For those of you who came here via my profile (of which there are probably few) welcome back! Those of you who made it here from the general Civilization lists, Welcome! To the former: I must apologise for the delay on The Six Cores. I have severe writers' block. it'll fix eventually, but I oft find that the best cure for writers' block is to write something else for a while. So here is the prologue of a tale based upon real events in my Civ IV file. (Or one of them, anyway.) This is short, fairly short, but it is only a prologue. The following chapters will be longer, I promise.

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France

750 AD

"Welcome back to Paris, Captain François!" The charioteer was greeted enthusiastically by the younger crossbowman. "You must tell us what it is like in the far-off Western lands!"

The Captain of the First Chariot Troop, François Levant, looked vaguely surprised at the strange accoutrements of the city's defenders.

"And why were you gone for so long? We didn't think you would take longer than a few weeks to exterminate the barbarians and clear our trade routes. King Louis even sent our entire fleet to Beijing, because he suspected President Zedong of treachery!"

"We have a... fleet?" asked François, in a dazzled tone of voice.

"Oh yes..." The crossbowman's grin dropped a few notches. "We've made a lot of advances here in France since you left. There's been a new religion founded north of here, in Hamburg. We suspect the remains of the German heretics are back at it again. Just shortly after you left, actually."

"And what is that?" continued François. "It looks like someone accidentally welded their arrow to their bow."

"It's a new weapon, sir. Just built recently. We all upgraded as soon as it was created. They say it's twice as powerful as a regular bow and arrow."

"Warfare. Is that all that's been going on since I left? Just endless killing and arguing about whose weapon was stronger?"

The guard's smile slipped again. "Well, no, sir. Our fleet is little used, except for trading, and exploring. And up north, all the way in Berlin, there's been a new edict passed for religious tolerance. Which I'm not so sure about, but it's bringing in a lot more income. That helped the Empire afford these crossbows."

"Well, I'm afraid my journey hasn't been nearly as peaceful. It's been hell, actually."

"Sir?"

François fingered his eyepatch, an accessory he hadn't needed when he'd left Orleans so long ago. "Nothing but death, death, and more death. And for what?"

"To protect the empire, sir. More would've died if you'd left the barbarians to their own devices." The guard no longer wore a smile. This encounter wasn't going at all as he'd expected.

"Would they? We are all safe, hiding here in France behind our Great Wall. The Barbarians couldn't get through when it was built and they can't now. Believe me."

"But what about our simple traders? Or our friends, the Chinese? They're not safe. They probably will never be completely so. But you've made their lives better."

"Maybe so, lad. I find it hard to believe that all that death was worth it by any sense."

"What happened out there, Captain? You've changed so much from how people speak of you. How many didn't make it?"

"Only the First Troop has returned. The Second and Third were decimated."

"What of the two squads of Axemen dispatched to assist you?"

"They were killed near Mycenae. We just managed to meet when they sacrificed themselves."

"I'm sorry, sir. It must have been worse than I'd imagined."

"It was worse than I'd imagined, too. What's your name, boy?"

"Alexandre."

"Well, Alexandre, let me tell you about the second war, the one that will probably be remembered as a minor skirmish. But it was so, so much more than that. Listen to my story of the War in the West."

/

It's a little awkward dealing in AD and BC in Civ. Oh well. Just disregard the time reference for now. It might be important later, but that's the actual date listed... Whatever. I'll just do everything in Civ Time.

Past this, most everything will be written in the first person, which is a new thing to me. Fingers crossed, knock on wood, yadda yadda yadda.