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Thread: Of Wolves and Prey [Updated: 03/01; Part III.2]

  1. #101
    Cookiegod's Avatar Primicerius
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    Icon1 II.7 The last lesson

    The last lesson
    Gundulf and Albert sat quiet for a long time. Dawn had transformed the surrounding landscape from a dark blue into shining gold, and the forrest surrounding them grew ever louder. Leaves rustled due to the animals moving within, and the birds chirped and sang praise to the wonder of nature. But the beauty of God’s creation, as is sadly all too often the habit of Adams progeny, was mostly lost on the two. Gundulf was entirely absorbed in his grim thoughts and stared into the ground in front of him. He had no desire to talk. The old man on the other hand had his attention focused on very different matters to do so. Sitting upright on the tree stump as if it were a throne and he a commander before a battle, he had his eyes fixed on a certain point on the horizon and screened from the sun with his right hand, and not once did he avert his gaze, until…

    “There!” Albert suddenly exclaimed: “They are on the move!”

    Gundulf, roused from his musings, tried to see what his liege was seeing, but failed to do so. The youngling gave the old man a befuddled look.

    “There,” the old man insisted, “on the road from Monselice, do you not see it?”

    Gundulf did not, nor could he have. Albert’s aging eyes had worsened over the years, blurring his vision at short distances, and made it hard for him to read. But his ability to see into the distance had improved accordingly. The youngling gave up after a while, without uttering a word, and resumed staring at the ground in front of him.

    His insolence wasn’t noticed immediately – the marchio was preoccupied by the movement in the distance. But the old man made his displeasure swiftly known once he did.

    “Idiota!” Albert cursed, not before smacking the boy on the back of his head with force: “Do you think I brought you here to do nothing? I should have left you at the castle, and have you shovel manure with the others!”

    “I’m sorry,” Gundulf replied with tears in his eyes, but for Albert, that apology was not enough.

    “Idiota!” The old man cursed again: “I have had it with you! You have been in a bad mood for weeks now! I have tried to ignore it, I have tried to cheer you up, but you are still doing this! Enough already!”

    The youngling did not know how to react to this, other than looking ashamed and rubbing the back of his head. Albert couldn’t help but feel some pity for him.

    “Since you haven’t been able to deal with it yourself, I shall help you. Understand?” He commanded, with a stern but caring voice.

    Gundulf nodded in response, and continued to stare into the ground.

    “Is it about your friends?” Albert asked, in a quiet voice.

    Gundulf nodded again.

    “I betrayed them.”

    Albert sighed and sat down again: “You did no such thing.”

    “I manipulated them. Both of them. Made them do what you wanted them to. Matteo now believes Aistulf to be working for della Corte. Their friendship might be ruined because of me. And it probably scared Matteo enough to talk his padrone into supporting your offer.”

    “That is not the same as a betrayal.”

    “Of course it is. My deception helped you gain a city, did it not?”

    “It would have happened either way.”

    “So why did I have to do this?”

    “Because I ordered you to,” Albert replied laconically. “Has it never occurred to you that this betrayal of yours, as you call it, would not have worked if the two hadn’t been playing the exact same game as you?”

    Gundulf shook his head in response.

    “This isn’t a children’s game between the three of you. All 3 of you were acting on behalf of someone else. Aistulf received the information he asked for. And Matteo too made his own choice to tell his mentor, rather than to keep the issue between the three of you.”

    The old man paused for a second, as he put a hand on his pupils shoulder.

    “And you know what?” He asked, now with a more placable voice. “All three of you acted honourably. A man owes fealty only to his own superiors, not to those of his friends. Besides, what would be the point of having friends if you weren’t even supposed to use them? No one except you and I knows they were duped. Your friends both likely got commended for their efforts.”

    Gundulf didn’t know how to answer.

    “Look.” The old man said after a pause. “All three of you serve different masters. You are obliged to serve our will. If we choose to quarrel, you have no say in the matter. And this will not change until you become masters of your own. If you, Gundulf, want the day to come where the three of you aren’t pitted against each other, you have to seize any opportunity to learn from those who have what you want.” He went silent, and gave the boy a long and stern look.

    “I’m sorry.” The boy answered again.

    “There’s nothing so pathetic as a man who feels sorry all the time. I did not ask you for an apology. I asked you if you wanted to learn.”

    “I do.”

    “This will be the last lesson you shall receive from me. It’d be wise for you to do your best. So tell me, Gundulf: Why did we come here?”

    “I do not know.” Gundulf replied hesitantly.

    “Think.”

    “Is it because of the Venetians?”

    “Yes,” the old man replied: “Now where would you expect their force to come from?”

    Gundulf reacted by pointing into the distance, where the mountains of Monte Ricco and Monselice met. “Monselice.” He said. “That’s where the road to Venice goes through.”

    “Indeed. And I was informed of their arrival in that town yesterday evening. Can you see their army now, as it is marching down the road?”

    Gundulf had to squint his eyes, and it took him a while, but the blinking lights stemming from the sun being reflected by metal finally revealed a column marching down the road.

    “I see them now.”

    “Can you tell how many?”

    Gundulf shook his head in response.

    “No more than a hundred men by my reckoning. 17 of which appear to be on horse, and 2 carts in the center.” The marchio informed him.

    “But you do not expect to fight them, do you?”

    “A fool expects things to go as planned, Gundulf. I prefer to make sure they will. And the decision to fight is not mine to make. The question is: What do the Venetians want?” Albert went silent for a while: Do you think this force strong enough to not only best ours in battle, but also storm the castle?”

    Gundulf shook his head.

    “So from this column it’d be reasonable to expect their intention to be to honour our deal, as it cannot achieve its ends through violent means. But what if this wasn’t the only force? Would the doge be able to send a second force through a different route without alerting us?”

    Gundulf hesitated, then shook his head, but with an unsure look on his face.

    “The answer is likely no.” Albert stated. “I would have probably received reports about that other force as well. At least he’d not expect to surprise me that way. But what if he sent a large force and only split it at the last possible moment? This would be today, as I might not be warned in time to react. The column you see marching from the town eastwards would be one of them, trying to fool us into keeping our guard down. The other would have to attempt to stay out of sight to ensure our surprise. For that it would have to march northwards, pass this mountain at its northern end, and then use the Euganean hills as a cover whilst marching on the castle. It’d take longer, so for that plan to work, they’d have to be marching hastily by now.”

    “Is the doge really that insidious?” Gundulf asked with some scepticism.

    “He is a cunning man, Gundulf. I have played chess against him.” The marchio replied. “If that experience taught me anything, it’d be this: Anyone underestimating him, is in for an unpleasant surprise. My son is proof of that.”

    “Did he beat you?”

    “Worse. He let me win.”

    The two fell silent again, and sat quiet for a long time. The column they had spotted earlier, marched ever closer. But no other troops showed themselves, and once the sun had reached its highest point, Albert was finally convinced that no trap was forthcoming. At least not one set by the Venetians.

    “I wonder if he is as sceptical of you as you are of him.” Gundulf asked with a grin, once he’d been ordered to saddle the horses.

    “He should be.” Albert replied: “Or he’ll regret it.”

    The old man was then helped by Gundulf onto his horse.

    “This was the last lesson you’ll receive from me, boy.” The marchio then said, as he then watched the boy mount his own horse: “I hope you made the most of it.”

    “I have one last question, if I may.” The boy inquired: “Why did you come here yourself? Why not send someone else to do this for you?”

    A sly grin formed on the old man’s lips: “Because, boy, I place far greater trust in the incompetence of my men than that of my enemies.”

    And with those words, he spurred his horse and set off. The last lesson was over.


    *I just want to point out that the lead picture pretty much shows the view they would have had. I don't have many friends, but Google street view sure is one of them!

  2. #102

    Default Re: Of Wolves and Prey [Updated: 01/09; Part II.7]

    Noice! CG is at it again! There are a couple of nice omens hidden here and there that I quite liked, and the lessons are well-packed. If you want a detailed line-by-line edit, just let me know (I'm happy to oblige, but without express desire I won't go to the trouble ).

    So, is Gundulf going to become a character in your game at this point too then? Like, is he a captain or something, or is he just here for the story?
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  3. #103
    Cookiegod's Avatar Primicerius
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    Default Re: Of Wolves and Prey [Updated: 01/09; Part II.7]

    Quote Originally Posted by Kilo11 View Post
    Noice! CG is at it again! There are a couple of nice omens hidden here and there that I quite liked, and the lessons are well-packed. If you want a detailed line-by-line edit, just let me know (I'm happy to oblige, but without express desire I won't go to the trouble ).
    I'm always desiring your edits. I also implement like 99% of the changes you propose. There were like two exceptions in the last part and those had reasons, such as the odd line-break at the very end being due to me shamelessly stealing from someone elses poem (the guy's dead though, so he can't sue).

    The only reason why I'm a bit hesitant to ask is because I don't want to impose. So it's up to you really. All the improvement I got is mostly due to you.

    I still need to improve a lot more of course, and especially with parts such as this one that are super hard to write a lot of mistakes will slip through.

    Quote Originally Posted by Kilo11 View Post
    So, is Gundulf going to become a character in your game at this point too then? Like, is he a captain or something, or is he just here for the story?
    Well the basic idea for all 4 of them (Gundulf, Matteo, Aistulf and yes, the priest) is that they're representing all 4 (I count spies and assassins as being one) character archetypes represented ingame.

    Many side characters and also the family (Albert, Welf, and so on) are tied to specific characters. With the 4 it's going to be less clear. They need to be present in a lot of places because what they experience is what I'll focus on. So at one point they can be one ingame spy and then a different one. And of course things will be represented in a way that a lot of things that'll happen will be due to them. So yes, much of what'll happen did happen. Just... I didn't have any characters named like them.

    More importantly I chose to use them as the main focus instead of the rulers (Albert, Welf) because by using them you not only get to see what orders are being given, but also what hardships they cause.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    From Socrates over Jesus to me it has always been the lot of any true visionary to be rejected by the reactionary bourgeoisie
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  4. #104
    Derc's Avatar Ducenarius
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    Default Re: Of Wolves and Prey [Updated: 01/09; Part II.7]

    Dello Corte gets more and more interesting. Not as much as Welf, mind you, but I'm eager to read more about him. He reminds me of Dijkstra from Witcher 3: nowhere to be seen, but always there, playing the game of the shadows excellently. Also a guy with little hair.

    Welf's lesson was nice, Gundulf's struggle relatable, great chapter overall! My only problem is imagining the Venetian doge as a cunning man, thinking back on how bad that faction was played.

    Oh, how I hated your spies.

  5. #105
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: Of Wolves and Prey [Updated: 01/09; Part II.7]

    Nicely done, I enjoyed the way that Albert made Gundulf see the action which the boy regretted from a different viewpoint - and Albert's deductions about the doge's cunning moves. I wonder why this was the last lesson, perhaps the boy is about to get a new assignment.

  6. #106
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    Icon1 II.8 The lost son

    The lost son

    Gundulf and Albert arrived at the meeting point long before the Venetians did, and were soon joined by an escort of their own, led by the margrave’s youngest son Fulk. And then they watched in silence as the Venetians slowly approached.

    “Four times six… twenty-four… plus seven... thirty-one…” mouthed Gundulf silently, as he counted the men approaching them. Albert’s estimate of the Venetian strength from a distance had been uncannily on point, though it took Gundulf a while to verify it.

    Seven riders formed the vanguard of the Venetian column, with a column of infantry six men deep and four men wide behind it. Dawdling behind them were the ones responsible for the slow pace of the column: Two carts, each drawn by two oxen and with three men on them, separated by three men on horse in between them, and flanked by a line of spearmen on each side. Gundulf counted fifteen men in the line he could see. Behind the second cart rode five more horsemen, marched the rest of the infantry, again four men wide, but seven men deep, followed by two riders as the rearguard. All in all…

    “A hundred and five!” Gundulf finally exclaimed: “Seventeen of which are on horse.”

    The boy did not receive the desired words of praise. Albert remained silent. Fulk, on the other hand, reacted with derision.

    “Took you long enough,” he sneered. A few men started laughing, though that was soon cut short.

    “Go oversee the men who remain at Este, Fulk.” The marchio commanded: “Make sure nothing of value remains.”

    His son was caught off guard by the demand and briefly seemed on the verge of protesting, but Albert’s quiet yet firm voice had left no room for discussion. Humiliating as it was, Fulk nevertheless rode off in silence to the castle not far to the west, and none of those remaining dared to speak up for the remainder of the wait.

    Out of the one-hundred-and-five men marching towards them, two proved remarkable. One was of smaller stature, rode on a grey horse and, judging on his colourful garments, of great wealth, and rode at the front of the column. The other was in the very center of the column, with a rider on each side, and the carts both in front and behind him constraining his freedom of movement. Gundulf hadn't been able to see much of him so far, but it was evident the Venetians were devoting a lot of their attention to him.

    “Salve”, the man on the grey horse greeted, once he’d reached them. He then, in what turned out to be a ceremonious speech, presented himself as Vitale Falier, a member of the minor council of the most serene Venetian republic and the representative of its doge, Domenico Selvo.

    The margrave’s reply was as curt as his counterpart had been wordy, and left no doubt that he had no interest in a further exchange of pleasantries. “Salve Vitale,” he said: “I am the marchio Albert Azzo, still the ruler of these lands, representing myself. I believe you have something for me.”

    Vitale was taken aback for a moment, but nodded, and signaled to his men. One of the carts was brought forward. It carried a few chests. “Twelve thousand solidi as per our agreement,” Vitale commented: “And a few gifts as a sign of friendship from the doge.”

    What followed was the most awkward transaction Gundulf was ever to witness. A few of Alberts men took over and checked the inventory, counting and weighting its content. Meanwhile, hundreds of men stood there on both sides staring at the other, as this lengthy procedure took its course, with hardly a word spoken by any of them.

    The man further back in the midst of the Venetian troops, whom Gundulf had noticed earlier, caught the boy’s attention as this went on. His attire was inconspicuous, but his posture upright and proud. The man, whom Gundulf estimated to be in his late thirties, seemed unarmed, but nevertheless commanded respect from those around him. He kept quiet, but otherwise made no attempts to conceal the immense anger he seemed to feel, his piercing eyes shooting daggers at anyone brave enough to stare back. Aside from a foot soldier holding the reins of his horse, most Venetians seemed keen to keep their distance from him. Gundulf kept staring on him, until the transaction was about to conclude.

    Once the inventory on the cart had been confirmed, the leaders on both sides approached one another.

    “I hereby sell my lands and titles in the margraviate of Verona to the republic of Venice.” Albert said, and handed Vitale a parchment with his seal on it. “This document affirms this. Now give me my son.”

    Vitale nodded. The man who had caught Gundulfs attention was handed his reins and rode forward, and with that, the transaction was over. Albert raised his hand and waved at what used to be his castle. The gates opened and the garrison, led by Fulk, marched out.

    “It’s yours.” Albert said to Vitale. And without saying another word, he turned around and rode off, his retinue following him, keeping their silence. The Venetians remained where they had stood for a while, as if puzzled by Albert's curtness, before they continued their march and took over the castle.

    Gundulf rode next to Albert, at the head of the column. The old man's sons Welf and Fulk, both humiliated, rode right behind them. After a while, Gundulf heard shouts in the distance behind them, and turning around he saw the castle engulfed in flames, dark smoke rising from the compound. He gave his liege a befuddled look, but Albert did not turn around, nor did he seem surprised.

    “The manure?” Gundulf asked, and received no reply other than a faint smile forming on Albert’s lips.

    The column of black smoke rising from his former home remained visible long after the castle had disappeared from their view, reminding Gundulf of his friend under the chestnut tree.

    “When you see the darkest of clouds rise to the sky,” Aistulf had said, before vanishing, “Flee!”

    Some suspicion began to form in Gundulf’s mind.

    “Aistulf?” he asked loudly, though to no one in particular, but Alberts head immediately turned.

    “How long have you been planning this?” Gundulf asked.

    The old man motioned him to be silent.

    “I already told you, boy.” The old man said: “No more lessons.”

    But Gundulf did not understand. “Why…?” the boy asked, but was immediately cut off.

    “How long have you served me as a page, Gundulf?”

    “Seven years.”

    “And custom demands for you to become a squire. As it happens, my eldest son doesn’t have one. Am I right, Welf?” the old man said loudly, before turning around and looking at his son. Then he turned back to Gundulf, reached over and ruffled the boy’s hair.

    “You shall serve him well.” Albert said: “I am sure of it.”

    And then he laughed, which Gundulf hadn’t seen him do in months, leaving everyone bewildered by his good mood on such a day where he had lost half his domain.


    I know the last couple of updates have been weird, also this one, and didn't always appear to make that much sense. I'll talk about it at some point in the OWB (my Writer's Blocg), when I'll have the time. It isn't necessary to read that to follow the story here, just know that the weirdness usually has some reason behind it.

    As always I'm looking forward for your feedback!
    Last edited by Cookiegod; September 12, 2019 at 12:20 PM. Reason: thanks kilo for making it readable. Sorry to everyone who read it before the fixes! :D

  7. #107
    Turkafinwë's Avatar The Sick Man of TWC
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    Default Re: II.8 The lost son

    I for one love the what you call weirdness. It always keeps me on my toes to see if I overlooked something going into the following chapters, it makes me keep close attention to what you write.

    I particularly liked the discussion about friendships in the previous part, to me the conversation shows what friendships mean to those of low rank (Gundulf) opposed to those of a higher status (Albert), which is still relevant today I believe. People in a high position will look more on how their connections can help them get further up the ladder, and will often only befriend those who can help them get further in life while those who don't see the necessity to rise or have the ability to rise see friendships more as a gain in itself. I liked it.

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  8. #108

    Default Re: Of Wolves and Prey [Updated: 01/09; Part II.7]

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    I know the last couple of updates have been weird, also this one, and didn't always appear to make that much sense. I'll talk about it at some point in the OWB (my Writer's Blocg), when I'll have the time. It isn't necessary to read that to follow the story here, just know that the weirdness usually has some reason behind it.

    As always I'm looking forward for your feedback!
    No need to apologize or explain. And honestly, I have liked these last couple updates, this most recent one in particular. They do sometimes seem possibly disjointed, but the writing makes it pretty clear that you know what is going on, which is reassuring and makes me interested in the missing pieces. Put shortly, you're making it clear that there is a story, while also making clear that we don't know all of it, and these things together only make me want to know more. That's the goal as a writer, so you're on the money!

    For edits, I'll do things in the usual fashion. Most of what I have are small points that I'll put inline in the box below, but there is one larger thing worth saying here. That is that you are fairly consistently writing out numbers inconsistently. As a general rule, any numbers below one hundred are written out in full, as well as any round numbers above one hundred (e.g. two thousand or fifteen hundred, unless the numbers are 2015 or 1528). For you, there is only one type of number I imagine you should be writing using numerals, and that is dates. For troops numbers, like in this update, you will be talking about fewer than one hundred and so should spell it out, or you will be talking about rough estimates which are round, and so should be spelled out. If you want a more in-depth and better explained treatment of all that, this is a pretty good guide.

    Besides that larger point, everything is minor, as this is a solid update that does good work and does it concisely! Now to the edits...

    The usual; edits, suggestions, rambling critiques that are often wide of the mark... you know :P

    The lost son[Personal request, because this has been driving me mad: could you center the titles for each update? The left-alignment looks so ugly to me, and your writing deserves some proper formatting Also, you should add a linebreak between the title and main text.]

    [Linebreak added.]Gundulf and Albert arrived at the arranged meeting point long before the Venetians did, and were soon joined by an escort of their own, led by the margrave’s youngest son, Fulk. And then they watched in silence as the Venetians slowly approached.

    Seven plus four times 6… 24… 31…Four times six... twenty-four... plus seven... thirty-one...[There is the point about spelling out numbers here, but also your presentation made the math really confusing to me. Splitting like this makes it easier to follow for the reader.]” mouthed Gundulf silently, as he counted the men approaching them. Albert’s estimate of the Venetian strength from a distance had been uncannily on point, though it took Gundulf a while to verify it.

    Seven riders formed the vanguard of the Venetian column, with a column of infantry 6six men deep and 4four men wide behind it. Dawdling behind them were the ones responsible for the slow pace of the column: 2two carts, each drawn by 2two oxen, and with 3three men on them,. These were separated by 3three men on horse in between them, and flanked by a line of spearmen on each side. Gundulf counted 15fifteen men in the line he could see. Behind the second cart rode 5followed five more horsemen, marchedand the rest of the infantry, again 4four men wide, but 7there seven men deep, followed by 2two final riders. All in all…

    “A hundred and five!” Gundulf finally exclaimed: “17Seventeen of which are on horse.”[In this and the preceding paragraph you should be spelling out all the numbers, but a bigger problem is that you also sometimes switch between spelling out a number (here and there is a "one" or "two") and using the numerals. Consistency is king here, and needs to go in.]

    The boy did not receive the words of praise of which he was hoping for.[Not 100% sure about my suggestion for this previous sentence, but I do know you can't end the sentence with the "for".] Albert remained silent. Fulk, on the other hand, reacted with derision.

    “Took you long enough,” he sneered. A few men started laughing, though that was soon cut short.

    “Go oversee the men who remain at Este, Fulk.” The marchio commanded:. “Make sure nothing of value remains.”

    His son was caught off guard by the demand and thought about protesting itbriefly seemed on the verge of protesting, but Albert’s quiet yet firm voice had left no room for discussion.[Since this isn't from Fulk's perspective you should avoid presenting his own thoughts here. Stick to what can be seen on his face or in his mannerisms.] Humiliating as it was, Fulk nevertheless rode off in silence to the castle not far to the west, and none of those remaining dared to speak up for the remainder of the wait.

    Out of the one-hundred-and-five men marching towards them, 2two proved remarkable.[I feel like something should go with the "two" in this sentence, since two men are special in some sense. I'd suggest making it "...only two proved remarkable." One was of smaller stature, rode on a white [Shouldn't this be "gray", since there is no such thing as a "white" horse?]horse and, judging on by his colourful garments, of possessed great wealth. [What about the other remarkable rider? Since you mentioned him, you have to say something here. Even just a short "The other glowered about him." But something is needed.][Linebreak added.]
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 
    After reading to the end I think I need to say a bit more on the "two remarkable men", and what is missing here. If I followed the story correctly, the men are 1) Vitale and 2) Welf. Vitale is remarkable because he's rich, pure and simple, and that strikes Gundulf's eye. You show that just fine, and I have no points to add. However, you give some detailed exposition about Welf lower down, and I think it fits better there (i.e. where it currently is). However, since you mention him here, you have to at least say something in this moment. You should think about it more for yourself, but to my mind, there is a most efficient and effective way to leave in Gundulf noticing Welf while still leaving the description off the table here. My suggestion would be to add a short first-impression kind of idea about Welf before the sentence introducing Vitale, and then have Vitale's motions cut off further description (thus justifying the brief intro, while substantiating why there is mention of Welf at all). I would suggest the following edit:

    "... marching towards them, two proved remarkable. One sat amidst the Venetian troops, and by some subtle signs seemed the object of their attention. However, further inspection was prevented when the second man of note rode forward. He was smaller of stature, rode on a ..."


    “Salve”, hethe rich rider greeted, once he’d reached them,. and He then, in what turned out to be a ceremonious speech, presented himself in what turned out to be a ceremonious speech as Vitale Falier, a member of the minor council of the most serene Venetian republic and the representative of its doge, Domenico Selvo.

    The margrave’s reply was as curt as his counterpart had been wordy, and left no doubt that he had no interest in a further exchange of pleasantries. “Salve Vitale,” he said:, “I am the marchio Albert Azzo, still the ruler of these lands, representing myself. I believe you have something for me.”

    Vitale was taken aback for a moment, but nodded, and signalled to his men. One of the carts was brought forward. It carried a few chests, as well as a few other items in addition.[Unless you plan to say what the other items are, I would omit this final bit.][Linebreak deleted.]12000Twelve thousand, solidi as per our agreement,” Vitale commented [Odd word. Maybe consider something else.]:. “And a few gifts as a sign of friendship from the doge.”

    What followed was the most awkward [For some reason"awkward" strikes me as too modern-sounding of a word. Maybe something like "stilted" or "gruff" would work better. Up to you though.] transaction Gundulf was ever to witness. A few of Albert's men took over and checked the inventory. Few words were said as this lengthy procedure took its course, both sides instead staring at each other. [The middle sentence seems unnecessary (and also confused me a bit about the details of how the handoff is working), but I think there is something missing. You say the exchange is awkward, but I don't see the awkwardness in this anywhere. Maybe throw in one or two sentences describing something about what makes this an awkward situation.]

    A man further back in the midst of the Venetian troops caught the boy’s attention as this went on. [Linebreak deleted.] His attire was inconspicuous, but his posture upright and proud. The man, whom Gundulf estimated to be in his late thirties, seemed unarmed, but nevertheless commanded respect from those around him. He kept quiet, but otherwise made no attempts to conceal the immense anger he seemed to feel, his piercing eyes shooting daggers at anyone brave enough to stare back. Aside from a foot soldier holding the reins of his horse, most Venetians seemed keen to keep their distance from him. Gundulf kept staring on him, until the business began to wrap up [Again, this seems too modern an expression to me.].

    Once the inventory on the cart had been confirmed, both sides approached one another.

    “I hereby sell my lands and titles in the margraviate of Verona to the republic of Venice.” Albert said, and handed Vitale a parchment with his seal on it. “This document affirms this. Now give me my son.”

    Vitale nodded. The man who had caught Gundulf's attention was handed his reins and rode forward, and with that, the transaction was over. Albert raised his hand and waved at what used to be his castle. The gates opened and the garrison, led by Fulk, marched out.

    “It’s yours.” Albert said to Vitale. And without saying another word, he turned around and rode off, his retinue following him, keeping their silence. The Venetians remained where they had stood for a while, as if puzzled by Albert's curtness, before they continued their march and took over the castle.

    Gundulf rode next to Albert, at the head of the column. His Albert's sons, Welf and Fulk, both humiliated, rode right behind them.[I changed "His" to "Albert's" in this sentence, because, given the previous sentence, it was briefly unclear whether the "his" referred to Albert or Gundulf.] After a while, Gundulf heard shouts in the distance behind them, and turning around, he saw the castle engulfed in flames, and dark smoke rising from the compound. He gave his liege a befuddled look, but Albert did not look turn around, nor did he seem surprised.

    “The manure?” Gundulf asked, and received no reply other than a faint smile forming on Albert’s lips.

    The column of black smoke rising from his former home remained visible long after the castle had disappeared from their view, reminding Gundulf of his friend under the chestnut tree.

    “When you see the darkest of clouds rise to the sky,” Aistulf had said, before vanishing:, “Flee!”

    Some suspicion began to form in Gundulf’s mind.

    “Aistulf?” he asked loudly, though to no one in particular, but Albert's head immediately turned.

    “How long have you been planning this?” Gundulf asked.

    The old man motioned him to be silent.

    “I already told you, boy.” The old man said:, “No more lessons.”

    But Gundulf did not understand. “Why…?” the boy asked, but was immediately cut off.

    “How long have you served me as a page, Gundulf?”

    7Seven years.”

    “And custom demands for you to become a squire. As it happens, my oldest [Maybe "eldest" fits more stylistically here.] son doesn’t have one. Am I right, Welf?” the old man said loudly, before turning around and looking at his son. Then he turned back to Gundulf, reached over and ruffled the boy’s hair.

    “You shall serve him well.” Albert said:, “I am sure of it.”

    And then he laughed, which Gundulf hadn’t seen him do in months, leaving everyone bewildered by his good mood on such a day where he had lost half his domain.



    Alright dude, I hope that proves of some use. As you see in the spoiler halfway down, I discuss a bit more a slightly more complicated point here, and if you have thoughts or want to discuss that one, just let me know. Otherwise, I can only stress again that this is shaping up nicely and I am enjoying it!
    Last edited by Kilo11; September 12, 2019 at 01:44 AM.
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  9. #109
    Cookiegod's Avatar Primicerius
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    Default Re: II.8 The lost son

    First off to everyone here: Huge thanks for your comments. I haven't said much the last few updates, because I tried to cut down on the spam I often did before. What I'm going for now is to answer your comments in a reply just before posting the next update, but every time I was about to post the next update, I kinda forgot about everything else.

    Secondly:
    Quote Originally Posted by Turkafinwë View Post
    I particularly liked the discussion about friendships in the previous part, to me the conversation shows what friendships mean to those of low rank (Gundulf) opposed to those of a higher status (Albert), which is still relevant today I believe. People in a high position will look more on how their connections can help them get further up the ladder, and will often only befriend those who can help them get further in life while those who don't see the necessity to rise or have the ability to rise see friendships more as a gain in itself. I liked it.
    You made me very happy with this. It's pretty much what I was going for. Which means that I was able to convey some of the things I had been going for.

    Thirdly:
    Quote Originally Posted by Turkafinwë View Post
    I for one love the what you call weirdness. It always keeps me on my toes to see if I overlooked something going into the following chapters, it makes me keep close attention to what you write.
    Quote Originally Posted by Kilo11 View Post
    No need to apologize or explain. And honestly, I have liked these last couple updates, this most recent one in particular. They do sometimes seem possibly disjointed, but the writing makes it pretty clear that you know what is going on, which is reassuring and makes me interested in the missing pieces. Put shortly, you're making it clear that there is a story, while also making clear that we don't know all of it, and these things together only make me want to know more. That's the goal as a writer, so you're on the money!
    I am grateful for what you two are saying. This "disjointedness" is what has me worried, that many readers might jump off the train before it really starts rolling.

    I hope that things will get clearer as this progresses, and that your patience will pay out.

    The writer's blocg thing isn't going to be in spoiler territory, nor am I trying that much to explain the story itself. Because if I were to create a manual that people need to understand the rest, that'd be the most devastating admission of failure one can make.

    Fourth:
    Fixes!!!!
    As always Kilo, your fixes were worth gold. I did pretty much all of them. Plus a few extra ones. One or two new errors might have snuck in as a result.

    "of which he was hoping" sounds really really weird. Is that something people say/write normally? I think we had that issue once before as well. I'll try to remember it from now on.
    I totally agree with the thing in that spoiler, btw. I had actually thought of that myself when I wrote it, and made a mental note to fix it later. That "later" was then forgotten. I fixed the white to grey, however, whiteness is subjective. Basically all the white you see is some shade of grey, unless you're staring at some perfectly balanced source of light (but I did use the white horse thing with Aistulf not so long ago, so yeah, that fix was necessary). The white horse thing with Aistulf was a little bit cheap to be honest. "White" horses are somewhat rare and easy to spot on any terrain, and I thought about Gundulf encountering Aistulf's horse later on (which I then cut away). White horses are also a symbol of wealth and seemed like an easy, short way to describe Vitale, rather than starting to ramble about clothes or something similar.

    But seriously dude: You're my saviour and hero, and I know this editing must have taken you time. I really really really appreciate it.

    And your attention to detail is unmatched. This here:
    Quote Originally Posted by My Hero :)
    Since this isn't from Fulk's perspective you should avoid presenting his own thoughts here. Stick to what can be seen on his face or in his mannerisms.
    Was a big oopsie on my part.

    As a reward I put the title in the center. Though let's be honest: The formatting here is horrendous in general. I kinda hoped/hope to replace the titles with headers like in the "the last lesson", but I don't know if/when I have time for that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    From Socrates over Jesus to me it has always been the lot of any true visionary to be rejected by the reactionary bourgeoisie
    Qualis noncives pereo! #justiceforcookie #egalitéfraternitécookié #CLM

  10. #110

    Default Re: II.8 The lost son

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    I am grateful for what you two are saying. This "disjointedness" is what has me worried, that many readers might jump off the train before it really starts rolling.

    I hope that things will get clearer as this progresses, and that your patience will pay out.
    I really do think this is okay. Like I said above, as I was reading it, I definitely got the feeling that things are slightly disjointed, but I also got a very strong feeling that there is a plan and that this initial disjointedness is by intent (even if it's not, the fact that I feel like it is shows you've been doing something well, even if subconsciously). And that to me is not just "okay", but actually a very strong point for the writing, as it makes the reader invested because he/she wants to know more, and knows that you know more and are holding back. More than that, you've been hanging on to Gundulf's perspective for a few updates now, and his experience of this world -- a world that is far above him in complexity and subterfuge -- will inevitably hold gaps and confusions, and you can use those as well. Hell, to my mind, you have been using those, and I think those are all good things.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    As always Kilo, your fixes were worth gold. I did pretty much all of them. Plus a few extra ones. One or two new errors might have snuck in as a result.
    Glad to have been of service!

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    "of which he was hoping" sounds really really weird. Is that something people say/write normally? I think we had that issue once before as well. I'll try to remember it from now on.
    Ugh. I know. My suggestion was ugly as hell (and no, that is not something people would normally write/say), but I couldn't think of a good way to fix it. The main thing is that, if I am correct on this, you should not end a sentence with a preposition, especially in prose writing (but maybe it would be good to ask Skotos for a second take on this). My suggestion was just the quickest fix along the path of least resistance, but that doesn't mean it was a good suggestion

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    I fixed the white to grey, however, whiteness is subjective. Basically all the white you see is some shade of grey, unless you're staring at some perfectly balanced source of light (but I did use the white horse thing with Aistulf not so long ago, so yeah, that fix was necessary). The white horse thing with Aistulf was a little bit cheap to be honest. "White" horses are somewhat rare and easy to spot on any terrain, and I thought about Gundulf encountering Aistulf's horse later on (which I then cut away). White horses are also a symbol of wealth and seemed like an easy, short way to describe Vitale, rather than starting to ramble about clothes or something similar.
    Actually, what I was thinking of with the "white" horse was something I had heard that there are no "white" horses, because the horses that look white are actually "Grays". However, I was just poking around for info, and it seems there is a type of true white horse (looks like they're basically just albino horses). They are very rare, but they do exist, so you could use "white". My point was not really about color (a "gray" definitely looks white), but about labeling, as the common horse that looks white is actually a "Gray". So that way me being nit-picky

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    But seriously dude: You're my saviour and hero, and I know this editing must have taken you time. I really really really appreciate it.

    As a reward I put the title in the center. Though let's be honest: The formatting here is horrendous in general. I kinda hoped/hope to replace the titles with headers like in the "the last lesson", but I don't know if/when I have time for that.[/CONTENTBOX]
    No worries, man. A bit of clean editing keeps me sharp anyway And the story is shaping up nicely, which is motivating for me as well.

    And thanks for the centering of the title. I know you've left formatting to second-fiddle here, but that little bit is sooooo nice for me. My little brain gets slightly itchy when things are left-aligned when they should be centered
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  11. #111
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    Default Re: Of Wolves and Prey [Updated: 01/09; Part II.7]

    I'm enjoying this. I could be wrong, but it sounds as if Albert sold his Verona estates at the same time as he had the castle (which is presumably needed to defend those estates) reduced to a ruin. If this is right, then I imagine the new squire will soon be on his way to war.

  12. #112
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    Default Re: Of Wolves and Prey [Updated: 01/09; Part II.7]

    Nice chapter. Cool to finally see Welf himself in action. Or not. Why does Albert bother to free him? Welf is obviously the Rambo of his time. He shouldn't have any trouble escaping.

    Your background information in that other thread was also nice. However, I hope it stays optional. In the end one needs to understand the story without having to read that subinfo. But I you know that already.

  13. #113

    Default Re: Of Wolves and Prey [Updated: 01/09; Part II.7]

    Looks good

    Sent from my SM-G892U using Tapatalk

  14. #114
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    Default A new decade, a new chapter!

    Reorganisation - for those interested
    I made a pause recently because I noticed a problem. Old plan was to make the chapter have multiple viewpoints, like in chapter 1, and switch frequently. It didn't work well in chapter 1, and it didn't work in chapter 2 either. Instead of switching between characters every part, I always end up clustering, having several parts follow one guy, as the strings of event needs to come to a conclusion. Those strings also take more time than I usually anticipate, and it makes more sense to make them the chapters.

    Therefore chapter 2 has been made smaller now than I originally planned. The only iffy thing there is then the first part, where we still have the priest (and which also wasn't well received). The plan of that part was basically to say: 'Hey the old wolf and the priest are still there.' And the old chapter 2 was planned also to end with some dialogue between the two. But that's a bit unnecessary. I took some time off as I had a lot to do and little time to think it through, but the solution is quite simple. Anyway, chapter 3 starts now. Might I be the first to post an AAR update this year? Whoop whoop! Happy new decade guys! May I finish this chapter within the new decade!

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    From Socrates over Jesus to me it has always been the lot of any true visionary to be rejected by the reactionary bourgeoisie
    Qualis noncives pereo! #justiceforcookie #egalitéfraternitécookié #CLM

  15. #115
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    Icon1 III.1 The tolling of Bells

    Summary of past events
    Chapter I: A priest travelling through the mountains is taken prisoner by an old fearsome man wanting the priest to write down his biography.
    In decades past, a string of violent events led to the exile of three boys from the valley: Gundulf, Matteo and Aistulf.

    Chapter II: 7 years having past, Matteo has been given into the care of a Milanese patrician, Gundulf has served Albert as a page, and Aistulf... Neither of the two know what he is up to.
    Albert Azzo II, having achieved virtually everything he could hope for, including a new castle, has a depression, but comes out of it once he starts plotting again, to take over the rich, fragmented city of Milan, which used to be under his fathers rule. The patricians of the city call him back, as they face an unknown threat from the underworld: Della Corte.
    Alberts oldest son Welf, ruling as duke of Bavaria, meanwhile gets into a civil war against the emperor, is on the losing side and ends up captured by the Venetians whilst traveling through their lands, and has to be ransomed back by his father, who gives him Gundulf to serve as a squire.

    Tolling of Bells

    The people of Milan had gathered in front of the main church, but stood divided. Close to the Duomo stood the gentry, with the most influential of them standing on the stairs leading up to the basilica itself. Matteo and his padrone had one of the best spots, but the greater elevation gave them a view that they did not enjoy.

    Most of the square and all roads leading up to it with the exception of one were filled by the masses. A thin line of guards was all that separated them from the elite. It was clear to anyone that under more violent circumstances this obstacle would be of little worth, and it had not held in the past, as the lead clergyman’s nose and ears could certainly attest. They no longer adorned Lidprand’s face.

    He and his ally Erlembald had, as leaders of both the spiritual and the worldly, been in firm control of both the city and the Ambrosian see of Milan. But a devastating fire, not 2 years past, had put an abrupt end to their rule. It had laid waste to much of the city, and, worse still, the Duomo. Used by their enemies to claim divine punishment, the two were quickly overwhelmed by an angry mob which no one had seen coming. Knights had fought alongside the common rabble at the time, and Matteo's padrone, like a slippery eel, had gone with the flow and chosen the right side at the right time. Never endangering himself by being at the front row, or sullying his clothes with even a drop of blood, he nevertheless had made sure to be seen during the uprising. Matteo thus had been there as well, and the spectacle had made an impression on him he would never forget.

    Erlembald was promptly killed in a gruesome fashion, Lidprand on the other hand was allowed to live. For the most part at least. 'twas only fitting, his tormentors stated as they cut of his nose and ears, that he lose what seemed his own, as he had presumed to attain what was alien to him. The mob had then, bloodied weapons in hand, marched into the ruins of the church, sang hymns and held mass, as the unrecognisable naked body of Erlembald swung upside down in the wind, and a mutilated Lidprand kept screaming outside. Matteo had looked at the people in awe. Unperturbed by the screams or the holes in the still smoldering roof of the Church, or the fresh blood on their blades, they nevertheless were lost in reverie. A great many participants would later swear they had never felt the presence of Christ so near.

    He certainly seemed to side with them that day, or at least a sympathetic priest was found who did, for they all received absolution for their sins before leaving.

    Lidprand on the other hand came to personify the fickleness of the people like no one else, as he not only survived, but in fact gained the legitimacy he had lacked before through his torture. As his holiness the pope himself put it in a letter to the man, Lidprand had been anointed a priest by blood, not by oil. And with the political circumstances too unstable for either of the two archbishops to return, this left him in charge of the local see, though still not in control of its people.

    As for Baldassare da Arsago, the padrone of Matteo and purported friend of Albert, he had, even 2 years later, not fully absorbed the lessons. A slippery eel so far, who had skilfully navigated the shifting currents of politics so far, he now found himself at the top, close to the surface, and in plain view of everyone. Did he not know what a great danger this newfound prominence had brought to him? Should he not be thankful for someone else taking the helm, and absorbing the misfortune it was bound to bring?

    Alas, he was not.

    “Is this how our freedom is to die?” Matteo heard from his left, and turned to the speaker. His padrone had a bitter look on his face: “Blue sky, sun shining and the masses to receive the new ruler as if he were a liberator?”

    ‘You invited him!’ Matteo thought to himself, but remained silent.
    His mentor, however, did not: “I would have preferred it to rain today. At the very least it would have driven the rabble of the street. God knows they avoid a bath more than anything.”

    ‘He mocks them, and yet he fears them.’ Matteo thought to himself: ‘Ever since the emergence of the king of the underworld, the man in the shadows they call Della Corte, you patricians have been living in fear. And only now that it’s too late you realise you have invited the wolf into your lair to deal with a dog.’

    Matteo’s padrone in particular had come to see his relationship with the marchio as a burden. He had been the one proposing to the council that they invite the margrave to re-establish order into the city, and whilst the council had voted for it, he alone was blamed for it.

    Shunned by most for his leading role, he had lost a great deal of friends, and business already, and was seen by his peers as nothing but a puppet. For once he had not acted out of selfish reasons, as the mercante would all too frequently remark with some bitterness to his pupil, and the council had voted on it and made the decision, and yet this had resulted in him being hated by all and framed for it as if he had done it all on his own?

    And thus he felt little joy as the margrave, at the head of his retinue, finally arrived at the square.
    The bells of the still damaged basilica began to toll, and startled by the sound, pigeons flew from the rooftops over the square. Three of them were white.

    “Great.” Baldassare groaned: “Now they’ll think him blessed by the Holy Spirit.”

    The margrave had barely arrived, and Baldassare already wanted him gone. But what the mercante failed to notice, whilst ranting against the one ally left to him, his pupil saw clearly: Albert was considered by most patricians an outsider, and unpopular for his demand of obedience, but with few interests clashing with their personal interests.
    Baldassare, however, was now considered a traitor, and removing him would be profitable to his rivals. He had already helped Albert gain the keys to the city, and was now more of a burden than a useful ally. Whilst loudly contemplating the benefits and costs of continued fealty to the margrave, Baldassare da Arsago, whilst usually rather shrewd, was making one serious mistake: He assumed the loyalty towards him to be a given. Would it not be more beneficial for Albert to side with the padrones by now much more influential rivals at some point, and gain their sympathies by sacrificing this spent pawn?

    Against the margrave, the man in the shadows, the fanatics of the church, and his business competitors, what chance did the mercante have?

    Whilst Matteo contemplated these issues, Baldassare let out another disparaging comment, comparing the procession to a funeral.

    ‘Keep talking, old man, and the bells will toll for your death before long.’ Matteo thought to himself, but phrased himself more diplomatically: “Padrone, you should know that he can hear you.”

    “What are you on about, boy? The marchio is still far away.” Baldassare said incredulously.

    “Yes, but he has more than one set of ears.” His pupil retorted, and was himself at once reminded of Aistulf.

    His padrone snorted with disdain, but soon realised the truth in Matteo’s words and fell quiet.

    When the margrave finally marched up the stairs, Baldassare was quick to put on a smile. But Albert merely gave him a long cold look. At this point Matteo realised his padrone had already lost.

    The boy then looked one final time into the blue sky, at the pigeons flying above their heads.
    ‘Rats of the sky. Carriers of disease.’ Matteo mused with some disdain. How come they were seen as something holy? The white ones had probably been kept in cages, and only been released at the right moment. The margrave certainly knew how to make an entry. He then followed his padrone into the church.

    At least there was one upside to this affair. Where Albert walked, Gundulf was bound to follow. Matteo thus resolved to seek him out as soon as possible.


    Hystorical side notes
    It's not important to know anything about Erlembald or Lidprand. I mentioned these two purely to show you the very real danger Baldassare and everyone else politically active saw themselves confronted with in Medieval Milan: A very gruesome death... If you were lucky.

    The description might be over the top, but it's not from me. It's from the main historical source of that time that we have. But said chronicler evidently didn't like either of the two particulalry much. So It's hystorically accurate, if you will. It's virtually one long string of one assassination after the next and so on and it never really ceased. The war just became international once the pope and emperor got involved. We know this as the investiture controversy, which in the same year (1077) ended up with the emperor on his knees at Canossa and then fighting a civil war in Germany lasting for decades.

    If you think what happened to those two was an extreme exceptional case, well, the two had a friend who died a few years before them. Chronicler Arnulf had this to say about his death:
    Yet, although he wandered by way of different hideouts and walked only at night, he was betrayed by his companions and fell into the hands of those who sought his life. After seizing him and leading him along the entire night, when morning came they completely destroyed him — his ears, tongue, and nose were cut off and stuffed down his throat and both eyes were poked out.
    His body was found several months later floating in a lake. Somehow his friends couldn't take a hint.

    I get sidetracked a lot, so I just wanted you to appreciate that it took some willpower not to include everything about this. ^^
    Last edited by Cookiegod; January 01, 2020 at 04:05 PM.

  16. #116
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    Default Re: Of Wolves and Prey [Updated: 01/01; Part III.1]

    It has been a little while since the last update, indeed. I remember most of it, but I tend to get names mixed up, so the little summary was a great help.

    I think the story is taking up shape nicely. None of us sees the alternate routes you and the story may have taken, and none of us would even know about them and all that background stuff, if you wouldn't whine about it.

    This chapter was very grim. Loved it. I do not think the description was over the top. The Middle Ages were a pervert time, and you've shown this perversion perfectly. Cut up two men, then attend mass with a still bloody weapon in your hand and get absolved for your sins five minutes later. Pervert. Perfect. And well written with so many little details here and there. Just Cookiegod.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    The only iffy thing there is then the first part, where we still have the priest (and which also wasn't well received).
    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 


    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    The plan of that part was basically to say: 'Hey the old wolf and the priest are still there.' And the old chapter 2 was planned also to end with some dialogue between the two. But that's a bit unnecessary.
    I think you should still do that in some form. They do not always have to say interesting things. Sometimes just mentioning them would be interesting enough. Tell about their feelings, let one character ask a simple question, or whatever.
    If they are not mentioned for a long time, the reader will forget them and feel strange as soon as they are mentioned again. He will doubt their purpose more than if they are mentioned from time to time in an unimportant context.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    Hystorical side notes
    This is making me hysterical.

  17. #117
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    Default Re: Of Wolves and Prey [Updated: 01/01; Part III.1]

    Quote Originally Posted by Derc View Post
    It has been a little while since the last update, indeed. I remember most of it, but I tend to get names mixed up, so the little summary was a great help.

    I think the story is taking up shape nicely. None of us sees the alternate routes you and the story may have taken, and none of us would even know about them and all that background stuff, if you wouldn't whine about it.

    This chapter was very grim. Loved it. I do not think the description was over the top. The Middle Ages were a pervert time, and you've shown this perversion perfectly. Cut up two men, then attend mass with a still bloody weapon in your hand and get absolved for your sins five minutes later. Pervert. Perfect. And well written with so many little details here and there. Just Cookiegod.

    Spoiler Alert, click show to read: 



    I think you should still do that in some form. They do not always have to say interesting things. Sometimes just mentioning them would be interesting enough. Tell about their feelings, let one character ask a simple question, or whatever.
    If they are not mentioned for a long time, the reader will forget them and feel strange as soon as they are mentioned again. He will doubt their purpose more than if they are mentioned from time to time in an unimportant context.


    This is making me hysterical.
    Thanks for the kind words.

    I was referencing this part here.
    My original plan for chapter 2 was to have every part alternate between Gundulf, Matteo and Aistulf. But I didn't, mostly because I subconsciously realised that this gets in the way of telling consecutive stories. So instead 1 chapter = 1 viewpoint normally. Less complicated = less chance to mess up. The original "plan" (I honestly didn't think much about it) for the "big" chapter 2 was to have the chapter start and end on the priest & the old wolf. However, with multiple smaller chapters, that makes less sense, because those beginnings and ends suddenly belong to different chapters. Whoops.
    And with them too it's probably better to keep it somewhat simple and simply return to the two later on with a dedicated chapter just for them. Because things will happen in their later timeline as well, and not be limited to the old man telling his memoirs.

    Quote Originally Posted by Cookiegod View Post
    From Socrates over Jesus to me it has always been the lot of any true visionary to be rejected by the reactionary bourgeoisie
    Qualis noncives pereo! #justiceforcookie #egalitéfraternitécookié #CLM

  18. #118
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    Default III.2 The Beauty and the Wolf

    Summary of past events
    Chapter I
    A priest travelling through the mountains is taken prisoner by an old fearsome man wanting the priest to write down his biography.
    In decades past, a string of violent events led to the exile of three boys from the valley: Gundulf, Matteo and Aistulf.

    Chapter II
    7 years having past, Matteo has been given into the care of a Milanese patrician, Gundulf has served Albert as a page, and Aistulf... Neither of the two know what he is up to.
    Albert Azzo II, having achieved virtually everything he could hope for, including a new castle, has a depression, but comes out of it once he starts plotting again, to take over the rich, fragmented city of Milan, which used to be under his fathers rule. The patricians of the city call him back, as they face an unknown threat from the underworld: Della Corte.
    Alberts oldest son Welf, ruling as duke of Bavaria, meanwhile gets into a civil war against the emperor, is on the losing side and ends up captured by the Venetians whilst traveling through their lands, and has to be ransomed back by his father, who gives him Gundulf to serve as a squire.

    Chapter III.1 Albert gets his triumphant ride into the divided city of Milan. Matteo reminisces about the gruesome fate of those losing power in the city, and wonders whether his mentor might be next. He then enters the church expecting Gundulf at his lieges side.

    The Beauty and the Wolf

    Matteo didn’t find Gundulf amongst Albert’s retinue during mass, but at that time, he thought little of it. Gundulf was not someone to sit still for two hours and enjoy it, nor was he particularly religious. If an opportunity had presented itself to him to escape this most dreaded obligation, there was no doubt that this impetuous rascal would have seized it without any delay, never mind any second thought at the cost. A meeting between the margrave and the most prominent of his new subjects was to happen later that day, and Matteo, as always accompanying his padrone, was confident to see his friend there, perhaps covered in dirt and sweat from a chore he had committed himself all too readily to escape church. A sly grin formed on Matteo’s face as he imagined it, and he was barely able to contain his joy and maintain the façade of an devout adolescent absorbed in prayer. It had been a few weeks since last they had met, and from now on they’d surely see each other far more frequently. Matteo hadn’t seen Aistulf since that meeting under that chestnut tree either, and hoped that he too might show himself more often as a result of Gundulfs presence. The smile disappeared from Matteo’s face as he thought of the boy living on the streets and dealing with the wrong people. There was no telling what dangers Aistulf was exposing himself to. Alas, the boy was not particularly forthcoming, and had ceased to accept any help a long time ago. There was thus little Matteo could do for him but pray. Which he now did, earnestly, and crossed himself many a time.

    A few hours later, Matteo found indeed himself stand in front of the margrave receiving the gentry of the city. Alas, opposite him, occupying Gundulf’s usual spot, a different, much younger page stood, and through his age and inexperience proved himself a painful reminder of the olden days, when Gundulf had just started his service so shortly after their joint exile. Had Gundulf been replaced? Had he become ill? With his hopes of a reunion on the brink of being utterly shattered, Matteo struggled to pay attention to the ongoing meeting. The patricians, having heard of Welfs visit to his father and his spectacular ransom, demanded to know what he intended to do. Any involvement of his in the civil war taking place in Germany was bound to hurt their business even more than it already had been by the war and the unrest in the city. Albert placated their fears by promising that he had no intentions to take part in this. His son would have to fight on his own.

    ‘What a fitting relationship this is’ Matteo thought: ‘This war started within our walls, and Albert used to pride himself how well he was looking out for his progeny. And now that the stakes have become so serious, they have all dropped any pretence of caring for their causes.’

    Once the topic of discussion switched to trade, first in general and then to that with the tin and textiles of Tuscany in particular, Matteo could no longer resist and discretely snuck out. He then combed through the makeshift palace of the margrave, which at the time was little more than a block of civilian houses having become one through the creation of openings in the walls between them, the layout thus being as confusing as it was small. The boy thus found himself lost in the attic in the end, and sought after a window to orientate himself. None of the people he had dared to ask along the way had provided him with the answer he had sought after, and whilst staring outside, he pondered for a while as to what he ought to do. Outside he saw a square with a fountain, and standing at it, a most beautiful girl. Her hair was golden, which is so rare amongst Italians, and it fluttered in the wind unbound. She held her head high, as if she knew the power she had over the men around her, all of whom her beauty forced to turn their heads and stare at her without a fail, but she was also lively and clearly in a good mood. She smiled, she laughed, and it seemed to Matteo that he had seen her smile before. Her hooded companion, whose rags contrasted her silken dress, smiled as well, but it was not until she pulled his hood back in jest that he recognised him to be Aistulf. A dumbfounded Matteo stared as Aistulf quickly pulled his hood up again, not knowing that it was already too late. What was that street rat doing with a maiden of good stock?

    “She is beautiful, isn’t she?” He heard a voice behind him state, and quickly turned to see the margrave standing right next to him: “It is a shame that her marriage has already been arranged.”

    Matteo knew naught to say, and his reaction was thus limited to cheeks reddened by shame and a befuddled look. Albert’s demeanor soon shifted from soft to stern.

    “Your padrone has already left.” He said: “Quite unhappy, especially with his aide having disappeared without warning.”

    Matteo took this as a command to leave, but quickly found his escape blocked by the margraves firm hand on his chest, and next pushed to the wall and the window opening behind him.

    “Then I was informed of a spy skulking through my house, inquiring my servants on the whereabouts of my former page.” Albert continued, as he stepped up and, his hand still pressing hard, stared down at the boy, whose upper body was unhindered by the window opening and thus began to arch back.

    “I was asked by my guards as to whether I wanted the spy immediately killed or tortured.” The old man continued, as he maintained his grip on the boy for a while, his gaze as unrelenting as his hand: “I decided to deal with him myself.” Then he suddenly let go of the boy and stepped back.

    “Gundulf is fine.” He said, dryly: “He is a squire now. Crossing the alps at the side of my son.”

    Matteo still didn’t say a word. ‘The war.’ He thought, once he’d gathered his thoughts: ‘Gundulf will be right in the middle of it, and I will never see him again!’

    “Oh come now!” The margrave stated, seemingly having read his counterparts face: “The boy will be fine. To travel is to live! And so shall you!”

    ‘What?’ the boy mouthed, without a sound actually passing his lips.

    “Your padrone is set to leave the city, with you by his side.” Albert nevertheless replied.

    The boy slid down the wall as he felt the world unravel around him.

    “What have you done to him?” He finally managed to ask, as he sat on the floor.

    “Done to him?” The margrave asked, feigning surprise: “Nothing. He is to represent us in our negotiations with the marchesa of Tuscany, with you by his side.”

    “But…” Albert continued, once he had stepped closer to the boy again and knelt to stare in his face with a sly grin on his own: “There are a few more things that I need you to do.”




    Matteo stood up slowly, once the margrave had left him, and once again looked outside. The girl was still outside, laughing and smiling like she had before, and at one time throwing water from the well at her companion in jest, her long hair swirling around as she did.

    Albert had spoken truthfully. She was indeed beautiful, and her marriage had just now been arranged by the margrave himself. She had yet to meet her betrothed, but would soon do so. He only needed to gather himself first. Matteo sighed one final time.

    ‘What a waste.’ He thought.

    The girl would make a wonderful wife. Alas, women were not his desire. The one he craved stood next to her.


    Hystorical side notes
    Yep, it's a thing now, per popular demand.

    ... Actually I don't have to say much I guess. But that has never stopped me. Dante had his Beatrice and Petrarch his Laura. I have... well... uhm... I give it a weird twist.
    Last edited by Cookiegod; January 03, 2020 at 04:49 PM.

  19. #119
    Turkafinwë's Avatar The Sick Man of TWC
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    Default Re: III.2 The Beauty and the Wolf

    You know 2020 is starting well when the God of Cookies graces us with two wonderful updates! Like Derc I don't think the descriptions were over the top, they felt very believable when I read them.

    Chapter XXVII: The Choice
    #JusticeForAkar #JusticeForCal #JusticeForCookie #JusticeForAthelchan



  20. #120
    Alwyn's Avatar Frothy Goodness
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    Default Re: Of Wolves and Prey [Updated: 03/01; Part III.2]

    Nicely done! I like the way that you provide hints about the twist; also, now I'd really like to know what Albert needs Matteo to do.

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