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Subject: Nova Aetas prelude (short story) rss

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Daniele Colletti
Italy
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From today, we start to publish a short story about the events that introduce the campaign of Nova Aetas. The post will be uploaded with the new paragraphs simultaneously on all our communication channels, we will publish one or two new articles each week. All the issues will contain few paragraphs that move the story forward.

AD 1507 March 21th
We've been on the move for a week now, and the constant rain has chilled us to our bones. We're tired and hungry, just like His Holiness would have wanted. The saying goes that a hungry man will do anything to fill his belly; we could do with a refill at the moment, if nothing else to get rid of this cold.

AD 1507 March 23th
Finally some rest, we've reached Assisi and we're staying in a papal building. Local rumour has it that there are strange creatures living in the region's forests, I'd heard about them in the past but they're a bunch of old wives tales, or at the most, nothing more than local bandits dressed in wild animal suits. Either way, Duke Guidobaldo will send us on a reconnaissance to make sure we don't find any unpleasant surprises on the road to Gubbio.

AD 1507 March 24th
We've set up camp outdoors. This morning we set forth on the road to Gubbio before sunrise and in a small village, we found traces of a group headed towards the forest. The village seemed to be abandoned, I had all the houses checked and led my men into the wild. After walking for ours, we were assailed by a group of bandits wearing wild animal skins and horns just as I had suspected, to scare the local farmers. The ambushes continued throughout the entire day, tiring out the garrison and in the end we camped out in this clearing. The fringe of the forest is far enough away to have time to resort to our weapons, in case we're attacked.

AD 1507 March 27th
We have lost track of our assailants, I have sent a few explorers on a reconnaissance to resume the search. The expedition discovered traces of the group again, but the bandits seem to have disappeared into nothingness. In any case, I have given the command to follow the only lead found thus far, in the hope it directs us to new clues. We have travelled along a path that leads to a barren hill dominated by a sandstone conglomerate. The good view and shelter guaranteed by the rock makes for a good hideout for the bandits. I order my men to spread out so as not be an easy target in the event of an ambush. We climbed up the hill again without any resistance; after a brief scout among the rocks, we found the entrance to a cave. Traces of the group are lost in the darkness. I move forth into the shadows of the earth, but not before sending the two novices to Assisi to report on what's been found.

AD 1507 March 28th
Just as I feared, delving into the depths of the earth was a nightmare, at times it felt like I was reliving the descent into the underworld as told by the poet Dante Alighieri. Once immersed in the darkness, we fell into an ambush. Our enemies seemed to appear out of nowhere, swiftly and savagely leaving several of my men for dead. We attempted a counterattack, but we're fighting in unfamiliar territory against an invisible enemy. Nonetheless, we regrouped and we managed to limit our losses during the subsequent attacks. After hours of walking through the darkness, we began to see the sun's rays at the end of a tunnel. Like moths, we followed that light and once out in the open we found ourselves in a small valley nestled between the mountains. As I feared, the enemy was there, ready to attack, with those horrible masks pulled over their faces. The battle that followed was the most ferocious I have ever fought in my life, our enemy seemed possessed by a wild spirit: they attacked as if with no regard for their own lives. We fought back, strike for strike, our training often compensated the ferocious enemy deployment. We fought until darkness fell, the small valley was covered in blood and lifeless bodies. In the end, we got the best of them, but the price we paid was far too high. There's only four of us left, we've set up a small camp for the night. I have divided the night-watch into shifts and I'm preparing to rest, in the hope of not having to endure another attack during the night.

AD 1507 March 31st
After three days on the move, we've once again reached safety between the solid walls of Assisi. I'm waiting to report to my superiors and I'll try to recount the events of the last three days:

"The night following the battle was a peaceful one, perhaps the number of losses experienced by the enemy dissuaded them from making any further attacks. The following morning we cautiously emerged from the darkness to assess the situation, the bodies of our comrades were still lying there, abandoned on the ground, a warning for us survivors. A sinister silence engulfed the small valley, not a sound could be heard, not even from the enemy camp; there wasn't a single sign of life in our surrounds. In the silence, and with a heavy heart, we approached the circle of tents at the centre of the valley, in the hope of understanding our enemy's intentions. Once in the vicinity, we realised that the camp had already been hurriedly abandoned by its occupants, the tents had been left intact and inside, there were tools and half-empty crates. We searched the entire camp, looking for a clue that might reveal the identity of our assailants. Finally, in one of the tents, we found a safe-conduct in the name of Jacopo Adoaldi, a known mercenary captain of the Republic of Venice. If the Venetians were perpetrating hostile acts this far south, it was likely that they were preparing for a war; it had become urgent to inform my lord Antonio of Montefeltro and His Holiness Pope Julius II. After burying our brothers in arms, we began our journey towards Assisi."

These events are terribly burdensome and will lead to further deaths in the Italian peninsula, we must prepare for dark days ahead.

In any case, I feel as though something isn't right, like there's a piece of the puzzle we're missing.

From the diary of the Corporal Alfonso Malaspina



Epilogue

AD 1507 March 29th
Alone and wounded, the Venetian mercenary reached the camp. The battles with the papal militia had proven more difficult than thought, and now he's been left alone. The mission failed and now he must return to report on the events; after gathering the supplies and the necessary equipment to confront the journey, he heads northwards, abandoning the camp. There is another way out of the valley, to the north through a pass between two mountains. His wounds make the climb even more burdensome, but the will to survive draws upon unexpected energy. The night is near, he decides to set up camp on the pass to eat and regain his strength. He has no time, from being a predator he has become prey. From terror, terrorised. From the darkness he sees his companions emerge, still dressed in the skins and horns of animals, and they attack him. He yells out his name, he yells out their names to try and stop the madness, but his screams fall on deaf ears. He runs through the rocks and bushes in a vain attempt to escape his assailants, he escapes without stopping and believes to have lost his trail. It is sunrise, he feels safe, as if the heat of the sun can melt away the nightmares of the previous night. He feels no pain when the spear passes through his body, he only sees the blood trickling away, and his life with it. That which happens fails to make any sense, his senses must have been numbed and his vision blurred. The last sounds he hears are the voices of his companions speaking an unknown language; the last image are the traces they leave on the ground, like a grazing herd.
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