mosaics on the floor with grand looking furnishings that was very comfortable for being below ground. Aelia was full of surprises and she welcomed her guests to relax and she produced a large pitcher of wine along with a large platter of finger food to satisfy their appetites as well.

    Uliaris clearly did not look comfortable. He was being coerced to tell a complete stranger many things that he saw that could potentially get him killed or imprisoned, not to mention opening up deep wounds in his mind that he did not want to bring up again. On the other hand talking to Aelia could possibly help out Beliarius and maybe others to follow. Lastly, talking to someone about these dark things in his past could possibly help him through what he has bottled up and kept private all these years. Most of his closest mates were either dead or have gone through the same hells together. They have not really shared much about it when they talked. They tried to either drink their sorrows away or sleep it off with a willing lady. Uliaris had mostly tried to drink his away as he thought he was too old for chasing after a willing lady. He had a burning desire for something different and more spiritual type of pursuit. The last time he was in Constantinople, he had a spiritual awakening that blind sided him like a slap to the face, except that he from that point on he had turned his eyes back on to the things of the Lord Christ who had claimed as his savior. However, just because that had taken place did not mean that all power and wisdom had rained down from the heavens and empowered him. He had realized that it was going to be a process like in martial training where he was going to have to work on his faith each day. Now in the present he had recently felt unworthy of anything other than this burning desire to help Belisarius and anyone else who crossed his path in dire need.

    Bursting his deep thoughts Aelia in a commanding voice stated, “We are waiting Uliaris or is there a problem?”

    Uliaris responded somberly, “Of course there is a problem. You ask me to tell of how over 30,000 Romans, slaves, foreigners, and soldiers were killed at the Hippodrome on one full day from my point of view. How age or sex made no difference or how every family in Constantinople would be touched in a distressing horrible manner. We were ordered to do the unthinkable, because many had already died at the hands of those in that grand arena. Did you see swarms of rioters holding family members down as each were raped by the evil monsters that many of the rioters had become, or did you see how those swarms swallowed others up to send them to eternity? And all of this because of a coin that you want to know more about...”

    Andreas interrupted, “Uliaris, that is why I’m here my friend! Believe me even though you had to be put through some sort of test by Aelia, it was only because she has a story as well old friend. She has suffered more than you know. She desperately wants to help you, but she has her own way of doing things. It is a way that has enabled her to survive despite what she herself has been through. She wanted to make sure she could trust you plus she no idea we were coming here.”

    Aelia countered, “Well, Andreas, you are partly right which I congratulate you on. However, I do need to know about the riots from your side, but I cannot tell you why I need to know yet. I need to know your side untainted. I promise you that I am trustworthy.” She reached in her pouch and produced the same coin that the pirate had and that Uliaris and Andreas had. Both Uliaris and Andreas looked at each other than at Aelia stunned by this revelation and even more perplexed than before their meeting.
    Last edited by ♔Old Dragoon♔; September 17, 2017 at 01:08 AM.

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    CHAPTER II: THE CALM BEFORE THE STORM

    Andreas quickly responded, "Aelia, you have never told me of this before! Where on earth did you get that!" Aelia replied, "Plese trust me on this Andreas! Uliaris, I know you must be questioning my motives, but both of you must believe me that I knew nothing of the pirates! Andreas knows me well and can vouch for my deductions. I just cannot tell you yet where I got that coin and why I need to hear your side of the Nika Riots other than I am seriously trying to eliminate suspects from the list in my mind. I do not mean kill off ... You know what I mean Andreas!"

    "Aelia, I do know you would not have done such a thing to my brother Uliaris, but you need to explain yourself if Uliaris is inclined or not to tell his side of the riots," quipped Andreas.

    "Yes, I will tell of the riots despite my inclination not. We best get comfortable and before I tell you I ask of one thing in addition to your promise to reveal where you gained possession of that coin, I ask that you remove your head piece."

    Agreeing to Uliaris demand she removed her head wrap to reveal herself and Uliaris was not just struck by her beauty but she looked like a woman from his past long ago. He thanked her and did not reveal this likeness. He saved it for a more proper time. They sat back down while Aelia poured everyone a cup of wine.

    Uliaris paused for a moment looked up as if he were asking God for assistance. He began, "I assume you know the facts as recorded for why and how of the Nika Riots, but I believe you want the guts of this horrific episode, and it will be told as I saw it, and what I say best stay with us. Is that clear enough?" Aelia concurred. Uliaris calmy began telling his story, "In 532 when the Nika Riots began I was serving Belisarius in his bucellarii (These were household elite troops paid for by the generals of this era in the Roman Empire. Their name means biscuit eater after a ration they were provided with. They were the general's most reliable troops.)..."

    Evening had started to set on the imperial city, but the restless populace had not showed any signs of settling in for the evening. Around the Hippodrome, the circus was over flowing more than ever with people who were about to erupt like a volcano. The house of Belisarius was trying to settle in for the night, but the general was vexed over the current affairs of every matter in his life including Constantinople. He was out on his balcony listening to the sounds of a city that he knew may ignite as easily as sea fire spewed forth on sails of a ship.


    "Oh Belisarius would you please stop looking out that terrace! All you have done since you have been home is stare out into the city, and though you are physically here you are still in Persia or somewhere else! I cannot take it... Would you let me help you? Please Beli! I need you my love," said Antonina. Belisarius said nothing. Antonina continued as she moved slowly toward Belisarius, "My love, I know all about the troubles you endured before the peace talks. The Empress confided to me and Justinian's view of you after the defeat at Callinicum. He still holds you in the highest regards, and has bigger plans for you!"

    Belisarius responded, "My dear, I am not mourning my defeat. I do mourn those who fell as a result. However, at this moment I am not concerned whether or not the Emperor holds me in favored position. My concern lies at what is occurring out there!" Belisarius pointed to the streets of Constantinople. "The people, my love, in particular the factions of our beloved Hippodrome are stirring up talks of violence and rebellion of the policies and actions of our emperor and tax collectors." Belisarius continued softer, "We are potentially facing mass rioting, destruction in our beloved city, and a lot of bloodshed."

    Antonina moved to Belisarius and put her arm around him, "Beli, I know you worry for the Empire, but will you not let it ruin our night together?" Belisarius, "Antonina, I love you with all my heart, but why do you deflect my answer to your question with another question?" "Because I want you this evening and not the empire's problems and everything else that is on your mind that has you troubled," Antonina responded. "Fair enough, but if you truly desire my love then we must make time for these discussions as I shall make time for things of our house and matters that are on your heart. Enough of my pressing you on matters that can be attended later when we have each other to attend to one another," replied Belisarius as he and Antonina moved in for a passionate kiss that they both have yearned for. Overcome with emotion they moved to their private chambers to where their passion and love for one another could be united as God intended.
    Last edited by ♔Old Dragoon♔; September 17, 2017 at 01:10 AM.

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    Default Re: AD USQUE FIDELIS

    Great updates, I like the contrast between the city about to erupt with violence and the love between Belisarius and Antonina. I wonder if you would like to enter this story in the MCWC XIV.

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    Default Re: AD USQUE FIDELIS

    Beli, LOL

    Great updates indeed, I love the way how you manage to express the feelings of the characters without going into walls of text (which always was my problem )
    Under the patronage of Finlander, patron of Lugotorix & Lifthrasir & joerock22 & Socrates1984 & Kilo11 & Vladyvid & Dick Cheney & phazer of the Imperial House of Hader

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    ♔Old Dragoon♔'s Avatar Guerrilla Lover
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    Default Re: AD USQUE FIDELIS

    Thanks guys! Alwyn, I will consider entering the story. Flinn, most of the ladies in my life have called me variations of my name so why not eh?

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